carl r hestoe ut find on how9 P5
geT THe besT from your Horse
bug busting fly rugs
We find the ones that really work
Improve your riding by saddling up without sight
real life "His skull was fractured but he survived"
Your definitive guide to equine training aids
Train Like a veT New, practical workshops designed for horse owners
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✦ tr aining aca demy ✦ win a horse ✦ equine m assage ✦ tr aining aids ✦ fly rugs on test ✦ r iding without sight
Your Horse 388 july 2014
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Get expert coaching and video guides from Jay Halim and Laura Tomlinson
Easy ways to conquer relaxation on the flat and over fences
Proudly sponsored by Albion Saddlemakers
Training academy Month 1 Relaxation The 2014 Training Academy is here to help you to improve your horse’s way of going on the flat and over jumps, with expert advice from our coaches Laura Tomlinson and Jay Halim
hen we met up with our expert coaches Laura and Jay earlier this year to plan the 2014 Training Academy series, we asked them what they felt Your Horse readers would find most useful in everyday riding and training, and it didn’t take long for our talented duo to both reach the same conclusion. To help you improve your horse’s way of going on the flat and over fences, this year’s academy experts will take you through the Scales of Training: relaxation, rhythm, contact, impulsion, straightness and collection (see right). Initially invented in Germany almost a century ago, these six basic training requirements are widely considered to be the building blocks of horse training – and are essential whatever your level or discipline. “The Scales of Training can sound a bit daunting but they’re really just the principles used in riding to ensure your horse works correctly,” says Laura. “If you compete in dressage they’re the basic requirements your horse july 2014
that are assessed by the judges, but even if you don’t compete, you’re not into dressage, or jumping is more your thing, you’ll still be using them as they provide the basic foundations of any horse’s training.” This month we begin the series with the first of the scales – relaxation. So turn the page to begin your first session.
Scales of Training CoLLeCTion (Increased engagement, lightness of the forehand, self carriage) STRAigHTneSS (Improve alignment and balance) iMPuLSion (Increased energy and thrust) ConneCTion (ConTACT) (Acceptance of the bit through acceptance of the aids) RHyTHM (With energy and tempo) ReLAxATion (With elasticity and suppleness)
your Training academy planner Here’s what we’ll be covering each month
MonTH 1 – Relaxation
How to develop a flatwork routine and use basic pole work to keep your horse focused and relaxed
MonTH 2 – Rhythm
Learn how to establish and recognise a good rhythm in walk, trot and canter on the flat, plus exercises to help you achieve that all-important canter rhythm to make jumping easy
MonTH 3 – Contact
Establishing a good contact so your horse learns to carry himself in balance. Plus, the importance of having a correct, secure position when jumping
MonTH 4 – impulsion
How to work your horse on the flat to achieve paces with energy and purpose, and how using simple gridwork can help improve impulsion
MonTH 5 – Straightness
Using lateral work to improve straightness on the flat and how to use clever aids when jumping to keep you and your horse straight
MonTH 6 – Collection
How to encourage your horse to take more weight on his hindquarters and lighten his forehand, plus how having an adjustable canter can help you ride a winning jump-off
get more from your coaches Enjoy audio downloads – download them at www.yourhorse.co.uk/ta Watch free training videos – simply go online when you see this icon
We’re delighted to begin our 2014 series with new coaching combo Jay and Laura, pictured here with Laura’s horse Andretti
Access your coaches – simply email them your training questions to getinvolved@yourhorse. co.uk
Easy-to-follow expert advice for beginners to advanced riders Being lunged blindfolded revealed how much Vikki relies on her sight when riding
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3 minute horsemanship
Perfect your position
Improve your learning
Riding by feel Most of us take our sight for granted, but what’s it like riding without it? Inspired by the story of visually-impaired reader Laura Turner, we asked pro rider Vikki Hayton to experience it
OUR RIDER VIkkI Hayton is a British Horse Society instructor and examiner, a British Dressage (BD) judge, and an accredited BD and British Eventing trainer. She’s ridden and trained horses up to Grand Prix, representing England three times at the Home Internationals. She runs Markham Dressage from her business, College Farm Equestrian Centre – read more at www. collegefarm.com
Our blind riding experiment was carried out using a professional rider, qualified instructor and experienced horse in a carefully controlled environment. If you wish to try this yourself, please discuss the option with a qualified instructor and only do so in a safe and controlled environment.
