Friday 4 November 2016

September, October and now

Yes it's a Xmassy duvet cover don't judge ;) I love Xmas' vibe
About 6.45AM Jazz sits on my head. She knows my alarm is set for 7.05AM "Every Day", I swear she knows because she also knows other stable timings in her life like breakfast time, dinner time, time to go to muck out. But no, she likes to make sure I know that she is there and waiting.
If I try to ignore her, she places her nose right into my face until it becomes impossible to resist her and she makes me laugh with her persistence.

I take her out about 7.05AM anyway with hope that one day she will wait until the actual alarm buzzing. Now that the clocks have changed, I can see sunrises again. Different ones every morning. You would think there would be some repetition in the design but something is always different. If the sky looks similar, the temperature changes, if sky and temperature seem similar to another morning, there is a chilly breeze or the moon still hangs about. So on. So on. Never the same. Never boring.

We come back in about 7.30AM and have breakfast. I usually check my emails and respond to any urgent ones before about 7.45AM Jazz tries to sit on my head. Now, this time it's harder for her as I am sitting on the sofa or on a chair but she still tries. Even though she knows, I swear she does, that it's around 8.10AM that we go to muck out and turn out Leo not 7.45AM.
I resist her until she climbs and climbs and makes me laugh and we compromise and leave about 8AM.
She goes to play havoc with other yard dogs while I say hello to Leo, change his rugs, pick his feet out and turn him out.
Once he is out of his stable, Jazz usually runs in and makes herself at home on the straw. I shovel around her while she chases poop, strands of straw and her Dachshund friend, Billy.
It's a fun morning watching her so full of life and crazy about everything ;)

I never used to like to have "routines". I didn't want to live on subconscious actions, didn't want to have too many of those moments when you realise you've done something or got somewhere but wasn't sure how and when. I feel like that robs of life truly lived.

This kind of routine I do like, however. It doesn't feel like the switched off one. It actually makes me feel more awake.

The last two months that led to this routine were busy ones. Leopold The Last entered my life suddenly with a force of his cheeky personality and demanding training schedule. He makes me study equine anatomy again, read about where movement and restrictions originate, how to heal with healthy biomechanics.

I set up a Fund for Leo. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea but I love the idea of crowdfunding non-for-profit initiatives so here's mine. If you believe in this little Leo legacy project, please consider joining the Fund by donating, every little helps:

I update daily and post the updates either every day or every other day. 

Sending warm wishes to everyone who still pops in on here now and then :) 


Sunday 28 August 2016

The trouble is...

Likeminded people, those who share our views, values, support what we do, are few and far between. One of mine passed away today. Even though we all know death is an intrinsic part of our existence, it is still shocking when it comes so suddenly and so early in ones life.

We think we have time for things, for events, for trips and for future but we can easily go from a cheerful chat over dinner to heartbreaking conversations and end of life decisions within a couple of weeks.



Saturday 13 August 2016

Game changing headaches

Trying to work but this happened ;) Jazzy wants to go out so she jumps on top of me ;) More on her in the next post.

Two weeks ago I started filling in this form which, once filled, will go onwards to be the part of a funding application. I got half way through and became a little stuck on a question which wants me to "elaborate on market needs for services you would like to provide via growing your business'.
Now you see, what I'd like to set up is not a little programme that keeps me happy (although that too for sure) and which quite successfully provides me with a living income. The concept for which the funding would go for is a much larger initiative that involves other people and creates certain responsibilities. It also assumes more substantial interest in a thorough, holistic equestrian training at grassroots levels of the sport in ways that are not necessarily wide spread. In fact, the business model of this initiative is fairly unique in this country (but practiced successfully abroad).

When it comes to bigger projects I tend to believe in ploughing on step by step without overthinking it because the latter usually leads to doubts. And you know what they say about's a no-go apparently. We should all be stunningly confident 100% of the time...

Lately I'd been helping a rider whose horse "doesn't go off the leg" so she has issues when approaching jumps. Those two weeks ago she asked me if she could maybe wear spurs to help with the problem. Cue me thinking...well, do I say yes and have the problem "sorted" or do I say no and actually address the problem - I am sure you know what I mean.
The rider listens at first but finds it too much of a hassle to re-educate the horse to her leg aids. This is a rider who in theory agrees with what I say but simply can't be bothered to do the legwork (no pun intended). She is, of course, not an exception.

So yes, I am thinking. I have tried my best not to follow my natural inclination to just "go for it" but rather to get some business glasses on and actually see facts that happen right in front of me...Is there enough riders out there who will want to do the leg work? I am not the next Steve Jobs who can create the need in customers when they don't even know they have that need ;) Even guys who are involved in the Academy initiative have doubts whether it can indeed be sustainable in the form I'd like it to take. Should I re-think? Change angle from rider training to horse training? Plenty of horses that enjoy the biomechanically friendly, holistic training methods ;) If only they were the paying party!

There are for sure plenty of people interested in natural horsemanship kind of services (just look at the mad popularity of Parelli courses) but I can't see myself immersing in that as a business and an every day work. Then, there are plenty of results driven riders happy to close their eye on this and that, stronger bit here, spurs as a novice there, a few gadgets, quick fix now and then. Can't see myself committing to that either.

So the strict question stands, is there enough demand for wellness driven sport training where my passion is, the kind where sometimes an experienced rider has to come back to basics and have the guts to do so or will this growing of the Academy really by like creating an iPhone and then making enough people realise it's exactly what they'd love to do and pay for??! ;)

It is believed one should pick ones battles wisely. I look at some trainers who had been working along the horse wellness lines and who focus of coaching riders. Some seem successful doing what they love doing but they are household "names" or have "connections". It doesn't discourage me as such, I am sure some started from a complete bottom and worked their way up, but it makes me think, what am I missing in this whole plan that perhaps needs to be put in place.

I look at the enquiries I receive about places on training sessions and I am thinking, well there certainly seems to be a demand for what I do that I can't currently fullfil. However, these enquiries are from all over the UK, will there be enough local interest once we find the right facility to call it home.  If not, could I somehow cater for long distance riders? And the questions continue. I am telling you, whoever came up with an idea of a business plan, have potentially given many headaches to people like me who want to change a few game rules and see if that makes things better..;)

Are you a game changer? Doing something not many others do? I'd love to hear from you :)

More on my spaniel pup and less of this business malarky in my next post.


Monday 27 June 2016

To Leave or To non-EU Britain? This is the question.

Life I love :) 

I wasn't sure whether to write this post. After all, emotions can be volatile, we feel overwhelmed or angry or sad but it passes and perhaps best to keep that private.
But then I thought, hey it would be good to look back and realise I was all wrong and everything turned up to be just fine. I thought, it might be a small thing for many people but had a huge impact on me, so maybe it will be good to write indeed.

The full of hate aftermath of the EU Referendum makes me worried and anxious in a way I have never felt before. Right now, everything is "most likely", "probably". Uncertain. I should be used to it being self-employed. It feels different though.

Queuing for a coffee next to a couple chatting away about the joy of leaving EU and stopping "foreign invasion" I quietly hope my parents don't chose that moment to call me so I don't have to speak Polish. This thought alone makes me think, what the hell am I doing here. Makes me want to leave the queue and go home and sit in a field with my dog, watch horses graze peacefully with no people around me.

At first, I wanted to keep up with the news and stay informed but I feel more and more worried the more I read.
I can somewhat understand the reasons of both sides for voting for their respective visions of the future but the after effect leaves me cold.
All this hatred spilling on the streets, on social media, in newspapers.
Someone vandalises Polish Community Centre in London on Sunday morning. Then this happens - Anti-Polish cards in Cambridgeshire after Referendum.   I wake up to posters like "Fit in or Fuck Off" and "Stop immigration start repatriation" on my Facebook wall.

I've lived in this country for over thirteen years. It's a long time with many friendships, love and lifetime events. There were times when it seemed difficult to be foreign but I tend to just get on with things, enjoy the company of people who matter and keep doing what I'm driven to do.

This feels different. Intense and hard to rationalise, understand, ignore. As I read in disbelief more and more comments about non-white British people being "racially" assaulted and told to leave, I know the problems are not superficial. For someone brought up with Grandparents who lived through horrors of two wars, I find the situation worrying.

I hope it passes. I hope the country I've loved living in and where so many things have seemed possible is back. I hope that British people, regardless how they voted, heal that hatred within the nation. I hope it will be enough to have people around me who share my values.

Legally, from what I read, it will be "most likely" possible for settled EU nationals to remain in England. Lack of information is stressful.
But what's more worrying right now is what kind of life will this be.

I hope...I will look back at this post in several months time and laugh at my worries.



Thursday 16 June 2016

Missing the Invincible

From my book that I decided not to go ahead with publishing:

Rochester, UK 2002

I didn't plan to arrive so late. Now it's midnight and besides a piece of paper with an address, I have nothing to guide me to my destination. There are no taxis outside the train station. The night is warm but I can feel first drops of rain landing on my head. I have no map and there is nobody around to ask for directions. I walk down the station approach but it's so freaking dark everywhere that I find myself escaping back to the station gates where at least there is a little light. 
I dial the number of the person I came over for but there's no reply. I don't know whether I am worried or desperate but when my eyes adjust to the darkness beyond a dim glow of the only street lamp I can see and I can make out a shape of a car parked at the end of the road, I do one thing that comes to my mind - I walk towards it. 

It's an old, red car full of stuff that obstruct the back window so even though I am now only few steps away I can't tell if there is anyone inside at all. There is. Two guys, one at the wheel and the other at the passenger seat, smile as I stop by their car. The window goes down. 

- Hey - I say - do you happen to know where this road is? - I pass the folded piece of paper I'd been holding in my hand to the guy in a passenger seat. and as I do so tens of thoughts run through my mind. I hope he knows where it is. I hope he doesn't. What the hell am I doing. It's midnight. I don't know these guys. They are probably going to kidnap me and sell at whatever market they are going to. Don't be ridiculous. 

- Yeah, cool, will get you there, jump in - the driver says with a smile. 

Cool. Great. Shit. I don't want to sleep at the station. The car is full of random stuff. Shit. 

The rain is getting stronger now so I grab the handle, open the car door and get in. I learn they are from Egypt and they're waiting for someone who is to arrive later so they have the time to drop me off. They learn I pretty much have no idea where I am, that I came to visit someone I really want to visit and that nobody answers the phone. They basically learn I would be easy to rob and nobody would know a thing. The drive takes just few minutes, they stop the car and show me the house I am looking for. 

We say goodbye about ten times, they wish me luck and as I watch their packed up car disappear round the corner I am pretty sure this is the dumbest, stupidest thing I have ever done and maybe ever will but I am alive and nobody kidnapped me or tried to kill me and I am standing at the door I needed to find. 

Invincible, that's how I feel. 

And right now, as I sit here with good few things on my mind, I damn wish I had the same belief in people, in circumstances, that I had back then. It would make everything a little less complicated.

Because jumping right in is often the best way to get to that destination...

Jazz, my crazy pup who thinks she is invincible indeed ;) 


Wednesday 1 June 2016

Them lucky people....

Imagine, if there really was something such as "pure luck"... It would mean that no matter what you do, you have no real control over the outcome of your situation. It would mean, no amount of effort on your part could steer you in the direction of your choosing because all was down to luck.
It would mean you might as well not try...not fight for what you want, believe in, dream of experiencing. It would mean you might as well give up trying and resign yourself to watching all them other lucky people who have everything handled to them on golden plates.  All you had left was some form of hope that luck would turn for you.

