Operation: Learn To Ride

Roxylola

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Have you had a look at the andy thomas stuff? Hes done some webinars recently, his hands on stuff is the bomb but his knowledge, and understanding of practical application is also fabulous
 

Roxylola

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Hes worth it, more effective than jo but hers is a more ongoing thing. You get instant dramatic results from him. But they dont last forever so his exercises then help. Jo works to make you more balanced generally. Andy's view is more that you do the exercise they have the effect for the period you ride and thats enough - we live in an asymmetric world you dont need to be symmetrical all the time. The webinars are available to rent, and theres another this Thursday worth 9.99 for sure. And he did a free Facebook live a few weeks ago.
 

daffy44

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I know I will sound like a broken record here, but for every rider, especially a wonky one, go and see Andy Thomas! Things like pilates or yoga are excellent, but they improve you a tiny amount at a time, and are more of a ongoing thing. Andy is the closest thing you will get to a magic wand with horses, he can assess you, and correct you in a very short period of time with a very little effort. He will then give you exercises that you need to do before you get on and work a horse, so the long term affect is down to you, and the amount of work you put in.
 

milliepops

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Lunge lesson today at Ingestre. How hard is it just to SIT on a horse. I feel like I gain a lot from schoolmaster lessons but while I improve over 45 minutes , I then practice doing it wrong again for 3 weeks so not sure how to overcome that!

When I was an ultra runner I had a lot of pain. I tried loads of approaches to sort it out - exercises, osteo, physio, gait analysis. The feedback was always that the muscles that should stabilise were wobbly and so the muscles that should power movement were recruited to stabilise and then got sore. And I was especially stiff where I whould be flexible or wobbly where I should be stable on the left.The gait analysis pointed out that I even clench my left fist and arm shoulder whenever I run in an effort to stabilise! After being told that, I noticed it EVERY SINGLE TIME I ran but never stopped doing it. I could relax the fist/arm for a few minutes but as soon as I stopped focusing on it, it just automatically clenched and tensed again, grabbing onto an imaginary support to try and stabilise myself. Why I have no idea. It's not as if I fell over when I wasn't doing it!

My lunge lesson showed me that I balance on the left rein whichever rein I am on and when my reins got taken away I balance by hooking my left thigh. Again on both reins. When I focused on it, I stopped and my balance was fine so I have no idea why I do that but its the same story: something weird is going on with my left hand side! And I am using the wrong muscles and joints for stability.

So if anyone knows a brand of training/exercise etc that addresses that kind of problem I'd be very keen to hear about it as it is getting very, very annoying!!
I Could not recommend a session with Andy Thomas more highly
I bet he would help sort this out really quickly.

I get a lot of pain and I'm quite wonky, I'm hypermobile so developing stability is difficult and exhausting, but Andy 's exercises switch on the right bits 5 mins before riding and its a magic wand in terms of my symmetry and effectiveness. And no pain!
 

Ambers Echo

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Still waiting to hear back from Andy about a clinic. Everything is full so I am waiting for a cancellation slot....

In the meantime, Toby's jump saddle no longer fits him so my 'jump' lesson turned ointo a flat lesson and my jump trainer gave me the best dresage lesson I have ever had! I thought I knew what a 'forward' hand was but I didn't at all. I still find dressage very counter-intuitive. When the horse creates slack in the rein by hollowing it is so tempting to take the slack out by pulling back. Not by riding forward for the horse to fill the rein. But I am beginning finally, occasionally, to get it.

Then had another biomechanics lesson and she felt I was much straighter and my contact was much better. So a combination of Ingestre on school masters and lessons on Toby is paying off. I hope!!!

Still sitting to the right though. I keep losing my left stirrup because my leg comes up as I weight the other one.

Lessons now:
- Ride rising trot with left stirrup only to force that leg to weight the stirrup.
- Ride with an elastic bungee round my wrists to keep my hands still, flexible and forward
- Turn with outside aids only. Really careful not to use the insuide rein for turning ever. In fact the inside rein needs ot pretty much do nothing at all at the moment because I use it far too much for far too many things.

Onwards!
 

McFluff

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Have a look at Activate your Seat - she's on Instagram and Facebook. She's a fab physio and posts lots of useful info about how to strengthen the right muscle groups and switch on the correct muscles for working (and she describes it much better than I do!). Her exercises definitely help my asymmetry and my weaker areas.

