Category Archives: coaching

No stirrups November? No problem!

At first they thought I was joking…an entire month of lessons without stirrups? But why?

When I first started implementing “No stirrups November” a few years ago, I think most of my students lasted around 2 weeks before convincing me into letting them have their stirrups back. It’s not as if we didn’t practice without stirrups over the course of the year, but we never made it the full month. But this year, we ARE going to make it to 30 days!

I know it sounds scary (and trust me, I know how much it can hurt!) but riding without stirrups is a challenge, it takes us out of our comfort zone and it makes us better riders.

Most coaches would agree that riding without stirrups is necessary for all riders:

“Those looking to bring their riding to a higher level will benefit greatly by riding without stirrups. Riding without stirrups will help to make a rider more balanced, stronger and secure in the saddle. The most important reason to make it a consistent part of a rider’s weekly riding routine is that it will help improve your seat. By improvising your seat, you will improve your feel, and by improving your feel in the saddle, you will ultimately become a better rider. Once a rider has put in the time and effort to develop a world class seat, it’s equally important for the rider to maintain their seat by riding without stirrups on a consistent basis.” (USHJA certified trainer Scott Lico)

We are now into our 2nd week of “No stirrups November” at Foxwood. I have started all of my students off slowly, with each rider going without stirrups for a little bit longer at each lesson. For our beginner riding students, who are still working on developing their balance, no stirrup work may simply involve taking their feet out of the stirrups at a walk and then putting them back. A small exercise but with big benefits – not only improving their balance but their confidence.

Our novice riders are confidently riding at the sitting trot without stirrups and are building muscle strength to try posting trot without stirrups, while our intermediate and advanced students are working on bending exercises as well as cantering without stirrups.

So, what really ARE all of the benefits of riding without stirrups?

1. Strengthening the leg
Everyone knows that riding without stirrups is a common exercise used to strengthen a rider’s leg, so a month without them is a great way to focus on just that. The rider’s leg becomes stronger and more useful in the long run.

2. Improving leg position
This goes along with strengthening. Posting off of the stirrups is a common mistake that many riders make and they don’t realize that they are doing it. When there is no stirrup iron to balance off of, the rider must use their muscles to hold their leg in place in order to stay on their horse. This helps eliminate any instability of the rider’s leg and it improves correctness.

3. Preparing the rider
Any rider that shows may know that sometimes in an equitation class, they may be asked to drop their stirrups. It also prepares the rider for any situation, whether at a show or at home, that involves them losing a stirrup and then subsequently, their balance.

4. Building balance and improving a rider’s seat
It is easy to stay in the saddle when stirrups are there for support, but when there is nothing to rely on, it forces the rider to use their seat to remain balanced. A rider’s seat is an essential aid that becomes especially useful when riding “green” horses or more difficult horses.

5. Developing confidence
Not every rider is keen to ride without stirrups as there is always the fear on falling off. Working at their own pace, improving with each lesson without stirrups, gives each rider a sense of accomplishment.

We are going to be stronger by the end of November and who knows?
Maybe my students will suggest we continue it into December…and add some jumping WITHOUT stirrups;)

Until next time,
Robyn

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Still smiling after a “no stirrups november” lesson

A Foxwood familiar face – Charlotte Hodgson

When you drive up to Foxwood, and you see the little lemon coloured car, you know she’s here. It’s our junior instructor, extraordinaire, Charlotte! I have had the pleasure of knowing Charlotte from the time she was just starting out riding on her Shetland pony, Champ. From the beginning, I knew that she was going to “grow up” to be an amazing horsewoman as she always seemed to have a connection with not only the ponies that she rode, but also with the horse people who surrounded her.

When I found out in the fall of 2016 that Charlotte was returning to Canada after nearly 6 years in the UK, I messaged her to ask if she would be interested in teaching some of the beginner and novice lessons at Foxwood. I was delighted when she said yes!

She has been back for nearly 1 year and I would like to share some of her riding and horse experiences with you:

Starting off in the saddle around the age of 7, Charlotte has spent more than 20 years around horses in various equestrian disciplines, both working and riding.

She started off competing on ponies at a young age and was successful in the hunter ring with small, medium and large ponies over the years. As a skilled pony rider, she even started training some green ponies (unschooled) and some of them advanced along to be competitive in both Canada & the United States. One of those young ponies was Foxwood’s own, Sera. I purchased Sera in 2000 as a 3 year old and was going to train her myself; until I found out I was pregnant. I knew Charlotte and her mother from riding at another farm and I asked Charlotte if she would be interested in riding Sera while I was unable to. Sera could be challenging at times; however, Charlotte spent the time working with her and soon, Sera was able to have more riders start on her.

Although Charlotte grew out of competing on ponies, she continued showing both in the hunter and equitation rings with a talented thoroughbred called Shades of Grey. She and Grey ended up being long time partners and he was retired in 2006 after a fabulous career in the Children’s Hunter division.

Moving on from high school to university, Charlotte helped start what is now known as the Ontario Collegiate Equestrian Association. She competed successfully on the University of Guelph horseback riding team and had the opportunity, during that time, to train with various hunter and jumper coaches.

Charlotte has recently returned from living abroad in the UK for nearly 6 years where she was involved with a local fox hunting community – riding with the Belvoir Hunt and the Duke of Rutland’s hounds in England. It was an incredible opportunity to ride different horses, connect with other horse people and experience the excitement of riding cross country with the hounds.

Since returning to Canada last October, Charlotte has a new horse who she shares with her mom. Training with FEI eventer, Julie Clark, Charlotte has been introduced to the eventing world and competed this summer with her little Cleveland Bay horse, Rideau. Converting from the hunter/ jumper world to eventing has added to Charlotte’s skill set as she continues to learn more and more about the three phases (dressage, show jumping & cross country) involved in the sport; however, she attributes her hunter background as providing a solid foundation for her change in riding disciplines.

Charlotte is great with kids, having not only taught at Foxwood in the past but she also worked for several years for the town of Bradford with their summer camp programs. She is looking forward to having fun with the students and ponies in the Foxwood Farm lesson program and we are excited to have HER as part of our Foxwood Family!

Until next time,
Robyn

Welcome to the Foxwood Family, Charlotte Hodgson!

Horse Coach Corner #FromWhereIStand – Lessons learned from my Students

The good days show smiling faces, the bad days have tears…but as a coach (no matter what sport), you learn to take the good with the bad and learn from them.

As we celebrate National Coach Week this week, I am grateful to all of my students, present and past for the impact they have all had on MY life. The role of the coach is to guide and mentor others; however, little is said about the role that the student has on the coach.

I started off coaching at my farm in 1999 with some of my neighbour’s children. I had my older horse at the time, who was a great school master and I knew that she was the perfect horse to teach young children how to ride as she was very calm and gentle. I had to develop beginner lesson plans; focusing on the basics starting with grooming and leading, to tacking up and getting on a horse for the first time – things you take for granted as a more experienced rider. It reminded me of how much there is to learn when horseback riding, how much time goes into our sport and how learning, is a process to advancing.

As my lesson barn began to grow, so did my desire to start taking my students to horse shows off property. 2013 was the first official year of the “Foxwood Farm Show Team” with only 3 riders. It then grew to 13 show riders in 2015 and now, in 2017, we have 20 competing show riders! Coaching offsite, in a competitive environment, has different challenges than coaching at home: there is the stress of how the ponies/horse will behave, which is beyond anyone’s control; there is dealing with the nerves of the rider and teaching them to focus on their riding, improving with each round and not just on winning a ribbon; there are the expectations of the families, who have invested time and money, to see their riders do well; and of course, my own expectations of wanting my students to have a positive show experience. Over the last 4 years, I have had to make changes to my coaching style to better prepare my students for the show ring and I have learned how to be a better coach by changing my ways.

The students I have taught, have made me the coach that I am.

Earlier this week, I was tagged in a tweet from one of my students, who was recognizing National Coaches Week. She wrote the following:

“This week is National Coach week, and I just wanted to say thank you so much to not only my coach but also my friend and role model! This summer was my first official show season and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome, as even though I only attended two shows, I brought home champion and a lot of first and seconds, this is all because of the amazing support and motivation I have from my wonderful coach. She is there to coach and support us at every show even when it’s 30+ degrees out! Her words of motivation keep up going throughout the day. I started at Foxwood Farm 2 years ago without any experience jumping and now I’m here, all thanks to you, Robyn! I was welcomed with open arms an now I can’t stay away from the barn (except when I’m away at school). Thank you for an awesome year, Robyn!”

I have been coach, mentor and friend to many students and I thank all of them for the positive role each of them has played in my coaching career.

Of all the coaching quotes I have come across, this one pretty much sums up how I feel:

“I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say, because of you, I didn’t give up.”

I want them to learn from me, just as much as I learn from them.

I love teaching people how to ride; children, adults, anyone who wants to learn. And if I can encourage people to improve upon their riding skills, while developing an unconditional love for horses, then I have truly done my job as coach while learning along the way.

Until next
time,
Robyn

Part of the Foxwood Farm ShowTeam for 2017

Coaching “my kids”


Coaching ringside at the Essa Agriplex