A beautiful monster,self discipline and this is what I live for

Published by Eventing Connect 

When you work alone a lot-in any job-self discipline is key. In some areas I have none whatsoever,hence the battle with the scales and an undying passion for chocolate. In other areas however,I am a disciplinary queen. Part of becoming a more mature and thinking rider is paying attention to yourself. In time,you correct yourself as often as you correct the horse and these minor alterations are where the real daily learning takes place. A recent example comes from my older horse. He is 13, he has his problems and he’s as odd as two left feet but no one else has ridden him other than me. This means he is the blueprint for my faults and also my corrections. He struggles on the left rein and tries to block with his shoulder,effectively turning his body into a ‘Z’ shape and making him lead with his quarters on the left side. He struggles to work in a stretched frame on the left,but finds it very easy on the right. I battled away with this for quite some time before one day in desperation I offered the outside rein and asked for a lot of bend through his rib cage,really opening the door for him. It’s not orthodox and goes against my dressage education,but this horse filled his boots and immediately dropped into a stretch. I was able to take the outside rein back softly and hold him on my inside leg. This did two things-he showed me how he needed to be ridden to perform this task,and I showed him that I was happy to do so. Jobs oxo.For those of you who are still actually awake,I’ll move on-I forget that this shit is deathly boring reading…..

I have mentioned Sunshine in a previous blog. She is a 4 yr old hannovarian x tb mare with a gigantic ego and a vast quantity of talent. She is an enigma, a puzzle and as terrifying as she is brilliant. She teaches me daily,she is always telling me things. (Now I sound truly batshit,I know) Last night,she put paid to my genius idea of her staying out at night by jumping a very big mains electric fence wire in the dark and wearing three rugs. Today I thought ‘well if you want to jump,you can jump then’,so we did. She has been having some physio and also last week she had fairly major dental work done too. Today we just worked down a simple 2 stride grid,nothing complex or exciting. Il get back to this in a moment.

A key piece of knowledge I was once given was that if you are producing a young horse and it stops or runs out,NEVER punish it. Stop,look at what you are doing and think it through. Was what you asked the horse to do fair? Does he understand? Did you build up gradually and in steps to make it easy for him? Is he physically and mentally ready for the task? Is he comfortable and relaxed? Is he looking at what he is required to do?  If you back track and go back a step,you can almost always find the solution. Punishing a horse will make him panic,Rush and stop thinking. He might have rails down,his jump will tighten and flatten and you may compound the issue.It will set you back months in your training. If you have planned to achieve a goal today and the horse performs brilliantly early on,don’t be afraid to stop. If the horse is struggling,don’t be afraid to stop. Think of other ways to help him be ready for this question. ALWAYS THINK.

So Sunshine-she was popping away down the grid quite well and I slowly increased the height of the vertical. She was finding the 10 yard distance surprisingly tight but then she jumps with a lot of scope.She suddenly and without warning decided to jump both the place pole and the cross pole together at the start of the grid,so she landed short and I had to really move her to make the vertical. The next time she approached the grid,she over compensated with a huge jump in and then very sharply dived right and ran out at the vertical. I had to think for a moment so I let her walk and I passed no remark on it at all. She is a horse so careful that she would rather stop than hang herself. She was well prepared for the task and doing it well to that point. She jumped in too big and ran out of room. She needed a minute to think.She was finding it tight,despite the grid being set on the generous side of regular and her being relaxed and not rushing. Ok. I moved the place pole on the way in out to just over 3 yards. I moved the grid out to 11 yards. Yes she will have to learn to handle ‘normal’ distances, but today was not that day. Preserving her relaxed attitude and huge jump is key at this stage. So we started again,and she was foot perfect every time. She finished over a 1m oxer easily and happily. Her enormous scopey jump creates ‘hang time’ and I can’t get enough of it. So my hope is that today I listened to my horse and I worked out what she needed,and that I put her in the best possible position to do her job well and to gain confidence from the task. For me,it’s always back to the same-‘ Try to put the horse in to a position where the response he gives you is the response you were looking for to begin with’.  I read another pearl today courtesy of Buck Brannaman-‘Don’t treat him as he is. Treat him as you want him to be.’ Applicable to horses and humans alike. 

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Horsey Mums International post no 2

The Horsey Mums International group was lucky enough to be given some products from The Mother Bee company for a ‘Tried and Tested’. Mother Bee use beeswax and other natural ingredients to create these wonderful products. Ideal for delicate skin and suitable for every day use for humans,horses,cats and dogs,the range of products also make wonderful gift options. Visit the website motherbeeonline.co.uk or check out the Mother Bee Facebook page. The results have been fantastic.

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Tester Rebecca-I usually prefer to go with a stick lip balm instead of a tub as when I’m outside/working in the yard etc I can’t guarantee clean hands and i usually end up with bits of hay stuck in it. that’s why i opted for the stick in this review. My first impressions of this product were good. I liked the smell and flavour and found the lip balm to be quite soothing. However I thought that the balm itself to be quite soft – more of a consistency found in a tub. It provided great coverage but the already soft texture turned somewhat slimy when carried in a pocket for use throughout the day. Despite my slight dislike of the consistency I found that it provided great coverage against the elements. I think that this would be a great protective balm for the winter.
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Tester Muireann- I got a sample of yard hand and absolutely adored it. One of the best products I’ve ever used. Convenient and doesn’t rub off easily.
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Tester Nicola-I was given the Mother Bee Tub to try out. It was for skin irritations such as mud fever/skin sores etc. We used it on a 16.3hh Polish Draught gelding called Murray. He had developed friction burns on his back from the numnahs rubbing under the saddle. We had previously tried numerous different things to try and sort the problem but nothing seemed to clear it. We started applying it around 9 days ago once the area was cleaned etc. (Image will be added of area before application). There was no harsh smells from the product, the horse was happy for it to be applied as it didn’t sting or irritate him any further. Within a week we seen a great difference in the wounds and now there is already hair growth returning to the area. I would highly recommend this product to anyone with skin problems/sores/irritations. Thankfully there is still plenty left so I will definitely be hanging onto it for the future…
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Tester Judi-I had the Citrus Lotion bar to review from MotherBeeOnline. I already have a few products from Motherbee and this product lives up to their standard easily. The lotion bar should be a must have for anyone who has dry skin and/or an outdoor lifestyle. It is easy to use and very very effective. It also smells amazing, causing several people to comment about how nice my hands smelled! My dry, chapped hands were rough and pretty unattractive. After a week of regular use they were smooth and the chapping all but gone. The citrus bar also had an effect on my cuticles, that the yard hand bar didnt ? They are usually a bit flaky and they are now smooth and even. I used the bar before I went outside as well as after washing hands etc as a protective barrier, which worked a treat and my hands definitely felt less of the wind chill with it on, than not. My only small criticism is that its not easy to keep with you. I keep it in a small container by the sink to use after washing hands but I would like to be able to carry it with me or keep it on the yard for after wetting hands out there (frequent!) A small waterproof drawstring bag would be perfect as without it gets covered in hair / dust / pocket fluff etc as it is sticky. Loved the product generally though and personally prefer the scented bar to the unscented Yard Hand.
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Tester Lucy-So, it smells delicious, lovely colour nicely presented/packaged. It was quite hard to get some out of the pot to start with – ended up digging it out with a spoon! But it softened quickly in my hands and was easy to rub in.I decided to sit the pot next to the Aga which meant it was warm/room temp and that worked much better. It softened my hard hands really well – tended to put it on after I had come in from outside and soothed the chapped skin on the back of my hands. It’s also really good for dry feet too – plastered it on my cracked heals and stopped them hurting so big thumbs up for that. All in all lovely stuff.
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Tester Niamh-Loved this fantastic lotion bar! Beautiful smell! And made my tough, dry, farming, horsey body feel great after a bath or shower! Non greasy ! And great for the whole family! Mother Nature at her best 😊 My tip: leave beside the fire to soften a bit before application! Just to make it easier to apply xx 10/10 because I loved it and it’s almost gone xxx
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Tester Ailish-I bought a pony a few weeks ago and a week after I got her she rubbed her tail raw. It looked awful dry and sore. The skin was flaking off. I was worried about the hair growth. I applied the product and it was amazing after only two applications a day apart it was like a different tail. I can only say it was miraculous the difference in two days. The skin was moisturised no more flaky skin. I think I’ll try it on my own dry scalp as I was so impressed. I would encourage anyone to try it for dry skin on their equine
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Teseter Sandra-thank you very much for letting me try the moisturiser bar. I have fallen in love with it and will definitely continue to buy it. My little girl suffers from very dry skin and I suffer from eczema on my hands. I found the moisturiser bar worked best just after a bath. I loved the fact that it was so easy and non messy to use . (Cream moisturiser + 3 yr old child = very messy ) lol . You did not require water with this bar , just rub it along your skin. It left our skin smelling so fresh and clean and left my skin especially my legs very soft. Eased the irritation on my hand from eczema. Highly recommend this product.
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Tester Daphne-Product review of the moisturiser bar. This product is fantastic, it smells absolutely delicious is very easy to use and works a treat on dry hands. I would put it on as often as required and it protects and heals weather beaten hands!! Also great on cracked heels!!The bar shape is easy to use though the packaging could be a bit sturdier, maybe a paper type wrap would be an idea so easier to open and re-use.
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Tester Tara-I got the healing lip balm.Obviously the kiddies loved anything new and the importance of being asked what they thought;) it’s not too waxy so doesn’t feel like lips might stick together if you put on a decent amount. I’d actually say not only was it stopping my lips from being dried and cracked all the time but it’s conditioning too as the more I used it the more the skin above my lips stopped being dry and red and calmed right down! The real test I think was when we all had the vomiting bug here….the kiddies lips were peeling and cracks and my son even had such dry lips there was a little split with blood….in 1 day after non stop slathering of the peppermint healing balm all that literally went and overnight he was back with normal lips. I would definitely change from the product I had been using to this lip balm.So, tell me….where can I buy the stuff as husband wants to c if there’s an outdoor protection hand cream for him!
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Tester Marisa-So i used the healing lip balm. And so far so good. My lips were cracked and sore from being outside all the time and its done a lovely job at softening them, so much so that I’ve started using on my kids!! I’ll definitely be recommending this to all my horsey friends!

