Tag Archives: coaching the rider

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!

Locations:

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:

Friday

•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.

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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.

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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 🙂

Wiola

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***NEW*** ASPIRE COACHING LIVERY in collaboration with BRACKENHILL STUD

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This project has been brewing behind the scenes for quite some time now and I am delighted to finally share the news with you all!

From August 2015, I am teaming up with Brackenhill Stud in Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire to bring an exciting new service to aspiring amateur riders.

This collaboration opens up an opportunity to like minded riders with own horses to livery and train in one place where there are fabulous facilities and a friendly and supportive group of other aspiring riders. You can join Brackenhill livery long term or come on bespoke programme basis for a few months of intensive coaching, motivation and inspiration 🙂

Please see Aspire website for more information on the coaching side of the project: Aspire Equestrian Coaching Livery with Brackenhill Stud and the Brackenhill Stud’s website for more information about the yard.

And here is a little video showing you the yard and the kind of training options available. We hope this 7min ish footage will help you decide whether our service is that something you are potentially looking for!

The Coaching Livery will work on the basis of Aspire programmes and riders across all levels are welcome. In short: 

Start Programme – it’s a lunge training based programme of 12 to 14 weeks which focuses on the seat of the rider, communication, basic in-hand work and groundwork.

Foundation Programme – novice/intermediate level riders, all-round, general coaching towards being a confident and sympathetic rider and horse person.

Development Programme – riders who focus their training on progression of not only oneself but also on athletic development of the horse. Intermediate to Advanced level, confident in all paces and able to make a difference to horse’s way of going thanks to own competence. Focus is 80% on training at home and max 20% on competition schedule.

Performance Programme – coaching for riders who train to compete. I personally focus on lower to medium levels (BE Novice, BS to 1.20m and Dressage to Elementary/Medium). My emphasis is on style, sympathetic communication with the horse and overall performance not simply on results.

Feel free to email Wiola at aspire@outlook.com with any questions you might have and please share this news with any riders who you think might want to join us for no gadgets, aspirational and inspirational training environment with many exciting plans ahead!

All the best,

Wiola

ONE YEAR ON: From a very nervous beginner rider to 12 months later…VIDEO STORY

NIGEL ONE YEAR ON

On the 5th of May 2014 I received an email with this opening line (I hope Nigel isn’t going to kill me for quoting him! 😉 :

Wiola,

I’ve looked at a number of riding schools and they mostly seem to stick you on a horse and let you get on with it.  From what I’ve seen on your website it looks like you take a more fundamental approach, which is what I feel I need, given my confidence issue.

Fast forward several email conversations and organisation of a suitable start date, we set the first session for the 8th of July 2014.

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First session for Nigel – learning basic balance on the simulator

At 6ft4 (1.95m), low fitness level and with some serious confidence issues ever since being bolted with and bucked off a horse as a child, Nigel certainly has been an interesting coaching challenge from the word go!

I can’t say I specialise in nervous riders. There are many much more capable coaches out there who can do a much better job with confidence issues.

I do, however, specialise in the go-getters, triers and dream chasers 😉 With all his disadvantages, fear being most dominant, Nigel had from the start what many riders are missing: incredible dedication and the drive to conquer whatever limitations came his way.

He probably doesn’t even see it like this but having taught thousands of riders I know many who give up at slightest obstacle be it nerves or physical disadvantages. I used to think it’s down to guts and courage but now I think it’s rather down to grit and determination.

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Nigel and Star, one of the two of his horse-teachers so far. An amazing mare in her late twenties who was sadly put to sleep in June this year.

We have had some great rides where progress felt easy and fluid and we have had some very challenging sessions where everything seemed too much effort or appeared too difficult or too scary to achieve ( the first time I asked Nigel to ride without a bridle for example – I am sure he must have grown a couple of grey hairs 😉 ) Such experiences are a part and parcel of this sport (and any other) when trained as one and for me, they are as necessary for full enjoyment as the eureka and on-top-of-the-world moments 🙂

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Nigel today – 6th July 2015 on the other of his horse teachers – Percy.

If you too are a nervous rider, having riding related confidence issues, think you can’t achieve something due to one or other physical limitations do take example from Nigel and forget about needing talent and bravery. What you need is patience, dedication and a go-getter attitude 😉

Below video is a series of clips from many hours of footage I took over the year. I chose some moments that were both good and difficult, some that brought happy achievements endorphins and some that potentially brought the “I can’t do thiiisss!!” experiences 😉

Happy Aspire Anniversary Nigel!!

Happy watching! Personally, I am really looking forward to what next year’s video will be like 😀

Introducing first “How to be The Gadget” [instead of using one] course by Aspire Equestrian

A few days ago, I wrote a blog post on my Diary blog titled “Be The Gadget“. It got some insane amount f views and really lovely comments so I started thinking about putting together a little course that I could run and teach anyone some basics of groundwork without gadgetry…

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Most horses require no additional leather work but a well fitting cavesson and a lunge line to learn how to move in balance, with engagement, relaxation and looseness in the body. ANYONE can learn how to be the gadget and create a positive connection with a horse that is so much more than standing in the middle of a circle and let the horse run around.

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Bailey (your learning partner) and the first Aspire Equestrian How to be The Gadget course 🙂 

THE COURSE

Overview: The course consists of 16 private sessions and will cover: lunging, in-hand work and long reining. Sessions are 1h long and include both theory and practice.

Suitable for: anyone who looks after/exercises horses – riders, parents of riders, nervous riders, non-riders

Perfect for: anyone who wants to learn how to structure groundwork training without use of gadgets and achieve lasting results in horse’s posture, attitude and quality of work under the saddle.

Duration: 16 weeks (weekly sessions available on Tuesdays, Fridays and/or Saturdays)

Cost: 

Share of Bailey: £160 payable to horse’s owner

Coaching: £25 per session (£400 per course) If you are already training on Aspire programme and would like to do this course please chat with Wiola about special fees for current riders.

THE HORSE

Bailey is a 15.2hh Welsh Section D bay gelding who will be your learning partner on this course. He is very accustomed to wearing gadgets so let’s see if we can get him to work well without them 😉

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For further information and to book your place email Wiola at aspire@outlook.com

Look forward to meeting the keen learner – horse person 🙂

Wiola

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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ONE YEAR ON: Foundation Programme Rider’s Progress on video

CAitlin progress

You might remember a 3 months progress tracking video I posted last year of one of my lovely young riders. Since it is now a full year from her first assessment lesson (26 April 2014) with me to today (26 April 2015) I think it’s only fair I posted a little compilation of clips from her recent training.

CAITLIN – FOUNDATION PROGRAMME

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One of the groundwork sessions – learning to communicate with the horse from the ground and help him move in a comfortable, functional posture

VIDEO: From Assessment to One Year on in 5 min and a few seconds 😉 

From September this year I would like to slowly transition Caitlin to Development Programme and make 60% of her training horse focused and remain 40% Foundations focused to prepare her for horse ownership in near future 🙂 We have some fun training adventures planned for the spring and summer with more jumping training and flatwork to music as well as more challenging groundwork sessions.

Being only 15 years old she has plenty of time to develop her skills and I am really looking forward to seeing her progress further!

Happy Aspire Anniversary Caitlin! 🙂

Wiola

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

Secret to quick and easy way to achieve deep seat…

LET ME

Ok, maybe some say it but if there is such a magic, quick and easy secret, I don’t know it. Solution might be quick but execution is rarely easy!

If you would like to read about not-so-secret steps to achieve a deep seat Aspire training style, check back here soon 🙂 The long post is coming up this week!

P.S. The title of this post is what someone typed into google and came across Aspire blog. 

How to Half Halt in Light Seat (also known as two-point seat/half-seat)

This question popped up during one of my lessons last week so although probably obvious to many jumping oriented riders, it might be interesting to explore for the others so let’s have a look at half-halting without fully sitting in the saddle.

Light seat is a very useful technique both for young horses whose backs tire quickly and for older horse’s as a relaxation and freedom giving way of riding between the jumps or out hacking. It is of no benefit if, the moment the rider lifts the seat off the saddle, the horse loses his balance, speeds up or drops his weight heavily on the forehand.

VIDEO: My own training – light seat to full seat back to light seat

Here is a short video of myself balancing a very powerful mare with on-the-forehand tendencies using frequent half-halts through my upper body, actions of the knees and passive resistance of the reins in short intervals in light seat.

The horse should be able to be as balanced in light seat in basic gaits as he is when ridden in full seat. It’s the test of the rider’s balance for sure but all riders can learn it providing their leg joints can withstand some time with increased weight baring.

When I teach half-halt for the very first time to my Foundation level riders, I start from making sure we have the ingredients to approach the half-halt and so we need to know the following basics:

1. Can you increase and decrease the size of the steps of the pace with your weight aids and leg aids?

2. Are you aware of how upper body’s angle affects the above?

3. Do you know what it means and how to passively resists through the upper body, arms and reins?

4. Can you soften the resistance without losing your own balance?

If the above are not in place in walk and trot, I continue to work on the seat and direct transitions (which are like “pre-school/kindergarden half halts” for both the rider and the horse) until the rider has all the above skills within basic grasp.

For the purpose of this little chat we are going to assume you have the above basics in place 🙂 Without them, “half halts” are often just direct pulls on the reins at random moments…Let’s start.

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An ex-racehorse with his owner in one of our lessons. He struggles with balance on circles and slower canter in the arena is pointless to him. Riding him in full seat is not the answer as his back needs time to adjust from race work to arena work – learning to answer half halts in light seat is important for his soundness.

There are plenty of ways of teaching, understanding and explaining the process of a half-halt: before transitions, before going sideways, after transitions, within paces etc etc but my personal choice is to think of it as an instruction to the horse that says: “now, re-balance under my seat”.  

This way, I cover front to back (longitudinal) half halt, sideways (lateral) halt halt and vertical balance (up/down half halt) as well as discipline in the rider: if the horse is to balance under rider’s seat, that seat needs to be defined and stable enough to balance under.

The more the rider focuses on balance, the more each of the actions make sense and become second nature.

Before you start half-halting in light seat in canter, follow these 3 steps (I do them in full seat first): 

Step 1: In walk go into your light seat and with a helper on the ground try to determine when the following happens (I will focus on left side for the ease of explanations but do this exercise for both sides):

– when the left hindleg thrusts/pushes forwards

– when the left hindleg reaches/steps under the centre of the horse (you can think of it as if it was stepping underneath your own tail bone – right under the middle of the saddle)

– when the left hindleg is bearing all the weight and carries/collects

Step 2: Attempt to affect each of these stages (no need for piaffing 🙂 Just experiment with each phase)

– decrease and increase the push

– decrease and increase the length of step

– decrease and increase the time the horse spends on the left hind leg

How long each leg does what contributes to the overall balance of the horse. If one hind leg pushes very strongly and the other is weak and pushes less, the horse will end end up walking very crooked and uncomfortable in himself.

Pay most of the attention to the release moment of your action. That’s when balance happens. First create energy (go), then enclose the energy (ask the horse to wait with momentary passive resistance through your upper body and reins), then release/soften (ask the horse to balance himself). Practice this until you can do it within 1-2 strides.

Step 3: Attempt Step 2 with mostly weight aids (down your thighs and into the heels for leg aids to control the hindquarters and through your upper body, arms and elbows/passive resistance on the reins to control the forehand)

Once you have had some fun with the three step exercise above and you feel your horse responding well, you are ready to go into canter and try to half halt in light seat when at speed or coming to the jump.

DOING IT

Transition to canter.

Did it feel forehand heavy?

Drop your weight down your shoulder blades and into your tail bone as you stay above the saddle, feel your elbows going heavy and wrists super light (but closed), resist the forward tendency on the forehand and visualise the hindleg stepping under deeper and carrying horse’s weight for 1/10 of a second longer than in the stride before. If the walk exercise was done well, your horse should react to your weight shift.

Breathe. (take a sip of imaginary tea of coffee 😉

Soften. Allow the horse to feel the effect of you weight drop and momentary resistance. Allow him to figure things out and find his own balance.

Then repeat. 2-3-5-100 times…how ever many times necessary until you both start feeling like you are responding to each other’s weight shifts and the balance of the pace improves (the horse’s back feels more and more centred between your seat bones).

The half halt in light seat might never going to be as powerful or even maybe as invisible as one done in full seat but it’s a good practice to learn to balance your horse both in and out of the saddle 🙂 

All the best and happy experimenting!

Wiola

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

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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.

VIDEO

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.

OVER TO YOU!

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,

Wiola