The Stables

Haynet was started in 2011 showcasing blog writing all about life with horses. Equestrian life and matters are a passionate topic at Haynet and we very much like to tell stories from the stables and tack room.

Kick off those riding boots, take a seat on a hay bale and have an equestrian read.

A Stable Relationship

Do we respect our stable staff asks Nicholas O’Hare Working with horses has traditionally been a low pay economy. Things have changed to some extent in recent years. The sheer shortage of staff has driven wages up and in the case of riding schools in particular, operators have been able to charge fees for treks and lessons which more adequately reflect the costs involved in running such an enterprise. There is no doubt, however, that any young people after the first flush of teenage enthusiasm has been spent, turn away from working with horses as a preferred option. The hours are long, the work is largely repetitive, and the conditions are often such as would not be tolerated in another form of employment. The fact that so many young people are disillusioned is reflected in the large numbers of foreign nationals to be found in our yards. Even the racing industry which has structured pay rates and negotiated working conditions now employs many hundreds of young immigrants. They will not perhaps get very far in the pecking order there. The breakthrough rate even for jockeys is small. Only the most talented actually get to ride on the track. But the racing sector is a better place to be in terms of pay and conditions than the private sport horse yard or the riding school or trekking centre. One of the reasons for this is that there is a Stable Staff Association that has plenty of clout when it comes to talking turkey with the employers. There is also a formal educational structure through RACE which gives young people a start to their careers. We have no real qualification structure for people taking ordinary jobs in ordinary yards. There are, of course, the BHS qualifications and the ICES, but these are targeted at middle-class students with higher employment ambitions than becoming grooms or stable workers.  The BHSAI qualification is popular but most of the young people who pass the exam don’t in fact go to work in yards. It has a social cachet to some extent and offers very little as far as the employer is concerned apart from filling out a line on the insurance applications. Seventeen or eighteen year olds may be able to put letters after their names but they all too often lack the kind of experience that makes them really valuable employees. Riding centres are probably the worst offenders when it comes to low pay scales. The traditional argument, of course, was that the profits just weren’t there. Yards relied on local voluntary labour, mainly youngsters coming round after school hours, and unashamedly exploited them. That day is over, or it should be. Young volunteers should be given at the very least payment in kind for their services. Rides, lessons, outside of yard experiences, all should come into their remuneration even if there is no actual cash payment. We need people to work in the industry, but if they are going to do so,   then they must be properly paid. There is no excuse, in these good times, for paying mediocre wages, and as many employers do, deliberately circumventing the minimum wage legislation. The tax people are taking an interest in the riding school industry. The social welfare people are on the march. The time has come for serious self regulation and the introduction of proper standards for employees.   The staff situation will only get worse for yard operators. People now expect a fair return for their working week. Young people want money in their hands and will not be content to work for a pittance when there are better options in other walks of life. But the industry needs practical qualifications to build up a long term labour force. Fancy certificates, no matter how well crafted and intentioned, will do little or nothing to keep a workforce in training if workers see no light at the end of the tunnel. No improvement in wages, no qualification ladder on which they can aspire to earn an acceptable standard of living. No one denies that horses are a difficult game, particularly in the commercial sector. Profit is not easily earned, but every enterprise of any kind of reasonable size depends on its workforce. Customers are more discerning now, a factor which has come into play with the fall off in tourism revenue. They expect to meet up with staff who know their business, have an interest in their work, and will ensure their safety. Such staff must be happy about what they do, have a long term interest and should earn a proper wage.  No one objects to employers demanding qualified help. The problem is that the avenues for meaningful qualification in the ordinary course of stable work are just not there. The industry is at fault for this situation. It has not paid sufficient attention to the necessity, the vital necessity, of providing career structures for the people it employs. One of the reasons for this is that it does not really respect its workforce. Mucking out stables, brushing down horses or leading beginner riders on a lesson, may not rate very highly on the normal productivity scale, but these are essential tasks in a riding school. Operators would be nowhere if there were not people to do these things.  Private and competition yards too must recognise that staff have to be adequately paid and that there must be a career path in front of them. There is a difference between the young person who goes to a competition rider to learn the business and study with a master, and the worker in the yard whose routine keeps everything going and is just as indispensable as the fee paying pupil. Every competition rider knows the value of a good groom who will not only turn out his horses to perfection but will work ride them and ensure that they are sound and adequately fed. Such people are worth every penny they earn, but the ordinary Joe should not be forgotten. One of the reasons for the constant drift of workers out of the industry is perhaps the fact that they have no voice. Racing has its stable staff organisation, and in Britain, there is a Grooms Association which has nearly 1,000 members. Perhaps such a body is needed here. Employers need to be straightened up a little. Standards need to be improved at all levels in the Irish horse industry. The calibre of stable staff is a vital part of a successful horse economy. Employers would have fewer headaches if there was a career structure in place, and young people were attracted to the industry and were happy to stay there because they were being offered the right conditions.

New Study Reveals Headcollar Hazards And Need For Improved Education

 A new research study published in Equine Veterinary Education – a journal of the British Equine Veterinary Association – which examines the usage of headcollars on horses and any associated safety issues has exposed some worrying statistics. While it is generally accepted that horse riding carries certain risks, the latest findings underpin the potential hazards for horses and humans, associated with handling horses on the ground. The online survey was conducted by renowned equine scientist Dr David Marlin, Dr Jane Williams, Head of Research & Associate Professor at Hartpury University, and Dr Kirstie Pickles, Clinical Assistant Professor in Equine Medicine, University of Nottingham. It was carried out in 2020 and revealed that a third (31%) of the 5,615 respondents had experienced a horse being injured as a result of wearing a headcollar, with 15% of respondents reporting an additional injury to a person. In addition, 134 headcollar-related incidents were referenced resulting in a horse sustaining a fracture, while a staggering 167 equine fatalities were cited which were attributed to headcollar usage. The risk of an injury increased by 70% when horses were tied up although 20% of incidents occurred whilst horses were turned out. The frequency of injury was highest amongst owners using webbing headcollars and lowest amongst those option for a leather product. The use of either leather or synthetic safety headcollars significantly reduced the likelihood of injury. Commenting on the study, Dr David Marlin said, “Headcollars are the most commonly used piece of tack, yet ironically, there is very limited information available to owners regarding how to fit them correctly, how to use them safely and which safety features to look out for at point of purchase. This is definitely a topic which would benefit from improved education amongst horse owners to help them understand and mitigate against the potential risks linked to headcollar usage. Owners also need to be made aware of the research which suggests that leather headcollars represent a safer option. As always, we should be guided by the science that provides the evidence to dictate the best choice of headcollar, rather than allow ourselves to be swayed by the latest designs. More studies are required on this subject and we are hopeful that further research will be undertaken relating to headcollar function, leading to industry-approved guidelines for headcollar fit and use.”   The study was funded by Equilibrium Products Ltd. Equilibrium Products Ltd had no involvement with nor influence over the survey questions, survey dissemination, the data analysis or the writing of the paper by Dr David Marlin May 2021

The Queen and her Horses

As the Queen celebrates her 95th birthday today, compassion for our monarch must be felt more than ever without her beloved husband by her side. It has been a very emotional few weeks since the death of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh. However, it has also been great to see how loved they both are reminding us what a steadfast constant they have been in our lives. Our Queen would like nothing better than to spend the day quietly with her family and also with her beloved horses and ponies. With the many tributes that have been televised and written about recently, both the Queen and Prince Philip are avid horse lovers and full supporters of equestrian sport. The Queen’s particular love of horses is well documented and you only have to see a photograph of her in the company of any horse, to see it shine through. Her lifelong love of horses began when her father, (the future King George VI) gave Princess Elizabeth and her younger sister Princess Margaret a pony – a rotund little Shetland called Peggy. Many ponies followed including a former pit pony that the King and Queen saw when they visited a coal mine in Durham. The small pony was just about to head down the pit but within minutes was presented to the King and Queen as a gift for the young princesses. The Queen has had many gift horses presented to her over the years, but the most famous and said to be the Queen’s favourite was Burmese, a black mare gifted to the Queen by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1969. She was trained and ready for the first Trooping of the Colour later that same year and went on to be the Queen’s mount until she retired after the 1986 ceremony. Burmese was stunning to look at, and she also portrayed considerable courage when in 1981 during the Trooping of the Colour parade, someone fired six blank shots into the crowd. Burmese was startled but displaying her expert horsemanship, the Queen mounted in side saddle, soon brought her under control. Burmese continued to be the Queen’s mount on many famous occasions, including riding out informingly with the US President Ronald Reagan. Putting her formal duties aside, the Queen has come into contact with horses on many different levels with many different types of horses. Hairy ponies such as Highlands and Fells breeding from many of them from Balmoral. Prince Philip was a renowned carriage driver having been very hands on breeding ponies and horses for driving as well as riding too. At the other end of the scale, the Queen is much respected in the bloodstock circles for her knowledge of thoroughbred breeding and training. She is an avid racegoer and very rarely misses the Derby and Ascots summer race meeting. She has been photographed on many occasion showing smiles and delight when she watches a key race, let alone watching one of her own horses taking part. Her keen interest in all things equestrian has been passed down to her children with Prince Charles a keen polo player in past years and Princess Anne a brilliant eventer through the seventies. Her grandchildren have also taken on the equestrian role with Prince William and Harry very game polo players and of course the very talented eventer, Zara Phillips who was the Eventing World Champion in 2010. Perhaps today celebrating turning 95, she will be wanting nothing but to ride out among the grounds of Windsor on her favourite Fell pony. In times of grief, I know that being with horses is one of the most comforting ways of feeling just that little bit better during a period of great sadness…. Written By Samantha Hobden – Haynet Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

You Can Canter Corners!

Do you ride your horse into a corner – set him up so he stays balanced? Do you push on coming out of one too? Most riders do but stop and think about what you do halfway round that same corner. Or what you don’t do … Imagine you’re cantering a 20m circle. See yourself doing it – sitting in line with the curve of the circle; back on your seat; riding forward into a steady contact that’s even in both hands. You’re on a continuous curve and you wouldn’t want to break the flow of your canter so there’s absolutely no reason why you’d want to take a check or interfere, is there? Which is absolutely right. Now imagine yourself going large. Your canter is in full flow as you approach the corner. You’ll probably take a bit of a check and use a bit more leg to get your horse balanced for the corner. Without realising it you’re breaking the flow of the canter. What’s worse is as you ride round the corner you probably stop riding forward. There are a couple of moments on a short side where most riders sit absolutely still. Not as you ride into a corner (you want to sit up and steady then right?). Not as you ride out of it – there you must want to keep your horse between leg and hand so he doesn’t flatten onto the long side. But halfway round – between corner markers and A/C. The thing about this is if you rode these few strides your horse would be better balanced into, round and out of the corners and you wouldn’t need to interfere at all! It’s important to point out that you’re using your legs to encourage not to give your horse a sudden surge of energy. As you ride large or through the corners, your calf muscles should rest against his sides and squeeze on each stride. A sudden flurry of heels or whip would have the opposite effect – he’d shoot forward and lose rhythm. On a 20m circle, you’ll ride every stride in the same way without thinking about it. So why the big freeze in a corner? It’s often unintentional. You may relax after setting him up for the corner. Or perhaps subconsciously you’re tense because you think he’ll lose balance. In actual fact the less leg you use the more likely that is to happen! Practise cantering a 20m circle at A or C. Focus on riding the curve between the four tangent points of the circle. (A/C, X & unmarked points on the track at 10m) You should touch the track for a stride and leave. Ride at least three circles so you ride forward and concentrate on maintaining the rhythm and flow of the canter. Riding forward to a steady contact does two things – it keeps your horse straight and balanced. It also helps him to relax and breathe. If your contact and your legs are consistent he knows where you are and what you’re asking so he doesn’t have to think. When you take your leg off or freeze up – even for a single stride – it’s enough to make him hold his breath in anticipation of a new aid. Every time he holds his breath in that way his body tightens – as yours does. This interrupts the softness and flow of his strides which is exactly what happens on the corners. With that in mind, canter a 20m circle at A or C and start to square off the corners on the short side. Focus on the flow of your canter around the open side so you can maintain it as you reintroduce the corners. Riding forward round the short side takes practice. You need to nag at yourself to keep riding. The average horse will take five strides between corner markers and A/C so count them. As you count squeeze with your calf muscles to remind yourself to keep riding. You’ll be surprised to see how many strides you usually miss. Riding corners is an important part of test riding but it also affects jumping and lateral work. Anything that interrupts the flow of your trot or canter will have a knock on effect on everything you do on the next long side. Next time you ride think about what you’re doing around the whole arena. These little things can have a bigger effect than you think. Good luck and enjoy your schooling.  In memory of author Lorraine Jennings

How To Make Your Horse Swing Both Ways

Is your horse one sided? Most have a stiffer side. He may choose one canter lead over the other, have a diagonal that’s more comfortable or go round corners on one rein with his head stuck to the outside but whatever it is don’t be so quick to blame him! Think about the way you’re sat in the chair right now. Are your legs crossed? Which leg is on top? Is it always that way? 9 times out of 10 you’ll do one rather than the other. That means one hip gets more exercise than the other. If you have a drink at the computer which side is it on? Do you find it more natural to turn to the left or the right to pick it up? How about if you go upstairs? Or climb over a fence. Which leg do you lead with? (Chances are it’s the one you’ve got on top if you’re sitting with your legs crossed!) How about when you’re riding? Do you find it easier to turn your body to the left or the right? One way is always easier. When you warm up which way do you go to start with? Left or right? Do you go back to that rein for your first canter? Given the choice would you turn left to a fence or right? These are little things but things that you can change to help your horse. Make a conscious effort to change the way you do things. Cross your legs the other way, put your mug on the wrong side of the desk for a week and lead with your other leg when you run up the stairs. By doing that you’ll even out your body and help your horse to even out the way he uses his.  When you’re out hacking you probably carry your whip between you and the traffic. Why wouldn’t you? The problem with that is your horse will naturally bend around that whip putting him in a permanent right bend. Is it any wonder he’s stiff to the left? When you ride out try to carry your whip in the left hand when you’re off road. Use both diagonals too. It’s too easy to opt for the ‘good’ one but use the uncomfortable one often enough and you’ll find it hard to tell between the two. You don’t have to be on the bit to do these things. There’s no need for your horse to even realise you’re schooling him. Keep it simple and he’ll even out without knowing you’re trying. How often do you see someone bending and flexing their horse one way and then the other? It’s OK if you really understand what you’re trying to achieve but if you’re doing it because you think it will ‘soften’ your horse’s stiff side you’re unfortunately wasting your time. If your body was stiff to the right no amount of neck bending would loosen it up. You’d need to bend through your waist and stretch the muscles on the other side which aren’t used to working. So does your horse. Don’t think you can get rid of your horse’s stiff side by working on that rein the whole time. Imagine if someone stood over you and made you write with the wrong hand. You may start off with good intentions but it would be hard work and uncomfortable – eventually, your enthusiasm would dwindle.  Think about how you’d feel if you had to write with the wrong hand and you’ll understand why your horse needs to be schooled in stages on the stiffer side. You can’t just turn his head in that direction and kick him through the stiffness. He can’t bend because he’s struggling not because he doesn’t want to! You have to gradually increase the bend you ask for bit by bit. In the school use serpentines so you use both sides. On a three loop serpentine ride it so the first and last loops are on the easier rein when you start off. When you turn onto the middle loop keep your horse looking straight forward in his head and neck and concentrate on pushing his body out. The more he stretches the outside of his body the more supple his back will be. Bending his neck won’t do that. Riding your horse straight is more beneficial than riding with an exceptional bend on one side and stiff and stilted on the other. Figures of eight using long diagonals are ideal. This way your focus is on keeping him straight across the school, asking for a slight bend around the half circle and then straightening him up again. When he’s balanced you’ll be able to stretch his body from your leg without tension. The slower your pace the better for your horse on his stiff side too. Imagine having to write a sentence with the wrong hand at speed? By concentrating and writing slowly most people could at least write legibly. Your horse needs you to be understanding and patient. Little and often will win the day. Change your ways as much as you want him to change his and you’ll be surprised what a difference it makes. Good luck and enjoy your schooling. In memory of Lorraine Jennings

Sweet Itch

Sweet Itch is a problem that affects thousands of horses, ponies and donkeys in many countries of the world to a greater or lesser degree. Virtually all breeds and types of ponies and breeds can be affected, from tiny Shetland ponies to heavyweight draught horses, although the condition is rare in English Thoroughbreds. Sweet Itch is classed by vets as a reportable condition, which must be disclosed by an owner to a prospective purchaser before the sale. For the purpose of vetting, the allergy may be regarded as seriously as an unsoundness.  Diagnosis is not usually difficult – the symptoms and its seasonal nature (spring, summer and autumn) are strong indicators. However, symptoms can persist well into the winter months, with severely affected cases barely having cleared up before the onslaught starts again then the following spring. Symptoms include severe itching, hair loss, skin thickening and flaky dandruff. Weeping sores, sometimes with a yellow crust of dried serum may occur. Without attention, sores can suffer a secondary infection. The top of the tail and the mane are most commonly affected. The neck, withers, hips, ears and forehead, and in more severe cases, the mid-line of the belly, the saddle area, the sides of the head, the sheath or udder and the legs may also suffer. The animal may roll frequently and attempt to scratch on anything within reach. It may pace endlessly to try to rid itself from the itching.  There can also be a marked change in temperament – lethargy with frequent yawning and general lack of ‘sparkle’ may occur, or the horse may become agitated, impatient and when ridden, lack concentration. When flying insects are around he may become agitated, with repeated head shaking.  Horses that go on to develop Sweet itch usually show signs of the disease between the ages of one and five and it is common for the symptoms to appear first in the autumn. Hereditary predisposition may be a factor. There is anecdotal evidence that stress (e.g moving to a new home, sickness, or severe injury) can be a factor when mature animals develop Sweet Itch.  So – What is Sweet Itch? Basically it’s an allergic skin disease.  Certain horses are allergic to the saliva in the bite of a species of midge called Culicoides.  This means that once a sensitive horse is bitten by a Culicoides fly, it will have an allergic reaction at the site of the bite.  This will cause a localised irritation which the horse will try and rub. Self- inflicted damage will occur as the horse itches himself.  Culicoides adults mainly rest among herbage and are most active in twilight, calm conditions. Breeding sites are commonly in wet soil or moist, decaying vegetation. They are tiny, with a wing length less than 2 mm and able to fly only a short distance (100 metres or so).  Treatment Ensure pasture is well drained and away from rotting vegetation (e.g. muck heaps, old hay-feeding areas, rotting leaves). Stable at dusk and dawn, when midge feeding is at its peak, and close stable doors and windows. The installation of a large ceiling-mounted fan can help to create less favourable conditions for the midge. Insect-proof stables using fine-mesh screens. Try using commercially available sheets and hoods to rug the horse with when he is turned out. Coat the susceptible areas of the horse with an oil. Midges dislike contact with a film of oil and they will tend to avoid it. Commonly used preparations include Medicinal Liquid Paraffin, and ‘Avon Skin-so-Soft’ bath oil (diluted with water). There are several oil-based proprietary formulations, for example, Day Son & Hewitt’s ‘Sweet Itch Lotion’.  Oils and other repellents that are effective usually work for a limited time: In summer a horse’s short coat-hair does not retain the active ingredient for long and it can be easily lost through sweating or rain. Re-application two or three times every day may be necessary. Greases (usually based on mineral oils) stay on the coat longer, but they are messy and therefore not ideal if the horse is to be ridden. They can be effective if only a small area of the horse is to be covered. However, it is impractical and often expensive to cover larger areas.  Some preparations contain substances (e.g. eucalyptus oil, citronella oil, tea tree oil, mineral oil or chemical repellents) that can cause an allergic skin reaction. Always patch test first on the neck or flank of the horse – apply to an area about 3 cm across and look for any sign of swelling or heat over a 24 hour period before using more extensively. Applying soothing lotions to the irritated areas. Soothing creams such as Calamine Cream or ‘Sudocrem’ can bring relief and reduce inflammation, but they will not deter further midge attack. Steroid creams can reduce inflammation. Rugs designed to cover the horse or pony completely from the midges are also a very effective way in reducing sweet itch. Keeping turnout to night time during the warm seasons and bringing them in out of the warm sunshine helps immensly in keeping this troublesome condition at bay. The conventional wisdom is that allergies are an over-reaction of the immune system. To this end, most veterinary treatments work by dampening the immune system. In the long term this cannot be a good thing for the horse, so prevention, as they say, is better than the cure.   For more information on Sweet Itch, please visit British Horse Society

Get Your Horse Connected

Does your horse feel a bit flat? Are you going through the motions but struggling to set the world on fire? He may feel fairly light in your hand – perhaps he moves from your leg too – but if that’s the case why aren’t you getting better marks at dressage and why is your canter so flat? You need to get better connected. Your horse has two ends and a middle. Those three parts are joined together by bone, tendon and muscle. Tendons and muscles are meant to stretch but allow them to get too far apart and you’ll struggle to keep him together. When he gets strung out it’s impossible for him to push himself forward correctly. Push on and you’ll generate speed but no power. Both ends will move faster – just not together. You can tell a disconnected horse because his back is long and flat. He may not be on his forehand but he’s not sat back on his hocks either. He may have a ‘4 time’ canter too. It’s often overlooked as it feels similar to an ordinary canter. You may just think something’s not quite right but be unable to put your finger on it.  Listen carefully to the beat of the canter and you’ll hear four beats, not three because the inside hind and outside fore isn’t moving as a pair. To improve a four time canter the last thing you need to do is canter! Get your horse working between your leg and hand in walk and trot first and he’ll be better balanced and able to canter correctly. Riding around the school trying to push your horse forward to your hand won’t work. It’s human nature to try too hard. You’ll end up pulling too hard and tightening his back or pushing him on so much that he falls onto his shoulders and rushes. You need to give him something to do which does it for you. Try this. Direct transitions from trot to halt and halt to trot are perfect for pushing your horse together. Learn to use your thigh and knee to bring him back to you. The less you rely on your hand the better. If he’s relaxed in his mouth he’ll soften and round his back and work correctly. You may be using halt but this needs to be a forward thinking exercise. Ask for your transitions on a long side at E and B so your horse has had time to get straight and balanced and has room in front of him to feel he can go forward again. Turn onto the long side and focus on riding forward from both legs into a steady contact in both reins. Keep your hands level and in front of your body to keep your horse’s shoulders pointing down the track. Make sure, if you’ve had an inside bend, you always straighten him up on the long sides. Never back off a downward transition – especially one to halt. Halt needs to be full of energy so your horse is back on his hocks and ready to move on again. Ride forward towards E/B and look up. Never underestimate the influence your weight has on your transitions. The further back you lean the more weight you’ll put on his hocks. Two strides before E/B squeeze with your thighs to warn your horse the transition is coming. On the marker push your knees in as hard as you can and sit back on your seat. Keep your lower leg on to keep his hocks under his body. Come out of the saddle at this point and you’ll tip him into his shoulders and lose all the energy from your trot. Keep your contact in both reins. Once your horse has settled in halt move straight into trot again. Don’t shuffle your seat in the saddle, shorten your reins or move your legs – you haven’t got time for that! Halt and move on again. Get it sharp enough and you’ll feel your horse rock back onto his hocks in readiness for the trot again. That’s where you want him. The upward transition should be as sharp as the downward. Sit back, look up, take your knee off and use a nudge with both heels. If your horse doesn’t go the instant you ask, tap him up with your whip but don’t lean forward! That will put all your weight over his shoulders and make it impossible for him to engage his hocks. You will never improve an upward transition by loosening your reins – just as you won’t improve a downward one by taking your leg off. Keep your contact even in both reins. Be careful you’re not focusing on an inside bend. Do that and unwittingly you’ll pull back on the inside rein. That sends your horse off to the inside. A crooked horse can’t use his hocks correctly to push himself forward. Don’t just ride a couple of half decent transitions and move on. Spend the whole session doing them. Start on the long sides. When your horse is really halting and moving off with the slightest touch of your knee or heel you can move on to different places. Turn across the school, halting over the centre line. Ride figures of eight with halt transitions at X. Turn down the centre line and halt at X. Do anything you can to keep him thinking. By the end of a good session, you should feel your horse is more in your hand. You’ll have more weight at the end of your rein but in a positive way. He should be bouncier in his trot and itching to go forward when you halt. That’s connected. And the four time canter? Well that will be better but do yourself a favour. Leave it for another day. Good luck and enjoy your schooling. In memory of Lorraine Jennings from School Your Horse

Dealing With Bucking & Rearing

There can’t be many riders who haven’t been bucked off a horse or pony at some stage. An experienced rider will recognise the signs which mean the horse is about to buck and can often avert the problem before it starts, but bucking is a thoroughly dangerous habit and once a horse becomes used to ditching his rider it is very difficult to retrain him.  There are a number of reasons why a horse bucks, an older or more experienced horse may buck purely for fun, this flinging up of his hind legs should not cause any problems to a rider. Other reasons for a horse bucking can be a sore back, which should be checked, plus the fit of the saddle.  A sore mouth or feet can cause bucking. Mares can have ovary problems and of course, some horses may be overfed and not have enough exercise.  However, the bucking which results from a young, afraid or tense horse is very different and can be difficult to sit. Once the horse learns he can get his rider off he can be hard to retrain and in fact, may always be prone to bucking.  Very often horses start bucking because they are started too quickly, and not given the time to relax doing the things they are being taught.  This type of bucking is not naughtiness, but a reflex because of tension. An experienced rider will feel the tension in the horse, possibly behind the front leg, or is humpbacked, and becomes stiff when it is saddled or mounted. Also if the horse lowers its rump, and/or holds it’s tail stiff and unflappable down when you try to lift/rotate it, it might be to tense to carry a rider or is carrying its neck straight up with a scared look, it might be to tense and likely to buck.   With a young and tense horse take every step slowly. Repeating time and time again, many times daily if necessary. Mount and dismount the horse constantly until you can feel him relax and that he doesn’t think this is a big deal.  Only when the horse is happy and relaxed at this stage should you ask him to move forward. Do this only one stage at a time. A kick in the ribs can result in his back coming up and bucking. Make a huge fuss of the horse every time it takes a step.   When you are riding if you feel the horse becoming tense and likely to buck, try to turn the horse quickly before the buck starts that sometimes releases the tension. If the horse is already bucking try to turn the horse into a corner, many horses stop there. Horses that have a long history of bucking, are not very easy to stop.  Some rare horses are also simply with a very bad temperament and buck out of pure stubbornness.  Be ready to have to sit out the bucks, or to be thrown to the ground.  Riding in bogland (wet enough so the horse has a hard time bucking, dry enough so it won’t get stuck) is one way to help the horse getting accustomed to carrying a rider while not being able to buck very well, or even buck at all.  When the horse has completely stopped bucking, ride it for a few meters, and then quit for the day.  The next day, repeat the whole procedure, the horse should relax sooner, and you be able to ride it a bit longer. When training youngsters, keep the warning signs in mind and try to prevent bucking happening at all.   Rearing is the most dangerous of the vices that can face a rider. However, it is generally riders’ that are the predominant cause of horses rearing under saddle. Horses rear as an evasion although there is a percentage of horses that are just plain naughty Generally rearing is a failure to go forward and a failure of the rider to get the horse to go forward. This leads to frustration and confusion in the horse. Once he learns to evade by rearing it is very hard to prevent this vice from becoming established. Of course, other problems should be checked for first such as sore teeth, the bit is too strong, pain or sheer boredom from being ridden in the arena for too long.   In order to prevent a horse from rearing ensure that you vary your work with him. Intersperse work in the arena with hacking out and jumping.  You will teach a young horse far more out on a hack than by going around and around in an arena and will hopefully avoid rearing as an evasion, especially if you have an older and more experienced horse for company.  Curing a horse that rears is not easy and certainly not for an inexperienced rider. There is an old wives tale which says that you should break a plastic bag of water or eggs over the horses head and it will think it is bleeding. It will then stop rearing. This does not work! What does work is a high degree of experience, skill, courage and above all, timing. Horses that continue to rear normally will end up being put down. Unfortunately, this is generally the only safe option for them. A ton of horse coming down on top of you will kill you. A very experienced rider may use spurs as the horse rises to make him realise that he is doing wrong, but the timing has to be impeccable, otherwise, the horse will think he is being disciplined for putting his legs back on the ground.  Another, probably less aggressive way is to circle the horse as soon as he threatens to rear. With his head bent tightly around in a circle the horse cannot rear. However, if he does rear, throw your weight as far forward as possible and ensure that you are not hanging onto his mouth which could pull him over backwards. As soon as his front legs touch the ground circle him if you feel he may go upwards again.  If the horse is unwilling to go forwards and threatens to rear if you use your legs strongly, ride with a helper who should have a lunge whip to use across the horse’s hindquarters when he falters and begins to think about heading skywards.  With much of horse training, it is easier to try to outwit the horse before the problem begins than to try to cure him when the vice is established. Unless the horse is purely naughty most of the problems and vices are ‘man-made’ by bad riding or pain which should be preventable before they begin, or certainly before they become established.  by Jacqui Broderick Image credit: Pixabay

Keep The Simple Change – Simple!

Do you find the whole idea of a simple change daunting? Do you think it’s beyond your capabilities or your horse’s? Think again! Simple changes are just transitions between canter and walk. It’s an easy way to change your canter lead. They’re tricky but certainly not impossible. If you can walk, canter and tell if you’re on the correct leg there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t ride one. You just need to take your time. Instead of thinking about it as one movement break it down into separate parts. There are three parts to a simple change – the canter to walk, the walk and the walk to canter. Many riders skip through the walk in the middle which is where the problems start.  You should think ‘canter … walk ….walk …canter’ but often riders think ‘canter …walkcanter’. What’s the rush? A rushed transition is never a good one. Especially a canter one. Take your time. If you ask your horse for canter before he’s actually finished the last one is it any wonder he gets the wrong lead? Start with the canter to walk. It needs to be sharp and balanced. Your horse needs to sit back on his hocks to slow down. Ride forward to a steady contact and never pull back. Do that and he’ll tighten his back and stop using his hocks. Depending on his temperament he’ll either jog through the walk or almost halt and lurch forward again. All transitions need to be straight but it becomes more important in a simple change. If your first transition is crooked who knows where you’ll end up by the second? Practise canter to walk on the long side as you head towards the corner. Riding on the track, not a circle will highlight any crookedness. Your horse will naturally back off the fence in the corner too so it’s the ideal place to ask. Your horse will copy what you do with your body with his. Ride down the long side with your shoulders and hips square to the front and he’ll do the same. Focus on holding your position as you ask him to walk and you’ll help him to sit back on his hocks. When his quarters are behind his shoulders he’ll stay straight and balanced. Your weight has a huge effect on your horse’s ability to stay balanced from canter into walk. Pull up through your body and look straight ahead – not at the floor 20m further forward. Keeping your head over your body pushes your weight directly down onto your seat. When you’re carrying yourself he can do the same.   As you ask for walk squeeze your thigh and knee into the saddle as hard as you can. (Like a clothes peg) This restricts your horse’s shoulder muscles and means you need less pressure on his mouth. Tighten your fingers around both reins but don’t pull back. This combination of your weight, your thigh and the pressure on the reins is enough to stop him in his tracks. It’s essential to push your horse’s hocks under him as you slow down. He needs to sit in the transition. If you don’t he’ll rock forward onto his shoulders – as a car does when you hit the brake. He may fall into halt and lurch forward or he may break into trot. Use your leg and it’s similar to a hill start in a car – the brake is on but so is the accelerator. He sits on his hocks and lifts his shoulders. When you feel your horse step into walk relax your fingers and the pressure from your thighs to allow him to go forward. Be patient. This takes practice. Every horse is different. Do it too soon and he’ll jog. Hold on for too long and he’ll halt. Take your time with this stage and you’ll find it easier when you join it all together. The next step is to ride it across the diagonal. Ride a 15m circle to balance your horse. Steady your canter using your thigh and knee. Focus on keeping his head and neck straight in front of him. Too much inside bend will cause problems as you turn and lead to a crooked transition. Look up and turn onto the diagonal keeping your body square to the marker you’re aiming for. As you cross the ¼ line tighten your fingers around your reins. Maintain that pressure until you feel him walk. Relax your fingers and knees as he does and ride forward. Walk onto the new rein before moving back to canter through trot. Work on walk to canter in a separate session. Practise asking as you ride onto the long side. Look up and keep your body square to the front. Asking as you come onto the straight will highlight any crookedness. Canter aids are the clearest of all aids. Many riders panic and lean forward to ‘encourage’ their horse to canter. Don’t! Your horse will know what you mean. If he doesn’t go first time ride a 10m circle and ask again with a tap with your whip to back up your aid. Never compromise your aids or your position in a transition. Consistency of your aids helps him to understand what you’re asking every time not just once. With walk to canter aim to canter one long side before you trot and walk again. Use the whole session to do as many transitions as you can. Don’t get one and call it a day. These need to become as normal to you and your horse as a walk to trot transition. They will if you practise. The ‘odd stride of trot’ in between is not an option! You’re not asking for trot you’re asking for canter. Stay focused on what you want and be positive. A quick tap with your whip as you use your inside leg will back up your leg. With walk to canter established change the rein across the diagonal in walk and ask for canter as you cross the ¾ line. This will keep your horse straight but also make it clear to him which way you are heading. The easier it is the quicker he’ll understand. Introduce a full simple change across the diagonal. Ask for walk as you cross the ¼ line. Walk all the way across until you have crossed the ¾ line and then canter. This gives your horse time to settle in walk and focus. As he improves reduce the distance between transitions. Don’t rush it. Count your strides between transitions. Start with 10 and work your way back to three. In time the walk disappears completely. It becomes little more than a hesitation – a half-halt – which later becomes a flying change. But for now, keep it simple. You can worry about flying changes another day! Good luck and enjoy your schooling. In loving memory of Lorrain Jennings from School Your Horse

Going Underground

We all love and treasure our horses and ponies; they are such an important part of our lives. It is hard to fathom, now when walking around a stable yard or visiting a show that horses and ponies had a very different role in our world. Not so many years ago much of the work done by machinery was carried out by horses.  Britain hasn’t had any mining industry since the mid 1980’s but until then, at its peak, it was a thriving industry which employed over a million people. Mining was a tough way of life for those employed in the industry and especially for the ponies that were used to haul the coal to the surface.   Ponies began to be used underground, often replacing child or female labour, as distances from the pit head to the coal face became greater.  The first known recorded use in Britain was in the Durham coalfield in 1750. At the peak of this practice in 1913, there were some 70,000 ponies underground.  The ponies tended to be used for the shorter runs from the coal face to the main road which were more difficult to mechanise. Probably the last colliery horse to work underground in a British coal mine, “Robbie”, was retired from Pant y Gasseg, near Pontypool, in May 1999. Tough little characters Larger horses, such as varieties of Cleveland Bay, could be used on higher underground roadways, but on many duties small ponies no more than 12 hands high were needed.  Only geldings were used. Shetlands were a breed commonly used because of their small size and hardy nature. In the interwar period, ponies were imported into Britain from the Faroe Islands, Iceland and the United States. Donkeys were also used in the late 19th century.  The type of pony used were low set, heavy bodied and heavy limbed with plenty of bone and substance, low-headed and sure-footed. Under the British Coal Mines Act of 1911, ponies had to be four years old and work ready (shod and vet checked) before going underground. They could work until their twenties, provided they were in good health. The selection of the pit pony was a matter of extreme importance. Various characteristics of the pony were considered before it was chosen for work in the mines. Because of low roofs, steep grades and the tough work, the pony needed to be low set, heavily bodied and heavily limbed with plenty of bone and substance. It also needed low head carriage and to be sure-footed. The weight of the animal was important because heavy loads had to be moved up and down steep grades that, in turn, necessitated sure-footedness because of road conditions. Another consideration was the temperament of the pony. A nervous or shy pony would be very expensive to break in and probably not be suitable for hard conditions. A good pit horse was one that was even tempered and kind. A vicious horse was a menace to the drivers, liable to cause bodily injury and/or fatal accidents. Cruel?  In shaft mines, ponies were normally stabled underground and fed on a diet with a high proportion of chopped hay and maize, coming to the surface only during the colliery’s annual holiday. In slope and drift mines, the stables were usually on the surface near the mine entrance. Typically, ponies would work an eight-hour shift each day, during which they might haul 30 tons of coal in tubs on the underground narrow gauge railway. While their lives must have seemed tough especially to our modern pampered darlings the pit ponies were well cared for. They represented a capital asset to the mine, the best work could be obtained from animals that were in good condition. It was desirable that the horse have only one driver who would take more pride in the animal and so that they might both understand one another. Their daily working shift was normally the same as a man’s and drivers did not like their ponies to be double-shifted. When the animal got older, their work period was usually reduced to four hours. The roadways were to be kept in the best possible condition to prevent accidents. The roof was also to be carefully brushed to rid it of protruding rocks that might cause a head injury to the pony. The ponies were taken below ground in a cage or were walked into the slope mines on the footpath.  Ponies generally stayed below ground for approximately five years, unless killed or maimed, and then they were either moved or replaced. The daily routine Ponies pulled material in coal boxes from the shaft or slope bottom to the working places and pulled the filled boxes to the point near the surface in a similar manner to railway yard shunting engines. The efficiency of pit ponies depended upon the manner in which they were treated and the amount of food they received. A stableman was hired to take charge of the underground stable and also to take care of and feed the horses. Usually, an hour before work, they were fed hay, watered and grained. A constant supply of pure water was considered one of the best investments possible in animal care. At each landing, a generous supply of clean water was placed where it would always be available for the horse. This would prevent gorging and eliminate many ailments that often proved fatal. The stableman usually shod the horses with shoes made on the surface. Sometimes, a farrier went into the mine when a higher degree of shoeing skill was required. He would take the measurements underground and make the shoes on the surface.  Stable conditions were very important and much was done to tend to the comfort of these animals and lengthen their term of usefulness. In the stable, the height of the roof was to be seven feet when a five-foot horse was in use. It should be able to raise its head and relax its muscles because it had to work all day carrying its head low. Ventilation was to be arranged so that the direct current would not strike the horses. As little wood as possible was used in the construction of the stables to lessen the chance of fire. All stables were well drained and white washed to ensure they were as clean and airy as possible. During the annual mine holidays and when they retied the ponies were sent to farms where they could spend their time at grass.  Like all work mates the ponies were loved and appreciated by those who cared for them. Their handlers would ensure they got the best treatment, food and rest. by Jacqui Broderick Image credits: Wikipedia Commons

Showjumping Legend: Ryan’s Son

No horse show, when they were shown on mainstream television, was complete without a spectacular round from John Whitaker’s Ryan’s Son. He’s been the subject of countless articles in the media and although he died in 1987 he is still fondly remembered in countless books on show jumping and even some 20 years after his death on a number of Facebook pages, such as Show Jumping Nostalgia, which was established in 2010, The Golden Age of Show Jumping which was established in 2013 and of course on John Whitaker’s own fan club page. Ryan’s Son certainly wasn’t pretty standing barely 16 hh he resembled a cross between a Clydesdale or Shire and a Thoroughbred. He was actually by the Thoroughbred Ozymandias out of an Irish Draught mare. He had the body of a cart horse, the heart and courage of the Thoroughbred, huge feet, a ewe neck and had too much white on him, sporting a long broad blaze and two long white stockings behind. But oh boy could he jump! Ryan’s Son holds the distinction of being probably the reason John Whitaker became the tremendous sportsman he still is today, instead of delivering milk for the family dairy. With BSJA winnings of just 50p John was given the horse by Malcolm Barr, who would later become his father-in-law. The horse and teenager hit it off immediately, becoming the team to beat on their local Yorkshire show circuit. Unfortunately a dreadful round at the Great Yorkshire Show, in front of friends, family and former school friends, saw them clock up an embarrassing 20 faults. John reportedly told his father he was not going to ride at the show the following day. Fortunately for him, his father didn’t listen. The reluctant teenager and his exuberant horse went back to the show and in true story tale fashion, went on to win the class beating such luminaries as Harvey Smith and David Broome. The rest, as they say, is history. In the modern days when horses are bitted and bridled with all manner of contraptions Ryan’s Son always competed in a twisted snaffle with long cheek pieces, one of which I seem to remember from watching him jump was broken. Even though the horse had a tendency to ‘hot-up’ John didn’t change his tack, instead choosing to turn his horse out in between shows to give him a chance to unwind. Before Milton and other such luminaries Ryan’s Son was the biggest money-winner on the circuit, a distinction he held for 10 years. But the thing he will be remembered for the best was his habit of throwing an enormous buck after the last fence. I’m sure he knew he had done wall and was showing off to the audience. Disconcerting for John I’m sure was the fact that whenever the audience clapped he bucked. If the spectators clapped after a particularly difficult combination Ryan’s Son would throw in a buck or two, endearing for the audience but a nightmare for his rider who would have been attempting to set him up for the next fence! John campaigned Ryan’s Son around the world gaining Olympic silver at Los Angeles, the European Championship silver, and bronze in the World Championships. But one moment that must be one of John Whitaker’s favourite was capturing the prestigious King George V Cup when Ryan was 17, something that had eluded them so many times before. The pair were the last to go in the jump off and did a faultless round. I’ll never forget the sight of John Whitaker wrenching his hat off and flinging it in the air. Despite a triumph in the Hickstead Derby this course was their bogey ground. In the early days of their partnership Whitaker exasperated by a series of stops by Ryan’s Son, broke a branch from a hedge and slapped the horse. It was this same venue that was the scene of the terrible end of Ryan’s Son. In 1987 the 18-year-old Ryan’s Son banked the big white parallel failed to snatch his legs in time and tipped up. To those watching it did not seem a bad fall, and Whitaker and Ryan’s Son walked calmly out of the ring. But three hours later, with the vet in attendance, Ryan’s Son collapsed suddenly and died, presumably from internal haemorrhaging caused by the fall. The journey back to Yorkshire, without Ryan’s Son must have been utterly horrific. What a dreadful tragedy that he didn’t go on to have a long and happy retirement. John, of course, went onto have an incredible career, but Ryan’s Son remains for many the wonderful Irish gelding with a big heart who was the horse that played such a big part in the career of John Whitaker. RYAN’S SON Born: 1968 Major wins include: Midland Bank Great Northern Championship The Bass Grand NationalEverest Double Glazing ChampionshipKing George V Gold CupHickstead DerbyJumped nine double clear rounds in Nations Cup competitionsRoyal International Horse Show winnerHorse of the Year Show OlympiaHe was the leading national money winner four times (1976, 1978, 1979 and in 1983).In 1980 he won the Irish Horse Board’s prize for the best horse bred in IrelandIn 1981 Ryan passed the £100,000 winnings mark1984 Ryan became first British show jumper to win more than £200,00. Image credit: Wikipedia

Hazardous Hacking

If you Google the term “Happy Hacker” it will either show you articles on website criminality or you will find numerous equestrian shops or happy hacker horses for sale. But is hacking out with your horse happy or more these days “hazardous hacking”? I’m Just a Happy Hacker Why do we feel a little unaccepted in the equestrian world for being a happy hacker? Hacking your horse out on the roads and lanes in this country is dangerous and hazardous but one of the most enjoyable aspects of horse riding. Figures show that more horse owners have their horse just for pleasure, and not to compete with. Yet many of these owners feel they cannot admit in the company of other equestrian riders, that they like nothing more but to ride their horse on the lanes, through the bridleways, along the fields and canter through woods. Horse riding in whatever chosen sphere is a high risk activity, and hacking should be accepted equally to those who choose to ride in a showjumping arena or a cross country course. Most competitors have immediate medical help on site if they are unlucky enough to have an accident. Accidents while out hacking don’t have this “luxury” of instant medical assistance. Some unfortunate riders have a very long wait for medical treatment, especially if they have fallen in the middle of nowhere in a muddy field… Many of us are lucky enough to have the use of safe bridleways or open fields where there is no traffic, but hazards will always present themselves to the horse rider. How many of you have come across a pheasant flying out from the undergrowth, a passing low flying helicopter, or just a rouge plastic bag stuck in a hedge to alarm your horse and then deal with their reaction? Thankfully the majority of horses can cope with these dangers however big or small, but some horses respond in a spooky erratic manner needing quick thinking from the rider to limit a fall or an accident. Dealing with Hazard out Riding Always try and be one step ahead of your horse when hacking out foreseeing potential hazards that are out there. If you have to ride on the roads or lanes look and listen for traffic especially from behind. If you come across a noisy or dangerous hazard always reassure your horse. Horses look to the rider for support and guidance in these situations so a calm spoken word from you or a gentle pat works wonders. If you are in company and you have a horse that is more experienced, then let them take the lead. Your horse will follow and gain confidence by seeing another horse not reacting to the hazard ahead. Ride in a forward and positive manner so your horse is feeding on your confidence. Even when you know your horse is going to react, portray calmness and assurance to them. The majority of the time this diffuses the situation and they then walk past or through the hazard, all be it twenty hands tall but you have got past it safely! Riding Safely on our Roads It is not always possible to ride on rural bridleways or through quiet countryside, so sometimes hacking out does mean road work. Are you aware of the Highway Code when it comes to riding your horse on the roads? It may seem obvious to us what safety precautions we should be doing when riding out, but take a moment to have a read of the guidelines that are there. You should always ride on the left hand side of the road and never riding more than two abreast. With traffic approaching riding in single file is safer and always acknowledge a thanks to the driver. A courteous thank you to cars that have slowed down and passed wide goes a long way in driver attitudes to horses on the road. Always wear hi-viz clothing when riding out and ensure your horse has adequate hi-viz attire too. A study has shown that wearing hi-viz clothing makes you more visible to a car driver approximately three seconds earlier than without it. Those three seconds are vital in the avoidance of a potential accident. Make sure you ride out in clear daylight and not when the light is fading or visibility is poor.  Always wear a riding hat and have your mobile phone with you in case of an emergency. However, texting or taking a call when riding is not advisable! If you take all of these safety points when riding out on the roads, it is like wearing a seatbelt in a car. Losing your Nerve Generally hacking out is a relaxing past time and a great way to bond with your horse. Understandably if you have had an incident while out hacking it can cause you to lose your nerve. Getting your confidence back can take time, but it is vital to get back in the saddle sooner rather than later. Either ride an experienced horse or ask a knowledgeable friend to accompany you when first riding out again. Make the first rides short and at a walk. Increase the length of time riding out which will help you feel more positive about hacking your horse again. Enjoy Hacking Out Take a moment to look at the lovely countryside and give your horse a thank you pat when you next ride out. How lucky we are to enjoy such a wonderful past time with these very special animals. Hacking out is fun but it is equally demanding in the skill you need to stay safe. Most of all, enjoy being a happy hacker! Written By Samantha Hobden www.hay-net.co.uk Header Image: © Copyright Robin Webster and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence Body Image: © Copyright Adrian S Pye and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Is Your Hand On The Brake?

Are you confused between energy and power (impulsion)? Don’t be. Energy is the fizz you get when you shake a bottle of coke. Power is the pressure of that fizz as it pushes against the lid before you open the bottle. In riding terms, your legs create the fizz and your rein contact (the lid) gives it something to push against. Trouble arises when your contact is too tight and puts a backward pressure on your horse’s mouth – it’s like driving with the hand brake on. Look at it another way – Imagine you have to push a parked car up the road. It’s stationary so you put your weight behind it. If the brake is off, the car will move forward. If you keep pushing it will keep moving until you pull back on it to stop it. You’ve created power because you have something to push against that is mobile. If the brake is on no matter how hard you push it’s going to stay solid and resistant. Eventually, you’ll have to admit defeat and stop trying. If that happens every time you try to move it you’re going to stop trying before you start, aren’t you? Now imagine what would happen if the pressure disappeared because someone drove that car away as you were pushing? You’d fall flat on your face – right? Funny it maybe but it’s exactly what happens to your horse every time you lose your contact. There’s a fine line between a steady contact and tight one. To keep it consistent and the same length you need to clamp your reins between your thumb and first finger. If your fingers grip the reins they’ll will feel solid and tense to your horse. Move your 2nd and 3rd fingers as if you were texting someone and you’ll create enough movement on the rein to create a soft but firm feeling in his mouth. Any tension in your body will directly affect your contact. To your horse, it will feel as if the brake is always on. It won’t matter how much leg you use. If he’s pushing into a dead, solid contact in the end he’ll stop trying. Keep your arm soft by pointing your thumb towards the bit. You need a straight line from your elbow through your wrist, down the rein to the bit. Often you’ll find it’s tipping up towards your horse’s ear. In that case, you create a break in the line and a backwards feeling on his mouth. Any form of backward pressure will create tension. There’s a stage in riding when riders feel the urge to squeeze on their reins to get their horse on the bit. It’s unnecessary. When a horse is ridden forward to a steady, soft contact his back will round as his hips are pushed towards his shoulders. If you’re pulling back on one rein and throwing away the contact on the other … well you’re not exactly making it easy for him, are you? It’s much easier to focus on your hand and thumb position in trot as your horse’s head and neck stay still. In walk and canter, there is an obvious head nod. Do you move your arm forward with him or back against him? Next time you ride, check that out. Your horse may need to relearn to relax and walk forward into your contact. If he’s become used to you pulling back on the bit every time he nods forward he’ll have learnt to keep his head and neck still. Do you often moan that he sets his neck? Many riders unwittingly squeeze back on their horse as he nods away from their hand. What they should be doing is moving their whole arm forward with him and coming back to maintain the contact. Walk large and focus on your arms. Think of your reins as two flexible poles that your horse pulls forward and pushes back. Go large in walk on a long rein and push on. Watch your horse nod forward and back as he walks. Ride at least three circuits on each rein so he really starts to relax. Then keep up the pressure from your legs and take up your contact. Don’t dither when you do this. Lean forward and take up your outside rein, hold both reins in your outside hand and take up your inside rein to match. ‘Shimmying’ your fingers up the reins is irritating and unnecessary. Once you’re in medium walk focus on the pressure in your hand. Move your 2nd and 3rd fingers to keep your contact soft, point your thumb towards the bit so your arm stays relaxed and concentrate on following your horse’s head and neck forward and back. Initially, you may find you push forward too far or that he comes back quicker than you expected but relax your arm – shut your eyes if you need to – and stop trying so hard. Let him take your hand forward and concentrate on keeping the weight in your rein as he comes back. Practise out hacking too when you’ll be more relaxed. Work on your canter in the same way – you may find it easier than walk. The head nod is far more obvious as your horse will be naturally more forward. Even if he feels as if he’s pulling or going to take off remember you’re not giving him the reins you’re just following his head. He’ll only pull if he’s uptight. If you pull he’ll get uptight. It’s hard work changing things that have become a habit but in this case, it will make all the difference. You expect your horse to accept your contact, right? Make sure you make it acceptable. Good luck and enjoy your schooling. In Loving Memory of Lorraine Jennings from School Your Horse

Boredom Busters For Stable Bound Horses

Is there nothing more deflating when you hear the words “box rest”? Having a horse stable bound due to illness or injury is very challenging for the horse owner. Horses are herd animals and love the freedom to be out in the fields with their fellow equine pals. To remove them from this environment for days, weeks or even months on box rest can sometimes lead to problems in the horse. Most horses will tolerate a few days in their stable but as time goes by they can become anxious, lonely and bored. Problems such as crib biting, box walking and weaving are all signs of an unhappy horse. If the vet advice is the horse must remain stabled, then there are ways to make the recuperation time a little more interesting for them. Here are some boredom buster ideas to help your stable bound horse:- Make The Stable Interesting Making the stable an interesting place for the horse on box rest will keep him entertained and make the convalesce easier to deal with. Give him a comfortable deep bed so that he can sleep and roll within the stable if needed. That is one thing a horse yearns to do is roll and after days being confined in the stable, he may need to roll within the box. Pop hidden treats around the wooden sides of the stables such as polos or strong mints, so that he has to work to find these. Pop some apples in his drinking bowl for him to do some apple bobbing. Treat balls are also a great way of keeping the horse moving but without overdoing it.  Bank up his bed in the day time, so he has an area to move freely like pushing an old football or treat ball around. Tie up root vegetables with baling twine from the stable rafters so that he has to work for a bite of a turnip or swede. Go and pick some grass for him or better still actually laying some bits of turf will keep him very entertained! Horses actually love playing with a piece of turf shaking it about and nibbling some welcome grass. Use small holed haynets so then give him more of a task to eat his hay and place one or two around the stable again to keep him gently moving. Again by placing pieces of apple or treats within the haynet will keep him happy and soaking the hay will assist with fluid levels too. Another treat is actually flavouring the hay when soaking it. By placing some mint, nettle, rosehip or chamomile tea bags in the water will flavour it for a nice change to regular hay. Place A Mirror In The Stable Recent studies have shown that horses with separation anxieties are 60% happier being stabled with a mirror. Health complications from stress such as ulcers and gastric complaints in horse also have significant results in the treatment and recovery of such conditions, just by stabling the horses with a mirror in its box. These are inexpensive and can be fixed easily to the interior of the stable. Spend Quality Time With Your Horse Embrace box rest by actually spending some quality time with your horse. Give him a bath if the weather permits and take time in giving him a good groom. Practise plaiting, or pulling a mane. When you are not pressured to get to a show, then time given to these tasks can be incredibly beneficial.   Why not treat yourself and him to a massage mitt which kick starts blood flow and helps warm and relax your horse at the same time. If the injury allows, then stretch out his legs and encourage bend by making him turn to eat a carrot near his shoulder. If your horse is allowed to walk out, then lead him in hand in a safe area to stretch his legs and give him a change of scenery. However sometimes with any period of confinement, your horse will no doubt exhibit excitement with the thought of being out of his stable! So with this in mind, think carefully where you are going to walk him in hand and ensure you are protected by wearing a hat, gloves and sturdy boots. Have a cup of coffee or tea with him near the stable door with the radio on. You never know he might enjoy Radio 1 or The Archers! If he is going to be left alone in his stable for a length of time, then leave a radio on for company. If there is another horse that is happy to come in for a few hours in the day, then having another equine friend next door will please him. It is the owner’s despair when they have to put their horse on box rest but remember the horse does not realise the length of time ahead of him. It is just a change of routine which many adapt to with ease. Embrace this downtime and think positively about box resting your horse.  Sometimes a break from competing or riding every day can be refreshing for both of you. Working in partnership with Prime Stables Professional stable builders who will guide you through the selection of the best stable designs to suit your requirements.

Schooling Without A School

Schooling outside the arena is a great way to keep horses interested in their work. There are no areas on a hack that can’t be used for training. Everyone knows the benefits of having a well schooled horse or pony. It is far nicer to ride a responsive, balanced animal than one that is wooden to the aids and heavy on the forehand. Obviously a horse that is doing competitions, whether they are cross country, showjumping, dressage, or even hunting, or ridden showing classes has to be well schooled to be able perform properly. Schooling takes hours of dedicated riding, flexing, bending, increasing and decreasing the pace until the required level of training has been achieved. We always assume that it is necessary to train the horse on a good soft level surface in a ménage with perfect footing. But what if you don’t have a ménage available? Or what if you hate riding in the ménage? Horses that are ridden in a ménage every day can switch off mentally and become bored and frustrated. Then it is impossible for them to achieve their full potential. Schooling the horse while out on a hack is a great way to keep horses interested in their work. Horses like their riders need to see an occasional change of scenery. Wouldn’t you hate it if you had to go to school and have to recite the same French verbs over and over again day after day?  It is essential for horses to be ridden outside the ménage in order to see the world otherwise they could become scared and panicky when faced with the hustle and bustle of a competition. In our modern world, it is an essential part of training for horses to see machinery, people and traffic. You can even school when out with a group of friends, this is a great way to discipline a horse or pony to concentrate and work even when other things are distracting him. Hacking out can give you plenty of opportunities for schooling without having to endure the boring grind of endless circles. Hacking out can still be used to school the horse to a high level without using a ménage. There are no  areas on a hack that can’t be used for training, be aware of the ground though, it is unfair to ask the horse or pony to work on wet, rutted, hard or stony ground. Most riders will know the tracks and fields in their area where it is possible to ride. Make sure the horse of pony is traffic proof and be sure that the area that you choose to school is free of rubbish, hidden ditches and other dangers.  When schooling while out on a hack, start with ten minutes in a quiet but not lazy walk, give the horse the freedom to stretch his neck as much as he needs. Flex his neck slightly to the left and right in order to loosen both sides of the neck muscles and help him flex at the poll. In this loosening phase you can easily change the bend of the neck slightly left and right in order to straighten the horse. This works best by giving with one hand in a forward and upward direction. It is this movement of the bit in the mouth that encourages the horse to soften and stretch forward and downwards. After walking let the horse go forwards into a free-moving trot, allowing him to carry his head long and low. When trotting while on a hack, change diagonals every 10 strides. While out on a hack you can make use of all of the grass verges, forestry and open land to do the same exercises that would be done in a ménage.  Grass verges are perfect for:- Straight lines Grass verges offer a perfect opportunity for schooling while out on a hack. Watch out for discarded rubbish and don’t try to school on verges that are rutted, or too muddy. A grass verge is a great place for practising riding in a straight line, one of the hardest exercises for the horse and rider. The narrow lines at the side of the road can give you a guideline, try keeping the horse in a straight line using just your weight and leg aids. In the beginning, the horse will not stay in a straight line for very long, but this will get better with time. Be sure that you are riding straight yourself as the horse may drift off line because of the rider’s crookedness.  Shoulder in This is the first exercise in bending and flexing the horse. The amount of bend is only slight and the horse is bent away from the direction of movement. The rider must turn his shoulders so that they remain parallel to the horse’s shoulders. Make sure that your weight is in your inside seat bone and that your inside leg is used to bend the horse through his whole back so that he can go forwards using both sides of his body evenly.  In shoulder in the horse should cross his front legs and work on three or four tracks with the hind legs staying on the track. The outside leg is placed behind the girth to prevent the hindquarters swinging to the outside.  Transitions All verges and paths are excellent, regardless of how narrow they are for transitions from one pace to another, from halt to walk and on to trot and canter. Practice riding to a straight halt. Rein back can also be practised while riding along verges. Tracks are perfect for:- Quiet country lanes and tracks make an excellent place to school; they needn’t be more than four metres wide. Sandy tracks are ideal but you can also use traffic free tarmac roads for work at a walk.  Serpentines It is important that the serpentine is ridden with weight and leg aids so that the horse bends properly around the inside leg and doesn’t just do a zig zag from one side of the road to the other. A serpentine requires the same aids as a shoulder in except that the leg presses more firmly against the horse so that he moves forward in the direction of the bend. It is important that the horse is straightened briefly before bending in the new direction. Make sure that your aids are precise and clear so that you end up with a supple horse that listens to your aids. You can use trees and bushes while riding through open land to ride serpentines and doing other bending and suppling exercises.  Half pass  The half pass is a forwards and sideways movement. In this movement there is the danger that the horse will move his tempo and impulsion or that he will fall onto his forehand. It is important not to ask for too much at once, rather ride a few steps to encourage more bending of the joints and swinging through the back. To achieve the forwards sideways movement the inside leg has the additional function of asking the horse to go forwards, while the outside leg behind the girth is responsible for asking the hind leg to step under and sideways.  Fences are perfect for:-  Leg yielding Any form of barrier can be used for a leg yielding exercise. Ride the horse alongside the barrier. Put your weight in the desired direction without collapsing at the hip, bring the inside rein slightly away from the neck, leading the horse in the direction of movement. Put the outside leg slightly back. When the horse responds to your weight aid and moves his weight use your leg to ask the outside hind leg to step under his body. Make sure that the horse moves over step by step and does not just slide over sideways. After a few successful strides try moving in the other direction.   Riding up and down hills There is no better gymnastic exercise for a horse than being ridden up and down hills. It improves tempo, improves condition and builds muscle. Riding a rein back against a slight hill is a wonderful exercise for tucking the haunches underneath the horse. It should be ridden step by step gradually increasing the number of steps. Many animals will try to swing to one side, use your leg aids to keep him straight and lighten your seat aids to give the horse room to bring his hind legs under him.   Standing still A quiet, straight halt is a very difficult movement to perform. And yet it is one of the most vital movements that a horse needs to learn. It is important for the rider to be able to sit quietly without gripping so that you do not give the horse the signal to move off. Count to four and then give the horse the aid to step forwards, reward him for this. Gradually extend the amount of time that the horse stands still.  You can also practice school movements while out hacking with friends. This gives the rider the perfect opportunity to practice standing still, while the other horses walk away. When riding out with friends change position in the group frequently so that the horse does not get used to being in one place. It is important that each horse will lead the group and also settle at the back. This is a great way to practice for riding in competitions in the future when there will be a lot of activity going on around the horse.  You can practice all of the school movements when out with friends.  Be certain that your horse is bombproof before you ride out alone. Always wear a hard hat and it is also advisable to wear a high visibility vest. Avoid busy roads, especially if you are trying to concentrate on schooling your horse. 

Respiratory Problems In Horses

If your horse is coughing, has a runny nose and appears generally listless and sick it is obvious there is a problem. However, just because your horse is not coughing does not mean his respiratory system is in tip top condition. When horses are kept together inside, respiratory problems will increase. These problems are one of the biggest causes of economic loss in the horse industry, especially in eventing and racing. Horses and ponies are flight animals and have an enormous lung capacity so they can run fast and for long distances. A horse in rest uses 60 litres of air in a minute, in gallop this is up to 2000 litres.  Inside your horse the upper airways and lungs can be compared to an upside down tree with the trachea as the trunk, the branches the bronchi and the leaves, the alveoli. In the alveoli oxygen is taken in and carbon dioxide is released. The wall of these alveoli is covered with very tinny finger-like projections. Even in competition performance this reserve capacity not completely used. Performance problems can arise however, when the lungs do not function to the maximum because of damage occurring in the past which has affected the horse’s ability to use the inhaled oxygen efficiently. When a horse coughs it is a reflex action from the body to get rid of a problem. The reflex of coughing should therefore not be suppressed initially. However if the coughing continues specific treatment has to be started. There are several reasons why a horse or pony develops a cough:- Allergies Allergens are substances which cause an inappropriate response in the immune system of the horse. Typical allergens are some plants and especially mold from hay and straw. The body reacts to these allergens with its own defence mechanism. This reaction will cause damage to the lung tissue. Infections Infections start generally by the horse or pony inhaling a virus. The virus penetrates the tissue and a fever can occur. Very often though, this goes unnoticed. Depending on the virus it will normally take a couple of days to multiply and to actually cause damage to the bronchi. Bacteria can grow excessively in these damaged bronchi. The finger-like projections get damaged, the tissue gets inflamed and mucus is produced. The horse develops nasal discharge and will start to cough. If this situation persists for a longer period of time the tissue in the lungs will get more inflamed. This will lead to the swelling of the wall of the bronchi and constriction of the muscles in the lungs resulting in a narrowing of the tube leading to problems with the oxygen intake. When there is a lung problem, breathing is more difficult as the exit is partially blocked because the swelling air can get trapped in the lungs and the alveoli deep in the lungs can burst, causing permanent damage which is called broken wind. This can happen much faster if a horse has to perform while affected. Clean Air Looking at the large amounts of oxygen the horse is inhaling it is important that this air is as clean as possible. Always ensure there is enough ventilation in the stable. Avoid storing hay and straw close inside the stable area. In time dust and mould will put the horse under a high allergy risk. Ammonia from the urine is one of the most aggressive substances for the respiratory tract of the horse, so bedding needs to be fresh and dry.  Great care needs to be taken that your hay and bedding are mould free. When cleaning out stables try to do this when the stables are empty so that dust which is in the air is not breathed in. Always sweep stables thoroughly, especially getting rid of the seeds and waste hay. Try to get your horse outside as much as possible into clean, fresh air. Keep an eye out for signs of respiratory problems. Working a horse or pony which has problems with breathing can cause permanent damage. A dry cough at the start of riding could be the first sign of a developing allergy and if you are in any doubt call a vet. Clinical examination should consist of complete check in rest, auscultation of the lungs before and after exercise. Looking into the lungs (bronchoscope examination) is a very quick and safe way to find out what is going on inside.  Your horse and pony’s lungs are vital to his health and performance, so don’t take any chances with them.

The Correct Lead – Can You Tell?

When you first learn to canter you’re taught to ask in a corner because it helps to put your horse on the correct lead. Once you’re more confident make things harder by asking for canter at E or B. Without the benefit of the corner your horse may give you the wrong lead. The correct lead feels comfortable. The movement rocks you from back to front like a rocking horse. When it’s wrong the movement rocks you from side to side and can be almost impossible to sit to. Some riders can naturally feel when things are wrong. If you can’t don’t worry. Look down at the shoulders. The leading (inside) foreleg moves on its own. It stretches further forward than the other to help your horse to balance. When you’re correct the inside shoulder moves further forward than the outside. It takes time to see it. Practice cantering around the school. The more you practice the easier and quicker you’ll spot it.   Just to complicate things horses can also canter disunited. Instead of a diagonal pair, one side of legs move together. In this case, the inside shoulder may well be moving further forward than the outside but the canter still doesn’t feel ‘quite right’. If in doubt, trot and start again. It’s not the end of the world to be cantering around the school disunited or even on the wrong leg but it will certainly make your life more comfortable if you get it right. Riders often slip to the inside when they ask for canter. By using your inside leg to ask him to strike off (see The Perfect Canter transition) you should be sitting squarer in the saddle. To make sure put a pole on the inside track opposite E or B. Ask for canter as you ride past. Lean to the inside and your horse will strike off in that direction – as if he’s going to start a circle. The pole will make you more aware of it. How quickly can you tell which leg you’re on? Test yourself by asking for canter on the centre line. Look straight down the centre line and be clear with your aids. Have faith in your horse. Ride the transition exactly as you would in a corner. There’s absolutely no reason for him to give you the wrong leg. In memory of Lorraine Jennings from School Your Horse

Rugging for winter – is it so necessary?

As winter approaches horse owners in the UK will be digging out rugs ready to keep their charges warm as temperatures drop. At the same time, those changes in day length will have triggered the horse’s body to start growing a longer, thicker coat with more oil to help keep it warm and dry in cold and wet weather. Horses have a remarkably wide thermoneutral zone, which is the breadth of temperatures in which they will feel comfortable. While their core temperature is 38°C, it’s only when air temperatures exceed 25°C or drop below 0°C that they will experience physical discomfort.  Horses can tolerate a wider range of temperature than humans thanks to thermoregulation, which is the physical and anatomical processes that help them maintain their body temperature. These include the lifting of their coat using pile erector muscles to trap warm air next to the skin and the generation of heat from digesting feed, in particular the long stems in forage. Given that horses have evolved to trickle feed for 17 hours a day, the heat from forage is incredibly important to keep them warm in winter.  If a horse does get cold, their body will divert blood flow to their internal organs, meaning extremities such as their ears might feel cold to touch. That’s normal for a horse in winter and doesn’t mean that they need to wear extra rugs. If you want to find out how warm a horse is, place a hand in their ‘armpit’ or behind their withers. It should go without saying that if they are sweaty, they need fewer rugs!  If horses have evolved to stay comfortable in everything bar extreme weather conditions, why do we rug horses as soon as there’s a nip in the air when they are turned out in the morning? We anthropomorphise horses and love seeing them wrapped in rugs when we’re feeling cold, but over-rugging has a negative impact on them. Rugging too early will inhibit the growth of a protective winter coat and may stop the pile erector muscles from functioning properly. Excess energy from food that doesn’t get used heating or for movement will be laid down as fat. Horses have evolved to lose condition during winter so that they are less susceptible to conditions caused by getting fat on the richer grass in spring, therefore heading out of winter overweight isn’t ideal.  If you can, minimise the rugs you use this winter and feed ad lib forage instead. It’s a great way to combat vices, stave off stomach ulcers and keep horses warm naturally. There’s just one thing to note if you do feed more forage this winter. Even good quality hay can contain dust, bacteria and spores which trigger respiratory disease in horses, so it’s important to manage exposure to them. Recent research found 88% of the horses examined were suffering from inflammatory airway disease (IAD), even though many showed no outward sign. Steaming hay with a Haygain Steamer reduces the risk of a horse developing an IAD by 66% and has the added benefit of making hay far more palatable for horses.  Take a closer look at the Haygain Steamer and the huge range of benefits for horses of steaming hay here: https://haygain.co.uk/pages/benefits-of-hay-steaming-1 

What’s Your Problem?

by Lorraine Jennings Is the thought of winter already getting you down? Don’t let it! Winter is miserable enough on its own without you making it any worse! Accept the fact the weather and the ground conditions won’t be on your side and use your time more wisely this year. Instead of looking at the next five or six months in a negative way see them as a blank canvass. Now you have time to tackle that niggling problem you keep meaning to work on. What is your horse’s worst fault? Lack of energy? Attention? Is he more off the bit than on it? Whatever his problem you have the whole winter ahead of you to get it sorted. You won’t need to plug away every day for six months. Just once a week, every week will be enough to keep you both focused – if you’re consistent. Habits and problems take months to develop. They won’t go away overnight. Decide what it is you want to work on this winter – not this week. Keep it simple. Look at the cause of the problem, not its end result. It’s easy to focus on one technical niggle when actually the problem is far more basic. Look at these three groups of schooling problems. They may seem different at first glance but they all have a common cause – ONE Are your horse’s canter transitions less than accurate?  Is he reluctant to step over when you ask him to leg yield? Does he rush in canter?  Do you feel as if you have his entire weight on the end of your reins in a downward transition? Does he spend more time off the bit than on it?  Would any of these be a problem if your horse was using his hocks and balanced? What looks like a problem with lateral work, a canter transition or hollowing can be solved if you get him working forward from your leg. TWO Your horse is always leaning or pulling  He hollows into canter He’s lazy  He’s crooked into halt  He’s tight in his back  Again you could be forgiven for spending a whole session working on square halts or canter transitions. You may think he needs to sharpen up to your leg aids. But how does he react when you tap him up with the whip? Does he buck? Think backwards rather than forwards? Slam the brakes on and threaten to rear? Could he be trying to tell you something? Anyone of those problems can be blamed on your horse but take a look at your hands. Their position has a huge effect on your his ability – and desire – to move forward. If your hands are too low or fixed down on his withers your whole arm will be tense; giving him the feeling that the brake is always on. Is it any wonder when you tap him up with the whip once too often that he objects?! THREE Does your horse fall in on a circle? Out when you turn? Does his nose tip to the inside on corners and turns? Do his quarters swing in when you slow down?  Is he always getting the wrong leg or dis-united in canter?  Do you find it hard to get him together or on the bit?  Anyone of these problems can be solved if you get your horse straight. Get his shoulders in control and you can put him onto any line you want. If his quarters follow the path of his shoulders he can drive himself forward. If he’s moving forward into a steady contact you can push him together and his back will round. OK, so it sounds simple when you put it like that but knowing the cause of the trouble is only half the battle! Working on it and keeping your horse’s interest – and your own – is far harder. Which is where this blog comes in! Each listed problem is linked to a blog post that will give you different exercises to use to tackle its cause. That should give you enough to keep you busy. The whole idea of a winter plan is to set yourself a long term target. That means get back to basics and work on the real cause of your problem. Take your time but keep it interesting enough to keep your horse inspired and by the time Spring comes round you’ll both be ready for action. Good luck and enjoy your schooling.  In memory of Lorraine Jennings from School Your Horse

COPD in Horses

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is also known as Heaves, Equine Asthma, Emphysema or Broken Wind. For all of their bulk, courage and majesty horses have finely tuned and delicate internal systems which go wrong very easily. Respiratory problems cause coughing, increased respiration and laboured breathing. A yellow nasal discharge may also be present. Breathing can so severe that the horse appears listless, may wheeze and can develop a muscular ‘heave line’ along the horse’s barrel from taking a double exhalation. Usually, the appetite is normal unless the condition is so severe the horse has extreme difficulty breathing. COPD  is caused by environmental problems such as dusty or mouldy hay, dust and moulds in bedding, or pollens, dust and other irritants in the environment. When airborne allergens get down into the airways, they irritate the cells and cause mucus secretion, which will trigger a snort or cough. However, if the horse is allergic to one or more of these particle types, inhaling them will also cause inflammation. Large numbers of white blood cells move into the area. Some of these cells secrete chemicals that cause swelling. Others produce antibodies to the allergen(s) which causes even more inflammation. Because of the mucus and inflammation, less air can get through. The smooth muscles in the walls of the lower airways constrict to prevent the allergens from passing further down into the lungs which reduce the amount of total air space in the airways and lungs. Wheezing and coughing occur, which then worsen the irritation and inflammation in the lungs, causing a vicious circle in which the body’s own defences ultimately cause the most harm.  COPD is on the extreme end of the respiratory allergy scale. It is most likely to develop in colder climates, and in horses over age 7 that are stabled in the winter rather than pastured. A stable is usually a dusty place, and that dust can contain many allergens. Straw bedding and hay are primary sources of a wide variety of allergens. When a horse is breathing this dust for hours at a time, problems can arise. Even clean hay contains small amounts of mould, dust mites, pollen, and other debris; mouldy hay, of course, is even more contaminated. In damp or humid conditions bacteria and mould in the hay can grow increasing the risk. Any but not all horses exposed to respiratory irritants may develop COPD. The longer they are exposed the more severe the condition may become. Horses kept stabled may be at higher risk. The usual picture of a horse at risk is one, usually over 7 who is stabled during the winter, basically most horses. Housing, feed, bedding, weather, and activity are all factors that influence the risk. Horses involved in high-intensity activities are particularly susceptible, especially if they live, train, or work in cold-weather conditions. Cold weather itself may be a significant problem for many horses. Exercising in very cold temperatures has been shown to cause inflammation in the lungs and airways, and maybe a large factor in the development of respiratory problems.  A study of horses of varying ages housed in a conventional stables found that although they appeared perfectly healthy, were performing well, and had no outward signs of lung problems all of them had microscopic evidence of inflammatory airway disease. This suggests that any horse can develop respiratory problems.  Being aware of the likelihood of COPD can help if owners are aware of the subtle signs of the beginning of the illness. If recognised early enough management changes may slow or even prevent its onset.  If the horse is continually exposed to the irritants the disease may progress to the point where the horse is unable to thrive. There isn’t good news for owners of horses who live outdoors either. Even horses on pasture can sometimes become allergic to certain moulds or pollens and develop “Summer Pasture Associated Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (SPAOPD).” About 10% of COPD horses also have SPAOPD. Good management practices can help avoid or control COPD. Try to ensure there is a good flow of air into the stables and ensure any fodder and bedding is mould and dust free. Muck out frequently as the ammonia fumes from stables can also further irritate the respiratory system.  However, horses need to be out of the stables while they are cleaned and kept out until the dust settles. Hay should be stored away from the stables and kept as dry as possible. Hay stored in the same barn with COPD horses was shown to rapidly cause heaves symptoms and worsening of lung function. Wood shavings, shredded paper, or rubber mats should be used for bedding instead of straw, to minimize dust; good quality straw may also be less dusty. There are drugs available to help alleviate symptoms and some owners find various herbal or natural remedies effective. The bad news is that there is no sure cure; once a horse has COPD it will always be at risk of further lung damage, but with good management should be able to work and live a fairly normal life.  Conventional medicine treatment generally includes anti-inflammatory steroids and bronchodilators which reduce the muscular spasms in the lungs. Unfortunately, these drugs have serious side effects including laminitis and also suppress the immune system, making the horse more susceptible to viruses and other infectious diseases. Inhaled steroids deliver a smaller dose to a more focused area, but require daily or twice-daily administration using a special mask. Conventional drugs may not be suitable for long-term management of the problem because of potential side effects and also because they contain prohibited substances under the rules of various equine sport governing bodies. There are holistic treatments available. Essential fatty acids, with their antioxidant and healing properties, are one such option. Herbs can be a safe, effective alternative to drugs for COPD. Many herbs would help with some of the symptoms of the disease. Yarrow is often used for upper respiratory complaints. Herbs used need to include an antioxidant which will reduce inflammation-causing molecules in the body that contribute to asthma. It also needs to be antifungal, to inhibit mould particles that commonly cause COPD, immune-modulating, to decrease the over-reactive immune response to allergens, have anti-inflammatory properties to protect the lungs from the harmful effects of inflammation. You may be able to find Funtumia Elastica, a Traditional Asthma Remedy in health food shops.  This native African plant has important antioxidant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic properties. It is traditionally used in its native environment, to treat asthma, allergies, and other respiratory issues, as well as malaria. It has no known toxicity and is not barred by any equine sport governing body. With careful management, whether you go down the herbal route, or stick with conventional medicine and good stable practices there is no reason why a horse with breathing problems shouldn’t have a full and useful life.  Precautions: This article is an advisory post only.  It is solely your own responsibility when feeding natural supplements to animals. If you are giving any other type of drug or medication to your horse, please check with your vet to make sure it is still safe to administer. by Jacqui Broderick Image credits: Pixabay

Sefton – A True Heroic Horse

Of all the horses recalled in history, there can’t be many that are braver than Sefton the courageous horse who survived the IRA bomb in Hyde Park, London. Sefton was born during July 1963 in County Waterford, Ireland.  He was an Irish Draught cross, out of a Draught mare and by a local Thoroughbred stallion believed to have been Honour’s Choice. He was purchased as a two year old by local man Michael Connors, who took him as a four year old to the nearby Pallas Stud to be inspected by the Army Purchasing Commission on 1 June 1967 as a potential mount for the Household Cavalry. The stunning black horse was accepted immediately and Connors paid the then standard £275. The new recruit was then shipped via a ferry from Dublin along with twenty five other three and four year old horses destined for the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery and other parts of the Household Cavalry.  At the remount depot, he was named Sefton after Lord Sefton, a former Household Cavalry officer. While his official name was Sefton he was nicknamed ‘Sharky’ by those who rode and groomed him, due to his fondness for biting. In September 1967, Sefton was moved to the Wellington Barracks in London and assigned to the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. Trooper McGregor had the tough job of breaking him in, not an easy task by all accounts – army records show that he took a longer than average time to be broken, as he was not quick to submit to rider commands. He finally ‘passed out’ in June 1968, and had his regimental number 5/816 marked on to his hind hooves. Things did not go well for the new recruit after just two years of service Sefton had gained a reputation for being difficult, breaking ranks, fidgeting and napping.  In an attempt to settle him Sefton was sent on deployment to Germany with the Blues and Royals. The life in Germany suited Sefton better; he was taken out with the Weser Vale Hunt, a bloodhound pack set up by Captain Bill Stringer. His bold jump and fast turn of pace made him the perfect whipper-in’s mount. This made him very popular, but due to his nature, he was not given to recruits to learn on but offered as a prize for the best recruits to ride. Sefton was also competed in show jumping competitions, whilst on deployment between 1969 and 1974 and won 1434 Deutschmarks in prize money. He was a member of the army team competing for the British Army of the Rhine, as well as winning a Point to Point race. In 1975, there was an outbreak of strangles at Knightsbridge Barracks, with many horses sick there was a shortage of large black horses for ceremonial duties in London. Sefton with a suspect tendon injury was immediately chosen to return to England as he was not fit for hunting. Here, he worked for the Household Cavalry for the next four years, performing his guard duties, as well as appearing in Quadrilles, and tent pegging competitions. He also continued to show jump, appearing at the Royal Tournament and other smaller shows. In 1980 at the age of 18, he was gradually retired from showjumping. On 20 July 1982 at 10:40 am as Sefton and 15 other horses from the Blues and Royals were being ridden to the Changing of the Guard, a car bomb planted by the IRA detonated on South Carriage Drive in Hyde Park. The nail bomb in the car hit the formation of horses and riders. Two soldiers were killed instantly.  Two more died of their wounds later. A second explosion two hours later in Regents Park killed another seven soldiers. The blast from the Hyde Park bomb injured all of the horses.  Seven were so badly injured that they were shot at the scene to relieve their suffering. Sefton and eight of his stablemates also sustained horrific injuries. Sefton’s were the most serious of the surviving horses, his jugular vein had been severed, had a wounded left eye, and 34 other wounds over his body. His rider Trooper Michael Pedersen later said that Sefton responded so competently that when the bomb exploded there was no chance of his being thrown. After dismounting, Pedersen, who was still in full state kit and in severe shock, could do little to help his horse. The sound of the explosion alerted a number of soldiers who were still in the barracks, and many of them ran to the scene, including regimental commander Andrew Parker Bowles and veterinary officer, Major Noel Carding. Another soldier, on orders from the officers, took off his shirt and used it to apply pressure to Sefton’s severe neck wound. Major Carding, one of the first on the scene said: “Sefton was the worst injured and I knew that we had to get him back to the barracks if there was to be any chance of saving him.” Due to the severity of his wounds, Sefton was led into the first horsebox to arrive on the scene, where he was driven to the barracks along with Major Carding, Farrier-Major Brian Smith and three other troopers who were holding Sefton. Carding ordered the horsebox to the forge, rather than the stables, as it was closer.  At the forge, Carding began an emergency operation and was actually the first of the British Army’s veterinary officers to operate on war-like wounds to a cavalry horse in more than half a century. Carding also directed the care of the other wounded horses before civilian vets arrived to assist. Between them, Carding, the civilian vets, farriers and troopers managed to save all of the horses who were brought back to barracks from the explosion scene. Sefton went through 8 hours of surgery which was a record length for horse surgery in 1982. Each of his 34 wounds were potentially life-threatening.  In total, some 28 pieces of shrapnel were removed from his body. That evening, after surgery he was only given a 50/50 chance of surviving due to shock and extreme blood loss. Such was Sefton’s strong will to survive that he not only survived the night but got better and better as each day went by. He went on to make a full recovery and returned to duty within three months, serving with the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment for another two years where he was often ridden by Sergeant Michael Pedersen, his rider on the day of the IRA attack often passing the exact spot where he had received such horrific injuries. Unfortunately, while he survived the bomb, Sefton’s rider, Pederson, suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder and in 2012 committed suicide after killing his two children. While Sefton was a patient the public embraced his incredible story sending huge quantities of cards and mints. Money poured in as donations from the public this was used to construct a new surgical wing at Royal Veterinary College which was named the Sefton Surgical Wing in his honour. In 1982 he was given the Horse of the Year award and with Pederson back in the saddle took centre stage at the Horse of the Year Show, to a much deserved standing ovation.   Two years later on 29 August 1984, Sefton retired from the Household Cavalry. He spent the rest of his life at the  Horse Trust sanctuary Buckinghamshire. He lived to the ripe old age of 30 before having to be put down on 9 July 1993 due to an incurable lameness, a complication of the injuries he suffered in the  Hyde Park bombing. In 2013, a statue of Sefton was unveiled at the Royal Veterinary College the  life-size bronze statue of Sefton, depicting him in a brisk walk, was completed by the RVC’s artist in residence   Camilla Le May, who spent two years working on the project and six months creating the sculpture, which weighs three quarters of a ton. Sefton was one of the first horses to be placed in the British Horse Society’s equestrian Hall of Fame and had an annual award named after him.  Brigadier Paul Jepson, the former chief executive of the Horse Trust and honorary veterinary surgeon to the Queen, said: “Sefton had bags of character. Other horses who survived the Hyde Park bombing were left traumatised and unable to return to their duties. Sefton was different. His bravery was remarkable.” by Jacqui Broderick Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

An expert guide to caring for your horse’s tack

In this article, Sean Whiting, Director of Houghton Country, offers his advice for cleaning and maintaining your horse’s tack. Good equipment and accessories for your horse don’t come cheap, so it’s important to look after them as repairs and replacements can be costly. Your horse’s tack is tough, but small things like water, dirt and grease can break down the materials they’re made from, causing cracks and splits. This damage can cause your equipment to be unsafe and will cost you dearly in repairs or replacements.  Dirty tack can also rub into your horse’s skin and cause irritation or infections, so it’s important you make sure all the different accessories are clean and fresh each time you use them, or you could injure your horse. So, below are some tips for keeping your equipment in top condition. Daily maintenance  There are a few simple things you can do every day to help your equipment last longer and keep it in good condition. A quick wipe down with a damp cloth or tack cleaning wipes after every use can help keep dirt and grease at bay, and patting the equipment dry with a fresh towel after a ride in wet weather can prevent water damage and stretching the leather.  Store your tack properly to prevent it from getting misshapen or damaged — a saddle should be on a saddle rack off the ground and covered, and your bridles and reins hung on hooks rather than in a drawer or box. Heat, cold, and dampness can also affect the quality of your equipment and accessories, so you may want to move your stand and hooks to somewhere that is dry and a stable temperature. Take it apart Every month or so you should deep clean your horse tack, but all the different accessories can make this tricky to do. Dismantling the tack first is the most comprehensive way to clean each part, and you can prevent dirt build-up in places that are hard to reach during your daily wipe-down. Check for damage every time you take it apart, as small cracks and tears can compromise the safety of your equipment for you and your horse. If you do notice any issues, contact a saddler to get them repaired before using the tack. Use the right products Genuine leather tacks need more attention than those made from synthetic fabrics, and they should only be cleaned, conditioned and oiled using specialist products to avoid spoiling. A spray tack cleaner and sponge can be handy for washing every component and some conditioner will give it polish. Special oils can be used at your discretion to keep leather supple and nourished, as well as to help repair worn and brittle tack.  The tips in this guide can help you keep your horse’s equipment and accessories clean, functioning properly, and comfortable for your horse to wear. Remember to stick to products specifically formulated for use on leather and tack, or you could risk causing irreversible damage. Win a tack cleaning bundle from Houghton Country! We’ve teamed up with equestrian store Houghton Country to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a tack cleaning bundle. This fantastic prize includes Belvoir Tack Cleaner Spray, Belvoir Tack Conditioner Spray, Neatsfoot Compound Oil and a bonus tack sponge.  Dirt and bacteria close to your horse’s skin can cause them to suffer irritation and infections, so it’s important to keep all their equipment and accessories clean. Perfect for sanitising your tack, the products in this bundle can also help protect the leather from cracking by keeping it in top condition.  Step one, the Belvoir Tack Cleaning spray, is great for removing dirt, grease and sweat and contains anti-fungal cleaning agents that can help fight off mould, so your horse’s tack can be fresh each time they wear it. Then step two, the Belvoir Tack Conditioner Spray, helps keep your saddlery supple and less liable to wear and tear. The final step, Neatsfoot Compound Oil, can help restore old and brittle tack by soaking deep into the leather to nourish it and bring it back to its former glory.  All the products in this bundle are designed for use on horse tack, so you can be confident that they’ll to clean and condition without compromising stitching. To top it all off, this bundle also includes a high-quality tack sponge for applying and rinsing off the cleaner, conditioner and oil, so it’s a complete kit for maintaining your equipment. Haynet is running this competition through its Facebook channel. To enter, follow the steps below: Like this Facebook post Like Houghton Country on Facebook Like Haynet on Facebook- should you not already! It is as easy as that! Feel free to also share the post for your friends and family to enter too. Closing date for this Facebook competition is at midnight on Friday 30th August 2019. The competition is open to UK entrants only. The winner will be notified on Saturday 31st August 2019 and the prize will be sent to them directly from Houghton Country. Working together with Houghton Country

Don’t Forget The Outside!

by Lorraine Jennings Crookedness is blamed on many things – backs, saddles and even the horse’s attitude but before you rush to the phone, cash in your hand, do yourself a favour and make sure the cause of the problem isn’t you. Your position could be the cause of your horse’s crookedness. Crooked riders create crooked horses. BUT. It isn’t always how you sit. It’s how you ride. There are two sides to your horse. Are you riding them both equally? School fences are the cause of many a crooked horse. The fence takes the place of the rider’s outside leg and rein. The second you move away from it the problems begin. Get away from the track. Try using the ¾ line. Without the fence to guide your horse, you’ll have to ride both sides of him. (The ¼ and ¾ lines are one and the same thing. They’re both 5m from the track and the centre line. The ¼ is the one you reach first as you ride round the short side so depending on the rein you’re on and what you’re doing the name varies.) Your turn onto the 3/4 line is important. It’s a corner, not a ½ circle. Think how you’d honestly ride a standard corner. Inside rein for bend and inside leg to push him out? Very little outside anything. Do that turning onto the 3/4 line and your horse will fall out in spectacular fashion.   The need for outside as well as inside leg and rein quickly becomes apparent. Both reins hold your horse’s shoulders together. Both legs push his body behind them. It sounds simple but the outside aids are often only remembered when things go wrong. In walk, trot and canter ride large but only using ¾ of the school. The 3/4 line becomes your track. As you pass A/C look and turn your body towards the 3/4 line. Take your arms round with your body so your hands stay in front of you and together the whole time. Use both legs by the girth to push your horse’s hocks under him and to keep his quarters behind his shoulders. Turning your body and hands in this way creates a sharp turn. Your horse moves his shoulders round as one unit. Think pirouette (even though it’s not) and push on. Ride straight down the 3/4 line. It’s harder than it sounds. Never slow down in an attempt to straighten your horse. He needs energy to stay balanced. Ride forward into a steady contact. The slower you go the more chance you have of a wobble. Try riding a 15m circle when you get level with X. This will take you onto the track at E/B. Don’t suddenly swing your horse into an inside bend. On a circle of this size, he only needs to look where he’s going – not where he’s just been! Keep your hands together and push him forward. The circle is the easiest part of this exercise. Getting back onto the 3/4 line and riding straight is the tricky bit. On the circle turn your body in line with the curve and focus on the fence at the end of the school. (It can be useful to mark these points with string.) You should have equal weight in both reins at all times. You shouldn’t need to take more contact in your outside rein as you get back onto the 3/4 line to straighten your horse. Use your position to show him. Straighten your body, keep your hands together and push on. Canter is the pace most likely to be crooked. Once in canter make sure your outside leg moves forward to its place by the girth. Leave it back and you’ll be asking your horse to put his quarters in. You’ll also sit with your inside hip further forward than your outside. If your horse does the same his quarters will swing to the inside. To practice your transitions, ask for canter on the 3/4 line. Then ride straight or ride the 15m circle. Concentrate on sitting straight and upright in the saddle. The straighter you sit the straighter your horse. It’s easier to bend a straight horse than it is to unbend a crooked one. Even when you’re on a circle concentrate on keeping your horse straight. Too much focus on an inside bend could make you collapse to the inside, draw your inside leg up or tighten the inside of your body. All problems guaranteed to make him crooked. 10m circles are good for your horse’s balance and engagement. Ride down the 3/4 line and ride a 10m circle to the opposite one. The size of the circle is entirely down to you. Find a spot on the fence you can ride to and keep looking at it. There is no easier way to turn a horse than to look where you want to go. Get inventive. Ride a figure of eight between 3/4 lines. Ride ½ 10m circles at each end and ride diagonally across from one line to the other. Why? Why not? Anything you do which is different will keep your horse’s interest. If he’s interested in what you’re doing he’ll always be easier to ride. When you do go back onto the track remember to use as much outside leg and rein as you had to when you didn’t have the fence to help you. It could save you a phone call. Good luck and enjoy your schooling. In memory of Lorraine Jennings

Foals and Foaling

With common sense, it should be easy for anyone to produce a well mannered and safe young horse or pony that will be a pleasure to own. Pregnancy At conception, the cell that will develop into a foal is no bigger than a pinprick. At 40 days the limb buds and head can be seen on the foetus which is approximately 5cm long. By the 80th day of pregnancy, the foetus is approximately 15cm long, it even has discernable hooves. By 120 days all of the physical features of the foal are present, but it is still very small. After this time the foetus grows rapidly, but the major growth period is in the final weeks of pregnancy. At this time the foetus grows a coat, mane, and tail and its internal organs mature in preparation for birth. The length of a mare’s pregnancy is 340 days. Foaling One of the earliest signs of foaling is the development of the udder. At first, this will be hardly visible until three to four weeks before foaling when the udder will become hard and shiny. During the last few days of pregnancy, the dorsal muscles around her tail will slacken. When viewed from behind the tail head will stand proud, well above the rest of the muscles of the quarters. Quite obvious hollows appear on each side of the spine above the base of the tail. Between 24-48 hours before foaling, a globule of a waxy substance will appear on the end of each teat. This eventually drops off and milk may begin to run, this indicates that foaling is imminent.  Foaling will usually take place in the early hours of the morning. It is preferable to leave the mare alone while she is foaling, but look in on her from time to time to ensure that all is well if the mare is foaling in a stable.   The first sign that foaling is imminent is that the mare will seem uncomfortable and unsettled and may sweat.  The water bag is the first thing to appear, followed by the foal’s forelegs and then its nose. At this stage, the mare may lie down and get up again a few times, but this is quite normal and is no cause for alarm. If the front legs and nose are not visible, it is probable that the foal may be coming in the wrong position. This requires immediate veterinary assistance. Fortunately, such problems are rare in the horse; most births take place quickly and easily. Once the head is out the rest of the foal will quickly follow.  Shortly after delivery the foal will struggle and will break the water bag if this has not already happened. If the bag has not broken then it is essential to break it to let out the amnionic fluid, otherwise, as the foal takes his first breaths he may inhale some of this liquid and damage his lungs. The umbilical cord will rupture as the foal struggles, or when the mare rises a short while after the birth. It is not necessary to dust the umbilical cord with antibiotic powder as this closes naturally against germs, but no harm will be done if you prefer to do this. Shortly after birth, the foal will begin its first struggles to get to its feet.  It may take a considerable effort and the foal may appear to suffer many falls and bumps as it tries to get to its feet, but this is natures way of warming the foal and getting it to use its limbs. Leave the foal to rise alone unless it is in danger of falling into fences or other dangers. Most mares have a strong maternal instinct and will lick and nuzzle their foals, but just occasionally the mare will actively dislike her foal and may try to attack him. In this case, it is necessary to separate the mare from the foal and call the vet immediately as it is essential to give the foal the mare’s colostrum and then hand feed him to ensure his survival. Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence and the worst that will happen is that the mare, usually one that has just had her first foal, maybe ticklish and may squeal and threaten to kick when the foal tries to drink. In this case, the mare may have to be restrained for a few days while the foal suckles. The first few hours Once the foal is on its feet it will soon be thinking about finding its first drink. The foal will start to nuzzle the mare at first in every place other than the right one. Before too long though the foal will locate the right place and take its all essential first drink of colostrum, which contains many of the antibodies that help provide disease resistance. Within a few hours of the foal having its first drink, it should pass its first droppings which are known as the meconium. These should be dark brown in colour and the consistency of thick cream. Common health problems If the foal has problems passing the meconium and is seen to be straining without result then the vet should be called immediately as newborn foals can quickly weaken and the impaction may worsen if it continues.  Another problem is that the mare may fail to expel the afterbirth either partially or fully. This is not an immediate concern and on no account should any attempt be made to remove it by pulling. If the afterbirth has not come away within four to six hours the vet should be called. Keep a close eye on the mare and foal for the first ten days. If the mare begins to appear listless and off her food it may be that a small portion of the afterbirth has remained and infection is beginning. Check that the foal is drinking, by inspecting the mare’s udder. If it is hard and shiny the foal is probably not drinking which is an indication that all is not well. Be wary of a foal that is listless and does not bother to feed, or one that goes constantly from one side of the mare to the other to try to drink, which may indicate a shortage of milk. Most foals go through the early days of life without problems, but one common problem is scouring. This can occur when the mare comes back into season approximately nine days after giving birth when the consistency of her milk will alter.  Careful and regular observation of the mare and foal are necessary for the early awareness of a problem which may require veterinary attention. Handling your foal Early handling of the foal is essential to produce a well mannered horse. Time spent getting the foal used to being stroked all over and having its head and legs touched will pay off in the long run. Teach to foal to pick up its feet, holding them up for short periods of time at first in preparation for farrier’s attention. The foal has no reason to be afraid of you, but it is essential for later handling, to keep it that way. Always be calm, firm and gentle. It is good practice for the foal to learn to lead, rather than to run loose behind the mare. It is easy to teach a foal to lead by using a soft rope around his neck and by putting a hand on his quarters to help to encourage the foal to move forwards. When the foal is about a month old it is a good idea to fit a foal slip and to teach it to lead properly. Never leave the foal slip on while the foal is in the field as foals are extremely curious and could get caught somewhere no matter how cautious you are about safety. When leading always loop the lead rope through the foal slip rather than attach it, foals will often play up and could pull away from the leader. At least if the lead rope is free it will fall off and not frighten the foal by dangling around its legs or become caught up somewhere. The foal should be taught to lead, striding freely beside you, not rushing off in front or pulling back. If it is necessary to catch the foal never try to make a grab for its head, as this will only lead to head shyness later on, rather start by scratching the foal’s rump and gradually work your way towards his head. Foals, especially colts can be quite obnoxious and if left unchecked can become quite dangerous. Any naughty habits must be sharply discouraged, especially nipping and kicking. Whilst everyone in the family will be delighted by the new arrival it is important to remember that the foal is not a cuddly toy and should never be treated that way. Over petting the foal and feeding it titbits will cause problems in later life. A young horse that has no respect can be difficult to train when the time comes to break him in. However, it is equally important that the youngster is not afraid of you, as this causes a different set of problems. With commonsense, it should be easy for anyone to produce a well mannered and safe young horse or pony that will be a pleasure to own. by Jacqui Broderick Image credit: Pixabay

How To Make Your Tack Shop Stand Out To Online Competition

I bumped into a lady recently who I used to see nearly every week. She is the manager of a tack shop where I have probably spent thousands of pounds and hours of my time over the last fifteen years. With no horse to buy for or look after now, the tack shop manager said she missed me but probably more so, (although she didn’t say it) she missed my business. We had a long chat about the industry and how incredibly tough it is in the current climate with the internet taking the cream of the saddlery business. Savvy buyers would visit the store to try on riding clothes for sizing and fit and then trot back to their laptop to see if they could buy it cheaper.  And this is where the tack shop is having a tough time.  With big brands currently disappearing from our high streets, it would be detrimental to the equestrian community to lose their tack shops. So how can equine stores keep competitive against online competition? I think many need to look long and hard at their store with a critical eye and work on how to make some changes. Here are my thoughts on how a tack shop can embrace the current climate and challenge online competition: Check Out Your Online Competition Ok, this may seem obvious, but spend some time looking at where the brands you sell are on the internet and what the competition is. Then take a critical look at the brands you have in your shop. Loyalty to a brand is great if it sells but if over the years the customer is just not buying it anymore and if it is always on the sale rail – then don’t stock it anymore. Alternatively, ask to reduce your budget – if it’s below their minimum spend and they refuse, then stand strong and say you will look at alternative brands for the next season. Sounds harsh but to keep you competitive, you need to have a tough line. It will show loyalty to you if the brand is willing to be flexible. Look at Smaller Equestrian Apparel Brands Many of the younger generation of riders are not hooked on having a certain brand on their jods or jacket. Style and colour is key and in the world of social media, influence talks. Again do your research and take a look at the smaller equestrian brands that are out there. Social media is the place to focus on trends, particularly Instagram where it is image led. Engage with different equestrian brands and ask to trial their products. Some may offer sale or return if they are trying to get their name out there. Look at both ends of the market too and keep a note of your client base. This may sound bonkers but it does genuinely work: keep a record of your customers’ age range, what products they are buying and how much they are spending. This will help immensely in how to keep your clients loyal by providing what they need but also the area you need to be concentrating when using your budget. By doing your research, you may find that the buying demographic is very different from what you thought. Look At Your Shop Floor With A Critical Eye Ok I’m going to say it and it is seriously not wanting to offend, but – there are many tack shops that look like jumble sales. I’m going to raise my head from the seven foot pile of rugs and try not to trip around the multi coloured Flexi tubs and shout out – you need to STREAMLINE. It is not fun for the customer to walk pigeon toed around the shop floor due to it being covered in buckets of stock. Some tack shops are small and I appreciate floor and wall space can be a premium. But look at how you can incorporate more storage within the shop. This could be as drastic as putting up a stud wall and making a bigger store room and making the shop floor slightly smaller. (I can hear gasps) But if you can store away all the extra sizes, rugs, hats and supplements just to give your shop an uncluttered feel, then this is something seriously to consider. Having tubs of supplements on the shelves with dust gathering is not encouraging the customer to buy. It could indicate it’s not popular? If you have several riding hats with one brand piled up over another, again that may show that no one is wanting to buy them. Colour code your rails with products in the same colour as “matching” is huge. Put together a display selling the entire equestrian look for the rider and the horse. If a riding coat matches the saddle pad nicely, show the customer this within your store. Perhaps think of reducing the number of flexi tubs crammed with products. Who really wants to turf through a tub full of entwined lead ropes or headcollars, even if they are on sale. Now, this leads to the word sale… Don’t Be On Permanent Sale Do you remember the days where you would wait for July and January to save the pennies buying end of season riding gear? They seem to have merged into quarterly or even monthly sales. So now your customer has become used to not paying full price – hence losing you much needed profit. Have a small area in the shop and call it “End of Lines” or “Clearance Corner” and keep it tidy and appealing. If you have had stock in the sale section for over a year, clear it off the shop floor to stop it looking stale. Cut your losses and perhaps sell it through your social media page (I will come to that topic later) or eBay at a knockdown price. To keep customer interest have monthly discounts on certain products, lines or brands. Why not consider giving unique discounts to your regular customers? Give them a target that they have to spend a certain amount within a year to receive a 10% discount card to use for the next 12 months.  Speak with the brands you work with and ask them to help. Many will offer incentives or give away merchandise as they want to sell the lines as much as you do. Use Your Knowledge This is your big advantage over online equestrian stores. Your knowledge and engagement with your customers in person is to solve equestrian problems. Everybody that owns a horse knows that every month or few, your beloved neddy will throw a problem at you whether that be medical, behavioural or schooling. Your customers can discuss their problems with you and you can find the product to solve it. Your help and willing to listen earns loyalty with customers, so make sure all the staff are clued up on the products you sell. Bitting for example is a real minefield, so if you sell these make sure at least one member of staff knows exactly what each bit does and how it can help when schooling a horse. Engage with your clients through social media and offer help and advice. How about doing a Q&A live through your page by getting them to ask you anything about the equestrian products you sell and how they help them? Using your knowledge will definitely encourage them to leave their laptop and drive to your store to spend. Up Your Social Media Game If you are not using your social media pages at least every other day, then you need to rethink in spending more time in this area. Is your Facebook page appealing? Is your Instagram page fresh and colourful? Or do your cover photos look pixelated or off centre? I have seen this many times, particularly with saddleries and it just looks a little uncared for. Your social media pages should look sharp and have a clear, well written description of what your company has to offer. Think about how the images of your products look on your social media pages. If they are not making your customers stop or like the image, then they are unlikely to make the effort to drive to your store to buy them. Enlist help with photos and it will pay dividends. This could be anything from a friend or relative that is a keen photographer to a professional giving you high res images to use. Make sure you use a mix of posts with your social media pages. Constant sales posts can actually be off putting. Show posts with equestrian news and your views. Talk about the history of your business or perhaps the building you work from. Encourage discussion by asking questions and also by giving them a personal look at the face behind your store. Use the stories facility on Facebook and Instagram and build a relationship with your customers. Stories are huge and this is not a marketing tool that can go to waste. If your following makes the effort to comment on your posts, please reply. It is horrible to be ignored. By chatting with your followers will make them feel part of a community encouraging loyalty. Your social media audience is there for you to utilise and find out what they are buying. Why not do a survey to find out more about your following? This again will give you a clearer picture of what products you need to invest in and what ones to lose. Consider Rebranding If you have had the same logo and branding for a number of years, why not consider rebranding giving your business a new look? It can be actually quite inexpensive by either redesigning this yourself or invest by enlisting an expert. It may also be the virtual kick up the backside you need to streamline your tack store and bring back some excitement to your business. New branding can also be used to perhaps launch your own range of equestrian wear too! If you decide to trot down this path, then tell your customers of the exciting new changes with a relaunch date, hold a relaunch party and make them feel part of your new brand. Again, make sure you utilise social media and also local print too in promoting your new tack shop to the equestrian community. I hope this has perhaps helped in some way and many of the tack shops that are out there are following a lot of this advice. There is a podcast coming soon, where I chat more in detail about how to boost your equestrian business and making sure your tack shop is very much here to stay! by Samantha Hobden If you would like more advice and help with your equestrian business, then please get in touch. Samantha has worked in marketing for most of her working career together with her own retail business. She is an experienced copywriter and social media networker, particularly within the countryside industry.

Profiling The Horse

Profiling It is possible to make an evaluation of the conformation of the horse by profiling the individual with various measurements. When then examining and comparing these measurements (as illustrated below) it becomes evident if your horse ‘fits’ the necessary criteria for the chosen discipline. It is important to use this only as a guide as other important aspects of the horse have to be met to be right for each individual, such as age, sex and temperament, the latter of which is vital as this often facilitates the training (another crucial point to consider). What is the ideal equine? To decide if your horse conforms to the ideal image, a profile is needed which consists of photographs from all angles, past history and an accurate description plus the tables of the measurements. The tasks that you need to do: 1 – general description  2 – observation of conformation 3 – assessment  Skeletal measurements The developed shape of the horse The feet Movement and action Mouth assessment Temperament Condition The skeleton: Now the detailed measurements of the horse’s skeletal frame can be ascertained. Do not follow the contours of the body go from point to point. Use a stick to make right angles and measure in a straight line and enter your results in the table. Make sure your horse is on a flat surface and is standing squarely on all four legs. The measurements in the table should be equal in proportion (however some variations for different activities should be expected). The head is normally used as the standard, however one of the other measurements can be used if the head is larger than the others. The back measurement (C-D) is taken from the posterior angle of the scapula to the haunch and should be the same or similar to the ‘standard’ measurement. This tells us the weight bearing capacity of the horse. If the measurement C-D is longer than the standard the back may be weak. The measurement E-F is the depth of the body from the bottom of the wither to the bottom edge of the abdomen – remember to keep the line straight! This should also be the same as the ‘standard’ measurement. The stifle to hock (M-K) should also match the ‘standard’ measurement. Very long would show speed potential and shorter could help with greater elevation in the movements. The shoulder or scapula measurement (H-G) should match the ‘standard’ measurement Elbow to just above the fetlock (I-J) also needs to be in proportion to the ‘standard’. Hocks to the ground (K-L) should also be the same as the ‘standard’ if longer or shorter there is some weakness evident. The height (G-L) and length (N-O) should be equal to each other and should be two and a half times the standard. Lines for profiling the horse It is fun applying these rules to your own horse but also important to remember that if your horse does not quite match these criteria not to worry, especially if he/she does the work that you require with no ill effects. Also, when using the profiling for your horse, look also at the job that the horse was originally bred to do. If the horse is a thoroughbred then it was born to race and the conformation will be for that purpose even though there may have been adaptations in the workload and training for the new discipline. Height of horse Head A-B Back C-D Depth E-F Stifle to hock M-K Shoulder G-H Elbow to fetlock I-J Hock to ground K-L Height G-L Length N-O Croup height P-L Thickness of head Q-U Attachment of head  Q-W Front of wither to bottom of neck X-Y Bottom of neck to throat Y-U Haunch to point of buttock D-O Point of buttock to stifle O-M How will the skeletal measurements affect the horse? If your horse lacks length in the hindquarters there will be a lack of power, however, the placement of the bones in relation to the rest of the body will influence the joints and can, therefore, compensate for this. The shoulder measurement (G-H) must be in proportion to the rest of the body so that the actions of front and back of the horse match. If the head (A-B) is out of proportion the rest of the ‘standards’ then the horse will compensate by having a strong and / or a short neck. This will help to carry the additional weight, especially in the slower paces. A horizontal neck placement will aid in speed but would not be easy to build the muscle needed for the more elevated paces. If the head is heavy and the neck long and thin (and low set) the horse will naturally work on the forehand. If your horse shows that he has a stifle to hock (M-K) measurement longer than the standard this will show that your horse will be good at galloping and jumping at speed (steeplechasers). With proportionally long hind limbs the horse may appear to be uneven or un-level in walk and trot and flexion and engagement can prove difficult. Be aware of the conformational limitations of your horse as the horse can become physically stressed when expectations of greatness in a discipline are near impossible because of his make and shape. by Brenda Smith from https://www.agaso.co.uk/ (Equestrian Apparel)

Five Healthy Snacks to Take When Competing

We already know that what we’re feeding our four-legged beasties is going to affect their way of going, in body and mind, it is the same for us. Preparation is key when getting horses ready for competition, we don’t scrimp on their nutrition, why should we on our own?  Eating at a competition can be tricky, depending on what times you have, when you got up, what’s available, expense, etc. If you’re not lucky enough to have a willing family member to prepare a full-on hamper for you, taking 20 minutes the day before a competition to prepare some snacks to take with you is a great way to ensure you won’t get stuck. I like to focus on foods that contain slow release energy, that doesn’t provoke blood sugar spikes and foods that are naturally high in antioxidants to help repair any cellular wear and tear.  Overnight oats: Soak ¼ cup oats in ½ cup milk/water/milk alternative with smashed half a banana, 1 heaped tbsp of nut butter, 1 tbsp of cocoa powder, a handful of frozen berries. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight and take with you in the morning. This is a great start to the day, with a good mixture of protein, carbs and fat to fuel you through to lunch. You can have this as a meal or as a snack to keep dipping into between classes. Chopped veg: Chop up carrots, cucumbers, peppers, celery. Take a pot of hummus to dip.  You can share the carrots with Neddy.  Fruit: Any, full of antioxidants and fibre, already prepared and ready to eat. Again, Neddy can have any apple cores going spare.  Energy bars/balls: Either home-made or shop bought. These are usually made with nuts, dates, spices and little else. Brands such as; Naked, Eat Natural, Bounce Balls are very good, Aldi also do their own bar which are much cheaper than the above brands and just as tasty.  Roasted chickpeas: A good source of fibre and protein and a healthy alternative to crisps. Mix them in a little coconut oil and your favourite spices and roast in an oven for 10-15 minutes. Leave to cool and keep in an airtight container.  by Hannah Funnell Nutritionist at Optimum Muscle Care Image credits: Pixabay

Don’t Stop Into Trot!

by Lorraine Jennings When you ask your horse for a canter to trot transition does he tip his head up? Tuck his chin into his chest? Poke his nose? Tank off?  Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why? The easy answer is because he’s resisting your hand but surely there’s more to it than that? Why does he choose to resist your contact at that particular time? Could it be the instant you think about trotting you stop riding? Riders have an uncanny knack of taking their legs off at the very moment they need them! You may be trying to stop your horse rushing off into trot by sitting as still as possible but that’s exactly why he can. Keep your body moving through your transitions and you’ll find his will too. Establish canter on a 20m circle at E/B. It’s the best place to use as your horse won’t have the fence to guide him and you won’t be able to rely on it. Avoid using unnecessary aids and turn your body in line with the curve you want him to follow. He’ll copy what you do with your body. When his shoulders and hips are turned to the inside his body will bend around the circle. Stay in canter for at least three circles. Think of the number of circles you’d do in trot without thinking and start to use your canter in the same way. It’s just a pace. Use it as such and you’ll find problems with transitions disappear as your horse starts to think canter is (depending on his temperament) less exciting or less exhausting. The trick to this exercise is positive riding – and thinking. You have to believe your horse can do it. He can, of course, as long as you ride him forward – which is exactly what you haven’t been doing before. Your position is vital to keep his weight back on his hocks. Pull up through your body to get yourself as balanced as possible. When your canter is settled the idea is to ask for trot as you cross the ¼ line (still on the 20m circle) and whatever happens change the rein onto a 10m circle as you cross the centre line. Sound impossible? It isn’t if you get your legs on! With a young horse just make the circle slightly bigger but keep the change of rein in. Ask your horse to trot by closing your fingers around both reins to create a restrictive contact. Think of yourself as a clothes peg and press into the saddle with your thighs and knees to restrict his shoulder muscles. (Check this out to see how ) As you feel him trot hold the pressure until you’re happy with the speed. Releasing him too quickly allows him to rush, making him unbalanced, which is why he tightens his back, lifts his head or pokes his nose and tanks. Never take your lower leg off because you’re slowing down. Push harder to keep your horse’s hocks under his body. When he steps under his body with his hind legs he stretches his back muscles (so he can’t tense or hollow) and he’s in a much better position to stay balanced. As you approach the centre line, be quick to turn your body towards the new rein. Turn your head so you’re looking at least half a circle ahead. Your horse will pick up this change in your body and copy you. Keep your contact even in both hands. But DON’T lift your inside hand! Do that and it won’t stop him falling in on the circle – it will only make him tip his nose to the inside. Support him with a strong inside leg and draw him away from the 20m circle with your outside leg. Using a small circle to steady a horse isn’t a new idea but it can make matters worse if it’s on the same rein. Riders often get hung up on the inside bend and unwittingly start to draw their inside hand back – especially in canter. That draws their hand towards their hip and they curl their body to the inside. Their horse does the same. If you’ve got this problem turning onto a small circle on the same rein just accentuates it. The smaller the circle the tighter you both curl up. This puts your horse out of balance and he’ll get faster and faster. (This is why when your instructor tells you to sit up it works. You sit up and straighten out your body and your horse instantly relaxes his.) The change of rein stops horse or rider fixing on the inside simply because the inside suddenly becomes the outside. Even if you should make a grab for the new inside rein you’ll just balance out the pressure and your horse will go straight – and be balanced. Ride the 10m circle for as long as it takes to settle your horse. The first few are likely to come as a bit of a shock to you both but he’ll settle quicker the more you do. In time you’ll be able to ride one circle and rejoin the 20m circle immediately. Ask for canter again and ride at least three circles before repeating. With a more advanced horse, you can move this exercise to the centre line. Canter down the centre line, trot after D/G and change the rein onto a 10m circle at X. Rejoin the centre line and ask for canter before the turn at the end. Put your horse to the test by varying the lead you ask for. Having to ride the instant change of rein will really make you realise how little you usually do as you trot. This exercise is all about your faults, not your horse’s. It’s one thing admitting that his problems are caused by you but how often do you really try to find out why? Good luck and enjoy your schooling. In memory of Lorraine

Top Five Tips for a Healthier Life in The Saddle

1: Hydration: How many of us get up and immediately have a cup of coffee or tea? How often do you get to lunchtime and realise all you have had to drink all day is that cup of coffee before you left the house?  Hydration is often overlooked, many symptoms people suffer from daily could be linked to dehydration; headaches, fatigue, muscle aches and pains, poor concentration and physical performance.  Government guidelines suggest around 1.2 litres of water a day. This is the standard recommended amount based on the average person on a non-exercise day. Throw in a riding lesson, three stables to muck out, two acres to poo pick and a muck heap to fork up and you’ve already increased your daily need through physical exertion and sweating.  Tips for increasing hydration:  Buy a good quality 1 litre water bottle, take with you when you leave home in the morning. This is a good way of monitoring how much you have drunk throughout the day.  Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning, stick some sliced citrus fruit in it to get an added vitamin c boost.  Food – we get around 20% of our water intake from food, especially fruit and veg.  Limit caffeine. Caffeine does not dehydrate you but can increase the need to urinate. 2-3 cups a day is fine, caffeine increases cortisol levels (the stress hormone), which isn’t really conducive around horses!  Energy drinks are not a good option. Yes, they would count towards fluid intake, but the side effects of these drinks are not worth the risk. They usually contain lots of sugar (calories) and stimulants. We get enough of these from food and coffee/tea. Same goes for sports drinks, these are designed for professional athletes that are pushing their bodies to the limits.  2: Whole Grains:  Swapping from refined white varieties of bread, pasta and grains to the whole grain alternative have huge health benefits. Whole grains have been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, bowel cancer, stroke and weight gain. The fibre content in these grains aid digestion, keeping bowel movements regular. They also help regulate blood sugar levels as they do not hit the bloodstream as quickly as the white varieties. Another benefit of this is that they make you feel fuller for longer.  Wholegrains contain b vitamins, essential for energy production and a whole host of other minerals; zinc, selenium, magnesium, iron. The refined grains have had the husk, germ and bran removed, this are where most of these great nutrients are.  Grains – brown rice, wild, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, oats, rye, millet, spelt. Pasta – rice, quinoa, buckwheat, whole wheat, lentil. Bread – seeded, brown, rye, wholegrain, whole wheat, sourdough. 3: Preparation: Time is never on your side when you own horses! The best way to stay on top of the nutrition game is preparation. This is making sure that there is something in the fridge/cupboard/freezer ready to go when you come in ravenous ready for a full-on kitchen raid.  Meal plan: I’m not talking counting calories and macro’s, decide on at least 5 evening meals and make sure you have all the ingredients for each.  Shop sensibly: internet shopping helps massively with the above point. If you go into the store, make sure what you buy equates to a meal. When you’re in a rush and hungry it’s very easy to buy a whole lot of food that doesn’t really go together. Not only is this expensive, it can leave you dissatisfied with your dinner.  Make more than you need: Freeze the leftovers in portion sizes, this way you’ve always got something available if you don’t feel like cooking.  Par cook and freeze vegetables in portion sizes: This works really well for cruciferous veg (sprouts, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage). Bring a pan of water to the boil, add veg for 1-2 minutes (also works with a steamer), remove, drain and rinse in cold water, freeze immediately in portions. Then all you have to do is chuck a portion/s in boiling water or a steamer for another few minutes when needed.  One pot cooking: the slow cooker is a horsey persons best piece of equipment (after the motorised poo picker). Put all the ingredients of a stew, curry, etc in the morning and come home to a cooked dinner. If you prep the ingredients the night before, it is as easy as tipping them from a bowl to the slow cooker before you leave the house.  4: Omega 3  There is a reason omega 3 is all over the media, I don’t like to categorise foods into good/bad/super/clean etc, but this is one of the few I do, it really is super. It has been proven to help brain health, cognitive function, improve risk factors for heart disease, eye health, depression and anxiety, improve bone and joint health, the list goes on! Omega 3 is found in oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines, anchovies), and in lesser amounts; nuts and seeds (flax, chia, hemp, walnuts), some beans (kidney, soy, edamame).  It is classed as an anti-inflammatory food, this doesn’t mean you only need to eat it when you’ve fallen off or a bit muscle sore. There are a number of inflammatory pathways going on inside the body that are constantly working to control systemic inflammation, your body’s natural response for fighting threat; disease, infection, toxins, injury. What’s important about getting omega 3 into your diet is the fact that our body cannot make it from scratch. If you don’t eat the above listed, I would suggest taking a supplement. Omega 3 is also available in vegan form (made from sea algae). If you are going to buy omega 3 make sure it has EPA and DHA in it, both are important as they work on different things. Bare Biology, Lion Heart Omega 3 has a good ratio of EPA to DHA.  5: Eat the Rainbow: Free radicals, the things that can cause damage to DNA in our cells. You’ve probably heard of these, and that they can lead to ageing, cancer, Alzheimer’s, asthma, diabetes….. It isn’t all doom and gloom though, our bodies produce them all the time through normal processes such as breathing, eating and exercising, but our bodies also produce antioxidants to help neutralise them. When you put your body under more stress, such as riding, you may need more antioxidants than usual. The simplest way to do this is to eat the rainbow. Colourful plant foods contain high levels of phytochemicals, many of these are antioxidants. There are over 10,000 types of phytochemicals and they are mainly found in wholegrains, fruits and vegetables. The different colour of food is due to their pigments and those pigments contain different phytochemicals. Eating a diet with a varied amount of colour ensures that you are getting a wider variety of antioxidants. Not only do they help mop up free radicals, but they also help support our immune system and aid muscle recovery. by Hannah Funnell Nutritionist at Optimum Muscle Care Image credits: Pixabay

Finding A Horse That Is Right For You Both

Talking with a friend recently who had finally bought a horse after a lengthy search, it came to me that it can be a stressful and long process. Surely finding that dream horse would be an easy and enjoyable experience?  Actually, it can be far from it….. It is important that you do not buy the first horse that you see and take time to look at the advantages and disadvantages this horse purchase may bring you. What Are You Looking For? When a budget is set for this equestrian purchase, the amount you can afford can complicate the choice of horse. How many of you ideally would like a Ferrari on your drive but can only afford a Ford Focus… But that Ford Focus may be what you need to have an affordable and reliable horse in your everyday life. Buying the Ferrari may boost your looks so to speak, but they are very expensive to run and difficult to drive. Experience is needed when buying a fine tuned car….or horse. In reality, I know what I would choose! The first decision is to make absolutely sure you want the commitment of buying a horse. Loaning one may be the better choice and give you an insight into what it is like to be a horse owner. Matching Abilities If you have decided to buy a horse then next thing to consider when choosing a horse is matching your experience with theirs. Do you want a young green horse, a schoolmaster or something in between? You have to be honest with yourself about what you can manage. Taking on a young horse needs a rider with knowledge and experience in bringing the horse on in the correct way. Bad mistakes made with these horses in their teenage phase will notoriously impact them in their behaviour and rideability later on. A novice rider will get more enjoyment and confidence from a horse who knows its job, while a more experienced rider may want the challenge and satisfaction of schooling their horse. Where To Start Your Search Before you start searching through the classified ads, take a look at the sales notices in your local equestrian feed stores. Visiting local shows, riding clubs and hearing about horses through “word of mouth” can be the ideal way of finding that right horse for you. I know searching for the “perfect horse” can be frustrating but don’t be tempted to give up and buy a horse that is not suitable. The extra waiting time will pay off in the long run. What To Look For When it comes to viewing a horse try not to let your excitement cloud your judgement. Take someone with you that has some equestrian experience and knows your needs. Their honest opinion will keep your feet on the ground and look at buying a horse objectively. When you arrive at the yard, take note of how people are acting around the horse that you are buying? Is the horse already tacked up? Do they seem nervous when handling the horse? Ideally, when you arrive to view a horse, the horse should be untacked and in his stable. Do the following things to get a good idea of how the horse reacts to:  Being led in hand Walk and trot up in hand and look for signs of possible lameness Groom the horse including picking his feet out. Tack the horse up ready to ride. Ride the horse by warming him up and putting him through his paces. When the horse has cooled down, untack him and take an opportunity to feel for any heat or swellings. All of these things should show any reactions the horse may have negatively but hopefully, he is sound and happy with all of these. Make sure you ask the following points too, to give you as much information about the horse as you can:  What is the horse mainly used for i.e everyday hacking, dressage, riding club, show jumping etc Does he have a passport? Does he load and travel well? What are his living arrangements? Is he turned out 24/7 or have a stable routine? Who is his current farrier and is he good to shoe? Has he had any previous injuries? Go With Your Gut The owner should give you a completely honest view of the horse and you have a pretty good idea if you like him. Horses are living animals and have moods and temperaments just like we do. I honestly believe horses are like humans – some you connect with and some you don’t! Sometimes you just get a general vibe about whether this horse is right for you…or not. So be honest with yourself, as buying a horse is a big commitment. If you are happy with the horse and think it’s the one for you, then you need to discuss the price with the owner and arrange a vet to check him over. Also, arrange for a second visit so you can tack up and ride the horse and don’t be pressured into buying immediately from the owner. Enjoy Your Horse Having your own horse is such a rewarding relationship, but as relationships go there are inevitable ups and downs. I truly believe that it takes up to 18 months to bond with a horse. This is for you to trust the horse and the horse to trust you. Don’t throw the hat in at the first or even the fourth hurdle, take time and take a step back and look at the problem which always will have a solution. I wish you Happy Horse Hunting! Written By Samantha Hobden of https://www.hay-net.co.uk/ Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Something To Chew Over: The Signs Of A Bad Hay Bale

Hay (forage) makes up the majority of your horse feed and finding bales of hay that are not only high quality, but affordable too can be a challenging feat, especially if you’re unsure what you are looking for.  With several factors contributing to quality such as the weather conditions when the hay is harvested and the condition of the storage facility, hay making is not easy. Getting it wrong can result in high levels of dust and mould which can have significant implications for your horse’s respiratory health. In this article, we are going to look at how you can spot the signs of bad hay.  Smell  When choosing the right hay it is essential that you pay attention to the smell – if it’s musty it should be avoided. Bad hay often tends to be lower in nutritional value and as horses are very sensitive to mould, they often avoid eating it – the last thing you want after you have purchased your stock for the whole winter! If it’s a bale of good hay, you will notice that the smell is fresh and can often smell sweet depending on how old it is.  Storing your hay correctly  It is important to store your hay in a cool dry place without any form of damp or excess heat. This will help to preserve the hay until you need it, ensuring that your horse gets all the benefits. Ensuring there is good ventilation in your barn is ideal for helping to keep them cool and if you sit the bales of hay on pallets it will help to reduce the risk of the bottom bales getting wet and going mouldy. Mouldy hay isn’t always obvious from the outside of the bale, in some cases the hay may have random patches of it deeper into the bale. Therefore, it’s vital that you thoroughly check the hay each time you feed it to your horse.  Never Feed A Horse Dusty Hay If the hay bale is extremely dusty, don’t feed it to you horse. There are a number of things you can do to reduce levels of dust especially if your horse is particularly sensitive to it. Soaking and steaming hay help to reduce the dust content but bear in mind that steaming doesn’t reduce sugar levels. Therefore if you want to reduce sugar intake you need to soak.  Bad Grasses and Poisonous Plants  When looking at a bale of hay, it is crucial that you’re aware of any poisonous plants that may have got caught up in the bale. Ragwort is one of the most dangerous – farmers producing hay for horses are usually very aware of the dangers of ragwort but it is always worth checking with your supplier to be sure they are aware of what it is and what it looks like.  With hay being such a huge part of your horses’ diet, it is worth knowing what you are feeding. Most feed companies will analyse your hay for you for a small fee – this is a worthwhile investment so you can be sure of what you are buying. Working in partnership with Dengie

The Connemara Pony

“Not Just A Pretty Face” by Jacqui Broderick ‘As versatile as an egg’ as the slogan says. When it comes to ponies the slogan should read ‘As versatile as a Connemara.’  Ireland’s native breed owes its origins to the herds of ponies who were brought here by the Celts in the 4th century.  The old type of dun Connemara ponies who were once prized for their hardiness and endurance were thought to be the most typical of their Celtic ancestors. In the 16th century, Galway was a major port for the sea trade between Spain and Portugal. There is evidence to show that Barb and Andalusian stallions were imported from Spain by wealthy Galway merchants and were bred with the native mares. However, a more delightful story about the origins of the Connemara pony is that Andalusian stallions swam ashore from the Spanish Armada when it sank off the west coast of Ireland in 1588 and bred with the native mares running wild on the mountain slopes. During the famine which devastated parts of Ireland, especially Connemara, the breed declined. Many of the large numbers of people who lived in Connemara died either through starvation, or disease and many thousands emigrated. Many of the large estates were made bankrupt. Without the influence of these landowners, who would have been importing Arab and Barb horses, the Connemara breed went into decline.  At the turn of the last century, a Congested Districts Board was established to help the people of the western seaboard to improve their way of life. One of the schemes was designed to help people improve their farming and livestock skills. A number of different stallions were introduced into the Connemara breed, including Barbs, Thoroughbreds, Hackneys and Welsh Cobs. Many of these crosses proved not to be satisfactory, especially the Hackney. However, the Welsh Cob was more successful. A Welsh cob called Prince Llewellyn was to influence the breed for many years through two of his sons, Dynamite and Powder, Dynamite was a famous trotting pony and his son Cannon Ball was the first stallion to be registered in the Connemara Pony Studbook. Even as far back as 1897, when a Royal Commission was appointed to report on horse breeding in Ireland, the Connemara pony was declared by the Commissioner to be “the best animals he ever knew, with good shoulders, good hard legs, good action and great stamina.” He also reported that he had never seen one with a “splint, spavin, or any unsoundness in the wind.”  Another Commissioner declared the ponies to be “Long and low with good rein, good back and well coupled.” Yet another stated “the strength, endurance and easy paces of the ponies with their intelligence and docility and with the capacity to work under conditions which would speedily prove disastrous to horses reared under less natural conditions.” It was also concluded that the Connemara pony rather than being one breed belonged to five fairly distinct types. These were said to be The Andalusian, The Eastern,  The Cashel, The Clydesdale and the Clifden. These types are thought to have the characteristics of the different stallions which were introduced into the breed. The Connemara has taken all of his best characteristics from his parentage and environment. In those early days, as now, they are capable of living in the toughest of conditions. The mountains of Connemara are a harsh environment where the ponies would have had to live on the wild herbs and tough shrubs during the winter. The ponies were particularly suitable to the type of work they were used for. Depending on the season the ponies would be used as pack ponies, carrying heavy loads of turf, oats, or seaweed, or even carrying the family’s crop of chickens off to market. Often during the summer, they would have been used for carting the hay, laden down with a huge pile of hay on its back. On the way back from market the pony would often have carried two people, husband and wife both riding. The modern day Connemara, has, through generations of selective breeding by Connemara enthusiasts with tremendous foresight, developed into a wonderfully versatile and talented pony. Fox hunting lore is filled with tales of Connemara ponies who could jump ‘as high as their ears.’ When crossing trappy country there is nothing that makes you feel safer than sitting on an experienced Connemara pony. They have the most wonderful ability to look after themselves and their riders. The Connemara has a wonderfully kind and unflappable temperament. When recently an American preacher was looking for an animal to ride on the first leg of his long journey to Jerusalem, it was a Connemara pony he rode from Galway to Dublin, walking along the main Galway to Dublin road complete with western saddle and flag. The modern day Connemara is a wonderfully talented pony which has the ability to go to the top in any equestrian discipline. We can be certain that in the hands of Connemara enthusiasts the breed will continue to thrive and prosper. Combined with the terrific jumping ability and paces the pony has it also has the wonderful temperament that makes it so easy to train and such a kind and easy pony to deal with. The next time you are at a show look out for the Connemara pony that has just won the big jumping class, hurtling around the fences, turning on the proverbial sixpence and skimming over the fences as if it has wings, that same pony could easily be the one that is now gently trotting around the first ridden class with a small child on it. Connemara Characteristics Height: 12.2 – 14.2 (128cm – 148cms) Colour: grey, black, brown, bay, dun, roan, chestnut, palomino and cream (with dark eyes) Type: compact, well-balanced riding type with good depth and substance and good heart room, standing on short legs and covering a lot of ground Head: Well balanced of medium length with good width between the eyes which should be large and kindly. Pony ears, well defined cheekbone with a relatively deep jaw, which should not be coarse. Front: Head set well onto the neck. The crest should not be over developed. Good length of rein. Well –defined withers, good sloping shoulders. Body: Should be deep with strong back, well ribbed and with strong loin Limbs: Good length and strength in the forearm, well defined knees, short cannons with flat bone measuring 18cms to 21cms. Pasterns of medium length, well shaped feet of medium size, hard and level. Hind quarters: Strong and muscular. Strong low set hocks Movement: Free, easy and true without undue knee action but active and covering the ground.   Famous Connemara Ponies  In 1935 at the International Horse Show, Olympia in London, the 15 hand overgrown Connemara gelding ‘The Nugget’ cleared a 7’2” jump at the age of 22. He won over 300 prizes internationally and earned over £4,500 in prize money, a considerable sum in those days.                                                              At Madison Square Garden, New York in 1939, the 13.2 hand Connemara gelding Littlesquire won the Open championship, clearing fences of seven foot. The American press dubbed him the ‘littlest horse with the biggest heart’. Dundrum, Tommy Wade’s 15 hand Connemara gelding became Supreme Champion at the Wembley Horse of the Year show when he set a record by clearing a 7’2” puissance wall. In 1961 he was regarded as the show jumper of the century when he won five major events at the Dublin Horse Show. He was the International Jumping Champion from 1959 to 1963. Tommy Wade passed away in 2018 at the age of 80. Stroller, a 14.1 hand Connemara half bred became the only pony to have ever competed in the Olympic games. He was a member of the British team competed in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico ridden by Marion Coakes. He was one of only two horses to jump a clear round in the entire 1968 Olympics, clearing a puissance fence of 6’10”. Marcus Aurelius also known as the Bionic Pony was a half bred Connemara who competed in the 1975 Pan American Games as members of the team that won the gold Medal in the Three Day Event. Please visit: http://www.britishconnemaras.co.uk/ Image credits: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/ (license)

Just A Circle?

by Lorraine Jennings When you read a dressage test how much attention do you give to 20m circles? If you’re like most riders you’ll read ‘20m circle’ and move on. Well, why wouldn’t you? There’s nothing to them is there? Only take a look at an old test sheet. What was the mark for your last circle? 5? 6? If they’re that easy why wasn’t it an 8?! OK so trotting round and round in circles is dull. But so is anything if you don’t know why you’re doing it! Take a look at the key points a judge is looking for with a 20m circle and you may realise why you’re losing marks. More importantly, you’ll realise how to keep them. The left hand side of the test sheet tells you what the judge wants you to do. The right hand side tells you what the judge wants to see. (Your score sheet tells you what they didn’t!) So when the test says ‘A – circle right 20m in diameter’ don’t stop there. Look across the page and you’ll see ‘quality of the pace, regularity and tempo. Uniform bend along the line of the circle.’ Sounds great but what does it all mean? ‘Quality of pace, regularity and tempo.’ The first thing to realise is that these three are all part of the same thing. A quality pace has regularity (rhythm) and tempo. Rhythm is the beat of your horse’s footfalls. Riders often think they have a poor rhythm when actually it’s as regular as clockwork – just a very fast clock! It’s the tempo you need to get right. Tempo is the speed of your rhythm. Nerves have a habit of speeding things up. It’s rare to read ‘tempo too slow’ on your test sheet. Get into the habit of listening to your rhythm. Avoid listening to every step; that can encourage you to rush. (If you have to count 123,123,123,123 as you’re cantering around the school it’s very easy to hurry) Instead, count every stride. And count from 1 to 4. This avoids the 1,2 of trot and the 1,2,3 of canter. Saying one-two-three-four means you have to listen to your horse’s strides rather than say what you think he’s doing. Each pace is described as 2, 3 or 4 time. That just means your horse takes 2, 3 or 4 steps per stride. A single stride is the time/distance it takes him to use all four legs. Sometimes two legs move together but as they move as a pair it’s described as a single step – so trot is 2-time because your horse moves his legs in diagonal pairs (a left hind with a right front/ a right hind with a left front). If you’re counting strides in rising trot you only count every time you rise or every time you sit. If you count steps you count as you rise and as you sit. Spend whole sessions counting your strides in all paces. It’s something you can do when you’re hacking out too. Get into the habit of it and soon you’ll start to hear when things aren’t quite right. If your rhythm is irregular you’ll hear one two – three – four. There should always be a gap between strides. If your tempo is too fast your regular one-two-three-four will become onetwothreefour. A quality pace is balanced and has energy. Your body has the biggest effect on your horse’s balance. Lean forward and he’ll do the same and all his weight will fall onto his shoulders. Pull up through your body and look directly ahead – not at the ground 15m up the track) and he’ll sit back on his hocks and stay balanced. Energy is power not speed. Your contact controls the energy your legs create and stops your horse just getting faster. If your reins are too long you can use as much leg as you like but you won’t bottle up the energy you’re creating and he’ll fall onto his shoulders – as you would if you ran downhill with nothing to hold you back. ‘Uniform bend along the line of the circle’ The most common error on a circle is too much bend to the inside. The judge wants to see that your horse’s body – from nose to tail – fits along the curve of the circle. They don’t want to see his head turned to the inside – or looking back towards his tail! Imagine he was a pipe cleaner and you had to bend him into the shape of the circle. All you’d need to do was push out the middle. Get hold of one end and pull it and you’ll end up with a straight line with a kink in it 1/3 from the top – which isn’t a uniform bend! Often riders try to pull the front end and push the back end in to create an inside bend but on a circle, your horse’s shoulders and quarters should stay on the line of the curve. His spine should bend around it. A 20m circle isn’t a tight circle and so the bend is very slight. All you need to do is turn your hips and shoulders to the inside and he’ll do the same. That is enough for him to bend – as you will – through his back. Practise makes perfect The shape of a circle is important. A circle is a continuous curve that runs between four tangent points. A/C and X are the easy ones to remember – as are E and B when you circle in the middle. The tangent points on each long side are 10m from E/B and 10m from the short side not at K, F, M or H which are only 6m from the short sides. If you’re circling at A or C you should touch and leave the track at these points. If you’re circling at E/B you should be opposite these points as you cross the centre line. The most important thing to remember when you’re riding a circle is you only touch the track at the markers and tangent points. Get on the track – and get off it. Don’t ride a few strides past them before turning. In a dressage test, this makes a huge difference to your marks for accuracy. Showing the difference between corners and circles makes your test look neat and well polished. Whatever you do with your body your horse will do with his. Turn your shoulders and hips in line with the curve of the circle and he’ll do the same until you straighten up. Ride the corner before the circle so the judge can clearly see the difference. At the marker turn your body and stay turned until you’ve completed the circle and want to continue. Straighten up and he’ll go straight into the next corner. A circle needs to have all these things in place to make it correct. It doesn’t matter if you never want to do a dressage test; it’s a sign of good, basic training. If you do compete it doesn’t matter what level you compete at circles come up more than any other shape. Give them the attention they deserve and next time yours may be worthy of an 8. Good luck and enjoy your schooling. In memory of Lorraine Jennings

Turning Into A Menopausal Mare

This week the BBC and media are discussing the M word… you know that word that women go through when they are a certain age. That word that is whispered by women who are knocking on fifties door red faced and sweating like a Grand National winner. Yes, the MENOPAUSE. I am so glad is it being spoken about so publicly now. And that is why I have decided to write a post about this very subject. Ok, my normal line of chat is about horses or the countryside. But as this is my personal page, I thought I would step out of the comfortable blog posts and talk about this long, ongoing and uncomfortable phase of life that many women go through. Now not all woman have any symptoms. Some that I have talked to, just said their periods stopped and that was it. Lucky them and I say that genuinely. I am not one of them… I am heading to the big five zero (I know you are shocked, you thought I was much younger!) Having gone through the peri-menopause for the last four years, the last year has seen an acceleration in my symptoms. I am now of a level mind to talk about it as I have sought solace in my doctor. I had resorted to tears in desperation and thought I was going completely mad. Yes, tears! Not like me at all but that was how bad I was feeling. A few years ago I started to forget things. Not birthdays or any major event but if my husband asked me to email someone or pick up a few items at the supermarket, I would totally forget. This got worse and my mind started feeling “foggy”. I headed to Google and decided that I need to up my intake of fish oil and soak my memory in it! So I ordered a jumbo box of tablets from a well know vitamin company hoping that would fix it. This is where the addiction of buying supplements for my increasing symptoms started in treating the way I was feeling. I can’t even begin to add up what it was costing. I made my first of many trips to my doctor complaining about my mind, my joints were painful, I was hot (not that type of hot, sweaty hot…). She announced it was my decline in hormones and I was at the start of the peri-menopause. She said to exercise more, eat well and look at herbal remedies. So I swiftly ordered yet more tablets including Evening Primrose Oil on her recommendation. I had a year of not being too bad. I was starting to feel hot most of the time and nights were a battle with the duvet. My memory still wasn’t great and I also noticed my hair was started to thin too as well as my skin feeling really dry. Last year though I started to feel worse. I just felt so flat, which wasn’t like me at all. I had no enthusiasm for anything really and life, in general, was just really irritating. I was also waking up three or four nights a week in a complete drenched sweat which was a delight together with not knowing what a good night’s sleep was anymore. I also started to have some horrible digestive issues among other new symptoms and that was the turning point in seeking some REAL help. I honestly thought I had the big C or something terrible going on. Google is the trigger to send your mind into anxiety hell and this was sending me further into menopause madness. I dragged my exhausted and anxiety riddled body back to the doctors and begged to be heard. So after various tests to eliminate the worst which were thankfully all clear, my hormone levels came back low which was probably the explanation that I was feeling on my knees. I knew what I wanted and was just waiting to see if the doctor mentioned the drug I was after – HRT. Thankfully this was her first offer of help which I grabbed readily with my sweaty hands. I was one of the fortunate ones that ticked the boxes of being able to have HRT. I had a clear mammogram, no hormonal cancer in my family, my weight was (just) in check and I am not a big drinker (although that was my next option!) We had the in depth chat about the risks of taking HRT but the chances of developing breast cancer was so small compared to the quality of life it gave you and protection against other ailments such as osteoporosis and preventing some cancers. So I headed home with three boxes of HRT patches with combined hormones of progesterone and oestrogen. After a couple of weeks, I started to feel almost human again! No night sweats, sleeping well, my worries and mood levelled and my stomach issues disappeared. I was so happy and relieved. This was to be short lived… The following week I started having the most horrendous periods that didn’t stop and my knockers were so painful. Joy! I stuck it out for a couple of more weeks and then threw the patches in the bin after these issues got worse. Within days, my menopause symptoms all came back including the horrible digestive problems. I was so fed up…. So yet again I ended up back in the surgery whining to my doctor.  She assured me there would be one that would help me and it takes time to find the right form of HRT that suits. I headed off again armed with more patches and stuck them firmly with my fingers tightly crossed these would work. And they did… I am now four months on and I am feeling like me again. The real me, the level headed me, the me that had been missing for the last year. I still get some erratic light bleeding but that I can cope with but all the other horrible exasperating symptoms have gone. My mum who is sadly not here anymore had a terrible time with her menopause. She literally went mad (if she was here, she would readily admit that) and I am positive she never sought any help for it. I honestly think previous generations were left totally in the dark with the menopause, so I feel incredibly grateful that help is available and women are talking about it. This is why I wanted to write this post and be totally honest how awful I have felt for a long time now. We all just carry on in life with the “I’m fine” attitude but actually, sometimes you are just not… So if you are recognising these symptoms and you are in your forties, visit your doctor. Don’t suffer. I know I am very lucky to be taking HRT but if you cannot take it then look into visiting a menopause clinic or alternative therapies which are out there. Embrace taking exercise and eating better definitely helps. Talk about it with your friends too. I am again very fortunate I have a brilliant group of female friends that are very honest and open about their hormonal experiences. Believe me, some of my friends have gone through far worse than my own peri-menopause. It is so good to be feeling bright and cheery these days and dealing with any challenges in a level manner. This miserable mare has left the stable and is cantering through the fields full of joy…. by Samantha Hobden www.hay-net.co.uk

Badminton Horse Trials – Showing Equestrian Sport And Country Life At Its Best

Following the lanes with its creamy Cotswold dry stone walls lined with lush spring greenery, always brings a smile to my face.  As you make your way through the tiny village of Badminton during the first week of May, horse lorries suddenly appear all lined to attention. They are ready for the eventing excitement that lies ahead for the next five days. This week I will travel to Badminton for the fifteenth time with the event celebrating its 70th year. The grounds of Badminton Estate have faired well over the winter, which is one less stress for the organisers. Thousands of cars will be parked enjoying the late spring weather with picnics and some bubbly from out of the boots of their cars. With an estimated crowd running in tens of thousands expected to arrive through the gates of Badminton on cross country day alone, there is no doubt this event is the gold crown in equestrian sport. Badminton also showcases country life at its best even if equestrian blood doesn’t run through your veins. The vast shopping village attracts a huge collection of well known brands all celebrating country life from equestrian fashion to horse wear, rural lifestyle fashions, countryside interiors and home wear. There is never a day that I don’t leave Badminton without a shopping bag or three! Over fifteen visits, my wardrobe is packed with jumpers, jackets, and jodhpurs and in every room, there is a picture, ornament or mugs on my dresser which are all keepsakes from these fantastic shopping stalls. With my love of horses and passion for equestrian sport, this is the reason I make this visit every year. I am always in awe of these brave and ambitious riders who pair with their stoic horses taking on one of the most exhilarating and toughest equestrian competitions. With the two days of dressage, even the most highly trained horses can protest in the corners of the arena making it a challenging test with the world watching. With its international audience, the big crowd pleaser is cross country day. I have walked the course for many years now and it never ceases to amaze me how these horses embrace these enormous and technical fences. The riders always show the highest professionalism to ensure that they make it round safely with the care of their horse foremost. After the physical demands of the cross country, then the next day shows who has made it through to the showjumping with the trot up in front of Badminton House. The professional vet team watch with a close eye for any horse that may be showing strains from the day before. The welfare of the horse is always paramount. This can reduce the show jumping line up which always brings the exciting action to a close. With a knock of a pole or not making the time can put a rider down in the running, leaving the competition wide open. There is always the biggest cheer and the loudest claps from the audience when the winner of the Badminton Horse Trials is revealed. Their name is then placed in the eventing hall of fame, holding the biggest first rosette any horse rider can win! With the modern age, Badminton can be viewed not only on television but through live streaming through its website. Social media is always up to speed with the latest results with Tweets, Facebook Lives or Instagram Stories, all showing this super event at its best. However, to take in the atmosphere and celebrate equestrian sport and life in the country, you must visit this fantastic event yourself. I guarantee you, the Badminton bug will then bite! by Samantha Hobden Please visit: https://www.badminton-horse.co.uk/ Image source: Haynet

Stretch Him, Don’t Drop Him

by Lorraine Jennings When you ask your horse to stretch does he seem confused? Can you blame him? Ever since he was broken he’s been taught to shorten, work rounder or slow down. Suddenly along comes a dressage test and he’s expected to understand (and be grateful) that he’s allowed to stretch. Is it any wonder he’s confused? If your horse is going to understand you need to make sure you understand first. In the same way as free walk on a long rein doesn’t mean walk on the buckle, allowing your horse to stretch doesn’t mean trot around the school with no contact. The judge wants to see your horse working forward in a balanced, rhythmical trot. That shouldn’t change just because you’re allowing him to stretch. Usually, you’ll be asked to do it on a circle. Read the test. It will probably say ‘circle at A and allow your horse to stretch’ not ‘allow your horse to stretch and then circle at A’. That’s a difference of at least 10m. It’s enough to get him balanced. Wait until you’re on the correct line before you even think about relaxing your contact. It’s easy to think if you drop the contact your horse will stretch down automatically but imagine you’re resting your elbows on the table and that table just disappeared. What would you do? Initially, your shoulders would drop like a dead weight. Then, in an attempt to save yourself, you’d hollow your back and tighten your stomach and neck muscles. Which is exactly what your horse does when you drop your contact. The length of your horse’s body is controlled by the length of your reins, not by your contact (or lack of one). Your contact behaves like the lid on a coke bottle when you shake it. It holds back the fizz and the pressure. It doesn’t matter how long the neck of the bottle is if there’s a lid at the end of it the drink will always fizz. Lose that lid and the drink will spill out. Lose your contact and not only will your horse lose energy, but he’ll also lose his balance. To get your horse to stretch correctly he must trust your hands and accept your contact. If he does that he’ll work into it and look for it. When it moves away from him he’ll stretch out until he finds it. (Like the fizzy drink running up the neck of a bottle) If it’s not there his weight will fall onto his shoulders and his hocks will stop working. It’s important to understand you have to push your horse to your hand not pull him back to it. If he’s going to reach forward to find it he needs to be balanced and he needs to have energy. (If there’s no fizz it can’t run up the neck of the bottle) Every time you pull back on your reins he’ll tighten his back. That tension won’t go the second you ask him to stretch. At best he’ll stay in the same place, at worst he’ll hollow and rush. Ride a 20m circle at E/B so your horse doesn’t have the fence to help him. Push him from both legs into an even contact in both reins. On the circle slow your horse down by using your knee and thigh pushed into the saddle as hard as you can.  This means your contact can stay consistent and you can use your lower legs to keep his hocks under his body. Ask him to slow down until he’s almost walking. You’ll need to use plenty of lower leg to keep him in trot. Then keep hold of your contact but release your knee and thigh. You’ll feel him go forward into your contact but don’t relax it. Keep your lower leg on and push him to it. When your horse is accepting the bit – not leaning on it – the weight in your hand should be a forward pressure – similar to a child pulling you down the street (not hanging off the bottom of your arm!) If there is no pressure in your hand there is no horse on the end of your reins. Initially trot half a circle as slow as you can get your horse to go and then allow him forward for the other half. As he starts to understand shorten the distance between slowing down and allowing him forward to ¼ of a circle. You’ll be so busy thinking about pushing him forward again you’ll have your legs on as you slow down without thinking about it. That’s what keeps him balanced and in your hand without pulling. When your horse is happy going into your contact you can start to show him how to stretch. Put your knee and thigh in for a couple of strides to steady him and make sure his weight is back on his hocks. Then push on and release them. As he moves forward relax your thumb on the rein. Allow your reins to slide through your fingers as he reaches down for the contact. DON’T throw him a couple of inches and expect him to find it! Your horse will take as much rein as you allow him to but there will be a time when he starts to doubt himself. When you feel him hesitate put your thumb back down on the rein to reassure him the contact is still there. (Close the lid) Be happy to accept small changes while he starts to understand the exercise and quick to praise him. With practise, he’ll feel confident enough to reach for the floor. When you come to bring him up again use both legs and then close your thigh and knee into the saddle. The pressure on his shoulders will slow him down. As he slows down he’ll sit on his hocks and lift his head up. Take up the slack in your reins immediately. Lean forward and take up your outside rein first. Then take up the inside and ride forward thinking about keeping the pressure even on your reins. When you take up your contact your horse knows it’s time to work. When you give him a loose rein he knows he’s finished. Bear that in mind the next time you allow him to stretch. Good luck and enjoy your schooling.  Published in memory of Lorraine Jennings

Top Five Country Style Shops to Visit at Badminton Horse Trials

Next week when turning the calendar page over to May brings only excitement to all equestrian enthusiasts. This means Badminton Horse Trials is on the horizon! This prestigious event in the equestrian year is now only a short while away, with tens of thousands of dedicated equine and countryside fans flocking to this tiny village in South Gloucestershire. Badminton is famous for putting on top class equestrian sporting action, but also for its huge shopping village which is another highlight of the event. There is not only a vast collection of shops displaying equestrian products and clothing but everything you need to wear in the countryside or fill your home with country style designs. Here we give you the top five country style stands that you must visit this year at Badminton, where we can guarantee you will make a lovely purchase. Timothy Foxx – Eccentric British Styled Tweed & Casual Clothing Timothy Foxx focuses on elegance and clever design which is the main feature of their clothing range. No matter what shape you are, you will feel amazing in their clothes. The range of products has now been expanded to appeal to customers of all ages from stunning men’s tweed jackets, waistcoats and accessories, funky tweed hotpants and mini skirts for the teens and sophisticated jackets and knee length skirts for ladies who are after a suit to wear at the races. Make sure you visit them at Hinnegar Way, Stand No. 240 Please visit: https://www.timothyfoxx.co.uk/ Country Traditionals – Finest Handcrafted Stoneware Country Traditionals wonderful stoneware is handcrafted and designed by highly skilled craftsmen in Poland. Their designs mix and match beautifully looking stylish and elegant on any country dresser or table. The pottery is chip resistant, oven proof, microwave and dishwasher safe. Visit their stand at Somerset Way, Stand No. 251 Please visit: https://www.countrytraditionals.co.uk/ Grays Est 1922 – Equestrian Inspired Leather Accessories Grays Established in 1922 is an English brand offering luxury equestrian themed designer handbags, purses and wallets along with British themed country gifts. Their high quality accessories compliment any rural outfit or countryside home with the British countryside at its heart. Visit them at Swangrove Street, Stand No. 178 Please visit: https://www.grayscountrygifts.com/ Hicks & Brown – Timeless Fedora designs  Hicks & Brown offers a collection of beautifully designed hats to complement a town or country lifestyle. Started by sisters Alice and Rosie, their thoughtful and inventive approach to their high quality products is reflected in their timeless collections of Fedoras and Trilby hats. Visit Hicks & Brown at Swangrove Street, Stand No. 55 Please visit: https://www.hicksandbrown.com/ The Dartmoor Shepherd – Stunning Sheepskin Rugs The Dartmoor Shepherd was founded by Lewis and Flora suppling high quality unique British sheepskins. Their range of sheepskins are shaggy, thick and heavy which last up to ten times longer than other British or imported rugs. Their sheepskins make any countryside home interior feel warm, inviting but stylish too. Please visit them at Worcester Way Stand No. 4 Please visit: https://www.thedartmoorshepherd.co.uk/ Badminton Shopping Village opening hours: Wednesday 1st  May:  10am – 6pmThursday 2nd  & Friday 3rd May: 9am – 6pmSaturday 4th May: 9am – 7pmSunday 5th May: 9am – 4pm For more information on visiting Badminton Horse Trials, please visit: https://www.badminton-horse.co.uk/ Image credits: Header Image: © Copyright Jonathan Hutchins and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence Second Image: © Copyright Chris Denny and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. Third Image: © Copyright Haynet Fourth Image: © Copyright Haynet Fifth Image: © Copyright Ray Bird and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Tribute To Lorraine Jennings

by Samantha Hobden Nearly ten years ago when the internet was starting to implode in our lives, I started searching for equestrian blogs particularly ones that helped with schooling problems with my horse. That was when I stumbled across School Your Horse by Lorraine Jennings. She was writing brilliant posts in a clear and concise way so that any rider could understand in dealing with their schooling dilemmas. Lorraine’s weekly posts were aimed at a novice like myself or the more experienced rider, giving her high level of dressage knowledge all for free! A Wealth of Equestrian Knowledge When I started writing my own equestrian blog, it came to me to house these blogs and advice all under one roof. Haynet was then created. Within a couple of weeks of its launch, I contacted Lorraine to see if she would like her blog featured. From that day onwards, a warm and supportive friendship developed and we became online buddies. Lorraine became Haynet’s “Anything Equine Agony Aunt” where she advised, helped and laughed with Haynet members with their equestrian woes. Her advice was invaluable and she soon became respected by her online following. With a revamped website, Lorraine offered downloadable booklets for riders which helped many solve the frustrations that schooling horses can bring. Her School Your Horse blog was also a finalist in the Equestrian Social Media Awards and her writing extended to articles in Pony Magazine and Horse & Rider. A Life Full of Horses Having had horses all her life, Lorraine worked in most spheres of riding from polo, eventing, show jumping, hunting and dressage. Dressage was her real passion and she competed her own horses to Medium level and trained to PSG. She adored her horses but particularly Polson who was her ”once in a lifetime horse”… In her later years, she was a groom on a private estate and concentrated on her writing. Her sole aim was to make sure that schooling would not be boring and her advice reflected this through her blog. Supportive Friends Lorraine enjoyed social media, particularly the Twitter community where she felt most at home. She helped horse riders through the platform with many becoming firm friends. She was always at the end of an email or the phone in helping me with problems I had with my own horse. She was a tower of strength in the support she gave me when I lost Zeb last year. In recent years Lorraine had taken a quieter step back from online life working in the real world but I know her passion for horses and giving advice was never far away. Sadly last month, Lorraine’s life was tragically cut short in a car accident, leaving her loving family devastated. She was forty eight… the same age as me. I have been shocked by her sudden passing and felt the need to write this tribute to her. Her close online friends have also been extremely saddened by her loss. Here are their personal tributes: I first spoke with Lorraine before I went to uni, it must have been 8 or 9 years ago now. She gave me some advice with the horse I had at the time, and we spoke on social media frequently. Since then we’ve spoken nearly every week on Twitter. She was always so kind and helpful, offering her horse advice freely. But she also had a great sense of humour and will be missed so much. Maddie from Mads Outdoors Lorraine was such an incredible source of support, a driving force for schooling information and a genuinely fun lady who always offered a word of encouragement. She will be sorely missed. Marie from Blind Equestrian “Like the creation of the universe, the Friday #cutepoker on Twitter came together with an almighty bang and grew to many thousand tweets.  Lorraine, along with Maddi, Kate, Carol and I would find the cutest, daftest funniest animal pictures to play each Friday…and boy didn’t Lorraine find some corkers!  Although we loved horses, otters were the trump cards in #cutepoker. We all gained nicknames – Lorraine was Pudding (that great Yorkshire delicacy) and I ended up as Hobbit as I live in the Shire (Maddi was Pugwash, Kate a Muggle and I’ll save Carol’s blushes with her nickname)- names which stuck over the years we played.  Pudding (I really can’t think of her as Lorraine) had a wicked sense of humour with a quick wit to repartee a tweet. Although we have never met, her loss has left a huge hole in the Crazy Gang.  Thank you Lorraine, for being part of our lives and thank you to her family for sharing her with us.” Helen “Hobbit” Watkins Lorraine’s Legacy Speaking with her family, they feel that her writing should carry on being published. Therefore I will continue to share her equestrian wealth of knowledge through her posts on Haynet. This I hope will be her legacy continuing to help riders with their schooling problems. Lorraine will always be remembered as a lovely down to earth Yorkshire lass (and in her words) “from ooop norf”. She will be incredibly missed. In loving memory of Lorraine Jennings  1970 – 2019 Donations in her memory can be made to Cancer Research

Inattentive When Schooling? Is This You Or The Horse?

by Lorraine Jennings Is your horse more interested in what’s going on in the field next door? It’s a common fault of horses of all ages. They have something in common too – their riders! There are many things you can do to get your horse’s attention but before you start make sure he has yours. It’s too easy to blame him when he’s slow to respond or looking across the school at a car driving into the yard but never forget that without your say-so he can’t do anything. If your horse is easily distracted you need to keep him interested. But be warned! How you do it can have a negative effect on him too. Whilst it’s important to fill his head with your ideas so he can’t think up any of his own it’s also important not to give him too many things that will just create tension. Imagine if you were reading a book you found boring – it wouldn’t get more interesting because the pages were turned faster would it?! And starting too many different books means you never really settle into one of them. Look on your horse’s lack of attention as a challenge – not a disaster. Keep your schooling sessions short so you can stay focused and calm. That means leaving your phone in the tack room! And chatting to friends after you’ve ridden … The most important thing to work on is your aids. If your horse can turn his head to look at another horse trotting around the field next door then your contact isn’t there to stop him. Take up your reins and clamp your thumb down on top of them so they can’t slip any longer. Keep the pressure the same on both and if he tries to turn his head you’ll feel the pressure increase on one rein – and be able to correct it. Just because your horse likes to turn his head or spook it doesn’t mean you should focus on his head – or your reins. Your legs are really important. They push his quarters up to his shoulders and shorten his body. A shorter body is easier to control. Transitions and changes of rein are an ideal way to keep your horse thinking. Just be careful that you don’t do too many too quickly. All horses are different – some respond better to quick, sharp changes. Others need those changes to be slightly slower and calmer. Try one of these ideas – Put yourself on a 20m circle at E/B. Work at any pace. From that circle, you can – go large – return to the circle on the next long side ride circles of different sizes – 18,15,12,10, 6m change pace using direct or indirect transitions change the rein by riding two ½ 10m circles EXB ride 10m circles from the four tangent points change the rein onto 10m circles to A and C change shape – squares and diamonds from tangent points spiral in and out Any one of those ideas is enough to keep a horse focused – for one half hour session. What you don’t need to do is join two or three of them together! Throwing too many changes at him will just confuse and frustrate him. He’ll soon stop trying and start to look for ways out. Think of all the instructors or school teachers you’ve had and how they taught or inspired you. Which ones made you listen? The ones that gave you loads to do and think about or the ones that gave you time to really understand? Good luck and enjoy your schooling. Please visit Lorraine from http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/

The Hardy Highland Pony

A renown favourite with our Queen these tough, hardy and sturdy Highland ponies have been very adept in caring for our monarch over the decades, as well as carrying a shot stag down from the hills. These wonderful ponies come in a variety of sizes and colours and are suitable for a wide range of tasks, making them a great allrounder when it comes to owning one. The Highland Pony is one of three native breeds from the Scottish Highlands and Islands with the others being the lovable Shetland and the lesser well known Eriskay pony. With the wild Scottish weather, the Highland Pony has adapted to the climate and conditions living in Scotland. They were initially bred to work on the small farms in the Scottish hills taking on the heavy work of hauling timber as well as ploughing.  These mini work horses have also been used as military ponies in past conflicts and also are popular in modern day sporting and showing activities. Due to their quiet nature and stamina, these tough little equines are also great for riding difficult terrain, carrying weight but also can jump well and can be used for driving too. Their winter coat consists of a badger-like type hair over a soft dense undercoat. This double coat enables them to live easily in the harshest of winters. This sheds easily in the spring giving them a lovely smooth coat for the summer. Highland ponies should have natural flowing tails and manes. If showing or competing, it is against the breed standard to trim hair or dock their manes. Many will also have a dark coloured dorsal stripe together with their long tail, thick mane and feathering to the legs. They thrive on rough grazing and like to be kept outside which makes them an excellent choice when looking for a pony that can live comfortably outdoors all year round. However they can have eyes bigger than their bellies and obesity is their biggest health issue. Care is needed when grazing and rich fertilised grass is a big concern for this breed with the risk of developing laminitis.   The typical Highland Pony stands around a balanced 14.2hh with powerful quarters, a deep chest in a variety of colours. They are known to come in shades of dun, grey, brown, black and occasionally bay and liver chestnut. These strong and calm ponies are also easy to break and train. Crossing these characteristics can produce a pony with a wonderful temperament, stamina and hardiness. Being one of the biggest pony breeds, they also make a great choice for an adult to ride and own. Definitely try one and don’t condemn them for being too small! Make sure the Highland pony is a breed to consider if you are looking to own a pony. Their life span is between twenty five to thirty years although some comfortably make it into their thirties. Most will also cope with barefoot riding too, so this fantastic breed will make all aspects of horse ownership a very enjoyable one. by Samantha Hobden Image credit: Paid licence Shutterstock

Mareternal Instinct

An equine matchmaking story by Jacqui Broderick Forget about internet dating. Choosing a mate for Maddona is a serious business.   My kitchen table is buried beneath mounds of glossy brochures, all highlighting the virtues of prospective fathers – easy to handle, kind temperament, combines good looks with superb performance. Each mate sounds more tempting than the previous one – there is a well muscled hunk from Connemara, a very tall, slender chap with an expensive sounding address and even a handsome Arab who lives close to the beach in Bundoran.  As I flick through the brochures, admiring the flattering photographs and pondering over the tempting descriptions, a loud snore reverberates through the air. With a bitter sigh I glance across the room to where The Husband lies comatose on the sofa. His arms are folded across the gentle mound of his belly, his cheeks quiver as each breath is exhaled. If only I could have selected my mate from a glossy brochure. Far more attention seems to be paid to the choice of partners in an equine pairing than ever is in a human one, with the perfection of the resulting progeny being of the greatest importance. Maddona’s mate has to have a well set on neck, to hopefully counteract hers, which is set rather high. He also has to have wonderful action as hers leaves more than a little to be desired. Little thought was ever given to these finer points when The Husband and I got together.  Finally the choice is made and as I have the self appointed role of matchmaker, it is up to me to visit the prospective mate to see if he is all that he is supposed to be. Danny Boy is an impressive dark grey Irish sports horse, who has won prizes in show jumping competitions. Maddona shows little interest when I show her the brochure with a colour photograph of her first mate. But then I guess, this is not going to be a life time commitment for either of them. Field Park Stud was everything that I had expected a top class breeding yard to be. Peter Keogh, the owner showed me around a smart quadrangle of stables, where I met beautiful mares and youngsters. After the tour of the premises Peter sent Micky, his head groom to lead out the stallion for me to have a look at.  Danny Boy is led out of his stable and along a concrete path towards me. He walks with the swagger of one of the teenage yobs who hang out in the shopping centre – all that he lacks is a hoodie and an MP3 player draped around his neck. The stallion is very handsome, muscles bulge beneath his shining coat; his mane and tail have the appearance of spun silk. Suddenly something catches Danny Boy’s attention and the mighty stallion plunges, shaking his head arrogantly, sweeping Micky, his ancient groom off his feet, where he dangled for a moment in mid air, swinging from the reins, feet peddling furiously until the stallion carelessly deposited him back onto terra firma. “He’s as gentle as a lamb,” Micky grinned in my direction, but I could see, from my safe position behind the fence, that a line of sweat had broken out beneath his flat cap. Maddona was duly delivered to Field Park Stud a fortnight later after an injection from the vet, designed to bring her into heat. I watch anxiously as Micky and Peter prepare Maddonna for her few minutes of romance.  I find myself pondering briefly what these guys do in their spare time. Once Maddona is trussed up to their satisfaction Micky darts off to fetch Danny Boy. All my illusions of equine romance are hastily shattered. Danny Boy is no Mills and Boon hero. There was no courtship; actually, Danny Boy did not even introduce himself. I do not profess to know much about what horses think, but I could certainly understand the wide-eyed look that Maddona gave me as Danny Boy pranced towards her. It was all over in seconds and then Danny Boy was cropping the grass at the side of the yard without even a backwards glance in Maddona’s direction. The male in every species seems to be totally lacking in the romance department. The indignity continued when the Vet came to scan Maddona to check if she was in foal. There was much horrified eye rolling, on her part, when he marched into her stable dressed in a long green gown, armed with a long rubber glove and a lot of high tech machinery. The oval shaped blob that appeared briefly on the screen confirmed the good news. Maddona was in foal.   And that was when my imagination took flight.  The long, boring days in the office ceased to exist as I daydreamed for hours about Maddona’s foal. In my imagination I saw the foal, fully grown and somehow miraculously having become a top dressage horse and eventer, performing faultless flying changes and flying over the biggest of fences. There was never a pregnancy that was treated with more care. Maddona had the best of everything, much to the chagrin of The Husband.  Maddona bloomed over the summer and ballooned over the winter. By April her belly was enormous and her expression resigned as she plodded around the field. She spent hours standing in the shelter of the hedge as if it were too much effort to move around. By May she had developed a resentful glare, which she shot in my direction every time I went to fetch her in from the field, as if she felt that I was responsible for her condition.   As the Big Day approached I watched Maddona anxiously for any change that would indicate that the birth was imminent. I developed a crick in my back from bending down to peer at her udder. The day dreams of my performance horse had ceased and been replaced by nightmares about ‘things going wrong with the birth’. I took to waking in the middle of the night bathed in sweat after lurid dreams of breech births, tangled limbs and two headed foals. Giving birth was far too dangerous, no matter what the vet said about 99% of mare’s giving birth perfectly normally. That still meant that it went wrong for 1%. That convinced me – there was no way that Maddona could be allowed to go through the trauma of giving birth alone. I was going to be the best birthing assistant ever. Having seen the mess that The Husband had made of the job I was determined to do better. Maddona was to be spared the indignity of having someone by her side yelling ‘Push, push’, as if he were at a Rugby match, and then falling onto the floor in a dead faint the moment that the baby emerged and having to have all of the nurses step over him while they tried to attend to the important players in the birthing drama.  As any fool knows ‘a watched pot never boils’. And so it was with Maddona’s foaling. I rented a foaling camera, designed to relay pictures from the stable to my bedroom, so that I could rush to Maddona’s aid when the foal was being born, but no matter how I positioned the camera, she kept moving out of the screen. In the end I took to sitting in the stable with her. Night after night I sat patiently, huddled beneath a blanket in a corner of the stable, watching Maddona. Night after night Maddona watched me, a slightly bemused expression on her face. “Mare’s prefer to foal on their own,” The Husband  dared to venture one night, watching me spooning three spoons of sugar into a mug of extra strong coffee. “Hhhmmmmph,” I growled in reply, since I was becoming quite tired and tetchy by this stage. “Night”, he said in a resigned tone, opening the kitchen door to let me outside into the bitterly cold night. Maddona sighed as I settled myself into my usual spot in the corner of her stable and prepared for my nightly vigil. It was quite cosy, with a sleeping bag around my legs and a tartan rug around my shoulders. In fact, very cosy…….. I woke with a start…….it was dawn. I saw the first grey and pink light just beginning to streak the sky through the open half door of Maddona’s stable. I stretched my stiff legs, easing aching muscles. It was still quite dim in the stable, but as I looked at the mare I could see that she was not alone. Standing next to Maddona was the most exquisite long legged foal. The mare and foal were looking at me curiously – and I could have sworn that they were both laughing.

One Foot At A Time

or should that be hoof! Spring time is fantastic. The days are getting longer. There is some warmth in the air, you are no longer sliding around in acres of mud. However, the Spring time can feel pressured. Sometimes after the long Winter, the urge to get on and get out can be overwhelming in the Spring time. We feel we must make the most of it, must do this, do that, go faster, go higher. Breathe. Often, we lose our confidence a little over the Winter. Months of spooky horses in the wind, coupled with lack of muscle and lack of practice can leave us feeling slightly nervous at the thought of that hack, or taking that lesson. But that’s okay. Break it down. Take everything one step at a time. Build yourself up slowly. Confidence is like a muscle, it weakens with lack of use, but equally builds up quickly once flexed. If you are nervous about hacking out by yourself, take it one step at a time. Why not take your horse for a walk in-hand around the same circuit you wish to hack round? Find someone to hack out with. Make sure it is someone you trust, who is sensible, and is going to be supportive. Practice meeting obstacles in the school. For example, you can place dustbins and tie flapping bags around your arena, so that your horse becomes used to obstacles. Doing some simple spook busting in the school will enable you to feel more confident out hacking. If you can’t find someone to hack with you, ask a friend to walk or run with you on your hack. You and your horse will gain reassurance from having another person around. The Spring should be a pleasurable time of year. Don’t push yourself too hard to achieve things straight away. Take the time to build up to what you want to be able to achieve and then you will find yourself enjoying your time with your horses, rather than regarding it constantly as a challenge. Building blocks always mount up to big achievements, and some good solid groundwork with your horses in the Spring, will reward you with a lovely time over the rest of the Spring, Summer and Autumn. Lizzie Hopkinson is a partner at Ethical Horse Products

What to look for when finding a new instructor

Finding a new instructor is a big deal, and it’s not a commitment to take lightly. As with horses themselves, a riding instructor will be an investment that can create a great experience — or pure disaster and frustration. This is the same whether you’ve ridden before, you’re an experienced rider, or a total novice — of course, it’s even more important for the latter. Bad habits and bad experiences can be hard to overcome. So how to find a good riding instructor? There’s no clear-cut formula, and it’ll vary according to where you are, your goals, and what you hope to gain from the instruction you’ll have. Whether it’s clinics, an intensive course or something else, it’ll depend on the very first point on your checklist: does the instructor match what I need? They match your basic requirements This is very important. The instructor and the student need to match in their goals — whether it’s to learn a new discipline, or learn riding altogether. An experienced rider will need a higher-level instruction — in both skill and complexity. A new rider might need more frequent lessons. A very expensive and famous instructor might be too much for a complete novice, but a basic instructor will be too little for someone needing something extra. Moreover, depending on where you live, there’s a possibility you’ll need to travel or commute — if you want to learn a particular discipline, for example, it might not be available in your region. Affordability may also be an issue, depending on what you need, and you’ll need to measure cost vs. quality — which doesn’t necessarily mean settling for less, but rather setting realistic goals. Do not attempt classes well beyond your level. Improving is fine, but don’t run before you can walk. If you’re a complete novice, learn the basics first and then the discipline you wish later. You don’t want to jump into an advanced, expensive course you can’t follow and won’t enjoy. The teaching style agrees with you Everyone learns in their own way. Some prefer a more hands-on approach, some need more coaching, some only need pointers. It’s up to you to check whether the teaching style of the instructor matches your own personality and taste, otherwise, even if the instructor is good, you may end up frustrated. Many instructors may agree to an experimental class, or have videos of their classes online, so you can check them out beforehand and not waste your time (and money!) on someone you can’t learn from. Again, this doesn’t mean they’re bad instructors — only that they’re not for you! Don’t feel bad if you don’t like the style of Mr Super-Popular-Rider. Ask them questions and see how you feel with their answers. Do they appear confident? Do they answer graciously or are curt? Are they direct? You can tell a lot by the answers they give. The barn is neat and clean Nobody should learn in a dirty, uncomfortable environment. How the instructor treats the barn matters. A clean and tidy barn (as much as possible, anyway) is a good environment for learning and shows the instructor cares about the place and the cleanliness of their apparel and work environment as well as for their own skill. The horses are well-cared For all the money and glory we can find in horses and riding, they’re still living animals. They feel pain and discomfort. Do not fall into the trap of believing someone who has beautiful horses and rides well but doesn’t seem to care for them outside of the class. Not only it’s a bad idea to support such people from an ethical standpoint, but you might also pick up bad habits and traits from the people you’re supposedly learning from. Make sure the instructor does care for the horses (as much as possible) and treats them well. Watch before you commit. Background check them A great way to know a riding stable or instructor is to follow them online. You learn a lot from what they post and don’t post in their business’s social media. Do they claim to teach one thing but appear to be doing the opposite on social media? Do they claim to have won prizes they don’t appear anywhere as winning? Do they claim to be accredited by people who never heard of them? Unfortunately, there are lots of ill-intentioned people out there who may pretend to be something they are not to win customers. It’s important to check their claims (especially if they seem outlandish) and verify if they really are what they say they are. This is a good way to avoid disappointment and regrets. You can visit websites such as the British horse Society which lists approved instructors. Bear in mind, not all instructors will be listed here, so make sure to ask your instructor for their accreditations. Check their local reputation Even if they’re great riders who’ve accomplished everything they say and are everything they claim to be, that doesn’t mean they’re a good teacher. Some people simply can’t teach what they know — and some are just bad teachers. Verify if the instructor has a good reputation with their students; if they are well-liked; and if they have a good reputation in the are they work in. Sometimes people can have a glowing reputation… away from those who know them personally. Ask for references With all that in mind, it’s always good to ask for references. If you have friends or family who ride, you can ask them if they know someone, if they suggest someone. Local clubs, organizations and farms may also provide a good tip in the right direction. Of course, you don’t have to follow the suggestions and references, but they’re a good starting point. Finding a good riding instructor is just as important as finding a good horse for yourself, and not something to be taken lightly. Make sure to follow these tips and happy riding! Image credits: Shutterstock

The Queen’s Love Of Horse Racing

On the Queen’s fourth birthday, her father King George VI gave her a delightful shaggy Shetland pony called Penny. From that day on the Queen’s passion for horses would give her immense enjoyment all through her life. She is often seen in the saddle at the astounding age of 92 riding through Windsor park, showing steely determination that age is not a barrier when it comes to riding horses. The Queen’s affinity with the equestrian world extends into her love for horse racing. She was introduced to the sport by her mother who was also an enthusiastic follower. The Queen owns a large number of thoroughbred horses that she has bred from racing stock from her late father. During the fifties and sixties, she raced her own bred horses as well as ones bred by the National Stud. In her coronation year, 1953, her horse Aureole was tipped to win the Epsom Derby but was pipped into second place. The Derby is the only major flat race that she is yet to have one of her horses take the title. QHowever, her racing track record is an impressive one. She has won over 1,600 races with her horses including the French Classic, the Prix de Diane in 1974. In her Silver Jubilee Year, her horse Dunfermline won the Epsom Oaks and the St Leger Stakes.  In recent years, the Queen made sporting history when she became the first reigning monarch to win Royal Ascot’s Gold Cup with her thoroughbred Estimate in 2013. Over the last thirty years, it is believed the Queen’s horses have won nearly £7 million in prize money! She does not gamble but takes great interest and pride in successful breeding and training. She is widely respected for her knowledge of the equestrian world, particularly in the horse racing industry. Despite her hectic working schedule as head of state, she will always ensure that she makes time to enjoy her racing passion. She is often seen at various key racing events throughout the country. Whether this is in an official or private capacity, she delights in watching her horses running. The Queen will always make time to visit the Royal Stud at Sandringham. She shows great compassion and interest in her horses from their birth and to  retirement. Every horse that has finished their racing career remains in her care enjoying their last years at the stud. Horse racing is not only a royal passion but a national one too. It is an exhilarating sport with something for everyone.  If you have never attended the races before, then make sure you make this a date in your social calendar. Whether it’s the thrill of watching fast horses, dressing up and enjoying the hospitality or simply placing a bet on a horse with the chance of winning a few pounds, it will make you realise why our Queen loves this sport so much. Sponsored post: working in partnership with Keith Prowse

Straighten Up

We all know how hard it is to ride a horse that is stiff, unbalanced, crooked or weak, but have you ever thought how difficult it is for the horse to be ridden by someone who is stiff, unbalanced, crooked or weak? “My horse is stiff on the left side.” “My pony won’t pick up the correct canter lead.” How many times have you heard riders complaining that they are having problems with their horse’s behaviour while they are riding. I recently met a lady whose horse had been very stiff on the left rein. She had spent a small fortune visiting vets, chiropractors, farriers, saddlers and even an acupuncturist, none of whom had been able to solve the problem. By chance she had met a trainer who videotaped her clients as they rode in order to analyse their position – and after just half an hour had discovered what was causing the problem. HER! When she watched the video tape with the trainer it was obvious that she twisted her hip to the left, collapsed the entire right hand side of her body and placed way more weight on her left seatbone. This lady is not alone. Many riders have no comprehension of how their own bodies are behaving whilst they are riding, so many of us collapse a hip, or sit with more weight on one seat bone, thus making life so much harder for our horses. Try giving a piggy back ride to a small child. Feel how uncomfortable it is and how difficult to balance when the child wriggles around, or leans to one side. It is impossible for your horse to be balanced and symmetrical if the rider is not. Learn to be body aware To ride effectively the rider needs to be supple and relaxed. Many riders are not even aware of the tensions that they are setting up within their bodies because they forget to breathe! Or breathe in an ineffective way. This sets up a tension that is mirrored in the way the horse goes.  “Recently I rode a young, difficult horse and felt extremely insecure in the saddle. The horse, I quickly concluded, had a ‘funny’ wither and a tense back and I couldn’t make any contact with his sides. He really wasn’t the kind of horse that I was going to get on with,” recalls Cindy Gardiner, “However after a while I became aware of what my body was doing. Every muscle was tensed, so I was literally perched on top of the saddle, unable to move properly. When I made the conscious decision to relax I moulded myself into the saddle, my legs made contact with the horse’s sides and I discovered that he was actually a delight to ride.”  It is a useful exercise for everyone who rides to focus on your own body and be aware of where your weight is in relation to the horse. Symmetry You are said to be symmetrical if you can place an equal amount of weight in each cheek bone and foot and give equally effective leg and rein aids with either leg or hand. Also in order to by truly symmetrical you should have an equal amount of strength, flexibility and coordination on both sides of your body.  However, we were all born with a dominant side, which is stronger and which we use more frequently for every day tasks, such as carrying loads, opening containers etc. This, combined with injuries, muscular stiffness and behavioural patterns, ie cradling the telephone under our neck, all make our bodies uncoordinated and asymmetrical.   Signs of rider asymmetry You may be riding in an asymmetrical way if:- Your saddle, or saddle pad constantly slips to one side One stirrup leather is stretched more than the other You have rub marks on one side of the saddle, or riding boots You carry one shoulder, or hand higher than the other When you fall you always fall off on the same side Most asymmetrical imbalances begin in the hip area. If the hips are not in line the torso will collapse to compensate, placing more weight in one seat bone and leg, because of this the arm and shoulder are put out of line and the opposite side will try to compensate in order to rebalance itself. The effects of rider asymmetry “I went on a hiking holiday,” says dressage rider Janet Skehard, “everyone carried big rucksacks full of the equipment that we needed. I prided myself on my packing skills, but without realising I had packed all of the heavy gear on one side of the rucksack and the lighter things on the other side. It was fine when we set off, but soon I began to trip and stumble, one side of my body became very sore and stiff and pretty soon I was bad tempered, distracted and frustrated. The hiking trip became a nightmare.” It is hard to imagine that something so simple could have such a profound effect on your frame of mind and body.  Carrying an unbalanced rider must have a similar effect on the horse. If he has to carry an unbalanced rider the horse has to contract the muscles of his body in order to counter the extra weight. Because of this he will find it hard to balance and bend on that side and will even find it difficult to walk in a straight line without drifting off to one side. He could also become lame because the hindleg that is supporting the less weight will shift across his body to support the side with the heavier weight. Not surprisingly the horse may become angry, frustrated and confused, because of the conflicting messages coming from your body. Imagine now if the rider, through sheer frustration that the horse is not cantering on the correct lead, gives him a wallop of a riding whip. Asymmetrical horses Of course horses too are asymmetrical. We accentuate this by doing the majority of the handling and leading on the horse’s left side. Watch your horse, if he always extends the same foreleg when he eats then he is asymmetrical. Conclusion Until you are certain that you are symmetrical you cannot be sure that it is not your body that is causing your horse to be unbalanced or crooked. Work hard on becoming symmetrical so that you will have the balance, strength and coordination to help your horse overcome his problems. Be aware of your body movements all of the time, not just when you are riding. You will be surprised, how when you are aware of your body, how much easier riding becomes. by Jacqui Broderick of http://lavenderandwhite.co.uk/

When You Have To Say Goodbye…

Isn’t saying goodbye to those you love one of the hardest things? That can be from not seeing them for a few weeks, months or years or saying goodbye forever. I have had my fair share of having to say goodbye to those I love and I have also missed saying goodbye when it was needed. I say loved ones as I include animals in that term. Having lost my horse last year, I was pretty taken aback how it affected me. It was a devastating time and still continues to be a wrench that he is no longer here. I have also lost many cats and dogs over the years too and it is equally heartbreaking. You always say “I’m not getting another as I cannot go through the upset and grief again.” But you do… Well actually, I haven’t in the case of getting another horse. On Sunday I had to witness watching a neighbours horse leave for Rainbow Bridge… Having to see an owner saying goodbye to their horse was heartbreaking. It did bring it all back when I had to say goodbye to Zeb which generated lots of tears again. I was lucky in a way because I was able to plan his final day and arrange for it to be a calm process. This is why I wanted to write this post and I cannot emphasise enough in how you need to prepare the end for your beloved horse and pony when the sad time comes. There is no doubt your horse or pony has given you a lifetime of pleasure. So do you not owe it to them to send them on their way before it is too late? I made the decision last January that I would not put my horse through another winter. My plan was to let Zeb have the sun on his back for the summer and then I was going to let him go at the end of September. That decision alone was hard and I remember coming down to the yard the day after felling like I was the grim reaper when I saw Zeb. But he was having yet another miserable winter and his twenty two year old bones were suffering. No matter how much I spent in time and money on his care, supplements and vets tests, he was an ageing horse feeling uncomfortable. I just knew he would not weather another winter and sadly he showed me last year that he was struggling to manage a few more months. It was almost a light had been turned off in my lovely and full of character horse and I knew his time was coming to an end. With him not eating, standing in the corner of the field or his stable looking miserable, I knew that the time had come to say goodbye to the horse I adored. It takes a lot to be pragmatic and we are brilliant at making excuses for their health. But your gut instinct will tell you that the time has arrived and you have to just dig deep and make the bravest decision. When the decision is made, your vet will be able to guide you what is best for your horse and the procedure involved. All I know is that I gave Zeb the calmest and the most dignified ending. I decided that I could not be there at the very end and said my goodbyes to him half an hour before my vet arrived. I don’t regret that decision at all and I was very lucky I had some great supportive friends that were there for him. He was very accepting at the end and he left this world in a very composed way. I was far from composed after I lost him and spent many days crying… and it still brings tears to my eyes writing about it today. I know I was lucky that I could plan this as many horses will not give you time. But if you are having a tough time this winter with your ageing veteran, then perhaps think what will be best – for them…. Tough words I know but actually it’s being a good horse owner to have these frank discussions and thoughts. by Samantha Hobden

Don’t Lose It, Move It!

by Lorraine Jennings Fed up with hearing “He’s falling out” or “You’ve lost the shoulder”? Don’t worry. Most riders hear phrases like these when they start riding lateral movements. But don’t give up. Often it’s not what you’re doing but where you’re doing it. Leg yield is usually the first thing riders are taught. You’ve probably been taught to ride from the ¾ line to the track. It’s meant to make your life easier. Actually it makes it harder. Your horse is naturally drawn to the track. If he thinks he knows where he’s going he’s not going to concentrate on your aids. Try using the centre line. It’s far enough away from the track to avoid your horse anticipating. There are hundreds of things you could ask him to do from there so he’ll have to pay attention. Before any movement your horse must be straight. Ride a few centre lines to make sure. This is the most important part of any movement. If he’s not straight at the start how can he move sideways correctly?   Your hands are a crucial part of any lateral work. Keep them together and level. This keeps your horse’s shoulders together as one unit. Fail to do this and you’ll allow him to fall in or out as he pleases.   As you ask your horse to step sideways your contact should be restrictive. Tighten your fingers around both reins but don’t pull back. It’s enough to stop him rushing from your leg but it isn’t so harsh that he resists and tenses his back. If he’s tense in his back he can’t walk forward correctly, stepping sideways will be impossible. Make sure you’re sitting straight. Ride without stirrups if you feel safe. This will highlight the position of your seat in the saddle. Riders often draw their inside leg up as they try to move their horse across. This slides their weight to the outside. The horse is put in an impossible situation. The rider’s seat is pushing them one way but their leg is sending them the other. Is it any wonder they get confused? When you first ask your horse to leg yield ask for one step not several. This teaches him to wait to be told. It also helps you to get a feel for riding him from one leg to the other. Think of his body as a ball. ‘Throw’ it from your inside leg to your outside leg. Your inside leg pushes him over and your outside leg catches him. In this way you are in control of every step he takes. When your outside leg makes contact you’ll feel your horse hesitate. Be quick to push him forward with both legs together and relax your fingers on the reins. Walk three steps straight before you ask him to step away from your inside leg again. Alter the number of strides you take between your steps across. The more you practice the more control you’ll have. One step at a time may feel unimpressive but one step done well is better than ten strides of nothing. All lateral movements require accurate positioning of your horse’s shoulders or hindquarters. Learning to move each part separately will give you the confidence you need to progress with your lateral work. A great place to start is the long diagonal. (Take KXM as an example) You can turn your horse around his hindquarters at K to leave the track and around his shoulders at M to get back on it. Your hands control your horse’s shoulders. Your legs control his body. When you turn his shoulders around his quarters you’ll need to take his body too. If you don’t he’ll get only get so far before he gets stuck. His only way out will be to swing his quarters round and straighten up. When you reach K sit back, tighten your fingers around the reins and take your hands across your horse’s neck until your outside hand is above his crest. This will take his shoulders to the inside. At the same time use your outside heel in its usual place to push his body round. When he steps over catch him with your inside leg. Relax your fingers on the reins and ride forward towards M. For a normal turn you turn your body in the direction you want your horse to go before the turn. Lateral work is different. You don’t want his quarters to follow his shoulders. You want them to move separately. Only turn your body when he turns his. Halt when your horse touches the track at M with his front feet. His body will be at an angle to the track. This time his shoulders must stay still so keep your hands still. Tighten your fingers around your reins and use your inside heel to push his body towards the track. When you use your heel put it on and take it off immediately. Keep it on and your horse will just push back. If he doesn’t listen back it up with your whip. This should be enough to make him take his hindquarters over one step onto the track. Catch him with your outside leg. Relax your fingers, put both legs on together and walk on. Young or novice horses can find this exercise confusing if you do both ends together. Break it down. Practice turning at K and riding the end of the diagonal as you normally would or start as normal and make a turn onto the track at M. As your coordination improves increase the steps you take by using the short diagonal K-B or turning 90’ from K-F. The steeper the angle the more steps you’ll take. Take your time. Work out what you want to do with each part of your horse and where you want to put it. When you can do that you’ll be able to move him wherever you want. Good luck and enjoy your schooling. Please visit Lorraine from http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/

New Year, New Horse

Is this something you have been thinking about or yearning to achieve your dream? Horse ownership is a wonderful way of life. You meet lots of like-minded friends with the same equestrian passion. You also experience the outdoors with lots of fresh air (ok some inclement weather too) which is good for your health and wellbeing. There is also nothing like the relationship between horse and human. Ask any horse owner why they have these animals are in their lives and that bond would be foremost in their answer. If buying a horse seems too much of a commitment to your life (or your bank account), then loaning a horse is a brilliant way of giving you an introduction to horse ownership. So if you are thinking about buying or loaning a horse this year, here are five good reasons to do so: IT IS A GREAT LIFESTYLE AND GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH Owning a horse will create much change in your lifestyle, with the main factor being responsibility physically and financially. It will also give you excellent health benefits by looking after and riding a horse. Did you know that horse riding and activities associated with the hobby, such as mucking out, expend sufficient energy to be classed as moderate intensity exercise! Think of the calories you burn daily just by looking after your new horse. There are also brilliant psychological and social benefits of horse riding or ownership. When you ride a horse it stimulates mainly positive psychological feelings with a sense of wellbeing, especially when interacting with horses. Being outdoors and in contact with nature is an important motivation and life enhancing quality that most horse riders also feel. MOTIVATION TO COMPETE IN EQUESTRIAN SPORTS If you have been riding for a few years just hacking out, you may be yearning to actually compete in the many equestrian spheres of the sport. Perhaps the weekly lessons can inspire you to take up dressage, or canter through the fields has made you think that eventing may be the challenge you need this year? When it comes to competing, you do need the horse that is suitable for the job – that heavy cob may not take you through the three challenges of eventing. It is better to open minded about what horse to buy, sometimes the not so obvious choice of horse can be right for you. For example, if you are looking for a horse to event, Penny Sangster a professional event rider explains what to look for:  ‘When I am looking for a new event horse, the temperament and ‘brain’ are the most important. For our sport, we need a horse that thinks and is sharp and reactive. If I like the horse’s attitude and it shows talent- then the breeding tends to be good enough. You can breed speed, jump and movement but not attitude! As for type? This doesn’t bother me either- my top two horses are a little powerhouse pocket rocket and a tall gangly leggy dinosaur! I adore both horses and believe they will go a long way’. Finding the right horse for you is key and the search can be made so much easier through equestrian classified sites online. This gives you a much wider scope of where you can find the horse which is right for you. TO CHANGE HORSES TO SUIT NEEDS You may already be a horse owner but are finding it hard with the horse that you have. There are times when the horse and human relationship can be tested. This can be either the horse is too much for the owner in spirit and temperament or alternatively the horse is not gutsy enough for the riders ambitions or chosen sphere in the sport. To change horses is not a failure, in fact, it is a positive action for both horse and rider. If you are frightened of getting in the saddle with your current horse because they nap, spook or give you an unnerving ride, then perhaps it’s time to hold your hands up and find a home with a rider that can deal with these quirks. Being honest with your riding ability is sensible and will do you more justice for you and your horse. If you are finding your trusty old plod is just not willing to fly around a cross country course or in the show jumping arena, then perhaps it’s time for a change. Be honest when placing your “For Sale” advert being descriptive with the positive and negatives that the horse has. This is being courteous to your buyer and the horse, so you can rest easy your horse has gone to the right home. IT’S TIME FOR A COMPANION You could be needing an equine companion for yourself, or more so for the horse in your life. There are many horses for sale or for rehoming that are just required to be a friend! Some may not be suitable to ride for a variety of reasons but are great for keeping other horses company. Horses are herd animals and although many can live on their own, they are instinctively more content when they have equine company. Some yards have companion horses to do the job of keeping other working horses settled, which provides a happy and harmonious herd. There are many horses also that need to be retired and it vital to give these animals a contented retirement that they deserve, after the happy years they have given to many horse riders. So if your horse is on his own in the paddock, wouldn’t you make it their year to have a friend to play around with? TO ACHIEVE YOUR HORSE OWNERSHIP DREAM Many see owning a horse simply as a long distant dream. The hurdles of time and financial responsibility sometimes just outweigh the longing to own a horse. But don’t give up! There are many ways to own or experience owning a horse. This can be through loaning, sharing or being a little more realistic with what you can afford. We all might want the flashy warmblood on the yard but perhaps that hardy little pony would be better for your ability and your wallet! There are many horses that are out there that are cheap to run with livery prices to suit. Spend time looking at horses for sale and do your research. This will give you an idea of what is being suitably priced for the age and ability of the horse. Don’t be rushed into buying and if you can, have a knowledgeable friend that can help you with the search. There is the horse out there for you, it just might take a bit of time to find each other! So say yes to New Year, New Horse and have a fun equestrian 2019! By Samantha Hobden www.hay-net.co.uk Image Credit: Pixabay

Winter Colic – prevention is always better than cure

Colic is unfortunately an increasingly common issue as the colder weather sets in, resulting in abdominal pain for the horse. There are many different causes and types, but each is as important to avoid as the other.  Colic is actually the leading cause of death in horses so as horse owners, is it not our prerogative to do all we can to prevent this horrible issue affecting our horses? While not all colic episodes can be prevented, avoiding situations which predispose the horse to colic will undoubtedly reduce the incidence so let’s look at how we can help protect our horses from colic this winter. Most commonly related to the cold weather months are impaction-colics. An impaction is a blockage of the intestine with feed stuff. Although impactions can occur anywhere throughout the intestine, some sites are more common. The pelvic flexure portion of the large intestine is a common site of impaction due to the decreasing diameter at this point. There are a number of reasons a horse may get impaction colic. They tend to drink a lot less in the winter months than they would in the Summer. This is worsened when colder weather means horses are stabled more giving them less access to fresh forage (grass) containing higher moisture levels than conserved forage (hay/haylage). In addition, freezing temperatures may hinder physical access to water for part of the day. Dehydration impedes gut movement and when ingested feed stops moving through the horse’s gut efficiently, the material can accumulate and form a blockage. Feed and gas then back up behind the blockage, causing distention of the intestine and associated pain.  To avoid dehydration, you can add water to their bucket feed and steam the hay prior to feeding to help bring more water into the gut. There is an increase of almost 3 x the moisture content when hay has been steamed. If water buckets/troughs ice over ensure the ice layer is broken regularly to ensure constant access to water. Research at the University of Pennsylvania reported horses would drink 40% more water when the water was heated when it was their only source of water so warming the water your horse has access to will encourage your horse to drink more. Changes to feeding frequency, type, quantity or quality of feed can cause colic due to improper fermentation in the gut or an obstruction. Any changes in the type or quantity of feed (concentrate and forage) should be done gradually without sudden changes to the diet. The horse’s digestive system ideally needs about 10-14 days to adapt to different forages and feed types to reduce the risk of colic. Feeding a predominantly forage based diet will help on many levels as forage will hold water in the hind gut and in comparison to concentrate feed, horses chew long stemmed forage more which in turn produces more saliva assisting the transit of the food through the digestive tract. Poor forage hygiene caused by bacteria and mould has also been identified as a risk factor for colic (Kaya et al 2009). Forage hygiene quality can be improved using a Haygain steamer which steams at a high enough temperature to kill bacteria and mould thereby improving the hygiene quality of the forage. The following stable management practices can help to minimise the risk of winter colic: ◦ Provide clean, fresh water at all times ◦ Have a daily feeding regime with a regular schedule – be extra vigilant for signs of colic if weather conditions force a change in the management and feeding regime. ◦ Turn out as much as possible ◦ Feed plenty of clean, long-stemmed forage – the use of a Haygain hay steamer and slow feeding system will assist with providing near-continuous access to clean forage ◦ Regularly check stables and field for foreign objects the horse could ingest. For more information please visit https://haygain.co.uk. 

Olympia Horse Show: A Very Christmas Tradition

As traditional as mince pies and mistletoe, Olympia The London International Horse Show is a very Christmas heritage. If you are looking for equestrian Christmas magic together with the best riders out there, then Olympia Horse Show is the place to find all of these under one very special roof. History On Boxing Day in 1886, the show opened its doors for the first time at the National Agricultural Hall at Olympia. A huge audience with the love of equestrian sport and displays attended and the following year The London International Horse Show was held. The popularity of the show grew and in 1907 showjumping was the new attraction in the stunning Grand Hall. Subsequent years saw the show attendance rise despite being closed during the First World War years. However, just before the start of the Second World War with motorisation becoming more popular than genuine horsepower, the last International Horse Show at Olympia was held… The post-war years and the swinging sixties followed and London soon became a popular place to be. Thanks to Reginald Heaton and Raymond Brooks-Ward, they decided to bring the horse show back to Olympia in 1972. Nearly half a century on, Olympia – The London International Horse Show is now the favourite winter show for all equestrian enthusiasts to enjoy. What To Expect With excitement growing, what can we expect to see next week at the 2018 horse show? The best riders from all over the world will be heading to Olympia to compete in FEI World Cup Dressage, Show Jumping (and the very famous Puissance) and Driving. A firm favourite with all horse lovers is the Oborne Refrigerators Shetland Pony Grand National which always thrills the enthusiastic audience! Dog lovers can enjoy the Kennel Club Dog Agility displays and everybody will love the fantastic Azerbaijan and the “Land of Fire’ showcasing the unique abilities of the country’s native Karabakh horse. The famous Le Garde Republicaine will be bringing their display to the main arena, which is a very exciting addition to this years programme. With Christmas on our doorstep, Olympia has become an equestrian seasonal tradition with its famous finale.  This year promises to wow the audience as Father Christmas himself makes his thrilling visit to the main arena, sprinkling some Christmas magic to an audience from the young to the mature! Shopping No visit to Olympia Horse Show would be complete without shopping bags in hand at the extensive shopping village. This year there are over 250 shops which makes it a brilliant place to stock up on last minute Christmas gift buying. There is a huge variety of stands including a large number of equestrian themed shops but also fine art, country style gifts, jewellery, wine and more. Any keen shopper would be very at home in this shopping village! There is still time to book tickets for the show which starts on Monday 16th December to Sunday 22nd December. It really is a Christmas spectacle with the magic of horses mixed in. We guarantee you will leave the doors of Olympia after your visit brimming with Christmas spirit! Please visit: https://www.olympiahorseshow.com/ Facebook Instagram Twitter Header Image Credit: Equipassion UK Puissance Image: Wikimedia Commons Grand Hall Image: © Copyright Jonathan Hutchins and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

6 Reasons you need to vaccinate your horse

Do you vaccinate your horse? Statistics on how many people vaccinate their horses is quite limited, and it is estimated that only 30-50% of horse owners vaccinate their horses. The horse owners who attend the Horse First Aid Courses that I run are quite a self selecting group, but sometimes only half of these might report vaccinating their horse. I find this really surprising as vaccinations are an essential part of preventative health care, and aren’t particularly expensive. Horses in the UK are most commonly vaccinated for Equine Influenza and Tetanus, although those involved in breeding may well also be vaccinated for Equine Herpes Virus. To protect the overall horse population from infectious disease 85% of the equine population needs to be vaccinated, but there are so many myths when it comes to vaccinating your horse. With that in mind here are 6 reasons that you should vaccinate your horse. It’s not just about your horse One of the main reasons to vaccinate your horse is to protect your own animal from disease, but vaccinating your horse also contributes to the overall health of the entire equine population. The more horses that are vaccinated the less likely an outbreak of equine influenza is to occur. You are providing protection from life threatening diseases If your horse contracts equine flu they will be quite unwell, but they are unlikely to die. Tetanus, however, is a different matter, and in some ways a much more serious disease. Tetanus is caused by a toxin released by a bacteria called Clostridium tetani, and this bacteria lives in the environment. The horse is the most susceptible of all domestic animals to tetanus, and infection can occur via a wound, or any break of the skin. Symptoms develop within seven to fourteen days, and the bacteria can enter via the smallest cut or scratch. Prognosis is very poor for a case of tetanus, and sadly the majority of cases do not survive. The vets I work with do report the occasional surviving case, but this is after weeks (if not months) of intensive nursing which can be an expensive option for the owner. If you don’t vaccinate your horse for tetanus you should ask yourself if you’re prepared to take a gamble. You can’t compete without vaccinations Your horse will need to be vaccinated if you wish to compete in Riding Club and Pony Club competitions, as well as in affiliated disciplines. An up to date flu vaccination is also required at more and more local shows, so it is worth looking at the rules of entry. Checking vaccination records has become much more common, and it would be a shame to arrive at a show or a championship to find that you couldn’t compete because your horse’s vaccination had lapsed. You might well invalidate your insurance policy without up to date vaccinations Vaccinating your horse is considered as routine health care, like hoof trimming or shoeing, dental care and worming. If you choose not to vaccinate your horse, or the vaccinations lapse you might find that your insurance policy is invalidated. Have a look at the small print of your policy, is your horse still covered without a vaccination? Vaccinating your horse won’t make it unwell When I ask owners why they don’t vaccinate their horse they often say that they worry that the vaccination might make their horse unwell. Just like a human receiving a flu vaccination your horse might experience some localised muscle soreness, and it is sensible to tailor your horse’s work schedule around the vaccination giving them a few quieter days afterwards. Some horses can develop an abscess in the injection site, although this isn’t that common. If you are concerned speak to your vet as they can administer the vaccination into the pectoral muscles in the chest, which will drain much better and heal faster if an abscess did form. If your horse does have a reaction do let your vet know as they report these reactions to the vaccination manufacturers. Vaccinations are good value for money If your horse receives a combined flu and tetanus vaccination there will be an annual booster, and if you only vaccinate for tetanus there is a booster every two years. A vaccination will cost between £25-£45 depending on your location and call out fees of your veterinary practice. Many practices offer a ‘no fee day’ for routine work, in specific locations on certain days. You might be surprised that it is not as expensive as you think. Compare this price to the cost of an influenza outbreak, which will involve numerous visits from your vet, your horse being isolated for several weeks at least (if not longer) and it is a much cheaper option. Likewise, with tetanus the vaccination will set you back around £20 a year, compared to thousands of pounds of veterinary fees and the strong chance that your horse would not survive tetanus. Do I need to vaccinate my horse for both flu and tetanus? For the vast majority of horses, the answer would be yes, however, there are some horses who do not interact with any other horses other than their herd mates. Provided that none of the horses have contact with other horses you might find that it is possible to vaccinate for only tetanus, but please do discuss this with your vet first. What if my horse is old, or young surely they don’t need vaccinating? This is a vaccination myth that I often hear. Horse owners might vaccinate their horse who is out competing, but not worry about youngstock or older retired horses. The first point to note is that tetanus can affect all and any horses, it is not passed from horse to horse but via the environment, so all horses should be vaccinated for tetanus. Secondly, both younger and older horses can have reduced immunity, and these horses may be less likely to be able to fight off an infection is they were exposed to the flu virus, without the protection of a vaccination. A vaccination makes the horse develop antibodies (which are like internal weapons) against that particular disease so it is ready to attack the disease if it encounters it in the future. Owners of older horses often assume that after years of vaccinating their horse that it will have developed immunity and won’t need any more vaccinations to protect it. Whilst it is thought that protection from the tetanus vaccination can last for up to three years this cannot be backed up with empirical evidence and therefore the booster guidelines for every year (influenza) and every two years (tetanus only) should be adhered to. I hope that reading this post helps you to understand why vaccinating your horse is so important, and please don’t just rely on your vet sending you a reminder. Stick the date in your phone and diary with a few reminders to book the appointment! by Nicola Kinnard-Comedie MSc, BHSAI Int. SM Leading provider of Horse First Aid Courses https://nkcequestrian.com/ www.facebook.com/nkcequestriantraining www.instagram.com/nkc_equestrian

Caring for an Older Horse or Pony

Over The Hill How old is old? Some horses in their late teens and early twenties are still competing at the highest levels in all equestrian disciplines. Yet some riders consider that a fifteen year old horse is old. But equally, some humans seem younger and fitter than their years while others become old before their time. Horses are the same as humans in this regard their attitude to life plays a large part in keeping a young and healthy appearance. But, just as for humans, their past history, current management and lifestyle are just as important. Ready to retire Being around your horse or pony on a daily basis you will be aware of any subtle changes in their behaviour and attitude that will tell you when they are ready to live life at a steadier pace.  Be aware that the when your equine pal is approaching their late teens that they may not show quite the same enthusiasm for jumping and galloping as they once did! But care should be taken that the natural slowing down of your horse is not masking any other complaints that could be easily treated. A back problem, for instance, may cause a stiffness that could be put down to old age, when in fact, treated the animal could be perfectly sound. Older horses and ponies are happier to live a gentler life rather than just being turned out into a field and permanently retired. It could be that a retired eventer or hunter would make a safe and steady hack for someone who has no wish to compete. No horse should ever be just turned out into a field and forgotten about just because he is retired. Exercise It is kinder to keep your aged horse in some kind of work, while ever this is possible. It will keep stiffness at bay and keeps the horse interested in life. This will also ensure that he will get regular attention which is essential. If the horse has arthritis and cannot be ridden, it would be beneficial to be led out in hand, or doing some gentle long reining to keep his muscles supple. Feeding As the horse or pony gets older their digestive system works less efficiently. It is important to monitor his weight and be aware of any changes that will indicate that there are problems. Teeth problems may cause the horse not to be able to chew properly especially with an older animal so regular dental care is essential. Good worm control too is essential.  There are a number of feeds available that cater especially for the needs of an older animal and of course numerous supplements that can be added to the feed to improve their quality of life. A small dash of cider vinegar added to the feed is believed to help with arthritis problems. Stable management Older horses and ponies seem to feel the cold more than their younger counterparts and so it is vitally important that they are kept warm and dry, especially in cold wet weather. If the horse is stabled make sure that the bedding is adequate. Rubber mats are becoming very popular now, and these do cushion the horse, but it is important to have plenty of bedding beneath the horse to keep limbs from becoming cold and stiff. With an older animal, you should still use plenty of bedding around the edges of the stable to keep out draughts. The horn of an older horse’s hooves may deteriorate and so it is important to ensure that they receive regular attention from a farrier to prevent any problems occurring. Even if the horse is not going to be shod it is still important to have the hooves attended to. There are supplements on the market that are designed especially for hoof problems and it may be worth using these. During the winter the cold and wet can play havoc with stiff legs and joints. It is worth investing in a good quality warm waterproof rug if the horse is turned out during the day. If the horse comes in with wet legs it is a good idea to use good leg wraps to make the horse more comfortable. You could also use the old fashioned method of bandaging the legs with a warm insulation of straw to dry the legs. Massage and magnetic pads can also work wonders for relieving stiffness in an older animal. Magnetic wraps work by increasing the blood circulation to an area and promoting the removal of waste products. They can work wonders for relieving the pain of stiff and arthritic joints. Likewise, massage can help to relieve tight muscles and improve the circulation and lymphatic drainage. Another benefit of massage is that you are working your hands all over the horse’s body and will be able to feel for any signs of injury of pain.    The final kindness After a lifetime of pleasure from your horse or pony, it is up to the owner to take responsibility to end their life when the time comes. Observe the horse on a daily basis and ensure that his quality of life is still good. Do not put off the decision when you see their health begin to deteriorate. It is important to try to make the decision before he becomes miserable and in pain. It might be kinder to have him quietly put to sleep on a pleasant autumn morning rather than to let them go through another cold, miserable winter. Horses and ponies can be quietly and gently put to sleep with an injection that renders then unconscious before a final lethal injection is given. For everyone making the choice to put a horse down is a dreadful decision. It will be a miserable day for every owner, but really it is the least you can do for your faithful equine friend. by Jacqui Broderick of Lavender & White Publishing Image credit: Shutterstock

Aggression In The Herd

Working around a horse why do most readily accept grooming, picking up feet, leading in hand but turn them out in a field with other horses and they can sometimes turn into a monster? Aggression in horses is actually a natural and common behaviour which stems back to the wild protecting themselves from predators. In time, most behaviour settles but for some horses it can be a difficult attitude to manage. High Spirits Or Anxiety So why does your horse’s behaviour change so drastically when turned out? This could be just a show of sheer exhilaration of going out for some fresh air and grass. Or it could be a nervous reaction to being out of his secure environment in a stable. Most horses at some time during their lifetime will struggle in a herd or in a separated paddock. This can be anything from moving a horse to new situations to separation anxiety. Loving The Ladies Stallions and geldings can be very protective over mares. If male horses have been grazed next to a paddock of mares or together, a new arrival can invite protective or bordering aggressive behaviour over them. They feel that the mares need to be guarded and will tell a newcomer to stay away. Some geldings could also be dealing with a case of stallion tendencies if he has not been completely gelded. Sadly this is a problem which is quite common and a rig horse can be troublesome with other horses in a field. Living Alone Some horses have for extended periods been living alone or grazed with sheep or cattle which they readily accept. Their social skills can be affected by this and then by placing them in a herd of horses can be extremely difficult for them to deal with. Their anxiety then turns to aggression. If you are placing a horse into a herd for the first time, it is wise to separate them for a while with electric fencing. It gives them time to get used to each other and settle into one another’s company. It can take quite a few weeks for the hierarchy in a herd to settle again. We All Need Space A big factor in horse behaviour can be space or the lack of it. The larger the pasture the less likely you will have with behaviour issues within a herd. If there is only a couple of acres for them to graze, it is easy for the aggressor to drive all the horses around in a small area. They will find it less fun to run around during any violent disagreements when the acreage is vast. Space is however a premium but the more you can give, the better for a herd of horses. If this is a problem, then separate paddocks within the area to calm potential threating behaviour would be sensible. Fighting Over Food With most animals, food is a priority in their lives and anyone threatening to take their food away will provoke aggression. Feed horses separately, ideally in their stables rather than a group in the field. If they are turned out twenty-four hours a day, then make sure there is a huge gap between the horses when feeding them. Always ensure there is an ample supply of resources such as hay and water, so they have no need to fight with one another over supplies. A Calmer Situation By separating and giving your horses time to get to know each other is taking longer than anticipated, then you might want to consider herbal supplements that can help reduce aggression. The market is vast, so do your homework and ask your local feed supplier what supplement would help. Remember to introduce supplements slowly into their feed and watch for changes in attitude. Make sure that their energy is directed with lots of work by hacking them out as often as you can and schooling them to give them focus. Most horses need to have their mind simulated every day. This then makes grazing in the field with other horses their relaxing and calm time bringing harmony to the herd. by Samantha Hobden Image credit: Pixabay/Shutterstock

6 Things To Consider Before Buying A Horse

Buying a horse is quite a heavy commitment, and not everyone’s ready for it. While most of us would love to have our very own horse, there’s plenty to consider before plunging into a buy — horses live a very long time, require a lot of attention, and can be expensive to keep as well. Especially for first-time owners, it can be a very challenging thing to undertake. So here are six things to consider before buying a horse. 1 Do I have time to own a horse? This might seem like an odd question, but it’s a very important one. Horses require regular exercise and care to truly thrive, and it’s not everyone who can make such a commitment. This also combines with other points (see below) where we discuss things such as where will you board the horse, and whether you will be able to commit to be there frequently enough. If you do not have enough time (and enough time also depends on your goals, whether it’s just for fun or riding professionally and competing), it might be best to lease or co-own rather than buy your own, as this may help share the responsibility for the horse with other people. In any case, it’s a thing to consider. 2 Where will I keep my horse? That’s a very important question as well. Horse owners have plenty of options, such as boarding at a livery or housing the horse in your own property, and each come with their advantages and demands, as well as downsides. Depending on where you live, boarding may be scarce around your region and demand commute time (which ties in with point #1). Many places also require you to take care of your horse frequently. Deciding where to board your horse can be a complex balance between time, distance, and affordability, as well as compatibility with your goals. If you’re boarding the horse on your own property, on the other hand, you’ll have to take care of all its needs, including veterinarian, training, exercising and feeding it, including during winter months when turnout might not be ideal, or rainy seasons. 3 Can I afford a horse? Horses are expensive animals, and while being with them is very rewarding, it would be a lie to pretend it doesn’t take a lot of money. This includes tack, feed, veterinarian bills, provisions for emergency times, training, exercising, transportation, and other demands any animal has. Even if you already own horses, it’s always important to make sure you can afford another one without straining your bank account, otherwise, you might find yourself in a very unpleasant situation. 4  What type of horse do I want? This crosses everything from personality to discipline, to breed. What sort of horse do you want, and more importantly, what sort of horse do you need and can afford? While everyone would love to have a show horse that’s an international champion, it would be overkill to have such a horse (which will come with a hefty price) only for weekend hacking. Worse, it’s very important to balance your goals with your reality: that of your skills and ability to handle the horse and its demands. This applies to the individual horse’s personality as well. A schoolmaster horse (one used in riding schools, or an older, calmer and more patient horse) is better for a new or younger rider who may not ride as well than a feisty young stallion. This applies to breed as well, as some are typically calmer than others, and should influence your decision and suit your goals as well. 5 Where will I buy a horse? Buying a horse can be a very delicate process and it’s best if you choose a good place to buy from. Whether it’s buying from riding schools, horse dealers, or from a private individual, there are pros and cons on every choice. However, it’s best to buy local, when possible, especially for new owners. Not only a local seller will be easier to access, including to bring your horse home, it’s also more likely to have an established reputation in the area. Before acquiring your future companion, explore the background of the seller: track record, opinions from others, reputation, etc. This lowers the chance of dealing with shady, unreliable sellers. Frequenting and asking questions on Facebook groups such as dodgy horse dealers is a good place to start 6 Thoroughly inspect your potential buys This is a fundamental step before closing a deal. Always have a trustworthy veterinarian check the horse thoroughly, request medical records, observe its behaviour. Always ride or have some contact with it before buying. This way, you won’t be surprised by a horse that looks sound but isn’t or a horse that has behaviour issues. Don’t lead with emotion. While liking the horse is an obvious reason to buy, it might turn sour if the horse doesn’t fit you or is more than you can safely handle. While caring for a horse is rewarding, certain animals may prove too much, whether in health issues or behaviour issues. Be realistic about what you can handle, and make sure your final choice fits what you expect and need. There is no such thing as a perfect horse, but with care and patience, you can find the one that is a good fit for you. Following these tips, you will be able to make a conscious and mature decision. Happy buying!

The importance of confidence on the ground

When I remember competing as a child, my primary emotion is one of anxiety. Even now I can feel my heart race, my stomach chewing over on itself, and my mouth sticky with fear. I was a nervous child, an anxious competitor and my horse was bargy on the ground. My anxiety around competitions would kick in the day before, as I contemplated the day ahead. Every part of the day was a source of anxiety from the grooming, the plaiting, the loading, the tacking up, the mounting, to the actual test. Such was the behaviour of my horse that the entire day became a mountain to overcome. My mother would on occasion trail around the showground until she found a strong man to help with my horse. As an adult, I now look back on that scenario with slight disbelief. No-one ever suggested that I could improve my horse’s behaviour on the ground, my trainers were focused on my ridden results, my mother simply accepted that that was how the horse behaved, and as a child, I didn’t realise that I could strongly influence his behaviour. As an adult, I would take young horses to shows and spend most the day teaching them to stand quietly in the car park, the collecting ring, and only once I had taught them that lesson in however many trips it took, would I ever compete them. In hindsight, there was so much we could have done. Just following some the basic tips such as teaching him to stand at the end of a 12ft line quietly, would probably have solved the problem. Or asking an instructor or professional for help. Confidence on the ground would have helped me with my anxiety turning the show days into ones filled with fun rather than panic. Feeling confident on the ground gives one a “safe place” to return to. If you are scared on the ground as well as while mounted, the only position of safety is when the day is over and experiencing that level of anxiety for a whole day has a severe impact on your adrenal system. If you are already at the limit of your capabilities for processing your adrenaline, you are then going to struggle when your levels are topped up by standard competition nerves. By teaching our horses to behave on the ground and by increasing our own confidence on the ground, we build a better foundation for our ridden work. If we are confident on the ground, and we become worried whilst riding, we can always dismount and regain our confidence, but if we are fearful on the ground, how can we expect to be confident on our horse? All good things are built on good foundations, from houses to horses…. make sure the foundations of your relationship with your horse are good so that you can turn your anxiety into anticipation and your panic into pleasure. Lizzie Hopkinson is a partner at www.ethicalhorseproducts.co.uk

Should We Be Matching When Horse Riding?

If you have visited county shows or main horse events this summer, you couldn’t fail to notice the market for colour when it comes to accessorising your horse. From fly veils to head collars, saddle pads to bandages matching colour are very on trend within the equestrian industry. Mixing with the Traditional Perhaps the traditional lovers of black, greys and navy muted tones feel colour should stay away from our horses? However, with rural roads feeling almost like motorways, more colour on horse and rider is surely a very sensible and safe thing? With the autumn catwalks and fashion weeks currently making the headlines, bright colour is standing out above the normal earthy shades that we turn to when the leaves start falling. When it comes to bright colour, most horses whatever their colouring can look smart in matching accessories. Professional riders are honing in on this trend with many being photographed at home or in the show ring with their horses wearing matching saddle pads, fly veils and over reach boots. It looks stylish, smart but is also practical.  Colour can also sit with traditional tweed with many now using hot pink trims and neon yellows against black watch tartan, keeping traditional accessories alive in the modern day. Choosing Colour If you are looking to update your faded saddle cloth or your bandages are looking a bit moth eaten, then choosing accessories for your horse in a matching style is very easy. Most equestrian brands have joined the colour bandwagon and offer a choice of bright colours to keep up to trend. Don’t be afraid to use colour with your horse. Be bold and go with your favourite colour. Most horses can wear colour with ease with blacks and greys wearing any colour in the spectrum. If you have a chestnut or bright bay, then baby blues to turquoise greens look simply stunning. Mix and Match The equestrian market is full of riding wear that compliments your horse’s wardrobe. Mixing a red jacket with navy colourway on your horse looks very slick and stylish! Even black on a chestnut looks great and by adding colour in your riding wear brings out these tones. Why not use greys with a strong coral or a berry red, compliment black with hot pink or neon yellow? The colour wheel combination of mixing colours together with your riding gear is vast. Bright Colours When Riding Neon colour is not only popular now in our own clothing, but stand out nicely on your horses too. It is also a potential lifesaver. Studies have shown that wearing neon colours when horse riding makes you more visible to car drivers approximately three seconds earlier than without it. Those three seconds can save not only your life or your horse’s life. With narrow lanes and dark carriageways shaded by trees, wearing colour on yourself and your horse is a no-brainer! If your equestrian wardrobe needs updating either for yourself or that lovely horse in your life, why not step out of your muted colour comfort zone and add some brightness on your yard.  Horse riding is such an enjoyable pass time, so does it matter whether you match in the saddle or not? As they say, it only takes one colourful item to make a grey day beautiful…  Working in collaboration with Matchy Horsey Header image: Products shown: LeMieux Lime Green GP Matchy Set

5 Safety Tips for Horseback Riding Kids

While horses are an amazing experience for kids there are also risks involved so safety has to be paramount. However, with care and attention, it’s easy to instil respect for the dangers without making children fearful and spoiling their enjoyment. By laying down ground rules from the start, using the right kit and equipment and ensuring children are fully aware of all the issues, horse riding can be a safe and beneficial experience for all ages and families. The basics of wearing an appropriate fitting safety helmet, having the right size saddle and appropriately supervised riding sessions should go without saying to keep children safe at all times while riding horses. However, there are also a number of key areas which children should know about when spending time around horses and handling them, to keep them safe and accident-free. We spoke to Russ from Australia’s top equine classified website, Horseseller, for his advice. Here are his top five safety tips for kids who are spending time with horses: Advise children to always approach a horse shoulder on Horses don’t have great vision and have strong blind spots, particularly in the front of their heads. So children need to learn early on that it’s very dangerous to approach a horse head on and they should always approach the animal shoulder on instead. Anyone standing in a horse’s blind spot can cause it to spook and run, which can be incredibly dangerous. Children should also be taught never to duck underneath a horse’s neck as the horse might not see them and could spook. Unfortunately, children do have a tendency to want to go underneath horses so it’s really important they understand the dangers from the beginning. Likewise, children often want to sit or crawl around at ground level but around horses, they need to understand that the horse might not be able to see them so it’s important they stand up at all times near a horse. If they make a horse jump it can be incredibly dangerous. Tell children not to run away from a horse, but to face it and back away Horses like to play and chase and if a child runs away from them they make think it’s time to play and give chase, which could be dangerous. Children should face the horse and back away, so they can keep their eyes on the animal and show the horse they are not playing, just leaving the field. If a child backs away slowly, the horse will think they are easy to catch and will, therefore, be less likely to start playing chase with them, reducing the risk of danger and potential accident to them. Make sure children know what ears back means When a horse pins its ears back it means the horse is upset or angry so it’s important that children understand this warning sign. Children are generally good at understanding body language so they won’t have any difficulty making sense of this signal from a horse either. The best way to teach children is to show them when a horse puts its ears back, so they can see and recognise what ears back looks like first hand. Teach children the dangers of wrapping ropes around hands or limbs Children need to understand the danger of wrapping the horse’s lead rope around their hands or arms when holding a horse. Any kind of lead rope or rein around fingers, arms or hands could cause a break or major injury if the horse were to spook and pull the rope tight. The same goes for never leading a horse by its halter with their fingers through the straps – they need to always use a rope and hold the loose bundle of rope within their palm, not wrapped around them. The back end of a horse can kick hard It’s vital for children to understand they should never go behind a horse as the power of a horse’s kick can kill an adult so make sure children know from the start, to stay away from a horse’s hind legs at all times. Children do sometimes get tempted to duck under a horse’s belly as it’s about the right height but they need to understand the dangers of doing this. Children can be too small for a horse to see, so it might not know they are there and get spooked. Children and horses can be a fantastic combination, with many health and fitness benefits associated with riding, as well as the companionship and responsibility of looking after an animal of their own. By providing all of the right equipment during riding, and instilling rules and guidelines for safe behaviour around horses, from the outset, there is no reason why horseback riding can’t become a safe and enjoyable activity for the whole family. Working in collaboration, containing affiliated links. Image credits: Pixabay

Visiting Old Traditions with the Shrimp Fisherman on Horseback

I adore giant horses, the bigger the gentler as far as I am concerned. So, when Claire from Equipassion UK invited me along on her photographic trip to Oostduinkerke to watch Belgian draught horses traditionally shrimp fishing, I jumped at the chance. I had very little knowledge about the shrimp fisherman on horseback but delving into this century old but unchanged tradition on the Belgian coast, I really wanted to see this for myself. Oostduinkerke is within easy reach from the UK, so with a very early but easy ferry crossing, we made our way to the sandy beaches of this coastal town in West Flanders. Arriving at a quite modern and clean town, I was surprised how undated it was. I had imagined a place very grey and bleak for some reason but Oostduinkerke was far from it. Claire had arranged for us to meet with Eddy d’Hulster, one of the many shrimp fisherman that lives in the town and is passionate keeping fishing with horses alive in the modern day. With the skies turning grey trying to rain, we met two other fishermen who were getting into their famous yellow waterproofs and sorting the horse carts with their nets, baskets and sieves. Moments later they appeared walking with two stunning Brabant horses with their heavy hooves clomping in rhythm. They quickly “tack up”, attach the carts and then head on their way to the beach on the Koksijde. The seafront quickly becomes a horse parade where the fisherman meet and give the public an opportunity to greet the horses and look at their craft and fishing equipment in more detail. It is not long before they make their way along the long soft sandy beach, with the town’s residents and tourists all following behind to the sea edge. It is quite a sight to behold as I held back to take some photos, watching these strong horses make their way down to the surf. Claire was lucky to hitch a ride in one of the carts, so had a hands on view what it is like heading towards the water with these majestic horses. Most of the crowd, including myself had to stand back as a swathe of deep water stopped us going further, but the horses strode through with ease. With a strong sandbank to hold them, the funnel-shaped nets are then placed on to the horses held open by two wooden boards. The fisherman then mount the horses and prepare for the day’s shrimp fishing. Walking parallel to the coastline, the chains are dragged over the sand with the horses slowly plodding their way with the sea water lapping around their deep chests. With the fisherman’s good knowledge of the coastline together with respect and trust for their horses, they make their way gracefully through the seawater with the shrimp jumping into the nets. They are out to sea for about half an hour making light work of the salty terrain and then return to the sandbank to empty the nets. The beach becomes beset with a flock of seagulls all waiting to see the day’s catch. While the horses rest, the fisherman start shaking the wooden sieves to sort the famous brown shrimp from this last stretch of the North Sea which it is so famous for. Any unwanted sea life is thrown back into the sea, while the shrimp is placed into the huge baskets that the draughts horses carry side by side. With high winds and pretty rough seas, the fisherman decide to make their way back to the top of the beach rather than head off back for a second catch. We all follow in convoy behind the carts looking forward to seeing the shrimps being cooked traditionally on the seafront. The crowd gathers around a huge skillet which is heated by gas and watch the brown shrimp being thrown on to the cast iron to cook. Some fisherman cook with the salt water from the sea but fresh water was used with added salt, which hissed into plumes of steam with the smell of shrimp cooking in the air.  The horses stand calmly while their work is being cooked and the public all gather around them, showing their appreciation for these stunning animals. Being a lover of giants in the horse world, I spent a lot of time with them inhaling that “horse smell” (that I miss since losing my horse) which had also a scent of sea salt too. Once the shrimp have been cooked, they are then handed to the crowd, for free, to eat. Its fiddly work removing the shells or a couple were so small you just eat whole. But they were extremely tasty especially appreciating the work involved in getting these from the sea to the plate. Once finished, the fisherman gather up and then slowly disappear clip clopping their way through the streets of Oostduinkerke, heaading home with their much loved horses. Claire and I did wonder how this tradition is funded, especially as the shrimp was given away to the tourists for nothing? After some research, Oostduinkerke’s tourist board supports the fisherman because of the tourists it attracts to the town but also keeps this way of fishing alive. Thirty years ago, the fisherman could make a good living on shrimp fishing but those days have sadly passed and need support to keep it going.  The fisherman however love and look after their own horses themselves. They are simply dedicated to this way of life and all us horse lovers understand and respect that. Training new horses to this work takes time, with many running back from the lapping sea but with patience and dedication, they learn to accept the sea and work with the waves. Most fishermen keep their horses for their lifetime, with the trust between them extremely strong. It would have to be when facing the sometimes strong currents from the North Sea. The tradition is thankfully being passed on to the younger generation and I noticed some of the fisherman were younger in years. I very much hope that this way of fishing carries on in the modern day, as it also preserves this lovely breed of horse. Oostduinkerke is the only place in the world where shrimp fishing is carried out using horses and I felt very privileged watching these horses and their loyal fisherman at work on this atmospheric coastline in Belgium. I urge you to add this visit to your travelling bucket list and you certainly do not have to be a horse lover to appreciate it. But if equine love runs through your veins, this is a visit you would never forget. by Samantha Hobden Image credits: Header Equipassion UK, Haynet and Wikimedia Commons A very big thank you to Claire Owen from Equipassion UK, a clever equine photographer who I accompanied on the trip. Please come and visit her website which shows other foreign trips she has taken photographing horses. Please follow her on Facebook and Instagram Thank you to Eddy d’Hulstar, one of the Belgium fisherman, who was so accommodating showing us his horses and inviting us to his home to see them being prepared for the day’s shrimp fishing. Websites of interest: Oostduinketke Tourist Board DFDS Ferry Crossings

The Realities Of Being A First Time Horse Owner

It has been fourteen whole years that I was in horse ownership, sadly those days for me are over after losing my beloved Zeb earlier this year. I look back on those years with love and affection for him but my goodness I really didn’t know what I was doing when I took on a huge 17.2hh Belgium Warmblood.  I think I had “NAÏVE” stamped clearly on my forehead…but I didn’t see it. I was blinded by horse love! Owning your own horse is a major responsibility. From riding a horse at a riding school for 45 minutes with the occasional brush or use of a hoof pick, really doesn’t prepare you for the daily commitment physically and financially owning a horse brings. Please don’t think my article is being written to put people off horse ownership, far from it! I’m just giving you friendly and realistic advice about what living with horses can bring. If you are thinking of owning a horse for the first time you must go into the decision with your eyes (and wallet) wide open. Buying a suitable horse for your ability and bank account is the first hurdle. There are many decisions to make in buying a horse for yourself. Be honest and open about your ability and time you are able to give this expensive purchase. We all like to think we are the new Mary King in the making, but the reality is somewhat different. Think about the monthly cost too and work out how much this furry equine is going to cost you. When you get to that figure, add another half and more to that amount because you will always come up with some added costs that you have forgotten to factor in. Horse tack, riding equipment, stable repairs, unexpected vet bills, transport, competing fees, lessons are all hidden costs that we seem to conveniently forget about. When I worked out how much my horse was going to cost me all those years ago, I simply added up livery, feed, hay, shoes and a couple of tubes of wormer…. See I told you I was being naive! What the biggest shock to me was the time it took to look after him. Twice a day in all weathers turning out, mucking out, grooming, riding, haynets – the list goes on. God forbid if I stopped to have a natter with the other liveries as the morning trip would add up to three hours or more….. then you had the evening visit. With most of us committed to work and families, these horses take a huge chunk of your daily time, especially through the winter months. Us horse owners then become fantastic at juggling our home and work life when factoring in dealing with daily horse chores! If you think that this is going to become a problem in owning a horse, then finding a reliable sharer may be the answer. Alternatively, what has worked for me over the years is helping with other liveries horses in return for them helping with mine. Without this vital support system, I really couldn’t have managed in looking after him. Putting all these hurdles aside, horse ownership is incredibly rewarding with all the ups and downs it can bring. I am a great believer that it takes a good year to get to know your horse and for him to trust you. So be patient. Being with your own horse is great fun making you also fitter in the process. This together with the knowledge you gain in horse ownership makes this an incredibly fulfilling hobby. I use the word “hobby” lightly as it does become a lifestyle. Can I imagine life without horses now? The answer is probably no. I may not be in horse ownership anymore, but they will always be part of my life. Will I miss trudging through mud in the wind and rain in winter trying to get my horse in from the field? I think the answer has to be an honest yes and no! But that is part of the lifestyle and you always get through a winter, however close you are to writing the “For Sale” advert by the end of February… So what did fourteen years of horse ownership teach me? It has taught me a huge amount. From worrying about picking my horses feet out the first day I owned him, I can now administer injections and medicines, clean out open wounds, bandage and treat pretty much any horse ailment going. I know what products work and what are a complete waste of time. I know where to spend my money now and where to save it. I also know not to listen to the “kind” words of advice when someone gives you their opinions on how to look after your horse. Listen to your gut instinct, you are pretty much always right. Look after your horse the way you want to and take others opinions with a pinch of salt. So if you are on the first tentative steps of horse ownership, I wish you well on this equine journey! It will be great fun and so rewarding. When your new horse whinnies at you when he sees you from the stable door or from the field fence, you know it is all worth it. Written by Samantha Hobden  Editor at Haynet Image Credit: Pixabay

The Pros and Cons of Leg Protection

I’m sure you’re aware of the pros and cons of leg products such as boots and wraps and how riders and trainers need to balance their use for protection along with the danger of overheating.  There are a number of studies on the topic and there are others concerning the danger of overheating with ceramic boots and wraps used for injury prevention and recovery. One important theme veterinarians and professionals emphasize is the need for breathable protection.   Another important topic concerns whether or not icing is still a valid treatment for injuries.  Numerous advances in sports medicine have been realized to treat amateur and professional athletes.  One discovery includes the progression of the natural healing process, particularly the importance of the lymphatic system and lymph flow, which carries away debris caused by the injury.  Essentially, swelling and inflammation are part of the natural healing process due to lymph flow and a necessary component in the natural healing process. Icing stops lymph flow and can even reverse it.   I know icing is a procedure recommended by many veterinarians and trainers but that is primarily due to the absence of having any other sort of remedy.  I’m trying to inform people about a specific remedy that not only enhances lymph flow but also enhances blood flow and oxygenation, reduces swelling and inflammation by increasing the lymph flow, reduces pain through direct action on both free nerve endings in tissues and actually accelerates the entire, natural healing process, far infrared. Marly Coppens of Equine Science in The Netherlands conducted a study to compare the skin temperature of the distal limb under a bandage or a tendon boot with that of a bare limb, at rest and after 20 minutes of lunging by use of sensors and thermography.   Ten horses wore a closed tendon boot made of neoprene and a polypropylene fleece with incorporated ceramic particles bandage that enclosed the fetlock joint. No significant differences were detected in skin temperature at rest and after exercising of the bare limb. Temperatures increased significantly when a bandage or a tendon boot was used during exercise. After exercising with a bare leg the mean maximum temperature was 57.2ºF (14ºC), with a bandage 77ºF (25ºC) and with tendon boot 69.8ºF (21ºC). One of the main mechanisms of thermoregulation is heat loss from the body via convection from the surrounding air.  Earlier research looked at the effect of hyperthermia on tendon cell death and found that after heating at 113ºF (45ºC) for 10 minutes’ tendon fibroblast cell survival percentage was 99%. Heating at 118.4ºF (48ºC) for 10 minutes decreased cell survival to 22%.  SDFT core temperatures of 113ºF (45ºC) have been recorded during gallop, with tendon surface temperature reaching 104ºF (40ºC). There are two recommendations to riders and trainers based on the study: It is best to use well ventilated or breathable leg protection Remove the leg protection as soon as possible after exercising There is a far infrared product with a proprietary, non-ceramic, environmentally safe, natural compound embedded directly into a breathable, medical grade, non-slip foam backed by a breathable, Velcro receptive textile made by EyeOn Equine Care in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  Skin wear tests were conducted on test subjects wearing these products for 28 straight days to ensure breathability and any possible sort of irritation. The benefits of Breathable Far Infrared Products: Increase blood flow by promoting dilation (expansion) of the micro-circulatory system of capillaries. Increase metabolism between blood and tissue. Increase oxygen in the blood cell Reduce muscle spasms as muscle fibres are heated Remove toxins from the site receiving FIR waves Assist in the reduction of swelling and inflammation by improving lymph flow Reduce soreness through direct action on both free nerve endings in tissues Accelerate the natural healing process Permit the natural thermoregulation of heat loss Ideal to help prevent injuries by warming up tendons and muscles as well as recovering rapidly from exercise and competition The EEC products have been used on thousands of horses and people around the world with 100% satisfaction.  In fact many veterinarians, trainers and owners call it magic. Horses that have been lame for over thirty days realized an 80% recovery in less than 24 hours.  One horse with horrendous swelling for more than eight months had the swelling reduced fifty per cent in less than 24 hours. Recommendations: I just love that wrap! It just feels like it is so comfortable! She doesn’t kick or mind it at all either, nothing like the back on track hock wrap that she absolutely hated. I haven’t even had to tie her to put this one on, she just stands there eating her grain, not minding a bit. – Carmel, Lanse, PA These leg wraps are so good. I had an incident last week in the paddock, and Xaviers right hind leg was swelling. Two days later I have it under control. Works every day, it’s the number one tool in my first aid kit. – Liv Rannei, Norway My mare had been head-bobbing lame since July 11th and I was not having much success with anything.  I received the leg wraps and hoof pads on August 11th and applied them the afternoon of August 12th. She was still noticeably lame the day I put them on her. By the next day, she was much better and even trotted a few strides without much trouble. Before this she was hesitant to even walk.  I attribute my mare’s instant soundness to the Eyeon® material embedded in the wraps and the hoof pads. There is no other explanation. All I have to say is that I do believe that the EyeOn® products would be of great benefit to the equine community for overall healing and pain reduction. I knew I had to write this testimonial after using the products because of how well they worked. I think it is breakthrough technology! – Jenny, Kansas Working in collaboration with Eye On Equine Care Please visit our website to learn much more www.EyeOnEquineCare.com

Horse Incidents On The Ground

How many times have you heard when a horse is having a tantrum, that you would rather be on board to deal with it than on the ground? I know I agree with that statement totally when it came to dealing with my horse. I had more injuries with dealing from my horse from the ground than riding him! This ranged from broken toes, bites to losing the skin from the inside of my hand trying to hold on to him together with additional cuts and bruises. He may be sounding like a monster but over fourteen years in owning him, most of these injuries were few and far between. Statistically, injuries from horses are 80% from falling and the remaining 20% is from an accident dealing with horses on the ground. Horse riding falls are reported daily with some being comical to the catastrophic. When horses and humans interact, accidents happen because of the size and power of the animal in most cases. This is due to either a misinterpretation of communication from the handler to the animal or a horse simply cannot deal with a hazard, sound or is just being naughty. Few horses deliberately attack a human but their reactions are quick, unexpected and sometimes unexplained. A horse can hurt you in all manner of ways but the most common is by a kick, bite, buck, bolt, spook, treading on you or shoving you aside resulting in injury.  These incidents will no doubt lead to bruises, open cuts, lacerations, to broken bones and fractures. More serious injuries such as concussion are common if you have fallen to the ground, especially if you have not been wearing a riding hat …. Be Aware So how you can you minimalise accidents when dealing with horses on the ground? First of all, it is being aware at all times that a calm situation can escalate into something different quite quickly and making safe decisions on how to deal with it. Any horse, however calm in its personality or has years and experience on its side can be unpredictable. Put a horse in a stressful situation, its flight instinct will kick in. This can be a broom falling over in the yard to a low flying aircraft suddenly appearing will potentially give any horse room to protest. Consequences of this will lead to a potential accident or injury to you or the horse. Be aware of your horse’s space and have respect for that. They are wonderful animals that let humans have such direct contact with them. However, be aware that some may protest, especially if they are eating. Be calm around them even if a job like plaiting a tail is not going well by them not standing still, be patient and don’t raise your voice. Make sure you also have enough space to make a swift exit if they start to react. Wear Correct Clothing How tempting is it to wear your shorts and flip flops to the stables in hot weather. Don’t risk working around your horse as in one second a heavily shod horse hoof could be stamped on your toes. Even loose clothing can get caught in latch bolts causing you to lose footing spooking a horse. Don’t just wear gloves in cold weather, they are needed in the summer too. Holding a lead rope or reins with sweaty hands can lead to loss of control especially if leading two horses to a field. Having said earlier about the loss of the skin on the inside of mine hands on a hot day, I wish I had been wearing gloves… There is also the question of wearing a riding hat when dealing with horses on the ground. From a health and safety point of view, a hat should be worn always. In the realistic world, this does not happen. However, if you are dealing with a youngster or a handling a new horse it would be advisable to wear a hat. How To React To An Accident If a serious incident happens with a horse on the ground, make sure you have at least access to a phone and a medical first aid kit. Try and remain calm and try and deal with the situation without further harm to you or the horse. Assess straight whether medical assistance is needed and ring for emergency services. Make sure the area and the horse are made safe, ensuring that the injured person is not moved until medical attention has arrived. There are many first aid training courses that are aimed at horse riders, so to attend one of these would be extremely valuable to yourself and other riders around you. Horse and ponies are the most amazing animals to be enjoyed but they need to be worked around in a caring and experienced manner. Enjoy them but just be aware that sometimes in certain situations, there could be an accident waiting to happen… Written by Samantha Hobden Image credit: Pixabay Please note: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified medical professionals in the event of an accident. This is an advisory post only.

Caroline Bradley An Equestrian Legend

There is no doubt that one of the world’s greatest lady riders was showjumper Caroline Bradley.  Caroline was born on April 4 1946 in Buckinghamshire, England and went on to become one of the world’s best riders until her tragic death at just 37. Caroline was the kind of rider we all strive to be, utterly fearless, totally committed to the sport she loved and completely at one with each and every horse she rode. It is a treat to watch clips of her riding, she has beautiful soft hands and is incredibly focused on what she is doing. I feel very privileged to have been able to see her ride. She made her debut on the British team in 1966 when she was just 20 years old. In 1973 she took the silver medal on True Lass at the Ladies European Championships in Vienna. The following year, Caroline became the first woman to win the Puissance at Horse of the Year Show in London, in the same year she was also fourth in the Ladies World Championships in La Baule. In 1975 she had a great victory in the Hamburg Derby on New Yorker becoming only the second woman to win this prestigious competition. A few years later, Caroline won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup at the Royal International Horse Show on Marius which was also a great year for her best horse Tigre. On him she won the team gold medal in the World Championships in Aachen. She also won the Nice Grand Prix and the Grand Prix in Calgary. In 1979 Caroline was again a member of a gold medal winning British team, riding Tigre at the European Championships in Rotterdam. Again teamed with Tigre she won the President’s Cup in Calgary and in Paris won the Grand Prix. The next year was an incredible one for Caroline, she was elected Sportswoman of Year in 1980 and also received an OBE from the Queen. Caroline also topped the money winner’s list, won the Grand Prix at Hickstead and again won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, this time on Tigre. Tigre was sold in 1981, for more than eight times what Caroline had paid for him. She then bought a new young horse, Milton. Caroline’s great horse Marius was the sire of Milton. Caroline was a tremendous horsewoman with an incredible instinct for picking fantastic horses she knew when he was a youngster that Milton would be one of the greatest of all time. Caroline rode and trained Milton until her sudden and tragic death. She was right about his potential Milton went on, with John Whitaker, to becoming the first show jumper to win a million pounds. Caroline had just completed the first round of a competition at the Suffolk Show in 1983 when she slumped to the ground and attempts to revive her failed. She had suffered a heart attack at the age of just 37. At her peak, Caroline was ranked by many as the greatest lady rider in the world, I wonder what she would have gone onto achieve if she had lived. Caroline was one in a million – an inspiration and a true equestrian legend. by Jacqui Broderick of Lavender & White Publishing Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

When You Have A Bucking Problem

There can’t be many riders who haven’t been bucked off a horse or pony at some stage. An experienced rider will recognise the signs which mean the horse is about to buck and can often avert the problem before it starts, but bucking is a thoroughly dangerous habit and once a horse becomes used to ditching his rider it is very difficult to retrain him.  There are a number of reasons why a horse bucks, an older or more experienced horse may buck purely for fun, this flinging up of his hind legs should not cause any problems to a rider. Other reasons for a horse bucking can be a sore back, which should be checked, plus the fit of the saddle.  A sore mouth or feet can cause bucking. Mares can have ovary problems and of course, some horses may be over fed and not have enough exercise.   However, the bucking which results from a young, afraid or tense horse is very different and can be difficult to sit. Once the horse learns he can get his rider off he can be hard to retrain and in fact may always be prone to bucking.  Often horses start bucking because they are started too quickly, and not given the time to relax doing the things they are being taught.  This type of bucking is not naughtiness, but a reflex because of tension. An experienced rider will feel the tension in the horse, possibly behind the front leg, or is humpbacked, and becomes stiff when it is saddled or mounted. Also if the horse lowers its rump, and/or holds it’s tail stiff and unflappable down when you try to lift/rotate it, it might be too tense to carry a rider or is carrying its neck straight up with a scared look, it might be too tense and likely to buck.   With a young and tense horse take every step slowly. Repeating time and time again, many times daily if necessary. Mount and dismount the horse constantly until you can feel him relax and that he doesn’t think this is a big deal.  Only when the horse is happy and relaxed at this stage should you ask him to move forwards. Do this only one stage at a time. A kick in the ribs can result in his back coming up and bucking. Make a huge fuss of the horse every time it takes a step.   When you are riding if you feel the horse becoming tense and likely to buck try to turn the horse quickly before the buck starts that sometimes releases the tension. If the horse is already bucking try to turn the horse into a corner, many horses stop there. Horses that have a long history of bucking, are not very easy to stop.  Some rare horses simply have a very bad temperament and buck out of pure stubbornness.  Be ready to have to sit out the bucks, or to be thrown to the ground.  When the horse has completely stopped bucking, ride it for a few meters, and then quit for the day.  The next day, repeat the whole procedure, the horse should relax sooner, and you be able to ride it a bit longer. When training youngsters, keep the warning signs in mind and try to prevent bucking happening at all.  Rearing is the most dangerous of the vices that can face a rider. However, it is generally riders’ that are the predominant cause of horses rearing under saddle. Horses rear as an evasion although there are a percentage of horses that are just plain naughty. Generally rearing is a failure to go forward and a failure of the rider to get the horse to go forward. This leads to frustration and confusion in the horse. Once he learns to evade by rearing it is very hard to prevent this vice from becoming established. Of course, other problems should be checked for first such as sore teeth, the bit being too strong, pain or sheer boredom from being ridden in the arena for too long.   In order to prevent a horse from rearing ensure that you vary your work with him. Intersperse work in the arena with hacking out and jumping.  You will teach a young horse far more out on a hack than by going around and around in an arena and will hopefully avoid rearing as an evasion, especially if you have an older and more experienced horse for company. Curing a horse that rears is not easy and certainly not for an inexperienced rider. There is an old wives tale which says that you should break a plastic bag of water or eggs over the horses head and it will think it is bleeding. It will then stop rearing. This does not work! What does work is a high degree of experience, skill, courage and above all, timing. Horses that continue to rear normally will end up being put down. Unfortunately, this is generally the only safe option for them. A ton of horse coming down on top of you will kill you. A very experienced rider hitting the horse over the head with a rolled up newspaper, or digging in with spurs hard as the horse rises may make him realise that he is doing wrong, but timing has to be impeccable, otherwise the horse will think he is being punished for putting his legs back on the ground. Another, probably less aggressive way is to circle the horse as soon as he threatens to rear. With his head bent tightly around in a circle the horse cannot rear. However, if he does rear, throw your weight as far forward as possible and ensure that you are not hanging onto his mouth which could pull him over backwards. As soon as his front legs touch the ground circle him if you feel he may go upwards again. If the horse is unwilling to go forwards and threatens to rear if you use your legs strongly, ride with a helper who should have a lunge whip to use across the horse’s hind quarters when he falters and begins to think about heading skywards. With much of horse training, it is easier to try to outwit the horse before the problem begins than to try to cure him when the vice is established. Unless the horse is purely naughty most of the problems and vices are ‘man-made’ by bad riding or pain which should be preventable before they begin, or certainly before they become established.

Counting The Equestrian Costs

If you can remember the nostalgic years of Follyfoot Farm and Black Beauty on your black and white TV set, then you can probably recall with fondness horse riding in an era when health and safety were two words rarely put together! Equestrian life in decades gone by was horse riding without a hat clinging on for dear life, bombing up and down the hedgerows and jumping fallen trees. Riding on the roads or lanes was sharing it with half a dozen cars if you were lucky. We can fondly reminisce but sadly those carefree days are perhaps now a nostalgic memory. Horse riding is now deemed to be an “extreme sport” with the modern day riding schools battling with safety policies in order to teach new pupils to ride. Riding without a hat would now be deemed to be reckless. Who can forget watching Charlotte Dujardin when she won her Dressage gold in the last Olympics in a safety helmet rather than the traditional top hat. Since then many top riders have followed suit and now compete with safety in mind, leaving behind the traditional. Eventers now compete in cross country with body protector complete with airbags! The older equestrian generation may roll their eyes at the new and safer way of horse riding, but who can afford to get hurt these days? This beloved hobby is thankfully much safer these days but it is also comparatively more expensive. Buying a horse used to be the most costly part of the hobby, but the money needed in looking after them now outweighs this initial outlay. Shoeing costs have gone up by over a third over the last ten years, with feed prices in some cases have doubled. Hay has seen erratic pricing over the last few years with the weather being the benchmark of some fair prices to the extortionate. Livery costs have been on the rise but you can choose a price to suit your budget. If your horse can live out, this is by far is the cheaper option. However, for most horses, it is imperative to have good quality stabling and turn out which can reflect in higher livery costs. Vets bills have always remained steep but call out fees have increased due to the rise in fuel which the vet has had no choice but to pass this cost on to the customer. So factor horse ownership and riding into the present day, and this will financially stretch any household purse. So how can you prepare yourself for unexpected bills with having horses inevitably brings? Well apart from selling the family silver, there are ways of making sure you are prepared for those unexpected bills when it comes to the maintenance of your lovely horse or pony. There is the question of whether to invest in horse insurance in helping with the hefty vet’s bills that fall on your doormat or sorting out an unfortunate accident that you have may have encountered with your horse. However, premiums can be at a premium and you need to decide whether your horse needs to be fully covered pending what their job is? Many riders are taking up the Gold Membership from the British Horse Society which part of the membership is public liability insurance for horse and rider. Insuring in this way is an excellent saving but also you must make sure you put some money away for those vets bills which every horse owner will encounter at some point during ownership. How many times do you read that stable yards have been broken into and their precious saddles, bridles, and rugs have all been stolen? These are all situations that are very expensive to replace or settle. You can again either insure them or a cheaper way is having your tack hallmarked with postcode and address details making it harder for the tack to be sold on legitimately. So with hopefully your safety policy in place tack up, jump on and have fun on these fantastic, loyal and majestic animals. Equestrian sports have never been so popular and are one of the most rewarding past times out there. But don’t forget to stay safe and make sure you are using your riding hat and body protector together with some money put by…. Written by Samantha Hobden Image credit: Pixabay

5 Tips For Bringing Your New Horse Home

Remember the last time that you moved to a new house? Can you remember how disorientated you felt? And how strange it was not automatically knowing where the light switch was, or where you had left the corkscrew… As an adult, you have a degree of control over where you live, but horses are moved around at the whim of humans, with no language other than their behaviour to articulate their distress and confusion. They have moved away from their friends and familiar surrounding and placed in new environments where they have to make new friends and fit into a different routine. There are however a few tips to help you and your horse to adjust. 1: Be patient. Don’t expect everything to be perfect straight away. You and your horse will take time to get to know each other. Time spent establishing a healthy relationship, in the beginning, will reap rewards over the years. 2: Be kind. Both to yourself and your horse. Don’t get frustrated if things take longer than you expected, every little step forward adds up to a big improvement. Equally, don’t be annoyed if your horse doesn’t seem to understand exactly what you want, he is probably as confused as you are. 3: Don’t be a pushover. Kindness isn’t the same as weakness. Manners on the ground are important. If your horse is not listening on the ground, start with doing some groundwork, before you begin riding, so that you have established good healthy boundaries before you begin ridden work. 4: Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, though make sure you trust the person whom you ask. If you are struggling to get your new horse to do something that you are asking, getting someone more experienced to ask the horse the same question, will help you to see whether the horse understands or not. 5: Evaluate your progress. Keep a record of where you were with your horse at the beginning and then look back at regular intervals. You will be amazed how much your relationship has developed. Try not to compare yourself to others, remember people only ever show you the highlights of their lives, never the hard work that got them there. Getting a new horse home is almost as nerve-wracking as bringing a newborn home! But if you take your time and don’t rush the process, you will lay the foundations to build a relationship that will thrive and blossom over the years. Remember our horses are talking, it is up to us to listen to them. Lizzie Hopkinson is a partner at www.ethicalhorseproducts.co.uk Image credit: Julie Johnson/Unsplash

Five Minutes with Ros Canter

Equestrian Life is well-known for their rider interviews and recently took a few minutes out to catch up with popular Lincolnshire event rider, Rosalind Canter.  Many may know Ros as the diminutive, talented and determined rider who really pulled some great results out the bag in 2017 and she hopes to finish even better in 2018.  Currently long listed for the World Equestrian Games and riding high as the FEI World No. 2, here’s what she had to say. Do you come from a horsey background? Yes, I grew up riding on our family farm with my two sisters. We were keen pony clubbers and loved hunting. What first attracted you to the Eventing scene We always loved the Pony Club one day events the most. Then My oldest sister got a horse that had done a Pre-Novice (BE100) and so she wanted to have a go, so when I got my first horse I had a go too.  Tell us about one of your earliest successes? Coming 2nd in the HOYS working hunter qualifier at Lincolnshire show. We only entered as we had always wanted to do it and to have a day off school, but the course was particularly difficult, and I jumped one of only two clear rounds.  You’ve kept up your academic studies, what are you now qualified in and how does that play a part in your busy lifestyle? I have a degree in sports science. That is useful as now the human fitness side of eventing is becoming more important, I already have a fairly good understanding of what I should be doing. It’s sometimes difficult to test yourself as the athlete though!   I also have my BHSII and have nearly competed my UKCC level 3. I love training and teaching, so these have been very useful.  Who was the first major influence in your Eventing career? My Mum and she still is. She works harder than anyone else I know and still has a huge involvement in my business.  Do you have a favourite event or course? I love Burghley. I have watched the event for over 20 years and it was a dream come true to ride there. What was your experience of your first 4* event? That was Burghley and Alby had a sore chin in the run up to the event, so I was so worried about that. I had fairly low expectations which I think worked to our advantage as we had an amazing time. Alby is just an amazing scopey jumper, so he made my first experience feel so exhilarating.  Badminton 2017: a major game changer? Yes definitely. It has given me confidence in my system and my business, although it was the changes I made in training that lead to the result at Badminton.  Tell us about your current rides? Allstar B- definitely a star, 5th at Badminton in 2017 and 3rd in 2018 and placed both times at the Europeans. He is an outstanding jumper and is learning to enjoy the dressage!  Zenshera- my pride and joy. He is a family pet who also jumps round 4 stars. Whereas Alby is over 17 hands, Alfie’s is just 15.2hh but he came 7th and 9th in his 4 star runs last year.  What are your plans for 2018? Following our successes at Badminton and the Europeans, further team selection and individual successes.  We are thrilled at being long-listed currently for the World Equestrian Games with both Zenshera and Allstar B To anyone starting out – what advice would you give them? Keep working hard and go for any opportunity.  What’s your go-to piece of kit you cannot do without I love my Equipe saddles. I bought an old Equipe saddle when I was starting out and still have it now. I have some new ones, but they really suit me. I love my Charles Owen hats too and have worn them for years and my new Monarch solarium is a real hit with the horses!  To be so successful you must have a good back-up team, tell us about them? My mum helps with my business and on the yard. She is normally seen attached to the wheelbarrow and poo picking the fields. Ruth is my groom at home and she is really dedicated to all of the horses. Sarah helps at the big events and does a lot of driving for me.  I also get wonderful support from my sponsors who include Emerald Green Feeds, Topcrop Haulage and Charles Owen and it is fantastic to have their regular support. by Zoe Bateson With thanks to Equestrian Life for the interview:  www.equestrianlifemagazine.co.uk Ros Canter: www.roscantereventing.com Photo credits: www.timwilkinson-photography.com  

Introduce Your Children To Horse Riding This Summer

With the summer holidays on the horizon, the weeks seem long ahead in entertaining children and finding them interesting and fun things to keep them amused. Why not introduce your children to the wonderful world of horses this summer?  Horse riding has many health benefits including physical exercise but also gives children an insight into life outdoors and being around ponies by riding them or simply looking after them. This can give inherent qualities in children and give them a lifelong love of the outdoors and being around animals making them confident, responsible and generally happy young people! How old should my child be to start riding? There is no written rule on how old a child should be to start riding but a rough guideline would be from around the age of six. However, some children who are lucky enough to grow up with horses are in the saddle before they can walk! If your child has not had contact with ponies before, it is probably best to leave it to later on when they have the physical maturity to enjoy riding lessons. This will hopefully lead to many years of horsemanship. How to find the right riding school Finding the right riding school with professional instructors is key to making sure your child has the safest and correct introduction to riding ponies. Word of mouth is a great way of finding a good riding school where parents can give you an honest opinion of an instructor and how the school operates. You can also contact the British Horse Society who has a list of approved schools where these have been checked for the highest standards of equine welfare and health and safety in teaching children and adults to ride. Many riding schools will have a minimum age of six to start riding lessons and will usually teach in small groups to start with. This will be probably the cheaper and better option in starting out with the first few riding lessons. Once you know your child has really harnessed the horse riding interest, then it will probably pay to move on to individual lessons. Do I need to use an approved riding school? You may know someone that has horses and ponies, where you are able to go with your children and enjoy more freedom in riding.  There are advantages and disadvantages to not using a riding school and the health and safety stance in this modern age would recommend you to use an approved riding school to start riding lessons. This may be the best route to start initially teaching the ground rules and basics of being around horses. This will also give your child confidence and correct understanding of how to be safe at all times around horses and ponies. Time may be limited at a riding school, so to spend time with ponies on a farm with friends is also a great way to learn more about the equestrian world. This will give your child a thorough insight into life with horses but you will have to be aware that accidents can happen with potential falls, bites, kicks together with incidents within a stable environment. However, this could also happen at professional school, so you need to make the decision what is best for your child overall and be aware of the risks. By introducing your child to the love of horses and ponies secures the next generation of horse riders keeping equestrian sport alive which is much needed! You never know perhaps you have another William Fox Pitt in your family or a young Charlotte Dujardin in the dressage arena. Whether it is competing at an Olympic level, taking part in local shows or simply enjoying a canter around our countryside, the love of riding horses and ponies will certainly become a lifelong passion. Written by Samantha Hobden Image credits: Big thanks to Beth and Charlie with their super ponies being photo models for this post! Advisory post only

Looking After Horses In The Summer Heat

The main priority of caring for horses in the summer is to make sure they are well hydrated and kept out of the midday summer sun. Water is top of the list, as a horses body is made up of 70% water. Horses need access to fresh, clean water at all times and this is especially important during summer. WATER Water is vital for fluid balance, much needed for exercise and also helps digestion. Did you know studies have shown that restricting a horse’s water intake for as little as two hours greatly increases the chance of colic?. Horses drink around 45 litres of water a day and this can increase by up to 40% during warm weather. Excessive sweating or diarrhoea can cause your horse to become dehydrated, you can check for this by doing a pinch test. Pinch the skin in the middle of the horse’s neck and pull it gently outwards, then release. If your horse isn’t dehydrated, the skin will snap back into place straight away. Skin that takes 2-5 seconds to return to normal indicates mild dehydration, while skin that takes 10-15 seconds shows severe dehydration. Other signs of dehydration or heat stress include sunken eyes, a tucked up appearance, heavy breathing and a rapid pulse. SHADE This is very close second to water when it comes to summer horse care. A lot of times you’ll see horses grazing out in the blazing sun but they do have access to shade when they start getting too hot or feel like a snooze. If there are no trees then you must provide some kind of shelter. If you cannot provide a field shelter then pasture that has trees with overhanging branches and thick foliage is ideal to provide shade. If possible change the turnout routine to leave your horse out at night and stable him through the day. This will ensure that he or she is avoiding the midday sun. If you cannot bring him into the stable for any reason and they need to be left out, why not place some hay in the shade for them to eat. You could also place a salt or mineral lick of a tree branch to encourage them to stay in the much needed shade! FLIES Flies are a never ending battle. All you can do is try to minimize their irritating attack on your horse. Flies are attracted to moisture, which they need to complete their life cycle, this means your horse’s eyes, nose, mouth, and rear. Bot flies are a particular problem as they buzz around laying yellow eggs on your horse’s legs in late summer. They’re most active in bright light, so try to keep your horse in a shady paddock, or indoors. Remove the eggs as soon as you spot them. Flys cause all sorts of uncomfortable problems from bites to the extreme of causing and spreading of sarcoids. To help control flies, pick up manure on a regular basis as many flies depend on it for survival. Protect your horses face with a fly mask. These are also effective if you have a fair skinned horse that is prone to sunburn. Make sure you use a sun cream on their face and “pink bits” to avoid this. There are insect repellents available from your local equestrian stores but I have found homemade recipes are just as effective and much cheaper to use.  Avon’s “Skin So Soft” or very diluted Dettol is also an excellent fly repellent but remember to do a patch test first when using home remedies in case your horse has any reaction. HOOF CARE When it comes to hoof care, it seems everyone has a different opinion. One things for sure, for healthy hooves, a horse needs good nutrition and expert, regular trimming. A horse on a poor diet will have scaly skin, a patchy coat and dry brittle hooves. I am a great believer also that each horse has different conditions to their hooves through genetic make up. Some horses have excellent hooves, other do not. Hoof moisture comes from within, the outside wall is essentially dead tissue, like our fingernails. Some argue that it’s pointless to apply oil while others say it helps nourish the hoof and keep moisture in. I personally have found that applying a hoof dressing to my horses hooves has a huge benefit. Hoof cracks have always been a problem in horses especially during the dry summer months. Some horse owners swear that regularly soaking their horse’s hooves in water helps keep them hydrated during dry periods. RIDING The summer should be the most enjoyable months when riding your horse. If it is particularly warm, then riding first thing in the morning or early evening is an excellent time to avoid the heat of the sun and the flies when it is cooler. If you have no alternative but to ride when it is warmer, perhaps try and pick a shady route which will be better for both of you. On your return and your horse is sweaty make sure that they are washed down especially cleaning with a sponge the sweaty patches on them. This will cool them down as the water evaporates from their skin. Most of all ENJOY your horse through these lovely summer months. Especially in the UK, these dry months are few and far between so grab every opportunity to ride out. HAPPY SUMMER RIDING! Written by Samantha Hobden of www.hay-net.co.uk Image credit: Pixabay

5 Top Tips For Viewing A Horse

Going to view a horse for sale is rather like going on a date, both of you will be wanting to show your good qualities and gloss over your bad. And much like people, no horse is perfect. Your job when looking for a horse is to find one who fits you. Be realistic and keep an open mind. Often you can find the most wonderful horses buried under mountains of hair and mud. Here are a selection of tips to help you in your viewing process. 1: Spend time on the ground with them. Walk them round in hand. Ask the horse to stand still in a relaxed fashion, this will tell you a lot about the horse. Is he happy to stand, or is he agitated? Is he climbing over you, or is he respectful of your space? Much of the success of a ridden partnership is in the relationship we form on the ground. 2: Ask to help tack the horse up. How a horse reacts to his bit and his girth are two great insights into his behaviour and any pain that he may have. If there is any reluctance, then bear in mind that it may be pain related. Consider a vetting or an assessment from a Chartered physiotherapist. 3: Be fair. The first time you sit on a new horse you are unlikely to have the best ride of your life. Don’t expect everything to feel perfect. Your aids will probably be slightly different, but as long as the horse is trying to do what you ask, then that is okay. Take your time don’t feel pressured by the owner. 4: Be honest. If you take one look at the horse and don’t like it for whatever reason, just say. It is far better than wasting everyone’s time. If you don’t want to ride the horse, you don’t have to. 5: Be respectful. It is very stressful selling horses. Do turn up on time, let people know if you are running late, and don’t go and look at a horse unless you actually want to buy one! Remember, we all interpret the world in different ways, two people can watch the same event and report it in wildly different versions. Neither person is lying. The classic example of this is the description of quiet. Quiet varies wildly from person to person, I have viewed a spectacular range of horses described as quiet, some of them were indeed quiet and some were not, occasionally people lie, but often they don’t it is simply that their interpretation of the world is different to your own. Viewing horses can be fun, it is a good idea to take a friend or professional with you for a second opinion. And remember much like dating, if you enjoy the first date you can always ask for a second one… Looking for a supportive online community? Look no further www.ethicalhorseproducts.co.uk Image credit: Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Hi Viz Is A Fashion Life Saver

It has been a grumble of mine ever since I got back into riding many years ago, that hacking out horses on our busy roads safely is sometimes not taken seriously enough among some of the horse riding community. Thankfully I would say about 80% of the time, I come across riders on the roads wearing at least one item of hi-viz, if not more. However, there are at least a minority group of riders all over the UK that will not ride in any hi-viz whatsoever. It does beg as to the reason why as it is not difficult to put on – it takes seconds to pop a tabard on. I think in recent years the hi-viz clothing market for horse and rider has really taken off and there are some great products that are out there sleek in design and all at affordable prices for every pocket. Ideally, you should wear an item yourself when hacking out an item on your horse. The range for horses has increased to a variety of products from exercise sheets, tail bands, leg wraps – you name it you can pretty much cover your horse from head to tail in hi-viz! Yellow seems to be the most popular form of hi-viz but today’s colours now stretch to fashionable hot pink, green and orange. You also need to think carefully about what colour to wear which suit your hacking routes at particular times of the year. Wearing hi-viz yellow trotting by a field of rape will probably be an excellent form of camouflage! Same can be said with orange in the autumn months too. Remember also not to ditch your hi-viz wear through the summer as it vitally important to wear in sunlight too and in shady country lanes where visibility to the driver can be affected. A study has shown that wearing hiz viz makes you more visible to car drivers approximately three seconds earlier than without it. Those three seconds are vital in avoidance of a potential accident, especially on narrow lanes and dark carriageways shaded by trees. I simply cannot afford to get hurt these days and I would be mortified to be the cause of somebody being hurt in their vehicle because they haven’t seen me riding on the roads. Most of all, I would be devastated if my beloved horse got hurt through a simple act of not wearing something hi-viz so that he could be seen by the motorist and an accident avoided. It is down to every rider to be responsible and be seen on the roads. So take look at your hi-viz wardrobe and if it’s looking a bit sparse, why not treat yourself to some new key pieces for you and your horse. If the spring/summer fashion catwalks in London, Paris and Milan are to be believed – neon yellow and corals are definitely the colours right on trend! Written by Samantha Hobden 

The Dreaded Drop Fence

Alongside yawning ditches, heart-stopping drop fences rank amongst the scariest on any cross country fence. And yet, with the correct training of the horse and a confident centered position from the rider, there is very little to jumping a drop fence. As with any type of riding confidence in each other is attained by making steady progress over obstacles of increasing difficulty. Of course, if you jump a huge drop fence unprepared the experience will doubtless not be fun, for either horse or rider. By starting on banks and later progressing to drops you will help to create a more agile, willing, and confident horse.  Regardless of the type of riding you do at some stage, your horse will need to think for himself and by putting in the work over a variety of terrains and fences he should cope easily. Start by jumping banks before you attempt your first drop fence. Bank fences are easier but riders will need to adopt the position which they will need at a drop fence. Begin by finding gentle humps to ride up and down so that you get used to the upwards and downwards motion. Walk at first and then progress to trot, up the bank and then down.  Sand dunes on a beach are ideal for this, but you should be able to find suitable humps and small banks while out on any countryside hack. Remember to look up and ahead it is tempting to look down which then puts unnecessary weight on the horse’s forehand.  By beginning on a bank you will allow both of you, horse and rider to get used to one phase of the jump at a time. The motion is broken into two parts, a forward seat going up the bank followed by a safety position going down the bank which is excellent preparation for jumping a drop fence. When going down banks and later drops use a seat that allows you to stay with your horse and over his centre of gravity.  By keeping your weight in your heels and having your lower leg and seat in a deep, secure position the downwards motion shouldn’t feel awkward or unsafe. On the downwards slope push your upper body backwards, feet forwards, and your knees in line with the ball of your foot.  Sit tall and behind the motion, pushing your hips and heels forward over the drop to absorb the impact of the landing. If you feel you need an extra confidence boost use a breast collar if you feel you will need to balance yourself on landing, but aim to practice not using this as your confidence won’t increase if you feel the need to hold on like a beginner. Follow the horse’s motion, on landing let the reins slip to allow the horse freedom of his head and neck, so he can use his neck for balance. When you are comfortable going up and down slopes and humps find steeper banks to go up and down. Ideally find somewhere that the horse needs to jump up the bank, or will find it easier to get up at a faster pace. Aim to arrive at the bottom of the slope rather than taking off on a long stride. It is easier to approach on a round bouncy stride. As with ditches and water fences, once confidence has been gained move onto a more difficult obstacle – but don’t put either of you under pressure – there is nothing to be gained by rushing to tackle more difficult obstacles. When you feel confident try a bank that has a little more drop to it. Most cross country training courses have banks that have a few flat strides for the horse to catch his balance before going downhill.  Eventually, you can progress to landing on falling ground, but again, only when you and the horse feel confident, both in each other and with tackling the obstacle. Maintaining a confident, balanced position you will be able to ride better across country and be in a good position, ready to steer your horse to the next fence as soon as you land. This will make a huge difference when in competition when you will need to be balanced and confident enough to be influential and successful.   by Jacqui Broderick Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

5 Top Tips For Buying A Horse

Before you pick the phone to book a viewing, and even before you begin trailing through adverts to find your ideal companion, we have picked out five things that will help you set out confidently on the path toward a great relationship with your new horse. Buying a new horse can be daunting, but it can also be a rewarding and enjoyable process. Take a look at our tips to help you get started. 1: Make a list. The action of writing down, helps us clarify our thoughts. Start off with putting down everything that you would like, then pull out the 3 most important points for you. For example; quiet, 14hh- 15hh, gelding. Next examine each of these and see whether they really vital, or if you could move on them. Gelding – you may have always had geldings, or have previously had a moody mare, but by only looking at geldings you are discounting roughly half the available horses on the market. 2: Be realistic. Assess yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses? If you don’t feel you can evaluate yourself accurately (this can be very difficult, as we tend to either think we are better or worse than our actual ability) ask a friend, or professional for help. Constructive feedback can be really useful in helping you make a good decision. 3: Consider your future horse’s living arrangements. What are the turnout, stabling arrangements at your yard? Will your horse be able to live out, or will the turnout be restricted? This is worth considering as while some horses are very adaptable, some are less so, and may struggle with moving from living out to living on a yard with limited turnout. 4: Be realistic (again). If something looks too good to be true, then it probably is. If you have a limited budget be realistic about what you are likely to be able to afford. It is possible to pick up a bargain, but it is probably sensible to not to expect to do so. 5: Be practical. The horse of your dreams is advertised 200 miles away. Check up on its registered name on the internet, before you travel the distance. By all means go and have a look, but bear in mind the cost in both time and money of viewing, and if you do purchase the cost of transporting your horse will need to be considered in your budget. Buying a horse is a massive decision. If you feel worried at any stage of the process, ask someone that you trust for advice. If you start off with a clear idea of what you want and what your absolutes are, you will increase your chances of going to view the right type of horse to suit you. Looking for a supportive online community? Look no further www.ethicalhorsemanshipassociation.co.uk

The Biochemistry of Itch

Imagine my joy when I arrived to ride my horse last summer and was confronted with this!  I had recently moved him to my sister’s paddock to take advantage of the grass and ample space. Little did I know, all of this came with an unwanted added extra – something he was allergic to. What caused this? The cause of skin allergies in horses is often notoriously difficult to pinpoint – it could be dust, mould, pollen, insect bites (especially Culicoides), chemicals, food, material, vaccines or drugs. Your vet will likely do a physical examination and make an intelligent guess based on the nature and location of the symptoms, your horse’s surroundings, the time of year and various other factors. If you need a more accurate diagnosis, he might do a microscopic evaluation, a serum allergy test or intradermal skin allergy testing. What is actually happening in your horse’s body to cause this? The immune system works like an army during a foreign invasion. First, it must recognise the ‘intruder’ (aka the antigen, in scientific terms) as being foreign and dangerous. Then, it sends out soldiers to fight off the infection. One of the ‘soldiers’ sent out by white blood cells is called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE binds onto mast cells, causing them to release stored histamine. Histamine is the signal the ‘army’ is waiting for – it binds to cells, causing them to swell and leak and giving rise to the typical allergy symptoms: redness, swelling, itchiness, discharge, shortness of breath, etc.  The function of these symptoms is to ‘kill’ the ‘intruder’. This is all very good when there is a threat of infection from a pathogen. But, an allergy is when the ‘army’ makes a mistake and over-reacts by sending out huge amounts of histamine even when the ‘intruder’ is harmless – a dust mite, an insect bite or a component of your horse’s dinner.  Itchiness, scratching, head-shaking, inflammation, breathing difficulty, etc is the result. How do we fix it? To fight an allergy, we need to somehow interrupt this chain of events. Corticosteroids, very commonly prescribed for allergies, especially respiratory ones, works by decreasing inflammation at the genetic level. Anti-histamines stop the histamine from attaching to the cell by blocking the receptors it binds onto and thereby stopping the allergic reaction. Both corticosteroids and anti-histamines can have serious side effects, especially if used on a long term basis. Corticosteroids suppress the immune response, weaken bones, contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes and weight gain. Anti-histamines cause drowsiness (although the newer second generation drugs are better) and can contribute to liver damage and (in humans) Alzheimers. Is there a natural way? The very best way to treat an allergy is to identify the offending allergen and avoid it.  But often, this is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Expensive intradermal skin tests, where different allergens are injected and responses noted can be done. But even this is not guaranteed to track the offending substance down. The serum allergy test is cheaper and easier, but often inconclusive. Let me tell you the herbs and nutrients I used on my horse last summer, which completely stopped the allergic reaction in three days. Magnesium A deficiency in Magnesium often results in a tendency towards developing allergic reactions. And, in respiratory allergies, Magnesium relaxes the muscles around the constricted airway. Spirulina Supervet, Dr Kellon, found Spirulina (Blue Green Algae) to be very effective in reducing the immune response in horses, especially in Sweet Itch. Ascorbic acid Vitamin C acts to decrease the production of histamine. Rooibos This South African tea contains a potent anti-oxidant called Aspalathin and in humans, has been found to have anti-allergic benefits. Zinc Zinc helps to break down histamine. Copper Copper is an essential component of the super-anti-oxidant, enzyme, Superoxide Dismutase (SOD). Echinacea Otherwise known as the ‘botanical with a brain’, acts as an immune modulator – this means it decreases immune response in allergies and increases immune response in infections. Bioflavonoids These are naturally occurring molecules in many plants. They act as mast cell stabilisers and stop the mast cells from releasing their load of histamine. This mixture of herbs, vitamins, and minerals was able to get rid of Cas’s skin allergy in three days. Then I reduced the dose to about a quarter of the original dose and he was fine for the rest of his stay. If you can’t pinpoint the exact cause of your horse’s allergy – whether it be a skin allergy or a respiratory allergy or some mixture of both, I strongly recommend using a natural remedy like one or all of the above, in small doses. It fixes the problem with zero side effects. by Beryl Shuttleworth (BSc Hons Biochem, BSc Biochem/Zoology, Pr. Nat. Sci.) from The Herbal Horse Precautions: This article is an advisory post only. Although herbal treatments are widely known for its safety if used correctly, there are a few factors to consider.  If you are giving any other type of drug or medication to your horse, please check with your vet to make sure it is still safe to administer herbal supplements. Any herbal supplements you administer is at your own risk.

Definitely Not A One Trick Pony!

Teaching horses tricks can be an excellent way to bond with your horse and also encourage obedience and compliance which can then be related in the saddle. It is also another fun way of spending time with your horse and alleviates boredom too. Trick training comprises four very basic components – Consistency, Patience, Repetition and Reward. Consistency It is vital to decide on a suitable cue before you start training any trick. Once chosen the cue must be stuck to consistently, to prevent your horse from becoming confused.  There are numerous types of cue: → touch, a tickle or nudge → sound, words or noises → visual, using body language or props Cues can be used on their own or in conjunction with other cues. Once training has commenced the cue must not be altered.   Patience Your horse must remain comfortable and confident in what he is learning.  This can take time and is something that must not be rushed.  If your horse becomes confused or distressed take him back to a stage where he is comfortable and feels safe in his knowledge.  Trying to do too much too fast will always cause trouble! Repetition Each stage must be repeated until your horse produces the required behaviour without failure every time he is asked. f your horse becomes confused you will have to take him back a step to where he is comfortable and repeat the lesson until you are sure he is ready to move on to the next stage. The smaller each stage is the more confident your horse will be with the finished trick. Reward Correct rewarding is crucial to trick training.  Your horse must be rewarded immediately when he performs the desired behaviour, either a finished trick or an attempt during training.  When starting a new trick this is especially important, and timing is everything.  You must reward, even the smallest ‘tries’ on your horse’s part. The reward must not be given until the horse tries to give the desired behaviour.  Failure to reward your horse correctly when he performs the desired behaviour will result in a horse that soon loses interest.  Reward with a food-based treat of some kind.  However, each treat must be small, as you should leave your horse wanting more. Accompany the reward with verbal praise, and remember to always sound as if you mean it.  Five Basic Tricks: Head Shake ‘No’ (Do not teach if headshy). Stand at left shoulder (can eventually stand anywhere as the cue is a sound). → Choose cue.  → Horse is standing quietly with his attention focused on you. → Reach up and tickle his left ear whilst giving the cue. → Reward as soon as he shakes his head, however slight the movement. → Repeat frequently rewarding all attempts. → Slowly reduce the tickle to just a raising of the hand, again rewarding all attempts. → Gradually progress to a stage where you rely solely on cue to produce headshake.  Reward all attempts. → Eventually only reward when headshake is produced to a satisfactory level on cue alone.    Cross Legs Left over Right Stand at left shoulder. → Choose cue.  I use a tickle to the left elbow. → Horse is standing quietly with his attention focused on you. → Give cue then pick the foot up and place it where you want it.  This may be a bit of a struggle to start with!  Reward. → Repeat frequently rewarding all attempts. → Gradually reduce from moving their leg yourself to maybe just tapping their hoof with your foot to encourage the movement.  Every time they offer any positive movement (however slight) give reward. → Every now and then move their leg yourself to the correct position – and reward! → Gradually only reward when the leg is placed in correct finishing position.  → Eventually leg should cross on cue into correct finishing position.  Reward!   Kiss (Do not teach if nippy – see alternative trick ‘Cuddle’). Stand in front of the horse. → Choose cue.  I use leaning forwards whilst making a ‘mmmmmm’ noise. → Ensure your horse is standing quietly with his attention focused on you. → Your horse must stand and allow you to step back in front of him.  Do not let him walk forwards.  If he does give him a stern ‘NO” and reverse him back to the same spot.    → Hold reward in hand and wave under horse’s nose, drawing his muzzle up towards your face.  At the same time give the cue. → When your horse’s muzzle is level with your face, reward him by giving a treat (at face height as if from your mouth).  (Your horse should be stretching his head and neck forwards to nuzzle your face.  If your horse steps forward to give him a stern ‘NO’ and reverse him back to the start spot). → Repeat frequently, trying less and less to draw horse up.  Reward all positive attempts. → Move reward from your hand to your mouth and reward horse from your mouth when he nuzzles your face – be prepared to be slobbered on! → Gradually stop rewarding this way and reward from hand once they nuzzle your face – they mustn’t associate your face with food! → Eventually they should nuzzle your face on cue.  Reward!   Pirouette Spin (Should only be taught once leg cross is established). First half. Stand in front of the horse. → Choose cue.  I use a tickle to the outside of their left knee for the initial leg cross, followed by a ‘shooing’ gesture combined with the command ‘spin’ for the pirouette. → Ensure your horse is standing squarely and quietly with his attention focused on you. → Give tickle cue then pick the foot up and place it where you want it, then reward. → Repeat frequently rewarding all attempts. → Move around to your left and support the leg cross with your right hand to discourage your horse from falling out of position.  The front legs should remain planted throughout the movement. → Still supporting their legs give the shoo and spin cues.  As soon as they make any positive movement with their hind legs in the right direction give a reward. → Repeat frequently rewarding all positive attempts. → Gradually reduce the support to their legs, until they can maintain the position throughout the spin.  Reward all positive attempts. → Eventually they should be able to spin around moving only their hind legs so that they finish in a normal standing position with their front legs uncrossed.  Reward!   Second Half. Stand at right shoulder, facing the quarters. → Cue is the same as above, a combination of a ‘shooing’ gesture and the command ‘spin’. → Horse is standing squarely and quietly with his attention focused on you. → Support their right leg to encourage it to stay in position.  Both front legs should remain planted throughout the movement. → Give shoo and spin cues. As soon as they make any positive movement with their hind legs in the right direction give a reward. → Repeat frequently rewarding all positive attempts. → Gradually reduce the support to their legs, until they can maintain the position throughout the spin.  Reward all positive attempts. → Eventually they should be able to spin around moving only their hind legs so that they finish in a crossed leg position, right over left.    Combine the two halves. → Put the two stages together and initially support the front legs with your right hand to help them maintain their planted position throughout the movement.  Reward all positive attempts. → Repeat frequently whilst consistently rewarding. → Eventually your horse should be able to perform a complete spin pirouette on cue.    Cuddle Stand in front of the horse. → Choose cue.  I use stepping forwards into their left shoulder, putting my left hand up under their neck up to their mane and scratching, combined with the command ‘cuddle’. → Horse is standing quietly with his attention focused on you. → Stand facing your horse with a reward in your right hand. → Step forward into the cue position described above. → Draw your horse’s attention to the fact that you have a reward for him in your right hand. → Encourage him to bend his head and neck towards his left shoulder (around you, in effect ‘cuddling’ you) by tempting his muzzle with the reward in your right hand.  Reward all positive movement in this direction. → Gradually build up the bend around you your horse must achieve before rewarding him. → Repeat frequently, rewarding each positive attempt.  → Eventually he will give you a full cuddle on cue and will hold the position until released.    Once your horse has mastered a trick you can be very proud of both him and yourself.  Correct rewarding remains of great importance.  Every time you ask him for a trick you must ensure it is performed correctly before rewarding him.  Sloppy training leads to sloppy tricks!  Trick training is a never ending journey.  No matter how many tricks your horse knows, there will always be more out there that he doesn’t.  Use your imagination, use your horse’s imagination, and the possibilities are endless. Recommended Reading Classical Circus Equitation, H. J. Lijsen and Sylvia Stanier New Sensations for Horse and Rider, Tanya Larrigan Trickonometry, Carol Fletcher Step by Step Trick Training, Jackie Johnson The Click that Teaches, Alexandra Kurland Image credit: Pixabay

Equestrian Fun Without A Horse

There is nothing better than hacking out in the warm sunshine, or the feeling of pride at winning a rosette on a horse you have trained yourself, but not all equestrian fun has to involve owning a horse. A day at the races is hard to beat, even if it is just for the pleasure of looking at the expensive horse flesh and people watching. England has some wonderful race courses and meetings that are famous the world over. The Derby is held at Epsom on 1st and 2nd June followed by the Ascot meeting 19th – 23rd June. Glorious Goodwood is held at the end of July, 31st July to 4th August.  The important St Ledger Meeting is held in Doncaster 12th – 15th September and for jump addicts, there is nothing to beat the Welsh Grand National, held 27th December in Chepstow. Further afield why not try ‘The race that stops a nation’, Australia’s Melbourne Cup, a 3,200 metre race for three-year-olds and over. It is the richest “two-mile” handicap in the world, and one of the richest turf races. Conducted annually by the Victoria Racing Club on the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Victoria, the event starts at 3pm on the first Tuesday in November. Combine a trip to Paris with seeing the  Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, a Group 1 flat horse race for thoroughbreds aged three years or older. It is run at Longchamp over a distance of 2,400 metres and usually takes place on the first Sunday in October. A promotional poster describes the event as “Ce n’est pas une course, c’est un monument” – “It’s not a race, it’s a monument”. The Dubai World Cup is held at the Meydan Racecourse. The name means in Arabic a place where people congregate and compete. The race was created in 1996 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai who owns Darley Stud and Godolphin Racing, one of the world’s leading Thoroughbred breeding and racing operations. It is the world’s richest horse race. For sheer excitement the Velká pardubická is a famous cross-country steeplechase run in Pardubice, Czech Republic. It takes place every year on the second Sunday in October and is steeplechase of 6.9 km, with 31 obstacles. Closer to home, follow in the footsteps of Prince Charles and Camilla and visit Galway in Ireland. The city does not close completely to let everyone attend the races anymore, but nether less the city will be buzzing for the seven days of the meeting. The Galway Races is certainly a festival for everyone, running for seven consecutive days starting from the last Monday in July each year. Highlights of the Summer Festival include Ladies Day, Friday’s Fair Lady, Ladbrokes Red Day, and Family Day including our very popular Mad Hatters Competition. Almost 140,000 people attended the Summer Festival Meeting in 2017. The races precede the famous Dublin Horse Show, Ireland’s biggest market place for show horses and jumpers. Many make an annual pilgrimage to Ireland for the Galway Races, head to Dublin for the show and then return to Galway to see the incredible spectacle of the Clifden Connemara Pony Show. What to wear A tough question on any day. Most dresses in your wardrobe are either inappropriately short, impractically long or unfashionably in between, so what better excuse could there be for investing in a new outfit! Some of the meetings have special Ladies Day competitions where there is a chance to pit your style against other ladies with a chance to win some fabulous prizes, vouchers for exclusive shops and pampering days – something all horse girls need occasionally. There’s nothing like a race day to let your style shine and for you to enjoy the chance to dress up.  The best thing about Racing Fashion is … there really are NO RULES! Well, a few simple ones …… Dress accordingly for the occasion and the weather you are not going to a wedding or a night club! Don’t have your skirt too short, heels you can’t walk in and too much flesh on display – leave a little to the imagination! Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize A floral frock will prove to be a worthy investment. The modern way to wear your florals is big and bold. Loud and proud colour combinations make for a dynamic, confident look.  Feel free to mix it up with another colour or be bold and stay true to your chosen colour from head to toe! Accent with accessories of course!! Pair a print skirt with a solid top, or go big and mix two prints together! These types of prints can give you free reign in your millinery choice. You can pair your outfit with something totally different than what you would normally wear and it will all flow together! This type of outfit shows you as the fashionista you truly are!  Shows you can take a risk…and still look fabulous! For the less showy, a little black dress with bold accessories is so classy. Your accessories will help to show off your personality and there is such a wide choice, from bags to shoes and handbags. Your accessories don’t have to be big and flamboyant sometimes less is more.  Really it’s the combination of the whole look – but remember you should feel comfortable wearing it. And for the man in your life…… We might spend our life in jodhpurs but we do like to dress up on occasion and that includes our men folk. Guys look good in a suit!!  There are so many different styles and types, it’s impossible not to be able to find one that makes you look great. Don’t be afraid to try a little colour it shouldn’t always be about greys or blacks. Show off your fashion sense with stunning shirts and ties to help you stand out in the crowd. Important to remember though, for the guys and girls – you are going to be standing and walking for a lot of the time so comfortable shoes are essential and, unless you do head for Dubai, the weather can be unpredictable, so chose an outfit that can be teamed with a jacket in case of the weather becoming cool – or wet…! Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

5 Top Tips For Washing Horse Laundry

I have a confession to make… In fact, I think every horse owner probably has the same confession. When I had my horse, I used to hide in the boot of my car, hairy saddle pads and rugs together with mud covered over reach boots which are all destined for some secret washing. Fly masks, head collars, lead ropes, leg wraps and bandages were all on the list that I would smuggle home from the yard to secretly wash in my domestic washing machine.  It was pretty much down to strategic planning when the *OH was out at work all day and the house is empty and the weather forecast had been checked for drying purposes. Home alone, these bags were quickly emptied outside, a swift brush off and then thrown in the washing machine on a speed wash with the hope no one sees. Being a horse owner for fourteen years I mastered the art of equestrian washing at home with evidence that was pretty hard to find. However, this has not always been the case. Back in the day, having a bright bay with none of us in the house matching his hair colour was very difficult to disguise. Despite putting an empty wash through my machine after the saddle pads and turnout boots had gone through it, copper hair was still everywhere. Pants, t-shirts, jumpers, the utility room floor – you name it, everything seemed to be covered in itchy horse hair. I have even been known to hoover the washing machine…I know, how mad is that!! It is probably not advisable to put heavily soiled equestrian items through a domestic washing machine. The waste pipes from the machine can only carry so much dirt away and it will probably struggle with a field load of mud coming off turnout boots in January…. Also stay away from the bathroom with heavily soiled rugs.  A friend of mine decided to soak her horse’s winter turnout rug in her nice new bathroom when her OH was out for the day. Trying to get a heavy sopping wet rug out of the bath without covering the décor in mud splats and flooding the floor is not an easy procedure….. She then found the mud would not drain away from the bath despite using every drain blocker product going and she finally had to fess up to a particularly unimpressed OH! So the best advice is to leave the heavy duty rugs to professional rug washing companies, they have the machines to cope with them. Try also to get rid of as much mud from these rugs as you can, it’s no joy for the poor person to deal with a damp smelly muddy rug and it will come out much cleaner for it. We do however need to keep our equestrian kit clean which can be washed at home. Here are my top five tips for effective equestrian kit washing:- My biggest top tip is to invest in an equestrian laundry bag. I used one over the last few years and it’s been worth its weight in gold (not mud)!  You can place all your equestrian items in them which is then sealed and popped into the machine. The clanking of lead ropes is reduced and the hair stays in the bag. My advice, however, is when you remove the bag from the machine, go outside and take the contents out, shake out the bag and turn it inside out to dry. Try and brush off all the hair and mud from your kit as much as you can. Do this at the yard (sweeping up after you of course) and then you can bring them home to wash without caking everything in hair and dust. Make sure clips are clipped together, especially on rugs as one getting hooked up and ripping the rubber trim of your machine or lost in the metal drum could be costly. Another tip is putting duct tape around the clips to stop any further damage to your machine. One of the most tedious jobs in the world is removing hair and mane from Velcro straps. You can buy a Velcro cleaning tool quite cheaply in hardware stores or saddleries that do this job efficiently. For washing sheepskin items don’t cut corners and buy the product which is especially for this wool. I have made the mistake of using a normal detergent and my seat saver came out looking like a matted poodle…. If you are going to wash turnout boots or lightweight rugs through your machine, soak them first. Turnout boots in the winter are just plain grim. Soak them in a bucket for at least several hours and then drain. Always wash these in an equestrian laundry bag too. The same goes with rugs, soak or hosepipe the worse of the mud off before washing. It is also a good idea to use a detergent especially for this job which can be found in most country stores and saddleries. Again if in doubt with rugs, take them to be professionally washed and reproofed. Dry your items on a line outside or on a clothes horse through the winter. Use a tumble drier with care as your full size numnah may come out Shetland size. Some items can be dried easily with a tumble drier but just be cautious for shrinkage. Using tumble drier sheets which can help with excess hair that has made it through the washing machine. When you have finished washing your horsey laundry then wipe out the rim with a cloth and then run the machine through on an empty hot cycle. Putting soda crystals in the bottom of the drum is a great way to get rid of any evidence resulting in a sparkling clean machine. So make good use of the summer months ahead. Wash and clean as much of your kit as you can, drying them on the line or over fences or gates. However, when your struggling domestic machine finally gives in to all the mud and the hair – why not invest in a heavy duty machine to cope with the job? I’m sure the understanding OH wouldn’t mind… *OH – Other Half Written by Samantha Hobden from Haynet

Sheila Willcox – Badminton Hall of Fame

Sheila Willcox is a British born eventer who won many national and international three-day events, including Badminton Horse Trials and the European Championships. However, she is famous for winning Badminton over three consecutive years from 1957–1959. Sheila was born in 1937 and began riding when she was a child and an active member of the Pony Club being seen in many show rings during the early fifties. In 1955 at the young age of eighteen, she rode her first three-day event with her Arabian pony cross, High and Mighty. In the same year, she rode this super little pony around Badminton and was thrilled to come second! This was the start of a formidable eventing career and in 1957, Sheila and her wonderful High and Mighty won Badminton Horse Trials with a 22 point lead after dressage and an impressive 47 lead by the end of the event. With this cracking Arabian pony, she went on to compete later that year in the European Championships earning both team and individual gold medals. This led to another team gold for the pairing in 1959. Hard to believe now but women were not allowed to compete in eventing in the Olympics, so she sold High and Mighty to Ted Marsh hoping that he would be selected for the team. Sadly this was not the case. Sheila returned to Badminton in 1959 with her new but inexperienced horse Airs and Graces. She won the dressage but had a steady but slower cross-country run due to the ground conditions.  A rail down in the show jumping ring by fellow rider David Somerset saw her to victory winning Badminton for the third consecutive year! To this day, she is the only rider to have won Badminton three years running. This was not the end of her successes at Badminton as she won Little Badminton in 1964 riding Glenamoy. Sheila Willcox went on to have a hugely successful eventing career winning eight major titles. After a terrible fall in 1971 at Tidworth Horse Trials which left her partially paralysed, she gave up eventing and focused on dressage. She went on to gain success in this equestrian sport as well, reaching Grand Prix level on Son and Heir. Sheila sadly passed away in 2017 aged 81. However, she will be forever remembered as a pioneer for women in the sport of eventing. by Samantha Hobden Image source: Sheila Willcox from her book The Event Horse

No Foot No Horse

Nothing rings truer than the old saying ‘No Foot, No Horse’, without good hooves you quite literally have no horse to ride. A good foot care regime is vitally important to keep your horse’s hooves healthy.  The most important thing you can do is to pick out your horse’s feet, by doing so you get a chance to take early action on many common hoof problems. Establish a routine of picking out his feet each morning and evening, to check for heat and pulse, remove manure, or stones from the field, and check for signs of thrush or injuries. It is good management to check his hooves before and after you ride as well. Each time you clean your horse’s hooves, take an extra couple of minutes after you’ve pried out any packed debris to gently clear the crevice of the frog, and scrape any remaining bits of matter off the sole, with the tip of the pick. You want to be able to see the sole’s entire surface, so finish the job with a stiff brush. Some hoof picks come with a brush attached, or you can buy a brush separately and inexpensively. While handling your horse’s feet to pick them out, notice their temperature; when everything is normal they’ will feel very slightly warm. Take a moment to locate the digital pulse with two fingers pressed against the back of his pastern; you’re interested not in the rate of the pulse, but in its strength under normal conditions. Check the frog, which has about the texture and firmness of a new rubber eraser when it’s healthy. When picking out the feet, look for signs of… Thrush The first clue to this bacterial condition is usually caused by prolonged standing in manure, mud, or other wet, filthy conditions is a foul smell and a dark ooze coming from the cleft of the frog. Later, the frog becomes cheesy in texture. Although thrush can eventually cause lameness and significant hoof damage, its early stages it is simple to treat. Use an over the counter remedy recommended by your farrier or vet (follow directions carefully) and make sure your horse’s stable is clean and dry. If you normally bed with straw, consider a change to much more absorbent shavings. Some horses especially those with upright, narrow feet with deep clefts that tend to trap more dirt, debris, and manure are predisposed to thrush even when well cared for. Puncture If a nail or other object pierces your horse’s sole and then falls out, the entry wound will probably be invisible by the time you pick his feet and you’ll be unaware of it until it causes an abscess. But if you do discover something sticking into the horse’s foot  – DON’T PULL IT OUT. Put your horse in his stable (protect the punctured foot, and help the foreign object stay put, with wrapping and duct tape, or with a slip-on medication boot), and telephone your vet right away. An X-ray of the foot can show how far the object has penetrated and which structures are involved. If you pick your horse’s feet out regularly, you will see the problem fairly soon after the puncture has occurred. Once he has assessed the situation your Vet can remove the object and advise a course of treatment. Hoof  Cracks Some cracks are superficial but others may worsen to involve sensitive hoof structures unless appropriate action is taken. If you notice a crack in your horse’s hoof, call your farrier and describe its location and size so he can decide whether it needs attention now or can wait until the next regular shoeing. Abscess If your horse’s digital pulse feels stronger than usual and/or the foot is warmer than normal to touch, the cause could be an abscess inside the hoof from a badly placed shoeing nail, a bruise, or an overlooked sole puncture. Routine checks will alert you to the problem and enable you to get your vet or farrier involved before your horse–probably at least slightly lame already on the abscessed foot, which throbs from the pressure of increased blood flow to the infected area–is in even greater pain. By simply taking just a few moments a day you can keep your horse’s feet healthy and prevent any lameness problems which will make it impossible for you to ride. Image credit: Photopin

Bridleways – Use Them or Lose Them!

With our roads and lanes becoming as busy as the streets of Monaco, it’s no wonder us horse riders hanker after long, leisurely off road riding through woods and fields. However, this type of hacking is slowly disappearing under fallen trees, overgrown hedges, brambles and tracks of mud that even a tractor couldn’t even navigate through… Some are in such a bad state they are putting horse riders lives at risk. It can be simply a piece of stirrup catching on a broken gate equals a potentially nasty accident. Part of the problem that as soon as some bridleways become impassable, then horse riders simply stop using them and they slowly disappear. I for one have been through a few of my local bridleways and come across a hazard or a broken gate and on occasion have reported these problems to my local council. However, it would seem councils have little influence or desire in ensuring that these ancient pathways are maintained to a safe and usable standard. Most councils state that it is down to the landowner to maintain these pathways and the majority of responsible landowners do keep them clear for horse riders. There are some it seems neglect these bridleways sabotaging horse rider’s right of way deliberately as landowners simply do not want horses trampling over their ground. With the council’s resources stretched in our current economic climate, manpower to clear bridleways is at a minimum. Alternatively, there are independent groups that have been set up to help maintain bridleways and to keep them open. The British Horse Society has dedicated information to help horse riders contact their local Access Officer in your area to help with this particular problem of bridleways in disrepair. They are in constant need of voluntary help to keep our horse riders out in the countryside using these ancient pathways. Just think what a couple of hours of your time helping cutting back some low lying trees, wild hedges or fixing a gate will give horse riders many more months and years of pleasure riding! Do you know where all the bridleways are in your area? Some are obvious to riders and are signposted clearly, some are well and truly hidden. We are lucky that in the UK there are many bridleways that are fantastic to ride on and are maintained well throughout the different seasons. What better way to navigate the beautiful countryside we have on horseback through these riding routes and bridleways. It is easy now to find the best horse riding routes on the internet or just by getting your trusty OS map out to see where the bridleways are in your area. We have to use these bridleways or in the next few decades, they will simply disappear under a sea of brambles and mud. So if your hacking has become a bit of a stale using the same routes, why not take a closer look at what pathways are around. Do a bit of detective work to see if there are some routes that simply need a bit of a clear up so you can ride your horse safely and away from our busy roads. I hope you have a brilliant summer ahead, safely hacking on our beautiful bridleways and byways. Remember these routes have been around for many, many decades even a couple of centuries or more. Keep them open and enjoy them with your horse! by Samantha Hobden Header image credit:© Copyright Peter Holmes Licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Life Matters: How Grief and Horses Changed My Life

Former Haynet forum blogger, Kathryn White (Myrtle Musings), has written her first book. Life Matters is an inspirational and heart-warming personal account of how Kathryn’s courage and determination – along with her unwavering love of horses – has helped her to rebuild her life following the death of her husband, Ian. In 2008, Ian was diagnosed with a grade 4 brain tumour; he died just nine weeks later. Widowed at 37 and overwhelmed, Kathryn vowed to live the life she had dreamt of as a young child, to honour Ian and the dreams he never got to fulfil. Extracts from Kathryn’s diary provide poignant insights into her emotional state during Ian’s illness and following his death. Despite the gloom and despair, the couple still found lots to laugh about and humour punctuates the story as Kathryn shares the challenges she’s faced. “Life Matters is a story of strength over adversity, and one, which sadly many people will relate to.” Sue Farrington Smith, MBE, Chief Executive, Brain Tumour Research “A truly moving and uplifting book.” Alex Wade, writer, lawyer, journalist “Wonderfully well written and expressed, offering comfort as well as some practical advice and warnings of the pitfalls and traps that lie ahead after a bereavement. It is moving, poignant, but uplifting, too – a tribute to the power of love and a testament to the strength and fortitude of the human spirit.” Karen Bush, author About the author: Kathryn lives in the beautiful Chiltern Hills with her horse, dog and cat. She runs a successful medical writing business, Cathean Ltd, to support the development, approval and marketing of new medicines for healthcare companies around the world. An equestrian journalist for 10 years, Kathryn has written articles and online content for equestrian businesses and magazines. When she’s not word-smithing or horse riding, Kathryn loves running, playing hockey, catching up with friends over a coffee (and slice of cake) or practicing yoga and Reiki. You can find out more about Kathryn at: www.cathean.co.uk Join the conversation and share your experiences on our Life Matters Facebook page.

The One and Only Red Rum

As a child, I remember sitting with my dad looking through the newspaper picking a horse in the Grand National. Choosing a name was the only method of picking a Grand National winner and I remember clearly choosing Red Rum. My dad then hot footed to the local betting shop to part with his cash with the hope of winning a few pounds back. Imagine my delight sitting watching with all my family back in 1977 on TV with a twisted metal ariel, watching this super horse gallop over the finishing line listening to the excited commentator! Red Rum was a star and a complete legend in my eyes where at the age of seven, my love for horses had truly begun. Red Rum was bred at Rossenarra stud in Kells, County Kilkenny Ireland by Martyn McEnery. His sire was Quorum, who was by Vilmorin. His Dam was Mared, who was by Magic Red. The bay colt who was named for the combination of his dam and sire’s names was born on 3 May 1965. Although he was bred to win one-mile races, Red Rum won his National titles over the longest distance, four miles and four furlongs.  When Red Rum was first sold, at auction in Dublin, he and his companion that day were sold for 400 guineas each. It is an amazing coincidence that the first race that Red Rum raced in, was at what was to become his favourite course, Aintree. On this occasion, he dead headed with Curlicue for first place in a two year old’s selling race run at a distance of 5 furlongs. Curlicue was the companion horse that he was with at the sales.  In Red Rum’s 10 year career he had twenty four different jockeys. He also had five trainers but in that career, he managed to win 3 flat races, 3 hurdle races and also 21 Steeplechases. He was also placed 37 times so he must have taken all the changes in his stride. His obvious love of racing held him in good stead and it is worth saying that he never actually fell in a race although he once unseated his rider and once slipped up another coincidence was that both of these were at Haydock. In his early career, he was once ridden by Lester Piggott and comedian Lee Mack, then a stable boy who had his first riding lesson on Red Rum. After being passed from training yard to training yard, he was eventually bought by Southport car dealer Ginger McCain for his client Noel le Mare. Red Rum, or Rummie as he was to be known suffered from foot problems and soon after Donald ( Ginger ) McCain got the horse he looked lame, however when he ran into the sea on a training gallop this seemed to help and this was the routine that Ginger kept him on and it stood him in good stead for the future. McCain famously trained Red Rum on the sands at Southport, Merseyside, England. McCain reportedly took Red Rum for a therapeutic swim in the sea off Southport before his first National appearance. Galloping through seawater may have proved highly beneficial to Red Rum’s feet. He had developed pedal osteitis, a debilitating incurable bone disease in his foot.   While with Ginger McCain ‘Rummie’ went on to win some £146,409.80 for his owner Noel le Mare. His major wins were the Grand National (1973, 1974, 1977) an unmatched historic treble. He also won and the Scottish National (1974). He came second in the two intervening years. The world-famous steeplechase is a notoriously difficult race that has been referred to as being “the ultimate test of a horse’s courage. He was also renowned for his jumping ability, having not fallen in 100 races. Red Rum’s 1973 comeback victory from 30 lengths behind is often considered one of the greatest Grand Nationals in history. Red Rum is the only horse in the history of the Grand National to win the race three times and on the two occasions that he ran and did not win he came second, but his race record is good under both flat and National hunt rules. In total Red Rum ran at Liverpool seven times, he won four and came second in the other three. At the 1973 Grand National, Red Rum beat the Australian chaser Crisp, who was carrying 23 pounds more, in a new record time of nine minutes, 1.9 seconds. Crisp led the field virtually all the way some 30 lengths clear of his rivals. At the last fence, he was 15 lengths clear of Red Rum, his nearest pursuer. Red Rum and jockey Brian Fletcher, however, made up the ground on the final stretch and, two strides from the finishing post, pipped the tiring Crisp to win by three-quarters of a length in what is often considered one of the greatest Grand Nationals in history. Crisp’s jockey Richard Pitman later said: “I still dream about that race, of Crisp running so strongly and jumping so fearlessly, and then the sound of Red Rum’s hooves as he got closer and closer at the end.” He added: “I felt as though I was tied to a railway line with an express train thundering up and being unable to jump out of the way.” A year later, Red Rum retained his title at the 1974 National, carrying 12 stone. In both 1975 and 1976  Rummie was beaten on both occasions into second place. In 1975 he met the twice Gold Cup winner L’Escargot and had to give him 11lbs however he was still in front at the last.  However, the ground was very soft that day something Rummie hated. So the combination of giving weight and the soft ground he had to yield to L’Escargot.  In 1976 he took on another good horse Rag Trade and having to carry top weight for the third successive year He was unable to give him the 12lbs and although never gave up and closed in on him up the straight he was again to come second. In 1977 Red Rum was 12 years old and was again entered in the great race. His season by now was mapped out to give him the best chance in the national. Not many 12 year olds win the race and some of the racing pundits thought that this might have been a case of going to the well once too often but his trainer Ginger knew that the horse was in great form and was sure that the horse would not only give a good account of himself but, that he would win and he was to be proved correct.  He was still having to carry top weight but at least this had gone down to 11st 8lbs. Rummie ran easily though out the race and took up the lead soon after Becher’s and went on gaining ground and finished the race winning by a remarkable 25 lengths to become a national hero. “The crowd are willing him home now. The 12-year-old Red Rum, being preceded only by loose horses, being chased by Churchtown Boy… They’re coming to the elbow, just a furlong now between Red Rum and his third Grand National triumph! It’s hats off and a tremendous reception, you’ve never heard one like it at Liverpool… and Red Rum wins the National! That was how commentator Peter O’Sullivan described the moment Red Rum sealed his third Grand National title. Red Rum was prepared for a sixth attempt at the Grand National the season following his 1977 win at the age of 14, but suffered a hairline fracture the day before the 1978 race and was subsequently retired from the race. Ginger thought seriously that he would win if he had got him there.  The following year at 15 he was entered again and was due to run until a few days before the race when he was again found to be lame and his connections had to finally come to terms that ‘ The Nations Favourite ‘ would not have another race and he was retired.  So although 1977 was Rummie’s last appearance at Liverpool in the race, Red Rum led the parade in 1978. So Red Rum did go to Liverpool that day in 1978,  led the parade and so began his second life in which he was to be one of the biggest celebrities of his day. He returned to Liverpool on many occasions to lead the parade right up until his death on October 18th 1995 at an age of 30.  In the early 1970s, the future running of the Grand National was uncertain.  The emergence of Red Rum and his historic triumphs captivated the nation, and ensured huge public support for the fund to buy Aintree and put it in the hands of the Jockey Club. He always attracted a crowd at any opening ceremony that he attended.  He even made an appearance on the BBC Sports personality of the year award in 1977. Viewers were delighted when the horse recognised the voice of his jockey Tommy Stack, who was appearing by video link from another location. He had become a national celebrity, opening supermarkets and annually leading the Grand National parade for many further years. His likeness graced playing cards, mugs, posters, models, paintings, plates and jigsaw puzzles. Several books have been written about Red Rum by his trainer, sculptor, jockeys and author Ivor Herbert; a children’s story about his life was also written by Christine Pemberton. The horse helped open the Steeplechase rollercoaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in 1977. He also switched on the Blackpool Illuminations in that year.  In 1975, a song entitled “Red Rum” was issued as a tribute to him by a group named Chaser, on Polydor 2058 564. It was written by Steve Jolley, Richard Palmer and Tony Swain. In 2010 the name of the racecourse bar, formerly called “The Sefton”, was changed to “The Red Rum”. Red Rum’s feats, of three Nationals and two seconds, are legendary. They will never be equalled, let alone surpassed. They say records are there to be broken, but Red Rum’s at Aintree is one which will stand the test of time. When Red Rum died on 18 October 1995, aged 30 his death made the front pages of national newspapers. He was buried at the winning post of the Aintree Racecourse where a life sized statue stands and is still a destination for his fans. The epitaph reads “Respect this place / this hallowed ground / a legend here / his rest has found / his feet would fly / our spirits soar / he earned our love forevermore”. He was also given the honour of having his last resting place in one of his favourite places and today he lays buried with his head facing the winning post at the Aintree course. A memorial is also there for visitors to see and for then to remember one of Aintree’s greatest, Red Rum. A smaller bronze statue resides inside Wayfarers Arcade, Southport. A race is run at Aintree in his name, the Red Rum Handicap Chase. Merseyrail has named one of their trains in Red Rum’s honour as part of a Merseyside Legends programme. Southport Fire Station took delivery of an engine they named Red Rum in 1979.  More than a decade after his death, a survey found he remained the best-known racehorse in the UK. McCain also won the Grand National in 2004 with Amberleigh House, 31 years after his first victory with Red Rum. On 19 September 2011, Red Rum’s trainer Ginger McCain died aged 80. by Samantha Hobden/Jacqui Broderick Image sources: Wikimedia Commons

Helping Your Veteran Horse Get Over The Winter

With spring definitely getting a grip now, worn out horse owners can take a little respite from the work that horses bring through a grizzly winter! Winter is hard labour when keeping our beloved horses and ponies fed and healthy through these tough months. It can be a battle of keeping legs free from mud fever, dealing with hoof abscesses, potential colic or feeding the horse correctly because of the change in exercise and turn out. Older horses particularly can suffer through the winter, especially in keeping good condition and require extra care over their younger companions in the yard. Most associate the finer breeds such as Thoroughbreds or Warmbloods that take more care through the winter months as they advance in years. However, don’t take for granted that your veteran hardy native breed can cope easily with the harsh winter weather. Their bodies change with age and will show signs that they need some extra support in keeping them in tip top shape. Even despite rigid care and attention, many horses come out of winter dropping weight and suffering with creaks and groans that arthritis can bring. Losing condition and weight can be normal for the veteran as their digestive system starts to become less effective as they age. So how can you bring the spring back to your elderly equine after the long wintery days full of wind, rain and the cold? Here are our top tips in helping your veteran get over the winter:- Check What You Are Feeding Them Review your horses feed at least every year especially with an older horse to check they are getting the right nutrients as they age or work harder, or taking it easier in their veteran years. If they have lost weight over the last few months, speak to your local equestrian feed merchant or call the brand hotline for some advice. It may mean increasing their food to twice or more a day feeding them little and often. Bringing in additional supplements can help provide nutritional condition that they are also lacking. Be open minded about supplements that are on the market and do some research on what could help your older horse, especially through the winter. Various oils, for example, are an excellent way to relieve creaky joints and improving overall condition. Keeping Them Moving It is vital that your veteran keeps moving through the winter which can be hard when turnout is not available when the paddocks are damaged. Gentle exercise and walking them out to have some much needed grass is a welcome tonic to the older horse. If they have been stabled through the winter, then gradually introduce exercise once the easier months have arrived. Prepare for stiffness and if lameness persists then always get them seen by a vet. The majority of the time, the veteran horse will tell you when riding is becoming an issue for them. However, if your horse is retired from ridden work, it is vital they are turned out as much as possible. After winter be careful of “pot holey” fields that have dried like concrete after the winter. This can cause stress on the joints and injuries so try and move them another field while you can and repair and rest the winter paddock. Make sure when they come in from the field or from exercise that their joints are wrapped and they are rugged to keep warm. Spring nights can still see the mercury dropping with cold, crisps mornings. Give Them A Spring Clean With copious amounts of mud and horses love of rolling, the winter months can be quite testing in keeping a horse clean. Sometimes it feels like a thankless task after thoroughly grooming and them to repay your labour by rolling in the nearest mud bath they can find when turned out.  If your horse is turned out for much the winter, then over grooming can remove the vital oils in their coat. However, keeping their coats clean by grooming keeps them in condition especially if they are stabled and give their joints and muscles a well deserved massage. With spring arriving this means shedding the winter coat. Make sure you groom regularly through this phase and remove as much of the coat as you can. This will discourage itching and scratching fence posts or stable doors! If the temperature allows, take the rugs off and let the horses roll and groom each other – there is nothing better to see your horse enjoy the spring weather after the gloomy winter. Once the weather is warm enough give them a bath.  This can be one of the favourite jobs being a horse owner seeing a sparkly clean horse after the months of winter grime! Give Them An Equestrian MOT If your horse has lost condition this winter, take a look at why? It is hard to keep weight on but perhaps they are having problems with their teeth. Watch them eating their hay or hard feed. Are they dropping feed or struggling to eat hay? Have you kept up to date with your worming programme? Check with your local supplier when and what you need to be worming your older horses in order to eliminate worms giving potential health issues.  If they are very stiff or feeling awkward in exercise, then perhaps they are having back issues? Why not arrange a visit from an equestrian osteopath to take a look if some treatment may help? If they are in ridden work, make sure all your tack is in tip top condition and continues to fit your veterans changing shape. Check your saddles and have them reflocked. Does the girth fit correctly – is it pinching or now too loose? If you have any concerns for their health always consult a vet and get these worries checked out. Enjoy these months with your ageing horse and let them have as much sun on their backs as they can. Spend as much quality time with them as before you know it, the winter of hard equine labour soon comes around again! By Samantha Hobden – Editor https://www.hay-net.co.uk Image Credit: Shutterstock with paid license

Trailer Checks Every Horse Owner Should Make Before Travelling

Spring is finally here and perhaps you and your horse have had some winter rest, meaning your horse trailer has stood idle over the last six months. If you are heading to your first cross country trial or horse show this year, make sure you give your horse trailer a thorough check over before loading your horse and hitching up. Many accidents and incidents involving horse trailers are due to insufficient checks being made before travelling. We love our horses dearly so every effort should be made for our pride and joy to travel safely. Here is our list of vital checks that you should make before using your trailer on the road with your horse: Floors, Doors and Ramps: Open the ramp and check that it is easy to lift and hinges are all in good order. Make sure the jockey door opens and closes securely. Check the floor of the trailer and the ramp that there is no sign of any rot or damage.  Lift all the matting and look at the floor especially looking at the edges where the floor meets the trailer walls. These can be prone to wear and tear over the years. Look underneath the trailer and check there are no signs of worrying rust or damage. Tyres: Make sure all the tyres are in good order and filled correctly to the required levels. Check that there is no concerning wear to the tyres especially on one side which might indicate imbalance or suspension issues. Look at the trailer on level hard ground and if it is not looking level from the front or the back, take it to a specialist so that the suspension can be checked over. Electrics and Brakes: Connect the electrics and check the connection and breakaway cables are all in good condition. When hitched up make sure the brake, indicators and internal lights are all working correctly. Check the brake engages and also ensure the jockey wheel raises and lowers easily. Do not travel without these vitals checks and arrange for them to be fixed if any of these things are not working. If you are in any doubt that something is not right with your trailer, then don’t risk travelling your horse in it. Take it to a reputable garage that specialises in horse trailers for a professional to give it the safety checks it needs. Keep your trailer in tip top condition and clean it out after every journey. Leaving urine or spilled water can seep through and rot the floor of the trailer quickly. Remove all droppings and loose hay, keeping the matting as clean as possible. There is nothing worse than having to load a horse into a dirty trailer on your next trip to a show or sponsored ride! Most of all, enjoy your trips out with your horse with the knowledge that you are travelling as safe as you can. by Samantha Hobden

Importance of Riding Other Horses

The same as people having different characters, horses do as well. Their attitude, movement and the way they distribute their weight all depend on what they are like as an individual. The ability to ride different horses at any given time is a skill that not many horse riders have. The reason behind this is their seat, balance, posture and legs. Paces that scare many… Riding a new or additional horse can often mean a stressful time for many riders. Some forget how to ride as they normally would – the intensity of the new ride underneath them means they are more off balance than they are used to. A lot of horses will read unbalance as a sign to go faster and we see many horses going into canter from trot “without” (in the rider’s mind, anyway) asking. This can lead to the rider panicking, which then leads to further problems. Panicking is something that should always be avoided, as although we may feel out of control, we still should ride the horse through and follow its motion. Slowly applying our aids, we get the horse used to us too. By applying seat, then leg and then rein (if needed) the horse will quickly return to trot. Don’t overthink it… When you lose your balance or encounter a situation where what usually works on your own horse does not work here – do not put yourself down. Think about the fact that in the same way you are not used to the horse, he is not used to you either. Give the horse some time to understand you, and take time yourself to understand the horse. Show him what you mean by your aids with repetition (I use the rule twice is my fault, third is yours) and reward system. If a horse understands your aids before the third repetition then reward him. Rewarding too quickly… After previously being guilty of this myself, I will give you a little tip for rewarding horses. You don’t need to pat your horse immediately after he has done something amazing. Please first ensure that your happiness of achievement has not affected your posture, your seat and horses’ outline before you pat him. If you pat and not checked those points before you might be rewarding a horse that is not in outline and can send confusing messages to them. When your aids prove too much for the new horse… When a horse gets quick with me, I mentally tell myself, “I asked for that.” That allows my body to stay relaxed and automatically increase its swing into the extended trot or lengthened canter the horse offered. Since my seat continues to follow the horse’s motion, I can still influence the horse with it. Now I can reverse the thought and say to myself, “Now I want to transition from the lengthened canter to a collected canter.” And I am back in control of the situation. Riders need to prepare themselves mentally for these situations so that they do not allow any thought that conveys, “something is going wrong.” That kind of thinking tightens their muscles, throws their body into a defensive posture, opposes the horse’s motion, and makes the situation worse. It is better to ride offensively rather than defensively. Going off the seat… Another common seat issue that riders encounter as they change horses is the tendency to come off their inside seat bone when they apply their inside leg. Many novice riders grip to some degree with their inner thigh muscles. This pulls their leg up and pushes the seat bone off the saddle ever so slightly. They need to go back to the relaxation level of the riding tree to fix this. To stay seated equally on both seat bones, riders must think of using their hamstrings to lengthen the leg and stretch out the hip flexor. Before a rider puts her leg against the horse’s barrel, she should think of relaxing all of the joints and muscles as though she were stretching her leg under the curve of the horse’s barrel. Any tension in the hips, knees or ankles will prevent this lengthening. Gripping with the inner thigh muscles will pull the leg up. Being aware of your own size… Obviously, the size and shape of each individual horse and the length of the rider’s legs will affect how easily a rider can ‘wrap her leg’ around a given horse’s barrel. As you start riding other horses it is very beneficial to complete few simple exercises: Lift your leg away from horse’s side and away from your hip Roll your ankles and knees inward from your hip’s ball and socket joint, grip the saddle tightly, then relax without allowing their knees and toes to roll back out. This simple, yet effective exercise will very quickly help you to wrap your legs around a horse from inner muscles. Your seat… Riding your own horse, you very quickly realise where your gravity centre is and where you should position yourself. Riding other horses provides you with a good sense of when you are ‘centered’ in the saddle. Most of us will notice we seat to one side on another horse and they will feel perfectly normal. This is normal due to certain factors: We all have a strong and a weak side to our bodies. When we sit on a horse, the stronger side tends to grip and draw up, pushing us over to our weaker side, which stretches and lengthens. When our own horse is crooked or has an underlying problem (that we might not be aware of) you will carry that position over to other horses because it feels ‘centred’ to you. (Please note that is how I noticed my own horse has a sacroiliac problem..) Unless an instructor sees this and points it out, the rider may be completely unaware of this off centre position. Sometimes you have to pull yourself physically over to centre on the horse. This, of course, feels ‘wrong’ to us. However, we need to ride through that awkwardness until being correctly centred over until horse feels normal to us. Riding multiple horses helps riders develop a proper feel for being centred on a horse. Each horse tests a rider’s skills in different ways… Working with an instructor on other horses can help you strengthen the riding skills in a safe environment. Personally, I go on riding holidays where I ride professional horses under a very professional eye to build my confidence and skills. Please be prepared that once you overcome a fear of riding another horse you will be able and you will push yourself towards horses and situations that are more challenging. Most importantly though, as you work through problems on different horses, you will begin developing a truly independent seat and take your riding to the next level. Good luck, Marta Please visit Marta at https://eqclusive.com/ Image credit: Pixabay

The Rare and Endangered Przewalski Horse

The only truly wild horse is the Przewalski’s horse which is a rare and endangered native from central Asia. These short and muscular horses stand around 12 -14h high with the breed mainly have a brown to dun coat together with a pale underbelly and muzzle. They have a dark dorsal stripe that runs down their short and upward mane, down the spine to its black tail. This breed is named after the Russian geographer and explorer Nikolay Przhevalsky who discovered many unknown species to European science through the 18th century, including breeds of gazelle and camels also.   Modern Day Wild Horses To determine actual wild horses today, the American Mustang or the Australian Brumby are all feral horses that have descended from domesticated horses that escaped and adapted life in the wild. The Przewalski was never domesticated and it has long been considered the only true wild horse existing in the world today. Going back to 1945, there were only 31 known Przewalski horses in the world in two zoos – Munich and Prague. By the end of the 1950’s only twelve remained. The Zoological Society of London then stepped in and worked with Mongolian researchers to conserve the breed. Their breeding programs were so successful that the species resurged to over 1,500 in the early 1990’s. In the last official count back in 2008, there was close to only 2,000 Przewalski horses alive worldwide improving its status from critically endangered to endangered. In the wild, the horses form mainly small family groups that have an adult stallion with three mares and their offspring. Young males tend to be expelled from the herd to form groups of bachelor stallions. Stallions tend to defend their mares and foals and stay with their preferred partner for years. Przewalski Horses Future The future of the Przewalski horse is promising with many projects throughout the world working hard to protect the breed. For example, the Xinjiang Wild Horse Breeding Centre bred a large number of them resulting in 55 being released into the Kalamely Mountain area. Luckily the species adapted well to this environment. Prague Zoo started a new cycle of transporting the horses to the wild, with the full support of the public and conservation projects which still continues today. by Samantha Hobden Image credit: Pixabay

Why I Won’t Be Buying Another Horse

I lost my horse last week. And it has been devastating. I owned him for fourteen years and his long list of ailments and this horrible winter sadly led to the worrying deterioration of his health and his nearly twenty three year old bones were suffering. Making The Hardest Decision So I had to make the kindest but toughest decision to send him on his way. The last two weeks particularly have been awful and I knew it was going to be hard but it has been such an upsetting process in preparing to say goodbye to the horse that I adored. However, I am lucky to have had so much support and kind messages during this time which has been a real comfort. I have also had one question that has been put to me in volume – and that is “are you buying another horse?” The answer is no. I have gone over and over this thought actually for a few years now, so this is not an instant decision I have made. If you take a horse or any animal into old age you will be faced with decisions over their health and their end of life. I made a decision a couple of years ago that when I would be faced with losing my horse that I would not go into horse ownership again. I am now at that sad time because I have lost him and I still feel the same. Life Without Owning A Horse  So why? There are quite a few reasons which put together strengthens my decision to not own a horse again. Now I love horses and I love all aspects of riding them to looking after them. I love shopping for them and I love pampering them. So why am I not continuing this love with another horse? I have a combination of reasons which confirms my decision to leave the equine ownership club. I really don’t totally trust the process of buying a horse and trying to find the horse that is right for you. It actually is a pretty stressful decision and costs a lot of money! I see so many horses for sale through the internet and read many horror stories of horses with huge problems being sold with misguided truths about how suitable a horse is. I know there are very genuine people selling horses but it is quite a job to find them. I also do not want to deal with a young horse again. They need time, dedication and in some cases nerves of steel. I don’t have that anymore. If you want a schoolmaster that has seen and done it, they are inherently older and I don’t want to go through having an ageing horse again. I also think hacking out has changed beyond recognition in the last decade. When I first had my horse, you could ride out on our country lanes and see five cars within the hour. Now it’s twenty five cars and they are speeding with no thought in passing with care these days. To be taking out a younger horse that is protesting in traffic or objecting to a crisp packet in a hedge, just doesn’t rock my boat anymore! Perhaps it’s my age? Slipping towards to half a century perhaps I have lost my nerve the older I’ve got? I just don’t have the inclination to take on a younger horse and traffic proof it together with the time you need to give with this training. This leads to time. I think to take on a new horse needs a lot of your time. I truly believe that a horse takes at least a year to get to know you and you the same. If you have your horse at livery, it’s potentially visiting twice a day which is normally a car drive. Factor in mucking out, rug sorting, feeding, turning in and out, grooming, tacking up and then getting out to ride amounts to hours! I have struggled with time and the juggling act having horses brings, especially recently. I would then feel guilty that I was not giving my horse the time he deserved. To have a break from that actually will be welcome after all these years. My last and main reason is that I simply cannot replace my horse. He is irreplaceable and no horse can match up to him. I worry that I would be disappointed and constantly comparing a new horse to the kind and gentle horse that I had. This may sound a silly reason but at the moment, that’s how I feel. I know it’s early days but I do tend to stand by my decisions. I also could not go through the heartache again that I have endured these last couple of months. I know this would fade and perhaps this is why I have felt the need to write this post. Loving Equestrian Life However, I am not leaving equestrian life! I love it. I am lucky that I have been offered horses to ride that are suitable for what I want and fortunate have years on their side so I can have an easier hack out. So I am planning to get back in the saddle but without the huge commitment. I love equestrian sport and I will continue to follow it with interest and go to the events that I find thrilling to visit. I am lucky to work within the equestrian industry which I enjoy. So I really have no reason to stop enjoying equestrian life just because I do not own a horse. I will continue embracing aspects of all things equine without being a horse owner. And that is fine too.   by Samantha Hobden Founder of Haynet In loving memory of Zeb 1995 – 2018

The Importance of Praise

I read this great story the other day about a teacher. The teacher wrote 20 sums on the board in front of a classroom full of teenagers. One of them was wrong. The teenagers started laughing. The teacher asked them why they were laughing, and the teenagers said: “because you made a mistake.” The teacher said, “You laughed at me for the one sum that I got wrong, but you didn’t praise me for the 19 sums that I got right.” The teacher continued, “this is what will happen to you all during your working life, you won’t get praised when you do well, only criticised when you do badly.” Firstly, he was quite right! The importance of praise in the workplace seems to be a foreign concept to many employers or managers, yet people will work so much harder for you if they feel appreciated. It’s not simply a question of being paid, people want to feel valued. Great employers have the ability to make everyone from the floor workers to the managers, feel appreciated, it is one of the hallmarks of a good business. Exactly the same thing applies to our horses. The good riders make their horses want to give that extra bit. Like the good employers whose staff will stay late to help, the horses of good riders will make that extra effort. If you praise your horse for all the things he gets right, he too will feel valued and will understand what you want him to do. We forget to praise, we remember to criticise. How often do you tie your horse up, groom your horse, tack-up and then your horse starts to fidget and you tell him off? But did you praise him for standing still all that time? Probably not! Exactly the same happens in our ridden work, we criticise our horses when they make a mistake (despite the fact we were probably responsible for it!) and forget to praise. Interestingly the ratio between praise and criticism was subjected to academic research and reported in the Harvard Business Review. The ideal ratio is 6 positive comments to 1 negative comment. So the next time that you ride, or even handle your horse, try this. Make sure you have praised 6 times, before you criticise, and see what effect it has on your horse (and yourself!) For more great tips and articles visit www.ethicalhorsemanshipassociation.co.uk Lizzie Hopkinson is a director at Ethical Horsemanship Association

Saying Goodbye To The Horse Behind Haynet – The Lovely Zeb

It’s been a very difficult week, so apologies for not my normal Haynet newsletter. I have lost my lovely Zeb this week who is the whole reason that Haynet started. Sadly this long and grotty winter had got to his nearly 23 year old bones with a horrible hoof abscess being the start of his deteriorating health. He never really was the same after this abscess with some very worrying symptoms. Despite giving medication, he did not improve and blood tests revealed something sinister was going on. The last few weeks he displayed some more concerning signs that all was not well and his general demeanor started changing. This just showed me that he was a very poorly horse. So the kindest and hardest decision was to send him on his way, which happened this week. I am utterly heartbroken and devasted but know I have made the right decision to stop any more pain and discomfort. He really was my horse in a million and a real gentleman with not a hurtful bone in his body. I have so many stories to tell over the fourteen years that I have had him, so I will be posting about these in the near future. I will make sure blogging about him will keep his memory alive which is actually probably for my own benefit. After all, writing about the ups and downs that having Zeb in my life was the reason I started blogging which led to the creation of Haynet! I am also going to write about how losing a horse affects you as I knew this was going to be hard but it has been devastating and I know it is going to take time to get through this. I am also not buying another horse which again I will write about my reasons behind that decision. It will be very strange not being a horse owner anymore but still have plans to get back in the saddle. I have been so comforted by the kind messages – the horse community is a strong one! So thank you, I really appreciate it. So canter free my lovely Zeb and remember to chuck in an unasked flying change, just because you can. You will always have a place deep in my heart and I will never, ever forget you. xx Sam https://www.hay-net.co.uk

In Sickness and Health

In its natural state the horse strives to do three things, to survive, to nourish itself and to reproduce. The horse has a good appetite and an efficient digestive system to allow it to grow well to cope with its environment. In order to survive in the wild, the horse also needs to be alert for danger. True health is not just freedom from disease or lameness – it is also a state of mind and one that we have to achieve in captivity, or the unnatural environment the horse lives in modern day society. The true horseman has to learn to be observant and perceptive and develop that great gift – the Stockman’s Eye – or the ability to note the normal look and behaviour of each individual animal in their care so that any difference is noted immediately. In order to achieve this, it is vital to know how the animal looks and behaves normally. Anyone who owns a horse or even runs a yard of horses will be aware of the individual characteristics of the animals in their care. Some horses are naturally exuberant and curious and will be eager to greet everyone that comes in their proximity. Others are shy and prefer their own company, these animals may normally stand at the back of their stables, or graze alone in the paddock. A good horse owner true will instinctively observe the animals and be able to recognise instantly when things deviate from the norm.  This is especially important for foals, youngstock, breeding stock, horses that are just in from grass, and those just out on grass and those who are under the stress of competition life. Individual horses will differ and this is where the experience is so important, as any out of character behaviour can indicate the beginnings of a health problem. As a general rule, the healthy horse will show the following:- He will look alert with bright eyes and an interested outlook.  The skin should be loose and clean and the coat will be flat with a healthy sheen. The membranes under the eyelids, inside nostrils and inside the mouth should be salmon-pink and moist. The droppings should be normal in consistency and number and the urine almost colourless. The horse should stand normally, with no signs of lumps, bumps or wounds. When led out the hoses should take strides of a normal length. The horse should not show any signs of sweating, or being tucked up. The feed and hay should have been eaten up, the normal amount of water consumed and the bed should not have been unusually disturbed. The normal temperature of a horse is 100–101F or 38C. Foals will show a temperature of up to 101.5C or 38.6F. The horse’s temperature is taken in the rectum using a clinical thermometer. Temperatures can vary by half a degree and still be normal. The normal pulse is 36-42 beats per minute, with up to 45 beats being quite normal in young horses. The pulse can be taken by pressing the fingers against an artery that runs close to the surface of the skin, an easy place to do this is the facial artery on the inside edge of the lower jaw. Another place to feel the pulse is the radial artery inside the foreleg, level with the elbow. The respiration rate should be 8–15 per minute, with up to 20-30 being quite normal in a foal. To assess the rate of respiration watch the horse’s flanks while he is standing still, you will be able to see the rise and fall as the horse breathes, each complete rise and fall is one breath. Temperature, pulse and respiration may vary between individuals and it is advisable to establish these for future reference. A high temperature can mean a general infection, while a higher pulse may suggest that the horse is in pain as is faster than normal respiration. In the wild horses have freedom to graze constantly, browsing on a wide range of grasses and plants, drinking when necessary with no mental or physical stress. When the horse lives in captivity, especially in the hugely unnatural environment of the stable enormous stresses are placed on his body and mind. He is required to eat when food is available, often large amounts at one time, and may also have restricted access to water; his exercise may well be short bursts of strenuous activity, all of which is at complete odds with nature. In order to keep the horse free from disease, try and make the horse’s life as close to his natural way as is possible within the restrictions of captivity and the horse’s work. When a horse is stabled he is prone to respiratory problems caused by hot or stale air or from dusty fodder or bedding so it is essential to ensure that all stabling allows plenty of fresh air to circulate, without the horse being in a draught. It is also essential to ensure that all bedding and fodder used is of the highest quality and free of any dust or mould that could cause problems. In the wild the horse will move constantly, this routine can be mirrored for a horse that is kept outside, provided that adequate shelter is provided. The cold will not bother a horse, but they do not do well in wet, windy weather. A horse that is left standing out in these conditions can be subjected to all manner of health problems such as skin problems, sore, chapped heels, mud fever.  For our convenience most horses are stabled during the winter, it is essential that the stable is comfortable as possible for the horse, by ensuring that there is plenty of bedding so that the horse will not get chilled when lying down, or bruise itself when getting up. Stabled horses should be allowed to graze freely in a field every day if only for a short time, the equine equivalent of our relaxing in front of the television after a hard day at work! Correct exercise is very important for the stabled horse, but it is essential that this is not done just after the horse has eaten as this can lead to colic. Giving a horse a day off while he is fit and being fed large amounts of concentrate is very dangerous and can lead to diseases such as azotoria and lymphangitis. Feeding is of prime importance as the horse has a delicate digestive system. Be sure to feed little and often and ensure that fresh water is always available. Also try as much as possible to keep to a regular routine to avoid placing unnecessary stress on the horse. In the wild horses would not be exposed to contagious and infectious diseases or the internal parasites that can cause such havoc to their digestive systems.  When horses are kept in the confines of our world, be it in a stable or field, no matter what working role they play, be it pleasure riding or high level competition, there is a lot that we can do to prevent from these conditions.  A correct worming programme is essential as is an up to date tetanus injection. Competition horses and those who come into contact with other horses, at riding clubs, or hunting should be given a vaccination against equine influenza. Observation is an essential part of caring for the animals, learning their routine, watching their body language, ever aware that noticing the first stages of a problem could save a life. A good stockman will spend time just watching the animals under his care. Leaning on the gate to watch the horses graze, or watching over the stable door is not time that it is wasted. It is all part of developing that essential tool that every true horseman has to have – “The Stockmans Eye”.

On The Bit

Quote ‘on the bit’ is not solely about the horse’s head position ‘On the bit’ is a term that is heard a lot in the horse world. But what, exactly does it mean? For the observer, a horse is on the bit when you can draw a vertical line from his nose to his forelock when viewed from the side. The horse is truly on the bit when he has rounded his outline (back and neck), engaged his hind quarters, stepped forward with impulsion, and brought his nose to the vertical. The hocks should be coming through under the horse’s body, with a round supple back, taking more weight into his hindquarters. His neck is arched; the degree of arch will be commensurate with the horses training, with the poll being the highest point. He accepts the bit without resistance, with a light and soft contact with a relaxed jaw and is submissive through his body. When the horse has rounded his outline, he will produce a certain feel. All horses feel almost identical when they have rounded their outline.  Because ‘on the bit’ is not solely about the horse’s head position, you will notice a difference in the way the horse is moving when he is rounded. Remember this feeling and try to produce it every time with every horse. So what goes wrong? Above the Bit The horse is above the bit if his head is held high, the angle of the head is too far in front of the vertical thus his back will tend to hollow. The hindquarters are not pushing the horse forward but being left behind and the front legs are pulling the horse forward. A horse which is above the bit could be caused by rider stiffness and tension and also too much use of the rider’s hands whilst lacking in enough leg. Make sure your horse has a regular checkup with an equine dentist. Problems can also occur when a rider puts pressure on the reins and the horse is experiencing tooth pain. Behind the Bit When a horse is behind the bit his head is raised quite high with an arched neck. The front of his face is behind the vertical, so not perpendicular to the ground, so the horse is avoiding the bit. The horse can behave this way to avoid pressure from the bit due to a sensitive mouth and may need a kinder bit. It could also be that the rider has heavy hands and also could be using the reins for balance. This problem is usually caused by the horse rider training with a strong rein contact. The horse becomes over bent as he tries to avoid the discomfort and will also lean on the hands. A common fault is the excessive use of hands to bring the horse on the bit. Many riders can quickly bring the horse on the bit through ‘bullying’ the horse into submission. If you believe that a perfect outline is all about a vertical head position, you will unconsciously focus your efforts on the reins. The more effort you exert on the reins, the more resistance you will receive from the horse. Horses that are forced onto the bit are not happy, relaxed horses, and are much less responsive to the aids. The trick is to persuade the horse to round up his outline and engage his hind legs rather than bully him into it. It is not an easy task and it will take a lot of time and practice, but it is definitely achievable with most horses. But what happens if the horse is being ridden badly? If your weight is on your buttocks, your legs forward, and you are balancing yourself with the reins, the horse’s reaction will be to hollow his back away from the discomfort your seat is causing, throw his head in the air and arc his neck, hold his breath, and retract his ribcage from contact with your legs (becoming flat-sided). In motion, sitting still in this situation becomes extremely difficult, and the rider will grip with his legs and balance on the reins, which will bring even more tension to the horse. A good rider has become responsible for his own weight and balance, the horse’s back will lift up, his ribcage will expand, he will round his neck and bring his nose to the vertical, and breathe regularly and deeply. This set of reflexes stem from the fact that the horse is seeking contact with the rider, rather than avoiding it. Maintaining your position and sitting to the horse’s movement will become an easier task, which will leave you to concentrate on refining your contact (seat, legs, and hands) with the horse, which will lead to an even happier and more responsive horse.

On The Market

Everyone it seems has a horse or pony for sale, but when you are looking to buy it seems that nothing is suitable.  So …. how do you produce an animal that is suitable for sale and that will stand out amidst everything else that is available?   There are a multitude of reasons for needing to sell a horse or pony. Circumstances change, the pony could be outgrown, or it could simply be that you have bred a foal, or bought a youngster to sell on. Whatever your motivation for selling, it is important that he goes to a suitable and loving home. If you are producing to sell having one of your horses being successful with its new owner is a great advert for you and will bring you repeat business. One of the best ways of letting people know that your horse is for sale is through word of mouth. Tell your friends and acquaintances that you are selling, it may turn out that one of your friends or a member of their families is looking for a new horse. The benefit of selling to someone you know is that you will be certain of where your horse will be going and know that they will be cared for properly. You could also advertise your horse for sale in local feed and tack shops, most of these will have a bulletin board where you can post adverts. Make up a flyer on your computer, or neatly by hand. Print out a flattering photo to go with it. Make it so your phone number is easy to tear off and take away.  Alternatively, advertise in local horse magazines and newspapers. Internet advertising is very popular and there are a multitude of horse classified sites. These sites are searchable and reach a very wide number of people. However internet advertising can be tricky too and you may find that you attract a large number of replies from people who are obviously trying to scam you.  You many also find that you attract replies from time wasters people who just like to dream, look at pictures and ask questions. But however, there are also many sales made through the internet, including some producers who sell exclusively through this medium. Another route would be to contact a reputable dealer. They may be able to find a good home for your horse while giving you a reasonable price.   Your classified listing is the most important part of the selling process. List your horse’s bloodlines. Bloodlines can give a prospective buyer an idea of how athletic your horse or to judge the potential that is in the family. Make sure you give all of the relevant information in the ad including the horse or pony’s height, age, its level of training and the price. Make sure that you are completely honest and don’t over-estimate your animal’s capabilities or potential in the advert. Don’t market him as a potential Olympic eventer if he would be better suited to hacking around! It will only make the sale process more difficult if you try to sell your horse to the wrong audience. If your horse is of good breeding, then it may also be worth including bloodline details.  Provide good, clear quality photographs, showing the horse’s full conformation and build.  Make sure he has his ears pricked, standing against a plain background, the stable wall or in a field with nothing to distract the attention away from the horse. He should stand squarely on all four legs, with the legs furthest away from the camera visible.  You should also have a picture of the horse in action either at a show, or loose jumping if he is young.  Online videos will sell your horse a lot faster and also make it easier for potential customers to assess your horse.  Modern technology makes it simple to make a short video which you can email to potential buyers if they request it. Make sure you advise potential buyers of any problems the horse has.  Buyers have to be notified of certain problems, such as windsucking and weaving. It is in your best interests to advise customers of any handling problems the animal has, such as being difficult to show, clip or load. When someone comes to see the horse remember first impressions really do count, obviously that of the horse, but also your own appearance and that of the yard. Presentation is of great importance as most buyers will not see the potential in a thin, dirty animal.  The horse should be as well turned out as possible, clean and well groomed with a neatly pulled mane. Buyers want a well mannered horse with good manners, so make sure that you put in the work with the animal when he is a foal. Teach him to lead properly and to load and to have good stable manners.  There are so many good animals available that no one wants to buy something with a problem or temperament issue when they can just as easily buy one which is easier to handle. When the prospective buyer arrives, have your horse waiting in the stable or in the field so that the buyer can see how the horse behaves when he or she is caught and tacked up. Bring the horse outside and let the buyer have a good look at him. Walk the horse away from them and trot back, giving the buyer chance to have a look at his paces. Put on the saddle and bridle and bring the horse into the field or arena to carry out a short riding demonstration working at the walk, trot and canter. Pop over a couple of jumps if the horse has the appropriate level of experience.  Most buyers will want to see how the horse reacts when it is ridden outside of the arena, in the open countryside and on roads. After you have worked the horse the buyer will hopefully be impressed enough to want to try the horse for themselves and the selling process can begin! by Jacqui Broderick of Lavender & White Publishing

Five Things You Need To Get You Through Winter With Horses

1 Sense of Humour This is the only thing that will get you through winter when owning horses. If you haven’t got a sense of humour then you will never get through the winter months.  You will need to see the funny side of pushing a wheelbarrow through a bog trying to get to the muck heap with sideways rain lashing in your face. You will have to learn to smile when your horse comes in looking like a prehistoric swamp monster when you spent half an hour that morning brushing the mud off them – which is now all over you. You will have to learn to laugh when you go to the feed merchant and get your bank card out for the fifth time that month buying more bedding, feed or replacement rugs which they have ripped to shreds… If these factors don’t make you chuckle, then don’t buy a horse! 2. A Flexible Bank Account You will notice your bank balance will be tested heavily during winter when caring for horses. As mentioned above, you will be buying more feed, bedding, and hay during the depths of the cold and wet months. Not only can rugs be an extra expense, horses tend to pull shoes off in the boggy fields or need buckets of pig oil to keep their legs free of mud fever.  Your hay bill will be more than a weekly take away, so think twice when ordering a Chinese on a Friday night and perhaps save it for another large bale of hay! 3. Time Horse ownership in the winter needs your time. If you are not prepared to lose one to two hours a day just in looking after them normally consisting of two visits to the yard, then this equestrian life is not for you! Be prepared to get up in darkness in all weathers to see to your horse’s breakfast and then rug, oil up (to keep the dreaded mud fever at bay) and make the precarious trip in slippery mud turning your horse out. You then have a stable full of muck, wee, and hay debris to clear up and redo for the evening. You then make another trip to the yard (normally in dusk or darkness again) to collect from the field now a wet and muddy horse.  After rug changing and leg wrapping, they will then undo the tidy and clean stable. Factor in actually getting in the saddle to ride, adds up to many hours a week looking after our much loved equines. 4 Warm Waterproof Clothing It is vital to survive the winter months with good clothing. You will need a warm and waterproof jacket, some over trousers to save you washing five pairs of trousers a week that are permanently mud stained or wet. A hat and a neck warmer are essential together with some sturdy pair of gloves to keep you from getting frostbite. You have to remember that you will be spending around fifteen hours minimum outside in the cold a week, looking after your horse (see you will need time!) A tough and warm pair of wellies are fundamental in making it through the muddy terrain. However, a good quality pair is the equivalent of probably a two week food shop. So you will have to be frugal when making your families dinners for a couple of weeks! 5 Positive Outlook It is probably around February when you are thinking how to draft the “For Sale or For Loan” ad. Put the pen down or don’t search for horse selling websites on the internet. Instead, think positive thoughts and have the mindset that warm and sunny days are on the horizon. Imagine those balmy light evenings when you can hack out with your horse with your lightweight jods and polo shirt on. Your bank account will be having a rest and your over trousers are slung in the hall cupboard for an eight month rest. However, come October those equestrian winter blues will be looming again…. by Samantha Hobden ( a long suffering horse owner that is fed up with winter!)

The Fantastic Fjord Horse

The Fjord horse is an ancient breed with a distinct appearance. Originating from Norway, this horse differs from other breeds with its confirmation having a strong arched neck, sturdy legs, and great agility. With its hardy appliance, the Fjord was used by the Vikings in battle to agriculture work and by the Norwegian army as a pack horse. Breed This sturdy horse (most Fjords are considered horses regardless of height) stands on average between 13.1 and 14.3 hands with a natural long, heavy and thick mane. This is usually clipped into a distinctive crescent shape showing its dorsal stripe, standing proud from the neck making the Fjord unusual in its look in the herd of horse breeds. Their colouring is dun. Temperament They have a reputation for generally good in temperament and extremely hard working. They can also display stubbornness and be very independent. Whereas other horses may spook, Fjords can simply take a few steps away from the cause of concern and have a think about it before deciding what to do next. This makes them brilliant riding ponies and are totally underestimated horses that should be more widely seen on the lanes and fields in the British countryside. Care Fjords are pretty hardy and owners are lucky to have minimal vets bills. However, they can carry weight and if the breed is overfed you need to be careful and watch signs of laminitis and obesity. If Fjords weight is kept under control, they should give you an easy ride health wise! With regards to day to day care, they really provide value for money. With their Scandinavian genes, they can winter outdoors with ease and their food requirements are small. They thrive on affection and become easily bored or frustrated without regular human contact, so they need to be entertained through riding. Alternatively, they make excellent driving horses. So if you are lucky enough to own a Fjord horse, please comment on this post and give them a shout out or let us know of any other facts we have missed out. They truly are a breed that is undervalued. by Samantha Hobden

5 Top Equestrian B&B’s in the UK

Bring your horse on holiday! With the grey days of winter, why not lift your spirits and plan some summer riding with your horse. It won’t be long before we can look forward to sunny days hacking with our horses, light mornings and hazy balmy summer evenings together and not wrestling with rugs or wading through mud for a few months. If the thought of going on holiday and sorting out the horse fills you with dread while you go away, then why not take your horse with you? There are many brilliant places to visit in the UK where farms and stables cannot only accommodate you but your horse too! Just think to wake up to breakfast being made for you and then pop out to the stable to adventure out on new bridleways and rides with your horse! So where to stay? We have picked the top five places in the UK which provide excellent riding holidays for you and your horse: Rock Farm – Taunton Somerset Rock Farm is equipped with stables and a paddock, so it is perfect for groups that would like to bring their horses on holiday exploring riding routes. With breathtaking and beautiful countryside that Somerset has to offer, this is a glorious place to take your horse on holiday. With flexible accommodation and plenty of room to park trailers or lorries, this makes it all easier to bring your horse with you for a summer break! For more information regarding costs and availability, please visit: https://www.woodlandsretreats.co.uk/our-retreats/rock-farm/introduction   Burley Rails Cottage – The New Forest Burley Rails Cottage sits deep in the heart of the New Forest offering self-catering accommodation surrounded by the 144 square miles of National Park for horse riders, walkers, cyclists to use. This is the perfect base for horse riders who want to experience plenty of off road riding together with two modern stables with an individual yard, tack room and turnout. For more information regarding costs and availability, please visit: https://www.burleyrailscottage.co.uk/   North Kingsfield Farm – Bridlington, East Yorkshire North Kingsfield Farm Holiday Cottages consist of three luxury cottages which are part of a mediaeval barn conversion. Set on a working farm in open countryside, there are miles of off road hacking and Fraisthorpe beach is just a couple of minutes away. On site is a small livery yard offering stables and grazing through the summer months for horse owning guests! For more information regarding costs and availability, please visit: https://www.northkingsfield.co.uk/Horse_Riding_Holidays.html   Longland Farm Cottages and Stables – Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire Longland Farm is a smallholding set in beautiful Pembrokeshire countryside. Their traditional welsh stone barn provides quality holiday accommodation with stunning views toward the Preseli Mountains. With many bridleways and quiet country lanes, there is plenty to explore on horseback. Close to the Pembrokeshire coast, there are also many beaches to explore with your horse. Longland Farm provides stabling with hay and straw included and stable equipment provided. For more information regarding costs and availability, please visit: https://www.longlandsfarmcottages.co.uk/horses   Holmeshead Farm – The Lake District The Lake District is a stunning area of the UK to visit all year round. Holmeshead Farm is near Ambleside and is a traditional sheep farm. They offer stables and grazing together with luxury accommodation for you. The farm has easy access to miles of bridleway to The Langdales, Rydal, Coniston, Claife, Grizedale which makes this a wonderful riding holiday in The Lakes! For more information regarding costs and availability, please visit: https://www.holmesheadfarm.co.uk/?Horse_Holidays   Make this summer the time you take your horse on holiday with you – a change of scenery is as good as a rest! Written by Samantha Hobden

How To Deal With Colic In Horses

Being in the depths of winter means our horses are likely to be spending more time stabled than roaming around in the fields. With less movement and a change in feed routine, this can increase the risk of colic occurring. What is colic? Colic is described as abdominal pain in horses which is usually caused by problems in the gastrointestinal tract. There are many types of intestinal problems that can cause colic, which starts with some recognised symptoms. What are the symptoms of colic in horses? Symptoms can be mild to severe and a bout of colic can come on very suddenly. First signs if your horse appears to to be restless and paws at the ground. They can become sweaty and irritated, kicking to their stomach. Other symptoms are stretching as if they were trying to urinate, rolling to the ground or attempting to roll are all classic signs of a bout of colic. What to do if your horse has colic So if you think your horse has colic, what do you need to do? There are classic symptoms that you need to know when potentially dealing with a bout of colic in a horse. You also need to determine if the symptoms are mild or severe, so use your initiative as you know your horse’s behaviour better than anyone. If the signs are mild: Take away their feed, including hay but leave a small bucket of water which is ok. If your horse is still upright, take them out the stable or if in the field encourage them to walk for about ten to twenty minutes in hand. Try and keep them moving with enthusiasm, as movement is a great way of relieving colic symptoms which are mild. Pop them back into a stable and then watch them. A sign that the symptoms have improved will be if they want to eat. Offer a small handful of feed. If they start eating again, this is a sign that they are over a bout of mild colic. As a rule after an episode of colic, they should not eat again for about 12 hours although they should have water. Keep a close eye on them, especially the first six hours after recovering from colic. However, if they refuse to eat and still appear in pain, then you will need to call a vet as the bout appears to be more serious. What to do with a serious bout of colic: If symptoms are severe with your horse becoming increasingly distressed, then call your vet immediately. Whilst waiting for your vet to arrive, make sure your horse is kept safe preventing them from hurting themselves in their distress. If they will allow you, then keep them walking but if the horse becomes unsafe and unpredictable with their behaviour, then keep a safe distance away from them in a stable.  If you can prevent them from laying down then do so especially not letting them roll particularly in a confined area. There has been research to suggest that rolling can cause the bowel to twist. Once the vet arrives, they will diagnose and assess the treatment needed to relieve the colic. They will also decide the course of action once they have determined the cause of colic. This can be anything from administrating oil and use of a wetting agent if they think a blockage is causing symptoms. Serious colic is when the bowel is twisted and can be hard to diagnose. Many cases lead to surgery, especially if they feel the horse is up to withstand an operation. Be observant Most horses who have had a bout of colic will be prone to the condition. You must be observant to all the signs and act accordingly. There are certain attributes what causes colic in horses particularly if they have defective teeth and eating poor quality roughage. With hard feed, some older horses can develop impaction especially if it is not soaked properly or if they have eaten a large volume. Research has also proven that some horses that have had worm infestation leading to infection can weaken their gut lining within the bowel. This then causes problems when they are trying to digest poorly administered food. The best a horse owner can do with a bout of colic is have the knowledge in how to treat it and when to call the vet. If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate and ring your vet straight away, which can ultimately save your horse’s life. Written by Samantha Hobden Image credit: Pixabay

My Favourite Equestrian TV Series: Flambards

Throughout the month of August, I posted through the #HorseBloggers channel, a top tip every day in keeping topics flowing when it comes to blogging about all things equine. I have decided to write thirty one posts, each taking on board the tips that I recommended. So my seventh post is not about my favourite equestrian film but my favourite equestrian tv series and why I loved it! Throughout my childhood, television time was a few snatched hours in the afternoon and early evening. There were only three channels to choose from and television series were gradually becoming more popular throughout the seventies (see I divulged my age now!) Looking back on that era, I feel there were more programmes for the horse lover than there are now. The Adventures of Black Beauty, Follyfoot Farm, The White Horses were among some the shows that horse mad children would tune in, watch and follow weekly. I loved them all but there was one series that I really enjoyed and that was Flambards. It was first aired in 1979 with thirteen episodes based on the Flambards novels written by English author K M Peyton. It was so popular that the United States bought the production and it was televised there in 1980. The story focused on Christina, who was an orphaned heiress who came to live at the dilapidated country estate in Essex set in 1909 through to 1918. It was owned by her mothers half brother, the crippled and arrogant Uncle Russell who lived there with his two sons Mark and Will. The story focused heavily on hunting horses and how Christina loved to ride her sturdy steed in side saddle, much to the annoyance of Will who was terrified of horses after a hunting accident. Her Aunt Grace had romantic plans for Christina to marry the insolent Mark in order to bring Flambards back to glory, using her large inheritance when she turned twenty one. Without giving too much of the story away, the series depicted countryside life back in an era romanticising hunting and farming in a very nostalgic way. I loved watching who Christina was going to fall for. Would it be Mark who passionately shared her love of hunting and horses or Will who hated everything that hunting stood for and yearned to take to the skies in the very early era of aviation? The series challenged class boundaries and I watched with fascination who Christina would give her heart to. Recently I found Flambards on Amazon with the whole series on DVD. Watching the first episode I was immediately transported back to my childhood. The acting was a little wooden and dated in its voice and outlook, but I still loved it all the same. Flambards was so popular that in 1976 Douglas Kingsford Hale and his wife Audrey opened up an aviation museum in Helston, Cornwall. To complement the old aircraft and to re-enact scenes from the television drama, a kitchen, workshop and a nursery of that period were built. They proved a hit with visitors and today Flambards is still open with now 60 shops and homes all set in genuine cobbled streets with carriages and costumes of the period. So do let me know if you were a Flambards fan or if this is before your time, let me know what equestrian programmes you loved watching too. Written by Samantha Hobden

My Stable Routine – Where To Save Time and Money!

Throughout the month of August, I posted through the #HorseBloggers channel a top tip every day in keeping topics flowing when it comes to blogging about all things equine. I have decided to write thirty one posts, each taking on board the tips that I recommended. So my sixth post is all about my stable routine and my tips on how to save money and time! I am very lucky where Zeb lives that I do not have to have a strict turnout routine which means I don’t have to muck out every day or visit twice a day. Over the last fourteen years of being a horse owner, I have had to stick to yard routines which make you learn about where to save time and money! I wonder how many hours and how much money I have spent on my stable husbandry over the last fourteen years? It would make my hair curl if I added it up! However, I have learned a lot over the years where to spend your money and where to save when it comes to stable care. Here are some of my money and time saving ideas: 1 Invest in good rugs. I have spent a fortune on rugs over the years but not spending anymore than £50.00 at a time. Sadly alot of them don’t last or they rip or slip with my horse coming in from the field wearing what looks like a ripped mini skirt! Now, this post is not sponsored shout out about equestrian companies but I do swear by Premier Equine rugs. Yes, they are more expensive but I promise you they will last, not slip or rarely rip. I also leave my horse in them overnight in the stable. It saves you time by not swapping rugs and if you have a wet rug, let it dry out on your horse which is much quicker and more efficient. 2 Buy a rug rack. If money is no object then a heated rug rack are a great idea. But as mentioned in my previous tip, you can dry out a wet rug on your horse. So to save on electric and not breaking the bank, a normal rug rack with swinging rails that can be tucked out the way, are brilliant. They are also fairly inexpensive. Rugs are heavy cumbersome items, so to store them in order will also make life easier when trying to locate a rug too! How many times have you tried to find your rug in a dirty pile? With a rug rack, you can find it and pull it off with ease. 3 Invest in good bedding for your stable. There will be trial and error finding what suits your horse too. Some horses are very clean in the box, where some are extremely mucky! I actually deep litter taking out the wet once a week or more often if my horse is in every night. It really does work well if you need to save time in the week and it possibly saves on shavings too. By also using quality shavings which may cost you more, they do actually go that bit further so are more cost effective. I also now use a disinfectant spray on the mats when you have lifted the out the wet. It just helps with that strong ammonia smell and is more hygienic too. 4 To keep a water bucket clean, make sure you have a sieve to clear out rouge bits of hay or shavings that have got in there overnight. It will save you not having to empty it completely. If droppings have landed in there, then a sieve won’t save it though!! Make sure you have a scrubbing brush to clean out a mucky water bucket too. Using an old fashioned bath brush makes light work of this. 5 If there are days where you need to be quick, be organised and fill hay nets in advance, make up feeds, skip the stable out and put a sprinkling of shavings on top just to make life easier. Buy also in bulk so you haven’t got to make numerous trips to the feed store. If possible get together with other liveries and buy shavings, hay and feed together which can save the pennies but also time too! I am a great believer that being organised with your routine makes yard life enjoyable rather than a stress. I would also say to have patience too whether that is with your horse or with other liveries. Sometimes we are all in a rush and may leave a shavings fork in the wrong place or your horse is reluctant to come in but there is no point stressing or getting cross. Remember we have horses because we love them and we love this hobby – and that is what it is all about! by Samantha Hobden

The Nine Points Of Saddle Fitting To Keep Your Horse And You Happy

If your horse has had any time off you will need to ensure that the saddle is fitted properly to allow him comfort and freedom to muscle up again when you begin training in earnest. While it can take four weeks for a muscle to build up with consistent training, it takes only one week for the muscle to regain its original shape (which is negative development). Thus, even if you have given your horse just a week off from training, you will find that your saddle may not fit the way it did and the way it should so that you should have a diagnostic evaluation done and the saddle adjusted by a certified fitter before you begin training again. A quick diagnostic can be done using our 9 points of saddle fit evaluation. Below are very brief points – this information cannot be repeated often enough and is truly evergreen. 1. Saddle Balance A saddle too high in the pommel and too low in the cantle causes pressure on the horse’s back. It will be very difficult for your horse to engage his back because too much of your weight is on his last two floating ribs. f your saddle is too low in the front it will pinch into the horse’s shoulder – which is very restrictive for your horse. Your saddle is too high in the back so your leg goes forward and you fall into a chair seat to balance which can strain the discs in your lower back. It should sit so that the pommel and cantle are even. 2. Wither Clearance The saddle should have 2-3 fingers clearance on the top and around the side of the withers.  The saddle must have be an opening (clearance) on the sides of his withers to accommodate the shoulder rotation upwards and backwards during movement. A horse whose saddle pinches his withers may be reluctant to go forward. Other more extreme signs of insufficient wither clearance are patches of white hairs (not scattered individual white hairs) or sores on the top or on one or both sides of the withers. Read more from Horsetalk NZ

Naughty or struggling? Can you tell the difference?

Our horses rarely wake up in the morning, and think “today I will be really naughty…today I will only canter on the left lead, not the right lead.” This is a common issue that many of us face, and our perception of the problem is one of the key factors in helping to solve this issue. When we train horses, we train them to accept and understand the aids that move us from trot into canter. When they are learning this can be difficult for them, as they have to work out the connection between our aids and our desired outcome. It is our job to give these aids clearly and consistently, with much praise for the correct response, so that our horses learn what we are asking for. Without praise, they won’t understand that they have done as we have asked. Praise can be verbal or can be through the release of the aid. When faced with a horse which will canter on the left, but not the right lead, we become frustrated. To us, in our logical human brains, we feel that the horse must be being “naughty” as we know full well that he understands and can carry out the action from trot to canter. However, it only takes some weakness, or stiffness in his body, to cause him to struggle with the transition on this rein. This imbalance in the body can be harder to pinpoint than a more obvious lameness, but it is up to us to work it out. Horses can only communicate their pain, or distress through their actions, they have no other language. In general, they are incredibly stoic creatures who will try their very best despite the limitations of their bodies, or our, sometimes vague, aids. If your horse cannot do something that you ask of him, it is not a personal insult! He is simply trying to communicate with you, in the only manner that he knows how, and it is up to us to listen. There are many exercises that you can do on the ground before you get anywhere near riding that will help you to listen to what he is trying to say to you. Can he bend his neck equally to both sides? There are many excellent resources available showing you how to do simple carrot stretches (beware of your fingers!). When turned in a tight circle do his hind legs step under to the same degree on both reins? Does he track up evenly when walked and trotted in-hand? Any difference on the left and right side in-hand will be likely to provide you with the key to why he is struggling with ridden work. So, the next time you are feeling frustrated by apparent naughtiness in your horse’s behaviour, take a moment to stop. Take a moment to listen to your horse, and think about what he is trying to say. Our horses are always talking to us, when we take the time to listen, we might hear what they are trying to say.   Lizzie Hopkinson is a director at www.ethicalhorsemanshipassociation.co.uk Image credit: Simon Palmer

Marengo: Napoleons Courageous Mount

Marengo (1793–1831) was the famous war mount of Napoleon I of France. Marengo, a grey Arab was believed to have been bred at the famous El Naseri Stud. Although depicted in art as a big horse he was only 14.1 hands. However, he was a steady and courageous horse that repeatedly carried Napoleon into battle. Napoleon had his own personal stud with around 52 horses which included this plucky little grey Arab. However, it was Marengo that carried the Emperor in the Battle of Austerlitz, Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, Battle of Wagram, and Battle of Waterloo. This brave horse was wounded eight times during his working career and was left behind at Waterloo when Napoleon fled. Marengo long outlived Napoleon from his death in 1821. He was captured by the Grenadier Guards and brought to England by Lt Col John Julius Angerstein. He initially stood at stud at New Barnes, Ely at the age of 27 which was unsuccessful. He then spent his old age in peaceful retirement before passing away in 1831, aged 38. His skeleton was preserved (minus his hooves) which today is on display at the National Army Museum in London. One of his hooves was given to the office of the Brigade of Guards by Lt Col Angerstein and was made into a snuff box. The other two were mounted as silver inkwells, still owned by the Angerstein family. They loan them out for display at the Household Cavalry Museum. The fourth hoof which had been missing since the horse’s death in 1831 – was recently found in a kitchen drawer at a cottage in Somerset which was once owned by the family who bought Marengo following the 1815 battle. This small but stoic horse will always be remembered, earning a place securely in war horse history. Written by Samantha Hobden Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sarcoids: The Skin Nasty

Just the mention of the word Sarcoids will tip any horse owner over the edge in fear of these scaly, nodule lumps that can appear on a horse. Having personally dealt with sarcoids with my horse, it can be a real roller coaster ride in deciding what route of treatment to take in dealing with these tricky lumps and what can be invariably skin cancer. THE FIRST SIGNS Skin problems in horses are very common and the majority of the times are harmless lumps and bumps. However certain skin problems or lesions need to be kept an eye on and for a vet to check that it is not the start of something more sinister growing, such as a sarcoid. Sarcoids are notable for their unpredictable behaviour and although small ones make look harmless, they can grow and spread very quickly. They only affect the skin and they are most likely to be caused by a virus that is thought to enter the skin such as a fly bite or a wound. That’s why the majority of the cases found in the horses are where flies are attracted to being the eyes, neck, under the abdomen, upper limbs, tail and genitalia area. They tend to affect horses of any age but they are very common in young horses and then the older horse. Studies have shown that it can be a genetic cause with certain breeds that are more prone to suffering from sarcoids. The sarcoid will start by being a dark grey flat or nodule wart-like lump. Some will stay the same size for many years and then suddenly change. Others can be fast growing from the start. DIAGNOSIS As soon as you see a lump on your horse’s skin that is grey in colour, you need to get a vet to check it. There is very rarely any of the horse’s hair on a sarcoid which can then be an indication that the lump is something more sinister. There are six forms of a sarcoid: The Occult Sarcoid: this is a circular patch of hair loss with a grey, scaly surface. It can be mistaken being ringworm or tack rubs or lice infestation as similar in appearance. The Verrucous Sarcoid: looks a little like the above, grey and scaly, but extends deeper into the skin and is more irregular in outline. It can be mistaken for a variety of viral skin diseases and a tumour called squamous cell carcinoma, which is a real nasty! The Nodular Sarcoid: these are mainly under the skin, forming round nodules with apparently intact (but often thin and shiny) skin overlying. They are usually found around the eyelids and in the groin and look like a variety of skin tumours, including typical melanomas in greys. The Fibroblastic Sarcoid: these are nasty and aggressive and look like true ulcerated skin tumours. They can often start after injuries to the skin, especially on the legs or after surgical removal (or biopsy!) of other forms of sarcoid elsewhere. They look horrific and can be “on stalks” or very invasive into the surrounding skin and deeper tissues. They can look like “proud flesh” initially, on a healing wound, so beware. The Mixed Sarcoid: a cluster of suspicious-looking but vaguely-familiar nasties (as described above), of different ages, all jostling unattractively for position. Maybe occult, nodular and fibroblastic sarcoids all in there together. The Malevolent Sarcoid: a sarcoid behaving like an aggressive tumour by spreading along lymph vessels forming other masses along these vessels and in local lymph nodes. These often develop following surgery on fibroblastic sarcoids (poor horse…poor owner….poor vet!!). TREATMENT Treatment options are diverse in approach, suggesting that none is entirely satisfactory – whichever type of sarcoid you are dealing with. Failure and re-occurrence are common (and disappointing and often expensive). Selection of the correct treatment is essential and sometimes if the lesions are small and few in number they are best left alone, so long as they do not interfere with locomotion. I have listed below the common choices on vets advice when treating sarcoids. Have an open mind and decide what is best for you and your horse. Surgical removal: fraught with potential for regrowth (even 15 years later!), with 90% of the re-grown lesions being nastier. Perhaps only a 15-20% success rate overall. Sarcoids in areas such as the eyelid and lower leg may be particularly difficult to remove surgically. Cryosurgery: freezing, with perhaps only a 20-25% success rate. It works best on small, well-defined lesions but requires most of the mass to be removed surgically first and needs a long general anaesthetic, which horses object to! Radiation therapy: this treatment uses such radiation sources as iridium 192 has proven highly successful, particularly in the treatment of sarcoids around the eye, with success rate of 98% reported from one study at Liverpool University. The treatment generally leaves very acceptable cosmetic results although it is expensive and success is limited by the size of the sarcoid. Topical / Intra-lesional chemotherapy: vets have been attempting to treat sarcoids by slapping on highly toxic chemicals for over a hundred years. Liverpool University, under the guidance of Dr Derek Knottenbelt, has developed a topical treatment using a cytotoxic cream. It is available to veterinary surgeons in private practice but only on an individual case basis and under strict guidelines. It is applied usually every 72 hours for 3 or 4 occasions to individual sarcoids and causes rapid cell death. The sarcoid usually “falls off” at any stage between 2 days and several weeks after treatment is complete, but can cause considerable inflammation during the process and scarring afterwards. Horses can become quite sore during the inflammation phase too. These horses have often required courses of oral painkillers (usually “Bute”) and occasionally antibiotics if the inflamed lesions have become infected. Homeopathic: There are less evasive ways of treating sarcoids with the use of homoeopathic treatments. You have to have an open mind and be solely responsible for treating a horse using alternative methods. There are however an increasing number of homoeopathic vets that you can consult to see if a natural method of treatment for sarcoids can be sort. Thuja tablets or cream and had a good success rate in treatment with the reduction of sarcoids where they can reduce in size and fall off. Do your research and seek professional advice before treating a horse or pony using homoeopathic remedies. Whatever way you look at it, sarcoids are never good news…. Any sarcoid should be given a guarded prognosis because they often transform into a more aggressive form, they rarely resolve by themselves, and the treatment options available cannot always completely cure. I have seen horses for sale that have sarcoids and I have very mixed feelings about this. Realistically it is probably best to keep well away from buying a horse with sarcoid. However, some horses respond well to treatment and others do not. From experience the sarcoid will in time have to be dealt with and whatever treatment you decide it is always uncomfortable for the horse. I hope I haven’t alarmed you with all this nasty information about this topic, but I feel very strongly for all horse owners to be aware of this horrible skin disease and I hope that you never have to deal with it! by Samantha Hobden https://www.hay-net.co.uk Disclaimer: This article is an advisory post only. Although using homoeopathic treatments if used correctly are known for their safety, there are a few factors to consider.  It is solely your own responsibility when feeding natural supplements to animals. If you are giving any other type of drug or medication to your horse, please check with your vet to make sure it is still safe to continue with any homoeopathic treatment.

