Thursday, 28 February 2008

The outcome of the interview

Well, I won't keep you waiting with lengthy stories - I got offered the job and happily accepted it there and then as everything was exactly as I wanted it to be :)
From the 13th of March I will join the Instructors team at Hall-Place Equestrian Centre.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the team and the horses (and oh-my-god they have The most enormous stable cats on the planet! I will just have to take a picture for you to believe but they are absolutely humongous).
My ridden test was quite exciting. I expected some half-asleep riding centre ponio but got this big bay ex-advanced eventer (whose riders included the famous L. Law). The horse was in a very bouncy mood and it took me a few minutes to curb his exuberance; in the end he softened, let me put my legs on without shooting away and produced some lovely work. His canter was amazing, I could just imagine him cruising on a cross country course as if he could go on forever.

From what I gather most of the horses and ponies are pretty well schooled, used for BHS exams up to Stage IV, ABRS exams and very frequent in-house dressage and show-jumping shows (which apparently I can also compete in free of charge :).
My teaching is to include some staff lessons which I am very happy about as the career teaching is what interests me the most.
The best advantage of all is that I will receive free training to BHSI, opportunity to ride variety of horses and teach variety of clients from intermediate to advanced.

All in all, a great day and I am very excited about this new challenge.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Let me tell you a little secret...

...I am going for a job interview on Thursday.

P.S. My freelance clients needn't worry as even if all goes well with the job I will still be freelancing. The job is part-time :)

Badminton Horse Trials 2008

It surely must excite every eventing fan! I will be going on Saturday - the cross country day - and hope to observe and learn :)
I have watched Badminton and Burghley on TV only so far so I am very much looking forward to seeing the action live!


Sunday, 24 February 2008

Equilates at Barnfield Stables!

It didn't take much convincing on my part to encourage the staff at Barnfield Stables to try the Equilates Stretch Workout:)
I have been doing the Workout personally so I know that it works. However, it was still great to hear: "Wow, I can really feel much straighter and my hips much more open" when the ladies hopped into the saddles! When I teach riding I like to get the best out of the riders and what's more rewarding than enthusiastic pupils!
If you are looking for a stretch workout for yourself that is quick and can be done virtually anywhere - have a go at Equilates.


Here is how ladies at Barnfield stretched those ligaments and muscles (with just a tiny bit of help from Percy the piebald).

There are total of 10 Exercises (with 2 to 5 reps) and it took us about 25 minutes to go through all of them with me reading out all the instructions and going through some things a couple of times. I reckon that once you are familiar with the programme you could probably do it in less than 20 minutes (unless you want to make more reps).

The 10 Exercises we did are as follows:

Exercise 1. Roll Down to Cat Stretch
Exercise 2. Scoop & Release/Pelvic Tilts
Exercise 3. Finding Your Core (this one was a big revelation!)
Exercise 4. Chest Expansion
Exericse 5. Piriformis Stretch
Exercise 6. Side Stretches
Exercise 7. Tree
Exercise 8. Lunges (pictured)
Exercise 9. Quad Stretch (pictured)
Exericse 10. Shoulder Stretch to Roll Down

Some exercises require an elastic band which you can buy together with the programme. When I did it first time I found it very easy and wasn't sure how beneficial it would be but I learnt that my first impression was incorrect and that in fact the exercises has made rather interesting impact on my riding!

Horses at Barnfields went VERY well under both ladies and we will be repeating the session next week!

I also discovered an interesting trick in "How to learn your dressage test"...Teach it to others! My Intermediate Teenagers are now officialy training to ride the British Eventing Dressage Intro Test 101 and although they are finding it pretty tough (only managed half of the test without getting amazingly tired!) they also have great fun. And I already know the test by heart ;)


Saturday, 23 February 2008

Horse & Hound magazine - New design

There are masses of interesting blogs out there and I really like browsing through them. There are some I really like reading and spend well too much time on it. I also like to come across new interesting blogs and add them to my Favourite time consumers ;)
Anyway, I digress. On one of my 'browsing for intersting blogs' hours I found the one below.

The blog gives a very interesting feedback on the new Horse & Hound design and since I agree with most what is said there I thought I will mention it on here.

The author is a journalist so definitely have much more of a knack for analysis of this sort than I will ever have.
As to my personal opinion on the revamp: I do like it. I hope H&H will bring more unknown riders to the light as well as deepen the insight into the lives of top names, both riders and coaches.

What a windy day!

I taught and rode today but all the horses (apart from one old pony who has seen it all) were on their toes.
People on the yard were saying that it might be a combination of the spring grass coming through, the strong wind and just overall excitement that horses seem to exhibit towards spring month. Either way all the monsters were a bit of a handful, Hamlet including. I am continuing to school him on the grass in the preparation for our first event in a month time but hell, it's so hard to relax him on the fields. He just knows that the grass means party and fast play and I am not happy with the amount of tension he still shows in his movement.
I worked on his transitions today and they were something in between very tense and tense and went a bit like this: walk to halt: oh, what was that in the bushes? Hamlet, look straight ahead! Oo, ok, oops, was it a deer on the left?? Hamlet, look straight! Right, ok, I can't look left and right...I will just stand nicely...but, hey, look at that! On the left! etc

The wind didn't help either sending all the leaves into shivering tango, any accidental rubbish whirling in the air and various noises travelling with the heightened speed.
Oh well, we did get some good work in the end. I rode him through my test, Intro Eventing Dressage Test 101, and I was really pleased with the canter work. The flexions are pretty impressive too considering that a month ago there were non-existent.

