Tag Archives: Sport

Dr Inga Wolframm: Let them be kids!

kidspostThis is my first summer as a mum. Perhaps that is the reason why I notice them more than ever. They seem to be everywhere, redefining the definition of cuteness. And as I stand and watch and chuckle to myself, imagining my own wee boy bouncing up and down on a little fur ball in a few years time, I’m reminded of those icons of British rural life – the Thelwell ponies and their diminutive riders. But in addition to causing much hilarity, Norman Thelwell also managed to capture an important message: kids should have fun with their ponies, learning by doing, and most importantly, getting a thorough grounding in the principles of horsemanship.

Nowadays though, the main focus of those childhood years seems to have moved from all-round horsemanship to doing well in competition. Considering the price tags on some of the ponies on offer, it’s actually not all that surprising: Parents who spent tens of thousands of pounds on a miniature mount might wish to see a return on their investment, preferably in the shape of a medal, a rosette or even some prize money. At the same time, they may not be too happy seeing said pony cavorting around the countryside in Thelwell-style. If those illustrations are anything to go by, the risk of injury to child and/or pony are considerable – or so they fear! Still though, this overt concern with the colour of a rosette or ribbon might have some serious repercussions on the sporting attitude of a child.

Researchers in the field of sport psychology and coaching clearly distinguish between athletes who are “ego-involved” versus those who are “task-involved”.

Ego-involved athletes measure their own levels of success on the performance of others, that is to say they are “other-referenced”. Their main aim is to demonstrate either superiority over other competitors, or to avoid being seen to be inferior to them. Riders with an ego-involved mindset are really only ever satisfied when they get to stand on the very top of the podium. Certainly in the long term, but also in a more immediate setting, ego-involved mindsets are likely to lead to motivational problems (“What’s the point in riding today, I am not going to win anyway”) and maladaptive behaviours (use of the whip after the pair has left the ring: “Stupid pony didn’t do as I wanted”). Unfortunately, these types of attitudes are ripe in environments that focus on “winning at all costs”, where mistakes are punished, social comparisons are drawn, or riders with the better (read: more expensive) ponies are being paid more attention.sofijalesson

Task-involved individuals on the other hand define success through personal levels of accomplishment. They are “self-referenced”, i.e. they compare current to previous levels of performance. In essence, these young athletes (riders) feel successful once they have mastered a new task, witnessed personal skill improvement or gave their best effort. More importantly, they are likely to feel that they have achieved their goals as long as they did well within their own frame of reference – even if, for example at a show, another rider went home as the winner.

There can be no doubt that a task-involved approach to riding is both healthier and more sustainable in the long run than an ego-involved obsession with winning. Equally evident is that during their formative years young riders will develop appropriate goal-orientations as taught to them.

I know I’m only at the beginning of parenthood. I know I’ve only just started to scratch the surface of what it means to be a “good parent”. Yet I truly hope that, in a few years time, I’ll be able to encourage personal development and horsemanship skills over winning in my own little boy; that I’ll be able to highlight the joys of horsemanship over the economic value of a pony; and that, on occasion, I might use Thelwell as a source of inspiration!

Then again, perhaps my son will end up wanting to play football instead….

Very Quick Guide To Becoming a Better Rider


Riding might be an art and science married together which makes it seemingly a bottomless well of possibilities but let’s try to short list a few things an average ambitious rider can do to better their skills month after month instead of stagnating in one murky pond 😉

There is no particular order here:

1) DO the Dreaming and the Wishing


For every dreamy, wishful thought, have 10 action thoughts. The power of dreams lies in acting upon them. Imagine yourself doing things very well. Then make a detailed plan of action for each of those things. Work backwards from the imagined outcome and educate yourself on time scales for each step. However, don’t be scared or put off by the amount of time it might all take. Working on your dreams or goals can be a dream process in itself 🙂

2) Find an instructor whose values line up with yours

Search for the best one for your current situation and best one you can afford. Why the same values? Because if you line up those, you will often be happy with the methods used too.

I hear some of you saying, I don’t need an instructor to do well, have you not seen International Velvet? Ok, let’s look at a few facts:

Even to play Sarah Brown, Tatum O’Neal went through an intensive training prior the movie with Marcia Williams, a member of USEF National Show Jumping Hall of Fame (oh and later awarded the USEF Living Legend Award). “During production in England, four British and American Olympic medallists also worked with Tatum”*. Apparently, she showed a lot of talent and could have gone on to great things if she wanted to take up riding professionally. Aaaand, it’s Ginny Leng riding in the more “riding” scenes…

I am not saying there are no riders out there with exceptional body awareness, horse sense, discipline, commitment and passion (aka talent) so if you are one of those, great. Maybe you can skip on point no 2 and just watch as many lessons as you can instead. But if you are part of an average riding crowd (and no shame in that, I consider myself an average rider too) and you want to better yourself step by step, look out for trainers who can guide you, who never stop learning and who genuinely want you to ride better (not just for your horse to go better).

