Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Spider and I are both crooked.  And we're both crooked in the same direction, unfortunately.  If we were crooked in opposite directions we could potentially even each other out.  But, no... we both fall in to the left.

Now, it could be a sort of "chicken or egg" dilemma.  Is Spider crooked because I'm crooked and I'm the only one who rides him?  Or was Spider always crooked and he made me crooked by throwing me left while I was weak after my injury?  Or are we both just crooked in our own special, completely uncomplimentary ways?  Doesn't matter.  It needs to be fixed.

See, what happens with a crooked horse is that you're going along quite nicely (or so you think), until it comes time to turn.  Then, you're suddenly careening out of control and into the bushes on the side of the arena, or getting quicker and quicker until your horse is completely on the forehand and you're leaning into the turn like a motocross rider.  Not really ideal.

My first fix is always to check myself:  Am I leaning left?  Yes?  Then I look over my right shoulder until my hips and shoulders straighten, breathe in, and turn my head back to center.  The human head weighs quite a bit.  Simply turning it forces our spine to realign itself and the hips and shoulders follow along.

Next I ask myself, "Are we still crooked?"  Yes?  Time to re-balance Spider.

First we do a couple quick transitions up and down.  And by quick, I mean just a few steps in each gait.  This gets his balance shifted back onto his haunches.  Then, I take a few steps of shoulder in to the right, followed by a few steps of haunches in to the left, then circle left.  The circle left is the "check" to see if he's really supple or not.  If he falls in, we repeat the exercise.

When Spider is crooked, he falls in to his left shoulder, and loses the contact with my right (outside) rein and leg.  The shoulder in right re-establishes that contact and lifts his inside (left) shoulder.  Also, when he's crooked, his haunches drift out to the right and his body loses it's bend to the left.  Once I have the outside aids back, the haunches in left brings his hind end back around and re-establishes the left bend.

Obviously, a haunches in is not the way we want to go around all the time (certainly not in a show!).  That would be wrong, just as wrong as having the haunches out.  The horse should be straight.  But, because Spider is crooked, we need to exaggerate the movement to strengthen him and build flexibility.  This is training, not showing.  You exaggerate the training, so that you can make it look easy at the shows.  The ugly riding stays home!

As an added bonus, both shoulder in right and haunches in left require me to get off my left seat bone (remember I lean left), straighten up and balance myself.  It's an exercise that works both horse and rider.  


  1. Sounds like you've got it covered with the exercises you're doing. I'm sure you'll be straight as an arrow soon. It's hard to work with a crooked horse and even harder when you're crooked too. I have this problem with Dusty and myself too. I only wish we were crooked on opposite sides and that it would correct itself.

    1. If only things were that easy. *sigh* And the non-horsey think that all we do is sit there and look pretty!

  2. Boy, do I know that feeling. I always keep the thought, "Are we really straight" in my head when I ride. One of my biggest compliments ever came once years ago, when an international trainer got on my horse and remarked how even he was on both reins.

    I have a lot of work to do with my Boys now, on this too, so I'm feeling "with" you on this. Kudos for some good exercises to get it all straightened out.

    Oh yes...you also need to assess. Is the crooked side the strong side or the weak side? Sometimes the horse wants to carry himself more on the strong side. It's important to figure that out so you can strengthen the weaker side and make the strong side more supple.

    1. Oh, thank you for pointing out the strong side/weak side issue. I haven't really given it much thought, I'll have to pay closer attention. I suspect a weakness/stiffness issue with his left hind leg, but I'll have to get confirmation from the ground.

  3. I enjoyed reading about the exercises which you chose and the justifications. The last time that I rode, I was riding shoulder-in left and haunches-in right to prepare for the simple change left to right (he likes to drop contact on the left rein). I had not thought to use those exercise like that before, but it felt right so I went with it. Thanks for confirming what I was doing. I will try adding a right test circle at the end next time.

    1. Glad I could help! I frequently make stuff up as I go along, too. If it works, I keep it... If it doesn't, I pretend it never happened and move on. ;D

  4. Nice post. Perhaps you can be in second-position that is a baby-baby hanches in. And at the other lead you can be in first position, baby baby shoulder-in.

    I will send you a couple of audio about it ^-^


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