Kathy Carter
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Kathy Carter


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About Kathy Carter

UK-based Kathy Carter is a writer, blogger and published book author. An armchair eventing-enthusiast, she owns a talented Irish Sports Horse whose mission in life is seemingly to bankrupt his owner and eat her out of house and home. Kathy is a Mum and business owner, and worked with horses as a riding instructor and groom in a former life; this included grooming for a Dutch Olympic eventer, before pursuing a career in media. She has a penchant for post-child’s bedtime Merlot, and a 70s soft rock habit.

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Tick Tock: Five Tips for Keeping Your Show Jumping Round Inside the Time

Nothing beats the feeling of a clear round that is inside the clock! Photo by Leslie Wylie.

In the sport of eventing even the smallest time penalty can make a difference in your final landing spot on the leaderboard. What’s the secret to keeping your show jumping round inside the time?

Jenny Richardson is a British Horse Society rated instructor (BHSAI), head trainer at Ireland’s Castle Leslie Estate, and former head instructor at Dubai’s Jebel Ali Equestrian Club. We asked her to share her advice on beating the clock.

“Whether in the jumping phase of eventing or in pure show jumping classes, time plays an important part in our success,” Jenny says. “The time allowed in any class should be viewed as a reminder not to go too slowly, not as the ultimate goal! The jumps themselves are the test in hand.

“It is easy to make mistakes if you feel under the pressure of a tight time limit. And it is a common error to ride the first half of the course a little too casually, realise you might be running out of time and then take unnecessary risks to catch up.”

Jenny’s top five tips for a faster show jumping round:

1. Choose your ‘shortcut’ obstacles at course walk stage.

On show jumping day, find the course plan and study it well, noting the speed at which it is set and the time allowed. When walking the course, there may be a few options of route, e.g. going around wings or obstacles, or cutting inside. You may need to pick one or two obstacles favourable to you and your horse to shorten your route, and the course walk is the place to choose them.

Generally, with this method of planning your ‘shortcuts,’ you need not worry about increasing your pace and can maintain a consistent rhythm throughout.

On show jumping day, study the course plan and walk the course carefully. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

2. Plan your pace.

It is important to plan your route and pace from the moment you go through the start line until the finish, if you want to be competitive! Look at the course as a whole, piecing it together as a perfect jigsaw. If you do need to make up more time, note the most achievable places to do so, and after landing, slightly open your canter, regaining collection a few strides before your next fence.

3. Note the ‘route’ of measurement.

My top tip? It is good to note the ‘route’ of measurement, e.g. the line the course builder used to measure the distances, either by watching the course builder place his wheel or by checking to see if the course plan shows the measurement route in lines drawn between the jumps. Or you can just ask the course builder! They are often very approachable.

Saturday Night Lights at Tryon International Equestrian Center. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

4. Practise your strengths.

In your preparation and training at home, work out your ‘shortcut’ strengths, based on your horse’s expertise, size, etc. — e.g. going outside or inside fences. If you have opted to go around a certain obstacle, rather than inside it, practise keeping this line tight, so that you are not adding any unnecessary strides, therefore allowing you the option of adding in a longer distance should you wish to do so and without the worry of time.

5. Time your lap.

Another good exercise at home is to canter large around your arena and time each lap — this will let you know at what speed you are riding. A friend with a stopwatch can help here, or there are phone apps available. The goal is to be able to ride each lap at the same speed, and for you then to be able to replicate this speed in the ring.

A more advanced exercise is to include two 20-metre circles into your laps, one at each end of the arena, ensuring that the pace is identical on the small circles as it is when going large. It is very common to slow down, or collect too much, on tighter turns.

Stephanie Böhe and Haytom (GER), 1st place heading into 2016 Boekelo show jumping. They kept it inside the time to win the event. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

“With enough homework, you will soon find you can measure your perfect pace and route, and will be able to achieve a ‘spot on’ canter around the show jumping ring with perfect confidence!” concludes BHSAI, Jenny.

Sharon Polding Living the Amateur Dream With Championship Selection

Sharon Polding and Findonfirecracker. Photo courtesy of Robert Polding.

The CIC2* Senior European Eventing Championships for amateur riders takes place in Tongeren, Belgium, from 27 to 30 July, and Great Britain’s team selection has just been announced. For team debutante Sharon Polding, it is a dream come true.

“I was in a work meeting trying to be quiet and hold it together when I heard the news. I was humbled to be selected, and I feel extremely proud,” recalls Sharon, aged 45, who works as a global account manager for a telecommunications company.

“For someone like me, a mum and a hard-working amateur, to be asked to compete for your country is something you dream of as a kid, but you never expect to actually happen.”

Fabulous Findonfirecracker

Sharon has been selected to contest the event with her own 10-year-old mare, Findonfirecracker, having placed just outside the top 20 at Bramham International CIC3* in June, and having shown consistent form at Open Intermediate level this year.

“I bought Findonfirecracker, or Dizzy, as a foal and she was delivered to me when she was weaned, as she is half-sister to my homebred, and I wanted two foals running together,” remembers Sharon. “She is a loving, sweet-natured, sensitive horse who loves to compete, especially jump. ‘Stressage’ is not her favourite phase, but she can do a great test.”

Dizzy is Sharon’s horse of a lifetime and her best friend, she says. “I had a lifelong ambition to complete a CIC3*, and in particular at Blenheim, and she helped me achieve this in 2016 [placing 24th]. Dizzy is also the only horse to become the National Riding Club Open Individual Show Jumping and also the Horse Trials Champion in the same year [in 2013].”

Dizzy made the step up from one-star to two-star two years ago in 2015. But how did Sharon know her plucky mare was ready?

“Dizzy stepped up when she was 8-years-old, although she didn’t start eventing until she was 6, as I’d had a baby, so she had to wait!” Sharon says. “It was a natural progression, as she had completed a couple of one-star double clear and was starting to be competitive at Intermediate. She has now completed Blenheim, Burnham Market and most recently Bramham CIC3*, all double clear.”

Sharon Polding and Dizzy were the UK’s National Riding Club Open Individual Show Jumping Champions and also the Horse Trials Champions in 2013.

‘I Want to Wrap Her in Cotton Wool’

Sharon admits she wants to wrap Dizzy in cotton wool and ‘bubble wrapping’ ahead of the championships, but concedes that they do need at least one more run. “We are heading to Brightling Park for the CIC2* next week, plus some show jumping and dressage thereafter to keep her brain entertained.”

The Kent-based rider has been riding all her life; Sharon hunted regularly, and competed in the UK’s Pony Club Championships in eventing and show Jumping.

“I would have loved to have been a professional rider, but did not have the backing, facilities or funding, so in 1990 I began commuting to London for work to be able to afford to keep my horse at livery and ride after work and event.”

She purchased that horse, Abbygail, as a 5-year-old from the local riding school. “She was only 15.1 hands, but had great breeding. She evented up to CCI2* and did a couple of Advanced, and became my foundation mare.”

Sharon Polding’s daughter Poppy with her mare, Dizzy. Photo by Sharon Polding.

Poppy Pops Up

Sharon married her husband Robert in 2002; the pair thought children ‘were never going to be’ so Sharon focussed on breeding horses, considering the equines to be her ‘surrogate’ children. “Well, that was the plan,” she rues.

Then in 2011, daughter Poppy arrived, now 5 years old. “I still work full-time in a senior role and am semi-based from home, but I do travel and often work very late and long hours; but ‘needs must’ to fund the horses,” she tells us of her hectic, plate-juggling lifestyle.

With multiple time constraints upon her, Sharon made the decision a few years ago to keep just one horse to compete, Dizzy. “I have sold a number of youngsters and get immense pleasure from watching them. One of my babies is Georgisaurous; I sold him to William Fox-Pitt and he is 6 now. I watch the horse’s progress with pride.” (The pair is doing well at Novice, and recently won at Chatsworth International).

“I still have two former Advanced broodmares and am still breeding, but now not all for me; I have come to terms with the fact I can’t keep them all,” Sharon continues.

A future star? Sharon Polding’s daughter Poppy with her mare, Dizzy. Photo by Sharon Polding.

National Selection Makes It All Worthwhile

“I won’t lie, it takes hard work and very long hours to juggle the job and be a wife and mother,” Sharon tells us. “I still start the day at about 5:30 a.m. and am often out riding after I have put Poppy to bed, so I am not distracted. Luckily, Robert is a good cook! And when things like the national selection happen, it is all worth it.”

Sharon advises others chasing the dream to work hard and never give up. “Just because professionals do this for a living, it does not make them any better than us amateurs,” she tells us. “Dream big, as good things come to those that wait and who are deserving of it.”

The CIC2* Senior European Eventing Championship is a bi-annual event that provides a unique eventing format: a ‘team dressage’ test, an individual dressage test, the cross country round and finally the show jumping phase.

Sharon’s fellow British team members are: Simon Ashworth and Sunny III, Steve Garrod and Ufonzo, Nicky Hill and MGH Bingo Boy, Victoria Leabeater and Dolces E, Indiana Limpus and Bronze Dandylion, Lauren Mclusky and Ballycreen Milord, and Jack Pinkney and LB Liberator.

Badminton Rookies: A Chat With 4* First-Timer Tom Jackson and Motors Cup Competitor Sophie Leaney

What’s it like to contest your first Badminton Horse Trials? Kathy Carter speaks with two riders — Tom Jackson, who is contesting the CCI4*, and Sophie Leaney, who is competing in the Motors Cup — on the eve of their debuts at the iconic event.

Tom Jackson and Waltham Fiddlers Find. Photo by Tom Jackson.

First Four-Star: Tom Jackson and Waltham Fiddlers Find

British eventer Tom Jackson has a score to settle at Badminton with his home-produced, 14-year-old gelding, Waltham Fiddlers Find. One of the UK’s most promising young eventers, Tom was called up for the senior team for the FEI European Eventing Championships in 2015; however the horse, “Wes” to his friends, suffered an injury and the pair had to withdraw.

Wes, owned by Tom and his parents Ian and Sara Jackson, placed sixth in the Under 25 CCI3* at Bramham in 2015, but suffered another injury in 2016, meaning some lengthy time off — so his road to Badminton 2017 has included a rather narrow fitness window. Tom’s been busy competing already this year, notably placing fifth at Burnham Market three star CIC with the exciting young mare Dusty II, and Wes cruised easily into the top twenty at Burnham Market three star CIC recently, placing sixteenth.

“He was off last year due to injury and had quite a few runs to get back into it,” says the Kent-based eventer. “Qualifying for Badminton means so much, as Wes was my first horse from ponies. He came with me all the way through Pony Club, and we went through Juniors and Young Riders together.”

Tom and his family bought Wes at age 4 from a dealer, when Tom was 14. “He now has plenty of experience — whilst I have wanted to keep him safe ahead of Badminton, it has been ‘do or die’  to an extent. We have had to get him fit quite quickly, starting with Gt. Witchingham H.T. in March in the Open Intermediate, where we placed 15th. We also competed at the Advanced-Intermediate at the South of England, but just in the show jumping and dressage.” The pair earned a respectable 35.8, good for a top five placing.

When asked how he feels about contesting one of the most formidable cross country tracks in the world,  Tom says that until now, he’s been putting the enormity of his qualification for the event to back of mind and taking each day as it comes. “There are so many unknowns, and it’s not feeling very real yet,” he says.

Tom Jackson with Waltham Fiddlers Find. Photo by Alex Colquhoun.

While just going clear would be most debutantes’ goal, Tom wants to be the best-placed Under 25 year old in the field. “I want to do well. I’d love to win Badminton one day,” he says. “Spectating at Badminton is what got me hooked on eventing all those years ago. Wes was my very first horse, and at every stage I have stepped up, we have stepped up together. He’s had some set-backs — at one point we thought he may not event again — but he’s fighting fit now. I expect if we do well, I will get emotional!”

We wish Tom and Wes all the best at their debut Badminton!

Grassroots Glory: Sophie Leaney and Galloway Mist

There’s no denying the buzz and excitement around Badminton Horse Trials; it’s the jewel in the crown of the British eventing scene. But of equal importance at the event, and often less reported and recognised, is the Mitsubishi Motors Cup, which runs from Tuesday, May 2, to Wednesday, May 3, and was formerly known as the Grassroots Championships.

The Motors Cup offers amateur riders the chance to qualify throughout the season and all over Great Britain for the chance to ride at Badminton. “The setting of Badminton House and the excitement generated by being part of the foremost Three Day Event in the world give these Championships a very special feeling, while riders, owners, family, friends and officials all contribute to a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere,” the organisers explains.

Sophie Leaney and Galloway Mist, who are debuting at the 2017 Motors Cup, are pictured hunting with the UK’s Coakham Bloodhounds. Photo courtesy of Sophie Leaney.

Kent-based British rider Sophie Leaney is contesting the championships for the first time this year with Galloway Mist. We asked her how she’s feeling ahead of the prestigious event.

“After three years trying to qualify for the final, I am delighted that we finally did it!” Sophie tells us. “I’m going to give it my best shot, go out to win, but also with no pressure. I want to enjoy the experience and get round safely. I saw last year’s event, which looked nice and inviting, but I haven’t yet seen this year’s course.”

Sophie and “Eric” are no stranger to the ribbons at BE100  — their best results have been a second at Goring Health Horse Trials, and a recent fifth at Poplar Park. “Eric is five years old; he’s a laid back, lazy-at-times gentleman,” she says. “He definitely perks up when he does bloodhound hunting in the winter however, which is his favourite thing. Whenever I turn up at the yard, the gate opens, and he always gives me a call!”

