Tack And Turnout

Last week a few instructors were discussing the tack and turnout of our rides at Pony Club, and how we have been marking them.

One of the instructors for a senior ride claimed that he never gave tens because “there is always room for improvement”. This threw the junior ride instructors into panic as some of them had been very generous and were throwing tens around left, right and centre.

From this, I compiled a list of things that I look for in the tack and turnout inspection and how riders can strive for perfection.

  • Who cleaned the tack and pony? I always ask my riders this. Sometimes the answer is obvious, and sometimes they admit to having been helped. If a child has cleaned their tack themselves and groomed their pony (I`ll permit Mum to have plaited if the child`s age warrants) then they tend to me marked slightly more generously as I`m taking effort into consideration.
  • How well has the tack been cleaned? This depends on who has done the cleaning, but in general I look for the tack to be pliable, no grease underneath the noseband (or any other part of the bridle for that matter), straps to be in their keepers, girth guards on correctly and covering the girth buckles, bits to be clean, stirrup irons to be shiny (try some Brasso) and the underneath of stirrup irons to be clean. No mud in the stirrup treads or at the front of the knee rolls from yesterdays gallop. I also like numnahs to be attached correctly and check the girth is clean and the martingale is in the middle of the girth, not pulled up around the elbow. The senior instructor suggested that in order for a rider to get a ten in their tack and turnout all leather holes should have been cleaned out with a matchstick. Personally, I like to see that no lumps of soap have been left. Plus, if the tack has been cleaned as opposed to washed, the holes don`t tend to fill with soapy foam, so are usually cleaned out sufficiently when the tack is wiped over with the damp sponge initially.
  • Safety of the tack comes into consideration too. Have they checked their stirrup leather stitching? Are the reins still providing sufficient grip? Does the tack fit the pony? No, I`m not a saddle fitter, but I`ll cast my eye over to make sure it is suitable for the pony and rider and the child hasn`t accidentally done the cheek pieces up too high, giving the pony a maniacal grin when he wears the bridle – on the first day I may ask why a pony wears a piece of equipment, but that`s just me being nosey! Last week I was told that a pony needed side reins because he had a tendency to snatch his head down whilst trotting. The side reins were fairly loose and looked ineffective and over the first couple of days I didn`t see the pony attempt to snatch at the reins. However, the rider decided he would go without them the next day and did we know about it! The pony seemed to sense the lack of side reins as soon as his jockey got on, and began snatching immediately. Funnily enough, we put the side reins back on for the next session!
  • You can always tell if tack has been strip cleaned, and cleaned with a hot damp sponge and then traditional saddle soap used, and it is by far my preferred method. The tack seems to be really clean – a bit like exfoliating in the bath before you put your face cream on. So often these days you see sprays and creams wiped over dirty tack, making a bodged job and bringing the marks down.
  • It`s difficult to be fair with tack as a rider who is lucky enough to have new tack will automatically look cleaner and smarter, than the other child on their hand-me-down cobbled together tack. However, you can always tell if the tack is clean, and I try to look at that more than whether the cheekpiece is the exact shade of brown as the browband.
  • Next I`ll look at the pony. This can be difficult as a child with a grey pony, or a coloured, has a lot harder job that one with a bay or chestnut pony. Again, I look for effort, and if I see the attempts to wash a stable stain off on a grey then I will accept that. But I won`t accept stable marks on the dark coloured horses! The same goes for white legs. I don`t want to see chalk piled on top of off-white socks, I`d rather see the remains of the washing off effort and then a good brush to get the kinks out of the feathers.
  • Another quick test I do is to see if I can run my fingers through the pony`s tail. If I can`t it`s not been brushed enough. A bit of baby oil can help stop it knotting when it`s been brushed thoroughly.
  • Hoof oil is nice to see on, however if the ground is dusty it can cause the hooves to look dirtier when the dust sticks to it, so I would proceed with caution there! Plus, if it`s a long way from the lorry the hoof oil can get brushed off in the grass by the time I inspect you. I always check to see that the hooves are in good condition – you can tell if they see a hoof oil brush regularly or not.
  • I like ponies to be turned out for their breed. Yes, we`re all in Pony Club, but if the pony is a cob type then I like them hogged and clipped, or fully feathered and brushed through. If they are a native then again I like them to be in their natural state, albeit clean and tidy. Otherwise I`m afraid the ponies need to be plaited, quartermarked and be trimmed correctly.
  • Then we turn to the rider. Again, some riders are in too-big hand-me-downs, whilst others are freshly pressed from being at a county show the weekend previous. I make sure the clothes are clean – no grubby marks on jodhpurs from where they`ve wiped their hoof oil brush against their leg as they`ve stood up, and their shirt tucked in, tie tied correctly and matching their jacket colour – no pink ties with green tweed jackets please! For the Pony Club, hats need to be tagged to show that they are up to the correct standard, so on the first day I always check for the tags. I like the hat to be suitable for the discipline, and would always recommend children had skull caps without fixed peaks for all round riding – you never know when they will take an unrequested dismount.
  • Jodhpur clips are important too, and I think I prefer these to chaps in tack and turnout, but I understand why a child would prefer to wear chaps. Clean boots, with no poo on the soles either! They should all be wearing gloves too, and have their jacket fastened.

