Drifting to right in canter, possible reasons?

I bought a horse six months ago, he didn’t know how to balance himself carrying me at the canter when I first started working with him. Now he can canter with confidence willingly but still drifts to the right when we are hacking on a straight trail. Should I have him evaluated for possible alignment issues? He is approximately 11 years old and was only walk/trot in his previous home.
When I first started riding he was under-developed, very thin and no muscle in neck, withers, back, haunches. I rode him in an indoor due to winter weather. When I put my legs on his sides at a walk he would tense, stop, and turn his head to the left. Sometimes he would threaten to rear when I continued the leg pressure asking him to move. Once he kicked out in response. He is great outside, never stops when I have my leg on him.
Any suggestions? I want him to be healthy and happy, I have been taking things slowly with him, just trail riding from my farm.

Here are a few thoughts:

It has only been 6 months since you got the horse so he may still be developing the strength to move correctly. This takes time, particularly if the horse in question was very thin and weak to begin with.

You mention that he reacted strongly when you first rode him but he was ok outdoors. Were you always riding him outdoors or is that only a recent thing?

whenever a horse acts out strongly, it is always a good idea to check for pain issues, i.e. with saddle fit, back or body soreness, teeth, etc. If you find an issue there, fix it and move on. If you are confidant it isn’t any of those things, then it’s possible the horse has a 'tude going on or is ring sour. My guess though, from your brief description is that it may be a bit of both. It’s hard to say without more info.

Regarding the drifting issue, when horses are building strength and learning to canter properly, it can feel sometimes like you are on a tilt-a-whirl! This should resolve itself over time. Is it possible that you may be leaning more to one side or weighting one side of your body more than the other such that it affects the horse’s balance?

What kind of PPE did you do when you got him? Did the vet do flexions or xrays?

^^ good advice.

I’d also consider checking the saddle … if you can borrow another saddle that fits closely enough, or if you can manage the canter bareback safely (I know I couldn’t), see if you get the same results. Sometimes even something as flocking being irregular can cause this behavior.

The more likely cause is probably pain \ chiro, the saddle thing is a fairly cheap experiment.

This is an 11 yo horse you are just now starting at canter. At 11 he has already developed a slight crookedness that was no one recognized or corrected.

He will probably alway require a strong right leg from you, as well as constant reminders to stay off that leg. At 6months, he also has not yet developed the strength and balance for all of this.

[QUOTE=merrygoround;8224092]This is an 11 yo horse you are just now starting at canter. At 11 he has already developed a slight crookedness that was no one recognized or corrected.

He will probably alway require a strong right leg from you, as well as constant reminders to stay off that leg. At 6months, he also has not yet developed the strength and balance for all of this.[/QUOTE]

This^^^ Not excluding any of the other comments, but all horses are a little (or a lot) one-sided anyway. So you get to do more work in this direction. Firm outside rein, encouraging seat and outside leg and BE SURE you aren’t bending him left w/out knowing it. That will compound the problem.

Unless you can write with your left hand as well as your right, you will be riding him crooked as well. Equal muscling is very hard for horse and rider. There are many excellent suggestions above. I also recommend evaluating you evenness. Check your stirrup leathers. Is one longer than the other? It can give you a good idea if you are sitting too much to one side and grabbing a rein or driving him sideways with a seat bone and or leg. Also check your flocking (already suggested) it might give you an idea if you are sitting heavier on one side or another. This is an animal that can feel a fly land on it so yes, little things matter for their comfort.

OP - one more comment: I got to thinking about the fact that you are feeling this when going straight on the trail.

Riding a horse even and straight is HARD, and that is why straightness is closer to the top of the dressage training pyramid than it is to the bottom. It will take time.

Indeed! I just find it odd that he may be naturally “left footed”. He always takes the right lead when cantering. I have not tried to ask for the left, he is doing well and getting more confidence. I want him to be strong and mentally ready before I ask him to be ‘straight’. I just want to be sure I am not missing something, as in chiropractic or some other health condition that needs addressing.

Another thought, it may be my position that is sabotaging us. I have one leg that is shorter than the other and my pelvis tilts forward. Could it be my position that is unintentionally cuing him to take the left lead?

Another thought, it may be my position that is sabotaging us. I have one leg that is shorter than the other and my pelvis tilts forward. Could it be my position that is unintentionally cuing him to take the left lead?

Absolutely so! I know it is time to visit my chiropractor when my horse starts to carry its head slightly to the right. Absolutely infallible, even before I start to have any pain.

In your second post you say that he always takes the right lead. If you have never cantered him on the left lead, that is a much worse problem than the canter drifting.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding, but you need to train equally on both leads. If he never takes the left lead then there is a large problem - either physical or training or both.

I think most horses drift one way or another, this is the whole “straightness” concept in dressage. My horse drifts to the right also if I let her–and she’s an upper level horse. I don’t think that means she needs a chiro adjustment or that there is a physical problem. Greener horses the drift is even more pronounced. Certainly rider position contributes.

He’s a Republican?