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ith just 5% vision, Your Horse reader Laura Turner is registered blind, but for years trusted her beloved horse Chloe to be her eyes, enabling her to fulfil her dressage dreams. “The main thing about riding for me is the sheer level of concentration that’s required. People think you just have a problem with your eyes, but sight helps you balance too,” says Laura. “A sighted person can look at a letter or part of the arena and their brain tells them to focus on it, helping them balance, but I can’t do that so I have to concentrate really hard, making riding mentally rather than physically tiring. “Visual impairment means you rely so much on your other senses. People tell me where things are around the arena, like a tree, then I listen for the waving leaves – these clues show where I am, but I still have to hold that map in my head all the time. “Sighted people take so much for granted, like being able to simply look where they’re going, whereas I have to use touch, feel, hearing and smell as well. This is why I have to truly trust my horse, because there’s
Laura’s concentration and bond with Chloe enabled her successes in the saddle
always something different going on and I can’t always worry about being run off with. “I’ve overcome many barriers, lots of tears and silly things that have become big issues because of my sight such as not being able to canter until three years ago. Without the support of my parents, who came with me to events and would tell me I could do it, and my brilliant instructor Fiona Mudford, riding and competing would have been even harder, but it’s all been worth it. “Sadly I lost Chloe earlier this year and while I’d love to still ride, finding a horse I can trust will be hard.” Inspired by Laura’s amazing story which we covered in issue 386, we challenged regular Your Horse expert and British Dressage trainer Vikki Hayton to experience riding without sight in a specially-controlled lunge lesson. Read on to find out how she coped without her sight.
Vikki’s experience When Your Horse asked me to try riding blindfolded I agreed, but can’t say I’ve been looking forward to it. However I’m interested to discover what it will highlight in my riding and how I think about things. I’ll be on the lunge in the capable hands of Amelia Storer, our College Farm instructor, but I’m definitely nervous before I mount Pedro, my 15-year-old, 18hh Warmblood who’s currently at Prix St Georges level. “I’ve had Pedro since he was three so we know each other well – he’s a mixed character and can be quite sharp. Before I don my blindfold I warm him up and can sense he’s feeling lively today – I hope he keeps that in check! Once he’s more relaxed, Amelia pops us onto the lunge and attaches the side reins, then I take a deep breath and lower my blindfold. JuLy 2014 your horse
Training solutions for busy owners! No time to teach your horse vital skills? We’ve sweet-talked author Vanessa Bee into giving you a sneak preview of the techniques she swears by in her exciting new book
anessa Bee, the founder of International Horse Agility Club, knows all about the time constraints faced by many horse owners and the challenge of getting your horse fit and working well in a short space of time. So, to combat this common problem, she developed her innovative 3-Minute Horsemanship book, jam-packed with effective and achievable in-hand and ridden exercises to improve your horse (and yourself) when time is of the essence. We think it’s so different and so useful that we know you’ll love it. Here we preview our three favourite exercises from the book – why not try them out with your horse?
Stand in a narrow space Why do this? Horses are naturally claustrophobic so anything you can do to help them feel safer in confined places will cause them to be braver in corridors, stables, and tight spaces.
A Ride through the narrow gap first.
B As you pass through, pause, then ask your horse to move on. Here, I am touching the barrel as we come to a stop.
Don’t assume your horse will find this easy. Some horses are very happy to keep moving, but as soon as you ask them to halt, everything changes!
How to do it 1 Create a narrow gap using plastic barrels, or use a safe gateway or doorway. 2 Ride your horse through the gap (photo A). 3 Next, ride into the gap and ask for a pause; count one second and ride out (photo B). 4 Repeat until your horse is offering the halt; then count two seconds before riding out. 5 Repeat and increase the length of time the horse stands in the gap until he is happy to stay there as long as you ask him to (photo C).
How do you know when you’ve done it?
Your horse is happy to stand still in a relaxed way in narrow gaps and confined spaces.
What you can do if it doesn’t happen
●●If your horse still rushes out when you have only counted to one, then one is too long! As he passes through the gap, instead take a breath and hesitate, then ask him to move on. The hesitation is a thought that you want him to stop, but no more than that. Do not be tempted to pull on the reins to try and force him to stand in the gap. It should feel easy for your horse to do.
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C Ask him to stand for longer periods in the narrow gap.
●●It may be that the gap is too narrow; make it wider to start, maybe 10 feet (3m), then progressively close it. If your horse starts to rush again, you’ve gone too fast.
Other things you can do with this exercise It makes opening and closing a gate while on a hack much more controlled and safer. july 2014 your horse
the test Protective fly rugs put to
We’ve tested some of the latest fly rugs to find out which ones really do the best job of keeping flies at bay, to make summertime grazing more enjoyable for your horse
ver the warmer months flies can make our horses’ lives a misery and sometimes using a fly repellent just isn’t enough. A fly rug will provide your horse with protection from biting midges and flies while keeping him cool and comfortable in the sun. YH Buyers’ Guide editor Allison Lowther
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tested a selection of fly rugs on her 16.1hh Hanoverian mare Wish. She assessed the fit of each rug and how well they seemed to keep the flies away while Wish was turned out. Allison then considered the cost of each one before deciding on the overall winner. Turn the page to find out which rug performed best for Allison and Wish...
Watch online Take a closer look at the features of each of the rugs we tested at www.yourhorse.co.uk/ flyrug or scan the QR code below
July 2014 your horse
Learn your way YH Buyers’ Guide editor Allison Lowther investigates how to find a trainer who suits your way of learning so you can enjoy every session and get results
hether you have a lesson once a week or once a month it’s important you finish every session feeling motivated and armed with things to work on. I’ve used various trainers over the years and know full well that choosing one who’s right for you can be tricky. You need to find someone who can help you understand the techniques of riding in order for you to reach your goals, as well as making each lesson fun. But it wasn’t until my latest trainer really challenged the way I thought about how I was riding, and pushed me to think for myself in the saddle, that I started to see results. His approach was different to trainers I’ve worked with in the past, and his methods seemed to fit with how I learn, which got me thinking. Can we find trainers to suit us just as we would horses? Do we all have our own learning style that can be matched with a training technique? I spoke to top trainer Julie Frizzell to find out.
Know your learning style “Of course there’s no doubt we learn more when we want to, and motivation plays a big part in how effective our learning is,” Julie explains. “But by understanding how you learn best and making your
trainer aware of this, they’ll be able to recognise your preferred style and adapt the way they deliver information to you to help you get the best out of your time with them.” There are four key learning styles. Which one describes you best?: ●●Activist – You like to get on and learn something new, things need explaining to you succinctly and you like plenty to do during your lessons. You’re not keen on listening to long explanations, nor following precise instructions ●●Reflector – You’re a good listener, careful and cautious. You learn best by watching a demonstration or having a new exercise explained to you fully before having a go ●●Theorist – You’re a perfectionist and aren’t happy until you get it right. You like to learn the principles behind the skill and have things explained in detail. If you don’t get it right first time you’ll keep repeating it until you do, but you need to be careful you don’t overdo it and bore your horse ●●Pragmatist – You like trying new ideas and techniques to see if they work in practise. Like activists you like to get on with trying new things, but you can be quick to dismiss ideas if you don’t fully understand the benefits Once you know which is your style you can find a trainer to suit.
What makes someone a good trainer? When you know how to ride, a trainer or coach can help you develop further by using open questions to ensure you fully understand what you’re doing as you ride – and by encouraging you to think about how you can improve. Between you and your coach you’ll plan small, achievable
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goals to help you work up to bigger ones. Then, once you know how to do something, to improve further you need to be encouraged to think for yourself rather than listen to constant instructions, otherwise you’ll start to rely on your coach – which won’t do you any favours when you’re out alone.
Better Riding Find a trainer you get on with and can chat to openly
Show Jumping Masterclass every issue we give one reader a lesson with a pro – this month event rider and trainer Lauren Shannon helps Georgia holden improve her horse’s canter and rhythm, stride and balance
Better Riding Sid soon learns how to sit back and shorten his strides
Find your rhythm
Meet the trainer Lauren Shannon is an event rider who has ridden and produced event horses to four-star level. She runs her own eventing business, Shannon eventing, from her home in Leicestershire. Find out more at www.shannon eventing.co.uk
Meet the rider
at the start of the lesson, Sid and Georgia need to learn how to alter the length of their canter strides and create impulsion
GeorGia hoLden and Sid, her nine-year-old Irish Sport horse, have competed at one-star level and completed an intermediate event. Sid is a superstar in the dressage arena and out on the cross-country course, but show jumping is his weakest phase.
At the start of the lesson Georgia tells me Sid is a complete star and loves his jumping, but can become a little excited and strong, and take off too early from time to time. So to begin, I ask her to warm him up as she normally would so I can take a look at them and the way they work together. I want to check Georgia has full control of Sid’s paces and canter stride. As Georgia rides round, I can see she’s holding onto her inside rein and pulling on Sid’s mouth. She needs to ease off that rein a little so Sid can balance on his own. To succeed in show jumping, it’s vital that you’re able to control your horse’s canter and alter the length of his strides because you don’t know what sort of distances, twists and turns you may be faced with on a course. Pole work is the ideal tool to help you take control of your horse’s stride length and starting every jumping session with it will give you solid foundations to build on. With the warm-up complete, I place two poles three canter strides apart – I want Georgia to ride Sid through them successfully in three strides on both reins. They do a great job, so next I want them to think about shortening the canter stride length and try to make the distance in four strides. To try this, you need to put your leg on but keep an even contact to help your horse shorten.
The lesson focus
●●use poles to alter canter strides and
develop an energetic and correct canter rhythm ●●Work on turns and control over a course of show jump fences ●●add skinny fences and crosscountry elements to your show jumping session
july 2014 your horse
Yogiâ€™s comedic personality shines through
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The Big Interview
“Success isn’t all about medals” as Yogi breisner carries the weight of our eventing hopes comfortably on his shoulders, the top trainer shares some of his history, bad habits and the sport ‘s future stars Words: larissa chapman PhotograPhY: matthew roberts
ou might be lucky enough to brush past Yogi Breisner at an event but getting to chat one-on-one at home with the World Class Performance Manager/Chef d’équipe to the British Eventing team feels like a bit of a privilege. The immediately recognisable trainer is the perfect publicist in a Team GBR polo shirt, but the name we associate with all things horse is settled in a slightly unexpected location. You’d be forgive for picturing his base as quintessentially ‘country’ with a huge state-of-the-art yard housing a string of quality horses but you’d be wrong.
In Yogi’s Oxfordshire bungalow there’s a distinct absence of the usual horsey pictures and paraphernalia you come to expect when interviewing equestrian sports’ top bods and instead family photos and pictures of ice hockey take pride of place. “Both of my sons, Michael and Stephen, are keen on ice hockey, not so much horses – we’re quite a sporty family,” Yogi explains as he sits down next to a decorative Union Jack cushion. “Lucinda Green got me this as present,” he says, his expression half-smile, half-puzzled. Yogi’s just arrived home after a 10-hour flight from Lexington, USA, where he was
helping the team at the Rolex Kentucky three-day event. Long-distance travel isn’t unusual for a man with such a high profile job and demanding schedule and Yogi doesn’t mind travelling alone. “I do pretty well on my own, I don’t need to be around people all the time, so being away from home doesn’t bother me too much. The one thing I can’t stand about travelling, though, is waiting – I just don’t see the point in it so I find traffic jams and queues at the airport rather frustrating,” he chuckles. “I’ve been told I suck my teeth when I get impatient.” Yogi’s son Michael
juLY 2014 your horse
Enjoy 13 issues of Y Bentley Grooming Your Horse Editor Imogen Johnson says Cracking open a brand new grooming kit is a great feeling so if yours is past its best, or you fancy a spare for the lorry or yard, this one from Bentley is jam-packed with fab goodies we know you’ll love. So don’t miss this brilliant opportunity to get one free AND save money on your subscription to your favourite equestrian mag too!
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TERMS AND CONDITIONS: Subscriptions will start with the next available issue. The minimum term is 13 issues. This offer is open until 03/07/2014 and is only available to new UK subscriptions received across all offer codes starting with FA . You will not receive a renewal reminder and the Direct Debit payments will continue to be taken unless you tell us otherwise. We also reserve the right to reclaim the gift/value of the gift if you cancel your subscription before the end of the agreed term as stated above. For full terms and conditions visit: www.greatmagazines.co.uk/offer-terms.html Calls from a BT landline will cost no more than 4p a minute. Call charges from other landline providers or mobile phones may vary. Order lines open 8am-9.30pm (Mon-Fri), 8am-4pm (Sat). UK orders only. Overseas? Phone +44 1858 438824. Calls may be monitored or recorded for training purposes.
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July 2014 your horse
Britain’s five best courses & camps If you’re looking for ways to work on your skills and get the most from your time in the saddle this summer, we’ve rounded up the five most popular courses going – so get booking!
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Great British courses
1 The Mark Todd Bridging the Gap Series This series, which is sponsored by Sir Mark Todd’s brands – Keyflow Feeds and the Mark Todd Collection – aims to ‘bridge the gap’ between under 21s and the senior World Class Programme and is specifically designed for riders aiming to move into Advanced, two-star and three-star level eventing. The series includes training days around the UK with British Eventing accredited coaches, Gill Watson and Lizzel Winter, along with course walks at specific Advanced, two-star, and three-star events. Those who attend a ridden training day will get the chance to apply for The Mark Todd Scholarship. The winner will receive £3,000 worth of Mark Todd products as well as training and mentoring from the
man himself, Sir Mark Todd. Franky Reid-Warrilow took part in the training sessions with her horse Dolley Whisper and was lucky enough to secure the inaugural scholarship. “Bridging the Gap is a great idea – there’s definitely a gap in the market for a training programme that helps riders progress from juniors to seniors,” she says. “Having access to first class trainers has been amazing and I’ve learnt so much. The application process was really simple and easy to follow and the cost is very reasonable for the quality of the instruction you receive in each of the sessions. “I’m so pleased British Eventing has created this scheme to help riders like me who are battling to move up the levels.”
The series helps riders move up the levels
Who’s it for? Experienced and competitive event riders Price: £70 Location: Nationwide More info: www.britisheventing. com/training
Courses and camps are a great way to learn and meet new people
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JuLy 2014 your horse
Keep your horse healthy and happy
Loading the unloadable
Meet Lottie, who’s owned by Your Horse editorial assistant Becky Statham. Just moments before this photo was taken she refused to load. Here, Becky explains how behaviour pro Michael Peace helped to change her mind
f you’ve ever been stuck at the bottom of a ramp with a horse who refuses to load, while friends (and strangers!) shout advice from the sidelines, be assured you’re not alone. Travelling horses in a moving vehicle is a big ask, so tricky loaders aren’t unusual, and while it’s great to be offered advice, it can feel overwhelming when tips are passed on in the heat of the moment. It’s this
Using his 50/50 method, Michael was able to lead Becky’s once unloadable horse up the ramp with ease
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feeling that made me seek help from behaviour pro Michael Peace. I’d heard from other Your Horse readers who’d had success solving loading problems with Michael’s help and decided to find out more about his approach, called the 50/50 method. It’s designed to put horse and handler on a level playing field, and as it’s always my horse Lottie who takes charge when the time comes to load up, this sounded
like something I needed to try! I called Michael and arranged for him to visit my yard and work his magic. When Michael arrived he got straight to work, but I was interested to learn that he doesn’t do groundwork when tackling loading problems, as many people in the past have suggested I do. He heads straight to the heart of the problem and gets to work with the horsebox or trailer – turn over to see how.
How you can now train like a vet
Massage techniques you can use
Understand his natural instincts and fears
Vital horse care advice in the Open Clinic
Back to Basics
The fear factor
Horse trainer Andrea Wady explores the horse’s natural reaction to fear and explains how you can use trust-based methods to help him cope when instinct takes over
A OUR EXPERT AndreA WAdy has been retraining rescue horses for the past 10 years and riding for 40 years. Along with this, and what she’s learnt from her mentor David Lichman, a 5-star Master Parelli instructor, Andrea practises her own trust-based methods and runs clinics at her base in Costa Rica. Find out more at www. horseridecostarica. com
horse is rarely obstinate just for the sake of it. As a naturally inbuilt desire to stay alive is usually the driving force behind a horse’s behaviour, fear is often their biggest motivator, but is the least understood equine emotion. So before you accuse your horse of being naughty, stop and think – could he be afraid? Knowing the answer to this will help you to deal with the situation appropriately and avoid the common battle of wills we can so often find ourselves in. Understanding the answer begins with recognition of the horse’s hardwired instinct to run.
Instincts of a wild horse In the face of a scary object, a wild herd of horses’ first instinct is to flee, usually about a quarter of a mile in the opposite direction. When the herd reaches a safe distance, it turns around and looks back, but all its members remain alert with pokerstiff legs, still ready to run, their heads held high in the air to improve visibility and their bodies rigid. Their next move is to approach again slowly, but not all the way – they’ll rarely walk straight back to something scary. Instead they’ll circle away again and again, never taking their eyes off the object as they get closer. At this stage they’re hyper
Sniffing an object is one way horses assess whether it poses a threat
alert and still ready to run. Eventually, when they know it’s safe, they’ll touch or sniff the object and once they’ve logged that there’s no threat, they’ll return to calmly grazing, and their heart rates will slow to resting.
this feels for your horse ask a friend to get up on your shoulders. When they’re sitting upright you can balance quite easily. Ask them to lean forward – you’ll quickly lose your centre of balance and end up shooting forwards. Now come back to your horse and apply the same idea. Potentially you could end up with a bolting horse as your weight forces him forward. You’re also freeing up his back end, letting him Leaning forward is engage his engine instinctive in times of stress, but doesn’t help (his hind legs). Add our horses in the clamping and it’s a recipe for disaster.
So how does this behaviour translate to our horses? Well, just because our horses may be the result of centuries of domestication, it doesn’t mean they don’t think the same way as their wild distant relatives. It’s how we deal with these behaviours that’s important – ignore them and your relationship with your horse will be difficult. Recognise and understand them and you’ll be able to react accordingly and help your horse through any scary situation. Take a look at the following four rider reactions and you’ll probably find that a few are familiar:
Rider tension When our horses become tense or alert, the first thing we tend to do as riders is clamp down with our hands and legs. Wrong! This only makes your horse more stressed. We also tighten our contact on the reins, but pulling your horse’s head in causes insurmountable pressure to a prey animal who’s then less able to see what’s making him nervous. He needs to be able to lift his head to see what’s going on – if he can’t, he’s hardwired to get as far away from it as possible, with or without you on board.
Unbalanced position We also start to lean forward. This shifts our body weight onto our horse’s forehand. To understand how
Frayed tempers We get mad. As humans we tend to only look at things from our point of view, but we’re predators and horses are prey. How we perceive danger and how we problem-solve is completely different to our fourlegged friends. Stand in your horse’s shoes for a moment – how would you feel in the face of something terrifying if you were being pushed along by someone who shouts at you, or worse hits you when you stop? Surely you’d fight with every inch of your being, just as your horse does? So remember he isn’t acting this way to annoy you and don’t take it personally, he’s just being a horse and literally doesn’t know how to be anything else.
Forcing the issue Finally, so many of us make our horse look at whatever’s scaring him, but this goes against every instinct he has. The more you ask him to move towards his fear, the more you tie him to the stake (in his mind). His refusal to comply is a hardwired, natural response, not naughtiness.
Proud sponsors of Horse Care Back to Basics your horse July 2014
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Flight is the horse’s instinctive reaction to a scary object or situation
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July 2014 your horse
Exclusive horse care ad
Every issue the Your Horse Open Clinic delivers vital equine behaviour, management and vet advice, absolutely free, and this month our experts help you tackle: ✦ Leading politely p85 ✦ Bandage like a pro p87 ✦ Headshaking explained p88 ✦ Travelling Q&A p90 ✦ Coping with a fractured skull p92
insTAnT AdviCE onLinE To ensure you’ve got access to vet advice whenever you need it we’ve teamed up with the free online symptom checker service vethelpdirect.com. This clever service, run by qualified vets, is easy to use and totally free. To give it a try, just visit our website at www.yourhorse.co.uk/symptomchecker for free, on-the-spot expert vet advice.
