It seems summer may be over …

Hey everyone! I hope you’ve all had a brilliant summer with your horses, unfortunately I think it’s finally time to admit summer is fading and winter is on the way.

So with this in mind its time to start thinking about planning and preparing for the hopefully not so long or cold winter ahead.

This is the time of year to do things like:
• Send clipper blades for sharpening 
• Send clippers for servicing (if needed) (Have a look at Clippersharp)
• Send rugs for cleaning and reproofing
• Make sure taps are properly insulated 
• Check all lights are working 
• Make any repairs to stables, barns, fencing before any adverse weather and clocks changing
• Get a stock of bedding, hay and feed in

As well as thinking about the things around the yard that need to be done before any adverse weather and fading daylight, now is the time to think about any changes that may need making to your horses diet.

For many the first thing that comes to mind is looking after any elderly horses that might need a diet change to help keep weight on throughout the winter months. I would always suggest contacting a nutritionist from a reputable feed company for advice.

Every spring and autumn we have the brilliant Laura from Baileys Horse Feedscome to the yard with the weigh bridge to check all of the horses and discuss any dietary changes and requirements and we adjust the feeds accordingly.

Think about getting the vet out to do an MOT on your horses, check they are healthy and happy coming into winter, this will give you a chance to discuss any health concerns you may have and ensure you’re up to date on vaccines and worming programme.

As well as thinking about the yard and the horses don’t forget the lorries, trailers and your own car. Are they winter ready? Do they need any adjustments making or servicing. Winter tyres can be a great investment on your own car to help you get about if we have the same amount of snow as last year.

Also take the time to think about your own wardrobe. Is your winter coat still warm and waterproof, do you have good thermal base layers, are your wellies still in good repair? There is nothing worse than having to wear plastic bags inside them! And don’t forget gloves… do you still have enough pairs of gloves – without holes in?

(The BGA shop does a great range of clothing designed with grooms in mind and to help keep you warm).

A lot of places have sales on at the moment so this is a good opportunity to update your wardrobe if needed and save some money.

Sorry to talk about winter when it’s still technically summer, but it’s much better to be prepared.

Until the next time,


Staying cool this summer

Hey guys, sorry I’ve been a bit quiet on the western front lately, show season is well underway for me now so I’m pretty busy, but here’s my latest blog I’ve done for the British grooms association, hopefully they’ll be some useful tips for you all.

When it comes to working in the hot weather we often forget about ourselves and focus more on the horses’ welfare in the heat.

We need to make sure we are just as prepared, it’s not always possible to avoid working in the hottest part of the day working unfortunately, but where ever possible do any manual outside jobs earlier on in the day or later once it cools down. In one of my previous jobs in the summer we started earlier to work the horses before it became too hot and then took a longer break in the middle of the day, which worked really well for the horses as well. Take regular breaks where possible.

If you are allowed to then wearing shorts and t-shirts/ vest tops when working in the heat will help you stay cooler. However that said make sure you dress appropriately for the task at hand, don’t ride in shorts etc and certainly always make sure you have appropriate footwear on, as much as it can be tempting to wear flip flops, they and horses don’t mix!

I always dread the heat and having to wear shorts, I have the pastiest whitest legs ever, the fake tan comes out and inevitably goes streaky and ends in disaster – I hope some of you reading this can relate and it’s not just me?!

Staying hydrated is one of the biggest things that can affect your energy levels in the heat. I am really bad at not drinking enough but when I do I find I don’t get that mid afternoon energy crash. I don’t really like just plain tap water so go for the nice flavoured water instead or have a bottle of squash in the cupboard in the tack room. Avoid drinking caffeine, it has a diuretic effect which increases water loss and contributes to dehydration. Also drinking more often even if you’re not thirsty is better than waiting until you’re gasping, I always tend to just have a drink every time I go in the tack room or take a water bottle with me when possible.

Unfortunately rather bad tan lines comes free with any horse job, I am forever trying to even up bad tan lines, but I do make sure I wear sun cream, usually factor 30 or 50. This is important to help prevent getting burnt and obviously for health reasons and I advise everyone to wear sun cream! I always keep a stash of sun cream and after sun in my car.

