Defining crookedness/weaknesses of the horse
Every horse has his own crookedness and in this, every horse is unique.
Bones, muscles and ligaments are not symmetrically shaped and may be attached differently, for example on the left side than on the right side of the body. This leads to crookedness and to “weak spots”.
When do the problems start?
A horse is not made by nature to ride. As soon as we start riding too young (earlier than 5 years) and start riding the horse more intensively, while it is still crooked or has ‘weak’ spots, this can be the cause of many problems.
Because the horse loses its balance and can no longer distribute its weight properly over its legs, it becomes overloaded or compensates in a number of places in the body. To counteract this, we teach the horse through dressage to become more symmetrical in his muscles, which reduces crookedness / weaknesses and allows the horse to find its balance in order to be able to bear our weight in a responsible manner. In addition, mapping out any crookedness/ weaknesses is important so that further training can be focused on improving these weaknesses instead of making them worse.
The crookedness/weaknesses of the horse could lead to:
- Overloading of the forelegs, which can cause shoulder and elbow problems, tendon injuries and many more lower leg injuries.
- Overloading the back, which can cause back pain, saddle fit problems and, in worse cases, kissing spines.
- Overloading of the hind legs, which may cause problems with the SI joint, the knee, the hock, etc.
Influence on horse motivation
But in addition to serious physical complaints, it also has a lot of influence on the motivation of your horse. Because the horse has difficulty with the exercises and these are often painful, it often does not want to cooperate voluntarily. As a result, many riders eventually decide to use unnecessary means of punishment or artificial aids, tie downs etc. making it even more unpleasant for the horse.
You can compare it a bit with yourself. You must have done exercises in the gym befor where it took a lot of effort to do the exercise well because your body was not used to it. Consider working with weights. The exercise is therefore often already a bit painful at that time, but the day after completely because you suffer from muscle pain. By slowly building it up and practicing often, you become stronger and you can ultimately lift a lot of weight. In short, it is better to prevent serious physical complaints and to work on a healthy and happy horse that does cooperate!
Mapping the greatest crookedness/ weaknesses
You may already know this, but for clarification. When determining Left and Right, for example Left Foreleg, we always use the perspective from the hores (so imagine that you are sitting on the horse while determining left or right).
Map your horse’s left or right-handedness
Look at the front hooves (on hard surfaces). Note the height of the hooves at the heels (see Fig.).
The difference will probably be a lot smaller than in this image and therefore harder to see. But almost every horse has a difference in the height of the hooves. See Inequality in the front feet can lead to injuries.
Does your horse support himself while grazing (eating hay from the ground) the most on his left or his right?
In the case of the horse on the picture, the left hoof is lower and the horse also relies more on its left hoof during grazing etc. This horse is left-handed.
Mapping the favorable hindleg of your horse
- Stand behind the horse (align the horse with the hind legs next to each other on a hard surface). Note the muscling of the hind legs. Is the left side more convex than the right side? or vice versa?
- Stand behind the horse and look closely at his hips, is there a difference in the hips, is his left hip higher than his right? or vice versa?
In the case of the horse in the picture it is much harder to see because of the colors, but the left side is more muscular than the right side, there is no real difference in the hips (again difficult to see because of the color). This horse his favorable hind leg is left.
Extra tip: look at the rear hooves, maybe there is something to see at the hooves or at the toe (front of the hoof)? is it worn more by one hoof than by the other? This may indicate problems in the heel that cause the horse to drag the toe over the ground with its toe (if only slightly). See if the foot is in proportion, and is immediately loaded etc.
Mapping lateral crookedness
Also called the horse’s left-hand bent or right-hand bent. Every horse has this to a greater or lesser extent, whereby the bend in the spine from the head to the tail is more to the left or to the right (can possibly also be S-shaped).
On one side of the body, the horse has short, strong muscles that are less flexible. On the other side of the body, the horse then has longer, limp muscles that are flexible but less developed.
On the image below you see a “left-bent” horse
Because the muscles on the left side of the body are shorter, stronger, etc., this makes the body “hollow”.
Because the muscles on the right side of the body are longer, weaker, etc., they make it possible to “pull” the body more to the left, making this side “convex”. With a right-bent horse this is of course the other way around.
How do you find out if your horse is left or right bent?
Take a photo from above. Try to keep the horse as square as possible. Sometimes you immediately see the shape.
- A left-bent horse will “grab” the right reins faster while it is going to the left.
- A horse that is bent to the left will not want to take the left rein when it is going to the right, so that the reins feel looser.
- A left-bent horse can walk a cirkle more easily to the left than to the right
- A left-bent horse will go backwards, turning a little faster with the hindquarters / turning to the left
- When you lunge a horse that is curved to the left, the horse has a tendency to make the circle larger to the left and sometimes also pull on the lunge. To the right, the horse tends to fall in and you have to take the lunge shorter.
- With a left-bent horse, the saddle is often set more to the right and the rider is also automatically sitting more to the right.
- A right-bent horse will “grab” the left rein faster while it is going to the right.
- While riding to the left, a right-bent horse will often not want to take the right rein, which makes it feel looser.
- A right-bent horse can walk a cirkle more easily to the right than to the left
- A horse that is bent to the right will go backwards, turning a little faster with the hindquarters / diverting to the right
- When you lunge a horse that is curved to the right, the horse tends to make the circle bigger and therefore sometimes pull on the lunge. To the left the horse tends to fall in and you have to take the lunge shorter
- With a right-bent horse, the saddle is often set more to the left and the rider is automatically sitting more to the left.