February 2016

It’s that time of the year when we feel that spring just can’t come quick enough! The fields are wet, horses are muddy, it’s windy, frosty and cold – yes, it’s February (or as I like to call it – ‘The Never-ending Month’!) Although there are obviously less days during February, for me it’s that time where I just really want winter to be over so I can get on with some proper riding. However this year we do seem to have been blessed with some milder weather so it’s not all bad.

I’ve also had the debate this week as to whether or not to give the horses one more clip, which I am sure many other horse owners have at this time of year. The old tradition of not clipping a horse in February seems to be out of fashion now and many competition horses are clipped all year round – but I still have that fear of what may happen if I do decide to clip!

On the positive side the horses are all going fantastically at the moment……….

 

Getting back into dressage

After Patch’s time off, our dressage has become a bit rusty to say the least. We went for our first dressage lesson of the year with Sarah Dobell last week. Sarah is a dressage judge and BSHAI who I have used for many years now. She was delighted to see Patch out and looking so well. Patch and I had to work very hard, focusing on transitions and tempo. I was certainly aching afterwards!  Patch has returned to work feeling very strong and powerful which is fantastic – as long as he can keep it under control in the dressage arena.  I am hoping to see a big improvement in his scores this year, he feels like a new horse!

Patch in the early morning sunshine waiting for the farrier

We are now preparing for our first event of the year, which (fingers crossed!) will be Sapey in April. It’s my favourite event and Patch particularly enjoys the cross country there. I think the going is quite similar to what we have at home and he finds it effortless. Last time we were at Sapey as I came through the finish the steward told me he was the best horse she had seen finish all day, and he looked like he could go around again!  Our next step with him is to start increasing his jumping, linking together a course and do some arena eventing as well as cross country schooling.

Patch, Poppy and Rupert have all been doing lots of hacking over the winter in order to maintain their fitness.  We are ften accompanied by Simon and Bart (the beagle) who’s new favourite pastime is hacking!

 

Taking a tumble……

Rupert Jumping

For me, the end of January consisted of having quite a bad case of the flu, which meant for the first time I went a few days without even mucking out!  Rupert missed a few shows that I had been aiming for which fell within the two weeks of me being not quite right. I then took him out schooling, thinking I was better. Unfortunately about four strides away from our first fence I realised I wasn’t, Rupert did an emergency stop and I carried straight on! It certainly hurt a lot more falling off since I am in my thirties! Luckily I was just a little bruised. Rupert then decided it would be fun to prance around me on a 20m circle, showing just how much energy he had been saving for me whilst I had been off! At least one of us found it amusing!

Cassie on Rupert with Geoff Billington

Our next outing was for our monthly lesson with Geoff Billington. When I arrived and told him that I had fallen off, he very kindly rode Rupert for me, which was a great learning experience for both of us. He showed me some new tricks to get Rupert more focused and he worked on control and rhythm. I have included a short video of us working on this after our lesson – here’s the link to it: https://youtu.be/BsVoyWTMrGs  When I got back on Rupert, he felt like a proper show jumper. It’s amazing how much a rider such as Geoff can get such a tune out of a horse, even in an hour. It was really inspiring!

Cassie and Rupert

 

The dangers of hacking….

Eileen hasn’t been able to ride as much as usual, due to work and also me being off ill. I’m looking forward to the lighter nights again so that she can ride after work. It’s a really tough working and trying to find time to ride consistently as I’m sure many of you will understand. In the meantime I have kept Poppy going with as much hacking as I can fit in. We had quite scary incident whilst out hacking last week when we met a loose dog on the lane. The dog became very aggressive towards Poppy and wouldn’t let us pass. I tried to turn around to go another way, but the dog then followed us. After what seemed like a life time, the owner came to get the dog back. I was a little upset as the owner didn’t really seem to understand the significance of what had happened. I did my best to explain how dangerous that the situation could have been, which I really hope they took on board. I have hacked that route for years, but the owners have recently moved here which explains why it happened.

There is a page on the BHS website where you can report incidents such as this one. This time I didn’t report it as I hoped that by explaining to them the risks, they may look at securing their fencing to keep their dog in. But for anyone that has a problem where this can’t be done, the website is

http://www.bhs.org.uk/safety-and-accidents/report-an-incident

I was very lucky that Poppy behaved impeccably and took it all in her stride. She certainly is a very loyal and honest horse.

 

Some exciting news….

I am very excited to report that Simon has been offered the position of Assistant Team Vet to the British Show Jumping Team! He was delighted to have been selected after a very tough interview down at Stoneleigh. He’s going to be covering some of the Nations Cup Events over the summer including Hickstead, which is very exciting! He will do a fantastic job, I am very proud!

 

Another use for Mollichaff Alfalfa Oil…

Mollichaff Alfalfa Oil

When we take Patch out to training and shows he tends to get very excited in the trailer on arrival! To the point we find it a lot safer and easier to back him out when we unload as on occasion he has rushed out of the front door and caught his hind quarters on the side, with him being quite a big horse. He seems to prefer backing off and does it very elegantly – I just have to say ‘back’ and off he goes.

Patch out hacking

However whilst undoing the ramp and partition, he can still get a little fidgety and excited so I started to give him something to occupy him like a carrot, Lickit or some treats, until Simon suggested that instead I feed him a small amount of alfalfa instead.

Alfalfa is particularly good to feed to horses before exercise, in the way that it can coat the stomach. This can protect the horse from any acid hitting the walls of the stomach during exercise which can be uncomfortable. Not only that but it can also act as a buffer to the stomach acid. All horses, like us, have stomach acid – it’s an essential part of digestion; however exercising on an empty stomach means that the acid is more likely to cause an irritation. During exercise when the stomach is empty the acid is likely to bounce around in the stomach, hitting the stomach walls, so a small amount of alfalfa fed before exercise (or travelling) can be quite significant in helping this. The properties of Mollichaff Alfalfa Oil are perfect for this.

I have noticed quite a difference since doing this. It can be hugely beneficial to those horses that suffer from conditions such as gastric ulcers too. It is not a cure for ulcers, but it can act in the general maintenance of the condition. Patch, being a slightly stressy Thoroughbred can become irritated by even the smallest of things, so this has now become part of his routine!

In my next diary, Simon will write a little bit about gastric ulcers – the causes and management of the condition.

 

That’s all for now.

Take care,

Cassie.