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Help me figure out why I list to the left

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  • Help me figure out why I list to the left

    Argh. And what I can do to finally fix it! Not exactly dressage specific because I do it no matter what style I'm riding. I become more acutely aware of it when I ride dressage, though. Took a dressage lesson on a lovely, 4th level schoolmaster the other day and was really frustrated with the way I ride anything tracking clockwise. There's a definite unevenness to my weight distribution because if I loose a stirrup it's always my right one. I find it difficult to keep the horse in the corners tracking right, getting a smooth upward canter transition, etc. The usual reminder to "step into your right stirrup" doesn't do much. Another trainer recently suggested thinking of lengthening out on the right side of my rib cage. That helps a little. But the issue seems to originate more with my hip flexors and sitz bones.

    I've had a few bouts with an auto-immune condition I have in the past year that I feel has affected my non-riding specific conditioning. However, I'm still in what most people consider very good shape. I go to a gym owned by two physical therapists that are great at finding and fixing dysfunctional movement patterns and I do a lot of mobility work and even teach yoga sometimes. No one says anything about me looking unbalanced off a horse. It's plainly obvious when I'm on a horse; I attended a seminar in Alexander technique for riders and the fist thing the practitioner said was that I was very right side dominant.

    Anyone else have a similar problem? Or have any ideas on what I can try to fix it? I'm half tempted to start mounting/dismounting from the right to see if that makes any difference. Maybe my reptilian cortex has me leaning left in case I need to bail in a hurry? :P

  • #2
    I always tilt my upper body to the left and I'm pretty sure it has to do with how I sit at work and driving. Now it's just a habit. Yoga and gym work primarily require you to concentrate/think about your body in space so it's not surprising to me that you are able to stay straight during those activities. When you're riding, it's that plus a million more things! I try to combat my crookedness by constantly reminding myself to straighten... not sure if there's really a better way. If so LMK!


    • #3
      I was crooked and felt uneven while riding and finally went to a chiropractor. Problem fixed, I go monthly to maintain. My hip was crooked making my left leg longer and me sitting uneven in the saddle. When you just stand on the floor if you feel more weight on one foot or have a tend to stand that way a chiropractor should be able to help. This video helps explain it.


      • Original Poster

        Originally posted by jnel View Post
        I was crooked and felt uneven while riding and finally went to a chiropractor. Problem fixed, I go monthly to maintain. My hip was crooked making my left leg longer and me sitting uneven in the saddle. When you just stand on the floor if you feel more weight on one foot or have a tend to stand that way a chiropractor should be able to help. This video helps explain it.
        wow! Good information. I'll have to look into that.


        • #5
          I would think most of us are right dominant. I tend to slip to the left and collapse on my right side, dropping the right shoulder... worse when I am riding clockwise. As others have said.. working on it with yoga. Also working at least five minutes a day without stirrups which seems to keep me much more even. But I will confess that I have also lengthened my right stirrup one hole. It is over compensating. But I think it has helped me a bit as have the other things.

          My instructor has also also suggested brushing my teeth with my left hand.. and anything else you can think of to become more ambidextrous. Even the way I cross my legs when I am sitting in the sofa... that helps open the hip flexors. Every little thing.


          • #6
            Yes. I'm the same way.

            The lengthen your right side helps. Also think about pushing your right hipbone down into the saddle, or pulling your left shoulder back to force that.

            All good suggestions with chiropractor and yoga/pilates. I would add massage. They can get into the those tight muscles going across the back of your hips that help make you uneven. My Vietnamese masseuses get on the back there and really stretch that out and dig in with their knees and I love it.


            • #7
              When you watch the video notice that the speakers right shoulder is lower then his left for most of the video.


              • Original Poster

                The PT that owns the gym got me in the habit of standing square with weight evenly distributed on both feet/hips. And no hands on the hips. It exascerbates the formation of scar tissue in your scapula making it harder for them to slide down like they should. He fixed the tendinitis in my elbow/wrist without working on anything but my shoulder and back.

                Based on what you all are saying, I'm thinking it is the hip flexor. Glad to know that I'm not the only one that tends to tilt to the side! I was feeling like the Leaning Tower of Pisa on Tuesday...


