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Prep for Francois’ horse riding training underway!

Alaska is feeling the best she’s ever done, she is so much lighter and has better self-carriage, so I’m sure Francois will see a difference from his visit in May. She’s trimmed and ready to go! I have yet to polish my boots and tack; must be smartly turned out for the french Master horseman! Exciting & nervous all at once!

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Centered Riding & NLP Workshop…details & booking.

Hi All, book on this super opportunity to try Centered Riding principles & NLP yourself in a classroom!Christine Worthington Master   NLP Coach, Master Practitioner of Hypnosis and Time Line TherapyTM Ann Marie Ingram Centered Riding   Instructor and BHSAI


Saturday 29 September 2012 – 1:00 to 4:00 pm

Crow Wood Equestrian Centre, Royle Lane, Burnley, Lancs, BB12 0RT

Join Christine and Ann Marie on this half day workshop which will help horse riders to:

  • Set achievable goals
  • Help them get ÔÇ£unstuckÔÇØ
  • Learn strategies to be more positive
  • Increase their confidence
  • Influence their horses way of going
  • Use their body effectively

With a centered mind and body you will achieve the harmony in your riding that you desire.┬á This will enable you to do more with your horse ÔÇô whatever discipline, whether competitive or not.

Come along and have some fun learning from two experienced practitioners ÔÇô without your horse so you can really concentrate on mind and body!

Your investment is ┬ú25 ÔÇô payable in advance by booking with Ann Marie Ingram

Call or email for the booking form: 07527 230014


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Horse training update pending Francois’s visit!

Apologies for my long absence.  Alaska & I have been working hard to improve ready for the return of Francois Lemaire de Ruffieu, and he will be with us on Monday!

Using Centered Riding training principles has really helped Alaska begin to use her hind legs correctly and achieve some self carriage.  This is a great relief to my arms as they now remain in my sockets throughout the schooling session.

We had a visit from Sue Leffler, a top Centered Riding Instructor and the horse riding techniques she taught were transformational.  Have you always wondered how some people can get on the horse and it goes beautifully for them; in more balance and with less apparent effort from the rider?  Me too!

I’m convinced Sue’s teaching shows the key.┬á┬áSome people who ride well & do┬áit naturally find it hard to be aware of & explain what they are doing to help the horse so much.┬á Luckily, Lisa Pritchard┬átaught me how to achieve this magical seat that seems to relax the horse and almost instantly improves its balance by explaining what Sue Leffler teaches.┬á I’m working to improve it every day as I ride.

We had fun hissing through our teeth very hard and being aware of which muscles were engaged in our groin, sides, back & abdomen by this action.┬á It gives a very strong & secure feeling in the core muscles of your body, I felt more grounded, even sitting on top of Alaska’s 17 hands!┬á Using these muscles as you ride encourages self carriage from the horse because the rider is in self carriage, and we all know what fantastic mirrors horses are of their riders!!!┬á By hissing into my underarms & shoulders I felt (& it was visible to Lisa looking on) my shoulders drop back and my contact with the horses mouth became more sensitive.

I find now that when Alaska gets heavy in my right rein it is often because I need to ‘hiss’┬á into my underarms to release the tension that I hold there.

Centered Riding is about helping riders become aware of how their body affects the horse and to become aware of an alternative so that a choice can be made.  Above is a great example of how Centered Riding works in practice; I now have a choice to continue holding tension in my underarms which encourages Alaska to lean on the rein, or I can become aware of it and choose to change by breathing into/relaxing that body part, helping her to relax & find her own balance, not leaning on the rein.

More on the above technique in future posts.┬á And of course, I’ll keep you updated with our Francois lessons.

Happy Horse Riding!

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A riding lesson with Lisa

Today Alaska & I were put through our paces by Lisa Pritchard, my Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor and friend.┬á She is the organiser of our fabulous classical horse riding clinics with Francois Lemaire de Ruffieu.┬á A month after he left us I wanted to ensure Alaska & I weren’t slipping back into old habits.┬á Lisa has a keen eye so is the best person to have ‘on the ground’ to help with this.

Sometimes changes occur so gradually that it is hard to appreciate them, but having Lisa draw my attention to the difference in Alaska pushed home the point that┬á’every day for breakfast’ as Francois says,┬áis worthwhile.┬á Repetition of consistent aids with a clear goal in mind and a step by step approach really does work with horses.┬á They like stability and learn best with this approach.

Our riding lesson today was to ensure I was performing established exercises correctly, and the reason for doing them in a particular order.  For example, first we walked a figure of 8 made up from 2 x 10m circles, using the inside leg over the centre line to create activity in the stride, being careful not to let the energy created go out through the outside shoulder.

We moved on to the zig zag exercise on a 10m circle, doing shallow ones followed by much deeper ones to increase mobility in Alaska’s shoulders.┬á She’s less flexible on the left so this exercise really helps her.

Then moving the haunches outwards on this circle just 3 steps each time.┬á Again, I needed to be sure she didn’t ‘cheat’ by moving her shoulders instead.┬á Lisa’s suggestion here was to imagine the circle drawn on the school surface and to keep Alaska’s inside foreleg on that circle.┬á On the right rein moving haunches out she was more likely to drift out through her less flexible left shoulder, so I was more aware of supporting her with my outside hand as my inside leg asked her to step outwards.┬á It is easier for the horse if your weight is in the right place, which is to the outside in this movement.┬á The inside leg has to push the haunches back onto the circle to finish.

Between each section it is key to activate the horse by moving on in the walk or trot or it can become locked, stiff and ‘dead’ feeling.┬á Francois always does suppling work followed by forwardness, I can hear him now say ‘Activate!’

From the beginning figure 8 the horse’s spine is loosened off, then zig zag releases the forehand and then haunches are worked.┬á The horse is exercised logically & progressively so it is more able to succeed, building confidence and physical strength.┬á This is why the order of the exercises is important.

Any questions or comments please reply to this, or any post.

Happy Horse Riding!

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Classical horse riding – continued.

Well what fantastic riding weather we’ve had recently!┬á It all started just after Francois left us – what a shame he missed the warmth.┬á We were chatting & realised that every time Francois does a clinic for us it rains at some point and is usually cold, no wonder he likes to live in Florida now!

So Alaska & I have our classical horse riding homework for his re-visit in September.┬á We have to improve moving the shoulders with softness & lightness, Alaska needs to be obedient to lighter aids for the┬átransitions.┬á Moving the haunches is where we need to do most work.┬á “She cheats!” as Francois says, by moving her shoulders instead of her haunches.

He reminded me to only ask for a small movement of the haunches outwards and only for a step or two at first, then build it up.┬á I was asking for too much too soon; Alaska was telling me this by using the evasion of moving her shoulders instead.┬á┬áWhen I ask only for an amount she can manage all goes well.┬á An excellent principle to remember – when horse training only move in small steps to build a solid foundation.┬á It’s important to be aware of what the horse is telling you and increase the challenge by tiny amounts.┬á “Make it easy for the horse to learn” Francois’s words echo in my head.

The results of a solid training foundation were apparent┬áin┬áthe last lesson of the clinic.┬á We were┬áprivileged to watch a horse & rider learn Piaffe in Francois’s expert hands.┬á More on this next time!

Happy horse riding until then!



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Francois Lemaire De Ruffieu comes to Cheshire!

What a great five sessions it was, packed with information┬ádelivered by┬áFrancois’s inimitable humour.┬á

Alaska was quite excited by the whole thing, being in a different location and schooling with other horses in the arena.  There were two other horse & rider combinations in the lesson with us so we all learnt from each others successes & mistakes.

Francois focused on having the horses obedient to the rider by helping them be softer & better balanced.┬á The zigzag exercise in walk trot & canter is excellent for this.┬á Also, slowing down the trot and moving it on, with a variety of pace in between keeps the horse’s attention on the rider and builds their muscles to carry more weight behind.

Alaska benefitted very much from all this as she’s such a large horse, there’s a lot of weight for her to shift backwards!┬á Francois had us troting a very small circle around him, then using an indirect rein to open it out, then asking for the canter.┬á Then riding the smaller circle again in the canter and pushing it out again!┬á I never believed Alaska could canter such a small circle!┬á It just proved that the foundation of the work is the key to good performance.

