Gain control over your leg position, joints suppleness and weight distribution through the seat

You will need fluffy socks for this one.

It was Mariana who first shared this exercise with you on here and ever since I’ve been looking forward to trying it with a suitable “rider-subject” 😉 It’s ingenious in its simplicity as it simply takes rider’s awareness of the stirrup iron – ball of foot connection to the next level.

eve

You might think, stirrups are not that important for the good seat, but there is this curious desire in many riders to let that very seemingly unnecessary stirrup dictate their leg position.
When the rider becomes tuned in to the placement of the stirrup iron, they can in turn dictate the position of the stirrup leathers and the iron through small changes in weight distribution through the thighs and lower leg.
The other benefits include improved suppleness through ankle joints and a better command of the foot in general.
I loved the effect this exercise had on my rider.

Genius and simple.

If you do try it, please share your observations – there are many little aspects of joint use that become apparent in this exercise 🙂 

Wiola

Aspire Eventing Diary. Through coach’s eyes: Emma, Shabhash and Merehead at Aston Le Walls

Having had a very hectic month I am a little late with this report which in fact I am writing after the third event we have just came back from (Rockingham Castle International Horse Trials). It went better than the Aston event I shared my observation with you below and the report on it is coming your way very soon 🙂 In the meantime, let’s look at Aston Le Walls.

Aston Le Walls
Aston Le Walls – XC course

The second event of the season for Emma took us to the beautiful grounds of Aston Le Walls. It’s a truly wonderful set up with clearly many new venue ideas and improvements in the pipeline. We did the unaffiliated event which followed the affiliated ones earlier in the week. Shabby had a company this time as his stable friend and a fellow ex-racehorse – Merehead – travelled with him to make his first ever appearance in the eventing world 😉 You might know Merehead from the video I posted not that long ago – Ex-racehorse to Event Horse in progress: 3 months flatwork training Shabby and Merehead   WARM UP & DRESSAGE

Merehead

mereheadwarmupa
Moorhead trying his best to warm up sanely 🙂

The dressage warm up proved overwhelmingly exciting for Merehead who lost his concentration on Emma and focused on trying to release his energy. We deliberated for a moment how to warm him up and decided to allow him to canter early on which we sometimes do at home when he is distracted. This worked to some extent but definitely was not enough for a relaxed dressage test 😉 He stayed within the arena boards (his canter can be massive and we had our doubts!) and certainly impressed the judges with his powerful self but that’s about that. He was entered into this event as an experience and to see if he enjoys it rather than to be competitive in any way so we were very pleased with him either way.

Shabhash

Shabby warmed up very well. It’s taking a long time for him to abandon his acute alertness and replace it with some form of a quiet observation but we’ve been letting him discover a more relaxed way of going at home and he is learning well. Working in a quiet indoor school at home, everything is that much easier than in the open field with many other horses and a pressure he evidently feels. Physically, he is more than capable for the demands of the XC but his carrying power needed for self-carriage in dressage and show jumping brings him down.

Mentally, he has a long way to go too. In the lessons, we focus mostly on building his confidence in the physical capability as well as in the actions of the rider so he can built upon those in a stressful situation. He is a very athletic little horse, nimble and quick with a huge heart. I feel really invested in him and really want him to do well. The more he goes out, the better he copes so hopefully we will have him happier and calmer towards the end of the season.

shaabpicswarmup
Shabby in the warm up. Still not fully confident and losing connection but 100% more relaxed than at Hambleden.

There is also a fair amount of weakness in his work on the left rein; it will be interesting to observe what effect the strengthening and improved symmetry will have on his overall performance.

SHOW JUMPING 

Merehead

Two months ago Merehead jumped sideways at a mere sight of a pole on the ground. Doing his chiropractic exercises which involved walking over a series of poles and stopping in the middle of them was a challenge. Aston was his first ever course in an event atmosphere so that considering he was fabulous 🙂 He warmed up in a fashion in a very busy and hectic surroundings and then jumped everything, fillers and odd colours, with a jolly amount of freshly discovered bravado. Emma credits her cross country trainer – Mark – and his confidence building exercises for Merehead’s jumping attitude. It was a very green round but he went beyond all expectations with one jump down (his canter has very minimal adjustability at the moment).

Shabby

Whilst in the dressage the anxiety and tension translates into lost marks and high scores, in show jumping phase, Shabby is paying a hefty stress price. It’s a concern to me because I like to see him working in a content way. Focused but not to the point of obsession. And Shabby is both stressed and obsessed when it comes to coloured poles. On a positive note, it was a calmer round than Hambleden even though the warm up conditions were everything Shabby could do without being exposed to.

XC

This phase is where I go and grab some food and relax 😉 I love dressage and jumping training but don’t have that much interest in the XC as far as coaching goes. However, I do enjoy watching Emma galloping the boys around 😉 I do observe her approaches, landings and position over the jumps to make sure I can continue improving her riding in our lessons but other than that it’s like going to a cinema and tucking into popcorn! Both boys were fantastic, Merehead flew around looking like he was setting off on a 4* course and Shabby skipped the jumps as per usual. Now, if you are still with me, grab your popcorn and have a look at the action on videos 🙂

MEREHEAD

SHABHASH

POST EVENT REFLECTIONS & Training focus between Aston Le Walls and Rockingham (one week)

There were many positives to this event. Shabby warmed up much better than at Hambleden and his work almost matched his work at home on many occasions. So did Emma’s. The dressage score was high (48.5) which was probably one of the worst he had ever gotten but at the same time, all the comments were very fair and there was nothing mentioned that we don’t work on back home. It’s only his second event and I am sure he will settle the more he runs. The tension costs but if we can get him to work in the arena as he does in the warm up he is more than capable of 6s-7s on his sheet. There is no pressure on him to be what he can’t be but I do want him to find a more comfortable and relaxed way of going and to enjoy cooperating with Emma within the white boards 🙂 Show jumping I have a mixed feeling about. There are several things I want to address in training but I will share more of those in my Rockingham report. He was more “with the rider” this time but still very stressed. XC – I loved watching him in his natural element, he has the confidence there that he lacks in dressage and show-jumping so the mission is to give him that in all phases. Merehead was fabulous. Emma says I help her remain calm when all hell breaks lose with Shabby but I am learning a good lesson myself too. My competition times always meant huge amount of work at home and only showing the horses once they were level above the show level. Watching Merehead counting clouds, hollow and braced doing his dressage test is not something I cherish but probably for the first time in my riding and teaching life I am learning to relax about it, see the events as an experience and a true learning grounds not just as an exam of competency…(I do hope he gets his act together for the next event though :-P) The plan for Merehead is to continue his lessons, do a few local dressage shows now and some xc schooling outings.

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Merehead contemplating whether it is wise to cross the bridge leading to the arenas 😉

Only Shabby is scheduled to go to Rockingham where he will run in BE100 section H. His work plan remains similar but we are increasing demands on bending through his body as well as asking for exercises requiring more self-carriage (shoulder-in, counter canter). We are also keeping a stricter routine of warming up and cooling down for good 10 minutes in a stretchy, long and low trot which Shabby does like when he relaxes. For Emma, I want her to become much more tuned in to any loses of balance in the horse so there is more sitting trot for her, more transition work as well as simple pole work to train her eye for distance and canter rhythm. Until next time! Wiola

Equestrian Books Review: “Ride every stride” and ” Words of a Horseman – The life and teaching of Lars Sederholm”

Thanks to a wonderful world of e-books I’d been reading a lot this year and I thought I would share thoughts on some titles. Today, let me chat to you about Ride Every Stride by Amy Maltman (available on Kindle) and Words of a Horseman – The life and teaching of Lars Sederholm (I came across it at a little tack shop in Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire. It’s available to buy via Tina’s website here )

The first is what I think you could classify as a teen fiction, the second is a biographical account of a very successful coach – Lars Sederholm – as told by his daughter, Tina Sederholm.

resRIDE EVERY STRIDE

Fast paced story of one boy’s journey to the top of the sport. This book is both real enough to take you into the world of riding and grooming for a living and imaginative enough to give you hope you might be able to join in it too 😉

Plenty of little training insights, varied storyline and likeable characters should keep any horse mad teenager glued to the book. I heard the author is thinking of a sequel so if you do get attached to the riders, you might not have to say goodbye to them just yet!

If I was very picky I would say that sometimes the writing varies a bit, sometimes makes you very much part of the story, sometimes as if you were watching on fast forward. But hey, it’s a fun read, great especially for any show jumping enthusiasts but all young riders striving to ride with integrity should find something for themselves in it.

BOOK QUOTE

The book promotes thorough training, dedication to wellbeing of the competition horses and empathy with them – how could I not recommend it 🙂

WORDS OF A HORSEMAN – THE LIFE AND TEACHING OF LARS SEDERHOLM

I do love coaching biographies, regardless the sport. If you do too, grab hold of this book…It’s my life long dream to create a training yard for ambitious amateur riders like Sederholm created Waterstock for professional riders. You might say, he was very lucky, that circumstances were on his side and he met the right people at the right time and you would be most likely right. However, it takes more than luck to maintain the standards he did and to continue to train at the level he did.

“I worked out the idea for a training centre at an early stage[…] I explained this idea to Major Gold one day, but he was rather negative about it. ‘Be careful Lars’, he told me, ‘British people don’t like foreigners. Robert Orssich has been here thirty years, and has only just started to be accepted” Words of Horseman – The life and teaching of Lars Sederholm

Sederholm did open the centre, the Waterstock, and ended up as a trainer and mentor to Caroline Bradley, Mary King, Yogi Breisner, Michael Whitaker, William Fox-Pitt, David O’Connor, Lucinda Green, Richard Walker to name just a few…

Tina Sederholm tells the story of her father’s life with numerous quotes from Lars himself as well as from the riders he trained over the years.

lars sederholm book

I should mention that although the title suggests somewhat that the horses were Sederholm’s priority, I have an impression that it was more the riders’ education that took prime seat on his mind…The book makes it very clear that Lars’ top priority was to coach the top of the top and as such you learn about his strategies for coaching the winners.

I especially like his enthusiasm for training others which shows in his words and the words of his riders.

A very good read for any instructor or trainer with ambitious pupils as well as for anyone who likes to explore great coaching minds 🙂