The Importance of Great Novice Equestrian Coaches

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By RealRiderz

The coaches that first introduce people to horses are often the most underrated, but they are the ones that can make or break a riders future. 

Do you remember the first coach who put you on a horse? Sure he/she may not have been the one to take you to your first Prix St. George or 1.40m, but they did have a great deal of responsibility on their shoulders. After all, it’s up to them to make the experience both safe and great, so that the rider develops a sense of confidence and most importantly wants to continue riding horses. Trainers which give novice lessons are also fundamental to instilling the correct basics in the rider. This starts with balance which is often developed on the lunge. Balance enables the rider to have an independent seat which allows them to use their aids efficiently. Yet what exact qualities does a great beginner lesson coach possess? 

Patience. Great things come with time, and the best coaches know that. The coach is quick to correct mistakes and yet keeps the lesson simple and to the point. In addition, a great coach values and emphasizes great horsemanship throughout all of the levels. They teach the rider all around. 

Motivation. The coach makes the rider feel as if they can by believing in her and pushing them bit by bit. They set up the rider for success in each session. Before letting them canter off the lunge, they get them comfortable to canter without hands on the lunge. How do they do this? Ride without hands in walk and trot. A good seat equal good security and thus efficient transmission of the aids. The goal is to instill this knowledge into the rider to the point where the riders have little to think about when they take over the reins themselves. 

Honesty. A good coach is honest about the rider’s mistakes and timelines. If the rider comes once a week then of course it will take longer for them to be off the lunge (generally speaking). In addition, good coaches stand their ground yet stay humble and realize that they still have lots to learn. Thus, they are open to new methods and communications with their rider. They learn from every rider they teach and listen to what they have to say (sometimes that means reading the rider’s body language). 

The qualities we touched on above are surface level and great coaching for all levels is an art. Yet if you happen to find a coach (novice or advanced level) which possesses the above qualities and more, you have truly found a gem that you should appreciate. 

On the Bit: Mystery of Contact 

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By RealRiderz

Hands, most of us use them too much from the back of our horse. 

When speaking about “working” the horse correctly, there is often one word that is least talked about and causes the most confusion: contact. Top trainers always say: you just have contact with the bit. Yet how one may attempt to achieve contact always varies. Some pull, others sea saw, and then there are the occasional few that just give the reins. So what is correct contact and how should it look like? Read on to find out.

First we should talk about the prerequisites to establishing correct contact. The horse should work from the legs and seat forwards and upwards. So first, we must ensure our horse is reacting from the legs accordingly, which means that they should jump up instantly when we squeeze our calves. The seat should help bring the back up and forwards (this is achieved by sitting deep in the saddle and sitting up). The picture should look like this: the horse should bring his hind legs underneath him and shift his center of gravity to the center, causing the shoulders to raise up. This energy is revivers through the mouth into the hands of the rider, causing the neck to develop a slightly rounded shape. The horse’s head stays on a vertical line which is where the word roundness comes from. Now, here comes the slightly tricky part: knowing how to sue your hands to recycle the energy. 

Essentially it should feel like this: the horse takes the bit slightly as you keep pressure in both reins (no slack but not too much tension). Your hands belong to the horse, and you follow the mouth, but to get the rounded shape, you need to occasionally keep your hands still in order to have the horse flex at the poll, dropping the head down. The second he does that you can release the tension slightly. The ultimate goal is to have the horse carry himself in this position (this can be tested by giving the hands or slightly opening the fibers and seeing if the horse remains in the head carriage). 

*One other thing to note is that out of the two reins, outside and inside, it is the outside rein that should always have contact. The outside rein is the control rein, and most movements from turns to shoulder in should and can be done with minimum intervention from the inside rein if done correctly (to learn more about the inside rein click here). For more about the outside rein (which connects to the inside leg) click here.

The entire concept does take some time to understand and feel, but it is important to not get too stuck on the hands and remember that the core of your riding comes from the legs and seat. Hence why a horse that is dull to your legs and seat will never be truly “through” or “round.” If you are having issues getting your horse off your leg and seat, ensure that your horse is cleared by the vet and doesn’t have any tack/dental/other issues. 

