In event rider Hazel Towers' latest blog, she explains why a bit of 'flirting' doesn't go amiss...
"Tracie Robinson’s words still ring in my ears every time I get on my eight-year-old mare Simply Smart: “She is a girl, you have to chat her up before you ask her to do something.” No truer words have ever been spoken when it comes to dealing with females, whether equine or human variety!
Earlier this year, during a training session organised by the World Class Equine Pathway programme, we were trying some counter canter work which Smartie didn’t feel like doing. She can do it and has done it before, but on this occasion she didn’t feel like it. So under Tracie’s watchful eye we quietly chatted my lady up, flirting with her and persuading her that really it would be a lot of fun. In the end she happily produced some fabulous work, but only because we asked her nicely.
A different trainer might have pushed and bullied for more, which could well have got a similar result, but Smartie would never forget being forced and would never forgive me for it. As soon as she had the chance she would have got me back! After all, us ladies are sensitive souls, not to mention on occasions somewhat hormonal.
Some of the “flirting” techniques I’ve found work well with my mare are:
1. Pats and scratches - with positive reinforcement through the voice
2. Titbits - cupboard love - not my preferred method but it can work
3. Taking the pressure off - making the work load easier by doing an exercise the horse finds enjoyable
4. The 'Softly, softly' approach - asking nicely several times and waiting patiently for the response you desire, instead of bullying the horse into doing something.
Mares have always been looked down on in the top levels of competition, but things are changing on that front in recent years. Ingrid Klimke won Luhmuhlen on a mare (the first ever mare to win this four-star), and several other successful mares, such as Headley Britannia, have changed the way we view them.
I believe a good mare is worth 100 average geldings, and I have always preferred working with them. They are more testing of one’s patience and you can’t just force them to do things, but if you can get them on side, I believe they will go much further for you than any gelding will. I feel they have a greater sense of preservation, and yes they make you work harder for their attention but they will go that extra mile for you.
They are more sensitive, and yes they get a bit stroppy when they are in season, but that is nature and can be forgiven and managed in most cases. They say you have to tell a gelding, ask a mare and discuss with a stallion. I think you should ask them all politely initially and then see what happens, but a little flirting never hurt anyone..."
H&C’s Web Editor Victoria reflects on today’s World Horse Welfare Conference in London
“One day each November, I duly get changed out of my jodhpurs and trot along to South Kensington to the World Horse Welfare annual conference. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the event – and these days it’s streamed live over Youtube so there’s really no excuse – it is a day of talks and discussion about various aspects of horse welfare, with an array of expert speakers taking to the stage. You’re also quite likely to spot a few very familiar faces in the audience, from leading industry figures to top riders and legendary trainers. And HRH Princess Royal is the President of the charity, and she usually delivers a wonderfully no-nonsense speech as well.
I’ve been sharing some of the main quotes and topics of the day on our social media pages. But I thought it might be useful to do a summary of some of my main thoughts about the day…
1. The topic was ‘Challenging the Status Quo’. And just to clarify, that specifically refers to the horse world and not the denim-clad rock band (we don’t think they have any real insight into equine welfare, though we’d be happy to be proved wrong).
So what did that wide-ranging headline topic actually refer to? Well, a number of things. Challenging assumptions. Traditional versus modern practices. Speaking out on contentious topics such as welfare in sport, equine obesity and the oft-taboo but unavoidable subject of euthanasia. Questioning how we look after our own horses on a day-to-day basis, and whether certain trends are worth following. And trying to educate some of the owners of working horses overseas that have picked up some frankly terrifying ideas about how to look after horses, that somehow become established as the ‘norm’.
2. There was a talk by former Defra Minister Sir Jim Paice about whether horses would be best off if Britain stayed in the EU, or if they left. We have to say we’re not really any wiser on this subject, but what was recognised a number of times throughout the day is that there needs to be a workable passport system for horses and a centralised database, following the closure of the National Equine Database in 2012. Without it, we can have no real idea of the sheer scale of the equine welfare crisis in the UK.
3. Former champion National Hunt jockey John Francome spoke about the racing industry. He focused on some of the changes he’s seen over the years – for example, he doesn’t think young riders aren’t taught natural balance or develop natural affinity with horses anymore, because of health and safety fears. He also spoke about the use of the whip in racing, and though he pointed out that the whip was softer and shorter than it ever was, he felt that its use in racing wasn’t beneficial. John also spoke about how the sport was incredibly strictly regulated, that more ex-racers were being rehomed, that on course fatalities had reduced by half and that racehorses are among the best looked after equines in the world. Whether you agree with those sentiments or not – and managing our social media pages, I know full well that many of you don’t – something really struck home during his talk. There is a vast gulf between how those in the racing industry view their sport, and how the non-racing public view it.
4. There was an excellent talk about equine obesity by Sue Dyson from the Animal Health Trust. In this year’s National Equine Health Survey it was estimated that a shocking 23.2% of horses are considered overweight by their owners – a figure that has risen sharply in the past few years. The reasons behind this obesity crisis were misconceptions of what a ‘normal’ horse should look like, over-rugging, supplementary feeding during the summer months and inadequate exercise. ‘A walk down the lane’ is not enough exercise for a horse, according to Sue, and a lack of exercise can lead to behavioural issues as well as obesity. Often, it is the sport horse that is the subject of welfare debate, but perhaps many leisure owners need to take a look at our own horses – are an increasing number of us killing our horses with 'kindness'?
5. There was the usual panel debate, which this year had the subject ‘Traditional horse management and training practices are best’. Lots of topics were covered – from outmoded veterinary practices such as firing, to stabling, turnout and tack - but there wasn't a real conclusion. The general concensus is that sometimes the old ways are the best ways, and other times the past belongs in the past.
During this section, David Hunt, President of the International Dressage Trainers Club, spoke about modern dressage training, at which point things could have got really controversial… Only they didn’t. Hunt told us that the training technique of ‘Long and deep’ has led to horses with better balance and more impulsion, and the scores in top level dressage have shot up as a result. Then he said that ‘rollkur’ was the extreme version of this, achieved through force, and that it had caused a ‘tremendous problem’ in the sport. He pointed out that photographs could often lead to confusion between the two. What he said made sense, he didn’t have much time to speak on a simply massive subject, and his knowledge of riding and training is undoubtedly hundreds of times greater than my own… and yet I was left with far more questions than answers. Perhaps this is a topic to be discussed at length in another blog, after I’ve given it further serious consideration (and had a lie down… in a darkened room).
6. Vet Josep Subirana then gave us all a sharp reality check when discussing the plight of working horses overseas. Some of the ‘traditions’ he’s seen include treating wounds with diesel fuel, of forcing horses with respiratory problems to inhale fumes from burning tyres, of chalk being drawn on overgrown hooves in the hope they will trim themselves. He spoke about death – that great taboo – and how many horses are denied euthanasia and left to die an agonising death. “A horse deserves a good death as much as a good life,” he said, quite rightly.
7. There was some interesting discussion about the age of horses in sport. Vet Celia Marr spoke about research that suggested racing as two-year-olds actually improves long-term health of racehorses. But then the question was raised about whether we asked too much of our young dressage, showjumping and event horses. The racing world finances the majority of equine veterinary research, which can lead to a focus on issues that mainly affect the Thoroughbred.
8. HRH Princess Royal closed the day’s speeches. Two years after she made media headlines for suggesting the eating of horse meat could improve welfare conditions, she was sticking to safer ground today. She spoke about how short-term fixes or convenience shouldn’t replace the status quo. She reminded us that, when it comes to training, the long term benefit of the horse remains the most important thing. And she made a joke about some trends in the horse world not being a good thing, with an aside about diamante browbands. A moment of light relief in a day otherwise filled with some rather weighty topics, and another fascinating World Horse Welfare conference drew to a close."
Scurry driver Chris Orchard reflects on a very testing few months of bizarre injuries for two of her ponies, but fortunately they were given the all clear by the vet to compete at HOYS...
"Last year at HOYS things didn't go to plan, when a bad crash in the International Arena left me out of action for months. After intensive physio and hours of personal training at the gym I was back driving, with some good results during the season under my belt. Both pairs of ponies qualified for HOYS, and soon it was time for final preparations, not least of all the mammoth task of organizing the lorry and trailer with provisions for four ponies and four grooms for a week's 'camping' in car park S6 at the NEC!
But things have definitely not been straightforward in the run-up to HOYS. In July, Go from "Touch & Go" suffered temporary facial paralysis - no, I had never heard of it either! He had run into a fence while playing in the field, and was left unable blink his left eye or move his ear, and he had a droopy lip.
While he was rested, my first reserve pony "Alfie" had to secure our HOYS place by running with the real "Touch", which, despite taking a few shows to get back into the swing of things, he managed to do. The vet gave "Go" the all clear to race only two weeks before HOYS.
As if that wasn't enough trauma on the run up to HOYS, "Tumble" from "Rough & Tumble" had a fight with his empty feed bowl in the night, panicked and ran straight into his stable wall, the outcome was a broken nose! (No, I didn't know they could do that either!) After x-rays and endoscopy, "Tumble" also got the all clear from the vet, only two nights before we were due to travel up to the NEC.
The major achievement of just getting there completed, we embarked (without much aspiration) on the competition itself. However, my new groom Charlotte Kenyon had received full training during the season and I was confident in her ability to lean exactly at the right moment. As a former international sporting competitor herself, she sprang into action with her inspirational team building and motivational skills.
Together with the usual support from my husband Paul and long time friend Gill Rockley, I couldn't have wished for a better team. I can honestly say that winning the competition on Friday afternoon at the HOYS with "Touch & Go" in front of a packed house, with our main sponsor Fiona of Carriagehouse Insurance as my guest, made the problems overcome, the hard work, true grit and determination all worthwhile. It was the proudest moment of my life (so far!) and very different to twelve months ago.
Roll on 2016, and we are already looking forward to eating three meals a day from the 24 hour toastie van for a week in the NEC car park!"
Para-dressage rider Erin Orford has been tackling more than just dressage in her latest blog...
"So firstly I’m really pleased (understatement) to announce that I received a medal following my first attempt at an open water swim as part of our Para team triathlon. No, we didn’t win - we finished second - but it signified something far more significant for me… I survived!
I wasn’t totally sure whether I would be fit to compete in the swim or at Bishop Burton International, as after struggling to ride for a few days, I went to the doctor to find out that I had a virus, a chest infection and had torn two of my intercostal muscles. When I asked whether I would be OK to compete at an International 10 days later the response was “if you’re lucky” so I decided to leave out the details that I needed to actually train before then and I definitely wasn’t about to admit I had to swim too.
After a few quiet days I returned to the saddle just a few days before we left for the international competition at Bishop Burton. I’m so lucky that I have Stephen Moore to ride Pimms for me and prepare her, otherwise I would have had no chance. I couldn’t have been prouder of her, winning all three classes to take her first International victory, finishing with an International personal best in the music for both of us with a score of over 76%.
With the triathlon the following day there was not much time to recover and regroup. I’d managed to sneak in a couple of sessions before and while I was away at Bishop (keen) but with my breathing still difficult I could only do backstroke, which, in a pool is fine but in an open water lake with no guidelines it had its challenges. I arrived fairly unprepared but still hopeful that I could ‘wing it’ - but turning into the venue with all the spectators, live music, loudspeakers and TV cameras everywhere made everything pretty real.
We had a TV interview with Danny Crates for Channel 4, who Sophie Christiansen's mum provided with a photo of Sophie’s first bike event as a child, which she was not embarrassed about...much, then we were able to spectate until it was our race.
