The Horse Physio - Delivering care with expertise since 1992

27.6.2022 Excerpt from ‘Understanding Horse Performance: Brain, Pain or Training?’

From Chapter 12: Does your horse score 10/10 for comfort?

8. Tight turn in walk and backing up

What to do: Turn your horse in a tight turn around you in walk. Make sure that he keeps moving ever so slightly forwards as he turns, but you are aiming to have his inside hind cross under his body similar to a turn on the forehand, and his outside fore cross over in front of his inside fore. Watch the step length of his hind feet, and how long he weight bears on the inside fore. Compare the left rein to the right rein. Then ask your horse to back up 10-15 steps in a straight line on a level surface.

The ideal: On the tight turn in walk, the horse crosses his inside hind under his body on the turn, with an equal amount of step under on the left rein as on the right rein. He weight bears on his inside front leg for an equal amount of time, whether he is on the left rein or the right rein. When he is backing up, he moves freely and willingly in approximately a straight line, with an equal step length with both hind feet.

Check: On the tight turn in walk, does your horse step under more with his left hind than his right, or vice versa? Is he unable to cross either hind foot under, instead placing one hind foot next to the other and basically stepping sideways around the turn? Does he weight bear for longer on one inside foreleg than the other? When he’s backing up, does he keep moving his quarters to one side so that he backs up on a turn? Does he take a bigger step with one hind leg than the other? Does he resist backing up completely?

For the rider / trainer / instructor

If you’re an instructor with a client who’s struggling to achieve what you’re asking of them, you can suggest these exercises and help them to find the right treatment for their horse. They’ll get more from their lessons with you on a horse who’s physically better able to cope, and your obvious care for the horse’s wellbeing will help to build greater trust and respect. If you’re a professional rider and one of the horses you are riding is finding something overly difficult, or not performing as well as you would expect him to, these exercises could help his owner see that his performance might improve further with extra help from a vet or physical therapist. This would allow you to improve your scores, or work or compete him at a higher level, and owners will appreciate your breadth of feel and understanding for the benefit of their horse.

For the therapist

As a saddler, dentist, farrier, or other equine paraprofessional, you can point owners in the direction of this book and these exercises to help them recognise when their horse needs help from another professional as well as yourself. This will make your job easier since you’re not trying to multitask and cover work that others could do more easily, and it further improves the service you are offering to both client and horse. Increasingly clients are (quite rightly) expecting service over and above ‘the norm’, and with so much information freely available on the web, they expect every equine professional to be the fount of all knowledge. Since none of us can possibly know everything (and if someone claims that they do, perhaps they are not the right person to be working with), one priority is to point people in the direction of the right help. The trick is to know when and how to do that, and where to point them. I sincerely hope this book will help, for the sake of ridden horses throughout the world.

“A horse doesn’t care how much you know, until he knows how much you care.” Pat Parelli

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© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio, 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion

June 27, 2022
Sue Palmer