Guest Author - Susan Hopf
Working this lateral movement In-Hand slows the process to such a degree that the handler can influence and observe the more subtle reaction and details of each step the horse takes. Substituting the handlers body position for the inner leg, enhancing that position with proper work with the whip and a much lighter rein influence helps the horse better comply with the challenge of creating a three or four track movement a super way to start any horse. The Shoulder-in creates balance by strengthening the weaker side of the horse, stretching the barrel, opening the chest muscles and asking for engagement of the hind legs. If you do not force a deep bend the horse is allowed to begin collection at his/her own pace.
For greater success you need a wall or fence to work against.
I strongly suggest that you read the companion articles listed below. After you have processed the information contained within them please think about the following:
You as the ground handler need to stand where you can most influence the horse you take the place of the inside leg so you must not allow the horse to move you unless she is in the Shoulder-in position. The horse will not be able to physically or mentally remain in this new position until repeated application of the aids teaches her what you are trying to accomplish so only allowing her to move when set-up correctly makes all the difference in the level and rate of success.
Proper positioning for a Shoulder-in left place your horse parallel to the wall; the handler faces the direction of movement so you place your self, facing forward, next to the inside shoulder of the horse. The whip and outside rein is held in the right hand with the rein over the withers and straight down and the whip held in the palm with forefinger pointing outward toward the tip of the whip the wrist must stay flexible; the inside rein is held just behind the ring of the bit and will do nothing else other than soften the jaw and suggest a slight bend of the neck with a small vibration if needed. Once in this position, and it will be awkward at first, you then must ask your horse to proceed forward.
We want the horse to step forward with his inside hind first. Raise, but do not pull backwards, your outside hand (the right hand when Shoulder-in left) and touch the inside hip with the lash of the whip a soft brush at first and then a tap that increases until some movement from the horse occurs. Repeat until he steps under with this leg. Once the hind leg is in motion step forward with your left leg, keeping your hips aligned with your shoulders (leaning forward from your waist will cause your horse to rush), expecting that he will follow you forward. If he does so correctly he will step under with the inside hind and then up, forward and over (toward the inside) on the outside fore causing his shoulders to drape around your body as soon as this happens walk forward, with your hips still aligned with your shoulder, on a straight line for a few steps, relax, halt by becoming still and standing tall, and then start again.
The horse falls into your body correct by standing your ground and repositioning both you and the horse.
Circling around you same correction as above.
Backing up same correction as above.
Barging forward with no lateral displacement of shoulders same correction as above.
Bending only the neck with no lateral displacement of the shoulders give a quick tug and release, straight down, with the outside rein. If this corrects the horses position you can keep moving forward if not reposition and try again.
Consider each and every step making sure that you are asking for shoulder-in. The horse will not always give it to you and when that happens you must not allow the horse forward. The work needs to be precise and quiet. If the horse becomes frustrated you must stay calm and simply I repeat simply ask for what you want and this simply means that you are maintaining the correct position yourself. In the beginning it will be very difficult to do so. So as not to over face yourself make a running check on your own position quite frequently and adjust as necessary.
When you move forward you must walk on your own line do not allow the horse to push or pull you off of such. As with most lateral movements the horse is bent but traveling straight so if you do not move on a straight line more distortions will occur within the bend of the horse.
As you both become better the movement takes on the quality of a dance. Position step correct position step correct position step correct until all at once you are waltzing around the arena in perfect harmony.
Write out the system of aids and position of both you and the horse to create a Shoulder-in right. This will create more certainty in your approach prior to addressing your horse.