Eyes on the ground

As I mentioned in the previous entry, last week I had my 1st lesson in months with Pammy. It was the 1st time I had tried the new (well on loan) saddle in public, and the results exceeded expectations. Lizzie behaved beautifully, Pammy was pleased with our progress despite the lack of training, and I felt good in the saddle working intensely for 45 minutes.

The big thing for me with this saddle is the posture it puts me in, although the lower leg position also really suits me and I feel very secure yet not restricted. But, under Pammy’s eye, my posture was tweaked even further. I sat up even more, kept my shoulder blades down even more, and tried desperately to keep the imaginary ropes between my ribs and pelvis working so that my ribs didn’t start pushing forwards. Pammy also wanted me to work on Lizzie’s head position; she gets a little behind the vertical quite easily, usually due to tension, so I had to carry my hands more to help her lift her front end. It’s all things I’ve done before with Baz, but not for a few years so I have got a little rusty.

It seemed to work as Pammy was pleased with pretty much everything we did. The best thing was seeing the change in Lizzie’s outline in both trot and canter – she’s uphill anyway, but this was even better. The not so good thing was just how exhausted I was, and how much I realised I hadn’t been using myself well enough.

The heat was obviously a factor as it is something we just don’t get to work in that often, and also of course I don’t get tuition very often. It is nearly 4 years since I last had tuition on Baz, so that long since I last had to seriously work on the more collected frame for the horse.

Given that we had had a quiet time with the schooling due to the saddle, I was hoping to be pushed in the way we were; I needed the all clear, in a way, to know that we were good to go with the more advanced work. I am sure I am also not alone in definitely not always working as hard on my own as I do in a lesson!

I now have to somehow try to maintain this work at home, with no mirrors, and no eyes on the ground to keep me on the straight and narrow. Hopefully I have enough muscle memory – that’s the pathways from nerve to muscle that will guide how the body performs movements – to keep to how I want to sit and ride. It got me thinking about how important it is to make sure we all have someone we trust who at some point in our training will be our eyes on the ground. Ideally we need 2 people really – 1 for off horse work, and 1 for on the horse. No matter how hard we try (unless maybe we are Charlotte, William and the likes) it is too easy to slip into bad habits; in Pilates classes I can observe someone doing an exercise correctly, only to turn back 20 seconds later to see that they have obviously changed their focus and are now in the wrong position because it is just so hard to keep control of all the various parts of the body all at once. If we move slowly and slightly, before we know it our body is not where it started or where we want it without us even realising. We need those independent eyes to bring us back to where we need to be as often as possible. Too often I ask clients when I go to assess their horse, if they have any problems themselves, or if they have regular tuition, only to be told that they are pretty straight and aware. Worse still, are those people who admit to having problems and asymmetries but still think they do a good job of keeping straight on the horse and riding symmetrically. They are kidding themselves. Our bodies are much too good at cheating us. So have that lesson, get a Pilates or Yoga teacher who properly monitors you and make that body work correctly.

Louise

Published by Louise Towl Physio

I am a Chartered Physiotherapist with Pilates training, and I am an ACPAT (the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy) and RAMP (Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners) registered Veterinary Physiotherapist. Away from work I have ridden all my life, competing in various disciplines and now focussing on dressage. With my retired horse, Baz, I competed at Advanced level, and I now have a younger horse, Lizzie, who is currently competing at Elementary.

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