Wednesday 31 October 2007

Exciting Opportunity

I haven't posted any full update on my whereabouts after loosing the ride on Wilastra because there is nothing yet that has taken shape well enough to be discussed.
The vague plan is to take more teaching, starting from the next week. I am also going to help a friend with one of her eventers over the winter.

There is also a very exciting opportunity in the pipeline. I have a chance to train with one of the leading dressage riders/trainers in the UK - I just need to find a horse now which I could borrow for lessons!
I am working on it and will be back with more information as soon as possible.

Anthropomorphism and spirituality in the horse world

I finished the book I wrote about earlier. It's rather a brave book to be published onto equestrian market which is often full of 'getting on with it' and 'you have to show him who is the boss' people. I must say, I also believe that horses need a firm leader and yes, many a times I told a rider 'you have to be more bossy with this horse as he is taking the Mickey!'.

Julie Dicker's book is a documentary written by one very unique woman who says she can talk to the animals. She says she can tell you what your horse thinks about you, your training methods, the shoes you put on him. She says she can tell you what exactly is wrong with your horse, what hurts him, why he is afraid of certain things, what was his past.
She can talk to the horses and she can heal them...
The book describes various situations where very sceptical horse people were converted to Julie's methods after seeing the woman healing their horses.

What do I think about it? I would love to be able to talk to the animals, that is for sure! I think I am also fairly spirituality friendly (please don't confuse this with religion, as in human-created-activity, friendly!) and very keen on intelligent/natural horsemanship (or common sense as some call it). I would really have to see Julie's methods working on my own horse to be convinced though. And even then, my rational part would probably try to dig deep for some scientific explanations of the healing.

There are many interesting concepts and observations in the book which can stir your thinking even if you are more of a all-things-scientific supporter.
I hear at various yards how people undermine those horse owners who anthropomorphise their horses. They say you shouldn't attribute human emotion like love, compassion, grief, hate or ability to reason to the horses (or any animals for that matter).
And yet...:

[Below fragment comes from Julie Dicker's book 'What Horses Say']:

" 'You mustn't let him get away with it', 'He is just playing you up', 'You have got to teach that horse a lesson', 'they've got to respect you!. All these well-worn remarks actually indicate that we're ascribing human emotions and thoughts to an animal. In other words, we are guilty of anthropomorphism. Negative anthropomorphism, that is. We're attributing the horse with undesirable human characteristics. "You've got to show him who is the boss". This suggests, given half a chance, the horse will run the show and take over our role as a leader. Indeed, he might, if we prove to be ineffective at the task. It also implies "he" has a mind; that "he" is capable of making choices and is equally capable of asserting which choice he wants to make. [...]. Nobody would deny that horses require and appreciate strong, clear leadership but that doesn't mean domination.[...] We are sometimes encouraged, if we are to behave like a 'proper' leader, to inflict some sort of punishment on the horse in order to 'teach him a lesson'. But, of course, the deed that we're so keen to correct, the act that "he mustn't get away with", is more often than not caused by fear, pain, or failure to understand what we want him to do. But the implication of "not letting him get away with it" is that the horse has given thought to its actions and is now deliberately trying to thwart us in every possible way it can.
"He is just playing you up" is another favourite, often used when a horse has successfully performed some operation umpteen times in a row and then declares it has had enough by saying so in the only way it can. Unfortunately, this declaration of independence can take the form of depositing the rider on the ground or simply standing stock still and refusing to budge in any direction.
However, "He is just playing you up", is another indication that we consider this to be deliberate, thought out action on the part of the horse; thereby implying not only does he have mind capable of reason but is also manipulative, rather than simply responding to discomfort, boredom, or plain misunderstanding as a result of the often confusing signals we're sending him.
Followers of the "you've got to show him who is the boss" school often advocate some form of punishment for many kinds of so-called equine misbehaviour, since it is believed this will then bring about the ultimate aim, namely that the horse will "respect you".
We're sanguine enough about attributing negative traits to the horse, like stubbornness, aggression, laziness, stupidity, a tendency to manipulate, all characteristics, alas, well known in the human race. In short, we are comfortable with negative anthropomorphism."

