Tag Archives: eventing

OPEN DAY at Brackenhill Stud today

open-day-balloons.jpg

Every year since Emma Brinkworth took over the livery business at Brackenhill Stud, she opens its doors with a bit more of a shebang to celebrate past achievements and future opportunities in what is possibly one of the most challenging, demanding, overwhelmingly stressful yet also incredibly rewarding job in the equestrian industry (as any livery yard owner or manager will sure know!).

Having been based on site for the last couple of years I became very fond of the place and even though I continue looking for a full on base for the Academy, Brackenhill Stud will always be very special to me.

We have some exciting new training opportunities planned in the coming year so do come and snoop around 🙂 Grab a chair and sit down for a chat or just take a walk, buy some tack from the table tack shop sale, win a MINI, win something in Tombola – you know the drill!

I will be around too if you would like to know more about training stays with me at Brackenhill so give me a txt or a ring if you can’t find me 🙂

Open Day at Brackenhill Stud

 

Help us find bigger Foxy!

Looking on behalf of a young rider who has grown a pair of mega long legs and needs to let her little pony, Foxy, be ridden by her younger sister.

22407807_10155043010628226_1999627360_n

13 years old Mia is on a mission to find a 14.3hh-16hh friend to take part in various Academy training events, lessons and Camps as well as variety of Pony Club activities. She would love to Event at PC level as well as BE80/90 when ready.

Ideally looking for a bigger Foxy who:

  • is easy and polite to handle by Mia’s mum who does a lot of pony handling indeed
  • is careful over coloured poles and stylish in the air with good jump technique
  • has three correct paces and does a nice dressage test at Prelim level on grass or surface
  • easy to take to events, polite and happy with a haynet
  • good to hack

and:

  • has some experiences jumping 80/90cm jumping courses
  • has some experiences over 80/90 XC courses (can be just schooling or Unaffiliated events)

Foxy is not brave XC so we are looking for an upgrade in that  department and hoping for something with a bit of a heart for natural fences and polite attitude across the country (nothing that might take young Mia sightseeing too much…).

Please contact aspire@outlook.com or via comment on here or a message on Facebook with anything suitable!

Thank you!

Wiola

Wanted: An allrounder schoolmaster for one of the Academy riders

17390726_10154347790712681_1205027289497564508_o
Mairi and her current loan boy, Gilly. Gilly’s owner, Georgia, is keen for Gilly to stay with us so keep an eye for an amazing training opportunity with this guy in a couple of months…:) 

After two years with the fabulous loan horse, Gilly, Mairi is looking for her very own beast to finally truly call her own, to further improve her riding confidence and feel on. She’d like to compete a bit more and work out if she wants to get more serious about that.

Mairi’s main points: 

A forgiving schoolmaster (8 years +) who will look after me when I get nervous and help me get better with that

Good flatwork, established lateral work and as little crookedness and schooling gaps as possible (ideally Novice/Elem level)

ability to jump around 90 xc and and sj and be brave but it doesn’t have to be a superstar

No bigger than 16.2 and pref a gelding but will consider non-marish mares.

Budget: up to £6k

Please contact Wiola at aspire@outlook.com with “Schoolmaster for Mairi” as a subject if you are looking for a lovely home for a horse that might fit the above 🙂

Thank you!

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.

19060121_10158753188100363_3687526270840378857_n
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.

18813638_10154352292396330_6918843853847762314_n
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 🙂

 

First Event Horse sought for a young rider to fall in love with Eventing!

Looking for a genuine, dependable first competition horse for Caitlin – a 16 year old girl who has been training on the Academy programmes for the last 2 years and is now ready go out there and fall in love with Eventing!

The horse must be brave and sensible XC, able to help on SJ course but happy to work on flatwork if needed. 16hh + and ideally no older than 11. Budget in the region of £6k but significantly negotiable for the right horse. Professional coaching and care provided.

Serious enquiries please to Tatiana Thorpe on 07809148716 or email Wiola at Aspire Equestrian on aspire@outlook.com

caitlin

Shadow Training for riders and coaches – an affordable way to priceless education…

Main pic 1

Many riders and instructors struggle with costs of training and Continued Professional Development (CPD) so today I would like to chat about a possibly most underused and undervalued training option that is available to all those who are on a budget but are wiling to put some effort in.

You can call whatever you like – auditing, watching, spending-the-day-with… etc etc – I like the name Shadow Training as it somehow defines to me the role you play when undertaking this training.

You do everything the trainer does and everything the riders do – the difference is, rather than physically going through the motions, everything happens in your mind. I suppose shadow training might even be treated as a version of sports/mental imagery when visualising certain outcomes, behaviours, emotions and actions, one can improve real life performance.

How to make it work

1. Find coaches who genuinely love to part with their knowledge.

This is probably the most important part.

You want someone who will make you feel excited about trying the exercises yourself or with your riders. Someone who genuinely wants you to get better and who is self-assured enough in their own skills to share the ins and outs. Someone who isn’t going to make their training foggy/mystical just to impress you.

There is nothing more disheartening and demotivating than shadowing a professional who simply can’t be bothered. Personally I would also avoid anyone who is overly sarcastic and/or bitches about their pupils with you (discussing strengths and weaknesses is very useful for your education and assessment of the rider and the horse but talking the rider or the horse down is a no-no in my book)

2. Find coaches whose training methods, values and work ethics appeal to you. 

Not everything you watch might agree with you and that is fine. Although you are watching to learn, you are also going to form your own opinions, teaching style and riding style. When looking for coaches to shadow train with, don’t look for a “perfect match” but rather “perfect complimentary knowledge mix” 😉 There is no one system, one horsemanship school, one rigid training scale that will suit every single horse and rider. You never know who you will teach in the future and what horses you will ride.

3. Make yourself useful and grow five pair of ears 😉 

In my shadow training experiences I made teas, coffees, brought biscuits, dog sat, mucked out stables for impromptu arrivals, dragged poles in pouring rain, held microphones, cameras, translated languages, altered tack etc etc Sometimes I just sat and listened during dressage lessons, sometimes I walked miles and miles during XC schooling sessions or walked distances between repeatedly knocked over cavaletti exercises.

I personally learn best in half-half situation: listening and getting stuck in, so if you are similar, go for it. You won’t regret it 🙂

4. Ask.

I used to be compulsively shy as a child and a teenager so I do understand an apprehension many people feel when seeking help or guidance. Pick a method you feel least uncomfortable with (jus don’t txt!) – maybe email (but take your time to do it properly) – and be pro active no matter the stress it takes. It will be worth it.

If you are a sociable, brave individual, lucky you 😉 Get hold of the numbers of the coaches you would like to shadow train with and give them a ring!

5. Make notes & reflect

Jot notes during or after the day. Many concepts or thoughts can be explored and developed for your own horse(s) or pupils but if you forget them, you will miss out on an opportunity to extend your learning.

Reflect on all the lessons you watched, all the horses you saw ridden. What you liked, what you didn’t like and why. This will develop your analytical skills and help very much with planning of the training for yourself and others.

Below, I copied a couple of my old blog posts from 2010 – 2011 to give you an example of experiences that can be gained. Some details have now changed (Pre Novice is now BE100):

SHADOW TRAINING with Brynley Powell. organiser of Tweseldown Horse Trials – XC and Jumping

XCshadowtraining

“[…]Despite horrendous weather which brought rain, hail storm, more rain and more rain water everywhere I’ve had a super day. Since I decided that this year will be very much about watching higher level trainers/coaches and learning as much as I can I am trying to go by that aim.
It’s not always easy to swap a day of teaching (and earning) for a day of some unpaid training education but if I didn’t try to get better I wouldn’t see much point in doing my job.

Today I had a chance to zoom around Tweseldown racecourse and British Eventing XC venue (http://www.tweseldown.co.uk/) with its manager and an international three day event rider-trainer, Brynley Powell. Bryn took two riders XC schooling on their Novice/Intermediate level horses to sort out some xc technique issues and boost rider’s confidence.

We drove around in a car equipped with heated seats while the riders took the soaking 😉 Well, actually I took the soaking too as I tried to film as much as I could both for my own reference but also for riders to be able to have a look afterwards.
I’ve never been to Tweseldown before but I must say the ground is keeping well considering how many buckets of water per square meter had already gone into the soil!
I will be grooming there for a friend and her horse at a Pre-Novice event on the 18th of April so it was good to be able to have a look around. I hope the weather is better for her (and me!) on the day!
This morning on the course was all about confidence and technique that allows the rider to feel the horse, that doesn’t disturb or worries the horse and that allow riders to ride a flowing round. The objectives were certainly achieved!
The other thing worth noting was how the positive comments were mixed with constructive help. There was no negative coaching there at all. There are trainers out there who, although might be good riders themselves and have knowledge to offer, the way they pass it on can destroy a lot of trust and confidence in the rider…and the horse.
As one of the riders said today: ‘If you have a relatively good rider who wants to improve more you can’t just strip them off everything in one go. Even if what they do isn’t ideal, it might suit that horse, that combination. If you take their skill and confidence away there is not much left to run on…’.
As Bryn later added, if you want to teach a rider something new, something better, you must first make sure it doesn’t take their confidence away. This is because jumping and XC are 90% confidence.

Some coaching techniques are really mind boggling to me and I wonder whether some trainers just try to cover up for own inadequacies by bringing their riders down.

Then off to watch Bryn teaching two show-jumping lessons to two very different combinations with different problems to solve. I liked the way he chose jumping exercises to help with particular issues rather than throwing plenty of tasks at both horse and rider.
I volunteered to drag the poles and jump wings around so I could get the feel for what he was setting up and what distances he was using.[…]”

SHADOW TRAINING with International Dressage rider and trainer Anna Ross

buryfarm
Watching James Burtwell’s clinic at Bury Farm while waiting for Anna to get back from the gym!

Over the years I spent many days at different yards with Anna including Patchetts EC, Bury Farm, her own bases in Banbury and now at Cholderton in Wiltshire as well as at private yards of her many clients’. All this thanks to her fabulous, ongoing enthusiasm for training. Below are a couple of my old blog posts, one with notes I made to give you an example.

April 2010

If it was financially possible I would happily just go and spend few days a week just watching the training sessions and anything involved with top horses and riders. It’s a fabulous opportunity and I love my days there.
This time Anna wasn’t teaching any clients but was focusing on preparing herself and horses for Saumur CDIO where she is selected to ride for the Team GBR.
After 4.30am start to the day I got picked up by Ali who also teaches and rides some horses for Anna. I groomed quickly the two horses that were to be worked at 9 and went to watch Ali riding lovely black mare. A couple of months ago she was a hairy, fluffy, unfit broodmare look-a-like, she is rather sleek now! And moves! Well, I thought it was quite good until Anna came, said a few things and the canter went from bum high to sitting on the hocks.
Then the rest of early morning was all about piaffing in hand with MK and watching very elegant Merrie learning half-steps. I’ve never seen a horse being taught half-steps in – hand before, fascinating. Simon, who does the in-hand work is quite a magician with the whip!

I was then left with Benji the dog with permission to eavesdrop on James Burtwell’s clinic (he is a Coach & List 3 Judge as well as Team Selector for Home Internationals and BD Regional Camp coach) while Anna dashed to the gym. Benji and I leisured in the sun while observing the training sessions. I must say James Burtwell knows how to be positive! He also seemed to have found that happy medium that allows him to praise riders a lot without sounding overly complementary and correct the problems without sounding too harsh. The skill I don’t think I have much of…yet…I’m trying 😉
The riders ranged from prelim to medium/adv medium level and yet again there was a lot of emphasis on correct basics but also a lot of freedom to play with more advanced movements despite a gap here and there.
What I really like about Anna’s teaching is that the basics come first. I don’t think I’ve seen many lessons when the gaps in rider’s position and the correctness in horse’s training wouldn’t be addressed first and foremost.
Having said that, all the horses on James’ clinic improved their way of going and finished on a very good note. He used a serpentine exercise a lot to work on horses’ balance, rhythm, bend and flexion and it was interesting to see how many riders/horses started rather badly and rode much better and more balance aware after several goes.
The afternoon started with Anna teaching Eppi who rides for her at home. Then MK, Borris and Anna’s riding were scrutinised by Jon Pitts who helps Team GBR with rider’s fitness & performance. Jon came to help with improving the canter zig-zag and one tempi changes. There is so many minute details in the training of a GP horse and a GP rider it is mind blowing, in a good way! To semi – quote Anna here, all the weakness that you have as a rider, all the gaps in the basic education might not show at Advanced Medium or PSG level but will hinder you at Grand Prix. Therefore she teaches riders at prelim as if they were going to make the GP level. It seems that once you’re there you better have your basics well in place or you can forget about improving your horse at that level.[…]
The day finished with setting up the dressage boards on grass for Anna’s lessons for eventers in preparation for Badminton. Wish I could see those. Maybe next time.

March 2011

As always when I do those days I feel like my understanding of the training increases and this in turn gives me a lot of refreshed enthusiasm for teaching. Being able to watch different riders on variety of horses and seeing how  issues are worked on has given me a lot of food for thought ever since I had the opportunity to shadow train with Anna. In fact, I feel it’s been so good I decided to try to incorporate shadow training with Altogether Equestrian into some of the Academy’s programmes so other riders and future instructors who train with the Academy can benefit from such experience too (programmes involved: Development, BHS and Performance). I am delighted to say Anna has agreed.

The riding I get is another gem of those days and as this year is pretty much sacrificed to development of the Academy business I only really ride Kingsley (which means walking with tiny bit of trotting at times) and some riding school horses and ponies in desperate need of schooling. Riding something that moves like a real horse feels amazing and I love every minute even though I feel all-over-the-place. In many ways though, in the same way as my patience with horses increased immensely, my frustration with my own issues has proportionally decreased. I feel like I have much more constructive approach to what I do on a horse and this allows me to enjoy finding a better feel, better way of doing something rather then simply be annoyed at my own lack of self-satisfaction. It’s so much better this way even though I am more demanding on myself than ever before. 

 Some Thoughts from today: 

– be clear with every aid, always know what I want to ask for

– suppleness, suppleness, suppleness

– less is more, especially with mares

– if horse isn’t supple in the back in canter, go back to trot and ride deeper for a moment, then return to canter

– bend always starts with outside aids, no short cuts. Loads of circles with frequent changes of rein. 

– on big “long” moving horse keep hind leg active and a little quicker to improve the quality of the paces 

– 1000 half-halts on a horse that leans on the hands

– deeper frame with neck out makes room for the hind leg and improves the work of the back; use to improve  engagement

–  10m circles before and after medium trots avoid unnecessarily strong hand, help rebalance the horse by itself

– there is always a moment in training when the horse will find an exercise hard, perhaps he/she might even argue/resist but to get to that next level we need to push for that little bit more. It might spoil a nice picture for a few days but then the horse should realise it wasn’t as impossible as it seemed. Without pushing those boundaries there is no improvement. 

– shoulder fore for straightness when working on changes 

– check canter quality and canter-walk/walk-canter transitions when figuring out problems with changes

– ride a change early enough [before the wall] so the horse remains straight

– if neck feels lose and easy to bend but there is a contact issue and inconsistent bend/flexion then the problem is at the poll/top of the neck; work on that slowly

– [on young /green horse] slight outside bend on straight lines can improve thoroughness in transitions

– [walk-canter transitions] canter must be immediate, no trot step(s) or it’s not good enough for changes

– {green/young horse] keep the canter forwards. Keep everything clear and the same as you would do at home. The horse will find reassurance in the routine. Same contact, same aids. 

