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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

A-Z of Everyday Equestrian

There's literally 100's of products that we all use everyday, ranging from the common same item in every equestrian kit, through to the unusual & unexpected non-horsey products pulling their weight in the tough equestrian & yard life...

So, for the next 26 days, I'll be posted a different item from my "everyday equestrian" - stayed tune everyday to see what I've given to each letter!

Scroll down to see what we've included for each letter!

Let's get started...

A is for... Ariat!

Anyone who knows me, will know that I have a mild addiction to this brand... Some would say more than others.

Ariat produce some beautiful items of clothing & footwear. I swear by my Ariat tall Bromont boots - they wear really well, they have a good quality of leather, and the one & only time I had an issue with them, Ariat's customer service was first rate!

Clothing is the same - I'd have my Ariat coat for nearly 8 years, wearing it almost everyday in the winter, along with its gilet, and it washes great every time. It's still waterproof, wind proof, which makes it really warm.

I recently got their soft shell jacket too - I wear this with a base layer out hacking, and have yet to be cold or wet when out wearing it.

B is for...Baler Twine 

Something that most of us see everyday, and probably never realise just what a useful little item it can be!

From plaiting it to make a temporary fillet string, to making a breakable tie-up point, baler twine has a multitude of uses. Our yard doesn't actually have baler twine in high supply due to the large round bales of straw we have and haylage bales, but thankfully some liveries choose square bales of hay...

I always make sure I've got baler twine in the tack room and wagon because it can fix most things.

So, a slightly less exciting and functional item today, but most definitely a real everyday equestrian item!

C is for.... Carrots!

Most definitely an everyday item for more horse owners - we even buy them by the sack load!

Carrots are great...really!!

Chopped up, they make a tasty treat, whether that's when you're in the field or teaching your horse something new. If you choose to, chopping them into very small pieces, you can even use them as a ridden treat aid - just make sure you pop them in a plastic bag when you put them in your pocket!!

Not only a treat, they can make a very useful aid for physio work. I'm sure everyone is familiar with carrot stretches, whether it is to the sides, for the core, or between the front legs, carrots are good at encouraging your neddy to stretch in any direction that you need them to!

I've also used carrots as a boredom buster in the past, from creating a 'kebab' of carrots & baler twine (told you yesterday baler twine is everywhere!), chopping them up in a treat ball, to using an old plastic milk bottle hung up and filling it with carrot pieces. All three help to keep Louie entertained on a duvet day in the winter, or even just as a mental challenge for him when he maybe hasn't had as much schooling work.

...& of course, carrots make us feel good when we add them to a feed as a bit of a treat when our horses have been good!

D is for.... Dengie Alfa A Oil

I've fed this for about 10 years, with a bit of a break in between where the yard provided an alternative chaff option. I swear by it.

Some people say is makes horses go "fizzy" - well, I've only found that if it is fed in too high quantities. But, part of the reason why I feed Alfa A Oil is for energy and condition, & I'm a firm believer in if you only put in what the horse burns off, you end up in a fairly balanced place. 

Even at this point in winter, Louie only gets a small handful in each feed for a bit of an energy boost in his work. I've tried building this up to more, which is fine in higher work load times, but after a few days off, or a couple of duvet days in the stable, he's got more energy than he has used.

I've also found that it gives a nice shine to the coat too. While I don't see this so much on Louie with being a grey, it was clear with Grace, Buddy & Thomas.

E is for... Equilibrium Massage Pad

Until I had bought this, I wasn't convinced that it had benefit. Seriously, believe me, that it is worth saving up for...

In the winter, Louie wears this before exercise while he enjoys a good brush, as well as then after working, usually while I'm mucking out! It is NOT a replacement for a warm-up and cool down, but it doesn't help to stimulate the back muscles. It is also not a replacement for a physio to see your horse, and it will not fix a sore back.

After exercise, it helps to remove toxins, it can be used after travelling to help recovery. It is also a good way to help overall blood flow when a horse is on box rest. The pad uses pulsing, vibration and stroking action to stimulate the muscles  which is great for an overall maintenance of topline support. Take a look at the massage pad for yourself - there's even trial results included on the Equilibrium website to show the benefits are clinically proven. 