Now, imagine, if believing in luck (or lack of it) was what was stopping many people from doing their best in what they wish to focus their life on.

You know that saying - It takes 10 years of focused effort to achieve an overnight success? I like it. I think it sounds like said by someone who didn't believe in luck but who got up and barefoot walked a path others couldn't be bothered to walk. It sounds like said by someone who knew there would be many who chose not to notice the scars, the bruises, the cuts but instead saw someone arriving with an effortless smile on their face, happy to have found something of value.

I don't believe in luck. I prefer to believe in invisible but powerful hustle instead ;)


Thursday 19 May 2016

In the clouds

It only takes about forty five seconds for the Waitrose coffee machine to make you a free cup of coffee. The dark liquid comes first, followed by milky one. The best part comes at the end when the nozzles rev up and produce the thickest, whitest of froth that swirls gently, soft finishing touch as if making own little ice cream cones.
I see them now in the shape of the clouds as I fly above them, (un)safely on board of a plane full of people who wouldn't know what on earth I am on about. But it's all in the detail, you see. All in that forty five seconds of luck (?) in which I lift my eyes from above the notes I am making and glance through the little oval window that can't be opened. Some little brain cells bring up images from my coffee making experience and mix them with this now view - a white landscape of visible gases. Little craters and valleys and creeks and there, just over my shoulder, the Waitrose coffee finishing touches - little swirls of cream dressed as clouds. 

And you might think it's luck and a silly talk but there is power in the detail. I would like to know if we make decisions based on true conscious effort or rather on milliards of those details stashed away in tiny memories. If we catch expressions, tone of voices, hesitations? Subconsciously bring them up later, layer them on top of questions marks, definitives and insecurities and call them gut feelings?  

It only takes about forty five seconds for the Waitrose coffee machine to make you a free cup of coffee. It only takes about five seconds for the whitest, softest, ice cream like swirls to settle gently right on top. You blink for a tad longer and you miss it. Details - so powerful, so hard to spot. 


Monday 25 April 2016

Gundog Training Adventures with Jazz: 3 months old

The above photo makes me laugh every time I see it because damn there is a grain (no word play intended) of truth in it ;) Jazz's play biting is becoming more and more controllable but there are moments when I want to run and hide ;) 
She was 3 months old on the 21st of April and it's fascinating to watch her grow and change. Today I taught her hand targeting in 5 minutes. More about this exercise HERE. She started to understand how to fetch (you can watch her in action on my Instagram HERE) and she is even containing herself enough now to obey "wait" command at times. 
She's clever, adorable and full of life. 

Home DIY is her favourite hobby...She likes to organise our stuff in her own order and most of the time she decides that we don't put the stuff in the right rooms. She likes the socks to all be in the front room, ideally spread evenly on variety of surfaces - chair, sofa, rug, some in the kitchen. 
She also likes to bring me my white competition gloves and stock into the front room a few times a day even though I explained to her I would rather they were in the box in my little office. 

She recalls on the whistle pretty reliably in all situations that I have tested her - I follow training tasks from Total Recall book by Pippa Mattinson (more on recall here: including horse shit. Yes, the last one has been most troubling but now she found a way to both recall fast and enjoy some shit. Namely - she grabs a mouthful of horse manure and then runs like a wind with it if I sound the whistle. If I sound it before she gets to the pile, she will turn around to me. If I sound it too late and she is a step away, she will grab some for the journey.
She loves poo.

In the last few days she started noticing birds...First she chased a little robin at work and at home we have some serious choice of birds around from pigeons through pheasants, kites to peacocks! She has not seen the latter yet, I try to avoid them as don't want to fry her brain ;)

From what I read about young gundogs I should not encourage any game chasing in a young spaniel. I should keep her entertained and focused on me on the walks, no free roaming and self-rewarding. So far I think we are doing well.

I learnt that when walking a gundog puppy one shouldn't just stroll in a straight line but walk in an unexpected pattern of zigzags so the pup is constantly curious about where we are going. Apparently such walking mimics their hunting behaviour so they find it naturally engaging as they are wondering what are we hunting.
Even though zig zaging through the fields feels a little on an odd side I must say she is rather taken by it and keeps an eye on me all the time. I don't dare to tell her I am not really hunting in case her great behaviour changes.

House training is going ok, as long as I take her out 7-8 times a day, all is good. She's pretty good with the training pads in general too but sometimes she seems to think that front paws on the pad will do...Thankfully she agrees with us that pooping in the house is a no-go and she consistently asks to be taken out if she needs number 2.

3 months on 21 April 2016

Mid evening on her last longer walk at about 7.30pm she usually goes bonkers and runs around like a mad person. Sometimes I manage to play enough with her so she calms down in the house but most of the time I do not succeed.
While making dinner tonight I heard her drinking water. I looked at where her water bowl was but she was nowhere near it. I looked from kitchen into my front room just to see her helping herself to my cup of tea with loud splashes of the tongue.

Puppyhood is intense ;)

Until soon! X


Sunday 24 April 2016

Question of trust and confidence

One of my favourite moments in teaching is pairing horses and riders and watching those partnerships develop. Most riders "get used to their new horse" slowly and so do many horses go through a slow process of getting used to their riders.
Today I watch one of my young riders trying a new horse so we can decide if it's the right pairing for the moment. She rides the horse tactfully and he goes very well for her. I'm delighted as it's potentially a nice horse that can give her plenty of education and benefit himself too.

I keep the whole session simple and add a little pressure as we go and it's clear to me the horse trusts the girl. He allows her to correct his way of going in a way I have not seen him react before and it's wonderful to watch. The more he responds to her, the better she rides him of course and that cycle of trust produces confidence that in turn gives us some lovely work today where they both learn from each other.

