By Eliza Sydnor
This is one of my favorite exercises from Walter Zettl. In German, it’s called shoulder-in “entwickeln.” This translates to developing, but it really refers to “re-starting” the shoulder-in repeatedly. The hardest part of shoulder-in for many of us is getting into it. It often takes too many strides out of the corner to establish angle, bend, the connection we want, our seat, etc. So, this exercise helps you to practice that initiating phase of the shoulder in, giving you better control of the horse’s shoulders and straightness.
If we’re riding on the left rein, use a good corner to establish bend, and come out of the corner in shoulder-in L. After only a couple steps, ride STRAIGHT onto a diagonal line, one that matches the angle you were riding in shoulder-in, but takes you into the arena with a straight horse.
After just two steps on that diagonal line, ride shoulder-in again, straight toward the short side. (You will be on the second track.). Develop that shoulder-in back to the wall.
When your horse’s outside hind leg touches the wall, ride shoulder-in down the wall again for a couple steps. Then again, ride STRAIGHT onto a diagonal line, bringing your horse into the arena again.
An advanced horse can repeat this exercise many times down a long side. For most of us, it’s quite hard to just get it done two times. (Shoulder-in, ride in, back out, shoulder-in, ride in, back out.)
This can be ridden at the walk, trot, or canter. Start trying it at the walk, and then see if you can ride it in trot for a couple long sides. It does NOT need to be ridden in the biggest, most powerful trot. This exercise is about shoulder control, being able to straighten easily, and bend again easily. So it’s okay to ride it in a smaller trot, to get that control with less power. But then after a couple long sides, go straight and ride forward, to develop power and swing again.
Give it a shot, what do you think? It’s a harder exercise, but a great one for folks schooling Second Level and above.
I’ve included an article from Dressage Today describing this exercise with a diagram.
I’m trying this for the first time with Loch, a 7-year-old Hanoverian gelding schooling Third Level, owned by Stacey Quaranta. He found it quite hard, as you can see a couple times. But it was very helpful to get control of his big shoulders!
About the Author
Eliza Sydnor Romm is an FEI rider and trainer based in Snow Camp, NC. She is a USDF Certified Instructor Training-Fourth Level, successful competitor through Grand Prix and popular clinician. Eliza, and her assistant trainer, Kate Tackett, work with horses and riders of all levels and specialize in starting young horses under saddle. Visit www.elizasydnordressage.com for more information, find her on Facebook @ElizaSydnorDressage, and subscribe to her YouTube channel for some great instructional videos!
Are you interested in learning more exercises from Walter Zettl’s vast training arsenal? Visit the USDF Online Store and check out the book Ask Walter – a explanation of technical dressage terms, and Walter’s approach to many common problems encountered by rider; Circle Points, an instructional video of how to setup and execute the perfect circle; and A Matter of Trust, a four-part DVD series, available individually or as a full set (set includes a fifth Bonus Features DVD), walking you through the classical dressage techniques from Training Level to Grand Prix.