Photo Report from Aspire Grassroots Clinic at Stajnia Sabat near Warsaw, Poland

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Myself and Alison who grabbed one of the two places available for outside riders and travelled from London to take part in the clinic 🙂

I’m writing from Poland day after the weekend clinic at Stajnia Sabat. In fact, I am sitting here processing the hundreds of photos taken by my wonderful helpers (my cousin Karolina and my Dad – go family power! 😉 and many hours of video footage for riders’ visual feedback. It was one of the best training sessions at Stajnia Sabat to date with everyone making fabulous, positive progress both with regards to long term homework and the weekend’s tasks. I had so much fun teaching there yet again, it’s such a pleasure to see riders conquering variety of issues they have with their training be it mental, physical or logistical even.

There are usually two places up for grabs for riders outside of Stajnia Sabat so I offered one place to any rider either already on Aspire programmes in the UK or anyone simply interested in joining in and learning from me and the other to the rider I trained in Poland for a few months in 2013. These places are advertised in Aspire Newsletters so if you like experiencing new horses, new places but prefer to stay with my teaching philosophy, keep an eye on forthcoming clinics with available slots by signing up to the newsletter 🙂

Here is a little photo report from the clinic, hope you enjoy browsing the photos and feel like you had been with us basking in the sun 🙂

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In-hand work
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Having a chat about the stirrups length. This tiny lady transformed herself into a much more effective rider simply by riding shorter for the moment and employing the leg muscles full time 😉
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Young rider with her lovely mare – gentle work on suppleness
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Young rider with her lovely mare – gentle work on suppleness
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Polishing balance to help the rider with her very crooked”project horse” who tries his heart out and has so much potential 🙂
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Getting the feel for connection on the reins that is neither backward nor too yielding but supports the horse with poor balance.
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Just casually demonstrating why sometimes our hands are completely reactive to what happens with our middle.
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Learning half-seat over the poles to improve feel, suppleness and stamina in novice rider
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Polework and jumping session that’s gone a little exciting for Alison
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Cavaletti fun – great for the rider who tends to ride with locked joints or stiff ankles.
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Half seat/Light seat in canter – great for the rider who tends to ride with locked joints or stiff ankles.

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Photo updates from some of the Aspire training sessions – September edition

For all of you who don’t visit us on Facebook but enjoy following other riders’ training adventures, here are some photo updates from some of the training sessions in September so far 🙂

 September: good balance is a moment in time. It is up to the rider to help the horse find that balance and then it is up to the horse to keep it. Joker is now able to keep a good posture for several strides and Helen is becoming much more tuned in to his balance changes. The earlier the rider can detect the loss of balance is about to happen, the more they can help the horse regain it and the more willing the horse will be to maintain it. Good balance changes the horse visually from ungainly to athletic. Achieving this with patient gymnastic work and thorough rider training takes time but is incredibly rewarding for everybody involved

September: good balance is a moment in time. It is up to the rider to help the horse find that balance and then it is up to the horse to keep it. Joker is now able to keep a good posture for several strides and Helen is becoming much more tuned in to his balance changes. The earlier the rider can detect the loss of balance is about to happen, the more they can help the horse regain it and the more willing the horse will be to maintain it. Good balance changes the horse visually from ungainly to athletic. Achieving this with patient gymnastic work and thorough rider training takes time but is incredibly rewarding for everybody involved 🙂 
 September: Caitlin walking Sox back to his field after her lesson

September: Caitlin walking Sox back to his field after her lesson 🙂 
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September: Second to last session on Start programme for Nigel who decided riding is rather fun and will be moving on to a progressive introduction to Foundation programme! I’m delighted with Nigel’s progress today 🙂
 September: little bareback bonding walk for Jordan and Sox at the end of their session.

September: little bareback bonding walk for Jordan and Sox at the end of their session.
 September: step-by-step rein back to teach a crooked horse how to shift his body weight on rider's cues. The poles help the handler and the horse to maintain a straight line and prevent the horse from swinging his hindquarters sideways and avoid joint flexion.

