Tag Archives: progress

Planning your riding sessions for progress – 10 suggestions to try

GREY HORSE HEADDo you sometimes wonder about the fact that you’ve been riding/having lessons for years but you seem to feel and see no improvement in your skills? If so, you might find the below post helpful 🙂

I am a very goal oriented person and so are many ambitious riders out there whether the end aim is to get to Olympics, scoring personal best in an unaffiliated dressage test, mastering sitting trot in medium trot, jumping a winning round over 95cm, improving feel for horse’s movement so all transitions are crisp and harmonious, having a clear XC run in local horse trials or gaining trust and building relationship with a horse. Being goal oriented can simply mean that you don’t like floating around without purpose.

By definition, to train means to change.

Eventually and ideally – for the better-but sometimes at early stages of change things often get chaotic and feel worse. That’s why, the first thing I am prepared for when striving for progress is that things will go messy, they will feel like hard work and they will feel difficult. If they don’t, then I know I am in a cosy, comfortable place at which nothing is changing i.e. nothing is improving.

If I go for a lesson to progress myself I expect to feel a little out of comfort zone, definitely struggling with some aspects and feeling rubbish at times! I expect to be mentally and physically challenged and in my case, I usually have the best sessions over few days after the lesson when I can quietly work out all the changes that have been made.

So let’s say, you don’t have regular lessons and you are unsure how to progress. Maybe you always feel that you have same problems every day you school. Here are a few things I would suggest doing regularly: 

1. Video your ride at least every two weeks.

2. Reflect on your ride every time. Feel free to use this reflection notes worksheet as an example: Aspire Equestrian – After Training Reflection Notes

SONY DSC3. Research your issue/training problem/seat problem once a month. Google is your friend here but be selective and critical when reading information online. Check the source well. Find 2-3 new exercises each month to try and give them a go. Reflect on their suitability as per No 2.

4. Find enjoyment in bad moments because it means something is changing. 

5. Invest in a physio session for yourself…so you can learn more about how your particular posture functions and how to improve your suppleness, flexibility, core strength and awareness of movement.

6. Always spend 10 min (for example while grooming) visualising the session, not just the good moments but also difficult moments. Visualise what will you do if you get stuck or bored or not sure what to do next and in your vision, decide what you will do.

7. Put your learning hat on every time you get on – think: what can I learn from my horse today. When you finish, try to come up with the answer and think what changes might be useful to make in your next session.

8. If you procrastinate in the arena a lot, keep your schooling sessions short – 20min + 10/15min walk warm up/cool down. Pick 2 things to work on. Divide the 25min into 4 intervals.

1 – warm up/easy version: first exercise

2 – proper work on first exercise

3 – warm up/easy version: 2nd exercise

4 – proper work on 2nd exercise

9. Once a week or as and when you need it, find something that inspires you to ride better: a film, a song, a short video, article, book. Spend a moment with that very thing 🙂

10. Be sure of why you want to progress, repeat that why to yourself before every ride, be honest and work your socks off to get there!

Feel free to add your own suggestion in the comments!


The First Time When…

first passage wiola
My first go at passage. June 2011

Today I would like to invite anyone who is up for it to take part in a little “first time when” challenge 🙂 I will start with my own “first time when” video… I can’t even start to tell you how many things I see wrong on it 😉

One rider told me today that she would love to go up a level competing wise but she knew she did not want to feel like a beginner again. Do you stay in your comfort zone of competency to avoid the discomfort of progress?

Let’s face it, raw progress is not particularly comfortable or graceful but it has never meant to be. My first experience of trying to ride passage was a mishmash of trying too hard, searching for the right feel, seeking connection and harmony with the horse and losing it with each step, creating power which I had no idea how to contain, trying to remain relaxed while maintaining tension needed for the movement…it was a mess!

I am quite ok with that for now. One of many riding goals I want to pursue is the skill of riding at Grand Prix level. Finances allow, I would like to compete at that level too. In the meantime, I am enjoying the “beginner” stage at that level and I hope to inspire many riders this year to set their own “progress goals” too 🙂

Your turn! What’s your “goal in progress”? If you have a video, link to it in the comments! Share your “first time when” on the way to the future skill you are working to acquire 🙂


Proud Moments…

Let me tell you a little story 🙂

29 September 2013



Almost 4 years ago I took a phone call from a mum desperately seeking someone would teach her daughter. After many bad experiences in various riding schools she was looking for someone who would treat her daughter’s ambitions and riding dreams seriously even though she had no own horse at the time and was only able to ride once a week at best.

At the time I didn’t take on children on Aspire Programmes because I didn’t feel they were suitable for youngsters. Before I amended the teaching structure in late 2011 my cut off age was 13 but I agreed for the girl to come for an assessment lesson. I reckoned that if her mum made an effort to read through my site, understand the difference my approach provided and call me I ought to meet the girl at least!

Feb 2011 Academy Training Young Riders
February 2011. Hall-Place Equestrian Centre. Anne patiently and regularly letting me drill her basics. She was all about jumping but never complained on number of lunge lessons in her training plan. Superior own balance is a corner stone of every good rider’s seat.

We met shortly after that phone call and a few years of great training adventures followed. To this day I have not met such a committed, focused, intuitive teenage rider and it’s been such a pleasure to be part of Anne’s riding education. I am usually hesitant to say I am proud of someone’s progress because it seems as if I was somehow increasing my own importance in the process. The truth is, 80% of the progress is down to the rider, their mentality, their willingness to learn, to try and to believe in my system. The other 20% are many people involved in training, the silent supporters: parents, friends. And horses.

But hell, I am very proud of Anne nevertheless 🙂 She put hours and hours of practice into the ABC of her riding education juggling it with highly academically demanding school and she continues to do so. It makes me smile to watch her compete now and develop further into an always aspiring rider she wishes to be.

Anne in hand
Aspire Intensive Training Day at Cullinghood Equestrian Centre. Anne learning how to influence shifts in weight (balance) in an unknown horse. Work In-Hand. June 2013
Anne March 2012
Aspire Intensive Training Day March 2012 at Checkendon Equestrian Centre. Anne (in burgundy) and Emma (in green; another rider who made superb progress over the years) after their jump training.


Keep training guys. Amateur riders rule 😉