Breeding horses – A mugs game???

February 22nd, 2021 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Breeding horses – A mugs game???”

Now that Brexit has actually happened will people look more towards home for their future partners? 

With the current pandemic hampering trips abroad it seems that horse prices in the UK are on the way up. Yet still we see people asking for the ultimate schoolmaster gelding with impeccable temperament, fully integrated sat nav, self cleaning facility and all for under a thousand pounds.  

What is it with these people? I would love a nice Grand Prix schoolmaster to show me the ropes in the competition arena but I’m sure that no one is just going to give me one for a couple of grand 🤷‍♀️ (anyone fancy lending me a GP schoolmaster just drop me an email!!). Anyway back to prices, some of the issue is thoroughbreds coming off the race track and being offered at cheap prices because in the long run it makes sense cost wise. Then we have previous over breeding of random mares and stallions without any consideration of the job that those horses/ponies will do. Then us breeders have had to compete with horse breeding in Europe that is carried out on an industrial scale in some studs with a favourable tax regime. 

In addition the price of a horse or pony hasn’t altered in the ‘general’ market for a number of years. People are charging far more for designer puppies than for a horse or pony. How can this be? 

Anyway for those of you sitting there saying “I’m not paying over two thousand for a horse” consider this.

Cost of getting mare in foal – stud fee £300-£2000 plus insemination costs or mare livery if covered naturally £200-£1000

Veterinary fees for basic foal check, passport and microchip £200

Cost of keeping foal to 4 years – basic field keep, feet trimming, vaccinations and assuming that he/she doesn’t need loads of vet intervention. £3000

Cost of backing – depends on who does it and how long it takes but could be another £2000

So even if you take no account of the cost of the mare in the first place, cost of premises (like does the breeder have a mortgage or to rent) cost of your time,  the horse has cost a minimum of £6200. I have taken a middle line on some of the costs not the top end. 

Did that shock you? Or when you bought your horse did you work it out? Yes I get that there will be economies of scale, some horses live out well and don’t need much feeding but I have cut these costs down. What happens if one of your foals dies, or the mare dies or you get landed with a big vets bill? Again the costs will end up borne by the breeder. So when a breeder is considering the price of a youngster they are factoring in their costs plus the horse’s innate ability and potential for the sport and competition arena. So some may be sold at a loss and others may eke out a profit.

Recently horse prices have started to creep up, and there have been howls of protest across social media with people talking about profiteering. But why should the breeder subsidise your hobby?? Yes your hobby!! 

Anyway how is Brexit going to change life? No hopping across to the continent to buy a ‘cheap’ dutch or German horse because you think that we charge too much over here. The cost of getting a horse across the channel and through the vet checks and paperwork has doubled.  With the pandemic this has also meant that you cant go and view in person at the moment so now British bred horses are starting to look like better value??

We are breeding some outstanding horses for all types of riders and for all budgets to tempt you but you need to get real about what you pay. Pay a fair price and recognise the blood, sweat and tears that the breeder has put into that horse for your benefit. 😍

Fools breed horses for wise men to buy.

Time to Reset?

February 3rd, 2021 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Time to Reset?”

It’s that time of year again when people set goals, go on diets, give up alcohol and then forget it all as the year progresses. It is so easy to be fired up with enthusiasm at the start of the year and gradually ‘real life’ impacts your plans and you get bogged down in it all.

So what to do? Is it worth it? 

Currently I am in a process of re-setting. Realistically we have no idea what will happen in the next couple of months so I have re-jigged the training plans for the horses and also the app!!

The focus now goes on sorting out a few training issues ready for PSG/Inter 1 with Denver and Elena, thinking about which level I am going to do a freestyle at and helping my mum get riding fit ready for para competitions. 

Elena and I are working on the canter. She has developed so much in the trot and we now have a collected trot and more variation in the medium and extended paces but the canter seems to have gone back a step. So lots of strengthening work for the canter, heaps of transitions within the pace and travers, shoulder in work. Then the canter pirouettes have been picked apart as I had no control in a full pirouette. Lastly the pesky sometimes late change from right to left is undergoing work, most of that seems related to straightness and also her relaxation and thoroughness. Fingers crossed we are getting more consistent. 

