Author Archives: Penny Church

In praise of perfect parents

Eventing star Mary King’s tribute to her Mum, Gillian Thomson, will have pulled at the heartstrings of every horse owner.

Mrs Thomson, who died early in January, wasn’t just the epitome of a not-particularly-horsey parent who encouraged her daughter to chase her dreams. She was a shining light, and we badly need more of her kind.

If you’re lucky enough to have a parent who is supportive and encouraging without being pushy, do tell us about her or him. If you’re one yourself, you’ll probably be too modest to boast, but keep reminding yourself you’re doing the right thing.

So what makes a perfect horsey Mum or Dad? While it’s great if they are knowledgeable about horses, that isn’t essential. Some of the parents I most admire didn’t have anything to do with ponies before their offspring showed them how easy it was to set fire to £20 notes, but they’ve done wonders. Here are a few examples.

  1. Someone who encourages you in your dreams. So what if you’re ten years old, can’t work out how to ride on the correct diagonal and are a bit mixed up over this business of striking off on the correct leg in canter? You can still watch Charlotte/Carl/Scott/Laura/Oli/Izzy and have every faith that one day, you’ll emulate them.
  2. Someone who believes in you through the bad times as well as the good – and gently points out that if your pony keeps having fences down, won’t pick up his foot when you think you’re asking him to or decides he doesn’t want to be caught, you need to work out how to get around the problem rather than getting cross.
  3. Someone who, having explained the above, then helps you work out the best strategy.
  4. Someone who, when you’re cold, tired and are drowning in a sea of homework, takes over pony duties.
  5. Someone who learns how to read a dressage test, tow a trailer, muck out and clean tack – so they can do all the things you need to have fun, and help when necessary.
  6. Someone who won’t muck out or clean tack because you’d rather do something else. It’s about accepting responsibility, and it will stand you in good stead later in life.
  7. Someone who stands up for you when non-horsey siblings moan about how much time the pony takes up, but also makes sure that you understand that they need support, too. If you don’t want to watch football or go clothes shopping – well, that’s tough.
  8. Someone who ploughs his/her way through all your “how to” books and spends ages searching online for videos of the best way to secure plaits.
  9. Someone who can laugh at pushy parents who think that if they buy a pony with a telephone number price tag, their child will automatically win every competition, from best turned out at Pony Club camp to leading junior showjumper of the year at HOYS.
  10. Someone who says that all that matters is that you do your best, have fun doing it and love your pony. That applies whether you’re six or 60.

If you have, or know of, a perfect parent, we’d love to hear about them. They’re a breed to cherish.

Could you be our new Marketing Executive?

Marketing Executive

Feedmark enjoys an enviable reputation for making quality, science based equine supplements – delivering research led, customer focused nutrition direct to horse-owners throughout the UK and overseas. We’ve been in business for nearly 40 years and continue to go from strength to strength.

Our continued growth requires us to effectively communicate with our customers across an increasing number of channels and we wish to strengthen our Marketing Team by recruiting a forward-thinking Marketer with digital expertise.

We are looking for a full time Marketing Executive with a proven track record of creating and implementing successful digital campaigns, ideally with experience within B2C ecommerce and with an interest in horses.

The ideal candidate should have:

  • At least two years’ experience in marketing
  • An interest in horses
  • Experience of creating and managing campaigns to drive traffic and phone calls to achieve business sales objectives
  • Previous experience of monitoring and improving the customer journey
  • Experience of delivering measured marketing activities and demonstrating use of marketing insight and delivering return on investment
  • Ability to produce clear and concise messaging across a range of channels with experience of writing engaging copy and managing a company’s brand
  • Social media and email marketing experience
  • Google analytics and SEO knowledge, ideally with experience of AdWords and Facebook advertising
  • Creative flair, ideally with some experience of design and video production, previous use of Adobe software or working with external agencies
  • Experience of managing or promoting events is desirable

This position would suit a driven, enthusiastic, well-rounded marketer with a broad range of experience who has the ability to develop and lead projects, to support the Marketing Manager to achieve the company’s objectives.

The candidate must be a team player with the ability to work independently, with excellent project management skills, attention to detail and the ability to manage multiple tasks simultaneously, whilst working to strict deadlines.