Why Legend Beezie Madden is Semi-Retired

By Real Riderz

A couple of days ago Beezie Madden’s team, John Madden Sales, posted this on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=628825461936108&set=a.209851630500162

The team announced that Madden was diagnosed with a benign tumor called Vestibular Schwannoma, which can impact her balance on some days. They first made this announcement in the Canadian Horse Journal, in which Beezie stated that somedays she feels excellent, while on other days she feels down due to this new obstacle in her life. Madden stated (for the Canadian Horse Journal): “At this moment I cannot focus myself to represent my country in team competitions. That is why I decided to set a step aside.” The sympotoms of this tumor (which includes loss of balance when person turns too quickly) is the main reason why Beezie has taken a step back from the top-level sport and moving up the FEI Longines Ranking, semi-retiring.

However, this challenge does not throw busy fully out of the game, as riding is actually recommended as part of the therapy process. The comments of the post are over flowing with support, and everyone is just relieved to hear that the tumor is not life-threatnening (and that busy will still be showing her excellent riding!) Right now, the team has shifted their focus on developing youngsters and training students. This allows for the Madden team to stay flexible and work through this new challenge in Beezie’s life without having to focus on deadline dates for championships.

Our team sends the best wishes to Beezie and her team, and we are happy to be able to keep track of her progress on the American circuit.

Thrills and Spills from the FEI World Challenge Jumping Finals

By Real Riderz

On July 27 through 31, a small, little known country called Bulgaria hosted a final featured on FEI. The final is called the FEI World Challenge Finals, and you can find more information about it here. In essence the final aims to create opportunity from lack of opportunity by giving riders with less FEI experience from less developed countries the chance to compete at an international final on borrowed horses.

The welcome competition proved to be a bit rocky for some at the height of 115cm, yet many took advantage of that in order to get to know their partners as well as possible. We saw a few familiar faces of young teens that competed at the Youth Equestrian Games back in CHIO Aachen and a few older competitors that were experienced in their own right. The first qualifying competition (again at the height of 115cm) was won by Juan Felipe Gonzales (Columbia) and Larissa (2011) while Alireza Khoshdel (Iran) with Leman (2012) and Martina Rossi Sobrero (Uruguay) with Cardino 12 (2009) were second and third respectively. That left Vanessa Atanasova (Bulgaria) with Alegra (2016) in fourth and Marco Antionio Modesto (Brazil) with Kalistra (2009) in fifth.

The second qualifying competition (height 120cm) was won by Alireza Khoshdel (Iran) and Leman (2012). Second place was Layan Al Mommani (Jordan) with Darling (2006) and third was Juan Felipe Gonzales (Columbia) and Larissa (2011). Fourth and fifth was Kate Alison (Namibia) with Kevoar (2013) and Christie Paige Nair (Singapore) and Dars (2015). Unfortunately for Bulgarian rider Erduhan Sami, his horse, Valesko T (1998) ended up lame mid course which is why he retired. Alexandra Ric-Hansen of Republic of South Africa and Dexter (2015) struggled to find a relationship throughout the several days and the pair ended up withdrawing from the farewell competition.

The top eight made it to the final while the rest battled it out in the farewell competition. The farewell competition was won by Jenna Gilchrist from Namibia and Eddy Kip Cool (2006). Christie Paige Nair of Singapore and Dars (2015) placed second whole Zandi Alcock from Republic of South Africa and Nostradamus (2006) ended up third with five people competing in total.

The final competition of the challenge was one by the only double clear of the competition from an experienced Iranian rider named Alireza Khoshdel and Leman (2012). This was the only horse and rider pair that stayed clear from the welcome competition to the final. Second place was taken by Ignacio Barreiro from Ecuador riding Mona Lisa (2008) despite having a run out in one of the lines and ending with several faults from the days prior. The bronze was won by Kate Alison and Kevoar (2013) for Nambia. The pair had twelve faults the first round (which is what caused them to finish third) but finished the second round on a clean slate and had two clean courses throughout the competition.

A re-live of the event can be seen on the official FEI YouTube channel by clicking here.

FEI World Challenge Final

Photo by Kelian Pfleger on Pexels.com

By RealRiderz

This week (and coming weeks) on the FEI calender we have a lot of events going on: CSI5* Dinard, the upcoming World Championships, and of course the FEI World Challenge Final of 2022. An event that is barely talked about, but still quite interesting as it allows riders with less opportunities (less developed countries) to compete at the international level.

This years FEI World Challenge Finals for show jumping is happening in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Seventeen of the best riders in the World Challenge league have gathered to particpate in courses from 115cm to 120cm on borrowed horses provided by the host country. Twenty riders are invited to the final, they are selected based on the following criteria: the two best-placed riders from Category A from the 10 regional zones. The host country is entitled to have two of their own riders in the final. All riders are aged 15 and over. You can find more information in our previous article here.

The following is the list of participants and the horses they have drawn:

  • Marco Antonio Modesto Filho (Brazil) on Calistra (2009)
  • Vanesa Atanasova (Bulgaria) on Alegra (2016)
  • Erduhan Sami (Bulgaria) on Valesko T (1998)
  • Juan Felipe Gonzalez Cova (Columbia) on Larissa (2011)
  • Santiago Otero Montoya (Columbia) on Cronos (2015)
  • Ignacio Barreiro (Ecuador) on Mona Lisa (2008)
  • Alireza Khoshdel (Iran) on Leman (2012)
  • Layan Al Mommani (Jordan) on Darling (2006)
  • Zayd Reifhi Aloui (Morocco) on Caro (2016)
  • Jenna Gilchrist (Namibia) on Edy Kip Cool (2006)
  • Kate Alison (Namibia) on Kevoar (2013)
  • Alexandra Ric Hansen (Republic of South Africa) on Clada (2008)
  • Zandi Alcock (Republic of South Africa) on Nostradamus (2006)
  • Christie Paige Nair (Singapore) on Dars (2015)
  • Martina Rossi (Uruguay) on Cardino 14 (2009)

You can follow the livestream of Saturday’s and Sunday’s competition here:

For start lists/results, click here.

For more information about the scheduling, click here.

CHIO Aachen: Legendary Disaster?

By Real Riderz

CHIO Aachen is a legendary competition, no doubt about. Compared to the Wimbledon of the horse sport, the most well known arena in the facility is the beautiful jumping stadium. It is surrounded by enormous grand stands with loud, cheering people. There is shopping and food and other events to look at (including cross country!)

However, despite all of the greatness of the main arena, it is also one of the most disorganized events of this sorts. It starts with the parking (if you don’t reserve you’ll have to park either pretty far away or for ten euros on grass), al viewers are constantly asked to show their tickets (sometimes the ticket checker will let you in and other times not), there are lots of people walking around/making random noises in the middle of the course (many seem to be there just for the sake of it), course walks happen during prize giving, there are a bunch of random stores that nobody really needs (a lot of them non horse related, they even sell jacuzzis there), food is everywhere but there’s also a lot of food like simple fries with mayo (you have to really search to find the good stuff like grilled salmon and curry, which we highly recommend as they are both incredible). However, the cherry on top is that you have to pay for toilets (which are in limited quantities and have big queues).

There’s no doubt that competing in Aachen is a huge deal, just watching the show is a huge deal. The crowd is electric (sometimes crazily so and even to an excess causing some slightly spooky moments) and the riders (and horses) are great. There’s also no doubt that if you pay a little more for access to places like the Turkish airline stand/riders area near the warm up (or if you’re lucky enough to get though even with a normal ticket) you’ll get access to slightly better area with better overall facilities. You’ll also have more chances of meeting the star riders (the media center is there!) However, this should not be an excuse for the lack of facilities for normal people, especially considering that the show has been going for such a long period of time.

