Use Walter Zettl’s shoulder-in entwickeln exercise to improve your dressage horse’s suppleness, balance and rhythm.
In the shoulder-in entwickeln exercise you ride shoulder-in on the long side, straighten your horse on the diagonal track, ask for shoulder-in again and ride the movement back to the track.
This shoulder-in exercise by Walter Zettl requires an immediate response to forward and sideways aids.
- Teaches coordination of lateral bending and straightening aids
- Supples horse in shoulder-in and in straightening
- Straightens horse
- Requires an immediate response to forward and sideways aids
- Develops inside hind leg for collection
- Develops Schwung (the power of the hindquarters that carries the horse forward and transmission of that power over the back)
- Helps horse’s balance and rhythm
How to Do It
1. Going left in walk or trot, ride a 10-meter circle in the corner to set up for the shoulder-in bend on the long side.
2. Reaching the long side, continue shoulder-in. The inside hand guides your horse’s forehand to the inside; the outside hand limits the bend and keeps the right shoulder from falling out. The inside leg lies close to the girth to maintain the bend and drives your horse’s inside hind leg forward; the passive outside leg helps hold the bend. If the haunches fall out, move the passive outside leg slightly behind the girth. Lightly weight the inside seat bone. Ride for two steps.
3. On the second step, begin to straighten your horse as if you were going to ride on the diagonal, giving slightly with the inside rein without losing contact. The outside rein gives a soft half halt and keeps the neck straight. Press that rein against the neck without crossing it to make sure his right shoulder doesn’t fall out. When he is straightened onto the diagonal–ideally a step or two later–give a little with both hands and push him with both seat bones to drive him forward while using a slightly stronger outside leg to bring him out of the bend for shoulder-in. Ride straight ahead.
4. After riding one step, return to the shoulder-in bend you previously were riding. Ride the bend back to the track on the long side, sitting more on your inside seat bone, giving a half halt with your inside hand, keeping the right rein taut without pulling, and pressing with the inside knee and leg.
5. When your horse’s outside hind leg reaches the track, repeat steps 3 through 5 down the long side.
Tips for Success
- Start the exercise on your horse’s easier side first.
- If you haven’t developed the correct shoulder-in bend, ride a few more 10-meter circles until you have the correct bend before continuing with the exercise.
- The exercise is good mental and physical gymnastics for both you and your horse. Don’t expect to perfect it right away. It takes patience and feeling.
- As you do the exercise, pay attention to the minimum aids you need to give. Be careful to balance between your giving and receiving aids.
- Do not make your horse too short in the neck because this will stop movement in the shoulder and hind legs, negating the point of the exercise.
- If your horse gets tense, make the shoulder-in angle less steep.
- Take care not to practice the exercise for more than two long sides of the arena without riding your horse straight and forward (without rushing and/or losing rhythm) to regain swinging hind legs and back.
Train all your horse’s muscles so he can stay relaxed or can tighten them immediately, when necessary. Variations also help to make his tendons more elastic. Still, make sure you do not rush, use force or lose patience.
- Do the exercise at the walk, trot and canter.
- Leave out the 10-meter circle at the beginning of the exercise to challenge your horse to stay in correct rhythm and balance.
- Increase the number of repetitions down one long side. You must coordinate aids more finely and quickly, and your horse must react more quickly.
- Do the exercise on the quarterline and then on the centerline. You and your horse will not be able to rely on the wall for assistance.
- Add a lengthening, medium trot and/or extended trot when you straighten your horse onto the diagonal. This will help make your horse more obedient to shoulder-in as well as to forward aids while quickening his response to sideways driving aids. It also will make your horse supple and help him develop Schwung.
Walter Zettl studied and worked with his mentor Col. Herbert Aust in Germany where he received the German Federation Gold Riding Medal and his Reitlehrer certification. He served as the dressage coach to the Canadian Eventing Team at the 1984 Olympics, and he is the author of Dressage in Harmony from Basic to Grand Prix.
This article originally appeared in the March 2004 issue of Dressage Today magazine. BY DRESSAGE TODAY