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"Double lean"
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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myleetlepony
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 Posted: Tue Aug 12th, 2014 05:27 am
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Hi Dr. Deb,

I believe you touched on this in the forum once before, but going back, I can't find it.

Can you go into more discussion of a horse that leans twice, say, to the right in the shoulders and to the left in the hindend? Is there more in depth to resolving or helping this issue beyond twirling the head and disengaging the hinds? It seems that while those would separately help each symptom, it could compound the opposite at the same time?

Thanks!

Last edited on Tue Aug 12th, 2014 05:27 am by myleetlepony

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Aug 12th, 2014 05:33 am
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Dear Leetle: It is rather rare for a horse to lean "both ways". Almost always, when you detect that the horse is leaning left in front, for example, he will also be leaning left behind.

So, the first thing I must ask before going further is for you to tell me exactly what it is that makes you think that your horse is one of the very few who would lean both ways.

Once you come back with a reply on that, we can proceed to the next step in the discussion. -- Dr. Deb

myleetlepony
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 Posted: Tue Aug 12th, 2014 06:00 am
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Physically speaking, the right shoulder is more developed, right heels are flatter with the left heels more upright, and there's an almost imperceptable pointing of the front feet to the right. From the top, looking down on a roached mane, the mid-line slightly curves to the right and the horse appears to be slightly bent to the left, except at the poll.

However, when I turn her loose in the pasture, I can physically see the front of her leaning right, but the hind end leaning left. If you were to draw a vertical line of her hindend as she was going away from you, the line would point upwards left. Her left hip looks slightly dropped. I have only noticed this since she came down with uveitis earlier this year in her right eye.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Aug 13th, 2014 03:22 am
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Yes, Leetle, you're certainly making the effort to make detailed observations. However, in this matter it is easy to get too much caught up in detail. In reality, it is very difficult to accurately assess some of what you report, in other words, when observing in the field, it is very difficult to establish any plane of reference by which to know for sure which way the rear end of the horse is actually leaning.

I suggest that you first perform a "crawling experiment" yourself. Get down on all fours. Follow the rule that we must impose to force the human anatomy (which is not exactly like that of the horse) to imitate that of the horse as closely as possible. This rule is: when you lean to the right with your shoulders, you must keep your shoulder area parallel to the ground. In other words, you pretend that someone has laid a board across your shoulders, and when you "lean" what you are doing is not tipping but rather sliding the board from left to right, maintaining it parallel to the ground.

Before beginning to lean with the forequarter, make sure your limbs are all squared up, i.e. that you have about equal amounts of weight upon your left vs. right hand and left vs. right knees. Then lean, so that the imaginary board slides to the right. Take note of how this affects the pressure you feel, that is to say the weight, that is in your knees. How does the weight distribution change when you lean to the right in front?

This is the NORMAL and simplest pattern that we find in horses -- that when they lean to the right in front, they also lean to the right in back. YOu will be able to determine that you are leaning to the right in back, even when all you intended to do was lean to the right in front, by noticing that when you lean to the right in front, you automatically and simultaneously increase the pressure coming onto your right knee.

Now, we can FORCE it to come out another way. So this time, you lean to the right in front, as before, but also intentionally press down with your LEFT knee. This is "leaning in opposite directions". Notice that to maintain this opposite lean, an almost crushing force is felt upon your right hand. No horse ever does this unless there is a compelling reason, i.e. extreme lameness in the right hind limb onto which his weight normally would have shifted, that forces him to overweight the left hind (and thus also the right fore).

This is why I say that it is highly unlikely that your horse is leaning one way in front and the other way behind. The observations that you make that I would go with as being the most valid and reliable are:

(1) Heels of the forefeet more upright on the left, more sloping on the right. This indicates that the horse habitually leans to the left.

(2) That the general curve of the spine seems to be convex to the right. This jibes with the above observation, i.e. a horse that habitually leans to the left will also curve more easily to the right.

I also believe your report that the horse seems to have an S-bend or twist in its neck, and it may also have slightly more development in the right shoulder. When combined with the above two observations, what this tells me is that your horse has what our elderly teacher used to call a "slow corner". This is a horse that, although generally tending to lean left/be easy to curve right, has difficulty getting the weight off of one shoulder, in this case, the right.

When the horse untracks on the right, in other words steps under the body-shadow with the right hind leg, in most horses this will also cause the entire spine to curve to the right, taking the right shoulder with it. HOwever, in a horse with a "slow corner", the shoulder on the inside of the curve doesn't tip over to the outside as it should, or as the untracking would normally induce. This shoulder therefore may need additional stimulation or help, which you provide with the lightest possible taps with a short bat or flag, until you see the "S" bend come entirely out of his neck, i.e. the bend becomes "purely" to the right.

