When we start shaping the horse more actively we also ask the horse to carry more weight on the hind legs. This we do by working with shoulder in and quarters in. In the shoulder in we work the inner hind leg more actively and in the quarters in we add the outer hind leg.
The movements we have done so far, increasing and decreasing the circle, remind us about small shoulder ins and quarters ins. These schooling exercises are used to teach the horse to carry more weight on the hind legs. When we increase the circle we work more actively with the inner hind leg and when we decrease the circle we work more actively with the outer hind leg. Sometimes it is said the horse has four hind legs, and what is meant is the left and right hind leg as an inner or outer hind leg.
Sometimes it is said the horse has four hind legs…
A beautiful day when it works nicely to increase and decrease the circle we decide to increase the circle but we stay on our circle track. We do not increase the circle in a spiral but remain where we are, with the horse in stelling and bending. Since the horse knows our body language and our aids it will move its hind legs outwards and voila, our first shoulder in is done. Similarly, we do our first quarters in the day we decide to reduce the circle but remain on the circle track we are. A shoulder in is when the horse, in bending, move the hind legs outside the track and a quarters is in when the horse in bending moves the hind legs inwards from the track.
The reason we want to do shoulder in and quarters in is to teach the horse to carry more weight on the hind legs. Since the horse anatomically have straight front legs but a lot of angles in the hind legs, the hind legs are better suited to carry the horse and rider. We want the hind legs to start spring (bend the legs in all joints) to absorb the impacts when the horse moves. The hind legs need to exercised to build strength enough to carry both the heavy chest of the horse and eventually also the weight of the rider. If the horse is not carrying with its hind legs it will absorb the weight of the rider in their straight front legs that cannot spring, producing hard impact in every step. This will of course increase the risk of injuries.
The reason we want to do shoulder in and quarter in is to teach the horse to carry more weight on the hind legs.
Now when we have gotten this far in groundwork we can ask for stelling and bending, increasing and decreasing the circle, make shoulder in and quarters in and move the shoulders and hind legs in and out from the track, we have all the tools we need to shape the horse and physically build it. In the best of worlds the horse is constantly soft and supple, but in reality this is not always the case, but we need to work on the shape, the frame, and suppleness. If I ask the horse to walk bended straight and the horse is really moving its hind legs out I have to ask it to move in again, to follow its “railway tracks” on the circle. If I ask for a shoulder in I have to move the hind legs out and if I ask for a quarters in I need to move the hind legs in. Maybe the horse is falling on a shoulder and then I must be able to move the horse away from the shoulder. We want to place the horse in-between the aids, in the shape or frame, the horse should have. You can start by watching the hooves of the horse. Are all four hooves moving in the same direction? In shoulder in they are moving slightly outwards and in quarters in they are moving slightly inwards. If any hoof is moving out of the frame, then ask that leg to move into the frame again.
- In shoulder in the hind legs are outside of the track.
- In quarters in the hind legs are inside of the track.
- Bended straight is in-between the shoulder in and quarters in.
- Place the horse in-between the aids, in a suitable frame.