Great Success the First Time — Here’s Another One!
Q. A couple months ago I submitted a question to PleasureHorse for Dana Hokana. I had been doing very well with my Appaloosa gelding but felt like I was losing his cadence and movement and he was getting sore. After Dana’s suggestions Hunter is now moving better than ever and he is not sore at all! PleasureHorse and Dana helped him move his natural way!
So now I have a second question! With all the exercises I have been doing I have realized that he has a much harder time when I make him follow his nose to the left compared to the right. He also tends to lay on my right leg when I ask him to engage it. Why is that? and How do I fix it?
A. I’m so happy to hear about his improvement! I expect a good report because when ever we seek to understand the horse and how he moves, and we seek to make it easier for him we will almost always see improvement.
From what you describe to me it sounds like Hunter’s left arc is his more difficult one. Horses always have an easier arc and a more difficult one. And it will show up whether you are training your horse for pleasure, trail, western riding, reining or any event. In some horses the difference between their easier and more difficult arc is obvious and in others it is very slight. Also usually the direction that he is stiffer and more resistant is usually his worse way at the lope. My guess is that is the case with Hunter. I compare it to people, as people are either left or right handed. I am right handed and if you asked me to write beautifully with my left hand it wouldn’t turn out very pretty!
So with this understanding, what I would do with Hunter is to “chip away” as I call it and work on that weaker side to make it stronger. He doesn’t want to bend in a left bend. He wants to straighten his body that is why he is pushing into or laying on your right leg.
The two components to breaking through this problem are to make it easier physically and gain acceptance mentally. Some horses will also develop mental resistance to something when it is difficult.
I encourage you to continue asking him to follow his nose to the left and even step it up to the trot, as forward motion will usually make is easier for the horse and will get you quicker to a place of win. Ride very mindfully and as soon as you feel him soften in your hand and you feel him lift and become more cadenced through his steps, release him. He will learn quicker and try harder for you if you release him at the right time when you feel him give. Be patient but don’t give up. You may need to work twice as long on this side of his body for a while. But try to read him as you do these exercises. By that I mean try to discern whether he is trying but stiff or whether he doesn’t want to try. To be a good trainer you must learn to read your horse. If he’s stiff but truly trying then reward him quicker, go to some thing else then come back to your more difficult areas.
As far as him laying on your right leg, I would push him around off of your right leg over and over. When you do this if you will pull his head to the right you will increase his range of motion and allow him to take bigger, freer steps with his hindquarters.
Do an experiment with this and have someone watch you. If you push a horses hindquarters around off your leg with their head straight in front of them look at the size of the step behind. Then pull his head off to the opposite side of the way that you are asking his hindquarters to move and look and see how much bigger of a step he can take.
Your goal is big free steps with his hindquarters and this will help him to really reach and step. I would also do a lot of this at the trot. As you are trotting just pull his head to the right and mash with your right leg asking him to trot his hindquarters around his front end. Also pay attention to his attitude and willingness. If he is mad at your leg he will tell you through his body language, such as his tail, ears, mouth, etc. But he will also tell you in taking short jerky steps. Work with him until he will take big flowing steps willingly. Sidepassing is another good exercise that will help him.
Keep at it and you will gradually see his left lead improve and his willingness in general. I have often times had a horse end up better on the more difficult lead!
Stay at it and I’m eager to hear how he progresses!