Monday, 28 June 2010

What happens when professional, responsible people work in 31C for 8 hours

...water fight, as you do. Working with Suzanne is hazardous ;)

We proceeded to work professionally and sensibly till the end of the day...of course ;)

Friday, 25 June 2010

My teaching might be rather strict...

...but rest assured I'm equally hard on myself. I asked someone today to take some photos of me riding because I know that bad habits creep in really fast and although I can tell when things aren't right it's difficult to feel what exactly isn't right.
I've been having a really bad neck/shoulder pain for quite a while now and I know it relates to how I sit on a horse. I can't afford to have lessons myself right now and the training I get via various centres is focused on horses rather than riders. The best recipe for very unwanted habits to settle :(
Now that I've got a good camera I'm going to video my own sessions as I recommend to all my riders to do with theirs. I used to do this a lot when I set on a mission to retrain myself from show-jumping seat to being able to ride with longer stirrups and it worked ok.
What I do is I sit with my video and watch it as if I was teaching someone else. I then think what needs doing and how to do it. Then I go and do it until it's as good as possible.

So now I need to work on keeping my back straighter and head above the shoulders as that's what's giving me chronic pain in shoulders area. I also tend to collapse the middle of the body which weakens my seat. Considering how bad my upper body position is I'm quite glad all the hard work on the lower body seems to have paid off!

Ok, few images for you from today. I'm riding Casper, the TB I mentioned in earlier posts. He is starting to relax about ridden life a bit more and although still has days when he just bursts with tension, there are others when we can just focus on the way of going rather than keeping his mind settled.

If someone wonders why I'm riding him with such long reins and no contact: he is an ex-race horse and doesn't accept anything but very soft feel on the rein. His owner is way more experienced with off the track TBs and this how he advised me to ride him. It does work wonders for Casper's relaxation.

"About Academy" trial video, the week upside down and the dress hunt

Having decided to have a short video on the About Academy page on the main site I needed to actually "produce" is a first attempt. There are some mistakes in it which will be corrected before the video goes live on the website. Please let me know what you think either on here or email me via contact details. Thank you!

Any feedback welcome. I really wish I could do it better but it takes such a long time to choose the frames and make sure the music runs more or less synchronised with images etc etc that I find myself being too tired to learn more about video editing. It will have to be learning on the job.

My week has been slightly turned upside down. As any freelancer knows, if any of your yards isn't busy enough to warrant your presence you will be cancelled. This is what I ended up with this week at one of the centres but then the other one asked for me urgently so I covered the hours there. I had to ask them to ring me first thing in the morning as I'm never fully awake before 7am and I am pretty sure I would just take a train to my regular Wednesday & Thu work by default. All went well though and I had a rather easy and well paid couple of days with very little running around. How I would love not to travel around so much, it makes such a difference to the amount of work & riding I can fit in outside of teaching.

The case studying for Academy continues with lessons and variety of sessions on the go. The website is truly nearing completion with some wonderful help from friends and riders who have been giving a hand with proof reading, translating (we will launch in a few different languages), promotion and just generally providing constructive critique whenever they can. Without all this help the job of getting the project up and running might have been beyond my capabilities.

Pic.: Pauline (case studying Development Programme) having a chiro session with Kari.

I also had a go at these exercises to test them and see where my own weaknesses lie. Due to my long term injury I have fairly strong left-right imbalance which I am very aware of and I am on the mission to decrease it. I don't know how perceivable it is to an average onlooker but I can certainly feel it. I have a set of exercises to do which I started on Tue and we shall see how it goes :)

On a less horsey subject I have been trying to organise to go shopping for a dress as Rick and I are off for a family wedding in the beginning of July. I don't actually mind trying things on and wearing a non-riding clothes is somewhat a fresh novelty nowadays. However, the shopping experience as in running around and trying to find something I actually like and then have the energy to put it on..suffice to say I probably go clothes shopping twice a year!
Thanks to a fab friend of mine who actually works in fashion I had a rather different experience this time. I totally understand now why one would want to enlist a personal designer/shopper. It's stress free, it's [almost] fun and it doesn't feel like much of a hardship at all!