However, do bear in mind that sometimes a slow corner is symptomatic of a generally sluggish response to bending aids. This may be due to numerous causes, including that the horse is shut down and not willing to risk trying; does not understand what taps and/or leg aids mean; does understand what they mean but has been taught to ignore them; is being too heavily pulled upon by the hands, so that the horse learns to deform his neck in order to avoid the pressure.

You'll have to think about all these things as you consider the total pattern here and the particular history of this horse. Do perform the crawling experiment as there is no finer way to get into your horse's skin than experiencing the varieties of lean, and their consequences, yourself. And report back for sure, with any further observations or thoughts. -- Dr. Deb

myleetlepony
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 Posted: Sat Aug 16th, 2014 07:00 am
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Thank you, Dr. Deb!

I did the leaning experiment on myself, and I see what you are saying about it being nearly impossible. I felt immediate discomfort in my lower back and like a contortionist to get it correct!

I went back to square one with my observations these past two days. I think I am seeing what you consider a "slow corner", and I think I am observing that yes, she is leaning right in both the front and hind, however she is traveling with the hindend towards the left. For example, if I am tracking "left", she carries her hind end slightly to the inside.

So now, my question is, she seems to be muscularly dominant on her right side, however her left from the shoulder forward lacks development. Working to twirl her to the right and untrack her right hind seems counterproductive, as I observe the right side muscles being contracted and the left side stretched (so in effect, I would be continuing the uneven musculature). Twirling to the left and untracking left seems counterintuitive because she's already prone to "leaning" right. I'm trying to think this through and get lost.

As an aside, after cutting back on her workload and going down to light, less often riding sessions over the past two months, I seem have "lost" her shoulder-in left. As opposed to moving the shoulders left, she now swings the haunches to the right. I am not sure if this is connected or not.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Aug 17th, 2014 08:18 am
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Dear Leetle -- I would say instead that in all honesty, it is likely that the horse really never did "own" a proper shoulder-in. I say this because everything you have been telling me is around the fact that the horse has been, for a long time, in the habit of moving crookedly -- and it is simply not possible to perform a quality shoulder-in on a horse that does not know how to carry itself and its rider straight.

The main way of fixing this needs to focus not on what you think you can or cannot see, because as I said before, unless you have a clinical eye and/or are an expert photographer who knows just what to shoot and at what moment in order to catch the horse "in the act" so to speak, you are likely to think you see what isn't really there.

So, instead, what I would advise you to focus on is helping the horse learn to carry itself straight. Straightness as I discuss and define it in the "Woody" paper and in the sequel "True Collection" appears to be all about differences in anatomy and about leaning and so forth. And this is not wrong, but it is not the wisest or the most direct path to success, as I go on to say in "True Collection."

So while Dr. Deb gives you all these complicated biomechanical and anatomical ideas, our elderly teacher just simply cuts right to the heart of the matter, putting the problem in not only practical, but really solvable terms. He said:

"A horse is straight when it does not matter to him whether he works to the right or to the left."

What this calls upon us to do is to EQUALIZE the horse.

This means asking him to step under with the inside hind leg until that stepping-under is just as prompt, just as willing, and just as fluid with the left hind leg as it is with the right hind leg.

This means asking him to twirl his head so thoroughly, and so gently, that it becomes just as easy for him to tuck his jowl under his throat on the left side as it is for him to do that on the right side.

This means asking him to flex his ribcage to the left and to the right, over and over again, gently but thoroughly, until it becomes just as easy for him to curve his body to the right as it is for him to curve it to the left.

It means riding curving figures to both directions at the most powerful of all training gaits, the walk, until the horse can bend a 10-meter circle, link it at a single point to a circle in the opposite direction, and CHANGE THE BEND within one step. This means getting him to the point that he is so supple that his ribcage, as well as every other part of his body that depends upon the ribcage, to CHANGE SIDES promptly and fluidly.

It also means that the rider learns by sight and more importantly by feel TO TELL WITHIN AN INSTANT when the horse is beginning to fall off balance, which is to say, the instant he begins to brace up you would feel it, no matter where the brace would be in his body, and that you commit to paying attention to that high degree thoroughly, all the time, committing to never letting the horse down through inattention or distraction.

When you have practiced this, beginning from wherever your horse currently is, for six months to one year, every single ride, changing and alternating and varying the figures and the circumstances so as not to let the exercises become in any way a bore or a grind, then I predict that you will be writing me back to say that it seems the horse has "switched sides". This is normal -- the horse will switch which side is the one to which he finds more difficulty bending, over and over again but each time with decreasing magnitude, until within a period of from one to six years of very pleasant work, he becomes for all intents and purposes equal to either side.

At this point he will be able to perform a shoulder-in of good quality, and he will also have begun offering you collection and will be truly on the bit, as described in "True Collection." -- Dr. Deb


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