Hi everyone! Here are two questions I've recently been asked.
1. When you are selecting a potential event horse for an advanced amateur rider/a beginner amateur rider, what are your priorities?
When looking at horses for amateur riders, for me the most important thing is temperament. You can forgive movement that is not great or a slightly wonky leg as these horses are not going to have the legs galloped off them in a hurry. I think you need to be very realistic. They also need to be comfortable to sit on so that the rider can learn how to sit really well. So you may end up with slightly ‘flatter’ movement, but again they are not trying to win the Olympics. The amateur rider (well all riders really) need to feel very comfortable on the horse and they should ride it at least 2 or 3 times to really make sure they feel good on the horse.
2. What is your daily/weekly routine with your horses in terms of turn-out, dressage vs jumping vs cross country., etc. With such a busy schedule, what types of things do you do to build your one-on-one relationships with your horses? How important do you think that relationship is in term of your success?
Our horses have a great life at Kirby Park as we have 100 acres. All the horses live outside and we only have 6 stables! And we only use stables from April to when the nights stop being so cold say around October/November. Except Festy, he is boxed every night of the year for two reasons 1. He gets too fat on the grass as he really wants to be a pony and 2. Well aliens may just abduct him during the night! He has no worries being inside on his own, in fact it means he gets all the night time kisses and cuddles and treats (they probably make him fatter than the grass).
My horses get 1 day off per week normally a Monday as it is after a competition. Their basic exercise/work is dressage and then they jump once a week and gallop up to twice a week depending on what level they are and what they are getting prepared for. And if I’m off doing a clinic they will get lunged normally over cavaletti and pole and doing trot work on the hills with my girls. We also go to the beach to gallop every 2nd or 3rd gallop and they really love this.
As soon as the truck ramp comes down and they can see the sea all the horses seem to sigh. They all trot along on a loose rein looking around, no one gets excited or jumpy. We have had as many as 9 in one group before and they just all cruise along like trail ride horses!!
I think it is really important to give then some time out with me every couple of weeks as it is easy to get too intense with them and freak them out. I love my horses and I want them to be enthusiastic about life and work, not just going through the motions. They get lots of Equissage treatment and health light treatment we also ice their legs after exercise and clean them with an “Anivac” animal cleaner. It’s like a carpet cleaner for horses you put a “Pure Oxygen” solution in the water in the Anivac and this really clears up any skin issue especially on those thin skinned chestnuts!!
With my young horses, I tend to do their jumping schooling in chunks. I will jump them 2 or 3 days in a row, not lots of fences in each session, but by doing it a few days in a row they just seem to build understanding and confidence and you don’t feel like you are in a rush to get through too much in each session. As the same is for cross country schooling, I tend not to xc school the older horses too much. I just tune the apex and narrow fences on the show jump arena using plastic drums and poles and set up horrendous lines so whatever they throw at us at 4*, I know that I’ve jumped worse at home.
I don’t get time to catch my horses or tack them up so I find it’s important not to just jump from one horse to the next. I always have a little snuggle with them before I get on and when I get off and always give them a scratch where they personally like it, they all have their favourite spot. I do have a good relationship with all of my horses and I think that it’s important that you have a bond with them because we do ask them to do a huge amount for us and trust us. You can never break that trust and leadership.