I have never sat on a horse. I don't even think I ever rode a donkey on the beach as a child. Yet I have been quiet for the past week or so because for the second time in about six weeks I have been out to Holland to help horse riders, specifically dressage riders, improve their riding. It may sound a little strange that I am skilled to do such a thing with my apparent lack of knowledge and experience in the subject area. It will make more sense when I define what dressage riding is.
"Dressage riding is a dialogue in movement mainly between the rider's seat and legs and the horse's ribcage. There is some control by the reins, but light rein use is the hallmark of good dressage riding. An ultimate example of this is shown in this photo of the late dressage master Nuno Oliveira (right)."
Improve a rider's ability to shift their weight more easily and use their legs in a more relaxed manner and they will ride better. That's where I came in. I was brought to Holland by an excellent riding instructor, Tessa Roos of https://www.facebook.com/RijkunstInBeweging to see what difference my Athletic Upgrades would make to riders she teaches. Here's what Tessa had to say about what happened:
"What I can state about the differences: Riders had better balance, a deeper, more secure seat and gave more accurate aids to the horses after the sessions. As a result, their communication with the horse became lighter, clearer and more harmonious. They also performed better in the riding lessons after the session. Their deeper seat gave them a better feel for the balance of the horse, and their freedom of movement allowed them to experiment more freely with the effects of their balance on the horse's balance. Where they needed clear direction instead of room to experiment, they were better able to follow instructions, given as if the instructor was riding the horse. All in all, the increased freedom in their bodies allowed them to connect better with the horse's movement and learn riding technique quicker. It took away a lot of the usual struggle in the learning process."
Having worked with 18 riders off their horses and a little with four riders while on their horses during lessons, every rider who has ridden since our Upgrade has ridden better. In some cases, people were able to do things with their horses they have not been able to do for the many years they have ridden them. In some lessons, Tessa was able to get through three times as much material with the rider given the same amount of time due to the rider's improved ability to do what they want with their body. Three times as much!
I have longed believed that our physical freedom is intimately linked with our ability to learn and this last week has further strengthened this belief. I am looking forward to continuing to explore this link and how fast learn can be made when a person's athleticism is improved to the extreme.
It isn't just riders who benefit from learning to shift their weight better. Every group of athletes from runners to basketballers to martial artists benefits similarly. Improved movement, muscular firing patterns and joint alignment make you stronger and more agile simultaneously.
I would like to thank everybody who played a part in the Holland riding sessions for being such a joy to work with and I'm glad that you all very quickly improved so you can enjoy your riding even more.
Regardless of your sport, improved athleticism can help you too.
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