Thursday, 5 March 2015

Day 64: Not bloggable but edible

Meetings, writing and other not very bloggable things happened today. More on all of them in due course :) I had this amazing chicken burger today, sometimes you just have to celebrate ;)

Until tomorrow!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Day 63: Brand sponsorship for coaches?

I've just had this interesting chat on ‪#‎equestrianhour‬ on Twitter where I asked what people thought of the fact that there wasn't much happening in terms of brands sponsoring freelance coaches/instructors.
I am not necessarily talking about myself as I am just a little fish in a massive pond, however, I know of some wider-reach coaches who don't compete often any more yet see many clients and could potentially be fabulous brand ambassadors.
I should add that I don't mean for coaches to become reps/sales people pushing certain brands onto clients. 
Think about it - a little, smaller scale coach like me visits on average four different livery yards a week, two being rather large. They house a couple of hundred or more horses altogether. Most of these horses have owners who either have lessons with me or at least see me passing by. 
Now, I don't drive (driving coach is great too - think of racing can barely see the car for brands' stickers ;) ) so I also travel regularly on trains to London, Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire. Occasionally I also fly abroad to teach. Again - that's some serious amount of people who see my breeches/jacket/backpack/thermos/boots etc etc on a daily basis. 
The other day I was waiting for a train at a station (in my jods as usual ;) when someone walked up to me and asked me if I rode (clue in clothing). We got chatting and it turned out she had two horses at advanced level and trained with Carl Hester (what are the chances of that by the way??). 
The point is, people who ride notice other people who look remotely horsey whether they want to or not. 
If a rider needs something in terms of clothing for themselves or for the horse, in terms of feeding or management - they will ask me for advice first. If I say, this and that is great, they will buy it 9 out of 10 times. 
Now, let's not forget that's just a little me running my own little coaching programme. If you multiply this to match a situation of a much more accomplished trainer who perhaps doesn't ride or compete that much any more but teaches many riders (who then go out and about) it seems obvious that she/he would potentially be a fabulous "brand sponsorship material"?
Out and about by Pure Essence Photography from one of my clinics in Yorkshire 

If you are an instructor -  have you ever been approached by a brand who wanted visibility via your coaching presence? 
If you are a rider taking lessons, have you ever asked your coach what bit best to use or where they got their boots from or their breeches from? 
There isn't a day someone doesn't ask me what best to buy for this or that, where I got this or that from. If I say buy xyz because I think it would suit them great, they buy it. 
So, as a coach, what are your experiences? Would sponsorship of things like clothing/boots/venue sponsorship so you could run clinics etc etc helpful for you?
Or perhaps, as a rider, you think it isn't a good idea? Perhaps you look up only to competition riders to see what they wear, what their horses wear, what they feed? 
Perhaps you only look up to coaches/riders who actively compete at higher levels?
I am genuinely very curious about it and although of course I would love to be sponsored myself, I am realistic and try to look at the situation with as little bias as possible. 
If I had a product for riders or horses, the right coach would be the first person I would approach to see how they could represent me so it makes me wonder why are most brands so focused on such saturated field as rider sponsorship is? 
Your thoughts would be much appreciated :)
Until tomorrow!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Day 62: Finally fixing newsletters trouble, selfies, admin extravaganza and an advice please...

After a couple of months of trying to solve the issue with my newsletters application, I have finally fixed it! I have managed to send one today but I do have another "issue" with this whole newsletter story.
The content. I have several ideas for it but none that I am currently wild about. As probably many of you, I sign up for various updates from numerous websites but I am yet to read one that makes me think "ohh can't wait for it to arrive"...

So that's when I need your advice...whether you have already seen Aspire's newsletters or not, what would you generally like to see in your horse/coaching related email subscriptions?
What do you look for in newsletters that you do sign up to?

I would really appreciate your views and ideas here.

Now, ever since my dear Mum discovered a concept of a "selfie" she likes to ask me for one - often. I don't really get this whole selfie craze but I try to keep her happy and snap one a month or so. Today, I sent her about ten various funny ones plus some "oh look I am still alive and doing ok" ones ;)

Sending you all a virtual smile.

These were taken in the morning before my admin marathon today so I look reasonably awake!
A few more emails left to reply but they will have to wait until tomorrow. I am signing off today to catch up with some offline reading and make a few notes for Saturday's lessons as won't have the time for this before the weekend.

