Sunday, 30 March 2008
It's the peculiar structure of working life/adult life/business life/working life (whatever you want to call it) whereabouts if you follow your dreams/enjoyed profession you are more than likely to struggle financially. There seem to be a perfect positive correlation between the jobs that give people personal satisfaction and fulfillment and the lowest salary! Sure, there will be some feeling great making money spending their lives in office cubicles but do you see what I mean?
Jobs that make you laugh or are based on caring for something will most likely be at the bottom of any wage statistics.
So yes, it does annoy me a lot. But hey, in this world, if something doesn't make money it's not worth money - sad yet true.
Last week, being also the last week of the month is the time when I analyse my income/expenses (with great help from ManageMyHorse reports!) gave me a grim realisation...if i don't manage to find some funds to help me cover my competition/training costs I will have to put it on hold. The worst thing is, I know it would be a very depressing thing to do as competing and training is what drives and motivates me to get better. I want to ride better and gather more experiences to then be able to teach better. It's all a very close circuit of elements that suppose to jigsaw together. If I loose one I will never get the picture I want. And I don't want a half-made picture either...
As I am more and more aware of the legal situation of freelance instructors in the UK I decided to cut my private clients to absolute minimum until I register with the BHS Register of Instructors and have a full freelance insurance as a part of their package. However, this will not happen until July (as I still need to attend one more course organised in June) and I am therefore short of any potential income coming that way.
So I worry :(
The teaching I do at the moment gives me a lot of the satisfaction and enjoyment I look for in my job. I get up in the morning and I am happy to go to work. This is something I don't want to change. The problem is, I need to take more exams in order to be paid better. The exams and the training towards them are costly...Sometimes you are lucky and you have an employer (like I do now) who not only arrange for the training for you but actually pays you for those training hours. It doesn't change the fact that the pay is low and the costs of living are high.
So I worry :(
I worry because I care. I don't want to become just one of the many instructors grinding their teeth and baring their situation. I want to be the best I can be and challenge myself all the time; I want to be able to afford that challenge too!
It's frustrating and annoying and it upsets me. I even got flowers from Ricky the other day and he never buys flowers ;)
The truth is, and yes I know it, is that I just have to be patient and bare the situation until I have more exams & experience under my belt. In times like this I really wish my family was here to help me so I could buy or loan a couple of horses as then it will all be much more likely for the situation to take the shape I am after; with them living thousands miles away it makes things rather difficult. People who keep their horses all on their own have my greatest admiration as I wouldn't dare to venture into horse ownership without the support I used to have from my family.
Having spoken to people on various ways of acquiring a sponsorship it's pretty obvious that my chances are close to nil. However, I was advised to look for a low level support/funding which just might make a difference.
I am in the process of drafting a "portfolio" which I will then try to send out (as you guess it will also be costly! Ech!).
Someone also told me about this competition run by Horse & Rider magazine and Blue Chip Horse Feeds - 'A unique, One-year Blue Chip scholarship' - "the winner gets a lesson with top rider/trainer plus expert advice, a year's supply of Blue Chip feed, tailored to your horse and Blue Chip clothing for you and the horse". Sounds good, doesn't it? I will have a go although considering the caliber of competitors they sponsor I won't be holding my breath...
I have also decided to definitely enter the BHS Young Instructor of the Year 2008 competition as it has £500 training vouchers on offer.
OK, enough moaning, I am off for a lesson with Hamlet today so will post an update on his training blog in the evening.
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
Go to http://www.everybodysmile.biz/photosynergy/ then click on "Click here to find your events", then go to Munstead 21st March Show Jumping, then go to page 6 and ours are pictures from 0841-0845 (I like the 0842 and 0843 :). The 0844 is weird as his take off point was just at the bottom of that oxer :(
XC Pictures: as above but go to Munstead 31st March XC, then go to page 6, our are images starting in the first raw (last one on the right): 0484 to 0487.
I wish it was possible to link to them but it isn't :(
Monday, 24 March 2008
"Perhaps one of the most insightful speakers during the Summit was Irish Olympic rider, trainer, and eventing guru Eric Smiley who, through years of experience, has seen riding and training trends developing world wide. “There’s no simple solution, no straightforward answer. We need to look beyond the obvious, look deeper.” Smiley pointed out that in Ireland, the public is considered to be two generations removed from country life. In England it is five generations removed from the country which means people are no longer familiar with country ways, terrain, animal behavior and riding in the open among other things. “We’re quick to blame a variety of things—urban versus rural upbringing, the speed of change, education, and authority—people are much more likely to be free thinkers and not as willing to accept authority and responsibility. We blame the changes in the sport: long format to short format [which alters riders’ mindsets], technical fences, and endurance elements.”EventingUSA
Sunday, 23 March 2008
The weekend was freezing! It was incredibly windy and snowy causing a bit of a havoc in the arenas! Saturday blows were rather spectacular and I was very grateful to be able to escape to the indoor school at Hall-Place. Unfortunately, some of my lessons were bound to be outdoors and my cheeks weren't too amused to say the least. I was absolutely freezing by the end of the day. To add to my misery it took me almost three hours to get back home on Saturday as Easter isn't too good a time to use public transport...
Today was nicer commute wise and I was at Barnfield right on time. It was so pretty with humongous snowflakes whirling about :) There was very little wind which made everything much more pleasant.
And this is Cleo the cat who insisted on cuddles while I tried to read a Horse mag at lunch time!
Friday, 21 March 2008
As some of you have noticed we got eliminated from the event classification but it wasn't as bad as it suggests ;)
First of all, it was a technical elimination in show-jumping, in other words a numpty pilot made a mistake and a horse tried his heart out :) We got to go through all the phases and cruised across country! Hamlet was awsome!
Let's start from the beginning though: (I do have better pictures but have to wait for people sending them to me!! The below snaps are stills from videos; once I have more visual material I will add it to Hamlet's blog).
We got 38.4 so about 62% which for Hamlet is quite respectable. However, I was quite shocked at how tense he was and was rather surprised we managed to pull out the score we did with all the headshaking he was performing! I am thinking of giving an oxyshot a go and see whether it will help to relax him. The problem is he doesn't do it at home (or very rarely and just a little bit) or even at lessons away from home so it's not somthing we can work on in training.
It seems truly tension/anticipation related and it almost seems like some form of headshaking. He warmed up nicely at first but got tenser and tenser when I asked him for more.
Nevertheless, he allowed me to contain his tension to some extent and was very acurate responding to most of my aids. He didn't work through though and didn't accept the contact properly hence mostly 6s and a couple of 7s (for canter transitions).
3. Little better and some flexion
4.Final halt & salut
Show Jumping: 12.02pm
Back to the lorry. Quick change of saddles, tendon boots on and off we went to warm up for the jumping. I would much rather have more time in between the phases as felt a little bewildered by everything being in different places. I am sure I will be more chilled about it next time but today I found it all very rushed. I only managed to see one show jumping round and didn't walk the course (but then it didn't seem to be a habit to walk a SJ courses at events...??). Anyway, I will make sure I have a good look next time!
The course was small and inviting but built on a cirular pattern which required quite a lot of obedience from the horses. Hamlet jumped well in the warm up, was very positive and forward thinking. Unfortunately, he was also very, very strong and I found it mega difficult to keep control over his canter and negotiate the circular pattern in the same time!
We might try a different bit for the show-jumping phase next time as I have very limited stearing and the whole round was well too wild.
3. Oops, no head ;)
And here is how we got eliminated...
I was approaching the last combination - fence 8. Hamlet was powering forward and while I tried to regain some control he managed to drift to the right. As a result of me trying to slow him down and fight for the better line in the same time we arrived at the oxer on a very short stride and jumped so close to the right wing that despite of me kicking on to the last vertical he didn't really have much of a chance to jump it.