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Horsey Mums International, blog post 1

Many of you reading will be aware of my Facebook group called Horsey Mums International. When I was pregnant,it was almost impossible to find other horsey women who were pregnant too. After my son was born,I was flung headlong into life juggling a tiny baby,several horses,cows calving and also 12 suck calves to rear. To a normal woman living a normal life,this is nothing short of insanity. To equine and agriculturally minded mothers,it’s all in a day’s work. Again,trying to find likeminded women who understand was impossible,so I set up the group on Facebook. We now have the nicest bunch of ladies interacting and sharing everything from parenting tips to managing the workload,schooling solutions to sharing show and lesson reports-anything and everything. We support each other when our partners are being difficult and we laugh when yet another child has run amok with the sudocream. We understand the peace in our lives that our horses bring. We get each other.

Part of developing the group is organising events and days out for the mums. We have loads of plans for the future-training days with and without horses,get togethers with and without children and a couple of exciting things on the horizon that I won’t delve into here. We kickstarted our training days with a confidence clinic in the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel on the 14 March. Our speaker was sports psychologist Lizzie Burcher. Lizzie is a sports psychologist and also works as a clinical psychologist in areas such as anxiety,depression,confidence building,ocd etc. lizzie is also an international showjumper herself and has a unique insight into the pressures and difficulties of life with horses. Lizzie currently works with athletes from many sports and has achieved great results with young rider teams (medal haul of 10 golds,8 silver and 12 bronze),tennis and cricket players,marathon runners and many others. She is helping four Olympic riders and six nations cup riders at this time. She is also competing her own string of horses,many of which are homebreds.She jumps at gp level and has competed at the YR European championships. Lizzie has helped me both on and off the horse so much,and her massively positive attitude and influence inspires everyone around her.

Lizzie started by asking everyone what their hopes and goals were,and to introduce themselves. We had ladies with vast experience,limited experience,hobby riders and international producers-a cross section like this just goes to show how much of an issue confidence is,and how many of us can benefit from training our minds as well as our bodies and our horses. Lizzie made a major relevant point that I wholly agree with-that problems with confidence in sport are almost always anchored to a problem in life. Whilst sports psychology can change your performance and in many ways improve your life,the unique edge of a clinical psychologist who is also a sports psychologist is a serious advantage and has the potential to change absolutely everything for the better. Lizzie discussed the importance of replacing a negative thought with a positive one ALL.THE.TIME. every day in every situation-not just on the horse. She looked at everything from riders who can’t let go of a bad experience or a damning criticism which filters in to a confidence issue,through to riders catastrophising and predicting dangerous situations for themselves. The lesson here was to look at the evidence to support your belief. Repeatedly it became clear that the evidence to support the claim was negligible at best-a lightbulb moment for quite a few. She looked at many other areas including visualisation, a life changing skill for competitors not always easy to achieve but very much worth the effort. Over all,the mood in the room at the end of the clinic was upbeat and positive,with ladies motivated to grab life by the balls and make it happen.

Lizzie is a level 2 HSI coach so we will be looking into running some confidence clinics with our horses too-it’s also a great excuse for a Horsey Mums meet up. If you know of anyone who might benefit from being involved in our group,look us up-type Horsey Mums International into the fb search. We have a public page with a picture icon,but the group is closed and has a brown icon. Click,then request to join. Hope to see you there!

We are currently running a tried and tested for the Mother Bee company. The All natural beeswax skincare products are a luxury indeed and make for great everyday use or as a beautiful gift. Check them out on http://www.motherbeeonline.co.uk. The product reviews will be out next Monday! We are looking for other companies to give products for tried and tested-anything horsey,child related or for ladies.

If I had known then what I know now,two enigmas and a new approach

Published by Eventing Connect 

I currently own two of the most-Im not sure of the word? Unique,perhaps?-horses I have ever had. The first needs little introduction to those who know me. Mist is the most bizarre mishmash of qualities and quirks and has made me question and change everything I know. The second is Sunshine. Sunshine is a 4 yr old mare with hannovarian/tb breeding and the world’s biggest opinion of herself. She is vastly intelligent and we do things her way. She is supremely talented and by far the most exciting horse to land here in years.

I was lunging her the other day. The work she was offering was typically super,but because she is a weak 4yr old the quality can fluctuate. This means that she sometimes canters when the big trot she has gets a bit too much. She broke in her trot work a few times when I was asking for more from the trot. I told her she was good-willingly looking to go forward FOR ANY REASON should NEVER be discouraged in my opinion-I asked for trot again and then asked for slightly less trot as it was really my mistake,not hers. She also slightly mistook me when I accidentally got in front of her shoulder,and she offered a super square halt. I clicked at her,she put her two hind legs together and propped forward off the ground straight back into a gorgeous trot. Again,it was my mistake but as I stood there admiring her sharpness and her incredible power and balance,I got to thinking….

Here I was,looking at this horse making typical young horse minor errors. I was looking at why she made those errors and how she dealt with the correction,and instead of feeling annoyed that it wasn’t perfect-as I would have done 10 years ago-I was enjoying watching her mind at work and appreciating her many qualities instead. Ten years ago,I was so ambitious and arrogant. I didn’t give a shit what was wrong with the horse-age,injury,lack of education,confusion-my attitude was ‘just fucking do it already,I have plans and you’re getting in my way.’ Many horses likely suffered because of me. I can’t fix the past,but I sure as hell learned how to fix the present and future. I was slowly coming around to a better way of thinking,but it took years of Mist hammering the point home repeatedly- horses never do anything for no reason,and it’s up to you to work it out. Mist was so tricky and such a bully himself,and he wasn’t a contender for the ‘do or die’ attitude. He is 13 years old now and he and I have the most wonderful partnership. He is delighted to work-lives for it,even-but we are partners. He is allowed to have his say. He is allowed to remind me to do more,do less,ask differently.The lines of communication are fully open both ways and working him is a constant conversation. It takes time to get there with a horse  and it can be as basic or as advanced as you please. It is the secret to it all. You have to thrash it out gently between you,put boundaries in place and allow them to do the same. You have to hold hands,not hit each other. I had a similar relationship with Jj which also took a while to develop but he was like Mist in time-I used to think,and Jj used to do. Sunshine is similar but different. Sunshine is only 4. It took until Jj was 6 and until Mist was about 10 to get to here. Maybe I’m getting better at it,but maybe she’s just a bit special too. I crave that connection.

Selfie with Mist
Selfie with Mist

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Sunshine

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Sunshine lungeing

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Mist with Charlie
I can rub along fine with most horses that come through my hands,but Sunshine is the first one looking for a connection herself. it is unlikely she will be sold-helps that she’s super careful and scopey too!!

So what changed me? What made me realise that I was a horrid little bitch who had better find another way with these horses before I got myself killed? I’m not sure. Broken bones and lost ambitions maybe had a part to play. Being exhausted riding 16 a day and hating every minute of life with the animals that I supposedly loved also massively clouded my outlook. Mist having such potential but no tolerance for my shit was a huge element. Weirdly,a developing interest in proper natural horsemanship also played a big part. (Think Buck Brannaman,not Monty Roberts) a friend gave me a book by Mark Rashid called ‘Horses Never Lie’ and it is the best book I have ever read-the point is that you ask horses for things in a way that allows their response to be exactly what you were looking for to begin with. It builds such confidence and trust so fast. The final part of the picture is in realising that no response is wrong. If you ask for a  thing from your horse and he offers SOMETHING,then there’s hope and potential. It all sounds very ideal world and fluffy,but it isn’t-keep it simple,be kind and respect your horses. It’s a good place to start.