That volatile trust between horse and rider is what I reckon makes or breaks the lines of communication. There are more and more courses, workshops, advice out there on "building confidence" but the more I watch those first encounters or moments of reunion of horse and rider after incidents of being bucked off, the more I wonder whether it's trust manuals that we need to master, not confidence ones...

Don't get excited, I have no real clue how one would go about this!

A lot is said about how it takes a lifetime to build trust and seconds to destroy it. It sure is true in many cases but I also know that sometimes I can sit on a horse and before it even makes a step, I just know I can trust it (within reason mind you!). How do I know it? If I knew I could probably make a fortune ;) The length of the neck that somehow just becomes part of my arms? The width of his back? Energy?? Whatever it is, that feeling of trust lets me give the horse a good ride even though I don't know it well.
Similarly with people. I don't know about you but I might know someone who I feel I can trust with whatever I share with them which in turn makes me feel at ease and myself in their company. For sure it doesn't happen often and with many horses or many people. In fact, it could be a rare state of affairs indeed.
On top of that we can be very wrong of course ;) The horse we trusted bucks us off on the second ride or someone we had a great time with screw us right over but that's a separate point.

The fact remains however, that in the particular moment in which we allow ourself to trust, our behaviour and actions are very different to when we are defensive, worried and unsure of what will happen next.

What comes first then? Confidence or trust? Can one exist without the other? Can either be truly taught...? Should we teach riders how to trust the horses and horses how to trust the riders? Or should we teach guts and grit?


Wednesday 20 April 2016

The third draft and the decision

Having a puppy means I all of a sudden find myself awake during big chunks of every morning that I had happily slept through a few weeks ago. Sometimes she sleeps until 5am, sometimes until 6am before she needs to go out and as once she is up, she requires constant supervision or house will be chewed, there is not that many constructive tasks I can fill my mornings with. Instead, I find myself having a lot of time to think.

Jazz at work with me
From all this thinking came a conclusion and I would like to apologise for what I am about to say as I really do value everyone who comes back and reads this little blog. I don't run any detailed stat counter on here as I have never planned to monetise this blog, it's largely for my own self expression, some pleasure of documenting life, share and meet other bloggers. My simple stats tell me there are a couple of thousands returning readers on this blog each month which might be nothing to a google analyst but I do value every single person who pops over here for a moment. I feel like I owe you this post.

Without further waffle, I am really sorry to say that having gone through my third draft of the "Never Give Up" book, I decided not to proceed further for now. Here's why. To do any story justice, I believe it should be as full a story as possible. With a job like mine, more of a lifestyle job than a city career, private life intertwines very closely with working life.
When I first started writing the book in 2012, I had all the intentions to self-publish it but the last four years have brought with them life events I have never expected to experience and which have and continue having a significant bearing on most of my work decisions, directions and choices.
Part of me thinks that sharing the full story might help someone out there but that full story is not just mine to tell.

I am not saying I will never publish the book. Maybe one day I will but I don't want to be keeping anyone waiting.
Even though I am not proceeding with the book, I will continue blogging on here so feel free to stay around.

Once again, apologies to all who keep coming back, reading, sending me little messages and just being awesome and who were looking forward to seeing my little story out there. You have not missed that much I promise ;)

To those of you who maybe feel worried by my reasons for not going ahead, please don't. Remember the biggest cliche of all: life is either a joke that we can take seriously, or a serious matter to be taken with a smile...we always have a choice.

Until soon!
W. x


Wednesday 13 April 2016

I found myself a "new" hobby ;)

Oh so you work with horses and you teach and that's also your hobby too? Ah yes, so it is. Oh, oh I see.
Cue a little worried expression on faces of non-horsey people as if the fact ones life evolves around horses was potentially a rare illness of sorts (which actually might be considering the amount of money it all costs to keep running ;) ).
Well, I am maybe not all lost to that illness because I seem to have stumbled upon a new-ish hobby without much trying. 
It amuses me how life runs in some bizarre circle or perhaps not at all and we only perceive it as such. I was brought up with grandfather whose greatest passion was hunting, wildlife and gundogs yet I have never appreciated the influence it may have had on me. The amount of stories from his days out I have heard, the amount of books and old hunting chronicles he left me - it could all fill in an audio and mainstream library. 
When something is such big part of your childhood it fills it up completely you no longer see it does, you take it as a given. Maybe it shapes you in ways that is impossible to predict and maybe many decisions you will make thirty years down the line, were all already made when you were 6 years old, wide eyed and immersed in stories. 

Jazz sleeping on me as I type ;) 

I would lie if I said I remember all the stories. All I really remember is how they made me feel: curious, awaiting some adventures, a little worried sometimes, excited some other times. I remember passion for observation of nature, of wildlife, passion for training. 

When I decided to buy Jazz it was a spontaneous act because she was the breed I favoured and wanted for a long time but let me tell you, I sure didn't think, fabulous, let's get a gundog and let's go hunting! 
I wanted an energetic, intelligent, happy dog that will last a day work with me and horses and do some working days in a field a few times per season.  

Jazzmine 2nd April 2016

And then I started reading more about gundogs training...and more...and more...(many thanks for recommendations of Pippa Mattinson book Kelly if you're reading this! :) ) and started seeing the incredible thinking cogs this breed has when experienced first hand. More so than I have expected. I've been obsessed with dogs for longer than with horses and have been around huge variety of breeds but this little pup, she's something else. 

So just like that, I find myself fascinated with the training that goes into producing a working Springer Spaniel so get ready for some Very Novice Gundog Owner Diary posts coming up ;) It actually feels great to be a beginner at something, I love learning and look forward to this new-ish hobby-adventure!

Until soon :) 

Thursday 31 March 2016

Have you ever...

