Monday, 30 March 2015

Why You Should Always Have A Horse Vetted

Meet Tinsel (Passport name: Inagh). A lovely 16hh Thoroughbred mare. No, unfortunately I don't have a new horse; in fact Tinsel was the first horse we properly bought after my loan pony (& before Pea). I owned Tinsel for two months but only rode her for 5 days.

When I went to view Tinsel she seemed like a really sweet mare, lovely to ride and I felt that I could achieve a lot with her. At that time, I was into showjumping as I'd had an awesome little loan pony who jumped anything you pointed him at. Tinsel was similar, having a lovely jump along with a nice approach. I'm not 100% certain but I have a feeling I did go for a second visit... I didn't take an instructor or anyone more knowledgeable along with me, though I did discuss her with my instructor and I didn't get her vetted. Turns out, that was a great mistake!

Tinsel was delivered to us as we didn't have transport and she arrived whilst I was at school. Our yard has a policy that new horses have to be stabled for 48hours before they are allowed turnout (although they are not in isolation). The first day, I just took her in hand for a walk in-hand so that she could get used to her surroundings and the arena. The second day I rode her and she was so well behaved. I rode her a few more times, again always so well behaved, and then on the fifth day of riding her she felt majorly lame. I immediately hopped off her and trotted her up to confirm that she was indeed lame. We kept an eye on her over the next few days only for her to not come sound. Over the next month or two she ended up having numerous tests which all came back inconclusive as to the cause of her lameness with the vets wanting to do more in-depth tests. At that time, I was doing my GCSE's, including one in sport and riding, so I really needed a horse to ride. Tinsel also became rather unmanageable with her rearing and bolting as soon as she was led down the grass stretch towards her field. In the field, she was as good as gold, always looking after the little ponies, and she was fine coming out by the gate for food, it was just when you bought her all the way in to the stables that she would go mad! It resulted that only my dad was able to handle her (even though he'd hardly been around horses) as he was the only one strong enough to hold her. I remember one time when I was taking her out and she bolted off, cantering down the side of the field only to fall over. I'm sure that was one of the worse moments of my life. Luckily she got up fine but we realised that we just couldn't look after her anymore.

During this time, we were going through Trading Standards to try and get our money back as all forms of communication with the old owners were coming to a dead end. Unfortunately, whilst we would get our money back, we would also have to give Tinsel back to her old owners which is something we didn't want to do. Therefore, we decided to advertise her for loan as a broodmare - a risky decision seeing as she'd never foaled before and we didn't know if her leg could take it. Luckily, we received a call from someone who had been to view Tinsel for a client only to find out about her lameness but she put us in contact with a friend who was looking for a broodmare. Tinsel went back to Oxford to a woman and has lived with the same woman ever since having a few foals and being so happy.

If we'd had her vetted then we would have found out about her lameness as she was clearly drugged when she arrived to mask the pain. However, I'm glad that we did buy her as at least she's now happy in a home with people who adore her. I do still wonder what would have happened if she hadn't turned out to be lame but if I'm honest, I'm not really a thoroughbred owner...I much prefer my native breeds!

So, if you're thinking about buying a horse, please always make sure to get them vetted! There are two options - a 2* or 5* and whilst the 5* is more favourable it depends what you're planning on using the horse for. Also make sure that you use your vet or one recommended and not there's as they could still cover a problem up.

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Purse-Friendly Tips for the Races

Going to the races provides a great day out, however it can also prove costly. Tickets can be expensive, food is double the price than what you can normally grab, you can get carried away betting and that's after having to purchase an outfit! I'm not an avid racegoer, however I am finding myself starting to go to more races and some of them are quite large ones - ie Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot. I thought I would provide some tips on how to make the experience a bit more budget friendly as we all know that the majority of our money ends up being spent on our four-legged friends!

