Make it make sense!!

SEL

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Left to my own devices I will ride with one stirrup shorter than the other - feels perfectly even to me.

I did some ride with your mind lessons prior to lockdown and it was eye opening how wonky I actually was and how much I felt twisted when I was straightened up. Riding a schoolmaster who was better than I was showed me the issue when I asked for shoulder in to the left and he presented me with all kinds of lateral movements apart from the one I actually wanted. To the right we were perfect.

I have a shoulder injury dating back 20 years and I've learnt to compensate for it despite physio etc. I've always known my left leg doesn't behave but it was only with the RWYM instruction that years of 'keep your left leg still' (bl**dy impossible I thought) actually became an instruction to weight my left seat bone - ta da, my left leg behaves.

RI had me shutting my eyes and basically explaining out loud what I was feeling through my seat bones and then actively weighting one more than the other and feeling the horse's response. This was obviously on a horse which knew his job, but I have played around at home too. The microcob has never done lateral work in her life but was side stepping to what I thought was pretty subtle movements from my seat bones. Made me realise quite how annoying it must be to them to carry a wonky rider!!

If your horse is sane enough then closing your eyes can help with the feel - I have to work a lot harder to engage that left seat bone and the muscle memory just isn't there.
 

palo1

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I have always tended to chuck myself in at the deep end and give things a go. But twice now I've booked jumping lessons and not actually jumped because the instructors start pulling apart the riding in the warm up and then we just do that! That happened yesterday for the 2nd time.

I think anyone who teaches me for a while gets to a point where they feel I should be better than I am by now and starts saying things like 'you need to ride correctly now' or 'it's not far from coming together so let's just work on a few tweaks and it will help in the long run' etc. I think that's added to my frustration.

It's not a safety issue - I am not wobbly over fences. I just think they get fed up and think 'right time to sort this'. But I'm not sortable! :p

I definitely think I'm dyspraxic. (I can't plait either :rolleyes:) but it wasnt recognised when I was growing up

I'm also very conscious I am riding someone else's fairly well schooled horse and feeling anxious about that.
There are some interesting and alternative ways of thinking about and doing physical (especially the more precise) stuff if you are dyspraxic. Also, there may be no need to 'improve' as such; there is a huge psychological component to physically awkward things and other ways to deal with them. :) If you are dyspraxic too, work that may emphasise muscle memory and 'feel' might not be especially helpful or constructive!
 

Ambers Echo

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This thread has helped crystallise a few things for me. I have been pursuing a ‘get better at riding’ campaign which is fine. I want to improve my riding, improve my horses and there’s nothing wrong with that. And in other areas of life, hard work has paid off fairly quickly with good results. But that isn’t happening and I don’t think it is defeatist to accept that I find it hard and only improve very slowly. And crucially, that that’s ok. I’ve not really understood or accepted that and nor have my instructors. I like that they are invested in my riding and want me to improve. And it is also human nature that if you are good at your job, someone who does not improve is frustrating! I’ve done a fair bit of instructor hopping, sometimes because I feel stuck but also because other people say I am not coming along ‘quickly enough’ with a certain instructor and so should change.

The other thing is that I am so focused on me that I am losing connection with the horse I ride. I could get Amber to stop from gallop to halt on the buckle. I could steer her safely round a course of jumps. I could open gates, and mount off walls, and use her as an equine sofa and negotiate unfamiliar Trec type obstacles just by telling her what I wanted and letting her do it. I’ve lost that communication and connection with the horse in my pursuit of technical improvements.

So I plan to embrace the now! And just enjoy Scarlett and pay attention to her and be less focused on the details of what each limb, or finger or toe is doing.

I hacked Dolly bareback the other day as I was in a hurry and the saddle was in the lorry and I did not want to waste time getting it. She freaked at some cows who took an interest in her. First 1, then 3 then 7 then the entire herd! So she pranced all the way home but I was never remotely in danger of losing balance. I can ride. I just need to stop trying so hard to ride ‘right’ and have fun with it.
 

teapot

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I hacked Dolly bareback the other day as I was in a hurry and the saddle was in the lorry and I did not want to waste time getting it. She freaked at some cows who took an interest in her. First 1, then 3 then 7 then the entire herd! So she pranced all the way home but I was never remotely in danger of losing balance. I can ride. I just need to stop trying so hard to ride ‘right’ and have fun with it.
This in spades. While we all want to look like CDJ, if you can ride, and sounds like you can ride well, but your left fourth toe is out by five degrees, who cares?
 

