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 :)

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