I had an interesting conversation with a student last week after a lesson. Her assessment and my assessment of her riding that day were totally different, and it got me thinking.
We were working on relaxing her hips and legs so that she could better follow the motion of the horse. We practiced at the walk and the trot, and then when she cantered, she sat deeply in the saddle and didn't bounce. Normally she has a hard time following the motion of the canter, which results in some bouncing between her seat and the saddle, so this was a big improvement. When she transitioned down from the canter and we talked about it, we both agreed that it might very well have been the best that she had ever ridden the canter. That's why I was so surprised when she said later at the end of the lesson, "I just don't know why my riding is getting worse."
I was confused, so I asked her what she meant. She said that her body keeps stiffening up, so much more than it used to. I completely disagreed. I told her that I think what's happening is that she's NOTICING her body stiffening more than she used to, which is actually GREAT and is the first step on the road to fixing it. I reminded her that she had felt the difference in her canter that day: How she had been able to relax and follow the movement so much better.
She keeps noticing her body stiffening, so she feels like she isn't riding well. The thing is, every time she notices it, she's able to try to relax and fix it. And then she rides better as a result. Watching her ride, I think she looks like she's doing better than ever. If we don't notice our problems, we can't fix them. Unfortunately, when we start noticing them, they drive us crazy and we get so mad at ourselves for doing the thing we shouldn't be doing, that we wind up feeling like we're riding terribly.
I see this happen so often in my teaching. A student will have some sort of position issue that we've been working on for a while, maybe for example, a rider needs to put their heels down. We'll have been working on it for a while, and then there will finally be a lesson where they're doing it so well that I finally don't have to say "heels down". At some point during the lesson, the student brings it up, frustrated. "Ugh! My heels keep coming up!". From my perspective, they've fixed the problem. From their perspective, it's worse than ever. What's really going on is that they're finally NOTICING and feeling their body's natural tendency, and every time they feel it they fix it. Riders who appear to have perfect position didn't just get lucky and get born with perfect position. They appear to have perfect position because they know their body's natural asymmetries and their bad habits and they're constantly catching themselves and self-correcting. If you start to feel yourself doing the bad habits your instructor gets after you for, don't be frustrated... Celebrate! This means you're on the right track to fixing them. For some habits, there may not ever be a time when you don't have to keep checking and correcting yourself. That doesn't mean you're failing. Quite the opposite! That's exactly how you ride with good position: Notice your habits and then adjust accordingly... And then three strides later, notice that your body has started doing the thing again, and adjust accordingly. Keep at it, and next time, you just might get lucky and get four or five strides before you have to fix it again!
And yes, this process pairs WONDERFULLY with Hypno-Ride! Once you notice one of your riding "bad habits" and feel what it feels like to correct it and ride in a better way, you can take that feeling into a Hypno-Ride visualization session and visualize yourself riding in that way. Practicing riding correctly in your unconscious mind during a hypnotherapy session really does help your body to manifest those feelings in your next real-world riding session. Confidence Building for the Equestrian is a perfect fit for this process.