Author Archives: Penny Church

Resolutions for horse owners

Do you make New Year resolutions? Or does the very thought just make you feel guilty before you start?

Let’s be realistic – most of us aren’t going to suddenly improve our dressage scores by 50% or find that we perform much better over 1.20m courses than we do over 80cm ones. If you do, please share the secret below. Immediately.

So let’s forget about resolutions and think of ways in which we can improve. Here are some challenges for 2018 – do let us know what yours are.

 

  • Be sportsmanlike. Or sportswomanlike, if you prefer.

I am really, really fed up with people who talk about “gamesmanship” when what they actually mean is “Doing all I can to scupper other people’s chances.” I don’t mean objecting when someone deliberately breaks rules, such as trying to sneak a non-novice horse into a novice class, but being generous enough to point out to a fellow competitor that they’re inadvertently breaking a rule.

Red rosettes should be won on the ability and performance of horse and rider, not by default. If that means societies and organisations need stewards to police collecting rings and warn riders that they’re breaking rules, so be it.

  • Read the rule books

This is the natural follow-on to the above. Every year, each discipline issues a new rule book. Every year, there are changes and additions. Every year, people are disqualified because they haven’t bothered to read the rules. Don’t let that be you – and if it is, you have only yourself to blame.

  • We all need help, but if you dread your lessons, find a new trainer. He or she should make you feel inspired and encouraged at the end of every lesson, not as if you’re so hopeless you should never be allowed near a horse.

Nor should you be paying telephone number sums for lessons with trainers who can’t relate to you, your horse and your problems or who tell you you’ve “got” to have a lesson twice a week for the next ten years.

  • Buy/ride a horse or pony you enjoy, whether that’s a cheerful cob, an enthusiastic ex-racehorse or a horse who tests your wits every time you put a foot in a stirrup. Most of us do it for pleasure.
  • Take your tack to pieces and clean it every time you ride. Of course I’m joking – who on earth has time to do that, unless they employ a groom?

But do dismantle and clean it thoroughly once a week, wash bits after every use and keep numnahs, boots etc clean enough not to cause irritation.

  • Do keep up to date with new designs in tack. Don’t believe that a magic bit, bridle or saddle will mean your horse puts himself on the bit and that you will automatically ride like an Olympic legend.
  • Pay as much attention to your own health and fitness as you do to your horse’s. Warm up before you ride or start working on the yard; that way, you won’t pull a muscle in your back pushing a wheelbarrow. Yes, I’ve done that.
  • Don’t be a fitness bore. I don’t know why, but my friends’ expressions glaze over every time I mention the word Pilates. (But if you haven’t tried it, please do. It’s wonderful.)
  • Finally – and this is my personal challenge – work out how to learn more than one dressage test at once. Judges don’t appreciate it when you put two together and devise your own version, even though it seems perfectly logical to you.

Winter hoof care

Over the colder months, looking after your horse’s hooves is particularly important, as they have to deal with a lot of adverse conditions – standing for longer in stables, hard frozen ground, and wet, muddy fields. These can all be detrimental to hoof health, leading to shoe loss, cracks, and other issues. Hoof growth rate also decreases over the winter months, and so any problems in the hoof wall don’t grow out as quickly.

 

To help keep your horse’s hooves healthy over the winter:

  • Make sure you pick out feet every day, and remove mud so you can check the hoof surface and the heels for any abrasions or issues.
  • If your horse is standing in a lot, make sure that bedding is clean and has good absorbency, so the horse isn’t standing on straw or shavings soaked with urine.
  • Shock absorption is also desirable, and rubber mats can really help with this.
  • If the horse is living out, or turned out a lot, try to make an area where they can stand without their hooves being covered in mud or water – use of mats, gravel, or other dry and clean surfaces can help.
  • If your horse’s hooves need extra support, specialised hoof supplements, such as Hardy Hoof, will provide the nutrients essential for healthy hoof growth.

 

Healthy hooves rely on a consistent supply of nutrients to grow healthy horn. By optimising your horses hoof horn quality, and maintaining growth rates you can reduce cracks and shoe loss for shod horses, and help keep bare feet healthy too. In general, a balanced diet should provide enough nutrients to allow the horse to grow a healthy hoof, but some horses have naturally poor hooves, and they will benefit from supplementation of Hardy Hoof.

 

Hardy Hoof is an advanced supplement that provides your horse with micronutrients targeted at optimum foot health, encouraging growth and pliability. High levels of well-known hoof-health nutrients such as Biotin, Copper, Calcium, Lysine, Methionine and Threonine are necessary for the growth of healthy, resilient hooves. In Hardy Hoof, these are combined with sulphur rich MSM and essential fatty acids that maintain moisture and flexibility within the hoof, helping it to withstand muddy, wet conditions and hard, frozen ground.

 

Feeding a hoof supplement is a long-term investment to help your horse – it takes between 8 and 12 months for the hoof wall to grow down from the coronary band to the floor, so we recommend that you feed this supplement long term to optimise hoof health.

Advent calendars for horses!

I cannot believe that Christmas is almost upon us.  Is the Joppe household ready for the festivities and the guests and parties that go with it?  Not a chance!  I do, however, have an Advent calendar for the horses and some wonderful Herbalicious treats which I am afraid they have already started on.

The last few weeks have been spent working with the three horses in work.  Fantom has gradually been brought back into work with the customary weeks of walking progressing to trotting and schooling.  He has been doing some polework to check his straightness and his flexibility on circles.  This he finds really easy and he has now moved onto slightly more complicated exercises and is walking and trotting slowly up and down gentle gradients and over more varied terrain.

Wizard was initially going to do a bit of low key dressage but I found him to be a little stiff on circles so he is now on Opti Muscle and we will see how he improves.  He is, of course, fine on straight lines and is so full of life and energy that he makes me smile.  We have had a couple of canter sessions in the stubble fields which have been fun with Wizard trying out the odd exuberant buck (above)!

Chiara has been coming on in leaps and bounds (literally too!).  She has calmed down a little and is now working fairly sensibly in walk and trot in the school and over the occasional pole on the ground.  I have started to work on her canter transitions using poles in the corner of the school but this needs more work!

It took me three tries before I managed to have a good canter session in the stubble fields with Chiara.  The first time was just too windy and, after hacking round before even reaching the field she was just so wound up.  The second time we had a lovely schooling session and decided to do half an hour gentle hack round the lanes before reaching the fields when, somewhat unexpectedly, we met the Hunt in its full glory around the bend in the road.  So, so exciting (at least that’s what Chiara evidently thought) we spent the next 20 minutes cantering sideways all the way home.  Still, third time lucky and we had a really good session with Chi listening to me and just gliding effortlessly over the ground.

Yesterday Wizard and Chiara went to the south west endurance Christmas ride around the magical Lanhydrock Estate (below).  I rode Chiara with my friend, Jo, riding Wizard.  It was good fun, despite the going being so heavy after the last few weeks of almost endless rain.  It was nice to ride around without pressure, walking over all the bad bits where we could have a natter, then a couple of glorious canters over the amazing parkland.  Both horses behaved impeccably until Wizard decided to stick his nose into one of the boxes of chocolates on offer around the course and throw all the chocolates into the mud (luckily they were wrapped ones) (above right).

A few weeks ago I went to the Endurance GB AGM and Gala dinner which was really great fun (below).  The AGM itself had such a good positive feeling and it is apparent that there is an exciting future ahead for endurance in this country.

Looking back over this year, although we had a really poor result at the European Championships, this was the only negative occurrence.  Every other competition that any of the horses went to had a successful result.  Wizard only did a pleasure ride, of course, but he enjoyed that and was successful; Dilmun successfully completed his last one day race ride in 4th place and enjoyed some lesser distance rides as well as being runner up in the veteran’s trophy at the SW awards; Chiara completed both her 1*s in fine style coming 5th in the best condition, and was runner up in the SW Glory trophy for the best horse in its first season of race rides; and Fantom came 3rd in the 1* at Windsor and got to meet the Queen.  Apart from that one blip, it has been a pretty good, solid season with much to build on for 2018.

Happy Christmas to everyone and a Happy New Year and thank you Feedmark for supporting me so well!

Helping your horse’s behaviour during winter

Behavioural issues are certainly more prevalent over the winter.

In general, horses are stabled more, and exercised less, and so can have more ‘pent-up’ energy. Cold weather and wind or rain can make horses more ‘on their toes’, especially if they are freshly clipped! People are also more likely to give hard feed in the winter to help their horse maintain weight, and some feeds can make horses more ‘hot’.

