Is Your Horse Heavy on the Forehand?

What Does Heavy On the Forehand Mean?

 According to Wikipedia

"A horse's "motor" is located in his hindquarters, and a horse that is heavy on the forehand (weight primarily on the forehand) is not able to properly move forward with impulsion. For good impulsion, a horse must either be balanced or have most of its weight tilted back toward its hindquarters."

Many of our gaited horses tend to be very heavy on the forehand.

The following is an interesting perspective from

What does being on the forehand really mean, from the horse's perspective? Here are a few thoughts:

1. Lack of balance.

First and foremost, from the moment we get on the horse's back, we are messing around with the horse's balance. Horses that are naturally balanced have to negotiate movement with the weight and (dis-) equilibrium of the rider. Horses that are naturally unbalanced have to negotiate gravity with not only their own tendencies toward unhealthy movement, but then also with the extra weight of the rider.

2. Heavy on the front feet.

Have you ever heard a horse banging his feet heavily down on the arena footing? If you've ever wondered if that foot pounding might hurt the horse, you'd be right.

3. Pain in the hooves, joints and tendons of the front feet.

Travel long enough on the forehand, and you will create a perfect recipe for eventual lameness. The front legs were not designed to carry most of the horse and rider's weight for extended periods of time.

4. Hollow-backed.

A horse that is heavy on the front end often has to compensate in other parts of his body. So don't be surprised to discover that the horse has to drop his back, or become more "sway-backed." By hollowing out the "bridge" that carries the rider, the horse is counterbalancing the weight that is on the front end. This way, he doesn't actually fall head-first to the ground.

5. Braced neck to counteract gravity.

Similar to having to drop the back, the horse sometimes has to drop the base of his neck and lift his head. This will help him keep going although there is a lot of weight on the front end.

6. Restricted hind-end action and ability.

When the neck is dropped and the back is hollow, the hind end simply cannot support the body. There is no room for the legs to reach forward and under the body, which is where they need to be to receive the bulk of the weight.

7. Short strides.

The strides shorten because the horse becomes more earth-bound. In order to maintain the forehand balance, the horse has to scramble to keep from falling forward. Both the front and hind legs shorten in stride and often speed up in tempo.

8. Trips and stumbles.

Although we like to blame trips and stumbles on external problems such as foot trims, footing and tack, if you watch and analyze carefully, you might notice that the way of going of the horse is often responsible for his regular missteps and occasional falls to the knees.

9. Reins pulling on the mouth.

The rider often feels the imbalance (although might not know who or how it is being caused) and therefore to help correct that awkward feeling, will take up the reins in an effort to hold himself up in the saddle.

10. Body-wide tension.

You know the horse that seems forever off but you can't tell exactly what is wrong? It might be caused by the tension in the muscles. A horse that is heavy on the forehand needs to become tense in order to counteract the balance on the front end.

11. Short and shallow breath.

When the horse is tight and tense in the body, he has more trouble breathing. If you can hear deep

, strong breaths, and occasional long-winded, body-shaking snorts, then you know you are on your way to allowing the horse to move comfortably underneath you.

12. Mental insecurities.

Unbalanced movement often causes mental strife as well. Horses that have to regularly counteract gravity tend to lose confidence in their riders and sometimes display irritated behaviors such as tail-swishes, pinned ears, bucks and kicks.


In the Following Video

Trainer Patrick King offers his advice on some basic exercises that can help get your horse "off the forehand".

As with much of our other advice here, this applies to all horses, trotting or gaited.  Just keep in mind when watching Patrick's video that whenever he refers to the trot, you can insert your gaited horse's intermediate gait.




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