The summer camp started on Tuesday 24th September where Eric Smiley FBHS was going to be doing gridwork sessions focusing on mental gymnastics. There was a line set up in the indoor arena, but Eric promptly changed the lay out.

I was in the first group of the afternoon and you could tell straight away Eric wasn’t going to accept any “waffle”. We had to give him clear and precise answers and we were questioned a lot to really clarify our understanding and to make sure what we say can be understood by the clients we teach.

We started working on a 20m circle with poles at each four points and we had to focus on riding forwards, straight and regular. Eric wouldn’t use rhythm as it is a different thing to regular (if there’s a three-time beat with a moment of suspension then there’s rhythm but we then need to make sure the canter is regular). We also had to keep out of the saddle and in a light seat. It was discussed that all the top riders keep a light seat, in particular we discussed Andrew Nicholson’s position.

These poles were then raised to jumps and again we had to keep the canter regular. The exercise then progressed to riding a figure of eight with a bounce, all the while making sure we kept riding forwards, straight and regular but not riding any corners! The theme continued through all three grid sessions.

After the grid sessions, we were very fortunate to observe a study being conducted by The Animal Health Trust on the use of Water Treadmills. They are conducting this study as currently water treadmill use isn’t regulated and there isn’t evidence to show its effects. They put GPS sensors on the horse and filmed the horse walking up in hand on the hard prior to going onto the treadmill. Once complete the horse went onto the treadmill and the water levels were increased throughout the session and at every increment the horse was filmed for 20 seconds. The water went to knee/hock height at the end. After 15 minutes on the treadmill the water was drained, the horse was stationary and had measurements of its back taken and recorded. After this, the horse was then walked in hand whilst being filmed. This is done every time to measure and analyse any changes in the horse’s muscles and movement. After we were also lucky to have a debate with Rachael Corry the Equine Bowen Therapist & Director of Wellingtons therapy centre.

Wednesday morning, Eric started with two flatwork lessons where the theme from Tuesday continued – riding the horses forward, straight and regular. Eric wanted the riders to control the balance and get the horse to sit and wait whilst keeping the hind leg active and under and not to let it drop out.

This continued into the SJ lessons where we also focussed on the riding the line and pace. We still weren’t allowed to ride corners as corners change the canter whereas riding a curve doesn’t. We still had to be clear and precise and not give any waffle. Throughout all lessons, Eric got us to look at the horse’s eyes and ears as they will lock and hone in on where they’re going. It is our job to consistently ride the canter forwards, straight and regular and it was the horse’s job to do the jump and if it didn’t, we were to change nothing – the horse must want to do it. If they knocked a pole, we were to growl at them to give them a conscience and make them allergic to paint!

After the SJ lessons, there was a Pony Club demonstration where Eric taught two plucky PC girls.  One called “Aoife, Caoimhe, Maeve Murphy” who had her D+ badge and Ann who didn’t have any PC badges. These riders are also known as Jillie Rogers BHSI and Ann Bostock BHSI! Now, Eric took his life into his own hands and made them jump the jumps as a pair as he stood between them to keep them straight! It was all good fun and light entertainment.

We stopped for a yummy lunch put on by the Café at Wellington before going XC, which if I do say so myself, was FANTASTIC! The emphasis was still on riding clear and precise and forwards, straight and balanced. In the warmup, we had to jump to the line. Eric put two bits of bark on a log and we had to ride between them straight and on angles. We discussed and put to practice riding away from fences as well as riding on curves to shorten the course which will help to make the optimum time. He got us jumping lines that really got us thinking.

After XC we watched and discussed two young horses being ridden by David and Mandy. During this time, it was very much a discussion on how Eric produces his youngsters, and the confirmation and going of the two horses in front of us. He wanted the horses to be relaxed and forwards, not us putting them into an outline. He said he would much prefer to have a contact, not an outline as that can come later.  He wanted the horse’s poll up and out to prevent the nose going on its chest.

Next up for this full-on day was loose jumping two young horses. One owned by Cheryl (for a week) and the other was David’s. We discussed how loose jumping can be done badly and how we must avoid this. We would see how the horses went as to what we would do with the jumps next – guide rail, shortening the distance, putting a block in etc.

In the evening, we again had a super dinner thanks to the café before an exclusive evening talk and book launch with Eric which was very interesting and we could buy a signed copy of the book “Two Brains, One Aim”

Thursday morning Eric continued with SJ lessons and Nereide Goodman, List 1 Dressage judge come in to judge a test we had chosen and then work through it with us. The tests ranged from Novice to CCI 2 & 3* and Inter 1. It was so useful to hear the comments and marks in our ear whilst doing the test and working through certain movements afterwards was invaluable. I also found Nereide very much coached in a similar style to Eric, we had to keep it regular and to control the shoulders and keep the hind leg active and engaged as that’s where its won or lost.

