Monday, 31 December 2007

New Year's Eve

After a lazy morning Ricky and I set off to the yard. I was quite surprised he actually agreed to
come along as he normally stays as away as possible ;) It was definitely great to be back into the
saddle and although I am still struggling with Hamlet and our sessions are far from smooth, I really enjoyed myself :)
Pic left.: On the way up the top field

Coming back home was less enjoyable as we realised we didn't think of the time the shops close on New Year's Eve! I planned to cook a nice dinner but we ended up doing a Big Improvisation meal which actually turned out mega tasty :)
As Ricky just have to do everything differently than everybody else we opened out Champagne while munching on Big Improvisation ;)

Although the New Year and its big plans haven't yet truly started I took a little step towards them by putting up a couple of adverts. I am dreading the busyness of my week as it can get pretty hectic with the clients I have already but I just have to try and see how I get on. So, I put one advert on YardAndGroom and one on BHS website Both have given me a very good response about a year ago.

Ok, off I pop now for a second helping of Champagne and some last minute celebrations :)
Happy New Year!!

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Reading This Week - "Tug of War - Classical versus "modern" dressage"

While at Olympia I made sure I bought myself a nice stack of reading projects ;) At the moment I have a pleasure to be half way through a mega interesting book: "The Tug of War: Classical versus 'modern' dressage". It's a truly engaging read on various schooling methods, including currently debatable "rollkur" - or hyperflexion, and their influence on horse's health, development and athleticism. If I could I would buy lots of copies and gave it as presents to all my clients.

Tug of War: Classical Versus Modern Dressage

Thursday, 27 December 2007

New Year's Resolutions - 2008

Well, Christmas break is almost over. I won't be going on about all the gifts, although they were all fantastic :) ;I will just mention that Ricky bought me one year subscription to Horse and Hound magazine!! :):):)
Horse & Hound cover
My first issue will be delivered in the first week of January :):)
New year is just four days away and the end of December is the time when I usually try to put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard more likely nowadays) and write down plans, hopes and challenges for the coming 12 months.
Having read a NLP book (see my post here) I decided to give more attention to the words I use not only when teaching but when self-talking my plans. I would normally say 'I hope to take this and that exam this year' or 'I am going to try to fit more training for myself this year' etc. According to NLP theory (which, by the way, have some impressive sporting results when combined with sports psychology), the words and expressions you use on day to day basis have very specific actions on your unconscious mind. If I say to myself that I am hoping to take my Stage IV next year this is exactly what will happen - I will be hoping to take it throughout the year.
I guess, by saying that 'I hope', 'I try' etc I quietly allow various 'ifs' and 'buts' to enter the equation. In other words, I create a back door for myself so I can sneak out undetected without much trouble. Well, I hoped, I tried ...but it didn't happen...will try again next year...etc

I do think words have incredible power. You can observe it easily especially if you teach nervous riders - they will only respond to you and trust you if you use powerful, confidence giving language. This is, by the way, one of the many reasons why I find teaching in English frustrating as my words don't always come to me naturally and sometimes moments of hesitation cost you someones trust. The same frustration, however, pushes me to learn more, improve and develop my linguistic skills further and further.

The book I mentioned above says: "The meaning of your communication is the response you get...which may be different from the one you intended...what you say about yourself and to yourself are your beliefs, and your unconscious mind looks for reinforcement and justification of them..."

So, I am going to stop hoping and trying in 2008. Instead I will:

1) Pass further BHS exams:
2) Train and compete Elementary dressage
3) Attend The National Instructors’ Conventions 2008
4) Obtain UKCC (UK Coaching Certificate) qualification (Level 3)
5) Take more riders on and boost my earnings (which will in turn allow me to afford all the above!)

The above are my priorities for 2008 as far as teaching/coaching career is concerned. There will be plenty little goals and aims on the way but those will be my main focus.
Roll on 2008!

Monday, 24 December 2007

If you like Freestyle to Music ... will love this site - Music for Freestyle - plenty of videos from the best tests in the world!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Olympia London International Horse Show 2007: Dressage/Grand Prix Freestyle to Music

As usual Olympia delivered a wonderful show and I enjoyed every minute of the Tuesday's Grand Prix Freestyle.
Below are some videos and pictures (click on a picture to enlarge); for more, click HERE.

