Monthly Archives: July 2017

Holidays and horses

Yippee! It’s holiday time, writes Carolyn Henderson. No work, no pressure and – because there’s a downside to everything – no horses.

Here’s how you know that you’re a certified horse addict:

  1. Before you started looking at holiday destinations, you negotiated the length of your stay with your nearest and dearest/travelling companions. A week? Ideal, you can bear to be parted from your four-legged(s) for that long. Ten days? Bearable. A fortnight? Now you’re on the limit.
  2. Going on a dream riding holiday? Then ignore the above. The chance of riding great horses in fantastic surroundings is enough to tempt anyone. The chance of riding your own horse in fantastic surroundings is just as – or even more – tempting. Getting away from it all does wonders for your relationships. All of them.
  3. You’re exhausted by the time you set out because there’s been so much to sort out. Even when you know your horse will be getting the best of care, you keep remembering things his holiday host needs to know. As for the packing…
  4. Ah, packing. Apart from the obvious things, like his passport, headcollar and any medication or feed supplements, there are the extras. You never know what the weather is going to do and while you might be able to survive two weeks with the contents of a teeny suitcase, he needs to be equipped for heat, flies, rain, gale force winds, earthquakes. OK, let’s stop there.
  5. Your eyes are still red when you head to the airport, because you’ve written THAT email to your vet. The one that says you’ve given the carer permission to call said vet if there are any problems and to authorise any action the vet deems necessary. Horrid, but it gives everyone peace of mind.
  6. The first time your phone pings with a text from your horse’s carer, your heart rate gallops faster than Frankel. Fortunately, it’s just your horse, telling you he’s having a lovely time chilling in the field and attaching a picture to prove it.
  7. You’re on the way to your holiday base and you pass horses grazing in a field. If you’re driving, you stop to look. If your other half is driving, you know he/she is the one for you because they stop so you can look.
  8. You either a) gain a Brownie point because you remembered to match your white bits to your rider’s tan with the spray or bottled equivalent before you left or b) spend your first evening applying fake tan lotion.
  9. Your fingernails grow at a remarkable rate. And whoever new that the tips were naturally white?
  10. Alternatively, you’re feeling smug because you’re an equestrian goddess with beautifully moisturised, glowing skin – no join lines – and perfect nails. These women do exist: it’s why I spend ages talking to them at social events, wonder why they’re giving me funny looks and realise I know them really well. You look different with riding hats on, honestly.
  11. That collection of holiday novels has at least one which features horses in the story line. If not, download a sneaky Zara Stoneley or Fiona Walker – the horses are incidental characters, so you needn’t feel guilty.
  12. You have a fabulous time and genuinely feel sorry that your holiday is coming to an end. But on the last day, you secretly dance a little jig because it’s only one sleep until you see your horse again.
  13. You’ve read and recognised all the above – but think I’ve missed something out. Do tell us…

Will Furlong on a high after debut at the Event Rider Masters

We’re now over half way through the season and the first event at Poplar Park back in March seems like a lifetime ago!

As I write this we are midway across the English Channel, travelling back to the UK having been competing at Haras de Jardy which is just outside of Paris. I live at home on the South Coast of England which makes competing in Europe really accessible and sometimes easier than going around the M25!

Although I have been to Haras de Jardy several times, I was making my debut in the new Event Rider Masters series which is a very exciting proposition for the sport and the French made us feel very welcome. Livingstone soaked up the atmosphere with a PB at 3* scoring 38 which was good enough for 7th amongst multiple Olympic combinations – including Michael Jung! The SJ time was super tight and I felt like I was rushing him a little, resulting in a couple of poles but the track was very technical so I wasn’t overly disappointed, I just need to get out to do a bit of pure show jumping against the clock!

I was a little apprehensive about the XC as it had just about everything that ‘Henry’ (Livingstone) hated; right handed corners, skinny arrowheads etc… As we weren’t super competitive after the show jumping I took him steady to keep him confident – he felt great and we are now ready to crack on into the Autumn!

It’s been a great first half of the season for Collien P 2. She followed up a great result at Houghton – 4th in the CIC3* Nations Cup – by winning the CCI3*u25 at Bramham and taking the u25 British National Championship! It was our first time at this level so although I was hoping to be competitive, I certainly wasn’t expecting to win… I was a little disappointed with her dressage if I’m perfectly honest. We scored 49 which was by no means disastrous but she got a little tense in the main arena and consequently made a couple of silly mistakes. Cross country was a different story though… ‘Tinks’ was absolutely awesome and came home just 2 seconds over the time (I think 3rd or 4th fastest all day) to move up from 7th to being in the lead with a healthy cushion to the rest of the field. She has a rather abnormal show jumping technique and can get quite flat after having galloped the day before so I knew the penalties in hand would be needed! I wasn’t wrong either, we managed to keep hold of top spot… but only just! A couple of fences down and a time penalty meant that it was a little close for comfort but hey ho we manage to get the job done. We now only (!) need another clear at CCI3* level to get qualified for 4* and hopefully after doing the Guinea Pig test at Badminton we can go back to do the real thing!! I’m still looking for some syndicate members to buy into Tinks so that I can keep the ride on her – so if you know anyone interested please get in touch!

The young horses have been going well and 5yo Akina Z won her qualifier at Rackham to gain her qualification for the Young Horse Championships at Osberton at the end of the year. I’ve been doing a bit more teaching recently to keep the business side of things going as I’m sure you are all probably aware – having horses is not cheap!


To keep up to date head over to my Facebook page ‘Will Furlong Eventing’ for more regular updates and posts.

Enjoy the Summer!


Let’s hear it for the girls…

They say that you should tell a gelding, ask a mare and discuss it with a stallion, writes Carolyn Henderson. But as anyone who’s benefited from the horse equivalent of girlpower will appreciate, a good mare will give you everything she’s got.

Why are so many riders prejudiced against them? If a stallion makes his opinion clear, it’s accepted far more readily than if a mare tests a rider’s ability, yet both are ‘entires’ who demand equal tact.

Of course, geldings should also be treated with tact. But how many times have you heard the words ‘stroppy mare’ being used as an insult? And though it’s a reverse compliment, how many riders almost apologise for their lovely horses by insisting that they’re ‘not at all marish’?

The fight against prejudice goes back a long way. In 1837, Charles James Apperley, aka the author Nimrod, commented that the prejudice against mares as suitable hunters was “much to be lamented” and meant they were more likely to fall into the hands of those such as farmers, who would not be able to make the most of their ability. Apologies to any farmers…

Horses are individuals and there are probably as many geldings with oversized personalities as there are challenging mares.  However, riders with a special affinity for mares say that whilst a good gelding will often work for you, a good mare will work with you.

There are many more successful geldings than mares competing, but it would be interesting to know how much of that is due to rider prejudice. Here’s a thought – if event rider Lucinda Fredericks hadn’t taken on the double whammy of a little chestnut mare called Headley Britannia, would she have won all three Rolex Grand Slam events? Lucinda is super-talented on any horse, but on Brit, she was unbeatable.

There might be times when mares are ruled by their hormones, but owners should be able to cope with this via good management and nutritional support, a sensitive approach and, if necessary, veterinary advice. Don’t just take my word for it: listen to the realistic assessment of event rider Will Furlong, who is sponsored by Feedmark.

“Mares are great when they are on side, not so good when they aren’t,” says Will. “The brain and temperament are the most important thing for me in a mare. When you find one like that, she will try harder and dig deeper than any gelding will.

“You have to treat each individual horse differently. What works for one horse might not work for another. In general, you have to be a bit more sympathetic with mares, but I think there is a traditional and unfair image of all mares being horrible to deal with and difficult to ride.”

So, let’s hear it for the girls. And if you’ve got a great mare, we’d love to hear about her.

“It’s worth spending more time on the ground with them to develop some more trust, something I do with all my horses. I don’t necessarily go out looking for mares but I think that in general, people should be more accepting of them.”

Go native

Are you an adult rider tempted by the adverts featuring native ponies for sale? If so, adjust your brain before you buy, writes Carolyn Henderson.

A friend who events her 14.1hh Connemara – and regularly beats the big boys and girls –  says the first thing to decide is whether you think like a pony, or think like a horse. It all comes down to the old joke about how many equines it takes to change a light bulb:


Warmblood – “Light bulb? What’s a light bulb?”

Thoroughbred – “The light bulb’s gone! How terrifying!”

Show hack  – “How dare you ask me to change a light bulb?”

