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Is your horse stiff on one rein? Why and what you can do!

exercise training Apr 11, 2022

Did you know that your horse is either left or right handed? All horses are 'one sided', crooked, stiffer on one rein, whatever we want to call it...they are all crooked to one degree or another. And it affects the whole body unfortunately. 

One sidedness is present in our horses bodies throughout their life, and it means that they can do movements in one direction better than the other. They prefer to take their weight on one hindlimb/diagonal pair more than the opposite hindlimb/diagonal pair. So there is a constant compensation going on throughout their body, for their crookedness, especially within exercise. 

Have you noticed it in your own horse? 

Over time, the horse ends up with one hindlimb stronger than the other, and this is what gives the uneven feel in the contact, uneven stepping, one hindlimb unable to step under the body as well as the opposite, one rein 'stiffer' than the other, unequal bend, and unequal movements on each rein. Your horse can also be quicker on one rein than the other, or take bigger strides on one rein, or even hold his head and neck more towards the outside of the circle. 

These are all manifestations of crookedness. It affects the limbs, but also the body. The unequal use of the hindlimbs, creates an uneven body, for example the ribcage bulging in one direction, the horse being stuck slightly in bend in one direction, and stiff on one rein, so unfortunately it's a negative spiral. 

My view as an equine physiotherapist is that we need to help our horses by working on their crookedness in the limbs and body, to help reduce the risk of injury, and improve their flexibility and symmetry both in the body and in movement. A crooked horse will find it difficult to stretch down and use his back properly as he's stuck in compensation mode. 

If we don't address their crookedness, we risk uneven wear and tear and the downward slope towards injury, and we are just constantly strengthening the crookedness pattern with standard exercise...it doesn't go away on it's own, we need to work at it! 

SO WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP OUR HORSES?

I like to dig down to the foundation level with horses, and working on their natural crookedness pattern is something that has a far reaching effect! I work in a sympathetic, corrective way with horses, and find that once their body is fully mobilised and functioning, and we have removed as much compensation as we can, we can then access their crookedness pattern and start to teach the body to move symmetrically. 

If we can re-train the horses hindlimbs, so that both limbs are supple/flexible AND strong, and that they operate equally, we create a more even push through the body from the hindquarters. This then translates through the whole body, to give a more symmetrical body and movement. 

I use the following to address crookedness in the horse...: 

  • Regular physical treatment to re-align the body, THEN...
  • Core exercises daily
  • In hand exercises to work on flexibility and maximum mobility of the body and limbs 
  • Use of poles for mobility and equal limb flexion 
  • Lateral work in hand and ridden 

Would you like to read more about crookedness in the horse, and some more solutions that you can add to your routine with your horse to help address this ongoing issue?

If so, my Free Ebook 'Posture, Core Strength & Crookedness in the horse' is available for instant download! CLICK HERE: Free Posture & Crookedness Ebook 

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