Friday, 28 September 2012

The Hand

Welcome to a "the day after" blog. Yesterday I came home at 7:00 am after a driving the entire night from Svärdsjö in Dalarna. Together with three other northeners, I have been on a five day hoof clinic with KC LaPierre and it gave lot of new input to be processed. I slept all day...

Today's post will be about our front hoof - the hand. Our hand plays a big role in our daily dialogue with the horse. We inspect the horse with our hands, we stroke it, it holds the brushes we use when grooming, it lifts the horse's legs, it holds the reins and much, much more.

I would like to hand out some tips on how we can improve our use of the hands to make the dialogue with the horse more nuanced. The hand, which I described earlier in the post The hand is dominating, occupies a large part of the brain's sensory and motoric centers. It has an amazing ability to develop fine tuned skills and sensitivity. All we need is to engage in deliberate practice.

These are three experiments for you to play with
1, Take a straw from the horse's tail or mane, put it under a page in the telephone directory. Look out in the room and let your finger cross out the page and feel hair through the paper. Add on another page, feel again. Add on another page, and another. Do this until you no longer think you can feel the hair. Then touch lightly, lightly over the paper. Can you perceive the hair?

2, Develop touch

Take an ordinary A5 envelope and hold it between your thumb and other fingers. Let the fingers "pads" rest on the envelope. Does the envelope bend? How much do you need to hold to keep to the envelope between your fingers? Can you walk with the envelope still between your fingers? Once you find a light touch you can try to replace the envelope with a paper folder, it is a bit heavier but keep your efforts as light as possible to hold the folder between the fingers.

3, Tip touch

Let the envelope rest on your fingertips, with all fingers in contact with the envelope. It can feel like it tightens in the hand. Breathe and let your fingers find their way up towards the envelope. Inhibition, to say no to any attempt to force your fingers into contact with the envelope. Direction, to know that you want your fingertips to have contact with the envelope.

Good luck!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The work on the wooden horse

Welcome to the blog autumn 2012. As Lena wrote last week, she will spend the fall writing her essay, and when it is ready, she will become an even better teacher out on riding arenas. At my home, summer vacation is over and "regular routines" have started to find their form. It is both sad and a relief at the same time! With that said, I turn to today's post - work on the wooden horse.

An important part of Alexander Technique training for riders is the work in the saddle on a wooden horse. Originally the  procedure was developed in the 60's to help an AT teacher who had had a hip injury and wanted to resume riding. In order to prepare the body, muscles and hip joints, to sit in the saddle again the saddle was placed on a specially built "wooden horse".

As a rider, there is plenty of information to retrieve from a lesson on the wooden horse. The saddle is one contact point between horse and rider. The seat of the saddle should fit the rider. If the rider is hurting while in the saddle that affects the riding negatively! Since the wooden horse stands still and is both level and straight, there is more for the rider to learn about his/her seat; is the rider crooked, rotated, skewed, leaning forward or backward. All that is possible to explore in peace and quiet on the wooden horse. 

As I lift a leg, rotate the femur in the hip joint rider gets a feeling of how "well" the body works and how if it differs in the quality of mobility and movement between left and right leg - and it often does!

It is also possible to ride the wooden horse! A rider can, for example, give the aids for reing back, and I can see if the horse back straight up, or if the rider somehow gets twisted when giving aids and thus get the horse to move off to one side as it is backing up. The rider can give the aids for canter, shoulder in, haunches out, turns - everything is going to educate the rider (but to do posted trot on a wooden horse is difficult...) 

Work on the wooden horse is designed to train the riders perception, ie, the ability to read what is happening in their own bodies, to become familiar with the habits that are established in the body and to get tools to consciously work to improve what might stand in the way of good riding.

On the wooden horse, I can also help the rider to develop their hand by simply working with the reins. A gentle hand is entirely dependent on a movable arm and it will be the theme for the next blog!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The autumn of 2012

Dear readers,
the summer here in Sweden is slowly turning into autumn. There will be some changes here on the blog since I'm taking a time out from writing here on the blog in order to finish my masters thesis about how to teach riding. Both me and my supervisor thinks it can be a very good thesis but I need time to write it. Maria will however continue to write every other week so stay tuned!

I would also like to take this opertuinuty to intive you all to the first Morning demonstration held by me and my fellow instructor-student of Ecole de Légèreté Sweden on September 29.

Hope you have a wonderful autumn and see you again next year!