The Long Road to the Carriage-Driving Trials Championship

As a child, I did a great deal of horse riding and was competing a lot by the age of nineteen, but I suffered from extreme and constant hip and back pain, and was therefore advised to give up riding at that time, which I did; however the pain did not disappear. 


When I was twenty-nine, after many years of physical problems and even difficultly with walking and sleeping because of pain, I was finally diagnosed with multiple epiphyseal displasia and osteochondritis dissecans which, in simple terms, means hereditary malformation of the joints and damage to joints due to lack of blood supply. I was told by various consultants and doctors at the time that nothing could really help these conditions, that I must be careful never to put on too much weight and never to do any strenuous exercise. They said that I would certainly suffer from early-onset osteoarthritis and that I would need hip replacements before I was forty. 


In my early thirties, I was suffering from such severe and debilitating bouts of neck pain, in addition to the continuing hip and lower-back pain, that I again visited a consultant, who told me that I had two severely prolapsed discs in my neck and that I was on the verge of paralysis in fact he said that just tripping while walking could leave me permanently paralysed. He said that immediate surgery Was essential, although he warned me that there was a fifty percent possibility that I might be left paralysed by the operation. I had two Very young children and was extremely worried about who would look after them during the time I would be in hospital, and also during the long months of rehabilitation necessary if the operation was successful. 

So I delayed the operation while I thought about this. 


Meanwhile an osteopath had suggested that I look into the Alexander Technique, although when he heard my consultant’s diagnosis he urged me to take his advice and have an immediate operation. Nevertheless, I found a teacher and started weekly lessons immediately, despite thinking it couldn’t possibly be of much help given the severity of my problems. 


Much to my amazement, I started to feel better and the neck pain began to disappear. The pain in my lower back and hips also began to ease somewhat. To my consultant’s extreme disapproval, I continued to put off the operation on my neck despite him telling me it was not possible for me to recover from severely prolapsed discs without surgery. After a year, he finally agreed that I need not come back to visit him until my next attack of neck pain, which he assured me was bound to occur because I could not really have recovered. I have never been back to see him, nor have I had any operations since except to pin a broken arm. 


After a year of regular lessons, I went on to train as an Alexander teacher and I experienced enormous relief from my almost lifelong pain as a result of learning the Alexander Technique. I had not realised that I held extreme tension throughout my body all the time, and learning how to let go of this tension and how to use my body in a better way produced a remarkable improvement in my physical and also my mental state. It truly was life transforming and I am enormously grateful for everything the Alexander Technique has taught me: I have become infinitely more relaxed and positive as a person and able to cope much more easily with any problems and challenges I encounter. 


Aged forty-nine, I had some X-rays done of my spine and major joints. I was told I had no signs of any prolapsed discs in my neck, nor of arthritis in any of my joints, although there was obvious malformation and signs of wear and tear in my hip joints. I have a very active life now and suffer from remarkably little pain. I still can’t really ride, but I do have horses again, and for the last five years I have hugely enjoyed competing in carriage-driving trials, which involves lots of course-walking and general physical activity. 


I passed my Class 1 Large Goods Vehicle driving test and now I drive an eighteen-tonne truck and trailer. I find my Alexander training enormously useful for my driving technique and posture (both truck and carriage driving) and for any nervousness I might have about competing, and I feel it contributes much to my success I have even been National Champion in horse-driving trials. I think extraordinary things are possible with belief, and the help of the Alexander Technique!