How it works
You’ll be asked to select from a drop-down list of symptoms, then given immediate advice on if and when you should call the vet. It only takes seconds and it’s all part of our Open Clinic service!
4 Top wAys To LEArn Join live web chats with our experts and ask them your horse care questions Watch our how-to videos to help you learn whenever you see this symbol Spot the signs of a problem early with our handy symptom checker Got a question for an expert? Simply email it to us at email@example.com
dvice from the UK’s top experts
mEEt OUR EXPERts
Gil Riley is the managing equine vet at Pool House Equine Clinic
Jenny Ellis is a top groom with over 30 years of experience
Jason Webb is a behaviour pro who runs Australian Horsemanship
Teach him to lead politely
Leading your horse from A to B should be easy and safe, but can sometimes become a bit of a battle. Jason Webb explains how to show your horse the right way to behave when being led
eading seems like an easy skill to have but think carefully; do you lead your horse or does he lead you? Does he sometimes push past you or pull the rope out of your hands? Do you feel like you have to drag him along? These all indicate you’re not fully in control on the ground, which should be addressed both for your own safety and to establish yourself as a leader your horse respects and trusts! There are generally two main problems when leading. The first involves a lazy or stubborn horse you have to pull everywhere, unless he decides he’s going somewhere and drags you along. Or you may have a more sensitive, nervous horse who runs past or over the top of you to escape something scary. Both behaviours indicate a lack of respect for you as the handler. The first horse has probably become “dull” to your aids, either through you nagging him or those aids not being clear or consistent, while the second isn’t paying you any attention and is much more interested in his environment.
Polite leading equals safe, happy handling!
To tackle leading issues, view your leadrope as a gear stick! Neutral is when the rope’s slack and applying no pressure to the nose or poll – your horse is leading well. Forward gear is when you’re pulling the rope in front of his head and applying pressure on the poll – you’re asking him to move forward. If you’re pulling back you’re applying pressure on his nose – this is ‘reverse gear’. If you’re more often in forward or reverse gear than neutral when leading, you may have a problem. A good place to solve these problems is on the lunge. Start by giving the cue to walk forward by putting your hand and rope into ‘forward gear’. If your horse doesn’t respond, then the lunging position allows you to drive him forward using energy behind the girth from a lunge whip or rope. When he steps forwards, he’ll find himself in neutral so the pressure on his poll disappears. Through repetition, he’ll soon learn the forward cue and
start to seek neutral. Once he’s moving well on the lunge with the rope in ‘neutral’, progress to leading. At this stage it’s also important to teach your horse to back up by putting your hand and rope into ‘reverse gear’, applying light pressure until he takes a step backwards, where he’ll find himself in neutral with no pressure on his nose. Repeat until he steps back from the slightest pressure. If your horse ignores this, try adding energy in front of him by either waving a rope or bumping his chest. The moment he steps back, relax. This is very important if he tries to push and run past you when leading. Your horse should also learn to feel comfortable and safe standing still at a distance from you, as this is an indicator of him respecting your personal space when you’re leading too.
Did you know? a horse can’t go past you or over you if he is always looking at you, which he’ll do if he respects you, as he’ll look to you for leadership.
Food FigHT How to resolve food-related aggression
july 2014 your horse
Off the Track Even the simplest of aids will need to be clearly explained to a horse just off the track
Aids for ex-racers Top retrainer Kath Pinington of the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre (TRC) helps you understand the ridden aids your ex-racer is used to and teach him the ones he now needs
OUR EXPERT Kath Pinington has evented to four-star level and is the yard manager and trainer at the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre (TRC) in Lancaster – a charity dedicated to racehorse welfare, ex-racehorse re-training and re-homing. Visit www. thoroughbred rehabilitation centre.co.uk
eg, seat and hand aids are something an ex-racer will never have known so, if you’ve just taken on an ex-racer or your current ex-racer seems to struggles to accept and understand your riding aids, it’s now your job to teach him in much the same way as you would a young horse. However you must take into consideration some of the undesirable aids your ex-racer will have been taught in training. For example; at the end of a race a horse’s jockey bounces on the saddle as an aid to push the horse on; jockeys also pull on the reins as an indication to go, not stop and finally, sitting forward like a jockey puts all of his or her weight onto the horse’s forehand which in turn sends the horse forwards. All these differences are commonly misunderstood, and often never addressed, which is why many ex-racehorses find the transition to normal riding so hard but rectifying
your horse July 2014
the problem isn’t impossible. To combat all of the above issues, you’ll need to be balanced in the saddle, ride with an elastic contact and consistently stay in control of your horse’s rising trot.
