Thursday, 31 January 2008
The reason of the changes: I have been made redundant from my office job on Wednesday. It made me very angry as it was the last thing I expected (simply due to being led to believe otherwise by my former boss). I was planning to leave anyway but not yet and not so all of a sudden. I also wanted it to be my decision, made when I am ready, not a day before my holiday and not in the middle of rather costly plans.
Then again, life throws surprises at me all the time; sometimes they are good and sometimes they are pretty bad.
I am having my long awaited holiday now visiting my parents. It would have been even better if I didn't have to worry about job hunting upon my return!
The dilemma I have at the moment is whether to: 1) increase the freelance hours to match my former office salary 2) take full-time job with horses 3) look for another part-time office job to secure some bills and give me a bit of overall security that comes from being employed by someone else...and continue freelancing 4) take part-time employment with horses and continue freelancing as I am now.
My redundancy money will last until the end of March which seems both like a long time and like almost here!
I decided to just chill out for few days I am here with my parents and give myself this thinking time without pressure. My plan is to see some friends I haven't had a chance to chat to for ages and to show Ricky some of the places in my home city.
Nice, chilled glass of vino if you got this far. Any ideas welcome as always :)
Monday, 28 January 2008
If you can offer a home for life for this mare and would like to know more about her past please let me know. I don't know the seller. I do know the horse...
In the morning, as any other weekday morning, I work as a credit controller. You may want to think twice about owing me any money...;) Not that I will have to chase you for anything remotely as substantial as I chase for now...I wish!
At midday I leave the office and get out to breathe. Offices make me claustrophobic. The fog seemed to have brought true January chill today and although I do feel it I think how good it is to sense the smell of winter, feel it in the wind which makes my eyes tear.
My bus comes straight away and the tube train arrives as if called for. This alone makes me smile - there is nothing worse than public transport out of order!
I get home, have a coffee and watch some dressage DVD from Aachen for 20 minutes. Do a little tidying up. Sometimes I think Hamlet's stable looks better than my own house ;)
My dear OH works out of the house for a change so no midday chatting today.
My train to Kent is cancelled, I take the next one and arrive at the yard fairly late. Hammie stands at the gate as if he was telling me off for not being on time hehe It's much warmer here or maybe it's just seeing the horses that makes me immune to the weather :)
I have a good ride trying hard to work on various things I learnt at the lesson with Anna on Thursday. It's 50/50 as far as my satisfaction is concerned - I am tough on myself and I won't settle for 'just fine' but I think Hammie worked well.
Then it's time to teach. Shame the nights fall so quickly as it's hard to see your clients' mistakes at 5pm with just one lamp starring it's half-blind eye in the direction of the arena. I walk next to the horse to make sure I miss as little as possible. Despite this visibility issue we get some interesting results and everybody is pleased.
Tomorrow and Wednesday will be mostly filled with teaching until late.
Thursday, 24 January 2008
To give you more of an idea of what I am talking about, have a look at Ulla's Freestyle in 2003.
I watched it and I knew I wanted to ride like she did. First of all, I had to lengthen my stirrups from my normal show-jumping length. Once I have done that I found out I could barely stay in the saddle, my feet were dancing through the stirrup irons and it was as far from Ulla's riding as it can possibly be.
So I started riding bareback. Everywhere. I had this lovely young stallion I was bringing on to show jump and we did everything without a saddle. Hacking, jumping and flatwork. After 6 months of that my legs seemed to find their way down, they stayed neatly underneath me no matter what and I discovered what a 'deep seat' feels like.
It was still far cry from Ulla and good dressage riders but I had to start somewhere...
I kept riding long whenever I could and whatever I managed to snatch for a ride. Some time ago I found out about this trainer, Anna Ross-Davies, who was trained by Ulla Salzgeber but also run an equestrian centre just outside London. Needless to say, I decided I was going to try to have a lesson with her.
This is a report from my first lesson with Anna.
Wednesday, 23 January 2008
One of the riding schools I work for received a rain of cancellations and yesterday, with one day notice, I found out there was no work for me today. When your finances are pretty much dependent on working things out up front, situation like this one is the last thing you need.
Needless to say, I am not too happy with how they tackle their freelancers. It transpired that last week they called off another instructor who also works on Wednesdays so this week they called me off.
The thing is, last week I had all my regular clients whom I always encourage to come regardless of the weather. I didn't teach any of the other instructor's clients who clearly didn't show up. I wouldn't mind being called off if there were mine clients who cancelled but if I find out otherwise I will be rather disappointed.
Yet another freelancer and I had a chat about it yesterday. He is in the business about twice as long as I am and agreed that the booking politics at the school are questionable.
The problem with this 'once you, once her, once him' system is that you loose one of the most important incentives for retaining your clients. Sure, their development and improvement give you personal and professional satisfaction but neither of these will pay your bills (unfortunately!).
I have almost finished my AI hours...once this is done I have to pay for a CRB check, take a Child Protection course, Equine Specific First Aid course, pay my BHS membership for the next year and a Register fee in order to be able to join BHS Register of Instructors. All this amounts to over £360 just to be able to obtain the Certificate. Now you see why I wish there were no cancellations...
Thankfully, for one negative thing there is usually one positive thing. Someone at Hamlet's yard is interested in lessons so I might just be able to expand my private clients list a tiny bit :)
And now off I go to the kitchen to cook some nice fish for supper :) For those who are maybe a little confused by this last sentence, the luxury of cooking on a Wednesday needs mentioning. It wouldn't happen if I hadn't had an unexpected afternoon off!
Sunday, 20 January 2008
...for what you might get is a bunch of mothers who think that their children, those that you have just recently taken over from another instructor, do not get enough fun...why? because they are not allowed to canter.
You may mention that the reason why XYZ isn't cantering is because they barely manage to stay on in a jog (trot not yet established) and because they somewhat lack the coordination and strength to even ask for a canter. But don't be fooled; this will not be heard. All you will be told is that XYZ goes to U and there they ride out on treks and canter for AGES. Yes, not just a minute round.
Some mothers will understand but there will be one or two who won't.
And you will have to bite your tongue before you say two things: that your colleague who used to take the XY and Z out on hacks now refuses to do so as they can't control the horses and that maybe they could just go back to U instead of going through the boring inconvenience of a lesson with you.
It may be that you will step on some one's ego telling them their child is currently the weakest rider in a group. You will say that since they are so painfully honest about how disappointed they are with their kids' riding lessons (and they think they have to repeat the same thing over and over again, possibly in case you have impaired hearing) you have no reasons to hide anything either.
No matter how many times you and your office staff explain that the surface is waterlogged and unsuitable for certain kinds of lessons you will still be given The Face. No matter how many times you say the ponies are not push-button (i.e. they are on the verge of being down right dangerous but you decide against being 100% honest about this;) you will be given a broken record of complaints regarding lack of canter.
To be fair, I would happily let those kids whizz around the arena if only the health & safety rules didn't breathe into my neck. I would be more than pleased to actually see them falling off and make nothing of it; to see them laugh as they slide off in the corners instead of looking at their terrified faces every time they loose balance.
How much more fun would it be for me too!
Instead, myself and my colleagues have to train our patience and endure incompetent and unnecessary comments. The reward are the lessons with all the over 16s who can at least speak for themselves and who appreciate the effort being put into their riding education.
Today made me think about something:
The most important thing in learning to ride isn't fun. The most important thing is to understand you are riding a living creature who deserves to be treated according to its character and nature. The most important thing is to learn how not to harm this creature in the process of acquiring the riding skills. The fun comes second to all that.
This is what I teach and this is what I will continue teaching no matter what. Those who do otherwise will most likely do so at the expense of the horses.
On the riding front I am pleased to say Hamlet's schooling is going very well and I am having a great time with him. My lesson with Anna R-D is in just a few days - can't believe how quickly the time has past!
Tuesday, 15 January 2008
Michelle's plea - Operation Esther - so called after a little donkey who was born in Horse Trust's stables out of one of the rescued donkeys - is an appeal to all who care...
"Find Horse Transport" company kindly donated a website (http://www.operationesther.com/) which assists in centralising all the ideas and bring together people who want to help the Amersham horses.
"Michelle placed a plea on the forum asking for everyone to give up one luxury..
If they smoked, give up that packet of cigarettes and send the money to a charity dealing with the horses, the price of a packet of cigarettes would pay for a bag of chaff or a bale of hay.
