Monday, 31 May 2010

Organising It All

Pic.: Exercising full liveries today. My lovely animal is trying to eat my leg ;)

Many people struggle with an idea for life thinking everything would be easier if they only knew what they wanted to do; but even if you do have one it's not all plain sailing. In fact, the true challenge barely starts.

I'm pretty much set on having a go at trying to balance it all...The Academy, the teaching, the riding and the training. There just must be a way to do it. There are several major issues on the way to make this option viable which is why it will be realised very much on a step by step basis. Severe multi-tasking is not my favourite way of action but it might need to be called for now and then in the coming months.

The first thing on the agenda for now is to run the Case Studies for each of the Academy's programmes. Several riders are already booked in for their sessions where they will be videos and photographed and the footage will be put on the Academy's website once completed.

So basically - we are officially on the road!

The idea being that the footage will help other riders to picture what the Academy is about and whether and how we can help. The riders come from varied backgrounds and range from regular riding school riders to competition riders so hopefully their experiences will form an interesting and educational resources for all levels.
I do want the Academy to be as mobile as possible but to be able to proceed with my Option 3 Mission Impossible, I will try to focus on local riders for the time being. Hopefully other instructors involved will be able to do a bit of running.
I spent several hours playing with Vista Print's designs and creating promotional brochures. They should arrive in the next few days.

Here is a screen snapshot of how they looked like online when I finished. Not whole document is showing but you should get the idea :)

One lovely lady is also helping me organise the printing of large posters that we will be able to put up in tack shops, livery yards and at participating/potential venues.
Another friend of mine who has own yard very kindly offered for me to use her 20x60 arena with some great new jumps and fillers and all weather, rubber surface. This is definitely a superb addition considering the staying in a relatively local area.

A few words on the horses. In order to work on Kingsley's stubborn streak we got a dually head collar for some intensive ground manners lessons! I had a super old version of this head collar several years ago and I found it invaluable to teach horses to respect the handler's personal space. After playing with Kingsley in it on Saturday, even after just 30 minutes the change in his entire attitude was impressive. Today, I walked him to the field speeding up, slowing down, stopping, backing up and he listened well, stopping when I stopped without me prompting. Immediately with this change in leading behaviour came much more submissive attitude in general so definitely worth the £39 that dually cost.

Kingsley is now field sound so we trotted him up on the hard surface to get the idea of the severity of the lameness. He was much better than a couple of weeks ago and actually used his body more correctly on the circle. The lameness is definitely still there with the left fore being affected the most but is probably 50% reduced from how he was a month ago. We are trying to find a turn -away-grass livery home for him but in the meantime we will attempt to resume his walk hacking. Since lungeing seems to be too strenuous (he tends to have a random energy explosion which makes it impossible to keep him in walk non-stop), hopefully the controlled walking will help to strengthen him without causing unnecessary stress.
From the point of view of cutting the losses we should probably just put him down...If he ever recovers enough to be offered for sale to a hacking home it will be for a rather symbolic price.
I would feel much better if we did manage to get him consistently sound enough for someone to enjoy him. He loves marching around the woods so someone who shares such idea of fun would be a fab rider for him.

Frank surprises me. He is still nervous about many things to do with any sort of work but he nevertheless seems more able to mentally cope with pressure. I don't have any particular time related goal for him and take it very much as an experience which might just be what he needs. For the first time today he walked calmly with my weight on him. So far we had all sorts of movements which feel as if he was walking on hot stones wondering when he could bolt. None of that today.
I'm doing lots of steering play with him too by walking next to him and making him understand my voice commands coupled with rein aids. He was very nervous when we first tried this as he prefers you to lead him than for you to walk beside him but we even managed a little trot in hand today. I want him to be confident moving forwards without a leader at his head. While he is very trusting and relies on you for reassurance he is also extremely insecure when asked to go on his own (which might be part of the reason why he spooks so violently when on the lunge and never in-hand). More of the same in the coming weeks and we shall see where will that take us.

Another issue that needs solving due to going for Option No 3 is my driving licence...and a car. Once the Case Studies are out of the way, this will be the priority. How I'm not sure yet ;)

Pic. below: Kingsley after his bath last Monday


and "enjoying" the said bath:


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Saturday, 29 May 2010

Option No 3...

