VAL SMYTH
I provide coaching at all levels “tailored to your needs”
at a venue to suit you or at my base Kelsall Hill Equestrian Centre, Cheshire.

            I am a Grand Prix Dressage rider and previously up to 4* Event rider. 
I am a List 2 British Dressage Judge, in the process of upgrading to List 1 (Grand Prix).
I am also in the 2nd year of studying for the UKCC Level 4 coaching qualification. 
      
BHSII, UKCC Level 3, Pony Club A Test. 
 BSc (Hons), MA and PG Dip Ed.

Proprioception :

Proprioception is a system within our bodies that senses movement, balance, coordination and dexterity.  This process enables us to know where our limbs are in space and what they are doing without having to look ...


The proprioceptive system is made up of nerve endings called the proprioceptors that are located in your muscle joints and ligaments.  The nerve endings sense position, tension and stretch, and pass this information to the brain where it is processed.  The brain then responds by sending signals to your muscles to tell them to contract or relax to achieve the desired effect.  Standing on one leg is a good example of this.  This system happens subconsciously most of the time.


Proprioceptors develop greater sensitivity through regular use and are therefore an essential element behind sophisticated balance, movement and coordination.


It is the system that backs up the statement ”practice makes perfect”


Proprioception is important in everyday movements but especially so in complicated sporting movements, where precise coordination is essential.


Horse riding places unusually steep demands on the proprioceptive system, as riders we have to contract muscles whilst simultaneously keeping them relaxed.  We have to isolate muscles in ways they may not usually be used, tensing some and relaxing others.  We have to do this in a precise and gentle way, all whilst sat on something that is moving underneath us.


Poor proprioception can cause difficulty with “motor planning”: figuring out what each part of our body needs to do in order to move in a certain way, difficulty executing those planned movements, difficulty “grading movement”: knowing how much pressure to apply, and difficulty with “postural stability”: the ability to hold and maintain ones postural muscles and respond appropriately during movement.  All of these are key when riding.


Proprioception can be reduced either due to injury or the fact that it has never been trained in a certain way, or indeed that it has been trained in a different way.


Muscles memorise particular movements, especially when carried out over a prolonged period of time or repeated often.  These movements become habitual and it is very difficult to change them.


The good news - you can improve your riding, by improving your proprioceptive power.  These improvements require some attention, but they will reward you with a more precise aid/a better seat.  And a nice side effect, your horses proprioception also develops and your ability to communicate with him/her improves.


Good proprioception helps us overcome the largest obstacle to training success : the horse understanding what you want him/her to do.  Very often we assume horses are refusing to do what we want/not trying, when actually the problem is they don’t know what we want.


Good proprioception makes our requests clear.



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