Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How to kit your horse out for the year

I may as well start with the summer as that is what we are apparently currently in?! As anyone in England has experienced in the last few years you can need all sorts of rugs to cover you for the summer season!

Again, everybody does things very differently, and please feel free to add your views and comments. Every horse is different, even within our yard (e.g in winter) we have a number of fully clipped out German Warmblood event horses, and even they have completely different rugging systems dependent on their individual needs. Obviously different breeds vary, as well as their routines, (whether they live in or out) and whether or not they are good doers or spend the winter clipped or furry.



Squirrel and Acco enjoying a good scratch after
all those rugs have come off!
During the summer, if it ever gets hot enough, it’s nice if the horses can spend plenty of time without rugs.

Fly rugs

However, if they are out a lot, it is likely that they will need a fly sheet and mask. Most fly sheets are pale in colour or white to help keep them cool, and although they are made out of breathable material, some are shower proof. Saying this if there are repeated downpours, the horse will get very cold as the fly rug will hold in the moisture more than their coat would naturally. So, if you are leaving your horse out overnight or if you’re away all day, just keep an eye on the forecast before leaving them out with a fly rug on.

They are essential to stop midges, horseflies and other insects biting or irritating them, which can cause them to gallop round to try and avoid the fly bites. Obviously galloping round in the middle of summer, with hard ground and hot weather likely, brings it’s own complications.

Fly masks are another highly recommended product, keeping flies out of their eyes and ears, and some of the slightly more expensive fly masks go down as far as their nose, preventing sunburn and fly irritation. This makes horses so much more comfortable, plus can reduce the risk of eye infection, or problems related to them rubbing their eyes. 

Has anyone ever had problems putting their horses’ bridle on in the summer because they become really sensitive around the ears? It’s probably because of the midges. Itch stop cream is great for keeping midges out of the ears and keeping irritation at a minimum.

Squirrel all ready to face the flies!
(Minus fly mask for photo)
There are many different features of fly rug and fly mask to suit all kinds of budget. I’ve had my weatherbeeta fly rugs and Roma fly masks for 6 years and despite a few rips they look as good as new. There are no faults with weatherbeeta, but if I was to buy again, I would buy premier equine fly rugs, and probably their masks as well; they do a  lot of research and have pretty advanced technology. The fly masks are huge around the eyes, but have two chin straps, meaning you don’t need to squash the horses’ eyes, causing rubbing, to keep them on. They also go down over the nose.

Fly rugs are handy because they are breathable, you can turn a horse out wearing one that you’ve just washed off; putting a wet horse out in scorching sun can cause it’s skin to burn, particularly thin coated or sensitive horses.


The other benefit of fly rugs is keeping coat colour and shine. Unfortunately for horses who need to look nice all year round, they spend a lot of time wearing rugs. Black horses go lighter or orange if exposed to sunlight, so to keep a dark coat very dark, fly rugs are great to keep the sunlight off without the horse getting too hot. Sadly to keep a fine, shiny coat, they need to be kept slightly too hot all the time (although not so they are sweating.)  It depends on what you compete in and your preferences.
Jungle enjoying the September sunshine...
His spring dapples have gone but he stays shiny

My black stallion stayed pretty black when exposed in sunlight apart from getting yellow dapples on his tummy, which we really liked so we just left him in the sun. However, poor Tiny has to be rugged up nose to tail all the time when she’s in the sun to keep her coat really black. Squirrel gets blonde highlights and goes almost palomino in spring and deep chestnut in winter, so we leave him without rugs (but with fly mask) whenever it’s hot and sunny.

Waterproof Rugs

It is vital to have a lightweight and medium weight turnout rug, as summer can throw all sorts of strange weather. Sometimes it can rain so persistently that you can find yourself with a soaked through lightweight turnout rug and nothing else to put on while that’s drying. Even in the middle of summer, the last few years have been so cold and wet, that overnight my horses’ have worn their winter heavyweights with necks, and not been too hot.

Former ride Rigo prepares for another wet summer!


Tiny drying after her pre-Badminton bath
Quite often it’s nice to think that you won’t need any rugs during the day, but quite often a fleece or lightweight stable rug ends up being needed.

It can be useful to have a sweat rug, for those days that aren’t that cold, but just something to cover their backs when it’s not that warm either.

Overnight, quite often just a fleece or lightweight stable rug will do, but again the weather can be so changeable, often a heavier stable rug can be required, particularly if trying to keep the horses a bit too warm to keep their coats nice.



Again turnout, weather and coat dependent – my horses tend to be pretty heavily rugged up, plus they go out for long periods of time every day (with hay), so need to be kept warm.

In the middle of winter on a very cold/snowy day when my horses are fully clipped, Tiny, who I would consider to be a ‘hot horse’, would wear a fleece, thick stable rug with neck, thick stable rug and heavyweight turn out rug with neck.

Tiny thinks the snow is the best fun ever!

Leo, who really struggles with the cold, would wear 2 fleeces, a lightweight stable rug, a heavyweight stable rug with neck, a heavyweight stable rug without neck and a heavyweight turnout rug with neck.


Last winter he got very cold and ended up also wearing his bandages in the field. This is not really advisable as a horse can panic if a bandage starts to unravel, and obviously this is really dangerous if it starts to gallop round the field with half an unrolled bandage following it. So, if you are going to do this, make sure you’re on the yard and can see the field that horse is in the whole time that it’s out with bandages on, make sure the Velcro is well taped, and make sure you know the horses’ character, and consider whether or not to leave a headcollar on in case you may need to catch it quickly.

All my horses’ are used to being turned out in individual paddocks, but led out in a group of 3 or 4 (again only advisable with well-behaved horses who you know and they don’t kick), so they are used to having to wait while I put the other one in the field, meaning they learn how to deal with treading on their ropes and not panicking etc, so I know Leo is unlikely to react to a loose bandage.

I turn them out like this for a number of reasons; obviously with co-operative horses this is extremely time saving if you have a long walk to your fields, but don’t want to turn horses out together; but also I think if you can teach them to get used to being loose with a rope,

1st - if you fall off their first reaction is just to graze and they are very easy to catch (tried and tested), and
2nd - if for any reason they get loose at a competition or if you fall of while riding, and they tread on their rein, they are used to the feeling of just moving their feet to remove the pressure, rather than just panicking and pulling their head up, either breaking a very expensive rein, or if it doesn’t break, dealing with what can be a very nasty injury, which can be as bad as a broken jaw.

Not everyone agrees with this theory but I have most of my horses from a young age and know their characters well.

Anyway, back to rugs!

Obviously regularly check the temperature and feel under your horse’s rugs regularly and work between the amount of summer and winter rugs depending on the weather, type of horse and type of clip.

With a non clipped, roughed off horse, no rug or just a medium weight turnout should do for the whole winter, particularly with native breeds. Saying that, it is advisable to have more than one rug if the horse wears one all the time just in case it gets soaked through and needs to be changed. Squirrel had the winter off and despite being a dressage poof who’s used to living in, he survived a hard winter in a field very fat and fluffy with just a medium weight with neck.

Squirrel and Pig enjoy the snow at home
Clipped or not clipped, if it’s snowing and the horse is kept warm all the time, I really like to turn them out for a bit with no rugs on to have a nice roll and play in the snow. Obviously don’t do this with a horse that’s difficult to catch as it could get very cold! I’d leave them for a maximum of 5/10 minutes just to have a roll and a play. They love this when they spend their whole time with rugs on.


Everybody does this differently too; personally I keep the same rugs on in the stable as they have on in the field (but they come off once to be ridden and a second time for their groom in the afternoon/evening.) It’s not advisable to leave the same set of rugs on all the time in the field or the stable and even if they are not in work or not being groomed they should be taken off and put back on at least once a day to prevent rubbing and irritation.

The reason mine live with the same rugs on is because:

·         This way a turnout rug that is wet on the outside  is dried out (if you take it off but have nowhere to dry it out, the moisture can seep through to the inside and you can end up with a damp cold rug to put on your horse.) This means you don’t need a second heavyweight turnout rug if the horse comes in every night as it will always be dry by the time you turn it back out again.

·         It saves lots of time in the morning; the horses can just be fed and turned out.

·         I always think that overnight out of the wind in the stable is usually roughly the same temperature as during the day out in the wind in the field, so as there is no necessity to change the number of rugs/warmth level, why change the turnout rug, which is only the top rug anyway to a different top rug; adding more unnecessary work and costing more money as each horse would then need an extra stable rug.

If it gets really cold, an old-fashioned whitney blanket can provide a lot of warmth, as can ‘thermatex ears’, which are good for regulating temperature.

Rambo have invented a ‘combo’ rug, which is a turnout rug with a detachable neck, and also a detachable lining, which means the rug can be made warmer or colder as and when necessary without the horse wearing two or three separate rugs.

A few things to consider

Gets quite cold at Boomerang sometimes!
Look at your horse's weight - if it's fat it won't need so many layers to provide warmth, plus being a little bit cold will help it to lose weight. If it's skinny, then keep it as warm as possible without overheating it so that as little energy as possible can be wasted on keeping warm.

Take your barn/stable into consideration, as well as your clip and type of rugs. For example, my current yard at Boomerang is quite drafty, so although I strongly believe this is fantastic for the horses' health, we need to keep them well rugged. However, they are brilliantly cool in the summer. 

Last winter, Squirrel was in a very warm stable, which although well ventilated, was not drafty. Combined with his trace clip and the warmth that a heavyweight Rambo stable rug provides, he spent most of a cold winter just in that stable rug. 

Play around with different rugs directly on the skin - I like to have a fleece directly on their skin, but sometimes a well designed stable rug will be warmer. 

Squirrel in his warm stable wearing just one rug

Exercise Sheets

I always like to have two types of exercise sheet in my yard, one removable waterproof exercise sheet and one under-the-saddle fleecy one, either a material like Bijou make, or a newmarket fleece. (If you have more than one horse I would recommend a few of each for hacking days in the torrential rain, and so they can be washed regularly). 

The waterproof one can be thin or fleece lined. Personally I don't see the point in just a waterproof sheet, as if it's not cold enough to use a fleece, it probably isn't cold enough to worry about the horse getting wet. 

The fleece is great for the drier cold days or for the absolutely freezing days when you can put the fleece under the waterproof exercise sheet. 
Acco has a play in the snow
(Not reccomended, we did this for picture purpose only!)

I don't put a fillet string on the fleece exercise sheet; as it is not removable; you can pull it up/forward and sit on it if it gets too hot if there is no fillet string stopping you from doing that. It is unlikely you would use this fleece on it's own on a wet and windy day so therefore it is unlikely to blow up and frighten the horse.

I would however ensure there is a fillet string on the waterproof sheet. The removable sheet can be taken off if it gets too hot to need it, plus if you are on a very windy hack miles from home, at least it won't blow right up all over the place and potentially cause an accident. 

Competing and Travelling - winter and summer

After spending ages bathing and plaiting them, make sure you have something to cover it with! I always bandage down over socks, if they are short socks, as long as the bandage isn't too tight round the tendon, you can bandage just the area of the sock, so for example from the middle over the cannon bone down over the hoof.

I would also strongly recommend a 'horse hoodie' to keep the plaits clean and straight. Not all horses like these and it can make them rub, but for the majority they are life savers! Also, stains can make their way through these, so just to be sure (and if it's not too hot) a turnout rug with a neck is a must-have as well or instead as a cheaper alternative.

Sometimes these hoods can get quite tight round the eyes, but just tie the middle bit closer together with string and it won't rub the eyes.

Squirrel all bathed and ready to go -
above and below

For travelling, again horse (temperament and temperature) and weather dependent - Leo in winter would travel in 2 fleeces and a stable rug, Tiny (in winter) in a thin sheet - this is just because they cope with temperature differently, but also Leo is really laid back mentally and although Tiny stands on the lorry impeccably, she is very excited about what's coming next so she gets too hot with too many rugs.

Squirrel, JP and King at Twesledown
Most of the time, a sheet or thin fleece will do, occasionally 2 if it's cold, and in the summer, often no rug is fine. Horses have to work quite hard to stand travelling and there is lots of body warmth in a small space so they should wear less than they would in the stable but it is important to still keep their muscles warm. 

Take extra rugs in case it rains while you are waiting around outside, or in case you break down or are waiting (stationary) at the show for a long time. We had an incident once which meant the horse had to stay at the competition overnight and it was snowing, but luckily I had brought all his night rugs and bandages.


Summer RugsField

·         Fly Rug
·         Fly Mask
·         Lightweight turnout
·        Medium weight turnout


·         Fleece/Sheet
·         Sweat rug
·         Light weight stable rug
·         Medium weight stable rug

Winter RugsFieldFluffy horses living out

·         Medium weight turnout rug/maybe with detachable neck
·         Heavyweight stable rug/with detachable neck

Clipped horses being turned out

·         Fleece
·         Lightweight stable rug
·         Medium weight stable rug
·         Heavyweight stable rug with neck
·         Heavyweight stable rug
·         Medium weight turnout rug with detachable neck
·         Heavyweight turnout rug with neck
·         Not all these are needed at the same time but are useful under rugs and cheaper than buying loads of separate turnout rugs. Depends on the type of horse and type of clip.

