The problem: The horse’s hind quarters slide to the side when he stops.
Why does this problem happen? This is an alignment problem originating in the horse's shoulder. If his shoulder bulges, his hind quarters may slide to the side when he stops because he is trying to compensate. He swings his hips off the straight line in the slide, often picking up the outside hind leg as the weight comes off of it. Also, if a horse stops crooked like this, it's going to affect the next maneuver as well – the roll back or back up. He is not in a good position to execute either one well.
A horse is more likely to be out of alignment in the stop and to stop crooked if his withers are lower than his hips, a problem often seen in immature horses i.e. three year olds. Sometimes a horse will not even try to stop if he is built like this because he is hurting!
A crooked stop can also be a confidence thing going to the fence. If the horse is worried about hitting the fence, he might come out of alignment, push his shoulder out and stop crooked.
How to correct this problem: If my horse swings his hind quarters to one side or the other when he stops (as opposed to his whole body being crooked), I check him first for soreness or alignment problems. (A good equine therapist can help me here.)
If my horse is well-schooled in all the basics, I can help him, too, by riding him straight (correcting any alignment problems) and riding him into position. The more correct my horse is in the rundown and the stop, the less likely he is to slide crooked. I want his neck to be low (because if he raises it, his back will hollow and he will not be able to use his hind quarters effectively) and every part of his body in a line (because if it isn't, the crookedness is magnified when he stops!
Exercise: I review the basic stop at a trot and lope, paying particular attention to what he does with his hind quarters. If he slides to the side, I wait until he is completely stopped and then I correct him. Example: He stops and throws his hip to the right (his shoulder may be to the left). When he has ceased all motion, I re-align his left shoulder and push his hip back to center with my left leg so he is aligned; then I rest. I must do that every time he stops and swings a hip out. This simple exercise may help the problem although it does not substitute for a perfectly aligned rundown to a perfectly aligned stop. I had a chance to test this correction many years ago. A gelding came to me who moved his hindquarters to the side every time he stopped. Every time he did, I moved the hindquarters back and rested. I knew I was winning when he stopped with his hindquarters to the side but moved back to straight before I corrected. I showed him for a few years and he never did it again.
If the problem surfaces while fencing the horse (Stop Fix #1: Straighten the Rundown), I lope back and forth to the fence many, many times until he relaxes and his hips align with the rest of his body.
The crooked stop probably starts in the rundown if the horse is "crabbing" – running straight but with a crooked body (right hind falling on left front). If he approaches a stop like this, the stop is going to be crooked.
Note: If the horse is young, he may grow out of this problem as his body matures and he grows more withers.
|Example of horse stopping crooked.|
|Example of crooked stop. Note the right shoulder pushing out.|
|Example of a nice, straight sliding stop.|