This article is the direct result of a question relating to one sided riding issues.
When asked the question my thoughts turned to whether it is possible to become ambidextrous and guess what? Turns out IT IS!
As with everything it is your own level of dedication and work that will determine just how much you can even up your one sidedness but it is entirely do-able.
I am not addressing crookedness here, that is a whole other subject. I’m talking about being weaker on one side of the body than the other, which yes, might result in crookedness but I’m specifically looking at strength today. As humans we are mostly one side dominant but as you know, to be an effective rider we need to be as equal to both sides as it is possible to be.
Very few people are born naturally ambidextrous, but it does happen. We all favour right or left, but it is sometimes a case that you may have been injured in the past leaving a weakness on one side. I have this very problem with my left shoulder, having broken it many years ago, not only am I right handed but my left is also weak as a result of this injury, coupled with a broken pinky on the left hand that won’t close properly and my right-handed dominance is well and truly secured.
So how do you become more equal and ambidextrous? Well, it’s really quite easy to do. Essentially, you need to use the weak side in ways that are not natural to you. Here are just a few suggestions for you to try during your everyday activities, using your weak side/hand:
Perform simple tasks with your non-dominant hand
- Carry your shopping or buckets in the ‘weak’ hand
- Carry your shoulder bag on the ‘weak’ shoulder
- When mucking out, use the ‘weak’ hand
- Practise writing your name or the alphabet with the ‘weak’ hand
- Brush your teeth and hair with the ‘weak’ hand
- Hold stuff with your ‘weak’ hand (car keys, phone, purse)
Things like brushing your teeth, eating, or bouncing a ball with your dominant hand, try with your non-dominant hand. There are hundreds of simple tasks that you perform every day, so getting good at doing those with your other hand will help you become more ambidextrous.
It will feel very strange when first tried but as with everything that we practise regularly after a while the unnatural feel will become just as normal as your ‘strong’ hand/side and you may be surprised at the results in your riding.
Patience is key
Give yourself the same patience you’d give a child learning how to open a can of soup, unlock the door, and so on. You are hard-wiring your brain to learn something unfamiliar, just like a child learning to do things for the first time, so don’t let initial frustration get to you.
Start writing or drawing with both hands
Pin down some paper and start drawing butterflies, vases, symmetrical objects, write words, letters, shapes, or whatnot. Although your writing will be awful at first, write a couple lines every day from the start.
- Use your opposite hand to write “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The lazy dog decides to wake up and be non-lazy”, or similar for practice. (The sentence suggested is a good one for practice because it is a pangram, meaning that it’s a phrase that contains all of the letters of the English alphabet.)
- Another way: Find a small paragraph and practice writing the paragraph over and over again. Also, look at the difference in the writings, and see which letter you have to get better at.
Problem is that whilst riding instructors may be able to recognise one-sidedness, they rarely know how to deal effectively with it as they are not qualified body workers and don’t understand the root of the matter. They deal with the symptoms instead. If your one-sidedness is having an adverse affect on your riding you may need a qualified body worker; a Physiotherapist; Osteopath; Alexander Technique Teacher and the like to take a good look at you and your issues and give you appropriate exercises to rectify the issues.
Clearly if you suspect that your horse has one sided issues, having him treated in isolation from you is rarely successful. Your horse’s crookedness is affected by your crookedness and visa versa.
If all else fails you can always learn to juggle! Seriously, three and four balls is a great way to train your weaker arm. If all you need is to strengthen your weak side, simply use it!
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster