Excerpts: Shoulder In

As we are finishing the last touch of our study on the shoulder in, (mailing starting tomorrow), I asked Jean Luc if I could publish some elements of one of his many original drafts, which are not on the final  video and associated transcript. He responded laughing, “Since you are going to do it anyway, let find a reason why not.” I told him, that is one of your original transcripts; it is not in the final video. He responded,” you win all the time.”

You have to realize that the original draft of the script that is the base of the video is about 6 times longer than the final product. He rewrites it many many times. The idea is fascinating. For this study on the shoulder in, Jean Luc respects word for word the teaching of François Robichon de la Gueriniere and then analyzes each thought in respect of actual knowledge.

Once La Gueriniere was no longer alive coaching his students, the shoulder in entered a period of chaos; some focused on the bending, others concentrated on the angle, others became obsessed with the number of tracks. The angle of 30° and the concept of a horse traveling on three tracks were introduced more than a century later by Gustave Steinbrecht (1876).

The German author was details oriented and he observed that when the shoulder in was properly executed, the horse body formed an angle of approximately 30° with the rail. This first observation leaded to the second observation. When the horse body forms an angle of 30° with the rail, the horse is habitually traveling on three tracks. The love for “formulas” turned these details, the angle of 30° and the horse traveling on three tracks, into the official definition of the shoulder in.

The problem with “dressage formulas” is the reason of their success. Formulas are popular because they are simple and they are damaging because they are simple. A horse can fit the simplistic definitions of the shoulder in, three tracks, 30° angle, and combine lateral bending with an inverted rotation. Mechanically, the horse will have difficulties to adduct the inside hind leg. Ligaments of the stifle will be exposed to aberrant stresses and the horse will not benefit from the gymnastic of the shoulder in.  Pete Egoscue, (Pain free through motion), who applies to humans what the science of motion applies to equines, wrote, “Premier athletes can be dysfunctional. In fact, many of the most gifted athletes are incredibly dysfunctional…The potential benefits of innovative techniques, advanced technology and new training methods cannot -and do not- compensate for dysfunctional athletes inability to perform to their fullest potential.” Horses execute movements out of their talent but unless specific education, they do it protecting their morphological flaw, muscle imbalance or other issues. Poor training technique such as moving the horse side way spinning a rope or pushing the body with a probe, sell well because they make the horse execute a gesture that looks like the actual movement. The problem is that until the rider’s knowledge truly understands the athletic coordination that the horse has to master in order to benefit from the movement, the exercise is nothing more than a contortion executed by a dysfunctional horse on his way to lameness. 

 When science was in its infancy, formulas were popular. They gave directives and simple explanations. Unfortunately, formulas also permit all type of false interpretations. Thanks to this simplistic formula, 30° angle and a horse traveling on three tracks, the shoulder in has become the easiest exercise to execute poorly and remains the most difficult to execute well. Horses travel more or less side way with the neck bend but no lateroflexion of the thoracic vertebrae or some lateral bending coupled with inverted rotation. Curiously, while the creator of the shoulder in never referred to any angle of 30° and a horse traveling on three tracks, the “formula” became the official definition of the shoulder in.

The crossing of the legs is another interesting subject. Since the post La Gueriniere era and continuing today, equine theologians sustain interminable discussions about the crossing or non-crossing of the legs. We published a study explaining the problem of rotation and the search for a verticality of the wither during the practice of the shouder in. We illustrated the thought with a picture of Chazot where the verticality of the whither was underlined by a vertical arrow. Chazot and I have been ravenously excommunicated by a group of shoulder in theologians because Chazot crossed his legs at knee level, which, according to their religion, is sacrilege. This must be what they call respect for tradition. The trade mark of the 18th century’s theologians was that they were , talking a great deal about details and completely missed the point. As well, the trade mark of modern theologians remains that they are talking a great deal about details and completely miss the point.  Jean Luc Cornille