So just to prove the jodphurs and polo shirts aren't actually glued to me permanently, here is a sneaky shot of the dress I chose and which I took for my mum who likes to spy on things I do ;)


Sunday, 20 June 2010

Video Preview of What Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy's Assessment Days look like

I put together this short video as part of my movie making training ;) I am hoping that if I try to make at least several videos, the ones I have to put on the main website will be at least semi-watchable. I think my first one was actually a little better but as it doesn't include the footage of the rider on her own horse it will have to wait for more comprehensive additions before being made public.

Here is a little preview of what the Academy's Case Studies are going through :)

VENUE: Hall-Place Equestrian Centre & Cane End Stud

Annette Assessment Day 19th June 2010 from Aspire Equestrian on Vimeo.

I didn't include much of the actual sessions on purpose but if anybody is interested we will be posting much more extensive footage of Annette's and Pocholo's training on the Academy website. We will follow them over the next 4-5 weeks while they are going through their Training Plan.

To book your own assessment day go to and drop me an email. Full website for the Academy will be online soon, I know I keep saying this but I promise it's not long now! If you like the idea please join our Facebook Page and help us become known to more dedicated, ambitious and aspiring grassroots riders!

Please feel free to share your comments and movie making tips!


Friday, 18 June 2010

Everything has so many details and then some more!

Pic. left: The high street in Rochester on Tuesday morning.

Trying to fit in a few lives into one is a tiring affair and I'm looking forward to a proper rest at some hopefully not too distant future. The week just gone was very productive and thankfully there is a lot of things that have been pushed on. However, there is still plenty to be done for the Academy's website to go live. It's almost as if when one aspect is completed another ten pops up!
I will be relieved when everything is online in a more or less correct order. One of the things I still have outstanding is a short video on Academy's services. Due to the complexity of the offer I thought it would be good to give the riders a visual overview of what the Academy is about but I do have to question my sanity - there is just so much to it and it seems like it's so easy to make it look totally rubbish!
Even more so, the devil is in the details. I thought everything was looking and reading OK only to re-read the content already on the site and finding a multitude of annoying issues/wording/placement that needs correcting. On top of that there are the images that have to vaguely illustrate or complement the text and making sure nothing sounds too complicated...dare I continue...

As I seem to be adding some movie making basics into my skills tool box I thought it would be wise to acquire a good video camera. Getting someone else to film would just be too costly so it seemed like a good option to go for. I didn't realise, however, that the camcorder had no memory card included (well, the sales person insisted it did!) so now have to add that to the shopping list too.
All these details you see.

The tactical-logistical steps are thankfully going forwards too. On Tuesday I travelled to Kent to meet Anna Trinder, an instructor whom I've involved with Academy. I always prefer to sit with people and discuss everything over a cup of coffee than to bounce multiple emails to and fro but it's difficult to fit such meetings into my very busy week schedule. I had to cancel some of my teaching to be able to see Anna but it was definitely worth it!
We caught up on all the issues connected with the launch of the Academy, the possible pluses and minuses of different running options as well as trying to price the services!
It's all great having an idea but for it to move from a volatile state to any kind of tangible stature is a damn hard work and many hours of fiddling about with things you wouldn't think existed in the first place.

Fot.: Anna and Finn pressure-posing in a Cafe in Rochester

On Wednesday I rode Casper in the morning and we went for a long hack. He was on his toes and and tense for good half of the time but relaxed towards the end. He can now do at least an hour of walk out hacking and is getting fitter. I schooled him on Monday focusing mainly on long and low work and getting him to relax his back and more importantly, his mind. I had a short lesson with Craig so I knew how to ride Casper to keep him calm. I am very much new to this ex-race horse training and it's fascinating how much different riding one is to simply schooling a young warmblood. There is just so much sensitivity and tension in Casper, his mind has hundreds of wave lengths and if you are either with him 100% or you're not at all. No compromise. I think I know what feel I need to get now and how to get there but to make it consistent I need to learn to totally relax and not allow myself to pick up any of the tension I feel in him. Wednesday afternoon and evening I ran my Intensive Training Day for one of my new riders from Surrey. The rider has only had 11 lessons so far so is very much a beginner but we had a great time. It proves to me time and time again that the level of the rider doesn't really matter, it's the attitude and desire to learn that makes the teaching of riding to like minded people such a superb job.

On Thursday, among some other regular lessons, I taught one of the riders I am Case Studying for the Academy and who also is a member of the Academy's team :) Susanna Malkakorpi does Equine Body Work ( and will look after the muscles of all the horses on Academy's Training Programmes as and when required by the owners. Susanna is a very inquisitive rider herself and a pleasure to teach. She is having lunge lessons with me to re-train her seat and get rid of some bad habits like back stiffness and hip locking that crept into her riding due to years of hacking on a buckle :)
She is doing a great job and is discovering some more tools in her seat to improve the horse she rides and schools on regular basis.

Fot: Susanna having lunge lesson with me on April at Hall-Place Equestrian Centre. She keeps her heels up a little here as her "natural" preferred way or riding is to push the heels down, lock the ankle and knee joint and settle in a "chair seat". Keeping her ankles relaxed and mobile as well as experimenting with the foot position allow her to think more about absorbing the movement of the horse through her pelvis. It's all work in progress and once she can keep mobile in the hip joints she will be able to keep her heels consistently lower too. Another habit of hers is the locking of the elbows and arms but we are taking it one step at the time :)

Today I spent the morning with Jen of, another instructor involved with the Academy and we tried to put together some promotional plan as well as catch up on the overall progress. Very productive meeting with some good ideas generated, some just operational boring stuff but also some very exciting ones so I hope we will manage to go ahead with them!
Then onto a 12pm train to work at Cane End. I rode Casper first thing and although agitated at the start he settled much quicker in the arena. I schooled him in walk and a little trot, again just long and low and if not the flies that irritated him immensely I think he would have gone well. Then off we went for a 40min walk in the woods and he was so much more chilled than last time. I'm getting used to him now and let him stride out on a long rein. He spooks at some most peculiar things like sticks on the ground or a leaf and the likes but is otherwise very easy. My plan is to ride Casper 4 times a week and so far I managed to coordinate everything to suit this schedule :) Happy me.
Cane End is my slow-down-time with no mad rushing around which makes a nice change to other days of the week. I do the more boring yard jobs listening to Horse Radio Network's podcasts which has proven to be a miracle cure of my tedious commute too!

As I've spent the last several weeks working so much I am close to burn out, today is my down time, so a long bubble bath and a book and no 'work thinking and planning' at all!!

Riding Casper in the morning tomorrow then doing Assessment Day for another Case Study rider for the rest of the day.


Thursday, 10 June 2010

Academy's Case Studies start their training, the ex-race horse I fell in love with and a few more lines on this and that

Pic. left: A fun, easy day fence judging at Mini-Badminton Event for Reading University Riding Club.

Days go by rather quick recently and there is so much to do I find it difficult to put aside some time for blogging. Nevertheless, a huge update is due so here we go.
The Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy is now officially on the road. The launch is coming in stages though so not all of our services are available yet. We are starting with running Case Studies for each of the Academy's Programme. I had a great response from riders and in the end had to limit the amount of Case Studies we took on as it would be impossible to heavily discount the services for too many riders. All the riders on the yards I teach had the priority to become Case Studies but good few places were offered to riders new to me.
Two Case Studies has already begun: the first one is on the Performance Programme for a 13 year Emily, an ambitious Pony Club event rider who is very focused, talented and a pleasure to work with. She has some successes at the Pony Club Championships and BE90 events but had sadly lost her fabulous pony in March this year, whom she brought on herself with lessons, to a very rapid onset of joint disease.
She now has a couple of on-off rides and two own horses but can't afford a great super star horse to take her up the levels. This means she needs to rely on horses that need a lot of initial work and have one or two issues. I hope that many riders will be able to identify with Emily's ambitions to climb the ladder of British Eventing, the struggles with horse power and the aiming to go as far as possible...
We've filmed Emilys Assessment Day which consisted of 4 hours of riding on 4 different horses and included: flatwork/Dressage, Show-jumping, XC and seat training on the lunge. I thought she dealt very well with the horses chosen for her and I am looking forward to the day when we put all videos online for you all to watch too!
Emily will now start the 5 weeks Training Plan, her ridden lessons, Rider's Fitness & Performance sessions, the management of the horses and their training & care (inluding Equine Body Work massage) will be videoed regularly so future Academy riders can see what it's in store.
Another part of the Performance Programme is helping ambitious, driven and talented riders to become known to wider public and to hopefully eventually gain any sort of sponsorship to take them closer to achieving their dreams. For this reason we will spread the news of all the big and small successes on Emily's training journey.

The second Case Study is on the Foundation Programme and involves two teenage riders who are passionate about ponies but are still very much at a pure fun end. They have been riding all sorts of naughty ponies with me for the last couple of years and are currently learning to jump. The Case Study follows their progress for 4 weeks. The ponies they ride are no point-and-jump types! There are thrills & spills so should be entertaining as well as educational.

The next case Studies to start shortly are:

Starting 19th June: Development Programme: An experienced leisure/low level show rider who have just imported a stunning young PRE (Pura Rasa Espanola) black gelding...she will be aiming at low levels dressage to start with and then...the dreams are the limit..:) This will be worth watching just to see this gorgeous horse! We are currently waiting for him to have his saddle custom made as the shape of his back didn't suit anything off the shelf. The rider will juggle work and full on training.
Starting 26th June: Development Programme: one of my regular riders and Kingsley's owner. An interesting Case Study of a very passionate, dedicated leisure rider who wants to get to know the sport and immerse herself in the world of training. Her favourite discipline is Dressage but she will go for multi choice as she enjoys jumping too. However, Pauline also holds a demanding full-time job and travels a lot so will have to be very committed to meet her training aims...She is a great friend of mine but this won't help her avoiding the hard work ;)
Starting 7th July: Development Programme: Suzanne, an enthusiastic, always eager to learn rider with over 30 years experience in the saddle but only several years of formal riding school training. She's been riding with me for 3 years and apart from full-time non-horsey job she also volunteers her time at a riding school managing Sundays for the owner. In return she receives free lessons once a week. She also regularly hacks out on a Cleveland Bay who belongs to her friend. Suzanne has wonderful personality and is one of the most positive, optimistic and committed riders I've ever met. She is Dressage focused through and through.

Starting: July: Performance Programme: a young eventer in her last Junior year who has a lovable little Polish warmblood event mare. They've had a mix of good & bad seasons but are now consistently double clear at BE100 level and aiming at Novice at the end of the season. However, there are some issues with Dressage and the rider's planning of the training so again it will hopefully be a great one to follow. There are many riders out there who are reasonably successful but are looking for some coaching support to organise their training with an aim to progress further. The combination have just qualified for the BE100 Eventer Challenge at Blenheim and as they are both great characters I think they will be an interesting addition to the Case Studies bunch.

A few more riders will follow, including a rather exciting Case Study for the Start Programme but I will introduce them at a later date:)

I have also received a first batch of brochures and once the website goes live it will be the time to start spreading the news to wider audience...

Now, onto horses. Kingsley is doing his hacking in walk and is more or less happy with that. Frank is mentally coping with some walking with my weight on it too.
I have also started riding the most wonderful ex-race horse and although it would certainly not be my type of horse to go for by description I absolutely love riding him! He had about a year off due to injury (a kick in the hock but no soft tissue/ligament or tendon damage) and is now sound and coming back to work. From time to time we come across horses we sit on and don't want to get off of. He is one of them for me...

So meet Rakaman aka Casper, 9 year old TB gelding by Rakaposhi King

If he stays sound and happy and well behaved enough for P. he might become employed...

On a downside I'm very tired of my commuting but feel like I shouldn't really complain about it. There are worse things I guess.
On a lighter note, we run a fun yearly event for Reading University Riding Club Riders who I've been teaching for the last 3 years. Some of them have finished their degrees and this was their last Mini-Badminton. Sad.
Here are a few photos from the day:

Very busy next few weeks ahead. I need to meet several other instructors I got involved in the Academy and fill them in on the progress. The Case Studies behind the scenes work is taking up lion share of my after work time too.
It's all very exciting though and I will try to come back with more news soon!

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