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Keeping the horses in tip top shape

Posted: 17 Apr 2018 - Comments (0)
The horses had a massage with my fantastic sponsor today Morwenna Foster. It really helps release tension in the muscles and can also be a great early indication of any potential problems by identifying tight spots, particularly if there is a change from last time they were done.

There are many benefits of equine massage as outlined in this H&H article and I consider myself extremely fortunate that Morwenna is able to support us.

It got me thinking though how important stable management is in ensuring the horses are able to give their best performance. I am very lucky that I have a huge team of people that fill key roles to give my horses the best chance of performing at their best. It was interesting that at one of our shows this month I was complimented on how well they had come out of winter, looking great in terms of body condition, muscle and shine. I don't think we pay enough attention to the care and management of the horses in considering performance.

I am sure I will miss some out but these are the things that are key to me in ensuring they are in the best condition to compete and perform.

Feet and foot care They always say no foot no horse, this is one of the key components in keeping horses fit and well. A well balanced properly shod foot can make a huge difference to soundness, way of going and movement. It has been interesting to see the changes in Fliss's feet since she has come as her feet needed work. With time and expertease taking account of her foot confirmation and way of going her feet have changed dramatically, this in turn helps to ensure her foot fall is more even placing less stress on her joints. I use Equine Foot Care run by Simon Moore who is a FWCF (Fellow) and have the horses shod ever 5 weeks to ensure their feet are always in the best shape possible. I am sure I could 'save' money by changing to a cheaper farrier or extending the periods between shoeing but this would be a false economy and likely cost more in the end.

Dentistry From one end to the other but teeth are equally important, poor dentistry can lead to many problems including eating problems, lameness and poor performance under saddle. I use an Equine dentist, either Gary Walters or when travelling away Bob Livock, both do a fabulous job. With Pip Bob discovered wolf tooth fragments that a previous equine dentist and two vets missed yet made a huge difference to her performance. My horses always have teeth done on a 6-9 month cycle.

Stable Management By this I am talking the about stable environment. For me to keep it as airy and dust free as possible is key to ensure respiratory health. I am lucky to be sponsored by Cousin Jacks who provide a superb dust extracted and chopped straw bedding which gives a warm feeling but with minimal dust. I use haylage but again whatever forage it should be as dust free as possible and soaked if need be. I am a great believer in plenty of ventilation and like plenty of air flowing through the stables. Mucking out to minimise odours and maintain a clean and fresh bed is also a big help. I have to admit I am not a great groomer of the horses but they always have a quick flick over before riding and I always ensure it is clean under any tack or boots.

Feed What you put into the horses you soon see on the outside, mine have fabulous coats and good muscle tone. This not only comes from the correct work but the right nutrition. I base my feeding on a forage based diet with the basis as much grazing as possible as this is their natural environment. I am lucky to have plenty of grazing and have managed even through this winter to keep Ellie out at night and Fliss most of the day. In summer Ellie is limited with the use of electric fencing. A big thank you to sponsors Suregrow who have helped me maintain the pastures in such great shape and ensured that I have had the grass and grazing to cope with the terrible winter. I also poo pick daily where possible. Both horses when in get ab lib haylage but quite a dry version that is dust free but not too rich. Their hard feed is based around Dengie Hi Fi or Alpha A depending on work. Ellie gets a handful morning and night with a vitamin supplement and the odd pony nut (a bag lasts her 2 months). Fliss gets a dipper and a half of Alpha A, 1/2 dipper of conditioning cubes and a Blue Chip balancer. I have to say since she has had the balancer I have been impressed with the condition and muscle she has put on. Whatever the work my feed will remain mainly fibre again as this is the most natural.

Tack Fit Tack fit can hugely influence the way of going and muscle of the horses. I can refer you to my blogs on saddle fit (Nathaniel Underwood and Ellie Pitts) and bitting. Keeping the tack clean and numnahs washed is also important.

The vet However well we look after the horses we will all need vets from time to time. I am lucky to have a great local practice (Rosevean Vets) and two super vets I regularly use Joe Ivey and Jenna Elliot. Even if it is just a jab their visits are important as it is good for them to be able to assess the horses and have a comparison for a future time where I may have concerns. It is great they are happy to discuss and listen to any concerns I have and offer practical advice and expertease to keep the horses in tip top shape. It shouldn't just be about treating them when they are sick but helping keep in tip top shape.

Worming Since I had a years sponsorship with Supplement Solutions I have learnt the benefit of testing for worms rather than worming ad hoc. This prevents worming unnecessarily and ensure you worm at the right times.

Chiropractor As well as massages if I have any concerns the horses are seen by Dr Dave Siemens who is a leading chiropractor who works in both the UK and the USA. He has worked me my horses for a number of years making a big difference to their way of going as well as treating me from time to time. He also uses laser therapy for appropriate conditions.

I am sure I have missed out some major factors but all the above are key in my yard for keeping the horses as fit and healthy as possible.

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Busy weekend

Posted: 15 Apr 2018 - Comments (0)
With Ellie having a quiet weekend poor Fliss had to step up and do the brunt of the work this weekend. Ellie's big leg thankfully has returned to nearly normal so I am happy that Bicton is back on the agenda next weekend. My gut is she had a little bit of cellulitis from a very small scab in the heel on that leg. After day 2 the swelling reduced rapidly with a combination of hosing, gentle exercise and the use of ArcEquine. I schooled her normally this weekend and she felt fine.

On Saturday Fliss had a lesson with sponsor Stef Eardley. Having been focusing on forward with Fliss we found that we actually needed to contain the energy a little as she was rather free wheeling around at her pace. We focused on transitions and getting her to listen and react to the stop and go commands. I think partly she is starting to feel very well and strong in herself and we need to be able to work within the energy she is giving keeping her frame soft and out.

A little clip
The plan had been that today Ellie would have jumped at Colraine but being a bit cautious it was decided that Fliss could step in. Very impressed with British Show Jumping who having had Fliss's registration emailed to them on Thursday night had my registration number back before 9 on Friday morning! So no excuses there.

I entered the British Novice which was a nice flowing track. She warmed up well but then got a little keen although once in the arena there was enough to see to back her off. The class was A7 (separate jump off) which was nice and Fliss jumped a super round, a little green in places throwing some rather big jumps at times and also getting her legs in knot coming into the double having a pole but overall really pleased.
As she didn't find that difficult in terms of height we then entered the 95cm. Although in this class we made 2 mistakes I think the additional round did her the world of good. Once her canter is stronger she will cope so much better.
So plenty to work on but a big step in the right direction and delighted with how she is progressing as well as how well she behaved today.

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Plans or maybe not!

Posted: 11 Apr 2018 - Comments (0)
Well this was to be an upbeat blog as things are generally better and certainly less hopeless than it seemed in January. Our entry has been accepted into Bicton Horse trials in 10 days and I am hopeful it will run. We decided to step back to the BE90 for the first run before going back to 100s again next time. I am looking forward to Bicton as by stepping back it should be in my comfort zone and Ellie is going well. Probably the way the event calendar is looking we may not pick up eventing again until June focusing more on the show jumping.

All sounds good? Tonight when I went to tack Ellie up I find she has a fat leg, no sign of a knock, bang or hawthorne. It is a hind leg and swollen around the fetlock going up the leg, hosing and walking brought it down slightly. She is trotting out relatively sound so hopeful it is something and nothing. My instant reaction is always to shout for the vet but realistically I am far better waiting a few days, keeping cold, keeping her moving gently and I will be using ArcEquine on her. Obviously if the swelling increases or she becomes uncomfortable I will seek advice. Realistically for me to be happy to run at Bicton it must be normal by Monday. Horses it is never straightforward is it! To be fair to Ellie it the first time she has had a fat leg since I had her and she is a tough pony.

Poor Fliss will have to step up this weekend and have my lesson with Stef and debating taking her to her first BS show.

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Elementary dressage

Posted: 9 Apr 2018 - Comments (0)
There can't be many pony's as versatile as Ellie. Saturday she jumps some BS classes and on Sunday she is attempting her first Elementary dressage tests. Not only that but the tack for boths days is identical in terms of saddle, bridle and bit. The only change was the addition of a pair of gloves for me, this gave me the chance to try out my new Super X Country gloves. Now I am not a great gloves fan and avoid them where possible but actually really liked these, they are very thin but have a great grip, comfortable and I hardly knew they are there so a huge thumbs up from me.

It was the Threewaters riding club dressage show and it seemed a good opportunity to push us out of our comfort zone and try to step up a level. The classes were strong with some well established combinations. First up was Elementary 44, I was convinced I was going to forget the first halt up the centre line but did manage to remember this although a few of my shapes were not perfect, I seem to have a problem with smaller circles and getting the shape and size correct. However ignoring my mistakes Ellie tried so hard and I was delighted with a score of 67% for 4th place.
We then had Elementary 50. I am lucky I can read and learn a test in 10 minutes which I did after the first test, however I clearly should have found time for some practice as I realised we had done very few simple changes and medium canter to a 10 meter circle was going to be testing. Again Ellie tried so hard, I was a little tentative in the medium canters but overall the test resembled what it should look like and for the second time I remembered to stop at X at the beginning!
We scored 65% for 3rd (in a smaller class) but were in no way outclassed, with a bit of work I think we can manage a quite respectable test.

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Tall Trees - Show jumping

Posted: 8 Apr 2018 - Comments (0)
After the great week away I didn't want to lose momentum. Both horses did have a few days off and a relatively quiet week but yesterday we took them both show jumping at Tall Trees arena. Life was made easier by the availability of a stable so Fliss was put in a stable and Ellie left in the lorry to minimise any shieking to each other. Fliss after being on her toes soon settled. It was ideal as there were some unaffiliated club classes and then affiliated so both horses had suitable classes. The weather as you will see from the video was interesting for Fliss, the rain was coming down and the fog made seeing one end of the arena to the other difficult.

I jumped Fliss in the 80cm and she jumped a nice double clear, I remembered to ride quietly although viewing the video perhaps I could have been quiet in a slightly bigger tempo. We finished 6th in that class and then jumped the 90cm for just a pole. I felt I started to interfere a little much and needed to be quieter but I am still trying to adapt my style and I guess it won't happen overnight.
Really pleased how she is progressing and she will be ready to jump a British Novice soon.

At least for Ellie the weather improved although still damp you could see the arena far better. We entered the British Novice and 95cm. the classes were running A7 which means there is a seperate first round and jump off which is nice for a change. Ellie jumped a super first round for a nice clear.
In the jump off I did push her on a little more and although we had a nice clear we were 8/100 off a money prize.
The 95cm we were a bit quick and had a pole behind but overall hugely pleased with the improvement since our week away and the style change which has allowed her to flow more whilst I interfere less.

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Part 4 - Homeward bound

Posted: 5 Apr 2018 - Comments (0)
Well my stay away exceeded my expectations and really improved my relationship with both girls. Confidence is although still a little fragile seems to be on the up so fingers crossed it could be a big turning point. With Goring cancelled it seemed stupid not to find something to do, particularly with so many fabulous show centres in the area. In the end we decided on unaffiliated show jumping at Cherwell as it was close to Attington yet on the route home and both could compete.

Wow an amazing venue with a super arena albeit slightly spoilt by the liquid mud in the car park. For Fliss this was our first jumping show together. She was quite bright in the warm up shouting for Ellie. However once in the ring she generally settled except for taking exception to the person stood by fence 1. Kept it small to start with and she jumped a nice albeit green double clear in the 75cm.
We then entered the 85cm which was over the same course. We had a similar problem approaching number 1 past the spooky man and she lost focus after the fence knocking no.2 down but after that jumped a good round clear the rest of the way.
For a first show I was over the moon how well she jumped, I am confident she will be quickly ready to jump a British Novice.

Ellie then jumped the 95cm class. Remembering Austin's instructions to sit quietly and let her do the jumping I think we had one of our best rounds to date. We had a nice tempo and decent strides, we did have no.9 down as I got a little quick and she caught it behind but overall very promising.
I bet there wasn't anybody else there that day that had a 5 hour trip home. At least it was a happy one after an enjoyable week.

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