The suppling abilities of lateral work are essential for horses in any discipline and therefore should play a major role in your horse’s training programme. Introducing lateral work early gives you time to establish it in the horse’s repertoire and allows you to move onto more advanced work with more confidence.
A really useful exercise for inexperienced horses, and in fact riders, is the shoulder-fore. This exercise is a great starting point if you are new to lateral work and allows you to introduce the concept to your horse in a simple and easy-to-understand way.
What is shoulder-fore?
Shoulder-fore is a lateral movement that encourages the horse to take more weight onto the inside hindleg in particular. In shoulder-fore, your horse brings his shoulders off the track, while his quarters stay on the track. The angle should be about half of that of a shoulder-in and the horse should be travelling on three tracks.
To try the shoulder-fore exercise:
- Ride a 15m circle in trot before turning down the long side, creating a little inside bend with your inside leg while maintaining your horse’s activity.
- With your inside leg on the girth, take both hands slightly to the inside (allowing your outside rein to support the outside shoulder) and turn your shoulders to the angle you’d like your horse’s shoulders to move at. You must also keep your outside leg at the girth to avoid the quarters swinging out. It is important that you do not ask for too much angle too soon.
- After a few strides, circle away before trying again. You need to be looking for a few quality steps rather than asking over and over for the whole long side. This exercise is surprisingly taxing on your horse’s body and mind and the horse showing understanding of the aids is far more important than the amount of angle you can achieve.
- As you progress you will be able to ask for more angle and even try the exercise in canter. You must just make sure that your horse is ready before you up the difficulty level!
Shoulder-in and shoulder-fore are useful for developing the quality of your horse’s paces because the hindlegs have to take more weight. This will boost your horse’s suppleness, balance, and expression. If you feel improvements, you’ve got the angle right and you are helping your horse to build a better body!
Points to note
- Keep a little bit of flexion on the inside rein when performing the exercise to keep your horse supple through the neck.
- Make sure that you do not get pushed to the outside of the saddle by your horse’s movement. Your shoulders should be parallel to your horse’s shoulders, but you don’t want to be hanging more to the outside than the inside.