3) Live in a moment but ask what’s around the corner

Do your best to do the best you can in your lessons but ask questions…you want to know if your instructor has any sort of plan for your learning (if you ride with them regularly that is). What skill is leading to what outcome. What’s the plan to work on this or that. You want your instructor to have an idea for you (and for your horse), an individual plan of action for your particular riding adventures (and/or your horse’s development).

4) Push yourself before you push your horse

Like in every sport, we need to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones to progress and that includes the horses too. It’s never easy to go through that push so if you tend to get negatively emotionally involved with your horse’s difficulties, put yourself through similar experience first…Ask around and find a trainer who is impatient, easily frustrated with his/her pupil and takes your physical inability to follow his/her instructions personally. Go for someone who gets easily annoyed when your struggle when you try and fail. You want to truly experience that feel of emotionally draining training that’s on the verge of bullying. Then, next time when you are tempted to do the same to your horse, think how effective it was…

match demands

If you are planning to push your horse to their limits in terms of physical performance, get yourself a session with a positive personal trainer who will make you work like no tomorrow. Be it running, cycling, weight lifting or extreme yoga – try out the total body workout. Make some notes. Adjust your horse training accordingly…

5) Demand only what you can keep up with

Being a good rider means being in harmony with your horse, supporting them with your own body action and matching their effort. Be prepared to do the work with your horse. If they need to be more supple, work on your own suppleness too, if they need to be stronger through their abdominal muscles, get on that workout too, if they need to be mentally calmer, you might need too…You know this saying “show me your horse I will tell you who you are”?  

It’s supposed to be a very quick guide so I will stop here 🙂 What would you add to this list if we were to make it into a Full Guide? Add your own suggestions 🙂 

*Source: http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/78138%7C0/International-Velvet.html


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…

Gift of Experience, Adventure, Excitement and Lifestyle – Aspire Equestrian’s Christmas Offer is Here!


Please see below our little guide to choosing the right training package for the right person. If you are buying for someone who will only just start learning to ride, go with what you know about their personality and the amount of time they might have free to commit to a new hobby.

If you are buying for a horse owner, please contact aspire @ outlook.com for details on prices. Some costs will be deducted from packages for horse owners.



Aspire Christmas Offer allows you to purchase any numbers of packages (up to 10 months) and then for the person you gift it to to use it as and when they wish between March 2014 and December 2014. You will receive an Aspire Equestrian Gift Certificate with the details you chose to give to us (like the name of the person you are purchasing the riding package for). The Certificate will mention the name of the package (Leisure, Challenge, Extreme), number of packages (from 1 to 10) and the title of chosen Programme (Start, Foundation, Development or Performance). It will also come with a factsheet with all essential details about riding with Aspire Equestrian.

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

Adult Beginner/Novice Rider – What You Might Want To Know about booting and whipping of horses

Last night I read this conversation on Horse & Hound Forum:

Click on the image to read the replies…

My reply was as follows:

“This is something very close to my heart as an instructor who is trying to fight with the “booting culture” I really hope that you find another riding school where standards are higher and understanding of teaching in place.

I wouldn’t believe everyone who says months of lunge lessons are boring as they most likely did not experience a good, fun, creative and educational seat training programme. If they did, they may have another opinion of lunge lessons!
I very highly recommend them as seat education for beginner riders is the first step to get rid of switched off/resigned horses.

The time spent on the lunge depends on your general learning ambitions. As an example I keep my beginner riders on the lunge for minimum of 3 months. That’s for your average leisure rider.

If your body awareness and alignment are very good (as advised by your instructor) it might be that you need to focus more on how to use this good posture you have in a way that helps the horse rather than demands…

I must add – I think it would be great if you wrote to Horse & Hound magazine with your experiences. The booting culture must go if riding schools are to survive. More and more riders want to have good basics and ride well. Leisure riders shouldn’t have to loan or buy horses to experience high quality education, they deserve to learn at places where horses are not used as kicking boards.

Good luck with your search”


The subject of brutal and abusive riding, yes let’s call things by its name, comes up often and the fact several posters in the above conversation tried to find excuses for abusive teaching methods is a very sad state of affairs.

Before you read on, I should note that certain amount of assertiveness and confidence is required from riders at all levels. Some amount of firmness and decisiveness is always necessary with some horses and less with others. There is a big difference between assertive riding and abusive riding and that difference is called EDUCATION. Both you and the horse must know why and what for pressure is applied and how to work towards decreasing that pressure to achieve results invisibly.

Continue reading Adult Beginner/Novice Rider – What You Might Want To Know about booting and whipping of horses

Come for a day of November Aspire Training!

As the  Aspire Intensive Training Day on Saturday 23rd got booked up pretty much on the spot by my regular riders, I decided to offer Sunday 24th as well in case there were more all-weather aspiring riders looking for full-on, fun training that weekend 🙂

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.

poster November 2013 23 and 24
Please click on the image to enlarge it. You are welcome to print it out and pass on to your friends or pin at your livery yard if you think someone might like to join in!

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.


