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! 



Sunday, 16 August 2015

Day 227-228: Weekend of teaching and freestyling on BBC ;)

Great amount of footage from lessons this Saturday thanks to Caitlin - my new weekend assistant extraordinaire :) 

Lovely sunshine, some very good progress with the riders and a reasonably easy commute back home is what makes a perfect Saturday ;) 

I spent most of today watching dressage! The online coverage of Aachen Championships is fabulous with live streaming from the Freestyle to music for several hours. It doesn't get much better than this, maybe bar actually being there. 

There were a few combinations I really enjoyed watching for harmony, suppleness and relationship between the horse and rider but an absolute highlight for me was Desperados. Ever since seeing that horse live at London Olympics in 2012 I followed his career, both him and his rider are truly inspiring to watch. 

Kristina Bröring-Sprehe and Desperados - Aachen 2015
I am sure every British Dressage enthusiast was rooting for Charlotte and Valegro and of course they were phenomenal. However, we all have some image of harmony and Desperados' cat like motion and Kristina's soft hands and beautiful riding won me over this time! 

I very much enjoyed Carl Hester's test on Nip Tuck - an example of bringing the most out of a horse that lacks the flashy exuberance or super star athleticism, yet somehow showing the riding that still allow the horse to shine. What dressage really should be about. 

A pair that caught my attention and that I have not seen before was Diederik van Silfhout and Arlando. I am not usually a fan of watching Dutch dressage training but know nothing about this pair's methods at home and I did like the way he rode the horse in this test. Incredibly quiet with very steady hands yet seemingly leaving the horse to move by itself. 

I am looking forward to catching more action on Thursday, this time from show jumping arena :) 

Friday, 14 August 2015

Day 226: Learning to see

Schooling one of the youngsters today; lovely mare, backed this year and a pleasure to work with. Some re-training to do from previous showing home though...

For a couple of hours today I re-watch the footage of one of my Wednesday riders because it bugs me that I didn't spot an issue that I felt the minute I sat in the saddle. So I watch and re-watch and slow-mo all the videos I have of the pair to date until I start seeing what I felt. It is potentially border line obsessive but hey ho, I don't mind making mistakes but not keen on repeating them ;)

Every training problem shows in rider's body and horse's body. Sometimes it is very simple and obvious to identify the core issue, and sometimes the rider fools me. When I watch the footage, I look for any movement that will tell me how the chain reaction begins and then I have a mammoth task of coming up with an idea of how to teach a different motion pattern. It's not just about leg here, hand there.

It might be disappointing to not have done something well but there is always a learning opportunity there.

Today's riders have an almost constant drizzle to contend with but at 23C and high humidity it doesn't feel cold - a bit of a tropical rainforest kind of vibe ;) Everybody copes well, even my tiny riders who somehow manage to avoid the rain in a rare hour of a clouds only window.

Oscar goes well again, there is a big party on the golf course which is across the road from the arena and loud cheers distract him so he isn't as amazingly focused on me as he was on Tuesday but it's ok. His trot work is about 70% where I want it to be before I ask any more of him and I am pleased with how his suppleness improves slowly.
Good day all round :)


Thursday, 13 August 2015

Day 225: Finding THE place

As I watch Woody merrily jog through the puddles on our long, afternoon walk I can't help but feel a pinch of funny envy for that trouble free existence where the only issue he has is locating his favourite tennis ball ;) 
My thoughts today circle around the more long term plans for our living arrangements. As I organise the weekend and week ahead, reply to emails and try to fit all the riders for their lessons into my increasingly difficult logistics, I find myself coming back to google maps to figure out the best connections between the places I need to be at. 

Where to move to next is the question! You might think that without children and facilities needed for them like schools, playgrounds etc etc our living choices will be quite easy but various other considerations come into play so it's a bit of a mind breaking game. 

We are not moving yet so it's not a decision for today but it's on the figuring out agenda anyway...
All these every-day-life things are really not my most favourite! 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Day 224: Importance of seeing through....

Two very interesting things happen today. First of all, we have a breakthrough in a lesson with a lovely young mare by De Niro that I am helping Emma with. The mare has an impeccable dressage pedigree and has been nurtured in those lines but the more time she spends under the saddle the more it is blatantly obvious her heart right now is in polework, jumping and galloping in the countryside.

Della is still very gangly and growing into her rather nice frame ;) Seeing through horse's motivations and attending to them as priority really is the key to bringing the best out of them.

We might have seen through that and added some poles for her to spice up her flatwork but I find I am totally blind on another occasion as when I have a sit on a horse after the rider is having grand difficulties with a new exercises I wonder how stupid I must be not have spotted the issue that I can feel straight away the moment I move off in walk. I work the horse for a bit and end up very happy with how he feels but very disappointed in myself for not spotting the problem from the ground.

Today I also teach a new client on a trial session who rides very well despite having 10 years break from riding. Sometimes muscle memory kicks in as if the body never stopped but I hope she can move tomorrow! ;)


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Day 215 - 223 Still catching up!

Today is Tuesday 11th of August and I have now probably missed the biggest chunk of the daily updates since starting this 365/2015 project in January.
This is not so much from having shortage of time because I can fit in some writing in various circumstances (like now when I am typing away on a train to London's yard) but more down to complete blank that my mind draws when it's really tired which has been the case recently.

Because of that I needed to use my usual writing time for catching some rest breaks and to make myself stop because I do tend to go into overdrive and work,work,work. Some might be surprised at such issue but I once heard a fabulous analogy that explains addiction to certain kinds of "work".

Let's say you love rum & raisin ice cream [enter anything here, I just love Malaga Rum & Raisin!] and someone brings a fresh tub of whatever it is that you adore stuffing your face with and says:
- I am going out for 6 hours, when I come back there better be none of that stuff left!
Now, how difficult would it be for you to make sure nothing is left? ;) When you have to do what you find great pleasure in doing, the "have to" takes a completely different meaning.

So, anyway. That's the reason. Way too much ice cream for my brain and no space for some rest and also for decently put together sentences.
This post will catch up with the last week and a half in a general chat rather than dividing my thoughts into particular days.

I have had a few new online (long distance) riders joining my virtual coaching programme in the last week so getting myself acquainted with their riding issues via series of videos they send to me has been really interesting. I don't think the virtual coaching can ever replace a real life tuition but it's wonderful to see the changes the riders make and the results they gain as a result upon video corrections.
My Polish riders are also sending video updates and I am loving following their training adventures. Can't wait to see them in October!

The weather has been fabulous recently so horses have been getting baths. I got my two little riders to cover their pony in shampoo too which was grand fun for them and a lot of work for me ;) In just a month they have gained so much confidence around Basil, the pony they loan, that I have to have my eyes all over my head when they groom him or they would probably play hide and seek underneath him.

Oscar continues to go very well. I met his physio last Saturday who is very pleased with his improvement. She found his sore areas from sacroiliac (SI) region completely gone (main issue he has been having since injuring himself in January) and only some small tender area remaining over the right side of his back which is in line with the way he moves on the right rein. She was generally very happy with him and noticed a big improvement in him since May. I am continuing the exercises in-hand every time before I ride which I know had great results with other horses with SI problems that I have worked with and he is responding well to them. His back feels much looser and softer in trot and so are the muscles at the base of his neck.

The young mare is doing very well too, she is so much pleasure to ride and her jump is to die for! I used to call her a fancy cart horse but damn, she might have to graduate to a different nick name ;) Look out for her going out on the market ;)

The "highlight"  of the last week must be the travel! It's been problematic to say the least with many a delay but it hit a climax on Friday 7th August.
It was the day on which I fully appreciated equine anatomy and the Stay Apparatus.

When a horse is standing, muscles on opposite sides of the joints delicately contract and relax so that it stays in balance. This obviously puts considerable strain and stress on the muscles. To combat this, the horse has increased the fibrous content of many muscles. These collagenous muscles have been named collectively as the stay apparatus. This is further divided into the suspensory apparatus and the check apparatus

How I wish I had that superior anatomic ability when I spent from 5pm to 11.45pm on my feet stood on board of various transport.

London Paddington, Friday 7th August - blank Departures boards, not something you want to see at 8pm...

Thankfully, one of my fellow sufferers thought it was a great idea to watch a couple of hours of footage of people falling over so I amused myself watching over his shoulder. Perks of railway services failure...


Thursday, 6 August 2015

205 - 214: A very busy week - and a new project reveal :)

Oh yes, this is what I do for my lovely young people! Myself as a giraffe (sadly legs extensions don't come with the onesie), Eve as a horse and Caitlin as a Tiger. 

Well, it's another long catch up post because my writing reserves in the evenings were going into other areas of online activity! So, you might need some sustenance and a drop to drink - let's go!

205: Friday 24th July

Rain is the password to today. Everything is soggy but we have a rather good few training sessions.

A little bit of bareback lunging to continue with Eve's stickability skills. Caitlin with Jasper are still doing shorter sessions to build his fitness and condition up slowly but they are doing well, his stamina improving all the time and the quality of his trot is wonderful when he puts his mind to it.

The rain doesn't stop for the rest of the day and my riders and horses (and myself) get a bit of a weather shock after so many days of glorious sunshine. I get back and plunge into hot bath.

206: Saturday 25th July

It hits me as I write this update that even though it has only been a week since Saturday 25th, I barely remember the details of the day. I suppose that's why those who do keep diaries, keep them - to catch those thoughts and moments that for sure will get lost in more current events and more immediate ideas.
It's a good day with one of my lovely lady riders deciding to continue on the programme for the next 3 months after her initial training time. I have been considering extending the minimum sign up term to 6 months instead of 3 but I remain undecided. On one hand, perhaps I would encounter more committed riders who really want to improve their skills and are prepared to go through both highs and lows as the their competence upgrades but I am also mindful of complexities of lives of amateur riders who hold other jobs, families, other sports.

We shall see.

207: Sunday 26th July

Rest day and I really do relish it so much more this week as I have not stopped since last Sunday!

208: Monday 27th July 

Cup of tea at a trot? wink emoticon Empty cups for awareness training. Foundation Programme.

First go at light seat in canter for Nigel. Ticking the progress boxes nicely but most of all, becoming better and better at communicating with the horse :) 

209: Tuesday 28th July

Today, I am saying goodbye to one of my teenage riders as she finishes the regular training and goes first on a few weeks holiday and off to an equine college to start her new adventures.
A week prior I asked her to chose the theme for her last lesson. I thought that maybe she would ask to do more technical jumping lesson or learn something new know, progress some more. The choice of the day? "We will all wear onesies and go for a hack!! Can we??" ;)


The other two riders of the day have a good sessions too and I run the first Development lesson for Mairi who has improved her Foundation skills a lot in the past 3 months.

Spot Mairi on Tilly! First independent Development Programme training session for Mairi involving 40min guided session as usual and 20min practice without me. This format challenges the rider to become more independent, focused and develop her detective skills in finding out what's working well and what still needs some effort. I am watching from afar ;) 
Today is also the end of holidays for Oscar! He is positively massive after spending two weeks in the field playing a horse-who-eats-all-day. I am enjoying our first session after the break, he overreacts a little to the saddle at first playing rodeo bull but settles quickly and gets on with loosening up exercises I ask him to do.

210: Wednesday 29th July

Some photos from today :)

Emma and Repo. Adding poles to simple exercises like serpentines, figure of eights and circles to train focus and accuracy. 

Flatwork session for Bella and Mr Timely whose relationship is so lovely to watch! Timely was on his lazy day today but produced some most supple work to date for Bella. Great work :) 

Last training session for Aimee and Fig before Calmsden Horse Trials this weekend. So pleased with these guys and really keeping all crossed for improved marks in the areas they so improved at home!

Helping with rehabilitative schooling of this lovely mare. Lou and Roulette in walk lesson today. 

211: Thursday 30th July

A very busy day today mostly spent on video editing and writing, catching up with admin and all the office stuff that has to get done around any freelance activity.

212: Friday 31st July 

Today is the sort of day I needed for a long time - a morning teaching and afternoon riding. Oscar is still looking positively butch and loving it ;)

He feels really good to ride though, his back seems to have benefitted hugely from the holiday, he feels so much more supple and balanced. You can't feel his grass belly once he moves, he is forward and happier altogether and we have a very good session.

Another youngster I am schooling goes superb today. She is a lovely Welsh mare who will be for sale very soon and I think someone will get themselves a truly great all-rounder. She is only about 15.1hh but rides bigger, feels very much like she has a leg in each corner and is immensely trainable. The only thing that drives me mad with her is her long mane so I try to plait it if I have the time! I think a Lusitano plait suits her. Don't you think? ;)

She is such a poser!

213: Saturday 1st August

Full day of really good lessons today. I am feeling very lucky to work with these lovely riders and horses, outside in sunshine with summer wind blowing in my face.

214: Sunday 2nd of August

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little - Edmund Burke

Technically, today is my day off work but in real life that's not the case. In fact, today is a kind of a special day which marks the end of preparations and the beginning of a new adventure...
You know, it's very easy to give up on some goals when they require a significant financial input and resources you might not have. When I get asked if I am not tired of trying to pave my own way I sometimes feel as if, in general of course, people do prefer if the triers do give up because that somehow excuses those who don't bother to follow their own deep dreams and plans.

The new venture is my next little step towards those goals I don't want to stop trying to achieve. It's not yet what I would love to create as there are certain restriction on the lease of the facilities that in turn restrict the scope of the venture, but it is a step that I am very much excited about!

"From August 2015, I am teaming up with Brackenhill Stud in Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire to bring an exciting new service to aspiring amateur riders.
This collaboration opens up an opportunity to like minded riders with own horses to livery and train in one place where there are fabulous facilities and a friendly and supportive group of other aspiring riders. You can join Brackenhill livery long term or come on bespoke programme basis for a few months of intensive coaching, motivation and inspiration :)
Please see Aspire website for more information on the coaching side of the project: Aspire Equestrian Coaching Livery with Brackenhill Stud and the Brackenhill Stud’s website for more information about the yard.
And here is a little video showing you the yard and the kind of training options available. We hope this 7min ish footage will help you decide whether our service is that something you are potentially looking for!"

I would love to know what you think...

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