HufflyPuffly

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The only thing I can add, which is not really ’that’ helpful, is the most strides forward , without confusing waffle’y language I don’t understand, has been with Di Breeze for lessons.

There are lots of issues going on for you, but tbh I read your op and thought I have no idea what you instructor wants 🤷🏼‍♀️.

Instructor hopping isn’t the best but I’ve found that once you’ve found one YOU understand they are worth their weight on gold…

This comes from someone who has completely stepped back and is mostly hacking 😂🙈

Edit: sorry wanted to add, I don’t mean the instructor who said it is rubbish just that if you don’t understand even when you ask and they try to expand, it can just be a clash of understanding. Ive had lots of lessons where the instructor had been ‘right’ I’ve just not quite got what they were after.
 
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milliepops

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I do agree that picking one person you understand and sticking with them is a good thing. I occasionally dip into randomer lessons but for the most part I've trained with the same person for a decade. he doesn't particularly do position type stuff if you're broadly being effective so I do chip away at that elsewhere. but from an understanding and consistency POV I find it invaluable to have one person who I trust.
 

Marigold4

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My brain isn't wired quite right in lots of little ways, mainly having absolutely no sense of direction. I needed a guide to find the canteen each day in a place I worked for 20 years! Poor spatial awareness too. I keep breaking mugs putting them into cupboards but bashing them on the edges. It's frustrating but perhaps the effort to overcome the limitations is even more frustrating than just shrugging and letting it be what it is.

What about trying a Ride with your Mind instructor? I had/have a problem with my seat in that I curl up on my left side and use my left hand more. Various instructors tried to fix this but just confused me by saying completely contradictory things. Finally, I booked a lesson with an excellent Ride with your Mind instructor, Ali Wakelin. She clearly explained that what I was doing with my pelvis was the root of the problem, and showed me how to fix it. She took video recordings so I could remind myself of what to do by seeing and hearing the fix. I had to travel 6 hours there and back but worth every mile. Not had a lesson with anyone since and my position/ seat is much improved.
 

Bernster

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RWYM was a revelation to me a few years back. Have to confess I’ve not done it for a while and I am prob all manner of wonky. I was really struggling with some of the terms and descriptions and this made so much sense. Explained things in a way that I could more easily understand. I had an ins and went on a couple of camps to Mary wanless. It all got a bit too technical for me in the end but was very helpful for the foundation of sitting right/straight.

I def agree that there are times you need to stop analysing and enjoy and relax, but I suspect you’ll be back in that mindset again fairly soon, and that is all part of us wanting to improve and learn!
 

Ambers Echo

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I've read the Mary Wanless book and watched a few demos but I am not sure that it helps much without eyes on the ground. I'll see what is around locally.
 

humblepie

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I tried the thinking about the hips pointing forward and thinking of gently stretching this morning and that was really good. I do grip with my knees - I show jumped very fast buzzy ponies, sometimes ones from dealing yards or that had dumped other children, as a child in the 60s and 70s. We were taught to grip with our knees. Trying to unlearn that just hasn't really ever happened and it is something I have to continually think about (along with all the other bits). We all want to ride really well - my horse goes so much better for other people who can ride well - but he and I bumble along together okay. As we all do on this forum, we try to learn and improve and that is all we can do. It is important though as others have said not to over analysis - that is probably okay if you constantly have someone teaching you/watching every move you and your horse do, but I think it can really close your riding down if you are not careful and lose any natural (ha!) talent we may have had in the first place.
 

maya2008

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Have you ever tried riding bareback more often?

Many years ago, a little boy with dyspraxia shared one of my ponies. In a bareback pad, he could jump as big or bigger than his older sister, canter and keep up with everyone else - at a time when he could not run easily or do up his coat. Give him a saddle and it was another story.

My husband has terrible proprioception - half the time he has no idea where he is in space. He damages his clothes, chips cups, you name it. In a saddle, he is wonky and often bounces in canter. In a bareback pad, he looks like an accomplished rider - horse on the bit, correct lead, spooks no issue, cantering away! We now have the closest saddle to a bareback pad we can, and it definitely helps!

If you take away the stirrups and simplify things, there is less for your brain to process and more chance of success. It is also much harder to be wonky!
 
