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Skill Swap

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'Jay

This month I had a wonderful opportunity, I was invited by Karin Major of Overdale Equestrian Centre to visit for a couple of days on a “skill swap”. Karin had read some articles I had written some time ago, and was interested in my approach. We finally met when she saw my talk at the Your Horse Live Exhibition, and again she had <BLOG_BREAK>some questions about my work with Confidence.

You can read more about Karin on her web site http://www.overdale-equestrian.co.uk/

Overdale is also home to Mary Wanless, author of the “Ride With Your Mind” books, you can read more about Mary here http://www.mary-wanless.com/

The prospect of a skill swap at Overdale was exciting but also a little intimidating, after all some of my ideas on teaching were influenced by Mary’s books.

Karin was very welcoming, I found that she has the same enthusiasm for learning and experiencing and sharing with the horses as I do. I know that when someone is happy to invite a fellow professional in to their experience, to share and compare, then that person is confident in their own abilities, while being open to the excitement of learning more. I feel this makes Karin an exciting teacher.

My experience started with a lesson on one of the Overdale horses. I rode a beautifully schooled grey horse, who was very communicative. I wanted to work on my crookedness, and the horse obliged with showing my way of going immediately. This was not just co-incidence, I really felt that the horse knew he was there with his special job to highlight any imbalance, and to show me as the rider, and the trainers the instant he felt a change.

Mary took this lesson, and her enthusiasm for teaching and sharing just shone through like a beacon. I was making changes to the way I sat, fundamental changes that initially felt very unusual. In fact I had to ask for clarification on some points as I was being asked to do the exact opposite to what I thought I should be doing! Needless to say, after a short time my horse was swinging along, bending either way, and I was working hard, and getting results.

A point of clarity for me in this lesson was when Mary commented that as a rider, I carry very little “baggage”. As in I am happy and confident to do my best, with enjoyment. I may have things I could do better, but the overall picture was one of happiness, both for me and for the horse. Of course after Mary had taught me some biomechanical changes to my riding the overall picture was better and even more harmonious.

The next section of the day I worked with a returning rider who had not ridden for some years, with Karin and Mary watching and discussing my thought process while I taught. Although I was very sure and confident of the approach I would take, it is only one of many, and was different to that which they would have been taken. It was great to be able to discuss with Karin and Mary the differences in the approaches, and this open discussion enabled me to greater understand where I am in my own work, and how I could move my focus around for even greater results.

In fact over the two days I worked with 4 horse/rider combinations, and what I learned was that I take a very “big picture” approach. For me the riding is about the happiness, the wind in my hair, the energy and the flow. This is why this was such a fun skill swap, because Overdale is a renowned place for learning biomechanics, for looking at the technicalities.

Karin and Mary do have fun, you only had to see Mary school a young horse. I watched as the horse was delighting in his increased balance and confidence, and was smiling myself as the horse and Mary glowed with the satisfaction of a secret shared, a moment of discovery together. What I did find, however, is that because Overdale is a place of excellence for biomechanics, then this is perhaps what clients expect to focus on while they are there. Because of that I was aware that a more detailed approach was focused on during lessons.

My lessons with Karin included a Feldenkrais lesson, where we worked on enabling my body explore where its balance was. By examining in detail the feelings and effort required for small movement my body was able to process itself into balance. In fact after Karin had put me in balance, when I took a walk I felt like I was limping as I am so used to taking a lighter step with my left leg, walking normally felt strange. We also worked with her riding simulator, where a computer readout showed where my balance was at all times, plus a follow up lesson where I cemented the feel I would now like for canter.

I believe this was SUCH a worthwhile time for Karin and for myself. I got to focus on the details of my riding, whereas Karin got to play more lightheartedly with her horses, concentrating on relaxation and fun and leaving the technicality behind for a short while. We both shared a change of focus. I guess it was a “focus swap” as well as a “skill swap”!

All of the horses and riders we worked with both individually and together made huge strides towards their goals. For me, although I DO teach detail, it is secondary to the overall feel. I will now play with the idea of shifting this focus more regularly, to get benefits on both ends of the scale of the NLP term “chunking up” and “chunking down”.

As a footnote, the Overdale horses were some of the most communicative horses that I have ever met. They are willing partners in the whole learning experience, a true testimonial to the experience and peaceful atmosphere at Overdale.

Thank you so much to Karin and Mary for making me feel so welcome.

Back at home Jay did have some time off. Once we had re-established good behaviour I could see that he had a sore spot on his back that he did not want to be touched. I had the Chiropractor out, and although Jay was sound, and it was no big deal we decided to give him a couple of weeks off, then 2 weeks of light work, just to be on the safe side.

Jay had the first week off completely, then he was a bit silly with himself, running circles and bucking when turned out, so for the next week he was turned out and also had a daily walk in hand around the village. Then a week of light work, both lungeing and some schooling as well as walking around the village. This week we have been cleared by the Chiropractor to go back to full work, although I have been away so we haven’t started yet. Jay is fine.

The header photo for this blog was Jay and I playing last Sunday. The photo has the caption “Mother drives Jay into giving the ball a kick””!

What next? Funnily enough having spent time at the place of excellence for rider biomechanics, I have now been invited to go and explore Jay’s biomechanics, to have a horse / saddle / rider interaction evaluation done. This is with Anne Bondi of Solution saddles, and she has invited Jay and I to an evaluation day where we will use Tekscan pressure mapping and do a biomechanical mark-up for video and Dartfish / EMAS software analysis.

Quite what all that means I am not as yet sure, but I do know that knowledge is power, so I am keen to learn. I have worked with Anne Bondi before and know she is a professional who has a passion for research into saddle fit and horse welfare. No doubt I will write about my experiences next month!

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  1. Cordy

    What a great experience that must have been. I am very familiar with Mary Wanless' work and really enjoyed your sharing your experience with us on the blog. You just keep getting better Ruth. Come back to America and share some of with us in Arizona. Thank you for continuing your learning and passing it on to us.

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