We are all asymmetric, and so are our horses. To help us both become straighter we need to be flexible on both sides of our bodies.
We often spend quite a lot of time building straightness in our horses with exercises, through ground work and then ridden, such as circles of all sizes, leg yields, shoulder-in and haunches in, these and other exercises help to progress a horse to where their muscles on left and right are working equally.
With this in mind we also need to WORK ON OURSELVES for straightness. We are either left or right handed. This means that our left or right sides are more dominant than the other, which is normal. What we need to do is become more ambidextrous to match the work we’re doing with our horses. This in time will allow us to be able to ride a straight line in harmony with our horses WITHOUT picking up the reins and I often test this theory to see how harmonious I am becoming with my horse. I also see an osteopath regularly to help straighten out any stiff points on my body that can’t be fixed by regular exercises.
SO…what do I do to help myself become more flexible and equal on my left and right sides? I do ‘OTHER HAND EXERCISES’ (OH X’s). Well I do lots of ‘normal’ things but work with my OH regularly and more so in Winter because I have more time to practice being at home and not out exercising the horses. Here, to help you do the same, are some of the X’s I do, use your hands for tasks alternately so
that you don’t over do your harder side.
- Stirring things with your OH. (Tea, porridge, horse feed, soup, when cooking etc)
- Picking things up with your OH. (Paper on the floor, your shoes, your saddle etc)
- Washing. (Try something like your cup, washing your hair with OH doing main soaping)
- Brushing your hair.
- Holding your coffee/tea cup in OH.
- Using your knife and fork in OH’s.
- Folding your arms the ‘other way’.
- Crossing your legs the ‘other way’ and change sides if you’re curled up on the sofa.
- Getting on your horse from the ‘other side’…this really helps you AND your horse, make sure like all of these tasks you do BOTH sides equally (try this one out first by doing a test ‘mount’ onto a gate and for me using a mounting block or suitable obstacle is the best way to get on a horse)
- Writing…can be fun and really uses the ‘other side’ of your brain a LOT.
- Brush your teeth.
- Using the mouse or touch pad on your computer with your OH.
- Vacuuming….this one is great, there are 4 ways of helping your whole body become more symmetrical with this.
(a) right hand on handle, right foot forward with a rocking body motion (right canter lead body dynamics)
(b) right hand on handle, left foot forward (trot body dynamics)
(c) left hand on handle, left foot forward (left canter lead body dynamics)
(d) left hand on handle, right foot forward (trot body dynamics)
- Putting on horses rugs and saddle from other side using whole body differently.
- Turning pages on a book with OH.
- Leading your horse (or walking your dog on lead) from other side.
- Putting washing up on line using OH to do the pegs.
- Walking down the road doing little canter ‘skip’ gait, changing canter leads and really feeling if your head, shoulders and hips are aligned for canter is a great way of getting this smoother before trying on your horse.
- Household chores can be used as OH exercises…dusting and cleaning has a new purpose 😉
- Ironing can be done with your OH but be careful with this one!
- Putting shopping into basket and also putting them away at home can be done with your OH.
- Putting your OH and arm into your jacket first!
- Poo picking using different hands for picking and scraping
- Sweeping yard or garden patio using hands opposite to normal
- Filling hay nets with OH…quite a hard one so go slow
I’m sure you can think of lots of other tasks that can be tried out using your OH, it really does more than just use your OH, it uses your whole body and your brain to think about and do them well.
Make sure you build up your OH strength slowly, do a bit of something then go back to normal, then do more each day as your OH AND YOUR BRAIN get used to doing it. Bring in another OH X when you feel good with the first one and build up more as you go to keep it progressing. Make sure, like with horses, you do not over do it or you could become sore in muscles that aren’t used to being worked, and that will put you off doing more.
Have fun with this and see how well you and your horse are doing by trying to ride a straight line without any reins every now and then
- Shelley – HorseSavvy