Show pony – “Lights? Where? Just make sure you get my good side.”

Native pony – “Why bother? I’m not afraid of the dark – and if the bulb’s gone, you can’t see me raiding the feed bin.”


Before anyone points out that they have a warmblood which deserves the equine equivalent of a PhD or a Thoroughbred which would win an award for bravery, it’s a joke. Apart from the bit about the native pony…

Let’s say you’ve bought a fabulous Connemara with fabulous paces, so you decide to do some serious schooling in preparation for a dressage competition. Everything goes well on day one, but on day two, you take him into an arena and it feels as if the handbrake’s on at every stride.

Lesson one: With a warmblood, you might have to remind him of everything he’s supposed to know before moving on to a new concept. With a native pony, you’ll probably need a constant stream of new concepts, because once you’ve trotted three circles, he’s bored.

In fact, when it comes to flatwork schooling, you might have to forget that arenas exist. Pick markers out hacking and ask for transitions, or practise lateral work on a bridlepath or in an open field, and you’ll usually get a great response.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re fooling him by schooling on a hack. You can’t fool a native – but you can negotiate. If you keep him interested, he’ll co-operate. As going to parties is interesting, you should also find that the work you do on a hack can translate to a decent test away from home.

You can also negotiate by combining flatwork schooling with jumping. In pony terms, lengthened strides over trotting poles have much more value and canter circles at one end of the school are worth the effort when followed by a jump down the long side.

Going native can be challenging. Instead of shopping for sparkly browbands, you’ll be looking for grazing muzzles and getting out your weigh tape every fortnight, because these ponies can turn into balloons on four legs with remarkable speed and remarkably little grass.

You may also have to put up with unenlightened remarks from people who think ponies are just for children. Grit your teeth, smile, and tell them it’s horses for courses, and that you’re in good company.

If a 13.2hh Fell pony is good enough for Her Majesty The Queen, it’s good enough for me. It’s also one hell of a lot of fun.


Searching out the science

Are you blinded by science, or are you having the wool pulled over your eyes in the name of pseudo-science?

Reputable companies give good, free advice, writes Carolyn Henderson. While they’ll obviously give their own products as examples, they should be able to explain their recommendations in plain English.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of mis-information out there. Some comes from well-meaning folk who think they’ve stumbled on a magic herb that will do everything bar raise the dead; the rest is down to claims that really shouldn’t be out there and before the days of social media, probably wouldn’t have surfaced.

There’s a fine line between clever but responsible marketing and exaggerated claims. But before you splash out on a bag of Wonderfeed or a bottle of Piaffe Better, make sure the claims are legal, decent and truthful.

In the UK, companies are not allowed to market veterinary products unless they have a marketing authorisation from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. That means non-veterinary products, including feed and supplements, can’t be ascribed veterinary properties. Those who break the rules face prosecution and the latest case, earlier this month, resulted in a £5,000 fine for the company concerned.

Nutraceuticals – products derived from food sources which have extra health benefits in addition to their basic nutritional value – have become part of modern horse management. We’ve all got our favourites, but if your horse has a problem, start by getting your vet’s advice.

If you’re a competitor, the buck stops with you on banned substances. It’s frighteningly easy for a horse to consume or absorb a banned substance and fail a subsequent dope test, as the recent case of the horse affected by an ingredient in his owner’s hair-thickening product proves.

The list of banned substances grows longer by the year and some riders believe the system can be unfair. However, as long as there are unscrupulous people, there will be rules designed to protect horses – and you can’t argue with that.

Our responsibility as owners is to make sure we buy feed and supplements from the safest sources we can find and feed them responsibly. Look for products which have been audited to meet the British Equestrian Trade Association’s NOPS (naturally occurring prohibited substances) code. Make sure that every horse has his own feed and water containers, and keep them scrupulously clean to minimise the risk of cross-contamination.

Some companies also volunteer to join the Universal Feed Assurance Scheme (UFAS) which requires them to adhere to stringent production procedures. These companies are regularly audited to retain their accreditation and use high quality, traceable ingredients, to meet legislation and safety standards.

If you’re confused, ask questions. If you’re competing and aren’t sure whether an ingredient is banned, check the FEI banned substances list at and if necessary, ask your vet.

Be careful. If the blurb on a product or the claims on a social media page sound like science fiction, they might be just that.