Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Day 361-364: Where patience comes from...

For the New Year 2016, I decided to give all my regular riders, both those I teach in person and those who have long distance training, a task of coming up with 3 main challenges/goals for themselves. I did it to both encourage everyone to think about their training and how might they progress and for myself to focus the lessons on something each rider really would like to achieve.
I am not talking about competitive goals by the way although some riders went for those too, but more of a rider/horseperson challenges.
It's been an interesting experience to read through those goals and I am looking forward to making things happen for everyone ;)

One rider set herself a goal of becoming more patient with herself and her horse as well as with the riders she teaches (she is a riding instructor herself working in Poland) and asked me how I stay patient. I thought I might waffle about it today.

Patience to me comes from believing in people and horses even if they don't believe in themselves...

Let's say you work with a rider or a horse and they have a lot of problems. With balance. With their seat. Hands. With their frustration. Nerves. Crookedness. Concentration. What not. If you involve yourself in their problem, you will too become frustrated for them and for yourself possibly too. Your patience will wear thin.

What helps me a lot is to be able to *see* the rider a few steps on...

For this, I like using video feedback to visualise someone's progress. I started doing this in 2008/2009 with just a faint idea of how I wanted it to teach me but have seen a huge benefit over the years that I didn't really expect.

When the riders who don't normally see themselves ride, watch their first videos from our lessons, they often find everything that is wrong with them and the horses. Years of watching exercises truly working and riders truly becoming more effective make it easier for me to now look at those early videos and see just a starting point, a point of reference that will take me from point A to B and then Z.

Like joining dots kind of game. Seeing those dots allows me to believe both in my ability to work on something and in rider's / horse's ability to do that work.

Sometimes I get stuck and don't know the answers on the spot but by that time I normally have enough patience to get me going ;)

The interesting thing is that if you believe someone can do something, that they can change something, eventually and usually they too will believe in you believing it can happen ;) Once they do, truly do believe that you *know* it will happen, they will at some point believe in themselves too...And a bit like magic, the elusive patience appears.

It might take a long time and sometimes you might be the only person believing things can indeed change but it has worked for me pretty well so far ;)

Do you have a patience solution?



Saturday, 26 December 2015

Day 360: Random thoughts on teaching myself a.k.a. learning how things are done

Evening walks around London :) 

Apparently, if one dares to teach others one should never stop learning and for sure, there is something to be said about those who stop the latter and think they can be any good at the former...

So here is the thing. As we know, some aspects of horse riding are easier to teach than others. Some skills are acquired over time via trial and error and you might argue that this is the way it should be. I am not so sure however. If I can teach something quicker, something that will make the horse's life much much easier and rider's confidence in own ability increases as a result, I am all for that.

I watched many many lessons. It seems to me that a lot of the times riders do a lot of guessing of what they are asked to do. A lot of guessing. Even if they don't realise that fully.
I am aware I do the same when I am taught. I apply my own meaning to the instructions mentioned and sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.

You know this "how do you explain a taste of a strawberry jam to someone who never tried strawberries" ? Well, it seems tricky. It might be even trickier if one who does the explaining was never told they were eating strawberry jam in the first place ;) They ate something. It was good. It could have been anything.

So now. When you have a skill and you don't know/remember how you acquired it and you are aware enough to know that you do a lot of things subconsciously, how do you bring it to a conscious level and explain it to someone else?

There is a lot of "mechanics" in riding. You can probably do large amount of foundation teaching simply based on 'do this, do that, place your hand here, your leg there'. However, there are also many 'feel' related actions and the problem is, without learning that feel, the mechanics can mean very little to the horse. They create tension, resistance, discomfort.

But how do you teach those non-mechanical aspects? Do you? I think so. I don't believe in the notion that 'feel' is some elusive talent of a few. I do think it's more of a case of it being too elusive for many to dress into words.

I suppose it's a part of my intellectual hobby to try to figure out how to teach those more elusive aspects of "leg on"...;)

First I try to understand what I do and how it feels to me. Then I try to make those actions independent of my own learning style, movement pattern, experience. Then, I think about who I teach it to and how might they understand what I am about to tell them. I noticed over time that if I get all these three aspects right, it works. But I don't always do.

There are riders whom I have taught regularly over a longer period of time and that knowledge of how they ride, what they do in certain situations, is invaluable when it comes to teaching something new. But it's not enough.

For the last few weeks I've been trying to figure out what I do in certain situations. Let me tell you how it feels for feels like I imagine it. And it happens. Now, this is no good if I try to explain it this way as it won't help anyone one bit! And if I say it out loud, it sounds ludicrous.

But think about it. If you are en experienced rider, well balanced rider on a well balanced horse, you can just sit and "picture" the horse in canter, and it canters...I have a similar experience with this particular skill set that I am analysing and it drives me a little mad :) I want to know what happens before I imagine it. That's why I've been thinking about it. And perhaps I am starting to understand it all better...

I guess I will find out when I try to teach it ;)

Thanks for reading the rambling thoughts today. Four days left of 2015...



Friday, 25 December 2015

Day 359: Thank you Santa for technology ;)

I hope you all got your unicorns! ;) I must say, the best thing about technology and world wide connection is having a moment to moment updates from my family. Christmas for me doesn't mean that much over here but it's wonderful to "almost be there" thanks to the clever What's App invention ;)

Couple of my favourite photos of my niece and nephew - their faces are priceless :-D

Christmas cheers everyone!
Until tomorrow ;)


Thursday, 24 December 2015

355-358: Merry Christmas! Almost time to say goodbye...

