#Barebruary Theme for February Training!


Each rider I teach have their individual training needs and so do the horses. Occasionally I get riders on Aspire programmes to ride together to increase their spacial awareness, control, attention, focus and so they can learn from one another. Most of the time though, we run private lessons and follow individual training plans. However, there are universal riding skills that all riders out there will work on every time they ride.

One of those skills is “riding feel” – or less enigmatically put, a heightened awareness of balance and movement and ability to correct those to suit the gymnastic tasks we ask the horses to perform for us.

What’s the better way to increase all those than bareback sessions? 🙂 I am setting up the February training focus to be under #Barebruary theme and will aim to add bareback minutes to the February lessons whenever possible. Each horse reacts differently to being ridden bareback and long sessions without saddle are rarely beneficial for horse’s back so it’s important not to overdo them.

If we can’t ride without a saddle for whatever reason, I will still aim at the “feel theme” through on and off-horse training.

Would you like to join in #Barebruary training theme? If you do, email your bareback pictures to aspire@outlook.com, post them to our Facebook page HERE or Tweet at @aspireacademy adding #barebruary hashtag with a few words about how bareback riding has helped you with your riding skills – I will publish your photos on the blog throughout February!

VIDEO: Equine McTimoney Manipulation Therapy with Back In Line: one awesome horse gets a treatment!

BackInLine McTimoney Therapy
Sam Barrett with one of my client’s lovely horses

Posture can affect everything. Attitude, willingness to make an effort, comfort during the effort, motivation. Muscular imbalances in horses can over time lead to permanent changes in their conformation making movement difficult.

Skilful training helps enormously with imbalances and one-sidedness but there are issues that may have lingered throughout the horse’s body for years, perhaps even since birth/foal. These can make training uncomfortable and unpleasant and encourage the horse to look after himself by becoming aggressive/lazy/”naughty” etc before good schooling irons out postural issues.

When an opportunity arose to video a McTimoney Therapy session with one of my client’s horses, I jumped at a chance and you can view the result below. Merehead is an 8 year old National Hunt ex-racehorse, about 11 weeks out of a racing yard and in his early schooling days getting to know his new “job” with his new owner.

I really enjoy teaching the pair, they have a great potential and hopefully Merehead will love the eventing career he is aimed at. He is VERY careful around the ground poles 😉

Following the session above Merehead’s pelvis was visually straight (prior to treatment his left hip was lower than than the right despite standing square) and I look forward to seeing what effect this change has to his work on the left rein as has found it very uncomfortable to stretch through the right side of his body so far.

To learn more about Sam Barrett and McTimoney Manipulation Therapy please visit: www.back-in-line.com

I hope you like the video, if you have had your horse treated by a McTimoney therapist please leave a comment with your experiences. I will update you all on Merehead’s progress, he has a next lesson with me on Wednesday and his next appointment with Sam is in 2 weeks time.

All the best,



Video taken with permission of Sam Barrett Back – In – Line and Meerhead’s owner 

VIDEO Team Blogger Mariana Broucher shares great, quick and easy exercise for those stiff ankles and lost stirrups!

stella1Today we had to resort to more unconventional methods:
Stella keeps slipping her lower leg back. She struggles to keep it forward, especially when she is a bit unsure. A little stress, something new, or even simple up, or down transitions; that leg just won’t stay in place. As a result her foot won’t stay in the stirrup and she loses them all the time. She will lean on her knees and her upper body comes too far forward. This way Stella struggles to keep balance, and often feels and looks wobbly and unsafe.
We tried to find out why this is happening and found that Stella finds it really hard to use her ankles as a support. She feels uncomfortable and her ankles and lower legs hurt.
So I took her shoes off. We worked on placing her foot correctly into the stirrups. And voila! As soon as she put her foot in the stirrup as she should; straight and under the ball off the foot, her ankles could do its job and stopped hurting. Her leg was where it should be and stayed there 🙂

Mariana Broucher


Competing a grass-kept horse? Resources on 24/7 grass keeping for the resourceful ones :)

Kingsley winter 2

If you are struggling with covering large livery fees and wondering how you might afford the coming competition season as well as training for it, how about going back to basics scenario…There are many riders out there who have successfully competed their grass kept horses so with a little bit of grit, some horse management knowledge and good planning, there is no reason you can’t do to.