Like all amateur riders, Sophie is very busy with a full time job — so, how does she juggle riding, training and competing at one of the sport’s most famous venues with a career?

“It’s hard with a full-time job, plus I have a 7-year-old son, who I am dropping off at school, etc. So I have to do a bit of juggling around in the evenings, working out when best to exercise Eric,” she says. “But I have good family support behind me, especially my mum Faye and my sister Sharon, who help out when possible.”

Some riders start their eventing careers at the Motors Cup. Ben Way went onto contest Badminton H.T. after competing in the Grassroots Championship. Photo by Samantha Clark.

The opportunity to ride at Badminton is thrilling, but what is Sophie most looking forward to about the Motors Cup? “I’m going to treat it like a holiday, and have taken the week off work,” she tells EN. “I will soak up the atmosphere, have some fun (with maybe a drink or two), but also put the hard work in when required!”

We wish Sophie and her fellow entrants lots of luck for the Motors Cup — more info can be found here.

Go Eventing.

#MMBHT Links: Website, Entries, Schedule, Course Preview, EN’s Coverage, Live Stream, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram

The Benefits of Barefoot Eventing

Lisa Dakin and Mr. Harry Patch. Photo by hoofprintsphotos.co.uk. Lisa Dakin and Mr. Harry Patch. Photo by hoofprintsphotos.co.uk.

Barefoot hoofcare is on the increase and the question of its feasibility for sport horses is a hotly-contested subject amongst hoof care professionals. Lisa Dakin, a grassroots eventer based in the UK, along with Lucy Nicholas, author of ‘The Barefoot Horse: An Introductory Guide to Barefoot and Booting,” kindly took the time to share their thoughts with EN.

Lucy says that when assessing candidates for a barefoot program, a variety of factors must be taken into account. “Some horses will be harder to maintain in a barefoot regime that others, depending on their background. Every horse must be treated as an individual.”

Lisa is currently contesting BE90 — the British equivalent of Novice level — with her 10-year-old piebald cob, Mr. Harry Patch. She had her horse’s shoes removed in the summer of 2012 and hasn’t looked back since.

Being in an area with an abundance of off-road hacking, Lisa didn’t see a need for shoes and discussed the option with her farrier. “I did a lot of research into the benefits of barefoot, and how best to feed my horse, and decided it was something I wanted to try,” she says. “By the time I decided I wanted to do more with Harry and event, he was well-established barefoot, so I didn’t see any pressing need to change that.”

Lisa and Harry tackled their first BE80 events in 2015, finishing second at Norton Disney H.T. and third at Horseheath H.T. the following year, then successfully moved up to BE90.

Photo by Lisa Dakin.

Lisa explains that, in her experience, the benefits of going barefoot have been tangible. Barefoot advocates talk about improved equine proprioception on grass, when barefooted — e.g. the horse taking more “responsibility” as they can better “feel” the ground — and agrees, saying that it does seem that Harry is better able to read the ground ahead of him.

On the same note, being barefoot has made him more sensitive to different types of going, she says, so footing must always be taken into account.

“He is noticeably different to ride, depending on the ground,” Lisa says. “If it’s heavy or soft he doesn’t like it, so I don’t compete on severely cut up or very soft ground any more.”

The best footing: “He loves hard ground with good grass cover, or ground with just a bit of ‘give’ in it, particularly if grass cover is limited.”

The worst footing: “The worst ground for him is hard ground with no grass cover. His stride length shortens and he’s more inconsistent.”

Lucy Nicholas explains, “Different surfaces will change tissue perfusion, with softer, more forgiving surfaces having the greatest tissue perfusion through the microvenous vessels.”

She adds that the supposed issue of a lack of traction when jumping and riding fast with a barefoot horse is a common misconception. “On soft going, a bare hoof will actually cut into the ground to give extremely good purchase.”

Lisa says slipping when jumping is rarely a problem for her and Harry. “We don’t suffer from problems with slipping, whether going cross country or show jumping on grass. We are still very much in contention against the faster, little nippy ponies!”

She has, on the other hand, run into some issues with slipping in dressage arenas when the grass is cut very short and the ground is hard. “In such cases, I do end up riding a ‘safe’ test and potentially losing marks.”

The use of hoof boots could remedy this but they are not permitted in the dressage phase of horse trials — although there has been some movement in recent years to amend this rule.

Lisa is wary of the preconception that studs and shoes are preferable to barefoot.

“I’ve been told frequently that I can’t be competitive without studs,” Lisa says. “It’s frustrating because I am already out there being competitive! It’s a rare occasion that we come home without a rosette.”

“I’m not a fan of studs, and I have concerns about the potential for long-term damage to the structures of the equine leg. My horse has good, clean legs, and although not perfect conformationally, he is always sound and is out virtually every weekend competing on grass without studs.”

When asked if being barefoot affected their step up from BE80 to BE90, Lisa says she has always judged her cross country turns and lines carefully, which has made her ride correctly. “As we’ve progressed and gone to higher levels, we’ve both become more balanced, and able to take the shorter lines,” she says.

Lisa intends to continue Harry’s training sans shoes, as he continues progressing up the levels.

“We jump-school at home on a surface over 1.2m, and I’d hope we can replicate that on grass at some stage. So long as we remain balanced, I don’t see height as being an issue,” she says. “I do a lot of hacking as part of Harry’s fitness regime, and that includes galloping over varying terrain. I believe in making sure he’s able to adjust himself to the ground conditions, and is not constantly working on artificial surfaces.”

“It’s not the fences themselves that would make me adjust my riding; if I wasn’t confident we could clear them, we wouldn’t be tackling them. It’s the approach and the conditions that are more important, in my mind. I would always plan the safest approach to a fence; Harry has other ideas at times, but I always know that if I point him at it, he’ll try his best.”

We wish Lisa all the best for her 2017 season with Harry!

For more on the subject of barefoot eventing, check out “Eventing Barefoot: Is It Possible?” by Chesna Klimek.



Catching Up with Jeanette Brakewell, the Newest British Senior Selector

Jeanette Brakewell and Chill Out Bob at Burghley 2012. Photo by Samantha Clark. Jeanette Brakewell and Chill Out Bob at Burghley 2012. Photo by Samantha Clark.

In exciting news for UK riders, with the 2017 FEI European Championships at Strzegom looming, eventer Jeanette Brakewell, part of the silver medal-winning British teams at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, has joined the British Eventing senior selection panel.

The British Eventing Accredited Coach and UKCC Level 3 trainer joins Independent Chair of Senior Selectors Dan Hunt, BE Master Coach Gillian Watson, and former four-star event rider Sarah Bullen on the panel. Jeanette says her experience as a British team stalwart and Olympic medallist should stand her in good stead.

“I’ve been on a number of senior teams and understand the process from the rider’s perspective; I’m hoping that my own experiences as a rider make me more approachable as a selector, as selectors are often perceived as being more on the sidelines,” Jeanette says.

“The riders know that I’ve been in their shoes, and I like to think I can gain better feedback about what they’re thinking and what their feelings are. Their performances are what matters of course, but there are often tricky decisions concerning the last few members of a team. Obviously, we are looking to select a gold medal-winning team, and the team will pick itself due to performance.”

‘I will learn lots from the experience myself …’

Jeanette is of course still competing herself, but acknowledges that a current lack of horsepower puts her out of immediate contention for team selection. Her Badminton ride, Let’s Dance, fell at the Rolex Crossing last year, leaving Jeanette with broken ribs, and she says the horse will likely contest some CICs in a few months.

“We may do Burghley at the end of the season,” she tells us. Jeanette’s other promising ride, the rising 10-year-old Forever Red, is on her way to three-star, having contested Blenheim as an 8- and 9-year-old. “We’ll aim her for Bramham CIC or a CCI, depending on fitness. If I do find myself in a position to be in line [for the British team], I’d of course step down from the selection panel,” she says.

“I can enjoy watching the top combinations, including the riders from other nations — France for example are really knocking on the door at the moment — and I will learn lots from the experience. I have got the T-shirt myself, in terms of going through the selection process, so I hope I can add my own experience to the mix, and see as much as I can [in terms of recognising potential horse and rider combinations] when I am out competing.”

The legend, Over To You

One cannot speak to Jeanette without enquiring about the legend that is Over to You, arguably one of the most medalled horses in British eventing history. In addition to winning team silver at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, “Jack” also carried Jeanette to individual silver and team bronze at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez, as well as four team gold medals at the Europeans (1999, 2001, 2003, 2005).

So, what’s the secret to the 29-year-old equine superstar’s longevity?

“Jack’s still in work, and ‘nannies’ the young horses,” she tells us. “He regularly goes on the horse walker and is schooled, and works every day — that’s the key, working him gently, while he’s still sound. We recently went to Oasby Horse Trials with the novices, and took him along. We parked in a field by the cross country for a graze in-hand, and he was quite enthusiastic, shall we say! Work is the best way to keep him healthy, and he looks really good.”

We wish Jeanette and the new selection team all the best in their new four-year terms, as we move into the four-year Tokyo Olympiad and approach the Europeans in Poland.

Go Eventing!

I Don’t Know About You, But I’m Feeling 22: Meet British 4* Eventer Abi Boulton

British eventer Abi Boulton. Photo by Tic Toc Eventing.

Abi Boulton and Tilston Tic Toc at Burghley in 2016. Photo courtesy of Tic Toc Eventing.

Abi Boulton of Tic Toc Eventing is one of Britain’s fastest rising stars. The 22-year-old made her name for herself when she debuted at Burghley Horse Trials in 2015 aged just 20, where she was not only the youngest to complete the event that year, but also best-placed under 25.

Based in Staffordshire, Abi, also a stalwart of the showing world, is firmly focusing on her eventing career. She tackled her second four-star at Burghley last year and moved up 10 places from the previous year — so what does 2017 hold?

“I am hoping to compete at Burghley again at the end of this year, improving on our performance in all three disciplines,” Abi says. “If I focus on that, then I believe the result will exceed 2016’s result (37th with Tilston Tic Toc, or “Ben”).

“It’s one of my favourite events and I am so lucky to have a horse to compete at this level, especially one that loves his cross country so much! My first time there wasn’t half as bad as the second, I think because in 2015 we didn’t know really what to expect, and just had fun — whereas in 2016, I felt a lot more pressure,” the young eventer explains.

Abigail Boulton's Tilston Tic Toc. Photo by Tic Toc Eventing.

Abigail Boulton’s top ride Tilston Tic Toc post-competition. Photo by Abi Boulton.

Abi has been busy in 2017 already, contesting the UK’s jumping and style (JAS) events this year, which are pre-eventing season indoor events with a combination of show jumps and cross country fences. She says she finds them to be valuable prep for the eventing season.

“I’ve mainly been taking my five and six year olds out to the JAS competitions,” Abi says. “With both horses new to the eventing scene this season, I thought it would be a nice stepping stone, rather than taking them straight to their first British Eventing (BE) outing.

“I’m also using any opportunity for them to get out and about as much as possible, which just allows them to get used to the routine of travelling to new places, and taking in the atmosphere of a competition environment. Another reason I compete at JAS is because I believe it benefits me as a rider, as the way in which you ride is also judged. I am always trying to improve my riding skills, so any critique or positives given really do help in my progression as an eventer.”

Abigail Boulton and Tilston Tic Toc. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Abi Boulton and Tilston Tic Toc at Bramham in 2015. Photo by Samantha Clark.

We were all cheering Abi on in 2015 at her first Burghley, pictured above, but for us armchair enthusiasts, what’s the ‘step up’ from three-star really like — and how did she know Ben was ready?

“The immediate difference I would say is the atmosphere. It is on a completely different level altogether from two- and three-stars,” Abi explains. “The crowds, especially on the cross-country course, are so much bigger — even if it’s pouring with rain, which can be daunting for some horses new to the level.

“The jumping combinations on the cross country phrase are much more testing, and although asking for accuracy, it’s also asking for boldness, and you need a bold horse! It is because of this that we knew Ben was ready to tackle such a course; although a difficult horse in the dressage, he has always been so brave and fearless cross country,” she adds.

If Abi had to describe the 15-year-old Ben in three words, she says it would be “impatient” and “cocky” but also “reliable.”

“The first two words could be taken as weaknesses, but they can also be positives, as without these traits he wouldn’t have the guts to attack such four-star fences,” she muses. “It is how these characteristics of his are balanced in each of the phases that allows him to perform at his best for that specific discipline.

“I have the utmost trust in him; we have been teammates for almost seven years now, and know each other inside out. As to who knows best, we still have our differences of opinion, but I owe a lot of my eventing career to him!”

Abigail Boulton's Tilston Tic Toc after a training session at home. Photo by Tic Toc Eventing.

Ben after a training session at home. Photo by Abi Boulton.

Ben will be contesting events including Chatsworth CIC3* and Bramham CCI3* U25, leading up to Burghley CCI4* in 2017. Abi’s rising 7-year-old ride TT Little Guy will also be coming back from an injury sustained at the end of last year, so for him it will be the case of strengthening him back up and getting him back into the game, Abi tells EN.

“Then I’ve got Gin n Ginger, a 6-year-old chestnut mare who is owned by Anna-Marie Gallagher, Tanyah Ewen and myself. I am very lucky to have gained my first owners and such an exciting horse to compete this season; we will introduce her to eventing and just see how she progresses — we are aiming for Novice this year,” continues Abi, who’s sponsored by Hi Ho Silver jewelry.