I started quite well, until I couldn’t breathe anymore and had to flip over to continue the rest of the swim in backstroke, at not too bad a pace – just in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, I was concentrating far too much on the ‘going’ part and not quite enough on the steering, so while I thought I was doing OK, I was actually veering away from the other competitors and heading out towards the weeds at the side of the lake. Fortunately two canoeists paddled out to point my in the right direction and put me back on track otherwise I might still be out there, swimming around in circles.
Once I was back on track and going in a straight line, I caught up with the rest and finished in a not too horrific time for Sophie to take over with the cycling. Soph put in a great leg as did her boyfriend Peter, who did the run, and we finished in second place. There were all levels attending and it was one of the most amazing things to see a little girl wearing a shark wetsuit (stole my idea) climbing out the water to huge cheers from friends and strangers with the biggest grin on her face, while an elite cyclist was giving her huge applause from the competitor area. It was such a brilliant event so a massive thanks to everyone involved and it was great to see the coverage televised on Channel 4 - I was even happier that they left out the footage of me falling after climbing out the lake in a bid to save time.
Back on more familiar ground, I recently returned from the British Dressage National Championships where I am thrilled to say Pimms and I were crowned the KBIS Grade 2 National Champions. She came out fresh on the Friday and I was particularly pleased with the trot work and with a few areas still to improve (those pesky walk pirouettes) she did a solid test to take the class. Pimms had her usual support team including owner Annie who competed there with her the year earlier so it was great for everyone to see her strutting her stuff including being impeccably behaved in the prize giving (although I did make Stephen come in too, just in case).
I had a great couple of days and it was lovely to catch up with everyone – I even got to see some of the new collection from sponsors Derriere Equestrian. A massive thank you to everyone who helps to make this possible and I hope that, with just a year to go to Rio 2016, we can finish the year in style at Bury Farm International at the end of October.
Annabelle and her new pony go out for a ride with dad
Steph Croxford has a disaster in Deauville, but it doesn't put her daughter off getting her first pony...
Deauville. What a complete disaster. It took us seven hours to get to Dover, we had to wait to two hours when we got there, and then the ferry was stuck at sea for over three hours, because there was nowhere to dock. We finally arrived in Calais at 1.30am! Then it was up early the next day for the rest of our journey.
When we finally arrived in Deauville for the grand prix, it may as well have been Derbyshire in mid November as it was blowing a gale with torrential rain. There were 8ft trees in pots along the side of the arena and as I was doing the test, they came crashing down!
Add to that the judges’ tents, which were flapping in the wind, and it’s not surprising Mr Hyde had a break down. We still managed to get 62-something, but it wasn’t our most relaxed test!
If we’d been at home I would have retired, and wouldn’t have bothered competing the next day, but we’d gone all that way, so we soldiered on.
Then we had a storm that night and the wagon roof was leaking, which meant all the rain came into the cupboards and soaked the children’s clothes.
We were up in the middle of the night, trying save our stuff and stop the gazebo blowing away.
Clyde didn’t have a much better night, as half his bed had blown into one corner so he had nothing to sleep on.
In the grand prix special we had horizontal rain – I have never been so wet in my life. I just thought ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this’ but Clyde gave it his all bless him and we got 64.
In between the horrific weather we did get a bit of sun and took the kids to the to seaside, which they loved. But then we had a horrendous journey back again. This time we were left out at sea for three hours in a storm. Poor Simon was sea-sick and I was left playing ‘eye spy’ with the kids for hours, while telling them to look at the horizon to stop themselves getting ill.
Luckily you couldn’t feel anything down below, so Clyde was fine.
Then… (oh yes, there’s more) there was an accident in Dartford and we were stuck in traffic for four and half hours. So I think it’s best we just forget about that trip.
Competing at the British Dressage National Championships, felt like a (very calm) breeze in comparison. I made a couple of annoying little mistakes, but Clyde felt really nice and relaxed. I’m just pleased I didn’t throw the towel in and fall apart. It started well and finished ok, but we had a blip in middle.
We scored 66.18 and came a respectable eighth and without those errors it would have been 68 or 69. It was our first National Championships, so it was a learning curve for both of us.
The other big news is that Annabelle has got her first pony. We have fought it for eight years! We’ve tried tennis, swimming and weekly riding lessons to curb it – but we finally gave in.
We weren’t really looking, but a friend of ours had a lovely pony that her daughter had grown out of and she just wanted him to go to a good home. So Robin came to us in September and he’s amazing.
He’s not a dope-on-a-rope and he can bloomin’ jump, too. Annabelle and Ben have friends over for tea every Tuesday, so he’s got five kids around him! And he just switches his behaviour, depending who is on his back.
Annabelle has hacked out with Simon, which is so lovely but slightly scary. Ben's even had a go, so now the whole family is riding! We knew it was only a matter of time…
Event rider Hazel Towers reflects on how hard it is as a rider to move up the levels - and how difficult it is to understand...
“Upon starting eventing, my main focus was to have fun, and if I could do that initially then actually achieving anything as a successful competitor would be a bonus.
I started off running at BE100, Novice, Intermediate etc, then one day I remember mum suggesting I should do a one-star. I saw this suggestion as ludicrous, pay twice as much money to take three paid holiday days off work and jump smaller jumps than I was currently jumping at Intermediate, just so I could say I had done a one-star? Was she mad? Seemingly no… but was I?
The qualification requirements now for eventing (or MERs as they are known) are rather confusing to say the least, and at no stage is it explained clearly to competitors. I felt like you had to be in the know to fully understand what’s going on, if you don’t know, then be prepared to be thoroughly confused trying to find out. For example, to enter CIC and CCI classes one is required to do “CNCs”, which really confused me in the early days. What was a CNC, I asked and asked and asked? In plain and simple English; it is just a National Intermediate class or just an Intermediate - why it can’t be referred to as this in the MERs I don’t know?!
Three-day international events (or CCIs as I have come to learn they are also known) are the “money” classes; big names, big jumps, flowers and flags around the dressage arenas. There’s fancy attire for trot-ups, and usually a fairly posh party to which competitors and sponsors, owners etc are invited. For the amateurs, they are the financial equivalent to a 10- to 14-day beach holiday in the Caribbean (I wish I was joking!) along with three days off work and a lot of hanging about bored (leading to the nerves kicking in, as you have nothing else to think about - other than the fact you have to follow Fox-Pitt of all people into the dressage!). Which makes them a great long term one-off goal, but not a class most people can enter just for the hell of it! They are designed to provide a ladder to get to CCI4* level, which is fantastic.
Demonstrating rider competency at the lower levels is the only way to ensure safety for both rider and horse, but they can also act as a barrier for riders try to move up the levels for the wrong reasons. I’ve found previously that there are not many suitable CCI classes to get the runs required for this qualification to move up, unless you are happy to travel your horse for 300 miles across the country (which I am not).
Take CCI** for example; there are only five of these classes running throughout the whole season in the UK, with two falling in the same week, so essentially that’s four. Taking into consideration that the closest is a minimum four and half hour drive from my house, this makes getting the qualifications required to move up a level actually pretty blooming difficult.
Capt. Mark Phillips recently wrote that he felt that riders lacked experience at the top level events and that there should be requirements to do more at high level to get, for example, a four-star qualification. I completely agree with these comments – experience is essential for both horse and rider, but if there are not the regular runs across the UK, then how can we get more experience as riders?
I feel some big changes need to be made so qualification is more accessible for the people who can’t just nip to France or Germany to get a run. Perhaps the scheduling and locations of qualifying classes could be made more sensitive to rider needs, or national classes could also count more towards qualification. It’s a shame that until something is done to improve the situation; the administration of the sport will continue to be a hindrance to the development of new talent.
But for now I do compete at two and three star but will continue to substitute trips to the Caribbean with eventing in international classes, because secretly, I quite enjoy them, maybe even as much as lying on a beach drinking Pina Coladas."
Yet again H&C blogger Emma Massingale has been given a new, exciting challenge to train her horses to do some more extraordinary things...
“I really don’t want this year to end as it’s been a year of making people smile by being creative with my horses.
Last year I was lucky enough to make a film with Equine Productions, commissioned by NAF, called No Reins, No Rules, No Limits. Incredibly, it has just won two awards at the Equus International Film Festival, in Montana in America.
I then had Albert and Ernie being cheeky monkeys on Christmas morning for Horse & Country's Christmas commercial last December. And my most recent creative exploit involved my stallion Marcus being filmed galloping at liberty down the beach for a music video.
I have definitely found something I love and, as it turns out, have the creativity and endless patience required to train the horses to a story board.
At the beginning of 2015 after heading to BETA to launch the Island Project, my focus for this year, I met Emma from Horseware Ireland. After some discussions they agreed to sponsor the project, and also suggested we work together for the commercial to celebrate their 30-year anniversary.
Ideas are one thing I am not short of, but I think I may have sounded a bit mad, when I found myself waffling on about bringing my Connemara team to the factory. And at this stage I hadn't worked out yet exactly how I was going to train them to 'make' rugs!
I had nine Connemara’s to choose from. Atlantis was my first pick, as he is very intelligent and can problem solve way better than most dogs. The only thing with him is he isn’t naturally very brave.
The next on my list was Comet – not intelligent like Atlantis but very calm – along with Calypso, the only mare in my team, who gives the geldings courage when they need it most. I knew that out of all of them these two would be able to cope with the strange environment at the factory.
The last one to be loaded up was Nahla. I’ll be totally honest, he didn’t really need to come, but if I was allowed a favourite he would be it! So I taught him to be the best at shaking his head (saying ‘no’) and that was his place justified.
I trained the ponies at home, practising the bits I could. Teaching Atlantis to push the trolley was the hardest. I started teaching him to push a barrel around, which he took to really well. However, when we progressed to the big trolley, I realised it was going to be a bit harder than I thought.
Atlantis knew he needed to push it with his nose, just like the barrel, but I wanted him to actually put his head on it and lean into it. Now this can only be taught in part, but thanks to his personality and character he makes it look awesome on film!
When we arrived I started to feel the pressure. On the Saturday I decided I would take the opportunity of the factory being closed to take the ponies to have a look around. I gave myself a talking to before collecting them. Although it’s weird to us taking four ponies in the factory, it’s no more weird than going on the deck of a boat or living on an island.
I knew if I was super calm and laid back they would be cool, too. I didn’t practice any of the tricks, as I felt confident that if they were relaxed the tricks were no problem.
I wandered the ponies in and out of the factory for a while, before showing them the noisy roller doors and potentially other scary things.
The next morning we started filming. It was the coolest thing seeing them doing all their bits actually in the factory! Atlantis pushed the trolley just like it really was his job – he had us all in stitches! He followed it up with smiling a lot. Once you teach them things, they do like to show you!
Filming went amazingly smoothly, I was so proud of the ponies. Connemaras are known for being kind and clever and this certainly showed those amazing qualities.
I loved working with the team at Horseware and actually seeing where those iconic rugs are made was awesome. Roll on the next one..."
Showjumper Yazmin Pinchen is blown away by two very different heroes - Scott Brash and Jessie J!
"Hi everyone, sorry it's been such a long time!
First of all, massive congratulations to Scott Brash for absolutely smashing the Rolex Grand Slam. He is a legend; a true horseman and he fully deserved that. If you didn’t get to watch it, do try because the last line was insane, anyone else would have panicked but he stayed so cool and calm and carried on. It was amazing to watch. He is a true inspiration.
I have been abroad quite a bit riding, nothing to exciting to report on my behalf, I went to a show in France recently and it was a disaster. I’ve never seen so much rain. The ground was like a river and we gave up and left before the Grand Prix. I had never been happier to see the UK being so sunny! It was really nice actually to get a Sunday in the UK, I went to London and became a tourist for the day and had a blast.
A couple of weeks ago Hickstead showground held a music concert over two days, I often go to the showground because my hair dresser has a salon there overlooking the arena so I saw them setting it all up and couldn’t get my head round how it would look. When the day arrived myself and my friend Abbie got there and it looked amazing, it was really well put together. They had cute shops everywhere for face paints, feather head bands, the lot. Every food stand possible was there, so much choice!
The stage was huge and the atmosphere was really chilled and friendly. We arrived at 3pm and left around 10.30pm. All the calm bands played first where everyone was sat down enjoying the sun and music, later on in the evening Soul 2 Soul played and it was amazing. I loved it and had a good old dance to some older music, and was impressed I knew the words! The Vamps played shortly after and were surprisingly really good, they're not someone I would usually listen to but they were so energetic on stage they really got the crowd going. I mainly went to the concert to see Jessie J. I have always wanted to see her sing and it was so convenient she was going to play so close to my hometown. She blew me away, she was insane. That woman can sing! Overall, Abbie and I had an amazing time, lots of dancing and singing resulting in sore throats the next day but it was totally worth it.
I am also so happy to be finally able to announce the launch of my Olympic bracelet that I designed with the Burnished Horse Hair company. I decided to ask the four Olympic gold medallists from London 2012 to donate their horses tail hair to me so we could make a bracelet out of it and auction them off for Just world International, a charity for which I am an ambassador. I hope you like it.
Recently I got some great news that I got into Horse of the Year Show. I am so thrilled to get to jump there finally. I rode once in the pony class and unfortunately it was not successful. That was a long time ago, so I'll forget about that day! I hope to see lots of you there, and I'm really excited to be jumping on home turf. Fingers crossed..."
Never one to shy away from a challenge, H&C blogger Emma Massingale had to train her stallion to chase her on a quad bike for a music video...
"I'm excited to announce that Marcus is starring in a new music video for the band Brother and Bones.
Earlier this year a production company came to me and asked if I had a horse that could look imposing and impressive galloping along a beach – completely loose! I knew my 17.2hh stallion Marcus would be perfect for the job as he has previous experience doing a similar shoot for NAF last year.
This shoot was to be quite different, though as they didn't want a beautiful horse, skipping along the beach with his ears pricked – they wanted it to be much darker.
After getting the brief, we found a suitable beach in Cornwall. After all, you can't just let horses loose on any old beach!
I started training him at home, first teaching him to follow me on my push bike, before upping the pace behind the quad. Marcus and I hadn't done any practise since we filmed the NAFs commercial for H&C, but luckily horses never forget!
The only difference was Marcus was looking way to gorgeous with his ears pricked. So it was back to the drawing board.
I realised that rather than following the quad I had to teach Marcus to chase it – just likes he does with the rabbits in his field for entertainment. Over the next few weeks he started to get it and by the time of the shoot I was confident he could pull off the look they wanted.
On the big day we headed off to Carbis Bay. It's a beautiful beach, but it was an incredibly cold day, with the wind blowing. Even with a hundred layers on I was still freezing.
As with most filming projects it takes a lot longer than you think. The crew knew they had five runs with Marcus, including a warm-up run. As with everything you do with horses, (especially when working at liberty) you can use up their good will, so there was no negotiation on this – we would do it five times, and no more.
Even though the beach was privately owned and had been rented for the shoot, there were some die-hard dog walkers there, who no matter what will always get out with their dog!
Thankfully, Marcus was a total pro and really knew his job. Jeremy my fiancé was driving the quad and when I let Marcus go I sat on the back and called him, while the crew came up along side him, on another quad, and filmed him.
He did every run perfectly getting up to 42kph each time. It was awesome seeing him totally free! I’m so proud of him – and love the video. I hope you do, too."