They will enjoy working in our rural idyllic offices surrounded by open East Anglian countryside and will have a full driving licence.

To apply, please forward your CV and covering letter explaining why you are suitable for this position to [email protected] by 11th February.

Here’s to a wonderful 2018!

Good evening,

Well, I am making a slow start to my New Year’s Resolution’s already, as clearly my main one was to keep everyone a lot more regularly updated on here!! I have been completely useless over the holiday period, and upsettingly cannot even blame the consumption of too much mulled wine!! Unfortunately, what qualifies as holiday season for the rest of the normal world tends to be quite unbelievably busy in a racing yard, and it has been best foot forward for the last fortnight or so to keep the show up and running here. Luckily, we haven’t had many runners so have been focusing on keeping everyone at home fit and healthy. (Left, The Doorman overseeing a very wintery gallops!).

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year – the horses all had a lovely time eating Feedmark’s delicious treats and will be doing plenty of work this month to get rid of their slight Christmas paunch!

I am pleased to say that 2017 was a good year for the yard, and a good step forward in the right direction. We sent out 15 winners in total, and had the normal share of unlucky placed horses. They ran consistently well throughout the year, with multiple winners The Doorman (right), Castle Hill Cassie, Lord Caprio and Rey Loopy giving us plenty to smile about, as well as individuals Skellig Micheal, Cup Final, Epeius (below), Camanche Grey, Prancing Oscar and Funkadelic. However, as always, there is room for improvement and we look to have a really nice team for 2018, and I sincerely hope we can move onwards again on the winner’s ladder.

Our 2 year olds look an absolutely cracking bunch, and whilst they aren’t the earliest types, they are a big, strong bunch of horses. I am looking forward to their fast work I must say! Amongst the older horses, Castle Hill Cassie, Eponina and Rey Loopy should be improving four year olds, and there is definitely plenty more to come from Lord Caprio and Elysee Star. I am going to keep quiet about who I am most looking forward to, as I don’t want to jinx her, but we have a very nice grey filly here who should build on her 2-year-old run nicely – hooves crossed!

Finally, I want to say a huge thank you to all our owners for their massive support in 2017. We are incredibly lucky to have some truly wonderful people behind us, and there is no better feeling than getting a winner for any one of them. We are indebted to the syndicates Middleham Park Racing, Ontoawinner, Excel Racing and the Champagne Charlies, all of whom are truly excellent and it is a privilege to be able to wear their colours. We were also very proud to be able to give Lynn Douglas, Gary Walker, James Pak, Daniel Shapiro and David Clifford first winners this season in their respective colours, and hope there are plenty more days to crack open the champagne with them all this year! And of course, any day we visit the winner’s enclosure in the green and gold of J.P. McManus is a proud day for all the team.

2018 was so close to getting off to the perfect start, when the delightfully mini Cherry Oak went to Newcastle for her first run of the year over 5 furlongs. She has the heart of a lion, and after being slightly slow out of the stalls ran her heart out to take 2nd. She was closing on the winner all the time, and may run there again on Friday over 6 furlongs. Slightly heart-breaking but it was a positive start to the year!

Here’s to a wonderful 2018!

Online chat query: overweight native

Customer: My horse won’t lose weight, even though I have put him on a diet. The vet has said it’s going to be bad for his health if he doesn’t lose a bit soon – please help!

Olivia: I’m sure that we can help you. Can you tell me a bit about your horse, his workload, his routine and his diet please?

 

Customer: He is a 15hh native, and we do hacking, a bit of schooling and the occasional show. He has hay, and twice a day, he gets fed a small feed of ½ scoop molassed chaff and a handful of horse and pony mix.

Olivia: Thank you for that information. I suppose the simple way to think of how to get a horse to lose weight is that, just like humans, if he needs to drop a few kilos he needs to be burning more calories (energy) that he is consuming. This means that the best thing to do is examine his diet to see where we can cut out some calories, and see if he can expend some more energy. Firstly, let’s look at his diet: Is he out at grass during the day?

 

Customer: He is out in the field from 5pm once I’ve finished work until about 9am. He is out on his own but there is quite a lot of grass still – should I not turn him out?

