The tale of the rag rug… and taking time with horses

A long, long time ago, in a past life, I used to teach art, and make a lot of my own work too. I was quite successful, with pieces in the permanent collection at the V&A and in various private and public collections across the world. I loved it… but it’s a hard career to keep going. You need time… studio and research time to keep the ideas developing. With teaching to earn a living and then having kids and a family to look after I fell out of love with making ‘stuff’. I wasn’t prepared to make generic work that was just a re-hash of what I’d always made. I have a rather belligerent streak that won’t accept anything but the best. So I literally sold off my works, gave away a most of my materials and stopped being an artist (can you stop being an artist?). Either way I didn’t feel I had the time to make art anymore. Horses filled the creative and time void and I got to where I am today, a writing horse owner with 3 kids.

My kids love art, we make stuff, but I rarely do much beyond domestic alterations and the odd drawing. But tonight a few months ago decided to start making something. It’s for my new home, totally domestic and a bit of a marathon task. I’m making a rag rug. Its huge, its tweedy! I don’t even know if I have the patience to finish it. But as I sat there my mind was made up. I’m in for the long haul.

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I know that making things is really good for my mind and I get a clarity of thought when I’m working away. I was thinking about making a rag rug and working with horses. To start, its hands on, requires an amount of dexterity, knowledge or the ability to work with someone that can impart the knowledge required. But what else is similar? Well there is the time factor, the amount of time invested and how ever hard you try, you can’t make something like a rag rug in a hurried way. It is a slow and thoughtful activity.  Its seems in the equine world there are a lot of riders who seem to be in quite a hurry to achieve an end goal. Maybe it’s this mad rush to feel ‘ready’ for the start of the season, to feel like you are ‘progressing’, getting value from all the time and money invested? Sometimes it seems that everyone is off doing this clinic and that clinic, with multiple trainers, at various venues. Spending a lot of time and money and being very ‘busy’ with their riding.

 

A good thing maybe? Well it pays trainer’s wages and I would never dispute putting the hours in. But it feels to me like fast tracking? A little like the pass your test in 5-days driving school?  Is there another way? Everyone has their own approaches but the more I ride, the more I think that maybe training, learning, improving and goal setting needs to be long term, and subtle not short term. Like the bloody huge rag rug which I hope one day to complete, we all sometimes need to step back, enjoy the ride and slow down.

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I have had and still work with some brilliant trainers. I love the wisdom they impart and the time they selflessly give to help me refine and improve my performance. But I also believe it’s important to take the time to work out things on your own. That wonky arm, the un-level seat, the swinging quarters, the inconsistent contact, the fear of jumping. You can pick your poison… we all have one. I honestly think many of these things can be ‘corrected’ by a great trainer, but they also need homework to get them 100% right. I suppose I’d call it taking responsibility for your own learning and ‘feel’. My most recent discovery has been that I can learn more hacking than in the school – discovered because we don’t have a school at our new farm – so via default I guess. I think being out in the open makes me more aware of my own and my horse’s straightness, and I have a couple of hours to suss out what I want to be feeling, not the frustration of going round and round in circles, literally.

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Everyone has their own ways of working, I’m usually running at warp speed x 10000. But I can’t keep it up. I wonder sometimes if our horses feel the same. They need time too to not only build the strength to perform but also the mental agility to cope with the demands of travel and competing or training. Maybe it’s time for us all to slow down, just a shade, and enjoy what we have. Think long term and not short, appreciate how fortunate we are and enjoy the ride while we can. Think and dream big but appreciate the little steps along the way, bank them in your memory and celebrate them. Just like children growing up, it can all be over in a flash. Enjoy what your horses and enjoy the freedom of riding them. For those that can are very blessed.

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B&W Reviews… FreeJump Safety Soft’Up Pro Adult Stirrups

Over the past few years there has been a surge of technical stirrups new to the market. From the very popular Sprenger Bow Balance (from £160) to the lightweight metal, and very popular Jin Stirrups (from £125), and recently the ‘safety’, ergonomic option FreeJump.  With prices over £100 to the £200 mark these are big investments and loved by a pro’s and amateur riders alike. The latest offering from FreeJump is the Safety Soft’Up Premium Pro Stirrup. But just how good are they and are they worth the extra spend?

