A good team

We talk a lot about the importance of having a good team around us for our horses, a good farrier, a good vet, a good physio, a good trainer, a horsey friend who will come and help hold a horse, or put the jumps up for you, or simply go for a hack, but in fact it applies to so much more. I was reminded of this recently when I changed the vets I use for my dogs.

The old vet was fine, I didn’t have an issue or a problem, but I felt that they simply looked the dog over, vaccinated it and gave me a bill. There was no chat, no discussion about the best ways to do things. So I changed. The new vet spent 45 minutes talking to me about different points of care, and things that may work better for my dog. The level of communication was impeccable and I left feeling much more reassured that the care I had chosen for my dog was correct.

The same applies to us. We need a team of professionals just as much as our horses. I was once told to pick a few people to turn to for advice, and use them. Don’t ask everyone, as that gets confusing, and don’t just ask anybody, as their advice might be rubbish! So choose your people wisely and go to them when you need to talk things through.

So remember we all need a team of trusted professionals, not just your horse, not just your dog, but you as well. For if you are not well, happy and functioning to the best of your abilities, the chances are no one else will be either! So take a moment to look at your teams of people, starting with your own. And if you don’t have one, find one!

When being kind isn’t enough…

Being kind is important, vey important. But kindness alone isn’t necessarily enough. Trying to be kind to our horses is often at the forefront of our mind, but sometimes the decisions that we make may have to be wise rather than kind. Imagine your horse is lame and needs to be on box rest. But he doesn’t like box rest. To recover from the injury, he will need to be temporarily unhappy in order to achieve long term happiness. As humans we can understand this, but the horse with no concept of acting now to achieve something in the future will just be unhappy.

This dilemma is summed up beautifully by a story from the Dalai Lama. A student came to him with this story:

“My cat had a flea. But I didn’t want to kill the flea, so I didn’t. Then the cat got more fleas. Then the cat had a reaction to the fleas. So, I took the cat to the vet, and the vet had to treat the cat, and kill all the fleas. What should I have done?”

The Dalai Lama replied: “You were trying to be kind, but you forgot to be wise. To be wise, you should have killed the one flea. By trying to be kind, you caused more pain.”

The same applies with our horses. In some cases, the short-term kindness won’t lead to long-term happiness. Sometimes keeping your horse on box rest even though he is unhappy is worth it for the long-term benefit. The combination of wisdom and kindness means that we retain clarity of our long-term goals, without falling into the trap of seeking short term happiness.

The best we can when we are forced to put our horses in situations that aren’t ideal for them, is to make the best of the situation. So, if your horse is on box rest, find him something to do in his stable. If he is turned out by himself, to stop him racing around the paddock, see if you can find him a horse to go in the next-door field. Make sure you look beyond the short-term kindness to the long-term benefits.

Crazy British weather!

Dealing with our crazy British Weather can be a challenge. One moment we are sliding around in the mud and the next day the temperature has shot up 10 degrees and we are all dripping with sweat and covered with flies! We can’t do anything about the weather, but we can try to work around it.

Often it is not the heat, but the temperature change that causes the problem. Horses, like us, adapt to different climates over time, it is the quick temperature change that catches us out. Every time there is a mini heatwave the internet is flooded with “experts” discussing cooling horses or dogs down.

Be aware of these so-called experts, some the advice they are giving is dangerous. If you want trusted scientific advice on dealing with horses in the heat, please read Dr David Marlin on Facebook by clicking here.

Circulating on Facebook is the myth that you shouldn’t turn your horses out with a wet coat, as the water will heat up on your horse and cause it to overheat – this is not true! The water will evaporate and cool the skin.

Remember that social media is no replacement for veterinary advice and science. If you are in doubt about your horse’s health please consult a vet.

It can be difficult to work your horses during heatwaves and it is all too easy to feel resentful about your entries fees so carry on regardless. Just remember if you always ride your horse at 7 in the morning before work, and then take it competing in a heatwave in the afternoon, the temperature difference will be extreme. The cost of the veterinary care if your horse suffers from heatstroke and associated conditions, will be far greater than your lost entry fees.

Our horses rely on us to keep them safe – don’t let them down…



My journey…part 1…

By Amy Craske

Over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to meet and associate with some wonderful horsepeople, who have opened my eyes and helped me realise that the community of people who want to improve equestrian welfare is bigger than I thought; I am not alone! This has been through attending educational courses, local lectures and even through the changing attitudes of the people I’m lucky enough to teach. I have also been voraciously reading any interesting horse books and magazines I can get my grubby little hands on; there are many more ethical equestrian writers out there than I ever imagined, each adding a little bit more to my set of useful skills and ideas. It has also been through social media, my addiction to Facebook has come in handy at last! It was though Facebook that I became involved with the Concordia International Pony Club (CIPC) and I’m very proud to be a part of it.

The CIPC is a part of Concordia Equestrians, an organisation dedicated to improving the lives of equines everywhere, and raising awareness of welfare issues. The founder, Milly Shand, realised that one vital way to improve the lives and careers of horses in the future is to speak to the grooms and riders of the future; to help them follow their natural empathy. Although there are already well-known organisations out there catering to pony-mad kids, an awful lot of the provision seems to be based on traditional modes of working with, training and riding ponies, following a very narrow path. The CIPC , headed by Natalie Bucklar, is aiming to be much more diverse, encouraging children to learn how to develop more compassionate forms of horsemanship. Milly has a vision that the Pony Club will be accessible and welcoming to children worldwide, even if they don’t or can’t ride, or have never even seen a horse in the flesh!

Read more next week….

Image: By Vincent Botta via Unsplash.com

Trust yourself!

By guest blogger Jane Broomfield of Silverdale Horses

So, let’s start with this…

My name is Jane and I have a slight Facebook addiction.

I love my Facebook ‘family’, but I have noticed a huge problem. It’s called an Echo Chamber. I tend to only see posts from others that tend to share my own personal points of view. So, I made efforts to interact with others that perhaps have a different position. It is not always comfortable, or easy, but I have found it enlightening.

I have found the same in the horse world. We all claim to be working to better the lives of our equine friends. But there are many who will judge you for doing what is best for your horse. A good example is the ‘Natural hoof trimmers’, if you happen to talk about having your horse shod, they rain down on you with judgment and guilt inducing rhetoric. My horses are barefoot if they can be, or they have shoes if they need them. I use a certified farrier who spent many years perfecting her skills and her knowledge and her understanding of horses is excellent. But my main issue is, while I know I am capable, well mostly, of making the best informed decision, someone else may not be, and they could end up doing much more harm than good. Just because someone is forceful with their words, does not mean they are right, they are just a bully! I have noticed this being an increasing trend of late, from the barefoot enthusiast, the rugs are evil, and how dare you ride with a bit brigade!

The key here is to understand that not one size fits all with horses. One horse may be very happy without a rug on a cold wet day, but another may need it. It may not be “natural”, but here is something that most people forget, our horses are no longer natural either! Sorry to break it to you, but you 16hh3 German bred warmblood sports horse would probably not do too well in the wild! They have been bred with the understanding that we can provide the technology to keep them healthy and happy!

In summary, you, along with trusted professionals are the best people to make decisions for your horse. Do not do something against your better judgement just because someone with a loud voice tells you to.  (Well, apart from your coach during a lesson, then do exactly what they tell you!! Because that is what you are paying them for!! 😁 )

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Routine / maintenance equine physiotherapy – your thoughts?

By Sue Palmer

A paper has recently been published in Equine Veterinary Education, by ACPAT Chartered Physiotherapist Gillian Tabor. Routine equine physio (and for that matter, routine physio for people!) is something I’m passionate about, as anyone who has heard me on my ‘soap box’ will know! I’m so, so pleased to see this subject being brought to the forefront in the scientific field, and I really hope this encourages the lay person to consider whether or not this would be something their horse (or themselves!) would benefit from. And please don’t let me hear the “I spend all my money looking after my horse and there’s none left for looking after myself”, I hear it every day – you’ve only got one body, and there’s only you who’s going to look after it! Well done Gillian, and thank you!

The abstract doesn’t appear to be available online, but Gillian has given us permission to share it (see below). For the full article, you must have a login to Equine Veterinary Education, or you can purchase it through this link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/eve.12940

“Equine physiotherapists work within the team of professionals supporting horses at both the national and international level of competition. In the non-elite equine population, physiotherapists are also commonly involved in the management of musculoskeletal injuries in partnership with the veterinary surgeon, as well as advising owners on regular assessment and treatment schedules for their horses. Routine or maintenance physiotherapy has yet to be defined fully for the management of horses but translation from human rehabilitation would suggest the aims are to prevent objectively measureable deterioration in a patient’s quality of life and or to optimise the patients’ functional capacity. For a horse in full work, demands on the musculoskeletal system may predispose the horse to minor tissue injury that left unchecked, could affect quality of life, welfare and performance capacity. Therefore routine physiotherapy might be indicated to manage these issues. To support the increasing demands of equine clients to manage their horse’s health and welfare, as well as supporting rehabilitation cases, a close working relationship between the veterinary surgeon and physiotherapist can be recommended.”

