<![CDATA[RV International - equestrian coach - Blog]]>Wed, 13 Jan 2021 03:11:01 +0000Weebly<![CDATA[Using your seat to turn & bend]]>Tue, 12 Jan 2021 16:27:28 GMThttp://rvinternational.co.uk/blog/using-your-seat-to-turn-bendFirst of all, please forgive my awful drawing! An artist, I am not! The drawing only serves for illistrative purposes and is most definitely not anatomically or proportionally correct.

As riders, we should always strive for quiet, effective communication which is sympathetic. Foreceful riding, and the all-to-common "kick and pull" approach should be avoided so far as is possible. Most riders know that we should use our seat more than we actually do, but has anyone explained to you exactly how to do that? For a long time, I was told "use your seat, do less with your reins" and everytime I was left thinking "How? What does that actually mean?". Today, I'm going to briefly cover how to use your seat when turning and bending, and why you should use your seat.
First, let's tackle the "why?"
In short, it's just better.
  • most riders find it easier, less tiring, less hard work, with less 'pushing and shoving' needed
  • it frees up your hands for simple, quiet communication with the horse
  • it usually results in much less resistance from the horse
  • it's kinder to the horse's mouth
  • you can ride in a more relaxed way, allowing the horse to stretch and move without compromising control
  • many horses will be much straighter, less like to fall in or out when ridden in this way
  • it naturally encourages the horse to bend around your inside leg
Okay, so "how?"
Turning and bending is actually one of the easiest things to start with if you aren't familiar with using your seat.
  1. Hip to opposite ear
  2. Belly button to where you want to go
  3. Take your shoulders and elbows with you

Using the diagram below as an example, i.e. achieving left bend or a left turn, here is my thought process.
The front of my right to hip turned towards the horse's left ear
Belly button turned to the left, in line with or more than the centre of my pelvis (depending on what I'm trying to achieve).
Left shoulder (and left elbow) back (or counter clockwise if viewed from above) to the same degree as my belly button is twisted. Avoid pulling back on the inside rein, whilst your arm and shoulder are being taken backwards you would still do this even if you had no contact on the horse's mouth whatsoever - it's your body movement that creates the bend, not the inside rein.
Stretch the space between my bottom left rib and top of my left hip to ensure that I don't collapse through my left hip.
As the horse bends their neck (and body) to the left, the left side will become shorter and the right side will become longer. So it's important that you allow your outside (in this case, right) shoulder and elbow to come forwards, which gives the horse enough room to stretch the lengthened side of their neck. That is not to say you should throw your outside rein away, keep a gentle contact on it and keep it close to the neck to catch the energy created by the horse's inside hind leg.
Inside leg to outside rein
The use of the inside leg to outside rein method of bending and turning is similar in a lot of ways to using the seat as described above. Using the seat almost forces you to apply the "inside leg, outside rein concept". The horse will naturally want to follow your pelvis, like a train on train tracks. This is easily seen in horse owners that are very one-sided and sit twisted one way, the horse will often learn to be twisted that way too. If you keep your pelvis perfectly straight, the horse will want to remain perfectly straight too no matter how much inside leg you apply. By keeping your pelvis straight, and choosing not to use it, you're creating more work for yourself!
Other methods of turning & bending
Result of turning by using inside rein and inside leg
In the above, using the inside leg and inside rein; the horse is being pushed out by the left leg, and falling out through the right shoulder. The bend is all neck bend.
Result of turning by using outside rein and outside leg
In the above, using the outside rein and outside leg, the horse is being pulled into counter flexion with the right rein, and pushed onto the inside shoulder by the outside leg, so will fall in around the corner.
I hope this has helped clear some of your confusion!
As always, if you need any help or have any questions, do feel free to ask. You can reach me on my emails, FB Messenger, or Instagram DMs. Have a play with it when you next ride and see what kind of a result you get. Circles and serpentines are a good place to experiment!
<![CDATA[4 benefits of using Franklin Balls]]>Tue, 24 Nov 2020 10:53:59 GMThttp://rvinternational.co.uk/blog/4-benefits-of-using-franklin-balls
Nice, short little post for you today for a change; 4 benefits of using Franklin Balls.
  1. Improve your balance, position, coordination of movement, and "feel"
  2. Improve your confidence due to increased stability
  3. In the long-term, it may allow you to focus on your horse's schooling, due to not having to concentrate so hard on staying balanced in the saddle
  4. Allow your horse to work more correctly, "over the back", with an engaged hindend, due to not being restricted or compromised by the rider's tension, asymmetry, or poor proprioception
<![CDATA[Franklin Ball Certifcation]]>Mon, 23 Nov 2020 21:58:36 GMThttp://rvinternational.co.uk/blog/franklin-ball-certifcation
<![CDATA[How to get the most from your Franklin Ball session]]>Sat, 14 Nov 2020 21:32:02 GMThttp://rvinternational.co.uk/blog/how-to-get-the-most-from-your-franklin-ball-sessionFranklin Balls are a branch of the Franklin Method, originally invented to improve the proprioception & suppleness of dancers, but now scientifically supported for use in equestrians.

