Monday, 12 February 2018 10:24

British Eventing Medical Rule Changes

Many of you will be aware that British Eventing have, in the last few days, changed their rules regarding competitors who fall at an event. These changes have been made in light of ongoing research with regards to concussion and they bring BE in line with the FEI rules which have been in place for the last ten years.

Previously if you toppled off in any phase of your event you could get back on and continue the rest of your day, as long as you were unhurt. With this new rule if you fall that will be the end of your event on that horse, as all riders who fall will be eliminated. The important caveats to this are that if you fall in the warm up you can still compete or if you have more than one horse you will still be able to ride your subsequent horses, provided you get the green light from the event doctor.

If you have been lucky enough to have never suffered a fall at an event an important point to remember is that it is your responsibility to ensure that you are seen by the doctor before heading home. As an event doctor myself I can tell you that hunting for riders in a lorry park is a total nightmare, especially once you take your number bibs off!

I know that some riders are frustrated by these new rules but they stem from recent developments in guidance on managing concussion, and although it often appears mild, concussion is a serious business. We are now much more aware of the risks and long term effects of concussion and although you might think you’ve just bumped your head if not treated properly if can have long term effects on your cognitive functioning. Take the advice of medical staff seriously after even a mild concussion and of course reduce your risk as much as possible by never getting on a horse without a helmet. Ensuring no further head injuries occur, staying well rested, and giving your brain some “off” time (i.e no phones or TV) are ways of helping concussion to recover and avoid more serious long term effects.

Your brain is fragile, protect it and protect yourself.


joae150As it says on the tin, this is a personal blog about the journey Archie and I are taking in discovering the world of eventing. Archie is a 6 year old Irish gelding, and I am a 26 year old horse addict. I didn’t grow up in a family with horses, and Archie was the first horse I ever owned, having loaned for over 20 years. I hope that we can show other riders who perhaps don’t feel that they can achieve their dreams, that anything is possible!

 

Re-published by kind permission of Journey of an Amateur Eventer|Blog

Published in Trot On Blogs
Tuesday, 06 February 2018 17:22

Sexism in the Equestrian Industry.

We like to think that men and women are on pretty equal footing when it comes to equestrian sports and equestrianism in general. But look a bit deeper and is this really the case?

There are plenty of female riders who prove that they are just as good as the men at dressage, eventing and show jumping but still, especially in show jumping, there are more men in the top ranks. And what about horse racing? When it comes down to finding investors, male trainers and jockeys still find it easier to get backing and with a sport that relies heavily on gambling, it's assumed, probably correctly, that most men prefer to put their money on a horse ridden by a man. We've also heard complaints from aspiring female jockeys who spend most of their time doing stable chores and get very little chance to ride, let alone compete. However, female jockeys are as good as men and it's even been proven by a study by Liverpool University!

two girls looking at advertising bill board for equestrian product showing eleven male equestrians and one female equestrian

Do men get taken more seriously than women?!! 

Unfortunately grooms wages across the equestrian industry are still extremely low, taking advantage of the dreams of young women who are desperate to work with horses. If the majority of grooms were male, would this still be the case? We doubt many men would put up with being so poorly paid.

But it's not just men who are at fault, women are just as likely to discriminate against their own sex. We've encountered women owners saying that they don't want a female jockey riding their horse in a race as 'they're just not strong enough.' Even outside of sport, many women prefer to use a male vet or equine dentist and wouldn't dream of using a female farrier. There is even scientific evidence to show that women are biased against other women.

In a male dominated industry such as racing, when you hear female jockeys being interviewed on TV, and they're asked about sexism in their sport- they usually say that they've never encountered any. This may of course be true, especially for those who have come from racing families. But let's face it, would any female jockey who has fought hard to get rides, really want to rock the boat and risk losing the rides they do have. 

And then there's the issue of sexual harassment. As we've seen from Hollywood's #MeToo movement, when the balance of power is so much in the employers favour, especially when the employee is desperate to pursue their dream, this can lead to the employer abusing their position. Also, depressingly women can't fail to notice that you don't have to be working in Hollywood to lose out on a job to someone better looking, even if you would be damn good at it. 

When it comes to sexual harassment and bullying, again it can be difficult to speak up, can't it? Which is why we shouldn't judge those who feel afraid to speak out either. Some women feel powerless at the beginning of their careers and only feel much later on that they can speak out, as is the case with trainer and ex-jockey Gaye Kelleway.

