Heavy and Light sides of rider's body
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, November 2, 2020 09:03 AM
There is a lot of talk about riders and horses being crooked, stiff, soft, collapse, etc. I would like to look at us from a perspective of heavy and light sides of a human body. This is related to the handedness. Right handed people tend to be light on the right side and heavy on the left. Left handed people are a bit more complicated. Because there is more right handed people and riders alike we are going to talk about right side as being light and left side as being heavy.
Right Side - one of the main reasons why dominant side becomes light because it is responsible for reaching, taking, moving things from one place to another, writing, typing, eating, etc. Over the years of our life this trains the body to become readily available for movement. This also makes right side unstable, bouncy while sitting in a saddle, collapsible and easy to displace by a horse's movement.
Left Side - this side over time learns to ground itself, stabilize, hold, push down, resist... It also lacks ability to coordinate different movements and generally heavy and less mobile. Without even me making conclusions you can easily imagine how these tendencies disturb the horse's movement, how it presents a challenge to coordinate rider's body on one sided gait such as canter or to sit extended trot, or a half pass without losing your balance.
A few signs of uneven weight distribution when it comes to riding:
  • Rider's body rides left turns well but feels uncoordinated and unbalanced in right turns. Hard to control circle, a horse falls out
  • Right hand is often carried higher then left particularly going left and often tries to cross the neck. Left hand pulls down instead of asking for flexion correctly
  • Right hand doesn't carry contact well. It gives it away and often rings the rein. This is not surprising considering that dominant hand is constantly moving and reaching out, including the right shoulder which can easily lift or stretch away from the body. On the other hand, left hand can be too stiff, heavy, and will hold lifeless contact
  • In left canter the rider looks more steady and connected. In right canter there is more bounce and movement in the rider's body
  • The saddle gradually slides to the left during the ride. Especially, after going to the right for a while
  • Right foot sometimes slips out of the stirrup, particularly traveling to the right. Riders have right stirrup shorter than left sometimes.
  • In left shoulder-in the rider sits too much to the inside, tips inward and allows the horse to drift in or overflex his neck. To the right the balance is better but following heavy left side the horse creates more angle and swings haunches out
  • In right half pass rider's shoulders get left behind, in left one rider's hips
Unfortunately, there are no miracle exercises to fix it. Years of uneven load created very ingrained neurological patterns and muscles unevenness in terms of length, strength, weakness or tightness. One of the first things you can do is to start learning more about your body habitual loading patterns (leaning, stepping down, turning into, carrying a load, etc). Then start doing these movements with opposite tendencies. For example, the load like a bucket is easier to carry in the right hand then left this evens the body and makes the job easier. Carrying a bucket of water in the left hand makes the left side even more heavier, it struggles to stand up under a load and right side doesn't ground itself enough. As simple action as pouring a water/coffee in a cup from a kettle/coffee pot is always done by right hand. Start doing it by left hand working on paying careful attention how you stand up on the left side and step (not collapse) into the right side.
Images to use while riding:
  • Imagine wearing a corset with lacings on the sides. "Tighten up" them both but tighten left side more
  • Imagine a tiny rider on your back pocking you with a spur on your left side :)
  • Pay attention to sit very centered and level. Notice if you shift/tip or your horse shifts you. Ask someone to look at you from behind to see if you are centered. Use video, mirrors, your instructor
  • Traveling left work on "facing" the direction of travel. Traveling right think about readiness to go left while stepping into the right stirrup. This helps to avoid over rotation in upper body and balances the weight.
  • In left circles think being tall and supple on the left. In right circles look between the horse's ears like into a tiny "windshield" and push right shoulder down and right hip forward more then you want to do
  • Imagine a table top under your right wrist, slightly push down. Keep thinking of bending left elbow and lifting left hand slightly upward (not across the neck). Imagine that you carry a cup of coffee in your left hand, do not lower it down or you will "spill the coffee" :)
There are, of course, exceptions and left handed people are not that simple. Reversing the ideas may not be enough. Each case must be looked at individually. However, do realize if you start paying attention to these anomalies and carefully working on them even "in the dark" you will be better set then doing nothing!
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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