One Year of Aspire Blog :) Thank YOU for reading! Here is what you liked the most in May ’13 – May ’14

1 year of aspire newsbook b

This month marks a small anniversary of Aspire NewsBook – we are 1 year old 🙂 From myself and all all guest bloggers, I would like to thank every one of you dear readers for stopping by and making the sharing of this content worthwhile.

The Aspire Equestrian coaching project is an ongoing adventure both out there in the arenas as well as behind the scenes where we put a lot of thought and effort into improving grassroots riding education and our own teaching skills. Anyone can ride well if they truly want to and we are here for those triers 🙂 Hopefully, the content of this blog makes you think, inspires you, helps with riding issues or simply makes you smile over a cup of tea from time to time.

Do leave a comment if you would like to share your riding problem, ambitions or goals, let us know what content would you most like to see on here and thank you once again for being part of Aspire NewsBook’s written adventures!

Here are 7 most visited posts in the first year that you keep coming back to regularly (clink on images to go to the posts themselves):


what lifts you 2.

11 thoughts




sweat marks





mouth open



stiff arms



about stability



Have a great weekend! 🙂



Do you live in Yorkshire, UK? Please feel invited to our July Clinic at Lindrick Livery!

The lovely Lindrick Livery, one of the yards where we go to run our Grassroots Clinics have kindly opened the places up for outside riders for our July clinic there. If you live nearby and would like to join us, please don’t hesitate. All levels of riders are welcome, the only requirement is that you want to improve your riding and your horse’s way of working with you.

Many riders struggle with one thing or another for years and our clinics are designed to get to the bottom of the problem, chew it and enjoy the outcome. There are no quick fixes in our coaching and we never use any gadgets (although we might get creative with various props to improve rider’s body awareness 😉 but there might be many eureka moments instead!

Please see the poster below for info for outside riders and contact Ceri Dickinson to book your place.

Hope to meet some new local riders in July!

All the best,


aspire Yorks

On a Blind Journey to Rio 2016 – a unique crowdfunding campaign with a spin at the end…

I thought you might be interested in my story” – the email said – “My name is Verity Smith, I’m a blind dressage rider and my goal is to represent team GB and go for gold in Rio 2016.


In the lead up to London 2012, my horse died of cancer and I was involved in a head on car crash – in the end I wasn’t able to take part in the qualifying events. So now I’m holding a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise funds to purchase my next competition horse, beautiful Oldenburg gelding Szekit. Post 2016, the horse will be sold and the funds raised on Indiegogo will be given to two great charities – Guide Dogs for the Blind and Riding for the Disabled.

The links followed taking me through to the actual campaign (see it here: The Kingdom’s Horse) and to Verity’s website and it became immediately obvious to me that whoever is behind this project is all in. Anyone can put together a website and a crowdfunding campaign nowadays but to give them personality, humour and breath of fresh air despite obvious obstacles as well as great attention to detail is not such an easy task. Perhaps you are surprised I mention these aspects of the whole story but I learnt that when you want to do something extraordinary you must do the ordinary, tiniest things very well. That’s what moved me in Verity’s story – the idea and its presentation – because I appreciate the thought and effort that went into it.

I especially liked the giving back element – the fact that the horse will be sold after the Olympics to help bring independence to many other blind people out there makes the whole project larger than itself. You might think, the romantic aspect of rider-horse relationship is somewhat lost here since Szekit won’t stay with Verity. However, he comes with a legacy message that might just be greater than a sentiment…

“I’d like to ask you – Verity wrote – “if you could help by sharing this campaign with your followers on your blog and any other social media you may use” 

It’s a pleasure to help someone who isn’t afraid to go out there and ask. I admire Verity’s spirit, determination and drive to make things happen…


What do you think? Will you help to make it happen? Feel free to share this post or Reblog if you like 🙂


Read more below:



Team Blogger Mariana Broucher: A happy horse = A happy rider

Sadly horses can’t tell us if they are unhappy or in pain. And very often the pain has to be quite severe before we notice something is wrong, because it is the horse’s natural instinct to hide pain. In the wild pain equals weakness equals death. So very often small aches will go entirely unnoticed until it is too late and we have a big problem.

And on top of that sometimes we as riders or owners ignore the little tell-tale signs that something is not quite right, or we don’t do anything about it, because we just don’t know what to do.

For example a horse that doesn’t want to stand still when being mounted or doesn’t want to lift a leg; mostly we just put it down to bad behaviour, it doesn’t even occur to us that something could be wrong.

Other problems we might see can be sore or tender backs, stiffness in the body, sudden temperament changes, reluctance to give correct canter lead, muscle wastage or restricted lateral movement. If the problem is big we would of course consult the vet, but quite often we won’t do that if the only thing wrong is that the horse puts his ears back more then normal.

Luckily horse owners are now much more aware of complementary therapies and are not afraid to use them any more. The great thing about Bowen is that it is so gentle that nothing can go wrong, so even vulnerable horses or people can be treated without having to be scared of manipulation or pain.

At other times we might have a problem the vet has diagnosed, but it’s a long term condition that will take a long time to heal and sometimes the outcome can be quite uncertain. One example could be spavins. I met a horse who was diagnosed with spavins a year before I saw him. A lot was being done to help him (medication, lots of turn out, very little gentle riding, he was also kept barefoot) but still he was lame and not too happy. This is him:


Only a week later he cantered across the field, which is something he hasn’t done in a long time. And he was now only 1/10th lame.

During the second treatment S again relaxed quickly. When I came back a week later his owner greeted me with: “you gave me my horse back”!

He is now apparently much happier. He chases other ponies in the field, which he hasn’t done in 2 years. He is playful and has his attitude back. He is not a grumpy old man any more, so his owner thinks about starting to ride him more again, where before Bowen she thought about retiring him. His trot is now short rather then lame.

I love my job 🙂

What happens during a Bowen treatment?

mbBefore any treatment involving a horse takes place it is necessary to obtain permission from your vet to treat the horse. Before the start of the first session information about the horse’s background and general state of health is collected. The horse’s static and dynamic conformation is assessed to give a starting point to measure any improvements by. A discussion with the owner/carer to explore some of the possible causes of the problem (which may not be immediately apparent) is useful because if these causes can be eliminated or minimised then the likelihood of re-injury (so the problem recurring) can be reduced.

Such causes include poor saddle fit, rider imbalance, accidental injury, stress or management issues. The Bowen treatment on the horse is best undertaken somewhere the horse can stand quietly for approximately 45 minutes. As it is a gentle treatment many horses soon relax and some even drop off to sleep. They can have access to hay if they are more settled whilst eating. The effects of the treatment can last for at least 3-4 days as the body is rebalancing and healing.

Advice will be given on when the horse can be exercised and what sort of work would be appropriate. Most conditions respond to three treatments about 1 week apart. For many horses, to maintain their condition and performance levels, a single ‘top-up’ treatment every 3-6 months is sufficient unless there is a re-injury.

Mariana is available to teach Aspire riding courses in Orpington, Kent. Please contact Wiola at for details. Bowen therapy can be an optional addition to your lessons (at special prices for riders on Aspire courses) or taken as stand alone treatment. Please contact Mariana at for more information.  


Dr Inga Wolframm: A Measure of Success

It’s a question that plays a central role for most competitive riders. How to measure success.

We live (and ride) in a world where one record score is chasing the next. I’m not just talking about that international lot either – even at local, regional, national level reports focus on “highest score of the day”, “the week” or “the competition”. And because of the ever-present social media, it’s become almost impossible to not know about it. So, being a competitive rider striving for some level of recognition, some small measure of success, is tough. Perhaps tougher than ever before.


Therefore, you and many other riders, might tell yourself that being successful equals… exactly, winning! So if you want to make your mark in the horsey world – be that at local or international level – you must win.

You go to a show thinking that you’ll do just that. Win. And why the hell not? You’ve practised hard, you’ve got a good horse, you know your test. So, really, you deserve to win. By the time you get to the show ground, you’re wound up so tight nobody in your entourage dares to talk to you any more.

And then you find out who’s judging today.

Oh no! That judge hates your horse. But you’ve set yourself the goal to win. You’ll never manage now. But you must! You really, really, must.

So you get on your horse. You manage to calm yourself, telling yourself how hard you’ve practised and you walk him to the warm-up arena.

But there, heaven forbid, is your biggest competitor. What is she doing here? She rides that really expensive horse, and her trainer’s always by her side. That’s not fair! You were going to win, and now you probably won’t.

But you’re here now, so you might as well go through with it. You warm up your horse – keeping an eye on your nemesis the entire time. Her horse is more collected than yours, isn’t it? And in the extended trot, her horse has got a lot more reach.

But it’s almost time to go in, so you rush through another few of the movements. Your horse feels less through than usual. But how can that be? You’ve been practising so hard…

Never mind, you’re in the ring now. Just before the judge (that dreaded judge – she isn’t even smiling. Gosh, she really hates your horse), rings the bell, you notice your old trainer (friend, owner of your horse, etc.) standing at the enclosure, watching you. What will he think of you? Oh dear, he might think your horse is going much worse than the last time he saw you. And now your horse is dropping off your leg, and going against the contact.

That’s when the bell goes.

You muddle through as best as you can. The final score is not great. You didn’t win.

You go home. You’re so disappointed.

Okay, I admit, that example was perhaps a little over the top. But many of you will recognise yourselves in some, if not all, of the micro-scenarios described above.

The problem almost always starts with the wrong definition of success. To many riders today success equals winning. Not so! At least not in my view.

If you focus on winning from the outset, you’re putting yourself in a situation that is almost impossible to control. There’s simply too many variables to control: The judge, other riders, the horses other riders sit on. But if you want to win, everything needs to go in your favour. That’s luck, not skill. Deep down, we all know that we cannot influence luck – and it makes us terribly nervous.

The result is that we keep thinking about the things we can’t control, rather than the things we should control – namely the horse we sit on.

Much better than to shift your mindset from wanting to win to riding the very best test you possibly can. That means thinking about all the things you can do to make sure your test really sparkles: solid practise, good management, leaving on time, knowing how to ride your warm-up, and, most importantly, knowing how you need to ride your test (e.g. do you need to keep him sharp throughout, or does he need to stay relaxed instead, that sort of thing).

If you manage all that – if you manage to achieve everything you yourself set out to do – then you are successful. No matter where you end up compared to the rest of the world (in all honesty though, if you’ve done all of that, in all likelihood it’ll be reflected in your final score anyway).

P.s.: It’s quite obvious that I’ve used the disciplines that are judged, i.e. dressage, Western or vaulting as an example. But it equally applies to other, non-judged, disciplines too.

Susy reports from her first Pre-Novice event with Otis

Last weekend Otis and I were very brave and entered our first Pre-Novice Event. I had walked the course at our last event and I felt it was within our capabilities.

Our preparation didn`t go quite according to plan – but it rarely does with horses! Our BE90 at Mattingley was rained off a fortnight before, which meant that I didn`t have another run between our first event and last weekends. I had jumped some larger courses, and done quite a lot of pole and gridwork so that Otis was confident over the bigger height. The dressage test was going well and the serpentines suited Otis. I had solved my saddle problem and my GP saddle didn`t slip providing I used a breastplate, anti-slip girth, anti-slip pad and riser pad. Talk about a military operation putting it all on!

It was a boiling hot weekend and Otis, unsurprisingly, got hot travelling, so we arrived in plenty of times to allow him to chill out. My dressage time was at 12.10 so at 11.30 I was mounted and we walked to the warm u. Upon arriving I was informed that they were running a bit early – so early that I only had 2 people to go in before me! I usually need about thirty minutes to get us both focused and working correctly, but thankfully Otis was immediately relaxed and focused, so our only problem in the dressage test was that he wasn`t fully engaged. My test was average, I could have done better but at the same time nothing went particularly wrong. We were in the middle of the field, about to go into the showjumping.


