I’ve never been a greatly talented rider and had to work hard to develop my own skills. To this day I learn best by feel because this is how I learnt in my early days when nobody who taught me knew how to explain what to do to improve for example your seat in sitting trot or canter.
At 14 I saw a local instructor who was cantering his horse in the arena and I remember being amazed that he did not bounce an inch. I was determined to be able to do so too so would go in a field with a horse and would canter forever for weeks on end until I could get that absolute feeling of being connected to the saddle. I dread to think back now what these poor horses had to go through with me but to this day, to learn something I like to be described how it feels so I can seek that feel.
I also watched plenty of videos, shows, other instructors and can appreciate the educational help this provides.
Whatever way you learn best, you can significantly upgrade your skills via visual feedback. This 3 part series will hopefully help you get the most out of one the least expensive, fabulous training aid out there: video analysis.
HOW TO FILM & WITH WHAT for USEFUL FEEDBACK?
How you film is way more important than how long the video is. One minute of good footage is worth more in feedback terms than fifteen minutes of a bad one. Some of the points below might be obvious for some but hopefully helpful to others:
- Keep horse and rider in the centre of the screen whether you zoom in or film from distance
- Try to keep camera straight, angled footage can distort the image enough for you to miss important details
- During filming try not to walk about too much so your footage isn’t jumpy
- If a rider is riding on a circle around you, move slowly with a speed that allows you to keep pointing the camera at the middle of the horse (saddle/rider). If you move faster so that the head and neck or hindquarters are your primary aim, you might visually distort rider’s position and the footage will be less helpful than it could be otherwise. If you have a head camera like one of these: Head Cam, give it to your video person and get them to wear it as they watch you!
- If you film with a phone or other device which has no zoom try to ask your camera person to always stand no more than 10-15m away from you. Help them by working around them on both reins on a large circle, riding pass them, away from them (so you can see your seat from the back).
- When filming without a helper, be resourceful. You can get a small, multi-purpose tripod like the one I am using.
- It allows you to attach your camera to pretty much anything and angle it so it points in the direction of a space in which you ride. Footage from a distance is not helpful when filming for technique feedback but is very useful for other reasons. Think of your videos as of Skills Videos & Training/Competition Videos.
- Skills videos are there for you to assess finer details in your riding, your technique, the “why” something isn’t working. They are invaluable for correcting your seat, rein usage, leg usage, body asymmetries, weight distribution etc
- Training videos can be used for assessing how your schooling plan went, how you use arena for warm up, whether you school on left and right rein as needed by your horse (or spend more time on “comfortable” rein), how often do you ride transitions, do you let your horse stretch and rest periodically etc etc The “training videos” don’t need to be as clear as Skills Videos but they should let you see most of your arena and assess how you “work” in your schooling sessions.
- Same goes for competition videos – you can of course take some Skills Videos during your shows to analyse how stress or pressure affects your technique but generally, competition videos need to show your “ring craft”, excessive zooming is not needed, if you jump you want to see your approaches well, you want to be able to assess how you rode a corner leading to your jump, how you rode in combinations, whether you prepared your horse’s canter coming out of the corner, what were your lines to each jump etc Your horses canter quality is important so video should show entire horse. Dressage riders might benefit most from “judge’s view” footage of their tests. You can then watch it back with your score sheet and figure out what the judges saw with what you see…
- If you only have a head cam but no helpful head to film/watch you, you can fasten it to an old hat, drag a jump stand into a corner of your arena, hang the hat on top of it and let it grab as much of you as possible as you school.
The head camz are generally seen with XC riders or jumpers providing an exciting head view but in my little quest to find out how they can be utilised for riders on Aspire’s virtual coaching programme I ended up having an interesting chat on Twitter with a Photographer who uses a Head Cam. I asked him if he thought the device could be useful if used by riders filming each other on the flat, jumping, XC. He sent me the below footage with a note:
I will get back to these cameras again in next parts of this blog series because I would like to share with you another interesting area of using them.
- Lunging videos can be of great help for you too to analyse your horse’s way of going without you on it. It would be good to have a footage from the outside of your circle as it helps you assess the overall balance of your horse better. You can, for example, see how he uses his hind legs on each rein and how and to what extent is he leaning onto his dominant shoulder.
- It is best to lunge without gadgets for this purpose as you will see how the horse carries himself/herself without being mechanically put into a frame. All issues will also be magnified without any contraptions and help you define areas to work on.
- I personally take my footage of clients for analysis both with my Panasonic camcorder (which I love!) and an old iPhone. The iPhone is handy for a quick footage, especially when I work with riders off-horse to illustrate an issue with their posture, asymmetry or weight distribution. I also use it when lunging for seat development to help riders by providing them with a quick visual feedback. The Panasonic camcorder is the SDR S-50 and I bought it on Amazon for £230 about three years ago. It’s everything I need from a camcorder, the fabulous zoom lets me see all the little issues in the rider’s seat to the smallest compensation patterns so I can’t recommend it enough. It is sturdy enough to deal with my somewhat hardcore handling, it deals with dust well (I used it a lot to video surface level footage when learning to analyse hoof landing and it still works!) and it coped with some in-the-rain filming too 🙂
- You can also employ your iPad/tablet if you have one and don’t have a budget for additional devices. Rest it somewhere safe and let it do the job. Important thing is not to become too worried whether you are “in the view” or not as this can spoil your otherwise pleasant session. Have a good look at your arena before you start, pick some easy to spot points that you can orient yourself to as you ride and then set your filming device so those points are well visible in corners of your screen. Press record and ride as usual but entering your “filming area” often in all paces, riding transitions in front of the camera (side on and head on) etc
FOR TECHNIQUE/SKILLS VIDEOS I personally prefer the following footage:
- Transitions: nothing tells me more about rider’s skill and level of the horse than transitions
- Sitting & rising trot
- Circles videoed from outside of the circle
- Inside track work filmed from head on
- Inside track work filmed directly from behind
- Corners filmed from middle of the arena with a zoom so horse and rider fill the screen well
- For jumpers: canter on a 20m circle over 4 poles each placed so they mark quarters of the circle
I’ll finish on this as not to bore you with too much material. I hope you found some of this useful but if you have some tips you would like to share please leave a comment! Equally, if you have tried any of the above let me know how it went or what you think 🙂
In Pat 2 I will tell you a little bit more about how I analyse videos, what I look at and how you could do it too to improve your own riding and get the best out of your horse whatever breed or level he/she is.
- Sitting Trot Case Study (plus a Blogger Weekend Challenge!) (aspireequestrian.wordpress.com)
- The magic of a virtual training programme (aspireequestrian.wordpress.com)
- Difference Two Steps can Make…The Magic of 2 seconds in Photos and a Video. (aspireequestrian.wordpress.com)
- COMING SOON…GRASSROOTS and AMATEUR RIDERS VIDEO GUIDE TO QUALITY RIDING EDUCATION (aspireequestrian.wordpress.com)
- So you would love to train with video feedback but have no-one to film you? Introducing: TRAINING FRIENDS (aspireequestrian.wordpress.com)