Sunday, September 27, 2009


Just as humans, horses will have the tendency to perform better on one side than the other. Our OTTB Link, is quite obvious yet in his one-sidedness when he is under-saddle: his left side is slightly less responsive and he is less inclined to relax and soften completely when travelling on the left rein. On the ground, however, his right side was the side that gave us so much trouble at the start - he was downright reactive and untrustworthy on that side and if he was ever to kick at you, it would be from that side.

What are some reasons for one-sidedness?

Brain studies rule out the common myth that horses lack corpus callosums, or that a horse's corpus callosum is under-developed. Transfer of information between the right and left hemispheres occurs easily.

The function of a horse's vision can also have a part in a horse's "apparent one-sidedness" (more on horse's vision in the future).

Since we, as humans and creatures of habit, typically only handle horses from the left side (something stemming from those sword-wearing days), we have the potential of creating one-sidedness. Always saddling, haltering, etc, from the left side, can (in an extreme case) create a horse who is unused to people on his left side and who lacks trust in people on his left side. Mounting a horse consistently on the left side, for example, can change a horse's musculature. Longeing a horse unevenly - more on one side than the other, will create a horse stronger on one side than another. One myth I want to dispel briefly is that horses off the track are one-sided because they are only worked solely in one direction. This is completely untrue, as anyone who has any horses off the track can appreciate. Horses on the track are worked on a track with a broad turn that feels much as if the horse were travelling in a straight line - it is not like longeing a horse on a 20m circle. Also, racehorses are taught to pick up both leads as equally as possible.

Another reason for possible one-sidedness is chiropractic misalignment. A horse who is sore or uncomfortable on one side (perhaps imperceptibly so) will favour one side versus the other, which can further exacerbate the problem by building up muscle on the side the horse is using more.

How can you tell if your horse is one-sided?

Sometimes a horse's one-sidedness is obvious - either to the rider, to a spectator, or to both; other times the changes are so gradual we don't notice them with time or the one-sidedness is imperceptible to us. Being acutely and consciously aware of your horse's movement is vital to figuring out if your horse is experiencing one-sidedness. Have a professional set of eyes on the ground (both with the horse under-saddle and without wearing a saddle - assessing movement as well as musculature). Assess your horse without the gadgets and equipment - loose wearing just a halter and lead or even at complete liberty, in an arena or (preferably) roundpen. Is he arced to the outside in one direction, without you there to (perhaps inadvertently) support and direct him? If you and your horse are at an appropriate level to do so, liberty riding can really show where a horse is at - a one-sided horse will arc on circles and/or along straight lines.

How can you fix one-sidedness?

First off, try to make sure your horse does not become one-sided in the first place by working each side equally (both mentally and physically). Ensure your horse is properly chiropractically aligned. Mount equally from both sides and, preferably, from a mounting block, which reduces the strain and pressure on your horse's back and whithers. If your horse is already one-sided (whether to pressure or muscularly), work the "off" side more often than the "good" side, until your horse is "even". Persistence!!

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