Around this time of year I begin to dread the arrival of spring grass. For my ponies, this is the season of sugary madness!

Having owned a pony for 12 years and two shetland ponies for the past seven years has meant constant and prolonged dieting (similar to their owner!)  Like balloons, they get fat on thin air. The two shetland ponies in particular only have to look at grass to put on weight (I'm like that with chocolate). So as spring turns to summer and the grass grows tall and luscious my patience gets it’s big annual test, because nothing tests my patience more than putting two miniature shetland ponies on a diet. I have had the pleasure of owning these two little critters since they were rescued as foals. George (aka King George) and Dotty (aka Mrs Dotty) are both seven years old, but a month apart in date of birth.  George is by far the naughtiest and cheekiest with the ability to escape any form of enclosure. I’m not over exaggerating here…he is Houdini in equine form. I should have it officially announced that he is the best escape artist in Cheshire. No scrap that. The best escape artist in the world! 

Every year I slave away for hours constructing an electric fencing track around the paddock in order to keep their weight under control and stave off laminitis. And, every year I watch George escape.

Every. Single. Year!

 

He will be happily munching on the grass in the track enclosure with Dotty by his side whilst I muck out the field and give them all a brush on one of my trips to the yard. He looks so innocent, his small little ears poking through his fly rug. Yet a few hours later, when I’m out giving the dog his lunchtime walk, for instance, I find George half way across a nearby field stuffing his face with the longest, most sugary grass he can find. This grass in the other paddocks is meant for silaging…so it hides him well and it can sometimes be tricky to find him at all unless you stand on the fencing and look from above. I then spend a further hour or two chasing him around three acres of land. Neither Dotty or my other pony (14.2hh) escape with him, so how does he do it? How does he manage to escape? Believe me I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to figure it out for years.

After much running, sweating and swearing, when I finally catch the piggy pony he is just as out of breath as I am thanks to his growing grass belly. Once I've tied him up I usually put on my Sherlock Holmes cap to inspect the crime scene hoping I will find out how and where he has managed to escape.. But I can't find anything. The electric fencing is always working correctly. It hasn’t been disconnected and the battery is still working well…I check the gaps (I make sure to use five yes FIVE rows of the electric fencing so that the munchkins can’t sneak through, and they are all intact as well. I was convinced that he couldn’t be jumping it…it was well over 4 ft in height. Confused and tired from all of the running about I always give it one more go and put George back into the track with Dotty and hope he doesn’t escape again.

Days go by of the same. At lunchtime every day I have to repeat the caper of running after a fat shetland pony to get him back into his diet paddock. The only plus side to this is that it keeps me really well exercised. Never mind putting the shetlands on a diet, this is my very own fat camp. In fact this could be a great business opportunity, I will create my own fat camp where customers are tasked with catching my shetland pony every day. - Don’t be fooled by their tiny legs, they can really shift when they want to! Anyway, in the end I decided there was only one thing left to do - to set up a watch station inside my horse box and to sit there, waiting. I sat there for hours watching that sneaky pony quietly munching away in the track paddock alongside Dotty. He didn’t do anything. He never left the paddock all day.

I sat there for FOUR HOURS….FOUR long hours. He didn’t put a hoof wrong.

 

But, guess what - when I left my station for a couple of hours to have lunch and do some work I came back to find him OUTSIDE of the track paddock AGAIN.

It’s official. Putting a shetland pony on a diet is the hardest task I have ever done. The only theory I have come up with to explain how he escapes is that he must be  jumping over the fence. Has George been hiding a secret talent? Watch out John Whitaker I think I’ve found your next show jumper…I expect your phone call with an offer to purchase this high quality jumper, soon!

I would love to hear your conspiracy theories…maybe you've experienced something similar. How does my shetland pony escape?


foreveramberKaty's novel, Forever Amber, is available to buy now. It is the true story about her mare, who she's owned for 10 years, who broke her leg followed by several life threatening illnesses. It was a huge journey... Amber is truly inspirational, she never stopped fighting.