You may have read my waffle about a week ago on how to move forwards from the current situation. Here is a follow up to my little pondering Question Mark series.

I have had a bit of time to quietly consider variety of options and it was really helpful to read other people's views too. One message especially made me realise what really needs doing. As much as I would love to immerse myself in full-time proper training again it is simply not going to work. I simply can't afford it. If I wanted to pay for it - the amounts are impossible to summon. If I wanted to work in return for it - the pay wouldn't allow me to live in my own house, even if we moved out of London. The only affordable way of doing it would be via a live-in job which is out of question.
To those who suggested finding a place that a) lets me carry on my freelance teaching b) helps with competing c) helps with proper training d) pays enough for me to cover the bills - well, I would love to but I'm yet to find such place. If it exists (not just in theory, of those theoretical ones I found and have worked at quite a few) I will jump at a chance.

Having said that, there is just nothing out there more motivating, inspiring and driving as regular training is.
giving up trying to find a way to go back to training & competing would most likely mean a very depressing life for me.

Moving on, there is also the fact I absolutely love teaching. If I didn't I would try to get myself a nice, easy well paid job and do the riding & training as a serious hobby. As it is, the teaching and training other riders is what makes this job constantly challenging, interesting and stimulating for me. Developing the Academy into a successful, useful project is very much a priority.

All this considering, the only option viable is Option No 3 (scroll down for an older post to see what it was). How?
More waffling on Monday.
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Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Few days in the land of dreamers



Pic. above: Saturday morning, breakfast at 11am and reading time - bliss :) Ricky convinced me to buy David Attenborough's biography and I am loving the book. Funny though, when you let your mind deal with unrelated thoughts, the problem-solving ideas pop into your head almost automatically.
Pic. above: View from our patio.

I'm back but as currently no time for proper update, here are a few snapshots from the weekend. It was fabulous and relaxing. I had a lot of time to just rewind and quietly think things through. Ideally, I would love to have several more days but let's not be greedy ;) Full update soon and in the meantime thank you to all who has taken the time to email me, left a comment on here or message on Facebook, it's all really appreciated and an invaluable food for thoughts.


The rocks and dramatic coastline they create is fascinating!
More waffling soon, back to work now!
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Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Deciding on future continues





























One more day of work tomorrow and then off to a weekend in Wales with Ricky. I really can't wait. No jodphur boots for 2 days and a total rest to switch a light bulb on...
I would like to thank you to those who read my yesterday's post and commented either on here or via Facebook messages. I don't know anybody who is truly doing what I am doing with no real back up so it's a bit like blind leading the blind. Therefore writing it all down and "thinking aloud" is what is very helpful and makes it all more realistic.
I thankfully have a lot of moral support to drive me on :)

Speak soon and once again, thank you for sharing your views. It's all being taken in and I will be pondering further strolling along Welsh beaches!
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Monday, 17 May 2010

Where do I go from here?


The closer I get to the Academy going live the more I ask myself, where do I go from here...I've received some very good feedback from all I shared the drafts of the Programmes with and I'm both anxious and excited at the thought of bringing it all to life and spreading the word. It will take a long time to make it into what I see in my head it could be but I think I'm ready for it.

Should all go according to the plan it would mean I will have my teaching plans and ambitions sorted for the next few years. However, for the next 12 months, it all boils down to one very important issue :

Do I acknowledge it's just too much to try to significantly improve my riding, train & compete AND earn my living in the same time or do I find a way to do both...

You might as well grab a coffee/water/juice or a stronger liquid if you are going to read on - ramble warning.

THE SITUATION

A.
I'm very aware that my location and the fact I rely on public transport to take me places, work against many opportunities I could otherwise utilise. It would be pointless to complain and moan about it as in many ways it's a choice I've made. Living in London is something of an ongoing dilemma for me: on one hand it lets me feel less of an outsider and I feel happy here, on the other hand it makes many potentially beneficial changes impossible. I'd like to stay and yet I'd love to move...
Although many car drivers keep persuading me I absolutely need a car, the truth is, having one in London is a very expensive alternative to public transport. Not to mention you have to allow for actually buying the machine, paying tax, MOTs, any work done to it, insurance (did I miss something?).
In summary, I'm somewhat trapped in a self-made simple maze.

B.
Up until Kingsley's lameness/unsoundness issues I still believed I can somehow slowly climb towards being able to train properly again. The plan for Kingsley was to sell him on very quickly and buy a slightly better model and so on, educating both me and Kingsley's owner in the process, so at some point we could be ready to share a nice competition horse(s) and have fun with competing them. As some of you who read this blog regularly will know, this is now out of question.
In the last few months I started to realise that for the first time ever I actually subconsciously gave up on trying to keep up my own riding education. Not because I lost the desire to become a better rider, but for I came to sad realisation that perhaps it all happens one dream at a time...
I've spent the last few years focusing on training my eye for riders' problems/issues and on how to help them overcome those.
As I have never had any intention to ride other people's horses for money, the teaching is what pays my bills. Unless you can charge £50+ for lessons and you give them a lot, you have to simply just do the latter - work a lot. This leaves you with very little, or no time, for your own riding. Bills paid or pleasure from improving...not much of a choice.

C.
Perhaps there are riders out there who are managing teaching and competing just fine with no "support team -at-home" (loosely understood as Mum or Dad, horsey partner or a helpful Aunt;) but I find it impossible. I can't see how I could deal by myself with having a horse(s) on a D.I.Y. livery (only type I could potentially afford), have the time to ride it, have lessons on, compete it AND continue with amount of teaching I would need to do to cover the costs...Perhaps there is a solution I overlooked?
If I had my family over here I would go for it but again, it is one of those things one can say to me 'It was your own choice'. As I can't argue with that neither can I complain. Just stating the fact.

D.
I'm not a happy-hacker or joyrider. When talking about riding here I mean everyday training and building a relationship with a horse. This for me is what the whole sport is about. It takes time, determination, commitment and consistency.
Seeing riding this way means that schooling random horses at random occasions doesn't feel like fulfilling any ambitions or having much fun. Of course every horse teaches you something new and in many ways it's enjoyable but it's not the same. The core is missing...
Not to mention I like to train to compete.

THE DILEMMA

Considering the above I see 3 options to chose from but it's any one's guess what would be the best one?!

Option 1: Agree to Disagree and Get On With Life As It Is

It is very unlikely for my situation to change anytime soon which is why I need to come up with a plan that reduces my low feeling due to no training and let's me happily focus on the teaching part of my job.
There will hopefully be some opportunities in time that let me ride properly again but right now I think it's better not to be deluded and cease dwelling on things that just aren't to be.
I think (hope) I'm passionate enough about training others for it to drive me and provide me with overall job satisfaction.
Basically this option would essentially be aimed at improving the financial situation, be more business minded than dreams driven and create better foundations for future plans.

Pluses:
Going with this option would mean to stop wasting time on looking for riding opportunities, focus on saving money to buy some wheels and be more mobile and independent.
Sensible...
Time to focus on developing the Academy and its services.
Be home before 9pm and have energy for life outside the Horse World
I'm better when I can direct my focus on one thing rather than many so potential result could mean more quality to my work.
Arrange for a day off now and then to recharge the batteries.

Minuses:
Being restricted to teaching at the level I teach now as I don't believe in teaching above trainer's own knowledge + experience.
Staying still in terms of my own riding skills.
Temporarily giving up on what is the essence of this sport to me: riding to train/training to compete.
Deal with all the low days (possibly many) when I feel like I'm wasting the time in life when I'm reasonably able and healthy and could be taking my riding up a level instead...
I would see it as defeat no matter how much self-talk I would give to myself...
Terribly missing proper riding??

Option 2: Go For Training

Once the Academy is up and running, I could sort out the logistics of it so I only take certain, small amount of work myself. Focus on promoting Academy's website to be able to sell advertising space and gain a few pennies this way. Find a placement on a dressage or event yard where I could keep a horse (loan?), train, compete. Continue working 7 days a week, 2 days of teaching plus 5 days training with some additional teaching as and when necessary.

Pluses:
Doing what I see as the most important thing in this industry: improving own riding skills so I can teach better
Training whilst my body still copes with it, especially my knee which I am sure has a sell by date on it and it's not a long shelf-life product...
Feeling I am doing what I should be doing to continue to improve as a coach/instructor/rider
Chasing my dream to compete for my country (no, not Olympics mind you but some International competitions would be a dream come true).

