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Posts Tagged ‘horse management’

RorLFB

Has it ever crossed your mind that your horse might be “left-” or “right-handed”?

According to Gabriele Rachen-Schöneich and Klaus Schöneich in their book STRAIGHTENING THE CROOKED HORSE, every horse is either left- or right-handed, and this “handedness” or “sidedness” is almost identical to that of the human population in terms of occurrence (70-90 percent right-handed).

Interestingly, an April 2012 article on LiveScience.com explains how a study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface shows that, the more social the animal—where cooperation is highly valued—the more the general population will trend toward one “sidedness” over the other.

“The most important factor for an efficient society is a high degree of cooperation,” says Professor Daniel M. Abrams, an assistant professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, in the article. “In humans, this has resulted in a right-handed majority.”

Certainly we consider the horse to be a highly social creature, and his early development as a herd and prey animal could be said to have nurtured the characteristics of cooperation, and perhaps, therefore, right-handedness. Whatever the cause, one-sidedness or forelimb dominance is a form of natural crookedness (the horse’s center of balance is displaced forward and to the right or to the left), and this can lead to big problems in the horse way of going (rhythm faults, leaning in, falling out, for example), ultimately compromising his physical and mental soundness and overall well-being.

Consider this example from STRAIGHTENING THE CROOKED HORSE:

Rhythm faults originating in the right shoulder and foreleg are probably the result of natural crookedness, which leads us to another serious problem that arises: if the horse is “leaning,” that is, placing excessive weight on his right shoulder, he will take a slightly shorter step with his right foreleg. Consequently—and this is very important—the right hind leg will also shorten its step. The horse drags the right hind leg, at first almost imperceptibly, but then more and more. This is because when the horse is leaning on his right shoulder, there is less impetus for the right hindquarter and hind leg to move, and consequently the hind leg drags behind…”leaning” on one or other of the shoulders causes a constant strain, which must eventually harm the horse. The rider’s weight inevitably makes the problem worse, especially if he is inexperienced and has not yet learned to control where to place it….It is difficult for a crooked horse to carry his rider. As a result, he becomes nervous, and this seriously affects his training.

RH2

A balanced horse shown on the left. A crooked right-handed horse is on the right.

So how do you know if your horse is a lefty or righty? He will display the following characteristics, here described as they would pertain to a right-handed horse, as that is the more common scenario:

  • He leans on his right shoulder and takes a shorter step with his right foreleg. This causes the right hind leg to shorten its step. You can feel what this is like if you try walking while leaning on a cane or a stick in your right hand—you’ll find that your right leg immediately starts taking shorter steps.
  • The horse will not be balanced but will move weight on the diagonal, onto the right shoulder. This causes the horse to carry his head and neck to the opposite side to counteract this excess weight, resulting in concavity on the left side.
  • On the circle as the horse comes away from the wall or rail, the circle tends to get bigger on the left rein and the horse falls in on the right rein.

 

Straightening-Crooked-PB-30For more information on crookedness in horses and how to resolve related problems, check out STRAIGHTENING THE CROOKED HORSE, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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HorseConformation_53 copy

“The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter,” wrote Charlotte Brontë in Jane Eyre. “Often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter—in the eye.”

We get “lost in” them; we can just as easily be “haunted by” them as we are “mesmerized by” them; we’ve often described them as “beautiful” in writing, as well as “loco,” a time or two. We’ve bought a horse for his “large, kind eye” as quickly as we’ve turned our back on one with a “small, hard eye.” But what is this romanticized consideration of what the eye does or does not tell us? After all, if the horse is sound and well-conformed in all other respects, should it really matter if his eyes resemble those of a deer, or a fish, or a pig?

“To the experienced horse expert, the eye signals nervousness or physical condition,” writes veterinarian and breeding and horse management expert in SPORT HORSE CONFORMATION. “This perception can neither be described in scientific terms nor illustrated—though it does separate the expert horseman from the ordinary equestrian, however.

“A large, dark eye suggests a certain calmness and equanimity. The reason for this perception has its root in ethology (behavioral science). Large eyes are part of what psychologists call the ‘scheme of childlike characteristics.’ They are associated with peaceableness and can trigger a desire in others of any species to protect and show affection. In contrast, small eyes resemble our squinted eyes and a targeted facial expression, as if geared to attack.

“Eye color—for horse and human alike—is of a rather speculative versus scientific origin and is not significant proof of the expression of various personality traits. A lot of white in the eyes can usually be traced to individual stallion lines….Upon closer examination of the horse’s eye, you can see brown objects in the front area. These are called ‘lacrimal caruncles,’ and they are still a scientific unknown, as far as their origin, effect, and usefulness is concerned. They are assumed to be part of the body’s own sun protection mechanism. Lacrimal caruncles vary in size, from match head to pea size; if they grow bigger and negatively affect the horse in any way, they can easily be removed.

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“Lacrimal caruncles do not impede the horse’s eyesight. However, there are currently discussions regarding photosensitivity, which supposedly leads to nervousness when the horse is in the sun. To this day, no scientific proof has been provided. And in the case of gray or white horses, growth of lacrimal caruncles may point toward a melanoma, a tumor that is especially prevalent in white horses. This needs to be considered.

“Moisture is an important factor in the health of the horse’s eye. It serves to flush out particles that the eyelashes do not catch and protects the cornea by serving as a lubricating film between it and the eyelid. Sometimes there can be an excessive production of tears, which then trickle through the corner of the eye to the outside. The underlying cause may be the clogging—by dust or insects—of the little excretory ducts that lead from the nasolacrimal ducts to the eye. These ducts are located inside the nostrils and are visible as small holes with diameters of approximately 5 millimeters.

“When the front corner of the horse’s eye is quite large, not only is there a negative effect on attractiveness but parasites can lay eggs in the area. Eye infections further promote this type of parasitosis.”

For further examination of the horse’s body and conformation, check out SPORT HORSE CONFORMATION, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

 

 

 

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