Is keeping a horse in a stable full-time the same as keeping battery chickens in a cage? H&C's Editor Victoria reflects on one of the points made at the World Horse Welfare conference...
"When I discovered journalist Liz Jones was among the panellists at today's World Horse Welfare annual conference, I was expecting some fireworks.
The Daily Mailcolumnist is known for her controversial articles and her outspoken views, and she has often written about issues of animal rights.
But in the end only one of the statements she made today caused me to whip out my notebook, and it's been playing on my mind ever since.
Referring to the 'confinement' of horses, she said: "To me, stables are to horses what battery cages are to hens – they’re no different."
A few moments earlier, when talking about some of the things that appalled her, like horses in Ethiopia with wounds on their sides known as 'accelerators', or seeing a little boy beat a donkey with an iron pole, she also mentioned horses being locked up in their stables for 23 hours out of 24.
It made me wonder - can the three scenarios really be classed as similar levels of cruelty?
Horses have some basic requirements. They need food and water, they need shelter and their essential healthcare needs met.
Then there’s their quality of life. Horses should be free from stress and be able to express their normal behaviour, and they need space and freedom.
And that means some turnout time.
We all know the health implications of keeping a horse cooped up in a stable all day, every day. We know about stereotypies – more commonly known as stable vices – and we know about the problems caused by altering the horse’s natural lifestyle of trickle grazing and constant movement, such as the increased chance of colic or gastric ulcers.
I've talked to horse lovers with wide-ranging opinions, from those who think horses should only live out, who should be ridden without metal in their mouths or nailed to their feet – to those who compete at the highest levels, whose horses are treated as elite athletes and spend most of their time in a stable.
But most owners opt for a mid-way point, that of providing daily turnout for their horse with a warm stable to come into at night. Olympian Carl Hester will turn his hugely valuable dressage horses out in the paddock each day, and he’s far from the only top competition rider to do so.
But sometimes daily turnout isn’t possible. Sometimes because of short-term problems like water-logged fields, other times because turnout isn’t available or practical.
There are urban riding schools whose horses are stabled for most of the year, but who get a ‘summer holiday’ where they live out 24/7. Similarly lots of racehorses and working horses get to have a break out of season, some downtime in the field and an opportunity to be, well, just a horse.
The vision of all horses living out full time is an idyllic but often impractical one. Some are not hardy enough to live out, some would overeat if given unrestricted access to grass. Horse owners have restrictions on their own lives and time and most of us must make some sort of compromise, to strike a balance between our horse’s needs and our own. Many owners are governed by the rules and facilities of livery yards.
If horses who are stabled full time are given an occasional break and plenty of daily exercise, I can’t equate their lives to those of a battery hen.
Compare the existence of cared for but confined horses to those abandoned equines littered across the British countryside. The latter are given all the freedom in the world, but none of the most basic requirements.
If you had to be one of those horses, which would you rather be?"
It's the end of the competition season, so our blogger Alice Oppenheimer takes the opportunity to go on a girls' holiday...
"After the Nationals my main competition horses get to enjoy their well-earned two-week holiday. This means I get a chance for a break as well, so myself, Charlotte Dujardin, Jo (Char's personal trainer), Amy (my best friend) and Kate (my sister) all headed out to Tenerife for a girls' holiday.
I struggle to switch off instantly as I'm so used to being on the go all the time, but I tried to relax and make the most of being able to just lie around. We spent most of the time lazing around by the pool but also got up to a few activities, mainly to keep me quiet! We had another go on the fly fish and, having been chucked off it last year, I was desperate to stay on this time. Unfortunately, the boat driver was desperate to get us to fall off, but somehow we clung on - even if I did end up with major cramp in my arms. The driver got his revenge, however, when pushed Char into the sea when we got back on the boat! It was a wonderful holiday. There is already talk of going back again next year.
We always give the competition horses a fortnight break at the end of the season as they work hard mentally and physically while they are competing so I think it's important for them to have a complete break to recharge ready for the new season. After all, we get to the stage where we feel we need a break, so they must to! They have a couple of weeks just going on the horse walker to keep some fitness and out in the field to chill before I spend a week or so bringing them back into full work and concentrating on winter training.
Already I'm thinking ahead to next season. Bracks will shortly be stepping up to Grand Prix and Socs will be aimed at small tour in the near future. I'm also very excited about my young horses. Robin (Headmore Dirubinio), who will be six next year, is phenomenal. We chose not to compete him this year to give him a chance to grow into himself as he is a good 17.2hh, but he is showing huge flying changes and promising half passes, so he may be out contesting the Six Year Old classes next year. I'm also lucky enough to have a couple of very quality rising five year olds. Davina (Headmore Davina) is Robin's full sister and is another exciting prospect. I'm not yet decided on my plans with her, she may contest the Five Year Olds next year or I may keep her at home training. I also have another DiMaggio, Finn (Headmore Diffinity) who is buckskin (not orange!) out of Kelly (Celtic Rose III) who I used to compete and owned by Caroline Dibden. He will hopefully be competing in the young horse classes next year.
Finally, it was very exciting to be able to watch the British Dressage Nationals on H&C this year. It's so important that dressage gets exposure in order for the sport to grow, and I got many lovely comments on my social media after Del's fifth placed test was shown."
In the run up to the Polocrosse World Cup, Debbie Harris will be guest blogging for H&C. Read her post to find out more about the sport and her first year as captain for the UK team...
"Hi! My name is Debbie and I have been given the opportunity to share mine and my team mate’s journey on the route to the Polocrosse World Cup in South Africa next year.
So what is Polocrosse? Basically it is a combination of polo and lacrosse. It is an exciting team sport played on horseback with teams of six players each. There is a combination of skills required to make the game flow; horsemanship and stick skills being the main two. However other elements would be team and one-on-one attack and defence tactics. Quite simply you have a goal-scorer, a midfielder and a defence, each battling it out with turns, spins, flicks and pushes. Polocrosse is enjoyed by all; boys and girls, kids and adults. If you’re still learning to ride, there’s no better place to improve your riding skills than by having a go at this sport.
I have been selected to play for the UK at the Polocrosse World Cup along with seven others. This will be the fourth World Cup I will have played in and this time I have the honour of captaining the team. My team mates are Jason Webb (player/Coach), Danny Duhig, Joel Sics, Max Pedley, Charlotte Pykett, Racheal Duhig and Kerry Bean; while the reserves are Emily Gilfillan, Annie Mitchell, Alex Richards, Matt Smith and Will Halcrow.
So let me talk about the team; four women and four men make up the ever hopeful World Cup team. On a national club level we have all been playing against each other this year in the hope to stand out and be picked for this amazing opportunity to represent our country. Although throughout the selection process our coach Jason Webb has brought us together in various combinations to find our strongest team. In doing this we have played two international test series against Ireland back in July and more recently against the USA. The UK were victorious on both occasions, which provides some great preparation and allowed us to really stamp down for our place on the final World Cup team.
Look out for my next blog where I will be going through our winter training and preparations, and also I will be introducing the superstars, the horses!"
International event rider Sharon Hunt tells us about her success as a coach as well as a major end of season result…
"I am delighted to start the blog with the news we have finished the 2014 eventing season with a great result. Loughnatousa Fabio (Superman) finished second in the CCI 2* at Ballindenisk, only one penalty behind the winner. Not a bad result considering after Hickstead he was poorly and not himself at all. He seemed to have an infection of some sort and was flat until the actual day the competition started. I took the risk as I knew he needed a holiday, he has done plenty this season and he has a very busy campaign planned next year so an early finish and long rest is ideal preparation.
Superman is some horse, he's so competitive and rises to every occasion. He has a serious gallop and stamina too, something that I am very excited about as Tankers Town – my Olympic horse - was an absolutely amazing but his top end gallop was always slightly in question.
Ballindenisk itself was an excellent event. For a two-star the track was watered, aerated and so on, which made a refreshing change. The Irish are so hospitable, always good fun and entertaining. We had based ourselves at Tim Beecher's yard before and after the event, owner and breeder of the Loughnatousa horses. We took another couple home with us and we are now the proud owners of another seriously good prospect.
I am lucky enough to train top ponies Craigmor Tom and also now Alfie, the recent silver medal winner at this year's Pony Europeans. Jockey Eloise Carter is based with me with these two stunning ponies. I was so proud of her at Oasby, where she looked relaxed and confident around the decent novice course, which is not bad for a 14-year-old! Tom is a wonderful pony but hasn't always been relaxed so to see them go so well was just superb.
Alongside all the riding, I have been coaching and went to Weston Park for the junior one-star three-day event with the eastern team. This was my first year in this position and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. The children have been an absolute pleasure to work with and at Weston it was no exception. The work rate was fairly constant for me, I warmed up seven riders for their tests, walked both the one-star course and BE100 course at least three times each, I started nine riders on the cross-country and warmed five up for the showjumping!
The one-star team finished second, less than a fence behind the winning team. Hopefully even bigger and better things to come next year, not just from them but from my team of horses too!
I now have a couple of demonstrations and then an easy month and I'll have a couple of quick breaks away, as although I haven't been to events with lots of horses, it's still been a very busy year."
Showjumper Anna Edwards explains why she won't settle for having just one 'horse of a lifetime'.
"So there I was, watching the horse they referred to as 'Braveheart' making his way round the horsewalker. I’d just been riding him in the large and immaculately harrowed arena. The question was on my mind - could he be a top horse ?
Fast forward three years and Braveheart is now known as Blazer B, and the question has very much been answered. My giant bay has been making great progress this year and I made the decision to run him in the 1.60m Grand Prix at Millstreet. Having won that same CSI 3* Grand Prix on a previous ride, there was an added pressure (entirely self imposed) to do well.
I’m very pleased to say that, at just eight years old, Blazer came fourth.
We all have different goals in our equestrian lives and indeed for our different horses. One weekend I might be jumping Grands Prix at international shows, the next I’m taking my four-year-old for her first British Novice. No matter what your goal is, there is such a sense of pride when it is achieved.
I've ridden and competed some amazing horses, and when top horses like those leave the yard, whether it be through a sale, age, illness or whatever, it's easy to start wondering if you'll ever be able to do it again. But I always remember that I did it once and tell myself I will do it again. There are no horses of a lifetime without the riders that made them.
With all my horses, the long term aim is the same - can they jump at the highest level? Blazer answered that question, and arguably, a year earlier than expected and snapping at his brilliant white socks is the wonderful Chesterfield.
It’s sad to hear people talk about their 'horse of a lifetime'. The worst thing you could do is to convince yourself that might be true. Be positive, why stop at just one!"
Our blogger Jay Halim tries his hand at a spot of live commentary, and achieves a childhood ambition by competing at Horse of the Year Show...
Autumn is very much here, so I was very happy to receive a parcel from Eurostar containing a new winter wardrobe! So at least I will be warm and stylish this winter.
As always, team Tiger has been super busy. All the horses are well and we have even started pulling in the three-year-olds in from the field to produce for next year.
I have been lucky enough to have some amazing results this season - and this run has continued of late. I had a great time at Arena UK and even had a go at doing some TV commentary during H&C's live broadcast, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Watch out Jenny Rudall!
Horse of the Year Show was really special for me. It was a childhood dream to compete there and it finally came true, though I was disappointed not to have had the chance to compete in the international classes for the week. Goodmans For Fun has had some great results and I think he deserved to go to what would probably been his last HOYS, as he is 17. Let's hope he stays fit and sound for next year.
Goodmans Acobado got to the last round in the Tagg Puissance, he jumped his little heart out for me and think that his peck on landing on round 4 was enough to upset him for round 5, where our Puissance dream ended. I completely loved the atmosphere and got very caught up in the moment! You can watch a video of us jumping on my Facebook page. Talking of which, since HOYS I've had a flurry of new Facebook friend requests and have reached my limit - so please do 'like' my new official page!
My baby horse Abrisco made me very happy on the Sunday by coming second in the Speedybeet Grade C final. Abrisco (Ben) has only been jumping full time for a year and has notched up many good wins, he is a real asset to my team and I have very high hopes for him. Sadly I need to try and find an owner/investor to keep him in my yard. If anyone out there would like to join my team or invest in this great prospect please contact me. I am also looking for a working pupil/trainee to come and join my growing team. This person must be hard working, conscientious, reliable and a nice person. Please do drop me an email if you can help.
I would also like this opportunity to thank my owners and my team around me. This year I have been lucky to have gained sponsorship from Eurostar, Naf, Saracen, Albion, Equiclass, Uvex and have just gained support from Veredus. Being a team player is very important to me and I owe my success to the team around me.
Clooney after his first lesson with Richard Davison: "I didn't die, which is always a bonus!"
Steph Croxford and Mr Hyde suffer a set back but things are on the up for her youngster Clooney
It’s been a while since my last blog and as always in the Croxford household quite a lot has happened. Some good and some disastrous…
The Nationals were defiantly the latter – as I found out 30 minutes before I was due to go in that I had learnt the wrong test! I was told by British Dressage (BD) back in March it was going to be the new BD 2014 Intermediate II. It suited us well, as it’s quite different from the grand prix, so it wouldn’t confuse Mr Hyde with his grand prix training.
We practiced the test all summer and were ready and raring to go for the Nationals. We arrived in plenty of time and even had time for a spot of shopping, which was when I bumped into fellow competitor Roger Gregory.
He started teasing me that the test wasn't a BD Inter II, but the FEI Inter II. I thought he was just winding me up, but it turns out they had changed it – but failed to let anyone know! By this time I had around 20 minutes to warm up for a test I hadn’t ridden since January!
We started off going the wrong way down the centre line. Then Mr Hyde got all confused and thought he was doing the grand prix test, as he’s so programmed to do it!
So we decided to do our own 'Freestyle' Inter II. He gave me some beautiful one time changes, but I was saying to him ‘No that’s grand prix!’
By this point Simon, who was calling the test, said we said we might as will give up and go home!
We made seven major mistakes and must have dropped 10%, so to come out with a score of 62.79% is a minor miracle. But it was also slightly frustrating as we would have been top three.
I completely lost confidence in him after that. I didn’t want to go to Fieldhouse to do the grand prix earlier this month, but Simon said we should go along and do it without putting any pressure on ourselves.
Mr Hyde tried his socks off, bless him, and we got 67.1%. There were still green bits, but it was the best test he’s done to date.
I feel a bit more confident now, and am going to Vale View to do the High Profile Show at the end of the month.
I threatened Mr P with doing the Inter II there as well, but I sat down and thought about it. I don’t want people saying ‘why’s she dragging that poor horse out again!’ But I’ve got to keep his brain active and he’s still working at grand prix level at home, so it silly to have him just sitting there.
He really wants to do something and has been trying to bite Clyde’s bottom as he’s very jealous. He needs to get out competing, but not the High Profile stuff, so I’ve decided to do a test somewhere a bit more low key.
I’d like to retire him and put him out in a field, but he won’t do it. The day he retires is the day he will drop dead. He’s a worker and we owe it to him to keep him happy and active as long as he wants to be. When he turns round and say, ‘I’ve had enough’, we’ll say ‘of course, mate’ but he still refuses to to that at nearly 21!
We’re also busy with our next dressage star, Clooney, who had his first lesson with Richard [Davison]. I didn't die and he didn’t tell me to sell him, which is always a bonus! He was less spooky that Clyde – touch wood he’s behaving himself really well. There’s no point competing him yet, but we might take him out to a show just to have a ride around.
That’s it for now, I’ll let you know how we get on at the High Profile with Clyde… It can’t be any worse than the Nationals!
Phillip Miller groomed for Chris in the Hickstead Celebrity Scurry
Scurry driver Chris Orchard gets ready for HOYS and hopes for a little less drama in the season ahead
After a successful season, with too many placings to mention with Carriagehouse Insurance Touch & Go and Rough & Tumble behind me, I don't seem to have had time to catch my breath before we found ourselves washing harnesses and clipping ponies in the final preparations for Horse of the year Show (HOYS).
It’s been a great summer with some lovely sunny days, along with all those superb county shows and two memorable Hickstead meetings.
The celebrity scurry at the Derby meeting in June was once again brilliant fun. My groom for the day was last year’s Derby winner Phillip Miller, who certainly seemed to enjoy his new experience. After some coaching in the collecting ring, and explaining how it all works while we walked the course together, we were ready to roll.
As we entered the international arena and made our way over to the start, I was surprised to hear Phillip shouting to me, “Oh, they are soo fast”. To which my only reply could be: “Phillip we haven't started yet, hold on and lean!!”
I headed the ponies for the first set of cones and said the magic word – “Go!” – and off they went. At this point Phillip started yelling very loudly and very excitedly, and didn't stop till we had finished the round!
He did an excellent job of grooming and we were placed fourth, which in no way reflected the enthusiasm and delight of my passenger! Phillip went on to finish second in this year’s Derby, so a great time was had by all.
The New Forrest show was memorable for a completely different reason. About two hours into our journey down to the show, Paul suddenly said: “You know we put that spare padlock on the carriage trailer because we had lost the combination lock?” Yes… “Well did you pick up the key?” No!! Oops. It meant that when we got to the show we wouldn’t be able to get the carriages out of the trailer.
After some quick thinking we called Jeff Osborne to see if he had an angle grinder on his lorry. He's the kind of chap who usually has everything, but he didn't have one on board. So we put in another call to one of the competitors, who lives near the show, and got them to bring an angle grinder along for us. Phew! We duly arrived at the lorry park, and before we had time to even mention the imminent arrival of said grinder, two of the other competitors swooped on the offending padlock with bolt croppers. In no time at all they chopped it into small pieces, releasing our carriages.
Scurry drivers always seem to be good in a crisis and are great at problem solving. It’s a case of ‘one for all and all for one’. Needless to say, the combination lock was replaced immediately and only combination locks will be used from now on.
So, with drama and crisis firmly behind us, the preparations for ‘the big one’ (HOYS) are in full flight. I for one am looking forward to a little more luck this year!
Louise takes a trip to Aachen to see the world's best - including Valegro - in action
Showing rider Louise Bell reflects on a successful summer in both the show ring and the dressage arena
I am not quite sure where the time has gone as my feet don’t seem to have touched the ground for weeks! I have been having an incredible season.
In the showing ring, I'm delighted to say that W Get Smart and I took this year's Supreme Working Hunter title at the Longines Royal International Horse Show. It was a record twelfth time so a great result.
Meanwhile, in the dressage arena, I made my debut representing Great Britain at the Hartpury CDI. I won the Advanced class and was fourth in the Prix St Georges on Into The Blue, while I also had W Get Smart in the Small Tour classes. A great achievement for a rider and two horses that have only been competing in dressage for two years!
Then I had the opportunity to go to Aachen to support Team GB, including my dressage trainer and great friend Michael Eilberg. Wow, that is the best show I have ever been to in my life! Getting to watch the best of the best in action - including world number one Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro - and dreaming one day I can be good enough to ride at Aachen myself. I also got to catch up with my show jumping buddies out there too.
There was a slight panic a week later on my part. Having been so focused on my dressage this summer, I realised I had only left a window of a week to qualify both my horses for HOYS in the Cuddy Working Hunter class – eeek! For once luck was on my side and Into the Blue went champion at Wales and the West and while W Get Smart was champion at the BSPS Championship show..... Phew!
The following week saw my super star Dynamo became crowned National Working Hunter Champion and Supreme Working Hunter at the National Hunter Championships held at Bury Farm. Then as luck would have it, the British Show Horse Association had their championship show and were taking late entries for the HOYS hunter class. So with a last minute entry I trotted off to the show with Dynamo to see if he could qualify for the lightweight hunter class.
