Horse Riding and Dystonia. Progress Report 4

This week, it’s been a case of two steps forward and one back. So, on the positive side, a net gain.

On Thursday, I actually experienced the first improvement in my dystonia symptoms. I managed to do the whole bus journey from my home into town, looking out the front window of the bus! (My neck is usually badly twisted to the left). As soon as I realised what was happening, I could have wept for joy. And frankly, if a herd of water buffalo had walked past the side of the bus, waving flags and playing trumpets, I wouldn’t have looked. Being able to look forwards, is far more exciting. Sadly, the effect was transitory, but it happened again later in the day (briefly) and again on Friday. Hurrah!

This morning, things were worse than usual, but I’m still basking in the hope generated by the last two days.

So, on to riding.

This week, I haven’t been in the school, as the dry weather as made the outdoor school dusty and who wants to be inside when the weather’s good? A large, flat field has been the scene of my endeavours.

Today’s been tricky as my neck has been really twisted and this has affected my good side (left rein) as well as my bad side.

However, once again, I’ve been trotting in circles with my eyes closed. I really can’t believe how much of a difference this makes. I wouldn’t say that my 20m circles were perfect, but it’s so easy to feel how the horse is going and it really improves the quality of the shapes. Somehow, I’ve got to train myself to retain this ‘feel’ and get my brain to stop responding to the inevitable desire to make me go where my head’s pointing.

The nearest analogy to his effect that I can think of, is riding a bike. How often were you told when learning to ride a bike, to look where you’re going, because you’ll go where your eyes are looking?  I’ve got to stop going where my eyes are looking, if I’m having a very ‘twisty’ day. Not easy.  If anyone has any ideas about this, please let me know.

I’ve also tried trotting around half circles, then going straight, on both reins. As well as doing ‘arena’ shapes.

Cantering has been a key component of this week’s activities. I’m not remotely brave enough to canter with my eyes shut, so this has been a strictly ‘eyes open’ exercise! I’ve done a mixture of circles on both reins and done some work to get Tosca to stop falling out of canter when she feels like it. This last issue was much improved today and we did quite a few laps of the field before I cracked and had to slow down (still got lots to do on the personal fitness front, in spite of all the walking).

Finally, for a change, I’ve done some work with poles (left rein only) and even managed pop a few small jumps and canter away. Not bad for someone with their head on back to front.

Have a lovely week.

[Editor’s note. I can’t stress enough how important safety is, and riding with your eyes shut, is dangerous. So, don’t try this at home!]


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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2 Responses to Horse Riding and Dystonia. Progress Report 4

  1. Hello 🙂 I wonder, regarding the not-following-your-eyes issue…what about visualisation techniques? As in, proper use of visualisation when you somewhat programme your movement in your mind’s eye…
    Another thing I teach to riders who struggle with feel but perhaps this might help the other way round too. I ask them to blur their vision (look at everything and nothing/look as if you wanted to see those 3D images on paper) and direct the horse through their toes, knees, hips and shoulders (everything pointing in the direction the wish to go). This way the rider stops obsessively focusing on what they see and allow other senses to switch on without the need of closing their eyes (or being blindfolded 😉
    Great to hear about little jumping efforts. Inspirational.

    • Hi Wiola. I will definitely try this. My only thought about it was to try squinting (!) but I don’t think I can keep that up for long. Your suggestion sounds much better (and easier on the eyes).
      Best wishes and thank you.

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