But sounds like your journey is going well, it really is scary just how much there is to learn and improve to get even half decent!
 

LEC

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- Turn with outside aids only. Really careful not to use the insuide rein for turning ever. In fact the inside rein needs ot pretty much do nothing at all at the moment because I use it far too much for far too many things.

Onwards!
Easiest way to practice this is to ride with your reins in the outside hand. I do it a lot to check things.
 

Barlow

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Still waiting to hear back from Andy about a clinic. Everything is full so I am waiting for a cancellation slot....
not sure where you are based but I am in touch with Andy/Nia to get a clinic up and running in the south west in the new year, his nearest clinic was a 4 hour drive each way from me and I just couldn’t justify a solo trip that far in December so thought I’d set about organising one myself!
 

LEC

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not sure where you are based but I am in touch with Andy/Nia to get a clinic up and running in the south west in the new year, his nearest clinic was a 4 hour drive each way from me and I just couldn’t justify a solo trip that far in December so thought I’d set about organising one myself!
I tried to organise one in the SW and they just kept cancelling on me. Very frustrating as had effectively two days booked with decent people to attend as well. Lockdown then came along and I gave up as just cannot be bothered with the hassle of it. TBH now they cannot travel abroad as much it might be easier to organise but I felt at the time because I wasn't a 'name' that I was just being palmed off.
 

Ambers Echo

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Incredibly frustrating, deflating 'jump' lesson. Spent 30 minutes cantering squares and being told weight was too far left. Honestly it seems totally random whether I'm told I sit left or sit right. Clearly I never sit straight!

And trying to have him in the outside rein which is ok on right rein where my left hand is allowed to do something but feels impossible on the left as I just can't stop that hand trying to get in on the act. Didnt feel I improved really. There was just a missing link between the instruction 'hold the outside rein, give the inside rein forward' and my body being able to make that happen. It feels like being told 'pat your head and rub your tummy'. I can just about do it standing still with full attention on it but add in another motor skill as I have to when cantering squares and I just can't do it. It takes too much brain bandwidth! So feeling totally stuck now.

Then some trot poles on an oval turning with weight/seat/leg aids. Never left the ground at all which is fine if I thought I'd learnt anything but it feels like all i learned was that I cant perform the basics and I can't see a way forward to fix these utterly basic issues either.

I've contacted Nia who knows I'm looking to book onto an Andy Thomas clinic asap but has not got back to me. But hopefully soon.
 

HufflyPuffly

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It’s hard when you come away feeling deflated 🙁.

I’d be tempted to do outside rein exercises in walk with no stirrups. Feeling both legs reaching down equally, feeling both seat bones really equally in the saddle and then walk squares and don’t even hold in the inside rein so you have nothing to accidentally use. You need to get the feel of turning using your outside rein yourself and the horse understanding it as an aid before moving up the gears.

It might be ‘basic’ but if you’ve never ridden this way ( I hadn’t either and it took an age to really nail, even now I’m guilty of sometimes creeping the inside rein in on the action!) then it’s still a new skill to master. You’ll get there ☺️ Keep going!
 

ycbm

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Lessons now:
- Ride rising trot with left stirrup only to force that leg to weight the stirrup.
- Ride with an elastic bungee round my wrists to keep my hands still, flexible and forward
- Turn with outside aids only. Really careful not to use the insuide rein for turning ever. In fact the inside rein needs ot pretty much do nothing at all at the moment because I use it far too much for far too many things.

I missed this post AE.

I don't like the sound of rising trot with one stirrup only. None, possibly, but one just sounds completely wrong to me as an exercise to help you ride more equally on both sides. It's not really about weighting the stirrup, it's about relaxing the leg down.

The bungee strap around the wrists sounds completely dangerous. Instead, try holding a stick in both hands between your thumb and the rest of your hand. At least you can drop it if something goes wrong.

I can hear your frustration. You don't really sound as if you have found the right trainers yet. Have you heard of Kate Earthy in Macclesfield? She's extremely rider focused and a few sessions with her might provide a few lightbulb moments, they did me a few years back.
.
 

LEC

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Incredibly frustrating, deflating 'jump' lesson. Spent 30 minutes cantering squares and being told weight was too far left. Honestly it seems totally random whether I'm told I sit left or sit right. Clearly I never sit straight!