I enjoyed the book. It's unbelievable at places but there are things that make you think and wonder and look for more questions and more answers. Exactly what I think a good book should do.

Tuesday 30 October 2007

Afternoon and evening

The sun was shining this afternoon on my way to work. I couldn't help but snap it!

When it got cold in the evening one of the stable cats came to me, sat on my book and demanded scratches. Well, he got them as I had a 30 minutes window in between the clients :)


Monday 29 October 2007

How to teach equestrian sports? - random ponderings

I am forever searching for ways and routes that would lead to a good 'learning to ride well' strategy. There are so many books written on riding but still so many questions.
When you first learn to ride, should you spend hours on the lunge, without stirrups, reins etc just learning to feel? Should you maybe practise some elements of vaulting to start with to develop flexibility on a horse bareback?
Should you ride without stirrups or with them? Should you first learn to sit in canter or go in half-seat?
I am often asked how many hours 'until he/she can jump?', 'until he/she can compete?'...Well,
according to various coaching research, "it takes minimum of 10.000 hours of practice for an individual to become expert in their chosen field. This is the most robust finding to emerge from studies with athletes and with experts from other fields such as the arts, music, mathematics and science. 10,000 hours equates to approximately 3 hours of practice per day, every day for 10 years, a calculation that has led this finding to be known as the ‘10 Year Rule’. "

Of course we don't need to be experts to pop over British Novice course (0.95m) or ride an Elementary dressage test. We do, however, need certain amount of time 'in the saddle' in addition to knowing the theory.

Majority of the sports seem to have a ladder of knowledge and skills to climb. Trainers know what needs to be taught when, what skills need to be acquired before another set of skills can be introduced.
From what I observe, in equestrian sports (maybe except vaulting), such structure is almost non existent. Ok, there is the BHS system but if you look closer you will see that it barely provides you with some very vague guidelines. Almost every single instructor or trainer will have their own method and will teach differently.

What is the 'right' way then? I am of opinion that a rider should not be let to ride in the arena until he or she can canter on the lunge while being completely relaxed, sitting well and perhaps browsing a paper in the process ;), if I implemented that in an avarage riding school, most of the riders would die of boredom or would never ever left the lunge line...

Should there be various systems then, for those who really want to be good and those who don't care? What about all those who are not that bad but due to poor teaching, or lack of it, accumulated so many bad habits that it would take another lifetime to re-learn them?

According to BEF (British Equestrian Federation) the answer might be in the application of the equestrian specific LTAD (Long Term Athlete Development) framework.
You can find more information on it HERE.

If I had the opportunity I would really be interested in performing an experiment on various teaching methods - start people off differently according to various programmes and see which one is the best. I reckon, those who spend some time on the lunge and learn to 'feel' the horse in various situations before going on to learn how to influence the horse, would be better riders in the long run.
They might have less fun though...

To be continued (at some point).

London International Horse Show

My friend C. and I ordered tickets for dressage and show jumping at this year's Olympia International Horse Show. The dressage ones arrived some time ago, now we got the jumping ones too!
If anybody who reads this is also going and would like to meet at the venue just let me know.

Sunday 28 October 2007

The 'Scale of Training'

I read a very useful summary of Scale of Training made by the three German Championship judges Uwe Mechlem, Dr. Dieter Schule and Katrina Wust. It outlines the use of The Scale of Training by dressage judges and I made a little summary of that summary below.

i.e. clear beat and regularity in the three basic paces

Walk - need a clear four beat; "V" position of the lateral pairs of legs must be clearly recognisable.

Mistakes: loss of rhythm
- one lateral pair of legs incline more and more towards being parallel, ultimately becoming an amble.
- between a correct four beat and an almost lateral two-beat many transitional phases are possible.
"short/long" steps are also a loss of rhythm.

Trot - two beat, the legs move in diagonal pairs simultaneously, with a moment of suspension in between.
Mistakes: loss of rhythm
- lameness
- unevennes
- short loss of balance (by asking too much; as a lack of suppleness)

Canter - jumping pace which must be in clear three beat with a moment of suspension after three beats.

Mistakes: loss of rhythm
- "rolling" canter with no moment of suspension
- if in the diagonal phase the foreleg touches the ground before the diagonal hind leg does, the horse shows a four beat which normally also results in a downhill-tendency by the horse.

The horse must move without any kind of tension in all three basic paces. Checks as to whether a horse is supple and relaxed?
- Poll/neck: elastic, flexible to both sides
- Back: swinging, not carried too high or too low, not swishing, not crooked.
- Tail: swinging, not carried too high or too low, not swishing, not crooked.
- Joints: supple, smooth steps, you hardly hear the horse move.
- Mouth: active mouth with foam, chewing the bit
- Ears, eyes, face: does the horse look a happy athlete?

- stiff poll and neck
- ears back angrily, very unhappy face
- permanently grinding teeth
- back not really swinging and possibly swishing tail
- nervous/tense/resistant

The correct contact is a steady but light connection between the rider's hand and the mouth of the horse which can only be achieved if the horse is really relaxed and supple.

Checks for the correct contact:
- the horse must accept the bit and chew confidentially
- he must always follow the rider's hands
- supple poll; noseline should never be behind the vertical
- the contact should be steady but nevertheless light.

- open mouth, dead mouth, no acceptance of the bridle
- tongue above the bit, drawn up, slightly visible
- tongue clearly hanging out on one side
- horse is not accepting the bit, is behind/above or against the bit
- noseline behind the vertical, neck overbent (tight and/or deep)
- unsteady neck, tossing up and down

Impulsion is the transition of the energy, generated from the hindlegs of the horse, through an elastic and swinging back, into an athletic powerful movement with clear uphill tendency.
- in extensions the tempo should not change; only the steps and strides should gain more groundcover.
- in collected movements impulsion is needed for more elasticity, suspension and cadence.
- impulsion is only required in trot and canter, whereas the walk only needs activity and ground cover.
- the correct impulsion can only be developed if the three previous steps of the 'Scale of Training' are correctly fulfilled.

- horse looses cadence
- drags hindlegs/nearly slow motion, incorrect "passage" tendencies
- the correct impulsion can only be developed if the three previous steps of the "Scale of Training" are correctly fulfilled.

Straightness is necessary to enable the horse to move on one track in both directions, on straight and curved lines.
- horse is on two tracks
- horse is stiff on one lead, horse does not bend on curved lines (quarters escape)
- horse does not bend in lateral work

The aim of collection is to develop and improve the balance of the horse.
A collected horse transfers more and more the pushing power of his hindquarters into carrying power, thus becoming able to lower and engage his hindlegs and gain lightness and mobility of the forehand. For a correct collection, all preceding criteria of the 'Scale of Training' must be fulfilled.
- the horse is higher in front, the poll is the highest point of an arched neck.
- the elastic bend of the joints enables the hind legs to work more and more under the horse's body.
- the successfully developed carrying power of the hindlegs enables the horse to show the requested self carriage, which consequently leads to more lightness of the forehand.
- the highest degree of collection is needed in piaffe, passage and canter pirouettes.

- hindlegs don't carry - lack of self-carriage
- stiff hind legs, not moving under the horse's centre of gravity
- croup remains high, downhill tendency
- neck is long and flat instead of being raised and arched
- steps and strides are not elevated but short and stiff

First and only Organic Livery Yard in the UK

I came across this rather unique and interesting concept while browsing Horse & Hound. The yard is in Kent and they claim that everything they feed and every product they use is of organic origin.
Have a look: Stone Circle Livery.

Saturday 27 October 2007

A post I hoped I would never have to make...

...but looks like I do.

Today I have lost my ride on Wilastra - a lovely mare I have been riding since August. The full story is on here - The End.
As she is stabled on the same yard as Bobby, I also lost a ride on him.

I learnt about it this morning so I don't have a good plan as to what to do next just yet. I came up with a few ideas but I will write about it in a due course. I noticed that whenever I praise something up front then everything goes upside down!
I don't think I will take on another young horse this year. I get attached too much to the horses I ride and I need time now to find an arrangement of which I will be as sure as possible.

Sad,sad day.

On a cheerful side:
It's my Name Day (a funny name celebration day; traditional in some countries but not in the UK) on Monday but since I was far from a happy bunny in the morning Ricky gave me prezzies today. First, he gave me flowers - second time in about three years. I just had to make a note about it! They are lovely, purple colour. I don't even have a proper vase for them (since I barely ever get any flowers). I moved all the books, papers, notes etc from my desk to celebrate the presence of them. Ricky said that maybe he should give me flowers more often if that made me tidy up my desk...;)
Second, he gave me a lovely neck support pillow - I woke up today with the most horrid neck muscles pain (I do get it sometimes as I seem to sleep in some weird fashion).


I shall do some serious 'back up plan' thinking over the weekend and will be back with some updates soon.

Friday 26 October 2007

Walking in 'our' gardens...

I couldn't live in London happily if not for 'our back door garden'. When you start looking around and allow yourself to marvel you can discover a whole new world.

I love the way everything changes in preparation for the winter.

The snaps here were taken by a mobile phone camera which I grew to like a lot. The commonly defined quality of those photographs is as bad as it can be but there is a whole new dimension to all things imperfect...
I hope you enjoy...


Thursday 25 October 2007

Moments to remember

Everything has been working nicely this week (so far;). Wilastra gave me such a fabulous ride today - she was incredibly relaxed, calm but in the same time very alert and forward going.
The countryside was hidden under this peculiar mist/drizzle but still hasn't ceased to amaze me. More on our hack HERE. It was one of those rides you like to remember:)
The rich autumnal colours are still there, whirling around. It is getting chilly though and I am missing the spring already.
Tuesday night was the worst. I put three jumpers on, gloves, a body warmer and a hood (yes, I know it sounds mad) and kept marching next to the clients around the arena but could still feel the chill. I have never had any cold tolerance. Riding one of the new horses warmed me up for a bit. He is a very sweet person, gentle, responsive, intuitive and an armchair ride. I think he will be available for clients shortly as he really gets the hang of it and seems to enjoy himself.

I am off to relax on the bed now with today's issue of Horse & Hound :)

Monday 22 October 2007

Now reading...

...a book lend to me by a friend. It is called : What Horses Say: How to Hear, Help and Heal Them

I have only started so cannot yet give my opinion on the content. I will drop a line once I have finished.
Talking about finished books, I have just read one that Ricky bough for me last Christmas. I know it is quite long time ago but because I was quite familiar with the author and the content I was putting it aside for a while.

Perfect Partners: How to Be the Owner That Your Horse Would Choose for Himself
There are a few things I didn't know so it was an interesting read. What really stayed with me is a little detail. Apparently, there is a research done on the use of small holes haynets (those that suppose to make the hay last longer)...
...and it has been found out that horses strain and twist their neck muscles in an unnatural way when they try to grab and pull on bits of hay. I don't know much about this research but the idea is interesting.

Eight things you don't know about me

Eek! I have been tagged by Dressage Mum and challenged to list eight things people don't know about me...
Here we go then:)

1) I am terrified of bumble bees.
2) When I compete I like number 7 in my number. If there isn't one I will add, multiply etc until I find an equation which gives me my magic seven.
3) I can't stand white chocolate.
4) I am easily impressed by my darling's intelligence (he better doesn't get too cheeky if he reads this!).
5) I hate the fact that my command of English is not as good as I would wish. I don't like making mistakes and find it hard to laugh at my grammar inadequacies. It probably comes from being rather good in my mother tongue and the fact that I usually pay attention to the way people speak, the vocabulary they use etc.
6) There are days when I really wish I didn't damage my knee at 15 and was able to continue my show jumping career as a junior. I had a great horse who could jump quite well; we trained at 1.30m and he would go higher. Some other days I thank for what happened as all those months in plasters over the period of 6 years made me who I am today.
7) I travel on average 504.2km(313.295 miles) a week. This includes 103km(64miles) cycling a week to the office in the mornings and all my afternoon and evening horsey pursuits. This does not include weekends when I might be going places.
8) I would secretly want to be a famous writer. Ricky and I would have a cottage by the sea where we would go to write ; my books would sell in millions and I could play horses most of the time.

I am going to tagg Nicola now!