So what are the biggest areas of improvement to make the experience better for the people, and probably the horses as well (less commotion?) Looking into the small details and investing a bit more into facilities for the giant crowd of people that come every year (no more people sitting underneath empty grand stands or a euro per toilet usage!) Build a bigger parking lot, have more toilet, have less people standing around checking tickets everywhere, maybe put all the food in one place and shopping in another, etc. Otherwise, it’s a competition that everyone (in just about any English discipline) has to see at least once in their lifetime.

Your Horse is Not a Machine

By RealRiderz

A horse that can’t jump or compete at the level that it used to to is also worthy of the same love and respect as a horse that can.

It’s a saddening sight, horses for sale labeled as “meat.” Although an ad like that is most likely to be seen in less developed countries, the idea of ‘using the horse and then getting rid of it’ is still very much real no matter where you live. What is causing this mindset to be so prevalent? Professionals with the wrong mindset.

Young people are starting to adopt this mindset thanks to the professionals, turning it into a vicious cycle. We have more and more young children calling their ponies derogatory terms and young riders being rude with their aids to the horses on course. We have lesson kids coming in and leaving the horse ungroomed. And we have grooms that will leave cigarettes in the horses straws. Beyond that, we have increased wear and tear on the horse, to the point where the horse can no longer walk normally. It is at this point that the horse is usually deemed “useless.”

In the professional sports world, some have this idea of “ambition over life,” pushing the horse to its limits without correct preparation, and then forgetting about the horse once they can no longer pull the rider’s desired height. So what can we do to make sure that this attitude stops becoming more prevalent? Watch your own actions/words (especially when you are angry, irritated, or just in a rush). Recognize that there will be days when your horse won’t feel completely one hundred percent, and even days when maybe what seemed easy before will feel difficulty. With that in mind, think about why you love your horse. Do you love your horse because he took you into the new division? Would you love your horse if he could not longer compete at the same level that he used to/not be able to be ridden at all?

With those things in mind, take a moment to reflect on the reason you have your horse. It is good to have big ambitions and dreams but your horse may not have the physical capabilities or even the desire to take you there. It is good to be able to recognize that and give the horse a good life nonetheless (whether that be in your own care or in the care of someone who is a horse lover as well). Horses do so much for us, without them we as equestrians would be nowhere, so remember to always repay with your own love and care.

New FEI Team Competition Opportunities

By Real Riderz

A few days ago now, in Bojourishte, Bulgaria, European Equestrian Federation (EEF) launched a new competition format (called EEF Evolution League) which allows for less experienced riders in less developed nations to participate in FEI team competitions.

Prior to this new development program,certain National Federations simply couldn’t host many Nation Cup competitions and other had trouble putting together a team due to a lack of resources/riders. The program will be offered at CSICh, CSI1*, and CSI2* shows. Each competition with a team event will be spilt into a Children’s tour, Medium tour (rider age 14 y.o. and up), and a Big tour (rider age 15 y.o. and up). The teams will be made up of mixed nations. In the 2022 season, the EEF Evolution League will be split into single events in Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Romania. Qualifiers and Finals will be introduced in 2023, and EEF hopes to expand to the discipline of Dressage and other catagories (pony, juniors, young riders, and seniors).

This format of competitions will also be used an educational opportunityy for officials (stewards, course desingers, and judges). Up and coming officials will have the chance to learn hands on from those already working in the industry through on-site seminars and programs.

The first competition in Bulgaria was quite the success, with riders from Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Serbia, and North Macedonia. Each team (composed of mixed nationalities) named themselves. The team that won in the Medium tour competition (120 to 130cm) as the “Thin Red Line” (made up of riders Philip Velev, Desislava Milanova, and Eliza Cholakova). Triumphant in the Children’s tour (110 to 120cm) were the “Powerpuff Girls” (made up of riders Anna Maria Diaconu, Mara Elena Constantinescu, and Briana Elena Vasile). For all of these riders, this was their first experience riding in a team. The final class, Big tour (130 to 140cm), was won by the “Master Minds” (a team made up of riders Ivaylo Bonev, Filip Velev, Angel Niagolov, and Ionel Bucur. The course was just the right challenge for the riders and there was only one clear round.

In addition to a great experience for the riders, the competition in Bulgaria also offered a great first hand experience to upcoming course designer Geuorgui Gueorguiev. Who stated that he “feels very privileged that he was given the chance to be the course designer for the first leg of the new Evolution league” and that for him, this chance was “a big lift in helping him get to the next step in his career as a course designer.”

Overall, the even was a success and that was confirmed bu EEF Sport Development Manager (former general secretary of the Bulgarian Equestrian Federation, former Chef d’Equipe for the Bulgarian team, judge, and course designer) Teodor Sheytanov. The next event will occur in Lipica, Slovenia (in August).

Here you can find the live stream of the first leg of the EEF Evolution League:

For more information about the EEF Evolution League, click here.

Lesson Barns: The Killers of Horsemen?

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By Real Riderz

Ride and leave, that seems to be the philosophy of many lesson barns all over the world.

So what is it that makes this ordeal seem so lucrative to many clients that want to ride? Time. Instead of spending thrity minutes before and thirty minutes after getting your horse ready and then untacking, you get on the horse and go ride. That’s the intention of a riding lesson afterall, isn’t it?

The problem is that we are creating riders that don’t know how to handle the horse on the ground. This is more of a danger than it is anything else, both for the rider and the horse. Good riding comes from good observation of the horse on the ground first and foremost. A beginner rider should be taught how to observe the horse’s behaviors and feelings. A beginner rider should also be taught how to handle the horse. This is how a relationship is built with a horse, and that relationship is then transformed to the ride.

Novice dolphin trainers are required to have a two year observing period (of the older trainers working with dolphins) prior to gaining the privilege of touching the animal. Horses should not be an exception, because although learning how to ride is also important, you can never truly understand the horse if you haven’t worked with him/her from the ground (at least at the most basic level).

We have an alarming number of riders and clients coming in and excpecting just to ride. That is the expectation we have set and allowed to happen time and time again. So what is it that we can do differently? Require groundwork lessons for beginner riders. Whether that be grooming or even just leading the horse for the start. We need to teach riders to observe the tiniest of cues in their horse, from the entire body to just the eyes and ears. We might lose clients because of it, but we will also find clients who really care and are dedicated to becoming complete horsemen.

As for riders who already have experience, you too can improve your groundwork skills. Take the time to ask questions or maybe even consult a trainer (especially one who has a proven track records in groundwork). Make it a goal to learn something new about your horse on the ground, and never stop observing.

Why You Should Trail Ride More

By Real Riderz

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Even if you’re more into comepteing and have high ambitions, staying close to nature should be something that you incorporate into your training routine on a weekly basis.

Why? Because you will look epic like this guy in the picture above! Ok, well, real talk here: it’s great for your horses mental well-being because they get out of the arena. Heck, it’s also great for your well-being. Imagine coming to your office six days a week and always just sitting at your desk, I mean, most people would go crazy after a while, and your level of productivity would likely decrease.

So, you have a horse that just seems lazy and doesn’t want to go? There could be many factors causing this, such as discomfort, pain, ill-fitting tack, etc. However, it could also be the fact that the horse is bored of being in the same environment. You would be surprised how many horses change once you take them out to the field or even just around the barn to an area that they haven’t seen before. Some might start looking, while other start to pace like a hotheaded Thoroughbred (TB) horse.

If you want to introduce work outside of the arena more slowly, consider taking your horse out for a warm up or cool down (just at the walk) outside of the arena. Although, do consider that having a day where you just walk on a trail (if you’re lucky enough to have one) is actually beneficial because that is long walks is how you start building more muscle and thus better performance. Besides, a horse that is out and about will be more used to strange objects and sounds, and thus more ready for anything that may arise in the competition.

The work doesn’t stop when you leave the arena. You and your horse can still practice moevements such as lengthening/shortening, halting, shoulder in, leg-yield, etc. This will be a real test to your maneuverability because there are no arena walls to constrain the horse, and way more distractions. Even if you hust decided to stick to the walk, you can ride, you will surely benefit from trail riding because it is yet another bonding opportunity.

Happy trail riding and stay safe!