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The Classical Rider's BLOG
Exercise of the Month, November 2021

Every month, I will post on the BLOG an exercise that I find helpful in developing the horse, explaining what it is, what its benefits are, tips to ride it, and other pertinent information. I will in most cases provide a rudimentary diagram with probably inaccurate circles! November's exercise is associated with the shoulder-in. 

The Exercise: Figure Eight Voltes in Shoulder-In and Counter Shoulder-In

Exercise Description: The exercise consists of riding a 6 meter or 8 meter volte (or to make it easier when starting, one may ride a 10 meter circle) in shoulder-in, maintaining the same bend and continuing on to the next volte to make a figure of eight in counter shoulder-in. 

To begin, establish a shoulder-in tracking to the left on the long side. Ride the shoulder in through the corner and onto the short side. Turn left onto the centerline or quarter line and ask for shoulder-in left. Ride a 6 or 8 meter volte in shoulder in left. When the shoulder-in volte is completed, maintain the same shoulder-in left angle and bend, and track right in counter shoulder-in onto another volte.


Repeat the exercise but this time tracking to the right in right shoulder in down the long side, through the corner and onto the short side, turning up the quarter line or center line. Begin a volte in shoulder-in to the right, and once completed, maintain the shoulder-in to the right while tracking left on a volte in counter shoulder-in. 


  • You can vary the size of the volte or perform the exercise on a circle. To make the exercise more difficult, ride the small voltes. To make it easier, ride a larger circle.

  • You can ride the exercise in a continuum with as many revolutions as you like until the desired bend, lightness, and suppling is achieved. Do not drill, however. 

  • To increase difficulty, ride with increased angle and bend.

  • Ride at walk and trot, and canter. Begin with the walk which will be easier, and then gradually increase to trot. When beginning the trot and canter, perform on a large circle, and gradually decrease the size.

Exercise Benefits: This particular exercise helps further engage the inside hind leg and the horse further into collection because the circle (and decreasing the size of it) greatly increases the engagement of the shoulder-in. The angle and bend of the shoulder-in will also greatly supple the horse. Riding the counter shoulder-in helps to maintain equality of the shoulders and wither height, ensuring that the horse is not falling onto the outside shoulder. It also really reinforces the outside rein, particularly in the counter shoulder-in. With enhanced suppleness and strength building, the horse's equilibrium and straightness will be improved.



  • Be sure to maintain impulsion, with good rhythm, and if impulsion begins to wane, ride forward and straight if you cannot maintain it within a stride or two of the exercise. If the horse continually has difficulty maintaining impulsion, then make the circle larger and the degree of the angle of shoulder-in larger. 

  • Do not overbend the head or neck.

  • I ride the shoulder in from an active inside seat bone which places slightly more weight to the outside seat bone. And, before any of you think, oh no, that is not correct, then I must say that Nuno Oliveira did the same thing. I find the horse engages more with the inside hind because he is not encumbered by excess weight on the inside seat bone, and he rides well then into the outside rein. 

  • Half halt with the fingers of the outside rein and release--the half halt happens in the release.

  • Let your fingers play the horse into the desire poll flexion and bend as  result of primary seat directives for shoulder-in. 

  • It may behoove to slightly and carefully use the outside leg at the girth, a touch and release, to bring the shoulders more inward on the circle. 

Conclusion: In conclusion, be sure to not over-face the horse. Start large and work your way down to the smallest volte, and work your way up to trot and canter. Take your time! Have fun! The point is not to master an exercise, but rather to develop the horse. Stay tuned for December's Exercise!!!

Diagram of the Exercise

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