A Battle for Confidence.

This is a longer, more chatty post. Story telling with a point to it if that makes sense.
The other day I jumped my green 5 year old over his first proper filler, in the rain, on the first ride since he’s been clipped and after a few days off. The filler was our bale covers that have a wall pattern on one side and hearts / diamonds on the other. They cover bales of straw or hay and are very effective. It’s got me thinking how much I’ve changed as a rider over the last 2/3 years.
Just over 2 years ago, I did my first show with Freddie. All it was was a quiet local show, and one ridden class. I was so nervous, I went in the ring (almost didn’t), walked once round and tried to come back out again. I didn’t, we did our first show together and got a 3rd place rosette for it. Afterwards I was elated. The previous year, I had gone to a large summer show with my loan pony at the time, and he was playing up. I was petrified, and despite it only being a walk and trot (nervous and novice riders!) class, I went in lead by my Mum and came out after walking a lap, a quivering wreck.


Our first show.

I was terrified of riding, I completely admit. On more than one occasion, I was told to give up and thought to myself it isn’t worth all this anguish. How could I have gone from the 10 year old who wanted to be the next Ellen Whittaker (my idol at the time) to someone who jumped off in floods of tears at every little spook? The first time I remember feeling fear like never before was once about 7 years ago.
I was riding my pony, Shandi, out on the gallop track at the yard we were on. She was an absolute one in a million, my best friend. I was convinced we were going to be champion show jumpers, she’d go over anything and everything from any stride, constantly looking after me as I scrambled on backwards or put her at a jump virtually sideways in a jump off at our local club. Anyway, we were trotting round the far end of the track when out of nowhere, a massive field sprayers (like the ones bigger than average tractors with big fold out arms) came up in the field next door. Despite being an incredibly honest pony, Shandi couldn’t help being terrified in that moment. She span on the spot and took off up the field, and I didn’t let go of the reins as I came off. I was dragged a short distance and off she went. She ended up diving into the arena on the Yard, scared half to death. I tried to go after her, but ended up on the floor unable to see through the tears. I apparently rang my mum who misunderstood me and thought I said “there’s blood everywhere” (Sorry about that) and they came to find me in a sorry heap on the rubber floor. That’s the first time I came off and didn’t want to get back on. I did, through force, but that’s the last time I rode her. The next day, she was crippled with stress-induced laminitis. It could’ve been the anxiety from missing her field friends, but I think somewhere in my head I blamed myself for riding out on the track that day and her being scared half to death. We ended up having to end her suffering some 3 months later. I got over it; kind of, getting back into riding again, but honestly my confidence never really came back.

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Shandi not long after we got her, to jumping at our local club. Kids, don’t sit backwards to hack out your pony.


I had my moments, and for a while my confidence came back but it took a sharp decline after a couple of falls once again. Then, I lost my beautiful Bella, the heart horse that deserved the absolute world. We’d only had her about two years, but she touched my life like no horse ever had before. She died and I felt my world fall apart. She was too young, only 12, too kind and loving. All that cruelly stolen away because someone had been too greedy and taken advantage of her kind, willing nature and show jumped her too high far too young, and had destroyed her legs.

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Aptly named Arc Angel, this mare lived up to her name and then some.

Freddie and me fell out, he frightened me for a good few months. He has his moments now, but we’ve long since ‘clicked’ and I understand him completely. I’ve had a fair few falls since Shandi, and even more near misses. Part of my confidence comes from the fact I know now that I can handle mischievous behaviour off our equestrian friends. It may scare me at times, but I believe in my capabilities more now than ever. At the college I did my equine course at, we rode the riding school ponies twice or three times a week. Despite what they might tell you, unless you let them follow each other round in big circles at a slow pace, riding school ponies are not easy. They know their jobs and don’t really want to do anything but that. (For the most part, and this is talking about my personal experiences at one riding school.)  I had more than one near miss, as did everyone on my course! If those ponies taught us one thing, it’s how to ride something naughty. In one case, I was bolted with down a hard, fairly narrow track out on a hack with my instructor and friend. Being bolted with is my worst fear, simply because it’s so damn dangerous and you can’t do anything to stop a horse that wants to go. I didn’t fall off in that instance, and I did manage to stop the pony. Though at the time, I got off onto shaking legs and pounding heart, I got back on the pony and rode through open fields on the way home. A win for me and my personal battle with nerves.

