The near-side of a horse is his left hand side when you’re sitting on his back.
His off-side is his right hand side.
It’s ingrained into most horse people that horses should always be handled from the near-side.
We’re told to always approach and catch a horse from the near-side and to saddle, bridle and mount from the near-side.
In the show ring, you must lead your horse from the near-side.
Most saddlery is designed with the buckles to be fastened on the near-side.
And so, most people are one-sided when it comes to handling horses.
We find it easier to put the saddle, halter and bridle on from the near-side, and to mount from the near-side because that’s how we’ve always done it.
And so, most horses become one-sided.
They quickly learn to be confident when the handler is on the near-side.
And they quickly learn to watch the handler from their near-side eye.
Many horses aren’t so confident on the off-side, because the handler rarely goes there.
Horses often move around and reposition themselves, every time the handler tries to go to their off-side.
When it comes to being ridden, these horses still prefer to watch the rider out of their near-side eye, so they carry their head slightly to the left.
This leads to the horse turning and bending better to the left, and then people say the horse is one-sided.
Over the years I’ve ridden thousands of different horses and just about every horse went better one way than the other.
Some would move and bend beautifully to the left and be stiff as a board to the right, and vice versa.
It’s extremely easy to teach a horse to move better in one direction than the other.
In a couple of twenty minute lessons, any young horse can be taught to move better in one direction.
I know this because I’ve done it thousands of times.
However, in every case, with a couple more twenty minute lessons, the horse can be taught to move just as well, or better, in the other direction.
When a horse moves better in one direction, many people mistakenly say that horses are born left or right handed.
Others say that some horses have a physical affliction and that’s why they bend or move better one way.
Saying these sorts of things is just a way of blaming your horse, instead of blaming yourself.
It’s far easier to say that your horse was born one-sided or there’s something wrong with him than to say ‘I’ve done something wrong.
What have I done to make my horse one-sided?
How can I teach him to move and bend correctly in both directions?’
Horses only do whatever we teach them.
If you always do everything from one side, you’ll teach your horse to be one-sided.
It’s very odd when you think about it.
We’re told to always handle horses from the near-side, to saddle and bridle from the near-side and to mount from the near-side.
And then we’re told that horses are one-sided.
Next time your horse won’t turn to the left or bend to the right, remember to blame yourself. It’s humans who are one-sided, not horses.