That was 2016 – PART 1 Nerves, Internationals and my happy!

I didn’t write a New Year summary of 2015. It was an odd year of uncertainty and worry, trying to get divorced and failing dismally. Just a whole lot of stress on all levels. I stepped into 2016 hoping to be single and back to my old self with the flick of a switch, all those New year resolutions poised and primed. Sadly, it took until February to finally get the divorce settled and signed off and with it a whole load of getting ‘me’ back. I felt like a lost child in those months, a whole load of anxious spouted forth unexpectedly, and a lot of depression too. Not an experience I would like to live out again, the thought makes me shiver. So why share this on a horsey blog? Well it has everything to do with my little horse Wanda. Medicated up to my eyeballs I decided to not follow my doctors’ advice and went cold turkey, desperately trying to find my riding mojo and a focus in my own life, while still being a mum and earning a living…oh and live in temporary accommodation while we built a new home.

Much of this year has been spent training and hacking, I didn’t really feel up too much else. Eventing was just a disaster and either I was poorly, the children were poorly, or something kicked off at home. I totally fell out of love with the sport. I just couldn’t see the point of making myself even more worn out, doing something that didn’t give me a ‘buzz’ anymore. But it’s all worked out well. Taking time out from competing has brought my riding up a level. For sure I could be fitter, stronger and thinner, but that will come. What I have gained by quietly working away with my long supporting trainers Fiona and Matt has been invaluable and reaped its rewards on Wanda’s way of going and what I’m feeling and responding too while riding her. This is the year I ‘got’ the point of it all and those damn stupid dressage terms make sense… ‘over the back’, ‘into the hand’ and the simplest but hardest to achieve ‘straightness’. It’s all had an impact on my test riding which is heading in the direction I want it to follow… onwards and upwards!

I decided to aim for a few dressage competitions and have the odd jumping lesson with Mia Palles Clarke, who again has been a long-standing supporter of what we do and totally ‘gets’ what I want to achieve out of training sessions. We did a few BD competitions, with some success, and then Fiona mentioned that it would be worth aiming for selection to the Suffolk squad for the inter-county challenge. A competition I had no clue about. But with half the year almost gone I decided it was time to take the plunge and focus. It felt like time was slipping away…

Intercountry trials consisted of several training sessions with the fabulous Mette Assouline, then a test riding day, on the basis of that performance the teams were selected. Scoring a PB of over 74% at the test day gave me a place on the squad and we eventually came 9th out of 28 teams – the highest placed Suffolk team that weekend. It was an amazing experience, something I wouldn’t have even dared contemplate at the start of the year, and was a massive learning curve in terms of competitive dressage riding, in a busy atmosphere, during the hottest weekend of the year (with a stomach bug – ewwww)!

It was an experience that rekindled a buzz for competitive riding, and to be accepted onto part of a team was a responsibility I didn’t shy away from but relished.

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The summer was a mix of school holidays, sunshine, building projects, Pony Club and hacking out with the children, so competitions were on the backburner, but again I felt the year passing me by and I looked towards getting out and enjoying Wanda. It was all about the ‘experience’ with my horse and it was intriguing to see my ‘want’ to ride and compete slowly creep back. I think part of my motivation was talking to my dear friend Hannah Francis. She was always one to encourage, uplift, and motivate. Her infectious personality did have an influence on me then and still does today. August was an emotional month for so many of us, I miss Hannah terribly but I always spare a thought for her every time I ride and spend time with the horses. Every time I moan about the mud or the rain or the hard work it all is, I am also equally grateful for being able to own and ride my horses. I don’t think Hannah ever knew how influential she was to me and now by supporting her charity I can pay that back. The Champions Willberry Charity Race in 2017 will form part of that and I hope will be a fitting way to remember Hannah and raise funds for Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony and the Bob Champion Cancer Trust.

If 2016 was about learning and gaining new experiences, then riding as a guinea pig dressage test rider at Osberton horse trails was one to remember. At FEI level eventing dressage judges have a ‘warm up rider’ so that they can address any marking or tech issues before the competition commences. Although I didn’t ride competitively, it was a fantastic opportunity to learn a slightly more complex test and to ride on grass, in tails in an international environment. Wanda managed to disgrace herself by escaping at 4am as we were about to leave… then galloped across a ploughed field and onto the road. Not one of our best 2016 moments! Literally cold hosed off and thrown on the lorry, we made the trip up, accompanied with FriendsBerry from the charity Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony as our lucky mascot. I usually drive myself and compete alone, so it was a case of arriving, throwing chalk powder at Wanda’s legs to cover the mud and getting on with it. Although I wasn’t completely satisfied with my test (I rarely am), we scored well and I was particularly pleased with the way that Wanda settled and focused. An amazing experience, despite all the drama beforehand! This was a warm up to our first International competition, again a new experience for both of us!

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I had read about the Senior Home International on the BD east newsletter, they were looking for some novice riders and to be fair I hadn’t much of a clue what was involved when I emailed Kathrine, the regional rep, to apply to ride. It was a good feeling to get a bit of the brave me back, id lost my ‘give it a go’ and I felt it was returning. All very last minute, but I was accepted onto the Eastern squad, riding against teams from the rest of England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland at a three-day competition at Sheepgate. I was made to feel so welcome by the team members. Eastern BD has a great team camaraderie as well as some superb coaching and volunteer support. They all work tirelessly to promote the sport in my region and the East is a very strong community because of it. All I can say is, at these sorts of higher pressure competitions, teamwork and support is everything. From helping each other sew on George’s cross flags onto saddle cloths, to killing the time between tests, to giving sympathy if things don’t go to plan, but also building you up to kick ass in the next test… without the good teamies you are sunk. I was riding 3 tests, a warm up on the Friday (we came 9th and I was happy with a top 10 in tough competition), then championship classes over the weekend. I could not have predicted how well we did, coming 2nd in the first test, 4th in the second, and 4th overall in my section, just a smidge off a bronze placing – sadly the M judge wasn’t keen on our test. What can you say other than, that’s dressage and I will take into account the comments and learn from them. Fighting talk eh? Yes, we were back in the game, the black dog had left the room!

I learnt so much from that weekend, how important the support of your friends around you is, and how fun, enthusiastic and friendly my regional riders are. These are people who have fun, party but are seriously focussed on their horse’s welfare and wellbeing, as well as riding very competitively. I have to admit my eyes were opened…and my perceptions of what ‘dressage riders’ were like were crushed.

An intense 2 weeks of competition rounded up with a 9th placing at our first Petplan Novice Festival, a worthwhile trip out, and a great benchmark for moving up to Elementary in December, which we did in style winning our first competition (and the Novice that day too), topped off with a mention in Horse and Hound. Our plan is to move up to Medium in 2017… no more messing about and waiting for the right ‘moment’. I’ve come to realise that there is never the right time to do most things, and that it’s easy to procrastinate, delay or just not try. With three children to look after and a job, my life is busy but I’ve also learnt that I need to do things for myself too. I can’t do everything I want but getting out and competing is a buzz. It makes trogging about in the mud and cold worthwhile, and I now enjoy the sparkle, which makes me happy, and not debilitatingly anxious. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt this year… is to grab every opportunity with both hands and not to be afraid of going out of your comfort zone, just put the work in to make it happen. But more of that in my next blog… an experience that literally made my heart almost burst with pride. But for now, can I wish you a peaceful New Year, stay safe, be brave and enjoy xx.  

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B&W Eventing Reviews… Calm Leisure Ladies Shaped Equestrian Underwear

Having reviewed almost everything from tack, to rugs, bandages and all manner of breeches, boots and riding shirts, it was a little different to be sent underwear to review for my blog.

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As any rider knows, be they a happy hacker or a seasoned pro, comfort in the saddle, is all important. Speaking quite frankly, as I always do, a pet hate of mine is riding in uncomfortable knickers. Let’s face it ladies, those who can ride in their best lacy knickers are few and far between. I have learnt the hard way after thinking my finest La Perla would be an on-point option for a day’s eventing in midsummer! Knicker regret of the highest order… So, from that point on I have been on the search for the most flattering, non VPL, comfortable riding knickers, that don’t cost a fortune, will last and perform. For a while my knickerage of choice has been classic Calvin’s. Hard to beat for sports style and function, but you pay for that logo!  Looking for alternatives, I was keen to try the shaped equestrian underwear from British brand Calm Leisure. Specialising in innovative clothing products that is ‘innovative in design, comfortable and purposeful.’

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What Calm Leisure say…

‘The shaped Equestrian Underwear is designed to fit like a boxer in the back but with shaped arching at the front to reduce “bulking ” of material around the front of the legs. The sides are shaped in to maximise a fantastic fit and stay in place.’

