The "HOW" of Learning Rider Feel - Part 4 of 4

The "HOW" of Learning Rider Feel - Part 4 of 4

So what IS Feldenkrais? And how can YOU use it in YOUR riding?

Very simply Feldenkrais lessons refine your ability to ‘listen’ to the information from your senses that lets you know the quality of your balance, breathing, posture and movement. It is this ability to pay attention to the subtle nuances of your sensory feedback mechanism that makes the difference between the effortless co-ordination of great riders and expending too much energy for the job in hand.


As a rider, it can help you to recognise and inhibit the unhelpful muscular efforts that interfere with your performance. You will become more discerning and improve your sensitivity, so you can respond quickly and easily to your horse. You will become quicker at identifying how to adjust any part of your body so you can ride how you’ve always wanted to. 

If you want to experience this now try this short Feldenkrais lesson…

The "HOW" of Learning Rider Feel - Part 3 of 4

The "HOW" of Learning Rider Feel - Part 3 of 4

Recently I was out on a hack with a friend. She was asking about Feldenkrais and how it applied to riding. She had observed me having lessons with my trainer and was struck by my ability to easily move my body in a particular direction or with a certain quality.

I explained that Feldenkrais lessons improve the quality of our action and that we can apply the experience of moving better to our riding. She looked puzzled.

The "HOW" of Learning Rider Feel - Part 2 of 4

The "HOW" of Learning Rider Feel - Part 2 of 4

In my last blog I described how I got to a pretty low point in my horse-owning journey. Before Shana’s email dropped into my inbox, I had felt compelled to have lessons with one of the yard staff because it seemed easier to fall in line with their wishes rather than to be on the receiving end of their sniping or criticisms whenever the classical trainer that I wanted to work with came onto the yard. 

I had also surreptitiously signed up to a couple of online trainings with people who seemed to have a similar philosophy to my own, but I was not having any success in translating their teachings into my riding. I was at the point where I would sail down the school on the right rein, trying to apply what I’d learnt online about steering, but with no positive result whatsoever. I was frequently to be spotted stuck in the corner of the school while my horse ate the hedge. Amusing though this was - and I do have the capacity to laugh at myself - this only served to contribute further to my feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment.

The "HOW" of Learning Rider Feel - Part 1 of 4

The "HOW" of Learning Rider Feel - Part 1 of 4

There’s nothing like the feeling when everything comes together and you are totally at one with your mind and body. When I’m in that state, where the lightest of intentions turns into effortless action, it’s the most exhilarating feeling imaginable. Some people call it being in a state of flow, but I think of it as being ‘in the zone’. When I’m in the zone, I feel completely in balance, I feel strong yet light and, most importantly, I have this immense sense of freedom that allows me to be totally spontaneous.

Game Changers: Some Important Discoveries In My Own Journey

Game Changers: Some Important Discoveries In My Own Journey

As riders and teachers our particular approach, our techniques and methodology, our focus is very much a result of our own personal journey. It is shaped by the difficulties that we had to overcome, our own weaknesses, our discoveries, our teachers, the horses we have ridden, the books we have read, the other riders we have interacted with, and also by the students we have taught.

Occasionally, our personal journey leads us to discoveries that are real game changers for us. To others, they may be insignificant, but to us the world will never be the same afterwards. We can almost divide our riding career in pre-discovery and post-discovery. That’s how much these discoveries helped us improve our own riding. These game-changing discoveries will be different for everyone. In this blog post, I want to share some of my lightbulb moments that have helped me move to a higher level of understanding and practical skill. Perhaps they will be helpful for you as well, and maybe you can think of your own momentous discoveries and share them with us.

Turning The Pelvis With Ease

Turning The Pelvis With Ease

This week's newsletter article is a guest post by one of our guest teachers in our courses, Catherine McCrum. Catherine is a Feldenkrais practitioner and Gestalt psychotherapist living and working in London. The Feldenkrais Method is a way of improving how you move and function in daily life with a particular focus on how your unconscious movement patterns and posture holds you back from doing what you want to do with ease and grace. She works with a wide variety of clients and students from athletes and performers to people with neurological difficulties. Her original training was as a ski coach and trainer which she finds very applicable to her relatively new love of riding and her horse.

