Since when have we stopped helping each other? When has it been easier to pull someone down, than build them up? I feel that this applies in everyday life and situations, but today, I am going to focus on the equine industry.
I won’t bore you with statistics or facts, but it is important to consider the sheer volume of abhorrence and bullying which occurs both online and in-life within the industry. Whether this is some troll commenting ‘you ride awfully’ on an Instagram post, or a livery-yard acquaintance telling you that you aren’t looking after your horse properly. Everyone has an opinion, and someone always ‘knows better’. I have certainly been victim of this – I am sure you have, too? There have been so many times when I have sat and cried in the corner of my stable, or have been too nervous to get out of my car at the livery yard, because of things that other people have said to or about me.
I am not going to profess that this blog will help anyone ‘cope’ with these situations, as there really is nothing worse than someone else making you feel worthless as a result of their own insecurities or mindset. All that I can offer you, is that you know yourself and your horse, truly, and you must weigh up how much the opinions of those matter to you.
What I will do, however, is target this post to everyone. Anyone who has upset another, or has been upset by someone. Anyone who has said or thought something hurtful, or has been on the receiving end of it. I am not going to shame anyone, because everyone can change. Everyone makes mistakes - that is how we learn.
So, to learn from these mistakes, I follow these three simple steps…
1. Ask yourself, do I need support?
You’ve got to start somewhere. Jealousy and hurtful comments towards other people usually stems from one’s own lack in self-confidence. I have certainly been in this position – but I know that this comes from my own insecurities. I know that people who have been hurtful to me have done so for the same reason.
So, let’s turn this around. Why not ask the person whom you are jealous of, to help you? Ask them how they jump 1.20m? Ask them to show you.
Think to yourself, how can I turn this around to be productive, not counterproductive? How can this thought help me and other people, not the opposite? – Because, let’s face it, not only do these thoughts and comments hurt those to whom they are directed, but they hurt you, too. Be grateful for the things you do, the people and horses you have in your life, and the achievements you have. Build on them!
2. Ask your friends, do they need support?
Honestly, what have you got to lose? Be nice! Although this should be altruistic, you will get something back from it; whether this is a good feeling inside, the joy of seeing someone else happy, or returned support.
You can’t give someone a leg up with one hand; literally and theoretically. You have to mean it, and be invested. That means, in terms of the aforementioned analogy, you have got to believe what you are saying! If you don’t believe what you are saying, neither will anyone else.
Think about what you say and the way you say it. I am not professing that we must rehearse every line in our head before speaking, but the phrase ‘think before you speak’ comes to mind. People do have feelings, especially about their ‘pride and joy’ horses. Support the people who surround you, whether these are friends, livery yard associates, other riders at a show - make them feel how you would want to feel. So what, some people only jump 50cm? So what, the successful dressage horse in the box next to you is ‘just a cob’? Does this really affect you? No. Does this affect your horse? No.
3. Look at the bigger picture.
We never know the full story. We can never assume it. All we can do is be approachable and friendly, and give our support to those who need it.
If we all just made a promise to say at least one nice thing to another rider, even just once in a day, I believe that it would make a huge difference. Think of all of the happiness that we would be spreading. I think our horses would appreciate it – we are of much more use to them as happy owners than those sat crying in the corner of the stable!
We need to cheer each other on.
It's amazing how many saddles your bottom may have to kiss before you find the perfect match for you and your horse. Which is why it still surprises me that there are still riders who set their heart on a particular saddle as 'the one' they must have because it's either fashionable or because their favourite rider has one . The more experience I've had of buying saddles for each of my horses that also suit me, the more difficult I realise that this saddling game is, particularly when it also seems hard to find a good saddle fitter.
However the saddle also needs to suit us because if it isn't right for our physique then it will put us in the wrong position so we're always fighting to keep our balance. This isn't good for our confidence and it isn't good for the horse either. So, as I've discovered, unless money is no object, finding a saddle can end up being a compromise. However, I always prefer to make sure that the horse has the last word. Here are a few variables to look out for…
For starters, we usually have in mind what style of saddle that we want; General Purpose, Dressage, Jumping or Cross Country. However, if your horse has a big shoulder then some forward cut saddles will compromise his or her shoulder and you'll need a straighter panel.
