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Apart from reining competitions, horses do not naturally spin 3- 4 revolutions on the spot in the paddock. So, the best way to prevent injury is to discuss ‘Transversal Rotation of the spine’.

Transversal Rotation occurs in the horse between the Thoracic 9 and Thoracic 14 region. (Where the rider sits)

If the Transversal Rotation is incorrect, it is called an ‘Inverted’ Rotation.

Inverted rotation causes many problems for the horse, not the least being able to perform a manoeuvre like the spin.

If the rider does not notice that they are continually riding their horse with an inverted rotation – at a minimum, the horse will struggle to perform and at the other end, the horse will definitely ‘break down’ sooner than expected and their career ended with multiple problems.

Even though the back is the cause of the problem – The rider/ trainer when riding the horse may accuse the shoulder of where the problem stems from- but will usually state that it is hard to pin point. Also, the semimembranosus muscle functions -amongst other things- to adduct (bring inwards) the hind limb, and adduction without forward motion is placing the stifle joints and stabilising muscles under undue stress anyway – which may be why a horse finds it even harder to spin on one hind leg if there is already an underlying back problem.


What is inverted rotation?


Advanced knowledge and many hours of study by numerous scientists, vets and horsemen have shown that a horse with a longitudinal and lateral bend -say for example – to the right, has the dorsal (top part) spinous processes vertically inclined while going to the right –or slightly tipped in that direction. (T9-T14) = rotation

Inverted rotation is when the horse -say for example- is going to the left, and his dorsal spinous processes with a longitudinal bend and lateral bend are facing right, and the vertebral bodies of those vertebrae (T9-T14) are facing left (the lower facets of the vertebrae). The horse has what then is called a left inverted rotation.

*** If the horse is shifting you to the outside of the saddle, then most likely the horse has an inverted rotation – so for example when you spin to the right – you feel more upright in the saddle (or else you actually maybe leaning in ) , and going into the left spin your weight is shifted more to the outside. Your outside stirrup will appear longer, and your spine is not in line with the horse’s spine. The horse may throw himself around in the spins with a bit of a leap, try to canter around, be jerky, or just plain anxious (anticipation of pain).

This problem can get quite severe if the rider is unaware of the problem, and blames it on something else.

Ride the horse in a corridor from day one, so that his spine can function as it is meant to – it is there to support his basic structure so that all his muscles, ligaments, connective tissues can function properly (including all limbs)

This is a very shallow look at the function of the vertebral column of the horse, but I hope it makes riders more interested in why their horses may not be performing.

The pictures show inverted rotation, and one horse that is straight while spinning (black and white photo). Take a look at photos(or videos) of yourself on your own Reiner and see how ‘straight’ you are spinning your horse and think how much better he could perform if he had been ridden straighter from the beginning – “Soundness is the Key to Success”, Kerryn (10/08/2014)

For more information, here is a start for you: ‘Science of Motion’ (Jean Luc Cornille) ‘Functional anatomy of the caudal thoracolumbar and lumbosacral spine in the horse’ (Stubbs, Hodges, Jeffcott, Cowin, Hodgson and McGowan) ‘Spinal biomechanics and functional anatomy’ (Jean Marie Denoix 1999),



Shawn Flarida at WEG 2014 spinning ‘Spooks Gotta Whiz’- in slow motion

I have slowed down the spin to the left to 16% so you can see how straight Shawn’s horse is while spinning.Shawn sits balanced and square right throughout the spin, with equal weight on his seat bones, and his spine is in alignment with his horse’s spine.






Horses’ spines are like our spines, in that it is meant to support their structure and be straight, but some people who ride, think that the horse has to only be made ‘supple’, mainly in their neck muscles (because it is the easiest part to bend). The neck has 7 cervical vertebrae and is part of the spinal column with the spinal nerves going from the head to their sacral area. The neck is the supplest part of their body, so you really do not need to concentrate all your training in that area of the horse. As well, it is usually the first place a horse will show resistance to evade an action.

The most rotation that occurs in the horse’s vertebrae is between T14 and T9 – right where the saddle and rider sit. This area is one of the most vulnerable for causing problems in the whole horse.

Horses can have problems in their spine caused by poor riding, training, or trauma that flow onto their other parts of their bodies – sacroiliac, pelvis hamstrings, stifle hocks etc. This often results in pain, visible lameness, heat and swelling, and behavioural issues.

This also causes problems that seem to be completely unrelated, for example – Navicular Syndrome, hock issues, stifle issues, and hoof problems (due to the incorrect angles of the hoof/leg when the horse decelerates).

Thinking that you are suppling them by circles is not good if their spine is rotated too much, if they are over flexed, or over bent.

It is necessary to be careful when doing circles, that the horse has a correct longitudinal flexion and rotation of the spine.

Horses appreciate concepts rather than the mechanical gestures of ‘aids’. Incorrect posture also becomes a bad habit. With over 700 muscles alone a horse can use (or not use) quite a different set of combinations to ‘get the job’ done.

  1. Ride the horse at his own cadence
  2. Keep the horse in a corridor – straight – hindquarters in line with the spine.
  3. Lateral bend to equal the amount of rotation… this is where focus is needed, because you have to feel the amount of lateral flexion/ bend the horse needs to keep straight.
  4. Exercises that make the horse supple without exaggerated contortions.
  5. The horse’s neck never needs to be forced lower than the wither, unless you are giving the upper neck muscles a break (& then the horse will lower them himself)
  6. Complete lightness of the horse – not just the bit…but the horse should hold the bit himself – without being violently corrected. If he leans on the bit – there will be some imbalance in his body somewhere that has caused him to lean. Stop and regroup is the way to go or slow walk if you do not know the cause. Sometimes going to trot helps – you have to work it out yourself how best to help your horse. No one else – you’re the one on the horse feeling where he is at – no amount of instruction can help in this situation (feeling and timing as Tom Dorrance stated).

7.. If a horse is in pain or disturbed in some way or another, he is not going to work happily unless his pain or discomfort has gone and his correct posture is re-established – and as we now know – slower is better to teach something to a horse – no point if he is not listening or contracting his muscles.

This video is of Kody on about his 10th ride:



Equine Remedial Services




The flight or fight response will never leave any horse.

However, why is it some horses are more laid back than others about new or unusual things in their environment? Or carry on about familiar things.

I have been investigating this, but not coming up with many answers about horses. There have been very few studies on humans regarding the flight and fight response let alone horses.


The main conclusion that a study came up with about animals in general?

“Humans know how to make animals more afraid than happy “

Great! Of course we do!

The only important points that the studies have come up with, (apart from the conclusion) are the following:

  1. Most likely a genetic condition to be more anxious and nervous than others. There is a circuit line that leads to the Amygdala (flight or fight response centre in the brain) that in more anxious people, is found to be thinner than average. This of course can be passed on to the offspring. A percentage will have this thinner connection. This means that more things can startle, frighten and cause nervousness and anxiety in the long term.
  2. The only way to calm down and ‘get a grip’ is to stop everything soon as any anxiety or nervousness commence.


With my young horse when I got him, he was a firecracker. You could blink and he would be halfway across a paddock before you knew what had happened.

I have been experimenting with him when he gets a fright and shoots off and looks all wide eyed like he is not about to calm down in a hurry. When leading him and he starts getting uptight, I stop him, pat his forehead and tell him “Get a grip mate” and then go back to the same spot that he started worrying about, and try again to walk on quietly. It has been working pretty well. If he continues to be uptight, I will just stand there with him on a loose rein. If he moves his feet, I just bring him back to the same spot and wait… if he goes backwards, I just go backwards with him and get him to walk forward, even one step at a time – and wait again.

If he jumps just because a blanket blew off the fence or something, and he straightaway continues like nothing happened, then so do I – move on and ignore.

So, I guess what I am saying it is all about introducing things fearful to horses in a rational manner. Stop, and gradually get closer on a loose rein. Keep turning the horse to get closer. Stop and wait. Stop and wait. Patience and not frustration or anger is the solution…and definitely not think that the immersion (flooding) method will help his fears.

I am continuing to study this area of the psychology of the horse and hopefully will come up with some more ideas on how to handle situations with the horse. Kerryn






There should never be a reason to feel like your embarrassed or ashamed to dismount your horse when you are fearful, things are not going according to plan, or you know your horse is about to explode.
It is like the expected thing to do – to stay on a horse that is ‘playing’ up … and people around you, can make you feel like you are a ‘chicken’ to dismount.
This reasoning was because most people did not understand the horses’ psychology.
It was a common thought that you were letting the horse ‘get away with it ‘and he would remember that and play up even more the next time you got on him/her.
The horse does not think like that. He is usually scared, excited, feeling good or the opposite – in pain, and if you are scared, angry, or trying to prove that you can make the horse do what you want, then as a rider you will not help the situation by forcing the horse.
The Amygdala (which is a part of the brain) is involved in the horses’ emotions – Even in human studies on the Amygdala and how it functions, and the most up to date research shows that once triggered it can take a human 3-4 hours to calm down ( and sometimes longer depending on the reason). So, how much harder to get the horse to understand what is happening?

