Frustrated with my lack of progress at the local riding school, I booked an intensive weekend of lessons with Wiola of Aspire Academy. Last weekend, she finally got a chance to look at my riding, rather than reading about it, and tried to help me improve it.
Over two days I rode three different horses – four if you count the simulator – and managed to clock up more hours in the saddle over that period of time than I have in months. I knew my body was in for a shock, given that I’m pretty unfit and my position needed a lot of work, but I tried my best to ignore the fact that various muscles were being painfully reawakened and make the most of it.
Even when I’m in the situation of being a client, I get nervous when I’m riding for someone new. At the start of my first lesson, Wiola asked me – given my vague career aspirations – whether I wanted to be treated as a leisure rider or a (sort of) professional one. I went for the latter: I always want riding to be something that I enjoy (though the frequency with which I can lose sight of that is another story), but it’s also something that I want to be good at and seek to improve greatly, so it seemed the best option.
Having warmed up to allow Wiola a chance to assess my current status, my position was quickly re-arranged to an extent. I knew one of my major problems was my seat, and that was swiftly corrected along with various other things. The lesson then became me frantically trying to hold my new shape whilst digesting all of the information I was being fed, and considering how the horse was moving and how I could improve that – the mental workout is always more difficult than the physical one!
Happily, confidence wasn’t an issue which arose throughout the sessions, and this has been a massive problem for me recently. Another benefit which I usually find with a new instructor – and was true on this occasion – is that I tend to finally understand something that several people have been trying to explain for a while. There were at least two things which I managed to grasp having been grappling around for them for a long time, which I was very pleased about.
There were, as usual, some things that I feel I let myself down on, but Wiola tried to encourage me to stop perceiving the situation as a test, and to treat it more as an opportunity and a learning experience. I think I failed on that one, particularly at the beginning of the jumping lesson that I had!
What I probably need to do is make a note of the huge variety of exercises I completed over the course of the lessons, so that I can continue to practice them and improve. I was surprised by how quickly some things could improve by making certain changes – the refrain that many equestrians will give is that horses and riding aren’t what you should be involved with if instant results are your thing, so it was nice to learn some key skills I was missing which quickly improved my efficacy in the saddle.
I’m glad I decided to do an intensive course, as it suited my current situation of lacking transport and a local instructor (and horses!) who I think has the right skills to push me. It was my first real experience of learning from a horse and rider biomechanics approach, and that was an element which I really enjoyed and hope to do more of in the future. I’m disappointed that I won’t have access to regular lessons of a high quality at any time in the near future, and the summer will be spent focusing on other people and horses rather than myself, but it was nice to have a taste of what’s out there, and a glimpse of what I might achieve.