The asymmetry in the hind legs is caused by an unequal pushing and carrying capacity in both hind legs.
Every horse has one hind leg that tends to push more, and one hind leg that carries more.
- The pushing leg is usually a bit straighter and can bend less.
- The carrying hind leg bends easily in the seven joints in the hind leg.
Since the hind legs do not work equally, the muscles are also developed unequally. One half of the hindquarter will be bigger and more muscular than the other.
The difference between pushing and carrying
|A hind leg that mainly pushes backwards from the center line pushes the body forward and pushes against the weight of the horse.||A hind leg that mainly steps forwards from the center line can step more under the point of weight using bending, flexible, supple joints.|
Various professional horse people and old riding masters have different ideas about which leg is more carrying and which one is more pushing.
Take a left bended horse:
- One theory is that the left hind leg pushes more and the right hind leg carries more.
- Theory 2 is that the right hind leg pushes more and the left hind leg carries more.
- The third theory is that the right hind leg pushes and carries and that the left hind leg is the weakest.
No matter what theory you believe, in all theories the end result is, that the right front leg will end up carrying most weight.
- The carrying hind leg bends better and the pushing hind leg is straighter and stiffer. For the horse in this picture, the left hind leg is the pushing hind leg. The left hind leg is straighter which makes even the hip higher on that side. Because of the asymmetric development of the hind legs, an asymmetrical pelvis has developed. Instead of treating the pelvis with a specialist, the solution is to train the bending of the pushing hind leg.
- Just like horses, dogs and other mammals use there hind legs unequally. When you walk behind a dog you can see the bend in the body and they also have a leg that steps under the weight and a leg that steps next to the weight. So the hind legs does not follow the exact trail of the front legs. All mammals have the tendency to bring their hindquarter to one side or the other. Left-bended horses therefore always walk with a hindquarter in when they walk on the left rein. And this right bended dog brings his hind quarters to the right.
- Many horses have a strong hindquarter, but some riders train their horses in such a way that the strong hindquarter pushes all the weight forwards towards the front legs. Riding the horse on the shoulders will result in additional pressure on the shoulders and front legs and all the problems that can arise from it.
- Sometimes the horse feels fine in walk, but when you start trotting, the horse gets stiff, is hard to bend to one side, takes the bit on one side, feels hard in the mouth, and/or loses the regular rhythm.
The rider should learn to recognize the symptoms and make the horse equally strong and supple in both hind legs, to take weight off the front legs.
The pushing and carrying capacity in both hind legs should be equal and therefore the muscles will develop equally.
What about your animal(s)?
Horses have unequal hind legs, but it's more easy to 'see' with a dog.
So if you have a dog, that's a great opportunity to discover more about how our four legged friends use their hind legs:
Just walk behind him and see what he's doing with his hind legs. How does he position the feet in relation to the body? How is he tracking with the feet? Some fox terriers even walk on three legs when they move fast, so they have a very strong leg and a weak leg.