Gemma Hill: My two days training at Brackenhill Stud. Part 2: Day 2

By Gemma Hill

To read Day 1 – see HERE
ozzy grazing day 2

I arrived slightly earlier before my lesson to take ozzy for a grass walk just so he could stretch his legs after having a busy day the day before. After 20 minutes of grass it was then time to get ready so again I made use of the heat lamps just to warm his back up before our flat lesson.
Ozzy felt great when I got on and was walking around, he felt like he was stretching in his walk and felt looser, sometimes Ozzy tends to start with a disconnected walk so he gives the feeling that he is not quite connected and his stride gets short.

gem yellow 1
Again me and Wiola discussed what we the lesson aim was and for this lesson we was going to do a pole exercise to help with balance and canter rhythm. We had 4 poles out, one at each quarter of a circle, 2 of the poles were slightly raised. We did the exercise in trot to start with and then we did it once in canter each way. My first attempt in canter on both ways highlighted the areas in where both me and Ozzy struggle.

circle 1

On the right rein was where we struggled as his canter was more strung out and his turning on the right rein is more difficuault, as for me I tend to lean in a lot more on the right rein and Ozzy puts me in a position which when turning makes me rely more on the right rein then keeping him even in the contact and controlling more of his outside. On the left rein his canter wasn’t as strung out therefore by the second attempt he was able to find it a little easier and found his rhythm.

As a rider I found it difficult at the start as I was aiming for him to get over each raised pole and was trying to push him for a stride rather than just waiting and letting him find his own feet and balance, towards the end I got better at this and Ozzy became more established.
Because Ozzy found it harder on the right rein towards the end I put him in canter but on the outside of the circle so without going over the poles, he then settled into a canter where I could feel he was really trying and he had that bit more of a push from behind. He became a little on the forehand but I was able to support him a little more when he did this and was able to help him balance before returning back to trot.

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I was super pleased with Ozzy at the end of this lesson as I have been working on his canter and felt that we had established it even if it was just for a brief moment it just showed that he is becoming stronger and with more patience it will all fall into place.
After working so hard, thanks to the staff at Brackenhill Stud they kindly agreed to allow Ozzy to go in one of the paddocks so he could have stretch and a roll for a few hours. Meanwhile while Ozzy got to have his wind down time, it was time to do some ball exercises to mimic my errors and how to correct them. One of the exercises was to correct my turning position so making sure my sternum stays inline with the withers, figuring out how to turn the body without turning before the horse.

Groundwork with Leo. We use a combination of classical in-hand work exercises and methods developed by Equitation Science International (

After a few hours in the field, I got Ozzy in, gave him a groom and got ready for our next lesson. Our last lesson we had a joint lesson with Kelly and Mojo and for this lesson we planned to do some grid work. While Kelly was warming up and going through some exercises I gave Ozzy a long walk and a brief warm up as by this time he was tiring.
Gridwork is really hard for Ozzy as he is slightly on the forehand so when landing he has to recover quickly enough to make the next jump, it became even more of a challenge for him as we had some bounces included so here Ozzy had to be quicker with his legs and not to jump too flat. The first few times I felt like we were nose diving through them but it was about letting him figure out his feet and how he could make it more comfortable for himself. By the end he felt bit better as he didn’t feel like he was on the forehand as much and he was being quicker with his legs and more powerful.

I ended slightly earlier as I felt he had done well but also felt like he was tired, he had worked super well over the two days and gave every lesson 100%. There wasn’t any moment over the two days where he felt like he was working too hard. We finished the two days with big improvements and more tasks to work on until the next camp in November.

Thanks to everyone at Brackenhill for having us and thanks to Wiola for the lessons and making us work hard 🙂.

Gemma’s training stay award was co-sponsored by Brackenhill Stud, a Henley base for the Academy’s training. Big thank you to Emma Brinkworth and everyone at the Stud for making Gemma and Ozzy feel so welcome 🙂

Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 16.04.05We have limited availability for Full/Part/Competition Livery at Brackenhill Stud in Henley-on-Thames, a well-established and beautiful yard with fantastic facilities.
Indoor arena with Martin Collins surface, full set of showjumps and viewing area
Superb hacking
All year turn out with options for individual and small group
Yard manager on site
Full kitchen and chill out room
Toilets and shower
Lorry parking
Onsite trainer
Option for BHS training
Competition preparation and grooming
Breaking and schooling
If you simply want to enjoy your horse and our superb hacking, or if you are a serious competitor we will cater for all of your equestrian needs in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere with dedicated and knowledgeable staff.
Call Emma on 07557677163 for more information or to arrange a visit.

Gemma Hill: My two days training at Brackenhill Stud. Part 1: Day 1


By Gemma Hill



After winning the coach award at the Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy Summer Camp 2017, I booked my 2 day stay at Brackenhill Stud sponsored by the Stud and the Academy. I enjoy having the two days training sessions as Ozzy always comes away with a big improvement.

Our first lesson on our 2 day training stay was a flatwork lesson, we put Ozzy on a circle and talked about our aims for the lesson and what we were going to work on.


We talked about the contact being consistent and the push and reach which Ozzy creates from behind with his hind legs becoming more even. At the start it was about getting me to feel for which hind leg I felt Ozzy was pushing from more or if he felt like he was pushing evenly. We then worked on my position on a circle/turn to help Ozzy with his balance in order to allow him to have a better push.

The aim here was to improve both the rider feel for and the horse’s use of a positive thrust of energy from both hindlegs. I wanted Gem to gain better feel of Ozzy transferring the energy from his left hind all the way through left side of his body, over the poll and to the left rein and same on the right. In other words I wanted her to focus on throughness. We discussed the combinations of that energy transfer (in short: left hind to the left rein, right hind to the right rein, left hind to the right rein and right hind to the left rein i.e. direct and diagonal shifts/transfers) and how to improve on them in order to improve the quality of Ozzy’s working gaits. 

gem on app1
Illustrating the problem of “disconnect” of the rider’s outside side with the horse’s outside side by using Centaur Biomechanics “Objectivity” app. Simple and so useful, Gemma found it very helpful to see the issue on the screenshot with the lines applied and was able to make very good corrections that will need time to consolidate and become consistent. More on the app HERE

On turns and circles I have a tendency to turn before him and over turn my shoulders or lean inwards. I looked at a freeze photo from a video that Wiola took and from there we made the necessary changes.At first when I was waiting for Ozzy to turn before I did it felt like he was never going to turn but then chatting to Wiola it was just simply because Ozzy does everything in slow motion mode, so his turning was happening but not as fast as I was turning. The small correction then made Ozzy find a better way of going in order to allow him to be little more consistent while engaging from behind. Overall Ozzy felt like he had improved and that he tried really hard to make the changes, he felt more responsive to my aids and body positioning.

Our second lesson of the day was a jump lesson, I started warming up and Ozzy felt great, his reactions felt quicker and his trot felt more active and bigger. We did a small warm up as Wiola had planned some slightly trickier exercises for us to work through so I didn’t want him to be to tired, for those who don’t know Oz, he is quite a laid back guy anyway.

Ozzy day 1 jump

The exercise which was set up was poles which were set out as half a circle with “bounce” distance (3m) in between each pole. To start with we just cantered through the poles on a half circle to just see which rein was going to be harder for Ozzy and just so he could find his bearings. Wiola then started to make some of the poles on the half circle into jumps, the idea was for Ozzy to find his feet and just to treat the jumps as if they were poles on the floor and just try and maintain a good canter throughout as his canter is his weaker gait.

To watch a video of Ozzy doing this exercise, see Aspire Equestrian Instagram post: HERE

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Surprisingly Ozzy didn’t feel like he was struggling as much as i thought through this exercise. His left rein was better than his right as on the right rein when jumping he doesn’t always land right, we came to the conclusion that i may have a slight twist while jumping to the right which makes it easier for him to land on the wrong lead, but we managed to get him to land correctly on the right lead at the end.

The second exercise we did was just a related distance down the long side of the school, it was set with 3 strides in-between an oxer and a vertical on comfortable 13.5m and the aim was to come off the left rein and make sure that we had a good enough canter around the turn so using what we learnt in the morning session and creating the power. Ozzy found this much easier and jumped super down the line, his canter after doing the half circle exercise felt more balanced especially around the turn to the first fence of the related.

ozzy day 1 oxer

He was then able to create enough energy after jumping the first fence to maintain his rhythm and to get a good stride to the second.

To watch Gemma and Ozzy in the second exercise, see Aspire Equestrian Instagram post HERE


We ended the lesson on that exercise as I felt Ozzy had used what we learnt from the morning session and the pole exercise and jumped really nicely.

gem solarium
Muscle therapy under the lamps after all the hard work 🙂
Ozzy solarium
Muscle therapy under the lamps after all the hard work 🙂


Read Part 2 HERE 🙂 

Gemma’s training stay award was co-sponsored by Brackenhill Stud, a Henley base for the Academy’s training. Big thank you to Emma Brinkworth and everyone at the Stud for making Gemma and Ozzy feel so welcome 🙂


We have limited availability for Full/Part/Competition Livery at Brackenhill Stud in Henley-on-Thames, a well-established and beautiful yard with fantastic facilities.
Indoor arena with Martin Collins surface, full set of showjumps and viewing area
Superb hacking
All year turn out with options for individual and small group
Yard manager on site
Full kitchen and chill out room
Toilets and shower
Lorry parking
Onsite trainer
Option for BHS training
Competition preparation and grooming
Breaking and schooling
If you simply want to enjoy your horse and our superb hacking, or if you are a serious competitor we will cater for all of your equestrian needs in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere with dedicated and knowledgeable staff.
Call Emma on 07557677163 for more information or to arrange a visit.

Through coach’s eye: Post Summer Camp 2017 reflections. Day 3 of 3


Lauren and Gilly. Photo by Becky Bunce

Day 3 of the Camp was focused on Cross Country and Dressage skills and incorporated the Training Show rounds (or elements of rounds on XC course to match demands with the rider’s experience). If you would like to catch up on previous days before reading on, check these links: Day 1 and Day 2.

Sunday morning woke us with the sky painted in all sorts of shades of pinky oranges, yellows and blues 🙂

Morning at Camp Collage



The thing I like the most about riding on a cross-country course is the terrain. Not the jumps set up in open fields but the water, the steps up and down, the challenges the undulation poses on balance of both the horse and the rider, the ground variety under the horse’s feet. I think all those are way more educational to a grassroots rider than jumping funky xc jumps 😉 The terrain questions are what I personally consider a must to answer by any rider (unless for some very valid reasons they should never ride outside of an arena) and a simple cross country/hacking skills are always a part of the Academy’s Foundation Programme.


For the most part, all the sessions went smooth except Caitlin’s mare got a bit playful which ended up in a fall whilst Aisha’s share horse didn’t feel 100% half way through so we decided to let him rest instead. It was a bit of a blow for both of these riders. Caitlin who tweaked her back muscles, pulled out of the afternoon dressage too which unfortunately meant giving up her chance for winning the Camp’s Trophy or other Awards. It was even sadder still as she was scoring highly on my board up until then!


I have not run any previous Camps this way before and found it both interesting and difficult. Trying to make mental notes about how riders responded to coaching and their focus on the tasks made me much more aware of some aspects of our lessons to which I perhaps didn’t think of so much before.


Del xc1
Derek’s first ever Cross Country experience.





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Afternoon was all about the Dressage and off horse sessions on the seat, influence and effectiveness. I chose two long arena tests, one Preliminary, one Novice, for the riders to learn. The format of the session was to ride a well planned, individual warm up followed by a short session with me to work on anything the rider found difficult during the warm up, then ride the test. In order for the judging to be as impartial as possible, I asked the riders who were not riding or getting ready at the time, to score with me.

off horse collage
Top left: amazing sports massage with Natalie that we were lucky to have over two days. The bottom right photo makes me smile every time I look at it and it confirms we chose the right Winner 🙂 While everyone is browsing through some fabulous photos Becky took in the morning of XC sessions, Laura is desperately trying to figure out better seat balance before the afternoon dressage sessions.

I didn’t want a competition scoring per se so asked the”judges” to try to assess what they saw by taking under consideration the rider’s skills, the horse’s level of training and the quality with which they thought the riders applied themselves to the task.

I believe that judging dressage tests i.e. watching with understanding in a analytical way, can be very educational and makes the rider aware of little things they may otherwise have missed when riding by themselves.

Again, this new format draw my attention to how the riders approached their preparations. Even though we are not running a highly competitive programme, we are all in this because we are interested in progress and self-improvement. I do my best not to put any pressure on anyone in terms of time scales for achieving particular skills upgrades but I would not want to see riders staying in their comfort zones for too long.


In terms of short listing riders for the final Awards I was looking at how the riders used their time with me, whether they tried to push themselves or settled for least challenging options, whether they used the opportunity to “judge” constructively and whether they were able to switch well from being coached to thinking for themselves.

The challenge I gave myself and which I found most enjoyable in this whole Awards format was to approach every session of these three days as if I wanted that rider to win the main Trophy. In a set up where the scoring is so relative and individually adjusted, I knew I needed that focus on helping every rider reach their best to avoid any potential bias.


Once everyone ridden their tests, I sat down with my Decision Panel consisting of Angela and Becky who were with me at every session of the three days, Tatiana and Gary – the patrons of the Camp and the Training Show and Caitlin – the rider who was in the run up to the Trophy but was unable to continue due to injury (in the future Summer Camps I will always invite to the Panel any rider(s) who were riding high but due to unforeseen circumstances lost their chances of a win). I talked all of them through all of my notes on every rider, how I thought they performed, how coachable they were, whether they showed any interest in off horse sessions and with what effects, how they generally contributed to the training atmosphere and whether in my opinion they challenged themselves. I then asked Angela and Becky for their views on all the above. Once we talked all the details through, which took almost an hour, we voted.


As this was a test run for this Camp format I am sure we will eventually arrive at a more robust way of finalising the Awards but I feel we didn’t do a bad job 😉


Laura and her Thoroughbred mare, Robyn.


This Award was to go to the rider who:

– showed above average commitment to improve own skills in order to help their horse move/work better

– showed above average drive to acquire more knowledge via questions/exercises/ideas/discussions throughout the Camp

– showed focus, determination and teamwork when training their horse

– showed above average application to ALL tasks throughout the Camp (ridden, off horse, discussions)

– showed an absolute “horse first” attitude in all sessions

– showed improvements in their riding skills beyond an average timescale



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This Award was the second best thing to win at the Summer Camp and I wanted it to go the rider who:

– showed excellent focus and attention to all tasks during all lessons

– showed genuine interest in every aspect of the training sessions

– gave variety of ideas a go even if they were rather eccentric 😉

– made marked, visible improvements to own riding and way of going of the horse

– showed attention to detail in skill development

– showed ability to focus on my feedback in order to produce better results in second round of Show Jumping second round

– showed ability to focus on small corrections in 8 minutes of very specific help before the dressage test and then use those corrections to produce a more polished test

– made my job easy by being coachable, invested in own progress and that of the horse

– enjoyed the work they were doing

– showed an enthusiasm to improve own skills in order to help the horse

– set goals before the camp and pursued them with passion

– always put the horse first

– remain positive throughout and never blame the horse for own skill shortages.

This award went to Gemma and Ozzy. They won a 2 day training stay with me sponsored by Brackenhill Stud & Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy. More on their training adventures on the blog soon 🙂 


The three medals: Gold, Silver and Bonze, awarded similar qualities to the Trophy & Coach’s Award. They were there to say very well done in various areas of the training challenges and were awarded to riders who for some reasons lost points towards the main Trophy but nevertheless showed a marked improvements in all sessions, good attitude to training and were able to remain focused on the tasks at hand in all sessions.

GOLD MEDAL: Lauren & Gilly





BRONZE MEDAL: Paige & Oscar



HUGE THANK YOU goes to our 2017 Patron & Sponsors – Life Savings – run by Tatiana and Gary Thorpe. It really was a privilege to work with people who cared for every detail as much as I did. If you are wondering how to lower your household bills, do drop them a message. It’s not easy to find support for small initiatives like ours so I am doubly grateful for all their help as without it, organising larger projects would be near impossible! 


My big gratitude also goes to Angela Tong for her tireless assistance with everything I needed throughout the Camp & Becky Bunce for stepping in as our photographer for the Summer Camp and stealing everyones hearts with her fabulous shots 🙂

Angela and Becky BLOG

Thank you ALL for wonderful experience and I am already looking forward to bigger & better Summer Camp 2018. The plan is to open several places for riders outside of our regular programme and extend the Camp to 5 days…More details in due course 🙂 


EQUESTRIAN START UP – a real story as it happens…Part 2

By Wiola Grabowska

If you haven’t read it, here’s PART 1

blog eq start Image

Everyone talks about seeing a bigger picture when planning for a business to take off. The importance of the big vision you might have and which you should want to strive to reach. I’m sure we’re not the only ones but we have no big problems with that end goal. It’s damn ambitious, a little bit scary and mostly exciting. However, it’s the steps towards it that are personally giving me a headache…

A few weeks ago one of my riders sent me a video of our lesson from one of the first sessions we did together. She asked me how I knew how to get from that “mess” as she called it, to an upgraded version of them that they are right now.

It made me think because I realised I didn’t have a straightforward answer to that. I think I can just assess the situation, come up with ideas of what is missing and start a long process of filling in the gaps.

When I first meet a horse and rider who signs up for training with me, I can see where they could potentially be. In the process of teaching them, I see the stages we need to go through to get to the next and the next level. Sometimes I tell the rider that something looks good. They show me a photo and complain that it in fact looks rubbish. I agree. But conversely it’s also good and it is so because it was built upon a step and will be added to another step until eventually it has a chance to be something much more than  “rubbish”.

The more I thought about it the more it occurred to me that I needed a similar approach to building a business.

But how?

How does one see those small “rubbish” steps without actually making all the errors on earth!

It’s one thing to have an idea. Another one is to figure out the process of taking it from a babygrow to that first day at school…and then beyond. Are there people out there who see these little steps of a business start up the same way as I can see rider development? I am sure there are!


Learning the ins and outs of Farm Agreements and Agricultural vs Equestrian use while submitting a tender application for a Lot on a substantial property (didn’t win the tender, it went to someone who took on all the Lots of the entire farm of hundreds of acres…). We worked on this with Emma Hobbs from Equestrian Property Search Even though we haven’t found the right facility with Emma’s help within the time frame we had available, I would definitely recommend working with a specialised agent to hear of places you might not have otherwise 😉 

Spring and Summer are so busy for me that working on anything that isn’t connected with day to day coaching is a struggle but the days are getting shorter and evenings start early which can only mean more time to focus on going forwards.

The things we have already done in order to reach more clarity in how to make things happen was to join a very positive and dynamic business group – Small & Supercharged VIP – run by Rhea Freeman (more about Rhea and the group HERE) and we set aside a little bit of time each week to sit down and talk some ideas through. It’s not always easy to make that time but I find that it works for me and it definitely helps move things along.

I love working on an exciting project but this one has another dimension altogether, it means serious dose of risk and while I’m not averse to it, it is stressful. With a supportive but totally not horse business focused Other Half added to the equation, there are many things to get right here. If only he wanted to muck out but unlikely to ever happen!

I have witnessed situations where agreements were entered into as well as plans made upon nothing more than pursuits of self interest; situations were the obvious lack of respect for one another made many lives miserable even if the businesses kept going.

Maybe it is an age thing, maybe it isn’t but I am very aware of the fact that to build something of value you need to value people you build it with, respect them but also be able to disagree constructively.

Chatting through various ideas helps with all the above I feel. I’d say I’m fairly lucky with the fellow partner in crime here even though she dislikes sparkling water…but it’s ok, I can overlook that 😉

Another aspect of this start up that’s been on my mind a lot and which is just a tiny bit easier to deal with than the overall strategy is understanding the reasons “why” to create a new business and potentially risk relatively successful current working arrangements. Having a very good, strong “why” and most importantly, a decent understanding of that “why” should make maintaining growth and success easier.

The more consideration I have given to the “why” the more mature and clearer the main idea has become.

The question still stands though – what’s the next “rubbish” step that can take us to the following “rubbish” step until we can start feeling like we are on the right track…

We have viewed fair few different yards for rent available in the area we are interested in. Some came with arrangements favourable enough that would make the rental process possible for us without significant financial investment from the word go but on closer inspection proved unsuitable for what we would like to do. This might sound like we are being choosey and perhaps we are but the main consideration on our minds right now is “will this pay the bills and let us develop further”?!

Running a business like ours from rented facilities will not be easy and we are prepared for that but making numbers work, even if in a roughest sense of the concept, is a priority.

When predicting the costs, the daily spendings, the real expenses of maintaining a place we found ourselves in a maze of guesswork. Even if facilities were occupied before, the information was embarrassingly sparse and left to imagination. Apparently, “you find out how much everything really costs after you operated there and then for a year” … Estimating expenses is a dire task made worse by the fact that the more you look into them, the more of them appears 😉

We also looked into entering much more complicated agreements involving an initial          investment from a third party. It was an interesting experience, a great learning curve on many accounts and I wouldn’t discount involving an investor of some description into our project but yet again, finding a place that suits everyone is that much harder when more boxes need ticking off.

It’s all been a very valuable lesson and even though this initial facility search brought us to a seemingly dead end of a tricky situation with many no-go options, it has also made me think more and more about possible alternative solutions….we just need to figure out those few baby steps now 😉

To be continued…

This blog series follows a story of two freelancers  – a livery manager/groom/rider and a riding instructor with a coaching programme who thought it might be a good idea to join forces and set up a company with a vision beyond what’s achievable by oneself. The trick is – neither of them is that good at business…What can possibly go wrong?  

Through coach’s eye: Post Summer Camp 2017 reflections. Day 2 of 3

This Summer Camp 2017 was the first one of upgraded versions of intensive training camps I have been organising in the last few years. We incorporated a training show into it with Life Savings as its Patron (more on the Show later), added sponsored awards and much more focus on the rider’s technique than ever before. I loved it and the riders seemed to as well. We already have bigger plans for next year but for now, let me reflect on this year’s experiences in stages…


If you haven’t read DAY 1 reflections and would like to stay on track, here it is: RIDER FOCUS DAY 1 


Day two was all about jumping skills. The morning sessions were based on tempo control for most riders with the demands adjusted to the individual riding skills.

Kelly and Mojo

Hover over the photos for rider’s and horse’s names.

It has always been drummed into me that to jump well one needs a very good feel for tempo as well as be able to maintain the exact speed for several minutes at the time. Whilst this might seem like an easy task, many situations challenge that exactness. Turns, corners, circles, all have their bearing on horse’s balance, power/impulsion, energy level and straightness.

Derek and Boo. Currently most novice adult rider on the Academy programme but climbing the skills ladder in style 😉 Winner of the Change Maker Award.

Exercise 1 asked the riders to be able to set a canter at the speed of 325 mpm and maintain it for 1 minute. We set a minute marker and roughly measured the 325 meters. After several goes, everyone nailed this exercise but the differences between tempo control on one rein and the other were quite significant for most combinations which I hope gave everyone a food for thought.

Hover over the photos for rider’s and horse’s names.

Laura and Robyn – the Summer Camp Trophy Winners (more on how and why the winner and other awarded riders were chosen will be up in Part 3). Laura made very fast changes to her riding on Saturday. Being a tall rider on a relatively small and very sensitive TB mare, it was not always easy for her to adjust but her determination to help the mare move and jump better and her very fast seat change from training round to show round (after watching and discussing her footage) put her in the lead.
Gemma and Ozzy. Winners of the Coach’s Award. These guys ruled the Camp and Gemma reached pretty much all the goals she set herself for the weekend!

On photo above, I am passing some branches with leaves to Gemma. Ozzy is a very laid back character and generating energy is not always his priority. I think finding what motivates each horse to move is the key. Kicking and generally escalating leg aids is my personal pet hate in riding solutions so I prefer to look outside of the box. Gemma went with the idea (another reason of many why she did get the Coach’s Award) and a little bit of forest around the shoulders did give Ozzy enough flair to allow the rider to improve his posture and way of going further.

Exercise 2

Aisha and Prince (an ex-racehorse raced in the past by AP McCoy – Prince’s claim to fame 😉 )

Once we had the tempo on the flat under control, I added two cavaletti/small jumps, one on each side of the arena half way the long side of it. It’s interesting how even  a tiny jump can affect all canter skills…My idea was to stay put until everyone got it as well as I thought they were capable of unless it meant over-working the horse. It worked and I was very pleased with everyone’s efforts.

Kelly and Mojo

I believe the good feel for the right kind of canter is a huge part of jumping skill and developing that in the riders is one of my top priorities whatever their level.

Throughout these exercises I added individual corrections to suit the goals each rider set for themselves before the Camp for the duration of the weekend. It was possibly one of the most influential training session of the Camp as I wanted to see if the riders were able to apply Friday’s lessons into their riding as well as staying focused on new demands.



Gemma and Ozzy

The afternoon consisted of training sessions over a course & Training Show Round. This kind of show has been on my mind for a while and the Summer Camp 2017 provided a perfect testing grounds. I asked all riders to wear competition gear to get them in the right frame of mind 😉

Caitlin and Mollie. The youngest rider at the Camp who was one of my top three up to the afternoon when her mare knocked herself on the pole hard enough to cause a problem and had to be retired from the rest of the Saturday. She was fine for the Day 3 (XC & Dressage), more on this pair later.


