I've been having problems really getting my horse to move off my right leg. Left leg is great, right not so much. I try backing it up with a whip, which doesn't work too well.. either he doesn't listen, or he jumps and has flashbacks to his (not so) glory days on the track and runs through my hands. I broke down a day or two ago and give him a firm smack when he wasn't moving off my leg, and he did listen better after that, but it was accompanied by him diving onto his forehand and trying to run, which I've spent soooo long trying to stop. And the improved listening didn't last beyond that one ride. I usually avoid really using the whip, because once his brain turns off, the remainder of the ride is pretty much shot. He doesn't react badly to spurs, but a lot of times, he just doesn't react to the right spur. I usually wear maybe 1/2" POWs.. I also have rollerball spurs (which he listened to the first time, not so much the second, and haven't used them since). Maybe I should try the 1" knob spurs? Or is there something else I can do to really make him listen to that leg?
Should I continue using the whip, and nevermind the part where he tries to run? (I imagine there must be some happy medium where I get the response I want and not the response I don't want, but I have yet to find it!) Try different spurs? Something else entirely? Maybe I should talk my trainer into getting on him for me?
Also, he tends to get stressed out when doing anything remotely complicated that requires moving off right leg. Leg yield head to the wall? If I can get four or five decent steps, I stop, because otherwise he gets stressed and upset. I tried an exercise from 101 Dressage Exercises a couple days ago, where you sidepass on a 15m square, with a 90* turn on the forehand at each corner, which he got pretty stressed about. I made sure to talk to him and pet him and give him lots of breaks to gather his wits, which helped a bit. Haunches in to the right? Eeek (may have as much to do with his love of throwing his hindquarters to the inside, though, lol). Any tips on getting him to just chill out? He's 21 for goodness sake, he shouldn't get this worked up about things! (And he gets regular chiropractic care, so I don't really think it's a pain issue.)
you're kind of making it sound like a soundness issue - or else why would he get so stressed out when using that leg? especially since he's 21. chiropractic care doesn't have anything to do with his stifle or hock joints, does it?
make sure your weight isn't all on the left - most of the time when a horse is really resistant to moving away from one leg in particular, its because the rider is crooked.
(ie right hip in the air, heel up,knee up, weight transferred to the left seatbone and leg...then the right rein usually ends up crossing over the wither, and kicking with the right heel begins, then the horse is blamed for not moving off the right leg. This is all due to rider error. Horses can't balance properly if we are crooked, so how are they supposed to move laterally away from you and not rush?)
make sure your hips are dead straight, and you have the ability to weight each seatbone or stirrup appropriately for the kind of lateral move you want, ask for one step at a time, at the walk, turn on forehand, turn on haunches, etc.
Have an instructor help you bend him with the right rein, sometimes taking your hand straight back and a little bit inward helps. It is exactly like when you are leading a horse or want him to move away from you when you are in his stall. Bending helps him go sideways away from your leg. Don't overbend, just bend. They can't move away from your leg when they are straight.
Horses often won't move off one leg. It's a very common problem.
Chiro is also a vet, who has never noticed any hock or stifle issue, and believe me, she would.
Gucci, that could very well be, I have been feeling like I haven't been able to weight my seatbones correctly. I'll make extra extra sure that I'm doing that right.
slc, bending to the right isn't his (our) forte. Last time I took a lesson, my instructor was amused at how well he evades when we're trying to bend. I'll work on that. Not moving off one leg might be common, but it is annoying, especially when he practically floats sideways off my other leg!
Hm, seems like a lesson is in order... I'll have to see when my trainer has time.
Before you get on your horse, you could try going over to his right side, and bending his nose around to the right with your rein, and pushing on his side where your leg goes. Tap him on the side if it helps to get him over, but press where your leg goes first so he learns the aid. Insist. Even if he hurries or scurries, it's ok as long as he does something in that direction. When he listens and moves his body over, crossing his legs, give him a carrot. Face his head to the fence or wall if he tends to just run forward, and have him step along the wall, in like a leg yield position, away from you. It can almost be like a sort of turn on the forehand motion, if you can do it in off the wall, as long as there is some going sideways away from you with hsi body, and not just his hind quarters swinging away from you.