We circled away and I stared at the bottom of the fence to see if it's marked a and b. You see, in pure show-jumping you would always have it marked that way and when I didn't see the letters I thought I better jump the second elemnt on an angle :-0. What a stupid thing to do!
The moment I was in front of that vertical and saw there was no sign on it whatsoever I realised that was it :(
I have no idea why the hell I thought that one strided double might be treated as seperate fences! I think I got confused with XC when you can have a one strided combination treated both as seperate fences or as a combination. I tried so hard to remember all the XC bits and pieces that all my SJ knowledge dissapeared :( I was very dissapointed with myself, I must say!
XC - 12.55
After changing into my xc gear, changing Hamlet's boots etc I only had about 10 minutes left to my XC start time. He was so strong I started to worry I would be all over the place out there! Tried a little canter but we got a full run straight away and had to bridge the reins to go back to trot.
Took him over the warm up jump - a palisade and he just cantered past it! Well, this time I knew he was just taking a mickey so gave him a couple of quick slaps next to my right leg (as it's my weak leg and he seems to take advantage!) and he didn't dare to drift after that. We jumped the palisade a couple of times, then the roll top and he was definitely on a mission.
1. Start box - being counted down
2. Off we go
3. Over the first one
4. Over the brush (if you have binoculars ;)
Suzanne and Wendy from Barnfield Riding School came over to say hello and to watch us and think they secretely fell in love in Hamlet! ;)
He is indeed a very likable chap :)
To sum up - it was an interesting experience, I wish I could nip some more horses and get more events under my belt.
I regret there is a big fat 'E' next to Hamlet's name on his BE records now as he was fantastic XC, bold and jumped everything I asked him to jump.
We live, we learn - onwards and upwards.
Wednesday, 19 March 2008
I will try to arrange for lots of pics and maybe some videos and will report on our success or total failure as soon as we are back :)
The ambitious plan is to close the year with both Stage IV and Intermediate teaching Test...will see :)
Now, I just need to save for the exams' fees!
See, that instructor did remember the incident but no report was written and signed. The Accident Book has a section where you put your recommended actions to be taken and if the rider signs it you are in a much better position than if you had no records at all.
Most of the workshop was dedicated to good and poor coaching practise, dealing with abuse (neglect, physical, sexual, emotional abuse) and bullying in sports; how to recognise abused children and what signs to look for (apart from obvious bruising, behavioural changes etc); the role of policy and procedures when recruiting employees and trainees ( both paid and unpaid); dealing with abusive colleagues and other coaches etc
In the second part of the workshop we were given some case studies to discuss in groups and to come up with the course of actions to be taken to solve the problems described.
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
The latter I have planned for June (they are are organised periodically and not too often unfortunately) and for the former I am off right now. In fact, I should be out of doors in this very minute instead of typing this ;) for the workshop starts at 10.30 in the other side of London!
I will write a little report from it either tonight or tomorrow.
Monday, 17 March 2008
competition organised by the British Horse Society and which offers a chance to experience some quality coaching training. I don't think I have enough knowledge and experience to even think of winning the series but it might be an interesting thing to be involved in.
If I manage to sort out my joining of the Register of Instructors by the South East region's deadline (24th July) I might give it a go.
If not, I shall try next year, which is also the last year I will be eligible to enter (you must be 30yrs old or younger on the 1st January of the year of competition).
Friday, 14 March 2008
Thursday, 13 March 2008
The atmosphere of the place was great; it's just so peaceful yet energetic there with lots of various horses being worked, different lessons happening and I am sure I will learn loads.
My schedule included two lessons for the staff - one group towards Stage II and the other towards Stage III, private lesson with a beginner, one intermediate jumping lesson for kids and one hour group training for myself with Listed BD dressage judge (very strict and I have no illusions now as to how horses are judged at affiliated dressage!) for which we had to evaluate the horses we rode and just generally chat about their ways of goings, quality of paces, scales of training etc.
