Tag Archives: Aspire Grassroots Clinic

Reflections on Aspire Grassroots Clinic in Poland – May 2016

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

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

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

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


Yard 1: Stajnia Sabat, Granica near Warsaw

Yard 2: Duchnice, Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki near Warsaw

Format of the clinic

For the Academy’s UK riders:


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

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

Saturday and Sunday:

•Morning flatwork and afternoon jumping sessions.

For the Polish riders:

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

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

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


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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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

I am already looking forward to my next challenge 🙂

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

Happy training 🙂




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

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

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

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

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


Through coach’s eye: Reflections Before a Clinic

I know of trainers who can just turn up and teach 20 riders over couple of days without much preparation and I do envy them! 😉 Although I could do it, I always think that a little reflection and some thoughts on the riders I only see twice a year helps me do my job better. Perhaps it’s an illusion and perhaps I run the same content I would have if I didn’t prepare at all but somehow looking through videos from previous clinics and my notes on each rider gives a peace of mind and a feeling that I have done what I could to offer best coaching help I am capable of.

Tomorrow I will hop on a plane to Poland to see some lovely riders whom I last saw 27-28 September 2014 (see photos from the clinic HERE) and meet some new riders who joined the livery yard this year. I can’t prepare much for the new riders since I will see them for the first time but I am spending today re-watching the video footage from September (another great bonus of filming riders! I don’t trust my memory so much to remember what I worked on with each person in detail!).


Here is what I make mental notes of: 

1. How each rider and horse worked over the weekend – general overview (were the exercises useful, was the horse relaxed and content with work load, was the pair challenged enough/too much, what homework did I leave them with etc etc)

2. Skim through details of each exercise so I can see what improvement have been achieved when I see them this weekend

3. Rider’s seat – what did I work on with each rider, what effect it had on the horse. This again lets me compare with the now and make sure I don’t make assumptions.

4. Main training issues of the horse – many a time riders describe a plethora of issues and problems they want to work on but it is not possible to help with them all in one or two sessions so I normally focus on 1-3 aspects that I think have the biggest bearing on other problems. When I re-watch I look with a fresh perspective so when I go now I might have an idea if we focused on the correct thing at the time.

10648431_10152446397027659_5638156908634626799_o5. Main issues of the rider – as above in horse’s case but although I listed it as fifth, this is the most important focus of all of my clinics. I believe strongly that it’s the rider who needs to know what to do and how to do it in order for the training to have much meaning once the weekend is over.

6. Riders’ goals, ambitions and training needs. Although I have fairly good overall memory of riders’ I teach and once I see them I can recall the core training stuff we did in the past, I do like to reflect on the fact whether MY coaching met their needs and if not, how I can change that.

If you run clinics yourself, how do you prepare for them? If you attend clinics, what are your motivations on joining them? Always curious of your views and ideas 🙂 Please comment away!

All the best,


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Give our clinics a go : )



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014 Coaching Offer: aspireequestrian2014


Would you like to join Aspire Grassroots Clinic in Poland at the end of May? Read on…:)

On 23-25 May 2014 we will be running Aspire Grassroots clinic near Warsaw, Poland. It turns out that there will be horses available for outside riders to borrow for training so if you after a weekend riding adventure please feel invited and give Wiola a call on +44 7438 758 217.

The format will be that of usual Aspire clinic – 2 hour private sessions on each day. Accommodation and food will be taken care of so all you need to do is to book your flights (only 1.5h from London).

Please call for details 🙂

Official poster for our clinic in Poland. Weekend Grassroots Clinic near Warsaw.

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

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

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

Aspire Yorkshire 15-16 March 2014

Aspire Grassroots Clinic near Warsaw, Poland at ‘Stajnia Sabat’

Stajnia Sabat invited me to run another clinic for their riders and what a fabulous day it was. It was great to see that initial riders from my first visit had certainly worked on their homework and as I am sitting here putting together new set of exercises for everyone to get busy with over the next couple of months, I can’t wait to see the results on my next clinic there.

For the first time I also taught a rider with a Western background who actively competes at national level but was helping with her mother’s green mare on the day. The mare’s previous job was being a driving horse so she will need some time and patience from the rider to improve her suppleness and lateral bend which so far had been trained out of her.

It’s interesting to learn about new approaches and ways of handling different aspects of training, then putting them all together for the benefits of the horse. I also got a chance to sit on a Western saddle that actually felt very much close-contact (my experience of Western tack so far is that it feels like one is miles above the horse with zero feeling under the seat!) as well as help with one very blocked horse who had many a gadget tried on him but whose owner is now trying her best to repair the damage done…

I am leaving you with some photos from the day 🙂

Aspire Clinic Stajnia Sabat

The “gadget horse” – horses ridden and lunged on gadgets without prior muscular and mental readiness can end up in plenty of bodily trouble. Those who are made to work on short, tight “posture changing” equipment and are asked to work on collection before working paces and movement is established have double bodily trouble. Both had happened to this horse who has now landed himself in a more understanding situation.

The amazing nature of horses means that with patience, understanding and focused training many wrong doings are reversible..

Me riding the gadget boy. A horse that has no basic throughness, is afraid of hand/contact and rides as if he was disjointed is a horse in discomfort (pic on the left – first trot). Picture on the right shows him 15 minutes later where he is starting to feel like forward movement is fun.

 The owner is very much committed to helping him so I am very much looking forward to meeting this pair again in May 🙂