Leopold The Last – Educational Fund

There are those who believe everything happens for a reason and those who think this concept is a silly idea.

I’m somewhat in the middle. I believe we participate in many life changing events, both sad and joyfull, and sometimes it is helpful and maybe even healing to create a reason…

In case you have not heard much of of the back story, before I move on, you need to meet Ceri and her very special four legged friend, Leopold The Last (Leo). If you have ever had anything to do with horses, you will know they can form a strong bond with their owner and rider. Leo sure had one with Ceri.


In the summer 2016, a 38 year old Ceri received devastating health news. Secondary cancer.
When she asked me for help with rehoming Leo I thought I would take him on whilst she was undergoing treatements and together we will find the right solution for Leo.
I thought I would keep him so she had him close by, a comforting presence throughout gruelling times.
I thought being able to see him, even if not able to ride him, would give her strength to keep fighting.I’d like to tell you that she is still here and having a chance to survive but this is not the case.

Ceri passed away a week after I picked Leo up and promised to secure a good life for him.

When something means so much to someone, as this little horse meant for Ceri, it is especially important to make sure the promise is kept to the best of my ability.

This is where this Fund comes in. This is where you come in. You can help me give Leo an opportunity to do something meanigful and important.

Who am I…

I’m a horse riding instructor and run a coaching programme – Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy – aimed at people of all ages who have deep interest in ethical equestrian sports, who want to ride and train horses with knowldge of their biomechanics, anatomy and psychology.

Ceri’s dream was to learn as much about good, wellness focused training as possible. Her dream could live on via Leo’s work within Aspire Academy. 

For this reason, the primary aim of this fund is to secure at least 1 year of regular training and care for Leo and create a series of educational sessions for those riders who would otherwise be unable to afford quality tuition and training but who could learn from Leo. 

For me to be able to continue caring for Leo in best way possible and proceed with his educational role, I need to secure money for:

– Leo’s care (hoofcare, veterinary care, saddle checks, health checks)
– Leo’s livery fees
– investigations of Leo’s small performance issues which Ceri had started to address before her death

I would love to have you on board and part of #LeoAspireJourney. Every tiny little contribution helps.
You will be able to follow Leo’s story via Aspire blog, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

There are some incredibly sad stories we all have within us but some of them can also give life to projects that can bring smiles instead of tears.

Your contribution will help me keep Ceri’s dream alive and let Leo educate many who meet him. I will keep updating the Fund page as often as possible, I will aim to do it daily.

Click the image for full campaign info 

All the very best and a huge thank you in advance for your contribution, however big or small 🙂 You can also help by spreading the word via social media or by good old word of mouth 🙂

Thank you ❤

Wiola & Leo

Integrative Movement Series: Lower Leg Strength (hint: it doesn’t mean strengthening your lower leg muscles….)

Do you find that your lower leg is a constant issue?

Keeping that leg a mixture of functional, strong and supportive as well as not letting it get stiff, slip back or forward can be tough if you don’t have the right tools. I see plenty of riders who thing their lower leg is perfect, only to look at a photo of them over a fence, or during a ride and find it’s slipped behind them, or watch a video of them posting and see that it is wiggling up and down with their seat in an attempt encourage their horse forward.

It’s not an uncommon issue, but it does take some outside thinking to fix. Problems with the lower leg can come from weak hip stabilizers. The leg, although made up of many parts, acts to some extent as a whole when it comes to our position. If our hips aren’t stabilizing correctly, it’s going to be pretty hard to keep the leg functional underneath us. Symptoms of weak hip stabilizers can include low back pain, poor balance, knee pain, calf pain and ankle pain as well as an inability to keep the leg strong or underneath you during a ride. Below is a diagram of where the gluteus medius sits, one of the major players in pelvic stabilization. Other big players are the core musculature, and quadratus lumborum which sits in the low back attaching from the pelvis to the ribs.


Another piece to this problem is the foot’s position in the stirrup. An often overlooked factor, if the foot isn’t balanced and centred the alignment all the way up to the hips  will be off.. which will interfere with how the hips function, and therefore the rest of the leg and even torso.

The foot in the stirrup should be similar to how we stand. When we stand, there are three points on the foot that should be the main points of contact. The ball of the foot, the base of the pinky toe, and the heel. If you stand with more weight to the outer or inner edges, or more to front or back of your foot- you have some work to to. An easy way to test this is to stand on one foot and see how you shift your weight in the foot. Feeling for those three points of contact equally is the first step.

In the stirrup we only have two points of contact with the foot- the ball and the pinky toe’s base. Next time your in the saddle, note if your foot is equally balanced or if it is shifted more to one edge. If it is shifted, practice focusing on getting the balance equal between both feet and see how that effects your lower leg’s ability to work.

The position of the foot plays a minor roll to the hip’s stability when it comes to the lower leg. The hip itself and our ability to balance and stabilize the body is the biggest part. The muscles that help with this are often over looked in training programs, and subsequently forgotten about by our brain, and not used as they should be. It sometimes takes an outside eye, and assistance retraining how to move before it all clicks into place.. but here are a few of my favourite exercises that combine balancing the foot and the hip to better the lower leg.

Side Plank/Bridge:

– Start from your knees moving from the hips, as shown in the video. Once you feel strong holding from the knees.. you can progress to a full side plank position.. having the feet wide is often more comfortable then stacking the feet. Try both out and see which is best for you!

These exercises should not cause pain anywhere, and you should be checking for proper alignment and core activation the entire time! There is many progressions to both those exercises, but master the basics first and then move up. Remember, perfect practice makes perfect!

The next is the Flamingo or Single Leg Deadlift. Basically anything single leg is going to be awesome for you, as it really targets our balance (obvi) but also gets us using the foot correctly

(if we focus on it) and works the hip stabilizers. This one in particular is my all time favourite for the hips, and everything lower body.

Make sure the body stays in one straight line, as in the second picture.. the shoulders must stay active as well as to not let the posture fail. Move continuously on one leg in and out of the posture, feeling the standing leg work- especially in the hips. Make sure the leg in the air is active too- push the heel down and back as if you were standing in your stirrup on that side.. this will help keep the hips even. Doing 10 on each side, x3 is excellent! I often have my riders work on this exercise off the horse, and then feel for the same activity once their are on the horse as well (visualizing the leg being this active really helps kick the musculature into action).Here’s a video of a similar exercise. The technique remains the same between the two. Maintain a strong posture, keep hips level and toward the ground, use the core to help balance, and keep everything active!


Lastly, reverse lunges to a step up..

Here we start with the reverse lunge. Stepping backwards and bending, then swinging the back leg up as we stand to step up to a small box or bench (or bale) to stand straight, bringing the other leg up to the high knee position as shown. Master your reverse lunge first by just doing a few week of step backs and lunging.. this is often a big enough challenge balance wise. Watch the hips don’t sway, and your maintaining equal contact between the three points of your front foot. From here progress to the reverse lunge plus a high knee afterwards (no step-up yet). After you feel confident at that movement, add the step up. Be warned, it takes a lot of concentration!! Shown in the picture is a reverse lunge to a high knee. This is where you all should be getting comfortable. Once you have at least a few weeks of consistently practicing this move and feeling stronger in your balance and stabilization… then add a bale, or box in front to perform a step up instead of the high knee (and then come to high knee on the opposite leg… reverse lunge, step up, high knee, reverse the process).


Try those out by adding them on their own into your day, or adding them to your regular work out. Looking for some guidance in your exercise and health? My membership options may be just what your looking for. Check out my membership page for more.. at offers as low as $10 for your first month.. what are you waiting for? Really?

As always, if you have questions about your riding or these exercises specifically.. shoot me and email at katmahtraining@gmail.com!