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Coronavirus – How it affects equestrians

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It is without question that these are unprecedented times for the whole of society, not to mention the equestrian community. It is increasingly difficult to get clear guidelines when the situation is constantly evolving and changing. So many equestrians are left with questions regarding what we can or can’t do with our horses during the Coronavirus pandemic. Here at Horse Scout, the CEO Lucienne Elms and all the team will endeavour to keep you as updated as possible with this ever-changing series of events.

 

On the 18th March, the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) called to cease all organised equestrian activity which is now more important then ever with the latest government measures to cease all bar essential travel, moving livery yards, taking your horses schooling or to clinics is NOT essential travel, however transporting to the vets for emergency care is allowed.

 

As most will already be aware following recent government advice, British Dressage, British Show Jumping and British Eventing have taken the responsible action to reduce the risk of the virus spreading by cancelling all competitions. This will be for a four week period to begin with however, this will of course be monitored and possibly prolonged if needs be. It is vital that the equestrian community takes the necessary precautions to protect both themselves and others.

 

Following the Government directive last night (Monday 23rd March – 8.30pm) to cease all bar essential travel, the British Horse Society released the following statement this morning (Tuesday 24th March):

“Horse welfare is critical and grooms or the sole carer for a horse should travel to provide care for horses. Where horses are kept in livery the BHS advises that horse owners respect the protocol put in place by the yard owner or manager and work as a team to agree a care plan for your horse(s).

We are getting a lot of questions in relation to riding your horse, for which there are no specific government guidelines at present. We advise that it is not appropriate to put unnecessary pressure on the emergency services and everyone should make their own individual decision as to whether riding is necessary at this time.

The health and welfare of your horse is your priority. If you have any concerns please contact your vet, yard manager or the BHS and we will do our best to assist you.”

 

Current advice for horse owners.

If you have your horse on DIY livery, you are essentially renting a stable and field from the yard, you are therefore the sole care provider for the animal and can visit the yard to care for him as you would do normally whilst ensuring social distancing and good hygiene. It is possible that if the pandemic develops, some larger yards may provide a rota of allocated time slots for individuals to go up and care for their horses to minimise contact. It is important for yards to keep owners updated with what restrictions they will have in place and it is crucial that owners respect their yards protocol.

 

It is also advised that owners have a back-up plan in place should they be unable to attend their horse for some reason. These measures would include, writing a care plan for each horse so that others would know exactly how to care for your horse in your absence, ensure that you have sufficient supplies in the sense of feed, bedding etc (without panic buying) and keeping in touch with other liveries and yard owners.

 

Download a copy of the Horse Scout Emergency Horse Care Notes here.

 

For full and part livery owners, it may well be that your yard is temporarily closed to ensure minimal contact. In this instance, the grooms will be the horses primary carers, please do respect that this may well be an increasingly busy and stressful time for them. Protocol for individual yards may vary so regular communication between yard and owners is very important at this time.

 

Should you be riding? 

There are currently no specific guidelines regarding whether you should be riding your horse, but both the BHS and the British Equestrian Federation have advised for you to take the relevant care should you decide to ride at this time. It may be that you avoid riding a fresh youngster, avoid hacking on busy roads, or any activities that may increase the risk of you injuring yourself. It is vital that we support our NHS at this time and follow the BEF advice by not participating in any organised activity including traveling your horse for lessons or schooling, having a coach to your yard, having a lesson at a riding centre and riding in large groups. Please do remember that this is only a temporary measure, if we are more careful now it will benefit us and the wider community in the long-term.

 

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Current advice for yards / grooms / freelancers.

Employers and yard owners have a duty of care to their staff and liveries, it is important to encourage all staff and owners to follow the governments advice regarding biosecurity. It is advisable to have sufficient access to hand washing facilities and where possible, supply hand sanitiser on the premises, posters are available online to display around the yard to encourage hand washing.

 

It is important to come up with a contingency plan should any member of staff need to self-isolate, this may include looking into freelance cover or training other staff members to be able to cover others work. Should a member of staff become ill / need to self-isolate, the government has announced that it will fund two weeks statutory sick pay. Boris Johnson has announced measures to help those who have been financially impacted by the virus. View the latest government advice here.

 

The Equestrian Employers Association has released some helpful advice which can be found using the following link – https://equestrianemployers.org.uk/news/433/advice-for-employers-on-coronavirus.

 

There is no doubt this is a worrying time for freelancers due to not being entitled to Statutory Sick pay but there may be an increasing amount of work available from yards with staff off work due to the virus. Horse Scout recommend the use of the networking side of the website to reach out to local yards near yourself on the Horse Scout yards page to let them know that you are available to help should they need it. Equally, if you haven’t already, it may be useful to create a freelance groom profile for free on Horsescout.com so that yard owners are able to find you.