If the behavioural change is sudden, it’s always worth checking that the issue is not pain related – checking that your horse’s tack is suitable and correctly fitting, and that their teeth and back are not causing any issues.

If your horse is still being spooky, naughty or is getting over-excited, you can ask a nutritional advisor to check their diet to make sure that their diet supports calm behaviour:

  1. Too many calories can either make your horse overweight, or in some cases lead to over-exuberance:
  • If your horse is a naughty good doer, see if you can gradually cut down the energy they are receiving in their diet – while also making sure that the diet is balanced with the right levels of vitamins and minerals, by using a supplement.
  • If your horse struggles to keep weight on, see below:

 

  1. If your horse is a poor doer, and needs a high calorie diet, make sure that you are feeding the right sort of energy!
  • Horses will often get ‘fizzy’ if fed a high cereal diet, such as high-starch conditioning mixes, so you may do better to provide calories using a high oil feed or supplement, such as Feedmark’s Condition and Shine in addition to ad-lib forage, and a fibrous bucket feed.

 

  1. Feed for the work you are doing
  • Feed according to the horse’s work load, if they have a week off work reduce their feeding levels – this will be beneficial for their health and behaviour!

 

  1. If your horse is on a low cereal, high fibre diet and is fed the correct amount for their condition and workload, adding Steady-Up Advance can really help to curb over-enthusiastic behaviour, and aid concentration. Steady-Up Advance will provide your horse with:
  • Two forms of Magnesium, for added absorption. This is an ingredient commonly found in calmers. It is well known that a diet deficient in Magnesium can make your horse scatty, but some recent research (Waltham, Dodd et al. 2015) suggests that additional Magnesium in the diet let to horses being less reactive – taking a longer time to react to a stimulus.
  • Traditional herbal ingredients to encourage calm behaviour, Chamomile and Lemon Balm are natural calmatives, which work together to relax your horse.
  • Brewer’s yeast is also found in Steady-Up Advance. Brewer’s yeast is a multi-functional ingredient, which contains naturally occurring B-vitamins, which optimise correct nerve impulses and function. In addition to this, Brewer’s yeast is a prebiotic, supporting the bacteria in the hind gut, helping to keep your horse healthy.

A horse owner’s Christmas

At 6.30am on 25th December, I’ll be preparing the first meal of the day. So will lots of others, but we won’t be following recipes from Delia, Nigella or Jamie – we’ll be making morning feeds.

Welcome to Christmas Day for horse owners, where carrots are sliced so the recipients won’t choke on them rather than being glazed with honey and red wine, and taking off wrapping paper must wait until you’ve taken off and adjusted rugs.

Even if your four-leggeds live out 24/7 with their own coats for protection, they’ll come first. We wouldn’t have it any other way, but it can be confusing for non-horsey Christmas visitors.

Mince pies? Only after the mucking out. Presents? Only when you’ve had a shower to neutralise the eau de stable and washed your hair so it’s less obvious you’ve had a woolly hat crammed over it. Well, you have to make an effort for Christmas.

In our household, we always have a fantastic Christmas lunch at around 1pm, comprising turkey and all the trimmings washed down with something white and sparkly. It’s always perfectly prepared and always on time.

The reason our lunch is so good is that my husband cooks it. If your other half is a decent cook, you really should try this system. He likes it because I don’t crash around the kitchen snapping that animals need a routine, so lunch will be late, and I love it because – well, to be honest, I’d rather muck out than cook. Sad, perhaps, but true.

Many years ago, he started the tradition of a Christmas Day hack to get me out of his way. This means that a friend and I trot off around our rural landscape, complete with jingle bell reins (me) and tinsel around the martingale neckstrap (her) and he slices, dices and roasts in peace. In my defence, I do make great mince pies: the secret, if you’re interested, is to stir grated orange peel into the pastry and a generous helping of brandy into the mincemeat.

On the way, we sometimes meet like-minded souls, including parents and children. I’m told it’s not a good idea to let riders under ten gorge on Christmas chocolate before riding, as it turns them into fractious little beasts or dare-devils who think they can jump ditches even a Galway Blazers follower would balk at.

However, it’s often so peaceful that we encounter only deer, pheasants and the occasional hare. One notable exception was the year we turned a corner to meet a helium balloon in the form of a life-size Santa caught in a hedge, which was a real Ho-ho-hold on! moment.

