As I’d mentioned in a previous post, I am working hard to get my horse riding kicked back into shape, now that I have developed Dystonia.
This week’s efforts and observations and given below.
I have been riding the trusty and bombproof, Tosca. Instructional sessions are basically divided in two halves:
- Activities in the field.
- Activities in the school.
Yesterday’s ‘field work’ consisted of mainly just walking. I also did some trotting and cantering, mainly on my ‘good side’ (left) in huge circles.
Additionally, I tried cantering in a straight line, which I expected to be very difficult, as this requires a straight neck position. However, something odd happened, as I changed up from walk to trot and then trot to canter, my neck and head straightened to a central position without me consciously doing anything. I managed to sustain a straight, even canter for about half the length of a large field. My instructor, who was directly behind me, was amazed, but not as much as me! As I went ‘back down the gears’ to walk, my head re-rotated itself to the left.
Back in the school, we decided to try a few experiments. As I needed to share this space with others, I was working in an area approximating to a 20m circle. I put myself on to the right rein (my bad side, as my head is rotated to the left) and then moved into a working trot. Again, my head start to centralise. As I pushed up to canter, my head actually lined up with the horse’s head, with a slight bend to the right. As we decreased in speed again, my head started moving back, off centre.
I intend to take this up with the Dystonia Society forum members (to see if any other people have had similar experiences) and with my neurologist. My own (untrained) view about this, is that perhaps the sensation of speed prompts other parts of the brain to take more of an active role in ensuring that the body is protected from injury i.e. the situation means that it’s imperative that the body looks where it’s going and the instruction to turn the neck to the left is over-ridden.
If anyone reading this has had similar experiences, please get in touch, I’d be interested to hear.
Aside from actual horse riding, I have also re-started doing work to improve my riding position again. About 2 years ago, I had a problem with stiffness in my left hip and I did some work with a physiotherapist (who was used to working with riders) to resolve this. He devised a series of exercises which could be done with and without a Pilates ball to help both my riding position and my hip. I’ve always found these really helpful.
Next steps? Somehow, get back in the gym. Prior to Dystonia getting a grip, I was doing 10 miles a week (on a mixture of cardio machines) in the gym to improve my fitness. At the moment, I’m just trying to walk as much as possible (assuming I can find a safe place to walk).
I fully anticipate that progress will be slow, on every front. But at least it’s going forward.