A short blog today… about something that really gets my back up – focusing on the negative and ignoring the positive. It was triggered by the following post, which appeared on my FB news feed recently:
“Dear Costa. I bought two hot drinks from one of your stores today for myself and a friend, and to say we were disappointed is a huge understatement. Although I was served quickly, when the drinks arrived, they weren’t to the usual high costa standard we are used to receiving. The latte my friend had was more like a white coffee; NO frothy milk, and it was barely warm. As a result, most of it ended up on the carpark tarmac. My hot chocolate was also NOT hot, the chocolate tasted bitter, and despite requesting it, there was no evidence of chocolate sprinkles, or whipped cream. I’ve attached a photo of the hot chocolate, and I also have a photo of the ‘latte’ and the receipt so I can prove what I ordered and what I paid for if you would like to see this. Never before have I failed to finish a drink I have bought from you, but today was a first for my friend and I. I hope you can address the issues we have experienced today so that no other customer has to waste their money on substandard drinks from any of your establishments.”
The lady was posting on the Costa Coffee FB page (https://www.facebook.com/CostaCoffee). What frustrates me is that she’s clearly received satisfactory, if not good, drinks from Costa in the past since a) she mentions that ‘never before have a failed to finish a drink I have bought from you’ and b) she’s returned for more. And also, why did she go public with the comment rather than addressing it with the staff at the time, who I’m sure would have offered replacement drinks? This is not about whether or not you think anyone should buy from Costa – that’s a completely separate argument that I have no interest in getting into 😃 It’s simply an example of the tendency of some people focus on the one mistake / negative interaction rather than the multiple successes / positive interactions. Of course, there is the possibility of going the other way and forgiving too many mistakes…
Emily had owned Barney since the summer of 2015. Barney is a 10-year-old, 15.2hh coloured cob gelding. Barney was “super-cob” – one of those perfect cobs that turned his hoof to everything, and gave both himself and his owner Emily masses of fun both at home and in competitions.
In the summer of 2016, Emily and Barney suffered a nasty fall while XC schooling. He appeared to have survived unscathed, other than badly winded, and continued with the schooling session. Afterwards he was given some time off. However, quite rapidly his behaviour deteriorated, with out of character rearing and napping, as well as refusing to load. The vet x-rayed and scanned him, as well as scoping for ulcers. There were no significant findings on either the x-rays or the scans, though the scope did show grade 4 ulcers (for more information on the diagnosis and treatment of ulcers please visit www.wheredoesmyhorsehurt.com)
A month later, in September 2016, Barney was bought back into work. That day was, in hindsight, an indication of what would follow, as Emily fell off. He was seen again by vets, as seemed to be lame behind. Again no indication of a problem, though they did find the ulcers to be improving. By this point Emily had moved yards, and seemed to find herself with a Jekyll and Hyde horse. Some days he would be absolutely fine, and others he would be incredibly badly behaved, both on the ground and ridden. There was no pattern to his behaviour, nor indicator of triggers. He was seen by the vets again and had his sacroiliac and both hocks steroid injected. He was re-scoped and found to have no ulcers.
By this point Barney had been seen by a number of instructors and other professionals and was gaining himself an unattractive reputation. Emily was receiving ongoing comments about him, ranging from “he’s dangerous” “not worth the trouble” “shoot him” to “why not take up knitting instead.”
At which point, Barney, while on a short hack, threw Emily breaking her ankle.
Emily was at her lowest point when she met Sue Palmer at a demonstration some weeks later. Barney was deemed too naughty to handle by the other people on the yard, Emily was unable to turn him out due to her broken ankle, and the girls on the yard would only turn him out in a chifney, in a very small enclosure close to his stable, such was his reputation.
Sue visited a week later. Barney was incredibly sore through his body, in particular through his neck. Sue advised to have Barney x-rayed through his neck and feet, but nothing showed on the x-ray, meaning that they knew the problem was muscular rather than bony.
Sue saw Barney every week for 4 to 5 weeks and began to work on Barney to help reduce the soreness in his body. Emily felt supported in working to help her horse, for the first time in a long while. She began free schooling him, with Sue’s guidance, getting him to stretch through his topline in walk. Then they introduced long-reining, in a relaxed, no pressure way, the emphasis always being on working with Barney, in a thoughtful way. After a few weeks, Emily began to move the long reining out of the school and onto short hacks around the farm. Sue walked with her, supporting her to push through the naps that occurred.