Listening to 'No'

Listening to 'No'

When I returned to riding as a middle-aged person, my first horse had a very loud ‘no.’ He was cheerful enough about doing the things he wanted to do, but my goal—to learn dressage—prompted a storm of tantrums and hissy fits of truly epic proportions. This, of course, felt horrible. He was treated well, I thought, and the requests I was making were not very difficult. So why did he spend his time looking for ways to make my life hard? Why did he keep saying ‘no’?

How To Switch Focus (What to do when it’s not going well)

How To Switch Focus (What to do when it’s not going well)

It happens to all driven and focused riders at some point. We get so focused in on what we are trying to work on that we lose perspective or we forget to add in enough variety of other things because we want to “fix” this certain issue (and we want to fix it TODAY!).

On the one hand it is important to have a level of perseverance. Giving up at the sign of the slightest resistance or problem is not a path to success, but there comes a point where our dogged perseverance can backfire and make the matter worse. In those circumstances, we need to shift our gears, pivot in our approach, and shift our perspective.

You have to fall in love with the process

You have to fall in love with the process

To become a great rider (hell… to become great at ANYTHING…). You have to fall in love with the process. Because that is what it is about. It is ABOUT the process. In other words, you have to be willing to do the work. You have to want it bad enough to endure the struggle… to get back on the horse when you’ve come off unexpectedly… to come back the next day after a bad ride and do it all again (hopefully better)…

 

Reasons Why Your Horse Is Not On The Bit - Part 1

Reasons Why Your Horse Is Not On The Bit - Part 1

I vividly remember one riding lesson that I had in my early days. My teacher told me: “Your horse needs to be more on the bit.” I was painfully aware of this because on the one hand it was hard to overlook, and on the other hand it was the one problem I was struggling with more than anything else. I would have loved to ride the horse more on the bit. But I didn’t know how. I wasn’t riding the horse inverted on purpose. I needed more practical, actionable information in order to be able to do a better job. Over the years I researched this subject in depth because it was so difficult for me for a long time and discovered many factors that are involved in riding the horse on the bit.

 

Shorten The Reins!

Shorten The Reins!

Everybody has heard the instruction “Shorten the reins!” countless times. And many riders get in trouble when they try to execute it because they take it literally, and their teacher doesn’t elaborate on the how and why. So they shorten the reins from front to back, and many horses resist more or less vigorously against their hand. This is one of those cases where the instruction maybe perfectly correct, but too incomplete to makes sense to many students. "Shorten the reins" is one of those instructions that need to be translated into practical action steps because it has to start from behind. Otherwise, you can get into an ugly fight with your horse.

 

Mental Flexibility (it's a suppleness thing!)

Mental Flexibility (it's a suppleness thing!)

In riding we often spend a large amount of focus on establishing and polishing the suppleness of the horse's body. We even often refer to the necessity for suppleness of the rider's body.

What is often, however, not mentioned or considered is that we also need to develop suppleness in the horse’s MIND, in his way of thinking. How flexible and resilient he is. How he adjusts to new circumstances or new exercises or new ways of doing the work.

And this also applies to the rider. As riders, we need to develop our own suppleness of thinking so that we also can become more flexible in our thinking, creative in our work, adjustable to circumstances, and resilient to circumstances.

So what does this look like?

Curiosity, Creativity, Innovation, And Rebellion

 Curiosity, Creativity, Innovation, And Rebellion

This is a subject that is interesting for students and teachers of dressage as well. We all want to learn to ride. That makes us curious. Curiosity leads to questions like: “How does this work?”, “How do I need to sit?”, “How do I ride a shoulder-in?”, “How do I teach a piaffe?”, etc. In pursuit of these questions, we take lessons, read books, and watch videos in the hopes of finding answers. Over the last 30 years the amount of equestrian literature has vastly proliferated, so that you can find many different publications to choose from on most topics. So far, so good. The danger is that there is a long tradition in the history of dressage to believe that there is only one true and correct way of riding and training. Everyone believes that THEIR way is the one and only RIGHT way, and that everyone else is, therefore, wrong.