Asking the right people

Asking for advice is a very sensible step, but it can go wrong. If you ask the wrong questions you will get the wrong advice, but also if you ask the wrong people you will get the wrong advice. Well, not necessarily wrong, but not the right advice for you.

So, a head teacher that I know was looking for a new computer system. He had not found out what systems the schools near him were using, he had gone to the best schools in the area and found out what they were using. It wasn’t the most expensive system, but it certainly was the best. His logic was that a great school would have a great system and the same applies to yards.

If you want to know which physio to use, ask the people who are doing well. If you want to know which trainer to go to, ask the people who ride beautifully or horses look so happy. People like being asked, they like giving advice. Just make sure that it is the right advice for you.

If you aren’t even sure where to start, look around, listen, and find people who seem to be having a nice time with their horses. That lady smiling as she hacks down the lane. That lady beaming as she trots down the centre line of her dressage test. After all it is meant to be fun! Or look for people with a similar type of horse. If you have a gorgeous stocky cob, ask other people with gorgeous stocky cobs, rather than flighty arabs. Advice needs to be for you and your needs, so spend time not only working out what question to ask, but also who to ask. Then you stand a reasonable chance of the advice that you are given, being useful for you.

Always ask questions

Small children ask endless questions. ‘Why does the moon stay in the sky?’ ‘Why do I have to eat broccoli?’ ‘Where do birds sleep?’ As we get older we stop asking as many questions, we get complacent about the wonders of the world, and awkward at the idea of making a fuss.

When I became a director on a Multi-Academy Trust Board I was told to actively ask questions, to challenge what I was told, not to simply go along with it. Now I find that having been told to questioning in one area, I have become questioning in other areas. This is not simply being difficult, but more a case of not just accepting what is laid down in front of you. I realise how easy it is to be accepting of what you are told, and not to question it.

There are so many areas where it is easy to go along with what other people have told you. From the ‘this farrier is great’ comments, to the ‘don’t buy a horse from that dealer,’ ones. The world is full of endless opinions that we should question. You don’t need to go round treating everyone as though you are in a board meeting (you would rapidly lose friends!) but it is worth just keeping in mind.

It is wise to simply raise the question in your mind, ‘if the farrier is so good, why is horse always lame?’ or finding out that the dealer had refused to sell a horse to that individual because they didn’t deem it a good match. We all slant the world with our own version of reality, so all comments will always be from that person’s perception, our challenge is to not always take that at face value, but just do a mental check.

Most people will try and offer you the best advice, most people are generally kind about others, but it is sensible to always remember to maintain a questioning mind, so that you reduce the risk of slipping into the complacency of never questioning what you are told.

Mind your words…

We all know the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” and we all know it’s rubbish. Words don’t break your bones, but they can break parts of your soul, which is infinitely more precious than bones.

I was reflecting on this while considering how you give advice. Do you sail in stating exactly what someone should do, pointing out all the things they are doing wrong, or do you edge around the subject, never quite actually saying what you feel, or do you take the criticism sandwich approach and slide your advice inside two compliments.

I try to do the latter (emphasis on try!). I also try not to dole out unsolicited advice as there is nothing more annoying, other than when I believe it is necessary.

The other day two people said much the same thing to me but in entirely different ways. The first delivered in a heated discussion made me defensive, and closed. The second delivered kindly with empathy during a supportive conversation made me reflect upon my behaviour and see that point of view. It’s not what you say but how you say it…

So, if you see someone doing something with their horse that you think could be dangerous, or simply just not going to work, before you sail in all guns blazing consider how to approach it. For example someone is trying to load their horse on a slippy yard with lots of shouting. You could sail in with “don’t be stupid that’s not how you do it!” or you could say “horses that don’t load are really tricky, I had a horse that didn’t load, shall we help you move your trailer to an easier space and get some treats and stuff?”

You still might not get anywhere with the second approach, but you certainly increase your chances of having some chance of the person considering your suggestions.

So remember be careful with your words, for while they may not like sticks break bones, they can like arrows, wound.

How to choose a horse

By Sue Palmer

I came across a blog recently from a lady called Vicki Wilson (, who offers what she calls ‘Sore Horse’ clinics.  I haven’t met Vicki, since she lives the other side of the world, but I really like what I’ve read so far of her work, and from what I can tell, she follows a very similar philosophy to me.


I was interested to read her blog ‘How to choose a horse’ (, which came through in one of her free newsletters that I signed up to.  I particularly like that she talks a lot towards the end about how important it is to recognise the huge change for a horse in moving home.  Some take it in their stride, but many don’t.  Just because a horse ‘misbehaves’ when he comes to live with you doesn’t necessarily mean that you made the wrong choice, or that you bought him from someone ‘dodgy’ who had drugged him, etc.  Horses behave differently in different environments.  Vicki encourages the reader to consider how we expect a fostered or adopted child to have an extended period of adjustment to their new home, and so why would we expect a horse not to need something along those lines?


She also talks about how one of the most important characteristics of the ‘right’ horse for you is that he enjoys the work that you are asking him to do.  I find some horses who are incredibly sore continuing to compete at a high level with their ears pricked and seemingly thoroughly enjoying themselves, and others who really don’t seem sore at all but clearly aren’t enjoying their ‘job’.  Often, a horse will pick up on what his rider loves doing, and he will enjoy the same thing.  So if you’re a happy hacker, your horse will enjoy hacking, for example.  But this isn’t always the case.


Something else I recommend is to look at the horse’s competition record, if it’s available.  If there is an extended period when the horse wasn’t competing, is there a valid reason for this?  I advise everyone to get a new horse vetted (5 stage if at all possible), and ideally checked over by a physical therapist ( as well for more information.  And personally I would ask for the horse’s veterinary history, and if the owner wasn’t willing to give permission for this, I’d question why that might be.  My medical history belongs to me, not to the GP practice of where I’m currently living, and I believe that the horse’s medical history belongs to him, not to the previous owner or to the vet practice he was previously registered with.


There are, of course, ways and means for determined sellers to ‘hoodwink’ buyers, and even the most thorough checks will not guarantee you the horse that you think you are buying.  But if you can be sensible about it, ruled by head as well as heart, then you have a greater chance of buying the ideal companion to share precious time with.

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Horse flies!!!

By Sue Palmer

The horse flies are out and about in force in the UK.  I’m sure that each year they seem worse than ever!  There are a couple of things that some of my clients have mentioned that I thought sounded a really good idea, and I wanted to share, in the hope of helping even just one horse!


The first is a ride on fly rug with fringes, such as this one:  I used to keep my horse near a river, and I looked into this option then (in the end I went for riding in an exercise sheet, as I wasn’t going to be at that yard for long).  I would definitely be strongly considering it if I was in that situation now!  I hear people moan about how they couldn’t enjoy their ride because their horse was tossing his head around, and I think that probably that ride wasn’t much fun for the horse either.  One lady nearly ended up having an accident when her horse ‘lost it’ because of the flies when she was riding and leading – they all got home safely, but with a twisted hind shoe in the process.  This is such a simple option to make riding out considerably less distressing for a horse who is sensitive to flies, and the fringes on it make me smile ?


The second idea is the horse fly trap that is now available, such as this one:  The price is not cheap, but I’m a great believer that you get what you pay for.  The couple of clients I’ve spoken to who have used one have raved about it, saying that it’s literally catching hundreds of horse flies each day.  The idea is that the horse flies are attracted to the large black ball, which to them looks like the rear end of a horse.  The ball is warmed by the sun, fooling the horse flies further into thinking it’s an animal.  They land on it, and when they try to take off, they are guided upwards by the funnel, landing in water and drowning.  This site claims that you can get rid of up to 95% of the horse flies, providing you put the trap up early enough to catch the breeding females, and ideally can place it in the path that the horse flies take to their water supply.


If you’re on Facebook, here’s a useful post about horse flies put up by Penbode Equine Vets in Tavistock:


I hope this helps someone!  If you’ve got more useful tips, please do share them in the comments!

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Photo by Florian van Duyn on Unsplash

How to handle the heat?

By Sue Palmer
I have to say that personally, I am loving the weather that we are having in the UK at the moment! As long as I don’t have to move around too fast, and I can get into the shade on a regular basis, I would far rather that it was warm and dry than cold and wet. I’m lucky though. My job is outdoors, I can treat the horses in the stables if we need to be in the shade, and although my work involves much physical effort, it is not cardiovascular.

I realise, however, that not everyone feels the same, and that many people are struggling to know what to do for the best for the horses when the sun has shone for such a prolonged period of time. We are not used to it in England! The grass has dried up, and people are having to feed hay in the fields as there is nothing there for the horses to eat. Does anyone know, by the way, when it is safe for the horses to eat hay that has been cut and baled this year?

So today’s blog is asking what advice you can offer others in relation to maintaining your horses health, and a reasonable degree of comfort, in the hot weather? Dr David Marlin offers some excellent advice on his FB page on how to cool horses quickly, including spraying them with cold water. Commonsense tells us not to overwork horses on the hard ground any more than we would overwork them on the soft ground, as the repeated concussion could lead to injury. I would hope that everyone is providing their horse with a constant source of water, although I spoke to a client this week who found her horse had had no water during the day, despite being on full livery.

What hardships have you found in the heat, and how have you overcome them? Or do you, like me, enjoy the warm weather?

Look forward to hearing from you 🙂

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Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash