Excitement and fear are intrinsically linked and those butterflies fluttering in our stomachs can indicate either emotion. My favourite experience on horseback was both exciting and petrifying at the same time!

It began on a wintery Monday morning, around this time three years ago; one of those really cold days when you actually look forward to mucking so you can warm up! I was employed as a working student at Newton Hall Riding Centre, and it was our job to exercise and look after the horses there. The previous week, a few new horses had arrived, one of them being Bluebell, a 5 year old piebald cob. I loved her immediately, greeting her the first moment I could, with a little piece of carrot, a symbol of friendship that I’d nicked from the feed room. So, when I was asked to take her out for her first hack, I was ecstatic, I’d been waiting impatiently for the chance to ride her for days. Bluebell had been ridden in the school a few times by the senior instructors and apparently seemed a bit highly strung but on the whole, she went pretty well.

Off we went, accompanied by two other horses and their riders, plodding down a little road towards the hacking fields. I felt comfortable but a little nervous, a familiar feeling when riding a strange horse for the first time, as you never really know what to expect. As we turned into the first field I felt Bluebell lurch forwards in excitement as the open space beckoned her to enjoy its expansive beauty and freedom. I stiffened but gently asked her back and she complied with a brisk walk, her head bobbing up and down happily. Everything was fine until my friend Callie asked, “Shall we have a little trot up the hill?” Before I could reply, Bluebell was off, not at a trot like the others but at a flat-out gallop.

There was nothing I could do to slow her down as disastrous scenarios ran equally as fast through my mind, “what if I fall off… I could die… I might never be able to ride again…”. I felt the icy wind cut past my stinging cheeks, heard the repetitive thud of hooves against the hard, semi frozen mud. I pulled firmly on the reins, leaning back, pushing my feet forward into the stirrups, trying my best to win this tug of war. Of course, it was useless. Bluebell was possessed, ignoring my requests to slow down as we thundered across the field. My heart beat fast and hard in my chest, I gulped down air, slightly choking on snips of mud churned up from the hooves of my now uncontrollable steed. I helplessly looked to my left, faintly hearing the low drone of the huge combine harvester in the neighbouring field. Then Bluebell threw her body to the right and everything went blurry.

I saw the blurred ground come closer as I began to fall but somehow I managed to hold on, my arms wrapped around Bluebells thick neck, one leg scooped around the top of the saddle. She slowed slightly, cantering through the middle of the field away from the big monstrous machine. I heaved myself back into the saddle, gathering the reins, I gave one last pull and sat there limp and shaky, grateful for the relatively slower pace of a brisk trot.  I have no Idea how I stayed in the saddle that day. My hacking buddies finally reached us as I was nervously trotting Bluebell round in a small circle, thanking God that we were both unscathed, and slightly calmer now. We then continued the hack at a very sedate pace, with a few excitable bursts of energy from Bluebell, in the form of a little buck or two. Amazingly, we managed to get home in one piece and when I dismounted, honestly, I nearly fell to the yard floor. My legs were like jelly!

I’m sure we’ve all had one of those moments- your heart skips a beat and the adrenaline pumps around your body as you glance at the ground and realise just how fast you’re going. For me the excitement of moments like these are intrinsically linked with the frisson of fear, and that’s what makes riding so exhilarating. Let’s face it, it's the chance of a spill that gives you that thrill!. It's rather like when you’re standing on the edge of a cliff or tall building and you just have to look down when you know it’s only going to scare you. You have to do it!

I would love to know what YOUR favourite experiences have been when riding. Maybe something went a bit wrong and you’re proud of yourself for dealing with it. Or you just felt really good about how your horse went. Or maybe you just went for a good old gallop! We all do this because we love it, so let’s celebrate and share our favourite moments… even if they were a bit scary!

Megan McCusker



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When I first started at the University of York back in September, although I was really excited about meeting new people and starting my degree, leaving behind my horses was something that I found really hard. Not only was I going to miss riding regularly but I was worried I would go completely mad without a horse to talk to!

