Monday, 02 September 2019 10:32

Expectation Vs. Reality

Let’s talk about expectations!

There have been many days which a hack, a show ring experience, a dressage test (the list is endless) has not gone quite to plan. Sometimes, life doesn’t go as planned! The horse spooked, you forgot test, the weather was bad, and so on. That’s fine, we should take the positives and move on.

However, sometimes, moving on is quite difficult to do! I have, before, been disappointed with myself for not getting a Charlotte Dujardin score, in my Prelim test, even though I forgot my test half way around. This is not productive. I thought to myself, “I need to manage my expectations! I am only human. So, before I talk about our wonderful horses, just bear in mind that, alike your four-legged friend, you can only do your best. Some days are better than others, that’s just life!  

Onto the most important bit, in my opinion! Our horses. I want us to manage our expectations of our horses, not just ourselves. Again, we have such high expectations of our horses. We expect them to do the most difficult and challenging things for us, and seldom stop to think why they are doing it. We need to remember that horses are NOT machines! They are animals with their own ‘culture’ – they have totally different natural behaviours than most domestic animals which we are accustomed to. We must consider this, in all aspects of handling, riding, and owning horses. We need to think about what we are asking of them, and we need to think why they may respond in certain ways.

My point is, it is our decision to domesticate horses, not theirs. It is therefore, our responsibility to manage our expectations of them. I have created list of a few scenarios which I think we should consider next time we feel frustrated or annoyed with our horses:

Expectation: ‘Horses must ride alone, if they don’t, they are naughty’.

Reality: Horses are herd animals. They rely on each other for safety and comfort. Taking them away from their herd, for a hack or a run around the XC phase, distorts their herd/hierarchical mentality and, often, induces stress and confusion.

Expectation: ‘Horses should be bombproof, in all traffic and scenarios’.

Reality: Horses are prey animals. They are built with lengthy and strong limbs to enable them to RUN. This is how they escape predation. This is how they survive. Shying at a crisp packet may be a little OTT in some cases, but it is good to remember where this instinct comes from. It is there for a reason.

Expectation: ‘Horses shouldn't get attached to others’.

Reality: So, this is a little more complicated. Aside from horses with actual anxiety issues, caused by trauma, traumatic weaning etc. (a longer topic for another day!), most horses DO pair bond. Again, this is their instinct. Being herd animals, they rely on each other for protection, warning of predators and for herd behaviours. Pair bonding and herd bonding is vital for hierarchical relationships and the success of their functioning herd.

Expectation: ‘Horses should stand still’.
Reality: Obviously, we teach horses manners, and hopefully with positive reinforcement, they understand it. Sometimes, however, they choose to ignore us! This may be because they are stressed, they’ve been spooked, they feel uncomfortable with where they are or what you are doing with them, etc. It may just take a little time to find out why, but usually, horses

behave in these ways for genuine reasons.

Expectation: ‘Horses should not be scared of clippers!’

Reality: As aforementioned, horses are animals, not machines. As most of us are frightened of spiders, most horses are frightened of clippers! This is not because the arachnid and clipper device share ‘scary’ qualities, it is a result of how differently we and the horse are ‘conditioned’. A bit of psychology for you, but in short terms, it is just how we approach things and how our cultures/upbringings affect our fears. You can’t really compare us to a horse, likewise, you can’t really compare fears.

So, next time you feel that you or your horse are not good enough, remember this blog! 
Never stop aiming high, but manage your expectations.
Emily Hancock

Emily is a final - year BSc (Hons) Bioveterninary Science, documenting her journey to vet school, alongside many adventures with her 'unicorn', Phoebe. 
They love to compete, affiliated in showing, and enjoy unaffiliated dressage and showjumping. And ,of course, they adore hacking out together...
Published in Trot On Blogs
Tuesday, 16 July 2019 14:25

You Can Only Let Go If You Listen

Does my horse ‘listen’ to me?

Whilst horses cannot ‘talk’, or speak our language, it is suggested that they are able to understand many of our communicative techniques. Wathan et al (2016) found that horses are able to analyse facial expression of conspecifics, to gain social information. More recently, Proops et al (2018) found evidence of this analysis being used by horses to gain information on heterospecifics; in particular, humans. This study suggests that horses remember human emotional expressions, and associate the memory to the specific face from which they saw it displayed.