– frequent rests on long rein and periods of long-low trot stretch in between exercises

– ride front legs to the markers [for straightness]

– [crooked horse] ride on inner track as much as possible and keep mowing the shoulders in front of the hind legs

– [crooked, yield-y horse] don’t ride too much leg-yield, aim for straightness and push both legs to both reins

– bend and flexion always together for correct bend

– when leg-yielding and losing throughness always “interrupt” the bad quality movement – ride a circle to push from inside leg to outside rein, then continue the leg-yield. “Interrupt” again if horse goes hollow or evades in other ways. 

– if soft, round and through in leg-yield aim for more expression and forward movement; same trot as when going straight, don’t compromise the quality of the gait

– [horse that lacks attention, set in the mouth/neck] move the neck, don’t let the horse chose the position or amount of bend, push the neck down and out, keep walk lose and free and forward

– keep everything positive but quietly challenging

– transitions within trot to improve contact and thoroughness in medium trot

– trot:canter and canter:trot transitions with a lower neck/supple back to improve thoroughness in transitions and acceptance of the aids before going poll up again

There is more but it’s almost midnight and I have a 5.30am start again…loved the whole day and the weather was so beautiful, just perfect 🙂

February 2012

“On Saturday, I took seven riders with me to one of Academy’s unique Shadow Training Days with Anna. Few years ago Anna gave me a chance to learn from her and I realised there and then what a wonderful training – by – watching opportunity that was. It’s not just sitting and starring, Anna always gave me a running commentary on what was happening, the why’s, what’s and what for’s. As well as many other riders, I learn by active observation and wanted the Academy riders to experience the educational and inspirational element of such days.

Short video from the day below 🙂 “

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

bca banner with title

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.

emmandsjump

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.

nobridle

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 😉

shabby 10th JUne

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.

shabbyrelaxed

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

emmawarmup

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

bca7

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, Shabhash and Merehead at Aston Le Walls

Having had a very hectic month I am a little late with this report which in fact I am writing after the third event we have just came back from (Rockingham Castle International Horse Trials). It went better than the Aston event I shared my observation with you below and the report on it is coming your way very soon 🙂 In the meantime, let’s look at Aston Le Walls.

Aston Le Walls
Aston Le Walls – XC course

The second event of the season for Emma took us to the beautiful grounds of Aston Le Walls. It’s a truly wonderful set up with clearly many new venue ideas and improvements in the pipeline. We did the unaffiliated event which followed the affiliated ones earlier in the week. Shabby had a company this time as his stable friend and a fellow ex-racehorse – Merehead – travelled with him to make his first ever appearance in the eventing world 😉 You might know Merehead from the video I posted not that long ago – Ex-racehorse to Event Horse in progress: 3 months flatwork training Shabby and Merehead   WARM UP & DRESSAGE

Merehead

mereheadwarmupa
Moorhead trying his best to warm up sanely 🙂

The dressage warm up proved overwhelmingly exciting for Merehead who lost his concentration on Emma and focused on trying to release his energy. We deliberated for a moment how to warm him up and decided to allow him to canter early on which we sometimes do at home when he is distracted. This worked to some extent but definitely was not enough for a relaxed dressage test 😉 He stayed within the arena boards (his canter can be massive and we had our doubts!) and certainly impressed the judges with his powerful self but that’s about that. He was entered into this event as an experience and to see if he enjoys it rather than to be competitive in any way so we were very pleased with him either way.

Shabhash

Shabby warmed up very well. It’s taking a long time for him to abandon his acute alertness and replace it with some form of a quiet observation but we’ve been letting him discover a more relaxed way of going at home and he is learning well. Working in a quiet indoor school at home, everything is that much easier than in the open field with many other horses and a pressure he evidently feels. Physically, he is more than capable for the demands of the XC but his carrying power needed for self-carriage in dressage and show jumping brings him down.

Mentally, he has a long way to go too. In the lessons, we focus mostly on building his confidence in the physical capability as well as in the actions of the rider so he can built upon those in a stressful situation. He is a very athletic little horse, nimble and quick with a huge heart. I feel really invested in him and really want him to do well. The more he goes out, the better he copes so hopefully we will have him happier and calmer towards the end of the season.

shaabpicswarmup
Shabby in the warm up. Still not fully confident and losing connection but 100% more relaxed than at Hambleden.

