Category Archives: Coaching The Rider

Stiffness in Rider’s Body – Using Rising Canter and “Soft Knees Half-Seat” for training.

Since writing “Stiff Arms When Riding and How To Train Them Away” some of you asked for more information on rising canter which I mentioned in the above post. As I have a young rider  training with me right now who is working on improving her effectiveness in canter, I roped her and her lovely pony, Ventus, in for a little video demonstration. Please bare in mind she is only learning the exercise and video footage shows her first go at it.

Agatka2

My two favourite canter exercises that fight stiffness and improve harmony are:

1)  using very soft knees in half – seat (or 2 point) and

2) the rising canter.

The reason being it is almost impossible to ride either of the above for more than several strides without also creating enough impulsion and freedom of movement in the horse’s gait. If canter is lacking forwardness or the horse is severely behind the leg, both canter exercises are impossible to do well.

As it is then, they give the rider immediate feedback on absolute basics which can be sometimes overlooked in full seat…

SOFT KNEES HALF SEAT/ BOUNCY TWO POINT SEAT

This way of riding a canter creates an appearance of somewhat bouncy canter seat but it should never ever be heavy on the horse’s back (rider’s seat either just about brushes the saddle in the down phase or lifts again before coming in contact with the saddle. All movement of the horse goes through rider’s knees, hips and ankles and despite having serious issues with one of my knees myself I have not personally noticed any detrimental effect of this way of riding. I have shown this exercise on a video included in this post. This way of riding in half seat is sometimes referred to as an “incorrect rising canter” but whatever we call it, it really builds feel, stability, upper body independence and arms suppleness 🙂 It also helps the rider with timing of the leg aids and with supporting each canter stride as and when necessary.

Additionally, it increases reaction time when jumping, is great for very hot horses and helps those riders who tend to fold over the jumps excessively.

RISING CANTER

Rising Canter stills
This is myself on Ventus. His saddle is too small for me – ideally you want your seat centred (mine should be closer to the pommel in the sitting phase).

In rising canter, the rider sits for one full stride and immediately stands up for the next full stride, then sits again for full stride and stands again for next one. This cantering method has many advantages not only for riders but for horses too.

I will focus on its use in rider’s training today.

VIDEO PART 1

(Do excuse my lack of decent presentation of the subject here; I am usually the one behind the camera! Let’s hope it’s helpful enough 🙂

WHEN TO USE THOSE EXERCISES

Many novice and intermediate riders have trouble with riding the actual canter stride of their horse without stiffness. If they feel nervous they might move own body in “shorter” strides or “longer” strides, they might worry about being left behind or bounced upwards, they might grip through their thighs and knees and lose their stirrups, they might lock through their hip joints and “drive” the canter by rubbing their seat down into the saddle. This encourages the horse to dip his back away from the pressure and therefore tensing the very muscles that needs to be relaxed and supple for the movement to be most effortless and pleasant to both sit to and to watch.

Some advanced riders who were taught to grip with their knees in canter or sitting trot (especially those who jump or event) and who now struggle to improve the quality of their horses’ canter will also find both of these exercises to have unlocking effect on their pelvis and knees and stabilising effect on their hands. In turn, this will help with expression and freedom of the horse’s movement.

I can’t emphasise enough the influence both of these exercises have on overall improvement of movement harmony…I have seen novice riders going from rigid, stiff figurines to much more supple, fluid, effective riders in a few months of regular practice of canter exercises. It’s not a quick fix for sure but it is pretty much a permanent one.

A LITTLE NOTE

Over the years I was surprised to notice that many riders find rising canter much easier to get the hang of than the balanced bouncy half seat which is why I did it myself on the video. It takes some practice to not adversely affect the stride or remain in control of upper body in this exercise but if you try and find it difficult, persevere – it will transform your confidence in timings of your aids and balance of your horse.

Agata will be back on screen next month to show you her progress with rising canter!

Please let me know if you found this useful and leave a comment with any questions. If you have a riding issue that you are working on, let me know, maybe we can explore it on here 🙂

 

Stiff Arms When Riding – How To Train Them Away…

Riding stiff arms
http://www.aspireequestrianacademy.com

Arm stiffness comes in various forms. Some riders ride with straight elbows which automatically stiffens not only the arms but the neck and shoulders. Some keep their hands very low almost beneath the pommel of the saddle closing their chests and perching forwards. Some lean back and stretch forwards through their arms as if wanting to reach the reins.