September: step-by-step rein back to teach a crooked horse how to shift his body weight on rider’s cues. The poles help the handler and the horse to maintain a straight line and prevent the horse from swinging his hindquarters sideways and avoid joint flexion.
September: Caitlin getting to know Sox and having a go at the lesson in an open field for the first time to encourage her to ride with purpose, plan all turns well in advance, appreciate balance changes in the horse and the rider and enjoy the feeling of freedom that riding out of the arena adds to training  Foundation Programme.
September: Caitlin getting to know Sox and having a go at the lesson in an open field for the first time to encourage her to ride with purpose, plan all turns well in advance, appreciate balance changes in the horse and the rider and enjoy the feeling of freedom that riding out of the arena adds to training Foundation Programme.
September: Helen working Joker on the lunge to improve his lateral suppleness. His body is becoming more and more athletic with each week and when they are both focused and listening to each other, some decently bent circles are starting to happen :)
September: Helen working Joker on the lunge to improve his lateral suppleness. His body is becoming more and more athletic with each week and when they are both focused and listening to each other, some decently bent circles are starting to happen 🙂
 September: Jordan and Sox working on rhythm, balance and directions. Fabulous session with the rider finding the right buttons to motivate Sox and building a great working relationship with him. This is Jordan's beginnings at Foundation Programme and there are many more challenges to come !

September: Jordan and Sox working on rhythm, balance and directions. Fabulous session with the rider finding the right buttons to motivate Sox and building a great working relationship with him. This is Jordan’s beginnings at Foundation Programme and there are many more challenges to come !
 September: Learning canter aids, their meaning, timings and first canter off the lunge for Caitlin. We started today with Caitlin lunging Star in canter herself to observe the sequence of the horse's legs, when they hit the ground and how fast. We also did some fun exercises involving skipping to build the feel for synchronising own hip and legs motion with that of the horse

September: Learning canter aids, their meaning, timings and first canter off the lunge for Caitlin. We started today with Caitlin lunging Star in canter herself to observe the sequence of the horse’s legs, when they hit the ground and how fast. We also did some fun exercises involving skipping to build the feel for synchronising own hip and legs motion with that of the horse
September: Casually supervising Caitlin on Foundation Programme who now gets the horse ready for lessons by herself. Many horse owners would take that little bonding time with their horse for granted but for once-a-week riders it's a wonderful way to get to know the horse, warm up gently while grooming and build relationship with the animal  :)
September: Casually supervising Caitlin on Foundation Programme who now gets the horse ready for lessons by herself. Many horse owners would take that little bonding time with their horse for granted but for once-a-week riders it’s a wonderful way to get to know the horse, warm up gently while grooming and build relationship with the animal 🙂
September: I like adding lunge sessions on all the programmes as it helps the rider focus on what they feel while I partially take over the "riding". Today we are working on feel for position of the horse's shoulders and understanding how rider's weight aids and rein aids help with balance in the corners. Many thanks to Helen for taking the pics!
September: I like adding lunge sessions on all the programmes as it helps the rider focus on what they feel while I partially take over the “riding”. Today we are working on feel for position of the horse’s shoulders and understanding how rider’s weight aids and rein aids help with balance in the corners.
Many thanks to Helen for taking the pics!
September: Dual purpose session for Moira mixing unsupported riding with some lunge workout! Calm walking around a large field is great to settle rider's nerves and feel how "zen mind" of the rider calms the horse in the process too  Many thanks to Helen for taking the pics!
September: Dual purpose session for Moira mixing unsupported riding with some lunge workout! Calm walking around a large field is great to settle rider’s nerves and feel how “zen mind” of the rider calms the horse in the process too
Many thanks to Helen for taking the pics!
September: Most Coordinated Rider of the Month award goes to Isabella who did my "cycling" and reversed arms circling exercise right from the word go in both walk and trot. Sorry to all my other riders who still struggle with this  It's a great exercise for learning independence throughout the seat i.e. being able to use arm/hand without tension in the leg and vice versa
September: Most Coordinated Rider of the Month award goes to Isabella who did my “cycling” and reversed arms circling exercise right from the word go in both walk and trot. Sorry to all my other riders who still struggle with this
It’s a great exercise for learning independence throughout the seat i.e. being able to use arm/hand without tension in the leg and vice versa
 September: Caitlin making a great job of transition work today and rising trot without stirrups (not pictured here).