And trying to have him in the outside rein which is ok on right rein where my left hand is allowed to do something but feels impossible on the left as I just can't stop that hand trying to get in on the act. Didnt feel I improved really. There was just a missing link between the instruction 'hold the outside rein, give the inside rein forward' and my body being able to make that happen. It feels like being told 'pat your head and rub your tummy'. I can just about do it standing still with full attention on it but add in another motor skill as I have to when cantering squares and I just can't do it. It takes too much brain bandwidth! So feeling totally stuck now.

Then some trot poles on an oval turning with weight/seat/leg aids. Never left the ground at all which is fine if I thought I'd learnt anything but it feels like all i learned was that I cant perform the basics and I can't see a way forward to fix these utterly basic issues either.

I've contacted Nia who knows I'm looking to book onto an Andy Thomas clinic asap but has not got back to me. But hopefully soon.
You can do a few things to check - get some white tape and put it in the middle of the cantle of your saddle and on the pommel then plonk on the saddle and get a footstool and stand behind the horse and see if the saddle natually goes one way or another. If you can get a helper. Get them to lead the horse away in walk and video in slow motion while standing on the footstool so you are at a good height and again look and see if it does it in walk. You could probably manage to do it on a circle on lunge as well if feeling really clever as should be a clear marker if someone else can be persuaded to stick them on lunge and you stand to outside. This will tell you if its the horse not helping.

Have you measured your stirrups with a tape measure? I would also do that to check they are the same length. I find even non stretch stirrups stetch particularly through the holes. People dont seem to do this anymore.

Simplest way if saddle is fairly straight is to remove your left stirrup. You will either fall off or sort yourself out and sit right. Again something I have spent many hours doing to make sure I evenly weight my stirrups. The easiest fix of all though is to think right shoulder down though which should shift your seat bone. But personally I would do a combination of both. The big problem with removing one stirrup and why you have to be careful is it will make you crooked quite quickly so I don't do much but enough to remind myself of the feeling.

With a stronger hand I have two techniques - frying pan hand which is where you hold the rein like a frying pan in the more dominant hand. This means you cannot block through the hand. The other thing is I will tap the neck with the stronger hand. So you have to release it the whole time. It takes a lot of practice. I have probably spent two years making my right hand less dominant and thus blocking that side.

What you are going through is normal - conscious incompetence. The problem is you are now working to fix issues and its frustrating and deflating as a long process especially when its about 'feel'. Last year my process goal was my jumping position. It took a year to get it sorted and I have been riding for 30 years. This year its about the jumping contact which is very frustrating as changes with every horse but I am determined to get softer hands and stopping myself sticking out my elbows is no1 action!!
 
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milliepops

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Incredibly frustrating, deflating 'jump' lesson. Spent 30 minutes cantering squares and being told weight was too far left. Honestly it seems totally random whether I'm told I sit left or sit right. Clearly I never sit straight!

And trying to have him in the outside rein which is ok on right rein where my left hand is allowed to do something but feels impossible on the left as I just can't stop that hand trying to get in on the act. Didnt feel I improved really. There was just a missing link between the instruction 'hold the outside rein, give the inside rein forward' and my body being able to make that happen. It feels like being told 'pat your head and rub your tummy'. I can just about do it standing still with full attention on it but add in another motor skill as I have to when cantering squares and I just can't do it. It takes too much brain bandwidth! So feeling totally stuck now.

Then some trot poles on an oval turning with weight/seat/leg aids. Never left the ground at all which is fine if I thought I'd learnt anything but it feels like all i learned was that I cant perform the basics and I can't see a way forward to fix these utterly basic issues either.

I've contacted Nia who knows I'm looking to book onto an Andy Thomas clinic asap but has not got back to me. But hopefully soon.
I know I'm banging on but I still think Andy would make a big difference to your sitting one way or the other, and possibly also to the hand thing. not because he can fix the hand itself but it wouldn't be a surprise if an asymmetry or tightness somewhere is making it really difficult for your left hand to be independent. a bit like how my left leg isn't weak, it's my right hand side tightness that means it can't be effective because my own body is blocking the use of it and i do weird things to try and counteract that.

Exercises to force yourself to do something different are helpful for making you aware of something but don't always give you the tool to deal with it, particularly if it's rooted in a pattern of moving or using your body that you possibly don't even know about.

