From time to time in the past, my husband has come to my lessons armed with a video camera. He has taken footage of dressage tests, schooling sessions and the like. On our return home, I’ve then been able to assess where I think improvements can be made and this has been a very valuable training aid.
This week, he has been down to see me ride and, again, recorded some of my exploits. I planned to load this up onto this blog, but have decided against it.
Bluntly, I’m horrified at what dystonia has done to me. Six months ago, kids were sitting around watching my schooling. Now, I’m thinking that perhaps I should have all my lessons out in one of the big fields next to the school, where no one can see me. Especially anyone who used to see me before this condition struck.
Having said all that, I am making progress. As my instructor says, we’re still learning what’s possible and I’ve gone from just walking on the right rein to cantering, in three weeks. This is true, but it’s massively difficult not to feel frustrated by it all. So, no video footage for the moment.
So, what have I done?
I planned to do some work without stirrups this week, but we decided instead to do some more testing on experiences from last week i.e. my increased ability to control my muscle movements as the horse’s gait changes from walk up to canter.
After having done some warm up in the fields, we’ve moved back into the school to continue, mainly for safety reasons.
This week, I’ve done quite a lot of transitions on both reins, for example:
- Trot six paces, walk two, trot six etc. both rising and sitting. I find this helps get Tosca (my trusty (borrowed) steed) into ‘listening mode’.
- Move into a good working trot then alternately rise and sit.
- Trot-canter-trot-canter transitions.
I have used the arena fence as a guide, when on the right rein and moving at slower paces, as my neck is twisted to the left. As my head moves off the central position, it is harder to maintain circles that don’t collapse, as I’m struggling to co-ordinate signals from my inside leg to keep Tosca ‘out’ and battle my head/neck.
Finally, I have started work on getting Tosca to break her habit of falling out of canter. She is adorable, temperment-wise, but her client list of beginners are notorious for letting her drop out of this pace after only a few strides. Very annoying if you actually want to do more. As far as I am aware, she has no health problems and my instructor agrees that this is habit/behavioural issue, which mainly seems to strike in the school. Boredom may be a factor in this. The problem is certainly less evident out in the fields. This morning, she put in a very voluntary, fast canter across country, for example.
To conclude, there’s no doubt, that seeing pictures of what I look like now, has been a blow, but you know what? It’s made me more determined than ever to keep going. As Carl Hester says, “Pat the horse … And kick yourself”. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.