I've picked up some more freelance teaching hours at a truly delightful little yard, locally to me. How lucky am I to have found not one, but two, lovely yards to freelance at! The 'new' yard has invested in a riding simulator, and I went along to a staff practice session the other day. I absolutely adore simulators, and have become very accustomed to them (the yard where I learned to ride had one; Hartpury university has 2 - a standard one, and a very rare Eventing one; and now this new yard has one as well!). I had a play with some Franklin balls to fix a few things. I was throwing my hip out to the left, and collapsing over my right hip which you can see a little in the video (more side planks needed, unfortunately - I hate doing them!).
The weight sensor shows-up on the screen as a dot that moves around side to side and forwards & backwards with your weight, I was able to keep the dot centred and very steady and still, so was obviously much more balanced than I felt, which was nice!
Why do we school horses? To make them more enjoyable to ride? For competition success? To reduce injuries? Yes, all true. But if you believe that your horse doesn't use what they learn at other times, you are wrong!
What you teach them, stays with them.
I schooled a horse not long ago. One of his main 'problems', if you can call it that, was that he was particularly heavy on his outside shoulder. He fell out, he was on-the-forehand etc. Shoulder-in was designed for horses in exactly this stage of his training, so that was the focus of our session. As he had only done it a few times, if at all, I introduced it from the beginning. He was very wobbly at first, as it to be expected. By the end he was finding it much easier, and really understood what I needed from him. To cool off, I gave him a trot around on a really long rein and just left him to do his thing. He lost balance and dropped onto his shoulder about 2/3 of the way up the long side and put himself into shoulder in for a few steps until the balance was better, and then straightened up again. I didn'd do anything, it was all him. I highly doubt this horse had been having visions of competing at the next Olympics. Horses, like water, take the path of least resistance. They usually do whatever they find the easiest, and the thing that is in their best interests. He is using what he has learned because being more balanced, by being less downhill and less on the shoulder, is easier and more comfortable for him. They are also creatures of habbit, so will keep repeating the same things over and over - now he's used it once by himself, and been rewarded by a more comfortable feeling, he will keep doing so. So he will continue to use this in future schooling sessions, out hacking, and when hooning around the field. He will be balancing himself, strengthening his own hindend, learning about taking more weight on his hind quarters, and suppling his own body even when there's nobody around.
It's often mentioned that you only ride for one hour a day, so how they spend the other 23 hours counts. Usually this is brought up in discussions of haynets vs feeding from the floor, or turnout vs stabling. It is, however, very much true, By schooling, you are giving your horse the skills to make those 23 hours count. Now, I'm not suggesting that you will see your horse practicing his leg yields from one side of the field to other, It won't be that obvious! But what you might see, is a few small steps across if they take a corner too tightly when having a canter round. You might see them use their hindlegs to stop themselves, rather than just dumping onto their shoulders. Everything in a dressage test is based on natural movements that horses can and will perform on their own. In schooling sessions, you are helping them to understand it a bit better, and get better at it with some guidance from their rider.
"I'm a classically trained rider/trainer, who teaches all disciplines including Franklin balls & positional work, in-hand work & long-reining, equitation theory, and stable management. I offer goal-focussed coaching, to all levels of rider including first-time horse owners and riders with disabilities. I hold a BSc Equestrian Sports Science, BHS qualifications, Franklin Ball certified trainer, and NLP Practitioner".
Pivo meet is a great option for live remote coaching. You don't need someone to video, just your pivo, phone, and some bluetooth headphones.
In-hand & long-reining; dressage & flatwork; positional correction and/or Franklin ball lessons are all available.
The other option is Wise Owl Equitation; an online platform designed specifically for remote coaching of riders & equestrians, allowing me to teach riders anywhere in the world. Dressage/flatwork, in-hand work, long-reining, Franklin balls & positional work, equitation theory, and stable management lessons are all available.
I've kept my prices affordable, so everyone can get involved;
I charge just £20 for a 60 minute, 1:1 lesson and only £10 for a 30 minute slot.
I charge £20 for video commentary (video analysis). Via the platform.
Click for my Wise Owl Equitation profile
First 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.
I'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!
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.
What 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...
So 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.
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.
Long-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.
After a very quiet few months, due to a certain pandemic that need not be mentioned, I am finally back out teaching. Yesterday was the first day back, and it was both busy and brilliant! 12 lessons taught in all, and all went superbly.
Each clients is different, with different horses, needs, ambitions etc. so each lesson is different.
I am a dressage trainer and general equestrian coach in Surrey, Sussex, and Berkshire. I teach dressage lessons, and hold a range of riding and equestrian clinics around the UK, and use my blog to share horse training tips, advice, and resources.