Dressage Judging

I’ve been thinking a lot about judging dressage. It’s definitely something I’ve thought about doing in the future, but at the moment I’m quite happy dabbling in my Demi Dressage judging. Which has a scale of 1 to 10, but focusing much more on the teaching side of things – taking the time to comment on how the movement has gone well or how to improve. And the scale isn’t comparable to British Dressage. For example, there’s no way we’re going to be giving out 4.0s and 5.0 to the tiny tots doing their first test. So the marks used tend to be higher than you’d expect, with 9.0s dotted around. But we want to be encouraging, give them a good experience and help them improve both themselves and their pony.

It’s an approach to judging I think should be universal. Aim to give positive and constructive feedback, encourage riders of all ages to improve and have another try at a test. After all, the judge sitting as C doesn’t know their journey. Sure, they may be full of confidence and able to take a tough judge. But they may also be nervous and spent months building up to this moment. It may only be a prelim test, but to them it’s their Olympics.

Phoenix and I have been plugging away at affiliated dressage this summer; being very comfortable and bored in novice, we pushed up to elementary.

Our first elementary test wasn’t an easy one – typical – but we could ride each element and I felt that so long as she didn’t anticipate anything, or spook then we should make a respectable debut. The test itself, she rode everything as I asked. Conservative, and sometimes a little wobbly, but as well as she could. I was pleased.

However, when the scores came through I was really disappointed. Expecting 62% ish, with what I thought to be realistic expectations, we’d scored 57%.

Initially, I was gutted. The score was much lower than I felt we really deserved. Yes it hadn’t taken us out the placings, but it just felt very unfair. Phoenix has quality gaits and usual marks are 6.5 when she’s going in a very average way. Of course, if she jogs the walk or spooks she picks up a 4.0. But that’s fair.

Anyway, I looked at the score sheet for some feedback, and it was very disappointing. Little to no feedback or justification for the low scores. I looked at the rest of the class, and there were more scores than usual in the 50s, so it seemed to be a general theme of the day. I was very frustrated and disappointed, moping around for a couple of days feeling like I’d been wasting my time.

Then I saw a friend who had been volunteering and supporting her friends at the competition. We had a moan, but most importantly, she told me that those competing regularly at elementary had received a score approximately 5% lower than their normal. Which made me feel better, and that another judge would have put us in the low 60s that I’d anticipated for our first time, and it wasn’t a personal vendetta.

Before we go any further, let’s look at the repercussions of judging negatively. Yes, I respect that you need to use a range of marks, but no decent feedback and for the whole class to be scored low is not good for anyone.

It’s not good for the competitor. My first experience of an elementary test did not inspire me to continue trying. I wanted to give up. I lost my confidence and self belief. And I wouldn’t be the only competitor in this position. Leisure riders who spend hours of time and lots of money training towards a test, perhaps it’s at the top of their game, are in it for fun. Reading those score sheets are not fun. These riders, who go to British Dressage competitions regularly actually make up a large proportion of BD membership, and make these show days financially viable. Don’t put them off.

It isn’t a good advert for British Dressage – why would you opt to go to a BD show if you regularly received unfair judging when there are perfectly acceptable Riding Club options, which a more inviting and supportive atmosphere.

It’s not great for the judge. I looked her up and I won’t be going to the BD venue she’s associated with. Nor will I put her name forward to judge at any Riding Club or Pony Club competitions. If I learn she’s judging a class I’m entered in, I’m not sure I’d even bother going. I’d rather forfeit the entry fee. And I definitely will not be looking for lessons or clinics with her, or recommending her to anyone else.

The venue. It’s very local to me, and whilst the venue was great, it will be quite a risk returning there in case she judges again, so the venue has certainly lost out from that perspective.

No one benefits from this situation, and as I said before, it may be the first rung on the BD ladder, but to some this is a massive achievement – training, overcoming nerves, travelling, riding in a new environment, and then learning the test.

Depending on your point of view, fortunately or unfortunately I had already entered another elementary test at another show. Which meant I had to pick myself up and brush ourselves off.

I sent the test video and sheet to my coach, and then ripped up the score sheet. I’d rather put my trust in her to guide me in my next training steps, than dwell on those low numbers. I knew already what our weaker areas were, so started practising those before our next lesson. I also did some fun hacks and jumps to remember why I ride Phoenix.

