Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rider's Wednesday -- Shoulder-In, Shoulder-Fore...

...And Other Areas of Confusion

A friend of mine is studying for her upcoming certification test for the American Riding Instructor's Association. One of the areas of the test deals with the fine line between shoulder-fore and shoulder-in.

She's been having a bit of difficulty -- due, in large part, to the fact that the information out there is extremely confusing.

Some trainers say that "shoulder-fore is identical in movement to the shoulder-in -- only a less pronounced maneuver."

Some say that "shoulder-fore is a two-track maneuver (the horse's inside legs fall on one track, and the outside legs fall on another), while shoulder-in is a three-track maneuver (meaning that the horse's inside legs fall on one track, and the outside legs fall on another)."

Still others say that the "shoulder-fore is a two- or three-track maneuver, and the shoulder-in is a three- or four-track maneuver."

No wonder she's confused!

In an effort to clear some of the confusion (as opposed to contributing to it), here are some of the common threads that most reputable trainers agree on when discussing these maneuvers:

* Shoulder-fore is a pre-cursor to shoulder-in. Shoulder-in, in turn, is a pre-cursor to more advanced movements such as travers and renvers.

* When performing either a shoulder in or a shoulder-fore, the horse's head should be tipped in the direction in which he is traveling.

* Just tipping the horse's head does not constitute the movement. A correct shoulder-fore involves the horse's front end coming away slightly (no more than 5 degrees) from the outside rail.

* To perform either movement, the horse's front end must move toward the center of the ring. Moving his hindquarters toward the outside of the ring instead is not a correct execution of the maneuver.

After much online searching, it appears that the shoulder-fore is a relatively new term in classical riding. Some of my favorite, tried-and-true resources, such as Alois Podhajsky's Complete Training of Horse and Rider don't mention it.

Some of the best resources I found that described the maneuvers, explained how to differentiate one from another, and told how to best cue for them were the Shoulder-In lesson on the Classical Dressage site and an article by Shannon Dueck on

Happy riding!