One of the primary goals of our horsemanship is to help our horse to develop in his strength, suppleness, and balance. In our endeavor to success with this goal, it is important that we keep his mechanics in mind.
When a horse is on a bend his inside hind leg is the driver of the body – it steps deeper under his body than the outside hind leg does, thus carrying more of the horse’s body weight and taking on the role of the driver. Regardless of how sharp or shallow the bend, his inside hind leg and his outside foreleg are the balancing legs. (Does this help you to better understand why we post in time with these legs when we are on the “correct diagonal”?)
When working with our horse in hand – whether that would be lunging, leading, or other ground skill tasks – it is important to keep these mechanics in mind. In order to develop strength and suppleness, it is essential that we help the horse to maintain the proper balance. All too often, however, I see handlers allowing their horses to shift into an incorrect balance – sometimes during an exercise or task, and often even before beginning. How can we possibly expect the horse to perform or excel when we have missed the most basic necessity of balance? This not only makes the tasks at hand more difficult, but it also gets in the way of the horse’s long term development by allowing poor habits and physical asymmetry to creep in and take over.
If we take a look at our horse’s body during an exercise, we will begin to see the state of his balance. In most cases, our body would be to the inside of the horse’s bend, therefore the hind leg nearest to us would be considered his inside hind leg. This is the leg that should be stepping deeper underneath his body even if only slightly, as in a shallow bend. His entire body should follow with this balance, carrying a consistent bend from his tail to his nose.
Often, I see horses lunging and leading with the wrong bend and looking outside of the circle as if they are trying to head the other direction in escape. This does absolutely no good for the horse’s physical or mental development, as it is obvious that he would rather be away from the handler instead of working together. From this, we start to see muscular asymmetry, challenges with taking the correct canter leads, “dropping shoulders” on circles, and much more.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE BALANCE…
When you are lunging your horse, is he carrying a consistent bend to match the circle you are lunging him on? When you are working on ground tasks in hand, is he stepping the appropriate hind leg under his body to balance correctly? Is he mentally staying on track with you rather than looking away?
Anytime we are working with our horse it is our duty as his “personal trainer” or “life coach” to help him develop to his personal best. His balance affects his physical development – we all understand this, even at the most basic level. Resistance develops by accident. Strength, suppleness, and balance develop through intention.
Do not let your horsemanship happen by accident. Make it intentional.