It was definitely a test of resilience. I really didn’t want to go to our next competition, and had to dig deep to practice. It was also interesting to note that my general confidence with riding and work took a dip. I thought of attending some clinics, but didn’t want to ride in front of anyone unknown. The risk of taking another battering I guess.

But it was fine. We weren’t hugely well prepared, and the second test had some mistakes. But the scores were fair, and justified, and we came home with a first and second. This inspired me a bit more, so I entered another two tests to keep the ball rolling. Last weekend the scores increased further, although there were still some mistakes (like riding canter to halt instead of canter to walk in the simple changes, and me forgetting where the final halt transition was on the centre line and wobbling around), and we had another first and second.

I feel like we’ve established ourselves at elementary level, and it feels the right level of difficulty – not perfect, but challenging enough. So now I’m planning a few weeks of training to consolidate what we’ve learnt from the competitions. And really focus on our weaker points, such as finding and maintaining the balance in medium trot. Then we’ll get out between the white boards again and hopefully have some more successful outings.

Prix Caprilli

You know I always like a challenge, and this spring I’ve had the challenge of training a dozen keen Pony Clubbers for the Area Prix Caprilli competition.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Prix Caprilli is a riding test, akin to a dressage test, with two jumps in. It’s a dying competition which I think is a shame because having two jumps helps disguise the fact they’re doing dressage, and the fact it’s a ridden test means it is welcoming to everyone; young horses, hairy natives, the elderly schoolmasters, and riders of all ages. It doesn’t matter your mount, it’s how you ride them.

As you can see, it’s a challenging test. Especially when my youngest rider is only six years old. So my first challenge was to work out how to teach the different elements of the test to a group of primary school age children in a group setting whilst keeping them engaged and interested.

I decided that props were the best way to go, and to split each lesson up so that the last twenty minutes was spent jumping – even though I knew they were all capable of jumping the small height of the prix caprilli jumps. It would reward them for their hard work on the flat. I ensured they approached the jumps straight and in a rhythm, practising establishing the correct canter quickly after the jump. In one lesson we had a bit of fun doing a Chase Me Charlie.

For the flatwork, I chose a couple of different elements of the test to work on in each lesson.

  1. In the first session I laid out a 20m circle using little sports cones at A. Throughout the warm up, they practised trotting the 20m circle. With the cones they semi taught themselves, as they could see for themselves when their pony deviated from the circle. This meant we could keep the lesson moving. We also practised the change of rein across the diagonal and then cantering the circle individually.
  2. The next session we practised the centre lines. I used a tramline of poles at X and then cones at A and C. They did numerous changes of rein up and down the centre line. We added in halts at X, using the poles to stay straight. I think I also worked them in sitting trot and without stirrups, and nit picked how they rode their corners.
  3. The trickiest part to this test, and the hardest for children to understand, is the two shallow loops up the centre line, so I used two cones at X for them to ride through, and then used a jump pole to mark each shallow loop. The warm up was based around changing the rein with the loops, as well as revising other movements in the test. Then I used a handful of cones to mark out the two half ten metre circles and had them all trotting and walking it to learn the size and shape of the half circles.
  4. The penultimate training session focused on the canter sequence. It’s quite a fast paced section of the test and the movements come up quickly so I wanted my riders to know this part of the test really well, and then start riding tactically. For example, riding from left canter to trot close to B to give them as much time as possible to prepare for the “wiggle” as we nicknamed the double shallow loop. This exercise also allowed me to link the jumps into their flatwork for the first time.
  5. Then, just before the competition we had a dry run. They made a warm up plan with me, then warmed up as they would at the competition and they all rode through the whole test individually a couple of times to fine tune it. Then they went away to practise at home!

I enjoyed the challenge of finding exercises which kept the children engaged whilst helping them learn the test movements, which were simple enough for them to replicate at home.

But what I think I enjoyed the most about training the Prix Caprilli teams was competition day. The straightening of ties; warming them up; quelling any nerves; calling their tests; bacon butties afterwards, and most importantly watching them all pull off smart tests! I felt very proud of the young riders and their ponies.