Olivia: If he is out all night then it is likely that a high percentage of the energy in your horse’s diet come from grass. However, not turning out can be really detrimental both to mental and physical health, so unless it’s an extreme case we would not recommend this. Luckily there are a few ways to help this, especially since he grazes on his own. If he accepts a grazing muzzle, they are such a handy tool to help reduce grass intake Studies have shown that by using a grazing muzzle on a horse they will consume between 50% and 86% less grass than those without (do make sure he will drink with it on though!). If this won’t work for your horse, you can restrict grazing using other methods: by strip grazing; using sheep to graze a field down; or by using a turnout area with no grass.

 

Customer: Okay, I do have a muzzle at home that I can use. Do I leave it on for the whole day, and will it help in the stable too?

Olivia: I’d suggest leaving it on the whole time they are turned out, if not they may compensate by gorging when you take it off! However, do not use it in the stable. Instead, to minimise calories consumed when your horse is in, I would feed soaked hay in the stable – soaking it for 12-16 hours will reduce the WSC (water soluble carbohydrates). If your horse is very greedy see if you can get someone to pop hay in ‘little and often’ to keep him busy and stop his stomach from being empty for more than a few hours at a time.

 

Customer: What about his hard feed, I do like to give him a little something?

Olivia: I’d stop what you are giving him – as nutritionally this isn’t contributing much towards balancing his diet. What I would suggest is looking at our SlimAid supplement – this is a really condensed, pelleted vitamin and mineral supplement, that also contains amino acids, specially formulated to be an easy to feed way to balance the diet of those who are on restricted grazing.

 

Customer: Should I do all of this straight away?

Olivia: As with all changes to the diet, these changes mentioned should be undertaken gradually, over the course of a few days.

 

Customer: Is there anything else I can do to help him?

Olivia: Anything you can do to increase the energy he uses will help to speed up the weight loss – can you ride for longer or more frequently? If not is there someone else who can exercise him to help? Alternatively, if your yard has a horse walker that is a handy way for your horse to burn a few calories while you are doing yard chores.

Preparing horses for the 2018 season

Is it just me or this damp, wet, dreary weather, getting a bit boring now?

We are very lucky where I live in West Sussex – beautiful views, great hacking, never too much snow. However, I really wish we were not on the deep, heavy clay ground, that just turns to sludge at this time of the year!

Luckily, we are not too far from the sandy soil, so we have been travelling Layla and Magdy up there once a week to do some faster fitness work. They have really enjoyed this and are definitely feeling well ahead of the 2018 endurance season! I am really pleased that post exercise their recoveries have been really promising, with both horses having heart rates of sub-60bpm before untacking.

Alongside this exercise, both horses have one schooling session, one lunging session and three slower training rides from home. I think it is so important to include schooling and lunging into any horses’ training, whatever their discipline, as it’s vital to have a supple horse, that’s working from behind and not on their forehand. This enables each horse to be as energy efficient as possible, which is especially important for endurance. As we get closer to the start of the season, the length of our training rides will increase to enable the horses to be fully prepared ahead of their competitions.

The plan for both Layla and Magdy is that they will both go to early 80km competitions in March. Mandy Yarnold’s Marley, will also be joining them, so fingers crossed for a positive start for the season. This will hopefully be Magdy’s second 80km qualifier for his CEI 1* qualification. We are lucky this year, as there are some new FEI compeititons on the calendar which will give us more choice and ensure we can get to a competition at the peak of their fitness.

Whilst all this training is going on, my 4-year-old youngster, Omar el Nazeer, or Arnie as he’s known at home, is enjoying having time out in the field. Eating, growing and playing consumes his days! At nearly 16hh already, I am giving him lots of time to grow and mature before starting the backing process. Over the next few weeks I plan to start some ground work with him, so by the time the summer comes, hopefully I will be able to get on board. He will probably be turned away again through the Autumn to allow for more growing time as Arabs are renown for taking extra time, and are also not usually this big!

Roll on the spring!

How to scrub up like a show pony

As a New Year ball/excuse for a really good party proved, many horsey people can turn themselves out as well as they turn out their horses.

I’m used to seeing many of the guests with slicked-back hair and riding hats, and must admit that at first glance, I didn’t recognise a couple of people I know quite well. I hope they won’t mind me identifying them as show pony people, because they would have wowed any judge.

