H&C's web writer Charlotte wonders if horse yoga could catch on...
"We’ve seen some pretty kooky training methods in our time at H&C. We’ve also tried out some pretty extreme forms of yoga (try doing a downward dog in 105 degree heat). But horse yoga is a new one for us.
While it’s true the horse in this video looks pretty chilled out, it’s hard to tell if he’s enjoying the session, or merely tolerating it. How would you feel if someone did a headstand on your chest?
Horse yoga is practiced by father and son Oscar and Cristobal Scarpati at the Doma India School in San Luis, Argentina, where they train and rehabilitate horses. They claim doing yoga with your horse creates a strong bond. But we don’t suggest trying it at home.
According to their website, their training methods avoid causing fear and pain. 'This method gives us clear ideas of how to treat the horse, and when and how to teach, what we want achieve,' says their website. 'The horse learns by persuasion and in us, knowing its nature, behavior and psychology, to achieve persuade and teach endless exercises that will make that horse a suitable animal to any discipline.'
As the saying goes, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I just don’t think I’ll be trying it any time too soon…"
Gemma with Quicklook at the trot up in Fontainebleau
After a shaky, wet weather-related start, Gemma Tattersall's 2014 season has started with a bang and with all the horses it’s a case of so far, so good…
“We have had great runs at Oasby and Lincoln with the 'big four' - also known as Arctic Soul (Spike), Chico Bella (Bella), Dinky Inky (Inky) and Quicklook (Pebbles) all performing almost perfectly with good dressage, double clears and some prizes. The gold star at the moment goes to Spike who won the OI at Lincoln on his dressage score of 24, topping off a good weekend and making a hat-trick of wins.
As a member of the World Class Elite programme, I am lucky enough to have access to some amazing training and throughout this very long and wet winter I have been working really hard to try and improve my dressage as this is my weakest phase. Spending a week with Chris Bartle and having Karin Donckers come to stay has been a very important part of this training and it has been lovely to get out eventing and feel the benefit in all the horses.
We have also been out and about with the young horses and they have been on good behaviour, picking up a few prizes at Aldon.
Last week Team Tatt headed off across the channel on the first of this year's European adventures, this time to Fontainebleau where I had been selected with Chico Bella to represent Team GB in the CICO*** for the first leg of the FEI Nations Cup series. I also took Dinky Inky and Quicklook for the CCI*. When we arrived I did think that maybe taking three mares away together was a mistake as they spent a fair while running round their stables screaming but they soon remembered what eventing was all about and settled down.
The two younger horses performed perfectly and I was thrilled with them so early on in the season. Dinky Inky, who has just come back from a year off, finished fifth with a 42 dressage and a lovely double clear. Quicklook did a super test for a 37, jumped a lovely clear show jumping and then stormed round the cross-country feeling fantastic. Unfortunately she was a little bold jumping in to the last water and ended up the wrong side of some rails before I could turn her so this meant we had to cross our tracks to get back to the fence. Very frustrating as she didn’t deserve 20 penalties - but I am still thrilled with her.
Bella was very difficult in her dressage test and we got a disappointing score of 49. When I can get her to settle she will be fantastic on the flat but I need to find the key! Despite a frustrating start she redeemed herself with the most amazing double clear. We didn’t go flat out cross-country (as instructed) but she felt pure class and I am now very excited about the rest of the season with her.
Back out with the young ones this weekend, heading to more competitions. Let’s hope the good behaviour continues!"
"After our photo of the day of a carriage driver in charge of an amazing 12 horses (there are twelve, even though it looks like there are only 10 - count the hindlegs!) we've found a video that goes one step further.
In this clip, watch as David Rohrbach drives a team of 15 - yes, 15! - Percheron horses round an indoor arena.
Our blogger Jay 'Tiger' Halim has been busy backing and breaking-in his home-bred horses - and reflects on the heart-break of losing one of the youngsters...
"Hey tiger cubs!
Time seems to have flown by since my last blog.