                • #9
                  I tilt to left, too, but it is definitely because I am LEFT dominant, not right. I lose my right stirrup and if you ask me to take my left foot out of the stirrup, it feels very unbalanced (because my rf has to do the work). I don't have that problem taking my rf out, which is why I lose it...


                  • #10
                    I am left dominant when I ride, but right in most other aspects of life. I do mix things up and challenge my left side to do things my right usually does and vice versa. I think that's good practice.

                    You could do no stirrup work, drop your left stirrup, or warm up standing/in half seat. Sometimes I do the latter (well, as much as one can get out of a dressage saddle) and it helps me sink my weight down evenly through both legs. I can't ride terribly crooked because I have a very sensitive horse that will call me out, which has made me a more conscious rider. He feels almost every little thing that my body does and reacts accordingly. He's young, but man he teaches me to have my crap together.

                    Some of it is just thinking about it and being conscious of your body every step of the way, but I'd also see what some no stirrup work yields for results.


                    • #11
                      Try this. Post a 20 meter circle. Drop the outside stirrup. Post four circles (if you can). Pick up the stirrup and then drop the inside stirrup. Post four circles. Change direction, repeat. Do this exercise every day. It will help you change your pattern of muscle use. A pelvic floor physical therapist can help too.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by CanteringCarrot;n10312185I
                        Ican't ride terribly crooked because I have a very sensitive horse that will call me out, which has made me a more conscious rider. He feels almost every little thing that my body does and reacts accordingly.
                        This...exactly. We joke that the good news is that the horse is sensitive and the bad news is that the horse is sensitive.

                        We had problems with leg yield this past summer... my poor horse didn't want to LY to the right at all. Unless I did it without stirrups. I was that crooked... with my instructor the horse was fine... we figured out really quickly that I was tightening up my right side (we called it 'pretzeling ') which caused me to slide slightly to the left. The horse had no idea what I was asking. As I concentrate on sitting straight it gets better.


                        • #13
                          Egoscue's book Pain Free is extremely helpful for at home fixing of crookedness and increasing your awareness. A possible correction: while sitting in your saddle on horse, push right fist sideways into pommel in front of you. Feel how the pushing activates leg, groin, ab muscles, etc. Push and release a few times in order to really identify what happens when you do. Now switch fists and do again. The dominant side should come thru loud and clear. Now the trick is to let that dominant side relax and let go a bit and get that weaker side to kick in, you may have to push that fist into the pommel multiple times while riding for awhile.


                          • Original Poster

                            These are great ideas! I'm hoping that I'll be able to lease this new horse. I need those schooling rides to do all this work.


                            • #15
                              Pictures and video would help.

                              I have nerve damage on my left, and my poor saintly trainer (who helped me re-learn how to use my left side at all) has accepted that I physically can't FEEL my crookedness, so will always need help straightening. I describe what I feel from my horse that indicates crookedness, and he watches and sometimes rides behind me so he can find the source of the problem. The fixes are many and varied.

                              Recently, thinking about moving my rib cage over the inside hip has helped me. I do weird things with my shoulders and end up weighting the outside instead of inside, and just thinking of shifting my rib cage makes a big difference.

                              For a long time I had trouble with being unable to get to my left side at all, and I literally thought of airplane wings with my right elbow, lifting it high which aligned my spine to be in the right place. All the muscles on my left work now except for not always as requested, but at the time they didn't, so weighting my left was actually more about lifting my right.

                              "Stirrup stepping" has never worked for me. I get the theory of what is done, but when I think to do it, instead I step as if I am lifting myself up from a stair step toward the next one - and get the opposite reaction desired. So instead, I think of stepping into the OTHER leg, and it helps.

                              The #1 thing for me for crookedness has been two point. Get balanced over your feet, hold yourself more upright than you would if jumping, and make yourself ride transitions, half halts, lengthenings, all while out of the saddle. You'll hurt from it, but you simply can't do it well and stay crooked.
                              If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                              • #16
                                Mary Wanless clinic.
                                "Friend" me !



