H&C's web editor Victoria has some pet hates while driving around in her little horsebox...
"What is it about horseboxes that brings out in the worst in other drivers? I'm not the happiest of drivers when I'm tootling round in my little horsebox, worrying the whole time about the precious cargo in the back, but some other road users seem to make it as difficult as possible.
What they don't seem to realise is that 'going slow' does not equate with 'able to stop quickly'. So many times I'll see a driver at a junction who sees me coming in the horsebox and will suddenly shoot out right in front of me, unable to bear the thought of going slowly for more than a second. Worst still was the driver who did this, then indicated and then just parked up about 100m along the road, meaning I had to brake twice in quick succession.
Then there's the ones who won't let you pass first in a narrow road, so again you have to brake - something which isn't easy when you're trying to give your horse a smooth a ride as possible. I even had one woman in a little car who refused to reverse back to let me pass on a country lane - more because she couldn't do it rather than out of stubbornness - meaning I was forced to reverse in the lorry instead, while she sat there looking blank.
Nor are we able to race off at roundabouts, or at junctions. Coming out of the lane next to my yard last week, I have about 60m of visibility either side of the junction. I look both ways, then commit to turning right out of the junction, but as I cross the road a motorcyclist comes flying round the corner and has to slow down fractionally. He looks at us in disgust and shakes his head... Seemingly unable to comprehend that a) the road was empty when we set off across it and b) our psychic road skills are sadly lacking. So he had to slow down coming round a blind bend - what a hardship.
Finally, there's the drivers who sit right behind you, tailgating your ramp, blatantly furious as having to go slightly slower than they want to. Apologies, fellow road users. Perhaps you could invent some kind of equine teleportation device and the problem will be solved? Until then, please give us horsebox drivers a break - and remember we can't slam on the brakes like you can."
Chloe Spencer from Berkshire has written to us about the benefits of having lessons from several different trainers.
"Training is a bug. It’s highly contagious, but - unlike most nasties you can catch - this is a good one! Addictive, inspiring, educational... A really good training session, one where you and your horse actually improve, can be very exciting.
Whether you are learning from a friend who helps you every day, or a top international trainer, a pair of eyes on the ground can be just the ticket. Often all they are doing is spotting a problem you may have been unaware of, but sometimes they can provide you with a new way of dealing with an old problem. Either way the result is usually a positive improvement.
I’ve heard many trainers talk of the schooling ‘tool kit’. You wouldn’t try to wire a plug without a screwdriver, or put up a picture without a hammer. Why then would you try to school a horse without having all the right tools in the box before you start? I’m not talking about whips, spurs and scary bits. I’m talking about learning ‘what to do when’. Different trainers will come up with different tools, which is why there are so many trainers out there. If there was only one way of doing it, we’d all be learning from the same person. But every horse is different, and every rider even more so, which is why learning from as many different people as possible can in itself be a good training technique.
The key to this method is knowing what to take from each person. I’m sure I am not alone in having received opposite instructions from two different trainers. On closer examination I found that they weren’t telling me to do the same thing in different ways, they were giving me two different ways to approach the same problem.
The improvement in your riding and the way your horse moves is so exciting. It sets you on the next part of the journey. I always think of it as a series of leaps and plateaus, where you go up very fast, learn slowly for a while, then make another leap, and so on. Each of those leaps gives you the motivation to work through the plateau. Just remember - those plateau stages can be very long and sometimes very trying!"
Would you like to write a one-off blog for H&C? Is there a topic in the horseworld that you really want to rant about? Something you want to get off your chest? Is there some aspect of horse-ownership that really makes you laugh? We'd love to hear from viewers who want to write a one-off guest blog post about everything and anything. Send a max of 400 words to email@example.com, and we'll choose the very best to use on our site.
Our blogger, dressage rider Alice Oppenheimer, is getting back to normal after her leg injury. Find out what she's been up to in her latest blog post...
"With my leg on the mend it was back to our normal routine on the yard. We were looking forward to Addington Manor Premier League, especially as I had missed some of my classes at Keysoe.
