Leopold The Last - Educational Fund
I'm somewhat in the middle. I believe we participate in many life changing events, both sad and joyfull, and sometimes it is helpful and maybe even healing to create a reason...
Before I move on to the reason for this Fund, you need to meet Ceri and her very special four legged friend, Leopold The Last (Leo). If you have ever had anything to do with horses, you will know they can form a strong bond with their owner and rider. Leo sure had one with Ceri.
In the summer 2016, a 38 year old Ceri received devastating health news. Secondary cancer.
When she asked me for help with rehoming Leo I thought I would take him on whilst she was undergoing treatements and together we will find the right solution for Leo.
I thought I would keep him so she had him close by, a comforting presence throughout gruelling times.
I thought being able to see him, even if not able to ride him, would give her strength to keep fighting.
I'd like to tell you that she is still here and having a chance to survive but this is not the case.
Ceri passed away a week after I picked Leo up and promised to secure a good life for him.
When something means so much to someone, as this little horse meant for Ceri, it is especially important to make sure the promise is kept to the best of my ability.
This is where this Fund comes in. This is where you come in. You can help me give Leo an opportunity to do something meanigful and important.
Who am I...
I'm a horse riding instructor and run a coaching programme - Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy - aimed at people of all ages who have deep interest in ethical equestrian sports, who want to ride and train horses with knowldge of their biomechanics, anatomy and psychology.
Ceri's dream was to learn as much about good, wellness focused training as possible. Her dream could live on via Leo's work within Aspire Academy.
For this reason, the primary aim of this fund is to secure at least 1 year of regular training and care for Leo and create a series of educational sessions for those riders who would otherwise be unable to afford quality tuition and training but who could learn from Leo.
For me to be able to continue caring for Leo in best way possible and proceed with his educational role, I need to secure money for:
- Leo's care (hoofcare, veterinary care, saddle checks, health checks)
- Leo's livery fees
- investigations of Leo's small performance issues which Ceri had started to address before her death
I would love to have you on board and part of #LeoAspireJourney. Every tiny little contribution helps.
You will be able to follow Leo's story via Aspire blog, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
There are some incredibly sad stories we all have within us but some of them can also give life to projects that can bring smiles instead of tears.
Your contribution will help keep Ceri's dream alive and let Leo educate many who meet him.
All the very best and a huge thank you in advance for your contribution, however small :)
Wiola & Leo
Hello everyone :) It's been a very interesting month for Leo so now that I finally have a quiet moment to sit down and write a proper update, let's get to it!
First of all, the saddle malarkey. I had a feeling it was not fitting Leo well for quite some time now and I am kicking myself for not listening to my intuition here but hey ho. I had it looked at the first time I was a bit concerned (in the late Autumn) but other than an advice to keep an eye, nothing major was found.
However, Leo’s behaviour during tacking up was getting worse (nothing major but little things like ears back, trying to bite when girth was being done up etc). It didn’t stand out that much as he was a bit like this when he first came but enough to make me worried.
Now, I have this beautiful, expensive saddle that was specifically fitted to the horse but the horse changed shape quite a bit and doesn’t think he likes this saddle anymore :-/
I had it checked again in November and the saddler advised to have a thorough check and adjustment done as the saddle was out of balance on Leo’s back.
I took it more seriously this time and kept ridden sessions very short whilst extending in-hand sessions. I also started doing short bareback sessions and Leo’s movement was definitely different (freer, more supple) that in the saddle.
I rode Leo last time in the saddle at the beginning of January and painfully resigned myself to discontinue as he was definitely not comfortable.
So now, we’ve been doing a lot of groundwork, some bareback once/twice a week and walk out hacks. Two weeks in and he is already much happier, there is much more movement in his back and more swing in his pelvis in trot and his overall attitude to work has improved too from slightly robotic obedience to a curious interest in my questions.
Mid month I received a very generous offer from Louise Crow, a technician for SyncEquine. More about her here:
She wanted to donate of a full body scan plus veterinary report to Leo. Whenever I look at a horse with some movement issues I always think how incredible it would be to just see inside them to plan their management as best as possible without forking out thousands of pounds for usually suggested diagnostic tools like MRI or scintigraphy.
I can’t thank Lou enough for this offer, I have helped with the scans before and she was as thorough and professional as if we were paying clients.
Christine of http://cdphotos.co.uk/ who is my superb creative assistant helping during my teaching work, came to take photos during the whole process and a little collage from it is attached here :)
The report from the Vets came a few days later and gave me plenty of think about pointing at areas of concern and suggesting ways of addressing them.
We decided to re-scan in a few months so I can see if what I am doing is helping and re-evaluate then. I would recommend this company without hesitation, superb tool for monitoring your horse.
Leo’s current work is good and my main focus during the groundwork is his straightness. He moves slightly quarters in/shoulders out on the right rein which then affects his ability to bend to the right.
The saddler is coming next week to help me fit something interim. Once I have managed to sell Leo’s current saddle, I will get him something nicer but right now.
If any of you reading this is looking for a beautifully crafted dressage saddle, please see here for more details:
I’d been in touch with the designer and they were incredibly helpful but the costs of re-fitting this saddle are just too high for me. I am also thinking that a good general purpose saddle might be the way to go or a dressage saddle that allows for a comfortable ride in shorter stirrups as I need to be taking Leo out and about not just schooling in the arena.
On a crazy chance that anyone reading this collects unique dressage saddles (this one is made by Ideal but is of a classical dressage design - more about it in the link above) and would like to buy this one for their collection, give me a shout!! :-D
One thing I never thought I’d miss is mooching about the countryside on the spooky guy so I can’t wait to have a saddle he likes soon!
I do get asked about my plans for Leo quite often but other than the fact he is going nowhere and doesn’t owe me anything, I don’t have any plans set in stone. He will be a schoolmaster for my Academy riders in some capacity and I am working on improving and refining his in-hand work skills so he can teach others a good basics of groundwork and if all goes well, I’d like to compete him a little within his comfort levels but we shall see.
He is happy and content, a few days ago he got a new turn out rug from Kelly as a donation gift and enjoys making it filthy day by day rolling in the mud, he has friends in Yorkshire asking about him and sending little financial help and he has a fabulous ongoing feed sponsorship from Smart Horse Nutrition. Lucky guy I’d say!!
Speak very soon :)
Wiola & Leo <3
Leo had a quiet festive time with me having plenty of time for him. We had nice long grooming sessions and in-hand work mostly over poles as well as continuing the work on suppleness and back mobility.
On the 28th of December, my youngest Academy rider came to have Leo experience. He was on his best behaviour and she rode like a little pro ;)
More photos of her on Leo attached and you can see a short video on Academy's Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BOkb85agkOc/?taken-by=aspireequestrian
I wanted Caitlin to experience lateral movements so worked Leo in-hand so she could feel the positioning for shoulder-in and leg-yield. When she comes next time we will do more so she can build her feel tool box :)
She got the experience of a big movement (Leo has a much more cadence and length to his strides than Caitlin's usual lesson pony) and she coped with it beautifully.
One thing that worries me is Leo's saddle as with his body changing shape as he becomes fitter, it no longer sits well on his back. I have so far been trying different pads and it does help but addressing the issue is the first thing on the New Year to do list.
Talking on the New Year...I can't thank everyone enough for all the support for Leo and this little project. I know that with the right management he can make a fabulous schoolmaster and seeing little Caitlin on him, I would love to see if he could take a young rider for a little training journey!
So I will be carrying on updating you all, hoping you can join in and get involved :)
Have a wonderful New Year 2017. Make it your own! :)
Wiola & Leo <3
Leo power walks 90% of today's hack. It's mostly hills here so it's not an easy stroll by any means. He feels fabulous.
I get him his 3rd scenar treatment today too (thank you to everyone who helps out by donating to this fund, it makes a big difference in Leo's management :) ) .
More about scenar: http://www.equus-scenar-training.com/what-is-scenar/
I hope he enjoys his early festive gift ;) A few photos from his session below :)
All the best,
Wiola & Leo <3