My scribe last weekend was delighted that we had something like 20 rides showing in front of us in Training 3, since she said that was the test she was currently trying to conquer. I asked what part was giving her trouble, and she said the loop. I see people fret about that Training 3 loop all the time in online discussion boards: How do you make the turns? Is it a curve at X or a turn? Do you post? If you post, do you change diagonals?
Maybe because the loop doesn’t go all the way across the ring, people tend to overthink it. Really, it is just a soft turn at M or H, a soft turn at X, and then a soft turn at K or F.
I wonder if part of what makes this seem harder for some people at Training Level is that they lead with their inside shoulder on corners and turns. Maybe half of the riders I see at Training and First Levels make this basic mistake but I rarely see it above First Level, probably because the upper level patterns become pretty impossible if you lead with the inside shoulder.
The principle here is that your hips should be parallel to the horse’s hips and your shoulders parallel to the horse’s shoulders. On any turn or curve, your inside hip should go forward and your inside shoulder back to match the biomechanics of the horse’s body. However, that goes against the normal human inclination of bringing the shoulder forward to align with where the eyes are looking – thus when you look up on any line, corner or curve, you will naturally want to shift your inside shoulder forward. Unfortunately, if you do this, you will turn your horse’s nose and shoulders to point out.
Most riders have to be deliberately taught to go against human nature and align their body with the horse’s body by bringing their inside shoulder back. Other ways to think about it would be to bring the outside shoulder around or to make the inside shoulder meet the inside hip. What’s even harder than the Training 3 loop, if you lead with the inside shoulder, is that last turn from the long side to down the center line – if you lead with the inside shoulder you are going to overshoot A for sure.
Going back to the loop, if your reins are the correct length, you don’t need to do much more that to just turn your shoulders at the start, at X, and then finally at the end. It is that simple. If you are posting, actually sitting one step to change your diagonal at X and at the end helps the shoulders turn as well. Piece of cake.