Christmas miracle

I took my daughter for her first canter the other day. It was perfect! That was my Christmas miracle, the fact that there are perfect ponies, ponies that can give a child their first canter, ponies that will slow down if the rider is losing their balance, ponies that are simply perfect for the job they do.

We ask horses and ponies to do a range of different jobs. From riding school ponies, to racehorses, from para-dressage horses to showjumpers. They are endlessly obliging to our strange whims and desires. They are patient and tolerant, and when we decide that they should doing one thing and start doing another, they simply adapt.

It is simply astonishing when you think about it that they put up with us! They are far stronger than us, they could simply decide not to co-operate, but they don’t.

The pony that took my daughter for a canter, was incredible. The first time it simply went for a few strides. By the fifth canter, when the pony was more confident in the little rider, it went off happily and carried on cantering along the tracks.

Ponies like that are priceless, giving people good experiences builds confidence. Teaching children to ride by putting them on naughty ponies doesn’t help anyone. The children learn that ponies can be dangerous, the pony learns that it is in charge. Learning through positive experiences creates a better result, it creates harmony, and enjoyment. Lots of my childhood riding experiences were based around fear. Children don’t learn when they are scared, they learn when they are happy.

My Christmas miracle is a little pony called Dolly, and watching my daughter on that wonderful first canter. That was better than any fancily wrapped gift sat under the tree.

Why we love our animals…

We love our animals, they are always so pleased to see us. Our dogs bark manically spinning in excitement and rejoicing in pleasure at seeing us again. Our horses wicker, snuffling against our cheeks, their whiskers tickling us. Some say; animals only love us because we feed them. I don’t agree. They love us in a much more straight-forward way. Our bonds with our animals is so much less complex than our bonds with people.

Relationships with people are more layered, more convoluted. Often we are related to them, some we chose for love, but our lives are clouded over by the stress of work, money, illness, so the love is pushed down, hidden over. But with our animals it doesn’t matter. Stressed? Hug a pony. Bad day at work? Hug a dog. Boss shouted at you? Stroke your cat. Works every time.

Animals are also the best outlet at Christmas. I love Christmas, I love seeing my family, but it can get a bit overwhelming, you can need a break. Popping out to walk the dog even for half an hour can give you a vital break from the festive fun. Christmas day hacks are delightful, especially in the morning when the roads can be wonderfully quiet.

Exercise is also the perfect counterpart to the endless eating and drinking that goes on over Christmas and can leave us feeling grumpy and lethargic. Even in dismal weather, wrap up warm, and get outside, you will feel better. And the best thing about animals is you have no excuses they have to be exercised, cared for, hugged, chatted to. So when the world is getting a bit much, when you long for peace and quiet and the wind in your face, rain on your back, get outside, take your dog for a walk, your horse for a hack and then when you come home again you will relish the warmth, the company and the cheer.

Christmas dilemmas…

Christmas should be magical. Roaring fires, too much food, nice drinks, bad sweaters, presents, Christmas trees, hats, mittens, family games, the list goes on… Sadly in reality that magic has to be generated and managed, often (I’m not trying to cause a row!) by the “mum.” As always the potential for arguments is high.

Our household argument is over whether the kids have too many presents. I like to give things that are useful, clothes, books, games, rather than endless plastic tat that gets broken, thrown away ignored. I also like to give experiences, lessons, days out rather than things. When people ask me what my children want, I generally ask for clothes, or money towards something that they actually really do want. Some people would consider this boring…but you can have fun without money. We make stockings for the animals, so that they can join in. We make gifts for people, and enjoy the time we spend together doing this.

When you are thinking of presents to buy for people, why not consider a book or DVD? Learning a new skill appeals to everyone, and is a great idea for those who are tricky to buy for. And if you are really stuck for present ideas for your horsey friends, why not make them horse shaped biscuits!

There are some great subscription gifts that will be really well received, like Intelligent Horsemanship which for a surprisingly reasonable price gives you great magazines throughout the year, discounts and free online access to brilliant resources. If you think this sounds like a great gift – click here!

