Shoulder-In by xiagong0815

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									This is the second article in a series giving you dressage techniques to try with your Gaited Horse. In
October's Gaited Versatility column we saw that you can be successful in both worlds of gaiting and
dressage as Champagne Watchout has been. Using these techniques, you can improve flexibility,
control, and gaits, while teaching yourself and your horse something new. I think riding is a never ending
journey and we can always be improving our ability to perform my favorite verb.

This month we are going to talk about Shoulder-in. Travers and Renvers will be covered in my next
article, very different words but all they mean haunches-in and haunches-out or half pass. I know you
have heard people talk of these types of exercises in clinics, RFDTV etc., but what is it really, and how
can it help my horse? I hope to answer these questions for you and look forward to our ongoing
discussion in the following questions and answers later this month.

Collected lateral work will help your horse improve his flexibility and ability to bend in complicated
movements. This is especially important with Gaited horses because they are so lateral in movement but
when you can teach the forehand to move separately or on a different track from the hindquarters an
increased degree of gaiting can be achieved. Think of Dressage as Yoga for horses. When you try to
increase lateral stride length and flexion it can only help them reach and stride in their gaits. I have
found this is really helpful in square going horse that have a hard time reaching laterally to start with.

What is Shoulder-in? It is simply moving the forehand or front of the horse to the inside while keeping
the hindquarters moving straight ahead on the original track. It is important that the hind legs stay on
the track as the front legs are moved to the inside. Begin training this with your horse against a wall. It is
a lot easier to keep the horse moving straight when they have a wall to be supported against. This also
helps you as the rider begin to see the imaginary line to work with. When you begin this with your horse
start with a very slight angle or small bend it is more important that you are able to move the forehand
inside the track being able to place it where you want, in relation to the hindquarters. You will find you
will be able to feel a lot more suppleness in your horse and his straightening ability will greatly improve
doing this exercise.

A common mistake made for shoulder-in is the horse drifts to the inside off the line you have created.
This happens when the riders as dropped pressure with the outside rein allowing the horse to move off
the line. Don’t make the mistake of trying to push him back on the line with your inside leg it just
confuses your horse making them unsure like you are doing a leg yielding exercise. Instead go back to
practicing circles and bending the whole body through the circle, take care not to just turn his head. You
must be consistent in not allowing the hindquarters to fall away they must be directly behind the front
legs in the same track. Don’t expect them to make smaller circles than 20 feet in diameter to start.
Horse should be evenly bent in the neck and the body. When you are practicing the shoulder-in exercise
make sure his forehand is bent away from the direction of movement (front half inside the track,
hindquarters on the track) eventually having an ideal angle of 30 degrees. This is for serious dressage
participants if you can see a slight angle be happy with that! This should help open up your horses
shoulder and stretch the tendons allowing a freer front leg action.
You as the rider when performing this action should be doing quite few things with your body to help
school the horse. The first is remembering to use the same aids as in a turn. Your Inside Rein turns and
leads the horse’s front legs from the straight line. You should also be bending the neck and flexing him
at the Poll. You must use your outside rein to regulate the amount of bend and flexion. Sometimes you
use both reins to keep him from leaving the track. Don’t forget to have the horse bent around your leg.
This means your inside leg is steady just behind the girth giving him something to balance and bend
against, also keeping him on the line or track. Your outside leg is a little further back encouraging him
forward and keeps pressure on the hindquarters not letting them fall out of the line and lose collection.
You are sitting with your body weight in the middle of the horse but apply light pressure with your sits
bones moving the horse forward into the bit. This encourages him to keep the direction of movement.



Now that your head is spinning with all these things you are doing don’t forget to Take It Slow! Just a
little each day and always at a walk. You will see improvements in no time. Start with your circles first,
then move to the shoulder-in straight track exercise. If you think he is becoming shorter in stride and
stiffer in movements you are doing something incorrectly. Maybe you hands are too rough? Sitting in
the wrong direction? Asking for too much too soon? Try making it a little easier for your horse, maybe
just a step or two correctly and then let him relax? You know your horse better than anyone, so try and
follow his body language of when he has had enough. Remember we are trying to improve his way of
moving, so watch and praise each big or small try he gives you!



Have fun!

Caroline

								
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