The highlight of the day, however, was my 3pm ride on an absolutely gorgeous dressage schoolmaster (works to PSG at home) and spent an hour grinning like mad, riding flying changes and attempting canter pirouettes (which I didn't manage ;) first one I almost rode into the wall, second we sort of did half of it but my coordination of the aids wasn't good enough to finish the full circle - damn!). I hope to be able to ride him again. He's almost 18hh and is easily the biggest horse I have ever ridden, as well as being the best trained one I ever sat on.
His extended trot is such that I am now in awe of all those Grand Prix riders who actually sit to the paces of their powerful dressage machines! He was flying! The canter - I could ride all day, absolutely fantastic.
He is not push button but if you do things correctly he will do what you ask for. At first I got some renvers, flying changes and shoulder-in when I was just attempting to do a 10m circle ;)) Once I got the feel for him though he felt so powerful and regal! It's so addictive!
And a picture of one of the Giant Cats (I wanted to put my hand next to him to give you an idea of the size but I didn't dare disturb his sleep...! You would know why if you actually saw how small my hand was next to him!).
Monday, 10 March 2008
I usually start late on Mondays, sleeping until late morning to get rid off tiredness accumulated during my busy weekends and then staying in bed reading towards my next exams or watching some competition DVDs.
Sometimes I get messages in the morning and I am usually worried about those as I seem to envisage some tragedy happening for some reason (like Hamlet going lame, some other horses colicking or riders breaking legs etc) - silly I know but what can I do.
So this morning's news included one cancelled lesson, friend enquiring whether I could school her horse today and Hamlet's owner telling me how nicely waterlogged and windy there was in Kent!
Up I got to make myself a cup of coffee and one glance at my patio told me that the night wasn't particularly peaceful! My garden furniture were all over the place entangled in some sort of debris brought in by the wind.
Coffee and bowl of muesli later the rain and wind arrived again, vicious and strong. I resigned myself to staying at home and sorting my paperwork. Having received some documents from Revenue & Customs I guessed it would be wise to finally go through them, fill in everything nicely and send it back as asked.
Around 3pm, when I would normally be schooling Hamlet, the weather got better - how annoying!! In a spur of moment I decided to pop out for a little while to do some food shopping and maybe some non-horsey clothes shopping. I should really get a few items that I can wear in the "real world" rather than have a full wardrobe of breeches and horsey stuff!! The boots I teach in also need replacement after two years of excellent service but typically for me I ended up coming back with a book! Grrr
It's Zara Phillips's autobiography, a book I really wasn't going to buy...I should really have gotten it from Amazon anyway!
This is why I don't go shopping too often ;))
At the moment I am just sitting here, tea and biscuits generously supplied by Ricky, catching up with my emails, updating my friends on my whereabouts and sharing the tale of my earnings with HMRC.
For those of you who think about going self-employed here are a few links (get those biscuits out!) :
* HMRC Self - Employment
* Self-Employment Check List
* Assess your chances of survival going Self-Employed
I hope the weather improves tomorrow! Forecast isn't too good for the next couple of weeks but maybe it will at least be rideable.
Saturday, 8 March 2008
Hamlet and I are in Section B, number 78 - I know it's crazy but I love having number 7 in my starting numbers (if I don't have it I usually do maths on them until I get it - sad, I know;). I don't really have any other prejudice ;))
I must say, I almost forgot how it is to teach groups of 8 to 9 little people from 9am to 4pm! My throat is dying ("it's too windy, I can't hear!"), my legs are dying (from constant walking about as those precariously tipped riders didn't give me a chance to sit down even for a minute), my head is about to explode (still hear the never ending chatter of the weekend helpers and tens of children about - WHAT can you talk about 24/7?? It's m a d!)...anyway, I think you get the picture :)
Needless to say, I will think four times before agreeing to do such a cover again.