This is the way Francois teaches canter departs, and he stresses not to get cross with the horse if it takes the wrong diagonal, just keep going and it will sort it out for itself.┬á If this happens several times then ” we need to have a discussion with┬á(the horse)┬áabout it”.

Francois’s calm and patient attitude while teaching classical horse riding is crucial I believe in his success.┬áHe stresses we must be consistent in the aids we use. I feel horses respond more positively to patience and consistency, learning more quickly and willingly.┬á They are fascinating teachers themselves as Francois highlighted to me with Alaska.┬á She felt the slightest movement in particular exercises when I hadn’t realised I was moving, and Francois explained this was why I wasn’t getting the results I expected.┬á A light bulb moment!

Happy Horse Riding!


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Penultimate day and riding is going well!

The last couple of weeks have been hectic preparing ourselves for the visit of the Horse Riding Expert of Classical Riding – Francois Lemaire De Ruffieu!

What an honour to have him teach us!┬á I hope Alaska is on her best behaviour and, believe me, if she goes like she did in our schooling session today I’ll be very pleased!

The weeks of patience and repetition seem to have paid off at just the right moment.┬á Alaska was much softer today on both reins, carrying herself more and so was better balanced on turns & circles.┬á┬á The transitions we’d practiced through halt, walk, trot helped somewhat but the exercise which helped her most was riding the trot with a long stride for a few strides, then shortening it, and varying the length of the long & short trot strides.┬á We went from almost extended trot to almost passage and everything in between which really switched her on and grabbed her interest.┬á She waited for the commands and was light & balanced enough to come back to shorter trot strides when I asked with half halts.

The zig zag exercise that Francois teaches Alaska found hard in our early sessions.  Gradually I have encouraged her to carry more weight behind and develop a softer poll & jaw through flexion exercises.  Now she is improving at the zig zag.

This exercise helps loosen the horse’s shoulders and lighten the forehand.┬á Start in walk, just open┬áthe rein to the inside to ask for flexion, not neck┬ábend.┬á You may need to have a fairly short rein for this.┬á When the horse softens you must release your hold as a reward and then you can open the rein a little more to move the shoulders off the track.┬á Not pulling the horse, just indicating the direction with the rein.┬á The shoulders & forehand┬áonly need move a step or two off the track to the inside to start with, then move that rein in the opposite direction (an indirect rein)┬áso the rein touches the neck and shift your weight slightly in that direction also.┬á You are aiming to move the shoulders back on to the track, thus performing a zig zag pattern.

When the horse is performing this easily in circles move on to doing it in the trot.  The horse must move its weight backwards to be able move its shoulders so the exercise improves suppleness & balance and obedience in the horse.

I’ll report back tomorrow after our lesson with the Great Francois.

Meanwhile, Happy Horse Riding!

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Centering in Horse riding to Improve Lightness & Balance

What a difference in Alaska today!  Her balance is definitely improving.  As soon as I collected up the reins there was much less weight in them, particularly the right rein.

My usual gentle flexing left & right on one rein, just releasing as she relaxes her poll & jaw, seems to be the key.  Then the same on the other rein.  If she starts to lean on my hand just raising it, sometimes including a squeeze of the rein, encourages her to relax and come off her forehand.

All the time I need to be acutely aware that I’m in balance and in good posture myself.┬á As with all horses, she’s a great teacher and reflects any loss of balance or concentration on my part.┬á This is where being Centered is key.

Sally Swift’s Centered Riding principle of being Centered allows the rider a great degree of awareness of how they affect the horse, so gives more possibility to be a positive influence rather than an unintended hindrance to the horse’s movement.┬á The Center is found around 1 or 2 inches below your navel and deep inside your body, against the front of your spine.┬á It is the human’s center of gravity,┬áenergy & control┬áand so is crucial for balance and effective movement.

There are very strong muscles deep in this area of the body from your diaphragm & rib cage to your spine, others from the spine to the pelvis and down to your thighs.  It is these muscles that need to be activated to allow the rider stability in the saddle while still able to be free & soft to move with the horse.

Centering is one of the four basics in Centered Riding and I’ll cover these in more detail in future posts.