...lie down in a bath and watched as the bubbles slowly disappear forming delicate, white islands on the surface of the water?  
I watch them as they float about. If I take a deeper breath, they move ever so slightly and as they do so, they take shapes. Of a bear. Of a skull. Of people talking. Of a horse's head. Of an eye. Of an old couple strolling. 
They divide, they join together. 
And of course, they are not really there. They are just a result of an intricate neural connection that happens somewhere in between my brain cells; happens at unimaginable speed, connects every single experience of my life, mixes it, blends it and spits it in the half-asleep form of a bubble world. 
If I have never seen a bear, its image would never have imprinted on my memory and those brain cells would never have told my eyes to see that bear in a faint, white island of a bath cream.  

Here's where I think this gets interesting. Our imagination is limited to the sum of all the experiences we have been through from the moment we were born to this very moment of lying in a fast cooling bath water playing a silly game of bath cream watching. 

Maybe we can only see what our brain cells allow us to see...Maybe we can only do what we are able to imagine possible...


Friday 25 March 2016

Reader's Question (by permission) - "What if I don't care..."

Evening lesson today

Sometimes I get questions from people who are looking into pursuing teaching riding as a job and although it's late now and I should really get some sleep, this one made me chuckle (blogging it by permission).

The question went a bit like this:  what if I don't really care if the rider understands what they are doing, if I only really care about that the horse does the test well" [it was dressage training related question].

I taught a couple of lessons today which made me want to reply to this question...I think that if you only care if the horse does the job well, you would be best suited to school horses as a job, not to train riders as a job.

Sometimes, the horse won't go well. It's a living creature that has its aches and pains, its own moods and attitudes, pain memory, muscle cramps etc etc If we always assess the rider on the basis of "how well the horse performed" , we don't always get the right picture at all. Sometimes the riders do the best they can at the time and if you don't care about that, you probably better not venture into teaching.

Training people comes with its many challenges and if you do care, you will have some very bad days and some very good days. Sometimes you will struggle to make any difference at all, sometimes one little thing you say will make all the difference. Sometimes the riders will make you work very hard and if you do care, it can be an emotional challenge too. You will need to grow some thick skin and not let riders' moods affect your own or take things personally and transfer one rider's issue onto another.

From my experience, it's a great job if you do care. I generally focus more on the rider because once the rider has the skill, the feel and the timing, the horse will do anything. It's also the only way I know how to do things the best I possibly can. Even if sometimes that's not that great at all! If you don't give a damn, I would say stick to the stuff you do care about ;)

W. x


Wednesday 23 March 2016

All That Jazz :)

Since our last family dog died in 2009 (more on him HERE) I have not had my own so Jazz's arrival into our lives has filled quite a void!

Jazz's first day at work ;) 
Little Jazz aka Jazzmin arrived on Sunday and just like that restructured my life and changed me from an evening person into a morning one ;) Or rather, into a zombie as I still struggle to fall asleep early but I know she will wake me up at 5am for her morning mini-walkies.

She is an adorable bundle of energy, so full of life, so genuinely happy and loving, it's impossible to resist her charm and even though she'd barely been with us for 3 days, I can't quite imagine her not being around!

Once her vaccinations are done, I will let her meet more dogs and horses and have a good run around but so far, she has been on little walks on the Stud near the cottage and hopped about a little on the yard at work. Done her first jabs today courtesy of a "delightful" vet who upon registering my name let me know they have a Polish nurse working with them but shame, she was away or she could talk with me...I will consider talking via translator next time perhaps. I also learnt that "I need to bring Jazz for Rabies vaccine at some point as all Europeans take their dogs home for holidays" - note that dear European friends. Possibly oddest conversation I have had for a while with a professional and I was tempted to respond in some way but thankfully have years of practice of just smiling and getting on with it all. Always good to be reminded about ones foreign status, isn't it? ;) As if one could ever forget.
Makes me feel sad for all those folks of various nationalities who live here in the UK for generations and still get the same sort of chat if they happen to have foreign family surname.

I wish my grandfather could have met Jazz. He was mad about hunting and gun dogs and I think he would have approved of my choice. We had these chats about breeds of dogs to get. I always wanted a husky, a spaniel and a german shepherd. He loved vizlas and spaniels of all sorts. Not that I intend to start shooting birds for recreation by the way ;)

As far as work goes, the riders are doing great job currently and riding very well, all my schooling ponies are feeling rather well too and I am getting the hang of the damn spreadsheets.

Have a good day/evening wherever you are :)


Monday 14 March 2016

A bit of a serious one today

Before we get going, let me tell you this: seven days until the puppy arrives!! This time next Sunday the furry friend will be here :)

Tilly. Photo by Alison C. 

As a word of warning, a bit of a serious tone today so if you are after some comedy, check HERE and come back when I post again soon :)

Most of my "free" time at the moment is spent on figuring stuff out... I am making friends with spreadsheets and getting my head around the concept of time you see, I am generally a time-scale rule breaker! Not that I have anything particularly against planning things so they happen at certain moment, far from it, but I feel like that drive to the end minute spoils the enjoyment of the current one somewhat. The goal becomes more important than the process of reaching it...It can't just be me?

Having said that, deadlines have been on my mind a lot from the beginning of this year. I don't know whether it is a good decision or not to create more pressure upon oneself when already under decent challenge but I must say, the cliche about not getting any younger has started to bug me.

So, maybe as a test, I set myself a deadline and an ultimatum for things to get started on the development of the Academy front and that scares me as I would imagine might scare anyone who loves what they do but were at risk of losing it all.
I know I can't carry on as I do for that much longer if this Academy project is ever to be what I would like it to be. Once it has moved a level up, and that includes finding the right facilities for it, I will be happy to chip away at my goals slowly, but until then, the pressure is on.
More so because I am stubborn and want to do things certain way... Don't get me wrong, I understand the concept of business world enough to know I ill fit it really with my limited drive for profit and all I feel like I know a little about is how to teach this or that.

