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Monday, 8 February 2016

Not about horses

Worth remembering...


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

R.I.P. Shabhash...

Shabby with his owner, Emma. August 2015
- "You have twenty minutes to get better Shabby, Caitlin is almost here for your lesson! - I say to the little bay thoroughbred as we watch him being slightly out of sorts. He's just not quite himself even though there is nothing particularly and obviously wrong with him.
After checking his temperature and watching him for a while, we decide to let him be. I say I'll check on him in ten minutes, go and organise the tack for his lesson and don't think much of it.

In one of my lectures during the coaching degree we had this chat with a sports psychology tutor. They were discussing with us how it's very important not to have favourites when we teach or ride, to try to make sure our riders and horses always get the same attention and same quality of lessons. Here is the thing. You might try and you might give your best but if you are truly honest with yourself you will know there are always people and horses who pull on your heart strings that little bit more and you can't help yourself but favourite them just that little bit.

Shabby is my heart string horse and little did I know when strolling to his stable for that ten minutes check up, that I would never teach on him again.

It takes just about a couple of seconds for me to realise he is not at all fine. He is on the floor again, stuck this time and it takes all my effort to pull him far enough from the wall so he can lie down in a semi-normal position. He is quiet and peaceful. Too peaceful. I call Emma just in case because all this just looks too odd and I know if this was my horse I would want to know. Few minutes later he is attempting to roll again. I can't get him up by myself though so I get out and get help.

It's about 17:25 on Monday evening. By 10pm on 1st of February 2016 Shabby is put to sleep.

There are horses much more capable out there than he was but Shabby had this big heart that made me look forward to every single lesson ever since I got to meet him in the autumn of 2014. It didn't matter that he invented his own versions of dressage tests and his own version of dressage movements. We laughed with Emma that he had his own walk half-pass which we called Sha-pass. He sang in canter. The oddest, funniest sounds. He did cricket scores show jumping. But he tried and tried and tried again and he was a lion cross country.

It took many hours of work and perseverance and a lot of belief but he did us proud so many times.
I trusted him with my young riders even when he carted them around the cross country course or the arena. I knew that as long as they stay calm, he will eventually stop and smile as if to say, there, now you'd ridden at speed.

The best ex-racehorse I have ever had a privilege to teach on - not because of his competition results or scope or stunning movement but because when the horse does the best he can do for you and add some more, you know about it and you better appreciate it.

Run free Shab. I will miss you.


Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Misunderstandings, mirrors and musings about "naughty" horses

As a child I was ridiculously shy. I find it funny now but let me tell you, I sure didn't back then. Going to the shop was a freaking ordeal as I had to ask for the stuff to be passed to me which was pretty much as nerve wracking as sitting on a bolting horse heading for a motorway. The days I could go to self-service places were Christmas and birthdays all rolled into one. I hated making phone calls to people I didn't know and starting any kind of conversation was just painful.
I also much preferred to listen and watch rather than talk which I do think somehow had helped me be fairly ok at my job now (at which I do waffle a lot of course! ;) ).
However, this created an interesting misunderstanding...I kept going on being that shy kid who just didn't initiate any chat until a mother of one of my school friends told me I was very arrogant...It was a bit of a news to me! I quite dreamt of being a little bit arrogant! Perceptions vs reality can be very much apart.

On Una, a mare with an interesting character, personality and various training challenges. Whenever my teaching and riding schedule allows, I only ride her first or last as she likes it so ;) Always full of surprises and questions but incredibly rewarding horse to work with. 

