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!!