Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Equishopping's helping hand with your dressage test.

Right, so you're stepping up a level or just starting out, either way if you're eventing you'll need to practise your dressage test.  You've got to learn it first though....

When it comes to learning dressage tests trace them around a drawn out arena with your finger.  If you're sitting at the bus stop and have forgotten an arena diagram there's an easy nemonic to remember the arena markers in a 20x40.  Going clockwise from a - "All King Edwards Horses Can Manage Big Fences" sorted.  If that fails then find a rectangular rug and run round it on a mini scale.  You don't need to know everything by the letter as long as you know where you're going but it does help to know a few bits by the precise letter for reference.  When you go down the centre line it won't look quite the same as when you practiced it so you need some reference points.  Look for patterns and where double marks are as well.

When it comes to actually riding your test you should have identified the potential problem bits you need to practice.  Do practice them but don't do them in the same place or the same way or else you run the risk of horses prempting you in the test - they're clever things those beasties!

Also, use the angles of the arena, there are certain areas of the arena that judges can't see as well.  Particularly when your back is to the judge.  These are the moments you need to use to make your adjustments.  It surprising what you can hide in the briefest of moments.

When it comes to the actual test chances are there'll be a few surprises.  For example, horses suddenly realise that they're at an event and think it's best if they call to all their friends.  Even better, if you're on a younger one they might think the boards are actually jumps and they should be doing gridwork along the arenas.... Use these to your advantage! As long as you can keep them relaxed and not tense across the back you should be able to use their new found energy to get some better paces out of them with a lot more spring.  Secondly, the most important thing to remember is to ride forward.  Big bold riding will always score better than subdued nervous riding.  At the end of the day it's about putting on a show, so make it interesting and be confident.  You'd be surprised how far you can go on confidence.

Happy dressaging!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Making the most of the Badminton experiance.

It's that time of year again.  Advance bookings are open for Badminton and the entries are up.  Compared to other world class sporting events Badminton is excellent value.  Here at Equishopping though we thought we should give you a bit of a guide on how to make the most of time you have there.

For starters, if you're planning on driving there make sure you leave early! The queues to get in can take hours to get through at their worst and you don't want to miss any of the action! I really do mean that.  The traffic around Badminton is bad! I mean let's face it, Badminton village for 360 days a year is a quiet rural village home to a few horses and a handful of people then for the 5 days a year in the spring it is home to the one of the worlds biggest sporting events and is decended on by 100's of thousands of people.

The solution seems to be to stay over night.  Staying on site is expensive but you do get quite a bit for your hard earned cash.  Included in your pitch are 2 entry tickets for the ENTIRE duration of the event.  Plus, you can park a car elsewhere on the estate.  Staying on site has a real party atmosphere especially on the saturday night when the tales of the days XC are relived. The campsite has excellent facilities as well but perhaps isn't the quietest of places if you like a good nights kip.

Staying off site is also an option and there's lots of choice. Ideas range from staying at the Cotswold water park to camping at nearby sites.  Have a look on Google and see what catches your eye.

Apart from the world class eventing there is also a vast shopping area.  I kid you not when I say if you can't find it at Badminton you won't find it anywhere else.  Plus, quite a few companies offer discounts for Badminton so you can get some good bargains too.  However, the food is fairly expensive so you might want to consider a picnic.

When it comes to XC day we've got some top tips for you.  DO keep dogs on leads.  There's usually one or two dogs each year that end up chasing riders round the course - with well over £50,000 at stake your dog will rapidly become very very unpopular.  The water jump is a good place to see some drama and if you're lucky (depending on your view point) you might see a ducking or two... The course differs each year but go for the big combinations to see the most.  If you want to chance your luck and try and get on tele, smile lots and wave when you're standing near any of the televised bits of the course.  Once the day is over you can walk the course.  No, really, you can walk Badminton CCI**** XC course.  When you walk it you'll begin to realise that there's a reason the table is called the  "giants table".

If you want to buy showjumping grand stand tickets (MUST be booked in advance) then the best seats are usually those about 3 or 4 rows up along the sides.  Any higher and you can't see and if you go lower you won't be able to see the far side of the arena.  Alternatively, you get friendly with Queeny and get invited to the royal enclosure.  However, I'm told the view isn't as good...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A brief spectators guide to eventing.

Looking through the schedules on the BE website may tell you all you need to know as a competitor but what about spectators?  Which events are good to watch and which probably aren't the best for an action packed day of XC viewing.

Well, let's start a the top with Badminton.  The world's most famous CCI**** and now with new qualifying criteria so the level of competition is even higher.  Plus, this year being pre Olympics the number of foreign riders is astounding, including a large number from across the pond.  At around $4000 to fly a horse across the Atlantic it's only the very best of US and Canadian eventing that ever come to Badminton.  XC day tickets can be bought on the day for CASH (no debit cards etc) but it's cheaper to buy in advance.  The showjumping always gets fully booked very quickly so you need to get in there quick! Set in the stunning grounds of Badminton house and with some excellent viewing spots this really is a good one to take Gran to.  If you're lucky you might get on TV as well!!

 The festival of british eventing at Gatcombe is also an action packed weekend including the novice, intermediate and Open championships as well as some age classes there's never a shortage of rounds to watch.  Points on the course give good viewing of decent stretches of the course so you can have a rest and watch the event unfold.

I should also add that both Badminton and Gatcombe are huge shopping events as well as the eventing there.

Burghley later in the year is also a good bet.  Of course there's the usual discussion that Burghley XC may well be bigger than Badminton's so you could always go to both and see for yourself...

Blenheim now also has an 8+9yo *** class along side it's 2 normal *** classes so you get the opportunity to see a lot of high level action.  Whats more, Blenheim house is also pretty snazzy.

Looking further north.  Blair castle is huge fun.  Not only does it have international level competition right up to CCI*** but it also hosts a very popular showjumping show.  It also has a huge country fair on at the some time, one of the biggest in the country actually.  On top of all that, you can absail down the castle tower - ask equishopping's director about that particualr activity! Blair won a highly prestigious award from BETA a few years back for being a fabulous show case of equestrianism.  Equishopping also sponsor Blair and we reckon this year it will be even better!

Lower level events such as Weston Park also make fabulous entertainment and might be closer to you as well.  You'd be surprised how interesting and possibly scary it is for someone who has never seen eventing to watch even an intermediate class.  Happy spectating!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Supplements - the horse's pharmacy!

I won't for a minute pretend to be a nutritionist but I can give you a guiding hand to help you through equishopping's extensive range of feed supplements.  We have a large selection across many different brands - it's just a matter of finding the right supplement to help you on your way....

Let's start with a classic.  Garlic granules.  They work as a natural fly repellent.  The theory is that the garlic pases out of the horses sweat glands when they sweat and bingo, the flies dissapear- I guess flys don't like garlic... Well, perhaps the effect isn't that magical but it does help.

On the broader side of things.  A general feed supplement helps cover up the gaps in nutritional supply and top up the levels of "goodness" in your horses diet.  Just like us eating our "5 a day".  Especially important for the younger generations who are still developing - check out our youngstock feed supplements.

Moving down the body, hoof supplements! The saying "no foot no horse" couldn't be truer and let's face it, without a horse we're wouldn't want to be one of those would you.... Hoof supplements not only improve the quality of hoof growth but can speed it up to give your farrier more foot to work with.  Apart from the obvious health benefits of healthier feet you also won't lose shoes as often meaning things work out cheaper in the long run.

Echinacea is also great for boosting the immune system of horses that are either under the weather a bit or those suffering from that bit of stress and pressure from competing.  We've only covered a few different types of supplement but that should be enough to cover a lot of common problems and hopefully give you some cost effective and practical solutions.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Risk assessment and horses - facts and comedy.

Right, so take an animal that weighs over half a tonne, isn't bright enough not to poo in its own water and then use it to jump round a course of fixed fences at 30 miles an hour.  Who thought up that one!!?? I think it goes without saying that risk assesement is pretty important with horses.  Secondly, I won't pretend that I'm I'm an expert in safety and risk for a second... I mean let's face it teenage boys have a reputation to live up to!

So let's have a look at the classic horse inflicted injuries and how to avoid them.

First off, as prescribed by comic books, the kicked or bitten bum! Probably the easiest step to avoid this is to teach horses not to be so badly behaved or alternatively don't present them with a target.

Next on the list is probably the head butt.  Now we've all watched this one happen and reckon we would've seen it coming... then next thing you know is that it's you with the sore head.

More seriously though.  The easiest way to stop things going pear shaped is to avoid putting yourself in a position where horses could intentionally or unintentionally hurt you.  What about the riding front though?

Let's look at eventing.  Obviously the most likely cause of injury is falling off.  I mean that soily groundy thing is fairly hard.  When it comes to falls though you'll stand the best chance of bouncing and stealing a few lives off your cat if you're fit.  Fit people tend to come out of falls better.  Not only that but you'll react quicker so hopefully won't have as many in the first place.

Looking back at the yard now.  A lot of risky situations arise because of bad yard design.  We've all seen the situation where a horse squeezes past a door with inches to spare.  It may be fine most of the time but the one time it's not could be disastrous.  It's quite a simple task to look at the yard and think of lots of worst case scenarios.  It might just be a case of moving buckets to give yourself more space.  Simple changes for big improvements.

Hay bale storage is also a big one.  Take a real close look at how your hay or straw is stacked.  Falling bales should be a massive concern.  Bales should always be taken from the top so you don't end up with a top heavy pile aka the leaning tower of Pisa.  Also, try and avoid having stacks that could fall out onto the yard where people could be.  It's much safer for them to fall against a wall... Putting a few ropes around your bales as well could just be enough to keep everyone that bit safer as well.

And finally.  To end my sermon.  Non - horsey people are actually a bit of a hazard.  If you haven't had it drilled into you from the year dot it isn't obvious not to stand behind horses.  Even feeding horses off your hand in the wrong way is a bit risky - I mean fingers are at risk here!  Anyway, just keep an eye open for those safety things you take for granted.