James is back in the UK for the first time this year and last weekend was his Yorkshire course, hosted at our farm in the Dales. As ever, it was another brilliant long weekend, and we all have tons more to work on to improve our riding. After 2 beautiful weeks of sunshine, the weather was a bit iffy with a lot of wind, some rain and chilly temperatures – a bit of a shock for James who came here from California!
The weekend started off with an evening presentation at Scotch Corner hotel, many thanks to the 40 people who squeezed into the small and only room they weren’t refurbishing!
Click on the image to watch the video.
Then James followed the break, talking about why the alignment of the bones is so important to riding and how Tai Chi principles can be applied to riding to make a world of difference to your seat. He explained what comprises your seat (pelvis, lower lumbar spine and femur bones) and how using his techniques helps you gain a truly independent, secure and effective seat. Sorry there’s no clip of this – the camera ran out of battery and the bit we got involved James meandering off on a tangent about typical Tai Chi notions, fish and chips and Calendar Girls! Very entertaining but unfortunately we missed the bits which were relelvant to riding!
The next day started off in the village hall, having a go on Heike’s unicycle! Not quite part of the course, but it was great fun although very difficult! Then we did James’s Tai Chi groundwork. I think everyone felt a bit stiff and creaky after the winter! Once we’d all loosened up a bit, it was over to the farm for a delicous hot lunch and then the riding lessons (for those who could tear themselves away from the fireside!).
This is the format of James’s courses – Tai Chi groundwork in the morning to discover where you’re stiff and imbalanced and looking at how this would affect your horse. For example, if you carry more weight on your right, the chances are your horse falls out on the left rein and in on the right rein. If you have a tight lower back, you will struggle to receive your horse’s movement through your seat and, as a result, your horse will find lifting his back and engaging his hindquarters much harder. Once you’re aware of these spots the next, and much more difficult, step is to try and remedy it. Daily stretches and body awareness exercises help hugely, James has 2 DVDs covering his stretches for riders for the upper and lower body – please contact us for more details.
After a decent stretch, it’s onto the horses and what a difference in your riding when you’ve spent 3 hours doing Tai Chi before you get on!! Not really practical on a regular basis, unfortunately! I had 2 lessons on India, who’s rising 5 and has done little ridden work in the school. She’s incredibly responsive to my tiny changes of weight, so as a result, she’s quite wobbly to ride, very different to older, experienced horses who have learnt to compensate for these rider imbalances! I was working on fine-tuning my seat to help control the weight and then using turning my bellybutton to encourage her to lift her back and engage her hindquarters.
I also had 2 lessons on Toby working on canter and trotting downhill without stirrups. The trotting stretched out my tight right hip a lot, so I had to get off and stretch it out in the middle of the lesson as it was quite painful! What a change, though, when I got all the pieces together, sitting trot downhill was easy and balanced!
Everyone who rode did really well, although Bobby wins the ‘most fantastic mane’ competition! Thanks to everyone who participated, riding and on the ground, thanks to Donna Etherington who took these fantastic photos and a huge thanks to James who gave us a great course yet again!