The only way to bring about change however is for women to value themselves and support other women. 

Have you encountered sexism in the equestrian industry?


 

Published in Trot On Blogs

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!

Sara Carew.  
For pole work clinics, ideas, information sharing and more, check out Sara's FB group Poll Position Equestrian Coaching 

 
Published in Trot On Blogs

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..

P x

Re-published with kind permission from Phoebe Buckley|Blog



Published in Trot On Blogs
Monday, 22 January 2018 12:42

"Ohh, Mother"

There are plenty of things that we say and do which I’m sure our horses think are totally ridiculous. I sometimes imagine I can hear Archie sighing “Ohh Mother” in a similar tone to how a bored teenager would express their exasperation to an embarrassing parent. For example…

• We insist on an excessive amount kisses and hugs. A hello one, a goodbye one, one when you’ve had to tell them off and now feel guilty…

• We fight the eternal battle against mud and stable stains when quite frankly a roll appears to be the preferred activity at all times.

• We get hyped up about a competition for which we spend month preparing and then approximately 10 minutes actually showing what we can do.

• We turn up with fancy colour coordinated kit and exclaim at how much they must love it when in fact their eyesight has pretty limited colour vision.

• We put words in their mouths (a prime example being the title of this blog!) when in reality all they probably care about is who is delivering the next meal.

The relationship between humans and horses has had a long, sometimes stormy, but often beautiful history. It’s safe to say that a lot of our behaviour makes no sense to them but they are kind enough to tolerate our foibles and love us anyway!

joae150As it says on the tin, this is a personal blog about the journey Archie and I are taking in discovering the world of eventing. Archie is a 6 year old Irish gelding, and I am a 26 year old horse addict. I didn’t grow up in a family with horses, and Archie was the first horse I ever owned, having loaned for over 20 years. I hope that we can show other riders who perhaps don’t feel that they can achieve their dreams, that anything is possible!
 
 
Re-published by kind permission of Journey of an Amateur Eventer|Blog
Published in Trot On Blogs

Trot On member, Kaitlin Woods, continues her blog sharing her journey - the ups and the downs, with her new ex-racing thoroughbred steed, Freddie. Here, in this posting, (originally written back in October last year), Kaitlin explains how she's had to deal with a dramatic loss of condition in Freddie shortly after his arrival.

Well that has flown by! 2 whole months and one week my boy has been home and it's honestly been amazing but a hell of a journey already...

If you haven't read my first blog posting, my lovely new ex racehorse came home on the 14th August, but with a superficial digital flexor tendon injury (more info on the blog, go have a read!) Since arriving home I've been ensuring Freddie remains as calm and sane as possible as to not damage the leg further by dancing and running about. The leg has continued to not show any signs of heat or swelling so fingers crossed he is fixing well. 

Our first hurdle to overcome arose a week and a half after Fred came home. He came to me in amazing condition, which as we all know with racehorses isn't always the case. I believe that if a horse is well on the inside, he will shine on the outside. Well fed, very loved and cared for and there you have it, a magnificent looking animal. Marie Mcguinness, Freddie's old trainer honestly adores her horses and my god does it show. (I believe that is why Freddie is one of the kindest horses I have ever met, he has been loved and cared for like a true king.) However, once Freddie came home, he had a bit of an adrenaline shock, I think it all hit him (as many ex racehorses out of training experience) - a new home and environment and a completely different routine, and he drastically lost condition and almost sagged... 

Freddie when he arrived                                                                                             Freddie 1 week in

Freddie 2 months in

He has lost back muscle from no work but his overall condition really fell. Very worrying that a horse can change so much in such a short space of time… Time for operation feed that can help! One problem… feed really isn't my thing, having had the pony for 8 years that really did not need feeding I was stuck on where to even begin! Thankfully help was on hand at my local country and feed store, a lady who had thoroughbreds too helped me to decide on what was best for Fred. He hasn't been confirmed for ulcers but being a racehorse and their high sugar, low fibre diets and the fact he was windsucking after eating his handful of high fibre nuts (although he does windsuck out of boredom too), I have gone for a molasses free chaff, in particular the Dengie Alfafa A one as well as Coolstance Copra meal which is well known for being a weight gaining feed especially used by many thoroughbred owners. What a transformation this has given! Freddie is looking so much better, I’m very pleased. However, with Freddie hopefully coming into work very soon once he’s been scanned I am slightly dropping his feed as he is feeling quite well from an oil based feed and I don’t want unnecessary fizz in the early stages. I’ll keep you updated on what he’s eating and how we are getting on!

