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The Hi/Lo Experiment

Updated: Jan 15, 2023

My horse has a slight difference in hoof angles on her front feet. Her right front is steeper than the left. Based on this website , I decided to try a little experiment.

Kitty tends to keep her front left foot forward, by a lot. Her right is always under her and not straight under but pushing back into the steeper angle. So, when Kitty grazes or eats her grain I decided to monitor her foot placement. I ask her to keep her right foot either even or forward. I let her be when her posture is correct and nudge her and coax her when the foot placement is off. I'm pretty loose in the implementation, it's a tedious endeavor. I've been doing it for about 2 weeks now.

To my surprise, she has been very willing to change her habit. She seems to understand what I'm looking for and readily fixes her posture. She offers to stands square at the slightest correction when being fed and stays that way without any nagging. I'm impressed at how aware she is of her foot position and how willingly she's cooperating with my micromanaging. I'm having to ask less and less. I think I struggle more to remember to fix my own posture and I'd get very annoyed if someone kept reminding me.

Horse Kitty with squared front feet
Just a nudge and she lines them up so perfectly!

Kitty is also stiff when going to the right. She objects to bending and the work we have done to fix this hasn't been very effective. I haven't been able to figure out the cause of her stiffness. She isn't ridden so not the saddle and not the rider. We work more to the right than to the left.

Today I tried a new method. We did stretches and massage as well as some concentrated in-hand work. It seemed to go well. We kept it slow and small. She was willing to do the exercises without objection.

When I fed her at the end of our session, she wouldn't hold the corrected posture. She either ignored me or quickly went back to popping the left forward. She simply was not comfortable with it. This was surprising to me and made me think.

Could her stiffness be linked to her foot position? The muscles she uses to keep her right forward were tired. These must be the same muscles she's using to bend to the right.

Could getting her in the habit of standing square while not working help her become more balanced?

If her normal stance is to bend to the left all day, the muscles are either working too hard or not enough, either way they get stiff.

Holding her right front hoof under her shifts her weight to the right side. She then bends her spine to center the weight over that foot and holds it there. She is shaping her spine to stay arched and keeps her core muscles on the left clenched to keep the bend. When I ask her to bend the other way it must be uncomfortable and feel wrong.

I know that feeling - doing a sideways summersault to the left is much easier for me. To the right, I get a sudden sensation of disorientation and impossibility. The flow is gone.

I also have a terrible habit of shifting my weight onto my right leg and letting my left relax. My body would rather twist and bend and compensate in any way to keep that bend rather than move into the left side and work from there.

Which I think explains why the work we did so far was not helping. I needed to slow down and ask for just a small effort so she would stay balanced throughout the movement. I needed to isolate the weak side and engage it gently and slowly to soften and strengthen it without the body compensating.

I think it's interesting how a silly little experiment led me to some insight on how to make my horse more symmetrical.

Cute feet held close to each other
the feetsies <3

Dr Kerry Ridgway the Low Heel High Heel Syndrome

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