Until tomorrow,

Monday, 2 March 2015

Day 60 & 61: A lady with a Chilean mare, the interview and what age is best for starting riding lessons...

Sometimes I chat with a potential client who says they would really like to sign up for my training but they live too far to come regularly.
Distance is a funny excuse for something you really want to do (if you indeed really want to do it...). I used to travel from London to Gloucestershire twice a week to part-time study and train, to Wiltshire and Oxfordshire to shadow-train and for lessons, 3h a day 7 days a week to my horse at livery during my first year of University - the concept of not doing something because it's 3-4 hours away is quite an alien thing to me.

It seems to boil down to the fact that we either do something or make excuses not to do something. At times, riders say that travel is too expensive just to say in the same sentence they'd been having lessons for the last 2 years and have not improved. If improvement is the goal then maybe 2 years of lessons that offer no value is more expensive in many more ways than monetary than travelling to training that do bring improvement?

Working with people who have the no-excuse attitude is probably the best part of running my own coaching programme. I used to joke that I don't advertise too much because then the right person finds me but I am starting to think this is truly the case!
I chose the Aspire blog to be my "advertising" because the seeking riders come across it and get in touch. It is definitely a much slower and a shoestring budget kind of process but oh so rewarding.
The picture at the top of this post shows my Sunday client who travelled for her training with me from Chile. She has her own Chilean horse over there but wants to progress and opportunities for that are limited where she is. We've been organising her intensive training day with me since last year as many logistical obstacles kept turning up but we managed eventually. She coordinates her UK work trips with training and I am already looking forward to seeing her again in a couple of months.

Making things happen is simply inspirational.

Talking about inspiration...I did an interview with The Gait Post where I shared some of my thoughts on training, motivation, inspirational people, international experiences and more :) If you would like to check it out, here is the link:

A friend of mine who runs a coaching group on Facebook started an interesting discussion today about most suitable age for starting to learn to ride and I thought the video that she posted is worth sharing...what do you think of Charles De Kunffy's opinions?

I have a base limit of 12 years old for joining the Academy but treat everyone individually upon assessment. Some children are very mature training wise and able to focus well whereas some older teenagers struggle with even more simple technical aspects of equitation.
When it comes to adults, from my experience, in most cases it is not the age but the perception of age that hinders their progress. Being "too old for this or that" becomes an excuse when in reality some exercises and movement can be difficult regardless the age.

What do you think?

Until tomorrow!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Day 59: Last day of #Barebruary, harmony, sugar beet and Genghis Khan

Andrew Marr's audiobook "A history of the world" is my travel and yard work companion at the moment. It's kind of surreal listening about Genghis Khan as a child killing a deer with a special sound making arrow that tempts the deer to lift the head and expose her throat on a train to Ealing Broadway. Andrew's fabulous story telling can make you almost surprised that upon exiting the train you are facing ticket gates instead of open spaces of Mongol land. It also makes for ridiculous delays to be somewhat manageable.

Last day of #Barebruary today 

Although not as amazingly sunny as yesterday, today brought some really good sessions, one of my young riders had a beautiful ride today with some elements of seat and feel coming together creating most harmonious work to date. New rider had a successful first session too although she is up for some drilling on position before she can relax a bit. Little habits creep in into everyone's riding when not watched and can make a difference between a good rider and a sloppy one!

I am also really enjoying my Saturday groundwork sessions, I am going to look into running more of those soon.
Finally we had our Aspire @ Cafe time meeting this afternoon and I feel it's going to be a really fun learning environment, very much looking forward to seeing how it all develops.

Fab little presentation from Gary on his sugar beet homework for today's Aspire Equestrian @ Cafe Time! 
I am behind on some emails and messages as my usual admin dates were spent on yard work this week but stay tuned all, I will reply as soon as possible!

Friday, 27 February 2015

Day 58: Spring says hello

Well well well ;) After a whole day in the rain yesterday, today we had this!

