By Dr Ashleigh Hibberd.
I am a rider in my early 60’s whose lifelong passion is dressage. The classical concept that schooling and training a horse in dressage is “to increase the capability and appearance of the horse and to prolong its ability to work” (1) has always appealed to me. As a veterinarian I am attracted to training and riding methods that preserve and promote a horse’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Early last year I came to a hurdle in our progress which, despite help from my experienced coach, I couldn’t get past.
After completing several different courses of physical therapies, it was only 8 months ago that I had my first session with Helen Fletcher of Equipoise Pilates. What difference it has made! Right from the start my regular coach noticed and commented on how much better my horse was going.
Helen has an excellent eye for biomechanics and a wealth of experience in teaching Pilates, so it is easy for her to individualise and adapt exercises for me to achieve the improvements I so desire. As lifelong rider herself, she is able to interpret and address the riding problems I describe to her.
I have notice I feel more secure in the saddle and am able to respond to directions from my coach to make changes in my position, whether that be leg, hand, pelvic or upper body positioning. Previously, I frequently could not physically make the adjustments needed. My left leg and right arm used to have their own agenda, but are now integrated into the rest of my body and I am able to do what I want to do. My new security in the saddle is also welcome in unexpected situations – more safety is definately an added bonus as one ages!
As fruitful as the studio sessions are, I think the ridden Pilates sessions (Posture and Position Clinics) are indispensable for improving riding. They add another dimension to the studio sessions. Helen’s assessment of my individual rider biomechanics and of my areas that need to be addressed to effect maximum change make these sessions like a super boost to my progress.
It is ultimately my horse’s positive demeanour and continued improvement that assure me that we are on the right track. His feedback is direct and really is my prime motivator to continue practising.
The concept of improving the rider to improve the horse is of course a very familiar one, and there are many people who have helped me on my way. However, training with Equipoise Pilates has added a new depths of understanding as to how my body works at any one moment, and enables me to effect incremental changes needed to continue to improve my riding, the life of my horse, and to improve the quality of my life off the horse.
- Dressage Riding by Richard L Waetjen