Does your horse need help with balance? Naturally, your horse could have perfect balance. However, when you put a rider’s weight on it, that changes everything. Your horse can develop balancing issues as it has to account for the rider’s weight to continue performing well. It then becomes your responsibility to help him adjust. Failure to do so could lead to him getting hurt.
Signs of an Unbalanced Horse
An unbalanced horse is a ticking time bomb. It can be a danger to itself and the rider. So, how can you tell if your horse is unbalanced? Here are a few signs and symptoms of an unbalanced horse:
- Your horse runs into a canter
- Bulging shoulders
- Crooked movements
- Picking up the wrong lead
- Your horse fails to walk in a straight line
- Cross-firing with the hind legs
- Leaning on the reins
- The saddle slides to one side
- It’s difficult to ride the horse on the bit
- Falling in or leaning in on turns
- Bucking during a canter
Take your horse out for a canter and pay careful attention to how your horse responds to your instructions and how he moves. If you notice any unusual movements, you could be riding an unbalanced horse.
Follow the Scales of Training
Every serious horse rider knows the scales of training. It’s a mantra you should live by. More than being a mantra, the scales of training can also be used to help straighten your unbalanced horse. Here’s a quick recap of the six elements of the scales (divided into three phases) of training and how they can help your horse regain his balance:
The first three scales are rhythm, suppleness, and contact. These make up the “familiarization phase” where your horse learns to hold himself properly when carrying a rider.
Next on the scales of training comes impulsion and straightness. Impulsion is the contained power of a horse, and it can’t be developed if a horse is unbalanced. At this phase, you must train your horse to use his hindquarters effectively.
The third and last phase focuses on developing the carrying power of your horse’s hindlegs—collection.
As your horse progresses in his training and develops the necessary muscles, he will be able to carry more weight on his hindquarters. This will lighten his forehand and give him more freedom to move his shoulders. As a result, he’ll become more athletic and balanced.
4 Ways to Improve Your Horse’s Balance
If your horse is unbalanced, that’s not the end of the world. There are simple drills and exercises that you can do to help improve your horse’s balance and strength.
1. Simple Exercises
Believe it or not, simple exercises that involve a change of direction are a great way to help your horse improve his balance. The key here is to find the shoulder your horse tends to drift through. Ride your horse in circles and curves to help him handle both shoulders well. For example, if his weaker shoulder is inside, support him before the bend with the inside leg and rein.
Be careful to watch your upper body so as not compromise your horse’s balance. Also, make sure to start with a walk—don’t rush into trotting.
If your horse loses balance at any point in your exercise regimen, use a transition to re-balance him, and then carry on.
2. Whole Body Vibration
Whole body vibration (WBV) therapy involves standing your horse on a vibration plate platform. Studies show that this kind of therapy has numerous benefits that can benefit an unbalanced horse. Some of the benefits include:
- Improved size and symmetry of back muscles
- Ligament healing
- Stress and pain relief
- Treating bucked shins
- Increasing bone density
- Promotes suppleness
WBV is also a great way of helping horses that can’t exercise on their own to get the exercise they need. Make sure to get and use an authentic Vitafloor vibrating platform for the best results. That’s because Vitafloor makes the only equine vibrating platforms (in the world) designed with vibrations specifically calibrated for horses.
3. Rhythm Training
An important aspect of helping your horse improve his balance is rhythm training. A horse’s rhythm is defined as the regular beat pattern with which the hooves fall during a walk, trot, or canter.
While it’s important for your horse to master his rhythm, it’s equally important that you, as the rider, develop your own balance in the saddle. Remember, when you’re balanced, it’s easier to focus more on your horse’s balance during your ride.
4. Movement Therapy
Another great way to help improve your horse’s balance is by using movement therapy. Because your horse is unbalanced, you may want to use tools like horse walkers/horse exercisers to help your horse build the relevant muscles needed to help him regain his balance. Horse walkers are also a great way of improving your horse’s balance without putting him under the pressure of having a rider on him.
Balanced Horse, Happy Rider
A balanced horse is a joy to ride. Both horse and rider will perform well and enjoy every ride together. For more information on tools and tips to help your horse become the best it can be, get in touch with our horse specialists.