Stable (clipped horses)

·         Fleece
·         Lightweight stable rug
·         Medium weight stable rug/with or without neck
·         Heavyweight stable rug with neck
·         Heavyweight stable rug

·         Turnout rugs are fine in the stable if you need extra rugs but don’t want to buy any more stable rugs

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How to groom a horse thoroughly (on a day-to-day basis)

*More pictures coming soon*


Everybody grooms their horses slightly differently and even sometimes the same person grooms different horses differently depending on their individual likes and dislikes.

My routine would vary depending on the season and the timing – for example, if you are grooming before riding in them middle of winter, sometimes the priority is just to get all the mud off! But usually, with clipped out rugged horses, or in the summer, when grooming before riding, presentation is important to us being based at Boomerang stables where so many outside people come and go - and obviously the horse needs to be comfortable, so no mud/dirt on areas where tack will sit. This means that my routine is tailored to that – before riding, we get the feet picked out and oiled and mane and tail brushed, because if we then run out of time at least they look well presented.

After riding, it's important that the horse gets a good stimulating groom, with all the sweat from work removed.

Before Riding


I find it’s always good to start with spraying the tail with mane and tail conditioner (if necessary), because this way, by the time you come to brush the tail, it’s dry and detangled. Unless your horse has a very long thick mane, or is never going to be plaited or pulled, don’t put mane and tail conditioner in the mane! It is virtually impossible to pull or plait!

Then I usually pick out their feet and oil them with cheap but shiny hoof oil.

Then brush the mane over to the right (unless you have a really stubborn left sided mane when sometimes on a daily basis it’s just easier to keep it on the wrong side). If it bothers you that the mane is on the wrong side, down plait it over to the right. By brushing the mane before the body, this also means that any mud or dirt that falls out of the mane doesn’t fall onto your clean horse, it falls onto a dirty neck that you are about to groom, saving you from brushing it twice.

By now the mane and tail conditioner should have worked in the tail. I use a hair brush, or a plastic curry comb, but you can get specialist tail brushes for horses. You can also use a dandy brush to avoid pulling out more tail than necessary.

Twist the tail from the bottom of the dock to the bottom of the tail and then brush the bottom section until there are no tangles left, untwist it a little, brush that next section and continue like this until you can brush it from top to bottom. This way, you don’t rip the hair out and the tail stays thick. Some people don’t like to brush tails on a daily basis, but I think if you keep them soft with mane and tail conditioner, it doesn’t do
much damage and looks really nice. What do you do?

My massage brush doesn't look very well any more
but the horses love it!


I then like to start on the body with my lovely massage brush that I bought years ago on a trip to America, massaging the horse in circular movements all over it’s body. The horse will tell you how he likes it, but most of them really enjoy it and you can press really hard as you massage them!

This has a similar effect to a curry comb, working loose hair and grease to the surface of the skin so it’s easy to flick off with the body brush later.

This also switches the horses’ off and gets them really relaxed and enjoying their groom!

When all the dust and hair is raised to the surface, you can then flick it off with a body brush. If the horse still looks dusty, get a damp hot towel or microfibre cloth and just gently wipe this over the skin, which should help to lift any further dust and grease off. When done daily, there shouldn’t be very much dust anyway, but if the horse is really bad it might need a bath before starting a daily grooming routine.
This bobbly brush is brilliant for getting mud off clipped horses

If the horse is caked in mud when you start, use a dandy brush on a non-clipped (and to an extent, not so sensitive) horse to quickly remove most of the mud. There are lots of mud removing brushes available now so this is just down to personal preference – I have a different massage brush which is more bobbly, which is very useful to get mud off clipped horses. Some people use a grooming glove – what is your preference? Please feel free to add anything I might have missed!


I then have a third, softer massage brush that the horses really enjoy being used on their faces. Once I’ve lifted all the hair and dirt off the face, mine are a bit spoilt and have a goat’s hair face brush, which is really soft (and not actually necessary!) for flicking off the hair and dust. A body brush or normal face brush does just as good a job.

Softer massage brush, ideal for their face
(A bit dusty!!)

I also always have baby wipes in my grooming box for cleaning eyes, noses and under the tail! Slightly more expensive than the conventional sponge, but I find more hygienic and quicker.

Now your horse should be feeling fresh and looking great!


