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training exercises to improve straightness Training without force

By Mary Rose, FBHS © 2014 The first and most

important exercise to help in developing straightness in your horse is the shoulder-in. Combining the use of shoulder- in with haunches-out is a great way to learn to ride the whole horse from the back forwards, through your seat and into your hand.

After a good warm

up of 15 or 20 minutes during which you pay particular attention to how you ride through the corners of your arena and you make sure to stretch your horse well forward and down, using leg yields or counter shoulder-in to get him actively crossing his hind legs and consistently forward (in front of your seat), you can start some exercises specifically designed to straighten your horse.

Come through the

second corner of the short end of the arena and at the start of the long side, preferably on the inside track rather than right up against the wall, start your shoulder-in.

Just before

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haunches out and then just before the corner return to shoulder-in.

Repeat this on

the next long side and then change direction and repeat the whole exercise again on the other rein. This exercise will be most effective performed in the sitting trot but if you or your horse are new to shoulder- in and/or haunches-out start at the walk. Remember it is HOW you ride an exercise that matters. Practice only makes perfect if the practice is itself pretty perfect, so take your time and make sure you understand how the exercises should feel and what aids to use – and make sure your horse understands too.

same track. To do this he must bend the whole of his body in an even curve around your inside leg. The aids are inside leg to outside rein, with your outside leg guarding to ensure he doesn’t try to straighten his body and put his hind quarters out. Make sure that the neck is not bent more than the whole body – often horses will bend the neck to the inside but keep the body straight in the track. You should only just see the corner of the inside eye. The transition from

It is better to do a few

steps correctly and then praise your horse and repeat than to struggle on if your horse does not understand or is not responding to your aids.

If you are new to

shoulder-in and haunches-out enlist the help of an experienced friend or your instructor.


takes a little time to learn to feel when the horse is performing correctly but with someone on the ground to help it is much easier. If you have no help then I hope you at least have mirrors to guide you. In the shoulder-in it is very important to make sure the horse brings his outside shoulder to the inside and his outside foreleg and inside hind are on the

shoulder-in to haunches-out is achieved by keeping the shoulders on the inside track but changing the bend of the whole horse. If you are in right shoulder-in with your horse bent right you change the bend to a left bend keeping the front and hind feet tracking where they were for shoulder-in. That is why it is easier to perform the exercise on the long side but on the inside track (i.e. not right up against the wall). Right in the track there is room to change the bend but some horses tend to get a little “glued to the wall” and make it harder at first. Remember to ask for just a few steps at first and reward your horse often for every effort.

You can contact

Mary at 512-589-3796 or visit her at www.maryrose-

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