Tag Archives: trainee

The Longer Route to Fuller Experiences – sneaky peak into training of Aspire trainee instructor

A few days ago I received an email from someone enquiring about doing instructor training with me and what this might involve. I can only take on one person at a time at the moment and since that one spot is taken by Pippa, I thought I would write a post about her training to satisfy your curiosity 🙂

As you may gather from posts on this blog, I don’t really entertain short cuts when it comes to horse training and have very similar approach to coaching riders. The idea is to make sure we don’t just do the things as “written in a book” but look for ways to understand why and what for we do those things.

Pippa currently has two main horses to train on: a TB mare – Star – that is older than Pippa herself but who has more willingness to work than many other horses half her age and a Trakehner mare – Buffy – a quirky horse in her early teens who hasn’t been in much of a consistent work for quite few years now due to one issue or another.  In between them, Buffy and Star are one of the best teachers a young instructor can have so I am really happy the mares’ owner lets me get on with the training in my preferred pace.

Working with Star is making me appreciate old horses with great work ethics that much more all over again as they have more lessons to give than I would ever be able to.

Pip on Star 31st March a
Star giving Pippa her first experience and feel of half-pass. Far from perfect but we have time 🙂

Straightness, suppleness and importance of asking the whole body of the horse to work without unnecessary tension are the goals for Pippa right now. She is learning to understand what symmetry in the horse’s body is and feels like as well as recognise degrees of stiffness and tension which in an older horse are not hard to miss. At the same time she is learning to make a difference to how Star’s muscles work, how she uses her body and how correct movement and work can be therapeutic for her. Three quarters of the lessons are spent on the above with a little play at the end when we try various movements that Star knows very well but which are new to Pippa – like half-pass.

Being an anxious to please type of horse, Star is very forward going and that in turn allows Pippa to organise her posture and work on it with more ease than she can on Buffy. I do demand more from her than I would from a client but I don’t believe in rushing through development of riding skills. The type of riding I do and teach is more a sport than it is a recreation or trekking and therefore the body of the rider needs to have the time to go through the training process. Hopefully, we will be able to continue with Star for a bit longer as I couldn’t have wished for a better schoolmaster for Pippa at this stage.

Then, there is Buffy…

Buffy creative 2
Buffy has opinions and ideas on how she likes to move 😉

We have a few hopes and plans for Buffy which involve competing her but right now, the work is very basic. Due to lack of work the mare is quite crooked and uses her body unevenly which also affects her desire to move forwards. Having said that, she is a lovely person and despite her quirky reputation has not put a foot wrong so far. I reckon Pip and her complement each other rather well!

Years in racing mean that Pippa needs to re-learn the concept of contact and the use of reins so many exercises we do are aimed at her riding without bracing through her arms and hands. There is of course more to this training lark than going fast so we are back to basics there too 😉

Pip and Buffy groundwork 31st March
Learning to “lunge” with understanding of horse’s posture: how to ask for lateral bend, top line relaxation and use of the hind legs. This is Pip and Buffy’s 4th session together and the walk work is starting to come along nicely.

I have this little rule when it comes to training: if you want to use a training aid like side reins, pessoa, chambon etc you might as well learn how to shape the horse’s posture without them first by using your own body language, observation skill and own energy. If once you can put the horse on a consistent bend in all three paces, bend him/her laterally and make sure their hindlegs work effectively you still decide a gadget can do more/help the horse to improve the quality of work then do.

Pippa needs to learn how to keep Buffy’s focus on exercise and task in hand, how to influence weight shift in Buffy’s body with own movement and how to direct Buffy’s legs in a way that helps her with balance. I don’t see much use of lunging as in allowing the horse to rake arena around the person in the middle (unless absolutely necessary to remain alive! 😉 but as it is required at instructors exams in the UK, we will do a little bit of this too once Buffy’s posture improves.

Riding wise, Pippa’s training on Buffy is focused on basic straightness, forwardness, rhythm and ease of motion. Buffy needs to learn to become more of a back mover than just a leg mover when ridden by Pip and until she uses herself better with Pip riding her with more influence we will not step up from the very basic work.

Pip and Buffy 31st March warm up
Warming up – 31st March 2014

Pippa also gets to ride and work with various occasional horses at the yards I teach at as well as having a responsible task of demonstrating posture and seat exercises on Ithacus. Pretty cool way to learn I think 🙂

Pip on Ithacus

Other tasks

Apart from being put through her paces riding wise, Pippa also assist with all the regular training on which I quiz her regularly 😉 When I did shadow training with Anna Ross-Davies, I got to appreciate the effect of reflection on things learnt. I remember the first time I sat through a day long clinic with Anna listening to her teaching and watching from 8am until 8pm until my eyeballs felt dry she’d asked me on the way back what I learnt on the day. I did feel rather overwhelmed to have had that opportunity in the first place and at that time and probably learnt more in a day than I did for a year so I had no idea what to say. Quizzing trainee instructors has since been on my regular coaching agenda.

As I do a lot of filming Pippa is also of great help as I no longer have to concentrate on catching the right footage and teach at the same time. She helps with grooming and tacking up of the horses we hire for training and looks after clients when I am busy. From last week I’d also started getting her involved in teaching sessions incorporating her racing knowledge and experience into the Aspire training mix 😉


Last but not least, Pip does a lot of driving since we work in many different places but enjoys it thankfully!

I hope you enjoyed this little look into Pippa’s training. If you have any questions comment away and if you would like to know more about how to train with us please have a look HERE


Joining Aspire Equestrian for a trial next month is…

PippawebsiteOne Sunday afternoon in 2006 or 2007 I was teaching this schoolgirl who was also a helper at the riding school I freelanced at at the time. We had this troublesome pony to exercise and she was the only kid who was happy to get on the mare but also the only person I wanted to teach on that little bronco! The girl found it all incredibly exciting while I was watching the mare’s displays with heart in my throat 😉

In between exuberant and spooky behaviour, the pony worked really well and the girl had a lovely natural feel despite being a fairly novice rider. That afternoon, after the girl survived some serious flying challenges from the mare and then worked her very well until she relaxed and let go of tension, I told her that if she was still in the horse industry and wanted to be an instructor when I set up my own coaching programme, I would find her and get her to work with me.

Some seven years later, I have kept my promise 😉 

Pippa has indeed remained working with horses. She continued at the riding centre until she’d finished her GCSE’s. We spent numerous hours on the lunge aiming at developing good dressage seat and then, at 16, she popped her stirrups up her chin and away she galloped straight to British Racing School…She decided fly & buck ponies were still not exciting enough I guess!

One thing she always had was great work ethics and I wasn’t surprised to hear she finished the infamously hard course and immediately got a job. Years went by and she worked at different yards eventually deciding she wanted to do her licence and become a jump jockey. We lost touch for a couple of years and at the end of last year I had heard she had just left racing to train towards her BHS exams…

If you follow this blog you will know I have busy plans for this year (2014 goals HERE) and taking on a trainee instructor was on my mind for a while. 

So I picked up the phone…

Pippa will start by doing a trial month with me in March to see how she likes it (if it’s exciting enough!) and how I find her commitment to teach well and if all goes well then watch this space…:)