Recently I have started to notice a massive difference in Dante’s left & right rein. One rein was noticeably much stronger than the other. His right rein being his bad rein, he really struggled to do certain exercises, and tended to start running off on that rein. Looking back on it, I thought some where bad behaviour issues, but thinking now he most definitely did not have the muscle to support himself, so getting tired quicker was the outcome and running was an option he used to deal with it.
Horses are like humans, they have a good and a bad side, it’s like asking someone who writes with their left hand to start writing with their right, they are going to find it much more challenging and frustrating once they start trying. So the same goes for horses!
Dante began running away with himself, this happened when it came to jumping & doing pole work, canter poles in particular. When he got tired his legs would literally begin to go in all directions, he would turn into an octopus horse!! He simply had no muscle to support him on his weaker side, his right rein. I only noticed this a month a go, my instructor & I were working on his weaker side & began to see a noticeable pattern.
Read below some tips I learned, and some exercises I do to help strengthen Dante’s weaker side.
Remembering to keep riding Dante in that forward movement, I try to get him to flex & bend to the right. Try not to do this by pulling at the mouth, but more so to get him working around my leg, riding 20metre circles are great for this, remembering to ride him straight out of the circle afterwards.
A great exercise I find very efficient for Dante, something that keeps him distracted as well as focused. Setting up 4 simple trot poles in the centre of the arena, and simply trotting in over them in the same 20 metre circle. Changing direction afterwards is a great idea, almost like riding a big figure of 8, once your horse figures out the exercises they can start to predict what your about to do, therefore they lose interest fairly quickly so try keep them on their toes instead. incorporating the trot poles into this exercise will not only get them using their hind end, bending around your leg but it will also keep them supple!
I can sit here all day, and waffle through a number of exercises I would recommend to do, but at the end of the day every horse is different. Below I have outlined a few pointers that I have lived by the minute I realised how much work he needed on a certain rein!
- I would recommend keeping your sessions no longer than 40minutes, 40% work on the Good rein & 60% work on the bad rein. I like to start working first on Dante’s bad rein and finish off on Dante’s good rein.
- Doing a hard session can affect your horse the next day! Remember that, they get sore muscles too just like us humans, so try not to over do it and expect results straight away just because you done 2-4 hard-core sessions on their weaker side. Do a hard session, and follow it up the next day with a relaxing hack.
- Forget all about their outline, you are trying to strengthen weak muscles not try force your horse to use them. Keep your horse moving forward, the outline will follow naturally afterwards.
- When you feel your horse getting weak, don’t over do it with them. Give your horse a 5 minute break, let him walk & stretch out during your sessions. If I find myself & Dante getting frustrated during a session, I change everything back to his good rein, and then go back to working on his bad rein. Sometimes its good to give them that good memento.
- Dante tends to cock his head to the outside of the arena whilst I am trotting around, When he does this, no matter where I am in the arena, I simply put him on a circle making sure he is bending to the inside correctly, this makes him more supple towards the inside rein. Once he does the exercise correctly I continue on with what I was originally doing.
Absolutely No1 in the world can go wrong with a good carrot stretch! It is so beneficial to your horse. They are great for before or after exercise. Doing these exercises in a stable is easier than out in the open as it prevents your horse from walking around aimlessly trying to eat the carrot!
Begin by encouraging your horse to bring his head around to the side, in other wards his nose being level with the point of his shoulder, do this stretch on both left & right a few times. you can progress this stretch by asking him to stretch towards his hip, this will stretch out his back also, repeat this on both sides! If your horse has problems doing these stretches call your physio.
Make sure to reward your horse with the carrot when your done!
Over the last few weeks, I have focused on making it a point in my work out routines to focus more on his weaker side, and the difference is outrageous. I used to be dreadful on my right side as well as Dante but to be honest I prefer working on that side now! He is a lot more freedom on his right rein, and is flexing a lot easier.
Do remember though, working unevenly on each rein is not recommended! You want to have an even horse, so once you notice the difference adjust your work outs back to 50/50.
If you have any tips of your own, or any exercises you would recommend let me know in the comments below!