F & I Association day at Newmarket

Biddy Brasted Watts arranged a super day at Newmarket on 5th October 2015, for the F & I Association members and guests.

The morning was taken by Rachel Murray MA VetMB MS Phd MRCVS Dip ACVS Dip ECVS at the Animal Health Trust.

The subject of Surfaces and Competition Horses was covered By Rachel in depth from a huge amount of research undertaken by her and others.  The presentation was fascinating with wonderful power point  stills  and videos of damage to various parts of horses limbs and backs, which research is showing is fairly specific to the different disciplines – ( Rachel covered Dressage, Show Jumping, Eventing and Endurance and Point to Pointing) and the various surfaces used in indoor schools and Arenas.  The amount of information packed into the 2 hour session was amazing. For anyone putting in a new surface or replacing one, the decisions have just got more difficult as to what surface to have! The slip – or lack of it- is liable to cause different injuries  depending  on the discipline and can contribute to a variety of injuries. Superficial flexor tendon, deep flexor tendon, suspensory ligament damage at different levels on the fore or hind limb can be partly caused by the surface as well as the level of fitness of the horse and the repetition of specific movements or work . Extended paces are more likely to cause problems than collected work.  Too much work on  repititions of piaffe, pirouettes,  jump exercises, will cause problems as once the tendons or ligaments are fatigued, they will be damaged.  The different surfaces available can contribute to this. The maintenance of the surface so that it is totally consistent is of paramount importance.  We all know that, but it is rare to find it!  Rachel spoke about what is underneath the surface (the base) which is of the greatest importance. It must be very stable so nothing changes when the arena is in use. As an example crushed concrete is not suitable. Limestone is a good base.  The different surfaces were identified with their pros and cons. Woodchip very slippery. Waxed- Sticky. No slide and uniform if well maintained. Deep harrowing needed. If shallow harrowed and rolled it becomes hard as well as having no slip. Sand and rubber can be good or very bad. The best possible sand should be used and small rubber chunks (25 mm) not large, which bruises the foot.  Rubber on top of sand is unstable when the sand dries out.  Sand /fibre /rubber can be good as the sand does not dry out as  quickly.

Horses must be used to working on a variety of surfaces including grass. Some horses prefer one type of surface to another. Endurance horses will be damaged  from trotting (or cantering ) on roads. Walking on roads is good.

The depth of information Rachel gave was mind blowing.  I have only been able to skim the surface here.

We were then shown the facilities the AHT have, with in depth information of the use of the equipment such as MRI.

We had a lovely buffet lunch then drove to the British Racing School, where Simon Somers BHSI and International Show Judge, led the group through the importance of good conformation  to maintain soundness  in  competition horses. Simon started by saying the overview of a horse must be looked at before going into individual good and faults in the conformation.   The thoroughbreds we looked at showed some good and some poor points, which were compared by Simon.  The Limbs are of paramount importance with a leg at each corner and from front and back view a vertical column of bones.  The shoulder angle is very important, as is not being tied in at the elbow. The hind quarters are the engine and Simon discussed the lengths of the gaskin and lower leg for a competition horse.     It was an interactive session . Thank you Simon.

Report by Sue Payne

Blair Castle European Championships 2015 Course Walk with Yogi Breisner FBHS

Scottish rep Erik shows his antlers at Blair
Scottish rep Erik shows he’s got antlers at Blair!

Thanks to the boundless enthusiasm and organisation of Erik MacKechnie we were treated to a course walk with British Eventing’s World Class Performance Manager and Chef d’Equipe, Yogi Breisner FBHS, on the first day of the Championships.

We met at the second fence on the course, at that point – after the completion of the first day of dressage – Team GB were in first place and Holly Woodhead in individual first place.

Yogi’s introduction gave us a brief overview of the course, a true Championship course built just over the minimum distance but with maximum jumping efforts. He felt that the time of 10 minutes 13 was achievable but would be subject to weather and ground conditions. “Yes”, he said, “rain is forecast” but was very philosophical about it – “it is an outdoor sport after all”. The Course, designed by Ian Stark MBE FBHS, had his trademark big fences. The setting, landscape and attention to detail on the fences was breath-taking but riders won’t have time to appreciate any of it on the way round. One of the most important parts of walking the course is to note how it is roped off, taking the right corners and lines between fences to avoid picking up any nasty little time penalties.

