Category Archives: Articles

Keeping joints comfortable and mobile in winter

Over the winter, cold and damp weather (and the daily management that generally accompanies it) can mean that older horses and those with joint issues need additional help to stay comfortable and mobile.

The exacerbation of joint problems is due to multiple factors, including:

  • The cold temperatures make existing joint gripes feel worse
  • Horses are moving less, due to decreased turnout and reduced exercise, which leads to additional stiffness
  • Deep or slippery snow and mud are less than ideal ground conditions

How you can help….

  • Daily exercise – regular, moderate exercise can really help to keep older horses mobile. If you can’t hack out due to bad weather or lack of daylight, use horse walkers, walking in hand, schools or artificial gallops to help keep your horse moving. This is even important for horses that are being turned out, as studies have shown that turned out horses are less active when the weather is cold and wet, playing and running less.
  • Pad out stables – if horses are stabled, use rubber mats and deep bedding to help make concrete floors less cold and provide padding.
  • Make sure they aren’t cold – the cold and wet weather of winter can result in less blood flow to the extremities and outer layers of muscle as the body ensures it maintains core temperature, leading to tension, so make sure that your horse is keeping warm! Ears are not a reliable indication of temperature – instead, check near the withers – if they feel cold, choose a thicker rug, or if they are a little damp, your horse may be too warm. You can also consider using an exercise blanket when riding to help warm and supple muscles.
  • Take care when riding – exercising or turnout in deep snow or mud increases the chances of tendon injuries. If an area of a field is poached, fence it off if possible.
  • Feed a Joint supplement – ExtraFlex HA with Rosehips, our top of the range joint supplement, provides your horse with joint health nutrients to enhance comfort and mobility. If your horse needs extra support, soothing Boswellia can be fed alongside other joint supplements to offer optimum flexibility.

Feedmark wins SEIB Retailer of the Year at 2018 BETA Business Awards

We are delighted to have won the coveted title of SEIB Retailer of the Year 2018 in the Online/Mail Order Retailer category at The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) Business Awards.

The highly sought-after retail award received nominations from more than 1,000 individuals for over 150 companies with the final decision based on the number of nominations, mystery shop visits and incognito calls.  Feedmark won the accolade for its industry knowledge, helpful advice, fast and efficient ordering process and easy to use website.

The 2018 BETA Business Awards are designed to recognise companies and individuals that make a significant difference to the equestrian industry. The ceremony took place at a Gala Dinner on Monday 22 January at the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham, where the industry turned out in style.

Claire Williams, the trade association’s executive director, comments: “The BETA Business Awards, as always, are fiercely contended, with the spirit of competition running extremely high. We had an exceptionally strong field of finalists and deciding on the ultimate winners was never going to be easy. However, after much consideration by our independent judges and an exhaustive selection process, we are extremely pleased to have found some incredibly worthy winners and our congratulations go to them all.”

Commenting on Feedmark’s success, one nominator said: “The staff are so knowledgeable and helpful, and always provide solid advice.” Judges added: “We liked the well-designed and uncluttered site, which made it easy to find relevant information, select products and order. There was good communication throughout the order process and refunds were fast and efficient.”

Chris Townsend, Managing Director of Feedmark, comments: “We are delighted to win this notable award and take pride in providing a high level of customer service, with a dedicated team of expert Nutritional Advisors on hand to help our customers with their horses’ needs. Thank you to all our customers for their nominations and to our employees for their dedication to ensuring a fast, efficient service and expert nutritional advice to horse owners across the UK and overseas.”

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.