At the end of 2012 I was fortunate enough to go to an event honouring some of the TeamGB heroes of London 2012. They all gave inspirational speeches about their journey's, the ups and downs along the way which had taken them to the Olympics and their successes they'd had there. For me it was Alan Campbell's speech which stood out. He went on to show us what was stitched in to the lining of the collar of his jacket, 'Better Never Stops' it said. It was a phrase that had come to mean an awful lot to the team. Its something I've remembered and kept with me since then.
Fast forward to 2014 and I'm enjoying my riding. I have no plans as to where I want to take my riding but I'd like to see what I'm really capable of. When my riding club set up pilates sessions earlier this year I weighed it up as to whether I would cope with them and whether it would make my M.E. any worse. I'd last tried it in 2010 and gave up after 3 sessions as it was affecting me badly. I've heard that pilates has a number of benefits, including improving your core stability, but I'd not seen the benefits in my own riding ... Not until now that is.
I've now done 7 sessions (an hour every week). I've found muscles that I didn't know I had and after the session it takes around 3 days (depending on what the routines have focused on) for things to stop aching. Sometimes if I can't do a particular move and there's been the odd few there's no pressure to try and do it so I've left it out and rejoined when I can do the next one. Sensibly pilates and riding are far enough apart that I've got recovery time between them which gives my M.E. relief. In short its all working out. Come my riding lesson I'm now sitting up a lot straighter, can put my ankles right down in the stirrups, I've stopped tipping forward and have more energy available to the point I'm doing the majority of the lesson in trot.
Today's lesson was just the icing on the cake. My RI in the middle of it introduced something brand new to me. Standing up in the stirrups whilst trotting. Her RI had introduced it to her and said it helped strengthen your legs. I tried it in walk first and admittedly wobbled and fell back in the saddle. However, I cracked it and eventually managed to walk the entire length of one long side of the school. I felt so proud of myself. Next step was to try and do 2 strides stood up and 2 strides sat down in trot. Once I got the hang of that we moved to 3 of each and that's all my RI had wanted. I felt I was getting the hang of it and managed to sneak a series of 4 of each in down one long side. My RI hadn't asked for it, but I'd felt happy and well enough to do it. Awesome.
Rocco was being his usual self and the presence of a new doorway in the school between B and R made him have a little wobble as we'd been warming up. He started to come in off track and I just sent him back round in a 10 metre circle. I changed the rein and came back down in the opposite direction and he did the same again. My RI reminded me about my tools, leg yields and shoulder in.
So whilst I was working without stirrups I put in some sitting trot with leg yields on both sides of the school. The without stirrups work was some of the best yet and I managed to get quite a few laps in sitting trot in. Two three loop serpentines. One in sitting trot and 2x 10 metre circles at L and I. We were on a mission. I managed a couple of half voltes with counter flexion as well. Two 20 metre circles.
By the end of the lesson I didn't need anything to take Rocco between F and M. The shoulder in and leg yielding I'd been using had worked a treat. He was happily going straight down the line. My work was done and I'd been successful in teaching him not to be scared of that brand new door.
Come the end of the lesson I was beaming. My RI was pleased for me as well. 7 weeks on and my core position has noticeably improved. We talked about things and we both reminisced that in summer 2012 I'd have squealed and been at X if that door had been there as I'd have let Rocco flee the scene. 18 months on and then some, I was sternly telling him to 'get on' with it, not be a big girl and praising him when he was doing right as we went past it. Its been a long time coming but I really feel like my riding is now coming on. My RI even mentioned ... canter. Cantering on Rocco would be a dream come true. Rocco and I are like chalk and cheese, but together its a partnership which is really starting to work very well.
Saying good bye each week to Rocco is getting harder. Today he just looked at me and yawned, I think he needed a nap after our half hour lesson. For me no such luck. Dressage writing in the afternoon, but I know I've worked hard in our lesson today. I can feel it. Its not too bad though and I'm coping with it, and that's the main thing. I can't wait for the next lesson and what happens next.