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More shoulder control exercises

By LES VOGT - Horsetrader columnist - November 15th, 2012 - More with Les

31st in a series
Last issue, Les defined simple steps with the shoulder that will open the door for many maneuvers in the future. Here’s a wrap-up before moving on.

Let’s go through the sequence of exercise number two, moving the shoulder to the right:
1. Start with a soft bend to the left on light contact.
2. Now, without losing that contact, bring your left hand up, keeping some life in it, and move it across the horse’s neck toward the right.
3. At the same time, move the right hand way away from the horse’s neck. You’ll only need it if your horse starts to lift or stiffen his neck.
4. As you move toward the horse’s neck with your left hand, you’ll want to start bumping him with your left boot top to encourage the shoulders to move over.
5. If the horse doesn’t start to move over right away, get a little more assertive with your cues until he does. It’s a good idea to do the exercise along with me in the video until it becomes really natural. That way there won’t be so much to try and think about when you’re on the horse.
6. As soon as you feel him take one diagonal step, release your cues and reward him.

Additional Shoulder Exercises
1. At first, you’ll need to be happy with just a step or two steps at time. As the movement gets more natural for you and your horse, you can ask for more and more steps. Horses seem to pick this up pretty quickly.
2. Once you’re comfortable starting your shoulder movement from the small circle, try starting it from a straight line. Make sure you are creating and maintain the bend in the neck as you move your hand toward the horse’s withers to move the shoulders. Another good exercise is to try to keep the horse’s head pointed at something in the distance while you move right and left by moving the horse’s shoulders. Start at the walk, but move to the trot as you get better. You can also go around your serpentine cones by moving shoulders right and left instead of steering the nose with a direct rein.
3. Start to think about where you are sending the horse’s shoulders. You can go from walking almost in a straight line with just a little bend to 45 degrees or more. Imaging that you’re riding on the center of a clock headed toward noon. Practice moving your horse toward 1 p.m., and then 2 p.m., by moving his shoulders. Then go the other way and head for 11 a.m., then 10 a.m. Really concentrate on getting control of exactly where your horse’s shoulders go, and make sure you’re keeping the horse’s neck soft and supple the whole time.
4. Once you’re comfortable at the walk, try moving your horse’s shoulders at the trot and then eventually at the lope. We’ll work on this more at the lope when we talk about circles, but the better you and your horse get at this exercise the easier future ones will come together.

Remember In all these exercises think 50 percent hand, 50 percent leg. There will come a time when you go to one hand on the bridle, and you’ll pretty much have to rely on your leg to correct any shoulder problems, so make sure you’re using your leg from the start.

EDITOR’S NOTE: More with Les is a regular California Horsetrader column. Les Vogt has won more than 15 World Championships, including two wins at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. Although Les still rides and occasionally shows, his focus is giving clinics around the world and developing products for the performance horseman. To learn more about Les and to see his clinic schedule, visit: www.lesvogt.com

One comment has been made on “More shoulder control exercises”

  1. Karysa Perez Says:

    Exactly what I needed reminding of with my own colt!

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