Straightening Training

Natural Crookedness

Every horse is from nature ‘crooked’, or rather has a prefered side.
In general this means a horse will push more with one hindleg and carry more with the other and support more weight on one frontleg and be more agile with the other. On one side a horse is mostly more flexible with longer, weaker muscles and on the other side have shorter, tenser muscles.

A horse growing up in a natural envirement in a herd has great advantage of this prefered side: in panic it will react insinctively and will jump into its stronges canter without loosing valuable time thinking about it. Humans do the same, for instance when something falls, you’ll automatically catch it with your best hand.
Problems arise only when we sit on a horse. The natural balans of a horse will be influenced by the rider – no matter how good a rider – and in some way disrupted. The natural crookedness is often enhanced by a crooked rider and (unfortunately often complementary) prefered side of the rider.

A first step is to inventory of the crookednesses of the horse. Since no hores developes the same it’s important to be scrutanising about this. When we’re training a horse we work at the different elements:

Vertical crookedness:

Horizontal crookedness:


Diagonal crookedness:


Lateral crookedness:



Left- and right handedness:


* This picture is from Monique Bleijenbergh:


Assymmetry in the hindquarters:


and the ratio up and under:


For instance the horizontal crookedness: a horse will naturally walk with reletively much weight on it’s frontlegs / shoulders. Very usefull in grazing: they’ll ‘roll’ forward and for running fast. Try it for yourself: walk slightly bended forward, with your weight in the front of your feet like. You’ll find you’ll automatically ‘fall’ forward.
Let’s say a horse weighs 500kg. It will carry approximately 300kg on it’s frontlegs and about 200kg on it’s hindlegs.
Taking into accound the horse has a preferred frontleg (a ‘postleg’) it preferres to lean on, you can emagine the increased weight on that leg (100kg on one leg, 200kg on the ‘postleg’

When we sit on a horse, we add our weight and the saddle to that. By straightening the horse we teach the horse to take up more weight in the hindlegs, because they’re capable of hinging and can generate enormous power (like in our own body’s, our legs are relatively stronger than our arms).
The straightening excersices will supple and strenthen up the horse both left and right, thus being able to carry us in a responsible way.

* Pictures are from Marijke de Jong –