Our incredible ten days in Germany – Part 1

Kerry at ARR

Kerry at the Centre for Anatomically Correct Riding Centre

We have spent 10 days with Klaus and Gabrielle Schoneich at the Zentrum fur ARR (Center for Anatomically Correct Riding). As many of you know, we have become very interested in the subject of limb dominance in horses (laterality), i.e. being “right handed” or “left handed.” Klaus and Gabrielle, through 25 plus years and working with over 5000 horses, have literally written the book on the subject.

Balance is, arguably the most important word in any language that exists, or has ever existed. Being ambidextrous makes it capable of remaining in the athletic sense of good balance. The basic premise is that horses that are intended for athletic forms of riding are born with two strikes against them. Since they evolved as grazing animals, they are, therefore anatomically constructed to be “heavy on the forehand.” The second liability for the horse is that they are born with a significant degree of right or left forelimb dominance.

Being very right or left handed is a limiting factor for high level athletic performance in the human and, in a sense, even more so for the horse. Horses are anatomically constructed in a matter that they can go straight ahead or make sweeping turns, but not designed to go on circles, especially small circles. Think how often we start the training of young horses by asking them to longe on relatively small circles, or use a round pen as a means of starting them.

As a consequence of being on the forehand, they travel with the back inverted, the head held high with the nose out and up. Thus they are “hollow backed” and lack the ability to bring the back upward so it can support the weight of even a non heavy rider. The format of a short blog does not allow me to go more fully into this aspect, but I am in the process of writing much more about this.

The aims of the “Zentrum” is to use a combination of longeing and riding techniques to allow the horse to overcome or minimize the forelimb dominance, lift its withers, lighten the forehand and transfer weight to its hindquarters. Even many very high level horses are still plagued by the forelimb dominance and could benefit greatly from the Schoneichs’ techniques. Their process takes the horse back to “square-one,” and commences with specialized longeing techniques that enable the horse to properly utilize the trapezius muscles to lift the dominant shoulder. (This critical function, in my opinion also effectively uses the ventral thoracic serratus muscles and the pectoral muscles.) Master trainers recognize that the horse cannot be vertically balanced if they are not first diagonally balanced. It has become evident to us, through the Schoneichs that laterality must be addressed in order to achieve longitudinal balance.

The work on the longe requires about 3 weeks or more (each horse is an individual), before the horse will consistently develop the required strength to move into a diagonal and longitudinal balance. With an “up-swinging” back, the neck and head, then and then only, can come into a more downward poll flexed position without dropping onto the forehand. The gait will extend and the outside hindlimb will track within the circle rather than outside of the circle. The next step is to work the horse in the round pen with the saddle in place. The wither conformation has often changed so much at this time that its current saddle might no longer fit. The whole concept is to teach the horse to move in balance and with equal weight on each leg.

We will address the second phase of this training in part 2.

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3 Responses to “Our incredible ten days in Germany – Part 1”

  1. Denise Secino Says:

    Do the Schoneich’s have a book available in english, and/or will your up coming book include exercises to correct handedness in horses. I have a horse who is left lead dominant and I would love to have specific exercises to help him balance and take his right lead easier.

    • ridgwaydvm Says:

      They do have a book translated in English, one called the” Correct Movement in Horses “(UK version) and the other one called “Straightness training in Horses” (US version). We are planning to bring the Schoneichs to the US for a clinic in December on the East Coast.

  2. Anita Says:

    Hi is there anyone willing to share info regarding these longing and riding techniques, my horse has many issues but I feel that this is the starting point for him.

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