The use of Franklin balls to improve balance, position, feel, and body awareness is becoming much more wide-spread, not just around the UK but across the globe.

I was a real sceptic when I first heard about Franklin balls. Truly, I thought it was complete nonsense; a mumbo jumbo pseudoscience.
How wrong I was!
If you're interested in trying Franklin Method balls to help your riding, keep reading to see my 3 top tips for getting the most out of your session.
 Get help
When I first tried Franklin balls for myself, I was blown away....and I had no idea what I was doing! I had watched a few YouTube videos, worked out that I could wedge an orange one under each thigh whilst riding, and decided to do just that. It worked, without question, but I was missing out on half the benefits.

There are a lot of coaches that offer lessons in the use of Franklin balls, but many of them have only watched a handful of YouTube videos. Like me, intially at least, they only know a small fraction of all of the information available to certified coaches. The Franklin ball certified trainers course is lengthy. The in-person course is 2 days, and the online (Covid friendly) version involved 3x 3 hour webinars, plus a whole heap of videos not available to the general public.. We are talking hours and hours of intense, specialised training.

Working out where to put Franklin balls whilst riding is relatively straight-forward, you're options are somewhat limited to say the least. The underpinning knowledge and the use of imagery & psychological skills is something that most of the non-certified 'trainers' are severely lacking.  It's the troubleshooting, knowing which balls will help you and how to modify them so your session is successful, getting straight to the source of your biomechanical or movement-pattern problem (which might not be what you think), the ability to help riders really help themselves, It's these kinds of skills, amongst many others, that get the long-lasting results riders crave.

The Franklin Method Equestrian website allows you to search for Franklin Method Equestrian Trainers (intense 10 day diploma incorporating all of the Franklin Method principles, including the Franklin Method Spine Trainer diploma, and FM Pelvis Trainer diploma), and Franklin Ball certified (incorporating the use of just Franklin Method fundamental principles, and the use of FM Balls) in your locality.

Get to know your body
Your Franklin Ball Certified or Franklin Method Equestrian Trainer will likely start your session by getting you to assess your own body; feeling for tension, eveness of your weight, equal pressure along each leg, whether the weight is dropped down into your leg or kept in your thigh, whether your pelvis is really following the horse's movement. The use of Franklin Balls has a lot to do with your own body awareness and proprioception; this is a skill that you have to practice. If a coach asks a rider "How does that feel?", and they answer "Good" or "It feels okay", it usually means they don't fully understand what they've felt. They might recognise that something has changed, and it was probably a good change, but they cannot say, specifically, what has changed or why it has made a difference.

Your Franklin Ball Certified or Franklin Method Equestrian Trainer will be able to see improvements and changes in your position, but you need to be able to recognise the changes on your own, In the long-term, your body awareness and balance changes will need to come through subconcious feeling and adjustment of your movement pattern, on-the-go, whilst you have 20 other things to think about! Your trainer will be able to help you a lot more if you can tell them what you are feeling, because what you are feeling, more often than not, is the route cause of why you sit and move in the way that you do. They can't help you as effectively if you cannot recognise feelings and change within your body. That's not to say that they cannot help you, because they can, but if you want to maximise the progress you get per session, this is how you do it.

