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Use of Whips and Spurs

14 February 2018 02:40

Spurs and whips are iconically pieces of horse-riding equipment, not to mention their more popular (and dark!) association with the "Fifty Shades of Grey" series of books and movies. Not surprisingly, then, their use is a "grey" area, constantly under scrutiny from all quarters – event officials, horse welfare organisations, riders and competitors themselves, and members of the public.

Spurs and whips ... useful or abusive?
Using these performance “aids” is a contentious issue, regulated in competition (with the rules constantly being updated) and argued about wherever the subject of horses comes up.

In one camp there are those who believe spurs and whips are cruel and unnecessary; the other side of the argument is that if used appropriately they are invaluable in schooling a “difficult” horse. There is probably another, largely silent, group who believe there is nothing wrong with showing a horse who’s boss by inflicting a dose of correctional pain.

So, who’s right here? In fact is it possible there is a right or wrong way when it comes to disciplining a horse or “spurring” him on.

Let’s take a closer look at this far from black or white issue:


Having studied the rules and regulations of various official bodies – from the FEI to British Dressage and British Showjumping – it is apparent that over the years great attention has been paid to this subject. This is undoubtedly because there have been incidents where complaints have been lodged at events where horses have been visibly abused by their riders.

Even at the very highest level this still occurs: at the RioOlympics in 2016 two riders - Jur Vrieling of the Netherlands and Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts – were disqualified from the individual showjumping event, her for being too hard with the whip and she for excessive use of spurs under FEI rules.

Those FEI rules state categorically that “abuse of a horse using natural riding aids or artificial aids (eg. Whips or spurs) will not be tolerated”. The FEI forbids carrying a whip of any kind in the arena at international dressage events, and regulates the size of any whip used in the practice area.

British Dressage rules allow whips in the Premier Leagues, and rolled spurs without points, or roller ball spurs. No whips though at area festivals, regionals or national championships.

British ShowJumping have just updated their rules on whips, limiting them to being no greater in size than 75cm or less than 45cm in length overall “nor one that is weighted or with a hard point at the end”. This rule applies not only in the arena, but also the collecting ring or “anywhere in the immediate vicinity of the showground”.


Whether or not you opt to use a whip for schooling your horse (and if allowed in a particular competition), how can it be used “appropriately”?

To answer this question we can look for clues in the official comments in the British ShowJumping code of conduct.

If you use a whip in a fit of temper, that’s construed as excessive use – and, I’m sure you’ll agree – rightly so! Whipping a horse’s head is also a no-no. Whipping a horse so that it breaks the skin or is marked is definite “misuse”. The rules also state that a whip should be used no more than three times after entering the arena in competition, and hit only the rump, from which we can deduce that repeated whipping on the flanks or anywhere else is deemed inappropriate and unnecessary.

The British Horse Society says in its Code of Practice forthe Welfare of Horses and Ponies at Events that “any method used to discipline the horse should be proportionate and applied at the correct time”. Whips can be used “as a method to encourage the horse forwards if it is not listening to the rider’s seat and leg aids”. The BHS also acknowledges that a whip can be used “to reprimand the horse” if there is a valid reason.

This may seem rather vague, but the code qualifies it by saying the timing of the use of a whip is important, for example if a horse refuses a fence it should be reprimanded with the whip immediately, before he has turned away from the fence. The force with which the whip is used “must always be proportionate and reasonable” – that is to say not marking or breaking the skin.

Other pointers to inappropriate whipping include hitting a horse after you’ve dismounted and hitting an obviously tired horse.


Unlike a whip, according to BHS spurs shouldn’t be used to reprimand a horse.

Although there’s not as much official instruction around about using spurs (except for the permitted type and the fact that they shouldn’t cause injury), there is plenty of advice around about how they should be used correctly, if at all.

Most riders seem of the opinion that spurs are a “last resort”, and shouldn’t be used at all by beginners who might inadvertently jab a horse too hard while mastering control.

Spurs can be useful for advanced riders for adding precision to leg cues, but aren’t there to make a horse go faster. Use the spurs as a quick light push, rather than a sharp jab, without lifting your leg away from the horse’s side. Like with a whip, use of spurs should never leave a mark on the horse.

Too much spurring can cause the horse to ignore it eventually, and in some cases horses have been known to become distressed and buck if spurs are used improperly.

So … using whips and/or spurs is partly personal choice, and partly governed by best practice. It’s up to you what you decide to do! If you do use a whip, crop or spurs, we have a range of choices that are humane and fit regulations if used correctly, available to order online.

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Healthy Hooves.... Happy Horse!

02 February 2018 06:48
Compare the size and weight of your horse to his feet! It becomes obvious that hooves are intensely load-bearing and therefore subject to a great deal of stress. Any problem with your horse’s feet and his hooves, will therefore impact on his health and performance.

Many non-horse people may believe a horse’s hoof is solid, tough and hard … but that is not so, as we know! The hoof is made up of different layers, each of which has been designed by nature to fill a different function, and can be damaged or harmed in some way to cause him pain and distress.

To properly care for your horse’s hooves you need to understand their inner workings:

·         There are actually three bones inside each of your horse’s hooves. The short pastern bone extends from the long pastern bone in the horse’s leg. Then there is the coffin bone, which carries down blood vessels and nerves. Finally, there is the little navicular bone attached to which are tendons and ligaments running down from the leg.

·         The bones are all surrounded by the laminae – a layer of tissue that brings blood to the hoof.
·         Underneath the laminae is the digital cushion – a pad of tissue that forms a heel, to help absorb the shock of the hoof hitting the ground.

·         Around the laminae is a horny layer (formed of the same substance that makes human nails and hair), which is hard and the part you see from the outside.

·         The horny layer can be surprisingly thin, and grows continuously. It is attached to the inner part of the hoof from the “white line” which is familiar to farriers as the limit to which he can trim a hoof or set in nails for horseshoes.

·         In the wild the horny layer is trimmed down naturally, but domestic horses need this to be trimmed by a farrier.

·         The outside of the hoof is covered by the periople, a layer which keeps moisture in the hoof.

·         The coronary band at the top of the hoof is like a cuticle on a human fingernail, and regulates how the hoof grows. Like a human fingernail, if this band is damaged it can cause the hoof to grow in a deformed way.

·         At the very bottom of the hoof is the sole, or frog. This is a padded piece of hard tissue, that helps with blood circulation and shock absorption as the horse’s foot hits the ground.

Hoof Supplement
When a horse is lame the cause will most likely be found to be a hoof problem. There are myriad things that can cause hoof ailments. Good routine hoof care can prevent most of them occurring, and feeding hoof supplements containing ingredients like biotin and zinc can help improve hoof quality.

To avoid hoof cracks – which can develop when the horse moves frequently from wet to dry conditions – you can apply hoof
Hoof Oil

One of the more serious conditions is a hoof abscess (click here for a special blog on the subject) that can be caused by a puncture wound, misplaced horse shoe nail or an untreated bruised hoof.

The best way to keep a good check on your horse’s hooves is to pick his feet every day to remove any
dirt and gravel from the crevices. It’s not possible of course to comb every byway that you ride for potential hoof hazards, but you can make your own yard and field safe from foreign objects that might puncture or bruise his hooves.

If, while picking and brushing his hoof, you find it has been pierced by something, don’t pull it out yourself. Rather pack the foot well to avoid it being driven in more deeply, and call the vet.

Besides physical damage, a horse’s hooves are prone to diseases and conditions that can have drastic consequences if not properly treated.

Laminitis – inflammation of the laminae – for instance, should be treated as a medical emergency.

There are various causes for this painful condition that prevents the blood flowing to the sensitive laminae, which can begin to die. The most common cause is obesity, and a high intake of sugars and starch which overloads the digestive system causing a release of toxins into the gut and then into the blood stream. Laminitis can also result from Cushing’s disease, which is an abnormality of the pituitary gland.

You can help prevent laminitis by carefully monitoring your horse’s diet and restricting grass intake, especially in spring and early summer when grass is lush. Make sure your horse has plenty of exercise, and that a farrier checks his feet every six weeks at least.

Another hoof disease that can be caused by improper nutrition, and poor conformation (the correctness of the horse’s body proportions and bone structure) is Navicular Disease – the deterioration of the navicular bone. Expert hoof care from an excellent farrier can guard against this condition taking hold.

Thrush is a particularly unpleasant infection of the frog which can be prevented by the foot being kept clean and picked. Another bacterial infection is White Line Disease, caused by a continually wet stall and lack of exercise, that can lead to the breaking down of the hoof horn and the rotation of the coffin bone.

This is just a small sample of the ailments that can afflict your horse’s hooves. Many are preventable by practising basic daily routine hoof care and visual checks, as well as regularly scheduled farrier visits and – if in any doubt – a vet inspection.

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The Ins and Outs of Winter Colic

20 January 2018 02:01
Wild Icelandic horses grazing in the snow!
Deep winter leaves horses more prone to suffering the potentially fatal effects of Colic. A recent Horse & Hound article warned that the British Horse Society is concerned about the rising problem of colic caused by horse management in winter conditions.
Your precious horse is probably stabled against the elements, spending less time working and walking around his field, dependent on you to provide the right food. Less movement and a change in his usual feeding routine can increase the risk of him falling victim to this awful condition.


Horses have natural feeding habits that have not adapted to being domesticated. Your horse’s digestion processes involve fermentation, producing gas which can’t easily be expelled, distending the gut and causing problems.
Your horse is an herbivore, which leaves him unable to eliminate toxins quickly. Horses don’t vomit up indigestible food.  In winter he can’t eat grass, and is confined rather than grazing on the move.
In the depths of winter there is less time and inclination to ride, so our horses are likely to be spending more time stabled than roaming around in the fields or working. With less movement and a change in feed routine, this can increase the risk of colic occurring.
Horses in their natural environment spend about 16 hours of the day trickle feeding … grazing on a large amount of low-energy food. If you are, as is usually the case, spending the winter giving your horse two feeds a day of hard feed, a ration of hay and leaving him for hours in a stable with no exercise, you are going against the natural grain. It’s colic waiting to happen!
It’s not only winter conditions that can be responsible for horses contracting Colic. Other risk factors include:
·         Tooth problems
·         Worm infestation
·         Gut damage
·         Soiled food
·         Lack of fibre
·         Too little water
·         A sudden change of diet
·         Stress (travelling, hard exercise, a change of environment or routine)
·         Poor (especially sandy) pasture


Colic in horses manifests itself as abdominal pain, which can result in a host of different signs, especially in the behaviour of the horse. Some signs are general in all horses, others more pertinent to the individual horse. Older horses, particularly, may “grin and bear it” longer than a colicky youngster.
Watch out for any behavioural changes that indicate a problem. No-one knows your horse as well as you do! If your horse is unwilling to move, seems depressed, stops or slows down eating, spends more time lying down, is standing abnormally, losing weight, has a poor coat or is producing fewer stools, it’s time to take a good look at the reasons. One or more of these changes should alert you to the fact that a vet should evaluate your horse. It may not mean colic, but better safe than sorry.
Other signs of possible colic include pawing at the ground, stretching out, playing in the water bucket, standing against a wall and shifting weight on the hind legs.
If you horse starts repeatedly laying down then getting up, rolling, grunting or kicking at his belly then you should realise the gut pain has become more severe.


There are numerous types of colic, but the most common type is spasmodic colic, caused by gas building up in the intestines, usually caused by a change of diet, lack of roughage or a build-up of parasites. Another type is known as Impaction Colic, when the intestine is blocked for some reason.  Sand Colic can result from the horse ingesting soil or sand, inflaming the bowel. The most dangerous type and most painful is a twisted gut, which can be fatal without surgery.