Freddie has continued to be hand walked daily to strengthen the leg and see the world. He’s been such a good boy, even in the worst of weather conditions and traffic he has maintained a very cool and level head and I’m so proud of him for that. We have the odd excited moment but overall a very good boy, it’s honestly like walking your dog! Long may it continue when I’m on board him!!

Over the last 3 weeks Freddie has been moved into a bigger paddock, finally no more squares! He’s so happy bless him, the first time I turned him out I was expecting a bit of an explosion but he just walked the perimeter of his new field before giving me a little glance of approval and then of course got straight down to business… eating! He does have the occasional play about but no heat or swelling appears from the leg and unfortunately he cannot be bubble wrapped forever! He is definitely a food boy though, and as long as there is good food the excitement soon passes so he can munch away again. 

The other big step we took was to turn him out with Inky, the other ex-racehorse who is a true gentlemen and looks after everyone. All being well all three will be turned out together full time after we know whether the leg is ok and so an introduction to Inky seemed a good idea. It was like dropping my child off at school!! “Be nice, don’t hurt anyone and don’t hurt yourself!!” They loved each other, a little trot around in excitement and then settled straight down to eating the same blade of grass… bromance blossoming!

We have also reduced the length of time that Freddie is wearing his stable bandages, from 24/7 when he was on complete box rest to only at night when he came home. I then started to apply the bandages every other night and so on. He now doesn’t wear them at all and there has been no swelling at all. Good sign!

I did notice about a month in that he had a slight cold and snotty nose, I took it a bit easy on the walking in case he was feeling a bit under the weather. But he was soon fine and I didn’t have to have snot wiped over me when I was trying to lead him! Always a bonus  

Freddie also has a new medium weight rug for the chilly winter nights as I will be keeping him out mostly as they have a large field shelter which we bed down with straw. I also love the detachable hood and ‘atlantic blue’ suits him rather well don’t you think?!

So that’s it for our second update! I fall in love with him more each day and can't wait to see what the future holds, it’s not always easy but a very good journey never is! Just over one week to go until his scan and then fingers crossed the real fun can begin, mega excited!

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more news on Mr Fred. 

kandf 250

 

 

 

 

 

Kaitlin and Freddie xxx

Published in Member Blogs

Trot On member, Kaitlin Woods, continues her blog sharing her journey - the ups and the downs, with her new ex-racing thoroughbred steed, Freddie. Here, in this posting, (originally written back in October last year), Kaitlin explains how she's had to deal with a dramatic loss of condition in Freddie shortly after his arrival.

Well that has flown by! 2 whole months and one week my boy has been home and it's honestly been amazing but a hell of a journey already...

If you haven't read my first blog posting, my lovely new ex racehorse came home on the 14th August, but with a superficial digital flexor tendon injury (more info on the blog, go have a read!) Since arriving home I've been ensuring Freddie remains as calm and sane as possible as to not damage the leg further by dancing and running about. The leg has continued to not show any signs of heat or swelling so fingers crossed he is fixing well. 

Our first hurdle to overcome arose a week and a half after Fred came home. He came to me in amazing condition, which as we all know with racehorses isn't always the case. I believe that if a horse is well on the inside, he will shine on the outside. Well fed, very loved and cared for and there you have it, a magnificent looking animal. Marie Mcguinness, Freddie's old trainer honestly adores her horses and my god does it show. (I believe that is why Freddie is one of the kindest horses I have ever met, he has been loved and cared for like a true king.) However, once Freddie came home, he had a bit of an adrenaline shock, I think it all hit him (as many ex racehorses out of training experience) - a new home and environment and a completely different routine, and he drastically lost condition and almost sagged... 

Freddie when he arrived                                                                                             Freddie 1 week in

Freddie 2 months in

He has lost back muscle from no work but his overall condition really fell. Very worrying that a horse can change so much in such a short space of time… Time for operation feed that can help! One problem… feed really isn't my thing, having had the pony for 8 years that really did not need feeding I was stuck on where to even begin! Thankfully help was on hand at my local country and feed store, a lady who had thoroughbreds too helped me to decide on what was best for Fred. He hasn't been confirmed for ulcers but being a racehorse and their high sugar, low fibre diets and the fact he was windsucking after eating his handful of high fibre nuts (although he does windsuck out of boredom too), I have gone for a molasses free chaff, in particular the Dengie Alfafa A one as well as Coolstance Copra meal which is well known for being a weight gaining feed especially used by many thoroughbred owners. What a transformation this has given! Freddie is looking so much better, I’m very pleased. However, with Freddie hopefully coming into work very soon once he’s been scanned I am slightly dropping his feed as he is feeling quite well from an oil based feed and I don’t want unnecessary fizz in the early stages. I’ll keep you updated on what he’s eating and how we are getting on!

Freddie has continued to be hand walked daily to strengthen the leg and see the world. He’s been such a good boy, even in the worst of weather conditions and traffic he has maintained a very cool and level head and I’m so proud of him for that. We have the odd excited moment but overall a very good boy, it’s honestly like walking your dog! Long may it continue when I’m on board him!!

Over the last 3 weeks Freddie has been moved into a bigger paddock, finally no more squares! He’s so happy bless him, the first time I turned him out I was expecting a bit of an explosion but he just walked the perimeter of his new field before giving me a little glance of approval and then of course got straight down to business… eating! He does have the occasional play about but no heat or swelling appears from the leg and unfortunately he cannot be bubble wrapped forever! He is definitely a food boy though, and as long as there is good food the excitement soon passes so he can munch away again. 

The other big step we took was to turn him out with Inky, the other ex-racehorse who is a true gentlemen and looks after everyone. All being well all three will be turned out together full time after we know whether the leg is ok and so an introduction to Inky seemed a good idea. It was like dropping my child off at school!! “Be nice, don’t hurt anyone and don’t hurt yourself!!” They loved each other, a little trot around in excitement and then settled straight down to eating the same blade of grass… bromance blossoming!

We have also reduced the length of time that Freddie is wearing his stable bandages, from 24/7 when he was on complete box rest to only at night when he came home. I then started to apply the bandages every other night and so on. He now doesn’t wear them at all and there has been no swelling at all. Good sign!

I did notice about a month in that he had a slight cold and snotty nose, I took it a bit easy on the walking in case he was feeling a bit under the weather. But he was soon fine and I didn’t have to have snot wiped over me when I was trying to lead him! Always a bonus  

Freddie also has a new medium weight rug for the chilly winter nights as I will be keeping him out mostly as they have a large field shelter which we bed down with straw. I also love the detachable hood and ‘atlantic blue’ suits him rather well don’t you think?!

So that’s it for our second update! I fall in love with him more each day and can't wait to see what the future holds, it’s not always easy but a very good journey never is! Just over one week to go until his scan and then fingers crossed the real fun can begin, mega excited!

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more news on Mr Fred. 

kandf 250

 

 

 

 

 

Kaitlin and Freddie xxx

Published in Trot On Blogs
Thursday, 11 January 2018 10:27

Healthy Equestrians

At this time of year there are endless articles popping up on my news feed about “how to change your life” and “how to make this year your year“. I eventually succumbed to the pressure of Facebook’s advertising and clicked on a link which boldly suggested it would provide lifestyle habits that would make me healthier. I was then pleasantly surprised (and rather smug) to see that nearly all of these habits are part of my daily life thanks to horses. So that you too can all feel justified about the small fortune you spend on your horses here’s the magic list…

1. Find a form of exercise that you love doing. Easy. Done. Next.

2. Use meditation and ‘mindful’ exercise in your daily life. When I’m schooling Archie I don’t have enough brain space to work him properly and stress about life. To get the best from your horse you have to give them your absolute focus. This is my version of mediation and it’s very effective. On top of that a blue-sky day out hacking is equally as cathartic and a fast gallop up a grassy track really blows your cares away.

3. Rising early. Impossible not to when you have horses, even if they are on full livery! Eventing days result in alarm times that are simply criminal for a Sunday morning.

4. Have a good bedtime routine.  I’m usually so knackered after a day at work, a long commute and then an evening ride that a bedtime routine is unnecessary. Sleep is never a problem.

