What a gentleman! Realising the horses may be spooked by his trailbike, this motorbike-rider thoughtfully turned off the engine and inqured as how best to pass... he had polos in his pocket too. RESULT!

The bike rider is James Higgs and his video has gone viral with over 1,0000 views on social media.

He keeps his bikes on a livery yard so he is used to encountering horses.

“I’ve hacked out a few times as a beginner but stopped after I injured my knee in a fall, which hurt a great deal more than any fall I have had whilst riding motorcycles,” he added. “You horse riders really are some tough people.”

Thank you, James.



Published in Trot On Blogs
Wednesday, 26 April 2017 09:24

Why do race horses love the beach?

• It's healthy for horses to have down time away from the stables

• Sand is soft underfoot and low impact on horse's joints

•Seawater soothes skin and muscles


Published in Articles

A petition has been started to clarify the law on animal-on-animal attacks after a horse was almost killed by a dog and its owner was injured.

Emily Bunton started the online petition which will be considered for debate in parliament if it reaches 100,000 signatures.

On the 15th of February 2017 two horses and a rider were viciously attacked by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, causing one of the horses to undergo 6.5 hours of veterinary attention due to the severity of its wounds.

One rider was also bitten, casing deep muscle damage to her right calf.

The police informed the riders that no criminal offence had been committed, as it was deemed that the dog was not behaving dangerously before it attacked, and that there was no way of knowing if the dog intended to bite the rider - making it impossible to determine if this was an animal on animal attack or an animal on human attack.

The petition aims to bring attention to the need to tighten the laws surrounding dog attacks on horses to lessen the ambiguity surrounding animal on animal attacks.

Please sign the petiton HERE

Published in Articles
Thursday, 08 December 2016 15:29

Are you an Unhappy Hacker? Try this...

It always saddens me that even though there are a couple of busy livery yards very close to where I live, I hardly ever see any of the horses being hacked out. If the owners ride their horses at all, even if they are surrounded by beautiful countryside, they would rather do it in what they regard as the safer environment of the school. Unfortunately the area outside of the yard has become a forbidden zone of spooks and trolls where no rider fears to tread astride a horse!

But this is such a shame, as going out for a hack can be so beneficial to both horses and riders. So, if you're someone who is nervous about hacking out, then I'm not proposing the following is a solution to all problems, but simply suggest you give it a try….. ride out as if your horse isn't there and you're just going for a walk, on your own two legs!  I know, it sounds stupid doesn't it, but actually I propose you choose the route you're thinking of riding, and actually walk it first, either on your own or with the dog.

The problem is that as humans we often anticipate problems. For instance, when riding we think, 'there's a tractor ahead, or there's a plastic bag flapping in the hedge, my horse won't like that', and guess what, because we communicate this thought to the horse through our breath and tension in our bodies, when he gets to that tractor, no he damn well doesn't like it!  Our fear then becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. I'm not saying of course that some horses aren't scared of tractors or flapping bags, but I can tell you one thing for certain, if you weren't on a horse you certainly wouldn't be scared of them. So, when you go for that walk notice everything about you; the pile of logs, that pheasant that suddenly gets up out of the grass, or the squirrel running up a tree. And notice how you react. The thing is, you don't, in fact your thoughts are more likely to be, 'ooh, aren't pheasants beautiful', or 'look at that cheeky little fella!.' So pay attention to how relaxed you feel out walking and then keep hold of that feeling. Then, when you go for your hack, try and ride like you're just going for that nice relaxing walk where you don't overreact to the merest rustle or look at things as potential problems. And, if your horse does react to something he sees, then recall that feeling of how you felt as a human walking on two legs and you'll find it much easier to convince your horse that it's ok. In fact when riding past a tractor on the road, if I know the farmer I will often stop to thank him and have a chat. Just being normal, and talking to someone in a friendly manner who has a vehicle that is unsettling your horse, makes you breathe, smiling makes you relax, and then the horse thinks, oh well, it's not quite so scary after all!

Anyway, give it a go and happy hacking!!

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Published in Trot On Blogs
Thursday, 08 December 2016 11:46

Horses rhino’s new best friends

After decades horse power has been reintroduced in Kruger.

