Tuesday, December 28, 2010

So what will 2011 bring?

First off, for the racing world the year could well open with Kauto Star winning the King George VI chase for the fifth time running.  A first for any four legged beast.  

The eventing season this year is also welcoming two new venues.  Both are major gains for the northern eventing scene with "Hopetoun International" hosting 2 international classes.  Burgham Horse festival will have classes up to novice as well as showjumping and showing.  By the way - the grand prix has a £12,000 prize pot!! Having eventing and showjumping classes on the same day always helps make the most of the day and helps the gate numbers, so there's plenty to be pleased with there.  

Eventing also sees some changes to withdrawals and entries this year - although the changes weren't as grand as some had hoped.  As always there's the worry of keeping sponsors and in particular the World Cup Series could have issues this coming year.  Personally I'd like to see more prize money on offer at events.  Eventing's not a cheap sport and never will be so it would be good to see some better prize money at the lower levels.  £100 may seem a lot but when it costs £70 to enter it's somewhat swallowed up... There's also been a re-shuffling of the entire junior system which offers greater training opportunities across the board.  

 On the hunting front there's always that chance of repealing the hunting ban.  The bottom line at the moment seems to be that even if it doesn't affect you directly the ban is a bit of a waste of money...and police time... I think it's fair to say that if things happen on that one they'll be a gargantuan party of vast proportions... although there could also be the unpleasant "anti" associated troubles as well...

The dressage world is also holding its breath as it awaits the Totilas story to unfold further.  Not just because Totilas will stand at stud but because he'll be out on the circuit with a different rider - gulp.  No pressure.  

Across the board, 2011 is a pre Olympic year.  Things matter now.  If you're going to win a 4* nows the time to do it.  However, to quote an old saying, "Form is temporary, Class is permanent".  I wouldn't be surprised to see a few of the old faces on that podium come 2012.  

Trouble is that's only the horse world... We all know too well the turmoil the world seems to be in at the moment.  2011 will see this unfold before us.  Will England stay on top or will we fall from grace?  Whatever happens in 2011 whether we like it or not we're all stuck in it together.  So on our little island in the North Sea perhaps we'll pull it out the bag, show the world and reveal that bit of class that really is permanent.  That is forever England.  


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We would LOVE your help!!

Equishopping.com really needs your votes in the Equestrian Social Media awards.  

We're going for quite a few sections.  

  • Section 2 - Facebook Campaign

  • Section 3 - Twitter Account

  • Section 11 - The 'talking animal' section.  This is of course Rodi, our resident talking horse's, favourite section.  

  • Section 12 - Most informative.  Check out some of our past blog articles.  We think they're extremely informative.  

  • Section 15 - The newcomers section.  The UK branch of Equishopping.com is still growing so we would love some votes in this section.  

To vote you need to follow the instructions HERE.  It'll only take you a few minutes to vote and we'd love to get into the top 10!

Voting closes in a few days time so VOTE, VOTE, VOTE -

Plus, everyone at Equishopping would like to wish all our readers a very merry Christmas!! (and of course a fabulous New Year.)  

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Olympia - Why Britain still hosts the best show world over.

There's been a lot of talk recently about how events are finding it difficult to run through a recession and the cost of equestrian sport etc etc... However, as we speak the christmas extravangaza that is Olympia rages on.  But why is Olympia so successful? 

The quality of the competition is the same as else where - Just look at the entries for the FEI World Cup Qualifier which has some of the best riders in the world.  With that competition goes the suspence.  

Having been to see the Nations Cup at the Dublin Horse show a few years back I remember very clearly watching Nick Skelton and Arco jump.  An absolutely packed stadium of rowdy and happy people fell totally silent to the extent where you really could have heard a pin drop as everyone watched with their heart in their mouths.  When he finished there was somewhat of an explosion.  Olympia's the same except there's a difference.  When you watch Olympia the crowd are genuinely happy and there's a party atmosphere so when you do get that elusive clear round in the top classes there's proper appaulause - like serious celebrations...

Then there's that location thing.  London may not be one of the most exotic location in the world compared to the sun, sea and sand location of some shows on the continent but its got something quite special.  I've always though it quite strange to go to London to watch showjumping.  Central london showjumping has that magic factor, only the British could put a show smack bang in the middle of our biggest city.  

Plus, at Olympia there's entertainment in excess.  Go anywhere else and, yes, they'll be stands and stallion parades but at Olympia there's all that and more.  Put it this way - Olympia got the cast of the critically acclaimed West End show "War Horse" to perform the finale.  They just go a step further.  By the way, if you haven't seen "War Horse" it's well worth going to see. You can buy tickets here.  

We've got the proof as well.  Check out Olympia's sponsors which range from the Hilton to Renault.  As a business venture Olympia's great as it's totally sustainable.  As long as we can get a World Cup qualifier there'll be other international classes.  So you can jump at Olympia and do some world ranking climbing if you play your cards right.  So Olympia makes for a very profitable week.  If we get the world's best turning up we'll pull in the crowds and the sponsors and the prize money will be there.  The rest looks after itself.  

So there you have it.  Oympia really is head and shoulders above the rest.  Not just for all those reasons but because it's a celebration of the horse as a leveler.  A private box will set you down a few bob at Olympia but those same wealthy individuals will rub shoulders with the small boy who got a ticket at the back with a bad view for his christmas present.  All of them will cheer when the Puissance wall is cleared at some some ridiculous height or when the world cup qualifier is won by a fraction of a second.  For an hour at least they're equals, both caught up in the contagious euphoria of Olympia.  Of course the horses go back to the stables and munch away at a carrot totally unaware of the service they've done the world.  

Friday, December 17, 2010

How to stay warm out competing and look smart too!

We've all faced the problem of going out competing and having to look smart in the cold weather.  Generally, our smart competition gear isn't the warmest of stuff.  However, Equishopping can save the day!!

First off for the showjumpers.  If you aren't jumping at Olympia then you can get away with wearing a smart jacket ie no hood, black or navy but insulated.  Those of you jumping for the crowds will have to freeze - Oh it's a hard life... This applies equally for eventers warming up.  Go and shell out on a decent smart jacket because it'll make everything soo much warmer and if you're warm, you'll ride better too!!  Plus, if it rains you'll be safe inside that cosy waterproof shell. 

 If jackets aren't your thing then a gillet or waistcoat can be worn over a show jacket before you go in and gives you much more freedom.  I'm told gillets meet the approval of the fashion police as well. 

Buy a new pair of gloves!! Firstly because any insulation in them will have be compressed over time and they simpy woin't be as warm anymore.  Secondly because glove manufacturers have heard our plight and started making warm but smart gloves - finally!  Check out a selection here

At the other end of the body - feet! In an ideal world we'd be able to fit thick socks into competition boots but unfortunately that would leave us with hugely oversized boots in summer.  The best bet then is to keep your boots in good condition.  Supple leather retains heat more than dry brittle leather.  Plus, if your boots crack and leak then your feet will be swimming in ice cold water. The solution, either clean your boots meticulously with Equishopping's wide range of leather care products or buy a new pair if they're past redemption. 

Now this next suggestion may seem fairly obvious but wear a belt! That way you can tuck your shirt into your breeches and it will actually stay tucked in and keep out the drafts! Check out Equishopping's range of belts, from the funky to the traditional. 

One final tip.  Wear a stock instead of a tie as it'll keep your neck warm just like a scarf. 

Happy competing!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Social Networking and Horses – How it can help you

Confused about Facebook and the strange bird symbol that is Twitter?  There’s a million reasons to have a go – especially when you have horses.  Now I’m not suggesting for a moment that you exploit Facebook’s incredible potential for stalkers but there is a lot to be gained from it...

The nature of competing generally means that you have friends from all corners of the country and possibly from across Europe as well.  With Britain being the centre of the eventing world it’s not surprising you only see some people at events as they travel sooo far.  Living in Kent miles away from anywhere I sympathise.  The answer, use Facebook and Twitter.  Now this may seem like a bizarre advertisement for social networking but the point is that it’s Christmas and wouldn’t it be great if you could have a chat with those people you never see but really like?

What’s more, the most up to date information generally hits Facebook or Twitter first before the official channels.  Also, you can get a realistic picture of what places are like before you get there.  Take the Facebook group that offers pictures of BE courses taken by its members.  It’s free as well and is genuine competition for other costly services such as Eventing World Wide’s course photos. 

Have you ever come across the scenario of talking to someone having been introduced to them but then forgetting their name as soon as you’ve heard it? With things like Facebook and Twitter you can see “friends of friends” and quickly find who that elusive person was.  However, I’m not suggesting you go as far as looking up someone’s number in the schedule to find their name and then finding them on Facebook as that’s probably a little bit too far.... Although it most certainly has been done. 

So, there you have it.  Lot’s of reason’s to sort this social networking out.  Go grab a phone wielding teenager and demand some help.  Bribe them a bit and they’ll help as long as you don’t expect them to add you as a friend! When you’re all sorted with it check out Equishopping there.  Not only do you get the latest news that way but you can get some great offers and enter competitions too.  Or more simply just click the logos at the top right of this page to go straight to Equishopping’s Facebook and Twitter pages.  


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas presents that last.

We all know what it's like being given a new grooming kit for christmas... when there's nothing wrong with the one you've got and you get stuck with the new embarrassing pink sparkly one for the rest of the season.  So how about this year you give something that people genuinely like - it might not be a traditional christmas present but aren't the things that we use everyday most dear to us? It may seem at times that I'm perilously close to suggesting you give a chopping board or a saucepan to your sister but I reckon I've got some ideas up my sleeve!

Over the winter most eventers will end up showjumping quite a bit and chances are it'll be in their xc hat with a black silk stuck on.  Now there's nothing wrong with that but cool peaked hats with vents and the rest of the gizmos are a lot slicker than a chunky skull cap.  Plus, when the eventing season comes you'll look a lot better out showjumping.  It's also worth noting that you can't wear a beagler for the dressage at BE100 or below so you do need a "hard" hat.  A peaked one looks a lot better going down the centre line.  Check out Equishopping's selection of peaked hats here.  

The next thing is probably equivalent to buying a loved one a new set of kitchen knives but a DECENT shavings fork for example cannot fail to go down well.  BIN the old one and replace it.  It might not go down so well compared to a diamond but in freezing cold January when mucking out is at it's height you'll suddenly become very popular!

The next idea is more unusual.  A new stock pin.  Buy a decent quality one but please no blingy ones and sharpen the point.  When your recipient comes round to doing their stock up next they'll be pleasantly surprised that there's no battle of the Titans to put the pin through the stock.  You'll definitely get a smile for this one.  One warning though - sharpening a stock pin is actually quite tricky so it's definitely a case of 'it's the thought that counts'.  

 Another piece of advice.  Under no circumstances should you buy riders XC colours.  Riders are phenomenally picky in a kind of hypersensitive way about their XC colours so this is an impossible gift to buy.  Give them some money instead and point them our way!  

One final idea.  Buy some good quality saddle covers.  Lot's of yards have saddle covers but a set of quality ones will make you very popular.  Plus, they look a lot neater.  

Happy Shopping!!!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Oli's Diary - "Winter Wonderland - or not..."

When I was told it was snowing when we were still in November I didn't quite believe it.  Now that we're surrounded by a foot I don't have much choice... So recently I haven't got much to report on apart from sledging and the dire warnings I've had from all and sundry about the perils of driving in the snow... of course all the advice is contradictory.  The younger horses also learnt a lot, primarily that snow isn't a giant snack dropped from heaven and is in fact rather flavorless.  

Pre snow though there was quite a bit going on with the horses and they were out and about jumping.  At the same time, my university interviews have been on going - pretty good so far.  However, we did get back from Bristol at 3 in the morning (an 11 hour journey!) after the snow caused delays - everywhere! 

Gray is now for sale as I had to make the inevitable choice between him and Totem as my brother has drifted away from horses.  Grays also been out with the local bloodhounds which he took to like a toddler to a ball pool.  He also jumped his first hedge so I'd imagine he spent most of that evening telling the others on the yard about his dare devil exploits.  

Totem's also shaping up rather well on all fronts.  He went hunting for the first time (I think) which he coped with but did find it all rather interesting and a great opportunity for him to show off his extended trot!

Christmas time will be when Dell's wintery mince pie and mulled wine (he can dream) utopia comes to an end as he dons his work boots again.  I'll have to break that to him gently though...

For now that's it.  That said it's Christmas time and the revision filled (partly) holidays are fast approaching so I'm sure there'l be plenty to talk about.  

Looking after horses in the snow.

Most of the UK has now had snow for a couple of days ranging from several feet to an inch depending where you are.  If you've got more than a few inches of snow there's a chance your horses really are stable bound but fear not - we've got some helpful hits for you.  

First off is to go and get a sledge.  It may seem stupid but what's the point of carrying your water buckets, hay bales etc separately one at a time as you struggle through the snow.  Alternatively, put it on a sledge and do it all at once.  A large tarpaulin works quite well as well.  

Depending on how cold it is you might have had the problem of frozen water drinkers.  If they're automatic and the pipes are frozen then you're stuck unfortunately.  If you're using buckets or have been forced to use buckets chances are you'll have been breaking the ice on them.  The problem with this we've found is that horses don't like bits of ice in their water and stop drinking... typical. Solution, pour hot water into them from a kettle.  

The next problem you might have is that there's ice everywhere.  In an ideal world we'd all have bags of salt available but inevitably we don't.  Spreading a layer of horse urine soaked shavings on the yard may seem like a messy fix but it works.  In the olden days hospitals around the midlands were spreading salt that was about 10% mule urine!! (No shortage of bizarre facts from Google). 

If horses are in constantly it's also important to pick their feet out regularly as compacted decaying muck is ideal conditions for foot infections to thrive in.  Another problem you may have come across is horses fetlocks filling.  It's a perfectly normal condition for horses to get slightly filled fetlocks when they stand in.  The problems arise when they stand in days on end and can't even come out for a walk.  This stems from horses standing still for too long as their frog or "little hearts" aren't being compressed and helping the circulation in their lower legs.  What can help though is sweeping the bed right out the way and giving them a feed ball that they can chase round the stable in search of pony nuts.  It just keeps them moving a bit more and helps their circulation.  

 This next idea may seem incredibly immature but if you've got a foot of snow it might just help.  If you don't have a muck heap and use a "muck trailer" you may have had the problem that you haven't been able to get it out the yard to empty it.  It may seem a simple suggestion to put a muck heap somewhere else but that's not always practical for all yards.  What I have seen done is in a corner of the yard that's totally snow covered is to clear a section of it.  Then pile up as much snow as you can to build 3 walls and compress all the snow.  You end up with an area you can dump all your muck in.  It might seem a bad plan to have a muck heap in the middle of your yard but when the snow begins to melt the walls will be the last to melt so you'll have perfect access to your neat muck heap to dispose of.  Plus, having your muck heap close by instead of struggling through the snow can be quite a good plan to. 

So there you go, some sensible and some mad cap schemes to deal with the snow.  Of course now I've written this it's bound to melt straight away! (I live in hope...)