Tag Archives: aspirations

Aspire Eventing Diary. Through coach’s eyes: Emma and Shabhash at Hambleden Horse Trials, April 24th 2015

`hambleden On Friday 24th of April Shabby and Emma competed in their first event of 2015 season – Hambleden International Horse Trials. Their planned first event (Goring Heath Horse Trials) was sadly cancelled due to unforeseen issues with the ground conditions. Since Emma is bravely taking part in this training diary blog project, please be nice if you do comment on this post, we are all learning and have many ups and downs every day. She is in this venture to improve so is aware of many aspects of her own and Shabby’s training that need working on and is doing her best to make the better performance happen 🙂 Now, let me take you on a little journey through this pair’s performance through my eyes. It goes without saying, I am doing my best to help Emma too but I am always open for coaching suggestions and ideas to improve myself (as long as they don’t involve stuffing the horse into gadgets/fancy bits etc for quick results 😉 )

TRAINING FOCUS & FINAL WEEKS BEFORE THE EVENT

Preparation: My work with Emma focuses on rider’s technique, quality of her seat, ways of dealing with Shabby’s tension, anxiety and post – racing/post- injury issues. We work on the flat 99% of the time with 1% being spend on simple groundwork and pole work/ covaletti work. I aim at long term results and happy athlete rather than quick, artificial improvements that might look good for an untrained eye but create a huge plethora of hidden issues later on (we have enough of those with Shabby already!)

My main aim when we started in winter 2014 was to give Emma more awareness of her ability to control Shabby through her seat as well as creating more responses to rider’s seat in the horse. They are both brave, adrenaline junkies, often working too much “on the muscle” with little regards for finese 😉 We spent some time re-educating Emma’s upper body posture as well as upper and lower leg position. The latter was to add leverage to Emma’s seat (to encourage Shabby to stop his habitual hollowing through his back) and help her distribute her seat aids through Shabby’s ribcage and muscles on the sides of his body not just his back. We also did many sessions concentrating on Emma’s reactions to the feel through Shabby’s back, hind legs and shoulders as well as re-educating his neck and head carriage as he tended to move very over bent and tense in his “ordinary work”.

On his calm “home day” he now works very relaxed with lovely over-track in free walk, no jogging on re-take of the reins and his canter work is more symmetrical on both reins.

Video: Shabby training session at home 1 week before the event

 Video: Left canter at home  Video: Shabby training session at home. Canter work over poles on curved line. Left rein – Shabby’s “weaker” direction. This horse’s biggest weakness as far as jumping goes is maintaining slower (i.e. not a galloping speed) canter in the turns and sustaining collection without tension.  Final pre-event views: from my point of view, at this stage, I was happy with the progress we managed to make. I like the small changes in Emma’s riding and Shabby’s acceptance and focus improving. However, I believe they can do much better than this so we shall be working on 😉

HAMBLEDEN HORSE TRIALS THROUGH COACH’S EYE

I will let you watch the compilation of the clips first before sharing my comments in case you wanted to make own observations without bias 🙂 Here we go.

Main video with clips from the show grounds, warm up for dressage, jumping, the jumping phase and few XC clips.

Video: Full dressage test (sadly, it was so far from where I could stand that you can’t really watch it properly i.e. the arena is too far away to make out much of the test’s floor plan) Comments you can hear in the background are by one of Emma’s friends 🙂 Test: BE 106 (2012) 

POST EVENT THOUGHTS 

Overall, I am pleased with how Emma dealt with the training issues and from the rider coaching point of view, I feel some of my training objectives have definitely been achieved while the others emerged.

I hoped for Shabby to remain calmer once the initial anxiety and tension subsided. The warm up went all right in the end, I wasn’t expecting him to be much better at his first event. However, the logistics of going away to the dressage arena which was a considerable distance from all other horses and in a massive open field, was not ideal. Shabby’s mental preparation is the key here and his calm is incredibly volatile. In the sport of dressage where ability to train relaxation and focus into athletic performance is paramount, Shabby will always struggle to contain himself. However, through working on his confidence and trust in the routine of warm up, performance, cool down, I think we can improve the results for sure.

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I will want to work with them on the grass more and continue to develop strategies to keep the horse’s and rider’s mind on the job in hand. Canter work needs much more attention, his trot work was within my expectations considering the way he warmed up, I will want to focus more on his suppleness in the next few weeks before the next event on the 17th May.

He will not team chase at all now until October so I am hoping this will help manage his nerves too.

Now, show-jumping…It was the first time I saw him jumping a course and let’s just say, there is a lot to be done in that department. I was surprised how incredibly spent he was following the round which means he is way too anxious and stressed about this phase than he needs be (considering he was dry and fresh post his XC round before he even got back to the lorry park…!!).

I want Emma to be much more confident in her jumping abilities too as I know she can ride much better to single jumps at home so that’s another area to work on. She dislikes pole work but that’s what awaits them in the next few weeks 😉

The erratic canter Shabby is in during the round makes it near impossible for Emma to see her distances well so there is definitely some mental preparation work to be done – she needs to keep her calm so Shabby can learn to find his.

He is very careless about the rails. I don’t believe this can be fully trained out of a horse but with better approaches and more fluid riding as well as better quality canter they should be able to meet the jumps at more optimal take off points and perhaps leave more rails up!

Onwards and upwards now to the 17th and in the meantime, keep all crossed we can improve Shabby’s Zen state of mind and Emma’s confidence in her jumping!

