25 April 2017 02:16
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.
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 totally-tack.co.uk to ensure you and your horse are equipped like the top riders!
19 April 2017 01:31
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.
GETTING READY TO RIDE
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.
PLEASURE, NOT PAIN!
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!
28 March 2017 02:15
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:
Shaping up for Summer:
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 ....
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 ...
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.
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
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.
Women should keep their long hair out of the way, preferably with a hairnet, for both appearance and safety's sake.
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!
30 September 2016 01:58
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.
"IN A STABLE ALL FORLORN"
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.
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.
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.
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.
THE BIG CLEAN
If you haven't done so already, autumn is the time to blitz on a deep clean of your yard andstalls.
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.
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!
WINTER MUCKING OUT
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
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 mindthat 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.
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!
20 September 2016 01:36
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.
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON!
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.
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.
PUTTING A SPRING IN HIS STEP
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.
SHINY, HAPPY TAIL-WAGGERS
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.
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
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.
A BIT OF THE HARD STUFF
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,
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
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.
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.
09 September 2016 02:12
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:
HEAD TO TOE SAFETY GEAR
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.
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.”
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!
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.
26 August 2016 01:02
We've barely finished celebrating the brilliant performance of our equestrian athletes at the Rio Olympics, but now we have an equally exciting international event in store.
Some of the world's leading riders will be strutting their stuff at the Land Rover Freelander Burghley Horse Trials across the weekend of September 1 to 4. Among the big names saddling up at Burghley will be Pippa Funnell, Mark Todd, Andrew Hoy, Oliver Townend and Andrew Nicholson - all former winners of this challenging event.
Burghley is not only a gruelling test of horse and rider, but also a glittering social and commercial occasion. The parkland around the stately Burghley manor house in Lincolnshire becomes transformed into an equestrian town, where celebrities and members of the Royal family mingle with eventing fans in the shopping lanes, and sip champagne in elegant marquees.
There is not quite so much glitz and glamour behind the scenes, however, where horses, riders and their support entourage face what is possibly the greatest challenge in Eventing. Burghley is one of only six CCI4* events held in the world, and one of the three events that make up the Grand Slam of Eventing.
A total of 79 horses will compete for the big pot of prize money, not least the substantial £63k first prize.
The Dressage phase of the Three Day Event takes place on Thursday (Sep 1) and Friday (Sep 2). The most popular spectator part of the event - and the ultimate test of stamina and courage for the horse and rider - is the Saturday Cross Country course, designed by Captain Mark Phillips. The Showjumping rounds complete the eventing action on Sunday Sep 4.
So, what can we expect to see at this year's Burghley?
First of all, last year's winner, Germany's Michael Jung, will not be there to contest his title. He decided not to enter because of his Olympic commitments. Also absent will be William Fox-Pitt, who has won Burghley previously no less than six times, and recently rode in Rio.
This no doubt leaves a more open field than usual, and there may be some fresh faces appearing on the podium. There are plenty to choose from, most notably some very capable entries from "down under", such as Shane Rose (who has entered three horses). Also a favourite is New Zealander Andrew Nicholson - no stranger to winning at Burghley, but back in the saddle after making an amazing recovery from a serious neck injury after a fall in 2015. Rounding out the antipodean contingent is the stalwart Mark Todd, who already has five Burghley wins under his belt, and Andrew Hoy, with two horses entered.
In the British camp all eyes will be on Pippa Funnell, fresh from the Olympic Games, riding Second Supreme. Oliver Townend will be making his presence felt, having entered three horses. There are some newbies to watch, too, such as Lissa Green, whose mother Lucinda, won Burghley in 1977, and Oxfordshire-based Imogen Gloag 21, who is the youngest rider entered.
Whatever happens, this might be the most unpredictable Burghley yet - a feast for equestrian eyes and a true test of spirit for horse and rider.
For full details of the field, and how to watch the action, visit the Burghley Horse Trials website.