We set off at a fair speed (walk – 9. You couldn’t say it lacked purpose and didn’t cover enough ground!). Yogi explained how the first few fences get the horses set up for the first question which came at fence 4, (up the first hill) the shepherds bothies, a trio of old Scottish cottages. The first two having strategically placed chimney pots encouraging the riders to opt for the inside or outside line before setting up for the final element, a narrow bothie on a downhill slope. . He said that some of the riders are very particular about numbers of strides but others aren’t, so he leaves them to sort out for themselves what is best. We were wisely kept well behind the tapes to keep the going as untouched as possible.

By this time we were heading for the second hill, passing the Olympic Diamond first fence on the way, and onto a good old fashioned upright white gate. Yogi explained how the development of frangible pins had made it possible to reintroduce these gates, apparently not that popular with the riders. He didn’t expect any of the horses to have a problem with it. There was some discussion about the FEI ruling that anyone knocking the gate and causing the frangible pin to break incurred 11 penalties. Yogi thought that any horse clever enough to knock it hard enough to cause it to drop and stay up on its feet didn’t deserve to be penalised. Much nodding in agreement.

On up the next hill. It says a lot for the fitness of members that questions and discussion – and chat – carried on regardless. We stopped at the drop – downhill, hooray – a set of fences to hanging logs into the first water jump. Instead of making too much of striding and lines Yogi talked a lot about the terrain and the effect this has. The downhill carried on to within a couple of strides out from the first element which would not give the riders much time to get the horses set up for the next question, into the water. There were a selection of fences downhill through the woods – good old-fashioned silver birch and a log – towards the second water jump where the direct line straight through was, of course, very much faster than the winding alternative.

Back on uphill to the picnic table where Yogi explained how the good horsemen use the terrain uphill to help set their horses up for the jumps, then round to perhaps one of the most spectacular jumps into the Castle Gardens over a palisade then a cannon and downhill to the giant stag heads before coming back – phew – onto the flat again. Yogi had to leave us at this point but he handed the reins over to Philip Surl his assistant and Technical Director.

We passed the two corner fences in the main arena which were to prove quite influential and after the skinny brushes came to the last water jump which was a true triumph of design and imaginative genius. Incorporating the three Forth Bridges, two complete with buses and trains and the third in construction. In over the Forth Road Bridge, the longer route over barrels ahead then double back into the water, but the quick way a left hand turn over the Railway bridge into the water and over part of the new bridge in construction in the water then out over a narrow brush.

It was lovely to see a Steeplechase fence on the flat and just when you thought you might be staying on the flat, oh look, another hill. This time up to the neeps and down a Hickstead Bank style slope over a haggis and out at the bottom over a skinny box of tatties.

These last few jumps took you past the start and the stables which could prove distracting but you are now within distance of the finish. Still a few more questions to prevent you getting too carried away. Gary Parsonage (Chairman of Selectors of the Pony Team) took over at this point. A traditional rails, ditch, rails then round to a trakhener, an enormous suspended owl hole – a trademark of the designer – then two offset hedges before the final fence, a fairly spooky line of kilted torsos and broadswords before the finish line and home.

We were very lucky and privileged to be taken round by 3 experts and given an insight into the technicalities of riding this course and needless to say we all looked forward to seeing it ridden.

A very big THANKS Erik and Jillie for your dynamism and organisation.

Report by Sandra Morrison

Burghley Horse Trials Course Walk with Eric Smiley FBHS 

Eric started by getting into our minds by making us think about being on a horse of our choice. Then asked us to think about whether the horse in question runs out left or right? There was a shout from the group “both”!!! This is when the Irish humour started.

Whilst walking the course with just one particular horse in mind, we were able to clearly decide which route we would take.

First question at the second water fence 7 double of brush bounce direct route. Fence 9 to 10 two choices of corners with both being tight angles offering runouts to the left.  Fence 13ab ditch brush looking as big as ever with no let up with b element on three strides to very narrow brush arrow head. Fence 15 abc ditch rails asking if you can hold a straight line. Fence 20 abcd 21 five jumping efforts last of the water jumps which will pose a few questions as horses start to tire. Fence 29 abc rugby World Cup theme.  Then two fences and home. I’ve only briefly mentioned some of the fences but there is no let up on the questions asked around the whole course.

Eric explained lines, terrain and fences but even though we got to see the fences close up he kept us off the riding lines, great respect!!  I found it motivational due to being off for ten months with back surgery and soon to be back in the saddle.

Thank you to Eric Smiley for the course walk and Ann Bostock for organising.

