Tag Archives: Show jumping

TRAINING CASE STUDY: Loose Jumping 5 different horses – the set up, the results, the reflections; when to go higher, change and when to stop

 

By Wiola Grabowska in collaboration with Brackenhill Stud & Emma Brinkworth Eventing

Today we decided to loose jump several horses for different reasons and I will shortly describe them together with the goals for each.

  1. Ettie owned by Lou 

Warmblood mare recently purchased by one of the riders training with me regularly. She has good jumping breeding with some jumping experience. For Ettie the session was to add variety to her training, for us to assess her natural way of jumping, attitude and capabilities.

2. Repo owned by Emma

Thoroughbred ex-racehorse. Repo has very little bascule in his jumping under the saddle and jumps with pure take off power rather than technique. He also has a tendency to push stronger through one side of the body/one hind leg and drift strongly in flight when ridden. He has been loose jumped once or twice before. It is believed by some show-jumping trainers that lack of bascule can be improved via regular loose jumping over specific types of jumps and I have seen it used for this reason with success over several months of regular weekly sessions. The goal for today was to refresh Repo’s loose jumping memory and see how he feels over bigger jumps as Emma would like to step him up a level Eventing this season.

3. Merehead owned by Emma

Thoroughbred ex-racehorse. Big, strong and powerful horse to jump he becomes very excited on the course. I personally was interested how he copes as he tends to lack confidence at times. He tends to over jump under the rider giving the jumps plenty of air but leaving his legs hanging. The goal with him was to assess his self-confidence as a jumper and observe whether ridden behaviours repeat themselves in free schooling.

4. Prince owned by a Livery client at Brackenhill Stud

Thoroughbred ex-racehorse. A mysterious “stopper” – very inconsistent in his jumping performance, Prince has days where he is terrified of polework exercises to days when he confidently jumps small courses of unknown jumps. He does regular groundwork and is responsive to the handler but has not been loose jumped before. The goal was to observe him without any interruption from the rider, assess his natural confidence without interference and see how he deals with the situation.

5. Ferris owned by Emma

Thoroughbred ex-racehorse. A ‘green’ riding horse, this was to be Ferris’ first loose jump session with the goal to add to his education, assess his uninterrupted jumping style, confidence and natural tendencies. He has done a few jump sessions over small single jumps and a small training course at home. His ridden jumping is very green but honest with variety in style/technique but with tendency to over jump and leave the cannons hanging.

PREPARATION

I personally like if the horse lunges well and responds to body language of the handler without undue stress or worry. I like that the horse goes forwards when asked and slows down when asked and does so reliably as when jumps come into play the excitement can sometimes override training.

It’s a good practice to do 1-2 loose schooling sessions letting the horse trot and canter in the corridor (built alongside the wall with poles, stands, fillers) without anything in it yet to jump. The idea is to get the horse to travel in a calm manner through the corridor, maintaining rhythm and tempo.

If they tend to lose balance in the corners or go into them too deeply, it might help to put a pole on the ground across the corner to encourage smoother turns.

TODAY’S SET UP

A line of two jumps: A placing plank 7m from x-pole/vertical followed by 11m distance to an oxer. I like to use a plank instead of a pole as a distance marker if at all possible because some horses become overexcited when loose schooled and can easily step on the pole and twist the leg/slide/lose balance. An old plank works great even when stepped on as is flat is unlikely to move anywhere.

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EXAMPLES OF BENEFITS TO HORSES AND RIDERS 

  • great re-training tool for horses with difficult jumping habits (hollow back, dangling front leg(s), crooked jumping etc)
  • good introduction to jumping for young horses
  • develops a thinking, aware horse that learns to act on his tempo and adjust energy for efficient jumping efforts
  • re-establishing confidence in horse’s natural ability without influence of the rider
  • riders learn to “read” their horse’s movement on the approach, take off and landing which can improve harmony with the horse when mounted
  • riders learn to “read” the distance in relation to tempo by observing how the horse tackles different problems
  • riders learn to understand their own horse’s preferred jumping style which can help to decrease unnecessary interference
  • riders build own confidence in their horses’ ability to jump “by themselves” (especially good for riders who over-ride and try to “carry their horse over the jump”)
  • riders can observe and understand the biomechanics of the jumping horse, how they use their neck, back, shoulder so when mounted, the riders actions like sufficient give with the hand or not sitting down too early on landing, increase in meaning and importance.

RESULTS & REFLECTIONS AFTER JUMPING THE 5 HORSES 

Ettie – the mare started very wobbly in the line which initially consisted of poles on the ground for her to walk and trot over. She tended to overshot her approach and lacked focus over the first jump but after a few rounds her whole attitude changed and she improved to the point of a very straightforward jumps performed with easy to 1m20 (our wings don’t go higher).

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She showed no issue with the height at all, it was the purposeful straightness that was missing at the start and made me keep the jumps small. I would;t hesitate to put the jumps higher for her if we had such option but for the goal of training diversity and athletic exercise going any higher isn’t necessary.

She was in the exercise for a total of 9 minutes during which she went from looking green to professional 😉 She either did it before or was simply rusty to start with or is a very quick learner with natural jumping ability.

Repo

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Repo started very chaotic with haphazard turns to the line but he remained fairly calm and with a few adjustments to the set up to help him find a straighter line of approach he improved each round. His jumping style is very similar free schooling to ridden at this stage which could potentially improve with more free schooling sessions but his overall power allowed him to jump to the same height as Ettie successfully (clearing all the poles). I didn’t hesitate to go up the height with him because he showed a very good attitude to solving his problems, stayed calm despite a couple of serious mistakes and looked confident throughout. I feel he could really benefit from more specific, targeted exercises to address the bascule issue.

Repo’s session was about 11 minutes long with a couple of breaks to calm him down between the rounds and adjust the set up.

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Snack break with Nicole. It helps to stop half way through the session so the horse has a chance to process what they are learning.

Merehead 

The big grey proved too excitable to do the exercise well and showed lack of stride control in the similar manner to his ridden behaviour. We ended up just trotting him over the x-poles and poles on the ground because there was no point him approaching the exercise at his chosen speed and without much focus. I feel he would really benefit from methodical free schooling work to help him build confidence in own abilities and body control. He is a master of faster but in a destructive way.

Prince

The most stressed of all the horses we schooled today, Prince showed very little self-control loose schooling which surprised me somewhat as he does regular groundwork. Definitely something to think about when checking how focused he really is in those sessions. He found being let loose very stressful and after a couple of wild rounds to a single x-pole we settled for just corridor training – calm walking through the set up. Prince is the type of horse with whom I would not attempt any loose jumping until he can calmly work free around the arena in walk, trot and canter. His adrenaline overtook him completely and continuing the exercise in such a state is counterproductive since no learning can happen then.

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Prince coming around the corner to a single small x-pole with no balance and at too great a speed.

Ferris

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Ferris first go

Last to go Ferris proved to be calm around the arena and through flat corridor where he was first led in walk and jog. He remained receptive to us guiding him around and his technique improved within a few goes. He was reasonably eager to continue which we let him and he is a good lesson in how easy it is to over-do the good things. After a few educational rounds where he made a very honest effort we should have stopped him but we let him go that “one more time” where he lost momentum and stopped. We repeated over x-poles which he jumped well.

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Ferris third go – much more awareness of front legs despite no change in the jump height

I think Ferris is a typical horse where exercise should be stopped even before we think it should. Calm and willing attitude can be a trap to unnecessary mistake so always stop before you think you should stop. All Ferris’ jumps well kept below 0.6m but his technique improved with each round.

To watch all the horses on short video clips see our Instagram account at @AspireAcademy; direct link: INSTAGRAM VIDEO: LOOSE JUMPING CASE STUDY

Big thank to Emma and her boys and Lou and Ettie for taking part, to Lou and Nicole for the help with handling the horses throughout the sessions and to Brackenhill Stud for hosting 🙂 

 

OPEN DAY at Brackenhill Stud today

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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.

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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

Gemma Hill: My two days training at Brackenhill Stud. Part 2: Day 2

By Gemma Hill

To read Day 1 – see HERE
ozzy grazing day 2

I arrived slightly earlier before my lesson to take ozzy for a grass walk just so he could stretch his legs after having a busy day the day before. After 20 minutes of grass it was then time to get ready so again I made use of the heat lamps just to warm his back up before our flat lesson.
Ozzy felt great when I got on and was walking around, he felt like he was stretching in his walk and felt looser, sometimes Ozzy tends to start with a disconnected walk so he gives the feeling that he is not quite connected and his stride gets short.

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Again me and Wiola discussed what we the lesson aim was and for this lesson we was going to do a pole exercise to help with balance and canter rhythm. We had 4 poles out, one at each quarter of a circle, 2 of the poles were slightly raised. We did the exercise in trot to start with and then we did it once in canter each way. My first attempt in canter on both ways highlighted the areas in where both me and Ozzy struggle.

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On the right rein was where we struggled as his canter was more strung out and his turning on the right rein is more difficuault, as for me I tend to lean in a lot more on the right rein and Ozzy puts me in a position which when turning makes me rely more on the right rein then keeping him even in the contact and controlling more of his outside. On the left rein his canter wasn’t as strung out therefore by the second attempt he was able to find it a little easier and found his rhythm.


As a rider I found it difficult at the start as I was aiming for him to get over each raised pole and was trying to push him for a stride rather than just waiting and letting him find his own feet and balance, towards the end I got better at this and Ozzy became more established.
Because Ozzy found it harder on the right rein towards the end I put him in canter but on the outside of the circle so without going over the poles, he then settled into a canter where I could feel he was really trying and he had that bit more of a push from behind. He became a little on the forehand but I was able to support him a little more when he did this and was able to help him balance before returning back to trot.

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I was super pleased with Ozzy at the end of this lesson as I have been working on his canter and felt that we had established it even if it was just for a brief moment it just showed that he is becoming stronger and with more patience it will all fall into place.
After working so hard, thanks to the staff at Brackenhill Stud they kindly agreed to allow Ozzy to go in one of the paddocks so he could have stretch and a roll for a few hours. Meanwhile while Ozzy got to have his wind down time, it was time to do some ball exercises to mimic my errors and how to correct them. One of the exercises was to correct my turning position so making sure my sternum stays inline with the withers, figuring out how to turn the body without turning before the horse.

Groundwork with Leo. We use a combination of classical in-hand work exercises and methods developed by Equitation Science International (www.esi-education.com)

After a few hours in the field, I got Ozzy in, gave him a groom and got ready for our next lesson. Our last lesson we had a joint lesson with Kelly and Mojo and for this lesson we planned to do some grid work. While Kelly was warming up and going through some exercises I gave Ozzy a long walk and a brief warm up as by this time he was tiring.
Gridwork is really hard for Ozzy as he is slightly on the forehand so when landing he has to recover quickly enough to make the next jump, it became even more of a challenge for him as we had some bounces included so here Ozzy had to be quicker with his legs and not to jump too flat. The first few times I felt like we were nose diving through them but it was about letting him figure out his feet and how he could make it more comfortable for himself. By the end he felt bit better as he didn’t feel like he was on the forehand as much and he was being quicker with his legs and more powerful.


I ended slightly earlier as I felt he had done well but also felt like he was tired, he had worked super well over the two days and gave every lesson 100%. There wasn’t any moment over the two days where he felt like he was working too hard. We finished the two days with big improvements and more tasks to work on until the next camp in November.

Thanks to everyone at Brackenhill for having us and thanks to Wiola for the lessons and making us work hard 🙂.


Gemma’s training stay award was co-sponsored by Brackenhill Stud, a Henley base for the Academy’s training. Big thank you to Emma Brinkworth and everyone at the Stud for making Gemma and Ozzy feel so welcome 🙂

Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 16.04.05We have limited availability for Full/Part/Competition Livery at Brackenhill Stud in Henley-on-Thames, a well-established and beautiful yard with fantastic facilities.
Indoor arena with Martin Collins surface, full set of showjumps and viewing area
Superb hacking
All year turn out with options for individual and small group
Solarium
Yard manager on site
Full kitchen and chill out room
Toilets and shower
Lorry parking
Onsite trainer
Option for BHS training
Competition preparation and grooming
Breaking and schooling
If you simply want to enjoy your horse and our superb hacking, or if you are a serious competitor we will cater for all of your equestrian needs in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere with dedicated and knowledgeable staff.
Call Emma on 07557677163 for more information or to arrange a visit.

Through coach’s eye: Post Summer Camp 2017 reflections. Day 2 of 3

This Summer Camp 2017 was the first one of upgraded versions of intensive training camps I have been organising in the last few years. We incorporated a training show into it with Life Savings as its Patron (more on the Show later), added sponsored awards and much more focus on the rider’s technique than ever before. I loved it and the riders seemed to as well. We already have bigger plans for next year but for now, let me reflect on this year’s experiences in stages…

DAY 2 – JUMPING SKILLS FOCUS

If you haven’t read DAY 1 reflections and would like to stay on track, here it is: RIDER FOCUS DAY 1 

MORNING SESSIONS 

Day two was all about jumping skills. The morning sessions were based on tempo control for most riders with the demands adjusted to the individual riding skills.

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Kelly and Mojo

Hover over the photos for rider’s and horse’s names.

It has always been drummed into me that to jump well one needs a very good feel for tempo as well as be able to maintain the exact speed for several minutes at the time. Whilst this might seem like an easy task, many situations challenge that exactness. Turns, corners, circles, all have their bearing on horse’s balance, power/impulsion, energy level and straightness.

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Derek and Boo. Currently most novice adult rider on the Academy programme but climbing the skills ladder in style 😉 Winner of the Change Maker Award.

Exercise 1 asked the riders to be able to set a canter at the speed of 325 mpm and maintain it for 1 minute. We set a minute marker and roughly measured the 325 meters. After several goes, everyone nailed this exercise but the differences between tempo control on one rein and the other were quite significant for most combinations which I hope gave everyone a food for thought.

Hover over the photos for rider’s and horse’s names.

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Laura and Robyn – the Summer Camp Trophy Winners (more on how and why the winner and other awarded riders were chosen will be up in Part 3). Laura made very fast changes to her riding on Saturday. Being a tall rider on a relatively small and very sensitive TB mare, it was not always easy for her to adjust but her determination to help the mare move and jump better and her very fast seat change from training round to show round (after watching and discussing her footage) put her in the lead.

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Gemma and Ozzy. Winners of the Coach’s Award. These guys ruled the Camp and Gemma reached pretty much all the goals she set herself for the weekend!

On photo above, I am passing some branches with leaves to Gemma. Ozzy is a very laid back character and generating energy is not always his priority. I think finding what motivates each horse to move is the key. Kicking and generally escalating leg aids is my personal pet hate in riding solutions so I prefer to look outside of the box. Gemma went with the idea (another reason of many why she did get the Coach’s Award) and a little bit of forest around the shoulders did give Ozzy enough flair to allow the rider to improve his posture and way of going further.

Exercise 2

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Aisha and Prince (an ex-racehorse raced in the past by AP McCoy – Prince’s claim to fame 😉 )

Once we had the tempo on the flat under control, I added two cavaletti/small jumps, one on each side of the arena half way the long side of it. It’s interesting how even  a tiny jump can affect all canter skills…My idea was to stay put until everyone got it as well as I thought they were capable of unless it meant over-working the horse. It worked and I was very pleased with everyone’s efforts.

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Kelly and Mojo

I believe the good feel for the right kind of canter is a huge part of jumping skill and developing that in the riders is one of my top priorities whatever their level.

Throughout these exercises I added individual corrections to suit the goals each rider set for themselves before the Camp for the duration of the weekend. It was possibly one of the most influential training session of the Camp as I wanted to see if the riders were able to apply Friday’s lessons into their riding as well as staying focused on new demands.

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AFTERNOON SESSIONS

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Gemma and Ozzy

The afternoon consisted of training sessions over a course & Training Show Round. This kind of show has been on my mind for a while and the Summer Camp 2017 provided a perfect testing grounds. I asked all riders to wear competition gear to get them in the right frame of mind 😉

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Caitlin and Mollie. The youngest rider at the Camp who was one of my top three up to the afternoon when her mare knocked herself on the pole hard enough to cause a problem and had to be retired from the rest of the Saturday. She was fine for the Day 3 (XC & Dressage), more on this pair later.

THE SHOW

I wanted to create a kind of show that would award partnership, style and performance in that order and I was assessing the riders in that exact order too. I do believe riding is a team sport of sorts – the team spirit between horse & rider should shine through every step on the course. I don’t mean here the vigorous whipping or other means of “hard” riding in order to get over a jump or any other methods that have fear or abuse at their roots. I don’t find it “class”, “brave”, “admirable” etc nor did I want to foster an environment in which the horse was some kind of an enemy to conquer over the course of jumps.

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Kate and Jack. Kate had a fabulous Friday sessions but a few mistakes on Saturday put her out of top three. She still showed some great improvements but the other riders stepped up to the challenge and kept the progress rate exceeding expectations.

The style referred to rider’s seat and way of riding – again all adjusted to the individual skills level and I didn’t expect those riders who only started to jump to show any particular perfection ;). However, riding in balance with a horse is what personally drives me in my own improvement and I always strive to pass that mission on to everyone I teach.

Performance referred to results but not in terms of poles down but in terms of meeting personal goals for the horses and riders.

All rules of the show were set with this in mind.

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Emma and Merehead. Emma set herself a stretch goal for the Camp and that was to jump her ex-racehorse Merehead over a 1m to 1.05m course in preparation for their move to BE100. Here they are cruising over their nemesis oxer off a tight turn on the left rein.

The training round:

  • focused on practicing some component of skilful course riding: tempo control, control of balance in turns, maintaining suitable impulsion in canter in front of the jump and rider’s position and its influence on horse’s ability to jump well.

The show round – consisted of 2 phases: 

  • phase 1: ride the course – “trial” round
  • dismount and watch your round on video straight away
  • 10 minutes discussion on what was good and what could be done better
  • phase 2: ride the course – “show round”

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Emma watching her training round and discussing how to ride the Show Round better

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Chatting through turns options with Gemma after their training round and before the Show round

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Caitlin and Mollie

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Paige and Oscar. Bronze Medal Winners for continued improvements from Friday to Sunday in all ridden sessions

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Lauren and Gilly – Gold Medal Winners for fabulous attitude towards all sessions at the Camp – both ridden and off-horse and her steely determination to overcome her nerves with her playful partner in crime 😉 They made very good corrections between their training and show round!

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Kelly and Mojo in the grid – Silver Medal Winners for superb training attitude and improvement in all sessions from Friday to Sunday. She rushed through the first phase of the afternoon so had no chance to correct the training round mistakes to what I believe was within reach but nevertheless showed great riding and very good focus.

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I had to add this photo 😉 Hayley just a little bit happy (or petrified!) 😉

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Hayley and Nugget – first time at the Camp with some mishaps, trials and tribulations but they lasted till the end!

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Day 3 reflections with Cross Country, Dressage and Awards Ceremony coming soon 🙂

Photos Copyright: www.beckybuncephotography.co.uk

Wanted: An allrounder schoolmaster for one of the Academy riders

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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!

A few notes and reflections from the training day with Luca Moneta Horsemanship

By Wiola Grabowska

It seems to me that the most difficult clinics, demos or forums to find are those that explore training methods which can produce a sports horse without traditional systems of dominance, submission and fear training.

It is one thing to train a well mannered happy hacker/typical pleasure horse with non-bullying methods, another to train a lower level eventer, show jumper or a dressage horse. Nearly every single CPD type event I have attended or training session I watched (some with top national/international trainers and riders) in the last five years used some form of “must do as told right now” method whether in foundation training of the horse or later in specialised schooling.

I personally dabbed in many different ways of schooling horses during my twenty + years of active involvement in this industry and I became plain bored with many and demoralised by most of them. The perpetuating nature of the UK coach training system where changes are hard to implement straight away added to my professional frustration.  Ever since setting up the Academy 7 years ago I have wanted to get to know many other ways of combining thorough foundation training of a horse with its athletic training for grassroots sports. Searching outside of mainstream took me on a great learning journey and I feel like it will probably never end.

Today, I will share a few notes from a clinic with an International Show Jumper – Luca Moneta.

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Nicknamed the ‘Carrot Man’ due to him using Parelli Natural Horsemanship tools in his training, Luca Moneta is currently one of the top show jumping riders in the world. I read this interview with him several years ago (to read see: The World of Show Jumping – Luca Moneta) and his methods intrigued me because I have not come across anyone combining any form of “natural horsemanship” at top level of show jumping before.

I used “natural horsemanship” term in inverted commas because many a time, it’s simply common sense, understanding of how horses learn and interact with us and how to communicate with them so both parties understand each other. It so happens, there are people branding those concepts. 

The clinic consisted of two days training, day one being round pen focused and day two was a continuation of foundation training but on the flat and over jumps. The riders riding in the clinic were of varied standards from novice to coach/competition rider level.

I didn’t attend the Day one but as I am familiar with the concepts it didn’t seem a problem for me to follow the continuation on Day two.

Simple (but not necessarily easy) 

 

Luca’s training method is simple: everything we do with the horses must makes sense to them, keep them calm, focused, light and responsive.

The day started with groundwork which was alike a fast version of the in-hand work I know. Turn on the haunches, turn on the forehand, rein-back, go, stop but all in a much quicker succession, more attention to release under stronger “pressure”.

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It was especially interesting to watch the riders who were unfamiliar with the concept and who attempted the work on the ground. I am not surprised that methods like Parelli often have bad opinion when witnessed at various livery yards because quite frankly, when the rider is just learning the timing and reactions, it isn’t a nice viewing. However, Luca worked with each horse by himself too and the importance of quiet, non-emotional approach was immediately clear as was the relief and relaxation in the horse’s bodies following his work.

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“The more the horse doesn’t respond, the more he is showing us that there is a problem. The more we ignore the problem and leave the horse alone, the bigger the horse’s problem become.”

In real life terms this might mean never letting the horse run after the jump, never letting them become emotionally distressed with the situation to the point of no response.

“We need to help the horse come back from that emotional situation.”

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He also puts big emphasis on the rider being quiet in the saddle. He likes limited amount of aids with full results. One of the tasks the riders faced was to carry a young rider on their back. At first the girl was told to just sit quiet while Luca gave commands – go forwards, turn left, turn right, back up. Then the girl was asked to become “busy”, lean left and right and back as much as she wanted which immediately disturbed every single step of the person carrying her.

The jumping work was all based around light, quick and calm responses. If you had a light and quick response but the horse was stressed, you need to try again. And again. Until you learn to combine all three elements.

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Whilst all the above was familiar to me and it was just very interesting to watch the logistics of teaching it and doing it from a slightly different angle, one element of the day really stood out for me and I wish I learnt his way of looking at it sooner (when I rode competitively myself). 

Luca discussed the feel the rider has in front of the jump as he was setting a small course  for the riders. He told them they must know when a particular jump was making them scared and tell him to lower it. He said they needed to know how to control their emotions in front of the jump and not take on an impossible challenge. However, when they felt a reasonable level of challenge, they needed to keep coming until they learnt to control the emotions (nerves, excitement etc) in themselves and in the horses.

He described one way of thinking about it: 

You normally think that in Show Jumping there is a horse and there is a jump. But you can also think like this. There is no horse and no jump. There’s just energy. My energy, the energy of the horse and the energy of the jump. I just send the energy of the horse in the line that puts the jump in the middle. Then the energy of the horse will tell me, I am confident, I respond light, quick and relaxed, that’s it. But maybe we find resistance in this energy, maybe the horse arrives at the fence and stops. Maybe he will try to avoid the jump. Then I just teach them that it’s all about going straight on, on that line of energy, back to basics.

Super day and a privilege to learn from people like Luca Moneta.

P.S. Huge thank you to Mairi for arranging for my ticket for this clinic for my birthday 🙂 

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Mairi and one of the horses taking part in the clinic – a Lusitano x TB, 20 years young

Length of stirrups – how to choose it and why. PART 1: SHOW JUMPING

By Wiola Grabowska

For every horse, saddle type and rider there exist an optimum length of stirrups that brings the best out of the rider’s seat. For anyone who ever experimented with riding at various stirrup lengths will know that some options give better ability to follow movement, stay with it, stay secure, stay out of the horse’s way and let the horse do the job well.

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Gem and Ozzy – she generally likes to jump on a longer side and loses the security of the lower leg at times but a good result here bar her lower leg moving back a little too much which can mean some difficulty and delay in gathering the canter back together on landing. Photo credit: Christine Dunnington 

Even for riders’ with zero interest in the biomechanics of the seat it will be clear when their reaction time is quicker, their back more supple, their joints more able to absorb movement, muscles more engaged where they need to be and more relaxed where they need to be.