An agreed percentage of the proceeds from each sale of both the e-book and printed edition is being donated to the British Horse Society in aid of protecting, expanding and maintaining bridle paths across the UK.

 
 
 
 
Published in Trot On Blogs

He is the Hollywood star who has always kept his down-to-earth Australian roots and sense of humour.

And Chris Hemsworth put on a comedic display on Monday, as he enjoyed a close encounter with a horse.

The actor, 33, was pictured enjoying a pat and a cuddle with the creature as he closed his eyes to savour the moment.

His wife Elsa Pataky shared the photograph on Instagram, simply captioning it with the hashtag: 'horsewhisperer.'

The THOR star's bulging biceps were on display as he held his equine friend's face while feeding it.

Elsa's fans loved her well-captured and hilarious photo and took to the thread to comment words of admiration and jealousy.

'Lucky horse..... I wanna Chris Hemsworth hug,' one user wrote.

Many others joked that they'd happily trade places with the creature, writing: 'I have never wanted to be a horse more' and 'Wish I was that horse.' ... READ MORE
 
Published in Articles
Tuesday, 28 March 2017 09:48

How to Survive Pony Club Mothers!

What is it about Pony Club mothers that makes you want to laugh, cry or simply despair? When I first encountered them my response was usually the second option; they would make me want to cry. Most of the Pony Club mothers I met had zero equestrian talent themselves but they did specialise in being bossy, judgemental and patronizing. These women quite literally live through their children and push their kids to jump higher and higher and run faster and faster whilst the irony is that many of them would never have the guts to do any of it themselves.

Whenever I bravely ventured out to a Pony Club rally I was met with a picture of kids flying everywhere. Ponies were bolting up and down and around with nervous looking children bouncing up and down on their backs, holding on with all their might. But this wasn’t the worst aspect of the day…. It was the mothers. I thought Pony Club was supposed to be fun for kids? Obviously not,  judging by the spectacle of mothers brandishing whips in the air as they shouted instructions at their offspring and their ponies.

I may have initially been inexperienced and uneducated in the equestrian world, but what I was seeing didn’t scream knowledgeable owners either. Instead it seemed like some ludicrous competition between the sideline pony club mothers. Who could scream the loudest? Who’s son or daughter could fall off the most but still get back on and keep on going? Who’s horse had the best tack (that obviously meant they were a better rider) and which mother could brag about their horsey knowledge to the best of their ability.

So, what can be done about these scary-crazy Pony Club creatures? I suppose the first thing is to either purchase some high quality ear plugs that just block out all of the nonsense they constantly spout or just develop really good selective hearing. This decision should be made based upon how 'fool-proof' your patience is. The second thing you can do is practise your ‘fake smile’ and biting your tongue - not always easy to do at the same time!  Last, but by no means least, try your hardest not to be scared by Pony Club Mothers...They can smell your fear. Plus they most definitely won’t refrain from bossing you about if you give even the smallest hint that you’re either afraid or don’t know what you’re doing.

But on a serious note, Pony Club is supposed to be an opportunity to learn and have fun. So when you encounter these over-confident bossy know-it-alls (there's no avoiding them) just smile and wave and endeavour to allow their bossiness to sail straight over your head. If you’re an inexperienced Mum who’s taking their child to their first Pony Club event, it’s OK to learn, but remember the most important reason why you’re there is to enable your children and their ponies to have fun. Don't let those crazy Pony Club Mothers persuade you otherwise or spoil your day. Keep an eye open for kindred souls, and hopefully the experience will be positive for all of you.


foreveramberKaty's novel, Forever Amber, is available to buy now. It is the true story about her mare, who she's owned for 10 years, who broke her leg followed by several life threatening illnesses. It was a huge journey... Amber is truly inspirational, she never stopped fighting.

An agreed percentage of the proceeds from each sale of both the e-book and printed edition is being donated to the British Horse Society in aid of protecting, expanding and maintaining bridle paths across the UK.

 

Published in Trot On Blogs

The activity enhances memory, learning and problem solving

Want a smart child? Well forget private tutors because new research suggests that horse riding may help improve memory, learning and problem solving in youngsters. 

Scientists from the Toyko University of Agriculture have found that the vibrations produced by horses while being ridden activates the part of the brain known as the sympathetic nervous system.

This means that while on the saddle, your child’s cognitive ability could be greatly improved.

Researchers examined the effects of horseback riding by asking children to complete simple response and mathematical tests before and after taking part in the activity.

The study, published in Frontiers in Public Health, found that riding horses greatly improved the ability of children to perform behavioural tasks... READ MORE


 
 
 
Published in Articles
Monday, 06 March 2017 18:23

Why Winning isn't Everything!

This is for all those riders who have come back from a competition feeling disheartened and disappointed…

'Train like you’ve never won and compete like you’ve never lost’…I’ve seen this motivational phrase on multiple memes all across social media. For the competitive rider where the end goal is winning, I can see it works well. It’s punchy. It’s short, inspiring and memorable. But every time I see the phrase I can't help but ask, where is the fun? 

Training like you’ve never won sounds like relentless hard work with little enjoyment or motivation other than to win. Yet everyone shares it, everyone loves it and everyone claims to be able to relate to it. Am I really the only one who’s looked at it and wondered, is that it? Is that all I’m supposed to aim for and have the mentality for? Winning?

Although I have been out and competed I didn’t buy my horse with the sole aim of competing to win. I bought my horse because I loved horses; everything else was just a bonus. I was taught to have fun, not to win. I was taught to give my horse respect and as a result trust and loyalty would follow.  I love the challenge and anticipation of a competition and there is no denying that they are a motivating opportunity to learn and improve. I’ve won competitions and I’ve also come dead last. But there’s one clear differentiation between the two, I didn’t learn as much from winning as I did from losing.

Of course, winning feels good, it’s an adrenalin rush and an ego boost. Whilst the feeling of losing sucks. Ending up at the bottom is a horrible feeling; it makes you feel useless and question whether you should even bother. I’m not sure why it feels so bad, perhaps because after all your hard work training, not winning feels like not succeeding. Is to win, to also succeed? It’s an interesting thought. I think that partly yes, to win is to succeed. But there are so many forms of success and it's just a question of perspective. If you lose, you can also succeed. Instead of feeling disheartened and demotivated, try and focus on all the things that went right. At first, all you'll see are the negatives but try and find all the positive things that happened. And ask, did you both enjoy the moments competing together regardless of the result? Then, as for the negatives, it's only by failing that we learn to succeed. So open  yourself up to learning more. If you never lost, how would you know how to become a better rider?

While 'training’ is important, it’s my opinion that it should be a way to create a bond with your horse and that partnership mustn't be just motivated by or judged by, winning.  The smallest achievements can be the biggest successes and enjoyment should be the name of the game. So whilst ‘train like you’ve never won and compete like you’ve never lost’ may seem very appealing and appropriate, I go by something a little different;

“Greet your horse like you’ve always been apart and ride like you’ve never been separated…”


foreveramberKaty's novel, Forever Amber, is available to buy now. It is the true story about her mare, who she's owned for 10 years, who broke her leg followed by several life threatening illnesses. It was a huge journey... Amber is truly inspirational, she never stopped fighting.
An agreed percentage of the proceeds from each sale of both the e-book and printed edition is being donated to the British Horse Society in aid of protecting, expanding and maintaining bridle paths across the UK.
Published in Trot On Blogs

It is a very 21st-Century development for the most traditional of activities.

Scientists have designed a new set of high-tech headphones – that allow horses to listen to music as they trot.

But the development does have a serious purpose, as the headphones both improve the animal’s focus and block out external noises that could spook more nervous mounts.

Hidden within a bonnet that slips over the horse’s head, the headphones come with Bluetooth technology to pick up songs played on the rider’s mobile phone.

A headset that clips to the helmet also allows the rider to talk to their mount through the headphones.

