Tag Archives: Horse

Join in Aspire Christmas Gift Guide 2014 :)

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Do you have a great product or service that might appeal as a gift to a grassroots, ambitious, improvement driven rider who takes lessons, loves to learn, loves to be around horses and leads horse happy lifestyle? 

From 1st November until 24th December, I will post weekly gift guides posts and would love you to get involved! I will chose things I like all around the web but would love to have independent creators, artists, photographers, other instructors (as long as they share our coaching values), trainers, personal trainers, yoga teachers, stable manufacturers, small clothing brands etc etc showcased on those pages.

I will make the pages into downloadable pdf documents to be sent out with Aspire bi-monthly Newsletters as well as blog the pages weekly on Aspire NewsBook (this blog).

Email Wiola now at aspire@outlook.com for format guide and bring your products or services to horse loving audience 🙂

All the best,

Wiola

PART 1 2 AND 3

Schooling With Traffic Cones To Improve Jumping

We will probably all agree that there is no good jumping without good quality canter i.e. one from which the jump is relatively easy for the horse to perform.

The required tempo of the canter will wary and depend on the height of the jumps and individual power of the horse but for all average horses with average jumping talent the key to efficient jumping is how the rider rides the canter in corners and turns immediately prior the actual jump.

When I say efficient I mean riding in such way that looks after all structures of the horse: muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons. Turning sharply to a jump, allowing an unbalanced, forehand heavy canter when jumping, sitting heavily on a horse or letting it lean in or fall out in the corners all have its price even if the poles stay put…

Riding a good turn to a jump is not as easy as it often seem and if you watch show-jumping shows you will notice that the riders who rides their corners and turns well is usually the one with sounder and more supple moving horses.

Today I’ll share with you a simple exercise that you can try at home and which can literally transform your approaches and jumping style in a few months of regular practice. 

You will need four simple traffic cones to work on your ability to feel, visualise and focus on every part of a 20m circle all of which you will then carry over to your jumping turns.

Start with walking 21m line one way and 21m way the other way so they cross in the middle. At each end of your imaginary lines place one cone. You will then ride on the inside of the cones.

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The quality of the above photo isn’t great as I took it off a video footage from today’s training but you should see the idea of the set up if you have never tired this method before.

Your mission is to ride each quarter of the circle with your horse bending gently around your inside leg whilst putting a lot of emphasis on eye-body steering i.e. you look around to the next cone and the next cone as you circle so the horse isn’t over – steered and over-directed but starts to tune in to your pelvis and upper body position as well as weight distribution in your body that follows direction of your eye contact. This is very important when jumping as you will be paying attention to leaving the horse’s head alone to some extent.

BENEFITS

I find this exercise is of great use with riders who want to jump but are a little weary of leaving the ground. They often ride with quite tense and restricting hand when approaching the jump, trying to ride every inch of the horse and every centimetre of the stride. This sort of jumping will usually only work for very confident rider with very good eye for distance who can place the horse accurately at every jump. This style takes away horse’s choices altogether and is rather useless for nervous or novice jumper.

You want the horse to be an intelligent partner in your jumping adventures and he must be able to have freedom of its head and neck at all times. The cones circle exercise takes some of the rider’s attention from the horse to the task. It helps to teach directing the body of the horse with power of intent rather than millions of aids.

When jumping, I also ask the rider to ride every turn to the jump as part of the circle as they recall from the exercise which helps the rider stay on top of the impulsion, engagement and relaxation at each stride.

Practising trot and then canter (in full seat, half seat and rising canter) between the cones improves feel for rhythm, concentration and ability to focus rider’s eyes on an object while continuing to ride effectively.

If you try this (or have tried it already) do let me know how it went and if you found this helpful 🙂

Continue reading Schooling With Traffic Cones To Improve Jumping

“Dead to the Leg” / Not “Going Forward” Issue

This post somewhat follows the one I wrote last month (click). Here I wanted to reflect on something which I often hear from riders and which goes a little bit like this: “If I don’t give him three or four whacks to start with he just drags along for entire lesson. I hate doing this but it works and he just goes great afterwards” or I really don’t want to kick her so hard but I have to or she just won’t go“…

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Understanding what to do and how to do it is the key for the rider to progress. What about the horse…?

I am yet to meet a rider who says “I love that bit at the beginning when I have to whack him properly so he goes well later” or one who says “I ride for the workout I get from booting her along, what a pleasure” so I thought it might be a good idea to write down the “what to do instead” suggestions…

There will be no quick fix recipe in this post, just reflections on where to direct our efforts when re-training a horse that became dull to the leg aids.

THE HORSE

When dealing with a “dead-to-the leg” horse or pony it’s important to establish how we are going to get it to understand what is required all over again. It goes without elaboration that I don’t consider such horse stupid. Something happened either during initial training or further use of the horse which made him respectively confused about or unresponsive to the “go button”.

There are so many different training methods out there nowadays that it’s easy to get confused oneself and become unsure as to what system to follow and therefore what might be a good approach when fixing things. I personally am more of an animal science enthusiast and prefer to go with horse friendly equine behaviour science angle with a pinch of open mind added in for good measure.

This helps me decide if I “like” any new training method if I get to try one as well as let’s me mix and match what I see works well in whatever systems I come across be it classical, modern, Parelli, Monty Roberts, Intelligent Horsemanship etc etc whatever names it got given.

I find this works very well because it eliminates illogical training methods and those based on over stimulation of the wrong motivational drives in horses, like fear.

Most often, the dead-to-the-leg horse was either:

1) Never taught to react to the leg touch properly in the first place

2) Withdrawn into himself due to incorrect leg use or abuse by the rider (not necessarily current rider)

Or

3) Movement is uncomfortable to him due to crookedness or rider’s low level of riding skills

The leg aids, and rein aids, are generally trained by negative reinforcement. This means the horse learns that reward comes in a shape of removal of uncomfortable pressure. Leg wrapped around his belly and touching with pressure will relax if he moves. Pressure on the mouth will be immediately gone if he slows down or stops.

My advice would be to make a list of your beliefs connected with horse training. Anything that comes to your mind as to why your horse does or doesn’t do as it is asked. This little exercise, when confronted with behaviour science, should give you pointers as to where to start re-training…

In the process of figuring out how to make your horse be responsive to the leg, you will need to figure out what motivates him and to what extent. Not all horses are food motivated. Some just like to be left alone…if you have a horse that prefers peace of mind then you will have to learn how to be a very quiet, logical and sympathetic rider…If your horse climbs a roof for a carrot you might get away with bouncing about now and then yet provide a meaningful reward for desired [go] behaviour.

To figure out your own horses motivation and way of learning you can pick something new you can teach your horse to do. Chose something that you have no clue how to teach and give it some thought. Research it. Read on it. When I first did this with my own horse I decided to teach him to lower his head to the ground when he saw a bridle. He wasn’t into snacks at all but through trial and error I found out he really enjoyed being rubbed on the side of his head where cheek pieces go so that was my reward trick for him.

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Teaching your horse something from “scratch” helps you understand his learning process. Here, a young rider is teaching her pony to move specific leg when it is touched with the stick and then immediately stop to a certain body stance and momentary pressure of a headcollar. The exercise helps her with being more precise with her aids when she rides.

Anything we teach a horse is about achieving a reward. The horse must understand how to obtain that reward and the rider must be clear what the horse prefers to be rewarded with.

This is where we move onto:

THE RIDER

Again, there are many styles, systems, methods of riding but there always need to be one simple rule: the rider needs to aim to make her horse comfortable. If an action of putting the leg on the horse’s side in order to ask him to do something unbalances the rider and changes their weight distribution in such a way that it disturbs the horse’s way of going, the understanding of the aids suffers.

If the leg remains aiding after the horse moved, the understanding suffers.

If the leg aids act together with hand tension and body tension (99% of novice riders tense their hands and other parts of their bodies when using their legs), the understanding suffers.

Retraining responsiveness in the horse must generally be closely accompanied by re-training or up-skilling of the rider. It’s important that the rider is taught how to non-violently create certain level of urgency or energy in own body that matches the temperamental needs of her horse. This takes time and certainly requires giving up on “he needs a good whipping” attitude.

Horse watching
Horse watching (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

SO…

To sum up, “switching on” the withdrawn horse takes some studying of horse’s learning methods, some observational knowledge of the individual horse we intend to re-train as well as willingness to improve own equitation skills so our aids are clear. If we demand that the horse moves from small muscular tension in our legs against his body we somewhat demand that he reads our muscles like a blind person reads Braille…There are approximately 642 skeletal muscles in our bodies…The horse needs to learn not only to react when some work but not react when others work.

Dead to the leg horse either never learnt the alphabet or finds our story too dull to read. We need to find out which one it is and either get on with teaching the letters or learn how to be a more motivational companion.

To learn more about equine behaviour science see:

http://www.aebc.com.au/

If you have any good books to recommend, links to articles etc please share in a comment 🙂 They don’t have to fully agree on what I wrote, there is always a space for good debate.

Rein Bows Rein-Loops – Can they help with improving feel for contact?

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Image source: http://www.equiport.co.uk/products/horse/training-aids/reinbows-rein-loops-l14/

Very few rider’s errors are more damaging to the horse than a busy, insensitive hand and therefore the development of good feel of how much connection is too much and how little is of no help, is something many riders work on for years.

Although I dislike horse training gadgets, the rider training gadgets always have my attention. I am all for trying anything that helps improve and heighten awareness without negatively influencing the horse  and so when I spotted these rein-loops they intrigued me.

They are not completely unfamiliar to me as I have seen similar rein bows being used by para riders and I also known someone who used reins with several loops at different places on her very fizzy jumping mare. I decided to give it some thought and try a home-made version to test the “device”.

My observation are as follows (I didn’t use the loops pictured but made a pretty similar DIY version of them; my version wouldn’t be good long-term and I am guessing the rein bows rein-loops are much easier to clip on/off than my rather imperfect imitation):

– the device certainly helps with maintaining rein length. It gives a very defined hand position, steadies it and makes the rider more aware of the hand placing which I liked for my Foundation level riders who generally don’t ride with meaningful rein contact.

– it helps with relaxation of the lower arm, wrist and hand muscles. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that the rider no longer focuses on keeping the reins from slipping or perhaps somehow holding a loop feels “softer” and alike carrying something than when rein is held conventionally and invites a downward pull

– speaking of downward pull – this is another bonus I noticed. Riders were less likely to carry their hands too low or putting pressure downwards towards their little finger. I really liked this effect because downward rein pressure not only stiffens the horse through the neck and at the wither but also starts a vicious cycle of the rider haunching through their shoulder, sitting on the fork of the seat and “riding the head” instead of the entire horse.

– it was easier for some riders to understand and feel the concept of “riding the neck away” from them rather than shortening it in transitions. It seemed they were happier to relax their upper and lower arm in transitions perhaps due to the fact the loop gave them more “contact security” to fall back on if they wanted to hold.

– the riders had more awareness of “left hand being connected to the right hand” and so they tended to feel better for the position of the bit in middle of the horse’s mouth as well as for “carrying just the weight of the bit” and not pulling it up/out/down. I noticed better use of supporting outside rein and less tendency of inside rein over-use. That I found very interesting.

– the effect I didn’t like was that when the rider wanted to exert more backwards pressure they could and they would hold it for longer than with a single rein. I am guessing this is why in the product description the seller advertises that “Rein-Bows can be useful on horses that tend to lean and pull, as they prevent the reins being pulled through the rider’s hands. “. However, as I strongly disagree with using stronger pressure on pulling horses (except for when you are approaching a tree/car/train and you have no other option but hit it!), I see this feature as a counter-education for both rider and the horse. 

Horses that lean on the rider’s hands or pull on the reins need re-education by an experienced and tactful rider who can school them to use their body correctly under the weight of the rider. Using the loop reins in this situation would be like adding fuel to the fire. Pointless. Dangerous. Not even remotely horse friendly.

Based on my little experiment and considering the negative effect mentioned above I would not want to use those reins for re-training riders who tend to be “handy” and correct all body issue in the horse by manipulating the mouth as I found this device to be counter-productive in such situation. 

To sum up, I would personally be quite happy to use these periodically with some riders to train awareness and relaxation in the wrists, fingers and arms.

Has anybody tried this product? What did you think?

Continue reading Rein Bows Rein-Loops – Can they help with improving feel for contact?

Guest Blogger Filippa about Bella’s health scare and investigating hay quality

Hi! This is the third week that Lo and I are writing on this website. It is so much fun and I’m glad that we got the chance.

This week we have had a few issues with Bella. For a part of the autumn she has been a bit unlike herself. She has been tired and unmotivated periodically. One day when I came to take care of her, she was bleeding from her nose. At first I was not sure if it was nose-bleed from illness or if she had just hurt herself and was bleeding from a scar.

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Filippa and Bella

But it turned out that Bella was bleeding through her nose from inside. At first I was very scared, it´s never fun when your horse is bleeding anywhere. We quickly called the nearest veterinary. The Vet came to examine Bella trying to find out what was wrong. A horse with ordinary flu does usually have fever but Bella didn’t. The same day my Mum found some mould in Bella´s hay. Some of the hay-bales smelled like old mushrooms. However, most of the hay-bales that where mouldy where at the back of the stack. The vet took some blood, for tests, from Bella, with hopes of finding out what could be wrong. The tests showed that Bella had had an allergic reaction to mould in the hay. Even if all of the bales was not mouldy, the spores had spread throughout them all. Bella rested for 2 weeks and later quickly became fully recovered!

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However, in the beginning of this week Bella was coughing and had a higher temperature than normal. Some of our hay bales were affected again. Bella  developed an allergy against mould. Now we are trying another kind of hay for her to eat, silage. It has higher water content than hay and it’s generally easier for hay to get mouldy than for silage . I hope that she will not have to rest for a full two weeks like the first time she reacted.

It is Christmas break from school right now for me. It’s great to have and I will spend my vacation with Bella. We are going to have so much fun. Lo and I will be back next week. Otherwise we update daily on boella.horseworld.se

Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!

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Spores under microscope…Source: http://www.haygain.co.uk/the-problem.php

If you too have hay quality issue I highly recommend having a look at HayGain hay steamers: http://www.haygain.co.uk/the-problem.php

Wiola

Related articles: 

Do not feed mouldy hay to horses

Rugless, Social and Happy: Pictures from Poland (especially for #horsehour)

For the first time in 10 years I am spending Christmas time with my family in Poland and wanted to share with you a few pictures which I took for #horsehour (a great Twitter initiative that if you like Twitter community and have something equestrian to share or promote then you might want to check it out and join in every Monday from 8pm to 9pm).

Couple of weeks ago we had a conversation about different horse management habits and rugging in particular. I promised to snap some rugless photos so here they are. Not many “grassroots” horses (the Pony and Riding Club types) get rugged up in Poland and at most livery yard they get plenty of all-year round turn out. They are certainly allowed to be horses more than being treated like house pets. Field safety is not always a priority however as you can see by the state of fencing below.

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They all stay out from morning until it gets dark. There is usually a stable chap who brings them all in if owners didn’t do so earlier to ride.
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They all stay out from morning until it gets dark

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Operation the de-mudding accomplished. Pony being gotten ready for training.
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The mud comes off quite easily perhaps because the temperatures are lower and it doesn’t get very sticky and soup like, here’s a grey horse after about 20 minutes of grooming. He’s got plenty of TB in him so really all types of horses stay out.

How does your field look like at this festive time? Sadly no snow in Poland! If you posted any photos on your blogs, link to it in the comments, I would love to have a look 🙂

Continue reading Rugless, Social and Happy: Pictures from Poland (especially for #horsehour)

Guest Blogger Filippa about her horse’s living arrangements, organising good training schedule and importance of having fun…

Hi! My part for this week will be a little bit about the environment and organising training schedules!

Drottningholm - Chinese Pavilion
Drottningholm – Chinese Pavilion (Photo credit: khoogheem)

My horse Bella lives in a stable on a large yard which is located on an island called Ekero in an area called Drottningholm.

The stables was an old farm originally and both they and the surroundings are really beautiful. There are about 30-40 horses stabled at he yard and Bella’s box is in the corner near the exit. She has a little window which is open in the spring and summer so that she can look out throughout the night if she wants to.

The whole yard is quite big and includes large grass paddocks. We have a long barn with indoor stables as well as an indoor and outdoor arenas.

Now you know a little about Bella’s living arrangements I will tell you about my everyday life as a horse owner. This chapter is about training schedules.

Every week I do a training schedule for Bella. I am writing down what Bella is going to do every day, why and how. The schedule exist to give Bella a versatile training because I believe versatile training is good for her health. I never want it to become boring for her. The schedule is also so that I can remember what has been done or what I need to do and for me to get an overview of the week.

I adapt the schedule to fit the particular week in a way that considers Bella’s needs and accommodates the days that we have practice as well as my own school schedule and my life in general. The latter is mostly because riding when you are, for example, stressed, never ends up a good workout for anybody. That is why the schedule is very important for me to.

I think versatile training is the most important thing for a happy and healthy horse. Bella loves to jump, and so do I but every rider needs dressage too in order to develop as a horse back rider.

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Filippa and Bella hacking out

I think that the most meaningful part for a happy horse and a happy rider is to have fun. To ride outside in the wood a few days instead of walking around in a tiny area of the indoor school. To canter across the green meadows. That is the most amazing feeling ever. Some riders forget to find that feeling sometimes, everything evolves around the important training sessions all the time. You get a motivated horse by having fun sometimes. Bella loves when we are out riding in the forest, sometime I combine the dressage practice and the outdoor practice. That way she has to work, but she thinks it is really fun at the same time. It´s really good for the horses health to be outside to, to breath fresh air and to walk on different surfaces. A healthy horse is a happy horse.

Here’s an example of a weekly schedule for Bella:

Monday– That’s her resting day. Her day off. Mum goes on a walk outside with her. I know that they have such a great time together, I believe this is Bella’s favourite day.

Tuesday– We have show jumping training. It´s usually strenuous but really fun to jump. My show jumping trainer is great, he knows Bella very well because he was the owner of her when she came to Sweden from Denmark as a six year old. We often jump courses or different lines.

Wednesday– Wednesday is Bella’s calm day. She gets to trot in a long form to relax and to walk for a long time. It´s to prevent lactic acid build up in the muscles after Tuesdays hard work.

Thursday– Is our dressage practice day. My trainer is herself a competition dressage rider. It is useful practice. Right now we are training mostly lateral work.

Continue reading Guest Blogger Filippa about her horse’s living arrangements, organising good training schedule and importance of having fun…

1 minute and 57 second Video of What You Can Expect at Aspire 2014 Programmes…

Here’s is a very short video that will take you for a brief journey through Aspire Equestrian‘s riding courses. The goal of those courses is to bring quality, classical principles based equitation to riders at all levels, including beginner and novice riders. No pulling, no booting, no skipping on solid basics. Join us and help Aspire Equestrian and other programmes like ours change the way horse riding is taught at grassroots level…

Full details on our 2014 programmes can be found here: https://aspireequestrian.wordpress.com/aspire-academy-2014/ & our Christmas Offer waits for you here 🙂 https://aspireequestrian.wordpress.com/aspire-christmas-offer/

Continue reading 1 minute and 57 second Video of What You Can Expect at Aspire 2014 Programmes…

Winter Horse Life Aspire Equestrian Style…- how to tackle short days and cold fingers

Wiola and Berit on Charlie
Aspire Training Weekend in Norway. Temperature: -20ºC (-4.00ºF). Surface: snow. Air: Icy! 🙂

The best advice I can give to all frozen horsey people and one that worked fantastically for me is: don’t fight the winter, embrace it!
The more we moan and wish it away the more it is on our minds and the more hate towards it we feel. That in turn brings us down, makes us into a rather depressed and fed up individual who quite easily finds life in the cold a big nuisance.

Quick Fixes for Short Days Blues

Get up early – as early as possible for you, ideally as close to sunrise as you manage. This will win you some daylight hours. If like me you are more of an owl than a lark, get up 10min earlier each morning for a set amount of days – after 10 days you will be getting up 100 minutes earlier than usual.

Train Harder – many professional riders treat winter as their down time to relax and be with the family but if you are reading this you are most likely a horse mad, ambitious amateur. That means that best thing for you to beat those winter blues might be to release as many endorphins into your blood stream as you can. Structured, intensive lessons are a great solution. Not only that you will feel better afterwards but you will be fit and ready for when the spring comes and you can ride more.

Focus – having lessons makes you think, it focuses your efforts and keeps you interested. It’s nice to wander around the arena in the sun or go for a hack on a stunning summer morning but when cold wind presses tears out of your eyeballs you need someone there suffering with you and spurring you on. Your instructor will always be colder standing still than you working out just in case you needed someone out there to feel worse than you feel 😉

Have a winter fitness regime – find something that suits your personality. You don’t have to run on a treadmill for an hour if you hate going to the gym. Pick something you like or perhaps something that you would like to try. I’ve been taking yoga classes for the last few weeks. Even though I still feel as if someone attached my limbs to four horses and let them run wild in a field during the sessions, I feel fabulous afterwards. Having suffered from some shoulders pain I noticed how much more supple I feel. There are plenty of activities to chose from. Go for it and do it once a week or more.

Winter is for Reading 🙂 – this might not be for everyone and parents with young children might struggle here I acknowledge but dark evenings are simply designed for book time 🙂 (or blog time!) If you agree, grab yourself a cup of tea/coffee/wine and start yourself a Winter Reading Ritual.

Stay Warm – this might seem obvious but it took me years of trial and error to get this right! If you teach and stay outside for 12 hours a day it is extremely difficult to remain warm at all times. Standing still is the worst but equally, when you ride/muck out/hay up etc and sweat, you are then having to spend the rest of the day in damp clothes. Not great for staying warm.

Technical clothes that wick moisture well and keep you warm are not cheap and usually out of reach for many who work with horses or who keep horses on a shoestring budget.

The system that works for me is to have: 

1) Layers – and have a change of clothes with you (the bottom layers)

2) Best wool underwear you can find, you will not regret it – I got a very thin wool vest from friend from Norway and it’s been my best winter friend ever since. It is very soft on the skin and unbelievably insulating.

Continue reading Winter Horse Life Aspire Equestrian Style…- how to tackle short days and cold fingers