Thursday, October 23, 2014

Equidays! - aka, honey I shrunk the bank balance..

Equidays is an annual horse lovers paradise. It's a three day weekend packed full of seminars, clinics, competitions and equestrian stalls with plenty of sale items!

This year was my first time going; I usually (wisely) avoid things like this because I have no will power in the face of so much temptation. I promised myself that I would pick up two items, and two items only, being a pair of spurs and if I could find one, a brass/aurigon full cheek snaffle.

That promise didn't work out so well in the end. I ended up buying:

  • A halter with fleeces.
  • A new white diamond quilt competition saddle cloth, with extra padding and silver trim.
  • A navy diamante wave browband for my grackle bridle.
  • A pair of medium length dressage spurs (and a pair of leather spur straps - unfortunately I couldn't find any with a brass buckle).
  • Australian beeswax saddle soap/conditioner.
  • A sweat scraper/shedding blade combo.
  • Savvy Touch 2in1 shampoo and conditioner.
  • Savvy Touch spray detangler.
  • Equine Essentials natural organic repair cream.
  • A navy B//Vertigo polo baseball cap.
  • A navy showerproof, lightweight Musto jacket.
I also took away samples of Prydes Result, which is a feed I am looking at switching to. I asked the Prydes rep which would be the best formula for my horse based on him being an easy keeper in moderate work, and they gave me a sample of the Result. Also, I took away a sample of a new electrolytes formula, but it's in the bottom of a bag and I haven't tried it out yet. It would have been useful post-awful hack earlier this week, but unfortunately I didn't have it on hand!

I wish I had saved up a little bit more, as I found two amazing kiwi ladies making their own DIY things. One sold merino wool lined saddle blankets which were beautiful, and the other made custom browbands/bridles/halters/dog collars with personalised gemstones in the strapping. Unfortunately I have two gorgeous diamante browbands, but I am definitely looking at getting Benny and Lucy a collar each! I'm saving up for a saddle blanket and two collars after I organise my vet bill (boring!), and I'm so excited! Shopping has to my favourite thing.

Anyway, I completely and utterly broke my no-shopping promise, but quite a few of the things I brought are kiwi/Australian made and so I'm hoping to do a few reviews. Quite a few readers are from overseas (not NZ/Australia) and so may be interested in some products from down under! It was a small goal of mine to reach 50 followers this year (thank you all that are following me!) and I hope to do an end of year giveaway open to followers across the globe, of one or two of the kiwi/aussie items that I brought. Just in case anybody is interested in trying them out. I know I'm biased, but I am originally from the UK and I'm always amazed at how creative these humans from down under actually are, ha! Considering the UK has such a great reputation for horse gear, I love NZ stuff!
(If I do do a giveaway upon reaching 50 followers, it will be completely at random and my kiwi followers can totally enter too!)

Away from shopping, I watched seminars by three overseas instructors who were all absolutely brilliant! I will be using some of the techniques I learnt in the future, and I'll be sure to write about how they work and credit the trainers I learnt them from!

With regards to the competitions, I was able to watch a saddle hunter class for the first time!
Saddle hunter is a show class catering for the heavier horses, and assesses a horse's suitability for a hard day's hunting. You're expected to show your horse's suitability by demonstrating good temperament and working paces; including gallop!

One of the saddle hunter competitors.

I've never been interested in showing before, owning a heavier horse, but I think saddle hunter (and working hunter) might be something Oscar would be more suited to! I just need to check the local show programs and see if they offer those classes close to home!

Amy and I watching the Pony Grand Prix - and admiring all the bling that show jumpers are allowed to wear!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Evening Nutrition Seminar

As I was driving home last night eating the fries I’d just picked up from a drive thru by scraping together loose 20c coins, I had heaps of time to reflect on the nutrition seminar (and the $300 I’d just spent on adjustments to the horses’ diets).

