Originally Posted by equitate
Ideally you have someone on the ground, or a mirror to look at you. But remember this: a shoulder fore is on 2 1/2 tracks (a viewer can see the inside hind between the forelegs), and is it a 'bite' (the first step) of a 20 m circle ridden straight ahead. A shoulder in is on three tracks (a viewer cannot see the inside hind as it is hidden behind the outside fore), at it has the bend of a 10m circles. And a shoulder in (on four tracks) has more bend and is the bend of a 6m volte.
That said, the hind legs do NOT cross, only the forelegs.
If the horse is losing the even bend, ask why? Is the horse bending only in the neck? Then the control of the outside rein has been lost. So ask where is the energy from the inside leg (which is closer to the girth)? Or where is the outside leg (is it stretched down/back)? Where are you looking? (Between the ears?) Where is your chest pointed (Between the ears?)
Ideally ride a circle in the corner before starting, start the sf (or si) as if you were starting the circle, continue for a few stride, ride another circle. Better a few steps well then many and losing the bend/balance.
Also, try doing some shoulder in on a circle in hand, it will allow you to see the degee of bending/engagement and REACTIONS from the inside whip (hand) near the girth. PULSE the aid (as you would the leg) so that the horse learns to REACT with the movement of the inside hind.
Yes we do practice the shoulder-in in hand (weird just typing that), and we definitely have a couple good steps undersaddle. Not currently schooling or even attempting the shoulder fore.
Oddly enough what seems to happen is not a loss in bend but rather we lose the movement because his butt gets pushed to the inside, so that it's in line with the direction of movement. In effect, we could then transition to a haunches-in on the circle. I'm sure it has to do with either not moving off the inside leg enough or moving off the outside too much. And I'm pretty sure this is in connection to when I realize I may not be looking in the right direction.
Which brings me to; I normally always look in the direction of travel. So I look past the outside shoulder for a shoulder-in. Should I be looking straight between his ears? I know my shoulders are always supposed to point where is shoulders are. Just seems odd to me to look forward while not riding forward.