Sounds like a great title, but sometimes the reality is our horses are rushing, pushing on the bit, and just overall unhappy with the Dressage training.
Dressage exercises done correctly are beneficial to our horse’s mind and body. Creating suppleness provides lightness and balance, in other words… comfort for horse and rider.
Shoulder in is a great exercise that benefits the horse by improving balance, lightness, strength and flexibility. Agility increases, as this exercise also provides strengthening of the haunches, correct use of back muscles, and can “elasticize “ the horse’s joints. This body-building exercise has proven results, as it has been utilized for over 100 years.
The best way to introduce the shoulder in is at a walk. Think of beginning to ride a circle but your inside leg changed your mind and drifted you back to the wall. The horse stays bent around your inside leg, but you are moving forward. The horse’s inside foreleg crosses in front of its outside foreleg, while the inside hind leg is placed in front of the outside hind leg. Shoulder in on a circle is the simplest way to teach your horse.
This may seem to create over bending sideways at first, but we are teaching the horse to properly bend around the inside leg, not over thinking technical or mechanical with our approach.
Do not let your shoulder in become “head turned in”. If you let the horse turn its head and neck rather than moving its body as described earlier, it only teaches your horse to escape through the outside shoulder, not having any of the athletic benefits as described. It is helpful to always be thinking of the details of the horse’s proper body coordination when introducing lateral work.
A Few Points to Remember:
- Outside leg keeps haunches from swinging out
- Outside rein controls outside shoulder, speed, and overall control of bend
- Inside leg maintains the move laterally
- Inside rein controls flexion. You should just barely see the horse’s eye
We must create balance, harmony and lightness, preserving the correct physique and purity of the natural gaits of the horse.