Wednesday, 28 September 2016 09:16

Riding a Horse for a Final Time

OK - get the tissues at the ready...

THIS IS WONDERFUL!

The “Hidden Desires” project, an initiative of The Care Group and Green Cross Members Organization in the Netherlands, aims to bring a small bit of joy to those who are dependent on care.

In this case it was giving someone the opportunity to ride a horse one last time.

87-year-old Mrs. Mevrouw Jacobs, devoted her life to horses, but has been bed-ridden for years, paralyzed by the debilitating effects of Parkinson's.

She was quite an accomplished equestrienne - a rider and a driver in her younger days, and competed in professional showjumping. Her wish? One last horseback ride. Not an easy feat to arrange, but using a unique and innovative tool called a huifbed, Mevrouw Jacob’s wish was granted.

The smell of hay and and the touch of a warm soft nose was clearly evocative to Mrs.Jacobs. But that smile when she 'rides' again...

No translation needed.

 


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...but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself. Edmund Lee.

Two weeks ago, I probably made a  life changing decision. I forced myself to sign up for the gym. You are right, I also thought that hell would freeze or chocolate would be calorie neutral before that would ever ever happen. And still, I went there, told the guy that I actually do not want to be there but that I have to. And so it started. Since then, I kept a real positive attitude towards going to the gym. As I am working towards fourth level, I feel the urge to do more, to support Hafl in whatever movement. I need to lose weight, I need to grow stronger. My core needs to be stronger to keep my hands softer, the excess pounds need to go.

I could run, I could ride my bike. Honestly, I only ride my bike when I do some breakfast grocery shopping on Sundays. And it is not too late. Or too early. And it is not too hot, but also not too cold. And I need to feel like going. Actually, it happened only THREE times this year so far. Nothing solid to build my fitness on I guess.

I tried running. Once. Ok, twice in the last two years. Last year, with barn mates. Once. And this year, alone. I saw people looking at me and I felt that they felt sorry. Actually, I did not only run, I walked and run. I walked more than I run.

So what to do? Doing more yoga and stretching at home did work to a certain extent. But then I felt alone in my struggle to increase fitness, lose weight and become a better rider. The only choice and thing left was the gym. Actually, I probably would have kept emphasizing that I needed to do more without doing anything then.

One day a fortnight ago, my trainer said that she went to the osteopath and she told her to go back to yoga. And that is why she signed up for the gym. At this specific one, which is actually in the same village as our barn, you can do also courses like pilates and yoga. What's more, there are always trainers around that (if you want to or if they feel that you would a) simply kill yourself or b) never come back) help you. The good thing is, that there is a certain circle training which consists of strength and cardio training. All the weights and resistances are stored on a little personal chip card meaning you do not have to adjust anything just put in the card and go. And the trainers set up your training plan. I guess that helped me to get things started. This week, we will start split training where I will, in addition to the circle training, start with specific core training. My trainer obviously believes in me.

Last year, when I decided to move Hafl to my trainer's barn, was one of those crucial decisions that would change our future forever. While I was more or less at second level (sometimes more less than more more), we are now on a good way to a proper third and one day, fourth level.

Sure, the chip card at the gym and the good hay at the barn help a lot. But what is way more important is that I started to surround myself with the right people. People I can learn from, people who have goals, who are motivated, people who do. Of course, I was boarding at a barn where there were riders who showed before as well but most of them were eventers. Some of them were serious about riding, some were less serious. Some were happy with the level they were at, some strived for the next levels.

Today, I have aspiring Grand Prix riders around me, people who show regularly, people who win, who work hard in their daily business to afford this expensive hobby. They do whatever it takes to keep their horses healthy, they work together with vets, farriers, therapists to have happy athletes being able to perform at their best. They changed how I work with Hafl, even Hafl changed. He became much more self-confident, he is building up muscles and strengths better than ever before. He improves and so do I. My trainer constantly keeps an eye on us, the regular training pays off. I have learned so much in the last months and I keep on learning as there is always somebody around who is at least a level better than me. They inspire me, they lift me up, they support me. And they believe in me and share my dream of becoming a real dressage rider with me.

Dressage Hafl

Re-published with kind permission from Dressage Hafl|Blog


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Tuesday, 06 September 2016 15:21

5 Times Your Horse Has A Better Life Than You

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be YOUR horse? I mean, it might not be as good as being your CAT but still, there are seemingly hundreds of things that makes your horse's life better than yours. Here is a list of at least five of them.

1. Work

YOUR HORSE: You would work an hour a day. Maximum. You would do a little dressage, a little hacking, a little lunging. Your human would praise the slightest sign of good work. You would hear the words GOOD BOY hundreds of time and would feel great. And there it is again. Good boy. You have no idea what you have done right, you just put your left front on the ground. AAAAAND yes, that was worth a treat! YUM! More treats. And that was it. What a great job!

YOU: You work from 9 to 5. Or from 7 to 7. From Monday to Friday or even on the weekends. You are lucky if you have only one job such that you can afford a horse. You work your ass off. Loads and loads of work every day. How often does somebody praise you for being a good girl? You call it a good day when nobody shouted at you.

Who has such a beautiful place to work? Hafl has!

2. Spas and Treatments

YOUR HORSE: There is a daily spa routine consisting of a massage, your hair being combed, you get a little fly spray here, a little coat shine there. And mane spray. Your hooves get polished regularly and you get a good roll every day in the field. After work, you get your legs cooled and your sweat hosed off.

YOU: You do not even know how to spell the word SPA as you a) do not have the time or b) do not have the money to enjoy a weekend including all spa treatments like massage, manicure or pedicure. You are lucky when you manage to get the dirt off your fingers at night before going back to work the next day. You are lucky when you go out of your apartment and do not have horse hair or shavings on or IN your clothes. Manicure? Nail polish? You must be kidding! No matter what the beauty industry tells you there is no such thing as long lasting...

Who has regular full body peelings? Hafl has!

3. Food

 

YOUR HORSE: A calculated amount of grains split into three portions over the day decorated with some small pieces of carrots - not too small that they could get stuck, not too big such that you do not have to chew on them too much. A little amount of oil for a shinier coat, other supplements that help your joints or building your muscles. And hay. TONS of hay. The best hay that you can imagine! No mold, as little dust as possible. At least in the warm months, fresh grass, well looked after and handled with care such that you can enjoy it during the majority of the year. The hay is all organic, you can even call it handmade. A little warm mash when it is cold, not too warm, not too cold. Paradise!

YOU: As you spend another big portion of your income on horse feed, you are fine with eating cheap sandwiches, pasta and whatever comes in handy. Your microwave is your best friend, you hardly ever see the organic fruits and vegetable department in your local supermarket, let alone have you ever been in one of those gourmet temples. You eat whatever is at home - no matter if it smells strange - as long as it is not moving, you can still eat it! While you keep checking the small print on your horse's feed and know all the nutrient factors of every supplement, you do not even dare to look at the back of your convenience sandwich that might easily be older than yourself.

Who even gets a treat for his cute face? Hafl does!

4. Health Care

 

YOUR HORSE: A detailed vaccination plan, automatically scheduled farrier visits, nothing you would give a thought about. The dentist checks your teeth while the chiropractic finds that odd spot the osteopath could not find. A Reiki master passes the mike to a Kinesio tape specialist. Whenever you feel the slightest soupçon of discomfort, you just put on those tiniest wrinkles around your eyes and you can be sure that an armada of specialists will take care.

YOU: You visit the dentist only if your teeth fall out or fall apart (whatever comes first), you do not even remember when you last had your tick shot (even though you live in an endangered area). Regular check ups? Never heard of. You go see a doctor when your leg falls off - but only if you feel like the second one might do the same shortly.

Who has no reason to feel uncomfy? Hafl has!

 

5. Leisure Activities

YOUR HORSE: Majority of the day, you spend in the fields. You run around, you graze, you have a little chat with your friends. When you are in your stall with paddock, you can decide if you still want to chat with your neighbors or if you want to wait for the full board service. Your very own parlor maid makes sure that your stall is clean and you never have to think about barnwork. You sleep when you do not eat or do not want to talk to your neighbors.

