Category Archives: Rider Development

First Event Horse sought for a young rider to fall in love with Eventing!

Looking for a genuine, dependable first competition horse for Caitlin – a 16 year old girl who has been training on the Academy programmes for the last 2 years and is now ready go out there and fall in love with Eventing!

The horse must be brave and sensible XC, able to help on SJ course but happy to work on flatwork if needed. 16hh + and ideally no older than 11. Budget in the region of £6k but significantly negotiable for the right horse. Professional coaching and care provided.

Serious enquiries please to Tatiana Thorpe on 07809148716 or email Wiola at Aspire Equestrian on aspire@outlook.com

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Exciting Opportunity…

ARE YOU AN IMPROVEMENT DRIVEN RIDER BUT HAVE NO OWN HORSE? WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE REGULAR, WELL THOUGHT OUT TRAINING, HAVE A CHANCE TO COMPETE IN LOCAL SHOWS/EVENTS AND HAVE A HORSE TO BOND WITH?

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WE ARE LOOKING FOR YOU!

Brackenhill Stud in Henley on Thames has an ex-Pony Club, fun gelding available for a competent rider to take on and join training adventures with Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy.

You will receive:

  • Four days a week with Frank, a 16.1hh chestnut gelding (kept on Part Livery at Brackenhill Stud and shared with one other rider who trains with the Academy once a week on Sundays)
  • weekly or bi-weekly lessons with Wiola (to learn more about Aspire Equestrian coaching please see: www.aspireequestrianridingacademy.com) . Lessons also include off-horse training for the rider, in-hand sessions and video feedback.
  • discounted livery fee
  • access to Aspire Equestrian Intensive Training Camps at Brackenhill Stud

Your monthly costs:

  • 3/4 of Frank’s livery costs (£400 payable monthly)
  • Four or more lessons a month at £35 per lesson (payable monthly)

To discuss this opportunity at greater details or to set up a trial lesson please contact Wiola (0749 2202 400) or Emma (07557 677163) or email aspire@outlook.com orelbrinkworth@gmail.com

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A few fun ways to Increase Body Awareness and Balance Perception for Riding

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But I can’t feel it…

Lack of feel for the right moment/thing/motion is something many riders struggle with and I have met quite a few who think you either feel it or you don’t.

In my experience, there are people with a very strong, natural, innate feeling of balance able to feel loses of it immediately whether they stand on their own legs or sit on a horse. They somewhat grasp the idea of equilibrium very fast. Then there are those who have very little natural body awareness. And of course, there are millions shades of variations of both in the middle.

I don’t subscribe to the notion that feel cannot be learnt. I have seen to the contrary over and over again with riders who started off with very little of it and slowly developed significantly more awareness.

Arguably, there will always be those riders whose balance is superior, even at a relatively low level of equestrian pursuits. This doesn’t mean that if yours is muted, you can’t improve.

Fun ways of Developing More Awareness and Perception

Children, although they might be falling off a lot in some cases 😉 , do have a great sense of balance. They often sit very naturally upright with no tension in hip joints allowing for a very soft, absorbing seat. There is one thing kids do a lot of to have that heightened body awareness. They PLAY 🙂

I get riders to carry poles, to lunge each-other, to walk on lines, to be pulled off XC jumps, to do many exercises on the lunge, to do the wrong things (like collapsing in the waist, or carrying hands unevenly)  – all with just one aim: play with balance and feel of own posture in space.

Below is a short video of several different exercises I like to use. The carrying a pole trick has many advantages. The variant you see on the video is focused on teaching the rider to feel for her upper body posture and rhythm of her steps (especially in leg yield). She tends to angle her upper body when riding lateral work so the exercise is helping her remain parallel to the fence. She can then “carry” that feel with her into the saddle.

Continue reading A few fun ways to Increase Body Awareness and Balance Perception for Riding

#Barebruary Theme for February Training!

#BAREBRUARY

Each rider I teach have their individual training needs and so do the horses. Occasionally I get riders on Aspire programmes to ride together to increase their spacial awareness, control, attention, focus and so they can learn from one another. Most of the time though, we run private lessons and follow individual training plans. However, there are universal riding skills that all riders out there will work on every time they ride.

One of those skills is “riding feel” – or less enigmatically put, a heightened awareness of balance and movement and ability to correct those to suit the gymnastic tasks we ask the horses to perform for us.

What’s the better way to increase all those than bareback sessions? 🙂 I am setting up the February training focus to be under #Barebruary theme and will aim to add bareback minutes to the February lessons whenever possible. Each horse reacts differently to being ridden bareback and long sessions without saddle are rarely beneficial for horse’s back so it’s important not to overdo them.

If we can’t ride without a saddle for whatever reason, I will still aim at the “feel theme” through on and off-horse training.

Would you like to join in #Barebruary training theme? If you do, email your bareback pictures to aspire@outlook.com, post them to our Facebook page HERE or Tweet at @aspireacademy adding #barebruary hashtag with a few words about how bareback riding has helped you with your riding skills – I will publish your photos on the blog throughout February!

Video – Getting to know each other :)

The main reason why Aspire Equestrian programmes for non-horse owners are based on horse share/loan is to capture the most important and unique element of equestrian sport – the relationship between the two athletes. Making time to groom, tack up, work in-hand, get to know each other make a big difference in how riders learn and communicate with the horse during ridden training.

Some horses love attention, some prefer less of it, some learn very quickly, some need more time. Here is one who loves his interactions 🙂

What’s your “preparation for training” routine? If you don’t have your own horse, do you get to spend some time with your lesson horse?

To learn more about Aspire programmes for non-horse owners visit: http://www.aspireequestrianacademy.com/#!riding-programmes-for-non-owners/czxg

A small detail with big impact on your seat…

Have you ever struggled with correcting “chair seat”? Does your lower leg swing forwards and you are often told to “keep your legs back” in your lessons? If so. let’s have this quick chat!

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Stirrup bar placement determines the position of the stirrup leather and the stirrup and as a result, the placement of your leg…

Any knowledgeable horse owner who has ever tried to find a well fitting saddle for their horse will know that coming across one that sits perfectly on horse’s back, allows the horse to move freely and doesn’t ruin the bank account is not an easy task.
Equally challenging is finding the saddle that fits the horse as well as the rider. Today, I would like to draw your attention to a small element in saddle structure that can seriously influence your balance and that’s a stirrup bar placement.

The placement of the bar determines the position of the stirrup leather and the stirrup itself. If we are to sit comfortably with that hip/heel alignment giving us a feel of control over our own balance, we need the stirrup to hang underneath the deepest part of the saddle where centre of our seat is supposed to be.

Many riders sit well without stirrups but the moment they re-take them, their seat loses its centred quality and they tend to struggle with positioning of the thigh and lower leg so that they support their own weight rather than sitting as if in a chair.

The placement of the bar and individual built of the rider (length of thigh and lower leg) has a big impact here and so I have listed a few interesting resources below that are well worth a read:

1. Leg Length – How it influences your Position!

2. Male and Female rider vs stirrup bar position

3.Stirrup Bar Position – “Why do some saddles put you in a chair position”

What’s your saddle like? Does it help or hinder your position and effectiveness?

The language of aids – are we making things unnecessarily difficult?

Just a quick-ish post today on something that I’ve been pondering on for the last few years when analysing different teaching methods and tweaking my own.

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I am going to hazard a statement that the only truly difficult and time consuming skill of all the riding skills is the development of a functional and horse friendly seat. Once the rider sits well (not just visually well – although let’s not discount that – but functionally well), the rest is down to hours upon hours, weeks upon weeks and years upon years of patient and well directed practice of imagination, understanding of horse’s locomotion, common sense and body awareness in motion.

My image of technically good seat is like a well put together watch where all the turbines and screws do their work as if by magic. From my experience and observations riders become frustrated most often by an inability to perform certain movements well or get certain amount of effort out from the horse. It’s not so much that they don’t know what to do…sometimes they even know vast amount of theory on exactly how to do what they want doing.

