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Triple success and stand out performances

I am glad to report that the evergreen, ever wonderful Ever So Much (below) has continued his rich vein of form this year, and gave himself his third win of the year, at Hexham, in June. He is an absolute delight to have around the yard, and to see him record the tenth success of his career, all achieved for us, was extremely special. Back over the bigger chase obstacles, he looked in a class of his own the whole way round under Richie McLernon, and it was probably the least stressful race I have ever watched, as victory for his owner J.P. McManus never looked in doubt!



Ever So Much is a horse that is particularly reliant on Feedmark’s Replenish, as he is a very free sweater on the way to the races (frustrating, as you never feel him move a muscle when he is on the box!), which is particularly problematic in this heat. However, Replenish makes sure we don’t have to worry about this resulting in a loss of energy and performance, and it certainly seems to be doing the job so far!



Epeius (above), another older favourite on the yard, but this time on the flat, has also been keeping the momentum up well for the team. A big, consistent sprinter, he has only managed to get his head in front once before, but always runs his race well in defeat. Entered for an Amateur race at Hamilton, he was given the job of getting our yard Amateur Dylan McDonagh back on the track after a couple of years away from race riding – and boy did they make a good job of it! Fluffing the start, both kept their cool, and whilst it looked like mission impossible at the furlong pole, Epeius kept responding to pressure and they nabbed the spoils just on the line – I think a few voices were lost in the process! Yard morale at an all time high, both horse and rider hugely deserved it.



Finally for stand out performances, our best horse Castle Hill Cassie (above) ran yet another valiant race at the York, a very special racecourse everyone must visit. She travelled like the best horse in the race, but gets a little lazy once she hit the front, and took her second 2nd placing in a row here in a hot fillies handicap. Frustrating but better than coming last, and you cannot fault her. She is a very special girl who will hopefully be stepping up in class in the near future, powered of course by Formulate!


Alice Haslam

Don’t sweat it out at summer shows

You look after your horse in the heat, so give yourself the same consideration, says Carolyn Henderson


This summer has given a whole new meaning to hot competition. So why are so many of us sweating it out in black or navy jackets and hats?

Obviously people don’t want to miss important shows and events – and the fact that social media has been deluged with information on what we can do to keep our horses comfortable and safe proves that their welfare is most riders’ top priority – but tradition has a lot to answer for.


Showing classes are a prime example. Three cheers for TSR (The Showing Register) which published sensible advice ahead of its summer show to protect horses and riders. One concession was that show jackets were optional, with the proviso that shirts had sleeves to offer some protection.


Other shows have made the same offer, yet the reaction from some is as if it had been suggested that competitors bare all.


“I don’t feel dressed without my jacket,” was a typical comment. Other riders claimed that riding in the ring without a jacket was an insult to the judge and/or would affect their chances by spoiling the overall picture.


I love showing, but common sense and comfort must surely score over tradition. Does anyone really think that the shock of seeing jacketless riders would affect a judge’s eyesight?



Showjumpers have got it right, with white breeches and lightweight shirts incorporating round-necked collars a favourite – much cooler than traditional collars and ties. As we all know, showjumpers know how to party, and no showjumper I know need worry about being mistaken for a vicar.


Endurance riders know what they’re doing, too. They have long known the benefits of white or pale-coloured helmets or hat colours, so why are black and navy so often stipulated for other disciplines?


Side-saddle riders are the epitome of elegance, but they suffer for it. Earlier this month, I helped a friend get ready for a side-saddle equitation class. Watching her kit herself out in breeches and boots, apron, jacket, and veil was enough to make me overheat, but at least the veil helped disguise the fact that by the end of the class, she was doing a great impression of a tomato.


Those who insist on wearing jackets when they don’t have to can always opt for false shirt fronts. Just remember that if you forget that your modesty is barely covered by the little bib, you provide extra entertainment when you remove your jacket. And yes, I’m speaking from experience.



Staying hydrated is as important for riders as it is for horses, so make sure grooms and helpers keep an eye on you as well as on your horse to make sure you keep up your water intake.  A dehydrated rider has slower reactions and poorer concentration – so you’re putting yourself and your horse at risk.

Endurance frustrations with Annie Joppe

Well Fantom duly completed his training for his 1* at Euston and he was scrubbed to within an inch of his life and his mane had a makeover; actually it was hogged!  He is a very good boy about having all this fuss and pampering and seems to appreciate all the attention.


This planned competition was to be a ‘sort of’ test for Fantom to see if he had overcome his tying up difficulties.  It was a long journey of about 8 hours with a couple of stops to offer water, fibre beet tea and carrot with the liquid being rejected but the carrots gratefully accepted.  It wasn’t good that he didn’t drink but he seemed to be relaxed and ate some haylage.



The afternoon was spent setting up our space in the vetgate, reccying a new crew point on the course and taking Fantom to the pre-ride vetting which went very smoothly.  The following morning someone (no names, no pack drill) had chucked all our equipment out of the shade and put theirs in its place.  Well there was no time to change anything so we had to live with it.


Warming up was not great with Fantom feeling like a seaside donkey going nowhere.  However, he brightened up a bit at the start and we cantered steadily away for the first few kilometers.  Disaster struck when he ground to a halt and I knew that again our race was over.  Fortunately he recovered extremely quickly from this episode and didn’t require any treatment but it was so frustrating.



Initially I thought that this would be the end of Fantom’s endurance career however, after having a chat with Feedmark, I am making some changes to his diet which, in conjunction with his own special Formulate, could just be the turning point.  He is even helping himself by topping all the nettles at the side of the field, preferring these to the grass offered.  I have now brought him back into work with the help of Jan who rides with me once or twice a week, and he has now had a full training session on the beach and dunes with no adverse effects although perhaps not quite as exuberant as he can be.



This has not been the best of months at Watergate Endurance.  A double whammy in that I now have to have an operation on my back next week as a result of an ill-judged jump from a rock whilst avoiding penguin poo in Antarctica earlier this year.  This may keep me out of the saddle for a few days (that might be wishful thinking) and out of serious competition for a few weeks.  However, I have constructed a series of plans based on my projected recovery times!


My main aim this year is to qualify Chiara for the Europeans next year or at least complete either the remaining 2* needed or complete the 3* and do the final qualification early next year.  It has just been confirmed that the European Championships will be held in Britain next year in Suffolk which makes it doubly important to me to be able to put myself forward for selection with at least one horse.


The good news is that Chiara’s FEI passport has arrived; all crisp and new and ready for action!  Chiara is also back in work as she was planned to run at King’s Forest in the 3* this weekend but my impending operation made that impossible.  However, training continues although at a lower level for the time being with the focus moving more to schooling and strengthening work.


A few weeks ago I had a chance ride at the local Boconnoc Estate on a friend’s ex FEI pony as one of her qualifiers to restart her FEI career.  This was a hot ride but all went pretty smoothly and Brookleigh was well schooled, obedient and, most importantly, achieved a Grade 1.



The hot weather we are all experiencing; even in Cornwall, has made the ground like iron and long training sessions have had to be on the beach and dunes.  Yesterday whilst training Chiara and Fantom on the dunes, we had a close encounter with a snake.  This snake, which was probably an adder, shot across the path missing one of Chiara’s cantering hooves by inches.  Great care was taken after this to check for these fast-moving reptiles.  Another consequence of the hot weather is the huge number of flies, mostly the house fly variety but interspersed by giant horseflies with massive jaws and phenomenal blood-sucking qualities.  The Feedmark Blue Bottle fly spray goes some way to combat that and they are all on the Fly Formula and covered in fly rugs, but this year it is a hard task to protect the horses from these persistent vampires.

Will microchipping law make a difference?

New regulations will only work if they have more teeth, says Carolyn Henderson


From 2020, it’s going to be chips with everything. All horses, ponies and donkeys will have to be microchipped and owners who don’t comply could be fined £200.


In one way, it’s good news in that it should help in the recovery of stolen animals. In another, it could leave a nasty taste in responsible owners’ mouths – because the irresponsible, heartless ones will carry on disregarding the law and dumping all their unwanted, unchipped animals.


Until now, microchipping regulations applied only to equines born since July 2009. From October 2020, they will extend to all.



No one would argue with Lord Gardiner, the government’s animal welfare minister, that it’s “completely unacceptable that horses and ponies are left abandoned every year by irresponsible owners”. But are the sort of people who dump animals going to toe the line and have their animals microchipped?


I doubt it. That’s why, in 1984,  the dog licence system was dropped in Great Britain – because caring owners complied and irresponsible ones didn’t.


We have to start somewhere and in that regard, compulsory chipping must be a good thing. But any regulation can only be as effective as the way it is enforced, and that’s where the real problem lies.


Are the police going to send officers to check every field full of tethered ponies? Of course they aren’t; police forces are under-staffed and under pressure and checking equine microchips won’t even register on the radar. That’s assuming every police vehicle will be equipped with a scanner, which I doubt.


Is the RSPCA going to take on this role? I doubt it.


The government says that from October, this new law will enable police and local authorities to identify abandoned animals. How is it going to get around the fact that the people who abandon horses probably won’t even have passports for them, let alone had them microchipped?


They certainly aren’t going to be forced into action by threats of compliance notices, or – and this has been described as a “last resort” – by fines of “up to” £200. It’s often cheaper for them not to bother, especially if they have several horses.



If you’re the sort of person who abandons horses, you’re the sort of person who will deny that they belong to you if, by some miracle, the authorities track you down. Why would you microchip them and make the authorities’ job easier?


I would love to see this legislation have a positive effect. In theory, the potential is there, because compulsory microchipping of dogs is said to have reduced the number of strays by about 21%.


In practice, it needs more teeth. And until it gets them, the sad stories about abandoned horses will continue.

Keep cool when the heat is on

Make the most of this summer with advice from the Feedmark team


If there’s one topic guaranteed to cause hot debate when temperatures soar, it’s how we should work our horses and the best way to care for them afterwards.


In the early 90s, general consensus was that we should protect horses’ joints by working them on a surface as much as possible but harden their tendons through slow road work. We were also told that the best way to keep horses cool was to wash them down with lukewarm water, because cold water would cause muscle cramp. Worst of all, experts advised that we should not allow horses to drink for half an hour before and after exercise.



How times change, and how our knowledge increases. Sometimes, it turns out that ideas which were accepted and then rejected as old-fashioned myths were actually true; for instance, the advice that you should never feed oats to children’s ponies has a grounding in truth, because oats are a source of quick-release energy and feeding them to a pony can be the equivalent of giving rocket fuel.


Other horse lore has been shown to be more myth than good practice, which is why we all need to keep up to date. Don’t assume that because you “only” hack, you don’t have to bother. It’s as important for the leisure rider to keep up to date as it is for the event rider or endurance specialist, because the more you know, the more chance you have of enjoying a long and happy partnership with your horse.


Here are some things to keep in mind this summer:


  • If you’re competing on different surfaces, you need to train on different surfaces.  For instance, if you’re preparing to event, you need to do sufficient canter work on grass, not just in a school. However, be cautious not to work your horse on ground that is too hard.



  • In the heat, hacking out on the roads may be easier than an intense training session. Road work doesn’t harden or strengthen tendons. However, most authorities say that road work in walk, incorporating periods of five to ten minutes trot each time, will help build bone strength. Getting out of the arena will, of course, add interest to your horse’s routine. That assumes that you have access to or can travel your horse to a safe hacking area.


  • Tendon boots do not give support, but they do give protection – as long as they are correctly fitted.


  • The best way to cool a hot horse is to apply cold water all over, ideally by hosing. Cold water won’t cause muscle cramp.


  • Be practical: find areas of shade, ensure vehicles are well ventilated and, if possible, parked in shady areas so they are cool for the journey home.



  • Your horse should always have access to water – don’t take it away before you ride. The latest advice is that if a horse wants to drink as soon as he finishes work, he should be allowed to do so.



  • Most horses will benefit from electrolytes in their feed, to replace those lost through sweat during hot weather or exercising. These should be fed on a daily basis to ensure optimum performance, as electrolytes are not likely to be replaced by forage or hard feed.
The cost of happiness

Horses are worth their weight in gold, says Carolyn Henderson


An innocent question posted on an equestrian online forum has sparked hilarious insights into horse owners’ mentality: “How do you stop your non-horsey partner knowing how much you spend on your horse?”


Some answers were serious, others light-hearted – I think. All were from women with male partners and prove that we are definitely the smarter/more devious of the sexes.



One responder said she bought a lot of things online and had all the parcels delivered to her sister-in-law’s house. Yes, that was her husband’s sister. Can you imagine what would happen in that family if her secret was exposed?


Another said that she only had skewbalds and piebalds, so when she bought a new pony, she kept one of her others at a friend’s until her other half was in a good enough mood for her to break the news that she’d been pony-shopping. Apparently, as long as the numbers remained the same, he couldn’t tell one horse from another.


If both partners are earning and don’t have children, it must seem much easier. Once you’ve each paid your share of joint bills and expenses, there’s usually some wiggle room on personal essentials. That’s why one of my friends has two horses while her husband has three vintage motor bikes.


But if you aren’t bringing in money because you’re looking after your children, or work part-time to fit in with school days and holidays, it’s more complicated. Horses aren’t a hobby, they’re a way of life and they keep you sane.


We all know how frightening it is to add up the costs of keeping a horse. I’ve tried it a few times and usually stop when I’ve totalled the basics.


The real answer is to count the cost of what would happen if you didn’t have one. You might be richer in monetary terms, but you’d be much poorer in terms of health and happiness.


Horses help us keep fit, mentally and physically. When life is getting you down, an hour with a horse will lift you up again. And when you’ve mucked out, ridden and groomed, who needs a gym membership?



Most of us go without other things and shop creatively to keep our horses. I’ve got a few designer labels in my wardrobe, but they all came from charity shops; and while I spend £140 every six weeks on shoes, they come in sets of four.


The strongest relationships are those in which partners support and respect each other, but acknowledge and appreciate each other’s independence. The saddest ones are where one person sublimates their interests and follows the other’s.


If you’re passionate about horses, they shape who you are. Without them, you’d be a different person – and poorer in all the ways that matter.

Racing to success with Formulate!

We had an excellent start to our June, with our new Formulate supplements arriving in the post! This has caused plenty of excitement, and I had great fun going through all the options to find out what best suits the demands put on our racehorses. Our specially designed Formulate! supplements are therefore based around the muscular, skeletal and respiration areas and we cannot wait to see the results.



The horses have also been putting their best hoof forward on the track, though we have a few sitting in their stables desperate for a bit of rain – as much as we enjoy the dry weather, we could do with a decent downpour in the very near future!



Percy (Prancing Oscar) did us proud up at Hamilton – a bit of a teenage boy at home, he is always causing trouble, and is a rather exhausting presence on the yard. He is constantly trying to pull people off their horses, hit them over the head with his play ball, or engage anyone in the near vicinity in a boxing match. A tester of patience, we were therefore delighted when he notched up his second victory, clinging on by a neck before charging flat out into the winner’s enclosure, very pleased with himself! Hopefully he will be seen over hurdles in the near future, where he might even get rid of some of his excess energy!



One horse doing just that was Lord Caprio, a lovely three year old gelding who is already a three time winner on the flat for us. He looks built to jump, so we had been schooling him plenty at home (sadly I don’t think my dream of stealing him for eventing is going to happen!), and he was a natural, so we entered him for the first juvenile hurdle of the year at Hexham – a juvenile hurdle is for three-year-olds at the start of their jump career. We fancied him, as he was by far the best horse on the flat, and Richie McLernon gave him the most wonderful educational ride, with class outing at the end as he cruised well clear of his rivals. It is hard not to start dreaming big in racing, and hopefully this fella can progress and achieve a few of these dreams – fingers crossed!



On the same day, our faithful servant Ever So Much claimed his second victory of the season, and the ninth of his career. Mo has been at the yard even longer than I have, and after looking rather a reluctant participant in the racing game last year we wondered if retirement beckoned, as he owes us nothing. However, he seems to have found a new lease of life this season, and it was very emotional to see him win back over chase fences for owner J.P. McManus.



We have also been sporting our incredibly smart new Formulate! jackets wherever we go, so if you are at the races and see one, please do come up and have a chat with us!


Alice Haslam

Keeping the fun in competition

Pushy parents have a lot to answer for, says Carolyn Henderson


When a friend broke her ankle and asked me to help her seven-year-old daughter at a local show, I thought it would be a fun day out.


Children…ponies…friendly competition. All enjoyable, character-building stuff, right?


Wrong. For every half dozen happy combinations out to enjoy themselves, there seemed to be a fraught child being hissed at from the ringside by an anxious parent. Worst of all was the sight of a little girl trotting around the ring on a lovely but obviously sensitive pony, her hands clenched on the reins and tears running down her cheeks.


When the judge pulled them into line, she walked up to this little girl and had a quiet chat with her. Moments later, the rider was walking the pony out of the ring, the steward at her side trying to encourage her to relax.


Later, those in the know explained that the child had graduated from an elderly, confidence-giving pony to one with lots of potential in the hands of a more experienced, confident jockey. Sadly, but not surprisingly, it wasn’t working out.


Image: Smiles and success at a JumpCross competition


There’s nothing wrong with being competitive. As an adult who rides native ponies, I know that there are plenty of kids with killer instincts mean they will do anything bordering on legal to win. They ride like demons and often have ponies to match.


But I don’t think it’s always been like that, and I hope there are still shows where fun and competition are synonymous. In my Pony Club days, which admittedly were a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, pushy parents underwent mandatory lessons in sportsmanship and there was a huge scandal when the innocent winner of a best turned-out class told the judge that Mummy had spent three hours cleaning her tack.


There may be a fine line between encouraging a child to overcome nerves and pushing too hard, but no one wants to see it end in tears. And while it’s great to see fun classes where everyone gets a rosette for completing a task, or jumping a little clear round course, healthy competition can provide good education. If you don’t learn that you can’t win ‘em all early in your life, you certainly will later on.


We probably all know of talented young riders who get to the stage, and the age, where they announce to ambitious parents that they don’t want to do this anymore. That’s when the tears come from another quarter – from those selling “dream ponies” because it turns out that the dreams were theirs and not their children’s.


You can imagine how I felt when my friend’s daughter came second in her best rider class but wasn’t particularly thrilled by her blue rosette. Was she turning into a diva who thought only the red ones were worth keeping?



“I wanted a yellow one,” she said. “It’s the only colour I haven’t got.”


The little girl who had been placed third said she had lots of yellow ones but only a few blue and red ones and offered to swap. So they did, and both agreed they’d got exactly what they wanted.


What more can you ask for than that? And if you’ve got any advice on keeping competition fun, please tell us.

The best of the British at Windsor

With a trailer full of immaculately clean horse, tack, crew kit and necessary human and horse accessories, we headed off to Royal Windsor arriving late morning after a swift and uneventful journey. Wonder crew Kiwi arrived from Holland and we were all set with a good friend, Spencer, doing the pre-ride vet trot up for us.



With Chiara being such a go go horse, I decided to start at the back letting the leaders canter off into the park before I trotted through the starting flags. This worked like a dream and, although we managed to catch a few up quite quickly, we notched up a steady first loop which included an exhilarating circuit around Ascot racecourse. The vet gate though was a nightmare with Chiara all over the place and never still. It was soooooo hard for the crew to take a pulse and, indeed, undress her but eventually this was managed and she passed the first vet check so on to the next loop. We were in a groove and this loop passed effortlessly but again culminated in a rather fraught vet gate with a still over-excited Chiara.



The third loop passed uneventfully except for the obligatory Canadian goose attacking at speed as we passed. Luckily he didn’t manage to get airborne before we passed him! Vetting was a bit easier and quicker this time although it was evident that Chiara had a few rubs from her numnah and girth which were swiftly changed and extra protection added.



Chiara was still going easily and happily on the last loop so we maintained our speed overtaking a few stragglers and managed to finish in 10th place best of the British; what a horse she has turned out to be!



The following weekend we were off to the Golden Horseshoe ride on Exmoor this time without a horse but with the accompaniment of the crew dog, Kira. Unusually for the iconic Horseshoe ride, this was a weekend of sunshine, good going and a lot of good completions with a smattering of gold awards. Even with good weather this is a tough ride with the main Golden Horseshoe Class doing 160 km over two days over some of the most demanding terrain in the country. I must confess I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend watching my fellow competitors and helping out with the parking, the large pleasure ride class and the EGB Facebook feed.



Following Fantom’s good performance in Dorset, he had a week off and then training has built up in preparation for the 1* in Norfolk later this month. This training has been mixed with good steady sessions on the sand track around the very large daffodil field where he has been rather switched off, interspersed with a couple of interval training sessions coming up through the dunes from the beach where he was rather more interested and attempts at steady canter work around the cross country fields which resulted in ridiculous behaviour and even a cutting short of the session when it was clear I would not be able to achieve my goal for that session.


A few days ago we went to Dartmoor to do some training with a friend. With the largely dry warm weather we have been experiencing, Dartmoor’s going was near perfect and we managed to do some really excellent work using the very, very long pulls up to the top of the tors and walking down as extended interval training. Fantom enjoyed this and coped very well; it certainly raised his heart rate. With just over two weeks before his 1* Fantom’s training is almost complete with another interval session next week and some schooling and lunging over poles, he will have completed his preparation.



Chiara has had three weeks rest after Windsor and has now come back into some gentle work and schooling as the start of the build up to her first 3* attempt at the King’s Forest in July.


Dilmun continues in light work waiting for a window of opportunity to up his fitness so that he can do one or two competitions towards the end of the season and Wizard, of course, is continuing to enjoy his outings with his new jockey Emily and her children with their ponies.

Team Bussey - Success Overseas

India and Atiya have had a busy few weeks competing abroad, starting with the youth show at Lampreschtausen, Austria from 18th to 21st May.


Atiya and Chesterfield Z


After an amazing performance from Atiya and Chesterfield Z at the European Viewing trials, which took place at Chepstow International at the end of April, they were selected to jump on the Children on Horses team (one of six combinations), representing Great Britain in Austria. On the first day they jumped a super clear round gaining a place on the Nations Cup team of only four combinations. Atiya’s other horse, Ego, also jumped a blinding clear in this class to take the win out of over 40 combinations from all around Europe.  


India and Billy Colman were also super speedy, narrowly missing out on a win in the first of the Junior classes, coming 2nd. They then continued this form for 4th the next day. India’s other ride Goldenboy also improved massively over this week, gaining some experience in the 1.40m classes.


After a day off jumping for Chester it was time for the Nations Cup. As the first members of the team to jump, the two produced a lovely clear to put Great Britain in a strong position going into the next round, and they ended on a total of 4 faults.  In round two Chester jumped another super round to end on an unlucky fence, but with two other team members jumping outstanding clears Great Britain ended in 2nd



We were then delighted to hear that Atiya and Chesterfield Z had been selected to represent Great Britain again at the Dutch Youngster Festival, Wierden, and India and seven-year-old Billy Colman were also given the opportunity to jump again! This meant that we had to leave for Holland just a week after our return home from Austria. After the drive, the horses soon settled in before jumping started on May 30th. The good form was started yet again by India and Colman coming 7th in the 1.35m Juniors.


The next day Atiya and Chester were also clear and 7th in the 1.25m Children on Horses. On Friday this was then followed by a super double clear (one of  only five) in the Nations Cup securing 5th for the Team.



India and Colman also jumped round the 1.35m fast and faultless just missing out on a placing. On the last day they flew around once again, fast enough for a top three finish, but unfortunately just touching the penultimate fence. Atiya and Chester then made their class, the Children On Horses Grand Prix, worth the wait, being one of 7 clears in the first round, out of 45 starters and then claiming 4th with another fence free round! 



All in all it has been a very busy, yet successful month and we thank Feedmark for their support in helping to keep the horses happy, well, and healthy with their supplements; helping with the heat, physical exercise and travelling!