Monday, July 11, 2011

Warm up yourself as well / Balimo II

I was very lucky to be able to attend a second Balance in Motion clinic with Sue Leffler at Stall Granåsa in June. There were a lot of people that I already knew from my previous Centered Riding and Balimo clinics and it was really nice to see everyone again. I attended the first with Blondi and this year I got to borrow one of Granåsas own horses called Dina.

We started both days with an hour or two of theory and then we had private lessons with Leffler after the theory parts. The theory lessons did not bring much new information from last year hence the riding and the exercises done on the math were really good. The first day I got to open my hip joints on the math by turning my legs from one side to the other. The second day I got a few really hard exercises were I had to lie on the back and kick with my feet (one feet at a time) up to the hands that were pointing out to the sides. After that I turned to lie on a roll on the stomach and then I had to kick my legs up toward my hands again. Then back on the back and more kicking toward the hands. Dina felt a bit crooked and pushed her hindlegs in and shoulders out especially in the right canter. Rather than just trying to correct the horse Sue told me to be correct my own seat and pay attention not to fall outside when the horse drops inthe back (because the horses back creates a whole that the rider drops into) but rather make sure that the horses shoulders are kept straight and that ones own position remains stable and steady on both sides.

In the beginning of the second day I felt that the stirrups were unequal at length and I felt a bit crooked myself. After the exercises on the math I felt much straighter and more balanced and the horse started to engage more from behind. Sue also wanted to help me with my posture since I am very stiff at the top front of my body (from sitting a lot in front of the computer) and she made me do a great exercise where I had to lie on my hands and feet and get my shoulder blades touching each other (I was really sore the next day). She also made me ride with my hands crossed to help me find a more balanced and a better position for my hands (see video Balimo exercise). Once again I realized how even the smallest things we do affect the horse and how of utmost importance it is to have strong awareness of both the physical and psychological strength of the rider. Of course the horses strength and level of education, crookedness and so forth affect the rider, but the more crooked the horse the straighter the rider should be.

Sue also said that my riding had improved from last year, so that is always something.

Sue's great advice:
  • If the horse changes to the better you know that you are doing something right even if the instructions that you get from your trainer seem wrong to you.
  • Thoughts have an effect on our balance and strength. Negative thoughts have a negative effect on our body hence it is important to train yourself as a rider to concentrate on the things that went right and not the ones that went wrong. To always see the best part of the ride.
  • It is important to have good body awareness. The horse can only go as well as the rider rides.
  • We often have the wrong picture in our head of what the correct riding position looks like.
  • How often do you warm up and stretch your horse (hands up)? How often do you warm up yourself (hands down)? It is important to heat up the muscles we need to use when riding. 20-30 minutes warm-up is not necessary before riding but at least some warm-up would be important also because warmed muscles don't get injured to the same extent as cold muscles.
  • We need to learn to release our muscles in the front in order to get our joints in the back to work.
  • We need to use internal, postural muscles, not external ones.
  • You want to take the horses hind leg energy and ride it up forward toward the hand.
  • We want to have the feeling of the horse dancing in front of us.
  • We need energy through our arms when riding.
  • Our center needs to turn in the right direction and we need to find stability in the pelvis.
  • The horses pelvis works three dimensionally and we need to do the same. The iliac joints need to move otherwise our pelvis can not move three dimensionally.
  • If you ride from your center your driving aid is working and the pelvis is in the right place. If the pelvis is in the wrong alignment it is hard for us to change direction. (our kinesthetic awareness / proprioseption is not always correct / see Alexander Technique).
  • We need to challenge our balance in order to develop it. When it starts to feel easy to stand in one pose, challenge yourself and your balance more.
  • We must inhibit the old pattern before we ask for something new.
  • Have an image of the way you would like the horse to move in your mind.
  • Warm-up yourself, not only the horse.
  • Practice cross-coordination so that you learn to coordinate both sides of your body.
Unfortunately all the great pictures and videos were deleted from this clinic so I hope I will get some footage from someone else that attended the clinic. Otherwise, this is what I have for now.

And I did get some footage. Thank you Nora.
Videos (c) Nora Schreithofer

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