23 August 2016 12:00
One thing these incredible equestrians have in common (aside from Olympic Gold Medals of course) is the sincere loving bond they have with their champion horses. Just goes to show - it takes more than just long hours of training and riding skill to be a winner. For both their affinity with their partner horses played a big role in their success.
“I’ve got chronic back pain so getting legged up is painful, and I have a metal hip on my left side, so I only get on like this.”
Nick - a veteran of seven Olympic Games - paired up with Big Star in 2012, ahead of the London Olympics. Although they were part of the British equestrian team that took Gold in London, they dropped a rail to end up 5th in the individual Show Jumping. The partnership was proving a match made in heaven, however, and Nick has described Big Star as the best horse he has ever ridden.
That is quite a compliment coming from a man who started riding his first Welsh Mountain pony when he was aged just 18 months! After leaving school Nick started racking up the ribbons and medals, becoming one of Britain's most decorated and respected riders, with a succession of brilliant horses. In 1978 at Olympia, riding Lastic, he set the still unbroken British jump record of 7' 7".
His gallop to success on Big Star has, however, been a rocky road.
Disaster struck in 2013, when the stallion injured a leg at the Dublin Nations Cup in August and Nick withdrew for the rest of the season. The indomitable horse made a come back the next year, but then suffered another leg injury. Since then he has been rested and appeared in modest level competitions, gearing up for the Rio Olympics.
Careful management and nursing has paid off for Nick and Big Star, who have earned their well deserved place in the British Olympian hall of fame.
Winning Olympic Gold may be the pinnacle of Nick's career, but it's not the end. Nick's website has repeated the quote he gave an interviewer after the Olympic medal ceremony:
“I am not going to stop now. I only ride Big Star at the moment. When he stops, I will stop. For definite. I have been in the sport a long time. I am so happy – it was amazing. I was just emotional on the podium because I am so happy with what I’ve done. To do it now is unbelievable. It is pretty emotional for all concerned.”
17 August 2016 12:04
British consumers spend £4.3-billion on equestrian-related goods and services each year, according to the latest survey (2015) by the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA). The horse industry is therefore big business for Britain, and many of our top equine brands are renowned and respected across the world.
We've got a particularly good track record in the development, design and manufacture of rider safety equipment - riding hats and helmets, body protectors and, more recently, air jackets.
Wearing a riding hat nowadays is (forgive the pun!) a "no-brainer". It's hard to imagine that there was a time, before riding hats became synonymous with safety, when work riders exercised race horses wearing flat caps. Until a generation or so ago if you wore a hat at all while riding it was for reasons of fashion or etiquette, or perhaps simply to keep your ears warm on a hack.
As sport in general began to take more notice of health and safety standards, the use of protective headgear for eventing, showjumping, horse racing and endurance riding became regulation, and manufacturers turned their attention to improving riding helmet safety technology.
One British manufacturer had the jump on the rest of the field. Charles Owen founded a company in 1911 and faced up to the challenge of making tropical military helmets that would fit all heads comfortably, with good ventilation. This expertise morphed easily over the following decades into the manufacture of motorcycle and equestrian safety helmets, with
Horse rider safety took a giant leap forward in 1983 when, responding to the demand from the Pony Club for safer helmets, Charles Owen produced the first dual standard riding helmet.
Today Roy Burek, Charles' grandson, holds the reins as Managing Director of the Charles Owen company. The modern Charles Owen factory covers 80,000 square feet at Croesfoel Industrial Park, Wrexham, and is still at the heart of helmet development and safety standards. The company exports nearly 70% of its products around the world and Roy Burek is regarded as a global expert in head protection.
It wouldn't be fair to discuss British equestrian helmet technology without mentioning another UK manufacturer, Champion. Endorsed by top professional riders like Pippa Funnell and Kitty King, Champion - based in Leeds - has been designing, developing and producing protective riding hats and body protectors for around 30 years.
Another British brand synonymous with equestrian safety around the world is Airowear - manufacturers of sophisticated and superior body protectors with its renowned UltraFlex™ technology and gender-specific sizing.
Although Airowear was founded in 1985, the company was acquired by Charles Owen in 2012, and since then this great British label has lived up to its reputation for international excellence. Airowear was recently voted top choice for body protectors within the German market by the magazine "Cavallo", and also won an Innovation Award for its new Hickstead Body Protector for showjumpers.
Something else the horse industry in Britain can be proud of when it comes to safety is the invention of the equestrian air jacket, which is attributed (in a Daily Mail article) to Lee Middleton, 32, an equine dentist and showjumper, who modified inflatable motorcycle jackets to meet the demands of horse-riding.
Lee started producing air jackets - which inflate in an instant when a rider falls from the saddle, protecting the neck and vital organs from injury - and started a company now trading as Point Two.
The other leading brand name in air jacket technology is Hit Air,also proudly British of course, with products that work the same way as described above, but with a different (patented) design.
One thing riders anywhere in the world can depend on - British is Best when it comes to safety equipment!
16 August 2016 12:23
|When Charlotte Dujardin OBE and her horse, Valegro, danced their way to an Olympic gold medal in Rio this week in individual Dressage, they became the darlings not only of the
The cherry on the top of Charlotte's remarkable achievement (she not only won the Gold but broke the Olympic record with a score of 93.857%) was the amusing and touching tribute from her fiance of four years, Dean Golding, who displayed a sign at the event requesting: "Will you marry me now?!"
He's been a patient man - taking a back seat to allow his lady-love to concentrate on perfecting her art during long training days at Oaklebrook Mill, Newent in Gloucestershire, where she went to work as a groom in 2007 for renowned dressage rider, Carl Hester. It was there she formed her partnership with Valegro, and worked with him to bag two Olympic Golds at London 2012, and now another in Rio.
Interviewed after her Rio triumph, Charlotte was quick to give credit to her beloved Valegro, whom she described as "magical" and "the horse of a lifetime". The legendary 14-year-old gelding is likely to be retired soon, the prospect of which spurred Charlotte on to glory: 'I owed it to him to finish at the top, so everybody could remember him the way he is, " she told the Daily Mail.
In the saddle since the age of two, Charlotte - now 31 - was born in Enfield and brought up in Bedfordshire. She was just three years old when she started collecting the honours, winning second place at her first ever Pony Club show jumping competition.
But it was to be in dressage that Charlotte would make her mark, after her talent for the discipline was spotted by Carl Hester. In 2011 Charlotte was put to work developing Valegro for his joint owner, Hester, but once their bond became obvious, the duo were set on course for a series of impressive individual and team successes.
Charlotte and Valegro won the FEI World Cup Grand Prix at London Olympia in 2011. Then came two Olympic Golds - one for team dressage and one for individual - at London 2012.
The international and European titles have just kept on coming for the talented pair, who have undoubtedly made the artistic and demanding equestrian sport of dressage hugely popular here at home.
We have a hunch that Charlotte has a lot more accolades to come - if not with her beloved "Blueberry", which is Valegro's stable name - then with one or more of the four other horses she currently has in training.
For a hint of how special this golden horse/rider partnership is, read Charlotte's"thank you" to Valegro and her mentor, Carl Hester, on her website.
19 July 2016 11:15
|Most horse owners in the UK are aware that the common weed known as Ragwort (botanical name Jacobaea vulgaris) is bad news if it rears its bright yellow head anywhere close to grazing land. Not all, however, know exactly why this nasty invader is so dreaded, and how to deal with it.
It’s certainly not the case that your horse will keel over and die instantly if he swallows a clump of Ragwort. The weed is, however, toxic to horses (and other grazing animals) because of the alkaloids it contains, which can have a cumulative effect and result in potentially irreversible deadly liver disease.
The good news is that horses – unless they are very hungry – are unlikely to choose to eat Ragwort because of its unpleasant bitter taste. The bad news is that Ragwort is actually more lethal dead than alive, because it loses this unpalatable taste when it dries but retains its toxicity, and can thus pose a danger if it ends up in hay.
The BHS (British Horse Society) and other equestrian organisations involved in horse welfare therefore recommend that keepers of horses be extremely vigilant in recognizing and eradicating this plant scourge which can spring up and spread quickly in fields, paddocks and yards across the countryside.
The effects of Ragwort poisoning in Horses
Damage to the liver of a horse from eating Ragwort is insidious, whether it is triggered by eating a one-off large amount or imbibing small amounts over a long time. Sadly, the effects may not be obvious until it is too late to prevent serious damage that is beyond treatment and euthanasia is the only option.
When the symptoms do appear, they are heartbreakingly horrible. World Horse Welfare describes them as follows:
“First they may become lethargic or behave abnormally. They can develop photosensitisation, where areas of pink skin become inflamed and painful when exposed to sunlight, like serious sunburn. They can also lose significant amounts of weight, even though they may be eating well.
Eventually they may go blind, have to fight for breath, start to wander or stagger or stand pushing their head against the wall. The symptoms and subsequent death can come about so quickly that owners have sometimes found their horse dead without warning.”
No-one wants to see their precious steed suffer such a fate, so when it comes to Ragwort it is obviously better to be safe rather than sorry.
How to Recognise Ragwort
Every keeper of horses should make it a point to become familiar with the growth stages of the dreaded weed, so as to be able to be rid of it well before it gains its very strong foothold in the vicinity of the animal.
You are unlikely to spot the plants until they become visible as tight rosettes of dark green oval-shaped, serrated leaves, in early spring. At this stage the roots are already well-developed and tenaciously tough.
Ragwort stays in this rosette stage through the first annual season of its growth, eventually flowering the following year.
The distinctive bright yellow daisy-like flowers on long stalks are very prolific during the second year of the Ragwort’s cycle, from around June through to October. At this point the plant is well established, with deep, extensive roots, and at the end of the flowering season in late September is ready to spread its many thousands of seeds far and wide.
Ragwort seeds can lay dormant for years, so it is important to eradicate the plant before it produces its offspring.
It is unlikely you will remove all traces of Ragwort from an infested area with just one operation. It may take several efforts annually to rid your pasture of this stubborn intruder.
The best time to tackle it is in the rosette stage, before it is allowed to flower and produce more seeds.
However, and at whatever growth stage, you tackle the plant make sure no dead parts of it are left in the area because dead Ragwort is just as toxic to horses as is the live plant.
You can use a commercial herbicide such as Barrier H Ragwort herbicide to spray on the plants, then dig up any surviving or re-occuring plants using a specially designed Ragwort fork, making sure all the roots are removed.
A new product on the market for Ragwort control, which is proving popular because it contains no chemicals or herbicides, is Freestep's Ragroot BioSpray. This product is designed to be sprayed into the hole after you have pulled up a Ragroot plant to eliminate the opportunity for regrowth and re-mineralise the soil.
Ploughing or mowing will not eradicate the weed, and may just result in spreading it further.
When using a herbicide make sure you follow the directions on the container with great care. Don’t put the horses back in the area until you are sure all dead matter has been cleared away.
Always wear gloves when handling Ragwort, and dispose of dead or dying Ragwort remains as quickly as possible, preferably (if your property allows for it) with controlled burning. Make sure no seeds get dispersed in the disposal process. If all else fails call in a professional waste disposal company to get rid of it for you. It is vital to remember that horses should not be allowed near dried out Ragwort!
If you feel overwhelmed by a Ragwort infestation, you can contact DEFRA for help and advice:
Telephone 03459 33 55 77 or email email@example.com.
The British Horse Society has a useful online “toolkit” about dealing with Ragwort.
05 July 2016 11:50
20 April 2016 11:42
|If you are competing with your horse under FEI rules this season, be warned - you could be disqualified if your horse has imbibed the herb Devils Claw from any source.
Devils Claw has been a popular natural remedy for easing muscle pain for many years, and it is an active ingredient in many commercially available supplements.
Since January 2016 however, Devils Claw is an evil in competition ... or rather the active ingredient in this herb called harpagoside - an anti-inflammatory with analgesic properties - is now regarded as such by the governing body of the FEI.
Devils Claw is not the only substance to make the latest "banned" list, not permitted for use in horses taking part in competition. Also now on the list is Phenibut and Codeine.
The banning of Devils Claw, however, is likely to make the biggest stir in the herbal horse supplement pot, simply because it has always been considered a natural remedy, extracted from the root of the shrub Harpagophytum procumbens with its hooked, claw-shaped seed pods.
The FEI, however, now deem use of the herb gives horses in competition an unfair advantage, and believe it is open to abuse.
If your horse is tested and found to have evidence of Devils Claw (or rather, the active ingredient harpagoside) in his system, it could mean that the rider and others associated with the care of the horse would have to attend a hearing, and risk disqualification from the event in question, suspension from future events and a fine.
The same would be true if a test found any other of the banned substances on the FEI list in your or your horse's body.
If you are a regular competitor it is probably best to make sure you acquaint yourself with all the rules, regulations and banned substances, by reading the FEI Clean Sport web pages.
Alternatives to Devils Claw
There are numerous supplements available from all the major brands that make good, legal alternatives to preparations containing Devils Claw.
Here are some of our recommendations:
Equine America High Strength Buteless Solution
Net Tex SubstiBute Maintenance Powder
NAF Go Sound Liquid
Horse First Keep Me Sound
Animal Life Vetrofen Intense
Pegasus NatureBute Powder
These can be ordered online from Totally Tack. To see our full range of Joint Supplements click here.
19 April 2016 02:40
12 March 2016 03:55
The EQU StreamZ bands are sold in packs of two and each weather-resistant band is wrapped around the fetlock/hock area and should be left on at all times or at least for a minimum of 8 hours per day. The EQU StreamZ fetlock bands are made with a patented design that provides a non-intrusive natural pain relief device to the equestrian community, tested on humans for use on animals. Not only have the EQU StreamZ bands been found to support recovery from injured muscles, strains, wounds, and pains; evidence has been collected showing a significant reduction in inflammation and a variety of health issues suffered by horses.
The EQU StreamZ bands can help to provide a low cost and natural response to a variety of symptoms, by rebalancing compounds and minerals in the body. This helps to reduce inflammation and pain associated with a large variety of complaints. Many symptoms have been reported as being significantly improved whilst wearing the bands, including arthritis, lameness, suppleness, energy levels and inflammation. In turn, this has led to a reported reduction in administered medication levels.
The EQU Streamz bands have proven to support the following symptoms:
Mobility and stiffness
Injured muscles and tendons
IMPORTANT WARNING: Please be advised not to use the Equ Streamz bands on any horse diagnosed with a heart condition or horses with particularly sensitive skin. Some grey (white) haired horses have shown to be sensitive to the neoprene material. Horses who are regular ‘chewers’ should avoid wearing the product as warranty is void on any products showing damage. StreamZ will not be held responsible for any adverse reaction to the neoprene or offer a guarantee on the intended results.
Each horse can wear two EQU StreamZ bands just above or below the fetlock area, and the bands are designed to be worn for a minimum of 8 hours a day although results have been reported as significantly greater when used 24/7. The bands are waterproof and designed to be used in most weather conditions however “24/7 use” refers to the technology and does not indicate that the bands can be left on in all weather conditions. When the ground is soft the bands should be placed above the fetlock joint and out of the soft ground. Care and attention is required for the bands to last; as with any other tack product.
MAINTENANCE: StreamZ advertise the EQU bands as “24/7 use”. This refers to the technology being able to be worn all day every day, and particularly when the horse is ‘in recovery’. This does not stipulate that bands can be worn 24/7 in all weather conditions. The material has a life span as with any aesthetic product such as shoes or clothing; it requires care and attention to last 12 months or more. The EQU bands should be worn above the fetlock in softer ground conditions, further still if the ground is soft enough to allow the bands to be submerged then the bands should be removed.
02 March 2016 04:32
The YOU StreamZ bands from Streamz Global provide a low cost and natural response to a variety of symptoms, by rebalancing compounds and minerals in the body and helping reduce inflammation and pain.
Users of the You Streamz bands have reported significant reductions in pain related to a variety of conditions, including arthritis, severe back pain, cramps caused by IBS and migraines. The YOU StreamZ bands are non-intrusive and create no known negative effects on the body, unlike some other pain killers ingested in tablet form.
On top of this users of the YOU StreamZ bands consistently report the positive impact the bands have on injured muscles, aches and pains reducing both recovery time and reoccurrence – a major benefit not just for sports people, but for everyone who takes a walk, or cleans a car, or does anything physical.
-Severe back and neck pain
-Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
-IBS and Colitis
As the evolution of the YOU StreamZ product progresses, further studies continue. Mounting pressure from medical and advertising authorities is for the product to achieve ‘clinical evidence’ status. It is the intention of StreamZ Global to achieve this within the foreseeable future. Although the YOU StreamZ band is a registered CE Class 1 medical device it remains unsupported by national medical authorities. Results are key!
The YOU Streamz band work by rebalancing the body to its natural and optimum state, energy levels are naturally increased. This has been reported by the majority of wearers and is down to the natural process in which the body distributes minerals around the body. Notable improvements have been experienced by sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and similar recognised conditions such as ME and Fibromyalgia.
By streaming minerals around the body in a more efficient way, the band provides a vast array of more subtle benefits. Indications are that the natural immune system is boosted when using the YOU StreamZ band, with digestion, skin complexion, and even moods being affected. Users frequently report that their nails and hair become stronger, period pains are reduced, and they feel generally happier.
The YOU StreamZ band is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ and is worn on either ankle. The YOU StreamZ is sold in single unit quantities and is designed to be worn for a minimum of 8 hours a day although results have been reported as significantly greater when worn 24/7. It is recommended that the band is worn whilst sleeping and that the user is well hydrated prior to wearing the ankle band for the first time.
WARNING: Not to be used by anyone with a pacemaker and if you are diabetic please consult your GP before use. (instructions issued by UK health regulations)
06 January 2016 05:09
Until fairly recently I gave little thought to that fine yellow powder called Turmeric, beyond the fact that I vaguely knew it as a constituent of curry powder!
In fact, if you had asked me whether this spice had any beneficial health properties I would have said no, believing it to be useful merely as a colourant, imparting a slight aromatic flavour for eastern cuisine.
How wrong can one be!
When manufacturers of natural products for horses started promoting Turmeric (often blended with black pepper)as something of a cure-all for a range of nasty equine blights, I took another look at this alleged super substance, and I have to say I'm impressed. As a horse owner, you could say that a tub of turmeric is like a pot of gold!
What exactly is it?
Turmeric is a not particularly pretty perennial plant that grows in tropical climates - a member of the ginger family. It grows about three feet tall. It's not the long dark leaves or flower bracts that produce the good stuff, but rather the thick rhizomes (underground stems) that the plant sends out from its main root stalk.
The powdered Turmeric we are familiar with is obtained by pulverising the dried rhizomes of the plant. Fresh turmeric is sometimes used in Asian cooking, but generally it is always encountered in its intensely yellow dried and powdered form.
What are the benefits of Turmeric?
Turmeric has been revered as auspicious and holy in India for millennia, and is a staple of Chinese traditional medicine. Now it is becoming apparent to the rest of the world why this spice is so special.
The secret lies in a strong anti-oxidant known as curcumin, which is the active constituent of Turmeric that has been identified as having a wide range of therapeutic properties.
At risk of sounding too scientific, curcumin has been shown to protect against free radical damage, because it is a strong anti-oxidant. In layman's terms, for your horse this means that it protects the body cells from damage caused by oxidation - reducing inflammation, lowering histamine levels and increasing the production of natural cortisone by the adrenal glands.
Curcumin also appears to protect liver tissue exposed to toxic compounds, and some studies show it prevents the development of tumours.
The most recent finds regarding the effects of curcumin administered orally in animals are that it supports joints. It's also anti-fungal, astringent, cleanses the blood, protects against ulcers and stimulates bile production.
Sounds too good to be true? One wonders, is there a down side? Seemingly not ... turmeric is generally safe with the only side-effects being recorded that at high doses or with prolonged use it can irritate or upset the stomach. It's also not recommended in pregnancy (for horses or humans) because it may cause uterine contractions. It also shouldn't be used before surgery since it thins the blood and can inhibit blood clotting.
So, in essence, the yellow stuff is good for all sorts of conditions, particularly in older horses, such as skin allergies (sweet itch) and sarcoids, inflammation of joints as well as improving circulation and blood flow.
How to feed Turmeric
For best results, Turmeric should be fed to your horse along with an oil (coconut, olive or linseed) and fresh black peppercorns. The oil and black pepper helps with the absorption of the therapeutic curcumin in the Turmeric.
Some preparations come ready mixed with coconut oil powder and black pepper, the brand new Turmericle.
Generally, the best combination is a ratio of 10mls of turmeric: 10mls oil: 8 grindings of black peppercorns.
There is no set dose as yet recommended (unless you buy a commercially ready-blended product) but the advice is to start slowly, feeding little and often of your turmeric/oil/black pepper mixture, judging how the horse responds.
Start with around a tablespoon of Turmeric powder, with the additives suggested above, blended into a paste (with some water if necessary) which you can add to the bulk of your horse's feed. Adjust up or down as the results indicate, and take a few days break from dosing the horse with turmeric every so often.
If you mix a big batch of the paste you can keep it in the fridge for a few days.
Generally the turmeric does not seem to put horses off of their feed, but they do reportedly take it best if their feed is wet.
CLICK HERE to read some interesting blog posts about Turmeric for horses.
03 November 2015 01:33
A relatively small hoof has to carry a lot of weight, so it is not surprising that equines are prone to podiatric maladies. One of the most common of these is a hoof abscess, rare is the horse who avoids this painful infection at some stage, whether shod or barefoot.
The first sign of trouble is usually a degree of lameness in the affected foot, which can leave the owner mystified as to the cause because there is no discernible injury or problem with the leg or hoof.
The knee-jerk reaction with a horse in obvious pain is to summon the vet or farrier, but you'd be wise to delay acting before you have considered the possibility of an abscess, which hopefully can be dealt with using simple treatment, common sense and patience.
An abscess is the body's natural way of collecting and expelling bacterial waste. It is designed to resolve itself, but there is no harm in helping it along (we'll explain how later).
How does it Happen?
An abscess is a pocket of pus that forms inside the sensitive structure of the hoof in reaction to an infection. If it was located under the skin, in the normal course of events it would eventually rupture and drain. Encased in the horny hoof, however, it comes under pressure as it develops and the purulent matter seeks a way out.
There are several reasons why an abscess forms in the hoof all of which come down to the introduction of bacteria into the hoof capsule. This could, for example, be in the form of a foreign body like a small pebble, a shoeing nail hitting too close to the laminae, a reaction to bruising, stepping on a sharp, penetrating object like a nail, or muck and mud entering through cracks and fissures in the hoof wall.
Whatever the cause, once pus starts collecting the abscess will expand until it is forced up the hoof wall to eventually break out at the coronary band, or perhaps burst out of the bulbs on the heel. While this pressurised process is going on the foot will be painful. The pain is most severe towards the end of the process and will usually subside once the abscess has erupted and begun to expel it's purulent contents.
Often abscesses are only detected at all once they have broken through, usually at the coronary band, leaving a trail of suppuration visible on the hoof.
Treating a Hoof Abscess
A vet or farrier asked to attend an abscessed hoof will usually cut into the sole or frog in order to rupture the abscess and drain the pus. The argument against this course of action is that "digging" in to an already ailing hoof with a sharp instrument could cause further injury and trauma to the foot, lengthening the healing process.
It is preferable to let nature take its course to eliminate the waste matter, relieving the painful pressure. This process can be helped along by softening the hoof capsule with foot soaks and "drawing" the abscess with a poultice over a period of three or four days.
While treatment is in progress, keep the horse turned out if possible on soft, level ground - movement is vital to keep up the circulation and thus help the abscess to "ripen" and erupt more quickly.
Soak the hoof for about half an hour a day in a solution of 100g of Epsom Salts to a litre of water. The water should be as hot as is possible to be comfortable for the horse, and it should be deep enough to cover the coronary band.
It's best to use a wide, shallow trug, or a waterproof poultice boot. After soaking apply a hot Animalintex hoof poultice and leave it on until the next soaking in order to draw the abscess to bursting point.
The abscess should burst and start draining within a day or two of this treatment, but continue for another day or so to ensure as much of the purulent matter as possible is drained out.
After the abscess has ruptured healing should be fairly straightforward. Just keep the hoof and rupture site clean while it grows out, guarding against re-infection.
Of course, if the hoof does not heal, weeping and drainage continues, and if lameness persists, it's then time to bring in the vet or farrier! There could be a deep infection which may affect bone, and need more radical treatment.
Prevention is better than Cure
Even with your best efforts, hoof abscesses might occur, sometimes with no discernible cause.
There are, however, several safeguards you can put in place to minimise the risk:
1. Use hoof boots for any surfaces the horse finds uncomfortable, especially if your horse has thin soles and is transitioning from shod to barefoot.
2. When/if you stable your horse make sure the bedding is deep, clean and dry. Hygiene is important and you need to keep his feet manure free.
3. Keep the environment free of any hazardous sharp objects.
4. Be vigilant when the weather changes from dry to damp. During a dry spell the hooves contract and harden. When there is moisture underfoot the sole and hoof wall will soften. Changing conditions can cause fissures and cracks which let in bacteria. You can use Red Horse Products to help with this.
5. Ensure your horse's feed is well-supplemented to boost his immune system and keep hooves healthy.
6. Pay attention to your horse's hooves with regular maintenance and podiatry.
24 October 2015 05:01
Loud bangs, high pitched whistles and whines, flashing lights, screams, squeals and the smell of burning. It's scary, right? Something we might imagine the Blitz could have been like!
The scene just described, however, is something many of us Brits deliberately set up and indulge in on or around the 5th of November every year. Guy Fawkes/Fireworks/Bonfire night is celebrated as an exciting thrill for young and old as we send thousands of pounds worth of noisy incendiary devices up in smoke - all to commemorate the failed "Gunpowder Plot of Fawkes and 13 co-conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament on 5th November, 1605.
What is great fun for people can be a source of great distress and trauma for animals, who cannot fathom why we subject ourselves to such pandemonium for pleasure.
Horrifying for Horses
Horses, in particular, are often dramatically affected by fireworks being let off within their sight and hearing. As we all know, horses are flight animals, and anything unexpected is likely to startle them to some degree, no matter how de-sensitised and well trained they are.
The British Horse Society (BHS) reminds us that horses "are big, powerful animals and when they are in a state of blind panic they present real danger not only to people close by, but also to themselves".
The BHS says it has received reports about stabled horses trying to crash through doors and turned out horses jumping over fences on to public highways during fireworks season.
The psychological effect of fireworks fear on the horse itself is exacerbated by the fact that horses have long memories, and a traumatised horse may never again feel comfortable or secure in the environment where he experienced the frightening firework experience.
Some might argue that owners of horses likely to be living in the ambit of either a domestic fireworks party, or a commercial fireworks display, should take the trouble to condition the animals to the experience. The problem is that since fireworks are not a regular occurrence (Bonfire Night and New Year being the usual occasions for their use), desensitising and conditioning is difficult to achieve. Also, even the most robustly "toughened up" horses have been known to spook when faced with bangs and flashes!
For example, read the case of the police horsethat ran amok in London!
Plan and Prepare
Fireworks are unlikely to be banned any time soon, so the best you can do to limit the effects on your horse/s is prevent, plan and prepare for the explosion!
Here are some tips we picked up from around the web:
Finally, just for your edification, here's the law on fireworks: