Otis’s Bare Feet

When Otis was turned away after his MRI scan in June, which confirmed that his only issue is sidebone, I was told to put egg bar shoes on to support his heels and encourage his heels to grow down and out. This is supposed to reduce the pressure around the back of his foot, and in the sidebone area.

Dutifully I did so, removing his hinds in the process.

Below is a photo of his foot when the egg bar shoes went on.

Otis had these shoes on for two cycles, so twelve weeks, at which point he was no sounder so the vet recommended flip flop shoes – You can read about them hereand my farrier said “go barefoot” to which I readily agreed. It seemed like a logical step.

Here is a photo of when we took the egg bar shoes off and he was trimmed two months ago. Apologies for it not being a very good photo or one with a ruler that was promised to you (my farrier’s confession today is that he accidentally deleted them). Hopefully you can see how Otis’s heels are even more contracted after wearing the egg bar shoes, than before.

I was definitely disappointed in their appearance.

Today, Otis had his feet trimmed, and here is the photo.

Hopefully you can see the difference in the shape of them. They look rounder, with the heels coming down and out as opposed to down and in. This is only after eight weeks, so it will be interesting to see how they look in another two months time.

I know a lot of people are moving over to barefoot, and to be honest, after seeing the difference in Otis’s feet I am much more in favour of the barefoot lifestyle. Regardless of the physiological aspects, certain common sense benefits are to be had. One, it’s far cheaper to be barefoot. Two, there’s a far lower risk of injury from over-reaching, kicking between horses, stud injuries.

Phoenix is currently barefoot and I will aim to keep her barefoot as long as possible, and research alternative care methods if she does start to look sore. Here are a couple of photos of her feet. She’s not been trimmed for a while so has a little bit of splaying to their shape; I’ll get Christmas over with then sort it out, but I think her feet are of a good conformation with strong hooves so hopefully she’ll manage.

In terms of the physiology of hooves, how they function and the effect of shoes, this webpage (a little bit biased, but still with some clear explanations) is useful – Think Like A Horse

Another blog of interest is my friend’s about her horse’s transition to barefoot. Have a little peruse because it’s very enlightening. Below is the link to part one, but you should be able to continue looking through the rest of the story.

Leo’s Barefoot Transition

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Snow Day!

Snow and ice are causing havoc to my diary again! Yesterday I had to stop lunging as the temperature dropped enough to cause the water, sand, snow combination to start balling in hooves rather than turning to slush like it had been minutes before. Today I know one arenavwill be frozen solid because it was still covered in snow yesterday afternoon and it’s currently -4 degrees. So yesterday I planned to delay my first ride until lunchtime, as that arena usually holds up well in cold weather, and I’ve moved a lesson and ride to Friday, when it’s hopefully a bit warmer.
This means another quiet day for me, which I can never get used to! Perhaps it’s chance to finish the Christmas wrapping …

I always wonder though, ow do equestrian’s in Canada, Norway, and other snowy places manage? Are there particular pre-winter preparations that you make, such as changing the type or removing shoes? Are arena surfaces different to ours so that they don’t freeze? Are barns and stables designed with snow days in mind? I’d love to know.

The Rubber Curry Comb

Now I’m not going to try and outdo my Canadian and bloggers from other Snow-covered lands, but today is a snow day.

Yesterday afternoon we had heavy rain until the early hours of this morning and then it snowed. So this morning we woke to a faint smattering of snow, but more importantly, the rain that had fallen yesterday had frozen solid.

Now us Britons are renowned for making a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to snow, but ultimately we aren’t used to it so need to take various precautions.

I’m going to London this evening, so I had a short day anyway. Plus the fact that I’d had a cancellation due to illness and moved a pony from today to yesterday in order to fill in a gap in my day due to a lameness. So I only really had four “jobs” to do.

I don’t…

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The End of an Era

It’s been creeping up on me for a while; I’ve caught myself thinking “I want to do that with my next horse” or “I’d like a horse good at that”.

