When a horse travels crooked, it affects it’s physical well being, relaxation and more.
Most horses are one sided, as we are left or right handed too. With good instruction, you need to work on strengthening the weaker side and be made aware of which one that is. Usually horses are weaker on the right rein but there are exceptions.
- Natural one sidedness
- Rider induced Crookedness leading to unsoundness
- Real Veterinary Problems such as Pelvis Damage from Birthing.
THE LITTLE KNOWN HUGE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE TRAINER
Have had many Thousands of ‘Green Horses’ through our Hands, it is indeed surprising just how many have problems. It is not known by most Trainers around the World but they should be taught how to feel ‘Crookedness’ however subtle and to advise the Owner:
How to fix it
Set about fixing it it themselves, and
Provide a Plan for the future of how to ride such a Horse, to ‘straighten’ it and stop the onset of further deterioration as the Horse starts to compensate further, with the new weight of a Rider on board.
THE FOOT FALLS
We can tell a crooked horse by watching it’s footfalls. If it’s hind feet don’t follow directly behind the footfalls of it’s front feet it is crooked.
THE TIPS OF THE EARS
Another way to identify crookedness is by watching the tips of it’s ears. If one ear tip is higher than the other, it is crooked too.
If we watch it’s blaze down the face and it isn’t straight down from the forehead to the nose ,the Horse is also crooked ( provided it has a straight blaze of course). Sometimes this can be caused by sharp teeth as well.
As a rider it can be hard to tell true straightness or crookedness. When sitting in the saddle, you need to feel comfortable and be able to sit ‘central’. Crooked horses push you crooked in the saddle, usually to the outside. Resulting in shortening of your inside leg and making it hard to keep your inside heel down and sitting on your inside seat bone. This is especially evident on circles and turns.
If we are not sitting central the horse can’t be balanced either. It would therefore hold tension in the muscles in the back as a result. When muscles are tight for a prolonged period of time, pain develops. Pain often leads to lameness or bad behaviour.
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Over time if horses are ridden crooked, they become one sided. They build more muscle tone on one side of their bodies and have muscle degeneration on the other. Uneven muscle development often progresses to lameness. This is because especially in trot, which is a two beat movement, the diagonal pairs of legs move at the same time on every stride, meaning one pair of muscles can push more power than the other. The stronger hind quarter has more strength to propel the weight of the horse forward.
In canter it becomes evident by the crooked horse two tracking. This is when the hind quarters come to the inside track whilst the front legs remain on the original track. Two tracking happens when the horse is weaker on the inside hind leg and therefore brings their hind quarter to the inside to avoid weight bearing on it. It doesn’t want to carry itself ‘off the forehand’ and sit.
This places more stress on the horse’s front limbs which in turn can cause deterioration of joints and result in things like ring bone. On the forehand ,the horse doesnt come over the back and swing the back, which is critical to him remaining sound allowing it to use itself correctly and allowing relaxation during the work. Like us relaxation is important to ensure the happiness to do the work.
If muscle tone is allowed to drop away by the horse going crooked, it is very hard to rehabilitate the horse. Like body building in the gym for humans, it takes months to build muscle. Often if soreness is present, veterinary and or chiropractic intervention becomes necessary.
As the discomfort needs to be controlled in order for the horse to be able to trust in it’s ability to use the muscles that have been hurting. The horse needs to use the degenerated muscles to build them slowly by stretching them a little more every day.
Correct riding and training is also a large part of the rehabilitation. Training using the German training scale is paramount. Straightness is part of it and an important ingredient. Without straightness you will not achieve collection and can’t get real impulsion. So the crooked horse, if not struck down by soundness issues, will not advance up the dressage levels. As he simply can’t do it when he is not equal on both reins.