“Then we have Drummonds Gunfire or ‘Gunner,’ a 5-year-old bay gelding owned by my mother and I. Finally, Gunner will be taking part in some British Young Event Horse (BYEH) classes and some events alongside them.”

Abi Boulton's Gin n Ginger. Photo by Tic-Toc Eventing

Abi Boulton’s ride, Gin n Ginger. Photo by Abi Boulton.

One of the biggest challenges facing someone of Abi’s age is the move up from young riders. Presumably the more established riders get offered the rides first due to their profile, and you can’t just ‘buy in’ a top horse, so producing your own is essential.

“Being out of Young Riders and moving up to Seniors is very challenging,” Abi agrees. “The Senior bracket is a big one and it is at this stage where many riders are unable to hold their own and excel against the more established professionals. With there being so many big names out there, it is difficult for a younger rider to get noticed and therefore unable to gain the attention of owners.

“I am lucky that I have now got to such a level that does turn people’s heads; however, I am also aware that Ben will not be competing at this level forever, and it is essential to have a string of younger horses to produce,” she says. “If you’re lucky enough for an owner to invest their already quite established horse in you, then that’s amazing, but otherwise having a good eye and being able to produce a horse does become a necessity.

“I was 15 when we purchased Ben in 2010, and he was at Novice. I learnt so much as a rider bringing him up through the levels, and it’s given me a lot of experience,” Abi adds.

Finally we asked Abi what are her goals for 2017.

She says she definitely wants to qualify for Badminton 2018, and to compete the rest of her string successfully. “I have set goals for all horses and want to meet and hopefully exceed the goals set for each horse. It would also be great to add more horses to the team, so I am always seeking owners who would like to be part of our journey at Team Tic Toc!” she concludes.

Learn more about Tic Toc Eventing here. Go Eventing!

Weddings and WEG: Let’s Get to Know Britain’s David Doel

From left, David Doel with Rainstown Star, Billy Pastime, Cracker Jack II and Eisfee. Photo by Ian James. From left, David Doel with Rainstown Star, Billy Pastime, Cracker Jack II and Eisfee. Photo by Ian James.

British three-star eventer David Doel, 23, is looking ahead to an exciting season. He finished 2016 on good form with the 12-year-old Chap, coming fifth at Aldon in the two-star, and completing four three-stars, with two top-20 placings.

Canny readers may spot the famous surname; David’s mother Maggie is a former Advanced event rider and Grand Prix dressage rider, and is based with David at Reybridge Eventing at the family’s dairy farm near Chippenham in Wiltshire. As a BHSI, Maggie trains event and dressage riders, so David has grown up in a world of horsey excellence.

David, a Young Rider graduate and regular victor in the British Eventing under-21 rider rankings, is now tackling the tricky transitional phase to a senior with aplomb. He began his career in the Pony Club ranks, where he was a regular team rider for his Pony Club at Championship level. As an under-18 rider, David won the Gatcombe Pony Trials, and was first and second in the FEI Junior one-star events at both Tattersalls and Glanusk, on four different horses.

Chap SJ_ Barbury three star David Doel photo by Ian James

Chap jumping at Barbury in the three-star. Photo by Ian James.

In 2011, David won the under-18 National Championships, and in 2012 won the under-21 National Championships and the Red Mills Open Intermediate under-21 League. He has represented Great Britain at Junior and Young Rider level, winning multiple medals including team gold, and represented Great Britain in Europe as a Young Rider three years running, resulting in team silver medal in Paris in 2013 and team bronze in Portugal in 2014.

The aforementioned Chap is David’s top ride, and David says the gelding is a real personality. “Chap is owned by Gillian Jonas, who owned Mary King’s ride Apache Sauce. He has very definite views and pulls some faces; he also squeaks when you put his headcollar on, or rub is belly. He and I get on well, but some of the girls that work with me are wary of him.”

david doel Nunney dressage Nunney 2 star Dressage on Mr HiHo eventual winners of their section photo by Ian James

David Doel riding Mr Hiho at Nunney, a British two-star event, in the dressage section. The pair were eventual winners in 2016. Photo by Ian James

Four-star plans

With all of this experience under his belt, David is perfectly placed to achieve his goal of tackling a four-star event, and hopes that the latter part of 2017 may see this dream come true. “It has been a long time coming, and I have almost been there a few times,” he tells EN. He’s aiming for two and three-star events including Bramham in the summer, with Pau as a potential four-star at the latter part of the season.

His rising 10-year-old mare Eisfee is regularly placed in the top five at two-star level, and David is keen for her to move up the ranks. “She’s a lovely, classy grey mare. I’d love her to catch up with Chap and complete a three star this year.”

While Tokyo 2020 would be a dream come true, David’s current goal is to get on the World Equestrian Games training squad long list ahead of the contest in 2018. He also has some other future star rides including the rising 9-year-old Mocklershill Buster, whose dressage scores are regularly in the 40s at two-star level, and the rising 13-year-old Mr Hiho, who was victorious at Nunney last year, as well as a clutch of promising one-star horses. So, with David’s determination and dedication, WEG does seem like a very achievable plan.

“I am lucky to do what I do for a living,” he tells EN. “I wanted to ride professionally since I was 12 and now I am living the dream. Doing it professionally is hard — but I have excellent support and back up from my parents, and I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I also have a great team of owners and supporters to keep everything going.”

David Doel chatsworth accepting first prize from duchess of devonshire photo by Ian James

David Doel (right) pictured at Chatsworth accepting first prize for the one-star from the Duchess of Devonshire. Photo by Ian James.

Unsurprisingly with Maggie’s influence, David is very focused on good dressage training. “I have a good dressage ethos. I have had to learn to enjoy the show jumping, but I enjoy it much more now, as we have a better quality of horse to contest the show jumping rounds with,” he says.

“We’ve made a concerted effort to buy better jumpers, as opposed to better dressage horses, and we now jump lots. The West Wilts Showground is local and we have other great centres like Summerhouse and Hartpury not too far away. Being placed where we are in the southwest of England, we can go anywhere easily.”

David also a fan of hunting to educate the horses. “We take out the young horses to hunt and have some fun. It’s something a bit different and really helps the youngsters. I also take the one and two-star horses out and I have field mastered and whipped-in a few times, too.”

August XC at Haras du Pin 2 star on MocklersHill Buster _david doel_photo by Ian James

David is pictured in France at Haras du Pin in the two-star on Mocklershill Buster. Photo by Ian James.

Upcoming wedding

Another big event at the forefront of David’s mind is his impending nuptials to fiancé Charlotte, in June. “She’s had to put up with for a long time,” says David, who’s sponsored by companies including Kate Negus bridlework and Treehouse Sporting Colours. “But I am very lucky. She is horsey, and is a sports masseur and has three show jumpers.”

Will the pair have time for a post-wedding break? “There’s a convenient gap in the eventing calendar at the end of June, so we can have a few days off — and then a proper honeymoon once the season’s over,” he says with the practical attitude that all eventers possess.

We wish David and Charlotte all the best for their happy day, and also hope that David’s exciting 2017 season goes to plan.


Riders Weigh In On British Eventing Top Hat Ban

Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V. Photo by Jenni Autry. Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V. Photo by Jenni Autry.

British Eventing (BE) announced last month that the 2017 season is bringing key rule changes on riders’ headwear. ‘Protective headwear’ is now mandatory for all three phases, including dressage, at all levels. It was previously only compulsory below Novice level, which is equivalent to the U.S. Preliminary level.

Protective headwear that meets the required standard must be worn whenever mounted at a BE event. This means that for Novice level and above, hunting caps or beagle hats are not allowed; for Advanced Intermediate level and above, top hats are no longer permitted when mounted.

The news has seemingly not created many ripples of discontent in the UK, perhaps because many riders do choose to wear helmets now anyway. The new BE helmet ruling rule is only applicable to national (British) classes run under BE rules. (For FEI rules on headwear for all FEI classes, competitors should refer to the FEI website for their own guidelines.)

‘The correct and sensible step’

BE has stated that the new British helmet rule is “the correct and sensible step to require all members to wear protective headwear in all three phases of the sport.” It follows New Zealand’s lead, as the nation took the step of banning top hats in eventing at national competitions in summer 2016.

What do event riders who regularly compete in BE events think about the news? British three-star rider Lauren Shannon says the new BE hat rule is long overdue. “We always need to strive to make our sport safer and also keep it relevant in the modern sporting world,” she tells EN.

Burghley winner Chris Burton agrees. “I was once warming up for dressage at an event and a steward was concerned about the fact my brand new helmet had not been tagged yet,” he tells us. “But in the warm-up with me were at least 20 riders wearing 20-year-old Patey-style hats, with no safety standards at all, and no chin straps … so I think this rule is long overdue in British Eventing.”

British Olympian Gemma Tattersall says that while she knows that not everyone is a fan of losing the traditional top hat and beagler, times move on.

“In our world, health and safety is huge. I am actually a fan of the top hat and beagle hat, as I think they look elegant and smart, but we have to move on with the times, accept what the rules are and embrace them,” says Gemma, who is sponsored by Childeric Saddles and Timothy Foxx. “There are plenty of hat companies that make very smart, safe hats that look the part. PROtector made me a super smart hat for Rio, and I love it; it looks good and it’s comfortable and safe.”

Dressage guru Charlotte Dujardin has long promoted wearing helmets, both internationally and within the British team, telling the press at the 2016 Olympic Games that she’d previously fallen and fractured her skull.

“I was lucky to come out of it OK. I always now wear a helmet,” she says. “It’s something I feel very comfortable and safe in. You never know what can happen, and you only have one head.” After the 2016 Games, Carl Hester commented that as a team, it looked more cohesive for the Brits to all wear helmets.

A nice test from first timer Vanir Kamira with experienced 4* jockey Paul Tapner leaves them in equal 5th at the first day lunch break Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials

Paul Tapner and Vanir Kamira at Burghley 2015. Photo by Samantha Clark.

‘Gutted to see the top hat go …’

Riders have seemingly been quietly accepting of the ruling announcement, though some, like Irish Olympian Jonty Evans, are less enthusiastic about the change.

“My feeling regarding the top hat ruling is that there are forces at work other than simply the safety concern,” Jonty says. “While there is arguably a safety issue, there are more pressing areas of concern within the sport, in my opinion. I am gutted to see the top hat go, but I’m lucky, as I have my Gatehouse hats to replace them with.”

British three-star eventer David Doel says that while he can understand that safety is paramount in eventing, he would like to see riders have the choice of whether to wear a top hat. “We do need to keep up with modern standards of safety, but it is a shame that we cannot have the option of being able to wear such a traditional part of our competition wear, as we have done for many years,” says David, who’s sponsored by Kate Negus bridlework.

Four-star rider Paul Tapner, who is also digital and technical manager for Event Rider Masters, said that if asked five years ago, he would have been sad about the rule change. “But now, I think it is about time. Ours is a dangerous sport, so we need to understand that. There will be lots of riders still wearing top hats (in FEI classes), but we will see a decreasing number that don’t wear them,” Paul says.

“In 2013 at Badminton, I think I was the only one in a crash hat in the dressage. And in 2012 at Burghley, which was the first time I wore a crash hat in dressage at a four-star event, I was one in maybe a maximum of three riders wearing a helmet. Thankfully, there’s a large percentage that wear them now.”

And that trend is likely to continue increasing. As EN reported following the Rio Olympics, 54% of competitors chose to wear helmets in lieu of top hats in dressage, a significant increase over the 2012 Olympics in London when only 3% of riders wore helmets.

Do you agree or disagree with BE’s top hat ban, EN? Do you think the time is coming when we will see the FEI ban top hats for international events? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below.

Event Rider Masters Promises Even More Technology in 2017

ERM Bramham Prizegiving: First: CHN-Alex Hua Tian, second, USA-Clark Montgomery, Third: NZL-Jonelle Price Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trial. Photo by Libby Law Photography

The Event Rider Masters series famously features the kiss & cry podium in order to make a feature of the results. Pictured at the 2016 Bramham leg are China’s Alex Hua Tian in first, the USA’s Clark Montgomery in second and Kiwi Jonelle Price in third. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

The Event Rider Masters series set record levels of prize money when it launched in 2016 and succeeded in showcasing the sport of eventing to new global audiences. The six legs of the inaugural event incorporated iconic British events, and riders competed for the coveted Event Rider Masters title and an impressive prize pot of £350,000.

In 2017, Germany and France are being added to the host countries, and the prize pot will again be substantial. Paul Tapner, Event Rider Masters digital and technical manager, says that at the heart of the series is the amazing technology, powered by SAP Equestrian Analytics.

“SAP became the Official Technology Sponsor of Event Rider Masters partly as a result of its connection with SAP ambassador Ingrid Klimke, and also through its use of the technology at Aachen, where it was trialled and developed,” Paul says.

“We all had mutual contacts at the top end of eventing, and it was a natural progression for SAP when they were looking to expand their equestrian involvement. With our global intentions, it really suited their global business status.”

Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob Photo by Nico Morgan

The ERM aims to showcase dressage as a sport, instead of, as Paul Tapner jokes, ‘weirdly-dressed posh people on horses.’ The beautifully dressed Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob are pictured. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Exciting Interaction

Arguably the most exciting aspect of the SAP technology is its benefits to audiences within the dressage sector. “There’s an audience judging app that people download to their phones, which offers the ability for the audience to interact and engage with the event, rather than just be passive,” Paul explains.