Before the Premier League, we had another trip to Addington for the Equine Pathway viewing day. Although Del (Headmore Delegate) has been on it for the past few years it runs on an Olympic cycle so everyone was being re-assessed. We were also taking Socs (Tantoni Sir Socrates) as he had been selected for the viewing day. It was quite a good run through for the Premier League as both horses had to do the test they were entered for at the show, and I was pleased with how both horses went. Socs did a nice clear round and Del was massively improved, we just had a few mistakes as he hadn’t been to a show for a while. We are just waiting to hear the results...
We then made the journey back to Addington with Socs for another practice of the International Six-Year-Old class. Although he had qualified at Keysoe, he is quite short of mileage so we wanted to take him to another Premier League. He warmed up really well but we didn’t know that they were running a bit late so he had gone slightly off the boil by the time we made it into the arena. Nevertheless, we were pleased with him and he finished fourth in a big class, he is definitely going the right way.
We went back to Addington again the following day with Del for the Grand Prix. It was only his third test at the level so I was just hoping to get round. The weather was not looking too great; there were some very heavy showers and rather black skies. Erik Theilgaard (my trainer) was there to help me warm up and Del felt mega, although we had decided to not go flat out as we wanted to give him confidence. I was thrilled with the test, there was just a slight mistake on the final centre line where Del offered me too much - but overall we were delighted with him. I was even more thrilled when we were awarded a score of 69.2% to finish fourth behind Michael Eilberg, Carl Hester and Judy Harvey.
We also took Robin (Headmore Dirubinio) and Mischief (Tantoni White Mischief) to Quob for the Shearwater Young Dressage Horse qualifiers. As Socs and Tank (Headmore Wimoweh) had already qualified, we were hoping to get Robin and Mischief done so we could stop worrying about that show. Despite the rather disgusting and unseasonal wet and cold weather, both horses went very well and we were thrilled with them. Robin won the Four-Year-Olds with the highest mark of the day and Mischief also won the Five-Year-Olds so both are now qualified for Hartpury. One show down!
We also have some exciting news; Socs has been invited to the Young Horse World Championship Viewing Trials at Wellington Premier League. In addition, we have had our first two new arrivals, a pair of twins, one lovely chestnut filly and one lovely chestnut colt, both with a white face and four white legs by Florencio and out of Bracks (Headmore Boadicia). Any suggestions for names would be gratefully received, they have to begin with an F!"
"My season with the Osborne Scurry Group kicked off in usual style at the Carriage Driving Fair. It’s the country's biggest one-day carriage fair with demonstrations throughout the day from all carriage driving disciplines, including my scurry competition. With loads of fantastic equestrian trade stands I took time out between the competitions for some well earned retail therapy (I narrowly resisted the temptation of a new carriage and harness!) and had a wonderful lunch in the food court that this year, for a change, was bathed in lovely warm sunshine for superb dining al fresco.
Ok, so I finished in last place, but I was thrilled to bits with that. Why? My new Pony Carlo, who is to be the new “Touch” in my well known pony pair “Touch & Go”, had only been with me for six weeks and had never driven indoors, but he was totally brilliant. With all the loud music and cheering crowds, in the first round he was understandably a bit hesitant - he didn’t like the bright red car parked in the corner of the arena as advertising one bit (that made two of us!) but by the last round (we did four) he was like a seasoned professional. So I am very excited for the coming season now.
Next on my scurry agenda was the training day at Ryefields Farm, which is the Osborne Refrigerators practice, training and a pre-season party. It was great fun and I went along to help a new driver Harriett Barker who lives near me as she’s starting to scurry this year. Her pair are called “Bob & Weave”. Go Harry!
Jeff Osborne cooks a BBQ in a huge barn for us all and this year, for afters, he did toasted marshmallows. I think he used a flame thrower! But they tasted amazing, if a bit gooey!
The day after the party it was on to the Family Fun Day at Southsea, Portsmouth. My first chance to put Carlo through his paces outdoors in a huge flat arena, and he was great, again a bit hesitant in the first round but confidence was building all day, and I can't wait for the HOYS qualifiers to start. I also took Carriagehouse Insurance “Rough & Tumble” along and they picked up where they left off last season, they were incredibly fast, winning the first heat and coming second in the next heat.
So a good day was had by all? Well till we left for home it was! On leaving the showground in the horsebox, we were immediately stuck in traffic, so just as I am climbing through from the cab into living to get my iPhone out of my coat pocket to do some Facebooking, Paul sees a gap in traffic, puts his foot down and catapults me through the cut through like a bullet out if a gun! I land on the folding stool, it doesn't fold, so I do a front somersault landing flat on my back feet near the horse area door completely winded. Eventually I stand up and then realise the stool had dug into me while I was hurtling over it. Oops and ouch, broken rib!
Oh well as long as its okay for Surrey County at the end of May I’m really not bothered as the ponies are going so well and the good thing is that wine helps with the pain!"
Anna and Diaghilev finishing 10th in the Longines King George V Cup at Hickstead
"First of all, to each and everyone of you who reads my blog, follows me on Facebook or Twitter, a big thank you. I have been having a tough time with the horses and it is wonderful to know I have so many people supporting me.
The year had started so brilliantly. Competing on the tours in Portugal and Spain were fantastic, but when I arrived home I received a major blow that I wasn't expecting - and that was the removal of my top horse Diaghilev from my yard.
This has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through, and I have been so upset by this. My confidence as a whole has really been affected and so has my enthusiasm for the sport.
Without the support of my amazing partner Matt, my always supportive Mum, Dad and family, I really feel I could have hit rock bottom. Confidence is one of the keys to life, and over the last month I have really struggled. Before now I have been unable to write my blog, as I am still struggling to come to terms with everything that has gone on. It just proves in life you never know what is around the corner.
I look to the future and know it is going to be hard to rebuild and produce another horse to the level I had reached with Diaghilev. Blazer B is a very good horse but he does have some very big shoes to fill - especially as he has Unique's (my first international superstar) success to follow as well!
Slowly I am finding my feet again. I am getting to a few shows but it is very difficult to start the whole journey again. Everyone who knows me personally knows the inner drive I have to succeed and know how much I wanted this to be my year. Trouble is, things in life never go directly to plan (this is what I am learning) and my fate lies with another horse to get me to the top of the showjumping rankings.
Hopefully the next few months hold some nice surprises and good results. I have now changed the goal of the year to qualifying Blazer for the famous Foxhunter championship at Horse of the Year Show.
"Some riders are good at the whole technology thing. They have websites, twitter pages, Facebook fan sites, and they actually update them (or persuade a nice PR lady to do it for them). Others are far too busy riding and competing to go near a computer, and wouldn't know a smart phone if it bit them!
But US event rider Doug Payne falls firmly in the former camp. We love this video he's made of his horse Running Order, who started life in Ireland as a racehorse trained by Enda Bolger, and ended up eventing at four-star level. Doug shows you the horse's transformation, from early first attempts at dressage and jumping, to advanced level eventing. It's a fascinating glimpse of how a professional produces a horse, showing you his career path in just 18mins.
The horse is now over here in the UK, being ridden by William Fox-Pitt.
If you’ve ever walked around the cross-country course at Badminton you’ll know just how fear-inducing those massive fences are. Anyone brave enough to jump it is, in our minds slightly mad and totally heroic.
But at least the competitors last weekend had a talented horse between their legs helping them to get to the other side if the jumps.
What we are witness to here is one man’s mission to throw himself over the fences, minus the (we think) essential horse component. It’s not eventing, but it’s certainly very impressive and gives a unique perspective on one of the world’s toughest cross-county tracks.
The man in question is 22-year-old Mat Armitage from Basingstoke who is part of 3Run; a professional performance team which combines the latest urban craze of parcour and free running (where people use only their bodies to propel themselves over obstacles) with martial arts and acrobatics.
Mat doesn’t quite manage a clear round – that distinctly looks like a run out at the skinny hedge after the steps up at fence 22 – but at least he returns home in one piece.
"Don't live in pity - I don't want pity - I want people to enjoy life like me." Barbara Angel, who has fought breast cancer, had a mastectomy and is still undergoing chemotherapy, completed the Badminton Horse Trials Grassroots Championships last weekend. Watch her inspiring video message above.
Our roving reporter Jenny Rudall has been at Badminton all weekend, filming for 'Rudall's Round-Up: Badminton' and 'Badminton: A Rider's View', starring Francis Whittington and sponsored by Saracen Horse Feeds. Watch her final video blog reflecting on a brilliant three-day event.