Stepping outside the box

It is very easy to simply do the same thing that we have always done. Whether it be the same exercises in the school or following the same route out hacking. It is all too easy to become entrenched in our habits. Stepping outside the box can give you fresh insight and a different perspective into your riding and your relationship with your horse.

Do you always work your horse in the school through the same set of exercises and through the same paces in the same order? For examples, lots of us begin in walk before progressing through trot work, and then finally to canter. Why not try working the canter before the trot? It can have the effect of opening the trot up and can be beneficial.

Or if you find that your horse seems a little stale, try going around the block in the opposite direction that you usually go. Suddenly, it will seem like a whole fresh new hack. Or you could try leading your horse around your usual walk. Both of you will gain a new perspective from doing that, and work in hand will always help your ridden relationship.

It is so easy to do the same things over and over, but sometimes it is good to set yourself a challenge and step outside of your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be a competition or a huge challenge, it could be taking your horse to a different venue to school him or meeting up with a friend to go for a hack. Or going for an all-day hack (check your weather forecast first!) Whatever you choose to do that is different from your everyday routine will give you a new experience.

Every time we try something new, we learn something. It may simply be that we learn not to do that again! But trying out new things is good for us and our horses. Experiences can always be put towards learning, so that our knowledge and understanding increases.

I can see the light!

It’s coming, it’s coming! Already you can see the evenings drawing out, already I have been outside after 5pm without torches, walking on the moor in Devon. Already I am assessing the cloud cover to work out how more light we are getting this evening. Already the days are lengthening, already Spring is coming…

I am like a kid at Christmas about day length. Every day I get increasingly more excited, and tell other people how excited I am as well! A little like some people do about the snow…I go round saying, “look how light it is!” as though they haven’t noticed…

But it is amazing as the days lengthen, suddenly you can see all the hours you will have, all the fun you will have, all the evening hacks, the sunny evenings sitting on fences watching ponies, the quietness at the end of a sun-drenched day. Suddenly it unfolds in front of you, stretching out into time like a promise.

The winter is forgotten in a flash. The mud, the wind, the stumbling, sliding ground under foot, suddenly it has all gone, eradicated, disappeared, wiped out from your memories.

So here’s to the lengthening hours, here’s to daylight, here’s to riding in the natural light, after work, before work, after school. Here’s to never being inside, to no more dark evenings, to no more television, to no more watching the rain hammer down your windows. Here’s to moulting ponies, and dry gateways. Here’s to tan lines, and sweaty saddlepads. Here’s to leafy tracks and gentle grassy slopes. Here’s to sore muscles and hat hair. Here’s to summer. It’s coming, you can feel it in the aching stretch of daylight, hanging tenaciously in the air. It’s coming, it nearly here, it’s just around the corner…

(Possibly a little preemptive, but even thinking about it is cheering!)

January is rubbish!

Nobody likes January, so at least you don’t have to feel alone in your dislike of the worst of the winter months. Everyone is fed-up, tired, skint. The days are short and gray. The fields muddy and windswept. Horses are skittish and spooky. Everything seems like hard work. The summer seems like a distant memory or an unimaginable future.

But all is not lost! There are ways to cope! Remember, is really isn’t that long until the weather gets better, the days get longer. February can be lovely. In no time at all you will be complaining about flies!

Take the time to sort out your tackroom, you don’t want to waste a precious sunny day on doing it. Pick a cold (not raining!) day and drag everything out, sort out rugs to be repaired, or binned! Sweep out all those little corners, make sure you have everything in the most convenient place. Think about what you use the most, what would be better on that high shelf?

If the weather is too miserable to ride, why not spend time with your horse on the ground? You can spend some time grooming, or massaging him. You can teach him tricks. You could sit in your stable (safely!) and draw him. There are endless ways you can build on your relationship with your horse without having to actually ride. Take a look at our book and DVD Horse Massage for Horse Owners for help in learning to massage.

Remember the days are getting longer, Spring will come, the grass will grow, the mud will recede, the days will get longer, your horse will settle down, your toes will stop hurting with the cold, and quite soon you will be wandering along a track on your horse in the sunshine and you will have quite forgotten about the misery of the winter.

Pippa’s Journey (so far!)

Pippa is my 11 year old 16.2hh mare who I have owned since she was about six month old. From a young age we (my partner Paul and I) showed her in hand for many years until we decided to start up a family business in Stourport on Severn 7 years ago. During that time Pippa had been lightly backed and had an absolutely gorgeous foal named Kipper (shired by my own little stallion Bertie,) however we sadly lost Kipper as a young colt.

 

Due to having Kipper and our energy being focused on the new business, Pippa became a much loved family pet but had very little work. She was a very green nine year old who had barely cantered with anyone on her back let alone anything else. It was until the summer of 2017 where I started again with Pippa and began to ride her.

 

During the summer I went to Lincomb’s adult camp which was one of the best decisions I made. It kick-started my motivation and boosted my confidence and I began to discover how much talent Pippa really had. She had never jumped before or done cross country but at this camp we did everything! During one of the lessons at the camp I met my instructor Angela, who has since been a massive help and incredibly supportive along Pippa’s journey. We began to have jumping lessons as well as flat work lessons and even began competing in local competitions.

 

However, things suddenly hit rock bottom in September 2017 when two weeks after I had lost my other mare Kalini, to colic (who I had also owned since a foal) Pippa too had colic and I was faced with the impossible decision as to whether to put her through surgery or not. After deciding to send her the next few hours were some of the longest hours of my like waiting to get the call from the vet to tell me how the surgery went. Luckily she pulled through but there was a huge road for recovery. Since then I have always known she was a fighter, there was just something in Pippa which made her fight that my other mare unfortunately did not have.

 

2018 was rather a quiet year for Pippa. She spent most of the year recovering and I wanted to give her as much time as she needed. We began doing some light work towards the end of the year and even some small dressage tests but had not been back jumping or cross country. During this time I began to sense that something was wrong due to her behaviour, mainly on the ground. She began to skip into canter on the left rein in particular. Due to her surgery I was determined to get everything checked and make sure that she was okay.

 

In early 2019 I booked Pippa in to see physiotherapist Sue Palmer and after an initial assessment Sue recommended I see a vet and suspected that she could have ulcers. From this I booked her in for an appointment at the vets and after a endoscopy they were able to confirm that she had two gastric ulcers, one that was stage 1 and another which was a stage 2 ulcer.

 

After some treatment (and some more treatment to prevent them coming back) Pippa is now on the mend (again). We have began to have some lessons and the improvement is already amazing. We have even began jumping again and it seems that Pippa has definitely missed it to say the least. I’m definitely excited for the summer and have booked into Lincomb’s adult camp once again hopefully alongside some local competitions for the summer. I’ve had many horses over the years but she is my one in a million horse and my absolute pride and joy. It has taken us a while but hopefully we can begin to expand both mine and her abilities and have some fun again.

 

With thanks to Emily for sharing her story with us. If you have a story you would like to share, please email lizzie@ethicalhorseproducts.co.uk

Is the weather driving you mad?

We wait all winter for the summer, plodding through muddy fields, dragging wet rugs off horses, cursing the short day length which renders it impossible to get anything done. All winter we look forward to the summer and its endless hazy, sunny days where we are going to be able to spend hours playing with our horses under a gently glowing sun…

Then summer arrives, and after lulling us into a false sense of security, we are inundated with torrential rain, turning the entire countryside into something resembling soup. It is rubbish!

However, short of saving the planet, reducing the effects of our consumerist society and slowing climate change (but that is another story!), there is little we can do about the weather. The first thing to do is to accept it. Yes it is raining again, but being cross isn’t going to help. Yes, it would be lovely if the sun was out – but it isn’t.

Next make a flexible plan. You probably only have a few hours in your day where you could ride, so you can’t ride around the weather, but you can decide what you are going to do if it too wet to ride. You could sit inside, eat biscuits and mope, or you could spend some time with your horse inside. Why not give him a massage, (take a look at our book and DVD set Horse Massage for Horse Owners to get you started!), do some stretching exercises with him (Activate Your Horse’s Core has brilliant exercises in it!) or simply a really good groom?

You could maybe consider hiring an indoor school (share with a friend to keep the cost down) if you are too frustrated, or simply go riding – remember there is no such thing as bad weather, simply bad clothing!

Whatever you decide to do – enjoy it!

5 tips for Spring

Here it is British Summer Time – the long awaited time of lengthy evenings, no mud, and shows. We can’t wait! But before you pile into to enjoying your time with your horse, make sure you are ready. We have complied our top 5 tips for enjoying the Spring time with your horses.

