Lately, I seem to be getting a lot of questions about improving haunches-in and shoulder-in when the stiff side is on the inside.
So here are some ideas to help. I’ll start with haunches-in.
Let’s say your horse is stiff to the right. Start by tracking to the right and do the following:
1. Ride a 10m circle in the trot, and focus on bending from poll to tail (Make sure your outer leg (left) is draped behind the girth to help curve your horse around your inside leg (right). You need to use both legs-inside on the girth, outside behind the girth in order to bend. Also, keep your weight on your inside (right) seatbone.
Ask for inside flexion (right) by turning your wrist as if you're starting your car by turning the key in the ignition while you support with your outside rein (left) so you don't get too much bend in the neck.)
2. Keeping the bend from poll to tail, keep your legs in the "bending position" described above while you leg yield out to an 11 or 12 meter circle. Leg yield with a bend several times until it feels easy, and your horse feels softly bent around your inside (right) leg. He'll probably try to swing his hindquarters to the left so keep your outside leg (left) behind the girth to prevent that from happening.
3.Then think of haunches-in as the last step of a 10m circle continued on a straight line. So once you have good bend on the 10-meter circle, keep that bend with your inside aids, but use your outside rein and leg to KEEP YOUR HORSE FROM COMPLETING THE CIRCLE.
On the last step of the circle (his forehand will be on the track but his hindquarters are still on the arc of the circle), keep the bend, and apply your outside aids to tell him to go straight down the track. (Close your outside hand in a fist and give a little squeeze with your outside leg behind the girth.)
You can also use these ideas to help you when you do shoulder-in on your horse’s stiff side. After all, shoulder-in is simply the first step of a 10-meter circle continued on a straight line.
1. So, bend him as described in #1 and #2 above. Then as you start another 10-meter circle, interrupt that circle during the first step, and send your horse down the long side by using your inside leg and looking straight down the track.
2. Your horse’s hindquarters should stay parallel to the rail. If they’re at an angle to the rail, he’s lost the bend.
3. Think of riding his hind legs straight down the track and bringing his outside front leg onto the inner lip of the track.