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Story of Skye: horses as our teacher with Bea Simpson | Podcast #4


Podcast Notes Episode #4

Today, I would like to welcome to the podcast Bea Simpson. Bea is an equestrian coach and trainer with a background in leadership and management development.  Her passion is helping people and horses to become the very best version of themselves. Bea runs Spirit in Stirrups and trains and coaches, as well as facilitating equine assisted learning.

Bea shares her story about a very special horse called Skye. Skye taught Bea so many lessons in their time together and this is their story. Bea was busy coaching and training others and not really thinking about a new horse at the time, however Bea’s friend Liz had come across a horse who was a 2-year old TB who had been raced and sustained injuries. Liz had turned Skye away for a year to grow and develop as well as having farriery and treatment to help address some of her physical issues. When she was 3 and a half Liz felt she would be ready to do a job, rather than being a field ornament and the story of Skye began for Bea. 

After an initial three month trial period, it was clear that a lot more time was needed to train and build a relationship with Skye. 

We are becoming more aware of the importance of biomechanics, and currently straightness is usually addressed much further on in the scales of training. However, it is becoming recognised that straightness needs to be recognised at an early stage in the horses education. Straightness is more than just physical, it looks at straightness in the body, mind and soul. It is important to look at the horse's education with a holistic view. Straightness looks at the asymmetry in our physical body, whilst we can never achieve complete symmetry, we can try to even both sides of the body as much as possible. Initially looking at the horse’s way of movement, and their preference to a left or right bend as well as preference in the forehand or hind legs. From physical impairment or injury as well as simply strengths and weakness in the body.  Injury will cause the body to move differently to compensate for injuries. Initially be observant, teach your horse relaxation and manipulate the horse's body to move freely. It is also important to teach the horse to use its hindquarters correctly to best carry the weight of the rider. We have to develop a systematic way to prepare all of the body to be equipped to carry the rider, without causing damage. Its a very systematic way to train the horse correctly.

Skye had at some point sustained an injury to her pelvis, which caused a domino effect in her way of movement. Although she had been barefoot, Skye became foot sore in the Springtime when the ground became harder. However her way of movement caused overreaching and they struggled to keep on shoes. There was a lot of trial and error with shoes and then hoof boots, before finally finding an Australian brand, Scoot Boots as these could be worn when turned out and were closest to being as natural as possible and being able to be worn for longer periods of time. 

Bea worked with some brilliant Physios who were able to manipulate and realign her pelvis and build back her strength so Skye was able to use her back and strengthen her core to enable her to free up her movement. 

Skye taught bea that doing little and often is much more conducive to getting horse’s mentally prepared. For the first six months they mainly worked on the ground and practiced straightness training, improving suppleness and working on exercises. At 3-6 months Bea brought in the help of her sons as lightweight riders to start introducing the weight of the rider. 

Bea's son helping to introduce ridden work

By the time Bea was ready to ride Skye had learnt many skills and was able to use her body more effectively, all Bea needed to do was to change the cues into ridden ones. Bea kept the training schedule interesting and included hacking and short schooling sessions. She was however very sweet and a real confidence giver to people, she loved people and had an ability to really make you feel at ease and want to be in her presence and stroke her. Bea wanted to keep her mind switched on and not kill her spirit in the process of training.

We don’t want to lose the spirit of freedom horses represent to us in our training.  

“Horses want to please and want that connection, but it is so easy to make them compliant and do things out of obedience rather than wanting to be with us and wanting to have that connection. Not out of fear, but out of wanting to figure this out with and have fun with you...and get this right” is so important to Bea.

“Just spending time and being in her presence to get an idea of what emotional state Skye was in. In training, it was definitely the ideas of listening more. Having a mindset that ‘we may not always learn the lesson we want to learn, but we will always learn the lesson that we need to learn at that moment in time, and horses are so good at showing us this.”

 The more we work with horses the more we realise how little we do know, and how much there is still to learn. Horses are great at humbling us. There is always something in every situation and every try is an opportunity to learn, don’t be afraid to fail at a particular exercise. Ask yourself, why didn’t this go right? What can i learn from this?  What positive can i take from this? Where is my skill or knowledge gap… and then go back and work on that. Mistakes that we make are the catalysts to learning and growth.

If you are frightened of making a mistake you are robbing yourself of the opportunity of getting it right.

The question lies with us as people, not with the horse. If something doesn't go right, the first thing we need to do is step back and examine ourselves.  Did I ask the right question? Did I communicate it as clearly as I possibly could? What was my attitude when I asked the question? The horse may have answered our question in exactly the right way, because what we asked for was not what we thought we were asking. 

Don’t compare yourself to others, it is so easy to look at where other riders are on their journeys. Frequently people would ask Bea what her plans for competition were, when in fact her goal was to keep her sound and improve her wellbeing. “It was hard not to get sucked in to what everyone else was doing...they were going out to competitions and this nagging voice in your head says - shouldn’t I be doing some of that by now.”

We’ve all come across people with their own opinions about what you should and shouldn’t be doing with your horse. But don’t be disheartened if your progress is slower. Get your foundations right and don’t cut corners.Take time and only progress when your foundations are good and strong.” Bea has learnt not to measure herself against someone else, in life as well as in horses. Trust your gut feeling and trust that if this is based on good sound knowledge and practices trust that. 

Don’t lose sight of where you started and don’t be afraid to give yourself a pat on the back and look at how far you’ve come. It is hard when you’re in the moment to sometimes see the bigger picture, especially when you have a setback.  

Comparison of Skye showing her progress and physical development.

Skye has left a huge legacy and the lessons Bea learnt have changed her as a person, as a horse trainer and coach and she is honoured to have spent that time with Skye, and she looks forward to passing that knowledge on to others to help them too. 

Bea runs Spirit in Stirrups you can find on Facebook or on Instagram @spiritinstirrups 

You can also find out more on her website spiritinstirrups.com


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