Has anyone worked with a horse that is literally opposed to going one way or can't even balance in one direction?

Update again: Vet came out today (Monday) and did a full lameness check. He is fine I got the same response: extremely weak on one side - bilateral muscular difference. On a side note I may have also been lunging him incorrectly or he was not in the mood to give me his best side. :frowning: I say this because the assistant lunged him and while there was still an obvious struggle he wasn’t fighting her as much as he was with me and once she got him moving correctly he actually started to stretch down. So I’m pretty embarrassed. Anyway now we start training slowly and steadily from the ground up. (I’m not planning on using any tools besides a lunge line, if any of you know Art2Ride I am starting that with him. Thanks all! So I guess this is it! Time for poles, hills, backing up, and lots of stretching.! Take care guys.

**Update: the vet has been called for lameness check on the circle, will hopefully have an answer soon and another update. Thanks for the reply’s so far! **

I’m hoping this is the proper place to put this, if not I sincerely apologize! I’m new and created an account solely for the purpose of seeking outside opinions/experience.
Around September last year I became extremely ill, of course I couldn’t ride and while my horse received great care he was not worked at all. There was just no way that was a possibility in this particular circumstance. February of this year I was officially cleared to start riding again, but since my horse lost literally all his muscle I planned to start him again on the lunge line using Art2Ride. Within the first week we had only walked and the barn I board at called up a very well known and trusted chiropractor from Florida. He gave my boy adjustments and checked him all over, even did acupuncture! The doc left me with a suggestion of doing long and low on all gates, so that is exactly what I set out to do. (I mention this just to prove that he was professionally checked and adjusted before being brought back into work.) Now everything was going great until the trot. Now to give a quick backstory of my guy: he was raced for 7 years, sound, with no injuries as far as I know of today. So he LOVES to go left, could go left all damn day. His trot isn’t great going left, he literally has no topline, butt muscles are extremely minimal, and shoulders the same – he’s a clean slate – but its a million times better than his trot going right. I mean he doesn’t even like it when I switch the dressage crop to the other hand and ask for him to change directions, he’s put up a fight before. I’ve finally got him to where he’s comfortable and fine walking right but once I ask for the trot he will either: go straight to the canter or pick up a trot so unbalanced, I kid you not he is maybe inches from falling flat on his side to the inside (and while he does this he will bend outwards – I assume to attempt and balance the opposite way he’s falling). The chiropractor mentioned nothing about his stiffles but I had one person say the back inside leg (going right) seems to have a weak or stuck stifle – that he can’t get it properly under or outwards? I have been told to just keep him on the circle, keep him going that way, he just needs to build up muscle on that side, he needs to learn to carry himself on that side again, it’s his bad side, try walking and trotting over poles, do lots of hill work, and backing up. Has anyone ever worked with a horse who exhibited the same issues? Would anyone suggest a different approach or do the suggestions I’ve received seem like my best bet.


Yes but it was limited to the left lead canter. I got a mare from an animal control auction when a breeder had 40 warmbloods seized because of neglect. I wasn’t even sure if she was broke, but she turned out to have some undersaddle experience and was a very light and responsive mare…but she had no idea how to canter in a left lead with a rider.
She actually fell down with me the first time I pushed her into it. I was young and if I’d known better I would have started with lunging to the left before I ever attempted to work through it under saddle.
After a few weeks of lunging with extra focus on the left lead canter she got much stronger and confident in that lead. It actually felt better than her right lead undersaddle when I got back on.
I couldn’t tell from the post if you’re having this issue under saddle or while lunging, but if you’re not already, I would definitely start with lunging (if the soundness issues are ruled out.) Loose side reins to help your horse use his top line and balance better. I’d imagine your horse is experiencing the human equivalent of a right handed person being asked to write with their left. Normal issue we have to help them through, again,assuming your vet has ruled out soundness issues.
Did you trot the horse in hand for chiropractor/ vet to look for any gait abnormalities?

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Try lunging in some sort of lunging aid to build up muscle. I restarted my OTTB in a knock-off Pessoa Training System

Thanks for the response! I honestly wasn’t expecting any. But to answer your question no I haven’t even been on his back, just purely lunging with a rope halter. Actually lunged him today and he did better than last time (he went straight to canter ruffused to bend inward and if I wasn’t prepared would have willingly dragged me across the ring)! Again nothing amazing and he literally looks like he’s about to fall into the middle - with his head out towards the outside - but he was actually able to keep trotting. I know I can balance him under saddle but I really don’t think that will teach him to carry himself, since it will just be me using 115lbs of my being to hold him steady. I will lunge him, use poles, and little hills for one week and come back with an update!
I forgot to add, yes he did check but only on the straight. He knoticed right away he was much more muscular on left than right.

Thank you as well! Yes I think I’m going to start with something simple as loose side reins as suggested above as well. He can be pretty tense and I don’t think he’d relax into a training system but possibly one day!

