Tag Archives: rider coaching

Photo report from Aspire Grassroots Clinic at Lindrick Livery, Ripon, North Yorkshire

I have just returned from teaching on Aspire Grassroots clinic at Lindrick Livery and what a great weekend that was! I hope the pictures tell the story well and that you enjoy the wonderful set of them taken by Ceri of Pure Essence Photography (Check her website HERE if you would like to book a photo shoot 🙂 ) I will be writing more about the exercises shown on below pictures in Aspire’s bi-monthly newsletter coming up on the 14th October so if you would like to read some of my thoughts on those simple body awareness techniques, sign up HERE 🙂

When schooling we communicate with a horse via diagonal aids (inside leg – outside rein, outside leg – inside rein) to help with balancing the horse (prevent over use of either sides). For this communication to work well, we need to be aware of cross-coordination in our own body…
Fabulous, little 3 year old ex-racehorse in early stages of re-training. Learning to move like a riding horse.
Addressing posture and effectiveness of the leg
Intro to an exercise which helps with control of the horse’s shoulders
When schooling we communicate with a horse via diagonal aids (inside leg – outside rein, outside leg – inside rein) to help with balancing the horse (prevent over use of either side). For this communication to work well, we need to be aware of cross-coordination in our own body…
When we sit on a moving horse, we don’t always feel how physics and motion disorganise our position and as a result destroy our balance. Testing Olivia’s front to back stability here.
When schooling we communicate with a horse via diagonal aids (inside leg – outside rein, outside leg – inside rein) to help with balancing the horse (prevent over use of either side). For this communication to work well, we need to be aware of cross-coordination in our own body…
Introduction to a simple yet powerful exercise: “monkey” position – which helps with getting the idea that joints need to be relaxed for the posture to become effective, it’s the muscles that need to work…
Awareness of own crookedness is a first step to understanding schooling of the horse – simple exercises can awake muscles that we didn’t know existed 🙂
Learning about horse’s posture via becoming a horse 😉
Another version of the “monkey” position – which helps with getting the idea that joints (hip, knee, ankle, elbow, shoulder) need to be relaxed for the posture to become effective, it’s the muscles that need to work…
In-hand work to help with crookedness
3 year old ex-racehorse Casper learning to yield from the “leg” in-hand
Laura having a go at “monkey” exercise
Searching for strengths and weaknesses in rider’s body as far as balance in the saddle is concerned 🙂
Cantering on foot to address excessive shoulder movement – fun and very effective to build awareness 🙂
As Ceri, the author of the photos said “Never too early to start 😉 ” My cracking little client – grand age of 5 – on his pony, preparing for simple and fun coordination exercises.
Everybody understand various instructions differently. How do you soften your hand/elbow/shoulder? What does it mean “give” with your hand? Here Louise is feeling the difference between locked and “soft” elbow.
Quick video feedback before proceeding with exercises. Visual feedback never lies and helps immensely with speeding up learning process.
Every movement of the horse needs to be absorbed by rider’s joints. If one or more joints “block” the motion, harmony can’t be achieved. Here the rider is experimenting with passive joint movement to determine which of her joints (hip, knee or ankle) is the one she blocks the movement with.
Learning to move on large circles in balance and relaxed posture without the rider. A 3 year old ex-race horse Casper – I can’t wait to watch his improvement over months to come. He has wonderful brain and fantastic attitude.
Learning how rider’s crookedness affects turns and circles – and finding ways to correct a few issues 🙂
Short in-hand sessions for 3 year old Thoroughbred, Casper.
Posing with a lovely young rider and her wonderful pony, Mouse, who sadly decided not to smile with us here!
Louise and the lovely Henry – great partnership! Henry is now 3 months into post kissing spine operation and looked and worked very well!

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If you would like to organise similar clinic at your yard, give Wiola a shout! Anyone welcome 🙂 More details below:



I am about to leave for a trek to North Yorkshire to meet a great team of riders at Lindrick Livery for the weekend clinic and stuff myself with some home cooked meals by Ceri but wanted to quickly share with you my last minute special coaching offer for lessons booked at Brackenhill Stud’s Open Day on 4th October 2014! Hope to see you some of you soon! Wiola — at Brackenhill Stud.

October afternoon at Brackenhill Stud
October afternoon at Brackenhill Stud


October afternoon at Brackenhill Stud

Photo Report from Aspire Grassroots Clinic at Stajnia Sabat near Warsaw, Poland

Myself and Alison who grabbed one of the two places available for outside riders and travelled from London to take part in the clinic 🙂

I’m writing from Poland day after the weekend clinic at Stajnia Sabat. In fact, I am sitting here processing the hundreds of photos taken by my wonderful helpers (my cousin Karolina and my Dad – go family power! 😉 and many hours of video footage for riders’ visual feedback. It was one of the best training sessions at Stajnia Sabat to date with everyone making fabulous, positive progress both with regards to long term homework and the weekend’s tasks. I had so much fun teaching there yet again, it’s such a pleasure to see riders conquering variety of issues they have with their training be it mental, physical or logistical even.

There are usually two places up for grabs for riders outside of Stajnia Sabat so I offered one place to any rider either already on Aspire programmes in the UK or anyone simply interested in joining in and learning from me and the other to the rider I trained in Poland for a few months in 2013. These places are advertised in Aspire Newsletters so if you like experiencing new horses, new places but prefer to stay with my teaching philosophy, keep an eye on forthcoming clinics with available slots by signing up to the newsletter 🙂

Here is a little photo report from the clinic, hope you enjoy browsing the photos and feel like you had been with us basking in the sun 🙂

In-hand work
Having a chat about the stirrups length. This tiny lady transformed herself into a much more effective rider simply by riding shorter for the moment and employing the leg muscles full time 😉
Young rider with her lovely mare – gentle work on suppleness
Young rider with her lovely mare – gentle work on suppleness
Polishing balance to help the rider with her very crooked”project horse” who tries his heart out and has so much potential 🙂
Getting the feel for connection on the reins that is neither backward nor too yielding but supports the horse with poor balance.
Just casually demonstrating why sometimes our hands are completely reactive to what happens with our middle.
Learning half-seat over the poles to improve feel, suppleness and stamina in novice rider
Polework and jumping session that’s gone a little exciting for Alison
Cavaletti fun – great for the rider who tends to ride with locked joints or stiff ankles.
Half seat/Light seat in canter – great for the rider who tends to ride with locked joints or stiff ankles.


Aspire Equestrian’s Team Instructor, Mariana Broucher: BOWEN to complement riding lessons?

I have qualified as a riding instructor nearly 20 years ago now and have been teaching practically ever since. I have also qualified as a judge, because I wanted to be able to see more and understand more. Then I found out about the Bowen Therapy and now I think I have found the missing-link in my teaching and training.

If a horse is having problems making a symmetric circle, no amount of inside leg and outside rein is going to help if the horses back or poll is out. Likewise if a rider’s hip is rotated, the horse may pick up wrong canter leads or disunite.

So to be able to progress and get better, we have to not only learn to ride theoretically, but we have to be physically able to follow instructions. Just ask yourself: Have you been having problems with your horse on turns and circles, canter lead or jumping?  Take a moment to consider how you are sitting in the saddle.  Are you balanced, with your weight evenly distributed?  Are your stirrups the same length?  Are you sitting over your horse’s centre of balance?

Pain and tension often goes unnoticed (or ignored) in riders as the body is very adept at compensating; after a period of time however, you ‘mysteriously’ begin to feel pain in for example, your shoulder.  Sometimes this pain is actually referred pain, in other words, the original problem may have been in your knee but the pain is now being felt in your shoulder, and so on.  By helping to relieve pain and tension, Bowen encourages the rider to provide a more even, balanced weight on the horse’s back.

An unbalanced, crooked rider often results in an unbalanced, crooked horse – and vice versa!

The benefits of Bowen for the rider include:

• Improved position in the saddle

• Improved balance and feel

• Increased joint mobility

• Improved recovery time after injury/fall

Other common problems addressed in riders include:

• Lower back pain

• Hip/pelvic pain

• Shoulder pain

• Whiplash/neck pain

Just to give an example:

S. had problems with her horse’s general way of going. She struggled to keep him in an outline and he was always stiffer on one rein. He had trouble to canter on one rein. S was aware of her problems. She knew that she carried one shoulder higher, that her arms where stiff and her back not very supple.

As a result she would ride with very short stirrups to make it more comfortable for herself. S spent lots of time and money trying to fix her problems; she had many lessons and even learnt a series of exercises to help her straighten up. It didn’t work, because the back pain and tension in her shoulder just wouldn’t ease off, so she couldn’t straighten up. Bowen has helped her a lot. The pain and tension went and she can now use the exercises and lessons to be more aware of her body and finally progress in her riding.

This mounted photo was taken before S had Bowen. The left shoulder is much higher then the right one. The photo on the right shows S after her treatment. She is now much straighter.


How Can I Ride my Horse ‘more evenly’ and in better balance – Part 1. Exploring The Bowen Technique for Riders

`The last blog post, “Falling in through the shoulder” and other issues not to ignore” had an interesting comment left by Bryony who asked “Can you give me some examples of good exercises to teach my horse to use both limbs with even weight load, or recommend websites that would give some examples?”

There are probably as many answers to the above question as there are trainers out there so I thought that perhaps it might be a good idea to discuss in more detail how we look at this aspect of riding within Aspire training courses. Our approach is based on belief that nothing changes in the horse unless the rider changes and this is why rider’s awareness and ability to either straighten themselves or learn how to have that effect on the horse is at the basis of all Aspire coaching.

Leisure riders, with their often sedentary day jobs, benefit hugely from balance and awareness specific exercises or therapy. Healthy movement is fluent and harmonious and that’s what we aim to achieve at every level in both horse and rider.

I personally use a combination of awareness exercises on equine simulator with postural assessments consultations with Kari, which I will write about in more detail soon. Today I would like to give the blog space to another freelance instructor working with me – Mariana Broucher. Apart from being a riding instructor, Mariana is also a Bowen Technique therapist and uses her dual skills to help both riders and horses. You can see Mariana’s Bowen related website here: http://www.equinebowen.net/

Over to Mariana now!

All the best,


bowenWhy use the Bowen Technique for riding?

Why do athletes use Bowen? Anything that can help improve performance and help prevent and deal with injuries while keeping the athlete’s flexibility can translate into tangible results like knocking off a few seconds from one’s personal best.
And this is very important not only for top athletes, but also for the everyday horse and rider. Preventing injury and enhancing performance is what saves us money (vet bills are quite high nowadays) and who wants to live with pain anyway. How can we get a more effective and more balanced position if that shoulder keeps aching and that back hurting and we can’t sit straight because one shoulder is higher or the pelvis tilted?

What is the Bowen Technique?

Created by Australian Tom Bowen in the second half of the 20th century, the Bowen Technique is a gentle hands-on remedial therapy. It works with your whole body to bring its muscular/skeletal, emotional and physiological systems back into balance. A series of rolling type moves is made over superficial and deep fascia at specific points on the body. Working through light clothing or directly on the skin, the gentle moves trigger a response in the body to kick-start the natural repair process more specifically; the moves stimulate the nervous system to release tension in the soft tissue.
“Bowen Technique prompts the body to reset, repair and balance itself and clients report the experience of pain relief, improvement of function and recovery of energy”

The body has an innate ability to fix itself. The aim of the Bowen Technique is to facilitate and stimulate this process, while ultimately achieving freedom of movement and equal tension through the form.
So how can Bowen help riders and their horses?
Quite often unforeseen problems arise during lessons which can slow down or even stop progress. This could be anything, from unexplained back pains (for the rider or the horse) to various imbalances and levelnesses issues, or just the inability to learn a certain move or exercise.

By having a closer look it is sometimes possible to find the root of the problem, sometimes not. The Bowen Technique always addresses and rebalances the whole body, regardless of the symptoms. This is very clever, because quite often a symptom like for example an aching left knee has its origin somewhere completely different, maybe in an old shoulder injury. As the body has been compensating to relieve pain in the right shoulder it might have slightly shifted its balance, resulting in a sore left knee maybe months later, when the old shoulder injury is long forgotten. By addressing the whole body, Bowen can not only relieve the “referred” pain in the knee, but hopefully release tensions around the shoulder, which was the initial source of pain.

Case Studies:
Alice and Ruby

Photos copyright http://www.equinebowen.net/ Please feel free to share the entire post but do not copy the images.

When I first saw Alice’s mare Ruby I met a very bossy horse. She would run people over, barge out of her stable and generally be very strong and “stressy”. In September 2011 a vet examination showed some abnormal cells on her ovaries. This cleared up by January 2013 but thermal imaging showed an area of muscle tightness in the right gluteals and also muscle spasm in both hamstrings.
When ridden, Ruby would be quite erratic. She refused to go in a straight line (even in walk). The walk and trot were very irregular. When turning she would lean on her inside shoulder. She would hurry into canter transitions and just wouldn’t canter on the correct lead. She also wasn’t capable of going in an outline.

After 3 treatments Ruby was more relaxed in her stable and when being handled. She seemed much less stressed and happier. And she started to canter on the correct lead without rushing into the canter transitions and she generally looked straighter and more regular.
Ruby’s rider and owner Alice was very happy, especially as she could now see a progress in her lessons. But treating only the horse was in this case not enough, as Alice herself had quite a few issues. Alice suffered from back pain that would often be so bad, that she couldn’t ride at all. And when she did ride, she was very unbalanced herself; she would be leaning forward too much and at the same time collapse in her hips and her pelvis was shifted to the left. So it was actually hard to tell if the problems were Alice’s or Ruby’s.

As is visible on the picture below, Alice sits more to the left, because her pelvis is shifted that way, as a result she is collapsed in her hip and her left shoulder seems higher.

Photos copyright http://www.equinebowen.net/ Please feel free to share the entire post but do not copy the images.