My point to all this, is that not too long ago any one of those factors from my first few lines (rain, fresh clip, few days off, pony in a spooky mood) would have meant I got off after five minutes, shaking like a leaf and on the verge of tears. Now it doesn’t, and that’s a win. I still get nervous. At times, my heart pounds and my stomach churns. I get clammy hands and dry mouth and all the doubts in the world come into my head. The difference is, is that I’m done letting it beat me. I sit deeper, straighten my back and kick on. The rush after I’ve beat my nerves, whether it’s jumping a new fence, cantering through an open field or some days just simply getting on board makes it worth every second.

My message is that if I can do it, anyone can because I swear on my beautiful horses life, I was a wreck that didn’t see a way to be confident ever again. If you want it enough, don’t let anything stop you. I didn’t, and I couldn’t be more thankful. Even if some days all you can do is sit and walk, do it. Every tiny step counts, more than you’ll ever know.

This is dedicated to the memory of Shandi and Bella, the two chestnut mares that never lived up to their stereotype!


Dark nights & dreary days.

Though the title seems somewhat sad, it’s generally what a British winter is all about. Though today we’ve gotten lucky and while it’s cold enough to freeze my hands off, the sun is out and the sky is blue and it’s all rather pretty.

Apologies again for my absence. I’d go into detail about how I’ve restarted college and it’s cut time down so when I sit down to write I think I should be doing that essay or this project, but who cares about boring stuff like that?

I can’t even remember what was happening the last time I put together a little post. Max has come home, our favourite welshie has returned and is still behaving. He’s actually a lovely little ride, obviously green and stuff but he is super sweet. He popped his first jump under saddle the other day, and the biggest problem I had was that the saddle isn’t comfortable! Freddie & Storm have been on a kind of holiday, living out in the field for the past couple of weeks due to us having to use our stables as tack rooms as the barn is being replaced & the stable roof is being replaced. They look like yetis, it’s almost embarrassing. Fluffed up to the hilt and rather fat off the grass. They’re coming in next week, at which point it’ll be back in work for Storm and pottering around for Fred. Storm’s going to need clipping, which I’m dreading. I’m not very good at ‘lines’ when it comes to clipping, so his legs may look a bit wonky.


Little Max, all grown up.

Teddy & Bertie have had their first haircut, and for the     first 24 hours they ran round like they were on speed. I think the newfound aero-dynamics must have sent them loopy.

Here is a picture of said new-doo the day it was done. Don’t they look dapper?

Something very exciting that happened recently is that I got to have a ride on Farry, an arab I used to own. He was 18 months when we got him and around 2.5/3 (ish? it was a long time ago) when he went back to his breeder. It’s only taken 6 years for me to get onboard. What a difference it was, going from my round little natives to something fine and bouncy. His canter was quite possibly the comfiest I’ve ever ridden, it just felt rather surreal being on this elegant creature. Thanks again to his breeder & owner Jaymie for trusting me to get onboard!



The temperature has dropped today (enough for frost & icy windows this morning) and I felt myself conforming to the frenzy of panic that happens when you haven’t planned in extra time to de-mist the windows. I whipped out the ice scraper and blasted the heating on the windows like there was no tomorrow. I feel like being dramatic over the weather is something that may be quintessentially English. You see on the news about hurricanes in america and while people evacuate, there doesn’t seem to be any panic and some even stay put, waiting out the storm in hurricane bunkers. Or for example, the wildfires in Australia that you never hear about. They happen, but it’s something that’s part of living in an oven such a hot climate that people just deal with it. Over here, it gets a bit frosty and the gritters are out throwing salt all over the place, the roads pile up with cars driving at 10mph on the off-chance the gritters may have missed some ice and everywhere you go you see people rubbing their hands and going “Can you believe how cold it is?!” The most popular phrases in the UK currently are that one, “Can you believe how dark it is?!” and “Can you believe it’s nearly Christmas!”
People seem generally astounded at the events that happen annually, such as darkness, the cold (I mean come on, we live in England) and Christmas.

For horsey people, winter is the hardest time of year. Mucking out trebles, gateways and fields become poached enough to lose your wellies and your dignity, and horses are overly exuberant from the nip in the air and the lack of exercise brought on by dark nights, often leading to dumping you in a heap on the still slightly cripsy arena floor. I feel your pain equestrian folk, yet winter looms on despite my despair. It doesn’t help when you’re clumsy and more often than not go skiing down the yard when it’s a bit wet – let alone icy. What can we do to make winter easier for ourselves? Answer, not much. Good layers and waterproofs are a godsend, you may look like the Michelin man but you’ll be warm and dry (and it’s extra padding for the risk of an over-excited buck, should you come off.)
Unless you’ve got reems of money to throw at your field gateways, there will be mud. Tip of mine, don’t wash it off the horses legs. Though its unsightly, washing it off actually makes the skin more fragile and makes it 10x easier for bacteria to get in (which is what causes mud fever). You genuinely are better off leaving it to dry and brushing it off in the morning. It also helps if you don’t clip the legs off, but that isn’t always possible. I resort to getting some pink plastic dentists gloves to pick feet out so I don’t have to stick my hands in the gloopy, frozen muck. I’m sure the horses will appreciate not being hosed when the temperature drops too, I know I would.

Stuck in a Rut

So much so that I couldn’t even come up with a name for this update.
Apologies for this being somewhat delayed. I’ve been in a slump often referred to as writers block. With this blog, my book, everything. Boo. Sitting and staring at a blank screen, with the cursor blinking expectantly at me is the most frustrating thing ever. Even now as I’m typing this I keep stopping and wondering what sentence to string together next.

The ponies are all well. A little too well in Freddie’s case, he’s on a diet. He isn’t happy about it but I’m at my wits end trying to get the weight off so he’ll have to cope. He’s hacking round the woods now and could go further on the roads, I’m just contemplating whether it is safe to take him out on his own. He’s usually good, just a bit more on his toes and though it doesn’t bother me I don’t want him to jar his legs. We went out to our first show in about a year last month. Credit where it is due, the chubster was flawless. He behaved impeccably on the showground and in the classes (In-Hand as we can’t do ridden yet.) It was like he’d never been away. We came 7th in the first class, M&M, however the judge said he looked & went beautifully and was nicely put together (she couldn’t even tell he’d had surgery!) and it was simply that she prefers welshes. He was just as perfect in the second one and we came 3rd, and qualified for Blue Chip. Very proud moment. His only issue was getting back on the trailer, which he needs encouragement for. He isn’t frightened, just stubborn.
Max goes away to be backed on Monday, he seems (I’m tempting fate here) to have turned a new leaf the last few times I’ve worked with him. He’s been… GOOD! He still has an obsession with standing on the mounting block but at least he isn’t running away from it any more. He is still the big boss in the field, though our new(ish) addition Alfie gives him a run for his money. Storm gets picked on by everyone the poor sod, he keeps coming in full of bites. He’s being as good as ever though he’s frightened of my new coat and wont let me catch him with it on. I don’t know if it’s the fact that it’s red that offends him or the new coat smell. He has a natural jump on him, I know that from his first day with us when he jumped clear out of the arena. Only, under saddle he’s not as sure. We’re working on getting him to actually jump the jump rather than half jump it and take the rails out. In fairness to him, he is incredibly honest and does try everything. It’s just inexperience and the fact that he’s only actually been back under saddle since I’ve had him. He’ll get there..
I’m debating taking him to a dressage in september for some experience. I’ve only ever done a little mini one we did at college and he’s never done one so an experience it will be! I’m sure he’ll go round completely hollow and probably spook at the judges, but at this point so long as we get round the test it’s a win for me, given his utter greenness (is that a word? You know what I mean.)

I gave up there and bobbed to pets at home to get our new additions harnesses.
We’ve recently brought two Miniature Schnauzer puppies into our lives. Teddy & Bertie are absolutely mad, but so lovely. Teddy is a little bigger, Bertie with a much whiter face. I genuinely think that having two puppies is like having an actual baby. Only you don’t have to follow babies round the house constantly in case they decide to poop on your carpet and you can trust that when you put them to bed they wont eat it. Well in most cases anyways. I suppose I could have got those weird dog nappies but then with the fur and other things it’d just be a massive mess.


Teddy at the front, Bertie behind

Following that I went up to the farm to ride (one of the pros of having horses out overnight, no jobs!) and decided to take Fred out on his first hack since before his ops. He’s been around the woods, but we have direct access to them so it’s not really off the yard. Anywho, the last time we went out on our own on the roads we had an incident with a van going over the motorway bridge that frightened him (and was a bit of an ‘oh no’ moment for me too, though that’s not the word I used at the time) so I did wonder what he’d do. Tell you what, he was better than he ever has been. He went straight over the motorway bridge and didn’t even step off the path when an imbecile in a car overtook us too quickly & far too close on the middle of the bridge. It made us both jump as you can’t hear anything coming up behind you with the motorway being so loud, but he was ace. Proper trusty steed. We had a mooch about the roads, passing some people who had a young girl with them that was awe-struck and said “Look! Just like a police horse!”

Anyway, sometimes to de-compress from life taking time out to just have a plod about on your own is all you need. Well, it’s what works for me! The only downside is that to get to more off road hacking you have to do quite a bit on the roads which is a bit too much for Fred just yet, so we’re sticking to on road at the minute.
I’m going to stop this little update here as I’m back in the block.


Slow Down for Horses

Road safety is something that is pressed on riders from a young age, and rightly so. From Hi-Vis to head cams, as riders (MOST of us) we do everything possible to prevent accidents. One of the most unfortunate things about being a British Equestrian is the lack of bridle paths. Most us have to go on at least some roads to get to any kind of off road hacking, which is becoming more dangerous as the years go by.

Riding on the roads isn’t ideal, but is a necessity in the equestrian world. Sadly, a lot of drivers nowadays don’t respect the space needed to pass horses safely, resulting in a lot more accidents and near misses than there should be in a modern world. Our farm is on a ‘country lane’ and the speed limit is national (60mph) which frankly, is ridiculous. Our arena is right on the bend and alongside the road – with no option to move it, not that we should have to – and the amount of boy racers we’ve had virtually flying round is scary. We’ve had cars on their roof in the middle of the arena, men on bikes flipping over the fence, a tractor with a 30ft trailer stacked with hay tip and fall in as well as others. All because, people go far too fast, can’t slow down for the bends and lose control. Imagine what would happen if someone came round the blind bend at that speed and one of the multiple riders on our road was out hacking? It doesn’t even bare thinking about.

Speaking from personal experience, I have had several incidents far too close for comfort simply because drivers are in such a hurry to get past, or are speeding on country lanes. One involved hacking Fred out on his own (which I wouldn’t do unless he was 110% safe on roads.) We were walking over the motorway-bridge that we have to cross to get off our lane, on our way home. A large van came out of nowhere, flying up behind us, slamming on at the last second. This caused Fred to spook, taking off over the bridge, unaided by the fact there was another van coming the other way that didn’t slow down. I was lucky he is more sensible & didn’t bolt completely, and that the van actually did manage to mostly stop and didn’t skid – which would’ve meant us being hit. The situation was worse, as the motorway bridge passes over the M56, which is incredibly loud so neither of us could hear the van until the last second.


