When I bought my beautiful horse Flint, I knew from the start that he had some asymmetrical challenges. He has what is known in North America as ‘Low Heel, High Heel’ – its more common than you’d think but is very prevalent in Arab breeding (of which he is half). I won’t to go into the ins and outs of this asymmetry but to find out more read Dr. Kerry Ridgeway’s article http://drkerryridgway.com/2016/07/06/low-heel-high-heel-syndrome/)
Safe to say that if I allowed this asymmetry to develop further then it would be only a matter of time before the competitive goals I have in mind for us would start to take their toll on his body. Dr Ridgeway believes that laterality is a major contributing factor and although I was fully aware of horses being ‘right or left handed’ and knew it was contributing to the muscular development patterns I was finding in my clients – I needed to know more!
Dr Ridgeway’s guidance led me to read ‘Correct Movement In Horses’ by G Rachen-Schoneich and K Schoneich and my eyes were truly opened! Again I won’t go into the fine details as that would turn this article into a book – but it really helped me to understand how a horses laterality not only effects how it moves but also how it can effect a horses mental well being when we add a rider into the mix. So I set about trying the different techniques on Flint, with some success but still feeling like I needed more understanding and guidance. Then I stumbled upon Straightness Training! At first I wasn’t sure as I thought it was just another company selling online courses that you pay a lot for and actually get very little from but there were someone locally that I could talk with and watch them work through the exercises ( I shan’t name names but you know who you are!). After watching one session, seeing how the horses were moving and how they responded to the techniques, as well as listening to the principles – well I was hooked – this was making everything fall into place and was backing up everything I was finding in so many of my clients horses.
Straightness Training (ST) is not a brand new groundbreaking technique but a programme developed by a Dutch lady, Marijke de Jong. She took the teachings of the classical dressage grand masters and created a series of gymnastic exercises that the average rider/ horse owner (and believe me my riding is VERY average and I have little dressage knowledge) can achieve in order to reproduce the lessons those grand masters learned. The techniques not only help to develop your horses balance but also his mental well being – so that his learning and his time with you is a much more positive experience. It is truly mind blowing how such simple exercises can effect a horse’s movement so much – the changes I have seen are astounding. As with all things however it is not a quick fix – it takes time and patience to not only redevelop your horses muscle memory but also redevelop your own – the rewards are massive though. By moving in a correct balanced way the wear and tear on the joints from carrying a rider is significantly reduced, your horse will become more supple and strong and their ability to cope with stressful situations is much improved.
So I am on my ST journey as a Mastery Student and loving every minute of it. My hope is to be able to spread the word and help as many people as I can to recognise the value of this work, not only to their horses but also to themselves – even if you practice the very basic moves well on a regular basis then I will find a lot less to work on in your horses body!!