then try to do the same on the horse. try once, and dismount if he does it, and put him in the barn. he won't forget. he'd probably rather not bend on his right side. most horses have one side that's less flexible.
i didn't mean it's not annoying, it is, i only meant that you can look forward to it getting better, a common problem more instructors know how to teach you to fix.
it just sounds like he's stiff. he's older and probably wasn't evened up after his days on the race track.
ground work, and physical check up/chiro/ massagetherapy
do lots of ground work, carrot stretches to both sides; also walk nose to tail circles again both ways; it is quite possible/probable coming off the track that there is a physical block preventing him from bending, moving; have you done leg yielding?; start with the easiest inside the track, back to the track; turn on the forehand
slc, that sounds like a good idea. I'll give it a try tomorrow and see how he does with it. I really can't complain about him--he's wonderfully tolerant and patient and he puts up with me. And you're right, this is something that should be fixable.
kip.. heh heh heh. Once. It, er, didn't work out so well. Haven't tried it since . No, he really wasn't horrible, but it wasn't really a turn on the forehand.
Carol, how to nose to tail circles work? Are they just really small circles? He's been off the track almost 15 years, so... He's been ridden consistently for at least the last 9 years (although not always ridden well). We do leg yields, shoulder in, working on haunches in/out, turn on the forehand, little bit of turn on the forehand in motion, that sort of thing.
I vote with checking your balance. My horse has a harder time to the right. When things start to go wrong, the first place I check in is my own position. You can't MAKE the horse move away from your leg, and in fact they will tend to push into a rigid leg - but under stress, like someone saying "make him move off your leg," sometimes I revert to the confused teenager who thought that was how it worked. Then the whole scenario as described by Guccicowgirl unfolds. Like your horse, my horse under stress also reverts to his early learning at the racetrack and starts to bear down on the reins. It's a familiar but unproductive place to go.
Since I can only remember one thing at a time, I try to focus on opening my hip angle on the left. Then my shoulder comes up instead of rolling forwards, my knee points downwards and the lower leg stays on the horse in its proper supporting role rather than curling up like a dead thing. This automatically corrects my seat bones and keeps me from locking up into a pushing match against him on the right in spite of the sometimes nearly overwhelming temptation.
Without the anxiety and tension generated by an awkward struggle, my horse is able to use his own body a lot better. He not only bends better (still a work in progress) and moves off the right leg but even suddenly finds it possible to strike off into the canter from his right hind.
It's not the total answer, but it was a good chunk of it for me. Once I wasn't actually obstructing the correct response we got it more and more often. This might not be your particular issue, but it is worth a thought.
The other thing that helped might sound counterintuitive, but try a very light leg first, just the tiniest touch. Try this while doing the ground exercises suggested, where you can work to see just how light a cue he will move off of. Once you can see him doing it on the ground, that will help you visualize it when you are in the saddle. The less you have to do, the easier maintaining your own balance will be. The more consistent your position, the more the horse relaxes, and the easier riding him becomes - that's your reward!
My guy is the same as yours, slower off the right leg, I discovered that I have a hard time weighting my right seat bone like I do my left- my chiro looked at me, asked me if I always carry my wallet in my back right pocket and said soon as I take it out I'll start to straighten out. Such a simple solution to a major problem (well major for me!)
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Start with some groundwork so you can be "forceful" in the sideways movement. My OTTB, in her groundwork, is much the same way - it's like she understands she's supposed to move over, but can't quite make the physical connection to actually crossing her legs. If I give her a little push, literally, to off-balance her just a little so it's an unconscious reaction to cross and move over, it's like a lightbulb goes off. It's her front end that tends to stick, so before I ask for some sideways on the ground, I do some front end yielding to get her thinking about crossing those front legs going that direction.
As for spurs vs whip - IMVHO the whip is for reinforcing forward, spurs are for reinforcing lateral. IMHO your guy is reacting as he should to the whip - forward. On the times when I need to get my WB moving his hind end, I use the whip to "tickle" his actual hind end to remind him "Hey, big butt, that's the part I need you to move over."
And, since we're all crooked to some degree, make sure you aren't hindering the movement to the left by your body still saying "straight" or "right".
Just some thoughts from someone who is still learning some of these things
______________________________ The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET