Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Yet again, it has been so long since I have written, and I am now snatching a few moments before I leave home and head to the US to teach for much of May. I just don't seem to be the right generation for it to come naturally for me to stick my head up above the parapet of cyberspace - it always falls off the end of my 'to do' list. But the good news is that I have a good excuse, and am well through the process of editing a new set of DVDs featuring myself and US Grand Prix dressage rider Heather Blitz. These were filmed at a symposium we did in the US several years ago - so again you could say that they are really overdue. But such is life. Barring accidents they will materialise in the
Meanwhile new insights about riding and teaching pop into my head at regular intervals. Only a few days ago it became so clear to me that my horse Quite (who is pictured on the cover of the 'Clinic' book) has a crease in his right long back muscle. I have always kinda-sorta known it was there and it causes all sorts of hayhem. When I first got him he had a huge amount of 'baggage' and would often throw his quarters to the right and kick out with his  right hind leg. He has also always had a bit of a 'glitch' in his canter which has been extremely difficult to work with. But both of those have their origins in this crease, which has made me feel less stable and effective in canter right, moving my shoulders too much and feeling disorganised in my middle. The knock-on effects have become much less over time, but I had known that I had not really reached the nub of the issue.
The bottom line is that I have had a matching crease in the right side of my diaphragm which he has been able to exploit. In this case I don't think that one of us has caused the other to have the problem - I think we just happened to have had a compatible set of issues. It is through undoing my crease that I can really identify and fix the crease in him, changing the feeling of my underneath on his back' and making his long back muscle really connect into his  croup. This makes it a much longer, stronger bridge that is not wiggly or disorganised. This makes so much difference to his ridability! It's one of those virtuous spirals where once you sit better the horse gets to go better which makes it easier for you to sit  better and easier for him  to go better, etc.
As soon as this happened I had a memory of a lesson in which Heather realised that one of her horses also had a crease in  his long back muscle. That was either in 2007 or 2008, and even though our interaction had catalysed her breakthrough moment I found myself thinking 'How interesting, I have never felt it quite like that'. So I have now had an identikit revelation!
Everything in riding has its time and its order, and we get it when we get it....such is life!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

I am sorry, it has been so long since I have written this.... time has flown by with travel, teaching, Christmas etc etc. Enough excuses!
This will end up being about riding, but bear with me as I tell you this story!
My travel included a wonderful holiday in the Dominican Republic before Christmas, and I had an amazing experience sitting in the front seat of a 'guagua', which is a Dominican minivan serving as a small bus, usually packed full of people and quite an experience! Not many tourists make it onto these, and I was rather proud of myself for being so adventurous, and for getting the best seat. (Being packed into the front like a sardine definitely beats being packed into the back like a sardine!) I was enjoying the scenery, the music on the radio, the excitement of heading towards a new place, and the general ambience. It then occured to me that I felt as if I was being carried along on a wave of energy, and the feeling - along with the upbeat Caribean music - reminded me of the 'trancedances' we used to do when I lived in London in my late twenties. I was a member of the Natural Dance Workshop, which often sponsored these, and we would dance into the night to great music, experiencing something that I suspect was the equivilant of 'runners' high'.
I then realised that I had a feeling in the back of my diaphragm that I know goes with my most skilled riding - which is indeed like being carried along on a wave of energy. I am now sure that I must have accessed the same physiology in our 'trancedancing' too, although I never identified it like this at the time.
Fortunately, you don't need to dance late into the night or have a transcendent experience in a Dominican minivan to experience this! It's very simple, though it might take some practice. If you are sitting on a firm chair you should be able to make your hands into fists, put them behind your pelvis, and push against something solid at the back of the chair's seat. Think about the back of your diaphragm, at the bottom of your ribcage, and keep pushing with your hands until that area starts to firm up. With luck you will get a pretty immediate response, but if not persevere and repeat the exercise frequently. Think of your diaphragm as it passes from the back of you to the front of you, and maybe even think of it as part of the wave of energy that could carry you along if you were riding your horse.
This exercise is actually the partner exercise to the one in my previous post, where you pull on the back of the chair. This accesses strength in the front of the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles, and is an essential part of bearing down. Strength in your back adds hugely to this, and who knows, it might even have an effect on the adrenal glands as they sit on the top of the kidneys, also affecting other parts of the endcrine system, and giving rise to the transcendent 'wave of energy' experience!
I hope I am not being too 'way out there' for you here, but really think that there might be something in this. It was a useful and fascinating insight for me, at least, and this kind of physiological change might well explain the 'high' that we can get from riding.