Before you start cranking him into artificial positions, call the lameness vet. A horse that can’t trot both ways and has a weak stifle is lame, period. A chiropractic adjustment isn’t a lameness exam. There’s ways of improving stifles, but they won’t do any good if you’re dealing with injury instead of weakness. Call the vet.


Yes, I would say this is far more extreme than usual unfitness. I’m around a number of ottb that have had extensive pasture time to let down. If the horses have been loose to trot and canter at will, they can do so in either direction. Now they are often counter bent and inverted while doing so. But they don’t typically have a huge bilateral difference in musculature. And they don’t have no topline at all. Typically the necks are underdeveloped but backs and butt look good.

What size circle are you longing him on? Do you have a big arena where you could get him going larger than 20 metres/ 60 feet circles? Are you trying to do a ten foot circle around you on a lead role?

The pasture horses will however be somewhat unbalanced one direction on the longe and under saddle. But they develop fairly quickly. Lateral exercises on the ground are great here.

What you are describing sounds like he is in pain. He can’t trot either direction. Get a lameness workup.


Can you ride him briefly to see what he feels like? I would walk in a straight line and then if all feels ok, trot in a straight line. Only then would I ask him to move on a curve.

It does seems that that something hurts but hard to tell what based on what you are seeing. Sometimes you can feel better than you can see.

I wouldn’t put side reins or anything else on a horse that isn’t going forward consistently on the lungeline already, that is just asking for a disaster! I would probably also hop on at this point to see what he does under saddle-- it’s really hard to tell sometimes what is going on when it could be a combo of greenness, pain, neuro issues etc. I also can’t tell from your OP if he has never been ridden since coming off the track or if he was in work and this is new coming off being on vacation.


He is just coming off vacation, I was planning on hoping on today - just to see what he does. I will update again.

If you can safely ride and he does not seem lame going in a straight line you might try trail riding at the walk for a couple weeks and then trotting on the trails in a straight line. If you can’t ride safely on trails, then handwalk.

Where was horse during his downtime,? Pasture, stall, or stall with very small turnout? If he wasn’t on pasture you might want to put him out with a herd for several months to get used to moving again.

If he sat in a stall for 6 months you will have a lot of the problems of people rehabbing a horse on stall rest who has totally lost fitness.


I’m glad you are getting the vet out. Side reins or a Pessoa type set up is a terrible idea right now. Those should only be used when a horse can lunge correctly. Also, if there is a physical reason beyond being out of shape, you could do more damage.


Just wanted to add that the fact that he would rather canter on a small circle seems odd to me— you would expect a simply unbalanced horse would not choose canter over trot on a circle? Keep us updated!

If he previously lunged well in both directions and is now struggling, that sounds like a definite vet issue.

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hi I found this interesting too! So from what I was told, the trot is actually a more difficult gate than the center and many weak horses will prefer cantering to the trot. So because he is so (and I mean SO) weak on that one side, it is more comfortable and easier for him to just canter.

I know I somewhat have this situation under wraps but I do feel the need to add: thats one of the weird things (or weird to me) was that yes! Not lame at all on the straight, not lame in the circle but just REALLY unbalanced going right. He was turned out the whole time I was sick, and even a few days before I made this post he was racing around and having a great time with his buddys…it was honestly so confusing to me. I lunged him again today with some help and he was more balanced, doing stretched, his eyes turned soft and lots of licking/chewing. They said circles are the best thing for him right now, specifically right.

Get a trainer

Check his feet thoroughly! I have seen horses go through this. A right circle on the longe was a fight. Feet didn’t look bad. New farrier with the aid of shoes rebalanced RF. It took 10 weeks , 2 shoeing cycles, to make a gain, and then suddenly problem was fixed. Months later horse is again barefooted and gong well.

Art2ride is the guy in California that has all his horses stretched out nose to ground and claims to have ridden with Nuno Oliviera?

Yeah I’ve seen his videos.

My dressage program also stresses stretching to the bit for horsed that are naturally high headed or inverted.

But it also has some actual techniques in hand and in the saddle to make that happen. And it is the foundation for later getting the horse to raise its head and carry itself.

From the Art2Ride videos it looks like he has no particular technique other than just ride forward and hope. And he is OK with horses remaining rolled behind when going low. And he has no next step.

If this is the person, his ideas wont hurt you now, but may not be that effective. I would do more lateral work in hand.

Also videos never taught anyone timing or feel. Your description of longeing tells me you need a good trainer who understands these things.

You’re thinking of the right guy, and I agree that the videos are disorganized and make it difficult to sort out any kind of system. That said, he doesn’t actually profess FDO as the end of the training process. The horses come back up once they’re strong enough to stay over the back in a higher frame.

I agree with you. The answer here (after the vet’s blessing) is more lateral work in-hand. It may be easier to bridge that directly to lateral work under saddle, and then come back to lungeing once the concept of balance is more established.