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.

Equisense Launch High-Tech Equine Care System

This week the winners of the SPOGA Innovation Award in 2016, Equisense, have launched another high-tech equine centric product.

Imagine being able to accurately measure your horse’s daily activity, build a picture of his health and well-being, track any changes and be alerted in the event of an accident or if colic is suspected?

Equisense Care is a connected equine bodysuit created for all horse owners who have an interest in the health and wellbeing of their horses. Created to be linked to a mobile application that not only evaluates the horse’s wellbeing and state of health in real-time (thanks to 3G connectivity) but this clever piece of kit also enables the owner to optimise their horse’s lifestyle, enabling them to take action in the event of a problem. Created by a team of passionate equestrians, technology experts, vets and biomechanical engineers, this product is set to change the way we understand and observe our horses: From evaluating his well-being over days, weeks, months and years through to monitoring his recovery post trauma or during illness.

This wearable tech is the result of careful research and planning and has been carefully adapted to guarantee his comfort and safety all year round courtesy of an anatomically designed bib that can worn all year around both in the stable and field and under rugs (A lightweight honeycomb summer bib and a shoulder protective winter version designed to be worn under rugs are available)

Equisense Care works in two ways:

* Without a subscription you can retrieve all your data as soon as you connect your smartphone to your sensor via Bluetooth.

* With a small subscription (€19.90 per month) thanks to 3G connectivity, you will always have access to the data in REAL TIME, which means that you will receive alerts from the device on any noted changes as they are happening and enabling you to take appropriate action, whether that’s paying a visit to the stables to check on your horse, monitoring his progress on a journey or calling your vet with concise and accurate data to highlight a possible issue or concern.

Currently this device is available for pre-order and the team plan to go into large scale production next summer with delivery of Equisense Care Kickstarter orders being sent out in the Autumn of 2017.  To pre -order via Kickstarter click here

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The Equisense Care device will be able to analyse time spent moving, time spent at each gait, distance travelled, time spent sleeping, heart rate and heart rate variability, respiratory rate and perspiration with additional free upgrades planned to monitor body temperature, agitation and time spent eating.

 

For further information on this revolutionary equine technology click here

 

 

BLACK AND WHITE EVENTING SHORTLISTED FOR 2016 E-DRESSAGE EQUINE AWARDS

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We are thrilled to announce that we have been shortlisted as a finalist in TWO categories of the 2016 E-Dressage Equine Awards, which will be held at the luxury Cheshire estate of Carden Park on Saturday 22nd October.

Our blog and social media work was selected from a flood of nominees to become one of the finalists in the Individual Social Media and Individual Blog categories.

‘I’m absolutely thrilled to be shortlisted in not only one, but two categories in the Awards. It’s been great to have some recognition for my writing and social media work. What started off as a personal project telling stories about getting back into riding post pregnancy has evolved into a way of interacting with other equestrian fans globally and sharing my passion for equestrian sport and fashion. From this small project, I’ve been able to develop a business, Black & White Creative, which provides visual content creation, styling, design, consultancy, marketing and media services for the equestrian industry. But, above all it has been lovely to share my tales and encourage other people to have a go or think about returning to riding’.

“There is nothing else like these awards in the industry,” said Roseanna Sunley, Director and Founder of E-Dressage Ltd, which hosts the Equine Awards. “As we all know, success in any sector of the equine world does not come easy! We wanted to celebrate the hard work and dedication that all of these companies and individuals put in to build their achievements, and could think of no better way to do so than in creating these awards. 

“The entrants certainly gave the Judging Panel a difficult job. They have risen to the challenge, though, and their final selections represent the very best in every sector of the Equine world. For Black and White Eventing to have been named as a finalist in two categories for 2016 is an achievement of which they should be very proud.”

More information about the E-Dressage Equine Awards, including a full list of finalists, can be found at www.autumnball.e-dressage.com.

We cant wait to get our glad rags on and see meet the other worthy finalists at this amazing gala event!

 

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

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/

 

 

Black and White does Belton…

This weekend I’m off on a little jolly…  to Belton International Horse Trials  . It’s one of my favourite events in the spring calendar, set in beautiful parkland with one of the prettiest stately homes in view. This year a stellar line up of competitors is entered in the CIC3*, battling for the Grantham Cup and the Shearwater Tri Star Grand Slam .

Eventing fans are waiting in anticipation to see if Oliver Townend will win round two of this prestigious and generously supportive initiative. 2016 seems to be the year of the big prizes with the Tri star and Event Rider Masters  which kicks off in a few weeks at Chatsworth. With that and new trialled classes such as the BE105, to support the upgrade from BE100 to Novice, it seems like really positive changes are happening in eventing, with exciting opportunities for all levels. Is the tide about to turn for Eventing? We hope so!

So back to Belton… As I mentioned, the start list is literally a ‘who’s who’ of eventing, with the Olympic selectors in attendance, team places are won and lost in these preparatory events. If you fancy doing some homework you can view the start lists here. I am particularly looking forward to seeing one of my favourite horses running, Improvise ridden by Australian Bill Levett.  I love the pair’s attitude to cross country and it will be great to see what they make of Captain Mark Philips’ challenging course. After having the pleasure of attending a couple of Bill’s XC clinics last year I still have the memory of his Aussie voice shouting ‘GO FASTER, MORE!’ imprinted in my brain. As a note Bill’s clinics are great fun and his straightforward and honest approach to cross country riding is really refreshing, you can find out more on his website.

Team Ireland are out in force following recent team training with Nick Turner at my local centre, Waresley Park Stud and it will be great to follow their progress leading to Rio. Expect upbeat social media from the gregarious Jonty Evans as the weekend progresses…

Other big names presenting include Andrew Nicholson, Ludwig Svennerstal, Paul Tapner, Bettina Hoy, Clark Montgomery, Aoife Clarke, Daag Albert and Vittoria Pannizon… this is set to be a thrilling weekend of international eventing!

In sum, Team Black and White wish the best of luck to all competing this weekend… we all have our national allegiances but ultimately my joy is to see great partnerships at the top of their game, coming home safe and well.

If you are unable to visit in person for the first time Belton International Horse Trials is offering eventing fans the opportunity to watch all of the action from the comfort of their own homes by streaming Sunday’s 3* Cross Country online. You can watch Belton international CIC3* live from 2pm by clicking on the link .

Alongside the eventing action Belton always makes an effort to entertain families and those not so equine motivated! There is a wide range of displays, demonstrations and the ubiquitous trade stands, along with a food court to refuel and relax.

The stands I will be definitely be visiting are…

Noble outfitters …some of the best riding and leisure clothing you can find… intelligently designed and full of great features too!

Fairfax and Favour … if you don’t know who they are you should do… my favourite footwear retailer and an upcoming business ran by a team of enthusiastic and really friendly staff.

Your 4 Legs …An equine an Human McTimoney massage expert whom I was a guinea pig rider for last year at Belton (photo below!)

Hot Togs …purveyors of some of the best thermals on the market, hopefully not required this weekend!

Recipy … fashion pieces for the design conscious, with quality fabrics and on trend, yet unique styles.

Altogether an amazing weekend and a great set up to the rather delayed and damp season so far. Keep a look out on my social media channels for some sneaky pics this weekend… and let’s hope the sun shows its face for just a little while. The organisers deserve at least that for putting together such an amazing experience for us to enjoy!

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When the King met the Queen! Wanda’s fan club…

 

 

 

 

 

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 🙂

Wilma’s turn to shine

As some of my regular readers will know I also own Wilma, who is Wanda’s niece. A Wb x Cob x TB skewbald filly. She was bred by Wanda’s former owner Tessa Frost, based just outside Cambridge. Wilma’s sire is Wanda’s full brother and her dam is a former TB racehorse. I purchased Wilma at the beginning of December 2013 and she wintered with Tessa, running with the other weanlings, arriving to our yard in April.

I decided to buy a youngster as I wanted a second project to run alongside Wanda, hadn’t the funds to buy an older horse and also knew a little about Wilma’s blood lines so felt slightly more comfortable with the idea. Wilma was also 3 weeks older than my youngest son and for some madcap reason I thought buying her was a nice way to celebrate his birthday. 

What I lacked was any experience handling young horses so was very much prepared for a sharp learning curve. In hindsight it wasn’t until Wilma arrived that I realised how little I knew. After feeling swamped in the do’s and don’ts left by Tessa I did feel rather like I may have brought myself a lot of worry. We turned Wilma out to run with the 2 kid’s ponies and it was clear that they were going to make sure she was low down on the pecking order. I guess it’s just natural behaviour and decided to leave them be. True to horse form they were settled within half an hour, with dear Wilma being very much ignored and looking a little lonely. Within a few days she was best buds with Hickory the pony and as I write this blog she is now leader of the ponies. Wilma is a very friendly yet sharp yearling. 

As part of my plan I decided to get as much ground work done with Wilma as I could. My thinking was that it was easier to manage and train a 10 month old foal than it was train a stronger and bolshier 2 year old. Within a few days Wilma had her first tie up, ate from a haynet and experienced the start of grooming. She also soon learnt that it wasn’t sensible to swing her head and neck into my face and that it was important to stand still when I asked, move to the side and then back up. Our paddocks have a lot of gates so she soon learnt simple move over and back commands. 

Feed wise I took guidance from Baileys www.baileyshorsefeeds.co.uk and my trainer Val Gingell. We don’t have a lot of grazing but with the wet weather the grass has kept coming. I’ve been very watchful of Wilma’s development, keeping her fed with Baileys Stud Ballancer and at first Stud Pencils and Alfa A. As the spring grass came she swapped to balancer and pony nuts. She is also fed oil. I think feeding was my main concern and I have been very aware of the problems that can arise if young stock are over or under fed. 

At first grooming tickled and Wilma really fidgeted so I persevered, kept brushing until all her tickle spots disappeared. When she arrived she couldn’t cope with belly and back leg brushing. Now she accepts it calmly and enjoys it. I also started with feet picking, finding out the hard way that a yearling can cow kick very sharply and how much it hurts when they catch your little finger! Her first visit to the farrier for trimming was tense, but now she stands like a pro. In the early days I could see that she learnt quickly but I was always a little timid, worried that I would teach her bad habits. At the time I had a lot of help from our groom Coco Chambers who was amazing at holding and working with Wilma on the times that I was tied up at work or with my children. 

My intention was to take Wilma to some in hand yearling classes but I always found they clashed with events which was frustrating. I then found out about British Breeding Futurity assessments that are supported by Baileys Horse Feeds. www.britishbreeding.org/home.aspx 

The Futurity is the fastest growing young horse evaluation programme in the UK. The assessments aim to identify British bred young potential sport horses and ponies destined for top level careers in dressage, eventing, showjumping or endurance, and may even find the Olympic champions of the future. 

Horses and ponies are entered for the Futurity discipline they are bred to perform in, with age groups for foals, yearlings, two and three year olds. Each horse is evaluated in hand and loose in an indoor school as well as undergoing a vet’s assessment. Breeders value the Futurity because it allows them to get their youngstock out in public, but in a low stress enclosed environment. 

I decided to enter Wilma, just to get an outing and guidance more than anything. As preparation Wilma needed to get used to thorough grooming, bathing, trimming, mane pulling and plaiting. She also needed to wear an in hand bridle, so essentially be bitted and comfortable wearing it to be trotted up and handled. I also had to ensure she would walk on trot on a 15-20m triangle and feel happy doing so. I had a month or so to work on these points and in this time I’d say her handling really matured and we developed a great bond. It was the start of her really getting tuned into me as a partner and guide and really felt quite magical. Unfortunately futurity at Keysoe wasn’t meant to be as Wilma went lame a few days before. She bruised her sole and it wouldn’t have been sensible to take her. Luckily I emailed the organiser Cat and she transferred our entry to Writtle College which kindly gave Wilma time to recover. 

As ever the 2 weeks leading up to the assessment was busy and Wilma had a few practices loading and standing on our lorry and being bathed. I had wanted to take her to the local agricultural college to loose school but funds and lack of available time put pay to this. Wilma also had her mane thinned and pulled in preparation. In haste I took her for her first lorry journey 2 days before the event. My plan had been to do this sooner so it was a major risk. Wilma was her usual laid back self and travelled brilliantly. Not a noise and totally relaxed all the way to the next village and back. At this point I became more confident that we would be able to cope with futurity and all that would be expected of team Black and White… 

To be continued!