But remember that the most important thing you can give this Christmas is your time. Time spent with your loved ones, time spent chatting, sharing, laughing, time spent playing and eating, and when it all gets a bit much, you can always escape to the stables!

Five top tips for coping with our horses in the winter.

Let’s be honest, most of us would rather not have to deal with winter with our horses, and probably wish that Santa would bring us endless sunny days for our stockings. But, sadly, winter is something that we have to endure with our horses, so here are some top tips to help you enjoy the winter time with your horses.
1. Don’t think that you have to ride. There are many times in the winter when the weather is simply not good enough to ride, but don’t regard this as a missed opportunity. Instead spend that time doing something else with your horse, such as grooming or massaging him. That time improving your relationship is never wasted.
2. Do be flexible. If the weather goes mild and you can get out and ride, make the most of it. Being adaptable with our days over the winter is vital to hep us react in a non-stressful way to whatever the winter weather brings us.
3. Use the time to organise your tack room, or sort through your boxes of old tack. Anything you no longer use can be donated to many of the horse rescue charities, who are always willing to receive donations. Then, when the sunny days appear, you won’t have to waste those precious hours searching for your favourite numnah.
4. Spend some time learning. We are so busy always that we forget to make the time to improve our knowledge. But the winter is the perfect opportunity to spend some time learning. There are many great online courses, books and DVDs available to help you increase your understanding of your horse.
5. Work on your groundwork. The key to all that you do with your horse lies in your groundwork. Can your horse stand quietly at the end of a 12ft rope for up to 10 minutes? No – well why not use this winter as an opportunity to teach him.

And remember, that Spring will come!

It’s beginning to look like…

You know the rest! Whether you love it or hate it, Christmas comes round steadily every year, and every year brings with the same conversations, the same choices, the same frenzied consumerism which many people strive so firmly to avoid. It is this time of year more than any other that it is hard to escape the relentless need to spend, spend, spend. The rest of the year I find it relatively easy to not buy, but Christmas can feel overwhelming.

I try and stick to the maxim of; buy from small businesses, buy something useful, or make a gift. I try my hardest to stay away from mass produced plastic rubbish sold in mega stores, after all if there is anything you want along those lines, you can usually find it in your local charity shop. But I find myself beset by the ‘have I bought enough’ question, which isn’t a reflection of my own feelings, simply a reflection of society.

Everyone is different, everyone has different financial obligations and priorities. Some people save all year to buy their children masses of presents, other prefer to buy random presents throughout the year. I like the random present approach myself, buying things as they take my fancy for people I love at varying times of the year, seems a much more personal gift than an obligatory gift bought in haste for a certain day, but we are all different!

So whatever your views are on Christmas, just make sure they are yours, that you are not guilted into spending more than you can afford by a society that has confused love with presents. A carefully chosen thoughtful gift will always delight. Buy them with love and kindness and the size or the quantity doesn’t matter, but the love does.

Presence not presents!

Don’t fall into the seasonal trap of over-spending! (I know this seems like a strange message for a company that sells products to spread!) But it is so easy at Christmas to get sucked into the compulsion to buy. And I am aware that it is easier said than done, to resist the endless barraging adverts, and the daily onslaught of advertising that tries to tell us that giving people things they don’t need equates to love.

Instead this year give the things that matter; give time, give hugs, give a handmade gift, give food to foodbanks, give love, give respect, buy cups of tea for the homeless, stop and talk to your neighbours, smile at that lady you pass everyday.

We don’t need more things – more pieces of plastics that will end up in landfill in a short few weeks, plundering the planet both in their making and their disposal. We need time, and conversation, love and affection, respect and gratitude.

Children don’t need the latest game, they need you to sit on the floor and pretend to be a plane, a train, a tree, a fairy.

Adults don’t need another clever piece of packaging, they need a hug, and to be told they are doing a great job.

Grandparents – they don’t need another set of glasses, they need a wonky biscuit made with love and slightly grubby fingers.

At the end of our lives we won’t remember countless gifts that were given to us; shower sets, over-packaged candles, books of bad jokes, but we will remember the people we love and the things we have experienced.

For Christmas I wish you all health, happiness and hope. And may 2019 bring you peace and joy.

Thank you to all our customers who have supported us throughout the year – I know that this is blog is all about encouraging people not to shop – but we are truly grateful to all our customers who help us to help people do the best for their horses.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash


Sue’s Standpoint

By Sue Palmer

We’ve just taken part in the 3rd Study Group Live for the Ethical Horsemanship Association, and I’m so excited about where 2018 might take us!  I looked back recently at some notes we (myself, Lizzie and Simon, founders of the Ethical Horsemanship Association) made at a meeting in January 2017, and it’s incredible just how far we’ve come.  I’m already looking forward to looking back this time next year, if that makes sense?!


Anyway, this evening we were discussing an article titled ‘Are you a rider or a parasite’ ( by Cheryl Eriksen (  Having a browse through Cheryl’s website when I was checking on her qualifications and experience, I found myself totally engrossed in what she has to say – I highly recommend taking a look!


The discussion got quite deep at times, around emotional intelligence, and would you intervene if you saw someone treating a horse in a way that you didn’t feel is right?  And humorous (well, I thought it was funny!) as we navigated our way through the emojis on offer! The basis of the article is that if you are doing all taking and no giving, then you are a parasite, and unless you are listening to your horse, then you are unable to give.  It’s quite a judgemental article, written (as the author admits) when she was feeling quite alone in her views on horsemanship, but it makes plenty of really valid points.


Cheryl talks about the horse who throws his head up and shoots forwards on landing after every fence, yet keeps jumping when asked.  She believes the behaviour is due to the rider’s lack of ability, hence the ‘parasite’ implication.  My physio brain instantly assumes, however, that there is forelimb or forefoot pain somewhere causing the behaviour.  Impossible to know, of course, since none of us will ever get to meet this horse – but I hope that the practical exercises and thought provoking questions in ‘Brain, Pain or Training’ will help at least some owners to differentiate and to find the right help.


We all agreed that leading by example was key to helping others to develop their learning.  But that we don’t know what we don’t know, and so how do we know where we are with our learning?! That we all want the best for our horses, even those who have a different belief system to ourselves. That people will only change when they are ready to do so. That emotional intelligence is a better indicator of fulfilment than IQ.  Lisa, who owns Bluebell (you might have followed Bluebell’s story on Facebook or in Brain, Pain or Training, if not then here is a video taken during her initial physio assessment: said that someone commented this summer on how easy Bluebell is.  You’ve only got to watch the video to see that this was not always the case! When you get it right, it is easy.  But it’s not easy to get to that point.


So we move onto another Christmas, more presents, more family, more horse time?  I for one am grateful to all the horses I’ve met this year for all the things they’ve taught me.  I count my blessings on a daily basis for my health, my family and my work.  I wish you a Very Merry Christmas, whether it’s with people or with horses, and I look forward to meeting more of you through the community of the Ethical Horsemanship Association once we open it to the public in 2018 🙂

It’s nearly that time…again!

Christmas is nearly here, and with it comes the manic overspending that so many people seem to revel in. I am not anti present buying, but I do believe in buying items that are useful or wanted.

If anyone wants to read a brilliant article on this subject click here!

I go by the premise of: buy them something to read, to wear, something they want or something they need. But we can apply this to our horses in our everyday life. How many items are there in your tack room that you bought on a whim? Do you use everything? Do you need everything? Is there anything you actually need? Ask for the things that you really want, so that you don’t end up being given horse-related gifts that you don’t want or need.

In the spirit of giving, it is worth having a clear out of your tack room and donating anything that you don’t need to rescue centres, which are always very grateful of donations. Why not try a reverse advent calendar in your tack room?

Everyday place one item in a box, then on Christmas day you will have a hamper that you can donate to help horses. We support Bransby Horses Rescue and Welfare, who do fantastic work across the country to help improve the welfare of horses, and provide a safe haven for those horses that have been rescued.

If you are after good Christmas presents, these are our three top book and DVD bundle deals which will give people something to read, something to watch, and teach them a skill that they will remember long after they have forgotten the majority of their Christmas presents!

Horse Massage for Horse Owners

Understanding Horse Performance Brain, Pain, or Training?

Activate Your Horse’s Core

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