Dexterity in Horsemanship

Posted in: Horse Training

Some of you read the title to this post and thought, “what the!?”

Honestly, becoming dexterous is one of the best things we can do to improve our horses and our horsemanship. I’m sure that any of you reading this have been on a horse that turns, or rides better to one side than the other.  On some levels that is because he may have a brace in him on one side that doesn’t show up on the other, but also, it could be because whoever has been riding him (and thus teaching him) is better to one side or the other.

As humans, we may or may not be balanced. We may have an old football or sports injury or even equine related injury that makes our right hip stiff, or our left leg not work as well as the other, and each of those things can amount to something large if we don’t consider how they affect our horse and our riding.

Most of us are really good with either our right or left hand, but few of us are just as good with both (naturally). If you’re teaching your horse to search for the release, you should consider that you may not be as quick to release with your left hand (if you’re right handed) or you may not provide the exact same signal with your left hand either. The horse can learn to sort this out, but if we truly want a balanced horse, shouldn’t we take it upon ourselves to balance us too? It’s hardly fair to our equine friend if we aren’t balanced but expect him to ride like we are!

Now that you’re thinking back on your riding and wondering how you differ from side to side, let’s talk about some things that can help your dexterity.

I find that it’s helpful to pay attention to what foot you normally step forward with first.  If it’s your right, practice taking your first steps with the left. This drill is especially helpful if you’re going up stairs. I myself am right handed, so I always find myself using my right leg first. Since I’ve realized that me becoming balanced helps my horse, I will take steps up the stairs with my left leg first.  I have also started to learn to handle my rope left handed, as well as brush my teeth.  Brushing your teeth is a simple thing that you can do to help you get handier with your left hand. I’m also a lot stronger on my right side, so any chance I get to move hay or carry buckets, I will use my left hand.

Recently, as I was riding, I noticed that I tend to always ask with my right leg first. It is good to be aware of this, so that I can start to ask with both legs or just my left leg, or right leg, as they are needed.  Because I tend to ride heavier to the right, I’m always either in my horse’s way, or pushing their hips to the left, which makes it harder for my horse to pick up his right lead. As I have become more aware of these things, I can work on them while I’m riding and be cognizant of the fact that I am in his way, and make adjustments according to what I’m doing that is unbalancing my horse.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to brush my teeth left handed, handle my rope and lead-rope left handed, as well as carry buckets and feed, and work more on using my left hand (and side) as much as I do my right. I want a perfectly balanced horse. How about you?


Posted in: Horse Training

About Jenn Zeller

Jenn Zeller is the creative mind and boss lady behind The South Dakota Cowgirl. She is an aspiring horsewoman, photographer, brilliant social media strategist and lover of all things western. After a brief career in the investment world to support her horse habit (and satisfy her...

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