To make things picture rich, let’s assume a horse has that “seat” to master too…the horse’s seat (way of carrying oneself, way of shifting weight from side to side and from front to back) also develops over time and is most difficult skill for him. Not the moving away from the leg, not halting square, not stepping under upon leg cue. It’s the “seat” – the basic ability to remain in own balance with rider’s weight on board in all gaits, all turns, all circles – that’s potentially most difficult skill.

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The issue arises when the rider (or horse) attempts something they have no turbines and screws for in the first place – in own seat and also in horse’s “seat”…Putting together the latter takes time and in horse riding language that equals hours in different saddles, on different backs, on differently pushing hindlegs. Similarly, the horse develops his posture through being ridden by rider with a better and better seat, the weight he carries becomes his best and intricate balance indicator rather than a burden. Eventually, the horse can potentially achieve better precision, rhythm, cadence, quality of steps with the rider than without one…

You know the old dealer trick that rider can make any horse look lame (er) or sound (er)? If we agree that skilled riding was about precise and effective weight shift, the rider’s ability to create (or damage) certain movement pattern shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Language of aids

All that seat development is like nursery, pre-school and primary school put together. Rider and horse work on their “seat” in similar ways to us learning to write letters, then sentences. From time to time, there would be a child out there who writes beautiful poems, play extraordinary music, wins professional golf tournaments and maybe even writes stories at the age of 9. However, we wouldn’t change entire schooling system to match that benchmark…From time to time, there are riders and horses that seem to flow together without apparent effort, time investment and long practice. Should this mean that hundreds of other riders and horses ought to jump the 2-3 or so years of decent seat development?

As riders and instructors we can make things very difficult both for our horses and our pupils by asking them to speak a language they have no words for. We can also make things extremely frustrating for ourselves…

Seat differences

Sometimes I am asked what I think about that and this riders’ seat and although a beautifully sat rider with even body proportions might always look nicer on a horse than one with very short legs and long torso, it’s not that visual seat development that I am chatting about here.

bridle and gym ball

Some people have terrible hand writing yet write beautiful stories…Some have incredible calligraphy that never produces more than a pretty looking word…Good seat and language shows in the quality of work of the horse and in the harmony between horse and rider.

We might have different levels of that work and different levels of that harmony from a beginner to an advanced professional but when I start teaching someone I look at building those words first (seat skills) rather than ask for essays. This means I like to explore many avenues of skills acquisition and I might ask more experienced riders to do seemingly unrelated exercises but it’s really interesting to see the results of well thought out play 🙂

So, how’re your aids’ language skills? Do you know why some riding sessions are frustrating for you? 

All the best,

Wiola

www.aspir1.wix.com/aspireequestrian2014

Photo updates from some of the Aspire training sessions – September edition

For all of you who don’t visit us on Facebook but enjoy following other riders’ training adventures, here are some photo updates from some of the training sessions in September so far 🙂

 September: good balance is a moment in time. It is up to the rider to help the horse find that balance and then it is up to the horse to keep it. Joker is now able to keep a good posture for several strides and Helen is becoming much more tuned in to his balance changes. The earlier the rider can detect the loss of balance is about to happen, the more they can help the horse regain it and the more willing the horse will be to maintain it. Good balance changes the horse visually from ungainly to athletic. Achieving this with patient gymnastic work and thorough rider training takes time but is incredibly rewarding for everybody involved

September: good balance is a moment in time. It is up to the rider to help the horse find that balance and then it is up to the horse to keep it. Joker is now able to keep a good posture for several strides and Helen is becoming much more tuned in to his balance changes. The earlier the rider can detect the loss of balance is about to happen, the more they can help the horse regain it and the more willing the horse will be to maintain it. Good balance changes the horse visually from ungainly to athletic. Achieving this with patient gymnastic work and thorough rider training takes time but is incredibly rewarding for everybody involved 🙂 
 September: Caitlin walking Sox back to his field after her lesson

September: Caitlin walking Sox back to his field after her lesson 🙂 
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September: Second to last session on Start programme for Nigel who decided riding is rather fun and will be moving on to a progressive introduction to Foundation programme! I’m delighted with Nigel’s progress today 🙂
 September: little bareback bonding walk for Jordan and Sox at the end of their session.

