Get to grips with riding shoulder-in? Here's how...plus some tips on avoiding common mistakes!

The FEI definition of the movement is: The horse is slightly bent round the inside leg of the rider.  The horse's inside foreleg passes and crosses in front of the outside leg; the inside hind leg is placed in front of the outside leg.  The horse is looking away from the direction in which he is moving.
If performed correctly this exercise is not only a suppling movement but also a collecting movement as the horse, with every step, must move his inside hind leg underneath his body and place it in front of the outside hind, lowering the inside hip and taking more weight on the inside hind leg.
A 'classical', technically correct shoulder-in, is ridden on three tracks with no more than a 30 degree angle.  However, in practise it is often ridden on four tracks.

The aids for shoulder-in 
* Riding a small circle in a corner of the school, ride a half halt to help collect the trot and signal to your horse something is about to happen.
* Bring the horse's shoulders off the track, the outside rein controlling the speed and amount of bend, preventing the horse from continuing on the circle. In conjunction with the outside rein the inside leg, forward at the girth, encourages the horse to move down the track in the manner described above. 
* The rider's inside leg also creates and maintains impulsion whilst the outside leg controls the quarters. 
* The inside rein maintains a slight flexion away from the direction the horse is travelling. 
NB. In any lateral work it is important you concentrate on maintaining the same quality of steps.  Any movement or exercise should never sacrifice rhythm, tempo (speed), straightness or suppleness. 
* You are aiming for your horse to remain calm and forward thinking, stepping through to the contact.
* If you feel you are losing the quality of the steps/movement, straighten the horse by bringing the shoulders back to the track and ride out of the movement. 
* Once rhythm has been re-established, ride another 10m circle, which can be anywhere in the school and recommence the exercise.  Make sure you don't ask for too much too soon, or wait until it has gone wrong, before riding out of the movement and setting up again.
* Just as with any other movement there is a clear start and finish.  If riding shoulder-in on a straight line the horse must be ridden straight before reaching the corner.

Shoulder In_Revision

                                               A SHOULDER IN RIGHT CLEARLY SHOWING THREE TRACKS

Teaching tips

When teaching the shoulder-in you may have to ride each stride keeping the aids clear and consistent.  Like us, your horse may have a preference and find it easier on one particular rein.  An open rein can help to lead the shoulders across, helping to make your request clearer. Under no circumstances should you pull back or get too much neck bend.

What to look for in your horse - Regardless of the age your horse should:
* Maintain a good rhythm (regular footfall)
* Be supple and accept the bit/rider's hands
* Be straight
* Move off the rider's leg, actively forwards to the bridle
* Your horse should also understand the concept of moving sideways, having already learnt leg yield whilst maintaining all of the above. 
* It is often easier to teach this movement in walk.  This allows the inexperienced rider a chance to organise themselves and to feel the movement.  It gives the horse chance to work out what is being asked of him
* If the horse is struggling, then ride shoulder fore. This is simply asking for a smaller angle, which you can later build on.
* As your horse becomes more established this exercise can be ridden on a 20m circle.
* This movement is used to straighten a horse.  The shoulders are brought across in front of the quarters, never the quarters pushed across to bring in line with the forehand.
* Shoulder-in is mainly ridden in trot but can be ridden in walk and canter.

Common faults 
* Too much neck bend, shoulders not truly moving across. 
* Hind quarters pushed out, rather than shoulders moving across. 
* Loss of impulsion - too much neck bend can prevent a horse moving forwards freely. 
* Too much angle, making the shoulder-in four tracks rather than three.

Tips on riding shoulder-in
* Use the corner to help set up the movement.
* Look in the direction you are travelling.
* If your horse is narrow you may need to ask for a greater angle, so that in a dressage test, the judge can see the shoulder-in.
* A horse with a large chest will give the illusion of shoulder-in with less angle. 
* The rider should not lean in either direction but remain straight at all times. 
* Push your inside leg forward as drawing it back pushes the quarters out which is not shoulder-in.
* Feel how lightly or strongly you need to apply the aids.  For example, if the horse moves his quarters in too far then less outside leg is required.

For more fltawork exercises and riding tips Read more