Tag Archives: Training advice

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

Badminton build-up Giovanni and Kathryn

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Badminton build-up Giovanni and Kathryn

“I would rather win Badminton than any other event in the world” reveals international eventer Giovanni Ugolotti. “There is a feeling that no other event has, even the World Championships or Olympics and for Kathryn and me, it is what we have been dreaming of from childhood.”

With team appearances at the Olympics, World Games, European Championships, the Pan-Am Games and a number of CCI4* events between them, you could say that Kathryn Robinson and Giovanni Ugolotti are eventing’s “power couple”. Together they run Cranford Stud, an eventing and training yard in Gloucestershire and are both planning to compete at Badminton 2018. Horse Scout are giving away a prize for two people to walk the Badminton course with Kathryn and Giovanni and discover their trade secrets.

Giovanni started eventing in his native Italy and finished 4th in the Italian Junior Championships in 1999. He rode for the Italian Army Equestrian team from 2002 until 2007 before arriving in England in May 2008 to work for Andrew Nicholson. This was followed by a stint riding young horses for Tristram Owers. He quickly made his mark on the British scene taking 1st and 2nd at Hartpury CCI1* in 2008. In 2010 he finished 12th at Pau CCI4* and has competed at Badminton on three occasions.

Kathryn was born in Canada to a British father and Canadian mother but has been based in the UK for most of her life. The daughter of unhorsey parents, she began riding at her local riding school and was an active member of the Woodland Pytchley Pony Club. Kathryn didn’t take up eventing properly until she was 19, whilst working for international eventer Sam Albert.

Kathryn admits her career would not have been the same without her ride of seven years, Let It Bee. A horse she bought from Germany simply as an amateur horse but with whom she has scaled the highest level. The pair have competed at Badminton, Pau, The Pan Am Games and the Rio Olympics. Kathryn is hopeful for a good placing at this year’s Badminton, having jumped a double clear at her first attempt here in 2016.

So what do you need to excel at Badminton? “You need a partnership with your horse” explains Giovanni. “And your horse needs to be at the top of his form that weekend. You can have very good horses, capable of winning but if they are having an off day or are not at their peak for those four days then you are not going to win. You need a bit of luck” he says.

Kathryn and Giovanni will walk the Badminton course about four times. “The first impression doesn’t usually change too much and it is certainly a course that doesn’t get any smaller each time you walk. In fact, with Badminton I find that the more you think about it, the bigger it seems” he smiles.

Giovanni and Kathryn have a healthy working relationship rather than a competitive one. “We try to help each other” says Giovanni. “Kathryn helps me a lot in the dressage and I try to help her in the jumping. Sometimes we bump into arguments like every couple does. Luckily we like completely different kinds of horses, so it works out quite well.”

During the winter Kathryn likes to keep her eye in by riding out racehorses for trainers such as Ben Pauling and Alan King. Whilst Giovanni prefers to capitalise on the downtime, returning to Italy to see family. He is an ardent football fan and supporter of AC Milan.

Life on the yard is pretty busy so during the season, there is little time for other hobbies. “There is a lot of paperwork involved with running an equestrian business” explains Kathryn “Although we sometimes go to the gym after we have finished riding the horses”.

For 2018 they have some exciting young horses coming through, but good result at Badminton is vital for both riders as it will help their chances of team selection for the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon in September 2018.   

Written By Ellie Kelly

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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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

 

 

Why You Should Consider Horse Shopping in Ireland

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Contrary to belief, a day out horse shopping in Ireland can be a fun and highly cost-effective way to view a multitude of extremely well bred, potential and proven, Irish competition horses in a short space of time.

Within an hour of Dublin airport, you will find several highly reputable breeders, producers and competition yards with quality stock for sale at sensible prices.  Ireland is renowned for many things but breeding great horses and making Guinness easily come top of the list.

Next time you are looking for your next competition horse, consider a quick day trip to Ireland instead of planning several long drives around England and Scotland to view individual horses. Why not view 6-8 horses in one day to find the horse of your dreams?

Equally, if you’re looking to buy more than one horse, you could plan a weekend trip in order to visit a few big yards. Some breeders and producers will offer overnight hospitality so you’ll leave Ireland having made new friends as well as buying new horses to add to your current string.

If you want to set your pulse racing then you should visit one of the many esteemed sports horse sales in Ireland. The atmosphere was electric at Goresbridge Go For Gold and the Supreme Sale of Showjumpers in November, and I have no doubt the horses they sold will be gracing the top of the leader boards in the very near future.

 

How To Get There

The cheapest and quickest way of getting to Ireland is typically by aeroplane; flights from most regional airports start from just £18! No need to pack a good book as you’ll be landing before you know it; the flight takes approximately one hour. Most Irish breeders help arrange pick up from the airport or will collect you in person.

Ferry is another option and costs range from £50-£180 depending on how far in advance you book and what date you travel on. The ferry isn’t the quickest or cheapest means of getting to Ireland but having your own car does mean you can drive around Ireland at your own leisure and travel further afield to view horses.

Travelling by train is the third option with return tickets from your own local train station starting at approximately £78.

 

Three Quality Irish-Based Horses For Sale on Horse Scout

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1.35m Perfect Young Rider HorseISH Bay Mare rising 8 years 16.1 hands.  Grade A mare with 375 points. She has multiple wins and placings at 1.30m – 1.35m level. She jumped clear in the Hankook 6/7 year old Grand final at Cavan Indoor Championships September 2016. She is a serious speed horse and tries her heart out in the ring. Would be a top horse for a competitive young rider or experienced amateur.

 

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Super Rising 7YO CIC* Event HorseBeautiful grey ISH mare 17hh rising 7 years old by Carrick Diamond Lad. Placed 2nd as Reserve Champion at Dressage Ireland 4yr old Championships 2014.  Won at BE100, placed 2nd at Tullymurray CNC* – only her second ever 1* event.  6 Eventing Ireland points, 32 Dressage points. She would suit a competitive amateur rider or a professional to realise her full potential as she has been bred and produced to go all the way.

 

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Excellent 1.40m showjumper: Talented and experienced mare that has competed up to 1.40m level successfully in Ireland as an 8 yo. This big scopey mare has a good canter and a brilliant attitude in front of her fences. Proven to be brave and careful over her fences and should go on to jump even bigger tracks. Suitable ride for either amateur or professional rider.

 

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.