Tuesday 30 June 2009

I could say it was a hard work in this heat but...

What are you doing woman???!!!

Gimme that hose right now!!

...in fact I had the easiest day since I remember! The 32C in London, apparently higher than in tropical Bangkok, caused plenty of on-the-day cancellations from riders to be. It is set to be even hotter tomorrow with heatwave warnings, hmm: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8122969.stm

As a result I only taught a few lessons today which was just as well as the horses were so hot that even walking made them sweat. Gave some of them a nice hose down but not all appreciated it, naughty creatures ;)
In summary, my day consisted of eating ice creams, drinking gallons of liquids, reading up to exam in between cold water face splashes and chatting horses. It was still super hot at 7.30pm but seeing how little time I now have to ride I grabbed a chance to school one of the ponies. 
Trying to cool down now indulging in strawberries and cream :)


Monday 29 June 2009

BHS Intermediate Teaching exam - Lessons Plan for the required Subjects

I am sitting here taking full advantage of the world wide web. If I could multiply the time so I could spend more time on reading and videos watching I would do so in an instant :)
For those of you who wonder what are the subjects required for the Intermediate Teaching exam here is the list:

1. The importance of self reflexion, CPD (Continual Professional Development), managing own progress. Any of the following subjects are suitable for the inclusion:
  • how feedback can be used to assist self reflexion and CPD
  • criteria that is suitable to evaluate coaching performance
  • how to improve future coaching performance
  • methods of keeping up to date with coaching developments
  • the benefits of reviewing coaching sessions
  • the importance of evaluating personal coaching strengths and weaknesses
  • how to compile a professional development action plan
  • the benefits of the register Of Instructors
  • inexpensive, practical methods of developing coaching skills and knowledge
  • how to support other caches in designing and self-implementing CPD
2. Phases of a coaching programme: pre-season, preparatory, competition, post-competition. It is suggested that any of the following subjects are suitable for inclusion within the discussion on phases of a coaching programme: 
  • physical, technical, tactical and mental preparation
  • physical, technical, tactical and mental performance
  • how good planning and preparation of a coaching programme reduces rider and horse injuries
3. Obtaining and using feedback
  • types of feedback
  • the effects of positive and negative feedback
  • the components of good feedback
  • the use of scientific methods of feedback
  • how technology can assist in providing feedback
  • non-verbal methods of feedback e.g. body language, facial expressions
  • how perception affects feedback
  • the importance of good listening skills when giving and receiving feedback
  • the use of reflective logs or journals as a method of feedback
  • methods to ensure that the content of feedback has been understood correctly
  • how to use feedback when action planning or agreeing new goals
  • how to use feedback to adapt goals
  • parties that could be included in the feedback process e.g spectators, parents
  • the pitfalls of external involvement in the feedback process e.g. parents
  • how feedback affects motivation
4. Managing a coaching programme (supporting and monitoring)
  • factors that need to be considered before beginning a coaching programme
  • planning activities and exercises in order to meet the needs and goals of participants
  • health and safety issues, including risk assessment, first aid and child protection issues
  • responsibility for equipment, facilities, allocation of horses and other resources
  • the need to observe and monitor activities to ensure standards are maintained and weaknesses in the programme or training are identified
  • the sharing of good practice
  • appropriate ethical, moral and behavioural guidelines
  • the importance of feedback, communication and liaison between coaching teams and participants
  • reasons for modifying and adapting coaching programmes
  • the importance of accurate and up to date record keeping 
  • designing a programme that incorporates coaching styles that are compatible with the learning styles and experience of the participants
  • the importance of promoting self-esteem and confidence in coaching teams
  • suitable methods of reviewing a coaching programme
5. How to empower participants
  • what we mean by term 'empowerment'
  • methods and techniques that empower participants
  • barriers to empowerment
  • personal responsibility and ownership of learning and development
  • health and safety implications of empowering staff members
  • the relationship between empowerment, delegation, authority and responsibility
  • how to increase the coaches ability to become more self-reliant
6. Physical and mental preparation for a session
  • the benefits of mental preparation for a training session or competition
  • the benefits of physical preparation for a training sessions or competition
  • how poor mental preparation can effect performance in training sessions or competitions
  • the importance of a training plan/ structure as part of mental and physical preparation
  • how good mental and physical preparation helps to prevent stress and anxiety
  • the effects of over training
  • factors that need to be built into a physical or/and mental preparation structure
7. Motivation - what it is and how to use it
  • types of motivation
  • motivational theory
  • techniques suitable for motivating young or children riders
  • how positive and negative feedback affects motivation
  • barriers to motivation
  • types of goal setting, its effect on motivation
  • intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors
  • how peer pressure effects motivation
8. Rider injuries not related to falls
  • the importance of identifying proper/safe riding techniques in order to reduce the risk of injuries
  • the importance of warm up and warm down
  • how to prevent injuries in horse riders
  • the importance of setting realistic goals suitable for the rider's fitness level and skill set
  • the most common rider injuries and symptoms - unrelated to falls
  • what causes injury? including extrinsic or intrinsic risk factors
  • the importance of using and maintaining safety equipment
  • how risk assessments help to prevent injuries
  • professional help and guidelines available in the treatment and rehabilitation or sports related injuries e.g. GP consultation and referral, sports physiotherapist, osteopathy etc
  • the use of essential protective equipment including gloves, footwear that provides support and protection for your feet and protective headwear to reduce the risk of serious head injuries
9. Positive reinforcement
  • the importance of acknowledging and praising effort as well as results
  • why mixing praise with criticism can devalue the message
  • how to promote desired behaviour and/or skills
  • positive reinforcement and its effects on confidence
  • the effects of positive reinforcement on behaviour and skill
  • how positive reinforcement improves performance and reduces errors
10. Mentoring
  • how mentoring can help individuals to recognise and maximise their potential
  • the skills and attributes of a good mentor
  • how mentoring helps to raise awareness and generate personal responsibility
  • the importance of encouraging the mentee to explore options and make choices for themselves 
  • informal versus formal mentoring practice
  • personal qualities of a good mentor e.g. empathy, respect
  • the importance of reflective practice and continuing professional development of the mentor
  • the relevance of ethical and moral values when mentoring
  • the importance of confidentiality
  • the differences between coaching, teaching and mentoring 