I have ‘pivoted’ as they say in business and I am now entering more online dressage competitions. I found the online experience really ups your game at home. As you have to get a willing volunteer to do the videoing which means I cant be out there for an hour riding the test through numerous times I have to get the horses on the aids and going like they would for a normal competition. The judge feedback is always so helpful and so far absolutely spot on!!

App wise we are updating a few of the versions as new tests have come out or slight revisions have been made. There are also the 2021 rule books to put in ready for when we all get going again. There are loads of other little and not so little projects on their way but I don’t like to say too much until we are ready!!

So I have not set goals as such I prefer to call them outline plans, bit more fluid and dynamic than a fixed goal. What do you think?

Either way I hope you are all managing to keep putting one foot in front of the other, spring is on the way and before you know it the children will be back in school and we will be competing and training again! Lets keep supporting each other and enjoying our horses. Hopefully we will meet soon.

 

Is there such a thing as “Best piece of advice?”

January 20th, 2021 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Is there such a thing as “Best piece of advice?””

As an over 50’s rider I have been given lots of advice over the years. Some nuggets I have unfortunately forgotten and will no doubt remember at some point! Others have been thought about and binned, and the final group are those pieces of advice that have stuck with me and really resonated.

There is not one single piece of advice that I could say is simply the best so here are a few that I still think about.

 

Life is not a dress rehearsal

My grandma’s favourite expression and one that I always have in the back of my mind especially as I am older and time seems to disappear at a rapid rate! 😂

 

This is it folks, our one chance to make an impact, to enjoy our family, horses and our life. Whatever makes you happy and resonates with you should be top of your agenda.

 

Little things matter

This is more related to the horses. Little things ‘do’ matter with horses, the slight warmth in one foot, a bit of a rub from a saddle pad and a drop of condition could all be a problem. It takes experience both with your own particular horse and with horses in general to know when a change could be something brewing or nothing to worry about.

 

Don’t forget yourself either. Little niggles with your body could cause tightness when you are riding resulting in a longer term problem. So don’t ignore your issues.

 

Schoolmaster or good young horse?

What will help you progress in your riding journey? One senior rider and trainer said to me about 20 years ago that riding quality young horses would develop my riding and feel. Yet another said that a schoolmaster is worth their weight in gold and could help my confidence and proficiency in the movements.

 

I think both are right. At a certain point on my journey I needed a schoolmaster, a horse that could help me back into the arena at advanced level. The horse that entered my life was Highlight an amazing horse who helped me get confident at PSG and Inter 1 and had a great passage. He also competed at Junior FEI level with my two daughters and competed internationally with my mum doing Paras. He helped us all, he had his quirks, but my confidence and belief in myself grew so much.

 

So on to the case for quality young horses – undoubtedly my riding took another leap once I sat on a big moving elastic young horse. Yes, it was a bit nerve wracking at the start and I felt like I was learning sitting trot all over again!!! In some ways talented horses can make everything feel easy, far too easy and transferring back to a less elastic horse can feel like a big let down.

 

Both experiences bring their own benefits and have helped me to be a better rider.

 

The last piece of advice I would give is “You do you, I will do me”. I’m on my journey and you are doing yours and we will have different goals, experiences and timelines. Don’t get distracted by what other people are posting on social media.

 

And most of all enjoy yourself 😍

 

 

Creating Partnership

September 29th, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Creating Partnership”

Currently I have a lot of horsey work to do as well as my day job of running the company that is TestPro. So things are a bit hectic and tempers can sometimes be a little on the short side and horses being horses decide at the moment that you are lacking in time that they are going to ‘play up’. 

You know the scenario, they decide they are not being caught, or pretend they are a kite flying in the sky or there is a monster in every bush or wheelbarrow. When I was having a particularly difficult time with leading a yearling colt of mine and being bitten whilst my back was turned for the third day in a row, my temper was definitely lost! He was growled at (for this read some particularly tasty language) and pinched back on the neck, I pondered why we seemed to be going backwards in our relationship and training. I adore this boy and he is one of my homebred so I want to do the best for him. 

I realised a couple of things (been here before I promise I am not that dumb) one that getting cross wasn’t helping and the other was that he was teething and guess who was the nearest he was going to get to chew on. So we have been trying some new ways of leading and talking to each other which is helping us both. His preferred thing to do is chew the end of the lead rope or the chain part and we now start our journey to or from the field with a bit of a cuddle and a scratch. I realised that in my rush to get things done I wasn’t spending any ‘quality’ time with him, yes I know that sounds all mushy but a yearling colt is just as ‘needy’ as a human one!!! So far this new regime that has been going a week or so is working really well, keep your fingers crossed for me.

With the older horses I was watching a rider school a week or so ago and was a bit shocked by the use of hands and the aids in general. It was obvious that the rider was both frustrated and annoyed and the horse was getting ever more tense. Now we can all get ‘holier than thou’ and say why didn’t they do X or why didn’t they get off but if you have had a bad day or your horse is not in the right frame of mind to learn it can happen. So what should you do? I like to take a break and have a walk, just allow both horse and rider to have some downtime in the schooling session whilst I reflect on what is going wrong and what the horse isn’t understanding. Then pick the reins up again and do something that the horse finds easy and reward the good behaviour. If you have calmed down by this point then maybe go back to the exercise that was causing the problem and break it down into small learning chunks. Reward every bit of progress, and importantly ignore when it goes wrong. But make sure you are ready to analyse your behaviour, your body language and also your aids before you criticise and get angry with your horse. They can only learn what you teach them so be kind and patient. 

Supporting our sport

September 16th, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Supporting our sport”

This year has been rather bizarre and confusing for all of us equestrians. Our governing bodies are facing difficult times and are having to be flexible enough to stay within the ever changing government rules, our competition season has been chopped to about a third of the year (fingers crossed) and we are unable to treat a competition as a chance to catch up with our horsey buddies. 

In addition we have seen the worrying development of the loss of a crucial venue and we will possibly see more in the coming months. Hickstead as both a national and international venue has been a most amazing fixture in our calendars. I have never competed there, which I am massively disappointed about, but have spectated and also been lucky enough to be behind the scenes. I have no idea about the back story apart from a lack of support whether financial or in terms of administrative or volunteers and I don’t pretend to know anything apart from what has been put out over press and social media. But isn’t this an extremely sad reflection of the current state of high profile shows and venues? It’s such a shame that the venue couldn’t be saved.

Then we had the news that the British Dressage Supporters Club (BDSC) would be shutting its doors. I have been a member since the beginning, and in fact remember going to a meeting with about a dozen other people at the founding of the club. Later I became a life member and enjoyed many trips abroad with like minded people to some epic championships. The BDSC have provided support at competitions with prizes and sponsorship that many riders have benefited from. Is it really time to lose this? Will we all just drift away and organise our own trips instead of providing that mass of Brits at international competitions to support our teams?

I looked at how British Eventing manages their supporters. It has a separate membership for people that want to support eventers and also get the inside track on visits to rider yards and also trips abroad. Perhaps this is the way forward? British Dressage are you thinking about this? There are lots of people out there that would love the opportunity to get together with like minded enthusiasts can we get this going???

It seems to me that for too long in dressage we have relied on a few people to provide the infrastructure, enthusiasm and money to keep internationals and clubs going. Maybe it is time for the masses of us out there to take up the baton? Any takers?

Are you gelled?

August 19th, 2020 Posted by General News, Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Are you gelled?”

What follows isn’t meant to be a full blown rant! It represents some of the scenarios that have happened to me as a coach and I just want you all to think about your next lesson and whether you are being a good pupil. So often we talk about what makes a good coach/trainer but not often do we set expectations of the client/pupil.

As some of you know I do train people in my limited spare time! I used to do a lot of coaching (note I prefer coaching to teaching as a term) and I never worried whether people were just starting out in their first walk and trot test or were aiming for the high levels. Coaching is very rewarding and I love to see horse and rider out enjoying themselves no matter what level and what goals they have. 

But what did and still does get my back up was the attitude that people bring to their session. Now I know that we are not all on our ‘A game’ all the time and that life has a tendency to get in the way of our horsey time. However you have a bit of a duty to your coach/trainer to listen and involve yourself with the session that you have paid for. What is the point of bringing negativity or combativeness into your training session. You may have had an argument with someone but that should be left in the car. Otherwise isn’t it a waste of your money and the coach’s time? 

Then there are those people that turn up and expect you to fix everything in one session just before they are off to a competition. Really? I mean I think trying to solve the incorrect lead in canter and get your horse moving like Valegro in one lesson may tax even Carl or Charlotte let alone humble me. Coaches are human and we cannot turn your lovely happy hacker into a grand prix dressage horse overnight. It takes years of work and dedication, do you have the work ethic to train your horse? As coaches we enjoy long term relationships with horse and rider not the once in a blue moon people. 

Then we have the clients who consistently turn up late, don’t turn up at all, or cancel at the last moment.  Obviously things happen, horses go lame, children get sick, roadworks appear out of nowhere, but please consider your coach and the fact that they have put aside time in their diary to help you. Yes I know they are receiving money but they have mentally prepared, thought about lesson plans and what they are going to do in your session so it is downright rude if you treat them as an after thought. 

What about when you are in your session? Are you a chatterbox? Do you do a great impression of a sulky teen? Or do you lose focus when riding and start thinking about work or what you are cooking for dinner? I know as your coach I must make our time together interesting, challenging and fun, however I would also expect the same high standards from you. I want you with me and taking part not just going through the motions or turning every exercise into a battle of wills. 

So for your next training session with your coach I would like you to think about whether you are prepared;

  • To be open to new ideas and have realistic expectations, 
  • To get involved with the session, 
  • To make sure you are on time, 
  • To have a bit of a plan of what you want to work on
  • To make sure you have looked after yourself and you are awake, hydrated and have had some food
  • To make sure your horse is well, has shoes on(as appropriate) and is in his/her normal tack

And if you find after a few sessions that you are not ‘gelling’ with your coach and you feel that you are putting in the effort then maybe you are not right for each other. But finding a new coach is a whole new Blog!! 

It’s all a question of Balance

July 29th, 2020 Posted by Dressage TestPro 0 thoughts on “It’s all a question of Balance”

Two sources of inspiration came my way when I came up with this blog.

One was a recent post about George Morris talking about balance in the rider with particular reference to rising trot.
And the other was when filling hay nets and bending down and having to regain my balance and use my muscles actively to right myself. This reminded me of how difficult it is for a horse to balance with us on board and how we need to work on exercises to help both of us develop correctly.

The trend these days in dressage is for riders to lean back particularly in the extended trot, this then causes their pelvis to tilt and the horse to hollow against the rider effectively disconnecting hind quarters from front. Not a pleasant sight in the dressage arena and one to be discouraged.

At the other end of the scale in those of us starting off on our journey it is more common for both horse and rider to be forward and on the ‘shoulders’. This isn’t an ideal situation and causes its own problems in particular with the horse’s balance and potential for the rider to fall off easily.

So what is the best option? A classical seat and an upright position in all paces except for when rising as a slight forward tendency over the knees is needed.

I am not a physiotherapist or specialist in biomechanics, I learn from my horses and the riders that I teach. My observations and reading over the years leads me to believe and teach that you need to ride ‘uphill’ before you can achieve and expect it from your horse.

Try this exercise out. Go for a trot (sitting) or canter and ride with your eyes looking at the wither, you will feel the chin drop, shoulders come forward and your seat start to come slightly out of the saddle. Now take the eyes up and forward above/between the ears. Your chin comes up, your shoulders now come back with the shoulder blades flat against your back and you start to engage your pelvis. Your horse will feel that straightening of your back and the engagement of your pelvis. You can actually use your body more effectively now to help your horse. This exercise can be quite transformational at canter.
If your position is good and you feel you are riding ‘uphill’ but are struggling with your horse here are some suggested exercises to try out.

Trot/walk/trot transitions – Transitions are the name of the game, they do not have to be on straight lines and in fact can work better when done through a corner or on a circle. Just make sure that there are no wobbles out through the shoulder. Make sure you are getting a good reaction off of your leg and you are keeping your body upright.

Walk to canter – again brilliant for engaging the hindquarters. Even better if you can get a bit of collected walk and manage a couple of strides of collected canter before coming back down to walk again. Best carried out on a circle. To help achieve a canter to walk transition use a 10m circle and as you come back towards the fence line ask for walk to back the horse off.

On and back in canter – this one is for all levels. At a basic level start with a little bit of difference. Don’t forget to ride uphill and not drop your contact or hand which would rather defeat the object of the exercise. At a more advanced level you can play with bringing the canter back to almost walk in preparation for canter pirouettes. And go forward into medium canter and back with a clear smooth transition. Watch the positioning of the shoulders ensure you are engaging the inside hindleg.

Shoulder fore – on straight or circle in trot and canter. Vital for straightness and engagement for that uphill tendency.

There are of course plenty of other exercises and everyone has their favourites! Next time you get on board think about your balance and uphill tendency first before encouraging your horse to match you.

FOMO or FOGO??

July 2nd, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “FOMO or FOGO??”

As competitions start my thoughts turn to when I would like to take a horse out.

Wales, where I live, has taken a slower pace to opening up than England and Scotland so we are still in a strange half life and I have not even ventured to a training clinic yet.

So I sit here with a small amount of FOGO (Fear of going out) debating with myself about when to enter a competition, when to go to a clinic. There is that element of anxiousness, not about the virus per se, but about how I will feel in the new ‘normal’.

My new normal revolves around looking after the horses, working, online meetings and very little face to face contact with the outside world. The occasional foray to Lidl, other supermarkets are available (!), and that’s about my lot. So to actually organise to go to a competition seems a big thing at the moment in my mind.

Am I alone? Should I get a grip? ‘woman up’ ? Are the questions in my mind legitimate ones? Well I’ve discovered that there are a lot of people with doubts right now, if you are with me on this we are not alone. There are plenty of people in the FOGO camp!

Lockdown has been a time for us all to reassess our priorities. Mine have changed in a few ways partly due to lockdown and partly due to Elena having sinustis resulting in a stay at Rainbow Equine. With my girl now seriously unfit, although Denver is in the wings, I realised I haven’t missed competing much. I love the training, and being with the tribe but all the faffing about and travelling is not looking very appealing at this moment in time.

But after reading this article https://whateveryourdose.com/life-after-lockdown/ I feel that I am on a journey, and the competing will happen when I am ready. I am going to get back to keeping a journal to write some thoughts in. I already have some goals (competing at PSG) set out in it, but I think writing everything down helps so much, it seems so much more achievable when it is written down!

If you are in the FOMO (Fear of missing out) camp, then Yay!!! I will be cheering you on and watching your progress in those competitions. I hope you enjoy your outings and I will see you soon within those white boards!!

Seeking Inspiration and Firm Ground

April 24th, 2020 Posted by Dressage TestPro, General News 0 thoughts on “Seeking Inspiration and Firm Ground”

Here we are in our horsey world with a calendar that has nothing in it apart from blank pages, which let’s be honest is highly unusual for us horsey folk. It leaves us feeling awkward, adrift on an uncertain sea, not ‘grounded’. So how do we get back to somewhere more normal?

I think it is each to his own in that respect. We all need to find our own ‘new’ normal, it will be different for you and different for me. Some of us love social interaction and chatting to people, others find that lockdown brings the  benefit that being alone is now ok and not considered a bit odd.

For myself I have found that whilst I prefer horses to people as lets face it a horse never lets you down, I am also finding that interaction when shopping or on our yard is becoming necessary to keep me ‘normal’ and grounded. That basic human need for some interaction with other people is something we are all missing these days. Even with
Skype and zoom there is still a need for a proper face to face immediate feedback, somehow a conversation over the internet doesn’t quite cut it.

Whilst I was pondering this we had someone help on the yard with mucking out and odd jobs (all social distancing applied!!) and out of the blue some interesting feedback came my way.

As a golf expert Elliot comes at things with a different slant, and was watching me ride Elena with interest. Asking questions during which an interesting ‘off horse’ discussion ensued about the differences between sports but also the similarities in terms of much needed mental strength and skill requirements.

So an example was me talking about changing the arena at home to more accurately reflect the competition arena. I set out plant pots, have people spectating and put music on to give a bit of atmosphere similar to a championship venue. I prepare the horse for the environment as much as possible and when I am at a show I religiously do the arena walks. Elliot talked about Earl Woods (Tiger Woods’ father) who prepared Tiger mentally by distracting him when he was taking shots. He would fiddle with coins in his pocket, cough, make comments whilst Tiger was busy trying to play. He tried to instill that mental toughness to completely ignore any surrounding chatter, heckling, music, and general hubbub.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of having a super quiet arena at home to school in. When I am at home I have the dogs running around the arena, liveries walking past with wheelbarrows and my dad or mum popping around to watch at a random moment. I have to admit that I often curse under my breath at this point! But it is important and useful for my mental toughness and future competitions to be able to cope with distractions and then re-focus on the job in hand.

I know some of you are unable to ride and most of us are unable to have lessons with our coaches so learning may be far from our minds. But try to continue learning whether it is online videos, some mental toughness training or goal setting, it really will help to keep you grounded and reset your internal compass. Think outside the box and find inspiration from different walks of life like I did and you might discover inspiration in the most unexpected place.

Up and down like a Yo Yo

April 16th, 2020 Posted by Dressage TestPro, General News 0 thoughts on “Up and down like a Yo Yo”

I was going to write a blog about feeling a bit down and trying to overcome those feelings. I had even done some voice memos on my phone whilst I was mucking out this morning to remind myself of what I wanted to write.

I was feeling a bit ‘blah’, not lacking motivation exactly, more just having a moment of it all being too much and too complicated and too stressful. You know a bit fragile, almost tearful? I think it stems from the fact that we have no control over our lives and we are at the whim of this virus. The government dictates, rightly or wrongly, what we can and can’t do. All of us have the shadow of finances and not knowing what the next month or more will hold for us.

But then I rode Elena and my mood did a 180 change for the better. Why? Simply because I had a great session with her, really relaxed and focused. I have been taking the time to do some exercises that are in the Tristan Tucker online videos. I am using the exercises to manage the spooking and help her relax. Today felt like a turning point.

The thing is, without the lockdown and the virus I probably wouldn’t have had the time to start exploring other ideas with Elena. I reflected on what is happening now in my little bubble in North Wales and realised I am achieving loads! We are three weeks in and little steps have been taken. The flying changes are much more consistent, the collected work is improving and all the horses look really well.

These steps would not have happened during the competition season. I would have put off doing certain work just in case it affected the tests I was doing, or caused too much tension.

Having no competitions to work towards is also helping me mentally. It has taken the pressure off of me to achieve scores for Pet Plan or regionals, made me think about what I want to do and also what I enjoy doing. This time of reflection then benefits the horses as I am not chasing any competitive goals.

However what I am slightly disappointed about though is the lack of online competitions. The FEI has banned FEI judges and FEI competitors from competing in online dressage competitions unless they are ‘sanctioned’ by the national federations and/or licensed by the FEI. This is because they say that they cannot check the welfare of the horses and ensure that arena footing is adequate, blah blah. Hhhhmmm sounds like a load of ‘whatsit’ to me. The FEI tests are free to download, widely available and used throughout the world, no doubt in plenty of ‘unsanctioned’ competitions. Why get uppity now?

Sounds like they are preparing the way to ask for money or ban judges from online competitions so that they can do their own FEI version in the future…..

So with all this running around rider’s heads no wonder we are all a bit up and down like a yo yo. Thank goodness for my four legged friends to keep me vaguely sane.