Oiling the heel
I would use this routine where possible before riding, and/or as an evening groom. The only difference in the evening is that I would put Effol Hoof Ointment on the inside, outside and heel of the hoof, as I believe the hoof oil is great for presentation, but Effol is brilliant for the condition of the feet. The other thing is I would put sudocreme around the corners of the mouth, inside and outside where the bit sits; just to keep the mouth soft and heal any minor rubbing before it has a chance to get sore.

After Riding

Immediately after riding, the routine is slightly different. If the horse isn’t really sweating, it can either have it’s full ‘evening’ groom then, but usually I like to go over them thoroughly with the massage brush and then either turn them out or leave them in the stable, where possible with no rug so they can have a nice roll.

If they’re sweating, I like to wash them off with warm water, with some lavender wash in the water.

Lavender wash is soothing and relaxing and helps draw out any excess dirt or sweat.

Rugs whilst grooming

If it’s the middle of winter or even just very cold, particularly if the horse is clipped, it’s really important that it has a rug over it at all times. Grooming tends not to be a 30 second mission and it’s not fair on the horse for you to be wrapped up in a scarf, coat, hat and gloves working away while he’s standing there naked in the freezing cold – unless of course you are fortunate enough to have a solarium at the yard.

I tend to rug my horses up a lot, so when grooming I would take all their rugs off, find a heavyweight stable rug within that pile of rugs and put it back on without doing any straps up. To do the neck, shoulder and most of the back, just fold the rug back over the hindquarters. To groom the hindquarters and top of the tail etc, just fold the rug forward so it’s covering the middle section of the horse’s back. Although it is important to let their skin breathe a bit, when 23 hours of the day they are suffocated by rugs, it is bad to let them get cold and cause the muscles to tense.

Grooming at shows

At shows, we have a slightly different grooming routine. The horses are already pristine from lots of washing, so they just need final touch-ups before they get going.

First we put studs in, then get cleaning – we have chalk for any white bits (socks and face markings), baby wipes for any stray chalk dust and for your hands, then, after chalking, you’ll know why when you do it the wrong way round, we put black hoof polish on (all feet including white – but this is down to personal preference).

While waiting for the black hoof oil to dry, we do the quarter marks, wetting the hindquarters with a sponge, then doing the quarter marks and sharks teeth with a firm body brush, then spraying quick plait spray over the finished quarter marks to keep the hair set (similar effect to hair spray.)

Then we brush out the tail, which having been loosely plaited the night before, should fluff out really well. Then we baby wipe the nose and eyes to make sure they’re really clean, then apply baby oil to make them shiny. The last thing before we go is to apply shiny hoof oil over the now dry black hoof oil to give a really nice touch.

Everybody does things differently – this is how I present them out eventing - please add your ideas and comments. I have picked up different ideas along the way but there’s always more to learn and reasons why people do or don’t do certain things, so I hope you’ve found this blog helpful and feel free to add anything I may have missed.



·         Tail spray
·         Pick out feet
·         Hoof oil
·         Brush tail (twist and brush from bottom to top, then brush through)
·         Brush mane over to the right
·         Massage in circles all over body including legs with massage brush
·         Flick off the dirt with the body brush
·         Massage in circles on the face with soft massage brush
·         Flick off the dirt with small body brush/goats hair brush

·         AFTER RIDING

·         If not sweating
-         Massage brush
·         Body brush
·         Sudocrem on mouth

·         If sweating
·         Lavendar wash and hot water
·         Sweat scrape
·         Sudocrem on mouth

·         *Rugs whilst grooming* (Cold days/clipped horses)

·         All rugs off
·         Thick stable rug on, fold back to groom neck and back, fold forward to do hindquarters
·         Fully on (doesn’t necessarily need to be done up) for neck/face/mane

·         Competition Grooming

·         Chalk
·         Black hoof oil
·         Quarter Marks
·         Tail
·         Baby wipe and oil nose and eyes
·         Shiny Hoof oil

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How to ensure you are prepared for disasters! (Albeit minor ones!)


Been really busy recently with a good weekend at Mattingley - Squirrel jumped calmly round the BE100 (an achievement in itself!), Armani was 2nd and JP was 6th. 

Squirrel at Mattingley

As I write this we are on our way to Aston-Le-Walls (it’s currently 5:12am...) with 3 young horses. It’s been a really busy last few days and I was working on my own yesterday, with 7 horses to do, 3 to ride, 3 to wash and plait and prepare stud holes for today and then we had to leave at 5pm for an evening show with two others.

It was pretty full on and the last thing I needed was to bring one of the eventers in and find blood running down both front legs. On closer inspection I could see it was a pretty big and deep cut, and the leg was swelling pretty quickly around the tendon, so I called the vet and thought of alternative plans for taking another horse to fill his spot.

The vet had a good look and palpitation, and confirming that he was not sore and was sound, she said to take him. We cold hosed his leg, cleaned him up, applied Flamazine cream and bandaged him. I am so glad I had a very organised vet box at the ready - it’s so important to have a full vet kit as well as lots of spares. 

You can’t plan for accidents and often there isn’t enough time to go and buy first aid items when they do occur. It can also save you a lot of money – he would not be going eventing today if we didn’t have the correct equipment to keep the cut clean and as pain free as possible.

Equine Vet Kit Essentials

I would say a vital equine vet kit checklist would be:

Animalintex - This what you would use as a poultice to draw infection out of a wound

Veterinary  gamgee – A pad to go under bandages or over a poultice to provide support to the injured area, plus this can be put straight onto an infected or discharging wound.

Bandages – Quite often it’s a good idea to bandage the leg where the injury has occurred, even if the injury is above or below the bandage. Either veterinary gamgee or normal gamgee can be used under the bandage, but if it’s normal gamgee make sure this doesn’t go directly on a cut as it is not clean and the cut could get infected.

Cotton Wool – Great for cleaning cuts with hibiscrub mixed with boiling hot water (allow to cool before applying, but boiling the water makes it sterile, or cleaning eyes and noses with warm water.

Vetwrap – Is a cohesive bandage ideal for wrapping over veterinary gamgee, particularly as if the horse moves you don’t lose the whole bandage and have to start again, as it sticks to itself.

Hibiscrub – Is an antiseptic, antimicrobial cleansing wash, most commonly used on horses when they have a cut that either is infected, or has the potential to become infected. Mix with boiling water in a sterilised container and apply to the horse’s cut with clean cotton wool (once the water has cooled down!)

Saline Solution – A very sterile water based spray for thorough cleansing of the wound.

Purple Spray – An antiseptic spray, ideal for horses who are sore and won’t let you touch the injured area. Don't miss though or you will be purple! 

Sudocrem – An antiseptic healing cream. Essential part of any vet, can be used for almost any minor cut or graze, sore or irritated mouths and can be used as one of the many treatments of mud fever.

Wound Cream – Some form of cream that is antiseptic and ideally should have healing properties is essential.

Wound Powder -  Wound powder is an antiseptic healing powder for cuts that ideally need drying out, for example, a cut around or below the fetlock as this is most likely to get wet.

Scissors and Hoofpick – You’d be surprised how much you need them!

Tape – Ideal for putting over vetwrap or bandages so they don’t come undone, particularly in wet weather vetwrap isn’t as sticky!

Metal Bowl – A small stainless steel bowl is the most sterile material to use for the hot water and hibiscrub.

Syringe – A large syringe is always useful for flushing out wounds or squirting medication powders mixed with water into the horse’s mouth (always tilt the head up when doing this).

Twitch – May not be necessary but if you need it you can guarantee you won’t be able to find it! A useful tool to put the horse in a trance like state, if they won’t keep still or you’re dealing with a difficult area such as a cut on the hock.These are possible to make out of bailing string and a bit - tie a piece of string around the ring of the bit and then put the string round the lip, twist the bit round and clip it onto the head collar. Make sure you use an extra (double ended) clip, to clip to the bit and the headcollar, so that if you are tying up the horse or even holding it, you aren't tying it to the twitch as this could be very dangerous. Some horses react badly to a twitch and it is often safer to have someone holding them.

This wouldn’t necessarily be the same for everyone, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be without those items!

Anyway, now on our way back, I’m pleased to report they all went really well, the two 5yo’s (Tiny and Leo) doing their first BE100’s had good dressages and clear showjumping, Leo was double clear, Tiny was caught out by a distance to a skinny and just didn’t make the skinny (but as her name suggests, she’s only little!) Her greenness showed a bit the whole way round so she may drop back down to intro for a few runs.

Tiny in the SJ at Aston

My 6yo ride was only kept out of placings by time faults cross country, which I was pretty pleased with, as he performed solidly in all three phases. I noticed a huge improvement from all of them in this early part of the season . So, looking forward to the next event!

Cosmo flying round the XC

Friday, June 7, 2013

Packing for your competitions

How to make sure you have got everything!


Off eventing again this morning! Slightly later than usual – it’s 6am and we didn’t leave until 5:30! Today the babies are doing the 5yo class at Ascott-Under-Wychwood. They haven’t made an appearance since Badminton so it could be quite exciting!

It’s been manic up at Boomerang recently; I’ve got 8 horses in and I’ve been working on my own (until today!! :D as my new working pupil is starting), but although it’s hard work and (very!) long hours, I’m very lucky that I love what I do and have no complaints about my job. It will be nice to have someone helping though.

We had a clinic at Boomerang with JP Sheffield the other day – this was great fun and hugely informative. I had 6 lessons with JP and 2 with Russ Hardy that day, and by 8pm and the last lesson, I think it’s fair to say I had run out of petrol. It had literally been 3 lessons with JP, run and put studs in, XC lesson with Russ, 2 more lessons with JP, studs, XC, last lesson with JP! But all the horses went really well and the day ran really smoothly.

Armani at Aston Le Walls 
As we have now had our first day of summer (took Britain a while to get going this year), I thought it would be a good idea to do a competition packing list – whether you do dressage, show jumping or eventing, hopefully this will be useful to those of you who are hoping to go out competing this season.

Packing Ideas

It is well worth having a reliable checklist with a tick box for finding the item, and then another tick for when it’s actually in the lorry or the car. How many times have you got to the show and found you’ve left something behind? Or worse, thought about it, thought you’ve packed it and then got to the show and you can picture where it is at home. I have left jackets and boots at home numerous times, but a few years ago when I had a pony and my one GP saddle – I managed to leave my saddle behind…Possibly the most stressful day of my life! My 14.2h pony racing pony was borrowing my friend’s 17h’s dressage saddle (including too big girth). Let’s just say it went downhill from that moment on!

White Walker going into the lead
at Hambleden in the CIC*
So, the best thing I find is to picture you and your horse in your arena…


Imagine you in your light jodphurs, polished riding boots (therefore remembering to pack the boots and the polish!), spurs if necessary, jacket (tweed/navy/top hat and tails depending on the level), stock, stock shirt and stock pin and your hairnet and hat. What colour gloves do you have to wear? Eventing you can wear a variety of colours but in pure dressage they need to be light coloured.

Think about your number – if eventing you will need a number bib, which will mean you need to remember your start fee. For dressage this may be a bridle or numnah number, so make sure you have bought this in advance. At events you can often buy a number bib, but it’s best not to leave it to chance! (Showjumping can vary, but numbers are usually provided.)

Looking Pretty

Then imagine what your horse is going to look like, plaited or unplaited? (Plaited is usually more respected and sometimes compulsory). What tack is it going to wear? Picture your numnah, any boots or bandages for the warm up and any extras your horse might specifically need. By doing this you will remember your saddle stand, bridle hanger and tack cleaner (hopefully!). Don’t forget the girth! In this image your horse should also be hoofoiled and quartermarked, and if on grass, maybe studded. It is a good idea to have a ‘last minute box’, containing a few grooming brushes, a tail brush, extra plaiting bands, baby wipes, chalk, hoof oil, quarter mark stencils and spray, a sponge, boot polish and a towel.
Shiny Tiny all ready to go!

Show Jumping

Leo at Ascott Under Wychwood 5yo class
Luckily, once you know you have all these things, the rest is fairly easy. For showjumping, again try and picture yourself. Do you have a tack change? If so, remember to pack everything, neckstrap, martingale, bit change, different numnah, saddle, girth/stud girth? Does your horse wear boots? I find it really handy to have a ‘boot box’, complete with tendon boots and cross country boots. This way you don’t lose a pair of loose boots in the lorry. Are you changing your studs? Then what about you? I find it easier to just wear exactly the same for dressage and SJ, I literally just pick up a show jumping whip
Think also if you need spurs, and if you’re not sure you’re better off taking them with you just in case! If you do change your jacket, or for any reason take your number off, make sure you put it back on!

Cross Country

Tiny at Ascott Under Wychwood 5yo class
Fully colour coded!
Then for cross country, you will need your cross countryboots, any tack changes and then the most important bit – your colours! I try to colour code everything, including matching tape on their boots and a cross-country browband, as well as my hat silk and body protector. Again, remember your number - I don't know how many readers have been to Ascott Under Wychwood but that is a very long walk back when you're wearing the wrong horse's number as I learnt last week! Also when thinking what to pack for cross country, think of the aftercare – everybody’s different and has different ways of doing things (and please feel free to post/comment how you treat your horses after cross country). 

Tiny helping us get ready for XC, showing how
small she really is!
I tend to put a wet tea towel directly onto the leg, a freezer bag (pre-frozen!) on the back of the leg and then wrap that round using a tail bandage. Depending on how many horses you take (we often take 4), leg bandages or even just putting their XC boots back on over the ice may be more convenient. Then after between 10-20 minutes, the ice comes off and goes back in the cool bag, and we put Gold Label ‘Witch Hazel and Arnica Gel’ on the legs and then just bandage directly over that. This is the only product I have found where the legs are actually cold when you take the bandages off the next morning, plus arnica has anti-bruising properties.

I have a range of water buckets at the ready pre-cross country for afterwards – one for plain drinking water, one drinking water with a scoop of electrolytes in it, a bucket (or two) of warm water with a sponges and a sweatscraper for washing off. We usually take a few cold water containers and 2 which we fill with very hot water on the morning. Then another bucket full of tack cleaning equipment so you can clean your tack before going back and one other bucket with a sponge for cleaning the cross country boots.
JP flying round his first event at Aston

After cross country

Our usual routine after cross country would be to get the boots and tack off the horse, fully wash off with warm water and wash the legs thoroughly with cold water, sweat scrape, sweat rug on, ice, offer a small drink, studs out, studs washed, dried, vaselined and back in their box, offer another drink, wash the XC boots and leave them on the ramp or on some string to dry, swap ice for gel and bandages, offer another drink, give a haynet and rug up if necessary. XC boots away and clean tack. We usually work on the routine of safety, comfort, order (thank you Anita! ;) ) Get the tack off and put away and the horse either tied up or being held; make sure the horse is comfortable; then tidy up.


Then there are a variety of essential extras needed – most notably your passport. Not only is it illegal to transport a horse without a passport with a hefty penalty fine, but if you are asked to present your passport at the event, your horse’s vaccinations need to be up to date. This can be easy to let slip so if you just check in advance before each event you shouldn’t go wrong. Unfortunately I have been caught out with vaccination dates recently and although only a few days out, I had managed to miss it and my horse can’t compete for a month L

Fun Day Out!

Then think of your day, if you are lucky enough to have someone with you, do you have a camera they can film you with? You can learn so much from being videoed and watching your strengths and your mistakes. If you have enough time, why not take a picnic! I appreciate nerves can unfortunately spoil a picnic but sometimes after your event on a beautiful sunny day it can be a lovely thing to do.


Think about the lorry – do you take bedding and haynets? We always put a deep bed of straw in the lorry and they have hay on the way there and before they compete, and haylage after and for the way home. We have a ‘hay bag’ which fits 5 massive haynets so the homeward haynets can travel in the living in the hay bag.  We also always take a plastic feed bag and a poo scoop for skipping out during the day.

Everybody has their own beliefs on this – I strongly believe horses should always have the option of eating forage, and we never travel without hay, and for a long day, we like them to have bedding to encourage them to pee and avoid kidney problems and general discomfort. It is always interesting to hear what other people do though and their reasons for it?

Tiny's co-operating?!
Having written about forgetting things, I managed to leave my ‘dressage box’ behind, with my stock, pin, hairnets, gloves and TEST! Still, it was a great day with the babies putting up exceptional performances, both scoring personal bests in their dressage, even though Tiny felt wild and then both jumping smart double clears. Leo led for most of the day but his 6 time faults caught him out in the end and we ended up 9th.


·         Think of a range of different boxes to keep things tidy and in order)
·         Dressage box – (e.g. Stock, pin, gloves, hairnet, BD folder/BE handbook, spurs)
·         Boot Box – (e.g. SJ and XC boots, sponge and string (to wash and dry the XC boots))
·         XC Box – (e.g. Boot tape, cooling gel, hat silk, stopwatch, eventing grease)
·         Last minute Box – (e.g. hoof oil, brushes, extra plaiting bands etc)
·         ‘Eventing Box’ – (Mine includes – number bibs, passport folder, body protector, Point Two Air Jacket, whip and stud box)
·         Stud Box- (e.g. Studs, spanner, magnetic stud bowl, cotton wool, tap, screwdriver (or farrier’s nail but a screwdriver is WAAYYYY easier!))
·         Bandage/Haynet box – Depends on whether you travel them there in bandages or not, I find it useful to take a box full of bandages, put the bandages on and fill the empty box with empty haynets.
·         Tack, Bridle Rack and Saddle Stand
·         Any extras that may be specific to your horse

Hope I haven’t forgotten anything, happy competing!!