However, within my first week at University, I had discovered and joined the York Riding Society which meant I could have a weekly riding lesson and make friends with  fellow equestrians. Through them I then heard about team trials being run for the York Equestrian Team and decided to give it a go, even though I didn't think I had much of a chance! So, you can imagine my surprise when I did actually manage to secure myself a place on the team, and since then, my eyes have been opened to a whole new world of competing whilst being at University.

The York Equestrian Team runs as part of the British University and College Sports League, otherwise known as the BUCS League, which is essentially a series of competitions between higher education institutions for all the different sports you could think of, from football to archery to clay pigeon shooting! 160 Universities across the country have an equestrian team that is part of the BUCS League, taking part in competitions across the country. Each competition consists of a dressage phase, with a test involving simple movements in walk, trot and canter, followed by a show jumping round, with jumps reaching a maximum of one metre.

What is so unique about competing through the BUCS League is that all competitors are riding borrowed horses, usually ones that belong to the equestrian centre hosting that particular event. The horses each rider will compete on are chosen by picking straws out of a hat, with each competitor riding a different horse for the two different phases. You then have a set amount of time to get warmed up and get to know each other before your round, and there are only seven minutes for you to prepare to do your dressage test!

Riding different horses and having to get used to their personalities and way of going so quickly is a fantastic way to improve your riding. In our lessons at the riding centre, to prepare for the league we ride different horses every week and work hard on exercises such as transitions and riding into a contact. When you have been riding the same horse for years at a time, getting onto a new horse can feel strange and sometimes unnerving, so this is also great for building our confidence as riders.

Not only does riding as part of the BUCS League help to build your abilities as a rider, but it is of course a perfect way to meet other people at University, and experience being part of a supportive team. This also applies to having weekly lessons through a riding society, which is again a fantastic opportunity to meet similar people to yourself, as well as a way to keep your riding up during term time. I have also come to find that it is the perfect form of stress relief, with there being nothing better than a good riding lesson to cheer you up!

I also want to add that the BUCS League can provide an amazing opportunity for those who have not previously had their own horse to compete on to be able to ride at events, so I'd recommend anyone who loves riding and wants a chance to compete to give it a go.

If you are someone who is worrying about not getting to ride as much when going away to University, don’t panic! There are so many opportunities out there that mean you can keep up your riding, and I would encourage anyone who is interested in competing to get involved with the BUCS League. If your University does not have a team, there is nothing to stop you from forming your own!

I would love to hear from anyone who is currently at, or has been at University, and ridden with their riding society or competed as part of the BUCS League, and good luck to anyone who is thinking of doing so!

To find out more, visit http://www.bucs.org.uk/sport.asp?section=896&sectionTitle=Equestrian.

Ellie Fells


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For the last 10 years, there have been quiet rumblings of a revolution in the equine world- the transition from bitted to bitless bridles. There are riders who team chase very successfully in bitless bridles and there is now even a dressage competition for those who have binned their bits! When you think about it, the bitted bridle can’t feel comfortable and perhaps we should consider a more sympathetic way of using the bridle as a mechanism for safety and control for both horse and rider.

The bit is universally used in the equine industry and I will hold my hands up and admit that I am one of them. But, I’ve had my moments recently of thinking about the possible negative effects the bit has on the horse. However, the idea of moving towards a bitless bridle begs the questions, how can you feel in control of your horse without a bit? What if you feel unsafe? But as riders, do we ever have full control of these beautiful wild animals that have complex minds of their own?

Robert Cook, PhD and professor at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, who designed the 'Dr Cook's bitless bridle" argues that the bit is not as effective as we imagine and ‘it is hard for us to accept that we have been wrong for so long’. Through his research, Dr Cook has found that bitted bridles are ‘primitive’ and essentially ‘unnecessary for control of the horse’. Dr Cook considers the bit to be cruel and counterproductive, as it controls the horse through the threat of pain- similar to a whip. In response to this discomfort, the horse can easily evade the bit, positioning it between their teeth or under their tongue, you could therefore be taken for an unexpected gallop. Bit induced pain can cause a raft of issues, such as; ‘bolting, rearing, bucking, head shaking, napping, balking, stumbling, pulling and jigging.

But is it the bit that is the problem in some of these cases or just bad hands? And wouldn't you still get some of these evasions even without a bit? Bitted or bitless, a horse can still experience discomfort in other parts of his body and how do we know some horses aren't stressed by pressure to their nose or poll. Also, horses, as we all know, have their own minds and sometimes may just feel a bit fresh or argumentative.