For us, and many other horsey folk, Christmas Day activities are fitted around horses and dogs. Whether you keep your horse at home or on a livery yard, I bet you’re the same.

And isn’t it wonderful? The state of the world means that peace at Christmas is a pipedream, but when you’re looking after animals at the end of a lovely festive day, it brings a brief but precious peace of its own. That’s why a horse owner’s Christmas is so special, so I hope you enjoy yours.

Filled legs in horses

As the weather takes a turn for the worst and day light hours fade, the majority of horses have to spend much more time in their stable. For some horses, this is a welcome respite from the wet and chilly nights, but for some it can lead to problems.

One such common issue is ‘fat legs’ – where a horse will get filled legs after being stabled, and the legs return to normal once turned out/exercised. The instance of ‘sausage legs’ occurs due to fluid accumulation.

 

Why does this happen?

When a horse is moving around, such as during turnout or when exercised, fluid is moved around the body when the hoof hits the ground – which acts a bit like a pump, pushing blood and lymphatic fluid up the legs and into the body. When the horse is unable or unwilling to move around, for example, when stabled overnight, this fluid does not get ‘pumped’ back into the body, and legs can become filled. This is most common in older horses and generally happens to finer types, like Thoroughbreds, predominantly in the hind legs, though all legs can be affected.

 

How can I help reduce the likelihood of my horse getting filled legs?

  • Try to keep standing in to a minimum – turn out as much as possible, using a school or concrete pad if fields are not available
  • If your horse must be stabled for long periods, keep them moving as much as possible! If they can’t be ridden, walking in hand or using a horse walker will promote fluid dispersion
  • Correct stable bandaging can also help reduce leg filling – but make sure you take them off regularly to stop them rubbing
  • Feed herbs that can help to maintain a healthy lymphatic and circulatory system – 

    such as those in Feedmark’s No Fill

 

What is No Fill?

No Fill is the perfect blend of herbs to support the lymphatic and circulatory systems, providing nutritional support to help maintain correct fluid distribution in lower limbs. It is ideal for

horses with fat legs after a night stabled, those on box rest, or those having to stand in for prolonged periods of time. No Fill Includes the herbs Dandelion, Hawthorn, Nettle, Clivers, Marigold and Ginkgo, all traditionally used for their lymphatic, anti-oxidising and circulatory properties.
 

Can you tell me a bit more about these plants?

Marigold flowers work synergistically with Clivers to promote a healthy lymphatic system. Together, these ingredients can help to maintain normal fluid retention in the leg. Dandelion further helps the lymphatic system by keeping the liver and kidneys healthy and promoting excretion of excess fluid. Hawthorn is a plant traditionally used to support the heart and

circulatory system. It contains Rutin, a powerful compound which helps to maintain flexible and strong capillaries and, along with Nettle, contributes greatly to cardiovascular health. Lastly, Ginkgo is an antioxidant herb, supporting circulation by helping blood to remain at the correct consistency and maintaining small blood vessels and capillaries so they keep clear and open, promoting healthy circulation.  These herbs combine to offer superior Lymphatic and Circulatory support, to help keep legs looking slim even during periods of excessive stabling.

What’s your horse worth?

It’s said that a horse is worth whatever someone is prepared to pay. In the case of Marsha, the four-year-old Thoroughbred who last week became the highest price horse ever sold at auction in Europe, that was 6 million guineas.

Say it slowly. That’s £6.3 million, nearly ten times more than the mare won in her three-year racing career. Her value, of course, lies in her potential as a brood mare and she’s already booked to champion sire Galileo. Let’s hope her new owner gets a quick return from his investment, in more ways than one.

But as Marsha walked around the sales ring with that amazing, raking stride and the atmosphere became more and more tense, I wondered how hard it was for those who had looked after the mare to relate to the numbers clocking up on the Tattersalls sales board. Racing is a business, but many of those who look after these horses become attached to them.

To some of us, our horses are priceless, even if they can’t gallop fast enough to keep themselves warm. My husband reckons that if I had to sell the dog, the horse or him, he’d save time by writing his own advert.

When you look at what horses cost us to keep, the joke that the only way to make a small fortune from horses is to start with a bigger one makes sense. Sit down when you’re making that calculation – I usually add up feed, bedding and shoes and decide it’s best to stop there.
Instead, look at what horses give us. Here are five examples – we’d love to hear yours…

• Horses are good for your mental health. Really. Even when they’re driving you crazy by getting plastered in mud/losing a shoe/breaking the fence just before you want to ride, concentrating on your horse means you can’t concentrate on rubbish things going on in your life at the same time.

