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Changing times. World Horse Welfare Annual Conference

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Last week, Horse Scout’s Ellie Kelly was in attendance at the World Horse Welfare Annual Conference in London. It is an exclusive event attended by leading figures in the world of veterinary medicine, equestrian sport, horse racing, politics, and animal welfare as well as HRH Princess Anne. The theme of the conference this year was Changing Times. Essentially how change- both good and bad, is continuing at a meteoric rate and what the future for equine welfare might hold.

 

The day was opened by Michael Baines, Chairman of the World Horse Welfare who had recently visited some of their projects in Cape Town and Lesotho which are jointly run with several other charities based in these parts of the world as well as other international animal charities like The Brooke and The Donkey Sanctuary. “I saw firsthand how important it is to take a holistic approach to equine welfare and, to be prepared to work with multiple stakeholders to achieve the best results,”  said Michael.

 

Perhaps this is a lesson we can all take away generally when striving to improve not only our horses lives but also our own livelihoods and interests in the equestrian sphere. As equestrian sport, recreational riding and general horsemanship evolves and improves in some areas but declines and is devalued in others. The advent and reliance on social media for information and as a marketplace is both a vice and a virtue.

 

Utam Kaphle, a young professional from Nepal, spoke on the innovative work being done by Animal Nepal. As Executive Director of the charity, he has spearheaded projects to improve animal welfare in the country by working with the local communities. With the help of government institutions, Animal Nepal has helped the lives, health and education of poverty-stricken communities as well as their working animals and the large number of strays which can spread disease.

 

Four-time Olympic Dressage rider Richard Davison then gave some compelling arguments on what was wrong and right in the sport horse industry. “When we riders, in our quest for success and our competitive side gets the better of our horsemanship.” Rollkur, hyperflexion and nose pressure was a recurrent theme and he expressed the importance of more clarity in the rulebook and more scientific evidence to prove the effects of a tight noseband- more on this in our next blog.

 

The future of Gypsy Cobs was addressed by Andrea Betteridge, founder of the Traditional Gypsy Cob Association. Andrea has spent decades obtaining and recording historic information and collecting DNA from different herds to prove the heritage of the breed and its historic bloodlines. This formed the foundation for recognition of the breed by British and European governments with member registrations from over 35 countries and the authentic breed database recognised all over the world. Overbreeding has led to the “dumping” of cobs, which the so often become welfare cases. As well as establishing the breed and educating would be breeders on the implications, Andrea has prompted other initiatives such as specialised showing classes and  “Give a Cob a Job”.

 

Tim Collins, a former Tory MP talked about the perceived implications which Brexit will have on the equine world as well as the enthusiastic following and power that animal charities had at the present time. At this stage in political proceedings, no one really knows what will occur after Brexit. Although he highlighted the reality that nothing will happen quickly as it will take years for the UK to fully leave the EU. “The average time it takes to even join the EU takes a decade and for Estonia, it was 20 years,” he said, with a further warning. “Therefore the issues you care about in the horse world are going to carry on but you must not take our eye off the ball and assume that this is all going to be carried out in the next few months. There is nothing as long as the temporary arrangement. We may have to live with this for a very long time so don’t assume any arrangements can be fixed later. Bear in mind how immensely powerful those of you who care and campaign about animal welfare actually are. For example, the inflection point in the 2017 General election was when the Conservatives got on the wrong side of animal welfare on the ivory trade and fox-hunting and that lesson has been learned deeply in both the party main headquarters. One of the biggest issues amongst the young population is animal welfare, so you guys can be pushing on an open door.”

 

The next topic covered was how charities and win trust and broaden their horizons. This came from Joe Saxton who featured in the top ten of the most influential people in UK fundraising. He is also the founder of a research consultancy for charities called nfpSynergy. The main pointy to take away was that support for animal charities is well up the national order, featuring higher than charities concerning homelessness, social welfare, overseas aid, religious and environment and conservation. So we Brits remain, “a nation of animal lovers”.

 

The day was rounded off with a discussion panel between influential veterinary delegates who covered topics such as changes in culture, technology and the internet and social media- friend or foe to both horse owners and vets. Overweight riders and horses were also commented on as this is a welfare issue we all see too often at shows around the country.

