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