7 Favourites of March

In this series we will share with you 7 things we loved each month. By ‘we’ I mean the riders and friends involved with the Academy. I feel like some months it’s going to be difficult to stick to 7 Favourites! However, the decision was made to keep the list short for now so let’s see how we get on 🙂 Do share your own great finds in the comments!



Loved by Caitlin and her mum, Tatiana. Caitlin says they are super comfortable and feel like a second skin. She usually complaints about having to ride in gloves but wears these happily! Win – win. More about the gloves HERE.



Sofija’s top riding jods, she likes that they don’t feel like they are made of a thick material and apparently very comfortable to ride in 🙂 They do look great too! More about them HERE.


Stirrups covers

These particular ones Caitlin got locally from a lady called Debbie Harris (and she has a matching feed bowl cover too) but you can also find many fabulous personalised designs of these handy covers made by Stirrup Socks . They keep the saddle nicely clean 🙂


Untitled design (8)

Mairi says: Love these breeches. Really smart in navy and brown. Comfy to wear. Flattering fit. Very lightweight material – good for the spring/summer. Get compliments on them whenever I wear them. Find these breeches HERE



Mairi: I wore it on the RAF Sponsored Ride and I wasn’t too hot – it’s incredibly breathable and has mesh on the underarms for when you get sweaty. It was fab and looked good under a body protector. More about this base layer HERE.


Untitled design (10)

These gloves are just fantastic both for every day grooming and for washing – great dry or wet. Super with with longer, moulting hair but also great as massage/grooming glove on clipped horse. So easy and comfortable and all the horses I tried it on love them! Wiola


Untitled design (11)

Just love this colour and think it looks super on Leo! He’s wearing Eskadron in size: Pony Dressur. Wiola 


Lessons from Portman Horse Trials

By Wiola Grabowska


Run on the grounds of a beautiful Rushmore Park in Dorset, Portman Horse Trials welcomed us with bright sunshine, good going and a nice, calm vibe. Although not a surprise, it’s always interesting to see how very differently the horses warmed up on grass as opposed to when they work on surface.

Walking the XC course
Watching the warm up before the dressage

Lesson 1. Get schooling on grass pronto. All bendy lines, circles and corners seem like a triple challenge in comparison to a non-undulated, well groomed surface of an indoor arena 😉 

The dressage tests on grass in arenas set one next to another always seems to come with a few issues, main one being accuracy and control.

Lesson 2. Practice tests in a well measured space ON GRASS to quicken rider’s reaction time and improve quality of preparation for each movement when dealing with uneven, slightly undulated ground. 

Lou and Robyn – dressage

Show Jumping course at Portman is short but well spaced out giving horses of all shapes, sizes and length of strides an opportunity to do well.

The challenge here was not to get overwhelmed by the size of the arena and the atmosphere, get a good rhythm going from the start and keep the pace active yet controlled. Many horses ran into trouble on this seemingly simple course, plenty of stops and canter troubles.

Lesson 3: Practice powerful, controllable canter ON GRASS, play with different lengths of strides and adjustability, play with balance on undulation in a controlled canter (as oppose to more open XC canter). Build confidence in one another. Pick level of events very wisely as confidence is lost quickly and takes ages to build. School on undulation regularly.

Merehead show-jumping

The XC course is one of the most varied at lower levels and I love it. There is plenty of gradient, challenging the rider to balance the horse well and the horse is challenged to look after oneself. All the jumps are fair and questions are well matched to the level I think but the course does require a fit horse to ride well. Many combinations were off the bridle and low in the neck half way through the course, visibly tired and jumping clumsily.

Emma has kept Merehead moderately fit to help keep the cap on his exuberance but she got it spot on, he finished inside the time and full of running.

Lesson 4 – adjust the fitness level to the course. A too fit a horse that is so wound up it’s unrideable is not great, tired one is a hazard. 

Emma and Merehead1
Merehead after last jump looking full of running and ready to keep going
Little Florence attempting to help with Eventing lark 😉 

TACKROOM CHAT WITH: Robert Fowler from Castle Horse Feeds. Part 2: Robert answers feed questions from horse owners

By Mairi Mackay


When horse feed expert Robert Fowler dropped by the yard a few weeks ago we couldn’t resist the opportunity to put some of our liveries’ burning questions about feed to him. He’s from Castle Horse Feeds, producer of Smart Horse Nutrition, which we feed to most livery horses training with Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy.

Read more: The basics, the obvious and the less obvious truths on feeding horses

Our liveries asked about how to feed cobs to keep the weight off, what to feed horses who have been on antibiotics to avoid ulcers, how to feed to help build topline and more and Robert’s answers are really interesting. Of course, it goes without saying that you should always get expert advice on feeding for your horse’s specific needs. Hope you enjoy it!


Tatiana asks: “My horse Jasper, who is a cob and puts on weight easily, had a month off work due to a health issue. What would you recommend feeding him to keep him healthy but keep the weight off?”

Robert Fowler: The critical part for that cob is that you mustn’t restrict his diet because that has so many add on problems. What you want to do is reduce the calorie intake rather than the volume intake. He still needs the volume because otherwise his digestive system is not going to work properly.

If he’s not chewing, every part of his body will be affected. His teeth will grow funnily because he’s not grinding them properly. If his stomach is empty for long periods of time, he’s going to be opening himself up for stomach ulcers. The hindgut bacteria will get real problems. That is the horse basically — all those billions of microbes in the back of the horse.

You have to find something that he can eat 2.5% of his bodyweight a day that he won’t extract too much out of. The problem with natives and cobs is they are very good at extracting nutritional value out of most things. So, you either want to use threshed hay, oat straw or chopped oat straw. That’s the type of thing you need to feed him along with a feed balancer.


Caitlin who owns Mollie, a competition mare asks: “What can I feed my horse to help build topline?”

RW: You have to provide the building blocks for muscle, which is possibly protein, and have it in a good nutritional plan with vitamins and minerals but feed on its own not going to produce topline. The only thing to get topline and get a horse muscled is by making it work out.

So, you want to assess the horse’s condition and see if it needs more condition. If it needs more condition and more energy then maybe a bit more protein for building muscle and get the vitamin and mineral balance right. You want to provide it with all the building blocks for muscle — but the only way of building muscle is through exercise and training.


Hayley’s gelding Nugget, a thoroughbred ex-point-to-pointer, was recently injured. He was taken to the veterinary hospital for treatment and has been given antibiotics. She says: “I am worried about ulcers. How should I feed my horse after he’s been given medication?”

RW: The thing there is the antibiotics. A horse relies on microbes in its hindgut to process fibre and other food. An antibiotic will damage those microbes because they are bacteria. After a course of antibiotics, you really have to nurture the hindgut again because the microflora in there will have been quite severely damaged. You really need to make sure the horse gets a lot of fibre and look at feeding a pre-and-pro-biotic to get the gut working.

A lot of good feeds and balancers (including ours) include yeast metabolites, which the hindgut bacteria will feed on. Feeding something like that, which gives the bacteria a food source, is like fertilising the hindgut and nurturing the bacteria left to bring them back to their full capacity.


Mairi’s ISH gelding Gilly was off work for a couple of months with a hock injury. Gilly finds it hard to maintain condition but gets very fresh if you feed him high-energy foods. She asks: “What feeds are good for bringing him back into work?”

RW: You’ve got to get as much fibre into him as possible and then you’ve got to get energy into him in a form that’s not going to excite him. You don’t want starch and you don’t want sugar. You want high-quality oil, quality fibre and that sort of thing going into him. You want to get as much energy in there as possible, but slow-release rather than quick-release energy. You want the energy to come from the hindgut — being slow-release — rather than the small intestine where the energy is released directly into the bloodstream from starch and sugar.

He’s the type of horse where you want to make sure you find some really good hay, so every mouthful of hay he’s getting is adding to his calorie load. Nice green meadow hays are incredibly high in energy, which is why horses put weight on when they go out into the spring grass. It really is high-energy stuff. You want to find some really nice hay and feed as much as he’ll eat and then look at really concentrated feeds for him that are not high in starch and sugar. Micronised linseed is brilliant. Use sugar beet and some oil. Avoid cereals if that makes him excited.



This interview has been carefully edited for readability.

Preparing for our Spring Intensive Training Camp

By Wiola Grabowska

A little less than four weeks is left between now and our next Intensive Training Camp. I decided to change the venues for this year’s camps to create even more of a challenge for the riders but also so we can get to know more places and spice up the training adventures.

For the spring venue we decided to base the weekend at Oldefields Equestrian Centre in Seer Green, Bucks which is half way between the London yard and Brackenhill Stud in Henley on Thames and as such makes it easy for the riders to attend.

The arena where most of the action will happen

As always with those weekends I start from riders’ goals, then add my own aims for their sessions and finally try to come up with exercises and challenges that will merge the two.

The planning of those sessions is something I very much enjoy, the stressful part is to make sure everything runs well on the day!

The Spring Camp is flatwork/jumping and rider development focused and the training sessions are an intensive continuation of what we do at home in regular lessons. It’s always interesting to plan for horse’s learning too. I have noticed over the last two years of these camps that not only riders fast-forward their skills in the right environment but horses too.

I would quite like each camp to be slightly different even if the main idea stays the same – to immerse oneself in training and learning. This time we are adding an actual camping option thanks to a nice little area in the woods made available for us. I hope everyone survives 😉

stables plus paddock

Top Tip: How to teach your horse to jump air

Teaching your horse to jump air

Jumping air is a great skill to acquire by any horse as it eventually allows riders to practice without having to spend money on jump equipment. It can be done anywhere and horses can be taught to jump both verticals and oxers as well as courses of jumps with combinations and lines as long as the handler can keep up with the horse.

To start with you will need: 

  • lunge line
  • lunge cavesson
  • lunge whip
  • a pound coin
  • a sturdy jump

How to: 

  • Place the pound coin on top of the jump in the centre of it and bring the horse to it so he/she can have a good look and a sniff
  • Lunge the horse over the jump with pound coin on top of it several times
  • Remove pound coin from the centre of the jump and place it on the edge either to the left or right, let the horse see it and sniff it. Lunge over the jump several times exactly over the pound coin
  • Take the pound coin from the jump and place is on the grass a few meters away. Bring the horse to it, let him/her see the coin and sniff it then lunge over it – the horse will jump it high every time.


Happy April’s Fools, yes we don’t normally post on Saturdays 😉