Find the right gear Before you start tackling the riding aids, your first step is to get your horse kitted out in comfort for riding. Racehorse saddles have narrower trees than those in everyday riding saddles. These are more likely to put pressure on the wither area so ex-racers can be quite sensitive around the withers and back. To ensure your horse is comfortable under saddle, you must get his saddle fitted by a qualified master saddler – visit www.mastersaddlers.co.uk to find one in your area. Your fitter will ensure the correct tree shape for your horse. The saddles we use at the TRC have been carefully designed with Harry
Dabbs to have a wider tree for increased comfort. They allow freedom though the horse’s shoulder, come up quite quickly at the back and have wider gussets than most riding saddles. As Throughbreds naturally have less muscle coverage over the back, we use Prolite pads or gel pads. We’ve also use a numnah that is part of the Pro-Core Trainer range (pictured above) being produced by Thermatex under the guidance of our ACPAT physiotherapist. This allows us to attach a back and belly strap to if necessary, to encourage hind leg and core engagement. An effective bit is also important and my advice is to avoid nutcrackers as these can pinch the tongue. Instead, use a straight bar nathe or Myler comfort snaffle. For very tricky horses, we find Mylers with a low port give a bit of tongue relief. I always recommend riders use a neck strap for added security without having to pull on their horse’s mouth. w w w.you r hor se .co.u k
ask a friend to guide your horse’s head to introduce bend
once he gets the idea, try on your own
Now it’s time to hop on board and get him moving Your horse will have spent most of his time working in straight lines so, while you’ll have already lunged him under saddle, his introduction to ridden work could be the first time he’s worked on a circle under saddle. For that reason, your initial focus will need to be on suppleness, especially though his neck (this begins in your lungeing work – if you missed Kath’s guide to lungeing in issue 386 call back issues for a copy on 01858 438884). When you’re ready to get on the move, take it slow. The initial steps are simply to give your horse time to accept a forward contact and to relax. To begin with he can carry his head in his natural outline then, once he relaxes, you’re hoping to see what visually looks like more of a long, low, soft contact than an upright and round one. Lots of people make the mistake of immediately gathering their horses up, forcing them onto a
contact that’s more backwards than forwards. But lots of Thoroughbreds are built quite downhill with a low set neck, making this type of upright contact physically quite challenging for them. To give him a helping hand, carry your hands slightly lower than you would on a normal riding horse. Holding them low and wide will help to channel him and support his balance.
teach bend and contact
Once you’ve got him moving forward and have had a walk, trot and canter on both reins, ask a competent friend to help from the ground as you introduce your horse to bend at halt. They’ll need to stand in front of your horse, holding onto the reins behind the bit. They should physically guide your horse’s head from left to right, maintaining contact with you – it should feel as though your elbows are connected with theirs. As they bend
your horse left, for example, you’ll still need to maintain your contact on the right rein and keep your weight down into your right stirrup to prevent your horse from becoming unbalanced. You may even need to apply a little right leg to prevent him from swinging his quarters out as he bends his neck left. Repeat the exercise in both directions a few times with the help of your friend to slowly introduce the idea of contact to your horse as well as highlighting any asymmetries he may have. Then try it on your own.
at first, allow your horse to carry his head in his natural outline
When he starts to relax, open and lower your hands to encourage him onto a soft contact
w w w.you r hor se .co.u k
Horses recently off the track will be unbalanced and physically weak. So when riding on a circle for the first time be sure to sit in perfect balance as he may fall to the inside – you may even need to put a little more weight down into your outside stirrup to help him maintain balance.
The competition season is now in full swing (didn’t Badminton provide an exciting start!) and we know that while many of you are enjoying lo...