The spin is something that’s difficult to teach horses because it’s very much like a seesaw. Every day, depending on the way the wind is blowing, a seesaw is tilted one way or the other. It rarely stays the same day in and day out. The same goes with training a horse. What helped improve your horse today may not be what he needs you to do with him tomorrow. You have to be able to adjust to the situation.
A good horseman keeps many tools in his toolbox, so to speak, and is always on the hunt to add more knowledge to his skill set. It’s not one tool or exercise that builds any horse, whether you’re training a reining horse or a trail horse, and each horse is an individual and requires a slightly different approach. You have to have many tools in your toolbox so that you can pull out whichever tool you need to help your horse at any given moment.
One of the tools I keep in my toolbox as a reining trainer is an exercise I call the Spinning Collection Drill. I use this exercise to fine-tune my horses’ spins after they’ve mastered the concept of planting their hind foot and crossing over in front while staying soft and collected. Generally, this is about six months after the horses have been taught to spin. It’s not something I do every day with my horses, but it’s an exercise I throw in to my training routine on a regular basis.
You’ll ask the horse to collect and trot a small circle and then spin and trot back out onto the circle and collect. The purpose of this drill is to encourage forward motion and get the horse to drive from behind, which makes for an explosive and smooth turnaround.
Like any maneuver you do with a horse, spins require the horse to have forward motion to execute them well. Without forward motion, the horse won’t have enough momentum to cross his outside front leg over his inside front leg. Instead, he’ll start crossing behind, and that’s when you’ll see horses start to hop in the spin, where they pop up and down instead of smoothly pivoting with rhythm and cadence.