"My horse falls in on the circle."
One of the most sought after and most controversial movements in horse training (across disciplines) is how to train a horse to travel around the bend.
The most common, being inside leg-outside rein.
Allowing the horse to find it on their own is another.
The main goal being, "lifting of the inside shoulder."
Frequently the rider is placed with all of the blame as “if they just did a little more __________ and a little less ___________ then the horse could balance”.
Other times, the blame is placed on the horse because, “they are too heavy on the forehand, or dull to the aids or ____________”.
The reality, is the only way for a horse to truly be able to balance around the bend, is if they are physically capable of doing so.
Meaning, do they have the correct muscle development.
When people used to tell me that I needed to "lift the inside shoulder", I always deeply struggled with understanding how and why that works.
One day, I heard someone say - "Lift the inside shoulder so that you can ride the outside of the horse."
That one felt a little better, but it still didn't make much sense.
(And not that I didn't train with fantastic people, but no one has ever been able to break it down in a way that made sense for my autistic brain to wrap around).
What I realized, is that what I needed to hear was -
What parts of the horse need to be doing _________ , and what muscles of the horse need to be firing to make that happen.
So I went digging -
(First, I'll have you do a quick exercise to understand the physics of a bend within your own body):
Stand up, and walk a little circle.
In order to correctly balance your body around a bend, you have to be walking with about 15-25% abduction on your outside leg.
If you walk neutral, you'll end up collapsing into the inside leg for support and that will have a direct effect on your pelvis. (Falling-in on the shoulder).
If engage your core and make sure your center of gravity is grounded and then step out and into your outside leg, your pelvis will stay upright and support your spine. (Balanced Bend).
If you try to abduct your outside leg without engaging your core or having good balance, you'll likely just tip over into that leg. (Falling out through the shoulder).
This is absolutely imperative for people to understand as it is the most common disconnect I find in people struggling with horses who fall in.
They are missing the fundamental physics behind the requirement for a circle.
Once that is understood, we can dive into the development -
In order for a horse to be able to correctly do this, they have to have their thoracic sling and shoulder abductors just as developed as their adductors.
Pectorals to push their body up from. (Think one-handed push up)
Serratus Ventralis (Thoracis and Cervicus) to allow for them to find their center of gravity otherwise they’ll just fall out when asking for the shoulder.
Trapezius (Thoracis and Cervicus) to support the neck and shoulder in lift for the abduction.
The subclavius as it relates and facially ties into the supraspinatus and infraspinatus to assist in the independent abduction necessary.
And as always - Making sure they have proper hoof health to support all of the above.
(Obviously there are many other muscles that come to the party, but these are the key ones that I have found to be the most necessary to develop before it even being a fair ask for the horse to perform this maneuver).
Remembering, horses are not meant to be ridden.
This is our idea, which means it's up to us to
develop them correctly for the sport.
When they are not developed to the bend, the overall integrity of the spine is ultimately what takes a hit, as demonstrated beautifully by my incredibly talented student and illustrator, Rozenn Grosjean (photo on the left).
In conclusion, I no longer believe that we must simply lift the inside shoulder, so when I teach this (Pillar 3 in my Balance Through Movement Method) the language has changed to -
“The horse does not have access the outside shoulder."
NOT that the horse is falling to the inside.
1.) Getting the development.
2.) Integrating that development into balanced movement.
3.) Teaching the riders how to support and then stay out of the way for said movement.
Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
I hope this helps you.
(Photo on the right showing the visual differences in a horse who was lacking the physical ability and then after they started to develop the muscles listed above to help train the eye a bit).