Tag Archives: Rider Fitness

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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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VIPs turn out for reopening of Jockey rehabilitation centre

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VIPs turn out for reopening of Jockey rehabilitation centre

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It was a right royal affair at the reopening Oaksey House in Lambourne. On a brisk February Tuesday, not only did HRH The Princess Royal, a Patron of the Injured Jockeys Fund attend but she accompanied by racing royalty including world-renowned sports journalist, Brough Scott MBE, 10 times Champion jockey, Sir Anthony McCoy OBE and ex jockey and now well-known racing journalist John Francome MBE and Jack Berry, the man whose vision became The Injured Jockey Fund (IJF).

This intimate occasion was to celebrate the extensive improvement of Oaksey House, the IJF’s Fitness and Rehabilitation Centre in Lambourn, Berkshire.

The Injured Jockey’s Fund was founded in 1964 following the horrific falls suffered by Tim Brookshaw and Paddy Farrell in the Grand National.  Both resulted in severe paralysis, thus ending their careers.  It was Jack Berry who was there in 1964, shaking a bucket to collect donations in order to help these jockeys. Since then the Fund has helped over 1000 jockeys and their families, paying out more than £18m in charitable assistance.

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The IJF helps any rider who holds, or has held, a Professional or Amateur licence issued by the British Horseracing Authority including Apprentice, Conditional and Point-to-Point riders, including any spouse, partner, child or dependant they may have. Their policy is that they help these people for life. Furthermore, the money and assistance becomes available almost immediately, unlike many other charitable foundations who are forced to

Oaksey House, which first opened in 2009, now offers state of the art Hydrotherapy equipment- the ‘AP McCoy Hydrotherapy Pool’. The pool is beneficial in treating a multitude of injuries with its underwater treadmill, massage hoses and performance monitoring systems.  It can also accommodate spinally injured patients.

IMG_0594There has also been a significant internal refurbishment including a new more extensive gym, which is open to all jockeys, not just those in need of rehabilitation. They also offer support and education services to jockeys such as nutrition and manual therapy to improve performance as well as careers advice in collaboration with JETS, The Jockeys Employment and training Scheme.

Those visiting can expect help from the very best practitioners, therapists as well as good banter from the jockeys. The team aim to keep it a positive atmosphere, more like a health club than a hospital and you certainly get that feeling when you walk through the doors.

The IJF has two Fitness and Rehabilitation Centres, Oaksey House in Lambourn and Jack Berry House in Malton which opened in 2015. Peter O’Sullevan House, to be built within the grounds of the British Racing School in Newmarket, will open in 2019.

HRH The Princess Royal was impressed by the new facilities and said:

“Having just come back from the Winter Olympics in South Korea and seeing the injuries some other sportspeople such as snowboarders suffer, your brains could be picked and the skills you have could be of such benefit to a range of other sports.

“It seems extraordinary that Oaksey House opened only nine years ago.  The knowledge achieved in that time has been phenomenal.”

Sir Anthony McCoy, President of the Injured Jockeys Fund had received rehab and support from the IJF, during his career:
“I am delighted to be here today and that the Injured Jockeys Fund is able to now provide these amazing facilities for jockeys both injured and riding. If I’d had this 20 years ago, I’d probably still be going now!”

Lisa Hancock, CEO of the Injured Jockeys Fund commented:
“We are very committed to ensuring we provide state-of-the-art facilities in our centres and a Hydropool is essential to modern rehabilitation.  Oaksey House can now provide all jockeys, riding and retired, and the local community with a facility that can support every type of injury.  This is very much part of our charitable vision and we will complete the loop with the build of Peter O’Sullevan House in Newmarket, set to open in autumn 2019, and for which we are now commencing the fundraising campaign.”

 

The IJF is entirely dependent on donations and money raised through events. For more information on how you can get involved visit:

www.ijf.org.uk

To learn about support and education available to jockeys before, during and after their careers visit:

www.jets-uk.org

Written by Ellie Kelly

Mind Games

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MIND GAMES

Success in Equestrian sport is rarely achieved without careful preparation. Although by the word “preparation” we mean something beyond gymnastic jumping exercises and perfecting your square halt. Mental preparation and controlling nerves, is so often the difference between winning and losing. You would not be alone in thinking “how do I replicate what I do at home at a competition?”

Charlie Unwin is a leading sports psychologist who has been helping a number of elite riders and Olympic athletes from a number of sports. As part of the World Class Programme, he also helps the British Eventing Team from Young Riders up to Seniors.

 

After Military training at Sandhurst, Charlie started his professional life in the Army. During this time he served in Iraq as a platoon Commander. Upon leaving the Army, he focused on his passion for sport and begun training to become an elite Modern Pentathlete. Within two years, he was selected to go to the World Championships for the British team and in 2007 he was crowned National Champion. With this background, it is fair to say that no one understands pressure and nerves better than Charlie. We are lucky enough to have him as one of our advocates and here he sheds some light on mind management for riders.

“I help people recreate their best under pressure” he states. “Most people come because of nerves or a loss of devotion. Nerves can manifest in so many different ways but ultimately the common problem is that they are not able to recreate what they do at home.”

 

You have many forms of psychology and help out there but Charlie’s approach is a scientific one.

“There are two important areas of the brain at play when it comes to performing at your best, the emotional brain and the rational brain. The emotional brain represents the “Driving Force” of our performance, whilst the rational represents our “Guiding Force”. The driving force is both good and bad. It is the reason we get out of bed. It gives us energy and motivation. Yet it also makes us aware of perceived risks and can create fear and frustration, sometimes getting out of control. The guiding force concerns our focus and capacity to think clearly about what really matters. It makes us prioritize and do what is really important. The driving force is significantly stronger than the guiding force, meaning that emotion trumps logic if we don’t learn to manage our mind. This typically requires planning and visualization skills designed to help riders think correctly despite feeling nervous.

An example is where highly motivated and aspirational people struggle to channel their motivation effectively. The danger here is being high energy but fragile control or confidence. Then I need to work on their focus to prepare and plan. I also see people who are consumed by fear, for whatever reason. They become scared to make decisions. Some people like tips and techniques to help them but the most important thing is that they understand why they are doing it.

 

In addition, I am also trying to help riders tune into their intuition, tapping into their vast reservoir of experience that cannot always be expressed consciously. When a rider is learning their trade, they go through a process of making corrections. If these are well thought out, e.g “why did that happen when I did this”. The enhanced connections in the brain allow them to develop better intuition. So if a young rider only cares about results and less about mastering their sport, they end up compromising the thinking required to train the brain. So often, after a lesson a rider will untack, load up and not do much reflection on why something went well or badly. In avoiding this, they have not allowed their brain to process everything they have just done. In order to make something become intuitive, a rider should write down their plans and objectives before and after sessions as well as how it went and what made the difference. They should have coaching conversations with instructors about how things went, not just in the saddle.

 

I encourage riders to do the thinking and planning up front, before even getting on. This is so that when you are in the saddle, you just focus on feel. Often experienced riders stop trusting their intuition because they start to over-analyse things whilst on board. When you are coming down to The Lake at Badminton, you can’t afford to be thinking about too much other than how you are going to approach the fence. If the horse deviates from the line, it should be your intuitive riding that corrects this as your subconscious will react faster than your conscious mind.

 

It is important for riders to empty their minds in order to deliver the best performance. When you are in the start box or about to enter the arena, if you are uncertain about your plan and focus, you are not going to be able to ride to your best. At a base level, daily meditation is the best way to clear your mind as it allows us to access the more unconscious parts of the mind responsible for intuition. The app Headspace is great for this.

 

Equestrians are perhaps the most guilty of “doing, doing, doing”. The price paid can be a lack of reflection and therefore undermines their ability to judge the intrinsic quality of their work and make changes for the better. When I was a pentathlete, I was striving to do five sports well and you often don’t stop and reflect. Then I realised I was substituting quality practice for quantity and changed my training plan. I halved the amount of technical training but was more diligent at planning it. The training I did was more intensive and focused and I meditated before each training session. My results shot up and I started achieving things I didn’t think were possible.

 

Top riders like Michael Jung seem to follow this strategy. He doesn’t do many competitions but each one has a focus and a goal. He is very diligent about planning and when he trains, it is with real intensity.

 

We are creatures of habit and some people find it scary to stop what they are doing and reflect on what it actually takes to improve.

 

If you found this interesting, Charlie Unwin offers an online programme of podcasts and webcasts on mind management and controlling nerves.

 

Subscribe at https://www.performancelegacy.com/equestrian or join Charlie Unwin Psychology Coach on Facebook.

 

Written by Ellie Kelly

Image taken from https://www.performancelegacy.com/about

PREPARING FOR BADMINTON: EXCLUSIVE INSIGHT

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Horse Scout catches up with two of their sponsored riders, Joseph Murphy and Gubby Leech, to find out what the month prior to riding at Badminton involves.

 

Most event riders grow up dreaming of riding at the prestigious Badminton Horse Trials, based in the heart of the Cotswolds. It takes years, sometimes decades of training and hard graft to reach the required 4* level and earn those elusive FEI points to be applicable to enter.

Horse Scout asks two of their sponsored riders, Joseph Murphy and Gubby Leech to provide insight into the one month leading up to the big event.

 

The horse’s training

Joseph Murphy, Irish Olympic event rider, is entered to ride Sportsfield Othello, a 16 year old gelding by Ricardo Z and out of Moyview Lady and co-owned with the brilliantly supportive Alison Schmutz.

Joseph explained that the first two weeks of April are focused on reaching the horse’s fitness goals with a mixture of galloping and swimming to build cardiovascular fitness and stamina. He gallops ‘Frankie’ every 3rd and 5th day followed by a swim and always icing the legs afterwards to reduce inflammation and prevent injury. In fact, Joseph ices the legs of all his horses after they are ridden each day. This fortnight is a ‘scary time for injuries’ said Joseph, and when you would look to do any necessary veterinary work to ensure the horse is in optimal condition.

This intense fitness work will then taper right down and the last two weeks of April focus on technical training, practising dressage movements from the test, agility jumping and specific exercises to fine tune the horse.

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Gubby Leech, British 4* event rider, is entered on Antoinette Denham-Harding’s 12 year old ISH gelding Xavier, by Clover Echo and out of Knightfield Sally.

Gubby is based at the quiet and beautiful Clarendon Park Estate in Wiltshire. He does all his fitness training on the forgiving old turf in the grounds of the estate. There is a perfectly steep hill that Gubby does repetitions galloping up and letting Xavier rest on the way down. They do fitness work every four days and will have their last gallop on the Saturday before Badminton week, with a ‘pipe opener’ after dressage on the Friday afternoon. Gubby said ‘Xavier is a strong and electric horse’ so he puts a lot of work into him to keep the extra fizz to a minimum! The technical training involves weekly dressage training with Lizzie Murray throughout April and showjumping training with William Fox-Pitt. Xavier is a keen horse in the ring, sometimes making up too much ground in combinations. Practising grid exercises at home helps him to shorten his stride in doubles and trebles, especially if the course builder likes to use short distances.

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The horse’s well-being

Joseph will turn ‘Frankie’ out every day on his own so he can have a pick of grass, relax and feel the sun on his back. Joseph chooses not to put protective boots on when turning Frankie out because he tends to be sensible in the field and he would rather keep the legs cool. Regular massages and some physiotherapy throughout April also help get Frankie in the best physical condition possible.

Gubby entrusts the multi-skilled Sue Devereux to keep Xavier in good condition. Sue is an equine vet, chiropractor and acupuncturist who will treat Xavier 2-3 times this April using a variety of techniques. In the stable, Xavier wears a magnetic rug and magnetic boots to optimise blood flow and recovery. He is turned out ‘bootless’ from the time he is ridden in the morning until 8pm when the horses get late feeds. This turnout time helps Xavier chill out and unwind.

Feeding

Joseph is very intuitive and he judges visually and by the feel of the horses on whether their feed needs increasing or decreasing. He monitors each horse closely to ensure it is fed the right mix of hard feed, haylage and supplements. Joseph slightly increases the feed on Frankie’s hardest days of work. Two weeks before Badminton Frankie’s feed regime will be set and won’t change leading up to the event. Joseph uses top quality feeds, Mervue supplements and he brings his own haylage over to Badminton from his base in Northern Ireland.

Like Joseph, Gubby also uses quality supplements to support the nutritional requirements of his horses.  Gubby uses an organic lucerne which is soaked first and helps keep Xavier hydrated, in addition to using high quality linseed, a balancer and electrolytes. Xavier receives 3 feeds a day whilst having his weight, condition and energy closely monitored. He can very quickly go off his food at competitions so it is a fine art making sure he gets what he needs!

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Rider Fitness

Joseph rides all day long from the moment he wakes to the end of the day. He regularly competes 5 horses a day, even at Intermediate and Advanced level, meaning he is extremely fit from his time in the saddle. However, Joseph does extra core stability exercises to help improve his position, balance, core and overall fitness. He is following a 6 week core stability programme and he does the exercises before bed. Did you ever wonder what gives Andrew Nicholson, otherwise known as ‘Mr Stickability’ his amazingly secure seat? The answer is having a rock solid core.

Gubby is in the saddle riding horses back to back all day until the moment he gets home. Having two young children means most of his evening is spent overseeing bath-time and coaxing them to go to sleep! Gubby focuses on eating as healthy as possible, cutting out sugar and only has the occasional drink at special occasions, in order to maintain his perfect competition weight. His wife Sarah is an organic girl so the family gets fed very well!

 

Rider Mindset

Gubby has previously entered Badminton twice but sadly had to withdraw the horses before the event on both occasions. Combining this with a good Burghley experience in 2016 for this duo, Gubby feels ready. He is ‘in a good space, riding well and has a good partnership’ with his ride, Xavier.

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Increasingly, top athletes are using Sports Psychologists to help give them the competitive edge. People talk about ‘marginal gains’ and this simply means that if you have a group of athletes, in this case riders, who are all equally talented on paper with equally talented horses, the rider who wins is the person who performs best on the day. Good sleep and being well rested, thriving under pressure, feeling confident, and focusing only on your performance and not worrying about those around you, are all factors that determine a rider’s overall performance. Doing these things well can make all the difference.

Joseph works with Charlie Unwin, Olympic Performance Psychologist across five sports. Since working with Charlie at the start of 2017, Joseph has been out winning most weekends this season and has never looked better! The work with Charlie helps Joseph to focus on what matters most when it comes to performance and to successfully block out all other distractions.

Horse Scout would like to thank Joseph and Gubby for sharing some of their practises and we wish them the best of luck for May! We look forward to an exciting four days of competition and wait in anticipation to see the new cross country course designed by Eric Winter. Only one question remains- who will be holding the famous Badminton trophy come Sunday afternoon?

 

Are you a member of Horse Scout yet? Sign up now for FREE www.horsescout.com

 

 

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.

Five facts about a snaffle: There’s no hiding away from the effect of the bit in your horses mouth.

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Bitting your horse is not to be taken lightly.  It is really important to understand how a bit functions in your horses mouth.  Lets start simple with snaffles.

Horse Scout Blogger was watching some babies out on their first competitive outing yesterday…. I love it, all starey eyed and long legs!! (well some of them anyway). This got me to thinking about the snaffle, and all its variations.  When you go into a tack shop and that multitude of variation set before you. An Aladdin’s cave; but only if you know what you are looking for and why. Knowing how the snaffle bit works is helpful in developing effective rein aids, and avoid either being ineffectual or too hard on your horse’s mouth. Although the basic action of most snaffle bits is the same, it sometimes takes trying a few different bits to find one your horse is comfortable with. After riding my mare in a French Link and finding her fussing with the bit, I changed to the loose ring, which was lighter, and seemed to be much more comfortable for her. Sometimes choosing the right bit, even if you are choosing among snaffles can take a bit of time.

1. Snaffle Basics

A snaffle bit has a straight or jointed mouthpiece with rings on each end of the mouthpiece. There are many different types of snaffle bits. However, the basic structure is the same for all, and the basic action in the horse’s mouth is very similar, with some subtle modifications. The snaffle bit is regarded as a relatively mild bit. The addition of variations can make it much harsher.

When the reins are pulled, pressure is applied to the area of the gums that have no teeth called the bars of the mouth. This gap is between the front teeth that crop grass, and the back teeth, that grind the food. A properly fitting bit sits comfortably within this gap, just forward of the grinding teeth. Occasionally, a horse will have problems carrying a bit comfortably this can be from small teeth called wolf teeth which may have to be removed.

2. How the Horse Reacts to the Signals

The simple snaffle applies pressure to the bars of the horse’s mouth. There is no pressure anywhere else on the horse’s head and no leverage comes into play as it does with a curbed bit or lever action (gag). When you pull straight back, the horse will understand that equal pressure on both sides of its mouth means to stop. A pull to the right, that applies pressure on the right bar, means turn to the right and a pull to the left, of course, means turn left. As you learn to refine your rein aids, combining them with using your seat and leg aids, you will learn to cue your horse for things like leg yields, half-passes, lead changes, changes of gait and other more advanced riding skills. While at first you may be simply ‘pulling’ the reins, you will in a short time learn to give much more subtle signals that can be felt by the horse, but are almost imperceptible to the average observer.

3. The Function of Bit Rings

The rings on a snaffle may be D shaped or have small piece sticking up or down like a full cheek snaffle and Fulmer snaffle. The rings may slide or they may be fixed to the mouthpiece. The shafts perpendicular to the mouthpiece on full cheek and driving bits prevent the bit from slipping through the horse’s mouth. Large leather or rubber type discs can be used to keep bit from chaffing the sides of the horse’s mouth as well. The rings can effect the weight of the bit and prevent the bit from pulling sideways through the horse’s mouth.

4. How Mouthpieces Differ

Bits with jointed mouthpieces will have a nutcracker effect, while straight mouthpieces spread the pressure evenly over tongue and bars. An egg butt snaffle will have oval rings, and the mouth piece will get thicker as it approaches the rings. These bits are amongst the most mild, because they distribute the pressure of the rein aid over a wider area of the bars. Generally the thicker the mouthpiece the milder the bit. However a horse with a large tongue or low palate might be uncomfortable in a bit with a thick mouthpiece. The French link is considered the mildest jointed snaffle. The Dr. Bristol, although it looks very similar, is much more severe, because of the way the plate in the middle of the bit lays in constant contact with the tongue—either flat or on an angle, depending on how the rider attaches the bit to the bridle.

5. Variety

Snaffles can be hollow to reduce weight, flexible, twisted, jointed with one or more links, have keys or rollers, be squared or oval, or have any combination of shapes and joints. Mullen mouth bits are the same width from end to end. Wire bits are quite thin and wire wrapped bits add to the sharpness of the pressure on the bars of the mouth. All of these variations are intended to enhance the rein aids. Different metals and material can be used to encourage the horse to accept the bit for its taste or encourage salivation. Copper, sweet iron, vulcanite and other synthetics can be used. Some bits, often used for teaching a young horse to hold the bit, are flavored.

Snaffles are often the first bit a horse will carry. Many will be ridden throughout their entire lives with a snaffle bit.

How to compete using a “Class Ticket”. Tried and Tested, Job Done!

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Yesterday Horse Scout Blogger spotted that you could get a free class ticket on the British Dressage facebook page but “What are class tickets?”

By buying a class ticket, you can enter one British Dressage class without being a member or having a registered horse. You can use class tickets to compete and will be eligible to win rosettes and prize money, but will not receive BD points or qualification, except for Area Festivals and Combined Training Championships. If a rider using a class ticket wins a qualifier other than those specified above, qualification will pass to the next eligible competitor. You can buy a class ticket from the British Dressage Web site. These are also available in the competition section of this website. You will need to pay the usual class entry fee and abide by British Dressage Rules rules.

British Dressage say: Much more than just a ticket to compete!

If you are already competing in unaffiliated dressage competitions and want to get more involved in this fantastic sport then British Dressage is the place for you! Much more than just a ticket to compete, BD, the National Governing body for the sport in the UK, is a nationwide club for all things dressage, offering training, competitions, information and social opportunities for all. Your horse can earn nationally recognised BD points and you can qualify to take part in prestigious Championships or Festivals.

Most of all affiliated dressage is accessible. Complete competition schedules and lists of training days arrive on your doormat every two months as part of BD magazine. The BD website also carries this vital information (and much more!), and staff at the BD office are on hand during office hours to answer any queries you have. From where to go and what to wear, to competing internationally and representing your country – British Dressage is working to help you get the most out of your sport.

Getting Started

All affiliated shows are open to the public and the major championships are excellent opportunities to see the best at all levels and particularly the nation’s dressage celebrities competing for prestigious national titles. You may also want to go along to your local affiliated venue to check out the facilities and the competition!

You can get a taste for affiliated competition without becoming a full BD member by using class tickets available through the BD shop or by entering Prelim classes.

Class tickets cost £8 each and each ticket allows you to enter one affiliated dressage class without being a member or having your horse registered. You can win rosettes and prize money but you will not receive BD points or any qualifications. You can also use Class Tickets to gain the score sheets needed to qualify to enter an Area Festival.

More information about class tickets here

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.

Making the right shapes in the show jumping arena – 8 different approaches to perfecting your horses jumping.

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Horse Scout Blogger has been contemplating show jumps this weekend.  Each type of jumps asks for a subtly different approach and energy.  In order to feel confident in the arena it’s a good idea to understand what question each style is asking of your horse and also its important to teach your horse how to jump the different fences to improve your show jumping.

1.  Ground poles

Really boost your horse’s bascule by using ground poles to create a wider fence base – he’ll instinctively know what to do. Without a ground line a fence becomes more advanced, drawing your horse in close, making it harder for him to jump well and get his legs out of the way in time.

You can also make a V-shape with ground poles before fences to channel your horse’s energy on approach, helping produce a much better jump.

2. Cross-poles

A great warm-up and schooling fence, cross-poles help your horse start to open up and use his shoulders. The V-shape encourages him to come centrally to the fence, tuck his knees neatly up and to look at what he’s being asked to jump. The taller the cross-pole, the more it will improve his action, as he works those shoulders and really lifts up.

3. Vertical

A vertical (or upright) is made of poles in the same vertical plane, and encourages your horse to make a taller, rounder shape in his jump. The take-off and landing spots will be the same distance away from the fence, so your horse will make quite a steep shape into it, lifting his shoulders higher vertically and tucking his forelegs up and away quite quickly.

4. Fillers

Fillers are great for getting a round shape in your horse’s jump, and by creating an illusion of solid colour he’ll really look at what he’s facing. They’re great for a bold horse because they demand respect, but if he’s lacking in confidence, fillers can make a fence harder to ride.

5. Planks

Planks work the same way as a vertical, creating a tall, steep jump shape, but they’re easier to knock down as they sit on flat cups. Planks create a more solid-looking fence, so your horse may back off a bit, and even produce a bigger jump, and as they tend not to have a ground line, they’ll draw him in quite deep, so he needs a more powerful jump to clear them!

6. Triple bar

Made with three poles of ascending height, triple bars create a longer, more open jump. Your horse really has to stretch and lift his front end to clear them, and they can be challenging when linked with other fences. Because their width requires more power, your horse will come deeper into the fence before take-off and land further out than normal, so if you’re working out your strides to the next fence keep this in mind.

7. Oxer

Two parallel vertical fences form an oxer, creating a spread that gets horses up in the air, producing a rounder, more equal shape than a triple bar encourages with take-off and landing spots the same distance from the fence. Because of the power your horse uses to push himself up and over, he may run on a little on landing, or lack energy because he used it up in the air.

8. Liverpool Oxer

A Liverpool is a vertical or oxer with a ditch or large tray of water underneath. The tray makes your horse look at the fence (which can cause his head and neck to drop as he approaches) then encourages him to get up in the air, creating a large, round jump.place the tray in front of the fence and it mimics the effect of a triple bar, encouraging a wider, more open jump which rises gradually. Place the tray under the fence or out behind it and your horse will draw deep into the fence, producing a more upright take-off and more reach as he lands. If you don’t have a water tray, you can create the same effect by laying something on the ground beneath a fence such as a rug.

This great advice comes from show jumper Mia Korenika who explains how different fences and elements can help your horse become a more athletic, careful jumper.  Use this link to check out her facebook page.