"I see that one of my readers out there recommends being cool, calculated and commercial when it comes to raising and selling horses. Well, if you could bottle that you’d be rich. This is all good advice, but the difficulty lies in getting the calculus right, because the functions that young horses plot are not always predictable.
The fact is that you have to make choices: you can’t keep them all, and that means deciding which ones to sell, and how. There are a number of ways to go about selling young horses, and they all have plusses and minuses.
For instance, we have just received an approach from a professional riding school called Les Ecuries des Elfes Blancs. I have to try to do business with these people because of the name, if for no other reason. Located near Toulouse, les Elfes Blancs have a programme of “formation professionelle” that involves a lot of Lipizzaners, (the elves, I guess). As they have 40 students, all of whom need to have an advanced horse and a youngster, they option in three year-olds from a number of sources and use them in the school for a year. If they like the horse, they will buy it from you; if they don’t, they’ll sell it for you.
Sounds like a pretty good deal, although giving someone an option on an asset that may appreciate in value is rarely the best way to capture the highest price! Nevertheless, this might be a good alternative to the carrying costs for an animal you think it mediocre, and at least results in some commercial outcome.
The classic way of selling a young horse is by auction. In a typical example of the tax tail wagging the business dog, most breeders in France sell their youngsters at three, because that’s when they are fully depreciated on the balance sheet. I know this sounds goofy, but under French tax law your breed stock goes on the balance sheet as depreciable assets. A foal is capitalized at its production cost, and depreciated over the next three years. This means that if he’s sold at three, the breeder has a tax-free gain equal to the selling price.
The problem with auctions, however, is that they are usually accompanied by food and drink. This is France, after all. And, as with all events that involve food and drink, things get more interesting after the third or fourth bottle of wine. It’s all the luck of the draw, I suppose, but I feel sorry for the seller whose fabulous colt or filly comes up first in the bidding before the crowd has had a chance to warm up. I haven’t attended that many auctions, but in my experience justice is rarely done.
I suppose the main alternative is private sale. I am convinced this is the best way to get the best price for your stock and build a reputation. It does of course involve more work… Better get that web site up and start making contacts."
Howard holds this dog's attention despite the distractions around her
“All this beautiful weather has meant that we have had to alter our training areas and times; black Labradors and bright, hot sunshine are not conducive to alert, enthusiastic pupils - not to mention the heat resistance of the trainer.
Appropriate classroom choice is an essential part of dog trainers’ skills. Overheated pupils are very unlikely to be at their best - woodland rides and shady areas as well training dogs in the late evening are some of the changes that we have made to our normal routines.
While avoiding the sunshine is pretty much common sense, it is essential that you ensure that the many factors that might influence your pupil’s concentration are taken into consideration when you’re training. Experienced trainers can hold a dog’s concentration in most environments, but this will prove to be more difficult if you are still learning the trade.
We teach the Dog Training Module to the Game Keeping students from Sparsholt College. Following on from five classroom sessions at the college, the students spend a week with us putting the classroom stuff into practice. These young people are destined to pursue careers around the world as gamekeepers, deer managers, park rangers, big game hunters and wardens.
Working with these guys is brilliant, because it’s highly likely that most of them will use dogs as part of their work and terriers, retrievers, spaniels, tracking and guard dogs will all need basic training, besides the specialist work. To get the best from their dogs, an understanding of dog training will be essential.
Maintaining a positive attitude has got to be a good thing. While chatting to a delightful lady about some of the problems she was having with her dog, the lady announced: “He’s nine-years-old and always used to be about six fields away when we were on a walk, but I’m really pleased - I seem to have got it down to about three fields now.” Priceless!”
Gloria receives her award and meets new celebrity friends
“Last week, one of our second year students celebrated being crowned ‘Freedom Food Student Chef of the Year’.
Gloria Ford beat off stiff opposition to design a four course menu for the 15th Anniversary of Freedom Food. The menu had to include recipes, a presentation, costings and evidence of research - as well as an explanation of why she had chosen to include certain ingredients or why she’d sourced them from particular farms.