Then the next priority is usually the width of the saddle tree (narrow, medium, wide etc) but often people don't realise that there is another element to take into consideration; the saddle tree angle which is really important for allowing shoulder movement and if wrong will inhibit performance, cause behavioural problems and produce long-term damage.
There are also different shaped trees from flat to curved and you need to find the right profile for the shape of your horses back and ribcage.
Check the width of the gullet. It should be wide enough for your horses spine, and yes, again, they're all different! And make sure that the gullet is an equal width along the whole length of the saddle.
Regarding saddle length - make sure that the saddle never extends past your horse's saddle support area which ends at the last rib otherwise it will put pressure on the vulnerable lumber region, leading to a tense back.
Now on to you. These are the things I've found you need to take note of if you want to be a comfortable, balanced and effective rider….
• Firstly, the saddle has got to be the right size for your bum. Don't for vanities sake try and squeeze yourself into a smaller size because you'll probably end up putting too much weight down through the back of the saddle which won't be good for your position or your horse's back.
• Saddles come in different seat widths with different twists (the narrowest part of the seat). If it's too narrow for you, it can be very uncomfortable; too wide and you might feel unstable and get pains in your hips and back. If you prefer a narrow twist then check that it doesn't come with too narrow a gullet for your horse.
• Different knee and thigh blocks will suit you according to your overall leg length and particularly your length of thigh. For instance if you have a short thigh, you may find it difficult to get your knee to reach some knee rolls, leaving you feeling a bit insecure, but you'll be the rider who won't mind a straighter panel if your horse has a large shoulder (see above.)
• Stirrup bar placement is different on different saddles. Yes, this was a new one on me but it's amazing what a difference this can make to the position of your leg and hence the balance of the rest of your body. If it's too far forward you'll always find it hard to get that perfect shoulder, hip, heel alignment. If you find it hard to keep your lower leg still then this could be your problem.
So these are just a few of the things that I've come across which I hope will give you an indication of how complicated this saddle fitting business is! I don't claim to be an expert but hope that this will prompt you to do a bit more in-depth study so you are better at assessing saddles and saddle fitters!
It is not one of my strengths to keep friendships going. I actually suck. That might be due to the fact that I like spending time on my own. Enjoying the amenities of online shopping, I would not even have to leave the house if there was no Hafl making sure that I get out from time to time (sure, going to work is a must, too).
When Waliento arrived at our barn in late 2017, I had no idea that he would become what I would call Hafl's best friend. During winter, they spent their winter turnout together and watching them play showed that they really like each other. Whenever they can, they play and tease each other, run around, squeak and bolt. Hafl is like an older brother for Waliento now, teaching him not to panic when on a trail ride, showing him how to behave while cantering in the great wide open, making sure he is not shitting his pants when we put obviously dangerous objects into the arena. Hafl even seems calmer than ever before just like he is thinking: need to be brave, little brother is watching.
I guess Hafl had best friends before. It all started with my other horse back in 2009, a guy he really liked. After selling him and moving for the second time, he met Wax, a friend's horse and together they explored the world and even made it to the sea. After we parted and moved to other barns, Hafl did not seem to have a particular horse he liked until Waliento showed up.
Hafl and PE, back in 2010
It is really fun to see such a relationship even though sometimes they take it a bit too far. Turnout season is right ahead so I am already wondering whether the grass will be more important than playing with this friend.
Haffie best friends
Does your hose have a best friend?
It is with great sadness that we share the news of the sudden passing of Mike Tucker at the age of 74. He was for so long the voice of equestrianism on television and at numerous events and shows all over the UK and around the world.
A familiar voice across every major equestrian event, he joined the BBC in 1977 and took over as lead equestrian commentator in 1992.
He retired from broadcasting last year after the 2017 Badminton Horse Trials, having worked at six Olympic Games.
