Simplify The Shoulder In

Does the thoughts of riding shoulder in leave you feeling less than confident in your riding abilities. Are you a little unsure about the angle, the bend and the degree of collection required in order to successfully ride the movement? Shoulder in is super for encouraging suppleness and collection in your horse, however if ridden incorrectly, things can quickly begin going the opposite way of your desired results…

Shoulder in is a lateral movement and when ridden correctly, will entail your horse bending around your inside leg, with the shoulders at an approximate 30 degree angle to the side of the track or arena. With the shoulders in, you will then ask your horse to move forward on the line, moving away from the direction he is bent. It is also important to mention that the bend should be consistent from head to tail, not broken or over-bent in places.

Normally when we ride our horses forward, we do so on 2 tracks; namely made of the inside hind leg following the inside fore and then the outside hind following the outside fore.

However, for shoulder in, you will ask your horse to shift his shoulders more to the inside, off the track, which will result in your horse travelling on three tracks.

Track number 1 will be the outside hind leg, track number 2 or the middle track being made up of the inside hind following the outside fore leg. And finally, the inside fore leg on its own separate track, creating track number 3.

As your horse performs shoulder in, his inside legs will cross over and in front of the outside legs and this will be more apparent with the front legs, rather than the back legs. Also, as your horse becomes stronger and more developed and balanced, he will become lighter in front, which will lead to a more expressive movement through the shoulders while performing the shoulder in.

Before starting out teaching your horse the shoulder in, it is worth noting that he should have a good understanding of leg yielding and also have started showing some collection in the gait and is able to make small adjustments to his stride while consistently maintaining the rhythm, tempo, forward energy and balance throughout.

The leg yielding is important for a few reasons, the most notable being that he understands the forward and sideways movement, while remaining straight through the leg yield. The straightness is important because it is this same straightness that will allow him to keep his hind quarters on the track while shifting his front end off the track and bending around your inside leg.

The quality of the shoulder in depends on the quality of the gait leading up to it… Preparation is key to a good shoulder in!

I suggest introducing the shoulder in, for both you and your horse, in walk. This will allow both of you the necessary time to ‘figure’ things out in both your minds and, most importantly, in how to move your bodies accordingly. Often riders try to rush the shoulder in and this often leads to the horse remaining straight through their back and over bent through the neck.