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daffy44

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I found this thread interesting, and it prompted some musing, nothing personal at all to you AE, I dont know you, and I havent seen you ride, but I think the conclusions you have come to are very valid, the reasons we ride, train etc are personal and first and foremost we need to do what makes us happy, and if you have a plan going forward that you feel good about, thats brilliant.

In a lesson its normal for the way something is phrased to be a lightbulb moment for some people, and mean absolutely nothing to others, if when you ask for it to be rephrased and it still doesnt resonate with you, thats absolutely fine, then ask exactly what is you are trying to achieve eg, close the outside should of the horse, stop collapsing over a hip, then you can probably work out what you have to do by yourself, and find a phrasing or image that works for you. I love CCs image of imagining you have no legs, thats brilliant.

But I think AE has hit on two big themes that stop riders progressing, feeling a lack of progress and a lack of consistency in instructors. I know it can be hard to find an instructor that you feel you click with, and its good to switch about to find the right person for you, but endlessly switching is very harmful to progress, I feel you need to stick with someone and understand their system to get the best from them. You can certainly have two complimentary instructors that can work very well, but again consistency is the most effective thing.

Feeling that progress is not happening is so frustrating, and I think it stops a lot of people, I think its especially difficult for people who are used to doing well, and are used to be able to solve things relatively quickly, then the feeling of not being able to do something well is horrible, and its made worse by not being able to fix it quickly. The most common thing is that people either want to change everything or give up. I think its absolutely fine to progress slowly, we all learn at different rates, I know I am a slow learner, but I also know that I get there in the end. I have a really good friend who is a very good rider, and is currently riding a different discipline and is struggling, they are plenty talented enough, but the feeling of not knowing what to do is something they are struggling hugely with, riding is such a mental game! Sometimes just keeping going is the hardest thing.
 

Ambers Echo

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Today was interesting. I wrote above that I had lost touch with the horse in pursuit of riding more correctly. And also something else that I thought about was how fast lessons move! The horse is trotting or cantering and I'm leaning/pressing/squeezing/turning/looking etc etc etc and it feels a bit chaotic. And every so often the instructions lead to a positive change and I think wow, hurray. But then I can't replicate it anyway.

I have had an issue with horses falling in on the left rein for ages. That was what my RI was trying to fix. Andy T was also trying to fix it. But Dolly fell in just as much after he strapped me down/did whatever he does.

So today I tried something different. I remembered the Buck Brannaman/Mark Rashid focus on communication with the horse and rewarding correct responses. If I'm not paying attention to my horse how can I reward? Neither of them really do any technical instruction. It's all about clarity and reward. So I just rode Scarlett round the arena on the buckle following an imaginary line on the ground and being very, very particular about where she went. I used an imaginary box that BB talks about - if the horse drops behind your leg she goes out the back of the box, if they go too fast they go through the front and if they fall in or drift out or wobble, they go out the sides. Very quickly Scarlett stopped falling in and we could move around easily staying on the line I wanted and staying in the box. I have no idea whether the clarity of the communication meant she ignored 'noise' from my wayward, wonky body. Or whether my body somehow just arranged itself differently once I had a clear image of what I wanted. But either way it just felt so nice to suddenly be able to focus on what I wanted and have Scarlett respond. Then I tried to pick up the contact and noticed that she would soften to me and give me a few nice strides before I lost the consistency. So I'd just ask for a few steps at a time before giving her a break and a stroke, then just asked for nice transitions without her bracing or poking her nose and then give her a break. The session was more break than work! But she was getting better and better and seemed to figure out what I wanted. By the end of the session she was really lovely in walk and in walk-trot transitions. So I ended there.

I feel happy with what we did today (for the first time in ages!) but also not sure how to move on. I don't like dressage lessons. Any dressage lessons with anyone. I've tried people I know HHOers rate highly. But they all move too fast, they confuse me and I often feel that we are going worse by the end than we were at the beginning. If the horse feels anything like I feel, both of us end up frustrated and tense! I can't replicate the brief moments of nice work. But at the same time I DO need to improve technically.

Good riders obviously DO communicate and reward. It's not one or the other. But I seem to need to focus on 1 or the other not on both at the same time. And lessons tend really to focus on me and not the horse. Whereas I feel it goes so much better if I focus on the horse and not on me. Any ideas on where next from here?
 