To find your local ACPAT Chartered Physiotherapist visit www.acpat.co.uk.
To find your local Registered Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioner visit www.rampregister.org

Angry words for angry actions

By Simon Palmer


We live in a strange world. I’m going to sound like my father now, and say that when I was a young child the only way you could hear about anything was through a newspaper, via gossip, or through the news on the TV or radio. But now, things are instant. We get to hear about things “as they happen” instead of after the fact. While this approach for instant news, or gratification seems to be the natural progression for all things media, it can lead to some very unsettling moments that I think we need to consider.


Now before anyone chides me for the following, read it through throughly, then think about it for 30 minutes, and then if you still feel aggrieved you have the right to take what ever action you feel like…


I want to talk about Oliver Townend at Badminton! Have your hackles gone up already? Good…


Step back and lets look at the underlying issue that I think exists with the whole situation. I make no claims as to knowing anymore than the next person. I’ve seen the footage, and seen the litigious comments on Facebook. I’ve read the statement from the British Horse Society, and noted the judgement from the FEI. But I want to talk about the elephant in the room.


Professional riders who compete at this level are very driven. They have to produce results to continue in something that is quite clearly a passion for them. They have the enviable role of doing a job they love, and as with all jobs like that, there are more elements to it than the romantic notion that they have the most amazing lifestyle.


I think this particular incident has and should open a far larger discussion than simply punitive measures against a rider for his treatment of a horse. He was clearly wrong to use the whip in the manner he did. We accept that, and because of that the bile has risen and many people want to see him suffer for making a horse suffer. Enough already!


The bigger issue is the treatment of horses in professional competition. Aggression is not and should not be part of this sport. Horses are living breathing animals, and it is widely acknowledged that they posses a level of intelligence that makes them more than a “dumb animal”, not that that makes it excusable for any animal to be treated cruelly. But the underlying driver for actions such as the one currently being debated is actually not the sportsperson who is being focused on. It is further down the chain than that.


The root of his actions is simply money. But not just his finances, the people who own the horses who give these riders their rides. If their horse exceeds expectations, performs well, and are lauded. The value of the animal either for breeding or simply selling goes up. It can always be argued that the costs of keeping animals is high and the return on investment small when you take into account the number of horses that rise through the ranks only to fail at the last.


The elephant in the room is greed.


Over the next few weeks we shall see what if anything happens regards Oliver Townend. But, you would think that anyone with a horse such as those seen riden by him would want to remove their horses from his business. They would believe the treatment of the horse should be better than that, and he should lose the rides. If the owners of horses at this level felt that treatment of animals was important, far and away above that of money, then they would either not be in the business, or would look for a better sportsperson.


We only saw what we saw though. It is widely accepted that the treatment of horses behind the closed doors of some professional yards is less than fair too. The point of this piece is that we should not be using angry words to vilify one rider. We should be using our anger to changed the whole business. Everything from Rolkur, blue tongue, and stories of electric tape on fences, through to changing the height of jumping poles as the horse jumps, placing weights on hooves to increase leg action should stop.


I recall a very dear friend (now departed) saying that the way to change a sale persons behaviour was through their pockets!


What could easily be done to start the process of driving change? The governing bodies should be more willing to give more than a warning, perhaps? But what if you provided a positive outcome for those who do rely on skill not aggression to win competitions? Instead of punishing the bad sportsmen, incentivise the good. Put accelerated prize pots for sportspersons who clearly demonstrate fair and equitable treatment to their rides not just at one event but through actively seeking spot inspections of training practices, along with  fair treatment in competition. Expensive? Undeniably, but then thats what sponsors are for?!!


It’s easy to come up with ideas that may or may not work, however, the start of solving this issue, is with the owners of the horses. They too should be held accountable if they are willing to allow this sort of action to happen with their own animals that they place with a rider who simply has anger issues, and I want to clearly point out that I am not talking about an specific rider at this point.


The judges at competitions should make a stand and where an animal is exhausted, stop the ride. If it means twenty rides are stop, then twenty rides should be stopped. Entertainment, or money is not, and I cannot stress this enough, it simply is not a good reason for what we see.


