It struck me a while back that a lot of people spend a lot of time ‘straightening’ their horses, helping them to become more symmetrical, to help them be balanced when being ridden. It all made sense to me as horses, like all animals, have a ‘dominant’ side and a ‘passive’ side. This means one side works first when doing things and can be slightly stronger BUT the passive side works just as hard at supporting the dominant one and is an integral part of how we move and do things. What the ‘dominant side’ does though is make us all slightly more left or right in our bodies…and our minds.
When working on straightness training with my horse Solly I realised quickly that I too needed to balance my body to be able to ride more symmetrically. The more I thought about symmetry and asymmetry the more I realised it wasn’t just about working my Other Hand (OH) to help me become ambidextrous, it was about becoming balanced in my WHOLE BODY. This is because it takes the body as a WHOLE to be symmetrical.
When starting working on my OH exercises, stirring things, using my pen, knife or computer mouse I had to seriously look at how I actually did things with my normal hand. This action in itself helped me to break down how my normal hand works when doing certain actions but as I worked through the OH tasks I realised my whole body needed to be worked on, I’ll give you an example….
When I started stirring my horses feed in his big bowl, my normal hand was easy, I didn’t have to think about it, it was completely done with unconscious competence. With my OH though I had to study what my normal hand did to recreate it at all. I had to study how my hand worked, where my fingers were on the spoon, how my wrist worked, how my arm didn’t move much and also how I was standing!!
I realised with my OH when stirring things my elbow stuck out, my shoulders were working too hard and my whole body was leaning away from the action. I went back to doing it slowly with my normal hand and started to put the small pieces together to arrange myself better when working my OH. I put my elbow in, moved my wrist more, got my fingers into position for better leverage and lent my body INTO the action to give it support and weight when stirring…hey presto I started to stir things with my OH much more efficiently and without making my body ache.
With every task I try to do with my OH I realise I need to work on my whole body to get it balanced to do that task. Is my stance correct, are my feet pointing in the right direction, are my hips aligned or crooked, is my back at the right angle or is it leaning badly. Becoming symmetrical is about balancing both sides of the body equally, not just about using our OH.
Also I realised that to achieve the symmetry I was looking for I had to take it easy on myself and sometimes admit I can’t do something as well as I’d like because I could end up sore or achy and that defeats the object of the exercise as it would stop me doing something due to pain and then make me reluctant to try again. This too is how horses can get so with them and ourselves we need to be consistent and persistent but kind to continue finding our symmetry on a daily basis and to build those unused muscles slowly so that things can be achievable and long lasting. Also remember that being symmetrical is near on impossible SO find what you can do to help, realise what you can’t do and compensate positively when you ride in the knowledge and feel of being as symmetrical as you can for them. Also if possible get you and your horse checked into some ‘therapy’ to help you both become more symmetrically harmonious when riding, such as getting out an Osteopath, Chiropracter, Emmett Practitioner, McTimmoney etc. Good luck and always be AWARE of how your body can affect your horses body