Roxylola

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Well, for a start you need to convey that to an instructor. Maybe more than one.
With my trainer hat on, very few people would keep coming back if you kept them in walk for an entire lesson - they'd think they hadn't got anything done/hadn't got anywhere. So trainers will be reluctant to do that. It's also difficult if you have a wonky rider who is trying to develop feel to not focus on the rider. So I think you'd have to be really clear about that - ultimately while dressage is about how the horse is going its the rider who makes that happen. I think _your_ focus needs to be more on the horse, but if you're going to trainers saying I find horses all fall in on the left etc they're going to naturally focus on you because you are the common denominator.

You seem to be a very logical person and you need someone who can teach in a way that suits you, but I also think you might have to accept that sometimes with horses a thing just is and trying to unpick it to understand it isn't always productive.

I personally like to watch good riders work - or even average ones, I like watching for straightness, connection etc and I can learn a lot that way but that doesn't suit everyone.

Interestingly (because I think you know Alice Beesley) when I had a lesson with her at camp she'd get halfway through a suggestion and I'd be already there myself- but she trains with Carl as does my regular trainer so there was a familiarity there - so if you like Alice maybe try and look for someone else who trains with Carl as it might help a bit
 

Ambers Echo

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Alice was the one instructor who I really did get on with. So yes, it is possible to find the right one. I am absolutely gutted she has moved South. I love how she teaches. And she would really give 1 instruction at a time and let me experiment for a few minutes then tweak something else. And come to think of it, she often asked me how my horse felt so she was hooking me into the horse all the time. It felt like she did nothing much but by the end I could ride!!!! She even got pocket rocket Jenny going beautifully. I have never met another teacher like her though. SO calm and understated but so, so effective. I can try and find another Car Hester pupil. That's a good idea.
 

Roxylola

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Alice was the one instructor who I really did get on with. So yes, it is possible to find the right one. I am absolutely gutted she has moved South. I love how she teaches. And she would really give 1 instruction at a time and let me experiment for a few minutes then tweak something else. And come to think of it, she often asked me how my horse felt so she was hooking me into the horse all the time. It felt like she did nothing much but by the end I could ride!!!! She even got pocket rocket Jenny going beautifully. I have never met another teacher like her though. SO calm and understated but so, so effective. I can try and find another Car Hester pupil. That's a good idea.
Can you ask Alice for suggestions?
Honestly though if you give an instructor that brief, and if they do start to drift just sort of drag them back to it I think it might help.
You clearly know what works for you and as a trainer we have to listen to our clients and adapt our own teaching not expect them to adapt to us (although inevitably you'll get a bit of both). Responsibility lies with the trainer to communicate in a way that the client can best make use of.
 

littleshetland

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Here's my pennysworth.....sit straight in the saddle, and imagine your eyeballs are located in the front of your shoulders, so in order to see where you are going you have to adjust/turn your shoulders. try not to 'over turn' your head, but really imagine you are looking with your shoulders. These subtle movements will adjust your weight without you even noticing it.
 

Marigold4

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Here's my pennysworth.....sit straight in the saddle, and imagine your eyeballs are located in the front of your shoulders, so in order to see where you are going you have to adjust/turn your shoulders. try not to 'over turn' your head, but really imagine you are looking with your shoulders. These subtle movements will adjust your weight without you even noticing it.
Ah but it's often the "sitting straight" in the saddle bit that is the problem. We often have ingrained habits that mean we are crooked when we are think we are straight - so not quite as easy to do as you make it sound!
 

littleshetland

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Ah but it's often the "sitting straight" in the saddle bit that is the problem. We often have ingrained habits that mean we are crooked when we are think we are straight - so not quite as easy to do as you make it sound!
Good point! Perhaps a few sessions without stirrups may help to achieve straightness in the saddle?
 

milliepops

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or it might ingrain the wonkiness. I think if you want to iron out rider straightness issues you have to learn new patterns of movement and function (and ensure they are possible, if there are physical things causing them rather than habit etc). we get so used to our own crookedness, you have to be able to feel the difference between straightness and wonkiness and get used to it, because otherwise people tend to maintain what feels comfortable.