 

The use of artificial aids was also addressed, where Gemma Pearson highlighted horses “limited learning capacity”. She explains: “the spur and whip refine our instructions further so we can be more precise about what we are asking. But what we need to move away from was using the whip and spur for punishment as that is what creates problems”.

 

The Chief Executive Roly Owers summed up the conference: “When we talk about making change we have to base it around common sense, around experience and around the evidence. The second point is the issue of value. The value of our reputation, the value of time, the value of trust and the value of horses.”

 

If you would like to watch the Conference in full as well as discussions from previous years, click on the link:

http://www.worldhorsewelfare.org/conference

 

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

 

Liverpool International Horse Show - New Year's Eve

Liverpool International Horse Show 2018

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The Theraplate UK Liverpool International Horse Show; now in its fourth year, promises to be a feast for the senses. Taking place between the 28th – 31st December at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, top class riders will be travelling from all over the world to compete at this event, which is getting bigger and better each year. The show is the brainchild of Nina Barbour, Show President who is a celebrated equestrian sportswoman and also presents the Bolesworth International Horse Show, which takes place at Bolesworth Castle each year in June.

The packed programme includes World Ranking Show Jumping, Ride and Drive (horses and cars against the clock), the Mini Major Relay, the Liverpool International Grand Prix and the Equitop Myoplast Puissance, all of which will keep you at the edge of your seats as top riders test their skill and nerve. Each performance throughout the event will include exciting demonstrations including Area Cross FMX motorbikes, the Shetland Pony Grand National, ‘Phoenix’ by Gilles Fortier and live music from Rick Parfitt Junior. The event caters to the whole family; equestrian fans or not it promises to be an amazing way to celebrate the end of the year, all finished off with their midnight celebrations with pyrotechnics to rival any firework display.

For the second year running; back by popular demand, Dressage will also be returning to the Liverpool International Horse Show on the Friday including up to 10 top riders performing in an Invitational Inter 1 Freestyle to music.

Liverpool International Horse Show - Dressage - Charlotte Dujardin

If all of this wasn’t enough already to keep you entertained, there is an extensive shopping village including top brands such as Voltaire, a Touch of Silver and Hunters Gin. To keep the kids entertained, there are many activities such as face painting and #LIHS horse glitter stencils to add a little sparkle to their new years celebrations. There are also interactive experiences such as training sessions on the Equiciser with the great man himself AP McCoy giving tips and tricks to stay in the saddle.

Horse Scout are proud to be supporting the Theraplate UK Liverpool International Show and are able to offer a fantastic saving of 10% to all Horse Scout members. This code is valid on all ticket levels and all performances. Tickets are strictly subject to availability at the time of booking. To get your Horse Scout member discount visit https://www.horsescout.com/liverpool-international-horse-show

 

To buy tickets and for further information visit www.liverpoolhorseshow.com

 

Become a Horse Scout member and start saving on great events. https://www.horsescout.com/liverpool-international-horse-show

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Finding a dressage horse with Liz Diegutis

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Finding a dressage horse with Liz Diegutis

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“It’s about temperament and rideability. Breeding and looks are of secondary importance” says International Dressage rider and trainer Liz Diegutis.

Whether Liz is looking for a potential Grand Prix horse for herself or a schoolmaster for an amateur, she believes that the horse’s temperament should be top of the list.

“They need a trainable brain. A horse who likes to work makes the job much easier.” For top level sport, Liz explains that whilst they need some spirit to give them a presence, if it is “over the top” it is likely to problematic. “They need a good natural engine but they must be rideable. People blame breeding and certain bloodlines but I think this usually goes down to how well it has been trained. I have bought horses with all the talent but if they are anxious or too hot, they require a lot of patience and expertise and sometimes it never comes right.”

“The most important thing for any rider, is to look for something within you abilities. If you buy talent, then you have to be able to manage it. You must have a good feeling for it. Don’t sit on a horse and think. “I’ll learn to ride this”.”

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Liz is also wary of spectacular paces, for any level of rider. “I avoid massive paces because they often come with problems” Liz says. “Particularly when you are trying to collect a pace. Look for three good paces, they certainly don’t have to be extraordinary particularly for an amateur. I look for a good four beat walk and a natural jump in the canter. The trot can be produced and developed. In fact I have a homebred mare who perhaps didn’t have the best canter as a young horse but we have trained the pace. She is at Grand Prix now.”

Buying British is something Liz feels strongly about. “ We have some brilliant studs in the UK now who are breeding and producing some fabulous stock. There are many examples all around the country but I have been particularly impressed by Court Farm Stud, Mount St John, Caledonia Sport Horses in Scotland and the Oppenheimer’s at Headmore Stud in Hampshire.”

“I also think you can usually trust the UK sellers and breeders more than foreign sellers. I was based on the Continent for a few years and I know how it works. If you choose to go abroad, you have to know where to go and who to trust. Wherever you go I think you should always take someone with you. Preferably more experienced than yourself and ideally someone who will sit on the horse for you too and give their verdict on top.”

Liz is less fussed about bloodlines when she is buying a horse but as she breeds her own, she has a wealth of experience in the area. “I go for old, established bloodlines like De Niro and Negro and I’ve always been a fan of Sandro Hit. They have a reputation for being tricky but if you understand their brain, they can be brilliant. Of course the mare is the important bit, so you need to look at that side too. I only breed from a good mare.”

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Conformation is not a deal breaker for Liz but she does have three rules on this. “Good bone, good feet and straight limbs” she states. “The rest, like length of back I can overlook, if it gives me a good feel. Dressage horses come in all shapes and sizes, even at Grand Prix level. To be competitive I would always buy something that is attractive to the Judge but that is not just about looks.”

An over-produced horse should also be avoided. “I don’t like to see a three year old that looks like a five year old, simply because it has been over fed and over trained. This will nearly always result in issues later. As my aim is Grand Prix, if I am buying a youngster, I like something that has been slowly produced. With my homebreds, they live out rough for the first three years of their lives before they come in to be broken. Then if they are any good, I take it very slowly.”

 

Written by Ellie Kelly

 

Photography by Stuart Lark

 

 

Horses for sale are sold correctly with Horse Scout

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Making sure your horses for sale are sold correctly with Horse Scout

The majority of us who have ever sold a horse will have experienced tyre kickers, joy riders, greedy agents and trainers with their own agenda. Then there are the international scammers who want to buy the horse from a video without questions- just send all your bank details to that man in Nigeria. It is these individuals who make the selling process an unpleasant experience.

The Legal aspect

Unfortunately when you come to sell a horse, whether you have owned it for a decade or a week you do not have many legal rights and buyers know this. If you are a commercial set up, individual or professional rider who has put expenses for horses through the books, then that makes you a dealer.  It makes no difference if you have owned the horse for years and are selling at a loss.

From a legal point of view, horses are considered as goods. Therefore the jurisdiction relating to the sale of goods applies to them. The law provides people buying from a dealer, significantly more protection than it does as against a private seller.

When someone buys from a seller acting in the course of their business, section 14 of the Sales of Goods Act 1979 will impose terms into the agreement for sale, such as that the horse is of satisfactory quality and fit for the purpose it is being bought for. What this means is that the purchaser has the right to annul the contract and return the horse if it is not in compliance with these terms. For example, if the horse has a behavioural problem that was present prior to the date of purchase, which the buyer only discover after the sale. The buyer is then entitled to a full refund and it is even up to the seller to pick the horse up at their own expense.

However, in the words of an world renowned and highly regarded horse dealer (who shall remain nameless) “you sell the horse not the rider”. Meaning that horses can be ruined very quickly by an unsuitable rider. The good news is that the seller does have some legal rights in this event.

The law regards the purchase of a horse as being the purchase of an unknown quantity. They call it “caveat emptor”, essentially meaning “buyer beware”. So the buyer is responsible for examining the horses thoroughly for suitability and quality before handing over any money. An agreement for the sale of a horse depends both on “express terms”- those specifically agreed between the parties and “implied terms”, which are the conditions implied by the law.

So if you are looking to sell a horse, we have come up with our tips on how to make the process as pain-free as possible. Some may seem obvious but we would hate to say “I told you so”.

  • Honesty is ALWAYS the best policy. If you want to establish and keep a good reputation, it’s never worth deceiving people. We are probably all fools for buying a horse in the first place but not many of us are as ignorant as we may seem, we do our due diligence and insincerity will always come back to haunt you. The horse world is a bitchy place and a hive of gossip and slander- a bad horse is not worth a lifetime of abuse. Remember as a horse seller, many buyers think of you as about as trustworthy as a used car salesman. So surprise them by being totally upfront about a horse’s weaknesses, imperfections and history. It’s a win-win situation and reverse psychology can be an effective tool.
  • Sell quality, correctly produced horses. Quality always sells and usually quickly, meaning less overheads. If you limit yourself to more quality than quantity, you will secure a solid reputation in the industry and have people banging down the door trying to buy your horses. Something ridden with pleasure, is seldom made without effort. You cannot make a Grand Prix dressage horse in two months but train him to stand still when the rider mounts, to load easily and jump around a course without head-butting the rider.

Resist buying it in the first place, solely because it is cheap. Find something desirable that preferably ticks the three boxes- temperament, talent and conformation.

If you do end up with a bad one, consider whether it is worth the effort of trying to make it a good horse. There are other dealers out there who won’t ask the questions and care less about their own reputation.

 

  • Lame horses lose time and money. This goes hand in hand with honesty. If you know it is not 100% on a circle then the vet examining it, certainly will and that just makes you look a fool. There are buyers out there, brave enough to take a punt so if the horse cannot be given time to recover, drop the price and be upfront.

 

  • Market your product. Buyers are unlikely to be convinced to come and look at a horse with blurred iPhone photos and a video filmed from 200 metres away. It can take time to make a horse presentable and make him stand square but it is worth it in the end, whatever the value. So lose the shabby pink headcollar and the muddy legs. Stand him on level ground and throw a few carrots in the air to make him smile for the camera. It’s like internet dating- first impressions do matter!

 

  • The skill of advert descriptions. Make it comprehensive but concise. Imagine you are a journalist or marketeer and try and hook your audience with the opening paragraph. Height, age, sex, purpose and a few buzz words to sum up temperament, looks or ability eg unbelievable scope, wow paces, ultimate schoolmaster. It won’t work on everyone but it helps if you seem positive and excited about the horse you are selling.

 

  • Price appropriately. If you really want to sell, ask a fair price for what the horse is worth today, not what it will be worth in three months’ time after intensive schooling and three wins under it’s belt. When working out price, consider the obvious- the horse’s age, history of soundness, level of training, rideability but also the time of year and your location. It is no myth that the same sound competition horse will command a higher price in affluent part of the country which is easily accessible, than it would if it was based on the North coast of Scotland. Remember everyone likes to feel they are getting a bit of a deal, so be prepared to take something off the asking price. On the other side of the coin (excuse the pun), too cheap will sound alarm bells.

 

  • Realism saves time. Ask the buyer early on, what they are looking for and an honest appraisal of their riding ability. Take a written note of this, it may be useful if you ever get caught in a legal battle over the unsuitability of a horse. Evaluate from their description, their background and their riding as to whether this horse will cope with the partnership. Measure your horse’s height with a real stick rather than relying on what it says in the passport, estimated when it was a yearling.

 

  • Be courteous and prompt Even with suspected time wasters. Respond within 24 hours, even if you cut and paste a ready-made “template”, including video links. Serious buyers will usually pick up the phone first but the downside of living in a digital age is that many people are almost scared of picking up the phone. Keep all prospective buyers in the loop about a horse’s status eg just won a British Novice, still for sale etc. Even if they decide your horse is not for them, be polite and wish them the best of luck in their search. They may end up coming back another time if they enjoyed dealing with you. Or if you know someone selling a horse which may be more suitable, it is always worth sharing. They are more likely to return the favour.

 

Testimonials

“We’ve used Horse Scout for selling horses and I have also been to see horses to buy. There is always a huge selection and you can target exactly what you are looking for.” – Emily King FEI 4* Event Rider. 

“We have advertised multiple horses with Horse Scout and have sold horses quickly and efficiently. We find that responders to the Horse Scout advertisements are genuine and knowledgable horse people which makes advertising with Horse Scout very appealing because you know the horses are going to capable caring homes. The personalised service Hannah and her team provide makes advertising quality horses easy” Alex and Suze Peternell International Event Rider

“I have been using horse scout for the past 8 months. It is a fantastic contribution to the successful running of my business. Easy to use, great service from Hannah. I would recommend to anyone.” Dan Sibley International Event Rider 

 

Written by Ellie Kelly

Photography credits to Libby Law

Riding tools and tips from our professionals

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One major riding tool your trainer is trying to teach you

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Hi, I’m Stephen Hayes, FEI Dressage Rider and trainer from Great Britain, based in New York and Florida, USA. This is an article I’ve felt brewing for a while now, having taught many clinics around the world I feel like I’ve had a really good share of many different types rider, there is the brave and bold, the shy and timid, the rider that has a little devil on their shoulder constantly tearing them apart, the rider who attends my clinic already knowing everything there is to know about Dressage (even the best of the best will admit there is lifetimes of more knowledge to be learnt), there are the diamonds in the rough, the adult amateurs who put their heart and soul into every second in the saddle, the die hard professionals, riders triple my age and being an amazing role model. There isn’t a day that I’m not trying to improve my teaching style and methods, but there is always a couple of subjects which replay time after time in each clinic. Here is just one!‘BUT IM NOT SUPPOSED TO USE MY INSIDE REIN? I FEEL LIKE IM BEING ROUGH WITH MY HANDS, AM I PULLING HIM? I NEED TO BE LIGHTER WITH MY HANDS, BUT I CANT GET HIM ROUND ENOUGH HE’S TOO STRONG’Then I go on to explain the followingContact is such a massive and wide ranging word in dressage, and that’s why Dressage is so beneficial to all Equestrian sports. Contact is such an important and beautiful aid that many riders are not taking full advantage of or on the other hand abusing. Contact is very similar to a loaded gun, used correctly and in a positive and productive way it’s a VERY useful tool. Used in a negative way, then a loaded gun is no longer a useful tool. I’m sure we have all seen a situation where the contact is being abused, that’s easy to notice, but I’m going to talk about the opposite end of the scale, which are much more humane scenarios to the horse, but are still not beneficial to the horses physical and mental well being as the rider is still not truly connecting with their horse through the reins.

I have seen riders so brainwashed to avoid using their inside rein that their literally riding around the arena in constant counter flexion. A riders inside leg absolutely creates bend but if your not at all touching your inside rein… ever… Then how the hell can we expect the horse to be truly flexed around a circle/pirouette/half-pass the list goes on. The inside rein is an ingredient that you NEED, direct the neck to correct flexion, and let your inside leg be a boundary like he’s walking around a lamp post, use the inside rein in conjunction with your inside leg and outside half halt. It’s a balancing act of the three aids. Of course don’t abuse the inside rein but certainly don’t avoid it altogether.

There is SO much to cover on contact, I could have you here all day but one last thing. Giving and taking of the reins, the whole concept of a release of a particular rein or both is a reward. I see people giving and taking every milli second. Do you give your dog a treat if he’s dragging you around the park? Do you give your dog a treat if he’s jumping up at you if your asking him to sit? Are you feeding your dog a treat every second as he’s sitting down or do you let him sit and wait there are few moments till he’s earned the reward. You see where I’m going with this?

​You are your horses teacher, the ‘give’ is when your horse has yielded to the contact and is chewing and suckling the bit. Not when he’s ripping your shoulders out their sockets. That’s not to say Im asking my riders to stay on the end of the rein like a brick house, of course not, you have to be productive. I want my riders massaging and manipulating the corners/bars of the horses mouth through a consistent contact, until the horse decides to unlock and let go of his jaw/poll/neck while moving forwards and sideways from his riders leg aids. That is then your window to reward, he’s going to love the feeling of being relaxed and loose in his poll, throat lash area and neck, thousands of endorphins are being released while doing so, and in return you push forward your hands from his wither for a moment. That’s the real idea of a give. That’s how he will learn to want to soften to your hands, he’ll eventually understand that your hand is guiding him to a better place, now your hand has become a friend, and it’s being productive to your horses mindset. He will no doubt begin to follow your lead. Unfortunately horses don’t read a book at night on ‘how to become more supple’ they have NO idea unless we show them the way, and one way in conjunction with other aspects is through your HANDS. So don’t be afraid of the contact, it’s a beautiful thing once being used correctly.

Written by Stephen Hayes
Photo credits Amanda Diefenbach
Stephen Hayes riding Alfonso owned by Caroline McConnel

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Horse Scout catches up with showjumper Zoe Smith

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Horse Scout selected 19-year old Zoe Smith to become one of our sponsored riders, out of a huge number of talented young showjumpers on the AASE programme. Zoe is an International showjumper based in Lincolnshire and is certainly one to watch.

 

Hi Zoe, great to catch up with you since completing the AASE programme. How’s it all been going?
It has all been going really well, the horses are really benefiting from a much more structured yard and work scheme that was introduced to us at AASE.

How’s your season going so far?
The season has been going very well so far, both my young horse and top horse have come out of the winter premiers jumping very well. This lead nicely into our first international trip to Belgium where we picked up lots of placings in the U25 and 6yo tours.

It sounds like you’ve got off to a great start this Spring. Can you tell us a bit about the horses are you competing this season?
This season I have two main horses to compete;
The first is Que Sera III, 9yo gelding, by Caretino Glory out of a Goodtimes mare. He is quickly progressing up through the ranks, after starting at Newcomers level with us just over a year ago, he is now jumping 2* world ranking classes and double clears and placings at 1m40.

The second horse in my string is Garcia Lente a 6yo by Bodinus out of a Holland mare. He very quickly showed his class this year winning at the winter premiers, picking up numerous placings in Belgium and recently jumping double clear every day at Chepstow international. I’m very excited about this horse’s future, he could be very, very special!

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We noticed on social media that you were posting from Chepstow International recently, tell us about the show…
The show is the first international jumping competing of the year in the UK, it attracts many of Britain’s top riders such as Peter Charles, Keith Shore, Nigel Coupe, as well as American riders Julie Welles and Emma Heise.

The show ran over 5 days with three different heights at 2* level, two heights at 1* and then a 5yo and 6yo international tour with a Grand Prix for each respective tour. A 6yo class is typically around 1m25 and a 6yo Grand Prix is 1m30.
The competition is also used as a youth team trial so the selectors were also attending.

No pressure then! What did you get up to there, when you weren’t riding? If you’re staying over, are there parties or do you opt for an early night?
On the first night, there was a champagne reception to welcome everybody to the show and to give the sponsors and owners of the showground a chance to talk to the riders and their supporters. As this was the first international show of the year it was packed to the rafters! When not competing, most of the time was spent helping and supporting some of my friends with their horses and watching the other classes and riders.

We saw that you did brilliantly throughout the show; how did you choose which classes to enter and how did it go…
I was fortunate enough to jump the biggest of the 2* tours on Que Sera III picking up double clears and placings, leading on to our first world ranking class grand prix on the last day just picking up a couple of poles.

My super consistent 6yo picked up two equal firsts, a 4th in the accumulator and then 3rd in the Grand Prix.

For the international classes, you get to choose which height you would like to jump from the classes on offer the afternoon before, I really like this system as it gives you freedom to set your horse up for the grand prix in the best possible way that suits your horse. It also means that if a certain type of competition doesn’t suit a particular horse such as an accumulator/speed class, then you can jump a different height that day or give them a day off.

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OK so what next – more UK competitions to come or will you be overseas again?
I think we will be staying in the UK for a little while now to contend second round Newcomers and Foxhunter as well as talent seeker HOYS qualifiers. County shows are also starting up so there are more shows available to us these days. I’m also looking to take on a couple of young horses to bring on and build up my string. I am hoping to get back overseas again at the end of summer, as I feel both myself and the horses improved and benefited from the experience.

That sounds like a good plan and you’ve got loads to aim for. Finally, what are your goals for this season and are your horses currently on track?
After the year started a lot better than I ever anticipated, I think it’s time for me to create some new goals as a few of them have already been achieved! But the horses are definitely on track to achieve their individual goals for the season, including the upcoming second rounds and international shows, as well as my top horse almost having enough points to make him Grade B so he can contend for the bigger titles next year and this coming winter season.

Great job Zoe, we are proud to be supporting you and look forward to hearing how the rest of your season goes!

The Rich History of Badminton Horse Trials

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Regardless of your chosen equestrian pursuit, most of you have probably attended Badminton Horse Trials at least once in your life. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people make the trip to Badminton Estate to shop, walk the cross country course, drink Pimms and most importantly watch the eventing itself. But how much do you know about the history of Badminton?

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Badminton was first held in 1949 by the 10th Duke of Beaufort to let British riders train for international events. In that first year, there were just 22 starters from two countries, Britain and Ireland – how things have changed!

The prize money for the inaugural 1949 event was £150 to the winner; by 1975 this had ‘progressed’ to £1,000; in 1995 it was £22,500 and in 2015 it was £80,000. This year the winner will take home the record prize of £100,000! In this professional era of the sport, the winner of the most prestigious event of them all will be properly rewarded. The overall prize pot amounts to nearly £360,000 with prize money going down to 20th place.

The Badminton Estate has been in the possession of the Beaufort family since 1608. The house and parkland date from the 17th and early 18th centuries and the park was modelled by William Kent and Capability Brown.

In 1953 the very first European Championships were staged at Badminton. In 1956, the Steeplechase course was moved from the Didmarton point-to-point course to the site at The Slaits, where it stayed until discontinued in 2006. Since then the Trials have been “Short Format”, without Roads & Tracks or Steeplechase.

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Messrs. Whitbread sponsored Badminton Horse Trials from 1961 until 1991, making it one of the longest sponsorships in sporting history. Mitsubishi-Motors took over the sponsorship in 1992 and the riders compete for the silver Mitsubishi Motors Trophy designed and produced by the Wiltshire-based sculptress, Judy Boyt.

On just four occasions bad weather has forced the cancellation of the Trials– in 1966, 1975, 1987 and 2012. The terrible weather of 1962/63 which continued into the spring, forced Badminton to down-grade to a one day event. The Foot and Mouth epidemic also caused the cancellation of the 2001 Event.

KEY FACTS

  • In 1995 Mark Todd rode over half the cross-country course on Bertie Blunt with only one stirrup! Sadly the horse was eliminated at the final Horse Inspection the next day.
  • The horses with the most Badminton completions are Ballycotton (6 ), Over To You (7), Lenamore (7) and Comanche (7).
  • Most wins goes to Lucinda Green (6 wins), followed by Captain Mark Phillips and Mark Todd (4 wins), followed by Sheila Willcox, Ginny Leng, Ian Stark and Pippa Funnell (3 wins).
  • Just Four Winning Mares: Emily Little ridden by Captain Mark Darley, Bambi V ridden by Margaret Hough, Peggoty ridden by Captain Martin Whiteley and Headley Britannia, ridden by Lucinda Fredericks in 2007.
  • Ian Stark is the only rider to gain first and second places in the same year.
  • Sheila Willcox is the only rider to have achieved a hat-trick of wins in 1957, 1958 and 1959 on the trot.
  • The smallest horses ever to compete have been Our Solo, Our Nobby and Portersize Just a Jiff, all horses registered as 15hh.
  • The biggest horses to compete have been Durlas Eile, Columbus, Custom Made and Word Perfect II. All were believed to be 17 hh+.
  • The youngest rider to win at Badminton is Richard Walker who won in 1969 aged 18.
  • The oldest rider to win at Badminton is Mark Todd aged 55 in 2011.
  • Completed the most times – Andrew Nicholson (NZL) is the holder of this record with 35 times. Previously Lorna Clarke held the record with 22 times. Lorna retired after the 1992 event.

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Together with the four-star rated Rolex Kentucky Three Day and the Burghley Horse Trials, Badminton forms the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing. Only two people have ever won the Grand Slam; Pippa Funnell in 1993 and Michael Jung in 2015/16. In 2007 Andrew Hoy nearly took the title but lost out when he had a pole down showjumping at Burghley- a heart-breaking 4 faults!

In 2016 Badminton Horse Trials was the 7th most attended sporting event in the UK, after Wimbledon tennis championships, F1 British Grand Prix, Royal Ascot, Cheltenham Festival, ATP World tennis finals and the Open golf championships. Fast forward to today and the cross-country day at Badminton attracts crowds of up to a quarter of a million and is the second largest for money made in the world.

We look forward to a spectacular event next week and wish all those competing the very best of luck.

Rein-Back – In The End It’s Not About Reversing Its About Going Forwards! How Do I Teach My Horse To Rein-Back?

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Is Horse Scout Blogger all back to front today? No, I promise I am not.  Every movement you ever do on a horse that you are training whether it’s a racehorse, an eventer or a star show pony needs to be moving with forwards in mind…..even in reverse!

Teaching a horse to rein-back starts with good stable manners, and rein-back begins as something learned from the ground.  In the wild a horse would very rarely rein-back, however in a trained horse it has huge benefits. n.b. this is not, necessarily, a movement I would try from the back of a horse that I am buying, but it is always quite useful to watch a horse reversing from the ground before making any decisions.

Here I have six of one and half a dozen of the other – so you don’t half bake your rein back.

What is rein back for?

  1. On a practical level being able to rein-back is very useful when you are riding a horse: opening gates becomes much easier if your horse assists you rather than stands against the gate! Removing yourself from a crowd out hunting or in a warm up arena makes it easy to extricate yourself from potentially explosive situations, and so on.
  2. For the horse it can have several benefits.
  3. It is one of the movements you can use to check you have his full attention.
  4. It also has a benefit in stretching the horse over his back.
  5. In advanced training it shows obedience to the aids
  6. Also when collection is established and combined with transitions it can lend elevation and spring to the onward pace

How do I do it?

  1. Start from the ground.
  2. Start by standing beside your horse just at the front of his shoulder facing backwards. Take hold of his bridle but do not pull back. You are merely stopping him moving forwards.
  3. Make a closed cup with you free hand and place it either side of the point of his shoulder and press with the thumb on the inside of the point, as you feel him react and move away say “back” in a firm but light way.
  4. Do not be tempted to push him back, wait for him to move away from the pressure of your hand and immediately take the pressure off and praise him when he does. Soon you will find he responds to the merest touch to this point. He will also learn to respond to the word or hand as he anticipates the contact.
  5. Continue to use the word back until you are ready to ride the movement.
  6. Be clear in your intention and always use the same voice tone, the same hold on the bridle or headcollar and point and style of contact; otherwise you may find he wrongly cues and starts backing up on incorrect cues.

Move on to riding the movement

  1. As soon It’s a good idea to have someone on the ground to help you when teaching this movement. Hal squarely: establish the halt but do not wait for the energy to dissipate. Make use of the side of the arena fence or wall and have your helper stand beside and just slightly in front of your horse’s outside shoulder.
  2. Next, apply the aids for rein-back: incline your body slightly forward to lighten your seat, take both your legs back behind the girth and squeeze gently while resisting any forward movement with the reins. Do not pull on the reins as this will make your horse stiffen.
  3. While you apply the aids, ask your helper to put a hand on the horse’s chest in the way he has leaned and push him back gently, saying the word “back”. This mirrors the commands taught for handling a horse from the ground and if he has been taught this correctly he will go backwards for your helper. In time he will learn also to associate your ridden aids with stepping calmly back and you can gradually remove the ground actions. Ask your helper to repeat the same command, but without actually touching your horse, then to stand further away, dropping the voice aid and eventually moving away altogether. By this stage you should be able to rein-back solo.
  4. It is important to monitor the quality of your rein-back.  Do not perform them too often or the horse may begin to use this option as a form of evasion.  Always make sure that the movement is measured and has a calm purposeful cadence to it with a definite one two beat and movement behind the saddle.
  5. If your horse begins to scoot or stiffen begin again from the ground but also check that there are no physical problems which may be causing this evasion.
  6. As I said it is best to have a helper on hand.  If you are looking for a trainer near you then check out the Horse Scout Professional Trainers list and find someone to help with your rein back progress.