I have been riding for almost fifty-years and working with horses for thirty-years. I have had many spills over that time, including being dragged by a shetland when I was very young and breaking my ribs when I fell into a jump standard. Thankfully, I always make a point of wearing my riding helmet.
Falling off goes with the sport. We all know that. As the years rolled on, incidences of biting the dust became less frequent. Especially when I decided, I was too old to ride unbroken horses. But, of course, they didn't go away.
As equestrians, we train hard to help prevent accidents and spills and take precautions to keep us safe. One of the most important things we can do is ALWAYS to wear a well fitted, undamaged riding helmet.
Yesterday I fell off of my normally placid Andalucian mare. We were trail riding, as we do almost every day. She thought she saw something in a group of trees. She spooked, dropped her left shoulder, and spun to the right. Spooks are not uncommon, and I have ridden and survived many over the years, but not this time. My not-so-elegant dismount consisted of a somersault over her left shoulder, and an unceremonious landing with a wallop on my back very quickly followed with me smacking my head on the ground.
I tried to sit up, but the world was spinning, literally. I stayed down until I stopped feeling dizzy. My riding companions, including my six-year-old granddaughter, dismounted and came to my aid. My horse had made it halfway across the field in her attempt to get away from the invisible enemy.
Eventually, stumbling to my feet and went to retrieve her. I legged my granddaughter back onto our bombproof paint and slowly walked back to the barn. I wanted to re-mount but still felt light-headed. When we got back to the barn, I climbed back on, as you do, and took my mount down the lane and back.
According to www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, head injuries have been found to be one of the most frequently occurring injuries and are the leading cause of death in horse-related injury events. Today, my neck is sore from the whiplash that thrust my head to the ground, but I am still here, and I put that down to the fact that I was wearing an ASTM/SEI approved riding helmet.
Please take the safety of your head and brain seriously. Do not let vanity get in the way of protecting the delicate computer that controls your whole body. I am very lucky. It could have been much worse. I think I will also invest in a protective vest. My helmet is now compromised so I will also be buying a new one.
Have you had a spill where your helmet saved your life? Tell us about it on our Facebook page.
Every summer we all comment that "the flies are bad this year," when in actual fact, they are bad every year. We are always looking for a safe fly spray for our horse that actually works. I have tried just about every product on the market. Some work better than others. Some don't work at all. I try to stay away from the ones with harmful, poisonous chemicals in them. If you have ever looked at the ingredients and what those potions are capable of doing, you would never use them again.
So, how do you determine what is a safe fly spray for horses, and people, and is it going to work?
You don't have to because I have done it for you. I have created and tested two, home-made, formulas that work on my horses. They can be easily produced and costs less than $3 for 32oz.
Create the cedary oil base with equal parts of the following ingredients - cedar oil, castor oil (carrier). In a 32oz spray bottle mix together 11fl oz of Pine-Sol, 11fl oz of white vinegar, 10fl oz of water. Add 1tsp of the cedary oil base. Shake well and apply generously to your horse. The total cost of 32oz = $1.35 (not including the spray bottle)
These formulas are good with barn flies, house flies, nats, and mosquitos. I have yet to find something that can repel deer and horse flies.
Disclaimer: These products and formulas have not been approved by the FDA or any governing body. Use it at your own risk. Discontinue use if irritation develops. Prices are correct as of August 2020 and are subject to change.
The quick answer is, it doesn't. But, I can see why people would think it does.
This non-horse related blog is brought about by questions and comments from people over the years who have asked me what the difference is between England, Britain, UK, and so on. I will attempt to answer them here.
I will start by saying that I am from England. I am also from Britain, and the United Kingdom, and the British Isles. I could go on and add Europe into that mix. It's very easy to see why people are confused.
I will start with the large picture and work backward.
Europe is a continent, not to be confused with the European Union, a political and economic union of 27 members located primarily in Europe. Europe, the continent, covers 3.9 million square miles and is made up of forty-four countries. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and Asia to the east.
The British Isles
The British Isles is the name of a group of islands situated off the northwestern corner of mainland Europe. It is made up of Great Britain (more about that later), Ireland, The Isle of Man, The Isles of Scilly, The Channel Islands (including Guernsey, Jersey, Sark, and Alderney), and over 6,000 other smaller islands.
The United Kingdon, known as the UK for short
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a sovereign state made up of four countries; England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In international law, a sovereign state is a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area.