Minuses:
Finances - verging on impossible
Working hours - a 7 day a week is a killer as I am experiencing now
Leaving some of my fabulous clients as wouldn't have the time to teach them
Possibly having to stay away from home few days at a time most weeks (big minus!!)
If not staying away then very early and very likely lengthy commute to a training yard (my long commutes are already a killer)

Option 3: Find A Way To Balance It All

As I'm ambitious and believe in things impossible this is My sort of option ;) It comes with plenty of significant buts though...
If I go for this one I will need to rob a bank, buy a car and have enough to run it, find a place for Kingsley to be turned away for a year or so to come back to soundness (or not-difficult to say how his conditions will develop with time), find a horse with potential AND good temperament so Pauline and I can both ride it, find another, more advance horse to loan/ride for someone that I can take for lessons and learn on. Possibly find a place to move to near a yard I can use as a base and try to attract as many riders to that base (as oppose to travelling to yards so much).
Arrange for a day off now and then.
Focus on promoting Academy and developing it both through good quality service and via (hopefully!) decent competition record (own and trained riders).

Pluses:
Best of two worlds, I get to focus on Academy for part of the day while also making time for training.
Working on my own riding skills while doing what I am passionate about i.e. delivering quality rider training
Balancing things out always makes me feel happier and this option would be a dream come true.
Living the life as I would love it to be.
Being able to give my best as could rest now and then plus the thought of doing things my preferred way always inspires and motivates me to get better.
Keeping finances healthy while developing myself as a rider.

Minuses:
Least realistic of the 3 options.
Very difficult to implement into real life. Little idea/limited opportunities as to where to start to make it happen.


THE SOLUTION

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
Advice and ideas greatly appreciated! What would you do? Are there other potential options out there I fail to see?

P.S. Do you believe in horses experiencing melancholy? If this emotion ever does enter equine state of mind, Kingsley was well and truly melancholic today! It's the only way I could describe his mellow, a bit absent yet very obliging behaviour, cuddly yet distant, listening yet switched off.
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Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Sat on Frankie!

Frank was very good on the lunge today (even though he could have gone all wired up as his buddy Spider was being put through last fitness work before Chatsworth = flat out gallop/canter/flat out gallop etc, in the field neighbouring the arena). Several days of just walking seemed to have worked as all the trot work today was so much calmer. He is starting to work much calmer and his trot has consistent rhythm. I could actually work on opening him up into longer stride and back to his natural loose stride which after several goes helped him to stretch down and into the contact on the side reins. He is no longer backing off the contact but stretches long and low very well.

Seeing he worked so well I thought it was the time to sit on him...he was relatively unbothered about the mounting itself and stood content while being fed carrots ;) I then decided to put my dear life into Pauline's hands as she led me across the arena. The walking with the weight on was a bit too much for Frank and he was rather worried. We walked for about 20 metres, I say walked but it was more hopping up and down with back up. No bucking though.
As I know him better now and he does overreacts everything a bit new and scary I decided to to finish the session on that. We stopped him and waited till he relaxed a bit, ate one more carrot and I dismounted.
All exciting though! My heart was racing 100 bits per second ;)
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Monday, 10 May 2010

Update on the horses

Quick one today with a bit of an update on the horses.

FRANK

Pic.: Frankie in the evening sun

I couldn't be more happy with him today. The last two sessions I kept him almost entirely in walk or returned him to walk as soon as I could when he spooked. I wanted him to react to me quicker and pay attention to my voice more immediately so when I sit on him I have something to help me control him when he is worried. I also wanted him to move slower with more balance.
He was really good on Friday but I had him in side reins which make him much more controllable.
So today, I decided to work him without anything, just a bridle and he was foot perfect. Even when he spooked it was into trot only and came back to walk after half a round the most. I did 20 minutes in walk and 5 minutes in trot. The latter was excellent, rhythmic and slow, exactly what I aimed for. You can watch it and judge it yourself:
Frankie on the lunge - 10th May



Frankie a few days earlier (still rushing and you can see he isn't as relaxed as on the video above)



If you want to compare it to the Fast & Worried from 3 weeks ago CLICK HERE and scroll down the post.

KINGSLEY


Kingsley is having DMSO for his splint. Here is one of the many articles on it that I found online:
Information on Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) Treatments for Horses. There seem to be two camps on DMSO, some swear by it, others say it's useless and didn't help their horses at all. We shall see. I walked him in-hand today and he was sound in walk. He also enjoyed a thorough groom and just a generally seems to be loving a life of a giant guinea pig. Mowing grass, being pampered and pooing are his activities right now.