One child asked me to read for him, sacking his Mum as he did. As we walked towards his ring he said “I’m feeling a bit nervous.” and privately, I had to agree! I definitely had butterflies in my stomach for all my riders!

Another thing for the CV, and whilst I was some what reluctant to take on yet another project, it was certainly enjoyable and I guess I’ll be doing it again next year!

But I am wondering, why can’t adults have Prix Caprilli competitions too?

Stepping It Up

I did quite a lot of adventuring in the autumn with Phoenix, of all disciplines to give her more experience, but the wet ground cut it short and with Christmas getting out and about went on the back burner a bit. I don’t think that’s a bad thing though, as it gives you time to focus on stepping up a level. Which is what I’ve been doing.

The flatwork side of things I’m slowly introducing novice movements, letting Phoenix think that they’re her idea. Medium trot is coming along nicely, she reins back well, direct transitions between halt and trot are sussed. It’s the dreaded walk to canter which keeps upsetting our canter work which is holding us back at the moment.

On the jumping side, I’ve done a lot of work on the canter and just before Christmas jump schooled her at a lovely, local venue. Through the autumn she was doing the 70cm and 80cm class so that she had a warm up before her level of jumping. However, now a 70cm course involves speed as she overreacts to my aids and is overly confident. Sure she goes clear, but it doesn’t feel controlled or like I have any say in how we go. In December, after jumping a course of 80cm I put the jumps up to 90-95cm. Then, it got interesting. Phoenix backed off the jumps, not enough that it all went wrong, but she had to think about the fences, and then she let me help her out. I could balance the canter and apply the leg on the approach. There were a couple of green errors, a pole down, the odd stop when she didn’t quite have the right canter and take off spot. But nothing unexplainable, and I found that I preferred the feel I had around a bigger course. It was time to step up a level!

With Christmas and the EHV outbreak over, I’m planning Phoenix’s adventures over the next few months. We’ve entered a combined training in a couple of weeks – a pre-novice dressage test and 85cm course. But the next showjumping competition I have in the diary has classes of 70,80,90cm. The first option is too simple for Phoenix, but the 90cm seems like such a jump up. I mean, she’s only jumped a couple of courses at that height non-competitively. Would I be throwing her into the deep end and creating a problem for myself if she scrambles round and loses her confidence?

When I take Phoenix jump schooling I try to go with a companion who will push me without pressure. Who will encourage the jumps to be raised appropriately, but doesn’t apply peer pressure to push us beyond our limits. I think this is really important for ensuring sessions are positive, confidence building, yet progressive.

For some reason, the 90cm class seems more daunting than when I entered Phoenix into her first 80cm. Perhaps it’s because I’ve not regularly jumped her at that height or higher, or perhaps it’s because it’s been almost four years since I was seriously jumping with Otis. And that was completely different: I was younger, had less to lose if it went wrong, was much more confident, knew Otis inside out, etc. I think there’s an element of my nerves as much as anything.

I want to step up a level with Phoenix, so before I made a decision, I decided to take Phoenix schooling again, with the aim of testing both of us around a bigger course to see how she coped and whether I felt that I was ready to give her the support that she needed round a bigger course. After all, it’s counter productive to wing it and get around a course by the skin of our teeth, than to give ourselves another few weeks of schooling at that level. Phoenix warmed up a little wildly over some smaller fences, doing her usual trick of ignoring my half halts and balancing aids and rushing to the fences. So after riding a course of 80-85cm, we built the jumps up so that they were 95cm high and the full width.

I was very pleased with how she jumped. Of course, it wasn’t perfect, she got a bit fast and flat on a related distance and took down the back rail, and we ended on a half stride to the final jump so just brought it down. But she felt powerful, confident, and jumped the height with ease, they were just errors which won’t happen with more experience. And when I rode the fences we’d faulted at again, she jumped them easily. So, decision made, we’re doing our first 90cm class at the end of the month, which should be fine with a warm up competition in the meantime. Wish us luck!

9 Steps to Happy Travelling

Taking your horse out and about, be it to competitions or sponsored rides, can be daunting. Especially if you’re going on your own. I’m helping a friend get out and about with her mare, so I’ve devised this program to get them out and about confidently.

  1. Get confident with the empty box or trailer. If you passed your driving test after 1997 you’ll need to take the trailer test to tow a horse trailer and ensure you have the correct license for the weight lorry you’ll be driving. Practice hitching up the trailer and reversing it in particular, but it’s a good idea to have a couple of dry runs with the empty vehicle.
  2. Introduce your horse to their mode of transport. I’m not a huge fan of endlessly practising loading, but having a trial load, especially with a young or unknown horse can be useful so that you’re best prepared to load them when you want to venture off the yard. It may be that you need to leave ample time, or it may be that you need to adopt a particular technique or approach to ensure a smooth loading process. You’ll also need to introduce travel boots so that your horse is happy to walk in them.
  3. With a friend who is familiar to your horse and knowledgeable about travelling horses. for moral support, find and book a local venue. For my friend, we found a quiet yard five miles from her yard with an arena she could hire. She was familiar with the route and the journey was short and straightforward. Once you arrive at the venue, have a ride in the arena. Depending on your confidence as a rider, it might be better to book a lesson so that your instructor can help create a calm environment and dispel any worries. Don’t feel that the lesson or ride has to be earth shatteringly good; you’re not looking for your best performance, you’re looking for you and your horse to be relaxed and listening to each other. It’s also a valuable time to get to know how your horse behaves away from home – is he more forward going? Is he tense? Is he spooking? Or is he taking it all in his stride? Then after your ride, load up and go home.
  4. Fairly soon after, perhaps a week later so you keep building your momentum and confidence, do exactly the same outing. Keep repeating this with your friend and/or instructor until you’re confident and feel competent.
  5. The next step, is to travel without your friend. Load up yourself and arrange to meet them there, or for them to follow you in their car if you’d rather. Once at the venue, you still have their support and help.
  6. Next, instead of having a lesson, just ride on your own. Again, you’re slowly taking away the support of people on the ground and becoming more independent. You have to think for yourself about the new environment and potential hazards, and instil confidence in your horse. Depending on the venue, you could ride in another arena, or use one of their on site hacking routes.
  7. Next, go without your friend. So you travel, ride, and travel back solo. I’d do it at a time when my friend could be on standby – at the end of the phone and ready to drive over in case of a confidence wobble or loading issue.
  8. Go to a different venue. Do research the route thoroughly so you don’t need to worry about getting lost as well as towing or driving the horsebox, and you’ll need to check for any low bridges or weight limits. You may need to take a step back and go to the new venue with a friend, especially if the journey is longer and involves the motorway or busy junctions, but continue going to a variety of venues until you’re confident about how your horse will react, and confident about riding in different places, and most importantly confident about driving there and back.
  9. Reward yourself by entering a competition or sponsored ride. Go with a riding partner for company, and most importantly have fun!

Now obviously you don’t have to go through every step if you don’t need to. For example if you’ve towed a trailer before you won’t need to spend very long getting your eye in, and if you’re a competent rider then you may not want a lesson at the venue, you may be more interested in using the fine to ride a course of unknown fences or run through a dressage test. However, for those of you who have never, or only infrequently travelled with your horse I hope this guide will help you tackle travelling so that you make the most of riding opportunities this summer.

Riding On Grass

Eventing season is finally kicking off, although with the ground conditions it’s been difficult to get any work done out of the arena.

This means that horses have lost out on valuable fittening work, hence why some eventers have pulled out of Badminton this year. There’s now far more centres with arena cross country facilities so whilst you may not be able to physically go cross country schooling you can at least practice the technicality aspect over a variety of cross country fences.

Dressage and showjumping you can practice all winter in the arena, but there’s a difference between riding on a surface, and riding on grass, so it’s important to get some practice in before an event.

Let’s look at the differences between riding on the flat and over jumps on grass compared to on an artificial surface.

Firstly, unless you are riding on a bowling green, no grass arena is going to be perfectly flat, and practice is needed so that you and your horse can ride as accurately and correctly on a slope as you do in the arena. The lack of fences can also make it harder to ride a straight line or accurate circles too. Which means practice. Count your strides on a twenty metre circle in the arena and then use this number to check you’re riding the correct sized circle out in the open.