• They can teach us how to communicate better. Horses survive by using effective communication and developing relationships with other herd members. Working with them, whether on the ground or in the saddle, can help us learn how our behaviour may affect others. So next time that irritating colleague or boss tries to force you into something you don’t feel comfortable with, square your shoulders, look him/her in the eye and watch him/her back off.

• They help you stay active. Riding and looking after horses will improve your core strength, stamina and flexibility. An hour’s active hack, incorporating periods of trot and canter, will burn around 200 calories.

• A slow, gossipy hack with a good friend won’t burn many calories – but it will make you feel much better than when you set off.

• Horses don’t care how much you earn, what you do for a living, what you’ve done in the past or what you look like. As the Princess Royal once said, horses are the world’s greatest levellers.

Annie Joppe brings her horses back into work

Since my last blog work has recommenced with the horses.  Chiara and Wizard started work three weeks ago and Fantom about a week ago.  Dilmun, on the other hand, is destined to have a rather long holiday and won’t be brought back into work until February as it would be impossible for me to have four in work at one time, especially as the days are now so short.

My first task was to detangle manes and tails, scrape layers of mud off and endeavour to make them look as presentable as possible.  Once accomplished, although they didn’t really look like the athletes they can be, walking work started with 10 minutes each and gradually building up the time walking and the different terrain over which we walked.  To cut down the time spent in this activity, I thought that I might be able to ride and lead Wiz and Chiara.  The first time riding Wiz and leading Chiara worked moderately well but trying to swap the ride and lead horses over resulted in disaster with Wizard and Chiara trying to outdo each other in the walking stakes.  That was a no go, probably never to be repeated with two determined horses focussing on getting their nose in front!

I gradually introduced a little schooling, in walk initially, with a view to getting Chiara to listen to me by clocking onto the idea that walk, means walk and that a loose rein walk means longer strides and stretching down into the contact rather than an excuse to speed up.  So far this is marginally successful, possibly more so than Chiara’s interpretation of halt which is done, as with most things Chiara, with ultra enthusiasm resulting in complete cessation of movement at whatever point the aids are applied.

My next exercise for her was working over four poles on the ground arranged in a star shape where she could practice moving straight over the pole, taking care not to hit it, followed by smallish circles leading back to a straight line over the next one and so on.  That at least was the idea and to a great extent it did have the benefit of forcing her to concentrate so this will be an exercise that will be repeated.

Wizard, now that he has moved onto a little trot work, is doing some schooling too.  He has, I noticed, developed an annoying habit of jogging when out on the tracks which is DEFINITELY not allowed.  In the school we are working on walk, halt, walk transitions, improving the free rein walk and transitions walk, trot, walk.  Combined with a little leg yielding for suppleness this is designed to have him a little sharper on the aids.  Today I lunged him for the first time since coming back into work and confess I found him a little stiff so I kept the circle very large to help him maintain balance.  I am a little concerned at his stiffness at the beginning of winter but am confident that if I build him up slowly, he will benefit from the work.

Then there is Fantom.  Fantom has now begun his two weeks of walking and we are almost halfway through this.  I must admit that it isn’t a very interesting time in his conditioning programme as he can be somewhat lazy and switched off just walking around the lanes.  However, the dog usually comes and that can liven things up a bit with a little squirrel chasing and barking at unidentifiable bits of plastic!

We have just had the local endurance branch dinner and awards ceremony and Dilmun managed to become runner up in the veteran’s trophy which he truly deserves.

I am hoping to give Wizard and Chiara a little outing just before Christmas in the shape of a Christmas pleasure ride where we all get dressed up in something Christmassy and go for a wonderful ride around one of the local estates in Cornwall.  Just have to hope we get in to this popular event.

Helping your horse’s respiration this winter

In the winter, adverse weather conditions often mean that horses have to live in more, often stabled for the majority or even all of the day. A major challenge for horses that are stabled is to keep their respiratory system healthy.

Horses that spend a lot of time inside have greater exposure to dust particles, which are present in forage, bedding, dried mud, and scurfy coats. These particles are inhaled, and in most horses, they will be trapped by cilia and mucous in the upper respiratory tract, and removed. If the stable environment is too dusty, the respiratory system is overloaded, or if ventilation in stables is poor or bedding/forage is dusty then the challenge of keeping the respiratory system healthy is increased.