“Fear itself (the fear response) is rewarded by just two things: ‘fast’ and ‘far’ (the fact that the horse goes fast, and the fact that the horse goes far). The faster the legs move and the further away the horse goes, the more afraid he becomes. Fast legs and distance is what reinforces the fear response, it is not necessarily about anything else (e.g. the ‘scary’ object itself), there’s a cause (and sometimes there’s even no cause if he learns to do it in one place and that place triggers it), and if he shies to the left and he goes really fast to the left and far, he will be more likely to shy and show fear next time than if he didn’t go fast and he didn’t go far. This is why the key lies in stopping the ‘fast and far’ from happening, rather than riding through it. Allowed to be expressed, the fear reaction is cumulative, it will mount up, and add up to a battery of flight responses that will appear later. After a lifetime of dealing with fear reactions, my position is very clear: don’t let the horse do it! “

(Stated by Andrew McLean, PhD Australian Equine Behaviour Centre )

I know with my own horses, if it is just something small that triggers them off, it is usually 20 minutes to calm down. A bigger fright, or excitement may take much longer. But I have discovered that if I just stop everything, then the horse will calm down quicker, (which may mean sometimes getting off).
A horse I owned, had thrown off his riders at every show, show jumping, and dressage competitions they had attended. They kept persisting even though they were scared. They felt like they had to ‘ride him through it ‘and take him out more for exposure – he just got worse and ended up breaking a rider’s back. I was given the horse. The first time I took him to a show and took him into the ring, he got more and more agitated. His method was to go sideways quickly, then try and get the rider off, no matter what it took, and after removing the rider, run away as fast as he could.
I was in the ring and I did not know what to do with him, instead of trotting like we were instructed, he was piaffing. I knew I was in for it. He started to pull sideways and I could feel him thinking, well I am going to have to put a bit more effort in with her, but I will get her off… he was heading straight for the judges! Two judges and a steward all had their backs to me. I thought, “Oh no, he is going to kill the judges”. So, I pulled him around and got off. I took him back to the float, and then went home.
I took him to the next show a month later. He was perfect and has been every time I have taken him out. I guess he was just waiting for the same routine and his emotions got away with him, and instead of staying on like everyone else had previously – I stopped- got off him and took him to a safe place. It was the first time I had done this with a horse (got off instead of riding him through it) and it blew my mind how well it worked.
Being aware of the Amygdala’s function is important to the understanding of the horse and his emotions. Kerryn




Side reins, nosebands and any other tie down equipment have the same effect. . . .

While many people use side-reins, very few truly understand or even know how the system effects or more exactly affects the horses’ physique. My trainer uses them,” might be sufficient for riders who select their training technique based on faith rather than on facts. The problem with all these restrictive systems, side reins, draw reins, chambon, gogue, etc., is that they theorize a reaction omitting a fundamental fact. A horse does not work a muscle imbalance, reflex contraction or morphological flaw, but instead, protects it. Whatever the system applied, a horse deals with neck posture protecting his actual muscles imbalance, weaknesses, morphological flaw or other issue.
It is understandable that marketing strategies theorize effects that may sell their products. It is the rider’s duty to differentiate marketing strategy and reality. There are, for instance, 21 pairs of muscles that can move the horse head. Hence, there are at the least 21 reasons why the horse reaction might not be the one promised by the advertising. The horse can adapt to the restriction of the side reins bending the neck, twisting the neck, lowering the trunk between the shoulder blades, bending or twisting the thoracic spine, arching the thoracic vertebrae and so on. Side reins proponents will tell you that “this is because the side reins are not properly adjusted.” Truly, this is a preposterous form of denial. Such denial was easy to defend when knowledge of the equine physiology was at its infancy. With todays’ knowledge a much better analysis of the horses’ reaction can be made. . .Science of Motion JL Cornille (part of document only on why one should not use side reins etc)

image is from a drawing by Philippe Karl (school of Légérete )10926214_862640823803574_6167277929726353986_n

Kody’s Third ride

This is Kody, he has just turned Four years old.
Kody’s Dam is an Australian Brumby and she was captured up in Australia’s high country about 8 years ago.
Kody’s Sire is a paint/ quarter horse cross. I was given Kody by the people who bred him. I have trained Kody according to my video on lunging and work in hand. I went straight to the arena rather than the round yard, because he used to travelling on his in as in the lunging video.





How difficult is remedial training compared to the ‘normal’ training of an uninjured horse?


It is one of the hardest types of riding you will ever do…

The horse does not want to create a better future for himself and can only operate in the now where there is pain or some type of dysfunction.

Trying to convince the horse that there is a better way of moving is really hard as he protects the area of pain.

My horse Sonny injured himself in a sand arena. The going was heavier than normal, I heard a loud click in his left hip, and then he was lame for a stride in his left front leg before I managed to stop him and get off (we were cantering at the time)

Immediately, he started protecting the injured area by compensating with other muscles and connective tissue.