VENUS

Pic.: Venus today: "What are you doing there with that camera?"

I put a bridle on her for the first time today with a straight bar nathe bit. She wasn't too impressed but wasn't too fussy either. The lungeing was less hectic than last time but she was still certainly very much in control so no videos as yet. Craig gave me a few pointers as to how to make her more focused on me but I didn't make a very good job of it. I should have let him show me exactly how to do it but didn't want to drag him away from his horse. Either way I finally managed to stop being worried about Venus's back end double barrelling into me and front end dancing around me and made some use of the techniques Craig explained to me. Despite me not being quick enough with my body language she finally settled, started paying more attention to me and walked and trotted in a decent manner. I then did a bit of in-hand walking over poles which she found impossible to go over at first but after numerous circling around them and seeing me going over, she followed without a fuss.
I'm certainly learning a lot from this mare!
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Sunday, 9 May 2010

Make Your Own Kind Of Music

Saturday was a not too great a day on which I got knocked over my feet by a car on my way to work! It sounds dramatic but it really wasn't that bad and anyone who ever had a good few falls of a horse will know what I mean. It was a bit of a freak accident with all parties being all right in the end. Just in case this has knocked any common sense into me I did have myself checked over and spent the rest of the day napping at home. All good now.

Evenings seem to be the best time for me to write, the later the better. During a day my mind is just too busy and occupied with everything that's going on around.
In fact, all the Academy Programmes were written either very late in the evening or during the nights. I finished the final drafts of all 4 main programmes yesterday but I'm sure there will still be lots of little bits and pieces to change, add or take out - the work I enjoy the least.
I'm not entirely happy with all the content as I have a feeling I missed something out or didn't say it like I wanted it to be but I know my never-quite-satisfied nature by now and I let go. If you're a perfectionist you just have to learn to start things without trying to make sure absolutely everything is right as you would never start anything.

Back to Sunday life, today was a lovely day despite the weather refusing to be on our side. I'm seriously blown away by the improvement shown in some of my riders and although it would be easy to say it's down to my amazing teaching ;) the truth is they simply try their best and really do make an effort and that effort makes an unbelievable difference. In the world where a lot of people expect great results with little input, those who do work with you make this job absolutely the best.
Sometimes I watch them ride and think I wish we had horses that actually move properly and let the riders learn what they need to know, feel and experience to be better. On days like today though, I watch them and I think they are probably already experiencing, feeling and improving more than many who have better horse power.

As I video my riders a lot I've started to re-watch the recordings this time listening to what I was saying and then observing the effect it had on the rider. Many times I say things that are unnecessary and create too much clatter so hopefully some self-evaluation, however primitive, will give me some ideas as to how to make my teaching better.

In my twenties I didn't pay as much attention to the future as I suddenly do now and it's hard to say if it's better or worse. Too much dwelling on tomorrow doesn't do much to the enjoyment of today, yet there is some pleasure to be had from knowing we are walking in the right direction.
Following one's dream is a wonderfully hard work...

But you've got to...

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Friday, 7 May 2010

Sharp Days

Pic. Kingsley having a thorough groom by Pauline

Yesterday I had an unexpected day off, I could have probably arranged for some last minute work but decided to give my body a bit of a rest. It was good to settle all the aches and pains that creep up when you go on for several months without a recovery time.
I spent most of my day putting together all the notes for the Academy. What's left of it was designated for sleeping and catching up with some reading. Oh, and Badminton watching!
Thanks to variety of free media I had a look at some of the xc rounds and I was impressed with how quick off the floor Spring Along was. I re-watched it a few times, he made it look so easy.

Back to work today and it was fairly hard day as the horses are in love with new grass. The latter is on the mission to grow in the farthest ends of the paddocks and as a result my knee wasn't impressed with couple of hours of walking behind 30 horses.

Kingsley is lame again. He trotted on the lunge so unlevel I had to stop him. Vet saw him today and he has a splint bone forming on inside of the right fore cannon - the leg he is lame on. He can be ridden in walk and lunged in walk but as he is feeling rather well and bolshy I very much doubt much walk will happen...Either way, we have to wait until it stops bothering him....which can be anything from a month to a year. Loving this little horse, really do, might be able to do a Vet Degree on him alone if he keeps going on.


Pic. Kingsley (left) and Frank (right) waiting for the work time.

Frankie was very good today. I have changed what I do with him slightly and we are now focusing on him staying in walk most of the time. When he has a fright I bring him back to walk as soon as I can. It worked really well today, we had a 20 minutes walk with maybe 3-4 panikcy gallops (as oppose to 30 odd before) which lasted 3 laps the most so a massive improvement. His entire outline relaxed too and his tail finally went up to a normal position instead of staying in between his legs most of the time.

Pic. : Tired Venus back in her stable after antics on the lunge.

I also worked Venus, the mare, for the first time today. She's a 6 year old by The Star Of Orion (funnily enough a Trakehner stallion bred in Poland in famous Liski Stud). On paper she is bred really well but the stallion has apparently a bit of a reputation of breeding opinionated, sharp offspring...
Well, Venus is certainly making sure this reputation carries on.
Considering it was her first go on the lunge and she is sharp and cocky, I was pleased with her. She properly tested me though and if I didn't have gloves my hands would be in shreds. After 10 minutes of quite impressive stand ups and fly bucks (she can also buck while pushing herself backwards which looks like a rein back with a buck thrown in for a good measure) she settled and lunged reasonably well.
I know her a little from handling her so decided not to put a bridle on and lunged off a cavesson only to make sure I didn't hurt her mouth. Freshly raked arena looked like someone had used as a gallop track.
From what I could see, Madam has a very well balanced, correct canter and a good walk. Trot is avarage but nice and correct. I will video her next time as today she didn't leave me much free time ;)
Life as a riding horse is pretty scary for Venus so I took her to a wash down area (very scary), told her to stand in there (mega scary). Boots on all fours (dreadful, tantrum). It's like dealing with a 3 year old.

In many ways working with these horses is good because it sharpens my own reactions and thinking. Most of my teenage riding/handling experiences were with stallions and fit, competition horses which teaches you to be vigilant and keep your wits about you. However, recent 7 years around horses that you can sit on the ground with while putting bandages on has made me very, very complacent!

I'm pretty sure Frank and Venus will see to my horse behaviour education ;)
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Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A case of a minute detail and working with a purpose

Sometimes it can take 30 minutes of meaningful adjustment to change one little thing that helps to change it all.
I'm continuing to try to find a core issue in my riders that I suspect cause the problems with their progress, pass these problems to Kari who will work as Academy's chiropractor, and hope for the best ;)
We are all trying to make a difference in the horses bodies by correct training. Every rider who learned how to ask for poll flexion to the inside for the first time will know how this barely perceivable movement changed the way they can position their horse entirely. Tiny movement and such power over balance, weight distribution, quality of movement. On that basis, it seems possible that a minute, hardly visible yet very precise change in the way we use some muscles, position the pelvis or a shoulder can potentially change our control over own body.

And the fact is, it does. We had a very exciting session today where some very small adjustments on the ground addressing the way the rider tried to achieve neutral pelvis position and upper body stability, improved the effectiveness and the seat of the rider immediately. I can't tell you how amazing the result was and what fantastic effect it had on a horse. I hoped it would be and I somewhat suspected it would help but I didn't expect such dramatic and powerful change.

The rider performance tools are on the increase at the moment. Horsey mags publish a lot about complementary exercises, video analysis, Pilates etc etc
With the Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy iinitiative coming out of hiding this month I couldn't ask for a better media awareness action ;)
We might not be reinventing the wheel and there might not be anything particularly unusual about what Academy will offer but it's exciting to think how much positive change it can potentially bring to an ambitious rider's life...

Sometimes I wish I had better capacity for tiredness and still remain reasonably alert but unfortunately it doesn't work this way. Despite my attempts at getting everything ready as soon as possible I have to let myself rest from time to time. My mind just draws a blank and I can be so tired that even putting together a simple sentence feels like a hardship.
I dream about a week of SPA at some gorgeous setting with a massage every day. swimming and reading. Perhaps some time in the winter...for now it still doesn't feel like I've deserved a proper break!

