Flexion vs Bend
Subscribe Online http://horsesforlife.com The Difference Between Right and Left Shoulder-In
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Right vs Left The Shoulder-In Right vs Left: A Series on The Study of Opposites
Right vs Left The Shoulder-In Right vs Left: A Series on The Study of Opposites Our horses are creatures of contrasts. What they do well on one side, they do poorly on the other. If they lean on one side, they are upright on the other. If they bend easily to one side, they frequently have problems bending to the other. It is this divide between one side of their body and the other that has been the challenge to all horsemen through the ages. It is this division that is what many horsemen actually mean when they talk about training horses to straightness. The challenge to create a horse that can move equally well or just move equally on both sides of their body, not necessarily straight as a ruler. There are many differences between right and left, but one that we often notice is how while the horse leans - especially in walk or trot - going to the left, they tend to be upright going to the right. But at the same time while they bend easily to the left, bending is much more difficult going to the right. So this becomes our challenge. How do we help our horses find bend going to the right, what is the right answer?
Shoulder-in is a wonderful exercise, and when we feel the resistances to bend that we experience on many horses, it is natural for riders to introduce shoulder-in, or even just a hint of shoulder-in, to try to find bend. On a horse that is finding bending difficult, our inside leg aids are often inefficient at any time but especially in a shoulder-in. We can feel as if our leg aids are blocked on the horse that is not equal on both sides. We then search for ways to support our leg aid. We can feel that we physically need to support our leg aids with our rein aids and, in the case of the shoulder-in especially, from the inside rein aid. The inside rein aid, and how it acts fully, is perhaps another discussion, but the effect in the shoulder-in is as an indirect rein of opposition. The angle of the rein is such that it directs the angle towards the outside hip, the diagonal of the foreleg on the side that you use the rein on. In this way you can think of it as inhibiting the inside foreleg and thus directing the energy to the outside foreleg which is in no way constrained. So the horse moves in that direction.
On the right or upright side, if your horse has the opposite tendencies from the left side, this creates issues in the horseâ€™s body that just donâ€™t happen on the other side. While the shoulder-in can be extremely effective on the side that the horse leans on, on the side that the horse is naturally more upright the shoulder-in can actually have the opposite effect, if we are not very careful. The one thing we have to remember is that the horse is upright not because he has finally reached that pinnacle of collection and straightness where he is upright because he has learned how to carry himself on his hind end. Instead what we see is that a horse is upright - as in, he is not leaning. Being upright because of one reason versus the other is a very different kettle of fish. The horse in Level 1 or Level 2 level of balance is upright because he is a little like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. On this left side his shoulder wants to drop and come back for that lean that he does so naturally, and his opposite shoulder he holds forward and upright in compensation.
Now when we use the shoulder-in on the left shoulder it works wonderfully. As we engage the left indirect rein of opposition, it encourages the inside shoulder that wants to drop, to lift, to come upright to move over. The perfect solution for the shoulder that wants to drop as the horse leans into the corners and into the circle.
But when we use the shoulder-in on the opposite side - the side where the shoulder is already upright and the horse has a tendency to want to carry it more forward, a shoulder that inhibits the bend, inhibits the release through the neck, with muscles that are contracted on the inside - using a rein that brings the energy back into the inside of the base of the neck only encourages further contraction, it only blocks the inside shoulder even further. Instead what we need is for the fore-shortened neck on the inside to lengthen to allow the release of the inside shoulder. If you have ever felt that there was an incredible block, one that you as a rider just canâ€™t seem to get past, this is the block that you feel â€“ it is the upright/forward shoulder.
The shoulder inhibiting and blocking the muscles in the neck. Instead we need the shoulder to not block the base of the neck and we need the neck to lengthen properly before we will find that the shoulder-in on the right rein has the ease, grace and bend that we seem to find so easily on the left rein.
by Nadja King
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