Category Archives: Horse Ownership

Should I buy a young horse as my first horse? – a very short look at preliminary considerations…

A question of this character makes a frequent appearance in Aspire blog’s “search terms” so I feel I should share at least a few thoughts on the subject from time to time 🙂

Oscar 8 months apart
Oscar, a young gelding showing how many physical changes can happen in a space of 8-9 months…

BLANK CANVAS

The most appealing quality of youngsters is their so called “unspoilt” nature. Older horses come with their baggage and here is a chance to train a blank canvas. If you are a good painter, have a decent ability to handle your tools well, you have a high chance of creating a nice painting on that canvas, something of a pleasing quality that brings enjoyment to you and many who come to see your work.

If you are just learning your acrylics from your watercolours, you might really benefit from some faint sketch to follow so the shapes make sense…maybe some education on mixing colours so they match those in real life…

Consider:  if despite your inexperience you are set on purchasing a young horse, you might want to surround yourself with a good support team that can step in quickly when needed. This is sometimes seen as a weakness but is anything but. It shows the knowledge and appreciation of the horse’s learning process, development of habits and confidence.

FIRST HORSE – YOUNG HORSE?

I often see riders being advised against buying their first horse if it is a youngster. As a general rule, I agree. However, if you took your time to educate yourself well, rode many different horses and handled variety of them at various stages of their life, don’t let the general rule stop you from investigating the possibility further.

If a notion of bringing on your own young horse drives you to acquire the necessary skills, then you might not take the general rule too seriously.

Consider: your level of experience and knowledge of training (be honest with yourself), your ability to work on natural crookedness of a young horse, natural lack of balance, natural hollowness of the back, natural curiosity of the world and natural unpredictability of reactions to that world..

ANATOMY, PHYSIOLOGY and MENTAL SIDE OF THINGS

Knowing how horses develop anatomically and physiologically, even if in simple terms only, is an absolute must for anyone who takes on a challenge of educating a youngster. The body changes can be huge in a relatively short space of time. Those changes call for adjustments in tack, nutrition, riding demands, rider position, type of training…

Then there is mental and emotional maturity that can only develop well if the rider is aware of what he/she needs to work on.

Consider: if you are a competent rider but lacking knowledge in the above department, don’t give up – consider involving a trainer who will keep you in check and help you read the changes well. Sometimes eyes on the ground and an experienced seat in the saddle a few times a month is all you need to keep everything under control.

RIDING TIME

This is probably least mentioned aspect of owning a young horse. Many first time owners want to spend a lot of time with the horse, go for longer rides, fun rides, hacks with friends, schooling shows etc etc There are many views on young horse training including how much “stress” is too much and how much is necessary for learning to happen, but one thing is pretty sure: you don’t spend a long time on a young horse’s back…

Consider: youngsters thrive on short sessions, 25-30 minutes is often more than enough for a schooling time. Long rides are out of question for young, growing bones and unfocused minds. Variety is paramount to learning but so is routine and structure to the training.

CONFIDENCE

Young horses have an uncanny ability to know a leader from a boss – leadership comes from confidence in purpose, tasks and actions whilst bossiness, well, they see through it and they will catch any inconsistency.

Consider: you don’t have to be the bravest, most fearless rider to go for a young horse. Sure, it helps to be brave but I don’t believe it is necessary. Look at your level of confidence in your training methods, your handling methods and yourself as a person. Quiet confidence helps with patience, assertiveness, persistence and open mindedness…The qualities that have the power to bring on a well educated young horse.

