My horse throws his shoulder: How can I fix this?

Question: My horse keeps throwing her shoulder and I was wondering if there was some thing I can do to prevent it and because she does this it makes it hard to get her to turn easily without trying to go the other way.

Answer from April Reeves: Getting the shoulder from dropping is a task that requires a great deal of sensitivity and timing. I will walk you through it and you can take it as you feel comfortable.

As with any gait problems we’ll start at the walk:

Begin a medium sized circle.

Keep your outside rein loose and soft, and your hand in a comfortable position. Never bring your outside hand over the wither.

Drop a bit more weight on your outside stirrup than your inside stirrup. Do not twist your body or lean when doing this: continue to sit tall and straight. Leaning will destroy the lesson you are trying to teach.

Bring your inside hand (inside hand is always the hand on the inside of the turn) up towards your opposite shoulder, and move the rein in a soft give and take. Do not pull on the rein or lean on it. It is merely “suggesting” to the horse to lift the shoulder. Do it for a few times, then relax and move forward. It will feel like a soft tug on the rein.

Let the horse walk forward for a few strides, then repeat the circle and the process. Do this for about 10-15 times, and switch sides. Horses are never unbalanced on one side only: where there’s a problem on one side, there’s a problem on the other side as well. Problems are always connected.

Eventually, over a week or two with consistent soft work, you will begin to see your horse’s shoulder soften. This is not the type of training you can fix in a day: this is long term work that you may do for the life of the horse.

Once you get comfortable in the walk (after 3-5 days) bring the horse to a jog or trot and repeat the process. Eventually you will move into the canter.

One note: when riding, try to rotate at the waist instead of leaning. Keep your pelvic bones in the saddle as you are going forward, and rotate at the waist, bringing your outside shoulder into the turn. This transfers down to your horse, and eventually if you are consistent with this, the horse will pick up the signal for the turn and move into position quicker. Bringing your outside shoulder around also makes you a prettier rider: another technique in equitation classes.

There are many other contributing factors to a dropping shoulder. You may want to do some of the foundation work I have listed on his blog. These exercises will help with your horse’s general balance and bending.

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