Author Archives: Penny Church

Why we’re nuts about cobs

Cobs have the fun factor, writes Carolyn Henderson. They can do it all with smiles on their faces – and are guaranteed to put one on yours.

 

Everything about cobs is special, even the word itself.  No one seems to know where the name for this type of horse came from, although it’s shared with everything from a round loaf of bread to a male swan.

Somehow, it has a chunky, satisfying feel to it – rather like cobs themselves. Whether they’re strimmed and trimmed show cobs, boast feathers and flying manes and tails or are Welsh Section Ds with prefixes most of us can’t pronounce, they’re the ultimate in versatility.

One of my favourite horse books is a passionate and inspiring book by Omar Rabia called Cobs Can! I love it not just because of the inspiring advice Omar shares, but because the title says it all. Cobs can…do anything.

Cobs are the ultimate “have a go” horses. Correctly schooled by a rider who believes in them, they can do dressage to a high standard; Sam Turner’s 14hh Billy Wizz, who competes at Prix St George, has his own fan club. Their powerful back ends mean they have a great jump – Samantha Garry’s Over the Odds, who has just died at the age of 23, reached Grade B. Like Billy Wizz, he was a “gypsy cob” of unknown breeding and helped Yane Marques win a bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics pentathlon.

They can hack, show, hunt and compete at a respectable level in endurance. A 15hh cob with a leg at each corner and a deep girth can carry tall riders as well as shorter ones, which is why they’re such great family all-rounders.

Some people fall in love with cobs the first time they see one. For others, it’s a relationship that happens by chance, or even by default.

I’m a cob nut. My cob – who is equally happy hacking with my 6ft 2in husband as he is being ridden by 5ft 6in me – is 15.1hh on tiptoes. He has a posh name on his passport, but his nickname is Supercob.

A few years ago, I plucked up the courage to take him to a training clinic with a well-known dressage trainer and judge. The trainer was so revered I wasn’t sure if I should curtsey, and although I’d been assured he loved working with all types of horses and riders, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Everyone else was mounted on fire-breathing warmbloods with matchy-matchy everything and it was like turning up at a posh ball in old jeans.

Luckily, he gave a huge grin and said how lovely it was to see such a happy, active little horse. We had a great time learning how to improve our lengthened strides – something Supercob does easily when he’s trying to impress my friend and hacking partner’s mare, but which he doesn’t see the point of when we’re inside a set of white boards.

It was inspiring and above all, it was fun. If you had to sum up the smile factor of cobs in one word, that would be it – fun.

If you’re looking for a horse to make you smile, be part of your family and give you lots of pleasure – and, perhaps, success – please don’t underestimate them. And if you’re already in on the secret and share your life with a supercob, we’d love to hear about him or her.

Could you be our Assistant Nutritionist?

Assistant Nutritionist and Purchasing

Feedmark Ltd.

Location: Norfolk/Suffolk

Email: [email protected]

Closing Date: Friday May 11th, 2018

Job Type: Nutrition, Purchasing, Quality Control

Job Description

Feedmark enjoys an enviable reputation for making quality 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.

Supporting the Director of Nutrition, this is a varied and exciting full-time role, and will include the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Contributing to nutrition advice to customers
  • Contributing to nutrition marketing content
  • Purchasing
  • Maintaining records to a high standard
  • Internal quality control and complying with national accreditation schemes
  • Advising customers and processing sales, via phone, e-mail or online chat
  • Supporting the sales and customer service team as necessary
  • Attendance at some trade stands

Key skills required:

  • Animal science background
  • Good practical equine knowledge
  • Strong numerical and written skills with proficiency in Microsoft Office
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Knowledge of quality assurance schemes would be an advantage
  • Enthusiastic team player also able to work independently when required
  • Fantastic customer service skills
  • Full driving license

To apply, please forward your CV and covering letter explaining why you are suitable for this position to [email protected] by Friday May 11th, 2018.

It’s only superstition…

As we wish Badminton competitors the best of luck, Carolyn Henderson looks at why horse people are often superstitious. Are you?

 

When Will Furlong makes his four-star debut at Badminton Horse Trials, everyone on the Feedmark team will have their fingers crossed. Will is dedicated, talented and deserves to do well.

Like many horse people, he’s also superstitious. Well, we did say we’d have our fingers crossed, even though we know he has prepared himself and his lovely mare, Collien P2, down to the last detail.

“I can’t use anything new at a competition – it has to be tried at home or in training first,” says Will. “I also have to touch every fence when walking a course, both

Feedmark eventer, Will Furlong with Collien P2.

showjumping and cross-country.

“It started with just showjumping, as I thought if I didn’t touch a rail I would then have it down. Sadly, it doesn’t work quite like that! But it’s progressed to having to touch every cross-country fence, too, no matter how many times I walk a course.”

Will’s superstitions are perfectly understandable. The one about not using anything new in competition is widespread and rooted in common sense.

When you hear the signal to start, you want to know that you and your horse are comfortable and that everything you use has proved itself. This is not the time to discover that a rug fitting has rubbed your horse, or that a new item of clothing is not as comfortable as you anticipated.

A psychologist friend who is also a horse owner says there’s also a good reason behind Will needing to touch the fences he’s about to tackle. “He’s literally putting himself in touch with the challenge ahead of him,” she explains. “That probably helps him concentrate and assess the fences.”

She says riders who insist on wearing a “lucky” item of clothing are also creating a mindset. “If you were wearing a particular shirt or pair of breeches when you won a competition, it may remind you of how great it felt to perform so well and make you feel more positive,” she says.

The problem, of course, is that your lucky shirt will eventually wear out or be damaged. Maybe next time you win, you should rush out and buy half a dozen replicas of another item worn on that successful occasion. Just kidding.

Another common superstition is that riders shouldn’t wear green. Tell that one to Mary King, whose emerald and white cross-country colours are synonymous with success. She adopted them because they were the company colours of one of her most loyal owners, and although she switched to red and black when sponsored by another company for a couple of seasons, she soon changed back to her favourites.

If you need an excuse to be superstitious, there is a wealth of sayings about horses. Everyone knows a horseshoe symbolises luck; this stems from the days when they were made from iron, which was said to ward off fairies, goblins and other supernatural beings with evil intent.

There is also an old belief that seeing a piebald horse means you’ll come into money. Piebalds are seen less frequently than skewbalds; one explanation of this superstition is that true Romanies prized a good one and owning several was a representation of wealth. All I know is when I owned a piebald, he cost me a fortune in shampoo to keep the white bits sparkling and our lottery tickets were all duds.

Even when you try and defy superstition, there are times when you just can’t help yourself. I was taught that there should always be an odd number of plaits along a horse’s neck plus one made from the forelock. I can’t find any logical reason for this – but although I swear I don’t count, I always end up with an even number in total.

Different countries have different superstitions. In some, a white grey horse is regarded as unlucky, as it’s associated with death. In others, it represents happiness.

Everyone at Feedmark HQ would like to reassure Will that his lovely grey mare definitely represents happiness. We’ll still have our fingers crossed, of course, because a bit of luck never goes amiss.

And if you have a superstition, a lucky charm, or a knack for finding four-leaf clovers, do let us know…

Swapping for success

Lateral thinking isn’t only for dressage riders, writes Carolyn Henderson. We can all learn from different disciplines.

Life-swap programmes make for great TV. You know the sort – Mr and Mrs high-maintenance City slicker swap roles with a couple who know that mud belongs in field entrances, not face packs.

Maybe we should start a horse world equivalent by swapping disciplines. There would be the same shocks and surprises, but at the end of it, we’d all learn something new – even if it was just a new way of looking at things.

