A little late on the blog this month, for many reasons. However, we are very pleased to report that the taster session on equine behaviour and sports psychology went very well, and not just because we squeezed everyone around the fire and fed them chocky bics and cake! As everyone was complimentary, we might run some sort of talk every month.
Grumble of the month (which I’m sure doesn’t apply to any of the readers here). Some of the horses that we re-school or buy have obviously had their heads virtually tied down with either running reins or some other device. This means they have unsteady head carriages, don’t accept the bit, often have problems balancing when their heads are NOT tied down, etc. etc. Although a gadget can be useful during re-schooling, they must be used with care and NOT because the rider cannot control the horse.
At least four horses we have schooled in the past year have had problems doing trot to canter transitions purely because they are frightened of having their mouth hung on to; two of these even had problems going from walk to trot properly, and one of those had evidence of an old injury to the bars of its mouth while the other threatened to rear. Both Carol and I have also re-schooled numerous horses in the past with the same issues: one was even jumped in fixed side-reins because the owners were scared of it – after re-schooling it went on to three-day-event (including steeplechase) in a snaffle!
So, please remember that if things aren’t working out between your horse and yourself, then the horse cannot change things – it is up to you to do so. If you don’t know how to do this then get help rather than ‘bitting the horse up’ (putting on a harsher bit) or tying its head down or its mouth shut; none of which are long term solutions and all of which can lead to the horse being frustrated, frightened, or even muscle damage.
On a lighter note, check out our new Photo page, where Carol and I are showing off some of our competition photos. Many thanks to the photographers who have given their permission for us to use these fabulous photos on the website. Many thanks also to the great horses we have ridden, as we have both been lucky to own and ride some fantastic horses and I think most riders will agree that their horses are their best teachers.
That’s all for this month, but with some fine weather outside it is time to think about the forthcoming shows and start getting the horses fit again.
Best wishes and happy riding.
Where to begin this month? We have had a day of snow (which was better than the forecasted sleet), rain, sunshine (but cold), warm weather (but wet), frozen fields, sopping wet fields (even the dogs stopped wanting to go across them) and overcast days with damp air that just sucks the oomph out of you. We have been riding in-between the weather, but hibernating the rest of the time.
Professor Pony is immensely pleased to have had his first book review posted on Amazon: 5 stars of course (out of 5) from a very happy customer. Not sure why more people don’t do reviews, but if you have enjoyed either his book From the Other Side of the Saddle, or the other ebook Equine Behaviour Explained, then please post a review as it helps his ratings overall.
There is a letter about an equine dentist on the Prof’s Dear Abbey page. Do you get your horse’s teeth checked by a qualified dentist regularly? Many people think it is only needed if the horse is old or has a problem, but all three horses here had sharp points causing ulcers on the insides of their cheeks up the back. Diva, who’s only 5, had wolf teeth removed as they were interfering with the bit (she was very mouthy when she came, so this would have been part of the problem). She then had 10 days off for convalescence, so hasn’t been doing much. Mind you, Carol has been having trouble fighting off one of winter lurgies, which keeps coming and going, so probably just as well in this weather.
Lexi (16yo) has never shown any outward signs of sharp points and a sore mouth (and it certainly doesn’t affect her eating!), while Jester had the sharpest points of all and he is only 8. He was highly suspicious of the whole process (we don’t think he has ever been done before) and had quite a shocked expression on his face! I doubt they ever really understand why humans do such strange things, but they put up with a lot.
Lexi usually reminds me every now and then about how important communication is between rider and horse, and what a poor job us humans do. Being somewhat quirky, she soon lets you know if your leg or hand moves without you being aware of it. Anyway, one week she gave me an epiphany. We hadn’t done any medium trot for quite some time, as I had been focussing on the canter and other things, but once warmed up she normally powers off into medium as soon as she has been given the aids. However, after several attempts nothing happened. She knew I wanted something, but couldn’t work out what. I checked my aids, which seemed fine, and I tried different aids, which still didn’t work well. After a few tries, rather than confuse her (which gets her upset, as she doesn’t like humans who don’t get it right), I stopped trying while I had some thinking time.
So, what was the solution? She only does a proper medium trot if asked from sitting trot, not from rising trot. Which is simple and logical (based on her history), but I had forgotten. Current results? She powers off at medium trot whenever asked, although I have to stop her after half a dozen strides as my sitting trot isn’t up to doing more than a short distance (guess what I am practising now!).
Of course, not all horses are this sensitive, and some horses will try to give you what you want if you only vaguely give the correct aids, but horses like Lexi remind us of how important it is to get the language between the horse and rider correct, and the emphasis is on the rider to do this, not the poor horse. If you have been following our training series, then have a look at the next couple of articles on communication.
On the general news front: a big congratulations to Eleanor on getting her BHS Stage IV. Not being content with that though, she is now aiming for her Pony Club A and possibly her PTT, so will be studying hard over the summer. Jester has been to another dressage day and, although a bit fresh in the first test, is continuing to improve each time – even the judge said she loved him, but then how could you not!
Carol has been doing some dressage judging, and has seen some lovely horses and tests. However, she has also noticed that many riders lose marks because of their ‘ringcraft’, rather than how well they and their horse are going. Ringcraft refers to how you use the arena and perform the movements, e.g. whether you turn correctly onto the centre line at the end of the test, or if you get the circles the right shape. Although it is less important than the rest of the quality of the test, it can make a big difference overall. For example, if you lost just one mark per movement for not being accurate, this equals 10% of the available marks! So, imagine improving your dressage mark by 10% without having to work very hard or do a lot of schooling! Okay, it’s more likely to be about 5% (speaking from personal experience here), but it is very easy to do and an accurate test will often beat one that has more flair but is less accurate.
There are tips to help with accuracy, so Carol and I will be holding a Masterclass on ringcraft for dressage tests. It will involve a demo, with Carol giving a dialogue of how to ride different movements and what the judge looks for. For those of you who have ‘written’ for a dressage judge, you will realise that what the judge sees is not always what the rider feels! You can sit in the viewing box if wet, and it will be followed by tea/coffee and biccies, so not to be missed. Keep an eye on the website for the date, but we will also be posting notices around the local feed and horse stores etc.
That’s all the news for this month: keep warm and keep on riding.
As I write this, the ground has been frozen solid for several days – not even thawing out when the sun shines. If the ground is warm at root-level then the grass will continue to grow (a little bit) even if the air temperature is cold, but if the below-ground temperature is also cold then grass doesn’t grow at all; so it is important to allow for this when working out your horse’s winter rations (assuming it has time outside). Remember to also check that water hasn’t frozen in water buckets, troughs, or automatic waterers; often a film of ice will need breaking on the top, and adding warm water will increase the amount your horse drinks.
If you haven’t read it already then check out the article on rugging and remember that your horse is usually nowhere near as cold as you are, but that both over and under-rugging can cause health problems.
I know some people have been asking about the courses on the website that will be running this winter – yes they are still happening, they have just been delayed a bit because of colds/flu’s/xmas etc., but we will be getting stuck into them after the New Year. Don’t worry, they will be inside in the warm! Following on from our last dressage show there has also been some interest in a ‘dressage test masterclass’, where you can learn the little tricks of the trade that help you get better marks in dressage tests; this will be in the form of a demo/talk, so again no need to get wet and cold. If there’s any interest, then further masterclasses on dressage, showjumping and cross-country will follow (do you know what to look for when walking a course?).
New material on the article page this month focuses on continuing our rider series, but let us know if there is anything in particular you would like to read about. Watch out for our upcoming article on Botulism too; many people know that horses can get it from silage, but did you know that it can also occur in haylage (even when it looks perfectly okay)?
As usual, Professor Pony has new letters in his advice column, and hopes that everyone remembered to celebrate Epona’s festival day on the 18th December, as well as having a great Christmas and New Year. Although equines follow a different religion, he would like to point out that Mary did choose to ride on a donkey and so he would like everyone to check that their nativity scenes have the donkey represented.
Hope everyone has a Happy New Year and best wishes for 2015
From Carol and Wendy
TRAVELLING WITH PETS IN EUROPE – new regulations took effect on December 29th !!!
Do you take your dog (or cat or ferret) into Europe on holiday, or for any other reason? If you haven’t already got one, then you need a passport for each pet. One of the main reasons for this is to control RABIES (kills pets, humans, horses, and other mammals!), and travelling pets need vaccinations and blood tests as part of this disease’s control. This has been the case for some years now, but it seems that unscrupulous people have been forging passports and vaccination certificates meaning that unvaccinated pets (especially puppies) are coming into the UK!
Did I mention you can die of this disease? As does your dog and anything else it bites (yes, including your horse). If rabies gets into foxes then there is a risk of it spreading through the UK. Have you ever watched the programme Heartbeat? There is one episode where someone dies an agonising death from rabies (nowadays, if caught in time, you can have a preventative vaccine but many people still die of rabies each year and animals are euthanized).
The new regulations include – new passports (though you don’t need a new one if your pet already has one); a minimum vaccination age of 12 weeks (make sure you do NOT buy illegal puppies that have been smuggled into the UK); more checks on pet passports at borders; and new regulations for pets travelling for sale or rehoming.
So, if you are going to travel abroad with your pet then make sure you check out the government website and plan well in advance (there must be a minimum of 21 days between the rabies vaccination and travel). Pets that travel without following the regulations may be quarantined for up to six months before being allowed back into Britain or, worse, may just be destroyed. Don’t lose your dog, or your life, for the sake of taking simple precautions. www.gov.uk/pet-travel-information-for-pet-owners
Just a short blog this month, as things have been quite busy. However, there is new content on Professor Pony’s dear Abby page, and another article following on from the new series on training. Use the links to get to these pages.
Carol has been off to Rome for a holiday – the first one she has been on as an adult that hasn’t involved horses! She has also been busy doing her UKCC certificate, as apparently being a BHS Instructor is not sufficient for the BHS these days – a big congratulations for passing the practical, and she how just has to finish and submit her portfolio. Sorry for those people waiting for her para-dressage book. We were originally hoping to have it published for Xmas, but time has flown since then.
A bit of drama at the neighbours, as their house caught fire (well a small part of it). A big WARNING – don’t stack wood against the side of wood burner, as it can catch fire when it is dry enough. Carol was left holding the baby (literally) while the fire engines got to work, but fortunately it was mainly smoke damage.
Not much has happened in the way of shows this month; Congratulations to Sue & Keri, and Clare & Jester, who scored in the 60’s in their intro-to-canter tests. Lexi did a test Hors Concours just so she had an outing, but doesn’t seem to understand that she is allowed to go around the arena without doing the fancy bits she has been taught in the past (however, only one flying change and the odd step of passage).
The young mare Diva is starting to find her balance at trot, so hopefully she will go out to a show soon. She may end up with a blood-thirsty reputation though! A few days ago she had a dead rat in the stable; it had an injured tail and hadn’t been dead long, so we are assuming she trod on it a couple of times and/or kicked it. Then today there was a scapula (shoulder bone) of what looked like a rabbit! Okay, that one probably came with the straw as it was quite aged, but you never know what your horse gets up to when you are not watching.
Winter is here and the paddocks are quite sodden – even the terrier has days where she doesn’t want to cross the mud, and the cat has moved inside pretty much permanently. However, we have been lucky to have mild weather for so long, and it will soon be Xmas, then spring; so lots to look forward to.
Wishing everyone a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year
And some words from Professor Pony:
Professor Pony would like to remind all ponies (although they shouldn’t need it) that December 18th is the feast day of Epona, the Horse Goddess who protects horses, donkeys and mules. As well as the traditional services this year, for those in areas where the skies are not covered by cloud it is becoming customary to look toward the home constellation Equuleus and give thanks for the continued survival of our species when others are becoming extinct.
He has also made it clear that although horses don’t celebrate Xmas as such (because their religion is based around Epona), he still expects his carrots and other treats on Christmas morning and would everyone please think of all the ponies around the world who do not know it is Xmas time or who are sick.
[Translator’s note: he overheard the ‘band-aid song’ and slightly misunderstood the words]
Another month gone, and Santa is getting his ponies ready to pull the sleigh. Yes, it is a myth that he goes around the globe with reindeer; due to quarantine regulations for Foot and Mouth disease in many countries he would not be able to land his reindeer, so of course he uses flying ponies instead (Professor Pony used to supervise the team, but he found all the travelling too much so has now retired from that aspect, however I have it on his authority that the ponies are much more environmentally friendly, as they don’t produce the same green-house gases).
The article on using bedding last month was timely, as not long after it was posted we went to look at a horse for sale that was kept on rubber mats without bedding. Unfortunately for the horse (and the seller) it had obviously had problems overnight and had injured its leg, making it lame. Of course, injuries still occur when stables have bedding, but any form of softening the ground surface must help reduce the risk of the horse hurting itself.
As a grumble, it was very annoying to find that:
(a) the horse had had its white socks washed without the groom noticing that it had a big fat swelling just below its knee and that it showed signs of pain when its hoof was lifted.
And (b) the seller had booked someone else to look at the horse at the same time!
The seller was a dealer, not a private owner, so no excuses there. It does seem amazing how unprofessional some businesses in the horse world are, but there was only a brief apology and the comment that the owner hadn’t checked the horse herself that morning.
In the meantime, Carol is schooling on a lovely young Dutch-bred horse to see if she will make a dressage horse. Even though only 5, Diva has settled in very quickly and has started learning the basics of aids and balance. Some people are obviously braver than us, as she has been jumping courses up to 1.40m and has done cross-country, yet hasn’t yet been taught much about the different types of aids! It’s a bit like driving a car without a gear box and with a loose steering wheel. However, she seems very sweet and willing to learn so we will see how she goes.
See the Free Articles section for the first of our new series of articles on training yourself and your horse.
In other news: Jester, who belongs to Carol’s niece Claire, has started his dressage career, with his first look at dressage arenas and competitions – it must all be quite confusing to start with but he seems a cheerful type who takes things in his stride (especially when there is plenty of food on offer!). Having done mostly trekking and hunting in Ireland, he finds some of the things that ‘townies’ in suburbia have to put up quite strange; for example, going around in circles just to get back to the same place and getting his white bits washed for shows (of which he has rather a lot; unfortunately for Claire he is not the cleanest horse in the stable). Congratulations to both Claire and Jester for getting 2nd at their third ever outing.
Congratulations also to Robyn on the purchase of her very first horse! Although Robyn has leased horses before, she will now have the surety of knowing that this one is hers for as long as she wants. He sounds a lovely friendly chap and we look forward to following their partnership together.
Congratulations also to Sue (our neighbour) and her black Arabian mare ‘Keri’, who are thoroughly enjoying dipping their toes into endurance training rides and are collecting rosettes. Keri regards it as much more interesting than that dressage-stuff, although she wasn’t so sure on the day it was really wet and muddy!
Just a word from Professor Pony; feel free to send a Dear Abby letter for him to answer. He is not so busy at the moment as it is half-term, with all the ponies at the Academy having a good rest before studying more about humans in the winter term. There are some more letters this month, including a pony who enjoys playing games with its human and some complaints about the apple situation.
For those looking for a different form of dressage, check out the second competitor in this link:
That’s all for now,
September was a busy month for Carol and I, meaning that not a lot of new material has been added to the website in the last few weeks. However, although we would liked to have gone to the WEG, at least we didn’t spend hours waiting in queues and experiencing the poor weather and organisation of it! Maybe next time though.
Some of the local shows (including the dressage show at Ripe that Carol is organising), have been postponed lately due to a horse in the area having Equine Flu’. Fortunately it seems as if it was an isolated case, as no other cases have been found nearby yet (West Sussex is the nearest), but the vets are frantically vaccinated horses whose vaccination programmes have lapsed or who are more than 6 months out from their last vaccination. For more information on flu’, including signs and whether to vaccinate, check out the article on the free articles page.
October has rushed in without us realising it. The horses are starting to complain because the apples have dramatically reduced and it is back to rationing, but autumn is definitely coming with the leaves starting to fall or change colour and this includes the apple trees in the orchard. It is one of my favourite times of the year as not overly hot or cold and very pretty to go with it. It also means xmas is getting closer! However, not everyone likes it getting colder – remember that horses do not feel the cold the same as humans (they get a lot of heat from digesting hay and grass) therefore just because you are cold does not mean your horse is!
Carol has been looking for another potential dressage horse and it is absolutely amazing the for sale ads that people put in. For many horses there is a valid reason for sale, but for some it seems to be just because the horse has now developed a problem that the rider does not want to deal with. This includes things like tendon injuries, arthritis, cushings, and other health issues – yes they are expensive to deal with, but either fork out the money for treatment or have it euthanased. Other people won’t take on a horse needing vet treatment either, so the horses must just sit around in paddocks or stables in pain until someone finally decides what to do with them.
Horses going cheap because of behavioural issues are also a concern. Many of these just need to be ridden correctly, though some have obviously never been checked to see if there is a physical reason (e.g. a horse that had a month of and then didn’t want to be ridden at all). Half the time the photos and videos show someone riding with rigid hands, or jumping with really poor balance. If your horse has an issue that isn’t being resolved: firstly get the vet (or other professional e.g. saddle fitter) to check for pain; secondly get professional help to see if it is your riding; then thirdly consider if the horse would be genuinely better off with a new home (and will it actually get one that can help it) or would should you make a tough decision to prevent the horse ending up worse off.
Professor Pony would like to comment on something we discussed the other day, and which relates to one of his recent advice letters. He is well-read and has spent many years working alongside and researching humans. However, he was very surprised to find that humans have ‘Laws of War’ (sometimes called the ‘rules of war’).
The concept sounds very bizarre when you try to explain it, and Professor Pony has trouble understanding why we have wars in the first place, and why there is not just a law saying not to have any wars. However, as we agreed that stopping humans from killing each other was probably impossible, he is now going to begin a campaign for three new ‘Laws of War’. They go as follows:
• No animal should go to war without full understanding of the risks and consequences, (these to be explained to them in their own language to remove ambiguity and ensure that informed-consent occurs).
• War is not allowed in any area where animals live and work, due to the risk of injury to innocent bystanders (there are plenty of deserts for people to kill each other in without making a mess elsewhere). As an addition to this law, no animals in surrounding areas are to be distressed by loud bangs or low flying aircraft, and no animal is to suffer food shortages due to troop movements over pastures etc. while travelling in and out of war zones.
• Any members of the Blue Cross (animal veterinary services) to be given safe passage at all times (even if they are human) to attend to the needs of animals.
Humans breaking these laws would be subject to international courts that would grant the animals the right to sue the offenders. Lawyers will work on a ‘no win – no fee’ basis and are not allowed to charge more than 10% of any settlements thereof. (NB: this does not give lawyers the right to make multiple unsolicited text messages and emails to stables, kennels etc. of possible horse, dog, pigeon, or other victims. Any horse lawyers or humans found to be doing so would be fined).
As the warring humans could be stripped of all their assets during this process, which would of course be made available for animal conservation, it is likely that they would see that there was no benefit to going to war anyway and this alone may be sufficient to end all wars (or so Professor Pony hopes). The alternative is that the lawyers will end up with so much money that they will buy up all the available land and stop all the wars so that they can retire in peace (more likely).
Professor Pony would like to start a campaign called ‘Ponies for Peace’, but of course it is humans that need convincing not the ponies!
Hope that everyone has happy horse days with no disasters (human or otherwise).
It’s fairly unbelievable that we are already into September, but so much has happened lately that the time has just flown.As well as the launch of the website a few weeks ago, there are ongoing changes and fixes all the time (the icons now link to where they are supposed to go – yay!! Everyone has been very complimentary so many thanks.
Professor A. Pony is now up and running, and attracting a lot of interest and Professor Pony would like to say thanks for all the kind messages . If you like Professor Pony, then please share him on facebook or by email (links available on his Dear Abby page).His web pages are proving very popular and, if you want a light-hearted read, his eBook From the Other Side of the Saddle has just been uploaded to Amazon (more details on the eBook page). He has also introduced a puzzle page, which will gradually have more puzzles – test out your ‘pony-logic’ skills with the first puzzle.
I have a real appreciation of people who are just starting to learn to ride from scratch – we forget how much there is to learn. It has been a while since I began learning a completely unfamiliar topic from the beginning, but starting this website has been a reminder of the learning process. You can go online and find ‘beginners guides’ to making your own website, with promises of having a website up and running in an hour or two. These claims are 100% true! However, it is a bit like claiming that you can sit on and ride a horse within an hour or two; again the concept is perfectly true, but the reality is that there is a lot lot more that you need to know that how to make the horse walk on and halt.
I don’t really remember the moments where I learnt about things like fetlocks, leading legs, half-halts and bogspavins. But I can clearly remember learning about widgets, rss feeds , plug-ins, and so on (still working on ‘rich text snippets’). When it comes down to it, every new skill that we want to learn seems to have its own language, even if the words sound normal. For instance, I thought plug-in was something you did with the vacuum cleaner; but then a half-halt isn’t actually half a halt and a fetlock isn’t any kind of lock, so I suppose every discipline has its odd terms.
Then of course, once you have learnt the peculiarities of what the language means, you then have to learn how to use it – who would have thought that you would have to use negative em to change the paragraph spacing! Don’t know what I’m talking about? Don’t worry, I have to keep emailing the ‘help’ desk and asking for more basic instructions (the ‘please write instructions for dummies’ still results in materail above my head in places). It makes me wonder just how much new riders understand when their instructor tells them to do something. It might SEEM obvious to the person saying it, but perhaps we become too familiar with terms that don’t really mean what they sound like?
Anyway, on to more interesting news:
- Congratulations to Mairi and Irish, who achieved 96.6% in their very first Preliminary dressage test (for both of them). Irish started his schooling with Carol and I and has now been sold to Mairi, who is thoroughly enjoying his great personality (most of the time!), and they are both off to University this month, so we wish them all the best for their future studies.
- Congratulations too to Eleanor, who very nearly got her Pony Club AH test with honours. Still waiting to hear the nitty gritty, but she worked hard to learn all the theory behind the practical bits (including those weird and unmemorable Latin names for body parts!).
I hope those lucky enough to go to the World Equestrian Games thorougly enjoyed it. Prof. Pony is glad to see that some of it is on proper TV, as there isn’t Sky at his stable. It does seem very strange though that in this day and age para-sport is regarded as second class and doesn’t get the same tv coverage. We noticed the same for the Olympics (summer and winter). Perhaps it is time to mainstream the classes and put the competitions on at the same time rather than having them in a chunk before or after the games? Why aren’t magazines like Horse and Hound campaigning for this?
That’s all for now,
Happy horsey dreams
I’m very excited to be writing on our new website this month! It has been a very sharp learning curve, what with domain names and hosting companies; not to mention a rapid course in teach-yourself-web-design. Carol and I hope you like the overall effect. Many thanks to all those who provide free services and information on the internet (acknowledgements on the jobs page).
That’s not the only exciting thing this month though, as I am also pleased to announce the launch of the eBook:
Equine Behaviour Explained – Why Doesn’t my Horse Understand Me?
Check out the eBook page for more info and a product description, as well as other books coming soon. This book was also a rapid (or maybe not so rapid, as in weeks) learning curve. The writing was the easy bit. Turning it into an eBook was a lot harder, as I needed to learn html and css coding (as you can’t just bung an ordinary word document on to eReaders). After weeks of trying to get all the images to work I found (via numerous websites) that no-one can get all of the images to work on all of devices. So, although nearly all of the graphics work well on the majority of eReaders, a few of the graphics aren’t perfect on some devices but at least it will still market in the affordable bracket –where else can you get a textbook for £7.99??
More exciting news on the home front:
- Congratulations to Serena, who passed her BHS Stage 1 exam. She has become a stylish rider and is also helping to school the young cob, Jester
- Congratulations also to Carol, who shares this website with me. Carol has been re-training a dressage horse that had problems caused by a previous rider(s). Many months of hard work have paid off, with Granite finally realising that he wouldn’t experience pain or stress when he competed, resulting in them achieving over 65% in an Elementary test, and enjoying it.
Anyone else suffering with the heat and flies? I don’t care what the adverts say, we haven’t been able to find a fly spray that actually stops the flies landing and getting the odd bite in. Even riding early in the morning doesn’t guarantee a fly-free period and poor Granite gets very upset. I notice that one horse in the Horse and Hound magazine actually fell over backwards and had to be put down after reacting badly to flies. Just a warning here on the long-term use of garlic; it DOES have side effects if used long-term. See the article on its use under the Free Articles section.
Coming from New Zealand originally, I was also glad to read recently that Jock Paget was cleared of doping charges, as his horse had a contaminated product. Fortunately, the person supplying the product admitted liability (apparently he mixed the product using a bowl and spoon on the kitchen table!!) Beware if you are supplementing with herbal products, as not all come from reputable sources.
Finally this month, please contact us if you want to know more about any of the pages on this site, or about us.
Happy horse riding,