Grass is more slippery than artificial surfaces, especially if it’s long, wet or you have the pleasure of an 8am dressage test on dewy grass. In which case it’s worth investing in studs, and then practice using them and working out the best size and shape of stud that suits your horse in different conditions.

A showjumping course will be more spread out than one on a surface. This is because on grass you need to take a wider turn to stay balanced. Again, you need to practice jumping on a slope, especially combinations, which may catch you out in the ring.

The biggest learning curve transitioning from riding in a ménage to riding on grass is developing the ability adjust your riding for the conditions, and for your horse to learn to keep his balance and rideability in different conditions – whether it’s hard going, deep going or slippery. As a rider you need to assess the terrain: are any transitions in the test on a downhill? Try and mimic the transition in your warm up so you get the feel for how you need to prepare and support your horse through them. Depending on how long the grass is and how wet it is, you may need to ride larger turns on the showjumping course than the optimum line, so you’ll need to take into account the time allowed as well as your horse’s canter and ability to keep their footing in these conditions. Sometimes the ground itself can be less than ideal, especially if you’re jumping towards the end of a wet day, so you’ll need to be able to circumnavigate divots and furrows without being put off your game. Learning how to ride on grass is only really learnt by practice. So take every opportunity you can to ride in the open fields, even when the conditions are not our ideal.

The other big factor you have to contend with when riding in the open is the added excitability of your horse. Many horses suffer from open-space-itis which means they jog in the walk, have a quicker showjumping canter and are generally a bit hotter. The best thing to do is to practice on grass to reduce the novelty – although the first time schooling on grass is always more exciting. Spend the first session establishing manners. A calm, relaxed walk. A steady canter. Walking towards home rather than galloping. Jumping a fence then coming back to the rider. Then another relaxed walk. By ensuring that your horse doesn’t think an open space means a flat out gallop you will have a more rideable horse and get more enjoyment as a result. And be consistent: expect them to listen to you all the time and then they will.

A Very Rewarding Day

This morning was an early start. Still the middle of the night really. I went to the yard and fed Otis, who looked warily at me from the end of the field before coming over for breakfast. I decided not to poo-pick …

Then it was over to another yard to get the Diva ready for his big day – the Riding Club Eventers Challenge at Blenheim Palace! Due to Otis’s extended vacation I was left horseless and the team incomplete, so I called in a couple of favours and was allowed to take him. He’s done some eventing in the past, but it would be his first competition for two years. That’s fine, I thought I knew him well enough and he wasn’t totally green, that we could give it a go. Besides, what’s life without a bit of excitement?!

When we went on our sponsored ride he was too excited to eat breakfast, but thankfully he did quite happily today. There was less activity on the yard too. Well, it’s not really surprising at 6am! We even had to wake him up in the field! So travel boots on and funny dance complete, we headed to the trailer.

It took about 20-25 minutes of quiet encouragement to load for the sponsored ride, but the yard was busy and the Diva bounded up the ramp and it made a bit of a noise so he retraced his steps rapidly! We had lunge lines to quietly tunnel him in and he made the decision to load on his own accord. This morning, it took about ten minutes. It was a very calm procedure, and he definitely made up his own mind to load.

We arrived and he stood happily on the trailer while I walked the twisty course  over very undulating ground. It wasn’t too big, but the questions were in the terrain and turns.

When I mounted he set off at a hurried walk, but by the time we reached the warm up he felt settled. So settled I could remove my visible piercings on board (to everyone’s surprise I still had all the pieces in my pocket at the end!). Warm up he felt great, I had to really concentrate because he has such a big stride compared to Otis and his bascule is different.

All too quickly it was our turn!

He went in happily, then baulked at the arena party under a tree, but I managed to get him past them and cantering before the bell rang. Number one was an oxer going downhill. We took off great, but I think we did a bit of sightseeing as we went over as he was a bit lazy with his legs. Not a great start. But up the incline and around the turn to number two, an upright with fillers. No problem. A sharp left turn back on ourselves for the oxer at three. No problems again. Onto number four, which he unfortunately got a little long on the approach and just brought down. But he picked himself up for the dog leg to the oxer at five and then the sharp right turn and short approach to the larger oxer at six. Number seven was the double near the arena party, but thankfully they were gone from his mind and he gave both fences plenty of room! The double was slightly downhill, but there was a left turn between two fences before the upright at eight. Another downhill to the first cross country fence – a log. We were a bit close but I had to hold him together down the slope and it wasn’t a problem. Then a right curve to a roll top for ten. Here there were two routes to take across the arena. Unfortunately I was looking at the wrong one and we had a close encounter with a tree branch – perhaps I thought I was riding a pony?! I ducked and we were safely through with plenty of time to reorganise before another roll top. From eleven it was a dog leg to number twelve, and I was a bit unsure that I’d got my line right. I know I can adjust Otis’s nimble strides between fences, but I wasn’t so confident this time. We were good though, and had to cross the arena again to number thirteen. Not quite so close to the tree this time, I approached this roll top on an okay angle. But it was another dog leg to another roll top and I was definitely pushing my luck. I think this showed the lack of depth to our partnership. I couldn’t correct my line well enough and didn’t read him quickly enough to prevent him drifting left. Upon representing we flew it, but it was the two skinnies next. They were the biggest fences, and what had caused us the most problems at home – the odd run out or cat leap. It was also off an acute turn and downhill. So I locked on and prayed. He jumped them perfectly!

Upon landing over number sixteen it was quite a tight right turn to the joker fence, up a slope. I was so surprised not to have squeezed between the skinny fence and tree I wasn’t quite quick enough to sit him on his hocks for a showjump and we just knocked it.

I was thrilled with how he had performed. Yes, I’d had to work hard balancing his long strides for the turns yet making sure he had the power to clear the fences, and keeping focused on the job and maintain our rhythm for it. I abandoned my two point seat for the cross country part though as I was working on keeping him together for the turns, his canter is big enough that he made the time easily though.

We untacked the diva and gave him his favourite thing – a bath! He really doesn’t like being washed off. Maybe I should bring some hot water next time?! He seemed happy to graze after, which shows how relaxed he was feeling, and once we had gotten  him ready to load, and put the lunge lines out, we headed for the ramp. And he walked straight on! Without a moments hesitation! We were so pleased! He then stood happily for a couple of hours while we went shopping, eating his hay.

No rosettes for the team today, but  both I and his owner were very happy and proud with the Diva’s behaviour and performance. Next time, it’s her turn to ride!

Vetrofen Healthy – A Trial

About  month ago I was forwarded an email by a fellow horsey friend from a company called Animalife. They were looking for equestrian bloggers to trial their new product and give them feedback, as well as promote their product on their blogs.

I thought this looked interesting, and I`m always looking for new topics to write about, so I applied. If I`m honest I didn`t really know what I was letting myself in for as there was very little information about the new product, Vetrofen Healthy, online. However, Otis is a fit, active and healthy horse, so I figured that he was probably an ideal candidate for trying a general purpose supplement.

I didn`t think anymore of it, until I received an email from animalife and within an hour the postman actually delivered my tub of Vetrofen Healthy.

The first thing I did was to read the blurb in the booklet provided. It told me that Vetrofen Healthy contains

“three plant sources known for the effective plant antioxidant support, Acacia catechu, Boswellia and Curcumin”.

I recently blogged about the fact that turmeric is becoming increasingly popular as a feed supplement for a variety of reasons, the main one being arthritis. Curcumin is the essential ingredient of turmeric. It was also promising to read that Vetrofen Healthy contained pepper to aid absorption – everyone knows that black pepper should be fed with turmeric to increase the uptake of curcumin by the body.

Acacia catechu has been used in Asia for many reasons, including anti-fungus, liver swelling, blood clotting, asthma, diarrhoea and constipation, and many skin afflictions. Similarly, botswellia is also from Asia and known for being an excellent anti-inflammatory; treating asthma, arthritis and osteoporosis.

Using this knowledge, I assume that Vetrofen Health, which is marketed as providing ongoing support of comfort and mobility in the equine athlete, works by improving the body`s response to inflammation due to work, and to help support the airways and speed up recovery of minor injuries due to work – such as fatigued muscles after going cross-country.

