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