September: little bareback bonding walk for Jordan and Sox at the end of their session.
 September: step-by-step rein back to teach a crooked horse how to shift his body weight on rider's cues. The poles help the handler and the horse to maintain a straight line and prevent the horse from swinging his hindquarters sideways and avoid joint flexion.

September: step-by-step rein back to teach a crooked horse how to shift his body weight on rider’s cues. The poles help the handler and the horse to maintain a straight line and prevent the horse from swinging his hindquarters sideways and avoid joint flexion.
September: Caitlin getting to know Sox and having a go at the lesson in an open field for the first time to encourage her to ride with purpose, plan all turns well in advance, appreciate balance changes in the horse and the rider and enjoy the feeling of freedom that riding out of the arena adds to training  Foundation Programme.
September: Caitlin getting to know Sox and having a go at the lesson in an open field for the first time to encourage her to ride with purpose, plan all turns well in advance, appreciate balance changes in the horse and the rider and enjoy the feeling of freedom that riding out of the arena adds to training Foundation Programme.
September: Helen working Joker on the lunge to improve his lateral suppleness. His body is becoming more and more athletic with each week and when they are both focused and listening to each other, some decently bent circles are starting to happen :)
September: Helen working Joker on the lunge to improve his lateral suppleness. His body is becoming more and more athletic with each week and when they are both focused and listening to each other, some decently bent circles are starting to happen 🙂
 September: Jordan and Sox working on rhythm, balance and directions. Fabulous session with the rider finding the right buttons to motivate Sox and building a great working relationship with him. This is Jordan's beginnings at Foundation Programme and there are many more challenges to come !

September: Jordan and Sox working on rhythm, balance and directions. Fabulous session with the rider finding the right buttons to motivate Sox and building a great working relationship with him. This is Jordan’s beginnings at Foundation Programme and there are many more challenges to come !
 September: Learning canter aids, their meaning, timings and first canter off the lunge for Caitlin. We started today with Caitlin lunging Star in canter herself to observe the sequence of the horse's legs, when they hit the ground and how fast. We also did some fun exercises involving skipping to build the feel for synchronising own hip and legs motion with that of the horse

September: Learning canter aids, their meaning, timings and first canter off the lunge for Caitlin. We started today with Caitlin lunging Star in canter herself to observe the sequence of the horse’s legs, when they hit the ground and how fast. We also did some fun exercises involving skipping to build the feel for synchronising own hip and legs motion with that of the horse
September: Casually supervising Caitlin on Foundation Programme who now gets the horse ready for lessons by herself. Many horse owners would take that little bonding time with their horse for granted but for once-a-week riders it's a wonderful way to get to know the horse, warm up gently while grooming and build relationship with the animal  :)
September: Casually supervising Caitlin on Foundation Programme who now gets the horse ready for lessons by herself. Many horse owners would take that little bonding time with their horse for granted but for once-a-week riders it’s a wonderful way to get to know the horse, warm up gently while grooming and build relationship with the animal 🙂
September: I like adding lunge sessions on all the programmes as it helps the rider focus on what they feel while I partially take over the "riding". Today we are working on feel for position of the horse's shoulders and understanding how rider's weight aids and rein aids help with balance in the corners. Many thanks to Helen for taking the pics!
September: I like adding lunge sessions on all the programmes as it helps the rider focus on what they feel while I partially take over the “riding”. Today we are working on feel for position of the horse’s shoulders and understanding how rider’s weight aids and rein aids help with balance in the corners.
Many thanks to Helen for taking the pics!
September: Dual purpose session for Moira mixing unsupported riding with some lunge workout! Calm walking around a large field is great to settle rider's nerves and feel how "zen mind" of the rider calms the horse in the process too  Many thanks to Helen for taking the pics!
September: Dual purpose session for Moira mixing unsupported riding with some lunge workout! Calm walking around a large field is great to settle rider’s nerves and feel how “zen mind” of the rider calms the horse in the process too
Many thanks to Helen for taking the pics!
September: Most Coordinated Rider of the Month award goes to Isabella who did my "cycling" and reversed arms circling exercise right from the word go in both walk and trot. Sorry to all my other riders who still struggle with this  It's a great exercise for learning independence throughout the seat i.e. being able to use arm/hand without tension in the leg and vice versa
September: Most Coordinated Rider of the Month award goes to Isabella who did my “cycling” and reversed arms circling exercise right from the word go in both walk and trot. Sorry to all my other riders who still struggle with this
It’s a great exercise for learning independence throughout the seat i.e. being able to use arm/hand without tension in the leg and vice versa
 September: Caitlin making a great job of transition work today and rising trot without stirrups (not pictured here).