Another element I liked about Vetrofen Healthy is that it is completely free from banned substances, so you can compete whilst feeding it. But I`m sure I only need to worry about that when Otis and I go to Badminton …

My next step was to start feeding Vetrofen Healthy to Otis. When I opened the tub at the yard the next morning I was hit by the peppery aroma diffusing from the container. Now, Otis isn`t a fussy eater, but it would concern me that a horse with a sensitive palate may turn their nose up at the supplement. Having said that, the smell was more pleasant than some other supplements I`ve seen. It`s a very fine powder too, which probably means it`s more easily digested, but I did find that the powder got everywhere unless I was really careful!

Anyway, I started feeding Otis the recommended amount of 1.5 scoops per day. He`s a healthy horse anyway, so I didn`t expect a miraculous improvement in his general well-being, but I was interested to see if there would be an improvement in his recovery from tough workouts. Often I find him a bit flat for a couple of days after an event, or even the next day he can be flat after some interval training.

I had taken Otis to a BE90 the week before starting him on Vetrofen Healthy and he had had a good cross country round, but struggled with the deep going in the showjumping so hadn`t done brilliantly. I then decided to make my next event a BE100, which was last weekend – three weeks after starting the supplement. Although on a day to day basis I haven`t noticed a huge improvement in his performance, although he is working well at the moment, I did find that he performed very well at the BE100 last weekend. He seemed to pick up again after a good showjumping round really well, and put in a good effort in the cross country phase, only getting a handful of time faults and jumping clear and easily (he put in some extra effort and jumped the large flower pot on top of the table, which is not something I thought he was capable of). I was impressed the next time I rode him a couple of days later, however, that he was not flat, and worked really consistently and focused. So in that respect, I would say that Otis recovered from his physical exertions a lot better than he has previously.

If I`m honest, I would say that we are not the best combination to test this product as Otis is a very happy horse so always tries his heart out, which means that it is difficult to read him, and he has not got any underlying problems which could have been alleviated by Vetrofen Healthy – such as arthritis, so it is difficult to spot improvements in his performance. However, as the ingredients of Vetrofen Healthy are all natural, and to me the science is logical, I want to purchase another container of Vetrofen Healthy and continue my trial over the next few weeks as I think I would see more results after a few more competitions. He is a hardworking horse, and I do think that Vetrofen Healthy provides a safe supplement, which will do no harm if he doesn`t need it, yet should be beneficial if his joints and muscles need a helping hand.

Here is the link to animalife`s website


This topic comes up every time we travel anywhere with the horses and I`m watching them on the trailer-cam.

Think about how you travel in the car. You look out of the window, you see the bends in the road, anticipate the turns, see how the driver positions the car, and without realising, you respond to the visual cues as to which way you need to move your body to help balance yourself. It`s the same when you`re standing up on the train or bus; only slightly harder as you only have two legs to balance on!

Now think about the horses in the trailer. There may be a small window at the front, but they can only see the car in front. They can`t look out any side windows, nor see the upcoming road, so is it any surprise some find it tricky to stay balanced. Usually the roads flow like rivers, with smooth bends and flexes, so the horses with their four legs to stabilise themselves, adjust their weight accordingly. Travelling steadily and taking corners carefully gives the horses a little bit more time to balance themselves.

I always have a problem watching the horses in the trailer-cam at junctions. Usually they are fine, but occasionally we catch them by surprise and they are leaning to the right as we turn left. And then they lose their balance.

When they lose their balance and stagger I tend to panic a bit. Now at junctions I mutter “left, Otis” or “right, Otis”.

My muttering got us talking about how we could possibly warn the horses in the trailer. They don`t understand English so a microphone and tannoy system would be useless.

Then I had a brainwave. Much like Pavlov`s dogs were trained to associate food with the ringing of a bell, could we not fit buzzers to the indicators so that when we indicate right in the car, the right trailer indicator flashes and a beep goes off in the trailer so that the horses hear this beep and anticipate a right hand turn. When the left indicator flashes a beep of a different pitch is heard in the trailer so that the horses learn to anticipate a left hand turn.

I`m sure with a bit of classical conditioning we could pull this off! It wouldn`t take too long to acclimatise the horses to the sound of the indicators, as it does not need to be particularly loud or offensive to the ears. Furthermore, I think the horses would learn to associate different sounds with different turns very quickly.

Perhaps I should speak to my engineer of a brother and get him to design something and then go on Dragon`s Den with him so that we can make and sell our noisy indicators.