September: Caitlin making a great job of transition work today and rising trot without stirrups (not pictured here).
September: The Most Entrepreneurial Rider Award of this week goes to Gary Thorpe. Gary is on my Start Programme which means his lessons are on the lunge while he learns to control his balance and builds body awareness on a horse. I rarely lunge on repetitive circle and today decided to give Gary an experience of "whole arena" riding since we worked on surface where lunging is not allowed (repetitive circles damage the surface). To be able to do this I had to walk, jog and run with him as and when needed. And so a little conversation emerged:  Wiola: "That's how I keep fit!" Gary: "Well, I think I will start charging you for personal training sessions"  I am thinking next session will be on a circle ;)
September: The Most Entrepreneurial Rider Award of this week goes to Gary Thorpe. Gary is on my Start Programme which means his lessons are on the lunge while he learns to control his balance and builds body awareness on a horse. I rarely lunge on repetitive circle and today decided to give Gary an experience of “whole arena” riding since we worked on surface where lunging is not allowed (repetitive circles damage the surface). To be able to do this I had to walk, jog and run with him as and when needed. And so a little conversation emerged:
Wiola: “That’s how I keep fit!”
Gary: “Well, I think I will start charging you for personal training sessions”
I am thinking next session will be on a circle 😉
September: a little (big) pony love :)
September: a little (big) pony love 🙂
September: Caitlin and Isabella walking back to the stables after a really good (albeit a little exciting!) training session today. Can you tell it's autumn?
September: Caitlin and Isabella walking back to the stables after a really good (albeit a little exciting!) training session today. Can you tell it’s autumn?
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September: Jordan is rather lucky in that his fiance is a qualified horse therapist so all horses he rides get a short after training massage (and they all love it!). All horses used for learner – riders really benefit from periodical physio sessions because they are having to compensate for rider’s imbalance and inexperience.
September: Warming up with a long walk on longer rein gives the horse and rider an opportunity to get to know each other, for the horse to relax into the working mode and well, find out the weaknesses of the rider so they can be taken advantage of
September: Warming up with a long walk on longer rein gives the horse and rider an opportunity to get to know each other, for the horse to relax into the working mode and well, find out the weaknesses of the rider so they can be taken advantage of
 September: groundwork with Joker prior to getting on. His reactions and focus are getting better with each session.

September: Jordan meeting his new training partner on Foundation Programme
 September: groundwork with Joker prior to getting on. His reactions and focus are getting better with each session.

September: groundwork with Joker prior to getting on. His reactions and focus are getting better with each session.
September: Helen and Joker slowly building the quality of the their work. We can now manage a few steps at a time without neck tension and Helen is doing pretty well too  :)
September: Helen and Joker slowly building the quality of the their work. We can now manage a few steps at a time without neck tension and Helen is doing pretty well too 🙂
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September: Moira making the most of the beautiful September afternoon – first session at new little Hampshire base 🙂
1st September! Probably the the most demanding riding fitness session for Nigel today! All exercises completed
1st September! Probably the the most demanding riding fitness session for Nigel today! All exercises completed
 Last days of Aug: Caitlin - early canter training. Here on the lunge developing balance and feel for own posture. Serious bonus points for my little rider today for being brave and trusting her own hard-worked balance!

Last days of Aug: Caitlin – early canter training. Here on the lunge developing balance and feel for own posture. Serious bonus points for my little rider today for being brave and trusting her own hard-worked balance!

Canter Troubles Part 2: One aid, one response. Establishing leg reaction and starting bending exercises.

If you haven’t read the Part 1 of The Canter Troubles you are best to start there (CLICK) so you have a full picture of what is being discussed.
Today in Part 2 I will look at the leg response issue that Anna has with her pony…

PART 2: ESTABLISHING LEG REACTIONS & STARTING BENDING EXERCISES

The scenario described by Anna is very common although can have many variables – horse might be active by himself yet when rider wants to refine the way of going, they find the horse has no clue what the response should be. They either don’t respond at all, go sideways, go faster or offer no reaction at all – all in reply to one and the same squeeze…Or perhaps they are “lazy”, unresponsive, uncooperative and switched off and again, this doesn’t change whether the rider’s legs are active or not.

One of the ways of re-education are groundwork exercises that make it clear to the horse what leg aids actually mean. Someone once said, “you can teach a horse to canter when you spit at his ears” and I think this rather crudely sums up a very simple fact: any reaction to rider’s aids needs to be trained. We can’t assume the horse knows that if he is tapped in the ribs it should step under himself more with his hindlegs or create more pushing power or indeed step sideways. It is way beyond the scope of this post to describe many exercises so I chose one of the simplest one:

TOUCH – REACT

Equipment needed: 
1. lunge cavesson, well fitted and with a ring on top of the nose so you can apply clear instructions when you want certain head position. Headcollars with bottom ring are not suitable. If you don’t have a lunge cavesson, simple snaffle bridle will be better than a headcollar.
2. Lunge line or a lead rope
3. A dressage whip ( or any longer whip that you can easily move about without any swishing) – lunge whips are too long for in-hand work

Let’s start: Turn about the forehand with emphasis on one aid-one response principle

Benefits:

With practice, this very simple exercise teaches the rider the timing, precision and feel and the horse discipline, clarity and calm reaction to the whip which shouldn’t mean punishment but help the horse understand which body part he needs to shift and where. This is also a great exercise for horses that grew ignorant to the aids and for riders who tend to over-ride their horses, give them many aids/clues with their body, not giving the horse time to react etc It teaches to plan aiding, plan reaction time, plan “recovery/thinking” time.
 Exercise in short: 
– you touch the leg, the leg moves

IN HAND EXERCISE
Exercise in detail: 
A turn about the forehand is a simpler version of the turn on the forehand (difference being: in the former the front legs can move on small circle, on the latter, the inside fore leg should lift and land on the same spot while hindquarters move around the inside foreleg).

Position your horse in the middle of the arena or in place where there are no obstruction around him that he might walk into as you do the exercise. Think about 20m diameter of free space around both of you.

Stand partially in front, partially to the side of your horse so your shoulders “close” the way forward but he still feels like slight forward movement is ok.
Decide which way you want his hindquarters to move. I’ll adjust my instructions to the photo above, so:
– You will be moving the pony’s hindquarters to the left. Head is turned slightly to the right by your hand (this is an easier version). You will touch your pony’s right hind leg with your whip (aim at fleshy parts of the leg like lower thigh – avoid tapping joints/bony parts).
– You will touch the leg until the pony does SOMETHING with it. At the beginning, it doesn’t matter if he actually moves it up and away making the first step. You want a reaction. Perhaps he will lift it and stamp it, perhaps he will kick out with it. Perhaps he will only lightly take it off the floor. Perhaps he will ignore you and search through your pockets. You want to praise all movement but kicking reaction. If he kicks out violently at simple touch, ignore it with no positive word but do not punish the horse either in any way. Ask him to stand calmly for 10 seconds and try again. He is just figuring out what you want or might be conditioned to be scared of the whip due to previous training. Repeat until he calmly just lift his leg upon you touching it.
Some horses will immediately move away 3-4 steps. This is ok at the start but not a reaction you want later. You want to touch once and the horse to give you ONE reaction (i.e. one step). He must trust you and understand you – it is not an easy exercise because you will need to remain calm and stoic when your pony walks about without knowing what on earth you want.
To make sure the clear communication happens, it is very important how you handle yourself and the whip. Whip touching the ground means no questions asked. Horse stands still. Whip lifted a little means preparation for reaction. Whip pointed towards a leg/touching a leg, means reaction is needed. This is a great exercise for riders who tend to over-ride their horses, give them many aids/clues with their body, not giving the horse time to react etc It teaches to plan aiding, plan reaction time, plan “recovery/thinking” time.

TOUCH-REACT IN THE SADDLE
For next step you will need a helper on the ground with whom you can communicate well or a helper in the saddle while you stay on the ground. The rider applies upper leg pressure (avoid heel digging) against the pony’s side while the ground person repeats the touch of the hindleg on the side of the rider’s aiding leg. It’s important to retain action-release principle. The key is to be disciplined too and not allow yourself to start kicking to get a reaction. Allow the pony to learn and figure things out. Assume you are starting from scratch. Assume he doesn’t know what “the leg means”. Imagine teaching him to bring you post from under the door. Yes. That sort of “new” 😉
When you can touch/lightly squeeze his ribs on one side and get a hind leg lift/reaction on that side you are good to move on to the next exercise.

INTRODUCTION TO BENDING
Set up some visual aids for you that mark a 20m circle (cones or jump blocks are good). You might want to keep your helper – ground person with you to make learning easy and fun for all of you. Walk your pony on the 20m circle and using opening rein bring his neck onto the line of the circle (think of him following the circle line from the poll to the tail). As you bring his neck onto the line (head in the middle of his chest), touch him once or twice with your inside leg while your helper touches the inside hind leg in tune with your leg aids (you might need to communicate to time it well). The pony should respond by stepping a little more actively and a little more forwards with his inside hindleg whilst also moving out as if doing a one step leg-yield. During these 1-3 steps he will elongate the muscles on the outside of his body (especially the muscles in between his ribs) and contract the muscles on the inside of his body i.e. will be put in a slight bend.
This at first might be a very slight bend, especially when your pony’s stiffer/more naturally contracted side is on the outside. It’s important not to drill this for too long. Think about asking for 5 steps in correct bend, 5 steps let him be as he wants, then again 5 steps bend, 5 steps let him be. Aim for his neck to remain relaxed at all times and find the length of the reins that gives you control but allows him to stretch gently down and forwards. Lateral bending helps longitudinal bending (from tail to ears) so as he stretches his side muscles he will be likely to want to stretch down too. Aim for the neck in natural position to his conformation, generally most relaxed horses will carry their necks just above the wither line but if your pony has a high set neck this might not be the case.
I would continue with these walk circles until your pony can easily hold the soft bend to the left and right for 3 consecutive circles on both reins. Once he no longer tries to carry his neck to the outside or cuts the circle to the inside, it’s time to start all over again in trot. With some very crooked ponies, this might mean starting on the ground again.

Below is a short video showing a young rider working on variation of the above exercise with a driving pony who is very one-sided and if lunged in conventional fashion, moves in inverted posture/opposite bend.

As mentioned in Part 1, all exercises should be adjusted to the handler’s skills and pony’s character. It’s impossible to give exact exercises without seeing the pony and the rider in action. Please pick and mix the advice given to suit your circumstances. In Part 3 we will look into a few more bending and flexing exercises as well as those establishing more control in the canter when ridden. Stay tuned.

All the best,

Wiola


If you enjoy trying new exercises and would love to train with a supportive, knowledgeable trainer but can’t afford regular lessons/travel, try our online coaching programme! All you need is desire to improve, a camera and someone happy to film you. Click on image below to learn more! 

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Canter Troubles Part 1- Rider’s question about schooling tips to improve canter control and suppleness

Every Sunday from 8pm to 9pm there is a so called #EquineHour happening on Twitter. It’s been set up for sharing everything equestrian and a couple of weeks ago I promised to offer some tips to one of the participants.

The question was:

At 19, his behaviour and training are probably fairly well established whether they are desirable or not so you will need a fair share of patience and huge amount of discipline in order to tackle these issues. Below is a series of tips that might be helpful but without seeing you ride and interact with the pony it is very difficult to say if they are definitely the right ones to make a difference. I would suggest reading through them all, then picking what seems to sound as if it might work with the pony’s temperament, your own riding skills and experience as well time you have available for training. Then experiment with those tips and tweak them to suit you and your pony.

PART 1: ESTABLISH REACTIONS TO SEAT AND REINS

No amount of exercises will make a difference if the pony ignores your leg aids and rein aids so that’s the first thing to address. I would put aside from a few days to few weeks to work on this depending on your skills, pony’s learning abilities and willingness to cooperate.

It appears to me that general stiffness through his body might be an issue since you are looking for bending and flexing exercises so I would look very closely at the way you ask him for halt transitions. For the horse to remain supple in transitions he must retain softness and yield through his neck muscles. If upon you touching the reins he braces his neck muscles you have no chance for a good halt (i.e. one where the horse ceases movement without increasing tension).

Exercise 1

Start with making your walk steps smaller and smaller by simply decreasing the amount of movement in your own seat bones – remain supple yourself but feel that each of your seat bone moves less and less as if they were walking smaller and smaller steps themselves. Many horses that are switched off to rider’s aids will ignore this feel at the start. However, they will not feel comfortable trying to walk in big steps while the rider is “walking small steps”. Most horses like to feel comfortable and will eventually take notice.

Your aim at the beginning is NOT to make the walk smaller per se – your aim is to encourage your pony to react when something in your seat changes. Knowing this should help you fend away frustration if the walk doesn’t become shorter when you ask. Be patient, this might take a long while (maybe even tens of sessions if you are both unsure of what you are doing), don’t be tempted to just pull on the reins to make the walk smaller. Use your voice or your arena set up instead (walk towards a fence or any natural “slowing down” object – a wall/tree line etc) Your rein contact can be a little looser than what you would have during a dressage test, let his neck remain relatively unrestricted. Praise him immediately when you feel even slight change in the length of the step – try to react within 1-2 seconds from his reaction. If he reacted particularly well, halt and stand for a moment completely immobile and give him thinking time (20 seconds or so). Then try again: normal, big walk allowing your seat bones to follow, then slowly, little by little, decrease your seat bones steps.

Thing to remember: your seat bones move on slings of your bum muscles and they never need to “drive” or “push” into the actual saddle, polish the saddle etc etc  They move enough for you to stay relaxed in your hip joints (at top of your thighs) but not so much that you are performing cha-cha dance and belly dance rolled in one 😉 

Maintain your upper body posture – keep your shoulders in line with your hip joints and don’t let the movement of the pony sway you like a willow in the wind (left/right) – stay in your own balance. Visualise his spine movement – it’s very minute – and remain stable through your own spine. Riders who sway through spinal column make it difficult for the horse to relax the muscles around his own spine. You might find this post useful to read too: CLICK

Repeat Exercise 1 ten, twenty times several times a week.

Exercise 2

Once your pony changes his step length in response to you changing your seat bone movement, it’s time to add your rein aids. Establish an elastic connection with your pony’s mouth i.e. your elbows will feel like they are rowing in a miniature boat as they follow the movements of your pony’s neck, and walk around the arena without letting the walk change. After one round, alter your seat bones movement to ask for shorter steps and at the same time decrease your “rowing” movement by a tiny bit too. Everything still needs to move together (think just slowing down part of the music/dance not an abrupt stop) – your are still walking with your seat bones and your arms still follow the nodding motion of the neck but you create a slight resistance in both that shortens the steps just that little bit. Then again, little bit more. And again. You are still moving but the movements become very very small until neither of you can decrease the movement any more and you come to a halt. When you do it for the first time, it might be the longest preparation for a halt you have ever done in your life 😉 But believe me, with practice, what at first lasted 20-30 steps will diminish to 2-3 and eventually 1. If you start with 2-3, you often get a very tense neck on a horse that automatically and instinctively braces his strong neck muscles to avoid pain/discomfort in the mouth.

Repeat this sequence so you have a distinct little-by-little process where your walk steps become smaller until he stops with his neck relaxed and head in his natural carriage, whatever that is for his type, breed and conformation.

You want to feel that as soon as you shorten your seat bone movements and start “rowing” a little less with your arms as the walk shortens, he noticeably awaits halt instructions. Once you have that, you can start the whole process in trot…The difference in trot is that the neck doesn’t nod so your rein action will come via on/off passive resistance lasting for very short moments (think duration of one trot step) in an action-release pattern. Never hold the resistance on the reins for longer than 2 steps or you will not be able to keep your horse supple in his movement.

In rising trot, the correct, balanced rise will take over from seat bones movements. You might find this post useful in that respect: CLICK

I hope some of these notes will be useful but if anything is unclear or you need more information, comment below and I will try to help.

That concludes PART 1 🙂 In Part 2 coming tomorrow we will look at establishing reactions to leg aids and starting bending exercises.

Until tomorrow,

Wiola


 

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A horse owner’s guide to preparing for winter by Alice- Rose Brown

In case you haven’t noticed the nights are drawing in and there is a definite chill in the air when the sun sets. Unfortunately this means that winter is coming and it’s time that all good horse owners were getting prepared.
Here are some top tips of things to consider before winter arrives:

Sort out your rugs

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You’ve got mail! Yes, it’s a new rug. Sorry!

If, like me, you’ve enjoyed not needing to rug your horses over the summer months and they’ve been sitting in a spider infested pile in your stable now is the time to get them washed, reproofed, and repaired.
Although you can use a DIY approach for your rug washing and repairs it does save a lot of time and hassle getting them done professionally. Depending on which company you choose, how many rugs you have, and what condition they’re in you could have them back as good as new in less than two weeks for under £100 – bargain!

Spruce up your stable

For those of you who’s horses have been living out since the spring you probably haven’t given your stable a second thought. It’s worth giving up a few hours at the weekend to clean your stable, check for any leaks or damage, and disinfect it.
You could even give it a fresh coat of paint if you’re feeling really ambitious!

Order in your hay and straw

strawNot only will it save you money to order your hay and straw (or other bedding now) but it also means that you’re prepared if we have a sudden cold snap and you need to stable your horse.

Stock up on water containers/salt/grit

Frozen taps can be a real problem on a yard and you could find yourself without water if you don’t take precautions. Stocking up on water containers allows you to fill them and store them indoors overnight to prevent them freezing.
It’s also worth buying salt and/or grit now and putting it somewhere dry like the feed room. This will avoid the need to panic buy if we have a cold winter or a snowy spell.

Insulate your water pipes

As mentioned above frozen water pipes are not only a problem because you can’t get any water out but if they defrost during the day when no one is at the yard they’re likely to burst and cover the yard in water.
If the water freezes again before anyone arrives the yard will be like an ice rink and could prove dangerous. Buy some lagging from your local DIY shop, or you could even use an old duvet, to insulate all the water pipes and taps.

Organise an emergency plan

If you’re on a DIY yard or you share with friends it’s worth putting together an emergency plan in case of snow. Unless you have a 4×4 getting to the yard could be tricky so knowing that someone will be there to look after your horse will help put your mind at ease.

Plan something fun for your horsey friends

ASPIRE CLINIC
How about an Aspire Grassroots clinic with your yard friends to get everyone in the spirit of improvement and training camaraderie? 🙂 Check out the options HERE

All horse owners know that the winter months can be a bit of a slog, especially if you haven’t got the facilities to ride as much as you do in the summer.
Planning a fun, horse related event such as a trip to Olympia International Horse Show, or a demonstration with a top rider can help keep your spirits up during the seemingly endless months of wet rugs and muddy legs.
If your budget can’t stretch to a trip out, how about a night in? Order a takeaway, stock up on horse magazines, and watch some classic equine films. Black Beauty and Seabiscuit are favourites here!


 

This was a blog post by a young journalist Alice-Rose Brown. If you are a up and coming writer, journalist, a blogger with a story to share and would like to write a post, a series or few for Aspire blog to reach grassroots focused audience, please email Wiola at aspire@outlook.com. If your values match Aspire Equestrian’s values of thorough rider education, wellness focused horse training and dream brave-work hard philosophy don’t hesitate to get in touch 🙂 

CANDACE: An amateur rider’s struggles with fitting full-time job, studying for second degree as an adult, shows, training, horse time….

 Dear Aspire,

It’s been a long time since I was able to write last and all sorts of things have happened. While I can say that Flirt has, so far, been enjoying her summer and is quite happy and spoiled with treats, today I want to take the time to reflect on a topic indirectly related to horses and, I’m positive, very near and dear to every amateur’s heart.

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I’m not going to shock anyone when I say that I consider myself quite good with time management. I’m fairly efficient and usually manage to get everything important done. Well, this year, since I started business school in addition to my full time job, I will admit that I have been struggling. I love the classes I am taking and the things that I am learning. I feel my horizons opening as I discover new questions to ask and see the implications of decisions being made. It really is absolutely amazing. But all that definitely comes with a price. I choose to go to school to learn, but also to open the opportunities for my future. I am ambitious and like to do well in all things. And so, to me, school must be a priority. But then, when school requires up to 8 hours of homework per week – how do you fit that in to your already very busy schedule? What must I sacrifice?

IMG_0444First, I tried not sleeping.

Aspire, allow me to be the first to NOT recommend this choice. It lasted less than a month. I started falling asleep in strange places and, what’s more, didn’t have the energy to do anything or care about much.

Second, I started to give up all the “me” time.

An hour to relax? Now study time. Extra time to exercise and stay fit outside of the barn? Now study time. Blog post writing? Now study time. You see where this is going. However, this approach didn’t last very long either. The problem with working all the time is that you are just as exhausted as before and your brain has no time to re-charge. I became cranky and started lashing out at people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (aka – in my way). In addition, all the stress really started taking a toll on my body. I was gaining weight, getting headaches, and started to feel sick all the time.

My third attempt at fitting school into my schedule was perhaps the most regrettable.

I did what everyone seemed to expect and cut back on the time at the barn. It’s the easiest thing to cut out, right? Ride less = more time for studying. Well, the issue is – you don’t know how much you rely on something until it’s gone. I learned very quickly this year how much the barn stabilizes me mentally and emotionally. Forget any physical benefit – without the barn, I was absolutely depressed and even more stressed out. I started having these crazy mood swings where I would be so happy one day and absolutely miserable the next. Although there were many more miserable days than happy ones…

It’s now the middle of the year and so far, I’ve been just functioning. I went to the doctor because I still felt miserable physically and after all the lab tests are done and the appointment concludes, the grand diagnosis is: stress. I have to get the stress in my life under control or I will be heading down a bad, bad path. So then you start thinking about all sorts of things… and here is some of what I learned:

-I care so much about horse shows that I get totally stressed when I’m there. Why? Aren’t they supposed to be fun? Who says you can’t just ride? – well, apparently you can. Once I came to this conclusion and just relaxed, Flirt and I won every single class we walked into save one at the next horse show.