September: Caitlin making a great job of transition work today and rising trot without stirrups (not pictured here).
September: The Most Entrepreneurial Rider Award of this week goes to Gary Thorpe. Gary is on my Start Programme which means his lessons are on the lunge while he learns to control his balance and builds body awareness on a horse. I rarely lunge on repetitive circle and today decided to give Gary an experience of "whole arena" riding since we worked on surface where lunging is not allowed (repetitive circles damage the surface). To be able to do this I had to walk, jog and run with him as and when needed. And so a little conversation emerged:  Wiola: "That's how I keep fit!" Gary: "Well, I think I will start charging you for personal training sessions"  I am thinking next session will be on a circle ;)
September: The Most Entrepreneurial Rider Award of this week goes to Gary Thorpe. Gary is on my Start Programme which means his lessons are on the lunge while he learns to control his balance and builds body awareness on a horse. I rarely lunge on repetitive circle and today decided to give Gary an experience of “whole arena” riding since we worked on surface where lunging is not allowed (repetitive circles damage the surface). To be able to do this I had to walk, jog and run with him as and when needed. And so a little conversation emerged:
Wiola: “That’s how I keep fit!”
Gary: “Well, I think I will start charging you for personal training sessions”
I am thinking next session will be on a circle 😉
September: a little (big) pony love :)
September: a little (big) pony love 🙂
September: Caitlin and Isabella walking back to the stables after a really good (albeit a little exciting!) training session today. Can you tell it's autumn?
September: Caitlin and Isabella walking back to the stables after a really good (albeit a little exciting!) training session today. Can you tell it’s autumn?
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September: Jordan is rather lucky in that his fiance is a qualified horse therapist so all horses he rides get a short after training massage (and they all love it!). All horses used for learner – riders really benefit from periodical physio sessions because they are having to compensate for rider’s imbalance and inexperience.
September: Warming up with a long walk on longer rein gives the horse and rider an opportunity to get to know each other, for the horse to relax into the working mode and well, find out the weaknesses of the rider so they can be taken advantage of
September: Warming up with a long walk on longer rein gives the horse and rider an opportunity to get to know each other, for the horse to relax into the working mode and well, find out the weaknesses of the rider so they can be taken advantage of
 September: groundwork with Joker prior to getting on. His reactions and focus are getting better with each session.

September: Jordan meeting his new training partner on Foundation Programme
 September: groundwork with Joker prior to getting on. His reactions and focus are getting better with each session.

September: groundwork with Joker prior to getting on. His reactions and focus are getting better with each session.
September: Helen and Joker slowly building the quality of the their work. We can now manage a few steps at a time without neck tension and Helen is doing pretty well too  :)
September: Helen and Joker slowly building the quality of the their work. We can now manage a few steps at a time without neck tension and Helen is doing pretty well too 🙂
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September: Moira making the most of the beautiful September afternoon – first session at new little Hampshire base 🙂
1st September! Probably the the most demanding riding fitness session for Nigel today! All exercises completed
1st September! Probably the the most demanding riding fitness session for Nigel today! All exercises completed
 Last days of Aug: Caitlin - early canter training. Here on the lunge developing balance and feel for own posture. Serious bonus points for my little rider today for being brave and trusting her own hard-worked balance!

