Tag Archives: Aspire Video Library

Sitting to the trot, sitting to canter – 5 min exercise for riders who block the movement through lower body [video]

exercise loose stirrup

Elastic, sympathetic and effective seat – who wouldn’t want one! Today I would like to show you a simple, short awareness exercise that is very easy to do and can make a big difference to the way you feel horse’s movement and are able to join it.

I chose to video one of my riders with ankle stiffness issue so the video below is a very real, true representation of this problem.

Why this exercise can help you? 

Good seat is about relative stillness i.e. the ability to stabilise ones body in motion. This means that it requires constant, supple, consecutive, elastic micro movements through every joint in rider’s body and continuous interplay between many muscles surrounding those joints. I do like how contradicting this is 😉 As long as we are in motion that mimics horse’s motion, we appear still and graceful…Perhaps that’s where comparisons to dancing with a partner is so apt. Any blockage,stiffness,motion avoidance will result in further seat discomfort and lack of effectiveness.

The loose stirrups exercise engages the rider into creating a motion pattern in the leg that is similar to one created by the horse’s movement. As a result, the rider is able to start feeling that movement and allow the joints and muscles to embrace it.


How to do it? 

You can do it at home first with a rope/towel – create a sling. bend one leg and then rest the ball of the foot on the sling. It helps to keep the leg up in the air for a bit to tire the muscles so they really want that rest! Allow the weight of the leg to drop into the heel (your arms muscles should feel that weight now). Lift and lower the rope/sling to create up/down motion that requires flexion through hip/knee and ankle. Start from big movements and follow up with tiny, barely visible lifts and drops so you just feel your joint opening and closing in millilitres rather than inches. Allow the joints in your leg to be fully moved by the sling.

Structure your training 

If you have issues with sitting to trot or canter and generally would like to improve suppleness through your seat (or perhaps you get lower marks in dressage test due to lack of suppleness?) I would suggest doing this exercise for 5 min (2.5min or so on each leg) after your warm up walk and before you start your trot work. You could have a loose, old stirrup leather handy (with or without stirrup) in the arena so there is no need to remove your stirrups on/off. This exercise is about creating awareness and perception so it is best done with the actual stirrup.


If you have this issue and you are going to try this exercise do share your results! Feel free to tweet me your pictures at @AspireAcademy or post on Aspire’s Facebook HERE. I believe it is a super easy and safe exercise but if you are at all unsure/have serious orthopaedic issues then by any means consult a professional physio before attempting it.

With many thanks to Moira on Aspire Foundation Programme for taking part in the video! 🙂 

All the best,


#NoStirrupsNovember with a difference!

No stirrups exercise

Just a little video exercise for you today! It helps with mechanics of rising trot, with rider’s balance, stability, core strength, symmetry, independence of stirrups in case of loss of balance/loss of stirrups to name a few benefits.

If done correctly, the rider should not grip with the thighs. Thigh muscles remain snug against the saddle but don’t exert inward pressure. It’s the outer thigh muscles that are the dominant stabilising muscles.

It can be done on a quiet, well balanced horse on the lunge but I really like doing it on a simulator because rider’s struggles have no adverse effect on the horse 🙂

How to do it: 

1. Start in sitting trot without stirrups. Make sure you sit in neutral pelvis position with your spine just naturally elongated and core muscles engaged appropriately to your horse’s trot movement (flat moving, smooth trotting horse doesn’t require much effort from core muscles of the rider but big moving, happily swinging horse will give a rider a run for their core if they are to look as if they are doing nothing)

2. Starting from your knee, move your lower leg too far back from it’s normal position. Feel as if you were kneeling on the imaginary stool, one under each knee (your seat weight should feel nicely distributed into left and right thigh i.e. evenly onto horse’s ribcage)

3. Start rising 🙂 It will feel very alien at first but try to simply use the bounce of the trot, the leverage of your thighs and up-forward movement of your hips to maintain the rise.

Emma rides on Aspire’s Development Programme and makes this exercise look easier than it is for a beginner or novice rider but rest assured, it can be done by all levels of riders with great results 🙂

Happy practice!

Before and After: Training video comparison between Day 1 and Two Months Later

Practising focus without “trying too hard” and letting the horse perform the movement in a relaxed manner. Some lovely end result in this exercise in our final session.

I have just done the final filming session with one of our Aspire Video Library test-riders. I will very much miss our training but we need to focus on riders fully committed to Aspire programme to really present what the programme can do. Magda has been great to work with but declared to be happy with most of her training at the time saying she was happy with her competition results. She wasn’t prepared to make more changes so we needed to cross out some core elements of Aspire training. Nevertheless, I liked the rider and the horse and their drive to improve. I do believe in being relatively flexible in training approach at times and Magda bravely agreed for her progress to be made public so that alone was a proof to me that she was ready for a challenge. The rider remained fairly open-minded and gave her best during the sessions which made for a very enjoyable experience.

My initial training plan for the rider assumed a lot of work aimed at balance and suppleness (in-hand and ridden) but due to rider’s training beliefs we needed to alter that.

We did, however, went through all main points and started addressing stiffness and a holding seat in the rider to help progress towards more feeling, stable yet more supple seat which in turn will be eventually able to balance the horse without unnecessary tension. Long way still in front of Magda but considering the amount of training she did on these elements I think she made a good effort and showed proportional results.

Continue reading Before and After: Training video comparison between Day 1 and Two Months Later

Where to start when you want to improve…Thoughts on building training plans & developing as a rider

Hello everyone! There’s been a few quiet days on the blog due to various things taking over my time but the daily posts are back now. Meet Wanessa, the brave new-ish guinea pig on my Aspire Video Library project and her 10 year old coloured mare which I will just call J. as her name is unpronounceable 😉

Wanessa is 17 and together with J. jumps at regional shows at 1m and sometimes 1.10m.  In our initial chat she said she has had problems with confidence when jumps get bigger and speed control as J. likes to take over and run onto the jumps. They have problems with J. liking a long spot too and with Wanessa’s indecision as to which take off spot to direct the mare to as they go over a course of jumps.

29th July: Wanessa at her first session in which we define the starting point and things to work on…

Before you watch the below videos let’s have a think…

Motivated, keen riders often deal quite well with their own technique, riding style or methods and they go on to even have reasonable success at shows, winning or going clear. I believe that we have to be very weary of a difference between winning or doing well at a show and having training results.

I am fully aware this might sound a little controversial but here is why I think so. It’s not so difficult to do reasonably well at lower or even higher levels whilst skipping on own basics and/or have badly trained or fear trained horses. I am talking about show-jumping here. Dressage is somewhat more difficult to do well at under judges you respect if your training isn’t done correctly with long term soundness of your horse in mind.

Continue reading Where to start when you want to improve…Thoughts on building training plans & developing as a rider

Manic Monday :)

I had an interesting subject to write about today but! I worked until really late yesterday, woke up late to a great email from Kent which will hopefully mean an Aspire coaching day(s) or weekend(s) at an exciting new venue.

Attempt at breakfast failed as empty fridge and shelves didn’t cooperate so food shopping had to be done. My plan was to start working on August and September diary which I did (phew! something went according to plan) but then ended up editing videos for the Video Library for longer than I anticipated, then ran to do more filming in the afternoon and Monday disappeared!  So, a bit of a manic day 🙂

Filming for Aspire Video Library – 22 July 2013.

 Oh, did I mention that the battery in my camcorder ran out half way? Yep. I love Mondays really 🙂

Difference Two Steps can Make…The Magic of 2 seconds in Photos and a Video.

The pictures below are a study of a few steps within a simple exercise: transitions within trot. The horse shown is a 4 1/2 year old warmblood (the great model for Aspire Video Library) ridden by his owner (our very brave Library case study!):

Difference two steps make

Photo on the right shows Liberado S in a moment of transition from a little trot (short steps) into a bigger trot that is closer in stride length to his working trot. The rider is doing a great job in initial transition asking for it with feel and attention to the horse’s balance. You can see that he pushed his body onwards and slightly upwards from an active hind legs, his whole top line rounded slightly, his wither & shoulder lifted and neck relaxed at the bottom and rounded through the crest automatically. You can see he is not overly happy in his work on these pictures but that has its root somewhere else and I will write about it in due time 🙂 You are all very welcome to have your guesses! Please leave a comment and in a few weeks time I will post videos tracing the work on a certain issue this lovely horse has in his basic training.

But back to the point.

Continue reading Difference Two Steps can Make…The Magic of 2 seconds in Photos and a Video.

Photo Post From day of Filming :)

One of our brave riders and her lovely 4 year old Liberado S taking part in filming for Aspire Video Library.


Filming for Grassroots Library: the basics – stability and balance. Rider’s first go ever on a PIlates ball 🙂


Continue reading Photo Post From day of Filming 🙂