Horse's body in turns
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, October 4, 2008 10:36 PM
I have been studying horse's anatomy and biomechanics, watching horses at liberty and work and riding them. And I have a few ideas I would like to share with you. This will help you to understand why your horse turns easily one direction and reluctant to turn the other. Please do not take these ideas as an absolute truth. Observe and find for yourself if I'm right or wrong. I'm myself always looking to prove my observations.
The horse's barrel is suspended between shoulder blades on muscles and ligaments - there is no bone connection. Because of that horses easily shift their ribcage to the left and to the right. A rider feels that shift most obviously when he/she rides walk. Usually one side of that suspension system is stronger and shorter than the other, so horse's barrel does not hang between shoulder blades symmetrically. One side feels concave to the rider and other feels convex. Usually horses keep their weight more on the stronger shoulder and move their head toward weaker one to counteract the balance. Watch how horses stand at liberty, they are not straight, there are always subtle brake lines along their bodies. Usually the hoof of a more loaded shoulder is flatter with lower and more open heel. The muscles that run horizontally from back to front are shorter on the concave side and longer and weaker on the convex side.
For example, some horses have the left side convex which means they load their left shoulder more, their left heel is flatter, their long horizontal muscles on the left such as Latisimus dorsi are longer and weaker and their hips are usually slightly pushed to the right. Some horses are so crooked that they make a shorter step with the left hind because barrel is so much to the left there is not enough room for the leg to step forward and under. Right side is concave one, which means the head and the hips are pushed to the right, right hoof is more upright. Right Lats are tight and right hind doesn't know how to load and carry weight because it stays slightly outside all the time. These tendencies can be very slight or very obvious. They can be complicated by injures, arthritis, stiffness in the hips, incorrect trimming, extra weight, incorrect riding, etc.
To turn in balance you need to bend your horse. You need to shift horse's ribcage over to the outside without letting him drop on outside/inside shoulder or swing his haunches to the outside/inside. When you want to bend horse's convex side he will swing his haunches out keeping inside shoulder loaded more. The concave side usually bends too much, which means horse shifts his ribcage to the outside too much loading outside shoulder and moving haunches and head in to counteract the balance. To the left the horse will turn too quickly with no bend and to the right he is hard to turn at all. From the above explanation it is clear that pulling on the right rein to turn to the right will not work. It actually gives a horse more leverage to lean on the left shoulder. It is the left rein and left leg that will help to turn your horse to the right. A rider needs to develop enough stillness, balance and awareness in his/her body to feel what is going on. Then it will become much more clear what to do and you will not worry about what your inside/ outside leg or rein should do in turn or circle. Your horse will be dictating to you what should be done to preserve balance. There is no hard rules in riding. Only laws of Nature and your mind to observe them and find solutions to the problems.
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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