Great Britain, aka Britain
Great Britain is not a country; it is a landmass. It is known as 'Great' because it is the largest island in the British Isles and houses the countries of England, Scotland, and Wales within its shores.
England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland
England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are countries. Scotland and Wales have their own governments led by their First Ministers'. They also have representation in the English government in Westminster, London, by elected members of Parliament in the House of Commons. Northern Island is also a country, it has its own government called the Norther Island Assembly. It also has representation in the English government.
Ireland is an independent country. It is part of the British Isles but not part of Britain or the United Kingdom.
The creation of a business can be a daunting task. There are many things that need to be considered. One of them is a catchy, name that is easy to remember. I didn't have that problem when I started my equestrian business in America. I had known, for a very long time, that my barn would be called White Rose Equestrian. But how did that come about?
As most of you already know, I am originally from England. Yorkshire to be precise. Our story begins there many, many years ago.
The War of the Roses
In the 1400s, England engaged in civil war as two rival branches of the royal house, the House of Lancaster and the House of York, battled for the English throne.
The conflict persisted through many sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1487, with control switching back and forth between Yorkists and Lancastrians. The two adversaries finally united when Henry Tudor, a Lancastrian, known as King Henry VII married Elizabeth of York. She was the eldest daughter and heir of Edward IV. The House of Tudor successfully ruled England until 1603. This ended with the death of Elizabeth I, the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, and the granddaughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.
The name "Wars of the Roses" originated because of the heraldic badges associated with two rival branches of the same royal house, the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster. The emblems continue to be represented extensively throughout the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire and are incorporated into each flag.
Since I am from Yorkshire, it only seemed fitting to carry some of my heritage across the ocean and into my business. The Yorkshire Rose is front and center in our business logo, as are the colors of the Yorkshire Flag.
I am proud of my origins and very grateful to all our wonderful clients and friends who support White Rose Equestrian.
Father's Day is quickly approaching (June 21st, 2020), but there is still time to buy something special for your horse show dad.
Some dads understand that learning to ride is so much more than just learning to ride. They recognize that being around horses and helping at the barn also instills compassion, empathy, teamwork, hard work, coordination, and so much more. These dedicated dads don't mind getting up early or going to bed late so their child can have extra time with their horse. They learned how to tow a trailer and load a horse just so their child can compete in shows. Their dedication and commitment to their equestrian should be recognized regularly but even more so on Father's Day.
What does your horse show dad need?
T-Shirt - Of course no horse show dad would be complete without the obligatory horse show dad t-shirt.
Photo Album - These days, most people store their photos on their phones. A great way to memorialize your time spent with your dad is to get him a photo album of your journey together. This self-adhesive photo album makes it easy to present your photos and mementos. Try this link to order prints from your phone.
Drink Container - All equestrians know that barn time is not the same as regular time. Especially during long hot days at the barn in summer, it is essential to stay hydrated. Get your dad a 26oz Yeti Rambler. I have one of these and can tell you it keeps my drink cold all day long.
Fitbit - If your dad is a fitness freak or just wants to get fitter, a Fitbit is a great idea. He will be able to track his steps, exercise, and calorie intake. They are fun to use and can be synced to a smartphone.
Overnight Bag - Often, showing requires overnight stays. Your dad should travel in style, just like you and your horse. A versatile overnight bag is an ideal gift and a great way to say thank you.
I'm sure that horse show dads are happy with their role and get immense satisfaction from spending time with and watching their equestrian learn and grow. However, it is still important to show some extra love on Father's Day.
This blog isn't really intended for equestrians as we already know and understand that time spent at the barn is very different from time spent anywhere else. This post is meant to help the partners and friends of equestrians who don't understand why a quick trip to the barn can take a good few hours.
Sadly, barn time isn't some quirky time loop that allows us to gain back the numerous hours we spend with our equine friends. It is, however, a vital part of our life that can not be overlooked or underestimated.
In order to understand how barn time works you must, firstly, understand why it is important.
Why Barn Time is Important
I have heard so many people say that the time they spend at the barn is therapeutic. Here at White Rose Equestrian, it is very important that our barn is tranquil and drama free. We have a wonderful barn family who is caring and supportive of each other and for that, I am very grateful.
Being outside and close to nature also helps. Even when the weather isn't cooperating, most horsey people would still rather be outside. It gives a sense of freedom and connection to the earth.