From 2010 to April this year, 222 horses and 38 riders have been killed on Britain’s roads.
According to the British Horse Society, 80% of these accidents were caused by drivers travelling too fast or not giving enough space. Last year, the BHS launched the ‘Dead Slow’ campaign, in hopes to raise awareness of how dangerous incidents on the roads involving horses can be. Not only for the horse and rider but for the driver and all passengers in the car as well. Since the launch of the campaign, the BHS told of a 29% increase in road incidents reported to them. Whilst this is a start, it is terrifying that horses and riders are still being killed on the roads today.
Prior to this, a memorable facebook page (with over 40,000 followers today) was set up by Lauren De Grunchy. This page involves riders stripping off for the camera with the caption “Will you slow down for me now?”. The message behind the page was to raise awareness again for horses and riders on the road, as drivers would definitely slow down for an almost nude rider!

Most car drivers are not horsey, and perhaps don’t realise how quickly a situation can change. Horses can go from a sedate walk to sideways at 30mph+ in a split second. They weigh half a ton, a lot of them more. The damage a horse can do to your car is catastrophic. For those that say horses shouldn’t be on the roads and that roads are made for cars, that is not an argument. If you’re going to be that petty, technically roads were designed for horses to go down as guess what? Before the car was the horse and cart.
Horses have every right to share the roads. No matter how you feel about horses, remember there are people on board them. People with lives, families, everything to live for. They are just enjoying their hobby, as you might be driving your car to enjoy yours.


Be Safe, Be Seen

To remain safer and to allow drivers to spot them earlier & quicker, a lot of riders wear Hi-Visibility clothing. There are SO many products out there now to ensure you are as visible as possible, there is really no reason not to wear it. Riders that don’t wear hi-vis and are spotted are usually scolded by the community, for giving us all a bad name and risking their lives for no reason! It doesn’t have to be expensive, there are plenty of cheaper brands out there and it all does the same job.


Mia & Puzzle along with myself out on a hack. We always have to use roads to get to the bridle paths, here she is sporting her Hi-Vis!

There is no doubt about it, a lot of drivers drive irresponsibly. They aren’t all bad, but some perhaps don’t even realize how to overtake a horse. They aren’t bikes, they might not continue in a straight line at the same speed.
Dear Driver,
When you fly past us with inches to spare, you are risking your life.
My horse weighs over half a ton.
How do you think that would end, if he ended up lay on your windscreen?
That is why, when I ask you to slow down with a wave of my arm
I am not just doing it to hold you up, and get in your way.
I am trying to save our lives.

Up in the saddle, I can see and hear things you cannot.
I can see a car coming on the other side of the road, on the blind bend you insist on overtaking me on. Hear a tractor engine grumbling behind us, feel the tension in my horses back, as your speed frightens him.

Anything from a dog barking to a plastic bag flapping could create a small spook, which would result in my horse being in the middle of the road in a heartbeat. Do you forget, horses can go from a sedate walk to 30mph+ in seconds?

It isn’t just the horses life you’re at risk of ending. It is mine, as well as your own. Best case scenario, you injure my horse. Worst case, you kill us all.
Your car could be a lethal weapon. A simple knock could be a broken leg, or a fright enough to bolt. No matter how you feel about horses, remember that they did not ask to be in front of your car that day. Think of the life of the rider in the saddle, it is potentially in your hands.
Next time to try to squeeze past a horse and rider, or don’t slow down, just remember the person sat in the saddle. They have everything to live for, who are you to risk ending their life to be 30 seconds quicker?
If we didn’t have to share roads with cars, we wouldn’t.  Our bridle paths are going extinct, we have no choice.

Please, pass wide and slow. Slow down to 15mph and give a cars width.
Don’t overtake on a bend, or come flying past revving your engine.

Respect horses. Respect riders. Save Lives.

Bitting, Truth & Myth

Bitting is one of the most discussed topics in the equestrian world. Bits can be broken down into categories, snaffles, gags and pelhams. Which bit to get your horse can be a difficult decision to make and there are a lot of things to consider before settling on one.

What bit suits my horse? What bit should I use? Should I change my bit? Do I need a bit?
Questions that despite being asked so often, get the wrong answer. Owners are often given ill-advice and when you consider you’re putting more (or less) metal in your horses mouth, it can have disastrous consequences. All too often nowadays (in my humble opinion) there are far too many riders ‘bitting-up’ to try to fix problems quickly. You see, often in show-jumping, horses flying round with inches of bit protruding down their face, heads up in the air and mouths gaping. Now again before anyone jumps down my throat, I know that show jumpers (certainly at a higher level) are high energy, difficult horses a lot of the time. I’m not saying don’t use strong bits, or that they should all be hopping round in rubber snaffles and that’s that. What I AM saying is that often, horses are over bitted and it in fact makes them ten times worse. A horse that is gaping it’s mouth is uncomfortable, fact. The problem is, rather than addressing the problem (why is the horse uncomfortable?) and fixing it, we invented the flash noseband. Then the grackle and drop, and now we have countless others. All designed to quite literally clamp the horses mouth shut. Again, not saying don’t use strong nosebands! On incredibly strong horses that cross their jaw, or ones that get their tongue over the bit, things like a flash or grackle can be very useful when used correctly.

One thing I would say to any horse owner, research your bit. If you’re having a problem with your horse, go to that first. Researching your bit can often lead to the realisation it is designed to do the opposite of what you need or want.

I ride a very strong horse. Freddie isn’t very big, only 15.2, but he is quite a chunk and when he goes he’s very hard to stop, and would often tuck his head down and evade the bit completely. He came in a hanging cheek snaffle and drop noseband, but I would rather see a horse go round in a stronger bit being used gently than ragged round in a snaffle, so we switched him to a cavesson and Dutch-Gag (also known as a 3 ring gag or continental snaffle.) A few people have previously said that a dutch gag is a type of snaffle. It isn’t, even on the ‘snaffle ring’ it is not a snaffle and never will be! The purpose of a dutch gag is to give a little more ‘brake power’ and lift the horses head. The 3 rings give varying amounts of leverage depending how low or high the reins are attached. It was designed to be used with two reins, one on the snaffle rein and one on either of the two lower rings. This is so you can use the leverage ‘brake’ effect as and when you need it, rather than constantly. After working with him (we’ve had him nearly 3 years) I can ride him in a snaffle, though he is still strong at times and I have yet to let loose in an open space!


So, things you need to know?

  1. Hanging cheek snaffles. A couple of my friends will know the story behind why this is such a personal bugbear for me, but that’s another story.
    Hanging cheek snaffles do not apply poll pressure, or leverage. To apply leverage, the rein needs to be lower than the horses mouth (like on a tom thumb, for example.) The cheek pieces come away from the horses face when pressure is applied, so poll pressure is impossible. If anything, it relieves poll pressure. Horses that don’t like much tongue pressure may like this bit as it lifts in the mouth when pressure is applied. It is also good for youngsters learning how to turn as the half cheek gently presses into the side of the face when the opposite rein is pulled, almost pushing them round the bend. The ring is also fixed, offering more stability than a loose ring, but some may lean on it.


  1. Leverage = power
    Bits with leverage can be effective in the right hands, but can be disastrous in the wrong ones. Leverage means the rein isn’t attached to the horses mouth. They are often attached to another part of the bit below the horses mouth. Bits with leverage allow the rider to apply much more force to the horses mouth than they are actually applying. Dutch gags apply leverage, as do pelhams, tom thumbs and most curb bits. Hackamores – despite being bitless – have a lot of leverage as generally have very long shanks. Shanks are the strips of metal that come down away from the horses mouth. Google ‘german hackamore’ and you will see what I mean. A “Stephens Heavy Duty Long Shank German Hackamore” I found for sale (£170 new!!) has 20 cm shanks. This is almost 8 inches, which apparently means if 20lbs of ‘pull’ pressure is applied to the reins, 160lbs of force is exerted on the horses nose. See why they need gentle hands?


  1. Sizing Matters
    As a general rule, you should have ‘a finger’ space between the bit ring and your horses mouth. For loose ring bits, you should go half an inch bigger than the usual size your horse takes. If your horse has a small mouth or large tongue, a thick mouthpiece may not suit. For a large tongue, a port may help. It gives a little more room, but may apply different pressure on the tongue that the horse must get used to. If a bit is too small, it may pinch the horses mouth and cheeks as well as become uncomfortable. If it is too big, it will slide out of the horses mouth and be ineffective.


  1. Only snaffles are dressage legal at lower levels. At higher levels, double bridles are compulsory. This never makes sense to me, surely a horse that can do a Prix St George test in a snaffle and get the same mark as a horse in a double is just as good? I understand the rules aim for ‘more accurate’ aids but not this one. Heyho, I’ve never been much of a dressage diva.


  1. Curb Chains
    Attached underneath the horses chin, curb chains are most often used with Pelhams. It’s important you don’t fit a curb chain too tightly, as they tighten considerably when the curb rein is applied. Curb chains sometimes have leather straps in the middle rather than being made entirely of chain. This distributes the pressure more evenly and isn’t as ‘harsh’ as a full chain. 
  2. Bitless bridles aren’t always ‘softer’ and kinder than bits. Bitless bridles use pressure on different parts of the horses face for control, rather than the pressure in the mouth from a bit. A lot of bridles tighten when pressure is applied, which some horses will not tolerate due to the amount of incredibly sensitive nerves in the horses face. Hackamores apply a lot of pressure directly on the nose, whereas a crossunder bridle (like Dr Cooks bitless) cross under the jaw and tighten slightly when  pressure is applied, though the main aim is to pull the horses head round (though not as rough as it sounds) rather than tighten, it works on their cheeks.

Which bit you choose and stay with is again, a big decision as ultimately your horse is trusting you to put a chunk of metal on one of the softest, most delicate parts of it’s body. You should consider what you want from the bit (to help alter way of going, head carriage, give you some extra brakes, bending etc) and why you are changing from the one you have. Bare in mind a lot of issues you have with your horse take time and proper schooling to correct. Quick fixes (i.e getting a very strong bit to slow the horse down, or one with masses of poll pressure to lower the head) don’t usually work for long and don’t actually fix the problem, they just mask it. It CAN actually make the problem ten times worse, as some horses will fight even harder.

Let’s remember that in a lot of cases, a bit is only as harsh as the hands on the reins (this statement includes all bitless bridles too!) and damage can be caused even by rubber snaffles in harsh hands.

Do your research, don’t be tempted by a quick fix and if you want to try before you buy, i recommend ‘The Bit Bank’. They will give you lots of advice and even let you borrow bits before you buy them to make sure they’re right for your horse!


Image Credit: https://equinemanagement.wordpress.com/tag/equestrian-bits/

Delamere Forest Adventure

Morning all. There is a reason why I am walking like at 80 year old cowboy this morning. Yesterday I went on my first fun ride with Mia. (I can’t believe I’ve been riding for 13 years and never been on one!) I took Storm, thinking it was walk and trot with possibly a couple of canters. I was wrong on that one, it was a lot more intense than I anticipated, it could have been because I was on a pony trying to keep up, but none of the several long canters felt like canters, more like good gallops! It was a baptism of fire for him, but credit where it’s due he was fantastic the whole time. He had one spook in three hours – at a tree stump of all things – and despite there being a fair few of us (I’d guess about 20-30?) going rather fast all together, he stayed where I put him and bobbed along quite nicely, seeming to enjoy himself quite a bit.

