Saturday, March 24, 2007

Directionally Challenged

I have mild dyslexia and it manifests itself in a very specific way: I have trouble with left and right. If I had a dime for every time someone has said to me, “No, your OTHER left” (or right), I would have a whole lot of dimes. Seriously, I have to really think about it and half the time I get it wrong anyway. I’m one of those people who have to turn a map around until it matches the direction that I’m going or I just can’t follow it. I’m better without a map but even then, if my directions say TURN LEFT I have to really think about which way that is and get in the appropriate lane. I almost failed my California driving test because I was going to turn right when the guy asked me to turn left. D’oh.

You’d think after spending half my life marching and teaching marching (in bands and drum corps), where you always step off with the left foot, I would have figured it out, but noooooooooo.

Speaking of directions, if you ask D how to get somewhere he will invariably give you what I call Boy Directions. For example: go north on Baker Street for 3 blocks then turn southwest onto Thunder Road, follow for half a mile. As opposed to the directions that I would give (Girl Directions): turn left on Baker Street, when you see the big yellow house turn right on Thunder Road, the driveway is on the right after the big oak tree.

What the hell does “go north” mean, anyway? Let me just whip out my handy-dandy compass or GPS and I’ll be right there.

Anyway, my point here is that my problem with left and right has seeped into my riding. My trainer will say, shorten up your right rein a little bit, and I’ll go to shorten up my left, you get the picture. More specifically, this affects my posting to the trot. When you post to the trot, you rise up out of the saddle for one beat, and then sit down in the saddle again for one beat, while gripping with your knees to stay on, so you aren’t being bounced around mercilessly.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m having trouble posting to the correct “diagonal”. As the horse's front outside leg (the closest to the fence) goes forward, you should be rising in the saddle. As that leg goes back you should be sitting in the saddle, and so forth. The horse moves its legs in diagonal pairs at the trot; that's why it's called "posting on the diagonal". This is one of those things that you just have to keep practicing until you get it right, I guess, and I’ve heard and read a lot of people have trouble with this. The weird thing is, when I think I am on the right diagonal based on looking down at the horse’s front leg, I’m always wrong. So today my trainer said, stop looking and just feel it, and I was actually right more of the time than not, but I think it’s a 50/50 chance and sometimes the dice rolls more in my favor.

Does anyone has any tricks of the trade to help me with this?

I lunged Miss today and she started out fine but got spooked by something and started racing around in a tiny circle, then when I tried to slow her down she stopped facing me and reared up. Not.a.good.thing. Especially for a horse who is still recovering from some mystery infection and swelling in the legs. I made her walk to calm her down then threw in the towel. I washed her hind legs (which are still a little swollen) with beta-dine scrub just as a precaution. We’ll see how she is tomorrow.

On a happier note, Spring has arrived and the flowering cherry in front of the house has brought forth her lovely pink blossoms overnight. I took these pictures last Spring.


  1. I have the same problem with right and left. Is there any chance your trainer could tell you inside rein or outside rein. That works much better for me and my badly dyslexic granddaughter.

    It took me a long time to figure out the diagonal as well. I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to be seeing by looking at the shoulder.Rise and fall against the wall.......ya but what does that mean. Finally go it, when i look to the wall side, i should be sitting when the shoulder is back. Don't ask me how many years it took me. I'm just glad I've got it figured out.

    I do know the feel know and it's much easier to learn the feel in the beginning on the circle instead of straight.

    Don't ask me how long it took to learn my leads. Have fun riding.

  2. I've never sorted out my left from my right either. I failed my driver's license the first time because of it (well, one of the reasons) I've learned when I'm driving and people in the car are giving me directions to just tap on the windows or point where they want me to go.
    Doesn't help you much with your horse though, does it?!

  3. For therapeutic riding we use reins that are black on one side, white on the other (white = right). Not easy to find, but here's one source:

    But for posting on the correct diagonal, learning to do it by feel is the best. Like many aspects of riding, if you persevere one day it will just click.

  4. I've never been much good at feeling the correct diagonal. I almost always have to peek to be sure.
    My 60 year old sister with a PhD has been directionally challenged her whole life. She totally has to stop and think, "Left is the watch hand."

  5. I do it by feel and for all I know it may be wrong, hope not though. It always takes me a few strides to get the feel right as well.

  6. Not being at all experienced with horses (beyond as a kid when they said I was the only one who could ride even the most stubborn of horses)... I can commiserate on the dyslexia. Mine is mostly with numbers, and letters jump around when I'm tired or stressed. It really is a trick learning how to train a brain to work around these peculiarities! :)

    Hoping Miss recovers rapidly. I'm thinking of you both.

  7. Lovely flowers! I hope your horse gets better soon - and good luck with the riding diagonal! As for giving directions, I think most women give directions by landmarks. Often I don't know street names, but I remember landmarks.

  8. Hi Donna,
    I've been wondering about Miss' healthy, but I guess she bounced back alright?

    Although my son and I have other versions of dyslexia, my mother has the L/R thing. She pauses and waits as she thinks about her hands. The right one always tingles when she does this.

    On a similar note, could you think in terms of the side that you wear your watch or wedding ring?

  9. It is nice to know that my problem is rather common. My trainer has started using inside and outside rein with me, that works much better!

    I'm right-handed but wear my watch on my right...not sure why, just feels more natural that way. Sometimes I resort to thinking, I write with my right. *sigh*

    Miss is doing better every day, we gave her a mild tranquilizer the last time I lunged her so she wouldn't get too crazy, that worked well.

  10. Maps are my problem... can't figure anything out looking at a map. I like the girly kind of directions you describe--wouldn't know north from my ass....

    I'm so sorry about Missy's illness. It's just awful to watch a sick animal... and wait for signs... I read something once about the benefits of a healthy limbic system in proximity to a sick patient... (the way pets are good for the elderly)--I hope your excellent health rubs off on her might quick!


  11. Okay I know this will sound strange but if I am ever in doubt as to what is left and what is right is I hold out both my hands with my thumb and first finger forming an L shape and hte one that is the proper way is the Left and the one with the L backwards is right!!!!

    Lovely flowers and good luck with Missy. Is there any way that you can ride another horse and pony her (lead her from the other horse with saddle and bridle on) to give her some good exercise. She sounds like she is full of beans and I am sure it is not good to have to tranq her first in order to work with her. Also walking and trotting on a straight line may not be as heavy on her legs.

    Just a few thoughts.

    Have a great weekend.


  12. I am quite jealous of your spring, Donna. I think we're probably about a full 2 months away from our cherry tree blooming. (sigh.) In the meantime I will picture your pretty house in the hills and imagine I'm there. Hoping Miss continues to improve...