Having said that, the below views on stirrups length are drawn from my own teaching of hundreds of riders according to my own preferred riding styles so it might not suit everyone 🙂

SHOW JUMPING

For relaxed, athletic experience, a jumping rider needs a decent range of motion in the seat. By that I mean:

  • conditions for a comfortable three point/full seat that is a little “lighter” than a full dressage seat but always able to have full influence on the horse’s balance (used when bringing the horse’s centre of gravity back in front of the jump for example)
  • conditions for a two point/light seat/”jumping position” – the seat where the rider is able to comfortably stay out of the saddle without compromising own balance and suppleness
  • conditions for supple, calm, balanced actual jump seat on take off, flight and landing that allows the horse to perform an uninterrupted jump
  • able to quickly yet calmly change between this three as and when needed

In the below video, which I put together for another post (you can read it HERE), you can see me riding an unknown horse over a few jumps from 1m to about 1m20/25. You can see that as I learn to find the right canter to each jump that will suit that horse our take off points change but I have enough security through my seat to be able to follow the horse reasonably well each time.

I often see riders riding quite long and struggling with effortless jump seat. If you are a Novice rider learning to jump, stirrups on a longer side, the length that you might hack in for example, are a good call. They give you a little more basic stability overall in case things don’t go to plan as you have “more of your legs” around the horse and you are only likely to be jumping small fences.

Shorter stirrups do come with more of an “eject” mode in case of trouble (as your legs come higher up and have less ability to hold) but to me, they are the preferred option for a more advanced rider. Shorter stirrup length helps close the hip and knee joints which can then open swiftly on the take off without unnecessary throwing of the upper body forwards (no leg work = upper body work to compensate). The “quieter” the seat, the better the jump.

I often hear riders saying about having an “unlucky pole down” but I was always taught that 99% of the time, there’s no such thing as an unlucky pole. Unless the jump wasn’t adjusted properly after another horse knocked it a bit or perhaps strong wind blew etc, there was something in the way the rider approached the jump or how the horse behaved in the air that threw that pole. The air time can be very much improved by the rider staying out of the horse’s part of the job.

Finding your own anatomically friendly “jumping angles” comes via trial and error. What might be visually correct, might not work in practice so it’s important to keep experimenting. Different shapes of the horse’s ribcage, different styles and shapes of the saddle and the size of the horse overall will all determine how to adjust the stirrup length.

To sum up, when assessing the rider’s stirrups length for jumping I look at:

  • their riding experience/skill

  • whether they can easily go into light seat and stay in it without problems in halt,walk,trot and canter for several minutes.

  • whether they can sit in the saddle in trot and canter and still have good command of the horse’s way of going (without unnecessary tension through their body)

  • whether they can happily change between the above seats every few strides when asked

 

 

 

 

Jump training – dressing the jumps

By Wiola Grabowska

This must be one of the easiest and most cost effective ways of transforming your plain jumps set into a proper colour and pattern challenge!

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We’ve dressed several jumps with the Jumpstack and been using the covered bales for all sorts of jumping exercises both ridden and on the ground.

The covers for the bales made fantastic fillers, you just need a good tape to secure the openings as if your jumps are outdoors, the stickers that come with the covers won’t be strong enough to stay on.

The pole covers are great for transforming plain poles and do a super job used on raised poles as horses being vary of them, pick their feet up neatly.

We are looking into adding some yellow and green patterns now. It makes training interesting and helps the horses get used to variety of different jumping challenges. I find some fillers are more of a rider’s frighteners so it helps the riders to become accustomed to jumping more than simple poles.

The covered bales are also very handy for creating gymnastic set ups like small grids to work on technique – improving quality of the canter and rider’s position.

When used for groundwork, they provide a low level distraction for the horse  habituating him/her to situations where they need to ignore slight worry and go forwards when asked.

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Photo: Christine Dunnington 

To purchase the bale covers and more, see www.jumpstackandmore.co.uk

Training show at Oaklands Collage

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Mairi Mackay aka Mary Macken (as the commentator decided to re-name her) and Farmer’s Boy (Gilly)

As part of the programmes for all the riders on regular Academy training I offer support at events. I do question my sanity sometimes with this as it does mean crazy amount of hours out and about but seeing the riders riding other than on home soil is pretty invaluable for any further lessons plans.

Warm ups are stressful and often the horse “does” the class well or not so well depending on how he/she is ridden before he/she goes in the ring.  From teaching point of view it is really interesting how different the riders ride in the warm up at a show in comparison to the simulated warm up at home. Day and night. Nerves, horse’s behaviour, unpredictable environment, real or perceived pressure from family and friends – everything together creates a rather buzzy cocktail 😉

The today’s show was a small, unaffiliated show – jumping show and it gave me plenty of ideas for the London gang. Note to self: take a chair next time! 

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