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  • Writer's picturekmbleekman

Meet Natasha...

Natasha & I started working together in January 2022. Having previously known Tosh as she had worked for my family on our yard at home life had changed quite a bit for her! At the time she was studying for her Masters's at University & had noticed since returning to university & leaving a yard job that she was lacking fitness & was feeling it in her riding.


At the time her event horse was on livery close to the university & she was going to ride him several times a week as university & time allowed & have jumping & flatwork lessons. She was eventing her 1 horse but spending most of her day at the computer or studying she knew she was not fit enough to ride to the best of her abilities especially at the upper levels as she was aiming to come out competing at Intermediate & above. In her words;


“I know I ride better in all 3 phases when I am stronger and have more cardio fitness, especially staying balanced in dressage and jumping and being able to keep riding the same throughout the cross country and not get tired towards the end. When I am strong I find it’s also easier to keep riding positively and stay mentally positive”


Having gone from riding a few horses a day & working a physical job on a yard for the past year she had noticed a big difference in her riding fitness! She’d had a big lifestyle change going from being super physically active all day, doing manual labour which does help you to build a base of support to being pretty sedentary & riding far less, so it was all about getting her moving again & helping her to regain that fitness so when she got on her horse she didn’t feel like she wasn’t fit enough.



Having previously tried various things before like home workouts on youtube, yoga sessions & occasionally running she wasn’t being consistent with anything & knew what she was doing with her fitness approach just wasn't consistent & was lacking any structure. She also wasn’t 100% sure what was the most effective way to improve her riding fitness & didn’t want to waste her time doing something that was going to have zero effect on her riding.


Making sure my team can see the carryover between what they do in their training sessions, the energy system worked, the muscles worked, the movement patterns & their riding is imperative for me. If you can’t see the connection or benefit it’s having to your riding pretty quickly you’re going to question whether what you’re doing is working & chances are you’ll end up quitting!



Tosh was really honest when we first got going & knew she wasn’t looking at things from a bigger, longer term picture. Thinking about where she wanted to be not just in the next 12 weeks with her fitness & riding but the next year & 10 years too! Ultimately that’s what fitness should be about. If you still want to be competing in your 70’s then that’s your fitness goal!


Time was one of those things she realised she was using as an excuse & her honesty here was very refreshing.


“I feel like I don't have time, but I do, I just need to hold myself accountable and manage my time better. It’s also making sure I make the most effective use of my time.”



In reality, we’re all busy but most of us do have the time to add some training & fitness to our week. Ask yourself genuinely could you commit to 2 hours of exercise a week?


That’s 0.02% of your week so let’s be honest yes you could probably find that time to give yourself but it’s turning your fitness into your priority so you follow through on making the time for it as Tosh did. Too many of us saytime” is the reason we don’t do things & ultimately that’s a big fat excuse!


Initially, when we got started coaching together I ran Tosh through an assessment process. I do this with every single client I coach 121 to identify their current physical starting point. As she had previously had a few injuries & was struggling with some niggles it was really important for me to see how she moved, any mobility limitations & highlight any physical areas that needed working on.


She was experiencing reoccurring neck & shoulder pain especially on the left side & that had gotten progressively worse since she had gone back to uni &she was thinking that was mainly coming from sitting in a bad posture whilst studying.


She had seen a physio & had exercises to get her through when the pain got worse and knew from doing strengthening work previously that when she worked on strengthening her upper back that hugely helped reduce the pain.


Having a bit of a collapsed arch her foot stability also needed a good bit of focus & if she wasn’t careful she was experiencing ankle pain. After a couple of falls the previous season she had found that the ankle was actually feeling worse coming out of the winter & was working to regain full mobility of her ankle & foot but knew that was something holding her back.


She hadn’t been running or doing a huge amount of walking so that was something to definitely help her get stronger with alongside her physio so she could get back to running as she really enjoyed just getting out in the morning & going for a run especially when she was spending her days behind the laptop in her room most the day! From her movement screen, it was clear she was a little imbalanced, as all riders are! This for me was the biggest focus getting her significantly stronger on the right side of her lower body & reducing these imbalances to help reduce the aches & pains she was having. Lots of core work, single leg & posterior chain work was in order!



Together we put a plan in place to work for her. Obviously, her masters was her no 1 priority followed by her horse but Tosh committed the time she could to her programme & with me helping to give her a structured routine that actually worked for her life she very quickly became very consistent with her training & starting seeing benefits pretty quickly.


All of this was done from home with limited kit, some resistance bands & her bodyweight to begin with then we added in some kettlebells when she needed a bit more challenge & she trained from her apartment 3 times a week to get going. Pretty quickly we added back in running once or twice consistently each week & a year on Tosh has very much kept all of those training habits!


Life has changed quite drastically 12 months on for her & now she is back working with horses on the yard again so her life has actually got more physical as she finished university but she also has had a big horse change & is now competing & producing her own 5-year-old eventing horse. So a big change & going back to riding a young horse has been a big change for her but she has noticed how much stronger & fitter & more effective she is in her riding.


Another big focus through Tosh’s coaching has been her nutrition. As she’s a vegetarian making sure she was getting enough protein into her diet was my main concern to make sure she was giving her body the recovery it needed from training & riding. Her diet overall was pretty good, she had a very good understanding of the basic macronutrients & what a balanced & colourful diet looked like. Initially, when she was finishing her masters we made sure she was eating enough but also focused on good movement & nutrition habits to make sure things like studying snacking didn’t end up creeping in! It was very small changes through guidance for her & now she is back in a much more physical job again the biggest focus is making sure she gets enough good quality food in to fuel her days & allow her to still have the energy to get her training done in the evenings.


Having quick go-to options that give her everything she needs has been really important for Tosh now she’s back living a busy life on the yard especially mid eventing & breeding season! Lunch time & early finishes don't always happen. 1 thing we’ve really focused on too is making sure on show days she plans her own nutrition approach. Having good complex carbohydrate like porridge to kick off the day or a protein smoothie to take with her in the morning to get something in then a few options for lunch & snacks as well as good hydration to make sure she is fuelled through the day & equally wakes up the next day feeling great, not knackered!



As her confidence & movement ability has grown her training has now moved to the gym so she can get more out of her sessions & give her that space to go & do her work away from the yard. Despite being busy she's currently training twice a week every week in the gym focusing on strength work alongside some conditioning work & is also running weekly too to keep her aerobic fitness up but also she’s finding she’s really enjoying running for headspace, especially with the lighter evenings & good weather!


Life over the past 12 months has been very up & down for Tosh with lots of trips, work changes & life changes happening but her consistency has shone through every time. Returning to home in the USA last Summer she still kept her same training routine, working out 3 x times a week at home I just adapted her sessions to work with the kit she had there.



This year she’s also taken part in a few Student rider competitions & a few weeks ago travelled out to Belgium for the finals of the year. Jumping on horses you don’t know & being given 5 minutes to get to know them is the idea here & although it’s a fun competition Tosh wanted to go & be competitive as did her Amercian teammates! She ended up coming 4th individually over the full weekend and 4th individually in the dressage competition too. A huge win for her & it reminded her of what an impact all her exercise & training has had on her riding.


“I have been meaning to share these photos with you from student riders. I think it is so easy when riding to feel like you are not making much progress & not feeling like you’re being effective but I was really pleased when I saw these pictures both with how my position looked and how these random horses I had sat on for 5 minutes look like they are going.


Definitely a moment where if I had seen the photos a couple of years ago I would be so impressed with how I look. Just shows progress takes time but does happen and I think training and being stronger helps my position and effectiveness so much.


My Mom was also asking me after one of my events how my fitness felt on xc and I said I hadn't even thought about it so that has to be a good thing!”




The past 12 months haven’t been easy for Tosh but through everything after completing her masters, moving back to horses full time, getting a new job, lots of travelling in the UK & to the US 1 thing that hasn’t changed is her commitment & consistency. At the beginning of this journey she felt like she was allowing herself to make excuses & not follow through on her intentions & wanted that accountability to keep her on track. Training & exercise has become something for Tosh that is part of her life now & her riding is going from strength to strength!


She’s a fantastic example that however busy you are, however much life changes if you’re really serious about making a change & committing to your health & fitness you can indeed do that. You just need to be prepared to put the work in & have a programme that can be adapted around your life & whatever is going on!


Thank you to Tosh for sharing her story with us all & I think you can all agree she’s made amazing progress in the past year! If you're feeling inspired after reading Tosh's story & thinking about working on your own fitness then drop me a email @ kmbleekman@gmail.com & I'll be in touch!




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