The first thing I noticed in the showjump warm up was that the competition were much more professional; the horses were a higher calibre than I had seen in previous classes and fully equipped with jumping tack. Otis warmed up quite well but over the large oxer we had a stop, but we just met it on a funny stride and soon got back on the game. I didn`t find the course itself too hard or big, but jump four going away from the gate he just didn`t focus on the jump and clipped it behind. It was an upright and Otis picked himself up quickly to leap the wide oxer four strides later. We had another pole down in the double; the first element was another wide oxer which I just didn`t see my stride, and Otis showed his inexperience at this level. We finished safe and he was overall very good; it is only to be expected when moving up a level.

On to the cross country. When I had walked it I gulped several times. Number two was a ginormous tabletop, whilst number five was a rack of logs at the top of a steep incline, followed by an equally steep decline. The water element wasn`t too bad, and there were several jumps I had already done at the end of last year. The other concerns were the big sharks teeth and trakhener. Again Otis warmed up relaxed and forwards, but not overly excitable. It was so hot I didn`t do too much jumping in my warm up.
Off we went. Number one was easy, and number two was the predicted leap but he got himself back together over the easier brush at number three. I survived number five by the skin of my teeth, but by the water it started to go wrong. I kept losing my stirrup (which has never happened before). We cat-leaped into the water and had a navigational error going up the bank, just getting to the right of the white flag then over the log at the bottom. We were fine over the step up, house, step down, but again I was stirrupless. The sharks teeth was fast approaching. I got my stirrup back but Otis looked at the jump and went “oh crumbs!” to which I replied with something slightly stronger and we stopped. I turned him round and we flew over it on the second attempt, but he was a bit unnerved. Unfortunately the next jump was the large trakhener and Otis stopped again, losing confidence. He went over the second time and the next fence was a nice friendly chair, which boosted his confidence and he continued happily round the rest of the course. He was exhausted at the end and it took a while to walk him down.

I was pleased with his overall performance as it was our most demanding competition, and he tried his heart out. I have two ways forward now; firstly, I need to sort out my GP saddle and look at purchasing a jump saddle as I didn`t feel I had the support over the bigger fences. Also I need Otis to be comfortable over bigger courses and not suffer a bad back from an ill-fitting saddle. This weekend I went on a cross country ride with a friend, which had a lot of decent sized fences which really boosted Otis`s confidence. He started a little sticky and looky, but by the end he was eating up the fences as he usually does. It`s also a great fittening exercise. I`ve decided not to enter any more events until I`ve sorted the saddle however, so it is a good experience all round. I`ll enter some dressage competitions and focus on that with the odd bit of jumping then re-evaluate the season as soon as I get a saddle. Talking of which, I think I`d better email the saddler now.

A little seed in a field that can kill your horse before your eyes…do you know how it looks like?

Yesterday a lovely family I know lost their beloved horse to this dreadful disease within 45 minutes. A few years ago, a riding centre I ran my training days at lost a few horses and had many suffering to some degree. There are many more cases around UK and Europe (more than 400 cases last autumn) and yet no subsidised research on this lethal disease is currently being undertaken…Do you know what it is? Do you know what to look for in your field to keep it safe?

Equine Atypical Myopathy – not sure what it is? Picture a horse having azoturia, colic, tremors, heart problems, RAO and depression all in one moment and you are closer to an idea of this disease although the severity of the symptoms vary (please click HERE or on image of the sycamore seed below for full, official information on the disease – the site is in both English and French).


Currently linked to the lethal toxin – Hypoglycin A, present in seeds and seedlings of sycamore trees – EAM is still very much an unexplored disease that is in great need of research and study…

From official website “An alert group for atypical myopathy has been initiated to help horse owners to take preventive measures against atypical myopathy.  In fact, atypical myopathy doesn’t have the characteristics of a contagious disease, but it declares under an epizootic form: several horses are affected at the same time and this in different regions or even countries over Europe. A largely distributed alert by an efficient alert group, allows horse owners to prepare for an attack of atypical myopathy.

