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Shoulder in aids

In the simplest way possible, describe how to ask for a shoulder in.

Best to ask from a 10m circle at the start of the long side of the arena. When you get back to the rail, start as though you’re going to do another circle, except continue down the long side and maintain the bend with your inside leg, guard the haunches from falling out with your outside leg, maintain the angle with your outside rein, and keep the flexion to the inside with your light inside rein.

The hind legs should track straight along the line of travel; the front legs should be off the rail at about a 30 to 35 degree angle. Keep your hips aligned straight ahead, and your shoulders aligned with your horse’s shoulders. You want to feel like you are “inviting” the shoulders over to the inside track.


Direct outside rein brings shoulder off the rail. Inside leg keeps inside hind leg driving and helps keep haunches on the rail. It is ridden with inside bend, but that doesn’t mean just pulling the neck off the track, as the inside rein should remain pretty light same as if you are riding with bend on a normal track. Front legs come off the track, degree of angle depending on if you are riding 3 track shoulder fore or 4 track movement.

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It depends how well trained the horse is and how well you ride. You get a slight inside bend, you push the horses shoulders towards the inside with the outside rein, you push the haunches out with the inside leg. But what’s really key is that you turn your head and your whole upper body to follow his head. That makes your weight swivel in the correct way to make the movement happen. As things get smoother more of the movement happens from that shift and swivel.

A couple of things can typically go wrong in shoulder in. You can use too much inside rein and basically leave the horse unable to go forward. Or you can use to much inside leg which makes you clench up your inside leg and shift your weight the wrong way around.

Do it at walk before you do it at trot.

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Be careful with this. The haunches should remain straight on the rail; they should not go out. This is the most common mistake seen on centerline shoulder-ins during dressage tests: the movement is shoulder-in, not haunches-out.


This is completely wrong. The haunches stay where they are, and the outside leg guards against them moving out. The inside leg helps maintain the forward and the bend. PLEASE don’t push the haunches anywhere in the shoulder-in.


Better yet, the outside lower leg keeps the haunches from falling out, which would result in a LY, rather than a S/I


I understand all of this-written down—for the most part. What I can’t understand is the outside rein. Are you almost crossing the outside rein over the neck to the inside? Direct rein back to your outside hip? What exactly is the outside rein doing. I understand not wanting to use inside rein because you aren’t bending in the neck and want to keep the horse bent around your leg to keep haunches in the rail and shoulders in, but it’s that outside rein, I am stuck on. Direct rein back to hip, or move to the inside (almost crossing it over the neck?)

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No, not crossing the rein. If you turn your head and torso (from the waist up),keeping your shoulders square, inside seat bone forward, the outside rein will do its thing, unless you give with it. Don’t give! It must be there for any half halts you need.

Experiment, at the walk at first. If you have mirrors in your arena they are invaluable for checking the position and alignment of the horse’s shoulders and hips-- and yours, too! It sounds more complicated than it is. You will get it!

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The feel of the outside rein is to the rider’s outside hip. The hands need not move., just allow the horse’s head and neck to softly flex to inside, again not pulling the inside rein just holding it with a light finger squeeze encouraging the neck flexion,

Try riding a 10m circle, then instead of expanding the circle while going forward, expand the circle outward in a straight line. Your body and hand position doesn’t really change, only your head, to look and see where you are going


I find i can get it for a few steps, but eventually but inevitably fall off the rail, and entirely fall apart.

Direct rein with the outside rein. I think for a beginner at it (person or horse), it is better to ride pretty forward into the movement out of the turn to keep the hind end driving. I find coming off a small circle is better to teach haunches in.

The outside rein holds the outside shoulder from jackknifing. In shoulder in, the horse bends evenly from nose to tail, as though at any minute it is going to make a 10 meter circle. I find it easiest to start in a corner of the arena. If you don’t hold the outside shoulder in line with the bend, then the horse will pop the outside shoulder and bend there or in the neck instead of through the ribs. Think of a truck and trailer, and imagine turning too sharp with the truck and jackknifing at the hitch and creating a 90 degree angle between the truck and the trailer. That’s what you want to avoid. Use as much outside rein as you need to prevent that from happening when you apply your seat and leg aids.

Everyone always tries to do too much at first. Just ask for that outside shoulder to come in off the track for couple of strides then continue on a 10 meter circle.

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The simplest way? Subscribe to Ride IQ and ride several shoulder-in lessons with different trainers. I did one today with Lauren Spreiser and it really helped me and my horse figure it out.


About starting in the corner, when riding a test, you do not start S/I until you reach the requested letter.

The outside knee holds the shoulder. the rein affects only the neck.


You lose S/I because you are not able to hold the proper position. If your horse is stiff on that side it compounds the problem. Try riding S/I from H to S, then do a 10m circle.from there,S/I toE, circle, and continue down the arena, circling at every letter.

Just remember inside leg at girth, outside knee closes against the shoulder, while outside lower leg guards hinquarters. Reins really aren’t necessary. Giving the inside rein tests your ability to ride the famous inside leg to outside rein.

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This is great visual to read. Thanks so much. Worked more today and I think it went well, just have to keep on it. He’s definitely stiff on one side, so I try to work on suppling first though flexion and counter flexion, circles etc.

Great tips and descriptions

Went riding to remind myself and yeah, I was saying it wrong about the riders inside leg. The outside rein moves the shoulders over to the inside, like a neck rein. The outside thigh does indeed come into play as you swivel your body, the inside lower leg sends the haunches forward ( with horse being on the diagonal).

Yes, I was taught to ride a 10 meter circle and continue the bend down the rail.

I also think that Ride IQ would help a lot.

When traveling on the horse’s hollow side, it can help to work just on angle and less bend because the horse will already tend to want to be over bent. And when traveling on the stiff side, you should be able to get the angle easier, but bend will be harder.

I also like coming down quarter line, leg yield to the rail and then continue on from there in shoulder in. Starting from a small circle can be hard to catch the shoulder from running out and only turning the neck as you move onto the rail, especially traveling on the hollow side. Get the positioning first, add bend later.

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