The Freedom Food Campaign was set up by the RSPCA in an effort to improve the welfare of farmed animals. Since it began in 1994, the campaign has tackled issues such as stock densities, fast growing breeds and the lack of environments that allow animals to carry out their normal behaviour.
Freedom Food has worked hard with farmers to set out standards for nine of the species groups farmed in the UK. These standards tell us, as a consumer, that the food we buy and eat has been cared for and farmed to the highest level of animal husbandry, taking into account each species and its needs.
Farmed Salmon, laying hens, chickens, pigs and cattle are some of the species covered by these standards. The Freedom Food emblem not only gives us the assurance of a quality product, but of farming best practice and the peace of mind that the meat and fish we buy has been farmed with the animal’s quality of life paramount.
We should ask about where our food comes from and how it is cared for. We should be bothered about it. Food has a story to tell, which covers its production and harvest before it gets anywhere near our tables. I have the upmost respect for the Freedom Food campaign and the farmers that work within the Freedom Food standards.
The idea of the ‘Freedom Food Student Chef of the Year’ competition was to expose students to Freedom Food and the RSPCA’s welfare standards used by the scheme. It highlights how important animal husbandry and welfare is - not only for them as a consumer, but also for their customers. Gloria’s menu was:
Carpaccio of British rose veal,
Scottish salmon raviolo
Rump of Spring lamb
Elderflower and orange panna cotta
She used meats and fish from Freedom Food approved farms and did a fantastic job of showing the quality of the products. Last Wednesday, Gloria was asked to recreate her menu at a lunch to celebrate her success and to demonstrate her cooking prowess. Special guests such as food writer and broadcaster Henrietta Green and ex-student of the college and celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thomson came, as well a many other guests involved with Freedom Food .
The lunch was a great success and Gloria was centre of attention as she collected her prizes. She will have one of her recipes published in a book along side celebrity chefs and go on a study trip to see farming to RSPCA welfare standards in action.
My congratulations to Gloria and to Freedom Food for enriching our students on the great work they and their approved farms do.”
Adam is looking forward to the pitter patter of tiny pigs
"Following on from my blog our our rare breed pigs a few weeks ago, we have made a good association with Lambournes butchers in Stow on the Wold, who are starting to sell our rare breed meat. For us, this cuts out the price risk of an open market and the slaughter house and butcher are very local.
Our Gloucestershire Old Spot pork and sausages are in high demand, so we need more breeding sows. I decided to keep six gilts (young females) for breeding from one of my good litters, but that means I need an unrelated boar as all I have is their father.
This week, I went out and bought a lovely ten-month-old Gloucester boar from Malcolm Hicks, near Coventry. He has one of the largest herds of Gloucesters in the country and wins most of the big shows. My dad's theory was that if you're going to buy in stock, you may as well buy really good animals that will produce young to be proud of and particularly males, as they are genetically half your herd. I stick to these wise principles and have got myself a lovely example of the breed.
My gilts are still a little young to breed from, so speed the piglet process up I have bought two 15-month-old sows that are ready to to conceive and give birth in three months, three weeks and three days - the gestation period of a pig. Roll on the porkers for the butcher and some income from my investment."
"This week began with a trip to the gallops for Joe (Jorrocks Curtis), Beanie (Breeze IV) and Dave (Mightaswell). I also had Bob (Good Sport II) and Jasper (Tankers Town) on board, as I had decided that they could go for a swim. Jasper is much fitter than Bob so he did four laps, came out and then did a further three laps while Bob swam three and then two laps. I prefer them to come out and go back in again as it works their lungs harder.
On Tuesday, I schooled Bob (who will soon be entered for his first event - very exciting), Jasper and Harry (Azeb), before teaching Sarah and Angela, who had both won lessons through my sponsor, Bucas, in association with Your Horse magazine. Both the lessons went very well and it is always rewarding teaching people that are keen. I had some lessons myself with John Thelwall. We worked on my position and use of the aids and, for the horses, we focussed on combining softness and energy. They all jumped well - especially considering that they had all gone to the gallops the previous day. I then went out for a bike ride – something I enjoy doing to improve my fitness.