I reckon the left hand thing is partly habit of drawing the hand back and partly rooted in a general difficulty around having an independent seat and you probably need to tackle both ends of that to crack it. in the meantime training a different way of using the hand is a good idea, mine tends to go down so I consciously put it up now and then to free it up again.

I know it's all hugely frustrating particularly when it must feel like you're going backwards sometimes but this is the stuff that is fundamental to all disciplines and all of us have to work really hard at them

(i would say the bungee round the wrists can be really useful to get you to engage your core, i do that sometimes and it magically seems to make me actually ride like a rider instead of a person who can sit on a horse, plus stops wayward hands because you have to use them as a pair. it does work but has to be in a safe environment. ycbm my bungee allows hands to be a normal width apart, the idea is that you maintain a tension in the bungee which stops you moving one hand back or forth, up or down etc and the act of holding your hands slightly apart and still seems to do something amazing to your seat)
 

Bernster

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ooh I like your post LEC, that made a lot of sense to me. I’ve def had lessons where I’ve felt I’ve gone backwards or that I can’t ride at all, but it’s part of breaking down what I’m doing wrong and correcting it - conscious incompetence.

I give away my right hand on the left rein and atm I have to check it all the time as I don’t realise I’m doing it. Ins has me using a neck strap to steady my outside hand, and although I feel like a beginner all over again, it’s working !

Also agree with MP, there’s a combo of things with me and it’s my tight left leg and hip, working with a wayward right hand and arm.

And Ive said this before but blimey, this riding malarkey is not easy!!
 

LEC

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ooh I like your post LEC, that made a lot of sense to me. I’ve def had lessons where I’ve felt I’ve gone backwards or that I can’t ride at all, but it’s part of breaking down what I’m doing wrong and correcting it - conscious incompetence.

I give away my right hand on the left rein and atm I have to check it all the time as I don’t realise I’m doing it. Ins has me using a neck strap to steady my outside hand, and although I feel like a beginner all over again, it’s working !

Also agree with MP, there’s a combo of things with me and it’s my tight left leg and hip, working with a wayward right hand and arm.

And Ive said this before but blimey, this riding malarkey is not easy!!

The four stages are:

  1. Unconscious incompetence The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
  2. Conscious incompetence Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, they recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.
  3. Conscious competence The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
  4. Unconscious competence The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become "second nature" and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.
I think the issue with riding is you vere between different stages because its such a massive skillset and the variables change (horse, discipline etc). Rowing for instance does not require half the skillset so you can aquire an international skillset in a much shorter time.
 

Ambers Echo

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Thanks so much everyone. Lots to ponder. LEC I'd forgotten about those stages and of course I'm 1 step further on than unconscious incompetence which is something :p
It's a very useful framework to recognize the need to keep on buggering on and not lose heart.

Actually my usual RI is fab - just had a chat to her and she reminded me that I can go out and do fun stuff in between working on the limiters. Its important for Toby not just to endlessly drill. And I realise now that in all my lessons with her she works for a while on the things I find hard and then we do things Toby feel good about and cycle between the 2 so we both end the lessons feeling like we've learned something and also that we have achieved something.

Onwards!
 

milliepops

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probably all the new lockdown stuff getting in the way. I lost my last appt when Wales went into lockdown in the autumn because I couldn't go over the border.
 

teapot

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Incredibly frustrating, deflating 'jump' lesson. Spent 30 minutes cantering squares and being told weight was too far left. Honestly it seems totally random whether I'm told I sit left or sit right. Clearly I never sit straight!

And trying to have him in the outside rein which is ok on right rein where my left hand is allowed to do something but feels impossible on the left as I just can't stop that hand trying to get in on the act. Didnt feel I improved really. There was just a missing link between the instruction 'hold the outside rein, give the inside rein forward' and my body being able to make that happen. It feels like being told 'pat your head and rub your tummy'. I can just about do it standing still with full attention on it but add in another motor skill as I have to when cantering squares and I just can't do it. It takes too much brain bandwidth! So feeling totally stuck now.

Then some trot poles on an oval turning with weight/seat/leg aids. Never left the ground at all which is fine if I thought I'd learnt anything but it feels like all i learned was that I cant perform the basics and I can't see a way forward to fix these utterly basic issues either.

I've contacted Nia who knows I'm looking to book onto an Andy Thomas clinic asap but has not got back to me. But hopefully soon.
Don't feel disheartended, re-learning how to ride 'correctly' is hard. Your lessons sound very similar to mine and I've learnt upon 'relearning how to ride' this year:

- jump lessons are not about jumping
- if you're not straight and 100% effective, and can't do it in walk, you don't get to do anything else, which comes down to
- fitness, including suppleness and muscle tone

Out of interest, do your hands become better if you stop thinking/distracted by something and just let it happen? Ie ride by feel, not brain as actually that sounds more like a mental block, than a physical one. The ultimate aim being you'll give which hand is needed subconsciously when riding.
 

Ambers Echo

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And then everything stopped.... But I do finally have an Andy T date in the diary! Hurrah.

In other news, I am giving up on Dressage Rider Training. It was a mix of core, strength and yoga. I got stronger and better at yoga but there seemed to be almost no crossover to riding at all.

Having also started equipilates, I am even wondering if it's actively unhelful to me. Eg she does core strength work outs when you are gripping a foam roller between your thighs with full effort because 'you need strong thighs to stay stable in the saddle'. But gripping for dear life to stay stable is not ideal. And she is always wanting you to 'squeeze the bottom' whereas the equipilates lifts the pelvis and pulls navel to spine but stresses to not tighten up the bottom at the same time. So they appear to contradict each other. And having consistently done DRT for absolutely ages with no obvious benefit, I am going to ditch it and focus on equipilates more.
 

Roxylola

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I'm going to see Andy in May at Knowsley. I'd booked for Fosshey originally before lockdown but I couldn't get time off for their rescheduled one.
I'm super excited for it.
I've done equipilates sporadically and I have noticed similarities to some of Andy's exercises and definitely felt benefit of it
 

milliepops

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And then everything stopped.... But I do finally have an Andy T date in the diary! Hurrah.

In other news, I am giving up on Dressage Rider Training. It was a mix of core, strength and yoga. I got stronger and better at yoga but there seemed to be almost no crossover to riding at all.

Having also started equipilates, I am even wondering if it's actively unhelful to me. Eg she does core strength work outs when you are gripping a foam roller between your thighs with full effort because 'you need strong thighs to stay stable in the saddle'. But gripping for dear life to stay stable is not ideal. And she is always wanting you to 'squeeze the bottom' whereas the equipilates lifts the pelvis and pulls navel to spine but stresses to not tighten up the bottom at the same time. So they appear to contradict each other. And having consistently done DRT for absolutely ages with no obvious benefit, I am going to ditch it and focus on equipilates more.
that's interesting. I found the DRT offputting purely because of the upfront cost but I'm pleased to hear I'm not missing out, haha. I also don't find yoga as useful as pilates personally, i'm too bendy already and it encourages me to exaggerate that.

who are you doing equipilates with? I've been doing Jo Titterton's classes and find a direct link between those and noticing my riding improving (yay left hand) , agree with Roxy, there's quite a crossover with her activation stuff and the exercises Andy gave me which is helpul particularly as I don't have anywhere to do my clam exercise at the yard currently, so can draw from Jo's things instead before riding.

I have a friend doing Dressurfit which she thinks is really good, again the £££ upfront for a long course put me off but that seems quite tailored to the individual which seems sensible.
 

Ambers Echo

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I'm doing equipolates with Jo as well. I was having monthly lessons with her at our yard which are starting again in May. My RI has a lesson with her every month too. And my RI did a train the trainers course with Andy. So I feel like I'm on the same page as everyone I'm working with now.

I had a different regular RI for ages and she supported me all the way through just beginning to jump Amber to BE. But I feel like the newer trainer is addressing root causes more. She's done amazing things for Katie's riding. I'm hoping for similar improvements myself but god its taking a long time! Still if I keep at it, at some point something has to click into place. Surely!

Problem is you can only ride for a few hours a week which doesn't really feel enough. I need some spare horses to practice on 😂
 

milliepops

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I really miss having 2 to ride for exactly that reason.
are you doing the rider performance or just the equipilates? i'm finding they complement each other really well although it's a lot to fit into the week with work and 7 horses :p
 

Ambers Echo

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Just Equipolates and HIIT. I've been playing about with equipilates for a while now but DRT took up a lot of time. So nothing consistent. But from April I'll do 5 classes a week.
 
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