Tag Archives: British eventing

Personal bests for Robyn and Merehead at BCA’s BE90!

Huge congratulations to the lovely, if a little mad, event riders on Aspire’s Performance Programme – Emma Brinkworth with her own Merehead and Lou Crow with Laura Williams’ Robyn.

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Emma and Merehead. BE90. BCA 

If you follow our Instagram and training updates you will know both Robyn and Merehead are ex-racehorses with sometimes too much blood buzzing in their heads but I love the challenge of training the pair and the riders do too.

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Lou and Robyn. BE90. BCA

I don’t normally get too involved in their XC training but we work diligently on many aspects of flatwork and jumping and these are the areas I look for improvements (and expect them at the Programme they are both on 😉 ).

I was over the moon to hear Lou got her best dressage test on grass yet (Robyn was very un-confident on grass and struggled a lot, still a work in progress) and Merehead gave Emma a first, controlled and pleasant show jumping round.

Well done ladies!!

Next stop: BE90 at Offchurch on the 3rd of July. Keeping all crossed for as good or better results there 🙂

 

Lessons from Portman Horse Trials

By Wiola Grabowska

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Run on the grounds of a beautiful Rushmore Park in Dorset, Portman Horse Trials welcomed us with bright sunshine, good going and a nice, calm vibe. Although not a surprise, it’s always interesting to see how very differently the horses warmed up on grass as opposed to when they work on surface.

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Walking the XC course

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Watching the warm up before the dressage

Lesson 1. Get schooling on grass pronto. All bendy lines, circles and corners seem like a triple challenge in comparison to a non-undulated, well groomed surface of an indoor arena 😉 

The dressage tests on grass in arenas set one next to another always seems to come with a few issues, main one being accuracy and control.

Lesson 2. Practice tests in a well measured space ON GRASS to quicken rider’s reaction time and improve quality of preparation for each movement when dealing with uneven, slightly undulated ground. 

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Lou and Robyn – dressage

Show Jumping course at Portman is short but well spaced out giving horses of all shapes, sizes and length of strides an opportunity to do well.

The challenge here was not to get overwhelmed by the size of the arena and the atmosphere, get a good rhythm going from the start and keep the pace active yet controlled. Many horses ran into trouble on this seemingly simple course, plenty of stops and canter troubles.

Lesson 3: Practice powerful, controllable canter ON GRASS, play with different lengths of strides and adjustability, play with balance on undulation in a controlled canter (as oppose to more open XC canter). Build confidence in one another. Pick level of events very wisely as confidence is lost quickly and takes ages to build. School on undulation regularly.

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Merehead show-jumping

The XC course is one of the most varied at lower levels and I love it. There is plenty of gradient, challenging the rider to balance the horse well and the horse is challenged to look after oneself. All the jumps are fair and questions are well matched to the level I think but the course does require a fit horse to ride well. Many combinations were off the bridle and low in the neck half way through the course, visibly tired and jumping clumsily.

Emma has kept Merehead moderately fit to help keep the cap on his exuberance but she got it spot on, he finished inside the time and full of running.

Lesson 4 – adjust the fitness level to the course. A too fit a horse that is so wound up it’s unrideable is not great, tired one is a hazard. 

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Merehead after last jump looking full of running and ready to keep going

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Little Florence attempting to help with Eventing lark 😉 

Side Reins and how they can work against your best intentions (as seen at British Eventing Dauntsey Park Horse Trials)

I get it. We all want the best for our horses and sometimes we use different training methods. What works for one horse, doesn’t work for another and all that.

However, with all the world wide web education, with coaching becoming more and more professional, with training becoming more and more focused on equine soundness and longevity – why do we still see things like this at an affiliated British Eventing event…?

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I thought I would just jot a few points as shown by the bay horse on photos for those of you who perhaps do use side reins with best intentions but would like some help in knowing whether they really work for your horse or not.

