Supported By:

SureGrow Jayne Townsend Equine Bowen Therapy Woof Wear Activate Your Seat by Maeve Sheridan Super X Country Cousin Jack

My Blog

Earlier Entries Later Entries

Shoestring Eventing - The Survey

Posted: 14 Mar 2014 - Comments (0)
The results are in:
  • 400 people responded
  • 97% found the website easy to navigate
  • 48% of users click on sponsors links
  • 99% would recommend Shoestring Eventing
I am overwhelmed with the response. You can read the full results and all the comments below.

Click Here For The Results

I was delighted that on the whole the feedback was very positive. There were some great ideas for development and some valid criticisms. I will respond to the main points as best I can.


I am aware that the flash I use for pictures sometimes is not compatible and trying to use this less and less. I would like to have a mobile site but as all the website design, updates and maintenance is carried out by me this is currently beyond my capabilities - sorry!


I am proud I have managed to keep regular updates going for nearly 4 years now. Saying that I am aware updates particularly in the summer are not so frequent as the course pictures take a lot of time. Certainly over the winter I want to gather some articles (including training) together that will compliment my blog and remain stand alone and easily accessible. So I will try and update more but only if I have something vaguely interesting to say!


I will try and take more pictures for Facebook, Twitter and the website. However it is sometimes difficult to get particularly ridden one as most of the time it is just me. For the person that asked for a picture of Mum she is allergic to the camera so unlikely!


I would love to do more feedback and reviews but I have difficulties. The main one is time I am already stretched with a full time job, doing the horses and keeping the website / social media up to date. This means to do justice to this would not be feasible. I would urge everyone to join the Event Riders Association (free) and fill in the event feedback forms so that they can collate and publish feedback. The other difficulty I have is my honesty can sometimes get me into trouble! It is fair enough to be honest about how I do things and the ups and downs but I tend to avoid being critical about events /people on an online platform. If anyone has questions about a specific event I have been to please feel free to contact me.


I am quite happy to do some of these but not quite sure what the easiest way to do this is. Could do a live session on Twitter but still a huge majority of followers not on Twitter. Maybe use Survey Monkey so people can ask questions or work out if people can post things directly on the website (Will do a bit of research)


I am pleased everyone finds these so useful and I had such positive feedback. There were a few comments of odd links broken and courses in the wrong order, please do let me know if you find anything like this as I can’t check them all and it is quite easy to correct. Use the contact me section on the website, Facebook or Twitter!


I know there are some I am sorry! English was never my strongest subject (more a maths girl) and again with time restrictions enough care is not always put into checking what I have written. As always anything particularly bad do contact me!

Comments (0)

Experiences of a first time fence judge

Posted: 14 Mar 2014 - Comments (0)
Welcome to a guest writer recounting their experience (panic) at being a first time jump judge.

Now then, where to start?! Got there OK and on time, found the tent and then started the fun - what do I do, I have never done this before, haven't a clue, find your fence on these tables. (Tables laid out with plastic wallets and flags and stuff) - what's your name? Ah, here you are, fence 2. Yes, I said but there is only my name. Well that means you are doing it on your own. Oh no, I say, I haven't done it before. I asked to do it with someone, no, you are on your own my stomach tightened, my bowels started to churn, I went into I can't do this mode and had to listen to the briefing. Where does the stop watch come in? I ask....oh blimey, they say, you really don't know, do you? Very quick explanation then off to find my fence.

Jump Judging 1Where is the cross country? Other people seemed lost too so we followed each other, in the wrong direction.....anyway, eventually got to fence 2. I have a flag, whistle, stop watch, radio, shedloads of paper books and a pen. I had to report on my fence and fence 1 - could they have made it harder for me?!

It was nerve wracking at the beginning and I had to write idiot notes on a bit of paper that I stuck under the windscreen wipers, to remind myself what I had to do and which order.

The organisers hubby came and stood with me for about 20 minutes and said I was doing fine (fence 2 for the novices was a very big upright, allegedly a hay cart and every horse whacked it in front) and then he went off. As soon as he went, I have a refusal - I panic, no idea what to do but fence judge one, some chap called John, radioed me and told me what to do.

Jump Judging 2A doctor then appeared in his car - parked next to me for at least 45 minutes and then went off - by this time, I realise I am concentrating so hard on getting rider numbers that I am missing all my heroes - Zara (not a particular hero) was at fence 6, well past me, before I heard her announced over the tannoy!

Doc goes and I have a rider fall. I completely forget everything about take the radio with you everywhere and leave it on the car. Girl is crying, horse pissed off up the course and I am in a panic as I can hear " control to fence 2 "on the radio I do not have!! I still don't understand how they are allowed to remount and carry on which she did but got eliminated a couple of fences further on I never got her number, people appeared from nowhere to ask had I filled in the faller form (course not, what the hell is that?) and what was the time (I never clicked the stopwatch) and in the midst of all of this, the course and horses kept coming.

The fence for the 100 was a smaller cart, on a different trajectory and I had to contend with horses crossing the course and idiotic people - my whistle did not always deter them so I did shout abuse at some who wouldn't move quick enough.

A big chestnut went over my fence and then decanted his rider at fence 5 - he jumped fence 4 for fun and I suddenly realised, he was heading my way. When he came into sight, his saddle was around his middle on the side, and he was VERY excited.

Someone's mother caught him and another lady untacked the saddle - they then ask ME if I can hold him, I have a whistle, flag, stopwatch, radio, pen, scoresheets.....can you not just stay with him until the owner or connections come? Nope, my daughter is next but one to go and needs my help (I thought she won't be going anywhere if I can't see fence 2) and the other lady said sorry, her son had just completed and they were back off to the lorry. So, there I am - on the radio " fence 2 to control, I appear to have acquired a horse". Fortunately, it wasn't for too long and someone came to get him.

I was knackered at the end of the day, it was all I could do to drive home. I emailed them to say thanks, sorry if I was a b nuisance etc and they came back with please do it again, we thought you were fab, and, get this, next time, ask to do it with someone.

I DID!!!!!!! I said I would ONLY do it if someone showed me the ropes..........

Comments (0)

Paddock Maintenance Tips

Posted: 14 Mar 2014 - Comments (0)
After winter you’ll not be the only horse owner tearing your hair out over poor ground conditions and possibly a lack of turnout. Quite often paddocks are neglected and deemed useable providing they have a grass covering. However, did you know that the majority of grazed grassland in the UK in mineral deficient? Here are some handy tips to make the most of your grazing all year round and provide your horse with a quality, natural diet.

Paddock 1Grazing

Avoid overgrazing or overstocking - Overgrazed paddocks are considerably undernourished and as the weeds replace grass they quickly look untidy and unkempt. The environment becomes less healthy for horses, the feed value decreases and problems arise. The general rule of thumb with regards to grazing density is 2 acres for the first horse and 1 acre thereafter.

Where possible, it is a good idea for horses to strip graze behind a moveable electric fence, allowing them to be moved strip by strip. Introducing a back fence will allow re-growth on the grazed area. Any weed growth occurring behind can be addressed and all manure removed.


One of the most satisfying aspects of grassland management is keeping weeds in check to give summer paddocks a boost. Most weeds don't like being cut, so topping in July before the seeds drop will result in them becoming exhausted and perish. Poisonous ragwort becomes more palatable to horses and ponies when cut and dried, so the plants should be pulled up and burnt before the clusters of yellow flowers appear.

Topping by mowing will help give a durable grass sward – this in itself is the most effective barrier to weeds.

Weed Control

Spray weeds with a selective herbicide using a paddock maintenance contractor or use your own knapsack spray. However, always take professional advice. Some weeds can be annual so when they have been cut or grazed they will not return, provided that they are cut or grazed before they head to seed. Ragwort is best dug out and burned, do not leave any roots and always wear gloves.

Use Suregrow Fertiliser/CSM at the start and end of the season to maintain a thick sward and help suppress pesky weeds such as clover and buttercups.

If you have a greener view a useful tool is a pasture knife which with a regular walk around your pasture will give good control of nettles and thistles (better suited to smaller areas).


Grassland benefits from harrowing early in the season, dispersing mole hills, raking moss or weeds and more importantly letting air and light to the base of the sward benefiting the finer grasses.

Paddock 2Rolling

This is for appearances, stone dispersal and water damage repair. Rolling should take place immediately after rainfall. Ground conditions should be such that tractor wheels should just leave a mark which will then be removed by the roller.

Paddock 3Re-seeding/Patching

Heavily poached areas such as gateways and around feed troughs should be re-seeded using an easily established, fast growing hard wearing grass such as FAST GRASS. For larger bare areas or for re-seeding use PADDOCK GRASS.

If you have a horse or pony that is particularly susceptible to laminitis, our MEADOW AND LAMINITICS MIX is a non-ryegrass mixture thus reducing the sugar content of your paddock.

Nutrient supply/Fertilising

SUREGROW FERTILISER provides the major nutrients for grazing grass growth – nitrogen, phosphate and sulphur. You would use this over a standard nitrogen fertiliser that a farmer would use as it’s specifically designed for horse and pony paddocks. It has a slow release formula which promotes grass growth over three months, rather than other fertilisers that cause a flush of grass growth which may increase the chances of grass related illnesses such as laminitis. This product would promote a thicker grass sward which would help suppress pesky weeds such as clover and buttercups.

To optimise quality and consistency, grass also needs other minerals in particular sodium, calcium and magnesium and trace elements such as Zinc, Iron, Iodine, Selenium and Cobalt. CSM is a calcified seaweed blend with over 70 minerals and trace elements ensure your paddocks don’t become nutrient deficient like so many grazed paddocks in the UK. CSM will help to balance the soils pH and reduce soil acidity, encouraging even grazing. It will improve the quality of your grass and root development as well as improving your soil structure.

Paddock 4Both products are completely safe to use for all livestock and they can be spread with either a spreader or by hand. A massive bonus of these products compared to those traditionally used by farmers is that your horses can be turned straight back out onto the paddock after application. If your field is completely bald we would recommend waiting until after rainfall or a heavy dew to turn them back out but that's if it's completely bald. Both products are to be stored indoors undercover. Providing they are stored correctly they don't have a shelf life, so if you don’t use it all up on your first application, you'll have some left for the next!

A well maintained paddock will provide you with healthy horses, lower feed costs and a feeling of satisfaction!

Use the code SJB5 for 5% off when you order online.

Comments (0)

Simulator Training

Posted: 14 Mar 2014 - Comments (0)
Simulator 1In November 2012 I took up an opportunity to have a session on an equine simulator. A really interesting time was had. The simulator is based at Jerwoods Farm, Culmstock, Devon where Felicity Mann uses it to help riders perfect their position. Felicity's horse simulator is the latest model from Racewood. It is life sized and like a real horse takes every different type of saddle; GP, Dressage, etc. It has six paces and it is sensitive to leg, hand and seat pressure. The simulator is surrounded by mirrors. Its gaits are not an exact replica of how the horse feels but it is similar enough to allow you to really work on your position.

Lets face it there are very few situations I will happily ride without stirrups and reins whilst focusing solely on my position. (Note I did keep my hat on!)

For me it was quickly noted that I collapsed slightly to the right, I was observed in all paces then helped to adjust my position. A common mistake is often to correct from the bottom up whereas the focus needs to be from the top. Your head weighs 8-12 lbs and if that is pointing down it is like a horse on the forehand. Felicity worked with me to get my head in a neutral position with room between my chin and neck but not over correcting and either jutting the chin or looking up.

Simulator 2Then the focus moved to my arms which needed to hang from the shoulders more. Don’t think shoulders back as this can tighten the back. Think of room in the armpit and the arm hanging down. Moving onto the spine, we mustn’t think of a straight back as the back has a natural curve, it is all about getting it in the neutral position.

The final thing for me was to think of bringing my seat slightly forward on the saddle. These small adjustments made a huge difference and by the end of the session (25 min on the simulator) I felt a lot softer and more connected.

It was interesting watching the other 3 group members all who had slightly different issues and all who were helped enormously and changed significantly in their time on the simulator. Corrections were unique to each rider but the same principles applied, a correction in your posture and spine can affect the positioning of your legs!

Honestly from one session I have gained a great awareness and things to try when I am riding. Will it revolutionise my riding, not at the moment. I wish the simulator was closer as I would be interested in more sessions, I may try and get up again despite the distance. I think with semi regular help it really could make a significant improvement to my posture and balance on a horse.

Comments (0)

The Day Job

Posted: 14 Mar 2014 - Comments (0)
I am an amateur that derives no income from the sport of eventing. As such I need a job that can finance my hobby. Don’t ask why when I am the most accident prone person out I ended up in the health and safety field!

I work full time for Cornwall Council in their Public Health and Protection department as a health and safety inspector. The job involves inspecting workplaces, investigating accident and complaints.

I also have a role in animal licensing and am currently a member of the Zoo Expert Committee that advises Government on the implementation of the Zoo Licensing Act.

The Day JobHealth and safety is a much maligned occupation with the impression of jobsworths spoiling peoples fun and stopping peoples enjoyment. Whilst there may be a small element of truth in this it does get a bad press and often gets the blame for things that may be nothing to do with health and safety.

With the boot on the other foot I have investigated accidents where people have died and could have been prevented with appropriate maintenance or procedures in place. The impact of these accidents to the friends and family as well as the business involved should not be underestimated.