It will get busier.
I'm taking on another project/play horse, a 6 year old mare who is unbacked and not very arena savvy to say the least. I spent some time with her on Monday making her look a bit more presentable as the length of her mane could probably get her placings in Mountain & Moorlands classes...She's a TB type, about 16.2hh, I will snap some pics soon.
Frankie is doing really well, there are moments when I think he is starting to enjoy himself and worry less about life. We are playing with poles on the ground, he first jumps them as if they were Trakehners 3ft high and 3ft deep, then settles and trots over in a reasonable fashion. He is an extremaly likeable character despite the dramatic outlook on the world. I will sit on him very soon.
Kingsley boy on the other hand is a typical one step forwards two steps back scenario. Perhaps he is going through a 'terrible 6's' scenario as he throws a lot of teenage tantrums and is not making himself very popular. He is in bad books right now!

So it's busy but rest assured there is method to this madness. It's called progress ;) I'm making use of the opportunities I have to work with those young horses as it makes me more observant and switched on.

Two regular teaching days now ahead doing green horses in the evening, then off to help at Hambleden International on Friday, more watching work for me ;)
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Saturday, 1 May 2010

Still catching up and bits and pieces of present time

I mentioned a week ago about a teaching trip to Gloucestershire but still didn't write about it.
After a long drive from London, Kari and I arrived at this stunning place where I was to spend
my day. Church Farm is a beautiful set up of a stable yard and farmhouse: http://www.churchfarm.uk.net/.
We had a great day with some on the ground, "contact" training and ridden lessons in the arena with some stunning views.
The place is so nice I asked if we could use it as a venue for some future Academy's ventures (of which in a moment) and Lucy is very happy for us to go ahead.
Church Farm has the facilities for riders to stay with own horses which is perfect.

Now, talking about the Academy. I had to change the launch date from 1st May to simply May as there is still a couple of things that needs sorting out organisationally. I am also awaiting for various information from people involved and it takes a while to chase for all those bits and pieces.
Two out of five Programmes are pretty much finalised and ready to go on the site. The third one will be ready on Monday and the other two need my attention as are still in a form of million little notes.
It's hard work to put it all into a meaningful, easy to follow form, it's much easier to just 'do' things than to describe them well.
We are having some really good feedback so far so I am hoping this will continue.

Pic. above: Outdoor arena at Church Farm

On the horses front there is a very positive news on Kingsley boy. The vet saw him on Thursday and he trotted up really well with longer, freer steps. His back is in much better condition too and the compensation seems to be decreasing.
All this considering he is now allowed to trot for a short periods of time. As haven't ridden him much at all we will continue with walk hacks for a bit to strengthen his muscles and improve his balance.
I hacked him out properly on Friday for the first time. So far he was doing half in-hand walking, lungeing and short periods under saddle.
This was hist first proper 40 minutes hack and he was really good, very keen if a little tense. We went out in company but he was still a bit reluctant to leave the yard. That said, the moment we moved up the driveway he marched forward and wanted to lead all the way. The tree roots and smaller holes in the ground still made him trip and his undulation perception/balance weren't great but then he barely had a rider on board for the last 8 months.
It's quite funny to ride him because in a way we know him fairly well now but that knowledge of him is mostly from on the ground handling. It's like getting to know him all over again from a ridden perspective.
Hopefully he will improve now that we can take him out and about. This morning, I took Frank for a hack in-hand with Pauline riding Kingsley. Both boys behaved really well and already Kingsley was tripping less. Pauline's very calm disposition also has a very good effect on his hyperactivity and tension.

Pic. Pauline on Kingsley and Frankie with me in-hand.

It was also Frankie's first venture into the woods and apart from a few worried looks at more interesting parts of nature around us he behaved impeccably.
He still isn't too happy with a saddle on though so we are still "playing work". On Friday I did his girth one hole loser than normal which meant the saddle was moving a fraction. It wasn't any big movement and Kingsley wouldn't even have noticed but Frank wasn't impressed. I am yet to see him buck but he showed some interesting arched back upwards hops.
I decided not to tighten the girth, continued until he totally settled and didn't mind any movement anymore and we finished on an even, relaxed trot work.

Horses aside, I'm going through an odd time right now. Election in the UK is bringing up the subject of immigration a lot and not in a positive context as you can imagine. This means I am witnessing numerous conversations on my daily commute, in shops and on the streets and in many ways it does have a negative impact on my normally very positive attitude to life and future.
I guess I should have gotten used to this by now but I haven't. Perhaps I need to toughen up even more.
More updates soon but for now it will have to be rest time.


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