Western Dressage Exercise – Shoulder-In on the Circle

Correct execution of shoulder-in has remained throughout history as a prime means of straightening the horse. Due to its suppling effect, shoulder-in allows us to equalize both sides of the horse’s body, bringing his spine into balanced alignment and helping alleviate side dominance. Aside from its exceptional loosening benefit, though, shoulder-in provides a marvelous strengthening tool.  By placing the horse in this position where he must reorganize his balance, the horse learns to engage the deep pelvic stabilizing muscles while shortening one side of his body and simultaneously lengthening the other. As his body weight shifts towards the hind end as necessary to move the front end laterally with ease and freedom, key muscles around the horse’s hip and stifle joints engage to adduct the leg and support joint angle.

The following exercise creates a smooth transition into shoulder-in by moving into it from an established bend. This progressively leads the inside hind leg. It should be noted, as is true of all lateral exercises, it is quite possible to execute shoulder-in not only incorrectly but in ways that bring the horse no gymnastic improvement at all. This happens when riders attempt the movement before their horse possesses sufficient balance. As a general rule, you should only do exercises such as the following when your horse is able to maintain a rhythmic jog in a steady bend and frame on 10-meter circles each direction.

  1. shoulders-in20metercircleAt A, begin a 20-meter circle to the left in a collected jog.
  2. Ride once around the circle to establish rhythm and figure size.
  3. Now, ride shoulder-in on the section of circle between the cones designated in the diagram. After passing the second cone, resume collected jog on the circle.**be sure when riding shoulder-in your horse’s haunches do NOT swing out. His hind legs should remain on the track of your circle while you draw his front end towards the center of the circle with the left front leg making its own track.**
  4. Be sure that the horse’s rhythm and posture does not change during shoulder-in. Watch the geometry of your circle; ride accurately, no bulging outward or drifting inwards.


Western Dressage Weekly Exercise – authored by Jec Ballou | Copyright © 2013

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