It is time to change. From the owners of horses, to the professional sportsmen and women who should remember that the paying public is where the money comes from. Would the FEI be able to run competitions if the sponsors were vilified along with the riders. I think the money would stop coming into the sport.


It is time to stop this….there is no excuse. I’m not angry, I’m concerned, worried, and sad, that humans believe that it is acceptable to be cruel.


What about you?

How to inspire your horse


By Sue Palmer

There has been uproar on social media recently over Oliver Townend’s riding at Badminton this year, and his subsequent interview.  I wasn’t there, and haven’t seen the interview.  There is footage on FB of his riding here (https://www.facebook.com/natalie.lewis.50596013/posts/10155171597275216?hc_location=ufi), which looks to me as though it was recorded from the TV.  The post has been shared nearly 2000 times, and clearly this is a subject that has touched the hearts of many.  Even the British Horse Society have been moved to comment, stating that they will be raising their concerns to the FEI (http://www.bhs.org.uk/our-charity/press-centre/news/2018/may/statement-on-oliver-townend).


In my work as an ACPAT and RAMP Chartered Physiotherapist, I work with both professional and amateur riders.  I have always said that only a particular kind of rider will choose to work with me, because I refuse to treat the horse as a machine.  That doesn’t mean to say that I don’t understand the pressures (financial and otherwise) of competition.  But the people who choose to work with me see their horses more as part of their family than as a tool to achieve their goals.  I don’t know Oliver Townend, and I can’t comment on the back story that led to the way he rode at the weekend.  There’s an interesting post here (http://www.grandprix-replay.com/uk/article/5449/the-townend-debate-whipping-up-a-frenzy) that gives more food for thought, both on the fairness and unfairness of the way Oliver Townend himself has been treated, as well as in relation to the treatment of the horses.  I think it’s particularly interesting to recognise that several other horses were either over tired, and there were other riders who used the whip excessively.  Of course, it’s the big names who are held up as ‘examples’, but this to me as as wrong as the original act.


I do believe that a horse must ‘want’ to do his job.  I’ve treated horses who are so sore they almost collapse as I feel along their back, yet are flying over huge fences with their ears pricked.  I’ve treated horses where I can find very little soreness, stiffness or restriction of movement, and yet they are clearly, through their behaviour, saying that they are uncomfortable and do not want to be ridden.  So much is down to the mindset of both horse and rider, and especially to the partnership of the two.


We spend an inordinate amount of time and money on our horses.  I’m a ‘glass half full’ kind of person, I like to look on bright side of life.  For me, sharing my life with horses is about enjoying the time with them, and I cannot understand why people so often get so cross with their horse.  How can it be fun to be that angry?  How can they enjoy cursing their horse, shouting at him, hitting him, on such a regular basis?  You only have to browse social media to know that this is happening far and wide.


I understand that it’s different in competition, and that the horse has a job to do, but all the same, if it’s not enjoyable, then why do it?  The answer, I suspect, in all too many cases, is money.  Oliver Townend was chasing the ‘Grand Slam’, and that’s an immense amount of pressure.  Racehorses (including endurance horses) are pushed to breaking point because of the potential prizes.  According to a study, nearly 50% of competition horses are ‘lame’, using the definition of ‘lameness is asymmetry that can be changed with nerve blocks’.  It’s clear to almost everyone that the exceedingly overweight state of some show horses is a major welfare issue.  As with anything, the extremes are rare, but often those are the ones that the public look up to.


So what can be done?  Here I struggle to give you an answer.  My thoughts are that the best option is to lead by example.  You may not be able to make a difference to the lives of the horses that are going round Badminton, but you can make a difference to the life of your own horse.  And when others like what they see, they may choose to make a difference to the lives of their horse.  We can all do better (well, I certainly can!), and whilst I don’t believe in striving for ‘perfection’, I do believe in striving to be ‘good enough’ (for anyone who doesn’t understand this, I highly recommend ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ by Brene Brown).  The key, I believe, is in figuring out how to ‘inspire your horse to achieve’, whether you’re aiming for competition success or simply leading him safely in and out of the field.  And personally, I don’t find whips a good source of inspiration towards long term job satisfaction.

The dangers of mud

Recently I came across the Mud Control system, and I was so impressed with the idea (and so fed up with mud!) that I offered to write some information from a physiotherapist’s point of view for them on the dangers of mud. This is that piece…

The musculoskeletal system is made of bone and soft tissue (which includes structures such as muscle, tendon, ligament, fascia and nerve tissue). From a Chartered Physiotherapist’s point of view, the soft tissue in particular is prone to injury from repeated exposure to mud. You may well be already aware that muddy ground poses a risk to hoof health (you can read an article on this here, but you may not have thought so much about the effect it might have on the rest of the horse.

You’ll know yourself that walking through the mud, or over rutted ground such as dried mud, is much harder work than walking over smooth, firmer ground. Why would it be any different for the horse? Every time he has to pull his leg out of the mud, he uses muscles, tendons and other soft tissue with more of an effort than the body evolved to need for that particular move. Each time he repeats the move, the same tissues are put to over-work. This puts the horse at risk of repetitive strain injury (RSI), the same kind of injury as for example carpal tunnel syndrome, that many of you may have heard related to being a typists injury.

Of course, if pulling his foot out of the mud becomes so difficult that he loses a shoe, the trauma could be more instantaneous. Lost shoes can not only lead to serious damage to the hoof, but also to soft tissue injury further up the leg, or even into the back or neck.

Another risk that mud poses is the increased chance of a slipping or sliding injury. Whilst most of these are minor and heal by themselves, often without being noticed even by the owner or rider, they can be far more traumatic, and occasionally even lethal. We’ve probably all experienced the heart-stopping moment of watching a horse come to a sliding stop and only just stop before he goes through the fence, or of him turning too fast and losing his back end.

Horses, like people, need to move around on a variety of surfaces to maintain optimum health. There is ample evidence that working on the same surface every day increases the risk of lameness, and it is likely that a similar principle would apply to moving around in mud day in, day out. Minor discomforts can have a significant effect on performance, and if we want the best for our horses, it’s important that we continue to develop our skills and knowledge, and apply that knowledge to the best of our ability.

Sue Palmer MCSP is an ACPAT Chartered Physiotherapist and Registered Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioner, as well as an Intelligent Horsemanship Recommended Trainer and BHSAI. Sue is author of
‘Understanding Horse Performance: Brain, Pain or Training?’ amongst others, and is a co-founder of the Ethical Horsemanship Association.

Horses do not go quietly

By Jane Broomfield

For those that know horses, and have been around them for a while, you will have heard many horror stories of horses dying under terrible circumstances. The ” and they fell asleep under the apple tree and peacefully past away” tales are only seen in stories.

One of the most important aspects of horse ownership is planning for the final days of you equine friend. As horses get older, they, like us, may suffer from chronic disease, for example Cushings or arthritis. Or, just the amount of injuries stacks up and cause long term pain.

The first decision that you may find yourself making is:

Are they well enough to be ridden?  

If the answer is no, BUT they are happy and still enjoying life and their condition can be controlled with simple intervention, then what is their plan for retirement?

If the answer is no, and they are in constant and uncontrollable pain, what is the “end of life” plan?

So, you decide that your horse has earned a retirement, and you have found them a good situation, you need to keep on checking in with them and answer the following question:

Is my horse happy and enjoying life in retirement, and is/are their conditions(s) well controlled?

To help you answer that question, you need to keep an eye on them physically, for example, check their weight, the quality of their coat and feet, are they still eating well, are stool and urine still normal in both volume and sight for them, can they still roll and move around without pain?

If anything physically changes, then you need to call in the vet.

But, we also need to watch their mental wellbeing too:

Is my horse, still recognizably “my horse”?

Has their behaviour changed, are they still interested in their surroundings, and are they still a herd member, or are they being picked on?

If the answer is yes, investigate.

If your horse is no longer enjoying life, and changes in, perhaps, feed, routine, or even spending more time with them is making no impact, and your vet has ruled out any new or changes in age related conditions, this means their quality of live is diminished, and you need to be honest with yourself and work out who they are still being kept around for.

As I mentioned above, when horse dies, it is normally due to a catastrophic event, where emotional decisions need to be made in the moment. This is not good for anyone.

To help yourself out, make a list for your horse, taking into account their issues, the interventions that you are happy to make to help them live a bit longer? For example:

Would you allow surgery?

Would you take them off the property?

Would you be happy injecting them with powerful pain meds every day?

And stick to it.

A quiet, planned euthanasia is better for everyone than a “Your horse is about to suffer a long and painful death if we don’t …” decision.


Our guest blogger is Jane Broomfield from Silverdale Horses, Canada.

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