#1: Book in advance
Tickets are already on sale for next years Cheltenham festival and you can purchase Club Area tickets for just £79 for Gold Cup day. This may sound expensive but considering in January I paid £74 for Tattersall tickets on the Friday (though that included food & betting vouchers) and Club tickets were £150+, then I'd say that £79 was a pretty good bargain! Races increase their prices steadily as the race gets nearer. For example, Royal Ascot is currently £47 for Grandstand tickets on the opening day as long as you purchase them before the end of March.. Therefore, it's best to plan ahead - at least with the major races!

#2: Sort out accommodation & travel early.
Similarly, once you know you're going make sure you look at travel deals and if it's a bit of a trek then maybe make a bigger deal out of it and extend it to a couple of days so you can go exploring or shopping. I went to purchase train tickets for Cheltenham to be greeted with a £100 train fare, no thank you! Instead we opted for National Express who were doing a bus service at only £30 return. It meant a 4am start but at least we got there early, didn't have the hassle of finding a parking space or getting from the train station to the racecourse. It's also convenient at the end of the day when you're tired and don't want the hassle of driving or getting trains! If you're planning on staying over then book a hotel well in advanced! We hoped to stay over after Cheltenham but there were no rooms available unless we wanted to pay about £500!

#3: Bet sensibly
No, this isn't going to be a 'gamble awareness' talk but set aside a small amount of cash that you don't mind using to bet that might not be returned. I tend to only bet around £2.50 or £5 and mainly each way meaning my maximum bet is £10. I'm slightly too chicken to bet more or to place it on a win but it means that it's not the end of the world when the horse I bet on is the one that comes cantering in last without a rider! I don't always go for the dead certain favourite either as the bets aren't always so good! It's nice to sometimes put a bet on a random horse and earn some back when it unexpectedly comes in first or second or even third! You never know, you could get more money back than what you started with!

#4: Check your existing wardrobe
I will be the first to admit that going to the races or anywhere 'fancy' automatically makes me start browsing for new items of clothing. However, it's worth checking your wardrobe first to see if there is anything you can wear, or even to look at what accessories/coats you have that you can use and then plan an outfit around rather than buying a complete outfit. Whilst on this subject, make sure your outfit is relevant to the weather/season/event. At Cheltenham, there were people behind us on the coach who wore summery style clothing with peep-toe summery shoes. No offence but they looked rather silly! Cheltenham is well known for it's tweed and boots (not Hunters though as these women decided)! I wore a simple navy lace dress that can be worn for work or a meal and also my trust block heeled Chelsea boots which are comfy and work with anything!

#5: Family fun
Many racecourses now have family zones which are often free or really cheap. Whilst these areas don't provide access to the parade ring, they are often situated on the opposite side of the track to the main grandstand area so still provide good viewing as well as children's entertainment. Definitely worth a look if you fancy a fun family day out (it's cheaper than the zoo!!).

So there are my five tips for making a day out to the races just that bit friendlier for the bank balance!

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Pea Sees The Vet

If you've been following my blog lately, you will know that Pea has been a bit stiff behind and I've been a bit paranoid so put him on the vet list. Well, today was the day and it couldn't have gone any more different than what I expected it to go! 

I trotted Pea up just normally and then trotted him a few times following a leg flexion. Alex (the vet) said that he was slightly more stiff after the flexion but nothing major so nothing to worry about at all - more that it's quite normal. We then popped him on the lunge and seeing as Pea has been in all night and it was way past his turnout time he felt the need to just bugger off round the lunge refusing to come back to trot! He also showed just how good his back and legs were feeling but a good few bucks for extra measure! 

So, for now, he's going to have hind shoes put on in the next few weeks and be worked as normal and we'll see how we go from there. If he's still not great in a month then he'll see the vet again and might have a steroid injection..

