How can I support my unbalanced horse?
This blog post is here to outline some basic but effective exercises for you and your horse to improve your aids and help support the unbalanced horse. Often green, young or horses coming back into work, experience difficulties balancing themselves and their rider. An unbalanced horse cannot perform to it's full potential, if continuously ridden and schooled in an unbalanced gate horses can compensate and build uneven muscle tone which in turn can lead to an altered gate and in severe cases lameness.
Before starting any corrective work on your unbalanced horse it is always a good idea to get your horse checked over by your equine physiotherapist. This will help to rectify any muscular tension causing the unbalanced ride or treat tension that has built up as a result of the unbalanced ride.
Turn on the fore hand
The aim of this exercise is to encourage your horse, in a stationary position, to listen and respond to your aids correctly. Your seat, your hands and your legs are all there to help and support an unbalanced horse.
It is easier to introduce this exercise while standing parallel to an arena fence for additional support. Start with asking for the halt followed by a 180 deg turn left, move forward, ask for the halt again and perform a 180 deg turn right. This can me physically and mentally straining for your horse so keep it short and sweet and ensure your horse is not becoming frustrated with the aids.
Aids: Right turn
- Ask for the halt and ensure you are sat level and your horse is square with left flexion
- Adjust the weigh in your left seat bone and left leg to apply more weight here
- Soften the contact on your right rein
- Left leg behind the girth and squeeze to ask the horse to step over.
- Once your horse has stepped over, reward and continue to ask one step at a time to complete the movement.
Following on from our turn on the forehand we are now going to ask our horse to move away from the leg while walking to begin with, and then progressing to trot. Teaching our horse to respond correctly to our leg while walking and trotting will allow us to effectively support the horse during the later exercises. Using our arena, on both reins, ask your horse to turn onto the 1/4 or 3/4 line and once straight, ask them to leg yield back to the track. Ensure a forward motion throughout the exercise and try to maintain inside bend.
Aids: Left rein
- Ride onto the quarter/ three - quarter line
adjust your seat to add slightly more weight through the left seat bone
- Left leg behind the girth to as the horse to move over away from the leg
- Right leg apllied to ask for forward movement
- Left hand to ask for slight left flexion
- Once you have reached the track, ride straight and forward out of the leg yield
Very simple exercise that, when ridden properly, can help your horse balance around their corners. Start your circles big and simple at 20 metres, ensuring to keep circle work even on each rein. Progress down to 15m circles and the finally 10m circles. Use your arena and make the exercise variable and interesting for the horse, try not to continuously walk around in one circle in one area. change up the size and location.
Aids: Left circle
- adjust seat to apply more weight to the left seat bone
-left leg on the girth along with left hand slightly open to encourage flexion and bend around the leg
- right leg to push the horse forward in their gate
Leg yielding on a circle
Joining our three previous exercises together, we are now going to ask our horse to leg yield on a circle. Starting with our ten metre circle, you will gradually ask your horse to leg yield over onto a 20m circle. This exercise is easiest ridden in the centre of the arena with the starting 10m circle ridden with x as the centre. To be ridden on both reins evenly.
Circle aids - first gain your balanced circle
Leg yield aids - use the aid for leg yield, keeping your seat heavier to the inside and your shoulders pointing in your intended direction of travel.
By combining and riding these exercises you and your horse should develop the skills to both support and listen to each other effectively, and there for improving your ability to help your unbalanced horse find their feet, centre of gravity and confidence in the arena!