Horse Training

Shoulder-In and Your Horse

June 16, 2009

The shoulder-in is valuable on and off the dressage court.

By AQHA Professional Horsewoman and Certified Horsemanship Association master instructor Carla Wennberg with Christine Hamilton

AQHA Professional Horsewoman and judge Carla Wennberg has two passions: reining and dressage.

“People need to realize they’re not that different, though the horses might look different.”

Shoulder-in is just one of the exercises that can be done with your horse to help supple him, whether you ride a reiner or a dressage horse. It works to strengthen the haunches and topline, and frees up the shoulders so the horse can perform higher-level maneuvers such as sliding stops and rollbacks, or canter pirouettes.

In a shoulder-in, as the horse tracks along the rail, you bend his body slightly so that just his shoulders move off the rail to the inside, right or left, depending on your direction of travel. His hindquarters stay on the rail.

Want to be able to perform cool moves like shoulder-ins or rollbacks? Start with AQHA’s FREE Riding Lessons with Richard Shrake report to help get you on the right path.

The horse should rock his weight back onto his inside hind leg so he can keep his frame up and light, and the rider can maneuver the horse’s shoulders. If you’re on the ground and the horse is coming toward you, it will look like his legs are moving in “three tracks” or “four tracks,” depending on how much bend there is in his rib cage. Three tracks would be the inside front leg on a track, the outside front and inside hind on a track, and the outside hind on a track. In four tracks, you see all four legs moving on a track toward you.

When you first start out, if you can get your horse to do a shoulder-in for three or four strides, you should be elated. At first, just ask for a stride or two and then go straight again. Or try going into it coming off a small circle, or out of a corner.

The rhythm of his legs should stay the same as he goes into the shoulder-in. If the legs get quicker, that tells you the horse is unbalanced.

The shoulder-in can be complicated. Start yourself on the right path to learning moves like this by downloading the FREE Riding Lessons with Richard Shrake report.

You really have to build up your horse’s ability to do it longer. Allow the horse to understand the balance of the exercise first.

Build up to six or seven strides, and then up to the long side of the arena, but don’t expect that too soon, even with stronger Quarter Horses. If you do it over and over, the horse’s muscles will get too tired to do it. Start out at the walk, but you can build up to performing the exercise at the jog and lope.