The proper angle for Shoulder In – but how do you know?

One of the hardest things to learn is the proper three track angle for shoulder in – without the use of mirrors or a ground person, who can you tell you are in the right angle?

What is the right angle?  Well – the horses shoulders are on the inside track with the legs moving on three tracks.  Ie.  the inside front leg is on one track (to the inside of the rail), outside front and inside hind on the same track and the outside hind on one track (on the rail).  If the track is 12 o’clock, then shoulder in right the shoulders pointing to 1 o’clock and shoulder in left the shoulders are pointing to 11 o’clock at the same time the quarters at staying on the track/rail.

Here is a little trick to help find the right angle.  Imagine you have a cone or a person standing beside the horses shoulders on the track.  When you are in shoulder in, the person has a comfortable amount of space to walk beside you without being stepped on or squished against the wall (too little angle) – nor are the horses shoulders so far away from the person that you have the horse on four tracks (too much angle).

Try this at home and see if it helps you visualize the right angle for your shoulder in!



Is your leg coming up in the sitting trot or canter?

A few people have mentioned that even though they have been working on their core, lengthening and strengthening their hip flexors and addressing their alignment – as well as the exercises in the saddle with Lauren McGuire, their leg still wants to shrink up in the sitting trot and sometimes the canter too.

So I put together some things to check to see if perhaps there is a little thing you can change that will make it easier for you to have a long leg in the sitting trot.  As well as another exercise to try to develop a longer leg.

Now, I know we all want to know the secret formula to a “10” position.  But…. ya know I am gonna say this …. the secret is hard work, mindfulness, concentration and putting in the time to see the difference.  And let’s face it, some horses are more challenging to sit than others!  So give all of these videos a go and put in some time to work on it 5-10mins everyday and if you are committed to working on it you will see an improvement!   Now go get to work!

How to Flip It …. moving your dressage whip to the other side.

“Flip your whip.”

“Put your whip on the outside.”

“Put your whip on the inside.”

We have heard it right?!?  And the dressage whip is long! so you can’t (shouldn’t) pull it thru with your other hand like a sword.  Its messy, and quite frankly slow and cumbersome.  It is one of my pet peeves that people don’t, can’t or won’t flip their whip properly.  It is fast and easy, as well as the least distruptive to your ride. Besides, it makes your riding look so much more polished and professional!

Now, as you move up the levels it will be more important to move it from side to side, hand to hand.  You need your whip on the side you need it on for the movement you are doing – there is no steadfast rule of “always on the inside” or “always on the outside”.  You need it sometimes either or both or whichever depending on what you are needing to do.

Flipping your whip is an easy skill to learn but takes a little time to master so you can Flip It Fast.  Flip It Good … or whatever without dropping it, loosing your reins, whacking yourself or your horse.

Here it is quick and easy in a few simple “flip it” steps:

  1. Put both reins – or all the reins if riding in a double – in the hand you are holding the whip.
  2. Push the whip down to the end with your free hand so you are holding the whip at the top top by the nob.
  3. With your free hand, reach over with your pinkie to the sky, and palm of your hand facing foward (towards the horses head) while at the same time twisting your whip hold hand so your thumb goes down and pinkie to the sky (with the palm facing  forward) so now your whip is facing up.
  4. Grab the whip with the free hand with your thumb touching the pinkie, both palms will be facing outwards and finish with your hands in normal position.
  5. Take your reins back into both hands.


Watch it

Practice in the halt then at the walk and by then you will have it and down pat.  Now go Flip It!

Taking your core, hip flexor and alignment exercises to the barn.

Have you been committed to working on your core, your hip flexors and your alignment for 5-10 mins everyday at home or while sitting at your desk?  Now you are going to take all that information and new strength to the barn with these two exercises you are going to try in the saddle.

Lauren McGuire, Msc Physiotherapy and FEI dressage rider, works with Alison Martin, Canadian High Performance Dressage Coach, on two exercises to help develop your independent seat and improving your alignment.

If you find either of these exercises challenging, go back to your exercises at home and then try again.  Also check your stirrup length, are they too long or too short?


None of this will happen quickly so give it some time to develop and work on all of your exercises at home as well as these everyday to see a difference.  And keep trying even if it feels impossible to do the exercises in the video – I promise you will get it and I don’t ask any of my students to do any exercises I haven’t already tried and worked out in my head how it will benefit you as a rider!  So if I can do this exercise, so can you!

Your alignment from head to heel – how to assess your alignment at home.

Hopefully you are still working and continuing with our series.  I expect (hope!) you are still doing your core strengthening exercises at home or at the office for 5- minutes a day from the first core exercises, as well as your hip flexor exercises – stretching and strengthening.

In this video Lauren McGuire, Msc Physiotherapy and FEI rider,  will show you how to assess your position.  You can do with with a friend or up against a wall.  If that is a bit challenging or you are not sure, then do these on the floor.  The point of this is, while you engage your core, you are able to move your tail bone under your body and push your lower back out slightly.   Your belt is to be horizontal to the floor if you are lying down – or parallel to the floor while standing or riding.

Of course this all goes together with continuing to develop your core strength and working on your hip flexors.  So keep up with your exercises – only 5-10 minutes a day will make an improvement by the time show season comes along.  Coming up next – how to apply this all in the saddle and an exercise to improve your alignment and balance.


Your Hip Flexors: To lengthen, strengthen or both that is the question!

Hopefully you are still working on your resolution to be a better rider and exercise.  I expect (hope!) you are still doing your core strengthening exercises at home or at the office for 5-10 mins a day.  Just a few minutes everyday will make a big difference over time.

Now you are getting stronger but your leg is still not quite where you want it to be or maybe your leg doesn’t behave as you think it should even if you will it with all your might.   The next step is to assess your hip flexors.

In this video Lauren McGuire, Msc Physiotherapy and FEI rider, will show you how to assess your hip flexors – are they short, long or just right?   And what you can do to stretch them if they are short, and two exercises you can do to strengthen them if they are weak.  Now, just because they are short or long doesn’t mean they are weak.  Never the less, being longer and stronger will make your leg better when you are in the saddle.

Of course this all goes together with continuing to develop your core strength.  So keep up with your other exercises – only 5-10 mins a day will make an improvement by the time show season comes along.

Core Strengthening for Riders. Part 2 Three exercises to strengthen your core for riding.

You now know what your core is and where it is, now it is time to work it!  Core Strengthening Part 2.

In this video, Lauren McGuire, Msc Physiotherapy and FEI dressage rider, gives you three exercises you can do at home or the office to strengthen your core.  Now let me tell you, I don’t think I have a weak core and when you just swing your legs around with these exercises they are EASY – but if they are easy you are probably doing them incorrectly or not really using your core!  So be mindful, take the time to really do easy motion well and you will feel it the next day.  You can’t see it in the video but I am shaking in the last exercise!!!  I was getting tired!

Of course, a little bit everyday – maybe 5-10mins – will make a huge difference in developing your core strength and making you more stable in the saddle.