I will include links at the bottom of this post from previous sessions in case you are not sure what to expect from this work.

You can also search this blog for “rider training” for more information on our approach and teaching methods.

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. 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.

Anne in hand

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.

This November weekend will be limited places weekend with maximum of 4 riders on the day (max 2 in ridden training). It is possible to book both days (with a discount) and it is also possible to stay overnight, feel free to contact me any time for more details.

There is 1 space left on Saturday 23rd and 4 on Sunday 24th. 

As always, all questions about Aspire training are welcome and I am happy to chat with you to make sure it’s something you are looking for.



Equine simulator – role in improving rider’s seat

Aspire Training Day – photos from one of our training days

Aspire Rider Development – selection of articles

Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy – 2014 programme 


Video Day Friday: “Horse and Rider” Documentary – Understanding the animal…(which one?)

There are so many free resources available online these days that I thought it might be interesting to regularly post videos that catch my attention. It would be great to read your comments on content and perhaps discuss your views if you have a moment 🙂

Today, I would like to share with you a video documentary (50:27 long) titled: “Horse and Rider”

Description of the video: “Every relationship between horse and rider rests on a few fundamental principles — understanding the animal, building trust, communication and working in unison.”

Overall, I would say it makes for a fairly good watch as far as cutting and polo goes. I am generally not a fan of the latter but felt that if I didn’t have negative experiences connected with that sport, the material shown would have me intrigued about the training process.
I really enjoyed watching the cutting horses work and something said during the video stayed with me. The rider presenting described cutting as a sport in which the horse is allowed and encouraged to think and solve problems (as it cuts the cattle).

This amazing focus of the horse on the movement of the cow reminds me the passion with which Bull Fighting is regarded in Portugal. The best bullfighting horses are extraordinary ones and cutting seems like a much nicer version of that intensity with no pointless torturing of an animal in the process.
I was, however, puzzled by the portrayal of dressage training. For one, the makers of the documentary chose to show abusive methods in piaffe training. It was pretty disturbing to watch especially as the commentary is completely mismatched with what is actually happening on the screen.

Continue reading Video Day Friday: “Horse and Rider” Documentary – Understanding the animal…(which one?)

Not for faint hearted: 11 Rules of Being a Supportive Amateur Equestrian

A couple of mornings a week I try to catch up with various equestrian forums, both English and Polish (sometimes I venture onto Portuguese, Swedish and Norwegian sites too), read about what riders like to learn about and what might be giving them trouble with progressing their riding. It keeps me on my toes, makes me always search for better answers, consolidate some things, open others for more discussions.

We equestrian bunch are a rather opinionated one. I put together a little Guide on the basis of what I read this and past week. I would be interested in your thoughts…


Here is the thing. We are all in this sport together. Critiquing methods and techniques displayed by Olympic riders is just not ON…

1. You know those pictures and short videos of various “advanced training methods” you see online and that make you feel a little uneasy and kind of like you felt when someone skinned a dog alive and they showed bits and bobs of it on TV? Don’t worry. It’s just this amazing speed of a shutter, if you were there you wouldn’t even spotted this because your eyes, the eyes of a rider who never trained at that level, have no ability to see that kind of movement. Rest assured all this is normal and fine, many world famous judges cannot be wrong, it’s totally unnecessary that you comment on what you see. Just buy a ticket to an event and enjoy it for gods sake.


2. It’s important that you do not criticise anything (unless you are also a top rider than perhaps you can add a point or two) even if it makes you a little sick inside when you watch some training methods. Just realise, these are very sensitive horses, they would probably kill you if not for the methods they are being trained with, please understand.

Continue reading Not for faint hearted: 11 Rules of Being a Supportive Amateur Equestrian

Aspire Training Day at Rockley [Farm] Rehab Reunion 2013 – when reasons come from purpose…

Aspire at Rockley Rehab Reunion 2013

As I mentioned in my yesterday’s blog, I had a great day teaching fabulous Rockley “graduates” at Milton Keynes Eventing Centre this past Saturday. Normally I like to have everything organised well before the day but this time some riders confirmed their attendance last minute and some joined in on the day so this coupled with the fact I was compressing 3 days of content into one day made for a grand improvisation 🙂 I think we managed to get main points covered but I am hoping we can run a repeat with more coaching time next year!

As always I start with a chat with all riders to get to know them and their horses. As most of us follow Nic’s blog on rehabilitation processes with all the horses, nobody seems a total stranger.


Even a little chat with riders can be revealing regarding the real reasons for various riding issues. It’s important not to waste time on trying to sort out various symptoms. It’s the causes that need addressing for the riders and horses to benefit from long lasting effects. The biggest downside of very limited time is that many things just cannot be covered and worked through.

We did my ABC (awareness-balance-connection) workshop in the morning which I would normally do on a Friday when running the training as a full weekend event (you can read about the main principles of it in my post: Show me how you walk…). We had plenty of fun with that 🙂

Continue reading Aspire Training Day at Rockley [Farm] Rehab Reunion 2013 – when reasons come from purpose…