This alert group is called the  AMAG  for  Atypical Myopathy Alert Group . This group is still in constitution, but every contacted European researcher and clinician has responded positively at this initiative.”

To read more and learn how to protect your horse from Hypoglycin A poisoning please visit:

Show Jumping: Comparison of technique of riders over jumps 3 & 4 (vertical, roll back to vertical)

3 to 4 txt

The horse shows certainly come with plenty of entertainment values but they are also a fabulous way to educate one’s eye, analyse different ways of riding and training horses, appreciate certain techniques and discard others.

Below is a short footage of all the riders who took part in Speed Stakes class at Royal Windsor on Friday. I videoed small part of the course (from fence number 3 to number 4) which I thought was an interesting one: it tested pretty much every skill a show-jumper must have as well as showed technique of each rider rather well.

I personally appreciated the skillful, no pulling approaches showed by several riders, dynamic and fast yet not hectic or rushed..
I hope you enjoy the footage 🙂

Video: showing riders’ technique and approach choices over jumps 3 & 4 at CSI3* Land Rover Speed Stakes — Table A, Art 238.2.1. Royal Windsor Horse Show, 16th May 2014. Class winner: Abdullah Al-Sharbatly on Andrea. Saudi Arabia.

Aspire Equestrian’s Team Instructor, Mariana Broucher: BOWEN to complement riding lessons?

I have qualified as a riding instructor nearly 20 years ago now and have been teaching practically ever since. I have also qualified as a judge, because I wanted to be able to see more and understand more. Then I found out about the Bowen Therapy and now I think I have found the missing-link in my teaching and training.

If a horse is having problems making a symmetric circle, no amount of inside leg and outside rein is going to help if the horses back or poll is out. Likewise if a rider’s hip is rotated, the horse may pick up wrong canter leads or disunite.

So to be able to progress and get better, we have to not only learn to ride theoretically, but we have to be physically able to follow instructions. Just ask yourself: Have you been having problems with your horse on turns and circles, canter lead or jumping?  Take a moment to consider how you are sitting in the saddle.  Are you balanced, with your weight evenly distributed?  Are your stirrups the same length?  Are you sitting over your horse’s centre of balance?

Pain and tension often goes unnoticed (or ignored) in riders as the body is very adept at compensating; after a period of time however, you ‘mysteriously’ begin to feel pain in for example, your shoulder.  Sometimes this pain is actually referred pain, in other words, the original problem may have been in your knee but the pain is now being felt in your shoulder, and so on.  By helping to relieve pain and tension, Bowen encourages the rider to provide a more even, balanced weight on the horse’s back.

An unbalanced, crooked rider often results in an unbalanced, crooked horse – and vice versa!

The benefits of Bowen for the rider include:

• Improved position in the saddle

• Improved balance and feel

• Increased joint mobility

• Improved recovery time after injury/fall

Other common problems addressed in riders include:

• Lower back pain

• Hip/pelvic pain

• Shoulder pain

• Whiplash/neck pain

Just to give an example:

S. had problems with her horse’s general way of going. She struggled to keep him in an outline and he was always stiffer on one rein. He had trouble to canter on one rein. S was aware of her problems. She knew that she carried one shoulder higher, that her arms where stiff and her back not very supple.

As a result she would ride with very short stirrups to make it more comfortable for herself. S spent lots of time and money trying to fix her problems; she had many lessons and even learnt a series of exercises to help her straighten up. It didn’t work, because the back pain and tension in her shoulder just wouldn’t ease off, so she couldn’t straighten up. Bowen has helped her a lot. The pain and tension went and she can now use the exercises and lessons to be more aware of her body and finally progress in her riding.

This mounted photo was taken before S had Bowen. The left shoulder is much higher then the right one. The photo on the right shows S after her treatment. She is now much straighter.


VIDEO: Dressage Warm Up at Windsor Horse Show – Carl Hester on Nip Tuck and Charlotte Dujardin on Uthopia

For all those of you who like to watch the warm ups, here are some clips from Carl’s and Charlotte’s preparation minutes before the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle to Music on Friday 16th May 2014 (full results – click HERE)