Saturday, 15 January 2011

Oh my, I have just seen that I last wrote this blog in August 2010. I knew I was behind with it, but had no idea it was that long. Oh well..... thank you those of you who commented on how helpful it was (breathing well never goes amiss!) and thanks for your patience, those of you who follow these posts.
Fortunately it is quite recently that Tavia has responded, telling me that a chiropractor has pointed out how distorted her spine and pelvis are. She is sure that this explains her inability to turn her horse left, and wondours if she should give up riding until the treatment - which apparently will take some time - is complete. She asks my advice.
This is a difficult one. The bottom line is that none of us are symmetrical, and we all do the best we can with what we've got. Sometimes I do suggest that people would be better to spend their money on bodywork than riding lessons or training, but I rarely suggest that they don't ride. However, I have known riders driven to tears of despair and frustration by their asymmetry, very upset by the way they feel they are torturing their horses, and tempted to give up riding because of it!
I think I have solved my own asymmetry to a pretty large extent, forging a path that few if any riders have previously trodden. This has been a thirty year saga, but it has yielded knowledge that makes it progressively faster and easier for the pupils who join us. But realise that we are all like the goldfish who would never discover water - we are so deeply ingrained in our asymmetry, and it plays a massive role in patterning how we walk, breathe, drive, and even lie in bed. To step outside it (whether it is based on a significant injury or just on the habits of a lifetime) is inevitably a challenging, demanding process. And because of the goldfish effect, it cannot be done alone.
Realise that the chiropractic treatment will not make you perfect. I think some body workers make the mistake of thinking that all they have to do is to treat a rider and a horse and 'Viola!' they will ascend into a symmetrical Heaven! It is not like that - new neurological pathways are needed to make muscles fire in a whole new pattern. They have to be learnt, and this has to happen against the pull of the old pattern. Only when the new pathways work well can the muscles themselves change significantly.
With or without our help, you will probably spend many years working out how to turn left. The answer can only reveal itself in layers: each one makes a significant difference, and can make you think that you have 'got it!'. But in reality it is only one small step on a long journey. After the elation you will soon realise this, as the next layer of the problem reveals itself (again and again!). You cannot go straight from A to X and neither can your horse - especially if you both have a history of riding during which he has patterned his body around your asymmetry!
So Tavia: read the chapters on steering in the 'Clinic' book and if you can, get some biomechanics based coaching to help you as the bodywork progresses. You almost certainly have a significant rotation left if you cannot turn that way. Work with it too as you drive your car: can you weight each seat bone evenly? Can you stop your upper body from creasing on the side as you go around bends and roundabouts? This is far harder than you think, and a good test of progress. Exercises on a gymball will also help.
Whatever you do, realise that it is about enjoying the journey instead of longing to arrive. Each new insight can give you so much satisfaction, and make your horse's life easier too. Savour them, but at the same time, be ready for the long haul.
Good luck,