Western Dressage Exercise – Giravolta


This week’s exercise has a fancy name that essentially means to turn on the forehand while in motion. I could spend half a day describing the benefits of this movement, but I will keep it brief for the purposes of this blog. In a nutshell, the lateral stepping of this exercise supples the horse’s lumbar sacral area which is prone to tension and restriction by bringing motion to it. Meanwhile, it tones the supporting muscles that flex and stabilize his hips, in addition to the groin muscles responsible for adducting the hind legs.

Turn on the Forehand

Photo courtesy of Terri Watts

Giravolta asks the horse to execute a turn on the forehand directly from the walk, without first halting the horse. While not a common maneuver taught in dressage lessons, it is often referenced in texts about classical dressage and used frequently during work in hand techniques.

I find that many riders are confused about the aids for or requirements of turn on the forehand, so let’s cover those. The requirements: The horse’s front legs remain in place and mark time, which means stepping up and down with minimal forward movement. They should march up and down with his regular walking rhythm. His hind legs, meanwhile, should cross over, forming little X’s with each stride. The horse’s neck and body should be bent around the rider’s leg that is cuing him. If she is asking him to step away from her right leg, for example, he should be flexed to the right.

The aids follow a 3-part execution. It is critical to be consistent and clear with these three different parts. Let’s assume we are asking the horses to move away from our right leg. First, ask to see your horse’s right eye with a light vibration of the corresponding rein. Wait for him to swivel his head to the right. Second, shift 60 percent of your weight into your right seat bone while lengthening the inside leg. Third, if your horse does not move away from this weight shift alone, now close your right leg rhythmically in time with his stepping (on-off, on-off).


  1. Ride in an active working walk up the middle of your arena, or in any open space.
  2. Gently half halt with your seat and back to downshift to a slower gear. Ask the horse to ALMOST stop, but do not completely stop his feet.
  3. As soon as the horse responds, bend him to the right as described above and push his hindquarters away from your right leg.
  4. You want his right hind leg to be stepping all the way over and crossing in front of his left hind.
  5. Keep a little bit of forward momentum in your turn so that the horse’s front feet keep marching in tiny increments forward, as though they are walking around a teeny tiny circle while the back feet are following a very large circle.
  6. After you have executed a 180-degree change of direction, right straight forward and resume the normal energy of the walk.


Western Dressage Weekly Exercise – authored by Jec Ballou | Copyright © 2012


3 Responses to “Western Dressage Exercise – Giravolta

  • paula walker
    6 years ago

    The explanation of how to ride the giravolta is great!! And what a great exercise. Now, how do you pronounce the giravolta?????!!!!