Anky Van Grunsven masterclass was in fact just a 10 minutes display kept light and with a humor.

anky masterclass

Anky's mastercalss videos (as you will notice there were plenty of ignorant people parading in and out during the show as if they could not wait for an interval):

Video 1

Anky Van Grunsven Masterclass 1

Video 2

Anky Van Grunsven Masterclass 2

Video 3

Anky Van Grunsven Masterclass 3

Video 4

Anky Van Grunsven Masterclass 4

Video 5

Anky Van Grunsven Masterclass 5

Video 6

Anky Van Grunsven Masterclass 6

Video 7

Anky Van Grunsven Masterclass 7

Video 8

Anky Van Grunsven Masterclass 8

Starting Order and Results

1) 20:10 Julia Chevanne & Calimucho FRA - 70.050%

Julia Chevanne & Calimucho

2) 20:19 Michal Rapcewicz % Randon POL - 67.800%

michal rapcewicz randon

3) 20:28 Emile Faurie & Dream of Heildelberg I GBR- 68.300%

Emile Faurie & Dream of Heildelberg I - 68.300%

4) 20:37 Evi Strasser & Quantum Tyme CAN - 70.450%

Evi Strasser & Quantum Tyme - 70.450%

5) 20:46 Iryna Lis & Problesk BLR - 66.400%

6) 20:55 Jeroen Devroe & Paganini BEL - 72.200%

Jeroen Devroe & Paganini - 72.200%

7) 21:04 Anna - Katharina Luttgen & Zancor GER - 70.650%

8) 21:13 Dahl Anders & Afrikka DEN - 73.550%

9) 21:32 Carl Hester & Dolendo GBR - 73.100%


Carl Hester & Dolendo - 73.100%


Carl Hester & Dolendo again

10) 21:41 Stephanie Coxford & Mr. President GBR - 71.150%


11) 21:50 Alex van Silfhout & Luxform's Nimbly NED - 72.200%

luxforms nimbly alex van silhout

12) Aat van Essen & Premier NED - 72.050%

premier aat van essen

13) 22:08 Anky Van Grunsven & IPS Salinero NED - 83.050%

anky and salinero


Anky Van Grunsven & IPS Salinero

Anky Van Grunsven & IPS Salinero

Anky Van Grunsven & IPS Salinero - 83.050%

14) 22:17 Laura Bechtolsheimer & Mistral Hojris GBR - 72.450%


laura and mistral hojris

15) 22:26 Kyra Kyrklund & Max FIN - 76.500%

kyra kyrklund and max

I loved Kyra's test - she and Max just danced together as if no one was watching.

Show Jumping on Saturday - World Cup Qualifier - Some great pictures from Olympia Show Jumping on HERE.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Reading this week - NLP in Sports Psychology

Since almost every rider comes with an individual set of different learning styles I like to read up on variety of teaching methods. One of my riders has recently been prizing the NLP (neurolinguistic programming).
I came across it some time ago when reading Mary Wanless's books but didn't really research it any further then. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an interpersonal communication model and an alternative approach to psychoteraphy based on the subjective study of language, communication and personal change.

On Sunday during my lunch hour I spotted a book in the office and decided to borrow it and am reading it this week.

The book:

The content is very interesting to read and all the concepts are simplified and made easily digestible. I started digging a little on the subject and I must say I was surprised to find quite a well of information.
If you would like to have a browse through the book click HERE.
What I found especially engaging was how NLP enhances sports performances. Click at the image below and have a read; who knows, you may benefit from the NLP :)


Saturday, 15 December 2007

“The best and fastest way to learn a sport is to watch and imitate a champion.” [ Jean Claude Killy]

Emile Faurie

Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.Abigail Adams (1744 - 1818), 1780
Franke Sloothaak

Ulla Salzgeber


There is something magical about the frost and teaching people who really want to learn