It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut and be dedicated to dressage, hooked on showjumping, or whatever. But if you love what you do, widening your approach can sometimes help you do it better.

Recently, a friend who wanted to acclimatise her ex-racehorse to indoor competition venues signed up for a showing clinic with a well-known rider.

Even though she said there was no way she would enter a showing class – and that she’d rather watch paint dry than be a showing spectator – she realised it was a good way to get the horse working in company, in a safe environment. She’d seen too many crowded collecting rings at dressage shows to throw him in at the deep end.

It worked, and she got much more out of it than she’d imagined. The rider who took the clinic told her she needed to project confidence as she came down the centre line – and that he could help.

At the end of the day, she’d swapped a frown of concentration for a “Look at us” megawatt smile, sat up elegantly and rode proudly. And guess what? Her horse, who can swap between chilled out and eyes-on-stalks modes faster than you can flip a switch, looked as confident as she did.

It was a salutary lesson: not in showing, though I reckon it won’t be long before she’s signing up for a Retraining of Racehorses class, but in looking at what we can learn from outside our comfort zone.

A good rider/trainer who understands horses has skills that translate. Sometimes, putting a spin on things pays dividends.

I once moaned to a long-suffering showjumping trainer that my horse and I were managing clear rounds but weren’t fast enough against the clock. At my next lesson, my trainer’s dressage rider partner turned up instead.

By the end of the lesson, we’d improved our lengthened and shortened strides and had the beginning of a canter pirouette. Suddenly, we could turn more quickly, and my horse’s stride was much more adjustable – and I realised how slow I’d been to catch on when my jumping trainer kept saying that if I concentrated on the bits between the fences, the rest would sort itself out.

Event riders, by definition, can’t be narrow-minded. Maybe that’s why eventing has more than its fair share of superstars.

Look at people like Mark Todd, who competed at Olympic level in both eventing and showjumping and trains racehorses. Then there’s Tina Cook; her father, Josh Gifford, was a champion jockey and trainer and her mother, Althea Roger-Smith, was an international showjumper.

So, if you want to exceed in your discipline, see what you can learn from those who excel in others.

And if you’ve got a great trainer who knows how to make you think outside of your particular arena, do tell us – we’d love to see them recognised!

Looking for perfection

The Perfect First Pony needs a new home and her owner’s phone line is red hot, writes Carolyn Henderson. Parents – let’s be honest, mothers – have been plotting since the first rumours started circulating and now they’ve flown into action like heat-seeking missiles.

This is happening in my part of the world, as Magic the PFP’s family prepare to interview applicants. Perhaps you know of equivalent four-legged paragons of virtue or have been through the exhausting process of trying to beg or borrow one. I won’t add “steal”, although there’s one mother who is so desperate to secure Magic’s services we’re all wondering how far she’d go.

The sad thing about PFPs is that inevitably, they are outgrown. Unless there is a succession of small riders ready to take up their reins, they need to move on to new families.

Sometimes, families are so devastated at the thought of saying goodbye that they hatch plans for the PFP to be trained for driving. I’m told there are also occasional cases of pregnancies fortuitously being confirmed just as an oldest child’s heels reach that crucial point on the PFP’s sides.

These ponies are second only to unicorns on the list of rare equines. You want a potential four-star event horse, Grade A showjumper or Grand Prix dressage horse? That’s easy-peasy compared with finding a PFP.

They may be nondescript to look at, but they are as precious as diamonds. Magic (I’ve changed her name to avoid a rush of applicants from all over the country) has a short neck and a head that’s slightly too big for it, and flicks one front teoe out to the side while the other stays straight.

However, she is happy to be groomed, dressed up, led around and ridden by small people. They can pick up her feet, brush her tail and – when their mothers aren’t looking – play circus games by sliding off over her hindquarters.

Magic will never be a posh lead rein pony who trots around a show ring in a perfect outline. While she is happy to be led while a small rider masters the ups and downs of rising trot, she excels when it’s time for those first solo missions.