Sunday 28 June 2009

The downside of freelancing is...

...losing your income when clients cancel their lessons :( Short day today as my late afternoon teaching was cancelled but that actually gave me a chance to school one of the horses. Always good to sneak some riding in. 
Some very productive lessons today but the hot weather is staying around so it's quite tiring. I am looking forward to my day off tomorrow. Pain kept me awake for so long in the last several weeks that now it's almost entirely gone I am going to indulge in some sleep time! 
My aim for tomorrow is to write some of the lessons/lecture plans (ones that I need for my exam), spend as little time on my feet as humanly possible and read up on business management (again for exam).   
I have some more riders interested in the Training Days so I am now taking bookings for August. 

Saturday 27 June 2009

Long hot days

As much as I love warmth this hot weather with high humidity is very draining. Great for by the pool book reading situation but not so great when you have to spend your day on your feet in breeches and leather knee high gaiters...Superbly exhausting!
It's been a good couple of days though. Ran Training Day on Friday and I think we managed to go through quite a few issues successfully and riders made some interesting progress. We finished the day with a lovely relaxing hack when the weather decided to ease off and we enjoyed a little breeze. 
Rather intense day today where I got to teach private or semi-private lessons all day to some new clients some of which I naturally convinced (as usual) to book for more riding fun ;) 

I've received quite a few emails from horse enthusiasts enquiring about some form of Training Days for complete beginners just starting out and I would like to say that I am working on this... When/if my idea goes ahead I will post an update. For now you will have to be patient :)

Right, off to revise for my exam.

Interesting Videos - Understanding Pre - Purchase exam


Find more videos like this on Barnmice


Find more videos like this on Barnmice

2010 Radio Show Episode 44 - Spotlight Endurance Rider, Cheryl Dell

Cheryl Dale on Reason to Believe

We are thrilled to announce our Spotlight Endurance Rider, Cheryl Dell from California . Cheryl shares with us her story including some "hairy" moments and looks ahead to the selection process for the United States Endurance Team for the Alltech FEI 2010 World Equestrian Games. And our favorite intern Chrissy Joy brings us the latest from the 2010 Games Office. Listen in...

2010 Radio Show Episode 44 - Spotlight Endurance Rider, Cheryl Dell:
  • We are thrilled to announce Dr. Cheryl Dell as our spotlight endurance rider. Cheryl lives in California and trains at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Listen to Cheryl as she discusses her life as an endurance rider, her horse Reason to Believe (pictured above) and her plans for the 2010 WEG.

  • Cheryl mentioned that she gets many of her horses from Sturgeon Creek Arabians. Check them out at www.sturgeoncreekarabians.com.


Listen Now, Download or Subscribe:

Listen Now

Subscribe Zune

Thursday 25 June 2009

Sawing on horse's mouth to "get him on the bit"? - Read the below...


Rising trot marathon and shoulder-in on a frying pan

If I had to teach one more person how to do rising trot or how to turn I think I would have to cry. There is only as many beginner lessons I can cope with on one day. Just in case you are not in South East of England right now, let me tell you, it's hot. Mega hot. The arena felt like a frying pan and as most of my riders were beginners I couldn't sit in a shade now and then as they need constant attention. 
By 5pm I was spent to the ground. Just bought a new pair of shoes after my old one decided to grow holes and split soles and it takes a while the wear them in. It hurts to walk and I walked fair bit today. Anyway, without moaning any further...;)

My last lesson of the day was thankfully with livery clients working on a brief as I was being given some pointers towards my Intermediate teaching exam. The brief was to work on improving the horses' way of going incorporating leg yield, shoulder-in, counter canter and end up with a grid work. It was rather packed with exercises but riders seemed to enjoy themselves and it was good to have colleague's feedback as it's often hard to assess oneself!
I then stayed a little to observe some other instructors teaching and riders working their horses as I was too knackered to set off home straight away.

I'm totally pooped now. Going to perform minimal movements and read my new Horse magazine that arrived through the post today. 
I am hoping for a not so sun feisty day tomorrow as I am running a Training Day for two super ladies and hard work is on schedule!

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Wednesday in Pictures

Morning: judging Prelim 1 and Prelim 18, part of Reading University Mini Badminton Riding Club event at Hall-Place Equestrian Centre. 

PM: Supervising the warm-up of the X-country for the event
Pic.below: Joy in the startbox...5...4...3...2...

Reading Uni Riding Club Riders after being given results & rosettes. Well done everybody!! Special congratulations to the winners: 
Mini event: Noomi and April
Maxi Event: Lucy and Flapjack

Champagne for the winner!
Picture below: Lucy and Flapjack

Got back home and went for a lovely little walkies with Ricky. I was going to read&revise but my head was pounding (my nemesis tooth is still healing) and ended up just relaxing. The magic of mental rest equals no headache!


Monday 22 June 2009

Little Things - Big Thoughts

If hobbies were defined only as things we do for pleasure in our spare time then sleeping would be very high on my list. It was just fab to wake up at my normal getting up time and not actually have to get up, feel no pain and to just sweetly go back to sleep.
We had a lovely breakfast of fresh fruit and warm croissants and I set off to see my dentist. 
You know, I have always been after 'do what makes you happy' type of life and will always be but boy does reality slams you in the face sometimes. When I heard how much the fixing of my tooth will cost me I almost fell off the chair.  
This takes us to the title of this post. Those little things and events makes you look at the grand picture and wonder how ill constructed the world is. 

I am not going to be very creative by saying I really hate the way money rules so many aspects of our lives. I may think I won, doing what I love doing, refusing to subscribe to structured scenario of climbing the steps of career in Proper Jobs. I may think I escaped the rat race, the material possessions race, the vanity race.
But then I wake up and get a call from life that says: you know what, all is well when all is well but if you get into trouble you won't even know what had hit you. 
My thinking always has been that if you can use your brain, if you are good at what you are doing and if you know where you going you will be just fine. But is that so? 

Little Things. Big Thoughts. 
My biggest fear is a situation where I would have to give it all up and go for some totally unsuitable for me a job that would allow me to afford to eat, live under the roof and stay healthy. That would be the biggest failure I can imagine. 

And because I can't allow for that failure to happen I am having a serious Think Tank moments trying to decide on the best way forward. 
I am very aware that to be as good a trainer/coach/instructor as I want to be I actually have to decrease the amount of teaching I do for a while and focus on my own training as a rider. This is very, very tricky as it's the teaching that pays the bills...
I am thinking through various options though and will share my thoughts soon. After my Intermediate Teaching exam. 

Sunday 21 June 2009

Weekend of Seat, Dreams and Canter Work

There are plenty of riders out there who will tell you that if the way you ride produces good results at shows then you are doing great job and this is all that matters. As much as I like seeing horse and rider doing well at competitions I disagree with that belief. To me the horse doesn't care whether it is getting good marks at affiliated Dressage tests or whether it has an X clear rounds at Foxhunter on its record. And horses can achieve those being both badly and well ridden.
What the horse does deeply care about is how the rider sits on it and how comfortable the experience is.
This is why I am dedicated to teaching the seat before teaching the influence. This is also why some of my riders might feel they are less effective than riders who started learning at the same time but different way. They might feel they are a little passive and a little lost when it comes to controlling their horses' way of going. They should not worry though for this little longer time learning own body awareness and balance is their investment in the future of secure, harmonious and enjoyable riding years - for both parties!
With this in mind I worked on P.'s upper body balance at her Saturday morning lessons. Her natural way of sitting on a chair is how she also naturally sits on a horse (top photo). She can sit well (bottom photo) but it requires conscious effort. Her homework is to try to sit straighter off the horse and see how that improves her on horse position.

Pics. above: Slouching (top) and sitting up with head resting on the shoulders (bottom)

Kiran has a dream

Then I had my regular rider, Kiran, on a Training Day. Kiran has a dream. She wants to be the first Indian woman show-jumper. I haven't personally done any research on this subject but she claims Indian women are nowhere to be found in the equestrian world. Riding is seen as an inappropriate hobby or just unnecessary activity. 

So Kiran has a dream. Whether she will pursue it further than taking part in an unaffiliated show I don't know. I hope she will. Either way, after several months of polishing the very basics including a few months on the lunge, I am now introducing Kiran to 'baby jumps'. From now on she will be learning to ride to become a jumper and I will keep you posted on her progress. She rides with me once a week at one of the London's riding schools and has two Training Days each month. 
I divided her Training Programme into Sessions which in turn are divided into individual Lessons. 
Here's first video and a first go at jumping. 

Sunday Canter Theme

Since the ponies on my Sunday yard are getting fitter and more athletic I decided to go with canter work theme today. The challenge was to improve trot sitting to canter to trot sitting sequence of transitions via various exercises that riders learnt over the last couple of months. Some impressive results, they never cease to amaze me. 

Now time to relax and indulge in Ricky-made pancakes (again! yay:). 

Friday 19 June 2009

Took this Photo today

...The World Map of my Life...

The right kind of tired

I'm knackered but in a good way. Very productive, interesting day part of which you can watch on video if you go to http://trainingdays-equestrian.blogspot.com/
and scroll down to the 19th of June. 
It shows Claire (pics above) and Fran (pics below) being put through their paces! Took me a while to put all the pics and little videos together so the girls better like it ;)))


Thursday 18 June 2009

Just don't hit the trees...

I spent the morning on running one of my Training Days for one of the University Club's riders including more XC fun both with the uni rider and with the evening livery lesson later on. Our XC woods are rather populated by variety of trees and while looking for some more interesting routes to link the fences my main priority was not to have a tree facing the rider upon landing ;) 
I thought I must have said 'just don't hit that tree' a good several times today ;) Now and then I would hear: 'ehmm, there are trees everywhere here' ;)) 

Busy and long day tomorrow, I have two more girls from the Club doing the Training Day preparing for their Mini Badminton Event so we will be working through their dressage test (Prelim 18 I believe), some show jumping and more XC. 
Then we have a 'Have Your Say' evening at the centre starting at 7pm for all the clients and livery clients to voice their ideas, for them to meet the staff etc I think it's a great idea in principle but wonder how many people do actually come forward publicly with what they are saying quietly at meetings like this...Some complimentary wine is said to be served and I will have to sip my water! My antibiotics are apparently not keen on even small quantities of alcohol. 

Saturday is all set to be fab with P. riding with me whole morning, then Training Day for one of my regular riders. 


Wednesday 17 June 2009

Things are slowly going back to normal and a word about Intermediate Teaching Test exam

Jack says: "You mean, I cannot snack while waiting for my turn to jump???? Oh how rude!"

Together with the reduction of the constant pain in my jaw comes a significant increase in my joy de vivre! The drugs are making me feel a bit dizzy and drowsy but I can deal with that. 
It was still quite tough on Tuesday but today I was just in mild discomfort so am hoping it's all on a smooth way to recovery. 
There is a XC competition at the yard this weekend and the Mini Badminton event for Reading University Riding Club next week so we are running lots of cross-country lessons. As much as I enjoy it there are some rather heart stopping moments when riders *forget* to ride to the fences and horses' engines lack the push! I would normally growl at them right there and then but my vocal skills are at great disadvantage at the moment. 

My Intermediate Teaching Test exam day is in just about a month and I am determined to pass it ;) For the last few weeks I've been focusing on teaching group lessons according to how examiners like to see it. The main difficulty with the exam is that you only have about 25 minutes for your lesson (and to show what you know!) so the structure of the lesson has to be very different to your usual 45 min or an hour session. As you probably can figure out from my posts I am quite strict about development of rider's seat and body awareness and often spend a lot of time in the lesson on those but I can't do this at an exam. I am therefore thinking about the ways to incorporate simple corrections that make biggest difference in riders but which can be done 'on the move' so the whole lesson is flowing and interesting. 
I am very aware that my way of teaching is more suited to committed, more serious riders than an average recreational rider so I am working hard on tweaking my style to fit various stages of the exam (Group flatwork lesson, group jumping, private jumping or XC lesson, private dressage lesson and lunge lesson to improve rider's seat). 
Next on agenda is to focus on dressage lessons and again how to compact them into 25 minutes time slot. I haven't competed Elementary dressage (level required for exam) since about 2002 so I bought all the BD Dressage Elementary Tests to go through them properly and make sure I am familiar with the sequence of the movements required. Many a time I find that riders can ride single movements fairly well but have problems riding them in the test. The way the movements are connected is designed to test the horse's and rider's level of training and if there are any gaps in the education of either it often shows then.

While browsing I came across this cleverly drawn dressage arena layout with dimensions put on: 


Mum and Dad's cycling trip to Ojcow National Park,Poland

Here are a few pics from my parents' cycling trip to Ojcow National Park, Poland. They are both passionate cyclists and spend most weekends 'in the saddle' ;) This was one of their longer trips and they've just came back. Got to laugh at my mum's cycling socks ;))) Dad is the first on the right on the pic.


Monday 15 June 2009

Effulgence this is NOT

Went to dentist today who prescribed one more antibiotic (apparently I have both internal and external infection) and some funky mouthwash in a little bottle. She can't do anything to my poor broken tooth as first the infection has to go down so I have another appointment set for next week. I will also need an X-ray of the tooth. Looks like a big chunk of my wages will be involved in all this :( 
Ricky is going to make me pancakes tonight - nice and soft for me to chew slowly!
I just wish those waves of pain would stop :(


Sunday 14 June 2009

Just came back from Hospital

So my toothache didn't get better. In fact, it got worse. Didn't sleep at all last night, basically spent it sitting on the floor staring at nothingness not knowing what to do with myself (preferably hit the floor with my head in some sort of repetitive fashion). My lower jaw is really swollen and there is something sinister going on :(
Morning came and the pain got a little more bearable so I set off to work. The day passed in a bit of a haze, not quite sure how but I somewhat managed to get to the end without screaming.

I am one of those people who just work through the pain but one of my evening riders decided to take control over the situation, told me not to be a martyr but a wimp and drove me straight to Emergency department at Chelsea & Westminster hospital. (Thank you ever so much Amber!!xxx).
And good thing she did as it seems I have a nasty infection going on. The waiting was agonising, almost 3 hours of sitting on one of those super uncomfortable metal chairs absently watching a nature programme on the telly. Ricky came to keep me company and so I didn't have to go back on my own.
I'm now home feeling a bit dizzy after doses of antibiotics and super strong pain killers and I am really hoping for pain free night. 


Saturday 13 June 2009

Week from Hell

As you can probably guess by no posts I've been having a Hell of a week. First, the Tube Strike, which messed up my commute so much I ended up leaving house super early and coming back close to 11pm. 
Then, as if that wasn't enough, I've been battling with a sudden toothache since Wednesday morning which is driving me crazy. Don't remember being in so much constant pain anytime recently and working/teaching through it was quite a challenge. Yesterday was the worst and I very nearly ripped the blooming thing out of my jaw. 
Had a couple of hours pain free today (which felt like heaven!!!) so managed to eat some solid food as oppose to smoothies and yogurts. 
I *think* it's getting better but I'm still going through some ridiculous amounts of painkillers to keep myself sane. 
Fingers crossed for at least few hours of uninterrupted sleep tonight and some pain free hours tomorrow. I don't have to start till 10am so hope to recharge a little.
Looks like I will spend my day off on a dentist's chair :( That will teach me not to stuff myself with kit kats and such likes!

Monday 8 June 2009


As the blind person touches the object before him very softly and lightly with his fingertips in order not to interfere with the work of the sensitive nerve ends by too much pressure, so it is the rider's first obligation to keep soft and natural those parts of his body with which he feels his horse. If his seat meets this requirement, he will soon feel the movement of the horse's legs and will be able to distinguish each individual one; he will thus have the means at his disposal with which to control them as if they were his own.
G.Steinbrecht (1884, in: 1995, 13).

And Today I was resting every single cell in my body ;)

Started last night with a lovely bath and an early night so woke up today refreshed and not at all tired. 
Ricky and I then had breakfast in the Gardens. I read up to my exam. Listened to the birds and watched some park life trying to steal our food.

Indulged in a couple of hours of Books Browsing :) 

Cooked a dinner again AND a cake :) Well, technicaly my mum sent me the cake mix so I didn't make it from scratch but hey, I did all the mixing and time keeping ;))


Sunday: Reality vs Perception in Horse Riding

Pic. left: My view is that there is nothing better than bareback riding to develop proper "feel" for the trot: not just an up-down bounce that we absorb via lower back but also a left-to-right lateral movement that we have to allow for in our hips...Mr Z. swinging along...:)

It was a day of some interesting discoveries for my riders today. I was really quite sleepy and very very tired so probably didn't put my normal 100% into the lessons but I did try my best. 
First of all we cracked on with my advanced rider's problem - rigid ankles. She's a lovely rider and very focused but needs to work on letting go through the leg instead of bracing against the motion, especially in transitions. 
So today we kept it quite simple but worked a lot on body awareness. It transpired that there was a few things A. wasn't doing while thinking she was and vice versa.
The simplest test we did was while standing in the stirrups (one of my favourite balance exercises, it improves the rider's seat in matter of minutes). I asked A. whether she thought her heels were level with her toes, up or down. She identified her heels as being down while they were actually slightly up. 
She then did a few simple stretches on her lower leg. allowing the heel to drop deep, then she tiptoed in the stirrups, then levelled the foot etc Those simple movements created the muscle memory of each position and the feel of it. 
We then proceeded to trot-canter work and A. was to allow the ankle the same 'closing and opening of the joint' as it was happening in her hip joints in both gates. 
Using her words "It felt totally different and so good!!!"
Here is a short video showing the exercise at halt.

After lunch I had a hack with a lovely lady who rode well so we could just relax and enjoy Richmond Park (which is one my favourite places ever for many reasons).

One of the Gates to the Park:

Red Deer resting 

By the time the evening came I was truly ready for The Super Rest! 

Saturday 6 June 2009

Good day but looking forward to lots of rest

Hmm, it turned out I got the dates confused and my morning rider, Pauline, actually booked a hack and afternoon rider was away watching Polo!
I was so tired in the morning it was just as well I was hacking out from 9 till 12.30. It was such a sleepy start to the day with a constant misty rain coming down from greyish sky. 
We had some lovely relaxing walkies followed by some fast canters to keep us awake ;) 

I finally woke up after lunch break, just in time as had a few lessons to give that needed attention ;) My last one of the day was with advanced teenage group and I decided to set them one of the exercises I used to do on training camps while in Juniors (when show-jumping back in Poland). My mum sent me some of my old notes that I made after each training and I had a habit of drawing the jump sets our trainer built for us so it all came back. Watching the riders tackling the set up was like a journey back in time. Lots of fab memories.  

Then back home and..wait for it...I actually cooked a dinner ;) 

Veggies, pasta, chicken and Lloyd Grossman sauce - yummy:) Revised to my Intermediate Teaching exam reading up on some lecture topics and I am now going to try to catch some beauty sleep before teaching packed day tomorrow. Dark circles under my eyes are getting darker - roll on day off Monday!

Friday 5 June 2009

Mission: Catch some Sleep!

Pic. left: Amber and Laura at today's Training Day.
This week has gone so fast I barely managed to notice and it's Friday already. Days has been so busy and went by so quick, I wonder how do I remember about catching some sleep ;) 

I will be running two Training Days tomorrow, one for an advanced rider from 9 till 1, then novice rider from 2-5.30. Sitting here now watching their videos from previous Training Days & lessons and thinking about the exercises that will improve some problem areas and strengthen those that are getting better already. Busy, busy, busy. 
My knee feels the strain and I think I need to go back to my Pilates routine as that's what seemed to have kept the buggered joint together for the last few years. 


Wednesday 3 June 2009

Working on The Psoas Muscles Today

The January 2013 version (with functional links and videos) of the below blog post can now be found at: 

Pic. left: Reading Uni Riding Club riders ready for hard work on their Psoas ;) From left to right: Lucy on her own Jack, Claire and Helen on riding centre's horses.

Here is an exercise I mentioned in the post about the Psoas Muscles. I was taught how to teach this several years ago and found it very useful for teaching deep seat and core stability while riding.

Ideally you need an assistant do it well and not to strain the incorrect muscle groups.

First of all I ask the rider to sit as relaxed as possible with their legs loosly dropped from their hips. This allows me to asses the natural tendencies in the rider's body like perching forwards, leaning back, collapsing one way or the other, gripping etc It also gives me a chance to relate the rider's built (like the lenght of the thighs, the proportions of their bodies: upper body to lower body etc) to the horse's conformation, the saddle, the position of stirrup bars etc All those details will influence the rider's position and later the way they influence the horse.

Once I have an idea about the above I ask them to find neutral pelvic position. I don't think there is a text book image of this as everybody is different to the rider has to find its own neutral spinal alignment. I use posterior and anterior pelvic tilt to give the rider an idea about the two extremes (and doing the posterior pelvic tilt introduces them to the driving seat), then find the one in between.
I tell the rider to engage the core by bringing their belly button towards their spine and feeling a muscular engagement in their middle bodies that is similar to the one when you cough or sneeze.
Then we move onto stretching front of thighs gently to be able to take them back and more vertically under the pelvis.
Have a look at the pictures below for Before and After.


Claire's back is hollow, her legs are in front of her centre of gravity and her core muscles are switched off. Her stirrups lenght might be good for jumping but not for effective work on the flat.


Claire's lower leg could be a little further forward and her head back and on top of her shoulders but her core muscles are switched on, she has just the natural curve in her spine and her legs are underneath her giving her balance. She also carries herself here rather than relying on the horse to do it for her. As a result she got some very decent work out of the horse today.

Pic. above: Claire is trying it all in practice. She's on an 'up' of rising trot here and notice how balanced she is - it gives the impression that if the horse was taken away from underneath her she would land on her feet. In other words, she is in control of her centre of gravity and allows the horse to trot freely.

Here is how I work on the Iliopsoas muscles: I ask the rider to palpate their hip bone and then slide their fingers to the side of it where they can feel a little dip/shallow shape. They are to keep a couple of fingers there. I then press my hand against their lower leg and ask them to push against my hand outwards with the whole leg starting at the hip. This action moves whole thigh away from the saddle for a moment. Then I help the rider to achieve the same while keeping their legs gently touching the horse's sides.

Sometimes it takes a few goes to do it right but when done correctly the rider can feel a tiny muscle belly popping up underneath their fingers. That tiny muscle engage all of the outer thighs muscles which in turn switch off "the grippers". (Muscles Work In Pairs)

Pic. below from http://www.horsemagazine.com/CLINIC/Fitness/part2/lisa_part2.html shows the rider gripping with inner thighs.Very common mistake and super hard to un-learn!

The secret is to keep those little belly muscles popped, thighs rotated inwards a fraction, inner thighs long and soft and outer thighs engaged. Amazingly this also makes the rider sit upright and strong within their abdominal muscles. It feels as if you were plugging yourself into the horse, gives you stability and helps the horse move freely. It also gives you a feel of making a room for a horse in between your legs by opening in your hips.

The Uni girls worked super hard on this today and I thought they did a great job. Probably the best feedback they got came from their horses that really loosened and became more rideable.

I am looking forward to learn even more about this biomechanics malarkey so I can teach even better and get the best even out of very ordinary horses :)


The Psoas Muscle - the key to good position and deep seat

The January 2013 version (with functional links and videos) of the below blog post can now be found at:

I've been meaning to write this post for quite some time so finally here it is. I am sure there are some great authorities out there who could explain it all much better and I am by no means an expert. This is just a result of some experiences and lots of digging in the widely available sources.

The first time I was told about psoas/iliopsoas muscles was about 16 years ago while training long distance running as a teenager. The psoas muscles can get really tight in runners so specifically designed stretches were part of our every day training. I had never really thought about them since then until many years later I had a chance to train with a dressage trainer and rider. She was trained by a Centred Riding instructor while working with horses in Germany. It was my first year in the UK and I could barely understand simple words spoken with British accent not to even mention medical vocabulary so our sessions were challenging to say the least ;) What I learned from her though completely changed my riding and the way I teach now. I am still learning how to pass this knowledge on to my riders and how to use it better myself. 

This post is about the Psoas muscles, the muscles that MAKE the rider...

What are Psoas muscles?

"They are located deep in the abdomen, on both sides of the lower spinal vertebrae. We do not think of the psoas muscles because the functions they perform are done in conjunction with one or more of the surface muscles. This is probably the reason the riding world does not look further than the surface muscles at the front and back of the body when determining how riders stabilize themselves on their horses. Out of sight, out of mind.
The psoas muscles are the bridges between the upper body and the legs. They are the only muscles that directly link the spine to the legs. The psoas attach directly from the lower spine to the top of the inner thighs at the lesser trochanter of the femur. They do not attach directly to the pelvis, but influence it through their connection to the iliacus muscles, which are attached to the walls of the inner pelvis.
The psoas muscles flex your thighs at the hip, enabling you to raise your knees, thus lifting your feet off the ground. Since the tendons of the lower part of the iliopsoas attach to the inner thighs,when flexed, they also tone the adductor muscles located on the inside of your thighs."

How and What For do Riders Use the Psoas

The psoas and iliopsoas hold the torso vertical and engage to stop you from falling backwards behind the line of gravity which passes behind the hip joints. The psoas, engaged with the rectus abdominis hold you into the centre of the saddle so that your two seat bones are connected to the horse's back muscles on either side of his spine. This is a vital piece of information, for sliding off one side or the other (usually to the outside through corners) is a major cause of horses falling out through their shoulder or haunches or bulging.

The Psoas Muscles - The Missing Link]

"I began offering bodywork sessions at the local riding center. I realigned and balanced a rider’s body using Zen Bodytherapy® alignment techniques and Zen Triggerpoint Anatomy® work. During these sessions, I asked each person to flatten his or her back against my table. Most of the riders who did this tightened their abdominal muscles when bringing the front of their pelvises up in order to flatten their backs.In the process of working with about twenty riders, two of them did something completely different from the rest. Both were able to flatten their backs while their abdominal muscles fell back and softened. This was something I had seen before, but only in bodies that had completed the series of Zen Bodytherapy® sessions. It indicated to me that these riders were using their psoas (used for both singular and plural) muscles to flatten their lower backs. I asked both riders where they had learned to do this, and both said it had been while riding bucking horses when they were young. I considered these riders to be expert horsemen and both were using their psoas muscles to adjust the position of their lower backs!
I later had the opportunity to ask an expert rider if he used his psoas muscles when riding. Although he had not previously heard of the psoas, when I showed him a model of the spine and the psoas muscles, he said they were in fact the muscles he used. He went on to explain he used these muscles to distribute his weight over the horse’s back and this was important in enabling his horses to jump correctly. This confirmed my theory that accomplished riders were using their psoas muscles to stabilize themselves on their horses." 

Working the Psoas/Iliopsoas

One of the very simple yet very effective exercises I was shown is done while sitting in the saddle. You need an assistant to do this without too much muscle strain. I will describe the exercise fully in the post below (direct link to it: Working The Psoas Today).

For now have a look at this video. Not only does it explain well about the function of the Psoas Muscles but also shows some exercises that are similar to what I was taught when I was running and which are very useful for riders:

More links of interest: 

Important Riding Muscles:

Tuesday 2 June 2009

My dear brother just sent me some pics from his holiday in Egypt, so while I am working hard he is...


Teaching in Tropics, Ice Creams and House Hunting continues

So it's hot. Gorgeously hot and I am loving it. Not exactly Egypt and no swimming pool here but hey! If I didn't actually like the changes in weather, the 
autumn leaves, the lush greenness of spring and somewhat melancholic asceticism of winter I could just live in the summer all the year round.

Stable cats lazily napped at every possible place at every possible time. They are quite affectionate and come to you to say hello every time you happen to sit down. 

I had a couple of gaps in between lessons today so cats decided I wasn't busy enough and employed me in personal scratchers capacity. They disapproved of me reading, eating, drinking, in fact of everything rather than scratching. 
While on scratching duty I got chatted to by a Muslim woman, wrapped in traditional burqa (wow she must have been hot!) who came by with her 4 year old daughter to show her the horses. It was quite an interesting conversation to say the least. I was basically asked about how to go about providing ones child with a chance to become an international show-jumper!
It transpired that the woman had a dream to ride as a child but being born into Muslim family she was told it's not right to ride a horse and to "show your bum around" ! 
It's quite surreal to talk about international sport sitting in a little riding school with lots of hairy ponies running around and helping a stranger to plan a career for her daughter who hasn't even sat on a pony in her life. 
The woman said to me: "You know, when you really want something so very very badly but can't do it because of social and religious constraints it's so very frustrating. Now my daughter loves horses and I will do everything so she can ride. To become a show-jumper"...

So there we were, watching a jumping lesson where keen children jumped over 2ft high plastic fences, considering the ins and outs of a career in Show Jumping. 

Pic. left: "No Oscar, you can't have my sandwich". 

Apart from that sandwich I spent entire day stuffing myself with ice-creams we have on the yard. In fact I had so many of them I feel sick. I also drunk enormous amount of water, bottles of Lucozade Sport, orange juice and more. 
I can never really eat properly when it's hot so I end up just snacking on strange stuff. 

Right, onto yesterday. It was another house viewing day and we finally saw a house that ticked a lot of boxes. However, we had a look at some more houses offered by a different agency and are now undecided. I can't wait to have it all behind me and settle nicely in a new place. The good thing about all those viewings is that we are becoming more familiar with the village but also more aware of which part of it we prefer and which aren't that nice. 
The house we liked is actually that little bit too far from the station (requirement #1 = not further than 10 minutes walk from the station) and isn't located in the best spot. 
It's not bad overall. And there are some strong positives about it. But it's not that great either. I wish it was easier to just decide 'right, we going for it' but it isn't. Maybe when we walk into the truly 'right' house we will find it easier? 
It's very draining as I would so wish to move on now. Trying to have a horsey career being based in London is a bit like wanting to be a professional skier and living in Bahamas...(that actually made me think about that Jamaican Bobsled Team that went to Olympics...he he). 
Starting from this week I changed my teaching hours in Berkshire as train ticket's costs went up and I am in significant need to cut my expenses! I decided to avoid peak hours in the morning and shift my hours towards the evenings. That should save me paying ridiculous peak travel charges. Not sure what time I would be back home though!

Time to rest now. Ah, and look what I found upon arriving at work today:

I think he wants to go home with me!!! He's a 12 weeks old Staff x Mastiff which means in six months time I wouldn't be able to hold him like that ;) 
When we move I am SO going to get a dog. And a cat. 

© Riding Instructor's Diary | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template by pipdig