Tag Archives: competing

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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Dr Inga Wolframm: A Measure of Success

It’s a question that plays a central role for most competitive riders. How to measure success.

We live (and ride) in a world where one record score is chasing the next. I’m not just talking about that international lot either – even at local, regional, national level reports focus on “highest score of the day”, “the week” or “the competition”. And because of the ever-present social media, it’s become almost impossible to not know about it. So, being a competitive rider striving for some level of recognition, some small measure of success, is tough. Perhaps tougher than ever before.

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Therefore, you and many other riders, might tell yourself that being successful equals… exactly, winning! So if you want to make your mark in the horsey world – be that at local or international level – you must win.

You go to a show thinking that you’ll do just that. Win. And why the hell not? You’ve practised hard, you’ve got a good horse, you know your test. So, really, you deserve to win. By the time you get to the show ground, you’re wound up so tight nobody in your entourage dares to talk to you any more.

And then you find out who’s judging today.

Oh no! That judge hates your horse. But you’ve set yourself the goal to win. You’ll never manage now. But you must! You really, really, must.

So you get on your horse. You manage to calm yourself, telling yourself how hard you’ve practised and you walk him to the warm-up arena.

But there, heaven forbid, is your biggest competitor. What is she doing here? She rides that really expensive horse, and her trainer’s always by her side. That’s not fair! You were going to win, and now you probably won’t.

But you’re here now, so you might as well go through with it. You warm up your horse – keeping an eye on your nemesis the entire time. Her horse is more collected than yours, isn’t it? And in the extended trot, her horse has got a lot more reach.

But it’s almost time to go in, so you rush through another few of the movements. Your horse feels less through than usual. But how can that be? You’ve been practising so hard…

Never mind, you’re in the ring now. Just before the judge (that dreaded judge – she isn’t even smiling. Gosh, she really hates your horse), rings the bell, you notice your old trainer (friend, owner of your horse, etc.) standing at the enclosure, watching you. What will he think of you? Oh dear, he might think your horse is going much worse than the last time he saw you. And now your horse is dropping off your leg, and going against the contact.

That’s when the bell goes.

You muddle through as best as you can. The final score is not great. You didn’t win.

You go home. You’re so disappointed.

Okay, I admit, that example was perhaps a little over the top. But many of you will recognise yourselves in some, if not all, of the micro-scenarios described above.

The problem almost always starts with the wrong definition of success. To many riders today success equals winning. Not so! At least not in my view.

If you focus on winning from the outset, you’re putting yourself in a situation that is almost impossible to control. There’s simply too many variables to control: The judge, other riders, the horses other riders sit on. But if you want to win, everything needs to go in your favour. That’s luck, not skill. Deep down, we all know that we cannot influence luck – and it makes us terribly nervous.

The result is that we keep thinking about the things we can’t control, rather than the things we should control – namely the horse we sit on.

Much better than to shift your mindset from wanting to win to riding the very best test you possibly can. That means thinking about all the things you can do to make sure your test really sparkles: solid practise, good management, leaving on time, knowing how to ride your warm-up, and, most importantly, knowing how you need to ride your test (e.g. do you need to keep him sharp throughout, or does he need to stay relaxed instead, that sort of thing).

If you manage all that – if you manage to achieve everything you yourself set out to do – then you are successful. No matter where you end up compared to the rest of the world (in all honesty though, if you’ve done all of that, in all likelihood it’ll be reflected in your final score anyway).

P.s.: It’s quite obvious that I’ve used the disciplines that are judged, i.e. dressage, Western or vaulting as an example. But it equally applies to other, non-judged, disciplines too.

Guest Blogger Susanna Halonen about Riding for the Love of the Sport

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The main competition season is approaching and you are training hard to prepare for your first show. You start to feel those very familiar nerves from last weekend. What if I make a mistake in my riding? What if my horse spooks? What if we forget the test? These are only a few of the million questions that are probably floating around in your head. And I’m here to encourage you to forget about them all. You can choose to stop worrying, and instead ride for the love of the sport.