Their glossy hair, shimmering skin and artful makeup put their ponies to shame, and that’s saying something. Even one who wouldn’t pass the vet – she’d have been nine-tenths lame on a trot-up thanks to a not so delicate hoof stomping on her foot – would have been near the top of the line.

As a breed, showing people are extraordinary. One of them, Stephanie Hill, holds the title of Miss England and was recently third in the Miss World final; all that, and she has the temerity to be a good rider, too.

It’s enough to make some of us, including me, weep. Horse people fall into two categories: those who always look as if they’ve stepped out of an equestrian clothing catalogue and those who need 24 hours’ notice to scrub up into something even half decent.

Some time ago, I reached the stage in life where I can be thankful that my backside doesn’t look too big in breeches, but have to ignore the rest. My nephew, bless him, once made my day when he told me, in encouraging tones, that when I was on a horse I looked about 16.

It was a pity he had to spoil it by adding, “That’s from the back, of course”.

What I don’t understand is why some women can get off a horse and within seconds, look as if they’ve never been near it. You know the sort I mean: her pristine breeches stay pristine, her boots keep their shine and all she has to do when she takes off her hat is release her artfully twisted hair from its fastener and let a cascade of curls tumble down her back.

I’m the other sort: as soon as I go near a horse it slobbers or sneezes over me, my fingernails and clothes attract dirt as if they were high-power magnets and when I remove my hat, my hair is flat as a pancake, with my fringe plastered to my forehead. Even if I manage to restore some semblance of normality before getting on with normal life, you can guarantee I’ll have hay in my hair or dirt on my face. I learned the hard way never to leave the house without checking front and back views in the mirror.

Sounds familiar? Here, according to a friend renowned for her turnout skills, both equine and human, are some cunning tips – if you have any more, please share them:

  • Keep your hair short enough that it looks as if it’s meant to stick up in spikes, or long enough that you can scrape it back into a pony tail.
  • If you’re a woman of a certain age – and apologies in advance to friends from Essex – a high, tight pony tail or bun is supposed to make your skin look tauter. Colloquially known as the Essex facelift, it may also give you a headache.
  • If you’re desperate, try the two D’s – dry shampoo and deodorant. Don’t believe the Victorian dictate than horses sweat, men perspire and women glow.
  • If you don’t have time to wash your hair and it’s styled with a fringe because you look like a startled rabbit without one, shampoo just your fringe. It’s called bluffing it, but it works.
  • Baby wipes, preferably biodegradable ones, are essential in every grooming kit. Tell your horse he has to share them with you.
  • Hair in knots? Nick your horse’s mane and tail de-tangler, too.
  • Dark nail polish hides a multitude of sins, as long as it isn’t chipped. I’m told false nails hide even more, but I’m not that brave.
  • Remind yourself that the natural look is far more attractive than one which has taken painstaking preparation. Fair enough, who am I trying to kid?

Customers vote for Feedmark to reach national awards finals

Feedmark are delighted to have reached the national finals of the 2018 British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) Business Awards.

We have been shortlisted as a finalist for the SEIB Retailer of the Year Award under the category of Internet Retailer. The accolade will be awarded on 22nd January at the BETA Gala Dinner, at the National Motorcycle Museum, Birmingham.

“We’d like to thank our customers for nominating us for such a prestigious award. Customer Service has been at the heart of Feedmark for over 35 years, so we are delighted to be recognised for the professional service, high quality products and expert nutritional advice our team provides.” said Chris Townsend, Managing Director of Feedmark. “

As part of the final judging, a series of independent mystery shops and incognito telephone calls to the shortlisted candidates will be conducted.

“There were more than 1,000 nominations for the SEIB Retailer of the Year Award, so many congratulations go to Feedmark for reaching the finals,” said BETA executive director Claire Williams. “BETA encourages the highest standards in equestrian retailing, enabling horse owners and riders to shop with confidence where they see the BETA sign.”

More than 150 tack shops and feed merchants across the UK are entitled to display the BETA logo, indicating their retail membership of the trade association and that they are properly run businesses offering reliable advice.

4 tips to keep your horse healthy this winter

We are now in the depth of winter, and lush summer paddocks have long disappeared. Instead, many horses are stabled for numerous hours of the day, and turned out on sparse winter paddocks.

