Focused training at home – our in-house dressage challenge

A dressage test is very much a complete lesson for both horse and rider. The movements are designed to flow from one to another and present the horse and rider with a test of balance, attention, acceptance of aids, suppleness etc

BE92 1
From left: Caitlin on Jasper, Sofija on Basil, Rachel on Oscar and Jazzy jumping up with joy 😉 

As such, practicing towards a particular dressage test can nicely channel the work needed to be done in order to advance the schooling of the horse and the training of the rider. There doesn’t need to be any planned competition in sight in order to create a training structure at home.

Many riders struggle with daily tasks that can lead to improvements and having a well defined floor plan i.e. a dressage test , is a perfect way to help with ideas.

OUR CHALLENGE

At the end of May we set a June Challenge focused around a British Eventing dressage test. I let the riders taking part choose the test from any of the BE90 ones and the decision was to do the BE92 test.

The reason we went for the British Eventing dressage tests rather than the British Dressage ones was simply due to us training on grass through the summer and the arena available is too small to set up a 20x40m test area.

The Challenge had two parts:

1. Train yourself and your horse towards a competent attempt at British Eventing 92 Dressage Test (the test is at a Dressage Preliminary level and is a part of BE90 Horse Trials)

2. Appraise other horse’s and rider’s performance in order to understand the requirements better and improve own “eye” for correct training.

We had 5 training sessions in total focused primarily on this test.

Session 1: Understanding your horse’s strengths and weaknesses in all elements required at the test.

Session 2: Work through your horse’s strengths and weaknesses and formulate exercises/routines to improve weak points and show off the strong points

Practice during the month

Session 3: Enclose the exercises to the vague area of the test arena and practice the patterns of the test with no dressage markers. Continue working on weak elements and showing off the strong ones

Session 4: Practice of all test movements within the arena set up with markers in place with particular focus on correct use of corners and accurate shapes of all exercises

Session 5: Warm Up for the test with all the training in mind and have a go at the test 🙂

SCORES:

Caitlin & Jasper (Judges at C: Sofija , Rachel) : 73.2 % (Eventing score: 26.8)

Sofija  & Basil (Judges at C: Caitlin , Rachel) : 62% (Eventing score: 38)

These were both very good scores for these horses and both tests were nicely presented and very tactfully ridden. Unfortunately, Oscar lost a shoe a week before the Saturday test and removed it so “well” he punctured his foot rendering himself out of contention! Rachel took part part-time riding the test pattern in walk and testing her judging skills.

REWARD TIME!

logo clearI believe training is all about little milestones and small but important achievements and as such, celebrating them is part of the game   Aspire Academy is a brand ambassador for Boudica Equestrian this year and in collaboration with Boudica the riders won the following:

Caitlin for the highest score: £20 voucher to spend on anything via Boudica’s online/pop-up store at https://www.boudicaequestrian.co.uk/ as well as 10% OFF the order with the Aspire code

Sofija for the super score with a tense pony who probably never done a dressage test of this level on grass: £15 voucher as well as 10% OFF the order with the Aspire code

Rachel for a great team spirit, superb turn out of Oscar and getting involved in the judging process: £10 voucher as well as 10% OFF the order with the Aspire code.

QUICK REFLECTIONS

In only five sessions we were able to achieve a really noticeable degree of improvement in horse’s way of going and consistency and planning from the riders. I’d recommend monthly focus sessions like that to all improvement driven riders 🙂

Thank you to Boudica Equestrian for a great collaboration on little rewards for all the riders’ efforts!

Groundwork Evenings – for better relationship, riding feel, athletic abilities and more…

VIDEO: Groundwork Evenings – for better relationship, riding feel, athletic abilities and more…

OPEN TO ALL AGES* AND ABILITIES (*children must be accompanied by adults)

Do you have a young/green/inexperienced horse or pony you would like to be able to work with on the ground to prepare them well for ridden work?

Does your horse or pony struggle with crookedness or hollow way of going?

Do you have a horse or pony recovering from an injury/strain that needs a progressive groundwork and you are not sure where to start?

Does your horse or pony need rehabilitative schooling to improve their biomechanics/way of going?

Are you unable to ride due to illness/choice/pregnancy/other but would like an engaging, meaningful training ideas for you and your horse?

Do you have a horse or pony that needs better ground and/or ridden manners and you would like ideas for non-violent, force free education for him/her?

If you answered YES to any of the above questions, bring your horse or pony to our friendly Groundwork Evenings.

We are starting with Wednesday evenings with a possibility of adding a day to match interest later on.

Come on your own or with a friend/group of friends 🙂 There will be 1 to 4 places available each evening.

£45/horse (includes £10 arena hire) – private
£35/horse (includes £10 arena hire) – shared

NO ARENA HIRE CHARGES FOR LIVERIES AT BRACKENHILL STUD

To book message us via our FB page HERE or call/txt Wiola at 0749 2202 400 www.aspireequestrianacademy.com

Training in style – Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy joins Boudica Equestrian as their first brand ambassador

Boudica 4

As someone who doesn’t really compete and who rarely features on photos on any social media material, I have never actively pursued any sponsorship or brand ambassadorship myself. I’d been sent items for reviews before and if I loved them they ended up reviewed on this blog but overall I thought it would be somewhat unfair to the brand since I wouldn’t be able to provide them with the all-so-important nowadays visuals to share and spread the word.

Another issue that has always stopped me from approaching any businesses was the fact that in my mind a coach should be on an impartial side and be able to recommend variety of brands since not all makes and styles suit everyone.

However, when Laura Williams discussed her ideas for branding with me upon launching her equestrian and leisure wear start up, Boudica, we realised we could help each other in many ways despite me not being in the competition limelight.

The values & ethics in equestrian industry vs brands we buy

The thing that captivated my attention in Laura’s approach was an emphasis on common values and beliefs when it comes to training horses and riders. I love the fact she wants to make this her strong branding statement because a thorough and horse friendly and rider biomechanics focused training is what inspires me to be better at my job every day.

In mainstream fashion and non-horsey brands it has become so common that almost now a part of everyone’s lives to be buying products and services from companies with certain image (following certain values & characteristics) – why not in Equestrian industry too 🙂

Boudica 2

Many brands under Boudica’s umbrella 

The fact Laura sources variety of products from selected brands is ideal for me. I would feel like an imposter promoting only one brand because I love variety and many different manufacturers have fabulous clothing ranges. I quite like an underdog of a company too if I find their items comfortable, durable and wear well! I feel Laura has a good sense of where and what to look for and I am excited to see what brands she will cooperate with!

Boudica 5
One of the Academy’s young riders, Sofija, all in pink at our Intensive Training Spring Camp 2018! Chillout leggings and UV baselayer

Creative collaboration

Anne and Chico Boudica collage
Anne and Chico at Aspire Equestrian Spring Camp 2018. Anne in Chillout Silver Jacket and me with Hiho silver leather bracelet 🙂 

From the word go we knew we wanted to create a valuable content around our collaboration. It’s not easy to stand out in a busy equestrian fashion market nowadays but we both love a challenge so hoping to bring an interesting addition to not-just-pretty pictures 🙂 On this note, if there is anything you are struggling with in your riding and would love to see another grassroots rider demonstrating different options of dealing with similar issues, comment below, email Wiola at aspire@outlook.com or join our training group (Join button in side bar) and discuss it there. I will try to respond to all suggestions via informative blog posts.

Favourite pieces 

Boudica 6
Quick breakfast croissant at the Aspire Equestrian Intensive Training Spring Camp 🙂 

I can’t finish this post without sharing my (so far!) favourite pieces from the current collection at Boudica. No particular order! I linked to each item if you wanted to check them out 🙂

  • The Chillout lightweight jacket – perfect for chilly mornings where it’s too warm for a jumper and too cold for a short sleeve only. I went for the Silver one but do love the black one too!
  • The Chillout leggings – I chose the navy ones with phone pocket; really comfortable, very easy to brush dirt and hair off without it sticking to the material, I use them for teaching in as well as dog walking, physio/Pilates sessions and everything in between. Love that the phone pocket is deep and on the right thigh as I use my camera phone a lot when teaching so it’s easy to grab it/put it away quickly.

Boudica 3
Aisha on Prince wearing grey Chillout leggings and black Montar gilet. I’m wearing the navy version of that gilet and navy Chillout leggings 

  • The double wrap bracelet from Hiho Silver – I don’t really wear jewellery/accessories around horses as I like to keep all my limbs and digits but do love this one as a “work accessory” 😉 !
  • The Montar Knit Sweater – I love me a grey, lightweight jumper/sweater 🙂 Super soft and warm enough for Spring/Summer chill or to layer up.
  • The Body Warmer/Gilet – super soft and warm, I didn’t want to take it off 🙂

Keep an eye for the Spring Camp tales coming up with many more fabulous photos and I am looking forward to working with Laura on some great content this year!

On the subject of Photography:

All photos above are copyright of Becky Bunce Photography and Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy. If you are interested in hiring a dependable photo cover for your events, don’t hesitate to contact Becky. She has a fantastic eye for a good moment and I now try to organise my events around her diary! 

Tilly awaits a new friend!

Having bred a beautiful filly foal by Royaldik, Tilly is now back in work and ready for a new friend to share her for weekday hacks and weekend lessons.

Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 11.42.46

We are seeking someone who is looking for a gentler training pace, who likes to work on finer details in riding, enjoys lateral work, might want to join in some low key dressage outings and who simply likes to stroll around the lanes on a dependable, fun little horse.

Flexible sharing arrangements tailored to suit and fun, educational training in a supportive Academy atmosphere awaits 🙂

Competent child over 13 welcomed to come for an assessment lesson.

Tilly is uncomplicated to handle and has been ridden by complete beginners and advanced riders alike. She’s ex riding school schoolmistress of a kind hard to find.

Tilly is based at Northolt, West London and must remain at the current yard. Please feel free to call Wiola at 0749 2202 400 or email aspire@outlook.com with any questions you might have.

Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 11.42.58Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 11.42.52

 

 

A couple of exercise routines that can transform your riding feel

By Wiola Grabowska

Even though I am a big fan of off-horse training to improve riding feel (via a better i.e. more aware use of the rider’s body) and I have participated in various sports since childhood, it wasn’t until my late thirties that I actually felt it to be a necessary rather than a complimentary part of riding training.

Let me share a couple of routines from my Equestrian Pilates sessions with Natalie Monrowe that are really fun to try and play with 🙂

LYING DOWN ON A ROLLER

pilates4a

I found it useful for: 

  • finding “neutral spine” which is a must for upper body control in the saddle. Many grassroots riders ride on horses with a “hollow back”. This often can give a feeling of sitting in a hammock which sends the rider’s lower leg forwards and shifts the overall weight of the rider behind the movement of the horse. This can be very slight and make consistent throughness tricky or be very obvious, like getting left behind in rising trot and ‘double bouncing’. Developing a good feel for own neutral spine can help the rider develop the same in their horses.

pilates2

  • pelvis stability. Lifting alternate legs shows various weaknesses in the use of core muscles which can be worked on separately.
  • neck and head alignment. Riders often struggle with their neck alignment (head down, too much left or right, straining neck forward etc) and I find this to be a very simple way to gather proprioception for the spinal alignment throughout entire spine (base of the neck to tailbone)
  • awareness of own straightness. Aligning the roller with own spine gives a very distinct feel of how much of each side of ribcage, shoulders, pelvis is on each side of it. Just lying down in this position for some time increases awareness of where your centre is and that is such an important skill to have when schooling horses of any level. Ability to maintain own straightness on a crooked horse in order to help them move better is the key not only to effectiveness but also to injury prevention (in both horse and rider)

pilates5a

JUMPING POSITION ON A ROLLER 

 

I found it useful for: 

  • Balance 😉 As the roller moves a little it creates a situation in which we practice stability via mobility and that replicates the balance skills needed for riding. Standing on the floor is not quite cutting to the chase 😉
  • Awareness of weight distribution forward and back, left and right. One sided weaknesses have a strong voice in this exercise and provide a very good feedback to the rider
  • Independence of hand. Moving your arms in various directions without that movement affecting stability of the rest of the “seat” is important for jumping but also, in a miniature version of it – for all rein aids. Without suppleness in the arms it is very difficult to give supple rein influence. Many riders think they aren’t using reins for balance but it can be a real eye opener when you try to ride some movements without the reins. This allows you to check how much effectiveness there really is in the seat, how much we want to rely on the reins for corrections that ideally should be delegated to the seat aids and how switched on the horse is to the seat vs reins. Rein influence is important for overall connection but the less of it there is the more we can wake up our own seat aids. The more attentive the horse becomes to the seat, the more influence we have on small adjustments.

I do believe that the minute we sit on a horse for a purpose other than travel, we are training. No matter if it’s learning to do rising trot for the first time or polishing details of canter pirouettes. We are training our bodies so they are not a burden to the horse’s movement. A few minutes a day can transform that training 🙂

Many thanks to Boudica Equestrian for my fab “yard to gym” leggings 🙂 

How not to override but still be effective – an experiment in ‘active’ and ‘passive’ riding

 

By Wiola Grabowska

We can probably all relate to the situation in which a horse does more of what we don’t want the more we try the opposite and then “out of the blue” offers a behaviour we wanted when we no longer care about it.

It’s relatively “easy” to over-ride a horse with our aids without noticing as well as not to do enough to guide the horse into desired behaviour and we all do a bit of both now and then.

I’d like to chat with you about an exercise in ‘passive’ and ‘active’ riding.

BBP_4367
We often talk about effectiveness when training. I believe true effectiveness starts in ability to “not disturb” the horses in the job we are asking them to do…Whether on the flat, over poles or over the jumps.

When I say passive I don’t mean a slouching rider travelling on a horse but one who shadows horse’s movement while remaining as balanced as possible. This is often a much harder task for a rider than it seems because to follow every movement with every part of your seat without acting upon the horse in any way is much easier said than done. The biggest issue I find is riders’ ability to maintain an absolutely neutral rein connection – most common are two extremes: riders who feel the need to constantly fiddle and those who ride with dropped reins out of belief they interfere too much. Neutral, non-disturbing connection that can become meaningful is hardest to achieve but I believe forms a great starting point from which to start an influence that has biggest chances of acceptance (by the horse).

Conversely, when I say ‘active’ I don’t mean in any way ‘busy’ but simply becoming in charge of direction, speed, shape of the horse’s body, amount of impulsion he or she creates etc.

Here’s what we did at Aspire Equestrian Spring Camp 2018 (full blog post on the Camp coming up later this week)

The WHY

We work on the below skills in order to create a situation in which the horse finds our ideas easy to understand, logical to obey and enjoyable to partake in (assuming horses tend to gravitate towards harmonious movement).

The lesson objectives:

  • to increase awareness of degree of influence the rider’s actually have on a horse,
  • to increase awareness of “doing too much” or “not enough”,
  • to build a feel for moments when the rider needs to allow the horse to listen, understand and act without being “busy” with own posture
  • to increase awareness of “own anticipation”

BBP_5943
MEET THE RIDERS: Derek on Boo and Sasha on Ferris – the horses decided to travel from one corner of the arena to the other and sometimes just stood in one of them observing 😉

The how

I asked the riders to drop the reins and allow the horse to make choices about directions. The riders were to stay completely passive (as if they wanted to simply shadow the horse’s movement) yet stay in as good a balance as they could. They were to stay in walk and trot but act if horses became in any way unsafe.

Game on

BBP_5945

First of all it turned out to be a one funny session although I admit I did not plan it that way 😉 Horse that notoriously avoids corners for various reasons gravitated towards them like a magnet, the one we thought would be worried and stressed (an ex-racehorse) turned out to confidently stroll around, relaxed and happy leading the other horse most of the time. The mare that normally avoids the arena ends, took herself out of the arena and climbed a small mound 😉

I wanted to get the riders to feel how easy it is to anticipate something and how difficult it is to “do nothing at all”. For example approaching a corner most riders will have a set of automatic behaviours they don’t even think about that prepares the horse to turn. This can cause various muscle engagement patterns in the horse that leads to inverting away from corners, running on, avoiding bend/flexion etc etc I wanted the riders to make sure they listen to the feedback from the horse and it was much easier to do once they experienced the passive rider game.