One of the most distressing things I that had read when researching this topic is how negative facial stimuli affects horses. Smith et al (2016) measured stress parameters against photographic stimuli; finding increased heart rate to be amongst the most expressed when negative stimuli, such as a frowning face, is presented. Perhaps bear this is mind when you are around your horse?

So… horses are great listeners. But do we listen to them?

In light of this, another phrase comes to my mind… a Winnie-the-Pooh (A. A Milne) quote, of course.

This quote makes me feel so sad, because it really is so true. While horses clearly ‘listen’ to us, we don’t always listen back. They spend time to monitor our emotions, yet do w​e do the same?

The reason that I am bringing this quote up is because this is something I held onto when I lost Rakker. I think it is easy for us, as owners, to stop paying attention. I don’t mean ignore your horse - I mean, get so wrapped up in worry and paranoia that you forget to ‘listen’ to them. I hold my hand up and admit this. Having a sick horse is not easy, and becoming over-focused on keeping them ‘well’ can cloud communication between you both.

When I had the decision to make, I thought about this quote. I thought “What is Rakker saying?” “What does he want me to do?”

Sadly, a genie didn’t fly out of a lamp at this point and give Rakker the magical powers of speech. Instead, I realised that I was being so selfish. I thought I wanted him alive because I would miss him too much if he went. I didn’t stop to think about what he wanted – I wasn’t listening to him.

By ‘listening’ to Rakker, I made my decision, and, as you’ll know, it was his anniversary was on Tuesday. I let Rakker sleep on the 2nd July 2018. I decided to take him to my local vets practice as he had been there many times before – he expected needles and vets. I didn’t want to stress him out by doing it at home, as he was always such an anxious horse when his home routine was disturbed. My vet, who Rakker knew well and trusted, sat with me, as we let him sleep. Rakker’s head was in my arms, as my tears rolled down his cheek. I still get upset with myself for crying because I so badly didn’t want to upset him. But he wasn’t upset. It was honestly like he knew. He was calm and he looked happy. He was led looking at me and he just drifted off, in my arms. He went peacefully.

I have honestly never cried like that in my life. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known your horse, losing them is the hardest thing you’ll ever go through as an owner. Whether you’ve known them for one month or ten years, the pain and overwhelming feeling of loss still applies to you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t grieve for the horse you’ve known for one month; only you know what you had with that horse. Only you know what you went through and the times you spend together.

Despite all, what I do keep in mind is this:

By letting him go, I listened to him. I let him talk to me, and I listened. I didn’t let my own words overwhelm his.

Although two years with him wasn’t long enough, I’ll have the memory of him with me forever. No one can take the memory of him away. I get to keep those, for the rest of my life, and, for that I am so lucky. He taught me so much. Not only whilst he was here, but afterwards, too. I am so privileged to have known him, I cannot forget that.
Please take the time to listen to your horse.
If anyone is going through the awful decision of letting go, I hope this blog has helped. I send hugs and support your way. ​
Emily Hancock
Emily is a final - year BSc (Hons) Bioveterninary Science, documenting her journey to vet school, alongside many adventures with her 'unicorn', Phoebe. 
They love to compete, affiliated in showing, and enjoy unaffiliated dressage and showjumping. And ,of course, they adore hacking out together...
Published in Trot On Blogs
Tuesday, 02 July 2019 10:06

Have You Hugged Your Horse Today?

It is so easy to get wrapped up in life. We can become so focused on the little things, forgetting about the bigger picture. Many of us have goals. Whether it is competing at BE100, or gaining >70% in a dressage test, these aims can cloud us; overcoming the joy of owning a horse.

I have been that person who has sobbed next to their horse at a competition when the test sheet came back with a low score. I have been that person who sits in the stable, moping, wondering why things didn’t go better in the show-ring. I have been there. I think we all have? At the time, you can’t understand why your horse refused the jump; why the perfectly good dressage test resulted in a low score; or why, no matter how hard you try, you just don’t seem to be winning. These feelings can overcome you. They can jeopardise the relationship which you have spent so long to build with your horse; removing the reason why we get up at such unholy hours every day to see them! 

My suggestion? 

1. Just pause when you feel like this. Think to yourself… “Am I actually going to remember losing this class in 10 years’ time?” Try and remember what it felt like BEFORE you got that score sheet, or it all went ‘wrong’. 

I don’t think I am breaking news when I say that horses cannot read test sheets, or jumping penalty scores. All they know is that they tried their hardest for you and had a wonderful day out. They can’t understand why you are upset with them for, let’s say, getting a tad expressive in the canter transition, when all they were just doing their best Valegro impression, to wow the other horses (!). Sometimes it’s rider error, too! I can openly admit that there have been days which I have not given 100%; days which stress and fear of other things in my life have overcome me. I cannot expect my horses to be perfect all of the time, if I am not? 

Horses also have bad days, too. They have their own stresses and fears in everyday life, just like us. These, we may not even recognise, because they can’t tell us! Phoebe can’t tell me if she had a really stressful night because the wind was rustling leaves on the stable roof. She can’t tell me that this has made her on-edge for our competition, so I won’t judge her for it. So, when you come first or last in that show class, make them KNOW that they have won, to you. They have won your heart, at the end of the day. Remind them of this. Regardless if you and your horse won the class, or not. Think of small victories. Remind yourself of the positives.

2. Don't compare yourself to others (easier said than done, eh?)

I am totally guilty of this. "Why didn't I win, when they did?", "I am doing the same as that rider, why aren't I as successful as them?"

- because, everyone is different. Just because someone else has the same age horse, is the same age rider, and trains at the same level, doesn't make you the same. Everyone copes differently at competitions, everyone has different strategies of training. It certainly doesn't mean that one way is better, or right, over another, it just means that you just have to find the strategy which works for you and your horse. If all horses and riders were the same, everyone would be at 'top' level! 

3. Remember you are only human, and your horse is a only a horse! 

I think it is quite easy to forget that horses aren’t humans. They are so emotional and intelligent, it makes us forget that they have only been domesticated for ~6,000 years. But, it is vital to remember that they ARE horses. They are herd animals, prey animals. They rely on numbers for safety. Naturally, horses are routine animals, and as we know, stay in the same herd for most of their life. Our domestic routine totally disrupts their natural behaviour. Just remember this when you ask your horse to go for a hack, or around the cross country course at an event. Even just bringing them in from their field for a groom, you are asking them to leave their ‘safe-place’ and their herd, making themselves vulnerable. For you. Horses get nothing from going out competing. The only thing they have, is that they are with you, so, make this the best experience for them. You deserve to be happy as a rider – after all, you are already among the privileged few to own a horse. Likewise, they deserve to be happy as a horse – they don’t owe you anything. They do what they do because they know it makes you happy (and a few treats certainly won’t go amiss!).

Equally, you are only a mere human. So what? You forgot the test movement? You almost flew off when your horse took a stride out? So what? Your horse doesn't care! Your horse is just happy that you are in their life, to feed and look after them. They don't mind if you only want to hack, or if you just want to bring them in for a cuddle tonight. Don't beat yourself up, you are doing great! 

4. Remember this... 

So, when life gets in the way, and you find yourself getting caught up, hug your horse. Hug them. Appreciate them and everything they do for you. Remind yourself how lucky you are to be a part of the privileged few. Forget about the red ribbon. Focus on the small victories, even if you have to micromanage. Sometimes, just getting the bridle on is a victory in itself. Own them, own the victories – celebrate them.
Enjoy the moment. Every time you ride your horse, it is one less ride you will get with them. Every day is one less, every day could be the last. Sorry to be fatalistic, but it’s the truth. 
Hug your horse. 
Emily Hancock
They love to compete, affiliated in showing, and enjoy unaffiliated dressage and showjumping. And ,of course, they adore hacking out together...

Published in Trot On Blogs

Racing has been resumed.

However, horse owners are urged to continue to be vigilant for symptoms of equine flu – coughing, nasal discharge, loss of appetite, lethargy – and to call their vet if they think their horses are showing signs.

The latest advice on how we can keep our horses safe.

The advice below has been put together by BEVA in consultation with the Animal Health Trust. It reflects the current situation and may be subject to change.

Equine flu is always present in the UK.  We currently appear to be seeing flu in some horses who have been vaccinated as well as in unvaccinated horses and this means that we should all be taking some extra precautions “just in case”.

Why should I vaccinate?

• The more you do to reduce the risk of spreading any contagious disease between horses the better… but doing what you reasonably can is better than doing nothing.  

• Vaccinated horses are likely to be less severely affected by flu and are likely to get better more quickly than unvaccinated horses.

• Unvaccinated horses present a risk not just to themselves but to all the horses around them.

