Every horse is naturally asymmetrical. In the 17th century, Grandmaster in the art of riding Antoine de Pluvinel (1552 – 1620) already described the natural asymmetry of horses. Also, François Robichon de La Guérinière (1688 – 1751) and Gustav Steinbrecht (1808 – 1885) wrote about this phenomenon in their books.
The natural asymmetry can be divided into 10 areas:
1. Lateral asymmetry: Every horse bends more easily to one side than to the other. The horse has a hollow side and a stretched side. This is also called the lateral asymmetry.
2. Horizontal imbalance: Naturally, all horses carry about 3/5th of their weight on the shoulders and 2/5th on the hind legs. This is also called the horizontal imbalance.
3. Front legs: Just like humans, horses are left- or right-handed. The weight on both front legs is not equally divided.
4. Hind legs: One hind leg usually is more pushing, the other one carries better. The carrying hind leg is more supple and steps under the point of weight easily. The pushing hind leg is longer and straighter and can push the horse forward.
5. Front-back ratio: Naturally, the horse walks with its shoulders crooked in front of its hips. When the horse is not straightened along the wall of the arena, this effect is enhanced because the shoulders of the horse are narrower than its hips.
6. Diagonal imbalance: A horse that is not corrected for natural asymmetry and natural balance, falls in on the inside shoulder or out over the outside shoulder. This creates a diagonal imbalance, a diagonal movement of the point of weight towards one shoulder.
7. Vertical imbalance: The movement of the point of weight can make the horse move slightly sideward. This is also called vertical imbalance.
8. Imbalance top-underline: If a rider does not correct all the dimensions of asymmetry and imbalance mentioned above, this usually results in an imbalance in the muscles in the top line and underline of the horse. This can lead to tension and problems in the back.
9. Mental imbalance: Tension in the back leads often to stress and imbalance in the mind. Horses have a right brain and a left brain and these brains have a different influence on the horse. A horse that’s in a state of fight or flight will use his right brain more.
10. Asymmetric chewing: Most horses chew asymmetrical, so they will use one side of their teeth more than the other side. This gives asymmetrical musculature on the fore head.
Asymmetry is not a problem for a horse, it is precisely the contrary: in the wild it is important for survival.
Problems only arise when the riders weight is added to a horse.
If a rider does not correct all the dimensions of asymmetry, this usually results in an imbalance in the muscles in the topline and underline of the horse and this can lead to tension and problems in the back and over straining the front legs.
And tension and/or pain in the body often lead to stress in the mind.
So the rider has to recognize the natural asymmetry and imbalance and has to help the horse to develop the horse symmetrically in body and limbs.
Natural asymmetry is a muscle problem which can be solved by training the muscles. This training is called straightness training. The end result is a straightened horse.
A straightened horse:
- is symmetrical developed in body and limbs;
- is symmetrical in movement and can perform all exercises equally to the left and to the right;
- will let itself collect and lift in the front.
- Your horse will develop physically: he becomes more flexible and manoeuvrable, can bend more in the hindquarters and is easy and light in collection.
- Your horse will develop mentally: he will be without stress, he will be confident and secure and he will cooperate in harmony with you.