Rein Back

I was teaching rein back to a client a couple of weeks ago. It`s one of those movements all hackers utilise, opening gates for example, but how many people do it correctly?

The footfalls of a correctly ridden rein back mirror the footfalls of trot – each diagonal pair moves in turn.

Now, think about this the next time you rein back, and I`m sure you`ll find it is more of a shuffle. One leg creeps back, then another, and another, and the other. The horse is usually short in the neck and hollow.

This was how my rider and horse reined back the first couple of times. It was all a rush and veered to the right.

Firstly we ran through the aids; both legs behind the girth, rein pressure and the verbal command “back”. Often the legs swing too far back, which unbalances the rider. The rider should also try to lighten their seat so the horse is encouraged to lift their back as they reverse.

The problem with practising rein back is that the horse soon learns to anticipate the aids, so I always interspace rein backs with halts and the odd trots to keep the horse interested.

Back to improving the rein back. As the horse veered to the right, we used the  fence on his right to support him and encourage him to stay straight. I also asked my rider to adjust her leg pressure. In the same way that you push the horse away from the leg when riding forwards (such as to adjust your centre line) she should adjust the pressure of her leg aids in the rein back. Soon, they were going backwards in a straight line with no support.

Next we had a look at the speed of the rein back. It was very rushed and quite tense. After having a trot and little break I asked my rider to halt. Then, I told her to breathe out slowly as she asked for the rein back. Like magic, the movement was slower. However, after three strides the horse shot forwards into a walk. He was now anticipating the end of the rein back.

My rider also adjusted her rein aids. Instead of thinking of bringing her hands back to her tummy she squeezed them as if squeezing a sponge, which creates a milder aid, and more of a half halt, so the horse was less likely to run away from the pressure in his mouth. This, combined with breathing out slowly created two correct strides of rein back, before the horse shuffled again. I told my rider to keep asking for the rein back, so her horse didn`t know how many steps to do before walking forwards. The shuffling was caused by him losing balance and wanting to move forwards. Asking for more strides improved his balance, and when he stopped anticipating the rein back the diagonal pairs moved in time. Once the horse found all of this easier he started dropping his head and lifting his back a bit.

Rein back is the highest form of collection, after all, you are going backwards! So my rider used this with some direct transitions to help improve her trot and the hind leg engagement of her trot. With the engine working more powerfully, I think their medium trot will grow too!

Llani

I`ve been working hard with Llani at home, and he`s been for the odd trip out, but loading had become a slight issue. So, with the diary looking empty for this weekend I figured he needed a trip out.

After scouring local venues I found a small combined training competition nearby. I hadn`t been to the venue for years, so after a bit of deliberation opted for the smaller of the two classes. At previous showjumping competitions Llani has panicked a bit in the ring and forgotten himself so either raced around the course or refused the first jump. I needed him to have a fun, relaxed day to build his confidence. 

I gulped when I heard my dressage time for this morning – 8.56am! And I was the second class!

By the time we`d calculated warm up, journey duration, loading time, I needed to be at the yard at 6am – I wasn`t very happy!

Anyway, I think he was so surprised by my early arrival he didn`t take the scenic route towards me (recently he`s started walking away from me in a big circle before letting me catch him) and he was soon groomed ready to travel. 

Llani`s problem when loading is that any noise outside the trailer distracts him and he reverses out rapidly to gawp at it. We find lunge lines work best, but as it was so early there were no helping hands. We parked the trailer close to a lorry, to block one side, and then attached a lunge line to the other. We wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, so left it slack as I led Llani up the ramp. He paused … so my chauffeur picked up the lunge line, and he marched on! Then I let him have a handful of feed as a reward. It was a positive loading as he`s not practised for a few weeks and he didn`t dig his heels in and cause an argument.

Llani travels well, so the journey was smooth and didn`t take as long as anticipated. We had a good nose around the venue before unloading Llani to give him a long warm up.

I don`t need to wear Llani out in the warm up, but he needs a bit of time to take in his surroundings, especially a spooky indoor arena!

He looked at all the mirrors, and scary people standing in the corner, but worked in well.

The prelim test rode fine; I was happy with him. There was a doorway at B and mirrors, which Llani spooked at intially, and kept an eye on it throughout the test. I mean, after all, there are monsters hiding in mirrors and doorways! Despite having half an eye on the scary corners and losing attention, he felt better in the good bits than he did last test. Even when he looked at the doorway, he refocused quickly so I feel he`s getting more confident in new environments.