THE many South Coast nature lovers who regularly visit Kruger National Park will be interested to know that the park’s long association with horses has come a full circle.

And it is the park’s embattled rhinos and elephants who will benefit. According to SANParks Honorary Ranger Chris van Gass, horses are to be deployed in the fight against poaching.

Back in the days before Kruger was established traders and explorers used horses to travel through the area. They had to make sure only to do this during times when the tsetse flies were less active. Many horses fell victim to the deadly disease carried by the fly.

In Kruger’s early days rangers were dependent on horses as their primary means of transport to fulfil their daily duties. A good horse was invaluable, especially if it had gained immunity against horse sickness. History has recorded the legendary escapade of game warden Harry Wolhuter, who was attacked by a lion while on horseback in Kruger’s Lindanda area. Harry miraculously escaped by killing the lion with his sheath knife.

It has, however, been decades since the last horses were used in the Kruger National Park, as they have been replaced by motorised vehicles. Now this is about to change. Horses are being called back for active duty within the park and are being deployed for anti-poaching patrols. A pilot project has already been being launched to test the viability and effectiveness of mounted patrols... READ MORE 

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Unlike football, hockey or rugby, riding is not typically considered a team sport since when we are competing it is often, just us and our horse, even though, of course, this in itself is a very special kind of teamwork! However, whilst I've been away at Uni and joined the University of York Riding Team I've discovered competing in a team with other riders and their horses can be great fun and can teach you loads. For instance.....

Constructive criticism can make a huge difference…

One of the main things that riding as part of a team has taught me is how useful feedback and constructive criticism is. We train as a team each week, and as a result get to watch one another riding different horses. We have learnt that a really useful exercise is to instruct and critique one another, since this means getting a different perspective from that of our riding instructor. When we warm up at competitions, we always have another team member there coaching and encouraging us, which not only helps us to get the best out of our horses, but is also good for calming nerves too!

Watching one-another…

Similarly, over the past year I think I have learnt a great deal from watching my team-mates ride. Since we train at a riding school, we all ride the same ponies so it has been really interesting to see how different riders of a similar ability cope with a certain horse. I have learnt to watch which techniques others use to get good results, and to try to adopt these myself to improve my riding as much as possible. Also, when we are learning new movements, I find it really useful to watch my friends riding through them first so I can visualise them before trying them out myself.

Not everyone will gel with the same horse…

Watching teammates riding the same horse has also taught me the important lesson that not everyone will instantly gel with the same horse, and that’s okay! For example, there is a lovely whizzy pony at our riding school called Blossom, who I just seem to wind up and find tricky to maintain at a balanced pace, whilst some of the other riders get her to calm down straight away. Similarly, there are some ponies who I find easier to ride than other people do. This doesn’t necessarily mean that one of us is a better rider than the other, but rather we are just not as suited to the same horse due to our different riding styles. I have come to realise that this is just something to learn from rather than something to worry about, and is part of what makes the sport so fun!

Learning from mistakes…

I am embarrassed to say that in one of my first ever competitions riding for the team, I jumped the wrong course of show-jumps and got eliminated-oops! I am still kicking myself about it now, especially as I had done a good dressage test so had help put the team into a good position. However, whilst I felt like I’d let them down, it meant that the rest of the team learnt from my mistake and went that extra bit further to ensure they knew the (very complicated may I add!) course correctly. And, we have never made the same error again as a result (touch wood…) So although it was frustrating at the time, it helped us as a team to realise the importance of learning from each other's mistakes.

And of course, the importance of supporting one-another…

As with any team sport, riding as part of the University Riding Team has made me realise how big a difference a smile or word of encouragement from a team-member can make. Before I go in the arena to do a dressage test or jump my round, my team-mates are always by the side of the school cheering me on, and sometimes that’s all I need to settle those horrible butterflies! We all support each other during training, too, which just helps to make the whole atmosphere so much more positive. We have all become really good friends and feel so proud of each other when we do well which really is a lovely feeling.

I am so pleased that I joined the University Riding Team, and would encourage any other riders who are at university to do the same. I have had such a great year of competing with them, and feel that my riding has come on a huge amount as a result. My confidence in my own abilities has soared. Whilst the bond between a horse and rider is a seriously special one, the bond between riders in a team is also so important too, whether this be a local Riding Club team or team GB at the Olympics. As we have found, words of wisdom and an encouraging smile can make a whole world of difference.