Happy horse riding til then!

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Training all weekend – with Ben Hart

Hi All,

I spent the weekend with a group of other horse riders and riding instructors, some of us Centered Riding Instructors.┬á We enjoyed the benefit of Ben Hart’s Horsemanship over the two days.

He was explaining and demonstrating the benefits of┬áunderstanding the art and science of equine behaviour.┬á We all engaged in the discussion about positive and negative reinforcement, their use and mis-use.┬á It was fascinating to learn more about the social grouping in┬áwild herds.┬á We saw how a horse thinks things through in the practical sessions thanks to Brandy and Cal, our two equine ‘volunteers’!

The aim of the weekend was for us as horsewomen (no men were on the course) to discover our true leadership potential as trainers of humans and equines.┬á This is of interest to me as I’m keen to develop┬ámy leadership style for my horse training which puts the horse’s learning and welfare first, while still achieving the horse’s potential.┬á The weekend confirmed I’m on the right track and offered more food for thought on the subject as well.┬á Ben’s presentation style is amusing but informative.┬á He ensures everyone’s questions are fully answered and that everyone understands the concepts he introduces.

Now I shall be even more mindful of listening to Alaska’s comments as we school and hack out.┬á On a recent occasion she appeared to be very chilled out, quite hard for her as she’s usually chilled anyway.┬á Usually as I mount from the mounting block I shorten the right rein so that she looks slightly to the right, away from me.┬á This is incase she moves her quarters, they will move towards rather than away from me as I mount, so making it easier, not harder to get on.

As she was looking so relaxed I decided not to shorten the right rein this time.┬á As I started to mount she whipped her head round and brushed my bottom with her teeth!┬á Very cheeky!┬á I wasn’t quick enough to chastise her as I was rather busy balancing on one leg trying to get on!┬á The weekend confirmed that I was correct not to be late with my reaction because two actions even a couple of seconds apart are viewed by the horse as two separate actions.┬á This means that a reprisal needs to be instant for the horse to associate it with the incident you wish to stop.

Timing in our communication with horses is crucial, but after this weekend I realise now just how crucial it is.┬á Share your timing triumphs and disasters at the bottom of this post in the comments box, I’d love to hear them!

Happy Horse Riding!

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Horse training continued – Alaska’s progress

She’s doing really well.┬á Her tendency to fall onto her forehand is reducing as she begins to carry more weight further back.┬á Her arthritic off hind is coping well so far and long may it continue.┬á I have taken things slower than I would with other horses as I’m conscious of not aggravating the lameness in that leg.

It’s evident that she’s worked correctly in the past because as soon as she’s got enough fitness to carry herself she does.┬á It’s a matter of reconnecting those old neural pathways of correct muscle usage and building the physical strength in the muscles at the same time.

Our warm up consists of riding large in the school while loosening off her poll and jaw with flexion exercises.┬á I ask with my hand out to the side to just be able to see her eye on that side and at first she’s resisting me.┬á Her jaw is tight and the weight in the rein is substantial.┬á As I sponge the rein maintaining the contact she releases her hold and I can drop my hand to bring the rein back in line with her mouth.

At first this took sometime to achieve, but I did not want to trot with such a weight in the rein as she just bowls onto her forehand even more.  From a relaxed poll & jaw I move on to transitions of walk to halt and incorporate trot gradually.  Each time she gets heavy I use a downwards transition by using a body half halt (some need to be quite strong) and if needed I raise my hand until we achieve the transition.

At present we have a few steps of self carriage interspersed by the old heaviness which can sometimes be retrieved by my just using centering and lots of pulsing, strong half halts.  At other times we need a down transition to get back on track.

As in any horse riding each day is different and for me this is the joy.┬á The number of transitions I can ask Alaska to do and she stays calm throughout is refreshing for me.┬á Having ridden a thoroughbred for years, doing transitions so much was not an option as they’d just send her through the roof with frustration.

I’m sure some of you have experienced similar and pondered how to produce more engagement without creating an explosion.┬á I shall speak more about that soon, meanwhile to reply or add a comment to this blog fill in the boxes below and tell me your thoughts & experiences, I’d love to hear them.

Happy Horse riding for now!

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