The whole camp was superb, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank David and the team at Wellington Riding along with Eric and Nereide for superb lessons. I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels enthused, refreshed and motivated for coaching clients and riding. 

Report written by Charlotte Tarrant BHSI

“Galloping the Green Strip” Report from Burghley Course Walk with Eric Smiley

As one approached the second fence on the Burghley 2019 course, the meeting point for the F and I course walk, it was hard to control the excitement at spotting “the flower bed” which was more like a raised bed for a giant.  It is only human nature to design courses which you would like to ride yourself and when walking the course you “must think of the psychology of the designer”, in this case Captain Mark Phillips.  Eric emphasised Mark always rode forward and boldly to a fence and the result was his courses asked the same from riders.  The first three fences left us all in no doubt of that, with the second and third asking the horse to get up in the air over a large box and then open out over a large table, sadly not stopping to drink any of the sponsors champagne at this point…

Eric reminded us further round the walk of the three buckets which can easily be emptied whilst riding the course and we should seek to keep them as full as we can at all times:

  • Confidence
  • Energy
  • Time

These buckets are related because as we identify one starting to empty it has a negative effect on the next in line.  If the horse starts to question what he is doing then we result in loss of Confidence, this in turn results in requiring more Energy from horse to keep in between the flags, thus resulting in Time being wasted setting the horse up for each fence and ultimately we run out of time.  As one rides the course it is important to assess how full these buckets are, for example when a horse has an awkward jump/experience through a combination then the rider should assess if the Confidence has been reduced and may choose to take an alternative which refills the bucket. 

Time can be easily lost in many areas of the course because of the proximity of the crowds (around the main arena) or trees (Winners Avenue).  The whole course was neatly roped off and narrow in many places which can gives the impression of travelling at a greater speed than you are actually moving.  It is very important to have clear in your mind that you should be “galloping the green strip” not just out for a canter.

Anyone who watch the 2018 Tryon WEG cross country would have seen the issues caused by a simple step, changed only by having water cascading from the step.  Fence 4 gave the first real question where the middle element of the combination on a curved line had a waterfall and this falling water can be difficult for a horse to read.  One can see many of the top riders starting to build extravagant aquatic water features at home as these becomes a popular feature on courses.

At fences 5, 6, 7 and 8 questions started to be asked of the horse and rider combinations where they were challenged to find the correct line and speed.  I was reminded in hindsight having travelled from Edinburgh that jumping is like going on a flight.  We, as the pilot, are responsible for finding the runway and setting the speed, but our horse, the plane, is responsible for the flying.  Thus, we are not dominating the horse to do as we will but instead giving him responsibility to take an active part in his role.  This applies across all the disciplines that we are in charge of the “line and the speed” whether we are approaching the corner of a dressage arena, triple bar to planks or the Leaf Pit at Burghley.   Eric emphasised the importance that we facilitate our horse’s learning, where we give him options and he should always seek to choose the correct one i.e. going through the flags with a pole on the ground for a young horse, which leads him on to jumping a skinny brush as seen on both fences 6 and 7. 

On leaving the Land Rover Valley for the second time fence 8, riders were then into the main course where questions kept coming thick and fast with little time to have a rest.  At most fences there were questions where striding could be discussed till Burghley 2020 and never an answer be found because of the variables:

  • How did my horse take off?
  • How did he land?
  • What did he see mid-air?

The Trout Hatchery, Fence 10, was a prime example as the horse could hang in the air as a result of sighting the water on take-off.  This could lead to many landings, short or long, but the rider should be focussed not on the striding but on riding the horse to the spread in the water at which point it is then the horse’s job to get in the air.  This said the rider must be an active participant ensuring the horse arrives in an acceptable speed and on the correct line.  “Any horse at this level should be able to jump 1.20m out of a few strides of trot” and for those of us who watched the cross country on Saturday, Eric couldn’t have been more correct as we saw many stumbles up the step and the resulting jump over the style being skilfully popped out of trot.

As we travelled on round the course Eric explained the use of safety features which are always of importance because this should be our first priority.  At fences 16, gates, and 22, slate mine, it was very obvious the new design in fence building where the ground line is enhanced with box shaped additions to the front of the fence (see picture).  It has been realised that the addition of these boxes in this case flowers or stones enhance the horse’s ability to judge the take off point.  This aspect of design is very noticeable once pointed out but appears to be only part of the fence presentation.  When asked Eric said it is perhaps worth us exploring the use of plastic blocks or flowers in the arena at home when training with horses who have difficulty finding the groundline at a fence.

Having reached the end of the course a huge thank you was given to Eric for his insight on the course and sharing of his thoughts on riding the fences.  Whilst fielding questions at the end of our course walk Eric put is money where his mouth was and bet on there being 6 riders inside the time.  Fortunately for him only one hand was shaken, or we could have all been a 50p richer by Saturday afternoon.