Vets and horse behaviour experts have even come up with dedicated playlists of different tempos to suit various gaits: walking, trotting or galloping.

British showjumper Yazmin Pinchen, 23, has tested the technology with her 14-year-old horse, Vinny.

She warms up with Irish rock band Kodaline’s High Hopes before galloping along to Up & Up by Coldplay, then relaxing with the same group’s Fix You

‘When I originally put the music on, Vinny was a little bit shocked but after a few minutes he was more settled.

'When you’re just walking and warming up you want something that’s quite relaxing and soothing.

You don’t want to wind your horse up immediately and get him running away.’

Makers HorseCom say the technology, which costs £799, helps improve horses’ performance.

It was devised by 27-year-old Hugo Kajdas, who came up with the idea to help his sister’s horse, which was very nervous.

Professor Mark Bowen, of the British Equine Veterinary Association, said:

‘Music is most likely to benefit horses with a nervous disposition since it will remove external stimulation; they may be able to focus on something familiar and be less nervous.

‘Although some evidence supports the impact of music, demonstrating an actual benefit to the horse and its wellbeing is incredibly difficult.’

Posted on DailyMail


 

 
 
 
 
Published in Articles

Female equestrians have the chance to help make a change to health outcomes for other riders by taking part in a survey, which will ultimately play a part in the design of a new equestrian sports bra.

The collaboration between US and British researchers is part of a new study aiming to gather information about attitudes to the barriers to riding for women and breast biomechanics. The goal is to build a wireless sensor system to allow further study “in the field” of female equestrians.

A  survey is being conducted as part of a master’s thesis by Karin Pekarchik, from the University of Kentucky’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering (BAE) and a graduate student in Community and Leadership Development. Her dissatisfaction with bras lacking sufficient support for a sitting trot led to her collaboration with British researchers who are studying breast biomechanics of the female equestrian.

Equestrians from all spheres of horse sport are urged to take part, including those who compete, ride racehorses, or pleasure ride. Pekarchik is aiming for 1000 responses...READ MORE
 
Published in Articles
Thursday, 16 February 2017 15:36

How to Read the Mind of a Mare.

I think most horse owners who have had the pleasure of owning a mare have been exposed to their tendency to be somewhat temperamental at some point or another...I learnt very early on that my mare, Amber, would never be bossed around the arena. In fact almost always it would resolve in me begging, pleading and bargaining with her in an attempt to do the most simplistic flat work. Oh, how I learned the hard way, to read the mind of a mare!

I am almost certain that when I believe she will be good, she will be bad just to prove a point and when I think she will be bad, she will be good! 

Rule number 1: you can never predict their reactions about ANYTHING; to do so in their mind is a betrayal of their sex. So just to keep you guessing they will always ensure that you are ALWAYS wrong.

If that doesn't keep you on your toes enough, they can also demonstrate continuous mood swings throughout the day. Some wear their heart on their sleeve, so to speak, and show you with facial expressions just how they are feeling…Others, like mine, prefer to present the face of an angel but don’t be fooled by this façade because in reality they have the devil on their shoulder!

Rule number 2: Mares love nothing more than being pampered and given gifts (simple things like fruit, veg and peppermints will do). Often before a show I enjoy bringing my mare a sacrificial offering of carrots and apples to put me in her good books prior to our competition. This is purely in the hope that this will put all the odds in my favor for a smooth ride the next day. Bribery never goes amiss with a mare!

As I mentioned earlier, to add to the difficulty of trying to predict what your beloved mare is thinking, her moods can change about fifty times a day! Anything can sway her mood. But nothing seems to change my mares’ mood more than an attractive gelding. She will squeal and stand up with her ears forwards in an attempt to get his attention, to only then go and bite him when he gets too close. So although we as owners think we have a tough time, think about the poor geldings hanging out with your mare! 

Despite all of these quirks, mares also have the biggest hearts. If you can work with their nature and get through to them on their wavelength, you will have a best friend for life. Once their trust is won (which is hard to do) they will never intentionally put a foot wrong…well, that’s the theory. And on the upside lets face it; with a mare life will never be boring!

So my final piece of advice to you would be this:
Rule number 3: When trying to read the mind of a mare it’s best to expect the unexpected although sometimes it’s best not to expect anything at all…
foreveramber
Katy's novel, Forever Amber, is available to buy now. It is the true story about her mare, who she's owned for 10 years, who broke her leg followed by several life threatening illnesses. It was a huge journey... Amber is truly inspirational, she never stopped fighting.
An agreed percentage of the proceeds from each sale of both the e-book and printed edition is being donated to the British Horse Society in aid of protecting, expanding and maintaining bridle paths across the UK.
 
 
Published in Trot On Blogs

I’m sure I’m not alone in being someone who talks about horses all the time – my poor friends must be sick to death of hearing about how my riding lessons have gone, how much I miss my horses when I’m at university or all the shows I plan to do over summer. However, in all my wittering on about horses, I often forget that there are some totally bizarre expressions used in the horsey world which can cause utter confusion to the unknowing ear…

Here are my top five horsey expressions which I’ve found make no sense to those outside the equestrian world…

“He’s a green horse” – Last week, I was talking to a friend about a new horse who had arrived at our stables, and without thinking, I described him as being ‘green’. This was met by a complete look of bemusement as my friend announced that she didn’t know you could get ‘green horses’. No, I didn’t mean the horse was literally green in colour, with the term ‘green’ simply being applied to a young or inexperienced horse. But her confusion was definitely understandable!

“On the bit” – Describing a horse as being ‘on the bit’ is an expression thrown around by equestrians all the time, which we all know means a horse working correctly in an ‘outline’. (Although, some may argue that many equestrians don't really understand the true meaning of these terms, but I'll leave that to someone else to write about!) However, to the unknowing ear this sounds rather odd – conjuring up images of a horse standing on a bit! Even the term ‘bit’ is understandably confusing – it’s a strange word to describe something that goes in the horse’s mouth!

“She’s Grey” – Ahhh, the classic question! So many times I have described a horse as ‘grey’ with someone then observing, “But it's white isn't it?”, which is, of course, a very valid question. Why are horses with a white coat, called grey?! There are true white horses born with a white coat and pink skin, but these are rare, whilst most 'grey' horses have black skin and a grey coat (a mix of black and white hair) that usually fades to overall white as the horse gets older. Although on most days it also appears mud brown!

“We’re going on a hack” – Although we use this term all the time, the term ‘hack’ doesn’t obviously suggest a ride in the countryside. If anything, it sounds rather violent! I dragged one of my poor housemates to a Riding Social at University and he was horrified to hear people chatting about ‘hacks’…he had no idea what was going on!

“Cold Backed” – Well, it's easy to see why most people would think that a cold backed horse has been standing in a draft and just needs wrapping up in a lovely warm rug! Of course as riders we know that it refers to a horse that experiences discomfort when the saddle is first put on and is something that we too can become painfully aware of, if we don't read the signs!

What other strange horsey expressions have you used which have made no sense to non-horsey friends?


 
 
Published in Trot On Blogs

Spending time with horses lifts the spirits and teaches trust. More people, not fewer, should be able to ride

There are plans in place to tax horses out of British life. Proposed adjustments in business rates for non–residential properties — increases of up to eight times — could make vast swaths of the horsey world unviable. Life will be tough for top-end enterprises like racing yards and stud farms; it will be the end for the many riding schools and livery yards that exist on the far edge of the possible.

This is a disastrous way to carry on. The horsey life should have vast and sweeping tax exemption because it helps people to enjoy life more fully and to endure it more steadfastly. It keeps the blues away more efficiently than anything out of a bottle.

Horses are great teachers. Children who spend time around horses learn many important things. They learn that you never get love on your own terms; they learn that the pursuit of mastery is destructive to both parties. Above all they learn that understanding, forgiveness and calmness get better results than roaring and punishment... READ MORE
See Simon Barnes talking to Trot On HERE
 
 
 
Published in Articles
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