That’s the difference between a good first pony and a perfect one. A GFP is great on the lead rein but not quite as good off it; a PFP makes the transition effortlessly.

Good first ponies should be treasured; perfect first ponies are priceless, which is why they are often loaned rather than sold. They allow little riders to learn the basics of riding and handling safely, without the need to get used to a different pony for first ventures off the lead rein.

When it’s time for them to move on, there are tears, even if accompanied by excitement at the arrival of a new, bigger pony. And that’s just the parents!

Children must come to terms with saying goodbye, of course. Involving them in the process and explaining how their PFP needs to go and help another rider usually helps, although they can be fierce in judgement and swift to condemn.

Magic’s current rider has condemned one applicant because her mother promised they’d buy the pony a new pink headcollar and lead rope. Magic, you see, only wears red and would feel silly in pink.

Whether you’re on the hunt or searching for the next custodians of your PFP, good luck! And we’d love to see pictures…

Katie and Layla visit Haywood Oaks

Is it only me that is fed up of this rain…is it ever going to end?! The weather forced the cancellation of the Southdowns’ Ride, so we made the long trip up to Nottingham, to Haywood Oaks.  The change meant a night away from home but Layla was desperate for a ride, and I really wanted her to have a run before Kings Forest – which is two weeks away. The good thing about taking Layla away from home is that she is so easy, she travels like a ‘pro’ having been across different countries for competitions. She is also not bothered what stable she has as long as there is plenty of food!

We were entered in the 64km class, and my ride plan was to hopefully complete at a speed that was appropriate for the going. It rained the whole night and day and as a result the going could only be described as ‘mud soup’! It

Photo credit: Anne Brown.

was hard to keep a continuous speed up, but we managed what we could. The first loop was a distance of 40km, and we presented to the vet gate in under 2mins; Layla’s pulse was 50bpm and she had A’s and 1’s for everything – perfect!

Following the vet gate; where we let Layla eat (lots!), cleaned her off and kept her warm, we set off for the second loop of 24km. The going was more churned up due to the volume of horses that had been through it, however, it was easier to ride as I knew where we could make up speed and where going slowly was the only option. We finished the ride with a speed of 12kph and presented within 5mins due to the weather. Layla showed her experience and her pulse was 41bpm – despite all my worrying, she received A’s and 1’s again from the vets. This was a great result, despite the horrendous weather and going.

Layla will now have 5 days of holiday to recover and then a couple of days walking exercise before she returns to full work ahead of Kings Forest.

As always none of this would be possible without my friends, family and sponsors. Layla is fuelled by Feedmark’s Performance supplement Stamina and Endurance, and her mood swings are kept at bay by Hormonease – I wouldn’t choose any other supplements for my horses!

Perfect partnerships are a matter of time

What gives you most satisfaction – the start of a new relationship, when there are so many things to find out about each other, or the security and shared experiences of a long-established partnership?

Apologies if that sounds like a quiz on how to find true love, writes Carolyn Henderson. After all, building a relationship with a horse has much in common with finding your ideal human partner, except you can have the former vetted and you can’t sell the latter if he/she proves to be unsuitable.

If perseverance pays off, you eventually reach a happy stability where you know each other inside out. You can then ride off into the sunset, either figuratively or literally.

A few lucky people can instinctively tune in to any horse and get the best out of it. The rest of us have to try harder; we might speak the same language, but we need to adapt our accent to establish a mutual understanding.

Riding different horses is good for us, because it stops us being complacent. It can also prove that a horse with whom you enjoy a long-standing partnership is a treasure on four legs, however he behaves or performs. Horses might be unpredictable by nature, but eventually you get to the stage where most of the time, you get the right answer even if you fluff the question slightly.

You also know how he or she will react in most situations. Note: most. One of the joys of any long-term relationship is that your partner can still surprise you, hopefully in a good way.

I had a much-loved Irish Draught gelding for 18 years, until he died at the age of 22. He was huge in stature, generous in temperament and had a massive sense of humour. When he was excited, he would bounce up and down on his front legs and snort.

After two years, I stopped worrying about whether he was going to do an impression of Champion the Wonder Horse. (If you’re too young to understand the reference, look it up.) After eight years – I told you I had to work at it – I’d learned enough to channel the bouncing into a decent Piaffe.

One of his successors has been with us for eleven years. That may be unimpressive compared to the length of some partnerships, but it’s enough to know that I wouldn’t swap him for anything.

He isn’t a world-beater, but neither am I. We enjoy what we do, we’re successful at our level and we’re happy to see each other every morning. What more could I ask for?

Experts say there’s no such thing as a perfect horse, but there are horses with whom you can build perfect relationships. If you’ve got one, do tell us.

2018 is a great success so far

There are times with horses when writing a blog can be a tricky business – as we all know far too well, they refuse to follow a script, the lows can be continuous, the light can seem a long way down the tunnel – but I am glad and excited to report that 2018 is not one of those times so far for us here at Ben Haslam Racing!

 

The weather has been beyond dismal, the horses beyond fresh and yet the performances on the racetrack have ensured many a smile at half past morning as the staff here have gathered together every item of clothing they own to face the Beast from the East. However, their dedication, going out onto the North Yorkshire Moors when others have stayed in the warm, has meant the horses are simply flying.

 

50% of our runners have finished in the top two so far, with only 3 finishing out of the winner’s enclosure from 23. These are fantastic statistics, and with luck we will keep them going when the weather finally warms up!

 

Cash Again got the ball rolling over jumps, winning his first chase at Sedgefield in the famous green and gold J.P. McManus colours, followed up by Porrima (left) gaining our first flat win of the year at Lingfield when she claimed her maiden under an inspired ride from Luke Morris for owner Daniel Shapiro.

 

Newcastle is proving a very happy hunting ground – having never quite had a double of winners on the same day, we have now managed this feat twice within a fortnight! Castle Hill Cassie and Rey Loopy (right) were first up, and both won like the improving four year olds they are – there should be plenty more to come from these two this year, who have already claimed three victories apiece.

 

Cherry Oak and Lord Caprio (left), both turning three, repeated this feat and should also be continuing their form. Cherry was having her first win for owners Ontoawinner, who also own Cassie, whilst Lord Caprio was flying the Blue Lion colours.

 

There has also been time for some fun and games, with Ben training hard to win his charity Boxing match (Alice was trying to forcefeed him Feedmark electrolytes having seen the horses’ results!) and Alice winning a Donkey Derby at the fabulous Middleham Open Day!

 

Hopefully 2018 will bring more and more good news – we can only cross our fingers they continue to follow the script as the sun hopefully starts to shine!

 

Until next time,

Team Haslam

Feedmark strikes gold with Feefo Service award 2018

We are delighted to have won the Feefo Gold Service award, an independent seal of excellence that recognises businesses for delivering exceptional experiences, as rated by real customers.

Created by Feefo, Trusted Service is awarded only to those businesses that use Feefo to collect genuine ratings and reviews. Those that meet the high standard, based on the number of reviews they have collected, and their average rating, are awarded. A badge of honour, this accreditation remains unique, as it is based purely on the interactions with verified customers. As all reviews are verified as genuine, the accreditation is a true reflection of a business’ commitment to outstanding service.

We quickly met and far exceeded Feefo’s service rating criteria achieving over 800 reviews of between 4.5 and 5.0 in less than six months from October 2017. Five star customer reviews for Feedmark range from “Amazing service great products and super fast reliable delivery” to “Have bought from Feedmark for a few years now, very fast dispatch even to the highlands of Scotland.”