But about a month ago I watched Otis in the field and resigned myself to the fact that he won’t come sound. Maybe he’ll be a happy hacker, but really I needed to face facts. The main thing though, is that he’s happy in his field with his buddies and I can afford to keep him there indefinitely. He’s not suffering, just a bit limpy, and otherwise in good health. I then broached the subject that next year I would like to get another horse. It’s all very well riding other people’s horses, but when you’ve experienced the bond with your own, and enjoy the satisfaction of training and competing, it’s not the same. I know I’ve lost some motivation through not having my own horse or reason to improve my ability. Yes, next year we’ll have our own two-legged project, but I like to keep busy and I know that not having my own horse will cause me to go insane. Thankfully, my lovely husband readily agreed to my light at the end of the tunnel.

I allowed myself a couple of hacks to think about what I want and need from a horse. I was quite specific.

  • A native or hardy breed, or part bred.
  • Height wasn’t really an issue; I’m lucky enough that I can ride anything between 14.2hh and 16.2hh, but I’d prefer to stay below 16hh.
  • I enjoy training a horse, so I wanted something I could take further. But not a real youngster as I wouldn’t have the time to devote to backing a baby. It would also be nice to have a horse who has already been shown the basics, perhaps five or six, that I could quite quickly start taking out to clinics or little competitions.
  • They needed to be trainable. I enjoy learning and training, so need a horse who does likewise. Whether their forte is jumping or dressage, I didn’t mind.
  • Temperament is paramount now. I want something which can have a week off yet still behave. One that I can tie up on the yard, leave to check on the baby, and not worry they will cause havoc. Likewise, in the future the horse needs to be sensible so I can juggle a child with them. I know full well that horses can be unpredictable but certain temperaments are more reliable than others.
  • I want them to be reliable. My free time will be limited and I want to know I can ride and enjoy my ride, not battle hormones or a bad mood.
  • I’d like them to be sensible to hack because when we get a pony I’m going to want to ride and lead: whether my child is riding or I’m exercising the pony.

Even as I thought of my list, I knew I was setting a rather stringent criteria and would be lucky to find anything which remotely fitted the bill.

Anyway, we weren’t looking yet so I filed my list away at the back of my brain.

Only a couple of days later I came across this advert on Facebook. Let me tell you the vital stats:

  • 6 years old.
  • Chestnut.
  • Mare.
  • Welsh Section D – more to the point, a half sister to Otis.
  • 15.2hh
  • Backed as a five year old and sold to a lady who had a friend ride her lightly – mainly hacking – from June 2016 to May 2017. Since then she’s been lunged and led out on hacks a couple of times a week.
  • Being sold because of owner’s ill health, and the fact she’s currently wasted.

On face value, most of my boxes were ticked. Just six months too early. I was really intrigued, but had an argument with myself as to whether I was being sentimental with the Otis link, or whether it was worth investigating further because of the other factors. My Mum told me that I should look, because otherwise I’d always wonder “what if” and upon seeing her she may be immediately unsuitable. I did a bit of research on the internet and social media, and actually found the original advert from April 2016, which I remembered seeing at the time and commenting “oh she looks nice”.

With the one condition that I don’t ride her (the whole six nearly seven months pregnant thing) I went with a friend to see her.

The mare was nicely put together with clean, straight limbs (although the photos below make her look splay legged!), a more traditional stamp of Welsh than my Welsh Warmblood Otis, and stood quietly while I examined her. I was told that she could be quite nervous, and when her owner bought her she was difficult to catch. I wouldn’t say she was really nervous from what I saw, but she was definitely cautious of new people. She wasn’t jumpy, just intrigued by things. I was also told that she wasn’t mareish – my first important question.

We watched her being lunged. She can be a bit fresh initially, but it was nothing compared to what I’m used to. She had a lovely movement, and after ten minutes she looked very relaxed and calm, so I asked my friend if she fancied sitting on.

This was my big question. Because if I’m not allowed to ride until the spring then if she was sensible after eight months of not being ridden then there wouldn’t be a problem in April. The owner thought the mare would be fine, and my friend is more than capable.