Report written by Alec Miles

The Royal Dublin Horse Show Ladies Day Thursday August 6th

We were a small select group this year for Ladies day at the RDS.  Once again our tickets were given to us by Ms Joan O’Connor, a client of mine, to whom we are most grateful.  F&I Association members, Grainne Sugars and Faith Ponsonby   joined Lynn Petersen (BHS CEO) me and a friend Bridget Radnedge in the Judges and Stewards box for the morning entertainment of the 4 and 5 year old Young Event Horses.  We then lunched in the Champagne Bar whilst watching some very smart Lightweight Hunters.

Lynn spent a busy afternoon shopping and networking, meeting up with the ladies who run the BHS stand – Susan Spratt (D.O. for Ireland) and Shelagh Laird (BHS Approvals officer for Ireland), Ms Linda Young of The Association of Irish Riding Schools and Declan McArdle  who is another BHS Assessor and is employed by Teagasc , Ireland’s department of agriculture.  Lynn has said she will not tell the BHS staff, who man the stands at various shows in the UK about the apparent luxury provided for Susan & Shelagh in the main shopping mall!

We then met Joan’s beautiful yearling filly who arrived ready for her class on the Friday with the other mares and foals owned by the breeder Mr Derry Rothwell of Co. Wicklow.  To get the chance to walk around the stables looking at all this magnificent horseflesh was a pleasure in its self, and I see from the Horse and Hound reports that many of the winners went home with other owners.  It is a well known fact that the majority of people showing at RDS hope to take fewer horses home at the end of the week.  It was fairly obvious who was buying what when and where.

A trip to Simmonscourt afforded us the chance to see the show jumpers warming up ready for the afternoon’s jumping classes in the main arena, always interesting.  Some light hearted demonstrations by Joel Chacon and Le Compte du Montacrue and later Clemence Faivre riding with no bridle as she performed some Haute Ecole movements around the Main Arena show jumps made sure we didn’t just watch show classes or jumping.

I always feel I want to spend every day at the show, Ireland winning the Nations Cup on the Friday was magic on the TV it must have been fantastic to be there.  However we did return on the Saturday when Fran,  Bridget and I were treated by Joan to lunch in the tiered grandstand whilst watching two jumping competitions.  Bridget was amazed as everyone stood up and stood very still whilst the Irish National Anthem was played for the winners of those two classes – Billy Twomey and Conor Swail, both Irishmen.  Now that doesn’t happen at Hickstead!

Report by Jillie Rogers BHSI

Royal International Horse Show 2015

Well the 1st August arrived with the sun high in the sky, so there were lots of dresses on show in the F&I Box at Hickstead! Numbers were up to 26 this year, and it was great to see so many of you there!

We had a super day thanks not only to the F&I Association, but also to great organising from Karen Irving, Senior Executive at the BHS and Alex Copeland the new Director of Education. Both were present to welcome and look after us. We were also honoured with the presence of our CEO Lynn Petersen who was, as always great company.

Our Chairman Jillie Rogers arrived fresh off the plane from Ireland with the lovely Fran, who took these super photos.

Alison Craig kindly picked up Sister Chiara, a lifelong BHS Member, and brought her along for an outing. She throughly enjoyed mixing with us all, old and new, and even participated in the annual course walk around the Queen Elizabeth II Cup course.

A small committee meeting was also held with Jillie, Ann Bostock and Alison Craig.

We had a lovely cold buffet lunch which included salmon, asparagus, new potatoes and various niceties, followed by a sumptuous creamy fruit pudding, strawberries and cream AND cheese and biscuits. Maybe we were meant to just choose one pudding??? All washed down with a nice glass of wine!

The course walk was this year given by 25 year old rider Harriet Nutall, who hails from Somerset. She was very generous with her time and tips. I didn’t actually manage the course walk this year, but everyone seemed to glean lots of information.

This brought us to the exciting competition and even more exciting sweep stake…which is always fiercely contested from our Box! 6 riders from 26 starters jumped clear round the 1.60m track. The winner was young rider Chloe Winchester who, at the age of just 21 was having her first ride in this class. Her 12 year old mare Avoca Valkyrie was drawn as penultimate horse and stormed home with 3.75 seconds to spare!

“My” rider was drawn last, Phillip Miller on the lovely grey Caritiar Z. I really thought I was finally going to win the sweepstake this year, but although he jumped an incredible round, he crossed the line just over 3 seconds slower.

The lucky winners of the sweepstake this year were Ann Bostock (fix!!!) and Bridget Radnedge.  Well done Ladies!

Oonagh Meyer and myself managed to finish the day off with some retail therapy, and had a go at the “electric horse’s head” game in the BHS tent, which Oonagh can be seen successfully attempting in one of the photos! Great fun and not easy after a couple of glasses of wine I can assure you!!!

Report by Sam Champney-Warrener BHSI