CROOKEDNESS IN HORSES
Horses are naturally crooked. What do I mean by this?! They are one sided by default. Like we are - one hand is dominant, it’s the same in the horse.
Does your horse bend on one rein better than the other? Are his lateral movements better on one rein than the other? These are examples of the horse being crooked.
There is a theory behind natural crookedness, that it comes from the grazing pattern as a foal, where they can’t reach the ground as their legs are long and their neck is short, so they have to ‘split’ their forelimbs, and will tend to always use the same leg to stand underneath themselves, with the other limb out in front. This creates an uneven use of the forelimbs from the beginning of their life. Over time this can create uneven front feet, uneven weight bearing, crookedness throughout the entire body....and ultimately can result in one sided injury.
All of this is without even considering the impact of the rider, who might also be crooked, and the fact that the modern horse tends to ride on circles on artificial surfaces - a LOT - which is not what they evolved to do.
So what do we as owners and riders do about it..?
First we need to identify which side our horse is dominant. If you stand your horse square and have a good look at his chest, you might even be able to see that he is leaning onto one forelimb. The front feet can give you a clue - one foot may be a bit flatter in shape, this foot is the one taking more load while the other unloads and develops as a higher heeled more upright hoof.
An imbalance in the forelimbs will also be mirrored in the hindlimbs by default, so we end up with a horse that is using his body asymmetrically all the way through. We can also assess which diagonal pair of limbs are doing all the work and which pair is weaker.
And then we can consider what we need to change and how to do that...
In hand work can be really valuable for a crooked horse. We teach them how to bend equally and move correctly from the ground, without the complication of the rider, and can over time teach the horse to use his limbs more equally.
Core exercises are helpful for a crooked horse, as we can equalise how the horse bends through the body, helping to improve the crookedness.
If your horse is overusing one hindlimb and avoiding the other one due to crookedness coming from the forelimb pattern, he will likely be stuck in bend one way when ridden, and stiffer on his other rein. So core exercises can help the rest of the body!
Variable feeding positions, giving your horse variety in where his haynets or food are located can emulate natural feeding behaviour in the wild, which also acts as ‘passive physio’ by encouraging the horse to move his neck and rest of his body through more planes of movement than just ‘head down’.
Crookedness is natural for horses, so we need to be working long term to help our horses to use their limbs and whole body more symmetrically. Daily core exercises are a great addition to your exercise plans with your horse, alongside adding some non ridden work, corrective groundwork and corrective ridden exercises.
***If you would like help with any of this, I have the following training available to help you that you can access immediately:
*Engage your horses core: online core strengthening training course with members group. Click for Training details
*The Members Enclosure: new ongoing training group with a different training each month! This month (April) the training in the group is all about Crookedness - so if you would like to dig further into this subject signup to get immediate access to the training platform and my friendly group! The Members Enclosure details
If you have any questions do get in touch! Jenny x