Reflections on Aspire Grassroots Clinic in Poland – May 2016

A friend who works in the fashion industry once told me that there is rarely a focus on the present in her job, there is always next season to forecast and new patterns, colours and cuts to be chosen many months ahead. You plan summer stock in the winter and winter one in the summer.

When I plan the activities within the Academy, the conversation on the above pops into my head. The daily training is the only time I can walk into an arena and just work on here and now. Alongside of those in-the-presence moments, things take shape months before they actually happen and it’s the same with Aspire’s weekend clinics and camps.

We aren’t preparing a collection for Marks & Spencer or getting ready to ride for Rio but I find all the training much more rewarding if I try to run it to the best of my abilities.

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Come along with me as I reflect a little on the 3 day intensive training weekend aka Aspire Grassroots Clinic, we have just finished near Warsaw, Poland!


Yard 1: Stajnia Sabat, Granica near Warsaw

Yard 2: Duchnice, Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki near Warsaw

Format of the clinic

For the Academy’s UK riders:


•in-hand and groundwork sessions to get to know the horses. The main task was to assess the horses, determine quality of their paces, guess how might they ride and what schooling challenges might they have.

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•All riders also had a task to come up with a short training plan for “their” horse and try to improve upon what they found.

Saturday and Sunday:

•Morning flatwork and afternoon jumping sessions.

For the Polish riders:

Friday – re-assessment sessions to catch up on state of affairs since last clinic

Saturday and Sunday – sessions focused on particular goals for each pair.

Some people love the buzz of competing, I love the buzz of training. Figuring out the new horses and how to pair them up with the riders to test the right skills, finding ways to help riders who I only see twice a year – no show or event seems to match the challenge for me.


15 riders took part in the May clinic and they ranged from a beginner rider learning to canter to grassroots competition riders and trainers/instructors. It was a very good mix of experiences for me to work with and the whole weekend was much less tiring than my previous ones as I learnt on my mistakes and got some on-the-job help this time!

Gemma, the young instructor who teaches the Aspire Kids Academy programme in London, came along with me to take notes, photos, videos and help with the running of the days which let me just focus on the actual teaching.


My family’s involvement is the usual part of these clinics and as always their help behind the scenes had been invaluable yet again. That team work is what makes those weekends so special as most of the time I do everything by myself. Sharing both the workload and stress of organising a larger event but also the enjoyment of it all is on a different level of fun 🙂

Each day started about 5.30 – 6am for Gemma, me and my Dad who drove us in between the yards. The weather was kind to us and we had a beautifully sunny, warm weekend with plenty of opportunities for the oddest patterns of sun tan!



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Seeing my UK riders on horses they have never met before was a great teaching treat as they did a fabulous job. The Polish riders always have a difficult task of connecting different training systems but everyone is very willing to give new ideas a go.

We received a very good feedback from everyone and hopefully we will be back on the road again in the autumn this year.

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Although I only open these clinics to regular Aspire Academy riders I would encourage any “one horse rider” to find similar opportunities and ride an unknown horse in a structured training clinic. Such experience comes with a huge dose of learning experiences that can give you a plethora of new feels, reactions and ability to interpret your own horse’s schooling needs more accurately.

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If you are a young instructor looking into improving your teaching, I would recommend taking on a challenge of running small clinics. There aren’t many more testing environments for a coach/instructor than to throw themselves into a 14h teaching day, dealing with unpredictability of the horses, riders’ moods, training issues that come fast one after another. You will challenge your own quickness of thought, resilience under pressure, patience and ability to stay calm when everything is “yes but…” 😉

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You might just want to quit teaching altogether after your first day ever 😉 but if you keep on it, you will start seeing so many more details it will make you feel you have eyes at the back of your head!

I am already looking forward to my next challenge 🙂

Please visit our Facebook page for many more photos with short captions that can hopefully give you more of an idea of the content of the sessions.