Pelvis is “shifted” to the left

Photos copyright http://www.equinebowen.net/ Please feel free to share the entire post but do not copy the images.

After receiving Bowen the pelvis seems much straighter

Photos copyright http://www.equinebowen.net/ Please feel free to share the entire post but do not copy the images.

The below picture is taken after 3 Bowen sessions.

on horse
Photo copyright http://www.equinebowen.net/ Please feel free to share the entire post but do not copy the images.

After receiving 3 Bowen treatments each, Alice straightened up in the saddle and no longer suffers from back pain which would eventually stop her from riding. As a bonus Alice can now walk up or down stairs without having to lead with one leg.
Ruby is calmer, straighter and more regular. In addition she is now more attentive to her rider so both seem to enjoy the riding much more and can now get the most out of their lessons.

From May 2014, Mariana Broucher co-runs Aspire 2014 courses in Orpington, Kent. Please contact aspire@outlook.com for more information. 

Aspire Grassroots Clinic at Lindrick Livery, North Yorkshire; 15-16 March 2014 – Photo Report by Pure Essence Photography

After an epic road trip we returned from North Yorkshire. It was so much fun teaching riders at Lindrick Livery and we are delighted they invited us to come back next month!

Here are some lovely photos from the weekend by Pure Essence Photography – if you click on the collage below you can view all photos separately as larger files 🙂

Aspire Yorkshire 15-16 March 2014

Quick peek into the future

March 2014 dates for intensive training days
It might still be bang in the middle of the winter here but what’s better to look forward to than a bit of spring training 🙂 I am organising March and April dates this month. Our March availability is listed above with some dates already reserved which I will mention in a moment. April dates will be coming soon.


The 8th and 9th March are now reserved to happen at Cullinghood EC, Berkshire but there are still a few places available. 

The 15th and 16th March are now reserved for Aspire group clinic in Yorkshire. If there are places available for outside riders I will update with contact details for the organiser. I am very much looking forward to venturing so far up North 🙂

The last two weekends/days are still up for grabs.  

If training is attended at our base in Berkshire then as always, both non horse owners and owners, novice and advanced riders are very welcome. You can bring your own horse for one or two sessions whilst also having access to a different hired horse in order to practice and develop your feel.

Training will take place at Cullinghood Equestrian Centre where we will have access to equine simulator and which we will use in the opening session (after tea/coffee and a chat of course to work on rider’s technique, position and balance.
All levels are welcome, including beginner riders or advanced riders looking into improving specific issue with their training. I focus on long term effects and as such don’t teach quick fixes to problems. *This is not to say some problems don’t disappear fast!
The aim of Aspire training is to find a path of progression individual to each rider.

The off horse session is focused on balance and body awareness and it’s a fun, creative and interactive lesson that encourages you to use your strengths in order to combat your weaknesses.

Elements of all your lessons will be filmed – we use video feedback extensively to help riders correct their riding as well as understand what happens in the horse’s body and how it affects their way of going.

Cost of full day: £200 per rider per day and includes: all coaching, facilities hire, simulator and horses’ hire (arena hire if coming with own horse for one of the sessions), video footage and follow up training advice. Tea, coffee, biscuits and a lot of horse time. In Summary: 3 hours of riding + Off-Horse training. Approx. times: 9.30am-4.30pm. Maximum 4 riders per day. Contact Wiola at aspire @ outlook.com for details.

Cost of Aspire Clinics: we have own tried and tested format allowing for off-horse workshop and video feedback; 2h per rider. Each session slot £60. Further details: aspire @ outlook.com


This year I will also be organising another Aspire Shadow Training Day with the International Dressage trainer I’ve been lucky to learn from – Anna Ross Davies. In fact, I hope we will manage to fit in a few!

I started Shadow Training Days because I personally learnt a lot in a similar manner thanks to Anna inviting me to learn from her and wanted somehow to make this possible to my riders too. The format suits mostly riders who do want to ride competitively but I have had riders attending who simply love training or are bringing on young horses and they thoroughly enjoyed the experience too. You basically get to audit day of lessons, training sessions, get a commentary on each horse being ridden, the whys and what for’s, ask any questions about your own or your horse’s training, have a yard tour with updates on all the horses currently in training and overall spend a really educational, inspiring day with top horses. 

Here is a short video from one such days I organised in 2012 at Anna’s base in Wiltshire. Do check her website at: http://altogetherequestrian.com/ If you would like to join in on one of those days this year do let me know.

Another on my list is next session with Centaur Biomechanics because the previous one was very much liked by all riders and very educational. Russell uses a great quality high speed video footage to pinpoint various riding issues and so the visual feedback is like no other. 

There also might be a secret sunny training trip on the horizon…stay tuned 🙂