YOU: Leisure activities? Like meeting friends? Sleeping in on weekends? Not since you have a horse (and/or decided to show). Friends either come to your barn or see pictures of you and your horse on Facebook and the rare time not spent with your horse and not being at work is split between trying to get your relatively cheap apartment (compared to your horse's square meter price)  rid of horse hair, hay flakes and shaving and wash your breeches, saddle pads and horse blankets such that you can use them the next day. Let alone that you then also need to wash your work clothes - always hoping that not too many horse hair, shavings and hay flakes did survive in the washing machine. As there is no full service for you, you do not only have to buy your own food, no, you also need to make sure that there are enough supplements and treats at the barn.

Who enjoys huge fields of best green grass? Hafl does!

And who gets a fly sheet such that flies can be easily ignored? Hafl does!

On top of that all, everybody who passes by your horse's stall tells your horse how sweet he is and many many people have treats for him. How often do people pass you by and tell you how sweet your are, cuddle your face and put treats in your mouth?! Okay, whenever that happens: RUN!

Who gets to hear that he is a great boy hundreds of times? Hafl does!

Dressage Hafl

Re-published with kind permission from Dressage Hafl|Blog


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Thursday, 01 September 2016 00:00

A heart breaking sale…

It’s been a hard month this month.  My lovely chestnut mare, Zara, who I totally adored had to be sold. Mainly due to the fact that I didn’t think she was going to Show Jump to the level that I would like her to. Whilst I knew it was the right decision, I was totally heartbroken as for me the horses are more than just pets and I always get so attached. It’s the reason we have still kept my old 148cm jumping pony, Bonoffee Toffee.

So with Zara gone to her new home, I’ve had some more time to concentrate on my youngster, Mr Snip a.k.a ‘Bluelands Cruise’.  I’m sure when I enter the Show Jumping ring most people think I’m riding an absolute donkey, but to me he does have something special. He’s, shall we say, an “uncut diamond”.  All that aside, he’s a lovely natured boy who I’m really enjoying. At the end of the day I think above all it’s important that we do ENJOY what we do, given the time and money we put into it.

It’s Snip’s first proper season since being broken and he’s been picking up consistent double clears during the three day shows at Bicton.  I’m hoping we will get all of our British Novice double clears by the end of the season. However, at the moment the main focus is on ground work and pole work and getting him to really start enjoying his job. I’m certainly in no rush to jump the big heights and want to ensure that he has the right education.

It’s been a bit of a strange month in the fact that I had started to question if I actually wanted to keep riding.  Mainly because I’ve been struggling to compete to the level I want to. The stress and upset of selling Zara also made me start to question if I actually enjoyed it… I remember talking to mum about how strange our sport is. Why is it that we expect these animals to jump over fences? And we select them based on how high they can jump? It’s a strange one and probably not worth thinking about to be honest.

However, it didn’t take me long to discover that yes, I really do love the sport and life is too short so you may as well just enjoy yourself and forget about the rest.

So my leaving message to all of you out there is to

do what you love.

Lots of love and good luck to all those competing over the next month, especially those heading to Burghley next week!

Abi xx

A Country Lady


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Friday, 26 August 2016 11:40

Why Horsey Girlfriends Rock...

Have you (yes, you male human being!) ever heard them say: beware of the horse girl? Yes?! Let me prove them wrong. In other words: why horsey girlfriends rock!

1. One of the best things: you do not have to care about weekends or holidays. You do not have to plan anything, you do not have to find fancy locations for day trips. Actually, there are no holidays and weekends. At least, no holidays and weekends that are reserved for the two of you but for the three of you! In other words: you will be at the barn, mucking stables, grooming her horse, helping her at a show or traveling with her to watch a show. Thank God, there are plenty of other horse related events like trade fairs all year round meaning the likelihood to NOT have a horsey weekend converges to zero. ZERO!

2. Lucky you! Your horsey girlfriend will never have eyes for another man. Only for her horse. And in the end, you will be the only jealous one.

3. Have you ever had problems with prioritization? You won't have issues anymore! Horse girl rule number 1: horses come first. That is the one and only rule making priorities pretty clear.

4. Need somebody to fix a craftman's problem at home? You are not familiar with screwdrivers and hammer and nails? You will soon realize: you are now with somebody who can do it all. The only drawback: she will refuse to use her super powers at home - but when the fence needs fixing or the horse waterer spills over, she will be your man! Bailing twine...Macgyver could not do it better!

5. There will never be awkward silence because she has always something to tell you. Actually, it will always be something about her horse. About how he looked at her today, about how much she loves him and how much he loves her. How good her ride was, how good he cantered, that he spooked at a plastic bag but that she still loves him, that she fed him, groomed him, that he had a little ouchie, that the farrier told her what a good boy he was (a fact that should never ever surprise you as her horse is the best, the most beautiful, the best behaved, most gorgeous living being that this earth has ever EVER seen!). Do not make the mistake and EVER tell her that it was her horse's fault that she fell off, that it was HIM stepping on her foot, that he is NOT the most beautiful horse on this planet. And make sure you LISTEN to her even though you have no idea why sitting trot is more difficult than posting trot and how the right lead is different to the wrong lead.

6. Need a hand to carry some groceries up to the 10th floor? No problem! You have a girlfriend that carries hay bales like nothing and throws around pounds of dirt with ease. Probably she won't be at home to help you with the groceries, though. She might be at the barn and spend time with the most beautiful and best horse ever ever EVER! She might even not be at home to do housework at all. There is another rule for her saying:

7. Have you ever worried to meet her parents? That they might not like you? Worry no more! With an equestrian girlfriend, it simply does not matter whether they like you or not. The only thing that matters is that her horse likes you. No further explanation needed that you HAVE to like her horse whether he likes you or not.

8. You are not that much into horses and riding? That's good because there is only ONE person per family that can afford to be an equestrian - money and time wise. She will not have the time to watch YOU ride a horse. She might grab your horse and ride it herself instead. And you do not want to know what it must feel like to groom two horses for her at a show...

9.Have you ever felt guilty because of your collection of video games? You will soon realize that her collection of boots, saddle pads and blankets outnumbers your collection by far - let alone all the money she put in and will put in in the future. Good thing: there will always something that you can buy her as a present - which actually will be something for her horse.

10. You are very proud of your car and hardly ever somebody else is allowed to drive it? Good news! As long as it cannot haul a horse trailer, your horsey girlfriend will probably never ever touch it. Or look at it. Or admire it as you do. She will simply not be impressed. No chance!

11. Horsey girls are easy going and do not spend hours in the bathroom to put on makeup, fancy dresses, jewelry and high heels. Most of the time, they do not even care what they look like unless they have to find a matching pair of breeches for the new saddle pad they just bought. You rather make sure that whenever you buy horse stuff: MATCHY is the name of the game! Do not dare to buy a yellow shirt and a yellow saddle pad and think that they are matchy matchy as they are PROBABLY not! You will soon learn about the fine difference between lemon and straw, gold and cream, flax and saffron. You might have thought they look all the same until you met this crazy horse girl that will tell you how wrong you are.

Let me close this post with some famous last words on the relationship with a horsey girl:

Good luck!

Dressage Hafl

Re-published with kind permission from Dressage Hafl|Blog


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Wednesday, 17 August 2016 14:02

The Five Struggles Of An Amateur Rider

Oh the joys of being an Amateur! Whilst some people may think being an amateur rider and having riding as your hobby is great, here’s 5 things which prove it’s much tougher than people think.

1. Being competitive is practically impossible. Seriously, how can we be expected to keep up with the pro’s?! Being competitive as a amateur rider is so hard.  Working full time and having horses is practically impossible. We have no grooms, no full time trainers.  It can be both physically and mentally tough.

2. One horse – no strings attached… Unlike professionals who have a string of horses, most amateurs only have one horse. That one horse is what we put all of our time, money, and love into.  If that all goes wrong it can be seriously hard hitting. We are left horse-less.

3. We are always last on the list. Whether it’s the farrier, the vet, the equestrian company, we are always second to professionals or those who have a string of horses. At times this can become very frustrating!

4. People think we do it for fun… Well that’s kind of true, but just because we don’t do it all the time doesn’t meet that we are not as determined to win. We take our sport as amateurs very seriously.

5. We have no holidays. As most of us work full-time we have limited holiday and most of our annual leave is put aside for attending horse shows. Of course though, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Abi Rule


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Tuesday, 16 August 2016 13:34

Five Reasons to love Donkeys!

Donkeys are often overlooked in the equestrian world. Despite their lovable, sad looking faces, comical braying and gentle natures, they're still seen as the short, less impressive and stubborn version of our great steeds. Yes, we humans acquired the best possible four-legged ally around 6,000 years ago- the wild horse. The domestication of horses during 3000 B.C gave us the means to grow crops, plough fields, travel and earn money, but Donkeys were also domesticated around this time and used for travel and labour. Donkeys have helped humankind just as much as horses and make great four-legged friends so here are 5 reasons to bray about Donkeys!

Donkeys are strong for their size - Have you ever heard the phrase “the straw that broke the camel’s back”? Camels were domesticated in northern Africa and the Middle East around 2,000 years ago, but before this, Donkeys were the staple working animal in this part of the world and the original phrase was; “the straw that broke the Donkeys back”- which alludes to their great physical strength and stamina. Donkeys are capable of carrying up to 20% of their body weight, as they have wider backs and sturdier stocky legs than the average horse. In the ancient Egyptian cultures, Donkeys were considered the “beasts of burden” which essentially means creatures who are capable of carrying great loads and their smaller size is great for tackling rough and uneven terrain whilst carrying weight.

They are very intelligent - Unfortunately donkeys are stereotyped, often described as stubborn, but what most of us don’t realise is that they are actually more intelligent than horses! They are much more inclined to act independently if training isn’t implemented efficiently, and they have the psychological capability to pause and actually think things through. If a donkey comes to the conclusion that the human command isn’t necessary, then it won’t happen. This trait is a form of instinctual self-preservation, harking back to their desert roots. Horses are much more prone to the “flight” reaction, living among open plains they would run at the first sight of danger. Donkeys lived in a harsher environment, unconducive to simply running from predators. This has made them able to analyse individual situations, so they react more rationally and safely when carrying cargo or a rider.

Great beginner rides for kids - The average donkey is too small for an adult but they are absolutely perfect mounts for kids. These originally desert animals are naturally steady and enjoy a slow, comfortable stroll, more than a rollicking gallop across the countryside. Donkeys are incredibly gentle, and less prone to the erratic behaviour, such as spooking, displayed by horses and ponies. Unlike mares, female donkeys or “jennys” are equally as gentle and passive as the typical gelding and both sexes are very level-headed making them perfect for young children.

Cheaper to keep - Donkeys are initially much cheaper to buy, and the upkeep of these lovely creatures is quite low. Donkeys have much sturdier hooves so don’t have to be shod, which we all know can definitely save some pennies. However, they do need to have their feet trimmed every 6-8 weeks like horses, as their hooves will grow quickly if only worked on soft ground. They also need dental care and other health management similar to horses. You can also save some money on bedding, Donkeys are perfectly comfortable on a smaller bed in comparison to horses and ponies, but they must have some form of shelter as their coats are lacking the grease present in horse hair that repels rain. Remember donkeys are originally desert dwelling animals and so their hardiness doesn't extend to cold and wet British weather.

Baudet du Poitou donkeys (large in size and very hairy!) are one of the rarest breeds of donkey and believed to one of the oldest breeds in the world. There is evidence they have existed in France since the Roman occupation of 54BC.

They are adorable, let’s face it - Donkeys are like sad-looking, long eared teddy bears. Like Horses and ponies, they are herd animals, more comfortable hanging out with other animals than being alone. Donkeys form strong, life long bonds called “pair bonds” with those they share pasture with and will become depressed if they are separated from friends or kept alone. Donkeys are also used as “livestock guardians” in certain parts of the world, keeping smaller animals like sheep or goats safe from harm. They are hugely protective and will alert the farmer to any form of threat like a fox or wolf.

All in all, I think the positives concerning Donkeys should be spread, their little quirks deserve to be appreciated! I’d love to hear what you guys think on this topic- have you ever owned a Donkey? If so, has your experience been positive or negative?

Megan McCusker


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Forgive me for stating the obvious here, but our heads are pretty important, and because we can't grow another one (yet!), it seems logical that we look after it. So it really irritates me  when I see people riding without a riding helmet. As equestrians we're often made painfully aware, how risky riding can be, and sometimes when we least expect it. However good natured or well trained they are, horses are powerful, unpredictable animals. The consequences of falling and hitting your head, or being kicked in the head when around horses, are potentially very serious, so what I don’t understand is why people think riding without a helmet is worth the risk.

My rant, comes from personal experience. A couple of years ago I was out cross country schooling a 16hh thoroughbred; a lovely horse, but very green and pretty unpredictable. We had successfully popped over a couple of fences, but as we were coming up to jump, a fairly straight forward trakehner, he took out a couple of strides and put in a huge leap, sending me flying and landing right in front of the fence. I'm not definitely sure what happened, but we think his hooves clipped the back of my head, knocking me out for a couple of seconds. Thankfully, we were both fine, just a little bruised, but when I took off my hat, it completely fell apart! The impact that this little clip had on my hat was huge, and highlights how crucial riding hats are; had I not been wearing the hat, who knows what would have happened. And it could have happened if I'd taken a tumble in the school or out hacking. The fact that my hat fell apart from the impact of the fall (a good quality, fairly new hat) also serves as a reminder of the importance of replacing your hat after a bad fall. Although the damage may not always be evident, you never know if the impact from a heavy fall has damaged the inside of your hat. Whilst riding hats are of course pricey, the old cliché goes that you can’t put a price on safety and after all, we can’t buy a new head!

Charlotte Dujardin riding Valegro, Dressage Training, Rio 2016                                   ©Richard Juillant/FEI

So, I was really pleased to read that the British Dressage Team at the Rio Olympics are all wearing hard hats with chin straps, rather than the top hats that FEI rules allow them to wear at that level. This is because they felt with so many people watching and looking up to them, it was important to set an example-something of course Charlotte Dujardin has been doing for a while. So, a big hats off to them for setting a hats on example!

Also, this year the British Horse Society launched their campaign ‘Hat Hair? Don’t Care!’.  Let’s be honest, not wearing a riding hat usually comes down to vanity and yes, no-one is a fan of hat hair. Especially during summer, or after a particularly energetic schooling session, removing your hat isn’t always a pretty sight, or at least for me it most definitely isn’t! However, hat-hair and a bit of sweatiness is a tiny price to pay for the protection that a riding hat offers, and one that the vast majority of riders don’t even think twice about.  Whilst a riding hat cannot be guaranteed to prevent head injury completely, what is for sure is that it greatly reduces this risk.

So, keep your head, wear a riding helmet and show that as an equestrian you care more about what you do than how you look!

Ellie Fells


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Monday, 01 August 2016 09:37

Flying Horses - Fun Facts | FEI

They're off! The first group of Olympic horses departed from London Stansted Airport last Friday, (29 July) on a special cargo plane bound for Rio 2016. Just as for us humans, packing for a trip with equine passengers must be a night-'mare' with allowances and restrictions...

Eventing horses from Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Japan, Italy and China were on board the flight out of Stansted, the first of nine shipments delivering more than 200 horses to Rio International Airport, en route to the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro Olympic Park.

Here are some fun facts involved in insuring the horses get to Rio in style and comfort:

Baggage allowance: Just like human flights, each equine passenger has an allocated baggage allowance, by weight – however this includes the horse itself! Plus water, hay, 30kg shavings as bedding, water buckets, feed buckets, tack bags (for saddles and bridles), rugs and any spare equipment.

Each horse is also allowed: 1 large haynet, water and his or her own personal bucket, and a small overnight bag with a spare headcollar (halter) and rug, in case it gets chilly.

In-flight entertainment: What are the horses’ favourite in-flight movies? Ha,Ha! - The Horse Whisperer, Black Beauty, Seabiscuit, National Velvet and its sequel International Velvet.