Arguably, many riders have become ignorant of the effect the bit is having on the horse and various methods of, ‘bit avoidance’, are unfortunately ignored, or misunderstood and put down to  the horse being ‘naughty’ or ‘excitable’. These common occurrences in the sport we all love are being seen in a new light, as the horse’s mouth is such a sensitive area. Although of course, all horses are different and some are un-phased and perfectly happy wearing a bitted bridle, joyfully snatching a clump of grass, or nibbling a yummy section of foliage whilst out on a relaxed hack, plodding along with no problem at all!

So do you think the bit is the problem or do we just need to improve our riding through a better understanding of biomechanics and the way we use the bit? Have any of you used a bitless bridle? Would you consider using one or would you feel unsafe? But are we ever really ‘safe’ on this ride called life?

Megan McCusker


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We've all been in situations with horses where our nerves have got the better of us, whether it's the after-shock of a bad fall, or simply because we're afraid to move our riding up a level by doing a bigger jump or a harder dressage test. These nerves can undoubtedly be tricky things to overcome, and it can sometimes take years to truly regain confidence after a bad experience; after all, horses are BIG animals, and although we all love them to bits, they can at times be a little bit scary to even the most experienced of riders.

Unfortunately, one fact that is drummed into us from the start is that as a rider, our nerves are quickly and easily transferred to our horse, and a nervous rider almost certainly equals a nervous horse. Helpful, hey?!

But the good news is that we can tackle these nerves, improve our riding and help our horse at the same time. Here are five really useful tips for the New Year that I have been given over the years, and have really helped me to calm those dreaded butterflies! Although some may seem simple, they're definitely effective.

1. BREATHE!: As silly as it sounds, when riders get nervous, breathing is something that they forget to do, - it becomes all too easy to find yourself holding your breath or breathing shallowly as you go round a cross country course or ride a dressage test. This will quickly make you stiff and tense, which will only make your horse tense too. I know that I am certainly guilty of forgetting to breathe, and have nearly passed out at the end of cross country courses, bright red in the face! So, when you're nervous, the first thing you need to do is focus on taking slow, deep breathes in, and out. You can even start on the ground before you get onto your horse. Focus on breathing right down into your abdomen, and sense your stomach, ribs and back of your shoulders expanding as you breathe in. Some people find it helps to count as they breathe, for instance four counts for an in-breath and five counts for an out-breath; find a rhythm that works for you. This will not only help you to relax, but is bound to make your horse relax with you.

2. Talk to your family and friends: Another tip that I have found hugely useful is to simply talk to people. When you’re nervous, it is easy to bottle things up rather than admit to how you feel, hoping the nerves will simply go away. Unfortunately, they often get worse! If you’re worried about doing a bigger jump or riding a difficult horse, talk to people about it and you'll be rewarded with useful advice and words of encouragement, which will no doubt help you to feel better.

Also. when people are nervous they often become quiet too, so take your mind off what you're nervous about and talk to people about something completely unrelated, such as what you watched on TV last night. Simply chatting like this will help you to feel calmer and more relaxed, and can help you to take your mind off whatever is bothering you.

3. Talk to your horse: Talking to your horse is also a great way of helping to calm those dreaded nerves. If I was worried about a competition or lesson with my horse, I always found it so useful to just chatter away to him beforehand, telling him what was wrong and what we were about to do, and I’m sure he understood me every time, even if anyone else listening in probably thought I was mad!  Also, talking to your horse whilst you are riding him or her is another great way to help you both relax. Horses clearly respond to the voice of their rider, and it helps to reassure them, as well as you, that everything will be okay.

4. Sing your favourite song in your head: Although this may risk making me sound completely mad, singing in your head may be the perfect way to help to battle your nerves. If there is a song that makes you smile, then simply sing it to yourself and if no one is around then why not sing it out loud! You'll find that it helps to take your mind off what's worrying you, whilst also helping you to breathe, relax, and ultimately to enjoy yourself! Which brings me to my final tip...

5. SMILE!: My personal favourite – simply smile as much as you possibly can! A smile can make everything so much better, helping to release feel-good hormones that will lift your whole mood, something which will undoubtedly be transferred to your horse. If you sit there looking miserable, your horse is bound to feel miserable too, but if you smile, your horse will smile with you!

So, if you are someone who finds their nerves can sometimes be overwhelming, I hope that at least one of these tips will make your New Year a more confident one.

Good luck to you all with your riding in 2016 – let me know how you all get on and if you've got any other confidence tricks please share them below. Happy Riding!

Ellie Fells


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Author, Jackie Parry's recent book release A Standard Journey - 5 horses, 2 people and 1 tent is the story about how she and her husband, Noel adopted five horses and sold everything they had. Life became horses, trail, and endurance: all seven reliant on one another as they trekked along part of Australia’s Bicentennial National Trail - a learning experience if ever there was one... Here, Jackie shares with Trot On, some lessons learned.

I learned a lot about myself while trail riding in the Australian bush – unaided – for several months. But I learned a lot more about the horses.

Lesson 5

I’ve shown you so far what I’ve learned about trust, demeanourspersonalities, and miracles. I was writing four lessons, but I just couldn’t leave out Dom; now, back to basics: just knowing your horse.

How could you leave this friendly, gorgeous boy out?

He was just four when we came to us, life for him had been fun and easy; all he wanted to do was play.

Playful and just full of love and joy – that’s our Dommie

Over time, most horse owners understand their horses and can interpret their signals and behaviour. This is simply what Dom taught us; that because he was young and playful, it didn’t always mean he wanted to play and be silly.

He wasn’t always having fun, he worked hard for us too.

He taught us, rather quickly, that when tied to the fence and eating hay, when he pawed the ground it wasn’t because he had an urge to misbehave, he simply needed a wee and would not wee near his food.

We also learned that he loved to roll in water (well, in anything really).

Sand! He loved sand, he’d barely stepped into the arena before he was down!

His need to go down into a roll, within seconds, was especially trying when he was loaded with all our gear and crossing creeks. Bless him!

Noel with his string of three. Dom’s on the left, about to roll!

The boys are with friends while we are near family in the UK. I miss them everyday – they don’t miss me at all, they are living like royalty.

Jackie Parry



If you want to read the full story, A Standard Journey: 5 horses, 2 people, and 1 tent, take a look HERE.

At least 50% of profits from this story are donated to horse charities, see HERE for more information.

If you have any questions about trail riding, or anything else please do contact me, Jackie Parry here on Trot On.

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Author, Jackie Parry's recent book release A Standard Journey - 5 horses, 2 people and 1 tent is the story about how she and her husband, Noel adopted five horses and sold everything they had. Life became horses, trail, and endurance: all seven reliant on one another as they trekked along part of Australia’s Bicentennial National Trail - a learning experience if ever there was one... Here, Jackie shares with Trot On, some lessons learned.

I learned a lot about myself while trail riding in the Australian bush – unaided – for several months. But I learned a lot more about the horses.

Lesson Four.

The first three lessons taught me about horses’ demeanour, personality and trusting them; now let’s talk miracles!

A beautiful moment when the horses first encountered salt licks!

We know horses are tough, but they are so much tougher than I realised. I also now know that miracles can happen.

There were several injuries along the way. Sadly (and rather painfully), they were mostly mine. In the beginning I had warned Noel, ‘you’re not considered a true rider unless you have fallen off more than eight times.’

‘Wonderful,’ he’d said somewhat sceptically.

This is what I had grown up with. I’d ridden through my childhood – splendid years I still miss. Noel had previously ridden too, but not to the depth I had.

My smugness left me eating rather large portions of humble pie. I was the one who met the ground far too often and in some odd and embarrassing situations.

Everything hurts so much more in your forties, but I still have strong bones.

One of our camps. Our tent, where I spent many nights nursing vivid bruises!

But what one horse endured was so incredible, we still wonder about it today.

Spirit became all muscle, so strong – unbelievably so!

We came across a fallen tree, about a foot high. Across the track were two thin, forked branches. The team stepped over the obstacle without a problem. But we’d taken a wrong turning and we had to turn back. Noel was at the front with his three when we traversed the tree for the second time.

Huddled together, Stevie in the lead.

‘Stop, stop,’ I yelled. I could see Spirit’s hoof caught between the branches. Noel stopped Stevie and leaped off. Noel raced up to Spirit, and as I called out, ‘Do you need a hand?’ Spirit started to go down.

‘Yes, yes, help, HELP,’ screamed Noel, and the thud of dread hit the pit of my stomach. Noel doesn’t panic and had never screamed for help.

As I jumped off Charlie, and slung Ned’s rope over his neck, I could see Spirit’s legs folding beneath him, and Noel trying to hold him up. Spirit’s nose dug into the ground, and he groaned loudly. Noel was crying, ‘No, no.’ I couldn’t see why until I crouched next to Spirit. His front leg was bent at an impossible angle. I screamed.

This is at a different moment – but Noel would often hop off Stevie and leave his string of three, they never wandered. Noel is taking a picture of a hut left for travellers in the bush.

I won’t reveal the full outcome, but the miracle of building this team, changing those boys’ lives, and our lives changing so much more, was not the only miracle we witnessed. That’s the only explanation I have.

We changed their lives, but they transformed our lives forever. Stevie, Spirit, Dom, Charlie (out in front) and Ned.

Spirit was amazing. He was all muscle – a powerhouse. He gave us his all during the day, but clearly knew his boundaries, in the evening he was not to be disturbed, that was his time – and rightly so.

He worked hard and soon taught us to leave him be when he’d finished his work for the day!

He did work hard, and played hard too – he had a great sense of humour :)

Lesson five coming soon (“lesson five?” Yes, I had to, you’ll see why…)

The boys are with friends while we are near family in the UK. I miss them everyday – they don’t miss me at all, they are living like royalty.

Jackie Parry


If you want to read the full story, A Standard Journey: 5 horses, 2 people, and 1 tent, take a look HERE.

At least 50% of profits from this story are donated to horse charities, see HERE for more information.

If you have any questions about trail riding, or anything else please do contact me, Jackie Parry here on Trot On.

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1. You will only have tea after the horses have been fed.

In an equestrians world, 99% of the time, the horse's come first. If you think that your tea will be served before the horses - then you are out of luck. You'll also be lucky to have tea by 8pm, what with all the yard duties and evening riding :-).

2. You will hear the word 'horse' at least 100 times a day - if not more!

"My horse, your horse, horses, I love horses...", you will hear the word "horse" constantly. You'll also probably learn how to switch off every time you hear it, to stop you going star-crazy!

3. Weekends will be taken up by horse shows

You'll probably go to shows at the start of your relationship, however you'll soon learn that this is not your idea of a quiet, relaxing, weekend. Copious people running around like headless chickens, horses escaping, people laughing, crying, shouting.  After a couple of shows you will find yourself making up some excuse about why you can't attend.

4. You're house will look like an extension of your partners tack room - fact.

Bridles, saddles, bits, you name they've got it in the house somewhere. Be prepared to accept this.

5. Be prepared for one hell of an emotional roller coaster

Horses are seriously hard work and you'll probably end up being a comfort blanket for your partner when things get tough. If you are dating a rider, be prepared to jump aboard the emotional roller coaster of the world of horses.

Abi Rule



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'I want to dedicate this blog to anyone who has cried when they shouldn’t.. Wipe your tears, because if the person who caused those tears isn’t wiping them for you, then your tears are wasted on them...'

A couple of weeks ago I got asked how I started riding and how I kept relevant. It got me thinking... Am I really relevant?

Lots of people won’t know that I didn’t actually start riding till very late. In fact, I didn’t have my first lesson until I was in my early teens - being from my background we always had ponies around and I used to ride them bareback, but I always wanted to ride ‘properly’ despite that going against everything I was brought up to do and be. You see I just couldn’t let this fascination with riding horses go... My parents thought I’d out grow the ‘riding ponies phase’ but I never did, and I left school at a very young age to ride/work with horses...