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What Freejump Say…

FreeJump Safety Soft’Up Pro adult stirrups are the latest innovation in safety stirrups. They have a bendy plastic arm which will stop your foot getting trapped however, if you get really stuck (for example in a fall) the arm will snap away completely if the right amount of pressure is applied. Should the stirrup snap in a fall FreeJump will replace the stirrup free of charge. The stirrup is strengthened with steel and the foot grip is wider and thicker than usual which makes for a more comfortable ride, it also has a slight angle to help give you the perfect position. If you lose your stirrup during riding, it is specially designed to swing back to you.

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My Experience – Soft’Up Lite – For Children…

I purchased a pair of FreeJump Soft Up Lite stirrups for my son at the start of the year. He is only 8 so I went for the slightly less expensive and smaller children’s style. I actually managed to grab a virtually new pair on EBay for less than half price (the full price is £145) – bargain! The SOFT’UP LITE by FreeJump is inspired by the SOFT’UP PRO but reduced in size for younger riders. I wouldn’t normally splash cash on things like stirrups. But was prompted after Henry fell off several times and got his food stuck in his traditional elasticated safety stirrups. He has found his FreeJumps have really helped this issue – and I have seen the safety mechanism work very well in real life when a particularly naughty pony bolted with him! The outer side of the stirrup is made from notched plastic so bends open should his foot get caught in a fall and in my opinion the style of the stirrup looks tidier than an elastic sided or bent stirrup. Henry has found the secure grip on the tread helps him maintain a good foot position in the stirrup (he rarely loses a stirrup now). I’ve also noticed that this section of the stirrup is generally broader so he puts more weight through his feet and ankle. In my opinion his lower leg is more stable, more often than not in the correct position and looks more balanced than before. This is likely to be due to the design of the stirrup and the 45° angled eye at the top of the stirrup. Henry likes the way you can clip the stirrups on and off the leathers to clean or change them to a different saddle. He has mentioned, without me prompting him, that they feel more comfortable, are easier to ride in and feel safe. I think they have been an asset to his riding from a safety, and balance perspective. As a parent I have been very impressed with their safety, styling and ease of use / care. Well worth considering for the young rider.

These stirrups accommodate a shoe size of up to UK size 6, the 10.7cm width fits soles not exceeding 10.2cm, so very petite adults might get away with a children’s pair!

Available in Black, Brown, blue, pink, yellow and red, from £145. The new edition ones have metal plates on the outside that can be interchanged and customised with national flags and other designs.

 

My Experience – Soft’Up Pro – For Adults…

With Henry getting on so well I decided to treat myself to some FreeJump Soft Up Pro’s (RRP £215) but splashed the cash and purchased the new silver styled Premium version (£230). I wanted to see really how good they were, but as anyone working to a budget understands, I was a little worried I’d just spent a fortune on something that wouldn’t benefit my riding, apart from looking smart.

Overall the adult version of Soft’Ups are larger, with bigger grips on the tread and built to take a heavier rider. They are much more weighted than the children’s versions which is an asset. They have a very distinctive design and incorporate all of the features of the children’s style.  So they look great, have loads of features to make them feel comfortable, help you to gain a better position and grip, but do they work? The answer is a resounding yes! It took a while to work out how to attach them to my traditional stirrup leathers, but they were easy to clip on and off. Immediately my feet and lower leg felt very secure. I noticed this getting on my mare who often won’t stand still when I mount. The wider tread helps your balance in these situations, as it does when you have sudden spooking at kamikaze pigeons and pheasants out on a hack! For riding long distances, I found the stirrups gave a nice balanced feel, I particularly liked them for canter work on the gallops (I felt less tired in my legs and ankles). Although I haven’t gone cross country in them I think they would provide a really solid, balanced feel. When jumping I have found the Soft’Ups great. I think my leg sits in a more natural, unforced position, that is very stable, leaving my knees freer and soft. The grip is excellent and it would take a lot to lose a stirrup unintentionally.

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Overall the FreeJump Soft Up Pro’s are a large investment for the amateur rider, but are easy to change from saddle to saddle so can be used with multiple horses. The colours add a fun, team colour element to their styling and I wold be tempted to buy a red pair for XC. The new silver professional range style gives a more traditional colour, but with the FreeJump contemporary design these are most definitely stirrups for the 21st century. I wondered if they would be worth the extra spend but have found they really do live up to the manufacturers claims and in that sense offer something different to the market, that can help support your riding in a variety of disciplines.

Available in Black, Blue, chocolate, Green, Orange, Pink, Silver, Red, Vanilla from £215

Further Details…

The FreeJump stirrups can be used with any stirrup leather and boot.

The FreeJump stirrups have the following features:

  • Tempered spring steel single-branch with extra high mechanical resistance (1200MPa)
  • Elastollan® overmoulding
  • Open eye for fastening to the single strap
  • 45° angled eye for a perfect foot position
  • Patented flexible outer branch made of Elastollan® which helps free the foot in case of fall
  • Extra wide tread made of Ixef® 1022 (fibreglass loaded polyarylamide)
  • Elastomer grip
  • Screw fastened protective cover
  • Branch situated at the front of the tread for a natural slope
  • Rectilinear bevelled rear leading edge for better lateral stability
  • Exclusive LOOK CYCLE® technology nonslip studded tread surface

For further information and stockists visit: http://www.freejumpsystem.com/en/

 

 

Four seasons in one weekend… Belton had it all… literally!

I was lucky enough to spend 2 days at one of my favourite events, Belton, last weekend. Despite having to battle with a flurry of snow on Saturday morning the organisers yet again put on an amazing event, which is really growing every year.

Set in beautiful parkland, with a majestic stone stately home nearly always in view, this is a real spectators event and on Sunday cars were still teeming into the event long after lunchtime. The cross country course, designed by Captain Mark Phillips, once again was up to height at all levels and tested both horse and rider in terms of their athleticism and ability to adjust stride length through the combinations and links of fences on course. It was interesting to see how his course designs developed from Novice up to Advanced, sometimes with similar, but smaller fences; with slightly easier lines at Novice. By clustering fences mid – way on the course, providing a Lycetts sponsorship area and café, with yet more combinations of fences the other side of this, spectators were provided with a great space to sit, enjoy a drink and take in the action. I think this approach makes eventing spectator and family friendly and I hope to see this idea at other major competitions as it really seemed to pay off, particularly as the weather on Sunday was glorious.

The CIC 3* and Advanced sections were showcases of International eventing at its best with a worldwide collection of nationalities in the top 5 of the Lycetts sponsored Grantham Cup CIC 3*. USA’s Christopher Burton and Mrs Sue Lawson and Carolyn and Anthony Townsend’s 10 year old Nobilis 18 took the top spot and with it the second leg of the Shearwater Insurance Tri Star Grand Slam with an impressive 34.50. France’s Thomas Carlile also added nothing to his dressage score of 38.40 to finish a close second with Quiro Hoy. Germany’s Bettina Hoy completed the top three with her ride Seigneur Medicott who rolled an unfortunate pole in the show jumping costing her second place.

The Polly Phillipps Memorial Trophy, awarded to the highest placed British rider in the Grantham Cup not eligible to wear a senior flag, was awarded to local favourite Ros Canter and her mother’s Zenshera who finished on 57.50 adding just 10.80 Cross Country time penalties to their dressage score.

Classic Moet and her partner, New Zealand’s Jonelle Price claimed top spot in Advanced section M followed closely by Britain’s Laura Collett and Cooley Again, with Oliver Townend and mount Samuel Thomas II coming a close 3rd. Completing his Belton Advanced 1, 2, 3 Oliver took 1st place in Advanced section O with Dunbeau and 2nd with ODT Ghareeb. 3rd place was taken by crowd favourite Andrew Nicholson and Perfect Stranger.

 

As expected, I spent a while checking out the range of over 100 trade stands. It was great to catch up with the team from Noble Outfitters, who I work quite closely with in my day job (to view some of the lovely pieces we sell click here) . They will soon be announcing some exciting news about a new Nobel Rider… so watch this space for news!


I was also keen to see the new belts on offer at Dalton’s.  . They have taken polo belt style, but updated and refined their designs into off the peg or bespoke team colour belts, keyrings, dog collars and leads. All of Dalton’s products are designed and individually manufactured by the founder of the company Emma Louise. The also stock classic snaffle and plain leather belts. Beautifully made and classic designs, they offer a slightly different take on the usual polo belt designs and are British made too! I’m now lusting after a black and white belt in my team colours – another add to the wish list!


Recipy  had a beautiful stand filled with some high end and luxurious combinations of leather, tweed, silk satin and fur. These fabrics have been featured by many other designers but I feel Reipy has the style edge for those wanting something just a little different, ladylike and eye-catching, with a great attention to detail. I spoke to Sarah Pickering – Paterson, Recipy’s design director who told me about her MA in fashion and how the collection was developed from this. Featured in the likes of Tatler, and British made, Recipy is great for town, country and would look amazing on the catwalk that is the first horse inspection.


Another fashion and style conscious brand, Voltaire Design,  were exhibiting at Belton. After having a sit on one of their bespoke dressage saddles I was interested in finding out more. Taking to their UK sports saddle specialist Mathieu Tireau it was great to hear just how much the design house takes into account when designing bespoke saddles. Voltaire Design relies on the long French tradition of saddle making. Interestingly they are the first saddle maker to get help from the fashion industry in terms of the design of their products. I particularly loved the distinctive blue gullet that flashed beneath their saddles. This is certainly saddle design for the 21st century and in hand with this goes their strong environmental values, unique to this brand. Speaking to Mathieu it is clear that their design ethos puts a horse’s comfort at the forefront of design and they work very closely to ensure that the back and shoulder is allowed freedom through the wide gullet and specially manufactured tree. So refreshing to see a design house that puts this first, while also enabling riders to gain the maximum comfort and support when riding in their chosen discipline. Obviously this doesn’t come cheap, but then nor does the endless quest to find the perfect fitting saddle. A definite add to my growing wish list and a brand worth checking out ‘in the flesh’ if you are in the market for a new saddle.


With shopping a plenty and more eventing action than any fan could want, Belton International is shaping up to be one of the best spring events in the UK. With plenty to keep non horsey family entertained, loads of room on course to spectate, and a select range of trade stands I will definitely be going back for a busman’s holiday next year!

5 steps to a clean winter horse!

With the wet winter our paddocks and hacking fields are less than desirable and it’s been tough keeping my horses in nice condition – even Wanda the super cob is fed up with mud and all that is entails. Our new farm in Suffolk sits on clay which makes it really hard to keep the horses clean. Although the heard have the odd ‘duvet day’ when they stay in, I do think it’s important that they get some time to leg stretch and graze, but this means I have to stay on top of their grooming and with less daylight hours I rely on products that works. So here is my no frills, easy peasy guide to the best products out there for the winter months.

Step 1 – Tails

I’ve been using Absorbine Show Sheen hair polish and detangler regularly on the horse’s tails. After exercise I spray their tails thoroughly, leave for a few minutes and then brush through. I’ve found that the spray really helps to repel the mud and if done regularly their tails only need the occasional wash. I’m also a fan of using baby oil which I apply from the tops of their tails and brush through with my fingers. Again it seems to keep the mud off and condition in.

After brushing through I put the girl’s tails into big plaits and tie them up with a chunky hair band, making sure I don’t put the band over their dock area. This keeps shavings and mud out of their tails and makes pre work grooming super-fast! The ponies out on the field also have the same treatment… they are quite spoilt!

Step 2 – Wash down

As I have moved home I sadly don’t have a hot wash area, however, I don’t like to over wet warm horses and like to get them cooled and dry as soon as I can. Sadly, I am still saving for a horse solarium and one day might be able to luxuriate under one with the mares after work! As a poor woman’s alternative I heat water in a kettle and use a couple of small capfuls of Naf’s Love the SKIN he’s in Skin Wash. A little goes a long way and you need to use minimal water so it’s easy to clean your horse and get them dry before they chill. Love the SKIN he’s in Skin Wash is a gentle unique blend of herbal ingredients, including Aloe Vera, designed to help support damaged or challenged skin affected by lumps, bumps, rashes or mild irritations. So great for the winter on a clipped horse like Wanda. I keep all of my old towels and have them cut into useable sizes for drying off and polishing… harder graft than a solarium but good exercise!

Step 3 – Foot care

With the wet and muddy winter all horses are prone to getting thrushy feet and loosing foot condition. As a daily post exercise routine I clean my horse’s feet and apply Kevin Bacons Hoof Dressing. The waxy formula protects heals and keeps the hoof wall in great condition. This product is really easy to apply and takes minutes, so I know I’m doing the best for my horse’s and keeping them primed and prepped for the 2016 eventing season.