If there’s somewhere cool where you can sit and eat lunch and chill for a bit out of the sun then do. Sitting with your feet in a bucket of cold water will help cool you down as well.

I always wear sunglasses where possible, there’s nothing worse than getting a headache from squinting in the sun all day. Keep painkillers in your first aid kit in case of headaches. If you can for don’t wear sunglasses then a baseball cap or peaked hat will also help to reduce glare from the sun.

I know that following all of these steps isn’t always possible, but by trying to do as many as possible will help make it easier to work in the heat. If you’re working with others then keeping each other motivated will really help too, have some fun and why not have a water fight to cool down, or pop out at lunch time for ice creams for everyone. Stay safe and make the most of the summer while it’s here, it won’t last long and I’ll be talking about winter again before I know it.

Hacking safely…

Now the clocks have changed and the evenings are lighter, unfortunately the weather is still somewhat questionable, but this means that people are now able to go out hacking after work (hallelujah).

So with this in mind and with spring and summer just around the corner I thought I’d just take a look at and talk about safety while out hacking.

I personally have encountered many rude and disrespectful drivers, walkers, dog walkers and even other horse riders. I’m sure many of you reading this will also have encountered this or know someone that has.

So what can we do as horse riders to make our hacking experiences as positive and enjoyable as possible,

• Wear high viz clothing, make yourself as visible as possible! There are so many great products available these days there really is no excuse not to at least wear a tabard. You can get tabards that say different things such as ‘please pass wide and slow’, ‘caution young horse’, the ‘polite’ tabards seem to be really good at slowing drivers down. Some people also wear hat cams to encourage drivers to slow down.

• Avoid hacking out during peak travel times, especially if you have to ride on busy roads.

• Know your Highway Code. Make sure you know exactly what hand signals to use when and what for.

• If your horse is young, nervous or inexperienced go in company with someone on a safe and experienced horse or take someone on foot with you.

• As much as possible go out in company Incase of an incident, if you can’t go in company then make sure someone knows where you are gong and roughly how long you’ll be.

• Bear the weather in mind, don’t go out hacking in fog or if its due to be really heavy rain, wind, thunder, ice, snow etc. Just be sensible.

• Be courteous and show consideration for others. Unless you are fortunate enough to have private off road hacking then I’m sure you’ll encounter other riders, walkers and dog walkers, drivers and cyclists. Always be pleasant to others you meet, walk passed others and allow plenty of space where possible, say please and thank you and be polite. If you need to ask people to put dogs on leads or cars to slow down or stop make sure you are clear and polite. If you come across rude and inconsiderate people, don’t retaliate, be the bigger person and politely point out to them the dangers of letting their dogs run loose around horses or cars overtaking to close or quickly.

At the end of the day all of these people have just as much right as us to be in the countryside, we just need to respect each other. Don’t give other horse riders a bad name, we need to help each other to better educate people on how to behave around horses.

The BHS (British horse society) run a riding and road safety course, this is a great course to give you confidence and awareness for riding out and about and I’d highly recommend doing it. On the BHS website there is an abundance of information on hacking out and riding on the road,I will include the links below for you to take a look at.

In 2016 the BHS also launched the campaign DEAD? OR DEAD SLOW? This campaign was launched to encourage drivers to pass horses safely.

from march 2017 – march 2018 over 400 hundred incidents were reported to the BHS, below is a picture of the statistics since they began collating in November 2010.

I think its so important we all try to help educate other road users and people who share the countryside as much as possible to make it a better place for all of us to enjoy. So please share the advert and advice for motorists far and wide.

Remember stay safe, be sensible, be polite!

Here are some great examples of what you can wear high viz wise to help you be seen out hacking! Massive Thankyou to my lovely friends for allowing me to use these images.

Is the industry getting tougher or are grooms getting lazier? Is grooming a real career?

So often these days you hear of employers looking for grooms, and saying there are no ‘good grooms’ anymore, or that a ‘good groom’ is hard to find, or that grooms are getting lazier.

So what makes a ‘good groom’? I believe what makes a good groom is someone who is reliable, hard working, dedicated, passionate and professional.

Over the years I have come across and worked with some very good grooms, but sadly have come across probably more that are not. They moan that the work is too hard, they constantly clock watch, spend more time on their phone than actually doing any work, and moan if they have to stay late. Unfortunately being a groom is not a Monday- Friday or 9-5 job, I suggest that if that’s the job you’re looking for then go to Tesco. I’m not saying that all younger grooms are unreliable or lazy, this is not the case at all, a lot are very very good, and I appreciate that until you really try something how do you really know if its what you want to do, so of course people will leave and move on.

So it begs the questions; is this because they are lazy? Are the next generation of grooms coming through miseducated or misinformed about what’s its really like to work in the industry? Do they have unrealistic expectations? Do employers have unrealistic expectations? Is the industry or job as a groom getting tougher?

Personally I don’t think that the industry is getting tougher, but neither is it getting easier. It will always be physically demanding. I believe it is however getting easier in the way of minimum wage, sick pay, proper contracts etc and with dedicated organisations such as the BGA to offer help and advice on aspects of pay, contracts, living and working conditions it is becoming a fairer industry.

A lot of the next generation of the grooms coming into the industry are coming through college and university. I think the courses offered are a good way to gain valuable knowledge and experience and qualifications, however I don’t think they perhaps give the most realistic portrayal of what the industry is actually like.

When I did my college course I was only required to complete two weeks of work experience within a yard. I worked in a busy competition yard alongside college anyway so I knew full well what it was really like to work in the industry, but I think for others who didn’t work on a yard separately this two weeks alone would not give you a proper insight into what it’s really like to be a groom.

I think doing work experience is such a good way to work on different yards and in different disciplines, that way you can hopefully get a really good idea as to which area you want to work in or if being a groom is the right job for you at all. As well as college a lot of apprenticeships and working pupil positions are available at top yards each year, these are a brilliant opportunity to gain on the job experience and qualifications, and who knows what opportunities it may lead to.

So do employers expect too much from grooms? I don’t think so, perhaps there are some that do but on the whole no. The employers, riders, owners all put so much time, money and dedication into the industry so its right that they expect a certain level of care for the horses. I myself always think how would I want my own horses to be looked after and what would I expect and then always strive to do that to the best of my abilities for the horses in my care.

I think that the job of a groom has become more recognised and rewarded in recent years. This fantastic for all grooms out there to have something to aspire toward and to get the recognition that is so deserved. Hopefully it will also help to inspire the younger generation, and encourage more people to want to make a career of being a groom. I think social media has played a huge part in this, its so much easier for people to connect and engage in what’s going on in the industry. The British grooms association work tirelessly to raise the profile of grooms and help to make sure we get the respect we deserve, they also try to help with issues such as contracts, national minimum wage and better working and living conditions.

There are now awards specifically for grooms in the industry such as the Haddon training awards and FEI awards. Other grooms in the industry Alan Davies, Mark Fisher and Jackie Potts to name a few also work hard to help raise awareness of how hard working and dedicated grooms are. It also helps that top riders have become more active in supporting their super grooms on social media.

Although it’s become more of a celebrated and respected career which Is fantastic, I think we need to be aware that it doesn’t become ‘glamourised’ if you like, its important to educate the next generation of grooms on what the job really is like to hopefully help them to become the next award winning groom. We can’t ignore the fact that it is a tough industry to make a career in, its both very physically and mentally demanding. Apprenticeships are a great way to gain on the job knowledge and qualifications, a great groom is worth their weight in gold and to work with one is invaluable if you want a career as a groom. There are now qualifications available specifically for grooms, such as the ‘BHS equine excellence pathway’, they offer courses from stage 1 care which is designed for anyone who enjoys caring for horses and is aspiring to perhaps one day carve a career in the industry (a good starting point in your career), then all the way up to stage 5 stable manager, which is aimed at those wanting to fulfil a more senior management role. These courses not only cover the care of the horses but also cover management, health and safety legislation, grassland maintenance etc so requires extensive knowledge and practical skills.

As well as the brilliant courses available I believe on the job experience is invaluable to making a career out of grooming, it also helps to have a good sense of humour, dedication, passion, ambition and a thick skin!