Report by Richard Johnston-Smith

Report from Hickstead – July 27th 2019

Ladies Day at Hickstead dawned bright and clear – and it didn’t actually rain!  I look forward every year to a day at the Royal International Horse show, watching Show Jumping from the BHS box overlooking the main arena, and meeting up with friends.

It has now become an annual event for the Campbells, Anne and I.  We arrived just after 10am, and parked close to the trade stand area just over five minutes’ stroll from the box.

From the BHS Alex Copeland welcomed us and hosted the day with Michele Carmen.  Coffee was provided on tap with plenty of refills and a splendid buffet lunch with wine and scrummy desserts.  Lunch was consumed with chit-chat and catch-up.  After lunch we had the opportunity to walk the 1.5m course for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup.

The thing that takes the breath away is the size of the fences. Distances, both related and combinations, were standard.  However jumping a large spread fence at 1.40+ to a fairly short double of uprights, on a dog-leg, on eight strides, was quite a challenge.  Some did eight, some did seven, and one did six!   As one would expect the standard was high in everything seen – Show Jumping, Showing, Driving. The BHS Box offers one of the best views of the arena, you can see most of the arena and what you cannot see directly is on two large screens.

The trade stands were right outside and busy and offered an excellent range of horse gear covering a wide price range. There was also International Dressage just a stroll away.

The weather was kind, the food was excellent, the location at the side of the main arena was second to none and Jillie was her usual buoyant cheery self with Fab Fran taking photos. It was a privilege to be there, and slightly sad there were not more of us. Just over twenty! The price is superb for what we get, and the venue is outstanding – and we must fill the box next year.

I am looking forward to next year, come and join us for a great Saturday.

Julian Campbell July 2019

Report from the North West Training day with Andrew Bennie FBHS

Myerscough International Arena, 20th June 2019

The topic of the day was ‘Suppleness and Straightness within the Jump Arena’. We were all looking forward to Andrews’s wealth of knowledge and experience, plus the opportunity to catch up with friends and fellow peers.

The morning started with a couple of hours of flatwork, Andrew worked with horses of various levels, and throughout, the theme was ensuring the rider maintained their own balance and posture, therefore enabling the horse to balance and cover the ground in a correct rhythm and tempo. Riders were encouraged to improve the suppleness of the horses by being clearer when performing lateral movements, ensuring the horse was correct and soft around the inside leg, lighter in the shoulder and showing greater self-carriage. A perfect chance to brush up on correct positioning, and get test ready. Some very helpful pointers, greatly received, to get the extra mark in our next test!

The rest of the day consisted of jump sessions, Andrew started each session working horses over a grid, assessing the horses confidence and ability. The 4 year olds had chance to play with some poles first, giving them time to think and work out what was required, then progressed to the grid in a sensible manner. Each group went from the grid, then linked two related distances around the arena, so to encourage forward thinking and fluency.

Much was discussed about the technique and suppleness of each horses jump, and how the grid could be altered to assist with the training and development of the individual horses. Wide parallel’s/ double of cross poles as a spread/ V poles and straightening poles were all used throughout the day. Andrew explained he wanted to encourage the horse to think more, and during the day, referred to the horse’s confidence or lack of security and how as riders/ trainers we can offer so much support to the horses, by our feel, giving the horse time and again… encouraging the horse to think and assess what is required.

During the jump sessions, discussions and feedback from each rider was encouraged, riders were engaged and very keen to improve the feelings they were experiencing. At one point in the day, even though much was discussed about stride patterns and what the horse was comfortable with, Andrew still encouraged ‘Riding with your Instinct!’ as ‘sometimes you have to just go with what you feel’

Andrew was clear, calm and explained everything in an easy manner, he promoted the harmony within the horses and riders and everybody took much from the day, and thoroughly enjoyed the sessions.

The only complaint of the day was ‘Please turn the Air Conditioning on! This must be the warmest indoor arena I’ve been in!! I can assure you its lovely in winter!

From all that attended, Thank you Andrew for a fantastic day!

Report by Kirsten Owen BHSI

Report from the F&I Irish Day

How lucky were we to wake up to a glorious sunny morning in Co Kildare, for our Irish F and I day.

On arrival to Jessica Harringtons yard at 10 o’clock , we found that we had only missed one lot as they do not start till 8 as many of the staff have yards of their own. Our first vision was the infamous Sizing John, Gold Cup winner in 2017. Sizing John was just on road work due to being in rehab after an injury, which included trotting for up to 4 miles every day. Jessica and her daughters,

Emma and Kate are firm believers that roadwork is an important part of strengthening the horses after an injury.

We then watched over 25 two year olds trotting in a sand arena with their work riders, made up of some permanent staff and others freelance, which was fairly exciting!

Jessica watched them on each rein in trot,  before giving individual instructions to each rider for that day. We then walked to one of the gallops to watch them work in pairs or individually, and we were impressed at the speed that even the two year olds travel.