Starting off on the lunge, my friend had a walk and trot, went over some trotting poles. The mare hasn’t really done any jumping but poles don’t cause a problem. She looked very balanced in trot, and hasn’t done much canter work. Then we took her out around the village on her own. She was perfect with the cars and cyclists, more interested in what was going on in the driveways, and she looked very relaxed. Really, we couldn’t have asked any more of her.

Over the next week I battled with myself as to whether this mare really ticked all the boxes, if I trusted my friend’s judgement of her under saddle. Was I being sentimental because she was related to Otis, or did I believe his lovely temperament ran in the paternal side of his family? Was the price right, and worth me keeping her over the winter. Could I justify paying more livery fees when I was about to go on maternity leave? What would I do with her over the winter – would getting to know her, doing some lunging to introduce jumping and cantering keep us both occupied? She was a mare, a chestnut one no less. My last mare was a grey called Filly when I was ten! This was unknown territory.

After doing some budgeting and working out finances, I decided to go for it. I needed a basic livery yard which ultimately provided grass livery, ad lib hay in the field, and would be able to check her when I’m otherwise occupied in March. Timing is never right in life, and it did seem like it was meant to be – as far as I can tell, she meets my criteria; the price was within budget and she was local.

Yesterday, we went to pick her up. She had never travelled in a trailer, but loaded slowly but surely, and remained very calm all the journey. We turned her out into the small herd of mares, and within ten minutes she was grazing happily.

You can see the introduction here.

Today, she was very content in the field and let me catch her after sniffing me thoroughly.

I gave her a quick groom, getting to know her and checked for any injuries from her field initiation. She was alert to the surroundings, but stood fairly still. Then I put the bridle on and took her to the arena. The surface was a bit crusty with frost but I wanted a “before video” and to introduce her to the arena. She was very good – the video for your perusal is Here – and you can see that she moves very nicely, although my lunging leaves a bit to be desired. We’ll have a look at canter next week when the ground is better and she’s more settled. You’ll see in the video on the right rein, that she stops and turns in to be. Behind, just out of shot, someone had come round the corner with a saddle which she stopped to look at. Overall, she was a bit tense and lacked focus, but given the fact she’s at a new yard and with a new owner, I don’t think she did anything wrong, and if that’s going to be the extent of her behaviour at new places then I’m more than happy.

From what I can tell so far, I think we’ll be slow to build a relationship because I still feel like I’m cheating on Otis, and she is an introvert. But I also think we’ll get on well and have lots of fun together.

Oh yes, I haven’t told you her name. She came with the name Dolly, but I’ve known lots of Dolly’s, and I didn’t really feel that it suited her. After some thought, I came up with Phoenix. For her fiery colour, and for new beginnings.

After all, it is the end of an era and the beginning of another.

An Old Exercise

When I was a kid riding in my weekly group lessons we had a couple of exercises that were performed during our warm up on an almost weekly basis. The BHS don’t encourage it, but when I think back on it I realise that they actually had a lot of benefits for us.

The first exercise was that we’d be trotting round, either rising or sitting, and the command “inside/outside foot out of your stirrup iron”. We’d have to continue exactly what we were doing but minus a stirrup. After a couple of minutes, we’d take it back and repeat with the other foot.

The benefits? Not one of us lost our balance if we ever accidentally lost a stirrup and we could get our foot back in in a nanosecond. How many riders today can do that? This means on a hack, showjumping round, cross country, we weren’t put off our stride by a loss of stirrup.

Secondly, which is the big reason I brought it up today, is that we were pretty symmetrical in the saddle as a result. If you have a leg that is particularly dominant then, even when sitting centrally you rely on that leg to help you rise and to support your body. When that foot is taken from the stirrup, suddenly it’s down to your weaker or lazy leg to support you, which makes rising harder. The rise sequence is more fragile and often not as high.