I left school partly because I was really badly bullied. I was not and won’t be the first or only kid to be bullied at school. Kids can be the cruelest things in the world... I guess, looking back right from that point my ‘tough’ skin was forming. You see, in my teenage years the thing I struggled with the most was that I didn’t fit in anywhere - everyone knows about my background and it’s nothing new, but I was brought up to not mix or talk with the ‘normal folk’ and here, I was not only mixing with them because of the horses but I was also enjoying there company... There were a few years in my mid to late teens were I mixed 50/50 with the gypsy community and the non gypsy community - I would go to a gypsy party or wedding and my own people wouldn’t try very hard to hide the fact I didn’t fit it. Same with normal folk - some were great, but some not so much.

The overwhelming feeling I have felt all my life is that I, in some way or shape, am letting someone down or not fitting it. Either I am not speaking correctly, am too outspoken or am being to honest. This isn’t a case of poor little Phoebe feeling sorry for herself, it’s how I feel. You see I am not a massively confident person, but I am a very assured person. I know when I have messed up, ridden well or said something I shouldn’t have and I’m happy to throw my hands up and be honest to everything I do or say. Good or bad...

I spent my early to mid 20’s dating someone totally toxic for me. He wasn’t a bad person, and I won’t slag him off as I’m not that type of person, but he was ashamed of my background and he would drum that fact in to me. Was he a bad person? No... Was he a bad person for me? Without doubt... Am I the first girl to be with the wrong type of bloke? Of course I’m not!! But he did rip my confidence to pieces, I remember him saying he was pleased I had a fall at one major event because I was getting to ‘big headed’.

I started to question everything I said and how I behaved... I had always thought that I was a fairly level headed, down to earth person but here, the person I loved, was telling me I wasn’t. So there it began – the beginning of Phoebe Buckley trying to be everything she wasn’t and everything she thought everyone else wanted her to be... For years I watched my P’s and Q’s in fear of not fitting in even more than I already didn’t. Then I went even further the other way, I used to pretend I was happy and didn’t mind the fact that people didn’t like me, that I didn’t fit in or that I didn’t have any friends. When in fact, I hated it, I hated that I had forgotten how to just be me. Some days I’d just cry because I hated not being comfortable in being me... Everything suffered and I truly believe I have not achieved half of what I would have achieved had I just been in a more settled place.

But hey ho, I wasn’t and I didn’t... Sadly that ship has sailed… For now…

A couple of years ago I started to find my feet, I was getting back to me...

Something happened. I started my trips to Scotland and wow.. I was given a shiny new start, I went there knowing that no one from Scotland had ever met me before. I promised myself on the first flight up that I was going to be 100% me... 100% Phoebe Buckley. If they didn’t want me to come back so be it, but to my amazement they all seemed to love me!!  My Scottish friends will never be able to understand the confidence they have and are giving me... I don’t soft soap any of them in my lessons, they fall off, I shout at them, I push them and above all I tell them when they have done a great job... So far they all seem to quite like the  real ‘Phoebe Buckley’.

Am I totally back to me? Nope... Not yet.

I still have wobbles when people say things, but when I do have those wobbles I try to remember to take a deep breath and I remind myself that those wobbles are the very reason I am relevant...

Because I'm human – I’ve had shit boyfriends, I’ve said things I shouldn’t, I’ve posted things on Facebook I wished I hadn’t, I’ve enjoyed success, I’ve ridden badly, I’ve ridden well,  I’ve cried when things have gone wrong or when I’ve lost horses... I’m honest to a fault, and I want people to know that the toughest of people still care what people think.

I have learnt the very hard way that worrying about what people think isn’t the problem. - It’s worrying about what the wrong people think is where the damage is done...

So from this day on, if someone says or does something that upsets you, just turn the page on them, never see any mistake you make as a step backwards... It’s a step sideways at worst - if you learn something from it then it’s still a step forwards, even if it’s only a small one.

I want to dedicate this blog to anyone who has cried when they shouldn’t.. Wipe your tears, because if the person who caused those tears isn’t wiping them for you then your tears are wasted on them...

Have a great Christmas everyone! And I hope 2016 brings you all everything you wish for.. Over and out…

P x x

Re-published with kind permission from Phoebe Buckley|Blog


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When it comes to buying a new horse people often think younger is better, and overlook buying an older horse. They tend to see older horses as plod-alongs that they can't do much with, especially if they have sporting ambitions, but I want to argue that that's not always the case!