5. Find friends who identify with your challenges. Fellow equestrians are the only ones who really understand the highs and lows of horses. It’s through horses that I have made true friends for life.

6. Find a passion or creative outlet. Whether you love dressage, showing, or eventing, what with all the amazing shows throughout the year and the never-ending  stream of social media the options are endless. We are spoilt for choice!

So there you have it. Horses tick every box on their list of “Habits for a Healthy Mind and Body”. You might be broke and covered in mud all the time, but you’re healthier, and happier, for it.
 
 
Re-published by kind permission of Journey of an Amateur Eventer|Blog
Published in Trot On Blogs

2018 New Year’s Resolutions

I want to make some changes for 2018 and in order to do so I’m doing something I’ve never done before; I’m setting New Year’s Resolutions.

2017 didn’t go to plan

2017 was not my year and frankly I will be glad to see the back of it from an equestrian perspective.

My 6yo who I had from a 3yo (for whom I was super excited about) was diagnosed with kissing spine at the start of the year.  I then had to search for another horse, which in itself was super-difficult with a very limited budget.

After months of searching I purchased a smart little chestnut mare at the end of August and I’ve been riding her on these last few months in preparation for our first show in the New Year.

What I’ve mostly struggled with this past year is my mindset. Specifically, being able to keep a positive mindset when things are not going to plan.

It’s almost been a year to the day since I last competed and I’ve found that really frustrating as I am someone who has the competitive bug.  So, with New Year around the corner, I am determined that I’m not going to let another year pass without progression. To help me do this I’m setting some resolutions.

A positive 2018

Here’s my New Year’s Resolutions for 2018:

1.  To set goals

I’ve never really formally set goals. I’ve set them in my head but I’ve decided to cement them by writing them down and also speaking about them on the blog.  I feel that will really help me stick to them.

I’m going to set a combination of small goals and bigger ones. I’m also going to put together a competition diary so that I know what I’m working to.  In the past I’ve just looked at what’s coming up competition-wise but I’ve never really thought and planned things strategically. This year it’s going to be different.

2. Keep a positive mindset

I always try and maintain a positive mindset however this can be very difficult at times.  This year if things are not working, I’m going to make changes quicker. What I’ve learnt is that when horses break or things are not working out, then you should be quick to make a change. I’ve spent months and months praying horses would come sound etc and what I’ve learnt is that you need to keep moving forward and not waiting too long for things to sort themselves out.

3. Exercise; Socialise; Eat Well

There’s several other things which ensure I maintain a positive mindset and I am going to make sure I do them all to put me in the best position to achieve my goals:

• Exercise – I’m loving CrossFit at the moment and plan to continue it. It’s great for body and mind.

• Eat well – I really notice that eating rubbish food affects my mood so I’m going to ensure I eat well.

• Socialise – I feel like I know myself very well now. I am someone who loves to socialise.  In 2018 I’m going to make more effort to see friends and be social as much as possible.

4. Reflect & be grateful

It’s so easy to focus on the negative things in life. I can often be guilty of this.  I really want to try hard this year to keep focusing on all the positive amazing things in life and to not think about ‘What I don’t have’ or ‘What I can’t do’.

Do you have any horsey New Year Resolutions? If so, I’d love to hear them.

Lots of love,

Abi x

A Country Lady


 abi acl 150A Country Lady is a blog devoted to equestrian fashionistas around the world. Run by UK based amateur Show Jumper, Abi Rule. 
 

 

 
 
Published in Trot On Blogs
Thursday, 07 December 2017 11:51

Calming Signals and Pain | Anna Blake

First, last, and always, make sure your horse is sound. 

That’s the warning that any decent equine professional gives before practically anything we do. It’s the common disclaimer; we almost skim over it as a formality before getting on to the training issues. In other words, we get complacent to chronic pain messages because it’s easier to train sometimes than it is to track down some nebulous pain. We should know better.

It’s the first question every rider should ask from the ground every day. Is my horse sound? Learning to read pain takes perception; it’s complicated in the beginning. It isn’t that we don’t care. We might not be sure and that means a vet call. We usually have a plan that day. Even if it’s a trail ride, we don’t want to cancel. If it’s something that involves money or hauling or inconveniencing other people, we usually think it’s not so bad and go ahead. We should do better.