Things are as always pretty busy in the eye of the Tiger, although the showjumpers have had an easy few weeks off in preparation for the start of the outdoor season. I have been trying to get up to date with paper work and have been approaching companies regarding some sponsorship. Your Horse magazine have asked me back for the third year running to be a training academy coach - this year I will be partnered with my friend, Olympic dressage rider Laura Tomlinson. We have already done our first feature which was good fun, will did end up giving each other the giggles on more than one occasion.
Pulling my rumbustious three-year-old homebreds in from the field to back and break in has also kept me on my toes. The yard was a little noisy for a few days but it wasn't long until we had our normal equilibrium back. Loose schooling them for the first time was so awesome. All of the time and money to get them to this point, seeing them move and jump was so rewarding. I am so proud of what I have achieved with my breeding so far, I cannot wait to be competing on my own home bred horses. I really do believe I have some crackers.
Candy King, one of the four-year-old homebreds, is looking very promising. He's by Grafenstolz out of Eye Candy, a mare I won the Burghley Young Event Horse final on. He has three great paces and a lovely technique over a fence, so he will be aimed for some BYEH classes and even some young dressage horse classes this year. His only fault is that he is still a bit small, so I hoping he grows as it would be lovely to keep him.
However, a freak accident at home when long-reining resulted in the death of one of my homebred four-year-olds. It was the worst feeling, seeing one of my babies pass away. When I started breeding horses, I was always told years ago to expect to lose some homebreds on the way, it just doesn't seem fair to get them to the age of four.
Master Eli has moved across the pond to Michigan to the very lucky Philippa Jane Richardson. He was sold through Kate Walls of French Exchange, who had to deal with extreme my reluctance! Eli had been with me and owner Neil O'Hara for more two years, sadly bills have to be paid and my career is looking to be more in the showjumping direction at the moment so it was the right thing to do. I wish Philippa all the luck with my special boy.
I would like to welcome a new member to team Tiger - Stacey Greenshield. Stacey has been with my old bosses Tina and Graham Flecther as head girl/travel groom the last past five years. Her and Saffa (my current groom) have already formed a great relationship. We have also have help in the form of Gregor Knox, who was formerly head groom for event rider Jonty Evans. Gregor is helping with the young ones and keeping them all in shape when I am away competing. Having a nice team of people is really important to me, whether it's owners, grooms etc - it's a team effort and my success is down to their help.
I have also been making an effort to have some non-horsey days, which has been really nice. Whether it's been a dinner party, a trip to the theatre or a walk around some local attractions, it's a good reminder to take some time away from the yard. I think it's too easy to eat, sleep and breathe horses. Although I still dream of having several gold medals around my neck, I realise that quality of life is also important, and it's about finding the right balance.
Dressage rider Alice Oppenheimer blogs about X Factor and a show filled with mishaps!
I've had some time off riding recently because I was suffering from tendonitis in my shoulders. It meant I was able to watch the Merrist Wood Regionals where Nicky, one of our liveries, was placed in both the Medium Restricted and Medium Freestyle on a horse that we bred. She was awarded a wildcard in the Freestyle to she will also be in the main arena at Hartpury, exciting!
It also meant I had the time to give blood again. I'm a rare group, B-, so I try to give blood when I can. I also got a free key ring, which was definitely worth a pint of my blood!
We had a trip to the Mayflower Theatre to watch War Horse, for Mum's birthday. There was a group of us, including Liz and Jenny from Jenny Hadland and Co, so there was a large amount of childish giggling about innuendos! I was sure I would cry at the play but surprisingly held it together, although Mum had a few tears and Jenny was inconsolable!
I also went to see the X Factor Live Tour at Wembley Arena, which was a birthday present from my best friend Amy. We were a bit worried as the winner (and our favourite) Sam Bailey didn't appear for most of the show - but it was worth the wait as when she did perform it was phenomenal. We decided they hadn't put her before the other acts as nobody would have wanted to follow her, it would be like me going into the dressage arena after Charlotte and Valegro.