 

The government have released measures to help ease financial pressures for freelancers including the possibility for Universal credit and help if you can’t pay your Tax bill. Further help regarding this can be found on the official government site here.

 

Helpful Links:

Gov.uk: COVID-19: support for businesses

GOV.UK: COVID-19: guidance for employees

HM Treasury: How to access government financial support if you or your business has been affected by COVID-19

National Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses

 

We hope that by providing you with as much relevant information as possible, you can feel assured to take the necessary precautions during this pandemic.

 

Most importantly stay safe.

 

 

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Horse Scout Real: Shaun Mandy

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With the summer season quickly approaching, we caught up with Horse Scout Advocate and Dressage rider Shaun Mandy to find out what his plans are for the year ahead. We found out why he says putting the work in at home is so vital to getting the results in the ring and received some useful tips to help you achieve your 2020 goals.

 

Shaun as a coach, offers his clients a bespoke and professional coaching system to work with horses and riders of any level to help them achieve their objectives across multi-disciplines. No two horses or riders are the same, so he works on a flexible approach, tailor-made to suit both horse and rider. He is doing his British Dressage Level 2 in coaching this year followed by Level 3.

 

 

What are your main goals and ambitions for 2020?

My ultimate goal for 2020 would be to get onto the Grand Prix circuit. However, I have yet to sit down with the calendar and plan shows for this year. I will be going to the premiere leagues and high profile shows, but I will be more focused on securing the work and getting the training time in at home. My horse will be stepping up a level this year, so it is important to concentrate on his way of going at home and executing the movements to the best of our ability. This way, we will be able to confidently progress to Grand Prix throughout the year, hopefully resulting in getting the judges scores in the ring. In order to achieve this, I will set lots of shorter term, more achievable goals throughout the year. I will be judging how my horse is coping with these goals, and once I am happy with how he is going, look towards the next.

 

 

Tell us a bit more about your top horse…

My top horse, Euphoria E, is a lovely gelding by Carl Hester’s Uthopia out of a Sandro Hit mare. I acquired the ride on him as a six year old competing at Elementary level before later buying him. I currently have a small syndicate of owners for him and would be looking for a couple of new owners this year. Over the past five years I have produced him through the levels, this year we will be competing at Inter II and hopefully Grand Prix. He is the first horse that I will have produced through the levels and I am so grateful for the experience I have gained through training the horse myself. Yes, it would have been lovely to have been given a ready-made Grand Prix horse to ride, but although it has been challenging, I have come to appreciate the journey for what it has taught me. Saying that, all progress has been solely thanks to the fantastic training I have received from my coaches. Euphoria has been a real learning curve to produce. He is a lovely gentle horse who you would never want to shout at due to his shy character. He is, however, a bit of a silent stressor so I have had to really focus on quietly and confidently bringing him on, knowing that his talent may not have always been reflected in his scores as a young horse. Over the past year or so as he has started to step up to a higher level and has really started to come into his own as if to say, ‘I have arrived, this is what I have been waiting for’.

 

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What would you say your career highlight has been to date?

I’m sure so many riders would have highlights that are purely results based, but for me, my career highlight has to be getting into Carl Hester’s Diary to train! Learning from the best riders possible has always been so important to me and Carl is someone that I have always longed to train with. I am extremely lucky to be able to learn from a rider of his calibre, as I feel that studying other riders and absorbing their knowledge is the only way you can improve, and who better to learn from then Carl himself? I am also incredibly lucky to be based with Matt Hicks and also train with him on a weekly basis, he has been fantastic and has really helped me to get to the level I am at today.

 

 

Do you have any top tips for training your horse?

1 – Patience is key! Never lose your temper with your horse, if he doesn’t understand what you are asking of him, think to yourself ‘How can I re-word this to help him understand what I want.’ If you find yourself getting frustrated, just jump off and put your horse back in his stable, there is no harm in coming back with a fresh approach the following day.

 

2 – Education, find a good trainer and put the work in at home. There is no rush to get out to a show, get your foundations right and build on them.

 

3 – Stay humble. Never think you know it all, there is always something you can improve on or try to work on at home. I remember when I first left home to train in Denmark, I honestly thought I was a decent rider. I had a real shock when I got there and saw how talented the other riders were and thought I can’t ride at all! But I think it was at this point that I realised that these riders that I am looking up to, will have other riders that they aspire to ride as well as and so on. I learnt how important it is to get your head down and keep learning your craft. Training is still so vital to me now, but it’s not only at home you can pick new things up, sometimes I’m in the collecting ring and see another rider warming their horse in and think, I need to try that!

 

 

Is there any horse that you wish you had in your stable?

There are the obvious greats like Valegro, I doubt there is a dressage rider in the world who wouldn’t love to ride a horse like that. But I honestly feel that every horse comes to you exactly the right time for you. I don’t think I would trade my horse for another at all. The journey that we have been on and everything that he has taught me, this has made me the rider I am today.

 

 

How important is training to you?

I can’t stress enough how quality coaching and training is key to progressing as a rider. The training that I have had along the way with Matt and now Carl has really developed and formed me not only into the rider that I am but also the trainer. It’s given me the tools in my kit to use and help others. The more that I can evolve as a rider and understand the sport, the more I can pass my knowledge on to those that I teach. My training hasn’t stopped just because I have got to Grand Prix level, if anything, I am now training harder than I ever have done before, it really is a never-ending cycle. Stay humble, stay focused on your goals and constantly learn from one another.

 

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BADMINTON CROSS COUNTRY… REVISITING THE PAST

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Welcome to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials 

Wed 1st- Sun 5th May 2019

 

This week Horse Scout got a sneak peek at the cross-country course for the 70thedition of Badminton Horse Trials. “It feels like something we might have seen 25 years ago” was how Hugh Thomas described it. Big open ditches, making full use of the lips, dips, mounds, general topography and natural features of this beautiful park. This is a course that retains that “ride on your wits” cross-country feel which it has once again become famed for in recent years.

 

Eric Winter is now in his third year as course designer of Badminton and his philosophy in course design has remained the same throughout. “My aim is to put to the test, the relationship between horse and rider and the training of the horse.”

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The course runs clockwise around the park this year. As always, riders will start in the main arena before heading out to the Staircase fence- a sizeable log parallel down the two stone steps and a tight left turn to another log parallel. “It is an open start to the course to allow riders to get into a rhythm. Unlike last year where there were some early challenges, I didn’t want to break the rhythm early.”

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Things start to get pretty serious by fence 10- The Shogun Sport Hollow. After a long gallop which could be influential before a particularly technical fence, there is a funneling pagoda to direct riders to a narrow coffin ditch which is eerily, even the shape of a coffin, and a left or right choice of chunky, narrow tree trunks out. This is where the new FEI red flag rule could come into play. Where riders will be penalized 15 penalties if the whole horse does not pass between red and white flags- so that is shoulders as well as hindquarters. A rule which has not been well received by leading riders, course designers and officials… who shall remain nameless!

 

Fence 11 and 12 is the massive KBIS Bridge over the infamous Vicarage Ditch. The double numbering allows for a two jump escape route. The next fence has been used in some form at Badminton since 1949 and this year involves the notorious bank followed by a narrow brush roll top.

 

The Rolex Grand Slam Trakehner follows. Whilst impressive to the spectator, it’s big log over gaping ditch should not cause too many problems at this level. Then on to the Hildon Water Pond at 15ab which is perhaps a little softer than previous years with a big drop in before turning to a log trough in the water. Eric describes this as a run and jump fence and a bit of a let up before another tricky part of the course. Possibly an opportunity to make up time, although Eric pointed out that in the last two years of running, not one combination of horse and rider had finished on their dressage score.

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The Vicarage Ditch to the Mirage Water at 17abc and 18 is possibly one of the greatest challenges on course. An enormous right-angled corner is proceeded by an open ditch situated on a dip in the bank which will definitely unsettle some horses. Then a level four strides to another fearsome corner fence. “This is the sort of fence you would see 40 years ago- we could see all sorts of jumps over the ditch which adds to the unpredictability of the course,” Eric says.

 

There is no let up just yet and 19ab, the Nyetimber Heights involves a steep slope to an airy brush on top of a mound. Before plummeting down into the dip and up for a choice of four narrow scrubbing brush skinnies.

 

Finally, there is a course let-up fence at 20 before rider head on to three asymmetric corners in a row at the YoungMinds Brushes. YoungMinds- who help young people with mental illness and struggles is the chosen charity at this year’s event.

 

Fence 24 is an impressive affair to give riders their first taste of the infamous Badminton Lake. The jump is basically a large parallel but the design, with a pump station extending over the Lake to create a waterfall effect, which might unsettle some horses. Especially when added to the considerable crowd that always flock to the Lake. The brush fence in has been pulled back so riders land on grass before entering the Lake, then a step up and the iconic Mitsubishi pick-ups which this year have a trailer attached with dome-shaped spruce which is the part jumped by riders and horses.

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The Lakeside spectators get value for money as riders double back to the Wadworth Lower Lake at 26, a triple bar approached through the water.  After an inviting hedge comes the Voltaire Design Huntsmans Close which involves a birch parallel to a birch spread corner on a right turn.

 

To avoid a flat out gallop Eric has the Eclipse Cross Chicane (29 ab), two open ditch brushes on a U bend out and in of the deer park before the HorseQuest Quarry (30 ab) looms. This is less complicated than in recent years. In over the stone wall to a drop then up and out over a second wall.

 

Even though we are nearly home, Badminton is no place for complacency and we have seen many a rider tip up in the final few fences. The Hayracks at 31ab a roll top spread to a roll top skinny, then fence 32 the Rolex Trunk which is a sculpted log.

 

Back into the arena is the Mitsubishi Final Mount at 33, a fence designed by a member of the public for a competition a few years ago, where riders jump a pair of sculpted wooden saddles.

 

As ever a good completion will be an exhilarating experience for both the old pros and especially for those whose first experience of Badminton this will be.

 

 

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HORSE SCOUT REAL: YAZMIN PINCHEN- riding the storm of life and circumstance

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Once the starlet of the British showjumping, Yazmin Pinchen has ridden the storm of life that took her from regular team appearances, a string of exciting horses to the doldrums of losing her funding, her yard, and her family. She talks to Horse Scout about falling from hero to zero and most importantly, her dogged determination to rise back to the top. 

 

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25-year-old Yazmin Pinchen has been a winner on the international showjumping circuit since the age of 10.

 

She competed successfully in pony jumping and at the age of 12 years, she had her first major success when winning the Gold medal for England as part of the International Pony Team. At 14 Yazmin went on to represent the British team at the European Championships in Children on Horses, where she won Team Gold and Individual Silver medal.

 

As a Senior rider, Yazmin made her 5* debut at 18 years, becoming one of the youngest riders to be selected for a Senior FEI Nations Cup team. She was competing in Abu Dhabi alongside Peter Charles, Tina Fletcher, Robert Smith. “I jumped clear until the last fence when my horse stopped and we got eliminated. It was devastating at the time but I learned so much from that” she recalls.

 

Yazmin went on to compete on several on FEI Nations Cup teams and in Gijon, she helped the team win silver with her homebred, Ashkari. With the same mare, she competed in a number of FEI World Cup qualifiers with to gain a wealth of experience at the highest level and all before the age of 20.

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From childhood, Yazmin had aspirations to be the best showjumper she could and spent time working with some of the world’s best riders. “I started with Michael Whitaker when I was 16 and then when I was 18, I moved to Belgium to base myself with Ludo and Johan Philippaerts. I learned so much out there, which set me up for the future. Johan was an amazing teacher but sadly I had to come home because my dad was critically ill. When I was better I went to Simon Delestre, but it was really tough and after everything that had happened I felt I needed to be at home.”

 

Alongside her showjumping career, Yazmin is a mother to two-year-old son Harry. “I am really lucky because he is the easiest baby and he’s very independent. From the day dot, he has got used to entertaining himself. I am so fortunate that I am with my mum and she is a huge help both with Harry and the horses. We all live on the same property. My partner helps with childcare as does my groom who is trained nanny, so between us we are a good team.”

 

Taking time out to have a baby came with pros and cons. “Everything was going really well, I was jumping 5* and then I fell pregnant. I rode and competed until I was 4.5 months and I actually won more than ever when I was pregnant. I insisted on a C-section because I wanted to get back to riding as soon as I could and I was back on a horse two weeks later. But it wasn’t as easy as I expected.”

 

“I remember going to a show and turning about 100 circles because I was so scared.”

 

The feeling soon passed and she was back to her winning ways. However just as Yazmin was building her string up and planning her season, she was faced with the devastation of family breakdown.

 

“My dad who had been a big financial support to my career left my mum. It was a difficult time for all the family and he announced he did not want to be involved anymore. So we had to sell most of the horses and give up on all our plans to compete internationally. It was a horrendous time, I pretty much lost everything I’d worked for overnight.”

 

“I had to start all over again. Set up a yard and fund it all myself. Everybody assumes I am just this rich girl who is being supported by her parents, but that is not the case. Yes, I had help in the past but now I am having to fund the whole thing. Most of my horses are young and I have two of my own who have all the potential to be CSI 5* horses. What I need is owners to invest but it is difficult if you’re not at the top of your game. I am in a bit of a hole because I can’t prove myself without the backing. Even the good horses I have are just sitting there because I can’t afford to go to the international shows.”

 

Naturally bubbly with a positive outlook, Yazmin refuses to look back with any remorse. “It’s just life I guess and having a baby was the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s amazing being a mum and Harry is so much fun, he comes everywhere with me. It’s always been important for me to take time out to be a mummy too so I make sure I have the afternoons off to spend with Harry.”

 

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“I just want to make my son proud and do my best for him”

 

Yazmin feels that the adversity and change in circumstances she has faced have improved her outlook. “ I have had to learn to run a business, balance my accounts and be super organized. I think having Harry has actually made me more motivated because I want him to see me do well”

 

“It’s not easy, of course, you have your breakdowns”

 

“But everyone does. I sometimes get frustrated and give way to tears by thinking “I’ve become a nobody”. Luckily I shake myself out of it quickly enough and I would never let my son see that. I just always make sure I am a happy, positive mummy”

 

 “My goal is to get back on British teams and make the Olympics.”

 

“I know I have the ability and the drive, I just need the support. What I have learned from being in the doldrums is that it is important to be ambitious but enjoy the sport. I want to make everyone who supports me proud but I also want them to enjoy the ride.”

 

Yazmin is looking for sponsorship and owners at all levels. For more information contact Horse Scout:

Lucie@horsescoutpr.com

07752319988

 Photography by Events Through A Lens

 

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Mexican Young Guns take Nations Cup glory

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In any sport when the underdog wins, it makes for great entertainment. So when the Mexican team took a decisive victory in the very first leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup in Wellington, Florida the press conference was a joyous affair.

 

The youthful foursome fought off some of the world’s most successful nations including the USA, Canada, and Ireland. In fact, it was the youngest two Mexican riders with the least team experience who sealed the deal with their double clear performances. These came from 23-year-old Eugenio Garza Perez riding Victer Fin DHZ and 24-year-old Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane on the athletic grey mare Hortensia van de Leeuwerk. The other two riders played their part with low-faulted rounds from Fernando Martinez Sommer (29) on Cor Bakkar and Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado (25) riding Tino la Chapelle.

 

Tryon’s FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 course designer, Ireland’s Alan Wade, set a track that tested rideability, and the final line of a one-stride triple combination to big oxer proved the undoing of many. However with three first-round clears the Mexicans were already in command at the halfway stage on a zero score, trailed by Ireland and USA on eight, Israel close behind with nine, last year’s Wellington winners from Canada on 12 and the three-member Colombian side already trailing the field with 16 on the board.

 

The Mexican quartet kept a cool head and clung on to their lead in the second round, which caught out a number of the world’s leading riders such as World No 2 Mclain Ward and Beezie Madden who both faulted. Fernando Martinnez Sommer commented on the technicality of the course. “The course was difficult enough, for me my horse has a very big stride so I had to go a bit steady all the time.”

 

All four riders were quick to praise their Chef d’Equipe Constant van Paesschen, not just for their Nations Cup victory but what he has delivered to Mexican showjumping during his short career so far. Stany van Paesschen had similar positive words “From when I came two years ago, I said I am going to try as much as I can to push some young riders forward. We have some great young riders but we also have some great support from professional and older riders. I think we have a great team.”

 

Garza Perez, who trains with legendary Irish rider Eddie Macken and is the only member of the Mexican side to be based in the USA, said: “Today’s result is a testament to the quality of the next generation of young Mexican riders.”

 

He was a member of the historic site that posted that spectacular win in Dublin last August. “That day was an inspiration to us all!” he pointed out. And now the main Mexican goal is a place at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final 2019.

 

“There’s an Olympic place on offer in Barcelona and we intend to take it!” He said.

 

Team Israel had a great show too. Daniel Bluman’s double-clear with Ladriano Z bolstering an impressive all-round performance that saw them add nothing to their first-round nine-fault tally for the second spot. The Americans looked strongest at the outset, with an extremely experienced team of Beezie Madden, McLain Ward and Laura Kraut joined by young star Lucy Deslauriers. But single errors proved costly, so they will be hoping to turn the tables when their regional League moves to Mexico next time around. Only Mexico, USA, and Canada were entitled to qualifying points in today’s competition, so they claimed 100, 80 and 60 points respectively.

 

2018 Cheltenham Festival - Gold Cup Day - Cheltenham Racecourse

OUTBREAK OF EQUINE FLU COULD CAUSE COMPLETE LOCKDOWN OF EQUESTRIAN SPORT

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The whole equine community looks on with trepidation as six racehorses horses have tested positive for equine influenza this week, all of whom were vaccinated. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) ordered that all racing be cancelled until next Wednesday at the earliest. The BHA are working with the Animal Health Trust who have been testing thousands of horses from over 100 training yards that could have been exposed to the disease.

 

The outbreak was first discovered in leading trainer Donald McCain’s yard in Cheshire, where three horses testing positive for the disease on Wednesday 6th February. Then on Friday 8th, another three from the same yard also came back with positive results. McCain was quick to inform the authorities and has been praised for his professionalism. He had horses running at Ayr and Ludlow racecourses earlier that day, potentially exposing a number of other horses from both the UK and Ireland to the disease. A number of other big yards including Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls have had all their horses tested and quarantined.

 

Vaccination against equine influenza or equine flu is compulsory for all racehorses and horses used competitively for other any equestrian sport. What is most alarming is that all the horses who tested positive were vaccinated against the disease which might suggest that a new strain of flu is present. If it is not quickly contained, this could spread rapidly through the racehorse population and potentially affect the UK equine population as a whole. Both the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) and the FEI have been issuing statements on a daily basis.

 

“The concern is that equine influenza is highly contagious” explains vet, David Mathieson of the Donnington Veterinary practice, who look after a number of racing yards in the South of England. “It has a very short incubation period- as short as 24 hours. It is spread readily between horses and personnel from one horse to another. It can also be airborne.”

 

On Friday 8th February, the BEF issued a statement saying “We continue to urge owners to be vigilant and follow the recommended guidelines on how to detect and prevent the spread of this infectious disease. We also urge any owners with suspected cases to take immediate veterinary advice. If flu is confirmed by laboratory testing, they should contact their relevant member body. If your horse is currently vaccinated, but it has been longer than six months since their last vaccination, we recommend that you discuss a booster with your vet”

 

The symptoms of equine flu include high temperature, coughs, snotty nose, enlarged glands, swollen or sore eyes, depression, loss of appetite and swelling in the lower legs.  With modern veterinary treatment, is it rarely fatal but horses can take months to recover fully. The disease can take up to three days for symptoms to be visible, which means that the BHA will not be able to draw a conclusion from all the information until Sunday at the earliest.

 

For the racing fraternity, it could become a living nightmare. At least 23 fixtures will be cancelled by next Wednesday which will cost the industry millions. Added to this, we are just five and eight weeks off two the most prestigious racing festivals in the world- The Magners Cheltenham Festival (12-15thMarch) and the Randox Health Grand National Festival at Aintree (4-6thApril). Not only is The Cheltenham Festival the fourth largest attended sporting event in the UK, but some 1.5 million people also tune in to ITV racing for the signature race, The Gold Cup. Around 8.5 million watched the Grand National on ITV last year and it has a race attendance of over 140,000 people over the three day Aintree festival.

 

 

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The biggest win of my career: Longines FEI World Cup at Olympia

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British rider William Whitaker celebrated the biggest win of his career after claiming the Longines FEI World Cup Final at Olympia yesterday. Fighting back tears he said “This is the one class I think about every day. I’ve been coming here since I was two or three years old and to actually win it is a dream come true. To us British riders, the World Cup here is like a Championship and you only get one shot at it, a year. I have been thinking about it for a while and decided if I was clear, I wouldn’t hold back in the jump-off.”

 

Riding the stallion Utamaro D Ecaussines, who he partnered at the World Equestrian Games in North Carolina earlier this year, William posted the fastest clear in the jump off. “I knew I had done a good round but when I looked down at the list and it was the best riders in the world left to jump, I didn’t think it was possible.  It helps that I was on such a horse. He has such a good brain and mentality. He was nearly falling asleep in the warm-up but he just lights up and grows a hand when he gets in the arena. We’ve had loads of fantastic performances but we’ve never managed to win a Grand Prix so to win one and it be this one on homer turf, is so special.”

 

The 29 year old from Huddersfield, is of course part of showjumping’s most successful family. Both his uncles John and Michael together with his cousin Robert Whitaker were competing in the World Cup yesterday. His uncle Michael was next best Brit, finishing in 4th place. “I have memories of my uncles jumping here,” William said. “The thought of winning the World Cup was one of those things that got me out of bed in the morning.”

 

Belgian rider Karel Cox claimed second place and America’s Laura Kraut finished third. Laura was one of five female riders competing, all of whom got through to the jump off, including Britain’s Laura Renwick.

 

 

 

Imagery by © BEF / Jon Stroud Media

Horse Scout Opinion: What’s happening to British Showjumping?

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Showjumping was once the pride of the British nation. With a golden era spanning from the 1950s to the 1990s where Britain was consistently in the medals and the sport enjoyed a high television profile, riders like David Broome, Harvey Smith, Nick Skelton, and the Whitaker brothers were household names.

 

However, the sport started on a steady decline. Blamed largely to a shortage of horsepower and a crisis of management by the governing body, the lack of medals became a source of embarrassment to riders and followers. Suffering from a low profile led to many of Britain’s best horses being sold abroad. Tinkas Boy, a horse produced by Nick Skelton was sold to Swiss rider Markus Fuchs who went on to win four Championship medals including team silver in Sydney 2000.

 

Then in 2012, the British showjumping quartet of Nick Skelton, Peter Charles, Scott Brash, and Ben Maher put the sport back on the map by winning their first Olympic gold since 1952, in front of a rapturous London crowd. Nick Skelton continued to keep the dream alive when at the age of 58, he claimed the individual gold in Rio 2016- his seventh Olympic Games with the great Big Star.

 

But history repeats itself and recent results suggest a demise is once again occurring in the British camp. We are still not qualified for Tokyo 2020, with just two opportunities for qualification left.

 

This year we failed to be in the reckoning for a medal at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon. Whilst we qualified for the Longines Nations Cup Final in Barcelona, after finishing in second to last place, the future of British showjumping looked a bit bleak.

 

At the World Equestrian Games, the best British result came from new kid on the block, Amanda Derbyshire who was the only rider to qualify for the individual final. Is it significant that Amanda is based in the US, competing weekly against the US team members who claimed team gold? Adding to the fact she rides for American owners? Additionally, Amanda learned her trade from Nick Skelton and Laura Kraut, with whom she was based as a stable jockey at the beginning of her career. Interestingly her horse, Luibanta BH was sourced and produced by Britain’s Ellen Whitaker. In fact, seven horses competing in the final 25 for the individual medals in Tryon were either bred or produced in the UK.

 

The fact of the matter is that Performance Manager Di Lampard has struggled to pull together a team this year. She has had to be brave and select young partnerships but deserves credit for this move, especially her selection of a predominantly female team. It begs the question, where are Ben Maher and Scott Brash when we needed them? Is their absence due to lack of horsepower or lack of inclination, when the prize money offered by Rolex and the Global Champions Tour is far greater than that offered in Tryon.

 

Di is the first to remark that the problem is not for want of good riders but rather a lack of strong horse and rider combinations. Anyone who follows British showjumping will be aware that we are breeding some extremely successful horses. Yet the figure above, suggests that we are not keeping hold of these horses.

 

Other opinions in the sport, suggest it is the British system that is letting the sport down. That the class structure is a hindrance rather than a help in producing and sourcing young talent.

 

I will leave you with the view of Nick Skelton on where we are going wrong at the moment:

 

“Like the Europeans, we should be focusing on having age classes for horses in order to source and produce the best young horses in the country before they get sold out of the country. And unlike abroad, there are no incentives offered by the Federation for a rider to keep a good young horse. So when the riders get a good offer, they take the money and it’s foreign riders at the Championships on horses we bred and produced”.

 

At Horse Scout, we love knowing what you think about the industry. So our new series of opinion blogs are aimed at being interactive and spark debate. So we want to know your thoughts on the state of British Showjumping. If you were Chief Executive of British Showjumping or Performance Manager of the British Team, what would you do? 

We look forward to hearing your opinions.

 

Imagery by © BEF / Jon Stroud Media

 

 

Photo from hopedeamer1-21

Horse Scout Real: Jessica Springsteen

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Jessica Springsteen is one of America’s most successful showjumpers. She has won a number of International Grand Prix and more than a million pounds in prize money. Secondary to her riding prowess, she is the daughter of Rock legend Bruce Springsteen aka “The Boss”. Whilst reporting at the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final, Ellie Kelly caught up with the 26-year-old in Barcelona about horses, love life and life on the road.

You made it on to the American squad here at this prestigious team event, how did you feel about that?

I was so excited. I always wanted to come to Barcelona for the Nations Cup Final. To be picked for the team was a huge honour for me- to represent my country is always my goal.

 

Which horses do you have here in Barcelona and how would you describe them?

I have two horses From Rushy Marsh Farm- RMF Swinny and RMF Cecille

They are both the sweetest horses in the world; they are so cuddly and kind and have amazing attitudes. They are both so confident and brave that they make you feel so comfortable when you go in the ring, which makes it fun to ride. I love them both.

 

How long have you been riding them?

It’s a newer partnership with both; I started with Swinny last October and Cecille in January. With Swinny, I clicked with her right away, she’s just my ride but Cecille was a slower start but now I feel so comfortable with her at this level and we made a good partnership.

 

We witnessed a great win here in one of the individual classes- The Queens Cup. How would you sum up your performance?

I was so happy. Swinny jumped amazing and there was a lot in the jump off and that is where she shines. She is naturally fast so I could do extra strides in places where people had to leave them out and I was still able to be faster. She’s the kind of horse that gives you a lot of confidence and you really feel you can go in there to win.

 

You compete all over the world but what do you think of this event here in Barcelona?

I love competing in Spain. Everybody is so nice here, the spectators are so enthusiastic and it’s lovely and warm.

 

Describe your life as a professional rider

It’s a lot of travelling and living out of a suitcase but you do get to travel to so many amazing cities and venues all around the world and that is an experience that you would never really get otherwise. It definitely doesn’t feel like a job to me. I love it and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

 

How many horses do you ride each day?

Right now I have nine horses and I’ll try to ride about six a day. Any more than that and I feel like I can’t give them the proper work. I’m normally at the barn all day when I’m at home because I travel so much, so it’s important to spend time with the horses and make sure everything is going well with them before I head to the next competition.

 

Do you ever ride and compete younger horses?

I’ve just bought a six-year-old horse but most of mine are a little bit older because I am on the road so much that I don’t really have time to train the younger ones. But I definitely think that is the way to do it- buy them a bit younger and bring them on because then you really develop a nice partnership.

 

How do you manage competition nerves?

When I am really nervous, I just try to remember as much as possible that I get to do what I love every day and I am so lucky to do that. I try to just enjoy the moment with my horse as much as possible and I try to feel prepared with. My horse when I am going into the ring. I remind myself “you know what you are doing, just stick to your plan and try to enjoy it” and that always helps me.

 

How do you spend your downtime?

There’s not much of that. Whenever I have a week off, I try to go home to see my friends and family in New York and we have a farm in New Jersey.

 

You are dating Italian rider Lorenzo de Luca, what the gossip on that?

I’m very lucky (big grin). It’s really nice to be in the sport with someone who really understands everything it takes. We see each other quite often. At the same show pretty much every week which is really nice.

 

Who are your heroes?

Growing up I used to watch Laura Kraut, who I trained with for many years. She is amazing; she’s such a fighter and can ride any type of horse. Mclain Ward and Beezie Madden are great idols we have in the US and to be at the same shows as them, you learn so much just by watching. Then to be on a team with them now is really cool.

Photo from hopedeamer1-18

AP McCoy on being a dad, sporting idols and why he is coming to the Liverpool International Horse Show

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The rider line-up for the Theraplate UK Liverpool International Horse Show is always a star-studded one. It’s popular with the Whitakers, Harry and Peter Charles and Scott Brash is a regular. But this year, we can expect to see the whole McCoy family there. That’s AP McCoy- perhaps one of the best known and most loved jockeys of all time, plus wife Chanelle, daughter Eve and son Archie. Horse Scout’s blogger Ellie Kelly was lucky enough to interview AP and Chanelle recently and this is what they had to say…

 

“I was told I had to be in Liverpool by the 30th December by my daughter Eve. It just shows you how things change in your life when you start getting bossed around by your eleven-year-old daughter” says twenty times Champion Jockey, AP McCoy. Now retired from National Hunt racing, despite being one of the greatest figures in sporting history, he now finds himself “being dragged to shows and mucking out ponies!”

 

Eve who is an avid young showjumper and clearly a chip off the old block will be competing in the mini-major competition, together with a number of young riders competing alongside celebrity showjumpers. The mini major will feature approx. 14 pairs of kids paired up with top professionals all in fancy dress. Previous pros that have competed in this class include the very fast GB rider Matt Sampson, John Whitaker, and the UK’s leading lady rider Laura Renwick.  The class will be the feature of the afternoon performance on Sunday 30th December.

 

“Eve is mad excited about going to Liverpool and I was told I had to be there so I’m flying back from Leopardstown especially” says AP. “She really loves competing and she’s got plenty of bottle which you can’t teach a kid. I see certain traits in her as I have- she’s not a great loser and she gets upset with herself. Even when it goes wrong or I shout at her, she comes back for more. No matter how much a parent gives their kids they can’t give them nerve and desire, that has to come from within. You can feed it and nurture it but at the end of the day it has to come from the kid.”

 

AP talks about the importance of having sporting idols and watching those riders in order to improve.  For Eve, Nick Skelton is her hero.

 

“I took her and a friend up there last year and Nick and Laura Kraut gave them a riding lesson. For her, it was the best thing ever, she was more interested in him than she was in me.”

 

“We’ve planned the Christmas around it” says an excited Chanelle. “We have no expectations, Eve does of course. But I think it’s a brilliant experience for kids to feel the pressure of the big day when they are young. It really prepares you for the later in life and when you do go into the working world, it helps if you know those emotions already.

 

“She’s very conscious of impressing her dad which is nice but we had to sack AP as an instructor because of that clash of personality” she laughs. “AP and I were very relaxed as to whether she was into ponies or not, it had to be something that came from her but she really loves it and she wants to be the best. It’s lovely that she is so ambitious. It must be in her DNA that she is not satisfied taking part, she wants to win.”

 

“Nick Skelton is her hero, she once asked me if Nick was too old for her to marry. She was so in awe of him when she went up for a lesson. She had lots of questions for him and I thought well isn’t it great that she’s got an icon like Nick rather than some social media influencer.”

 

Chanelle talks about the differing emotions she feels when watching her daughter show jump in comparison with watching AP race.

 

“Watching Eve, I feel excited. With AP it was a different emotion because with being a jump jockey, injury was very much part of the course, so you’re always worried. Watching my daughter showjumping is so enjoyable and I get quite emotional when she does well.”

 

Even though I don’t miss AP riding because I’m so grateful that he has retired in one piece and he doesn’t have any severe injuries but I think we would miss the buzz if we had nothing. Whereas now, there is not a nicer weekend for me where we load up the lorry and head off to show.

 

www.liverpoolhorseshow.com