The concept of "crookedness"

22 Jan

From one horse rider to another, we’ve all experienced a moment of “this is his good rein”, or you’ve had the opposite, which can make certain exercises a bit more challenging to complete to a satisfactory level – but, why does this happen?

Today we are going to expand on the concept of “crookedness”. You may have even heard the term, Laterality, which in simple terms refers to two halves whereby one side takes on a more dominant role. In humans, we often refer to this as being left or right handed. Similarly, horses and most other species, also take on a “preferred” side thus making them one-sided dominant.

When working our horses, we have usually been taught across most disciplines, that we need to balance our training exercises by repeating what you do on one rein, to the other side. This originates from this concept where as a rider, you need to keep your horse equally developed.

The basic balance factor is determined by the forelimb that the horse utilizes on his more dominant side. For example, a horse that is right side dominant will favour keeping his weight beneath himself on the right forelimb. He will then propel himself with the hind legs and will balance on the next stride when the forelimb is beneath him again. The dominance will be most noticeable in the canter due to type of movement of the gait but can be picked up in other gaits too.

Can this negatively impact my horse?

In short, yes. Over time, if one has to think about the repetitive force that the structures (bones, tendons and ligaments) need to endure, it’s important that these forces are load balanced as equally as possible. If the dominant forelimb is receiving an increased “load” respectively, the likelihood of these structures potentially degrading is increased, and can expose your horse to other pathologies. It’s also important to remember that symmetry starts from the hooves upwards.

How do I correct this?

Your horse will always have a preferred side but you can begin with ground work to teach your horse the correct manner of movement which you will carry through to your ridden work. Remember, your horse will not be used to the new way of moving and should therefore be implemented slowly to avoid straining any areas. The structures will adjust and strengthen over time and the balance point will become more neutral. You can also engage with your farrier, dentist, saddle fitter, chiropractor, physiotherapist or body worker to keep track of your horse’s progress. A horse in pain, will have difficulty adjusting their balance points so ensure that your horse is comfortable at all times.

With some new food for thought, I encourage you to take a look at your horse to evaluate if he/she is left or right side dominant. Your can do the following:

  1. A good indicator is to watch them in the paddock, whilst they graze they will favour a forelimb for balance purposes.
  2. A horse that is right side dominant will maintain a larger circle when on the left rein because the right forelimb is balancing them on the outside but on the right rein, your horse will be inclined to make a smaller circle (fall “inwards”), because his movement becomes more of a “pivot” type motion on the right forelimb that’s now following the inside track.

Good luck with your horse and thank you for reading our post, we hope this was of interest to you – more exercise details to follow in the coming weeks.

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