Once my week off was over, we took Socs (Tantoni Sir Socrates) to Quob for another run through his music test before the Winter Championships. He was much more chilled than at the Regionals, just had a couple of mistakes but nonetheless still won with 73%. Just need to iron out the creases before the finals.
We also had a trip to Pachesham with Socs and Tank (Headmore Wimoweh), with wins for both, then it was off to Addington for my first international of the year with Del (Headmore Delegate).
I was feeling fairly confident as we set off that I had done everything possible in my preparations to give myself the best chance of a good show. It didn't start off too well however as we were pulled over by VOSA whilst driving along the A34 for a 'routine small vehicle check'. I'm not sure what it is about us but we had been pulled over a few years ago, so we knew that with a horse on board they are only supposed to hold you for 15 minutes. Del stands very quietly on the lorry but it wasn’t until 45 minutes later that they let us go. On the plus side, they couldn't find anything wrong so we won't be stopped again for at least three years.
Thankfully, we had allowed ourselves plenty of time so weren't rushed for the trot up, and Del wasn't too fussed about our impromptu stop either. Then I was drawn first to go, so it really wasn't my day!
The Grand Prix didn't start until the evening so we had a leisurely day just waiting. Del warmed up well but got really tense in the atmosphere which led to mistakes. However, we still finished 10th, much to my amazement, and all of the younger Grand Prix horses seemed to be struggling in the arena.
His 10th placing meant that he qualified for the Kur the following day. I was just hoping to get round, as he was so nervous on the first day, but he tried very hard. There were some lovely bits, unfortunately I didn't get much collected walk, but nonetheless I was very pleased with him.
We then got stopped after the test as Del had been selected for medication control. I couldn't believe my luck! Needless to say he wouldn't pee so after an hour of waiting they ended up just taking blood. I'm hoping that's all my bad luck done in one show!
I had a slightly different experience this week, I filmed a new TV advert for Nupafeed. We used Bracks (Headmore Boadicia) as our model as I knew she wouldn't mind us faffing with her! I think it went well and I look forward to seeing the finished ad, be sure to look out for it on H&C TV!
Finally, as Sunday was Mother's Day, I tried to spoil my Mum as much as possible as she does an awful lot for me. I cooked her breakfast and treated her to lunch before my sister and I bought dinner at our local Indian restaurant. I also organised a bunch of flowers. Mum loves flowers but my Dad has never bought her any and won't because he says "they only die" so my sister and I like to spoil her when we can. All in all I think she enjoyed her day.”
Lee Hackett, Director of Equine Policy for the British Horse Society, reflects on the changes that Aintree has made to improve horse and rider safety in the most famous race of all - the Crabbies Grand National
"Benjamin Franklin is often quoted as saying 'Nothing is certain in life other than death and taxes.' If he could have seen into the future he could have added a third thing to his list – on the Monday after the Grand National, the BHS will receive an awful lot of calls and emails about the big race.
It’s obvious that that the National divides opinions; some of our correspondents will be demanding it is banned, others are passionate advocates. Everyone must form their own opinion but hopefully one area where there is common ground is that the safety of the horses and riders must be paramount.
The 2013 Grand National could be called the first of a new era, with the slightly shorter distance and new fence design. So did it work? The simple answer is that it is far too early to tell. Everyone returned home from the 2013 race safe and sound but it is just one race. It will be a few years yet before we can truly evaluate whether there has been real progress made.
However, the finishing statistics for the last 10 years do make for interesting reading. The most startling fact is that just two horses fell in 2013, considerably lower than every other year and 86% lower than in 2008. This could be a vindication of the new fence design.
The other point to note is the number of horses who were pulled up was higher than normal. Perhaps these were horses that might have fallen in previous years and the kinder fences stopped this happening.
The Grand National has been in the spotlight more than ever in recent years with some high profile horses losing their life. After last year's race, we can’t read too much into the success (or otherwise) of the changes to the course but there are certainly reasons to be optimistic.
We can be certain of one thing – the sad truth is that at some point in the future another horse will die in the Grand National. But the fact is that more horses will die in racing in general, just as they will in eventing, showjumping and polo. Horses will die out hacking on the road and some will be put down after getting kicked while out grazing with their companions. Everything we do with horses carries a risk; that is unavoidable. The important thing is to mitigate that risk as far as is possible and ensure we do all we can to protect the safety and welfare of our horses.
In British Horse magazine we have repeatedly talked about how we as a nation have been failing our horses. We know that we are in the depths of the biggest equine welfare crisis of the modern era. BHS Welfare officers, and those of other charities, are busier than they ever have been – not just in the total number of cases but the severity and volume of horses involved in each one.
It raises an important question, which horse needs help more? The Thoroughbred, who has the highest standards of care lavished on him but meets a tragic, early end on the racecourse, or the cob mare left uncared for in a field who ends up starving to death? At least the Thoroughbred’s end will be swift and humane; the cob will suffer for months.
Of course, no-one likes either scenario but it can be frustrating for those working in welfare when one horse dying in a race generates huge national press coverage and an enormous outcry. The neglected and mistreated horses that the charities are working to help every single day rarely get more than a couple of lines in the local press.
It isn’t the job of the BHS to tell anyone what to think about the Grand National. It is, however, our job to support any initiative that improves equine safety. For that reason we have to give credit where it’s due and salute the quite radical changes that Aintree has made over the last couple of years. Whatever your viewpoint, let’s hope for another accident-free Grand National in 2014 with the race hitting the front pages for all of the right reasons."
This article was part of a Grand National special report in the April issue of British Horse, the membership magazine of The British Horse Society. To find out more about the charity and to join the BHS, click here
Our blogger Yazmin Pinchen is back in the saddle after her knee operation - and straight off to Italy to compete in the sunshine!
"Hello to everyone reading my blog - hope you and your horses are all well.
I am currently in Italy competing for four weeks. It’s a three-day drive in the horsebox, so I took plenty of movies with me to keep myself occupied. We had a good drive until an hour before we arrived, when one of our trucks had a blow-out on the front tyre, which was really frightening for my driver and groom. Luckily she handled it very well and stayed on the road. It did set us back a few hours but we were just happy that everyone was okay. We finally arrived on the Sunday in plenty of time to let all eight horses relax before competition got underway. We set up all the stables and let the horses settle in, then the next day I gave them some work around the show and let them relax in the sunshine.
This is my first big international show since my knee operation, so I was hoping to get some great results. The first week I only had one horse jumping - Goldust, a six-year-old that we bred out of the same mare as Ashkari, one of my top horses. Goldust is quite inexperienced but he has really proved to me he has a lot of potential. He had a few down the first day but that was to be expected, being his first time out of the UK and with so much to take in. The next class he had just one down and then he went clear - and even better, that same day my amazing mare Low River Queen Z won our first big international class together! She went into the 1.40m class and won by four seconds. I was so happy I have not stopped smiling since. It was just the start I needed for the show and it has made me so much more confident for this year.
Then she won another class a few days later. It was a 1.40m class and there were 65 horses in it, but she won by two seconds. I am so happy with her, she is such a great little speed horse.
I will also be competing with my incredible eight-year-old Bandito, who I have very high hopes for. He will occasionally jump bigger classes to put him to the test and see what he is capable of, but I won't push him too much as its early on in the year. Hopefully by the middle of the year he will step up to some big shows.
I love Sunshine Tours, they are a fantastic place for your horses to learn and improve. Here in Italy, we have four different rings we can compete in so there is a real variety. They don’t build the courses too strong for the young horses, so we can teach them and build their experience, then by the end of the four weeks the courses become more technical and challenging. It is a great place to gain points, practice different courses and heights and come away with amazing experience. And, of course, who wouldn’t want to be eating pizza and pasta, riding horses and sunbathing! It is the perfect four weeks.
