Sunday, 2 October 2016

Vaulting homework

Lots has been going on the vaulting segment of my life...
Cuddly Boris
Vaulting competitions are still a bit of a mystery to me, but I've realised recently how much I've picked up since my first competition in April. At the beginning of September, we had another BEV (British Equestrian Vaulting) competition in Cambridge. In April the whole thing had felt very unfamiliar, but this time I was better prepared: I knew what to do with my hair; I knew what to wear; I knew that the horses had to be trotted in front of the judge before you were allowed to vault (initially I was worried that the trotting horse meant I had to trot or canter!); I knew the basic etiquette of a vaulting competition; I had a far better idea of what to look out for when people vaulted; and I knew roughly how much warm-up to do! In between the two Cambridge competitions I had done a display at the Open Day at the Magpie Centre RDA in Norfolk and I had done the barrel competition at Hartpury. I had a routine with a matching costume and I vaguely knew what I was doing! I was even ready to go with my hair in a bun having bought one of those donut things, and having discovered that my mum was better than even she expected to be at sorting out my hair for me.
Fancy hair! For maybe the third or fourth time in my life...
The downside of the September Cambridge competition was that I was the only Para entry. Obviously this is good in that you get to win the class, but you also come bottom and it's far nicer to win when you know it wasn't a given! Even so, it was nice to give my routine a run, since although I knew it pretty well, I hadn't done it in competition before.
"OK Lizzie, I'll put my head down too to match you, but I think I should keep my legs on the ground."

It was the same music/costume as Hartpury, but a slightly adapted routine to make up for the fact that I'm not quite as good on the horse as the barrel! The only major problem was that they played the wrong music, which made the whole routine a bit random. It was a useful lesson to learn in a low-key event where it didn't really matter: never give the person in charge of the music the opportunity to play the wrong thing if you can possibly avoid it!
Desperately ad libbing in the bit that should have had demonstrative arm moves to the lyrics!
Anyway, after Cambridge there were a few weeks to get ready for the English Championships. I was already getting quite a bit of video done to go and give a talk about the RDA, and this helped me to learn what I needed to do differently. Every day, I spent a good bit of time watching the videos and looking out for the tiniest details. I noticed things like my left arm being rubbish and just drifting around, some of the transitions being far from seamless, a bit of hanging around waiting for the music at a few moments, and needing to keep my *&%$^* leg straight in the arabesque - something which I keep thinking I'm doing but keep failing to do! As a result of this, I spent a long time in front of a mirror (never much fun) with my music on loop, working out what my arms should be doing and how to make the transitions smoother, and attempting to learn what it feels like to have a straight leg (answer: to me, basically the same as a bent one). Then, to make it even less fun than the mirror, I did the same with my webcam going and filmed it...argh!
This is one of the ones that's easier with a horse to lean on! I couldn't get my foot up high enough because I kept falling over even with a door frame to lean on...
Stage 2 was to keep working on flexibility and strength. I quite like stretching. It takes a fair bit of stretch for me to feel anything - usually when I'm stretching it's a lack of muscle power that prevents me from getting into too much of a stretch, but when I can force myself into it somehow I really enjoy the sensation of feeling my muscles properly!
I've also had to do quite a lot of physio work on my shoulder as I injured it whilst doing a forward roll (DELIBERATELY!) off Boris. Basically my dodgy left hand was unable to let go so it got stuck in the handle on the roller as my feet landed on the ground, which gave the shoulder a good yank. This was followed immediately by Boris walking on a few steps whilst my legs failed to keep up, which gave the shoulder another good yank! The two yanks together managed to tear the ligament in my acromioclavicular (AC) joint. No, I hadn't heard of it before either. The upshot is that I now have a left shoulder which is dodgy in more than one place and some extra muscle tears in the pecs. It's a bit of a bummer but it's not as painful as it was at first, and since the arm was weak anyway it hasn't made much difference to my strength or mobility. The only move that I find really difficult (in vaulting anyway!) is the roll off, so I've just been sliding off for now to try and save the shoulder for competition.
It's not an injury without a stupid face photo.
Two other elements of Operation Vault Queen have been educational: the first is based jointly upon my new book, Equestrian Vaulting, and the various documents published online by the FEI (international equestrian federation) and BEV. These have all given me lots of ideas on how vaulting movements should be performed, and how you can make your freestyle routine get better marks. One of the things I read is that I can get a better mark for having a greater variety of movements, which boils down in my case to needing to include that roll off in competition, as it's the only roll move I have in the routine. I'd better hope that shoulder gets better properly soon!
This book even advises you on running your own competition, for when I want to inflict that misery on the world.
The second educational element has been the notes I have made from these documents (yes, I'm a nerd), from our coached sessions, and from my observations made by going through videos in a painstaking and somewhat demoralising frame-by-frame process. I managed to boil it all down to just a few things which I then wrote out as a cheat sheet of Top Things To Remember Or Not Screw Up. These are good as a final reminder before going into the ring!
Final thing: visualisation. This is a big topic so I'm going to cover it in a separate post another time!

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