In-flight meals and drinks – bran mash (a bit like porridge) before they get on the flight, then hay and water throughout the flight. Some like apple juice in their water to make it a bit tastier.

Passports: Every horse has a passport but, unlike human athletes, they must be microchipped to travel. They all also have an export health certificate.

In-flight wear: Horses, like people, like to travel in comfort. Some may wear a light rug but generally wear as little as possible to stay cool and comfortable. Most will wear protective leg gear – a bit like flight socks!

Check-in: Flights are a carefully orchestrated operation though Peden Bloodstock, so check-in is a very civilised affair, no fighting for the best seats! All have arrival slots at the airport so that vet checks can be carried out, and loading follows a specific planned order to place all passengers in the right part of the plane.

First Class/Business/Economy: All Olympic horses travel in style, in 112cm wide stalls, with two horses per pallet – the human equivalent of business class. This gives them plenty of room to feel comfortable, but there is the option to upgrade to first class.

Cabin crew: Specially trained staff fly with the horses, looking after their welfare, comfort and safety. They are known as Flying Grooms.

Stallions at the front: Stallions travel at the front of the plane so they aren’t distracted on-flight by the mares.

Is there a doctor on board? This is never an issue if you’re a flying horse, there are always vets on board to ensure happiness and comfort throughout.

Aircraft facts: The horses fly on an Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777-F aircraft – this is a freight plane, and one especially equipped for the safe and comfortable transport of horses. It has custom-designed horse stalls and controlled temperature zones to ensure maximum comfort and minimal stress for the horses and comes complete with trained and experienced expert personnel who know how to handle horses to safeguard their welfare.

Nathan Anthony, team vet for the Australian Eventing squad, was one of the six vets that flew with the horses from Stansted. “Flying is actually easier on the horses than going by truck”, he said. “The only slightly difficult bit is the take-off, after that there are no bumps in the air! And we had a great captain on board who made the landing nice and smooth, and then the transfer to the Olympic stables with a police escort was really easy.”

 

 

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During the Summer months I suffer with certain 'personal issues' that only other equestrians who spend most of their day with horses will appreciate!

The t-shirt tan.

Sitting in the sun, surrounded by friends showing off their glorious all-over tans (well, what I can see!), I, on the other hand, am sporting the rather less attractive equestrian tan; darkly tanned forearms, face and neck with lily-white legs and torso. Lovely!  However on a beautiful summers day I'm more likely to think "what a great day for a long hack", rather than wishing I were lying around in my bikini. I could of course ride in one, but aggh, just think of the chafing! Spending time with my four-legged friends is a small price to pay for not being beautifully bronzed.

Straw and hay fever.

For those of us whose horses aren't turned out 24/7 during the summer, we have to muck out and that is not nice on hot, sticky days. Working with horses bedded down on straw during the hot weather is my nose's worst nightmare, sending me into a sneezing frenzy. My pockets are literally stuffed full of damp hankies-yuk. Gazing upon the fluffy looking golden quilt of comfort that I've created gives me intense satisfaction though and makes me forget my irritated 'doze'!

The dreaded black snot.

Sorry, this is gross I know, but my nose also suffers in another way from being around horses- black snot! All the dirt I breathe in during a long day, mucking out, grooming and riding give a revolting dark tint to the contents of my nasal passages. I often find myself in front of the mirror at the end of the day checking that there isn't any on show! Tell me I'm not alone!

Bad hair.

I know all of you will feel my pain here. You bounce onto the yard with freshly washed locks shining in the sunlight then after riding in the heat you remove your helmet to a flat, sweaty mess, sometimes with strange kinks. Some of us are also left with a red line across our foreheads just to add to the effect! There seems to be nothing I can do to return my hair to its former glory and any tips are gratefully received. However, I'm a big believer in safety first and hair second!

Anyway, these little complaints are I'm sure you'll agree, a small price to pay for the pleasure of living the equestrian life. Things other girls wouldn't put up with, we do, because let's face it, horses are worth it!

Do you suffer from any of the above or got any other equestrian summer bugbears you're brave enough to 'fess up to?

Megan McCusker


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