As much as I support the development of equestrianism and riding in general teaching of this sorts really isn't for me.
It's great to see people enjoying those lessons and, strangely enough, I did get a lot of satisfaction out of today's little breakthroughs and tries. However, on the long run, I am certain I would go bonkers! I would love to put all those riders on the lunge and give them a good one-to-one, they would be riding 100% better after a month.
Small groups, or better still private lessons and quality ,structured training - that's my world :)
Off I go now to collapse on my bed with some reading material. 9 am to 5.30pm day awaits tomorrow - thankfully, just small groups and private slots :)
Thursday, 6 March 2008
Monday, 3 March 2008
Episode 5 - which sees me in the year 1995 and beginning of 1996: the time when I met my first trainer, went to my first training holiday, had my first success in show jumping competition and first taste of the Real thing...
Although my main interest when it came to horses had been show-jumping I also enjoyed all sorts of other equestrian sports and had special fondness for vaulting. It always seemed incredible to me how amazingly coordinated you have to be to perform all the intricate exercises on a cantering horse. When a few friends and I got together and decided to go for a training holiday we went for one which
offered a comprehensive programme and vaulting was a firm element of it!
The camp was fantastic - we lived, breathed and dreamt horses 24/7. We were allowed to do basically anything. I remember one night we went to sleep in a straw/hay barn next to the stables. It was pitch dark as the barn had no electricity in and we spent the night telling scary stories to each other and freaking ourselves to the point when we just run out of the barn, into the night and back into our chalets screaming our heads off ;) I don't think the horses appreciated that but I still remember some of those stories!
The camp lasted three weeks and we rode three times a day on weekdays and twice at the weekends (as then we went for several hours long trail rides). Trainings run early morning, afternoon and evening. One of the lessons was always jumping, one hacking out and one flatwork or various other things including introductory vaulting sessions :)
The latter was great fun. I have had since tried to acquire vaulting belt/leather blanket alike one on the pictures below and use it for teaching but the cost is prohibitive.
On the picture above where I am hanging from the horse you had to dismount via a somersault. You held the special handles, lowered yourself so your legs were above your head and then you just flipped yourself over as if doing a somersault. Of course you had to let go of the handles in the right moment :)
In the end of each week we had an in-house show: something which incorporated everything we learnt during the week. One of the classes for instance required you to design and make your own costumes, dress up, create your own little flatwork show and then jump a course of fences (nothing more than 3ft3). You got points for making your show more difficult so we incorporated riding facing the rear and "round the world" in trot with no one holding the horse...I actually do have a picture of me doing this but I thought it might be a bit too much for today's health & safety ;) However, if I don't get too much horrified feedback I will add it up on here.
My riding improved incredibly over this holiday and I am since a big fan of intensive training weeks. I especially enjoyed jumping a different horse every day. They all actually loved it so it was a very nice change after Iskra!
However, on the last day of the camp something happened that actually secretly started to significantly change my life with horses and who I was to grow into...
The last day was to be a treat to us all and we were going for a several hours ride over a very varied countryside and the nature of those rides can be compared to hunting in the UK. It was fast with lots of various obstacles, gates, dunes, woodland and fields on the way.
On the morning of the ride I was grooming my mount for the day, a grey mare called Pretoria. She was very stubborn and didn't want to give me her front leg so I could pick her foot out. It started to take way too long and as we all needed to be ready 9.00 pronto I was getting really worried. Finally I figured that I could slap her stronger just under her knee on the inside which would trigger the reflex alike in a human and she would quickly lift her leg giving me a chance to grab it. I also figuered that I could stick the hoof pick under her foot to get her to react - what a fool!
Leaving it dirty wasn't an option as I wouldn't be allowed to join the ride.
I started with a gentle pat below her knee and a jab with a hoof pick, nothing. A bit stronger, and wow! She did indeed bend her leg but did it in such a way that she kicked me straight into my own knee sending me flying across the barn - literally a few good meters away.
That was pretty painful. If you ever broke something and you know the feeling of a sort of pain that leaves you blind and feeling sick then you will know what I mean. I could not breathe and could not move for some time. I have no idea how long it lasted but slowly the pain decreased and I stayed sitting on the ground with my knee hard pressed in between my hands as if I wanted to hold everything together.
The next thing I remember was my instructor coming to check on me and enquire why was I taking so long and to tell me everybody was waiting for me. I told him what happened and he asked me whether I could bend and unbend my knee. I stood up to test it and yes, I could do that.
He asked me whether I could walk and I tried. Surprisingly the pain kept decreasing to the point it was bearable. I could walk but...my knee felt very, very weird. Very loose and sort of wobbly as if I had a bag of pudding inside it.
I told him I was fine.
Pretoria stood like a lamb as if nothing what happened had anything to do with her. She didn't even flick an ear when I climbed on (thankfully my injured knee was the right one so I could still get on). I couldn't do rising trot as my knee didn't seem to be able to take any weight so I spent entire trot moments in sitting trot. We cantered a lot anyway and Pretoria had the most armchair sort of canter that I didn't complain.
After 4 or so hours we returned and I wondered whether I would be able to get off. Throughout the ride I was telling myself that everything was all right and I would just get off and be fine. I wasn't.
I did get off, untack the mare and went to pack my bags. By the evening where all the parents arrived to pick us up my knee was three times the size, filled with fluid and I had a fever.
We arrived home late at night and my father, who had a couple of knee operations, put loads of ice on it and bandaged it for the night.
First thing in the morning we set off to the hospital and left with my leg in plaster for 2 weeks with suspected ligament strain. I also experienced one of the scariest moment when my orthopedist stuck a needle long enough to go through your leg and come out the other way into my knee to remove the fluid. That wasn't very nice to say the least.
Throughout this whole ordeal I had only one thing in mind: when will I be able to ride again!!
They said I would be ok in a couple of weeks. If only...
For the time being though, I was indeed fine. The plaster went off and I was riding the next day. My knee didn't feel quite right but I was in denial and pretended all was just great. It sort of was, at least for some next two years.
In autumn 1995 I finally got to ride Pika. Her foal was weaned and she was slowly put back into work. The October show came and we got placed in a 1m class. I still have a rosette from that day somewhere:) We came third or fourth, don't remember and couldn't care less about the placing. I was just elated to be able to ride a full course without embarrassing elimination!
I got her on a month loan after that show and it was my first taste of real horse ownership.
Some time later that year the owner of the stables arranged for a meeting with me and my friend and our parents. She announced that her daughter would be starting a professional jumping training with one of the best riders/trainers in the country and whether we would like to join...Sure we did. It involved not only training at the stables but also weekly lessons at the trainer's then base: The Boguslawice Stud.
When I heard who was going to train us I almost fell off the chair. To give you an idea who he was in Poland: imagine you are 16 years old, you love show-jumping and want to be a professional rider. Someone calls you and tells you that you have just been offered training with John and Michael Whitaker, they will come to your yard to teach you as well as you will be invited to their yards to ride their horses and learn to jump higher, more difficult tracks.
Well, I hope you are with me here.
I was to train with Grzegorz Kubiak - the best show-jumper in Poland, both then and now (currently based with Sobieski Jumping Team).
To be continued...
Saturday, 1 March 2008
It was a fantastic day and great learning opportunity. Full report is on Hamlet's training diary.
I am shattered but in the same time would love to set off to Chilham again and correct my mistakes! Well, at least my drop position isn't bad. Cross country is a new play to me and I am only starting to learn so there is plenty to work on. At least I got told my drop position was classic, meaning very good ;) Secret: many, many hours watching Burghley Horse Trials on DVD !! Visualisation is a powerful tool!