5 Things To Remember When Hacking Out During The Winter

With winter arriving horse owners have to dig deep and get through the next few months battling the elements. With daylight hours reduced this means that riding time is scarce especially if you have to juggle in work when trying to keep your horse exercised. Here we have five top tips to remember when hacking out through these cold winter months: 1 Make sure you have enough daylight hours when you hack out. Riding out in the late afternoon means hacking back potentially in the dark. Leave plenty of time to make sure that there is enough light and you can be seen. 2 During these long winter months, tell someone at your yard or a family member where you are planning to hack out. Let them know your rough route and how long you are going to be. If you are using bridleways, make sure you know they are open and passable during the muddy months. Always have a mobile phone with you in a secure pocket or special holder. 3 Check the weather forecast. Remember the weather can change quickly especially in the UK when one minute it can be a lovely cold and crisp sunny day and the next dark clouds appear with falling sleet and snow on the ground! If you think the roads are too icy, don’t ride. Black ice is lethal for horses, especially with metal shoes. 4 Ensure you wear plenty of hi-viz for you and your horse. There are some great products from flashing lighting on your stirrups to lights on your riding hat. Make sure your horse has a riding sheet that can be seen and to keep them warm, especially through the depths of winter. 5 Wear appropriate clothing for the weather conditions to make sure you are warm and dry. Wear gloves that are designed for horse riding and you have warm boots and socks to keep your toes toastie! Jackets that are especially for horse riders have zipped pockets to keep your phone safe and are waterproof to keep you dry. Many have hi-viz binding to make sure that you are also seen on the roads. These tough months seem gutsy at the time but they do quickly pass and before long, summer days will be with us giving horse owners a time to enjoy summer hacking from early mornings to late balmy evenings! Most of all, stay safe with your horse through these winter months. by Samantha Hobden https://www.hay-net.co.uk Image credit: Photo © Walter Baxter (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Remembering Animals in War

RSPCA remembers all the animals who have died in war for Armistice Day To mark Remembrance Day the RSPCA paid its respects at the Animals in War memorial site in London to remember the animals who lost their lives alongside soldiers in war. RSPCA Assistant Director for the Inspectorate Dermot Murphy laid a poppy wreath at the memorial in London to commemorate the bravery of each animal involved in war. The animal welfare charity had an important role during both world wars from raising money to help sick and wounded horses to the many inspectors who joined the Army Veterinary Corps (AVC). By 1915 more than half of inspectors and staff were serving with the armed forces and during the First World War 2.5 million injured animals were admitted to the AVC. Of these 80% were treated and returned to service. The ceremony, held on Friday (yesterday), commemorated the sacrifice of animals in wartime and the significant contribution of countless dogs, cats, birds and even camels in the war effort. The RSPCA will also attend the National Service of Remembrance held at The Cenotaph in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday. RSPCA Assistant Director for Inspectorate Dermot Murphy said: “It is incredibly important to honour the valiant efforts of RSPCA staff and all animals that were lost during the war efforts. “We lost 18 RSPCA officers in WW1 and five in WW2, and there were many more who survived, labouring through these and subsequent wars to protect horses, mules and other animals under fire. “We reflect on the human and animal pain, distress and losses caused through human conflict and commemorate those people who defended and protected animals, and the animals themselves who served not just in WW1 and WW2 but also wars across the world today.” During both world wars, dogs were often used to find wounded soldiers, cats helped guard the trenches and ships from mice and rats, and pigeons carried messages into enemy lines. In 1915, the charity raised £250,000 to help horses on the frontline. The money supplied 13 veterinary hospitals with an operating theatre, forage barns, dressing sheds, 180 horse drawn and 16 motorised ambulances. It is estimated that 484,143 horses, mules, camels and bullocks died during the First World War and an unknown amount of dogs, cats, pigeons and other animals. During the Second World War, there were 734 rescue centres set up by the RSPCA to help those animals and deal with casualties. The charity treated 256,000 victims of enemy action as well as one million animals with general illness or injury. The RSPCA attended the Animals in War ceremony to pay its respects and will also hold a minute silence across its centres and head office. RSPCA Lockwood also weaved poppies into the plaits and head collars of horses and donkeys at its centre. Press release: RSPCA

Gentle Giants: The Shire Horse

I have only come across a few Shire horses in my time, but I absolutely love them. My father-in-law used to have two Shire horses on his farm whom he adored and used to show them at local show pulling a dray cart, but this was many, many years ago now. They are such beautiful and proud horses and if I had more time (and room!) I would love to have a Shire. The Shire horse is a breed of draught horse that comes in many colours, including black, bay and grey. They are a tall breed, with mares standing 16 hands and over and stallions standing 17 hands and over. The breed has an enormous capacity for weight pulling, and Shires have held the world records for both largest overall horse and tallest horse at various times. In 1893 it was estimated that London’s brewers used around 3,000 horses, many of which were Shires. Indeed, some brewers still use Shires today, not only for promotional purposes but also for local deliveries.The transportation of coal, the vital source of heating and cooking fuel, had to be done by horses, and with wagons weighing up to 3 tons, this was definitely a job for the heavies! Because Shire horses are so calm and placid, we do not think that they would be good in wars. However, it is because of war that the Shire horse came into being. Native British horses were quite small and light, like the ponies you can still see in wild in places like the New Forest, Dartmoor and Exmoor. When knights started wearing heavy suits of armour the horses were unable to carry them. Heavier breeds from the Continent (especially Holland, Germany and Flanders in modern day Belgium) were introduced to Britain and the Great Horse (also known as the War Horse) first came into being. Eventually, warfare changed and soldiers no longer wore heavy suits of armour, but this did not mean that the Great Horse was no longer needed. It was soon recognised that their great strength and placid nature would make them useful on the farm and for pulling heavy loads. They soon took over the jobs previously done by oxen on farms, such as ploughing. Horses were faster and more intelligent than oxen and could also work in forestry.The Industrial Revolution saw the construction of a nationwide system of canals which enabled heavy loads to be transported long distances. The Shire was the ideal horse to use, towing the barges along the canals. They were also used to haul large wagons, drays, omnibuses and trams. Soon however, technology developed and the need for the horse declined. The first blow was the rise of the railway, meaning fewer goods were transported by barge. Then came the tractor, replacing horses on farms. Finally, more and more road vehicles were powered by engines and the Shire horse’s days soon seemed numbered. Shire horse numbers fell from well over a million to just a few thousand by the 1960s and the breed was in serious trouble. A small group of dedicated breeders came to rescue though and the Shire is seeing a resurgence in popularity both as a working animal and a riding horse. Written by Samantha Hobden of www.hay-net.co.uk Image credit: Pixabay

5 Top Tips When Buying An Event Horse

With the dark evenings and crisp, cold mornings can only mean one thing. Winter has arrived and the eventing season has ended for another year.  Many event horses have their annual holiday and eventer’s turn their attention to next year’s season with perhaps a little holiday in between. End of season balls and dinners are the highlight of the winter months with awards to the brave and the talented. However, credit where credit is due which is not only down to the rider but to these fantastic and stoic event horses that compete in this ultimate testing sport. So what do you look for when buying an event horse and what are the priorities needed to find a horse that can stand up to this sport?  Is it all down to having “an eye for a good horse?”  A popular way to search for an event horse these days is through the internet which gives you a much wider scope for your search and choice of horse. However, good old fashioned word of mouth can always land you the ideal horse that you need. Here are five top tips to look out for when negotiating around these adverts: ABILITY The horse needs to be up to the job and it also needs to have good jumping ability. Jumping is in two of the three disciplines when eventing, so it is vital to have a horse than can cope with the technical skills required in the cross country and show jumping phases. However, some horses that are brilliant jumpers can be less supple in dressage movements.  The dressage score ideally needs to be a decent mark to work on into the cross country, so an event horse must be able to produce a good dressage test also. CONFORMATION This is a crucial and important factor when buying an event horse.  “Good Conformation” can mean different things to different equestrian riders. What it means to anybody buying a horse to compete with “is the horse’s body and characteristics suitable for the job?” The most important attribute is soundness. As the saying goes, no legs no horse. They have to have an athletic body with strong legs which is often found in Irish Sports Horses, Thoroughbred Crosses and even Warmbloods. Although size is not important, you tend to see smaller horses on event courses these days as smaller strides and fast manoeuvrability can get the rider out of trouble fast! However bigger framed horses can deal with the technicalities of the sport well so size is a personal preference of the rider. Overall the horse needs to have an athletic quality to cope with all aspects of eventing. MOVEMENT An event horse needs to have good movement in all gaits from walk to gallop.  The horse should be able to show a good swing in walk which is needed in the dressage test as well as a big over track. Trotting needs to have a good rhythm and cover the ground well with fluidity. The canter needs to be balanced together with the ability to change the striding quickly and efficiently on a cross country course. The gallop in an event horse needs to be effortless without being sluggish but on the other hand, not too strong. Galloping needs training and most horses don’t tend to get this form of exercise on a regular basis. TEMPERAMENT For some riders, this is the most important factor in an event horse. They need to be intelligent and quick to adapt to situations of the sport and work together with the rider. An astute horse is quick to learn but it must also be respectful of its training. A horse with attitude protesting of what the rider is asking them in all three phases of eventing, will no doubt end up at the bottom of the leader board! However, they do need to be strong, brave and fearless in order to succeed at the sport with the rider matching these qualities too. WHICH BREED As mentioned earlier, popular breeds of horse used for eventing tend to be Sport Horses and Thoroughbreds. There are other more adaptable breeds coming through on the eventing scene with Warmbloods being used, as well as cross breeding with Hanovarians. Some horses breeding can be unknown like Zara Phillips famous Toy Town who is only described as a chestnut gelding but proved to be an excellent eventer giving her the ticket to being Eventing World Champion. Be open minded about the breed and yes having “ a good eye for a horse” can sometimes produce an excellent horse for the sport. That stunning all-rounder that can handle the job, with honesty and the right attitude – is probably the event horse for you!   Written by Samantha Hobden  

Trotting Towards Horse Ownership

Throughout the month of August, I posted through the #HorseBloggers channel a top tip every day in keeping topics flowing when it comes to blogging about all things equine. I have decided to write thirty one posts, each taking on board the tips that I recommended. So my fourth post is an equestrian photo going back in time and what memories I have of it. So this picture is of myself back in the saddle in the spring of 2003. I am with my best friend Rhonda at her home where she had also returned to horse ownership a few years previously. She had talked me into coming out for a ride with her, something I had not done for ten years. Little did I know when that photo was taken, putting my foot in those stirrups would bring the equestrian bug galloping back! Riding Through My Childhood I had ridden in my childhood at my local riding school only to give up when the teenage years arrived and interests changed. In my early twenties, I returned to the saddle again through a riding school but those times were few and far between and something just didn’t grab me to take it back up on a regular basis. Roll on ten years later and now a mum to two young boys, I felt it was time to actually have a few hours away being Sam and doing something that was for my pure enjoyment. So with riding boots dusted off and with my friend’s encouragement, I got back in the saddle riding Freddie a lovely, kind veteran thoroughbred. I was feeling nervous riding through the fields and woodlands but I just loved being free riding a horse again. From that day on, I became horse obsessed again… Buying My First Horse By Accident I continued to ride out regularly and started part loaning Shamus, a super cob riding him twice a week which I loved. I learned so much from dealing with his tack, mucking him out and dealing with naps and quirks riding out. After about six months he moved to a different yard and it became difficult to ride regularly. After seeing an advert in my local saddlery, I started riding at a yard close to home hacking out another super thoroughbred. This yard had a number of horses and a big warmblood arrived after finishing his grade B showjumping days, with a couple of liveries sharing him with a view to potentially event locally. Every time I would arrive at the yard, this warmblood’s neck would wind out the stable like a giraffe pestering for treats which I always made sure I had a polo for him. I watched him being ridden out and loaded on the trailer for eventing training…which wasn’t a great success. The owner wanted to sell him on and it was my friend’s job to find him a new owner. I had grown really fond of this huge warmblood but it didn’t even enter my head to buy him. I watched a vet turn up to give him a five star vetting as a new owner had been found and if he passed he would be travelling up country to his new home. All I did know was that I would miss his friendly face and kind eyes when the time came for him to leave. He failed the vetting on his stifle and the potential owner disappeared back up country with her nose back in the Horse and Hound for sale section. His owner had reduced the price and wanted him moved on. My friend said to me would I be interested? He was a good price and why not ride him out and give him a try. So we popped a saddle on him and I climbed the mounting block to mount this 17.2 giraffe and off we went. I found him such a comfortable ride and you found that despite his height, he looked after you. So I went home to my young family and tried to work out how was I going to factor in this huge horse in my life if I bought him. I had him on trial for six weeks which was a huge learning curve, but I absolutely loved him and despite a few spooks here and there he just felt so safe and did not have a hurtful bone in his body. My family were not thrilled with the idea and I was also running a business at the time, so how was I going to fit this horse into our life?  After a lot of thought I went with my gut feeling that if I didn’t grab this opportunity now, I would miss owning such a lovely horse. So I said yes…. And paid for him with all of my savings that I had put away for a rainy day. My Horse In A Million Nearly fourteen years on, Zeb is still with me and will be with me until that dreaded day when rainbow bridge calls. This horse in my eyes has been one in a million, it’s making me get choked up just talking about how super this horse is. We have had some really good times and we have had bad times too but we have ridden through them together. So yes, this picture speaks a turning point for me in my life and thanks to my best friend, it certainly trotted my way to horse ownership! by Samantha Hobden

How To Budget Your Costs In Horse Ownership

With the media full of talk of rising interest rates and financial cutbacks, our budgets are being stretched together with also fuel and food prices on the rise. This means the cost of horse ownership has taken a battering in these tough times. The average household income is becoming stretched to find the money just to heat our homes, feed our families and run our cars. Pet ownership may be considered to be a luxury item these days and horse ownership still has the stigma of being a hobby only the rich can afford. This couldn’t be further from the truth when people from all walks of life own horses. Buying a horse used to be the most expensive part of the hobby, but the costs of looking after them now outweigh this initial outlay. Shoeing costs have gone up by over a third over the last ten years, with feed prices in some cases have doubled. Hay has seen erratic pricing over the last few years with the weather being the benchmark of some fair prices to the extortionate. Vets bills have always remained high but call out fees have increased due to fuel costs, which the vet has had no choice but to pass this cost on to the customer. This together with the annual dental check up, insurance premiums and your weekly livery bill are just more additional costs that are added to our dearly beloved hobby. There are other costs that we all seem to conveniently forget about. How about maintenance of the stable and fields? Every year there is always something that needs replacing a new water trough or some more electric fencing or battery unit. Hedges need cutting, muck heaps need removing and fences need fixing. How many rugs have you replaced over the years when the hole or rip has been stitched a dozen times over can no longer be mended or another leg strap has been lost in the field forever? Lotions and potions for ailments are always needed together with the equipment you need to ride your horse from tack to riding hats, from jodhpurs to replacing leaking wellies. Hats, gloves, jackets are all needed to be able to keep dry and warm in our tough winters we now seem to be having. Other hidden costs are travelling and taking part in shows and events, arranging and paying for the care of your horse when you cannot look after them, and also the added luxury of horse riding lessons are all part of the ballooning costs being stretched. These are some of the first things that horse owners look to cut back on, which has a huge knock on effect on horse trainers and equestrian centres struggling to fill their classes. Bargain hunting and scouring auction sites seem to be the norm now as we look to make some of our own horse ownership spending cuts! The sensible budget watching horse owner should really keep a monthly track on what is being spent, with any spare being put away for emergencies. The “normal” horse owner however never adds up what their horse costs – the sheer shock would be too much to take! Many out there have simply found it impossible to finance their beloved horse and have had to make the heartbreaking decision to sell them or put them out on loan to ease the financial pressure. Horse charities are struggling to keep up with the number of welfare and rehoming cases they see, mainly caused by this very problem. Irresponsible breeding with horses saturating the market is also a major factor to the predicaments faced by these charities. Some have no option but to have some of these horses put to sleep and now all we are hearing is the scandal that some have made it into the food chain, consumed by the unsuspecting public. What is the answer? We cannot give up on our much loved horses. Unfortunately, there is no magic solution. There are very few horse owners that simply give up but struggle on making every cost cutting corner that they can make. Buying from clearance sales or making second hand purchases together with a “make do and mend” attitude, can help get through this difficult time. Getting together with other horse owners on your yard and bulk buying in feed, bedding or hay can also save the pennies. Other options such as part loaning your horse out to help with costs is also a cheap way of somebody being able to ride too. Giving up is the last resort and there is always a solution to making sure your horses are still cared for. It just means that we have to be a little more frugal these days and being a bit cleverer with these rising costs. After all, don’t we owe it to these horses who give us so much pleasure to make sure their future is secure? Written by Samantha Hobden: Owner of hay-net.co.uk Image Credit: Shutterstock

Hi-Viz The Equestrian Fashion Life Saver

The nights are drawing in and early mornings are taking time to get light, this means autumn is here with winter knocking on the stable door. Many riders only have a certain time of the day to ride and winter makes this hard with failing light reducing available hours to exercise your horse. Wearing hi-viz when hacking out is absolutely essential and should be worn at all times, but especially at this time of year. Hacking out a dark bay, through tree lines lanes is asking for an incident with many cars using rural roads as cut throughs. It has been statistically proven that wearing hi-viz on yourself and your horse will make you stand out to any driver three seconds more than wearer none. Those three seconds can be a lifesaver not only for you but your horse too. To put that into context, those three seconds are equivalent to a car, driven at 30 mph, travelling the length of a standard size dressage arena! If you are lucky enough to have complete off road riding and again do not feel you need to wear hi-viz, light aircraft and helicopters again see hi-viz from much quicker from the air almost half a mile sooner! This gives them some time to divert away from the horse and avoid flying directly over them. Sadly many riders do ride out just in dark colours and some never feel the need to pop some hi-viz on….but is it really worth it? Is it because the colour is too much and it does not match your stylish jods or hi fashion gilet – who knows? There is no law to make a horse rider wear hi-viz which perhaps would make a rider think twice if there was a chance of being reported or fined. So please if you are lacking in the hi-viz department, a fluorescent tabard is only a few pounds. That little outlay could save you and your horse’s life…. For more information please visit: British Horse Society

Stable Yard Safety

For someone that stood on a shavings fork the other day, with it resulting by a smack in the face by the handle, I have felt compelled to write an article all about safety in the stable yard. You may think accidents only occur when a horse or pony is being ridden, but many accidents happen in the stable and the yard. Some horses (and owners!) do seem to be accident prone, but to minimise any incidents, some basic precautions can be taken into account: HORSES ON THE YARD Always ensure that when you are working with your horse in the yard that they are tied up securely. In my opinion, I always tie my horse to some baling twine that is on a metal ring or bar so in the event of any spooking, he can break away easily without causing further damage. Sometimes we have to think of horse safety against people safety too. There may be situations however where it is safer to tie to something solid, rather than have the horse break away and bolt into a crowd of people or a busy road. Common sense prevails, so use it to the situation you are in with your horse. Make sure all entry and exits to the yard are limited by gates which should always be closed when not in use. This will stop any loose horse on the yard is trapped in a “safe” environment. Stable doors should also be fastened securely with horse-proof locks and areas that horses cannot hurt themselves on any obstructions that are in the way. STABLES Make sure stables and all yard buildings are well maintained. If they are then they will be a safe and secure for you and your horse. Repairs should be done promptly and correctly. Half done or sub standard repairs can present dangers to you and your horses. Make sure your horse’s box is clear of any sharp edges and other hazards that your horse could harm himself on. Never use glass in windows of a stable. Ideally, use metal grill or bars for airflow which can be used with plastic sliding window for bad weather. Ensure all the bolts on the stable door are in good working order and fix kick bolts as a necessity to the bottom of stable doors, as some horses can be Houdini’s! YARD AREA Make sure there is also adequate drainage on the yard which minimises surface water. This is especially essential in the winter to prevent ice forming. In very cold weather, think carefully when emptying a water bucket which would then freeze over, turning the yard into an ice skating rink! Keep a supply of rock salt at close hand which is brilliant for unfreezing treacherous surfaces. Not only could your horse slip and fall but you could easily too! Always make sure the yard is clean and tidy. Tools not in use should be stored somewhere where horses cannot get to. Never leave tools in your horse’s box with him or her in there, even for just a few minutes. Clean away rubbish too and having a dustbin in the tack room is essential. Make sure the tack room is kept tidy and respect each other’s tack and belongings. With tack thefts on the rise, ensure you have this safely locked with a lock and key and if finances stretch to it – have it alarmed. Do you know how safe the electrics are in your yard? Make sure they are waterproof electrical installations and lighting circuits which are necessary, especially in stables and barn areas. Ideally all electrical work and installations should be checked by a qualified electrician every 3 – 5 years. FIRE – BE AWARE OF FIRE SAFETY IN YOUR YARD For the sake of a few pounds, install some smoke detectors alarms in the stable and barn area, and have a fire extinguisher in the tack room. All yard exits should be free from obstructions so that horses can be led to safety quickly and the fire service can get in. Ideally, horses should not be in stables near the hay and straw storage. In keeping with having the yard tidy, make sure that all waste hay and straw are always swept away. I once read about a yard fire that was started by the farrier visiting and a spark ignited hay that was not swept away, so keep it clean! Make sure head collars and lead ropes are close to the stabled horses so that they can be evacuated to safety in case of a fire. For more information about Fire Safety In Stables then you find this HERE  I know this may all seem common sense and some procedures may be difficult to implement but just a gentle reminder about what can happen is good for us all. Whilst researching this, I especially had not thought about the issues of fire in the yard, so I will be making a couple of purchases – just to be on the SAFE SIDE! Written by Samantha Hobden owner of Haynet  Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Clipping ‘eck, It’s That Time Of Year Again

Among the tack rooms and hay barns on most horse yards in October is the hairy subject of clipping horses. The start to this autumn has been unseasonably mild but coats are starting to get woolly which means sweaty horses when you return from a hack out or the school. Each year the British weather plays games, especially through the winter which can change in a flash from tropical afternoons to ice age mornings. This plays havoc with us horse owners guessing what gram of rug should we be covering our furry or clipped out equines. So what clip do you give your horse? It generally comes down to their workload and environment and what type of horse you have. If your horse or pony has a very heavy winter coat and sweats heavily from exercise then you may consider a hunter or full clip. This clip will make them easier to groom and keep clean, however a clipped horse is more vulnerable to the cold and wet so you will have to think about stabling and rugging your horse which gives you extra financial and time costs. When deciding what clip to choose, remember you can always take a little more of their hair off, but it can’t be put back on! If you are undecided then go for the lightest clip first and see how the horse is with sweating after exercise. If they are sweating profusely then get the clippers out again. Some horses manage to have just one clip through the winter, others may need to be clipped two or three times if they have a fast growing coat! Here are the most common clips on horses that are used in the UK:   UNDERBELLY AND NECK CLIP (OR KNOWN AS “BIB”) This is a good clip for horses that are used for light work or ones that live out during the winter months. To give more protection through the winter months, the head, topside of the neck, body and legs are left on so you will still be able to turn your horse out. CHASER  (OR LOW TRACE) CLIP This is another good clip for horses that are in light work. With this clip your horse will not get too hot and sweaty when exercising but you can still turn out your horse through winter but they will need to be rugged.  This is similar to the belly clip but with all of the belly removed, between the forelegs and the upper part of the hind legs. Rugging is needed for turnout. TRACE CLIP This clip is suitable for horses in light to medium work. It is very similar to the chaser clip just receding further up the horse to remove more off the coat in a line. This clip can have the head clipped off too but if your horse is not keen on this then a compromise is to do a high trace just up the neck and under the head. Again with this clip, rugs will be needed for turnout through the winter months. BLANKET CLIP The blanket clip is mainly used for horses in regular work to reduce losing condition through sweating. The coat is completely removed from the head, neck and flanks leaving only the legs and an area over the back that looks like a small blanket. Again rugging is essential for extra protection and warmth.   HUNTER CLIP This is used for horses that are in hard regular exercise such as hunting. The horse looks very smart with all the coat taken off apart from the legs, saddle patch and an inverted V above the tail. Essential rugging is needed and also use an exercise rug when exercising outside. FULL CLIP So this is the extreme of all the clips where there coat is fully removed again with an inverted V above the tail. This requires rugging at all times throughout the winter and the use of bandages to ensure the horse is kept warm. Getting straight lines is the trickiest of jobs when clipping, especially with the bib, trace, blanket and hunter clips. Clipping can be great fun, especially with a well-behaved horse so if trying for a first time make sure you have an experienced friend and a valuable second pair of eyes to help you. Try test patches first to get to grips with the clippers. Make sure your horse is a clean and dry as you can get them, giving them a thorough groom and if conditions allow then bathe them. Mark out your lines with chalk before letting loose with the clippers on their coats. Please ensure your blades are sharp and well maintained. Clipping with blunt blades is not fun for you or especially for your horse!  The clippers must always run flat over the coat and always go against the direction that the hair grows in. Do not use them at an angle or apply too much pressure as this results in an untidy finish and tramlines. If your horse is very nervous about clipping then this is time to call in an expert. They will be used to clipping around nervous horses and they will use their expertise to make the job as easier for the horse and do it as quickly as possible. Clippers come in all shapes and sizes to suit the amount of work you will be doing with them. Make sure your clippers are well looked after, cleaned and brushed free of hair after each use. Try and use some overalls when clipping your horse because their hair gets everywhere. That itchy feeling when you have finished clipping is one every horse owner knows! So happy clipping and remember to watch those lines…. by Samantha Hobden of www.hay-net.co.uk Photo credit: Shutterstock

Elizabeth Taylor and “The Pie”

In many ways, it was a horse who first brought an exquisite 11-year-old actress named Elizabeth Taylor to the public’s attention, propelling her into stardom and forever changing her life. In her first starring role, as Velvet Brown in the 1944 film National Velvet, the young girl whose violet eyes would entrance millions for decades to come climbed aboard a chestnut Thoroughbred horse named The Pie (for his piebald color). Velvet, the heroine from the 1935 novel by Enid Bagnold, eventually rides to victory in England’s greatest racing event, the Grand National Steeplechase. And Elizabeth Taylor rode into our hearts. Her Love Of Horses It was the horse who brought her to our attention, and it was Taylor who brought King Charles to the attention of Hollywood. She met the show hunter and jumper, who was trained by world-famous horseman Egon Merz, at the Riviera Country Club in West Los Angeles when the owner offered to let Taylor ride him. The young actress’s fondness for the horse eventually got King Charles (sometimes erroneously identified as the grandson of Man O’ War) a part in the classic. A girl and her horse was a time-honoured convention even then, but the story’s focus on the power of the animal-human bond in National Velvet was decades ahead of its time, as was its storyline of an ordinary young girl whose dedication allowed her to accomplish an extraordinary feat. The experience of making the film with the horse would forever affect Taylor, well beyond the permanent injury to her back suffered in a fall. “The relationship between King Charles, the horse’s real name, and me was so special,” Taylor told Cowboys & Indians through her spokesperson, before her death at The Elizabeth Taylor HIV/AIDS Foundation. “He was given to me on the last day of shooting and it is a memory that I cherish. There never was a sweeter, more noble animal, and caring for him was a great source of responsibility and happiness. We trusted each other. We loved each other. He lived at stables in Pacific Palisades, California, and I rode and visited him whenever I could. Every little girl deserves the kind of miracle experience that I enjoyed while doing National Velvet and bonding with that magnificent soul. My heart still swells whenever I think of him, and I still do — often.” Famous Quote And so do millions who have been touched by the book and the movie — and the horse — that made Elizabeth Taylor famous. And in her words “Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses.”  IMAGE/ARTICLE CREDIT: Cowboys & Indians Wikimedia Commons National Velvet 1944 

The Golden Light Of Hope For Arthritic Horses

A few summers ago, I was faced with a diagnosis of degenerative arthritis in my then, very lame and stiff veteran 17.2 Warmblood. His early years as a Grade B showjumper had come back to haunt him, with his pasterns and cannon bones now full of arthritis. The prognosis wasn’t great as the obvious advice of being turned out 24/7 to keep him mobile, was going to be pretty impractical through the winter with him swelling at the sight of a closed stable door. With mud fever always getting a grip of my delicate equine, how was I going to keep him moving to ease his stiff and arthritic joints through the winter? Daily bute was prescribed which did not agree with him at all. He just stood pretty motionless at the gate with his head held low. I knew instantly that this was not going to be the answer, and took him off the drug. After a lengthy chat with my vet, steroid injections were also ruled out with her view of limited success with his problems and also the costs involved. So what was the answer? I have to be honest; I did have the pragmatic chat with my vet about his future. She had treated him for many years and knew well of the merry go round of treatment of his chronic mud fever equalling a very swollen horse being in on box rest to cure the muddy scabs. If I could have sent him off to retire to Spain and graze in the sun for the winter, it would have been an option! With his previous many ailments including terrible sarcoids and the use of modern medical methods, I turned to the internet and books to source a more natural form of healing. In the past, I had success with the use of homoeopathy which cleared my horse’s sarcoids and *touching wood* have never returned.  I had seen a post on on the internet that was quizzing the use of turmeric in horses, especially for its anti-inflammatory properties in the use of treating arthritis. My only experience of using turmeric was chucking it in my homemade chicken korma…so how was this powerful, pungent and colourful herb going to help my horse? Turmeric comes from a plant in the ginger family and is native to India, where it has been used in medicine and food preparation for thousands of years.  The underground bulbs of the turmeric plant are harvested, dried, and ground into a yellow-orange powder.  The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin and this is the important component of the herb in treating a variety of conditions, especially arthritis. The more I researched, the more success stories I was reading in treating stiff, lame and arthritic horses. Many saw amazing results within days from feeding the paste to their horses. Now I say paste, there is a recipe in order to feed turmeric to horses or any animal or human who want the healing properties of this “spice”. You must use the turmeric powder with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. The pepper is vital in the absorption of the turmeric into the bodies system. I started feeding my horse around half a teaspoon a day and gradually building it up to a hefty heaped tablespoon of turmeric, with a good dash of oil and around ten grinds of black pepper. So did it work? Yes, it definitely worked! It has worked beyond belief as far as I am concerned! As I had read within days, the transformation of my horse was just unbelievable. He seemed at first perky, springy and much happier. He started carting around the field playing and when back in the saddle his walking and trotting was completely different. Full of body, life and enthusiasm! He has now been on turmeric for about nine months now and is a very healthy, fit and well-looking horse who is enjoying life again, and I believe pain-free. I have wanted to write this post for so long. After bumping into a friend recently who had been battling arthritis with her ageing mare, has made me put “pen to paper”. I told her of my success many months ago with my horse being fed turmeric. After steroid injections not working, she decided to put her mare on turmeric a few weeks ago. She told me the change in her mare was so lovely to see, she was now enthusiastic and supple when riding out or playing the field. So if you are finding your horses arthritis a bit of a battle, why not give turmeric a go? It’s natural and works by significantly reducing the inflammatory pathways in the body. Unlike bute and most other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories which are often given to horses, turmeric works as an inhibitor and does not damage the lining of the stomach. So this wonderful spice has been the golden light of healing for my horse. He is now in his twenty second year and looks better than ever. There was a time that summer when I thought it may be his last. Thankfully, that thought is very far away now. Precautions: This article is an advisory post only. Although turmeric is widely known for its safety, there are a few factors to consider.  Turmeric should not be fed in combination with blood thinning medications (or before surgery), ulcer medications, or NSAIDs (such as bute).  It is solely your own responsibility when feeding natural supplements to animals. If you are giving any other type of drug or medication to your horse, please check with your vet to make sure it is still safe to feed turmeric.  For testimonials and feeding advice please visit the Facebook page: Turmeric User Group by Samantha Hobden www.hay-net.co.uk

Get On With It! How To Keep Yourself Motivated To Ride

I’d love to ride today – but I don’t have the time. Just looking at that sentence saddens me. What has happened to the person who as a child spent every spare moment looking for horses just to stroke over field gates – and the person who as a horse owner got up at 4am in the summer to ride before starting a 6am shift at work? Somehow all of that drive and love of riding has evaporated… but why? Owning horses and not riding is sheer madness. It costs an enormous amount of money to keep a horse, livery, the vet, farrier, and all the other miscellaneous costs are too much not to taking full advantage of being able to ride. Sometimes though it just all seems too much trouble. The thought of getting up at 5am to muck out on a freezing cold morning or riding a horse that is going to misbehave is just not worth the effort. So what is the secret to staying motivated when it’s too cold, too expensive, too hard? The secret, like with anything else that requires motivation is self-discipline. If you lack self-discipline, you may find yourself procrastinating, once this horrible little ball starts rolling you develop all kinds of ingrained and very unhelpful habits and your motivation goes out of the window. Without self-discipline our lives would be chaos – think of all of the things you have to do on a daily or weekly basis just to keep your life running smoothly – work, buying food, personal hygiene, even going to bed in time to get enough sleep to get up the next morning all require a certain amount of discipline. It is that discipline that is essential when you need to stay motivated. In order to stay motivated it is important to bear in mind the pay off from being disciplined. Why get up at 5 to muck out – so you can ride later in the day. Why ride at all – so that you can achieve your horse dreams or just relax and have some ‘downtime.’ It’s important to bear in mind the benefits of riding – healthy exercise, time to free your mind and escape the stress and worries of the day. If you are working towards a competition and find that you are losing your motivation, which is easy if things aren’t going to plan – take a step back. You may need to make smaller steps towards your goal. An important thing to remember is that your mind can turn itself against you! You can easily let ‘your self’ talk your self out of jumping, competing even riding. Use visualization to see yourself succeeding and read inspirational books and spend time with good trainers rather than those who will happily talk you out of riding “Oh it’s too cold today, let’s sit in the tack room and drink coffee.” Blogging helps!  You can chart your goals and see the steps you are taking – and possibly identify if there are reasons why you are losing your motivation, fears that are making you procrastinate. Sometimes you need to be very honest with yourself and delve into the reasons why you aren’t riding. Is your horse too much for you and the fear of riding is making you procrastinate. Possibly your horse is too slow or quiet and the lack of challenge is making you bored with riding. Maybe you are having schooling problems that are making you put off riding. Occasionally, a relaxing hack is in order, just to clear the air between you and your horse. But if you really can’t be bothered with riding, or are just not riding enough, examine why. But don’t make excuses to yourself. No one has enough time to ride if you have a full time job, or a really hectic lifestyle. After an eight to ten hour day including your commute time, is there really enough energy left in you to ride. There is if you really want to. You started riding for a reason. You longed to own a horse for a reason. You went without holidays and luxuries to keep you horse for a reason. Did that reason go away? If it has then maybe it’s time to call it a day. There are easier ways to spend your hard earned money. Somehow I doubt that reason has gone away. It’s just that life has got in the way. The New Year is upon us which means only a couple of gutsy months of winter and then we head towards spring. Think of riding out, with the flowers in bloom and the sun on you and your horses back to keep you motivated. With any challenge, the secret to horse riding success is to invest as much time in your mental as in your physical training. Written By Jacqui Broderick of LAVENDER AND WHITE EQUESTRIAN PUBLISHING which offers top quality equestrian content for the reader right across the board from contemporary fiction to the very best in expert advice from our non-fiction writers.  

Dealing With Loading Problems

NO! Thank you! Your horse has always loaded easily into the lorry or trailer and suddenly he changes his mind. What has gone wrong? Quote “ if your horse suddenly refuses to load into the trailer, or lorry, when he always has before…perhaps he is trying to tell you something” If only they could talk! Wouldn’t our lives as horse owners and riders be so much easier… and of course wouldn’t life be easier for our horses? Unfortunately, they can’t and so the only way a horse has to communicate with us is by his behaviour. So, if your horse suddenly refuses to load into the trailer, or lorry, when he always has before…perhaps he is trying to tell you something, either about your driving, the safety of the trailer, his travelling companions… a myriad of problems. It is up to you to work out what is wrong and try to put it right. Keen huntsman Bill Carey loved his sport and would travel miles, towing his horse in a trailer, in order to fox hunt. Unfortunately, Bill was also fond of the after hunt fun in the bar. One night, after travelling a long distance to a hunt, then riding all day, he loaded the horse into the trailer and vanished into the pub, for many hours, leaving the horse in the trailer, cold, stiff and undoubtedly hungry and tired. It was no wonder, then that the horse refused to load into the trailer again. I hope that this case is extreme, but the principles are the same. If the horse has had an unpleasant experience in the trailer, he is likely to give you problems loading the next time. It only takes one bad journey to put a horse off travelling and loading in a trailer especially if the last time he was in the trailer he had a bad experience. Something as simple as driving over a rough, potholed road, or over a rough showground, or a harsh braking which throws him against the front partition can be enough to put him off loading into the trailer again. If you have to travel over rough areas, drive extremely slowly to minimize the way the horse is jolted around, or even consider unloading him if you are at a show and leading him to your designated parking place. Think about the noise level inside the trailer as this may upset the horse. Haynets banging on the outside or overhanging branches catching against the side can be frightening to nervous travellers. Although many horses will travel well if there is another horse with them, especially if there is a confident horse who may reassure a nervous one. However, sometimes horses can become tense, or irritable in a confined space and may even attack others over the partition. A nasty experience of this type will definitely put a horse off loading into a trailer again. Apart from bullying from another horse, there are other factors which can make him unwilling to go into the trailer again. He may feel claustrophobic in the tight space. Make sure that the trailer has plenty of head room and length for the size of your horse. Make sure that the lead rope you tie him with is neither too short so he can’t use his neck to balance himself, or too long that he can get his head under the partition. Equally, travel boots and bandages can become loose and cause panic, or he may just not like the feel of them. A panicking or kicking horse can quickly cause untold devastation and damage to a trailer and to themselves. Trailers, while appearing sturdy are very lightweight and a determined enough horse could kick through it fairly easily, certainly causing a nasty injury to themselves in the process. Dorothy Field’s young stallion became upset in a trailer and began to panic, eventually pushing his head through the roof and severing his jugular vein. The horse may become difficult to load if he associates the trailer with unpleasant experiences after he has travelled. Spending long days at a show, working hard, or standing for hours tied up in the trailer, getting too hot, cold, hungry or thirsty will not encourage the horse to want to load the next time you want to travel. Horses are clever, folklore is filled with tales of horses who ‘learn’ to be lame as they soon realise that if they limp they will quickly head back to their stables and a rest. The same follows for loading into a trailer. A horse will soon realise that going into the trailer at home equals a long day out, whereas they will undoubtedly be eager to get into the trailer quickly to come home again! It is a good idea to use your trailer for short hacks, perhaps a nice gentle ride through the forest, or a splash in the sea so that he doesn’t associate the trailer merely with hard work. Written By Jacqui Broderick from Lavender and White Publishing Image Credit: Shutterstock

Edgar Degas – Painter of Racehorses

Edgar Degas (19 July 1834 – 27 September 1917)  was an acclaimed painter, printmaker, sculpture and an early pioneer of Impressionism. Today he is best known for his paintings of ballet dancers and racehorses. His early paintings showed very traditional subjects, but Degas was strongly influenced by his friend Edouard Manet to paint from life. Like Manet, Degas liked painting people and moving subjects rather than landscapes. From 1861, he started to be interested in horse races as his painting subject. At the Longchamp racecourse field (which had just opened) Degas was often found studying the animation of the jockeys as they took part in the races. Many of his painting depicted the jockeys on their horses, just starting the race or coming back from the field with the crowds in the grandstand. These race horsing pictures are timeless and still, sit among modern art today with ease. Degas’ father died in 1874, leaving large debts to pay off. Degas was forced to rely on his paintings to earn money. To help raise his profile, he organised the first exhibition of Impressionism with Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.They collaborated together many times but did not see eye to eye. Degas often created work in his studio using models, which alienated him from other Impressionists who preferred painting from real life. In the 1880s, an eye infection weakened Degas’ sight. He was forced to focus increasingly on sculpture over painting. His sculptures were as ground-breaking as his paintings. He painted them in flesh colours and dressed in them real clothes with wigs of human hair so that they looked like real people. The majority of his sculptures were only exhibited until after he died. For more information: https://www.edgar-degas.org/ Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

It’s Actually OK Not To Have Riding Ambition!

Throughout the month of August, I posted through the #HorseBloggers channel a top tip every day in keeping topics flowing when it comes to blogging about all things equine. I have decided to write thirty one posts, each taking on board the tips that I recommended. So my third post is all about my horse riding goals and ambition or actually…. the distinct lack of it! So what are my horse riding ambitions and goals? Actually, I have none! See, I have now said it…. Have you gasped in shock or have you completely agreed and felt relief that actually a fellow horse rider is admitting that you only want to enjoy your horse in your own way? Don’t get me wrong, I have tried to have some competitive ambition when it came to getting into the saddle, but I found it all a stressful affair. My lovely Belgium Warmblood that had finished his showjumping days, came to me to have a quieter life which I have totally given him over the last thirteen years. I had a horse that could potentially put in a beautiful dressage test, but I could never find those buttons. Lessons were one step forward or six steps back. I sometimes had moments of greatness in collecting him in the arena but they were soon lost. I used to get talked into competing locally which was put to me as low key dressage and it will be fun. Yes, fun! It would turn my stomach to knots and I wouldn’t sleep for days on end trying to remember where to start the 20m circle in canter and would I be able to keep him in canter! I used to finish the test sweaty and red faced through sheer stress and exhaustion. If I can redeem myself throughout this I never came last which was something. I think the most I ever achieved was seventh out of around sixteen horses which was ok. My instructor used to say that’s great and we can work on this and get you those rosettes. Actually, I wasn’t bothered about the rosettes or trying to come third…. As a child, I used to love riding in small gymkhanas at my riding school and used to sometimes come first as well as last! Personally, it does not bother me coming last and that actually is ok. As they say “its the taking part that counts”. We live in such a competitive world where you are expected to be at the top of your game shrouded with huge ambition and success. We all have some natural ambition and it is up to you where you harness it, whether that be competing in eventing and working your way up or actually just hacking out your horse and enjoying the experience of just… horse riding. Many years back I wrote about being just a happy hacker and how sometimes you can feel a little unaccepted in the equestrian world because you enjoy only riding out with your horse. With our roads and lanes getting busier and our bridleways becoming fewer, riding out a horse can be a real hazardous experience. When I have hacked out my horse and had a screeching lorry coming inches towards me around the corner or pass a tractor hedgecutting, those are real hurdles to overcome and to survive these are an achievement. Luckily my horse in his advancing years is very accepting of these hazards but the thought of taking out a youngster and coming across these dangerous situations takes actually some ambition! If you love getting out in the dressage arena or flying around the cross country course, then this is brilliant and we need to embrace this ambition to keep our equestrian sport alive. If you just love tacking up and riding out with your horse or pony, going on a sponsored ride or just having some occasional lessons, then this is brilliant too. Riding horses and enjoying them can be a real goal, especially if you haven’t ridden much before. So make your riding ambitions what you want them to be and be proud of whatever you achieve, whether that is coming first or last in a hunter trial or simply hacking out on your own through open fields and countryside! Written by Samantha Hobden Image Credit: Zeb and me with sheer relief that we have actually come out alive of a dressage test! 

One Hand On The Reins And One Hand On The Cradle

It seems on the outside a very easy return for some high profile equestrian competitor mums that seem to jump back in the saddle with their new babies or toddlers in tow. However, how difficult is it really to juggle motherhood with an equestrian career or hobby? How does the “every day” day rider manage being a mum and a horse rider too? Many professional horse riding mums will no doubt have a foolproof support network behind them enabling them to ride, school and maintain their horses and career. It may be like them you are lucky enough to have an equestrian family who wholeheartedly supports your hobby, looking after the next generation of horse riders while you gallop off for an afternoon’s ride. I have read many blog posts over the past few years where new mums have had to make a heartbreaking decision whether to carry on with horse ownership or simply put their beloved hobby on hold while motherhood takes over. If you decide to battle on with having a horse then the so called “juggling act” becomes an impressive display from La Cirque du Soleil! Having horses is exhausting at the best of times and also a huge financial commitment. Factor a baby in the mix and any normal person would question why you would have a horse in your life! Well, it’s because we love them and to give up on our horses would be the absolute last resort. So what is the answer? What if you had to fit in working as well? It would all seem an absolute impossibility, surely? These mums are out there and struggling to keep all the juggling balls in the air! Trying to beg, borrow and steal childcare becomes an art and craft. When a few hours has been given then it’s a frantic dash to the yard, muck out, groom and then off on a high speed hack that Frankel would have been proud of…To get some equestrian help could be the answer but it can be difficult to try and find someone trustworthy and reliable to share your horse in time and money. I decided to enter horse ownership when my boys were six and seven. Sadly I seem to be the only member of my family with the equine gene, with most of my family not sharing in my passion. This meant that I was on my own in pursuing this hobby and taking up the reins.  It was a huge decision which I did not make lightly as I knew the arrival of my horse would make a massive impact on our family life. How was I going to fit in this 17.2 money machine and time taker into our already hectic routine? With two small boys and a business to run, I look back now and I must have been mad. I managed it but only just, with Olympic sprints to the yard after work to muck out before rushing back to put a thrown together dinner on the table. My boys (who did not share my equestrian enthusiasm) spent many hours in the car parked at the yard when it was pouring down with rain in the holidays. The little money I had left was spent on magazines and games to entertain them and to stop their moans that they were, yet again, at the stables… I did feel guilty about it, especially exhausting babysitting favours when I had to sort out childcare in order to work or ride my horse. I also felt guilty about the amount of money that was spent on my hobby. It wasn’t just only the weekly requirements of hay, feed and livery it was also unexpected vets bills, rugs that needed replacing or saddles that needed reflocking…. Was I being selfish? That was a question that I did ask myself and I imagine every horse owner mother struggles with. But was it “the battle of the sexes” question, did the husbands or partners give up their hobby when the babies arrive? I imagine most did not. Controversial as it sounds, most women are expected to almost give up their identity when becoming a mother. You become “Ben’s mum or Molly’s mum“ losing some of your individuality. By having some time away from motherhood and work doing the hobby that you love, works wonders psychologically for any frazzled mother. So us everyday horse owners who happen to be mothers too will battle on with our guilty pleasure. The years do fly by very quickly and my guilt has passed. My boys are now adults enjoying their own hobbies. They sometimes ask after my horse, but it’s a rare occasion. I now have time to enjoy my hobby without syncing diaries with the school, work or my boy’s hectic social life. I have no regrets about fitting my horse into our family life. It has been extremely tough but worth it. You can continue to be a mother while being a horse owner too; it just needs some clever time and financial management and perhaps a crèche being opened at your local yard! by Samantha Hobden https://www.hay-net.co.uk   Image Credit: Shutterstock

Police Horses

If a horse could have a mission statement it would be ‘Act first, think later.’ Riding a fresh horse down a road in a breeze, or move too quickly when handling your horse and you will understand that statement perfectly. For thousands of years, the horse’s greatest protection has been his ability to move out of the way of danger – and quickly. Anyone who has spent any time around horses cannot fail to be awed by the calm behaviour of the fabulous animals who patrol our city streets. Mounted police are employed in crowd control because of their mobile mass and height advantage and increasingly for crime prevention and high visibility policing roles. The added height and visibility that the horses give their riders allow officers to observe a wider area, but it also allows people to see and fine the officers when needed, which helps deter crime. Some mounted police units are trained in search and rescue due to the horse’s ability to travel where vehicles cannot. Mounted police are used most often seen at football matches, although they are also a common sight on the streets of many towns and cities as a visible police presence and crime deterrent during the day and night.   The history of the mounted police force in England The use of horses by the police force goes back to the eighteenth century – to the very roots of police work in London. Their history began in 1760 when Sir John Fielding, the Bow Street magistrate, developed a plan for mounted patrols to deal with the plague of highwaymen infesting the metropolitan area’s turnpikes. The plan was so successful that the original Horse Patrol of eight men was strengthened to more than 50 in 1805. The Bow Street Horse Patrol could then provide protection on all main roads within 20 miles of Charing Cross. Their scarlet waistcoats, blue greatcoats and trousers and black leather hats and stocks, were the first uniform issued to any police force in the world. With the coming of the railways, the need for Mounted Bow Street officers to protect travellers against the depredations of the highwayman on the roads ceased. Around this time rural unrest and poverty were leading to more and more livestock thefts in the countryside and the men and their horses were given this task. These patrols were looked on as so dangerous that the Officers carried a revolver and sword. The modern day organisation of today’s Mounted Branch began in 1919 when Lt Col Laurie, the ex-Commanding officer of the Royal Scots Grey Regiment, took up the appointment of Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police. One of his responsibilities was to reorganise the Mounted Branch. It was at his instigation that the old Remount Depot at Adam and Eve Mews in Kensington was closed and a new Training Establishment was built at Imber Court in Thames Ditton. It was here that the new Mounted Branch was to emerge, trained in riding and horse management with new crowd control tactics that still largely hold to this day. Police officers from all over the world have been trained here along with the regular intake of eager recruits. It was here in 1971 that WPCs Margaret Goodacre and Ann McPherson were to make history as the first women police officers to join the Mounted Branch. Imber Court today has facilities for the training of both horses and officers. It also houses a small museum documenting the development of Mounted Police and is the administrative centre for the Mounted Branch.   The horses and their tack For the most part, the life of a police horse is pretty good. However, a police horse must have a foundation that not only allows his human partner to enforce the law but is a true partner in that process. Whether the horse needs to hold an excited crowd or gallop down the street after a criminal. He must be responsive to his rider and desensitized against the environment around him. Police horses with their rider’s permission, push against people, normally horses are trained horses to give way to us, but these horses must be able to push against people when told that is their duty. Most of the horses use originate from Ireland and are chosen from a selection of sources that know the requirements of the Police force. A half or three-quarter bred animal has been found to be best suited to police work, combining the spirit of a Thoroughbred with the strength and stability of the Draught. The training at Imber Court is individualized for each horse, and usually lasts six months, although it can take up to two years to completely desensitise a young horse. Tack used by mounted police is similar to standard riding tack, with adaptations for police use. Synthetic saddles are often favoured over those made of natural leather to reduce weight. This is important both because of long riding hours and because police officers must carry numerous articles of personal equipment. High-traction horseshoes made of speciality metals or fitted with rubber soles are typically used in urban areas in place of standard steel horseshoes, which are prone to slip on pavement. Rubber soled shoes also produce less noise than steel shoes and jar the hoof less. Horses working in riot control wear facial armour, made of Perspex so that the animals can still see. The officers themselves are often equipped with especially long wooden or polycarbonate batons for use on horseback, as standard patrol batons would have insufficient length to strike individuals at ground level.   Training Specific objectives of training include creating a generally user-friendly horse, free of any unsafe behaviours (barging, bolting, striking, kicking, and biting). He should be fully experienced and acclimated to specific environments and situations related to police work, and he should be bold and accepting of novel and/or aversive stimuli and situations, even those considered challenging for trained horses. These horses should be able to work alone with one rider or handler, and work with a team involving other horses and handlers and/or colleagues with bicycles, motorcycles, emergency vehicles, or police dogs.   Mounted Police Forces around the world New South Wales Mounted Police The New South Wales Mounted Police Unit is a mounted section of the New South Wales Police Force, and the oldest continuous mounted group in the world. Currently, they have a strength of 36 officers and around 38 mounts and their duties include traffic and crowd management, patrols, and ceremonial protocol duties.   Royal Canadian Mounted Police A well-known mounted police force is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), although horses are no longer in use operationally. However, horses are still used in the Musical Ride as well as by several provincial and municipal police detachments.   Royal Oman Police The Royal Oman Police have both horse and camel mounted troopers.   US Border Patrol The United States Border Patrol had 200 horses in 2005. Most of these are employed along the U.S.-Mexico border. In Arizona, these animals are fed special processed feed pellets so that their wastes do not spread non-native plants in the national parks and wildlife areas they patrol.  The Houston, Texas Police Department’s Mounted Patrol Unit has become increasingly well-known due to the decision to, over time, remove the shoes of all its mounted horses and embrace the concept of naturalizing their horses’ diet and care in addition to riding them barefoot.   United States cities Many cities in the United States have mounted units, with New York having one of the largest with 79 officers and 60 horses, but numerous mounted units in cities around the United States were disbanded or downsized in the 2010s. For example, units in Philadelphia, Boston and San Diego were disbanded by 2011, while New York City’s mounted unit was reduced considerably over the last decade with 79 police officers and 60 horses in 2011 – down from the 130 officers and 125 horses it had before the downsizing.   Police horses are today’s true working horses, on duty for the benefit of society, as well as for public relations. They work in all seasons, in all weather, and in all types of environments, from school visits to riots at sporting and political events.

Riding In An Era Gone By

I won’t divulge my age on paper but I grew up in what is now a nostalgic time when learning to ride horses and ponies. Through the 1970’s and 1980’s, before health and safety had gone mad, riding was fun and carefree in my opinion. I started to ride at my local riding school back in the seventies which would now be reminiscent of a Thelwell piece of artwork. It was a bit of a scruffy farm with broken wheelbarrows, old tractors and guttering swinging in the wind type of riding school. We would turn up in our plastic wellies and second hand riding hats longing to see which pony would be given to us to endure the mad half an hour belting round the indoor school. The indoor school would be a loose term used for it as it was just a large corrugated shed that would creak and groan in the wind together with a mud floor. There would be about eight of us in the lesson and my memories of the half an hour was organised but fun chaos. I was given the same pony nearly every week, and I would spend at least some part of the lesson, hanging in his mane or face down in the mud. No one worried whether I was hurt, in fact my mum would just drop me off and let me get on with it! In those days, there wasn’t a mere mention of insurance, compensation or signing a long solicited letter in order to ride. You just turned up to ride and if you fell off, you just picked yourself up, dusted yourself off and got back on. Compensation culture is killing the everyday riding school. These days’ attitudes have changed to compensation and many feel it is their right to receive payments for injured legs or a bruised shoulder. This unfortunately, hikes the prices in insurance premiums which the every day riding school of today is struggling to pay. Many are closing down because of this. If you choose to do any sport, especially horse riding you should accept that if you get hurt that is part of the hobby. I remember we used to hack out around the fields of the farm and we would all be clinging on for dear life bombing up and down the hedgerows. Sometimes there were falls that would result in injuries and broken bones but no one worried about it. It was part of horse riding after all. I know that many riding schools now make the rider sign a disclaimer making them responsible for their own injuries, which I think is the only way a riding school today can avoid this compensation worry. When we were riding over thirty years ago, it wouldn’t have even entered our heads to “sue” the riding school if we fell off and were hurt. Riding schools have been the backbone of equestrianism, providing jockeys, equestrian experts and riders of all spheres. Those carefree horse riding years in the sixties and seventies have produced top riders of today such as Mary King, William Fox-Pitt, Pippa Funnell, The Whitakers and many more. I worry that in the future, this country will be struggling to provide riders at all levels if the starting point of using a riding school is taken away. Now with modern age indulging in Health and Safety and No Win No Fee Claims, it is so nice to look back to these days and reminisce about Follyfoot, Black Beauty and Flambards. I don’t know about you, but those days I miss… Written by Samantha Hobden

Handling a Foal

Early handling of the foal is essential to produce a well mannered horse. Time spent getting the foal used to being stroked all over and having its head and legs touched will pay off in the long run. Teach to foal to pick up its feet, holding them up for short periods of time at first in preparation for farrier’s attention. The foal has no reason to be afraid of you, but it is essential for later handling, to keep it that way. Always be calm, firm and gentle. Teaching the Foal to Lead It is good practice for the foal to learn to lead, rather than to run loose behind the mare. It is easy to teach a foal to lead by using a soft rope around his neck and by putting a hand on his quarters to help to encourage the foal to move forwards. When the foal is about a month old it is a good idea to fit a foal slip and to teach it to lead properly. Never leave the foal slip on while the foal is in the field as foals are extremely curious and could get caught somewhere no matter how cautious you are about safety. When leading always loop the lead rope through the foal slip rather than attach it, foals will often play up and could pull away from the leader. At least if the lead rope is free it will fall off and not frighten the foal by dangling around its legs, or become caught up somewhere. The foal should be taught to lead, striding freely beside you, not rushing off in front or pulling back. If it is necessary to catch the foal never try to make a grab for its head, as this will only lead to head shyness later on, rather start by scratching the foal’s rump and gradually work your way towards his head. Teaching Good Habits Foals, especially colts can be quite obnoxious and if left unchecked can become quite dangerous. Any naughty habits must be sharply discouraged, especially nipping and kicking. Whilst everyone in the family will be delighted by the new arrival it is important to remember that the foal is not a cuddly toy and should never be treated that way. Over petting the foal and feeding it titbits will cause problems in later life. A young horse that has no respect can be difficult to train when the time comes to break him in. However, it is equally important that the youngster is not afraid of you, as this causes a different set of problems. With commonsense, it should be easy for anyone to produce a well mannered and safe young horse or pony that will be a pleasure to own. Written By Jacqui Broderick from Lavender and White Publishing Image Credit: Pixabay

Don’t Over Think: Overcoming Horse Riding Nerves

The older I get the harder it becomes to control my nerves – while I’m not afraid of riding – in any situation – I am aware, constantly of everything that could go wrong. This I feel stems from a lifetime of riding and a lifetime of seeing and experiencing things going wrong. Now – I am hyper vigilant – constantly aware of what can go wrong.  Ridiculous I know… Especially when it spoils my fun and I’m sure has to impact onto my horses. This over-thinking is not something that just I suffer with – it is something that may battle with constantly.  The following is part of an article by Jody Jaffe  a journalist whose  articles have been published in many major newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Washingtonian and Practical Horseman. “The truth is, I think most of us struggle with overthinking both in athletic pursuits and life in general. We are a cerebral society, or at least much more cerebral than when we had to hunt or gather to survive. As a result, the thinking part of our brains has become a bully. All the chatter that hijacks us as we try to jump a course is about as useful to humans as ticks are to the ecosystem.  It does nothing but screw things up and make you doubt your abilities. How many times have I been on course when I started thinking about the latest injury I read about in the Chronicle or wondered if my horse would shy at the man behind the bushes or worried about that long ride to the single oxer? I’ve been riding now for 40 years, plenty of time to develop enough muscle memory to at least get around a puny 2’6” course. So the question becomes how do we shut up the bully brain?  Many years ago, I read an article about the limbic system, our paleo-mammalian brain in charge of survival, sensory perception, movement (and a host of other things). I extrapolated that must be where whatever shred of athletic ability I have resides, along with the muscle-memory I’d accrued from all those laps around the cornfields with no stirrups and jumping courses on my machine of a horse, Brenda Starr. The illustration in the article showed the limbic brain to be at the base of the head, near the neck. So I devised an exercise where, just as I’m about to jump, I visualize shutting off the top of my brain and shifting control to the base of my neck. I augment that with words to the effect of, “OK limbic system, you’re in charge.” My thinking brain is a very big bully, so periodically I have to push it back under the rock by repeating the visualization and verbal affirmation, much like I was taught in meditation to lead the mind back to the breath or the mantra. That’s visualization, which works. But for me, what works better is trickery.  Psychologists have a nicer name than trickery. They call it hyper-focus technique, and I learned it when I went to get help after my son almost died. I couldn’t stop obsessing about him in the ICU, and as a result I was in a constant state of grief and anxiety. The psychologist asked me to get to that obsessing place, which wasn’t hard. Just as I started feeling the barbed wire tightening around my heart, she told me to look at the flower in the fabric on the sofa and then describe it in exacting detail.  Best wire cutters ever. Before I even got to the leaf, the barbed wire was gone. I continued to use that technique whenever I felt the wire start clamping shut until eventually the obsessing stopped. In other words, I hyper-focused myself out of anxiety, which is exactly what Gordon, my trainer, had me do in my last lesson. You don’t need the major anxiety of a loved one’s brush with mortality to use this technique. It works if you get a little tense as you approach the fence and works just as well when you are fearful while riding. I was riding my OTTB mare, Cassie, who had been quiet and steady. But as we started jumping, she got a little quick. Gordon told me to focus only on keeping my shoulders back and think of nothing else. So the more I hyper-focused on keeping my shoulders back, the quieter my bully brain got. I’d given it a task. I’d so thoroughly occupied it that it could no longer flood me with images of me in a cast or a coma or whatever new horror it could devise. I tricked it into submission, so my innate, muscle memory brain could take the reins. And guess what? My horse jumped perfectly.   Simples…   Article via Lavender & White Equestrian Publishing Image Credit: Shutterstock

Black Beauty: Back To The Seventies

I challenge you not to see the pictures shown of the super and majestic Black Beauty and not start humming the famous theme tune, “Galloping Home”! However, if the theme tune comes easily to you it will show how many years you have been graced by and probably now showing a few grey hairs…. Black Beauty was an absolute childhood favourite of mine and I have fond memories of watching the series on huge chunky (yes colour) tv that we were very lucky to have. The Adventures of Black Beauty was produced for television and shown on ITV between 1972 and 1974. Although it was mainly aimed at children, it was given the prime Sunday tea time family slot and gained a huge audience making it in the Top 20 ratings for that period. The series was a continuation of the famous book by Anna Sewell with new characters Dr James Gordon and his children Vicky and Kevin. There were regular favourites Amy Winthrop who was Dr Gordon’s housekeeper and local boy Albert who were featured in the series. The programmes were filmed mainly at Stockers Farm in Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire. The star of the show was undoubtedly Black Beauty a pure black thoroughbred who was befriended by Vicky. Every week the children would be involved in some adventures with lots of colourful characters and villains. Rest assured that Beauty was on hand to save the day! Some twenty years later a new series was commissioned “The New Adventures of Black Beauty” that was shown on ITV through the 1990’s. Horse and Country TV recently aired this series again for the younger horse loving generation to watch and enjoy. Written by  Samantha Hobden

Bolting Horses

The danger of bolting horses has been highlighted recently in the press. A horse, still attached to a carriage bolted through a crowded showground, hitting and killing a spectator. Horses are the most amazing animals, trusting us to take them into all kinds of situations and to do all kinds of things which in reality is totally against their nature. Horses are prey animals. Historically they were the food of all kinds of predators way before man realised he could befriend and make use of these amazing animals. A horse’s instinct, when he feels he is in danger is to flee. This he can do in an alarming split second, changing from placid partner to deadly dangerous quite often before his unsuspecting rider or handler knows what has happened. When something does spook a horse and he bolts an unbalanced rider, flapping jacket or stirrups can send them quite literally mad with fear. They run blind until they either run out of steam or calm down, as they would in the wild, or until they run into some obstacle which stops them in their tracks. As most of us ride on busy roads it is not hard to imagine what that obstacle might be. Being onboard a run away horse is a terrifying experience. A rider feels totally powerless, the horse stretches out, lower and lower to the ground as he gallops and the rider is left with the awful decision of what to do… jump off and you risk the danger of being severely injured when you land – stay on the horse and you risk the danger of being severely injured if the horse hits a car. I remember one horse bolting with me out hunting. We landed over a fence and as far as I was concerned nothing was wrong, but a split second later he bolted. No warning – he just suddenly began to run, getting lower and lower to the ground as he stretched out. Often horses can get fed up with hanging around out hunting or they become bad mannered and want to catch up with the others, but this was different. He went flat out through horses and riders when they checked, scattering people in every direction, around a field and then back through the horses and riders again until he finally ran out of steam and did stop. I rode him back to the meet, got off him and never rode him again. He was eventually sent to an experienced friend for re-schooling and then sold on (with the new owner having full knowledge of why). He never did it again – but the experience was enough to let me know that being onboard a bolting horse is an extremely unpleasant experience! The remarks from the field when everyone finished hunting was that I should have had a stronger bit in his mouth, but in fact, nothing will stop a horse if it bolts. There is no bit in the world that can stop a horse when they bolt a horse is actually beyond reason. Most people think that when a horse bolts it is running off with them, but in many cases, the horse is actually running away from them. If a horse is uncomfortable, its saddle pinches or its teeth are sore this can build up until the horse will finally bolt with the pain trying to free itself from whatever is hurting or frightening it. Some horses are more prone to bolting than others, just as some are more prone to bucking or napping as a reaction to something. By being aware of the horse you can, perhaps, become aware of a tension building up and can do something about it. Get off the horse is you have to or walk him around in circles until he settles down. However – what to do if the horse does bolt. A rider’s instinct is to try to stop the horse, tensing up, hauling at the reins. There is also a theory that you can pull the horse around in a tight circle. This, unfortunately, can either make him run into an obstacle or fall over, not nice when he is travelling at a great speed. A horse which is fleeing from pain will want to run more from the pain of having his bit hauled on. The only way this works is if you get the horse fast enough before the bolt really happens, but this means being aware enough and quick enough to react, something most of us aren’t. Whilst it is very hard to do, the most important thing to do is to try to focus on riding the horse. Make sure he can see where he is going and try to maintain your rhythm with him. Don’t lean forward because if he stumbles, or changes direction suddenly you will be thrown off. Just focus on your balance and breathe! Gently start to squeeze and release the reins to try to get his attention focussed back on you. Because he is panicking the last thing you must do is to panic as this only reinforces his fear. You need to reinforce your role as his leader and calm his fear. (Easy to say when you are not blasting along the main road at 20 odd miles an hour!) Another way of stopping a bolting horse is to let go of the reins completely. But if you’ve ever noticed a horse that does bolt, or misbehaves, – they stop (generally) when the rider falls off! Give the control to him and you may find with having nothing to fight against he will stop of his own accord. The horse I ride at the moment tries to take off when she gets stressed. I’ve found the moment she does this I let go of the reins and actually urge her on, this takes the runaway situation away from her and she comes back to me pretty much straight away. It’s very hard to have the confidence to do that though. It’s important to find out what caused the bolt if it wasn’t something obvious like a car horn or some other external stimulus. Too much food, the horse being too fresh, can cause the horse, certainly to have a tendency to bolt if they are that way inclined. Always cantering at the same place, or turning for home can make a horse gallop out of control, so it’s very important to be aware of how you ride and handle your horse. They are dangerous in the wrong hands – as I’m sure we are all aware! Written By Jacqui Broderick of LAVENDER & WHITE PUBLISHING

For The Love Of Thelwell

How many of you grew up with horses and ponies in the last 40 years had a Thelwell annual, a Thelwell bed cover, or poster on your wall in your childhood bedroom? The answer would be the majority of us horse lovers! This great cartoonist, Norman Thelwell, gave us the humorous and an honest view of owning ponies in years gone by. We can all relate to the pony dumping us over the homemade brush fence, or clinging on for dear life as the naughty caricature takes off over the brow of the hill never to be seen again. What is so endearing about these cartoons is that they have failed to date in the fifty years that they have been around. Pony mad children of the modern age are buying today pencil cases, books, photo frames all decorated with the delightful images that Thelwell is so famous for. Who was Norman Thelwell? Norman Thelwell was born in 1923 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, the son of a machinist. He was educated at Rock Ferry School in Birkenhead and was always seen carrying pencils and a sketchbook. He sold one of his first drawings of some chickens at the age of fifteen and left school a year later to become a junior clerk in a Liverpool office. He joined the army aged eighteen and became involved in an army publication where his first cartoons were published and was soon earning a small income. After leaving the military he became involved in small magazines and then went on to lecture about illustration and design. In 1950 he sold his first drawing to Punch, depicting two horse riders which started his career in equestrian cartoons. From 1952 to 1977, Norman Thelwell contributed 1,600 cartoons to various magazines and newspapers. He also produced book jackets, worked for television and drew for advertising – including clients such as Guinness and W H Smith. His thirty two books sold over two million copies in the UK. He always signed his cartoons as “Thelwell”, whereas his paintings carried his full signature. After a full and wholly recognised career, he sadly died on 7th February 2004. Why are Thelwell cartoons so well loved? Thelwell’s cartoons show a very traditional British way of life and the love of the countryside. Most gift shops and equestrian stores all have Thelwell products that you can buy. If you travel to any of the county shows that are held in this country, there are many products that can be found for sale adorning this favourite cartoon. There are stalls full of Thelwell merchandise ranging from ornaments to mugs, aprons to cushions, pens to birthday cards. His style and humour of the equestrian world are likeable to the young and the old. This is a genius marketing approach in today’s world that a cartoon appeals to many generations and that is not easily done these days. For the older age group, Thelwell’s images are reminiscent of how life with horses was so much simpler through the 1960s and 1970s before health and safety stepped in! We have all ridden a Thelwell pony! Thewell’s popularity is that any pony or horse enthusiast will no doubt have ridden a pony just like those portrayed in his famous artwork.  How many of us can relate to the Riding School cartoon, a chaotic hack out with naughty ponies causing mayhem for the long suffering riders!  With most of his famous cartoon images, we all have full sympathy for the little girl closing her eyes as the mad pony bucks her off in the hedge, or praying to her pony as it refuses to jump yet again in the show ring. If you see a portly adorable Shetland these days, it will no doubt always remind you of a naughty Thelwell pony. So hold on to those Thelwell ornaments or cartoon books you may have sitting on a dusty shelf. As the years are going by since Normans Thelwells death, these are becoming sort after collectables, with valuations rising.  However, these famous ponies give us fond and treasured memories of times spent riding ponies of an era gone by. So when you are having your next clear out, think twice before parting with your Thelwell china mug! Written By Samantha Hobden  Please visit: https://www.thelwell.org.uk/ Image credit: Thelwell

Grooms urged to talk about their mental health

A new project to raise awareness of mental health issues within the equine industry has been launched by the British Grooms Association (BGA). The Grooms Minds initiative was launched today (10 October) to tie in with World Mental Health Day. This comes in response to increasing numbers of grooms, riders and employers contacting the BGA for help and advice. “My experience of being bullied whilst working at a yard was the catalyst for the formation of the BGA,” said association founder and executive director Lucy Katan. “It is something I will never forget, and at the time there was no organisation for me, as a groom, to turn to. “I am always concerned when we receive communications from grooms who are suffering from mental health issues in their workplace, and the BGA is determined, through the Grooms Minds project, to raise the awareness of such.” The project aims to identify specific issues associated with mental health in the equine industry; to raise awareness of these and focus on how to address the issues. One former groom, who did not wish to be named, said her anxiety “snuck up” on her. “Being a groom was my dream career and I enjoyed every aspect of it,” she said. “I didn’t feel I could talk to anyone about it because I was angry and disappointed with myself. “I hope the Grooms Minds project will help employers and grooms themselves be more alert to their mental wellbeing.” Read more from Horse & Hound

Arrive Alive – Towing A Trailer

Imagine if someone suggested that you stood blindfold in a container while they swung it from side to side and then slammed it to a sudden stop. You would probably not enjoy the experience. And yet this is exactly what we subject our horses to every time we take them on a journey. Is there any wonder then that many horses become unwilling to go into a trailer? Take a ride in your horse trailer (not on the road as it is illegal) and you will be surprised how it feels each time the trailer turns or stops. Whenever you take your horses out on the road, whether for a short or long trip, you are putting yourself and your horses at a certain amount of risk. Your vehicle or trailer don’t have to be new, but it is very important that they are in good working condition and that the towing vehicle is the correct weight for the load it has to pull. Careful driving and taking a few sensible precautions will enable you to make the journey as comfortable as possible for your horse. Always think about your passenger in the trailer. Give the horse time to prepare for stops, do not accelerate quickly and make sure that the trailer has cleared the turn and has straightened out and the horses have regained their balance before returning to normal speed. Travel carefully over bumpy roads. If trailering is new to you, practice driving with the trailer empty. Know how to park and back up before you go out on the road. Backing is not so hard once you know the secret. Put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. If you want the back of the trailer to go to the left, turn your hand to the left. If you want the back of the trailer to turn right, turn your hand to the right. If you want the trailer to move sharply turn the steering wheel before you move the vehicle. If you want to turn more gradually turn the steering wheel as the vehicle is moving. If you are only hauling one horse put him on the driver’s side of the trailer. If you are hauling more than one horse, put the heaviest one on the driver’s side. Most roads are crowned in the middle, so by putting the heaviest part of the load on the higher side it will help balance the trailer. Never put a horse backward in a trailer that is not designed for it. This will change the weight balance of the trailer and make driving dangerous. When the horses are loaded make sure that all of the doors are latched properly and that the horses are securely tied. Untied horses can get stuck under bars or dividers, which could cause a broken neck or back, or they could move around too much which may unbalance the load and cause loss of control of the vehicle. Once you get out on the road, your driving requires some special precautions. Loaded horse trailers are heavy. The extra weight puts more strain on the tow vehicle and stopping distances become longer. You will also not be able to accelerate as quickly. These problems will be emphasised if you are close to your maximum towing capacity. A good precaution is to drive under the speed limit, keep a good distance behind the vehicle in front of you and don’t try to dart into a line of traffic. The speed limit for vehicles towing a trailer is 80kmph. Don’t let other drivers push you to drive faster. You are bigger than they are, so let them deal with it. However do be considerate and don’t act like the Pied Piper of Hamlin with a long line of traffic and frustrated drivers behind you. Pull over when you get the chance and let the faster traffic past. When driving on dual carriage ways or motorways change lanes gradually. Make sure that you give clear signals so that your intentions are clear to those behind and next to you. Make good use of your rear view mirrors. Keep forward motion and tension on the hitch to prevent loss of control from trailer sway. If the trailer starts to sway do not slam on the brakes, but instead brake in short spurts, this will slow the trailer behind you and keeps the tow vehicle going forwards, which should result in straightening out the combination. A jackknife caused by a trailer skid must be handled differently. If you have to apply the brakes hard to the towing vehicle, check in your rear view mirror to make sure that the trailer is not jackknifing out of control. If you see the trailer swinging out of your lane, stop using the brake. Release the brakes to get the traction back. Once the wheels grip the road again the trailer will start to follow the tow vehicle and straighten out. Frequently look at the trailer through the rear view mirror. Try to be aware of what is going on behind you. Keep radio noise to a minimum so that you can hear if anything is wrong with the horses or the trailer. If you feel or hear anything out of the ordinary and you wonder ‘what was that?’ pull over as soon as it is safe, stop, get out and check it out. The little bumping noise or funny feels could be the start of something very serious. Before you set out on a journey check the towing vehicle, check and replenish engine fluid levels and wiper fluid. Make sure the rear view mirrors are properly adjusted and that you know how to use them. Check the tyre pressures in all of the vehicles, improper or uneven tyre pressure is responsible for most towing problems and low tyre pressure is often the cause of tyre failure. Driving with tyres that have a low pressure can also cause higher fuel consumption. Check the nuts on the wheels periodically. Check over the trailer for wasp’s nests and other hazards. Check the trailer hitch and trailer brakes and ensure that all of the lights are working. Take a cell phone with you in case of a breakdown or accident. It is a good idea to keep a human emergency kit in your vehicle and make sure that you have identification, insurance papers and drivers licence. In case of an accident keep a list, in a conspicuous place, where it can easily be seen, of people and telephone numbers who could be called in case of emergency. These should include your vet’s number, plus relatives and friends, who would be familiar with you and your animals. Carry an emergency kit with you. Consider taking extra water as part of this kit. In an emergency situation, you may need water for cleaning injuries or as a bath to cool of an over heated horse. It is a good idea to also carry emergency triangles, flashlight, spare bulbs and fuses in case of minor breakdowns. No one ever wants to have an accident or to be stranded out on the highway with horses in tow. Take precautions and be prepared for the worst and you should be able to handle any of those unexpected developments that life hands out. Article via Lavender & White Publishing  Image Credit: Shutterstock

The Bigger The Horse The Better!

Throughout the month of August, I posted through the #HorseBloggers channel a top tip every day in keeping topics flowing when it comes to blogging about all things equine!  I have decided to write thirty one posts, each taking on board the tips that I recommended. So my second post is all about my favourite breed of horses and why. I have to say the bigger the horse, the better in my eyes. Now I do not want to do these little ponies injustice – they are responsible for my love of starting riding as a child. Most ponies are diamonds but some, however, are more spirited shall we say. Having been dumped by a Welsh Section B more times than I care to remember at my local riding school, it was a welcome relief to “grow” into horses. Now I own a Belgium Warmblood gelding. He was not a breed that I sought to have, he just fell in my lap. I knew nothing about warmbloods until he came into my care. I had ridden cobs and thoroughbreds and I think if I had to shop for a horse these days, the trusty cob would be the top of my list. Now a cob to a warmblood couldn’t be further apart. Having owned a warmblood over the last thirteen years, they are a different entity to own compared to a hardy round cob! For me, warmbloods are just so elegant and handsome and most of them know it… They are always pretty lofty starting at 16.hh with some touching 18hh.  I worried about his 17.2 size but I just felt he didn’t have a nasty bone in his body and I think the majority haven’t. However, they can over analyse situations and I have always said you could hack a warmblood past a crane with a swinging ball smashing a wall down and it would not bat an eyelid. Hack down the road a bit further and the crisp bag that is blowing in the wind would give a warmblood a complete breakdown waving their lofty leg in the air! Do not be fooled with the warmbloods good looks that they are a breeze to look after. Far from it if my experience is to go by. They like to have an ailment or three… They are a fine breed that do not take to being left in wind and rain for more than around eight minutes. You can also rely on a warmblood to be giving you “the face” at the gate waiting to come in if the weather is a little inclement. They like their home comforts and they are a horse to be pampered. With my warmblood now in his veteran years, we are dealing with a variety of ailments from arthritis to cushings disease. However, my warmblood really has a complete heart of gold and is the most reliable and honest horse I have encountered. He has taught me so much and I love him to bits. In my eyes, the bigger the horse the better their temperament can be. I just love big horses. Take me to a county show and I will make a beeline to the show ring or stables where the Shires or Clydesdales are. They are so majestic and calm. You very rarely see a Shire having a nappy moment as most are docile, calm and patient. Thankfully with this temperament, a Shire or a Clydesdale would be a very dangerous animal to handle if hot headed and unmanageable. So this is my shout out for all the big lovable horses that are out there and to answer the top tip – my favourite breeds would be the hardy cob, the complex warmbloods and the gentle Shire giants!

Living With Cancer and Horse Ownership

Imagine our stunned faces at my yard when a good friend sat down and told us she has breast cancer. We were absolutely floored by the news. We all trundle along in our daily lives moaning about the trivial and then from no where, normality is threatened and turned upside down! Our reaction was to cry and then to try and have positivity about it ,but then tears flowed again. One of the major worries and concern my friend had unsurprisingly was not her own health, but what was going to happen to her lovely horse? She was a horse owner after all… How Do You Manage? So how do you manage when you are facing months of treatment for cancer and what happens to the pets that are in your care? Last year nearly 400,000 people in the UK were diagnosed with cancer. I wonder what the percentage of them have pets and especially are horse owners? Cancer treatment can affect people in different ways, some receive aggressive side effects and others can seem to follow some route of normality and carry on with the day to day routine. Receiving cancer treatment is at least 6 months to a year out of your life fighting this disease. So how does this fit in with horse ownership? I imagine many horse owners either seek help from friends or livery to look after the horse while they are ill. Financially though, with a lost wage a horse is usually the first financial sacrifice to be made. This was my friends concern as and her monthly income has decreased drastically with her not working due to having cancer. How was she going to financially look after her horse too? We discussed it between us and decided that we would look after her horse through her cancer treatment. It was the only option in our eyes as it would be absolutely heartbreaking for her to lose her horse on top of the terrible time that she was going through. Her horse is not a novice ride, so to find a suitable loan home would be difficult. In order to reduce costs dramatically, he has had his shoes taken off and is going to be turned away through much of the winter. Fortunately he is not one to stand at the gate in winter gales with a fed up face on him and is quite happy in the field 24/7. This will reduce bedding costs considerably and reduce the workload on the yard. What is the solution if you do not have a network of help? Many horse owners who experience illness such as cancer seem to look for a loan home to cover the months when they are not able to look after their horse. This is an excellent solution without losing your horse completely but knowing they are being looked after and then can be returned to your care at a later date. Unfortunately as a last resort, an agonising decision has to be made to sell the horse or send them to a rehoming equestrian charity, especially if a suitable loan home cannot be found. This would undoubtedly add further stress to the owner having to give up their beloved horse which would impact further on their mental wellbeing through illness such as cancer. Bob Champion One of the most famous riders who battled cancer in the equestrian world has to be former jump jockey Bob Champion. At the height of his career aged 31, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in July 1979 with doctors giving him eight months to live.  He endured months of gruelling treatment including a range of chemotherapies after discovering the cancer was also in his lymph nodes. With strength and courage he overcame the cancer and then triumphantly and bravely won The Grand National in 1981 on his favourite horse Aldaniti. Public interest was so strong in this “overcome all odds” fairytale that in 1983 the Bob Champion Cancer Trust was set up. To this day the trust has helped thousands through cancer especially for men dealing with diagnosis, treatment and after care. How Can I Help? If you have been touched by cancer, especially through your life with horses there are many ways to help. Why not buy some charity Christmas cards that donate to cancer this year? Alternatively why not donate to a cancer charity instead of sending cards? Most of all, be there for your friend that has cancer, or go and help with their horse or just buy an extra bale of two of hay for them to ease the pressure. These gestures go a millions miles in the battle of this very cruel disease… For more information please visit: https://www.bobchampion.org.uk/index.html https://www.macmillan.org.uk/Home.aspx https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/home/ Written by Samantha Hobden of www.hay-net.co.uk

Is It A Monster? Dealing With Spooky Horses

The only horse that is 100% bomb proof is one that is dead! Otherwise there is a spook in there somewhere. It is the horse’s nature – it is how equines have survived. A horse is a prey animal – so their survival instinct is to spook. Spook first then run and then stop once they have determined that the threat is negligible. Their ability to jerk all their muscular capacity into a nearly instantaneous response to a perceived threat is their stock in trade. A horse that doesn’t spook is just one who has been exposed to so many threats that he can determine which he needs to run from. I guarantee even the most bomb proof horse will spook at something. Police horses, trained to a huge degree to cope with all manner of things most horses would freak out at, will occasionally ‘lose it’.   We aren’t bomb-proof either. If someone sneaks up behind you wearing a Halloween mask and lets out a blood-curdling scream, you jump. That’s the same as a horse’s spook. Adrenalin rushes into your body, and your heart rate soars. What you don’t do is “lose it.” You don’t generally run screaming into the path of a speeding car. Your spook is likely to be one big jump. Then you realise that there is no reason for alarm.   So having determined that there is no way any horse can be 100% bomb-proof always the issue is how the horse handles and controls the spook and the rider’s reaction to his fear.   There are different types of spooking A natural reaction:-A deer jumps up out of undergrowth, or a pheasant suddenly flies up under your horse’s feet. Your horse’s reaction is a quick jerk that runs through his frame and then is gone. There’s no sudden stop, no attempt to bolt or buck. He has shown you that he’s alive, that he’s a horse, and that his disposition, training, and intelligence have allowed him to quickly dismiss the danger as harmless. Since horse’s have senses far superior to us they can detects real danger. He can smell water under the grass you want to canter along and knows that even though the footing looks fine that if he continues he could get bogged down and perhaps die. His spook takes the form of refusing to go where you ask to keep you both alive. This is a difficult spook to deal with as you are the boss, give into the horse and he might try the same reaction to not leave the yard. In this case your knowledge of your horse will help, but if he does try this you will need to quickly establish that you are the boss.   When your horse detects real danger, managing the spook is touchier. In the case of the bog, when your horse has alerted you to a danger you’ve missed, your decision seems easy enough-you don’t go there! But it’s not quite that simple. You’re the leader, after all, and you must make the final judgment as to whether the fear is justified.   Also, the extremely savvy horse, because he gets release when you back off in the face of his fear, may try the same spookiness in a similar situation when it’s not justified, such as when he’s dealing with a puddle instead of a bog. Sometimes though you just have to back off. Never allow the possibility of a training setback to push you into insisting on your way in the face of danger. You don’t settle an argument with your horse in the middle of a busy road. Get off and lead him if that’s the only safe course; you can resume training later under safer conditions. You often have to pay later for allowing your horse to take charge, but usually you can climb back on top of the pecking order readily enough.   Bad spooks are a lot worse to deal with. The horse jumps sideways or whips around and bolts or bucks. He may also refuse to go forwards, seeing something that really isn’t dangerous.   There are also the ‘Are you awake because I’m going to take the piss spooks,’ where the horse will spook for the sheer joy of it, or perhaps they’re trying to check out their riders. Funnily enough (not!) a horse will often spook on the way out for a ride and the not notice anything on the way back. Ride him in a dithery uncertain fashion and you are guaranteed to get plenty of spooks. There was a case recently of a horse who was usually a nightmare to ride, spooking at everything, until one day someone made the rider really angry and suddenly the horse was able to walk straight through a gypsy camp, complete with banging tin sheets and flapping bits of plastic – this was all due to the rider’s attitude.   If you’re an assertive rider, you simply point the horse forward, and all goes well. But if you’re a timid rider, your horse might figure out that you are a push over. Turn him around and head for home in the face of this ‘danger’ and you are on the road to creating a monster.   To nip this behaviour in the bud, drive him horse forward at the first inkling of a spook. He needs to understand that the command to move forward is just that, a command. You can’t let him take charge and hesitate at each new object simply because it gives him a chance to test you out.   You can decrease his tendency to spook, through desensitization and discipline.   Desensitization. First, take the perceived danger out of potentially fearful objects and situations so that your horse is convinced he has nothing to fear, expose your horse to a wide variety of stimuli. Play loud music, tie flapping plastic bags around the place, get a friend to run around in the sand arena (but stop when asked!) brush through trees when out riding anything to gently scare the horse. Push any desensitization routine through to completion, to gently expose your horse to the stimuli until he stops reacting to it, no matter how long it takes.   Another way to help your horse is to ride out with a patient friend on a steady horse. Make your horse lead, but if you are failing let the steady horse take over, but then go back and let your spooker lead the way past. Try to go back to the same place alone soon after and test the horse. He should go forwards past it, if not check that he is not just testing you.   With a horse that is prone to whip around a run use lateral flexion to achieve a one-rein stop in a panic situation. Bring your horse’s head around until his nose almost touches his shoulder; in this position, he’ll have difficulty running away or getting his head down for a buck. Release the rein pressure the instant he calms down.   You need also to look at your own ability. Are you tensing and making the horse afraid?   Once you are beside the scary object, relax both reins don’t make the horse feel as if he is being put in a dangerous situation. You can always use the one rein technique if he does run. Relax.. Don’t stare at the scary thing, breathe, look at your surrounds, hum or sing.   Again. Relax. Breathe. If you’re holding your breath, you’ll tense up and convince your horse there’s good reason to be afraid. Inhale deeply, and as you exhale, feel yourself sink into the saddle. If you are tense stands to reason your bottom will be too – and that is not a good way to be – tense muscles sit on top of the saddle. Relax! Breathe! Let your bottom sink into the saddle. You’ll be a lot safer if something goes wrong, relaxed muscles will move with the horse – tense ones will work against you.   Article via Lavender and White Publishing Image Source

Keeping Cool, Calm and Collected in the Show Ring

In every sport especially in front of an audience, requires a cool head and calm exterior to perform at your best in order to try and secure your winning rosette. With equestrian sport, factor in a horse in this equation and not only do you have your own nerves to deal with, many have to contain their horse’s excitable behaviour as they enter the show ring. Dealing with nerves can be every rider’s worry and this can be from anything in dealing with a youngster at its first show, being part of a team and the pressure to do well or simply getting around the arena in one piece without incident! Many top professional riders have problems with nerves, especially competing at international level. There are also riders that decide not to compete purely down to the anxiety of entering the show ring can bring. Here we give you our top tips in dealing with these nerves and how to make competing an exciting and enjoyable experience for you and your horse: Be Prepared Whether you have decided to do your first dressage class, clear round show jumping or delving into the world of showing, do your homework and be prepared. Spook training with your horse is invaluable. At home do some training with your horse to prepare him for sudden noises, show him colourful banners and work him in busy surroundings with cars or trailers moving around. If possible bring some friends along to shake bags, play music, open umbrellas while you practice your routine with your horse in a safe environment. Ask your friends to call out the dressage test or pretend to be the judge in the showing ring. The more preparation you can do in this way before any show is vital for being successful in the competition arena. Your horse will also learn to trust you and realise that it’s not all scary and can then deal with what is being asked of them. When leaving for the show, make sure everything you need is packed in advance and get your horse ready the night before. Stressing over a lost pair of boots or entry forms only adds to the nerves. Leave in plenty of time but not too early so you have hours to let any anxieties get the better of you. However, leaving late is always stressful too! Start Small When competing in all sports particularly in equestrian, start in the novice classes and work your way up. There are many events designed for beginners that are very relaxed and informal which give you and your horse the confidence to progress. Even if you are jumping metre high fences at home, drop down to a smaller class just to give you the comfort knowing that you and your horse are more than able to cope with the fences. A growing trend in the last few years is video online competitions where you can film your dressage test, or showing class at home and send these to qualified judges for them to give you constructive advice. This is a great way to learn from competing online which can give you the tools to improve and be confident to enter the show ring for real with your horse. Think Positive As they say, there is no such word as “can’t” and positive mental attitude is vital in performing in the arena. Focus on the moment and keep your concentration on just what is ahead of you. Stop thinking about the “what if’s” which creates over thinking and the feeling of impending doom as you enter the show ring. If you feel your thoughts are drifting negatively about the competition, sit calmly and visual yourself with your horse enjoying the class and taking positive and correct steps through what is being asked of you both. Positive thinking that you will enjoy competing with your horse will help ease any nerves you feel. Sometimes it is best to keep your goals at home as one of the biggest tension induced feelings will be that you didn’t win, that you didn’t jump the double oxer or you didn’t perform working trot to the best – the list is endless. Just focus one moment at a time and when all is going well, remember that feeling of positivity which helps with any future nerves. Have Support Having a supportive network of friends and family can do wonders for nerves and anxiety when competing. Have positive people around you for reassurance and also for advice should your doubts about the competition ahead come creeping in. Have fun and laugh with your friends and family which is what competing and enjoying horses is all about! If possible never go alone to a competition especially when you are nervous. Having support is a calming influence on any doubts you have about entering the show ring. Your Horse Has Nerves Too There are not many horses that arrive at the show ground without a few snorts and eyes out on stalks at the excitable surroundings. Horses feed off your nerves so always be calm and relaxed around them, especially in the saddle. Keep your body physically soft and relaxed, breathe deeply especially in rhythm with your horse’s strides.  If those butterflies start to flutter in your stomach, again take deep breaths and just visualise calmness. Try and ignore anything excitable around you which will then feed through to your horse. Some horses relax on a loose rein but other feel anxious through loss of contact. Try both and some will be better once they have been asked to work by putting them into trot giving them something to focus on. If your horse does spook, again be as calm as you can by speaking to them in a positive manner and ask them to move forward. Be firm but give them reassurance. Most of all enjoy competing with your horse and do not let nerves get the better of both of you. Positivity always wins and before long you will be coming home with big smiles and matching rosettes! Written by Samantha Hobden Working in collaboration with Marlin Rosettes Image Credit: Pixabay

What To Do In A Horse Riding Accident

Having recently been involved in assisting a very serious horse riding accident, it became apparent that there were certain things to think about when coming across an injured rider or horse and how to deal with the situation. So, if you are with a rider that has fallen off their horse, or are the first on the scene of the accident, here are some tips to think about in making a very traumatic situation a little less so: – First Things To Do Immediately After A Fall 1 Assess straight away if the rider needs medical assistance and call 112 or 999. If the rider is injured, make sure you keep them still. DO NOT try and move the rider in case of potential risks involved with a spinal injury. DO NOT remove the helmet. 2 If there are any open wounds that are bleeding apply pressure with a clean towel if near the yard or use a jumper/hoody that is quickly at hand. 3 Contact the injured rider’s family and advise of the accident, giving clear but calm instructions as to what has happened and where you are. Stay with the rider and reassure that help is on the way. Keep a level of calmness however chaotic the scene is, which will help the horse and rider. 4 Call for help if you are in the vicinity near the stable yard.  If you are on your own, make sure the rider is safe and then catch and secure loose horse(s). If you are familiar with horses, look over the horse for potential injuries that you can relay to the person who is coming to collect the horse or is being seen by a vet. 5 If the rider is conscious try and get a clear picture from them what happened, where they fell and if they have any worrying signs that you need to relay to the paramedics. Never PIN Protect Your Phone Out On A Horse Ride Some riding accidents are riders that have ridden out on their own and the first on the scene are people that are not familiar to them or have no horse experience. Good advice is to make sure you have your phone with you always when you ride out especially alone, which is not PIN protected. In your contacts use ICE “In Case of an Emergency” and put your emergency contact details including the yard where you are from and a number that someone there can be reached. If space allows, (iPhone have a notes section in its contacts) add your horse’s name and any information that would be useful to the person assisting for them to know. Make sure your vet’s contact number is also included clearly. If you can, have your emergency details at the top of your contact list. Providing you have network coverage, use your map in the event you are in an unfamiliar area so that you can pinpoint where you are. This is vital to relay this important information to the emergency services. Make Sure Your Yard Has A First Aid Kit In every tack room, should be a first aid kit for humans and horses. Have an up to date first aid booklet that is easy to find in the kit too with emergency procedures to remind you what to do if it needed. Make sure that there is a list of contact numbers that are clearly visible too on the yard. Report The Incident To The British Horse Society The British Horse Society has an incident section on their website which gives them a clear understanding and knowledge relating to numbers of horse riding accidents in the UK. If you can, please give them details of the incident after the event. I hope you never have to put this advice into practice but to remind ourselves what to do and to be prepared will make a very stressful situation hopefully a little bit easier. Stay safe! Written by Samantha Hobden of https://www.hay-net.co.uk Image credit: Shutterstock Please note: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified medical professionals in the event of an accident. This is an advisory post only.

Off Road

There around 10 deaths and over 100 traffic accidents on the road involving horses, many more riders suffer head and spinal injuries. No wonder then that riders are desperately trying to find off road places to ride.   Where can you ride off the roads? In England and Wales you are allowed to ride a horse on public bridleways, restricted byways, byways open to all traffic and roads; permissive bridleways; some commons; tracks in some Forestry Commission land (check locally for permit schemes). There are also paid-permit toll rides (See tollrides.org.uk).   The British Horse Society’s National Equestrian Route Network (NERN) is a digital, constantly evolving, network of linked routes (linear and circular) and areas (such as commonland, forestry and beaches) which can be searched and viewed to find where to ride, carriage drive, cycle or walk. This fantastic service links national trails to accommodation making it possible to do long distance rides easily. There are currently some 18,500km or routes.   Bridleways and byways are public rights of way that are protected in law from being obstructed or moved. These routes are recorded on Ordnance Survey maps, but may have been diverted if for instance, they go through land which has been developed. A Definitive Map is available at your local council office.   Motor vehicles including motorcycles, may only use roads or byways that are open to all traffic; horse-drawn carriages may use these and restricted byways. Bicycles may use bridleways but are required by law to give way to pedestrians and horse riders.   What is the law regarding footpaths? This is shaky ground. You may ride on a footpath, but maybe trespassing unless you have the permission of the landowner, unless there are unrecorded higher rights on the path. If you damage the path by riding it could constitute an act of criminal damage.   Many footpaths may carry higher rights so if you discover that anywhere is commonly ridden locally, but is not recorded as a bridleway or byway. Please correct the record by informing your local bridleways officer.   What is the law regarding common land? Common land are areas of land where people other than the landowner can use it, traditionally for grazing, to gather fuel, bedding material, or to fish. Many public access on foot and some have rights for riders, particularly in urban areas.  Check with your bridlepaths officer or the local council to see if you can ride there.   What if a bridleway is obstructed or in very bad condition? Obstruction can be anything from wilful – such as locking a gate, to accidental such as a tree being blown down that the landowner may not yet be aware of. The way may be difficult to use because of boggy paths or overhanging trees but legally a right of way has become difficult or dangerous to use.   You are legally entitled to go off the path to pass an obstruction. The owner of the land is responsible for keeping the bridleways or byways free from obstruction, from crops and for ensuring gates are easy to use. Unfortunately, electric fencing remains a contentious issue. Although there is no legislation for enforcement, in most cases pointing out the dangers and potential accident risk should be enough for any farmer to reconsider the situation in respect of his liability to the public on his land and his insurance policy. If the fencing is intended to deter users of the bridleway, the Highway Authority can take action as the fence is a common law nuisance to prevent use of the public right. This means that you as a rider have to take action and ensure that the council, or bridleways officers are informed otherwise the route could be lost.   A bridleway may be ploughed but must be reinstated to a minimum width of 2m within fourteen days so it is reasonably easy to use. Bridleways along field edges and all byways must not be ploughed at all and must be left at least 3m wide. Hedges next to field edge paths must be cut back so the full width of the path is available. Crops (other than grass) should not grow on or overhang a public right of way.Farmers are not to sow for the width of the path, or to cut back the crop to a height of 6 inches.   If the path is obstructed and you know the landowner a polite request may be all that is needed. However, some landowners may try to quietly hope people will stop using the path and that eventually it will fall out of use.  If the access remains a problem contact your local council or bridleways officer.   Dodgy bridges can be a deterrent to riders. Legally the bridge should be 1m above the maximum known flood level.  The bridge structure should be stable have a non-echoing non-slip surface with no gaps through which the river can be seen.   If you have a bad experience on a bridlepath – motorcycles or the like, write down as much of the incident as you can remember, dates, vehicle registrations and make sure you report these to your local bridlepaths officer.   We all need to sit up and pay attention because in 2026, the public highway rights over unrecorded paths will be automatically extinguished.   The 2026 ‘cut-off date’ introduced by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 will extinguish unrecorded rights of way if they came into being before 1949. It is vital that any currently unrecorded bridleways or byways are recorded before 2026, or they could be lost forever.   Just because you currently ride on a route doesn’t mean it’s recorded and protected from extinguishment.   The BHS has produced a 2026 Toolkit so that you can protect your local bridleways from closure. It contains all the information you need to check whether the routes you ride are recorded, and if they aren’t how it explains how you can protect them after 2026. It explains how you can mark up your local routes that aren’t currently shown on the OS map, and how to gather the evidence you need to back up the existence of your route. It is very important that we all do this rather than just hoping someone else will.   Working with the toolkit is an exciting process that will give you a deeper insight into the history of where you live and ride. You can check that the routes that you currently ride are safe from closure and how to save a route that may not even be open at the moment.   For more information have a look at these links https://www.bridleways.co.uk/   https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/blog/2011/08/rights-of-way/   https://www.bhs.org.uk/access-and-bridleways   Article via Lavender & White Publishing Image Credit: Pixabay

A Dummies Guide To The World Of Horse Bits

I will hold my hands up and say I find the whole world of bitting horses a complete minefield. Is there anybody out there than confesses to join me on this very subject? One thing is for certain, I find it amazing how horses can be very excepting of a metal contraption in their mouths for some riders to pull and tug on. I think there are many horse riders like me that would struggle to tell someone what the benefit of riding in a Tom Thumb Curb Bit to a Globe Cheek Pelham! My horse arrived with a Fulmer French Link Snaffle and has ridden the majority of the time in this bit for the best part of twelve years. After some advice from an instructor, he has schooled also in a Drop Cheeked Snaffle which has given me better control and steering and he has responded working through his back and behind more since using it. I mainly go back to the Fulmer French Link for hacking out etc. I do believe that I am riding in the correct bit for my horse and what riding he does but I imagine many out there that are riding in the incorrect bit. With the hundreds of bits that are out there on the market, my theory is “if it isn’t broke, why fix it?” I know many riders play about with their horse’s bits all the time, almost bordering on an obsession! I have seen many chop and change, pull and tighten with mainly no great improvement or fantastic results. Personally and a golden rule in my book is that whatever bit you use, your horse needs to be comfortable with it. You can also see why we are sometimes drawn in the world of horse bits when you enter a saddlery to see a stunning display of stainless steel and hard rubber bits hanging like a piece of artwork! But what bit to use and why? Researching this article, I have now learned so much more about bits and why we use them for different ages, different horses and for what work they are doing. I wish I had read up about bits many years ago. For example, it is vital that the correct bit is used on a youngster otherwise a harsh bit in the wrong hands can be damaging to the horse and create problems further into its riding life. However, you may be riding in the wrong bit creating problems rather than solving them. So here is a basic look at bits or a “Dummies Guide To Horse Bits” for you. Hopefully, for those who are in the bitting dark, this may enlighten you to what riders use and why! SNAFFLE BITS The Snaffle bit is probably the most common bit used when horse riding. They can be single jointed or broken. When the bit is broken these can have various shaped inserts placed with the right and left mouthpiece. For example, sometimes there is a roller or a flat piece of copper, which is said to increase salivation. The rings of the snaffle can also come in many shapes, from being round to a D ring shape or an Eggbutt snaffle and they are all used for slightly different purposes.   The Eggbutt Snaffle is probably the gentlest type of snaffle as it does not pinch the corners of the mouth.  The D Ring Snaffle is similar in design to the Eggbutt but the main difference is that the ring connection is further away from the horse’s lips, making it even safer for the horse. Some snaffle bits, such as the Full Cheek Snaffle, have cheek pieces that prevent the bit being pulled through the mouth. Cheek pieces are also useful for steering the horse, however, your riding action using your body is far more efficient than relying on a bit!   PELHAM BIT A Pelham bit has both elements of a curb bit and a snaffle bit. The Pelham was designed to have a similar action to a double bridle with only one mouthpiece in use. It acts in a lever action on the horse’s mouth, poll and chin groove. Horses tend to work well with these bits particularly those with small mouths or low palates. They are also used for jumping for extra control and work well in the control of stronger horses. They are commonly used in Polo and are sometimes used in the show ring. However, they are not allowed for use in British Dressage competitions.   GAGS AND KIMBLEWICKS A Kimblewick bit is used more commonly on ponies with young riders struggling to control a strong pony in a simple snaffle. They are also used for driving with horses and ponies. The Kimblewick provides more control if the pony or horse is a strong puller or needs slight curb action to lower its head. This is a curb bit with the further the reins slide down the D ring, the more leverage is applied. If the reins are placed on the lowest slot the bit will have more curb action than the higher slot. Gag bits are again used mainly for horses that are strong or horses that need retraining. You most commonly see these bits used for eventing (especially in the cross country), show jumping, polo and hacking out across open terrain. They give increased control at times when a horse may be excited or try to run off with the rider.   CURB BIT A curb bit is often used for advanced training as these are leverage bits that act on the horse’s mouth, poll and chin in several ways. These are commonly used on the hunting field or on a cross country course and must only be used by an experienced rider. The width of the mouthpiece and height of the raised area in the centre mouthpiece determines the harshness of the bit. The longer the shanks on the curb bit, the more pressure is on the horse’s mouth.   There are SO many bits that I have not covered and the range is vast. What about Mylers, Butterfly Flip Bits, Weymouth and Bradoon Bits, Hackmores – the list goes on. If you are still unsure what bit to use, then visit your local saddlery or online retailer that may be able to help. There are also saddleries that loan out bits for you to trial to see if this works for your horse or pony for a small fee. This is an excellent way of choosing the correct bit for your horse and the work they do. However, I will still look at the wall of bits at the next saddlery I visit in awe and hats off to you riders that are experts in this field! Written by Samantha Hobden https://www.hay-net.co.uk  

Safety Tips When Horse Riding On The Road

Whether you’re riding on a main road or a country lane, horses and their riders are amongst the most vulnerable road users. On occasions where it may be necessary to ride your horse on the road, it is imperative that you are fully familiar with the best practices when it comes to safety. If you aren’t, you are putting your own life and those of other road users in danger. Over the last year alone theBritish Horse Society (BHS) has found there to be a 29% increase in the number of incidents involving horses on Britain’s roads. Here at Country & Stable we recommend that all riders read the section relating to horses in the Highway Code as these guidelines must be adhered to. The BHS have also detailed a few of the key points in this recommended helpful article. Take a look at the graphic below for some essential top tips, and keep reading for even more advice from horse riding experts… To further extend your knowledge when it comes to riding your horse on the road, we have also rounded up the best advice from a few equine experts. Maintaining correct road position… It is standard that horse riders are not permitted to ride on footpaths and should always ride near the kerb on the left hand side of the road. If you are riding two abreast, perhaps if you are out hacking with an inexperienced horse, wherever possible, always position the more experienced horse nearer to the road. Of course differing traffic circumstances and changes in the road layout may require you to ride single file – In this instance ensure that there is an adult horse length gap between each horse and always lead with the more experienced horse. Signals, turning and junctions… When proceeding to turn whilst riding your horse, always check for traffic and signal in plenty of time to indicate your intention. Keep checking behind you and always watch and listen for traffic and be prepared to stop – likewise if you are approaching a hazard which requires you to move further into the road. We know that horses can be unpredictable, and even the most well-trained horse can react to its instincts and want to move quickly away from what they consider to be a threat. Julie Brown, contributing editor of Your Horse magazine, shares her best advice when it comes to dealing with hazards on the road whilst riding your horse: “It can be really useful to make sure your horse understands basic lateral movements such as leg-yield or shoulder-in for when you hack. Being able to turn his head away from the hazard in a shoulder-in for instance might just give him the bravery he needs to walk past without spooking or trying to run off.” In the instance that you are experiencing a problem with your horse, hold out your right arm and slowly move it up and down to indicate drivers to slow down, or if you need the driver to stop, raise your palm in a ‘stop’ motion. In any circumstance, hazards are everywhere on the road and Sue Collins from the Ebony Horse Club warns riders to: “Avoid metal grates where the horse might slip or be spooked, and be aware of pedestrians carrying umbrellas or items that might cause the horse to become uneasy.”   The importance of appropriate safety gear… It is essential that you are kitted out with the appropriate safety wear before heading out riding on the road. As Chrissy Howick of the Budleigh Salterton Riding School suggests: “Make sure you are seen and wear the correct gear as advised by the British Horse Society. That way if an incident occurs you know you have done your best to be correct, safe and seen.” Riders must always wear a hat that adheres to the current standards which we have previously outlined in our in-depth guide on riding hats. You are also advised to wear visibility clothing and body protectors to ensure that everyone on the road can clearly see you, even on bright, sunny days! Julie Brown also emphasises the importance of making your horse visible too: “There are hi-visibility pieces of kit for your horse – leg wraps, boots and breastplates are ideal. Another piece of kit which is invaluable, particularly if you lack confidence or are on an inexperienced horse, is an air jacket. These resemble a gilet and are easy to wear but if you’re unfortunate enough to part company with your horse they inflate, offering massive amounts of protection, especially for your neck.” Etiquette towards other road users… Drivers can often be frustrated when they spot horses being ridden on the road and you may find that they try to accelerate past you too quickly. The BHS has found that in the last year almost 40% of riders were subject to road rage or abuse. If you are unconfident when riding on the road, Anna Buffini, US young rider national champion, recommends: “Always have a buddy and take baby steps…Take it slow if your horse is new at it. Start out with very short sessions and gradually let them get longer.” This advice is also truly pertinent if you are also feeling unconfident. It is also good etiquette to thank other road users who slow down for you, pass carefully, or make an effort to give you right of way and time to manoeuvre on the road. A simple nod or smile may even change the way a particular driver will treat a horse and its rider next time. Ready to head out on the road? It is worth knowing that The British Horse Society also offer riding and road safety tests, and many riding schools also carry out training days in riding and road safety if you are interested in brushing up your skills and gaining the confidence to ride out on the road. Article via Country & Stable UK

Where To Spend Your Money On Riding Wear And What To Avoid

I wonder if we went back in time thirty or so years ago and had a look at a tack room at a riding school or equestrian yard, I imagine it would look a bit basic and sparse of equipment. Bring yourself back to modern age and the array of tack and accessories that you have now just to hack out, school or compete is absolutely vast! The equestrian industry is now a minefield of gadgets and gizmos for all aspects of riding. I have over the years been drawn into buying anything from a stirrup extender to collapsible water carriers…all of which I have never used! I have learnt now to curb this impulsive equestrian shopping habit and try and buy only what I actually need. So where do you spend your money wisely when buying riding wear? WEAR A RIDING JACKET THAT DOES THE JOB I struggle going into an equestrian retailer without coming out with yet another jacket, gillet, hoody or fleece. This is my real weakness…. However a good quality riding jacket which is waterproof, breathable with pockets for your phone and other essentials (ie. polos) will see you out for many years. WEAR JODPHURS OR BREECHES THAT ACTUALLY FIT Make sure you have also correctly fitting clothes when riding a horse. There is nothing worse riding with jodhpurs too tight in the waist, or baggy on the legs. I have also maintained that shopping for jodhpurs or breeches is like buying jeans. We are all different shapes and sizes out there and ill-fitting jodhpurs or breeches are pretty uncomfortable to ride in. ALWAYS BUY A PROFESSIONALLY FITTED RIDING HAT Never ride out on a horse without a correctly fitted riding hat, it’s your equivalent of a seat belt in a car.  The pink glitzy riding hat on the stand may grab your eye and you feel you have to have it…but does it fit you properly? Always go to a reputable saddlery to buy a riding hat where it can be fitted professionally. BE COMFORTABLE IN YOUR RIDING BOOTS Being comfortable must also apply to riding boots. Ensure you have ones with a good comfortable fit, a decent tread for non-slip and fit perfectly for your leg length and calf width. Don’t be tempted by the bargain pair that may be too long in the leg, thinking you can wear them in. Pinching in the back of the knees when riding is not a pleasant experience… Another one of my shopping mishaps was buying riding boots that didn’t fit in my stirrups irons! So this costly purchase ended up with another pair of irons to accommodate the new chunky riding boots…. DON’T FORGET RIDING GLOVES Another item that is necessary to use when you’re riding, whatever the weather, is riding gloves.  These are not just to keep your hands warm in inclement weather, they are vital for extra grip and also preventing “rope burn” if the horse pulls away from you fast or spooks. They are also much needed when schooling a horse or competing to ensure you have plenty of grip which helps with control of the reins. Gloves come in all shapes and sizes so make sure you use a sizing chart for the brand of gloves that you are choosing to buy. Guess work can lead to gloves being too big, too long or too short which makes a very uncomfortable ride. Every horse owner and rider likes a bit of horsey shopping and perhaps you can never have too many pairs of breeches, boots or gloves. However do you really need that diamond encrusted tack box… probably.   Written by Samantha Hobden for https://www.macwet.com/ Sponsored Post

The Question Of Getting On

The lad that competes my young ISH always amazes me with his ability to leap up on him from the ground. In one quick bounce, he can be off the ground and in the saddle while the horse is moving. His agility is incredible, given that he is way shorter than me too. I struggle to vault onto a 14 hand pony that is standing still However brilliant my rider’s ability is – I prefer my horse to stand still when I get on. Standing still to allow a rider to mount is one of the most important lessons you can teach them. The horse isn’t keen to get moving when he hops from one hoof to the other while you struggle to get your foot into the stirrup. He’s not getting impatient when he wanders off when you are halfway on. In fact, moving when he is being mounted is actually a sign of him sussing out who is boss. If the horse assumes he is the boss while you are getting on him, what chance do you have when you are on board? From the horse’s point of view: There are two reasons for him to move:- 1)- he is anxious, for a horse moving his feet when he is anxious is his response to danger. 2) The way horses suss out who is the boss in the herd is by making the others move. If a horse can make another move he is the dominant one – so guess what he is thinking if he can have you hopping around all over the place when you are getting on. Your horse should feel safe enough with you to stand still, but he also should understand that you are the boss and not him. Apart from these issues there are some pretty good safety reasons why you should make your horse stand. Suspended in mid-air with one leg in the stirrup and one dangling is the most vulnerable you can be while riding. Many un-necessary injuries and even deaths occur when riders fall while mounting. Falls this way are nasty often resulting in broken hips or spinal injuries. As riders we often spend fortunes training our horses and ourselves as riders and yet ignore what is a simple thing to teach and something that is utterly vital. All that is needed to teach a horse to stand while being mounted is a little time and patience. Working in a smaller area will help initially and when you feel more confident you can move into larger spaces. Be prepared to be in this for the long run – stay at it until you have made some progress. Begin by bringing the horse to the spot you want to use to get on. Wait until the horse stands still. Be persistent about bringing him back to the same spot every time he moves. Don’t let him get away with shuffling either, he has to stand. Once the horse has got the message about standing still then you can begin to put your foot into the stirrup. Be aware of making sure that you aren’t jabbing him in the tummy with your foot and thus giving him the message to walk forwards. It may be that you get the horse to stand still saddled and bridled and that is as much as you can achieve in one day. If the horse is a confirmed shuffler or is really bad at being mounted it may take a while until he will actually stand still, but you must persist and win – but without getting cross and without force. You may have to work the horse without a bridle and saddle if he associates these with shuffling or dancing around. Strip back everything that you need to until you have the basic requirement – standing still. If the horse refuses to stand then turn the tables on him and drive him forwards around you in a small circle. Do this with caution as the last thing you want is for him to slip and kick you by accident, or fall down.  Keep him moving in circles until you decide it is time to stop. Nine times out of ten he will stand. This is because you have made him move his feet rather than him making you move yours. It is a subtle battle of wills to see who is in charge. Once you have achieved this make a huge fuss of the horse – let him know that he has been good and that this is what is required of him. From here it is baby steps. Standing still when your foot is put into the stirrup, standing when you bounce ready to mount and standing while you are suspended in mid-air, the hardest with a confirmed mover as it is here that you have the least control. With practice though you should be able to use the reins to halt the horse while suspended before you mount. The same applies with a mounting block, always take the horse to the mounting block and if he moves bring him back, over and over again until you win. Once the horse is standing still for you to get on, make sure it stays put until you are ready to ride off. If it starts to move off before you are ready, pick up the reins and back up to the spot you mounted. The faster you react, the faster the horse will realize that standing and waiting is what is required of him. Once you have come this far don’t let the horse go backwards in his habits. Always make him stand while you mount and always make him stand when you are on board until you have got your feet safely in the stirrups. It is good practice to wait a while before moving off, pick up the reins, fiddle with your stirrups, adjust your hat anything to make the horse wait and show respect for your commands.   Article via Lavender & White Publishing Image Source: Shutterstock

The Finn Horse, A Breed Close To My Heart

Being half Finnish and having the equine bug, I have become very interested in the horses that are popular in Scandinavia but particularly in Finland. The Finn Horse is a popular breed in the country and is used for both riding and draught work too. It is the only cold blood breed to be developed in Finland. The Finn Horse is sometimes known as the “Finnish Universal”  as it is a brilliant horse for agricultural and forestry work, harness racing, and riding. In 2007, the breed was declared the official national horse breed of Finland.   The Finn Horse is claimed to be among the fastest and most versatile “coldblood” breeds in the world. The average height of a Finn Horse is 15.1 hands (61 inches, 155 cm), and the most typical colour is chestnut, often with white markings and a flaxen mane and tail. An official Finnhorse studbook was founded in 1907, producing purebred animals in significant numbers for many years.   Finn Horses are popular as recreational riding horses, and well-suited for use at riding schools, trekking and hacking. Of the ten horses currently employed by the mounted police of Helsinki, two are Finn Horses, though they are considered a bit small for the job!  They are also competitive in many disciplines, and in the 1970s separate competition classes for Finn Horses were established at horse shows, which also helped to increase the popularity of the breed. While in eventing and horse racing, Finn Horses are too slow to compete directly against Thoroughbreds and the sport horse breeds, but they are a highly reliable mount for cross-country riding, particularly over difficult terrain and are ideal for endurance riding.   The Finn Horse is considered a reliable and fairly good jumper and is regularly seen in 130 centimetres (51 in) show jumping classes. Finn Horses have been quite successful at lower levels because they are clean and efficient jumpers, but their shorter stride at the canter and gallop keeps them from competing at more advanced levels.   In dressage, the Finn Horse is able to compete with warmbloods up to national levels, and at lower levels, it has the upper hand because it can easily perform the required movements, and has smoother gaits that allow for ease of riding. In 2010, a Finn Horse medaled in international para equestrian dressage competition. In higher level dressage, the breed however it is hindered by its less-flashy movement.   The Finn Horse is also well-suited to everyday riding, being calm and steady, hard-working, obedient, healthy and enduring.  Many have also been trained for driving, and therefore are familiar with unusual noises and can be controlled from behind easily. All in all, they make a very hardy but versatile breed but not many are seen in the UK.   Upon researching into the Finn Horse, I came across a brilliant blog dedicated to the breed so please come and have a look at: https://finnhorseblog.com/

All Worked Up – Dealing With Sensitive Horses

I sometimes wonder whether my horse has a split personality, very sunshine and showers. Luckily the sunshine comes through most of the time now, but believe me I’ve had the showers to deal with in the past. How come some horses can accept change and a different routine quite readily, while some have an almost breakdown if their daily itinerary is changed? My horse is generally a doddle to handle and I very rarely these days, have to deal with his stresses. I know him pretty well now and especially with his advancing years he deals with change all in his stride. However, this has not always been the case…. Change in Behaviour A few years ago, I moved house which meant moving him to a yard on my doorstep instead of a fifty minute round trip. All was well to begin with, a little snorting and on his toes but generally, he dealt with the move all in his stride. The weeks went by and his behaviour became worse. He stressed when he left his box and stressed when he was in it. It was quite a walk to his paddock from the yard where he would start to throw himself about, call and generally be twenty two hands tall to his normal lofty seventeen… There were other horses in the yard and in the turnout paddocks and at that time I couldn’t pinpoint what he was so upset about. He hadn’t become particularly attached to any of the other horses either, so it was a mystery at first to me why he was becoming so upset. Hacking which was always enjoyable became a stressful affair with napping, calling and riding him was like sitting on a coiled spring. I tried all the usual calmers…but nothing worked. His behaviour came to a head when one weekend he hurt a friend when being turned out by tanking off and then trashed his stable with his box walking and was constantly dripping in sweat. I decided to call it a day and take him back to his old yard (thankfully I had one very understanding previous yard owner!) The day he returned to his old yard, I saw that horse literally calm in an instant, surrounded by his old buddies. He took a month or so to return back to his normal self but I questioned what on earth happened to him? I spoke to many knowledgeable horse friends, my vet and researched on the internet about horse behaviour. We all came to the conclusion that the problem was being in separated paddocks and not being in a herd which he had been used to for years. He was also head of the herd, so be plucked from that role into a paddock with horses around him that he couldn’t be in charge of, blew his mind. Stressful Signs I have watched over the last decade of horse ownership, horses move in and out of yards, go off to competitions and they don’t bat an eyelid while some it’s just too much for them to cope with. But why? Horses are very sensitive and intuitive to their surroundings. In the wild, horses are always in a herd and their prime instincts are to survive by locating food and water and warding off threats to their well-being. Threaten any of these instincts and the horse in the wild and in a looked after environment will show some form of stressful behaviour. The horse’s basic response starts with a change in its behaviour which can be anything from a sharp switching of their tail to the more dramatic bucking or rearing. Studies have shown that this stress can cause activation of their “sympathetic nervous system” called its “flight or fight” response. Signs will be sudden loose droppings and an increase of its heart rate resulting in “sweating up”. However, each horse deals with stress in different ways depending on their personality. Travelling Woes and Separation Of course, training is a huge hel