Fixing our (my) drift to the left

My trainer and I decided that, as much fun as it would be and as beautiful a venue as Pine Hill is (especially in this weather!), it would be in Sabra’s and my best interest to skip the GHHJA show at Pine Hill and focus on getting ready for our jumper debut at the GHHJA show in November. It would’ve been kind of a waste to put her in schooling hunter when she really wants to be a jumper, and we’re 14th in the points in our division anyway, so it’s not like we have a chance at a year-end award or anything.

One of the many things we’re working on is fixing our tendency to drift left – which as it turns out, is not Sabra’s problem, but mine. I of course got my saddle adjusted, which helped a lot, but I also wanted to address my tendency to step left (as evidenced by my left stirrup leather stretching out quicker than my right) and the constant tightness in my back that I’ve dealt with for the past few months.

Yesterday, I saw my mom’s muscle activation technique (MAT) therapist who offered a lot of good insight. Did I always naturally favor my left side, or was it a result of my saddle not being fitted properly for the last four months? That’s like asking if the chicken or the egg came first at this point. When I think about it, from the way I sit in my office chair at work to other random activities, I do tend to sit/use my left side more.

At any rate, what he determined was that the left side of my back was “angry” because it was doing all the work, and that’s why my left side constantly aches. My hips and spine are also not aligned; they’re rotated/tweaked towards the left. I also have SIGNIFICANTLY more muscle tone on the left side of my back than my right. So, he worked on “waking up” the muscles on my right side so I can start using/strengthening them and make my left side less angry/sore/tight. He works with a lot of professional athletes and horseback riders, and said his clients often noticed that their horses behaved “better” after they worked out their issues (which, as we know, translates to people were just able to ride better and not send their horses mixed/the wrong signals). He told me to see if he noticed a difference in my horse, the way she moved and the way I did things throughout the week before I saw him again.

So today I went out to hack Sabra, and lo and behold, we can track left down the long side of the arena in a STRAIGHT freakin’ line. Hallelujah! Previously, we’d be trotting along, she’d take two steps towards the inside, and I’d step to the right, hold onto my outside rein and nudge her back over with my inside leg. Sensitive Sabra was just trying to do what my uncooperative body was telling her (without me even realizing it). I’m so glad my back has felt looser than it has in months and we finally figured out what the issue was (which is me… getting old :/). Now, we can work on fixing me (strengthening the right side of my back) so that Sabra stays balanced and correct (in terms of muscle, strengthening and balance), too.

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