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Why is it so hard to change?

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  • Why is it so hard to change?

    I had a lesson last night (which went well...introducing new concepts to the relatively green, but not overly young horse) and I started to feel bad for my poor, long-suffering trainer. She has to continually tell me certain things over and over again - look up, sit back in the saddle, shoulders back.

    I work hard at my riding and I take her instruction to heart. I really do! I tell myself to do these things when she's not around, and my husband will even get on my case about it on her behalf. I am truly dedicated to getting better! So why then is it so hard to just LOOK UP?!? Putting my shoulders back, and some of the sitting back in the saddle is 25 years of muscle memory that has to be overcome, but it just feels like I should be able to make this a mind-over-matter issue. Yet I continue to struggle with it. I've made some progress in the past year for sure, but this isn't a strength issue for me, nor is it physically HARD to look up or put my shoulders back.

    Any suggestions for overcoming the "easy" problems in yourself?
    Here Be Dragons: My blog about venturing beyond the lower levels as a dressage amateur.

  • #2
    I still drop my head as a result of having no ground person for a long long time. I have to force myself to bring my neck up and back, and as soon as I start concentrating on other things it's gone again. It is really really difficult to change the habits of a lifetime. Having said that, it sounds like you might be being too hard on yourself. If you turn something like this into a serious task you tend to introduce more tension and frustration. I'd suggest focusing on visualization and maybe do some yoga in between to give you a new sense of balance and posture.
    Proud COTH lurker since 2001.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by eponacelt View Post
      I started to feel bad for my poor, long-suffering trainer. She has to continually tell me certain things over and over again - look up, sit back in the saddle, shoulders back.
      <snip>
      and some of the sitting back in the saddle is 25 years of muscle memory that has to be overcome, but it just feels like I should be able to make this a mind-over-matter issue.
      25 years of habit is quite a lot to overcome and you're doing yourself a disservice by minimizing the progress you've made. Or, if you were ME that's what would be happening

      Your long-suffering trainer probably appreciates your commitment to improvement and your sympathy for her, but if she's like my trainer, she'll remind you that's why she's got a job.

      Too many of us have a misguided idea that we can mind-over-matter anything. It takes a LOT of practice to develop that skill. Daily practice. For many years.

      Consider that you might mind-over-matter your worry. How much more mind would you have available for body control if it wasn't distracted by your frustration? In fact, according to some methodologies, (rational-emotive behavioral therapy), you are actually clinging to the old by worrying so much about it.

      How's that for Too Much Thinking?

      In short, you're on the right path. Be a little more patient with yourself. In fact, be as patient with yourself as you are with your horse.
      *=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=

      Comment


      • #4
        If part of what you want to fix involves muscle memory - it will take a lot of concentrated relearning.

        I ride weekly with Lendon Gray and then hang and watch the other lessons. Lendon is really interested in TEACHING and how to teach effectively. She once told me that when she was riding that she was a really good student because she couldn't stand to be told the same thing twice.

        Comment


        • #5
          As a new rider to dressage and not having much instruction with riding before that, I have to say that it has helped that my trainer tells me HOW my movements affect my horse. It is amazing that a hip moved or shoulder brought back can completely change my horses stride etc. Personally that makes me learn to correct things much quicker- because I see the results in the horse. Maybe ask your trainer to give more details, if she knows the mechanics.

          Comment


          • #6
            Riding, like any physical art form, takes the ability to use various parts of the body in a separate path but in harmony with the whole. Does that make sense? It's hard to put into words. When I teach I have my students silently start at the top of their head and work their way down through their body to the heels, checking for alignment and postition, throughout the lesson. It becomes something you do almost unconciously as you progress to working more on the horse's position than your own. You also learn that when your postition is good the horse moves better. Don't worry, your instructor knows what you are going through.
            Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"

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            • #7
              I have a similiar issue.... I am a born and bred hunter rider and I have recently attempted learning and competing dressage.

              I constantly want to revert back to my hunt seat position rather than sitting back and deep. And I tend to brace my hip when I sit deep, it is not just comfrotable for me yet.

              My coach taught me a little trick since I had your same problem. Make up a one or three word phrase and keep saying it to yourself while riding.

              Mine was "deep and relaxed".

              Works for me!
              http://dotstreamming.blogspot.com/

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree with much of the above posts. It takes a LONG time to effect a change, especially in an established habit. A couple months ago I attended a Greg Best clinic - I'm sure Greg thought (at least at one point) that I was just ignoring him and intent on my own thing as he sent us over fences, because throughout the clinic I kept doing the exact. same. thing(s) wrong (arg! ). In reality, I was trying REALLY HARD to do as he said, but just wasn't sure exactly how to effect the change I wanted, and I was struggling against habits I had inadvertently formed. By the finish of the clinic I FINALLY got it all together but taking that all home now, I still make mistakes and revert back to the old ways at times! You can't stress about it, you just have to relax and sink into the flow. There is a lot to remember and focus on when you're riding, so sometimes something slips as you focus on another area. Then you fix the slipping issue and something else slips because your attention is not on it. As you develop and grow and become better at each of those individual 'slips' or 'areas of issue', you get better at those individual tasks and they become more and more habitual and require less specific individual focus - they become second-nature to the point where you no longer have to think about it, it just happens (correctly). You develop new habits that at first maybe only occur successfully 10 percent of your ride, then maybe 20, then 50, and soon the issue is no longer an issue and you can focus on something else Just keep plugging away at it, and certainly don't diminish the progress you have already made! You are forming new mental and physical (muscle memory) habits and that takes time - just pick at it over time and gradually the bad habits will disappear as a result of your hard work.

                Originally posted by ultimateshowmom View Post
                As a new rider to dressage and not having much instruction with riding before that, I have to say that it has helped that my trainer tells me HOW my movements affect my horse. It is amazing that a hip moved or shoulder brought back can completely change my horses stride etc. Personally that makes me learn to correct things much quicker- because I see the results in the horse. Maybe ask your trainer to give more details, if she knows the mechanics.
                This really helps me. When I am able to see how it affects my horse, I can then see and correct it much easier!
                ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
                ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.

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                • #9
                  Also remember that a good trainer will push you to improve every single ride, so it is possible that you have already made much more progress than you realize! I had a similar feeling of discouragement just recently and brought it up with my trainer, who pointed out that it wasn't that I had not improved, but that I had advanced to the point that she was expecting more of me now. I'd advise you to just keep plugging away... and if you are feeling discouraged, do not hesitate to tell your trainer how you are feeling. He/she may have some very positive things to say that will make you feel much better
                  "Winter's a good time to stay in and cuddle,
                  but put me in summer and I'll be a... happy snowman!!!"

                  Trolls be trollin'! -DH

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    For the looking down, get a horse that is much more likely to spook if you are not watching where you are going. Horse has me so trained now that I get told by instructor to look down once in a while . Sometimes you just can't win.

                    In all seriousness though, imagine yourself riding a 20 meter circle at the walk/trot/canter. Close your eyes if it helps (I have too). Where are your shoulders? Are you tipped too far forward or are you shoulders nicely above your hips? Where are your eyes looking? Do you see your horse's neck/poll or do you see where you are going? Where is your rear? Mentally correct the image. Do this often during the day.

                    It is hard re-training habits. If it were easy, we would all be text book perfect riders.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      OP -

                      Pick up a copy of the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.

                      It explains how the brain forms "skill" physiologically, why "deep practice" is better than rote repetition, how "primal cues" result in "ignition" (passion, and the energy to pursue a goal) and a bunch of other fantastic stuff.

                      You probably don't need more 'riding' lessons so much as you need more understanding of how the human brain functions, how if create's new skills, and improves those skills.
                      "Friend" me !

                      http://www.facebook.com/isabeau.solace

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by dudleyc View Post

                        I ride weekly with Lendon Gray and then hang and watch the other lessons.
                        I am so very, very envious! I love my instructor, and appreciate how patient she has been with me. But I would love to take lessons from someone like Lendon.
                        Sheilah

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                        • #13
                          Part of the problem has to do with muscle memory...yes, old habits die hard. But, a portion of your problem has to do with uncorrected flaws in your balance that your teacher is not addressing. Our bodies seek to keep us from toppling over, so when we are incorrectly balanced, all sorts of errors creep in so that we do not fall.

                          Probably my favorites thoughts come from Sally Swift, and her concept of "hard eyes" and "soft eyes." The hard eyes come when we focus on something close at hand, which means our horses's ears. When concentrate on one, small area, it prevents us from actually feeling what our bodies are doing. The soft eyes refers to looking out to the horizon such that we can see as much of the distance as possible. This then makes it easier to think about what our bodies are doing up there and allows us to begin feeling the incorrectness by thinking about one area of our body at a time.

                          You can best start the process in walk with your legs hanging out of the stirrups. Bend your knees slightly and lift your toes. Feel your shoulder blades. Feel where they are in relationship to your spine. Turn your horse, this way and that, by only using the rotation of your torso. Keep your hands still, and your reins fairly long. Expand your chest. Hold your breathe and see what happens. Feel the shoulders, and feel what the horse does. Breathe out. Don't forget to look at the horizon. This is only the beginning of body awareness. Yoga or pilates also help the awareness process, though if you are good, you can learn it completely on the horse.

                          Tie a roll of toilet paper under your chin to help you remember the "soft eyes."

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            As for looking down it seems to be something all dressage riders do, even top trainers. They seem to be looking at the back of the horses head, poll area, more than actually looking down. I think riders are trying to see inside the horse's brain. This seems to be something we all need to remind ourselves of.
                            Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by angel View Post
                              Tie a roll of toilet paper under your chin to help you remember the "soft eyes."
                              May we have a photo of this so that we can see exactly how do do it?

                              All joking aside, Sally Swift is really wonderful for this type of thing. I think I'll re-read Centered Riding while I'm on vacation next week!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Stick a piece of tape across the back of your neck hairs while looking up. If you try to look down, it yanks on the sensitive, fine hairs on your neck. This bit of tug can remind you to keep your eyes up. It's not a permanent fix, but its an excellent reminder and builds the habit of looking up. Alternatively, you can tie a piece of sewing thread from helmet to the back of your collar. Again, the little tug serves as a reminder, allowing you to build muscle memory and habit while focusing on other things.

                                Both of these methods are safe, as in the case of a fall, trip, or stuble, they will easily break.
                                .

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Big_Grey_hunter View Post
                                  Stick a piece of tape across the back of your neck hairs while looking up. If you try to look down, it yanks on the sensitive, fine hairs on your neck. This bit of tug can remind you to keep your eyes up. It's not a permanent fix, but its an excellent reminder and builds the habit of looking up. Alternatively, you can tie a piece of sewing thread from helmet to the back of your collar. Again, the little tug serves as a reminder, allowing you to build muscle memory and habit while focusing on other things.

                                  Both of these methods are safe, as in the case of a fall, trip, or stuble, they will easily break.
                                  Just for the record, eponacelt, your trainer adores you, and does not consider herself suffering in anyway; moreover, she loves your desire to change, but does not feel that the above-mentioned pulling out of anyone's hair - hers, yours, or otherwise - is a necessary part of training. I'm gonna remember this for students I like less, though! hah!
                                  spriesersporthorse.com | farm on Facebook | me on Facebook | blog

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    it's all in your head

                                    I recently reached a low point in my riding as well. My issue has to do with fear. To make matters worse, my horse suddenly became very spooky, and I got really concerned that my own spookiness would harm him--that I would confirm his fears and end up with an unrideable horse.

                                    Jane Savoie wrote a book called That Winning Feeling. I have had it for a long time, but never cracked it, as I was horseless on and off for a couple of years. Anyway, it is really helping me resolve some of these issues. For me it is fear, but the techniques of meditation, relaxation, and imaging have made a huge difference for me lately. Of course, as a nervous rider, I am always looking down so I can spook first so to counteract that, in my mind, I picture myself going around, head up, soft seat and hands. It takes some concentration, but I try to imagine cantering every stride around the ring.

                                    Also, many years ago, a new age-y friend was helping me overcome my doubts about whether I could go to university. She suggested a Bible-based formula of 70 X 7 (supposedly that is how many times Jesus said to forgive someone or something like that--where's Western when you need him/her?) I wrote down the 10 reasons why I could not go to college. Then she helped me turn these statements into positives, and my assignment was to write each one 70 X 7 times. I got my B.A. from the University of California before I ever finished writing them.

                                    So I am applying this principle to my riding. I wrote down my worst faults, all of which are rooted in my anxiety--gripping, not rewarding my horse, looking down, giving mixed signals--and wrote an affirmation to counteract it. I work on the writing part a little bit every day.

                                    Doing this has made me realize that I know how to ride. Every lesson, every correction, every wise word I've ever read is all in there. I have, at some point and in some ride, applied all this wisdom and ridden well. It just needs to become a part of me in a deeper way.

                                    One of my biggest excuses is that I learned to ride as an adult; I will never be as good as someone who grew up on the back of a horse. So, there was a woman (mid-thirties maybe) at our barn the other day trying out a GP sale horse with her BNT at her side. I watched her ride this horse over a 5' oxer, then later, overheard her telling someone that she learned to ride as an adult. You would never know that to watch her ride, supple and fearless. So this just confirms for me that my limitations are all between my ears.

                                    I am really curious about The Talent Code!
                                    2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

                                    A helmet saved my life.

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by TheHorseProblem View Post
                                      I am really curious about The Talent Code!
                                      It is not long or difficult, but the concepts are fantastic. Get it. Read it. Now !!
                                      "Friend" me !

                                      http://www.facebook.com/isabeau.solace

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        An effective idea

                                        Originally posted by TheHorseProblem View Post
                                        I wrote down the 10 reasons why I could not go to college. Then she helped me turn these statements into positives, and my assignment was to write each one 70 X 7 times. I got my B.A. from the University of California before I ever finished writing them.
                                        This exercise really impressed me. I can apply it to anything I'm working on or frustrated with or just need focus.

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