Overall in tack and turnout I think it`s more important to see that a child has tried their hardest to present their pony and themselves to the highest standard, than whether they achieve perfection. It`s always good to look for ways to improve presentation, but I prefer to see someone doing a good job of what they have, rather than have the newest, shiniest equipment. Perhaps as instructors, or judges, we should be allocating a mark out of ten for effort? So we have sub categories of Pony, Rider, Tack, and then Effort, to give a maximum score of forty? Which would enable you to distinguish between areas that can be improved and you can mark more fairly as you do not have to balance out the cleanliness of the tack with the effort the child has put in, and you can give feedback more easily.

Maintaining a Rhythm

“Showjumping is dressage with speed bumps” is a phrase I have on the back of one of my hoodies, and it’s very true. Get a good rhythm and the jumps just happen smoothly.

However, things don’t usually go to plan. Recently I taught a girl and her pony, working on jumping a course with some scary fillers, so that we could focus on riding good lines and linking the fences together smoothly. We had a number of issues to overcome though.

The pony is a bit backwards thinking so can be slow to react to her rider’s legs, which means the canter loses its impulsion quite easily. So they do a lot of opening up the trot and lengthening and shortening strides in the warm up, and when her Mum rides, and try to be consistent and quick to back the leg up with a sharp tap with the stick so that the pony begins the session by listening to her rider. If you let her ignore the leg and dawdle around in the first five minutes she’s a nightmare to refocus and work with. This delayed reaction has caused problems recently because the pony sometimes backs off the fence, but then doesn’t respond to the rider saying “go” which results in a steep, uncomfortable bascule for both horse and rider. 

So whilst we want to set up the canter we want to jump out of at the beginning, maintaining it to the fence can be hard work, but the pony is gradually listening to the aids a bit quicker. At least once in this lesson I saw her back off but then go forwards again when told, which resulted in a slightly dodgy jump, but not a refusal and not a really steep bascule. The next time round she was better.

Another issue we had to overcome was the fact that the “spooky” end of the school was busier than normal, which the pony used to her advantage. She slowed right down towards that end of the arena and then fell in from the fence and galloped back to the safe end of the school. I explained to my rider that the pony needs to maintain her focus on the rider, so keep her busy with lots of movements or transitions, and remember to ignore the monsters herself so the pony had less of an excuse. After a few circles on both reins the pony relaxed a bit, and didn’t shoot off. When she did shoot off I suggested the rider called her bluff. Up until then the pony cantered across the school before stopping abruptly. Then my rider tried slowing the canter down a bit, but maintaining it so the pony found the spook harder work than anticipated so didn’t bother spooking next time round. Also, with a backwards thinking pony you want to utilise any forwards impulsion, so half halting to balance the gait but keeping the momentum can be more beneficial than stopping and trying to start again.

The trouble with having a spookier end of the arena was that any jumps towards that end the pony backed off and my rider had to work hard, yet any fences away from the spooky end my rider had to balance her pony and wait for the fences.

This meant that it was actually really difficult to maintain a consistent rhythm around the whole course because the pony alternated so dramatically between full speed and dead slow. A couple of times she caught my rider by surprise by shooting off away from the spooky end towards the jumps, so the jumps were rushed and she got too deep. Of course whilst this made it interesting, my rider had to be quick to gauge the pony’s speed and correct her. Ultimately my rider will become better for it as she cannot be a passenger.

Even with all these distractions, which are actually very similar to what could happen in a show, the pair rode each fence nicely a few times and the pony got less reactive to her surroundings and kept the rhythm a bit better.

I think when both of them get into the mindset of riding a course they will perform better as they are inside their little bubble of focus so won’t become distracted. In the meantime my rider just needs to keep a metronome on her and quickly react to all her pony throws at her and then their canter rhythm will become consistent and the courses will flow.

It’s The Weekend!

I’m not usually one to pine for the weekends as I love my job, but I am totally ready for this weekend!

Of course it’s been a busy five days of Pony Club Camp and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed teaching my motley crew of kids and ponies. As I told you on Monday I had quite a challenging group in that they were all of different abilities and disciplines – You can read all about it here. Well the rest of the week has been just as eventful!

On Tuesday we tried to put ideas together for our musical ride, where I spent half the time calming the speedy riders down so we didn’t gallop around the arena for the duration, and coercing the nervous rider into doing a canter together. Then I had to tone down the ambitious so we only had one pinwheel, and stayed with our bums in the saddle….

After that we went to arena cross country, where I put them to the test. The confident lot all told me how they jumped one metre (not likely, in sure) so I put the course up for them at seventy centimetres and we had a fair bit of difficulty getting around. Obviously my weaker riders did a lower course but I still made them ride the corner fence, and the style as well as all the other rustic fillers. I think I brought them down a peg or two without any disasters. Then, after lunch we went into the woods for the proper cross country session. I warmed them up by getting them to trot and then canter in pairs up the very steep hills … I wanted the steam taken out of the ponies before we went any further! Working the ponies in pairs meant they didn’t get over excited and also wouldn’t nap back to the others.

Once the speedy ponies had got the first gallop out of their system and the worried riders got over the shock of galloping up a hill, I set them to ride a course. There were a couple of hiccoughs but in general they all rode really well and after we’d ridden that course we practised going through the water so that all the riders and ponies were comfortable with the giant puddle and then we carried on through the woods. There was a face-hiding moment when I told the wobbly boy to avoid the log as it was rather large, but he aimed for it anyway. They made it safe and sound!

We finished the session going down the two steps and then I had to persuade the kids to walk their ponies back as the ponies were probably as tired as I was walking through the woods and the kids were happily jogging home, vying for lead file. Luckily Wednesday was a nice easy day for the ponies as we had fun picking up fish, posting letters and carrying cups in Handy Pony before going swimming.

It was quite overcast at the outdoor, albeit heated, swimming pool so I declined to go in – just about avoiding being pushed in by the boys – but the kids enjoyed their time in the water. After lunch I tried my hardest to prep the kids for their D test on Thursday afternoon. A couple had already taken their D test, and were being  “know-it-alls” so I quizzed them on the harder points of the pony, of which I was shocked by how ignorant they all were – it took three attempts to find the withers, and that was a pure guess! Somehow, and it will forever remain a mystery to he, whilst cleaning tack in the afternoon I ended up being pelted by wet sponges … Revenge for not going swimming, I think.

Thursday, however, was a bit more interesting.

We began with only five riders and ponies as one boy was late as his pony had thrown a shoe so he was swapping onto his sisters old pony who is in semi retirement. This made running through the musical ride tricky, but we managed to do a chaotic rush through, and I prepared myself mentally for Friday’s train wreck, I mean, demonstration. 

Then we headed off to do the treasure hunt, and were stopped by the District Commissioner to show her our knowledge of parts of the pony and tack. The kids did me proud, getting most of the questions correct.

One pony was wearing a running martingale, so I asked her rider what it was called. She got it right.

“So what other type of martingale is there?” I asked. They all looked blank, so the DC stood tall, bring attention to the fact she was standing square.

“Fat martingale!” Cried one of the girls, before clapping her hand over her mouth in horror! We got there eventually, and managed to pacify the DC. Then I sent them off around the field to hunt for sweets.

The six of them reached the bottom of the valley and all of a sudden I saw one pony gallop up one hill, another complete with screaming rider galloped up the other side, and then one pony galloped along the bottom (this one had a little bit of sense as at least he was galloping on the flat!) another pony cantered circles with his rider wrestling on the reins, and another trotted off up the hill (this one was the semi retired, who I think had forgotten how to canter) whilst the last pony listened to his rider and walked up the hill.

This was the point I tried to go home, but was restrained by the parents and ended up leading the more excitable  ponies around the hill for the treasure hunt. My thighs ached after I had to jog up the steep hill with one pony.

And the morning wasn’t over yet! We wandered over to the showjumping ring, and I quickly out my riders through a grid, working on a couple of points for each child. Unfortunately, this is where my weakest rider fell off. Twice.

He stiffly leans forward into his jumping position, but is always looking down so doesn’t push himself back into the saddle. His usual horse helps him out by lifting his head and pushing him back into the saddle, but the semi retired pony kept her head down, so the boy toppled over her head.

Next we started around the course. The boy with the hunting pony who doesn’t jump coloured poles had a toug time, and I kept telling him to sit up until the jump, not canter in a half seat. Then the other boy with a whizzy pony had some trouble as his pony didn’t like the slippery grass so kept stopping. It came together when I told him to keep the canter steadier and make bigger turns. The girls were fine, and the nervous girl was more positive towards the fences by the end. Oh, and wobbly boy fell off again.

The instructors needed a couple of glasses of wine over lunch. 

In the afternoon the kids had to ride their dressage tests. The instructors judged a different ride, so it was fair, and the kids were awarded 1st to 6th in each ride. As I expected, my girls dominated the top three placings of my ride, with the boys sitting comfortably in the lower half. I didn’t manage to watch the tests as I was judging another ride, but apparently they all did well but need to work on making their circles round!

Those kids who needed to take their D test then successfully did, which shows they must have listened a little bit in stable management.

I wearily reached Friday, feeling slightly apprehensive about the upcoming jumping competitions and musical ride. We began in arena cross country and it was a disaster for my wobbly boy, with his pony putting in no effort whatsoever, tripping over his tiny fences. He didn’t fall off though! Then came my nervous rider, over slightly bigger fences. She rode confidently around but at number five her pony put in a dirty stop at the hay bales and she fell off. I quickly pushed her back on against her protestations and led her over the jump before she could start asking for the bales to be moved. She tried really hard though, and demonstrated a really secure jumping position.  Then it was the turn of the hunting boy and pony. It didn’t go that well with the pony spooking at the rippling grass, so I had to assist. The next three thankfully flew around the course confidently. The whizzy pony who had slipped on Thursday took it steadier and was much more comfortable.  I judged this on style, performance and effort, which meant the results weren’t quite so predictable.

We were running late by now, so dashed off to the showjumping,where my wobbly boy astounded me by trotting around the tiny crosses to get a clear round, with a more secure position. Then nervous girl cantered positively around, flying over the fences because she used her leg on the approach. Unfortunately though, she took the corner a bit fast and the cheeky pony slipped out of his right shoulder. However, she got it back together and was great for the rest. I was pleased, but I know she was kicking herself after.

Next one of the other girls flew around clear, and then it was the turn of the hunting pair. Now this could either go awfully or quite well.

I didn’t expect the new solid position from my rider, sat on his bum, to push his pony over the fences and the pony didn’t even think of stopping! It was a lovely clear round. The other two jumped well too, which was a real boost for the whizzy boy as he’d had a few stops on Thursday due to the ground.

So we returned to the main field for lunch, to start clearing away, and dressing up the ponies for the musical ride.

My kids dressed up as Lego bricks and characters from the Lego movie, and we had the song “Everything is Awesome”.

I was so pleased and proud of them, remembering the moves, timing it right, keeping level with each other, pulling off the pinwheel and crossovers, and finishing in a pyramid formation! They really pulled it out the bag!

Unfortunately, the boys weren’t content with throwing sponges at me, and plotted with the girls to throw bottles of water all over me! I was drenched, just in time for prize giving!

Once the prizes were awarded camp was over for another year. I bought the kids sweets as well as giving them rosettes, and in return they gave me some lovely flowers and cards. This week seems to have flown by, but I’m looking forwards to the next camp! 

Perhaps I’ll have the weekend off first! 

Memory Lane


This week I’m having a few moments like this; riders thinking they can jump bigger than they actually can and their ponies sometimes obliging!

Originally posted on The Rubber Curry Comb:

My Mum and I took a trip down memory lane this weekend, and I was telling her about my first few cross country lessons. She`d never heard the full story so here it is.

I was ten or eleven and riding my 11.2hh loan pony. She was an ex riding school pony but because she was cold backed and quirky I had her. I think I had her after a period of lameness and they didn`t think she could cope with riding school life. She was of a very fine build too so it was easy to overload her. I loved her and had spent the winter riding a couple of times a week and now it was the spring term and I was old enough to go up to the yard with the girls after school. It was only my friend and I who were in primary school. The…

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A Calming Influence

A friend recently asked a group of instructors what their thoughts on calmers were, whether they are effective or placebos.

This is always a hotly debated topic, and calmers was a topic listed on my never ending list of subjects for my blog, however it has never been important enough to reach the top.

My Mum uses a magnesium based calmer for her pony, after he went scatty one summer. He was spooky and skittish, setting her nerves on edge, so she tried adding a supplement to his feed after reading that a lack of magnesium causes an imbalance of chemicals in the horse so they react erratically. She definitely felt it worked, as she could begin riding confidently again, and he stopped spooking at his own shadow. Nowadays I don’t think she feeds it during winter, when he is on more hard feed and hay, but if he starts to get silly in the spring or summer then she includes it in his diet again.

A client of mine had problems with her young horse in the spring. I think it became a vicious cycle, he would fidget and push his boundaries, she would get stressed, and then this would rub off on him and he would get more tense and fidgety. When I handled him alone I felt he was very worried, and seemed to have a “nobody loves me” sense to him, and he was much better when I was calm, quiet and efficient in the stable, finding it more relaxing and putting him at ease. I made sure I made friends with him at the beginning to, as I felt he needed a leader and a friend. I suggested to this client that we tried a calmer to try and break the cycle. If he was more relaxed then she should be more relaxed so he wouldn’t get uptight in anticipation of stress. Some on the yard thought it was a waste of time, but I tend to feel it is better to try to solve the problem internally than mask it or for it to become a confrontation.

I also did some research about calmers, and found that spring grass, or that which has grown rapidly, is quite often deficient in magnesium, so it stands to reason that a factor of his behavioural changes could be a deficiency in magnesium.

I feel that there was an improvement in the relationship between horse and handler, and also in the demeanour of the horse and he seemed to chill out both on the ground and under saddle, so from my perspective the calmer was effective.

So both those experiences were with magnesium based calmers, but sometimes herbs are used. A friend of mine has a whizzy, tense mare and found that feeding chamomile helped relax her mare and make her more rideable. Chamomile works on soothing the digestive system as opposed to correcting chemical imbalances, and there are many other herbs that are often fed in conjunction with chamomile in herb based supplements.

  1. My thoughts as to whether calmers are placebos or not depends on whether the calmer is solving the reason for a horse’s restlessness or skittish behaviour. If the horse has been adversely affected by the lack of magnesium in his diet then a calmer based on herbs will be ineffective, but a magnesium one should help improve behaviour. So when considering using a calmer for your horse there are a number of things to consider – namely why is his behaviour changing. Could it be the season, his diet, his workload, psychological problems, negative connotations with his environment, his daily routine, or pain. Once all those factors have been considered then you’re more likely to choose an effective method of calming your horse, be it changing part his lifestyle or diet. Then of course if you do use a supplement calmer then it should be effective.

Day One of Pony Club Camp

Pony Club Camp has started.

Not that it`s a bad thing, I`ve been looking forward to it since last year when it was over! This week is a proper old-fashioned kind of camp, all the kids from three to sixteen are there during the week (the mini monsters only arrive on the last couple of days) and we have the run of a family`s estate. It`s bliss! In the riding field numerous arenas have been fenced off, with a specific showjumping ring, gridwork ring, dressage arena, and arena cross country ring. The only competition we have for space is with each other, vying for extra time in the surfaced arena to practise our top-secret musical rides in preparation for the big competition on Friday.

Away from the riding field, there is also the cross country course through the woods and two small paddocks for Handy Pony and Mounted Games.

As an old hand at Camp I felt a lot more confident going in – after all, I actually knew some names! It was nice being recognised from last year too. Knowing the layout and the routine helps put you at ease too, as well as knowing the dynamics of the instructors so you can join in on banter. Which this camp has a lot of.

That reminds me of our Instructors Supper a couple of weeks ago. We were all sat around the table having a serious conversation about Health and Safety over chilli con carne when the sole male instructor at the table picked up the Chief Instructor`s brand new BMW car keys. After a muted conversation our end of the table decided that the remote would work on the car sat on the drive outside. So he pressed the button to open the boot.

With a polite cough, he informed the C.I. that “he thought her car boot was open”. So she got up and peered through the living room window. With a tut she slipped on her flip flops and went outside to shut the door.

The C.I. came back in, closed the front door and was just taking off her flip flops when the M.I. said “I think it`s happened again” as he pressed the button again. This time he had to dodge a smack on the back of the head!

I think I had tears in my eyes as we rolled around with laughter.

Anyway, I`m sure you can imagine how conversation flows over the lunch table.

My group this year is an interesting mix of boys and girls. Last year I had six sweet six year old girls, who all got on very well and would do anything to please, but were all very similar in ability and confidence.

With the boys I have one competitive, very fast yet I must say very polite boy with an equally fast pony who loves mounted games and jumping. Another boy is slightly quieter, but equally confident and happy around a cross country course. The third boy hasn`t ridden for very long, is shy, and lives in fairy land.

On the girls front, there is a nervous girl, who panics about her pony taking off with her so trots very slowly, and in actual fact her pony would be less likely to take off to catch up with the others if he opened his stride and didn`t get left behind – I`m working on it. The other two girls are both on Section A`s, which is actually rather nice to see. Kids who are on ponies slightly too small for them, yet are perfectly happy and the ponies are well behaved and toeing the line. These girls both have strong positions and are confident.

I had to do a tack check at the beginning of the day, focusing on the safety. I always ask the kids who cleaned their tack, and if they say “Me” they gain a point, even if it is not as clean as that which has been scrubbed by proud mothers. I`m also a bit more lenient if they haven`t put it together quite correctly – like the boy who had a twisted martingale which I untwirled. Checking stirrup leathers is a must, and I found two culprits who had stitching about to fray. They were fine for todays activities, but would need a new pair for Tuesday`s cross country. I also checked the bottoms of their stirrup irons for cleanliness and tightened girths.

Our first riding session was mounted games, which I was slightly worried about as I`d already identified the weaker riders and was worried they would be fazed by their confident counterparts. But I began our session with a bit of a lesson on the flat, so I could assess their control, trot, knowledge of diagonals, security, position, independent riding, and canter. First the trotted individually, and then after a trot as a ride on both reins they cantered individually.  Then I paired them up into teams.

I was surprised, if I`m honest, that I managed to make the teams so evenly matched they almost drew in our tournament. Mounted games was a great way for them to get to know each other, start to work as a team, and support each other so it was actually a really good starting point for the week. They all enjoyed the morning and we finished just before the ponies got overly excited.

The kids got a shock when we went back to the pony line though, as they all prepared to hand over the reins to their parent and dash off for lunch. I had other ideas. They all had to untack themselves, brush off, give their ponies haynets and water buckets, before I would let them sit down for their own lunch. And I strongly discouraged parents unless absolutely necessary.

This afternoon we had dressage practice. This is where we had to run through the test that they would be riding on Friday`s competition. Again, I warmed them up in a ride and ran through riding circles and changes of rein together, before running through each test individually. It was really interesting to see the gender divide in their approach to dressage. The girls all wanted to do well, focus on sitting trot and riding accurately, whilst the boys hoped for more than 46% and had long reins, swung across their change of rein two strides after the designated letter. More interesting, was the fact the boys had very little knowledge of the layout of the arena, the physical size of a twenty metre circle,  and couldn`t do sitting trot to save their life. As they bounced around one of them yelled,

“Why do we have to do this? It`s hard!”

To which one girl primly replied with “sitting trot helps develop your seat.” Touché.

They got there eventually, but I don`t envisage myself taking their stirrups or saddles away this week!

Before riding the dressage test we had a little discussion about what a dressage judge was looking for – riding position, using the corners, riding to letters, rhythm, correct canter lead and diagonals, and ensuring their pony was forwards, were all answers. I didn`t think they did too badly.

Each child tried when riding their dressage test, and I gave each one a couple of things to work on so that I didn`t overload their brains, and they would hopefully make some improvements. I think the girls would have happily run through it again, and worked on specific movements, but the boys were bored of it, and we`d run out of time, so we headed back to the pony line to untack and clean our tack ready for tomorrow.

Tomorrow we`re practising our musical ride and having two cross country lessons – wish me luck!

Vetrofen Healthy – A Trial

About  month ago I was forwarded an email by a fellow horsey friend from a company called Animalife. They were looking for equestrian bloggers to trial their new product and give them feedback, as well as promote their product on their blogs.

I thought this looked interesting, and I`m always looking for new topics to write about, so I applied. If I`m honest I didn`t really know what I was letting myself in for as there was very little information about the new product, Vetrofen Healthy, online. However, Otis is a fit, active and healthy horse, so I figured that he was probably an ideal candidate for trying a general purpose supplement.

I didn`t think anymore of it, until I received an email from animalife and within an hour the postman actually delivered my tub of Vetrofen Healthy.

The first thing I did was to read the blurb in the booklet provided. It told me that Vetrofen Healthy contains

“three plant sources known for the effective plant antioxidant support, Acacia catechu, Boswellia and Curcumin”.

I recently blogged about the fact that turmeric is becoming increasingly popular as a feed supplement for a variety of reasons, the main one being arthritis. Curcumin is the essential ingredient of turmeric. It was also promising to read that Vetrofen Healthy contained pepper to aid absorption – everyone knows that black pepper should be fed with turmeric to increase the uptake of curcumin by the body.

Acacia catechu has been used in Asia for many reasons, including anti-fungus, liver swelling, blood clotting, asthma, diarrhoea and constipation, and many skin afflictions. Similarly, botswellia is also from Asia and known for being an excellent anti-inflammatory; treating asthma, arthritis and osteoporosis.

Using this knowledge, I assume that Vetrofen Health, which is marketed as providing ongoing support of comfort and mobility in the equine athlete, works by improving the body`s response to inflammation due to work, and to help support the airways and speed up recovery of minor injuries due to work – such as fatigued muscles after going cross-country.

Another element I liked about Vetrofen Healthy is that it is completely free from banned substances, so you can compete whilst feeding it. But I`m sure I only need to worry about that when Otis and I go to Badminton …

My next step was to start feeding Vetrofen Healthy to Otis. When I opened the tub at the yard the next morning I was hit by the peppery aroma diffusing from the container. Now, Otis isn`t a fussy eater, but it would concern me that a horse with a sensitive palate may turn their nose up at the supplement. Having said that, the smell was more pleasant than some other supplements I`ve seen. It`s a very fine powder too, which probably means it`s more easily digested, but I did find that the powder got everywhere unless I was really careful!

Anyway, I started feeding Otis the recommended amount of 1.5 scoops per day. He`s a healthy horse anyway, so I didn`t expect a miraculous improvement in his general well-being, but I was interested to see if there would be an improvement in his recovery from tough workouts. Often I find him a bit flat for a couple of days after an event, or even the next day he can be flat after some interval training.

I had taken Otis to a BE90 the week before starting him on Vetrofen Healthy and he had had a good cross country round, but struggled with the deep going in the showjumping so hadn`t done brilliantly. I then decided to make my next event a BE100, which was last weekend – three weeks after starting the supplement. Although on a day to day basis I haven`t noticed a huge improvement in his performance, although he is working well at the moment, I did find that he performed very well at the BE100 last weekend. He seemed to pick up again after a good showjumping round really well, and put in a good effort in the cross country phase, only getting a handful of time faults and jumping clear and easily (he put in some extra effort and jumped the large flower pot on top of the table, which is not something I thought he was capable of). I was impressed the next time I rode him a couple of days later, however, that he was not flat, and worked really consistently and focused. So in that respect, I would say that Otis recovered from his physical exertions a lot better than he has previously.

If I`m honest, I would say that we are not the best combination to test this product as Otis is a very happy horse so always tries his heart out, which means that it is difficult to read him, and he has not got any underlying problems which could have been alleviated by Vetrofen Healthy – such as arthritis, so it is difficult to spot improvements in his performance. However, as the ingredients of Vetrofen Healthy are all natural, and to me the science is logical, I want to purchase another container of Vetrofen Healthy and continue my trial over the next few weeks as I think I would see more results after a few more competitions. He is a hardworking horse, and I do think that Vetrofen Healthy provides a safe supplement, which will do no harm if he doesn`t need it, yet should be beneficial if his joints and muscles need a helping hand.

Here is the link to animalife`s website