8 horsey jobs to do over the holidays…

Although not all of us have time off work during the holiday period, the Christmas and New Year break is a great period to get OCD with your kit and have a good tidy up before the season begins.

Here are the top jobs that I will be doing over the next few days…

Trimming and Pulling
Although not every horse appreciates mane or tail pulling, now is a great time to get long manes in check before the competition season begins. Weather you pull or trim I’d always recommend doing this after exercise when horses are more inclined to stand still. Who wants to end up with a wonky mane or tail? At this time of year all my horses get a good tail trim. It keeps them tidy, out of the mud and by the start of the event season their tails will be at the perfect length. When the weather is particularly dire I coat tails in baby oil then plait and fold up, securing around the tail (not the dock) with a long elastic band. This way I minimise tail washing and wasting water.

Wash your grooming kit
I am really OCD about this but what’s the point in brushing your horse with a filthy brush? I’m lucky enough to have an old, second hand washing machine and I put all my brushes in this apart from the leather strapped ones. All the bags and boxes get cleaned out and washed too. I also stock up on plaiting kit and decant any sprays that no longer spray or damaged bottles. If you don’t have a specific horse washing machine then check out the padded washing bag by Moorland Rider. A brilliant piece of kit which means you can wash virtually anything In a domestic washing machine without the noise or the damage! If you want to wash by hand just use very warm water and soap with a scrubbing brush and leave the brushes to dry naturally once you have shaken off the excess water.

Throw out broken lead ropes 
Lead ropes with broken fastenings, knots in the wrong places or that are frayed beyond repair need to be thrown away. They are just a safety risk. Treat your horse to a new one and if the clip still functions cut it off and use it to fasten a haynet or as a handy hook. I also wash all my ropes and oil the clips. They look smart and last longer. My kids lead ropes have a big knot put in the non-clip end so they can hold tight to naughty ponies – I also do this for ride and lead ponies.

Repair your Haynets
Bailing twine works well to do this and haynets are really easy to mend and make do. I tend to replace the fastening string with sturdier rope which is easier to tie and undo. I buy mine for outdoor or camping shops.

Replace and clean your Velcro
Easy to do if you have a sewing machine or a relative that can use one. I replace any worn Velcro on saddle cloths, rugs and leg wraps as it extends their use and saves money. I replace competition boots when the Velcro is beyond repair as in my opinion they need to fit well and be as sturdy as possible – if the Velcro has perished it’s likely the boot has too. I also use a Velcro cleaning brush on my competition and turnout boots to make sure they are as clean as possible before full on training and the season begins.

Re Stock your First Aid Kit
Like your grooming kit, its time to have a clear out! I tend to throw away anything like poltices that have been have half used and start afresh. Same goes for used medicines. I stock up on all the usual kit – hibiscrub, Vetwrap, poultice, tape, cotton wool roll, wound spray and also make sure that suitable scissors, plastic (for poulticing) and a thermometer are in the kit. I also check through the lorry kit and make sure that I have a suitable human one as well including painkillers, antihistamine and cool packs – all of which were used last year. For the start of the season I keep a torch and a head torch on the lorry for dark mornings and evenings.

Wash your hat liners!
A few of my hats have removable hat liners so I have been giving them a good clean and a wipe over. It’s a good time of year to check for damage and that your hat conforms to the new labelling rules if you intend to compete in 2016. I also wash all my hat covers and ear warmers, make any repairs and clean my hat bags – replacing hairnets and hairbands where I need to. Spur Straps get a good oil if they need it and the keepers are replaced if they are worn. My jackets also get a clean and repair now… instead of the week before the first event and I check over my boots, especially the zips as these can’t be prepared in a hurry.

Write a blog!
Writing about your riding, whether you publish publicly or not is a great way to reflect, plan, celebrate, share stories and communicate with other riders. All you need is an internet connection and there are many blog apps available so you can even write one from your phone. I’ve found blogging a great way to meet other people and tell stories about my life and owning horses. So stay tuned in 2016 for more equine fashion and trend reports, eventing tales and photos of what we are up to.

Have a brilliant New Year and thanks for all your support in 2016!

A matter of choice…

It has been ages since I have blogged for myself. I can provide the same old, but very genuine reasons for not putting hands to keyboard… work, family, stress, more work, family etc etc etc. Recently my youngest son was diagnosed with CP so this has had an impact on family life, just in the time spent in physio and trying to do all we can for him. That said he’s responding well and his consultant recommends lots of riding which is a great thing!

So this year I have most certainly been out of the blogging loop but also very much within it as I’ve been freelance writing – so my time is very much taken up commentating about and for other people instead of pour moi. I love this work, I find it really rewarding and can quite happily sit at my desk and get lost in the world of word. I also write for a great team and although the world of media can be a pretty full on and I am really thrilled to have the opportunity to have my work published.

So that’s my work… what about the horses and life? I’ve been up against things still trying to get divorced, yes 4 years on and it’s dragging its heels. There I was in 2010 thinking it would all be done by Christmas. I could throw in a select smattering of war analogies in at this point, and to be fair sometimes it has felt pretty much like a battlefield. Safe to say, this is one battle I need to win for the sake of my children and I will not put up with the Machiavellian behaviour of my ex. Enough of this though… it is not worth the words, and this is, after all, an equine blog!

So back to the horses. It’s all about the equine non?

Wilma, my beautiful little filly is now two and has had a few growth spirts. She is now larger than her Aunt Wanda and is looking like a very promising horse for the future. Her front end has now caught up with her back end and she is looking altogether much more rideable. My plan was to take her to futurity but, true to sicknote’s form, she slashed her face very deeply a few weeks before and I was worried about her healing in time or being presented with staples! Fortunately you can’t see a scar and she was very lucky not to have caused further injury to herself. She is now regularly wearing a bridle and starting to go for long rein walks around the farm as I think she is ready to experience more of her environment.

Wilma has a lovely, if rather naïve, soul. Always first in line for cuddles and has learnt the paddock pecking order yet is not afraid to stand her ground and is by no means a wet blanket. She’s a beautiful mix of blood horse (moves like shit off a shovel), warmblood (trot to die for) and cob (inquisitive, slightly bolshie and smart and solid on her feet). I can’t wait to do more work with her next year and hope she continues in the way she has been.

Wanda is still my lifeline. As part of a massive life change we decided to move to Suffolk to live on a new farm. It’s a total oasis for the horses and children and possibly one of the best decisions I have made. It took a while to decide what was the best thing to do, not only for myself, but for my family. Sometimes, I think the build up to these things is far worse than the actual act of doing something but we all have choices, it’s a matter of making decisions and sticking with them or having a bloody superb plan B.

So this year I have made a choice not to compete much. Granted this was one decision that didn’t always sit well with me but I think it has been for the best. With one thing or another I’ve been pretty stressed and worn out. So getting up at 3am, to drive myself then event solo all day, getting home at 8pm with 3 kids to sort out really didn’t appeal any more. I felt tired before I’d even started and I don’t think this is a good way to compete, it’s no fun!

Having said that I haven’t evented, I have still had a lot of success with Wanda, qualifying for RC champs in 4 disciplines at open level and coming 5th in the DTM championships. I’ve also been hunting and realised that my little supercob is actually quite turbo charged V6 when her blood is up – never will I moan about not being able to get the time XC!

This year I have enjoyed learning more about my horse and being more disciplined in my riding at home. Sure it’s frustrating not competing every weekend but if time and money don’t allow there is no point getting upset about it and particularly no point in worrying what other people think and in some cases what they have said. It has taken me all year to realise this…

So it’s back to choices again… as Yoda said ‘Do or do not. There is no try.’

But 2016 will be back to lots of doing … and I can’t bloody wait!

A not very happy hacker…

As many of our regular readers will know Wanda and I were unfortunate enough to be involved in a car collision while we were hacking just before Christmas. Luckily neither of us suffered major injury but I had quite a lot of leg pain for some time after wards and Wanda was sore for quite a while. We were both very lucky not to have been really badly hurt. Since the accident I haven’t been keen to hack on the roads and Wanda is definitely nervous about vehicles approaching us from behind.

It’s a real shame as she has always been such a great and very calm hack, I was even hacking her at 34 weeks pregnant. Although we are based on a farm the majority of our hacking is on busy and quite narrow roads. To get off road we have to hack at least 4k to the next village. So the winter has been a tricky time for us as we have struggled with high winds, rain and vehicles!

As the eventing season approached I set about planning Wanda’s fitness regime and wanted to factor in more long hacks to strengthen and condition. Although I can hack out with Coco our groom (riding my Niece’s horse) this wasn’t always convenient and I realised I was making excuses about not hacking. ‘It’s too cold / wet / windy / I’m too busy / I need to do more schooling’ were the usual excuses I made to veil the deep thoughts of ‘I don’t want to go on the road in case we have an accident and we get hurt again’ and ‘hacking isn’t fun anymore as I makes me feel dizzy, scared and sick’. I think this echoes a lot of rider’s views about road riding today… I hear it many times on social networking sites.

Things got to a point where I really felt I needed to try to do something positive to claw back the enjoyment I had from riding Wanda out and possibly begin to get her more settled about being on the road. I wouldn’t class myself as a ‘happy hacker’ sort of rider. I spend a lot of time training but I do enjoy riding with no pressure and just enjoying my horse, this was the one thing I was missing from hacking. I just wasn’t sure how to approach my problem which was even more exasperated when we had a lorry accident on the way to BD regionals in February. At this point I knew things had to change.

Sometimes I think people are destined to meet, through one way or another and some of my closest friends I’ve met by a chance encounter. Via a friend, Liz, whom I know via Facebook, I met Ferris Jay who works with a wide range of therapies and thought she might be able to help me out.  Amongst other things Ferris works with Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). This is a simple and effective tool for clearing negative emotions, limiting beliefs, fears, phobias and trauma.  While it may sound too good to be true, I decided that it was worth having a go. I certainly couldn’t continue with the way things were.

A few weeks ago I had a Skype video chat with Ferris and outlined my situation and my worries about road riding. She asked me how I felt when I rode on the road. I could describe the feelings quite well… claustrophobic, shaky, lack of breath, panicked and like all the surfaces around me were hard and unforgiving.  No wonder Wanda felt nervous, I was incapable of riding with any form of confidence at all and at worst case froze every time a vehicle went past.

So, how does it EFT work? Following our conversation Ferris had a clear idea of the anxieties I had and we went though a really simple sequence of verbalising a statement about how I felt, then tapping on particular acupressure points whilst focusing on the issue at hand. This may seem a little too simple yea? Well I have to say it was quite a release to verbalise and say out loud the things that had been bothering me for so long; to the point I was having nightmares about them.

The session in total lasted just over an hour and although it may seem strange doing this while on Skype, it was a really good way to communicate with Ferris who is now based in Ireland… funnily enough she has lived just down the road from me for the past 5 years!

We left the conversation on a positive note and I was all set to give hacking a try again. Unfortunately my planned hack for the next day didn’t go totally to plan as I ended up with a sick child to look after, but I did get out a few days later. I didn’t ride on my own but I wanted to test myself in company then gradually remove the safety net of having another horse between me and other vehicles. However, I came home from our ride with a new found understanding about how I needed to address my emotions and stress reactions in order to support and guide Wanda. I felt more responsible in ensuring that I was going to be the confident one that would tell her that it was ok to be around cars. This sounds quite softly softly for me as most of the time I’m a very black and white thinker and tend just to get on with things. I think it is just testament to how much accidents like these can damage both your horses and your own confidence.

The knock on effect has been interesting. I think I am riding with more confidence, when I get a few nerves I think I’m able to tune into these and try to focus on banishing them. Like a conversation with nerves, something like ‘ok so I hear what you are saying but I don’t think it’s helpful so can we move on please’. I’m by no means nerve free but I have a strategy to ditch the negativity now.

I wouldn’t say that I am 100% over our accident. I’m still not keen on other road users coming near us but I think I’ve accepted that it’s more dangerous to revert to pure panic than it is to try and ride objectively and deal with the matter in hand.  I definitely have the feeling that I am there to guide and support my horse which is reassuring in its own way. I really appreciate the insight that Ferris has given me into new ways of dealing with negative feelings and stressful situations and I will be continuing to have sessions with her until the last bits of nerves are banished.  As I’ve said I think the shock of the accident will stay with me for some time to come but at least I feel now I am making tracks towards healing the stress and enjoying my horse.

More information about Ferris Jay can be found at www.ferrisjay.com

A really useful BHS site with road riding information and a section for reporting horse related road accidents and http://www.horseaccidents.org.uk

A company selling Hatcams to use out hacking and some Highvis kit http://www.thehacksafecompany.co.uk

Equisafety… suppliers of a wide range of high vis kit http://www.highvisibility.uk.com/equisafety