That’s it for now. If I see more of these kind of searches in the blog’s stats, I will try to bring more content on this subject 🙂 Please feel free to add your own thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Wiola

A little ingenious product for any rider :)

This is not a sponsored post, I literally only just seen this thanks to Twitter (and more specifically, thanks to chit chat with @RolltackLtd ) and genuinely loved the idea and couldn’t not share it with you all. I am forever dragging tack piece by piece everywhere so this looks like such a great solution to short distance tack transport 🙂 The car storage idea will probably appeal to many too. Let us know what you think – how do you deal with moving your tack around? I especially liked the idea of it double working as a mounting block. Clever.

rolltack
Click on the image above for the full website, testimonials and more photos: http://www.rolltack.co.uk/

 

UPDATE

Rolltack Ltd has just offered you dear Aspire blog readers a 10% discount at checkout!

DISCOUNT CODE: ROLL10

Dancing in the rain – a few positive sides of rainwater and puddles!

Helen1Late August in England is a bit like an opening act of drizzles inevitably followed by countless rainy days – you better learn to like them or you enter a season of awaiting for drier months to return. My boots are already saturated and it’s barely started to truly rain 😉 If you know of any good waterproof clothing and footwear that I can try, please comment below! Not many that I tested have lasted continuous battering of wetness over the years but there are so many different brands out there that I may have easily missed the gem that keeps one dry while trekking the arenas! 

Now onto the positives!

No flies. You can’t argue with that one and it’s a huge relief not to have horses being eaten alive. 

Great opportunities for harder work out for your horse! Simple groundwork over varied terrain improves body awareness, proprioception and muscle tone and is rather fun too 🙂 

Joker over puddles

 

Test for your grit and determination! I find that the riders who continue their lessons over the winter and in challenging conditions, are the ones who are truly committed to improvement and reap the benefits of their work. There are conditions in which riding is not fun and schooling not really fair on the horse, like high winds and driving rain, but many challenging weather variations can generally be trained through. It certainly brings a special sense of accomplishment and most horses work well in not-so-perfect environment as long as they are focused and kept interested. 

Helen 2

To the point 😉 We tend to keep the sessions shorter and certainly very focused when strolling around in the sun admiring the view is not an appealing option. This teaches good planning and tests rider’s ability to maintain focused as well as engaging horse’s attention. It’s also a good chance for an instructor to test the commitment of a client 😉 

CAITLIN OVER POLES

Working on the posture – both of the rider and the horse…

Rainy days are perfect for biomechanics bootcamp and I am yet to meet a rider who didn’t enjoy our sessions on Racewood simulator. They are intense but fun and allow the rider to fully focus on own body awareness and effectiveness. 

Collage Racewood simulator

 

All these little indoor spaces that are normally only suitable for very small horses or ponies can now be very handy for in-hand work and groundwork with your horse to help them with their own posture, muscle use, suppleness and flexibility.

Moira in hand with O

Or alternatively just brave the outdoors and come for one of Aspire workshops 🙂 You never know, the sun might come out for long enough to have a great few hours of learning 🙂 

in hand workshop

 

What do you do in the autumn (Fall) when the weather becomes challenging? Do you continue your lessons/riding as normal? How do you alter your training? Do you like riding in the rain? 🙂 

All the best,

Wiola

2014 Aspire Coaching Offer

 

Team Blogger Mariana Broucher: A happy horse = A happy rider

Sadly horses can’t tell us if they are unhappy or in pain. And very often the pain has to be quite severe before we notice something is wrong, because it is the horse’s natural instinct to hide pain. In the wild pain equals weakness equals death. So very often small aches will go entirely unnoticed until it is too late and we have a big problem.

And on top of that sometimes we as riders or owners ignore the little tell-tale signs that something is not quite right, or we don’t do anything about it, because we just don’t know what to do.

For example a horse that doesn’t want to stand still when being mounted or doesn’t want to lift a leg; mostly we just put it down to bad behaviour, it doesn’t even occur to us that something could be wrong.

Other problems we might see can be sore or tender backs, stiffness in the body, sudden temperament changes, reluctance to give correct canter lead, muscle wastage or restricted lateral movement. If the problem is big we would of course consult the vet, but quite often we won’t do that if the only thing wrong is that the horse puts his ears back more then normal.

Luckily horse owners are now much more aware of complementary therapies and are not afraid to use them any more. The great thing about Bowen is that it is so gentle that nothing can go wrong, so even vulnerable horses or people can be treated without having to be scared of manipulation or pain.

At other times we might have a problem the vet has diagnosed, but it’s a long term condition that will take a long time to heal and sometimes the outcome can be quite uncertain. One example could be spavins. I met a horse who was diagnosed with spavins a year before I saw him. A lot was being done to help him (medication, lots of turn out, very little gentle riding, he was also kept barefoot) but still he was lame and not too happy. This is him:

mb1

Only a week later he cantered across the field, which is something he hasn’t done in a long time. And he was now only 1/10th lame.

During the second treatment S again relaxed quickly. When I came back a week later his owner greeted me with: “you gave me my horse back”!

He is now apparently much happier. He chases other ponies in the field, which he hasn’t done in 2 years. He is playful and has his attitude back. He is not a grumpy old man any more, so his owner thinks about starting to ride him more again, where before Bowen she thought about retiring him. His trot is now short rather then lame.

I love my job 🙂

What happens during a Bowen treatment?

mbBefore any treatment involving a horse takes place it is necessary to obtain permission from your vet to treat the horse. Before the start of the first session information about the horse’s background and general state of health is collected. The horse’s static and dynamic conformation is assessed to give a starting point to measure any improvements by. A discussion with the owner/carer to explore some of the possible causes of the problem (which may not be immediately apparent) is useful because if these causes can be eliminated or minimised then the likelihood of re-injury (so the problem recurring) can be reduced.

Such causes include poor saddle fit, rider imbalance, accidental injury, stress or management issues. The Bowen treatment on the horse is best undertaken somewhere the horse can stand quietly for approximately 45 minutes. As it is a gentle treatment many horses soon relax and some even drop off to sleep. They can have access to hay if they are more settled whilst eating. The effects of the treatment can last for at least 3-4 days as the body is rebalancing and healing.

Advice will be given on when the horse can be exercised and what sort of work would be appropriate. Most conditions respond to three treatments about 1 week apart. For many horses, to maintain their condition and performance levels, a single ‘top-up’ treatment every 3-6 months is sufficient unless there is a re-injury.

Mariana is available to teach Aspire riding courses in Orpington, Kent. Please contact Wiola at aspire@outlook.com for details. Bowen therapy can be an optional addition to your lessons (at special prices for riders on Aspire courses) or taken as stand alone treatment. Please contact Mariana at facebook.com/MarianaBroucherBowenTherapy for more information.  

 

Help! I Bought A Horse! What Now? – Natural or Pampered? ‘Quick’ or Classical or Parelli?

Weekend is coming so I thought we might as well have a chat about one of those subjects everybody has a different answer for! 😉

One of the big questions every new horse owner has to ask themselves is what next? Since this blog is predominantly addressed to aspiring grassroots riders, let’s look at this rider who I will call “Alice” who just bought the “Grey Boy” to do a little bit of everything with, some Riding Club shows, some horse trials, some grassroots dressage championships.

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Grey Boy arrived – what’s next??

Alice wants to make sure Grey Boy is healthy and happy with her and that they have many wonderful years together. With this in mind, Alice asks for some advice on management and training decisions she needs to make.

Let’s get to some basics.

Dear Alice,

There are 3 main elements to every horse’s happiness: Diet (nutrition), Environment (turn out options, type of bedding in stable, time in stable, company of other horses, interactions or lack of them) and Exercise (amount of time outside of stable, hours of ridden work, hours of other work). D E E – that’s what’s going to to determine where to keep your boy (not that nice toilet that actually has toilet roll in…although, you know, that matters too 😉 ) .

As far as diet goes it’s important you will have a say in it so go for places that will take into account any changes you wish to make. Avoid livery places where “all horses get the same feed just because that is so”. Unless you found a yard filled just with other Grey Boys and other yous doing exactly the same thing, steer way clear.

