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Where is your centre of balance?

Every living creature is slightly – or considerably – crooked, it’s perfectly natural. However, when crookedness is left uncorrected, it causes problems. Many riders are aware of this fact and choose to practice yoga, pilates, go to chiropractors, massage therapists, and other body workers to correct it. However, it's not always that straight forward when you are sitting on a horse who also has a big dose of asymmetrical problems such as:

  • Lack of rhythm and impulsion.
  • Their back swings down, instead of up.
  • Their contact with the bit is unstable or hard.
  • They lack lightness and ease of movement.

Illustration 1. In a straight horse the centre of balance lies in the centre of the horse’s torso as shown above left by the red marker.
Illustration 2. In a crooked horse, the centre of balance leaves this central point and deviates sideways as shown in this right-handed horse above right. This horse's centre of balance is thrust sideways from the left hind along the diagonal pathway, over loading the right shoulder. In a left handed horse the the opposite occurs. This crookedness then weaves itself into an intricate web throughout the body, creating a host of unsoundness and schooling problems. The good news is that when you know how to reprogram your own and your horse’s diagonal pathways simultaneously while riding, you have the key to unlock habitual, imprinted patterns laid down in the body over many years, and when you unlock those patterns, you can naturally and easily begin to cure symptomatic problems such as:

  • The four beat canter.
  • Unlevel diagonals at the trot.
  • Bridle lameness.
  • Incorrect canter lead.
  • The saddle slipping to one side or forwards and backwards, and so on ... and on.

The above action throws the horse’s overall balance out of alignment because the left hind fails to take its share of weight distribution. Further more because the centre of gravity is shifted towards the right shoulder the right hind leg struggles to step up under the centre of gravity forcing even more weight onto the right shoulder. Struggling to withstand the diagonal thrust of the left hind the muscles under the right shoulder blade rebel by binding themselves tightly to the underlying ribs. This puts great strain on the horse’s right shoulder joints and surrounding soft tissue, severely restricting its freedom of movement and often manifesting into, 'bridle lameness.'

All that probably sounds technical and complicated. Reading it in words doesn't convey the impact on the body. So stop for a moment, and do what riders have done since the dawn of time: imagine you’re the horse. (If it helps – go ahead and get down on all fours!) Tighten the muscles down the left side of your torso. Feel how your left hind leg isn’t supporting you, but is instead pushing forward diagonally into your right shoulder. Feel how this throws your whole body off balance, unevenly distributing your weight, forcing your right shoulder to tuck in to support you, shoving your right hind leg out of backwards.

It’s not very comfortable – and it’s not very easy to move freely, especially in a right-hand turn – is it? When you really feel for yourself the actual experience of crookedness, you’ll begin to understand why a horse might play up more on one rein then the other! (Of course, in a left-handed horse the effects occur on the opposite side – but the imbalance and the horse’s discomfort are essentially the same.)

Hollow on the left, stiff to the right.

In describing this crookedness in a right-handed horse (a horse who drives from the left hind towards the right foreleg, as described above), we’d call him hollow on the left and stiff to the right.

In order for the horse to bend to the right, he must release the contraction through the left side. (Try it yourself: sitting upright and keeping your seat solidly in place, tip your body to the right. Notice how the muscles along the left side of your torso have to relax and stretch?)

So we say he’s "stiff to the right" because he can’t release that contraction to bend towards the right. It’s a sort of shorthand that’s really saying that the horse is "stiff and can’t bend to the right"!

How can you unlock the crookedness?

When you understand the biomechanics of crookedness within your horse’s body and within your own, you hold – as I mentioned before – the keys to unlocking the crooked patterns and restoring natural balance and find the centre point of gravity for you both.

ART teaches you how to:

  • Understand your own individual crookedness.
  • Understand your horse’s individual crookedness.
  • Re-balance your own and your horse’s diagonal pathways to unlock one-sidedness.
  • Allow both yourself and your horse to come naturally back into the centre point where the diagonal pathways cross.
  • Prepare yourself to experience simple, effective, powerful, classical riding!

No matter how resistant you may feel your horse is, he’s always available to change as you change. But when you’re struggling, he can sense it – a horse always knows when you’re not "walking your talk", and will just carry on walking his walk.