Brackenhill Stud

Brackenhill Stud

Brackenhill Stud

Brackenhill Stud

Back breaking but very satisfying morning - yard mucked out, watered, hayed up and swept :) 
Full day of teaching in London tomorrow and then a working Sunday with a rather special new client!
Until tomorrow :)

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Day 57: Mostly getting drenched and smelly today

Very bad quality photo I know but a snap of memory from today. A very soggy day in very soggy waterproofs waving forks, brooms, hosing off muddy horses, changing rugs and general yard work.
In case you can't work out the photo - it's a stable mirror ;)

Until tomorrow!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Day 56: Balance

Rising trot  - the skill I work on a lot in many riders. It seems like such an elementary part of basic riding lessons yet there are many riders who ride out of balance in rising trot for years and struggle with many related issues. They have various parts of their body corrected during lessons but those corrections never last because the overall balance in rising trot is compromised.
If you have problems with hands or legs behaving badly - scrutinise your rising trot and overall balance of your seat...

Double lessons today ;) 
How lovely is this dog's trot, heh? ;)

As a side note, a friend of mine sent me a funny email today listing various products that have sugar in them. The reason it was rather funny was that they were pretty much all my favourite things to eat including fruit. It's OK, however, because I do not plan to kill all sugars out of my diet. I am only attempting to cut on added sugars i.e. those that were not initially in a product but got added to it by manufacturers/food makers.

If you buy a Mars bar you know you are eating a week supply of sugar but if you buy porridge you would hope nobody sprinkled sugar in it. Yet it happens and that's the kind of sugars I don't want.

I am not sure how much of an activity I will put on here in the next few days because I agreed to help a friend of mine with doing her 30 odd stable yard...I can already feel the ache ;)

Thank you for your feedback on Google comments - I will test them for a few more weeks and see how it goes. I also sometimes see them sometimes I don't.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Day 55: Nuts, comments and deep seat continues

Nuts are quite all right as a snack indeed. Many thanks for suggestions!
Whether they will be enough when I am truly knackered with no food in sight that remains to be seen.

I am wondering about Google comments under each post - they seem to be a little temperamental and sometimes appear and sometimes not. Do any of you switched to Google comments and find them dependable?
I am considering switching back to Blogger's own if the issue continue as I really do appreciate your comments! The bonus of Google ones is that they arrive to my email and I can easily keep track of them as well as reply directly through email. It certainly makes communication much easier.

After a few days break I published Part 2 of the deep seat series on Aspire blog. I hope some of you will find it useful, the feedback I got so far is very positive but I am aware that this "investigative" format of the posts might not suit everyone...

Here is a link to the post if you wanted to read it:

It's probably the first series in which I allowed myself to simply and truly write the posts as I like teaching in real life rather than dress the content for the written content of the blog. I suppose I have to leave it to you all to tell me if it makes you think and explore or confuses you!

Until tomorrow!

Monday, 23 February 2015

Day 54: Sugar withdrawal, bareback lessons and Aspire GetAway thoughts

Finding products that don't have added sugar in them is like trying to find a perfect horse ;)
if you ever tried, you know what I mean.
In the last several months I have been slowly weaning myself off sugar in drinks like tea and coffee as well as looking at amounts of added sugar on labels of various foods more closely. The damn stuff is literally everywhere and in everything.
I have never been oblivious to this fact but only until I listened to the below podcast around November last year that I decided to finally cut more sugar out of my diet.

If you would like to listen to the podcast, click the image link below (it's over an hour long but well worth listening...)

I won't bore you with my food choices but let me tell you, for someone who loves sweet things, this is a little bit of a torture. However, I am surviving and can now very happily drink coffee and tea with no sugar. Result :)

There is just one BUT. Normally, if I feel like I am running low on energy in between lessons or when going from one place to another I would just have a nice cup of sweet coffee that would give me a temporary fix. I am replacing that fix with bananas and other quick snacks but they really don't work that well...Anyone has a quick pick-me-up snack idea? It doesn't have to be sweet at all, I don't really crave sweets, it just they seem to be most effective ;)

The weather is being kind to me lately with just enough sunshine to last for a photo ;) I took the below one this morning for Aspire's #Barebruary series and love the light in it. The winter coat on the mare, the cold tones in the colouring of the sky and foliage and the warmer hue of the chestnut hair are such a lovely combination. The rider's outfit somewhat matches the colours of the background too!

To read Nigel's thoughts on bareback riding pop over to:

Today I received two out of three quotes from potential 2015 Aspire GetAway destinations and I have a dilemma. Not so much financial one but content of the trip wise.
As both locations come with some absolutely stunning trail rides I am wondering whether to re-focus this year's trip into more open spaces based option rather than run arena lessons as last time. Perhaps a combination of theory workshops with in-hand sessions and trail rides would be a good idea? My current potential locations are Spain, Poland and Italy but I am also looking at a "dark horse" one ;) All are in Europe though.

I really want the GetAway to complement the programmes we do on regular basis and as the training is heavily focused on arena work, technique, posture and biomechanics perhaps re-connecting with nature is the way to go! Ideally I would like to run two trips this year. Maybe I should look into western riding options too? The latter popped into my mind after reading Nina's blog.
Investigations shall continue :)

Until tomorrow!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Day 52 & 53 Pondering on social media for business, starting new learning group and general weekend waffle

Weekend post is here. I think I might do the double day posts from time to time to keep the content vaguely interesting.
Saturday was a mixed day with some really great progress being made but also one rider on the floor which is rarely a good thing. I, for one, hate having riders down and really can't stand this "you don't learn until you fall nth times" saying. Who knows, it might be true but I'd rather not witness them! Whether you can or cannot predict something, you still live with the weight of someone's injury on your shoulders.

Thankfully, nothing serious happened but it always casts a shadow on the whole day. Alas, over to the good stuff.

We had our little organisational chat for the London learning group I mentioned a few posts earlier and I am looking forward to seeing how this initiative develops :)
If you would like to learn more about it, click the image link below:

Now, I've been pondering on something recently. There seem to be more and more tweets and Facebook posts simply calling for more followers or Likes. Some want to reach "milestone" numbers of followers, some just ask "follow me please" or "please like our Facebook page". I might be wrong but to have 500 followers who just responded to that call for action is to me like being in a room with 500 other people who are only there because they got the tickets. They don't care what you are all about or if you have any idea what they do and what their values are.
I suppose, you can get to know each other and maybe network successfully but from what I see, the opposite is the case. People just learn to ignore vast amount of stuff...

When I did my marketing degree, there was no Facebook or Twitter nor much in terms of social media at all. Maybe that's why I look at it differently, I am not sure. What I do know is that I would much rather have 100 people on Aspire's Facebook page who genuinely have interest in what I do and who I can connect with than 10.000 who just clicked "Like" button and never read anything I post.

Same with this blog and Aspire blog. The former is simply for pleasure of chatting, sharing and for my own pleasure of writing things down. If there were 10 of you reading I would still write it. Now, the latter is part of my coaching job. I want it to spread the word about how I work, what my coaching values are and how I teach. It is my mission for it to reach many riders out there but not those who don't really want to read what I write...I want to reach those who might find my posts helpful. I want the audience to grow. However, I don't want it to grow for the sake of growing.

Then there is Twitter. It's probably my preferred social media connection tool after blogging. The calls to follow on Twitter do perplex me. I don't even know how I managed to get all my followers and I do hope it's because at least some are truly interested in my content but I am thinking that there are many ways of getting someone to be interested in what you have to say than simply ask for a follow?

Here is my view for what it is worth. If I am interested in what someone tweets about and engage in conversation with them, most of the time they follow me back at some point. If not, it's not a big deal because I am interested in what they have to say not just in whether they follow me or not.
Like  that I have a feed to read that I enjoy browsing through.

Then there are social media competitions...most of the time they are organised to collect email addresses for the business' email database. Again, I don't know if I see much point in this. Let's say I run a competition where 2000 people signed up and so gave me their email addresses. I then use those emails to send my newsletter or a promotional piece. How many of you would actually open the promo email if the only connection you had with me was some Facebook competition? How many of those emails would go straight to the spam folder in your email service?

Below is a screenshot of my Twitter profile. I have never pursued any follows yet my followers numbers is growing everyday - I take it as a proof that if for whatever reason, simply growing your audience is what you are after, it's still unnecessary to ask for the follows...Just chatting with people is enough.

I have an eclectic plethora of interests so follow variety of people but if they are not interested in horses, which is what I predominantly tweet about, it would be a complete waste of their time to follow me back.

I suppose in summary what I am trying to say through this waffle is that quality is always more rewarding than quantity. genuine interest in someone's content is always better than adding empty numbers.

I feel like I may have contradicted myself here with the amount of words I used in this post ;)

What do you think? Do you run social media accounts for your business/blog? What are your views?

Friday, 20 February 2015

Day 51: The walk, the "deep seat" series and planning Aspire GetAway

To look out over the river and write - now that would be magnificent. To walk around the area is pretty good too and starting a day like this is as awakening as a cup of tasty coffee.

The parts for my little blog series on how to develop "deep seat" are now in motion - "sitting deep" is such a funny concept when you look at it with a beginner's mindset. I agree with Ride with Your Mind founder, Mary Wanless, that the equestrian language is full of oddly named actions and instructions that sometimes even instructors don't really understand properly. Take this "deep seat" phrase - I have met more riders who initially understood the instruction to "sit deeper" as "drive into the saddle" action than those who took it for what it is - an intricate harmony of two moving creatures.

It strikes me again and again though how incredibly non descriptive horse riding teaching language can be which I suppose is why myself and some other coaches looked towards imagery and visualisation of various feels we strive for when riding.

I am also more and more convinced that many bio-mechanical concepts really need to be figured out on individual basis under clever guidance and that we need to step away from those "now do x y z" situations. Sometimes I set certain exercises and say to my riders "I can't tell you everything, you need to figure it out".

This "figuring out" thinking was on my mind when working on the "deep seat" blog series, Part 1 is now live if you wanted to check it out..

It's also about time to get on with more concrete ideas for this year's Aspire GetAway so I'd been writing emails and contacting various places for quotes. There is quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing when it comes to organising things but it's all worth the hassle in the end :)

I finally managed to finish the answers for one of the interviews I'd been invited to give for a website. It can be very thought provoking to put some more serious career thoughts in writing and answering the questions for the interview made me want to move on with some projects I am sitting on for who knows why for way too long :)

Until tomorrow!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Day 50: Struggling

I've been drafting a big blog post for Aspire blog for the last couple of hours. It's a post about developing a deep seat and I got into writing it after seeing this deep seat question over and over in my blog search section. If riders are searching for it, I want to try to write about it :)

Here's where my problem view on developing deep seat is not exactly compatible with the convenient notion of step-by-step manuals that many riders like to read. It's also damn tricky to put various thoughts and short, instructional visuals into coherent article so I am struggling people! But it's a good struggle not to worry, it's a brain challenge ;)

I'd been mostly learning today and working on a few new exercises that can give certain feels in the saddle. It's a good job nobody was around seeing me testing this stuff on chairs and with a kitchen towel. It will be ok in the end and it might help a person or two ;)

Then there is admin stuff that I needed to organise today, most of the things I managed to do, still some tasks to continue on tomorrow.

Not much else to report ;)

Until tomorrow!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Day 49: A long beautiful day!

We worked for the last three months for this boy and his owner to have the session as we did today :) A little pocket rocket, ex-racehorse Shabby had his focus, his relaxation and his power on point today. On the photo above Emma and Shabby are in the middle of an exercise suggested by the McTimony therapist: halting at random moments over the poles, standing for 10 seconds or so, then walking on. It is said to improve horse's awareness of the hind legs and I must say it was very interesting to watch S. deliberately lifting his hind legs very high and watchfully placing them on the ground way away from the poles in the moment of move off. Proprioception upgrade :)

We did the same with the grey boy but in-hand as he gets very unnecessarily over-reactive still whenever he sees poles on the ground. He did the exercise very well and I can see myself using it more often with different horses.

The lovely, young mare I teach fortnightly and her owner are really doing their homework, makes my work so much easier ;)
One thing that hit me more than ever today is that we devise all these training methods and all these techniques but to chose the right one for the given horse for his given state of mind, physical readiness at the given moment whilst making sure the rider is able to execute it, understand it and react upon changes happening is truly an never ending art. An art that I am forever learning thanks to all these great horses and pupils.

Until tomorrow!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Day 48: Seth Godin, London countryside and you know what day it is today ;)

Oh yes :) And I was well enough to have them too! 
There were four of us eating the above pile, I am not that greedy ;)

I had quite a few thoughts today that I really wanted to share on here but alas the day slipped away with things to do and places to be.
The weather was beautiful today with really warm winter sun, birds singing, river sparkling, the lot :)

Exploring London's countryside with my lovely client before a brainy/technical lesson :) 

Perhaps I will have more time on Friday for a longer post but I wanted to pop the below interview for you to watch...many interesting thoughts in it...

Until tomorrow :)