Training with Belinda

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Discouragement and the Visual Learner

by Leueen Willoughby  |



“Fatigue, discomfort, discouragement are merely symptoms of effort.” Morgan Freeman


Let me start with the discouragement.  At the last show Biasini was a better performer than I  was. He did everything he was asked to do. The problem was with the person giving him directions. That would be me!  I was just not on my A Game that weekend. We showed at a National ( recognized ) show and had the privilege of  a 5*, Olympic level judge. Cara Whitham has only recently retired from judging the biggest international competitions and she was the judge.  When we got a movement right we got a good score but if there was a mistake or sloppiness we got a very low score. Rightly so.

After the show I was feeling discouraged and annoyed with myself.  At the start of my first lesson the following week I told Belinda how I was feeling. She told me to take a look at videos from the previous summer and then come and tell her what I thought.  I did that.  Well…..   as soon as I looked at those videos and then looked at the video from the most recent show I could see that although I may not have  been riding my best there was considerable and visible improvement.  So…onwards!

At the next lesson Belinda told me that what was needed to get more expression from Biasini  was more lower leg support and more effective use of my lower leg. How was I going to get that?

Ride with no stirrups for the next six weeks.  I would not have to do the entire lesson or my own rides entirely without stirrups but by the end of the six weeks Belinda told me I would be comfortably able to do a full  30 minutes.  And…my lower leg would be much stronger and more effective!


Riding without stirrups is somehow much more work than riding with stirrups  so fatigue can set in earlier. Belinda is aware of this and so our lessons were not too long and very much to the  point.

Week one we started with all the canter work without stirrups and for the trot work she would tie my stirrup irons to the girth. This kept my lower leg on Biasini’s side in the correct position. Here is a video from week one of some canter work. Belinda asked me to ride shoulder fore and then change to travers (haunches in).  You can see on this video that I did not make a good start ,so I circled and started again and got it better.

Week two we did the trot work without stirrups and took them back for the canter work.

Week three, is the week I am in now.  We did bothcanter and trot without stirrups for a total of about 15+ minutes.  I have to be honest there was no serious “discomfort ” involved.


Belinda had asked me to bring my phone with me to our lessons so she could video me. She would take short video clips and then I would take a quick break to look.   If there was something that was not working well I could see it right away. Then back to work.  9 times out of 10 I would correct the problem almost immediately. Belinda had this to say:

“I could have talked for another five minutes and you still might not have got it. But  I show you  the video and in two seconds you’ve got it.”

And that, Dear Readers, is the living proof of a visual learner.  I cannot explain to you why it works. It is not an intellectual process. I do not look at the  video and analyze what I need to do. I look. I see what is wrong. I pick Biasini up again and it goes right. It really is not about “thinking” at all.

Some neurologist or psychologist might be able to tell  me why it works but really that does not matter. It works!

Here is a video of some of the trot work we did today ( Tuesday July 18 2017)

Photo credit: Connie Gee

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