Category Archives: Horse Riding Tips

The act of riding a horse can be a physically demanding and mentally challenging activity that can be incredibly rewarding if completed correctly.

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A History of the Puissance

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AGAINST THE WALL

A History of the Puissance

By Ellie Kelly, Horse Scout Team Press.

It is a leap of faith that requires the most extraordinary levels of trust between horse and human. If you have ever ridden down to a big fence you know that feeling- a mixture of excitement and adrenalin coupled with fear and trepidation. So jumping a 2.13m (7ft) wall whilst a crowd of thousands sit motionless, takes a certain kind of mind set, that of Horse Scout professionals!

The Puissance is one of the most famous and perhaps for spectators, the most exhilarating show jumping competitions in the world. It is always one of the first performances to sell out at the London International Horse Show where it traditionally takes place on Thursday evening. Olympia’s Puissance is one of the most famous and respected competitions worldwide and for this reason has attracted sponsorship from Porsche so it is now known at the Cayenne Puissance.

Essentially a high jump competition, the word “Puissance” was derived from the Anglo-French word meaning “power” which also reflects the requirements of a good Puissance horse, together with a large dose of pluck and trust in their rider.

Today’s Puissance competition is essentially the development of a horse high jump competition which began over one hundred years ago. Historical sources suggest that the event was contested once at the Olympic Games in 1900. Whilst the original version involved jumping a single, slightly sloping fence made from a hedge topped with timber rails, today the formula consists of “the wall” built of hollow red bricks made from wood. This is for safety reasons so that they tumble easily when the jump is knocked.

The World Record was set in 1991 when German Rider, Frank Sloothaak aboard Optiebeurs Golo, jumped 2.38m (7ft10 ins). Until that it was Nick Skelton who held the record which he achieved in 1978 when he and “Lastic” jumped 2.31m (7ft 7 ins) at Olympia. Nick still holds the Olympia Puissance record to this day. However records suggest that the record for the equestrian high jump stands at 2.46m (8ft 1ins) was achieved by Captain Alberto Larraguibel Morales in Chili, in 1949.

At The London International Horse Show,  the class involves a maximum of five rounds- the first round followed by four jump-offs. Accuracy, power and nerves of steel are key and there is certainly no room for even minute error for horse or rider, when jumping such colossal fences. There is always at least one other fence placed in the arena so riders jump a “warm-up” fence before coming to the great wall. The starting heights can vary and for the subsequent jump-offs, the jumps are raised for each round. The winner is of course the horse and rider who jumps that famous brick wall at the greatest height. In the event of equality after the fifth round, riders share first prize and sometimes riders choose to bow out gracefully whilst they are equal first and share top spot with their rivals. First prize is worth £20,000 so it is taken very seriously.

Show jumping’s most famous family- The Whitaker’s, have been particularly successful in this competition. John Whitaker holds the record for winning the most amount of Puissance’s at Olympia whilst his son Robert is a Puissance genius and holds the record for jumping the class bareback (without a saddle). Robert’s cousin Ellen Whitaker has been one of the most successful female Puissance competitors and her brother William holds the record for being the youngest winner of the Olympia Puissance.

Robert Whitaker has won over 20 Puissance competitions and 13 consecutively on the impressive chestnut Finbarr jumping over 2.26m (7ft 5)ins  on one occasion in Dublin. “To win any class at Olympia is fantastic but I think the Puissance is even more special.” Says Robert. “It’s a class the crowds love, Finbarr was particularly popular because he’s this big horse with an even bigger jump. Although he certainly had his own style and technique jumping that wall.”

Robert and his horse Waterstone hold the record for bare back puissance clearing just under 2.1m (7ft). “It was one of those occasions where everything just went to plan on the night as Waterstone had never jumped a puissance before or even practised at home” says Robert.

Image rights Horse and Hound

 

 


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Talking to Ibby Macpherson

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Horse Scout are Talking to Ibby Macpherson, International Event Rider, Northamptonshire

If you haven’t heard of Ibby Macpherson, it’s only a matter of time… A talented event rider who recently finished 5th at Branham CCI***, she tells Horse Scout why William Fox Pitt gave her a top horse, why she spent her inheritance money on a hydrotherapy spa and why she’s launched a new innovative event horse syndicate opportunity.

How did you learn to ride?

I think it was on a sheep! My parents owned a pedigree black sheep farm in Scotland.

Have you worked for anyone famous?

After competing in the Junior Europeans in 1999 and 2000, a few years later I became stable jockey for William Fox Pitt and his team. William, Alice and Granny Potts (William’s long-time head girl) are fantastic to work for, and they are still great friends today. I was lucky enough to school and jump all of the horses when William wasn’t at home and competed some of his young horses.

And William Fox Pitt gave you a horse?