Last days of Aug: Caitlin – early canter training. Here on the lunge developing balance and feel for own posture. Serious bonus points for my little rider today for being brave and trusting her own hard-worked balance!

Teaching Standards of Riding Lessons – Following an interesting conversation on Horse & Hound Forum

s3It is believed that for something to change, the awareness of an issue has to happen. It certainly hold true for riding skill – we first need to feel or be aware of a possibility of the feel for something before we are able to tweak it, correct it, improve it. 

If you follow Aspire’s blog and coaching programmes you will know that we do not do short cuts. There will never be any tricks and gadgets substituting what can be learned without abuse. And yes, let’s don’t walk on eggshells and avoid the word. 

I generally focus on positive information and happy vibe on this blog but I am also passionate about grassroots riding education and if it is to change for the better, many many riders, riders-to-be and parents of those need to be aware of what standard is the good standard. 

Have a look at the below conversation currently happening on Horse and Hound Forum and add your thoughts on there or on here.

When watching your child’s lesson and having doubts about your child learning to “ride” not “bully” – do ask questions. If instructor is unable to answer, ask them to find the answer. When having lessons yourself as an novice/intermediate rider, follow your common sense. If you are asked to whip the horse repeatedly or kick and kick until your legs hurt, have your say

Teaching Standards.

Some young instructors never been taught to teach differently – build their awareness with your curiosity….Riding is such an amazing sport and can transform lives beyond imagination. It needs to be done with horse wellness in mind though otherwise it’s nothing but circus – entertainment at a very high price to the animals involved. 

Dancing in the rain – a few positive sides of rainwater and puddles!

Helen1Late August in England is a bit like an opening act of drizzles inevitably followed by countless rainy days – you better learn to like them or you enter a season of awaiting for drier months to return. My boots are already saturated and it’s barely started to truly rain 😉 If you know of any good waterproof clothing and footwear that I can try, please comment below! Not many that I tested have lasted continuous battering of wetness over the years but there are so many different brands out there that I may have easily missed the gem that keeps one dry while trekking the arenas! 

Now onto the positives!

No flies. You can’t argue with that one and it’s a huge relief not to have horses being eaten alive. 

Great opportunities for harder work out for your horse! Simple groundwork over varied terrain improves body awareness, proprioception and muscle tone and is rather fun too 🙂 

Joker over puddles

 

Test for your grit and determination! I find that the riders who continue their lessons over the winter and in challenging conditions, are the ones who are truly committed to improvement and reap the benefits of their work. There are conditions in which riding is not fun and schooling not really fair on the horse, like high winds and driving rain, but many challenging weather variations can generally be trained through. It certainly brings a special sense of accomplishment and most horses work well in not-so-perfect environment as long as they are focused and kept interested. 

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To the point 😉 We tend to keep the sessions shorter and certainly very focused when strolling around in the sun admiring the view is not an appealing option. This teaches good planning and tests rider’s ability to maintain focused as well as engaging horse’s attention. It’s also a good chance for an instructor to test the commitment of a client 😉 

CAITLIN OVER POLES

Working on the posture – both of the rider and the horse…

Rainy days are perfect for biomechanics bootcamp and I am yet to meet a rider who didn’t enjoy our sessions on Racewood simulator. They are intense but fun and allow the rider to fully focus on own body awareness and effectiveness. 

Collage Racewood simulator

 

All these little indoor spaces that are normally only suitable for very small horses or ponies can now be very handy for in-hand work and groundwork with your horse to help them with their own posture, muscle use, suppleness and flexibility.

Moira in hand with O

Or alternatively just brave the outdoors and come for one of Aspire workshops 🙂 You never know, the sun might come out for long enough to have a great few hours of learning 🙂 

in hand workshop

 

What do you do in the autumn (Fall) when the weather becomes challenging? Do you continue your lessons/riding as normal? How do you alter your training? Do you like riding in the rain? 🙂 

All the best,

Wiola

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