When I was fifteen years old, Old Joe, my mentor who was then eighty, always taught me to shape up the shoes in matching sized pairs in order to see right away if there was any difference in the horse’s hooves. Many years later when I realized the value of the information, I made a point of observing the tendency of every horse and have spent the past thirty years studying this relationship of hoof size to natural athletic tendencies.
The first observation was born out of my own need for self-preservation, and I noted that if the young horse bucked, it would always go to the side of its largest hoof. To reinforce this left and right-hand study, I practiced recognizing the different hoof size as they walked towards me for shoeing, and tested it by telling the owner in advance how the horse would favor or resist accordingly and the accuracy was amazing.
Conversely, in other countries or in some states of Australia which race clockwise, this is to the advantage of the left handed horse. On the lacrosse field it was beneficial for me to recognize the weak side of my opponent’s horse.
It would obviously be of great benefit for riders of competitive horses to be able to identify these natural left and right handed traits. Working on a thoroughbred breeding, training and racing stud, I was able to observe that foals as early as twenty-one day's old were developing a difference in hoof size, and by the age of weaning, without the influence of any humans, were already noticeably left or right handed or ambidextrous.
As foals, they were handled only briefly then allowed to grow up in the paddock, haltered every six weeks for hoof inspection, and by yearling preparation time they were definitely in the groove of their natural tendencies. During the breaking in and the mouthing process, again the young horse wants to favor its natural-born athletic movement, giving to one rein much easier than the other.
When shown how to recognize this, they have found their horses much easier to work with and understand. Over the years I have taught many students to recognize this natural-born trait in horses, as well as how farriers, by using consistent standards of shoeing, can help the horse and rider maintain a higher level of natural ability.
One query concerned a horse that when lunged to the off-side at a trot he was stepping short. The German FN (the governing body of riding in Germany) even recognizes in its rule books that most horses are born with “a natural asymmetry” and that it is “cerebral, or determined at birth.” It could be caused by the way the equine embryo grows in the mare’s womb.
I am of the opinion that asymmetry occurs in part because of domestication, and due to the conditions in which we train and keep our horses. There are various theories on the causes of asymmetry in horses, but I will focus on the issues that arise as a result.
When two horses fight, they can be observed turning their left shoulder to the aggressor. After the age of two, the development of the horse’s skeletal structure is pretty much complete.
The saddle support area of the horse’s back begins immediately behind the shoulder blade at the base of the withers. The shape and position of the gullet plate in particular needs to accommodate any unevenness in the shoulder area.
This rider is trying to compensate for her saddle sliding over to the right due to the horse’s larger left shoulder. If the left side is larger, farther down the horse’s back the saddle will actually put pressure on the left side of the spinal column, because it no longer lies in the proper position within the saddle support area which keeps the spinal vertebrae clear of the panel.
There will be less support for her left seat bone because the saddle has shifted to the right, which causes her to collapse further at the hip. A crooked rider will have difficulty using the proper aids, especially through the subtle muscle contractions and shifts in weight intrinsic to dressage.
The horse will feel resistance, and the continued pressure of the saddle on the left side of the vertebral column will increase stress to the sacroiliac joint, which can cause a crooked pelvis for the horse and possibly lead to complete lameness in the right hind. To accommodate the horse’s conformation, adjustment should be possible not just in width, which is common for some saddles with interchangeable gullet plates, but also in angle and independently at both ends.
Once the gullet plate has been adjusted to accommodate any natural unevenness at the shoulder, the saddle should be sitting straight on the horse’s back when standing still and especially during movement. This allows the rider to sit properly and in balance, and keeps the pressure off the horse’s vertebrae.
A symmetrical gullet plate may actually cause problems as it does not accommodate the natural unevenness of the horse. Rider exercises to strengthen your core will help you to sit straight and balanced in the saddle.
But unless you take your horse’s conformation into consideration when fitting your saddle in the first place, your personal ability and strengths as a rider will always be compromised. Main article photo: A saddle that sits straight on the horse’s back will allow the rider to sit properly and in balance, making it easier for her to use the proper aids essential to dressage.
This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Canadian Horse Journal. The researchers then presented the horses with a third box (ambiguous) at a neutral location and watched what happened.
A horse that readily approached the ambiguous box within 60 seconds, touching it with its nose and muzzle or pawing at it, was judged to be optimistic of getting a reward. Dr. Isabel Mary, who led the study by the Equine Behavior Team at Nuertingen-Geislingen University, noted that other studies found horses that investigated novel items from their left side were more emotional in their responses to training and their environment.
“The more emotional a horse is, the more likely it prefers the left sensory organs,” Mary said via email. “Further research is needed, but we assume training a horse only from the left side may cause more emotional reactions.
Rudy Sheba la and Jay Beg aye are Native American horse trainers raised on the Navajo Reservation that spans New Mexico and Arizona. Chief Phillip Whitman is a member of the Northern Cheyenne nation in Montana.
Sheba la, who has a degree in animal science from the University of Idaho, explained that the side a particular culture used when handling a horse historically was weapon-oriented. Sheba la added, “One side will be natural, but the opposite direction, it takes them a while to figure it out.
I've grown up knowing that you have to give each eye, each side of its brain, equal time in everything you do.” In our latest research, to the best of our knowledge, a link between the preferred forelimb use when starting to move off from a standing position (motor laterality) and the cognitive bias in horses was demonstrated for the first time.
In 2008, Dr. Paul McGee and colleagues at the University of Sydney investigated the right -or- left preference in Thoroughbreds. “A mentally healthy horse shows higher motivation and willingness to perform in training and competition,” she wrote.
“The easy and objective determination of the preferred forelimb the horse uses to start to move off from a standing position can help to keep an eye on the horses mental health during training, change of housing, the competition season, etc.” Dr. Stephen Peters is a psychiatrist who co-authored the book Evidence-Based Horsemanship with trainer Martin Black, a protégé of legendary horseman Ray Hunt.
Peters and Black use scientific studies about how the equine brain works to develop their training methods. Peters recalled a conversation he recently had about research on the left -brain, right -brain topic with Dr. Andrew McLean, founder of the Australian Equine Behavior Center.
How to identify them, what effect does it have on their movement ? Or anything else that come STO mind on the subject. I understand you can identify the difference by the different size of hoof.
I know a lot of people think that is why teaching something, like pivoting, on one side always seems a bit slower. • Horses : 2 I've also never heard (or seen) the hoof size difference thing.
Since most horses are traditionally handled, led, tacked up, mounted/dismounted from the left side, this can often give people the perception that a horse prefers one side to the other. I know a lot of people think that is why teaching something, like pivoting, on one side always seems a bit slower.
I also understand it is the reason they work better on one rein than the other...so they have a more developed side at the front and then the same at the rear but on the diagonal hoof... So at the walk, trot and canter it should,if what I understand is correct, a horse should work better on the left rein if he/she is left handed. However, at the full gallop they work and move better on the opposite rein.
Hat is why some horses suit different tracks, clockwise or anti clock wise. The easiest way to size the hoof is around the coronary hairline. So if the front/fore nearside is bigger then it is left handed ...if offside fore then it is right handed . (I am from the UK so nearside and offside may be different to those from the states) To clarify when mounted facing the same way as your mount then big right front hoof right handed.
Bigger left front hoof then left handed ... again, so I understand. In all my years I have heard many tales about horses but never one of hoof size and certainly never noticed it.
In the U.K. Race tracks can go in either direction and many horses run better one way than the other but with riding horses if they are ridden and handled correctly, they will be supple both ways. • Horses : 0 It is an interesting concept, and I do know what you are saying with the working off the rein, but I’ve never seen a hoof size difference.
I’ve heard the idea of handedness, but I figure it is me since all of my horses work a bit better that way. • Horses : 0 The reason I have become aware of this left or right handedness is I am and have been for the past 12 months learning to play polo cross and it is obvious that some horses turn and pivot better on one side than the other.
Start with the biggest front then other front to get best balance and size. One thing I'd add is that my daughter recently did a science experiment with our horses to see if they could recognize basic geometric shapes (in this case, a triangle and a circle).
Equal sized shapes were cut out of black paper and glued to an equal sized white piece of cardboard. Our three horses went about this experiment in very different ways (our youngster was very eager and impatient, nearly busting through the cardboard signs in his enthusiasm, our nervous mare took forever to decide which to choose, but got it right more often, and our older horse got cranky and annoyed).
But one of the interesting aspects was that our older horse chose whichever shape was on the left more often than the one on the right (my daughter kept switching the shapes from side to side to control that variable). First we thought it was because I was standing to the left (I filmed the experiments), so I moved to stand directly behind my daughter, but he still chose left.
There was a fairly obvious preference for the left regardless of which shape was there. In the end, the experiment raised far more questions than it answered, which I think is fascinating.
• Horses : 0 The line of thought is you size the hoof at its widest point at the coronary band hairline. However, I have also learned that some have the same size front so no difference, and they can work on either rein just as well... again food for thought and discussion.