  
Llani even produced a reasonable free walk on a long rein. It`s a movement he struggles with as he gets tense easily, especially in new environments, and wants to have the rider`s support. Again, him stretching down means he`s confident.

  
After the dressage I changed the bridle to go jumping. It was a straightforward course, but there were some bright fillers and planks. Height was no issue, but I wanted a quiet, rhythmical canter throughout the course. The first fence was a inviting spread, which is great for getting the horses into their stride. Llani didn`t bat an eyelid at any of the fillers, and was confident in his approach so got a great clear round.

   
 

With no idea about the results, I didn`t mind where he was placed. He had done a personal best dressage test (final score was 67% which was a bit generous in my eyes) and had done a beautiful, stylish jumping round with no worries. And, he had been perfectly behaved loading back up and on the ground. So we hung around for a while to hear the results, and much to my surprise we were first! 

Next time he can go bigger and keep growing in confidence! 

Tea or Coffee?

My Little Helper struck gold tonight in comedy.

I arrived at the yard for my last lesson of the day, feeling quite parched and weary, and was greeted by my little apprentice. Firstly he offered to make me a sun bed by pushing two garden chairs together so I could put my feet up, but I had to decline and said I would use it after my lesson.

I followed my rider and horse into the arena, closely followed by My Little Helper, who proceeded to start putting up jumps, even though this rider is definitely part of the no-jump family. As fast as I put the fences down, he put them back up.

But anyway, after mounting correctly (yes, she does read my blog!) and starting to walk actively around the school, I spotted  my rider`s daughters heading into the tea-room.

Spotting my opportunity, I called My Little Helper over and asked him clearly; “please can you ask the girls to make me a cup of tea? Can you remember that? Tea with one sugar.” Feeling important, he nodded eagerly and ran off shouting “Tea! One sugar!”

Pleased I had a cup of tea on it`s way, I began the lesson.

My Little Helper climbed back through the fence and ran over to me a couple of minutes later. “I asked … I asked for tea with two sugars.” He held his two fingers up, happily, so I let it slide. Hell, another sugar wouldn`t go amiss!

“Hey! Your coffee is coming!” cried My Little Helper from the polyjump he was standing on a bit later. I dismissed his faux pas, as he`d been certain he`d ordered tea earlier. The excitement of the weekend was getting to him.

A couple of minutes later my cup arrived. I took it gratefully, thinking it looked a bit strong. Builder`s tea isn`t too bad when you`re thirsty. Then I smelt it.

Urgh!

Coffee!

Trying to work out how to say it diplomatically, I looked puzzled. “Coffee?”

“Yeah, that`s what you wanted? I thought you`d had a hard day!” my tea lady replied, “I thought it was strange as you normally have tea.”

I nodded, and made a face at the stinky coffee (apologies coffee drinkers) and let my tea lady take it back. I felt bad, but I couldn`t drink that. Even with two sugars.

As my cup was being returned My Little Helper jumped off the barrel he was balancing on and ran over. “Is your tea alright?” he asked, brightly.

“Um, yeah there wasn`t enough milk” I lied, feeling a bit guilty as he had tried really hard in his role as messenger boy.

I turned back to my lesson and took my clients stirrups away, before getting her to do sitting and rising trot.

Then my cup was returned to me, complete with tea. Two biscuits accompanied the cup, and I looked in confusion.

“Oh, I was told you wanted two biscuits?” said my tea lady, nodding towards where My Little Helper was sliding down the triangular polyjumps, singing to himself.

“I didn`t”, I replied, taking the biscuits with a smile, “but I`m not going to say no!”

Mounting Up

So it’s become a slight problem, this mounting thing. 

Llani has pretty much always stood still for me to mount, occasionally we fidget at the block or take that awkward step away, but it’s never been a problem.

Then, a couple of friends have ridden him and found it impossible to mount. He’s twisted and turned, fidgeted and faffed. I groan inwardly and then prepare myself for the worst the next day.

No problem. Or at least, nothing out of the ordinary.

So what is it that triggers Llani’s ants in his pants?

I thought about it when I rode over the weekend and found the solution. I ALWAYS pick up my reins before I position the mounting block or get my foot in the stirrup. Logically, I want him to stop moving and not take another step while I slide the block left or right, so I put the brakes on, and then sort out the mounting.

As my friends found out, there is nothing more frustrating than positioning the block, climbing up, only for your horse to turn and glare at you.

So I’ve continued my observations and after riding four horses today, yes that is four hours in the saddle (I’ve soaked my tired muscles in the bath already), I noticed that I always have my reins. Likewise, I’ve noticed how many people don’t have their reins gathered!

This brings me in to …

The Correct Mounting Procedure

  1. Tighten your girth, run down your stirrups, pull forelegs forward, put reins over their head. The horse’s, not the rider’s, that is. 
  2. Lead the horse to the mounting block. If it I’m immovable then you need to work harder at getting your horse as close and straight as possible. If it is moveable I get pretty close, halt, then adjust the block slightly.
  3. Once the horse is standing, gather the reins on the near side as you over towards the shoulder. If your horse twists to face you, then keeping the right rein shorter helps prevent this.
  4. Climb up the block quietly and quickly, keeping the reins, and put your left foot in the stirrup and swing your right leg up and over the cantle. Don’t hang around on top of the block, it will annoy your horse and encourage him to fidget!
  5. If your horse takes a step forwards as you sit into the saddle it’s not a bad thing as they are balancing themselves, but you don’t want your horse to march off, as you may need to check your girth and stirrups.

I remember being taught to mount from the ground; you put your left foot into the stirrup when you are standing at the shoulder, facing the hindquarters. In three hope you should turn yourself 180 degrees before swinging up into the saddle. I will admit that having mounting blocks and knowledge of the twisting of the saddle and spine means I rarely get on from the ground and to be honest, I can’t remember if I turn on my hops or not! I definitely do three hops to get the momentum to clamber up!

I think it’s a dying art, mounting from the floor. Whilst I believe it isn’t good for horses to be mounted from the ground daily, especially by those with no spring, we should still try and do it regularly so we aren’t caught out on a hack.

On the same note; who can mount from the offside? We used to practise for gymkhana games, but it’s also good if you have an injury or recovering from one as you may not out so much pressure on it, and it helps strengthen the horse’s back.

Talking about this reminds me of the time I was escorting a hack. I chose, for reasons I will never know, to ride the 18hh riding school horse.

I realised my first mistake when I got stuck under some low branches, which never seemed that low from the 14hh pony I usually escorted on.

Then, about twenty minutes into the hack, as we’re trotting along the track in the woods I heard this cry;

“One of my bandages has come off!”

I stop, turn around, and see this ex-racehorse plodding along with a navy fleece bandage flying freely behind!

So I jump off and rebandage said leg, before realising my second mistake. I needed a stepladder to remount!

Luckily, I found a log and used that to clamber on, and we continued.

Towards the end of the hack we had a canter around the corn field, and when we slowed to walk I heard a cry;

“Another bandage had unravelled!”

Making a face, and silently cursing the groom who had bandaged the horse, I skydived off my steed and removed the bandage. With five minutes until home I manufactured a neck strap for him, and then turned to assess my problem.

How the flippity flipping heck was I getting back on? I could walk back, but it was a Saturday and I’d been on my feet since 7am and still had another couple if hours of yard work to do, so I needed to save my legs.

Taking a deep breath, I hoicked my left foot into the stirrup, doing the splits as I went, and did about ten fruitless hops before summoning enough courage to leap.

It was a bit of a scramble, but I made it! And I never rode that giant to escort hacks again. 

Neither did I trust that groom’s bandaging skills!

On an afterthought, who keeps hold of their reins when they dismount?

The Value of Books

I was in the tack shop over the weekend and found a handful of books that looked interesting.

I love books; I love the ability to reference things, the chance to gleam ideas and hints for lessons, different explanations which can fine tune your own knowledge and explanative skills.

One of the books which caught my eye is a behavioural book, but not in the usual way. It discusses problems owners and riders may encounter and lists potential reasons for it and how to overcome it. It is called “My Horse Rears”.

One of the chapters dealt with rearing; reasons, consequences, sitting a rear, and overcoming the behaviour. Another dealt with the ins and outs of catching horses.

We were talking at the yard about books and it`s quite interesting the difference of opinion. I like being able to get another view. If you`re having problems with your horse you can sometimes miss an explanation – you can`t see the wood for the trees. For example, you may struggle to catch him but when the book, or a knowledgeable bystander, tells you that it may be because you approach him in an aggressive manner – marching across the field, arms crossed – then the answer  is obvious. Yes, you have been stressed at work recently, and have been briskly hurrying across the field, anxious that your horse may not let you catch him. You`re radiating angst, so it`s not surprising he runs away!

To those brought up around horses, and those knowledgeable in their field, often the reason for bad behaviour on the horse`s part is obvious. But to those newly entered in the equestrian world, they may not have the knowledge or experience to link actions and behaviours. It`s hard to remember this – I try to keep telling myself that – and take time to explain what may seem obvious to a horsey person.

Sometimes it is easier to accept the hard, cold, truth from the pages of a book rather than from a friend, instructor or stranger.

One chapter that I thought was very blunt and forthright was the chapter that dealt with aggression. It began by explaining that biting and kicking are warning signs that the horse doesn`t like his situation, and how this aggression is shown in wild herds, and how older horses will put youngsters in their place. Then the book illustrates behaviour that is liked by horses – calm demeanour, gentle but competent handling, slow, easy movements, a firmly confident touch, friendliness, safety – and how an incompetent or inexperienced person may put them on edge.

That would be a hard pill to swallow – you may think your horse loves being kissed and cuddles in a loud manner, but actually his nipping is telling you to stop treating him like a cuddly child, shut up and groom him quickly so you can get on and ride!

Anyway, although books should not always be read blindly and taken for gospel, they provide useful pointers and opinions, as well as new information, which can then be talked about and considered to see if they apply to us. Horses are a practical area of expertise, and hands on experience is invaluable, but it is not always possible to physically observe all areas of the horse world, which means we should utilise written records and share our knowledge.

Tomorrow I`m going to start reading the book on laminitis – very topical for the time of year!

Colour Genetics 

I find colours of horses both fascinating and very confusing, especially when you look at the genetic components. 

Last week I was doing a bit of reading and learnt an interesting fact about grey horses. The grey gene is no so much a colour, but rather a gene that causes the base coat to lighten over time. This explains why grey horses are born black, or chestnut, and start to become grey when they lose their first coat. And also why grey horses have more white on them as they get older.

The other fact I read was that horses are all either a red (chestnut) or black base coat, and it is the influence of other genes that cause such variation. So for example, the effect of the dilution gene can cause a chestnut base coat to become palomino. A different set of genes causes the white patterns over a base coat, as in the case of pintos.

I find Otis quite an interesting colour because to the innocent bystander he is a bright bay. But look closer and you will see a scattering of grey hairs throughout his body. His mane is scattered with white hairs, and he has a skunk tail at the top, which suggests to me that he has another gene acting on his coat, such as one of the roan genes.

Following on from this, someone also told me that breeding some colours together increases the likelihood of having a mutated gene, which can result in cremellos, champagnes, and other colours, which could come with associated health problems. They didn`t go into much detail unfortunately, but with the albino yearling in the news recently I`m sure there will be more research in this area.

Much more interesting to me, though, is the difference between a black horse, and a very dark bay horse. Black is surprisingly uncommon, which I already knew, and people often mistake black horses for dark bays. The key to spotting a black horse is to look at the eyes and muzzle. Here the very fine hairs should be jet black. The eyes of a black horse are very dark brown and the skin is black too.  At this time of year, when the horses are shedding their winter coats it`s very hard to spot a black horse because the winter coat is dying, and is thus a dull brown colour. Additionally, some black horses bleach in the sun which means that the horse loses it`s rich black colour, and they resemble a bay. Black horses that do not bleach are called “non-fading”, or “sheer” blacks. The points of a dark horse can also help identify their colour as well, as true black horses have black points, and no red tinges.

  

At the moment Llani is losing his coat; so is an iron grey, dull brown on his body, whilst his legs are still black. On his face mis muzzle and eyes are black, but the rest of the hair is sun-bleached and falling out. I can`t wait until he has his summer coat!

With all these complications, it`s amazing that breeders can identify the colour a horse will be when they are born. Passports and microchips need to registered within the first six months, so often breeders have to put their best guess. A friend of mine had a foal from her mare who was born a strange blackish brown colour, which became grey in his first winter, and he seems to have matured as a dun. What complications arise if the wrong colour is put on a passport?  And will we soon see a test to determine the genetic coat colour for horses, rather than relying on the visible signs. Or perhaps the coat colour should be left open to confirmation as a yearling? If there is a commonly available test to prove a horse`s colour it could revolutionise horse breeding, as breeders turn towards breeding rarer colours … but then selective breeding could turn into inter-breeding, and that could lead to a whole host of new problems.

Besides, having inside knowledge about colour genes, reduces the element of surprise!

Laminitis

Laminitis. It`s that time of year that all pony and cob owners dread, when the sweet grass grows quickly, ponies get fat overnight and are at risk of laminitis.

For those who don`t know laminitis is the inflammation of the laminae in the hoof. It is caused for numerous reasons, but the most common cause is a carbohydrate overload in overweight horses. Other causes include sepsis, retained placenta, endotoxemia, steroid injections, a side effect of Cushings disease, and trauma. Laminits ranges from mild inflammation of the laminae to sever founder and rotation of the pedal bone within the hoof capsule.

Symptoms of laminitis are foot tenderness, elevated or bounding digital pulse, hot hooves, inability to walk and put weight on the foot. A horse suffering from laminits will typically adopt the laminitic stance, where the fore feet “point” out so the horse has taken the weight off the forefeet.

  

Unfortunately, once a horse has laminits they will always be prone to the disease, so owners must be vigilant and take preventative measures.

Laminitis is most commonly found in native ponies, but other horses are susceptible to it, and care should be taken if they become overweight. The best approach to laminitis is prevention. Don`t let your animal get overweight in the first place! 

This is surprisingly hard as ponies can double in weight overnight, particularly with the sudden flush of spring grass. At least once a week you want to critically assess your ponies weight to see if they gain any weight, and if it is tricky for you to see, ask a friend to look or use a weightape as a guide (not that I think a weigh tape is very accurate as it told me last week that Otis was 480kgs, when I know for a fact that he is at least 600kgs! But you can still gauge a change in weight from it). Even if they have gained a little weight, you still want to cut back on their diet and increase their exercise so that they do not gain anymore.

A client of mine has a pony who has suddenly ballooned, so she will need to start bringing him in for a couple of hours a day and putting a grazing muzzle on. She could restrict his grazing by strip grazing the paddock, but she needs to mske sure he doesn`t become moody with hunger as he could become difficult for kids to handle. Perhaps lunging him most days and getting the kids to ride him a bit more will help. Another friend I have uses the Paradise Paddocks management system with her laminitic ponies with great success. Of course, making sure he doesn`t have any treats like carrots or polos will help reduce the sugar in his diet, and giving him only a handful of unmollassed chaff when he has been ridden to reward him.

The problem with limiting turnout is that horses will gorge in the time that they are in the field, so you are not actually reducing their diet, which is why a grazing mussle may be a better approach. You could rotate the paddocks so the thoroughbreds, or thinner horses, eat the rested paddocks down first and the overweight horses go into the paddock that has already been grazed down, and then that paddock can be rested afterwards. If they need hay supplementing then it should be soaked to reduce it`s nutritional content, so it is literally a “filler” food.

When a horse or pony is suspected of having laminitis it is important to act quickly. They should be removed from the food source, usually put onto box rest, where they can be fed soaked hay in small portions but regularly through the day so they digestive system is not upset and they colic. The bed should support the affected feet, so put the bedding right up to the door, and in severe cases sand is a good option. Bute is useful intially to reduce inflammation, but if you are getting the vet or farrier you may want to check with them that the horse can have bute before being checked over, so that the anti-inflammatory does not mask the symptoms. Once the horse`s symptoms have eased, usually in a couple of days, walking exercise can be introduced. This improves circulation without causing more damage to the hoof. Exercise should be increased over a couple of weeks, with veterinary advice of course, and together with the restricted diet, which usually includes turnout in a starvation paddock, should reduce the weight and suubsequent risk of laminitis reoccurring. Vets usually want to run a blood test to ensure that the laminitis has not been caused by Cushings, as the Cushings would need to be treated to help prevent laminitis reoccurring.

Laminitis is most often associated with spring, but those prone to it are at risk all summer, especially after a shower of rain, and in autumn when there is another flush of growth. In winter, frosty grass has very high carbohydrate levels, so owners should be vigilant then too.

Jumping Strides

A friend of mine is preparing for her BHS PTT exam soon and has been picking my brain about distances and stride lengths. I feel like I`m sitting my A-Levels again!

I think the first thing with learning about pole distances and strides is to keep it simple. Don`t overcomplicate things as that`s when you forget and get muddled.

I spent ages in college learning to stride properly. Initially we all put in a lot of effort and took about three paces to cross the classroom. I soon learnt to stride a yard, or three feet, consistently.

Next, there are a handful of measurements to remember:

  • 3 feet equals 1 yard
  • 1 yard equals 1 human stride (with practice)
  • 1 foot is approximately 30 centimetres

Then you learn the golden laws about strides:

  • 1 horse canter stride equals 4 yards
  • 1 pony canter stride equals 3 yards
  • 1.5 yards equals trotting poles (this one is open to disagreement though as some horses have larger strides and some ponies need shorter, but this is where practise improves your eye)
  • 3 yards for canter poles (again, this is open to adjustment depending on the horse/pony stride)
  • 2 yards is needed either side of a jump to land and take off (again, this is based on an average jump so would need altering over larger fences)
  • 3 yards between a placing pole and the fence

And finally, you need to practice building grids and combinations. Start with an average sized horse to get your eye in for normal. Then start to link things together to help cement them in your memory. For instance, if you were to begin with three trotting poles 1.5 yards apart, which is commonly used for novice jumpers to improve their light seat, if you are to roll the middle pole towards the last pole, voila, you have created a fence and placing pole.

To build doubles and related distances I keep it really simple, sticking to breaking it down to “landing strides, canter strides, take off strides”. Just to confuse matters, the strides I`m talking about here are human strides, or yards.

So to stride out a one stride double I walk (one of my strides equals one yard, remember) …

2 strides to land, 4 strides for a canter stride, and 2 strides to take off.

For a related distance of five strides I walk …

2 strides to land, 5 x 4 canter strides, and 2 strides to take off.

To remember how many strides I`ve walked I say “1,2,3,4. 2,2,3,4. 3,2,3,4. 4,2,3,4. 5,2,3,4.” That means when a client talks to me I can keep track of where I am!

Ultimately I found that walking strides became much easier when it was simplified, and I had logical building blocks which enabled me to build any combination, and when I practised. So I could see the effect a long distance had on the horse or if the pony has short strides and needs the distance adjusting.

On a side note, I was always taught that if teaching a mixed group you build it to the size of the larger horse as ponies can comfortably adjust his strides to fit in an extra one, but a horse finds it harder to shorten and it could be dangerous with novice jumpers.

All Fingers and Toes

Yesterday I was turning out one of the horses that I`d ridden and in a moment of distraction he stepped onto my toe.

We were walking back to the field and passed a little pony on the left in a field. Now this horse finds little ponies fascinating. Then! One came towards us, on it`s way to the field. Now this was exciting. Suddenly, I found myself being swung to the right as this horse turned to gawp at a pony being lunged on his right. In his haste, he carried on walking. Right over my foot. As I yelped, he stopped, turned to me and looked as though I was an alien from outer space as I tried to push him off my foot.

Once I`d walked a few steps it wasn`t so bad, I just had to remember to walk flat footed, as flexing the toes was painful. Don`t worry though, it didn`t stop me wearing flip flops that evening!

Unfortunately, toe squashing comes with the territory, and no matter how you try to avoid hooves and wear protective footwear, if you work with horses you will have your foot trodden on at some point. Some people end up with broken bones and large elephantic swellings … actually, I wonder what a foot X-ray of an equestrian would look like? A map of mended fractures and wonky joints?

Sitting here I`ve realised I`ve always been quite lucky in that I`ve never injured my foot that badly. It would be quite embarassing really, telling everyone you`ve broken your foot by being trodden on. Almost as embarassing as the time when I was on crutches because I`d fallen down the stairs (I was fifteen at the time!). Or the time that I broke my finger in three places turning out a horse. Now, that was an embarassing story.

I do remember one incident in the summer holidays. I was about sixteen and was prepping my pony for a show. It was a fairly big local show and I was not very amused because my friend had decided to go. She was entering the same classes as me. It wasn`t fair! She went to all the big shows like the Royal Welsh and Three Counties … She was bound to win! In fact, I`m sure that day she was at another show with her pony because I remember the yard being eerily quiet.

Anyway, I turned my pony out because he always tucked up when stabled before going to a show. He was wound up because he`d been the only one in the yard (he suffers from extreme separation anxiety) and he`d had a bath, which obviously meant exciting times ahead. As we reached the field gate my pony piaffed and then STAMPED on my right foot. Not just on the toes, but on the arch. I let him go and then hopped back down to the yard to examine my throbbing foot. Within an hour my foot was so swollen I couldn`t put my shoe on.  or bear weight. Back at home we iced it and kept it elevated while I continued to whinge about trophy hunters and shows being a waste of time.

However, we`d pre-entered so I was coerced into getting up extremely early in the pouring rain. We arrived and were towed into the parking field by a tractor and then I, along with my friend, got ready for our first class – Working Hunter. I don`t remember much about the class, except my amazement at being pulled in first, with my friend in third. Despite the horrendous weather it was a successful day – I think I was reserve Working Hunter champion, and second in the Mountain and Moorland, behind my friend, proving to myself that I shouldn`t feel inferior to others.