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Benefits of Hacking in Company

I recently went hacking out with another person at my yard which is something I very rarely do! It's partly because there's not normally many people around to come with us but the main reason is that Pea is a bit of a bugger with others and when you first trot/canter he has a bit of a rodeo moment so I'm a bit cautious of who I go with as I don't want him to kick their horse. He's not overly bad with others but if I do hack in company it will only ever be with one other and I have to be really careful and explain that he will buck, and though he's not malicious he may do it right by the other horse. I always joke that it's a good job he's not a racehorse as he would try to knock out the competition, or just stand rodeo'ing at the start in a huff that he's not in the lead! 

Despite my reservations, Pea wasn't too badly behaved. He did have one bronk fit but he's good that when I give a slight tug on the reins he knows to stop and behave. We didn't have a canter as such as I was still a bit wary and also the ground seemed slightly hard and with Pea's hind leg issues I was a bit paranoid that it might make him a bit bad! I realised after that I really should hack him out in company more often as he will settle down the more he does it and it's nice for him to have a bit if variety and company rather than just hacking on his own all the time! (plus he probably likes the reprieve of me not chatting away to him about pointless stuff when he clearly has no idea what I'm on about, hinting at me to shut up by spooking at a leaf!). 

Therefore, I decided to put together a post on the benefits of hacking in company and also took to twitter during #equinehour to ask people their opinions :)

#1: Helps gain confidence
Whether you're hacking out a youngster who's out exploring beyond the confines of the arena or a spooky horse, hacking with friends can be a great way to help your horse overcome his fears. Pea can be spooky about silly things such as people walking, branches sticking out or gaps in the hedge but he can also spook at some slightly bigger things. When he's on his own he will just spin and try to bolt so it ends up that I have to get off to lead him past things but if he's with another it gives him that slight confidence to keep going forward. 

#2: Adds variety
It's already a known fact that going out for a hack can act as a reprieve from the confines of an arena but constantly going out alone can also get a bit boring. Thus, adding a hacking companion gives a bit of variety and excitement. 

#3: Safer
This one is a given. Hacking with others means that should something bad happen, there are others there to help, whether it be to phone for help or just give you a helping hand back into the saddle. As they saying goes: "safety in numbers!"

#4: More presence on the road
I'm lucky that all my hacking is done off-road round the farm. But for many, this is not the case and so hacking in company can give more presence on the road as it's easier to spot two horses than one and also makes drivers to go past more carefully. 

#5: Teaches manners/obedience/patience
Hacking in company teaches horses to tolerate other horses as well as patience in that they may have to wait for the other horse. It can also help teach them obedience - such as in Pea's case - by making them learn that they are not allowed to have a rodeo fit or speed off when having a canter, but instead still listen to the rider and keep pace with the other horse. 

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Friday, 20 March 2015

[Product Review] Bespoke Browbands

So I'm 90% sure that Pea really didn't need a third browband but how could I seriously resist when the lovely Mark from Bespoke Browbands contacted me with this b-e-a-utiful green beaded browband?! It provides a lovely splash of colour (I'm all about colour) and looks so nice on him! 

I would definitely recommend anyone to look into Bespoke Browbands if you're after a new one because:

  • they are super friendly! They put up with my forgetfulness at replying, my indecisions, my difficulty in which size I needed, etc!
  • they have a whole range of different bead collars and bead types and I think you can also custom make your own! (perfect for cross-country colour co-ordination/team colours)
  • they are so reasonably priced! They vary between about £15 and £25 for a browband and all prices include p&p unless they state otherwise :)
  • they don't just do browbands! They also do dog collars and stirrup leathers so you can match ;)
  • the leather feels really nice and good quality
  • super speedy delivery! I ordered & paid for it late Thursday night and it arrived the following Monday morning :)
I'm not even kidding when I say I am in love with Pea's new browband (sad, I know) so if you want to add a bit of colour to your bridle, why not check them out and let me see any photos!