Deep down horses are quite simple creatures. All they truly care for is food, water, companionship and a place to roam about at. Years ago there would be no silica sand surfaces and even Olympic level show jumping was held on grass. If you want something badly enough, you can make it happen 🙂

I put together a little list of useful links for anyone who thinks of keeping their horses out 24/7 and/or compete them out of yard with no purpose made training facilities:

“What is with this ‘attitude’ against field kept horses?”

Keeping Your Horse on Grass (IHWT)

Horse at Grass by BEVA

Managing Land for Horses

Keeping horses out 24/7 – discussion

Eventing a grass kept horse?

The Field Kept Horse

Keeping a Horse at Grass

Management Dilemma: In our Out? 

Rockely Farm: Grass, your horse and managing risks

A little look through history: Good housekeeping – finding the right balance in management of dressage horses

Book: Managing Horses on Small Properties

Book: The Horse at Grass

Book: The Outdoor Pony

Book: Keeping a Horse at Grass

HOW TO : Do “more” outside rein, ride “straight” on circles and how NOT to lean in the corners – quick, visual imagery and awareness exercise

This imagery and an experiment/exercise described below might be useful for riders who:

– are often told to use “more” outside rein
– struggle with riding corners and cut them often
– have tendency to shorten or laterally overbend the horse through the neck when riding turns and/or circles
– lean forwards and/or lose neutral pelvis position before the turns
– lean to the side and/or collapse in the waist in corners and/or on circles

Let’s start!

Imagine…that from the wither all the way to the poll your horse’s forehand is alike a really long bonnet of a car. You sit in your “driver’s seat” and have a little bit of a car (the very important little bit – the engine) right behind you, in the same way you have your horse’s hindquarters behind you. Got the image? 

imagery turning in balance

Now, let’s turn that beast…

Imagine…as you approach the corner on your horse, just at the quarter marker, that you need to turn the forehand really well from outside-in. You need to “wait” in your “driver’s seat” for the forehand to do its necessary rotation while you keep everything behind you active, short and rhythmic. You can’t just turn one wheel (use one rein), you need to turn both sides well (with your seat and both reins/both shoulders).

At quarter marker, you indicate (i.e. ask for inside flexion at the poll) and continue straight for the next couple of steps. As you start turning you stay in your driver’s seat, you let the forehand do its job, you focus on turning the wheels (shoulders and neck of the horse) not the very bumper (horse’s head).

You stay quiet right bang in the centre of the saddle, right at the centre of the horse, in neutral pelvis position. The equine spinal column only moves in millimetres so you keep your own spine nice and quiet on top of the horse’s spine. You know that the bigger movements you feel come from the horse’s hips so you keep your own hip joints relaxed and supple (or as supple as you can). Like this, you make sure the horse’s spinal muscles don’t have to “catch you” as you wobble from one side of its spine to another but instead, they are focused on effective, forward propulsion.  

Many a time the instruction for “more” outside rein, “more” straight, less leaning etc are addressing the symptoms rather than cause. The cause is often down to the rider trying to sit on the bonnet to make the turn better…or trying to turn one wheel (pulling on the inside rein) or indicate more/faster (i.e. play with the reins, see-saw, squeeze-release many times etc distracting the horse) in order to turn better (straighter, with impulsion, rhythm etc).


Grab a yard broom and astride it like a witch 😉 Make sure the head of the broom and most of its length is in front of you. Now, eye up a square and walk around it taking your turns well. Notice how early you need to prepare your turn so your broom’s head doesn’t hit the wall of the square…notice how you need to direct your hips, upper body/shoulders and head for the turns to be fluid and accurate.

Next time you ride, keep your horse’s shoulders and neck right in front of your belly button and take your turns giving the forehand all the time it needs to turn well. Stay in your driver’s seat, feel the hindlegs of the horse through your seat bones and enjoy the feeling of your horse being “in front of you/in front of your leg”).

Happy experimenting! Let me know if you found it helpful.