  • Beware the spring grass! Spring grass is notoriously loaded with sugars, this can give our previously sedate steeds a spring in their toes, but can also have serious health implications for those prone to laminitis, Cushings, or other metabolic disorders. We love turning our horses out after the long winter, but make sure you keep an eye on them, and consider restricting their grazing or using a grazing muzzle. This will give them all the benefit of the outside, without the spring grass risk!
  • Check your horse’s saddle due to weight change. Our horses’ shapes change over the winter, their muscle mass decreases due to less work and their weight can often drop. It is advisable to get a professional saddler to check your horse’s saddle before you start increasing their work load.
  • Don’t go from 0-60 build up your horse’s workload gradually. Don’t suddenly start riding your horse for hours at a time, make sure you build up his work gradually to ensure he stays healthy and sound. Make sure he is up to date with his teeth, feet and consider getting a physio out for a once over before you start to increase his workload.
  • Make sure all your rugs are washed and reproofed ready for next winter. Have a good sort out in the sunshine, and then you are all prepared for next winter. Also you can often pick up some good bargains for next winter in the spring sales.
  • Don’t just think about your horse, make sure you are fit to ride after the winter. Have you been active all winter? Or have you been sat on the sofa eating chocolate biscuits? (Guilty as charged!) Make sure you are fit to increase your riding. Try and walk every day, even 30 minutes does wonders for your base fitness.

 

Enjoy it! And if you are not enjoying your time with your horse, please ask a respected professional for help, after all horses are meant to be a source of joy, not stress!

 

Ethical – what does it mean to you? 

Defining ‘ethical’ is a tricky job to do. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a while, and it seems appropriate to try and write something down for the Ethical Horse Products! The Collins English Dictionary has a fairly clear definition; “if you describe something as ethical, you mean that it is morally right or morally acceptable.” I don’t think any of us would argue with that. But it is SO hard to pin down what exactly IS morally right with horses, as opinion varies so widely; and so what is considered ‘ethical’ becomes a bit of a moveable feast. For example, I do work for two riding schools, one on a more traditional model but with an emphasis on correct schooling and using biomechanics in teaching, whilst the other one is transitioning to using clicker training with the ponies. But BOTH of them would say they try to work ethically, and both try to use as little force as possible.

There are many people within the horse world who would like to take ethical to what seems its natural conclusion, and use NO pressure at all, relying on positive reinforcement and  allowing the horse to choose whether it participates in any training activities at all. And others try to work within the LIMA framework; trying to find the Least Invasive, Minimally Aversive techniques to communicate with horses. Some swear by classical training techniques, whilst horses within the racing industry are often described as being treated like kings. A current debate within the equestrian world, which I’m sure many of you will have read about, is about the tightness of nosebands. On any Facebook post discussing this you will find people extolling  the virtues of no noseband, loose nosebands, drop nosebands or grackles, and bitless bridles, ALL as being the most ethical and most successful.

Judging what IS ethical is becoming harder, as different opinions become more widely known. And what may be right for one horse and handler may be wrong for another, as long as force, pain, neglect and punishment are excluded. Perhaps the best approach is to keep an open mind, and try to separate the opinion from the science. Research is constantly being done into training techniques and tools, behaviour, developing detailed species ethograms, and developing tools like the Grimace Scale to judge pain levels. I’m sure what we all want is just to do our best!

With thanks to guest blogger Amy Craske. Don’t miss out on more great articles, sign up to our newsletter today!

Sue’s standpoint – guide to owning your first horse

By Sue Palmer

I recently visited a lady who had fulfilled her childhood dream and bought her own horse.  It is not an uncommon situation for a first-horse owner to keep their horse at home, with no clear advice on what needs to be done for the health and well-being of that horse, so I thought I’d start a list, and I’m hoping you can help by adding more in the comments.  I’ve listed things under ‘Must have’ and ‘Nice to have’, and I welcome your thoughts!  I’ve grown up with horses, so owning a horse to me is second nature.  However, I remember bringing my baby boy home from the hospital, and knowing full well that I didn’t know where to start, I was well and truly in ‘conscious incompetence’!  I’m guessing that it’s similar for the first-time owner bringing their precious new horse home, and so I’m looking for kind hearted advice given with the best of intentions 🙂  You can find the websites of recognised organisations in each of the relevant fields here: https://www.thehorsephysio.co.uk/BPT/Links/

 

Must have

Take an experienced friend or an instructor with you to view the horse

Appropriate stabling and turnout

Have your horse registered with a local vet

Worming program, such as with Intelligent Worming

Saddle fit check (even if it’s been done recently)

Dental check (or plan in place)

Appropriate farriery (follow your farrier’s advice, rather than your next door neighbours)

Company of some kind for your horse

Third party insurance, such as that offered by membership of the British Horse Society

Appropriate and safe protective clothing for yourself

 

Nice to have

Have the horse vetted before purchase

Regular lessons, both on the ground and ridden

Access to hacking as well as an arena

Maintenance physical therapy

Attend British Horse Society horse owners courses to develop your knowledge

Learn about horse behaviour with an organisation such as the Intelligent Horsemanship Association

Read, listen, watch as much as you can about horse health and behaviour

 

What other pieces of advice would you like to pass on? Add them to the comments below!

The amazing Dorothy Brooke

By Sue Palmer

Many of us have heard of the Brooke hospital, and plenty of us have supported it in one way or another over the years (https://www.thebrooke.org).  I never knew anything of the story of how this started, but my husband sent me this truly inspiring article on Dorothy Brooke (https://www.thebrooke.org).

 

Another incredible lady that I know of is Bernadette Langfield, who runs Shy Lowen (http://www.shylowen.com).  Bernadette talks here about the horse Halley’s Comet, who started things for her (http://www.shylowen.com/about-us.php).

 

It’s incredible how strong an effect an individual horse, dog, cat (or in the case of my husband, cheetah, leopard or lion!) can have on us.  I’ve met so many wonderful horses in my life, but one of the key guys in forming my journey was a coloured gelding called Donald.  He came for schooling at the show jumping yard I was working at in Oxfordshire when I was 18yrs old, because he had thrown his previous rider (a professional) into the fence and the rider was now recovering from a broken leg.  Something ‘clicked’ between Donald and I.  I’d sit in his stable to eat my lunch, and grab any moment I could to give him some extra love.  He had not be mistreated as such, at least not from a welfare point of view, but he was pretty worried about having a rider on his back, and the accident had happened when he’d bolted with the rider.  I found he was fine in walk, but he really struggled when we went into trot because of the extra movement of the rider.  I loved him though, and for some reason he tolerated me, and over our six weeks together we went on to jump a double clear in the Discovery at Blewbury (http://blewburycentre.co.uk) before his owners took him home again.  I tried my very best, both then and over the next couple of years, to buy Donald back, but his talent meant that he was sold for quite a bit of money, and I just didn’t have the funds.  Whatever happened to make the sale happen in the first place though, it obviously didn’t work out and he was sold on a couple of times.  Eventually I heard that his most current owners had given up trying to ride him, and for some reason had tried to drive him instead, resulting in another broken leg – this time Donald’s.  I was heart broken, but the memory of the bond we had has driven me on through tough times, to help other horses in his memory.

 

We’d love to hear your stories, both of the horses that have had an impact on your life, and of the people you know who have had an impact on the lives of horses.  Send them to info@ethicalhorsemanshipassociation.co.uk, and the best story will win the DVD ‘Understanding Horse Performance: Brain, Pain or Training?’ (http://www.ethicalhorseproducts.co.uk/QuickShop/DVD.php).  Please put ‘Inspiring story competition’ as the subject of your email. Selected stories will be shared through our blog (www.ethicalhorsemanshipassocation.co.uk) and on other social media. Closing date 11.59pm Weds 14th March 2018, winner to be drawn at random and notified by email by Weds 21st March 2018.

Thinking of buying a horse?

By guest blogger Dr Renee Tucker

Thinking of buying a horse? Or maybe you have a friend or client looking? Here’s the scoop on pre-purchase exams.

Choosing a horse to buy is such an important (and stressful) decision. So many factors play into it.

But may I be blunt?   RUN from the following conditions when you go to buy a horse:

These conditions are difficult and costly to treat. Even if they are “maintainable”, you still run the risk of things getting worse.

Here is the list:

Founder (laminitis)
Allergies, fly allergies, sweet itch, hives
Heaves (COPD)
Navicular
Nerved horses
Uveitis (eye inflammation, constant eye drainage)
Gray horses with large melanomas
Joint arthritis
Most headshaking horses (except 25% that are due to atlas subluxation)
Horses with extreme saddle fitting challenges
EPM (equine protozoal myopathy)
EPSM (equine polysaccharide storage myopathy), also called PSSM
DSLD (degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis)
Horses needing continuous medication (ex: Bute, Isoxuprine)
Mares continuously needing heat calming drugs or herbs (ex: Regumate)
Horses with poor feet (ex: shelly, can’t hold a shoe, flat footed, front feet at significantly different angles than each other (some, but not all club footed horses)
Vices: cribbing
Positive flexion tests on pre purchase exam

Do the RUN from conditions mean absolutely never buy the horse? That it will get really sick and die? That it will cost thousands to maintain soundness?  Absolutely NOT.

These horses can do just fine. They can have no problems whatsoever. The reason I created this list is for people to know what to look for that may possibly be trouble. Listen to your veterinarian. Listen to your instincts.

With thanks to Dr Renee Tucker, you can visit her website Where Does My Horse Hurt?

Dr Renee Tucker is offering a special discount to readers of our blog, visit our website and click on the Online Equine Body Class button to learn more about it