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Helping the leaning horse

A friend asked me for advice helping a horse who leans-in dramatically on turns in the canter.  She's too far away for lessons, so I wrote out my thoughts...  And then thought it would make a reasonable blog post.  So fwiw, enjoy:

This is one I've dealt with a lot (thanks to years of riding OTTBs who take leaning in the canter to an extreme) and have just recently finished going through with my rescue mare (well as much as anything is ever 'finished' -- but she can canter competitively through and balanced on a 15m circle w/o falling over now :)

Hard to tell without actually seeing the horse, but a couple things I've used with success before:

- be uber-aware of the hind end and include lots of lateral work ON the circle. Leg-yeild the haunches slightly in or out as you're going (so the hind quarters are on a slightly smaller/bigger circle than the front end). If the haunches are in, the horse physically cannot lean. The haunches going out test the horse's balance and increase her flexibility. In more advanced training this becomes a traverse exercise, but at the low-levels it's brilliantly effective as a leg-yeild. 

- follow up to that is shoulder-in/out on the circle. Consiously move the shoulders IN on the circle (which I realize seems like a very bad idea :) but when the shoulders are correctly in, they don't lean. Out in this case is the one just to help with balance/flexibility.

The last thing to remember is leaning is usually a loss of balance or strength. Keep your canter sets super short (maybe even 2 or 3 strides to start) and then come back to a balanced, properly bent trot. Then pick up the canter again, and back. Etc etc Gradually over time increase the number of strides, but always coming back before she leans.

Would be a good idea to introduce the lateral work in the trot first :)  I've found that doing the lateral work on a straight line doesn't help fix this problem - it has to be on the circle... It can take months unfortunately but it's very effective long-term.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes :)


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