She has around 140 horses with capacity for 170, both jump and flat and they are in every corner of the farm. This included some areas offering 24 hour turnout, for horses with respiratory or stress issues.  The colts are all stabled in a new block with plenty of fresh air and a new type of lights called equi-lume, which keep them calmer and more relaxed as they cannot be turned out.

Interestingly, all the horses are only fed with locally grown hay which gets tested for aspergillus, ( a fungus which grows in damp conditions)  they have four feeds a day, which includes racehorse cubes, mix and fibre based nuts, which are fed last to keep food in their gut for longer.

They are weighed every Monday morning and all horses are tested for viruses before setting foot in the yard. The manure is taken away by local farmers for bedding for their cows, and rain water is collected and used to wash off the horses.. There are three horse walkers and an indoor school which has new perspex doors to make it lighter and so you can see in without disturbing the horses.

Each rider has their own saddle to use on their allotted rides for the day, with a towel under a padded numnah for ease of washing and hygiene . Jessica keeps the same combination of horse and rider together as much as possible. 

It was an extremely friendly, efficient, family run yard with a relaxed atmosphere which showed in the horses demeanour, we all loved our morning, what a treat!!!!

In the afternoon we  ‘raced’  to the Irish National Stud to have a very informative tour from David.  We saw how their stallions had huge paddocks each in which they were turned out in every day,  the mares and foals looked very relaxed in their fields and the retired legends , Rite of Passage, Beef or Salmon, Hardy Eustace, Kicking King and the amazing Hurricane Fly are apparently the main attraction.

There are seven stallions standing there, with fees ranging from €1000 to €120,000, they naturally cover at least 100 mares each, and some of them then fly to Australia for the season.

Interestingly, Colonel William Hall Walker , who founded the stud in 1900 was influenced by Astrology which determined which foals he kept and trained. 

He also installed a Japanese garden of Eternity, and the now Irish government owned stud continues to progress and develop and we look forward to viewing the new interactive museum which opens in 2020.

Many thanks to Faith Ponsonby for organising a great F and I day and we are already looking forward to next years trip!!!

Report by Annette Christey

F&I report – Visit to West Kington Stud 13th June 2019

A fascinating and informative day

It was a drizzly day to begin with, but as we started in the barn where the stocks are, we all kept dry. There was a maximum number of ten people which made sense when I realised how we were going to read scans to determine various different stages of pregnancy, also check for twins and the later scan to check for a heartbeat – we had a fabulous selection of mares that were being checked by the Veterinarian Lucy Collins who specialises in stud work and works for B and W Equine Vet Practise.

Lucy made the session very interactive and made sure we could all read the scans and that we thoroughly understood what we were reading, with the options we could use to maintain the pregnancy or correct the reason why the mare was not in foal.

The white board had a list of 14 mares to be scanned that day, 12 the following day and similar numbers over the weekend and daily throughout the following week, at this time of year Lucy said she would spend several hours daily scanning at West Kington, as she scanned each mare she made notes in her book and then moved the mare’s name on the white board to the next time she needed to be looked at. This process is very staff heavy as it needed two people if there was a mare and foal and then the next mare (and foal) would be ready and waiting.

Lucy explained the advantage of using fresh or chilled semen over frozen semen and the difficulties they have with trying to get some tricky mares in foal with frozen semen and negotiating with owners who have set they heart on a certain stallion that only has frozen semen available. We were shown how to look for a dominant follicle and how measuring them will tell you how old they are and that if they were small for their age they were likely to be lost prior to the next scan.

We saw maiden mares, barren mares and several mares with foals at foot which all stood beautifully beside their mothers, it was lovely to see such young foals so close and be able to scrutinise their conformation – Lucy also discussed checking the foals for issues in the legs and feet and when different growth plates close, so how early this needed to be done and how to trim and shoe the foals to correct any problems.

Next Tessa Clarke showed us all around the stud and we saw mares and foals of varying ages in large barn-type stables followed by Tessa and Harry Thirlby introducing us to the eight stallions they have standing at West Kington at the moment:

Cevin Z – undeniably Tessa’s favourite!
Chilli Morning
Billy Congo
Greenlands Jester
Le Grand

And Jane Holderness Roddam’s three stallions:

Welton Double Cracker
Windsor Heights
Jamhoori – her new Thoroughbred stallion.

After that Harry used Cevin Z to show us how to collect fresh semen, use a nuclear counter to measure the sperm which told us there were 18.6 million sperm in that one collection which would be able to be used for up to eighteen individual mares, Tessa then showed us how she would centrifuge the sperm sample to improve the quality of the sample by reducing the plasma and check the quality of the sample under a microscope.

We finished off our visit by going out to the field to look at several mares and foals by different stallions which was lovely to see foals of various ages all settled and happy together, questions were encouraged and there were plenty, it was an excellent opportunity for everyone.

We then all went out to lunch where Lucy Collins (Vet) and Nick Gauntlett joined us and we had an informal discussion afterwards.