Now, he is throwing his right hindquarter in ever so slightly on the right rein to protect the left side.

The remedial riding I am doing is to make sure that he keeps straight, and to remind him to keep his right hind leg in alignment with his body. Like every other type of training, it is one step at a time. On the right rein, I do squares so that he does not tend to bring the right hind leg inwards and bend around too much. On the left rein, I do counter bend with his flexion and hindquarters ever so slightly towards the outside so that the right hind leg is travelling straight. Shoulder In on both reins is also practised. Does it take a long while to fix? YES! He can get one or two strides and then tries to convert back to how he likes to travel – because it is more comfortable for him to travel crooked.

I have now started trotting him- and to do this so he is in a correct posture- I have to be very aware that he does not throw the right hind leg inwards on the upwards transition. I use the fence so that he cannot deviate so much when asking for the transition to trot. I repeat the trot aids and ask for a few correct strides before going back to walk. I want him to lift himself into the trot & be straight while doing this transition. He tries to avoid doing it correctly by a big gesture of hopping into the trot with his front legs. I immediately go back to a walk, and then set him up again – and then repeat the question. Can you go into the trot using your whole body in a good posture and with balance? At this stage he sometimes gets it correct, sometimes not. Quietly I just say, “No that is the incorrect answer, try again. “

It may take a few months before he can do it: a) without fear of the previous pain b) being consistently correct c) and muscle strength returns to the weakened area.

It may have previously been weak in that area, and this was the one thing that tipped him over the edge into an injury. He may have been harbouring other weaknesses without showing up before this injury occurred.

I do Western Trail with Sonny. Imagine if I had not noticed this misfiring of his right hind leg and was unaware that he had injured himself- and decided to take him to a show?

If I went to go over a pole at the walk and jog… this is what would happen – he would be delayed with his right hind as he swings it outwards and may hit the pole. In the back up through the poles he may back crooked and deviate to the right hind and hit the pole. If I had to canter over a pole, no doubt he would leap over it misfiring that weak hind leg. Lastly, when he was meant to be standing square up to the gate, he would be slightly crooked away from the gate and then back up crooked. I have to be patient, and fix this problem before I can continue his education. The same goes for any discipline.

Besides riding him, he gets treatments from me once or twice a week with massage and other alternative therapies.

You know, Sonny is pretty stoical, and a gentleman. He is the type of horse to just keep going without me trying to fix this injury. However, I know that if I kept up his original training, that someday a similar thing could happen again, and then there would probably be a much worse case scenario. Kerryn






RATTLING THE BRAINS:Could you imagine if the force of impact rattled our brains, or the horse’s brains at each heel strike? What stops that? For us, it is the trunk and the shoulder girdles that constantly keep the head steady.
But, the horse has four legs, so he moves his head and neck to balance himself at certain times of the stride to have this same affect. The bones and joints assist the body through a controlled pattern of shock absorption along predictable pathways. So, the best way to help the horse would be to leave his head and neck alone! No pulling his head down at all, no side reins, no harsh fists holding the reins. No holding the reins back at the hips to hold the head down. Kerryn





Why is one horse spookier/nervous than another? the answer could be in this study undertaken by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists last year (2014).
This is a start! One could then also look at this aspect when buying a horse for performance as well as conformation etc.
Maybe this will explain a lot of temperament and training issues?
I am so grateful for this study as I have always believed that eyesight in different horses was one of the reasons that one horse was more nervous than another. My Warmblood Toba is always looking off into the distance and appears to see things far away that other horses do not notice. Yet, he is quite nervous and spooky even in places he has been ridden in time and time again…I always wondered if he had an eyesight problem!
This study has shown that only 68.2% of horses/ponies have normal vision in both eyes. (Emmetropia)
54% had Hyperopia (long sighted) – can see things well far away, but everything up close is blurry
46% had Myopia (short sighted) – cannot see things far away, but everything up close is clear.
In 30.3% of the studied horses Anisometropia was found (Each eye can being nearsighted (myopia), or farsighted (hyperopia) or a combination of both)
THE most interesting thing that was discovered with this study was that the refractive state was the only factor that affected certain breeds of horse/pony – and IN THE LEFT EYE ONLY (P<0.05).
The Thoroughbred and Thoroughbred crosses have a tendency towards Myopia, and the Warmbloods/ Draft Horses a tendency towards Hyperopia. (Toba is a Hannoverian Warmblood)
This is really food for thought.
Imagine in the future – horses getting their eyes tested and fitted with contact lenses?  🙂  Kerryn

Images are of Toba – Always on ‘High Alert’ 🙂



1.American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (2014)
‘A retinoscopic survey of 333 horses and ponies in the UK
Bracun A1, Ellis AD, Hall C (Author information)

2. The Horse. com