This first event will be very much a test!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

My Life with Horses - How did I go from a city child to a riding instructor - Episode 4

Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3

Episode 4 - in which hard beginnings are rewarded by the beauty of constant learning

In autumn of 1994 the stables got a few new liveries which started my adventure with "riding for owners"! I was assigned my first ever "own" horse which means I was the only person to jump it, train it and care for it for its owner who paid for full livery.
The horse was called Iskra [read: eeskra and which translated into English means 'a spark']. It was a she, an about 15.2hh chestnut mare who, should she was a human being, would probably be a drama queen and worked in a theatre!
She had masses amounts of quirks, she liked to nip you when you groomed her and wouldn't hesitate to give you a little kick should she so wished and decided you were staying for too long in HER stable. I adored her and whatever she did she was always in my good books.
It was Iskra who partnered me in my first show-jumping competition. In the run up to it the stables organised jumping training once a week which we didn't have to pay for but had to work for that bit harder. Usually it meant aggravating my mum who rightly claimed that I should had been home doing my homework rather than playing horses all the time. I was pretty lucky as my school records were always good and I didn't seem to have much problems. This meant that even if I wasn't mega ready for some lessons the teachers didn't ask me as they assumed I knew anyway ;))
I spent ages turning my house upside down looking for the picture of Iskra that I knew I had somewhere but I couldn't find it. I will add it here as I know I have it, it just the matter of figuring out where did I put it!
Our trainings didn't go very well because Iskra didn't share my enthusiasm for jumping (to say the least). She had a very dirty stop and liked to practise it at almost every fence. On a good note she taught me a very secure seat as after a few landings over her head I didn't dare to go in front of the movement as well as how to grip with my legs (not too good!).
After a few months I did get some sort of knack of her and we would sometimes managed a course with two refusals, sometimes less. However, that was before the fillers and decorations were added...She hated them with vengeance and would not jump them until she had a very good look at them. This involved about 15-20 refusals underneath the penultimate fence ;) I still adored her! What was I thinking??? ;)
Picture left: one of the livery ponies
On the day of the competition my parents told me they would be coming and bringing friends along. Well, I was not too pleased. I was pretty sure I would have a refusal and didn't fancy this being watched by lots of people I knew.
The show was a pretty big one as our stables usually held regional competitions with classes going up to 'N' (1.20m). I was entered in 'LL' (80cm - 2ft6) and 'L' (1m - 3ft3). The idea being that Iskra would have a good look at the fences in 'LL' class and most likely be eliminated and maybe jump a course in the 'L' class.
Well, we were pretty correct. She got herself eliminated half-way in the first class. In the second we only got to the third fence - an oxer with a filler - and she proceeded to perform top class stops with the third one being on top of the fence!
That was that as far as the beginning to my dream show-jumping career was concerned ;)

I still worked on Iskra and had jumping training on her but I don't remember any breakthroughs. Sometimes she would jump well and on other days she would chuck me on the floor. There were days when I would make her evening food and would make my speech to her before I let her eat it. The speech was more like a prayer mixed with pleads asking her to please, please, please jump those fences for me. Anthropomorphism didn't seem to help much as Iskra
continued to refuse to jump. I guess she was probably telling me I wasn't a good enough rider to jump her and what was I thinking anyway to expect a queen to do what she was told.

Despite our differing opinions as to show-jumping I was still devastated when Iskra's owner moved away and found another livery yard for the mare closer to her new house. I remember turning Iskra out beautifully for the departure and spending whole day with her. I know I have some pictures from that day too, if I find them they will be added here.

Picture left: playing with Alexander and Tonic, the ponies

After Iskra was gone I rode everything I could. Friends and I played with the ponies teaching them various tricks and just basically having fun. The stables dealt in horses so we had a fair amount of them coming and going and there was never a shortage of riding.

I also spent hours watching one of our mares' foal - Lotna. The foal's sire was a show-jumping stallion and the owner had high hopes for it. I loved watching the filly and made it my project later on to teach her manners. It was when I discovered I absolutely loved working with young horses.
The thing Lotna hated, being a very inquisitive youngster, was to be told to stay in her stable when the door was open. She would barge through it and there was no stopping her.
One summer afternoon I had a play with her. Every time she wanted to come out I would bring her back in and gave her a bit of grass inside the stable. I think it took me a couple of days but when she was 6 months old you could leave her stable open for the whole day and she wouldn't go out until you asked her to.
Lotna's mum - Pika [read: peeka, which is a name for a type of sword]- was a pretty special mare. About 16hh, very temperamental (on the verge of being dangerous), she was an apple in the eye of the stables' head groom. Not many people were allowed to ride Pika. She was used for leading hacks and more advanced lessons mostly because she wasn't an easy horse. She would never done well in any dressage contest as her gaits were all over the place - she had a pacey walk, lateral trot and a very strange canter - when she got excited (about 85% of the time) she would canter with her front legs and trot with her hind legs. When she did canter it was almost always four beat pace unless she was out on a hack having a blast ;)
Where Pika excelled was on the show-jumping ground...I was determined to ride her in our October '95 show but had to wait for Lotna to be weaned and for Pika to get fit.

Meanwhile, in winter 1994, I started teaching...and loved it.
The stables organised something alike 'Own a Pony weeks' throughout summer, spring and winter holidays so we always had masses of kids running about. They usually had two lessons a day, on on the lunge and one in the arena.
The lunge lessons were compulsory as the whole teaching was based on developing independence of the reins and the ability to balance on the horse without hanging onto its mouth.
I only took lunge lessons as wasn't really experienced enough to teach groups in the arena. On an average day I would give 7-10 30 minutes lessons. Multiply this by 14 days and you can imagine that however much I enjoyed teaching I was pretty exhausted and bored with those lunge lessons.
If I do get bored with something I try to spice it up. That is how my lunge lessons became pretty creative and varied and how I discovered how many things you can actually learn through them. I still use them as often as I can and try to always convince riders to have at least a couple a month. They help amazingly with the posture, feel for the horse's movement and the build up of the riders' awareness of their own bodies.

The next year brought even more excitement to my horsey world - I went for my first equestrian training camp and learnt that some horses actually loved jumping as much as I did and acquainted myself with the sport of vaulting...

To be continued...

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Sponsorship - would it be possible...?

Wouldn't it be nice to find someone charitable enough to sponsor my first season with British Eventing?! Oh, yes, it would be fantastic!
I have been toying with the idea for a while now and finally decided to make a few steps towards at least getting some feedback on the matter.
My contact with the subject of sponsorship is limited. About 8 years ago, when I run my own business together with my parents, my company was involved in sponsoring a series of regional show-jumping events. It was very much of our own initiative and came from enjoyment of being involved in the sport so the organisers didn't have to ask us twice.
The Marketing/PR studies I did also brushed on sponsorship but this hasn't changed the fact that I have never actually been on the other side i.e. trying to acquire a sponsorship.

It obviously doesn't help that I am a completely unknown quality in the equestrian world in the UK, I have no name to flash into VIPs faces and no competition record in this country to speak of. I guess I could dig something from PZJ (Polish Equestrian Federation) but even if they did still have anything I could be proud of I doubt those old records would change much. Additionally, it would all be to do with show-jumping only.

So, how do you go about asking a company for a £1.000 to cover the costs of British Eventing for the 2008 season? Here is what I did.
First of all, I checked the Rule Book to see what I can and can't do as far as exposure of logos, names etc is involved. I reckoned that I need to know what I can offer to potential sponsors in the first place.
Thankfully, both BEF (British Equestrian Federation) and British Eventing have a wealth of information accessible online.
Here are some of the materials I went through:

1) Get Sponsored - UK Sport
2) Other Support for Riders - unfortunately I am not eligible for any of the listed options :(
3 Sponsorship section on the British Eventing website - a quide for potential sponsors

Considering I cannot offer any glorious publicity and to avoid looking totally foolish I decided to start with friends who I knew worked for companies that could be potentially able to sponsor me.

The aim for the 2008 is to attend the following events:
  • March 21 - Munstead (already enetered)
  • May 25 - Borde Hill
  • May 31 - Merrist Wood
  • June 14 - BCA (Berkshire College of Agriculture)
  • July 19 - Iping
  • July 26 - Mattingley
  • August 16 - Burnham Beeches
  • August 30 - Firle OR Munstead
  • Oct 4 - Pulborough
All this is just a plan depended on Hamlet's form and of course, on finances. I will probably also do some BD dressage competitions and some BSJA in between the events.
The company name/ logo/website address could be printed on the numnahs, cooler rugs and possibly my XC colours (providing the company colours are not too vile ;) Any other endorsments could also be discussed.
Hamlet's owner, Jenny, suggested I also add that the Eventing is what Zara Phillips does and that this information alone might sway the decision ;)

I don't hold my hopes high but will keep you posted on the matter.

Meanwhile if anybody would like to help, please
click here to contact me via my website as soon as you possibly can :) I really cannot wait to hear from you!

Monday, 18 February 2008

About how people learn and why do we ride and have horses......

I gave a private lesson today which made me think about a few things...Let's ramble (as I am not sure how orderly this post will be).

Teaching people to ride is a very unique sort of activity. You get to meet such variety of characters that you just have to stop and wonder sometimes what made them become interested in horses in the first place...
There are two types of people who seem to draw my attention the most: those who are extremely passionate about horses, focused on development of their riding and possibly of competitive nature (mostly because they are the closest to how I see myself) and those who have a horse/take lessons but appear secretively indifferent to everything the other group finds fascinating.
The most challenging element of my teaching quest at the moment is to learn how to understand that second group. How to motivate them (what motivates them??) to care about their horses properly and how to encourage them to improve their riding? How to teach them without somehow catching their somewhat contagious indifference?
When I first meet a rider (regardless whether it is a horse owner or a riding school rider) I like to ask a few questions. Apart from the usual ones about riding skills, experiences, ambitions etc I like to know what drew them to horses in the first place.
If I speak to a child I might ask about the colours of the favourite ponies (they usually have some!), about what they like the most about riding (the most genuine answer I got was from an 8 year old child who said: "I like riding because it makes me feel special") or whether they would like their own pony. An adult rider is a different story - here I like to ask various questions, from how often they have been riding to questions about anything at all, so I can define (at least preliminarily) the way each person might learn and how best to address them.
For example, some people use a lot of visual references and then I know they learn by actually seeing things being done or have them described in a way they can imagine them being done; some say 'I feel this', 'felt it that way' a lot of which often indicates they learn best by experiences and practise rather than lengthy explanations.

However, sometimes I get answers like: " I ride because my dad drove me here" (a child), "Gets me out of the house" (adult), "Because otherwise I would be sat at home getting fat" (teenager). There is not much of the love of horses involved as far as these people's motivation is concerned. See, I personally disagree with the use of horses as fitness machines...yes, it brings money to the sport but I really don't know how to deal/teach the kind of people such incentive attracts. If they treat horses as the way to get fit but they also really like them or are staring to like them then we will meet half-way at some point. If they just come and stand by the mounting block waiting for the 'treadmill' to be brought in then we will most likely be travelling in opposite directions hundred kilometers per hour.

Now, on one hand I know (or I presume) that ideally I should be doing what I can to wake that emotional bond with the horse, to actually teach how to fall in love in horses...On the other hand though I find it difficult. Why? Maybe because I don't remember how it feels not to be "into horses"? Maybe it's because when I first saw a horse, touched it, smelt it I felt so overwhelmed and all consumed by it that it's almost incredible to think that some people might be so indifferent...

Sure, on an intellectual level I do understand it, we all like different things, different sports, different pleasures. On an emotional level I don't get it at all ;)

Some interesting reading:

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School

The Power of Visual Learning

Learning In Sports

Psychology in Sports

Imagery, Visualisation and Other Mind Tools

A book: might be interesting: Skill Acquisition in Sport: Research, Theory, Practise
(can be bought from Amazon and you can Search Inside as well)

And this (although don't expect a scientific article here ;) as it shows how big can the difference be in people's opinions : Should the equestrian team exist? Yea or Neigh?

Friday, 15 February 2008

Developing dressage seat

I took some stills from the video taken during my lesson in the end of January (more pictures on Hammie's blog) as I wanted to observe when exactly my legs are creeping up. I know that for
pure dressage I need to let my stirrups go even lower (I was told this by an international dressage rider so unfortunately this must be true ;). I don't think my hip ligaments are stretched readily at the moment to lengthen my stirrups as much as they need to though.
I will be trying to "find my dressage legs" slowly (great name for this quest which I found in this article - Finding Your Dressage Legs) . The length I ride with on the pictures already feels very comfortable and a year ago I would struggle to keep independence in my seat with them. I am hoping that this one more hole down will be able to happen shortly.

When I stand still, canter or trot my leg is bahaving reasonably well.

However, in walk when there is less momentum and I have to push Hamlet onto the outside rein I seem to be bringing my inside leg up. I push upwards and inwards instead of inwards and downwards. Bad me. Lots of work on that in front of me!


Tuesday, 12 February 2008

My Life with Horses - How did I go from a city child to a riding instructor - Episode 3

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3 - which tells you about my sporty drive, loosing fear and the start of an exciting equestrian era.

After the jumping off incident I listened to my instructor and stayed on pretty well. I am quite good at listening to my trainers as long as I respect them ;)
However much I wanted to listen though I didn't have control over my parent's financial situation and so after some time (possibly another half a year but I don't really remember) my riding dried up yet again.
At 13 years old I was really into sport. Since once again I couldn't ride I started swimming and running on long distances representing my school. From running on the track I went into hurdles and I really liked it. Somehow I managed to get a place in an Athletic Sports Club in my area (they only took limited amount of pupils a year) and attended trainings three times a week. I loved the feeling of exhaustion you got when you went farther and farther. I would push myself over every possible physical barrier. I would run until my lungs couldn't make it anymore and my legs felt like made of jelly beans. I also learnt how to somersault, how to walk on my hands (this is an AMAZING exercise for balance and I still wonder whether my reasonably good posture and balance when riding haven't stem from those crazy athletic days) and I would still play about with all fours running from time to time :-0.

My speciality was short distance running but I wasn't fast enough on 100m to make it beyond regionals and they put me in the long distances group. Part of the training there were across country runs. If I ever thought I pushed myself before those runs showed me a new dimension to physical effort. There was some sort of addiction in the pain of the training and I absolutely loved it. I remember running to the point of thinking I couldn't do any more step, then I would do another, then another and another and would jump into this very specific state of mind in which I was invincible.
Who knows, maybe I would have made a good runner if not for one of the routine trainings which took part in one specific wood...a wood used for hacking by a local riding school...

We set of as usual for a two hours run. It was a dark winter afternoon, snow 20cm deep, cold with -5C and it took ages to warm up the muscles. I had pneumonia as a child and cold weather has never been my favourite. The chill had always seemed to make my breathing more laboured. I remember having a low day and finding it hard to keep up with the others.
After an hour I went through my first barrier and that was when I saw them. Three horses, one big grey and two bays, trotting effortlessly up the snowy alley straight towards us. Riders laughing at something. Steam coming up from flared nostrils, sound of metal bits hitting horses' teeth, this amazing power and freedom of movement. And there was I, with my chest burning, shivering in the cold.
Many years later I realised that all my athletic endeavours were not much more but a substitute. That what I really wanted to do was ride horses. That my love for speed when running was just a preface to what I felt when I galloped. That the hurdles were nothing in comparison to the feeling of flying when I jumped 1.30m for the first time.

In winter 1994 I found out that there was a riding school about 20minutes from where I lived. That is how I got back into the saddle and never walked away since!

I helped with everything. Mucking out (that was interesting as all the horses were kept on deep litter so to muck out a single stable you needed a truck parked in the corridor and a few hours
one to one with ever present ammonia), tacking up, grooming, cleaning tack, grinding oats in a massive machine, walking children on ponies, bringing horses in and out from the arena, painting the stables, watering, haying, feeding, swiping the yard etc
Haying was great, especially at the weekends. My friends and I would climb up the ladder to get to the loft above the stables where the hay was kept. If we were lucky there was some loose hay that needed feeding before the baled one. We would then lift the flap in the floor which opened directly onto the stable's corridor. We dropped the hay down the corridor until it almost reached the ceiling and jumped on the top of the pile one by one laughing at the expressions on some of the horses faces. Silly us.

Horses became everything to me. Every day after school I would go down to the stables to help out together with a couple of other friends. In return we were entitled to some free of charge riding lessons. Sometimes we rode once a week, sometimes a few times a day. My favourite time was any bad weather time. This was mainly due to clients not turning up and horses needing exercise.
We had some pretty chilled horses there but they were all fed oats...and that meant that even one day off made rodeo ponies out of them :)
My first encounters with horses were so full of various fears and anxieties that I must have gone over the limit after which I grew completely fearless. The things we did with those horses back then were something today's health & safety would be too panicked to even name them on a Forbidden Activities List.
From what I recall we mostly hacked out or jumped in the arena. We didn't have any excellent instructors but those that were there made sure we rode as correctly as possible from a very early stage. We had to learn many tricks as those riding schools horses were a breed on its own. They were clever, cheeky, talented and could do just about anything we wanted them to do. We also learnt very fast that if you earned horse's respect on the ground he or she would listen to you from the saddle as well.
None of the horses was even close to bombproof as they are required to be nowadays. We had quite a few accidents over the years. One I remember very well was when my friends horse, who was a very genuine chap by the way, jumped a 4ft fence after she attempted to stop him at it. I doubt she has ever tried that again!
We raced with passion. Every longer stretch of any road was good enough. We were fairly imaginative riders - one of the games was to swap horses without had to hold your friends horse while she held yours. You then rode as close to each other as was possible (hoping for no kicking!) and slowly moved from your horse onto the other horse's bum while your friend moved onto your horse's withers/neck. Then just one quick move to get in the new saddle and we would canter off straight away. You never wanted be the one who was still getting sorted so we tried to master the skill the best we could.

Jumping was a must. A hack without a jump was a bad hack. We weren't particularly bothered about what we actually jumped as long as all the four legs of the horse left the ground. The rougher the terrain the better too. Jumping logs on hills (up and down) was a dessert on the menu!
In between searching for objects to jump (from logs, through rubbish left on the ground to roadside benches) we tried to keep ourselves entertained by going underneath various branches. When we got bored with that we started going underneath the washing lines someone left in between the trees. When it got too easy in walk and trot we proceeded into canter. I nearly got strangled once when I didn't lie on horse's back quick enough!

In the summer 1994 I experienced riding on the beach for the first time. Funnily enough, I rode the same breed of a pony that the one on the day of my first canter. I stayed on this time though and it was fantastic. On the back of the picture on the left I scribbled the name of the pony: Palestra. She was tiny but had an incredible stamina and could canter through the water forever!

So many wonderful things happened that year, it seems like an entire decade when thinking about it now. I remember trying my best to learn to jump well. I loved it but wanted to be good enough to be given a horse from the stables I could compete on.
I didn't know it then but just about half a year later my dreams came true and I rode in my first ever show jumping show...

To be continued...

Tagged by DressageMum

This a short but interesting Tagg I got from DressageMum:

The rules are...

You must post the rules before you give your answers.

After you've been tagged, you need to update your blog with your middle name and answers.

You must list one fact about yourself for each letter of your middle name.

Each fact must begin with that letter.

If you don't have a middle name, just use your maiden name/last name.

At the end of your post, you need to tag one person for each letter of your middle name. (Be sure to leave them a comment telling them they've been tagged and need to read your blog for details).

Here are my answers -

M - mad (to be trying to make a living out of horsey career)
A - ambitious
R - real dreamer (cheating here a bit with this 'R', I know!)
I - imaginative
A - always seeking best answers

I am tagging the following 5 bloggers:

Helen at Helen & Annie's Eventing Adventures
Rebecca at Graceful Addiction
Nicola at Pebble (Torryvald Little Light)
Daun at The Eventing Percheron
Tomasz at his Photo Blog.Zdankowski.


Monday, 11 February 2008

Have you ever wanted to have all your things equine organised well?

A couple of months ago I found out about this website: Manage My Horse.

At first I only briefly looked through it but didn't really get my hands on it. I kept visiting from time to time until a few weeks ago when I thought: right, my budget is all over the place and I am nowhere near as organised as I would like to be. So I went to the site again and started exploring it properly.
Once I did I realised it was something I needed and the more I browsed it the more I thought what a marvelous idea it was. In fact, I wish I had come up with this myself and asked Ricky to take care of the design (as he really is the best :)!!

According to Cate Ashton, the founder of the site, Manage My Horse will bring all the aspects of horse management together. She sent me a very good presentation of the content of the website but the file is a pdf file and I am not sure how to put it up on here...I shall therefore just copy a few things below:

"Welcome to
For equine enthusiasts, conscientious horse owners and equestrian professionals.
Let Manage My Horse organise all aspects of your horse’s life, to bring it all together in one unique place.

Don’t guess …
when he was last wormed
when he was last vaccinated
when he started to appear to be unwell
what you achieved in your last lesson
how many bags of feed you need to buy
how you did it last time

Stop guessing altogether.

• Vaccination history
• Worming history
• Weight history
• Competition history
• Online journals
• Financial information
• Business information
• Address book
• Diary
• Forum
Something for everyone …

From the equine enthusiast who wants to register their favourite horse at their riding school and write down all their lessons and landmarks to the large equestrian business working with many horses who want a business tool that could easily have been designed just for them.

• Equine enthusiasts
• Horse owners
• Competition riders
• Pony clubs
• Riding schools
• Equine Colleges
• Livery yards
• Riding schools
• Trainers
• Professional grooms
• Breeders
• Welfare societies
• Farriers
• Treatment specialists
• Veterinary Surgeries
• Horse sales

Examples of use …

Event Rider with yard
An event rider will benefit in many ways, not least by simply keeping it all together. Manage My Horse will help organise each season of competition by ensuring that as little time as possible is spent ‘working on the business’ when the horses require much time and attention. A professional and business like approach with owners by providing reports detailing training sessions, competitions and expenses will again save time by being incredibly efficient.

The farrier can benefit by using the business section to store all income and expenses. He could also use the diary to store his appointments and the address book to keep client details together.
He may choose to profile horses that he is working on in a remedial capacity to ensure that he is analysing progress every step of the way.

• Storing financial information regularly.
• Using accurate information to set costs and goals.
• Keeping fittening records, weight and feed info.
• Logging competition information, scores and places
along with any notes
• Providing ‘owners’ with training reports.
• Storing all ‘owner’ information.
remedial capacity to ensure that he is analysing progress
every step of the way.

Note: By just using sections of the website that most enhance your circumstances, Manage My Horse will ‘help’ just about everyone in the equestrian industry.

My Horses …
Each horse registered has his own set of pages which are unique to him. Tabs along the top of his profile page are where all of his information is stored. View, add, edit and delete information at the click of a button.

My Feed …
Innovative section jam-packed with unique features to help manage his diet and nutritional requirements. Tell us what products you use, how much they cost, what he eats and let us do the rest. View your current stock, prepare shopping lists and know his feed costs per day, week, month or year instantly. The unique calculator will tell you feed costs over any period of time and supply his current daily diet details (Going away? Know how much feed to take, how much it costs and his diet details, all on a print out instantly). The diet and nutritional enquiry form will allow you to send one email to multiple feed companies on our mailing list ensuring you get up-to-minute information from different experts allowing you to make informed decisions easily."

And something I have personally found really useful:

" My Reports …
Allows ultimate flexibility to download or print the information you have stored, instantly.
Reports can be viewed by horse, a group of horses or all horses registered and finally by business. Once you have selected this information, select the type information you want to view – maybe one expense type, a selection of expenses or all expenses. Anything you have stored can be viewed in so many different ways. For example: the vet is coming and you have been keeping a medical journal on a horse for several days or weeks. Simply go to reports and select the journals, select the horse, select the medical journal, select your date period and everything you have stored will be available instantly for you to print out for the vet."

Having found it an excellent and very useful tool I decided to spread the word. What do you think? It's FREE to join by the way!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

About IT problems, chocolate cake, lunchtimes with horses and the sun :)

Hate and Love - this is how you could describe my relationship with computers and technology in general! I came back home today and had a nice plan: download pictures from my new phone, update the blog, run the water for my bath in the meantime, prepare horsey mags to read in the bath, ask Ricky to bring me juice and a kiss to the bathroom and relax in my Muscle Soak indulgence.
But NO! My new Samsung Installation CD decided not to work and so I had spent almost two hours trying to solve the problem. I could honestly hammer my computer sometimes. Anyway, thank heavens for Google. I found some Samsung Forums where my problem was explained, found out about a free downloadable program that I could use and voila - a couple of hours later I can finally implement my plan...

On a good note: Today was an absolutely beautiful day. I soaked the sunshine like mad :) It was so warm some of my clients decided to ride in sleeveless tops :-0 Horses loved it too and behaved impeccably so I got all the riders to ride bareback for a few minutes in the end of their lessons.

Even those who never tried and were very reluctant loved the feeling of connection and oneness
you get with the horse when riding without a saddle.

My lovely colleagues at Barnfield stables got me a late birthday treat (I was on holiday on the day of my birthday) - a very tasty chocolate cake and a funny horsey card:)
One very dirty mare (due to having several good rolls in the sandy arena) kept us company during our sunny lunch; I bet she wanted my chocolate cake greedy madam. In the end she had to settle for polos.

Friday, 8 February 2008

My Life with Horses - How did I go from a city child to a riding instructor - Episode 2

Episode 1

Episode 2 - which tells you about my weird childhood game, fascination with wilderness and how I decided to jump off my horse during my first ever canter...

You know when you are in your early teens and your family just loves to ask who would you like to be when you grow up? What did you say?
In my very early teens I was very single-minded as to who I wanted to be. It had nothing to do with horses since they became inaccessible to me. I lived in a centre of a big city and the only horses I saw were on TV. The real ones were miles away in the country. I needed a new focus and found it in cynology.
If someone asked me who I was going to be I replied: a cynologist. Nine people out of ten didn't have a clue what that word even meant but that only added to my fascination of the subject.
I was literally obsessed with dogs. To my family's despair I mastered moving on all fours and would do it constantly! I wasn't a toddler anymore and when I think about it now I am mega embarrassed. My favourite play at the time was to build all sorts of obstacles and jump over them (dog style or horse style - depending who I was playing at the time!). They were pretty big (about 3ft3 - 1m) and it took awhile to actually learn to jump them without collapsing after a few efforts ;) I also did some dressage movements and could probably do an entire GP test if I knew it then. Moving around on all fours was pretty addictive;)

I loved watching animals. Especially dogs, horses, wolves and wild cats. Every movement of the muscle was registered by me so I could then use it and move in the way they did. Crazy, I know. My friends had walls covered with posters of Prince, Gun's and Roses, Whitney Huston, Take That and whoever else was famous at the time; I had images of wolves, dogs and horses doing the wallpaper job.
I do think these obsessive observation has helped me a lot later on when I started playing with natural horsemanship and Join Up, but back then it was quite an issue ;)

As much as I obsessed about observing animals I also passionately read books on them. At 12-13 yrs old I discovered my hunger for reading. One of my earliest memory from childhood is watching my mum reading a book. She was lying on the sofa, there was a lamp above her head and she didn't speak. I asked her how could she read without saying a single word out loud. She told me she was "just reading with her eyes". That was a mystery to me. I must have been 5 years old I think and all I wanted was to be able to read with my eyes ;)
My favourite books were mostly to do with wilderness and nature. I think I read most Jack London's (started with The Call of The Wild and White Fang(click here to read it online) ), James Oliver Curwood ("Baree" and "Kazan" had their pages battered after going through my fingers tens of times).
I read a lot about horses too. As many others before me I cried my eyes out reading about the life of Black Beauty and Silver Brumby - these are the two I remember most vividly.

Sometime around 1992 my parents were in a position to pay for my riding lessons again. We went to the same centre, mostly because that was the only good one we knew about. I got assessed and signed up to an intermediate group - the one that was to learn to canter. I don't remember much of those lessons apart from being extremely anxious and excited all the time. Once again the horses became the centre of my attention. I sit here trying to remember some snippets of what I learnt back then but there is not much that I recall. What comes back to me are the noise the bit makes when you carry the bridle from the tack room, the crinkly sound of the leather when you adjust your stirrups, the smell of manure and sweat and fresh hay. I remember being afraid to pick up back legs and being told to get on with it, the grooming before the ride...Talking about grooming...I remember one day we got stuck in the traffic and I missed my grooming time. I had this massive grey horse to ride, dirty as hell, I was late for my ride and there was no one around to help me with tacking up. I got reprimanded by Koniuszy (a horseman/stable manager) who took care of the grey and told me that it was just unheard of to be late for a ride. He said it was even worse not to groom your horse beforehand. And so I spent most of my riding time washing poo stains of that horse and managing just about 20 minutes or so in the saddle.
It's funny because when children come to the stables nowadays they are given the pony all tacked up and ready, aligned at the mounting block...Tragedy if you ask me! I don't dare to oppose though as it would probably mean the school would be sued.

The day I cantered for the first time I rode a pony. His breed is called : Polish Konik (Konik Polski) and they look like this:

I had never ridden a pony until then and I felt like everything was very easy all of a sudden. The pony was about 13hh and I thought I was ridiculously close to the ground. In fact, I felt so at ease on that pony that when we cantered and it didn't feel quite safe I...jumped off.
Not just like that, oh no. The arena was built in a shape of a big oval with one side being next to a fence and the rest just open onto the surrounding land. I was told to ask for a canter away from the fence. When I did, the pony must have thought it was great fun to finally do something else than trotting forever, he bucked and pulled the reins out of my hands. I remember deciding quickly that I would stay on throughout the whole round until we got to the fence again, then I would thrust myself out of the saddle and grab the top rail. Good plan, hey? I didn't take into equation the fact I needed to steer the pony but he must had been so socialised into going around and around that he followed the track beautifully and I jumped off as planned.
However, I wasn't too good at envisaging that the speed of the cantering pony will make the soft landing a bit difficult. I lent to my right to reach the passing rail, grabbed it as strongly as I could and slid off the saddle. I felt a massive pull as if my arms where going to pop out of sockets and quickly after that I found myself landing flat out on the sandy surface of the arena;)

My instructor was rather amused and slightly shocked when I told him about my plan. I was strongly advised to stay on next time around!

To be continued...


Thursday, 7 February 2008

Unexpected update on Wilastra's whereabouts! :)

Some of you may remember Wilastra - a horse I had a ride on last year. Yesterday, I received an unexpected email. It was a message from someone who bought Wilastra a month ago and came across her blog!
I can only imagine it must have been an interesting surprise to read about your horse on someone's blog :)
Anyway, milady is doing very well! She had given her new owner some hard time to start with but they are now a working partnership and are doing well BSJA.
I was sent a picture from their second show - BSJA Discovery - and new owner, Josh, kindy agreed for the picture to be posted for all of you dear readers to see.

Wilastra is now schooling over 1.20m at home and is proving very talented!
I am promised to be kept informed so if I hear about milady's successes I will sure post some info on her blog!

I must say, I was just tiny bit jealous seeing Wilastra cruising over that jump...I am, however, very happy she is doing well as I have had a very soft spot for her ever since I rode her for the first time.
All the best to Wilastra and her new owner!

My Life with Horses - How did I go from a city child to a riding instructor - Episode 1

During recent visit to my parents I dug old photo albums in hope of finding some pictures of my first horse - a black Trakehner stallion called Fetas. I tried to search for those photographs before but to no avail.
This time, however, I was lucky! I knew that there were barely any photos from that time but I vaguely remembered some being taken. And voila! I found some! Encouraged by my discovery I kept browsing the albums and came across a bunch of pictures I completely forgot existed. They span my whole life with horses leaving gaps here and there but they woke up a lot of memories. I also found my old diaries in which I meticulously recorded my sporting struggles and competition endeavours. I had a good laugh reading through them :)

Having found those little snippets from old times I decided to put together my story with horses up until now...

Episode 1: In which I tell you about my first equine experiences, the fear and the passion.

The very first time I sat on a horse was in the summer 1983; I was 4 years old. It was at the entry to a fun fair/Zoo and I don't really remember much of it apart from the fact that I didn't want to get off ;) I was supposed to just have a quick sit on that pony for a photograph but apparently sat on it for ages.

My family didn't have a horsey background although grand grand parents on my father's side used to own a bit of land and lived from farming. I remember spending summers at my grandparents holiday house and running wild on my uncle's farm. There were cows, chickens, goats, various types of very expensive Homing Pigeons (breeding them was my uncle's great hobby), tens of dogs and cats...but horses were always at other people's stables.
I saw them pulling vegetables or milk carts, waiting in front of a village shop or stopped on the side of the road while the owner chatted to a passer by, and I would always go and stroke their necks, have a word with them or just stand and stare somewhat hypnotised by them.
I was a city child but those summers in the country, raw and wild, were something my brother and I waited for impatiently throughout the year. Since I didn't have a horse I pretended the dogs were just a small version of them. My own dog was a princess and she wouldn't want to hear about my antics. I would therefore ask my brother to help me and we would set off 'hunting' early in the morning; by afternoon we would have a couple of stray dogs to play with. I trained them to pull whatever vehicle my brother managed to built. Once they stayed in order and were more or less obedient we would set off for 'missions'. Various ones - we were 9 or 10 years old then so you can imagine that all the undertakings were mega important. My grandmother, who was our carer during those wonderful summer months, did not always agree and we must have been a source of constant worries when we disappeared in forests for all days.
I am so glad my childhood was spent in the eighties; there was this freedom and confidence then that is no longer present...

I haven't sat on a horse again until I was about 11 or 12yrs old. To my knowledge I have no pictures from that time but it was when I started to learn how to ride properly and not just to sit on a horse.
This equestrian education had an interesting beginning. My father, who is a retired policeman, found out about this man who 'owed him a favour'. It happened that this man was also an instructor at one of the best equestrian centres in our area - Łódzki Klub Jeździecki (photo - stables).

A big Thoroughbred gelding called Wek was assigned to me and my first memory of that day is of fear and excitement so great that it was incomparable to anything I had ever experienced before. The lesson, on the lunge, took place in a round pen in a wood. The trees created a natural fence, I remember everything being green and lush.
The lessons continued for a few months and I grew in confidence. I recall being so excited about the lessons I would sit in a car shaking all the way up to the stables! I learnt how to groom a horse, tack up and put a bridle on. Most of my memories seem to concentrate on everything being big, heavy and strong. I felt powerless and totally dependent on Wek.
I loved the smell of the stables. I would enter the corridor with inquisitive heads popping out to see me and it made my day. The funny thing was I was constantly afraid of horses in those early days yet they were like magnets. I couldn't stop thinking about them and counted days from lesson to lesson.
Those early days of my riding education left me with a massive hunger. I wanted to ride better, I wanted to be able to jump big fences and be the best rider in the world.

The paradise didn't last long. After about half a year of regular training, Wek succumbed to horse flu and died after a long period of illness. My father's friend didn't get another horse which he could use for me and my parents couldn't afford a full price of riding lessons.
I was back to dogs.

To be continued...

Episode 2

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Back to London

My little holiday is over and I can't say I am especially looking forward to spending days on looking for another job :( I find it both exciting and depressing; combination of these two makes me feel rather exhausted.
I have decided to concentrate on finding another part-time office job which would be interesting enough for me not to go crazy doing it, will pay some essential bills and won't take more than 20 hours a week. I am going to my old office tomorrow to pick up my things, return my company phone and complete any other formal this and that. Once this has been done I will probably spend a few days sending out my CV...

If worse comes to worse and I don't find anything suitable any time soon I should still be able to survive on freelancing. It is going reasonably well and with my current average of 20 hours per week I am able to stay on the surface. Unfortunately, if I don't get more hours or another job I will have to put my development plans on hold. However, I am going to do everything I can to make sure I don't have to postpone my further teaching exams.

I have an impression this year has started under 'Tired' label. After landing in London in the morning I managed to grab a cup of tea at home, sent a CV in response to an interesting looking job and sprinted out again just in time to start my afternoon and evening teaching hours at Ealing.

"Life is a successon of lessons, which must be lived to be understood."Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, 1 February 2008

Tagged again!

I have been tagged by Echo - Diary of a Young Horse, which means I need to come up with 7 facts people don't know about me. I have been tagged before on this but well, I guess there must more than 7 things that readers of this blog don't really know about me ;)

1) About 10 years ago I was given a chestnut. I was sitting on a bench in a park, reading to an exam and this old man came to me, sat on my bench ad gave me this chestnut. He said that if I keep it with me it will bring me luck. He said chestnuts have some sort of positive energy. I didn't dare to throw it away and have been a proud owner of this chestnut ever since that day. It is now quite dry, wrinkled and hard. It's my little Talisman.

2) I am a big fan of Jodi Picoult's books; can't put them down for long!

3) My favourite horsey film is International Velvet and I watched it embarrasing amount of times ;)

4) I am addicted to the outdoors!

5) My all-times best food I can eat absolutely anytime is pancakes (with fruit, lemon juice, chocolate, jam, anything really)

6) While I am writing this my darling OH tells me this list is banal. But it's ok, I will live with it ;)

7) I have so many decisions to make next week that my head is very likely to explode by the end of it.
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