Yes, I am incredibly lucky to have been given Igor De Cluis who was 8th at Le Lion D’Angers as a seven-year-old with William. I could never have afforded such a top class horse but he didn’t stand up to the pressure — soundness wise — at that level with William. I am eternally grateful to Judy and Jeremy Skinner and Margie and David Hall who owned him and gave me the opportunity. I had to be really fussy where I ran him, and made sure that he had hydrotherapy once or twice a day to keep him on the road, but he took me around a few three star events including Blenheim and Boekelo.

So tell us about your top horses now.

I don’t have many horses at the moment but the ones I do have are competitive at their relevant levels.

Ballingowan Diamond (Monty) is a 12-year-old, 16.2hh chestnut gelding (Welcome Diamond out of Phardante mare) with 329 BE points. Monte came fifth at the CCI*** Bramham this year; fourth in the CIC*** at Chatsworth 2016; and third at Hartpury CIC*** in 2015. I’m aiming him at either Burghley or Blenheim this autumn and hopefully Badminton in spring 2017.

Ballingowan Echo is another 12-year-old who is equally as talented but frustratingly we have had a few silly blips and his personality is very different… a bit more complex…. He has been quite competitive and won a few OIs. I’d like to take him around a CIC three star at the end of this year.

Evantos K is a 16.3hh seven-year-old gelding that I’ve had since he was four having bought him from Claire Robertson at Retreat Farm Stud. He has got it all… He’s a fantastic mover and a really scopey jumper. He’s Dutch with around 48% thoroughbred in him, so I think he has enough blood… I’m excited about him, but he is big and weak and is going to take time to mature and strengthen up. He has won four novices and was second in the CIC* at Rockingham. He was really good in his first intermediate at Aston but he is going to have a couple of months’ training at home aiming for hopefully Osberton seven-year-old CIC**.

Deoch an Doris. Doris is a very special to me! He is 13-year-old 16.1hh black gelding with a very big sense of humour. He’ll be with me for life — he was given to me by Jock Mcfarlane whose wife Mary trained me for a long time when I lived in Scotland. Doris was her dressage horse and after a long battle with cancer Mary sadly died. He is very naughty sometimes in the dressage arena adding some freestyle moves here and there but he is an incredibly powerful jumper with a fabulous technique. He’s 13 now but it’s taken his body time to adjust from being ridden on a surface to galloping and jumping on grass. He is a much admired ‘pocket rocket’ and I there is a lot to come!

Fread Needle is a 16.3hh five-year old gelding. He is out of Golden Needle by Bollin Terry, bred by my sister Rose and has done some BE100s this year, coming third at one. I don’t like doing lots with four and five-year-olds… I believe that quite a few horses don’t reach their full potential because they are pushed too young and their brains and/or bodies can’t cope with it. I’d rather they were slower starters and did more later on in life.

So do you compete any horses that you don’t own?

Yes, Dungeon Hill is a 16.3hh nine-year old gelding that I ride for Fee Wilson, in Dorset. I have a couple of spaces for some more horses to ride, but want to fill them with the right ones!!

What’s the aim of your new scheme, the Picnic Partnership?

I’m lucky because I own some lovely horses, but I cannot afford to keep and compete them all without some support. This new initiative not only helps me keep competing my horses, but it also enables people to get involved in the sport without committing to vast amounts of money and unexpected expenses. The initiative — which costs £400pp a month — enables members to have an interest in four horses from BE100 to four star (CCI****). They can come and watch training sessions and support us at competitions. I have a catering company which supplies a picnic for every event members go to — with wine! It’s a great opportunity because with four horses at various levels, there’s always something going on and it’s a fantastic chance to visit some fabulous venues throughout Britain.

Who do you train with?

Nigel Taylor and Fred Bergendorff (jumping); Andrew Fletcher and Hillary Westropp (flat); John Pitt helps as a performance manager; and Danielle Olding is a sports psychologist/life coach whom I find really helpful. I also do lots of Pilates with Tina Sheridon — it’s really helped to strengthen my riding over the last year making me more aware of my posture.

How do you keep your horses sound and happy? 

In terms of soundness, they all go in the hydrotherapy spa regularly as I have one here on site (I run an equine hydrotherapy spa business — see next week’s blog) and they’re also taken to a nearby water treadmill once a week which I think is very beneficial for their core strength and keeping them supple without putting pressure on their limbs. I’m also a firm believer in the Activo-Med range, particularly the pulse electromagnet massage therapy rug. My horses all live out at night from mid-March until the beginning of November (weather dependent). I think this is a good way to keep them happy in their heads and the constant movement maintains the suppleness in their bodies. I think it also helps to alleviate problems like gastric ulcers.

Why Horse Scout?

The horse sales side of it is clever but it’s also a very exciting equestrian initiative enabling industry networking at the highest level.
Interview by Sam Lewis

Find out more on Horse Scout


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Talking to Charlie Hutton – International Dressage Rider

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Charlie Hutton - International dressage rider -  Talland School of Equitation, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Want to know what Charlie Hutton looks for in a dressage horse, how to get that elusive 80% and what it was like growing up at Talland? The international dressage star chats to Horse Scout and reveals the characters of his top horses, plus his insights into training them and his students

 

You’re the son of Pammy Hutton… were you born in the saddle?