PHOTO 1:

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Notice that even though the lunger is lunging the horse to the right, his whole body is inverted and twisted. I do have a video of this horse but I chose not to post it since it shows the lunger and it is not my intention to shame anyone. Suffice to say, the bay sustained this posture for most of the time he was lunged. This is not beneficial for the riding horse and in fact, can cause plethora of issues when ridden: poll discomfort/locking, avoidance of the contact, tight shoulder muscles, choppy stride upon rein contact to name just a few.

It also “teaches” the horse a very dysfunctional posture on a circle.

PHOTO 2

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The same horse a few circles later, still going to the right…Notice how his wither is tilted to the inside, how he commits his weight to his inside shoulder and then rescues his balance by moving his neck out. Now imagine sitting on this horse…You would feel as if you were “falling in” and motorbiking around the corner/circle. You would feel as if you were sliding to the inside with more weight on your inside seat bone. The horse might feel as if he is “pulling” on your inside rein and you “have nothing” in your outside rein.

A lesson from Photo 1 and 2: a very unnecessary “training” is going on that teaches the horse to look after oneself in a way that is bound to make him load his limbs unevenly and potentially make him unsound long term.

PHOTO 3

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Notice: the horse looks fairly upright through the wither (no more motorbiking) but notice an odd buldge/broken line at the base of his neck on the outside followed by a tilt at the poll to the outside. The horse is trying his best to mould himself into the contraption of the side reins and creates an unhealthy posture once again. Instead of curving the neck very gently to the inside and flexing at the poll to the inside, his neck takes a shape of an “S” letter and that is neither promoting soundness nor better marks in dressage.

Lesson from Photo 3: Look after your horse’s neck, once the horse learnt to be afraid of the bit and squashed himself into dysfunctional, ugly looking broken neck line, it is not easy to gain his trust again and re-train those “bonsai-ed” muscles.

PHOTO 4: 

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At first glance you might say that from the wither on, the neck line doesn’t look too contorted but how much this is wrong and how constricted the horse really is you can see in the action, or lack of it, of his hind legs and in the stiff line of his back. The neck, that is an important balance tool for the horse, is blocked. His balance is non existent – he is forehand heavy and avoids adding any more push from behind so he doesn’t cartwheel over his head…His handles are “behind him” rather than “underneath him”.

The lunger is determined for him to go forward but he can’t having been restricted so much in front. The lunger chases him and an awful, disjointed, unbalanced, angry and inverted to the outside trot follows (Photo 5 below).

PHOTO 5

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 PHOTO 6

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Behind the light bay horse (who on Photo 6 is testing another option – tensing the muscles on both sides of the neck and leaning onto the bit and side reins) is a dark bay horse that is also being lunged in side reins. His are adjusted at the length that allows for natural neck carriage and they only come into action when he puts his head well above the bit or drops it well down/left or right. His whole biomechanics is much healthier, relaxed and his body (from poll to tail) follows the line of the circle fairly accurately.

PHOTO 7

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Both horses undergo a training session but whilst the dark bay is potentially learning how to enjoy school or at least, just get his muscles warmed up well before the rider gets on board, the light bay is learning how to skive it and how to hate the subject of this lesson…

PHOTO 7 shows this lovely, athletic horse in a nice, forward, uphill stride which might fool you into thinking it’s all good and he just needs to learn to repeat that stride over and over.

The problem here is he isn’t learning how to move better but how to avoid discomfort in a more clever way. Sadly for him, he finds ways that potentially will cause him neck pain, poll pain, limb issues, pelvis and back issues etc etc

Side reins have been around for many years. They are used by many trainers from classical school to plain abuse. Used in an intelligent way, they help the horse understand the concept of straightness and relaxed reach towards the rider’s hand.

Those aims can never be reached by attaching the side reins very low, very short and then chasing the horse around a “circle” – those would only teach the horse evasive, ill techniques that damage his body with micro injuries.

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P.S. If you saw a horse being lunged in such a way at an affiliated event (or any event) – would you report this as a misuse of equipment? If yes, who would you report this to? BE after the event? Stewards during the event? If not, why not? 

Wiola

Aspire Eventing Diary. Through coach’s eyes: Emma and Shabhash at BCA Horse Trials (BE100)

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Event location: Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA), Maidenhead, Berkshire

The 2 weeks prior

Two weeks before BCA Shabby’s ran at an unaffiliated Novice (1.10m) event at Hambleden. He excelled at his dressage and got 34 in it but then proceeded to knock most show jumps and was not allowed XC to `Emma’s despair since the XC was the main reason she wanted the run anyway.

It was the final nail so to speak and we decided to turn more attention to the show jumping phase in our sessions. I knew there was a little chance we could make much of a change before the June event at BCA but we had a go anyway.

There are several main issues that we need to work on – both long and short term:

1. Nerves – Shabby easily goes rigid and panics under pressure. It can happen at home to some degree but is hugely amplified at the events. Emma has now had Shabby for over 5 years so she knows the second he goes into his panic mode and has similar reaction herself. So nerves are something that needs work in both of them. We discussed some sports psychology techniques options after Aston where he did dreadfully tense test but didn’t follow the thoughts with any actions as yet.

2. Quality of the canter – there is a weakness in Shabby’s canter that needs addressing. He gallops well but cantering to the jumps in a rhythm and through tight turns is a different matter. The right lead canter is not only weak but panic inducing for some reason.

3. Connection and thoroughness – in a calm state, Shabby works very nicely now staying in front of the leg and on the bridle with his back relaxed but his connection and thoroughness and very volatile and depend largely on his mental state. He is not the horse you can bully into cooperation and get good results and even if he was, Emma would have to change her trainer to go for that as I am not prepared to go back to the “hold him and push him into the bit/contact” methods for the sake of short term results.

4. Balance on undulated terrain – he is unsure of himself on grass especially when it’s slippery or on a slope and especially in trot and canter. His movement can be soft and fluid on surface and go into rigid and wooden on the grass – almost like when you walk on ice and you worry you might fall over and you then anticipate slipping with each step. The problem is, the more rigid your joints and limbs go, the more difficult the balancing act is.

Then there is one element that is very positive and could be improved on: Shabby’s heart and willingness to “do”.

Even though he goes overexcited and is consumed with nerves in the arena and the jumping ring, you can tell he looks to Emma for reassurance and that’s something we could build on further.

This is what we did before BCA…

PLAYING WITH SHABBY

I want to use Shabby’s trust in Emma so I get them to play to see how deep rooted his nerves are. He is great on foot. Relaxed. Bored almost. Happy to pop over little jumps with Emma running with him. His coordination isn’t great to start with, his jumping awkward. But is as cool as a cucumber and is not hot at all.

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She mounts and I take Shabby’s bridle off and give her a neck strap. He doesn’t react to her seat or legs correctly when in his panic mode so I want to see how he reacts. It’s amusing and he is not very responsive at first but we get to the point when she can walk and stop with just a little cue from a neck strap.

I suggests she does this a couple of times a week but I am not sure how realistic this is with her schedule.

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It might seem crazy but I am thinking, we might as well try to utilise what he is good at (connecting with Emma) and improve that further rather than focus only on the things he really drives us bonkers at 😉

Few days later, we take him to the field and start the boring process of trying to stop and stay halted in front of the jump. Shabby does various things NOT to stand in front of it. He piaffes, twists sideways, tries not to look at it. Eventually, he sighs and stands still for a few seconds. Then for several. Then for long enough that I can take a sharp picture 😉

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He jumps the jump very well, calmly, waits and doesn’t become creative with his stride. We call it a day and he even eats his dinner and breakfast the following morning (he has been on an on/off food strike for the last few weeks).

There are small changes Emma notices in his behaviour. He starts grooming her back when she brushes him (he generally detests being groomed. patted etc). He lies down in his stable and has a proper snooze.

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We add some work on changing bend in trot and canter on large circles in the field to make him realise his posture doesn’t always have to correspond directly with direction. It’s a good preparation for counter-canter which I know will strengthen his canter overall.

He becomes panicky at first but settles well enough and lets Emma ride him. Again we finish with pole work and little jump which he deals with calmly.

On Wednesday before the event we practice the dressage test on grass and he is tricky – unsettled and rigid like he can be at events. I take it as a good sign – if he doesn’t do something we just can’t work on it so I am almost pleased that he is all over the place. We go through the test and amend it, put medium walk for a few strides longer than in the test as he likes to jog, educate the corners through hind quarter yields and put in circles when he goes tense to help him release.

Eventually we get a decent work and call it a day.

On Thursday he is so incredibly relaxed we are wondering what’s going on. He warms up spectacularly, all his muscles like a fluid jelly, soft. His canter looks so relaxed we are laughing.

Then we repeat his halting in front of the jumps. He halts like a pro, and reins back beautifully. I can hardly believe it and start to think there is a trick somewhere.

We jump him on the left rein and he reacts very well to Emma’s half halt and makes a very good (for him) shape over the jump. I still wonder where the trick is.

Emma changes the rein and approaches on the right rein. All hell breaks lose and we see where the trick was. It takes 20 minutes for him to calm down and approach the jump without jumping invisible jumps on the way. We sigh.

THE EVENT

Warm up & Dressage

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He warms up quite sweetly, nothing amazing but all looks manageable. The only thing that rings alarm bells in my head is that Emma looks down more than usual and this tells me he probably isn’t feeling very connected and is volatile in the contact. She always sits proudly on him when he switches his little trot engine on but she looks like she is hiding somewhat.

We are quite happy with him upon his time coming up and off Emma goes. I watch them enter the area where the arenas are and I can see him tensing up. They get the bell almost immediately and he likes a few minutes to adjust to the change of space so that’s not a good sign.

The moment they enter down the centre line I know all is not good. He goes rigid and tense and although I know Emma hides it very well, it must feel awful. I almost stop filming after the first 10m loop because it’s just dreadful and I know Emma will be so disappointed (as you watch the video below you will see the cut in the test – nothing is edited out, that’s the moment I switched off the camera for a few seconds). i start filming again almost immediately because it might be good to re-watch it anyway.

He gets better in places, then worse again and I know Emma is hoping to be over and done with. He halts square at the end as if he wanted to add a joke 😉

We are so deflated by his performance that if Shabby has any sense of human emotions he must wonder who died! As Emma says, months ago there were no expectations and she would be ok with the test like this. Now, we know he can do so much better. They both can.

I decide to put them through their paces as he needs to release all that tension anyway so I ask Emma to stretch him in trot a little and then work on his right canter. She rides him the best I have ever seen her ride, partly angry at him partly surely relieved that she is out of the arena but I make a mental note to tap into whatever is possessing her now and put it to use…

I ask her to canter him all the way the imaginary centre line of the warm up field which is massive, maybe 2 football pitch length and off they go. He looks great, powerful and never once goes disunited. She stretches him in trot again and this time he really wants to reach the bit.

Good job.

Warm up & Jumping

BCASJThe set up at BCA is that there is a grass jumping warm up of sorts and the main warm up on surface. We make a pit stop on the grass warm up and do our halts in front of the jumps – first from walk, then from trot, then they jump it a couple of times. He looks good!

The main warm up is crowded but not as chaotic as some others we have seen recently and again they warm up well. He is backing off a little and Emma is riding a bit backward in anticipation of him running but all in all he looks calmer and fairly settled.

They enter the ring and are able to start on the left rein which is what Emma planned. I can see him starting to boil up and now I just hope he doesn’t drop 6 poles so she can go XC. He ploughs on attacking the jumps with all his might, jumping them by Braille and rolling 5. Initially we think it was 4 but 5 it was.

I wish I could say something good about an improvement in his jumping but I wouldn’t be honest. He gives the jumps some air but his pace is so frantic his legs just don’t come out of the way. The good thing I see is that Emma tries to stay more upright and keeps her upper body well out of his way more. It’s something we discussed after last event. She also says, he was more rideable than two weeks ago which is good but I know they can do much better.

The improvement in the warm ups is comforting and In fact, I am more than pleased with warm up in the jumping. The disappointment lingers because we still can’t confidently pin point his tension triggers. We explore some breathing techniques with a fellow rider and I make a note to look into this more seriously as Shabby is very responsive to Emma’s state.

XC

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Shabby is fabulous XC and Emma continues to experiment with time. He is so far either too fast or too slow. She ends up trying for the middle pace and gets 3 penalty points for too slow (6 for too fast at one of the previous events).

He likes fast pace but she needs to bring him back early to set for the jumps which costs valuable seconds. More experimenting needed with the speed.

VIDEO

Here is a video from the day. I thought it would be nice to invite some of the other Aspire riders to come along for a taste of eventing and we had a great time. Huge thank you to Tatiana and Gary for an awesome picnic!

POST EVENT PLANS

Shabby goes to Farley Hall BE100 nest weekend so he is resting now for a couple of days and we meet on Wednesday for the lesson.

I plan to show Emma the videos from her riding him after the dressage test and for her to figure out the difference in her riding so she can replicate it. We will continue with canter work and pole work as that’s a mission for good few months rather than days.

Breathing exercises and some sports psychology perhaps. Shabby just likes to make sure we explore all sort of training avenues. He is a thorough fellow like that 😉

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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Aspire Eventing Diary with Emma and Shahbash Part 2

Emma corners

Today myself, Shabby and Emma are sharing with you the struggles with corners, straightness and relaxation. If you ride a sensitive horse with balance issues, suppleness issues and/or one who worries about connection with the bit at any moment of a simple challenge like bend/corner/transition, you might see the difficulties Emma is having and appreciate her efforts to sit better to help her horse.

If you are only starting out with a similar horse I would really encourage you to spend some time on a very basic work, quiet uneventful work that allows the horse to find his own balance, rhythm and relaxation with rider on board (ideally in a light seat especially if the horse, like Shabby, has a tendency to brace through his back, shoulders and the neck) as well as on the lunge without any gadgets but with your helpful presence.

If you skip that phase, you are likely to have similar issues to Emma’s with Shabby and it can be very frustrating, disheartening and sometimes impossible to eradicate those issues once you are already competing the horse.

Lesson part 2

In the video below you see Emma working through a simple exercise made up of poles that create a corner and a plastic cup that gives the rider an idea where they should not be going 🙂

I chose this exercise because I am working on “switching on” Emma’s seat skills – she is an experienced rider but 99% of the time she rides horses that you might call speed boats! They are so in front of the leg it’s way too much for it to have any positive effect schooling wise and they don’t accept the contact in a calm, trustworthy manner i.e. they have no idea about basic throughness. They are either off the track or horses other people didn’t manage to deal with for one reason or another.

This exercise might suit you if you too are very quiet, non confrontational rider who needs to realise you can make a big difference to the horse’s way of going.

It might be also helpful if, like Emma, you have a good feel for what’s happening underneath you but for one reason or another, you just don’t act on that feel.

Main points we worked on during the session

– upper body control

–  early planning of all movements

– feeling the horse with whole body and acting on that feel to help him remain straighter and calmer

– keeping the trot at a speed in which Shabby is most accepting and calm

– staying independent of Shabby’s brace-brace moments (which makes the rider feel like sitting in a hammock), avoiding backward traction of the hand when they happen and encourage him to reach forward through his neck

– outside aids control in order to turn straight into the corner and ride straight out of the corner

Tomorrow, I will describe in more detail what you can do with this set up and will share variants of goals that the riders can set themselves in this exercise depending on their level of experience and skill set.

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?

