Why is my Horse Always Bent To The Left? Rider Q+A

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This one is from @angelinirogerio who is having difficulty with all his horses tending to be positioned and bent to the left- and funnily enough, all of them prefer to canter to the left.

QUESTION:

I’m having some trouble with my horses, I always feel that my horse is putting his weight more on the right side.

So he became like a banana putting his head to the left, his shoulder to the right and his croup to the left, and all of them prefer to canter on the left lead.

I’m trying to understand what I’m doing wrong but I’m having so much difficulty to understand what’s going on

 

The image is a screenshot of some of the footage Angelini sent through.

ANSWER:

Firstly, I would like to mention that if you ride multiple horses and notice a common theme, it is likely an issue with the rider/trainer (and not the horse).

Of course, there can be factors such as saddle fit, equine musculoskeletal conditions, equine asymmetries, and training and behavioural issues that can influence a horse’s balance/preference of bend/direction.

However, for the purposes of this post, I would like to point out the rider biomechanical issues that could be contributing to his horse’s way of going.

Now, I realise the screenshot is just a moment in time but it is a good representation of the issues that could be affecting your horse’s alignment on a circle.

Sometimes, when these patterns become so well ingrained and habitual, they feel normal, and you can feel straight and balanced, even when you are actually crooked.

Often when I have corrected peoples asymmetries in the clinic, they say they feel uneven or wrong in that new posture. Remember, what is biomechanically correct doesn’t always initially feel right. What is normal for you (even if it is crooked) will feel right, until you get used to the new posture.

I have placed some points of reference on the image. The first is the straight line through the horse’s tail/spine. As you can see both the saddle and the rider are sitting to the right of the centre of the horse.

Remember, naturally due to centrifugal forces, when circling, bending or turning to the left the rider is pushed to the right.

To compensate for this right shift, Angelini is collapsed through the left waist, and since his shoulders are relatively level, it is likely a left pelvic tilt causing this, further encouraging his weight to the right.

His right leg is externally rotated with the toe out to help him stabilise on this side. Likely if this compensation was non-existant, he would slip even further to the right.

Your left canter leads are likely easier Angelini, because you are in fact exaggeratedly positioned for left canter. With your left (inside hip light) and the weight on your outside hip with the right leg slightly back.

It can be difficult to give you exact advice to correct your asymmetry but here is what I would recommend without physically seeing you:

  1. Help your horse with right-sided bend without a rider (which can be done on the lunge), so you can prevent developing further left/ride asymmetries in your horse as much as possible. You can also do right-sided carrot stretches for this. Have your trainer and/or bodyworker help you with this.
  2. Get straight OFF the horse on an exercise ball in front of a mirror or with someone giving you feedback. Literally feel what it is like for your pelvis and feet to have equal weight on both sides. You can also do this on a saddle chair. Memorise this feeling of evenness (it may initially feel crooked to you).
  3. At the halt, see if you can get straight. Specifically for you, I would recommend shifting your pelvis to the left completely, (stand in your stirrups, send your pelvis to the left, and then sit back down). It will feel like you are sitting to the left and that is ok. A feeling of dropping your right shoulder might also help. You could also try stretching your left hand straight up into the air. Try this at halt first, in front of a mirror or video yourself.
  4. Practice lifting your right leg literally up off and forwards away from the horse (keep your knee bent), and balancing ONLY on your left seat bone. This will help to break the habit of wrapping that right leg around your horse. You could also try this with the left leg also, which will help you to centralise your seat (ie. You cannot lift your left leg up and off the horse, if you have too much weight on the right side as you will slip- naturally you will have to shift your pelvis to the left).
  5. Practice walking straight lines with this new feeling of sitting to the left.
  6. Ask for more yields off the right leg (ie. Leg yielding off the right leg, spiralling out on a circle to the right) at the walk first, all the while feeling your body shifting to the left.
  7. Riding bareback and/or stirrup less will help with this because if you sit too much to the right it will feel more obvious to you (and your horse).
  8. Limiting left circles and left canter for a while should help in your attempt to rebalance you and your horse. Once the right bend/circle feels like the better side, then you can return to working both sides evenly.

It will take some time to break these habits but in the long run, it will help you and your horse feel more symmetrical, balanced, and be able to pick up both leads naturally.

I hope that helps you!

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