Chris Townsend, Managing Director here at Feedmark, comments: “We’re delighted to receive this highly regarded accreditation from Feefo. We’ve always been proud of our high levels of customer service and to be independently recognised for this is testament to the hard work of our dedicated team of expert Nutritional Advisors and our fast and efficient, next day delivery service. We are completely committed to supporting the nutritional needs of horses up and down the UK in the best and fastest way possible.”

Speaking on this year’s award, Andrew Mabbutt, CEO at Feefo, comments: “The Trusted Service award has always been about recognising those companies that go the extra mile. Once again, we have seen many incredible businesses using Feefo to its full potential, to provide truly memorable experiences for their customers – and rightly being awarded with our most prestigious accreditation. I look forward to the continual success of the businesses that work in partnership with Feefo throughout 2018.”

Feefo is a ratings and reviews and customer analytics platform that provides the tools to collect genuine, purchase-verified reviews on behalf of over 4,000 businesses. Feefo ensures that all feedback is authentic, by matching it to a legitimate transaction; this is in order to increase consumer confidence, and combat the rising issue of fake reviews.

Annie Joppe’s eventful ride across Dartmoor

Things have moved on quite a bit since my last blog with outings for both Fantom and Chiara.  Wizard has started his nannying job; escorting children and really exciting small ponies.  He looks so proud to be in charge, although dancing around when poor Emily (the mum) is leading one of the ponies is perhaps not quite part of his duties!

Dilmun has had a bit of a hit and miss start to his fitness work.  An initial two weeks of his walking passed by relatively smoothly with the time walking increasing and the terrain becoming more varied.  However firstly we had snow; yes, unheard of in Cornwall and, of course, training came to a standstill.  After the thaw we recommenced the walking for a few days and then I had another cheeky little holiday to celebrate a very special wedding anniversary so again training stopped.  We have now reintroduced the walking with a little trotting in between and some progress has been made.

Both Wizard and Dilmun are eager to do more, and I am hoping to take them to a small training ride over Dartmoor at the end of April if I can find a suitable jockey for Wizard.

With all the mud and wet following the snow, all the horses are looking like freshly-wallowed hippos almost all the time and just looking at them makes me feel tired.  To add to this lots and lots of, mostly white, hair is falling out and sticking to absolutely everything.  Please can we have Spring soon?

Fantom had his first outing to Dartmoor to do a 20km ride which was quite eventful.  The day started with everything running late: me, Fantom not being caught, super mud cleaning effort and forgetting the wallet to buy diesel.  We did eventually get to the venue and off I went with one very excited horse.  As usual, it was wet with horizontal hail to start off with and Fantom soon lost any trace of excitement, feeling that he would prefer to go home.  Somehow, he knew the halfway point and the acceleration was immediate rocketing us across the moor complete with downhill body shakes in canter.  When we reached the moor gate I realised that, not only had he lost a shoe, but one of his reins managed to become unclipped prompting a quick reaction on my part to avoid a pretty tricky situation.  All in all, it was a good training ride for him with plenty of hill work.

Both Fantom and Chiara have had their first trip to the beach and both reacted predictably with extreme excitement and eagerness to tackle both the beach and the rather more taxing, dunes.  Fantom in particular was rather silly ‘boinging’ around as though his feet were on springs whilst doing 360-degree circles with his head.  However, I prefer them on their toes as it makes training even more fun.

Chiara’s first outing was a 32km local competition which she had done a couple of times before.  We arrived quite early and were the first to start which meant that the going was at its best and with bright blue skies it was a pleasure.  It was, however, a little disconcerting to find a duck swimming in the first puddle we had to cross!

Next month both Chiara and Fantom will up the distance in preparation for their more serious races at Windsor and Euston Park in May and June and Chiara will need work on her canter leads as she has a definite preference for the left one whereas Fantom will need practice at balance on corners in canter on both leads.  Because of my holidays and the wet and snow, fitness training is a little behind schedule for all horses but hopefully with the Spring supposed to be coming and the horses’ residual fitness, we should be able to make up for lost time.