Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Getting The Balance Right

Apologies to all who visit and see no new posts but hopefully I will be able to go back to more regularly scheduled waffle from now on :)
There is quite a bit to catch up with so I will attempt a little catch up.
First of all, we had a lovely time at Rick's mum wedding at the beginning of the month, the weather was brilliant and all gone well and cheerful. I somehow managed to give myself a weird neck strain/muscle spasm the day before we set off but our hotel room had a whirlpool bath so I spent considerable amount of time in there! One thing though you might want to remember - do not pour generous amount of Dove Bath Cream to a whirlpool bath...I succeeded in creating a giant igloo like cover for myself made of Dove Bubble!
The mini holiday over I started thinking about the possible changes in my working schedule so I could commute less and catch my breath. Coincident had it that one Centre I freelance for didn't need me as much on one of the days while the other offered me a raise and more hours. It confirms my belief that luck is nothing else but good timing ;)
Better still, this move decreases my commute costs and makes it all a bit more profitable (or survive-able in case of this industry!).
I'm still working 7 days a week but hopefully this little change will allow me to take a couple of days off next month.

The reason for this extreme business is of course the Academy project. Sometimes I wish I could just settle into a work at some cosy little yard and be fine with it, arrange for some training for myself and enjoy less hectic pace! This is not to be though as I obviously have the 'slow down' button broken.
Running of the Case Studies has been both interesting and challenging. There is a lot of fine tuning still to do but the more I work with the Academy scheme in mind the more convinced I become that this is the way I would like to follow.
Apart from the Case Studies, I have now signed up 3 riders to the actual Academy's Programmes. We are not officially live yet as far as the website goes (one more little section there to do and it will be out into the wide world web) but as the riders are keen I don't see why we should wait any longer :)
I will introduce the riders on Academy's blog which will come with the website.

The Case Studies Riders are being videoed extensively and photographed a lot so once their profiles are made up and ready to go live you can follow their progress.

Suzanne (pic above), training on the Development Programme with a Cleveland Bay mare Rosie from Barnfield Riding School has made a fabulous improvement to her canter work and general timing of the aids. She will continue the training throughout August and we will enter her and Rosie into a Prelim test at Dressage Anywhere . I incorporated Dressage Anywhere into Academy riders' training plans as it's such a good idea for a focus and competition opportunity for any rider without transport, on limited budget or simply one without own horse. It's low key, low pressure and fun enough to make less competitive riders happy but serious enough to provide re-assessment of the work.

Pauline is going through one of those remarkable weeks where everything seems to be clicking into place and she is reaping the rewards of hard work the weeks before. It's great to see and I'm sure even better for her to feel but it's not without a lot of sweat!
I wanted to put some videos from her lessons up but each contain variety of ideas that might not necessarily be suitable for wider viewing ;) Still picture will have to do.

Basically, Pauline has this habit of gripping with her thighs, push her looong legs onto horse's shoulders and raw with her arms which causes many rather comic reactions in almost all horses she rides. However, she's been working mega hard on this and yesterday she actually RODE the horse she is training with and it was a wonderful sight. If I didn't threaten to break her wrists and legs in my commentary then I would put the videos up for you. As it is I don't expect everybody to appreciate my dark humour that I save for my regular riders so I'll better get some silent footage for you next time (or swap my instructions for music when I have more time).
We've came up with a training strategy that transformed Pauline's riding and that is neither incredibly original nor costly AND anybody can do it :) Details on Academy's site very soon!

The girls on the Foundation Programme Case Study did their Training Day on the 10th of July. It was hot!
They both had a chance to test their skills on 4 different horses at Hall-Place Equestrian Centre where I run my Intensive Training Days. I so regret I messed up the filming as they did such a good job showing how much their jumping has improved throughout our little study. Bad camera skills on my part.

I sense I might be killed on Sunday for putting the above pic up but it just describes this rider really well!
The girls' Case Study is now completed and I will have to make do with whatever footage I managed to produce.

