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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My loan horse is great on the left rein, but on the right rein she is very stiff and doesn't get much bend. She cuts corners cantering on the right rein and struggle with circles. She also feels unbalanced to me on the right rein.
Does anyone know any exercises I could do with her in the school to get her nice and supple?
 

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It starts with groundwork and a snaffle bridle. Stand by the horse's shoulder/neck, facing it. with you pinkie finger (just the first joint) in the snaffle ring gently pull her nose toward your hip. You'll likely get only a few inches and you will feel a lot of resistance. Remove your finger and push her head back to where she's standing straight. Do again. You may have to place your left hand on her neck just behind her jaw to help her understand what you want. Keep gently pulling and releasing until she will bring her nose close to your hip. You may get only halfway and she decides she doesn't want to do this any more. Just walk her a bit and start again. Do this exercise always before you ride, take about 10 min. working each side and you will begin to feel her soften when you ride. You can then do this from the saddle a few times. Once she understands you will find that one day the other side may be a little stiffer. It switches but if you always release the rein immediately she will get lighter and lighter.
 

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Spiralling in and out (20 m circle -> 10 m circle -> 20 m circle) on trot works nicely. Very likely it's not just a horse, but your leg may not be strong enough on that side either. If it's a case you can always reinforce the leg with the whip by tapping gently right behind when you ask for the bend and horse doesn't respond.
 

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It starts with groundwork and a snaffle bridle. Stand by the horse's shoulder/neck, facing it. with you pinkie finger (just the first joint) in the snaffle ring gently pull her nose toward your hip. You'll likely get only a few inches and you will feel a lot of resistance. Remove your finger and push her head back to where she's standing straight. Do again. You may have to place your left hand on her neck just behind her jaw to help her understand what you want. Keep gently pulling and releasing until she will bring her nose close to your hip. You may get only halfway and she decides she doesn't want to do this any more. Just walk her a bit and start again. Do this exercise always before you ride, take about 10 min. working each side and you will begin to feel her soften when you ride. You can then do this from the saddle a few times. Once she understands you will find that one day the other side may be a little stiffer. It switches but if you always release the rein immediately she will get lighter and lighter.
I have found this also works with carrots :)

My horse has the same problem (probably with both sides) so in his halter, I make him bend his neck a little to get the carrot by standing a little behind his shoulder. I start out with little bends and then as time goes on I try and get him to bend a little more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Spiralling in and out (20 m circle -> 10 m circle -> 20 m circle) on trot works nicely. Very likely it's not just a horse, but your leg may not be strong enough on that side either. If it's a case you can always reinforce the leg with the whip by tapping gently right behind when you ask for the bend and horse doesn't respond.
I like the sound of this!
Yeah I do need to strengthen my legs up!
 

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I would try to find the cause of the inability to bend rather than teach the horse to adapt to the behavior or continue to compensate.

I would ask a few questions first: 1. Does the horse do this when lunged or only when ridden? If only when ridden it is either me or my tack. If on the lug as well it could be dental (see later) or stiffness. Flexion exercises on the ground will help.

2. Does this horse also do this with the owner? Does this horse do this in the owner's bridle and bit? Does this horse do this in the owner's saddle? If not it is my equipment or me.

Is your saddle causing the horse discomfort so they are unable to bed? If your saddle is uncomfortable it will restrict the movement through the horse's back and he/she may be restricting movement to protect from pinching or discomfort from the saddle- a too marrow tree and or gullet will cause pinching along the spine. ( I see multiple clients a month with this as the first symptom of an ill fitting saddle).

Has the horse been examined by an Equine Dentist? An issue in the mouth causing a restriction in the movement of TMJ will also inhibit movement in the rest of the horse's body- if you were to clench your jaw it would restrict the amount you could turn your head and even how you walk.

Finally I would examine how I am positioned as I ride. I would shift my ribs, shoulder, head position, pelvis position (amount I am closing or opening my right hip) and see if I am twisted or restricted in my own movement causing a loss of balance which the horse is compensating. Allow a little dust on your saddle and then have a ride- does your butt print in the dust show you to be sitting to one side or to the other? Is the imprint of you left bum cheek the same as your imprint of your right bum cheek? More weight in one or the other.

I think asking the horse to bend and stretch is wonderful but if I do not try to see if there is a cause other than just stiffness in the horse I will create a bigger issue later.

Hope this helps!
 

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snooty, all (or at least many) horses are more stiff on one side then other. Same with people BTW. Both my mares are stiff going left and coupled with my weaker left leg and hip asking them to bend on left circle is something that takes lots of work and effort. They gave almost no bend when we started, and I worked slowly and hard, step by step "loosing" them on that bad side. What I have now is incomparable to what they used to be :D , but I still can feel how effortless it is going to to the right and keeping a nice bend vs going to the left when I need more leg on to keep it.
 

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Sounds like you are putting in some quality time with your kids. :)

I have had a lot of training horse start out the same way (and I was the same when I met my present dressage instructor years ago). I continue to meet horses like this and always rule out an actual restriction before going any further with training. They have all become even on both reins with changes to whateer ws causing the issue- equipment, physical issues or rider issues. How great to eliminate tons of work (an discomfort) by removing a physical limitation at the beginning. Interesting that the restrictions tend to be on the right side when most horses are routinely lead from the left with their nose tipped slightly left. Just an observation.
 

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^^ Oh, yes, I see what you are saying about ruling out health/tack reasons (and completely agree). :) In my case bits and saddles are all carefully fit, and they have dental work done regularly, so it's that natural one-side stiffness many of them seems to show.
 
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