When a horse refuses to lunge, it’s usually the case that it won’t lunge to the right. When it spooks, it’s more likely to jump to the right and we all know about that scary plastic bag that is completely harmless when you ride past it in one direction, but it turns into a lion when you’re going the other way. Now researchers are starting to get to the bottom of the horse’s lop-sided view of the world.
We go to great lengths to achieve bodily balance and straightness in our horses, but most handling practices are decidedly one sided. We usually lead from the left, tack up from the left, and mount and dismount on the left, and rarely stop to consider why we do this, whether it’s a good idea, or, indeed, whose idea it was in the first place.
Recent research has shown that horses are actually hard wired to prefer having people on the left. The study, a combined project by the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, The University of Regensburg in Germany and the Harmony Centre in Austria, compared conventionally trained horses (handled mainly from the left) with horses deliberately trained and handled on both sides. The researchers found that the horses of both groups preferred to put a human in their left eye.