He lived in Gloucestershire and as a former event rider, he rode at Badminton on many occasions, the highlight being second place on General Bugle. He commentated there for over 35 years and was hugely involved in the local farming and hunting communities.
He voiced famous moments including Zara Tindall’s 2006 world title, Britain’s successes at London 2012, as well as Charlotte Dujardin and Nick Skelton claiming gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Fellow presenter Lee McKenzie paid tribute to Tucker on Twitter, saying: “Very sad to hear that Mike Tucker is no longer with us. A stalwart of the equestrian world. Taught me so much. Proud to have worked with him and call him a colleague and a friend.”
Tucker became the chairman of the organising committee of Olympia two years ago, and in a statement the show’s director Simon-Brooks Ward said:
Here's something warming for the current cold spell! Ginkhana.
Launched as a “local spirit with an equestrian twist”, it is the lastest in Scottish Gins from Royal Deeside.
Themed around the Horse Culture in the area, its ‘horsey’ inspiration doesn’t stop at the name - the gin is infused with Meadow Hay, Carrots, Apple and Mint.
Ginkhana is described as a fantastically smooth and sweet gin, which makes it perfect dram to sip neat, over ice with a mint leaf, or as a Gin Martini with a high quality Vermouth. It is equally at home as a Gin and Tonic with Mint and Apple.
Sounds like a top tipple if ever there was one. Cheers!
Since being posted, the brain teaser has left people stumped and confused over the answer ... READ MORE
How to solve the brain teaser that's stumping the internet... HERE
We've all had those days where we dismount, untack and wonder why on earth we just wasted an hour of our lives getting disheartened and frustrated because our horse is not doing anything that we’ve asked On days like these we feel that we aren't connecting with our horse at all. We ask ourselves “Doesn’t she like me? Doesn’t he like being ridden? Or is she simply being 'naughty'?”
Well here are a few key things to remember when we enter the ménage and expect our beloved friends to fulfil our expectations.
Firstly, the key to being on the same wavelength as our horse is accepting that we won't always be on the same wavelength. Remember our horses are living, breathing beings just like us and it's ok for them to have an 'off' day. When we are not feeling it, we simply don't tack up that day, but if the horse isn't feeling it, we continue to push until we have a fight on our hands. I am a big believer that if you feel the horse is not on form on a particular day, change your plans and try again another day.
Secondly, and I think something that can never be said too much, is that as riders we are always expecting the horse to know the answer to the questions we are putting to them through our seat, leg and rein aids. Now, if we asked a child in school a question, that we know the correct answer to, but they can’t get it right, how do we make changes to help them get to the correct answer? We can keep repeating the same question over and over until the child gets frustrated, anxious and shuts down, or we can readdress the way in which we ask the question. The same applies for a horse that’s learning. If they are not cooperating, are evading the aids or displaying undesirable behaviour, we should turn our attention to ourselves and how we are riding. For instance, if our reins are saying 'slow down' but our seat is tense with shoulders and elbows locked in a fixed manner and our pelvis rotating forward causing the spine to arch, we are actually saying quite clearly 'move on forward and lean on my reins please'. Then before we know it, we are labelling our horse strong, a bolter or out of control. So before we repeat this consistently until we lose the will to live, let's simply take a moment to think about how we can change the way we ask. By making just a few minor changes such as drawing in through our core, losing the arch in our lower back, rolling the shoulders back and down, keeping the wrists and elbow supple and and relaxing the power grip of our thighs, we can discover what a big difference we can make to the answers that our horse gives us!
And remember, when the horse answers correctly, make sure you immediately praise her and go straight onto an easy exercise such as a simple walk before returning to ask the question again. If you do not do this, you are in danger of the horse assuming that she’s given you the wrong answer and so she will try to answer in different ways and you will lose that perfect response.
Finally, it's no secret that I am not a fan of gadgets such as side reins and draw reins which pin, force and restrict the horse. I am also not a fan of flash or tight nosebands, unnecessarily strong bits, spurs and standing martingales. These are all silencing tools and I do not believe the horse’s communication should ever be silenced. We all talk of how much easier our lives would be if our horses could talk but when they communicate with us, we ignore it. Let's take the flash noseband for instance; It’s purpose is to stop the mouth from opening and unfortunately too many riders use them because 'my instructor told me I needed one!' And this is ok because they are a professional and it worked. Very few people challenge and ask ‘why does my horse want to open his mouth?’ What is he saying? How can I make changes so my horse doesn't want to open his mouth?
Any good instructor should welcome questions and have an array of different potential avenues to go down which don't include silencing the only line of communication the horse has. Usually the answer is that the horse is experiencing discomfort, maybe from the bit, saddle, back, bad riding or evasion of gadgets. A good instructor should be able to offer guidance from a static and dynamic assessment of the horse and rider during lessons. I think the reason we see so many 'naughty' or 'broken' horses nowadays is because we expect the horse to listen to us 100% of the time but we never take the time to listen back.
So to summarise - how do we get the best out of our horses? The answer is simple: Take time! Take time to listen, take time to take a step back, take time to teach slowly and correctly and take time to try new things. A happy horse is the best version of your horse!
Every action has a reaction - More straight talking from Phoebe Buckley.
Hey guys, so I’m back…. You know the drill… Time to go make a cup of tea and get comfy, this blog is a long one!!! Also might be worth putting a seat belt on, as this could well be an explosive and uncomfortable read… For some...
So, as you all know my blogs are written (usually badly) about things I experience, that I think you lot can relate to. The one thing that has changed the most in my life in recent years is the amount of horses I ride and compete. Not so long ago I would of come under the ‘professional rider banner’ - not anyone. Now I ride and compete just one horse. Do I mind? Not one bit... But, it is a new experience that I’m just getting used to - if I cock up, I don’t get another go at getting it right. Last week I went SJ’ing, and to be brutally honest I rode badly… Nothing went right and I drove back to the yard feeling very deflated. I really wasn’t sure if I could be a ‘one horse rider’. That evening I went to the pub with a couple of friends and had a brilliant night, and you know what? My mood lifted, because nothing lasts forever. I left the pub feeling like a idiot for being so hard on myself - I’m human… I get to mess up now and again but there is always another day because nothing, good or bad lasts forever.
The next day I heard the dreadful news that a young trainer had taken his life. It made my ‘wallowing in self pity because I rode badly’ episode the previous day seem very very petty. By all accounts this young man was a top class bloke, with a loving family and a successful and busy business. What really hit a cord with me was reading his wife’s statement. The brutally honest words of a woman who had lost her soul mate, husband, best friend and father of her child to mental illness. Because I’ve been there, and if we are all honest I’m sure many of us have been in a situation where ‘me not being here’ has, even if only for a split second looked a easier way out. Sadly some of us aren’t able to look for the light at the end of the tunnel, because nothing lasts forever and that’s the point. No matter how bad things are, there will always be a light. That light might be one person that loves you, a horse that excites you or even a pet that needs you to look after them. As someone who has experienced the darkest of times, I promise there is always light... The easiest way to find it is to TALK. Alone is a very dark place and very few of us actually are, we just choose to be. Choose to be light, TALK to someone and be someone people can talk to. You never know, you might just change a life.
Whilst all that very sad news was filtering though, a totally non related video went viral on social media. It was a video of a girl riding a dressage test. A video I’d like to add that hadn’t been shared (from what I could tell) by her. I was and still am astonished at the comments made on the video. - Talk about ripping this poor girl apart, limb by limb! Now, I’m not saying this girl was a Carl Hester in the making and yes, it was slightly uncomfortable viewing. But what shocked me was the fact that in one breath people were saying more needs to be done to help people with depression and in the very next breath they were ripping in to this person who they had never me and had no idea or context as to how the video came about... My first thoughts when I saw the video were these – 1. Why didn’t the judge stop her? I hope someone helps her improve and understand what is and isn’t acceptable, and, 2. The fact that the horse looked well, looked after in great condition and that he looked more annoyed at her than scared. Again I’m not excusing what she was doing but to be honest- she looked very ineffective to me.