“Eventing and dressage enthusiasts already love to sit and play dressage score bingo when they are at an event with the live score boards, comparing their marks with the judges’ marks. The live boards aren’t a new innovation, but we can incorporate them into the TV production and also utilise the back-end data to create a really interactive experience.

“With the SAP technology, you see live scoring per dressage movement. There’s lots of maths involved in transferring that figure into an actual penalty score, a trending penalty score and also a trending placing throughout a test. Dressage orders are seeded, so scores could in theory get better with every competitor, but that’s not always the case, as we know with horses.

“When utilising this technology, whether at an event or at home with the SAP app, the audience can see the movement score and also see the trending penalty score. So, if your rider is on 42 but the leader is on 45, you can quickly see that the one you’re watching is about to go into the lead. We are making sense of the data for the spectator and making dressage more engaging to watch.”

Paul Tapner and Vanir Kamira Photo by Samantha Clark

Paul Tapner, Event Rider Masters digital and technical manager, says that at the heart of the series is the amazing technology, powered by SAP Equestrian Analytics. He’s pictured with Vanir Kamira at Bramham. Photo by Samantha Clark.

More Engaging

Users can also input into the SAP app their own score per movement, or just a final score that they feel each test was worth, allowing spectators to compare their opinion of each test to the judges’ scoring.

“By the marvels of modern internet technology, people ring-side and also those watching the live stream worldwide can both input scores. We add them all together and see an average of all of the worldwide spectators’ scores, which flashes on the screen for comparison with the actual competition score,” Paul said.

“They may not tally up. It’s like the audience on TV programmes like ‘Idol’ or ‘X-Factor’ booing the judges. We can instantly see whether the spectators have a different opinion to the judges! You get audience interaction at other sporting events, whether it’s cheering or booing the decision makers at rugby, tennis or soccer matches, so why not in eventing dressage too? It’s great to hear the ‘oohs’, ‘aahs’, ‘boos’ and ‘yays’. It’s what sport is.

“The more we make eventing dressage like a sport, rather than random, weirdly dressed posh people on horses doing random things in an arena, the more we engage with spectators and gain an understanding of why the riders are winning and losing. It will also highlight dressage judging discrepancies and increase the transparency of horse sport.”

Oliver Townend and ERM winner Cillnabradden Evo pictured at Blair Castle. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

Event Rider Masters series winner Oliver Townend and Cillnabradden Evo pictured at Blair Castle. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

Number Crunching

An important part of the live TV streaming success is the people commenting on the maths and number-crunching that’s going on behind the scenes. “If I have done my job right and selected the right commentators, it will work. We’re creating a cheat sheet for the main anchor commentator with words they can’t use or have to immediately translate if another commentator uses the specific jargon — it’s got to be jargon-free for the audience,” Paul adds.

“So we will have three commentators — a data geek, a discipline expert and then a broadcast anchor, and it is this anchor person who will need to translate the eventing-specific terminology for the masses. This technology is evolving the whole time, as no one’s ever done it before, and everyone involved at the ERM has been a pro competitor and understands the need of the sport to evolve.”

In 2018, the Event Rider Masters series will hopefully go to America, with legs in Asia and the Middle East planned for 2019, making it a behemoth sporting masterpiece. Paul and the team will join EN again soon with more news on the series — and in the meantime, Go Eventing!

[Event Rider Masters]

Eventers Around the World Share Their Christmas & New Year’s Wishes

What are top international eventers hoping to find beneath this Christmas trees this morning? And what are their wishes for the upcoming year? We asked!

Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Clarke Johnstone, shown here riding Balmoral Sensation at Badminton 2016, is looking forward to some festive puppy love this Christmas. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

New Zealand’s Clarke Johnstone

EN: What are you wishing for this Christmas as a present?
I am wishing for (and getting) a puppy!

EN: What do you wish for in the 2017 season?
 “I really want to try and win my first four-star and also want to jump in the Olympic Cup at the Farmlands New Zealand Horse of the Year Show in March, which is a fantastic event held at Hastings Show Ground in New Zealand.”

Chris Burton and Santano II. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Chris Burton and Santano II in Rio. Photo by Jenni Autry.

 Australia’s Chris Burton

EN: What are you wishing for this Christmas as a present?
Chris: “We have already enjoyed some down time in Australia with our families at the start of December, and I just want to have a great time with friends and family over the festive break.”

EN: What do you wish for the 2017 season?
Chris: “I would love to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing — Rolex, Badminton and Burghley — but we all know this is no mean feat!”

EN: Who would you like to send Christmas thanks to?
Chris: “My sponsors Schockemoehle Sports and Baileys Horse Feeds.”

David Doel competing at France's Haras du Pin two-star, riding MocklersHill Buster. Photo by Reybridge Eventing.

David Doel at France’s Haras du Pin. Photo by Ian James.

Great Britain’s David Doel

EN: What are you wishing for this Christmas as a present?
David: “A really exciting one … a new trundle wheel for measuring the cross country courses with! Although we’re starting to see lots of technology for your phone, I still don’t think you can beat using a wheel to be precise.”

EN: What do you wish for the 2017 season?
David: “A Nations Cup appearance or two; it’s been awhile since I did one and I just seem to keep missing out on them through injury. So that would be nice!”

EN: Who would you like to send Christmas thanks to?
David: “My sponsor Kate Negus bridlework.”

Camilla Spiers and Portersize Just  A Jiff. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Camilla Spiers and Portersize Just A Jiff at WEG 2014. Photo by Jenni Autry.

 Ireland’s Camilla Speirs

EN: What are you wishing for this Christmas as a present?
Camilla: “I have been borrowing an equine vibration therapy platform for a few weeks from Vitafloor, and judging by the results I’ve seen so far it’s definitely on my list from Santa!”

EN: What do you wish for the 2017 season?
Camilla: “I hope to continue to reach the competitive goals which I’ve set for the horses and myself, and that all my horses remain sound, healthy and happy!”

British eventer Louisa Milne Home. Photo by Robinsons Animal Healthcare.

Louisa Milne Home hopes to ride at Badminton in 2017. Photo courtesy of Robinson Animal Healthcare.

Great Britain’s Louisa Milne Home

EN: What are you wishing for this Christmas as a present?
Louisa: “I would love another pair of thermal boots as mine are nearly worn out; they are definitely a much needed item when trying to keep the horses fit over winter in Scotland. My dream present would be a luxury round-the-world trip, stopping off at lots of sunny destinations.”

EN: What do you wish for the 2017 season?
Louisa: “I am really looking forward to the start of the 2017 season; my aim is to compete at Badminton and Burghley with King Eider, and I have high hopes for some of my promising young horses.”

EN: Who would you like to send Christmas thanks to?
 “My sponsor Robinson Animal Healthcare.”

British eventer Abi Boulton. Photo by Tic Toc Eventing.

Abi Boulton wants something tweedy under the tree. Photo by Tic Toc Eventing.

Great Britain’s Abi Boulton

EN: What are you wishing for this Christmas as a present?
Abi: “I would love to get a new tweed jacket for next season, as my current one I have worn since I was 15 and let’s just say the sleeves end nearer my elbows than my wrists!”

EN: What do you wish for the 2017 season?
“I am very lucky to have two new young horses to add to the team for next year, which I am very excited about. I am always looking to build our team of horses, sponsors and owners, so I can keep my dream my reality. It would be amazing if this could grow!”

EN: Who would you like to send Christmas thanks to?
 “My sponsor Hiho Silver.”

Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh at Badminton. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Sam Griffiths, pictured riding Paulank Brockagh, has high hopes for this year’s Badminton Horse Trials. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Australia’s Sam Griffiths

EN: What are you wishing for this Christmas as a present?
“If money were no object, I would like to take my family from the UK and Australia to fly to a tropical destination and be looked after by some Michelin-starred chefs.”

EN: What do you wish for the 2017 season?
 “I really want to go well at Badminton; that’s my main priority.”

Fernhill Highlight and Francis Whittington during the dressage phase of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2015 Photo by Samantha Clark

Fernhill Highlight and Francis Whittington during the dressage phase of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Great Britain’s Francis Whittington

EN: What are you wishing for this Christmas as a present?
Francis: “It’s not a horsey wish, but I would really like a new car!”

EN: What do you wish for the 2017 season?
Francis: “I have some lovely young horses, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them develop over the 2017 season.”

EN: Who would you like to send Christmas thanks to?
“Sponsor WOW Saddles.”

Helen Cole, British eventer. Photo by Action Replay Photography.

Helen Cole seeks good health and happiness moving into 2017. Photo by Action Replay Photography.

Great Britain’s Helen Cole

EN: What are you wishing for this Christmas as a present?
Helen: “Someone to find me a smart young horse to produce up the grades!”

EN: What do you wish for the 2017 season?
Helen: “Good health and happiness for friends, family and horses.”

EN: Who would you like to send Christmas thanks to?
 “My sponsor Kate Negus bridlework.

Joseph Murphy and DHI Topstory. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Joseph Murphy and DHI Topstory at Pau. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Ireland’s Joseph Murphy

EN: What are you wishing for this Christmas as a present?
 “If Santa would like to drop by Agnelli Motor Park and see if there is any other ‘horsepower’ he could deliver me, that would be great …”

EN: What do you wish for the 2017 season?
 “I am wishing to bring some nice silverware home for my owners next year, as I am lucky to ride their lovely horses! I am also wishing that the horses remain fit and healthy too. Of course, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a fantastic 2017.”

We hope you all get your wishes! Go Eventing!

Ireland’s Pocket Rocket: Camilla Spiers and Her ‘Overgrown Pony’ Portersize Just A Jiff

Camilla Spiers and Portersize Just  A Jiff. Photo by Jenni Autry. Camilla Spiers and Portersize Just A Jiff. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Measuring just 15.1-hands, Portersize Just A Jiff is considerably smaller than most of his four-star eventing peers. But that hasn’t hindered his career with Camilla Spiers, with whom he topped Eventing Ireland’s horse rankings this year.

They were the only Irish pairing to have had two top 10 placings at four star level in 2016, a commendable sixth at Pau and a ninth at Badminton, the best Irish result for a season in recent history. And the pocket-rocket gelding, now 16 years old, is showing no signs of slowing down.

EN recently had the opportunity to catch up with Camilla about her pocket rocket superstar.

Love at first sight

Camilla and “Jiff” have grown up together, as the now 27-year-old Irish team member was just 15 when their paths collided. Her parents sought to buy a big pony to take her through pony classes and beyond and consulted renowned Ireland-based sports horse producers Deirdre and Richard Bourns.

“We thought he’d be a good project to sell on — Deirdre and Richard showed us some nice ponies and reluctantly pulled out Jiff, as they weren’t sure they wanted to sell him — it was love at first sight,” recalls Camilla. “I loved him, but knew he was going to be a bit too big for a pony. We bought him age four and he measured in as a pony, before measuring out as he matured.”

Camilla Speirs and Portersize Just a Jif were travelling reserves at Rio, having competed in 2012, pictured. Photo by Kathy Carter.

Camilla Spiers and Portersize Just A Jif at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Photo by Kathy Carter.

Camilla’s ‘overgrown pony’ is a traditional Irish Sport Horse by the Connemara pony stallion Crosskeys Rebel, out of the Irish Sport Horse dam Mizen Talent.

Camilla says she knew the horse was special, but didn’t know what he was capable of. Trusting her gut feeling that he had great potential, the family sold off another horse to keep Jiff on the yard as he turned six, and the pair was subsequently selected for the Junior Europeans.

He went on to contest a major championship every single year (with the exception of 2013, when he was recovering from injury), and their resume includes the Young Rider Europeans, Senior European Championships, the World Equestrian Games and the 2012 Olympic Games. They were selected as travelling reserve for the 2016 Olympics but sadly did not get their chance to compete.

“It is a shame he didn’t get to compete at Rio, as he was at the top of his game,” Camilla says. “I didn’t put his name forward for the Olympics until after Badminton, as I knew travelling to Brazil would be tough, and he doesn’t owe me anything. But he’s been in top form this year, and I know he will tell me when the time’s right to wind down.”

A gent on the yard

This ‘time to wind down’ does not appear to be imminent with his consistency at elite levels. The pair’s Badminton performance saw a very respectable dressage score of 49.8, although she says the horse’s dressage ‘isn’t always the easiest.’

“If we could get him higher up in the dressage scores he’d be unbeatable,” she says.

Back in May the UK was enjoying a heatwave, and the pair’s cross country ride time was in the middle of the day. “I was conscious of the heat, so I didn’t want to push him too much for the time, so took a long route. But we finished with just a 0.8 time fault,” Camilla recalls. The pair’s previous best Badminton result was six years previously in 2010, when they finished 14th.

Ireland's Camilla Speirs with Portersize Just a Jiff. Photo by Lorraine O'Sullivan, courtesy of Tattersalls International H.T.

Camilla Speirs and Portersize Just A Jiff. Photo by Lorraine O’Sullivan, courtesy of Tattersalls International H.T.

Camilla tells EN that when Jiff is competing, she likes to take just two or three horses.

“We have lots of young ones that are quite fresh and sharp, but he likes the quiet environment,” she says. “Jiff is quietly the boss of the yard, but he isn’t bossy. The other horses respect him. He’s such a gent on the yard — very laid back easy going.”

‘He makes the four star tracks feel easy’

Eventing at elite levels over such large fences on a 15.1-hand horse may seem like an unnerving challenge to many of us, but Camilla says Jiff makes the four-star tracks feel easy.

“He has a big stride, so it never feels like a struggle ever the cross country jumps,” she says. “Even over the biggest fences, I never feel unsure of him. What makes him so good is his rideability and amenable nature — you think go, and he will go — you think wait, he will wait. You never have to ride defensively, as he is always there with you, and thinking forward. Jiff is always balanced with a good rhythm, so I have never thought that a course was too big for him.”

Winter training

Camilla says Jiff’s training programme over winter is to do some show jumping and train lightly for the one-star Burgham Horse Trials in March.

The horses all get to enjoy leisurely turn out, and Jiff has his own field. Camilla has a raft of youngsters to bring on, and hopes to take a few to incoming UK Eventing Performance Manager Chris Bartle’s base for some training.

“The horses have been out in the sunshine, but they are coming in now and are all getting clipped and ready for action. It is back to drawing board with all my young horses now; we have lots that are rising five and six, so I am planning for lots of fun over the winter to get some mileage on them, and take a few to Chris’ yard,” she says.

Camilla Spiers and Portersize Just A Jiff. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Camilla Spiers and Portersize Just A Jiff. Photo by Jenni Autry.

As we discussed in an earlier interview with Camilla, while the average age of Olympic event horses is around 12 years old, the great Lenamore was 19 when he competed in London 2012, so one can never say never, in terms of future Championship and Olympic selection.

“Everything we do with Jiff will be in his best interest,” says Camilla of any future retirement plans. “He has to be loving it as much as me, which he definitely is at the moment.”

Other small-in-stature eventing stars

There are of course some well-known diminutive equines that have succeeded at the highest levels of eventing, such Karen O’Connor’s four-star ride Teddy, whose accolades included winning a Pan American Games individual gold medal.

Mark Todd’s Charisma is also considered to be one of eventing’s greatest horses, yet stood at just 15.3 hands — an unusual combination, given Mark’s height of 6’2”.

The little horse had already excelled in high-level dressage, eventing and jumping, and had even won the New Zealand Pony Club Horse Trials Championship when Mark tried him out in 1983. Virginia Caro, then-manager of New Zealand’s National Equestrian Centre, was instrumental in formally introducing the partnership.

“It was the middle of winter, and I saw this scruffy, fat little thing. I nearly got back in my car and drove off, but told myself not to be silly,” Mark Todd says. “However, as soon as I sat on Charisma, I loved him – and we won every event that we entered in New Zealand.”

Mark Todd and NZB Campino (NZL). Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Toddy, pictured here with NZB Campino, cites eventing legend Charisma as an ‘equine hero’. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Owning and riding a smaller equine can have its benefits — for one, they are often very hardy. Jiff and Charisma both boast Connemara heritage, while Karen O’Connor’s Teddy could trace Thoroughbred, Arabian, and even Shetland pony breeding lines. Meanwhile, it could be contested that there are cost-saving benefits to be had, in terms of small horses’ forage bills!

Go Jiff. Go Eventing!

Repose and Recuperate: Do Eventers Rest Sufficiently After a Fall?

The risk of concussion in horse riding can be considerable and comparable with high-impact sports such as football and auto racing. But eventers are a hardy bunch! Falling is par for the course — Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth, fell and suffered a concussion in Bromont, Canada, at the 1976 Summer Games with Goodwill, famously remounting and completing the course but not remembering much of the experience afterwards.

Mark fall

According to the UK’s National Health Service, concussion is a type of minor traumatic brain injury, described as a sudden, short-lived loss of mental function that occurs after a blow or other injury to the head. However, concussions cannot be captured on any imaging devices; they are diagnosed based on clinical symptoms. Information published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine in 2014 shows that head and brain injuries are responsible for the majority of serious equestrian injuries and deaths, with the rate of concussion estimated to be between 3% and 91%.

“Education of riders, parents, and horse trainers is needed to raise awareness of concussions and reduce the likelihood of subsequent injuries,” one study reports.

Sports research

Sports concussion has a wide field of research. Researchers have for example recently found measurable brain changes in children after a single season of playing youth football, while the UK’s Guardian newspaper recently reported on another football study that tracked changes in each player’s brain using MRI scans. Researchers concluded that rest is required to allow the brain to heal after impacts, advice that is transferable to all dangerous sports.

Sports concussion has a wide field of research, with some learning outcomes on recuperation for equestrianism. Photo by Can Stock Images.

Sports concussion has a wide field of research, with some learning outcomes on recuperation for equestrianism. Photo by Can Stock Images.

Do we rest sufficiently after a fall?

As safety becomes increasingly important for equestrian influences and organisers, today competitive riders are bound by post-fall guidelines that help us to stay safer. But are we doing enough to safeguard our most valuable assets–our heads–in the course of our riding, and do we rest sufficiently after a fall?

Our helmets may be up-to-standard and technologically advanced, but they cannot provide the rest that may be the key to us safe-guarding our brain health. Concussion is a common consequence of eventing-related injuries, according to Dr. Judith Johnson, a member of British Eventing (BE)’s Risk Management Committee. “It is very easy to think that because we are overtly uninjured, that we are undamaged in any way. But we should consider brain damage–even in a minor form–to be more common than is formally diagnosed,” she advises.

Fall are par for the course in the field of eventing. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Falls are par for the course in the field of eventing. (This horse and rider both walked away uninjured.) Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Under British Eventing (BE) rules, all concussed eventing competitors must be assessed by a medical practitioner (doctor or consultant) as fit to ride, including after the mandatory 21 days’ suspension that allows them to recuperate. (There are some exceptions, subject to medical assessment.)

Under FEI rules, riders with suspected concussion are seen by an examining medical officer, and a ‘Concussion Recognition Tool’ is used. If concussion is identified, the athlete may not ride a horse nor return to competition/training for the remainder of the day, and must be assessed at a hospital, before being reassessed to ride the next day.

“I was written off for several weeks of competition”

Bonnie Fishburn is a UK-based amateur eventer. She is currently fit and well, with recent successes including second place at Somerford Park International Horse Trials, and ninth at Gatcombe International Horse Trials, both in the novice sections, riding Mr. Precision.

However, in the space of three years, she has had two potentially serious falls. The first was three years ago when Bonnie suffered a rotational fall while competing at a BE Intermediate horse trials, where she was knocked unconscious for several minutes. It is now apparent that her erratic behaviour after her fall made Bonnie make questionable decisions.

Bonnie Fishburn is a UK-based amateur eventer. Photo by Bonnie Fishburn.

Bonnie Fishburn is a UK-based amateur eventer. Photo by Bonnie Fishburn.

“I was sedated and airlifted to hospital suffering a dislocated collarbone, fractured shoulder, bruised lungs, fractured skull and a bruised brain,” she tells EN. “This wrote me off for several weeks of competition, but I was actually back on a horse only five days later, doing a little bit of schooling and hacking. Six weeks later we were part of the British Riding Clubs Open Show Jumping winning team.”

The manufacturer of Bonnie’s riding helmet reported that the ‘high energy impact’ had reduced the shock absorbing polystyrene liner from 20mm to 15mm in thickness, although the glass reinforced outer shell was intact. So does she feel, given her injuries, that she rushed back to the saddle?

“I have very little memory from the time after my fall, and people tell me that for the couple of weeks that followed my fall, I was a pain in the backside! I wouldn’t listen to anything people told me and went against everyone’s advice to rest,” Bonnie said. “When I was in hospital, I would just leave the building and then phone random friends and tell them I’d escaped and to come and collect me. Then when I was discharged after four days I took off my sling and went straight to the horses and tacked one up to ride, as I was due to ride at the British Riding Clubs Horse Trials National Championships and I was determined not to let my club down. I do sort of remember that actually it really hurt to ride, and sitting on my bottom was really painful.”

Bonnie was lucky, as she says there are no obvious long-term mental effects due the fact that she rode too quickly. “Everything seemed to heal eventually, although I do have a dent that’s been left in my skull, which hat manufacturers Patey discovered when I had my head measured for my wedding top hat, which I wore to ride to church on my big day. I was gobsmacked when I saw the template–I didn’t know [the dent] was there.”

Bonnie Fishburn is currently fit and well despite her falls. Photo by Bonnie Fishburn.

Bonnie Fishburn is currently fit and well, despite her falls. Photo by Bonnie Fishburn.

“The confusion was the worst…”

Incredibly, just over a year after this fall, Bonnie’s horse slipped and she fell out of the side door and was again knocked out for several minutes. “Luckily, a friend’s mother was nearby and came to help me. Once again I was angry and uncooperative because I wasn’t really ‘with it’–this confusion is said to be a common issue after suffering from a head injury,” Bonnie said.

She was taken to hospital by road ambulance, however after a head scan and observation, she was discharged. “This time I was concussed. I was sick, dizzy, confused and basically felt like I had a really bad hangover,” she recalls. “The confusion was the worst, I couldn’t understand what had happened or why I was there. It’s a really horrible feeling.”

Bonnie now says that in hindsight, removing her sling and riding with her injuries after the first fall was not the best idea. “I may also think twice about riding just four days afterwards,” she muses, with trademark eventer’s grit.

Bonnie Fishburn with her horse Mr Precision was a 'guinea pig' rider at a recent British Eventing Training XC Masterclass, sponsored by Treehouse Sporting Colours, with the UK's Eventing Performance Coach, Chris Bartle. Photo by Bonnie Fishburn.

Bonnie Fishburn, pictured with her horse Mr. Precision, was a ‘guinea pig’ rider at a recent British Eventing Training XC Masterclass, sponsored by Treehouse Sporting Colours, with the UK’s Eventing Performance Coach, Chris Bartle. Photo by Bonnie Fishburn.

Look out for the symptoms

Mick Carter, a British Critical Care Paramedic, says that it is important to look out for the common symptoms of concussion after a riding fall or blow to the head, which include a brief loss of consciousness after the head injury; any periods of memory loss; disturbances in vision, such as ‘seeing stars’ or blurry vision; any periods of confusion; a blank expression, or a delay in answering questions immediately after the head injury. He advises anyone present at the incident to use questioning to help – e.g. “where are we,” “what’s the horse’s name?” If there’s any doubt to the person’s health status, then they need to see a healthcare professional for assessment.

FEI Medical Officer and Team GBR’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Peter Whitehead, has said that concussion is serious, whatever the symptoms. “Anyone suffering from concussion should cease competition to prevent repetition of the injury and be followed up until all symptoms have resolved,” he says.

He has reported that in America, 3.8 million sports concussions are reported to team doctors annually, with many more going unreported, and in an FEI ‘sports concussion’ presentation he recommended practices including the use of an electronic database for medical armband production, more accurate injury surveillance in eventing contests, and widespread control of medical suspension, especially for concussion cases. (USEF events require medical bracelets or medical armbands to be worn; they’re optional under BE-run events.)

Concussion is serious

Fortunately, only 3% of riders in British Eventing contests suffer what is described as ‘serious’ injuries, a category that includes hospital admission for concussion. (Source: BE’s ‘Summary Of XC Falls 2014/15’). (NB, BE uses different assessment criteria to the FEI). This figure showed a dramatic reduction against the previous season.

BE's Summary of XC Falls (2014/2015). Photo by BE.

BE’s Summary of XC Falls (2014-2015). Photo by BE.

BE’s ‘Summary Of XC Falls (2014-15).

BE’s Summary Of XC Falls (2014-15). Photo by BE.

Dr. Judith Johnson, also BE’s Chief Medical Officer, explains the effects of concussion on the brain and performance here. “The old advice of ‘lying in a darkened room’ is good advice for initial brain recovery. Brain rest [after concussion] is important and ‘screen time’ should be limited to under two hours a day,” she says.

“Rehabilitation time and speed varies enormously from individual to individual and bears little correlation to the perceived severity of initial symptoms. Whilst we may feel intuitively that a period of unconsciousness is likely to represent severe concussion and a bit of confusion and balance problems a minor form, this is not necessarily true.”

Go eventing (safely)!

[Concussion history and knowledge base in competitive equestrian athletes]

[Research reveals footballers are still heading for serious trouble]

[Sports concussion recognition and management]

[BE rider information: concussion explained]

Gemma Tattersall and Team GB Looking Ahead to 2017 and Beyond

Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V. Photo by Jenni Autry. Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V. Photo by Jenni Autry.

With recent announcements that Chris Bartle and Richard Waygood will team up to create a new coaching structure for the British eventing squad, Team GB is firmly in a transition following a fifth-place finish at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Like her fellow teammates, British Olympian Gemma Tattersall is looking ahead to the 2017 European Championships in Strzegom and the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, and she has an exciting string of established horses and up-and-coming talent.

Her 6-year-old Billy Hopefull won his first Novice at Gatcombe, and her youngsters by Chilli Morning have also been racking up excellent top-10 placings. Chilli’s Gem finished seventh in the Le Lion d’Angers 7-year-old Championships, and 6-year-old Chilli Knight was eighth at the Osberton International Young Horse Championships.

Holding her nerve

Britain tackled a supremely difficult cross country challenge in Rio, so what was Gemma’s experience at the event, and how did she hold her nerve for that final sterling show jumping round?

“Fifth was not the result we wanted at all, we were all disappointed, but we were all very happy to come out and jump four great rounds on the last day,” Gemma tells EN. “Ahead of my round, I just tried to remember that we are good at that bit and to believe we could finish with a good clear.”