Onto horses now. Maybe it's my own experiences and maybe it's the fact I like to know exactly how things get to be as they are and why they are so but I have never been keen on making horses into some supernatural creatures that plan to be "fc***g annoying" and "d*cks" , "tw**s" and "being difficult" and "putting a show on" etc etc

The way I see it, in most situations (for sure there will be some exceptions) horses learn what works, and what doesn’t work. They are intelligent animals that quickly figure out how to get what they want whether it be grass, field mates, food, peace of mind...They have emotions that can override their judgements of situations and they have instincts that can override everything they were ever taught.
They almost always are our mirrors whether we want it or not or whether we realise it or not. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying we are afraid of carrier bags and that piece of wool on the floor that is slightly different colour to the rest of the arena surface. We do, however, carry many subconscious thoughts about huge amount of seemingly little details - about ourselves and about the horse we ride, about other people "judging" how we perform, about how we think we/the horse should look-so-it-looks-like-it-works-well etc - and I bet one could condition any horse owner to be a little anxious when presented with a Bag For Life if they always sat on a flighty horse during the sighting ;)
Horses mirror our emotional state, our state of mind and ability to deal with it or not, our level of confidence in own skills and in general meaning of the word. They also seem to understand when the rider really wants to help or is simply demanding something because "this is how it's got to be".

Some riders prefer not to ride when they don't feel 100% or when they feel irritated or angry. Sometimes this is a good idea. Sometimes maybe it would be a good lesson to try to empty ones mind of all thoughts and just ride, feel the horse and be in a moment, like they are.

I used to school horses for other people on regular basis but learnt that it was not always beneficial to describe what I did with them even if the owners asked and *thought* they wanted to know. I learnt that what many of those horse owners really wanted was results, not to know how they were achieved...

Nowadays, I only agree to school horses if the owners are willing to at least try to continue to work with the horse along the similar lines. With some exceptions, I limit my feedback to essential information and noticed that it works just fine.

If you try to do something logical, learning theory based or emotionally neutral with horses it's often perceived as weak or hippy or nicey-nicey. Basically no good in "proper training".  However, if it works and the horse improves, all is fine in the world.
So - if you work with horses using methods other than those based on the belief the equine species need to be dominated by an alpha member but your methods work, I would say keep on them and only chat about some main stuff that you do ;)

It's an interesting concept in itself as to why many owners prefer to have their horses' "shit sorted" and "put in place" rather than for them to be understood and trained. Perhaps it's not that dissimilar to choosing to stereotype a shy kid as an arrogant one...but hey ho, I decided it's a problem that's not for me to solve ;)



Monday, 18 January 2016

Settling in, answering your questions and Instagram project

I'm writing to you from my little cottage and the silence here is such a wonderful change after sirens filled London air. It's 1am ish, Sunday night and I have a changed schedule with no teaching tomorrow, just a bit of admin and tax duties to see to, none of each require an early morning alarm so I am making the most of the night time peace and quiet to bring you a little update ;)

Cottage :) 

Let's start with answering your questions. I don't know whether it's because it's winter and people lose motivation easily but I got a few emails recently asking if I ever feel like I don't want to teach anymore or don't want to ride anymore and if I ever feel like getting a different job. 

The short answer is: no. 

However, I would lie if I said I never ever have any moments of doubt and wondering if I am doing the right thing. Of course I do. Those moments are not necessarily related to teaching or riding but to many activities one has to focus on when being self-employed. Organising my teaching schedules, times, horses, commute, accounts - none of these things are something I enjoy much. 

There are jobs that save lives. Mine is hardly that. Once in a while I might entertain a fleeting thought of giving it all up, packing a backpack and hitting some trails. Escape all problems, decisions, responsibilities. I reckon my riders might miss my lessons for a bit but there are many very good instructors out there. Sooner or later they would find the right person to teach them and have equally good time they have now. 

So yes, I do have these thoughts sometimes but they never last. I think that if you find something to do in your life that brings some joy to others and inspire you to be better and better in what you do, you will never have strong enough reasons to quit. 

If you have those questions and doubts over and over again, you probably haven't found the right path...If you have them once in a while, I think it's normal. It's just your own brain trying to keep your stress levels down by tempting you with less demanding options. Tell it to shut up ;) 

So that is that. As honest as it can get ;) 

As far as updates go I am relieved to finally move everything over to one place and I am looking forward to settling in for a bit! I might be a nomad in everyday life but I love having one place to come back to. There is potentially a very exciting opportunity on the horizon about which I am both intrigued and unsure. It is one of those things that can turn up as life changing or life destroying ;) I will let you know in due course if anything comes out of this. 

A few new riders will start their adventures with the Academy this month and I hope I will be able to open more places soon so I don't have to turn people away due to lack of suitable horses or time slots. All these enquiries make me wonder what I could create if I had the right facility to work on! 

As this blog stays quieter this year I thought I would try to get Aspire's Instagram account going and try some photo updates for those of you who miss the blog posts. 

Here is the link if you would like to follow: https://www.instagram.com/aspireequestrian/ - they say a photograph is worth a thousands words so hopefully this photo project will do as a regular posts replacement ;) 

I am counting days to my puppy! It might need its own Instagram when it's finally here! (Only joking ;).

Until next time!


Monday, 4 January 2016

Day 365/2015 - Day 4/2016: New Year's Re(v)olutions, living between houses and making things happen

For the last month and a half I've been doing part-time flat sitting in London for a friend and part-time dropping in at our new cottage. This has meant quite a few back and fro, a LOT of packing and preparing the flat for viewings in between the packing chaos. I feel like I moved not once but twice in a short space of time ;) Not exactly a novelty for me but still quite a few logistical challenges to deal with. Not my forte.

Today I managed to leave my phone, bank card, Oyster card and advanced train tickets at the cottage after getting a lift back to London. I got off the car and strolled into the tube station just to realise I had no way of getting to the London flat with no Oyster Card, no bank card and no phone to call anyone. It is just as well I tend not to take life's troubles too seriously because I think I would be quite close to just sitting down in the middle of the road, cry and beg a random taxi driver for a lift for free ;) It occurred to me that women who cry easily over anything have it sorted in life :-P
Not my forte either.

Instead I had a little chat with a Tube attendant (about the weather of course because in England, even if you are facing 8 hours walk to your destination, you still got to chat about the weather) who laughed at me but of course would not let me in. Having searched through all my pockets and backpack I scraped enough for a single tube ticket so managed to get back to the flat (Tube attendant seemed relieved I didn't plan to camp at the station), get some next day's organisation in place (thanks to my fab friends here) and reminded myself not to be an idiot in the future and not to keep all the essentials in my phone case! And have some cash on me sometimes for god's sake.

So yes. That aside I thought I would share some of my New Year's Re(v)olutions seeing this is my last "daily" post on here for some time. It seems right to finish the 365 posts project with the plans for 2016...

In my head, I shall call these plans Revolutions because let's face it, who ever sticks with any resolutions beyond 31st January...

My non-horse-life plan for this year include...:
Learn to get the most out my new camera and take more interesting photos. Catch more moments.
Buy some acrylic paints and canvases and paint again. Just for fun.
Get a puppy.
Make the cottage into a nice little home.
And a few more but hey, it's a horse blog after all so I won't bore you with the other stuff ;)

The horse-life plans for this year include:

Continue to develop the Academy project by involving two more instructors to work alongside me on regular basis. Make sure I work with the right people and not let them go ;) - the right people are the making or the breaking of any initiative.
Take on 2 more Academy horses/schoolmasters
Open more places on the programmes to more riders.
Continue to learn and always keep improving my teaching and riding skills.
Make my riders' 2016 goals happen
Make the Brackenhill training camps into a regular feature for riders across all the Academy programmes.
Organise more training camps at interesting yards/venues around the UK.
Keep my business head on with the monthly brainstorm meetings with S and G.
Keep searching for the right base yard in the right location for my London riders that could carry the project to the next stage.

The "maybe" plans include...

Buying a project horse to train and to keep as Academy horse...

The "always" plans include...

Stay true to my training values. Always. No matter how much someone is willing to pay for short-cuts...
Never settle for the "good" for too long. Strive for the "better".
Be brave to keep making changes. Even if at first they are hard to deal with.

This blog plans...

Come back with updates each month :) Share some stories. Thoughts and views. Keep you all happy :)

Have a great year! Speak soon....


Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Day 361-364: Where patience comes from...

For the New Year 2016, I decided to give all my regular riders, both those I teach in person and those who have long distance training, a task of coming up with 3 main challenges/goals for themselves. I did it to both encourage everyone to think about their training and how might they progress and for myself to focus the lessons on something each rider really would like to achieve.
I am not talking about competitive goals by the way although some riders went for those too, but more of a rider/horseperson challenges.
It's been an interesting experience to read through those goals and I am looking forward to making things happen for everyone ;)

One rider set herself a goal of becoming more patient with herself and her horse as well as with the riders she teaches (she is a riding instructor herself working in Poland) and asked me how I stay patient. I thought I might waffle about it today.

Patience to me comes from believing in people and horses even if they don't believe in themselves...

Let's say you work with a rider or a horse and they have a lot of problems. With balance. With their seat. Hands. With their frustration. Nerves. Crookedness. Concentration. What not. If you involve yourself in their problem, you will too become frustrated for them and for yourself possibly too. Your patience will wear thin.

What helps me a lot is to be able to *see* the rider a few steps on...

For this, I like using video feedback to visualise someone's progress. I started doing this in 2008/2009 with just a faint idea of how I wanted it to teach me but have seen a huge benefit over the years that I didn't really expect.

When the riders who don't normally see themselves ride, watch their first videos from our lessons, they often find everything that is wrong with them and the horses. Years of watching exercises truly working and riders truly becoming more effective make it easier for me to now look at those early videos and see just a starting point, a point of reference that will take me from point A to B and then Z.

Like joining dots kind of game. Seeing those dots allows me to believe both in my ability to work on something and in rider's / horse's ability to do that work.

Sometimes I get stuck and don't know the answers on the spot but by that time I normally have enough patience to get me going ;)

The interesting thing is that if you believe someone can do something, that they can change something, eventually and usually they too will believe in you believing it can happen ;) Once they do, truly do believe that you *know* it will happen, they will at some point believe in themselves too...And a bit like magic, the elusive patience appears.

It might take a long time and sometimes you might be the only person believing things can indeed change but it has worked for me pretty well so far ;)

Do you have a patience solution?



Saturday, 26 December 2015

Day 360: Random thoughts on teaching myself a.k.a. learning how things are done

Evening walks around London :) 

Apparently, if one dares to teach others one should never stop learning and for sure, there is something to be said about those who stop the latter and think they can be any good at the former...

So here is the thing. As we know, some aspects of horse riding are easier to teach than others. Some skills are acquired over time via trial and error and you might argue that this is the way it should be. I am not so sure however. If I can teach something quicker, something that will make the horse's life much much easier and rider's confidence in own ability increases as a result, I am all for that.

I watched many many lessons. It seems to me that a lot of the times riders do a lot of guessing of what they are asked to do. A lot of guessing. Even if they don't realise that fully.
I am aware I do the same when I am taught. I apply my own meaning to the instructions mentioned and sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.

You know this "how do you explain a taste of a strawberry jam to someone who never tried strawberries" ? Well, it seems tricky. It might be even trickier if one who does the explaining was never told they were eating strawberry jam in the first place ;) They ate something. It was good. It could have been anything.

So now. When you have a skill and you don't know/remember how you acquired it and you are aware enough to know that you do a lot of things subconsciously, how do you bring it to a conscious level and explain it to someone else?

There is a lot of "mechanics" in riding. You can probably do large amount of foundation teaching simply based on 'do this, do that, place your hand here, your leg there'. However, there are also many 'feel' related actions and the problem is, without learning that feel, the mechanics can mean very little to the horse. They create tension, resistance, discomfort.

But how do you teach those non-mechanical aspects? Do you? I think so. I don't believe in the notion that 'feel' is some elusive talent of a few. I do think it's more of a case of it being too elusive for many to dress into words.

