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Getting bend on the lunge and/or ground work

Hello there! I have a DHH x who I started a few months ago, I notice is fairly weak on his left side and even prefers to try and not bend to the left either. To the right, his neck bends and I feel him move laterally quite dramatically. Looking for different ways to strengthen his left side and encouraging better bend through his neck and body. Thanks!!


Lateral work. Shoulders in and Haunches In. Both in straight lines and on the circle.

Work in uneven ground…trot/canter on hills…trotting over trot poles…


Simon has some good exercises to address this sort of problem including longe exercises so search for Step into Dressage and Banana on Facebook.

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This is just one little thing to consider. IMO one of, if not the biggest, enemy of a correct bend in a green horse is: distraction. The horse does what horses do constantly. Something catches their attention and they look away, and boom the bend is lost. Both from the physical movement, and from tuning out the rider.

Teaching focus is an ongoing process. Teaching a horse to maintain focus is another layer. Maintaining focus seems to be antithetical to the construct of the equine instinctive brain. The brain says ‘always check everything, there might be something about to eat you’.

Well-schooled horses focus well. Your horse, OP, may not have an issue on this point due to your good attentive riding to this point. But it is something to consider.

Maintaining focus is not a horse’s natural approach to life. Sometimes it is not the rider’s, either.

I see so many people with their horse circling them on the longe with the horse’s head cocked to the outside of the circle, doing a counter-bend almost the entire time. Not because the handler intends this, but because the handler does not have the horse’s attention. Even if they are doing the correct gait and staying on the longe circle.


How old is the horse?

Longeing with side reins on a spiral. Keep asking for flexion to the inside, while using your longe whip to get the inside hind leg to cross under the body.

A little at a time does it because you may be asking the horse to stretch some tight muscles on the outside. But it will come. On the longe it is easier for the horse without your weight and possibly conflicting aids. You can see better from the ground, too.

Good luck.


As someone who has primarily ridden TBs, my experience with the DHHs has been that they can be super flexible (as opposed to the TBs that feel like planks) but that they need a lot of strengthening before you ask them to do much or they easily end up really over bent or overflexed. So I think doing lots of hacking and hills and poles before you worry too much about it is probably the way to go.


Do you know about the groundwork that Tristan Tucker or Yvet Blokesch do before mounting? It helps a horse know where their feet are, how to move with more fluidity and athleticism in their posture and is good all-around movement pattern work. When I started working with my mustang, who was gentled and had been lightly started, he was all thumbs and told me he could not step and move across and away.

I started with small steps and in no time at all it saw how learning to move like that helps him move his whole body more beautifully. Now when I lunge him and send him away, it’s beautiful how he’s able to step under himself and bend his ribcage.


This is so true. Based on the thread title, I was going to suggest the Manolo Mendez videos (get them, you won’t be sorry!), but yeah. My mare is really hollow left, and I just have not managed to get her bending right on the lunge. Some shoulder-in work on the ground can be useful, but I get her bending best from the saddle, alternating between SI and Hi, then overbending onto a smaller circle and leg-yielding out. She gets way more distracted by stuff outside of the arena when we are traveling right vs. when we’re going left.


Too funny. :yum:

Every horse is two horses: Right-Side Horse and Left-Side Horse. They are two different horses. :laughing:

There seems to be so little communication between Right-Side Horse and Left-Side Horse that I haven’t figured out how horses manage to get through life at all. :laughing: :laughing: :laughing:

I guess that’s the secret to dressage, get the right-side and left-side to function as One Horse?


He’s 4, I’m not expecting a proper going horse. I just know he’s weak on his left side and bend is easier to his right so I’m wanting to work on strengthening his left side

That’s what I figured. I want to do what I can on the ground so my weight/riding is not taking away from what we are really working on.

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I have noticed that as well. I used to mainly ride TBs and the his guy can truly go lateral but I can see his left side is weak, my trainer agrees with me as well. I unfortunately don’t have hills where I live :weary: but pole work; I agree!

I haven’t heard of them! I’m going to look them up! Thanks!

I will look for the videos! And I agree distraction can play a part, he can be one of the most distracted horses I’ve ever ridden. Thank you for the advice!

've spent a lot of time longeing horses. I have found that it is wonderful for educating them to voice commands, and with right cavesson used properly you can simulate bit movement by vibrating the line. But without going to double longe lines, it is difficult to control the outside bend. A round pen might perhaps be useful.

S/I strengthens the inside hind leg, while H/I strengthens the outside hind leg, on the green horse they are best started at the walk. When hill walking, always keep in mind, that even out there your body and legs must support straightness.


I agree with longeing in a round pen. Although the short side of the arena works to a degree. Without side reins though, I still find that a green horse will tend to motorcycle around crookedly, leaning on the inside shoulder. I sometimes put the inside side rein a hole shorter than the outside to encourage flexion.

Warmbloods mature far slower than TBs. That will impact on how much work your horse can do and on what you think he should be doing.


On top of the many good suggestions preceding, I would say work 60/40. That is, 60% exercises to the left, 40% exercises to the right. It won’t take long until you can go back to 50/50.

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We have a nice round pen at our barn. That’s what I was going to try and do, just put the inside rein a hole or two tighter than the outside. I use Vienna side reins, does it matter the type of side reins I use for this specific exercise?

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