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

[Laura Loves] Eskadron Spring/Summer 2015

You may remember a few weeks ago that I wrote a post featuring some of the products I liked from the Pikeur Spring/Summer Collection (if not, read it here). So, it makes sense to follow it with a post featuring some of the Eskadron collection...right?! As the two go hand in hand, they follow similar colour schemes and I love the new colours! The green is my favourite and the orange looks equally as nice and will suit Pea (I'm ginger so it's a bit hard for me!). 

BiColour Saddlecloth
If you're a regular reader of my blog then you will know that it's a given I'm going to feature at least one saddlecloth! This bicolour one is so nice and I genuinely don't know which colour I prefer - green, orange or navy with a hot pink stripe. Each colour is perfect for the upcoming season and the stripe just gives it that something extra. 

Jersey Stripe Sweat Cooler
Pea already has four fleeces so he really doesn't need a fifth, but this is so nice! It comes in the navy with the three different stripe colours at the back which is my favourite, or the green which is a bit too ott for my liking! The rug is made from high quality wicking material which would make it ideal for travelling if your horse builds up a bit of sweat and there's matching headcollars in the collection if you really want him/her to step off the ramp in style.

I'm really liking the lime green trend at the moment and there's a navy saddle cloth with lime green piping that I have my eye on so these would make the perfect combination. They will probably suit most colours of horses and are just a really nice spring/summer colour. However, if lime green isn't for you then there's also the option of grey, cyan, camouflage or olive!

There are various other saddlecloths, fly veils and grooming kits/bandage bags in the collection which are worth checking out but the above three are my favourite. 

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Cheltenham Gold Cup Day [2015]

Yesterday, I was fortunate to head over to Cheltenham racecourse for Gold Cup day at the Festival. I love the festival after having gone two years ago to Ladies day (unfortunately I didn't go last year due to University) and this year myself and a friend decided to go for Gold Cup day. We had a fantastic day - although it was rather long after a 4am start and a 11:30pm finish! I would thoroughly recommend anyone and everyone to visit Cheltenham Festival on any day as it truly an incredible experience and such a lovely day out! It was so bittersweet as well with it being A P McCoys final festival (such a shame he didn't win though!). We booked tickets for the Tatterstalls area which is so good as it gives you access to the parade ring and shops as well as the Guinness Village. The grandstand is in a good location giving you a great view of the finish line as well as the whole course if you stand near the back (though it does get really crowded and slightly terrifying with everyone moving around!). 

One thing that came from the festival is the new rule that following a false alarm they have to do a standing start. In the sixth race they had a false start and it was chaos trying to get them to start again which made my friend and I question whether it's the right move or not... What are your opinions? 

Unfortunately my phone died literally five minutes after arriving so I didn't get many photos which I'm gutted about but hey ho! I think we're now planning on visiting Royal Ascot as well as some other summer races so keep an eye out for them! 

Also, would anyone be interested in a post on how to go to the races on more of a budget? I know so many people think it's quite expensive but it really needn't be! Let me know in the comments or twitter (@Lauraaa_CB).

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

[Book Review] Making the Running by Hannah Hooton

You may remember last year I wrote a review of a racing novel by Hannah Hooton (Share & Share Alike) which I really enjoyed despite being slightly skeptical at first as I'm not always a big fan of equestrian novels! I can be really hit and miss with books and it can take me ages to find a really good one that I enjoy - when I do, I'm normally finished within a few days!

When Hannah recently sent me another email to ask if I would like to review her new book, Making the Running, I jumped at the chance. As mentioned, I really enjoyed the last one and I actually went and downloaded another of her novels for my kindle (though I haven't actually read it yet...oops!). Making the Running follows the story of work rider Kate and her love for D'Artagan as well as choosing between two brothers. I got into the book straight away and must say that I absolutely loved the character of Kate! I slightly believe that if she were real, we could potentially be friends! Hannah portrayed her character so well, making it that she comes across as such a strong individual looking out for everyone yet has been through so much and you can't help but feel for her - especially when her sister seems to give her such a hard time! I will admit, that I rather disliked Kate's sister from the word go but at the end of the book, snippets came out that made her not seem too bad! This brings me on to one of the reasons I love Hannah's books is the fact that she writes the characters so well you can't help but get drawn in and half imagine that they're real...

Making the Running also followed Kate's relationship with two brothers - Nicholas and Ben. At first, I preferred Nicholas but that was short-lived! Soon I was definitely rooting more for Ben as he just had so much more depth so him and was by far the better brother! It was really nice to hear more of his story and, again, Hannah portrayed his character so well! 

It appears that Hannah features a different aspect of racing with each novel and as mentioned, this one focuses on a work rider/groom which I really enjoyed! It was so good the way she wrote about the struggles Kate has with affording somewhere to live/car expenses/etc but she also contrasts it with Nicholas who's a rich kid and Ben who comes across as that but really isn't! It's also nice that it gives work riders a bit more credit as so often when you hear about racing it's about the jockeys/trainers/owners and very rarely about the people behind the scenes that actually play a pretty big part! I also related so much to all the times she 'rode' along with the horses when they were racing by turning when the jockeys needed to turn and pushing forward. I'm pretty sure there's a quite a few of us who could relate to that! I know I have often found myself leaning forward slightly when watching someone showjump! 

There were one or two parts of the book which were a bit slow (& very slightly boring) but they were very few and far between and it's something that happens in all books so it's not really a criticism at all! However, there was one point in the book where Kate visits Ben's rehoming/reschooling farm and they go cross-country after schooling and instead of putting her stirrups up, Kate is told to lengthen them.. Slightly reversed to what I've always known but other than that I didn't pick up on any criticisms or other confusing points. 

Overall I absolutely adored this book and had a massive grin on my face at the end - particularly with the last paragraph (I won't give any spoilers away apart from saying - very clever Hannah!!). This is by far my favourite equestrian novel I've read and will definitely pick it up to read time and time again! 

If you want to give Making the Running a go then you can purchase it from Amazon here. Or, why not check out Hannah's website to read more about her other stories? (Psstt, I've been informed that the first book in the series, Keeping the Peace, is available to download for free!). 

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Why Children Should Grow Up With Animals

I strongly believe that all children should grow up around animals. I don't necessarily mean that they should have a house full of pets as pets take a lot of responsibility and money which not everyone is able to provide. However, there are other ways to get them interacting with animals such as petting farms or family members who might have animals. 

I have had a cat in the house since I was born so I was bought up with an animal round the house so was instilled from a young age about how to treat them. I also had rabbits and then eventually a horse when I was around 12/13. I also remember when I was young (around 5) that my oldest sister had a German Shepherd dog and when they went on holiday, we would look after the dog. Being 5, I was obviously rather small and the dog, Susie, was probably more or less the same size as me on 4 legs! In the house we used to live in, there was the back garden of a reasonable size with the path leading to a short hallway and then the lounge and I remember how I used to stand at the end of the sofa when Susie would arrive because she'd run up the path and jump up at me and I thought it was hilarious how I fell back on the sofa! Many people would probably be quite shocked at how anyone could allow a large dog to run and jump on a small child, but I never saw any issues! She never once hurt me and she was the kindest dog (even my cat would chase her round the house when she tried to steal his food!). Yet, people end up with this idea that large dogs can be dangerous and injure children. Well not if they're trained properly and people keep an eye on them! 

Anyway, here are some reasons I believe children should grow up with animals:

#1: It teaches responsibility. 
#2: It teaches them how to behave around them.
#3: It provides a friend if you have one as a pet. 
#4: It probably helps toughen the immune system - many equestrians will know that hands are often forgotten to be washed before eating after being around the horse!
#5: It can provide them with a hobby/something to do as they grow older as well as potential career prospects. 
#6: It provides family time as you can take trips out to a local farm or zoo.

I'm sure the list could go on and on, but these are just a few key points. My 4 year old niece loves coming down to the yard with me and happily brings Pea in from the field (she's even helped bring two in once!) and she'll happily give him a brush and try to do his boots as well as knowing what his food is to give to him! She's also helped take dogs for a walk and helps give my cats their food/treats.

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

[Product Review] Roma Lycra Hood

Last night on Twitter, I was having a discussion with a few people about how to keep greys clean and I realised that I hadn't done a product review of Pea's hood. It also coincides with a post done by Jess (GeeGee & Me) who featured a headless hood that I had been thinking of trying in an attempt to stop Pea's mane being rubbed. I have actually owned this hood for a few years now as I bought it in an attempt to keep Pea clean before competitions when he was living out full time.

I know that there is a bit of speculation around the use of hoods with many owners being understandably nervous due to the possibility of them causing harm. I have also heard some horror stories of them, however luckily for me I have never had any issues with mine! Before I purchased this one, I did look around a bit and I can understand how some can cause issues as there were ones for sale which you had to cut your own eye/ear holes out off and the sizing can be a bit off.

I think what makes the Roma one work so well is that it is a zip fastening and also there is an elasticated strap with buckle that does up where the girth sits. This means that the hood fits really well and I have never once had any issues with it slipping, nor is it too tight. The hood can be used in the stable and in the field - although one downside is that if there's a long period of heavy rainfall it does slightly rub but nothing major! Pea's not ever overheated in it either (obviously it is mainly used in Winter).

Another good point of this hood is that it's great value for money. I believe mine cost around £35 from a local tack store, where as the snuggy hood ones are twice the price! I would definitely recommend this product to anyone as I've had mine for years and use it to keep him clean before competitions or if the weather's meant to be a bit drizzly and I need to keep him dry and clean in order to ride after work.

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Sunday, 1 March 2015

[Monthly Review] February 2015

February has resulted in another set back! If you read my post from my riding lesson then you'll know that pea's hind legs are causing him a bit of pain :( He's been walking & trotting in the arena and only cantering out hacking or on the lunge on a really large circle. I did once try and school him in the indoor which is 20x40m and it was then that I truly realised just how hard he finds it working in a small space! I had hoped to maybe do an intro test but he finds the half 10m circle after coming down the centre line so difficult that it just wouldn't be fair on him! 

We've also been doing some in-hand pole work getting him to stop half way over a raised pole for a few seconds before walking on again so he has to try and remember how much he needs to pick his hind legs up. It's something a woman who does horse massages at my yard once told me about as it helps them to engage their back end and pick it up! We've also done some lunging so he can have a bit if a canter and also allows me to see what his hind legs are like. 

The past week we've had a bit of issue as Pea's seemed a bit down in the dumps so to speak and he's also stopped eating whilst in the stable over the past few days. At first I thought it was down to the new supplement I was trying so I stopped it but he still refused to eat his food - only carrots. Saturday night I ended up turning him back out as I was so paranoid that he wasn't eating anything and I knew he would being out so put a heavyweight on him and chucked him back out. He took a bit of coaxing to come back out the stable and stood confused when I put him back out but he soon went off to munch on the grass. I then popped down first thing this morning (Sunday) to swap rugs and try him with so food which he luckily ate! However, as the temperature drops so much overnight, I don't want him out full time yet as he's still fully clipped so I'm going to try only giving him a handful of food at night and then giving him his main food in the morning whilst I muck out as it may be that he's a bit full of grass and hay whilst he's out. They sure do like to test us! 

I think I will end up getting the vet out for Pea over March as I lunged him today and he just didn't seem right. When I asked for trot he had his ears back and really didn't look happy so I'll see how he goes. We have vet visits once a month, though annoyingly he's not out until the end of March so I might see if anyone's getting him out earlier or just have to cope with the silly call out fees! It might be that we try him on bute for a bit but I think he really needs looking at to see what the problem actually is and what to do as it's evident he's in a bit of pain and also a bit bored at not being able to do much!

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx