Monthly Archives: February 2018

Racing for equality

Should we be surprised by a survey suggesting that the performance of female jockeys is equal with that of their male counterparts? No, writes Carolyn Henderson.

Survey author Vanessa Cashmore, University of Liverpool, says that statistics show a lack of opportunities, not lack of ability. It would be fascinating to know if the same applied to equestrian disciplines usually regarded as being equal opportunity.

Looking at British Showjumping’s gold horse/rider combination league for 2017 shows women riders on the back foot. From 1 April – 30 September, 34 women featured in the top 100. The same applied from 1 October 2017 – 21 February 2018.

British Eventing’s top 100 riders saw 44 women in the ranks. You can’t compare dressage on the same basis, as British Dressage rider rankings no longer exist. Instead, a rider’s top eight scores from premier league shows, national championships and international competitions are used to calculate his or her points total monthly.

However, the latest scores show one male rider, Daniel Greenwood, mixed in with female stars – and no prizes for guessing that the top three places are held by a certain Charlotte Dujardin, riding Mount St John Freestyle, Hawtins Delicato and En Vogue respectively. To be fair, Dan does have two rides at the rankings: Chevalier O, in fourth place and Lukien Von Tespe, in seventh.

I’d eat my best, highest safety specification riding hat if someone could prove that men were better riders than women, or even that they were more competitive. The female can be just as deadly/determined/bloody-minded – delete as applicable – as the male!

I suppose I’d better wear that highest safety specification hat before suggesting that a lot of men have more opportunities to compete. Hang on a second while I adjust the harness.

Seriously, it does seem that some women cut back on or give up competing, and even on riding, as life’s responsibilities take over. OK, I mean children.

How many women do you know who say they are now giving their time to their children’s interests rather than their own? Are you one of them, and if so, do you have withdrawal symptoms? Or are you a Supermum who manages to achieve the best of both worlds?

Such Mums do exist. Olympic event rider Kitty King says that her mother, Jane Boggis – herself a former top level event rider – parked her in a pram next to the arena and that she probably absorbed riding from the moment she was born.

Living near Newmarket and seeing so many dedicated female workers in its racing industry, I hope trainers take note of Vanessa Cashmore’s research and give female jockeys more chances; not just to ride, but to ride their better horses.

Vanessa’s work suggests that, once the quality of the horses is factored in, the performance of female jockeys is equal to that of male jockeys. Her data also shows that females hold only 11.3% of professional jockey licences, and that they took only 5.2% of available rides during the period of the study.

Nick Rust, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, has said that many in the industry feel that there is no reason why female jockeys should not be considered as good as their male counterparts.

Equality has been a high-profile topic recently, from equal pay and opportunities to the centenary of women getting the vote. And as Nick Rust says, “If female jockeys are not being given the same opportunities as the men, then this cannot be considered as equality.”

Let’s hope trainers agree, and that women jockeys get the chance to give men a run for their money.

Annie returns from Antarctica

Well, I have been back from the frozen continent for about a week now and am getting slowly back into the rhythm of things: work, horses, endurance plans and catching up with all the news and gossip.

My voyage to Antarctica was, as expected, totalling amazing.  Ice, whales, penguins, wild seas, albatrosses, icebergs, snow, Cape Horn; just wow!  On my return to Cornwall I could not believe how wet and muddy it is.  The Antarctic Summer (at least at the edge) has a lot going for it.  Okay it did rain and snow and the very sudden winds came from the South Pole and were bone-chilling, but we saw the sun most days!  I didn’t feel cold or wet (yes I did wear 3 thermal layers, 2 fleeces, 1 ski jacket and a sailing coat).  I have been reliably informed that it rained every day in Cornwall since I left six weeks ago!

Back to the horses; they are feral, filthy, fat and furry but they are also healthy and happy horses!  You can worry so much about leaving your beloved horses whilst you go on holiday and six weeks is a long time, but THEY DID NOT DIE!  I had a brilliant lady looking after them all and, with the help of the range of supplements provided by Feedmark, they are all in excellent condition.  It has, however, now left me with rather a lot of work to do to get them competition fit.

Firstly to tackle the mud and hair!  Fantom has now been successfully, if not beautifully, scalped and after strategic washing, looks almost presentable.  The same cannot be said of Chiara who determinedly resists any attempt to reduce her level of hair.  Today was an all-out assault on Dilmun’s tangles as he had his first ride since his winter break.  I decided to ride him bareback as it was only for 10 minutes and really didn’t seem worth putting the saddle on.  It was a little slippery but all went well until I got off and discovered that he has started losing his hair big time, my jodhpurs having attracted a large portion of it.  At least I won’t have to ruin my clippers in attempting to clip him!

