The goal in riding, in our bodies, and our horses, is balance. Poor balance and posture is a symptom that the body is stiff and in pain. A horse that is heavy on the forehand is a horse with bad posture. An uneven gait is often the result of bad posture.
I worked on a horse recently that was so downhill it looked like it’s chest was sinking to its knees. His rider said she was tired of having to hold him up, of having him lean on her. I found his pectoral muscles to be tight but stretched out. The pectoral muscles support the rib cage, and if they are stuck in an extended position, if they have not contracted back to a good postural balance, it is impossible to elevate the forehand. Trying to do collected movements on this guy was a losing battle. He was severely limited by his weak and inflexible muscles.
There is a massage technique for raising the chest and I spent quite some time and effort trying it. At first I got nowhere. I had to go back and work more on the pectoral muscles (there are four) before he was ready to be lifted. The second or third time around I started to see the withers and back raise just a bit.
This is the beginning. It will take a few sessions and good riding to reverse the effects of bad posture in this teenaged horse. I am confident that it will happen. The horse was relaxed and happy at the end of the session and I got a good report of a comfortable and relaxed ride today. Working towards good posture and flexibility will be the key to prevent injuries that can occur when a horse is heavy on his forehand. With posture restored, horses feel more tranquil and less stressed. Postural balance is good for the mind as well as the body!