Sunday, 31 May 2009

I wonder if it comes with age...

I arrived home today to find that Rick had baked a cake. A Polish Cake. Cue my bewildered face when I saw it ;) Judgeing by the taste of the cake his Polish is much better than I thought!!!! Yummy surprise :) x
I wonder if it comes with age...or super long and rich experience...or both. This cool, patient aura, the feel you know exactly what you want your rider to do and you know exactly whether they will be able to do it or not. I wonder if it descents on an instructor/coach/trainer on one of those misty evenings filled with teaching and riding. Sits down on one's shoulder like a friendly butterfly, light and gentle and yet so real and so confident in its mysterious purpose.

I wonder all this as I certainly have not yet been blessed with such feeling! I get impatient with myself being impatient and I am annoyed with myself for being annoyed. 
I had a super day today, very very tiring mostly because I tried to pay a lot of attention to many things at the time and made sure there was a lot of improvement gained. I need to, however, find a way to stop being impatient if someone can't do something at a time. I want them to get that great feel from the horse when they do things right and I really wish for them to do well and get that super feedback from their horse but I don't think it's good to put such pressure on the rider. Many of them are very driven and love their little discoveries. 
As it stands I have to count to 10 many a time to stop myself from shaking them up a bit ;) It's this perfectionist in me who knows they can do so much better but of course we are not machines and can't perform to our 100% 24/7. Note to myself: be patient, be understanding and teach better so they can do things better!

We'll have some very colourful poles soon - can't wait to see the faces of the ponies when they finally get to work over them and jump some scream coloured jumps ;)


Pics above: Pip the painter and ice lollies eater.

Day off from teaching tomorrow but not exactly a rest day as we are off for more house viewings. I made sure I arranged the appointment for midday so I can sleep all morning!


Friday, 29 May 2009

The Perk of my job: providing riders with lots of laughter and adrenaline therapy ;)

When I can't ride any more, I shall still keep horses as long as I can hobble about with a bucket and wheelbarrow. When I can't hobble, I shall roll my wheelchair out to the fence of the field where my horse's graze, and watch them. - Monica Dickens


Thursday, 28 May 2009

Was reading this week's Horse & Hound and came across... article "Hunting in Ireland: Great fun, or the greatest terror?" by Liam Clancy. I kept reading thinking, wait a minute, he sounds familiar...and then my brain clicked. My first job in the UK in 2003/2004 was an instructor/groom job at the same riding centre in Surrey where Liam was a senior instructor. 
I always thought he was a very good rider and now I know why - those ditches and banks they are jumping out there hunting are absolutely humongous!! It must take a fair amount of stickability to stay on while your horse negotiate the Tipperary county!

Tried a horse today with a view to buy, he's a TB youngster; gave me a nice feel both times I rode him. We shall see.  

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Twelve hours on the trot

Pic.left: My half an hour break and someone wants my lunch... 

Just a line today because I've just came back after doing a 12h teaching day (including a Pony Day joys in the morning...) with one 30 minutes break. Shattered but had some super breakthroughs with a couple of my regular evening clients so I'm buzzing :)

Bath, bed and sweet dreams it's The Plan!

Monday, 25 May 2009

It's Mother's Day Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Mother's Day in Poland and I wish I could give my dear mum a big hug and take her for some yummy lunch but instead she will have to make do with some long-distance wishes. 

Pic. above: My lovely Mum on her and Dad's latest cycling trip last week. 

We've been chatting today and she passed a super news to me: our FEI Eventing World Cup Final tickets for all three days arrived today! Yay :) Roll on August, I can't wait to see my parents and my naughty brother and experience some holidaying ;)

And a few more words on that mechanical horse I wrote about in the earlier post


Momentary Summer, Lateral Work and Riding Mechanical Horse

Pic.left: One of the many views on my Sunday commute. 

It's probably here only for a moment but Sunday was certainly enjoying a true summer weather spell. It was hot, hot, hot and I loved it. Maybe there are some tropical islands' natives in my genealogical tree.
Horses were less than impressed but so chilled and relaxed that it made my work that much easier. 
All the riders ended up a little red in the faces but pleased nevertheless. Knowing British weather it will most likely be pouring down with rein next Sunday!

With my morning group we continued our little adventure with lateral work. We've been doing some leg-yielding now and then in the past months but decided to push the ponies a little and added turn on the forehand and shoulder in. They don't know this yet but next week they will also have a go at haunches in and out. 
The horses were in a mild state of shock to start with but are getting the hang of it now. A dressage pro would probably be less than impressed with the efforts they produce but I got fond of those little naughty creatures and am rather proud of them trying their little socks off. And riders are doing great too. 
What's best is that despite less than perfect execution of those movements the horses are actually benefiting athletically and I saw some much improved trot and canter work yesterday.
The leg-yield to canter departure was a super exercise improving every single canter transition. Well done everybody!

For those of you who read this and are not quite sure what lateral work is, here is a nice overview of the movements I mentioned above: SUSTAINABLE DRESSAGE: LATERAL MOVEMENTS EXPLAINED.

I also worked with S. on her canter position and leg aids and it seems that so many problems in riders' position and inability to keep this 'softly hanging leg' is caused by rigid ankles! We often search for problems in the hips, knees gripping etc Next time you ride try to think what your ankle joint does and how it influences your whole leg position. Let your feet dance, let it bounce with the movement of the horse, don't just press your heels down. 

And here is an interesting video I've came across on working on rider's position and rein contact using a mechanical horse. Me thinks that horses used for beginner riders would probably voted a good riding simulator a product of a lifetime.

Shame the simulators are so expensive, would buy one to give position lessons on my Training Days. I am all for practice, practice and practise on the real horse as nothing gives you the same experience but I bet many horses would be super thankful for that preparatory work being done away from their sensitive backs! There is a lot being said on how equine simulators improve the rider's posture, confidence etc but I see them not only as help for riders but more of a way for horses to have more pleasant experience with novice riders...

Check out some top notch ones: The dressage one looks rather amazing.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Training Day with XC theme

Pic.above.: Pauline having fun hosing down her XC machine :)

One of my more advanced riders was doing her Training Day today so we raised a challenge and ran a XC theme throughout. Started off with flatwork out on the field with a considerable slope to practise keeping balance and rhythm regardless the undulation. Then off we went XC and finished off with a lovely relaxing hack. 

To watch more videos from Training Days go to:


Friday, 22 May 2009

A Very Short Friday Report

Day Plan: Training Day with Amiria who has ridden with me once a fortnight for the last several months and who also rides a friend's dressage schoolmaster. We managed a truly all-round day working on Amiria's position and coordination of aids and her confidence when jumping. Very successful day with plenty of big improvements. 
More about Amiria's Training Day on (scroll down to 22nd May):


Thursday, 21 May 2009

Tagged by 'Where Is My Effing Pony'...

A fellow blogger,  tagged me with the following: 
The rules are:
-Respond and rework
-Answer questions on your own blog
-Replace one question
-Tag 8 people

What are your current obsessions?

Erm, horses? More horses? A few more horses? Riding at the moment, missing my few hours a day fix.

Which item from your wardrobe do you wear most often?
Breeches ;)

What's for Dinner?
Pancakes. Anytime.

Last thing you bought?
Birthday pressies for Rick.

What are you listening to?
Typing noises creatively produced by myself and Rick. His are a little quieter. Alternative Music it might be called in this day-and-age...;) 

If you were a God/Goddess who would you be?
As a teenager I had a bit of an obsession with Egyptian Mythology and goddess Sekhmet. She was a very controversial figure...

Favorite holiday spots?
Sometimes it feels like I'm forever on holiday in a place called Life. Don't ask why. 
I do like secret, undiscovered places, some waves, some golden sun rays, some good company. 

Reading right now?
About 6 different books with Equine Sports Coaching sitting on top. 

Who or what makes you laugh until you are weak?
Those silly animal videos with pets doing most peculiar things. How original of me, not ;)

Who's your Hero/Heroine?
This actually is a secret.

First Spring Thing? 
Hmm, here's the thing, I'm not too good at housework. Having said that I like the idea of a Spring Clean and at times I have a manic -house-tidy-attack. And when I say at times I mean a- few- times- a- year times ;)  

What's the funniest thing you ever saw in your life?
Not sure. Quite a few funny things happen now and then. 

Favourite Film?
International Velvet 
(Official trailer from 1978):

and Garden State.


Care to share some wisdom?
- Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. 
Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.
- Nothing happens unless first a dream.
- Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.

If you were a tree, which one would you be, and why?
I am too much a nomad to be any kind of tree.

Name fictitious characters who made a lasting impression on you.
Thorgal (read whole series)
and that coach from International Velvet played by Anthony Hopkins ;)

4 words to describe yourself.
(1)Just (2)Another (3)Horsey (4)Person.

I'm passing the tag to: KJ, Daun, Peachyhollow, Suzie, Beckz, Alison, Stacey Kimmel-Smith, Back In The Saddle. Have fun!

Where are all the houses??

I've been spending considerable amount of my free time on browsing properties and checking all the updates that are sent to me by estate agents but worryingly we cannot find anything that really matches the essential requirements. Very frustrating. 

On a good note - had a lovely evening yesterday celebrating Ricky's birthday, very relaxing :)

Rode a horse today which one of the yards I work at has for sale and liked a good few things about him. Not sure what to think on the price but I will keep an eye on him. 

Not much is happening at the moment, I am trying to revise to my exam as much as possible and...hoping for a Lottery win!... ;)


Monday, 18 May 2009

In vet language "positive" is not a good news :( - Benji's 5 stage vetting report

To say I am disappointed is an understatement but I guess that's horses for you. Benji didn't pass the vetting. It was very interesting to talk to the vet though and now I am definitely going to 5 stage vet any next potential schooling project. 
Money no object and if I had my own place I would still buy him to investigate the findings further as he is a cracking little horse but can't risk it.
When I bought and sold horses in Poland I always made sure they were 100% sound and did the job. I want to make sure I go by those rules here too. So many things has changed since I last dealt in horses and market here is so different that getting things right is my priority. It's such a small world that it only takes a couple of dodgy horses for the seller to lose their reputation. 
I don't just want to buy and sell - I want to make sure the horse/pony ends up in the best possible home ready for best possible future. 

So the search for a horse is on again...   


Sunday, 17 May 2009

Advice of the day?

Someone said to me today: At times when you are feeling down and everything seems the wrong way round, slap a smile on your face, force yourself to act as if you're happy, confident and in control, this actually helps you BECOME happy, confident and in control of your life.
Placebo effect? Brain Power?

Windy Rainy Sunday

Found it mega difficult to get up today but off I went onto the patio to test the weather. Some shy sunny rays and quite warm. Good.
Got to the yard fairly quickly but by that time the sun was far gone! 
The rain just kept going on and on and on and anything I said to my riders got taken away with the wind. 
Ponies and horses were not impressed by working in such conditions and manifested it by spooking wildly at random items, noises we couldn't hear and shadows that weren't even there. 
I had my heart in my throat today.
All the riders ended up soaking wet apart from A. who managed to somehow order herself a 45 minutes of sunshine! 
I am upping her workload as well as challenging her with more demanding balance exercises as she is doing a Training Day in a couple of weeks. The best thing with having regular riders is that I can build up short and long term learning programmes for them which adds quality to the whole riding experience. 
We are now having a little more stretch through A.'s lower leg and her upper body has gotten much stronger.
The aim for today was to keep working on balance in trot rising and sitting and start developing coordination between left and right side of the body making them independent from one another and yet to allow them to work together. A. is a super pupil as she really tries hard and has quite a little talent too! 

My afternoon riders were less lucky with the weather and had to endure very bad wind. Mr Z. almost parted company with his spooky mare but stayed on and kept going till the end. 
I took my little people on the lunge today as didn't trust those hairy wild beastie ponies not to play them up;))

Saturday, 16 May 2009

A few showers and a bath

My day started awful with a journey on a diverted train which made me ever so late. Had to pay for a taxi from the station to be at work on time - not great.

Pic.left: Killing time snapping pics. My friend phoned too which made the mundane journey a bit more fun.

Apart from that though all went smoothly. Almost. I took proper soaking a few times due to the lovely weather we are having currently. It's a rain cloud's sense of humour perhaps as after each pour down the sun came out to dry the riders and horses out. Only to return and turn the taps back on again!
In a strange way it was actually quite cool ;) I know it probably sounds crazy but when it isn't too cold and if the sun do come back out I find those down pours quite fun ;) 

I had a lady who co-bought Benji with me on a Training Day today and I admit I worked her to the limits. She loved it though and we got some marked improvement in her light seat and canter work. Finished the day with a lovely hack with a fast canter - ponies loved it!
Benji behaved himself super for his new mummy and thankfully she loved him and enjoyed riding him (mad me I got her to part with the money without seeing the horse). Although Benjamin is very much a project bought to be sold on I was still a little worried she might say she didn't like him. No problem there though!
Unless something sinister comes up at the vetting on Monday, he will be given a day off to catch his breath after being chased and prodded, then the proper work will start. 

Pic. above: P. trying Benjamin for the first time. Proper photos to follow once all the sale formalities are concluded.

Following a few showers during the day I thought popping myself into a lovely, hot bath would make a pleasant change. My muscles are mega grateful now ;)

Friday, 15 May 2009

Beginner Training Day

Pic.above: Debbie enjoying her hack out in watercolours

Debbie and Nigel, two riders just starting their adventure in the saddle, braved the Training Day today.
Read about their experience on (scroll down to 16th May: Debbie & Nigel): .
We cannot control the evil tongues of others; but a good life enables us to disregard them. Cato the Elder (234 BC - 149 BC)

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.
Muhammad Ali 


Thursday, 14 May 2009

Positives and Negatives

We arranged for 5 stage vetting for Benjamin on Monday and I am hoping he passes ok. I am always so picky with horses and seem to only see their faults when I look for something to buy but when I really like something I will know in an instance and just make my mind up straight away. I must have spent my life on the phone in the last 48 hours trying to find someone to co-buy the horse with me, booking the vetting etc
A bit tired but very excited.

This excitement and some other positive things take my attention away from some negative little events happening around me.  Wish people were more genuine.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Subject to vetting...

I will have a super little project horse very soon. Rode him today and he was a little star. Very exciting! Keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Oliver Townend wins 2009 Badminton Horse Trials



Are you a freelance instructor/trainer, passionate about your job, experienced and good at it? Would you and/or your centre (yard) like to get involved in a quality training programme project?
Do you live in Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Kent, Sussex, London - basically SE of the country?
If you do and you feel like doing something interesting that involves training keen amateur riders, BHS students and/or horse owners please drop me a line via
You never know, you might like my idea...

Monday, 11 May 2009


Pic. left.: Friend's horse playing with water after schooling

It was meant to be another house viewing day off today but in the end we cancelled as no property was really what we want. I am hoping the estate agents who look for our little house will get their act together soon!

Instead I had a lovely, relaxing day seeing my friend and reading some dressage tests for her. 
I reckon it's good to train your eyes on riders other than recreational/novice riders. When you are a beginner every mistake is obvious and very easy to correct. When I watch more experienced riders I try to see through what they are doing or trying to do, what effect it has or hasn't on the horse; how would I correct them if I had to teach them or what I can learn from what they do. I like to observe the horses in work too, figure out what sort of work suits them, how they deal with certain exercises and how what the rider is doing affects their way of going, both positive and negative.
It's more relaxing sort of observation than what I do at work, there is no pressure. I don't have to teach anybody, improve anything, amuse anyone, I am not responsible for anyone's progress but my own. And as much as I enjoy my work I also need those days when I can teach myself. Watch and let myself learn naturally. 

May is gorgeous this year. Watched friend's horse playing in the ford and thought horses are such fantastic creatures. They truly live in the very now. They don't plan their future or dwell on their past. Maybe that's why they are the most relaxing company that never judges you and tells you how to live your life.

I got back home and it was still so nice that convinced Rick to have a late evening picnic so we collapsed on the grass and stuffed ourselves with some Thai chicken soups ;)


Saturday, 9 May 2009


Spent so much time on my feet, walking with kids around the woods, turning horses out, lunging, then teaching without sitting down at all today;  my legs are aching like mad and my bad knee is not impressed. My plan for the evening involves bed, food and new 'Lost' episode ;) 
Hope I can leisure in my 'coach chair/fence' tomorrow!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Flair Strips - video information


Are you a self - employed trainer/instructor passionate about your job, experienced and good at it? Would you and/or your centre (yard) like to get involved in a quality training programme project?
Do you live in Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Kent, Sussex, London - basically SE of the country?
If you do and you feel like doing something interesting that involves training keen amateur riders, BHS students and/or horse owners please drop me a line via
You never know, you might like my idea

"Sacrifice" - Parents of Daniel Neilson, International Show Jumper on what it takes to be at the top of the game...

To listen click HERE or on the picture below:

Are you passionate about your job, experienced and good at it? Would you and/or your centre (yard) like to get involved in a quality training programme project?
Do you live in Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Kent, Sussex, London - basically SE of the country?
If you do and you feel like doing something interesting that involves training keen amateur riders, BHS students and/or horse owners please drop me a line via
You never know, you might like my idea...

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Riding a Lusitano stallion is somewhat uplifting...;)

A few weeks ago I was chatting to one of my clients and he said he would really want to bring his own horse for lessons and whether that would be ok. More than ok if you ask me! 
So today he arrived with this lovely, grey Lusitano breeding stallion :) They might not be big, might not be as impressive as some dressage horses and might not have the most 'correct' movement as far as modern dressage goes but I can tell you, there is some fantastic positive energy in those horses that make you smile like mad when you sit on them. 
He is an interesting horse as he knows quite a few tricks (like Spanish Walk) and is quite advanced in his training on one hand (tempi changes, half-passes, pirouettes etc) but the foundations are rather wishy washy. We mainly worked on creating some bend in his body today but the main objective of the rider is to jump him. He's coming back again next week. 

Ginger pony was very good on our woodland schooling session, well apart from one mighty spook when a deer appeared on our path all of a sudden! but then I always preferred horses that have some life in them :) She just makes me laugh. Got some nice trot work both uphill and downhill today with her really responding to half-halts and going down and out to the bit when asked. Canter around the field was also better than yesterday. She will probably be sold soon so I am just enjoying the time riding her before it's gone. 

I must make sure not to get my hopes too high the end of this month I am going to ride a horse which I might potentially be able to event/compete. Would be great but guess we'll live we'll see.

Are you passionate about your job, experienced and good at it? Would you and/or your centre (yard) like to get involved in a quality training programme project? 
Do you live in Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Kent, Sussex, London - basically SE of the country?
If you do and you feel like doing something interesting that involves training keen amateur riders, BHS students and/or horse owners please drop me a line via
You never know, you might like my idea

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Are you a self-employed/freelance instructor/trainer? Livery yard, riding school owner?

Are you passionate about your job, experienced and good at it? Would you and/or your centre (yard) like to get involved in a quality training programme project? 
Do you live in Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Kent, Sussex, London - basically SE of the country?
If you do and you feel like doing something interesting that involves training keen amateur riders, BHS students and/or horse owners please drop me a line via
You never know, you might like my idea...


Really impressed with improvement in my Wednesday's riders. So rewarding. 
Ginger pony was a sweetheart today for most of the time (minus first 10 minutes when I had to ride in a group behind another horse and she was not impressed by such start). Took her to the woods and up a field instead and rode her around everything that was on the ground asking for lots of bend through the body. She is very stiff on the left rein and doesn't want to stretch her right side much so I worked on that a lot. This and on her accepting my legs on as that's something I find difficult with her. 
Then took her up the field and trotted her as slowly as I managed for about 30 minutes with plenty of short walk transitions and circles to get her to stretch down and out. She is now in a different bit, just a plain single jointed snaffle which seems to work so much better. She doesn't lean on it and is much more accepting of it. 
She was rather worn out by the end of that half an hour and rather sweaty so I thought it would be safe to have a little canter around and she was very good staying in decent control. Good pony. Had to then walk her for 20 minutes or so to cool her down which made me late for my next lesson, oops. Feeling rather guilty I worked the Uni girls quite hard, bless them. 
Someone rode ginger pony again afterwards in the arena with a group and from what I saw she worked really well (but then the rider who rode her is way more effective than I am). I personally find it very difficult to ride her in a group scenario.

Thanks to a lift from a colleague I had a lovely speedy journey home but feel really tired today, need more sleep methinks. 


Tuesday, 5 May 2009

House Hunting

Spent entire morning today on running around Wokingham and wandering around other people's houses. We saw 4 properties and I must say, I love cottages! 
Although it's tiring and I ran like mad in between the stations to be able to be at work at 2.30pm, it was definitely worth to see a few places. First, it gives us an idea what exactly we are getting for what money. Secondly, it really makes it clear in our heads what we don't want. 
From the four places we saw, each had something great but some essential things were missing here and there.
One of the properties seems to be very close to the ideal...not saying much yet as we are still to have a look around...

We got given a Tenants Guide and I am now trying to get my head around all the fees you have to pay to an agency and all the requirements you have to fulfill! When we moved in to our current place almost 4 years ago we went straight through a landlord so all this agency malarkey is something new to me. 

And a very good me spent almost whole of my day off yesterday on revising to the Intermediate Teaching Test. I started with everything to do with flatwork/dressage. This is because I seem to teach jumping on feel (spent so many years at show-jumping yards in my teens and early twenties that no matter how stressful/demanding situation I am in I know I will always be able to rely on what I learnt back then) while dressage more on knowledge. 
This considering I got through the day with British Dressage Rule Book and a book called 101 Flatwork Exercises ;) 

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Cheeky Sunday, we keep learning and The Bad Band in action

If I didn't have so much fun on Sundays it would be a very hard work. I think some riding schools proprietors think instructors are indestructible machines with throats made of steel, possibly only needing a few Duracell's to keep going. 
Scheduling lessons back to back without a single minute of a break is wrong. It doesn't allow an instructor to "leave" one lesson truly and it takes a few minutes to adjust to a new rider in the arena. If an instructor waffles a lot like I can do/tend to do they will suffer from dry throat - not nice. It's very mentally tiring = less quality teaching. 
I am used to it by now and thankfully it's one day a week only that I have to work like this, wouldn't be able to do a few days in this fashion! 

I was super pleased with my morning riders today. Ladies are more and more inquisitive about their riding, transitions they rode today were very very decent and their sitting trot is certainly a massive step up from winter work. Horses always give me the best of feedback and I know straight away whether the rider is trying or not - the way they moved today and how obediently they listened to the riders aids was a treat to watch. 
My teenage riders also showed some super increase in skills and body awareness especially that I took their saddles off for half a lesson and they successfully cantered bareback. Their effectiveness is improving immensely which is evident as naughty ponies don't dare to show their devil horns...!

By lunch time I needed a rest so I popped onto my sofa and browsed 'Horse' magazine catching up with all the 'confidence and riding nerves' articles ;)) (see below post for the reason why)

Afternoon lessons were equally uplifting. Two beginner riders who are now truly hooked (and booked my Training Day in the beginning of June - excellent!) really got the idea of stretching the legs downwards while relaxing through the inner thighs which resulted in much more balanced overall position. They are still working on the lunge without the reins but if they carry on like they are at the moment they might 'deserve' the reins before their Training Day...

Then a super funny lesson with Sara but don't confuse fun with lack or hard work - I bet she will feel her muscles tomorrow. She normally rides in a group lesson in the morning but had a rare chance to have a lunge lesson today so we made a full use of this opportunity. One of the rider's problems is losing her stirrups in sitting trot and canter due to lack of suppleness in the joints (especially ankles and knees) and more sophisticated coordination. The objective for today was to get Sara to feel more centred and balanced in canter with equal weight distribution down both leg as well as improving her coordination/movement awareness. 
The below video show Sara in trot/canter transitions work where she was asked to stand up in her stirrups and find her standing balance while bouncing an imaginary ball off the ground. We laughed so much my face hurt!
After 40 minutes of work focused on above goals made a big difference to Sara's seat though and I am hoping to see those newly found coordination skills on full display next week. 


And Mr. Z. rode really well too today with much more positive attitude and the horse happily cooperated. As with the girls in the morning I arranged for Mr. Z. to have a bit of bareback time as I think it is one of the best way to develop feel for the horse's movement in the rider.

 Pic.: Tired but pleased!

P.S. Almost forgot about The BAD BAND...i.e. what we spent our lunch time on...
"The Wonderful World" by W., S. and me ;)  [W. do you think we should ask Jaguar to pay us royalties since you are displaying the logo??]


Intensive Training Days and what I learnt from the last few

Pic.: Someone truly enjoys gorgeous Saturday weather with its 19C and glorious sunshine :)

I am totally loving running my Training Days. Even more so because people who train on them have so many different learning styles that the whole experience allows me to develop my teaching. 
It is said that every instructor/trainer/coach will naturally teach/coach in their own learning style. So for example, if I prefer to know the reasons for doing a particular exercise, how it will benefit my horse or me (or both of us) I will tend to start from explaining to my riders what they are working towards before letting them go and crack on with exercise. This approach might not work with those who are typical 'action learners' i.e. those who like to have a go at an exercise first and find out the know-how through that action. 

It is also said that the best coaches can vary their teaching/coaching styles and match them to the learning styles of their riders. This is something I am working towards - finding out how each individual learns and then trying to teach in a way that will 'get the message through to them'. Educational psychology is so fascinating, I wish I had the brains and the memory to take it all in!! 

I am certainly far away from being so flexible and I definitely prefer teaching in my own learning style as that's when I feel most confident and I know that my instructions or pointers will sound true.   
Running the last couple of Training Days this week as well as while working with some of my regular riders focused my attention on the issue of nerves/anxiety and stress related to riding. 
It's not a secret I am not really good with truly nervous riders. I can deal with competition/performance nerves in them but the 'oh no, I'm going to fall off' sort of nerves or deeply ingrained nerves are something I find myself either helpless or short of patience with.

However, as one of my riders very wisely put on her Training Day:
- "You know, if you were a tennis coach where maybe 0.001% are afraid of fluffy yellow tennis ball you could ignore the nerves issue. But have a look at any riding magazine - more than half of the articles discuss the ways to conquer stress and nerves related to riding 500kg-600kg animals with brains of their own. You have to learn how to help nervous riders as that will make you that much a better instructor"...

Now. You. Just. Can't. Argue.With. That.
So I am trying to get better in that department ;) 

The other thing I learnt on a Training Day I ran on Saturday is the importance of communicating clearly what my plans as to the rider's development are. I may have a very well structured plan in my head and a vision of how I want someone to improve but putting it into words isn't always my strong point. My very regular rider enjoys knowing what exactly are the steps she will be going through and that makes me really focus on how am I going to explain to her what we are working on. 
Although it doesn't come naturally to me as it does to some, I found it actually tidies up my training related  thoughts and in turn clarifies my ideas to me as well. 
Good, good. 

The Scales Of Training: Rhythm & Relaxation/Suppleness/Losgelassenheit

What I find most interesting in the whole training of horses is how you can create a wonderfully athletic horse via precise, patient and well thought out training process. 
Although I am still nowhere near the level I want to be at one day, the only true training satisfaction for me comes from schooling the horses in that correct way. 
The reason I am mentioning it is the mad ginger creature I am riding at the moment. That little mare really makes me think how important relaxation is in the training process. The mare is so tense and stressy that it is impossible to do any positive work with her. 

Considering that the muscle must be relaxed to be conditioned effectively and that horses only truly learn when mentally relaxed it seems Dr. Klimke may have been right putting Losgelassenheit (Relaxation/Suppleness) above Rhythm on the Scales Of Training.

The aim is that the horse’s muscles have tone and are free from resistance and joints are loose and do not tighten against the riders aids. The muscles that are really important are those over the top line from the hind legs over the quarters, loins, in front of the wither and up to the poll. The test of whether a horse is supple and working ‘through’ the back and neck is that when the rein contact is eased as in a free walk) the horse wants to stretch forward and down and not try to hollow and lift his head

Rhythm should be both: 1. Regular, that is correct for each pace. In the walk there should be four hoof beats – in a marching time In the trot two hoof beats – the legs move in diagonal pairs plus a moment of suspension when all legs are of the ground. In the canter three hoof beats – only one diagonal pair move together and there is a moment of suspension 2. The same tempo (speed of the rhythm) and this should have a pronounced beat to it. The horse should not speed up or slow down whether going around a corner or on a straight line, lengthening his strides or shortening them.

All this in mind I decided to at least start the process of finding out the ways to relax the stressy pony. My view is that to get to know the horse you have to ride it as many situations as possible and I personally like hacking out for this purpose. The mare hadn't really been hacked out as far as I know simply because her flight instinct is rather strong but I much rather be run away with in the open than in the arena. So off we went for a little walk on Saturday morning. It wasn't the most relaxing time for me as she likes to surprise the rider but I was really pleased with the end result. Walked her in the woods and open fields for about 35 minutes and she calmed down noticeably. 

Vid. Relaxing the Mad Ginger Mare

We went back to the paddock to do some trot work and although she was still running way too fast and wasn't reacting to the aids as she should, her whole attitude changed. It's funny how you can actually feel the different sort of 'running away' - she let me ride her in much longer outline, kept her neck lower and felt looser and softer through her whole body. 
This plus she didn't come back onto me with her neck in response to my half-halts which was my biggest problem so far.
She has a rather thick jowl and her salivary glands/parotid glands are large (basically look like constant puffiness behind the rim of the jowls) - the way she carries her neck means that when she flexes at the poll they must be getting uncomfortably squeezed. This might be partly because of her conformation but most likely from pulling on the reins which brings her jaws against her neck (the problem is she is so incredibly strong that when she was ridden by teenagers the only way to stop her for them was to keep pulling). 
All this considering, for now I would like to get to the point when she consistently carries her neck lower with an angle between her jowl and the throat open. Once her topline gets stonger and lifts the atlas joint she should be able to carry her head cleaner off her neck. Without this she is just working like a camel, bulging her very strong underneck muscles and powering forwards like a little train. Hopefully once she relaxes she will start taking reins forwards in transitions rather than come back onto rider and behind the vertical. I try not to pull at all and give her time when asking for halts and downwards transitions by just passively resisting through my seat and hands. She did some pretty good halt transitions with this method (taking the reins forwards and down).
I reckon the biggest challenge will be to break the pattern of her behaviour as when she "panics" or start "running" her brain seems to switch off...
The mare has an amazing engine but it's almost like putting a F1 cylinders into a Renault Clio = control problems! 
I am hoping that by showing her the way to relax and control her own power I will be able to direct her energy in a much more positive way.  

Friday, 1 May 2009

Never go 20m without doing something...

Since proper, serious training isn't really possible for me right now I've been watching a lot of various video footage of riders I find fascinating to observe. 
The one I think is an absolute master is Rainer Klimke. 

Sports science has proven record of athletes improving simply by including imagery into their training so I hope that some of Dr. Klimke's brilliance will rub off onto me ;))

Watching truly superb riders seems to work for me as it really makes me think about what I do. What stuck with me was Carl Hester's comment I once heard: 'Never go 20m without doing something'. I try to keep telling myself this over and over again when I school on my own and it certainly works! (that is if I am focused enough to listen to my self - talk!).

Very pleased with Mad Ginger Thing today - still mad but we managed a reasonable amount of walking without jogging, her trot work was better than yesterday and some of her walk to halt transitions were much less dramatic than yesterday's (i.e. we managed to just stand still without her piaffing and turning ;). 
Wonder if I could buy myself a mad pony...;))) Shh, stop being silly. But maybe...perhaps...

Riding her again tomorrow morning. Keeping me happy is quite simple - I just need a little project horse to work with every day and I am a happy bunny. 

Thanks to my lovely mum I also got quite a few DVDs with plenty of equestrian shows footage she patiently records for me. My new little packet arrived last night but I got back so late after staying longer to help turning horses out that I was too tired to have a good look at it. 

I am now fully stuffed with my very own home-made pankackes - mega yummy!, stretching my tired legs on bed and going to watch the Las Vegas World Cup final! :) 

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