Potty Training by IKEA Equestrian aka Raised Poles training

Some time ago there was a photo circulating on social media with potties being used to raise poles off the ground and play the role of inexpensive low cavalettis.

Yesterday, Gemma brought her latest purchase – 8 bright green IKEA potties – to the yard to give them a test drive in the lesson.


She owns Ozzy, a 5 year old for whom pole work/balance work are an important part of the exercise routine.

I use poles in their lessons regularly and they have a very positive effect on Ozzy’s coordination and suppleness which in turn improve his balance. Raising poles off the ground helps with encouraging more bend in all the joints of the hind legs, has a very good effect on Ozzy’s usual downhill way of going by naturally creating more hind legs effort and shoulder lift as well as helping with the gelding’s straightness (as his suppleness improves he starts using himself more symmetrically which makes it possible to improve his straightness).

In canter, the pole work highlight differences in Ozzy’s body use on the left and right rein which gives us ideas for exercises and routines to use to help him even the work up.

If you have a young horse you are bringing on, using cavalettis as part of their flatwork can be a really fun element of the overall training.

The IKEA potties are proving very easy to handle (light to move about), don’t roll at light touches and if the poles get rapped harder by the horse, the potties just “fall over” without rolling away much at all.

Gemma and Ozzy over raised trot poles

They hold the poles we use easily allowing for a roll over of about an inch either way. I think it would be great to collect more of them 😉

Do you use poles/cavaletti in your training? What’s your usual set up?


Ride with Willberry and raise money for charity too!

I followed Hannah’s story for the last several months and got to share this! I think Academy horses shall get those!

saddle pad 2

NuuMed has created three Willberry Wonder Pony Saddlepads to help raise funds for Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity, the charity set up by young event rider Hannah Francis.

The styles available cater for dressage, close contact and general purpose saddle designs, so whatever sport you participate in, you can ride with Willberry. All Willberry Wonder Pony Saddlepads are HiWither, meaning that the shape removes pressure from across the withers and behind the saddle, for maximum comfort for the horse. They’re made using quality quilt and have the Willberry logo embroidered on one side.

“We’re pleased to be able to support such a great cause,” said Rosie Pocock from NuuMed. “We’ve been in awe of Hannah and what she’s achieved, and to be able to help her raise funds for her charity like this is a real pleasure.”

The saddlepads are available from NuuMed direct and cost £36. Not only will NuuMed donate £10 from each sale to Hannah’s charity, there’s also free delivery available on all Willberry Wonder Pony Saddlepads if ‘WILLBERRY’ is entered at the checkout. This code will only be applied to Willberry products.

To find out more, see www.nuumed.com or call 01458 210324.

Prepared by:

Rhea Freeman PR
E: rhea@rheafreemanpr.co.uk
W: www.rheafreemanpr.co.uk
T: 07980 757910


Quick Tip: How to reduce rider’s crookedness on a crooked horse

If you ever heard that you are leaning into your turns, collapsing in your waist or a hip, leaning forward in transitions to name just a few symptoms of balance issues, you might find this quick tip helpful.


This is not a quick fix mind you 😉 Just a quick tip on how to start working on yourself as a rider when in the saddle and when there is no one on the ground to provide you with an immediate feedback.

Nothing replaces posture re-education off-horse if your individual posture is poor and nothing replaces regular body awareness focused practice (like Pilates, Yoga or even regular video feedback from lessons) but here are some ideas to help you.

You are probably familiar with the concept of “being ahead of the movement”. This might be especially so if you jump over any height as that when being ahead of the movement is most obvious. Same goes for “getting left behind” – again, anyone who have ever jumped even a little bit will know how this feels.

For every single movement you ride on the flat, you can be ahead, behind or exactly with the movement. Both in terms of front to back/back to front motion and side to side  (lateral) motion…It is just perhaps not as obvious as when you hang on for dear life after the horse took off unexpectedly over a wide oxer leaving you to catch up.

You could call it being always aligned with horse’s centre of gravity (which changes all the time from stride to stride) and applies as much to a walk to canter transition, riding a corner of the arena in walk or doing a trot leg-yield across the long diagonal.

Most riders with crookedness issues are aware of them but struggle to correct themselves “in the moment”. I have noticed during my work with riders with those issues that if you focus the training on developing more feel for where the horse (or their centre of gravity) “is” at any one time and how it changes from stride to stride, the rider remains much straighter, more symmetrical and distributes their body weight more effectively.

What does this mean in practical terms? 

