From a simple trot leg-yield to canter half-pass, when ridden correctly lateral work will encourage your horse to step through more with his hindleg and lift his shoulders.
“When you ask your horse to do any form of lateral work he has to put more weight under his body than he does on a straight line,” explains Former Spanish Riding School rider Florian Bacher. “This is why these movements are so good at improving engagement and building strength.”
Shoulder-in and haunches-in help to straighten your horse, as well as bringing the horse’s hindleg under the rider more. Shoulder-in, haunches-in and leg-yield all encourage your horse to step through and under his body more with his inside hindleg. All three are good exercises as they focus on the activity of the hindlegs.
Here are Florian’s six favourite ways to create better engagement.
1. Trot leg-yield is an easy exercise to use at the start and end of your session to encourage softness and suppleness.
2. Ride shoulder-in off the track, on the three quarter or centre line. This is a good way to check you’re riding a true shoulder-in and not just pushing the hindlegs out.
3. Ask for some medium steps while you’re riding shoulder-in to ensure the hindlegs stay active.
4. Ride transitions within the pace and incorporate shoulder-in too. As you ride along the short side, ask for some more forward steps. As you turn onto the long side, collect the pace and ride shoulder-in down the long side of the arena.
5. Ride a half 10m circle to the centre line and ask for half-pass back to the track. Focus on the hindleg, not just on going forwards.
6. Haunches-in on a small circle in canter is a great exercise to help you stay in control of the inside hindleg.
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