Is it for me?
Despite growing numbers of online shows, virtual training options and overwhelming choice of phones with in-built camcorders, video analysis is still hugely underused and undervalued training tool among grassroots riders.
Many think it’s something “for advanced riders” but its effectiveness really has nothing to do with how skilful you are. I’ve used video feedback with great results from Aspire Start Programme which is for complete beginners who perhaps never even sat on a horse before to Performance Programme and our BHS Instructor’s Training Programme.
So let’s assume you are an aspiring amateur rider…
You might compete every weekend or once a year. Maybe you don’t compete at all. You might have your own horse or two or you might be riding in a riding school. You might be counting on qualifying for regional championships or you might just be mastering your rising trot. What you have in common with all aspiring riders is your drive to improve your own skills and those of your horse.
That’s where video analysis is one of your best training buddy…
Let’s see what you think…
- One of the best things about well done visual feedback is that it teaches you constructive self-reflection.
All riders on Aspire Virtual Coaching programme receive an After Training Reflection Notes to fill in. You can do similar thing for yourself – after watching your video jot a few notes on what you see, what could you do better next time, why?, what do you think you can work on by yourself, what you might need an outside help with, how will you ride a particular movement next time, what can you tell about your horse’s way of going. If you are watching own lesson, observe if you are able to follow your instructor’s advice, are you doing what they say, if not- why not?
Self-reflection is a powerful learning tool, it can change everything in your riding, including amount of patience you have both for yourself and your horse…
- It trains your eye for movement mechanics of your horse as well as your own.
The more you watch the more you see…but it’s important to know what to look for. You can arrange for a few video analysis sessions with your coach/instructor who can explain where to look and why.
- It makes you acutely aware about how much you can do to improve your horse’s way of going.
When you sit in the saddle you don’t see how the entire body of your horse moves. You might not yet have the feel for correct movement of the horses hind legs or abdominal muscles engagement but you can see what is happening on the video. You can also ask your instructor to tell you what they are looking for, what changes they would like to see. If you can visualise something it is easier to ask for it later.
Think back to a gym lesson at school where you were asked to perform a movement for the very first time: let’s say, a way to receive a ball well whilst playing volleyball. If you can see it done, your muscles react differently to brain commands than if you have no clue what the movement looks like.
- It gives you the power to connect what you felt from the saddle to what you see (which can be two very different things).
If you are watching a footage from your lesson and you hear your trainer say “there, that’s good” you can actually see what they meant, how it looks. Then you can reflect on how it felt.
The latter is also very useful for instructors. If they video their own riding they can build on their coaching skills, it can help them to explain certain concepts to riders with different learning styles.
- It gives you a visual overview of the journey of your improvement (or lack of it!)
Even short clips are useful. They can increase your motivation, give you huge self-satisfaction and feel that you getting closer to your goals. If there is no improvement you are after then the videos can give you clues as to why this might be the case. You can show them to your instructor and ask what they think. It might be that you need to amend your goals, your expectations or simply be asked in a different way.
- It can create a great training atmosphere at any yard, big or small – riders can film each other in between lessons or during training sessions and the whole learning experience magnifies.
What’s with the slow motion?
The really cool analysis happens when you run your video in slow motion or do many random pauses. For example, these are still frames from a couple of Aspire riders’ training analysis:
Discussing things to improve or work on off a horse gives you the riding time to focus on feeling and doing rather than thinking and analysing. You can also look at the photos/frames/videos before and after ridden training in your own time.
If you are really interested in how slow motion can help you learn, I personally recommend booking a session with Centaur Biomechanics. I organised training session with them for Aspire Equestrian riders in December 2011, it has been a fun and educational day and I will definitely organise it again.
Here are snippets into how the 300 frames per second -hope I get it right – (invisible to human eye) video footage looks like:
Fascinating isn’t it? All the riders found it extremely useful & worth every penny. I personally think the technical video analysis such as this one is a great addition to the less sophisticated, day-to-day method of filming with phone cameras or small camcorders. The simple devices are more than enough for regular visual feedback so don’t think you need a thousands pounds worth equipment to benefit from the experience.
If we sparked your interest and you would like any specific advice on how to make video analysis worthwhile don’t hesitate to leave a comment or contact me directly at aspire at outlook dot com.
If you are up for a challenge and would like to try Aspire Virtual Coaching Club email me for details. First 5 brave riders who email me wanting to have a go will receive 1 week free of Aspire virtual coaching experience with no obligations to carry on!
To finish off, have a look at this fabulous footage taken by Centaur Biomechanics at Badminton Horse Trials 2013:
*Note: I was not in any way asked to promote Centaur Biomechanics. All opinions are my own and of riders taking part in the day.