Emily now felt confident enough in her ankle to get back on. The first time she just walked round in the indoor school, with Sue holding Barney on a leadrope, ending with a slow trot. Maybe not much to the outside world, but a massive step forwards for a cob that had been condemned as dangerous. Gradually Emily began to ride for longer in both the indoor and outdoor arena, in walk and trot, just encouraging Barney to stretch his neck.
Emily and Barney’s first hack, since her accident was round a route where they had already long-reined. Sue walked with them, encouraging Emily, and giving her confidence when Barney stopped. They then re-introduced the canter in the school. Emily was struggling with how quiet Barney was, quite unlike his previous “super-cob” status, though infinitely more desirable than his demonic persona. Sue listened to Emily. They began to re-energise him, though, possibly overcooking it with Barney bucking Emily off!
Emily was heartened to receive a text late in the evening after the bucking incident, where Sue suggested they re-think how to tackle the bucking. Emily hadn’t worked with anyone before who would have still been thinking about her that late at night!
Since then Barney has gone from strength to strength. Emily credits Sue with causing her biggest attitude change, which has transformed her perception and her relationship with Barney. This is quite simply – that getting off is not failing. It is far more sensible to dismount, lead past an obstacle and remount, than to engage in a battle if that is not the correct decision to make at that point. For Emily, realising this has changed her life.
She has recently returned from taking Barney on holiday. He has loaded perfectly, travelled beautifully and turned out in his holiday quarters. He has hacked out and been his perfect wonderful and happy “super-cob” self, once again, if not even a little bit more super than before! To top it off, when coming home he had to load on the road into a running lorry! And unloaded and turned out in the dark, without a murmur.
Since then Emily has faced and overcome two massive hurdles. The first was hacking past where she had broken her ankle and the second was her first jump. And how was Barney? Perfect.
Last month, Sarah Weston explained the various roles of the Commoners, Agisters and Verderers of the New Forest. This month she explains the key events in the Commoning year and some of the challenges that the Commoners face.
The Commoning year is broken up by key events such as the arrival of the foals in May and June, the drifts in the autumn from August through to November, and the sales at Beaulieu Road which take place four times annually, once in the spring and three late in the year. Although Commoners can sell their animals privately Beaulieu Road is still a popular option with many of them. The steps taken to reduce the numbers of foals born has improved the prices and the prospects for the ponies.
There are many contentious issues surrounding the keeping of ponies on the Forest, including the condition of the ponies which is overseen by the Agisters and through regular joint visits by welfare organisations such as the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare. A wild life is a tough one and ponies may lose a lot of condition in the winter. The Agisters have the power to order a pony off the Forest if its condition falls below an acceptable standard. It is still compulsory for all ponies to be hot branded since they live in large groups with mixed ownership. It is important to understand that at present there is no microchip available which can be read from more than a metre away or radio device which doesn’t need a change of battery and it is important that the ponies can be identified easily. Each Commoner has their own two letter or symbol brand.
The drifts, which happen in each area just once a year, can be fast and furious but the ponies are never rounded up by vehicle as happens in other areas of the country. The ponies are rounded up into specially created drift pens, often through designated driftways which help to funnel them into the right place. The Agisters organise the drifts and only Commoners are allowed to ride on the drifts. Occasionally Commoners will round up a small group of ponies which they need to get in for welfare or other reasons, and they may ask an Agister to help them; this is known as colt-hunting.
The very worst problem is the loss of ponies and other livestock to the traffic which passes through the Forest, ignoring the speed limits, or not keeping a proper lookout. Worse still is that many of these collisions are ‘hit and run’ but recently the reward for information leading to the conviction of a driver has been increased from £1,000 to £5,000 in the hope that this will be a greater incentive. There are so many miles and miles of roads, and so many villages within the Forest, that the use of widespread traffic calming measures would cost an incredible amount of money, as would fencing which would also limit the ponies to set places. In recent years the Police have provided a regular speed check in various black spots on the Forest and have special equipment which especially good at dawn and dusk. Sadly, many of the people caught are locals – often commuters travelling from one side of the Forest to the other with their minds on getting to work or getting home again.
For me, this is a risk I am prepared to take, since my ponies, of which I have four, have a lovely life on the Forest, wandering at will, socialising with ponies and other animals, and able to browse on all types of grasses and trees. At the same time I don’t underestimate the tenacity it takes for a pony to live on the Forest – the cold, wet, and indeed sun all bring their own problems, and in the summer the insects are rampant including the wretched crab flies.
Our guest blogger is Sarah Weston, to learn more about her, or to order one of her brilliant books, please visit her website.
I tend to think of my life as jam packed, life lived at a run – I like it that way, so please don’t think I’m complaining! But a couple of days in London recently had me pining for the relatively slow pace of life I live in Stafford! Sometimes it’s only by taking a step back that you recognise what you’ve got, or what you’ve achieved. There’s a tendency for us to look at the lives of those we admire, whose lives we think we’d like to live – but we see them through social media, or at a show, or on a family day out, and these snippets of their lives are of course just a snapshot, and give a very false view of that person’s life. From the outside you see success, or a loving relationship, or red rosettes. On the inside is sweat and tears, and their own individual troubles. In London, there’s the opportunity to see the other side, walking past homeless people lying quietly or with signs crying out for help – again there is no way of knowing what’s led that person to that place, or what their individual troubles may be, but I think most of us would be very grateful not to be in their position.
When you watch a horse and rider working together in harmony, without gadgets it force, there is no way of really knowing what it took for that person to get there. One thing that’s guaranteed though is that it’s taken hours and hours and hours, and that there will have been a myriad of mistakes and frustrations along the way. It’s entirely unrealistic to expect to ride like Carl Hester, or to understand your horse like Richard Davison would, unless you’ve spent a similar number of hours.
I wrote Brain, Pain or Training to help you to understand your horse more easily and more accurately, and I was supported by 27 guest contributors, and by 9 case studies who were brave enough to share some of their trials and tribulations with the reader – although of course there is still no way of knowing how their ‘horse world’ fits into their ‘home world’ or their ‘work world’. I hope that this book and DVD inspires you to keep at it, to search for the path that’s right for you and your horse, to find the team that offers the support you need. Don’t give up now – you can do it!
Much of the work we do with our horses is to help both them and us, enjoy a better life. By better I mean happier, healthier and more harmonious. To do this we try and provide resources and equipment that can help others. Articles that we think really hit the spot or equipment that improves quality of life. We don’t provide gadgets, or items that force the horse. Everything that we offer, has been carefully selected to make a difference.
Items such as the HayLo, that encourage your horse to feed as nature intended, and the Equiband System proven to improve dynamic stability. We are delighted by some of the feedback we have received about the Equiband System, and would like to share it with you.
Milo is a 7-year-old Connemara gelding, who is built a little bit downhill with tightness behind the saddle. (His owner’s words!) She contacted me to say:
“Have used mine twice since receiving it, can already see a great improvement in posture when lunging my daughter’s Connemara. The belly band really seems to encourage him to lift his back behind the saddle…thought we would introduce one strap at a time just in case he objected when ridden, that was no problem…we are very pleased.”
The Equiband System has a range of uses, from horses recovering from injury, to youngsters, through to improving the core stability of ridden horses. The Equiband System is not a gadget, it is a system to encourage the horse to be the best that he can be – what more could you ask for?
We are always delighted to receive feedback from our clients, so that we can share their learning experiences with others. If you have a story you would like to share, or a product that has helped you in some way, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
To read more about the Equiband System, including the scientific research into the system please visit our shop.
Wow what a month, I’m absolutely buzzing at how well Prince has done this month and how well he has coped with it all. The month kicked off on the 4th July as we headed to Hatpury for our first International competition together, although I have competed Internationally before it was my first time competing at 3* level and was Prince’s International debut. on the first day all of the horses are presented to the vets and ground jury, where their identity is checked against the passports, then they are trotted up to ensure that they are sound and fit to compete.
We also get the opportunity to do arena familiarisation where we are given a slot to ride in the competition arena to let the horses get used to the environment, with all the flags and flowers which seem to upset some, Prince on the other hand isn’t bothered in the slightest but would fancy a nibble at the plants. the next day was the first of two days of competition where we rode the team gaining 66.67% and a 8 the place, day 3 we rode the Individual test and climbed the results board with a 5th place on 68.76% which was less than 1% behind 3rd and 4th place and 2% behind 2nd place just to put that into context. I was so chuffed because remember two of these riders were reserves for Rio, all 3 riders are on the World Class podium and potential squad, which is the level up from the level I was on previously and each of them had 2 horses there, so for our International debut I think we did pretty amazing, and best of all we qualified to ride our freestyle test the following day. I was super excited that we were going to be allowed to do our freestyle because only the top 6 horses go through, which would have been really disappointing when you have gone to the time, trouble and expense of having a floor plan and music produced and to have to go home without being able to show it. So we danced our socks off and finished in 4th place with 69% in a tight contest once again.
The only problem was that I was in agony by the end of the test with my hip and the steward called the medical staff because I had turned such a funny colour and they were worried, the medical staff signposted me to a sport physiotherapist that was on site and luckily I was able to get in to be treated by him, which gave me some relief. Big lesson learnt in that we work really hard at home with physio and gym work to keep myself as strong as possible to support my hip in particularly because its one of the areas that causes me problems and we know walking really inflames it so I generally don’t walk and great distances. However with the long days waiting around at these competitions we tended to try and break the monotony by visiting Prince at the stables, going outside to watch some of the able bodied competition, or browsing the stands, which individually were only short walks but must have had an accumulative effect on my poor hip. I don’t think people realise how much we para riders have to micro manage our bodies to enable us to do what we do, and then it still isn’t enough and you have to re evaluate things, which is really frustrating because in our nature we want to be the same as everyone else and get on and do things but in order the be at our optimum we have to go against that instinct to preserve ourselves for performance.
So with this in mind and just under 2 weeks between Hartpury and Bishop Burton CPEDI3*, I asked Jane at our yard if I could possibly borrow her scooter to take with me, to solve the walking around issue there, and she kindly agreed, so it travelled in the back of the horsebox with Prince. The journey took just over 4 hours and we arrived early evening, because I had to go to work that day before we could leave. Prince was his usual cheeky self, and had removed his head collar, which is normal practice for him, however after we arrived Leonie had put it back on ready for off loading him, but she hadn’t realised he had slipped it again, so when she opened the partition he jumped off and ran into the stable yard where he strutted up and down looking extremely smug with himself. Luckily it is a gated area so he wasn’t in any danger of getting loose and eventually he let Leonie catch him and take him to his stable after he was vet checked.
I must admit this competition has always been my favourite of the year because I love how light and bright the main arena is at Bishop Burton, and the whole place has a really relaxed atmosphere. Different venue but the same drill as at Harpury, with horse inspections on day 1, no problems as usual, day 2 was team test and we got a 2nd place with 67.41%, day 3 was the Individual and I finished 3rd with 66.82% and we rode the freestyle again on day 4 to get another 3rd place with 68.36%. Again I am personally really pleased with our results even though there are mistakes which actually just makes me even more excited to think what we could achieve if I ever managed to ride a mistake free test. I just hope that Mandy Wright is super proud of how amazing her beautiful horse is and that William Southall and Deryk Law, who are the two gentlemen that enabled me to attend these competitions are pleased with our achievements, I am so grateful to you all, and to Leonie Brown for her continued hard work with myself and Prince, Toby, Sue and Becky for keeping prince tip top along with my supporters: The National Saddle centre, BettaLife, Countrywide.
Although the two competitions have been an amazing experience, and another milestone reached, it has also given rise to issues for us all to reflect and act upon in order to move forward. One of the things I actually enjoy most about this whole experience, is that it is a journey, but never on a straight,flat road, its really hard at times and an uphill struggle, but exciting as you never know what is around the corner. Each thing we do is a learning curve and we constantly evaluate what we can improve upon which helps me not only improve my riding but also to grow as a person too, I genuinely wouldn’t be the person I am today without having had horse in my life.
After all the good work that’s been done in recent years to raise the profile of equestrianism, with success in the Olympics and incredible public acts of support like Jonty securing Art , I was horrified to see this Daily Mail report on a rodeo show in Wales. So incredibly dangerous for all concerned, for a start – horses, riders and spectators! There is no safe safety barrier between the horses and the public. Have the organisers never seen or heard what damage a loose horse bolting in fear can do?! The gear the riders are wearing is very basic, although at least they’re wearing hats I suppose, although I wonder whether there’s any rules on the hats being up to the latest safety standard? But what got me is the fear, terror, that those horses are going through to behave like that. I watched a rodeo in Canada a few years ago, expecting to hate it because of horse welfare issues, but finding myself very impressed with how the horses were cared for. Those were professional bucking horses, wearing a ‘bucking strap’ which encouraged them to buck and which was removed as soon as possible once the rider came off (by someone on another horse riding up alongside them). The horses in the photos of the event in Wales have not got any bucking straps on as far as I can see, and my guess is that they are bucking from either fear or pain – most likely fear.
What bothers me most though is the comment that these horses are ‘coming to the stage where people will soon ride them’. In what world is it ok to train a horse towards a lifetime of ridden work through an exercise like this?
I’m really interested to hear other viewpoints on this, whether people have different experiences of rodeo abroad, or whether anyone can see anything positive (from a horsemanship point of view) about the event in Wales?
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Our emergency services are chronically overstretched at that moment, which means that you could be some time waiting for an ambulance. However, there is much that you can do in that time to help someone. There have been various notable cases where individuals have been kept alive with CPR till the emergency services have arrived. The speed with which accidents are addressed and that injured parties receive treatment, can have a huge effect on the outcome and recovery.
Horses are known to have a high risk of accident or injury associated with them. While we can’t prevent accidents from happening entirely, we can gain skills to both help prevent accidents, and help us to deal with accidents should they happen. For tips on handling your horses in a safe and confident manner, please take a look at our 10 of the best series.
The first thing to do in an accident is to stay calm. Take a deep breath and then evaluate the situation. If there is someone with you, one of you call 999 and one of you attend the injured person. If you are alone, make sure that you are safe before acting. Depending on the nature of the injury what you do next is vitally important. We highly recommend that anyone who deals with horses takes a first aid course. The Red Cross run first aid courses across the country, so that you can learn the basics that could save a life. Click here to find a course.
The three basics to remember are:
Stay calm – panic clouds our judgement and may cause us to choose the wrong option
Dial 999 – explain clearly where you are, and what has happened, listen to the advice given
First do no harm – this quote comes from KevinMD and I thought it was a good way to remember how to react in an emergency: “This doesn’t mean do nothing. It means make sure that if you’re going to do something you’re confident it won’t make matters worse. If you’re not sure about the risk of harm of a particular intervention, don’t do it. So don’t move a trauma victim, especially an unconscious one, unless not moving them puts them at great risk (and by the way, cars rarely explode). Don’t remove an embedded object (like a knife or nail) as you may precipitate more harm (e.g., increased bleeding). And if there’s nothing you can think to do yourself, you can always call for help. In fact, if you’re alone and your only means to do that is to leave the victim, then leave the victim.” KevinMD
I, like many of you, am a member of many Facebook groups that are dedicated to all things “Horsey”. I love looking at the pictures, and stuff, but then, there are posts that concern me, and these are the ones that generally start with,
“Admin, please delete if not allowed.”
I can feel my anxiety start to creep up as soon as I see that sentence.
The questions that follow tend to be ones that should be answered by a professional in the subject.
By professional, I mean someone that has education, training and experience in the subject matter that is being asked about. Google does not make you an expert. Google is not a diagnostic tool, and while, it can help provide information after a professional diagnoses, the, diagnose does need to be done, with the help of diagnostic testing, by a professional that is trained to diagnose, perform diagnostic testing, and interpret the results.
Think about it, how many times have you googled your own symptoms, and ended up being told to phone for emergency services or get yourself to the hospital now!! Or you have convinced yourself you have a serious condition with no treatment options, but it turns out, it is something a lot less ‘news worthy’ which is easily treatable. (Guilty 😛 )
Here is an example, there was a horse with a swelling, the comments ranged from a self-inflicted kick, insect bites, to pigeon fever. Quite frankly, it could have been anything. The most worrying comments were the statement of fact comments, which seemed to be saying it is “Blah” and you have to do x…y..z. There were some quite desperate measures being described. Measures which would cause much more harm than good, for example, draining a swelling that is not infected, will most likely end up with the swelling being infected. It is something that vets will not do unless they are certain it is already infected, and there is no other path of action. You cannot tell if a swelling if infected just by looking at it. It takes blood work, and/or diagnostic imaging to be certain.
If you feel you need to ask for advice on line, and take advice from a random internet person, I think you need to consider why. If you are trying to avoid vet fees, perhaps you should consider if you can afford your horse? If you cannot afford the vet fee, then, you cannot afford the horse. This is harsh, but true. If you are unsure if your horse needs a vet call, or some “home care” will resolve the issue. Ask an equestrian professional that you trust and see what they say. And here is a tip, if they make a suggestion without seeing the horse (or at least good photos), talk to someone else. There are good “Rules of thumb” to follow regarding injuries, and the same regarding swellings and those annoying but inevitable “lumps” horses have. But if you are ever unsure, then call the vet! That is what they are there for, and what we pay them for. And, please start with the vet. There are many “Equine professionals”, but many are unregulated, and have minimum training, and while there are some awesome equestrian people out there, they are the exception, not the rule.
Here is a good article on when to call the vet, or please have a look at you local horse society website , HCBC, or BHS for example., they will quite often have good information for you:
But, just in case you are interested, my rules of thumb are:
If I can see anything other than skin – Call the vet
If there is a yellow fluid – Call the vet
If there is a laceration that is near a joint and /or longer than my finger and is more than just top layer of skin – Call the vet
Any type of puncture wound – Call the vet
Something I have never seen or dealt with before…. You have guessed it…CALL THE VET!!
This week I was treating a horse belonging to a lecturer/researcher in equine behaviour. I was talking to her about my book and DVD, ‘Brain, Pain or Training?’ (BPT). I explained that in BPT, brain issues are defined as those where the horse is taking advantage of the owner, and solution is for the owner to improve their skill level. Pain issues are obviously where the horse is in some level of discomfort, and the solution is generally to find the right professional help. Training issues are those where the horse doesn’t understand what is being asked of him, and the solution is to improve the horse’s skill level.
She said “Ah, so brain issues are addressed using dominance principles”. I was taken aback, as this absolutely is not the case (or at least, it should not be the case, in my opinion), but I was so surprised by her assumption that I couldn’t respond immediately. What I would like to have said is something along the lines of “No, it is not about dominance in my mind at all, in fact that word wouldn’t even have come into my head. I might talk about leadership, but to me that’s definitely not about dominance. A horse person improving their skill level so that the horse doesn’t take advantage of them is an immensely complex and ongoing process. It’s about understanding, attitude, sensitivity, timing, training, positive and negative reinforcement, gentleness, firmness, clarity, goal setting, personal development, watching and learning from mentors, reading books and articles, learning to read the horse, learning from the horse, practising, developing confidence, and so much more”. All too often I hear someone say ‘You just need to do… (insert appropriate phrase’, and I find this very frustrating. Working with and training horses is rarely as simple as ‘You just need to…’. I’m not great on computers, and my husband (who is very experienced with technology) has learned not to say ‘It’s easy, you just need to …’, I’d be surprised if there isn’t something in life that you can relate to with this!
We all have things we find easy, and things we don’t. If someone is struggling to achieve something with their horse, they’re clearly not finding it easy, and even if it’s something you can do practically with your eyes closed, telling them that it ‘should’ be easy is unlikely to help! I often remind myself of something I read a while ago, which suggested exchanging the word ‘should’ for ‘could’. If you change the phrase from ‘It should be easy’ to ‘It could be easy’ it becomes far more motivational in my opinion – it encourages me to find the solution rather than to give up because I’m clearly failing at something that I ‘should’ be able to do. There is almost always an answer but often we go round the houses to find it. A friend many years ago said ‘If you feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall, it’s because right now it’s meant to feel like that. When the time is right, the wall will come down.