I wanted to create a kind of show that would award partnership, style and performance in that order and I was assessing the riders in that exact order too. I do believe riding is a team sport of sorts – the team spirit between horse & rider should shine through every step on the course. I don’t mean here the vigorous whipping or other means of “hard” riding in order to get over a jump or any other methods that have fear or abuse at their roots. I don’t find it “class”, “brave”, “admirable” etc nor did I want to foster an environment in which the horse was some kind of an enemy to conquer over the course of jumps.

Kate and Jack. Kate had a fabulous Friday sessions but a few mistakes on Saturday put her out of top three. She still showed some great improvements but the other riders stepped up to the challenge and kept the progress rate exceeding expectations.

The style referred to rider’s seat and way of riding – again all adjusted to the individual skills level and I didn’t expect those riders who only started to jump to show any particular perfection ;). However, riding in balance with a horse is what personally drives me in my own improvement and I always strive to pass that mission on to everyone I teach.

Performance referred to results but not in terms of poles down but in terms of meeting personal goals for the horses and riders.

All rules of the show were set with this in mind.

Emma and Merehead. Emma set herself a stretch goal for the Camp and that was to jump her ex-racehorse Merehead over a 1m to 1.05m course in preparation for their move to BE100. Here they are cruising over their nemesis oxer off a tight turn on the left rein.

The training round:

  • focused on practicing some component of skilful course riding: tempo control, control of balance in turns, maintaining suitable impulsion in canter in front of the jump and rider’s position and its influence on horse’s ability to jump well.

The show round – consisted of 2 phases: 

  • phase 1: ride the course – “trial” round
  • dismount and watch your round on video straight away
  • 10 minutes discussion on what was good and what could be done better
  • phase 2: ride the course – “show round”
Emma watching her training round and discussing how to ride the Show Round better
Chatting through turns options with Gemma after their training round and before the Show round
Caitlin and Mollie
Paige and Oscar. Bronze Medal Winners for continued improvements from Friday to Sunday in all ridden sessions
Lauren and Gilly – Gold Medal Winners for fabulous attitude towards all sessions at the Camp – both ridden and off-horse and her steely determination to overcome her nerves with her playful partner in crime 😉 They made very good corrections between their training and show round!
Kelly and Mojo in the grid – Silver Medal Winners for superb training attitude and improvement in all sessions from Friday to Sunday. She rushed through the first phase of the afternoon so had no chance to correct the training round mistakes to what I believe was within reach but nevertheless showed great riding and very good focus.
I had to add this photo 😉 Hayley just a little bit happy (or petrified!) 😉
Hayley and Nugget – first time at the Camp with some mishaps, trials and tribulations but they lasted till the end!


Day 3 reflections with Cross Country, Dressage and Awards Ceremony coming soon 🙂

Photos Copyright:

“Objectivity” – coaching App by Centaur Biomechanics

By Wiola Grabowska

Visual aids seem to be one of the most effective coaching tools. From video feedback to freeze frames to slow motion footage – all these offer a great information on why things are working or not working. I use all of these for lessons every day so the new App by Centaur Biomechanics caught my attention straight away. It’s very easy to use and as I take most lessons’ footage on my phone, it saves me plenty of time (I used to use Paint for applying lines and making other visuals but it’s very time consuming and doesn’t let me show the rider the effect right there and then in the lesson within minutes).

Objectivity App - Jasmine and Amber
Jasmine and Amber. Bottom video: before watching slow motion footage and seeing screenshots. Top video: after…

The photo above is a screenshot of the App from my phone. The App let’s you upload two videos at the time and play them simultaneously at varying speeds of your choice. I find 1/2x the usual speed is good for on-the-spot coaching.

10 years old Jasmine above tended to turn her shoulders at a different speed and position to the pony’s shoulders so I thought using this App with her would be more fun than going through my usual corrections.

The image with lines applied to help the rider understand vertical balance in oneself and the horse. 

Jasmine corrected herself beautifully within several minutes of watching the slow motion footage and the screenshots.


The best of all, I could then just remind her to “keep her lines” as she practiced her dressage test and she was able to very quickly reposition in the saddle. As a result of her corrections, the pony’s balance improved on circles and turns. Win, win 😉

I have since tested the App in several other lessons and I know it will be a great, quick tool to help my riders with various asymmetry and body awareness issues both on the flat and over jumps. Can’t wait to play with it some more and can’t recommend enough if you teach and are looking for a “field” tool 🙂

The App is available on Apple Store here: OBJECTIVITY 

Note: I have no affiliation with Centaur Biomechanics and this is not an advertorial.