Get into the habit of improving your focus, and concentrating on what's happening within your own body. It is hard at first, but it get's easier if you do it regularly. Remember, some people have better body awareness than others, for all sorts of reasons. Don't get disheartened if your friends or others that you ride or practice with have better feeling than you. The other thing to remember, is that riders with really good feel (myself included) usually do struggle whilst learning, because they can feel so much at once and have an information overload (and it all feels awful!)
Stick with it
Whilst you can experience incredible results in a very short space of time, even when 'experimenting' with Franklin balls, the long-term change will still take a little time. It is a highly effective training method, not a miracle cure. Using Franklin balls once will not give you Carl Hester's or Charlotte Dujardin's position until the end of your days (sorry!). It is a process, it is an individual journey for everyone, and it may take weeks or months to make the changes really stick long-term. Positional and biomechanical work is an on-going process, it is something you will have to keep coming back to the whole way through your riding career. Even Spanish Riding School riders, who have spent years in the lunge developing a superb position, have the occaisonal session to fix any niggling habits that have crept in overtime.

Practice the cues and imagery you've used in sessions whilst training away from sessions (if you have the opportunity to ride between sessions), and show a little bit of grit! Have confidence, know your worth, and understand that your future self will thank you for that decision. Remember, if you only improve 1% everyday, in a year you will have improved by more than 300%. Small improvements each day will lead to big goals being ticked off your bucket list!

    Franklin ball lesson enquiries

<![CDATA[Want to work with horses? Part 2: Apprenticeship or equine college?]]>Thu, 29 Oct 2020 11:08:06 GMThttp://rvinternational.co.uk/blog/want-to-work-with-horses-part-2-apprenticeship-or-equine-collegeI went down the 'college' and then degree option. I don't regret it for a second.

You will hear from, typically the older generation, of yard owners, that equine college courses (and god forbid, equine degrees!) were hand delivered to the equine industry by Satan himself. Many of these people do not believe in science as a concept.

They've experienced occurances with former college students being 'useless', 'ineffective' or 'unsafe'. They often want someone who's completed an apprenticeship, because they've learned on-the-job, and already have 2 years of full-time experience before coming to them. If you are going to go down the college route, don't be one of these people. Get some experience too. I did my BHS exams alongside my degree, and had working student/voluntary/training/paid equine jobs whilst doing so. Your aim should be to come out the other side as well-rounded individual.

In the short-term, the apprentices will progress a lot faster in the industry than others. What about when they are 40? When they want to settle down? When their back causes them absolute agony every waking moment, and they start taking Co codomol on a regular basis just to get through the day? When they want to leave the industry? (I know you might not believe me, but I promise, it does happen. People do throw in the towel and get a 'normal' job). Those former apprentices may well end up working in a supermarket, getting paid £9 an hour to scan items and take payment from customers. Those who've done the college route, and achieved UCAS points, can go to university (if they haven't do so already), and take a £40,000+ project management job, or go into another well-paid profession.
There is nothing wrong with considering, and planning for, a future outside of the equine industry... just in case.

It's all very well and good having experience, but until you're at least middle-aged, you'll be learning daily. What happens if you encounter a problem you haven't come across before? Find ourself in a situation you have no experience of? What do you do? Nothing. There's nothing you can do (other than hope someone who does have experience of this problem becomes available to advise).

In  absence of experience, you need knowledge. You need to be able to find information, read it, understand it, read some more, and formulate your own opinion on how to handle the situation very quickly. That is something that college courses and degrees give people. In my humble (albeit, biased) opinion, it's irreplacable. If I get stuck, I get my phone out and jump onto Google Scholar. I read a few articles, so I can understand the problem better, come up with a solution based on what I now know. If it works, it's logged as good experience (do that again, if it happens again). If it doesn't work, it's logged as bad experience (try something different next time). I'm not even 25, there have been (and will continue to be) many, many firsts. The ability to research and problem-solve in record time has been hugely beneifical, and will continue to be, without a doubt.

The option you take is, of course, up to you.
Both options have strengths and weaknesses, and will afford you different opportunities, connections, and skills.
<![CDATA[Want to work with horses? Part 1: Have you considered slave labour?]]>Thu, 29 Oct 2020 10:30:27 GMThttp://rvinternational.co.uk/blog/want-to-work-with-horses-part-1-have-you-considered-slave-labourI'm not particularly old, and I don't have 5 decades of life experience, but I like to think that some of what I've experienced might be useful to those of you who are trying to get your foot in the door of the equine industry.