Today was also a bit of a tidy up day, sweeping out the tack room, washing boots and towels which was quite a pleasant relaxing job until I saw my bridles!  How did they get so dirty?  No, they haven’t been used which means I must have left them like that!  Joy oh joy a tack cleaning session was a must and thank goodness they now look ready to rock and roll.

One slightly unfortunate thing though with being ‘out of the loop’ is that I missed the deadline to express my interest in being considered for WEG this year.  Another slight downside from my expedition is that I managed to pick up an injury when I jumped off a rock to avoid some penguin poo and aggravated an old injury.  Physio starts this week and I am confident that I can recommence my own fitness training in a couple of weeks’ time.  However, this has meant that I have had to put back competition schedules for all the horses by about a month with the first International competition now probably being at Royal Windsor in May.

Since my return both Fantom and Chiara have done a week’s walking with a little trotting and both are extremely keen to do more.  Next week will involve upping the trotting slightly and reinforcing some of the schooling they did at the beginning of the year.  I had expected the ancient Wizard to be ridden a bit in my absence but sadly this was not the case and I will have to scout around for a jockey for him to keep him happy.

I have to confess that since returning from Antarctica, I have enjoyed keeping up with the Winter Olympics and in particular following Lizzy Yarnold’s fantastic success through the eyes of her mother, a dedicated endurance rider.  Much respect, Lizzy!

I think being away for quite a long spell has helped concentrate my mind and reinforce the goals I have set for myself and my horses.  There is nothing like stepping back a little to put things into perspective.

Recognising the real thing

Valentine’s Day has been and gone –  but how do you know when love is for keeps? Carolyn Henderson has some suggestions.

Soppy cards no longer clog the supermarket shelves, chocolates are minus the little red hearts on their packaging, and cut flowers are back to their normal price. Valentine’s Day is over for another year.

You might, of course, have ignored the whole shebang and insisted that you shouldn’t need a commercially-led day to demonstrate your devotion. After all, actions speak louder than chocolates.

So how do you tell if the one you regard as the love of your life is a keeper, or might need re-homing at some stage? Horses are very useful at helping us work this out; I’ve been married long enough to know how to pick a stayer, so here’s my guide. To keep it simple, I’ve referred to the Beloved as he, but please amend as appropriate.

  • He doesn’t complain when you dash in, get changed into horsey gear and dash straight out to ride/do field and stable chores/both. Add a bonus point if he doesn’t ride, but offers to help with routine jobs.
  • He swears that he still finds you attractive even when you have hay in your hair, dirt in your fingernails and are wearing Eau de Stable instead of Eau de Toilette. Bonus point – when you scrub up, he doesn’t faint with shock, but simply tells you how nice you look.
  • He learns how to read a dressage test/tow a trailer/drive a horsebox so you can concentrate on your horse. Deduct a point if, even though he can’t ride, he tells you where he thinks you went wrong. Warning: he may get to the stage where he’s right, in which case you have to restore the point you knocked off.
  • He admits that he’s become quite attached to your horse. Add a bonus point if you catch him talking to your horse when he doesn’t know you’re watching, so isn’t out to impress.
  • You catch him in deep conversation with another owner on your livery yard. They blush when they realise you’ve spotted them and you can’t help having a nagging suspicion at the back of your mind. Then he admits that he was asking her for suggestions about what he could buy you for your birthday. Later, she tells you that she dropped the name of some expensive but covetable grooming kit. Add extra bonus points!
  • He announces that he wouldn’t mind having a go at riding and asks if he could learn on your horse. Add a bonus point if he isn’t offended when you shriek with horror/burst out laughing at the thought of your beloved but characterful horse patiently helping someone get to grips with rising trot.
  • He accepts that he needs a proper teacher and a suitable horse and doesn’t complain when the riding school you find is full of fearsomely competent ten-year-olds. Add a bonus point if he isn’t distracted by the Yummy Mummies accompanying said ten-year-olds.
  • And the final decider? He announces that he wants his own horse, so you can share romantic moments over the muckheap and ride off into the sunset together.

So, do you have the perfect horsey partner? If so, we’d love to know why he or she is so special, so do let us know!

Feedmark partners with Wellington Riding

We are pleased to announce our exciting new partnership with Wellington Riding, one of the UK’s biggest and best-known equestrian centres.

Set in 300 acres of the Duke of Wellington’s beautiful Hampshire estate, Wellington Riding is a British Horse Society Approved Riding School, Livery Yard and ‘Where to Train’ Centre to BHSI. The school is a highly regarded competition centre, catering for all levels from grass roots to Olympic Riders.

