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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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B&W Eventing Reviews Lucinda Grip Corkshell II Winter Breeches by Pikeur

These breeches came as a welcome Christmas present from my OH as I don’t actually own any winter breeches and have been wearing thermals for months – it’s cold on our farm! I’ve been wearing my new Pikeur breeches for the last few days in some very cold, damp and windy conditions; both riding and on the yard.

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The Pikeur Lucinda Corkshell II breeches feature some really interesting tech in the form of Corkshell™ fabric (made from natural cork!), combined with high performance textiles. The resulting fabric is wind and water resistant material helps keep you dry and the corkshell fabric is soft and warm against the skin, but also breathable. The manufacturers claim that the bi-elastic LUCINDA GRIP Corkshell™ breeches allow the rider to benefit from an up to 50% higher heat insulation combined with the best possible breathability for the first time ever.

The low waist fit breeches also offer a full Schoeller GRIPit seat which is really noticeable when riding, but isn’t intrusive when moving in the saddle, it also adds detail which is smart and fashion centric. On the left thigh, the breeches are embroidered with the Pikeur logo. They have a soft ankle cuff and I found the fit is superb and very flattering, despite being slightly thicker than normal breeches. They feel great quality and look really smart, I opted for the black (dark shadow) style as I figure I could get away with wearing these for XC for spring eventing.

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So, the question is do they perform? The answer is a resounding yes! I’m not a big fan of wearing layers of thermals, particularly when schooling and jumping. These breeches kept me warm in some pretty cold winds and sub-zero frosts, but I didn’t feel clammy or sweaty. They were great for yard work and riding and I didn’t return home with pink legs as usual! It’s a shame they aren’t manufactured in beige as I think these would be a massive hit with hunters and those going to winter shows.  The breeches aren’t cheap – hence why they were on my Christmas list! (RRP is £169.95) – but shop around as there are deals to be had. However, they perform so well I think the Lucinda Grip Corkshell II Winter Breeches by Pikeur are worth the expense as they are built to last and make winter riding much more fun.

For more information and retailers click here

Social Scene – the B&W Guide to Autumn Events

It looks like we will be dusting off our posh frocks for more than one occasion in the next two months. The end of the year sees 3 great events, across the country, which not only look set to be great nights out but also are also fundraising for some top equestrian linked charities.

On Saturday 22nd October 2016, E-Dressage Ltd will be hosting their Annual Autumn Ball and Awards Evening. With a seriously special night lined up, with plenty to keep all of their 350 lovely guests entertained into the early hours. Not only a great night out but also raising money for Redwings Horse Sanctuary throughout the event. Paralympic Gold and Silver Medal winning Grand Prix Dressage Rider Simon Laurens will be attending the Ball and Awards Evening (where Black and White Eventing have been shortlisted as finalists in the Blog and Social Media categories!)

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Simon Lurens is an absolute inspiration to anybody; dressage enthusiast or otherwise. He will be on stage, chat-show-style, to talk to the guests, sharing a little of his jaw-dropping and emotional story and answering questions in typical blasé and humorous fashion.

Closing Date for Tickets: 30th September 2016 – so you need to get a wriggle on!

Event Date: Saturday 22nd October Time: 6.00pm-11.30pm, Black Tie

Location: Carden Park, Broxton Road, Nr Chester, Cheshire, CH3 9DQ

Tickets are available here

Starting November with a bang is The Willberry Ball, at Quendon Hall, Essex, on the on 11th November

wwp.pngRaising funds for a very popular charity, close to my heart, Willberry Wonder Pony. I will be attending with a group of friends and we are set to dance the night away! Tickets cover entry, a welcome drink, a 3 course meal and tea or coffee. Drinks will be available at the open bar. There will be a live auction and entertainment. Tickets for this amazingly popular event have already sold out, however there will be an auction so those not attending can participate and bid on lots beforehand – keep an eye out on the Ball’s Facebook page for details – there are some amazing lots to bid for!

On the 29th November The Mark Davies Injured Riders Fund are delighted to announce that top international eventer William Foxx-Pitt will be joining special guests Olympic Gold Medallist Nick Skelton and MBE and eventer Zara Tindall at the ‘Quintessentially and Mark Davies Injured Riders Fund Evening with the Stars’. The event to be held at an exclusive venue in London on 29th November will raise funds for this unique equestrian charity and will be hosted by top equestrian TV presenter & commentator Steven Wilde.

Guests will enjoy an evening of entertainment and fine dining at this exclusive and prestigious venue.

Tickets: £100 or table of 10: £950.00

Numbers are strictly limited, for further information: www.mdirf.co.uk

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To find out more visit: www.fairfaxandfavor.com

 

 

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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Riding Wear Trends for 2016

Often I like to collaborate with friends and contacts, to swap ideas and expertise. My most recent blog swap was with Personal Trainer and Fitness Consultant Carys Jackson from the Activerider (check them out for some great in house and online rider fitness plans and tips)…here

***Riding Wear Trends for 2016***

Featuring brands such as  Montar UK Cavalleria Toscana Tredstep Ireland Noble Outfitters UK Kastel Denmark euro-star , many of which are available at one of the companies I work for Uptown E Store

Read more here

Enjoy! x Nikki

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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/