In my work I try and use a common sense approach, however, if there are serious health and safety hazards that cannot be dealt with my a pragmatic approach then I have powers similar to the police to be able to deal with contraventions of health and safety law. Whilst I have no power of arrest I can stop activities taking place, seize articles and prosecute offenders.

The job gives me a good variety of work with no two days the same. I get to travel around the county and meet a lot of interesting people. Whilst there are some unpleasant aspects to my job it is a job on the whole that I enjoy. I am lucky it offers flexible working that means most days I can start at 7 and finish at 3 and take holiday pretty much as and when I need it.

At the end of the day it also provided me with the most important thing - finance to enable me to enjoy my eventing!

Comments (0)

To insure or not to insure?

Posted: 2 Mar 2014 - Comments (0)
I often see the question asked ‘should I insure?’ Or ‘Which insurance company is best?’ I hope in this article I will give you a personal perspective of why I insure and what I look for in an insurance company.

EquicoverHopefully everyone who follows Shoestring Eventing realises that I am sponsored by an insurance intermediary (Equicover) but I am hoping this is a balanced article giving people a fairly objective assessment.

So why insure? Personally because I cannot afford not to. Over the years I have had some huge payouts where if I was not insured I would have had to make that dreadful decision whether I could afford life saving treatment. Now on the balance of averages insurance companies do not want to make a loss so it is true that over a lifetime you are more likely to pay out more in premiums than you are to receive in payout's. However if your horse is going down with colic (average cost £3-£5000 according to Newmarket Veterinary Hospital) have you got that amount available for the treatment?

I in one year with Sarnie had two major claims which resulted in £8,500 being paid out in vets fees. One payout was following an accident at a horse trials where we fell she broke her sternum and had internal bleeding. We had on site veterinary care and then she was on a drip when she got home. The other claim that year was was a lameness investigation and subsequent treatment. Fortunately I didn’t have to cut corners in diagnosis and treatment.

InsuranceThis fairly simple overreach Pip did cross country schooling happened on a bank holiday Monday and required a vet visit, antibiotics, painkillers and a couple of follow up visits. It soon added up to a claim.

So in conclusion if you have a nice reserve of money (how many horsey people do) then maybe insurance is not for you. However if you want peace of mind that in an emergency you know you can afford to treat your horse then I think insurance is essential. I have always insured my horses and would never consider anything else unless I had a lottery win.

On another note I personally choose not to insure for loss of use as it makes the premiums a lot more expensive and often you can’t get a 100% payout as it has not lost all use i.e. a mare can often still breed or it may be suitable for a different activity.

Additionally I don’t have public liability insurance with my horse insurance as there are other means of getting this. I am covered via my affiliated membership although there is a very high excess on any claim. I did have a claim made a few years ago and interestingly I found my household insurance covered me so I don’t need it through my horse insurance.

What to look for in your insurance company?

Like a lot of products we buy, the cheapest is not always the best and can at times be a false economy. Do your research well. Ask friends and search the Internet for reviews, good and bad. There are some insurance companies that are known to be less likely to pay out than others,your vet’s would know which companies settle their claims quickly.

What I expect from my insurance company :-
  • Competitive quotes
  • Prompt dealing with claims (Equicover had the money in my bank account from dealing with my last claim 7 days after receiving the requested paperwork)
  • A good claims handling record (do make sure you adhere to the terms and conditions of your policy)
  • Suitable level of cover for my horses. I have £5000 vets fees per claim, death and theft cover.
  • Knowledgeable staff who will answer questions I have when getting quotes.(Not all cover is standard; be sure to check things like payment on MRI scans, veterinary hospital fees, complementary therapy, out of hours call out charges, can all differ) Ask for the full policy wording and check the small print
Our duty to our insurers

There of course is the obvious, we must be truthful with our insurance company. Before the policy starts and at renewal they will want of know the horse’s veterinary history. We also need to let them know if we have had to have the vet out for treatment irrespective of whether you expect to claim. There is usually a time limit to declare such visits or future claims may be invalidated.

We should look after our insurance company’s money as carefully as we would our own. We want premiums to stay manageable and there to be a range of companies that can afford to offer insurance. Just because the insurance company is paying it doesn’t mean we can stock up on drugs, have extra visits or treatments that aren’t strictly necessary. If we can all follow the principle of "if it was my money, would I pay for it then?", it would be far fairer on the insurance companies to help keep premiums at a sensible level for us.

Comments (0)

Page: 100 of 101