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

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