• VOLUME 51 • © HORSES For LIFE™ Magazine
My horse is not bending. He is also holding his head to the outside, especially in canter and trot.
And he is even worse during the turns.
Decarpentry has an excellent piece in his book, Academic Equitation, which we covered in October 2005
- where he talks about the phenomenon of the horse carrying his head to the outside. Once we understand why and how, we then can understand the correlation of the problem of the horse carrying his head to the outside to problems bending.
The first thing we need to understand is that this is perfectly normal. Especially in the young and/or unridden horse. The horse plays and runs and turns playing with different balance points and often doesn’t seem to care where his balance point is. Sometimes easier is just better. Careening leaning through corners is natural and normal! This also often shows up under saddle through the training process. So from the horse’s perspective he is not doing anything wrong.
Remember this is normal.
What the horse is doing, in essence, is playing motorcycle, or bicycle if you prefer. He uses his body as if it all worked on one plane and then leans, especially through the corners.
Why would he do this?
Because it is easier. It doesn’t take a lot of muscle to lock joints. The horse uses tendons and ligaments to do this, not muscle. It takes a lot more effort to use muscle instead with soft joints. It is not necessarily better for your joints, but it requires a lot less muscle. It would be the same for us. It is easier to jump up and down with our knees locked, to rely on bone to provide our support. Many riders have this fault when they dismount. They land with straight knees. But this is how accidents and injuries occur and a good trainer will make the rider aware of what he or she is doing and insist that they learn to land with joints flexed and pliable and rely on their muscles for stability and support.
Often the next question is, if he is leaning ‘in’ to the corners, why is he carrying his head to the outside?
The head ends up to the outside like a counterweight. It helps stop the horse from toppling over and allows him to lean even more. It counter balances his body.
And once we understand that the horse in essence turns himself into one solid board that can lean, we also understand why the horse cannot
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• © HORSES For LIFE™ Magazine