I suppose it's a part of my intellectual hobby to try to figure out how to teach those more elusive aspects of "leg on"...;)

First I try to understand what I do and how it feels to me. Then I try to make those actions independent of my own learning style, movement pattern, experience. Then, I think about who I teach it to and how might they understand what I am about to tell them. I noticed over time that if I get all these three aspects right, it works. But I don't always do.

There are riders whom I have taught regularly over a longer period of time and that knowledge of how they ride, what they do in certain situations, is invaluable when it comes to teaching something new. But it's not enough.

For the last few weeks I've been trying to figure out what I do in certain situations. Let me tell you how it feels for me...it feels like I imagine it. And it happens. Now, this is no good if I try to explain it this way as it won't help anyone one bit! And if I say it out loud, it sounds ludicrous.

But think about it. If you are en experienced rider, well balanced rider on a well balanced horse, you can just sit and "picture" the horse in canter, and it canters...I have a similar experience with this particular skill set that I am analysing and it drives me a little mad :) I want to know what happens before I imagine it. That's why I've been thinking about it. And perhaps I am starting to understand it all better...

I guess I will find out when I try to teach it ;)

Thanks for reading the rambling thoughts today. Four days left of 2015...



Friday, 25 December 2015

Day 359: Thank you Santa for technology ;)

I hope you all got your unicorns! ;) I must say, the best thing about technology and world wide connection is having a moment to moment updates from my family. Christmas for me doesn't mean that much over here but it's wonderful to "almost be there" thanks to the clever What's App invention ;)

Couple of my favourite photos of my niece and nephew - their faces are priceless :-D

Christmas cheers everyone!
Until tomorrow ;)


Thursday, 24 December 2015

355-358: Merry Christmas! Almost time to say goodbye...

Last hack before Christmas :) 

Almost time to say goodbye to this 365 posts a day in 2015. I will not be continuing to write frequently on here next year because of many other plans I have for 2016 but I will try to pop in with updates now and then.

And so it's Christmas ;) Another year has gone.

Due to personal matters, it has been the hardest one I have ever experienced regardless any other years where I may have thought the challenge was on. I have not and will not mix personal posts with my teaching diary posts and even though I prefer to say my thank yous in person it would seem bizarre to look back at these pages and not mention someone who has always been at the end of the phone for me. 

Thank you Suzanne. It was great to see you yesterday. There just aren't the right words to describe how grateful I am for your support (neither there are the right words to describe our fashion sense). Look forward to 2016! 

With Suzanne at Windsor Horse Show several years back ;)

A shock of a year it has been on one hand, it brought me some amazing experiences on the other hand. With all the disappointments, it also brought me the kind of people I would want to always have around. With all the anxiety, it brought me resilience I never thought I had.

Merry Christmas dear readers, riders, horse owners. Keep smiling. Keep trying. Keep failing. It works ;)

Best wishes,


Sunday, 20 December 2015

Day 352 - 354: A page from the past and a page from current life

A page from the past...

Marks & Spencer in Winchester does the best evening food sale. I know this because when you arrive back from a year away sacrificing everything to ride the life out of your breeches, you have £18 to last you a month, nowhere to live, your clients have moved on and your debts eat on your conscious, you simply know those things. 
I am waiting for Pip to pick me up and I keep everything crossed she can make it because if she doesn't I won't get to run my clinic which is supposed to pay for some sort of a room for a few weeks. The room I have not yet found mind you, because of course in this day and age you need a month and a half deposit and I have less than twenty pounds to last for discounted Marks and Spencer's sandwiches. 

As I wait I am vaguely aware of craziness of this situation and it makes me laugh how some think that any kind of success (maybe except of a lottery win but is that a success?) comes easily. All I have really is this idea of what I want to re-build. 

Your brain is always sharper when you're hungry. I don't know for sure (could Google I suppose but will let it be) but maybe there is some sort of specialisation of species that alerts our senses in a moment of struggle. Pip turns up. The clinic goes very well, we get back and I have a few more lessons to do in a nearby town. Everybody loves them which is lucky for me because it means food and a room for a month. Few weeks to plan the next step. 
Teaching full - time again feels good, I realise that even though I loved every moment of my intensive training, riding for myself doesn't float my boat. I find no real fulfilment nor purpose in working solely as a rider. 
Re-building the Academy is stressful, it's scary and yet I don't want to do anything else. I have so many doubts it feels like there is no space left for any other thought. But I truly learnt a real meaning of a few good lessons while away. If you want to do something nobody else did or is preparing to do, you must do what you and others are scared of. 
You must trust yourself or nobody else will. You must be patient and persistent. And you must have people around you who you can count on. 

So I keep scaring myself and keep going and with help from a couple of my friends, several weeks later I sign a contract for a room on the high street and do a damn massive, non-discounted M&S shop and eat myself silly. 

The above is a fragment of the first draft of my book. I am not in a rush to publish anything but I do keep at it a little bit at a time.
I share this little part today because the contrast in between then and now strikes me. There are times when we make choices hoping things will work out but we have no real means of knowing so.
There are times when it seems so easy to give up and do something "secure".

Fast forward to now, I am most grateful for the people I get to teach and work with each day. They make this whole project come to life and nothing would be the same without them. If I had to do the last 2 years again to end up where I am now, I would do it in all in a heart beat.

[I would just have to make sure the Winchester M&S still does their ridiculously amazing evening food sales ;) ]

Overwhelmingly generous Christmas gift from my riders. Look forward to making the most of it next year! :) 


Friday, 18 December 2015

Day 327-351 Another of them long catch ups ;)

Today is Thursday 17th of December and although I have enjoyed trying (and failing) to do a post-a-day this year, I am looking forward to the end of this challenge ;) But hey, I am trying to keep going with some more honest insights from this teaching life of mine so grab some beverage as usual and let's go :)

After weeks of planning and organising, on 6-7 December we've done the 2nd Aspire Training Camp at Brackenhill Stud.
These intensive lessons are a great challenge for all my riders and they sure are for myself too. You know, I think it's relatively "easy" to walk into an arena and run a few good lessons. When I don't stop for 12 hours, issues that barely matter when I take breaks, become difficult to deal with when my brain is in overdrive non stop. And while I notice a shift in my perception, quickness of thought (or lack of it), patience level etc somehow I do enjoy being put on that spot so I can figure out how to get better.
It teaches me not to involve myself in rider's problem (which is what I often tell them about their horse's problem ;) ) but to be able to stand aside and help constructively.

Learning is a funny thing. We are used to learning new things as children but the older we get we tend to think we learn slower/worse/are unable to learn. As children, we tend to be creative and experiment with things, movements, actions. As adults, we look for perfection and ideal execution...from the word go...

One thing that I have learnt and the knowledge of which I probably appreciate the most is to never aim for perfection...Yes it's a controversial thought in a world of sport in general but that's a subject for another post.

“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.” Brené Brown

Some courage is always needed in order to learn. Having taught hundreds of riders I do believe that it is that courage to "have a beginner's mind" is what separates those who continue to improve from those who never do.

“Healthy striving is self-focused: "How can I improve?" Perfectionism is other-focused: "What will they think?” ― Brené Brown,

Some riders like the idea of improvement but for whatever reason are not prepared to put the effort in. Some put so much effort in they burn out.

It is believed that riding and training horses builds ones character. I do think this is true but only if, again, we are open to learn new things, new feels and new solutions. In the same way as our posture is defined by our every day life and we can't just amend it for an hour on a horse, it seems to me that it's the same with the rest of the shebang...

If we are impatient, easily frustrated, lacking empathy, have a need to control everything in every day life, those tendencies won't disappear just because we sat in the saddle...If we work on the "whole picture" then the horse goes better too. In that respect I do think training can make someone a better version of oneself.

When I teach or ride, I like to look at that whole picture. Try to figure out how much to push a rider/horse without them losing too much confidence, how much to ask for a bit better version without destroying the good version.

