"Of course it's in your head, Harry, but why on Earth should that mean it is not real?" : Client experience of riding simulator lessons
One of my lovely riding school clients has been riding for a little while. We have mainly been focussing on her canter transitions and maintaining the canter, something that she has really struggled with. Why? One word. Position. Her riding position; her movement patterns when riding; the biomechanics of her riding - or whatever else you might wish to call it!
She has a tendency to go stiff and rigid, blocking the horse's movement. Of course, the horses have no desire to go forward under these circusmtances.
We turned to the simulator for some help. Some people don't like them, as they "are not real", "nothing replaces the real thing", and it's like "pseudo-horse riding'.
A bit like Dumbledore says, "Of course it's in your head, Harry, but why on Earth should that mean it is not real?" Just because it's Pseudo-horse riding, that doesn't mean it isn't still incredibly useful! Simulator lessons are a great opportunity for me, as a coach, to really see what is going on and break down a problem. We can take the horse out of the equation, concentrate just on the horse's movement, and focus 110% of our efforts on the rider.
After a closer inspection, it transpired that the root cause of her problems was all in her lower back. With a natural inclination towards a lumbar lordosis (hollow back), she was locking her pelvis into a backwards position, meaning that the forces from the horse's movement couldn't be absorbed by her seat. It was travelling up her body, to her shoulder and down her arm AND into her hips and down her legs. This made her become tight in the hip, grip with the knee, wedge the heel up and wobble about and with every stride her arms were forced up into the air like something being catapulted off the end of a long pole.
What we did & results
We spent two sessions on the simulator, including on with Franklin Balls (which she found incredibly helpful, I'm pleased to share!). We worked on awareness of her low back, keeping her pelvis 'tucked under' , loosening her hips, and feeling for an even & consistent contact.
Since then, she has had a few 'true' sessions on real horses and the difference is remarkable. She worked so hard in the simulator lessons, and now she's reaping the rewards. I am so, so proud of her. The changes are so dramatic she's gone from hardly getting a canter at all, to riding reliable transitions and even getting horses a little bit rounder and more together in the trot and canter. She's ridden, I think, only 3 maybe 4, times since the simulator lessons and she's already seen amazing progress.
I couldn't be happier. I love how happy she is with her riding, especially now that she has conquered something that she struggled with for so long!
I have access to an RDA & Dressage simulator in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey/London. Horse owners & riding school clients alike are more than welcome to book, if it's something that interests you.
I am a dressage trainer and general equestrian coach in Surrey, Sussex, and Berkshire. I teach dressage lessons, and hold a range of riding and equestrian clinics around the UK, and use my blog to share horse training tips, advice, and resources.