Alice Oppenheimer on lateral work
Lateral exercises to improve the horse’s strength and suppleness
LATERAL work is great for improving the horse’s suppleness and straightness. Every horse is more supple one way than the other by nature, so we use lateral work to even them up on both reins.
As soon as my young horses have learnt the basic aids, we start to introduce leg-yielding, so they learn to accept the leg and move sideways off it. We then build them up into grand prix horses who can do steep half-passes.
Shoulder-in is a good strengthening exercise because the horse has to step the hindleg under the line of their body and take more weight behind.
Leg-yield is good for horses who fall sideways, instead of stepping sideways, due to having too much bend in the neck.
Lateral work is something people can do out hacking as well as in the arena.
1 Start by riding up the centre line or, to make it slightly easier, the three-quarter line (as the horse has the fence line to follow), making sure the horse is straight between two reins. You should be able to ride down the centre- or three-quarter line straight, without the horse drifting out through a shoulder.
2 Then put your inside leg on the girth and ask the horse to move sideways for a few steps. As soon as you feel the horse starting to fall sideways, ask the horse to do a few straight strides by using a little outside leg to straighten him up, and then ask him to go forwards straight. Once they are straight and between two reins again, ask for a few more sideways steps.
3 Next, turn up the threequarter line and ride shoulder-in. Riding shoulder-in off the track not only ensures your horse is between two reins, but can also be easier for the horse because, on the track, he naturally sticks to the fence. 4 Achieve the correct shoulder-in angle by using the inside leg and outside rein, rather than using too much inside rein. If you use too much inside rein, you will have too much inside bend and the horse will fall out through the shoulder.
‘Lateral work is something people can do out hacking as well as in the arena’
Alice Oppenheimer breeds, trains and competes at international level from her base at Headmore Stud