Does horse’s and rider’s asymmetries effect each other?


We believe in science based development. We are sharing different scientific studies that prove the importance of a good seat. Since the communication between rider and horse is predominately embodied and depending of the quality of the rider’s seat.

equestrian holding rein of the horse

We all know that horses are asymmetric (unequal in the right and left side). And how important it is for the riders to try to make the horse work with equal contact on both reins. But what happens if the rider is also asymmetric? How might for instance a rider’s right or left handedness effect the performance of the horse?

What was the aim of the study?

The aim of a study at Hartpury College in England was to investigate the symmetry of rein tension in right-handed riders, and to find out if the horse’s asymmetry and the rider’s handedness play a role. The results showed that the left preference horse was ridden with overall higher mean tension in the left rein compared to the right rein. In both horses taking part in this study, higher tension was applied to the outside rein in a clockwise but not in a counter-clockwise direction.


This suggests an advantage of the rider’s dominant hand while trying to adjust rein tension. The least minimum tension and a higher amount of maximum tension occurred in the left rein of the right-preference horse and right rein of the left-preference horse, indicating that the rider had a less steady contact in the horse´s non-preferred rein.


How was the study performed?

Eleven right-handed riders rode two horses, one right preference horse and one left preference horse. Laterality of the horses was determined by an established test for asymmetry of the horse based on preferred leg during approach of a feed bucket. Rein tension was registered using a rein tension meter during three circles of walk, trot and canter and four walk-halt transitions in each direction. Data was analyzed accounting for the effects of rider, what gait and direction the rider was riding in, side of rein, and laterality of the horse.


The conclusion is that performance in the rider-horse combination is influenced by both the lateralization of the horse and handedness of the rider. Thus, riders need to be aware of this to be able to improve their own and the horse´s learning and performance.

Here you will find summaries of scientific articles that explains more.



S. Kuhnke, L. Dumbell, M. Gauly, L.J. Johnson, K. Mcdonald, and U. König V. Borstel. `Influence of the horse´s laterality on rein tension in the rider´s dominant and non-dominant hand´. In: M. van Dierendonck, P. de Cocq. and K. Visser, K. (Eds), Proceedings 7th International Equitation Science Conference, Academy Bartels, Hooge Mierde, The Netherlands, October 27-29th, 2011, p 60.