Horse Riding For Dystonians. A Progress Report.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I have dystonia and this affects my ability to keep my head in a central position. This condition really worsened earlier this year, so I’m still learning how to work around what it’s doing to my body.

I thought I’d use this post to give an update on what I’ve tried this week with my horse riding. I’m still a bit rusty after having a break, so I’m ‘keeping it simple’.

[If you’re not interested in horses, look away now, click on to some of my other posts, or switch the television on.]

As last week, I’ve been out for a long walk around fields, but I’ve followed this up with about 20 minutes of schooling exercises (really for me, rather than the horse). I’ve done these out in a large, flat field, with an instructor as my ‘eyes on the ground’.

Left rein (my good side)
Lots of short transitions. For example, six strides of sitting trot, two of walk, then six of trot again.
Changes between sitting and rising trot.
Good canter (well it is a nice big field and it’s difficult to resist).

Right rein (my bad side, as my head is stuck round to the left)
20m circle in walk.
20m x 40m arena shapes in walk.
I did an experiment whilst doing these shapes. I tried doing them with my eyes closed. Interestingly, this improved what I was able to do, as all the other senses seemed to step up a bit to cope. I found I could really feel what the horse was doing and my legs / hands just naturally gave the correct aids. I managed to do rectangles, with fairly decent corners, for example.

Additionally, when I started to do the more focussed exercises, my neck/head position briefly straightened (wonderful!).

Next steps? I plan to take my stirrups away, as I enjoy doing this and it really helps develop a good seat.

Have a good week.

PS. I must just add a ‘Don’t try this at Home’ tag to the above. Safety should be paramount when riding.

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About Dystonia Girl

Horse rider who loves to blog and do lots of other things too. Lives with, but is not defined by, a rare neurological condition called Dystonia.
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5 Responses to Horse Riding For Dystonians. A Progress Report.

  1. I used to do lunge lessons blind-folding my clients and they loved it but with H&S in its prime in the UK these sort of exercises are risky [for instructor 😉 ]

    • Hi. Yes, extreme caution needs to taken, hence my comment, ‘Don’t try this at home’. I certainly wouldn’t advocate riding with your eyes shut. Safety should be number one priority for horse, rider and instructor. It’s interesting what you say about blindfolded lunge lessons. I should imagine they were an interesting experience. I don’t think lunging is fashionable as a teaching aid now, which is a shame – I rarely see people do it. I think its a good way for people to build up their experience of the different gaits. It also allows them to concentrate on their position, without the ‘pressure’ of trying to control direction etc. Similarly, I never see children being taught good flatwork. Just seems to be walk-trot-canter-jump, with no concept of half-halt or the other control features that flatwork can help with, like just being straight. I’ll get off the soapbox now and if I try any more ‘experiments’, I will be more circumspect as to how I write about them.
      Best wishes.

      • I couldn’t agree more on lunging front and this is why I developed my own coaching programmes and all the beginner riders go through the Start programme which is almost entirely on the lunge (for a few months). Don’t even get me started on the children training…it’s sad what’s happening in many places.

        The tricky bit is to find a good lunge horse that has been correctly trained and is fitted with a saddle that helps new rider develop their seat and feel.

        If you are interested, here is my old blog post (on my other blog not wordpress one here) with a photo and report from the blindfold lesson in 2007: http://freelanceinstructorsdiary.blogspot.com/2007/10/perception-timing-and-feel-why-i.html

        The lady was my private client, it would never had been possible in a riding school sadly.

        All the best.

      • Hi. Thanks for the link. I’ll take a look. Best wishes. DG.

  2. Pingback: WHAT IF YOU RODE BLINDFOLDED…- The Role of Senses in Riding « NewsBook by Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy

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