It’s funny where ‘horse people’s’ priorities lie isn’t it? Someone mentions how delicate a horse’s digestive system is and you suddenly question and scrutinise everything you’re pumping into it, yet when someone mentions that a salad is probably better than deep fried and salted potatoes for your own digestive system, it’s all about convenience!

The seminar last night was actually very informative and I did learn/question a thing or two. Initially we looked at a horse’s digestive system in comparison to a human, cow and a dog. Most of the digestive process takes place in the hind gut, as the horse has a smaller stomach and intestine than most mammals, and so foods that are easily and quickly digested are broken down better by the time they reach the large intestine, which is where the horse’s body extracts the good stuff from his food.

Basically, the mouth, stomach and small intestine break down the food so the large intestine can get what it needs from it. Smaller stomachs and small intestines mean less time breaking down food.

We then went through the main food groups for horses, and this is the section that was perhaps most interesting to me, as the nutritionist talked about protein. Traditionally horses are fed a very low protein diet (apologies if this is not the case for overseas readers), and we focus on fibres and fats (think chaff, oats and oils).

Exercise breaks down muscle, and then it repairs itself, and re breaks and repairs, which is how muscle and strength is built, so protein is actually very useful for ‘sport’ horses. Obviously we’re not to feed our amateur eventers protein shakes with breakfast, but switching popular low GI feeds to balanced feeds with higher levels of protein could be really beneficial to working horses.

As Oscar and Kiri are typically good doers, I certainly sit in the low GI food group avoiding most feeds that aren’t high in fibre and low in everything else. Reducing the amount of hard feed they are eating and topping up with a balanced vitamin/mineral supplement may be a better way to go in terms of performance. It’s just a case of choosing easily digestible forms of protein and fat, so they get more out of it when it sits in the hind gut. Smooch and Buzz, who aren’t such good doers will also benefit from this.

Finally we spoke about vitamins and minerals, which are specifically lacking in New Zealand soil (we’re looking at you Selenium! We’re looking at you hard) and the relationships between these, i.e. Copper cancels out Zinc when fed in excess.

When feeding a balanced feed, it is formulated to contain every vitamin and mineral your horse needs, unless your horse has an existing deficiency.

If you have a horse that puts weight on easily, you may not want to feed the recommended diet - which is typically based on an average sized TB horse in moderate work. In this instance it is beneficial to supplement your feed with a balanced vitamin mix.

Some extremists do frequent blood tests and supplement vitamins specifically, ie Copper, Zinc, Magnesium, Selenium.

For someone like myself, who does blood tests maybe once every two years, a balanced feed mix supplemented with a balanced mix of vitamins/minerals should be sufficient to provide your horse with everything he needs.

The last section the nutritionist covered was probiotics and prebiotics. I need to research these more as I didn’t quite get all of what she covered on this topic.

During the Questions and Answers section I asked about Oscar’s extreme ‘gassiness’, and she recommended a probiotic, as gassiness was usually a sign of something not quite right in the hind gut.

The whole seminar was a fundraiser to send a kiwi team over to the World Equestrian Games in Normandy to compete for the endurance medal. We covered a whole lot more than I have covered, but they are the most interesting sections to me, and are what I’m looking at at the moment with my horses diets.

There was a fundraising auction at the end and I won the auction on a FeedXL voucher, which is an online program where you fill out information on your horse(s) and what you feed them, and it generates recommended amounts/adjustments. Not sure if this is a NZ thing or global, but I have a year’s membership so I look forward to using this program once I’ve made some changes to my horses’ diets!

I also purchased a bag of Alltech Life Force supplement, which is quite pricey but sounds amazing. It is a yeast based multivitamin, so full of good probiotics and antioxidants. Fed with a balanced hard feed, it contains everything that our soil lacks and more. It also came with a little WEG teddy horse which is cute, and the rep is one of L’s clients! Small world we live in!

In terms of equine nutrition, my next step is to look into balanced hard feeds and choose one that has higher fats and proteins, combine it with the Alltech Life Force and see what FeedXL thinks of it!
My mission is horses with happy tummies, I’ll write more in the future about individual areas of digestion as I learn – serious colic is my biggest fear and so I’m jumping on any way I can prevent it happening to another of my horses.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

My "Horse Owning" Bucket List

Seems I’m mostly just doing blog hops lately, but I really wanted to do this one!

My horse is everything I need, and I’d love for him to hang around forever with me, but at some stage I want to retire him into a huge orchard with shady trees and a come-as-you-please shelter/box and plenty of carrots. At this stage I’ll probably look for a new partner in crime to carry me around cross country and play dressage on. So, without further ado, my horse owning bucket list.

 Cleveland Bay.

Is this cheating? Considering Oscar is a Cleveland Bay…

I would own another Cleveland Bay gelding in a heartbeat – preferably one that hit the 16hh mark. Sorry Oscar, you were an inch or so off!  

Australian Stock Horse.

If I was cheating with the Cleveland Bay thing, my next horse would definitely be an Australian Stock Horse. I’d like a 16hh bay gelding. They just have so much going for them and I think they are so underrated. I think they are perfect for lower level eventing as they are reasonably athletic, brave and have good temperaments. Oh- this would also have to be a bay!


For something flashy and dressage arena appropriate, I’d choose an Oldenburg. They’ve always been my favourite out of the Warmblood breeds and usually have a bit more brain than their Hanoverian cousins. I’d go all out and choose a really dark bay flashy thing over 17hh!

Gypsy Cob
Slightly breaking away from my attraction to bay horses, I’d quite like a tri-coloured Gypsy Cob. I’d just drive around in a cart on Sundays probably, and maybe try eventing a Gypsy Cob. Just to stand out like a sore thumb!

Welsh Section B Pony
If I had to get a pony I would get a Section B Welsh pony. Big enough to have fun with in hand (minis just don’t seem like horses to me), and something for nieces/nephews to ride around on. Small enough to play with and dress up in colourful and funky hoods and rugs.


And finally, I would get a Standardbred, a Thoroughbred or a Kaimanawa horse as a paddock mate. One that was destined for … somewhere unpleasant.
I currently have one of those at the moment and he’s pretty grateful to still be kicking around and getting cuddles.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Christle: 1, Weather: 925275395908493275

I haven't abandoned my blog, I just haven't had much opportunity to ride lately. If it hasn't been pouring down with rain, the paddocks have been recovering from the effects of said rain. In an effort not to turn our horses' food into muddy mulch, we've been avoiding riding in the paddocks when they're quite wet.

Cue, tonnes of road riding. We've been riding bareback, doubled up, ponied off another horse and even one attempt at riding backwards. Hey, if you can't have fun doing dressage and jumping - you have to find other ways of amusing yourself. It also takes my mind off the fact that our first dressage show of the TP Winter Dressage Series is next month and we do not have our working trot down pact >.<

We were just starting to get there with our lessons last season, but a small hiatus whilst me and L focused on setting up the farrier business means that Oscar-woppit has fallen back into his sewing machine trot. Ahhh.

Reverting back to my mention of Winter Series, L's farrier company is sponsoring the TP Winter Show Hunter Series, so effectively it's been re-branded as the LB Forge Winter Show Hunter series and I couldn't be more proud!

I've decided to enter both Oscar and Smooch in the show hunter series - I've never done a show hunter round before and so I'm clueless as to what's involved but excited as it's an opportunity to get ribbons, in winter!

So today, I finally got one in on the weather by beating the rain clouds and riding not one, but both of my newly appointed show hunters!

(Oscar also got a bath prior to being clipped tomorrow so technically I should get double points against the weather!)

Oscar:  I decided to do some fitness work with Oscar as I plan to jump him tomorrow (weather permitting) and I like him to be slightly tired when he hasn't jumped in a while. Otherwise he has a tendency to buck which leads to tenseness and I need him to be relaxed so we can do some excercises to get him jumping in good form. 

Today we just did a couple of trot and canter sets, and I let him open up a bit and set his own pace on both reins. He didn't reach a gallop but he chose to go faster and stretch out, so he must have been feeling good. On the right rein we had a few issues. Initially he didn't want to canter at all, and then he wouldn't stop bucking, but he seemed to settle down after a few minutes and was happy to canter from then on. 

Once I finished I checked both his back and legs for soreness, especially as he was reluctant to canter initially, but found nothing. I clay poultice him to be on the safe side, and L tried to convince me to put shoes on him. More on that later.

Smooch: As Smooch is still being brought back into full time work, and she's never been at the level of schooling that Oscar has, I decided to treat her like I would with a fresh, new horse, and go over some basics. Lots of transitions, and large circles in walk, trot and canter.

Smooch has a tendency to bear down on your hands and jump straight into canter. She is my sister's horse (my sister is currently studying at university and I am caring for Smooch in her absence), and I know my sister is a conscientious rider and never just goes and jumps straight to canter without warming in first, so it surprises me as to why Smooch has this habit! I think she finds it easiest to work in a canter and I'm trying to understand why.

Despite leaning quite heavily, and having plenty of late downwards transitions, she eventually started listening. At the point where I would almost say she was 'on my aids', I finished and rewarded her by cooling off. There was a fair bit of chewing towards the end so I take that as her thinking, which makes me happy.

I really want to use her for the show hunter series, as she is a beautiful mover, is very pretty and has lovely form over fences. She also holds a rhythm very well naturally so I think it's something she will be good at. She will never be an eventer as she lacks courage on cross country, but I think she's well suited for the show ring. Maybe Oscar will be my eventer, and until my sister finishes studying, Smooch will be my show hack. An exciting possibility.

Oscar is being clipped tomorrow ready for a winter of dressage, show hunter and fingers crossed, we'll finally join in on a hunt! Until tomorrow, enjoy a picture of two of my favourite boys enjoying a pony kiss! :)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Thirty before Thirty; The Equestrian Version

I'm a huge fan of lists! I list everything.. from products I want to buy, chores that need doing around the house, things I need to practise with Oscar and even blog topics I want to talk about.

I'm also just over four weeks away from turning 24 which of course isn't that old at all. However, I have always thought that I ought to have achieved something big by the age of 24.
I haven't got a sponsorship deal with Veredus yet, but I do have a couple of very nice horses in the paddock, some lovely riding gear, have learnt a valuable art that can help me with my horses through the future, have my foot on the property ladder and have a really supportive partner who genuinely cares about my passion for horses. I'm very, very blessed to have such a good foundation to work on my thirty equestrian goals from. This foundation is a pretty good achievement too, by the age of 24, and I'm going to work super hard to be as blessed on my thirtieth birthday!

Without further ado, my thirty goals are:

  1. Find and mould a career that allows me time to spend with my horses when necessary, and to be an employee in a company that values and supports my interests (one of which, will be my career).
  2. Find the right work/horse/family balance. I don't wish to be a professional rider, so this balance is important and I shouldn't be so strict on myself to ride every day in every season.
  3. Make money from my hobby. I actually learnt to trim and shoe horses properly, and whether this becomes my career or not is up to fate to decide, but it's definitely an art/skill that I want to keep up my sleeve.
  4. Buy a lifestyle property so I can have my horses at home.
  5. Save up to buy a Prestige dressage saddle. This is a goal that will probably be accomplished very last minute, as I will be saving up for a very long time. My Bates Maestro is super comfy and can tide me over until then!
  6. Get a piece of Oscar's tail braided into a horse hair bracelet, to keep with me forever. This is something I want to do for each of my horses, but Oscar holds a very special place in my heart.
  7. Gallop Oscar along a beautiful beach, preferably at sunrise whilst someone takes photos. I imagine they will be stunning.
  8. Be able to confidently ride a 1m show jumping ring without 'sitting with the handbrake on'.
  9. Win a Pre-Novice one day/two day event. In my wildest dreams it will be Puhinui.
  10. Win a neck sash/garland.
  11. Breed my next horse out of my TB mare and by Prestige VDL, and pray it is a colt (gelding-to-be).
  12. Learn to drive manual so that I'm not dependent on a capable driver to tow the float with the ute. Then, learn to tow the float with a manual. (I can do this in an auto.)
  13. Have the tack room of my dreams, complete with a big ol' washing machine to keep my saddle blankets and rugs 👌👌
  14. Learn to clip horses.
  15. Have a better understanding of equine nutrition, be knowledgeable about the feed I feed, and be confident I am feeding it for a reason and not just because.
  16. Take part in a game of polocrosse.
  17. Watch the BMW Open Polo, in Auckland and drink Pimms with my girlfriends- ooh la la.
  18. Win a show series- dressage/hunter jumper.
  19. Practise yoga routinely to help my riding and keep fit/strong.  
  20. Have an insurance policy on my horses/sufficient savings in a quick access, interest building account for unexpected expensive vet bills.
  21. Gain a sponsor or two ;)
  22. Have fifty blog followers (aiming large with this one)
  23. Have a real photoshoot with Oscar, wearing a dress and no saddle and all.
  24. Have my horse incorporated into my wedding- should somebody choose to wife me up of course!
  25. Save up and buy a really flash camera.
  26. Qualify in something-anything for Horse of the Year.
  27. Compete level 3(+) dressage. I just want to see how high I can get with this and do it well.
  28. Take part in a clinic/lesson with a rider I admire.
  29. Find a trainer in my area that I love as much as my old trainer.
  30. By the age of thirty, still be as passionate about horses as I am now!!

Monday, February 3, 2014

it's too hot for horse shows.

Usually my pre-competition regime does not involve bareback riding to the river to cool down from the sizzling heat; but, you gotta do what you gotta do!

L and I decided to treat the horses to a refreshing splash in the river as a culmination to the endless schooling Oscar and I have been doing in preparation for the horse sports which are 36 hours away. In just t shirts, shorts and bridles we hacked for about half an hour to the calmest part of the Manawatu river where the horses waded up to their withers with no guidance from us. Oscar kept dunking his whole face underneath the surface and splashing water over all of us, which would have been super cute had he not kept trying to paw Kiri's legs under the water! He can be a complete monster to his paddock friends...

We passed a stock truck full of sheep, a loud pig, a ram jumping through a loose wire fence, a mumma chicken crossing the road with her babies, drains, cars, a tractor, trailers and cyclists to name a few potential dangers- but Oscar and Kiri didn't really bat an eyelid. It's just too hot to care about scary objects, and they are definitely becoming really awesome, wholesome horses that will turn their hoof to anything from show jumping to bareback treks!   

I did notice their feet got quite sore on the way home, so me and Louis walked the last half way just leading them on the grass. It's very tempting to put front shoes on Oscar before Thursday, but his frogs and heels are looking so good, I'm really hesitant about restricting them with shoes again. Hopefully he is okay on the day.

Our last ride before yesterday, and in turn, the horse show was a mixture of good and bad. Oscar wasn't quite himself, in that he was really towie and hard to stop. I mistakenly decided to work on canter lead changes, which works him up on the best of days, so add this exercise to the hot mix and we had a V8 engine with faulty brakes. I'm praying that it was a one off behavioural adjustment, but if he does turn into a speedy little demon on Thursday, it will be a challenge and a lesson for us. Ribbons aren't my goal, experience is.

I have a lot to write about all of the horses, but should be packing my show gear box and cleaning leather, so I'd better drag myself away from the laptop and hit up the saddle soap..