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  • Writer's pictureSaskia Gerritsen

Where are the Shoulders going?

Are your horse's shoulders joining the party, or just wandering off?

Are you aware of the position, function and biomechanics of the horse's shoulder area?

Can you feel what is happening in the forehand while you ride?

And did you already know, that only muscle power and connective tissue attach the front legs to your horse?


When it comes to riding "correctly" I see a lot of emphasis on the following things:

  • Getting the horse active and forward

  • Getting the horse on the bit

  • Having the hind legs step under

  • Transferring the weight to the hind end of the horse

And maybe I am not the only one, but I am really not liking the way people ride because of these "rules"! I have to tell you honestly, I have also tried to achieve these things, in that exact order, for many many years. I was desperately trying to do it right and achieve that perfect balance and a supple, powerful, dynamic moving horse...

But let me ask you, which of the following makes sense to move with power:

do you just start by paddling harder and harder until you spin the back wheel?


do you make sure the steering wheel is aligned to where you want to go FIRST?

The classical training scale puts so much focus on activity and the connection, that there are so many horses in total misalignment! The result:

Shoulders and front legs are not loaded symmetrically, not aligned on the line of travel, hooves are overloaded on one side, muscles are compressed and lose power, the chest is dropping, the muscles around the withers get weaker and even shrink...

But please, always keep making your horse go just a bit more active, that will definitely make it better *sarcasm sign*


Let me explain a little bit about the shoulder area in your horse. As mentioned, the shoulders of the horse are not attached with a boney structure (like our collar bones) to the rest of the horse's skeleton. So the chest is actually hanging between the front legs in a very strong matrix of muscles and connective tissue, which is also known as the thoracic sling. The pectoral muscles are connecting the sternum to the front legs. That's why alignment and equal development of these muscles should be your first priority.

What we want to do before even thinking about adding more activity and more forward... is to give the horse a chance to align and stabilize his rib-cage between his front legs again. Our body weight is sitting on the rib-cage and adding an extra load to the whole muscle matrix in the forehand.

For our horse to be able to counter act the effect of our weight and carry us with power, it is important to focus on the front legs first

You want to achieve the following:

  1. Relaxed movement in the shoulder area: no falling, no rushing

  2. Suppleness and ease of movement: no brace

  3. ALIGNMENT: symmetrical forces develop symmetrical strength

Your horse will be able to use and develop the muscles around the withers. He will be able to let the shoulder blades slide and swing. This will make it possible for the muscles between the shoulders and the rib-cage to function properly and strengthen. The thoracic sling will become bigger and stronger. Your horse will be able to widen his shoulders apart and lift his chest up. The sternum will lift, the spine will lift: that way your horse is actually carrying you!

Your seat, your alignment and your saddle are very important in this equation. If you are loading the front of your horse or pinching and restricting this area... Well, quite honestly: you will never be able to find that perfect ride.

But as soon as you have found how to truly straighten out the front wheel...

And you can put all that hind end power in the right direction...

All of a sudden, that elusive "Riding Uphill" will feel like a breeze and you will feel the incredible power that makes everything become easy and enjoyable

Have fun and let me know how thinking about this shoulder alignment has pointed you in the right direction ;-)

~Love, Saskia~

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