Happy training 🙂




Photo Report from Aspire Grassroots Clinic at Stajnia Sabat, Poland. JUNE 2015

-To have and keep in one's grasp- held

Alison and Gejzer over a simple cavaletti exercise in walk – he takes the “no touching the rails” very seriously 😉
Agata and Galka – here in a self carriage exercise in a very short trot leg yielding towards me. Testing rider’s suppleness and coordination of aids.
Short session with 4 years old PRE mare
Flatwork session with a lovely “heavy” horse who moved as if he had no idea about some cold blood crosses running through his veins 🙂
Flatwork session with a lovely “heavy” horse who moved as if he had no idea about some cold blood crosses running through his veins 🙂 
My cousin, Karolina, working on similar exercises as Agata and Galka. Learning about being precise and accurate with shapes of circles and figures of eights to improve self – carriage. The horse chooses his frame to some extent but the rider has to maintain line of travel, tempo and rhythm.
Ola doing some fun coordination exercises to improve the feel for diagonal use of aids.
Chatting with Dominika about her super mare 🙂
De-brief after flatwork session
The Sunday jumping session – working in a line that can be ridden for 3 or 4 strides depending on the length of canter stride chosen by the rider. Here Dominka went for shorter stride that didn’t fit either option leaving Falkata to decide and go for a long one. Very athletic little mare.
Myself with my lovely Mum and 4 years old niece 🙂
Tea time 🙂
More tea time 🙂 
Jumping session – understanding a feeling of “uphill canter”
Jumping session de-brief
Karolina and I working on ironing out a postural crookedness through her upper body
Eye to eye with Krater. I am using the whip to touch Karolina when she collapses her upper body to give her proprioceptive reminder about where her seat becomes weak and ineffective.
More posture corrections – here with one stirrups very short and the other foot out of the stirrup to wake up different feels through the pelvis in relation to back motion of the horse.
Flatwork session in the sun 🙂
Ania and Zarys. Jumping session – planning a dog-leg to improve rider’s ability to ride a correct line and tempo – here ending up too close to the left wing.
Jumping session – same line and exercise as with Dominika and Falkata.
Same dog-leg line as above – testing the ability to plan a line and tempo of the canter for most optimal take off before the second jump
Natalia and Jaron – flatwork session

Fabulous weekend. I ended up doing 18 lessons in two days as we added a couple as we went and I am seriously considering investing in a portable sound system that I can use during clinics. We worked in a large outdoor arena so to limit my shouting I walked all the time which gave me a serious amount of steps per day in a rather deep surface 😉

All the riders worked so well and are so eager to learn, I wish I could teach them more often. Alas, next meeting is in October so they have plenty of time to practice what we did during the weekend.


Photo report from Aspire Grassroots Clinic at Lindrick Livery, Ripon, North Yorkshire

I have just returned from teaching on Aspire Grassroots clinic at Lindrick Livery and what a great weekend that was! I hope the pictures tell the story well and that you enjoy the wonderful set of them taken by Ceri of Pure Essence Photography (Check her website HERE if you would like to book a photo shoot 🙂 ) I will be writing more about the exercises shown on below pictures in Aspire’s bi-monthly newsletter coming up on the 14th October so if you would like to read some of my thoughts on those simple body awareness techniques, sign up HERE 🙂

