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Flexion in horses relates to the bend laterally through the horses poll. For a horse to travel in balance on a turn or circle or in any lateral movement it must have correct flexion. Correct flexion is in the direction of travel and bend. When flexion is achieved satisfactorily the rider will be able to see the inside eye lid of the horses eye. The other point that must be visible when on board, is the outside of the brow band on the horses face ,to avoid getting too much bend, which in turn causes horses to fall out through their shoulder and loose balance.

When a horse’s flexion is correct, it will automatically come on the bit and come into a frame. Giving a soft elastic contact in the riders’ hands.

Wrong flexion is detrimental to the balance of the Horse. When flexed off the horse leans on a circle and falls in through its inside shoulder, decreasing the circle size as it happens. It ensures the horse is stiff and comes above the bit as a result. This in turn will deteriorate the horse's top line and eventually even its soundness.

As horses that go around upside down and inside out are using wrong muscles and holding tension throughout their muscles. The main reason horses flex off is because they are not “supple” and against the riders leg. They are not ridden inside leg to outside rein. As part of the German training scale “suppleness” is one of the first requirements along with rhythm to ensure a horse can work relaxed. So how do we achieve correct flexion?

Firstly we need the horse to be able to yield from the leg. So we must teach the horse to leg yield. As it is only when we can move the horses rib cage and body over that we can ask it to bend and keep flexion without following the rein contact in to the turn. The rider needs to be able to sit central on the horse with a long inside leg, as it is the inside leg that asks a horse to bend primarily. When a rider sits central, the horse takes the center of gravity on its inside hind leg, under its body weight. This allows it to balance on a turn or circle. This gives it pushing power to propel it forward with impulsion and grace producing cadence.

So riders need to learn to steer the horse with the leg. More often than not, the learner rider tries to keep the horse out on a circle using their outside rein. Pulling the horse to the outside track but causing the horse to flex off. Then the horse falls in on the circle, which in turn makes the learner rider take even more outside rein in an attempt to keep the horse out. This is often seen in the hack ring and at pony club where coaching leaves a lot to be desired. Horses ridden in such a fashion become despondent and sour as it makes the whole riding uncomfortable and difficult.

Straightness also needs to be discussed here. As when a horse is straight on a turn it holds correct flexion. One way to assess if a horse is straight through a turn is to look at the tip of it’s ears. If one ear tip is higher than the other, the horse is tilting its head. This is a sure sign of a crooked horse. A crooked horse is not travelling with its hind feet in the footfalls of its front feet and therefore is not in balance. When not balanced, the horses’ movement becomes compromised. It will hold tension, which shows itself in the flow and fluency of the strides.

Often the horse will rush along with a short quick tempo. Again the horse can’t move straight with hind feet following front feet footfalls, if flexed the incorrect way. So make sure if you are going to ride a horse on an arena you do him justice and learn correctly to ride inside leg to outside rein. You will then have a happy partnership and willing horse. Remember balance helps the horse to perform the moves with ease and no hindrance from its rider. This can only be achieved with correct flexion.


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