The pad comes with a re-chargable battery and carry case. It is lightweight and doesn't take up much room. I've had mine almost two years, and have found it to be durable for use everyday. I also bought the Equilibrium massage mitt for when I really want to give Louie a proper pamper!!

F is for... First Aid

Hopefully, you'll never need this, but it is an important set of everyday equestrian items that you should always have access to should you ever need it.

And...make sure you have a human version as well as a horsey version! Buying a first aid kit for either is fairly easy now - human versions can be picked up pretty much anywhere you'd expect. More and more vets are starting to create kits - my vets, Robson & Prescott at Morpeth have just started doing so, & there now even a company specialising in it, EquiMedpak.

However, I still prefer to make my own first aid kit for the horse - from bandages, wraps, cremes and sprays, through to salts, arnica & tape. Taking this photo reminded me that I need to buy new vet wraps!!

G is for... Goal setting

You should always have a goal, no matter how small or how silly you think it might be. Achieving something that you want to can be a great motivator & encourage you to go on and achieve even more.

I'm a very goal driven person, and set them in all areas of my life. I especially find it good to set goals with Louie to keep me on track and give me something to work on. Whist I do set a time to achieve my goals, I also appreciate that things don't always go to plan - there's no point in getting frustrated or annoyed. It's definitely not a failing... & if things take a little longer, you can adapt & develop your goals along the way.

Having a young horse, fresh from being backed, has really shown me the importance of having goals and a good appreciation of going at the pace of your horse. While some may want a young horse that can do everything immediately, & while I'd have liked to have done more with a baby Louie, I simply had to go at his pace - his pace to grow & develop, mentally as well as physically. We've all our years ahead of us and I'm in no rush...!

A quick few tips that I find help set and stick to goals:
  1. ALWAYS be honest with everything, from capability to the time you can dedicate
  2. Write your goals down, whether it is a blog, diary or simply notes on your phone - something that you can refer back to at any given time
  3. Devise a plan to reach your goal - mentally think through & visual how you will reach your goals
  4. Take regular reflection, especially if it is a mid-long term goal. If it is not going to plan, be adaptive and make sure you evolve your plan
  5. Take your learning from the previous goals into the future ones - even if they seem unrelated you can continually learn

For me, blogging and engaging with a wider equestrian community has really enabled me to support my goals, see how other people go about tackling common yardlife issues, and sharing our successes with other too.

H is for... Horslyx 

The mini Horslyx my go-to product when I REALLY need Louie to stand like a soldier, whether that's been for the physio, vet or when the hubby's been chatting to the farrier for too long and he's bored of waiting for his manicure!! 

I also use it every day to help me do my physio exercises with Louie - replacing a carrot for the Horslyx. When I started doing these when I first got Louie, I was finding if I held a carrot he would snatch it, or pushed round/down, and if he missed just try again. Whereas, I needed him to stay to the side or between his knees for a few seconds... the Horslyx meant he wasn't going anywhere!

There are field and stable versions of the product, however, I've not used these as I think Louie would stand all day or night at it, which is not the intention. They can come in a variety of flavours, some with benefits like garlic additions and eucalyptus to help with airways - Louie has the mint flavour & clearly loves it!

I is for... iPhone

This might not seem particularly equestrian, but I don't think anyone can argue it is definitely every day!!

But actually, you iPhone can be an incredibly useful tool to help us equestrians out. Clearly, we all know it is a gateway to the world's online information, but it's also got a few other every day uses too.

From a torch to use around areas of the yard that aren't so well lit, to using weather apps to make that all important rugging decision each night, through to it being an essential safety item too. It's important to make sure you always have charge in your phone while on the yard, on a ride or even just up at the fields, but especially when you're on your own should you ever need to reach out for help (& hopefully, you'll never need it for that!)

iPhones are also great for video analysis! I try to video elements to our lessons, training and competitions (sometimes in slo-mo) just for the purpose of watching back, frame-by-frame. If I keep getting a long last stride to a fence, it's useful to watch my jumping back frame-by-frame and dissect what's going on with me & Louie as I come to the fence. 

Going through a video frame by frame to assist improving your riding

Similarly, in flatwork, if there is something I'm finding more difficult, watching it back, looking at my body & Louie's way of going during that movement, can really help to figure the problem out and work toward achieving the goal.

Of course, the iPhone (& all the apps that go with it) are a fantastic way to capture your memories in whatever your equestrian adventure may be!

    J is for... JHL!

    What is JHL? Well, simply it is an equestrian brand with a range of horse wear items, from leather work through to saddle pads, simply Jumper's Horse Line!

    JHL offers great value equestrian products whether it is a pair of rubber reins you need or a new saddle pad, JHL is a place to start looking when you don't want to break the bank. My experience of the products is that they are of reasonably good quality, and can offer a practical and affordable product good enough for everyday use.

    I recently tried the faux fur headcollar and was really quite surprised by the quality overall, and especially of the fur. The only downside was not being able to remove the fur to wash it, but at such a low price, I can afford to buy another when it's just too dirty to use anymore!

    The only downside is that they don't have their own website, so you need to purchase through another supplier. I've come across a couple of places that you can buy online, including Equestrian.com, although the down side, is their site can be a bit slow...

    If you just want to browse a selection of products, take a look at the Westgate FEI JHL brand section.

    It's a thumbs up for everyday items when you've a budget to consider...

    K is for... Kavalkade HO

    "What's this", I hear you ask. Well, simply, it is a lunging aid.

    I've previously tried side reins, reins looped under the stirrups, and pessoas, but found them all to fix a horse into the overall outline and movement that we want. For example, when using side reins, the horse can't reach right down and stretch over his back.

    The Kavalkade was recommended to me by the person I bought Louie from, & I'v never heard of it. I did some Googling of it, and found not that much actually! But what I did find was that Laura B (now T!) used it on her horses - I watched a short video of them trotting round very freely, with lots of bounce & elevation, working through, but fully stretched. It really makes the horse use their back, something I was keen for Louie to build up as he grew and developed, and without a rider on his back.

    The aid is a fairly thick nylon cord, that you sit on the wither. It drops down the sides, and runs through the front legs and clips up to the bit. It does not go over the poll, or behind the hind legs. It is a one size fits all, and adjusts to fit size over the wither. It also comes with a sheepskin cover to feed the cord through and sit under the front legs to prevent any rubbing - I've never found it rub anywhere & I use it once a week for the last two years.

    Fitted correctly, it allows the horse to go in any outline into the contact, meaning that they can go around with their nose to the floor, and use their backs, and not be fixed into a "ridden" frame. When I lunge Louie in the lights at night, I can see all the muscles flicking from his hamstrings, up over his quarters, along his back and through his topline and neck.

    In my opinion, lunging overall is underrated, commonly people prefer to ride, to by the time they've tacked up with aid, they may have well ridden. I disagree with this. Lunging allows you to see how your horse is going, it allows them to work without us interferring, and is a great way to support overall muscle development.

    Here's a quick video of Louie lunging in it, and a photo after to show the device a bit better when fitted.

    If you're interested in trying one, it's worthwhile. They cost around £25-35 - I bought mine from a company that doesn't seem to exist anymore, but I've found one on Amazon that is the same, however there is no reference to the sheepskin sleeve.

    L is for... LeMieux

    I'm definitely not a matchy-matchy person, but I do love LeMieux products, and Louie often finds himself spoilt with them!! 😁

    I've always found there products to be of very good quality, lasting a long time and while are not the cheapest on the market, I don't think it is over priced & is actually very good value for money.

    In the past I've bought half pads, saddle pads, bandages, bandage wraps & luggage for my tack. But recently, I needed a new pair of jumping boots (front and back), and my attention turned to the LeMieux Teknique boots. Firstly, I wanted white, which means I am now obsessive about keeping them clean, but I also wanted something that was soft for Louie but still gave strong protection. 

    The front tendon boots have a unique gel lining that moulds and flexes to the shape of the tendons it surrounds helping to support during the stress and concussion while showjumping. The lining is surrounded by PU hardened mould for extra strength to the boot itself, and they are cut well at the top with a soft design to help the boots fit better beneath the knee. They have mesh vents inside and out for maximum airflow and prevention of over-heating, and have three soft elastic straps across the front with brass caps with 3 size adjustments. The back of the boots is reinforced with a strip of embossed PU leather palm for that extra protection.

    I've used my boots quite a few times, and while you can't stick them into the washing machine, I've kept mine clean, tidy and in almost new condition since wearing them.

    I also bought the Teknique young horse boots for Louie's back legs. These too have a gel lining for protection, with soft lycra fastening that's double locking for extra secure fitting. The suit British Showjumping guidelines and can be used in age restricted classes.

    M is for... Magnetic therapy

    I'm a big believer that magnetic therapy can really help a horse. However, only in certain places. Let me explain...

    I use EquStreamz fetlock bands on Louie every night. I also use Veredus magnetic stable boots on Louie for travelling and on his front legs during a duvet day. I also have a Premier Equine magnetic rug.

    A very well educated medical equine professional explained how magnets work, and that in fact it would take a very big and very strong magnet to get into the deep layers of tissue in a horses body and give a good effect. However, where they are useful is on places in the body where the blood vessels are closer to the surface - like the legs. 

    So magnets on the legs are a good thing, but also you need to consider the strength and quality of the magnet. A good test is to see how many pennies you can 'stick' to the magnets - not flat, but upright.

    So why do I still use a magnetic rug? Well, because it does still have benefits to the vessels and tissues close to the surface, just not the vessels to the big muscles and tissues. However, the same professional didn't dismiss it completely, using 3-day event horses as the example of when magnetics and vibration can be put together to aid recovery and good health. There are already products like this on the market, but they do tend to have a high price ticket.

    N is for... Neue Schule Turtle Top bit

    For about 6 or 7 years now, I've been using Neue Schule bits - various ones on various horses. Buddy used to have the starter loose ring, Thomas settled in the tranz angled lozenge full cheek for jumping but found him to go better in the starter loose ring for flatwork. 

    When I first got Louie, a freshly broken rising 4 year old, I opted for the full cheek bit to help a bit with his wobbliness! It worked well at first, however Louie is quite sensitive in his mouth, and the mouthpiece is quite thin. I've always preferred the loose ring as I feel it gives me a better feel down the reins. Around November 2015 I swapped to the loose ring, however was lucky enough to win a competition with Neue Schule and select a bit of my choice. 

    I'd been reading a bit about it when I'd been considering changing Louie's bit and had found that it helps to promote the taking forward of a contact in a horse that isn't so happy to take it or isn't yet established in its contact. It has a slightly flatter shape that helps to reduce the pressure on the palate, particularly in the sensitive areas of the mouth.

    I've now been using the bit since December 2015 for both flatwork and jumping, and it's proving to be a good bit to help Louie accept the contact and take it forward. The Turtle Top would now be the bit that I would start with on a new horse, and although cleverly designed and built, it's a very simple bit. I'm not a fan of over-complicating the mouth...

    O is for... Outdoors

    No one can deny that this is an everyday equestrian thing!! Thankfully, we seem to be past the worst of the winter weather (although, that’s me jinxing the north east!)

    Why did I pick something so obvious? Well, because I think we all take it for granted a little bit, especially in the deepest, darkest, toughest winter’s day (or night!)

    I sit in an office all day, every day, and yearn to be outside, even during Storm Doris there was a part of me (albeit fairly small) that would rather be outside than in. Most of us would I know… But when we do get the chance to be outside, do we really embrace it? 

    Where I keep Louie is on the edge of the Northumberland market town of Morpeth. Look one way and I can see the town, but look the other way, and all I can see is countryside (aka Heaven!) Too many times, I am in such a rush that I don’t truly embrace what the outdoor hold, especially at this time of year with the changing landscape. Do we notice the spring flowers pushing through? Do we notice the crops growing in the fields we ride along/past? Do we notice that there aren’t any sheep in the fields (until they have 1 or 2 lambs by their side)? 

    Away from the yard, outdoors is just as important to me, & living 5 minutes away from a beautiful beach on the Northumberland coastline, I enjoy taking Harry for a walk, even on a stormy day (it can make a great photo!)

    Mentally, being outside is good for you (unless you have agoraphobia, of course). It certainly clears my mood and my head after a busy day, and there’s nothing worse than being cooped up inside all day, with only a walk to & from the car to take in the fresh air! Of course, there’s the vitamin D benefits from being outside when the sun is shining too!!

    So next time you’re outside, whether it be riding along on a hack, wandering around the countryside or just being outside, take a moment to enjoy it. 

    ...& to be honest, what better way to start your day than with views like this, and just your neddy for company! 

    P is for... Premier Equine (mostly rugs!)

    OK, so you might have already guessed I'd pick this one...but I just LOVE their rugs - the quality, the fit, the choice, everything!!

    While considering this content for today, I tried to take a photo of all the rugs I had. Well, the photo looked rubbish, and I could hardly pile them all on Louie!! 

    From combo rug liners & clever tech turnout rugs, to a magnetic rug and cooler for travelling, Louie's got a great wardrobe (some days I think than I do!)

    What attracted me to the brand? Well, I'm a believer in layering rugs, rather than fixed weights. Louie's stable rug is 100g, with the choice of a fleece, 100g or 200g combo liner to go underneath. For playing out in winter, he has the Cellular Zone 250g - this rug is very impressive, and I'm planning to do a full write up of it. Basically, it is on;y 250g in the core areas - neck, topline, over the back and half saddle and over the hind at the top. This means when he has a good play, it doesn't overheat!

    I've also got a magnetic rug and a summer sheet with ear holes that's great after bathing during the summer to help with stable stains, without the need for a lycra hood. I also recently bought their tail guard with bag - this is strong, very sticky, and covers the full tail (great for a grey when travelling!).

    If you're looking for a new outfit for your horse, make sure you consider them!

    Q is for... Quality coaching

    OK, so maybe this is a push for the letter 'Q', but I couldn't think of anything else and I think it is hugely important for an equestrian. 

    Getting the right coach for you and your horse is vital to your development, learning and crucially, your confidence.

    You need to be able to connect with your coach, be honest about what's going on, and someone who has only your progression at the front of their coaching plans. Plans, there's another thing, both of my coaches have short, mid and long terms plans for our development, & importantly, both flex these plans if we succeed or have a blip.

    Coaches should have their focus on you, and only you during your training sessions, and not be distracted by a phone, other people or what's going on around & outside the arena...although we did once have an escaped sheep join in one of our showjumping lessons so some distractions are hard to ignore!!

    Cathy Burrell is my flatwork trainer, & has been for the last 4 years. Cathy is based in Harrogate (my hometown!!) and regularly comes up to Northumberland for coaching days, one of which I organise (in case anyone is interested!). Cathy is an international dressage rider, at both junior and senior level, competing at all levels including Grand Prix. Cathy's coaching is open to nervous riders wanting to start with their flatwork, right up to established combinations competing nationally and internationally. Cathy is a UKCC Level 3 coach, as well as being BHS registered, is a member of the Pony Club dressage committee, and trains the mounted section of the West Yorkshire police, as well as being a Paralympic coach! Along with coaching, Cathy runs a livery yard and a dog grooming business - a busy lady in demand but always make time for her students! If you'd like to find out more about Cathy Burrel, take as look at her Burrell Dressage website.

    Philippa Curry is my showjumping trainer. Philippa is the only UKCC Level 4 Showjumping coach in the country, & coaches from grassroots level right up through the grades to world class level across the world! Philippa also has qualifications in Sport Psychology & Equine Science, meaning she can offer a unique perspective to not only showjumping and ridden work, but right through to your everyday management & care of your horse. Philippa is based in Northumberland, and I regularly go to see her with Louie, & always feel super privileged to have access to such a top class coach. If you wanted to find out more about Philippa (as she does residientals and bespoke packages for riders travelling to her), you can take a look at her Will2Win website.

    R is for...Riding clubs

    Join one!! 

    Riding clubs are a great way to get involved, whether you're just starting out or a more established combination. They offer a sociable way to compete & train, & in most clubs that both off and off your horse!

    In 2016, I re-joined a riding club after not being a member for a few years. I'm really glad I did as the club I joined is friendly, low-key, and all about encouraging one another. Most clubs will off the chance to also get involved even if you no longer rider, whether that's helping out at a riding club competition, sitting on a committee or doing a bit to support fundraising - there really is something for everyone.

    & remember, everyone has the same thing in common - wanting to enjoy the time that they spend with their horses!

    Riding clubs can also offer amateurs of all levels the opportunities to aim for national Championships as both team members, or as an individual, from dressage through to eventing. If making it to the nationals isn't your thing, most clubs also run leagues and points tables to allow you to have something to work towards throughout the year, with an annual presentation at the end. So, whether you're a happy hacker wanting to give something new a go, or a grassroots amateur event rider, you can get involved, learn, progress and train, all in a fun & friendly environment.

    If you wanted to find out more about you local riding club, head over to the British Riding Club website for more details.

    S is for...Safety

    So, we all agree we aren't in the top of the safest sports selection, BUT that doesn't mean we can't adjust what we do to make it as safe as it can be.


    I will never understand why ANYONE of any level would want to sit on a horse without a hat. Even the best behaved ones that are "a donkey" can still have their moments - they are, at the end of the day. flight animals. My opinion is hard hats should be worn all the time when riding a horse, and that includes one with a chin strap...

    They are also essential when clipping a horse, especially with one that is a bit trickier but even if not - you might make a mistake and make your horse jump. Hats offer safety when turning out, when we all have seen the incident with Serena Flower while turning her fresh horse out to the field...


    So many times do I see horses & riders out on the roads, tracks or fields with not a single piece of hi-viz clothing on. Why not? Most likely because it isn't "cool" or matchy-matchy... Well, stuff that, I want to be as visible as I possibly can to all around me. Why in the fields? Simply, if I come off, it's easy to spot me!

    We asked Sarah from Twitter account @GlowMeansSlow about the importance of wearing hi-viz:

    Glow Means Slow stands for standing out and being seen but SLOW DOWN.
    HiViz is there to keep you safe. Not only does it make you stand out on the roads, but If you come off in an open area it makes it easier to be seen by the emergency services. We take our lives into our hands when we use the roads and lanes, so it's important to stand out. HiViz isn't expensive and it could save lives!
    What means more? A life or breaking bad news to your family?
    Wear HiViz and Be safe!

    The highway code also has two recommendations around what you should wear when out on the roads:
    1) light-coloured or fluorescent clothing in daylight
    2) reflective clothing if you have to ride at night or in poor visibility.

    Riding alone.

    It's a given that you always tell someone where you are going when hacking out, and letting people know you are leaving & what time you should be back. However, what about in the arena? This is just as important.

    I often find myself at the yard after work on my own. If anything happened while I was riding, who would know? (Well, I'd like to think that eventually Andrew would come looking for me!!!) It's important to always text someone when you're about to get on, and as soon as you're off - someone at home is easiest. They will soon get to know what is a normal length in between & I'm sure they too would rather know all is OK.

    T is for… TopSpec!

    I’ve used TopSpec balancers now for 10 years – basically since I got back into riding as an adult. I’m a big believer in the product, and think it works very well for overall well-being, health & condition. TopSpec’s balancer should be fed all of the time, and doesn’t work instantly – it’s a long term product. I also used to feed TopSpec’s Joint supplement, until in the last few years they’ve brought out Joint Balancer which is a much better solution.

    There were a couple of years where I didn’t feed the Balancer, and notice a difference in the horse’s condition – coat shine, winter condition and overall healthy glow. I also put Thomas on it when I bought him, and saw a noticeable difference in his coat. It was a good supporting product for me in the winter to help maintain a balanced diet while grazing was restricted, as well as when you need to pop your horse on a bit of a diet to keep their internal health strong.

    In October, I attending a feeding clinic with TopSpec and it was fascinating to listen to the nutritionist talk through their product ranges, and what is best fed to horses in certain levels of work as well as considering their type and breed. They also went into detail about the way in which a horse’s gut and digestive system, and put this into context as to why you should feed certain products.

    There have been times with all my horses when I’ve needed a bit of advice about what to feed to help with energy, condition, growth & strangely, how to slow a horse down when eating – Louie! 🐷) TopSpec offer a nutrition help line with vets and equine feeding experts to talk to where you can talk to them about your needs and requirements, and they can offer advice. The great thing I’ve found is that they advise you on what your horse needs, rather than only advising by product. I’m never convinced when a brand is too keen to push their products to you without listening to the needs and explaining why that product is best suited.

    Great news too - TopSpec offer a token system. So their products all contain a token which if you collect can buy either TopSpec branded goodies, or you can redeem against feeds, balancers and supplements. So if you already use TopSpec - START COLLECTING!

    U is for... U! 

    Don't forget to take time for yourself!!

    Ok, so strictly speaking this should be under 'Y', but maybe I had a creative block for 'U'... Tell me if you can think of another!

