KEEPING IT REAL,WHAT?? AND HOW MUCH?????

Published by Eventing Connect 

Eventing is a glorious thing in all its forms. No other horse sport requires so much from horse and rider in so many opposing directions,and it is no surprise that it continues to grow and thrive. The camaraderie and close knit community nature of eventing makes it a lovely sport to be involved in in any capacity,from grass roots to 4*. Of course,it has it’s well publicised dark side which has so sadly contributed to pushing horseback riding to the number one spot in the world’s most dangerous sports-currently ahead of Bullriding and cheerleading. Overall though, many people find it a very worthwhile and enjoyable sport to be involved in. But how do you get started? There are so many forums and websites with advice on just this-some factual and helpful,others terrifying and written by Walt Disney. Never fear! Thanks to my chequered time eventing,I am here to bring you the realist’s version. Brace yourself.
Step 1. I’m assuming you can rise to the trot,own some sort of horse and know the ears from the tail. Right. Anyone from novice to professional can aspire to go eventing but you must first prepare. Go to the bank,withdraw a large sum of money-around $5k-take it outside and set it free in the breeze. Be completely fine about it. Go home. You are now ready for step two.
Step 2. Once you can manage some strange shaped polyhedrons in a ridiculously small rectangle in walk,trot and canter occasionally on command AND you can even halt sometimes (show off),you can do a dressage test. I advise you refrain from extensive displays of gratitude toward the horse for staying within said rectangle and not running the judge down until you get back to your trailer. 

 
  Step 3. If you can steer your way around an 80cms,stay on,remember the course,count from 1-9 and stay in the arena,you have the showjumping basics covered. Don’t worry if the poles fall down,but refrain from swearing at your horse and threatening it with the barbecue until you get back to your trailer.
Step 4. If you are religious,now can be a good time to pray to your deity. The cross country tends to instil a feeling of wanting to vomit/pass out/run away in most riders from intro to 4*. Apparently this is a GOOD THING. It means you are ‘ready to perform’. Perform what,I have no idea-but anyway. You will need to have shown-and perhaps even jumped-the horse a variety of fences from ditches to water to hedges and so on during your eventing preparation. Assuming you can manage this with some sort of functioning braking system,a vague sense of direction and again,that all important ability to count past 5-well then you’re ready to give it a go.  
Step 5. Retrospection in the more charitable type of human being can often lead to easily forgetting the horrors of your day eventing,and vivid memories of the brilliant bits. The only other area of life where this also rings true is childbirth. Much like parents of one child,you will probably think that doing this again is a GREAT IDEA. All I can say is,good luck……
My key points-

Beware the event horse. The marvellous,flashy expensive ones with olympic capability are often on the psychotic side and full of unreasonable demands. The rather less exotic horse with less alarmist tendencies and a good heart are the best types to start you on your eventing journey.

Read the rules. Don’t land yourself with fines for remounting (*looks sheepish*),penalties for using the wrong equipment,crossing your tracks etc etc.

Turn yourself and your horse out as well as you can. Clip hairy heels,read the rules for correct dress and practice plaiting.

Always say thankyou to everyone and smile like crazy,even if you really want to cry/quit/sell your horse to the gypsies

Try to enjoy yourself!!! And don’t sweat the small stuff, like poles down or now having no money and even less sanity. ENJOY!!!!  

THE ALAN PARTRIDGE WORLDS MOST BORING GUIDE  TO TRAVELLING HORSES

Travelling a horse can be a daunting process-there is so much to think about and organise when you decide to start getting out and about with your equine companion,but we are here to help! 
So you are ready to hit the road with your horse. Travelling is something that domestic horses do a lot of,all the time and for the most part,they do it well. It’s not long ago that horses had to take lengthy and dangerous trips by sea to cross continents,but now we can fly them anywhere in the world. A little bit of planning and preparation goes a long way. If you are using a lorry or a trailer,the first thing to check up on are the rules of the road. Be sure that you have the correct licence for the vehicle and weight you are towing,taking into account your laden weight. You can check out the following websites for information or contact your local driving school-GOV.UK. and trucknetuk.com.You will also find helpful information about braking distances,driving in adverse weather etc.  
Vehicle safety is paramount before you add a horse to the equation. Make sure that your towing vehicle or lorry is fully up to date with tax,insurance,plate/MOT and all servicing and maintenance is up to date. Before every journey,a thorough check of tyre pressure (including the spare tyre), oil,water and general condition of the vehicle is vitally important. Pay particular attention to the hitch and tow bar if you are towing a trailer,and the ramp attachments if you are driving a lorry. A regular check of the floor underneath the rubber matting of your trailer or lorry is also important-horrific accidents can be avoided by keeping a watchful eye on the parts you don’t normally see.
Once you are satisfied with everything,you can begin to prepare for your journey with your horse. Familiarising your horse with his mobile ‘home from home’ in a relaxed,stress free environment is a great place to start. A few calm,quiet and experienced helpers can be a great addition. A haynet is a good way to break the boredom of travelling for the horse,and if he has plenty of room and something to nibble he will be comfortable. Sometimes travelling an inexperienced horse with a more seasoned traveller can help. Remember that if you are towing a two horse trailer,the biggest heaviest horse should be on the right of the trailer. Some people have found that a trailer mirror can help to keep a single horse settled,and if you are only travelling one horse in a trailer it can be more comfortable for him to remove the partition and use a long breast bar instead. 
Travelling in a lorry is generally a happy experience for all. A more fractious horse can often travel more quietly on the end next to the ramp. Ensure that horses are securely tied and in stalls wide enough for their comfort. If you are away for the day,some bedding on the floor can encourage the horse to stale which will help to keep him comfortable. Some people like to use cameras in their lorries or trailers and I think this is a worthwhile investment if you are travelling alone or long distances regularly. Make sure that any gas bottles are switched off at all times when not in use,and familiarise yourself with procedure in the unlikely event of an electric ramp failing.
Your horse should be adequately protected when travelling. A tail guard and travelling boots are the most widely used protection but you can also bandage the tail and legs if you prefer. Some horses prefer to travel with nothing on their legs-it’s just a case of working out what suits best. A lightweight travelling rug can help to keep the horse warm enough without the risk of sweating and a leather head collar provides a safer alternative to nylon-the stitching on a leather head collar will break or can be unpicked,whereas nylon tends to hold fast. A poll guard can help with a tall or anxious horse,but only if the horse is comfortable with things around his ears. 
Offering a horse water regularly when travelling is very important to avoid dehydration risk. If he is difficult about drinking,there are a number of products you can add to his water to encourage him. You can also try oral rehydration gels or use a 60ml dosing syringe to get water into him. Chopped up pieces of apple in a bucket of water can provide a cheap and easy alternative as the horse tends to swallow water whilst apple bobbing. The guide lines suggest that horses should only travel for a maximum of eight hours before being unloaded. They should be walked and allowed to graze with their heads down,which helps the head and throat to drain and clear after a long period with their heads tied up. The lorry or trailer should be thoroughly cleaned out,allowed to dry and fresh bedding put,in before you load up again. Travelling with their heads tied up whilst breathing in dung and ammonia fumes can contribute to horses developing post transit pleurisy and pneumonia. Horses on the road should be fed at as close to the normal times as possible,preferably not in transit and allowing some rest time after eating before loading to travel where possible. 
It is just as important that the driver looks after him or herself! Check out the hours for driving safety guidelines and if you are getting very tired behind the wheel,then you MUST STOP. The horse will be fine if you really need to take a break-better this than causing an accident. A half hour nap in a safe place (services/lay by) a cup of coffee and a brisk walk should help to perk you up. Read up on mobile phone usage when on the road and look at investing in a good car kit. Drink plenty of water and eat regularly. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Have an ‘in case of emergency’ list on your phone,in your glove box,in your trailer and/or in your lorry. This can be a huge help in the event of an accident on the road or at a horse show. Always carry plenty of spare clothes and cash/bank cards. You can never be too prepared!!!!!! 

 

SUMMER SURVIVAL!!!!

