Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

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piedmontfields
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Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

Postby piedmontfields » Thu May 10, 2018 1:51 pm

As I've focused in the last month on tuning up a sharp response and sustained power on all transitions, but especially t-c, I've been noticing just how much harder the left bend trot to left canter transition with real activity is for us (no wonder changes in this directions are harder). Essentially, if I don't manage ("herd") the right hind, Emi more than willing to evade by "spinning out" the right hind. The first time she did this evasion in a big way, she actually did a 260 to the right with an added buck when I asked for that very active left canter. I stopped her, sent her forward in trot again, tapped her on right and she bounded very nicely into a good left lead canter. But it was a big reaction--which I think was out of the challenge of the effort. Her right hind is her weaker leg (the one that seeks to carry less), although it has improved over time.

Since then, the reactions are smaller (but still sometimes involve an attempted spin) and she is more accepted of "herding" from my leg (with whip back up if needed). This does not happen if I expect less engagement + power, so I do think it is a "whoa--that takes strength" type evasion. This also does not show up in the w-c, but then the walk has no impulsion so maybe it wouldn't.

I am aware that it is possible to go to the conclusion that "oh, my horse has a physical problem." My gut is that her physical problem (given how sound she presents overall) is that this is just a weakness and bend in her short body is challenging. Given how comfortable and well she moves in the left canter once we work through the first evasion or two of the session, I also tend to think that this is just the challenge of harder work. I welcome your thoughts and interpretations. This is very much a journey for us.

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Re: Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

Postby StraightForward » Thu May 10, 2018 2:20 pm

We're at a much more remedial stage of training than you and Emi, but we have similar challenges with the right hind. In Annabelle's case, it's more that the RH is the "pushing" leg that goes out from under her body and pushes her onto her LF, so the process is bringing the RH under, and also trying to get equal weighting on the the RF. With the huge asymmetries she brought to the table, this is really apparent, but might be happening to a lesser extent with Emi. A's LH was demonstrably weaker in that the entire left haunch looked almost atrophied when I got her, and that leg does come under better, but tires more easily, and she loses impulsion faster when circling left with proper bend.

While the problems manifest most loudly at the canter, addressing this in walk is critical, IMO. I've learned a lot about her asymmetries from doing IH work. For instance, doing SI right from the ground, her RH will swing towards the LF, but just before touching down, it swings outward, and I have to be really diligent to get her to land the foot under the body with proper alignment.

We really experienced the "spinning out" yesterday when trying to get better T/C transitions to the left. Now that we've achieved some semblance of bend and control on the left lead, she is finding the T/C transition very difficult, and sort of inverting and bouncing into it. The spinning out was the next evasion; I usually have to carry the whip on the outside and use a tap on the haunches to get her to power off in better form. I have lessons both days this weekend, so I'll be interested to see what my instructor recommends.
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piedmontfields
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Re: Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

Postby piedmontfields » Thu May 10, 2018 2:44 pm

SF, Thanks for describing your related experience. I think we are just going through a process of upping the expectations, and it does involve some protest! I think I am also in that phase where it isn't all "nice, pretty and quiet". To get more consistent power, I need her to really react--and sometimes those are some big "I don't wanna" reactions. Lucky for me, my mare's spin and buck is very comfortable and not scary :-D

Also, I know that I have sometimes in the past used that "spinning out" feeling as a bit of negotiated "drift" at different stages in our training. So maybe a way of thinking of it is that I am limiting the drift more, and that is a bit more work for all.

And I agree that work at walk (and w-halt-RB-walk and trot-halt-trot) help a ton with getting the "rogue" leg in place (and confirming that my management (riding) is in place!).

Another movement that is really helping us sort through the canter engagement is canter HP with some strides of counter bend. Canter plies also help, but the hips really loosen up after the HP work. I'm starting to just put this in the warm-up to help her.

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Re: Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

Postby piedmontfields » Thu May 17, 2018 1:21 am

Tonight I decided to do a deliberate "yoga therapy" arena ride aka very thorough warmup and assessment of forward/back and lateral movement at each gait. The reason? I felt the left canter was just too sticky yesterday and the resistance was not disobedience but something else.

Free walk felt great. Walk lateral work took focus, but the trot warm up was very good with good energy and evenness. Then the canter was - not there on the left. She tried very hard on the left; managed on the right; could do the proper left canter with support but was clearly struggling. I played with moving her pelvis around and noticed that the right hind adduction was less than usual. Methinks something is out of whack. Some evidence: She took a good chunk out of her lower back two days ago (bad roll on rocks?!) And today by coincidence I scheduled her chiro. After our ride (ending with easy nice trot work), I stack her up in cross ties and looked at her pelvis. Yup---again, she is high on the right (sometimes she gets high on the left). No wonder the left canter was tough. I wish I were talented enough to keep her even all of the time, but that is why I find the chiro helpful for her. It may also simply be her physical type (SI is not her strongest conformational feature).

To me, this is why dressage progression is challenging: One must have a clear understanding of proper work + the interest and compassion to investigate why the horse doesn't come to proper work.

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Re: Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

Postby Tsavo » Thu May 17, 2018 2:51 am

I have a few thoughts that may or may not be relevant...

1. There is a horse at my barn who when doing a certain first level test will reproducibly do a slight buck when asked to do T-C going right. I think that is very likely physical issue but the horse is otherwise fine.

2. In the past few years, just standing in the cross-ties before riding, my horse can be either level or uphill depending on how much he can bend his hocks. His hips are not uneven, just high or low on a given day. His withers are not changing height in the cross-ties as they do under saddle so it is his butt which is determined by his hock bend.

3. My horse went through a period of hopping a little on the lunge when asked to do T-C going left. I assume his RH was weak. That stopped as mysteriously as it started. I think it is just OA slightly flaring.

4. In re hinds, I think there can be a weak leg and (what feels like) a stiff leg. The stiff leg is stiff because it is doing more than its fair share of work taking over for the weak leg. I think they try to carry the weak leg out from under the body a bit and carry more weight on the stiff leg which is easier to engage.

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Re: Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

Postby Tsavo » Thu May 17, 2018 11:54 am

Here is Clayton claiming the hock flexes 12-15 degrees. That is enough to produce the differing butt heights on any given day on my horse I think.

http://www.equinemassageassociation.co. ... amined.pdf

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Re: Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

Postby piedmontfields » Thu May 17, 2018 2:48 pm

All helpful thoughts and notes. Thank you!

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Re: Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

Postby Dresseur » Thu May 17, 2018 3:21 pm

Something that I think about is that sometimes, it's not just one side being stronger than the other, it's about dexterity. I am equally strong in my right and left hand, yet I can't write with my left. I think about making the horse as ambidextrous as possible through the exercises. Just another layer.

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Re: Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

Postby piedmontfields » Fri May 18, 2018 12:08 am

Also a helpful comment. My experience as as a yoga practitioner/teacher/student echoes this. Often we use the "strong" side to teach the weak side (but always, the "weak" side also has something to teach us!).

I just lunged Em tonight to watch her movement. Overall, very sound at all gaits, but a bit more careful on the left lead canter with a bit less swing. But with in hand work she was very willing to adduct the right hind and then weight it. Made me think of you, Dresseur, and everyone else coming back after an injury. I'm just "hanging in" on a 16 yr old lol! (almost 16 yr old--late this month)

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Re: Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

Postby Chisamba » Fri May 18, 2018 10:28 am

I don't think we pay enough attention to proprioception and dexterity. If you sprain your lead hand and it's no longer the strong hand you don't suddenly become capable of doing everything with the other hand.

In other words I agree with Dresseur. It's not strength.

I don't know Emi personally but if I get a bigger than usual objection I first make sure I am allowing enough and not holding, then I look for a cause.

Even when Deneb tried to escape through the mirror, with every appearance of soundness, a vet visit had me try hormone therapy.

But me personally, I'd make sure what while I was trying so hard to make sure I was herding the hind end is make sure I didn't have too much weight in the hand.
Last edited by Chisamba on Fri May 18, 2018 12:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

Postby JeniferWilliams » Fri May 18, 2018 11:40 am

Thank you so much everyone for sharing your experiences, it is very helpful for me. I am also going through all those things but I read everyone's post and found out very meaningful thoughts.

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Re: Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

Postby piedmontfields » Fri May 18, 2018 12:56 pm

Chisamba wrote: But me personally, I'd make sure what while I was trying so hard to make sure I was herding the hind end is make sure I didn't have too much weight in the hand.


Really great advice. I have definitely done that before! :oops: :oops:

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Re: Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

Postby piedmontfields » Sat May 26, 2018 9:28 pm

For the record: Chisamba's comment was dead on. While she is feeling a little challenged on the left canter/in the hips (I think the right pelvic half is a touch high==have chiro coming), it is largely me not giving her enough room on the outside hand to release the right side in left canter. Thank you!!!

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Re: Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

Postby Chisamba » Sat May 26, 2018 9:35 pm

So glad to hear. Hope she continues to improve in health and strength

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Re: Addressing the weaker leg: a case study in process

Postby piedmontfields » Sun May 27, 2018 11:56 pm

Truly, I thank you for the reminder. Em had chiro today (uneven pelvis noted) and I look forward to our next works! BTW, the reluctance in the weaker hind showed up after she had a chunk out of her spine (no other way to say it). I think she rolled on a rock (she is in solo, yet socially arranged turnout). That said, the reminder on the outside rein is always valid!!! (kind of why when people say it is *always* inside leg to outside hand I feel like "have you ridden any actual horses lately?!")


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