                                • #17
                                  Very crooked rider here.

                                  I've done a lot over the past year or so to help fix my crookedness. It's been a two part series: Strengthening & stretching, and PT work.

                                  I'm lucky in that I have a friend who is certified with USEF as an equestrian specialized Physical Therapist. She has helped me a lot with adjustments and with finding exercises/stretches to help deal with my issues as they specifically relate to my riding.

                                  We did a two-part clinic with her and a great local horse-PT in 2017. They worked together to help riders overcome issues such as this.

                                  Anyway, my latest issue comes from my pelvis being tilted on one side. You can't feel it, and your body will compensate without you noticing. I'm actually due for another adjustment.

                                  She gave me a few stretches and exercises to help with keeping pelvic bones aligned but they're not easy to explain by typing. I could try photos or video or something if you're interested (PM me if so).

                                  Photo from the clinic in 2017 in which my misalignment truly became clear to me. I've fixed so much since then but still need to do check-ins from time to time.
                                  "I am but a passenger on this ship"
                                  -- Stendal (epitaph)


                                  • #18
                                    My PT tells me that many people (myself included) who think they have hip unevenness/pain actually have weak/uneven gluteal muscles. I do planks, squats, and "clamshell" exercises, and my unevenness has really improved.


                                    • #19
                                      Sit on your left seat bone by moving it towards the back and center of the saddle while moving your right hip forward and in towards the pommel of the saddle. When you can stay like that you will be much less crooked.


                                      • #20
                                        Crooked riders of the world unite! At least from what I can see, we will at least have excellent company.

                                        I am a terribly crooked person. Some of the things that have come up for me..

                                        Do you carry a bag, purse, or backpack on one shoulder? What shoulder is that, if yes?
                                        Do you have a physically "strong" side vs a weak one (much like horses in how they can have a good side & a hollow side)?

                                        There are so many ways for people to end up being crooked/listing that you can get a pretty good accumulation of "kitchen-sink" ideas lobbed at you and they may apply or may not... so here are some things that I am thinking of when I ask the above questions.

                                        For me, I carry everything on my left shoulder. My left shoulder also has a tendency to want to ride high and forward (come up to my ear/jaw rather than down and back). This will pull my entire body out of alignment because my hip tends to follow - comes up out of the tack a little and creates inequal weight distribution.

                                        This also can come up for me when I think "bend" in one direction but instead of bending I'm actually collapsing my rib cage. If you think of the symmetry of the ribcage and you think "bend left" for example (comes to mind because this is the direction I do it in), instead of actually rotating through the torso (one of the most pretzel-like comments I've ever been told is that your inside shoulder and hip should line up, your outside hip needs to think about coming back as your outside shoulder needs to think about "coming forward" which is to say that it should be an indicator of you rotating your torso from the waist and bringing your upper body around - so if this is how it is "supposed to be done"...) I crunch up through the inside of my ribcage. The "space" between each rib that should be maintained is reduced on the inside of my body because I'm having fun cheating the actual dexterity required (I am not a human pretzel and having my hips/shoulders on two separate planes so to speak, is challenging for me).

                                        When I collapse through one side or the other, I find myself tilting in that direction (in my case, left).

                                        Another idea: Your strong side vs your weak side. Some of this has been alluded to above with other people. We are all one sided to various degrees (much like our horses). However for me, I find that the right side of my body is overwhelmingly more strong than my left. So I will actually, when I am not mindful, end up pushing off my right iron to the point that I am out of alignment with my horse's spine (and then when I lose a stirrup it is my right iron because I am "toeing off" of it to the degree that my heel almost comes up).

                                        Lots of thoughts here.. Ultimately, no easy fix (and no easy diagnostic either, because there are so many ways we can end up being out of symmetry on a horse..) but I would look first at trying to identify other deficiencies in your riding. Oftentimes you can use them as symptoms or diagnostics to a problem like this (for me, the left shoulder coming up also implicates my left hip in coming up so I start doing the rib collapsing thing, which makes it easier to toe off the right iron and push my entire body to the left as I've collapsed.. you can see how they all work together for evil-doing. )