A Ride With Your Mind coaching session differs to conventional ‘lessons’ in many ways, and here I give a brief description of the essence of my work.
To learn more about the RWYM principles have a look at Mary’s website.
The Learning Process
The goal of my coaching is your “whole brain learning”. How the brain functions is a huge subject, however, in simple terms it has a left side and a right side.
The left brain is very analytical and strategic, and is concerned with words and theories. The right brain is creative and artistic, and concerned with physical feelings and emotions.
Broadly put, scientists and people who study and theorize would be mostly left brain thinkers, and artists and dancers would be mostly right brain thinkers.
To learn well as riders, we have to use both sides; that is, we need to link physical feelings to meaningful descriptions. Words alone cannot facilitate accurate reproduction of a skill, and the skill will remain a concept in the left brain. Physical feelings alone cannot create a reproducible skill, and the feeling will remain an undescribed sensation in the right brain.
Therefore, I endeavour to engage your whole brain during my session, by allowing you time to link sensations with descriptions that suit your own language and learning style, and by linking present experiences with past experiences, to build up a profile of a skill that you can both describe and execute, and if you wish, teach to someone else!
Learning is like peeling layers of an onion. Imagine that the onion has some flaws. Some of them are superficial and only penetrate a few layers. Others are more serious and go all the way to the centre of the onion. During the learning process, we peel away these layers, and sometimes we can wave goodbye to our superficial flaws, but our more serious flaws tend to stay with us. However, what actually happens is that we get much better at noticing our flaws and correcting them, and in fact rather than a weak left side hindering you during a walk – halt transition, it only starts to hinder you in travers to the left!
For this reason, learning to ride is a journey, and the joy is in the travelling. There is no ‘arrival’, and in reality, the centre of the onion is infinity!
This is the use of your body as a tool to change the horse’s body. Your posture, tone, alignment, symmetry and breathing are all mirrored by the horse. Sometimes it is necessary to make quite dramatic changes, but often it is the smallest of changes in muscle tone in a part of the body that previously lacked ‘wiring’ that has a profound effect on the horse’s way of going.
All aspects of training are affected by rider position, and I go by the rule ‘rider = cause, horse = effect’, meaning that with any schooling issue, the responsibility for change lies with the rider and her body.
Riding is a physically demanding sport, and is hugely subject to the laws of physics and gravity.
Many common issues that hinder your training like, hollowness, crookedness and lack of impulsion/rushing etc can be easily resolved once an understanding is gained of how your body is affecting your horse.
Ultimately, your horse is the judge of your riding and it never fails to amaze and enthuse me how simple posture changes can improve a horse’s welfare whilst it is working under saddle.
Biomechanics are very extremely influential in jumping, for security, effectiveness and safety of the rider and improving the balance, confidence and ability of the horse.
All horses, despite their conformation and breed, are capable of a correct way of going which utilises their natural self carriage biomechanics, and promotes correct muscle development and core strength.
My coaching will enable you to begin improving your horse’s biomechanics immediately, without the use of any gadgets or force.
The basic tenet is that any skill can be taught if it is broken down into suitable sized chunks for the student and delivered using means that suit their learning style, be they visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learners. The skill chunk is then given a description which is personal to the student, and allows them to recreate that part of the skill, and eventually the whole skill.
The use of the skill is honed by using a ‘feedback loop’. The rider learns to feel when the horse’s body changes and describes what they are feeling, and the coach clarifies this in the student’s language.
The coach describes what she is seeing as the horse’s body changes and the student is able to make the link between what they feel, what they are doing and what it looks like from the ground.
The coach further clarifies the change in the student’s body that brought about the change in the horse’s body, still using the language and feel of the student. The student will continue to ‘get’ and ‘lose’ the skill, each time gaining more contrast between the old and the new, with continuous feedback still taking place between student, coach and horse. The aim is for the student to finish the session with clearly understood, reproducible results.
For me this makes teaching very exciting and interesting, and opens up endless possibilities for creativity.
For riding skills to be at their most effective, it is necessary to be on an ‘interface’ with your horse, similar maybe, to being interactive on the internet. This means you become a pro-active rider, rather than a re-active rider. My coaching can bring you right into the moment with your horse, allowing you to learn what it feels like to be in the zone where you are only conscious of yourself and your horse, yet you are at your most perceptive of everything around you.
This skill is not only essential for good riding and competition, but also for confidence and safety, especially for riders who have had a bad experience and find themselves coping with lots of emotions around horses.
I have a great deal of experience working with fear, anxiety and confidence issues. I combine many skills to help riders work through their problems at their own pace, within a safe and supportive atmosphere. In my opinion, a rosebud is no less important than a rose, and I take a great deal of pride in the coaching process, no matter what stage you are at.
For horses to become good learners, their training also has to be clear and understandable. No matter what aids or training system you use, they will fall under the headings of classical and operant conditioning (trial and error) and habituation. With this in mind, everything you do with your horse becomes training, as he is constantly referring to you for cues as to what to do next, and how long to do it for! This is knowledge is vitally important in re-schooling a problem horse, or training a young horse, and part of my work with you will involve ‘cleaning up’ your aids and signals so that your horse knows exactly whats being asked of him. My understanding of equine learning theory means that I can dovetail my expertise into any existing training programme to help you get the most from it, eg Parelli or Clicker, or help you incorporate your own ideas into a personal training system for your horse, that suits you and your style.
Taking the training a stage further, experience from my background as a qualified healer allows me to help you with emotional congruence with you horse, meaning that not only are your aids and cues ‘black and white’ to the horse, but also that your emotional state and intent are streamlined with your riding goals. This is particularly useful when riders have lost their confidence, or find that everything goes wrong at competitions. It sounds a bit personal, but all it really means is there is no point entering the 90cm showjumping class, when deep down you would rather be doing the 70 cm class! Or that, rather than being frightened of falling off, you are actually more frightened of being criticised for not doing well, or ‘wasting’ your horse.
These are all common problems in horse and rider partnerships, and once identified, you can start to move on, and if necessary seek help from another qualified practitioner such as a sports psychologist or counsellor.
Goal setting is widely acknowledged as a very important part of improving performance and confidence. It is as important to set and review goals for hacking out safely, as it is for training for a competition.
Through a consultation process I help you identify the steps towards what you want to achieve, and prepare a goal setting document to keep a record of your progress.
Interested in a lesson? Drop me an email or give me a quick call to chat about what you are looking to achieve with your riding. I’d love to hear from you.