Yesterday I used this with a client who is coming back from a leg injury. We’ve done a lot in walk without stirrups ensuring she’s sat evenly on her seat bones, but now that we’re progressing to trot work we need to make sure that her weaker leg is working and building strength, otherwise we counteract her physiotherapy sessions. I’ve also done this with riders who sit crooked or have one leg that is far more dominant than the other. In walk, we checked seat bone symmetry and then removed the weaker leg from the stirrup, making sure the seat bones don’t change, and then went up into sitting and rising trot. This is fairly straightforward for most riders because they have their stronger leg stabilising them in the rise. Then we go back to walk and swap legs. This is usually the wake up call. For riders who are unaware (and therefore not really taking in my position lecture) they can see the asymmetry in their body because rising trot is almost impossible for them. For yesterday’s rider, it was more about waking her weaker leg up to the fact it couldn’t drift through life aimlessly and helping her rediscover the muscles. We did short bursts of rising trot a couple of times without her dominant leg until she felt that her weak leg was working better.

When we retook the stirrups back and did another seat bone check, my rider already felt more even, and whilst in the trot her injured leg was still erring on the lazy side, there was definitely an improvement to be seen. She could feel the muscles working harder and her rises felt more level and stronger. Hopefully by using this exercise she’ll be able to strengthen her riding muscles as symmetrically as possible.

If you rely heavily on your stirrups to rise, then going without one foot will cause you to lean your upper body one way, which makes you feel like you’re going to fall off. When the weaker leg is in the stirrup the rider tends to take their shoulders across to that side, so curving their spine. This isn’t the purpose of the exercise; the rider should feel they stay above the horse’s spine but the important part is that they can’t feel a difference between their rising ability with one foot in the stirrup rather than the other, after all the rising comes from the core and thigh muscles rather than the lower leg, but when the lower leg is in the correct position and still it supports the upper body in the rise. I can still remember the lightbulb moment I had when I was little and I managed to rise with one stirrup without feeling that I was going to slide off the side. That’s when I started using the correct muscles and became generally less reliant on stirrups.

I find that trotting without a stirrup to be the easiest way to explain to a rider that they are crooked; after all, crooked becomes the new straight after a while. As soon as a rider is aware of their asymmetry they are more likely to make a conscious effort to straighten themselves up and engage their weaker side.

We also used to do a lot of trotting, sitting and rising, without either stirrup. They’d dangle by the girths, which the BHS hates, but none of our ponies batted an eye when stirrups were lost and banged around for a moment, and the lesson progressed much more quickly by not stopping a ride of eight children to help cross and uncross their stirrups. The BHS also isn’t a fan of rising without stirrups but I find short periods of it can be really beneficial to helping riders find the correct muscles. You do need to be careful that they don’t grip with the knee, but careful observation and explanation soon overcomes this. Again, removing and replacing feet whilst trotting really helped our balance.

Give these exercises a go when you’re next warming up, and it may well be an eye opener about how much you rely on your stirrups for security and to keep you central in the saddle. Let me know how you get on!

Jump Jockeys

I had a fun lesson yesterday with two kids. Obviously being after school it’s dark when they ride, so my repertoire of jump exercises is being tested as I find ones which make them and the ponies think whilst not being too big, and ones which aren’t too spacious so doesn’t use the darker side of the school.

Last week I decided that I wanted to get the jumps flowing for my riders. One has a speedy pony so where he was over folding, and now is using his shoulders and upper body as brakes is now getting left behind, so it’s a fine balance that we need to rediscover; the other tries to micromanage and pins her horse down with her hands so restricts his jumping and then it doesn’t flow or look harmonious.

The obvious choice of exercise was without hands. Thankfully, we had the arena to ourselves so I didn’t need to worry about the increased speed by the end of the exercise as they had plenty of time and space to gather reins back and circle to bring the ponies back under control.

Once they’d popped through the grid of three cross poles on both reins I told them to knot their reins.

“Oh no!”

“No way!”

“He’s going to go so fast!”

“I don’t like not having control” (this came from the dressage dive, who I keep telling to think of being a little messy when she rides because then her pony relaxes and she gets better jumps)

Reins knotted, I sent them straight through the grid with both hands out to the side. I told them to let go of the reins over the first jump, to try and keep some semblance of control on the approach, and then to circle until they brought the canter back to trot.

The first rider, where he’s been consciously not over folding has been a little slow giving with his hands over the fence, so has been getting slightly choppy bascules. This exercise allowed us to work on finding the fine balance between not over folding and encouraging the pony to accelerate and flatten the canter on landing and still allowing him to use himself properly over the fence. After a few tries this rider was starting to get the feeling of the right balance, and when we took back the reins the pair looked much better.

My second rider, by not holding onto the reins, gave her pony a much nicer ride through the grid, which enabled him to jump more freely and rebuilt his confidence because I don’t think he was that happy with being micromanaged. It also taught his rider that he does know his job, and the fences can flow. Which built her confidence because she had more faith in her pony and in her jumping ability. She was able to replicate this afterwards when she had her reins again.

Both of these riders managed to achieve this relatively quickly, so I decided to try out another exercise.

For the boy, it was more just having fun. End of term-itis is kicking in so I wanted the focus to be more on fun. For the girl, I wanted her to sit lighter after fences because her tendency to sit up quickly, which she needs to do a bit of in order to stop her pony getting too fast, comes with her also sitting heavily into the saddle which I think upsets his sensitive soul.

So I put their stirrups up eight and ten holes respectively.

There was quite a lot of banter by now: the boy in his jump saddle was quite happy and set off to trot and canter in jockey position. His core is a bit weaker so he did sneak in a few little rises, but I didn’t want to put his stirrups up too high so his balance wasn’t disturbed. I removed the knee blocks from my other rider’s dressage saddle, and she found it slightly easier then to ride light seat, but the high cantle stopped her really crouching low over the wither. She did start to find her balance on the flat, and I thought her pony looked a bit freer over his back with her out the saddle too.

Then they popped through the grid a few times in both directions, working on keeping their seat light yet still folding, or at least differentiation between their position on the flat and over the fence. The key here is to have a strong core, and to adjust the upper body without sitting heavily into the saddle or losing your balance. I’m a big believer in using the upper body after a fence to rebalance the canter and reorganise, yet both kids are still finding the balance between sitting right up after a fence to discourage their ponies from accelerating away and sitting deep into the saddle so their bums are driving the ponies forwards. With short stirrups it’s hard to drive!

The ponies started to soften over the fences, and use their backs a bit more. Where we’d worked without reins you could see that my riders were less reliant on them for either brakes or balance.

I was planning on leaving the lesson there, but they were keen to try no reins and jockey stirrups. I should have said no, and finished when we did, but I thought I’d run with their keenness.

The girl did it very well, and was pleased with herself. I think she had a lot to consider from the lesson and knows now that her pony is more than capable, but she needs to learn to take off her dressage hat and put on her showjumping one, which is a little bit more relaxed and laissez-faire. Unfortunately, my other rider bounced off over the last fence. Squashed pride and end of term-itis meant this was a bit sore, but he remounted and popped through the grid with jockey stirrups and reins. When I debriefed him after I think he understood that it was just a wobble due to lack of core stability (despite the no reins work, when he had the short stirrups he was giving with his hands but leaning on them as he folded over the jumps, showing that there’s more work needed to get him really secure over fences) and balance, rather than him or his pony doing wrong. I think he took a lot away from the lesson and I look forwards to hearing about his jockey riding on the gallops next week!

Riding like a jockey is so helpful at improving balance, and strengthening the core and thigh muscles. I think going to the extremes of a light seat will help my young riders learn to sit lightly whilst keeping their shoulders back on the approach and getaway of fences, which will hopefully help courses flow and for them to influence the quality of the canter without getting heavy in the hand and blocking their ponies shoulders from jumping. You can see in the first picture below, that the jockey is limiting the speed by his position and shifting his upper body back, and in the second image he is opening up the canter. For my two riders, they want to try to imitate the first picture on the approach and the second picture over fences to really help their ponies out.

A Clipping Challenge

I had to clip a horse this week who’s quite tricky to do. I can’t fault her in that she stands still the whole time. Though she does try to eat the clippers when I’m doing her chin and she can fidget for her face.

The problem I have with her is that she’s very sensitive to heat, and as soon as the blades start to get warm she gets heat lines across her body.

So it’s a bit of a race against time for me, to start on her neck and then do the fiddly bits around her ears before progressing to her body and trying to get as much done as possible before the blades heat up.

I’ve got Lister Legend clippers, which are professional grade and, touch wood, they work well for me, but I do find their blades tend to get hot.

With this heat sensitive horse, I use fresh blades and oil them well before I start. Oh, I also make sure the air filter is as clean as possible and brush out the head so that there’s no possible excuse of friction or poor air flow. I probably over oil the clippers, in an attempt to keep the temperature down. When they do get hot, I turn them off and leave them touching to cool concrete for a few minutes. Sometimes I take the blades apart to cool both blades quicker. Then, oiled up, I go again. Usually I manage to finish the full clip with the minimal of heat lines, and they disappear within a couple of hours. It does make it harder to see if I’ve missed any hairs, and can also make my clip look uneven, which is really embarrassing. However, the owner is aware of her mare’s sensitivity and I can always go back if I have missed anything.

It got me thinking though, is this a common problem; what are other people’s techniques to keeping blades cool; and has any research been done on the temperatures of blades whilst clipping?

My first port of call was Google, and it does seem that Lister clippers can let the blades get hotter than other manufacturers. Which is a shame, because otherwise they’re a very good set of clippers.

Suggestions of preventing blades from overheating include:

  • Using the correct oil for the blades rather than sprays, which tend to dry out the blades and increase the friction. I only use the R30 oil that Lister recommends.
  • Oil the blades frequently whilst clipping. I could do it more often, but do try to do it more frequently. It’s just easy to get carried away finishing off an area or perfecting a line.
  • Check you’ve got the correct tension on the blades. Lister recommends tightening the screw as far as possible and then unscrewing it one and a half turns. Which I do, but perhaps next time I’ll have a play around with the tension while the blades are running and see if I can hear a difference in the running of the blades.
  • Poorly sharpened blades or blunt blades can also cause overheating. I use a good, well-renowned company and blades only do a couple of full clips or half a dozen half clips, being sent away for sharpening before they even show signs of being blunt.
  • Having the correct type of blade for a horse’s coat will mean the clippers cut more effortlessly so will be less likely to get hot. I have a collection of fine and normal blades, which suit the majority of horses that I clip. The cobs, Cushings sufferers, and heavy coated horses have normal blades, and I also have some coarse blades for any manes or feathers that I have to do.

Others also leave them to cool or take them apart to expose as much metal as possible to the cooler air. I think the only real thing I could improve on is the tension. But then, as the rest of the horses I clip don’t react in the same way as the mare this week I have to presume that she is particularly sensitive to temperature.

I couldn’t find any research about the temperature of blades and different clippers whilst clipping. I guess it will only be independent researchers who do such an experiment, but if anything is done it would be interesting to see the results, and whether different makes of clippers are better and keeping the heat at bay.

Let me know if you come across any research! In the meantime, hopefully these ideas will help you keep your clipper blades cool.

Outwitting the Schoolmaster

This morning I did a riding club clinic, and as always really enjoyed it. It was great to see some new faces, and to see a few pennies drop as rider and horse had lightbulb moments.

One combination, who I’d never met before are new to each other so still finding out each other’s buttons. The horse loves jumping and is pretty experienced, but tends to lock on to fences and rush them, which doesn’t unnerve his rider particularly but makes her reluctant to take him out competing or anything.

I watched her warm up over the poles, and on the left rein the horse was far more biddable, but on the left rein he bounced and plunged around in anticipation.

There were two tactics I wanted to work on. It can be really hard with a horse who anticipates an exercise because it can get worse with repetition, yet as a rider you may need to repeat the exercise to learn.

