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 (OH x’s) – Straightness Training

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.



  1. Stirring things with your OH. (Tea, porridge, horse feed, soup, when cooking etc)
  2. Picking things up with your OH. (Paper on the floor, your shoes, your saddle etc)
  3. Washing. (Try something like your cup, washing your hair with OH doing main soaping)
  4. Brushing your hair.
  5. Holding your coffee/tea cup in OH.
  6. Using your knife and fork in OH’s.
  7. Folding your arms the ‘other way’.
  8. Crossing your legs the ‘other way’ and change sides if you’re curled up on the sofa.
  9. 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)
  10. Writing…can be fun and really uses the ‘other side’ of your brain a LOT.
  11. Brush your teeth.
  12. Using the mouse or touch pad on your computer with your OH.
  13. 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)
  14. Putting on horses rugs and saddle from other side using whole body differently.
  15. Turning pages on a book with OH.
  16. Leading your horse (or walking your dog on lead) from other side.
  17. Putting washing up on line using OH to do the pegs.
  18. 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.
  19. Household chores can be used as OH exercises…dusting and cleaning has a new purpose 😉
  20. Ironing can be done with your OH but be careful with this one!
  21. Putting shopping into basket and also putting them away at home can be done with your OH.
  22. Putting your OH and arm into your jacket first!
  23. Poo picking using different hands for picking and scraping
  24. Sweeping yard or garden patio using hands opposite to normal
  25. 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

Training Tips: What are you looking for when training?

This is often the hardest thing to know or be aware of when you’re learning horsemanship…..what are you looking for when playing/training/riding? To have an end result or goal is one way of looking at it, but another way is to use the training techniques to achieve something far more important….a well balanced horse….physically, mentally AND emotionally.

My main aim when working with a horse is first and foremost for the horse to be RELAXED. Calmness helps find curiosity and with those two things the horse is very teachable because he/she can take things in well and remember good experiences. If the horse is worried or fearful he/she will also be bracey in it’s body and mind and won’t remember anything good apart from how it felt when something was being done to it so relaxation is my first and last criteria of any session. To see relaxation in the horse we also see confidence and rhythm in it’s paces, these two are missing with a fearful horse.




The next criteria on my list is COOPERATION, which is shown through the horse being willing to accept my requests and to enjoy interacting with me.

My third criteria when working with a horse is IMPULSION. This isn’t impulsiveness and doesn’t mean the horse runs around without stopping, it means the horse has the same amount of whoa and go, that it can stop lightly and nicely just as easily as it goes forward in any gait and is all about balance. When the balance of whoa and go are good then you’ll see the horse be more balanced in it’s own body, it’s core will be more engaged and so will his hindquarters. This is pure athletic energy that allows the horse to go or stop with a whisper.

And my last criteria is FLEXIBILITY and this means that the horse is equal on it’s left and right sides and is as  symmetrical as possible. This way the horse can go in a straight line without the reins holding it in place. All horses (and humans) are born A-symmetrical and we all need working on to help become more symmetrical. Once we’re more symmetrical  we’re straighter and our aids become lighter, our reins can be lighter and not have to be used for keeping the horse straight and we can start to ride the dance of horsemanship.

While working through the HS Criteria list I often go back to RELAXATION when a horse needs me to help find that, this is the most important of all the criteria as without this one ingredient good learning doesn’t occur SO make sure it’s there at the beginning of the session and at the end. I also move around working on one or more of the criteria using my Horsemanship Techniques and work out what each horse needs on each particular day.

A horse that is fearful may just need calming to find that relaxation with me from the start. A horse that is more of an alpha may need me to help it find relaxation and willingness when playing with some techniques. Some horses may need to be working more on willingness and impulsion and others may need lots of flexibility play whilst still trying to find relaxation.

So, each time I handle a horse I am thinking of what the horse needs at that moment, what it needs to progress and what the owner wants to learn or where it’s training is leading to. Having the criteria to make sure whatever I do helps keeps the horse RELAXED, WILLING, FLEXIBLE with balanced IMPULSION is the key to progressing without any brace…brace in it’s body, brace in it’s mind or brace emotionally.

Learning should always be done through relaxation, confidence, curiosity and FUN.

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy