View Full Version : Shoulder/Straightness/Outside Rein Connection--Specific arena excercises?

Jul. 15, 2011, 12:10 AM
My young horse is coming along nicely. We've chipped away on our training objectives, and the next few weeks I'd like to focus on his issues with the outside rein connection/straightness issue tracking left. To the right, he is solid in the bridle. To the left, he is heavy on the inside rein and too light on the outside. I tend to lose his shoulder--often to the outside (which is to be expected), but sometimes to the inside. I realize I need to move him into the outside rein off my leg and keep a steady connection there while also avoiding any kind of "pulling match" with the inside rein.

But what I'd like is some really specific techniques and arena figures I could try as I work on this. I'm already doing tons of serpentines and shallow loops, as well as counter-bending (although I wouldn't mind hearing about an exercise that uses counterbending in a really specific pattern). What other exercises might I try? The horse likes pole/cavaletti work so he'd like exercises that used those (maybe a certain set up where he has to steer/yield from set to set?)

I look forward to hearing any ideas!

Jul. 15, 2011, 12:44 AM

I'm wondering, how old is your young horse? His age would make a large difference regarding what would be expected from him. How long has this horse been under saddle? What can he comfortably do right now?


Jul. 15, 2011, 01:07 AM

He's four. He's been under saddle since Nov 10. He gets worked 4x a week 45 min sessions usually. One day he is ground driven/lunged of those 4. All day turn out. He is WTC, and plenty fit. Both trainers I work with agree that he is a physically mature/strong horse for his age, i.e. he isn't gawky or weedy. Very naturally balanced and coordinated. He's very cool headed, so he can handle work that is mentally challenging as well as physically.


Jul. 16, 2011, 11:35 AM
Walk a twenty meter circle, add in a few steps of shoulder in, maybe 2 good ones, maybe 5, then carry on as normal.
Add in some transitions up and down to trot when the exercise starts to feel behind the leg and sluggish, to freshen it up.
Just a couple of times on each rein as a warm up to lateral work.
Keeping the outline steady in and out of the shoulder in can be a challenge so I'm happy with just a couple of good steps and don't over do it as it can get stodgy but good to go back to during the same session. I really get a good feel of inside leg to outside hand from this exercise.

Jul. 16, 2011, 11:44 PM
I have a similar problem with my mare, renvers helps get her off the inside rein and straighter into the connection. once i get it and then feel like she's falling back to the inside, i just do a few strides of it again to remind her.

Jul. 17, 2011, 02:25 AM
Renvers for a 4 year old only started in November? NOT.

I'd suggest you work with a bona-fide young horse trainer. Do you have a good one in your area? Don't accept a "poser".

A 4 year old is only "so" fit. Sorry. That's training level, learning first level. Continue to build strength and confidence with shallow serpentines and counter bending and what you're doing. He's only 4, don't forget. Look at the 4 year old tests if you want to know what the cream of the crop of 4 year olds should be doing, and then ask yourself if you can honestly train a "cream of the crop" 4 year old like the pros can. Most of those 4 year olds have been under saddle a lot longer than your horse. Why do you want to push your horse? What are you doing to do with an injured horse?

If your horse keeps going out the shoulder, you're not being effective with your aids. That's not a terrible thing. Planning to go to the National 4, 5 6 year olds? If not, cut yourself and your horse a break and train him with a solid foundation, not on a time scale.

Jul. 17, 2011, 04:16 AM
I wasn't under the impression by the OP's post that they were pushing their horse too hard too fast...

Your horse's fitness aside OP, make sure you are riding straight - and shoulders up! Also, make sure your horse is aligned chiropractically. Then make sure you are riding with even reins. Sounds simple, but riding with a shorter inside rein (not even by much, and you might be doing so out of habit without noticing) will do this too. Our horses are our mirrors and I am betting there is something of the above going on to cause your horse to pick up such uneven contact.

As for a specific exercise if it is not any of the above or if the above does the trick but you need one last extra push - a CoTH'er posted awhile ago an exercise I found very beneficial: simply put, ride your corners square. Ride straight down to the corner and at the corner itself (prior to any turn), ask your horse to move his hips over with your inside leg (so, pushing his hind to the outside) to make the turn. Sort of a turn-on-the-forehand but while moving forward, that engages the hind and causes the horse to lift that inside shoulder and straighten, and as a result, pick up more even contact. I found it easiest to do this at the trot. That, and lots of lateral work (ie, simple leg yields) should help strengthen your horse and have him balancing and traveling straighter.

Hope the above maybe lends some insight.

ETA: Oh yea, forgot to add to keep in mind the training scale. I think the type of crookedness you are referring to is due to something you are doing as a rider and/or is correctable, but true and full straightness is higher up the training scale and so will take time to develop as you and your horse progress. At 4 and with less than a year u/s, you have to give full straightness more time ;)

Jul. 17, 2011, 07:55 AM
I would hack a couple times a week up and down a few hills and ride some large figures on a slight slope. This explains to them more about how to balance themslves than working in a ring.

It will also show you better where your weaknesses are.

I always hack out young horses regularly.

Jul. 17, 2011, 08:01 AM
A young horse should just be going steadily forward and doing curved lines (circles/half circles/serpentines/etc). Straightness is made by the ability to eventually control the (outside) shoulder from reactions to the inside leg pulsing. But it comes over time through the use of bended lines, and eventually through shoulder fore/shoulder in/shoulder in entwicheln, but the later (or renvers which also controls the shoulders) are inappropriate for a younger horse imho.

Jul. 17, 2011, 01:39 PM
Don't beat a 4 YO over the head with lateral work, and schooling should be part of a rounded education which includes lots of hacking I agree, but there's no harm in introducing the notion of lateral work at that age. Just started introducing it to my 4 YO while out hacking. He's so clever he needs something to think about.

Jul. 17, 2011, 02:10 PM
To the right, he is solid in the bridle. To the left, he is heavy on the inside rein and too light on the outside. I tend to lose his shoulder--often to the outside (which is to be expected), but sometimes to the inside. I realize I need to move him into the outside rein off my leg and keep a steady connection there while also avoiding any kind of "pulling match" with the inside rein
Anytime an otherwise willing horse (which you seem to have)has issues with one thing-it's either rider error, or the horse is sore somewhere. Check yourself first to make sure you're asking correctly-if you rule that out, get a good MT OR chiro to fix the physical problem.
And don't push this horse too much too soon-or you will have problems. School the horse, maybe 2X week-only ask for collection for a few steps, then allow the horse to stretch! Go out as the others suggested for trails and fun!

Jul. 17, 2011, 03:14 PM
1. Add in a little more fitness work- i.e. walking hills. Most horses have a naturally easy side and a naturally more difficult side- strength will help him overcome that.

2. Anytime you think to yourself "I wish I had more horse in my outside rein" bring his shoulders in just a hair for 3-4 strides. Close your fingers around your outside rein, and close your inside leg. Baby shoulder-fore will help him engage behind and push through to your outside rein.

3. Square corners at the walk. As you ride into the corner, close your outside rein and leg. Expect him to stay very straight in the corner, and turn off your outside aids.