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A "very simple question" about right or left

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  • A "very simple question" about right or left

    So I have an ex-racehorse who has an old tendon injury in his right front fetlock. It's not the classic bowed tendon injury, in fact I'll link in a couple of images here.
    He hasn't been lame for over a year, but there still is a bit of swelling left (not as bad as in these photographs). I'm told the swelling will either be that way permanently or will go down over the next few years as his circulation improves. The thing is, he is an ex-racehorse, which means he has never learned to bend properly. I'd like to work with him to get him softer on the lateral but the last time I rode for an instructor he said (rather sensibly) that I should be careful with doing circle work because of his tendon. I don't ride him in an arena often, but go at the "schooling as you hack" principle.

    Now! Here comes the question. I was doing some light circle work with him yesterday in large circles and figures-of-eight at the trot, and I noticed that he is a lot more bendable going clockwise than anti-clockwise. Could this have been another factor, like the fact that he wanted to bend in the direction of his buddy who was neighing at him? Or would it make sense that he would be less bendable going in the direction in which his injured foot was on the outside? It's been a while since I thought about these things so I'm understandably rusty on the right-left logic.
    Any tips? This should be a simple one
    Equine portraits in oil and pencil at www.facebook.com/ecrklaveness

  • #2
    It could be just about anything; like people, most horses have a "good" side and are more flexible or strong in one direction than the other. Of course an injury could contribute to that, but it might not be the cause at all.

    I always try to work a little harder on my horses "bad" direction. But if you find that it he is especially stiff in one direction, a visit by a chiropractor might help identify some of the causes.


    • #3
      If he's worse to the left, it's actually the right side that is tight, because the right is what's preventing him from being as flexible. I don't know about the tendon injury, but I'm betting a massage would really help him, especially if he's been sitting or on stall rest for a while. The tendon could also very well be playing a part in it, and I would assume he would be a bit protective of it when going whichever way stresses it more.

      But, he also could have "rolled out of the stall" stiff in the morning, so was worse in one direction. Like always when dealing with horses, "it depends."
      "On the back of a horse I felt whole, complete, connected to that vital place in the center of me...and the chaos within me found balance."


      • #4
        First off-all horses are stiffer to one side than the other. As people are right or left handed so are horses.

        they are said to have a hollow side,-where they like to bend, and the other side which is stiff. However it is the hollow side which is stiff, making harder for them to stretch, as well as the other side. This is why dressage riders who are working to make their horses straight-meaning equally supple on both reins- work their endless circles.

        Since your horse is coming off an injury, you would want to warm him up in long straight lines and gentle curves first. Then 20m circles correctly ridden ,and you may need a ground person here, to be sure that he is indeed reaching under slightly with his inside hind, are your starting point. However initially you may want to do only a few on each rein in your early sessions. Be sure you are holding him on the curve with your legs and seat-not your reins. In schooling as you hack, you will need to develop the feel in your legs that he is not pushing or leaning on one more than the other, and correct him with your leg if he is.

        Keep in mind, that one of the more difficult basic moves is walking an absolutely straight line
        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


        • Original Poster

          Hey guys!
          So terribly sorry I never replied to this - it just disappeared out of my mind (can I say EXAMS?)!!
          The update is that he is DEFINITELY stiffer anti-clockwise. BUT I've reconciled myself to this just being normal stiffness like all horses have one good side and one bad side. I talked to his former owner and she said he'd always been a little bit more bendable on the clockwise. We're now having dressage lessons on a regular basis and things are going just brilliant with us! We've made massive progress and are now doing good shoulder-ins, sitting trot and a relaxed canter on a circle - although he's a lot easier to get into a collected canter on the clockwise rein than anti-clockwise! My instructor says this is MY mental problem and not the horse's, as he's really trying to get there and stepping properly under himself with the inside hind! LOL! Something to work on in the future
          Thanks so much for your input - happy trails!
          Equine portraits in oil and pencil at www.facebook.com/ecrklaveness


          • #6
            Good to hear!!
            Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

            Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.