If your horse has to be stabled more frequently over the winter, following these tips can help to maintain optimum respiratory health:

  • The Stable: ensure your stable is well ventilated and keep top stable doors, windows and any vents open. Horses do not worry about draughts, and providing they are adequately rugged they will cope well even during bouts of bad weather. If you are worried about snow or rain blowing in, use turnout rugs to keep your horse warm and dry.
  • Forage: a lot of hay is too dusty to feed to horses dry. Soaking hay reduces dust particles, but will also reduce the nutritional value of hay as nutrients are leeched out into the water, notably sugars and water soluble vitamins. While this is ideal for very good doers and those needing low-sugar diets, for horses in a lot of work and poor doers this is not such a good thing – and soaking is also time consuming and can be messy. Another option is to feed steamed hay, which reduces the amount of dust particles without the nutrient losses, or you could consider feeding a good quality haylage.
  • Supplement: feeding a respiratory supplement, such as Feedmark’s Clarity can benefit horses that are stabled through the winter, by helping to expel excess mucous and dust particles.
  • Bedding: sealed rubber matting in a well-draining stable will help to minimise build-up of ammonia and also help to reduce the amount of bedding needed. Choose a low-dust bedding which is also absorbent – there are various options available, so pick one that suits you and your horse, whether it is good quality straw, shavings or wood chips.
  • Mucking out: muck out without your horse in the stable, and leave the dust to settle before bringing your horse back in. If you use strong disinfectants in the stable, follow manufacturer’s instructions, as incorrectly used these can also be a respiratory irritant.
  • Grooming: when grooming and rug changing, it is advisable to do so out of the stable.
  • Turn out: turn out is very important to help maintain respiratory, and mental health for your horse, so whenever possible get them out of the stable!

For any more helpful advice or feeding tips for horses that are stabled over the winter call one of our Nutritional Advisors on 0800 585 525, email us at [email protected], or use our online chat service available at www.feedmark.com.

Olivia Colton MSc

 

 

 

 

Carrots and sticks

There are times when we all need advice, and most people in the horse world are generous about giving it. Unfortunately, that sometimes causes more problems than it solves.

The old carrots controversy is back in circulation, with some people worried that if they feed more than two carrots per feed, their horses will overload on sugar. They won’t, unless they’re feeding large quantities of dried carrots.

A carrot comprises 80% water. The 20% dry matter might have a relatively high sugar content, but when you look at the overall picture, a fresh carrot is low in sugar. Unless you’re planning to feed your horse a whole sack of carrots with every feed, stop worrying and let him enjoy them.

In this case, misconceptions lead to nothing more than misplaced anxiety. But it does highlight why it’s important to get advice from the right sources – and why qualified advice is worth its weight in gold, even if you have to pay for it.

How many times have you seen anxious owners posting on internet forums or social media groups because their horse has a health issue? One of the commonest queries, usually accompanied by a photo, seeks identification of a lump or skin growth; another is “My horse has cut himself. Does it need stitching?”

The only advice anyone should give is to tell the poster to ask his or her vet. Legally, only a vet can diagnose; the rest of us might have an idea, and we might be right, but we shouldn’t presume to tell others how to treat their animals. That definitely applies to those who suggest that the best treatment for a sarcoid is to apply toothpaste, but that’s another story.

The main reason so many owners turn to the internet as a first resource may be that the information isn’t accompanied by a call-out fee and a bill. The fact that they may end up with a bigger problem and a bigger bill doesn’t seem to occur to them.

Another possible explanation is the assumption that professional equals scary. But if you have a good relationship with your vet, you should be able to talk to him or her and expect explanations in plain English. We’ve come a long way since the days when all vets were

bombastic autocrats, as portrayed by the late Robert Hardy in the BBC adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small.

Similarly, reputable equine nutrition companies have experts who can offer free, qualified advice. Fair enough, it will reference their own products, but they should be talking in terms of principles and good practice and basing their advice on the same. There’s also nothing to stop you talking to more than one company and checking that the principles recommended have common denominators.

It’s good to have an inquiring mind and a thirst for knowledge and it’s good to share stories and opinions. But when it really matters, make sure the opinions come from the right sources – and keep feeding the carrots.