And why should you focus on doing that? You have goals, you have ambitions, and you want to improve. Of course these all play a role in helping you enjoy the upcoming competition season and perform at your best, but these are only possible if you remember why you ride: for the love of the sport.

Research has shown that the biggest predictor of burnout or loss of an athlete’s performance is due to the interest in their sport decreasing. Of course there will be times you love the sport more than others, but constantly reminding yourself of the positives will help your focus, performance, and enjoyment. It will also help you to bounce back from defeat quicker and adapt to new challenges better. So what are some of the positives of riding? I’ve outlined some of my favourite points below.

  • It allows me to build a special relationship with a horse.
  • It makes it possible for me to experience those special moments of harmony when I’m one with the horse.
  • It enables me to keep forever learning & growing as a person and rider.
  • It keeps me healthy and fit.
  • It allows me to exercise in fresh air.
  • It helps me connect with nature.
  • I find a sense of belonging by socialising with the other riders at the yard.

These are only a few of the many things which remind me why I love the sport so much. Now I want you to come up with your own list!

Think of at least 5 things which remind you why you ride. Have this list somewhere handy and have a look through it when you’re feeling unmotivated or getting too stressed out about competing. Keep going back to it, and adding to it. It’s a great tool that will remind you to ride for the love of the sport and enjoy your riding more!

Good luck in your riding adventures & until next time!

Susanna Halonen is a Finnish rider based in Southeast England. She offers positive psychology coaching to help you to get the most of your riding, be it enjoyment or performance wise. You can follow her blog here: http://shdressage.co.uk/ 

How would you like to take part in something amazing in 2014? Introducing our next year’s offer…

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THE TIME HAS FINALLY COME…

… to invite all inquisitive riders and challenge seeking riders-to-be to our 2014 all-levels training programmes which will initially be available at the following two locations:

1. Cullinghood Equestrian Centre, near Reading, Berkshire (5o min from West London)

2. Moorwards Farm Equestrian Coaching Facility, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire (25 min from West London)

CHOOSE YOUR PROGRAMME: 

ASPIRE2014STARTFor real first timers or anyone who wants to go back to basics and establish a safe, correct seat both for jumping & dressage. You don’t need your own horse to sign up for this programme. You will be free to progress to the next programme once you’ve achieved the following skills: Start Skill Set

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For all you ambitious leisure riders out there! You will be challenged within your level, encouraged to progress your skills and better understand horses as riding companions. You don’t need your own horse to sign up for this programme. However, horse owners are welcome to join in as well as non-owners who would like to loan or share a horse for duration of training (help with choosing the right horse is given free of charge). You can stay training and riding at this level indefinitely but will be free to progress to the next programme once you’ve achieved the following skills: Foundation Skills Set

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Both for leisure and sport minded riders who have keen interest in training a horse that moves in a bio-mechanically correct, happy and healthy way. No gadgets training aimed at understanding rather than quick fixes. You don’t need your own horse to sign up for this programme. However, horse owners are welcome to join in as well as non-owners who would like to loan or share a horse for duration of training (help with choosing the right horse is given free of charge). You can stay training and riding at this level indefinitely, we never stop learning to school different horses. The skills worked on during this programme: Development Skills Set.

ASPIRE2014PERFORMANCE

For grassroots, amateur competition riders with passion for dressage, show-jumping or eventing. You will be a horse owner or Development Programme level rider who is keen to loan or share a horse to compete.

12 PLACES AVAILABLE…

From March 2014, each month we will have up to 12 places available and they will be offered on first pay first serve basis. There will be 5-6 places for non-horse owners and 5-6 for horse owners. All training will be available in form of packages consisting of 8 ridden training sessions (average price: £40-£60 per 90 minutes session) and 8 Aspire Coaching Sessions. Stay tuned for ‘Early Bird’ Packages coming up on the 6th of December! UPDATE: Click here for further details

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO RIDE REGULARLY WITH A CLEAR PROGRESSION PATH, EXCEPTIONAL ATTENTION TO DETAIL AND INTERESTING CHALLENGES AHEAD OF YOU? 

Email Wiola at aspire @ outlook.com and be the first to receive Aspire offers.

Looking forward to meeting many aspiring riders in 2014 🙂