"People in glass houses shouldn’t throw house bricks and be mindful because one day someone may just unload a video of you not at your best, for the grace of God, go I."
Now, what I found even more astonishing was the amount of professional riders having their pound of flesh off this girl. I wanted to ask them how they would feel if someone videoed them having a ‘off’ day or ‘squaring’ a horse up and posted it on social media for everyone to put their pennies worth in.
Show me any rider, especially a professional one, that tells you they haven’t been tough on a horse, lost their temper or gone too far with a horse and later regretted it and I’ll show you a liar.
I wonder how many takers I would get if I invited everyone that commented mean things on that video to come mid week jumping with me? I promise you that we would witness some horses being ridden in an over bent outline, with drawreins on, being pulled around and being jabbed with spurs. Then I'd want them to go say the same kind of things they wrote but to the riders in person… Wonder how many would?
Have I ever had to be tough on a horse? Yes. Have I regretted it?.. In some cases, yes, in some, no – because in most cases it was the making of the horse. Brutal but true. Us professional riders and I’m sure a lot of amateur riders are fully aware of the riders that are tougher on their horses, why don’t we all go posting on their social media telling them how crap they are????? Or better still go up to them in person… You know why we don’t? Because it has nothing to do with us and trolls pick their victims, usually from behind a computer screen. Brutal but true.
My final point – Imagine if the rider in that video took her life over the public humiliation she has been put though? If you commented on that video, imagine if it was YOUR comment that pushed her over the edge. Would if be worth it? Worth you putting your 5p’s of unwanted and unhelpful criticism in for?
So remember – every action has a reaction. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw house bricks and be mindful because one day someone may just unload a video of you not at your best, for the grace of God, go I.
Over and out..
Re-published with kind permission from Phoebe Buckley|Blog
If you have ever studied Monty Roberts Join-Up then the following research might not come as a surprise, but it's always good to have these things confirmed by a creditable study! Psychology researchers at The University of Sussex found that horses can tell the difference between dominant and submissive body postures in humans and much prefer to approach people who appear submissive.
A submissive body posture is one where we slouch, keeping arms close to our bodies and legs close together with knees softly bent - basically taking up as little space as possible. In a dominant stance on the other hand, we stand up tall, chest out, with arms away from our bodies and legs apart, therefore taking up more space - on the train or bus this is often know as 'Manspreading'!
The researchers worked with 30 domestic horses and used female handlers dressed in similar clothing including a neck warmer which covered their faces up to their eyes so that their facial expressions couldn't provide any cues. Each handler also gave every horse a food reward whilst standing in a neutral position to begin with. Then during the trial two handlers, one in a dominant stance and the other in a submissive one, stood with their backs against a neutral background, about five-six feet apart. Each demonstrator also got to act dominant as well as passive in different tests.
This research revealed that the horses were much more likely to approach the person displaying a submissive posture.
At Trot On HQ recently, someone used the term 'get off your high horse!' Along with terms such as 'needs reining in' or 'had a leg up' it's a term used in everyday conversation that comes from mans long association with horses. Anyway, it started a discussion on why the idea of being 'on a high horse' still has relevance for equestrians today and whether it comes saddled with negative consequences.
When you accuse someone of being on their high horse, it means you're accusing them of acting in a superior manner, usually a moral one. And being actually mounted on a high horse not only puts you physically above others but also can make other people feel that 'you' think you are above them in status. Let's face it, because of the horse's historic association with the rich and powerful, lots of people still hold the opinion that anyone who owns a horse is rich, stuck up, and thinks 'they are better than the rest of us!' When of course we all know that the majority of us certainly aren't wealthy and scrimp and scrape to plough all of our hard-earned cash into our beloved horse.
Is it for instance, one of the reasons why other road users can be so aggressive towards horse and riders on the road? And whilst there are anti-hunt protesters who genuinely don't want to see any animal harmed, there are those who are more people haters rather than animal lovers because they regard riders as part of the upper classes who think they are 'above the rest.'
What do you think?