If you’ve achieved a measure of control of both ends of your horse while practicing leg yield in hand, you should find shoulder in fairly simple, as it is a logical progression for your horse.
Reasons to teach shoulder in
- Where leg yield is largely about crossing the legs to stretch and mobilise the lower back, shoulder in is more about getting your horse to carry weight on his inside hind leg
- One of the main benefits to shoulder in, is that you are only asking your horse to bear weight on one leg at a time
- Because of the position your horse is going to be in when shoulder in is correctly achieved, his inside hind leg will be directly beneath his body weight. Provided you don’t let him rush, this will result in him bending the hind leg joints more acutely and lowering his croup as a result
- Shoulder in is primarily a strengthening exercise
- Further implications are that once you also achieve this movement under saddle (which is easier for him to understand ridden once you have introduced it in hand) it also becomes one of your major straightening tools
What do you want to see in a good shoulder in?
- The main difference between shoulder in and leg yield is that shoulder in requires body bend.
- Where leg yield asks for a fairly straight body, with leg crossing, shoulder in has bend, but no crossing
- Your horse’s hind legs should travel along the track as if they are travelling in a straight line
- His forehand should be brought to the inside, courtesy of him bending in his middle
- His neck should be bent the same amount as his body, and not more
- If you have this correct, his inside hind foot should travel straight forward along the track and arrive under the middle of his body, because his forehand, and therefore his mid-section also, is displaced inward. This is where, for a portion of the stride, his inside hind will carry the body weight alone
- If his legs are crossing, you don’t have enough bend in his middle
- Seen from the front view, only 3 legs should be visible: both front legs and the outside hind. The inside hind should be obscured by the outside front leg.
Shoulder in, in hand
- Whilst I said in Part 4, that you shouldn’t worry about a bit of excess neck bend in leg yield, you don’t want this in shoulder in, otherwise you will simply be performing a leg yield along the track!
- Having said that, one of the ways into shoulder in, is to ask for it immediately after you arrive at the track from a leg yield (see video #2 below). This is logical to your horse, as he will connect the idea of moving sideways from one movement to the next.
- As you arrive at the track, bring his neck and shoulders slightly in from the wall while keeping his hind quarters in the track with the whip, using it either by touching his hind leg in the same manner as the previous exercises, or simply by pointing it at his quarters if he is sensitive.
- Keep walking forward in this position, and don’t let him hurry: the longer he stays with the weight on the inside hind, the more benefit – strength building – you gain from the weight carriage.
Shoulder in seen from in front
In the above video I have a little too much angle, so that all four feet are in view, but you can clearly see the difference (after the first few steps) when Beam develops a bend in her body and is in shoulder in, as opposed to leg yield along the track.
This second video shows how you migh link some of the exercises together, starting with a turn around the forehand, moving into leg yield, and then into shoulder in.
As ever, any questions, please ask!