Monthly Archives: June 2017

Riding out the weather

Other nations reckon we Brits are obsessed by the weather, writes Carolyn Henderson. They could be right, but horse owners have a special take on it.

Long summer evenings? Some people might be dreaming of relaxing in the garden with an equally long, cool glass of something. But as a member of the Feedmark team points out, what’s important is that we can ride late in the evening without having to pile on layers of clothes or worry about getting everything done before it gets dark.

That presumes you haven’t already ridden at silly o’clock in the morning. When the temperature soars, 6a.m. hacks or schooling sessions set you up for the day, unless your horse or pony is susceptible to sweet itches and you need to avoid the midges.

Unfortunately, I’m a lark who is married to an owl and my owl gets grumpy about being woken up before he’s had his allocated hours of beauty sleep. Any tips on how to avoid a dawn chorus of grumbles will be gratefully received.

Another British characteristic is that whatever the weather, we’ll find something to moan about. The June Mediterranean heatwave was a novelty and there were smiles from those making hay while the sun shone, but then we got fed up with it. It was all #toohotforhorses and #toohotforjackets, although a few die-hard showing people dedicated to tradition insisted on staying buttoned up when judges suggested they remove them.

In my part of the world, the heavens suddenly opened and for the next 48 hours, we were studying instructions on how to build your own ark. The grass needed the rain, we assured ourselves – but couldn’t whatever deity controls the weather arrange for it to rain at night? Between 10pm and 5am would do nicely.

That rain soon turned to floods and had we built that ark, it would have been very handy for a trip to the Royal Norfolk Show. I take my hat off to the riders who gritted their teeth and turned in such spectacular performances – especially the showjumpers, who were rocking the  retro look  in what looked like transparent “pac-a-macs.” If you don’t know what I mean, ask your granny.

It could be worse. We could have the wrong sort of leaves on the bridlepaths, or snow balling up in our horses’ hooves. But even when the long days are just a memory, we’ll carry on riding – bundled up in layers and waterproofs if need be – because that’s what true Brits do.


The look of champions

The Hickstead Derby has a roll call of equine legends, writes CAROLYN HENDERSON.  If you had to pick one of those illustrious names to be the champion of champions, who would it be?

For many, the title would go to a one-eyed horse called Adventure De Kannan. When he powered round with rider Trevor Breen in 2013, he won our hearts as well as the prestigious trophy.

That’s the reason for his final lap of honour in this year’s Derby – a chance for the crowd to acknowledge not just his brilliance, but his courage, in a special ceremony before he retires from competition at the age of 17.

Addy, as he’s known at home, doesn’t realise that in theory, he’s at a disadvantage. You could say the same for the miniscule Stroller, who won the Derby in 1967.

Stroller was only about 14.1hh (145cm) whereas Addy is 17.1hh (175cm). Yet the one thing they have in common is the one thing you can’t put a price on – a great brain.

A long time ago, my then trainer tried to persuade me to buy a horse who could help me make the jump from the lower levels of affiliated classes to “proper” Grade C competitions. This horse, he said, had the heart of a lion and the mind of a saint.

I tried him and loved him, even though he dished so badly, he could – in the words of the Irish dealer selling him – trot down the road and kick out the windows on either side. “He won’t stay sound for jumping,” said the vet who looked at him, so I didn’t buy him.

What I learned the hard way is that sometimes, the most important part of a horse’s conformation is the bit between the ears. That horse had a better brain than me: a few years later, he was winning Grade B classes with a rider who had followed her heart rather than her head.

Adventure De Kannan had already proved his ability when he had to have an eye removed due to recurring uveitis. But how many of us would buy a horse with one eye, even if it didn’t seem to affect him?

I hope I would, now that I’m older and a little bit wiser. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you meet a horse who is so generous, you know he’ll help you even though he doesn’t look the part.

And sometimes, if you have the sense, you say “Thank you” – and buy him before someone else does.

Tell us about your experiences where you’ve gone with your heart rather than your head, or where you wish you had.

Help your horse cope in the heat

The current heat wave is a godsend for most of us, but for your horses, excessively warm weather can be detrimental, leading to dehydration and even heat stroke if not managed well.

By following a few simple rules while the weather is hot, you can significantly reduce the risk of your horse suffering with problems due to the heat:

  1. PROVIDE PLENTY OF WATER – Having access to fresh, clean water is vital all year round, but as temperatures increase, horses lose more water from their bodies in the form of sweat to keep themselves cool. This means that they require more water to stay hydrated so make sure your horse has plenty available to them. Grass has a high water content, and feeding soaked feed or hay, will also contribute to their overall liquid intake.


  1. PROVIDE ELECTROLYTES DAILY – These vital body salts are essential in many bodily processes, and are particularly important for hydration, activating the thirst response in the horse, and for muscular health and performance. Contrary to popular belief, these should be fed daily, not just provided when competing, as it takes a long time to make up for any deficiencies or imbalances. Even horses that are not in work will sweat when the weather is very hot, and horses in hard work will lose up to 15L of sweat per hour. This sweat contains around 150g of electrolytes, hence the importance of daily supplementation. The best way to ensure that your horse is receiving all the electrolytes that they need is to add electrolytes such as Feedmark’s Replenish into their feed- but, if you haven’t already been feeding them, do this gradually.


  1. ENSURE ACCESS TO SHADE – If possible, turn out in fields with shelter from the sun, or if stables are cool bring horses in during the day, to avoid the hottest midday sun.


  1. RIDE WHEN IT’S COOLER – Either don’t exercise your horse during periods of extreme heat, or avoid riding during the hottest part of the day; instead aim for early morning or evening exercise when it’s cooler. If you have to work your horse when it is hot, keep to low intensity exercise, and cool your horse down slowly after you finish working them.


  1. WASH DOWN: Washing your horse off after riding is particularly important in the summer when they are likely to sweat more – cold water, and the evaporation of it from the coat helps the horse to cool down, and washing also removes dried sweat, which if left on the horse would attract flies. If your horse is overheating then continuously cover the whole body with cold water and get expert advice.


  1. APPLY SUNCREAM! If your horse has any delicate pink bits of skin, applying sun cream to these areas will stop the skin burning.

Let’s hear it for helpers

Schooling your horse is only the start, writes CAROLYN HENDERSON. Unless you have an endless supply of horsey helpers, you must also train your nearest and dearest.

That way, you get the help you need, avoid arguments about the time and/or money you devote to your horse and keep everyone happy. It takes skill and stealth – but it’s worth it.

With apologies for blatant sexism, men are usually more responsive. The secret is to find something they know more about – or think they know more about – and make them feel indispensable.

It doesn’t matter if you can reverse a trailer full of hay into the tightest space and keep your cool, knock up a set of jumps to professional standard and fertilise a field like a pro. If these are jobs that take you away from your horse, persuading that special someone to do them gives you time for the important things in life, like riding.

At every show, you see fathers, partners and spouses supporting wives/partners and daughters. Some get to the stage where they enjoy being part of the action and become as competitive as the riders; others are just filling in the time until the return journey.

Showjumping has most to offer, especially if you’re as inventive as one of the Feedmark team. She persuaded her father to time her jump-off rounds, just to check that the show’s equipment was accurate.

Keeping dressage dads happy isn’t so easy. If they don’t ride, then as far as they’re concerned, you’re going around in ever-decreasing circles. Even if that’s true, never admit it.

Instead, give them a checklist. Get them to check that bridle straps are in their keepers, your number is in place and you’ve removed your horse’s tail bandage.

Hint: Every now and then, allow an extra ten minutes for your warm-up and leave the tail bandage on/’forget’ to affix your bridle number. It helps to keep them keen.

If you’re a showing competitor, hard luck. If you’re showing the family lead rein M & M pony, double hard luck. Only true aficionados enjoy watching showing…and even they can run out of steam when there are 30-plus M & M lead reins in a class, as happens at some county shows.

Hint: Give them a few phrases that they can deliver at the ringside, thus impressing other spectators. “Nice horse, but perhaps slightly back at the knee” is a good one. It doesn’t work, of course, if your man happens to be standing next to the said horse’s connections – if he’s that unlucky, the get-out-of-jail answer is to blame the unlevel ring.

Seriously, do try and get your nearest and dearest hooked on horses. It’s a blessing to have someone who will bring in your horse when you’re working late, calm your nerves before a competition and (I put my hand up for this one) tell you to keep breathing while you ride a dressage test so you never again halt at G and nearly pass out.

They deserve medals, because we couldn’t manage without them. If you’ve got someone who deserves to stand on the virtual winners’ podium, do tell us. All secrets will be gratefully shared.


We catch up with Will Furlong, after becoming champion at Bramham!

Congratulations on your success at Bramham International Horse Trials! After such a busy weekend becoming the champion of the u25’s CCI3*, what are your plans for the next few days?


I have 6 competitive horses at the moment so will be cracking on with them. We left for Bramham last Tuesday so as we are out competing this weekend, it’s straight back to work with trips to the beach – with the horses! XC schooling and galloping.



During the cross-country phase, you experienced a ‘sticky’ moment at the water, what were your thoughts at that time?

“Holey Moley”,

We were both locked onto the final element, the Duck, so it was just a question of sitting tight and making it happen. Sometimes it’s not all about looking pretty but being effective. Collien ‘Tinks’ dug deep, found a 5th leg from somewhere and off we went.


It must have been a nerve-racking weekend, especially overnight going into the show jumping. Do you have anything special that you wear or do for good luck before you ride?

I’m not a nervous rider but obviously being in the lead at your first CCI3* is a pretty big deal but I had a great support team at Bramham and we managed to keep to our normal routine.  Tinks came out very fresh and flew through the Trot Up which is always a big relief.

I’m quite superstitious and will always touch each top pole on the jumps as I walk the course, once we start warming up I am able to block everything else out.


What is Collien P 2’s favourite phase? Is it also your favourite?


We both love Cross Country. Being a perfectionist I do really enjoy schooling and working the horses on the flat but nothing beats the adrenaline rush you experience galloping around the most amazing parkland.


We know that this is a relatively new relationship. When you first met Collien P 2 about a year ago, was there an instant bond?

I had only had her 2 weeks before we competed at Houghton CCI1* in 2016, so we had very limited time to get to know each other.  In fact, the Cross Country warm up at Houghton was only the second time we’d jumped rustic fences.  She instantly felt brave and bold. She has a fairly unique jumping technic but an amazing brain and always tries her hardest, so rather than change her, I’ve adapted my style slightly to work with her and it seems to be going in the right direction.


Has she got any interesting quirks and what is her stable name?

She’s called Tinkabell or Tinks at home as she’s sweet but also very sassy! She’s not overly keen on you putting rugs on but for everything else she’s as good as gold.


Is there any particular support that Tinks needs nutritionally?   

She isn’t blessed with great feet so she has Hardy Hoof and of course Replenish during the season.


Which Feedmark supplements do you feed to Tinks, and how do they benefit her?

She loves food but as a fit competition horse we give her support with ExtraFlex HA with Rosehips to help with the vergers of competing and the associated fitness that goes with it.

She can also get a little anxious particularly in the dressage if there’s a lot of atmosphere – like at Bramham. So she is routinely on Precision and Focus to provide her with all the necessary proteins, minerals and vitamins without creating too much ‘jollyness’!


What are your best moments as a combination, presumably this weekend may be one of those top moments!?

I would say winning the U25 at Bramham is my biggest achievement and certainly our best moment, just ahead of my Individual and Team Gold at the Young Rider Europeans on Livingstone in 2015. I’ve not ridden a 4* horse but after riding around Ian Starks Course at Bramham I feel Tinks could just be the one!


Together, you look like the perfect partnership, what does the future hold for you as a combination?

Tinks will have a few weeks enjoying the grass but we’ll start planning her autumn campaign, hopefully to include another CCI3* that would see us 4* qualified for 2018. After doing the Badminton Guinea Pig test this year; it would be really amazing to go back to do the real thing in the near future.

What’s yours called?

When Horsey McHorseface won his first race, he joined the ranks of equines who will be remembered as much for what they are called as for what they achieve, writes CAROLYN HENDERSON.

The three-year-old was named as a tip of the hat to Boaty McBoatface – the “people’s choice” when the Natural Environment Research Council asked the public to choose the name of its £200m artic research vessel. However, the government decided that Boaty McBoatface wasn’t appropriate for a vessel of this stature and instead, named it after Sir David Attenborough.

We have to stick with the names in a horse’s passport for all official purposes, so you just have to hope that whoever chose it didn’t have a wicked sense of humour. I know a showjumper who called one horse Badly and another, Topless.

He took bets on whether a commentator was sharp-witted enough to spot the potential traps. The clever ones announced him as “Here we have Badly/Topless ridden by Joe Bloggs”; you can guess what happened with the others. Topless was eventually sold to a very brave lady rider.

The British Horseracing Authority has all sorts of rules about racehorse names. No name can have more than 18 characters, including spaces between words, which is why Youlneverwalkalone lacked an l and an apostrophe.

The BHRA is particularly careful to make sure no “lewd, crude or offensive” names are registered. Someone there must have a sense of humour, though, or Hoof Hearted and Noble Locks wouldn’t have made it. If the second one has you puzzled, stress the second syllable of the first word and remember that he’s a gelding.

Showing people have a sense of humour, too. Back in 2001, Kelly Lyons was reserve in the working hunter class at the Royal International Horse Show on a lovely big Irish gelding.

He was called The Barsteward, because when he was a four-year-old, he wasn’t quite so lovely. In fact, he was a right barsteward.

Cob owners seem to have the most fun. Lynn Russell has gone through the galaxy from A-Z, starting with Apollo and finishing with Zenith. Somewhere in the middle, there was a Galaxy and, thanks to a big book of planet names, she’s unlikely to run out.

Carol Bardo and Jayne Webber had some good ones, from The Keystone Cob to Robocob and Strictly Cob Dancing. The best one, though, was Carol’s wonderful coloured cob, The Humdinger – because that’s exactly what he was.

Some horse names cause a stir for obvious reasons. Others hit the headlines even though you’d think they couldn’t offend anyone.

Take Brian, for example. Who could possibly take exception to a 17.2hh Shire cross called Brian?

Thames Valley Police did. They took Brian on six weeks’ trial, thinking that he’d make a formidable police horse, but announced that if he made it through the selection process he’d need a new name.

All the force’s other horses boasted names relating to deities, such as Thor and Odin. Brian was, they felt, a little too wimpy, even if it was the name of the Monty Python team’s unlikely Messiah.

When the news got out, social media went mad as Brians all over the UK complained about the slur on their moniker. In the end, Brian decided he didn’t fancy being a police horse and that rather than cope with all that city traffic, he was a country boy at heart.

Traditionally, it’s bad luck to change a horse’s name. If you really can’t stand it, you can always give him a stable name. I don’t know how the lovely ex-racehorse Beware Chalk Pit got his name, but he’s now covering himself in glory in Retraining of Racehorses and other showing classes and thoroughly deserves his stable name – Perfect Pete.

So – what’s yours called? If it’s all in a name, we’d love to know.


Letting horses be horses

You give your horse the best possible care, writes CAROLYN HENDERSON. You make sure that his diet is spot on, that he’s fit for the job physically and mentally – and then he sidelines himself fooling around in the field.

We’ve all been there, which is why we can all sympathise with Danish dressage rider Agnete Kirk Thingaard. Last week, Agnete announced that her lovely mare Atterupgaards Orthilia – who helped Britain win team silver at the Rio Olympics when ridden by her previous owner, Fiona Bigwood – was out of action for the summer because of an injury sustained in the field.

It’s a shame dressage doesn’t include a mark for horsemanship. If it did, Agnete deserves a perfect ten for sticking to the principle that, in her own words, horses should be allowed to be horses.

Many years ago, a successful dressage rider told me that one of the yard’s top horses was about to have a holiday.

“I bet he’ll enjoy his time in the field,” I said.

There was a shocked silence, before said dressage rider announced in scandalised tones that of course the horse wouldn’t be turned out. He was much too valuable for that: instead, he’d be moved to the largest box on the yard and led out in hand twice a day.

That sort of regime is, hopefully, rare. There are still some racing yards where horses spend 23 hours out of 24 in a stable, but there are also trainers who make sure their horses go out and get their heads down every day.

It isn’t just that horses are natural grazing animals with a psychological need to chew, unless health issues mean vet-prescribed box rest, they need to go out every day to relax – when did you last see a horse weave in the field?

Turnout time also provides numerous nutritional and health benefits, as Nutritionist, Olivia Colton MSc from Feedmark explains; “a constant supply of forage, such as turnout on a grassy paddock, is more suited to their digestive systems, being trickle feeders. Unlike humans, the horse’s stomach continually secretes acid, so if there is limited fibre to buffer the acid produced it can lead to digestive issues. The ability to be more mobile in the field as opposed to a stable is also beneficial for the musculoskeletal system, helping to relieve stiffness.”

Some people advocate a 24/7 outdoor lifestyle for every horse, but not every horse agrees – at least, not the ones I’ve known. For every horse who prefers to stay out at night in the wind and rain, there will be one waiting at the gate ready to come in.

And yes, you can have too much of a good thing. There are plenty of tactics for reducing the intake of horses and ponies who get fat at the sight of a blade of grass, although I’m still waiting for someone to design a grazing muzzle that my cob can’t wriggle out of.

Any equine is an accident on four legs waiting to happen. All we can do is minimise the risks, keep our fingers crossed and accept that by letting our horses be horses, we’re doing the best for them.