What should I do on the yard?

• Keep a look out for the signs of flu – coughing, snotty nose, loss of appetite, lethargy – and call your vet if you think any horses are showing signs.

• If your horses are at a higher risk (ie they haven’t been vaccinated or there is an outbreak of flu at a neighbouring yard) then you could also look out for raised temperatures (>38.5°c)

• Ask your vet to vaccinate your horse if it has not been vaccinated before or if its last booster vaccination was more than 6 months ago.  It is recommended that the vaccine used reflects the virus type currently being seen in the outbreak (Florida Clade 1)

• You should plan to give your horse a few quiet days after vaccination (immunity steadily increases over 7-10 days following vaccination)

• If your horse is at higher risk you should discuss with you vet whether more frequent boosters would be appropriate.

Should I stop visitors coming to our yard?

• Visitors such as vets, farriers, dental technicians, saddle fitters, physios etc should take special precautions as they could transmit disease between horses and between yards.

• Before they arrive, visitors should call to ask whether there are any sick horses on the yard.  If any horses are showing signs that might be flu or if the disease has been confirmed then you should postpone all but essential visits.

• Even if all your horses appear fine your visitors should clean their hands (ideally with an alcohol based antimicrobial gel type product), clean their tools (especially dental technicians) and check their clothing for obvious contamination (changing it if required).

• If your visitors’ vehicles have not been in contact with your horses then there is no requirement for the vehicle to be washed down.

• As good practice you should keep a record of all visitors to the yard.

Should I go to competitions/events/training?

• Do not take your horse anywhere if there are sick horses on your yard

• Check that the venue is happy to have you and that there are no sick horses reported by the venue.

• Check that the venue has a policy that visiting / kept horses are vaccinated.

• Whilst at the venue, keep your horse(s) out of contact with other horses and avoid sharing of buckets or any other equipment

• When you return you should thoroughly clean your lorry or trailer (ideally not next to your horses)

What about deliveries to our yard?

• Try to keep feed, forage or other delivery vehicles and drivers separate from the horses

What about sending equipment away?

• If you are sending tack or clippers for repair then you should clean them first and the repairer should routinely wipe them over with an antimicrobial product before returning them.  Rugs can be sent for washing as normal (with the worst of the muck cleared off first)

Is it usual to have equine flu in the UK?

Equine flu is ‘endemic’ in the UK which means it is always here. However there have been very few diagnosed cases in the last few years and they haven’t made the news. Flu is not a notifiable disease, so there isn’t a complete picture of how many cases there are each year, although the Animal Health Trust has a free surveillance scheme which tracks the number of outbreaks each year. Before January 2019 was over, there had already been as may cases in Britain as there were in the whole of 2018.

Is equine flu harmful to horses?

It can have serious health implications for unvaccinated horses, or horses which are vulnerable in another way, and they can become very ill. Horses whose boosters are up to date should only experience mild symptoms. However, affected horses are still infectious and able to spread the disease. Even in unvaccinated horses, flu does not usually cause life-threatening illness as has been evidenced by the outcomes of previous cases in the current outbreak. However, sadly one unvaccinated horse in this outbreak has been euthanised which is a reminder of the importance of vaccination and appropriate yard hygiene/biosecurity.

Which strain of equine flu is causing this outbreak?

It is known as Florida clade 1 and is a strain not seen in the UK since 2009, although British horses are vaccinated against it. 

Information on vaccine strains

How does this outbreak compare to that in Australia in 2007?

Australia does not have equine flu and horses are not vaccinated against it. As there is usually no flu in Australia, there is also no immunity in the general horse population from exposure to it, which is why the effects were so devastating when the outbreak took place in 2007. This is obviously a very different situation to the UK, where flu is endemic, and where horses are routinely vaccinated so most adult horses have some immunity. 

Why have vaccinated horses been affected?

As with human ‘flu disease can occur despite vaccination. The flu virus is always changing slightly so it is not uncommon for the flu vaccination not to be 100% effective however, as in this outbreak, the vaccines are reducing severity of clinical signs and shortening how long a horse is unwell for and  reinforcing the importance of vaccination.  

What can I do to protect my horse?

The steps to take are very simple. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date and if you have any concerns, call your vet for advice. Make sure that any new horses on your yard are kept in isolation from the existing horses to prevent any possible spread for a period of time (ideally isolation facilities for 3 weeks). Equine flu droplets can be spread up to 100 metres through the air and on tools, equipment and clothing so make sure that you do not accidentally transfer the virus in any of these ways.

What’s the treatment for infected horses? How long will it last?

Horses will need rest and may need medication as prescribed by your vet. Make sure infected horses are isolated to prevent spread, your vet will advise.

If your horse is vaccinated, it will be ill for less time, but will need to rest and may be off work for a few weeks in order to recover properly. If the horse is not vaccinated illness can last for considerably longer and be more severely affected.

Is there any risk to human health?

No, this virus cannot be passed on to humans.

Will shows and competitions be cancelled?

Equestrian organisations are carefully monitoring the situation and assessing all the risks. They are taking responsible and proportionate action. With the information that is currently available it is unlikely that events will be asked to cancel but it is possible this situation may change. Any cancellations will be on the advice of specialist vets, and it will be in the interests of minimising spread of the virus and risk to the health of the UK’s horses. Careful consideration is being made of all the available facts, alongside advice received from experts in equine influenza and epidemiology that have experience of managing previous outbreaks. BEF’s own advisors include Jenny Hall - Chair of BEF’s Equine Infectious Disease Emergency Response Committee; John McEwen - Director of Equine Sports Science and Medicine and Jane Nixon - BEF Board Director and Veterinary Consultant. 

What is the incubation period, before signs of equine flu appear?

This is usually 1-5 days before the horse shows signs. Taking a horse’s temperature is the best way of spotting changes early and being able to respond quickly. If the temperature is greater than 38.5C then seek immediate veterinary attention.

Published in Articles

The latest advice on how we can keep our horses safe.

Horse racing has been resumed. However, horse owners are urged to be vigilant for symptoms of equine flu – coughing, nasal discharge, loss of appetite, lethargy – and to call their vet if they think their horses are showing signs.

Full Article  HERE

Published in Trot On Blogs
Tuesday, 06 November 2018 11:00

Questioning the Noseband.

There have been many studies which show how a tight nose band can place a painful amount of pressure on the nerves and delicate bones in the horse’s head. However, despite this, some trainers and riders still believe that using the noseband to keep a horse’s mouth closed will make a horse ride better as it stops them fighting which means they then concentrate more on the riders aids. 

Many people think that if a horses mouth is shut and quiet then the horse is riding well. But a quiet mouth should be the result of good training and keeping it artificially closed with a noseband shouldn’t be used as shortcut. The horses jaw and tongue should be as free and supple as the rest of the body and more importantly these structures tie into the efficient movement of the rest of the body. If you create tension here then you will only create tension somewhere else. 

The Hyoid bone which links into the tongue, also links into muscles that are involved in the movement of the horse’s forelegs so by creating tension here you will restrict the range of movement in your horse’s forelimbs. An equine dissection also revealed that when pressure was applied to the jaw causing the hyoid bone at the base of the tongue to move up and/or back in the jaw, this left the hind legs and hips extremely restricted. As soon as pressure was released, the leg and hip was then freely moved again. 

So when our horse opens his mouth, we need to ask what they are communicating to us, and work out how to release tension and improve their their balance and suppleness, not silence them with a flash or tighter noseband. Our horses voice can only be heard by those willing to listen.

I can't help but wonder if our horses even need to wear a noseband at all, particularly when training, apart from the fact that they look good on some horses. Has it just become the norm that a ridden horse has a noseband on at all times? 

I'm interested to hear from anyone who rides either with a loose or tight noseband or without a noseband at all and the reasoning behind your choice.

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

There's been a lot of discussion about tight nosebands but have you ever wondered if your horse's browband is too tight?

As an equine bodyworker I came across a lot of horse's with tension around their forehead, ears and poll and although there are many reasons why this can occur, I also found that a lot of people used bridles with browbands that were far too tight in this area and now it's something that I frequently notice when I am out and about at equestrian events. So often we get bridles in pony, cob, etc but it doesn't take into account that each horse's head shape is individual and a broad forehead is often something that gets overlooked.

This area is so important for your horse's wellbeing. A tight browband can create tension in the atlas joint, impinge on the many muscles and nerves in and around the horse's ears and adversely affect important cranial nerves too. All of these can have serious knock-on effects, including inhibiting the movement of the horse's forelegs and hind end!  

