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IquitosARG10 04-22-2013 08:34 PM

Shoulder Exercises
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Hey everyone,

I was wondering what you all do to supple your horse's shoulders. I've read the exercises from Jane Savoie and my trainer has me doing a lot of bending and circles to loosen up my horse's shoulder.

He is 12 and we are just beginning dressage. He is getting the hang of it, and we are making VAST improvements from where we have previously been, but the one thing that's holding us back is his stiff shoulders!!

Any good, creative exercises out there that don't just require going in circles? Thanks!!

Also, while we're at it....I'm doing dressage for the first time as well and I'm finding ridiculously hard to keep my shoulders back. I've ridden hunt seat my whole life and this is the hardest thing about switching to dressage. (For me) Any suggestions?

I attached some photos for visuals!

Myya 05-05-2013 01:16 AM

Yep, it looks like you are still riding a version of hunt seat. My advice would be to take a few Western lessons. Western riding really helps you get the feel of sitting back and lengthening your leg and riding off your seat (all of which you should be doing in Dressage).

If your horse is stiffl in the shoulders, it is likely that he is carrying his weight too much on his front end (just as you are leaning too far forward). Both of you need to learn to move that center of gravity back. He should feel very light in the front and should easily move his shoulders as you direct.

Again, learning to ride a western "roll back" will help you get the feel of riding a horse from back to front. Once you know how it should feel, it will help you know how to encourage your horse to rebalance himself.

Also, check to be sure you are riding with light hands so your horse is not leaning forward on the reins for support. Keep loosening the rein and just reminding him to keep his head from stretching out too far when he needs the reminder. If you feel him leaning on your hands, loosen the reins so he can't.

Myya 05-05-2013 01:21 AM

I think your legs look nice btw.

48northfarm 05-27-2013 10:24 PM

A shoulder exercise I use is also used for bull fighting horses, when you do it in a canter. I've only done it in walk and trot so far, but since the mare with whom I do this exercise is a Lusitano, undoubtedly we will do it in canter soon. Going down the track, ask for an outside bend, then leg yield to the inside about five steps. Do five more steps straight, then ask for an inside bend and leg yield outside five steps. Make sure you get the bend before you ask the horse to move diagonally. In order to get the shoulders to initiate the leg yield, raise your hands about a foot off the withers and move both of the hands in the direction you want to move. The head is counter-bent, and the hands are on the correct bend. Do not hold your hands steady, but vibrate them as you ask for the movement. The outside rein will be against the neck, and the inside rein will be open. Counter-bend to the inside, go straight, counter-bend to the outside. Hands are high as the horse is learning the exercise--their shoulders will move more easily with high hands which only effect the corner of the mouth--but eventually you will be able to ask for the exercise with just a subtle raising of the reins, almost invisible. Try the exercise at the walk, then go to the trot once it gets easier.

It's a fun exercise, good luck!

IquitosARG10 05-27-2013 10:29 PM

That sounds like a fun exercise to try!!


equitate 05-27-2013 11:04 PM

ALL suppling exercises are some form of a circle. Shoulder in is the first step onto a circle ridden straight ahead and travers the last steps. THE most suppling exercise there is a (variety of) circle (half circle/serpentine/etc). The major equitational thing to sustain is a straight line from elbow to horse's mouth, if you break the line downward the horse will hollow and the bit will act on the bars. Thumbs UP (no puppy paws). (And if the hands are low/flat it will also round your shoulders).

Leg yielding (head to the wall or otherwise) can be suppling, but it has no bend, only flexion. That said the uses of the hands (opening rein/neck rein/lifting/etc) all have very calculated rider action-horse reaction TIMING.

BaileyJo 05-28-2013 10:42 AM

As far as your shoulders, you are doing what I did and sitting up on your crotch. Do you sit trot? If so, do that. If you don't, learn it. It improves everything. You should be sitting almost on your tailbone, almost like a C and your back straight. It will feel very strange for awhile but helps tremendously with position.

48northfarm 05-28-2013 12:22 PM


Originally Posted by BaileyJo (Post 2636329)
You should be sitting almost on your tailbone, almost like a C and your back straight.

You should not be sitting near or on your tailbones, or in a C shape. That tucks the butt under your body, a particular way of positioning your body for collection. Ideally, you want to sit on your seatbones for the majority of your riding, unless you want to do something like I just mentioned. Yes, your back should be straight, but most of the time you do not want to tuck your butt under yourself. Tucking your butt under yourself is also a driving position, which might be why the other poster said it improved everything. Her horse might have been lacking in the "forward" department. :-)

BaileyJo 05-28-2013 01:12 PM

Not sure I understand your reply but sitting back almost on my tailbone works for me. It tips my pelvis up, puts my butt down in the saddle and my weight back. To each their own on how it feels.

shoreline 05-28-2013 01:20 PM

When my shoulders start feeling tense or stiff, I just start rolling them backwards. It looks silly, but after a few times it really relaxes me.

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