Whilst looking for some new schooling exercises over the weekend I came across counter canter shoulder in.
Doesn’t that sound complicated?
Well let’s break it down, because it’s a really useful straightening exercise and improves their suppleness.
In shoulder in, you bring the shoulders in, around the inside leg. Left shoulder in is around the left leg, usually performed on the left rein, and right shoulder in is around the right leg, usually ridden on the right rein. But if you were riding down a straight road, you can do shoulder in in either direction without worry.
Some instructors call this next exercise shoulder out, but as the horse’s shoulders still move into the bend of their body I think this is an incorrect description. Reverse shoulder in could be another option. But that suggests going backwards, so my best name for the exercise is counter shoulder in.
Begin by ensuring that you can ride a good, balanced, straight shoulder in away from the fence line. This ensures the horse is not using the fence to support them on three tracks.
Next, ride on the right rein, in walk or trot, onto the three quarter line. Straighten your horse and change the bend before asking for left shoulder in.
You want to aim to ride straight along the three quarter line, without drifting towards the track, keeping the uniform bend. Remember at the end to straighten your horse and change the bend ready for the short side of the arena. You should feel an immediate improvement in the straightness of your horse.
Before taking this forward to canter, counter canter must already be established. Ride the three quarter lines a couple of times to check your horse isn’t anticipating leg yield of hankering to the fence. Then come down the three quarter line in right canter on the right rein. Take your time to straighten before asking for left shoulder in. It feels strange, and isn’t the easiest of moves for your horse, but again you should feel that they are much straighter in normal canter.
If you’re feeling brave, have a go, and see how you get on!