Any signs of colic should be treated as an emergency.  Call the vet, and while you’re waiting withdraw any feed and hay, ensure the horse is in a safe area where he can’t harm himself.
When the vet arrives he will probably give the horse some drugs to relieve pain and relax him, which will encourage the gut to start working properly. In severe cases surgery may be recommended, which will mean taking your horse to hospital.

The most common type of colic seen in the winter months is impaction colic, where the intestine of the horse becomes blocked with feed stuff or other material. Dehydration is often the cause, because horses tend to drink less in the winter. Freezing conditions can also hamper access to water and the fresh forage that contains more moisture.
Guard against dehydration by adding water to the bucket feed, and soaking hay before feeding.  If water troughs ice over, make sure the ice is broken periodically or the water heated so the horse is encouraged to drink more.
Feed consistently – changes in the type, quantity or quality of feed can cause colic. Feed a forage-based diet if possible, and ensure the feed is hygienic and not contaminated with bacteria and mould. Long-stemmed, steamed forage is best.
Turn your horse out as much as possible, and when stabled make sure there are no foreign objects around that the horse might ingest.


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How to Tackle Rain Scald

16 September 2017 03:03

The early stages of Rain Scald
Horses enjoy spending time in the field - being turned out for much of the time is undoubtedly good for their spirits, but it can also cause problems, particularly in wet weather during Autumn and Winter.

A particularly unpleasant consequence for horses left out in the wet is a condition commonly called Rain Scald (or Rain Rot). This is an acute bacterial inflammatory skin disease caused by a bug called Dermatophilus congolensis, the very same nasty that causes Mud Fever in wet conditions.

The bacterium invades the skin of the horse, lying dormant until it is activated by the skin being compromised in some way, as in prolonged wetness or being attacked by insects.

While Mud Fever attacks the horse's lower legs, Rain Scald causes crusty, pus-filled scabs to form on the parts of the body most exposed to rain - the top of the head, along the neck and across the back. The scabs peel off along with hair to leave bare spots of red, sore skin. The scabby tufts are known as "paintbrush lesions". They are uncomfortable, and when the horse scratches the affected area, the bacteria spreads. The lesions may be dotted around the horse's rain exposed dorsal surfaces, or may join together to cover a large area. Whichever is the case, when you detect Rain Scald you should act quickly to remove the cause: first get him out of the rain!

Most horses recover from Rain Scald without any treatment, as long as you make sure he has access to shelter in wet weather, or cover him with a waterproof turnout rug. Avoid riding him until he heals if he has lesions in the saddle area (the saddle will make him sweat and make the lesions more painful). Make sure he isn't troubled by insects, and that all his tack is squeaky clean. It's not a good idea to put heavy blankets on a horse with Rain Scald because they trap moisture underneath, which will only exacerbate the condition.

It's best to take action against Rain Scald as soon as you spot the scabs. Bathe the horse with an antimicrobial shampoo - like Shapley's MediCare shampoo -  and remove the scabs gently, curry the horse and make sure he is completely dry.

It's easy to mistake Rain Scald for a fungal infection such as ringworm. If you're not sure, get a definite diagnosis from a veterinarian who will probably take a skin scraping for microscopic examination to identify the bacteria.

If the horse is left out in the rain with no protection, the condition will persist and spread, and could lead to a secondary bacterial  infection. The infection can spread to other horses, so it's important to keep him away from his companions while healing, and keep his grooming tools and tack disinfected and separate from theirs.

Recovery from rain scald can take several weeks, and your horse does not become immune once he has suffered from it. It could well recur every winter. Prevention is better than cure, and the way to keep your horse Rain Scald free is good management and good hygiene.

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Ride Your Horse's Inner Dancer with Simon Cocozza

14 September 2017 03:25
Visconte Simon Cocozza is renowned in the equine world for his work in connecting the horse's unique posture and self-carriage with traditional human training methods such as Yoga and dance. The aim is to improve the horse's core strength and flexibility - and it's been shown to work most successfully!

Simon is a performance coach and examiner for La Federation Francaise D’Equitation (FFE) as well as a British qualified trainer and one of Europe’s leading bio-dynamics researchers. 

Simon is based in Normandy, France and performs clinics and lectures internationally.

*We are delighted that SIMON COCOZZA has agreed to join us in Somerset to run 5 days of clinics at Hill House and Glenda Spooner Farm, in which he will explain how we can fully mobilise our horse’s core structures, essential for smoother gaits. *

Glenda Spooner
      ‘Releasing your horse’s inner dancer’

   Kingsdon, Somerton TA11 7LA
Saturday 7 October 2017


Sessions are TWO HOURS each, taking place between 0900 and 1800. Groups of 4 and 2-1 sessions are available. 

Each session will begin with a 30 minute talk by Simon, before moving to the indoor school for the ridden session. 

Assistance with horses will be available on request. Spectator places are available.

Cost: Groups of 4 @ £75 per horse/rider combination
2-1 @ £140 per horse/rider combination
Spectator places @ £15 per person

           Riding Clinic

'Riding your Horse's inner Dancer'

Hill House Farm, Buckland Dinham, BA11 2RB
Wednesday 4, Thursday 5, Friday 6, Sunday 8 October 2017
Clinic sessions are ONE AND A HALF HOURS, taking place between 1200 and 1900 each day. 

Groups of 4 and 2-1 sessions are available.
Cost: Groups of 4 @ £65 per horse/rider combination, 2-1 @ £130 per horse/rider combination

NB Stabling is available, bookable in advance directly with Hill House.

Each participant in the Riding Clinic will be taught how to use specific Yoga, Dance and Athletic exercises to supple and strengthen their horse’s deepest muscles, which will enable their horse to move better, perform more willingly, and help avoid injury.
‘Usual training methods strengthen the major muscle groups in our horses, yet muscles deep inside, whose job it is to hold good posture in the paces, can remain untrained. The horse’s gait loses straightness and fluidity even if fit and active. If we want our horses to dance we must train the whole body, as we do a human athlete’s, by making weak areas strong then what was difficult becomes easy, beautiful and sustainable’.
Exercises will be tailored to the individual horse & rider and participants are asked to provide details of the horse or pony’s height, age, breed, condition, job (including level), weaknesses and any past injuries. If there are specific mobility issues please explain further.
The clinic is open to riders, horses and ponies at every level. Places are limited with groups determined according to ability and level of experience.

Veronica Lee: 07545773156  Email:

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Healing after the Loss of a Horse

18 August 2017 01:10
Crossing the "Rainbow Bridge"
For most of us who have horses in our lives, there is a special bond unlike no other. While those who have never given their heart to a horse may seem them as livestock, to a horse-lover your equine companion is as close as a family member.

Sadly, there comes a time when your beloved horse friend passes on. Whether death comes suddenly and unexpectedly, or slowly creeps up and you yourself have to make the decision to euthanase and release an old horse from pain and illness, you will need to work through your grief at the loss.

If helps if there is someone to deal with the practicalities of the situation for you, particularly disposal of the remains, which is a specially painful part of the loss.

Well-meaning friends and relatives may refrain from mentioning the horse, and try to keep you occupied away from his empty stable and pasture.

The best thing, though, is to face up to your grief and work through it. You can, and will, come to the place where you will reconcile with the loss, and be able to cherish the memories of your dear departed friend.


Grief counsellors agree that there are five basic stages of human grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Your deceased horse was as close to you as any human friend or relative, and therefore the stages of grief will be the same.

The denial will come and go quickly. You may find yourself heading out to feed your horse, even though you know he is gone. Reality will hit hard like a kick in the guts when you get to the empty barn.

If your horse had companions you should remind yourself of the fact that they will be feeling his loss too. Horses are herd animals, and the literature is full of sad stories of how horses show their grief at the loss of a buddy. Sometimes they may even show physical reactions, go off their food and become morose. It will help you with your own grief to take note of how your horse's companions are reacting to his loss. A sense of purpose helps with grieving, and you can make sure you are paying extra attention to the surviving horse/s to keep them busy and cheerful.

The stage of denial runs into the angry stage of grieving, when you will blame yourself or someone else for the circumstances that led to your horse's death. You'll be angry that you forgot to close the gate before the accident happened, or that you didn't notice the onset of colic soon enough.

It takes some time to come to terms with the fact that being angry, or even guilty, is not going to bring the horse back. Anger is debilitating and usually overlaps with the bargaining stage, when you mentally make a pact with a higher power to be a better person if you can be relieved of the guilt and anger.

Next comes the inevitable depression. Working through depression is difficult for some of us. Don't be afraid to seek professional help if necessary.

Finally you will be able to come to an acceptance, and hopefully remember your beloved horse fondly and openly, and move on with life keeping him in your heart.

There is no telling how long it will take a person to work through their grief; each individual handles grief in their own way.


No-one should expect you to forget your dear horse, jump on another one, and carry on regardless. Let everyone know you need to take the time to grieve and cherish the spirit of your equine friend.

Many horse-lovers find it comforting to set up a physical memorial of some sort for a precious horse, or perhaps make a donation to a horse charity in his name and memory.

I rather like the idea of planting a tree or flowering shrub in a spot that you can visit during the year to remember shared experiences with your horse.

If you have some of your horse's mane or tail hair you can have it braided into a bracelet as a meaningful keepsake.

When the pain of loss begins to abate  you will probably enjoy making a memory wall of framed pictures of you and your beloved horse, or put together a keepsake scrapbook of memories.

Such activities can be particularly beneficial to help children through grieving for a favourite pony.

As someone once said, the only certainty in life is death. Sadly most of us will outlive our horses, and have to face losing them. Surround yourself with loving friends and family. Draw on them for support and give in to grief.

  • The website Hoofbeats in Heaven may give you some solace if you have lost a horse.  
  • Here at Totally Tack we love talking horses, so pop in to share your memories - we always have time to listen! 

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Pony Club Mount - The Twilight Years

09 August 2017 03:41

By their very nature – trustworthy, patient, calm and safe – most Pony Club ponies and horses are mature; late teens to early 20s (there are even some still working the Club at the age of 30!).

A Pony Club mount is very special. He’s probably had multiple owners and has “nannied” numerous children through their early riding experience with fortitude and forbearance. For this he needs to be older and wiser, whether he’s a shaggy Shetland used and abused by the little ones, or a larger legendary trooper who’s experienced at all sorts of competition and games which he pulls off with aplomb.

He’ll do his best to keep his precious young cargo in the saddle and not put a foot wrong. No matter the provocation he’ll not kick, bite or bolt. He’s a faithful family retainer. A situation certainly not suitable for a green young pony.

As many have noted, such a mount is worth his weight in gold, and any parent would be delighted to own such a faithful friend.
Such special ponies – generally falling into the medical realm of being “geriatric” – need and deserve special care.


If you are lucky enough to own one of these perfect ponies, or have a yard where you need one or more of these equine gems to cater for Pony Club or young riders, there are some things to watch out for to make sure they grow old gracefully.

Experts agree that ponies age more tolerantly than horses. Still, at around 19 they will start showing signs of aging, like stiff joints (the most common sign), more grey hairs, loss of muscle freshness and hollows above the eyes. Older horses are also more susceptible to disease and hormonal conditions like Cushings, laminitis and obstruction of the airways.

Here are some points to ponder if you want to keep your older pony happy and healthy:
  • Keep checking his teeth! (Read our blog about “Teething Troubles”). Older ponies and horses are prone to dental problems like tooth loss, gaps, gum disease, hooks, wave mouth and shear mouth. Any or all of these can compromise his health and cause him pain. Dental conditions are not always obvious, so have his teeth checked regularly by an equine dental technician
  • After many years of being a supreme athlete, it’s likely your aging mount suffers from muscle and joint stiffness. Osteoarthritis is common, affecting the joints and even leading to lameness. If this is a diagnosed problem use prescribed medical and physical therapy and consider giving him a joint supplement. Such supplements can also work as a preventative, and if you have an elderly pony could keep him athletic for several more years, staving off degenerative joint disease.
  • Keep his feet in mind! Hoof problems are common in older horses and ponies, especially laminitis. Take good care of his hoofs, and once again consider hoof supplements if there are ongoing problems like splitting, losing shoes and lameness
  • The prevalence of Cushing’s Disease, an hormonal disorder, increases with age in horses and ponies. Age (in any equine aged over 15) can bring on the condition, which relates to a degeneration in the pituitary gland leading to a lessening in the production of the dopamine chemical, meaning an increase in the production of hormones.

    What this causes in the affected horse or pony is a range of gradually developing symptoms that are often overlooked, and put down to old age. You might notice that your pony does not properly shed his winter coat, and is subject to bouts of laminitis. He may be lethargic, sweat a great deal, and put on weight. He’ll also pick up infections easily (like conjunctivitis or mud fever) and be very thirsty. If you suspect Cushings, call in the vet who will treat your pony and manage the condition.
  •  Just like aging humans, a mature horse or pony may have a tired heart! About a third of veteran ponies have heart murmurs, which should not be a problem if regularly checked by a vet. You can be comforted by the knowledge that heart failure in horses is rare
  • Loss of vision in ponies is difficult to detect, and usually happens gradually. Most tend to adjust to age-related visual problems, but beware, there are safety issues if your perfect pony loses his ability to see clearly.

Overall, as long as you keep your aging pony healthy , happy, vaccinated, and wormed, with regular examinations by the vet, he will continue to be a joy for your children and carry them faithfully into the future.

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Teething Troubles

22 July 2017 11:35

The teeth of a horse have been specially designed by nature to allow for continual pastoral grazing – the front incisors shear off the forage, while the wide, flat molars in the cheeks grind it up into a mash ready for swallowing. The teeth are continually growing to compensate for the wear and tear of the constant grazing and chewing.

Just like humans, horses have all sorts of dental problems during their lifetime, including loose, broken or very worn teeth, infected teeth and gum disease. Also just like us, horses have two sets of teeth – baby teeth until around the age of five, by which time their full set of permanent teeth is usually in place (44 for a stallion, and around 40 for a mare).

It’s difficult to pick up dental ailments early in horses, because most of them don’t show any obvious signs. A change in behaviour could be an indicator of discomfort or dental pain; it is better to stay on the safe side and make sure your horse has a routine dental check by an equine dental technician at least once a year.

A dental check should include the procedure known in the equine world as “floating” – filing down the sharp points (enamel cusps) that develop on a horse’s cheek teeth. These cusps develop because the ever-growing teeth are worn down irregularly. Such points can cause sores, lacerations and ulcers on the cheeks and tongue, making it painful for the horse to chew. A sure sign of a problem is if the horse spits out half chewed balls of hay (called ‘quidding’). Horses that spend a lot of time confined are more likely to have painful cusps develop, because they are not chewing forage and grinding the teeth down as nature intended.

You should definitely suspect a dental problem if your previously passive horse starts fighting the bit or resisting the bridle, tilting or tossing his head, bucking and refusing to stop or turn. Check the manure – large undigested wads of food could indicate a dental problem. Other signs are more obvious indicators of a tooth problem, like bad breath, nasal discharge, a swollen face, difficulty chewing, excessive salivating or bleeding from the mouth.

Chewing Gum for horses helps prevent grinding!
Young horses - between two and five years of age - can suffer serious "teething" problems, so ideally their teeth should be checked frequently. The shedding of milk teeth to make way for permanent teeth can be painful, resulting in quidding and head tossing. The milk teeth sometimes break off and can become infected, causing cysts in the jaw.
If you don’t attend to dental problems as soon as possible, the horse will lose weight and condition and become a very unhappy animal!

Some of the common dental conditions that can arise in horses are:
  • Wolf teeth - short cone-shaped teeth with a root far longer than the crown - grow (mainly in the upper jaw) in an awkward position that might interfere with the bit. These are usually removed, which is easier to achieve in young horses before the roots become embedded to the jawbone.
  •  Hooks (overgrown teeth at either end of the molar arcades) develop if the horse has an underbite or overbite, leading to misalignment of the upper and lower molars. The hooked
    tooth will grow because it has no contact with an opposite tooth to wear it down, causing interference with the lateral grinding movement of a horse's jaw when chewing. The discomfort can be severe if the hooks are not dealt with.
  • Ramps are similar to hooks, but not as pronounced. They cause problems especially for horses that are ridden because they can cause the soft tissue to be pinched when the reins are used.
  • A Step is a cheek tooth that is longer than the rest in the row. It occurs usually if the tooth opposite it in the other jaw is missing, or impacted, meaning the step tooth will grow to fill the gap. It is a problem because it interferes with the lateral chewing movement, and needs to be floated regularly.
  • Dental caries affects horses just like humans. Their teeth - particularly in old age - can develop disease or infection due to abnormal wear or trauma. Infection can spread to the sinus where the deep roots of the teeth reside. Horses can have fillings to conserve the diseased teeth if the caries is in the middle of the tooth.
    Bit Butter moisturises and heals the mouth
  • The set of 12 incisors - the teeth at the front of the horse's mouth - are prone to all sorts of troubles. This is down to the fact that domestic horses spend too little time using their incisors for the purpose intended - nipping and ripping up grass. Horses fed on hay in the stable use their incisors far less than when they are on grass, so their teeth are not being worn down at a constant rate. The incisors, however, keep growing as normal. This causes a variety of malformed "bites", like the "smile" curvature where the teeth curve up at both sides - or the opposite "frown" curvature. These malformations need to be corrected regularly with floating.
Anyone who loves a horse owes it to him to make sure his teeth are kept in good condition. It's all part of ensuring you have a happy horse!

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Brush up your First Aid skills

05 July 2017 02:02

Do you know the normal temperature of a horse, or how to read his pulse rate? Part of being a responsible horse owner is to be aware of basic equine first aid - from treating minor wounds to identifying serious problems and dealing with them while awaiting the vet.
As we all know, horses are naturally accident prone! No matter how careful you are injuries and ailments are common.
Ouch! This nasty wound happened to our Donald - it had to be stitched by our vet.

You can't always prevent injury to your beloved horse, but you can be prepared for the eventuality, and educate yourself in basic first aid. Being ready to deal calmly and efficiently with an equine emergency can greatly increase the chances of a successful outcome.

Your first line of defence is a well-stocked First Aid Kit, kept handy in the tack room and taken with you wherever you travel with your horse. (At the end of this article is a list of essentials for your Horse First Aid Kit, which should be stored in a clean, dry box.)

Minimise risk by making sure your horse (and you!) are regularly vaccinated against Tetanus. Check your horse over for any signs of injury or discomfort every day, and treat minor cuts and grazes promptly to prevent them from becoming worse.

How to assess an Injury

Lacerations of the skin are the injuries you are most likely to use First Aid treatment for, in order to stem bleeding and prevent infection.

Assess the wound so you can decide if it requires professional attention.

If the wound is deep, bleeding profusely, and longer than a few centimeters you should call the vet.

Veterinary treatment is also essential if the horse is lame, shows signs of an internal injury or the wound impinges on a joint or the eyes. Unexplained lumps, inflamed and/or swollen areas should also be investigated by a vet.

Puncture wounds can be particularly dangerous because you may not be able to judge how deep they are, and there is a great risk of infection. These are best assessed by a vet, and if the foreign body that caused them is still in situ, don't be tempted to remove it yourself.

If the injury seems minor, and the horse is not showing any signs of distress or abnormal behaviour, you can treat him yourself.

Before you start, or while you wait for the vet, you should keep the horse calm, confined in a safe, comfortable place, and work at stopping any bleeding.

If your horse has a large wound that will require stitching by the vet, apply a pressure bandage to slow down bleeding while you wait. A thick pad of gauze secured with adhesive tape is fine, or if you can't wrap it, hold the pad firmly in place, applying pressure.

It is wise to check your horse's pulse, respiration rate and temperature, either to assure yourself all is well or to assist the vet with the information.

Checking Vital Signs

There are many occasions on which it is useful to be able to check your horse's temperature, pulse and respiration. As a horse owner you should practise these procedures even when the horse is fit and well, so that you can conduct the checks easily and efficiently when the horse appears to be injured, in pain or suffering a fever.

Firstly you need to know the normal range of vital signs for a horse, so that you can judge when something is amiss.

Temperature:  36.9C to 38.3C ( 98.5F to 101F)
Pulse: 28 to 45 beats a minute
Respiration:  8 to 20 breaths per minute

Remember if the weather is unduly hot, and when the horse has been exercising, the temperature will be raised. Likewise if the horse is stressed or excited the pulse and respiration rate will be higher.

Taking a horse's temperature  should be done with care. Use a digital equine thermometer and keep it in place in the rectum for at least a minute. A horse's pulse can be felt in the facial artery under the lower jaw, with the flat of two fingers, or preferably a stethoscope. The respiration rate can be counted by standing a few feet away from your horse, side on, and watching his ribcage rising and falling (one rise and fall equals one breath).

Another good indicator of problems in the health of a horse are the gums, which should be a healthy pink. If they are pale it could indicate anemia, grey-blue indicates circulation problems and bright red could be a sign of fever and illness.

Treating Minor Injuries

To clean an open wound - cut or abrasion - use a sterile saline solution, or flush it thoroughly with water. You need to wash out any bacteria to prevent infection. The same applies to shallow puncture wounds, as long as the object which pierced the flesh is no longer inside. If you at any time feel the wound is too deep or difficult for you to deal with, or if it won't stop bleeding, rather leave it and call the vet.

In the case of a graze, make sure the damage is no more than skin deep, then gently clean it and apply a disinfectant solution. During healing - which could take days or even weeks - keep an eye out for swelling and any sign of discomfort in your horse. You can apply wound cream to help it heal and protect it from contamination. 
Any jagged lacerations, those leaving a flap of skin, or injuries that might impact on joints, ligaments and tendons may need an antibiotic and pain relief, and are best left to a vet. In this case you will be given instructions about bandaging and aftercare, which you'd be wise to adhere to!

First Aid Kit

Here are the essentials for an equine first aid kit ....

We hope you rarely need to use your first aid knowledge or kit, but you can ride safe and happy if you are well prepared to meet adversity!

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Planning for Pony Club Camp

28 June 2017 08:30
Off to Pony Club Camp, here is the lowdown.

Looking for Fun (with a capital "F"!) with your pony pal? Then as anyone who has experienced the pleasure will tell you, there's nothing like Pony Club Camp!

Whichever Camp you are lucky enough to be going to this summer holidays, you and your pony can look forward to an exhausting but exhilarating few days with never a dull moment.

At the end of it all you'll come home (reluctantly!) with a lot more confidence and knowledge of horsemanship, a host of new friends, and a set of memories to cherish.

Planning and preparation is the way to get the best out of Pony Club Camp - and hopefully a few awards too. It's all about you and your pony being well-equipped and well turned out, ready to face all the challenges from early morning muck-outs to cross-country hacks.

Don't leave it all until the last minute! As soon as you're booked in for Camp, make a list and check it twice. You may be supplied with a check list by the Camp organisers, but there's no harm in giving it careful consideration and perhaps adding some extra personal requirements or home comforts! Oh, and it's wise to have everything (including tack) name-tagged.

Here's a general list of the basic "must haves" for Pony Club Camp:

Beige or cream jodhpurs
Long-sleeved white shirts
Pony Club tie, badge and scrunchies 
Pony Club sweatshirt
Riding hat
Body protector
Work clothes for mucking out
Several sets of casual clothes
Underwear and socks
Jodhpur boots
Waterproof Jacket
Wellington boots
Swimming gear
Sun hat

Other essentials:
Hair brush and hair accessories
Bag of toiletries
Bedding (appropriate to the facilities being provided)
Mug, plate, bowl and cutlery
Notebook and pen
Sun block

Tack for your pony:
Numnah/Saddle cloth
Bandages/boots (if usually used)

Tack cleaning kit
Water bucket
Feed bucket
Haylage nets
Feed (labelled with your name)
Mucking out tools including wheelbarrow

There are other things to consider too, in the run-up to the Camp. Both you and your pony should be as fit as possible, so have some regular, consistent work-outs.

You'll need travel equipment to keep your pony comfy and safe in transit (travel boots, tailguard, poll guard etc.). Also, before you leave for Camp make sure your pony is freshly shampooed and groomed, and all tack and kit is clean and functional.

What to expect:

The programme for a typical Pony Club Camp starts with the hustle and bustle of preparing your pony's stall, unloading him and settling him in, while you meet your fellow campers.

When you've seen to your pony, you can get your own bearings in the camp, enjoy the first evening's meal and socialising (often a welcome barbecue) and get an early night, because you'll be up with the birds!

Mornings mean mucking-out and feeding, as early as 7am, before breakfast and getting ready for a day of equestrian activities of all sorts - dressage, show jumping, mounted games, hacks. Interspersed are lessons on the finer points of pony care and horsemanship and practices for achievement awards and badge tests.

Once the ponies are groomed, fed and put to bed or turned out for the night, there's usually a good-natured tack cleaning session, before dinner and an evening activity. It could be anything from an organised disco dance or trip to a local cinema, to playing board games or just enjoying hanging with friends.

Usually there are tack and turnout inspections made each morning before the start of the day's riding activities, and a stable inspection at the end of the day. Combined scores for the duration of the camp end with a presentation of awards to the best overall scorers on the final evening.

Here's hoping hundreds of young riders and their mounts will be extremely happy campers these holidays!

Totally Tack has plenty of advice and equipment to make sure little people and ponies are primped to perfection!

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PREVIEW: Nunney International Horse Trials 2017

14 June 2017 03:00

The fences are up at Nunney!
The fences are up, the prize money is in the pot and it’s all systems go for this year’s Nunney International Horse Trials– a superb Somerset event we here in the west country look forward to immensely.

Nunney International Horse Trials is in its fifth year having moved from Longleat in 2013. Classes at the event range from BE100 to CIC2*.
There’s a bumper number of entries for this year’s challenge, including some big names like William Fox-Pitt, who will ride Clifton Signature in the open intermediate. Also in this section is fellow Olympic team rider Gemma Tattersall on Pamero 4 and the 2016 Chatsworth CIC3* winner Mr Chunky with Irish team rider Padraig McCarthy in the saddle.
The action will take place from Friday, June 16 to Sunday, June 18 in the grounds of the grade II listed Southfield House near Frome and the picturesque village of Nunney. Showjumping takes place every day in the main arena, and there is likely to be a big crowd on Sunday milling around the cross country course, designed by Helen West, manager of Bicton Arena.
The overall winner of this CIC2* event will win £1,200 – a record amount of prize money for this competition thanks to sponsorship from Tarmac.
Entry to the event is free on Friday and £12 per car on Saturday and Sunday. The cross country begins at 10am on Sunday.
Besides the action on horseback the event has become renowned for its many and varied trade stands and food outlets.
For those who like to be in the know, here’s an extract from a blog written by cross country course designer, Helen West, about what’s in store for equestrian aficionados:
“The CIC2* will be near maximum distance and will ask a good variety of questions at this level. My aim is to get horses into a rhythm and jumping confidently at the beginning of the track, and to build up to asking the bulk of the questions at the appropriate point in the course. The track will test boldness as well as accuracy and will encourage positive riding.
The Intermediate track will follow a similar route to the CIC2* but will omit one loop and a couple of the combinations will be slightly more straight forward.
The Novice track is near maximum distance and will be educational for horses at this level, asking similar questions to the higher level tracks but in a simpler version. It is important to prepare horses for the next level, so asking similar questions across the levels where appropriate helps with this, as well as keeping the visual cohesion by theming the courses.
The BE100 will also have an array of questions, for example it will include water, a half coffin, drop, corner and an angled combination.
All courses will be flowing and promote good jumping, offering horses a positive experience.”
Defending his title will be last year’s winner, David Doel, riding Shannondale Quest. David hails from Reybridge Eventingat Lacock, Wiltshire, and has come a long way since competing in his first BE event at the age of 14. That was back in 2007, and he’s been making his way up the ranks since then, catching much attention as one of the bright young stars of equestrian sport.
David, a winner this season of Bicton Arena’s CIC2*, will be facing some stiff competition at Nunney, including from the 2013 winner of the event, Cora Keen, who will ride Highmead Proposition.
Good luck and good riding to all the competitors at Nunney this weekend, and if you’re going to share in the excitement as a spectator, enjoy!

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Getting Plaits Down Pat

24 May 2017 01:31
Perhaps the biggest challenge that causes stress at horse shows and competitions is achieving perfect plaits. It's a fiddly business that takes time and patience - two things that are often in short supply just before a big event or show!
A well-plaited mane certainly improves your horse's chances in the show ring, and it certainly makes a big difference in, particularly, dressage competition if the judges' are impressed with your horse's neat and tidy turnout.
Conventional (hunter) braids are fine for most disciplines, with button braids being de rigeur for dressage. Of course some show categories like native ponies have to be shown with natural manes.
The number and placing of the plaits can actually enhance the look of your horse. Generally experts recommend not less than 9 braids, and no more than 11 (plus a french plait for the forelock). Traditionally there should be an odd number of plaits along the neck. Using more can make the neck of a short-necked horse look longer, and horses with a weak neck can be given the illusion of more crest by placing the plaits as high as possible.

It's certainly wise to practice your plaiting technique at home to make sure you can handle it calmly and neatly under pressure on the morning of the show. It's not recommended to plait the night before because hairs might be pulled or rubbed loose overnight or during travelling. Do, however, leave plenty of time for plaiting because if you become harried, your horse will pick up on it.
Practice makes perfect, and what you want to avoid is a few large clumpy braids that will do nothing for your horse's topline, and will prevent him from comfortably bending his neck.
Make sure, too, that your button braids are firmly secured and don't wiggle about - not an impressive sight in the arena!
Before you begin plaiting you need to bath your horse and shampoo the mane (preferably the day before) using a good shampoo and conditioner, making sure you massage the hair right down to the roots to remove any embedded dirt and debris.
There are numerous products available for mane and tail detangling. If you apply any of these it is best to comb the mane through thoroughly, and leave the product in (as long as you are sure your horse has no skin sensitivity issues) so that when you come to plaiting the hair will be "sticky" and thus easier to handle. If you prefer to rinse the mane off and it has dried sleek and soft before you come to start the plaiting process, you can always use a product like Smart Grooming's Perfect Plaits
to give the hair some texture and grip to work with (it also acts as a setting lotion to keep plaits in place). 
Before you begin plaiting you will also need to get the mane into shape, both as far as bulk and length goes. The optimum length for plaiting is about six inches width, and if the mane is very thick you can thin it and shorten it by pulling.
Mane pulling is not to everyone's taste (nor does every horse enjoy the process), so you may be able to achieve the thinning and shortening by means of grooming tools like a thinning comb and scissors. The goal is to have a mane that is of even thickness and length to achieve perfectly consistent plaits.
If you do want to try pulling, the ProEquine grooms have a great online guide to help you!

Firstly, make sure you have all the plaiting tools you'll need to hand. I find it best to keep everything stashed in a waist pouch - the hand Totally Smart Plaiting Apron is great for the job!
Experts recommend sewing plaits, so a ready-threaded needle or two, with a reel of thread to match the mane colour, are the first requirements. Then you'll need scissors, mane comb and hair clips, and a sturdy stool to stand on. Add an unpicker to correct any mistakes.
Tie up the horse (give him a haynet to keep him occupied if you think he may be jittery with your hairdressing operation!).
With the mane damp and prepared with product, use the mane comb to divide off your first section for plaiting. Start at the poll. A section should be about two inches wide (depending on how many plaits you want and how big you want the plaits to be.
Clip the rest of the hair out of the way, then divide your first section into three equal parts. Start plaiting firmly, keeping your thumbs on top.
SUPREME PRODUCTS has a superb range of plaiting and showing products, available here!
Plait right down to the bottom and hold firmly with one hand while you grab your threaded needle with the other. Sew around the end of the plait, then fold the ends under and sew around once more. When the end is secured, fold the plait in half, turning the end underneath, then pull the thread up from underneath pulling the needle out at the top of the plait.
Then stitch the needle and thread down the length of the folded plait (following the zig-zags) so that the needle emerges at the bottom. Fold the plait in half again, tucking the end underneath as before, then push the needle up from underneath, near the base of the plait, and pull the thread through. Finish off by sewing through the folded plait a few times to secure it, adjusting the shape and position if necessary. Cut off the thread with scissors.
Continue to section the hair and make plaits down the length of the neck.
You can plait the forelock using the same method, or, if you have the skill, make a French plait which will lay flatter.

Add a shine to your grooming efforts with a spray of Shapleys Hi Gloss or similar. If you want to really sparkle why not use a bit of glitter on mane and tail!
When it comes time to remove the plaits, use an unpicker to make sure you don't cut or damage the hair.
Once you've got your plaiting technique down pat, why not try experimenting with different looks, using silicone rubber bands (useful when you're in a hurry) or adding a bit of bling in the form of bejewelled crystal plaiting bands or mane and tail twists.

We have a host of show products available online that will ensure your horse has that immaculate look that translates into winning turnout.

We love this video from ProEquine Grooms which demonstrates how to plait a mane for dressage using yarn:

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Horse at the hitching post!

17 May 2017 02:40
Next to your partner-to-be (or maybe before him/her!) your horse is your best buddy, right?
Therefore it makes sense that when it comes time for tying the knot your equine companion should be guest of honour, sharing in your joyous day.
Believe it or not having a horse as a wedding guest is not a rare event - in fact there are numerous wedding venues - ranging from barns and country parks to equestrian centres and even Highland holiday cottages - that actively encourage this by making facilities available. Equestrian weddings are bang on trend, and getting hitched with your horse in hand is very in vogue.