Last hack before Christmas :) 

Almost time to say goodbye to this 365 posts a day in 2015. I will not be continuing to write frequently on here next year because of many other plans I have for 2016 but I will try to pop in with updates now and then.

And so it's Christmas ;) Another year has gone.

Due to personal matters, it has been the hardest one I have ever experienced regardless any other years where I may have thought the challenge was on. I have not and will not mix personal posts with my teaching diary posts and even though I prefer to say my thank yous in person it would seem bizarre to look back at these pages and not mention someone who has always been at the end of the phone for me. 

Thank you Suzanne. It was great to see you yesterday. There just aren't the right words to describe how grateful I am for your support (neither there are the right words to describe our fashion sense). Look forward to 2016! 

With Suzanne at Windsor Horse Show several years back ;)

A shock of a year it has been on one hand, it brought me some amazing experiences on the other hand. With all the disappointments, it also brought me the kind of people I would want to always have around. With all the anxiety, it brought me resilience I never thought I had.

Merry Christmas dear readers, riders, horse owners. Keep smiling. Keep trying. Keep failing. It works ;)

Best wishes,


Sunday, 20 December 2015

Day 352 - 354: A page from the past and a page from current life

A page from the past...

Marks & Spencer in Winchester does the best evening food sale. I know this because when you arrive back from a year away sacrificing everything to ride the life out of your breeches, you have £18 to last you a month, nowhere to live, your clients have moved on and your debts eat on your conscious, you simply know those things. 
I am waiting for Pip to pick me up and I keep everything crossed she can make it because if she doesn't I won't get to run my clinic which is supposed to pay for some sort of a room for a few weeks. The room I have not yet found mind you, because of course in this day and age you need a month and a half deposit and I have less than twenty pounds to last for discounted Marks and Spencer's sandwiches. 

As I wait I am vaguely aware of craziness of this situation and it makes me laugh how some think that any kind of success (maybe except of a lottery win but is that a success?) comes easily. All I have really is this idea of what I want to re-build. 

Your brain is always sharper when you're hungry. I don't know for sure (could Google I suppose but will let it be) but maybe there is some sort of specialisation of species that alerts our senses in a moment of struggle. Pip turns up. The clinic goes very well, we get back and I have a few more lessons to do in a nearby town. Everybody loves them which is lucky for me because it means food and a room for a month. Few weeks to plan the next step. 
Teaching full - time again feels good, I realise that even though I loved every moment of my intensive training, riding for myself doesn't float my boat. I find no real fulfilment nor purpose in working solely as a rider. 
Re-building the Academy is stressful, it's scary and yet I don't want to do anything else. I have so many doubts it feels like there is no space left for any other thought. But I truly learnt a real meaning of a few good lessons while away. If you want to do something nobody else did or is preparing to do, you must do what you and others are scared of. 
You must trust yourself or nobody else will. You must be patient and persistent. And you must have people around you who you can count on. 

So I keep scaring myself and keep going and with help from a couple of my friends, several weeks later I sign a contract for a room on the high street and do a damn massive, non-discounted M&S shop and eat myself silly. 

The above is a fragment of the first draft of my book. I am not in a rush to publish anything but I do keep at it a little bit at a time.
I share this little part today because the contrast in between then and now strikes me. There are times when we make choices hoping things will work out but we have no real means of knowing so.
There are times when it seems so easy to give up and do something "secure".

Fast forward to now, I am most grateful for the people I get to teach and work with each day. They make this whole project come to life and nothing would be the same without them. If I had to do the last 2 years again to end up where I am now, I would do it in all in a heart beat.

[I would just have to make sure the Winchester M&S still does their ridiculously amazing evening food sales ;) ]

Overwhelmingly generous Christmas gift from my riders. Look forward to making the most of it next year! :) 


Friday, 18 December 2015

Day 327-351 Another of them long catch ups ;)

Today is Thursday 17th of December and although I have enjoyed trying (and failing) to do a post-a-day this year, I am looking forward to the end of this challenge ;) But hey, I am trying to keep going with some more honest insights from this teaching life of mine so grab some beverage as usual and let's go :)

After weeks of planning and organising, on 6-7 December we've done the 2nd Aspire Training Camp at Brackenhill Stud.
These intensive lessons are a great challenge for all my riders and they sure are for myself too. You know, I think it's relatively "easy" to walk into an arena and run a few good lessons. When I don't stop for 12 hours, issues that barely matter when I take breaks, become difficult to deal with when my brain is in overdrive non stop. And while I notice a shift in my perception, quickness of thought (or lack of it), patience level etc somehow I do enjoy being put on that spot so I can figure out how to get better.
It teaches me not to involve myself in rider's problem (which is what I often tell them about their horse's problem ;) ) but to be able to stand aside and help constructively.

Learning is a funny thing. We are used to learning new things as children but the older we get we tend to think we learn slower/worse/are unable to learn. As children, we tend to be creative and experiment with things, movements, actions. As adults, we look for perfection and ideal execution...from the word go...

One thing that I have learnt and the knowledge of which I probably appreciate the most is to never aim for perfection...Yes it's a controversial thought in a world of sport in general but that's a subject for another post.

“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.” Brené Brown

Some courage is always needed in order to learn. Having taught hundreds of riders I do believe that it is that courage to "have a beginner's mind" is what separates those who continue to improve from those who never do.

“Healthy striving is self-focused: "How can I improve?" Perfectionism is other-focused: "What will they think?” ― Brené Brown,

Some riders like the idea of improvement but for whatever reason are not prepared to put the effort in. Some put so much effort in they burn out.

It is believed that riding and training horses builds ones character. I do think this is true but only if, again, we are open to learn new things, new feels and new solutions. In the same way as our posture is defined by our every day life and we can't just amend it for an hour on a horse, it seems to me that it's the same with the rest of the shebang...

If we are impatient, easily frustrated, lacking empathy, have a need to control everything in every day life, those tendencies won't disappear just because we sat in the saddle...If we work on the "whole picture" then the horse goes better too. In that respect I do think training can make someone a better version of oneself.

When I teach or ride, I like to look at that whole picture. Try to figure out how much to push a rider/horse without them losing too much confidence, how much to ask for a bit better version without destroying the good version.

The skill is like a muscle tissue. You have to destroy the current one a little bit before it can regenerate and build a new, better one. That's where some riders struggle the most because being in the stage where nothing seems to get better, everything is hard and falls apart, is not easy. But that's where I think the courage lies - you got to have it to endure the plateau...

It's the same for me when I teach. Sometimes everything works. I look at horse and rider walk into the arena and I *know* what to do and how to change things in a similar way as you might see fridge full of ingredients and know what you might cook ;)

Sometimes I look but all I can see is a lot of puzzles all with the same image of sky and hell knows how they will slot together. This is especially so with more experienced riders where I don't want to destroy their riding feel and style. I start trying to slot something here and there and that's when my own learning happens.

I might say to the rider "I don't know how we are going to correct this yet, but I will know"  - there is never a "no way" as long as you are prepared not to try to be perfect straight away.

You've got to be brave and ask questions - of yourself, of your horse. I feel that those intensive sessions do create a bit of a whirl for everyone, myself included, and one day it might be hard and stressful just to become manageable the next day.

The most rewarding of all for me is watching the riders go through those stages and keep going. Nothing substitutes experience :)


Until next time :)


Sunday, 22 November 2015

Day 322-326: Fighting illness, travelling and finishing touches on Part 1 of the 2015 Aspire Gift Guide

322 Wed, 323 Thu, 324 Fr, 325 Sat, 326 Sun

The last few days have been a bit of a tiring blur as I am trying to shake off a chest infection. It would probably go fairly easily if I just stopped for a moment or two but you know how it is, sometimes there just ins't an easy option to stop...

I had to cancel all my lessons on Wednesday as felt way too rotten to even get out of bed not to mention getting on a train anywhere. That helped but then I had an event to attend on Thursday night that was "un-post-pone-able" so off we went to Chester for that, stayed over, not seen much of the city as was trying to nurse the cold as much as possible, got on train back to London on Friday afternoon, cancelled all my Friday lessons too, sat down to work on my online projects and answered emails and collapsed in bed again.

Dragged myself out of bed on Saturday feeling a little bit better having slept more and it was great to be out in the arena in the blasting sunshine even if the wind was desperate to leg-yield everyone across the long diagonals and pull my head off my neck ;)

I am also attempting to get my riders a bit fitter and send them for winter hacks with decent amount of trot work and canter work. Nothing improves balance and feel more than being out there with the horse and I am looking forward to seeing how nature improves the schooling results ;)

Today is Sunday, the last day before the Part 1 of the Aspire 2015 Christmas Gift Guide Magazine comes out on Aspire blog so the below picture pretty much describes my day even though it was taken at breakfast.

I am also preparing a little intro for the new Guest Blogger - Caitlin - with whom, via series of blog posts, we will be exploring career choices for equestrian industry focused young people (so do check out Aspire blog later today and leave any comments and questions for us to answer...). That's done I will be dedicating a couple of hours to on an exciting new venture that I am not sure if I can mention much yet about on here and planning the week ahead in lessons content so there won't be much more bloggable things happening before the evening.

I shall leave you with this little snap from a quick Sunday coffee walk in the park we just did, so sunny but you can definitely sense the winter chill in the air!
And yes, I am wearing my Noble Outfitters mud boots ;) I just can't get out of them, they are so comfy and warm, I should probably have scrubbed them clean for London walkies but...well, they are mud boots after all!



Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Day 321: Oscar starts moving, Una gets the Zen concept and weather continues to be mental

It might be because I spend most of the hours of each day watching, observing and trying to differentiate between causes and symptoms but when Oscar feels the best he has ever felt, I want to see him move. See what's so different.
Oscar works with me on the ground regularly anyway and is used to me getting off to work on something, then getting back on to keep riding so he doesn't think anything of it when I put him on the lunge.
As I watch him in transitions within the trot for a while I reckon he finally is starting to get the idea of connecting his body from million little pieces doing something or another, to one unit working towards a higher goal - improved coordination.
Another interesting change in him is that I have an impression he is starting to be quite interested in what the hell I am trying to teach him ;) We try a difficult set of exercises today that include his very weak right canter and I swear he seems to be trying to get it.
I can't wait to get back on him on Friday.

Una gets a dual session too but for her it's the walk work in the arena, mostly focusing on bending and transitions with her, she is still figuring out how not to work hollow through her back so I am not pushing on for any more complex stuff.
She also gets a little break for cuddles with the yard cat ;)

For her second part of the session we go for a hack with two of my today's riders and she is good as gold, getting braver and calmer, In fact, she is super zen all round today, from coming from the field, standing and waiting for the rain to ease off (no chance!) to dealing with other horses' exuberance.

I am trying to organise more training hacks at the moment to get the riders exposed to various aspects of riding that are hard to experience in the arena. Hoping to get them out and about at least once a month over the winter.

