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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

I have a 12 yr old Belgian show jumper. He's been with me for only a couple months, and I have a little problem that I couldn't improve it as much as I've wanted to.

The problem is this: My horse is faster in all gaits (walk/trot/canter/gallop) turning right, and also does not bend when turning right but instead drops the shoulder (which is probably why he's faster...)

I have tried leg yielding and shoulder ins. Definitely helps but did not improve much. In order to bend him, I have to apply a considerable amount of inside leg, compared to what I apply on turning left.

The speed difference on canter, right and left lead is very noticable. Left lead has a very balanced and soft and rhythmic feel, but right lead is noticably faster, and drops shoulder whilst turning, which makes him add some extra speed.

What type of training program should I be applying for this problem?

Thanks in advance!
 

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you should first have him seen by a chiropractor , as he is probably misaligned in his neck or back. His being unable to bend to the right indicates that his left side is very tight, or locked. This puts him at a disbalance going right, and he speeds up in order to compensate for taht.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
A veterinarian friend of mine did not state a major misalignment, but maybe a chiropractor might think otherwise.

I agree with your thoughts, he's probably stiff on the left side, which makes him unable to bend left. It does get better after the first 5-15 minutes though, which could indicate muscle tension. However, during a slow walk, if I ask for a tight bend around my inside (right) leg, he does give it and requires no leg power, even if it's in the first couple minutes.

One thing I noticed is that he always prefers to sleep on the left side. He doesn't lay down much, but when he does, it's always on the left side. Maybe this adds to the issue?

One thing that boggles my mind is this: if I'm trotting in a straight line, but the wall is on my left, he goes faster, and it does not depend on which leg im sitting or whether I'm doing a sitting trot. But if I do the same thing, and the wall is on the right side, he goes slower. The horse is of course very straight in both cases, there is no neck bend.

This horse do have some training issues, and gets slower if he's calm and goes faster if he's not. Last owner would walk him for 30 secs, then trot him for a minute, and go for big jumps. It's because of this, whenever I ask for a trot in the beginning, he always has a very fast trot, whether right or left. That's because he's expecting me to ask for canter, so he speeds up.

He also gets noticably faster if he's afraid of something, in all gaits. Gets slower if he's calm.

For these reasons, I thought maybe he had something happen to him on a right lead, maybe tripped over or something like that. Which is why I'm looking for a good training excercise along with of course nutritional and veterinarian care.

any ideas? Please ask anything, I'll try to address them.
 

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At first I'd start with getting a vet and a chiro out to assess the reasons of his asymmetry, and I'd also want to check out the saddle fit and the possible asymmetry of the rider. Rushing exclusively on one rein, not the other, is a top sign that there might be unhealthy tension somewhere in his body that won't be resolved just by training - some therapy might really help. Good luck! :)
 
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Actually I did try different saddles a couple month ago, I believe there was no rushing/minimal. That might be it. Let me try another saddle and if that doesn't work, vet and chiro I guess.

Thanks!
 

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Also consider if when he has the wall on his left, or right, is he going toward, or away from, a place he WANTS to go to? If you ride exclusively in the same arena, could there be any issue of a 'draw' to the gate or other?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Well, I ride in different arenas, changed it 5-6 times actually, some are small and some are big. When introduced to a new arena for the first time, he's much faster at first, but calms down in a couple of days.

He doesn't really stop at the gates, but if I'm riding in a closed arena, from time to time, he does slow down, and look outside almost like he's expecting something dangerous coming from there (body gets tense, ears and head turns towards the opening, he deviates to the inside). So if there is an opening in a closed arena, whether its a gate or a big window, he might slow going towards it, deviate to the inside when near, and go faster when past the opening. This behavior does not have a right/left preference. However, it helps a lot if he knows that it's a gate. He definitely doesn't go near any openings that are not gates. (In reality they are gates, but they are not used for horses, so he doesn't think that they are gates, he thinks they are dangerous.)

If I'm riding in an open arena, then gate doesn't even matter, he's mostly worried about getting too close to the fences, he does not like that at all. Usually goes faster the closer you get to the fences, though it gets better if he gets used to the arena.

He doesn't really have anything that draws his attention in the arena, other than random objects laying around, and he does not rush towards them at all. I sometimes let him do his own thing, he mostly runs circles around until he's comfortable enough finding an interesting object laying around or a leaf to chew in which he goes towards with no rushing. It's easy to convince him not to do that, if asked. He does not fight you over it.

If there is a wall or a fence on your left, he goes faster the closer you get to it, and slower if you are far enough (which is probably one horse width or maybe one and a half horse width distance). This effect is very noticable in small closed arenas. But considerably less noticable in huge open/closed arenas, so I'm guessing, in small arenas, he expects a right turn coming ahead, and speeds up in order to match speed for the upcoming shoulder drop.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Status update:

Vet cleared my horse, nothing seems to be wrong that would cause that much of a speed difference.

Saddle is okay as well.

Canter in the correct lead seems to be fixed going right, what I did was to work him a bit more on the right turns in walk/trot/canter for about 1/4 more workload. Before every ride, I applied some basic massage, and relatively tight bends in walk, (after he is warmed up of course). Also, I counted every move/decision I've done, and made sure that I've done it 1/4 more in right lead. Lots of lead changes in trot/canter (such as 8 turns) helped a lot. For some reason, he would charge after a lead change, especially when going right from left... This training actually fixed this issue in 4-5 days so I'm guessing previous owner might have worked him in left lead a lot more than right, therefore he may have more muscle development in that direction. I know for a fact that he had no dressage training or a proper warm up. Only very high jumps and that's it.

So, as of now, right lead is almost exactly the same as left lead (in correct canter lead of course) and I'm pretty sure it will get better in the next couple weeks/months.

Counter canter still seems to be very fast and unbalanced. I'm pretty sure he was never worked in counter canter, so he feels unbalanced, which makes him go faster and drop the shoulder in tighter turns (smaller than ~15m turns). I think working him in 20m circles in counter canter a couple times a day will slow him down in the next weeks/months. Then after he slows down, I'll start working on smaller circles.


So I guess, thanks for all the input everyone. I'll update this post again if this issue persists again for some reason in the future.
 
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