When I got there I discovered 23 of the best hunters in the country! I knew I would have had to pull off something special with Dynamo to even get a look in. All I can say is that my horse was perfection and in the evening performance he shone. To my left, Katie Jerram kindly informed me that I got the golden ticket and I was totally and utterly elated! All I can say is that dressage had made my horses so much more rideable than ever before and I'm forever grateful for my training. I feel I learn more every day.
The next big outing was The LeMieux National Dressage championships – and my nationals debut. I was straight in at the deep end - Small Tour and the Saracen Horse Feeds Intermediate I. I have to say that W Get Smart and I loved doing our test. I nearly cried coming down the last centreline, he was such a star. Looking at the judge’s comments and point of view, I have a lot to work on - with 'Watson' not always consistent in the contact - he gets distracted easily. But we did a 'clear round' and just need to spend the winter perfecting it. I was so proud of my horse that a couple of months before was a Working Hunter Champion at Hickstead and now looking like he may well be a dressage champion in the near future! I am a very happy but totally exhausted girl!"
Showjumper Yazmin Pinchen fits in some sightseeing in between showjumping classes in Vienna, and questions whether horses would jump if they didn't love it...
I'm writing this blog on a plane, on the way home from the most incredible week spent in Vienna at the Longines Global Champions Tour. As usual, it was a lovely show, great atmosphere and I learnt a lot. It is always an incredible experience getting to ride at shows like these.
The first day I came fifth in the 1.45m class with Ashkari, then Van de Vivaldi jumped the big class that evening. We tried him in a new bit, which he had been going well in at home, but I guess the atmosphere, the floodlights and all the excitement got too much for him and he took off. It was a bit of a battle all the way round and it did not go to plan at all!
The next day was the Grand Prix, the big 1.60m class that everyone wants to win. My mare Ashkari - known at home as India - warmed up extremely well and I had a good feeling with her. But I rode into the arena feeling so nervous, and proceeded to do the most crazy, stupid thing ever. I took way too many pulls down a line to a wall, and unsurprisingly India came to an abrupt halt four strides away from the fence. I don’t blame her! I had to turn a circle and come back round, I was determined to now jump clear and prove that we were capable and that was just a stupid mistake. And that we did, she jumped amazingly. Never touched a fence, of course I was gutted, but mistakes happen and I will definitely not do that again in a hurry!
On the final day I jumped India in the Vienna Masters which was 1.55m - 1.60m. As she only jumped one round the day before, I felt she could easily jump another class. She jumped her heart out and produced a clear round, so we went into an extremely tough jump-off with all the top riders. I knew I wouldn’t be as quick as them so I made a plan to have a clear and keep it tight. Of course, adrenalin took over and something came over me and we started going faster… It was all too much to and I got way too close to the third fence, an oxer. Bless India, she jumped it, however we didn't clear it. It was totally my fault but we finished nicely, ending in 11th place overall.
In my spare time myself, my family and boyfriend went into the town of Vienna to explore. We even took a horse and carriage ride to see all the sights. We were recommended to go the Spanish Riding School so we ventured there and it was a beautiful building, ancient but elegant. I would love stables like that!
Watching the horses did get me thinking though. It takes years of training to get horses to perform as they do, and this applies to any equestrian sport. Sometimes I get the odd bit of feedback from people who think showjumping is cruel. But I know that horses enjoy jumping, at whatever level, or they would not do it. My horses have their ears pricked forward when they're jumping, and I'd never overjump them, or press them to do something they are not enjoying, because you can tell how a horse is feeling, and sense if they're nervous or tired. I know my horses love jumping, and that is why we get the results we get.
In other exciting news, my new website launched this week. I have a new logo, a new layout and a newsletter that everyone can sign up to. Please have a look and sign up to the newsletter to keep up to date with all my results, travels and news.
I am off to Arena UK tomorrow with six horses, I can't wait to get back to an English show and see old friends - and I'm excited to hear that the Grand Prix will be shown live on Horse & Country! I am aiming to try to qualify for the Horse of the Year Show on a wildcard, so I can jump the international classes at HOYS with Ashkari and Van de Vivaldi. Fingers crossed!