Annette and Pocholo, the gorgeous PRE gelding Case Studying the Development Programme were making some great progress too but we were worried about some contact issues. The teeth examination later and Pocholo is having his wolf teeth taken out! Once he is back in action we will continue with the training plan. Since taking on Pocholo and Annette as Case Studies I became more aware of a very strong notion towards Spanish horses in this country. It seems people either love them or can't stand the way they move! Pocholo had a very traditional Spanish training as a 3 and 4 year old which means he pretty much wants to carry himself in a Grand Prix frame while his back and hindquarters are more in a below Prelim level state of development. His lovely owner is very committed to going back to basics and the work he does now is very simple strengthening and building up training.

He has superb work ethics and although we are now schooling him as any young, low level Dressage horse I am very keen to get to know the breed more and see how/if the training needs to be adjusted.

I should also mention another of my riders who I started teaching a couple of months ago and who is now looking for a co-sharer for the horse she rides. Simon is a 13year old, Zangersheide bred gelding. The best thing about his rider is that she really does work on her "homework" AND it shows. Every time we have a lesson we can add a little thing here and there because the necessary work has been done. She has now started to build a very good relationship with Simon and that increased her confidence. The horse can be spooky so for the first couple of lessons we worked on being able to use movements like leg-yield, half-circles and counter-flexion which in turn allowed the rider to place Simon's legs where she wanted them to be. On our first lesson we had to spend 3/4 of the time on de-spooking Simon but on Monday we could work on rider's position and its influence on the gelding's way of going.

As many top riders/trainers will tell you, it's the little details that count. I listened to a HorseRadioNetwork's podcast the other day which started series on Inspirational People. The trainer interviewed was Denny of the things he said was something like this: ...riders need to learn to take their time with the basic training, we all know it. I go to a clinic - he said - and the rider asks me what she needs to improve on. I tell her she needs to develop independent seat. Everybody knows that this is necessary. The independent hand. Everybody knows the rider needs independent hands. I go back there for a clinic 1 year later and the rider still hasn't gotten the basics. Three years later, the same. The riders bring themselves down. We all need to put some effort into this basic training no matter how boring it might seem in comparison to a thrill of a competition.
Teaching S. and Simon reminded me about this podcast (well worth listening so click the link above if you have a minute). It's so rewarding to find riders actually putting in practise the things you work on in a lesson. Some riders treat lessons as necessary evil, the time to be shouted on and then they do the same old thing once riding on their own. I hope there will be less and less of riders like that. It's amazing how much any rider can improve when they throw their heart at it :)

Following my mission to "do it all" i.e. set up the Academy and continue my own training I squeezed in a few hours of tuition towards the BHS Stable Manager exam and the Stage IV exam on Friday. I have a sneaky plan to do with these two but I won't put it in writing yet as to not spoil said plan.

On Friday I met up with Jenny who is briefly back from Russia and we sat down for some pancakes and a catch up in Covent Garden. I hope she comes back soon and gets involved into some exciting horsey business with me :) Her mare, Kir Royal, who is currently eventing with Isobel Hudson of South West Eventing, has grown up and doing very well at BE100 level. She is being put up for sale...if you are a chestnut mare type person you should check this one out!

Straight after lovely time with Jenny I met with some of great friends from Barnfield RS and thereabouts for a long awaited trip to War Horse!
If you haven't yet seen this superb play you just have to go. It's all what everybody is saying and much more. The details that the actors have gone into to make it look and feel real is tremendous. I cried and cried as seemingly lifeless shapes came to life thanks to the cast behind it all. Incredible doesn't even describe it.
I am looking forward to the movie being made but somehow I don't think it would be the same kind of revelation as this play was.

Amazingly, someone has only told me today their good friend is working on the actual War Horse film!!! This someone is an actor (hopefully immensely famous one day so I can claim my acquaintance with a Film Star!) who learned to ride with me last year for his role in Henry VIII. Laurence has returned for some more equestrian fun to prepare for his next role...This one is set sometime in 1892 and he plays an Austrian Emperor... of sorts ;) The mission was to learn to dismount a horse in a style so I showed him a few and he settled for this one:

Laurence, if you're reading don't forget to send me the actual scene from the film!! :)

I most likely missed a thing or two out from this update but as it's already longer than any other post I better finish and catch some sleep. Speak soon!

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