And of course, we can't overlook the calming nature of our equine partner. Horses are majestic, trusting, noble, and know how to keep secrets. The act of caring for another living being is also very rewarding and cathartic.
So, now you know why barn time is so important to us let me try and explain how it works.
How Barn Time Works
How many times have you heard the words, "I'm just nipping to the barn," and know that it means you won't see your significant other for at least two hours (probably more)? Many times I would imagine. You are not alone.
No two days at the barn are ever exactly alike so it is difficult to accurately describe how hours can slip by unnoticed but I will attempt to explain an average trip to the barn.
Arrive and pull our horse out of the field or stable. Tell him how wonderful he is and how much we've missed him as we secure him in the cross-ties. Carefully overlook him to check for lumps, bumps, cuts, and any other mishap he might have managed to get into since we last saw him.
Give him a treat as we begin our regular grooming routine. Pay particular attention to his beautiful face as we meticulously follow the direction of hair growth with the softest brush we own. Detangle his mane and tail applying the more-expensive-than-gold but must-have Cowboy Magic Detangler. Pick-out his feet and apply hoof oil. All the while we are talking to our best friend about our day, our life, our problems. His kind eye and inquisitive ears make everything feel better.
Now it is time to ride. Tack-up slowly, methodically, taking care to make sure our companion is comfortable and happy.
The ride is the highlight of our day. It fills us with comfort, lowers our blood pressure, releases the tensions of everyday life, makes everything feel good again.
Inevitably, it is over too quickly. We untack with the same precision as all your other tasks. Another treat and a quick rub down. In summer we spend a fun time rinsing ourselves and our partner with fresh, cool water.
Our two-legged barn friends are interested in how our ride went so we swap notes and experiences. We take advantage of this time to carefully clean and supple our tack ready for the next time we will be able to squeeze in some barn time.
Maybe our tack trunk needs tidying, or we decide our horse just has to have a bath, or decide to spend just a little more time with our ride and hand-walk him around the greenest parts of the barn. He is grateful and we are content.
All this time we have never once looked at our watch or the barn clock. Time is irrelevant. As we leave we are already looking forward to the next time we can visit the barn.
How do you like to spend your time at the barn?
This post is written from the perspective of someone who boards their horse and visits the barn a few times a week.
I am currently out of the country on family business and have no idea how long I will be gone. As I take one day at a time here, my horses are sitting around at home getting fat. So, I have decided to write a blog about how I plan to bring my horses back into work.
I have been trying to keep myself fit by walking every day but it's not been easy. It is important, no matter what discipline you ride, for your horse to be fit enough to perform adequately without causing him injury. You wouldn't run a marathon without training. Your horse shouldn't be expected to give lessons, canter for an extended period of time, or jump around a course if he has had a few weeks off. Not only is it sensible to bring your horse back into work slowly it could also save money on vet bills.
Each horse is different and training programs should be too. Take into account the age, current condition, health, and expectations of your horse before beginning a training program. You should also consider your own fitness, time available to you, and your climate.
Before you embark on your fitness regimen, make sure that your horse is sound and healthy. Check with your veterinarian if your horse is recovering from an injury.
Start Your Exercise Routine
Start slowly with walking and maybe some trotting. Gradually increase either distance or speed, but never both at the same time. Make sure he is moving forward and lifting his back. Do exercises at each gait that improve flexibility and strength. For example, simple lateral work, transitions, and circles. This also helps to keep you and your horse interested while you also increase the workload.
Be sure to keep track of every time you ride. Wear a watch and note exactly what you do each time. Every ride counts. Even slow work can build stamina and muscles. You can keep a journal or use an app. I like Equilab. It allows you to track each time you ride, if necessary, multiple horses. It tracks how much time you spend at each gait and the total length of time you ride. It's a great tool to help you.
Gradually increase the length of your rides or the length of time you ride at faster gaits. You are your horse's personal trainer. Your horse might need some encouragement to increase the workload each time. Be firm but careful not to push him before he is physically ready. Unless you are very fit already you will also have to work hard.
The length of time you spend at each gait and the rate by which you increase it will need to be customized to each horse. Make sure your horse is well shod or had a recent trim. Whenever possible, ride in a soft (but not too soft) riding arena.