But here's the thing, let me digress. I ride this mare, Una, and she is a sensitive kind of horse, a little on a sharp side and I like her because neither of us do small talk very well. You either have a proper conversation with her or she doesn't really get involved. Recently, just by a coincident than by having a clever idea, I put her in shoulder out and into a very little trot on one rein whilst riding as normal on the other rein. And I kept changing directions feeling things out and just like that she became this soft, pliable pony with a nice, relaxing blow through her nostrils without pulling me out of the saddle in the process. I look at her and she is nowhere near straight really, going somewhere out with her shoulders but I sit and ask her for a canter and she goes straight away in a nice, balanced stride. I ask her for a trot and she does it straight away. It is kind of wrong and yet it makes sense because who am I to tell her how to feel more athletic, more balanced, more relaxed. I am just winging it and she is the one who feels the effect. Maybe right there, right now, this is how she feels better. Maybe it is not the time to do things as the book says.

So, I am thinking, everybody at some point just winged it. Everybody at some point just tried it their way. We have surely not discovered every single possible way of doing something? I hope anyway!

Until next time!



Tuesday 23 February 2016

Thinking ahead, reflections on the training camp, organising the next Poland clinic and choosing the puppy!

Morning with Una's nose ;) 

I suppose it's time for an update so if you're happy to sit down to some waffling, here we go ;)
If daydreaming was a job, I think I might not be too bad at it. Someone once told me that if you can imagine something, truly see it in your mind's eye, you can make it happen. I quite like that thinking ;)
It does work in my teaching amazingly well although I couldn't tell you how and why. When I look at a horse and rider I like to picture them well ahead of where they are at the time, see how they might move, sit, react to problems and then let that image dictate what I ask them to do in the meantime. I like to have mid-way images too, you know, the kind of in between stage of progress.

It's similar to when I school a horse. If I want to teach something new or go over a particular issue, I picture in my mind how their legs would move, where their weight will go, how they might want to feel and only then ask for movement to happen. If I do it right, it works every time.

Since the beginning of the year I've been more and more thinking ahead to the next steps with the Academy biz. See how it could be in my mind's eye. I think I can make it happen...

Last weekend was the two mad days of the February training camp. It was probably my favourite one to date due to the improvement in all the riders and horses not just throughout the weekend but in their overall training. It's truly a privilege to have this job, I don't think I could ever tire with it as long as it is possible for me to run it better and better. Standing still is never going to be an option.

Figuring out how different people learn and acquire skills is an adventure in itself! Pushing riders out of their comfort zone in order for them to improve is not that dissimilar to pushing a horse to learn a new skill. Both will fight it a little until something makes sense. Contrary to the belief of some of my riders who think I relish their tortures ;) I don't particularly enjoy those stages of learning process.
I much rather see everyone confident in what they do but sadly that's not possible from the word go. Sometimes they trust me enough to give new things a try, sometimes they don't but eventually I hope to find a way for everyone to get where they would like to end up :)
If you teach anything or ever attempted to you might know what I mean.

The May clinic in Poland enters early organisational stages and right now I think my parents are the ones most excited about it all! Organising is not my forte, I love just being in the middle of it all and getting things done but hey ho, someone's got to do the behind the scenes stuff too and yes it all starts two months prior! The one great part is that this time I have my lovely Mum organising it with me rather than doing everything by myself. We've had some fun booking accommodation and transport logistics last week and she amused me today with planning some meals arrangements for the riders ;)

Another thing that happened over the last weekend was arrival of our "life-before-Portugal" in some 18 boxes! It's odd to unpack one's own life from 4 years ago, I spent the last several years with a handful of clothes and similar handful of various possessions and it made me realise I haven't missed many of the ones that arrived. Maybe with an exceptions of my books, I was very pleased to have those back!

Possibly most exciting event of this week and the one that makes me feel about 5 years old again in times when Santa was real, is the puppy choosing day! I don't know how many of you dear readers are dog people but I can't even start to tell you what it means to me to be able to have my own dog again. I still have another 4 weeks of waiting before I can pick my puppy up but I wish the week would just hurry up so I can go and at least meet all the pups in person. Get ready for a lot of photos soon!!



Sunday 14 February 2016

St Valentines Day...

You see, there are not enough soul mates in the world to satisfy the pockets of Valentine's Day cards and gifts sellers. We now have Valentine's cards for dogs, fish, horses and the neighbour who holds the post for us every week.

Touching when part of a true exchange of an ongoing affection, sad when simply a yearly duty. Uplifting and unique to each of us in principle. Wholesale in street version. 

A nice reminder nevertheless. Of the moments of special stillness and timeless value; days of golden sun rays that highlight all other colours but the raw pink of the burnt skin and days of rain that is soft, warm and aquamarine blue like in Disney movies and not transparent and cold like when you wait for a late bus. 

A reminder, an opportunity for conscious appreciation of the loved ones, friends and well wishers. 
A reminder to cherish a chance to experience what the romantics mean by meeting your soul mate. 

I don't know if karma exists, if astrology is real, if shit ever hits the fan. 
I don't know what I have done to deserve the kind of people I've been lucky to meet over the years. 
I know, however, the value of all the moments I have had with them. 
Moments no cards can buy and no technology can rewind. 


Monday 8 February 2016

Not about horses

Worth remembering...


Tuesday 2 February 2016

R.I.P. Shabhash...

Shabby with his owner, Emma. August 2015
- "You have twenty minutes to get better Shabby, Caitlin is almost here for your lesson! - I say to the little bay thoroughbred as we watch him being slightly out of sorts. He's just not quite himself even though there is nothing particularly and obviously wrong with him.
After checking his temperature and watching him for a while, we decide to let him be. I say I'll check on him in ten minutes, go and organise the tack for his lesson and don't think much of it.