The weather continues its not ideal profile, it tires me out no end and my cold is back sadly but busy rest of the week ahead so hopefully I'll find some super powers to keep going ;)


319 & 320: Sunday rest time and moving house horsey style ;)

I try to have a rest day on Sundays and although it doesn't always happen and I do some work stuff after all, this weekend I managed a little bit of Sunday holiday :) 

Beautiful, sunny Sunday was like a reward for drenched reality of the Saturday! 
There are many things to tick off from to-do list at the moment and I go from excitement to stress mode from one minute to the next, its quite pathetic really ;) I am looking forward to my new routine establishing and getting back on calmer tracks. 

Today, on Monday that is, we finally moved all our stuff to the cottage so one task accomplished! 
We just popped everything onto an Equi-Trek, as you do ;) 

Turns out that suitcases travel well in the little lorry ;) Many thanks to Emma B. for help in getting all our stuff over to the cottage!


Saturday, 14 November 2015

Day 318: Saturday in the rain. Fine line between constructive focus and over-analysis.

Hacking out all the ponies whose riders missed their lessons today! Rain and wind kept most of my today's riders home.

There is this kind of internal focus that is best developed in less than perfect conditions. I think it is a relevant skill for both horse and a rider.
Some have it somewhat naturally or it is easy to bring it out in them, some would really benefit from working on it, understand it and use it to further develop communication with the horse.

That internal focus not only lets the rider feel more (through simply being more attentive) but it allows for much lighter and more accurately timed aids. I saw an interesting quote today which went something like this: "Funny that, the less strength I put in my aids, the more the horse wants to listen" (I paraphrase as can't find the quote now!). It says something important though - when we hear someone whisper and we want to hear them, we go quiet and still and really listen. I believe it is the same with horses, if we "shout" at them with our communication, they switch off and are no longer interested in hearing us at all.

I can't say I like teaching in the rain and wind very much but as long as it's not too cold and I have the right clothes, there are many worse conditions I can think of!
For one - it makes me save my voice and only say necessary things. I tend to give too much guidance at times and when my voice just trails away with the wind and  rider does a great job anyway I take it as a lesson learnt.

My morning rider is a very focused rider, she rides with very good intuition and I try to train some bad habits out of her without destroying any feel and self-taught ability she has. I think there is always a fine line between directing an experienced rider's attention to something that needs tweaking without making them overly focused on "something that doesn't work well".

Sometimes it's like horse training - repetition of good, makes better.
I always struggled with Rubik cube, you know. I would get one wall of colour done just to mess it up minutes later trying to get another colour done. Then I would watch with frustration when my brother took few minutes to gather all the colours together.
As I watch the rider and the mare repeating their patterns in the arena I know she and many other of riders I teach are the one "Rubik cube" I see in the same way as my brother "saw" the real one. I like to mix "the colours" and make a little mess but then put all the "walls" together in the end. It's addictive ;)

Afternoon with another very focused rider. I really do believe that the difference between a good and a very good rider (and a good and a very good horse) is not some elusive talent (although it helps) but the ability to fully be in the moment, fully direct attention to movement and task without over thinking, over analysing, over-tensing. 


Day 303-317: Aspire 1st short Training Camp, Open Day at Brackenhill Stud, signing a new lease, packing life and projects on the go...!

XC on Una at Attington - 1st November 2015

When we last chatted on here I was just preparing final notes for the first short training camp for Academy riders at Brackenhill Stud. We are now three weeks after the camp with the next one firmly in place for the 4th to the 6th December and all places taken. I can't wait to get stuck in proper planning of the content of it next week! 

I don't really want to create any pressure to achieve any particular competitive outcome via those camps but I do want them to simply be an immersion in training and doing ones best whatever that might mean to an individual rider. We are often running through lives fitting riding in around other commitment so to stop and fully focus on a few elements at a time in an intensive format is of great benefit for riders and horses. 

I posted a full album of pictures from the camp weekend if you would like to have a look :) Just click the link below:

I also put together a little 5 minutes video from the weekend, here it is: 

I'm not a big fan of the typical "slowing down" for the winter that possibly is a hidden name for simply avoidance of difficult weather conditions, comfort eating and finding excuses not to do things that require some effort.
The approach that works for me is to make the most out of each season, it makes me feel more alive and like I am not hibernating precious months away. There is a certain magic to the rain drops on your face and wind around you, isn't there? :)

The indoor arenas become a cozy training space and winter is also a great time to work of riders' balance, awareness of asymmetry and dominance of one or another body part.

One thing I do like to do in the winter is to finish teaching earlier in the day than I do normally when evenings are longer and lighter. This lets me work back home on various projects I have up my sleeve ;), plan lessons content for the weeks ahead and generally rest better. Teaching and riding in the cold, rain and wind for 8-9 hours a day plus my usual 3-4 hour daily journeys do make me more tired in the winter so stopping late evening lessons on at least some days is my way of "indulging" myself ;)

On the 7th of November 2015, the lovely venue I work with, Brackenhill Stud, held their first anniversary Open Day.

It's been such a pleasure to have been with them since the beginning when they took over management of the yard in summer 2014 and seeing the place develop and grow slowly into what Emma and Aimee want it to be - a thriving eventing yard with plenty of training opportunities for long and short term livery clients.

My little coaching demo during the Open Day
My little coaching demo during the Open Day

To see more photos from the Open Day please click HERE

In life (kind of) outside of horses, there is a big change coming up for Richard and I as after a couple of years of living (quite literally) out of suitcases, we signed a lease on a cottage. You might want to brace yourself for some "interior design" posts coming up as we give the house a modest make over ;)  Combining house move logistics whilst maintaining my usual teaching schedule has been a bit of a challenge and caused me a bit of stress to say the least but I think the hurricane is most disruptive as you enter it... Once you're in it, you start finding stuff to hold on to and keep going.

There are three projects I am working on at the moment, one is the Aspire Christmas Gift Guide 2015 and the other two are as yet to be shared but both are very exciting. If they go ahead I will make sure I blog about them straight away :)

I hope you are finding something enjoyable to do with your horses this winter, take care, will be back soon :)


Thursday, 29 October 2015

Day 302: Final preparations before the first Aspire training camp at Brackenhill Stud

I'm sitting here making final preparations for the weekend ahead. It's been in the making for quite a while now as it is a part of my wider goals for the Academy - facilitating training development opportunities for grassroots riders :)
We are taking four London based horses for a short training livery at Brackenhill Stud for a weekend of intensive training. They will join a few horses and riders based at Brackenhill for flatwork, pole work and jumping sessions on Saturday and a XC schooling trip on Sunday.

I love to challenge the notion that training and reaching for our best is mostly reserved for riders who compete. There are many riders out there who love to improve and strive to better their skills even if they aren't aiming for particular events or shows.

Training for the training sake, if structured and progressive, can be equally enjoyable, demanding, challenging and fun as training to compete :)



Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Day 256 - 301...Updates...Not always rosy...

2 October 2015

It's been over a month since my regular updates so I have officially failed at continuity of this 365 project. I could probably post something each day but this blog is supposed to be an accurate story of the year.
And I didn't want to share the accurate story of the last month simply because there has been so many things I have been downright fed up with and knew they need to be sorted and not whined about on the blog. On the other hand, I don't want to be writing rosy posts because that's not how it works in real life.
It's in my nature to focus on the positives though so I am slowly dealing with it all and I know I will eventually find the right solutions.

One of the things I have learnt working for myself is that you don't ever have anyone else to blame but oneself if something does or doesn't happen. It is both very isolating and empowering at the same time. There is nobody to call to complain about "the boss" not making things happen ;) You are that boss and it's up to you to make things happen.
The funny thing is that there is never a true break from that either. Something can always be that little bit better or you might have ideas that are stifled by circumstances and it's up to you to change those circumstances...

So many things I am fed up with at the moment that I know it's up to me to change but it is taking some effort people, quite some effort! ;)

Monday sunshine - 26th October

There are many good and exciting things happening too and I will write more about it tomorrow :)

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Day 254 - 256: The silence of the butterflies...

254: Friday 11th - 256: Sunday 13th September

When you stand on an 8m high dive board and look down at the sparkly turquoise rectangle of a pool water beneath you, you might not hear your own thoughts for the loud splashes of butterflies wings inside your stomach. In fact, you might not have much thoughts anyway, just a primal voice of your subconscious that tells you to get the hell out of that board!
You might suddenly be so aware of the porous surface of the board under your bare feet that your try to grip to it with every cell of your skin, careful not to slip as if a precise timing of the jump could silence the fluttering wings just a little.

It's not a good feeling. Somewhere between slightly nauseous and ready to run but going nowhere.

That's the memory of moments before the first few dives I did in my early teens. Then there is another memory... A much shorter one when decision is made, I put my arms above my head as told to lessen the impact my head will make with the surface of the water. Elbows just ever so slightly bent, forearms as protectors, hands folded one into another, hooked by thumbs whilst making sure fingers don't become intertwined. Apparently they can break upon impact. I remember wandering many times if this was even true. Anyone knows?

Then my favourite couple of seconds. When everything becomes a silence. No more butterflies. No more anything. Just the blue target that must be reached in a space of time no longer than a single breath. Which I hold anyway. The flight that seemed such an obstacle - I barely notice. Breaking smooth and clean into the pool, tearing it apart for a split second, then another split second of invincibility opening my eyes and seeing again.

Growing something from a comfortable, pocket size and safe unit to a bigger, more ambitious project comes with good few questions and doubts...
It involves putting a lot of trust in people involved, making assumptions and hoping that what planned to happen will happen...As I reflect on the last week, the events take me back to those pre-dive moments ;)

Perhaps it's an addiction to that split second euphoria when you realise you have not in fact died, broke fingers, split your head. Perhaps it is the excitement of a challenge. I am not sure.
My favourite moment of all though is not the blurry, euphoric eye opening, not even hitting the water, not launching in the air.

It's that moment of quiet acceptance of all consequences, all good and all bad. The peaceful, mini courage that comes from nowhere and lets me go ahead.
That split second moment of a decision to go for it. The silence of the butterflies.



Thursday, 10 September 2015

Day 249 - 253: Dressaging, more horse viewing and more teaching ;)

I really don't know where the days go at the moment hence weekly catch ups on the blog.

Sunday 6th September

Today we take Una and Jasper to a small dressage show about an hour drive away from the yard. They both settle well and it's a perfect sunny day which makes everything that much easier. I am quite curious how the little mare will feel when I get on. We finished on a super note the day before when I have finally discovered her go-through button and I am hoping she remembers it!
She does. She warms up beautifully and gives me the best ride to date. I couldn't be happier with her. She spooks in the test a little because of dragons and monsters obviously which possibly costs us the first place but I am so happy with how she feels that I couldn't care less if she came last. Very competitive of me I know ;)
We come 4th.

My young rider rides her first ever dressage test on her young horse and they do a great job. She comes 6th with some nice comments from the judges.

Caitlin and Jasper
Jasper remains his stoic self and I gives Caitlin a good first show education: he is just distracted enough to make her a little nervous but focused enough to allow her to test her skills in a fair way.

Great day all round.

Now off we go in pictures :) 

Where have you been!!??

7th September: Nigel testing the feel and understanding of riding from "back to front" and creating positive impulsion. We also had a conversation of the week which started with: Nigel: "You know that horse I am NOT buying next year..." ...wink emoticon and later me: "You know that budget that you don't need for the horse you won't be buying..." wink emoticon Didn't we all start somewhat like that?! 

Alicia and Basil - learning a lot with these guys! They keep me thinking ;) 
Mairi and Jasper in a short and sweet session tackling some baby jumps
Tuesday afternoon is another drive across the country to view potential horse for Mairi. After last week's disappointment I am really hoping for the right match and it certainly is! A really lovely, all rounder with superb genuine jump that gave Mairi what I can only describe a ride of a year ;) Some aspects of the viewing are not bloggable but yard vetting by the owner depending, the new boy will come to live with us shortly.

Wednesday is my Brackenhill Stud day - it's sunny and warm, Staffie girls welcome me by jumping their heavy bodies onto my lap.
Aimee and Fig have another event coming up on Sunday so we run through her dressage test and focus on details and marks catchers ;) They do well and I am feeling pretty emotional as I know Fig's sale ad is going to out the next morning. The life of horse producers is one I would struggle with, it's hard enough when I teach on them long term!

Emma rides one of her sales liveries, a lovely Thoroughbred mare and we work on more positive forward button with her to improve contact. Timely has had a few weeks off schooling due to rider's holidays and a little infection he picked up so we take it easy with a lot of stretching and light seat work.
Lou and Freddie get a challenging session to give them something a little harder to work on between now and the next lesson.

With Henley Show coming up, we practice accuracy and approaches on the course of jumps with Aisha and her new - ish mare. They are building a great partnership and improving each time I see them.
I finish the day with a short rehab session  for Roulette, her trot is becoming more and more rhythmical and she seems to be moving with more comfort throughout her body. Convalescence schooling is something I have personal interest in and really hope the mare goes on to great things.

Thursday 10th September my admin day so I'm spending the day bombarding everybody with my email replies ;) I decided to get the Aspire logo sorted this month and thought I would just ask if any of my Facebook friends knows someone into equestrian design. Well, I now have so many leads that I think I will just do a contest kind of project and let my readers and riders pick the design!

Until next time!

Day 247-248: Moira's day and playing with Una

247: Friday 4th September 

The smallest people can cause the biggest havoc ;) My youngest riders are getting really brave if not bravado requesting all sorts of impossible tasks to be performed by their ever patient pony. They make me laugh and surprisingly I look forward to our sessions even though one can hardly call it training since they are both 4 years old ;)
Their creativity is endless! 

Tilly is not feeling 100% so I opt for an easy session to be cautious. I realise in hindsight that today is the first time Moira rides with much more confidence on long reins letting the mare stretch throughout the lesson. Big progress from being worried about "rein contact" for control. Well done Moira! 

Caitlin has a good practice run on Jasper. We are preparing for the BD test on Sunday and going through the test pattern so they can get used to all the movements coming one after another. It will be their first show so there is no pressure and the plan is to enjoy it :) 

Una , the Welsh mare I am schooling and taking to the same show goes a little erratic in first trot so I decide to get off and work her in-hand for a few minutes to get her attention on me and to relax her mentally. It takes 10 minutes or so for her to release but when I get back on she feels much better. 
The main thing I am working on with her is for her to understand the leg aid properly. She is a very forward mare but her energy goes nowhere, it doesn't create a positive impulsion through her body and certainly doesn't travel over her back and through her neck.

I like to feel the hindleg push in the neck. I know we all talk about contact with the bit and sure, I want to feel a nice connection given by the horse too but first, I like to feel it in the neck. It's as if the horse starts understanding that even a short rein comes with freedom - to relax the neck and shoulders. I put the leg on and it feels like the momentum goes underneath the saddle and has the power to relax the neck muscles. It's an unforgettable feel and when I lose it I want it back asap ;) 

I do really like riding the mare, she is sharp enough to go far and has a huge potential but doesn't quite understand the idea yet. I like playing with her and letting her figure out how to move better. 

Saturday is a fun, long day with several lessons and further show practice. 



Friday, 4 September 2015

Day 238 - 246: Turning a vision into reality, breaking hammocks, grabbing a bargain, viewing horses and discovering Costa Drive Thru!

Day 238: Wednesday 26th August to Day 246: Thursday 3rd of September 

Tue 1st September - hugs with Jasper, my favourite cob! Facilitating his sale to a family I teach was a highlight of recent months :) 

I will write the update tomorrow - I say to myself every day this week. And every day I don't because my writing time is spent on various planning and putting impossible things together to match this vision I have had ever since doing a first draft of Academy idea that I shared with a friend of mine many years ago. Only the mad and the obsessed might understand ;)
So, onto the random chat!


Wednesday lessons go very well, I am super happy with my riders this week after some practice malfunction last week.
We have a slight problem in jumping session though. It looks like this:

I give Emma a little bootcamp jumping without reins and then without reins and without stirrups. She does very well ;)

Thursday is filled with my admin and writing. I am not as far with the book project as I would like but even though slowly, it is moving on.
I also put up an advert to start looking for a new horse for my 2 riders who are progressing nicely and who are ready to get a taste of grassroots events.
The idea is to find a full loan for them with a view to buy just in case one of them falls in love with the horse! Ideally I would love to find an owner who is into my training ethos and values but that is potentially pushing the luck. As long as we find the right horse we will be very happy. If you think you might be able to help, please have a look at the details here:

Friday is an unusually quiet day for me with my riders being away so I am continuing to catch up with various admin related projects. I also receive a message from someone with potentially a perfect horse matching the above advert so we arrange a viewing for Tuesday.

Saturday is the usual buzz albeit in reduced numbers as holidays take riders away; we have a nice little breakthrough in a couple of lessons. The weather is kind but still brings some odd showers!

Sunday night.

- "Don't be such a fail!!!!!!" - says a message on my screen. It makes me chuckle. Well, technically I am not failing but I have just changed into my pjs. It's 9.30pm and about an hour ago I was about to go out to friends' summer bash but as the departure time moved on I assumed I would just bail out and have an early night.
I try not to be "a fail", put some clothes back on and head out. We have a grand laugh at the party, break a hammock and all the rules of Billiard pool and I have just the right amount of Port wine ;) Then, there is a little problem with a taxi back which we have to wait for so I don't get back home until 3am.

Few hours of sleep later there is Monday and I have two of my lovely London riders for simulator sessions. I manage to stay awake thanks to some coffee and my passion for working out what's not doing what is supposed to be doing ;) I am really looking forward to seeing the riders on their horses next week as some aspects of their seat have improved greatly on the simulator.

Training done we set off to Robinsons Megastore to see what bargains they have on the last Bank Holiday of the summer. I manage to find a super waterproof coat at 70% off so count the trip as a very successful one! I also succumb to waterproof short Ariat yard boots with a sales tag as I have been repeatedly told by Ceri (who works on a hunting yard in notoriously wet Yorkshire so must be right, right?) that they are the best day-long boots ever. She better be right ;)

On way back we take a little de-tour via Basingstoke centre as we are desperate for some coffee and we come across this!

Please do excuse my excitement if you have seen these around but I had no idea they existed! Anyway ;)

Tuesday starts with a very good session for Alicia, followed by an interesting lesson where we are having to change the plan to suit the horse's frame of mind and feel through the body. I find it is always a good practice for the rider to encounter a horse on a day where an original lesson plan cannot be followed for whatever reason. It teaches empathy but also creative approach to schooling and athletic development of the animal.

Caitlin and the super cob are having their first go at the BD Intro test B as we are off to a little unaffiliated show on the 6th September. I hope they have a nice, positive experience and enjoy themselves. I believe it's not necessary to compete to test progress but it is a very good challenge to contrast training at home with riding away. Can I do it as well as when no one is watching? How well can I focus on the horse and only him? Competing with others is not the point, it's trying to reach personal best and have the horse on your side that's the exciting ingredient for me and I would like to pass this on to my riders. With that attitude, horse's wellness comes first, not the result.

Lessons and riding done, we set off to Buckinghamshire to view the horse whose owner responded to my advert. I have since received other enquiries but none that was worth pursuing. Everything sounds good, we get to the yard just before 8pm and love the horse. She is pretty much what we are looking for so we agree on preliminary conditions to go ahead.
I get a lift home so manage to arrive back around midnight, set my alarm and collapse in the pillows.

Wednesday is half a day today with morning teaching and running errands in the afternoon. I manage to get more writing done too. I wonder what will come out of this book!


Unfortunately, as we continue discussing the details, new restrictions appear on loan proposal and we find ourselves unable to reach a compromise so the search for the right horse goes on.

This takes me to the beginning of this post. Turning a vision into reality. You see, when all those years ago I made plans for the Academy and visualised how I would like it all to work, I had no idea, not a clue how to make it happen. I just saw it in my mind's eye how I wanted it all to be and over time made a lot of mistakes to try to reach that vision.

The main premise has always been for me to create an environment in which I can make dreams happen for riders who have the courage to dream those dreams and the determination to want to reach them. I wanted a situation where we could all work towards a progress without horses suffering in the process of our enjoyment...

When I close my eyes I can see it all as if in a movie that someone beautifully put together, written and choreographed but forgot to leave me the script ;) Over time I manage to script a scene here and there so it matches the movie but they are still fragmented and don't flow from one moment to another like they need to.

Finding the right horses for my riders is just one of the scenes. Jasper wrote himself into the script somewhat effortlessly and I suppose some might call it luck. I call it being at the right time at the right place and having the will to make things happen. Now, it's the matter of timing some more scenes and let them flow ;)



Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Day 236 & 237: Dancing in the rain ;)

Day 236: Monday 24th August

FT Weekend article

Interesting, new concept is being developed by the ex-owner of Los Angeles Dodgers...If you are signed up to FT website, you can read the whole article here. In short, it seems like someone is having an idea for a show jumping league with a Formula 1 or football structure where teams of riders/horses are owned...15 teams...riders could be bought and sold and poaching would be allowed...Apparently Athina Onassis is up for owning a team...

At the moment the initiative had been halted by FEI (more on that here:

I find the whole concept interesting and captivating from business perspective but wonder how much impact it would have on welfare of the horses with such amount of money at stake. 

Now, back to reality, the world is under water right now! I run simulator sessions in the morning so usually don't bother about the weather as I am under the roof but it's out of doors next and we are taking the first proper soaking for a long time! 

Learning to maintain balance and rhythm over trot poles on a bendy line
Both my lightweight jackets have long lost their waterproof qualities and as it is too warm for my warm coat, I get drenched to the core. On top of that, my body warmer decides enough is enough and stains my white shirt to the point of very unsightly rainbow. 

This prompts me to look for some waterproof gear ahead of the autumn and winter and I spend good couple of hours reading about various fabrics and their properties ;) I decide on a few types to investigate in shops at the end of the week. 

Day 237: Tuesday 25th August

Another portion of soaking today! Basil the pony makes the most of his beauty mud baths and gives Alicia a taste of the I-live-out lifestyle. 

After...Ready to go out and get soaked ;) 
By the end of the lesson we are dripping with rain water. Mairi and Tilly who I teach next endure even stronger downpour but it's such a good ride we barely notice. I get Mairi to work on her sitting trot and having sodden breeches is a bonus as they act like glue on the leather and help with the stickability ;) 

We finish rather elated and in our training bubble but once Tilly is made comfortable and drying in her fleece rug, we realise how wet we managed to get. It's another several hours on the yard ahead of us so we decide to visit out friends at the golf club again. 
It's a big club with a golf clothing shop and it so happens they are having an end of season sale. I end up with a rather nice sweatshirt (lady golf technical ;) ) and Mairi with a very fluffy golf towel (not quite sure what do they need towels in golf for but Mairi used it to dry her breeches with some success). 

We grab a coffee and some snacks and go back to the yard.

By 4pm, the time of our hack, the rain miraculously stops and we even get some sunny spells. I take Oscar as my lead horse and he is a super star. His trot to canter and canter to trot transitions are feeling more balanced, he has a few spooks but is otherwise bravely leading the way. 

I get back home at 8.30ish PM, have some yummy pasta for a very late dinner with Rick and put my alarm on for 6am for an early start tomorrow. 


Day 229 - 235: Monday to Sunday Roller coaster....

Day 229 Monday 17th Aug - Day 235 Sunday 23rd Aug

Many things went wrong this week and it is something of a self-perpetuating rule of difficulty that when one thing goes wrong the others follow! I do think a lot has to do with our attitude and ability to stay reasonably positive when facing problems. The devil seems to sit in detail as always and if we don't control the detail i.e. our own self, the only thing that really is there to control, we are doomed ;)
Alas, I am writing this on Tuesday 25th Aug and some amount of zen has been restored! Not all mind you, not all ;)

Let's control the controllable and focus on some good stuff - here we go.

On Monday I introduced first small jumps and cavaletti work into Nigel's training to strengthen his seat and develop better sense of rhythm, line of travel and focus on direction. We have done a little bit of pole work now and then over single poles but now it's time to up the game.
Even after the first session I can see the improvement in basic gaits, the ability to maintain working trot and confidence in canter and light seat so I know it was the right time to get the jumps involved.
Many flatwork focused riders avoid jumping but there are so many variations of jump training and so many benefits from it that it is really worth investigating even if you generally try not to leave the ground ;)

Tuesday was a quiet day due to schedule changes but brought some great improvements all round. I used the "riding in socks" exercise for Alicia to awaken her awareness of how her feet connect to her hip joints and how rigid feel in ankle joints affects every other joint in the leg. Probably the simplest yet most effective exercise I have ever used (here is more about it - Aspire link).

It was also the last lesson for my young rider before her BHS Stage 1 exam. I have this unsure attitude towards the BHS exams...The way they are conducted perpetuates the sides of the industry that sadden me greatly: mindless group lessons with pony following a pony, kicking, pulling, "making them do"...Hundreds of switched off horses teaching legions of bully riders.

On one hand I find many of the teachings and concepts clashing with my beliefs and values when it comes to horsemanship and coaching. On the other hand, I feel that "you have to be in it to change it" so if there are more coaches out there with better knowledge of biomechanics, physiology of human movement, training psychology and with horse's wellness in mind, the more progress there will be in the whole BHS system. I should add, there are many very useful subjects in every syllabus on every BHS exam. For the above reasons I encourage all my riders who think about career in the industry or who like the idea of testing oneself outside of just training and competitions, to prepare and take the exams.

Caitlin and Jasper - 18th August

Oscar is on the roll at the moment. I am teaching him the difference between flexing and turning rein and it's like the missing puzzle has entered his brain. For horses that are very blocked in the back all movements seem disproportionally difficult so I am taking my time letting him figure things out. His canter work has improved a lot on the lunge line and I noticed more balance awareness in him after introducing shoulder-in in hand. Each day now he feels like he is discovering a more supple way of going that in turn gives him more freedom under the saddle.


Emma and Repo

Not an easy teaching day it was with some inconsistencies in work so I had a slight re-think of homework to give. The highlight was Repo's lesson for sure as he worked intelligently through some simple yet challenging gymnastic set ups.
Shabby is still having his "medical leave" from training, I do wonder how he comes back into it all next month.

I spent most of Thursday catching up with my admin work, planning exercises for riders for the next couple of weeks and uploading several batches of videos.

Friday brought another really good session with Oscar, working on an undulated surface of the jump field playing with the gradient to help him understand engagement needed for comfortable transitions from trot to canter and canter to trot. He felt wonderful and answered all questions I planned for him that day.

Saturday was a little quieter than usual which was just as well as the temperatures reached 30C and humidity was ridiculous making it a rather tough conditions to train in. Nevertheless the lessons went very well and I was super excited to commence the "How to be the gadget - lunging and groundwork" course.

The first session was very much an introduction to Bailey for Indra but I think they will have a lot of fun together exploring the training on the ground. 

We finished the day about 5pm and stuffed ourselves with ice creams from the golf club across the road ;) I think they are starting to get used to people in jodhpurs over there ;) 

Sunday was a chill out day for me! 


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