There is also a fair amount of weakness in his work on the left rein; it will be interesting to observe what effect the strengthening and improved symmetry will have on his overall performance.

SHOW JUMPING 

Merehead

Two months ago Merehead jumped sideways at a mere sight of a pole on the ground. Doing his chiropractic exercises which involved walking over a series of poles and stopping in the middle of them was a challenge. Aston was his first ever course in an event atmosphere so that considering he was fabulous 🙂 He warmed up in a fashion in a very busy and hectic surroundings and then jumped everything, fillers and odd colours, with a jolly amount of freshly discovered bravado. Emma credits her cross country trainer – Mark – and his confidence building exercises for Merehead’s jumping attitude. It was a very green round but he went beyond all expectations with one jump down (his canter has very minimal adjustability at the moment).

Shabby

Whilst in the dressage the anxiety and tension translates into lost marks and high scores, in show jumping phase, Shabby is paying a hefty stress price. It’s a concern to me because I like to see him working in a content way. Focused but not to the point of obsession. And Shabby is both stressed and obsessed when it comes to coloured poles. On a positive note, it was a calmer round than Hambleden even though the warm up conditions were everything Shabby could do without being exposed to.

XC

This phase is where I go and grab some food and relax 😉 I love dressage and jumping training but don’t have that much interest in the XC as far as coaching goes. However, I do enjoy watching Emma galloping the boys around 😉 I do observe her approaches, landings and position over the jumps to make sure I can continue improving her riding in our lessons but other than that it’s like going to a cinema and tucking into popcorn! Both boys were fantastic, Merehead flew around looking like he was setting off on a 4* course and Shabby skipped the jumps as per usual. Now, if you are still with me, grab your popcorn and have a look at the action on videos 🙂

MEREHEAD

SHABHASH

POST EVENT REFLECTIONS & Training focus between Aston Le Walls and Rockingham (one week)

There were many positives to this event. Shabby warmed up much better than at Hambleden and his work almost matched his work at home on many occasions. So did Emma’s. The dressage score was high (48.5) which was probably one of the worst he had ever gotten but at the same time, all the comments were very fair and there was nothing mentioned that we don’t work on back home. It’s only his second event and I am sure he will settle the more he runs. The tension costs but if we can get him to work in the arena as he does in the warm up he is more than capable of 6s-7s on his sheet. There is no pressure on him to be what he can’t be but I do want him to find a more comfortable and relaxed way of going and to enjoy cooperating with Emma within the white boards 🙂 Show jumping I have a mixed feeling about. There are several things I want to address in training but I will share more of those in my Rockingham report. He was more “with the rider” this time but still very stressed. XC – I loved watching him in his natural element, he has the confidence there that he lacks in dressage and show-jumping so the mission is to give him that in all phases. Merehead was fabulous. Emma says I help her remain calm when all hell breaks lose with Shabby but I am learning a good lesson myself too. My competition times always meant huge amount of work at home and only showing the horses once they were level above the show level. Watching Merehead counting clouds, hollow and braced doing his dressage test is not something I cherish but probably for the first time in my riding and teaching life I am learning to relax about it, see the events as an experience and a true learning grounds not just as an exam of competency…(I do hope he gets his act together for the next event though :-P) The plan for Merehead is to continue his lessons, do a few local dressage shows now and some xc schooling outings.

DSC02024
Merehead contemplating whether it is wise to cross the bridge leading to the arenas 😉

Only Shabby is scheduled to go to Rockingham where he will run in BE100 section H. His work plan remains similar but we are increasing demands on bending through his body as well as asking for exercises requiring more self-carriage (shoulder-in, counter canter). We are also keeping a stricter routine of warming up and cooling down for good 10 minutes in a stretchy, long and low trot which Shabby does like when he relaxes. For Emma, I want her to become much more tuned in to any loses of balance in the horse so there is more sitting trot for her, more transition work as well as simple pole work to train her eye for distance and canter rhythm. Until next time! Wiola

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?

emma and shabash

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