Shoulders in Balance
Learn lunging by Babette Teschen
Balanced shoulders are an important prerequisite for healthy movement on a circle.
Every horse has a natural crookedness and is therefore never fully balanced. This crookedness causes the horse to lean into the circle on one hand and move in a tilted position. Through targeted training we help our horses develop balanced shoulders.
The scales in the chest
Here is a helpful image to judge the balance of the shoulders. We imagine a set of scales on our horse’s chest and ask ourselves: which scale is carrying too much weight?
If the scales are balanced the horse is able to move with perpendicular legs, as you can see in this picture of Losti.
In this film, it is easy to recognize the gelding Flensburger’s handedness.
Although the Haflinger falls to the inside on both hands, you can clearly see that he leans in more on the right side than the left. The side on which the horses fall inward is called the handed side, or stiff side. We can see that Flensburger is more tense on this side and wants to flex outward. He is clearly leaning inward like a motorcycle. All this tells us he is right-handed.
Going to the left Flensburger is moving with better balanced shoulders. He only slightly falls onto the inner shoulder and his legs are quite perpendicular. This is clearly his good side, also known as the hollow side.
We can confirm this because he is also visibly more supple to the left than to the right.
Here is the direct comparison: On the left hand Flensburger moves with a better shoulder balance. On the right hand Flensburger is tight, and he strongly leans on his inner shoulder with his body like a motorcycle in the turn. This is his stiff side.
Falling onto the outside shoulder
A horse can also lose balance by falling onto the outside shoulder, as we can see with Losti.
The neck is overbent, Losti is pulling on the lunge, and drifting outwards. Better shoulder balance would help him stay on the circle.
Exercises to support shoulder balance are leading in position, careful transitions to trot in correct flexion, and further exercises, such as lunging in slalom, all exercises are explained in detail in our Course in Lunging.
Properly balanced shoulders are the prerequisite for the inner hind leg to step far under the center of mass, so it can powerfully support the body and lift the horse’s back.
In this still photo of Losti we can easily see that his hindleg is stepping under his center of mass – this is how it should look!
With good training on the lunge we can show the horse how to move in a healthy way on a circle.