Getting My Two Year Old’s Shoulders to Open Up

by Troy Green | September 26th, 2011 2:19 PM | No Comments

Q. Hi, I have a two year old that I am training and I am having trouble with him opening his shoulders after I slow him down.  I was wondering if you had any suggestions for me in order to get him to open up his shoulders again.

Thank you,



A. Hi Michele,
It sounds like you may need to pull his neck to the side and use your inside foot/spur to move his shoulder away from your leg. As I said earlier, this will help break him “in half” at the withers and engage his shoulder. If you’re pulling his head to the neck, let’s say, and moving his shoulder off of your left leg, be sure to really give the right rein to him and only use intermittently as a guide rein, otherwise you will trap his shoulder and lose the point of the exercise. Also, be sure to hold your opposite leg (the right leg) back, so your legs will be like a pair of scissors…one moving the shoulder and one holding the hip in place so it doesn’t follow the shoulder.  You can also  stop and move his shoulder around, away from your leg, with his head and neck bent around your leg.  Ask for a little bit at a time and be specific about the placement of your leg so that when you ask directly behind the girth he knows it’s to move his shoulder. If you ask farther back it should be to move his hip. You might stop and ask for him to move his shoulder over two or three steps, then trot for a bit moving the shoulder around, then stop and ask for two or three more steps and eventually four or five, and so on. Keep alternating moving it at a walk, trot and stop and build from just a few steps at a time. Don’t rush it or force too many steps. Also, when you work the shoulder from the trot, I would do this at a more forward pace. Sometimes a lot of long trotting and bumping or tapping rhythm with your feet/spurs will actually help improve movement at the lope when you finally go back to the lope. You’re getting a lot of lift and movement and teaching your horse to engage his body instead of shutting it down.

Thanks very much and best of luck with your two year old.


About the Author

Troy Green is a firm believer in the importance of a good foundation for every horse with balance, rhythm, and self-carriage being key. A good foundation equals longevity in the show pen. Troy has won over two dozen All American Quarter Horse Congress Championships in western pleasure, versatility, reining, halter and western riding, and has coached clients to over 50 Congress championships. Troy has three AQHA World Championships and two National Championships under his belt, and has won at all major futurities. He spent three years on the national board of the NSBA.

Troy Green has an extensive background working with youth and amateurs at all levels and of various disciplines. He specializes in pleasure futurity and all around horses.

Now is your chance to have your questions answered by Troy! Just submit your question using the comment section below or the email link, and he will respond to select questions in future posts.

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