Last Updated on April 2, 2022 by Allison Price
Shoulder-in is my favorite exercise, due to its many incredible benefits:
* A suppling exercise
* This is a great exercise to straighten the spine because it allows you to position your shoulders in front the hind legs.
* The first collection movement in dressage.
The correct shoulder-in involves riding the horse in the trot or walk with his hind legs parallel to the line of travel, and the shoulders moved to the inside. This angle should be stable and the legs should be on three tracks. The outside hind legs should be on three tracks and this angle should be stable. The wall can be used as the line of travel, which is the easiest to start at, or another line, such the centerline. The horse should bend in front of the rider, with his poll facing the inside.Melody Miller shows a proper shoulder-in. This is an exercise that supples and straightens the horse. (Credit Tiffany Busch
The shoulder-in teaches the horse and rider how they can move the shoulders from the inside. The rider can help the horse bend around its inside leg so that the hind leg of the hind leg is under the body. This is important in collection as the hind leg can be heavier. The shoulder-in also helps to ensure that shoulders are free and mobile.
Angle varying in movement is one of my most frequent faults. A shoulder-in with incorrect flexion can cause stiffness in horses. The shoulders are dislocated inside, but the poll is flexed outside. If the horse is not facing the wall, it’s possible to see the hindquarters move to the outside (towards the wall), and the horse loses its bend. This is a sign that the angle is four-tracked and the horse’s movement becomes a yield.
How to ride a shoulder-in
Start with a horse that is relaxed, rhythmic, connected, and has some impulsion. Before the horse can ride shoulder-in, he must be able to understand the rules for leg yielding. A horse must be able bend in a circle of 10 meters.
1. Before you start, make sure the horse can be bent. You can either start with a 10-meter circle, or ride the corner bend at the 10-meter mark.
2. The inside rein lifts the neck and shoulders off the wall, while the inside leg pushes into the rib cage and inner hind. This causes the half-halt and catches the shoulder. The haunches are kept from falling out by the outside leg that is behind the girth.
3. Your weight should be equal for both you and your horse. The horse will follow your weight. Sitting too close to the side can cause the horse to move in the opposite direction.
4. To make sure the outside hip and shoulder of the rider are parallel to the horse’s, the shoulders and hips of the rider should be slightly turned inward so that the horse’s hips and shoulders are aligned with the inside.
5. At the end of the movement, the shoulders should be moved to the wall (e.g. before the corner). This should be done from the inside leg. Do not stay in the shoulder-in position for too long. It is not possible to ride the exercise for longer than 30 meters.
This is what you should do
When I ask for shoulder-in from a horse that I’m training, I don’t start in a corner. The horse will mistakenly think that we are turning in a different direction or on the diagonal. I prefer to start with a leg yield to show the horse that I want him sideways. Because it is more logical, I prefer to use the easier exercise to teach horses a harder exercise.
This exercise can be started in the medium-walk and then you can go to the trot. Start by tracking left. Begin by following the centerline at A. Then, ride a leg yield starting from your left leg and going straight toward B. This will cause the horse to move sideways from your inside leg. Begin to lean the horse slightly to the left when you reach the quarterline. Move the shoulders to the left as the horse gets closer to the wall. You can now travel shoulder-in along the wall for a few steps. Once you reach the wall, your horse will be moving off your inside leg. You can then lead the horse’s shoulders to the inside for several strides.Step 1: From the left, begin a leg yield to the right.
Step 2: Begin to bend the horse near the quarterline.
Step 3: The shoulders are in as the wall stops the haunches near B. Continue a few strides with the shoulders in, then straighten.
Once your horse is able to understand that you don’t want him turning in the direction you have displaced his shoulders, you can then start to come out of the circle of 10 meters or turn onto the wall to improve your bend. The bend will come. I don’t care how much I bend at the beginning. You can lose movement if the horse turns in or the haunches are pulled away from the wall. To ride a few steps more of shoulder-in, align the horse and leg with the wall.
When you’re doing this exercise, remember the basics. If you have trouble with your rhythm, bend, connection, or impulsion, stop the exercise and fix it. You should always do short shoulder-ins to reward horses, not punish them when they fail.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!