Taking on an older horse can provide endless benefits, giving confidence to humans and horses alike. Obviously they need a bit more TLC but then we all know of someone who has taken on a youngster and they have within a short space of time developed physical problems. Age isn't necessarily a guarantee of soundness.

If you've lost your confidence, riding an older, 'been there and done that' horse can be the best way to get it back. With youngsters, you need to teach them and give them confidence, whereas an older horse can teach you and show you that everything will be okay. Our horse, Arthur, was 22 when I took him to our first event. I am quite a nervous rider, but Arthur well and truly looked after me, flying over anything I put in front of him and really showing me how it's done. You wouldn't have believed his age either: despite his being almost double my age, I was definitely more tired than he was by the end of the course!

And older horses can be great for giving confidence to younger horses too. For example, a well behaved, experienced horse can be perfect for accompanying a young horse out on a hack, leading them past  potentially scary hazards, showing them how to hop over a ditch. Again, our older horse, Arthur, has been perfect for this. He's proved his weight in gold as a 'nanny' to young racehorses, looking after them and making sure things don't seem too scary, and has often given them a lead up the gallops. Despite his age, Arthur is still well and truly able to give those youngsters a run for their money!

Caroline Powell and Lenamore aged 18, Burghley 2011

It's important however, to make sure that your veteran is fit enough for the job - although of course this is the case with any horse - but older horses, like older people, can feel the strain more quickly. Movement is the key; turn them out as much as possible, and ride them regularly, making sure that they carry themselves correctly too. Treated properly some horses can continue competing at the highest level, well into their teens and even their 20s. Look at the incredible Lenamore, who was 17 when he and Caroline Powell won Burghley in 2010!  And even if your oldie isn't quite up to four star eventing there are other opportunities for having fun, including veteran classes. My first ever show involved taking my 30 year old pony, Rosie, to a veteran showing class. I was only ten and had absolutely no idea what showing was about, but she looked after me and we even brought home a rosette.

For me, the benefits of the Golden Oldies are endless. Obviously after a certain age, the activities you can do together will be restricted but this doesn't mean the enjoyment you have together needs to end. Arthur and I still go out for lovely long rides, and I am always amazed at how happy and well he seems. He has done so much for my confidence and I am so grateful to him. Love you Arthur!

I'd love to hear other positive 'golden oldie' stories and please share any advice you have for looking after them.

Ellie Fells


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Published in Trot On Blogs
Tuesday, 24 November 2015 14:41

Are you harming your horse by using a whip?

Good horsemanship sees the whip as an extension of the leg, an aid to help enhance and control your horse’s performance. Using a whip whilst riding is fairly harmless, or is it?

New research by Dr Lydia Tong, veterinary pathologist from Sydney University, has shown that horses may feel pain in similar ways that we do.

This begs the question, Are you harming your horse by using a whip?

Dr Tong compared sections of horse and human skin, taken from the same physical area, the flank. It’s been discovered that the supposed “thicker skinned” horse is much more physically sensitive than we all thought. The top layer of the skin where the pain sensing fibres are, is thinner in the equine specimen than this part of the human skin.

From this we must question whether it is morally acceptable to use whips in the same way as the overall thickness of horse and human skin differs by just 1mm.

With this new information we can see that the pain felt being on the receiving end of a thwack from a whip is arguably very similar in the cases of both horses and humans. Dr Tong affirms that, as horses are prey animals, they are more likely to shield their pain;

“If a prey animal shows its pain very overtly, they are more likely to then be noticed and picked out by a predator".

Therefore, your horse may be hiding the stinging aftermath of a quick tap on the rump because of their base position in the food chain, not because it doesn’t hurt them.

This new research has brought into play a whole raft of questions about whip use in the equestrian world.

We’ve all been there, where the use of a whip seems necessary, in the case of a young horse in training or a big old cob who drags his/ her feet a bit. But sometimes just carrying a whip is enough to give your horse the boost he/she needs to work to the best of their ability, alternatively, padded whips can help in softening the blow so to speak.

Perhaps riders should think twice about using the whip and get those legs going instead!

What are your thoughts?

Megan McCusker


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