Howdy! How can we help you?
< All Topics

My horse is stiff through his Rib Cage? = Supplying Exercises, Mental Exercises, Body Control

Original Question

Hi Angie,
I have a question with ridden work.

I was getting Chief to hook on to a circle and working on suppleness which was all good except his right rib cage was stiff.
He’d move it but it wasn’t soft. Because of this I worked (gently) on that side more than his left and incorporated more stretching. He loosened a bit but far from equal. Is that the correct thing to have done?

When it softens up to equal with the left side I’ll go back to equal work on both sides but wasn’t sure if I should put more time in to his right for now or work both equally.
He’s due for body work but with lockdown I can’t get them out to see him so have to make do.


John’s Answer

Hi Jess and anyone else interested in Jess’s great question on a ‘stiff ribcage’ problem.

So here is John Wick’s answer:

Body work can definitely help but know every horse will be different on each side, I’ve never had one exactly even, just like us. However if it is bad then, yes it could be a physical issue that needs addressing with a body work person, but I just wanted to mention that all horses are uneven just like we are in our bodies.

If you are working on the exercise of hooking him onto a small circle and you don’t have to pick your hand up to correct him anymore as he has mentally hooked on but he is leaning into the circle all the way around. That is good that he’s mentally hooked onto the exercise. So now you would go to your suppling exercises and pick up the inside rein and use your inside leg to lift his rib cage to the outside of the circle.

If one side is a lot harder for him to bend, I find it is because they are dominant with that shoulder on that side. So for him it is on the right side. So, I would say he is right shoulder dominant, meaning he carries a lot of his weight on that right front leg. So when you pick his rib cage up on that side, he feels uncomfortable because he can’t balance on that inside front leg. So they resist a little or a lot to get their weight back on that right front leg until he gets more even with the suppling exercises. He may always have that stiff side but yes you are doing the right thing by working on that side twice as much as his good side.

If they get a lot of weight on one front leg it makes it harder for them to collect. To collect they have to pick their belly up, round their back up, and lift their shoulders up.

So if he’s dominant on the right shoulder, more than likely he’s not using his back end as much as he should or could if his shoulders are not even.

That’s a roundabout answer but you are doing the right thing by flexing that side more often to get him used to having weight off of that inside, right front leg and building more strength and suppleness on that weaker side. When it gets more even over time it will be easier to pick his belly up in a straight line. Bringing the shoulders up and having him collect and use his back end. I find this is quite common with a lot of horses, some are worse than others. Generally, the ones that are very, very stiff on one side have lot of trouble collecting and getting soft over the back because they are so used to having weight on that on one particular front leg.

Hope that helps,



Angie Wicks

Table of Contents