You're loping a circle with your mare. the circle size is good, but you begin to feel a distinct tilt, kind of like an airplane banking into a turn. As that awful feeling grows in your stomach, your mare speeds up and scrambles for balance. How can you help her?
Or perhaps you're finishing up a really nice trail ride. The horses are eager to return to their pens for supper. Your gelding hustles too close while passing through the farm gate, whamming your knee into the gatepost. How can you prevent this?
Actually, the answer to these questions is something called "shoulder control," and you and your horse are perfectly capable of learning this training tool. It takes time to teach the cues so your horse knows how to respond. It takes time to refine the cues.
It takes even more time to build the horse's muscles so it looks effortless and seems to others like you're dancing with your horse. But if you're willing to put in the time and effort, the dance can be delightful.
Where the Head and Hindquarters Go…
Your horse's shoulder doesn't just follow where his head and hindquarters go. Controlling his shoulder is an important part of developing a more responsive, more balanced, and therefore safer partner. It produces a lower, softer head and neck as he learns to break at the poll and give to the bit. It's a basis for leads, neck reining, diagonal movement, flexibility, and general balance.
• Control your horse's shoulders to develop a more responsive, more balanced, and safer partner.
• Always perform these shoulder exercises with your horse moving energetically forward.
• Shoulder-control exercises are very demanding on your horse, so take it slowly.
• Results can show up fast, so stick with it to help your horse become a beautiful partner who floats over the ground with a feeling of lightness.
Shoulder exercises improve speed control and steering. They keep your horse's shoulders between the reins while giving you more control over his hindquarters. They let you move your horse straight forward, straight backward, forward at an angle, back at an angle, and directly sideways. They can be an excellent introduction to neck reining and are the beginning of collection. They build your horse's muscle, and improve flexibility and obedience. They develop lightness and responsiveness to the bridle.
Most important, shoulder control teaches your horse to carry himself in better balance, which also helps you to be in better balance.
It's also a really fun thing to do with your horse.
Good Training for All
Teaching shoulder control is appropriate for any age horse, from weanling on up. As with any training, remember not to overdo it. Young horses are still building body strength. Older horses may start out with stiff muscles and joints.
You may see results the first day you try these training exercises. And if you stick with it, you'll end up with a more powerful, more beautiful horse that floats over the ground with an extraordinary feeling of lightness.
How does all this happen? When we ask a horse to lift his shoulder, he stretches all the muscles along the top of his body and contracts the ones in his belly as he lowers his hindquarters to move his hind legs more underneath him to carry more of his weight. This action shifts his balance to a degree that allows greater agility. It also involves a lot of weightlifting, which is one of the reasons really well-trained horses are always beautiful to look at. They're extremely well muscled.
The exercises are a lot of fun to learn and do. And that's why we have our horses-so we can have fun! So let's get to it.