We met at the Forest View Inn, where we were offered port before we set off (which the morning after Mia’s 18th birthday party probably wasn’t a good idea but who was I to ignore tradition?) We set off down the road to a track into the forest. That first part down the hill was quite exciting for Storm, being his first time out with such a big group of horses (either ever, or at least over a year) and he was quite bouncy, but settled. We went off into the woods. If you’ve never been to Delamere Forest make sure you go, it’s a really lovely ride. Very scenic, dozens of different paths to go down and explore. I have no clue where abouts in the woods we actually went, I could very easily get lost (which we actually did…)



In the middle of describing the taste of ‘port’ before we left…

The paths went from wide and fairly hard to narrow and sandy, surrounded with ferns. It was good practice for Storm, moving over different terrain. Near the beginning and at the end we went up / down some steps (like the ones they have at somerford), there were a few good hills to go up and down, two little styles (we jumped one and kind of hopped over the other) and some long straight stretches for a canter. There was one particular stretch that was like a sand and grit path, which we cantered down. You know in nature documentaries when the animals stampede and there are huge dust clouds that billow up? It was like that. Aside from whoever was right at the front, we all were riding through these huge clouds, couldn’t see a thing but it probably looked very dramatic.



Storm having a good look at the photographer out on the ride.

The ride was ran/held by North West Bloodhounds, during the summer when the hunting season is over the hold regular run rides & trips, for everyone – not just members only. They’re very family friendly, and are welcoming to new riders and those who’ve never hunted before, so if you fancy giving it a go I’d recommend it. Just be prepared for a fast, fun and exhilarating ride!

In other news, I got back on Fred! He didn’t really bother, just kind of resigned himself to the fact he isn’t in fact retired. I got on to test the water the other day, then rode a little circle in the arena a day or so later. Slow and steady & we’ll get there. The past week has been a good pony related week indeed.




First sit on the majestic beast.

Hard Work = Reward!

One More Step!

The last time I sat on Freddie was the 4th April, when I had to ride him for the 8 vets at Leahurst in the hope he’d show his symptoms. He didn’t, typically contrary, and stayed in for a bone scan. We weren’t 100% what would show up – if anything – but the questions being asked by our home vet in the first place were leaning towards kissing spine. That being said we thought he couldn’t have it, as he didn’t have any symptoms aside from trying to canter in the corners.

To cut a long story (that I’ve already covered) short, he did have kissing spine, as well as PSD and arthritis. All this being found was honestly shocking, especially when the talks of surgery to rectify it came about, otherwise he’d never really be right again. He had two surgeries, on both hind legs and his back. We didn’t know if he’d ever come sound, though they went well and the prognosis was very good for his recovery. He was the perfect patient. He went from the little horse that went stir crazy with half a day of no turnout due to the weather, to a saint on box rest for over 6 weeks.

He went back out onto turnout and is back in the field with the others now, putting on a good show on his first day out. Seeing him move so freely filled me with so much pride, it’s been so long since he moved without stiffness. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t perfect but we’re getting there, especially after yesterdays physio visit. Our physio said he’s looking and feeling very good, moving really well and his posture is loads better. For the first time ever since seeing him, she also said his hamstrings are finally better (not perfect, but better) AND his reflexes are a million % better. If you’ve never done it, stand behind (if it’s safe!) your horse and run your fingers from the top of their rump downwards, their back should lift quickly, almost like their body is hunching up. This is a reflex action and the first time our physio saw Freddie, she tried the reflex and couldn’t get a reaction. In the end, using keys and really pressing, he twitched a bit. Yesterday, barely touching him with fingertips he lifted straight up.
All this hasn’t come overnight with no work involved! He’s been building up on the long reins for a few weeks, we’ve got some stretches in hand to get everything nice and mobile and he’s also fed completely off the floor and now he’s allowed back out, gets as much turnout as possible.

So, drumroll please.

Yesterday I got the go-ahead that he can again be ridden! Trying him again on the long reins and making sure everything is still okay, but over the next few months he can be brought slowly back into ridden work. To start with, it will literally be just sitting on him, then a walk about the arena getting him to stretch for 5 minutes, building up to 15 and then beginning hacking out, while continuing the work on the long reins to build him up. He can’t trot on the roads or anything, but by October should be hacking for up to an hour and cantering in straight lines. A couple of months ago I thought he might have to be retired to the field, at just 9 years old. To say I’m over the moon is an understatement, but we’re taking it slowly, it’ll be a long process but we’re off to a good start.

Let’s see what happens!