Sample Program to Bring your Horse Back into Work
This program is designed for a horse that has been regularly turned out and walked in hand for a few days prior to the beginning. It is intended that you will ride between four and six times per week. If you are short of time you can add lunging to your program as it can be quicker than riding.
Week 1: 30 minutes per ride with 5 minutes trotting Week 2: 30 minutes per ride with 10 minutes trotting Week 3: 40 minutes per ride with 15 minutes trotting Week 4: 40 minutes per ride with 20 minutes trotting and 5 minutes cantering Week 5: 40 minutes per ride with 20 minutes trotting and 10 minutes cantering
This program is a good beginning and can be built on. However, for some horses, this will be too aggressive, and they would need to go even slower. A good way to monitor your horse's fitness level is to take his pulse. An average horse's heart rate is between 32 - 36 beats per minute. Make a note of his heart rate before and after your workouts. After working, a horse's heart rate should return to normal within 15 minutes. If your horse's pulse is still elevated after 30 minutes of rest, the workout was too much for him. You should cut back and slowly work back up again. Body soreness, resistance, pinned ears, and other signs of pain may also indicate that your horse is working too hard.
The best way to ensure you and your horse are progressing at a suitable pace is to work with an experienced trainer. They can give advice and suggest movements to add to your routine.
Disclaimer: Always consult your vet if you have any concerns. This blog can not replace the advice of a veterinary or trainer who works directly with you and your horse.
Six Non-Riding Exercises to Improve your Seat in the Saddle
As a rider, you are always looking for ways to improve your seat and use the subtle changes in your balance and posture to affect your horse. Many improvements come from riding regularly with an experienced trainer but you can also use exercises to improve your balance, coordination, and flexibility when you aren't in the saddle.
Six Easy and Quick Exercises to Improve your Seat
1. Calf Extensions
The problem - How many times have you been told to, 'put your heels down'? Even experienced riders can overlook this very fundamental rule of riding. However, forcing your heels down is not the answer as this causes tension in your legs and knees that will inadvertently transfer to your seat and cause your horse to tighten up his back and lose impulsion.
The solution - Your whole leg needs to be relaxed and flexible while riding. To stretch the calf muscles stand on the edge of a step with just the balls of your feet on the step, facing upward. Very gently bounce your body weight a few times to stretch the muscles in your calves. You could build this into a daily workout or do it for a few seconds every now and then when you go upstairs.
The results - When your hips, knees, and ankles are relaxed and your calf muscles sufficiently flexible, your heels with naturally hang down slightly lower than your toes. This will allow you to maintain a soft seat and stretch your entire leg, wrapping it softly around the barrel of your horse.
2. Ab Curls
The problem - I'm sure your trainer uses the term, 'use your core'. A strong but subtle core is invaluable for slowing and re-balancing your horse. If your core muscles are weak that can result in you feeling heavy and unbalanced to your horse which in turn makes him reluctant to move forward freely.
The solution - Using a yoga mat, rug, or carpet, lie flat on the floor. Raise your knees slightly and part your feet. Place your hands behind your head with your palms upright. Contract your ab muscles and slowly raise your upper body until your shoulder blades are no longer touching the mat. To start with you will probably only be able to do a few but with regularity and practice, you will improve your core strength and gradually be able to add more repetitions.
The results - A strong core will help to make you a stronger more confident rider. You will have more control over your position and balance resulting in a safer and more effective seat.
The problem - Even though we are told to ride with a soft relaxed leg, we still need to be able to count on our leg muscles to respond within a nanosecond whenever we need them. Weak leg muscles make our leg aids ineffective and also cause unbalance in our seat and upper body.
The solution - Stand with your legs slightly apart. Keeping your back straight and your body weight over your feet, slowly bend your knees. You can hold onto the back of a chair if you need support. Go down as far as you feel comfortable. The ultimate goal is to get all the way down into a squatting position but this will come with practice.
The results - The extra strength in your legs will allow you to sit quietly but give you the ability to use your leg aid efficiently and effectively.
The problem - Weak leg muscles make it difficult to apply sufficient pressure with your leg aids. Squats, as described above, will help but do not cover all your leg muscles.
The solution - Lunges exercise the muscles that squats miss. Keep your upper body straight with your shoulders relaxed, tighten your core and step forward with one leg. Lower your hips until both knees are bent. Bring your back leg forward and repeat by stepping with the opposite leg.
The results - Well-muscled legs will make it easier to apply leg aids without compromising your seat.
5. Bicep and Triceps Curls
The problem - Although most of your hand aids should be subtle you still need to have strength in your arms otherwise your horse could take advantage of you and lean on the bit making him heavy in your hands and on the forehand.
The solution - Bicep Curl - Stand with your upper body straight and a weight in each hand at arm's length. Bend your elbows and bring the weights up toward your shoulders. Hold them in position for a couple of seconds before slowly lowering them down again. Tricep Curls - Hold a weight in both hands and lift it above your head. Allow your hands to drop down behind your head until your arms are nearly straight. Bend your elbows allowing the weight to drop further down. Straighten your arms again and repeat.
The results - Strong, well-toned arms will make many chores around the barn easier and will also help with upper-body strength and coordination. This will result in a stronger more confident seat.
6. Shoulder stretches
The problem - Another term that trainers like to use is, 'put your shoulders back'. Unless you walk a catwalk for a living I'm pretty sure you don't walk around with your shoulders back and chest extended. Hunched shoulders, while riding, cause you to tip forward, resulting in your upper body being out of balance with the horse.
The solution - Stand in a doorway. Raise your arms out to the sides. Bend your elbows with your palms facing forward. Place the palms of your hands on the door frame and lean slightly forward putting gentle pressure onto your hands. You should feel a stretch in your chest muscles.
The results - Relaxed shoulders and an open chest result in a solid upper body position and a more pleasing overall appearance. They also help to maintain a level, balanced posture.
All exercise routines take repetition and determination to implement but once in place will become part of your normal everyday habits. These exercises, if done regularly, should help to improve your balance, coordination, flexibility, and seat.
I also like these two devices for improving balance
The Wood Wobble Balance Board is a fun aid to improve your balance and coordination. It is more difficult than it looks but with regular use can improve your balance and posture.
I love the Humantool Saddle Chair. It is a workout that not only improves your balance but also strengthens your core. You can use it as part of your daily workout or sit on it at your desk or the dinner table.
Consult a doctor before implementing any changes in your exercise routine.
What Does Taking Horseback Riding Lessons Teach Your Child?
If you've read the title of this blog you might be thinking that the answer is taking horseback riding lessons teaches my child how to ride a horse. And, of course, you would be correct. But, it does so much more too.
Maybe your child is obsessed with horses and talks about them all the time. Or perhaps you used to ride as a child and think your child would enjoy the experience also. It could be, that your child has been riding for a while. As they make progress they will also be learning some very important life skills.
There are some obvious benefits of doing any sport. Improved motor skills, balance, coordination, increased muscle tone and improved fitness in general.
Horseback riding also means your child gets to spend time outdoors in all seasons. This is more important today than ever. More and more kids are obsessed with video games, TV, and smartphones. Our barn is a non-electronic zone. Other than taking photos and videos and occasionally playing music I do not allow our riders to play on their phones. To be fair, there are so many other things to keep them busy it is very rare any of them even want to.
Handling and controlling a thousand-pound animal is not to be taken lightly. We strive to educate our riders in the correct technique. I can not count how many times I have encountered a new rider who is nervous about being around the horse to find in a few short months they are capable and enjoy catching, leading, grooming, and tacking up their horse.
In our summer camps, we also teach our campers the daily routine of a barn. The correct way to feed and care for a horse, and our cats, dog, and chickens too. This includes mucking stalls, the importance of cleaning feed and water buckets, daily feeding of feed and hay, grooming, tack care, and so much more. Looking after another living being fosters empathy and compassion.
Occasionally, even the most seasoned, lesson horse can have a bad day. Riders learn patience and perseverance. Nothing is gained if you push a horse past its limit or lose your temper if things aren't going the way you want. There are no shortcuts. It is important to do it right in a methodical manner. Riding a living being with a mind of its own is a great way to learn this.
I get as much pleasure out of seeing my riders succeed as I do from my own success. Mastering a new skill improves confidence. I love to see a smile on a rider's face when they realize that hard work pays off.
The last point might be a bit controversial. I tell my riders to put on their bossy britches. I explain how horses live naturally in a herd. The social structure and pecking order. Some riders struggle with the concept that they must be at the top of that pecking order. Being in charge does not mean you should be mean. But you shouldn't allow the horse to think he is in charge either. As in life, it is important to know when it is necessary and how to stand up for yourself.
What else do you feel horseback riding lesson teach?