All the best,



Team Blogger Mariana Broucher: Can Bowen Therapy help with schooling a horse?

This is Finley; a 17hh Irish draught x TB.


Finley is what you could call a project horse. Brought over from Ireland, where he wasn’t ridden much at all, he is an 8 year old “beginner”. And to make things just that little bit harder, Finley suffers from shivers. He struggles to lift his hind legs when he stands, so for example scratching his belly with his hind leg is not possible for him.

Finley worked roughly at prelim level and could do a few low jumps. When ridden it took him quite a long time to warm up and soften. He lacked balance and the confidence to move forward, so seemed a little bit lazy. He wasn’t particularly stiff to any side or crooked, but bending him was not easy.

I treated Finley 3 times, and after each treatment he was better. It took him less time to warm up and to loosen up. This enabled Liz, his owner, to ride more effectively and she now doesn’t need to spend a whole lesson just loosening him up. He can now go on the bit and in a nice outline pretty much straight away and so his training can progress much faster. Lately he has been able to take more weight behind and as a consequence now can work in a shorter frame.

So how has Bowen helped?

The Bowen Technique is a complementary hands-on therapy that specialises on rebalancing the body, through influencing the nervous system and the fascia. Fascia is connective tissue, fibers,  that form sheets or bands beneath the skin. These  attach, stabilize, enclose, and separate muscles and other internal organs. Fascia surrounds and connects every muscle, tendon, ligament and bone. It surrounds all organs. It runs from the top of the head to the end of the toes. It provides protection and cushioning, it stretches and moves. Fascia allows movement within the body and makes it supple. But what if this fascia gets hurt? Let’s say through an accident like a fall or slip or a bang of some sort. Or what if it just simply doesn’t get used and stretched enough?  Then fascia can become stuck together. This is called an adhesion, and it results in restricted muscle movement along with pain, soreness and reduced flexibility or range of motion.  Bowen can relieve these adhesions by “talking” to the  nervous system. The entire nervous system functions as a vast communication network.  Feedback is constantly exchanged among the body’s parts and the central nervous system (CNS), which integrates and coordinates all body systems and activities.  Bowen will add new information to these feedback loops, stimulating the CNS to do a systems check and initiate a healing response.

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) regulates the stress response and controls over 80% of body functions.  Most people today live in a constant state of elevated stress, or sympathetic nervous system dominance (fight, flight or freeze mode).  When in this state our internal resources are mobilized for survival (so we can run away quickly from that bear).  There is no time  for healing and restoring the body.

Nowadays a lot of horses are in this stress mode too. Competing, not enough turnout, daily work, injuries, you name it. Lots of horses today have ulcers for example, which can be a direct result of stress.

Bowen helps shift the nervous system into parasympathetic dominance (rest, relax and repair mode), sending the message to the body’s systems that the emergency is over.  Once this shift occurs, stress symptoms are alleviated and the body can do what it naturally does: heal itself.  In relation to soft tissues, the stress response can be activated by injuries, illness, surgery or trauma, causing the surrounding muscles to become locked in a protective contraction.  This contraction may be initially helpful, but, if not released, over time it can create imbalances in the myofascial system.  When Bowen moves send the signal to the nervous system that the emergency is over, tension levels in the muscles are reset to normal resting length and strain patterns in the fascia are released, allowing a return to optimal functioning.  Stress is a fact of life; Bowen is the perfect antidote.

This is Finley after his treatment. His nervous system is most definitely in a parasympathetic state. Sooo tired ☺


For more information on Bowen Therapy contact Mariana Broucher on mariana@equinebowen.net   I am happy to answer any questions. My web is www.equinebowen.net

Pretty cool competition from Equimins for anyone who likes the “before & after” challenge :)

One of the companies who took part in Aspire’s Christmas Gift Guide last year was Equimins. I couldn’t not share their latest news as the “before and after” challenges are the ones I like following the most. Check out for yourself 🙂

Take the Equimins Advance Challenge!

If your horse is starting to lose condition as the winter draws on, Equimins has the perfect solution – Advance Concentrate Complete. This forage balancer with money back guarantee complements a fibre diet and, as an extra incentive, the best ‘before and after’ pictures will be featured on the company’s blog…with a prize for all horses who make the cut!


Advance Concentrate Complete is a high specification, concentrated forage balancer that contains vitamins, trace elements and bioavailable minerals in addition to ingredients that support the horse’s gut, such as probiotics and Saccharomyces cerivisae yeast. Unlike many balancers, the concentrated formula means that most horses receive just 60g a day, whether this is in powder or pellet form. What makes this balancer really stand out is the money back guarantee – it’s simple – if the horse’s owner doesn’t see an improvement in condition after using the product for two months alongside the horse’s normal feeding routine they’ll receive a refund (subject to Ts and Cs). For this winter season, Equimins is asking its customers to send in their ‘before and after Advance’ pictures with those selected for the blog receiving a prize.

“We continue to be inundated with people who are delighted with Advance Concentrate Complete,” says David Willey from Equimins. “It uses a truly superb combination of ingredients to support health and condition and, with the money back guarantee, it gives people additional confidence in the product. We call it a forage balancer as that’s all that needs to be added to the diet, although people do feed it alongside a reduced ration of ‘hard’ feed. It’s designed to support a more natural way of feeding, which works with the way the horse’s body works…so there are lots of different angles that are covered with this product.

“We love receiving images from our customers and enjoy seeing their posts on Facebook, but we thought that, actually, we’d really like to showcase people’s stories and their ‘Advance’ horses in our blog…so we’ve launched a ‘before and after Advance’ competition. It’s easy to take part and the stories we feature will receive a prize.”

In order to enter, the horse’s owner needs to submit an image showing the horse before he or she started using Advance, and an image taken at least two months after showing the horse’s condition. Equimins would also like to know a bit about horse, his diet and the activities he does. More information is available on the company’s blog www.equimins.com/blog/.

For more information on Advance Concentrate Complete, see www.equimins.com, email sales@equimins.com or call 01548 531770. For the Advance Concentrate Complete brochure, just email or call Equimins.

Prepared by: Rhea Freeman PR, Tel: 07980 757910 Email: rhea@rheafreemanpr.co.uk

Something for creative spirits out there :) Mak’s Horse Drawing Classes

Hello All 🙂 A very good friend of mine has been pursuing the love of equestrian art for many years among her rather exciting round-the-world horse jobs. She is now organising a series of drawing workshops which I thought some of you might like. I personally think that drawing or painting horses, even if the end creation is something out of a very creative Shrek 8 movie, teaches us a lot about how they move, react and function.

So, if you have a free evening for a drive to Hampshire for a couple of hours with a pen/pencil/charcol and paper, check the info below 🙂 I am tempted to join in myself!



How one little ex-racehorse won Olympic gold jumping 1.9m (6ft2in) oxers and 4.60m (15ft) wide water jump…

I came across this footage today and thought I would share a snippet of a story of an amazing little horse that jumped his heart out.

He raced as a 3 year old but wasn’t successful and as a result ended up being passed on to show jumping and eventing. He competed in both until he was given to a Polish show-jumper, Jan Kowalczyk, to ride and specialise in Show – Jumping. He won Olympic Gold and 8 CSIO shows.

He was 16hh...

The video below shows them at Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980. Artemor, bred at the famous (mostly for breeding top Arabian horses) Janow Podlaski Stud, was by a Thoroughbred stallion Eros and out of an Anglo Arab mare – Artemiza.

There is a lot being said about cross-country courses and jumps changing drastically over the last 20-30 years but so had show-jumping. The jumps at Olympic Games at the time during top classes were 1.7m (about 5ft6) – 1.9m (6ft2)…the water jump was 15ft wide…In modern Olympics the jumps at Grand Prix are up to 1.6m (5-5ft5) with water jumps being up to 14ft wide.

That little horse had virtually jumped a course of Puissance jumps 😉 The fact the riders wore some soft military berets gives me shivers.

In December 1984, Artemor was diagnosed with Encephalitis and put to sleep.

The herd of aids? – visual and thinking experiment to improve your effectiveness in the saddle

Have you ever been told that you need to coordinate your aids better in order to achieve more quality responses from your horse? Or perhaps you sometimes wonder which leg to use when, where to look, how to position your shoulders in lateral movements etc? Or maybe you are a little confused about the aids altogether as different instructors teach you differently?