There’s also a disclaimer that we should hear from horses –first, last and always. They are prey animals. Their instinct is so interwoven into their behavior and personality, that it’s inseparable.  Prey animals aren’t forthcoming about pain.

If your horse is stoic, he’ll grit his teeth, sometimes literally, and keep trudging on acting like he’s fine, until it’s too late. If your horse is more reactive than stoic, he’ll act aggressively hoping that bravado will pass for strength. They aren’t okay.

It’s common sense if you’re a horse. Prey animals hide their pain to survive. They are born knowing that the wolves kill the slow, lame members of the herd. Showing weakness, even within the herd, could mean less access to hay. It isn’t good or bad; it’s nature’s plan that the fit survive. We throw a wrench into that cycle when we domesticate animals so, at the very least, we must listen much more carefully.

Most of us can read enough herd dynamics to know that shy old gelding might need to eat separately. We proudly list each horse’s position in the herd as an affirmation that we know our horses. As if it’s some kind of equine astrology and now that we know the horse is a Sagittarius that explains everything.

I’ve been teaching calming signals for the last few years as a way of understanding small messages from our horses before they become huge issues. It’s fun to have a non-verbal conversation with a horse. I always give the reminder about soundness but often we’d rather have a conversation about challenges, like standing still at the mounting block. What if the mounting block represents the beginning of what hurts and your horse resists it because he’s smart? Not a training issue at all.

It’s about now that we have to ask the hard question: Is it my lousy hands or is he in pain for another reason?

How is his saddle fit? If you aren’t having that checked at the very least once a year, things have changed and he feels it. Maybe he has a rib out or his withers are a bit jammed and he needs a chiropractic adjustment. Maybe he’s in his teens and you have repressed the idea that his back might be getting arthritic.

I don’t blame people. Checking for soundness is an affirmation of our horse’s mortality. Ick. Lameness can be hard to diagnose, even with radiographs and ultrasound. And I think there are pains that horses feel that we just can’t find, even with the best help. Vet science is still an art.

If lameness weren’t complicated enough, the existence of ulcers can distract us from questions of soundness. Ulcers are a huge issue for horses. Between 60% and 90% of horses have them, and worse, they sometimes mask lameness issues. It isn’t uncommon to treat a horse for ulcers and then perhaps find a stifle problem underneath them.

For all our horse’s anxiety about pain and not showing it, and for all our anxiety about the same, we have to start by getting past our emotions, fear, and love for a moment. Stand away from your horse, take a breath, and watch with quiet eyes. These are calming signals that could also be signs of pain:

• A tense poll, elevated head.

• Ears back or one ear back and one forward.

• Tight muscles around the eye.

• Exposed white of the eye.

• Intense stare or partially closed eyes.

• Clenched lips or nostrils.

You’re right. Those are symptoms so common. Some are even contradictory. We see them all the time, it’s easy to be complacent about them. They could be calming signals to ask you to cue quieter or that they need a moment to think. Or they could be signs of pain.

It’s that experience where you type a couple of your own symptoms into Google to try to self-diagnose, only to find you could have one of twenty life-threatening issues. How many times do we think we’re just depressed but it turns out that depression is a symptom of twenty other terrifying life-threatening issues?

And suddenly playing with calming signals is less fun. If you have a stoic horse, then cut that minimal fun in half. Can we ever trust what a stoic horse relates? Are so many nebulous and negative unknowns looming large enough now that you doubt everything you used to think you knew?

Perfect. You’re not supposed to think you know everything.

Instead, work on having an open mind and good intention. We must be willing to see “bad behavior” as a message and not a training issue. Be willing to listen, but also be willing to hear things we don’t want to hear. Even embrace the idea that our horses might be in pain. I don’t mean that we all become equine hypochondriacs but how can we help them if we don’t almost welcome the idea?

Positive training, asking a horse to volunteer, is more than kind. It has a distinct advantage for the horse. He gets what he wants from a leader. He gets to be heard when he hurts.

First, last, and always, make sure your horse is sound. 


annaprof150 Anna Blake is a horse advocate, equine professional, award-winning author, and proud member of the herd at Infinity Farm, on the Colorado prairie. She trains horses and riders equine communication skills and dressage, and writes parables about horses and life. | Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog

 

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