Kingsley turn out 16th January 2010Smell some hay. It got to smell fresh. Look inside the stables and check if stabled horses have some hay available. Ask about summer turn out – not all horses can be on rich grass, you might need some non grass turn out option too.

Now environment – look at turn out fields – look for hay stations and conditions of the ground. Are there any trees around for shade? What kind of trees are there? Are they toxic at certain times of the year? Are the fields free from ragwort?

Check if you can decide on what bedding will Grey Boy be stabled on and what’s the turn out policy.

Can horses socialise? They got to be able to see each other, touch each other, play together. It generally makes for a happier, well adjusted animal altogether.  Don’t immediately discount a yard with some turn out restrictions. The yard owner might be looking after the land in dreadful conditions so look at the whole picture. You might just have to ride more in the pouring rain so your horse gets enough exercise on a non-turn out days 😉 However, watch out for vague answers and places with stunning amount of fields that look too pristine (just there to look good) or too damaged – bad field management can mean bad stable management too. 

Kingsley new yardAsk for “new horse on the yard” procedure – you want to see a quarantine stable available and turn out introduction being done in stages. If there is none for him, there will be none for the next one and with many illnesses being cheeky hide and seek fellows, you do want to make sure your yard owner is a responsible one.

Same when it comes to first turn out. You don’t want to be told he will have a great time meeting ALL the boys and girls tomorrow…

Ask who he will go out with once quarantine is over – watch out for individual turn out or just two horses per field because separation anxiety can hit your boy like a train if companion gets taken for a ride…and then you might get a phone call telling you your horse has impaled himself on a gate.

Now, delicate matters dear Alice. 

If you happen to like your horse shod all round, wrap him in duvet rugs, groom him until you can see your reflection in his shine and are hunting for a new sparkly headpiece on eBay as you read, you might want to avoid those yards where other owners prefer more natural way of keeping horses. You can of course consider also doing it more naturally but if you don’t want to change anything, look for other sparkly friends.

Equally, if you are planning to compete Grey Boy barefoot, use one rug on when really needed, out as much as possible and prefer tack minimalism, do seek a yard with like minded owners. It might seem like a detail now, dear Alice, but you got to trust me here. I get it, miracles happen and varied approaches can work well together, but on the whole, never underestimate the power of like minded support. You will enjoy your riding and your horse much more if you follow this advice.

If on other hand, you are unsure how to keep Grey Boy, then grab some books about equine behaviour, evolution, social needs, physiology and basic health. Read them when the boss isn’t looking. Then base your management decisions on this knowledge (not on what a friend of a friend of a friend tells you about their friend’s gelding’s likes and dislikes). 

Training…

Now how do you decide which approach to take and which system to follow to make sure it’s all the best for Grey Boy and enjoyable to you…How do you decide who to have lessons with if everyone is telling you different things and prizes that person or another…

One way to go about it is to focus on your values first. What are your principles? Beliefs? Standards? Try this simple one: Let’s say you believe horse is there to do as he is told at all times, to perform when asked and to have no say on the matter. The horse must conform to your lifestyle, time you have for him, resources you have. If these were to be your beliefs, training approach that is focused on why the horse does something and how to approach the issue long term rather than on quick results and super-submission is very likely to irritate you. Equally, if you believe in progressive, solid training on wide foundations, the quick result approach will make your blood boil.

Have a good think about these things dear Alice because the answers might tell you a lot about what you want from relationship with your horse. You see, once you have your principles in place, it’s easy to pick and mix all sorts of training methods because many systems have something that will suit you and something that will put you off. Clarity of your values will make it possible to differentiate and chose. 

So there, dear Alice, I know there are many aspects and details we didn’t discuss here but I hope it will give you a starting point on “what now”…Have a great time with your little prince…

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