Other Hand Exercises – Summary

dressage test


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 🙂

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy



Other Hand Exercises – Idea’s





Here is a list of things you can and should try out with your Other Hand, make them part of a routine and get into working with both hands, using both sides of your body and brain. 


Stirring – Coffee, tea, dog/cat/horses feed. Cooking, 

Brushing – Your hair, your teeth, your dog/cat/horse, 

Horse stuff – Brush. Put on saddle or bridle from other side. Put on rugs from other side. Mount to ride from other side. Fill haynets. Carry buckets. Poo pick stable or field. Lead your horse from other side.

Writing & Computers – Computer mouse, using tablet or mobile phone screen. Writing notes or shopping lists. Turning the page on a book, 

Clothing – Putting on your jacket with other arm first. Putting on trousers with other foot first, 

Household skills – Carrying cups and plates. Sitting on sofa with legs tucked under you. Dishing out food onto plates. Washing up. Cleaning windows. Vacuuming. Sweeping a yard. Using a rake in the garden. Dusting or cleaning. 

Arts & Crafts  Painting a wall or a picture. Try sewing, 


And many many other tasks…keep finding things to try out.
Practise makes Progress. The more you try the easier it becomes.


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


Other Hand Exercises – Week 5

downloadOnto week 5 for our OHx’s.

How are you doing? are you managing some or all of the tasks? Have you found yourself getting better with practice? are somethings helping your whole body become more balanced? Have you done lots of things not on the lists with your OH? I hope so.

I find that by doing these things over Winter when I have time to practice that I am soon doing them throughout the year and month by month I feel much more balanced. I especially feel it when riding, my body feels and seems straighter, I can do things with both left and right sides of my body and I know that this is helping my horse to be straighter underneath me. I also highly recommend that you work on balance and straightness training for your horse so that you can both work symmetrically together.

Here are week 5’s exercises…have fun with them.

Week 5 – Cleaning and Cutting skills.

Beginners: Using washing up spongue, cloth or brush with your OH. Also try using duster/cloth for cleaning house/windows. Lastly just turn the pages of your book with your OH, the little things make all the difference for working on your symmetry and brain.

Medium: Harder tasks can be trying to fill your horses haynets and poo picking your horses stables and fields (pretty hard), cutting bread and veg with OH too.

Advanced: Hard tasks of using a broom on your horses yard or a rake in your garden and also try your vacuum. Vacuuming or using a broom are great tasks as you can use 4 different position which will help with your flexibility and also trot and canter positions, here is a picture of this:


Pic 1 = Right hand / Left foot forward.  A diagonal stance which helps with your trotting.
Pic 2 = Right hand / Right foot forward. This stance will help balance your body for Right Canter Leads.
Pic 3 = Left hand / Right foot forward. A diagonal stance again which will help with trotting.
Pic 4 = Left hand / Left foot forward. Great for symmetry with Left Canter Leads.

Remember with all these vacuuming stances to keep your body straight, upright upper body and to change hands and feet to make sure you do all the stances.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


Other Hand Exercises – Week 4


Already week 4  and I hope you’ve had some success with the other weeks exercises, just to remind you here is a short list of things we’ve done already:

  1. Stirring things – with drinks, doing dogs and horses feeds, when cooking or baking,
  2. Brushing things – Using your knife when buttering, your hair and also your teeth.
  3. Writing and Computer things – Using your computer mouse, using OH on your tablet, even try painting or sewing.


Now onto week 4 – Clothing and household skills.

Beginners: Use and carry cups and plates with OH. Sitting on the sofa with your legs under you…change the leg you sit on regularly to keep your body even.

Medium: Dish out your meals, cakes, biscuits with OH. Change the lead hand or leg when dressing so that you put your shirt and trousers on with OH hand/arm/leg first for a change.

Advanced: Use your kettle and tip/serve from saucepans with OH. Regularly change crossing your legs or arms to the Other Hand/Leg, it will feel strange at first but keep at it.
NOTE: Remember to try these slowly, adjust your body and your mind to working in a different way and build on things slowly, go from the beginners test to the medium and up to advanced in your own speed and time but remember ‘Practise makes Progress’ so keep at it.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy


Other Hand Exercises – Week 3

downloadI hope you are all getting along well working with your Other Hands over the last 2 weeks. Here is week 3’s Exercises for you 🙂

WEEK 3 – Writing and Computers

Beginners: Use your computer mouse with your OH or if you use your mobile phone or a tablet then use your OH to scroll and tap the screen.
Medium: Try writing simple things like your shopping list with your OH;
Advanced: Try something like painting  (walls or fine art) or sewing with your OH.


NOTE: Also start to think about how you use your body for carrying things. if you always put your shoulder bag strap on your left shoulder then try using it on your right for a change. If you carry your horses grooming kit or bucket in your right hand again try using your left hand now and then.

Other Hand Exercises – Week 2



SO, week two and what will we try this week? 

Hopefully you will continue to progress through week one, going from the beginners to advanced stirring exercises and start working on week 2 as well. Remember this is not JUST about working your other hand, it is about working the whole of your body and mind to become more symmetrical. Here are this weeks OHx’s….have FUN 🙂



WEEK 2 – Brushing movements

Beginners: Try using your knife in your OH, eating meals and spreading stuff on bread/toast…if you use Treat Training/Clicker Training for your horse make sure you work from BOTH sides and treat horse with different hand on each side!
Medium: Try brushing your teeth….ALSO make sure you groom your horse using a different hand on each side!
Advanced: Try brushing your hair….CAN you use your horses mane/tail brush with both hands?


NOTE: As you are working through weeks 1 & 2 of these exercises try to think about your body….your body changes your mind and your mind helps change your body.
a) When you sit on the sofa with your legs up do you always sit just one way?  Sit the other way too now and then 🙂
b) When putting your coffee or tea bag into your cup do you always use your normal hand? Use your other hand for this now…and pouring the kettle!!! 🙂
c) When standing do you always rest ONE leg? Try resting the other leg or even better try to stand straight with both legs locked, shoulders straight and neck balanced….can you feel any asymmetry in your legs/hips/pelvis/spine/shoulders/neck/head? Once you realise you are crooked you can start thinking about standing straighter and straighter. This also works when you start checking out how you WALK!! 🙂 


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy



Other Hand Exercises – Week 1

downloadOur horses and ourselves are all asymmetrical, this is quite normal, we all have one dominant hand and foot and horses have a dominant hoof/leg too, you can see it when you watch them graze and feel it when we ride as it’s always easier to do circles or turn one way than the other unless the horse and rider have done some symmetry training. 

During the year I do quite a lot of symmetry training with my own horses and students but in the Winter I have less opportunity to work with them so I work on myself more and this is what I call my ‘Other Hand Exercises’ . 

SO…what are OHE’s? They are simple things I do to help use my other hand, muscles and whole body to make me more symmetrical and this helps when I ride to keep me and my horses more symmetrical too. I am right handed so I work on my left hand, my husband is left handed so he works on his right hand although funnily enough most left handed people are more adept at this due to the nature of our ‘right handed world’ 😉

I work slowly and as consistently as I can, doing a few small tasks first and building up on it as and when I feel I can progress. I will be putting up tasks weekly and hope you join in with me to help your own symmetry. Remember to go slowly and not to over do it as you can strain muscles (just like your horse can), do what you normally do with your ‘normal’ hand and put in a wee bit of the OH when you can and remember to keep having fun with it.


WEEK 1Stirring with a spoon

Beginners: stir your tea/coffee.
Medium: stir your tea/coffee and try your horses/dogs feed.
Advanced: stir tea/coffee, horses feed, and also when you cook or bake.


NOTE: Today, whilst stirring the horses feed I realised that with my ‘normal’ hand I stand straight BUT when I work with my OH I lean a bit….having now realised this I am making sure I stand straighter when working with my OH. Amazing how, when you become aware of things, how much you notice and it reminded me of a saying I learned a long time ago…hope this
one helps you too.


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy