Exciting times for Annie Joppe and Fantom!

Fantom is quite the most difficult horse to train.  At home, he seems to have the mentality of a riding school hack where all the motivation is kept for the return journey.  However, this is coupled with almost miraculous transformations into the flying horse.  How to read these extremely exciting moments?  A case in point today was a lunging session over raised poles where, to start off with, he was pretty indifferent then in the blink of an eye he transformed into a snorting, leaping monster.  They do say a good horse has to have attitude, don’t they?

It was Dilmun’s turn for a competition with the Inter-regional championships at Cirencester Park.  Despite Dilmun’s protests, bathing was a must and every conceivable part was washed and the very white parts, whitened.  We duly arrived at Cirencester, erected a good-sized corral for Dilmun with a fair covering of grass and went to check in.  I was gone all of 5 minutes and when I came back there was just the remains of one poo in the corral, the rest being stuck to at least half the side of Dilmun’s fly rug.  Obviously, this seeped through and turned my immaculate white/grey horse into a skewbald: just love this horse!

I would like to say the day of Dilmun’s race dawned fair but it was raining, not hard but in that annoyingly soaking way for most of the race, making the going slippery in places with mud in the woods.  Dilmun is such a professional, knowing his job inside out.  We started at the front because we could and trotted and cantered around the 80 kms presenting in less than two minutes at each vet gate.  We were in the veteran section and duly came 4th after I misread the markers and went off on a jolly of my own, letting two competitors from rival groups come in ahead of me (you’d think I wouldn’t make those mistakes after all these years!).  Despite this, however, our group, the south west, came second and hopefully my mistake didn’t rob us of first place.

Dilmun enjoyed his day I think but that is the last race ride he will do as he no longer has the appetite for the training necessary to compete at that distance.  After a long holiday, he will have a quieter time with shorter rides and ruling the roost at home.

Three days after getting back from Cirencester we were on the road again.  This time off to Euston Park on the Norfolk/Suffolk borders with Fantom for the final selection of the squad for the European Championships in Brussels.  After a super quick trip (7 hours) we arrived at leisure, walked Fantom about a bit and just chilled.

The following day when everyone had arrived we were required to go out together on the 20 kms loop which would be used as part of the weekend’s competitions.  This went smoothly and Fantom behaved well, enjoying the near perfect going.  Following this we had to do one-mile loops at set speeds with short resting periods in between.  Just after this we were told that we had been SELECTED FOR THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS!

Since then I have been sorting and cleaning everything I will need to take with me (and there is a lot!)  I also decided to sort and clean everything in the tack room so busy, busy.  At the assessment, lactic tests were again made and Fantom’s fitness had come on in leaps and bounds (literally) and he was just about ready to rock!  This meant that since then we have had a couple of good training sessions but work has now reduced to more gentle exercise (also safer for both of us!).

In the meantime, I have been studying the information available about the course and the venue.  The venue is actually in Brussels, situated in a park surrounded by roads and the city and the course is apparently through the beautiful Foret de Soignes and surrounding area. This promises forest tracks which I am told are undulating with many twists and turns and the going encompassing areas of deep sand and also hard tracks.  In other words, expect everything!  As I have been planning for this Championship all year (actually planning started the day Fantom qualified last year), I have done my best to condition and prepare him for most eventualities so fingers crossed it all goes according to plan.

We’re now almost ready to go with Fantom being newly shod and me still debating whether to clip him as he has such a fine coat and feels the cold: shivering could be disastrous in the vet gate.  We leave on Sunday with the Championships now in a week’s time – yikes!

Recent success for Ben Haslam Racing


I must apologise as I have been particularly useless this month at getting my hooves to the keyboard! I have no excuses really, except that I have been terribly busy training one particular horse, but more on that later!
We got July off to a flyer from a rather suprising source, when the rather mysterious Camanche Grey (left) ran an absolute belter at Hamilton to come home in front in the 5 furlong handicap, recording his third career victory. Not an easy horse to predict, it was his first run on soft ground and he seemed to love it, demolishing the field by 2 and a half lengths. He was given an absolute peach of a ride by Robbie Fitzpatrick, who deserves plenty of credit as he wouldn’t be the easiest ride. He has proceeded to run well this month, finishing 3rd another twice, and is hopefully developing some consistency in his old age for owners Derek Barclay and Paul and Wilma Heseltine. He certainly looks a picture, and hopefully may be able to add to his tally again this year.
We have seen some other nice performances this month which probably went under the radar: Cup Final really pleased us at Market Rasen in the Listed Summer Plate Chase – his jumping stood up to this much sterner test than he had previously faced, taking his fences exceptionally well for a novice, and whilst he just lacked a bit of speed and experience he ran on nicely at the end. There should be a nice race in him down the line over a longer trip. Quiet Moment showed too much speed over 6 in first time blinkers last week and didn’t get home, but she runs on Monday over 5 furlongs and it would be nice to think she could go close for patient owners Ontoawinner and Trojan Horse. Cherry Oak has also had three outings for the same syndicate, along with Daniel Shapiro and David Clifford: still a little weak, she has shown us a really good, game attitude, finishing 3rd and 5th on her last two starts, and she should be a nice prospect for nurseries: you cannot fault a filly who tries!
Finally, the reason I have been so busy recently! I have been closely monitoring the progress of Percy (Prancing Oscar) (left), who has to be one of the best looking horses on the yard, and came to the conclusion that he has been showing enough in his races for me to lend him some of my precious time (I also thought Ben wasn’t doing a good enough job, but don’t tell him that!) I decided upon a suitable race – who doesn’t want to be at Wolverhampton at 9.00 on a Monday night?!) and swiftly set about training him to handle the bends. We went round and round the top field, doing some fairly serious exercise drills, until finally he got the hang of it and I could stand still and watch him from the middle (breathing a little hard, I must admit!). I made sure I accompanied him to the racecourse, and ensured he knew exactly what he was meant to do – and boy did he do it! Given a quite exceptional ride by Oisin Murphy, the pair set off meaning business and led pillar to post to prevail by a neck over the insufficent mile trip. We were over the moon for owners Middleham Park and Spee Fox-Andrews, and there should be loads more to come from this chap. He will get at least two furlongs further on the flat, and even more excitingly I see a few sets of hurdles in his future – and boy I can’t wait to teach him about those! Not the fastest son of Sir Prancealot ever born, it’s true, but definitely one who is going to be around giving his owners fun for a while to come!

Until next time,



3for2 on supplements to support your horse’s weight

Whether your horse needs to lose weight or gain it, this is the offer for you! For this week only, you can buy any three of our selected weight supporting supplements, across any size and get the cheapest FREE! Here’s how these supplements can benefit your horse…



Vitamins, minerals and naturally sourced antioxidants to help balance the diet of horses and ponies on a restricted grass intake. Prolamin contains key ingredients to support the diets of prone individuals, especially during spring and autumn flushes of grass. This low-calorie formulation supplies the essential micronutrients for a restricted ration, and maintains hoof health, improving diet and lifestyle. Prolamin consists of two separate parts that are to be fed together, one part is pellets and the other is herbs. As well as 25 essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids; it provides the important antioxidants Vitamin E and Selenium.

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The ideal supplement for a calorie controlled diet. SlimAid provides vitamins, minerals and amino acids without adding unnecessary calories to a restricted diet. The pelleted formula is easy to feed as it can be fed alone, or straight from your hand. SlimAid, along with regular exercise, can assist with slimming.

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A rich source of Omega 3 essential fatty acids to provide non-heating energy and a glossy coat, Linseed is often fed to horses who need to gain weight and improve condition. Linseed provides a good Omega 3 to 6 ratio, and is high in digestible protein which supports muscle function. Feeding Linseed promotes healthy hooves, maintains skin health and coat condition, and it also supports joint health.

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Ideal for weight loss, Cinnamon has been used since ancient times to aid natural digestion, alleviating digestive spasms and flatulence, helping to soothe delicate digestive tracts and firm loose droppings. Cinnamon also promotes insulin activity making it ideal for those with insulin related conditions, and for maintaining normal blood sugar levels.

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All orders include FREE next working day delivery*.

Terms and conditions: Order online at feedmark.com. For telephone orders please call 0800 585 525 / 01986 782368. 3for2 on selected weight supporting supplements offer valid from 08/08/2017 until 14/08/2017. *Free next working day delivery applies to the UK only, but it may take longer to reach Highlands and Islands. This offer CANNOT be used in conjunction with any other offer or promotion.

In praise of schoolmasters

Schoolmasters (and mistresses) are worth their weight in gold – as long as you get the real deal, writes Carolyn Henderson.

The Mum who posted online looking for a jumping pony schoolmaster doesn’t stand a chance. She wanted a “kick, point and shoot” pony that was guaranteed to take her daughter around 85cm courses.

She’ll probably find one, but that pony won’t be a schoolmaster. He’ll be a robot, and her daughter will learn very little from riding him.

The true schoolmaster is the horse or pony who knows its job inside out and will jump confidently/perform that perfect lateral movement if the rider presses the right buttons. If the rider asks the right questions, the horse will give the right answers; if the rider gets it wrong, the horse will set his own agenda.

The best schoolmasters I’ve known seemed to have a sense of humour. I know that’s anthropomorphising, but I can’t find any other way of describing it.

One was a beautifully schooled gelding who would turn and stay perfectly in balance from subtle weight aids. If you got it wrong and used too much inside rein, he would put himself in shoulder-in and stay there.

When you realised what you were doing and made a correction, he’d float across the school. You could imagine the thought bubble floating above his ears: “At last! I thought she’d never get it.”

The other was a former advanced event horse who, at the age of 18, still enjoyed showjumping. His proviso was that the rider had to establish a canter rhythm and stick to it; the moment you tried to hook back or ride for a long one, he put the brakes on.

It was a salutary lesson, because those brakes could lock on in an instant. It got the message across to riders who couldn’t help themselves trying to adjust their horse’s stride, no matter how many times their trainer told them that their job was to get the horse to the fence in a good rhythm and the horse’s job was to jump it. I know – I was one of them.

Most horses are in their teens by the time they reach schoolmaster status. They’re hard to find and they need and deserve every care we can give them. The best trainers protect their schoolmasters as fiercely as they protect their family, and heaven help you if you blame the horse for your mistakes.

So what if a schoolmaster has a few lumps and bumps? So what if he comes out a bit stiffer through his joints than he used to and needs nutritional support, careful warming up and so on?

Give him all he needs, and if that includes regular massage treatments, appropriate manipulation and downright mollycoddling, good for you. It isn’t just that horse who will benefit – it’s every horse you ride through the rest of your life, thanks to what the schoolmaster has taught you.

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3for2 on supplements to support your horse’s behaviour

For this week only, you can buy any three of our selected behaviour supplements and get the cheapest FREE, across any size! Here is how these supplements can benefit your horse…


Steady-Up Advance

The original natural calmer, ideal for horses and ponies of a nervous, over excitable or fizzy nature to aid concentration and focus. Steady-Up Advance provides; Yeast to help maintain a healthy hind gut, especially during times of stress; the herbs Chamomile and Lemon Balm for their calming and soothing effects on the nervous system; Magnesium to help with the regulation of nervous tension; and B vitamins to promote optimum nerve function. Steady-Up Advance can be fed long term to keep your horse or pony calm, without reducing performance.

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A unique blend of herbs used for generations to help mares maintain a natural oestrus cycle, assisting with discomfort and moods. Chastetree Berry and Black Cohosh are used to help promote balanced levels of hormones throughout your mare’s cycle and soothe the reproductive tract. Red Clover is often used as a tonic to aid uterine function, promoting calm and settled behaviour for the duration of oestrus. Hormonease can also help males with ‘riggy’ behaviour, calming hormones and associated behaviour.

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Chastetree Berry

Also known as agnus-castus, offers support for the pituitary gland and traditionally used to help promote balanced levels of hormones throughout your mare’s cycle and soothe the reproductive tract. Chastetree Berry is suitable for moody or hormonal mares, and for males displaying unsociable behaviour.

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Supports the nervous system helping to create a more relaxed attitude to work, also known to support correct nerve and muscle function. Magnesium is helpful in calming horses and ponies, and can also assist in attaining normal fat deposits in overweight equines.

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All orders include FREE next working day delivery*.

Terms and conditions: Order online at feedmark.com. For telephone orders please call 0800 585 525 / 01986 782368. 3for2 on selected behavioural supplements offer valid from 01/08/2017 until 07/08/2017. *Free next working day delivery applies to the UK only, but it may take longer to reach Highlands and Islands. This offer CANNOT be used in conjunction with any other offer or promotion.


Holidays and horses

Yippee! It’s holiday time, writes Carolyn Henderson. No work, no pressure and – because there’s a downside to everything – no horses.

Here’s how you know that you’re a certified horse addict:

  1. Before you started looking at holiday destinations, you negotiated the length of your stay with your nearest and dearest/travelling companions. A week? Ideal, you can bear to be parted from your four-legged(s) for that long. Ten days? Bearable. A fortnight? Now you’re on the limit.
  2. Going on a dream riding holiday? Then ignore the above. The chance of riding great horses in fantastic surroundings is enough to tempt anyone. The chance of riding your own horse in fantastic surroundings is just as – or even more – tempting. Getting away from it all does wonders for your relationships. All of them.
  3. You’re exhausted by the time you set out because there’s been so much to sort out. Even when you know your horse will be getting the best of care, you keep remembering things his holiday host needs to know. As for the packing…
  4. Ah, packing. Apart from the obvious things, like his passport, headcollar and any medication or feed supplements, there are the extras. You never know what the weather is going to do and while you might be able to survive two weeks with the contents of a teeny suitcase, he needs to be equipped for heat, flies, rain, gale force winds, earthquakes. OK, let’s stop there.
  5. Your eyes are still red when you head to the airport, because you’ve written THAT email to your vet. The one that says you’ve given the carer permission to call said vet if there are any problems and to authorise any action the vet deems necessary. Horrid, but it gives everyone peace of mind.
  6. The first time your phone pings with a text from your horse’s carer, your heart rate gallops faster than Frankel. Fortunately, it’s just your horse, telling you he’s having a lovely time chilling in the field and attaching a picture to prove it.
  7. You’re on the way to your holiday base and you pass horses grazing in a field. If you’re driving, you stop to look. If your other half is driving, you know he/she is the one for you because they stop so you can look.
  8. You either a) gain a Brownie point because you remembered to match your white bits to your rider’s tan with the spray or bottled equivalent before you left or b) spend your first evening applying fake tan lotion.
  9. Your fingernails grow at a remarkable rate. And whoever new that the tips were naturally white?
  10. Alternatively, you’re feeling smug because you’re an equestrian goddess with beautifully moisturised, glowing skin – no join lines – and perfect nails. These women do exist: it’s why I spend ages talking to them at social events, wonder why they’re giving me funny looks and realise I know them really well. You look different with riding hats on, honestly.
  11. That collection of holiday novels has at least one which features horses in the story line. If not, download a sneaky Zara Stoneley or Fiona Walker – the horses are incidental characters, so you needn’t feel guilty.
  12. You have a fabulous time and genuinely feel sorry that your holiday is coming to an end. But on the last day, you secretly dance a little jig because it’s only one sleep until you see your horse again.
  13. You’ve read and recognised all the above – but think I’ve missed something out. Do tell us…

Will Furlong on a high after debut at the Event Rider Masters

We’re now over half way through the season and the first event at Poplar Park back in March seems like a lifetime ago!

As I write this we are midway across the English Channel, travelling back to the UK having been competing at Haras de Jardy which is just outside of Paris. I live at home on the South Coast of England which makes competing in Europe really accessible and sometimes easier than going around the M25!

Although I have been to Haras de Jardy several times, I was making my debut in the new Event Rider Masters series which is a very exciting proposition for the sport and the French made us feel very welcome. Livingstone soaked up the atmosphere with a PB at 3* scoring 38 which was good enough for 7th amongst multiple Olympic combinations – including Michael Jung! The SJ time was super tight and I felt like I was rushing him a little, resulting in a couple of poles but the track was very technical so I wasn’t overly disappointed, I just need to get out to do a bit of pure show jumping against the clock!

I was a little apprehensive about the XC as it had just about everything that ‘Henry’ (Livingstone) hated; right handed corners, skinny arrowheads etc… As we weren’t super competitive after the show jumping I took him steady to keep him confident – he felt great and we are now ready to crack on into the Autumn!

It’s been a great first half of the season for Collien P 2. She followed up a great result at Houghton – 4th in the CIC3* Nations Cup – by winning the CCI3*u25 at Bramham and taking the u25 British National Championship! It was our first time at this level so although I was hoping to be competitive, I certainly wasn’t expecting to win… I was a little disappointed with her dressage if I’m perfectly honest. We scored 49 which was by no means disastrous but she got a little tense in the main arena and consequently made a couple of silly mistakes. Cross country was a different story though… ‘Tinks’ was absolutely awesome and came home just 2 seconds over the time (I think 3rd or 4th fastest all day) to move up from 7th to being in the lead with a healthy cushion to the rest of the field. She has a rather abnormal show jumping technique and can get quite flat after having galloped the day before so I knew the penalties in hand would be needed! I wasn’t wrong either, we managed to keep hold of top spot… but only just! A couple of fences down and a time penalty meant that it was a little close for comfort but hey ho we manage to get the job done. We now only (!) need another clear at CCI3* level to get qualified for 4* and hopefully after doing the Guinea Pig test at Badminton we can go back to do the real thing!! I’m still looking for some syndicate members to buy into Tinks so that I can keep the ride on her – so if you know anyone interested please get in touch!

The young horses have been going well and 5yo Akina Z won her qualifier at Rackham to gain her qualification for the Young Horse Championships at Osberton at the end of the year. I’ve been doing a bit more teaching recently to keep the business side of things going as I’m sure you are all probably aware – having horses is not cheap!


To keep up to date head over to my Facebook page ‘Will Furlong Eventing’ for more regular updates and posts.

Enjoy the Summer!


Let’s hear it for the girls…

They say that you should tell a gelding, ask a mare and discuss it with a stallion, writes Carolyn Henderson. But as anyone who’s benefited from the horse equivalent of girlpower will appreciate, a good mare will give you everything she’s got.

Why are so many riders prejudiced against them? If a stallion makes his opinion clear, it’s accepted far more readily than if a mare tests a rider’s ability, yet both are ‘entires’ who demand equal tact.

Of course, geldings should also be treated with tact. But how many times have you heard the words ‘stroppy mare’ being used as an insult? And though it’s a reverse compliment, how many riders almost apologise for their lovely horses by insisting that they’re ‘not at all marish’?

The fight against prejudice goes back a long way. In 1837, Charles James Apperley, aka the author Nimrod, commented that the prejudice against mares as suitable hunters was “much to be lamented” and meant they were more likely to fall into the hands of those such as farmers, who would not be able to make the most of their ability. Apologies to any farmers…

Horses are individuals and there are probably as many geldings with oversized personalities as there are challenging mares.  However, riders with a special affinity for mares say that whilst a good gelding will often work for you, a good mare will work with you.

There are many more successful geldings than mares competing, but it would be interesting to know how much of that is due to rider prejudice. Here’s a thought – if event rider Lucinda Fredericks hadn’t taken on the double whammy of a little chestnut mare called Headley Britannia, would she have won all three Rolex Grand Slam events? Lucinda is super-talented on any horse, but on Brit, she was unbeatable.

There might be times when mares are ruled by their hormones, but owners should be able to cope with this via good management and nutritional support, a sensitive approach and, if necessary, veterinary advice. Don’t just take my word for it: listen to the realistic assessment of event rider Will Furlong, who is sponsored by Feedmark.

“Mares are great when they are on side, not so good when they aren’t,” says Will. “The brain and temperament are the most important thing for me in a mare. When you find one like that, she will try harder and dig deeper than any gelding will.

“You have to treat each individual horse differently. What works for one horse might not work for another. In general, you have to be a bit more sympathetic with mares, but I think there is a traditional and unfair image of all mares being horrible to deal with and difficult to ride.”

So, let’s hear it for the girls. And if you’ve got a great mare, we’d love to hear about her.

“It’s worth spending more time on the ground with them to develop some more trust, something I do with all my horses. I don’t necessarily go out looking for mares but I think that in general, people should be more accepting of them.”

Go native

Are you an adult rider tempted by the adverts featuring native ponies for sale? If so, adjust your brain before you buy, writes Carolyn Henderson.

A friend who events her 14.1hh Connemara – and regularly beats the big boys and girls –  says the first thing to decide is whether you think like a pony, or think like a horse. It all comes down to the old joke about how many equines it takes to change a light bulb:


Warmblood – “Light bulb? What’s a light bulb?”

Thoroughbred – “The light bulb’s gone! How terrifying!”

Show hack  – “How dare you ask me to change a light bulb?”

Show pony – “Lights? Where? Just make sure you get my good side.”

Native pony – “Why bother? I’m not afraid of the dark – and if the bulb’s gone, you can’t see me raiding the feed bin.”


Before anyone points out that they have a warmblood which deserves the equine equivalent of a PhD or a Thoroughbred which would win an award for bravery, it’s a joke. Apart from the bit about the native pony…

Let’s say you’ve bought a fabulous Connemara with fabulous paces, so you decide to do some serious schooling in preparation for a dressage competition. Everything goes well on day one, but on day two, you take him into an arena and it feels as if the handbrake’s on at every stride.

Lesson one: With a warmblood, you might have to remind him of everything he’s supposed to know before moving on to a new concept. With a native pony, you’ll probably need a constant stream of new concepts, because once you’ve trotted three circles, he’s bored.

In fact, when it comes to flatwork schooling, you might have to forget that arenas exist. Pick markers out hacking and ask for transitions, or practise lateral work on a bridlepath or in an open field, and you’ll usually get a great response.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re fooling him by schooling on a hack. You can’t fool a native – but you can negotiate. If you keep him interested, he’ll co-operate. As going to parties is interesting, you should also find that the work you do on a hack can translate to a decent test away from home.

You can also negotiate by combining flatwork schooling with jumping. In pony terms, lengthened strides over trotting poles have much more value and canter circles at one end of the school are worth the effort when followed by a jump down the long side.

Going native can be challenging. Instead of shopping for sparkly browbands, you’ll be looking for grazing muzzles and getting out your weigh tape every fortnight, because these ponies can turn into balloons on four legs with remarkable speed and remarkably little grass.

You may also have to put up with unenlightened remarks from people who think ponies are just for children. Grit your teeth, smile, and tell them it’s horses for courses, and that you’re in good company.

If a 13.2hh Fell pony is good enough for Her Majesty The Queen, it’s good enough for me. It’s also one hell of a lot of fun.