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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

Susy reports from her first Pre-Novice event with Otis

Last weekend Otis and I were very brave and entered our first Pre-Novice Event. I had walked the course at our last event and I felt it was within our capabilities.

Our preparation didn`t go quite according to plan – but it rarely does with horses! Our BE90 at Mattingley was rained off a fortnight before, which meant that I didn`t have another run between our first event and last weekends. I had jumped some larger courses, and done quite a lot of pole and gridwork so that Otis was confident over the bigger height. The dressage test was going well and the serpentines suited Otis. I had solved my saddle problem and my GP saddle didn`t slip providing I used a breastplate, anti-slip girth, anti-slip pad and riser pad. Talk about a military operation putting it all on!

It was a boiling hot weekend and Otis, unsurprisingly, got hot travelling, so we arrived in plenty of times to allow him to chill out. My dressage time was at 12.10 so at 11.30 I was mounted and we walked to the warm u. Upon arriving I was informed that they were running a bit early – so early that I only had 2 people to go in before me! I usually need about thirty minutes to get us both focused and working correctly, but thankfully Otis was immediately relaxed and focused, so our only problem in the dressage test was that he wasn`t fully engaged. My test was average, I could have done better but at the same time nothing went particularly wrong. We were in the middle of the field, about to go into the showjumping.

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The first thing I noticed in the showjump warm up was that the competition were much more professional; the horses were a higher calibre than I had seen in previous classes and fully equipped with jumping tack. Otis warmed up quite well but over the large oxer we had a stop, but we just met it on a funny stride and soon got back on the game. I didn`t find the course itself too hard or big, but jump four going away from the gate he just didn`t focus on the jump and clipped it behind. It was an upright and Otis picked himself up quickly to leap the wide oxer four strides later. We had another pole down in the double; the first element was another wide oxer which I just didn`t see my stride, and Otis showed his inexperience at this level. We finished safe and he was overall very good; it is only to be expected when moving up a level.

On to the cross country. When I had walked it I gulped several times. Number two was a ginormous tabletop, whilst number five was a rack of logs at the top of a steep incline, followed by an equally steep decline. The water element wasn`t too bad, and there were several jumps I had already done at the end of last year. The other concerns were the big sharks teeth and trakhener. Again Otis warmed up relaxed and forwards, but not overly excitable. It was so hot I didn`t do too much jumping in my warm up.
Off we went. Number one was easy, and number two was the predicted leap but he got himself back together over the easier brush at number three. I survived number five by the skin of my teeth, but by the water it started to go wrong. I kept losing my stirrup (which has never happened before). We cat-leaped into the water and had a navigational error going up the bank, just getting to the right of the white flag then over the log at the bottom. We were fine over the step up, house, step down, but again I was stirrupless. The sharks teeth was fast approaching. I got my stirrup back but Otis looked at the jump and went “oh crumbs!” to which I replied with something slightly stronger and we stopped. I turned him round and we flew over it on the second attempt, but he was a bit unnerved. Unfortunately the next jump was the large trakhener and Otis stopped again, losing confidence. He went over the second time and the next fence was a nice friendly chair, which boosted his confidence and he continued happily round the rest of the course. He was exhausted at the end and it took a while to walk him down.

I was pleased with his overall performance as it was our most demanding competition, and he tried his heart out. I have two ways forward now; firstly, I need to sort out my GP saddle and look at purchasing a jump saddle as I didn`t feel I had the support over the bigger fences. Also I need Otis to be comfortable over bigger courses and not suffer a bad back from an ill-fitting saddle. This weekend I went on a cross country ride with a friend, which had a lot of decent sized fences which really boosted Otis`s confidence. He started a little sticky and looky, but by the end he was eating up the fences as he usually does. It`s also a great fittening exercise. I`ve decided not to enter any more events until I`ve sorted the saddle however, so it is a good experience all round. I`ll enter some dressage competitions and focus on that with the odd bit of jumping then re-evaluate the season as soon as I get a saddle. Talking of which, I think I`d better email the saddler now.