It's important to remember that the equine industry is an experience and connections industry. It's about where you've worked, what you've done, and who you know. Your qualifications, for the most part, are secondary.
Voluntary work/Free labour
This bit of advise is possibly a little controversial. I've spent a lot of my time, up until this point in my career, 'working' for free. And now that I'm trying to really push forwards in my career, it's something that I'm going back to doing.

I'm sorry to say, you have to start at the bottom of the foodchain, and work your way up. Nobody jumps straight in to a well-paying job, it's just not realistic in our industry. I've learned a huge amount through the free labour I've contributed, it's probably benefitted me more than the extortionate sums I've spent on professional training.

Yes, you can get ripped off. You can be treated as slave labour. But there are brilliant people out there too, with wonderful yards, and lovely horses who are willing to go out of their way to help you - so long as you uphold your side of the bargain, and put in a little effort in return.

Some examples of places I've 'worked' and volunteered for free;
Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA)
I spent two years volunteering at the RDA. I started, like many people do, volunteering for the DofE award. I was trained in basic horse care, gained experience in caring for horses (some with quite difficult personalities). I swept, and discovered how important a well-swept yard is to my mood. I poo picked. I made feeds. I groomed & tacked-up, including learned to fit and apply specialist tack and equipment. I side-walked with riders and led in lessons. RDA groups always (present Covid pandemic aside), need volunteers. They need all the help they can get, and the RDA has a system in place for training volunteers. They will usually be very good at looking after you, especially if you don't know what you're doing. Some groups and sessions are better than others, but find the group of people you can get along with and you'll learn lots!

Boarding School
I was very fortuante that the school I went to for Sixth Form had it's own stables. I took the Level 3 Subsidiary Diploma of Horse Management BTEC, alongside 2 A levels, and worked on the yard every spare minute of the day. We did everything; mucking out, grooming, turning out & catching in, tack cleaning, sweeping, schooling & lunging horses, took responsibility for younger & less experienced helpers, helped teach elements of lessons under supervision (like helping riders on a 1:1 who struggled with rising trot). I trained for, and achieved, my BHS Stage 1. I learned to ride strong horses, sharp horses, green Irish ponies, and had my first taste of competitive success. To this day, I think of this as my first horsey job.

Summer working pupil at a BHS riding school
After a very difficult 1st year at University, I'd decided that coaching (the course I originally took) wasn't for me. I had been a little traumatised by it - I had panic attacks when horses and riders came into the school. I didn't know what to do with my life - maybe run a livery yard? So, I turned to a riding school that I had taken lessons at the summer before. I began as an unofficial working student to 3 days a week, to train for my BHS Stage 2 Riding & care exams. I schooled horses, mucked out & did all yard work, helped with pony parties and own a pony days. Then, after a while, I ended up being pressured into doing some teaching - something that I'm actually very grateful for. And my plan of running a livery yard, and just doing the BHS care & riding exams was uprooted and replaced with my original goal of becoming a coach. I did achieve my Stage 2 whilst I was working there, and my Stage 2 teach a few months later.

Summerfield Stables - Birmingham
I didn't get to spend anywhere near as much time with Summerfield as I would have liked. They are truly the loveliest group of people I've ever met. I left at 5am, and drove 50 miles every Tuesday whilst at University this year to volunteer there. By the time I got home, it had usually be an 19 hour day.
I did basic yard work, taught a few lessons, rode a few horses, and in the evnings we trained for BHS exams with a help of a BHSI & Assessor from Ingestre Stables. Unfortunately, my uni house flooded so I had to come home to Surrey, and then Covid hit (3 days before I was going to go back!). It was a little bit too far to travel from home, so unfortunately I didn't get to spend as much time there as I would have liked. If you live near Birmingham - I 100% recommend these people. If I lived closer, I'd go everyday.
<![CDATA[My definition of classical training]]>Thu, 10 Sep 2020 20:28:43 GMThttp://rvinternational.co.uk/blog/my-definition-of-classical-trainingWhat springs to mind when you think of “classical training”? Dressage? Andalusian or Lusitano horses? Airs-above-the-ground? The Spanish Riding School of Vienna? People dressage up like Napoleon in traditional tailcoats and funny hats or outdated uniforms?

