We’re given the conundrum to work both sides of the horse equally, to have the horse equal on both sides, yet the horse is an asymmetrical creature, who prefers to be anything but equal on both sides. How do we manage?
Ride for any amount of time and you’ll notice certain deviations in your mount– carrying the shoulders out or swinging the haunches, bends too easily (hollow) on one side, while doesn’t hardly bend on the other.
As for the maxim, there are two options:
- Ride the same exercises on both sides, working a bit harder on some things on one side vs. the other
2. Ride different exercises on different sides, depending on the deficiency targeted
While some horses are naturally more equally strong and supple from side to side, others, such as ex-racehorses tend to have more noticeable differences between the sides. My experiences with ex-racehorses taught me that under option A, the sides naturally became smoothed out gradually over time, with the left hind gradually becoming stronger and the horse gradually more supple to the right, but there were still noticeable differences as the horses moved up into the medium levels. Under option B, I found that strengthening exercises for the left hind leg and supplying the horse to the right could be carefully chosen and honed in on, creating a more equally strong and supple horse by the time the horse reached the mid-levels of dressage.
The most effective training is to select exercises to work on that develop an equal feeling of strength and suppleness between the sides.
For instance, if you have a horse that badly wants to escape through the left shoulder, why would you spend a lot of time in shoulder in left unless you know you have control of that shoulder– if ridden incorrectly, it could be construed to be an invitation to further escape through the shoulder. Instead, renvers would be a targeted exercise that would address controlling the shoulder, as well as getting the inside hind leg to step further underneath the horse’s body.
What is your default method– do you tend to ride more of Option 1 or Option 2? Why?