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 ;)


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