THE MOST important exercise on two tracks, or lateral work, is the shoulder-in. It’s basically the foundation for all other lateral work, as well as for making the young horse straight (once he can bend).
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We often see the shoulder in trained without the correct bend, and we then loose the whole purpose of the practice – which is the bending of the three joints of the hind leg, freeing up the shoulders, the improved contact with the bit, and the increase of suppleness and obedience.
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So, in the shoulder-in the horse’s forehand is brought in one step, separate from the original track where the hind legs must continue. The inside foreleg will step over that of the outside, so the inside hand leg will move more in the direction of the center of gravity of the horse. This makes the handlegs carry more of the weight, relieving the shoulders and allowing the frontlegs to step forward lighter and more freely.
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If the horses’ hind leg steps out, you have bent more then the horse is ready for and it becomes a leg yield. Then go back to work on your horse’s flexibility to the sides by riding him bent around the inside leg on all tracks.
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The young horse starts to learn shoulder-in in the trot, preferably on a circle, as the most important quality of the exercise is the impulsion – which you have more of in the trot. The riders weight is shifted on the inside seat bone. The inside rein defines the flexion, the outside rein prevent the horse from too much bend and leads the horse in desired direction. The riders inside leg is applied on the girth to maintain the inside bend of the horses body evenly, both in front of and behind the saddle. It also helps the inside hind leg to step well under the horses body. The outside leg is placed behind the girth to prevent the hind legs from falling out, and to maintain forwardness. Be keen to not slacken the speed when coming into a shoulder in (this easily happens), neither should the steps be hasty.
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We always want the horse to execute lateral work joyfully and be completely relaxed, free from tension and maintain position until the rider brings the horse out from position with as much care as entering it.
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Practice makes perfect! ❥
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