Step 4 – Keep the mud off… buy a hood!

All of the horses are turned out in rugs with detachable hoods and liners to accommodate our changing weather. I personally use Premier Equine as the quality is very good and they fit Wanda’s wide shoulders very well. I also use Snuggly Hoods Turn Out Weatherproof Horse Head . I’ve used these for a couple of years now and find them hard wearing and great for keeping the mud off ears and difficult to brush faces. Wanda looks a little like mickey mouse in her hood but appreciates not having me brush her ears for hours!

Step 5 – Invest in Some Golly Galoshes!

At first sight I did wonder how Golly Galoshes would really help my winter regime but I was soon proved wrong. The galoshes are designed to be worn over your training or hacking boots or bandages. They are quick and easy to wash and so save your expensive kit from getting damaged by wet and mud or a damp sandy school. I’ve found by using Golly Galoshes my boots last for longer, are easy to keep clean.  I have also used them to protect bandaged wounds on turned out horses. I own the fluorescent pink style which also is high viz – so great for hacking safety too. A piece of kit I wouldn’t be without and worth looking into investing in as they are British made and robust!

SO that’s it… Add in some brushing with good quality brushes and a cactus cloth mitt to remove stubborn mud and we are done. Nobody likes mud and cold winter riding but with these products you feel like you are treating your horse and contributing to their well-being. It’s a win – win!

Note… These are products I use on a daily basis and I receive no financial gain as an incentive to endorse them.

 

Are you a SMART Showjumper?

Smart TendonFetlock Boot.jpgI have been a fan of WoofWear boots for a long time after trialling their Smart overreach boots and XC boots. They always offer a stylish, practical and hard wearing option for riders across the disciplines and at all levels.

New to their range, released through stockists and online in December 2015 is the new Smart Show Jumping range.

Designed to absorb high speed impact, these contemporary looking tendon and fetlock boots are soft and flexible. Incorporating Woof Wear’s smart technology, the D3O® offers ‘protection on demand’ (basically if the materials are struck with force they strengthen molecularly to protect your horse’s legs even more). The boots are lightweight and stylish, hardwearing and functional with the durability expected from Woof Wear’s range. Designed primarily for Show Jumping but suitable for a range of disciplines. Something I will be looking out to buy for winter Show Jumping and the start of the season in 2016.

COLOURS: Black or White

SIZE: S/M, M/L and L/XL

RRP: Tendon £60.00 Fetlock £40.00

Available from stockists nationwide December 2015 and at www.woofwear.com

 

Woof Wear release Young Horse Compliant Showjumping Boots

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Well known equine manufacturer Woof Wear are launching a new line of boots, available Nationwide December 2015 and at www.woofwear.com

Their new design comprises of lightweight, breathable showjumping boots offer superb protection against strike injuries to the vulnerable tendon and fetlock areas whilst allowing unrestricted movement of the joints.  I particularly like their simple use of black and white tech materials to give a contemporary and stylish look. Great for use on every yard, the Pro Showjumping boots are suitable for day-to-day schooling to top-level competition. What’s more the fetlock boots meet FEI Young Horse Compliancy regulations which is an added bonus for those competing on younger horses in the 2016 season.

The detail…

COLOURS: Black or White

SIZE: S/M and L/XL

RRP: Tendon £40.00 Fetlock £25.00

 

Chop Chop… feeding a cob!

Feeding a cob can be quite a balancing act. Wanda needs fibre and the right amount of nutrients in order to keep her in tip top condition, but she also can bloat and put on weight very easily. Over the winter there has been little grass available and I’ve needed to supplement Wanda’s diet with a high fibre feed as well as her hay and endurance mix. I normally feed a simple grass chop, but to be honest it looks quite unappetising (from a human perspective) and even greedy Wanda leaves a little bit behind in her bowl. I was introduced by HoneyChop Calm and Shine by a friend and have recently trialled this product with great success. www.honeychop.com

honeychop calm and shine

HoneyChop Calm and Shine is a blend of high fibre oat straw, dried grass, marigold, nettle, mint, camomile and oil which can help towards a shiny coat and added condition. It is a low sugar dressed short chopped oat straw with added dried grass. Like some products it isn’t sickeningly coated with molasses so is suitable for ponies and those with weight issues. Honey Chop also produces a completely untreated oat straw chop which I have used for the children’s ponies with great success. I’ve found Calm and Shine it a useful addition to Wanda’s feed as it keeps her occupied for longer when eating, which given Wanda’s love for her food is a good thing!

Honeychop Calm & Shine is low in sugar and starch, providing a slow realise of limited controlled energy from high quality, digestible fibre and oil based ingredients, making it an excellent feed for horse and ponies that are easily excited or like Wanda need a slow release feed for maintained energy levels.

About the added Herbs…

The one thing that I really liked about Honey Chop is the addition of herbs. Not only do they make the chop look and smell more appetising to horses but they have nutritional benefits. It is just a bit more than your average chop…

  • Marigolds are known to contain antioxidants, which help against digestive inflammation. They are a rich source of vitamins A and C and are high in oil. This means that not only will your horse or pony benefit from external coat shine, but they will also receive internal benefits from these little yellow flowers.
  • Camomile soothes the nervous system and helps horses or ponies to relax and sleep better. It is great at soothing an upset stomach by helping to relax the muscle and lining of the intestines. Camomile can help with poor digestion and can aid calm muscle spasms. It induces a calming effect which helps relieve stress, tension and settles nerves. Camomile is not only great at calming but it also has an antibacterial property that can help protect against bacterial related illness or infection. It also promotes a healthy coat with its anti-inflammatory and anti-septic properties, and can help in clearing up skin irritations and allergies.
  • Nettle is one of the most natural beneficial herbs, containing protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, beta-carotene, along with vitamins A,C,D and B complex. This means nettle helps promote coat shine and has calming properties.
  • Mint is germicidal and a breath freshener. It takes care of oral health by inhibiting harmful bacterial growth inside the mouth by cleaning the tongue and teeth. Mint is a good digestive aid and an excellent appetiser making it very appealing to fussy feeders.  It gives the chop a really rich aroma and Wanda can always smell her dinner coming!
  • Honeychop Calm & Shine also contains limestone flour which is a calcium supplement for horses and vital for healthy growth, strong bones, teeth and hooves.

In sum, I’ve been really pleased with Honey Chop Calm and Shine and will be continuing to use it. I’ve found a bag lasts quite a while and at approximately £7 for a 12.5kg bag, it isn’t overly pricey. There are other ranges on offer from Honey Chop – with the addition of garlic, apple, herbs and senior specific blends; so something for all horse owners. Honey Chop is also based locally to me in Suffolk, so it’s great to support local businesses while ensuring Wanda gets the best feed for her needs.

Further Information www.honeychop.com

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5 Ways to Treat your Skin Well when Working Outdoors

A few years ago I used to work as a fashion lecturer… yes… seems like another world to that of dirty nails, hat hair, eau de muck and all those other equine fashion statements. Never-the-less I still have a real interest in fashion, style and the constant battle of defying my age.

I am lucky as I’ve been able to learn from the best, including one friend, the talented Make Up Artist Clare Barber. In a departure from my usual blogs I’ve asked Clare to provide her top tips to keeping your skin looking and feeling great.

As ever, the diva herself, Wanda my trusty steed has to have a say and has included a budget face pack recipe using her favourite ingredients – apples and oats.

