Philosophy, methods, current influences

It's the rider. Simple, Elegant, Us. Thousands of competent teachers can tell the rider what the horse should be doing differently but few can tell the rider how to tell the horse! My particular talent lies here, with the rider, since it is she who leads the dance. The horse is a beautiful living breathing bio-feedback machine and it is with him that my first loyalty lies - he shows me how the rider feels to him. I return the favor by helping the rider to communicate with clarity.

I strive to keep the work as simple as possible and as detailed as necessary to achieve the rider’s goal of competitive success or personal enrichment. If you can learn to feel your own feet in the ground you can learn to feel his and he will follow you. So after a lifetime spent with horses, the last 25 yrs of dressage study, it has occured to me that dressage is really very simple. Not easy but simple.

Horses and students are individuals and certain matches of temperament and physical attributes make the journey together a bit faster but it is my life work to make the journey rewarding for both. I ride all of my “program students” horses regularly to check my eye with the "feel" of the horse. Custom training programs or school horse lessons available.

My primary current influences: I have been a student of the Alexander Method since 2008 I was first introduced to Alexander's work by Mary Wanless who has been a major influence in my career as a teacher.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

discussion of a lesson: trying too hard vs. the zone

As an instructor I learn the most from the lessons that begin with a regression from the previous lesson. this happens to everyone regardless of level and is an important part of how our brains learn to repattern but there can be a fair bit of anxiety on the part of the rider who knows she has lost some essential tools and can't find them. I believe that when things go awry it is first the instructors responsibility, then the riders, then the horses!

"Anxiety simply means you are about to learn something really important" is one of my favorite quotes. Learning happens when mistakes are corrected and a lot of learning happened yesterday!

My student really wanted to show me and her little audience how well she was doing based on some super breakthroughs that she had in her previous lesson. She was proud of how well she had gotten her horse to go and her eagerness to show it off was understandable and set her up for a slide. She is now "trying harder" which blocks her feel (muscles that are sending messages to tighten can't receive any feeling messages) and she tightens her buttocks and thighs and eliminates her ability to finding any real base of support. Without a wide full base of support in her pelvic bowl she is unstable so all of her "twisty fixy" things that she thought she had eliminated popped their little selves right up! . When the rider is that tense the horse hears a lot of "static on the line" with only snippets of what she actually wants him to do coming though so he just guesses and regresses to whatever he does when he is on his own.....he goes into his bad habits causing the rider to be more desparate, tense and get in her own way! After the audience left, we had a good conversation about how to avoid "trying too hard aka show nerves" and practiced 2 skills that got her back into "the Zone":

#1. Remembering to carry her eyes up and out in soft focus (this put her into her right/feeling side of her brain) helped a bunch. #2 feeling something in present time, In this case we went to her psoas muscles contracting and pushing into the inside of her sacrum ( and then she could relax her buttocks, dropping and resting in her pelvic floor and voila she was stabilized.
This "mindfulness" aka "being in the present moment and feeling what is happening now" is required by riding precise figures In addition to #1 and #2, having the student do exacting leg yields at walk would likely have gotten her to fall into her pelvic floor and tone her psoas much faster and is how we had started her last lesson.

1 comment:

Dressage Person said...

Great point, I have often found myself in this situation. The points you bring up about soft focus and body awareness are great ways to break the cycle. Thank you for sharing. -K @ /