What’s the time? Its Clipping time!

While many owners get around to clipping in late October, many, particularly ones with hairier natives, are clipping more regularly. Wanda really struggles in the heat and she gets a good trim every 4 weeks and a full clip every 6-8 weeks, depending how quickly her hair is growing. By keeping her coat shorter I feel she performs better, is easier to keep super clean and looks tidier. However, it is possibly my most irksome yard job as Wanda isn’t great at standing still and being patient (if I was rich it would be the one job I would pay someone to do!). We have our methods to keep her quiet – more on that later – and contrary to normal practice she usually gets clipped after work, but when she has cooled down and isn’t sweaty. So after all these years of trimming, snipping and clipping what are the top clipping tips I can offer?

14163583_10153618815342142_233642905_oThe lines…

Many a good clip has been spoilt by over clipping, just to try and get symmetrical leg, tail and saddle patch lines. We have all been there… just a little more off this… oops. I like to mark-up Wanda as it makes clipping a no-brainer. I use a damp chalk block on her black bits and charcoal on her white bits to draw up any clipping lines. She has ‘everything off’ apart from her saddle area and tail point, which makes things easier, but I still mark up as it reminds me where to stop! I also use a piece of bailing twine to measure as it makes the job quicker and more accurate. Some people also draw around their saddles to give a perfect saddle shape to clip to, clipping slightly in from your line. A saddle is easier to use as a template than a saddle cloth which doesn’t lay in an accurate shape to draw around. I tend to leave a curved off rectangle shape across her back as it’s easy to clip, but it really depends on your style and how cold backed your horse can get in the winter. My top tip would be not to try and use saddle soap to mark-up – been there and it makes a real mess of your clippers!

IMG_20140216_190340Keep your horse warm…

I use a fleece exercise sheet to cover Wanda up and keep her warm, but not hot. It’s easy to move out of the way and wash afterwards. It helps to keep her coat flat and also helps with her fidgeting. I also wear clothes that are easy to wash afterwards and layers as clipping is hot work. I tie my hair up and wear a cap since ‘that’ incident where I ended up with haircut too! I also make sure I have robust boots on since ‘that’ incident where Wanda stamped on my foot and broke two toes… yes, it’s an occupational hazard, but worth staying safe!

For Fidgety Horses

I start with Wanda’s shoulders and move on to the head early on, using lots of oil so the clippers stay cool, and changing the blades if they become hot. Wanda hates having her chin clipped. I’ve tried all sorts of methods, including twitches, but on a bad day nothing will help to make her stand quietly – not what you need when you are trying to clip around her eyes! What I have found, taught to me by my friend Fiona, is that de-sensitisation really helps. So I accustom Wanda to the noise and vibration of the clippers. If she stands quietly I remove them from her cheek, so it’s a ‘touch – release’ method. This way I can gradually clip her head, with no stress and foot stamping. It may take slightly longer but I have found I can do a better job. I’ve also found giving her a haynet to eat while I do the ‘kicking end’ helps, as does putting on her Equissage which tends to relax her and has similar vibrations to the clipping, so desensitises. With my young 3 year old filly, I’m already bringing her up to the yard during clipping time and she will be introduced to small clippers soon. Fortunately, she is 1/2 Thoroughbred so doesn’t suffer quite as much with furball issues!

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The Fiddley Bits!

I don’t always have a helper with me so have to be inventive. Wanda sometimes has a front foot placed onto a sturdy bucket so I can clip her elbows and fetlock areas. She looks rather like a performing elephant but it works! I also have a sturdy mountain block to do her ‘higher parts’ – after ‘that’ experience when she sent me flying from a wobbly upturned bucket!

Another tricky area is going up the mane line – no accidental hogging allowed! I sometimes section off Wand’s mane with plaiting bands to keep it out of the way. If you then one hand to hold down the mane on the opposite side, and hold the blades at a slight downward angle to get the perfect line.

 

Look after your kit

My last pair of clippers lasted an incredible 23 years! It shows that regular servicing and care can really help make them last. I send my clippers away in ‘low season’ so I get them back quickly. I also have fine, medium and coarse blades. The fine ones are great for faces, but too fine for legs, the coarse are great for thick winter fluff and legs, it all really depends on your horse’s coat. I the blades sharpened every 4 clips and store them wrapped, with lots of oil. I also really thoroughly clean down my clippers after use, with an old rag and a decorator’s brush. I wipe over the flex before they are packed away to check for damage, and always ensure the trip switch they are plugged into is working.

Most of these tips are common sense, and clipping as a skill is one that improves with practice. Everyone has their own tips and techniques so it’s worth watching and helping someone with a lot of experience as you can learn a lot.

If you are looking for new clippers it may be worth checking out the new Clipperman range…

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Clipperman Clippers

 

I was interested to hear the new Clipperman range of clippers and trimmers has hit the shelves and is ready for the coming season.  The extensive range is available through retail outlets and via their own website here  The collection comprises of nine different types of clippers, trimmers and shearers, as well as related accessories, and eleven different types of blade to suit all needs.

 “Clipperman has been created with expert Eddie Palin, to provide a top quality product range that delivers excellent value,” said Jessica Balmer of Clipperman. “The range consists of mains and battery powered clippers and trimmers that are ideal for single horse owners as well as yards in need of powerful clippers to clip many horses throughout the season. We also have a supporting range of accessories, such as battery packs, oils and blade wash, and a range of different blades to allow everyone to get the perfect finish.” 

The entry level Clipperman Jewel Trimmers have a retail price of just £38 and come with one rechargeable battery, a set of blades, two plastic combs, a charger, clipper oil, brush and instruction manual. The premium clippers in the range, Clipperman Dragon, are totally wireless and come with two rechargeable Li-ion batteries that provide up to four hours of running time between the two batteries. These robust clippers have a cutting speed of 2500RPM and are 12V. Clipperman Dragon clippers are comparable to 150W mains clippers, but are totally cable free, giving the power and the freedom to fly through hair. They have a RRP of £285.

“We’ve been working on this collection for a long time, and we’re confident that every detail has been considered and addressed. As horse owners, we understand what clippers have to do, and the annoyance that a substandard pair can cause to horse and owner.”

For more information, see http://www.clipperman.co.uk or call 01253 888188.

Happy clipping… but let’s hope we have a bit of summer left before the need arises!

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!

 

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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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…

 

 

 

 

 

5 steps to a clean winter horse!

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

Step 1 – Tails

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

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

Step 2 – Wash down

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

Step 3 – Foot care

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

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

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

Step 5 – Invest in Some Golly Galoshes!

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

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

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

 

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!

Chop Chop… feeding a cob!

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

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

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

About the added Herbs…

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

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

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

Further Information www.honeychop.com

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5 Ways to Treat your Skin Well when Working Outdoors

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

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

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

Stay looking great guys and girls

Xx

Nikki and Wanda

Clare’s Top Tips To great Skin

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

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

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

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

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

Wanda’s Apple and Oatmeal Scrub:

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

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

2014 – A year of almosts, learning and finding my XC mojo

Our eventing season came to an abrupt end a couple of weekends ago as our lovely lorry suffered an electrical malfunction, which proved to be something more than I had realised and meant I wasn’t able to have my last run, and a Novice spin at Oasby.

Disappointing times but I will come back next season raring to go and sometimes these things just happen. After a hectic couple of weeks of work, poorly children and general crazy times I’m quite glad to be sitting on the sofa for a few minutes before evening stables, having a little recollect over our season. It has flown by way too fast!

Our season started indoors with great clears at JAS and JT 100 competitions. Not in the top ten but really pleasing style marks and really positive feedback at our first time running in these classes which Wanda loved jumping. We will be back next year and riding much faster!

With a wet spring we only had time to XC school once before having an easy start at Iselham round the 90. We needed headlights for XC but came a credible 9th with time faults as I took things easy in the failing light. Isleham pulled out the stops and while other events were cancelled they ran on near perfect ground – such is the joy of well drained fenland!

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Next up was a wet Gt Witchingham, again spinning round the 90, frustrating time faults that knocked us out of the placings after a consistent double clear. The time issue was to be the focus of my season, at times frustrating but I’ve learnt so much by tackling this head on, getting the right advice and just kicking on. I have to thank my trainers and friends who have given me lots of invaluable advice.

As I felt it was time to upgrade we had a run round Burnham Market 100 and produced a great double clear and 33 dressage and 1.6 XC time to come 8th. It really felt that we had learnt how to sort out our speed and I rode so confidently XC.

Following this we went to Milton Keynes, again in the BE 100. Again a 33 dressage, one down SJ and clear XC but my nerves set in and we got 14 time faults. A real disappointment but as I’ve written in previous blogs, my personal stressed had a real impact on my confidence and ability to ride forward. This came to a head at Rockingham. I was second after the dressage on 30.5 and had awful nerves before the SJ. This was the first time I had been photographed by Lauren Causer, one of my sponsors and I really appreciated her kind words that day. I just wasn’t in the zone and decided to withdraw after having two show jumps down. Wanda felt flat and so did I. It was such a great event with a brilliantly built XC… we will be back in 2015.

At that point in the season I called in the help of Jo Davies, a sports psychologist, who helped me with my anxiety and worries. She gave me some great tips to combatting performance nerves. My nerves nearly reared their ugly head at Little Downham BE100. After a disappointing 35 dressage, 2 down SJ and SJ time I could have easily gone home! Thanks for my friend Hannah Galley who had come to support me and help out I did make it to the XC start box and set off. A really silly rider error stop was not what I needed to add to the cricket score but it made me so frustrated I then rode one of the best XC rounds I’ve ever ridden and came back understanding a lot more about what makes Wanda tick – essentially to just get on with it, let her use her neck and kick on!

Mid-season I had a couple of XC schooling sessions with the lovely Bill Levett who really helped me learn how to get the best out of Wanda. I really did appreciate stepping up a gear at Calton, jumping some of the biggest hedges I think both of us had jumped before, and again Wanda making light work of it.

