Category Archives: Aspire Equestrian Training Camp

Through coach’s eye: Planning a new set up for Aspire Equestrian Summer Training Camp

By Wiola Grabowska

Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy Summer Training Camp

The 2017 Aspire Equestrian Summer Training Camp is in 9 days and this last stretch is my favourite part of the whole planning and organisation process even though it’s wildly time consuming.

New set up

This Summer Camp is the first one of hopefully a continuously improving series of summer intensive training camps incorporating a show. A very special kind of show. In all my training and in riding in general, I put the biggest emphasis on self-improvement. Knowing that we do our very best and then pushing ourselves that little bit more each time.

For this reason I wanted to create a challenge which awards partnership, style and performance in that order rather than simply a score/clear round etc. Partnership between horse and rider is to me what makes training worthwhile – mutual respect and understanding as well as working as a team not against one another. Style of riding – appreciation for correct biomechanics which makes horse’s job easy and rider’s job possible. Performance – understanding of tasks at hand, what’s required and how to “steal marks” as well as mental and physical readiness to do well at those given tasks . I feel those three elements put together should create a unique kind of competition…My plan is to grow it outside of regular riders group so watch this space 🙂

includingI Aspire Equestrian Training Challenge Show-2

Support and Prizes

It wouldn’t be a competition if we didn’t have any prizes and a trophy so it’s my mission to create a series worth putting a business name to…;) Our first Patron for the 2017 edition is Life Savings. Authorised Distributors for Utility Warehouse, a FTSE 250, Which Award winning Utility Company that can help you save money and make money on your household bills.

Delighted to have them on board as all horse people know, horses eat money and poo on money 😉 Savings is what we need!

Becky Bunce Photography and a young talented Animation graduate, Angela Tong, are among other prize sponsors. Thank you for being involved!

The exciting part starts now

By now, it means most of the timings are set, all sessions are planned out as to who rides with who and what I’ll be focusing on with each rider. The part left to do is the exact sessions content and that’s what I most enjoy. The whole process of figuring out what might potentially take a rider from point A to point B, what might work for a particular horse and how could they most benefit from an intensive focus of the Camp.

It’s the most difficult part for sure and I can’t say I always get it right but from a geeky coaching perspective this possibility to help the riders reach their goals is what drives me most to organise these events.

Photo Report from the Camp will be on the blog at the end of August so pop over for a visit to check it out 🙂




Attn of: Equestrian Photographers developing their portfolios

Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy is looking for:

A very special person to stand behind the lenses during our Intensive Training Camp (18th-20th August at Rosehill Equestrian, Henley on Thames, RG9 3EB) as the lovely Christine Dunnington who usually shoots us beautifully, is away.

chris and mairi cherwell
Christine Dunnington Photography, Gilly and Mairi 

This would suit someone building their photography portfolio rather than an established professional (but all experiences welcome!).

What’s involved?

– Two and a half days of photo – documenting training adventures of 9-10 riders and their horses (flatwork/dressage, jumping, XC training sessions and off horse rider training sessions)


– might need a mix of skills of a wedding photographer/portrait and equine knowledge and ninja expertise 😉
– will be able to be invisible when needed and put riders at ease with your presence
– enjoy capturing precious moments, lightbulb moments, training moments, relationship between horse and rider and the bond they have as they train

What’s in it for you:

– possibility to offer selected photos for sale to the riders taking part
– possibility to pitch own creative photo ideas to me and “use” any willing riders and horses to play with those
– possibility to meet new potential clients and wow them with your photos
– possibility to join our fun BBQ 😉

How will the photos be used:

I will choose selection of photos from the weekend on which you could place your logo and they would be extensively shared on Aspire Equestrian social media and blog offering you an exposure among grassroots sports focused horsey audience.

Please see a photo report from our latest camp here but all creative input more than welcome!…/aspire-equestrian…/

Any questions please message me on here via comments or email
I really hope to meet one of you out there and build some awesome photo memories with your help  

Thank you!

Aspire Equestrian Intensive Training Camp Spring 2017. Photo Report.

Words by Wiola Grabowska
Photography: Christine Dunnington Photography
The atmosphere, the effort and the fabulous training spirit: The Riders

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The 5th Aspire Equestrian Training Camp – Spring Camp 2017 – The Team. From left to right: Lou and Robyn, Gemma and Ozzy, Aisha and Prince, Sasha and Boo, Sofija and Jasper, Kate and Jack, Kelly and Mojo, Paige and Oscar, Caitlin and Mollie. Myself in front of the riders (as instructed by Christine and damn she was right – love the photo!)

There is so much planning and thoughts that lead to Academy’s Intensive Training Camps that it’s hard to believe when one is done and dusted!

Our host for The Spring Camp 2017 was Oldefields Equestrian Centre in Seer Green, Buckinghamshire. Huge thumbs up for this venue as even though they have been undergoing some extensive improvements works, we felt welcomed and comfortably left to enjoy the facilities of which their 40×70 ish m arena was a luxury we don’t have at home.

A few of my own reflections

The actual Camp is a whirlwind for me and probably the biggest challenge is to switch quickly between teaching different riders, different horses, different tasks, different learning styles, personalities and characters, in such a way that the sessions bring the best out of the horses and riders.

I feel I am getting better with each Camp but still plenty to improve. It’s important to me that all the riders retain their own styles of riding with just the core foundations and structure in place.


I don’t want to train carbon copies and my personal coaching challenge is always is teaching certain basics of horsemanship and training values that matter to me and become so solid, so confirmed, so ingrained that they simply provide an unbreakable foundations for the riders to grow on in their own style.

The key is that the rider treats the horse with respect and knowledge of how the animal learns – both from physical and mental point of view, what makes them do what they do. I have zero tolerance for violence in training and zero tolerance for riders who think it’s horse’s ‘fault’ something isn’t happening.

I feel very lucky to teach the kind of riders I do, they keep me on my toes and challenge me for sure but I wouldn’t have it any other way and hope they are able to continue riding with me long term 🙂

Enjoy the photos 🙂 



Sunday jump session
Saturday morning flatwork


Gymnastic jumping session


Group go at leg-yield on the wall


Group go at leg-yield by the fence.
Last session: stretch and relaxation on the lunge
Saturday gymnastic jumping session
One handed to improve steering with the seat and weight aids
Improving posture in-hand
Sunday jumping session


Gymnastic jumping session
Last session: leg-yield on the wall
One handed – improving riders’ feel for turning aids with the seat
Sunday jump session
Leg-yield in hand
Gymnastic jumping session
Saturday. Gymnastic jumping session
Gymnastic jumping session
Last session: Stretch on the ground


Last session: experimenting with different postures and how they affect the horse’s way of going. Here Ozzy is going too deep in his neck frame but he is by no means made to do so with any strength. He’s a young horse changing postures all the time.
Leg yield
Saturday. Gymnastic jumping session
One handed part of the session to help the riders discover more seat aids. Focus on stirrup weight and how subtle weight aids do the job
Last session: group leg-yield on the wall. Not easy!
Last session: stretching and relaxing all the muscles
Saturday afternoon gymnastic jumping
Sunday morning jump session: line of oxers to build riders’ feel for stronger canter
Sunday morning jump session
One handed to switch on rider’s seat aids
Gymnastic jumping session
Gymnastic jumping session
Gymnastic jumping session
Experimenting with size of the circle and body position to help the horse find more comfortable posture
Learning coordination in leg-yield alongside the fence
One handed riding to “switch on” seat riding
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Gymnastic jumping
Last session: having a go at a leg yield on the wall in the group
Finding centred position in the saddle



On Sunday morning we spent 2h with the founder of RiderCise, Clare Gangadeen, who ran a variety of test exercises to help everyone build more awareness of their own individual strengths and weaknesses from the rider fitness point of view.

“Clare is a qualified and insured, PT, Functional Coach and Soft Tissue Therapist with over 12 years experience in the Fitness Industry and 20 years riding experience”


ridercise collage
“If a rider is disadvantaged by their riding fitness, strength, mobility, flexibility, motor skills and/or Muscular-Skeletal health/ symmetry it can affect the way the horse is able to perform and may even cause many of the issues we heavily invest in correcting.”

Next Intensive Training Camp is planned for August and we are on the lookout for a suitable venue to hire 🙂

Until Summer Camp!

All the best,


Huge thank you to:

18318021_10154462437777681_1643049852_oChristine Dunnington (left on Jasper in her Friday session) for hundreds of photos and videos taken during this Camp as well as hours of help behind the scenes;

Kelly Hill, the Academy’s livery head honcho, for all the assistance and help with making this Camp happen;

Gemma Hill for legging back to home yard to teach our youngest rider who didn’t attend the camp and for making a super video out of many vlog clips we took for our in-house enjoyment;

Tatiana and Gary Thorpe for all-round support and a fantastic BBQ on Saturday night;

Lou Crow for helping me get home in the evenings!

And all the riders for making these Camps so much fun to run! 






Behind the Scenes: Preparing the sessions contents for the Spring Intensive Training Camp

From the Academy’s “Admin office” by Wiola Grabowska

Usually, about 2 weeks prior the Camps, I like to have a several hours put aside to quietly reflect on what I want the riders to learn and how best to deliver the sessions so they are not overwhelming to the horses.


Half way through brainstorming Intensive Training Camp ideas between Dr Klimke, Dr Heuschmann, Susanne Von Dietze, Beth Baumert, Major Lindgren, Anja Beran , more other interesting trainers and myself 🤓😁 It’s hard to get into a properly good , thorough thinking zone where ideas slot together and I have a clear plan for each rider but love it when it works.

I used to attend various intensive clinics and events, some were very educational, some a complete waste of money. It was obvious which trainer did some preparation and who just assumed they were good enough to ad lib on the go…With over 20h of coaching sessions a weekend in various form, I don’t trust my ad lib skills and like to have a good plan in my mind!

A few weeks before the Camp, I ask the riders to set themselves a few goals for the intensive training weekend. The goals themselves are not that important but I believe the best learning happens when a person has some ownership of the learning process. Otherwise, they are just being told what to do with no critical thinking involved. The process of thinking about what one tries to achieve is of value by itself.

Jazz doesn’t understand Admin. She’d rather I was out there in the arena with her eating horse poop and chasing shadows 😉 

Once I receive the riders’ goals, I convert them into potential training session(s). Some riders set goals that would need 100 sessions to become a reality. Some have a better understanding of a training process but at the end of the day, they all provide me with fabulous feedback on what to teach next.

I also set my own goals for each rider and convert those into training session(s) too. Then, I find a middle ground content, something that will progress the rider, help progress the horse, be challenging but hopefully fun too.

This time I also booked Clare from RiderCise to run a 2h warm up session for the riders on one of the days.

ridercise website

Every Camp I try to mix and match off horse training with training in the saddle so I am hoping to work with many different professionals out there who can complement ridden training with rider-as-an-athlete specific exercises. Clare’s programme intrigued me so I am very much looking forward to meeting her and getting to know more about how she works with the riders.

The overall plan is now ready with preliminary timings set up. I have a large picture of what I want to work on with each group and now it’s all down to smaller details like specific exercises as well as variants of them in case the main ones don’t work. I know all my riders fairly well as the Camps are currently only for my regular riders (I do plan to open the Camps to more riders soon 🙂 ) so want to make sure the Camp sessions bring a bit of fresh set of challenges, not just a multiplied home sessions.

The intensive training weekends are also a good challenge for me. As trainers/coaches we can become reliant on what we already know and stop pursuing new ways of achieving the same thing. The research for the Camps’ sessions those few times a year keeps me open minded and always searching for answers.

Eight days to go!








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

VIDEO: First Aspire Equestrian Training Camp at Brackenhill Stud: 30th October – 1st November 2015

Let me take you for a 5 minutes video viewing of some fun memories from our first training camp at Brackenhill Stud 🙂 Grab a cup of something and hope you will enjoy re-living it all with us.

XC setting off

Day 1:

Morning: Flatwork, Rider Balance & Awareness session,

Afternoon: Jumping/Pole work

 Day 2: 

XC schooling at Attington (


The next winter series camp coming up on 4th – 6th December 2015. Join the Academy to take part in many exciting training opportunities in the near future 🙂

Check out the options on: (you don’t need your own horse to receive quality & challenging coaching)