Tag Archives: Horse riding

Horses lend us the wings we lack – Buying a Jumper


Buying a Jumper?  What do you look for in a jumping horse.  Is it breeding, confirmation, temperament or ability?

Horses lend us the wings we lack.  ~Author Unknown

When you have a jumping horse in front of you and are considering if he is the horse for you bear the words of the wise in mind. Tim Stockdale (and who better to take advice from?) says “When considering a horse to buy always ‘look’ at the horse in front of you’.  He has a particular routine when looking at a prospective purchase and his approach has been rewarded with some fantastic jumping horses!

He likes to see a horse in its stable.  Here he can judge its temperament and attitude towards him.

Next he see him bought into the yard.  He checks not for veterinary problems but for Are there any scars? How well is he shod? Why is his head not been clipped? These things can tell you a lot about a horse.

He does however generally steer clear of ewe necks and long pasterns as these conformation defects are hard to overcome in a jumping horse., although he is happy to see a horse with asymmetric feet or a curb under saddle.

He does not watch a horse being loose schooled as he feels that he needs to know how a horse goes under saddle so he can asses how he holds himself, its co-ordinaiton and he asks himself if he is “happy” in his bridle.

Breeding and confirmation are a consideration but he would prefer to judge a horse on the what he sees in front of him.

Helen Tredwell and Georgie Crumley put temperament high on their lists.  Georgie says A genuine, willing temperament is extremely important.  That’s one thing that every “special” horse has in common.  They are willing to try their hardest and give everything they’ve got when it matters.  Helen says “Look for something which enjoys its jumping, that’s half the battle”

Confirmation is a good starting point though when viewing horses you should feel that they “have a leg at each corner” and that they have well made hocks under strongly built quarters.  These are what is going to lift them off the ground.

Horses which are unbroken can indicate who they may perform (given a good wind etc) if they have a good shape over a fence with neat front legs and a good athletic spring over the fence they will, most likely, perform better than one who dangles his front legs and jumps flat.

On the flat look for a horse which moves from his elbows and hips (not knee and stifle) as this freedom in his movement will help him get up and over his fences. A horse which naturally can canter well, in a rhythm and has the ability/agility to lengthen and shorten will also make your job a lot easier.

There are some great jumpers on Horse Scout and when you go and see them remember ….to ‘look’ at the horse in front of you.  Good luck with your search for your perfect partner.

Hot Tips For Hat Heads


Do you suffer from hat head? Is your Skin rough or bumpy and your hair decidedly straw like are you utterly shattered at the end of your horse filled hours? You could take the sweat out of looking after your horse and put it at livery (pass these tips on to his keeper!) or your trainer could ride your horse more often (in which case they could read these tips too)…. or you could look make sure you look after yourself and keep doing the thing you love.

Rough and Bumpy skin is formed by dead skins cells and bacteria in the hair follicles. Wearing your riding hat is definitely a big part of your problem, but is unavoidable so make sure you make a point of rejuvenating and cleaning hat heads

It sounds pretty obvious … but hitting the shower at the end of the day to rejuvenate your skin and avoiding wearing makeup whilst you’re working up a sweat as this can clog your pores. To reduce the bumps try using a scrub or body brush (not one from the tack room) to get rid of any build up.

The frequent amount of time spent outdoors, exposing your skin to the harsh elements like wind and sun can play a part in wrinkles, age sports, or the feeling of thick skin giving it a leathery look.

It has also been suggested that the world of horses and all that involves damages the elasticity of the skin, causing a droopy face and neck, giving the face a ‘sunken’ look (although we’re still unconvinced). Use a sunblock with a high SPF, sweat-resistant sun cream to prevent skin damage, use a moisturising lotion. I can’t recommend a specific brand but a unisex cheap and effective one is E45. (always check on a small area of skin first)

Straw like hair

Although jumping in the shower after a workout is better for your skin, ensure it’s not at the downfall to your hair. Try just rinsing your hair instead of shampooing especially in the cold weather which has a nasty habit of drying skin.

Washing your hair too much will remove natural, protective oils that your skin and hair naturally produce, once your hair gets used to not being shampooed every day it slowly allows longer between shampooing without that lank greasy look. Take it slowly don’t frighten yourself. Try a one day break for a couple of weeks then stretch this to two etc. It’s hard when your hair is under a hat all day but give it time and your hair will thank you.

Tired and haggard

Too much exercise can leave your body exhausted and without a chance to catch up weaken your immune system leaving you more prone to colds and viruses and looking and feeling exhausted.

Here are five ways to boost your immune system from “The running Bug” …. They know a thing or two about getting hot and sweaty! (Just change “training” for working on yard, riding, running after loose horses, grooming etc etc!!!!!)

1. Eat Sufficient Calories for for the amount of work you are doing

Eating enough calories for training and day-to-day living is probably the single most important factor for an optimally functioning immune system. Excluding the calories needed for training and racing, the body needs a specific number of calories (known as the basal metabolic rate, BMR) just to function. If there is an energy deficiency, immune function is compromised and can often result in illness. Runners with low energy availability are particularly susceptible to upper respiratory-tract infections (URTI’s i.e. coughs and colds). To avoid this, maintain a calorie intake that supports training, daily activity and biological processes. One way to find out if you’re eating enough is to speak to a qualified performance nutritionist; alternatively to put you on the right track, adhere to point 2…

2. Don’t Avoid Fat

Athletes and active individuals should be aiming to consume approximately 25 per cent or more of their total calories from fat for optimal immune function, especially during heavy training periods. As well as contributing to overall energy intake, research shows that long-chain polyunsaturated n-3 fatty acids may specifically change the defences which fight infectious pathogens. In addition, having insufficient saturated fatty acids in the white blood cells inhibit their ability to recognise and destroy foreign bodies such as viruses and bacteria. To ensure you’re getting sufficient fat in the diet, aim to include foods such as eggs, red meat, oily fish, nuts, avocados, olives and olive oils, butter, full fat dairy and coconut.

3. Consider supplementing with Vitamin D

Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, has had a surge in research interest in recent years. Compromised vitamin D status can affect a runner’s overall health and ability to train by negatively affecting bone health, innate immunity and exercise-related immunity and yet it is thought more than half of the UK population have insufficient vitamin D levels. Those who spend a lot of time indoors and/or are darker skinned are particularly at risk from deficiency, however chances are without supplementation over the winter in the UK, we are all at risk of developing insufficient or even deficient levels. Your GP should be able to test your vitamin D levels; however, if testing is unavailable, taking a baseline dose (2500IU/day) will help correct any insufficiency and improve immune function. Vitamin D supplements are available in most health shops.

4. Eat More Offal

Offal (heart, kidneys, liver) is one of the most nutritionally complete foods around. It contains fat, has a high protein content, and provides more variety of vitamins and minerals (including zinc which plays a central role in immune function) than any other individual food making it a great immune boosting choice! If taste or texture is a struggle, chop it up and hide in dishes such as casseroles, chilli’s and bolognese.

5. Take a Probiotic

Taking a daily probiotic (micro-organisms found in yoghurt or dietary supplements) has been shown to reduce frequency, duration and severity of immunity illnesses, and improve gut health among athletes during heavy training periods. One study in particular by Gleeson et al. (2011) looked at the effects of taking a daily probiotic (Lactobacillus casei Shirota) over the winter period on the incidence of URTI’s (upper respiratory tract infection) in endurance athletes. They found over 4 months, the number of athletes experiencing coughs and colds lasting 7 days or more was 36 per cent lower in those taking a daily probiotic. Yogurt is also quite useful for its effect of free radicals especially when taken with red/purple berries.

My favourite is yoghurt with summer fruits and some honey. You can buy summer fruits frozen in tubs. Quite handy because it means you can just use what you want…..just remember to take a spoonful out when you make your first cup of tea and by the time you’ve done the morning work rides it will be thawed and ready to stir into your yogourt.

Be Zen – put a different hat on to do the mucking out!


Zen for Grooms –

Are all grooms Zen…..Perhaps we should add a Zen check button to our Professionals page!

“Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” – Wu Li…. Or in horse terms “ Before enlightenment muck out, turn out, ride and groom, after enlightenment smile as you muck out, turn out, ride and groom” Being Zen wont change how much you have to fit into your day but it will help you achieve far more, be more effective, and more content. No one can question that a grooms day is long, tough, wet and cold in the winter (and the summertime too sometimes!)  but it has its rewards and just when you think you are going to jack it in, the sun comes out and its your day on the rota to hack out.

The Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh simplified the rules of Zen into one sentence

“Smile, Breath and Go Slowly” 

We should all try this approach and I have taken the liberty of translating the Zen Rules into “A Grooms Zen Outlook on Life”

  1. Do one thing at a time  This mean each job is started and finished and your focus is on ensuring that it is done property
  1. Do it slowly and deliberately  Slowly and deliberately does not mean with a lazy approach but with total focus
  2. Do it completely Don’t get distracted and move on to the next thing before finishing what you are already doing
  3. Do less  Priorities: If the work load is particularly heavy do the most important jobs first
  4. Develop rituals  Find a way to make the most of your time, keep your job list circular so each one assists the next
  5. Designate time for certain things There is always a list of things which get put to the bottom of the list, try and tick one of those off in the mid afternoon lull.
  6. Devote time to sitting During your breaks, take the time to sit and relax.
  7. Smile and serve others Smiling is the best approach, always find the up side and share it with others to make their day a happier one.
  8. Make cleaning and cooking become meditation Horse wise – there is something entirely satisfying about that newly mucked out bed and a horse you could pat in white gloves.
  9. Think about what is necessary Focus on the job in hand, give it your whole attention, that way you wont leave the hoof pick behind and then have to sift through the whole bed to find it!.
  10. Live simply Well, that’s an easy one,being a groom leaves little time for a complicated life!

10 Top Tips for a Mother Daughter Share


What is the perfect Mother Daughter Share?

“A perfect mother-daughter share is where my mother pays all the bills and does all the yard work, and I do all the riding. Sadly, my mother does not share my opinion….”

Mother Daughter shares can be the perfect set up and, actually, some mothers are happy with the above scenario! But mostly Mothers tend to want a bit more from the arrangement.  After all it is Mothers who tend to do most of the donkey work because teenagers are, by rote, away at school and in the winter this means that bar the pair of luminous eyes caught in the beam of the head torch, they hardly get to see their horse during the winter!

Top Tips for Mother Daughter combinations:

This scenario assumes that the Daughter is a competent rider, perhaps this is the third or fourth horse she is looking to buy.  She is competing perhaps in pony club teams or in intro affiliated classes or this is her aim with this next horse.  Mother is experienced and has ridden possibly all her life, does not have any particular ambition to compete but is capable of hacking out and schooling and maybe even hunting.  Other combinations of experience would need to adjust their top tens but the principals would probably be the same.

  1. Choose a gelding if possible, they tend to be more even in temperament and happy for anyone to do them (sweeping generalisation I know).
  2. Chose a height weight combination which will be comfortable for both parties to ride.  Tricky if M&D are extremis! But usually there is a similarity in build) …. Yes I know another sweeping statement.
  3. Choose a temperament that will suit both parties.  If one is a little nervous handling from the ground then find a horse which is rock steady to do, and not too big for the handler.
  4. If riding abilities are widely at odds then choose a horse which will suit the less able rider.
  5. On the other hand if the main rider (the one who will be doing most of the exercising) is the more competent and is able to school the horse regularly so it is quiet for the other rider this may work fine.  With the combination the other way round its not going to work.
  6. Decide what the horse is going to be doing.  However, for this combination an all rounder is a good idea offering versatility and therefore scope to have a go at most things.
  7. Have clearly defined responsibilities.  Be realistic but also stick to your guns on who is doing what and when. This will keep the horse a truly M&D member of the family.
  8. Remember to appreciate each other and look for the positives of having the other person contribute to the training, husbandry and progress of the horse.
  9. Like sharing anything, this trio will work best when all parties are prepared to chip in, talk and look to progress.
  10. But mostly, Enjoy your horse, your time with him and your time with each other.

There are a number of all rounders advertised on Horse Scout Mountview Rosie, Sallybog Tim, Bolt Hero, By Jonkers Metyo, Emerald Skippy.



After an accident with a horse how can I overcome my fear?


4 signs that you are definitely rattled and 4 helpful tips to help you see off those butterflies.

“You’re not a rider until you have fallen off seven times”. How many of us have heard this saying?

However, each of those 7 falls can make us scared, question why we are riding at all and for some the seventh fall may well be the last time they want to fall.

Fear and horses are not a good combination.

When I was learning my pony only had to turn a corner, not even a sharp one, and off I’d slide. In fact I swear I did actually spend more time sitting on the floor than on my pony’s back. Luckily he was close to the ground and never seemed to be going at any great speed so I was lucky and falling off didn’t really phase me. As I got better and stayed on for longer periods, allowing said pony to go a bit faster and following on from him a series of ponies then horses then proper show horses, hunters & eventers and I fell off more frequently and at greater speeds and from greater heights… and then I wasn’t so laid back. Looked at from a distance the sensations could have been described as fear I don’t think I thought of them as fear but it did shock me, It did make my tummy try to jump right out of my mouth, it did make me feel sick. Shock or fear are natural reactions, they are natures way of protecting us. It was not the getting back on top that was more difficult, mostly I just jumped right back into the saddle and carried on… it was more the next time, or the time after that, sometimes for months, mostly unbidden the butterflies would suddenly rear their head and rattle me.

I don’t disagree that you are not a rider until you have fallen off seven times, but I do think that its right to acknowledge that each of them have shaken you up, dented your self confidence and can affect how you ride afterwards.

Fear is a very useful emotion, if we didn’t have any fear, we wouldn’t be able to tell if we were in danger and extreme fear is paralysing and irrational and does need to be addressed. Everyone is going to cope differently:

  1. You may make excuses to avoid riding, in you head its all perfectly rational, suddenly your diary is so full you just cant take the time to ride.
  1. You may think yes I’m fine but then faced with the same jump you freeze of you deliberately (or subconsciously) pull your horse up. You sit there kicking but hope that he wont go so you pull him back at the same time.
  1. Your horse starts making you very nervous. He only has to jinx or react and you over react. You just cant enjoy what you are doing and are constantly expecting the worse.
  1. Or you may experience extreme anxiety, where there were just little tingles in your tummy before now you almost cant breath, your heart is thumping and you are very hot.

The first step to overcoming this new fear is to stop, step back and analyse what the problem is. Calmly break it down into its component parts. Of course there are some accidents which are way beyond anything we can plan for and for these life changing events it is best to seek professional help. For the majority of us though I am talking about being dumped off a fresh horse, mis judging a fence, not concentrating and being caught out when our horse spooks.

When you break an event down into its component parts it has a calming effect, you are able to remove the emotional connection to the event.

Ask yourself what is going on in your life that may be causing you to lack concentration, or was it due to a lack of common sense. i.e. I knew Frank was fresh…I hadn’t ridden for a week” or where you tackling something new of bigger where you overconfident or did you take a risk. Sometimes thinking things through can help us understand the obvious.

Some people can bottle their worries up and carry on regardless, but they know they are pretending. They are experiencing the same fears but choosing to ignore the effect it is having on them. However this is not always the best idea. Each event does need to be acknowledged and thought through then rationalised.

April Clay the Sports Phycologist suggests the following techniques and suggestions for rebuilding your confidence:

  1. Take it slow: take a step back and ask a little less of yourself do what you know you can do and then when you feel confident ask yourself to step forward again.
  2. Build physical strength/basic skills: Increasing your physical strength can increase your confidence and your ability.
  3. Realign your self talk: stop saying “I know I will fall off again” and replace those thoughts with more reasonable, positive ones. Acknowledge that you are feeling anxious but think positively on how much you are progressing. Visualise yourself correcting the problem: visualise the correct way of doing/approaching. Feel in your head the movements that you need to make to achieve this. Do not use I”I must not do this or that” use the positives.
  4. Relaxation training: Meditation of exercises like Yoga or Tai Chi are not only great physically for your body they also help you become more self aware and therefore more able to control your mind and body together.

How you begin to build up your confidence after an accident will depend on your unique situation and your individual personality. Some of you will have higher hurdles to get over, but stepping back, analyzing, starting small and thinking positively will make all the difference to you and your horse.

Anna Clay has published a very interesting book “Training from the Neck Up: A Practical Guide to Sports Physchology for Riders or The Rider’s Edge: Overcoming the Psychological Challenges of Riding written by Janet Sasson Edgette and Tony Johnson’s Inside Your Ride: Mental Skills for Being Happy and Successful with Your Horse these books are available on Amazon and elsewhere.

Finding the right professional trainer will also be a great help.  Someone who you feel at ease with and are able to properly discuss your concerns will be able to make sure you address any worries and help you along the road to becoming the confident rider you want to be.