What is Lateral Flexion in Horses, And How to Improve It?

“A horse doesn’t care how much you know until he knows how much you care. Put your hand on your horse and your heart in your hand.”

  • Pat Parelli

Lateral flexion is an introductory lesson that is necessary for all horses to learn during their training sessions. This exercise aims to teach your horse to move his neck and shoulder right to left and vice versa. This exercise allows you to control your horse. Without it, you have no direction, no control, and sometimes even not a good balance on your horse.  

Lateral flexion helps your horse to prepare it mentally for your partnership and teaches him to develop softness in his body and control when you mount. Lateral flexion is the start of teaching your horse direction control and also helps to teach respect.

There are three training principles used by all trainers when they teach flexing lessons:

  • Physical pressure: It is a tactile feeling such as a rope halter pulling at his face’s side or bit against the bars in his mouth. It can be uncomfortable, but it is necessary to move him.
  • Release: It is a reward the trainers give the horses by releasing them from pressure when they execute the correct maneuver for positive results. In this step, your horse will learn how he can get released from the pressure.
  • Shaping: This step involves lengthening or fine-tuning a response. When you confirm that your horse learned one maneuver or portion of a maneuver, you can teach him the next step.  

Steps to Teach your Horse Lateral Flexion to the Left

Step I: To the left, start walking an even circle.

Step II: Continue walking in the circle and try to apply pressure with your left leg as you reach down and gently take the left rein. While losing your right rein, pull the left rein to your left thigh and hold it in the position.

Step III: When your horse gives you his head, it stops forward motion and softens to the rein. You have to reduce the leg pressure and hold the rein until the horse has softened on the rein that causes some slack in the rein. You can then give release as a reward. But make sure that there must be slack in the right harness all the time. If you are still confused about the concept, you can click here to get a full-fledged overview for the best help. When you are teaching lateral flexion to your horse, always remember to remain balanced and centered in the saddle.

This allows the horse to remain balanced. Repeat the same process for the right side to teach your horse lateral flexion to the right.

You have to repeat this procedure until he voluntarily moves his head to the stirrup line and touches his side with his nose. Make sure that your horse should hold this position for several seconds.

Final Words

Teaching lateral flexion exercise to your horse is not a difficult task. All you need is patience to teach him correctly. This exercise will help you to control your horse without any stress easily.