A fact recognised by most serious horse people is that all horses are one sided. Riders often lament that their horse goes nicely to the left but is hard to bend to the right. It’s a fact, about 70% of horses bend better to the left than to the right generally these horses are carrying their hindquarters slightly to the left, the power generated from their hindquarters drives through their spines and the energy is directed out through the right shoulder, this is seen as falling out on a left circle and falling in on a right circle.
In reality the horse that bends more easily to the left is exhibiting the ability to stretch better along the line of his right side.
Stand up, bend to the left, you will feel that largely your ability to bend one way or the other is determined by you ability to stretch on the other side.
This one sidedness in horses leads to plenty of issues not recognised by many horse people. My experience with many hundreds of horses has given me the opportunity to recognise reoccurring issues and come to some simple conclusions as to how and why they occur.
First example, when breaking horses in we work primarily from the left side, at the time of mounting for the first time we bend the horse toward us and then mount. I won’t mount until I can bend the horse on immediate conditioned reflex to both directions. This stops the horse from being able to buck(I’m too old for bucking horses) I feel if the horse bucks I have not done a good enough job with my ground work. So when most riders mount a horse for his first ride, most horses are happy to be bent to their preferred left side, usually the rider will then take the horse to the left, everybody is happy. For me, the first test is when you take the horse to his less preferred right side, if things are going to go pear shaped this is often when it will happen.
Now if the rider goes through the above process on a horse inclined to bend to the right the potential for issues are immediate on mounting, sometimes before. Not only are we throwing our weight onto the horse for the first time but we are asking him to bend to his stiff side, this makes for a very uncomfortable horse who may panic, buck rear or take off. Automatically the ignorant handler labels this horse as difficult, and the horse goes through his life with a reputation of being a problem horse.
The problem is the ignorance of horse handlers. It is my experience that many potential buckers, nervous horses, rearers, bolters are right handed horses. Let stand straighter on mounting and then working to right before the left will usually improve the horses demeanour dramatically.
Now floating issues, the standard left handed horse stands on the float with his hind quarters slightly to the left, when we float them on the traditionally more comfortable drivers side the horses rump is slightly away from the wall, if he needs to spread his feet to get his balance when cornering there is some space to step to the right without immediately striking the side of the float.
The right handed horse stands on the drivers side with his rump to the right his right foot is already against the side of the float or very close to it. Should he need to adjust to keep his balance he tries to spread the right foot, there is no where for it to go Panick!!! He continues to strive to spread the leg, he scrambles against the side of the float the situation escalates and consolidates the horses fear of not being able to find space to spread his legs. Once again my experience with large numbers of horses has led to a conclusion that many scramblers are right handed horses, putting them on the passenger side will make a difference if the problem hasn’t been completely consolidated as an issue. More seriously consolidated issues that have been left to fester too long will require more effort to solve the issue.
We are as crooked as horses, in our day to day lives the crookedness doesn’t get in our way similarly horses either living in a paddock or not being asked for much technical effort when ridden can happily live out their live being one sided. If you want to do something serious with your horse or if you come upon one of the above issues you have to take responsibility for your horses well being. Two crooked’s don’t make a straight.
“Ride them forward make them straight” an old but very relevant riding saying. The answer to just about every question starts with ride forward.
We have to get control of the problem which is the crooked hind quarter if we want to remove the symptom of falling in and out. No problem, no symptom.
Horses From Courses
by Scott Brodie
Available for purchase on Apple iBooks, Google Books, Amazon Kindle, Kobo and other online ebook vendors.
Every year thousands of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses, often referred to as OTTB, (off-the-track thoroughbreds) retire from the racing industry, their future uncertain. Many well-meaning horse enthusiasts seek to take these horses and retrain them for sport and recreational purposes.
This book takes the accumulated experience and knowledge of horse trainer Scott Brodie—Manager of the NSW Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Trust and re trainer of hundreds of ex-racehorses—and allows the novice trainer to tap into this valuable source of information previously unattainable for the average horse enthusiast.
Scott Brodie author of Horses From Courses is Manager of the RacingNSW Thoroughbred Retraining Program. A NSW Mounted Police horse trainer and classically trained rider, Scott has a has a generously empathetic philosophy to handling horses and a unique spin on the retraining of retired racehorses. Utilising a surprisingly smooth synergy of natural horsemanship and the practical application of classical dressage, Scott’s systematic approach to this often difficult and dangerous endeavour ensures the smoothest and fairest transition for the horse from racing machine to a pleasurable riding partner.