Enormous thanks go to Jane Holderness-Roddam for allowing us to visit her lovely premises, Debbie Follet for organising the visit, and Tessa Clarke, Lucy Collins and Harry Thirlby for making the day so interactive and interesting – it was a superb day.

Report by Sarah MacDonald FBHS

Report from Bramham Horse Trials – F&I Course Walk with course designer Ian Stark, June 2019

A small but high quality group of F&I members and guests gathered at Bramham. We headed up to fence 1 to meet Bramham course designer Ian Stark FBHS. 2019 marks Ian’s tenth year as course designer – when asked whether he was on a fixed term Ian revealed that when the compulsory retirement age for course designers was recently raised to 72, Bramham’s reply was ‘that’s great, we have you for another 7 years!’. 
Ian’s course featured a number of his trademark whopping great ditches, with riders making it only to fence 6 before being faced with a combination of trakehner, corner, corner and then a skinny brush with an open ditch in front. We were reassured that the corners were not 90 degrees; ‘more like 80’ – we remained unconvinced how much difference this would make!

The course remains very familiar from previous years but with fresh elements challenging riders in a number of ways. Ian talked us through his new rail, ditch, rail fence (very definitely still a coffin in Ian’s world), which came up following a long galloping stretch. Ian spoke of how riders would need to understand the canter required for this sort of fence and be able to produce it to make this work. A time-consuming alternative was available – which Andrew Nicholson had told Ian he was very definitely planning to take. It was remembered that Andrew had jokingly used this tactic at Badminton telling many riders he planned to use the long routes in the hope they would choose it themselves! Ian spoke about how he uses this type of fence across the levels with varying difficulty and how the experienced riders plead him to continue to include them at the lower levels to help educate their horses. 

Around the course we discussed various current eventing topics. The use of safety devices was discussed – they have obvious advantages, but Ian is keen to ensure that the penalty for activating them remains (with the obvious ground jury review). Some national federations do not impose a penalty and it sometimes appears that some riders take bigger risks when they know this is the case. The controversial flag rule was discussed – alongside the fact that rules cannot be changed mid-year! Ian also talked about the challenges of hosting a course on a site also used for the iconic Leeds Festival. Each year all fences have to be completely removed to avoid damage (or the risk of ‘happy’ festival-goers injuring themselves) and a £1million contract is in place for clean up after the festival in August before work can start on the ground for the following June. We also made a well-timed pitstop at the BHS ‘On The Move’ lorry for a hot drink just after the half way mark!
A light lunch gave time for a pleasant debate on qualifications and discussion on the forthcoming members meeting – alongside a lot of crisps! 

Lisa Morris very kindly provided notes in the form of her report from last year to support the discussion group for the Young Horse Classes as Nicola Baguley was sadly unable to join us due to commitments at home. As the BHS stand was rather busy (17 new members signed up on the Friday alone) I remained there to help so cannot further report. I understand the afternoon was interesting, but rather wet! 

A very enjoyable and educational day! I just wish I had been able to see some of the xc competition on the Saturday. Can anyone enlighten me about whether AN took the long route at the coffin?

Report by Ruth Baxter

F&I Day 20th May 2019 with Judy Harvey

Ann Bostock wanted help with the canter work for her 18yr old RoR. Judy addressed this by helping the horse to become more comfortable in his surroundings and worked to get him supple around Ann’s leg. This enabled him to let go in all three paces and lessened the need to ride him so forward.

Jenny Ward brought her big, beautiful 13yr old who she is competing at Inter 1.
Judy initially worked on improving the horse’s reaction to the leg, as opposed to him offering speed, which made his hind legs participate in propelling and carrying his frame forwards.
Judy provided assistance from the ground with the piaffe and passage, asking Jenny to work with a slightly longer and lower neck for throughness.

Mandy Luesley rode Betty, her home bred 6yr old mare, with whom she had achieved 69% at Novice the day before.
Judy improved the mare’s basic way of going by finding balance in a slower tempo, developing straightness on an inner track and reaction to a lighter leg aid.

Sarah Stewart rode Polly whom she had bought as 4yr old. The mare is now 14, and they are competing at Inter 1.
Sarah wanted help with the canter pirouettes, during which the mare was rushing and losing balance.
Judy addressed control, making Sarah responsible for steering, and wanted less effort from Sarah managing the horse. This allowed the mare to find her own balance and take her own responsibility for maintaining the canter.
On the left rein mare ran onto the inside leg, turning too quickly. Judy had her taking a couple of pirouette steps left, then turning right out of it into counter canter. The mare learned to wait for instructions rather than anticipating the movement and improved her balance.
In the passage, Judy included a couple of steps of medium trot between the passage periods, to teach the mare range of movement as well as create energy.

Elizabeth Allen brought Harry, a 7yr old, who was only backed at 5.5. She had taken him to the Nationals at Novice last year, and has qualified him for the Medium Regionals with 67%, recently achieving two Advanced Mediums of 68%.

Liza rode through a serpentine with changes. Right to left was balanced and clear; left to right, the horse twisted. Judy helped create new bend by over-curving each loop, fitting 6 loops into the arena rather that 4, which helped the balance.

Harry twisted at the poll in shoulder-in right. Judy corrected this by removing the bend and putting the horse on an increased angle without bend in order to gain control of the shoulders and straighten him.

Judy said that Harry is an enthusiastic horse, who needs to learn to wait so that he doesn’t drag the rider through the movements and lose balance. He hasn’t currently got the strength to manage his own power, which creates the twisting through the crest.

Sam Champney-Warrener and Sarah Stewart both coached sessions in the afternoon with Judy’s staff and schoolmasters. These led to many good discussion points and suggested exercises in order to improve each partnership.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, and the sun shone throughout! Thank you to Judy for hosting and Ann for organising.

Report by Dan Spencer and Melissa Troup

F&I course walk – Badminton 2019

Friday morning was bright and clear with a chilly wind as 14 members and their guests set off for an insight to Eric Winters’ imposing XC course, running in a clockwise direction, with Nick Turner FBHS.

This year Nick promised us that it wouldn’t be a “route march”, but our fit group managed to overtake two other groups on the way!!

The first four fences set the horses and riders up for what was to come later, and it was at fence 10 that the first real question came. Most horses are used to going under roofs at this level, but the bank was fairly steep and short to a “coffin” ditch and then either the left or right uphill options of logs – although straight on through the gap looked easily the most inviting. 

Then it was on to the middle section of the course where questions came thick and fast and you had to be able to adjust the canter without losing the power.

Nick described the direct routes, and also where the softer routes were, if horse and or riders had lost a bit of confidence. Once the lake was behind you Nick said that Eric had really then tried to get riders home safely, providing they were sensible and didn’t try to make up time if the horse was tired. 

On Saturday the top combinations made it look like a Pony Club course and even those that had a problem or mishap didn’t look as though they had been over-faced, just a lack of control and/or communication, or simply mis-understanding the question.

As always Nick’s experience of riding and training at the level shines through, answering all of our queries and concerns and making us truly understand how much of a partnership there is at this level for horses to trust us to keep galloping and jumping for 12 minutes over 33 fences and a minimum of 48 jumping efforts.
Many thanks to Nick for a wonderful course-walk and a great insight into the minds of the course-builder, rider and horse.

Report by Ann Bostock

Report from Wellington, 15th March

What a fantastic day we had at Wellington on Friday,  courtesy of David of course!  We were all very pleased to be using the fantastic indoor facilities on such a windy day!

All I can say is ‘wow’ – so many exercises and so much to take in.  The hour’s lessons were jam packed – each different to suit the different levels of horses.

Caroline brought a selection of ‘cavaletti’ jumps,  skinny brushes and shoulder brushes with her which were all used throughout the day.  Our group firstly rode the ‘square’ exercise with parallel poles on the sides of the square to really emphasise the straightness   ” look for the outside cheek piece ” and keeping the jump to the canter.

We then progressed to exercises incorporating the cavaletti style jumps as bounces. The bounces were used a lot throughout the day – encouraging the horses to stretch their backs and making them more athletic.  I would like to add that I think our group was the only one who had to jump these bounces without our stirrups – no one complained and no one fell off!

The bounce exercises were combined with dog legs to square parallels – aiming  to ride on a forward stride  ( moving away from the bounces  so the horse gets in deeper  to the  oxer)  then progressing  from the bounces  with a dog leg to a skinny brush and then the bounces to a corner on a tighter line. 

Another exercise we rode was an oxer to a skinny brush to another oxer  all on a related distance – straightness was the key again.  Emphasis was also  on riding straight after the fences for 3 strides and then working the horse for 20/30 seconds on the flat to finish.   ‘Always think there is another fence on landing,  even when there isn’t,  so you don’t collapse on landing.’

I was also in the last session of the day where we worked down a grid – built up of bounces  to an oxer to two skinny brushes to an oxer then bounces – this definitely took some concentration. 

The shoulder brushes and skinny brushes were used for the ‘big boys’.  All jumped on angles with a stride in between – how easy they all made it look!

Time and time again,  you heard Caroline say ‘look up’ and ‘ keep your outside rein so the horse stays straight’  .

To top it all Caroline  gave us an insight to the World Equestrian Games  with some great photos – not mentioning the one of Dickie Waygood  sitting on the toilet!  The weather was very challenging in Tyron and the timings of the warm ups etc were crucial with the high humidity levels out there .  This was followed by a lovely  hot lunch provided by Wellington.

What more could anyone ask for  ?!

Report by Nicole Biggs

National Equine Forum 2019

Opened by Lord Gardiner the Under Secretary State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, the National Equine Forum yet again excelled in offering everyone opportunity to learn about so many important topics that influence and affect the Equine industry in both the UK and abroad. The announcement that the value of the UK equine industry is internationally recognised as worth an estimated £8 billion per year with overseas at £400 million, alongside being the 4th largest rural employer in the UK was surprising and bought home realisation of the potential impact impending decisions upon Brexit may have upon our industry.