    We all spend so much time making sure our horses are in complete harmony with a tip-top bill of health, but how much time do we really give to ourselves?

    Well, anyone like me, this will be minimum!! By the time I've done yard duties on a morning, a day's work in the office, yard/riding on an evening, my blog, I ended up with about an hour before I'm ready to fall fast asleep on the sofa!

    This is just life for me, and it doesn't bother me too much during the week, but on a weekend I make sure I find time to get out and enjoy time with Andrew, Harry and friends. 

    I also make sure I have a holiday every year, & by holiday, I do not mean an action packed activity adventure, or a city break/city hopping experience with something to see an do on every day.... I mean a beach holiday, where I lay on a sunbed ALL day, EVERY day, and think of absolutely NOTHING!!! Not everyone's cup of tea, but for me, it's the only way to cut off and unwind for a week or two...

    Whatever gives you a mental and physical break, and however often you need it, make sure you take time for YOU!!

    V is for... Vets!

    Everyone's dreaded word & hopefully none of us need them every day...

    However, we do need their support, whether that's for a regular check or booster, right through to when we need them in an emergency. 

    Vets definitely are our friends...even when they don't tell us what we want to hear. Giving your horse a full MOT once a year can be a great way to keep on top of any weaknesses, as well as spotting any potential niggles BEFORE they become an issue.

    I actually use two vet practices for different things - I had my main vets for regular things and the elements that they are specialists in, and then another specialist orthopaedic vet to put Louie through his paces if I have ever suspected something isn't working quite as it should. 

    I'm a big advocate for finding anything that could cause an issue later on or cause a decline in Louie performance. Don't get me wrong, I'm an amateur rider, but as Louie grows and develops, I have always given time (& money!!) to making sure he is as comfortable and correct as he can be!!

    I take the same approach with physio, teeth, saddle check and farrier visits.

    W is for... Weatherbeeta Thermo Cell

    Any frequent readers will know that at some point this was going to feature in our A-Z - it's my go-to rug for the winter after exercise!

    It's thick enough as a cooler to keep Louie warm (warmer than a standard fleece) while it still allows him to cool down and wick away.

    I've got a 6'6 from a previous horse, which although Louie is almost a 6'9 in rugs now, I've found the fit good. It's had a lot of use over the last 9 years, and has barely any signs of wear.

    As Weatherbeeta don't seem to make this exact rug anymore, I'm not able to say where you can get your own from, but what I will say is, that if you can find a similar one, with the double layer pocket design - BUY IT! You'll get your worth of it in the first winter (it's a bit too thick for the Spring & Summer, & is a bit warm to wear as a cool down).

    Take a look at our full review of the Weatherbeeta Thermo Cell from a few years ago.

    X is for... X-Citing

    OK, so I'm pushing the boundaries a fair bit with this... But really, I couldn't find anything for this letter (the only one!)

    Remember, horses & riding should be fun and exciting, whether it is new things your teaching a horse, or the excitement of going to a competition, or even just the excitement that a fresh horse has...Embrace it!

    Y is for... Yogi Breisner

    If you read our Inspire with Yogi Breisner post earlier in the week, you'll know what a great demonstration day it was. I was also lucky enough to have a lesson the following day with him, learning and working on some core basic techniques that will help both Louie and I throughout our lives.

    It's a brief one today, but the main point is if you get the chance to attend a demonstration or lesson:

    DO IT!!

    While the demo and lesson aren't everyday things, what you'll learn you'll be able to put into practice every single day forever more.

    Z is for.... 'Zzzzzzz' - get some sleep!

    Looking after one horse can be draining at times, let alone when you have more than one, and a full time job, a family, a house, and everything else in life! But it's important to make sure after a hard day at the office and then the yard, that you take time to unwind and get some quality sleep.

    I seem to be at the yard every 12 hours - morning duties & then on an evening. Sometimes this means I don't get home until around 9pm. I find it really hard to get a good night's sleep if I then work on my blog, or do some of my office work, or generally continue to use my brain!! So I always make sure that I give my body an hour of doing absolutely nothing before heading off to bed...plus it gives me some time to digest my tea as well!

    Then, when the alarm goes off at 5.45am the next morning, I'm refresh, relaxed and ready for the day ahead!

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