January 17, 2003, Newsletter Issue #108: January Dressage Tips.

Tip of the Week

Lateral Balance is the horse`s balance as it relates to each side, how a horse balances left to right. How the horse stays centered, on track, and on bending movements; that is required for any type of movement, in any and all disciplines.

Lateral is referred to how the horse maintains stability when on both or either leads or diagonals. Most all horses are stronger, and find one side easier to maintain balance than the other. Recently I had a mare come in for training that due to difficulty having the horse pick up the right canter lead, the owners only rode on the left lead. Therefore the mare is quite overdeveloped on the left side, with little muscle on the right side. You will often find circus, vaulting and race horses will demonstrate overmuscling on one side over the other side of the horse.

Ideally, every horse should be equal on both sides of the lateral balance in movement, in all gaits. The Lateral Balance is probably the easiest to develop in all Breeds of Horse, and in each individual horse. Although it is best to strive for perfection, also realize and understand that it is possible to achieve in lateral balance, it just takes time.

The beginnings of the development of lateral balance is in use of circles and serpentines; advanced movements use shoulder in and haunches in movements.

The most often used form of development of Lateral Balance is the use of the Lunge Line, or the Round Pen. Remember though that as many revolutions have to be performed on each lead/diagonal in order to correctly develop equal Lateral Balance. Such as, if you lunge your horse at the trot, 6 revolutions on the left diagonal, then you must lunge the horse 6 revolutions on the right diagonal as well each time that the horse is worked.

Interestingly, this horse that I mentioned above, when "free lunged" will circle the arena on track one revolution, perform half of a figure eight through "X" and change direction and go exactly one revolution in the opposite direction and then change through "X" again. This indicates to me that the horse is equally balanced although the owners could not get the horse to pick up the correct right lead at the canter. When left to herself, this horse correctly works her muscles equally on both sides; now this is not normal.....most horses will prefer one side to the other if left to work alone "free lungeing. Use of a round pen is EXCELLENT for the development of proper Lateral Balance~!

Start with ten (10) revolutions at each direction, change direction, work another 10 revolutions, change direction and change gait, then go another 10 revolutions, change direction, same gait--10 revolutions at that gait, change gait and direction, 10 again each side of the horse. Use this pattern for the development of the walk, trot and canter. Vary it by walk--trot--walk--canter--walk--trot--canter--trot--walk. "--(I think you understand the patterns and the equal use of each side/direction!??)

These exercises can be performed under saddle as well, but it is very important to remember that with a green or underdeveloped horse, that you must maintain a proper balance in the saddle as well or you will counter the horse`s development.

And, always remember, once the horse is showing boredom, change either the gait or the direction. Don`t burn out the mind of your horse~!


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