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What's your best side?

Nope I'm not talking about for a picture, I'm talking about your body and its myriad of imbalances that run from the head to the toes.

Do you know whilst siting reading this where which is your best side? Do you know which is your best rein whilst riding?

If you don't have your own horse do you find that you constantly struggle with a similar movement across different horses, on the same rein?

Horse riding is one of the few sports that requires us to be ambidextrous, have an even amount of strength and balance on both sides of our bodies. But few of us are, the majority of us carry our bags on the same shoulder every day, lift our babies onto the same hip, sit at the same end of the sofa each night, sleep on one side for hours on end over night. As you read this now you may be sitting with your legs crossed in the same way as you do every day.

For those of us who drive, we may lean on an armrest or sit crooked in the seat, we write with the same hand, play other sports with the same side. I could go we live our lives its easy to become one sided, or at least unbalanced in muscle build up and also muscle priority.

This passes down to our horses when we ride, through different strengths of aids, to tightness's caused by injuries, or over/under use of certain areas of the body. If we sit crooked and ask our horse to go straight we will always be compensating and so will they.

But crookedness is one of the easy issues to spot, a deep tightness in the hips is less so, or a fixed shoulder causing tension down one rein, these are less obvious when we look and if we live with them they are even harder to feel, as these blocks and tightness's become our "norm".

Understanding whats going on inside our own bodies is the key to understanding whats happening with the horse below, the word 'feel' is often used in riding, "that rider has natural feel", but if we can't truly feel what our bodies are doing then feeling the horse below becomes even harder.

By taking ourselves away from the horse and using conscious movement on a mat we highlight the differences in sides, and can then start the process of evening out. By becoming consciously aware f how we use our body for the other 23 hours that we're not riding and trying our best to even out the sides, carrying our bag on the opposite shoulder, crossing our legs the other way, holding things in our non-dominant hand, regularly swapping what we're doing from one side to the other rather than habitually doing the same thing over and over again, not only do we start to even out our muscle strength, but we also rebuild the pathways of information from the muscles to the brain that aren't used so often. Making it quicker and easier to 'feel' whats going on, and make the adjustments needed to even our selves out.

Stay tuned for some mat work exercises you can do at home to find out where your blocks are and start to string them together with how this affects your riding and your horses ability to understand what you're asking of them.

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