It’s incredible to think we are in June already,it seems like only yesterday we put the Christmas decorations away! The start of June signifies a real upsurge in the horse show season and from now until the end of September it’s hectic. When you are juggling horses,work and family it can seem like an uphill mountain,but I have five top tips to help you make the most of your summer. After all,it’ll soon be time to get those poxy Christmas decorations out of the attic so you need to make the most of it!
1) Plan!! 
Of course all plans are subject to change,but having a list of shows or events that you hope to get to is the backbone of organising your summer. Start by identifying any unmissable dates of extreme importance-family occasions,holidays etc. Work with your trainer to identify your aims and goals for you and your horse,and look at the show calendar. Add into the mix your work schedule,and try to make sense of the now impossible looking list of dates. Wrestle it into order,and that’s your summer schedule sorted.
2) Breathe,relax,chill out!!
You MUST take time for you-organise the family,do what you need to do,throw the horse out in the field before waving everyone goodbye and cantering off for an afternoon. Hairdresser,shopping,swim,even have a nap in the lorry! Whatever you like to do but never can-do that. And enjoy it! Phone off,feet up. You need time and head space if you’re going to make the most of the show season.
3) Prepare!!
It might seem like a pain to keep your horse’s mane and tail neat and tidy,heels trimmed etc and clean your tack after each use,but you will be so glad you did when you are rushing the night before an event,the family need you home and you are frantically plaiting,feeding and dreading your impending 3am start. Keep the lorry full of diesel,water,oil and also keèp tyres checked and cupboards stocked with non-perishables.Book your horsebox in for a vehicle check over at the start of the year and in the middle of the season as well. Keep your show gear in the lorry so the majority of your packing for an event is well taken care of in advance. 
4) Drink!!
The most important thing you can do for you is stay hydrated,and that’s all day every day,at home and at a show. Even minor dehydration will turn your brain to utter mush-dressage tests will be forgotten,the preparation will collapse and you will set yourself up for failure. This can also apply at the end of a bad day in an alcoholic capacity-sometimes a G and T can ease the trauma of a wayward horse or annoying family member quite nicely,actually.
5) Say thank you to everyone!! 
This might sound strange,but it can be an excellent tool. When you go to an event,say thank you to show secretaries,ring stewards and anyone who helps you. They are mostly there of their own free will,and so few people acknowledge their sizeable contribution to ensure you have a good and easy day at a show. They will remember you next time,that I can promise.

So all that’s left to do is to wish you a good and happy summer with your horses! Have fun,keep smiling and be kind to yourself. 

 

DRESSAGE,STRESSAGE AND PRANCERCISE

  

Published by Eventing Connect 

Dressage. Now there’s an activity. An essential part of the magic mix that is eventing, it is probably the biggest cause of angst among riders. STRESSAGE.During the long winter months,it is hard to maintain enthusiasm for boot camp lessons and mind numbing shows. The arena begins to resemble hell with some sand on the floor. Fast forward a few months and now you have the added complication of a fit,rabied horse desperately looking for the start box. Attempting to bend this nutter into some sort of submission seems to result in a lot of sweating (from both parties),and then belligerent half-cooperation (again,from both parties) before managing to sort of complete the test in the general area of the required markers and sometimes even in the right pace. The euphoric relief at getting it over with leads to clouded retrospection-‘he was quite good really’,’lovely flying change,I mean I know it wasn’t in the test but he has such promise for the future’ and finally, the charitable ‘it’s not his fault! He’s just keen to get out eventing. It’s wonderful that he’s so enthusiastic’. Indeed.
The rather more canny horse will work out quite quickly that he can be a bit of a shit in the arena during a test because for reasons unknown to him,you do absolutely nothing about it. The fear of getting some sort of telling off if you do demand your moronic psychotic Mexican jumping bean behave itself tends to paralyse you into near immobility,including a giant fixed grin. This is SUCH FUN. You must look like its FUN. The horse’s thought processes always look hilarious too. ‘Halt is it? Sure that’s stupid. You know what’s a load more fun than that? Spooking at these flowers and having a go at some passage. I’m so FABULOUS! LOOK AT ME EVERYONE! I’m doing PRANCERCISE!’ If the horse is a total knob,he might add in some high blowing. Nothing sets every other horse in this and the next parish crazy like one horse prancing and high blowing. There could be a tiger or anything…..we should all flee! Flee where? From what? No one knows! Let’s just all gallop around each other? And so on.
Occasionally,your horse might feel a bit sorry for you and actually do a lovely and cooperative test. He will be bored of the tea and sympathy by the time the showjumping comes around,but it will lull you into a false sense of security-‘well that’s the worst bit done with. He always jumps clear. And the cross country looks fine’……at this point, your equine comedian will make some arbitrary wild mental left turn regarding his feelings on planks,perhaps. Or ditches. Or water. Or anything to keep you on your toes. You will make it through,mostly in tact and sort of still able to function. You might have a touch of PTSD and the shakes for a few days,but by the time the next event entry is due in,you will have forgotten all. The on course photographer will have managed-somehow-to take a stunning photo of your wildebeest doing something fabulous and 4* ish and you will gaze fondly at it many times a day,thinking of how special the horse is. The entry for the following week is closing tomorrow-he’s bound to win next time out-you might even go to a dressage show in preparation…..
And it all begins again…… 

RAINMAN,WINNING AND KNOWING WHEN TO QUIT

 

Rainman doing dressage
  
 Published by Eventing Connect 

I read an article today about knowing when to quit. It was a super piece and certainly encouraged the reader to take a long hard look at themselves and their horses. The main point of the article was that sometimes quitting is actually a step forward-sometimes a difficult horse is not worth persevering with just because he has talent or because he is your only hope of competing in a sport you love. Sometimes the horse-and in some cases,the rider-would enjoy a different discipline much more. During my early and torrid days eventing in Ireland,my dearest wish was to take part in a three day event. I dreamed of jumping around Tattersalls being fabulous,and I very nearly managed it too….if only I had read that article earlier….

Nothing Concluded is an utter tosser of a horse. I bred him,I love him and for the most part he makes me very happy. It’s an abusive relationship-he does whatever the hell he likes and demands payment in sweeties. He is naughty,grumpy,spooky,makes arbitrary decisions about everything and is akin to an equine ‘Rainman’. He likes his life just-so. He is gloriously talented,tough,brave and has an insane work ethic. When you combine all of this,you end up with an equine train wreck with zero decorum and so.much.promise. No other horse has taught me so much,caused such heart ache or such financial ass rape. No other horse is more perfectly suited to eventing world domination,whilst at the same time being vastly unsuitable for anything at all.So of course,I sunk every dream and every penny into him in the certainty that he would be the one who got me up the grades. Yeah. No.

Il fast forward over the wonder years but I will include a few of the highlights-his amazing first run,also oddly the last place he ran before taking up showjumping as a less disastrous occupation. He did a beautiful test and a standard clear sj. His run xc was inspired and my head was full of nonsense about Burghley and the like. His back to back wins and several placings-Rolex was in the bag. His fleeing a dressage arena because a sheep stuck its head through a hedge. Rolex possibly not in the bag.His refusal to pass a cow on the xc (despite living with 200 of them) losing the class and making me want to sell him to the gypsies. Burghley now in question. His sudden decision that stripey planks were a menace and must be avoided,losing us a win-again.(He has NEVER done that pure showjumping)His feeling that four time changes and extended bolt were a far more interesting addition to a dressage test than a 20 metre circle. You get the gist. Anyway,we staggered up to the dizzy heights of 1* before physical problems started to catch up with him. Paying the bill for many years of being a total knob. I decided in my wisdom to have a go at amateur eventing,and aim at the Rolex of their division-Tattersalls autumn two day event. I’d get to wear a tail coat!! At last! 

Alas,it was not to be. His qualifying runs included a 6th place (despite the aforementioned plank crisis) and then at the next event he was a mile in the lead going out of the start box,only to decide that jumping the smallest fence on the course was beneath him/insulting/from Mars/who the fuck knows,for an unnecessary 20.Tatts loomed. I bought a top hat and tails. I booked the B and B. I put the entry in. I even had a jacket embroidered with the business name so I’d look supercool. Maybe even badass. I took the horse to the gallops a week before and he carted me whilst spooking like a dickhead. He was sore the next day (but of course) and then in true Irish style it started to rain. And rain. And rain. The event was cancelled. And that was when it dawned on me that this horse was not for this job. Ever since he went showjumping,he has been great. The jumpers don’t care how batshit crazy the horse is as long as it leaves the poles up,so he’s right at home. It took me a long time to learn to quit in order to move forward,but it was a great lesson to learn. It’s a funny old life,folks.