BBP_5941

Second part of the session

I asked the riders to slowly include their influence but in a very tactful way i.e. do as little as possible but as much as necessary to ride certain figures and exercises I asked them to do. The difference in the horse’s attitude, relaxation and ease with which they did the exercises was significant. The riders found it very enjoyable and as we know, we do learn best when having fun 🙂

BBP_6055
Very good attempt at neutral rein connection in canter

Their handling on reins and frequency with which they used them improved too – the rider who tends to override rode with much more awareness of that and the one who tends to to leave the horse a bit too much without guidance, rode with more attention too.

Maintaining a perfectly neutral rein connection that neither drops or holds unnecessary tension in three basic paces of walk, trot and canter is a skill I consider one of the most important for all my Foundation & Development programme riders. Without that relaxed stability, rein aids rarely can be truly independent yet harmonious with the rest of the seat.

BBP_6034
Sasha in a very good attempt at following the contact in trot – she could perhaps show a little more carriage of the hands (as they dropped a bit here) to truly show that rider’s hips, elbows and shoulders are as supple as can be but very good job nevertheless.

Please note: One of the riders has taken up riding a year and half ago as an adult, the other had a 7 months old break from riding due to University commitments, both are very aware of their riding seat issues which we are working on so please try to avoid riding critique from the attached photos 🙂 

All photos in this post are copyright of Becky Bunce Photography and Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy

New Sportsline Riding Gloves from Super X Country

These fantastic gloves are available to purchase at Boudica Equestrian, a start-up business supporting Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy.  If you love these gloves, you might want to give Boudica a visit. To see the gloves on video, check out Boudica’s Instagram clip HERE  🙂


SXC gloves

Super X Country is delighted to introduce its first gloves – Sportsline Riding Gloves.

The new gloves, designed by Super X Country founder Becci Harrold, combine breathable mesh panels with Silicone X Grip on the palms and rein inside fingers. They are lightweight enough for warmer weather and have a close contact fitting, to maintain feel.

“If you’re fed up of gloves coming undone, reins slipping through your fingers, feeling a lack of connection to the horse because of the bulk, and getting hot hands, these are for you,” said Becci. “I designed these gloves with competition in mind and really looked at the areas that bothered me about gloves, especially when I was competing. Grip was a really big one for me, so the Silicone X Grip on the full palm and on the inside of the rein fingers made complete sense, to help prevent any slipping to support a consistent contact. The breathable panels help to keep the wearer cool and the close contact design allows free movement too. I also picked a really strong fastening which doesn’t move or come undone.”

New Sportsline Riding Gloves have launched in three colourways: black and white, rose gold and navy, and white. All colours are available in sizes XS-L and have a RRP of £25.

For more information on the new Sportsline Riding Gloves from Super X Country, see www.superxcountry.co.uk.


Prepared by:

Rhea Freeman PR
E: rhea@rheafreemanpr.co.uk    
W: www.rheafreemanpr.co.uk     
T: 07980 757910

New training support group by Aspire Equestrian…

By Wiola Grabowska

BBP_4120

When I first created a Facebook group to go with the Aspire coaching programmes I made it “Aspire riders access only’. I did so because I shared many videos from lessons, including live videos, and felt that I wanted that added learning opportunity to be exclusive for those riders who rode on my programmes. We also planned Aspire riders exclusive events, arena hires, training outings etc on there which again didn’t seem right to share publicly.

The more times I had to press the “Decline” button, however, the more I thought about the best solution for this issue because it didn’t make sense to turn away riders who were obviously interested in what we were doing. I am not sure why it took me so long to simply set up another, much more inclusive training support group, but finally the lightbulb moment arrived this week and here it is:

Aspire Equestrian – Training, Coaching and Horse Care Support

screen-shot-2018-05-27-at-22-01-24.png

Why a support group? 

For a long time I was thinking why are there so few discussion groups for riders who love to train and perhaps also compete yet who disagree with traditional methods of training in which horses “must do as told”; riders who are as interested in developing the horse from the ground up via classical in-hand work, progressive conditioning or perhaps even rehabilitative schooling and who focus on themselves as a big element in the game as much as they are interested in reaching their personal best with their horses.

There are many great divides in the equestrian world and I wanted to create a place where riders who love to train and who value understanding of how horses learn, move and think can meet for a constructive discussion or just a bit of support.

It is often believed that to train and compete riders have to exert certain amount of dominance over a horse (you know, “good ‘ol pony club kick etc) in order to be effective. I found this approach to be false and to be killing my enjoyment of training and teaching so decided to move away from it and thankfully, so did many riders in recent years. I realised that the belief that riders need to be focused, well balanced, aware of what is truly happening underneath them and able to act upon that awareness in order to not have to be dominant, worked for me as an educator.

With progressive training  of both physical and mental skills of both horse and rider and solid foundations there should be no need for lunging/ridden gadgets, aggressive riding, frustration and impatience.

It really can be a beautiful sport in a full meaning of this word: harmonious and a pleasure to watch and that’s the kind of sport I’d love to teach, watch and support.

If that’s your goals too, please feel free to join the group and let us know about your horse and your aims with him/her 🙂

Photo above:

Aspire Equestrian Spring Camp 2018 – Sofija on Ferris. We are not just browsing our phones but connecting on audio call at the start of the lesson 🙂 Photo by Becky Bunce Photography

The Aspire Spring Camp was supported by Boudica Equestrian

Cribbing/Windsucking – case study in minimising the behaviour through management. Part 2: Plan of action & Results

By Wiola Grabowska

PART 2 of LEO’S CRIBBING STORY (and how I decreased it without using cribbing collars) 

leo over the door 2

If you haven’t read the Part 1 in which I explained the background of Leo’s cribbing and my ways of investigating the causes in his case, please see the post linked here: PART 1: CRIBBING/WINDSUCKING CASE STUDY

Plan of action

Agrobs musli leo
Alpengrun Musli

First thing I decided to do was to take control of his diet. “You are what you eat” and all that 😉
After talking to many people as well as having a good read around of tens of Forums and hundreds of opinions I settled for a German feed brand called Agrobs and went for 2 products from their range: Alpengrun Musli and Alpengrun Mash Gut Restorer.
I also learnt (from the earlier mentioned Conference) that there was a study done on several cribbing horses where horses received 9 feeds daily and their behaviour stopped. I couldn’t possibly replicate that but could feed Leo one additional feed which took his meal numbers to 3 a day.

Second action was to give him turnout company. For that I had to wait a long time as I wanted a relatively stable group for him with lower risk of injuries by being out with big, playful athletic horses . Once the yard was in a position to do so, we created a group of 4 small horses/ponies and Leo seemed immediately happier.

leo in the field with friends

The pain/discomfort aspect is something I’d been working on all the time but at the beginning of the year I booked him for an assessment with a very well respected spinal/horseback vet specialist, Rob Jackson and continued his groundwork focusing on restoring healthy biomechanics to the best of my current knowledge and abilities. One method I noticed to have a fairly significant influence on him is the Tellington Touch Method but I will perhaps talk more about it another time.

Last but not least, I removed his shoes…now, I know some of you will say this might have nothing to do with his cribbing but I know shoes can cause low level, chronic feet dysfunction (discomfort/pain) as well as affect blood circulation in the feet. Whether the blood flow in the legs has anything to do with blood flow in the gut I couldn’t say for sure but since the body works as one unit surely we can’t say no for definite?

RESULTS

As of April 2018 Leo’s cribbing reduced to a point that I only see him do it when I create a situation in which he is most likely to crib in i.e. give him a particular treat (sweeter treats make him want to crib more) or take him to some spots where he used to crib a lot. Other yard members don’t see him crib either.

On the basis of my observation of him, I’d say his cribbing has now decreased by 99%.
In the last 6 weeks I noted 2 singular cribbing episodes: one on his stable door for a couple of “gulps” and one by the leg wash area on a post he used to crib on incessantly. None lasted longer than a couple of minutes in comparison to 15-25 minutes I observed before making changes to his management.

He might still return to crib more in some situations and perhaps he does it at night where I can’t see it but I am very happy with this result as my main concern was a danger of colic or other serious health implications that some cribbing horses are reported to succumb to.

Hope this information will help some of you 🙂 Thank you for reading and until next time!

 

Cribbing/Windsucking – case study in minimising the behaviour through management. Part 1: Identifying the complex causes

By Wiola Grabowska

Leo over the door
Guess which one of the horses shown is most likely to windsuck/cribbite? 😉 Apparently, “busiest”, most inquisitive and naturally active horses are more likely to develop vices due to confinement…

CASE STUDY:  LEOPOLD THE LAST, 11 yrs old gelding, TB x New Forrest 

Cribbing is considered an undesirable behaviour where a horse grabs hold of an object with his incisors and burps loudly engaging variety of neck muscles. Some sources suggest the horse sucks in/swallows air in the process, some believe the air is pushed out from the stomach in the act of cribbing.
Where no physical object is required for the horse to rest his teeth into, the behaviour is termed ‘windsucking’.

There is no confirmed treatment or cure for Cribbing/Windsucking and the act alone is poorly researched and understood.

It is believed that stress, social isolation, stabling, boredom/frustration, pain, commercial feeds and gastric dysfunction like ulceration can all be the culprit. Some believe the behaviour can be copied between stable mates out of boredom.

Leo’s Cribbing History

Leo as a foal

I learnt from Leo’s breeder that he started cribbing as a foal post weaning and they thought he copied the behaviour from a cribbing Thoroughbred kept next door.
He came to me with two types of cribbing collars. One is known as a “magic collar” and is fully leather and the other one is a metal and leather one. Both are designed to be fastened around the throat area and are thought to make the sucking action impossible. I have not used either of them on Leo as I am personally convinced by the research/studies and veterinary advice which suggests that limiting the behaviour via the collars can be more stressful to the horse and cause more harm than the action of cribbing itself.

In the early days I used Cribbox on his stable door and his paddock fencing. It was very effective in that it repelled him from cribbing on any surface I put the substance on. However, he soon found little bits I missed or he would crib madly the second he was away from covered areas. The damn thing would also stick to everything – his rugs, coat and my clothing.
I decided against buying the second tube once first one ran out and started researching everything I could find on cribbing.

Guesswork

I started from searching for videos online for cribbing and wind sucking horses and comparing their behaviour, management and cribbing patterns to Leo’s.
There isn’t much freely available information on this subject out there but there was enough for me to play with.

One interesting viewpoint was shared with me by a friend of mine who attended this year’s Horses Inside Out Conference. Amongst other topics, the subject of cribbing and ulcers was brought up and cribbing was discussed as a behaviour present in very intelligent and ultra sensitive horses. It was also mentioned that one very well known 4* Event riders favours cribbers as his competition horses! I must say it was possibly the only time I ever heard cribbing considered a positive!

At first I couldn’t quite work out Leo’s pattern as he seemed to crib a lot at seemingly random times and situations. Before and after feeding, before and after receiving a treat, whilst being groomed and tacked up, in his paddock in regular intervals between grazing, morning, midday, afternoon, evening, basically anytime I saw him he was on/off latched onto something.

In order to start somewhere I grouped all his cribbing “times” into 3 possible “causes” : 

1. Gastric issues (any times around food or ‘stress’ and I included being ridden in that category too)
2. Pain/Discomfort (I included grooming time here on the assumptions that having to submit to touch/grooming could cause some stress)
3. Social – he was in individual paddock (able to touch other horses) and stabled for large parts of the 24h (out in the day, in at night or out at night, in during the day depending on time of year)

Having these categories I started making daily notes assigning cribbing moments to each category and after 6 months of this I ended up with most episodes around categories 1 and 3.

PART 2: Plan of Actions and Results coming up 🙂 

LEO FLOWER TREE

Reading list: 

https://www.myhorseuniversity.com/single-post/2017/09/25/Cribbing-Has-Multiple-Causes-Management-Practices-Can-Help

http://igrow.org/news/management-considerations-for-the-cribbing-horse/

https://holistichorse.com/health-care/natural-supports-for-ulcers-cribbing-a-wind-sucking-2/

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.2042-3306.2009.00025.x

https://animalstudiesrepository.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.co.uk/&httpsredir=1&article=1000&context=physio

News & Views For Grassroots Riders and Coaches