A confident run at Buckminster followed with a 31 dressage, one down SJ and clear XC. Again the time faults crept back but I did feel like the jumping was getting easier and the whole day was great fun, wonderfully assisted by my friend Rosie Lloyd. At this point I had made a conscious decision to just go out and enjoy my eventing… it was a case of enjoy it or maybe look towards doing something else. I can safely say after this run although I was still getting nervous my ability to deal with anxiety and nerves was improving.

Carlton followed, a rather poor dressage, show jumps down but clear XC. Frustratingly again not consistent in all phases but definitely getting used to preparing, warm ups, focus and trying to get the best out of Wanda. Sometimes eventing feels like spinning plates, this year more than ever, but I do think my knowledge and feel of how to keep all those plates up there has really developed. As has my XC riding. I’ve realised that as much as I enjoy dressage and love a good show jump, particularly over a technical course what really thrills me is a technical and bold XC course where I have to think fast and rely on my instinct to get the best out of Wanda and have a really rhythmic round. It’s quite an art and only one that can be achieved with miles on the clock. This is something I feel I’ve really got to grips with this year. I have been very grateful to my trainer Val Gingell who has really got me working hard with exercises that make both myself and Wanda think, technical lines and forward riding, all on grass and in all weathers. In sum, some of the best training an eventer can have. I owe her a lot. She trained me as a junior rider over 20 years ago and has never given me poor advice. She really has been pivotal in my return to eventing – not least for recommending I went to view Wanda when I was struggling to try the right horse to event.

We stepped down a level for the BE90 RF at Milton Keynes in August. I knew that it would more than likely be important to get a good dressage score and I really trained towards this with the help of the very patient Matt Cox. I don’t really know what happened that day. My test was consistent and accurate, some parts better than others. But I scored an awful 38. Very annoying and I felt it wasn’t that reflective of the test. The judge seemed stuck on 6’s and marked harshly across the board. It was equally frustrating as Wands jumped a foot perfect double clear. Another ‘if only’ moment and 2/3rds perfect. So no Badminton Grassroots for us, but a really fun day and again a re-affirmation of how much I love riding Wanda XC.

To finish the season off I decided to do Burnham Market 100 again. I love the environment and course building there so thought I’d give it another bash. Sadly I was subject to a really nasty chest and sinus infection (aka the Burghley Flu) which went on to last for 5 weeks and two courses of antibiotics… then spread to the rest of the family. On the whole I don’t like to withdraw from events unless I really have to but there was no way I could have driven for 2 hours to compete on my own. Frustrating but the right thing to do.

Which led me to Little Downham, back to my local event to try a 100+. It was a delight to learn a Novice dressage test – at last something to ride. I was really lucky to be helped by my friend Fiona Reddick who gave me a great judge’s perspective on riding that test. I have to say I was getting paranoid about my dressage ability – Wanda is always consistent and things went a little askew this season. The test rode so well to sit in 3rd with a score of 33. I had taken a lot of time to break down the test and knew it inside out. I also think I had started to gain my core strength back and now I’m riding with a lot more strength. In addition, I’ve had the amazing support from a new sponsor Stephanie Pittam from Cambridge Equine Osteopath who has been treating both me and Wanda.

It has helped both of us no end and more importantly I am starting to iron out unlevelness which has been really problematic for some time.

I have been really lucky throughout the season to be supported by the team at Forelock and Load who have been superb cheerleaders and always ensuring we look so smart. Lauren from Lens Vanity Photography has been amazing, capturing some classic eventing moments that are a delight to re-live. Sarah Skillin from Equiexcel has been an amazing support, helping me develop my website and integrating the social media within it. More recently Hawkins Organic has been supplying us with superb naturally sourced grooming products which are always a real treat to use. On top of all of this I’ve launched a new project www.thebituk.co.uk . The Bit UK is a country and equine lifestyle and fashion online magazine. Our little team have been thrilled with the success of this site, already being featured in our web hosts global marketing campaign and receiving over ten thousand hits per month.

I digress from the main theme of this blog… the eventing! I think 2014 has been the year that I discovered that I never really forgot how to ride XC, I just needed mileage and to have the balls to kick on. I have confirmed what an honest little horse Wanda is and the braver I get, the bolder she becomes. I firmly believe that we have a really solid working partnership now and will undoubtedly be able to get all those plates up and spinning in 2015. I’ve also got a couple of other exciting projects in the pipeline so next year is destined to be full on and very fun!

At this point I’d like to thank all my family who support my passion. My children for their well wishes before I leave to compete and understanding when I am away competing, my partner for very rarely complaining about the long days and early starts, my parents for helping me fund everything from bedding to feed and upkeep of our lovely farm. A special mention to my friends who come along and support or groom, again you know who you are and I appreciate every minute of help – its so hard to get out eventing when you have kids so any help is very much appreciated. Most importantly I want to give Wanda the biggest pat possible. She has helped me turn my life around. Without her my life would certainly be different, maybe less hectic, but not as fulfilled as it is today.