All horses are naturally unequal-sided from the beginning since they have a stronger and weaker side. This can lead to imbalance, and an unbalanced horse becomes stressed and tense. Here you will learn to see signs of imbalance in your horse and why it is important to treat the horse.
The horse’s asymmetry
All horses are naturally unequal-sided, just as we humans are, and we have a stronger and weaker side. Horses are also right or left-handed and therefore prefer to push the shoulder to the right or left. 60% of the horse’s weight is distributed on the front, but there is also sideway asymmetry where the horse can be a little shorter on one side than the other. One can also see that it is usually one of the hind legs that carries more than the other and that is one of the legs that pushes more. It can be about diagonal imbalance, where the horse does not track i.e. insert or exit one hind leg and walk sideways. Or vertical imbalance where the horse leans inward, for example, in the circle.
There is usually also an imbalance in the back and abdominal line, where one is stronger than the other and when we sit on the horse this worsens as the front weight increases, and the horse loses balance. We must, therefore, work proactively to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles: to make the horse carry more on the hind legs to counteract this. You may have experienced that the horse raises his head and lowers his back, or the horse increases the speed to “catch up” the balance- which are signs that the horse is an imbalance. Therefore, one should work a lot with flat work before mounting to get the horse in balance.
An unbalanced horse gets stressed and thus tense
One side can be shorter and stiffer and the other side is more elongated with longer, weaker and less developed muscles, which results in a certain tension on one side. The shoulder can also be different sized and can sit a little higher because it is more muscular. The horse that is left-flexural, can often be right-handed and take more weight on the right front while the right-flexural is often left-handed and takes more weight on the left front.
Some signs of imbalance may be:
- the hooves are unsymmetrical which means one is larger than the other
- the horse falls on the tows and hangs in the reins,
- the horse has a jerky or non-rhythmic movement or that the saddle can slip, one feels like one stirrup is longer than the other even though they are at the same length (this can, of course, depend on the rider too)
Therefore, it is very important that both riders and horses stay treated and fresh in order to avoid unnecessary stress and tension.