Stay looking great guys and girls

Xx

Nikki and Wanda

Clare’s Top Tips To great Skin

  1. Exfoliation: Start with incorporating exfoliation into your skincare routine twice a week. Regularly sloughing off dead skin cells keeps your skin glowing and allows moisturisers to sink in and do an even better job at protecting you from the elements. Try to choose an exfoliant that is gentle on your skin to avoid irritation and be careful not to scrub the skin too hard causing damage. Gentle circular movements over the face is sufficient.
  2. Moisturising: Skin becomes drier in cold weather, especially if it’s windy, because the moisture off the skin is evaporated more quickly by the wind, and the skin doesn’t produce as much oil. Try using a slightly heavier moisturiser which includes Hyaluronic acid for keeping the skin looking plump and a SPF. Moisturise morning & night and you can also use a serum combined with your moisturiser to give your skin an added layer of protection particularly for those who have dry, flaky or redness to the skin.
  3. Lips: Treat your lips to a routine just as you would your face. Typically, they’re the first to show signs of dehydration and winter abuse in the form of cracks, chapping and flakiness. Regularly apply a lip balm that offers moisturising properties as well as SPF. And you can apply Vaseline/petroleum jelly to your lips as this creates a protective barrier between the cold air and your lips.
  4. Make-up: Following the above tips will prevent you from starting your make-up application with a flaky base. In the colder months creamier products will prevent your make-up from drying out. Use a cream concealer with fuller coverage to prevent winter redness splotches, and then use a cream foundation. You can also mix a bit of cream foundation with beauty oil to get a glowing complexion. Topping it off with cream blush will add some life back into the skin.
  5. Stay Hydrated: Hydration is key if you want to keep your skin looking and feeling great throughout the colder months, especially when you have to worry about cold winds. Try having a bottle of water with you at all times so that you’re more likely to sip from it throughout the day. Keeping your body hydrated and your skin glowing.

To see more of Clare’s work visit www.clarealexandra.co.uk

Wanda’s Apple & Honey Face Pack for Dry-To-Normal Skin:

This is probably the most popular apple face pack as it contains honey. Apple and honey are used as main ingredient in many skin creams, skin packs, face washes etc.

  • Take 1 teaspoon of the grated apple in a bowl and add ½ teaspoon of honey
  • Mix well to form the pack and apply it all over the face.
  • Keep for 15 minutes and rinse off with warm water to reveal softer and smoother skin.

Wanda’s Apple and Oatmeal Scrub:

Mix two tablespoons of crushed oats along with pureed apples and add honey. Apply the paste on face for 20 minutes, and wash it with warm water. The oatmeal in this mixture exfoliates your skin while the apple and honey make it supple and glowing!

Wanda the Flying Cow Pony by Weezy Lamb Designs
Wanda the Flying Cow Pony by Weezy Lamb Designs

You cannot be serious…

I’m writing as what has possibly been one of the most stressful weeks of my life draws to a close. To be fair it has been a pretty rough few months. Like many, I will be glad when the days get longer and warmer as we know how much a difference that makes.

Amongst other things I have had some pretty heated arguments with my OH, which has left me in a bit of a spin. I am sure I’m not the only one who has had heated words about the time spent with horses and the financial & family implications this has. I hasten to add this wasn’t the whole reason for our argument but it was one area which came up in our heated exchanges. Familiar exchanges like ‘the horses were here before you came along’ vs. ‘your family should come first’, ‘my horses need me to care for them properly’ vs. ‘how much are they costing you’?

I am sure that many of you reading this have heard some or all of these comments at one point or another. It led me to wonder if other sports are the same. Do keen amateur tennis players get accused of spending hours playing, go golfers get chastised if they spend literally thousands on kit? I can’t give an answer to this but it would be interesting to know. I think anyone owning a horse accepts it as a lifestyle decision; it just happens that the rest of their families have to go along with it too.

As the argument simmered, and the ranting stopped the conditions were laid down… one got me thinking… ‘I don’t think you should take your competing so seriously’. It was one of those statements that made the conversation that followed blur as I pondered over what was actually being said.

Taking it too seriously. What did he mean? Have I been just a little too fastidious mucking out? Was the yard just too clean and tidy, my tack always grease free and shiny, the horses polished for just too many hours a day? After some introspection and a few more choice words I got to the point. It was all about being slightly more casual across the board. Enjoying my horses but not letting their upkeep become a mountain of work, having pleasure in my chosen hobby and above all heading out with a competitive frame of mind not a stressed one.

I have been mulling this over all week. It’s true I work hard to make sure everything is tip top. I don’t feel right cutting corners; I have really high standards and don’t stop until the job is done. But does my riding and enjoyment suffer because of this? I think the answer is possibly, but the jury is out for now as it is something I am mulling over (I overthink things too which is another flaw). The question is do I need to spend hours when things can be done well, leaving me time for a family life outside of the yard? Can I go to competitions not feeling like it is all that matters? Can I not beat myself up if I can’t make a training session as planed? I wonder if I am alone here?

From what I can see it seems that appears amateur riders are taking a more ‘professional’ or absorbed approach to their training, their kit, performance and how they care about their horses. In many ways this is a positive thing, there is nothing wrong with putting the effort in. But at what cost, both financially and in terms of personal pleasure? I’ve spoken to a few riders recently who are really concerned about competing, beyond what I would call normal pre competition nerves. Some are putting massive training pressures on themselves and getting frustrated when they feel things aren’t progressing. Others who are doing without to spend a fortune on kit that in honesty isn’t really going to improve performance, or comfort but they feel they need it to compete well. Don’t get me wrong, I love beautiful kit and will never scrimp where safety is concerned but getting into debt over a hobby just adds to the pressure to perform.

So where do I go from here with the season looming? I’m not really that sure. I think I need to edit things down. Look for what’s important to me, the fun stuff, the things that put a smile on my face, make me LOL with big fat capitals. Above all just enjoy my little horse; she’s there for me as much as I am there for her.

And above all just chill out… you cannot be serious? Erm… yes I can!

See you in the start box

Xx

nik

little d xc me

Smarter than most…Woof Wear Smart Overreach Boots Review

For ages I’ve been on the lookout for overreach boots that actually protect and last more than a season’s worth of wear. I was lucky enough to test Woof Wear Smart Over Reach Boots and was pleasantly pleased with them after a string of overreach purchases that really didn’t come up to scratch. I compete on my horses in a mixture of affiliated dressage, show jumping and eventing so overreach boots are an essential piece of kit for everyday and competition use. As any horse owner knows, an overreach is one of those annoying injuries that causes a lot of soreness, despite sometimes being quite minimal. They are just something all of us would prefer to avoid. For this reason I prefer to use overreach boots as a precaution to this type of injury.

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For some time I have tried to source some overreach boots that work withstand the rigours of cross country, regular use and washing but would also stay in place and not spin. The Woof Wear boot utilises the technological material of Poron® Xrd™ foam in the key strike area. Upon impact the Poron Xrd foam stiffens to give added protection. The area surrounding the hoof wall is made from a material called PU which again is softer so the boots mould to the feet easily and protect the coronet band. Woof Wear wisely terms this technology ‘protection on demand’. Because of this high tech material the boots are lightweight and feel flexible so minimise rubbing on the horse. The beautifully cushioned neoprene lining and band at the top of the boot is soft enough not to rub but still offers protection.

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Inside the boots is an anti-spin nodule that rests in the cleft of the heel and prevents the boot from spinning. This works brilliantly and for the first time I noticed the boots didn’t spin, which was one of my criticisms of previous boot purchases. The boots have a stylish finish which looks high tech but is also subtle. They look protective before you’ve even put them on.

One element I really appreciated was the quality of the fastenings and details such as the neat little leather loop at the end of the Velcro. This small feature makes the boots easy to fasten and undo after cross country when you may have muddy hands and boots.

I trialled the boots when schooling and they fitted well and did their job. Woof Wear is very keen to promote correct fit and there is a useful video on their website. The boots should be fitted snugly, protect the heel bulbs but be too long so that they are pushed up when riding on deep surfaces. I would say that correct fit is essential with this product but it is easy to achieve in a range of fittings. As a final test I used the Smart Over reach boots on my horse for the SJ and XC phases of a BE100+ event. I was really pleased with their performance. They didn’t move but protected her, they also didn’t spin and I felt they wouldn’t be a trip hazard which has been the case for other designs.

A final test was washing the boots. They lived up to expectations and looked like new after being washed with all my other cross country kit. They were quick to dry and use again.

With most manufacturers producing an array of overreach boots to choose from it is tricky to make the right decision and end up with a product that ‘ticks all the boxes’. My horse literally has more pairs of boots than me… which says a lot and I’ve wasted money on boots that really don’t live up to claims or expectations.

However, the Woof Wear Smart Over reach boots are a top class mixture of great design and technology that offer stylish protection for competition and home use. For the dressage divas they are also available with a sheepskin trim which again may be useful for a very sensitive horse. Price wise the boots aren’t bargain basement but for what they offer they are very fairly priced and great value when comparing the materials, design and tech to other brands.

I would highly recommend the boots; they are a must for anyone wanting to protect their horses while not compromising on style. It’s led me to look at using other Woof Wear products, if they perform as well as the smart over reach boots I am a definite brand devotee!

RRP – £35 for small up to £40 for large

http://www.woofwear.com/for-horses/overreach-boots/smart-overreach-boot_small.html