Chaired by HRH Princess Royal, the programme offered an immense supply of information from many key equestrian organisations, researchers and charities – far too many to cover in this brief report, so where it may fall short, please visit the National Equine Forum website to find out more.

So, what might leaving the EU mean for horse owners and those who work with horses? (by the time this report reaches you all and to eliminate risk of error, the caveat is that the most current and up to date information will be available on the Defra website). Basically if you own but don’t move horses into EU there will be no change – horses will continue to need passports and owners will, by 2020 need to have horses microchipped.

If we leave without a deal then the U.K. risks becoming classed as a 3rd country meaning we have to apply for listing as a sanitary county based on our veterinary category. This category defines blood tests about clearance for transit. If not granted we then become classed as an unlisted country therefore no movement of horses abroad is allowed.

We will need to make sure all animals being moved or travelling abroad are tested for diseases (country requirements may differ). There will be need for resident and isolation export health certifications and entry through specified border inspection centres or points. There will be no charge for the ID documentation for transporting but horse owners will have to bear the veterinary and testing for diseases costs associated with countries they wish to take horses through until their final destination. Advise is being given to to check Defra website and ascertain the biosecurity needs for each country allowing a minimum 6 weeks prior to transit. It’ll be super important to plan ahead as, in some cases, not all vets will be able to undertake the required tests and not all Border inspection posts have yet been confirmed so plan ahead for possible change of journey to accommodate border inspection post requirements.

Currently there is no special provision for Ireland and sadly a possible impact may be that horses will not have the free access north to south and vice versa that they currently do.

Recognition was given to 2019 being the 50th year since infancy for the Riding for the Disabled and highlighted the dual benefit the work and involvement of the RDA (and other charities) have for all involved – be they volunteers, participants and their families.

During 2019 working with the British Horse Council, Defra updated the Code of Practice for the Horse and reviewed licensing of riding schools to ensure clarity upon minimum standards for welfare.

Biosecurity featured highly with much discussion and evaluation of recent experiences due to the recent outbreaks of Equine Flu with Defra identifying that much work is in progress to mitigate zoonotic and microbial diseases along trying to reduce use of antibiotics through a 5yr national action plan within the UK involving working with vets and horse owners to reduce further or unnecessary antibiotic use.

Gratitudes were given to those involved with the work of the equine coalition in addressing the Equine Flu outbreak with best advice to vaccinate and it was confirmed there will be a review following the outbreak. Biosecurity remains of high importance to protect our industry with much emphasis upon the need to inform and educate to ensure effective preventative measures are applied

UK wide ID regulations are developing which will apply to breeders of all animals and there is a requirement for all horses to be microchipped by 2020 with exception for semi wild ponies. Local Authorities now have rules rules around supporting Legislation, which must continue to recognise semi feral ponies.

Better technology and the digital stable is the way forwards and with approx 1.3 million horses in the UK, the Central Equine database (CED) will play a key role in ensuring robust identification and traceability of horses – an important consideration given the need to maintain control of POMs and reduce risk of entering the food chain. It is very clear that as owners of horses, we need to be updating the PIO for our horses and the CED upon any changes with our horses. Transparency upon the medical (inc breeding and performance) history of individual horses will soon become the norm.

‘Physical training increases fitness hence performance improves ‘ was the opening statement offered by Dr Marlin as he further explained the influences in the training into skill behavioural and physical, whilst Dr Andrew Hemmings provided a highly interesting and entertaining report upon research into the learning patterns of horses that crib or weave.

An initial report into the findings of the current BETA research was provided by CEO Clare Williams with announcement that completion should be achieved by end of May this year – definitely a publication for those wishing to understand the drivers and influencers within our industry.

It was reassuring to attend the forum and appreciate that a lot of what we all currently practice, we all (mostly) do, with the common themes of furthering best practice and welfare for the horse – for those unable to attend in 2020 then I would strongly urge you join in though accessing the National Equine Forums remote feed facility.

Report by Oonagh Meyer

Annual Course Jumping Report

Tuesday was an early start for Sue Ricketts and I and when we arrived at Addington at 8am we learnt our first thing…do not arrive early, you get accosted to write the report!

My focus over the course was Corinne Bracken who was our jump trainer this year.  I had never had the opportunity to observe her before but had only heard good things, so I sat down with my notebook and was suitably impressed with her training philosophy and ‘eye’ for detail.

It was interesting that Corinne took written notes when meeting her riders and horses and asked questions before repeating this information back to them and retaining and responding to this throughout the lessons.

The main focus throughout the two days was the working in, stretching and making the horses supple through the scales of training. Emphasising the horse is an athlete, the horse having more ‘bulk’ than a human, this should not be rushed, ensuring the horse is fit for purpose.  Corinne used a trotting pole serpentine exercise on both days, encouraging the riders to have a ‘plan’ and ensure the horses were relaxed before they started jumping.