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Intro to the New series! Aspire Equestrian Training Diary: Emma B and Shahbash (British Eventing)

Emma and Shabby

The British Eventing season has now officially started and I decided to bring you all a little insight into training and competing adventures of one of the riders I teach. It will hopefully be a fun, educational and maybe inspirational read for some of you who train and compete on less-than-perfect horses with text book problems…It will very much be a real life scenario of a hard working rider with big dreams, small budget and very busy days!

Who is Emma? 

Slightly speed and XC obsessed tiny rider, ex-racehorse enthusiast and manager of Brackenhill Stud (click HERE to check it out)

Me on Friday: OK, so let’s have a look at the dressage test…how long is Shabby’s optimal warm up for the test?

Emma: (suspicious silence) Honestly?

Me: Yes?

Emma: Well, it depends what time he gets off the lorry, sometimes a few minutes. Also, this is the earliest I have ever practised my dressage test 😉

Me: Ok, we have some work to do 😉

I have always noticed a tendency in the UK riders to generally practice very little…better still if one could say that one rode through the test once, in one’s head, on the way to the show and got placed.

Coming from a system where if you didn’t practice you were out from the competing team without much of a second glance, such approach has been a bit of a shock to me for a long time. Some twelve years later I got used to it a little. Perhaps it has something to do with being perceived as more talented if one doesn’t practice much? Something to do with a fear of failure? If all goes badly, you can always say it will be better next time when you actually put some effort in?

What do you think? How much effort do you put into preparation for your events?

emma and shabash

Emma’s first event of the season: Goring Heath BE100 with ex-racehorse Shahbash (more about Shabby very soon!)

Shabby’s training: a little power house, Shabby is a 12 years old Thoroughbred ex-racer. He is a tense horse with tendency to brace through the back and neck and has varied degree of bit acceptance depending on his mood which makes him volatile when it comes to many aspects of dressage. The goal of our training has been to improve Shabby’s suppleness and basic straightness as well as quality of his trot and balance in canter which we have done in the last 3 months. Still lots of work to be done.

We are now training towards improving his acceptance of the bit and overall relaxation under pressure.

Emma’s training: As far as the rider training, Emma has had a bit of a seat bootcamp in the last 3 months which is still in progress 🙂 She is a great rider to teach, always up for a challenge. I will explain what we work on as we go.

Below is a very short edit of what is yet to come.

I will try to bring you weekly training stories all the way to Goring Heath and if we all enjoy it, we will continue throughout the eventing season with both Shahbash and Merehead (and maybe a couple more horses) 🙂

Stay tuned and do let me know if this series is of your interest!

Wiola

Blast from the Past – words of wisdom from my old idol

In the 90′ I lived for show-jumping. I watched hours upon hours of footage and was glued to Euro Sport. The rider I followed the most at that time was Franke Sloothaak and his incredible mare, Weihaiwej. To this day, I take immediate liking to any horse with a white face 😉

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Franke Sloothaak and Weihaiwej

The reason I am writing this post is because I have just read a nice little interview with Franke which I think is worth sharing.

A great read for any instructor-to-be or rider who cares what the master of the game has to say!

Full interview here: http://www.worldofshowjumping.com/news/25-news/3175-franke-sloothaak-on-his-new-role-passion-a-perfection-and-important-small-a-simple-things

What is for you the most important thing to pay attention to with riding?

Seat, seat and one more time seat. That is the most important thing of all. Without a good seat you have no balance and without balance you get no good jump. You always have to take care about the small and simple things, and beware that from the moment that you skip a step in a chain you will get punished for it in some way later on. Every rider has to be disciplined enough to correct himself in those “small and simple“ things again and again each and every day.

All the best,
Wiola

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!

You are never too old…

bella
Bella and Rudy (owned by Stuart Boyle) before their lesson.

Social perception is an interesting thing. There is a time to go to school, time to buy a house, time to study, time to have children, time to get married etc etc If someone doesn’t quite fit into the structure of that timeline they might feel uncomfortable at best, maybe intimidated, underachieving, silly, irresponsible, selfish, rather mad?

One of the greatest characteristics of equestrian sports is that they challenge that social pathway and free us from many false constraints if only we let it happen. Life somehow thrives on change and improvement rather than on contentment and static…

Perhaps rather than age, social pressure, social norms or someone else’s view on our lifestyle it is our desire to improve oneself that could drive our decisions, plans and goals…

anna and stella
Aspire bootcamp session to focus on riders seat, effectiveness and technique

This short post is for all riders out there who think or were told that they are “too old” for something – whether you heard you are too old to ride a pony in some fun games or too old to have improvement goals or competition dreams. Break the age rule 🙂 Dream high 🙂 Aspire…

 

What’s all the fuss with aspirations and passion…

Hello there 🙂 Everything I post on here is inspired by conversations I have with clients, friends; by things I read or hear about on daily basis.  Today, a chat with an old friend who is having a hard time juggling life with a small child and a partner who is rather negative about her aspirations have both inspired this post.

BB

I don’t want to sound like I’m telling people how to live their lives so please take it or leave it but here it goes…If you have a passion for something do everything to immerse yourself in it. If you read this blog right now and have some shy goals of starting to ride or setting up an Etsy shop for your creative product, or go on a world tour or starting a process to prepare yourself and your horse to an event a year from now, make a step towards it today. Why?

Continue reading What’s all the fuss with aspirations and passion…