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-I worry so much about this large animal under my care. And that worry isn’t going to go away. So what can I do to help ease the burden? Well, for starters, I need to stop taking time away from her because the rest of my life is difficult. If the barn really is my relaxation time, I need to own that time. Every. Single. Minute. I should spend the time I need to work with Flirt, keep her fit. And I do not need to feel guilty about it. If I need a night off, I have a huge support network to help. And if it really is too much, I can take a day to just visit. Even a few minutes petting her, grazing – it can sooth my soul.

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-What are the little things in life that cause me stress? How can I eliminate them? Maybe hiring cleaning ladies is not a luxury anymore – they are something that I need for myself. No one cleans my car as well as I do. But if taking it to a car wash helps me while I multi-task with homework, that’s OK. It’s also ok to pay a little bit extra to get the good plane tickets or the good food.

-It’s OK to say no. You want to please others so much and see your friends and help everyone. But the honest truth is that you can’t. At some point you have to pull back and take care of yourself. And that is not a bad thing. But also, be a good judge about when you say no. Your friends are very important and deserve every bit of effort when it’s really needed. In turn, any true friend will also support you when you need them – I guarantee it.

So yes, Aspire, I came to the same conclusion you probably already knew at the beginning. I MUST take care of myself and I cannot – and should not – feel guilty about that. So how do I balance? The simple answer is that I’m starting to learn what is actually important and what is not.

At work, I prioritize to meet the key deadlines. Things are not getting done as quickly as I would like, but I am honest with my co-workers and try to be efficient while I’m there.
At the barn, I try to go out for 1-2 hours 5 days a week. This is my time. And Flirt’s time. And I do what I want to do – whether it’s work to get to that goal or days that I just ride through our fields. I cannot give much of this up and remain a happy person.
Socially, I accept the invitations that I can and enjoy the time. But I also reserve the right to “me” time alone in my apartment. Because I have learned about myself that, as much as I enjoy talking to people and being with people, I re-charge by being alone. And when I’m cranky, it is probably better to be alone!
At school, I now try to spend more time before the midterm and the final and perhaps a little less in between. Not the ideal situation and not the honor-student I’m used to being – but a necessity in my life. What’s more, while everyone pushes me to speed up my pace and take more than one class at a time (5 years is such a LONG time to get a degree!) I am exercising my right to say no. I cannot balance more than one right now and that needs to be OK. For goodness sakes, I just learned to balance my life! Why would I want to mess it up again? I trust myself and peer pressure is not a good reason to change that.

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Overall, I don’t suppose this blog post has any great conclusions or profound moments. But I hope it gives you insight into the struggles I’ve been working through these past 9 months. I’ve certainly learned a lot about myself along the way. In the future, I’m hope to apply these nuggets of wisdom in order to keep up with the important things (blog posts included!) and to not lose so much of myself along the way. If I can provide any final words of encouragement, it’s to trust yourself and what you know to be important. Set your priorities, do your best, and life will teach you. Much like riding with Aspire Academy – you just have to be open to listening and learning and it will all come together eventually.

With love,

Candace

A little personal drama of technology kind – but all is good now!

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I normally prepare all the newsletter content off line and save the txt in what roughly resembles the final pieces, then just upload pictures and sort out the layout of the document that then flies to all of you who subscribed to my little exclusive news, tips and articles. Sounds pretty easy and straightforward and indeed it has been so far. Yesterday, however, while attaching a link to one of the pictures (so when you click on it, it actually takes you to the right web page) I clicked confirm and…everything disappeared from the screen…:-/ And so I waved goodbye to an early night and spent my sleep hours uploading all pieces of the newsletter back to the document again, putting it all in the right places, attaching links etc etc I am sure for many internet kids out there it’s a laughable matter of work but, hell, it is not for me! Anyway, all done and sent and I hope some of you will find the content useful. Do let me know your thoughts if you have a minute 🙂 

One note to add: Wix service, which I use to send those newsletters (dislike that word actually – any idea for a better name for this kind of send outs? 🙂 is not always recognised as primary email by Hotmail/Outlook and Gmail (perhaps some more too). This means that you might need to check your Promotions or Spam folders if you don’t receive Aspire newsletters to your main inbox.