The new partnership will see Feedmark become the exclusive equine supplement sponsor for Wellington Riding, supporting it through its busy 2018 events programme. The schedule of competitions includes both the British Dressage Winter Regionals and the Premiere League in June. Plus numerous other Affiliated and Unaffiliated Dressage, Show Jumping, Arena Eventing, Combined Training, Pony Club Competitions and facility hire to high profile riders.

Rachael Corry of Wellington Riding, comments: “Our wide range of facilities means we look after riders and horses from every equine discipline. Having Feedmark’s expert team of nutritionists onboard for the coming season to advise on the health and wellbeing of horses will provide added value to our livery clients and competitors and we are very excited to be stocking the full range of Feedmark products in our onsite tack shop.”

Chris Townsend, Managing Director of Feedmark, comments: “We’re delighted to be working with such a prestigious and dynamic venue, supporting a diverse range of activities from eventing to cross country schooling. There’s something for everyone at Wellington and we’re looking forward to providing advice and support to help riders with the individual nutritional needs of their horses and the activities they undertake with them in 2018.”

Manners matter

Teaching the rules of acceptable behaviour will help keep you – and everyone who deals with your horse – safe, writes Carolyn Henderson

Imagine that two friends have each asked you to spend a day with them.

One is great fun and you enjoy her company, but she doesn’t always listen to others’ points of view and can be a bit pushy and in-your-face. The other is also great fun but has inherent good manners and respects your views and personal space.

Which one would you prefer to be with? It’s a no-brainer, unless you’re up for an exhausting challenge.

So, why do so many people allow their horses to have bad manners? It’s annoying, unnecessary and can be dangerous. Although figures can’t be quantified, most organisations agree that accidents happen on the ground just as frequently as when horses are ridden or driven.

One reason might be that we become complacent and take good behaviour for granted. I learned that the hard way. Many years ago, I forgot my gloves when preparing to lunge a saint on four legs and couldn’t be bothered to go back for them. Unfortunately, even saints spook when birds fly out of the hedge.

My horse took off, the lunge line ripped across my fingers and a finger joint ended up at an angle it wasn’t designed to take. I can’t guarantee that gloves would have prevented the injury, but I reckon they would have minimised the damage.

Our responsibility as owners is to everyone who comes into contact with our horses. Vets are particularly vulnerable, for obvious reasons, which is why the British Equine Veterinary Association has launched its Don’t Break Your Vet campaign.

Did you know that equine vets have one of the highest injury risks of all civilian professions? According to a paper recently published in the journal Equine Veterinary Education, an average equine vet may expect to sustain between seven and eight work-related injuries that impede them from working, during a 30-year working life.

This is far a higher figure than civilian occupations such as the construction industry, prison service and the fire brigade! My vet won’t be surprised – last year, he was kicked and knocked out by an unshod youngster.

That’s why we must all teach our horses basic manners. They must stand still when required to; walk and trot in-hand obediently; accept a worming syringe; and respect a handler’s space.

As part of its campaign, BEVA has produced some great short videos. They are practical, logical, and use kind methods, without any mysticism. Anyone can learn the techniques and apply them to their horses and ponies and any animal can learn what’s asked.

You often hear excuses such as “He’s feisty, all Welsh/TBs/Arabs/cobs/substitute your favourite breed or type are like that.” Sorry, that doesn’t work. A reactive horse can learn just as easily as a laid-back one – in fact, he’ll pick things up more quickly and will enjoy doing it.

If a horse has been badly or inconsiderately treated, then of course you might need extra patience. In some cases, you might want to get help from a recommended professional – but be careful that he or she has the pedigree to match the selling pitch.

But whether you’ve got a stroppy pony or a clever cob who’s good at manipulating you, it’s well worth watching the series of videos made by BEVA.

Whenever you have a problem, it’s sensible to look at your overall regime. Is a horse over-reactive because his feeding or management regime has been changed, or doesn’t suit him?

Is he bored and needs more stimulation? Practising new skills via short training sessions will help here, too.

Brush up your skills and let us know how you get on – and if you’ve worked to improve your horse’s manners, we’d love to hear about them and how you did it.

Staying within the rules

With horses, the best-laid plans can go awry – which is why you need to include a little leeway. Even then, you can’t avoid occasional disappointment; I bet you’ve had times when a horse seems to carefully remove his shoe on the morning of a competition.

That’s disappointing enough, so I can only imagine what it’s like for riders who have to pull out of a competition or team that represents the pinnacle of their ambition. It happens: in 2016, Izzy Taylor had to withdraw from the British eventing team for the Rio Olympics when Allercombe Ellie suffered a slight injury in training.

Izzy remained dignified in disappointment despite missing out on what must have been the pinnacle of her equestrian career so far. How sad, then, that two amateur riders were disqualified from the 2017 British Showjumping National Amateur & Veteran Championships after their mounts tested positive for prohibited substances.

While there was no confusion over these cases, the whole business of prohibited substances can be a nightmare. Whatever discipline we compete in, at whatever level, we must keep up to date. Vets and good equine nutritionists can help, but the buck stops with you.

You might not agree with the system simply because it’s so complex and changes occur frequently, but it’s there for horse welfare. Who could argue with that?

If your vet advises that a monitored programme of medication will keep your horse comfortable and enable him to remain in an appropriate level of work – thus helping the horse physically and mentally – that’s a good enough reason. If you feel it’s OK to give anti-inflammatory medication to allow you to compete in a particular competition, please think again.

I’m not talking about nutritional support, which can be a huge help for horses and people, although you need to be careful that ingredients do not contravene any rules. I’m talking about Phenylbutazone and its metabolite, Oxyphenbutazone, which were at the centre of the two showjumping disqualifications referred to earlier.

There is a difference between medicating to relieve pain and improve quality of life, and medicating for competitive gain. Ambition must never blur that line.

While competing isn’t everything, how disappointing must it be for the original runners-up in these showjumping finals, who now take the titles? They should have had a glorious day, enjoying a lap of honour at a prestigious championships so they could show off animals of whom they were so proud.

There is already a move to stage a prize-giving at this year’s championships so they can be acknowledged, but will it always be tainted by what happened? How would you feel if it happened to you?

Full marks to British Showjumping, which says in a media statement: “British Showjumping would like to stress that there is a zero tolerance for members who choose to compete ignoring the prohibited substances list.   Equine welfare is of paramount importance to the Association as is ensuring best chance of fair competition and the opportunity for Championship winners to enjoy their triumph on the day rather than respectively in this way.”

Some people grumble about regulations, mainly because the list of prohibited substances and controlled medication gets longer by the minute. However, the powers-that-be do listen to vets and make changes when necessary.

For instance, the FEI says that for 2018, Cobalt remains a controlled medication, but a screening level will be implemented instead of an international threshold. The screening limit will be set to a level that will prevent unnecessary positive cases associated with the use of vitamin B12 supplementation.

Cyclosporine becomes a controlled medication rather than a prohibited substance, “in acknowledgement of its important use for the treatment of ocular disease, in particular equine recurrent uveitis.” The FEI will monitor its use.

Riders who think they can break the rules and not get caught are kidding themselves. Mandatory and random dope-testing is becoming more sophisticated and more common.

Let’s all be fair – to other riders and, even more important, to our horses.

For free advice on feeding supplements, call 0800 585 525, chat online via or email [email protected]






Award winning Hood Show Team partner with Feedmark for 2018 Show Season

The highly celebrated and award winning Hood Show Team has announced an exciting new partnership for the 2018 Show Season, as they become Brand Ambassadors of Feedmark.

Allister, Anne and their son Oliver Hood are leading producers in the Equestrian Showing World. To date, they have produced no less than 82 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) Winners and countless County Show Champions.

Last Season’s notable wins include, Oliver riding Annabel Jenks’ large riding horse of the year Diamonds Are Forever to take the HOYS Supreme Horse of the Year title 2017. This marked a double victory for Diamonds Are Forever, who qualified with Allister when he went supreme at the Royal International Horse Show. For the second year on the run Allister also won the Colosso Family Heavyweight Cob of the Year championship at HOYS, riding Caroline Tyrell’s Our Cashel Blue.

Based at Buttons Farm on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, the Hoods produce a wide range of horses and ponies including Lead Rein Ponies, Show Ponies, Hacks, Cobs, Riding Horses and Hunters.

The new partnership will see the internationally renowned show team and highly regarded show producers work with Feedmark’s nutritional experts to promote equine health and nutrition throughout the new 2018 Show Season. 

Allister Hood comments: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Feedmark, whose supplements we’ve used for several years to help promote our horses’ overall health and wellbeing. We believe horses have to feel good on the inside before they can shine on the outside and finding supplements to support  individual horses’ needs is key. We are very much looking forward to the 2018 season ahead.”

Chris Townsend, Managing Director of Feedmark, comments: “This thrilling new partnership brings together one of the country’s most prominent show teams with Feedmark’s deep insight and understanding of horses’ nutritional needs to make a winning team. We are very excited to be working with Allister, Anne and Oliver as well as providing help and advice to our many customers as they prepare for the 2018 Show Season.”