Gemma riding Quicklook V, Kitty King with Ceylor LAN, Pippa Funnell with Billy The Biz, and William Fox-Pitt with Chilli Morning all went clear in the concluding show jumping round.

Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V in a lesson with Team GBR dressage coach Tracie Robinson. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Gemma Tattersall and her Olympic ride Quicklook V at Aachen 2015. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Quicklook V: ‘Such a show-off”

Quicklook V, an 11-year-old Anglo European mare (Urkel X Unabresse M, by Quick Star) owned by the Pebbles Syndicate, has had a really strong season at three-star level — including seventh at Bramham CIC3* and fourth at Chatsworth CIC* — but what is so special about this lovely mare?

“Quicklook is a huge character; she talks all the time, is extremely friendly and loves all attention. She thinks the big events are put on just for her,” Gemma says. “She loves to learn and thrives on work. I knew she was special the moment I saw her; she moves beautifully and is such a show-off.”

‘Plenty of horses coming through for Britain’

What is Gemma’s take on Britain’s strength on the world eventing stage moving into 2017? “We have had a small lull in experienced four-star horses, but that happens in every camp,” Gemma says. “There are now plenty of horses coming through for Britain, and I think we will be really strong again for the World Equestrian Games.”

Gemma, who was riding ponies from when she was a tiny baby before she could even walk, says riding horses was always a career choice. “My mum worked at a riding school, so I was obsessed with being on a horse,” she says. When asked how she stays fit and healthy, she cites: “Lots and lots of riding! Also eating healthily, and before the season begins, I always work with a personal trainer to get me up to fitness.”

Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul Photo by Nico Morgan

Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul, who placed third at this year’s Badminton Horse Trials, but did not contest the Games due to injury. Photo by Nico Morgan.

A support team ‘like gold dust’

Gemma says she has a huge support team that she could not do her job without.

“They are like gold dust. Firstly there’s my whole family; my mum, who comes to events with me and drives the truck; my boyfriend Matt Heath who supports me hugely; Charlotte Overton my head girl, who has known me for years and totally understands me; my four other girls Lauren Stanley, Jess Young, Jess Copsy and Becky Smiley — they are all so loyal, fun and hard working; and my right-hand woman Elodie Frost, my personal assistant who organises my life! Without her, I wouldn’t know what I’m doing from one day to the next,” she says.

“Then obviously there are all the fantastic owners, without whom I could not do this incredible sport, and sponsors including Childeric Saddles and Timothy Foxx clothing. I am very lucky to be supported by some amazing people who help me work towards success.”

We asked Gemma what her plans are over the winter, and she says the horses and team are currently having a nice break. “When we are back from my current holiday, I will be getting the horses all back into work, with maybe some hunting for some of the young horses, but most definitely some show jumping,” she says. “Roll on the 2017 season.”

Go Eventing.

British Equestrian Federation Seeks New Performance Director as Dan Hughes Steps Down

Dan Hughes, the UK's outgoing Performance Director. Photo by the BEF

Dan Hughes, the UK’s outgoing Performance Director. Photo by the BEF

The British Equestrian Federation (BEF)’s Performance Director of the UK Sport / National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, Dan Hughes, has stepped down from his post.

Having guided the British equestrian teams to multi-medal success in Rio, he has cited the constant time away from his family as taking too great a toll. The Performance Director has the responsibility for the coordination and delivery of the World Class Program for the disciplines of eventing, dressage, show jumping and para-equestrian dressage.

The BEF is now looking to begin the process of recruiting a new Performance Director with support from UK Sport, the body responsible for promoting sport across the UK. Sarah Armstrong, currently the World Class Programme’s Head of Operations and Performance Manager for Para-Dressage, is leading the World Class Programme on an interim basis until a new Performance Director is in place.

William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Dan Hughes helped guide the British team, which included event rider William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning, to multi-medal success in Rio 2016. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Clare Salmon, Chief Executive of the BEF, told EN that the BEF is currently working through its review process for the World Class Program following Rio, which takes place at the end of each Olympic cycle.

“It’s too early for us to talk about what the new candidate may bring to the role of Performance Director for the World Class programme, however you can be sure that the qualities, skills and experience we will look for in a new PD will be focused on achieving our 2020 goals,” she states.

Dan Hughes was in the post for just under two years. He personally competed to the four-star level in eventing and was a member of the successful British European Young Rider squads in 1989 and 1990, continuing to compete at the two-star level whilst in the army.

Yogi Breisner and Will Connell. Photo by Samantha Clark.

It is an exciting time for equestrian sport in the UK, with the current recruitment of senior posts formerly held by Dan Hughes and Yogi Breisner, who is pictured right with USEF Director of Sports Programs Will Connell. Photo by Samantha Clark.

The BEF is working on ambitious plans to continue to optimise performance for the upcoming Olympic cycle, having recently submitted its funding bid for Tokyo 2020. An increased emphasis on sports science and a more tailored coaching approach will be a central element in these plans, which are being developed collaboratively with input from the Olympic discipline member bodies.

Clare Salmon told EN that the BEF is currently awaiting the results of its funding bid from UK Sport. “We look forward to releasing more insight into our proposed approach once funding levels are certain,” she said. Funding levels from UK Sport are scheduled to be confirmed in December.

The appointment of a new Performance Manager comes soon after Yogi Breisner stepped down as head coach of the British Eventing Team, a position for which several candidates have applied.

Anti-Bullying Campaigns Gain Support Within British Eventing Community

Anti-bullying campaigns have garnered support within the eventing community. Phot by Tudor Rose Equine.

Anti-bullying campaigns have garnered support within the eventing community. Photo by Tudor Rose Equine.

Anti-Bullying Week, a promotional event run by the British charity FamilyLives, takes place this week in the UK and has the backing of the British Equestrian Federation and its member bodies, including British Eventing.

The theme this year is ‘Power for Good.’ The event focuses on supporting children and young people, and encouraging individual and collective action to prevent bullying and create safe environments where children can thrive.

BE has supported the event to help prevent bullying in sports clubs, where some young people are subject to name calling, verbal bullying, threats and intimidation. In its ‘Safeguarding Equestrian Sport’ document, the BEF states that bullied children may feel frightened or in danger, and that cyberbullying is also an issue.

Eventer Michael Owen and dressage rider David Morris support the #notonmyyard campaign. Photo by Katie Amos.

Eventer Michael Owen, right, and dressage rider David Morris support the #notonmyyard anti-bullying campaign. Photo by Katie Amos.

Support of the week aligns with the current ‘NOT on My Yard’ anti-bullying campaign which has been backed by Campaign Ambassador Hartpury College, host of the NAF International Hartpury Horse Trials, and is aimed at combating bullying in the equestrian world.

The scheme was set up in January by riders Samantha Thurlow, Alan Jones and Nicky White, and the Hashtag #notonmyyard has been created for social media use; eventers including Oliver Townend and Ben Hobday have reportedly supported the campaign via social media.

British eventer Michael Owen, who won the Advanced section at Ballindenisk this year, is an ambassador for the campaign, saying, “I’ve seen this type of thing firsthand and am proud to be part of the Not On My Yard campaign.”

Je Ne Regrette Rien: Piggy French Looks Determinedly Forward to 2017

Piggy French & DHI Topper W at Blenheim 2011

Piggy French & ‘DHI Topper W’ at Blenheim in 2011. The horse has since been campaigned by Paul Burgess and Bubby Upton. Image by ESJ Photo.

Popular British eventer and former European Silver Medallist Piggy French finished the 2015 season in 13th place on the British Eventing leaderboard; however, nature had a different plan in store for the 2016 season.

“I climbed the walls and went nuts when I discovered I was pregnant early in the season,” recalls Piggy, who welcomed baby Max into the world in July with fellow eventer and fiancé Tom March. “But I am of course very lucky to have been blessed with a child.”

Piggy, a member of the British WEG squad in 2010, and former Young Rider team gold medallist and U25 Champion, is still revelling in motherhood, despite an emergency C-section birth that saw her wave goodbye to the 2016 competitive season.

“The break has been healthy for me though, and I am now very excited to be getting fit and working with the horses,” she tells EN. “Max comes with us wherever we go, and while he’s still so young, Tom can even get on with some office work whilst Max is with him. It has been fairly easy to balance so far, as the horses haven’t been so demanding.”

Piggy French and Obos Cooley. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Piggy French and Obos Cooley. The pair was second at Ballendenisk in the two-star International Intermediate section in 2015. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Piggy says that she’s currently riding for three to four hours a day, and riding to regain fitness rather than to keep the horses in training.

“We have a few young advanced horses on the yard that are on the brink for next year. Jump Jet III is a 7 year old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Tom that has been campaigned very lightly, and he’s a fantastic horse — I am so glad we have him, as we keep ending up nearly selling him! I am taking the ride back on him from Tom next year.”

The horse, by Captain Clover, finished 13th at the BE Young Horse Championships CCI1* in 2015 with Piggy in the saddle, and this year held his own at Rockingham International Horse Trials, the horse’s first two-star, with Tom at the helm.

“Tom’s such a talented rider,” Piggy says. “I think most of the rides he’s been producing in 2016 will come back to me, but like me, he’s an all or nothing person, and if I am back competing he will be happy to support me and look after the team of owners and sponsors, and continue producing and training the horses at home.”

Piggy French and Jump Jet III placed third in the Intermediate at Richmond Horse Trials in 2015. Photo by Tom March.

Piggy French and Jump Jet III placed third in the Intermediate at Richmond Horse Trials in 2015. Photo by Tom March.

Piggy says she’s excited about the prospect of competing again.

“I may be riding for three or four hours a day now, but in the season you’re riding all day, and even when you are done riding, the work still isn’t finished! The break has been a good way for me to freshen up, and I can’t thank my team of sponsors and owners enough for staying so supportive and loyal to us. Our owners have been an unbelievable help, and are very good friends,” she adds.

Piggy hasn’t been resting on her laurels however, spending time in 2016 training and teaching eventing pupils, and serenading Michael Jung at Badminton Horse Trials as a roving reporter. We wish her and Tom every success for the 2017 season and congratulate them on the birth of their lovely son.

Go Eventing!


Brit Lucy McCarthy and Tokyo Phil ‘Get Cracking’ on Olympic Dream

Lucy Wiegersma and Simon Porloe, now ridden by her husband Padraig McCarthy. Photo by EN.

Lucy McCarthy, née Wiegersma, pictured with her former ride Simon Porloe, now ridden by her husband Padraig McCarthy. Photo by EN.

Lucy McCarthy, née Wiegersma, is a former international event rider based in the South of England. With husband Padraig McCarthy, who rides for Ireland and represented his country in Rio in 2016, she co-runs MGH Sport Horses, an equine training and trading business. Lucy gave birth to baby Tomas 18 months ago and, refreshingly for all parents struggling to balance parenthood with their career, openly describes herself as frustrated, middle-aged and having an existential crisis.

“I have had some radical life events in the past couple of year; in the space of 18 months I have had a baby, got married, set up a new business, called time on my sporting career, launched Padraig’s own eventing career and lost immediate family to cancer. In all of that, I have somehow lost sense of who I really am. I fulfill roles — wife, mother, daughter, coach, PA, secretary — but it seems that the essence of who I really am, what drives me, what makes me tick, has evaporated,” she says with searing honesty.

Unfinished Business

Lucy had waved off Padraig and his horse on their way to the Olympics in the summer, when it hit her — she still had unfinished business in the eventing game.

“Competing at the Olympics was my childhood dream; it was never so much the Badmintons or Burghleys that drove me, it was the Olympics. I have narrowly missed out twice, being first reserve in both 2008 and 2012, but the actual field of play has eluded me. As long as equestrianism remains in the Olympics, and I am physically able, I’ve got to keep trying,” Lucy explains.

Padraig McCarthy and Bernadette Utopia (IRE). Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Padraig McCarthy and Bernadette Utopia (IRE). Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Having already handed over her horses to Padraig to ride, Lucy decided to eye up the equine talent at her yard: “I thought, I had better just go and pick one from the field and get cracking — just make sure it’s not too valuable that we’ll miss selling it.”

“So my eyes rested on Phil, and I thought, you’ll do,” she recalls. “Good looking, homebred by the stallion Wings, 16.3, 5-year-old bay gelding. Physically a late developer, so not done much other than get backed and ridden away. Very good mover, a bit dozy, nice jump, a bit sloppy at the moment, but could well sharpen up as he matures with work. I’d better get on and give him a test drive.”

And so, the “Tokyo Phil” dream was born — taking a horse that had never done an affiliated event to the Olympic Games — and along with it, a fabulous Facebook page ‘written’ by Phil himself, with help from the very witty Lucy. “Sorry I’ve not posted anything for a while, but I trod on my iPad, and have been waiting for a new one,” writes Phil in a recent October post.

Tokyo Phil. Photo by MGH Sports Horses.

Tokyo Phil. Photo by MGH Sports Horses.

A Serious Project

Although there’s a big element of this project that is tongue in cheek, Lucy is serious about this lovely horse, and has agreed to share her journey with Tokyo Phil (that’s his registered name!) with EN readers.

“Poor Phil has had a pretty sharp development curve over the past two months. He has got to get from Just Broken to Four Star in the space of four years! When we started out at the beginning of August, he had very little idea of steering, and had just trotted over a few cross poles in the school. But the more I work with the horse, the more I like him, and I think he’s actually an exceptionally nice prospect. He’s sharpened up physically and mentally a massive amount, but hasn’t lost his kind, amenable nature, and is a really lovely horse to work with,” she says.

The pair recently entered their first affiliated events, the BE 90 classes at Dauntsey and Broadway Horse Trials, running ‘hors concours’ with a positive start, before stepping up to the BE 100 at Aldon Horse Trials, and coming a respective 19th. Phil showcased a good dressage test and cross country round, and just had a couple of fences down in the show jumping.

Torn in All Directions

Lucy says one of the greatest challenges is creating time.

“I’m finding myself torn in so many different directions at the moment, and the first thing that has to give is my daily riding,” she says. “I like to flatter myself that this might have a detrimental effect on Phil’s progress, although just now it probably does him no harm to have a few days ambling along the lanes, digesting hedgerow and life in equal measures. I don’t think our Phil is a great thinker of profound thoughts, but a man still needs a bit of headspace.”

Tokyo Phil is unimpressed with his plaist, now he's an affiliated event horse. Photo by Lucy McCarthy.

Tokyo Phil is unimpressed with his plaits, now that he’s an affiliated event horse. Photo by Lucy McCarthy.

With winter fast approaching, Phil is currently in ‘semi-work.’

“He recently threw a little splint, so on a rainy day, we both look out of the window and go, no thanks. I decide to stay in office and he can go on the walker,” Lucy continues. She (or husband Padraig, if nature blesses them with another child in 2017) will campaign Phil next year up the levels.

MGH Sport Horses is a busy business, with lots of youngsters being trained.

“Most are ours, bought or bred by us,” Lucy adds. “Now I just have to find a path that makes sure I don’t shirk my duties to the business and of course my family, but also allows me to be a part-time-wanna-be elite athlete,” she concludes.

We look forward to following Lucy and Phil on their journey!

Go Eventing!


Mary King Looking Ahead to Future with Promising Youngsters

Mary King has exciting plans for the remainder of the year after campaigning her youngsters in 2016. Photo by Bob Atkins. Mary King has exciting plans for the remainder of the year after campaigning her youngsters in 2016. Photo by Bob Atkins.

It’s been more than a year since Mary King retired her four-star partner Kings Temptress. Since then Mary has been quietly producing a small string of promising youngsters that are ready to step up as her next top horses, as well as coaching her daughter Emily at her first four-star appearances.

“I haven’t lost the bug. I would really love to compete at the top again,” Mary says with an eye on next season. “We are still trying to find some more potential superstars, but the really special horses are few and far between. Unfortunately, I have also been having some trouble with neck pain, so have had some down time this year, but it is now improving,”

King Bill, her 6-year-old homebred British Sport Horse, successfully completed his first CCI* at Tattersalls in the summer before placing third at Barbury International and then finishing in the top 10 at Bicton CIC* at the end of the season.

She also has two homebred 6-year-olds that are full brothers, by Christopher Stone’s top stallion Chilli Morning and out of embryo transfers from Kings Temptress. King Robert had a consistent 2016 season, ending the year with a fifth place finish at Bicton CIC*, and Kings Ginger will look to complete his first one-star next season.

Mary King and daughter Emily have their sights set on Tokyo 2020. Photo by Bob Atkins.

Mary King and daughter Emily have their sights set on Tokyo 2020. Photo by Bob Atkins.

A Family Affair

Mary, who decided aged 12 on a Pony Club coach trip to Badminton Horse Trials that eventing was the sport for her, is also heavily involved in the career of her daughter Emily, a fellow eventer of whom Mary is immensely proud. Emily was long-listed for Rio, and recently finished fifth at Ligniere in France with Cooley Currency in the CCI2*. Emily also placed second in the Young Riders CCI2* at Houghton Hall with Dargun.

The team was very disappointed when Emily fell at her first Badminton Horse Trials this year with Brookleigh, after a sterling performance that followed their fourth place at Pau CCI4* the previous season. “That’s horses for you. But roll on Tokyo in four years’ time; Emily and I both want to be there,” Mary emphatically states.

For now, the horses are having a well-earned break. “Emily and I are currently doing some work with the younger ones, and I also have some after-dinner speaking engagements, plus talks and teaching days lined up, including some time overseas. Then I can’t wait to fulfill one of my bucket list wishes: crewing a yacht on a transatlantic crossing!” Mary adds.

Christmas Adventure

Mary is certainly one for adventure and says she is looking forward to her Caribbean odyssey, which will take her away from home over the Christmas period. “I am crewing a catamaran on an Atlantic crossing in December,” she explains. “We plan to arrive in Antigua a few days before Christmas, where my family will fly out to join me for a holiday … hopefully they sell turkey out there.”

We asked Mary what she enjoys about Christmas, and dinner tops the list. “I love a roast turkey and all the traditional trimmings, although if you asked me what I would really like for Christmas, it would be to see world peace and harmony,” she says with her trademark kindness.

The horses will be on their annual winter rest while the family is travelling overseas. “The horses will still be out in the field resting then, so will get their usual food and care from the girls at home,” Mary says. “But they do get a warning that the first of January isn’t far away, and that will be the end of their holiday.”

We wish Mary a happy Christmas season and best of luck for her Caribbean catamaran adventure. And, of course, we will be cheering her on as King Bill and King Robert II continue to step up through the levels next season.

Find out more about Mary’s latest book at this link: ‘Mary King — My Way’. (Page includes international order details.)

See our book review HERE!

The Science Bit: New Research on Equine Obesity, Laminitis & Ulcers

In "The Science Bit" Kathy Carter brings us a roundup of new developments in veterinary, nutrition and sports science. This week she examines bovine protein serums, a new grass sickness resource, equine obesity and steroid-induced laminitis.

Dosing horses with 'cow proteins' is said to help prevent gastric ulcers. Photo by Freeimages.com.

Dosing horses with ‘cow proteins’ is said to help prevent gastric ulcers. Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

Can cow proteins help prevent ulcers in horses?

American researchers have been evaluating the potential benefits of bovine blood proteins given as a dietary supplement to horses, to help reduce the onset of equine gastric ulcers.

Researchers at Iowa State University, led by Associate Professor of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Scott McClure, assessed serum-based bioactive proteins (SBPs) and their potential to fight numerous stress-induced problems in performance horses.

(Bovine serum concentrates have already been found to reduce stomach ulcers in pigs, while most piglet ‘starter diets’ in North America contain plasma proteins; they have been administered to pigs for 25 years now, as a well-established practice.)

The research team found demonstrable ‘preventative effects’ in the horses that received ‘cow protein’ to prevent the onset of ulcers. The study was published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, reporting: “Dosing horses with bioactive proteins derived from serum was effective for preventing gastric ulcers in horses experiencing stress from exercise or training.” The serum-based product used in the studies is available in America as a feed additive.

Is Grass Sickness caused by pasture fungi? Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Is Grass Sickness caused by pasture fungi? Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Grass sickness resources offered for free

According to the Equine Grass Sickness Fund, the only registered charity in the UK raising funds specifically for research into Equine Grass Sickness (EGS), the Equine Veterinary Journal has this month published a free collection of resources for horse owners and vets. (Click here and choose ‘Issue information’ and then ‘Special focus on grass sickness’ from pull-down menu to access the resources.)

Grass sickness occurs in several European countries, although is rare in other territories, including America, Africa, Australia and Asia. The cause of EGS remains unknown. EGS causes gut paralysis as a result of damage to parts of the equine nervous system that control involuntary functions. A new viewpoint revealed in the EVJ is that, contrary to current theories linking EGS to botulism, EGS is unlikely to be caused by neurotoxins from this bacterium.

Four separate studies are included in the paper. Professor Bruce McGorum who led much of the research, said researchers were ‘moving on’ to determine whether EGS is caused by ingestion of mycotoxins produced by pasture fungi.

Do you accurately assess your horse's body condition? Photo by Kathy Carter

Do you accurately assess your horse’s body condition? Photo by Kathy Carter.

Are owners in denial about equine obesity?

A study published in the Australian Veterinary Journal sought to determine the prevalence of equine obesity in equines, and to compare owners’ perceptions of their animals’ body condition with researchers’ assessments.

Owners tended to perceive their equines to be in significantly lower body condition, compared with the researchers’ assessments.

The findings concluded: ‘Understanding how owners perceive the body condition of their animals may help with targeting education around preventative health care, with the aim of reducing the risk of conditions such as insulin dysregulation and laminitis.’ Interestingly, a considerably higher proportion of pony breeds fell into the ‘obese’ category.

Sterioids are injected using hypodermic needles. Photo by Freeimages.com

Steroids are injected into the joint space using hypodermic needles. Photo by Freeimages.com.

Steroid-induced laminitis cases ‘extremely low’ in study

Staying with news linked to laminitis, the British Equine Veterinary Association Congress, held in September, included news on the prevalence of ‘Corticosteroid-Associated Laminitis’ in horses.

Corticosteroids, or steroids, are a group of anti-inflammatory drugs used frequently to treat issues including lameness problems. (Example brand names include Adcortyl and Kenalog). Their use is perceived by many horse owners to be a risk factor for acute laminitis development; however, the year-long study, published in the Equine Veterinary Journal, found that the prevalence of corticosteroid-associated laminitis was extremely low.

It did reveal that laminitis development was significantly greater in equines with pre-existing laminitis risk factors.

If you have an interesting veterinary story or case study to share, tweet the author @kathysirenia.

The Billy Stud Launching Innovative Online Auction of 3-Year-Olds

British breeding establishment the Billy Stud, a leading breeding venture between show jumper William Funnell, eventer Pippa Funnell and business partner Donal Barnwell, has launched a new online auction of 3-year-old sport horses which begins on Oct. 21.

The stud, now in its 17th year, has selected 10 of its quality 3-year-olds to be available to buy at the online auction.

“All horses will be vetted and X-rayed before the sale, and there’s no reserve on any of the auction horses,” explains Donal, recognised as being one of the best ‘breeding eyes’ in the business.

Equine breeding lines include Tangelo Van De Zuuthoeve, Cevin Z (the grey pictured below), Billy Congo, Cruising, Billy Mexico and Clover Hill, and the online auction represents a new way to showcase and sell equines in the UK.

Cevin Z, another top stallion, carries the double crosses of both Cor de la Bryere and Capitol 1 in his pedigree. Photo by the Billy Stud

Cevin Z, a top stallion at the Billy Stud, carries the double crosses of both Cor de la Bryere and Capitol 1 in his pedigree. Photo by the Billy Stud.

“It is easier for buyers to browse horses in this way, and the fact the horses have been vetted and X-rayed before the sale makes great business sense for anyone looking for a future star eventer,” Donal tells EN

The unique aspect of this project, jokingly described by Irishman Donal as ‘a mad notion,’ is that there’s complete transparency.

“There are no auctioneers or middlemen — what you see is what you get. The prices are all inclusive. The horses for sale are all bred here, and are completely unspoiled — they will go on and improve and improve,” he continues.

“Buyers are purchasing straight from a world-renowned breeder, and I can tell you that these are horses with plenty of blood, that are bred to jump. Most have the quality to be elite eventers, as of course you need an eventer that can show jump.”

Billy Congo, one of the Billy Stud's top stallions, is by the AES & Irish Horse Board Approved stallion Vechta, who is by the famous sire Voltaire. Photo by Samantha Lamb, courtesy of The Billy Stud.

Billy Congo, another of the Billy Stud’s top stallions, is by the AES & Irish Horse Board Approved stallion Vechta, who is by the famous sire Voltaire. Photo by Samantha Lamb, courtesy of the Billy Stud.

For buyers who are able to come to the UK and view the horses, they have the opportunity to see 10 hand-selected youngsters in one place, making a visit to the stud a worthwhile one. For interested parties unable to visit in person, a selection of high quality videos is available showcasing the youngsters being free schooled, as well as videos of the stallion sires.

“This opportunity represents a good deal for international buyers looking for future event horses, as the pound is very weak currently — and there’s no reserve set on the horses, and VAT is also included,” Donal continues. (VAT can be reclaimed from non-EU territories).

“Anyone looking to purchase more than one three year old will also have the advantage that they are based in once place, making shipping very practical. And naturally we can advise purchasers with their shipping requirements. Pippa, William and myself are all just a phone call away if anyone has a query.”

Viewing days at the stud are available on Oct. 21st, 22nd and 23rd, and the auction closes on Oct. 25. For more information, visit the auction page on the Billy Stud website here

Catching Up with Ireland’s Youngest Team Member Camilla Speirs

Camilla Spiers and Portersize Just  A Jiff. Photo by Jenni Autry. Camilla Spiers and Portersize Just A Jiff. Photo by Jenni Autry.

It has been something of a whirlwind year for Ireland’s youngest team member Camilla Speirs. The 27-year-old wound down her season, which was highlighted by a top 10 placing at Badminton and a trip to the Rio Olympics, with a sixth place finish at the French four-star Pau over the weekend. This followed a double-placing at Ireland’s Kilmanahan Horse Trials in September, where she came first with Loughnavatta Cedar and second with Penny Swift in the CNC2*.

She kindly took the time to speak with EN about 2016 and her plans for the future.

‘An Olympics is the pinnacle of every athlete’s career’

Brazil was Camilla’s second call-up for her country as part of an Olympic team and she was traveling reserve, an experience that she enjoyed.

“It was a great experience to get the call-up; however it would have been even better to have been able to compete!” she tells EN matter-of-factly. “Jif (Portersize Just A Jiff) has been in great form all season and I think the technical cross country course would have really suited him, as he is small and athletic, and very good in this phase.”

“An Olympics is the pinnacle of every athlete’s career,” she says. “It’s extremely inspiring to be rubbing shoulders with the most successful athletes in the world! We had a great team in Rio [Ireland placed eighth] and team spirit was very high.”

Camilla Speirs and Portersize Just a Jif were travelling reserves at Rio, having competed in 2012, pictured. Photo by Kathy Carter.

Camilla Speirs and Portersize Just a Jif were traveling reserves at Rio, having competed in 2012, pictured. Photo by Kathy Carter.

It would have meant the world to compete in Rio after the pair had a very unlucky fall in London at the 2012 Games, which saw them eliminated. It was of course an accolade to be selected as a reserve this year, but Jif is now 16.

However, one can never say never in terms of future Olympic selection — while the average age of Olympic event horses is around 12 years old, the great Lenamore was 19 when he competed in London 2012. And Jif keeps proving that age and height are no barrier to success, winning the Ballindenisk CNC2* and placing ninth at Badminton this year.

‘A horse of a lifetime’

Jif’s recent performance at Pau was tremendous, with the pair improving from 32nd after dressage to lie in 11th place following the cross-country. In the show jumping, they recorded one of just seven clear rounds to complete on 61.1.

“He’s certainly a very special little horse,” Camilla says. “We bought Jif as a four year old from show jumping producers Bourns Sports Horses, and I competed him in ponies, as he measured 148cm. As a five year old he measured out, so decided we would keep him to compete in Juniors. He kept progressing up the ranks and the sky is seemingly the limit for him! We have competed in seven European Championships, two World Equestrian games, and the 2012 Olympic Games. Jif really is a horse of a lifetime.”

Badminton was a real highlight for Camilla this year, and Ballindenisk International was also a special moment, not least because she also placed third in the CIC1* with the mare Lias Jewel.

“LEB Lias Jewel is a lovely six year old who came third in Ballindenisk in a very competitive field. It was a great result for this talented mare, and I’m delighted for the owners Jo and Neil Breheny, who bred her,” Camilla tells us.

Camilla Spiers and Portersize Just A Jiff. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Camilla Spiers and Portersize Just A Jiff. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Cedar will sell

The popular rider has a string of horses to campaign next year, although the seven year old Loughnavatta Cedar, the promising young horse that won at Kilmanahan CNC2*, is soon off to pastures new.

“Loughnavatta Cedar has huge potential and a very exciting career ahead of him,” Camilla tells EN. “He has been selected to represent Ireland at the World Championships for Young Horses in Le Lion D’angers from 20th October, and then he is entered in the ‘Goresbridge Go for Gold’ elite sale of event horses in Barnadown on the 14th of November. He is owned and bred by Rory Costigan, and anyone looking for a true four star prospect would love this horse.”

Camilla’s reliable 13-year-old ride, Penny Swift, who placed second at Kilmanahan CNC2*, is also for sale. “She would be perfect for any young rider or amateur looking to get experience at two star level,” Camilla says.

A real passion

Unsurprisingly given her young age of 27, Camilla’s parents Bridget and Nyall are vitally important to her career.

“They have been very supportive all the way through! My mum travels with me to all of the big events, and has helped build up our fantastic eventing establishment, which is home to the ‘BT’ prefixed event horses,” she says.

Camilla loves sourcing and producing young talented horses, and says it is a real passion.

“I have done it from a very young age. Buying a ‘made’ pony was never an option and certainly taught me how to ride,” she explains. “I’ve been lucky to work with some of the best trainers in the world and have built up the credentials to produce young horses to reach the top of the sport. Of course, selling them is also necessary to fund our business. Having a good eye for a horse is extremely important, so it’s nice to be able to work with really good horses every day. We are always looking for new owners to come on board!”

Camilla Speirs pictured with Rory Costigan, owner of Loughnavatta Cedar.

Camilla Speirs pictured with Rory Costigan, owner of Loughnavatta Cedar. Photo by Camilla Speirs.

The eventer is keen to point out that the correct nutrition is vital to horses of all ages.

“We have roughly 14 horses to feed each day and not one single one is fed the same! I use Redmills Horse Feeds and thanks to the invaluable help from their experts, we come up with a tailored feeding programme so that each horse is getting exactly what they need. From the three year olds to the four star horses, it’s important that each horse is getting the right balance of feed,” she says.

Camilla, who is sponsored by Antarès Sellier, celebrates after ninth placing at Badminton. Photo by Camilla Speirs.

Camilla, who is sponsored by companies including Antarès Sellier, celebrates after her ninth placing at Badminton. Photo by Camilla Speirs.

To conclude, we asked Camilla what her ultimate riding goals are.

“To continue improving and striving to get the best out of all the horses I ride,” she tells us. “I think training like this gets results; training like a champion brings far better results than training to be a champion.”

Wise words indeed. Go Eventing!

A Day in the Life of Eventing Icon Mary King

The famously laid-back and relaxed, six-time Olympian Mary King MBE tells Kathy Carter what training routines and yard regimes make her tick.

Mary King and Imperial Cavalier at Badminton in 2012. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Mary King, shown here with Imperial Cavalier at Badminton 2012, is a British eventing legend — and her attention to and involvement with day-to-day details have played a huge role in her success. Photo by Jenni Autry.

My daily routine

Ever since I started riding, I’ve been a great believer in attention to detail, and I soon learnt that success begins with the small, incidental things. I believe that if horses live in an organised environment, then the better prepared they’ll be for competing. Having a workable routine in place helps reduce the risk of injuries, setbacks and silly mistakes, because as soon as you start cutting corners, that’s when things go wrong.

7 a.m.

My daughter [international eventer] Emily or myself feeds the horses, washing out the feed buckets and letting them drain afterwards. We’ll also straighten rugs and check legs; it’s important to know what is normal for each horse, so that we can spot any potential problem immediately. I’ll also check on the mares and young-stock living out in a field in the valley, and run my hands over the youngsters’ bodies so they get used to me touching them. This promotes a developing connection between horse and human, so the trust starts to build.

Mary King is very hands-on, feeding the horses and washing out the feed buckets first thing. Photo by Bob Atkins

Mary King is very hands-on, feeding the horses and washing out the feed buckets first thing. Photo by Bob Atkins.

7.30 a.m.

My grooms muck out, taking 20 minutes per stable. I’m quite fussy about the horses’ bedding, so we use a chopped, oilseed rape straw bedding, with a superior, rubber-chip-filled flooring fitted over the stable floor. Once the girls have mucked out, they’ll empty, clean then refill the water buckets (two per stable) taking note of how much water the horses drink, so that we know on average what their daily intake is. That way we can notice if there’s a sudden change that could indicate the horse isn’t feeling on top form.

Then the girls will sweep up and tidy the muck trailer. The haylage nets are filled for the evening and the following morning. In all the stables, I’ve used some lovely, old-fashioned butler sinks as mangers, and while I’m not suggesting they’re to everyone’s taste, they work well for me. The horses are worked throughout the morning; our normal weekly routine involves fast work every third day, with schooling, jumping and hacking in-between. The girls help with hacking and some of the canter work, while Emily and I do all the schooling and jumping. After work, the horses are washed off if necessary, then turned out with rugs and exercise boots for a couple of hours.

Mary and daughter Emily's horses do fast work every third day. Photo by Bob Atkins

Mary and daughter Emily’s horses do fast work every third day. Photo by Bob Atkins.

We bring the horses in, groom them, then pick out and scrub the feet if necessary, hoof-oil inside and out, check the shoes and legs, then rug them up if necessary. Before lunch, we make sure all the stables are skipped out, beds are tidy and water buckets full. Any horse that is in has a lunchtime feed at 1pm, and we’ll leave feeds in the mangers of those who were worked late morning and were out over lunchtime. Then it’s our lunchtime from 1-2  p.m.!

2 p.m.

The horses that were out over lunch come in. The afternoon is a good time for catching up with other random jobs – from cleaning mangers or stable windows, to giving the yard a thorough sweep. The lorry too, has to be kept clean so it will be washed on the outside if it’s just back from an event, then the next day it will be cleaned out completely so that it’s ready for the next journey. Then there’s a list of odd jobs pinned up in the tack room that includes tack cleaning, poo-picking the fields in summer, and sweeping the horse walker after each use, plus washing and pulling manes and tails and trimming whiskers and ears.

4.30 p.m.

The girls tidy the tack room, sweep the floor, and make sure the sink and surfaces are clean and mugs washed. Then the stables are skipped out, the beds tidied and the water buckets are topped up. Rugs are straightened just before 5pm, and the horses have their haylage; we empty the night haylage nets into a corner of the stable. Then after locking the tack room, it’s home time for the girls at 5pm.

Mary and Emily King say their horses thrive on routine. Photo by Bob Atkins

Mary and Emily King say their horses thrive on their routine. Photo by Bob Atkins

6 p.m.

Either Emily or I feed the horses and check their legs, but once the horses have had their last feed, that’s it for the night, and they won’t see us again until morning. It’s a routine that works well and I’ve never found a late-night check or feed to be necessary. But we do live on site, so if there are any major problems, we’re on hand to attend to them.

Top tips:

In the mornings, we hang up the haylage nets so that mucking out is easier. Once we’ve finished mucking out, we empty the haylage onto the floor so that the horses can eat with their heads down — it replicates the way they naturally eat in the field. But the evening haylage nets are emptied onto the floor immediately.

When we turn out, I turn my horses out in twos or threes, which shocks some people. However, I think it’s worse risking injury to a lonely horse who is galloping up and down the field because he’s missing his friends. We find that the horses get to know each other quite quickly as they get used to the routine.

Mary King has written a new book: 'Mary King - My Way’

Mary King has written a new book: ‘Mary King – My Way’

Find out more about Mary’s training and management formulas and how they apply to every rider in her new book: ‘Mary King — My Way’. (International orders available.)

The Science Bit: Classical Music, Poll Pressure & More Equine Health Notes

This week we take a look at photosensitization in alfalfa-fed horses, surprising poll pressure study results, the benefits of classical music, and thought-provoking racehorse injury studies.

Classical music reduces stress in equines. Photo by Alexandra Elefteriadou for freeimages.com

Classical music reduces stress in equines. Via freeimages.com

Getting a ‘handel’ on equine stress

The International Society for Equitation Science’s annual conference at France’s Cadre Noir academy, which showcased viewpoints on ‘Understanding horses to improve training and performance’, proposed that classical music may reduce equine stress. Researchers found that during typically stressful activities like travelling and shoeing, the playing of classical music decreased several equine stress indicators.

“It also induced a faster post-stress, equine heart recovery,” said study lead Claire Neveux, who conducted the research in conjunction with the University of Strasbourg and the University of Caen. The findings, which are likely to be of interest to sport horse trainers, were widely reported in the mainstream European press, including the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.

The loose ring snaffle applies more poll pressure than a hanging cheek or ‘baucher’ snaffle. Time for a tack-room re-shuffle?

The loose ring snaffle applies more poll pressure than a hanging cheek or ‘baucher’ snaffle. Time for a tack-room re-shuffle? Photo via Neue Schule.

A bit of a surprise

British bitting manufacturer Neue Schule has issued a ‘Poll Pressure Guide’ following a study initiated by the company’s founder, Heather Hyde. The study threw up some fascinating facts, including the finding that with normal rider rein pressure, the hanging cheek or ‘baucher’ snaffle not only does not exert poll pressure, as many riders and trainers believe, but in fact exhibits a poll-relief effect.

Another finding of interest was that the much-loved loose ring snaffle can apply some poll pressure, due to a pulley action caused by the ring dragging down through the bit’s bore-hole. Unsurprisingly, nelson and balding gags feature high up on the poll pressure scale.

Surfaces clearly affect vertical ground reaction forces. Photo by 'Winter Dove' for freeimages.com

Surfaces clearly affect vertical ground reaction forces. Photo via freeimages.com

Racehorse studies give us food for thought

A study of racehorse injuries was recently published in the Journal of Equine Science which looked at twenty years of Asian veterinary data that measured vertical ground reaction forces on galloping equine forelimbs. The findings showed that incidences of limb fractures increased as dirt track conditions became muddier, and incidences of fractures decreased as grass track conditions became softer.

The study also found that fractures occurred ‘mostly’ at corners, and ‘more frequently’ at the time of changing the leading limb when galloping. Surfaces and weather conditions clearly affect equine traction and vertical ground reaction forces, although there are no comparable eventing studies.

Alfalfa hay can trigger photosensitization

A 2016 study published in the Veterinary Journal found that alfalfa hay can trigger primary photosensitization in horses. (Photosensitization can occur when ‘photo-toxic’ or ‘photo-active’ substances build up in the skin, and interact with sunlight.)

Skin conditions like equine dermatitis can occur as a result in un-pigmented skin, or skin areas with little hair, reported researchers including Birgit Puschner, Professor and Researcher in Molecular Biosciences at America’s University of California.

The photosensitive reactions are proposed to occur as a result of horses eating phototoxic compounds in affected alfalfa (lucerne) hay, while secondary photosensitivity can arise when a horse’s liver cannot properly excrete some compounds.

The compounds Chlorophyll A and B and Pheophorbide were suspected to play a role in alfalfa-induced primary photosensitization, however it was deemed in the study that these compounds were not responsible; the guilty plant pesticide residues have, to date, not yet been identified.

If you have an interesting veterinary story or case study to share, tweet the author @kathysirenia.