Saturday 20 October 2007

Perception, timing and feel - why I blindfolded my client today?

I blindfolded one of my clients today. We always laugh with Sheila saying that she is my guinea pig, which is true. I test my ideas on her and Rex, we discuss and more ideas come up. It's a great learning experience for both of us. In fact, I think you can learn much more through teaching than you can by just assimilating knowledge for yourself.
Fortunately, Sheila not only doesn't mind my games but is very happy to take part in them!
We always play as safe as possible and I never take chances that I think will be too much of a gamble.

The blindfold idea has hunted me ever since, as a 16 years old helper at a riding school in Poland, I had a group of blind children to teach. They were in between 10-12 years old and none of them ever sat on a horse. Teaching them was an incredible experience as most of them were blind from birth or their vision was so impaired that the only thing they saw was light differences.
We had those kids on a 2 week camp and while they were absolutely bewildered in the beginning and their balance was far from good, they had an incredibly high perception of the movements of the horse's body.
Many years later, while teaching at Richmond Park in London, I met a blind lady who regularly hacked out on a lead rein. She had a very good position, her balance was good and even in varied terrain she seemed to follow the movements of the horse very naturally. She really 'felt' the horse with all her senses but the vision. What was also interesting the pony she always rode was significantly quieter and less spooky with that lady on board...

I started wondering...if you were a very vision reliant rider (you stare at the neck to maintain outline, you can only sit straight if you see yourself in a mirror, your hands are not level if you don't look at them etc), would you benefit from 'blind riding' experience? Would switching off your most used sense switch on your proprioception or 'muscle sense' and would this in turn help you with identifying minute movements within the horse's body? Would this help with timing of your aids? Their application?
I will be testing this on Sheila during this coming winter and I will be posting updates on here. During this first session the rider was quite tense and worried she will catch her legs on the fence. She noticed she felt fairly well balanced on the left rein but got dizzy and lost a lot of alignment on the right rein.
Her overall balance was good, she was able to go through transitions in all gaits and her position in canter was very good. She tended to lean forward at times more than she normally does which was caused by tension. She had no idea where she was at any given time but was able to ride simple figures when I directed her by letters around the arena.
We will be doing it again next time.

Some additional reading:
Therapeutic HorseBack Riding For The Blind

Friday 19 October 2007

Oscar Wilde once said...

...When I was young I used to think that money was the most important thing in life. Now that I am old, I know it is.

At twenty eight I don't consider myself old but when I have a particularly tiring week I really sway towards an agreement with Mr. Wilde! Wouldn't be nice to have a chauffeur to whizz me to Gloucestershire instead of getting up at 5am trying to catch all the related transport links? Yes, it would be great.
Wouldn't it be nice if colleges were a little more mature students friendly and didn't schedule their modules' components on every possible day of the week? Yes, it would be excellent.

I went to Hartpury this morning to sign some final documents and to suspend my studies until September 2009. I was going to withdraw completely but then I thought, what am I going to loose, Ricky might publish his secret writing and I might be in a position to quit the office job and continue various studies and concentrate on teaching and riding ;) ;)
It doesn't cost a penny to suspend the studies and I can always withdraw later if I see no desire nor possibility to ever continue.

Yesterday, I took Wilastra (left, after coming back) out for our first hack together without any equine company. Apart from a little blip at the departure from the yard she was excellent. More on here. I told her that she better behave because if she get rid of me in the middle of the fields or woods she will be all on her own! Surely, she would not want that...

Teaching in Kent tomorrow and then chilling out on Sunday :)


Dressage and Show Jumping Clinics Online

While browsing the British Dressage magazines I came across adverts about lessons on videos that you can watch on your desktop. I thought it was a very interesting idea and had a look at the websites: and

There is a choice of European and North American trainers and the variety is enormous including Hubertus Schmidt, Rudolf Zeilinger, Alois Pollmann Schweckhorst, Jeroen Dubbeldam and many others.
There are also a few free videos that you can watch in both dressage and show jumping and I found them interesting but due to them being shown in a tiny resolution you really have to strain to see something. The commentary is live by trainers/riders/lecturers and it seems a nice, educational tool. The quality of the sound of the free videos is bad at times.

The membership gives you an access to about 40 training videos a month and they span work from Novice to Grand Prix. I haven't bought it but if anyone of you have and can say more please let me know!

Monday 15 October 2007

The rider makes the horse

I haven't updated you on my whereabouts so here is what I was up to recently. I was teaching at Ealing as usual, rode Columbus and taught in Middlesex to start with.
I am absolutely loving this year's autumn. Whether this is because I see more of it than last year where I was confined to a desk all days or whether it is because of the spring-like weather, I don't know. Most likely, it is down to both of those reasons.

At the weekend I went to teach on that dressage rally I mentioned a few posts before. I was a little nervous beforehand as I know how much effort went into organising the training and that people would be coming especially from their own yards and hoping to learn something good/new. The moment I entered the arena though, I felt at ease and happy. I had a clear image of what we will be working on and I enjoyed every minute of the session.
This feeling of being in the right place always reassures me that I have made a right choice and that teaching is what I want to do.
Everybody was really pleased with their work and they enjoyed themselves so that was the best indicator for me.
We will meet again in November.

Today I went to ride Wilastra and face the feedback from a local trainer and her opinion on my issues with the mare. I took a lot out of that session and I am very glad to have been told about my mistakes. I titled this post 'the rider makes the horse' as this sums up my issues with Wilastra. I have to work on my contact with her mouth as at the moment it is too wishy-washy and I am making her insecure. I always say, no matter how good you think you are as a rider, never stop having lessons/trainings. It's about time I save some money for my own lessons too!
Full report can be find here: Flatwork with Mette and below is just one of the videos. Watch out for the lovely 'That was really pants!' comment. It was related to the fact that my outside rein seems to go too long and loose the correct action. I am puzzled as to why I am doing that on Wilastra as I know for a fact I don't do it on Columbus. Maybe it's because he actually is heavy in my hands so I feel the differences straight away.
Anyhow, I do have a lot to work on...I wonder whether I should be showing those videos on here;) My clients might leave me if they see I make same mistakes I correct in their riding! Maybe I should just work on myself secretly and then only emerge when I can ride a PSG test. Maybe I should just find a push-button schoolmaster, video myself and show only that one not one on a challenging youngster. On the other hand, maybe not. It must be for real.


And below, another video from today - Jumping Bobby The Jumper who Lost It. It's not a stylish way of jumping but hey, he is jumping which is the main thing. We had only two stops during an entire session and that is including one after which he actually jumped from the standstill. He won't go to Hickstead but I hope that I will live to ride him over the course of jumps, even be it at the home arena. I should have balanced the canter better on the last approach - no excuse for that! When you watch him you will see he pushed a little too hard before the pole and I didn't gather the momentum.

15th October07

More news? I received some more DVDs from my dear mum today so I have Global Champions Tour (show jumping) from Chantilly and Arezzo plus European Eventing Champs from Italy! Now I just need to be sent some free time to watch them! ;)

Friday 12 October 2007

Interesting site run by listed dressage judges
The introduction to the site says: The focus of this web site is on judging dressage but it is designed for anyone interested in dressage, whether a judge, rider, trainer or someone who just enjoys watching it. The site covers many aspects of dressage and dressage judging including what is the aim of dressage, what is involved in being a judge, how to become a judge and how to develop into a good judge. We hope it will be a useful educational resource for all involved and if you have questions we will post both the question and the answers given by senior judges. If you have queries or suggestions about the web site or what else you would like to see on it we would be very pleased to hear them. Please feel free to start topics in any section you wish. Information only topics maybe closed.

Thursday 11 October 2007

British Dressage tests for 2008 now available

I received the below email today from Dressage Diagrams:

British Dressage have released new tests for 2008 and you can get them on the website now.

Remember - for the time being, delivery of test sheets is being delayed by the ongoing Royal Mail postal strike. We have posted a warning on the buying pages which will be removed when the strike is over.

Online diagrams of course are not affected by the strike.

The new tests include two LONG arena prelim tests, and SHORT arena tests at novice, elementary and advanced medium. Also BD have introduced a new introductory level walk and trot test.

New tests in use from 1st January 2008

  • Introductory A (short arena)
  • Prelim 15 (long arena)
  • Prelim 19 (long arena) - replaces Prelim 16
  • Novice 28 (short arena) - replaces Novice 21
  • Elementary 42 (short arena) - replaces Elementary 41
  • Advanced Medium 84 (short arena)

Tests being withdrawn on 1 January 2008

  • Prelim 16
  • Novice 21
  • Elementary 41
  • Advanced Medium 83

Teaching at a RC dressage rally

I am quite excited about this...One of my regular riders recommended me to her riding club and they want me to teach on their dressage rallies. First one is on this coming Sunday and the next one in November. I have never been to any rallies and have never competed for a riding club but I am hoping that my experiences from affiliated competitions and training will be of some use. The theme is 'Improving the Preliminary dressage scores' and I will decide on a test tonight.
I am going to make a rough plan of the session as well and will brainstorm myself on various exercises so we don't waste the time once in the arena.
There will only be one pair I know, the rest of the horses and riders have never had a lesson with me.

Wednesday 10 October 2007

The joys of globalisation

I know I am well known in some areas but I had no idea of how far my fame goes! ;) I received a riding tuition enquiry from..(wait for this)...Hong Kong!
Someone travels frequently between the UK and Hong Kong and would like some lessons when they are in the UK. Why not? :)

On the week front I am busy with teaching as usual on Tue & Wed. Thankfully the rain stopped yesterday before my late night lessons but all the afternoon ones were done in the constant water overload. I am hoping for a better forecast tonight!

Monday 8 October 2007

Why can't things just run smoothly, hey?

Following the spell of total enjoyment with young Wilastra, today I had the first real confidence knock since I can remember. Of course, there are ups and downs all the time but I haven't really had a proper 'oh, shit, I don't know what to do' sort of situation for ages. Or maybe, should I say, I knew what needed to be done but would not dare doing it. Which isn't much better. There are times when I joke about picking up a different hobby and career path but that is all it is - jokes.
I often come across people who lost their confidence because of bad falls, scary situations and the likes so it is almost a shame to say my confidence was knocked because a young horse napps (for those of you who think I am talking about a short spell of sleep - have a look at Simple Definition of Napping) away from her flatwork. The question is whether, in this particular instance, I am the wuss or the horse is a cow? ;) Most likely the former!
Well, milady threw her toys out of pram today after about 20 minutes of lovely work. It really surprised me as I didn't ask anything of her that she didn't do well before and I could find no reason to her behaviour. Some help will be enlisted and I am hoping the issues are workable; or should I say, I am hoping I will be capable of working through them. More details on Wilastra's blog.
Perhaps to even things up a bit, Bobby worked really well - supple, forward and relaxed most of the time. His canter work is really getting better too.
So that was today.
Yesterday, I finally played about with my canvas and did a painting for our living room. I really enjoy it although I do realise none of my 'art' will ever get anywhere near Tate Modern ;) Not that it bothers me!
I wanted something very, very simple this time and so came up with the idea of a sketchy image.
What I am quite bad at is mixing colours - most of the time they come up looking like candy jar full of childish hues. It took me a while to think the background on the 'white line horse' painting as I wanted something to pick up on wooden floors, the autumn, the warmth. Once I had the colour in my head it was only the matter of splashing acrylics about mixing them into the shade matching the one in my head. I was happy enough with the result to let the painting take the prime spot ;).

Friday 5 October 2007


I strongly believe in visual learning so I take a lot of photos during my teaching sessions. Sometimes it is shocking for riders to see what they do but it is amazing how much quicker they improve once they have seen what I am talking about.
Having just uploaded some picture from my session with Connie I couldn't help but post the below picture snapped yesterday on my way back from Wilastra's yard. Isn't that sky amazing?


Golden Autumn teaching time

Despite a very hectic schedule the day was really satisfying. I had literally only spent about ten minutes in between cycling back from the office and running out of doors to catch the train in time for my 1.30pm lessons in Middlesex. Once there I could relax as Helen was having a mad week so instead of teaching I ended up schooling both Columbus and Rosie.
The sun was shining, horses snorting and I didn't have to rush anywhere - what a treat :)
The big man (pictured left rather tired after the schooling) worked his socks off and I made sure he really bent and flexed in all possible directions. We also did masses of transitions.

Rosie (pictured below, also after the session and sweating in her autumn coat) received a similar session; she started off rather stiff so I spent about 20 minutes in walk asking for very frequent transitions to halt, changes of rein and turns on the haunches.
Once she softened and walked eagerly we started trot work. I used a big field today with a few interesting little hills/ground undulations and made Rosie look for her balance while I transitioned her at every possible place. I counted 150 transitions in total. Her canter was delightful after that.
After Columbus and Rosie has gone to relax on the field I taught Connie. We worked a lot on her seat which needs realigning and strengthening. I wanted some well written 'homework' for Connie to read and a result of my search is this: ARTICLE ON UNDERSTANDING THE SEAT and MUSCLES USED IN RIDING.
If you have a look on the link don't hesitate to explore more articles on the website, they are truly engaging.


Thursday 4 October 2007

I love horses today! ;)

Today is one of those days when you feel like moving the mountains only because all the hairy monsters worked well!
Wilastra was the sweetest thing and gave me marvelous display of how cooperative and dedicated she can be if she so wishes! We had a very entertaining jumping session on Monday when she showed a bit of an attitude but today she was simply angelic!

Video from Monday (more on our jumping session HERE)

As per Ross's the jumping trainer advice, we changed Wilastra's bit and it improved the steering and contact no end! This or a very good dental work which was done in two stages last week and on Tuesday - most likely both actions combined resulted in her happy work today. Full report on HERE.

I then rode Bobby and we did our weekly jumping today. I didn't hold my breath when I approached a small xpole but to my amazement he actually took me to the jump! He popped over and over and although he still seems very reserved about me telling him to go he only stopped three times during the entire session! First time at about 0.80m xpole, he hesitated strongly and stepped on the breaks and I didn't insist so we stopped. No problems after that though.

We then put one upright to 0.80m and the other to 0.90m. The first one he jumped every time round and although he felt like he pondered a little and couldn't stop himself from putting in an unnecessary stride now and then he didn't stop which was the main aim.
The 0.90m must have surprised him a little but he feels so capable that I knew he would not have any problems going over if only he did go! I gave him a chance to jump it well first time but he decided to stop. Second time he was going for it but I felt him changing his mind a few strides before and decided not to push. However, I made absolutely clear to him that he has no choice but to jump the third time and...he flew it! No problem at all.
I noticed he doesn't like placing poles and so I won't use them again. He won't find them on the show jumping track anyway ;) I will work him over the poles though to keep him surrounded by the elements ;)
My next jumping session with him will most likely be with a grid and then possibly some parallels.

Teaching this week was very pleasant too, I had some interesting and eager to learn clients who made long hours worthwhile.

Wednesday 3 October 2007

A little book review

I would like to say a few words about a book I read some time ago and which has helped me a great deal when explaining intricacies of riding to all levels of riders who are searching for answers...

Anatomy of Dressage

Anatomy of Dressage
is "a new translation of the classic work and provides riders with anatomical basis for correct riding. Only with a working knowledge of human anatomy can a rider fully understand the instructions given for correct position in the saddle and explanations of the movements."

I would recommend this book to anybody who wants to ride better and who wants to understand what really is required from the rider's body in order to match the movements of the horse. I read it more as a teaching manual and inspiration for explanations but it can as well be a precious self-help for a rider who trains without an instructor/trainer on regular basis.

I got interested in this book after seeing who wrote it - Heinrich and Volker Schusdziarra also wrote a book that I bought age 12 or 13 and which was the first one to make me realise how many trees is in the equestrian forest! The deeper you go the more secretive and complicated it gets.
That first book was in a form of an interview in between the authors (doctors and dressage riders) on various teachings of various equestrian masters, including one I was really into at the time - Wilhelm Müseler. I remember really struggling for years to understand what they were talking about!
I am glad I kept going back to it and finding a new version was excellent. Not only that I understand it now but I can implement it and help others to do the same.

Have a go, you won't regret it.
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