The knickers are made from a luxurious Bamboo Fibre material for super softness next to the skin. This has natural antibacterial and wicking properties to keep you dry and comfortable. They have a bound leg trim rather than elastic to reduce the risk of any chaffing.

They are also designed and made in Great Britain which is always a plus point for me.

Priced at £19.95 a pair and available in black or white, sizes XS to L.

What I thought…

At first look the Calm Leisure Equestrian Underwear looked quite large, however when I tried them on I realised that the style was definitely more of a boy short look and although they were a larger cut than the normal underwear I’d wear when riding, they were incredibly flattering. I was supplied with a Size L and I am about a size 14-16 normally.  I wore them for yard work and hacking out for over 3 hrs, under breeches on quite a chilly day. Immediately I noticed how well they fitted under breeches, with no vpl! The style literally just glides over your hips and bottom, being slightly higher rise they give a nice flat finish under breeches fastenings. Without being overly warm I found they felt really snug and breathable, which was pleasant on a cold day. When riding, I found the style very comfortable with no bunching or chafing, the bound leg trim really works well in this respect and I think this style of equestrian underwear would be great for long days in the saddle, or hunting. Overall, I was really impressed with the design and the soft Bamboo fibre fabric, which kept me both warm, but not too hot. They also washed and dried well, which is always a major factor for a busy person.  In sum, I think Calm Leisure have done a great job with their Equestrian Underwear, they certainly ticked many boxes for me and I’d be interested in trying out some of their base layers, made from similar fabric. Available in white and black, they offer a simple, functional option, especially for those who spend many hours a day riding. I’d love to see the same design in a nude colour, so that they were completely transparent under my thinner white Italian Dressage breeches. Maybe a development for the future?!

The Verdict

A 5/5 for style, design, comfort, practicality and quality.

To find out more & to buy click here

Winter Activities for You and Your Horse

With an abundance of short days ahead, the winter can seem very long and a reduction in activities and general stimulus can cause horses and ponies (and even their owners!) to become bored and restless.

Help yourself and your horse to shun the winter blues and stay in great physical and mental shape by filling the days and weeks ahead with a variety of fun activities.Here’s a few ideas:

 

Get Some Exercise

Cold, unpleasant weather can mean that horses spend long periods of time in stables, but this can contribute to boredom and more importantly, poor digestive and respiratory health so get outside with your horse as often as possible for some exercise.

Before heading out, take care to protect yourselves from slips and trips by gritting your yard regularly and sweeping up any mud and debris, and remember to dress yourself and your horse or pony appropriately for the conditions.

Before any hacks or arena sessions, allow extra time for a warm-up to limit the risk of any injury.

A turnout or exercise rug will help your horse stay warm and prevent muscle stiffness but if he’s prone to sweating, you may need to clip your horse or dry him thoroughly after exercise to prevent any moisture from lowering his body temperature, causing discomfort or other skin conditions such as rain scald and mud fever.

Socialise

Horses, just like us, are social animals and their grazing time, even in winter fields when the grass is sparse or of poor quality, gives them the opportunity to socialise with other horses so maintain their pasture time as far as possible.

However, your horse needs opportunities to socialise and bond with you too!

Get the best of both worlds by riding out on group hacks or spending time at the yard on wet days to groom, massage, feed and nurture a trusting and positive relationship with your horse.

New Equestrian Skills

If the winter forces you to make significant changes to your horse or pony’s daily routine then boredom can quickly set in, but every horse, regardless of their usual activity levels can benefit from using the spare time to learn new equestrian skills and so can their owners.

If you have suitable indoor space, winter is the ideal time to begin or develop your grooming, dressage, jumping or broaden your knowledge of equine care by completing a formal qualification.

Be Playful

Help your horse to alleviate the stress or boredom caused by hours spent in the stable by providing them with some activity toys.

Heavy-duty play balls that horses can kick or toss around as well as chew toys that can save your wooden fixtures from being gnawed and make great boredom busters.

Combine them with purpose-made feeding toys that make getting at haylage, compound horse feeds, supplements or treats an interesting challenge and your horse or pony will be well occupied.

Much like doubled up haynets, feeding toys slow down your horse’s eating to both satisfy his requirement to chew and ensure that the additional nutrients and energy he needs to maintain a healthy weight and condition during the cold winter months are available.

Being friendly and pairing up!

A hectic half term for Black and White eventing with work, 3 children, the house build and a host of pony activities! So time for something different – you get to see me close up & personal (with no make up – EEEK!), riding out and Vlogging (without falling off)! A few words about what we have been up to, supporting one another and being positive (especially on social media).  A Massive thanks to Katie (my top notch XC partner in crime) and Kate (for being a lovely kind friend). Enjoy and have fun with your horses xx Nikki and Wanda

 

While I’m here… if you enjoy what we do and would like to support our work, we have been shortlisted as a finalist in the Haynet Equine Blogger of the Year Awards. The winner of the award will be selected on 50% vote and 50 % appraisal of their blog. If you would like to vote for us just follow the link by clicking onto the logo below. Voting takes about 30 seconds and we really appreciate your support!

 

 

Creating memories and chasing dreams…Part I

It’s been a while since I did an ‘about me’ blog. Working in equestrian marketing it is so easy to get caught up in social media and what’s ‘new’, so sparing time to write for myself is a luxury. But today I’ve made the time, basically because this morning has been a comedy of errors (long story and not worth boring you with) … and I thought sod it… write for yourself today Nick and clear your head, talk to your laptop.

While we renovate our lovely barn we have all been living in limbo. Five people all squished into 2 rooms isn’t ideal, such is the joy of temporary accommodation. My ‘it will be worth it’ mantra has now worn itself out and sounds like a scratched record. But we are on the final leg of the journey. I doubt we will be finished by Christmas, but it will be nice to not live out of a suitcase when the time comes. The process has made me value possessions and realise I have so much ‘stuff’, including almost forty boxes of books which will need organising, but wont be thrown away! But when it comes to it, temporary living has made me think about what I really need, and in turn what I want out of life. I’m not going down a heady philosophical route here… just the simple question of ‘does owning stuff give you pleasure or is it just a distraction to life itself and dealing with the grittier aspects of it? Hmmmm…. I don’t think I am at a point to give all my possessions away but it has made me think about what I’ve missed the most and what I have gained by not having it.

As an antidote to not having ‘stuff’ in my life and having very little personal space I’ve appreciated spending time with my horses a lot more. Not that I always didn’t, but I think before they were part of my ‘stuff’ collection and I wasn’t tapping into the fun they give.  This year I’ve not been competing every weekend, but have progressed so much with my understanding and riding itself. I’ve thought long and hard about the whole eventing thing and just found it such a big day out. Logistically organising 3 children, work, my horse, training, paying for entries and then driving myself there, competing alone, getting home, unpacking, making sure homework is done, uniforms are washed, people are fed. I just couldn’t get my head around it. Let alone add the worry of a building project, feeling like I was neglecting my children or note earning to pay for it all… the list goes on.

In sum, I just didn’t have the headspace or the capacity to process 3 phases, and try to manage everything else in my life, let alone have the cash to pay for it. To put things bluntly I felt ‘FUCK it where is the fun?’ It’s not to say when things have settled down I won’t return, but for now it’s not the passion it was. I miss XC riding terribly but I don’t miss 4am starts (or earlier), to come home to a messy house 16 hrs later and a to do list that stretches to the moon and back… Some people would say that they will forgo all of that to follow their passion, but with too many plates to spin I personally cant.

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So what do you do when the lightbulb turns on and you realise that you have been stressing out and putting yourself under pressure to do something that just wasn’t time, logistics or money for? You go and start having FUN… and this is what I have been doing!

I have been quietly working away with my good friend Fiona Reddick and also Matt Cox who visits a yard, local to me to train. We have yet to build an arena here so schooling has to either be off site or on hacks, but I think this makes for more focused work and doesn’t sour Wanda. Hacking is very much a big part of exercise for all our horses here so although an arena would be amazing, its a massive expense to legitimise while the build is on.

I was lucky enough to apply and be selected for the British Dressage Suffolk County team and rode in the Inter Regionals at Keysoe in July which was a great experience and really opened my eyes up to a more competitive side of dressage. Out team trainer was the amazing Mette Assounline who I worked with before the competition, again a real eye opener for me, which led to some massive changes in what I could feel and how I approached test riding. We weren’t top of the pile at Keysoe, but Wanda held her own and our team was the highest placed Suffolk team. I also started to tap into the challenges that I wanted to sign up for the emotions I wanted to experience, things that I hadn’t thought about or had the confidence to do as I was so caught up in what I thought I ‘should’ be doing.

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At the end of September, I was lucky enough to ride as a guinea pig dressage test rider at Osberton International Horse Trails. For those of you wondering what small furry animals and dressage have in common, a guinea pig rider, literally rides a judges warm up test. You go in, ride the test under competition conditions, and are marked. The idea is that the judges can then confer, make sure they are marking to the same level and iron out any issues before the main competitors come in.

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A great experience to don tails and ride in a full on setting. As ever Wanda was a superstar and it was great to ride through a test with a few more complex movements, canter serpentines and lateral work. Marks wise we sat in the middle of the class, had we been competing, so I was pleased with that. What I wasn’t pleased with was Wanda breaking free at 4am as I was getting ready to load her, galloping off across a ploughed field and heading across a main, unlit road… with cars. A life flashing in front of us moment when I lost sight of her, then realised a car was heading towards us both! Not ideal but I really had to pull myself together, wipe away the snot and tears, get on with things, throw her on the lorry and drive. For once I had a co-pilot with me… the wonderful Friendsberry kindly loaned from the charity ‘Willberry Wonder Pony’… so with a hug and a squeeze we set off on our 3 hr road trip to do a 4-minute test (nuts eh?). Creating memories and chasing dreams… to be continued!

P.S. While I am here! I am thrilled to announce that our little blog has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Haynet Equestrian Blog Awards 2016. Voting is open now and a final winner will be selected on the basis of votes and a judges decision.

If you have 30 seconds to spare we would love it if you could click on the image below and vote for us…

Our blog started 3 years ago, and has been a great way to share our experiences and news to a wider audience. Personally, it has offered me a change of career and more than that inspired other mum’s to get back in the saddle. We are very proud to be recognised for what we do. #equinebloggingawards

 

Olympia set to welcome Victoria Pendleton in the Markel Champions Challenge

Olympia, The London International Horse Show, is delighted to announce that double Olympic gold medallist, Victoria Pendleton, will be gracing the Olympia arena as she turns her hand to show jumping in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund on the evening of Friday 16th December for the Markel Champions Challenge.

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She will be plying her trade against the best in the racing world. The Challenge is made up of a flat jockey team captained by Frankie Dettori and a jump jockey team captained by current National Hunt Champion, Richard ‘Dickie’ Johnson. The flat team will also include about-to-be-crowned Champion flat jockey Jim Crowley. Both teams will be gunning for glory making the adrenalin fuelled contest even-money.

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Frankie’s team: Frankie Dettori, Jim Crowley, Hayley Turner, Adam Kirby, 5th rider (TBC)
Dickie’s team: Richard Johnson, Victoria Pendleton, Sam Twiston-Davies, Tom Scudamore, Harry Skelton

The competition will see the five flat jockeys competing against the five jump jockeys over a challenging show jumping course built by the legendary course designer Bob Ellis. This exhilarating spectacle will task even the most experienced of riders, creating huge excitement around the Olympia arena for this year’s Friday evening performance.

Prior to the event, the former cyclist will undergo specialist training from a fellow Olympian, currently at the pinnacle of his career – Rio 2016’s individual show jumping gold medallist Nick Skelton. Nick will be giving Victoria special tuition as the multi-sport queen switches saddles yet again to take up this latest challenge.
Victoria Pendleton, multiple Olympic medallist, said:

“I am thrilled to be a part of such a prestigious event like Olympia. The Markel Champions Challenge will be an exciting competition with such a high calibre of jockeys and I’m really looking forward to riding in it. To be back involved in a team again and hear the excitement of the crowd will be immense, I just hope the jump jockeys can get over the line for the win!”      

Juliet Redfern, Markel’s Managing Director of Equine and Livestock, said:

“It is fantastic to see the return of the Markel Champions Challenge in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund; Markel are proud to be associated with such a credible cause at a brilliant event. To see Victoria on board will be enormously inspiring to everyone, and we would like to take this opportunity to wish all the competitors the best of luck.”  

Lisa Hancock, Chief Executive of the Injured Jockeys Fund, said:

“The Injured Jockeys Fund is delighted to be involved in this fantastic event. Not only will it be a lot of fun but it will help to raise awareness and crucial support for all injured jockeys and their families.”  

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To buy your tickets to this unique event and secure your place at one of the equestrian performances of the year, please visit www.olympiahorseshow.com or telephone the box office on 0871 230 5580.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s the little things… one pair of shoes and a whole lot of lifestyle

With Burghley well and truly done and dusted, the touring spectacle that is Eventing has moved onto Blenheim. Despite the awful weather on Saturday, Burghley was a great success, with the publication that I developed, with uptown E Store, ‘A little Book of Burghley Style’ receiving some great reviews from readers and the brands that were involved. If you have yet to read it, I’ve embedded a copy at the end of this blog.

A featured brand was Fairfax and Favor, who I’ve been working with since their early days. It has been wonderful to see Marcus and Felix develop their product and brand identity. From small stands at their local event Burnham Market, to showstoppers at major internationals and the likes of The Game Fair. Knowing how hard it is to work these events, keep stock levels up to scratch as well as running the business itself, their shows schedule is beyond impressive. The team will have earnt a well-earned break after Olympia in December!

I’m sure many of you are familiar with their famed tassled ‘Regina’ boots, always seen at trot ups and a country girl’s staple footwear. As I said in the Burghley magazine,

‘It’s definitely not a case of what riders will be wearing Fairfax boots at the horse inspections… but who won’t be!’

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Fairfax and Favor have now established themselves within the eventing and country markets, with some exciting news about brand ambassadors on the way, so keep an eye out for that. Their social media channels are on point with huge followings and almost cult status amongst their customers, who are now not just the country set, but city dwellers wanting classic shoes, that are stylish, classy and comfortable. With the business rocking, and my marketing head on, I set about thinking what makes customers ‘come back for more’ and what makes new customers want to purchase their own little bit of Fairfax and Favor.

So what was my conclusion? Well, in my opinion it’s all about the detail. At Burghley I purchased a new pair of driving shoes, the new style Henley’s. You can read about them here

They are a slightly different shoe from the classic Drivers launched last year (I’ve lived in mine and they are part of my everyday wardrobe on the farm and in meetings… and obviously for driving!). The Henley’s are more refined ‘smarter’ style, with plaited leather detailing, the classic drivers grip sole which makes you feel like you are walking on air, stippled rubber across the outside of the heel which means the shoes aren’t worn away or damaged when you drive. I’d say a smarter, more ladylike version of the driver. There are also little details like the metal ends on the ties and a really smart Farifax and Favor shield stud on the heal. Subtle branding that suits the shoe. Speaking to Felix Favor Parker at Burghley he positively gushed about this new detail, telling me of the trials of finding a manufacturer to get the logo ‘just right’. It’s this attention to detail and careful consideration that really makes a difference and keeps customers coming back. With a few new designs launched every year – from bags, to purses and new boot designs, the brand keeps a fresh identity, but still is very much Fairfax and Favor.

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One of the biggest treats (for a packaging geek like me) is receiving a delivery. This is where the brand gets things ‘just right’. Open the shoe box – it slides open like a draw and you want to keep it just for that… and you see two beautiful navy dust bags with gold embossed logos. I’m maybe a little OCD but I’m a sucker for dust bags. Why not look after your treasures well? Next is a lovely navy branded envelope containing a beautifully printed catalogue – because you will be thinking of your next purchase already right? A lovely hand written note hoping my shoes will fit perfectly – a lovely touch! Then two A5 ivory, gold embossed cards, one inviting you to the list of events that FF will be attending, and to stop by for a drink or two – well who wouldn’t? And another inviting FF fans to tag the brand their Instagram images, with a customer every month winning a £250 in store credit voucher for the ‘best Fairfax & Favor photo’. Simple marketing, stylishly executed and totally fitting with the brand.

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It’s this quality detail, working with a great manufacturer to keep stock levels up to scratch and the quality high that makes the Fairfax ad Favor work. Using all the best bits of tech, in a classic way to keep the brand faithful happy. Add to this excellent customer experiences on-stand or online, plus the ability to have your order arriving the next day. It is true to say that Fairfax and Favor are here to stay and with marketing and an attention to detail they deserve all the recognition they have received.

To find out more visit: www.fairfaxandfavor.com

 

 

What’s the time? Its Clipping time!

While many owners get around to clipping in late October, many, particularly ones with hairier natives, are clipping more regularly. Wanda really struggles in the heat and she gets a good trim every 4 weeks and a full clip every 6-8 weeks, depending how quickly her hair is growing. By keeping her coat shorter I feel she performs better, is easier to keep super clean and looks tidier. However, it is possibly my most irksome yard job as Wanda isn’t great at standing still and being patient (if I was rich it would be the one job I would pay someone to do!). We have our methods to keep her quiet – more on that later – and contrary to normal practice she usually gets clipped after work, but when she has cooled down and isn’t sweaty. So after all these years of trimming, snipping and clipping what are the top clipping tips I can offer?

14163583_10153618815342142_233642905_oThe lines…

Many a good clip has been spoilt by over clipping, just to try and get symmetrical leg, tail and saddle patch lines. We have all been there… just a little more off this… oops. I like to mark-up Wanda as it makes clipping a no-brainer. I use a damp chalk block on her black bits and charcoal on her white bits to draw up any clipping lines. She has ‘everything off’ apart from her saddle area and tail point, which makes things easier, but I still mark up as it reminds me where to stop! I also use a piece of bailing twine to measure as it makes the job quicker and more accurate. Some people also draw around their saddles to give a perfect saddle shape to clip to, clipping slightly in from your line. A saddle is easier to use as a template than a saddle cloth which doesn’t lay in an accurate shape to draw around. I tend to leave a curved off rectangle shape across her back as it’s easy to clip, but it really depends on your style and how cold backed your horse can get in the winter. My top tip would be not to try and use saddle soap to mark-up – been there and it makes a real mess of your clippers!

IMG_20140216_190340Keep your horse warm…

I use a fleece exercise sheet to cover Wanda up and keep her warm, but not hot. It’s easy to move out of the way and wash afterwards. It helps to keep her coat flat and also helps with her fidgeting. I also wear clothes that are easy to wash afterwards and layers as clipping is hot work. I tie my hair up and wear a cap since ‘that’ incident where I ended up with haircut too! I also make sure I have robust boots on since ‘that’ incident where Wanda stamped on my foot and broke two toes… yes, it’s an occupational hazard, but worth staying safe!

For Fidgety Horses

I start with Wanda’s shoulders and move on to the head early on, using lots of oil so the clippers stay cool, and changing the blades if they become hot. Wanda hates having her chin clipped. I’ve tried all sorts of methods, including twitches, but on a bad day nothing will help to make her stand quietly – not what you need when you are trying to clip around her eyes! What I have found, taught to me by my friend Fiona, is that de-sensitisation really helps. So I accustom Wanda to the noise and vibration of the clippers. If she stands quietly I remove them from her cheek, so it’s a ‘touch – release’ method. This way I can gradually clip her head, with no stress and foot stamping. It may take slightly longer but I have found I can do a better job. I’ve also found giving her a haynet to eat while I do the ‘kicking end’ helps, as does putting on her Equissage which tends to relax her and has similar vibrations to the clipping, so desensitises. With my young 3 year old filly, I’m already bringing her up to the yard during clipping time and she will be introduced to small clippers soon. Fortunately, she is 1/2 Thoroughbred so doesn’t suffer quite as much with furball issues!

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The Fiddley Bits!

I don’t always have a helper with me so have to be inventive. Wanda sometimes has a front foot placed onto a sturdy bucket so I can clip her elbows and fetlock areas. She looks rather like a performing elephant but it works! I also have a sturdy mountain block to do her ‘higher parts’ – after ‘that’ experience when she sent me flying from a wobbly upturned bucket!

Another tricky area is going up the mane line – no accidental hogging allowed! I sometimes section off Wand’s mane with plaiting bands to keep it out of the way. If you then one hand to hold down the mane on the opposite side, and hold the blades at a slight downward angle to get the perfect line.

 

Look after your kit

My last pair of clippers lasted an incredible 23 years! It shows that regular servicing and care can really help make them last. I send my clippers away in ‘low season’ so I get them back quickly. I also have fine, medium and coarse blades. The fine ones are great for faces, but too fine for legs, the coarse are great for thick winter fluff and legs, it all really depends on your horse’s coat. I the blades sharpened every 4 clips and store them wrapped, with lots of oil. I also really thoroughly clean down my clippers after use, with an old rag and a decorator’s brush. I wipe over the flex before they are packed away to check for damage, and always ensure the trip switch they are plugged into is working.

Most of these tips are common sense, and clipping as a skill is one that improves with practice. Everyone has their own tips and techniques so it’s worth watching and helping someone with a lot of experience as you can learn a lot.

If you are looking for new clippers it may be worth checking out the new Clipperman range…

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Clipperman Clippers

 

I was interested to hear the new Clipperman range of clippers and trimmers has hit the shelves and is ready for the coming season.  The extensive range is available through retail outlets and via their own website here  The collection comprises of nine different types of clippers, trimmers and shearers, as well as related accessories, and eleven different types of blade to suit all needs.

 “Clipperman has been created with expert Eddie Palin, to provide a top quality product range that delivers excellent value,” said Jessica Balmer of Clipperman. “The range consists of mains and battery powered clippers and trimmers that are ideal for single horse owners as well as yards in need of powerful clippers to clip many horses throughout the season. We also have a supporting range of accessories, such as battery packs, oils and blade wash, and a range of different blades to allow everyone to get the perfect finish.” 

The entry level Clipperman Jewel Trimmers have a retail price of just £38 and come with one rechargeable battery, a set of blades, two plastic combs, a charger, clipper oil, brush and instruction manual. The premium clippers in the range, Clipperman Dragon, are totally wireless and come with two rechargeable Li-ion batteries that provide up to four hours of running time between the two batteries. These robust clippers have a cutting speed of 2500RPM and are 12V. Clipperman Dragon clippers are comparable to 150W mains clippers, but are totally cable free, giving the power and the freedom to fly through hair. They have a RRP of £285.

“We’ve been working on this collection for a long time, and we’re confident that every detail has been considered and addressed. As horse owners, we understand what clippers have to do, and the annoyance that a substandard pair can cause to horse and owner.”

For more information, see http://www.clipperman.co.uk or call 01253 888188.

Happy clipping… but let’s hope we have a bit of summer left before the need arises!

WOOF WEAR launches Two New Products

With a social media leak earlier this week, Woof Wear fans had a taste of things to come with their inspired new medical hoof boot, which will be available from UK Stockists from September. Social media was alight with the news, with Woof wear deciding to push the product to launch earlier than expected. I am pretty certain this will be an award worthy product to look out for, filling the gap for intelligent and contemporary design, for an age old problem. No more gaffer tape!

To see this amazing piece of kit in action follow the link here

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The leak sadly overshadowed the release of  another new product, the new Woof Wear Dressage Wrap, a quick and easy alternative to bandaging and offers support to the fetlock and tendons.

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Smart and flexible, the Dressage Wrap allows full flexibility of movement and the 7mm breathable neoprene keeps joints and tendons cool. The plush outer material allows for a wide range of strap adjustment around the leg.

Suitable for everyday use including schooling, warm up, training and clinics. Priced at £33.00 per pair they are an affordable and well designed option for the amateur or professional rider. In my own experience Woof Wear boots are also extremely robust, so they most definitely fulfil their tagline ‘Protection by Design’.

Sized at S, M ,L and XL in White, Turquoise, Brown or Black. For more information click here

 

 

B&W Reviews… The HAAS Brush Collection

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Priced at £65 for a set of 4 brushes, the HAAS collection is a top end choice for riders wanting the ultimate in brush tech for their horses. Made in Germany, the HAAS website explains that many of their brushes now use specially selected synthetic materials as the basis for all brushes and combs. You may think this lessens the quality and makes them feel a little ‘plastic’ but by using synthetics their brushes can offer better hygiene (as all products are washable), increased reliability and longevity, comfortable handling (they all have a hand strap like a body brush), water resistance, retention of bristles and a stronger build quality. Looks wise, I couldn’t tell the difference between these brushes and some of my natural ones and they were certainly easy to use.

So it makes total sense that the way forward is synthetic. Add to this the very engineered manufacturing process where the hand loop together with the bristles are directly incorporated with the body of the brush. HAAS brushes don’t use nails, spikes or screws when making their brushes so this lessens any risk of injury. There is also no glue, so nothing can fall apart.  So they certainly build a great description of informed design and manufacture…

BUT… how do they work in reality? Watch our video review HERE and see the brushes in ‘real life’ here (excuse my German pronunciation!)

So you like the sound of HAAS and would like to buy some yourself? There are 3 UK stockists which are listed here.

I purchased my set of HAAS brushes from Eqclusive who offered a prompt service and the brushes came in a really smart black card box – very luxurious! They are also the only supplier who sells sets of 4 brushes – a new inititative and a fantastic idea!

If you order from Eqclusive in July and use the code JULY all UK orders will receive free shipping and orders above £100 will receive a tub of Equinox.

You can watch the HAAS promo video here and read more from their website here  They literally do brushes for every need, an amazing collection in many sizes, colours and bristle types.

HAAS is also on Facebook… @haasbuersten and if you have any questions about my experience of the brushes send me a message.

Happy grooming & enjoy your horses!

NicolaGoldup0931