This year I have decided to get fit - I mean really fit, I used to be fit, weight training and aerobic classes two hours per evening, six evenings a week for a number of years became an obsession but I felt amazing.
Then work and life got in the way and so I had a break which turned out to be a ten year break, however during that break I actually had a number of accidents, from whip lash and neck compression to snapping my coccyx off, to walking around for a week on a spiral fracture which ended up in two metal plates and ten screws in my ankle after surgeons had to re-break and re-align it, along with other 'little' things like slipped discs and torn muscles. Surprisingly (not) this all began to take its toll physically but more importantly mentally. Its really easy to say I don't want to do anything because I can’t, it hurts, aches, I’m tired, I’m too old or 'I ride horses, I am fit'! etc etc!!
So I have decided to do something really different to get fit again, Our horses are getting fitter and more supple and now I need to too, so I have decided to take up trapeze - yes you heard right and no I have not lost my mind and gone mad. Why on earth does a 44 year old woman suddenly take up trapeze I hear you cry??
Well, a few reasons - I have always admired people who do extreme or unusual sports, ones that are 'different, take you out of your comfort zone and are slightly on the edge. I have always wanted to try something completely different and lastly I needed a fitness routing which maintains my interest and is going to deliver results fast, aerobics I have done and yoga classes, well - I fall asleep in!
Strangely though trapeze has an awful lot in common with riding, again I haven't gone mad, but you do have to have a little imagination so see the similarities.
If we look at what is needed for riding - focus, feel, timing and balance, self control, self carriage, core strength, trust and belief.
And if we look at trapeze - focus, feel, timing and balance, self control (you can’t just flail around, you fall off doing that!) Core strength ( oh yes! ) trust and belief - trust yourself and believe that you can be in balance, your body is stronger than you think and that a little piece of inch thick bar tied to two ropes suspended from the ceiling is going to support you when you’re hanging up side down attached only by your foot.
Yes a few people have already told me I am mad and my mother is in despair, but it is great fun, it also maintains my focus and interest - You can’t switch off otherwise you fall off! ) It was however because I was noticing things going wrong in me and the horses all had similar habits to each other in their bodies that I needed to do something radical!
I noticed I had a VERY dominant left side ( why are all my horses bent left??) Why have I begun to learn forward and round my shoulders when I walk and ride? When I stand, I either stand sway backed or I am stood with all my weight on my left foot and I have constant back and neck ache and a strange feeling of heaviness. Odd things which I had noticed before but never thought much of it were now starting to become everyday issues and it was beginning to become a cyclical habit which had an impact on the horses, I walked wonky, I was beginning to ride wonky, I did everything left side first, I ached, I hurt and I was tired, I’d go to bed, I’d wake up and repeat the whole cycle again. I was also visiting an osteopath far too often.
Google is awesome; I found a circus school not far from me, and booked onto a 6 week trapeze course, the first week was a huge eye opener, this was not about arm or leg strength, this was purely about your core, because you’re suspended in the air, you can’t cheat either - use your core or flop around like a fish out of water!! The day afterwards I knew I had a core! It was screaming, in-fact my core felt like it had been kicked by a mule. Was I tired ?- yes, was I weak? - hell yes, could i move properly the day after? nope, and scarily my centre of balance was no where near where I thought it was and when the instructor put me in balance, I felt unsafe, like I was going to fall! I questioned whether I should go back the following week and had to give myself a big mental kicking.
I am just over half way through the course now, and I’m pleased to say its one of the best things I have ever done, I have already noticed some pretty dramatic changes both in myself and the horses.
It is an ongoing process but firstly the one-sidedness feeling is way less - I am not standing so much with my weight on one leg nor am I standing as sway backed, I have even noticed the wear pattern on my shoes is different.
I feel lighter and my body feels more supported through a stronger core therefore my hips, legs shoulders and arms don't feel so overworked.
I am more aware of my balance and where my centre of balance is, therefore I am moving differently, I am not leading with my shoulders first and so I feel freer in my movement.
Balance feels good! Yes it was nerve wracking at first, I didn't feel safe and my muscles hurt, but once I was able to find true balance myself without the aid of an instructor, the feeling was amazing. I felt grounded, I felt symmetrical, I felt strong yet light - really light like I didn't weigh an ounce, moving into another posture was easy and it felt secure.
Becoming aware of how your own body moves, finding balance and lightness feels little like finding the holy grail, Once you stop groaning and your muscles start functioning properly again, you feel like you want to do more, and so new and better habits are set in motion. Our balance both physical and mental has a massive daily impact on how our horses move and behaves.
I’m taking notes over the next few weeks of how each horse moves as I change myself. Its easy to blame the horse all the time, yet if we are operating out of balance, how can the horse possibly be in balance? Which brings with it a whole new set of questions about riding, training horses and horse behaviour. My horsemanship has taken a massive new learning curve due to something that's not at all connected to riding.
Stay tuned, I will be blogging from time to time about how the horses develop as my balance changes and there’s already been some pretty drastic changes in them.