Another Pen 'Secret' thanks to a readers question. This one is about which direction to turn for the Pen. There is a bonus tip at the end for higher level horses.
You can read the original post here: The Pen Direction Change
I was asked to clarify which way the change in direction occurs. In the video in that post, the rider is completing a right circle in the Pen. She then turns right outside of the Pen, and heads back into the pen for her left circle.
The reader said "it seems like the lead change will be late when done in canter. The other option would be to complete the right circle in the pen. Then change bend to left, turn left, and complete the left circle."
My reply is "The direction change can be either way.
Most riders do it as you described (right circle, left turn), especially at higher levels.
The way shown in the video, and diagram, is the one I teach beginners. It is the easiest way for lower level and new riders to re-enter the Pen, going the opposite direction.
It's not uncommon for new riders, to re-enter the same direction which would be a DQ if not corrected.
Notice how a right circle first, and a right bend in the direction change sets the rider up to enter the Pen going left. There's less chance of them getting lost.
Usually what I see at clinics is 11 out of 12 riders attempt the Pen like the middle picture . They circle right, come out and turn left. Even if done further away from the Pen, it still sets them up to re-enter going right a second time.
If a rider wants to circle right, then do a direction change to the left before re-entering see the third diagram.
They need to think about where to position the direction change to re-enter smoothly without getting lost. Otherwise they risk repeating the first circle.
As a rule of thumb, you should not get more than 20' (6m) from the Pen entrance regardless of the style of turn. When you watch Master level videos, they rarely turn close to the exit.
That is a mistake many beginners make which doesn't allow them to set up well for the re-entry. And it may cause them to knock part of the obstacle in the turn.
Bonus tips on which direction to turn for the Pen:
For the higher level horse that is cantering, if the approach line made the right circle first the logical one, and if their right pirouette is better than the left, they may choose to do the pirouette then change.
Another thought for the cantering horse is, that if the horse is a little sticky changing to the left lead, then doing the right circle, and right pirouette or turn on the haunches loads the inside (right) hind leg, and encourages the horse to want to unload it and change to the left lead.
This is a secret I've used many times in training lead changes, or departures. You can also be in walk or trot going right (or leg-yield right), anything that loads the right hind leg, then strike off on the left lead.