(sorry, personal hobby horse there, riding without stirrups can be great but it can also make things worse!)
 

littleshetland

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Another good point! I think Ive always been very lucky that I'm reasonably straight, so I'll keep quiet and try and learn something..lol! I would suppose that being videoed whilst riding/training would be invaluable so the rider can identify the problem and work on it bit by bit until feeling comfortable and straight actually is comfortable and straight.
 

milliepops

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I don't think you need to keep quiet, although the discussion has moved on from the OP a bit it's interesting stuff to kick about ;)
I think video can be really useful but it's also a bit late in terms of feedback, I personally find stuff that gives me feedback in the moment more helpful. It's a shame that OP hasn't had a lasting result from Andy Thomas/Testt because that really gave me an incredibly acute feel of the things I was dimly aware of in my own riding, and also tools to re-set myself so I could recreate what we did in the clinic.

Like, I have always known i find right shoulder in easier than left shoulder in, and right half pass easier than left half pass, i have problems with getting the left changes as good as the right ones too (though part of that is my current horse and I having compounding asymmetries!) but Andy showed me why that was and how to sort it - seeing my faults on video footage just makes me more aware of how crap I am, not how to fix it :p I didn't know how to sort it until I did a session with him, in fact i probably made it worse every time I tried to fix it myself because I wasn't changing the right things instinctively.

sometimes you need that external input :) now I can understand what I need to change, i find it easier to identify other things that will help, like I do my equipilates stuff more on one side than the other, or I skip some things that I know aren't relevant. but you need that knowledge from somewhere first otherwise I think you can keep trying very very hard and getting nowhere.
 

CanteringCarrot

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I think it depends with the video. I find it useful. Sure I see mistakes later instead of in the moment when they occur, but I still see and can analyze them. Generally, when I think on it, I can find the fix myself and a few videos later it's gone/improved. However, this may just depend on you, the individual. Some of us have a better feeling, intuition, and awareness than others. It also helps if you have a vast knowledge of the body, how it works, and what can effect what.

I am incredibly jealous of those of you that can ride with Andy. We have no one like that here.

It's a bit of a journey, an endless one, tbh 🤣 And it takes a lot of conscious reminders. Some people need someone on the ground more than others because they mentally can't remind themselves frequently enough or figure out the matter on their own. Or, we focus on one thing and forget the other thing and need someone to remind us 😉

On the other hand, we sometimes ride better when we aren't thinking about it. I naturally have a good feeling (no idea how or why!) And this works to my advantage in that things naturally happen or can be figured out. I have a friend that has (self admittedly) no feeling for most things. So she requires much more attentiveness and instruction on certain things as well as repetition. It doesn't mean she isn't a good rider, just that things work (or don't) differently for her. So one person's journey often differs from another, and that's ok. Benchmarking yourself based off of others is often detrimental (not that I don't do it 😆).

Exercise off the horse can also help our fitness and body awareness. It can translate to on the horse too.

But these people such as Andy or good instructors are truly priceless. For some it may take more sessions or lessons than others so I think you've got to be persistent yet patient.
 

CanteringCarrot

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yes, patience with yourself is as important as patience with the horse :p
I find it very easy to allow time for a horse to develop and get straighter but I get infuriated with myself and expect instant results but of course it's the same thing going on!
I don't have this patience that I speak about 🤣
 

Roxylola

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I find a 10 second video or a quick picture when I'm asking someone to adjust a significant amount helps - mainly because what I'm asking feels wrong to them, they think they are straight or whatever. Saying you're going to feel like you're really leaning left/right/forward/back but I promise its where you should be here look at where you are at the moment... but it does depend on the situation.
 

milliepops

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Yeah I guess I'm coming from a different POV, like I can make myself look straight in a mirror but I still can't use my arms or legs equally without the kind of Andy exercises that get to the root cause of switched off things, instead of just making me adjust myself visually.

it's definitely useful in that "you're sitting off to the left" "no I'm not" kind of discovery ;)
 

littleshetland

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Good trainers that can make us aware of what's going on with our own postures are certainly worth their weight in gold.....perhaps we need to give ourselves a good lunging on our difficult 'rein' to try and even things up a bit! lol! Milliepops...I suspect you're an excellent rider - not crap at all. I think we're so hard on ourselves sometimes. I don't have any mirrors fitted in my arena atm, so I occasionally rely on my 'not very horsey' OH to come out and be my 'eyes on the ground' (he just about knows enough to remind me not to indulge in some bad riding habits that I have). Usually we end up chatting about other things while I'm schooling, and by the end of the session horse is going really well! There's a lot to be said for not over thinking things.
 
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