Aspire Academy's first International training experience! Part 1

Part 1: Tell how to fix things or tell where are the tools to fix things?


Ok, I hope you guys have a large cup of tea or coffee handy as this is going to be a long post! Kari and I are back from the most amazing and probably most difficult training encounters we've organised to date. It was both mentally and physically very tiring but I only really experienced the true extend of my exhaustion once I arrived home. Throughout the weekend we both ran on adrenaline and buzz from the full-on schedule.

When the decision was made that we should agree to an amazing invitation from Maria (who writes HorseOfCourse blog and where she also posted about our training weekend so have a look at her little report too :) I started thinking about the whole format of it.
Neither me or Kari have ever run such a big (for us!) clinic and organising my Intensive Training Day has been nothing in comparison.
Here I was to have 14 riders each day, riders I have never met before and who were most likely expecting to learn something new to take them further into their riding journey.
Although it's dream come true for me to be able to do such a clinic/training weekend I have never been to anything similar and it was very much work from scratch for us.
Although I love learning and attend variety of training sessions, clinics etc I always wished the trainers didn't fix my problems with their extraordinary eye for detail but gave me the tools to fix them as well as making me understand which tool is used for what and why. Rather than telling me what the problem was I wanted them to teach me something that would help me find this problem myself i.e. if they saw me doing something wrong I wanted to be given tools to repair it not a ready made instruction manual to the repair process.

As I've been fortunate to have trainers who had this effect on me I have always been striving to develop this teaching method myself. I'm still a long way off and as I am very self-critical and rather a perfectionist it might take a while for me ;)

I will start from the beginning and just share my thoughts from this adventure but I can't begin without once again sending a huge thanks to Maria for the invitation and for being such a fabulous host throughout! We thoroughly enjoyed the company, the delicious food and a very friendly welcome :)

On Friday the 28th of January one of my alarms woke me up at 4am. I'd had about 2 hours sleep before that packing and making sure everything is where it should be, sorting out the way to the airport and other details.
Just to be on the safe side I txted Kari: "Just getting up, are you awake? Time for Narnia Wonderland!! ;) "
Kari txted back few minutes later: "Uh - it's too early!".
We took the 6.10am Stansted Express, then Rynair flight to Oslo (Rygge). We landed around 11am and found a coach that was to drive us to the main Oslo airport where Maria was due to pick us up.
The bus took about an hour and we tried to see a bit of Norway on the way.

Pic: On the bus trying to learn some Norvegian from a bus advert thingy ;) 

Pic. Restricted view from the bus

And then we arrived and Maria picked us up :) 
The journey to the house and yard where we were to stay for the three days took about 30 minutes: 
and in the end here we were: a lovely cottage in Narnia Wonderland :) Let's not forget the fluffy cats: 
Pic: Myself with a Large Fluff Cat - King of Hunt

Pic: Kari with Sofa Princess
We quickly ate some yummy dinner and talk through the schedule. Before we knew it was time to rush to the first sessions. Friday was the Assessment Day and I wasn't planning on doing much teaching - I just wanted to observe the riders doing what they would normally do and school like they would normally school. 
The mad days started ;))
I taught at two yards about 5-7min drive apart: Elveli and Nordbye.
Let's meet the riders first (we asked everybody to agree/disagree for their photos and videos to be used for case studies and marketing purposes so here are those who agreed): 
 Maria's daughter, and her super cute pony McGyver aka Charlie riding in a beautiful setting of arena at Nordbye yard. They successfully competed together in Sweden in Dressage up to just below FEI level. 
Maria (our wonderful host!) and her Sports Pony mare Electric Fame

Pic. Friday evening Assessment session - this is pretty much how hard it was to see where the rider started and the clothing or a horse finished! Maria rode bareback on the first day and it was a grand challenge for me to come up with ideas on what was amiss as she and Fame are such an amazing partnership. 
Below is a photo of Maria and Electric Fame on Saturday when they sported a saddle and you can see how lovely the mare looks like in daylight:
Pic: An edited photo from Maria's blog, for original, visit Horse Of Course

Andrea and North Peak
Super young horse and very gentle, sympathetic rider

Anne and Horek 
Fun pony and a novice rider who was a pleasure to teach

Barbara on Mazda 
Have been riding for 2 years. Two fab ladies :) both made for each other and an honor to be involved in their training

Working beautifully here on the last day:
Camilla and her mare S'il vous plaît
Spent ages figuring out what to do with this pair and after some head banging I think I had a good idea. Here is them on the last day:
Gro and her share horse - Tom  
They made an excellent progress and were so much fun to teach!

Siri and Bosco de Almeida
Lovely young horse who looked totally transformed by the end of the second day. The rider also did some superb work over the weekend. 

Hjalmar and Tarzan
Really great horse and rider to work on. They listen and try the best they can. And the results were impressive.
Oddveig and her very athletic grey horse Move On Bay. His airs above ground I saw on photos were better than Spanish Riding School's! He didn't show any of those thankfully and the pair were so nice to work with. Will miss them loads!

Berit and Elin's pony Charlie. This rider was a challenge because she read more books on the subject I even knew existed! I had slightly different focus with her than other with other riders and it seemed to have worked with some issues :) 

On the first day most riders worked in groups with some private sessions. On the second day the lessons were in pairs and I also asked to have a sit on a couple of horses which I wanted to get the feel for. They belonged to the two novice riders on the course and I decided I needed to make sure the horses understood what I wanted the riders to do. It seemed to have helped. On the last day everybody had an individual sessions.
The biggest challenge for me, when I sat down with all the assessment videos at night on Friday, was to figure out what each rider needs to know next. In other words, what tools do I need to give them so they can come up with what their real issues are. 
It took good couple of hours of watching the videos as although many issues were very obvious I wanted to visualise what might happen if I say this or that and make sure I am not giving the rider the answer straight away. In some cases I wasn't sure myself what the answer was but by giving the riders the ideas on how to change some things I hoped they will reveal those real issues to me by themselves ;) 
The added difficulty was that the majority of these riders were very capable and knowledgeable riders. Their theory was above avarage and they all had very good feel for their horses even though they may not have been able to act on that feel. 
They had very strong ideas on what their issues were too...and they all so wanted to learn it was simply amazing and very humbling to be able to teach them.
In the end I decided to go for the way I would go with a horse if I couldn't figure out the problem. Get him a little off balance, ask for exercises were the basics are most important and crossed my fingers that the real holes would show up :) 
And they have. And they all did an amazing job finding them almost by themselves. It was very inspiring to see the riders arriving at the solutions and I will tell you more about it in the next part.
To follow: Part 2: The Training,  Part 3: Reflection Time

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