Whilst these things are not, necessarily, wrong. They most certainly are not the whole truth...
There are lots and lots of different definitions of classical training, and finding one that I really, truly liked was a little challenging. In the end, I came up with my own definition. I think its simple enough for most to understand, and I hope that it might give you some sort of clarity if the question “What does ‘classical’ even mean?” has been troubling you.
Classical training is the methodical training of a horse, which seeks to improve the horse’s natural athletic ability by utilising progressive gymnasticisng exercises; to improve balance, suppleness, engagement, and collection. This is characterised by a lifted back, the hindleg stepping under the horse’s centre of gravity, biomechanically correct gaits (no diagonal advanced placement, positive or negative), free movement, with the head on or slightly in front of the vertical.
In addition, the horse’s training should produce a confident, relaxed, obedient, and attentive horse who is highly sensitive to the rider’s subtle seat, weight, leg, and hand.
All of this combines so that true lightness and harmony can be achieved. Of course, this also requires that the rider can maintain exceptional balance, and a correct, independent, classical position.
Of course, these principles do not apply exclusively to dressage. They have as much influence in the show jumping arena as they do between the boards!
P.S. The horse's welfare should absolutely be a priority - but I'm sure you could have guessed that. There are times when a rider may need to be fractionally more 'committed' and ride more 'strongly' than they would like, particularly in the case of older horses who have been schooled incorrectly in the past. My physio once had to really, really lean on my knee to help get movement back into after surgery and, whilst it wasn't pleasant, it was short-term, 100% for my best interests, and the only option that didn't include more invasive surgery. Sometimes with the horses, a similar situation will occur and that is life. 'Stronger' forms of riding should only be used when absolutely necessary, and only if it's for the horse's benefit, not for the purpose of winning a competition.

P.P.S. Competition is not forbidden! Classical riders can go to shows too!
<![CDATA[Rider biomechanics video]]>Fri, 03 Jul 2020 13:05:57 GMThttp://rvinternational.co.uk/blog/rider-biomechanics-videoSo I've decided to hunt down some really useful resources - videos, diagrams etc. that I can share with you guys! They will all be shared on my Facebook page, and a lot will make there way to here too.

This one was created by an American dressage rider, trainer and Doctor of Chiropractics, and it's all about using the core, and goes into hip flexors a little bit. It's quite long (a little over an hour) so make sure you've got some biscuits and a drink! Credit Jamie Pestana D.C. & Megan Leonard.
<![CDATA[Mental health awareness]]>Thu, 02 Jul 2020 23:11:00 GMThttp://rvinternational.co.uk/blog/mental-health-awareness
Mental health, and mental health awareness, is so important, especially at a time like this! I'm so grateful to UK Coaching for offering this vital training, and making it available to sports coaches from all sports and backgrounds.
I always try to add to my skills and knowledge so that I can help my clients to the very best of my ability, and I am so pleased that I can be a little more confident in my ability to support riders who experience problems or challenges with their mental health, so that we can all enjoy what our fantastic sport has to offer.

#mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthinsport #mentalhealthequine #wearehereforyou #ridinginstructor #horseriding #dressagecoach #equestriancoach #equestrians
<![CDATA[New type of clinic: Long-reining clinics!]]>Fri, 26 Jun 2020 19:25:03 GMThttp://rvinternational.co.uk/blog/new-type-of-clinic-long-reining-clinicsLong-reining clinics are pretty popular in the USA, but long-reining is a bit of a dying art in the UK. Most people just do straight lines and circles when long-reining, or believe that it's just for young horses, don't they? The reality is, if you can do it from the saddle, you can do it all from the ground eventually! We can use poles on the long-reins too.
Wouldn't you like;
  1. More variety in your training?
  2. The ability to introduce new movements and exercises, and allow your horse to develop their balance and strength in that exercise before introducing the weight of a rider?
  3. To see how your horse is moving, and how well they are performing?

If you're a nervous rider, wouldn't it also be great to keep training and progressing with your horse, even if you're having a "bad" day and feel too nervous to ride?

These clinics will be 30 minutes long, and will focus on improving your horse's way of going and dressage schooling.