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

It’s All in the Preparation… Pre-Season Tack Checks for the Eventer

We are so near you can almost hear the 5,4,3,2,1, GO! The eventing season is weeks away and team Black and White will be kicking off our campaign at Isleham 7th March. At home I am starting to make sure all my kit is in order and giving my tack a little t.l.c. This is important for any rider, but especially for eventers, who can put their saddles and bridles under extra strain when riding cross country. To get ahead of the game I took some time out to get a few tack care pro tips from Kate Hardt, the MD of Northumbria Equine.

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Kate has had a lifetime’s experience working with horses and serving as an apprentice saddler and as a mounted police officer. Her company, Northumbria Equine UK makes a range of bespoke and off the peg tack including saddles, brides and martingales and personalised pieces to commission. They really can make anything you desire, and at a very affordable price too! Kate’s exclusive range of tack is available from www.northumbriaequineuk.co.uk

A gorgeous jump saddle by Northumbria Equine
A gorgeous jump saddle by Northumbria Equine

In my latest blog Kate talks about the basic checks that any rider needs to consider before heading out competing this season.

Cleaning and preparation

Now the winter is very slowly drawing to a close – we find ourselves already getting those entries in for events. Our horse’s fitness regime is already being discussed and one of the last things thought about is tack – other than tack junkies who always think about it (now that I can understand!)

Competition bridles, saddles, breastplates and martingales that may have been stored in the winter need to have a good strip down and check over. Some areas are often missed, the smallest, most crucial areas too…

Billet hooks

When strip cleaning your bridle work, always check the leather that the billet hook protrudes from. Very often they get missed when cleaning as it’s a bit fiddly, we do neglect this little bit of leather. It too, needs to be cleaned and treated – if that goes, your hook goes, your bit or reins go…. you get the idea!

Repairs

Check all of the stitching meticulously, check the stitching on those girth straps and the holes – have they stretched? If so consider getting replacements.

Check your tree, flocking, everything. Saddles ideally need a check twice a year as your horse should add muscle. For peace of mind and your horse’s wellbeing it is worth calling in the experts.

If anything needs repair – get it sent in to your saddler – now is the time. Saddlers are busy people – it is hunt season and they will be up to their necks in work.

If your kit has had a fair amount of wear and it needs some repair work – you may want to think about getting it replaced. With some items, the prep work involved prior to repair – can mean that the item could have been made from scratch in that time and may not be much more expensive to replace with new.

Leather oil & Cleaning

Try not to use leather oil all the time when cleaning tack. I used to see this all the time some years ago, not so much now thankfully. Leather oil when used to excess wrecks leather. It separates the fibres in the leather and causes stretch. It also gives quite a nasty feel to the leather and makes it very spongy. I find the only time I really need leather oil is occasionally if something feels a little dry (leather girth perhaps after a soaking and several hours mud bath on a long and sticky day hunting), or when leather has been soaked.

If leather gets very wet, the best thing to do is get a sponge cloth – squeezed out, wipe the saddlery over with this and WHILST WET apply leather oil then allow to dry. This should reduce the chance of leather drying out too much and getting too horribly water-stained. If your saddlery gets wet, it is vital that you look after it as soon as you get back – it won’t repair itself!

Once you have checked your saddlery thoroughly, always use a good quality leather care, plenty of them out there and lots in spray form, so tack cleaning is easier than ever. I always use tack cleaning spray too – it gets those horrid chunks of grease (jockeys) off your saddle flaps and inside of reins etc. Finish off with a decent soap or leather balm then assemble your saddlery again and hey presto, you are one job down on the list.

I know not everyone cleans tack every day – not even I, however, I do use glycerine spray soap on our saddles before we ride out – if nothing else it give me the grip I need to prevent me from performing high level gymnastics that I could never manage at school!

Regular hunting has its benefits – your tack gets cleaned before and after each meet – and can look fab at the end of the season! Do consider once a week if you can – and invite a few friends over for a tack cleaning party with a few bottles of the red stuff – makes it far easier to stomach!

Sound advice from an absolute pro! Thanks to Kate for her help putting together this blog. Happy tack checking 🙂