KICK OFF YOUR SHOES: IS BAREFOOT BETTER?
There is a definite move afoot in the horse world in recent years to revert “back to nature” when it comes to horse management, husbandry and tack.
Social media is awash with “wow” videos showing riders performing amazing feats using bitless bridles or, indeed, no saddles, stirrups or bridles at all. It’s all very controversial, but probably the most hotly argued topic of all is the trend towards keeping horses “barefoot” – ie. dispensing with horse shoes.
Horses have been shod for almost as long as they’ve been domesticated in the service of man. Archaeologists have found bronze horse shoes with nail holes dating from 400BC in an Etruscan tomb, and we know that the ancient Romans in Britain used strap-on, solid bottomed “hipposandals” (not dissimilar to modern hoof boots) to protect their horses’ hooves.
Bronze shoes on horses were common in Europe by around 1000 AD, and by the middle ages iron horse shoes were de rigeur, being forged in large quantities, as the knights rode off to the Crusades.
Nowadays horse shoes come in a wide variety of materials and styles – steel, aluminium, rubber, plastic, or even titanium – the choice dictated by the type of horse and the work they do.
So, if the use of horse shoes has been tried and tested for so many centuries, why are many of us now deciding to go barefoot?
Let’s start by looking at why domesticated horses were deemed to need shoes in the first place:
In the wild, pre-domestication, horses lived in dry climates, travelling long distances slowly while foraging, allowing their hooves to be hardened and worn smooth, the sole being constantly stimulated to keep growth and condition healthy. When we discovered how useful horses were they were domesticated, put to work in all sorts of unnatural ways, and often imported to wet climates where their hooves were subjected to damp conditions.
Add to the damp and muddy conditions the fact that domesticated horses had to bear the weight of a rider, suffer the physical stress and traction involved in drawing a cart, wagon or carriage, and perform at high speed, and you’re bound to expect issues.
The result was the advent of all sorts of hoof and foot ailments – and as we know, “no hoof, no horse”!
So the horse shoe evolved to protect hooves, particularly in damp climates like Europe and Britain.
Our domesticated horses therefore really need horse shoes, right?
Wrong … in most cases! That’s not to say you can just gaily rip the shoes off of your horse and expect him to perform as usual, trouble free!
It is more than likely that with the right advice, care and patience you will be able to transition your horse to being barefoot, but it is equally likely that in most circumstances he will need the support of hoofboots, along with constant monitoring and attention paid to his feet.
If you believe barefoot would be better, be prepared to persevere. There’s no “quick fix” transition, and can take up to a year or more to achieve success.
Initially your horse will probably be sore without shoes for a variety of reasons. These include things like having thin, flat soles and over-rasped hoof walls; contracted heels; thrush; laminitis; and hoof cracks. All these issues can be addressed – many through diet – to strengthen, thicken and harden the hoof.
Above all it is vital to seek professional help and guidance from a farrier, vet and barefoot trimmer before you take the barefoot plunge, and during the transition process.
Big considerations when making the decision include such things as:
· Whether the horse has any hoof deformations.
· Whether his conformation is good without any bone or muscle issues.
· What kind of work he does and what activities does he do.
· Whether he gets plenty of exercise and turn-out time.
· Whether he has any diseases or conditions that require shoes that would benefit from therapeutic shoe-ing.
Once the horse is happily barefoot, will everything run smoothly?
Horse owners who’ve successfully transitioned attest to various benefits, ranging from an improvement in the health of a horse’s feet to improved heart rates and recovery times for working horses, and fewer concussion injuries. One obvious advantage is that you will no longer be dealing with your horse throwing a shoe, and you’ll also find yourself, of necessity, taking more interest and notice of your horse’s hoof care.
You’ll still need regular visits from a farrier or trimmer, more frequent than before, to keep his hooves in shape.
You’ll also need to closely monitor his diet and exercise: a low-sugar and mineral balanced diet along with regular work will help strengthen the hoof capsule.It's worth investing in a good quality hoof supplement.
LIKE MANY ISSUES IN THE EQUESTRIAN WORLD, THERE ARE ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST THE “BAREFOOT BRIGADE”. IF YOU’RE STRUGGLING TO DECIDE PERHAPS THIS ARTICLE FROM HORSE AND HOUND WILL HELP!
BUCKING & REARING!? Could it be Kissing Spine?There’s surely nothing more heartbreaking for the owner of a horse than to have him living with low grade pain … the kind of pain that can be caused by the condition known as Kissing Spine.
Having experienced this with one of our own horses, it’s a subject close to our hearts here at Totally Tack and a condition we believe every horse rider should be aware of, lest it go unrecognised and the horse just accused of being “ornery”.
WHAT IS KISSING SPINE?
Kissing Spine occurs when the pieces of bone that project upwards from a horse’s spine – known as the dorsal spinous processes – become squashed together and begin to impact on each other, grating on each other and causing pain.
The area under the saddle region is the one most affected, but it can happen anywhere along the back bone. Left undiagnosed and untreated it can become progressively worse. It generally affects large breed horses (especially Thoroughbreds) from the age of seven and up.
WHAT CAUSES KISSING SPINE?
While equine experts believe there may be a genetic component that makes a horse more at risk of developing the condition, it is also believed that being ridden with an ill-fitting saddle or a too heavy rider sitting incorrectly can contribute.
Vets report that most of the horses treated for the condition are performance and competition horses – especially eventing horses – probably because of the physical demands placed on them.
It’s also not advisable to ride a horse when he is too young before his skeleton has fully developed at around three or four years old. Then, too, trauma might be the cause, especially if the horse falls over backwards.
HOW TO RECOGNISE KISSING SPINE
If you know your horse well the first sign of Kissing Spine developing will be a change in behaviour, particularly when you tighten the girth, saddle up and mount. He will show signs of irritability, discomfort and pain, even rearing and bucking as the condition worsens. He will probably refuse jumps, and you will be able to feel the reluctance in his forward movement, especially in cantering, due to pain.
If and when you begin to suspect a problem, don’t delay. Call in a vet to conduct a thorough investigation.
The vet will probably start by observing the horse being lunged and ridden under saddle. This will probably be followed up with X-rays of the spine, which may be sufficient to diagnose the condition, although there could be changes in the spine unrelated to Kissing Spine.
Most equine vets will probably prefer to confirm the diagnosis with a nerve block test. This involves injecting a local anaesthetic into the nerves of the affected spinal area (a bit like an epidural in humans) that will deaden the pain for a time, allowing the vet to observe the horse being ridden or lunged pain free. If the horse shows improvement in this test, the diagnosis will be confirmed.
TREATMENT OF KISSING SPINE
The treatment of Kissing Spine can be complicated, and generally you can kiss goodbye to the days when your horse was a high performer. At best after treatment he will become a competent hacking horse.
Depending on the severity of the condition when it is first identified a period of rest will be
Surgery is also an option, becoming ever more popular as the science of medicine improves. This involves the removal of selected dorsal spinous processes and the resection of the ligaments between them. This can now be achieved by a “keyhole” surgical technique in a sedated standing horse.
A horse suffering with Kissing Spine need not be a “right off” … he can give you many years of pleasure as a best friend or companion/therapy horse. Keep him pain free and under a vet’s care, and you’ll enjoy him as much as we enjoy our Donald!
Spring has sprung, finally. The muddy fields are starting to sprout with luscious lengths of sweet, green, green grass and other pastoral delights.
It’s yum-yum time for horses, and there are some easy keepers that may be inclined to overdo it and gorge themselves to the point of obesity. A propensity to gain weight can be exacerbated by insufficient exercise. Out in the wild horses would be constantly on the move while foraging; in our rich pastures though they graze contentedly and probably still get topped up with commercial feeds and supplements as well.
Chubby horses are in danger of becoming insulin resistant and suffering from Equine Metabolic Syndrome and Cushings Disease. These disorders are more common in easy keepers and associated with endocrinological laminitis.
Insulin resistance shows in symptoms like abnormal weight gain or loss, increased water consumption, abdominal bloating, loss of stamina and a tendency to develop laminitis or colic. A vet can make a diagnosis using blood tests, and if the problem is still at an early stage preventive measures can be put in place.
It’s a good idea to keep a constant watch for weight gain, not only visually but also by using aids like a simple WeighTape. With a few measurements you can use a formula to calculate his weight (instructions come with the tape).
To guess-timate how his weight is doing, you should be able to feel his ribs easily when you run your hand along his side, but not be able to see them. There shouldn’t be any visible fat deposits along the crest, loins, tailhead or around the udder or sheath. Such deposits are one of the first signs that your horse or pony is developing insulin resistance.
One of the main preventive measures for Insulin Resistance is limiting the horse’s consumption of sugars and starches, both in commercial feed and pasture. In other words, your horse has to be put on a calorie-controlled diet, probably in conjunction with a feed balancer.
Your easy keeper becomes hard work when you have to manage his weight.
|Shires Nylon Grazing Muzzle|
INTRODUCING A GRAZING MUZZLE
Flies, the Summer Scourge
Summer is a-coming in! Next week if the forecast is to be believed. As the temperature rises all is not rosy for horses.
Frolicking in green fields, strutting their stuff and groomed to perfection in the show ring, trotting down leafy country lanes - summer is a fun season for horses, you'd think.
Ask any horse though and if they could, they'd tell you: their joy of summer is blighted by billions of flies and midges that invade eyes and ears (not to mention other orifices), crawl across their bodies, bite their legs and generally cruelly curb their pastoral pleasure.
There's not much your horse can do, apart from twitching and flicking his mane and tail, to keep himself fly free, so he depends on you to make him as comfortable and resilient as possible in the face of this plague.
Flies follow your horses because their main purpose is to clean up behind them! Flies (especially their larvae - maggots) enjoy dining on all the dirty stuff that horses (and all animals) produce - manure, sweat, old bedding, secretions, spilled feed and the like. So the first line of defence is to keep your horse and his environment as clean and dry (stable cleaning) as possible, so there is nowhere appealing for flies to lay eggs and breed.
Of course no matter how diligent you are, you won't ever eliminate flies completely, so you need to help your horse in other ways too.
From the horse's point of view probably the most annoying fly of all is the Face Fly (Musca autumnalis). Closely related to the house fly, the adult version of this persistent pest likes to feed on secretions around the eyes, mouth, and nostrils of horses and cattle. They can cause problems beyond irritation, because they spread parasitic eyeworm infection.
It's wise, therefore, to make sure your horse's face is protected with a good quality fly mask while he's out and about in the warm months. Keep his face clean and use fly repellents.
Also particularly nasty is the Stable Fly(Stomoxys calcitrans), which literally makes your horse stamp his feet. These little vampires like to bite horse's legs and suck their blood. They can spread Equine Infectious anemia as they flit about, so keep them at bay with fly traps and appropriate fly repellents.
Horse flies (Hybomitra micans), which can grow up to an inch and a quarter long, are also blood-suckers. Although they generally feed innocently on nectar, the females need a hefty blood meal in order to reproduce, and their bite can be very painful when they pick your horse to gorge on. If the horse is visited by a swarm of these flies anemia could occur, not to mention skinproblems from allergic reactions and sores developing from the bites themselves. You'll need fly ointment, spray on repellents and, if fly infestation is severe, a flyrug, to keep your horse safe.
Possibly the most dreaded fly of all is the Bot Fly (Gasterophilus) which lays its eggs most commonly on the forelegs, chest and head of horses during the summer. You can spot these as little yellow dots on the coat, and if you're wise you'll remove them with a Bot knife as soon as you see them.
Horses infested with Bot Fly eggs usually lick and bite at
themselves, stimulating the Bot eggs to hatch. Many of the larvae manage to get themselves ingested, and eventually end up in the stomach of the horse, where in the following spring they are passed out with the faeces, fledging into adult flies in time to repeat the cycle.
The larvae in the stomach can cause the horse symptoms such as loss of condition, raised temperature, restlessness, lack of appetite, intermittent diarrhoea or constipation, and even stomach ulcers and fatal peritonitis.
Once Bot Fly has infested your horse it can be treated by worming (even though it is not a worm). Prevention is better than cure, so remove Bot eggs from the coat daily and worm in the winter.
In general it is best to turn horses out after dark in summer, when flies are not active, but remember that midges - tiny flies that can cause big trouble - tend to be active in clouds at dusk and dawn, and enjoy stagnant pools of water.
The term "midges" is actually a generic word that applies to numerous species of minute flying insects. The midge that causes most trouble for horses is Culicoides, whose bite causes Sweet Itchin susceptible animals.
Learn more about Sweet Itch.
Keep your horse fly free and happy as the weather warms up! Totally Tack is here to help. Call us for advice about fly defence.
SHOW TIME! GOOD GROOMING.
In the wild horse herd members bond and communicate by mutual grooming, so when you groom your horse you are showing him you care!
Regular grooming is of course essential for other reasons too. Besides keeping him clean and getting the scurf, dust, mud, loose hair and burrs out of his coat, it’s a way to check your horse and pony for any physical problems, or identify any deviations from the norm like the sudden appearance of lumps or bumps, pain and stiffness, or a sore muscle.
Grooming is a way for you and your horse to get to know each other, and to show him that you’re not just all about shouting orders, but also a source of pleasant sensations.
When show time comes around grooming becomes important for another reason … you want your boy/girl to wow the judges and shine in the ring!
We’re assuming that you have been successful in keeping your horse healthy and in prime physical condition in the run-up to show season, and that you’ve got your own smart showing outfit ready to roll! Of course, you will also have to make sure your tack is clean and upto scratch – isn’t there just so much to think of!
It’s the grooming preparation for showing we’re dealing with in this blog – and there’s plenty to take note of in that department.
You’ll need to count down the days to showtime, planning the whole process so that when you arrive at the show there will be just final touch ups necessary.
Here’s a general run-down of the grooming tasks required, in chronological order:
· Clipping and trimming
In breed shows native horses and ponies should usually be shown in their natural state. For the rest, you can do a full clip two or three weeks before a show. This will leave enough time for the coat to grow over any streaky bits. The aim is to have a smooth, shiny coat on show day.
You can trim untidy hair a day or so before the show, but don’t forget to take the trimmer or a razor comb along for those last-minute tidy-ups on the day. The main areas to trim neatly are fetlocks, stray hairs around the knees, bridle paths, the ears, beards and moustaches. You may choose to shave off your horse’s whiskers, but many riders are against this nowadays because the whiskers – correctly called vibrissae – are believed to have essential sensory functions that help the horse orient himself to his environment.
You may also think it is advisable to “pull” your horse or pony’s mane and tail. See below under “Tail Plaiting” for more advice on how to do this. It is best to pull the mane and tail BEFORE the pre-show washing.
Give your horse or pony a thorough bath a day or two before the show (the time dependent on how long you are confident you can keep him clean!).
Start by giving him a good wetting with warm (not hot) water … with a shower head if possible. Soak the coat including the mane and tail. Then apply a good quality shampoothat you have pre-tested on a small patch to insure it doesn’t irritate the skin. Work the shampoo into a lather with your hands and a sponge, adding a little more water if necessary. Avoid the eyes, nose and mouth, and be gentle around the facial area.
Using the shower and warm water again thoroughly rinse off all the soapy residue, from the top down.
Use old towels and a scraper to dry him off as much as possible. Wring out the tail and mane.
· Tail Plaiting
A neat tail is essential to enhance the appearance of your show horse’s behind!
After bathing your horse apply some mane and tail conditioner to the mane and tail, and comb them out gently, using a tail comb and taking care not to pull too hard on tangles. If you plan to leave the plaiting until the morning before the show, keep the tail clean and tidy by securing it in a tail bag overnight.
If your horse’s tail (and same applies to the mane) is very untidy with stray hairs spoiling the line, you may wish to indulge in some mane and tail pulling. Note: This is best done before washing! For a horse this feels much like when you pluck your eyebrows!
Here’s a video that explains how to pull the tail (remove extraneous hairs so that it lies smooth and flat). You may also find the Supreme Products masterclass in tail pulling useful.
Either the night before the show, or early on show morning, you can proceed with plaiting your clean, combed, conditioned and pulled tail.
Here’s a step bystep guide video to help you with the tail plaiting technique. If you have not done this before it is best to practice a few times well before show day!
Once plaited to your satisfaction, protect your work by putting the tail into a tail bag.
· Mane Plaiting
This can be done the night before the show. As with the tail, you may wish to have pulled the mane to thin it in advance to make sure it is neat and shaped.
Spray with a conditioner and have a hood ready to keep things neat and in place when you’re done.
Manes are always plaited on the horse’s off-side (the right) and always have an uneven number of plaits. The number of plaits will depend on the length and thickness of the mane.
If you plait the night before, you can leave the rolling of the plaits until the morning of show day.
Here’s a video guide to mane plaiting.
Once again, remember practice makes perfect, so be sure you’ve got this plaiting down pat well in advance.
Assuming you have had your horse’s hooves professionally well-shoed and trimmed in advance of the show, you need to just sand them lightly with an emery board and then paint with clear polish.
If you prefer to use black polish, paint them carefully either the night or morning before the show. Don’t forget the polish must be removed as soon as possible after the show to prevent the hooves drying out.
Judges look for a sharp line between hoof and hair line. Make sure white hocks are pristine white before applying polish with a steady hand.
Just like you, your horse may need a touch of make-up to make him look his best! You can happily apply a little subtle face make-up on the morning of show day to highlight the eyes, cheek bone and the skin around his muzzle.
If you think make-up is a step too far, use a little baby oil on a soft cloth as a highlighter.
Most horse make-up comes with instructions. Remember less is more!
Before applying make-up is the time to trim any extraneous hairs in the ears and on the face.
· Quarter Marks
Quarter marks are an eye-catching finishing touch to your horse’s show preparation. Traditionally they are applied to the hind quarters, after applying a good quality show shine product. Quarter marks should be applied just before you are due to enter the show ring.
You can use a quarter-marking stencil, or if you are well-practiced make your own squares with a quarter-marking comb.
Finish off by brushing an arc pattern over the tail and down the buttocks which will draw attention with a flash of light.
We wish you all the best with your showing this season, and don’t forget … if you need showing products to help your horse step out in style look no further than www.totally-tack.co.uk!
Jumpy gelding, spooky mare? Or a boy who is so full of beans you can’t keep him under control? As prey animals, horses are naturally highly strung and nervous – some more so than others. With spring busting out all over and plenty of sweet grass to nibble your horse is charged with energy and therefore likely to be even more frisky and excitable than usual.
If the situation is so bad that it is impacting on your enjoyment of your horse, resulting in unpleasant and even dangerous behaviour like rearing, shying, or biting, it may be time to consider how you can take the edge off of his/her anxiety, for both your sakes.
As you no doubt know, there are a whole raft of calming supplements and preparations available on the market to quieten down your horse. Before taking a look at these, however, it’s worth considering your horse’s health and management to see if there is anything relating to his diet, environment or routine that is causing or exacerbating his nervous disposition.
Feed is the biggest factor. Starch-rich feed will literally make a horse “high”. Switching to a low-starch feed that is high in fibre and fat will calm him down and turn that starchy “high” into more sustained energy.
Your horse might be suffering stress because he’s being intimidated by a stablemate or field companion. Careful observation and paying attention to your horse’s interaction with others can help you identify any problems.
Stress can also be caused by boredom – characterised by stable “vices” such as cribbing – which you can ease by changing his circumstances. Look to your training methods too. Sometimes horses can be confused about what you expect from them. If you think this is making your horse anxious it’s best to consult a professional trainer.
Finally there could be a physical cause for your horse’s behaviour … horses with gastric ulcers, for example, are known to be short-tempered and panicky.
Apart from the horse itself, your saddle is probably your most valuable piece of equestrian equipment – it pays to look after it properly and thereby prolong its life. The first hurdle to overcome, however, is finding the right saddle in the first place – one that fits you, your horse and your riding discipline.
Whether you are buying a new saddle, or opting for a second-hand one, there are some decisions to be made up front.
Firstly, decide what type of saddle you want, and whether it should be a leather saddle or less expensive synthetic version.
WHAT TYPE OF SADDLE?
If you’re a leisure rider hacking out and doing the odd bit of jumping for fun, a general purpose (GP) saddle will suit you fine, but if you’re a regular competitor in equestrian sport you’ll need a discipline specific saddle to fit the purpose.
A dressage saddle, for example, has a longer, straighter saddle flap to allow for a longer leg position, and a deeper seat to support you in the correct position. It will also have longer girth straps and possibly fixed knee blocks. Dressage is all about close leg contact.
Jump saddles are cut more forward to allow for shorter stirrups and usually have knee and thigh blocks to support you when jumping. The seat will be flatter so you can shift position when competing in cross country events.
Polo Saddles and Racing Saddles are even flatter, allowing for freedom of movement, and racing saddles have a small, short saddle flap with short stirrup leathers.
Showing saddles have the most basic design, generally straight cut and conforming closest to the shape of your horse, to best show off his assets.
You might opt for a treeless saddle, especially if you have a horse with an awkward shape who doesn’t do well in conventional saddles. The tree is the base (usually wood or a hard synthetic material) on which the rest of the saddle is built. It is the size of the tree that determines how it fits on the horses back, providing a solid load-bearing surface to protect the horse by distributing the rider’s weight. Those who prefer saddles without a rigid tree find them more flexible, allowing the horse more freedom. Treeless saddles are often preferred by endurance riders, often used together with gel pads.
LEATHER OR SYNTHETIC?
Ideally we all crave a leather saddle – there is something very satisfying about the warm smell and smooth texture of quality English leather that adds an element of excitement to mounting up on a good horse! Leather saddles can last a lifetime if properly cared for and well maintained, and although they are pricey (particularly if you have a bespoke saddle made just for you and your horse), they have a good resale value.
A qualified saddler can more easily repair or adjust a leather saddle than a synthetic one, and the leather is more likely to mellow with use, softening to conform to your seat. Wear simply gives the leather an attractive patina.
Modern synthetic saddles are not necessarily inferior to leather ones; very often its difficult to tell mock leather saddles from the real thing. They also have their advantages. They are generally lighter, easier to clean (just a wipe down with soap and water suffices), and of course they cost less. They’re also weatherproof and durable.
If your choice is dictated by budget, you can happily choose a good make of synthetic saddle and – as long as it fits well – not suffer any prejudice up against the leather-seated riders!
THE RIGHT FIT
As any experienced equestrian knows, you can’t just plonk any saddle on any horse. Correct saddle fitting is crucial not only to optimise riding performance, but for the comfort of yourself and your horse. It’s well worth having a professional saddle fitter involved when you choose a new saddle. Just as we humans do, horses change shape during their lifetime, depending on their age, diet, workload, illness and training, so it’s vital to check the saddle fit a few times a year.
For a happy horse you need a saddle that fits not only width-wise. There are all sorts of criteria involved. As a starting point we recommend using a saddle-fitting kitto measure up your horse for the required size and shape for a proper fit. Once you have selected the best saddle for the job, get a professional saddle-fitter in to confirm the choice, put the saddle on the horse and correct any problems. Saddle blankets and pads only go so far towards correcting fit problems – a poorly fitting saddle can’t be made good with padding.
So many factors have to be considered in correctly fitting a saddle. The width is of primary importance, but the length of the tree and the horse’s centre of balance also play a part. The gullet must clear the withers, but not be too narrow to pinch the horse’s back. The tree points shouldn’t interfere with the movement of the horse’s shoulder, and the seat should be positioned so the rider sits over the horse’s balance centre.
The saddle doesn’t just need to fit the horse – it should be comfortable for you, the rider, too. Your seat size and leg length must be taken into account.
Saddle fitting is too important to be left to chance. To find a qualified saddler fitter in your area, ask your veterinarian or local tack shop – or search online on the website of the Society of Master Saddlers.
CARING FOR YOUR SADDLE
Leather saddles, particularly, need to be stored indoors, protected from damp and dust and away from direct heat, when not in use. Leather can go mouldy, or become brittle and dried out, if exposed to heat or wet weather.
Cleaning your saddle – like all tack – is important because a build up of sweat and dirt can not only damage the saddle but also cause uncomfortable rubbing on the horse. Make sure your saddle is wiped down after every outing, and regularly given a thorough cleaning and conditioning.
Here at Totally Tack we’re keen to assist anyone wanting to saddle-up, stocking a range of saddle pads and saddle cloths, as well as numnahs and saddle accessories. We have a qualified saddler on hand for repairs, advice and bespoke tack orders.
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.
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:
THE OFFICIAL VIEW ON WHIPS AND SPURS
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”.
APPROPRIATE USE OF WHIPS
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.
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.
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
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 anydirt 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.
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.
SO WHAT CAUSES COLIC?
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
SIGNS OF COLIC
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.
TYPES OF COLIC
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.
WHAT TO DO?
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.
ENJOY OVER-WINTERING WITH YOUR HORSE, AND KEEP HIM HAPPY AND HEALTHY!
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.
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.
STAGES OF GRIEF
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.
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.
GROWING OLD GRACEFULLY
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.
Here are some points to ponder if you want to keep your older pony happy and healthy:
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.
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!
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.
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 InjuryLacerations 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 SignsThere 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!
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.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR SPECTATORS
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!
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!
THE PLAITING PROCESS
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!
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.
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.
A FINE FINISH
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.
A NEAT WAY OF DOING DRESSAGE PLAITS .....
We love this video from ProEquine Grooms which demonstrates how to plait a mane for dressage using yarn:
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.
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!
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!
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!
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:
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!
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.