Updated: Apr 2
Straightness is the fifth scale of training and is an important pillar of training. The ultimate aim is to have your horse as symmetrical and straight as possible. However, the reality is that no horse is completely symmetrical. It’s also easy to think that straightness is all about going in a straight line. However, straightness is as important through turns, circles and lateral work.
There’s lots you can do to improve your horse’s straightness. Using the right exercises to train his muscles and straighten him it is possible to achieve better movement, performance and improved posture. A straight horse will be physical and mentally in balance, symmetrically and muscularly fit, supple, strong, able to round his back and carry the rider with ease.
To help you achieve this, having the ability to assess a horse’s straightness from in front and behind as well as the side is an effective method of evaluating symmetry and soundness.
This very topic is covered in detail in the webinar Striving for Straightness. In this webinar Gillian explains and illustrates the biomechanics of straightness – bringing this fascinating subject to life using her signature anatomically painted horses and slow-motion video.
What is Straightness
A straight, sound, symmetrical horse should move on two tracks with head and neck aligned, equal bulging of the musculature and little lateral or medial variation of the limbs during the swing and stance phases of the stride. Twisting of the hocks and fetlocks can be an indicator of lateral instability.
When it comes to assessing straightness the gait the horse is in will have an effect on what you are able to see.
Walk is a very useful gait to assess your horse’s straightness as it is the slowest and gives you time to see how your horse moves.
Once you've trained your eye, trot is the best gait to assess straightness as it is such a symmetrical gait.
Canter is the most difficult to ride straight (on two tracks) as this pace is asymmetrical and most horses are naturally in canter. Riding your horse in a slight shoulder-fore position will help to straighten, strengthen and balance him.
In the video course Anatomy in Action, Gillian explains in detail how to assess straightness and symmetry in walk, trot and canter, studying the horse from in front and behind.
Neck Bend vs Straightness
It’s also important when you’re riding to check that your horse’s head and neck are straight. Riders can tend to ride with too much inside neck bend. When viewed from the front the head and neck must stay in line with the sternum and not turned to the side of leading leg. Keeping the head and neck straight will help to keep your horse upright through his outside shoulder. Too much inside bend makes it easy for your horse to fall out through his outside shoulder, lose balance and move with his quarters in.
During the webinar Striving for Straightness you’ll understand what straightness is and learn to recognise signs of asymmetry, core weakness and lateral instability which can challenge your horse’s musculoskeletal health as well as his performance.
Gillian also suggests a number of different exercises you can do with your horse as well as massage and mobilisation techniques that will all help improve straightness.
Straightness From the Rider
Not forgetting the importance of good core stability and lateral balance from the rider and how this can affect your horse’s straightness. It’s so important for us as riders to look after our own fitness and symmetry. If you’re not able to sit straight and maintain a correct position in the saddle you can’t expect your horse to be straight.