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Tips to Help Riders Who Favor One Hand or Leg More Than the Other

Panel Experts: Bernie Traurig and Robin Martinez

Submitted by member: Sam

Could you suggest some exercises to combat one-sidedness in riders. Apparently, I ride with too much left leg and left hand, though I am a right handed person.

Answer by Bernie Traurig

Well, a couple things come to mind.  Try holding your left rein between your thumb and first finger, known as a driving rein. It will lighten up your contact on the left rein considerably. Also ride with the reins in your right hand only (bridge reins).  You can turn with neck reins.

how to use a driving rein on your horse

If you wear spurs and your left spur is affecting the horse, only wear one on your right boot. If it does not affect the horse, then only wear it on your left leg to encourage your right leg to work harder.

Hope this helps!

Robin Martinez

You’re not alone.  This issue is common for many riders.  I find that in a lot of ways, it’s a matter of balance as much as it is strength.  If I tend to go to one side of my body or another for balance, that will be the side that I’m more dominate on as you describe ‘too much left leg, left hand’.”

I suggest trying some balance exercises. The simplest and easiest one to add into your daily life, is to stand on one foot then the other while brushing your teeth.  If you really want to challenge yourself, try switching hands too.  So for example, you’d be standing on your right leg and brushing your teeth with your left hand.  This will help you to see where your balance and your mind-body connection are weak and need strengthening.

I also like step-ups for increasing strength and balance of each leg.  Choose something stable to step up onto.  The height can increase as you get better at the exercise.  Hold the other leg up in a 90 degree position (knee up).  Do sets of 10 on each leg, up/down, up/down.  You’ll quickly find that one leg is much stronger and significantly more stable.  Once you get really proficient at it you can add weights to this exercise to increase the challenge.

step ups

I’m going to assume that if you’re riding with too much left leg and too much left hand, that this problem exists mostly (if not exclusively) when you’re tracking left.  Another exercise that you can do, which is much more about your mind than anything else, is to every so often ride a few steps as if you’re tracking right, and visa versa when tracking the opposite direction.  I find this really helps me stay connected to what my horse is doing and what I’m doing each step of my ride.  It keeps me using both sides of my body equally and improves my horse’s straightness. Maybe best of all it keeps us from going into autopilot mode where we are both likely to fall into our most comfy, but probably not most productive habits.

I wish you the best in your riding.  Feel free to email me with questions or even better to let me know that the suggestions helped!

Blackjack Fitness


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Developing Good Hands
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In this topic Bernie discusses the vital role good hands play in the communication between rider and horse. Tactful, sensitive hands that are used with feeling can be developed using the exercises Bernie presents here.
Running Time:  11 minutes and 10 seconds

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Learn how to bridge your reins in this video:

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Eventing – Mastering Your Cross Country Pace
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In this video, international Eventer, Olivia Loiacono of OKL Eventing, shows you how to practice and master a good solid pace for the Beginner Novice, Novice, Training and Preliminary levels of the cross country course. There is a lot to think about when riding cross country; including keeping a proper galloping position to achieve a rhythmical, consistent and balanced pace. For any eventer, keeping the right pace for your level should become second nature, but it takes practice! Olivia shares some training exercises you can set up at home to establish and learn the correct pace for galloping at your level of competition. She also discusses how the reins (bridge and pulley rein) effect the horses balance – specifically the benefits of using a bridge as a tool for inexperienced riders to get better balance over their feet. Knowing different styles of holding your reins and hands is of the utmost importance when riding the eventing cross country course.
Running Time:  11 minutes and 10 seconds

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Robin Martinez

Robin and her husband Dionicio Martinez own Blackjack Farms, a beautiful and secluded 5+ acre ranch in North San Diego, with a very unique indoor/outdoor fitness facility. They have a well-equipped indoor gym, multiple permanent outdoor workout stations and a groomed running track. The fact that it's also the home of their show horses makes it truly one of a kind. There is also a limited amount of room for people to board their horses, allowing them to enjoy the benefits of a horse facility and fitness facility all in one. Robin has fitness clients that ride and riding clients who workout. Its a wonderful harmony, everybody is fit around there - horses and riders alike. Robin's focus is on establishing core strength and building a foundation of fitness for her clients. As a competing rider herself, she uses that experience to create fitness programs geared specifically for equestrians to help them gain the strength and mobility they need to be at the top of their game. Her style is positive, fun, encouraging and pleasantly tough. For more information on Blackjack Fitness please visit her website at

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