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Does Your Horse Have A Fifth Leg?
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Does Your Horse Have A Fifth Leg?

If you haven't heard of this odd expression, it doesn't mean a horse who is deformed in some way! A horse who has the ability to get himself out of trouble and save himself from a fall is described as having the so-called “fifth leg”. This is an attribute that can be cultivated and is an essential factor in safety because it means that the horse is able to adjust his stride and save himself, even if he has met the fence on the wrong stride. Your horse can be trained as follows:

Some Tips For Fifth-Leg Training

There are several ways to teach your horse to think for him/herself: (For the purposes of this article "he" should be read as interchangeable with "she").

1) Allow your horse to carry himself. That is to say, do not try to support him through the reins because this will only restrict the use of the head and neck and encourages him to take more weight forwards as he tries to lean on the contact. The reins should always be for communication, not support.

2) As far as is possible, turn your horse out on hillsides and in fields with different types of ground so that he gets used to going up and down hills and inclines. This is particularly important for young horses. Watching horses gallop freely over undulating fields is not only a very pleasurable sight but it should also encourage riders to trust their horses to look after themselves.

3) It's very beneficial to loose school your horse, i.e. without rider or tack, over fences, and to do this with the help of a coach. This will teach him to decide how to respond to the exercises without relying on a rider to guide him.

4) Put obstacles in all the places your horse goes the most often, like logs in stable yards, i.e. in front of the stable doors, and along riding tracks. In this way your horse will have to continually practise looking after himself and watching where he steps.

Fifth-leg training is a major part of preparation for jumping as well as for cross country riding. It encourages your horse not only to work for you but to think for you.

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  1. Eve Sherrill York
    Eve Sherrill York
    Enjoyed reading this blog and voted.
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  2. jst4horses
    This is a great article. I have seen horses so overtrained they have walked off the side of a mountain road because the rider was not paying attention and forgot to tell them not too. The same with fences, or jumps. Horrible accidents. My mentor and friend, Lydia Caceres, the first woman thoroughbred trainer at Belmont park, had a woman mentor who trained steeplechasers. They taught ALL their horses in a special way at liberty...........an awesome skill, not for beginners. BUT when the horse knows what to do, it is more amazing. I have seen many an accident because the rider went over the jump before the horse. The horse decided not to go over the jump and the rider went head first, and grabbing on to knotted reins.......broken backs and broken necks when the horse pulled back and the rider hit the fence attached to those reins. Please let your horse learn horse sense, and be safe. GREAT article.
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  3. Vin Chauhun
    It just goes to show horses are highly adaptive animals :) voted!
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