Well, I don’t remember this, but apparently I started out riding in a basket on the back of a pony when I was just two years old. And then not much later I was put on one of my mum’s friend’s Grand Prix horses and was bucked off. It was downhill from there!

So you were always into horses?

No, actually I was always into sport and loved rugby and rowing but I wasn’t really interested in dressage until I was 14. Before that my mum used to bribe me and give me a pound every time I had a lesson — and let’s just say I wasn’t rich!

So what was your favourite discipline and what did you want to be when you grew up?

I jumped and hunted but the truth is I was more interested in the sausage rolls and port!

In terms of a career, I had high hopes of becoming an architectural engineer but then I got the dressage bug.

What made you change your mind and enjoy dressage? A particular horse?

No, for me it just wasn’t satisfying to walk, trot and canter. It was when I had the ‘OMG moment’ as I started to understand that you can communicate with a horse in such a unique way in dressage. Dressage requires such a wonderful bond with horse and rider. I remember at 14, going up to my mum and telling her I wanted to ride seriously and she just laughed because I think by then she’d just given up hope.

What’s your biggest achievement to date?

I’m still waiting for it! Seriously, I haven’t got what I want yet.

But if I had to mention the ‘stand out’ moments it would be going to the Youth Olympics where I won team gold and individual silver. It gave me a real taste of what it must be like to be at an Olympics. Another memorable moment was at Bolesworth this year where Super Blue and I won the feature event beating Charlotte Dujardin — the lap of honour was really magical because there was Carl and I trotting around together as winners and Super Blue really gave me everything he had that night.

And your ultimate goal?

I’d like to be on a senior championship team in the next few years and I’ve always had it on my list to go to the Olympics, although I’ve realised that it’s harder in real life than on paper… as there’s a horse involved, it’s not just about how hard you train.

So who has — and still is — influential in your training?

My mother, Carl Hester and I also spent a few months with the German Olympic team training under Johnny Hilberath.

What were the big lessons they taught you?

My mum taught me a huge amount about test riding, and how to be crafty in the ring, while my time in Germany, instilled in me the basics and how to be quiet and discrete — you have to sit still (you can’t move at all).

Carl? Well, he picks up on things that you’ve been struggling with and revolutionises your way of going, often by saying one line that you go home with, think about, try and then discover it works. As he often says: “The simple way is the best way”. He is such a wonderful rider and is someone I have always looked up to.

And you also teach/coach?

Yes too much! Last year I taught over 2,000 lessons and I freelance all around the world in Europe and America.

At what level do you instruct?

Any! I teach anyone willing and I get a thrill seeing people improve whatever their level.

What’s the hardest thing about being a coach?

Improving the connection with horse and rider. The rider needs to be able to feel… you can’t just say ‘kick now’, ‘half halt now’. It’s so subtle but it’s the difference between getting 70% to 80%.

Any tips on how to achieve this?

It’s appropriate to the person I’m teaching and I’m learning that being a coach is more about being a counsellor and psychologist. Some people take it far too seriously and improve when they’re reminded to go out, have fun and enjoy it. Others need their back side kicking because they can do it but they’re all airy fairy… then there’s the complex person with a huge amount of ability (but doesn’t believe it) and switches between ‘I can’t do it’ and then ‘I can’ and puts too much pressure on.

If I had to give one tip that applies to a lot of students it would be ‘Be brave — trust your instincts and have confidence’.

And you also coach your wife Abi… is that challenging?

I would say ‘no’ she would probably say ‘yes’.

At first it was hard, I wanted her to do better than anyone else and got too intense but Carl warned me: “Rather than you making your wife cry and go into another man’s arms, why not let me do that and let her run into yours”. I now try to take the pressure off and Abi has learnt that when she thinks I’m not right, I sometimes am (especially when I have video footage to prove it!)

How do you keep fit?

I ride around five to seven horses a day… I love sport and staying fit and do quite a bit of running and play squash from time to time.

Tell us about your top horses?

At the top level, there’s Super Blue, a 17hh, 11-year-old gelding by Showstar, owned by Judy Peploe. I’ve had the ride since 2013 and he’s now training at Grand Prix and competing at middle tour. He’s not much of a thinker but it suits his nature to let me set the rules. He’s also a bit spooky and notorious for standing on his hind legs in prize givings.

I’m also riding an exciting future prospect called Hawkins Rosanna, a powerhouse with huge potential and ability. She’s an eight-year old chestnut mare by Ruben Royale and again, owned by Judy Peploe. I’ve been riding her for 18 months and it’s taken a long time to discuss with her the principles of dressage — at the beginning it was her way or the highway! I’ve now built up a relationship and she’s listening more. It’s been a true test of character to be patient and not to worry that she’s behind in her development. I am lightly competing at elementary and medium and plan to do more at medium and advanced medium later this year.

So do you prefer geldings?

No, I’ve ridden geldings, mares and stallions and every horse is different. I had a mare that I trained that was so easy it took just four days to teach piaffe!

You can’t just put label on it but mares generally take a bit longer because hormones involved.

So do you look more towards breeding when buying a dressage horse?

To a degree, yes. Breeding is good on paper for when it comes to selling a horse. It increases value if there’s a particular stallion that’s famous.

And do you prefer a certain bloodline or type of horse?

If I have a choice I’d probably choose a German horse over Dutch but generally they don’t have to have big movement, I just want them to move loosely through the back and show elasticity and natural suppleness. It’s important to look more to their paces, ability and desire to learn.

How do you keep your horses fit, strong, supple — and happy?

We’re very fortunate at our yard to have a steep hill leading up to a ridgeway so we do a lot of work  up that in walk or at a very slow trot to strengthen their hind quarters — if they have a slight weakness, going up a hill slowly helps them to move their legs in straight fashion.

They’re also lunged in the EquiAmi to encourage them to stretch loose, long and low and we also use polework — it’s important to keep a varied routine.

Why Horse Scout?

It has sleek and stylish branding and there’s plenty of content from horses and stallions to riders and trainers — it’s unique to have it all combined together in one place.

Interview by Sam Lewis

Find out more on Horse Scout

Find out more about Charlie Hutton from The Talland School of Equitation and also those wonderful horses that Charlie Hutton campaigns and produces. At horse Scout we are always very grateful for these great tips from top professional riders especially when looking for horses for sale.  Charlie Hutton talks about his Wife Abi Hutton.  We have also interviewed Abigail Hutton, you can read the interview here or connect with her Professional Rider and Coach profile on Horse Scout by using this link.


Have you fallen in love? Top tips for the small rider with a big horse

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Horse Scout blogger was pondering this question.  I am tall and quite strong , I run and do a fair amount of core training.  I also have very long legs! I was thinking how this affected what sort of horse I would search for if I was looking for horses for sale. More importantly what happens when a petite person falls in love with a horse which, on the face of it, looks as if he is going to be “just too big”

Having a horse which is large doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be ridden by a large or strong person. They do, however, take much longer to become strong in themselves, so training will take proportionately longer. As your horse becomes stronger he will be able to carry himself better and become easier to ride. A fit, fully trained large horse should not, in practice, be any more effort to ride than a smaller one.

BUT: it would pay a smaller rider in dividends to be as physically stable and strong as they can be, not to force the horse in any way but to hold the movements, contain the power of the horse through a matched core strength. If you are strong you will ride the very best your ability allows….but better!

Being able to hold yourself athletically and cardially fit will allow you to sit big movements without tension. With fitness comes suppleness and being supple will allow you to absorb the movement through your own agility.

If you are looking to the long term future of this large horse you cannot rush his developmental or re-training and you definitely cannot force him into an outline. You need to focus entirely on steady progress towards self carriage.

On a large horse, as with any other, it is the quality of the movement that you are looking for. Really concentrate on setting up a movement, that means every corner, every transition with correctly executed half halts, and correct aids. Use every opportunity to encourage the horse to carry himself correctly and you will be on the road to building in the vital strength he needs to carry himself. Initially he will tire pretty quickly (and so may you) make sure you build in a good warm up and warm down routine and let him stretch and ride him long and low between exercises.

Keep all movements big to start with, start with 20 meter circles and only gradually reduce the size. Give him every chance to keep himself in balance. Do half circles loops back to the long side, two loop 20 then 15 meter circles will help shorten him and so will inward spirals on a circle using shallow lateral movements and changes of directions. Use corners as 15 meter circle quarters and work down to 10 meter circle quarters. On the long sides use gentle lateral movements and use these to move into a circle. Look for quality not quantity.

Simple pole work exercises will help strengthen and elevate paces and add variety. Keeping a horse interested (not confused) is key to progress. Follow routines i.e. warm up, train, warm down, but add variety within that program.

If you find the quality of the movements is degrading as your session goes on, stop, let him relax, rest and stretch. Start again and ask for something which he can perform well even when he is tired then call it a day and go for a stroll if he has not been out for long.

Grooming will help sooth tired muscles and help build your relationship with him. Work to a scheduled schooling program and build in time to allow him to let his hair down.

I think that if you are petite it does not preclude you from buying a larger horse, but it does mean you need to take account of your own fitness and that of the horse. Take your time. Seek professional help to make sure progress is on target and that you are being consistent. Horse Scout has a wonderful list of trainers in every sector: Showing, Endurance, Eventing, Showjumping and Dressage so take a look and find someone fantastic to help you with your lovely big horse. Click here to find your perfect trainer

 

 

 

 


Stabilising Pilates for your stable

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Horse Scout Blogger is a great fan of Pilates as a way of increasing and maintaining good core strength. Using Yoga or pilates type exercises to improve fitness are as useful for your horse as for you.  Theses are exercises which have been adapted to take into account your horses structure.

  1. Core Strength

Core strengthening exercises strengthen and stabilise the spine and pelvic muscles as the horse responds to pressure over specific areas. If you have strong hands, you can apply pressure manually; if not, use a metal thimble over your thumb or finger. Perform three to five repetitions, allowing the muscles to relax for a few seconds after each exercise. Some horses, especially those that are girthy or cold-backed, may resent certain procedures. If resentment persists, omit the exercise until you’ve consulted with your veterinarian.

The following exercise stimulates lifting of the base of the neck, sternum, and withers through pressure on the ventral midline between the forelimbs. These movements are essential for self carriage.

Sternal, withers, and thoracic lifting exercise:

1. Stand facing the horse’s side, just behind the elbow.

2. Apply upward pressure to the sternum (breastbone) in the middle of your horse’s chest, between the pectoral muscles. Gradually slide your hand back between the forelimbs and behind the girth line while maintaining a steady upward pressure.

3. The horse responds by initially lifting through the sternum and withers. Then as the pressure moves further back, he responds by lifting in the thoracic area immediately behind the withers, and finally in the thoracic area under the saddle.

Note: the amount of pressure needed to stimulate a response will vary between horses, so start gently and increase pressure gradually, or use a slow stroking action until the horse responds.

  1. Balancing Exercises

Balancing exercises improve balance and stability by inducing the horse to use active muscular contractions to shift the centre of gravity toward his haunches and/or to resist displacement of his centre of gravity. A horse uses his muscles in some of the balancing exercises to shift his centre of gravity, while in others, he uses his muscles to resist a shift. Many of the balancing techniques used in horses are similar to those performed in Pilates and yoga training in people.

The next exercise stimulates activation of the pelvic stabiliser muscles to maintain the horse’s balance.

Tail pull:

1. Stand to one side of the hindquarters.

2. Take hold of the horse’s tail, pull it toward you by flexing your elbow. (The goal is not to pull the horse off balance, but to stimulate resistance in the pelvic stabilizer muscles.) You’ll see the muscles around the stifle contracting as the horse resists the pulling force.

3. You can gradually increase the amount of force applied to the tail or the number of repetitions as the muscles get stronger.

Remember to check with your veterinarian before including such exercises into your horse’s training regimen; this is especially important if the horse is recovering from an injury.

Core training exercises can be done without a warm-up–for example, in horses that are recovering from injury–because the horse controls the amount of motion, and loading of the joints is less than during locomotion.


Top tips for a work out warm down for your horse

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With the competition season on track and the weather warming up (promise it will….soon) Horse Scout Blogger has been thinking about the warm down after your horse has worked. Just like you he will be warm, his heart rate and respiration rate will be elevated. No matter what the season, when horses work hard they produce heat and sweat. Properly cooling down your horse will ensure he stays sound and healthy. A daily workout for your horse probably consists of four separate periods: warm-up, active conditioning or schooling, warm-down, and cool-down.

During warm weather training, the warm-down and cool-down periods are especially important because horses may be hot from conditioning exercises. The warm-down is the steady reduction in exercise intensity and usually consists of 5 to 10 minutes of low-intensity exercise that culminates in a relaxed walk. While horses will invariably sweat less as athletic effort decreases, the importance of a warm-down is more than skin deep. Foremost is the redistribution of blood within the body. When a horse is exercising, oxygenated blood is carried to the hardworking skeletal muscles, and other organs of the body receive slightly less blood than they normally do during periods of rest. As the warm-down period extends, more blood is allocated to those organs and less to skeletal muscle.

The cool-down is distinct from the warm-down period. The warm-down, as mentioned previously, occurs when mounted and ends with a relaxed walk on a loose rein. The primary objective of the cool-down is to prevent overheating following dismounting. The horse should be untacked immediately to allow maximum heat dissipation, and should be moved to a covered or shaded area with as much air movement as possible. One of the most common methods of cooling a horse in hot and humid environments includes spraying or sponging with cool water. Body-wide application of cool water is acceptable during normal summer weather when temperatures are between 80°-100°F. The most strategic points for effective cooling include the underside of the neck and barrel, and the inside of all four legs. Drinking water can be offered to the horse once cooling has begun, which is determined by a reduction in body temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate.

Allowing a few swallows every few minutes during the cool-down helps the horse replace water lost during exercise. Horses should be encouraged to drink their fill. When your horse sweats on a daily basis, even in cold weather, it is best to provide a supplemental electrolyte. Electrolytes replace the minerals lost in sweat and encourage drinking, which reduces the risk of dehydration and muscle disorders.

Proper care of a horse following a ride signifies sound horsemanship as well as a healthy dose of respect for your horse.

 


KEY FACTS – BEF BASIC BIOSECURITY INFORMATION SHEET in respect of transmittable Equine Herpes Virus

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Its Spring time, more horses are out and about, travelling around the country and meeting in groups.  Last year there were cases of Equine Herpes Virus reported in Southern UK.  It is good to know what you are looking for.

To safeguard the horse population within an establishment the British Equestrian Federation recommend that the following basic steps are taken:

You should also be aware of disease prevention, identification and hygiene procedures.

Vital Health Signs

The following are a set of vital signs for the normal healthy horse and appropriate examinations for general health:

ü  Temperature 36.5-38.5C

ü  Breathing rate 8-15 breaths/min

ü  Heart rate 25-45 beats/min

ü  Look for eye or nose discharges

ü  Observe how the horse is standing

ü  Check for consistency and number of droppings

ü  Check consumption from water buckets and feed bowl

ü  Assess horse’s general demeanour

We recommend good records are kept in the yard diary and that rectal temperatures are taken twice daily (asit is a very good indicator of disease)

Biosecurity

  1. Isolate new arrivals for a period of 10 days or introduce horses from properties with a known high health status only. Isolate and pay particular attention to horses from sales /competition complexes, from unknown mixed population yards and those that have used commercial horse transport servicing mixed populations.
  2. Verify the vaccine status of new arrivals.
  3. Keep records of horse movements so that contacts can be traced in the event of a disease outbreak.
  4. Regularly clean and disinfect stables between inmates and also clean and disinfect equipment and horse transport between journeys. Remember to remove as much organic material as possible before disinfection.
  5. Maintain good perimeter security for your premises and maintain controlled access for vehicles and visitors.
  6. Ensure that everyone understands the hygiene principles and thereby do not pass disease to horses at other premises
  7. Eliminate the use of communal water sources. Instruct staff not to submerge the hose when filling water buckets
  8. Horse specific equipment (feed and water buckets, head collars etc) should be clearly marked as belonging to an individual horse and only be used on that horse.
  9. Any shared equipment (lead ropes, bits/bridles, Chiffneys, twitches, thermometers, grooming kits etc) should be cleaned of organic debris and disinfected between horses.
  10. Equipment that cannot be properly disinfected (like sponges or brushes) should not be shared between horses.
  11. Cloth items such as stable rubbers, towels, bandages etc should be laundered and thoroughly dried between each use disinfectant may have to be used as part of the rinse cycle, e.g., Virkon.
  12. Isolate horses at the first sign of sickness until an infectious or contagious disease has been ruled out.
  13. Contact your veterinary surgeon if any of your horses show clinical signs of sickness.
  14. Do not move sick horses except for isolation, veterinary treatment or under veterinary supervision. Attend to sick horses last (i.e., feed, water and treat) or use separate staff.
  15. Provide hand washing facilities and hand disinfection gel for everyone handling groups of horses and provide separate protective clothing and footwear for those handling and treating sick horses.
  16. The isolation/quarantine unit should have a changing area for staff so that clothing and footwear worn in the restricted area are not worn elsewhere.
  17. Barrier clothing, waterproof footwear and disposable gloves should be used when working with sick and in-contact horses and after use they should be disposed of or laundered and disinfected.
  18. When using disinfectants, always follow the instructions on the label. Select a Defra approved disinfectant and chose from the general order disinfectants that have documented effectiveness in the presence of 10% organic matter, works in the water hardness of the locale and is safe to use in the environment of horses and people. www.archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/control/disinfectants.htm
  19. Stables, mangers and yards should be kept clean, free of standing water and thoroughly scrubbed and cleansed with an appropriate detergent/disinfectant after use and then allowed to dry.
  20. Take care when using pressure washers as those set at greater than 120psi can produce aerosols that spread infectious agents through the air.
  21. This document was compiled by The BEF and World Class Programme they have passed their thanks on to Clive Hamlyn MRCVS and the National Trainers Federation www.racehorsetrainers.org for their help in producing this document.

Be an efficient and effective rider. 10 Top Tips – Core strength, mobility and suppleness will make you ride better

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How effective are you in the saddle.  Have you ever tried to tune in to what is happening under your saddle? Are you aware of the exact response from the horse to any given movement by you?

Are you a bit fuzzy on how the whole thing actually works. You know the basics, you ride inside to outside, you sit centrally in the saddle with subtle changes in weight reflected in the movements of your upper and lower body.  Legs controlling behind, shoulders the front and your core the power house creating energy, swing, impulsion, and lastly your seat providing a stable point from which to perform all this with a set which is light, mobile, agile, and controlled.

All this without even thinking about your spot on timing and direct ion, cadence, pace, suppleness and balance from your horse.  So much to think about all at once. Sometimes it’s easier to forget that there is a horse under you and concentrate on recreating the correct body shape needed to make efficient and accurate aids.

You can go a long way to helping yourself become efficient and effective in the saddle if you are fit and agile.

The key to being a effective rider starts on the ground.  You need to be fit.  Riding and mucking out  (unless you are one of our professional riders and trainers) is not enough you need to get out and to aerobic sports like running and swimming, fitness classes or dancing.  Dancing is very good for a rider as it helps with a sense of erythema and makes you agile at the same time.  However key to all progressive riding is being strong and mobile in your core.  Here are a few simple exercises which can help you start to strengthen you central core/abs.  As always with any fitness advice if you experience pain then you must consult your doctor before progressing further.  Taking part in fitness classes may be a way to get you motivated.  There is nothing better than the thought of thinking people will notice you haven’t been doing your ‘homework” to get things moving along a pace!

However if you want some exercises you can do at home with a minimum of equipment her are five simple ones to start you off.

1. Reverse Crunch with Resistance Bands

Targets: transverse abdominals

Lie on your back with your knees bent, arms down by your sides, holding one end of a band in each hand, with the band wrapped around tops of shins. Raise your knees toward your chest until your hips leave the floor. Hold for 3 seconds; lower to start. Repeat for 2 sets of 10 reps.

2. Knee-Ups

Targets: rectus abdominus

Brace yourself between the backrests of two sturdy chairs, keeping elbows slightly bent, shoulders down, neck relaxed, head and chest lifted. Keeping your abs tight, exhale and then very slowly bring your knees to your chest without swinging back and forth. If your form falters, try raising one knee at a time. Build up to 3 sets of 15 reps.

3. Leg Swings

Targets: obliques

Lie on back with arms out to sides, legs and feet pointing up. Exhale and draw navel in toward spine as you lower legs to left side about 5 inches from floor. Return to start and repeat on right side. Keep switching sides for a total of 15 reps. Work up to 3 sets.

4. Ball Leg Lift

Targets: transverse abdominals

Lie facedown on a ball and roll forward until your hands are on floor and just the tops of your feet are flat on ball. Keeping your back and right leg straight, slowly lift leg a couple of inches toward the ceiling. Hold for 3 seconds, then lower. Do 10 reps, then switch legs. Add 2 repetitions each week as long as you can maintain perfect form.

5. Butterfly Crunch

Targets: rectus abdominus (“six-pack”)

Lie on your back with the soles of your feet together as close to your body as possible, with knees bent out to sides. Place hands behind your head, elbows in line with ears. Keeping your back flat on floor and stomach muscles contracted, exhale and curl your chest up a few inches off the floor toward your legs. Lower to start. Repeat 10 times.

6. Side to Side

Targets: obliques (sides)

Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, with your arms at your sides. Exhale and contract your abs as you slide your right hand toward your right foot. Your head and neck should remain aligned and your lower back pressed to the floor. Return to start, then switch sides. Repeat 15 times.

7. Front Plank

Targets: transverse abdominals

Start on your hands and knees. Keeping your back and ab muscles contracted, drop down to your forearms while extending legs out behind you so you are resting on the balls of your feet. Be sure to keep your back straight, hips up, and neck relaxed. Hold for 3 seconds, then return to start. Repeat 10 times.

8. Fingers to Toes

Targets: rectus abdominus

Lie on your back with your legs straight and extended toward the ceiling, with arms down by your sides. Exhale and contract your abs as you crunch up from your waist and extend your hands toward your toes. Keep your back flat on the floor. Work up to 2 sets of 15 reps.

9. Scissors

Targets: obliques

Lie on your back with your fingers resting behind your head. Keeping your abdominals tight, raise your left knee and touch it to your right elbow. Return to start, then raise your right knee and touch it to your left elbow. Alternate for 15 reps in a smooth, continuous motion, keeping abs engaged and hands relaxed so you don’t pull on your neck. Work up to 2 sets.

10. Obviously don’t do all of these at once!! Work through the list joining on new sets as you get stronger.  Do not perform moves badly.  Stop and rest of do fewer repetitions until you are ready to move on.


Buying a horse starts with a telephone call and ends with a great new relationship.

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Are you about to buy a horse? Horse Scouts’ Bloggers top tips for finding you a horse that can be your perfect partner.

You know what discipline you want your horse to excel in, show jumping, dressage, eventing or showing but one of the most important aspects of a horse you are looking after and riding is his temperament.  For the average Jo its important that you actually like your horse…..not just love what he does!

So here is Horse Scouts Bloggers “Top Temperament Check List”

Assessing your potential purchase’s personality and behaviour is something you should do as well as having him vetted, not instead of.

When speaking to the vendor have a list of questions ready. It is far better for you both to establish with the vendor exactly what you are looking for and what areas of ease of handling are important to you.  Horse Scout has a quality list of professional horse dealers and trainers, they know their job and, at the end of the day, do not want to sell you a horse which is unsuitable.

So write down, in five clear areas, in the order of importance to you the horses behavior:

1. Behaviour around other horses

2. Behaviour when interacting with you and other people

3. Behaviour when in his stable, yard, paddock and strange environment

4. Behaviour when loading

5. Behaviour when mounting and when being ridden

When you go and see the horse and observe him note how he is in each of these areas and if you have doubts be prepared to ask further questions, the inside knowledge of the current owner  will help you clarify things which may be worrying you .

Other considerations when buying your horse:

Have you really carried out all the checks necessary to make sure he is the best horse for you and your discipline?

You may have decided that you want a show jumper, an eventer or simply a horse that you can enjoy hacking out on. No matter what your aspirations are, it is essential that you do more than just ensure the horse is up to doing the physical job required of him.

Regardless of how talented a horse is physically, if he has behavioural issues, such as bullying or is difficult to be handled whether that be by you, a farrier or even the dentist – the relationship can turn sour very quickly. You may even find that your colleagues at the yard start too resent him being around – and instead of having a horse you can enjoy, you find yourself having to deal with problems on a daily basis.

Behavioural problems can manifest, becoming so severe that to solve them you have to get the assistance of a professional trainer whose specialty is rehabilitation.

Visit the horse at his existing home more than once – although going only once or twice will not give you the time to gain a complete picture and insight into his personality and behavior, if you zone in on his attitude it will give an indication of how he is going to be with you.

Horse Scouts Professional horse dealers are experienced horse’men who know their job and want to make sure you find the right horse for you. So be honest with the vendor about your abilities, what you want to do with the horse and your experience.  It would also be helpful if you where able to tell them something of your training routine and whether this included lessons with a professional trainer etc.  All this helps the trader find you the perfect horse.


Spring Is Sprung, the grass is riz….I wonder what a fructon is – 7 key facts about “Fructans” in grass

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Do you keep your own horse has spring fever struck and you are going to buy a new horse? Springtime is lovely with all the blossoms and daffodils suddenly brightening up your garden or decorating the driveway to your local competition centre or cross country venue.  However, says sage Horse Scout Blogger(!), with the daffodils comes the new spring grass is typically high in particular nutrients called fructans – to which your horse’s digestive tract is unaccustomed after a long winter on hay and which can be hard on the hindgut. As a result, the equine digestive system needs to be slowly conditioned to handle hours of grazing green pasture grass. What Are Fructans In Grass? “Fructans” in grass are fructose chain molecules, a type of sugar. This sugar is a byproduct of photosynthesis and is used to aid plant growth. On sunny days, fructose is produced in large quantities and stored within the blade of grass. When it cools off at night, these fructans are then utilized as fuel for growth. Fructans are higher in the seasons when the weather is cool: spring and fall. They are still present during hot summers, but not usually at levels that can be dangerous. Here are a few key things you should know about fructan levels:

  1. Higher in stressed pastures than in lush grass
  2. Higher when night-time temperatures drop below 40 degrees (because the grasses do not grow, so the excess remains stored in the stems)
  3. Lower in new spring grass (first 3-6 inches), but also lower in fiber
  4. High in mature grass (8-10 inches), but also higher in fiber
  5. Lower in the morning when days are sunny and nights warm
  6. Higher in the afternoon/evening on a sunny day
  7. Lower in rainy, wet weather

How Do Fructans Affect Horses? Because fructans are a non-structural carbohydrate, horses cannot digest them. Therefore, fructans must be broken down by the microorganisms in the equine hindgut first so that they can be absorbed. Because they are a type of sugar, horses love to eat grasses that are high in fructans. Horses that are unaccustomed to grass turnout, that have been on hay all winter, or that are already prone to colic and laminitis can have their digestive tracts upset easily by high levels of fructans. Here’s how it works: The types of microorganisms in a horse’s hindgut vary according to the types of food it eats. When a horse is suddenly put out on pasture after a winter of hay, the microorganisms aren’t equipped to digest the high levels of fructans, and the bacteria die. When the good bacteria dies off, the acidity of the hindgut is raised (lactic acid is produced) and harmful pathogens are released. The lactic acid and pathogens are absorbed into the bloodstream and are known causes of laminitis. When the acidity level of the hindgut increases quickly as it is prone to do when fructans are high, the horse can also colic. While some horses have a higher risk for colic and laminitis, they are very serious conditions that can affect any horse if it isn’t managed carefully. Spring Grass Management Tips to Avoid Health Risks Fortunately, careful management in feeding and turnout can help protect your horse from health risks like laminitis and colic caused by high levels of fructans in grass. The key is to build up time on grass slowly. Increase Spring Turnout Gradually For all horses that have subsisted on hay all winter, introduce pasture time incrementally over a period of weeks. At Freedom Farm, we start our horses on grass for an hour a day, and then increase that time by 15-30 minutes each subsequent day. If the weather is bad and we have to skip a day of turnout, we keep the horses at the same amount of time the next time they go out. Horses with a higher tolerance may be able to start out with a longer time initially, while horses particularly prone to issues may need to start at less. Alternatively, if you have a horse that lives out 24-7 it is prudent to bring it in off grass for part of the day when grass is newly growing and fructan levels are high. Avoid Afternoon Grasses Because fructan levels reach their highest in the afternoon on sunny days, it’s best to turnout in the morning or late at night. Maintain Pastures Fructans levels are higher in pastures that are overgrazed or where grass is too mature. Rotate pastures to give them a break, and keep them mowed to 4-8 inches.   - See more here with Succeed Equine who run some very interesting articles.