The first thing I got this rider to do was to change how she approached the exercise. Trot or canter a circle, or several circles until the horse came round the corner and didn’t anticipate going down the grid. I got the rider to vary the number of circles, and where she asked for canter, so that the horse had to focus on what his rider wanted.

Over the poles they started to improve. One time they missed the first pole because the horse wasn’t off the aids so didn’t pick up canter on command. But the next time he was much more responsive to her aids. We also alternated which direction they approached the grid to help keep the exercise different.

We continued with this tactic of changing the approach so that the horse couldn’t anticipate too much. I also suggested that if the horse came round the corner quietly, there was no need to circle. She could also ride a shorter approach, or ride a calm trot-walk-trot transition on the circle to vary things.

We built up the grid fairly rapidly, only repeating each stage the minimal number of times, and changing the rein on each attempt.

Now, I wanted my rider to change her riding tactics. The horse is forward going towards the jumps, so his rider needs to try to limit the speed. However, if you just use the hand to check the speed it’s quite confrontational and can frustrate a forwards horse. It can also be quite harsh, like tapping the brakes in the car, which can lead to an erratic canter and potential bouncing around. With the hands pinning down on the wither the horse can feel trapped, as well as the fact it’s then harder for him to jump.

I told my rider to use her upper body to check and half half the horse rather than her hand. So in the approach, she needed to sit up and back, which actually kept the horse’s shoulder free so he didn’t feel so restricted. Then over the fences she needed to fold slightly less (after all, the jumps were small) and sit right up and back between them so that her body weight and seat acted as a brake instead of the hand. This means it’s more gradual and less confrontational. The horse almost thinks that it’s his idea to go slower through the grid. If necessary, then the rider could apply a light rein aid to help bring the canter back.

By putting these two tactics into place the grid started to flow and, still being slightly forwards it was a calmer picture and horse and rider looked in harmony.

The other piece of advice that I gave this rider was to change the shape of the jump frequently. When I changed some of the grid from crosses to uprights the horse backed off the fences slightly. So making the fences slightly bigger, adding in oxers, and fillers will help reduce the speed because the horse starts to look and think about what he is jumping.

It’s hard work for a rider to keep a clever horse thinking and preventing them anticipating, but hopefully this rider has a few tricks up her sleeve now that she can keep the horse focused on her throughout the approach and she can subtly influence his way of going without getting into an argument which will keep the canter calmer and more relaxed. Then hopefully they will enjoy jumping more and venture out cross country next spring.

Exercising Ponies

Between October half term and February half term, kids ponies tend to get unruly. It’s too dark and cold for their young riders to do much during the week, so they’re only exercised on weekends and they’re often living in.
I think parents underestimate the effort required on their part to keep ponies under the thumb: minimal effort may be required during the summer, but in the winter it can be very time consuming with the chores, let alone exercising them on top of that.

If, or when as the case now is, I get a pony, I’ll be looking into getting a sharer, who’s slightly older and more advanced than my jockey, and enlisting the help of a small teenager to do some squashing if the pony gets above themselves.
Otherwise, the pony will have a variety of calorie and behaviour burning exercises such as lunging, ride and lead, and long reining to keep them sensible enough for my child to ride. Then it will be a more enjoyable, confidence building and educational experience for their riders. And I’ll have a few less grey hairs!

The Rubber Curry Comb

I’ve recently had a fun job of exercising a little pony for her owner. She’s ridden by the owner’s young son and had a share rider over the summer, where she unfortunately learnt a few bad habits.

It’s inevitable unfortunately. Ponies are highly intelligent and rapidly learn how to take advantage of small jockeys and their lack of strength.

One of my favourite things when I was growing up was getting to ride the naughty ponies. They weren’t necessarily that naughty, but as soon as they started pushing the boundaries, cutting corners, stopping at jumps, one of us teenagers got to ride them in a lesson.

Our job was to push the pony back into their box; stay around the outside, canter when asked, jump the jump correctly. Not only did it remind the pony of the correct expected behaviour but it also gave them a good experience as they…

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