Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Whimp Out

A Chilly Day

I didn't do anything with the Boys today. By the time I had gone to the feed store and unloaded six bales of shavings and three bags of grain, I was kind of tired. Then I cleaned the stalls. Afterwards, I went out to poo pick the arena so it doesn't get ahead of me as it did while I was laid up.

Frankly, my knees are really bad right now. Getting on a horse was not too appealing, and it was close enough to evening feed that I just decided to let the Boys have another day off.

I was kind of chilly--not exactly cold, but not exactly too nice either. I'm not sure if that affects my knees or if I really, really need to go to the doctor. The problem there is that my insurance will no longer pay for the kind of treatment I get and, at the moment, I don't have enough money to pay for it without running up another credit card. I'll dose up on my glucosamine, try to take is easy--and yes, I wear braces on my knees--and just see how it goes. Could be that building up my leg muscles will help--or not.

Muriel asked me to explain the shoulder in. Please note that I am not a technical rider. I understand a lot of theory, but I ride mostly by feel, so my explanations come from how a movement feels to me rather than from an intellectual approach.

So, here goes. The shoulder in is a suppling exercise which, when done well, helps the horse correctly engage his hind end, and to my mind develops straightness, implusion, and the effect of the outside rein.

Riding a shoulder-in can be a little tricky, especially if the rider loses control of the outside rein and the horse begins to escape laterally by stepping too far over with the inside hind leg, creating a kind of leg yield on the line instead of a shoulder-in.

All this means that the outside rein is the most important aid. The rider brings the horse's shoulder to the inside with the outside rein until the outside front leg is in line with the inside hind leg. The hind legs remain straight on the track as the horse continues to go forward, bent slightly around the rider's leg at the girth. The rider's inside leg needs to drive the horse forward thinking, "I am pushing him into the outside rein." The rider's outside leg goes slightly behind the girth to keep the horse's hind end from going to the outside, holding it straight on the track.

While the rider's inside hand does help the horse bend to the inside, you need to think always of "forward" with that hand so you do not overbend the horse or encourage him to fall on the inside shoulder. While the shoulder is in off the track, it must always feel as if it is stepping forward.

The inside hind leg should now be engaged, stepping into the track of the outside shoulder and, as a result, stepping into the feel of the outside rein.

Now, I know Muriel is riding western and does not want to demand the same kind of rein contact we are looking for in dressage. I would guess the key would be to lead the horse's head and shoulder in with the reins and be very careful and aware of the leg aids. Inside leg at the girth to develop a bend and keep the forward, and outside leg slightly behind the girth to keep the horse's hindquarters on the track still moving straight. The front end/shoulder is moved over enough so the outside front leg and inside hind leg are on the same track. This should help the horse become more supple by creating flexibility in her body.

Anyone who wants to jump in here and comment, please feel free. I am sure doing some research would come up with some more technical explanations, but this is how I understand the shoulder-in when I ride it.

Actually, a lot of the upper level exercises are really not as hard as people think if the horse has been correctly taught to go on the aids. The key is always ride forward and then, when you apply a leg, rein, or seat aid, the horse will just go where you want him to with whatever part of his body you have asked to move.

Get the horse's feet moving and usually you can place them where you want them to be. The trouble starts when they don't move. hear that, Tucker?


  1. Anonymous8:08 PM

    Nice description of shoulder in. The knees must really be a nuisance, but I think you're right that developing the muscles should help - think of them like stifles, which they really are!

  2. Very good description of the shoulder in. I ride by feel too and it's kind of hard to explain sometimes, you did it really well and understandable. I feel for you with your knees. I hate to say this but maybe you should do the bare minimum of work and try to take a few days off and rest them as much as possible. Feel better.

  3. I wimped out today, too. It was cold out there!

    Very nice description of the shoulder-in aids. It made me stop and think about my aids for shoulder in. I had to pretend to be riding a horse to figure them out! It's one of those things I just "do" without really thinking about. I should really be more aware of those things.

    Hope your knees get to feeling better soon.

  4. Thanks Jean. You are wonderful.
    I found this beautiful photo of Alois Podhajsky in shoulder-in :

    I printed it out and will ask Saul to check if we look like that. I wish for mirrors!!!

    I also use my outside reinfor stopping her to over-bend, and "escape" via the outside shoulder ;-P

    Are you taking any supplement for your knees?
    The cold must not help.
    I hope you feel better soon.

    Another cheeky question. If shoulder-in is more for hind, is travers more for shoulder?

  5. Beautiful description of shoulder-in! I could just feel what it's like as I was reading it. What are your methods for getting Tucker forward? From what I've read of your posts about Tucker, my TB sounds JUST like him. I have the hardest time getting him forward. Any suggestions? I love reading your posts on your methods :)