Category Archives: No Gadgets Training

A few notes and reflections from the training day with Luca Moneta Horsemanship

By Wiola Grabowska

It seems to me that the most difficult clinics, demos or forums to find are those that explore training methods which can produce a sports horse without traditional systems of dominance, submission and fear training.

It is one thing to train a well mannered happy hacker/typical pleasure horse with non-bullying methods, another to train a lower level eventer, show jumper or a dressage horse. Nearly every single CPD type event I have attended or training session I watched (some with top national/international trainers and riders) in the last five years used some form of “must do as told right now” method whether in foundation training of the horse or later in specialised schooling.

I personally dabbed in many different ways of schooling horses during my twenty + years of active involvement in this industry and I became plain bored with many and demoralised by most of them. The perpetuating nature of the UK coach training system where changes are hard to implement straight away added to my professional frustration.  Ever since setting up the Academy 7 years ago I have wanted to get to know many other ways of combining thorough foundation training of a horse with its athletic training for grassroots sports. Searching outside of mainstream took me on a great learning journey and I feel like it will probably never end.

Today, I will share a few notes from a clinic with an International Show Jumper – Luca Moneta.

Luca Moneta1

Nicknamed the ‘Carrot Man’ due to him using Parelli Natural Horsemanship tools in his training, Luca Moneta is currently one of the top show jumping riders in the world. I read this interview with him several years ago (to read see: The World of Show Jumping – Luca Moneta) and his methods intrigued me because I have not come across anyone combining any form of “natural horsemanship” at top level of show jumping before.

I used “natural horsemanship” term in inverted commas because many a time, it’s simply common sense, understanding of how horses learn and interact with us and how to communicate with them so both parties understand each other. It so happens, there are people branding those concepts. 

The clinic consisted of two days training, day one being round pen focused and day two was a continuation of foundation training but on the flat and over jumps. The riders riding in the clinic were of varied standards from novice to coach/competition rider level.

I didn’t attend the Day one but as I am familiar with the concepts it didn’t seem a problem for me to follow the continuation on Day two.

Simple (but not necessarily easy) 


Luca’s training method is simple: everything we do with the horses must makes sense to them, keep them calm, focused, light and responsive.

The day started with groundwork which was alike a fast version of the in-hand work I know. Turn on the haunches, turn on the forehand, rein-back, go, stop but all in a much quicker succession, more attention to release under stronger “pressure”.


It was especially interesting to watch the riders who were unfamiliar with the concept and who attempted the work on the ground. I am not surprised that methods like Parelli often have bad opinion when witnessed at various livery yards because quite frankly, when the rider is just learning the timing and reactions, it isn’t a nice viewing. However, Luca worked with each horse by himself too and the importance of quiet, non-emotional approach was immediately clear as was the relief and relaxation in the horse’s bodies following his work.


“The more the horse doesn’t respond, the more he is showing us that there is a problem. The more we ignore the problem and leave the horse alone, the bigger the horse’s problem become.”

In real life terms this might mean never letting the horse run after the jump, never letting them become emotionally distressed with the situation to the point of no response.

“We need to help the horse come back from that emotional situation.”


He also puts big emphasis on the rider being quiet in the saddle. He likes limited amount of aids with full results. One of the tasks the riders faced was to carry a young rider on their back. At first the girl was told to just sit quiet while Luca gave commands – go forwards, turn left, turn right, back up. Then the girl was asked to become “busy”, lean left and right and back as much as she wanted which immediately disturbed every single step of the person carrying her.

The jumping work was all based around light, quick and calm responses. If you had a light and quick response but the horse was stressed, you need to try again. And again. Until you learn to combine all three elements.





Whilst all the above was familiar to me and it was just very interesting to watch the logistics of teaching it and doing it from a slightly different angle, one element of the day really stood out for me and I wish I learnt his way of looking at it sooner (when I rode competitively myself). 

Luca discussed the feel the rider has in front of the jump as he was setting a small course  for the riders. He told them they must know when a particular jump was making them scared and tell him to lower it. He said they needed to know how to control their emotions in front of the jump and not take on an impossible challenge. However, when they felt a reasonable level of challenge, they needed to keep coming until they learnt to control the emotions (nerves, excitement etc) in themselves and in the horses.

He described one way of thinking about it: 

You normally think that in Show Jumping there is a horse and there is a jump. But you can also think like this. There is no horse and no jump. There’s just energy. My energy, the energy of the horse and the energy of the jump. I just send the energy of the horse in the line that puts the jump in the middle. Then the energy of the horse will tell me, I am confident, I respond light, quick and relaxed, that’s it. But maybe we find resistance in this energy, maybe the horse arrives at the fence and stops. Maybe he will try to avoid the jump. Then I just teach them that it’s all about going straight on, on that line of energy, back to basics.

Super day and a privilege to learn from people like Luca Moneta.

P.S. Huge thank you to Mairi for arranging for my ticket for this clinic for my birthday 🙂 

Mairi and one of the horses taking part in the clinic – a Lusitano x TB, 20 years young

IMPROVING horse’s balance & way of going on a circle without gadgets – Video Case Study

Today I wanted to share some footage which we filmed on Thursday. It was a hot day but with a slight breeze and sun behind the clouds so we had less flies (and they can be massive!) to deal with. That was just as well seeing we had quite a few horses scheduled to film…

The footage in this post shows an older mare whose previous job was having babies and her breeder now wants her prepared for sale. She has good jumping papers and had been used for breeding show-jumpers.

I will call her Grey Mare. As you will see from the video below, her natural way of going is tense, hollow and crooked. The 6 min video footage shows clips from about 30 minutes in total and I hope it shows how with a little patience, feel and will you can start to achieve results which immediately make riding a horse much more pleasant for both the horse and rider.

Teaching your horse to move well on a circle can help with keeping him/her sound because it decreases the stress on spine, joints, muscles and ligaments the crookedly moving horse exerts on those structures. It will also save you many frustrating hours of “more inside leg, kick kick!” which is pretty pointless to any horse. Thanks to intelligent lunging  your horse will already know how to initiate the bend and you will be able to be much more subtle with your aids and seat.

If you have a horse that “motorbikes” around the corners and leans on one or the other shoulder struggling to bend, these sort of exercises can help a lot.

Here are two photos showing the shape of the Grey Mare on the circle before and after the exercises.

before and after

Continue reading IMPROVING horse’s balance & way of going on a circle without gadgets – Video Case Study

ESTIMA. An ex-race horse re-training video diary. Part 2: Dancing with the Flies!

Part 1 can be found here:

Little ex-race horse is making slow but steady progress. She now moves away from touch when asked on both sides of her body (although as you will see on the video below, going from right to left is still more difficult for her than from left to right).


She also now calmly remains on circle on both reins without turning in or falling out, the latter being a problem on the right rein not only because of balance issues but due to her need to be with other horses and dragging Magda there as much as she could. She stopped doing so which is a good sign of her accepting her work without stress.

Together with the heat come flies and some are rather creative in their variety. For this reason the work is at times challenging both for the horses and for handlers!

I am including a video of Estima learning to yield to pressure on both sides and move around the handler.

Continue reading ESTIMA. An ex-race horse re-training video diary. Part 2: Dancing with the Flies!



On the Hay-Net’s Equestrian Advice page, one member have recently asked a question about loose schooling and mentioned that her horse lunges well but it can get repetitive and boring. You can see my own and some other replies to her HERE but as it’s quite a common issue with many horse owners I expanded on the subject a bit more below.

I like to think of lunging as a crookedness-banishing part of training and as such it is a fascinating training tool.
Before you start more purposeful lunging, teach your horse turn around and on the forehand in-hand. This will require some body language training as well as gymnastic training. If you are not sure how it should look like have a look at this video:

Continue reading LUNGING AS A CROOKEDNESS-BANISHING Part of Training

ESTIMA – AN EX-RACE HORSE RE-TRAINING VIDEO DIARY. Part 1: Meet Estima. Reflections on Posture, Crookedness and Way of Going.

Preface to the series: I am currently involved in training of 11 “project” horses belonging to a “breeder/dealer”.  Together with another Aspire Equestrian instructor, Magda, we would like to share the training journey of some of them. This series will take form of video diaries and reflections on the horses’ progress. The goal  is not to criticise any training methods or breeding choices but to document a no-gadgets, sympathetic yet purposeful training work we prefer. A way that is based on understanding the “why?” not just the “how to?”. This is also the kind of horse training we teach to all our riders. The main character in this series is a 5 year old, ex-racehorse mare – Estima. 

Put your legs up and join the journey – comments, views, observations always welcome. 


PART 1: Meet Estima

Five years old Estima has done very little since her racing days. At least very little as far as correct training goes.

Continue reading ESTIMA – AN EX-RACE HORSE RE-TRAINING VIDEO DIARY. Part 1: Meet Estima. Reflections on Posture, Crookedness and Way of Going.