Your horse’s feeding regime may need to be altered to keep them healthy through these winter conditions, so here are four of the most basic, but also the most important things to consider.

1. Water

A lack of water will very quickly have negative impacts upon health. Cold weather can cause buckets, drinkers and troughs to freeze – check water sources at least twice a day to ensure the horse can drink! Lagging pipes will also help to prevent freezing and damage, and floating a ball in water troughs can prevent ice build-up.

Even if your horse has access to water, most horses will drink less when the weather and water is cold! Studies have shown that horses will drink up to 40% more warm water compared to that which is ice-cold water when the weather is cold. To help keep your horse hydrated, provide them with warmed water when the weather is freezing. Giving your horse a soaked feed (for example, a soaked fibre or grass block which provides 5 litres of water!) is another great way to ensure that your horse stays hydrated when the cold weather hits, and providing electrolytes or salt in the feed will also promote drinking.

2. Forage

Little and often: Horses’ digestive systems have evolved to be trickle fed. Too little fibre, or not being provided with forage on a regular enough basis can cause serious health and behaviour problems. Ideally, if your horse is not overweight, provide them with ad-lib forage over the winter, both in the stable and the field.

If your horse is maintaining too much condition, winter can be more troublesome. Soaking hay reduces WSCs (sugar levels), so feed hay soaked for at least 30 minutes where possible. Feeding little and often is also advised, so late night checks where another haynet is provided are a great idea.

3. Balancing the diet

If over the winter, your horse is receiving hay as a main forage source, it is likely that they will not be receiving adequate vitamins and minerals from their diet, especially if being fed older hay. The vitamin E content in grass is usually high, but this deteriorates when hay is cut and stored, and vitamin A also decreases, albeit more slowly. In addition to this, UK forage often lacks sufficient zinc, copper, selenium, and sodium, so if your horse receives a forage-only diet, or a diet where they only get small amounts of a complete feed, you should consider supplementing their diet with vitamins and minerals – Benevit Advance is a great value vitamin and mineral supplement suitable for all horses and ponies, and will help to balance their diet over the winter months.

4. Peak condition

You can see whether your horse gets enough energy from their diet by their weight – if they put on weight, they are receiving too much energy that is not being expended, and their ration should be reduced while making sure that your horse is still able to trickle feed. If your horse is on a forage-only diet and is losing condition, they are using more energy than they are consuming. In this case you will need to add more calories to the diet. Ideally choose an energy dense source, such as a high oil or fat supplement, as this is a slow release energy source and suitable for most horses. If this is what your horse needs, take a look at our Condition & Shine, or even our Omega Oil and Soya Oil.

In praise of the brave

The terrible fire in a multi-storey car part next to Liverpool International Horse Show’s venue has made international headlines. But for most of us, the most important part of the story is not the fire itself, but the fact that all the horses there were evacuated safely.

It could have been so different, and proves that in times of crisis, horse people find courage. Show organisers have praised the grooms and others who brought horses – not necessarily ones they knew or looked after – out of the stables while the sound of exploding vehicles signalled how danger was escalating.

They kept their cool and kept the horses calm. Maybe you, like me, have wondered how you would have reacted.

Many non-horsey people reckon we’re brave – or bonkers – for trusting horses under any circumstances.

“His teeth are so big!” a non-horsey visitor said of my much-loved cob, whom we reckon is Clydesdale cross Labrador. “Aren’t you scared he’ll bite you?”

No, I’m not. The only time anyone would be in danger would be if they looked like a carrot and the worst thing those fearsome teeth have done is to untie his lead rope so he can wander off in search of food or attention.

Obviously, all horses retain their natural prey instincts and we must use common sense when handling them. The quietest horse can surprise you with lightning reactions when startled, and those who insist on kissing their horses’ muzzles while they take those cute selfies might wonder how they’d feel if a horse chucked up his head and knocked out their teeth. It happens.

Bravery comes in many forms. If I look at my friends, it ranges from the rider who felt sick at the idea of riding a dressage test, but trotted some nifty circles and raked in sponsorship to help rescue cruelly treated dogs, to someone who is paralysed from the waist down but showjumps and competes in dressage to a decent standard and has even won rosettes for barrel racing.

