Some horses can feel stiff when ridden — and it’s common for them to feel more supple on one rein over the other. In terms of stiffness, once you’ve ruled out any underlying causes — tack fit, lameness, pain or a rider not sitting evenly, for example — stiffness needs tackling in each session to ensure your horse is able to do the work you ask of him.
Top show horse producer Katie Jerram-Hunnable shares how she uses shoulder-in to help her horses loosen up.
“Shoulder-in is an excellent suppling exercise. It’s also a useful thing for any rider to have in their toolkit because there’s always lots happening around the show ring and competition arena, with spectators close to the action — plus their dogs, picnic baskets, prams and so on to look at,” says Katie.
“Being able to ride shoulder-in — which leaves the hindquarters on the track while the shoulders are taken off the track to the inside — could make the difference between getting past spooky objects in a calm fashion, or not. Especially important, of course, in a show cob who is supposed to show that he’s mannerly and rock solid.”
How to ride it
- Go large around your arena in working trot.
- As you get to the end of the short side, ride a 10m circle in the corner. This sets up your horse for the shoulder-in and you can test if he’s accepting the inside flexion.
- As you come back to the track, instead of carrying on around the circle, start the shoulder-in down the track using the flexion that you’ve already got to give you the right angle.
- Check that your horse isn’t tilting his head. If he is, hold the inside rein closer to the neck with your outside leg on.
- Always straighten up before you reach the end of the track.
- Try this exercise in sitting trot if you and your horse are able, as it will help your connection throughout the movement.
- If you’re struggling to feel if your horse is on the correct three tracks, get someone to stand at the end of the long side and check for you.
Meet the expert: Katie Jerram-Hunnable has won myriad supreme showing titles, including multiple Horse of the Year Show and Royal International championships. She produces and rides horses for The Queen, is an accredited trainer and co-author of two books.
Main image = stock image. Credit: Kelsey Media