I know it's cold and my toes are mostly in the state of constant freeze alert but I just can't help but be overwhelmed by the beauty of the frosted arenas when I teach late in the evenings. Don't laugh but on Wednesday, with the floodlights on, it all looked like someone has just dropped and scattered millions of tiny silver earrings all over the place! I kept staring at it now and then with some sort of childish admiration ;) I spent my childhood in the country where winter means snow and a lot of it. Frost like that is a different matter ;)
Horses take longer to warm up in this weather. Sometimes they are being a little fresh and playful and I have to be mega watchful with beginner riders. Sometimes we stop and while I explain things to the riders I am surrounded by the clouds of warm air blown out through the horse's nostrils.
One of the children asked me why she can see the horse's breath in the winter but not in the summer...At the moments like that I am quite pleased I spent four years in a profiled high school class studying biology and chemistry ;))

I found this online at : Why can I see my breath when it's cold?

The Kid's Answer
Kai, age 4: Because oxygen is in your mouth and you blow it out when it's cold. It's white and it comes out of your mouth and some people like to do that. In the summer, the oxygen is still in your mouth and it's sleeping, so you don't see it.

The Parent's Answer
Kai's mom: You have warm air inside you and cold air outside. When they mix, you get a white cloud.

The Scientist's Answer
Water has three phases: liquid, gas, and solid. Water vapor is the gas phase, and ice is the solid phase. What you are seeing when you see your breath, says Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist at the NOAA National Weather Service in Silver Spring, Maryland, are little droplets of water condensing out of a gas that's in your lungs. Our breath contains a lot of vapor because our lungs are quite moist. When we head outside on a cold day, water molecules (the vapor) in our breath lose the energy that, when they're warm, keeps them moving. Instead of bouncing around, they crowd up next to each other. And as they slow down, the molecules change from a gas state to denser liquid and solid states — the visible cloud of tiny particles of water and ice that you see when you exhale.

How to Explain It to Kids
Go outside and have your kids blow on their hands so they can feel how warm their breath is compared to winter air. When our warm breath puffs into cold air, tiny droplets are squeezed out of it like water from a sponge. The drops make a small, vanishing cloud.

After huffing and puffing out in the cold, head back in to warm up with hot chocolate. The plume of steam from the boiling kettle is like your breath: hot and wet. As the jet of water-laden warm air mixes with the cooler air of the kitchen, moisture in it comes out as a cloud of water droplets. The droplets are so small, they disappear from view before ever reaching the ground — just like your frozen breath.

It's handy to know little facts like that as, thank goodness, they earn you a little bit of attention and save you from frustration ( I am not too good with kids, you see).

On Thursday I had a really good session with Hamlet. There was a lot to like about the connection and the contact was better as well. I was particularly happy with the half-halts as I finally managed to get them actually going through him (half-decently) rather than stopping at the base of his neck in a jerky fashion.

Today was quite a busy day which saw me teaching riding club riders in Kent. Although I do have sessions with children/teenagers there they are so much more involved in riding that I almost enjoy teaching them as much as I enjoy teaching adults.
The thing with children riding since forever and without instruction is that they develop all sorts of quirky methods to deal with problems. Those methods are very rarely of much help for their further development as riders and in fact they very often work against them.
Standing in the stirrups, for instance, and pulling hard on a strong pony's mouth will indeed stop the pony but will not teach a child to use their seat, to half-halt, to communicate with the pony with their entire body rather than just the reins. Habits like that are mega hard to break and they desensitise the pony in the process but we are working on it.
What is great is how much effort and heart those young riders put into the lessons and seeing them and the ponies improve is an excellent reward.

The adults' lesson was my typical 'torture' session as I do make those people work hard. They are usually rather tired afterwards but since they love it and I am determined for them to improve, we have a lot of fun time as well as moments of serious learning.
We are continuing to work on flexion and stretching, relaxation and suppleness which is basically the same what I presently do with Hamlet. I do think it's such an important building block for any further steps that I am not going to get anybody to skip on it. The horses have a 'thank you' notes all over their faces, they snort, they chew the bits, they have foamy mouths. It's a privilege to teach people who put so much effort into the exercises and all the 'homework' I give them in between our lessons.
The great news is that I have finally managed to book a session with Anna Ross-Davies. It was difficult to fit the day that would suit all parties involved but I guess there aren't impossible things for those who are really determined. The 1st February 08 is the date. Still a long wait but I am told by everyone it will be well worth it!