If they sat down in the evening with a bottle of wine, forfeit that and donate the money!!!
Monday, 14 January 2008
Quite a few people have asked me recently what is the UKCC all about so I decided I may as well write a post on it.
"The UKCC is not a qualification in its own right, but is an endorsement of existing or new qualifications" [Bristish Horse Society].
ABOUT UNITED KINGDOM COACHING CERTIFICATE (UKCC) for EQUESTRIAN SPORTS - FAQs
PRESENTATION BY ABRS: INTRODUCTION TO THE SCHEME and LEVEL 2 (BHSPT/AI Instructors can take this qualification).
PRESENTATION BY BRITISH DRESSAGE: INTRODUCTION TO THE SCHEME and LEVEL 3 (part of new, planned BHSII qualification; only the Intermediate Teaching Test will be affected, Riding & Stable Management sections will remain as they are)
A pilot scheme and assessment for BHS instructors was held last year at Gleneagles Equestrian Centre. You can read more about it on here: BHS qualified Instructors gain first UKCC Level 2 endorsement.
Saturday, 12 January 2008
He whinnied to me today when I came to tack him up (well, yes I did have apples with me;) and I thought how great would it be to have my own horse again. Mustn't think about it now though!
Friday, 11 January 2008
I have been teaching on rallies for Chislehurst Riding Club since November last year and the people involved are great. We started meeting once in a few weeks but they got really eager and interested and so it is now changed to once a week sessions. I drill them into correct position a lot and 70% of the time we work on basics. The level of their riding vary from one lady, who I have been teaching for over a year and who is heading towards dressage Novice, through those that need a lot of polishing but are fairly competent to riders who have some learning to do on a very basic level.
The tomorrow's session will have a "understanding rider's influence on horse's balance, paces, rhythm and impulsion; coordination of hand and leg; balance game" theme and so the elements will involve:
Warm Up phase:
- usual walk warm-up when we work on position, correct any crookedness and ride accurate lines and arena figures and chat shortly on what's ahead;
- we will then move to some 5 minutes work in work and then trot in a jockey length of stirrups to make the riders thinking with their seats/seat bones.
- working on fluid transition between forward seat (half-seat) and dressage seat which will work on changing from a tall and narrow to a broad and low support base, and will work on constant adjustments of muscular effort without getting tense. This is one my favourite exercises for training the body awareness but they haven't done it yet and I suspect some cries for help :)
- New: How to Lengthen and Shorten the strides correctly
- Continued from previous week: How to put your horse on the aids (so he can then be 'put on the bit') - there is so many strange concepts that are taught to riders in this country that I honestly think a good fairly tale book could be written if all those were to be gathered together. After this month and a half I think the riders are getting the idea that the 'round' neck does not mean the horse is 'on the bit'. There is still lots to learn though so we will stay with the basic mechanics of achieving a preliminary/training outline for as long as necessary.
- Continued.: Interplay in between hand and leg in practise; riding correct half-halts and halts; developing feel for the movement
- Continued: How do we use the reins (now, this sounds ridiculously easy but don't be mislaid. Although most people know what that the inside rein is mostly just for creating bend they would still use it to turn! So we go back to this every time).
- 5 minutes with each rider working on suppleness of the rider's body and independence of the reins; working on abdominal and psoas muscles. I try to explain over and over that developing the correct, powerful seat has priority over working on the horse (since it is the rider who makes the horse).
- "What if I take your horse's bridle off" game ;) I don't expect them to agree so we will settle for knotted reins which we did in the past. This is actually one of my favourite exercises for teaching the rider that the reins are not for steering but for connection, regulation and finishing touch of the body aids and that it is not impossible to ride the dressage test pattern without a bridle! The interesting is that, and this has happened to me many times, that a rider would look at me horrified and would not want to even try. Some do try but the horse takes them absolutely everywhere and they say it is impossible. They ask me to demonstrate it is possible and once they have seen me doing this with their horse they hop on and ...do it as well! Of course there are horses which are not suitable for this sort of exercises so if you do think of doing this yourself, consult with your instructor first (and always have someone present with you in a SAFELY FENCED arena!).
Thirty-two horses were found dead at the site in Amersham on Friday and three other animals had to be put down.
RSPCA staff and vets described the scene as the worst they had ever encountered, one telling BBC News "it was utterly horrific".
The other 80 animals at the site have been transferred to horse sanctuaries. "
Horse & Hound-Police and equine charities rescue 84 horses from Bucks
And online, including Horse & Hound Forums whose members got together to offer donations, hay, rugs and help to the charities taking part in the rescue.
- Police and equine charities rescue 84 horses from Buckinghamshire - over 6690 visited.
Thursday, 10 January 2008
I am definitely feeling much more confident of what I can ask him for now and the best thing is that his suppleness and rhythm - two things that I just couldn't get right two weeks ago - have now been significantly improved. I will probably have one more lesson next week before the training session with Anna. I hope she will give us some good things to work on and advise how to get the best out of him.
My big dream would be to do a dressage test of about 30pts (about 70%) at our first event at Munstead.
Tuesday, 8 January 2008
There are moments when I really do enjoy getting people into riding, seeing their first steps and how they learn to discover the beauty of the sport. However, the organisation, the horse power, the facilities, the way the riding has to be "sold" to the client - it's all mega off putting.
I have about 90 hours left out of the compulsory 500 to complete my AI certificate. Once this is done I am going to find more private clients.
The good thing about teaching at riding schools is that you get a block of hours and you just stay in one place and teach. You don't have to worry about transport, traffic, costs etc. You may, as I did, come across a great team of people to work with which is always great. The bad thing is that the rate is always lower than when you teach privately, you are stuck with beginners 60% of the time (and that if you are lucky as someone told me today they teach almost only total novices) and you are therefore not developing as an instructor.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against teaching total beginners - I actually prefer those who start with me over those who already acquired bad habits due to someone's lazy teaching. I also get a lot of satisfaction and pleasure from teaching intermediate and advanced riding schools riders.
However, what I am steadily feeling more and more sure of is that I have best results with competitive, amateur riders. Those who don't necessarily want to get to the top but who want to be the best they possibly can and who want to bring the best out of their horses.
This considering, I will be amending my weekly schedule from the middle of this year.
Little news: my lesson with Anna Ross-Davies is now moved to the 24th of January - very exciting :)
Picture left: taken on Sunday - one of the horses at Barnfield RS enjoys his lunch time roll ;)
Pony Club UK have issued new dressage tests for 2008. The new test sheets and diagrams are available on www.DressageDiagrams.com immediately.
New tests for 2008 PC UK are withdrawing some tests at the same time. We have found in the past that withdrawn tests go on being used for a while so we still have the diagram version available just in case. Tests being withdrawn **: diagrams still available We are expecting new tests to be announced by British Eventing and British Riding Clubs. As soon as we have them we will let you know.
Some new tests for 2008 still to appear
PC UK are withdrawing some tests at the same time. We have found in the past that withdrawn tests go on being used for a while so we still have the diagram version available just in case.
Tests being withdrawn
**: diagrams still available
We are expecting new tests to be announced by British Eventing and British Riding Clubs. As soon as we have them we will let you know.
Saturday, 5 January 2008
Once I started teaching I was fine and everybody worked very well. The theme today was mainly getting more feel for the horse's movement, timing of aids and influencing the horse with the body aids (weight and core).
Some time ago someone told me about this exercise of a classical dressage instructor so I tested it today - and yes, it works!
Try for yourself - while in walk, make your eyes go soft (don't look at anything specific), and imagine your seat bones as two wheels turning backwards in the rhythm of your horse's walk, your knees as pair of wheels turning forwards and your ankles as set of wheels turning backwards again. Keep your lower legs in a gentle, supporting contact with the horse's sides.
Try to identify which leg is stepping underneath. Then imagine those wheels getting smaller, smaller and smaller. Horses today got the message straight away, one even halted beautifully :)
Then imagine the wheels getting bigger, bigger and bigger like tractor wheels - what happens?
Horses on my lesson today went into long striding lovely walk with barely any leg aid:) If you try this yourself please leave a comment with your results!
We also did some 10 minutes in sitting trot working on deepening the seat and letting the legs hang softly against the horse. It is hard work for those riders and I was really proud of their improvement. Watch out for their Riding Club ;)
Afterwards, because I am totally crazy (the only reasonable explanation), I took Hamlet for a walk around the lanes. Due to some youth on motorbikes we had to escape the lanes and go up the fields but that was the best of decisions as Hammie gave me an absolutely amazing ride. We did a lot of trotting in half seat and every time I asked him to come back to me he did. He was really obedient and soft and every half-halt went through him very well. There were a few times when he resisted and went into his wooden mode but I immediately asked him to halt and flexed him left and right until he softened again.
After about 25 minutes of trot work I asked him for a canter and it was like driving a smooth car - I was really impressed as he can be very strong. Not today - he was listening, and I made sure I checked him at his slightest attempt to speed up. Discipline works a treat!
I was less jolly when I finally returned home in a rather unhealthy state. Thankfully, Ricky was in a caring mood and I got all the lovely attention you need when you are feeling bad!
He even set up his laptop for me and I can just lie in bed and type away :)
Working whole day tomorrow so I better have a good rest!
Thursday, 3 January 2008
I was truly exhausted afterwards, which was great :) If only I didn't sit here now with my nose running like hell and temperature rising I would be even more pleased!
Anyway, just after having a lesson I was due to give one myself. I love that feeling of having worked hard on myself as I seem to be much more eagle-eyed when teaching later. It helps me to spot things I maybe sometimes overlook or skip on. To top my own good session, the lesson went very well and Rex worked his bum off. He actually have very similar problems to Hamlet, which is lack of submission (but it's more physical with him rather than mental like with Hamlet), but he is also very very stressy and a worrier so you have to go step by step. The rider did her best tonight as well and they both produced some very pleasing work. We kept it to about 35 minutes only due to the cold but Rex seems to thrive on short, yet demanding, sessions. He started off very difficult, running and hollowing but with lots of circles, slow trot, transitions and flexion exercises he improved in barely 10 minutes. At the end he was very soft, round and rhythmic - if only he keeps improving like this I will be very happy :)
I don't normally buy those 'Learn to ride/learn how to teach to ride' books as they are so shallow and useless that I would rather send the money to ILPH. I much prefer reading classic books on equitation as I seem to find them thoughts provoking and mentally stimulating.
However, I bought this one. Mainly out of curiosity as: 1) the author worked for the famous London riding school 'Suzanne's' which was forced to close its doors due to insurance premiums and 2) there was a mention in Horse & Hound that he had to publish the book himself. I said to myself - I wonder why? Was there no one wanting to publish it? Is it controversial in some ways?
If, like me, you expect to come across some dry instructional material, the first thing that will hit you in this book is the way the content is presented. It's not your usual 'studies' book; it's a true tale of an instructor for whom horses and teaching were the most important things in life. A tale that really grabs you and you find yourself reading until 1am as if it was an exciting fiction story in front of you. Everything in the book seems very real and you can tell the author had been in every situation he wrote about.
What I especially enjoy in the book is the fact it is written to help instructors of average, weekend, riding school riders and yet the quality of the teaching described is probably better than that of many sessions with so-called trainer on your own horse. As the author say - the basics are everything.
I do smirk sometimes while reading as Tony Silverman has this very specific, mentor like style which sometimes can come across as a little hmm, patronising. I don't think this is the case though; I think he is just one of those rare type of instructors that never stops learning, who, although humble, also knows his value, and who, to quote him, always "teaches from the top 10% of his knowledge".
There are some things in the book that some could call slightly old-fashioned and maybe over the top but nevertheless it is a one of a kind read, written with an incredible attention to detail, presenting the author as a person full of opinions and yet very open - minded.
If you click at the picture below you will be able to browse the content of the book. Have a read :)
Video above shows him while 10th time under the saddle...More information on this amazing stallion - Samaii - can be found on Flax Lion Stud site.
"Samaii is the First British Bred coloured stallion to license in Germany, as well as the first to pass a 30 day test. Samaii was licensed as a Premium Stallion by ZfDP in 2007 - he was one of only 2 stallions to receive this award and the only coloured. He is also now licensed by Oldenburg Verband."[from the breeders site: www.sambertino.com].
Tuesday, 1 January 2008
I think I found a centre I like and having spoken to someone who works there I am almost sure I might even be able to afford this whole game ;)