If you think you’ve got what it takes to turn your passion for horses into a career then as I said above there are many ways into the industry and lots of training available, however if you think you just get to pat the pretty ponies all day and you don’t want to get your nails dirty of horse slobber in your hair then grooming is certainly not for you and I suggest a different career path.

Testing Eqclusive Universal brushes…

Hi guys,

So I was asked by the lovely people at Chiltern and Thames rider magazine if I’d do a tried and tested review for them on the Eqclusive Universal pack of brushes, of course I jumped the chance!

So take a look at the video below to see my first time trying out the brushes, i loved them and can’t wait to see the difference with more use over the next few weeks. So keep your eyes peeled for some more updates of how I get on with them and how the horses coats look. Exciting and thankyou once again to Chiltern and Thames rider magazine for this opportunity and the amazing brushes!

International women’s day

As its international women’s day I thought I’d share with you some women in the equestrian sport past and present who have been an inspiration to me and who I admire.

One women who we cant ignore that shaped history for women everywhere was Emily Davison (although not exactly equestrian), her act on 8th June 1913 when she jumped in front of the queens horse at the Epsom derby changed history for women everywhere.

A pioneer in the field of horse racing in 1970 Diane Crump became the first female jockey in the UK to partner a winner on may 6th 1972. It was th first time female jockeys were allowed to race. Hayley Turner and Lizzie Kelly are among the most successful female jockeys of recent times.

In 1956 Pat Smythe became the first British female showjumper to compete at an olympics. She helped Great Britain too win team bronze. There are so many fantastic female riders in showjumping now a days but a few of my favourites include Ellen Whitaker, Emily Moffit, Laura Renwick to name a few.

Shiela Wilcox was the first British lady event rider to achieve international success when she won team and individual gold medals at the 1957 European championships. Lorna Clarke was also an amazing eventer and completed badminton an amazing 22 times between 1967 and 1989. Other successful female eventer’s include Ginny Elliott who won Burghley 5 times, badminton 3 times and sh also helped secure double olympic bronze and team silver for Britain at the Los Angeles and Seoul olympics. Pippa Funnell was the first rider to win the elusive Rolex grand slam of badminton, Burghley and Kentucky. Some other amazing women in eventing who I admire Mary King, Tina Cook, Nicola Wilson.

Jennie Loriston-Clark is one of the greats from the world of dressage, she rode at 3 Olympic Games. Sh took over the running of Catherston stud in 1966 and is the current chairwoman of British dressage. Charlotte Dujardin has changed the sport of dressage and made history by becoming the most successful british dressage rider, she was triple gold medalist at both London and Rio olympics, European champion, world champion and holds all 3 world records in the sport of dressage.

As well as all the great female riders I have mentioned 2 other women who I admire and have inspired me in the world of horses are Clare Balding and the Queen.

As well as the women of the horse world lets not forget the mares who have helped shape the sport, a few of my favourites from history and today,

• Regret – she was the first filly to win the Kentucky derby in 1914

• Headley Britannia – the little mare with a big heart, she won Burghley in 2006 and was the first mare to do so in 33 years.

• Black caviar – a race horse who was undefeated in 25 races

• Burmese – she was the queens cavalry horse

• Kings temptress – Mary kings mare with whom she won Kentucky on in 2011

• DV stenkjers Nadonna – Gareth Hughes partnered this mare to team silver at the 2014 world equestrian games

• Half moon Delphi – Michael Eilberg’s partner who also helped Great Britain to team silver at WEG 2014

• Atterupgaards Orthilia – Fiona Bigwood’s (now sold) mare with who she rode at the 2016 Rio olympics

As well as riders and horses it’s important that we recognise and celebrate all women involved with the sport around the world. So whether you are a rider, groom, owner, breeder, show organiser, show secretary, judge, support team or just a fan happy international women’s day!

Anti bullying vlog

Hey everyone,

I have done a vlog (link below) to address the issue of bullying within the equestrian industry and horse world. No matter who you are from a happy hacker to an Olympic gold medalist the world of horses is a tough place and no matter who you are someone will have something to say on what you are doing or how you are doing it! As a community we need to try and be nicer to each other it’s tough enough getting through the day without negative comments and bullying. As well as the link to my vlog i have included some other links to go with what i have spoken about in my vlog, and some hashtags to use when posting on social media. So please watch my vlog and take a look at the links and use the hashtags and hopefully as a community we can make the horse world a nicer place to work and enjoy!

