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
Wednesday, 23 May 2018 11:31

Overheard at Competitions

On the very wettest of days

"This place is a shit-ing shithole" - Overheard from a frustrated and rather wet trainer who proceeded to stamp through knee deep puddles, in a manner similar to a pissed off toddler!

On the long days

"The only thing I like about this place is that this is second time I've pressed E3 and it's given me two Yorkies" - Overheard from a desperately hungry and sugar starved boyfriend at a three day show in a very wet April.

On the eventing days

"She doesn't want to fall off, she doesn't want to waste an air canister"  - Overheard in response to a rider desperately clinging on to their horse after taking a flyer at a fence and trying not to hit the deck.

On the bad days

Shouting "NO" to your horse, and then in a whisper "Why did you do it? We talked about this!" - Overheard in response to any silly behaviour which you really wish your horse  wouldn't do in public!

On the hot days

"Water is good for you, why won't you drink for me!" - A regular comment overheard when your horse decides the water out of the container that came from home isn't the same as the stuff that it actually AT home. 

On the showjumping days

From affiliated competitions  where  you overhear "This collecting ring is a bit scary..."

To the unaffiliated days where you overhear "I can't cope with the faffing in this collecting ring". The particularly appropriate response to this was, "I think you've done too much showjumping." - Guilty as charged on that one I'm afraid!

On nearly every show and training day

"Don't just sit there!" - Overheard from nearly every trainer. Words nearly every rider has had shouted at them at some point I'm sure, particularly when nerves get the better of you.

On days where the tack shop has a sale

Person 1 - "Do you really need more <insert any horsey item>?"

Person 2 - "Well no, but it's on sale!!" - Overheard on a regular basis, usually related to some superfluous item of tack. Most commonly when you're trying to buy rugs you don't really need!

On days when the pony classes are on

"She's ten and she's making that course look like sticks on the floor. Why the hell can't I do that?" - Overheard from depressed adults who realise these kids are always going smash us when it comes to guts and speed!

On days when the non horsey family come to watch

"I'm surprised, I thought everyone would be really stuffy and posh"

Oh the irony. Us equestrians are muddy, smelly, sweaty and dirty most of the time, that is apart from the few moments when we are in the ring and then we gleam.

On all days

Exclamations of love and delight followed up with loud wet sloppy kisses and lots of hugs. Words being shouted out or whispered softly by so many riders as they exit the ring or untack at the lorry. Despite all the heartache and disasters these wonderful animals are simply fabulous in every way.

 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
Wednesday, 25 April 2018 10:51

Does Your Horse Have A Best Friend?

It is not one of my strengths to keep friendships going. I actually suck. That might be due to the fact that I like spending time on my own. Enjoying the amenities of online shopping, I would not even have to leave the house if there was no Hafl making sure that I get out from time to time (sure, going to work is a must, too).

When Waliento arrived at our barn in late 2017, I had no idea that he would become what I would call Hafl's best friend. During winter, they spent their winter turnout together and watching them play showed that they really like each other. Whenever they can, they play and tease each other, run around, squeak and bolt. Hafl is like an older brother for Waliento now, teaching him not to panic when on a trail ride, showing him how to behave while cantering in the great wide open, making sure he is not shitting his pants when we put obviously dangerous objects into the arena. Hafl even seems calmer than ever before just like he is thinking: need to be brave, little brother is watching.

back of two horses heads on road with fencing and shadows in sunshine


two ponies greeting each other in indoor menage

I guess Hafl had best friends before. It all started with my other horse back in 2009, a guy he really liked. After selling him and moving for the second time, he met Wax, a friend's horse and together they explored the world and even made it to the sea. After we parted and moved to other barns, Hafl did not seem to have a particular horse he liked until Waliento showed up.

dark bay horse on the slope of a snowy field with haflinger horse

Hafl and PE, back in 2010


two horses wearing blue rugs greeting in snowy field

 It is really fun to see such a relationship even though sometimes they take it a bit too far. Turnout season is right ahead so I am already wondering whether the grass will be more important than playing with this friend.

two horseback riders laughing and holding hands wearing a red jacket cantering on haflinger ponies in snow

Haffie best friends

Does your hose have a best friend?


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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! 
kandf 250






Kaitlin and Freddie xxx



Published in Trot On Blogs
Monday, 19 March 2018 11:31

Dressage Diva

Dressage is a delight, when it’s done right. It looks effortless and elegant. Non-horsey people love to tell you ” I could so do that, it’s easy, you just walk in a circle”, but when you try it’s simply the hardest thing in the world. Walking in a circle should be easy. It’s not. Crossing over from one side of the arena to other should be easy. It’s not. That is not to do it perfectly straight, in balance and without any random wiggles or change in rhythm.

After a winter’s break from dressage it feels daunting thinking about re-entering the area and trotting down the centre line. Neither Archie or I have ever particularly enjoyed dressage, competing as necessary for eventing and happy to train at home to improve both of us, but never truly embracing the dressage competition life. For one thing I fail totally at matchy matchy, everything we own is black. It’s just easier to hide the mud!

The dream of sitting on a beautifully trained horse and half passing perfectly across the area is a pipe dream for us. In fact it’s a totally unreal dream as without training yourself, you can’t expect even the best horses to understand you. The hard graft that is required to get yourself as a rider to the level when you can achieve these incredible responses from your horses is not to be underestimated. Perhaps one day we might get a glimpse, but for now we can but dream and watch on in awe.

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
Thursday, 15 February 2018 12:12

Has Your Riding Confidence Hit the Menopause?

At last the Menopause, is something that we're beginning to discuss openly and having listened to an enlightening programme on all the symptoms that women can suffer from we started to wonder how many older female riders have experienced a dramatic drop in their confidence because of it.

The Menopause affects all of us differently but many women find that it can make them feel incredibly tired, which coupled with another symptom, insomnia, can make trying to work, look after kids and run the household (yes unfortunately usually this still comes down to a woman!) AND keep a horse, seem an increasingly daunting task. This alone isn't good for our confidence.

But another symptom of these hormonal changes that can be particularly debilitating to riders and isn't as well known is an increase in ANXIETY, making many women become more worried and fearful. So, if you've noticed that in your late forties and into your fifties you've suddenly become hyper-aware of potential dangers when riding and handling horses then it could be a symptom of the menopause. It's not just you! And maybe this knowledge will stop you being so hard on yourself and other women who seem to have lost their nerve! 

It's actually quite a relief isn't it, knowing that it's your hormones that have caused this dramatic drop in confidence rather than the other excuses that you keep putting it down to. We riders are a pretty tough bunch and find it hard to cope with what we often see as 'weakness'.  Women often become terribly depressed because of it and claim that they 'feel like they have turned into another person,' one that they don't like very much!

The good news is that if we're all more open about the Menopause then it's more likely that we'll be not only kinder to ourselves and each other but we can also start to find answers.

So, don't suffer in silence. For more on the Menopause take a look at My Menopause Doctor.

It's time to be brave and talk about it. Let's start the discussion now!
Published in Trot On Blogs
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?


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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
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