Naughty or struggling? Can you tell the difference?

Our horses rarely wake up in the morning, and think “today I will be really naughty…today I will only canter on the left lead not the right lead.” This is a common issue that many of us face, and our perception of the problem is one of the key factors in helping to solve this issue.

When we train horses, we train them to accept and understand the aids that move us from trot into canter. When they are learning this can be difficult for them, as they have to work out the connection between our aids and our desired outcome. It is our job to give these aids clearly and consistently, with much praise for the correct response, so that our horses learn what we are asking for. Without praise, they won’t understand that they have done as we have asked. Praise can be verbal, or can be through the release of the aid.

When faced with a horse which will canter on the left, but not the right lead, we become frustrated. To us, in our logical human brains, we feel that the horse must be being “naughty” as we know full well that he understands and can carry out the action from trot to canter. However, it only takes some weakness, or stiffness in his body, to cause him to struggle with the transition on this rein. This imbalance in the body can be harder to pinpoint than a more obvious lameness, but it is up to us to work it out.

Horses can only communicate their pain, or distress through their actions, they have no other language. In general, they are incredibly stoic creatures who will try their very best despite the limitations of their bodies, or our, sometimes vague, aids. If your horse cannot do something that you ask of him, it is not a personal insult! He is simply trying to communicate with you, in the only manner that he knows how, and it is up to us to listen.

There are many exercises that you can do on the ground before you get anywhere near riding that will help you to listen to what he is trying to say to you. Can he bend his neck equally to both sides? There are many excellent resources available showing you how to do simple carrot stretches (beware of your fingers!). When turned in a tight circle do his hind legs step under to the same degree on both reins? Does he track up evenly when walked and trotted in-hand? Any difference on the left and right side in-hand will be likely to provide you with the key to why he is struggling with ridden work.

So, the next time you are feeling frustrated by apparent naughtiness in your horse’s behaviour, take a moment to stop. Take a moment to listen to your horse, and think about what he is trying to say. Our horses are always talking to us, when we take the time to listen, we might hear what they are trying to say.

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…

 

 

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 [email protected]

Making the best of it…

This is Britain, number one topic of conversation in Britain is the weather. The thing about the weather is it is always changing, you can never depend on it, and you can’t predict what sort of weather you are going to get on any given day.

One day you are schooling your horse in lovely sunshine, the next day it is too hot and he is really sluggish. The next day you get on and the wind is blowing and he is really spooky, and then the following day it is pouring with rain and your horse spend the entire session pushing his quarters inwards. It can get really frustrating!

Acceptance is the key to everything. If you turn up at the show on Sunday morning, and the weather which has previously been perfectly sunny all week, suddenly turns into a howling gale, the first thing to do is to accept it. Yes, your horse would have gone better in perfect weather, but so would everyone else’s. Yes, you would have had a nicer day in the sunshine, but it’s not happening. Some things we can control, for example our reactions to our circumstances, how well we have prepared our horse for the show, but on the day we can’t control everything.

If you never ride your horse when it is windy, you are going to struggle at the show. However, if you have made a point of always riding your horse in all weathers, you can at least feel prepared going into the ring.

So remember, we live in Britain we can’t control the weather, but we can control how we cope with it. Make sure your horse is used to being worked in all types of weather. Remember to accept that the conditions on the day may not be perfect, but we just have to make the best of what we have.