If you tend to lean into the corners when your horse “falls through the inside shoulder” or “falls out through the outside shoulder”, you are in front of the movement (side-to-side). You are bracing yourself to help the horse turn better or to make him turn better (depending on your training methods). Either way, you are fighting a losing battle as your position is already making it impossible/or much harder, for the horse to correct themselves.

Try to feel 7-8 steps before the corner where your horse’s centre of gravity is. In most cases, you will find yourself having to “slow down” the turn, not rush with your upper body/shoulders in order to make the turn but “stay back” and wait for the turn to come to you.

Once you are step by step truly with the horse, your corrections will be more effective, you will find yourself being less changed by your horse’s crookedness and the feeling might be of “having more time” to make the corrections.

If you tend to lean forward in upwards transitions, think of it in the same terms as disturbing the jumping horse by going in front of their movement. Practice remaining in the saddle with your seat bones feeling the movements of the hind legs and patiently “wait” with your own centre of gravity until the horse moves up.

To sum up – instead of worrying that you are leaning in or leaning on or collapsing, start switching your senses to detect your horse’s balance and centre of gravity. It’s a much more pleasant and engaging way of creating straightneess in both horse and rider than constantly nagging oneself to sit “straight”.

Hope this can help some of you 🙂


Midlife Opportunities

Hello all 🙂 One of my friends/clients/riders is up to some awesome life changes and has just started a blog to document her journey! This some of you might like it…:) Grab a cup of something and take a read 🙂

Blog by Lou Crow

WP_20160614_004 Love it when a plan comes together

Sprawled out all over the bed I’m sleeping in tonight I look again at the equine anatomy books and pages from today’s training on pathology and physiology.  All containing words, pictures and diagrams I need to remember again but are vaguely familiar from my school and BHSAI training days. So I am pulling out from a drawer within my head. I sit back take a sip of tea and gaze out of the beautiful old window.  The view is of a pretty wooden bridge suspended over a flowing brook in the heart of a picturesque village in Leicestershire.  I breathe a sigh of contentment and am confident I’ve made the right decision.

In January of this year I was made redundant having worked for children’s services for 15 years.  I consider myself to be a positive and happy go lucky person (although I…

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Notes From Lecture-Talk with Andrew Murphy: Why Sound Horses Can’t Always Work Well Under Saddle, Biomechanics and Three Bascules

Andrew Murphy is one of the instructors/trainers at the Training Teachers Of Tomorrow Trust


I attended a series of lecture-talks with Andrew Murphy in 2010. These are some notes from the second one in the series and I thought that although several years old now, these notes might be useful for some of your dear readers 🙂

The focus was on the bio mechanics of training a riding horse, how any natural crookedness and any balance issues will show up with increased intensity under the weight of the rider.
Partly due to my interest in bio mechanics is general and partly because of Kinglsey’s rehab  [a horse I had under my care at the time] I am finding the subject fascinating.
Andrew started off with explanation of engagement and thoroughness and although you could probably find plenty of books giving pages of text about both, it seems that you can define them very simply too.
Here are some notes I made:
Thoroughness could be described as unrestricted movement of every part of the horse’s body. I actually always thought about it more in terms of feel. When I ride I look for the ease with which the horse accepts the aids and for me the thoroughness feels as if whatever I do with any aid I ‘feel’ it in all others. The idea of ‘movement in every part of the horse’s body’ helped me see it better from a teacher point of view.
Engagement is “doing more”, the joints flex more, there is more power and expression in each movement.

If you encounter schooling problems try not to think about them from psychological point of view only. The horse need not to be unsound to have problems under the saddle. Try to analyse issues from physiological/bio mechanical point of view. Many slight crookedness issues will give horses no problem whatsoever in the field, on the lunge etc Put the rider’s weight on and the whole equilibrium changes.

I watched Kingsley galloping around the field today, having some chasing games in trot, changing leads in canter effortlessly. Ok, he’s not totally sound but seems to have no troubles with free movement – and yet, he can barely keep a straight line in walk under the saddle…

What I found very interesting was when Andrew described the outline or silhouette that we normally want to achieve with a ridden horse as a combination of 3 bascules. Normally we say that an outline means that the horse ‘engages’ the hindquarters, brings the back up and rounds through the neck. To me, that image of three bascules, was actually much clearer. Again, from teaching point of view.
The horse bacules (rounds) over the neck forwards, over the pelvis backwards (by posterior pelvic tilt or in other words by tucking his bottom underneath him) and in between these opposing forces or pulleys the third bascule – of the horse’s back – is created. None is more important than the other and all has to be present if the horse is to remain healthy and sound throughout his ridden career. All three give the horse the supporting structure on which further athletic education can be built.

Stretching. We all know the importance of stretching the horses in the warm up, during the work time and in the cool down. Andrew said that the most important element of stretching is not when the horse moves with the neck down etc but when it is in the process of lowering it. In other words not a stretch itself but an act of stretchING that is of greatest value. He compared this to when we stretch our own tired back, we lean forwards and the feel of stretch in the muscles gives us a relief. Once we got down to the floor with the fingers there is nothing happening and there is a little benefit of hanging down there.
Same with horses, the moment when the horse “seeks” the rein downwards is of more importance stretch wise than the act of the horse “arriving on the bit”.

This post was first published on my Freelance Instructor’s blog in February 2010

Loose Jumping – preparation, exercises and benefits

When done well, loose jumping can be of great value to the overall training of both horse and rider.

Loose jump Collage 2.jpg
Left – Roulette, Right – Boo. Loose jumping to improve suppleness through the shoulder and back


I personally like if the horse lunges well and responds to body language of the handler without undue stress or worry. I like that the horse goes forwards when asked and slows down when asked and does so reliably as when jumps come into play the excitement can sometimes override training.

It’s a good practice to do 1-2 loose schooling sessions letting the horse trot and canter in the corridor (built alongside the wall with poles, stands, fillers) without anything in it yet to jump. The idea is to get the horse to travel in a calm manner through the corridor, maintaining rhythm and tempo.

If they tend to lose balance in the corners or go into them too deeply, it might help to put a pole on the ground across the corner to encourage smoother turns.


For horses that never loose jumped or young horses learning to jump, I like the single jump in the middle of the corridor and oxer is often a good first choice as it invites the horse to jump out of the stride.

Watching young horses learn to set pace and distance to those jumps is fascinating and a great lesson for the rider who will ride the horse to the jump later.


For horses who have some experience loose jumping and for older horses with various undesirable jumping habits, well thought lines could be a super addition to their jump training.

I personally like the lines with bounces leading to oxers as they tend to teach focused, energetic entry into the line, quick front and back end action with a good weight shift from front legs to back legs and vice versa followed by an onwards, positive strides to the oxers. I have seen a very good results with those kind of lines in horses that tend to jump tight or hollow in the back or don’t open through the shoulders over the jumps.


If video above doesn’t show, you can view it directly on Instagram HERE

My other favourite ones are those that correct possibly the most common habit in horses ridden by less experienced riders and that’s shortening of the stride on take off (chipping in). By clever placement of the ground poles and adjustment of the distances, the horse can build its own confidence in finding the optimal stride and the rider can watch the horse as it does so.


  • great re-training tool for horses with difficult jumping habits (hollow back, dangling front leg(s), crooked jumping etc)

  • good introduction to jumping for young horses

  • develops a thinking, aware horse that learns to act on his tempo and adjust energy for efficient jumping efforts

  • re-establishing confidence in horse’s natural ability without influence of the rider

  • riders learn to “read” their horse’s movement on the approach, take off and landing which can improve harmony with the horse when mounted

  • riders learn to “read” the distance in relation to tempo by observing how the horse tackles different problems

  • riders learn to understand their own horse’s preferred jumping style which can help to decrease unnecessary interference

  • riders build own confidence in their horses’ ability to jump “by themselves” (especially good for riders who over-ride and try to “carry their horse over the jump”)

  • riders can observe and understand the biomechanics of the jumping horse, how they use their neck, back, shoulder so when mounted, the riders actions like sufficient give with the hand or not sitting down too early on landing, increase in meaning and importance.

Prefabricated Perfection

Mirrors for Training is delighted to announce the launch of its new Prefabricated Arena Mirror System, which contains everything needed for a perfect installation.

arena mirrors.jpg

The precision engineered galvanised steel kit can be used to install horizontal and vertical mirrors, as the posts are universal in the design. The prefabricated kit ensures that the mirrors hang beautifully and also allows mirrors to be tilted, to suit the rider’s requirements.

“Hanging arena mirrors correctly is important in terms of the reflection they produce, the safety, and the overall look,” said Andrea Miles from Mirrors for Training. “Our engineers are experts in this area, but we know that not everyone wants to pay to have mirrors installed and would like to do this themselves. That’s why we’ve created this system. We’ve spent a lot of time designing and preparing this system as to ensure correct wind loadings and so on. We’re very proud of what we’ve created.”

The Prefabricated Arena Mirror System is supplied as a kit containing five 8ft x 4ft galvanised steel backed Arena Mirrors with adjustable tilt brackets. It costs £3800 delivered (UK mainland, international delivery available but carriage cost will be different).

To find out more about Mirrors for Training, see www.mirrorsfortraining.co.uk or call 01902 791207.


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