Being brave isn’t the same as being foolhardy. Some people reading this might be prepared to jump hedges containing wire, or where they have no idea what’s on the landing side. Feel free to disagree, but to me, that really is bonkers.

Who is braver: riders who compete in top-level eventing – and are definitely not bonkers, because they know their and their horses’ capabilities – or those who are terrified at the idea of jumping, but put their faith in a good trainer and overcome their fear to jump round a 60cm course?  Answers on a postcard, please…

Being brave means knowing there’s a risk, weighing up the odds and deciding that you can minimise it. In a way, we do that every time we get on a horse. But now and again, horse people go the extra mile – which is why everyone who helped get those horses to safety in Liverpool deserves our admiration and respect.

50% extra FREE during January

This month only, we are offering the following specially selected supplements with 50% extra free:

ExtraFlex HA with Rosehips (2.7kg)

This is our highest specification joint supplement which maintains supple joints. ExtraFlex provides Glucosamine HCl and Chondroitin Sulphate, which are joint health ingredients used by the body to help maintain articular cartilage and joint function. These are complemented by Hyaluronic Acid which works within the joint capsule to stabilise the joint and aid shock absorption, and MSM (methyl sulphonyl methane), this supplies Sulphur which is required to provide strength to articular cartilage, and has antioxidant properties. We recently improved ExtraFlex by increasing the levels of Hyaluronic Acid, it now has the highest levels on the joint supplement market.

50% extra free during January. For more information, click here.

 

Benevit Advance (10kg)

Our best-selling multivitamin and mineral supplement which contains 25 vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, providing your horse with all the nutrients they need each day. Benevit balances the diet, and is suitable for all horses and ponies, particularly those on low amounts of feed, or forage-only diets. It delivers the important antioxidants Vitamin E and Selenium, and is fortified with Omega 3 and 6 to encourage a glossy bloom to any coat.

50% extra free during January. For more information, click here.

 

EquiDermis Plus (10kg)

A blend of natural ingredients to help support skin health, and create bloom and shine to the coat. EquiDermis Plus is ideal for all horses and ponies with poor coat condition, challenged skin or sensitivity. It contains Micronised Linseed, a source of Omega 3 fatty acids which help to support healthy skin and promote a shiny coat, and supplies naturally occurring B Vitamins, including Biotin, known to be important for skin health and hair growth. This supplement is specifically formulated to help the horse cope with unpleasant spring and summer skin conditions, and may also be beneficial in horses with fly bite sensitivity. EquiDermis Plus offers the ideal nutritional support for skin challenged by wet, damp or muddy conditions too.

50% extra free during January. For more information, click here.

 

Opti Muscle (2kg)

Ideal support for hard working or vulnerable muscles. Vitamin E and Selenium are important nutrients that act as antioxidants, which play an important role in maintaining healthy cell membranes and normal muscle function. Magnesium supports optimum nerve function and muscle relaxation, allowing horses and ponies to work with greater flexibility. Opti Muscle helps to maintain muscles in a healthy condition, promoting correct muscle development for optimum performance and recovery.

50% extra free during January. For more information, click here.

 

SarVoid (3kg)

The ideal supplement for horses and ponies with skin imperfections to keep skin blemish-free. SarVoid is a blend of traditionally used ingredients, including Turmeric, Burdock root and Red Clover flowers, which combine to help keep skin free from these unattractive flaws. Linseed and Clivers are essential for normal skin cells reproduction and help to keep skin healthy and keep the coat shiny. In addition to these skin health optimising herbs, Astragalus helps to support the immune system, and BioPerine helps the body to best utilise the active components of these ingredients.

50% extra free during January. For more information, click here.

 

Boswellia (2kg)

This increasingly popular plant resin optimises mobility and performance by exerting a soothing action on tired joints and muscles. Boswellia can also help to maintain respiratory health and aids the digestive system, firming loose droppings.

50% extra free during January. For more information, click here.

 

 

Terms and conditions: Order online at feedmark.com. For telephone orders please call 0800 585 525 / 01986 782368. 50% extra free offer on ExtraFlex HA with Rosehips, Benevit Advance, EquiDermis Plus, Opti Muscle, SarVoid, and Boswellia applies to selected sizes only and is valid from 01/01/2018 until 31/01/2018.