A touch of Romance 

There is no doubt that far from detracting from the glamour and fairytale element that every couple dreams of for their wedding day, horses actually add a touch of romance!
We all know that old saying about love and marriage going together like a horse and carriage. Perhaps that is why even in the age of the limousine our preferred romantic wedding fantasies usually include a vision of clip-clopping along to the wedding venue in a Cinderella coach drawn by white horses sporting tinkling rhinestone harnesses. It's not only the Royal family that favour this option for getting to the church on time, judging by the number of horse and carriage hire companies that pop up if you Google the subject.
Your own horse, of course, may not be pleased at the prospect of pulling your marriage carriage. Going to the lengths of re-schooling him to work in harness is not only a lengthy operation (taking at least two months) but the training is also expensive.
So the best way to incorporate your horse in the wedding festivities is to convey him to the venue in his horse box or trailer. There's no reason you can't travel that way too!
How romantic would it be to ride your horse, in your wedding finery, up to the door of the venue - either doubling up in the saddle with your beloved or having him/her leading you? To save the wedding dress and add to the sense of ceremony, perhaps the bride might have a go at riding side-saddle?
Then, of course, being such beautiful, graceful creatures, horses lend a wonderful aspect to wedding photographs. If you want to really add the fairytale touch, groom and dress your horse appropriately - add some sparkle for fun - and make sure your photographer has some experience of capturing the essence of the bond between horse and human in his/her work.

Equestrian Theme

Theming your wedding reception around horses is simple and cost effective. From bales of hay covered with jumpstack covers as seating to bright coloured rosettes on the wall and silver horseshoes as wedding favours, there are loads of options.
The fortunate thing is that "equestrian" equates to "rustic" when it comes to themes, so if your wedding budget is tight (and whose isn't nowadays!) you can get away with some cheaper choices and still create a great atmosphere.
Make a big splash with flowers and greenery, spilling out of horse troughs and feed buckets; use old tack, farm implements and yard paraphenalia as decor; serve cider and beer out of vats; use hessian for table covering and sprinkle with fragrant herbs; surround the dance floor with paddock fencing.
When you get creative you will find the ideas start flowing, and for inspiration (because a picture speaks a thousand words) take a look at Pinterest.

We think horses and weddings are a match made in heaven! We'd love to see photos of your equestrian wedding day, so feel free to share them with Totally Tack on Facebook or Twitter!

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The Trot Up to Badminton

25 April 2017 02:16
Badminton Horse Trials logo In just a few days time the placid parklands covering six square kilometres around the beautiful Badminton House in south Gloucestershire will be transformed into a temporary equestrian town, flooded with around 160,000 people - and of course more than a hundred horses.
All eyes are on the big prize at the 2017 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, which this year reportedly offers the ultimate winner a record prize of £100,000. Runners' up down to 20th place will be awarded prize money too, and every rider who completes the arduous course across this five-day event will have their entry fee re-imbursed.
Of course it's not all about the money! Badminton is where champions are made, and equestrian icons admired and feted. The Badminton roll of honour reads like a who's who of equestrian sport, dating from 1949 when the then Duke of Beaufort hosted the first event on his home turf.
As eventing fans all know, Badminton is one of only six CCI 4* events in the world, probably the most illustrious, and forms part of the "grand slam" of eventing together with the Rolex Kentucky Three Day in the US and Britain's Burghley Horse Trials.

The Line-up
Michael Jung: By Yoxer (Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Last year's winner, German Olympian Michael Jung, 34, is one of only two riders to have won the grand slam (the other being Pippa Funnell in 2003).
Michael - currently acknowledged as the world's top rider - will be back at Badminton this year, riding La Biosethique Sam, defending their title. Other "big names" in contention this year (all being well) will be New Zealander Mark Todd on Leonidas II, Australian Andrew Hoy on The Blue Frontier, and British riders Oliver Townend (on MHS King Joules or Samuel Thomas II) and Gemma Tattersall on Arctic Soul.

Ones to watch at Badminton this year are debutantes Lissa Green and Alexander Bragg. Lissa is the daughter of Lucinda Green, who won Badminton six times in a stellar riding career. Lissa will be riding Malin Head Clover in her first Badminton outing. Let's hope nerves don't get the better of her! She was only recently accepted after languishing on the wait list. British amateur rider Alexander Bragg from Somerset plans to ride Zagreb at Badminton after completing his first 4* outing at Burghley last year (finishing 34th on Redpath Ransom).

Badminton also has an VIP new face this year in the form of Eric Winter, who has taken over from Giuseppe Della Chiesa as cross-country course designer. Eric's course should provide plenty of excitement for the spectators, and challenges for the contenders.It's been variously described as "rustic" and "chunky". You can see it all laid out on the Badminton website. 

As is the way with all high level equestrian events, there is the possibility that the field will change as the start of Badminton approaches. Entrants may withdraw, and those still on the wait list be accepted. Whoever trots up to the first horse inspection for the main event at 4.30pm on Wednesday 3rd May will be ready to ride like never before!

Hat's off to one and all - hope everyone enjoys this unrivalled show of equestrian eventing excellence!

Shop Online at to ensure you and your horse are equipped like the top riders!

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Putting your Heart & Soul into Endurance

19 April 2017 01:31
Harry & I working out.
Why is Endurance my favourite equestrian discipline? Well - it's challenging for horse and rider, of course, demanding a fast pace against the clock across all sorts of terrain for long distances. It also, in my experience, creates a bond between rider and horse like no other. You and your mount sure get to know each other very well during all those hours in the saddle!
That's why I'm excited to be entering the UK's oldest endurance ride, the Golden Horseshoe, to be held in the heart of the stunning Exmoor National Park in May. This ride was first held in 1965 and was held annually thereafter, earning pride of place as the ultimate of endurance rides in the country. Sadly it foundered after its 50th anniversary in 2015 when long-time ride organiser Barbara Wigley stepped down. After a gap last year, however, the Golden Horseshoe is back on track and I am thrilled to be taking on the test of one of the competitive and demanding rides which make up this endurance festival.
The Golden Horseshoe weekend is now being run by Jo and Andrew Chisholm of Watervale Endurance, Lydford, Devon, and offers four classes of rides, from the "grand" event across 160km in two days for advanced level horses and riders, down to the mini version along a 24km route on the Sunday (which is what I am currently training for).
If you are interested in finding out more about the Golden Horseshoe visit the website.
Getting into this increasingly popular equestrian sport is easy. There are 23 local groups throughout England and Wales that organise rides - some for training or social purposes and others that are seriously competitive. You can find all the info you need on the Endurance GB website.


Having set my sights on making a success of endurance riding, along with my dearly beloved Thoroughbred, Harry, I've been careful to look into what's required.
Fortunately Harry is a fit and healthy fellow, sound and sensible, and we have a good level of trust between us. You don't have to have a top drawer horse, however, to compete in endurance - most horses and even small ponies used to a regular work out will be able to cope with a ride of around 25km if he/she is sound.
The super-champs of endurance are usually Arabs, but you can easily train any horse to enjoy the sport at lower levels, if you work at building the right muscles.
I've found an online guide very useful in conditioning Harry for Endurance.
Another big consideration when it comes to Endurance riding is ensuring that both you and your horse are comfortable. This means making sure your saddle is well-fitted and your girth and stirrups positioned to give you a good seat while riding. 
When you enter an endurance ride your horse will be examined both before and after the ride to ensure there are no abrasions from bad fitting tack. He will also have his heart rate checked and noted and his soundness vetted in a trot up.
Safety is important too, and unlike other equestrian disciplines there are no regulations about what you or your horse should wear. A good helmet is obviously a pre-requisite, and you'd probably want to take the precaution of an air jacket (I definitely wear my Point Two Air Jacket!). 
I'd also recommend long sleeves - both for sun protection and those annoying branches and brambles. (And on the subject of sun ... don't forget sun cream for yourself and your horse!) 
Comfort is the key, so make sure you have a comfy seat-saver under you. You'll need to stay well hydrated, especially in warm weather, so you and your horse need a good drink before you set off, and you need a water bottle with you. 

The most important thing to remember when you start out in Endurance that you are riding for pleasure! The lower level non-competitive routes are not meant to be a race, so pace yourself and your horse carefully, slowing down when necessary to recover your equilibrium. 
An Endurance event is an adventure, and nothing can beat the satisfaction of completing the course to go home with a happy horse and a completion rosette! 


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Saddle-Up for Summer

28 March 2017 02:15
If you've had a lazy winter it's time to wake up and smell the roses (or rather, the winning rosettes!). You and your horse need to get into tip top condition so you can saddle up for summer with a smile. 

Here's a checklist of some of the most important preparations you can make while you wait for the mud to dry off from those spring showers, so you'll be raring to swing into show/competition season: 

Your Horse's Health: 
  • Purchase a horse worm egg count kit which can be sent off to the laboratory for results to come back in 24 hours, so if there are any problems they can be rectified with targeted worming as soon as possible.  
  • Use a weight tape to measure the girth, weight and height of your horse. This is an excellent way to check condition - if he's overweight he will find the going tough in the hot weather.
  • Consult with your vet about vaccinations, deworming if indicated, possible dental problems and if necessary a diet analysis - an equine MOT! 
  • You may want to increase the schedule of farrier visits for the coming months, because hooves tend to grow quicker in the summer. Make sure his feet are fit and healthy with no sign of thrush or abscess. There are many helpful hoof products available to condition and protect dry hooves.
  • Get ready to do battle with the bugs! Make sure your fly rugs and fly masks and veils are clean, in good repair and that they fit well to provide maximum protection. Review your yard
    Cashel Quiet Ride Bug Armour
    management to minimise the chances of flies hatching, and prepare a fly control regimen. Lay in a stock of your preferred fly repellants. You might like to try a new approach to keeping your horse free of the fly plague: Brinicombe Equine have brought out "Think Fly" granules, which can be added to your horse's feed, entering the body's system and acting as a fly shield.
  • Horses and ponies, particularly those with light skin pigmentation, can suffer from sunburn on exposed areas like the nose and ears. You can be ready to prevent this discomfort by having a fly mask with long nose and ears built in, and keeping some good quality, high factor equine sunblock on hand, like Equus Health Ozvet Sun-Off.
  • Both you and your horse need to get back to peak fitness, but start working slowly for both your sakes! On warm days exercise early, and make sure there is an ample supply of shade, water and electrolyte supplements as the weather warms up.

Shaping up for Summer:
  •  As he sheds for summer you will be keen to start primping that shaggy coat into sleek, shiny show condition. Make sure the horse has a balanced diet including sufficient protein and fatty acids, perhaps with the addition of skin supplements that contain Vitamin A, B, Biotin, Methioine, Lysine, Zinc and Vitamin E. Oils added to the diet also improve coat condition. Don't feed supplements willy-nilly; if  your horse has a dull coat seek professional advice on supplementing. There could be underlying medical problems. We particularly recommend natural pure herbal supplements such as Equus Health's Superskin.
  • Some riders - particularly those who take part in competitions or shows during the season - prefer to keep their horse body-clipped through the summer (especially if they struggle in the heat). Even if you leave his summer coat natural, its a good idea to clip bridle paths, ears, muzzles and legs.
    Le Mieux Tangle Tidy
  • Shorten the mane and bang the tail ready for show season. Practice your plaiting. Try out some of the latest mane and tail grooming tools and detanglers.
  • Check and update your grooming kit, making sure everything is intact and clean. Likewise get stuck into your tack cleaning and repairing. A gleaming horse deserves to be smartly tacked up.
  • Set aside a fine day to spring-clean your stable, not only to ensure you have a neat and tidy summer season, but also to eradicate any nasties that may be lurking after the winter that could make your horse ill. For deep cleaning its best to remove the horse from the stable, well away from the dust and dirt, while you scrub and disinfect everything from feed buckets to mats. 
  • If you are going to be travelling around the eventing or showing circuits this summer, make sure your horsebox/trailer is serviced and ready for the road. 
We wish you and your horses a super summer! 

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22 November 2016 01:48
Your horse or pony is close to your heart and part of the family, so why not celebrate the festive season in equestrian style?

With a little imagination and planning, it's possible to include your passion for your beloved steed (and even the horse itself!) in your Christmas celebrations, starting with greetings cards and advent calendarsthrough to decorations, gifts, and the table setting on the big day itself.

We've come up with some ideas which we hope will inspire you ....

The Countdown

Be ready with your advent calendar when December arrives. It's not only the kids who enjoy a daily treat in anticipation of Christmas day ... you can involve your horse in the excitement too! Make sure you hang a horse advent calendar with a tasty equine sweetmeat behind every door in the stable.

Get in early with writing and posting those Christmas cards to friends and relatives. Click here to check the latest recommended posting dates
Keeping within your equestrian theme, you'll no doubt love the range of comical cards (and gift wrap) by Dorset-based artist TrishWilliams, reproduced from her renowned ink and wash illustrations of cheeky horses and ponies.

Getting Crafty

Handmade is all the rage, so you can have fun being creative adding an equestrian touch to all sorts of Christmassy things like Christmas stockings, tree decorations, wreaths, crackers and table mats.

You don't have to be particularly artistic - just enthusiastic! Use all sorts of devices from fabric paint to cardboard, clay, glitter and glue, baubles and beads. To help you along you may enjoy this link to some handy horsey templates - download and print! 

In fact online resources like Pinterest (and a Google search) produce loads of projects for you and the family to get stuck into that will inject a dose of horsey happiness into your Christmas cheer.

Take a look at Debbie Rose Deets' fantastic PinterestBoard for some super suggestions. 

If you enjoy sewing, you could run up a superb Santa blanket for your horse (click here for instructions ).

If you're really handy and enjoy a challenge, how about making a stunning horse's head Christmas wreath for the front door (and another for the stable door!). 

Dining Equine Style

If you want to go to extremes and have a clean, comfortable enough barn, you might want to enjoy your Christmas dinner in the stables alongside your horse! It's all about celebrating the night that Jesus was born in a stall, after all! Perhaps that was what was in the minds of the couple in Georgia, USA, who's amazing festive feast set out in their barn features online.

Most though, will be happy to decorate the table with an appropriate stylish centrepiece - our choice would be a beautiful pair of Spirit of Peace Beswick horse figurines.

If you're loathe to expose expensive porcelain to the family Christmas melee you can still achieve the theme with a pretty wooden horse ornament

Use tartan or checked placemats and/or table runner, some leather and brass accessories such as coasters and napkin rings to add to the equine atmosphere. Other good materials to use for decorating are hessian, horseshoes and pine-cones.

On the dining room wall you can display pictures of your horse, and show off your competition trophies, rosettes and ribbons.

Shopping made Simple

No need to head out into the cold and brave the crowded stores when just a few taps on the tablet or clicks of the mouse can bring it all to you online!

Make a list and check it twice as the old traditional song says, sorting out who's been "naughty or nice"!

Your very nice horsey friends and relatives are really easy to please: you should find something for everyone - including your four-footed friend - in our Christmas e-shop.

 How about a bling browband  for a dressage diva; a charm bracelet  for a pony princess; or a stag horn handledhunting crop  for a stylish gentleman who rides to hounds.

No need for your horse or pony to miss out on finding some great gifts under the tree: there are toys, treats, products for pampering and cosy blankets to name just a few of the options in the Totally Tack onlinestore.

Don't forget to place your orders soon for timeous delivery before Christmas!

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22 November 2016 11:42
As you prepare for the onslaught of what we are being told by the news media is likely to be an very cold winter, you may well be wondering whether your horse is going to need to wear a rug in the stable or barn - and if so, how heavy does it need to be?
To rug or not to rug is an age-old debate as the winter chill settles on the UK. Most of us prefer to rug horses that are turned out in wintry weather, and this is no doubt advisable for all but hardy native ponies. But do our four-legged friends need to wear cosy quilted "pyjamas" when they're tucked up in their stables?
Breeds like Thoroughbreds and Arabs, which originate from hot countries, need protection from British winters (even when stabled) because they don't burn their nutritional energy as efficiently, store as much fat or grow as thick a winter coat as more acclimatised breeds. Believe it or not the same goes for seemingly hardy little donkeys (which originate from Africa).
Naked Horse?
There is a growing "naked horse" lobby that advocates allowing the horse's natural defences to counter the elements. This is fine for all but the exotic thin-coated breeds, veterans and horses which continue to work during the winter, necessitating clipping and grooming. If you are going for an unrugged winter, your horse or pony must be allowed to grow a thick coat in the autumn, which should be left unbrushed and ungroomed to allow for the build up of the natural oils which waterproof the coat and help keep body heat in.
... ungroomed, to allow for the build up of natural oils ....
Another argument against rugging up in winter is based on the piloerection effect. Simply put, this just means that horses (like humans) get goosebumps when they're cold, causing their hair to stand erect, allowing for more air to circulate close to the skin, which is then warmed by body heat. Wearing a heavy blanket or rug prevents this from happening.
All but the hardiest horses, though, will benefit from a rug, whether they are inside or out, when temperatures dip well below freezing. You should also ensure that your horse has plenty of hay or haylage to help him generate more heat energy.
In stables it is vital to have good ventilation to avoid respiratory problems, so usually the inside of a stable is not much warmer (in fact it can be colder!) than it is outdoors. In addition, the horse or pony in the stable is restricted in how much it can move around in order to keep warm. A rug is therefore vital for most stabled equines, hairy or not, night or day - but take care not to allow your horse to get too warm, uncomfortable and sweaty under the rug.
Weight & Style
The choice of weight and style for a stable rug is dictated by the thickness of the horse's coat. Generally a medium weight stable rug with a detachable neckpieceshould cover most eventualities for the average horse, while working horses, veterans and delicate exotic breeds will require a heavyweight stable rug.
Shires Heavyweight Stable Rug with full neck
Make sure you buy the correct size rug - too small and tight and the horse will be uncomfortable or suffer with pressure sores caused by rubbing.
If the horse stays stabled and rugged throughout the winter it's wise to have a change of stable rug on hand, and to check underneath the rug as often as possible (daily preferably) for excessive sweating or any skin problems that may arise.

At Totally Tack our primary purpose is to keep horses happy, so we stock a largerange of horse rugs of all weights and for all purposes, from leadingmanufacturers, available online. We also offer a rug cleaning and repair service for local horse-owners, who can drop off their dirty rugs at our store in Frome, Somerset.

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Horse Hair-Cuts

19 November 2016 02:56

As the weather grows colder, nature compensates by ensuring your horse's coat grows thicker. A thick winter coat is fine for horses and ponies who are going to stay turned out and unrugged during the cold months - especially if they are native breeds - but if your horse is going to continue to work and exercise his natural heavy coat could lead to problems.

At the onset of winter it is therefore advisable to give your horse a haircut. Clipping all over is generally not necessary (unless your horse is a busy all-year top competitor that is stabled most of the time), but a carefully planned clip styled to suit his needs has several benefits:

Horses sweat during exercise. Hard workers sweat more, but even light exercise can bring on a heavy sweat under a thick winter coat. Sweat trapped in a heavy, shaggy coat is not only uncomfortable for the horse, but can take a long time to dry in cold weather, leaving him chilled and his metabolism working overtime to stabilise his core body temperature. This leaves him at risk of catching a chill and losing condition.

Thick, sweaty coats are also more difficult to groom, so clipping makes your life easier too!

Of course, if you do clip your horse for winter, you will have to compensate for his lack of natural insulation by rugginghim up appropriately, and providing suitable shelter to protect him from the elements.

If you clip your horse for winter do so in early autumn. You may need to repeat the process two or three times as winter advances, to keep regrowth at bay. Stop clipping him in early spring, though, because that is when the new summer coat will start to appear.

Whether you do the clipping yourself, or hire someone to do it professionally, its best to follow the guidelines of the traditional clip styles in use. Choose the right style to suit the needs of the horse, depending on how much he is likely to sweat - the more the sweating, the bigger the area you need to clip.

·        A light clip involves just the underside of the neck up to the centre of the belly (the bib area), which will leave your horse well covered enough to be turned out without a rug unless the weather is particularly freezing and inclement.

·        A low trace clip means removing the hair under the neck and belly right back to the loins, while a high trace clip extends further up the horse's flank, and up to the cheeks. Leaving the hair on the head, legs and the top of the body and neck provides warmth during turn out, but allows for exercise without overheating.

·        A blanket clip means removing hair from all areas, except for the legs and the area that would be covered by an exercise blanket. This suits a horse that has regular exercise through the winter and is turned out during the day.

·        A hunter clip is best for horses in heavy winter work. Remove all the hair except for an area in the shape of the saddle, and on the legs.

·        A full clip, as has been said earlier, is not usually applied except for horses that compete through the winter. Special care needs to be taken to ensure fully clipped horses are kept warm and comfortable.

If you can't decide how much to clip, err on the side of caution and start off small! After all, you can always clip further if it seems necessary, but you can't put back hair that's already been removed.

If you have never clipped a horse before it is wise to seek advice from a seasoned clipper before investing in a set of clippers. It's probably best to watch an expert at work before trying it yourself.

If possible bath your horse the night before you plan to clip him, and then groom him well. If the coat is dirty it could clog up and blunt the clipper blades.

Mark out the area you plan to clip using chalk.

If you're a novice beware of frightening the horse, so remain calm and turn the clippers on well away from him before approaching him slowly, allowing him to see the source of the noise. Make sure the clippers are in good condition, well-oiled and the blades are not worn. Use long strokes and clip against the direction of the hair growth, pulling the skin taut with your free hand.

You can build up your confidence by watching some of the many tutorials and videos about horse clipping online.

Good luck with your clipping ... 

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Dressing up your Dressage

18 October 2016 03:33
Dressage is an elegant sport both in its execution and the appropriate attire and tack requirements for horse and rider. It's very tempting, though, to want to dazzle the spectators and judges in the arena with your co-ordinated outfit as much as with your carefully rehearsed performance.

Unlike other equestrian disciplines, which generally involve getting down and dirty, dressage is smart and sassy. While your appearance doesn't enter into the judging criteria, it certainly helps if you present the right image. 

Looking good can go a long way to boosting your confidence, and the fit of your garments can certainly help the  adjudicators when it comes to assessing your seat in the saddle.

The British Dressage official rule book has several pages devoted to regulation dress for horse and rider when it comes to competing in the various levels of the sport. Most of us, though - even the most green novice - have a pretty good idea of what's required in the wardrobe department for a devotee of dressage. After all most of the nation watched with bated breath as Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro won Olympic Gold in Rio - she in her smart brass-buttoned tailed and red-collared jacket, her impeccably groomed mount sporting a sparkly fly hood.

In general, sparkly accessories are an anethema to dressage judges - but you can sneak in some bling if you want to brighten up your performance!

Here are some hints and tips for ensuring your turn-out is terrific when you hit the dressage arena:


Choose a dark-coloured jacket (tails are only worn in advanced competitions) that fits like a glove. It's worth having your jacket bespoke tailored, so it hugs you, particularly around the middle and back. A loose, floppy fit can make  you appear to be slumping in the saddle, hiding the straight, strong back you need in the competition.

Equetech Crystal Garland Stock Pin
Don't try to hide a crumpled shirt and stock beneath your jacket! You can never be sure how hot the day may turn out to be, and the competition authorities may decide everyone should compete with no jacket required. A neat and clean white shirt and stock looks smart and professional. You can certainly add a bit of bling to your outfit with a fashionable crystal stock pin.

Ideally you will go for white jodphurs or breeches, but they're not the most practical choice. Beige or cream are just as good, but make sure you match your gloves with them (white gloves can be a hazard, highlighting shaky hands on the reins if you're nervous!). Elasticated, slim-fitting breeches are best, and beige probably the
Shires Chelsea Diamante Breeches
most flattering for the figure. Ladies should beware of panty lines showing. A few rhinestones on the pocket trim and a crystal-studded belt can add some discreet fashion touches.

When it comes to boots, and/or gaiters, go for black, polished to perfection. Well-shined plain leather or patent leather is preferable to enhance leg length.

Protective riding hats with a three point harness are required to be worn, with the possible exception of top level competition such as the Olympics, where top hats are de rigeur. If you're not sure of specific requirements at a particular venue check with the competition organisers. You can enhance your headgear with hat covers, as long as you stick to "conservative" colours. 
Equetech Crystal Studded Bun Nets
Women should keep their long hair out of the way, preferably with a hairnet, for both appearance and safety's sake.
The wearing of body protectors and air jackets is optional.


Dressage horses require minimal tack - they're not allowed to wear martingales, boots or wraps, for example. Keep it simple, smart and formal - black leather is the preferred option though dark brown, navy or dark grey are usually acceptable.

An English-style saddle - preferably one designed specifically for dressage (with longer flaps, straps and a short girth) - is required, usually positioned on a square white saddle pad. Most competitions allow a coloured edging on the white pad.

When it comes to bridles the favourite option is a plain cavesson with a flash noseband - double bridles are used in upper level competition. Grackles are not usually allowed in pure dressage (although the rules appear to be changing in Jan 2017). Your bridle gives you a chance for some embellishment - decorated browbands are allowed, so you can add a bit of bling. Steer clear of tassles or any other fancifications, though, including sheepskin covering of the noseband.  You are allowed a discreet Mojo hologram if needed.

Your horse can wear a fly hood with ears in competition, as long as the horse's eyes aren't covered, and these should be "discreet in colour and design" according to the rule book.

If you enjoy decorating your horse, the operative word in dressage is "discreet"! The most you can stretch to in the rules are diamante plaiting bands, and if your horse is inclined to kick a little red bow on the horse's tail is permitted. Forget about glitter, ribbons or flowers - these fall under the definition of "unnatural items" which are best kept for your own amusement a long way from the dressage arena!

Enjoy dancing around the arena with your well-trained horse - there is no more satisfying feeling than doing dressage!

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Doing What Comes Naturally

30 September 2016 01:58

The Good life ... equine style
Put yourself in your horse's shoes for a day. Is his life full? Does he have the important three Fs vital for herd animals - friends, forage and freedom?
If the answer is no, chances are he will be exhibiting some sort of stereotypic behaviour, or be liable to do so unless his situation improves.
Stereotypic behaviour is defined as "a behaviour that is repeated but has no apparent purpose or function".
It includes things such as cribbing, weaving, box or fence walking, kicking and biting (himself). All rather annoying at best, and disturbing or even dangerous at worst.
Stereotypic behaviour in horses has been exhaustively studied and researched, and one of the main causes seems to come down to stress brought on by poor management. The difficulty is that since the stereotypic behaviour triggers the release of endorphins, which make the horse feel good, it is a habit that once ingrained becomes hard to cure - much like humans biting their fingernails.
Experts now largely agree that stereotypy is the way horses cope with stress and ease frustration and boredom. Some believe there may also be a genetic disposition to stereotypy inherent in certain horses.
Horses in all sorts of situations can demonstrate stereotypy - even those kept turned out with plenty of companionship - but the vast majority of cases occur in horses kept stabled for long periods.
If your horse is displaying stereotypic behaviour already it may be difficult to stop it, but there are ways to limit it. Prevention is better than cure, obviously, so it's wise to keep your horse's stress to a minimum.
What is required is for us to manage our horses in a way that is as close to nature intended as possible. Not easily done with our domesticated steeds, especially if they are energetic equine athletes that we expect to be lively and perform perfectly at our convenience, but stay quiet and well-behaved when it suits us.
Horses sleep very little - between five and seven hours a day - and spend the rest of the time alert. Nature has designed them to fill their time grazing, moving around, socialising, playing, and cantering for the pure joy of it. With us humans controlling their activity - putting restrictions on much of this natural behaviour - stress can result and stereotypy could well be the consequence.
Most horses cope well with the demands we place on them, but about 25% (according to one study) will have problems and develop stereotypic behaviour.
Long periods of stable confinement seems to be the most common trigger of stereotypy, but there are other factors that could cause it such as the stress induced by early weaning, training practices, feeding and a change in environment. 
One thing horse owners can guard against relatively easily is to avoid leaving a horse alone and bored in a stable for most of the day. At times there may be no option, if a horse needs enforced stall rest or is under quarantine, for example. In such cases you can ensure his environment is enriched so as to be as stimulating as possible. 
Horses need to play and let off their energy. Stable toys such as horse balls, hanging toys and licksact as a diversion to confined horses, but make sure  you change them around frequently to add interest.
Likit Stable Toys are great boredom busters!
Being herd animals, companionship is all important to horses, so stable design for confined horses should allow for this. Ideally a stabled horse should be able to see other horses over the stable door, or through dividing grills. He'll also enjoy watching what's going on in the yard outside, or the aisle. Even his own reflection in a (safety) mirror will bring him comfort. If he doesn't have the company of other horses make sure he's at least got plenty of frequent human attention and interaction.
Several researchers believe that cribbing and other oral stereotypies is related to hunger. If the horse's appetite is not satisfied, he will make eating motions, which can become a habit (particularly with younger horses) associated with anticipating his regular meal times, or seeing other horses eat.  The solution to this is making sure the horse's feeding is as close as possible to natural grazing behaviour - which means allowing him to eat almost constantly! Increased amounts of hay fed frequently, or more regular turnout to allow for grazing, should reduce instances of cribbing.
Miracle Cribbing Collar
Once cribbing has become an ingrained habit, it is far more difficult to stop. There are various products on the market designed to "cure" cribbers. These include devices such as the Weaver Miracle Cribbing Collar, recommended because it doesn't impair the horse's ability to eat, drink and breathe normally. You can also use one of a variety of products to coat the surfaces on which the horse is inclined to crib, which have an unpleasant taste designed to deter the horse from chewing. 

It all comes down to this: you can prevent stereotypies by keeping your horse happy and stress free by meeting his needs. If you notice a stereotypy developing, treat it as an alert to the fact that you are doing something wrong - make an effort to find out what that is, and correct it.

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The Inside Story

27 September 2016 01:42
The days are drawing in and there's a distinct nip in the air. It's time to make sure  your horses have a cosy, clean and comfortable sanctuary for the cold weather ahead. You can make caring for your stabled horses a lot easier on yourself - and them - by planning your stable layout sensibly, and having the right equipment and tools to hand.

The main thing to take into account is the fact that a stable is not a natural environment for a horse. Despite the need for keeping him indoors during cold, wet weather or while he's on box rest for whatever reason, he'd far rather be out in the field foraging, roaming, playing, socialising, working and doing all the things that keep horses amused. Being cooped up in a stable - however spacious and airy it may be - can be frustrating, boring and down right depressing for an energetic equine.

We owe it to our horse companions, therefore, to make their indoor habitation as pleasant and healthy as possible, and this comes down to stable management.


If you haven't done so already, autumn is the time to blitz on a deep clean of your yard and
Pick a dry day and have a good wash and brush down, removing all the moss, weeds and debris that may prove slippery and hazardous when it freezes over in the winter.
Shires Waterproof Trousers
Don't forget to look upwards, and clear out all the dust and cobwebs that may be clinging to rafters and door frames, and unblock those gutters choked with autumn leaves.
Check all the stable fittings - from hooks and rings to door handles and hay racks - and replace any that are rusted or broken. It's a good opportunity to re-design or reconfigure your set up, making sure that things like tie rings, hooks for hay nets and toys, mangers and the like are securely fixed in the most appropriate places.
Tidy your tack and set aside anything that needs repairs.
Clean and disinfect the floors before you lay new bedding - if you usually use the deep litter method remove it all and replace. Don't miss out on the corners which can harbour bacteria that will flourish in the damp, dank darkness of winter.
You'll find that mucking out will be quicker and easier during the winter if you start with a clean slate!


To save time and effort have your mucking out tools well organised and close to hand. You'll need a wheelbarrow, a shovel, broom, pitchfork, a
Stubbs Quad Tool Holder
plastic tubtrug, and a headcollar and leadrope for moving and/or securing the horse while you work.
Keep everything tidy and safely stowed out of the way (so you don't go doing the classic cartoon tripping over the rake trick!) with a tool rack attached to the wall.
Be kind to yourself by investing in a good pair of yard gloves to keep your hands warm, dry and blister free while doing all that hard work.
If you don't want to risk ruining your lovely leather riding boots, keep some waterproof, comfy yard boots ready to put on when you tackle the dirty tasks.


Keeping the water flowing is always a big consideration for horse owners, bearing in mind
that the average horse will drink 5 to 10 gallons per day. The danger in winter, of course, is having the taps and pipes freezing up, and the water in the water trough or bucket itself becoming coated with a barrier of ice during long, cold nights.
So make sure pipes are well insulated, and try the old trick of floating a football in the water trough to stop it freezing over.


Classic Showjumps Hay Holder
Racks, shelves and hooks are the best storage solution for stables and tack rooms, because it is best to keep everything off of the floor, away from the inevitable mud, damp and manure that somehow gets spread around no matter how careful you are.

Save space by investing in purpose-designed wall-mounted rug racks, for example, which not only fold away when not in use but keep rugs aired when they're not being worn. Saddles should never be tossed in a box or in a corner where they could become mouldy and misshapen - keep them on a proper saddle rack or trolley.

Leather goods need to be kept dry, clean and conditioned.Don't think storing leather tack in plastic containers will keep the damp and mould out - the opposite is likely to happen! The leather will sweat and become mouldy.  Hanging storage is the best option for bridles, girths and the like, away from direct heat which can make the leather dry and brittle.

Grooming kit and  supplies and seasonal equipment that you may not need during the winter can be packed up and stored out of the way. Have a bathroom type rack or trolley to keep the essential grooming goods you use regularly through the cold months easy to access.

Keep hay and haylage for eating clean and dry off of the floor with wall-mounted mangers and hay nets. Hay nets have the added bonus of keeping your horse occupied in pulling the forage out of the netting. 

We hope all your horses weather the winter happily and healthily!

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20 September 2016 01:36
Our happy, smiling Alice!
Chances are that if your dog is well and being fed a complete and balanced diet, he or she will not need supplements to live a healthy, happy life. Just like with humans, however, there are cases where there are benefits to be derived from supplements.

If for some reason a dog has not been eating a balanced diet, or has a dermatological condition, anxiety issues, joint problems or special health needs, an appropriate supplement will keep him or her bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and full of energy. It's always wise, though, to talk to your vet about your choice of supplements and dosage. Never give a dog a supplement that is not specifically designed or recommended for canine use, however harmless you think it is.

The most often used supplements for dogs are those for joint care (particularly for older dogs), skin and coat conditioning, digestion aids and those that simply promote general well-being. Natural, herbal dog supplements are, unsurprisingly, the most favoured.


Here at Totally Tack we recently noticed an increase in sales of calming supplements for dogs - and also garments such as the Zen Dog calming dog coat, and Streamz 

With so many dogs now having to share our busy lives, especially those in urban environments, it seems they are exhibiting anxiety and stress in all sorts of situations. Thunderstorms, travelling, separation issues, grooming parlour and vet visits, moving house - and of course noisy celebrations like Bonfire Night and New Year's Eve - all conspire to disturb your dog!

One of the most powerful (and popular) calmers is GlobalHerbs Fireworkx (suitable for dogs and horses, though of course the dosages differ). It contains absorbible magnesium and a selection of natural herbs and comes in powder or liquid form.
Relaxed Alice!

Stress is certainly unhealthy for any dog, causing increased blood pressure, a rise in sugar levels and having a knock-on effect on the digestive and immune system. The effects can last even after the cause of the stress or anxiety is removed. You'll know when your dog is stressed because he will exhibit signs that go beyond his normal excitement level, such as urinating, whining, trembling, drooling, panting and showing aggression.

In these situations a supplementary calmer may help, along with making sure has plenty of re-assuring attention, a safe place to hide if he wishes and as calm an environment as possible.


At any stage of life dogs, like people, can suffer joint problems, due to development issues or degeneration. Many people guard against these potential problems by giving their dogs joint supplements, even if they do not have any existing conditions that need treating.

Being very active, dogs are prone to arthritis as they age, so our elderly canine companions in particular can benefit from joint supplements. They may not cure the problem, but they can help with pain reduction, lubricating the joints and suppressing inflammation.

Joint supplements for dogs generally contain Glucosamine and Chondroitin, key building blocks of the cartilage that make up the joint structure. Supplements may also contain MSM, a substance that is a good source of sulphur which aids in repairing joint tissues and acts as an anti-inflammatory.

Other ingredients may be Manganese, which promotes collagen, and Hyaluronic Acid, a component of the synovial fluid that lubricates joints.


If your dog has problems with dry, flaky skin and a dull, patchy coat he will certainly benefit from supplements that contain fish oil, along with vitamins C and E.

When it comes to digestion  problems probiotic and prebiotic supplements can help keep the gut balanced. A healthy gut also helps the immune system.

General "tonic" type supplements for dogs, and those aimed at general well-being, are usually only necessary if your dog is recuperating after illness, or for some reason is out of condition.

Whatever you give your dog in the way of dietary supplementation, do not exceed the recommended dose: too much, even of a good thing, can have bad consequences! Also, be aware that not all supplements work on all dogs - just like we humans each dog's body reacts differently to certain substances.

Enjoy your canine companion! Browse our range of delights for doggies.

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Winter Feeding

16 September 2016 02:23
The basic rule of thumb for feeding horses is to balance the energy that goes in (in the form of calories) with the energy that goes out (in the form of work and body heat).

This is easier said than done, especially in the winter months, when many horses are idle and stabled for long periods. Even those kept outside through the winter are denied the nutritious grazing of the warmer months.

So, its down to you, the horse owner, to monitor your horse's diet and adapt it according to need, adding hard feed and supplements to the staple forage where necessary in the bleak winter months. Failing to compensate for the natural seasonal availability of forage not only affects your horse's weight and condition, but also his temperament.


Fibre is vital - at best your horse should be eating at least 1.5% of his body weight in fibre a day to maintain a healthy digestive system. In cold weather he'll be burning up even more of this essential fuel to keep warm. The most important requirement for winter is therefore a
plentiful supply of hay or haylage to make up for depleted grazing, whether he is kept in or out, and whether rugged or not.

If you feed hay in the field, it's best to make it available in a feeder which keeps it off of the ground, out of the wet and mud. Indoors hay nets can provide a much-needed diversion for bored horses, along with some nutritious (and fibre-filled) treats like carrots and apples hidden away to forage for.


At the start of winter your horse or pony would be best carrying a little extra weight so he can afford to shed a bit, as he is naturally designed to do. Keeping a check on his weight and condition is made more difficult by his shaggy winter coat and warm rugs, which could disguise too much weight loss. Use a weight-tape periodically to pick up any changes, and the tried and trusted method of running your hand over his ribs - you should be able to just feel them.

Most healthy horses will get through the winter on forage alone, but if your horse loses too much weight, his body will use up even more stored fat to compensate: he'll need concentrated (hard) feed for more energy. The same applies to horses who continue to work during the winter. While their energy output for working may not change, they will be using up extra reserves to compensate for the cold weather, so will need extra calorific hard feed input.

Deciding on what, and how much, hard feed to give your horse is tricky - there's always the danger of overdoing it! There are numerous factors to consider such as the breed, age and general condition of the horse or pony. If in doubt consult your vet or an equine nutritionist for expert advice.

There are many commercial ready-mixed hard feed supplements available, designed to suit the different calorie requirements of horses and ponies that need fattening up.

Individual ingredients of these high energy supplements include things like oats, barley,
Hilton Herbs Thrive & Shine
maize, Linseed, chaff, bran and sugar beet. It's best not to mix your own combinations, because assessing the amount required is difficult. Too much of some of these can cause problems, such as oats which might make a horse overly exuberant, or barley which if not properly prepared can swell in the stomach.


Winter may be wet, but don't let this fool you into thinking your horse does not need as much to drink as he does in the heat of summer. His water requirements will, in fact, be more, because he is eating dry food like hay, rather than juicy grass.

Himalayan Salt Lick
Take care that water left for the horse does not freeze so he is unable to drink it. Even a few hours without water could cause dehydration. Horses don't like to drink water that is too cold, so top up the water bucket with warm water frequently. If your horse takes in insufficient water there is the risk of impaction colic.

Salt licks should be available to keep electrolytes balanced and help stimulate thirst.

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We're Serious about Safety

09 September 2016 02:12
Safely visible in Equisafety High Viz gear!
Like you, we love riding, but we are well aware that it is a risky business! That's why we pride ourselves in being BETA (British Equestrian Trade Association) approved and trained suppliers and fitters of safety equipment. We also work closely with organisations like the British Horse Society (BHS) and Society of Master Saddlers to make sure we know all there is to know in order to ride safe.

It's not all just about the safety products we sell (more about those later); there is an awful lot of basic stuff you can train yourself to do and remember while riding to reduce the risk of injury to yourself and your horse.

Here are some tips - many of which are probably just common sense, but there's no harm in a reminder:

  • Don't take off at a gallop across unknown terrain. Speed can, quite literally, be a killer if you fall foul of a hidden obstacle. Anything from a mole hole to a broken bottle or an obscured patch of slippery mud could spell disaster.
  • If you're riding a horse you haven't met before, make sure your experience matches his temperament. Don't try to be a hero and ride a spirited, athletic horse if you don't have the experience to handle him - you'll no doubt end up on the ground with a few bruises, or worse!
  • Keep a good look out for anything on your ride that may spook the horse, and take evasive action before it happens. This could mean anything from a flapping plastic bag caught in a hedgerow to a barking dog.
  • All horses have a tendency to kick - some more than others. If you're riding out with others, keep your distance from the horse in front of you. Same goes for when you're on the ground with your horse, of course.
  • When you're not mounted, beware of any tethered horses you may be around. Nervous horses may rear and break ties, stays, even fence posts, causing injury to you and themselves. Likewise, when tethering a horse for whatever reason, don't be tempted to leave a long lead-rope, which may get tangled in the horses legs and cause injury.
  • Don't ride if you're tired - horses and people are more inclined to slip up when they are fatigued.


If the hat fits, wear it!

In fact, it's not a case of "if", but your riding hat or helmet MUST fit properly to be effective in protecting your head from harm.
Wearing a safety standard approved riding hat is required by law for children up to 14 who ride on British roads. Even though not compulsory for leisure riding for adults, most riders fortunately do wear hats or helmets. When it comes to competition, the governing bodies of equestrian sport set their own standards.
There is no doubt that today's riding hats - whatever style or make you choose - are strong enough to protect your head in the event of an impact, while being light and comfortable to wear. Your correctly fitting riding hat or helmet is as essential as your saddle - don't ride out without it!

To make sure your hat fits comfortably, and is suitable for the equestrian activity you plan to use it for, consult a tack shop retailer that is BETA trained. You can search for your nearest one on the BETA website.
Your riding hat needs to be carefully stored and kept clean and undamaged. If you have a fall with a head impact, get a new helmet, even if the one that you wore doesn't show any outward signs of damage. The inner shell might be compromised. Better safe than sorry!

Your personal body guard

Body protectors are increasingly used by riders as a matter of course. We've noticed a big surge in the sale of body protectors in recent years. This is probably because the manufacturers are refining the design of these protective garments - so important for safeguarding your torso from bruising (or worse). The latest body protectors are lightweight, flexible and streamlined enough to wear comfortably under shirts and jackets if desired.
As with hats, its wisest to have a body protector properly fitted by a BETA retailer.

Pro Hit Air Vest
Like body protectors, the wearing of inflatable air vests have become the norm, especially for eventing, to reduce the chance of serious injury to the neck, spine and ribs if you fall.
Air vests, powered by a discreet compressed air canister, work by inflating almost instantly when you part company with the saddle.
Like all safety equipment, the operation of your air vest should be regularly checked and the garment needs annual servicing.
If you're buying an air vest for the first time, make sure your retailer explains its operation thoroughly, and gives you a test run of the inflation process, which can be quite alarming for the uninitiated!

Be Seen ....

Visibility is crucial for riders on our roads and in the countryside in all seasons. Dress yourself and your horse in an array of fluorescent high visibility garments and accessories so you'll both be seen by motorists and other passers-by in dangerous situations.
It's not only in dark or dismal conditions that hi-viz helps - think of those deeply shaded leafy lanes and dappled hedge-rows!
The BHS, on its website, says:

“There is no law that states riders must wear this equipment, but it is in their best interests to do so – not just because drivers will see them on the road earlier, but also so that they can be seen when they are riding off-road as well. Research by the Ministry of Defence has shown that helicopter pilots can see a rider in hi-viz gear up to half-a-mile sooner and thus avoid flying straight over the top of them. It also means that in the unfortunate event that a rider is thrown from their horse and left in open countryside, the police helicopter or air ambulance will see them much sooner and prevent their injuries from becoming more serious.”

Tighten up

When you are tacking up, you may think you've tightened the girth sufficiently, but it's wise to check the tension a few minutes into the ride and periodically thereafter. There are numerous reasons why a girth may loosen, and a fair number of cases where a loose girth has resulted in unpleasant consequences!

Put your best foot forward

Don't skimp on footwear when riding, or you may live to regret it!
Shires Norfolk Long Leather Riding Boots
Boots with slippery soles or without a heel for slotting into stirrups are an accident waiting to happen. Too much tread, on the other hand, might catch and cause your foot to become stuck.
You also need a reinforced toecap to avoid bruising or broken bones should your horse inadvertently step on your tender tootsies. Ankles are vulnerable when riding too, so sturdy support is vital.
Proper riding boots not only minimise the chance of injury to feet and legs, but also help to keep you secure in the saddle.

The little things that mean a lot

Something as simple as a neck strap can make all the difference to your safety in the saddle. Even top eventers use this nifty little safety aid, which - while it won't necessarily prevent you from falling off - does assist along with rein contact to stop a spooked or bolting horse.

Another aid we heartily recommend is the British invention - Libby's R-S-Tor. This device attaches to the saddle stirrup bars, providing a helping hand for riders should the horse spook, jump, buck or rear.

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