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Friday, 7 December 2007

FEI TRAINING SCALE AND WARM-UP with Withages & Schmidt

Forum with Mariette Withages, Chair of the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) Dressage Committee and "O" judge together with Hubertus Schmidt, German Dressage National Champion, Olympic rider, trainer and coach. In this session Mariette Withages provides the comments on the FEI Training Scale of horses. Hubertus Schmidt provides genral outlines regarding the warm-up of the horse.


British Dressage - KBIS Equestrian Convention 2007

Click HERE to read the British Dressage article on the British Equestrian National Convention with Hubertus Schmidt which ran on the 24th-25th November 2007.

If you like Hubertus' method have a look at the Developing power through relaxation article.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Working on losgelassenheit...

Lack of suppleness and looseness is what I am currently having problem with while riding Hamlet. Being my usual detective self I am now trying to learn as much as I can about achieving this elusive losgelassenheit with a horse that tenses up when I ride him.
Most of my half-halts stops somewhere at the base of his neck most of the time (although I had a few very nice moments today when he seemed more through and accepting). I don't feel him coming up with his back and loosening; when he does come round it feels more like neck only roundness rather than arching of the back underneath the saddle. Since I have experienced how it really feels to ride a horse that is 'through' I became dissatisfied with this whole 'arched neck only' situation.
What I do now is I am trying to achieve true long and low outline with Hamlet where he stretches down and towards the contact. We had about 5 minutes today when he actually chewed the rein out of my hand and it felt fantastic! If only I could ride like that for 30 minutes not just 5!
I am hoping Dressage Mum and Echo might be reading this and won't mind offering some exercises and advice? :)

Now, time to read this article: Functional Anatomy of the horse's back where a top German veterinarian discusses why the horse must be stretched forward and down to be able to raise his back. The piece seems pretty comprehensive yet concise and very interesting so I am going to spend a while on studying it tonight. There is something in the fact that some people, me included, learn better when they really understand why and what for something is done.

Can you make a living out of it?

Apart from the obvious equine element, what I like about teaching to ride is the variety of people you come across. One day you teach someone who wants to be a forensic scientist, an autistic man who loves to stare at horse's eye, a vascular surgeon, a cello player etc to name just a few.
I find it fascinating how all those people who would never have met in everyday life, would have never spoken to one another, find a somewhat unique connection via four legged hairy creatures that bump them about.
So yes, I love teaching riding. Today, a city worker asked me whether it is possible to make a living out of being a riding instructor...Having recently thought about it a lot I had to admit that it's highly unlikely the pay would satisfy the enquirer.
This actually really annoys me. I find it infinitely unfair that something I enjoy doing, something I would love to concentrate on improving and making a career of, is not only badly paid but it's paid worse than my very dull, samey, brain killing, part-time office job.
Why can't equestrian coaches be equally regarded and well paid as football coaches? That would be great, wouldn't it? Ha, if only equestrianism got as much attention as football...or, for instance.
My part-time job involves a lot of conversations with a city firm. For every each of those conversations my company is charged per minute. We are also charged for the time it takes to write an email, print a paper, scan a document. I received some bills this morning. One, being for a couple of emails, couple of conversations and a few print outs - totalling 18 minutes - went up to £££...I should have studied law indeed and just teach riding as a volunteer instructor ;)

Out of curiosity I googled some advice 'an average person' would probably read if one was looking for widely available career resources on becoming a riding instructor. As an example Learn Direct/riding instructor says:
  • "Starting salaries for trainee and assistant instructors are likely to be up to £12,000 a year.
  • Experienced instructors are likely to earn up to £24,000."
The problem with this is that the above salaries usually have accomodation included in them. This means, that unless you want to live on the yard, you will never see the money mentioned.

Careers Scotland/riding instructor:

"Riding instructors earn in the range of £12,000 - £17,000 a year, rising to £20,000 - £24,000. Higher earners, including those who work as lecturers, can make around £23,000 - £33,000 a year. Some employers provide instructors with meals and accommodation.

Riding instructors usually work a basic 40 hour week. However, long hours, including early starts, late finishes and work on weekends and public holidays, may be required. Some posts are seasonal."