Whatever the visual representation of stiffness I am yet to meet a rider whose actual arms were the primary issue…So let’s look at where they might come from and what we can do to un-stiffen those arms.

DENTED SELF-CONFIDENCE or RELYING ON WRONG BODY PARTS FOR BALANCE

There is nothing that gives us more confidence than a hand on something even if we are to keep it there for reassurance. Picture this: right in the middle of your living room there is a wooden panel about 2.3ft wide. The panel lies flat on the floor and goes from door to the back wall. You are asked to walk on it without a step sideways for a hefty reward. You will likely find it pretty laughable that someone thinks you can’t walk on a wooden panel 2.3ft wide and wouldn’t think twice about going for it.

Now, picture this very same panel going over a bit of a ditch…

Many would still go across albeit slower and probably with some more attention to where they place their feet. Many would likely hold or just hover their hands on the ropes.

Now, picture no ropes on either side, just the wooden panel…just your body, your balance…and feel the hair at the back of your neck rise as you put your foot on the panel..

When you ride your horse that’s all you have – your body control, your confidence in it and your eyes for guidance. Rigid joints will make balance that more difficult and it will make the rider hang on to “their ropes” more and more at any sign of trouble.

WANTING TO KEEP “HANDS STILL”

Many riders become stiff armed riders because in their early education when their confidence in own balance was still low they either told themselves or were being repeatedly told to keep their hands still. They then try very hard to follow this command forever on but as they feel their bodies moving significantly when the horse moves they try to immobilise their wrists by going rigid in their arms.

If you are a rider who hears the above command a lot, first check if your elbows are bent. If they are not, then you are denying yourself a very important movement absorption mechanism. bend your elbows so they are just in front of your hip bones and then try to imagine that your hands need to be held in front of you in a box. This box is as wide as your horse’s bit and as high as it is wide. It’s lined with soft material so your hands feel warm, relaxed and cosy enough in there that they don’t want to leave much. There is just enough room inside for little movements left and right but not much up and down.

Whenever you need to use an opening rein or lift your hand a little, always return it to your little box.

TRAINING THOSE STIFF ARMS OUT OF THE RIDER

My personal belief and experience tell me that to improve rider’s arms we need to first improve rider’s confidence in own balance, centred position in the saddle and feel for movement.

There are many exercises we can employ here and I will share a few with you in case you would like to try:

1) Lateral sliding. 

You need a helper for this to hold the horse and walk with him. First at halt, slide your seat to one side as if you wanted to clumsily get off the horse. One of your legs will be travelling towards the ground, the other will be hooked over the saddle. Once you can’t go any lower, pull yourself up using your hands on the pommel and own abdominal muscles. Go shallow slide at first, then as you get braver slide lower. Do it 10 times on each side (20 in total). This exercise helps very cunningly with rider’s ability to feel centred in the saddle, makes rider less worried about being moved from the centre and switches on the muscles that stabilise the upper body on left-right panel. Additionally it tires the arms muscles which then makes the rider want to relax them. Win – Win.

You can do this in walk and trot on a suitable horse and with an experienced helper.

2) Mini-trot/jog

Many riders only feel up-down motion of the sitting trot which they tend to control by holding on with their thighs and lower leg, going rigid in their hip joints and “wavy” in their spine. This amplifies discomfort and sense of insecurity or wobbliness so the arms tend to stiffen more as an after-effect.

Riding in a mini-trot (almost walk) gives the rider the feel for the three dimensional movement of the horse’s back (up-down and left-right). They can feel how each seat bone moves with slight independence of the other and how holding through their legs kills that little motion. I like to call this “oiling” the hips because when done well (no slouching, neutral spine, relaxed neck and centred position in the saddle) it has a fantastic supplying effect  on the rider’s pelvis, especially when done after the sliding exercise. Slow motion of the mini-trot also gives the rider confidence to “let go of the ropes” and switch on the real balance keeper, their seat, their upper body.

3) Imaginary juggling 

When in mini-trot I like to ask the rider to imagine they juggle something in front of them in the rhythm of the trot. I guide them in when and how to release through their elbow joint so they can feel the movement of the horse’s back not only in the seat bone and the hip joint on one side but also in their elbow on this same side. Once they can relax each elbow in this manner we do mini-juggling: moving hands up and down on alternate sides an inch up and an inch down. Although at first counter intuitive, the exercise teaches the rider that they can only achieve stillness through motion. They are often surprised to see on the video that the hands which they thought were moving (juggling) a lot they actually look still on the footage 🙂

4) Off-horse games and feel exercises

bridle and gym ball
PLEASE NOTE, OUR WEBSITE ADDRESS IS NOW: http://www.aspireequestrianacademy.com

http://www.aspireequestrianacademy.com

For this you will need a Pilates ball (or something unstable to sit on), pair of reins (or dog’s leads, lead ropes, thin ropes) and someone willing to play the game with you!

Perhaps the most simple exercise is for the “rider” to close their eyes and establish a connection through the reins with the helper that is neither pulling nor slack. The helper will then move their own hands in various directions by using small movements, they can imitate the motion of horse’s neck in walk and canter or be totally random.

First, helper asks “the rider” to feel for those movements with straight, stiff elbows. Very quickly it is obvious that it won’t be possible.

Then “the rider” bends elbows and locks them rigidly by their sides – the effect will be felt also.

The actual rider behaviour can now be acted out here so the rider can sit in their usual riding position and test how much feel they have. If they ride with opened fingers they can try this now too to feel how helper’s hands motion reaches them with delay…

Once the rider starts discovering where to release tension in their arms to feel the movements easily and quickly, more seat exercises can be added using Pilates ball. “Rider” can do rising trot on it and re-test the connection again. Canter movements through the hips can also be practised  and then confronted with feeling through the arms again.

Most often than not, stiff arm rider needs to supple up through their hips first, build their confidence in upper body position second and establish more secure seat overall as a third step.

5) Rising Canter

This is one of my favourite exercises with novice and advanced riders. It really improves joint suppleness in the rider, feel for rhythm, improves the quality of the canter (because rider feels loses of rhythm or impulsion straight away) and makes any rider more agile. It’s impossible to do a good, balanced rising canter on every stride if you are stiff in your knees or hip joints and once these release the arms also follow pretty quickly.

If you would like me to write more on rising canter, how I teach and see it on a video let me know and I will make a post on it as I don’t want this one to become too long.

To sum up…

Stiff arms start with a hidden stiffness somewhere in the “main” body. If you teach try not to correct rider’s arms but switch on your eagle eyes and search for rigid spots in the seat, positional faults (like chair seat) or general nervousness.

Many a time asking a rider with stiff arms to relax them is the same as asking them to walk with courage to the other side of that wooden plank bridge without holding on to the ropes. Balance first. Then suppleness.

It’s the same with any horse. Without basic balance, suppleness never improves.

Please share your own ways of dealing with stiff arms or rigid hands. Do you battle with this issue?

Until next time!

Wiola

———————————————————–

If you would like to experience Aspire coaching first hand, check our current coaching offer here: www.aspireequestrianacademy.com

Schooling With Traffic Cones To Improve Jumping

We will probably all agree that there is no good jumping without good quality canter i.e. one from which the jump is relatively easy for the horse to perform.

The required tempo of the canter will wary and depend on the height of the jumps and individual power of the horse but for all average horses with average jumping talent the key to efficient jumping is how the rider rides the canter in corners and turns immediately prior the actual jump.

When I say efficient I mean riding in such way that looks after all structures of the horse: muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons. Turning sharply to a jump, allowing an unbalanced, forehand heavy canter when jumping, sitting heavily on a horse or letting it lean in or fall out in the corners all have its price even if the poles stay put…

Riding a good turn to a jump is not as easy as it often seem and if you watch show-jumping shows you will notice that the riders who rides their corners and turns well is usually the one with sounder and more supple moving horses.

Today I’ll share with you a simple exercise that you can try at home and which can literally transform your approaches and jumping style in a few months of regular practice. 

You will need four simple traffic cones to work on your ability to feel, visualise and focus on every part of a 20m circle all of which you will then carry over to your jumping turns.

Start with walking 21m line one way and 21m way the other way so they cross in the middle. At each end of your imaginary lines place one cone. You will then ride on the inside of the cones.

cones
The quality of the above photo isn’t great as I took it off a video footage from today’s training but you should see the idea of the set up if you have never tired this method before.

Your mission is to ride each quarter of the circle with your horse bending gently around your inside leg whilst putting a lot of emphasis on eye-body steering i.e. you look around to the next cone and the next cone as you circle so the horse isn’t over – steered and over-directed but starts to tune in to your pelvis and upper body position as well as weight distribution in your body that follows direction of your eye contact. This is very important when jumping as you will be paying attention to leaving the horse’s head alone to some extent.

BENEFITS

I find this exercise is of great use with riders who want to jump but are a little weary of leaving the ground. They often ride with quite tense and restricting hand when approaching the jump, trying to ride every inch of the horse and every centimetre of the stride. This sort of jumping will usually only work for very confident rider with very good eye for distance who can place the horse accurately at every jump. This style takes away horse’s choices altogether and is rather useless for nervous or novice jumper.

You want the horse to be an intelligent partner in your jumping adventures and he must be able to have freedom of its head and neck at all times. The cones circle exercise takes some of the rider’s attention from the horse to the task. It helps to teach directing the body of the horse with power of intent rather than millions of aids.

When jumping, I also ask the rider to ride every turn to the jump as part of the circle as they recall from the exercise which helps the rider stay on top of the impulsion, engagement and relaxation at each stride.

Practising trot and then canter (in full seat, half seat and rising canter) between the cones improves feel for rhythm, concentration and ability to focus rider’s eyes on an object while continuing to ride effectively.

If you try this (or have tried it already) do let me know how it went and if you found this helpful 🙂

Continue reading Schooling With Traffic Cones To Improve Jumping

Rein Bows Rein-Loops – Can they help with improving feel for contact?

loops
Image source: http://www.equiport.co.uk/products/horse/training-aids/reinbows-rein-loops-l14/

Very few rider’s errors are more damaging to the horse than a busy, insensitive hand and therefore the development of good feel of how much connection is too much and how little is of no help, is something many riders work on for years.

Although I dislike horse training gadgets, the rider training gadgets always have my attention. I am all for trying anything that helps improve and heighten awareness without negatively influencing the horse  and so when I spotted these rein-loops they intrigued me.

They are not completely unfamiliar to me as I have seen similar rein bows being used by para riders and I also known someone who used reins with several loops at different places on her very fizzy jumping mare. I decided to give it some thought and try a home-made version to test the “device”.

My observation are as follows (I didn’t use the loops pictured but made a pretty similar DIY version of them; my version wouldn’t be good long-term and I am guessing the rein bows rein-loops are much easier to clip on/off than my rather imperfect imitation):

– the device certainly helps with maintaining rein length. It gives a very defined hand position, steadies it and makes the rider more aware of the hand placing which I liked for my Foundation level riders who generally don’t ride with meaningful rein contact.

– it helps with relaxation of the lower arm, wrist and hand muscles. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that the rider no longer focuses on keeping the reins from slipping or perhaps somehow holding a loop feels “softer” and alike carrying something than when rein is held conventionally and invites a downward pull

– speaking of downward pull – this is another bonus I noticed. Riders were less likely to carry their hands too low or putting pressure downwards towards their little finger. I really liked this effect because downward rein pressure not only stiffens the horse through the neck and at the wither but also starts a vicious cycle of the rider haunching through their shoulder, sitting on the fork of the seat and “riding the head” instead of the entire horse.

– it was easier for some riders to understand and feel the concept of “riding the neck away” from them rather than shortening it in transitions. It seemed they were happier to relax their upper and lower arm in transitions perhaps due to the fact the loop gave them more “contact security” to fall back on if they wanted to hold.

– the riders had more awareness of “left hand being connected to the right hand” and so they tended to feel better for the position of the bit in middle of the horse’s mouth as well as for “carrying just the weight of the bit” and not pulling it up/out/down. I noticed better use of supporting outside rein and less tendency of inside rein over-use. That I found very interesting.

– the effect I didn’t like was that when the rider wanted to exert more backwards pressure they could and they would hold it for longer than with a single rein. I am guessing this is why in the product description the seller advertises that “Rein-Bows can be useful on horses that tend to lean and pull, as they prevent the reins being pulled through the rider’s hands. “. However, as I strongly disagree with using stronger pressure on pulling horses (except for when you are approaching a tree/car/train and you have no other option but hit it!), I see this feature as a counter-education for both rider and the horse. 

Horses that lean on the rider’s hands or pull on the reins need re-education by an experienced and tactful rider who can school them to use their body correctly under the weight of the rider. Using the loop reins in this situation would be like adding fuel to the fire. Pointless. Dangerous. Not even remotely horse friendly.

Based on my little experiment and considering the negative effect mentioned above I would not want to use those reins for re-training riders who tend to be “handy” and correct all body issue in the horse by manipulating the mouth as I found this device to be counter-productive in such situation. 

To sum up, I would personally be quite happy to use these periodically with some riders to train awareness and relaxation in the wrists, fingers and arms.

Has anybody tried this product? What did you think?

Continue reading Rein Bows Rein-Loops – Can they help with improving feel for contact?

Winter Horse Life Aspire Equestrian Style…- how to tackle short days and cold fingers

Wiola and Berit on Charlie
Aspire Training Weekend in Norway. Temperature: -20ºC (-4.00ºF). Surface: snow. Air: Icy! 🙂

The best advice I can give to all frozen horsey people and one that worked fantastically for me is: don’t fight the winter, embrace it!
The more we moan and wish it away the more it is on our minds and the more hate towards it we feel. That in turn brings us down, makes us into a rather depressed and fed up individual who quite easily finds life in the cold a big nuisance.

Quick Fixes for Short Days Blues

Get up early – as early as possible for you, ideally as close to sunrise as you manage. This will win you some daylight hours. If like me you are more of an owl than a lark, get up 10min earlier each morning for a set amount of days – after 10 days you will be getting up 100 minutes earlier than usual.

Train Harder – many professional riders treat winter as their down time to relax and be with the family but if you are reading this you are most likely a horse mad, ambitious amateur. That means that best thing for you to beat those winter blues might be to release as many endorphins into your blood stream as you can. Structured, intensive lessons are a great solution. Not only that you will feel better afterwards but you will be fit and ready for when the spring comes and you can ride more.

Focus – having lessons makes you think, it focuses your efforts and keeps you interested. It’s nice to wander around the arena in the sun or go for a hack on a stunning summer morning but when cold wind presses tears out of your eyeballs you need someone there suffering with you and spurring you on. Your instructor will always be colder standing still than you working out just in case you needed someone out there to feel worse than you feel 😉

Have a winter fitness regime – find something that suits your personality. You don’t have to run on a treadmill for an hour if you hate going to the gym. Pick something you like or perhaps something that you would like to try. I’ve been taking yoga classes for the last few weeks. Even though I still feel as if someone attached my limbs to four horses and let them run wild in a field during the sessions, I feel fabulous afterwards. Having suffered from some shoulders pain I noticed how much more supple I feel. There are plenty of activities to chose from. Go for it and do it once a week or more.

Winter is for Reading 🙂 – this might not be for everyone and parents with young children might struggle here I acknowledge but dark evenings are simply designed for book time 🙂 (or blog time!) If you agree, grab yourself a cup of tea/coffee/wine and start yourself a Winter Reading Ritual.

Stay Warm – this might seem obvious but it took me years of trial and error to get this right! If you teach and stay outside for 12 hours a day it is extremely difficult to remain warm at all times. Standing still is the worst but equally, when you ride/muck out/hay up etc and sweat, you are then having to spend the rest of the day in damp clothes. Not great for staying warm.

Technical clothes that wick moisture well and keep you warm are not cheap and usually out of reach for many who work with horses or who keep horses on a shoestring budget.

The system that works for me is to have: 

1) Layers – and have a change of clothes with you (the bottom layers)

2) Best wool underwear you can find, you will not regret it – I got a very thin wool vest from friend from Norway and it’s been my best winter friend ever since. It is very soft on the skin and unbelievably insulating.

Continue reading Winter Horse Life Aspire Equestrian Style…- how to tackle short days and cold fingers

Video Day Wednesday: The Basics of Rider Biomechanics by Ride With Your Mind (Mary Wanless)

Cover of "Ride With Your Mind: An Illustr...
Cover via Amazon

In September 2006 I walked into Hartpury College‘s library (first time I saw so many equestrian books all in one place – I pretty much spent most of my time there each day when being at the college) and discovered trainers who tried to explain things that are often brushed off.
One of the first books I picked up was Ride With Your Mind by Mary Wanless. It was an old version, a very tired copy written in a not so user friendly way but I found the theories intriguing.

I have since attended seminars with Mary Wanless and read her other books with more understanding (as my knowledge of English language progressed 😉 and although I personally prefer to pick and mix various ideas and go with what brings results in particular rider or a horse, I do believe her system is worth attention.

Having noticed Mary published the below video recently I thought some of you might find it interesting…I would recommend watching it before you reach for the books…

Video Day Saturday: Show Jumping Clinic with Peter Wylde

“Every horse can get better or it can get worse depending on the rider” – says Peter Wylde in the closing chat of the below clinic.

I chose this video for today because it shows a really interesting, constructive jumping session of a kind I like the most: using dressage training for a jumping horse, thinking throughout and providing simple gymnastic challenges at every stage of the session.

Video lasts about 45 min. All exercises can be done on X-poles and the difficulty increased as the rider learns and the horse gains confidence. Emphasis on correct bending is what I enjoyed watching a lot here as that’s something many riders forget on the course.

video pw
Click on image to go to the video (free to view)

Pearls of Wisdom from The Dressage Convention with Carl Hester, Richard Davison, Sylvia Loch, Miguel Ralão and Charlotte Dujardin

1403302_10153348909625277_857535352_o
The hosts: Richard Davison (left) and Carl Hester (right)
616470_10153348909635277_114450643_o
From left: Richard Davison, Sylvia Loch and Carl Hester
dc
Click on the image for the event’s website

Monday after a great educational event – The Dressage Convention 2013 – surely must be perfectly suited to some note taking – have a look at some pearls of wisdom from Carl Hester, Charlotte Dujardin, Richard Davison, Sylvia Loch and Miguel Ralão .

It seems that The Dressage Convention is here to stay and will be a yearly event which I am very excited about as I couldn’t make this one in person.

If you are on Twitter, have a look at #TDCTalk tag for various updates from the event. Horse and Hound Magazine also ran a super tweet-report live from Bury Farm and I recommend having a look at their profile for many thought provoking lines: @horseandhound

Here is a little taste for what happened at the weekend. My resolution is to make the 2014 one in person!

Rider Training: Learning the Feel for Half-Halt. Step by Step Exercise for novice riders.

I have been asked to describe my way of teaching the feel for half halt to novice riders some time ago so apologies for the delay but here we go!

halhalt blog
Ability to rebalance the horse in a basic way is in my view absolutely necessary in all horse friendly school work, whether it’s dressage or jumping focused, whether it’s a young horse or an older horse.

The exercise I am about to share with you today is a progressive, introductory one that I like to use when teaching the concept of half-halt to riders unfamiliar with the idea or who are confused with what they need to be doing. I tried to keep the explanations fairly detailed but please feel free to ask any questions in comments below if there is anything you are unsure about.

The not so mysterious half-halt

I love simple explanations although they are the most difficult to formulate…In the most simple theory I can think of, the half-halt is an action of the rider’s body which aims at rebalancing the weight shifts in the body of the horse.

I also like Polish translation of this action (half halt = pol parada) which is described as “on your marks”/”prepare”.

From classical dressage point of view, this rebalancing is aimed at progressive increase of flexion in the joints of the hind legs (hip & hock).

At more advanced level and when done skilfully with great timing, the half-halt can affect flexion of a chosen hind leg – i.e. the rider feels which hind leg needs more flexion (or in other words which one needs to step deeper under the horse’s centre of gravity) and when and uses the corresponding rein on the side of that hind leg at the right time (when hind leg is forward) to act on it. Working on the latter is not for novice riders and doesn’t form part of the below exercise.

The A B C of a Half-Halt 

I like to think of an effective Half-halt as of a sophisticated sentence – nobody is able to build sentences before they learn words. Nobody can write words before they know the letters. Usually large letters. 

When I first teach the rider to make friends with half halting I start with those large letters. In schooling language those letters are the aids, words are “ways of coordinating the aids” and sentences are the actual movements or actions. If a rider doesn’t know how to coordinate the aids (for example when and how to hold with the seat, how to ask for more activity with the leg & seat, when to close fingers on the reins to hold the forward momentum etc) and the horse doesn’t understand them (for example lifts the head and neck when feeling fingers closed on the reins) then it’s not possible to play with sentences and “write a nice novel” …

hold t-shirt

STEP 1: “Big Half-Halt” in walk

In order to ride a reasonably good transition to halt, you need to coordinate the holding motion of own pelvis with a soft yet holding hand. I start with walk to halt transitions every 5-6 strides, then every 3-4 strides. I like the rider to feel in absolute control of their upper body and that means absolutely no rocking backwards-forwards when the horse moves off or stops. The more fluid and relaxed the joints of the rider (hip joints, knee joints, ankle joints) and the more correct, vertical upper body posture, the easier this exercise is.

Some riders find it hard not to rock in the saddle when transitions come quickly one after another. If this is the case I tend to hold the back of the rider’s clothing to the cantle so they immediately sense if they are being thrown about.

I find that the upper body stability is very important for novice riders if they are to remain supple and relaxed through their elbows and hands when they use the reins.

Another bonus of this upper body discipline is that most novice riders are substantially dependent in their balance on horse’s balance. A ‘downhill’ moving horse will cause the rider to tip forwards. By teaching the rider to keep their upper body directly over their seat bones at all times I find it helps the rider detect downhill tendency in the horse quicker.

Continue reading Rider Training: Learning the Feel for Half-Halt. Step by Step Exercise for novice riders.

Proud Moments…

Let me tell you a little story 🙂

29 September 2013

 

Rewind

Almost 4 years ago I took a phone call from a mum desperately seeking someone would teach her daughter. After many bad experiences in various riding schools she was looking for someone who would treat her daughter’s ambitions and riding dreams seriously even though she had no own horse at the time and was only able to ride once a week at best.

At the time I didn’t take on children on Aspire Programmes because I didn’t feel they were suitable for youngsters. Before I amended the teaching structure in late 2011 my cut off age was 13 but I agreed for the girl to come for an assessment lesson. I reckoned that if her mum made an effort to read through my site, understand the difference my approach provided and call me I ought to meet the girl at least!

Feb 2011 Academy Training Young Riders
February 2011. Hall-Place Equestrian Centre. Anne patiently and regularly letting me drill her basics. She was all about jumping but never complained on number of lunge lessons in her training plan. Superior own balance is a corner stone of every good rider’s seat.

We met shortly after that phone call and a few years of great training adventures followed. To this day I have not met such a committed, focused, intuitive teenage rider and it’s been such a pleasure to be part of Anne’s riding education. I am usually hesitant to say I am proud of someone’s progress because it seems as if I was somehow increasing my own importance in the process. The truth is, 80% of the progress is down to the rider, their mentality, their willingness to learn, to try and to believe in my system. The other 20% are many people involved in training, the silent supporters: parents, friends. And horses.

But hell, I am very proud of Anne nevertheless 🙂 She put hours and hours of practice into the ABC of her riding education juggling it with highly academically demanding school and she continues to do so. It makes me smile to watch her compete now and develop further into an always aspiring rider she wishes to be.

Anne in hand
Aspire Intensive Training Day at Cullinghood Equestrian Centre. Anne learning how to influence shifts in weight (balance) in an unknown horse. Work In-Hand. June 2013
Anne March 2012
Aspire Intensive Training Day March 2012 at Checkendon Equestrian Centre. Anne (in burgundy) and Emma (in green; another rider who made superb progress over the years) after their jump training.

 

Keep training guys. Amateur riders rule 😉