The skill is like a muscle tissue. You have to destroy the current one a little bit before it can regenerate and build a new, better one. That's where some riders struggle the most because being in the stage where nothing seems to get better, everything is hard and falls apart, is not easy. But that's where I think the courage lies - you got to have it to endure the plateau...

It's the same for me when I teach. Sometimes everything works. I look at horse and rider walk into the arena and I *know* what to do and how to change things in a similar way as you might see fridge full of ingredients and know what you might cook ;)

Sometimes I look but all I can see is a lot of puzzles all with the same image of sky and hell knows how they will slot together. This is especially so with more experienced riders where I don't want to destroy their riding feel and style. I start trying to slot something here and there and that's when my own learning happens.

I might say to the rider "I don't know how we are going to correct this yet, but I will know"  - there is never a "no way" as long as you are prepared not to try to be perfect straight away.

You've got to be brave and ask questions - of yourself, of your horse. I feel that those intensive sessions do create a bit of a whirl for everyone, myself included, and one day it might be hard and stressful just to become manageable the next day.

The most rewarding of all for me is watching the riders go through those stages and keep going. Nothing substitutes experience :)


Until next time :)


Sunday, 22 November 2015

Day 322-326: Fighting illness, travelling and finishing touches on Part 1 of the 2015 Aspire Gift Guide

322 Wed, 323 Thu, 324 Fr, 325 Sat, 326 Sun

The last few days have been a bit of a tiring blur as I am trying to shake off a chest infection. It would probably go fairly easily if I just stopped for a moment or two but you know how it is, sometimes there just ins't an easy option to stop...

I had to cancel all my lessons on Wednesday as felt way too rotten to even get out of bed not to mention getting on a train anywhere. That helped but then I had an event to attend on Thursday night that was "un-post-pone-able" so off we went to Chester for that, stayed over, not seen much of the city as was trying to nurse the cold as much as possible, got on train back to London on Friday afternoon, cancelled all my Friday lessons too, sat down to work on my online projects and answered emails and collapsed in bed again.

Dragged myself out of bed on Saturday feeling a little bit better having slept more and it was great to be out in the arena in the blasting sunshine even if the wind was desperate to leg-yield everyone across the long diagonals and pull my head off my neck ;)

I am also attempting to get my riders a bit fitter and send them for winter hacks with decent amount of trot work and canter work. Nothing improves balance and feel more than being out there with the horse and I am looking forward to seeing how nature improves the schooling results ;)

Today is Sunday, the last day before the Part 1 of the Aspire 2015 Christmas Gift Guide Magazine comes out on Aspire blog so the below picture pretty much describes my day even though it was taken at breakfast.

I am also preparing a little intro for the new Guest Blogger - Caitlin - with whom, via series of blog posts, we will be exploring career choices for equestrian industry focused young people (so do check out Aspire blog later today and leave any comments and questions for us to answer...). That's done I will be dedicating a couple of hours to on an exciting new venture that I am not sure if I can mention much yet about on here and planning the week ahead in lessons content so there won't be much more bloggable things happening before the evening.

I shall leave you with this little snap from a quick Sunday coffee walk in the park we just did, so sunny but you can definitely sense the winter chill in the air!
And yes, I am wearing my Noble Outfitters mud boots ;) I just can't get out of them, they are so comfy and warm, I should probably have scrubbed them clean for London walkies but...well, they are mud boots after all!



Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Day 321: Oscar starts moving, Una gets the Zen concept and weather continues to be mental

It might be because I spend most of the hours of each day watching, observing and trying to differentiate between causes and symptoms but when Oscar feels the best he has ever felt, I want to see him move. See what's so different.
Oscar works with me on the ground regularly anyway and is used to me getting off to work on something, then getting back on to keep riding so he doesn't think anything of it when I put him on the lunge.
As I watch him in transitions within the trot for a while I reckon he finally is starting to get the idea of connecting his body from million little pieces doing something or another, to one unit working towards a higher goal - improved coordination.
Another interesting change in him is that I have an impression he is starting to be quite interested in what the hell I am trying to teach him ;) We try a difficult set of exercises today that include his very weak right canter and I swear he seems to be trying to get it.
I can't wait to get back on him on Friday.

Una gets a dual session too but for her it's the walk work in the arena, mostly focusing on bending and transitions with her, she is still figuring out how not to work hollow through her back so I am not pushing on for any more complex stuff.
She also gets a little break for cuddles with the yard cat ;)

For her second part of the session we go for a hack with two of my today's riders and she is good as gold, getting braver and calmer, In fact, she is super zen all round today, from coming from the field, standing and waiting for the rain to ease off (no chance!) to dealing with other horses' exuberance.

I am trying to organise more training hacks at the moment to get the riders exposed to various aspects of riding that are hard to experience in the arena. Hoping to get them out and about at least once a month over the winter.

The weather continues its not ideal profile, it tires me out no end and my cold is back sadly but busy rest of the week ahead so hopefully I'll find some super powers to keep going ;)


319 & 320: Sunday rest time and moving house horsey style ;)

I try to have a rest day on Sundays and although it doesn't always happen and I do some work stuff after all, this weekend I managed a little bit of Sunday holiday :) 

Beautiful, sunny Sunday was like a reward for drenched reality of the Saturday! 
There are many things to tick off from to-do list at the moment and I go from excitement to stress mode from one minute to the next, its quite pathetic really ;) I am looking forward to my new routine establishing and getting back on calmer tracks. 

Today, on Monday that is, we finally moved all our stuff to the cottage so one task accomplished! 
We just popped everything onto an Equi-Trek, as you do ;) 

Turns out that suitcases travel well in the little lorry ;) Many thanks to Emma B. for help in getting all our stuff over to the cottage!


Saturday, 14 November 2015

Day 318: Saturday in the rain. Fine line between constructive focus and over-analysis.

Hacking out all the ponies whose riders missed their lessons today! Rain and wind kept most of my today's riders home.

There is this kind of internal focus that is best developed in less than perfect conditions. I think it is a relevant skill for both horse and a rider.
Some have it somewhat naturally or it is easy to bring it out in them, some would really benefit from working on it, understand it and use it to further develop communication with the horse.

That internal focus not only lets the rider feel more (through simply being more attentive) but it allows for much lighter and more accurately timed aids. I saw an interesting quote today which went something like this: "Funny that, the less strength I put in my aids, the more the horse wants to listen" (I paraphrase as can't find the quote now!). It says something important though - when we hear someone whisper and we want to hear them, we go quiet and still and really listen. I believe it is the same with horses, if we "shout" at them with our communication, they switch off and are no longer interested in hearing us at all.

I can't say I like teaching in the rain and wind very much but as long as it's not too cold and I have the right clothes, there are many worse conditions I can think of!
For one - it makes me save my voice and only say necessary things. I tend to give too much guidance at times and when my voice just trails away with the wind and  rider does a great job anyway I take it as a lesson learnt.

My morning rider is a very focused rider, she rides with very good intuition and I try to train some bad habits out of her without destroying any feel and self-taught ability she has. I think there is always a fine line between directing an experienced rider's attention to something that needs tweaking without making them overly focused on "something that doesn't work well".

Sometimes it's like horse training - repetition of good, makes better.
I always struggled with Rubik cube, you know. I would get one wall of colour done just to mess it up minutes later trying to get another colour done. Then I would watch with frustration when my brother took few minutes to gather all the colours together.
As I watch the rider and the mare repeating their patterns in the arena I know she and many other of riders I teach are the one "Rubik cube" I see in the same way as my brother "saw" the real one. I like to mix "the colours" and make a little mess but then put all the "walls" together in the end. It's addictive ;)

Afternoon with another very focused rider. I really do believe that the difference between a good and a very good rider (and a good and a very good horse) is not some elusive talent (although it helps) but the ability to fully be in the moment, fully direct attention to movement and task without over thinking, over analysing, over-tensing. 

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