The lecturing path is the one I am personally interested in so if/when I explore it I shall drop a word about it for sure. However, having had a chance to chat to lecturers from a couple of top UK equine colleges I am aware that not everything is as good as it sounds...

Yes, I know it should all be about being rewarding and satisfying - and it is! - but it is hard to arrange for this satisfaction to pay the bills. Needless to say, the city worker will not be quitting his comfortable (yet deadly boring) chair just yet.

As to me, I will just keep plowing through what I enjoy doing. Who knows what opportunities wait around the corner...

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Just counted...

My hours towards the BHSAI...317 done (those last 7 today in a crazy rain and wild winds). 183 to go...

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Dressage today :) and some news

In the early morning hours I set off to Hamlet's yard. I plaited him yesterday and all plaits stayed put which I was really pleased about. He was rather excited about morning travel hustle and bustle so plaiting him in that state would be a very frustrating experience ;)
Wonderful sunshine made the whole day very relaxing. We arrived at Oldencraig Equestrian Centre well in time to be able to walk about the centre's lovely facilities, browse their saddlery (always nice to have a look at horsey stuff!) soak up the sunshine and get ready without a rush.
Hamlet behaved himself and was fairly settled (having eaten almost whole hay net!). Since
Ricky is still not keen on participating in my competitive endeavours and I wasn't going to have any pictures or videos, I snapped Hammie on its own, patiently waiting for me to fit in a weird hairnet (you don't need it for show jumping ;) under my hat.
Our test, Prelim 17, was in one of the centre's indoor arenas with a warm up outdoors. Due to a lovely weather it worked very well. Warm up arena was 20x60 so provided plenty of room and I must say it was one of the best warm up experiences I have had for a long time.
I started off from a nice walk on the long rein off the track and I could feel he was in a feisty mood but not running against my hand too badly. My guess was that our biggest problem would be tension and I was right.
The first part of the test went quite well and I thought 'hey, this is feeling good!'. There was a gentle music dancing through the speakers and I found it very relaxing. We walked down the long side where Hamlet caught his reflection in the mirrors and must have thought he looked well as he proceeded to soften his jaw and came rounder ;) The bell rang and I did a circle to set him up nicely for the the whole 60m of the centre line. We managed to go deep but balanced into the corners and he really bent well around my inside leg. The sequence of trot 20m and 15m half-circles went well too, he was quite happy with me regulating his rhythm but could have been much more supple and through (he was resisting my restraining aids in the warm up but I was expecting that as it has been a problem before). Walk transition at H was good but I could feel that he would have been happier if we had stayed in trot! In fact, he jogged twice in a change of rein in walk on the long rein and I don't expect high marks for the test. Canter transitions and canter to trot weren't bad but due to tension and not concentrating on me he stroke on left lead on the right canter :( It was my fault though as I could really feel him drifting slightly away from the circumference of the circle and loosing the shoulder. I wasn't quick enough to correct it and the spot for a canter was just then. I sent him right but he just wriggled and stroke left. I changed the lead immediately but again I am expecting a very low mark for this. Canter itself felt very good, bouncy, truly three beat, active and very rideable.
In general I was satisfied with the first part of the test and bits and pieces from the second half but once the tension had crept in it was very difficult to ride well.
The Test Score Sheet will be posted to me as we couldn't wait for the class to finish. I am interested in what the judge had to say. Personally I wouldn't mark myself highly on that test but I want to see whether what I thought was bad, was equally bad for the judge.
I am going to update Hamlet's blog with more details shortly and will add the scores there as well once known.
To summarise, I enjoyed myself more than I thought I would. The organisation was great and it just felt like a treat to be out there.


Anna R.-D. finally let me know on the available dates and looks like I could have a lesson at 2pm on the 29th January the earliest. The problem is I work 9am-9pm on that day and can't cancel the teaching. It's not very easy to set up dates with top trainers, is it? I am now going to contact her again and see if she can do any other dates, eek!


One riding club's riders decided they enjoyed lessons with me and now want regular club rallies; so we will be doing a rally every month in the first week of each month. I hope they know what they have chosen for themselves by going with me ;) There is no lazy riding and doing-nothing on my lessons!
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