SO hoggy the dressage simulator

Hoggy the dressage simulator is used to make the rider more aware of their own body, providing the opportunity to focus on looking at rider symmetry, highlighting areas of tension & weakness, improving clarity of aids and teaching the rider to carry themselves correctly.

Since Hoggy’s arrival at Sparrow Oast in 2013, he has not put a hoof wrong. In fact, the handsome black steed’s consistent performance and exemplary stable manners have surpassed all expectations and he is a clear favourite amongst the yard’s clientele.

But Hoggy is not your regular schoolmaster. And his riders are not all advanced – or otherwise – dressage riders.

Hoggy was bought by dressage trainer Nicola Bell as an investment, to provide a unique and valuable training experience for riders. Clients from a diverse range of backgrounds and capabilities benefit from the sessions which, unlike regular lessons, enable the trainer to focus exclusively on the rider, without the distraction of how the horse may be performing. And his contribution to the business and impact on its clients is without doubt immeasurable. 

A traditional training session will involve a real horse and rider. In this scenario, the rider will be attentive to feedback from the trainer whilst at the same time interpreting / responding to any real or perceived signals from the horse making it impossible to focus exclusively on the rider. In addition, riders may start the lesson with a fixed mindset based on the horses’ previous behaviour and response to specific requests which can lead to tension and a loss of self-belief.

Training on Hoggy is an intensely private experience enabling Grand Prix rider Nicola to concentrate exclusively on the rider’s body and the associated messages being received by the horse. The majority of clients that Nicola teaches on Hoggy already have a coach/trainer back home. However, the training using Hoggy delivers an unrivalled opportunity for the rider to improve their understanding of how and what they are communicating to their horse and can often throw light on why a horse is responding in a particular way. There is no judgement, simply a refreshingly honest analysis of a rider’s performance, providing an excellent benchmark for tracking improvement.

Riders are unanimous in their belief that working with Nicola and Hoggy delivers an improved connection between horse and rider.

Some riders who train on Hoggy do then go on to bring their horse for a lesson. This allows Nicola to ensure that the lessons learned via the simulator training are carried through to when the client is in the saddle  on their own mount.

At a time when horse welfare is firmly in the spotlight, having lessons on an equestrian simulator makes so much sense. Rather than rely on new-fangled artificial aids and gimmicks, Nicola suggests that now more than ever  we owe it to our horses to ride to the best of our ability to ensure their comfort and wellbeing. Learning to sit lightly, being more balanced, having softer hands, communicating without tension, these are just some of the improvements that training with Hoggy will deliver – which will make for a happier riding experience on a live horse! 

Many riders suspect that there is a good chance that they are not sitting correctly, that maybe their weight is shifting to one side more than the other and / or that they don’t have equal strength on both the left and right side of their body. Lessons on Hoggy will instantly detect these issues and  with Nicola’s expert guidance and experience with rider asymmetry, the rider will learn to fully understand their own asymmetry and how important it is to work away from the horse to improve this. By adjusting their position the rider can look forward to a more harmonious partnership with their horse.

Similarly, riders looking to bring on a youngster need to be teaching their horses correctly from the get-go, so making sure that the rider’s body is appropriately aligned and does not unbalance the horse is key, as is the accurate and kind application of the aids.

Competition riders of all levels right up to and including Grand Prix dressage riders have benefitted from training with Nicola and Hoggy. For riders keen to up the ante in the run-up to the season ahead, building Hoggy-based training into their schedule can deliver improved fitness, stamina and performance.

Also, let’s not forget situations where the relationship between horse and rider is being eroded, largely because of a breakdown in communication. Taking a closer look at the rider’s actions can often provide clues as to why a horse is behaving in a certain manner. And of course, being equipped with the renewed knowledge of how you should be riding, is a real confidence booster and a new ‘I can do it’ attitude.

There are times in every horse owner’s lifetime that it may not be possible to ride. Perhaps the horse is recovering from an illness or injury or maybe it is the rider that is in recovery and needs to ensure a safe and positive experience to rebuild their confidence in the saddle as well as their fitness. Working closely with the relevant healthcare professionals, Nicola has taught numerous clients post a knee or hip replacement; those returning to the sport after a nasty fall and even amputees and someone resuming a normal life following a kidney transplant. Maybe the rider has been away from riding for many years and needs to refamilarise themselves with the ‘how to’ before mounting the real thing? Training on Hoggy represents the ideal controlled environment to help the rider regain strength and stamina, perfecting their position on the horse and dealing with any areas of tension which can so easily creep into our riding. There are proven case studies which demonstrate that retraining the body whilst the riders’ own horse is recovering from injury using Hoggy helps develop new muscle memory which will be reactivated once the rider is back in the saddle on their own mount. Using this forced ‘downtime’ wisely means riders can remain motivated and be less prone to any negative impact on their mental health triggered by the inability to ride.

And it’s not just those returning to the sport that will benefit from Hoggy-based training. Hoggy is ideally placed to support riders on the autistic spectrum or those suffering with cerebral palsy or other  physical disabilities. Indeed regular tuition on Hoggy has been proven to have a significant impact on the balance – and ultimately independence on the ground as well as on the horse– of those suffering from physical mobility issues.

Learning to use your body correctly when riding can also put paid to nagging back, knee, hip or ankle pain and is the best way to protect and extend your riding career.

Sceptics may cite the above as a reason why not to have lessons.

To which the response would be, every professional rider can ride but they still have a trainer to finetune their skills and identify areas for improvement. Many professionals in the sport visit Hoggy and Nicola regularly to perfect their craft and work on the minutae of their riding, since sometimes the smallest change can have a massive positive impact. 

Don’t let embarrassment or a fear of just you being judged stop you from making great progress in your ridden work. Although success should never be judged in terms of ribbons, your combined improved performance will reap rewards both in terms of within the competition arena, as well as out hacking. Feeling an enhanced sense of progress and a closer partnership and more harmonious relationship with your horse will also benefit your mental health and overall confidence, both on and off the horse.

Don’t you and your horse deserve the chance to be your best?

  • Initial consultation, one-hour assessment & training session  £60
  • Follow up 45 min training session  £55
  • Bring your horse, we will provide a stable (whenever possible), enjoy a training session on Hoggy followed by a lesson on your own horse in the arena. Includes use of the Cyclo-ssage Therapy Table (Massage Bed) – £120

Hoggy has two dressage saddles and one GP saddle for you to use. Or you are welcome to bring your own clean saddle.  Please note that narrow-fitting saddles or Western saddles will not fit Hoggy! Please wear your usual riding attire, boots/chaps, hat, gloves.

Please note that riders suffering from epilepsy or weighing in excess of 16 stone are not suited to using the simulator


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