In one of my lectures during the coaching degree we had this chat with a sports psychology tutor. They were discussing with us how it's very important not to have favourites when we teach or ride, to try to make sure our riders and horses always get the same attention and same quality of lessons. Here is the thing. You might try and you might give your best but if you are truly honest with yourself you will know there are always people and horses who pull on your heart strings that little bit more and you can't help yourself but favourite them just that little bit.

Shabby is my heart string horse and little did I know when strolling to his stable for that ten minutes check up, that I would never teach on him again.

It takes just about a couple of seconds for me to realise he is not at all fine. He is on the floor again, stuck this time and it takes all my effort to pull him far enough from the wall so he can lie down in a semi-normal position. He is quiet and peaceful. Too peaceful. I call Emma just in case because all this just looks too odd and I know if this was my horse I would want to know. Few minutes later he is attempting to roll again. I can't get him up by myself though so I get out and get help.

It's about 17:25 on Monday evening. By 10pm on 1st of February 2016 Shabby is put to sleep.

There are horses much more capable out there than he was but Shabby had this big heart that made me look forward to every single lesson ever since I got to meet him in the autumn of 2014. It didn't matter that he invented his own versions of dressage tests and his own version of dressage movements. We laughed with Emma that he had his own walk half-pass which we called Sha-pass. He sang in canter. The oddest, funniest sounds. He did cricket scores show jumping. But he tried and tried and tried again and he was a lion cross country.

It took many hours of work and perseverance and a lot of belief but he did us proud so many times.
I trusted him with my young riders even when he carted them around the cross country course or the arena. I knew that as long as they stay calm, he will eventually stop and smile as if to say, there, now you'd ridden at speed.

The best ex-racehorse I have ever had a privilege to teach on - not because of his competition results or scope or stunning movement but because when the horse does the best he can do for you and add some more, you know about it and you better appreciate it.

Run free Shab. I will miss you.


Wednesday 27 January 2016

Misunderstandings, mirrors and musings about "naughty" horses

As a child I was ridiculously shy. I find it funny now but let me tell you, I sure didn't back then. Going to the shop was a freaking ordeal as I had to ask for the stuff to be passed to me which was pretty much as nerve wracking as sitting on a bolting horse heading for a motorway. The days I could go to self-service places were Christmas and birthdays all rolled into one. I hated making phone calls to people I didn't know and starting any kind of conversation was just painful.
I also much preferred to listen and watch rather than talk which I do think somehow had helped me be fairly ok at my job now (at which I do waffle a lot of course! ;) ).
However, this created an interesting misunderstanding...I kept going on being that shy kid who just didn't initiate any chat until a mother of one of my school friends told me I was very arrogant...It was a bit of a news to me! I quite dreamt of being a little bit arrogant! Perceptions vs reality can be very much apart.

On Una, a mare with an interesting character, personality and various training challenges. Whenever my teaching and riding schedule allows, I only ride her first or last as she likes it so ;) Always full of surprises and questions but incredibly rewarding horse to work with. 

Onto horses now. Maybe it's my own experiences and maybe it's the fact I like to know exactly how things get to be as they are and why they are so but I have never been keen on making horses into some supernatural creatures that plan to be "fc***g annoying" and "d*cks" , "tw**s" and "being difficult" and "putting a show on" etc etc

The way I see it, in most situations (for sure there will be some exceptions) horses learn what works, and what doesn’t work. They are intelligent animals that quickly figure out how to get what they want whether it be grass, field mates, food, peace of mind...They have emotions that can override their judgements of situations and they have instincts that can override everything they were ever taught.
They almost always are our mirrors whether we want it or not or whether we realise it or not. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying we are afraid of carrier bags and that piece of wool on the floor that is slightly different colour to the rest of the arena surface. We do, however, carry many subconscious thoughts about huge amount of seemingly little details - about ourselves and about the horse we ride, about other people "judging" how we perform, about how we think we/the horse should look-so-it-looks-like-it-works-well etc - and I bet one could condition any horse owner to be a little anxious when presented with a Bag For Life if they always sat on a flighty horse during the sighting ;)
Horses mirror our emotional state, our state of mind and ability to deal with it or not, our level of confidence in own skills and in general meaning of the word. They also seem to understand when the rider really wants to help or is simply demanding something because "this is how it's got to be".

Some riders prefer not to ride when they don't feel 100% or when they feel irritated or angry. Sometimes this is a good idea. Sometimes maybe it would be a good lesson to try to empty ones mind of all thoughts and just ride, feel the horse and be in a moment, like they are.

I used to school horses for other people on regular basis but learnt that it was not always beneficial to describe what I did with them even if the owners asked and *thought* they wanted to know. I learnt that what many of those horse owners really wanted was results, not to know how they were achieved...

Nowadays, I only agree to school horses if the owners are willing to at least try to continue to work with the horse along the similar lines. With some exceptions, I limit my feedback to essential information and noticed that it works just fine.

If you try to do something logical, learning theory based or emotionally neutral with horses it's often perceived as weak or hippy or nicey-nicey. Basically no good in "proper training".  However, if it works and the horse improves, all is fine in the world.
So - if you work with horses using methods other than those based on the belief the equine species need to be dominated by an alpha member but your methods work, I would say keep on them and only chat about some main stuff that you do ;)

It's an interesting concept in itself as to why many owners prefer to have their horses' "shit sorted" and "put in place" rather than for them to be understood and trained. Perhaps it's not that dissimilar to choosing to stereotype a shy kid as an arrogant one...but hey ho, I decided it's a problem that's not for me to solve ;)



Monday 18 January 2016

Settling in, answering your questions and Instagram project

I'm writing to you from my little cottage and the silence here is such a wonderful change after sirens filled London air. It's 1am ish, Sunday night and I have a changed schedule with no teaching tomorrow, just a bit of admin and tax duties to see to, none of each require an early morning alarm so I am making the most of the night time peace and quiet to bring you a little update ;)

Cottage :) 

Let's start with answering your questions. I don't know whether it's because it's winter and people lose motivation easily but I got a few emails recently asking if I ever feel like I don't want to teach anymore or don't want to ride anymore and if I ever feel like getting a different job. 

The short answer is: no. 

However, I would lie if I said I never ever have any moments of doubt and wondering if I am doing the right thing. Of course I do. Those moments are not necessarily related to teaching or riding but to many activities one has to focus on when being self-employed. Organising my teaching schedules, times, horses, commute, accounts - none of these things are something I enjoy much. 

There are jobs that save lives. Mine is hardly that. Once in a while I might entertain a fleeting thought of giving it all up, packing a backpack and hitting some trails. Escape all problems, decisions, responsibilities. I reckon my riders might miss my lessons for a bit but there are many very good instructors out there. Sooner or later they would find the right person to teach them and have equally good time they have now. 

So yes, I do have these thoughts sometimes but they never last. I think that if you find something to do in your life that brings some joy to others and inspire you to be better and better in what you do, you will never have strong enough reasons to quit. 

If you have those questions and doubts over and over again, you probably haven't found the right path...If you have them once in a while, I think it's normal. It's just your own brain trying to keep your stress levels down by tempting you with less demanding options. Tell it to shut up ;) 

So that is that. As honest as it can get ;) 

As far as updates go I am relieved to finally move everything over to one place and I am looking forward to settling in for a bit! I might be a nomad in everyday life but I love having one place to come back to. There is potentially a very exciting opportunity on the horizon about which I am both intrigued and unsure. It is one of those things that can turn up as life changing or life destroying ;) I will let you know in due course if anything comes out of this. 

A few new riders will start their adventures with the Academy this month and I hope I will be able to open more places soon so I don't have to turn people away due to lack of suitable horses or time slots. All these enquiries make me wonder what I could create if I had the right facility to work on! 

As this blog stays quieter this year I thought I would try to get Aspire's Instagram account going and try some photo updates for those of you who miss the blog posts. 

Here is the link if you would like to follow: - they say a photograph is worth a thousands words so hopefully this photo project will do as a regular posts replacement ;) 

I am counting days to my puppy! It might need its own Instagram when it's finally here! (Only joking ;).

Until next time!


Monday 4 January 2016

Day 365/2015 - Day 4/2016: New Year's Re(v)olutions, living between houses and making things happen

For the last month and a half I've been doing part-time flat sitting in London for a friend and part-time dropping in at our new cottage. This has meant quite a few back and fro, a LOT of packing and preparing the flat for viewings in between the packing chaos. I feel like I moved not once but twice in a short space of time ;) Not exactly a novelty for me but still quite a few logistical challenges to deal with. Not my forte.

Today I managed to leave my phone, bank card, Oyster card and advanced train tickets at the cottage after getting a lift back to London. I got off the car and strolled into the tube station just to realise I had no way of getting to the London flat with no Oyster Card, no bank card and no phone to call anyone. It is just as well I tend not to take life's troubles too seriously because I think I would be quite close to just sitting down in the middle of the road, cry and beg a random taxi driver for a lift for free ;) It occurred to me that women who cry easily over anything have it sorted in life :-P
Not my forte either.

Instead I had a little chat with a Tube attendant (about the weather of course because in England, even if you are facing 8 hours walk to your destination, you still got to chat about the weather) who laughed at me but of course would not let me in. Having searched through all my pockets and backpack I scraped enough for a single tube ticket so managed to get back to the flat (Tube attendant seemed relieved I didn't plan to camp at the station), get some next day's organisation in place (thanks to my fab friends here) and reminded myself not to be an idiot in the future and not to keep all the essentials in my phone case! And have some cash on me sometimes for god's sake.

So yes. That aside I thought I would share some of my New Year's Re(v)olutions seeing this is my last "daily" post on here for some time. It seems right to finish the 365 posts project with the plans for 2016...

In my head, I shall call these plans Revolutions because let's face it, who ever sticks with any resolutions beyond 31st January...

My non-horse-life plan for this year include...:
Learn to get the most out my new camera and take more interesting photos. Catch more moments.
Buy some acrylic paints and canvases and paint again. Just for fun.
Get a puppy.
Make the cottage into a nice little home.
And a few more but hey, it's a horse blog after all so I won't bore you with the other stuff ;)

The horse-life plans for this year include:

Continue to develop the Academy project by involving two more instructors to work alongside me on regular basis. Make sure I work with the right people and not let them go ;) - the right people are the making or the breaking of any initiative.
Take on 2 more Academy horses/schoolmasters
Open more places on the programmes to more riders.
Continue to learn and always keep improving my teaching and riding skills.
Make my riders' 2016 goals happen
Make the Brackenhill training camps into a regular feature for riders across all the Academy programmes.
Organise more training camps at interesting yards/venues around the UK.
Keep my business head on with the monthly brainstorm meetings with S and G.
Keep searching for the right base yard in the right location for my London riders that could carry the project to the next stage.

The "maybe" plans include...

Buying a project horse to train and to keep as Academy horse...

The "always" plans include...

Stay true to my training values. Always. No matter how much someone is willing to pay for short-cuts...
Never settle for the "good" for too long. Strive for the "better".
Be brave to keep making changes. Even if at first they are hard to deal with.

This blog plans...

Come back with updates each month :) Share some stories. Thoughts and views. Keep you all happy :)

Have a great year! Speak soon....

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