Corrections were made to the riders’ positions early in the sessions, encouraging them to stretch down through the inside leg to prevent tension through the horses’ backs and using the weight through the inside of the foot, with a secure calf and soft knee as a safety blanket, absorbing softness through the hip, knee and ankle, reducing the need to use the rein.

The quality of the canter was assessed throughout, focussing on the inside leg and straightness through the outside rein without blocking the connection and energy from behind. Transitions made ‘are your friend, use them to help you’ especially when riding fences on a centre line with a change of rein….an exercise creating suppleness which in turn creates straightness. “The supple horse gives you more options so you can ride forward, collected, faster and slower” again relating back to the working-in exercise.

Corinne’s own movement around the arena meant that she viewed the horse and rider combinations from different angles, allowing her to step in and ‘teach’ when necessary as it “gives the rider confidence and skills” before returning to a more coaching mode.

Corinne’s practical, no nonsense approach showed huge empathy with the riders and horses. She stressed that we as trainers must not categorise horses and riders, and often a group lesson could be in essence three individual lessons all with the aim of improving technique and rideability, essentially through the quality of the canter and the horse creating a better energy and shape over a fence. Corinne is an avid believer in ground poles to encourage the horses to be consistent in their technique and not let the horse run into the bottom of the fence.

The differences in all levels of horses and riders were clear to see, with the young horses growing in confidence and the more experienced combinations working through straightness on curved lines and opening up their technique using parallels on related distances. These distances were shortened, firstly by the ground poles, followed by moving the front rail, to encourage the horses to lift through the shoulder and release over the back.

Feeling inspired the phrase “if you’re not winning, you’re learning” stayed with me and when I get home the hard work will start!

Thank you so much to Corinne, Ann and the committee for once again providing us with world class training and I’m counting down the days to January 2020. Many thanks also to Tim for your wonderful entertainment on Tuesday evening…although I fear the West End will not be contacting us soon!

Report by Linda DeMatteo BHSI

Annual Course Dressage Report


The underlying theme that seemed to come across from both the dressage and jumping sessions was that the horses had to be working to the contact in order to create enough power. However, this still meant that the horses had to be in-front of the leg in order to be to the contact.

During Adam’s sessions it was an absolute breath of fresh air that he talked about whether a horse should work deep or whether it should work up. There is a great sense in the horse community that we cannot be seen to be working a horse deeply without running the risk of being accused of rollkur/hyperflexion.

In the training sessions the horses had to work in a position that allowed them to bring their backs up to get them swinging through their backs. There was no greater example of this necessity to work deep than with Becky Monk’s 16hh Gelderlander, Arendo.

While assessing Becky’s horse in halt Adam could see that his natural posture was to stand with his hind legs out behind, extended through the back and high in the neck. If this horse didn’t work deep in the frame then he would never actually develop the back muscles and engagement from behind to give him the necessary degree of collection to balance himself without dropping his back.

I must stress however that Adam did not get Arendo to work deep throughout the session, he used that work to get the connection from the hind quarters to the bridle to get the contact better which in turn got the horse to work uphill and over the back.

At the points that this horse lost the softness over the back Adam would work with Becky to get Arendo deeper over the back and thus more truly into the contact once again to get the horse to work back up to the bridle.

Adam’s analysis of this thought process is that if we go to the gym, we don’t just use one piece of equipment. We would go around using different pieces to work different parts of our bodies. Therefore, we should do the same with our horses use different postures for the horse to work all the parts of the body required to carry out the tasks that the horse must complete.

Also coming through in this training ethos of Adam’s was that the rider must get the reaction required for the level that the horse is working at. For myself, riding my own Rastafari, Adam expected me to get Grand Prix reactions from both the legs and the half halts.

With these improved reactions it allowed the horse to have more Grand Prix paces and balance.

I came into the session really wanting to work on the Grand Prix canter zig zag. In tests so far, this movement has been a real issue for me to create the correct balance. After work from Adam to get better reactions and put Rasta into a correct collected canter balance for the movement, we were then sent to ride the dreaded zig zag. The balance felt so good, 3 strides left, change, 6 strides right, change, 6 strides left, change, 6 strides right, change and then 3 strides left and change at G.

Adam’s next comment “what was wrong with that then?” For the first time I didn’t make a mistake and it felt so easy, just because I had put the correct balance into the movement. I was thrilled!

Another excellent tip to come from my sessions which will be really useful while training all horses up the levels was while warming up for the Grand Prix work Adam had me ride a Grand Prix balance but to start with, ride an advanced medium line in the canter half passes and as the horse’s suppleness improved, I could then change the line to a more difficult and testing line.

I look forward over the next twelve months to working on the areas that Adam highlighted and hope and intend to show an improvement in the Grand Prix work at next year’s annual trip to Addington.

Report by Mark Cunliffe BHSI