Posts Tagged ‘Straightening the Crooked Horse’


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.


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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Did you know that every horse has to contend with centrifugal and shear forces?

Come on…admit it…these aren’t the usual terms we toss around in the riding ring or during a lesson. But the physics of the horse’s movement, in particular on the circle or curved path upon which we so commonly ride him, have an incredible impact on his ability to perform optimally and move in a way that promotes longevity and soundness.

In STRAIGHTENING THE CROOKED HORSE by Gabriele Rachen-Schoneich and Klaus Schoneich, we begin to gain a familiarity with the kinds of real and perceived forces we experience when working with horses, and how those forces impact the horse’s body and thus the way he moves.

Very simply stated, an object or being traveling on a circle behaves as if it is experiencing an outward force (what we know as centrifugal force).

When the horse moves on a curved path to the left, for example, the perceived centrifugal force is evidenced by the horse’s right outside shoulder falling out, which makes the horse concave to the left. When the outside shoulder falls out, the rest of the body must follow.


The red arrow shows the horse falling out through his outside shoulder.

The red arrow shows the horse falling out through his outside shoulder.


A speed skater has the same problem when he comes to a bend on the track. To counteract what we know as centrifugal force and avoid being pulled outward off the track, he crosses one leg in front of the other. The horse on the circle behaves in a similar way, as shown by the way he puts down his front and hind feet. Ultimately, such “crookedness” during movement causes strain on the right forefoot, as well as on the tendons, navicular bone on that side, and spine.

Shear force in the horse is similar to a pair of scissors: one of the “blades” (sides of the horse) remains fixed while the other “shears away” diagonally (see illustration below). Since the horse’s joints are designed for carrying him forward rather than making this sort of movement, shear forces place enormous strain on the contact surfaces and ligaments associated with these joints. The most commonly encountered consequences are knee and hock problems and gait irregularities. Shear forces place considerable strain on the sacroiliac joint, as well.


You can begin to understand how shear forces affect the horse when you imagine the sides of the horse as the blades of a pair of scissors.

You can begin to understand how shear forces affect the horse when you imagine the sides of the horse as the blades of a pair of scissors.


The good news is, with correct training, these forces do not have to derail your horse’s straightness and soundness. For over 30 years, Rachen-Schoneich and Schoneich have worked with, and successfully “cured” through appropriate gymnastic training, more than 4,000 horses with straightness problems related to the forces they encounter when being worked or ridden, as well as incorrect or insufficient training; bad riding; veterinary misdiagnosis; and poorly fit tack and equipment. In STRAIGHTENING THE CROOKED HORSE readers begin to see how, with sufficient attention to gymnastic training on the longe and in hand, horses can be ridden without ever sacrificing correct locomotion.


Click image to order.

STRAIGHTENING THE CROOKED HORSE has just been re-released in paperback, and is available now from the TSB online bookstore where shipping in the US is FREE.


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