If so, you might want to try this imagery. It might work for you and help you ride your horse more effectively yet with more sympathy for his/her physical and mental issues.

Herd Instincts

Before we start, have a look at the below video, it’s very short and rather pretty 🙂

Now, we all know horses are highly sociable animals with intricate relationships within the herd. It is now very much questioned that each herd has a dominant, alpha horse that rules everyone. Instead, there is a possibility of a quiet leadership within the herd with various roles being undertaken by different individuals.

Picture a weak horse within the herd that travels away from danger. Where would that weak horse be? Very likely bang in the middle of the herd, protected from each side by fellow herd members, those perhaps a little stronger or simply more confident individuals. There would be a pathfinder in front of the Weak Horse and there will be definitely one very self assured individual at the back. In his position in the running herd, the Weak Horse is kept straight by the Side Horses, it is kept well directed by the Pathfinder and it is kept travelling at required speed by the Back Horse. It is kept secure and focused on going exactly where the herd needs him to be going.

WHAT IF the moment we turn our horse into a riding horse he becomes the Weak Horse? He doesn’t know a thing about our “riding manual”, he is on his own in the arena with a foreign speaking individual of a different species.

WHAT IF as a Rider we need to be all these things for our Weak Horse so he moves straight, active and where we want him to go…? What if we picture our aids – the inside/outside aids, the controlling rein aids, the driving aids, the directional weight aids etc etc, as elements of the herd dynamic? 


Perhaps if we picture all this that way we will be able to understand better which aids need to clearer for our horse, where we need to focus our attention and what to do to have the horse positioning his body as we want him to…Perhaps then we can avoid/limit frustration, the kicking, the pulling, the “why is he doing this to me?” moments…

Let’s have a look at some practical applications of this imagery…

Let’s for a moment assume the following:

Pathfinder Horse = rider’s intention, eye focus, desire to reach certain spot in a field or arena, the hands, the reins, the contact

The Side Horses = rider’s pelvis position (each seat bone on each side of the horse’s spine), upper body position, rider’s thigh position (baring weight of the rider’s upper body, well placed around the ribcage, snug but not gripping nor floppy), rider’s lower leg position (around the ribcage in passive, confidence giving contact with horse’s body, no undue gripping), rider’s inside and outside weight aids and leg aids.

The Back Horse = rider’s core stability, energy level, natural muscle tone, mental intention on going places, driving aids (weight aids and leg aids), ability to put pressure on and off, ability to keep the pace without rushing it or letting it drop…

Now. let’s look at some riding issues…

If you tend to be “handy” and “ride the head” and your horse is “behind the leg”, “lazy”, “unfocused”, “falls in and out of circles and corners all the time” [enter other issues here] – picture your hands and reins as a Pathfinder horse for your Weak Horse. There is just your Weak Horse and Pathfinder Horse. There is no Back Horse that motivates the Weak Horse to keep moving and no Side Horses to keep him straight, secure and focused.

If your horse is “always running” and “spooky” and  you “can’t touch him with the leg” – how about your Weak Horse being in a herd made up of Back Horses but no passive leadership from Side Horses and Pathfinder Horse?

If your horse is crooked beyond the natural crookedness to the point of being unable to pick up correct canter leads or perform round 20m circles – you might need to find your Side Horses.

Feel free to try to add your own examples!


If you think about your aids like this you might be able to figure out where your training efforts need to be directed. Sometimes it means that you need work on your own seat so your weight aids, your driving aids or your natural muscle tone bring the right elements “to the herd”.

You might want to take this game further and think about your own horse’s mentality…perhaps he is a natural born Pathfinder or natural born Back Horse. Perhaps he feels your weaknesses and it’s you who in his eyes is the “Weak Horse” that needs to be protected/sped up/directed etc

I find this imagery a very jolly way of explaining the shaping of horse’s body to novice riders. It is fun, encourages riders to read up more about natural instincts of the horse, about their nature and the way they learn 🙂

I hope you enjoyed it, let me know if you did or didn’t!

All the best,



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