I really want to mention my two incredible grooms who are making my life so easy out here, despite having eight horses. They keep the management so good, there is no stress and the horses are always turned out immaculately. I really cannot thank them enough. Grooms are a big part of our results, so it's important to appreciate them.
I also am having my website redesigned at the moment, and the new one will include some exciting features including a monthly newsletter, which I hope lots of you will sign up to.
H&C's blogger Louise Bell has been getting a helping hand with her youngster's training... From her pugs!
A lot has happened since my last blog. I've been inundated with clients wanting training to get ready for this year’s showing season - it all kicked off properly at the first BSPS show at Hartpury with working hunter pony qualifiers.
I've also been in Ireland for a two-day working hunter clinic at Boswell Equestrian Centre in Wicklow, which was fabulous! The weather was amazing as too was the organisation by Zara Stasins and Lucinda Kelly. It was extremely fun to have a pony at the clinic that was originally produced as a showjumper by a certain Mr Michael Eilberg! The pony may be 22 yrs of age now but looks like a six-year-old and goes like one too!
I also did 'An evening with Louise Bell', where I was joined by some fellow judges for a panel discussion and some banter about showing, dressage and breeding. About 170 people turned up at the Leopardstown Inn, which was terrifying but quite brilliant fun.
I had my dressage Regionals at Addington and I had to win to qualify, so lots of pressure. W Get smart was on his toes that morning and we pulled it off with a fab test and won with a score of 70% so I was delighted! Off to Hartpury for the Winter Championships at Advanced Medium we go!
I'm finally getting on my young homebred State Of Play, thanks to the lovely spring weather. It might be a while before he makes his debut in the show/ dressage ring due to the late start but he's a dream so far! He is getting used to my pugs at the moment. Any time I lunge they seem to follow, thinking they are my assistant trainers!
It's that time of year when hunting comes to an end. In a way I’m glad because it’s all been a little too much juggling everything. It's been a tough season on the horses and even tougher on my girls who clean the clients' hunting coats!
Let's just hope the good weather carries on, we are all in our t-shirts!"
Racehorse trainer Michael Scudamore reflects on the highs and lows of Cheltenham, and looks forward to the Grand National meeting at Aintree...
"Well what a brilliant four days the Cheltenham Festival was this year - full of its usual highs, lows and wonderful stories. From a family point of view it was an incredible few days, my brother Tom rode three winners; two of those being Grade 1s. On Tuesday he won the Arkle, a 2m Novice Chase, on a very quirky but equally talented horse, Westernn Warhorse. On Wednesday he had two winners; first on the wonderful Dynaste who has given Tom some fantastic days, and secondly his easiest winner of the week, on a horse called Ballynagour in the Byrne Group Plate.
Personally it was a case of 'so near yet so far; with Next Sensation finishing fourth when only beaten by one-and-a-half lengths, when ridden by Richard Johnson. There was quite a delay at the start which did not suit Next Sensation, as he is quite a nervous horse and can get quite buzzy when he has to wait around. He therefore went off at a ferocious pace and led all the way till the last 150yds. It was a fantastic run from the horse and great that his owner, Mark Blandford and all his family, were there to cheer him into the winners enclosure! Mark Blandford has been a fantastic supporter of the yard and it was therefore extra special for the horse to have run so well.
On to Aintree’s three-day Grand National meeting… We are counting down the days until Saturday 5 April. We have Monbeg Dude running in the Grand National and Next Sensation also running on the Saturday in the big Grade 1 2 mile novices chase. Monbeg Dude has got himself a bit of a fan club since winning the Welsh National at Chepstow over a year ago. Owned by international rugby players Mike Tindall, Nicky Robinson and James Simpson-Daniel, Monbeg has given us so many great days, including his win at Cheltenham back in December with my brother, Tom Scudamore, riding him. He is currently a 20/1 chance and is third favourite for what is the biggest jumps race in the world!
It's almost Mothering Sunday, and if you’re stuck for ideas (or feeling generous) have a look at my website – you could become part of the Simpson-Daniel Scudamore racing syndicate and enjoy lots of days out - and hopefully some winners!"