The FEI describes the walk pirouette as:
“The pirouette (half-pirouette) is a turn of 360 degrees (180 degrees) executed on two tracks, with a radius equal to the length of the horse and the forehand moving around the haunches. The forefeet and the outside hind foot move around the inside hind foot. The inside hind leg describes a circle as small as possible. The horse, slightly bent in the direction in which it is turning, remains “on the bit” with light contact, turning smoothly around, and maintaining sequence and timing of footfalls of that pace. The poll remains the highest point during the entire movement.”
The walk half-pirouette is a movement in tests from Elementary (where it is called a “turn on the haunches” and is basically the same but the size of the pirouette is larger as it is not done from collected walk) right the way through to the Prix St Georges. It is then not in the other FEI tests above Prix St Georges.
It is a movement that is complex and shows very easily the control and degree of balance, throughness and adjustability that the rider can create in the correctly schooled horse. It seems to cause a lot of problems with many horses but really it is simply a rider misunderstanding the concepts involved. There are many ways to start walk pirouettes, and on asking a few prominent riders and coaches, their explanations are easily understood.
David has had great success on many horses from four-year-olds through to Grand Prix and is a well sought-after coach. He and his wife, Robbie, make a great team and have many horses in work and are constantly at the top of the results list at any competition. Take it from David:
“I like to start the walk pirouettes fairly early in the training but there are always some prerequisites. The horse needs to be on the bit and often with the walk it’s the hardest pace to really establish a good throughness. The horse needs to be in front of the leg with an enthusiasm in the walk. He must understand moving off the leg as in leg-yielding both ways, and then he should be able to make shoulder-in and, most importantly, the travers. The pirouette is basically the smallest turn around the haunches in travers keeping the walk rhythm throughout the movement.
“I like to start by riding travers before the corner and then collecting the walk steps and maintaining the travers through the corner. Then travers along the short side and then again travers through the upcoming corner and so on. For me, the two biggest mistakes that are made in the walk pirouettes are that the horse moves out with the hind leg — and the other is a mistake in the continuity of the walk steps and the rhythm.