When schooling we communicate with a horse via diagonal aids (inside leg – outside rein, outside leg – inside rein) to help with balancing the horse (prevent over use of either sides). For this communication to work well, we need to be aware of cross-coordination in our own body…
Fabulous, little 3 year old ex-racehorse in early stages of re-training. Learning to move like a riding horse.
Addressing posture and effectiveness of the leg
Intro to an exercise which helps with control of the horse’s shoulders
When schooling we communicate with a horse via diagonal aids (inside leg – outside rein, outside leg – inside rein) to help with balancing the horse (prevent over use of either side). For this communication to work well, we need to be aware of cross-coordination in our own body…
When we sit on a moving horse, we don’t always feel how physics and motion disorganise our position and as a result destroy our balance. Testing Olivia’s front to back stability here.
When schooling we communicate with a horse via diagonal aids (inside leg – outside rein, outside leg – inside rein) to help with balancing the horse (prevent over use of either side). For this communication to work well, we need to be aware of cross-coordination in our own body…
Introduction to a simple yet powerful exercise: “monkey” position – which helps with getting the idea that joints need to be relaxed for the posture to become effective, it’s the muscles that need to work…
Awareness of own crookedness is a first step to understanding schooling of the horse – simple exercises can awake muscles that we didn’t know existed 🙂
Learning about horse’s posture via becoming a horse 😉
Another version of the “monkey” position – which helps with getting the idea that joints (hip, knee, ankle, elbow, shoulder) need to be relaxed for the posture to become effective, it’s the muscles that need to work…
In-hand work to help with crookedness
3 year old ex-racehorse Casper learning to yield from the “leg” in-hand
Laura having a go at “monkey” exercise
Searching for strengths and weaknesses in rider’s body as far as balance in the saddle is concerned 🙂
Cantering on foot to address excessive shoulder movement – fun and very effective to build awareness 🙂
As Ceri, the author of the photos said “Never too early to start 😉 ” My cracking little client – grand age of 5 – on his pony, preparing for simple and fun coordination exercises.
Everybody understand various instructions differently. How do you soften your hand/elbow/shoulder? What does it mean “give” with your hand? Here Louise is feeling the difference between locked and “soft” elbow.
Quick video feedback before proceeding with exercises. Visual feedback never lies and helps immensely with speeding up learning process.
Every movement of the horse needs to be absorbed by rider’s joints. If one or more joints “block” the motion, harmony can’t be achieved. Here the rider is experimenting with passive joint movement to determine which of her joints (hip, knee or ankle) is the one she blocks the movement with.
Learning to move on large circles in balance and relaxed posture without the rider. A 3 year old ex-race horse Casper – I can’t wait to watch his improvement over months to come. He has wonderful brain and fantastic attitude.
Learning how rider’s crookedness affects turns and circles – and finding ways to correct a few issues 🙂
Short in-hand sessions for 3 year old Thoroughbred, Casper.
Posing with a lovely young rider and her wonderful pony, Mouse, who sadly decided not to smile with us here!
Louise and the lovely Henry – great partnership! Henry is now 3 months into post kissing spine operation and looked and worked very well!

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If you would like to organise similar clinic at your yard, give Wiola a shout! Anyone welcome 🙂 More details below:


I am about to leave for a trek to North Yorkshire to meet a great team of riders at Lindrick Livery for the weekend clinic and stuff myself with some home cooked meals by Ceri but wanted to quickly share with you my last minute special coaching offer for lessons booked at Brackenhill Stud’s Open Day on 4th October 2014! Hope to see you some of you soon! Wiola — at Brackenhill Stud.

October afternoon at Brackenhill Stud
October afternoon at Brackenhill Stud


October afternoon at Brackenhill Stud

Photo Report from Aspire Grassroots Clinic at Stajnia Sabat near Warsaw, Poland

Myself and Alison who grabbed one of the two places available for outside riders and travelled from London to take part in the clinic 🙂

I’m writing from Poland day after the weekend clinic at Stajnia Sabat. In fact, I am sitting here processing the hundreds of photos taken by my wonderful helpers (my cousin Karolina and my Dad – go family power! 😉 and many hours of video footage for riders’ visual feedback. It was one of the best training sessions at Stajnia Sabat to date with everyone making fabulous, positive progress both with regards to long term homework and the weekend’s tasks. I had so much fun teaching there yet again, it’s such a pleasure to see riders conquering variety of issues they have with their training be it mental, physical or logistical even.

There are usually two places up for grabs for riders outside of Stajnia Sabat so I offered one place to any rider either already on Aspire programmes in the UK or anyone simply interested in joining in and learning from me and the other to the rider I trained in Poland for a few months in 2013. These places are advertised in Aspire Newsletters so if you like experiencing new horses, new places but prefer to stay with my teaching philosophy, keep an eye on forthcoming clinics with available slots by signing up to the newsletter 🙂

Here is a little photo report from the clinic, hope you enjoy browsing the photos and feel like you had been with us basking in the sun 🙂

In-hand work
Having a chat about the stirrups length. This tiny lady transformed herself into a much more effective rider simply by riding shorter for the moment and employing the leg muscles full time 😉
Young rider with her lovely mare – gentle work on suppleness
Young rider with her lovely mare – gentle work on suppleness
Polishing balance to help the rider with her very crooked”project horse” who tries his heart out and has so much potential 🙂
Getting the feel for connection on the reins that is neither backward nor too yielding but supports the horse with poor balance.
Just casually demonstrating why sometimes our hands are completely reactive to what happens with our middle.
Learning half-seat over the poles to improve feel, suppleness and stamina in novice rider
Polework and jumping session that’s gone a little exciting for Alison
Cavaletti fun – great for the rider who tends to ride with locked joints or stiff ankles.
Half seat/Light seat in canter – great for the rider who tends to ride with locked joints or stiff ankles.


Are you struggling with regular training/lessons at your yard?

If you are at a DIY yard or one without regular training option, I would love to invite you to try Aspire Grassroots Clinics at your location. One or Two and Three Day Clinics available for amateur, grassroots riders seeking professional, horse friendly and rider focused training that truly makes a difference.

Give our clinics a go : )



Aspire Grassroots Clinic in Yorkshire and why not to Do It Yourself too? :)

Sometimes I get asked by people where does my energy come from and let me tell you this not so secretive secret – it’s from all the Aspire work! When I do an away weekend clinic which technically takes 4 days including travel days, like the one just gone at Lindrick Livery in North Yorkshire, the real tiredness only really hit afterwards. The actual teaching part is as awakening and energising as life can be.

The most energising part, however, is doing it with like-minded people who really want to improve and are driven not only by that improvement but by wellness of their horses. This means that the focus is not on what different bit/noseband/lunging system to use but what exercises to do and how to improve own awareness in order to have a so called happy athlete working for the rider.

Yorks clinic Collage
Collage of riders who took part in the July clinic (sans one rider whose videos I deleted by mistake 😦 ) – 5-6 July 2014. Yes, we accidentally timed it with Tour de France going through Ripon! It was rather exciting to search for yellow bicycles everywhere! :))

I would love to know if you take part in various clinics at your yard – please leave a comment! How often do you have organised, structured lessons with homework to work on with your horse between the lessons? I notice a big difference in the riders’ skills in Yorkshire since March this year when we did the first clinic together. This was the third one.

If you are on a smaller yard or at DIY livery where there are not many training opportunities and would like to organise Aspire Grassroots clinic do get in touch (aspire @ outlook. com). It doesn’t matter if you are 13 or 73 with a flashy warmblood or hairy pony 🙂

In fact, even if you don’t get Aspire Grassroots Clinic to come to you, I would really encourage you to get together with friends at your yard and organise regular training at the level suitable for everyone – it is a great motivational tool, brings a little change into training routine and gives you tools to work on on everyday basis. I visit DIY yards with lovely horse owners who struggle to get an instructor to come out to them or perhaps there is nobody in immediate area who suits rider’s preferred training methods. Organising a clinic is a way to go dear grassroots riders 🙂

P.S. Thank you to Ceri Dickinson for organising the Aspire Grassroots clinics and for Lindrick Livery for hosting them. See you at the end of August! 


2014 Coaching Offer: aspireequestrian2014


Do you live in Yorkshire, UK? Please feel invited to our July Clinic at Lindrick Livery!

The lovely Lindrick Livery, one of the yards where we go to run our Grassroots Clinics have kindly opened the places up for outside riders for our July clinic there. If you live nearby and would like to join us, please don’t hesitate. All levels of riders are welcome, the only requirement is that you want to improve your riding and your horse’s way of working with you.

Many riders struggle with one thing or another for years and our clinics are designed to get to the bottom of the problem, chew it and enjoy the outcome. There are no quick fixes in our coaching and we never use any gadgets (although we might get creative with various props to improve rider’s body awareness 😉 but there might be many eureka moments instead!

Please see the poster below for info for outside riders and contact Ceri Dickinson to book your place.

Hope to meet some new local riders in July!

All the best,


aspire Yorks

Aspire Grassroots Clinic at Lindrick Livery, North Yorkshire; 15-16 March 2014 – Photo Report by Pure Essence Photography

After an epic road trip we returned from North Yorkshire. It was so much fun teaching riders at Lindrick Livery and we are delighted they invited us to come back next month!

Here are some lovely photos from the weekend by Pure Essence Photography – if you click on the collage below you can view all photos separately as larger files 🙂

Aspire Yorkshire 15-16 March 2014