Shoulder-in is one of the most important movements to master in Dressage. This movement, if done properly, teaches the horse engagement, collection, straightness, and gives the rider control of the horses’ body. Shoulder-in is also the preparation for pirouettes, half pass, and getting the horse straight. Shoulder-in can be used to correct many training problems in Dressage!!
What is shoulder in?
Shoulder-in is an engaging and collecting exercise where the horse travels down the rail at an angle with the hind end on the rail and the outside shoulder off of the rail. The horse should be bent to the inside of the arena and should make 3 tracks: outside hind leg, inside hind leg and outside front leg, and inside front leg. Shoulder-in is the preparation for half-pass and pirouette and is an important movement for creating engagement, suppleness, and straightness in the horse.
What are the aids for shoulder in?
The outside rein and the outside upper leg of the rider bring the shoulder off the rail. The rider should be weighting the inside seat bone and should have the inside leg at the girth and the outside leg behind the girth. The inside leg at the girth is used to keep the horse on the rail and the outside leg behind the girth is used to keep the haunches from falling out. The inside rein helps maintain the bend and the outside rein and leg keep the horses’ shoulder’s off of the rail.
Common Mistakes in Shoulder- In
Happy Saturday! I hope you all are planning some weekend fun with your horses! On weeks when I am not too busy, I am going to start adding a Saturday video! Todays video is on introducing the flying change.
The flying changes can be one of the most difficult things to teach the horse. While a flying change is a natural movement for a horse, getting the horse to do the flying change on command is really tricky. The horse must first feel and understand the aid from the rider for the change, and then organize all 4 legs in mid-air to land in the new lead. A lot has to happen in a split second for the horse to get the flying change. It is common that when teaching the flying change, the horse will run off, buck, throw their head up, only change in front and not behind, or do nothing and just keep cantering.
In this video I demonstrate an exercise to teach the flying changes. This exercise is particularly useful for a horse that anticipates the flying change or wants to run off and take over during the change!
The trot-canter transition is one of the most difficult transitions for horse and rider as the horse must go from a 2 beat trot rhythm into a 3 beat canter gait. Here are some of the most common mistakes riders make in the trot-canter transition.
1. Not enough energy in the trot - often riders will ask the horse to canter from a slow trot that does not have enough energy. While an advanced horse that understands collection may pick up the canter from a slow trot, a green horse will have trouble and may come above the bit in the transition or just trot faster instead of picking up the canter. The more forward energy in the trot, the easier it is to get into the canter!
2. Incorrect rider position - Often riders that have generally good positions at the trot, completely loose their position when it comes time for the canter. Because the canter can be exciting and terrifying, riders often lean forward, curl up their leg, and pull back on the reins when their horse canters. It is important to maintain the correct position and proper alignment so the rider can properly go with the motion of the horse and not frighten the horse by leaning forward and pulling!
3. Too much outside leg, not enough inside leg - We all know that the cue for the canter is the outside leg back behind the girth. The inside leg also plays an important role in giving the impulsion for the canter. The outside leg indicates the lead and the inside leg gives the impulsion for the canter. Both legs are important to lift the horse into the canter.
4. Not keeping the horse organized - it is essential to keep the horse in the same frame, on the same line of travel and relaxed during the transition into canter. Often horses will put their head up, fall in or fall out, or become tense and nervous during the transition. The rider’s job is to help the horse stay organized.
Here is a great exercise to help your horse pick up the canter: Go up the 1/4 line and leg-yield to the rail off the inside leg When you reach the rail, ask the horse to canter and immediately go onto a 20 meter circle This exercise will help to get the horse prepared to canter by getting the horse off of the inside leg and into the outside rein. Be sure to keep the forward impulsion in the trot leg-yield to have enough energy for the canter transition at the end!
Sitting trot is one of the most difficult things to do well in riding. The sitting trot requires that the rider moves with and absorbs the motion of the horses’ back with their body. This requires strength, flexibility, and timing from the rider. The MOST COMMON mistakes that riders make in the sitting trot are:
1. Sitting Still - even though it looks like the rider is sitting perfectly still on the horse, they are actually moving A LOT. The rider has to move in perfect harmony and absorb all of the motion of the horses’ back with their spine and body. In sitting trot, the rider is moving their pelvis, hips, lower back, elbows, and even their ankles to absorb the motion of the horse!
2. Gripping with the leg - often riders use the lower leg and their heel to keep themselves on the horse. This can cause the rider to loose their stirrup, the horse to speed up, and the rider to bounce more as they raise their center of gravity up and away from the horse. It is important in the sitting trot to keep the leg long and think of dropping the heel down to the ground with every step. The upper leg and the correct movement in the spine and hip will keep the rider in the saddle without needing to grip with the leg.
3. The bobble head - Have you ever seen someone in sitting trot that bobbles their head around? This is incorrect and comes from a tightness in the lower back. The head and neck of the rider should not bounce with the trot. This will cause neck problems and likely give the rider a headache. Instead think about sitting the trot below the waist and keeping the head and neck out of it!
4. Slowing the trot down - many of us, without realizing we are doing it, actually slow the horse down and make the horse trot less so that we can more easily sit their trot. The beauty of dressage is training the horses to move with expression and volume in their stride so taking this away from the horse in order to sit the trot is not a good thing. Instead, work on the quality of sitting trot rather than the quantity. Work on sitting the big forward trot for just a half of a circle and then go back to the rising trot instead of slowing the horse down and making them trot less.
Here are a few more tips to consider for the sitting trot:
- Make sure the horse is on the bit and the back is up before sitting the trot
- “Quality over quantity” - the horses’ do not like riders bouncing on their sensitive backs and it will make them uncomfortable and sore
-It is easiest to work on the sitting trot from the walk (ie. Walk to sitting trot back to walk)
- Add exercises to your workout routine when not riding to improve core strength, flexibility, and stamina!
Keep up the good work!
Amelia Newcomb is a top Grand Prix rider and trainer who is passionate about educating Dressage enthusiasts around the world. Through her videos, blogs, social media posts, and e-mails, Amelia hopes to help teach correct dressage training and good horsemanship to as many people as possible!