So, if your horse displays any of the following symptoms:

• doesn't like being bridled

• shakes her head

• is tense around the eyes and looks like she has a headache

• pulls away when you touch her in this area

• is tense in the jaw and neck when ridden

• is choppy in front or has poor engagement

then you may find that it could be caused by something as simple as a browband that is too tight! 

Firstly,  ensure that you can slip a hand easily under the headpiece (by the way, extra padding won't improve a headpiece that's too tight!) and that the brow band isn't pulling the headpiece onto the back of the ears and impinging on the base of the ears at the sides or pressing onto the forehead at the front. You should comfortably be able to run a finger underneath all the way round.

To be honest, I'm not even sure why we need browbands on bridles anyway, apart from being a place to show off a bit of bling! Are they a hangover from when horses went into battle and had armour protecting their faces? Anyway, I'm not necessarily advocating that you do away with yours, although it can be an interesting experiment if you are having any problems, but that you just replace it with a larger one if it looks too snug. 


Published in Trot On Blogs

Yes, it’s a bit late but that grass boosting combo of rain and sunshine has put the spring into our pasture so don’t be surprised if your horse is getting a sugar hit that will make him or her a bit of a handful.  It’s also thought that spring grass contains a high level of potassium which reduces the horse’s uptake of magnesium resulting in another reason why our equine friends can range from excitable to explosive! 

As well as helping with our horse’s mood, magnesium is also important for muscle function and it’s thought it can benefit horses prone to obesity and laminitis. If you think that magnesium could benefit your horse, always choose a supplement that contains ‘chelated’ magnesium.

Because of the change of management many horses experience at this time of year as they’re turned out after a winter of limited access to grass, it’s also worth putting them on a pre and probiotic to promote a healthy level of that all important gut bacteria. (Hyperlink to gut biome post) This will also help horses that are regularly turned out cope with the seasonal change in the grass too.


palomino pony at grassy field gate wearing grazing muzzle


We’d love to know if you’ve found the perfect way to take the stress out of spring grass!

Published in Trot On Blogs

I can’t believe Freddie has been home for a whole 6 months! Fred had been injured since last June with a hole in his superficial digital flexor tendon. It’s been a long road since he came home in August with 24/7 box rest, icing, bandages and confined turnout, as well as hand walking him every day for 3 months. The biggest worry about this kind of injury for me, was the fear of the unknown… was it healing, or was all this time and worry going to be for nothing?

Freddie is actually a very easy going thoroughbred, as long as there was good grub he wasn’t worried about messing about or potentially further damaging the leg. However there were a couple of occasions where I did nearly have heart failure! The worst of all was a matter of weeks before his scan on November 1st where he decided to run the Grand National in his tiny paddock, bucking and flat out galloping for about 20 minutes! No heat or swelling showed from the legs so I prayed everything was ok…

One less thing to worry about.

grey pony grazing in field with checked horse rug

The middle of October was also when I decided to turn Freddie out full time in the field with friends Inky and the pony Munchkin. Fred had started to become a bit of a hooligan being brought in at night and was very wired up on his walks. We decided that with a matter of weeks to go until his scan the leg was most likely to have healed or not and Fred having the odd run about wasn’t going to make a lot of difference. We turned Fred and Inky out and then released the pony… moment of truth - NOTHING!… absolutely no reaction at all! Munchkin went straight out to eat and Fred didn’t look up from munching!!

The biggest challenge - Freddie’s weight.

When Fred first came to me he dropped an awful lot of weight within the first week. We believed this to be a bit of an adrenaline shock after leaving a racing yard after 7 years of his life, and also just the change in routine. Thankfully, he picked up after feeding him coolstance corpra and dengie alfa a chaff. However nearing the end of September we realised that this feed combination was not working for Fred. It was sending him a bit nutty and I will put my hands up to admitting that I didn’t realise that alfa a was more like rocket fuel than a conditioning feed for a thoroughbred on box rest! I have literally spent ALL winter looking for a combination of feeds that will put weight on Fred without sending his brain crazy, but finally I think I’ve found the answer…. ! Linseed oil! I have been adding linseed oil to the feeds for just over three weeks now and it has really started to make a difference. He has more condition over his back and bottom and his belly looks much better, much fuller and barely any visibility of his ribs. He is now on coolstance, speedi beet and high fibre nuts too.

1st November was the big day! It was scan day… after months of waiting it was make or break, I was petrified. The team at Whitelodge Vets are fantastic, Phil arrived and set about setting up the scanner ready. Phil scanned both legs and then gave us the verdict… SUCCESS! The hole in Fred’s superficial digital flexor tendon had completely healed and was now filled with scar tissue. I was so unbelievably happy, best day ever! Let the fun begin.


So, by the end of Fred’s recovery time he had become a bit wild and was ready to get on with a job! I had changed his feed, but he was feeling rather 'well' and his hand walks had become a slight challenge for me. He would get overly excited and quite honestly it scared me a little! After all, hand walking a 16’3/17hh horse who is getting very excited and growing even bigger is a bit daunting! I will admit I was frightened of him and I was scared to get on him in less than two weeks. Had I over horsed myself and had I let my heart take over my head?

horse rider on a bay horse standing in indoor menage

Let the journey begin!

The 14th November was the day that I finally climbed back aboard Fred, 178 days after my first and only ride. I was super excited but also very nervous. He had had 6 months out of the game and I was about to jump on at a saddle fitting! My boy surprised me again - he stood like a complete saint for the whole fitting until we’d picked our chosen saddle. I then tacked him up and jumped on. He seemed a bit shocked as to where his mum’s voice was now coming from but he was a complete angel.

horse rider in red jacket riding bay horse on road

 I rode him up the driveway and out onto the road to get a feel for the saddle and to ensure the saddle fitted. I was ecstatic, Fred behaved like a dream and we even had a few strides of trot, he felt huge though! The first time I rode him he had been off a track for 3 days, he was a muscled up athlete, big but not this big I swear! He’d since been off for 6 months and gained a nice summer belly, lost a lot of muscle and looked like a completely different horse. It would now be a case of riding and schooling him back into work and gaining back the topline and muscle he’d lost. 

Hacking out.

The following Sunday was Freddie’s first hack, Emma who owns the pony that Freddie lives with walked with me to be safe, but once again he was a total star! He didn’t put a hoof out of place and loved every minute of it, he seemed super proud of himself to be back in work.

Fred has continued to be super out riding, we have ventured all over the Quantocks and had our first few canters. We’ve faced every imaginable that’s scary and Fred has remained very sane only dancing about and really looking after me. We have only had one moment of utter madness and that came when he saw his old racehorse friends out and we had a display of squealing and mini rearing/jumping! I aim to ride him at least 5/6 times a week although with the recent weather that is proving sometimes difficult! (Snow in March!) He is really good though and hacks out alone or in company completely fine. Due to not having a school at home I have only been hacking and lunging Fred but aim in the next few weeks to get him in a local school to really encourage him to work properly and gain some proper topline and muscle. 

horse rider on bay horse riding on snow covered ground in woodland wearing high visibility clothing

To begin with I planned to winter Fred out as we have a large field shelter which we bed with straw and so they could all easily escape the elements and cosy down if they wanted, however with the dramatic weightloss that occurred I decided to bring them in at night to see if it helped at all. It helped a little, but with the horrendously long winter we’ve had and serious tough temperatures they have now been stabled most of winter. Next year I will see how he does, but the plan will be to keep him out.
So that’s my update on our journey! Still crazy in love with him and can’t wait to see where the journey will take us. Thanks for reading! 
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Kaitlin and Freddie xxx



Published in Trot On Blogs
Wednesday, 07 March 2018 12:14

Beware - Snow & Ice Creates Sugary Grass!

Be on your guard if you're putting your horse or pony out on grass that has been covered in snow, especially if they are prone to laminitis or other sugar related problems, as snow and ice cause sugars to build up in grass in the same way it does with frost. And don't think just because the snow has melted that you are ok because any night temperatures below 5° will keep the grass in high sugar mode.

Similarly, with frosty mornings, it's not simply ok to wait for the frost to melt before you put your horse out; to be safe the night time temperature needs to have risen to 5° because this is when the grass accumulates sugars.

It's also worth bearing this in mind if you have a horse who is in any way reactive to high sugar content, or if your horse experiences behavioural changes. Sometimes it's not just having been kept in, or lack of exercise after snow and ice that can make your horse overexcitable or resistant in some way. There are many horses who have never been diagnosed as laminitic who are in fact low-grade laminitic and reactive to too many sugars. This creates symptoms such as footiness and backache that are easily missed which means that the poor horse is treated as difficult!
Published in Trot On Blogs
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