Do you ride as part of a team? I would love to hear about what you’ve learnt from your team-mates!

Ellie Fells

Find University of York Riding Club on Facebook HERE @UYRidingClub

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Last week I took five year old Ruby to her first ever dressage competition and was really pleased with her attitude and also the progress that we had both made in our new relationship! Since she was such a little star at her first ever 'social' I decided to keep up the momentum by entering another local riding club competition the following week. Like last time I entered a walk, trot dressage test followed by a slightly more demanding Prelim test that includes canter work, which being quite green, Ruby still struggles with.

This time, I knew a lot more about how Ruby would cope with a competition atmosphere - well, thought I did as you can never tell with young horses! - and had learnt a lot from our previous trip. One of the main things I took on board was that I didn't need to spend a long time in the warm up arena as Ruby had been so wonderfully chilled out about the whole affair and as she isn't super fit I didn't want to make her tired, keeping a bit of 'oomph' back for the actual test. The environment this week, however, was very different; at Allen’s Hill, it hadn't been very busy and the warm up had been in a surfaced arena, whereas here there were horses and lorries all over the place and a big open field to warm up in. Although Ruby, understandably, had a little look at the other horses, I was amazed at how calm she remained.

It was soon time for our first test! One of the main problems I had encountered at our first competition was getting Ruby’s attention as we walked towards the arena, so this time around, I made sure she was really listening to me. Last time she had been a little spooky as she walked past the judge’s car, but this time she was as good as gold; she didn’t even budge when the judge opened her car door. As soon as we started our test, I could feel her listening to my every aid, which was a definite improvement to last time, proving what a quick little learner Ruby is. They do say that a calm horse learns more quickly!

Throughout our test, I focused on keeping Ruby balanced as this was her first test on grass, and the heavens opened just as we went into the arena…typical! However, we were able to maintain a lovely even steady trot, and I really felt our transitions had improved too, which I was pleased with since we had been working hard on them at home. It just goes to show how quickly short sessions of focused practice can lead to huge improvements. Also, I really felt that Ruby trusted me which was a lovely feeling.

There was a shortish break before the Prelim test so I decided to dismount to give Ruby a rest. However, she became really wound up, possibly because of the heavy traffic in the road nearby, so I thought maybe she would be better if I got back on, which definitely proved to be the case. Next time if I have a short enough gap between tests I will stay on board as she definitely seemed to feel more secure. It's interesting how just small things can unsettle a horse isn't it? Anyway, this is something else I now know about her.

Unfortunately, when it came to our second test the arena was as slippery as an ice rink thanks to the wet grass, so with Ruby still being pretty inexperienced I decided to take it really steady. Yet again Ruby was an absolute star, really trying her heart out despite the tricky conditions. In last week's Prelim test we had struggled to establish the canter in the corner, so at home we had been doing lots of canter work in open fields and on the gallop, working towards a nice steady, but forwards, canter. It seemed this practice had done Ruby a world of good, since this time the canter transitions were far easier, and she even managed to remain balanced despite the slippery ground. I did, however, bring her back to trot for the corners since I didn’t want to risk her falling, but we still managed to score a six for our canters – although that may not sound amazing, for us it was a big achievement, and I was chuffed to bits!

Yet again, Ruby had behaved incredibly and we came home with more encouraging comments and a rosette to add to our collection. I was so pleased that she seemed to have taken on board all she had seen at her first outing, and in fact seemed even more laid back (which I didn’t think was possible) and happy this time around. There was even a BBQ to finish, which was the perfect end to a lovely evening. Finishing the day with a happy horse and a burger, what more could a girl ask for!

Ellie Fells

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Finally the day of our first dressage competition came around, and I was so excited that I was sat by the front door with my boots all polished hours before we needed to leave – I seemed to turn into my ten year old self again! It was time to put to practice all that we had learnt from our lesson with Clare…

After lots of brushing and bathing, we arrived at the show and Ruby acted as if she had been doing it all her life. We got her out the lorry to allow plenty of time for her to get used to it all, but she was so laid back in the warm up area she was practically horizontal. She didn’t bat an eyelid at the other horses around us or the big yellow digger next to the school. I focused on Clare’s advice of not over-doing it, practicing simple transitions to keep her balanced and focused and making sure I gave her lots of little scratches on her wither to tell her everything was okay.

The test arena, set in a big open space with lots of white boards everywhere was obviously a bit spooky, however, I rode as positively as I could, getting Ruby trotting forwards as soon as we entered the ring, and despite a little blip at a yellow judge’s box (we scored a 3 for that movement, whoops…), she was as good as gold! Our practice at home definitely helped, as she didn’t even look at the judge’s car or mind when the bell to start sounded. She moved forward beautifully and genuinely seemed to enjoy herself which was lovely. she got lots of 7s, some nice comments from the judge, and even a 4th place rosette. The practice we had done in our lesson was so useful, particularly Clare’s advice about supporting her through the circle. As a result, our circles felt lovely and balanced, and I think we really benefitted from not over-cooking things in the warm up as our test felt very calm and relaxed.

We had also entered a Prelim test, which involved some canter. Although our canter certainly needs some work, we decided to give it a go since it is all such good experience for Ruby. This time around, she didn’t spook at the yellow judge’s box, and I felt she was listening to me even more now that she had got over the initial shock of being in a real arena. I didn’t want to get too stressed about the canter work (after all, this was only her second ever dressage test), so when we didn’t get the canter in the corner as intended, I just asked again on the circle, and she quietly popped into canter on the right leg and quite happily cantered around the arena. Although it wasn’t THE most beautiful test, she did everything I asked of her and really did try hard. The canter is certainly something to work on, but both she and I know she can do it now, so onwards and upwards!

The main thing is that Ruby seemed to enjoy herself, and had her little ears forward the whole time. It was such good experience for her, and I had a lovely evening too!

Have you got any tips for taking a horse or pony to their first show?


Ellie Fells

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Published in Trot On Blogs

During the Summer break from uni I'm taking full advantage of the opportunity to bring on a lovely five year old cob called Ruby. This includes building up her experience with a few little shows, kicking off with her first ever dressage competition!

To get us prepped, I booked in a lesson with Clare Green, from which both Ruby and I learned a huge amount, proving how invaluable a good trainer can be especially where youngsters are concerned. Clare gave me so many important pointers for riding younger and inexperienced horses in general as well as with Ruby in particular. One of the most important things I learnt was not to over-do it. This isn't just because Ruby isn't at her fittest at the moment but also because young horses often get mentally tired quickly. They're also being asked to use their muscles differently which can be tiring too. So, once Ruby had done as I had asked, that was enough, and she was allowed a pat and a stretch of the neck. We still worked hard for half an hour and that was plenty of time to practice some of the movements that would be in the test, with Clare teaching me how to ride Ruby in a way that would help her as much as possible.

One of the things that Ruby found tricky was balancing on a circle. She tended to fall in as a result, meaning our circles became rather, shall we say, ‘lumpy’! Clare taught me to split the circle into quarters, re-applying the bending aid with every quarter whilst supporting Ruby with my outside hand and inside leg. This led to a huge improvement.

The next problem area was the canter which on my own I was having difficulty improving. Ruby tended to hurry forwards in a fast little trot, and then when we did get the canter, it was rather, um…wild! Clare got us to work on lots of walk to trot transitions first, helping her to balance and collect more. She also got us to do an exercise where we came across the diagonal of the school, walked for a few strides, and then asked for canter in the corner, meaning that Ruby was concentrating more and in tune with my aids. The result was a huge improvement in the transition.  But Clare also taught me that it's important that we kept the canter going for at least three twenty-metre circles in what Clare called the ‘three circle rule’, meaning that Ruby learnt doing just three strides of canter and then stopping was not enough!

Since Ruby had never been to a show, in the days before I decided it would be worth-while to mock up our own dressage show in the arena at home. I set out poles around the school to act as the boards of the arena, teaching Ruby to move off them and to not think that they were going to eat her! I also got my Mum to be the judge and sit in her car at C, even gently beeping the horn to get Ruby used to it... As with most things, she was calm as anything when the horn sounded, but best to be prepared!

So, fingers crossed Ruby's all set for her first dressage test - I'll keep you posted!

Ellie Fells

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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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