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 know how it sounds. I know. But, as a riding instructor I can speak from the experience of having genuinely seen it work in every client of mine that has tried it.
As I've written about on many occasions, having an independent seat is vital for good riding. Common problem areas are tension in the hips/pelvis, stiffening of the back, and stiffness of the arms or shoulders. If you are stiff, tight, or restricted in any of these areas, it will almost certainly impact how you ride; your balance, the refined communication with your horse, and your horse's ability to carry you well.
One of my favourite (albeit newer) techniques to improve tension areas is to "breath into" that area. Some people find it really easy, and it comes quite naturally for them, for others it takes work. As a rider myself, the thing I struggle with the most is actaully remembering to do it!
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.
Nice, short little post for you today for a change; 4 benefits of using Franklin Balls.
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...
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.
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.