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Jumps and canters crooked

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  • Jumps and canters crooked

    One of my students bought a very athletic horse that cleared the vet about 8 months ago. He was 7 then so he is 8 now - a registered paint but looked like a TB. Now that we've had him on good food and work - he looks and acts more like an appendix / WB cross. He used to be ALL over the place and had a mind set that his way was best.

    He used to challenge his last owner - buck and do things that made her afraid of him but he is all bark and no bite. He also used to throw his front legs when groomed or saddled. And he woudl throw the vet around. Now he stands for the vet pretty well and still when groomed and saddled. His trot has been about collecting and stretching - getting his four legs under him and square - round through the back - stretchy etc. The trot has come a long way.

    We are looking into saddle fit too.

    And the first time we asked him to jump two fences in a line (it was a small grid -we worked up to it but the first time he HAD to adjust his stride) he clearly was MAD he had to change himself. So I suspect there is some personality in there - he is a strong willed horse - has an ego and is old enough to have some habits.

    BUT he is crooked a bit in the canter and crooked when jumping. He straightens when the fences are bigger but I hate to jump him big yet.

    What particular gymnastics or work can we do to help him straighten up? We do some counter canter but it doesnt seem to make things better. Maybe I should get on him - she cant afford for me to train him so I teach her the techniques to bring him along - she is a natural trainer disposition and very solid rider who doesnt interfere unless she needs to support so she is capable.... but she doesnt have the experience to hold him straight.

    Thanks for any ideas.

  • #2
    Have you had a chiropractor look at him? It should be more comfortable for him to travel and jump straight than crooked, and the fact that he's insistent on being crooked makes me think it might be something physical.


    • #3
      I would have a vet carefully look at the "inside" hind (the one in the direction that he is crooked) so if he is haunches to the right in the r lead canter and if the left lead is the worse or less comfortable canter to sit, then I would be pretty convinced there is something in the R hind, even if it doesn't show trotting on a straight line. You may have to ride the horse for the vet to see. It's always easier to treat when a problem is small instead of waiting for it to snowball into a bigger issue and compensating injuries.

      Otherwise work on fitness... hills, backing, shoulder-in, ect.


      • #4
        PS does the horse toe drag on one or both hinds? If the horse clips his toes trotting on hard ground thats a dead giveaway of hock/stifle soreness.


        • #5
          I think it's all about the rider being able to keep him moving straight. Gymnastics will help but really its about the flatwork in between the fence.


          • #6
            Is he rushing and getting crooked to try to give himself more space between fences? Or does he just get crooked as an evasion to being asked to carry himself in a balanced manner.

            I wonder, provided it all proves to be training and not a physical issue, if you couldn't work on straightness and adjustability over poles or cavaletti before trying it over fences? You say he jumps better over the bigger stuff, but could it be because he doesn't have the same comfort level over higher fences and therefore isn't as at ease with pulling out the stops with his tricks? If so, I think as soon as he gets comfortable at height, you'll have the same problems. As you alluded to in your first post, jacking up the fences rarely seems to be an answer to jumping issues.


            • #7
              Has this horse ever had "QH" style training? Since you say he is a reg. paint it is possible, and the "fad" is to have them canter VERY crooked with haunches in. Some of these horses look like CRABS going down the rail!


              • #8
                Yup, crabbing down the rail. Not just in Western horses either. You doubt that? Stand behind any horse going along the rail...are they tracking straight? Answer is almost always no.

                I'm going to just go out on the limb here and say this sounds like a common, riding and training related issue. Two reasons.

                First, a horse is narrower in the chest then across the rear end and the hind feet are placed wider apart then the front feet. When they follow the rail around, they have a tendency to drift out with the shoulders so the shoulder and hip are exactly the same distance from the rail-which means they are tipped outside. Stand behind them, easy to see. Creates all sorts of little problems that add up to a crooked horse all the time. That crooked horse is lost without that rail to "lean" on and will be crooked with no real independent balance square on all fours and straight anywhere. Effects everything from distances in a line to getting over the middle to corners and lead changes.

                Second probelm is common in the ones trained via short cuts and gimmick with emphasis on getting them to "frame up". That problem created is the rider removes all impulsion or balls it up behind draw reins and gives the horse NO place to go. So they go sideways with various body parts seeking to go somewhere when forward is taken away.

                Timid/inexperienced riders on green horses seem to create alot of this because they lack the basics and are afraid to go forward or give the horse somewhere to go-they will smack without relaesing the head or just never let go-or slap the draw reins on when they are afraid to use leg.

                I have also noticed that the ones that have had their heads about ripped off with halts and back ups every time they make a mistake get afraid to go forward and will also get real crooked.

                The answer is proper riding with empasis on forward and nothing to restrict it. Get off the back and go freely forward to get that forward back then start over with harnessing it while staying straight. Teach that rider to operate both ends of the horse leg to hand and give him someplace to go. Teach her to push that shoulder off the rail and travel straight and square-and get her off the rail. Quarter line, center line or diagonal-not on that rail.

                And, honestly, I would not have her jumping anything until you get this fixed. Right now, because the basics are not there, you risk bad habits that will be hard to school out and, worse, he could get a bad miss, hit the rails of even a small fence and scare himself. You do not ever want that with a green horse.

                Master ALL the aids on the flat first, then go to the fences to set horse and rider up for success. You have to make it possible for them to suceed and gain confidence. However you work this out, it is not going to happen the way it is now.

                Oh, and horses don't have "ego" or get "mad" the way we define it. They do react to what the rider is asking as they are trained to do and get defensive which we then assign human values to. And this one was a brat when you got him because he just had never been trained how to act, just punsihed for not knowing.
                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                • #9
                  Findeight, well said!


                  • #10
                    Have you put another rider up on the horse? Is it possible your rider is the one that's crooked, and the horse is just picking up on that in ways that previous horses have not?