#notonmyyard #antibullying #groomsminds

#5photos1day horse bloggers challenge

Hey everyone,

For the #horsebloggers challenge this month we had to take 5 photos throughout one day to sum up that day. These are my 5 photos from today, the beast from the east bought its bad weather our way today so thought I’d take advantage of chance to take some pretty snowy photos, And then one that I think probably sums up most horsey people, the filling up of water containers in the bath tub (sorry mum) because every tap is frozen!

All I can say is roll on summer!

Looking after horses legs…

There’s the age old saying ‘no foot no horse’ which is very true, I also think this is true for legs. If you really think about how fragile the horses legs are and the stresses we put them under its really quite scary, so its our job to do everything we can to help prevent injury, wear and tear on the limbs.

What if horses are born with a certain amount of jumps, twists, turns, spooks, bucks before their legs inevitably get injured? Are some horses genetically predisposed to weaknesses or injury? How much does conformation play a part in injury? Or do all horses have as much chance as the next of injury? All of these questions have had vast and extensive research done to help us try and understand better how we can help to aid recovery of injuries and also hopefully prevent injury happening in the first place.

As grooms we plays vital role in helping to ensure the horses in our care remain injury free. I always get to know the horses legs, I check them probably more than is healthy, but small and subtle changes are so easily missed or over looked, so get to know what lumps and bumps (if any) are normal. Some horses legs fill overnight or if stood in for long periods, is this normal for that horse? Check. So how can we help to try and keep legs healthy and injury free.

Use boots or bandages for exercise to help support the legs. There are pros and cons to both, for example boots are quicker and easier to put on and take off, but maybe don’t give the level of support that bandages do. However badly applied bandages can be detrimental and cause more harm than good. If bandaging, its important to put pads underneath to prevent over tightening, make sure you apply them with even pressure and no rucks or lumps/bumps in the bandages or pads, never apply bandages to wet legs.

Cooling legs after exercise. There are lots of theories regarding which methods work best. There are various options and some great products on the market. Cold hosing is one of the easiest and cheapest options, however this can be quite time consuming as research suggests that you should hose each leg between 5-10 minutes to cool them adequately. Equine spas are brilliant but unfortunately pricey. These are great because they not only cool the legs with a consistent water temperature they also use salt water and have a massage function to help improve circulation and reduce swelling.

As well as cold water options there are some great products available, such as ice boots. These are simple and easy to use and a lot less time consuming as you simply put the boots or the ice pack inserts into the freezer and then when needed take the out and put on the legs, they then stay on for roughly 15/20 minutes thus freeing you up to do other jobs.

There are also cooling gels and clays. These work by drawing the heat away from the limbs and helping to prevent swelling. A lot of the clays can then be bandaged over once dry to add additional support, the clays and gels then need to be washed off after a certain period of time, this differs for each product. Whichever method you chose think about practicality and time constraints, if you are at shows some options aren’t always possible.

Warming up properly is vital to help reduce injuries, increase mobility and elasticity in muscles which will help minimise stress and strain on tendons and ligaments. As well as warming up properly, cooling down is just as important, allowing the horses to stretch after strenuous exercise helps prevent lactic acid build up in muscles, proper walking off will help prevent muscle stiffness and ‘tieing up’. Doing fittening work properly and slowly after a break is imperative as muscle tone, strength and fitness will be lost even if only after a short time.

Using stable bandages overnight and during the day for prolonged periods of stableing can help prevent filling/swelling. The same principles apply with stable bandages, always make sure you apply them correctly especially if being left on over night, and be sure to take them off check the legs and re apply them if they are then staying on during the day.

It can be useful to get others to double check horses legs to make sure you haven’t missed anything. It’s so easy to miss subtle changes especially if you see them everyday, a fresh pair of eyes might pick up on something you haven’t seen.

Turn out as much as possible to keep the limbs moving and help promote blood flow to the area, obviously you don’t want them charging around though. We are lucky enough to have turnout sand pens for when the fields are to wet, these are a god send, the horses cans still be out and have controlled exercise, mooching about. Consider boots to help support the legs during turnout, just think about the style of boots as you want them to be breathable so the legs don’t sweat especially on hot days, make sure to check them regularly that they don’t rub. When we go away to shows I try and have the horses out of the stables as much as possible either hand walking or hand grazing.

If your horse does get injured be sure to act quickly and get veterinary advice as soon as possible. The sooner you spot an issue then you can get it seen before it escalates and becomes worse, it will be easier to treat and recovery quicker. Never cut corners with rehab, it may seem overkill box resting for weeks or months, spending hours cold hosing, months walking etc but if you cut corners at this stage recovery is hindered and is only prolonged.

Veterinary treatments and research has advanced so much in recent years and is developing all the time which Is great news. At the end of the day horses are animals and no matter how much we talk to them and plead with them to be sensible (please tell me its not just me), if they want to have a leap, buck, spin, spook, gallop around the field then we really cant stop them and I believe its important to allow them to be horses and have this ‘play’ time, they aren’t machines. Remember prevention is better than cure!

The Irish National Stud

A couple of weeks ago I was in Dublin and was lucky enough to go out to Tully, Kildare and visit the Irish national stud. There we met David Wardell who showed us around the amazing site and facilities.

The Irish national stud is set in 900 acres of beautiful grounds, it was originally purchased in 1900 by colonel William Hall Walker. He became the most successful breeder of his time, his finest moment being when king Henry VII led Minoru, who was born and raised at the stud, into Epsom’s winners enclosure following victory in the 1909 Derby. In 1915 the stud and all its stock was gifted to the crown and became the national stud. Under new leadership of sir Henry Greer the success continued, with the stud producing the winners of all 5 classics. In 1943 the newly formed Irish government took over the land and buildings, and then in 1945 the Irish National stud company Ltd. Was formed and it officially took over the running of the stud in august 1946.

The stud is beautifully designed with individual yards including specialist yards for stallions, mares and foaling unit. It has a full time on site saddler, we were able to take a look in his workshop where he was hand crafting the leather foal slips ready for the imminent arrivals. Walking in we were hit with that wonderful smell of the best quality leather (one of my favourite smells, strange I know). There is also an on site forge and farrier to ensure all hooves are kept in tip top shape.

The individual yards are beautifully designed around a courtyard with matching stables. The stallion yard houses some amazing horses, it was a real honour to walk along and meet them and hear all about their successes.

Stallion yard

As you may or may not know in the thoroughbred industry breeding is strictly done naturally AI (artificial insemination) is not allowed. As all breeding is done naturally there are strict tests which each mare must undergo before being covered. The stud has stocks, scanners and veterinary facilities on site. To ensure the covering process is undertaken in the safest possible way they have a strict routine in place to ensure both mare and stallion can be protected from risk of injury. The coverings take place in a special building with padded walls and a sand surface, the mares will have back hoof boots put on and a protective pad on their backs, some may also be hobbled, the stallions may have protective hoof boots on as well.

As well as being a successful world famous stud, they also run an internationally renowned breeding course. The first thoroughbred breeding course was held at the stud in 1971 and it remains the best known equine training programme to this day. The aim of the course is to educate young people for a career in the thoroughbred industry. Many of the graduates have been prominent in stud farms throughout the world, training, bloodstock sales, insurance and the media. Unlike university based courses, this one is designed to provide students with a hands on experience and approach to every aspect of breeding. The course starts in February and lasts for 6 months. It is a residential course and the students work on the yards during the day and then there is a lecture very evening from industry experts and specialists.

And of course we couldn’t possibly go there without meeting some of the ‘living legends’, we were lucky enough to be able meet kicking king and beef or salmon and give them some carrots and lots of pats!

If you ever go to Ireland then I highly recommend you visit the Irish national stud, as well as the stud they have Japanese gardens and a museum packed full of wonderful history. If you’re a groom thinking of getting into the breeding or thoroughbred industry then I’d really advise considering the breeding course they run, what a brilliant way of gaining practical experience in one of the best thoroughbred studs in the world.

Below are a couple of links to check out, with a few videos from staff and students at the stud.

Also go and check out the Irish national stud on Facebook and Instagram for regular updates on what’s happening and the latest foal arrivals!