The following day, I was up early as wanted to ride as many horses as possible before going to the Suffolk show. The horses were good to school; we were practising for the weekend as most of them are going to Brigstock. I left at one o'clock for the Suffolk show with Jasper and Bruno (Ultimate Opposition) – they were both jumping the Foxhunter. I find this show is so good for them because there is a tremendous atmosphere, so it’s not dissimilar to the big events. It’s also an excellent means of working with the atmosphere of a competition, but without the pressure. The course was up to height and both horses jumped great clear rounds – there were only five clears of which I had two, so I was very pleased. Jasper was fantastic and won the class and Bruno came fifth. It was a good result and we won a nice trophy!
On Thursday, I was up at 5.30am for the Suffolk show again with the same horses and Kenny (Kenny), who I was taking to work as an exercise for getting used to the atmosphere. Jasper and Bruno were in the 1m25, which had hot competition and the course was up to height. Both horses jumped fantastic clears in the first round and when I saw the standard of the jump off, I was not sure my horses were used to the speed and turns. They both tried their hearts out and jumped clear – Jasper fifth and Bruno sixth - not bad for an eventer! I schooled Kenny, who was quite calm and seemed to enjoy the atmosphere. I then left for the gallops and took Bruno up a couple of times – he feels very good and is getting much quicker. I was back home for 2.30pm and I rode Harry, who was great; Dave, who seems ready for his XC on Saturday; and Bob, who was surprisingly calm jumping. I then packed my gear up – we’re off to Brigstock for three days!
Friday started early, as I was off to Brigstock with Harry, Romeo (Romeo X) and Dave. The sun was shining and I felt we were in for a seriously hot day! I walked the courses and all looked good, if a little stiff (especially the 2*). The ground had been aerated and was good but I imagine after three days of competing, it will get quite firm. Romeo did his usual brilliant test for a 29. Harry was a little strong but generally very good - with the exception of a spook when another competitor came right next to my arena – very unsporting! He was slightly down the order after the dressage. Dave, however, did a great test in the CIC 2* and was fifth after the dressage (46). Romeo was brilliant and did a double clear in the Novice to win the section and Harry also did a double clear for fifth, so a very good day. We didn't get back until 9pm amd still had to pack the lorry for the next day.
On Saturday, I left at 8.15am with Dave who was competing and Beanie, Jasper, Joe and Kenny to work. The day was another seriously hot one from early on and I forgot to put on sun cream and now I am paying for it! I watched a few of the 2* competitors go XC and saw several problems on the course. I think there were also plenty of experienced horses in the section too. Dave set off XC very well and jumped the difficult combinations with class. Unfortunately, there was a combination of five elements that gave me 20 penalties jumping off a drop to a triple brush – he didn't run out, just never really locked on. He finished the course, again with class. It’s disappointing, though, that with 20 penalties he now doesn't count for a qualification. We show jumped afterwards and he jumped the best round so far ever – a brilliant clear so I am really pleased as he'll have come on a lot from this experience. I worked the others – they were all very good so I had my fingers crossed for Sunday's competition.
I had an 8.30am dressage slot on Sunday. I had five horses in the Intermediate: Joe, Beanie, Kenny, Jasper and Bruno. The boys all did good tests (Jasper and Bruno were in the Advanced Intermediate). Nevertheless, I was even more impressed with their show jumping – Joe had one down, but the others jumped clear so one down in eight rounds this weekend was very exciting! Kenny had a class round except a stop at the water, which proved very influential on both days – it was a spooky water with a roll top off a turn and up a slope, which meant that they couldn't see the water until they took off, hence the problems. Joe was clear but a little strong at times as he had not run for four weeks. Beanie was brilliant and clear and fast for third, Jasper was as good as ever (and great through the start box!) for seventh, and Bruno just got 1.6 time faults for sixth.
So all in all it was a very good week!"
The chestnut Made in Semilly filly, with the more attractive Jarnac filly
“It’s fascinating to watch the foals and young horses develop, and see all the stages they go through along the way. Because I don’t see them frequently, I sometimes notice amazing changes from one visit to the next.
The old hands say you should look at a horse at three days, three months and three years, and ignore everything in between. I am starting to see the wisdom of that because they go through some very awkward stages.
First, your gorgeous, furry foal with the doe-like eyes and tiny little feet starts to lose his baby coat. Effectively, they molt and go all blotchy for a while. Later in the summer they get their real coat through and look a bit more together, but that can take a while.
Then they start to grow in some weird and wonderful ways. Usually the hind end comes up ahead of the forehand, and your youngster is seriously upside down for a period. The bigger ones tend to suffer from this. Lunanime’s 2007 foal by Jumpy des Fontaines looked like a complete cart-horse for two years, and now is suddenly starting to come into his own, so much so that we’ve left him entire this year because he could turn out to be a real cracker.
Of course, looks aren’t everything. I have three two-year-old fillies that say it all: one is a Tinka’s Boy, and anyone who knows what Tinka’s Boy looks like could pick this filly out in a line-up. She is exactly the same color, has exactly the same bit white blaze down just the lower part of her face, and moves exactly the same way. Problem is, she’s a bit of an idiot. Perhaps she’ll get it together, but the worry is that she’s got all the goods physically, but lacks the headgear – “le mental” as they say in France – to really be competitive.
Then there’s the Jarnac filly. She’s Hela’s foal from two years ago, and she was a bit light when she was born, then started to turn into a proper gazelle. Almost black, beautiful head - she’s a real looker. But she has surprisingly little talent and isn’t a particularly good mover, with no intelligence at the obstacle. Unlike the Made in Sémilly filly, who is all business, has legs that just won’t quit, and a real killer instinct. Problem is, she’s turned in at the front and is, as Henry James once said of George Elliot, “spectacularly ugly”.
Oh well. No prizes for guessing which ones are going to be the easiest to sell. I suppose we’d better get used to having the Made in Sémilly chestnut around for a while.”
“Well, summer seems to be here at last – even if only for a few days. Actually, I hate to say it, but we could really do with some rain.
In the vegetable garden, we’ve been mostly weeding. The broad beans are doing well and the peas are coming away. The runner beans that were started in the greenhouse are already shimmying up the canes but the direct sown ones have yet to make an appearance. Our gooseberries and redcurrant have fallen victim to sawfly and had a spray of derris. The redcurrant has almost no leaves left – and that happened almost overnight. Still, it has set plenty fruit, as have the gooseberries.
I picked up our Hubbard meat chicks on Saturday from Jamesfield Organic Centre, near Abernethy. It’s the first time I’ve been there and I was sorry I hadn’t taken any cash. The centre sells all manner of organic produce in a purpose built shop. Much of what it sells is grown on the land around it, and the folk also produce ducks, guinea fowl, turkeys and geese for meat, plus organic eggs. I’m going to buy some point of lay pullets there next time I need some.
We’re keeping ten Hubbards this time. They will be ready for slaughter at about ten to 12 weeks. I’m going to “dilute” the pellets with mixed corn this time to try to slow the growth down a bit. It’s hard to believe that these tiny bundles of fluff will be fully grown in a few weeks. They will have a heat lamp until they are feathered at three weeks or so, but I switched it off for a while this afternoon as they were all sunbathing.
The pigs moved into their second pen today to let the first one recover a bit. The grass in the new pen is so long, sometimes all we can see is moving stems to show where the pigs are. They will soon eat it down.
The sheep are on the third quarter of the field. The first quarter is starting to recover – but a bit of rain would certainly help. The worm test that we did last week came back as “medium” so I’ll worm them with Verm X this week then retest to check that it is working. They are feeling the heat and the new shed has been a godsend, allowing them to lie in shade at the middle of the day. They will get such a shock when their fleeces come of at the end of the month.”
John is keen to demonstrate how good fishing is for children
“At last, the new season of filming for H&C TV is about to rock ‘n’ roll. It’s been a long wait getting everything into place, but I think that we’ve come up with some good ideas.
Examining how fishing has helped change the life of youngsters in the North East, looking at the rebirth of the Thames with Martin Salter, revisiting the stamping grounds of my youth in the North West and seeing exactly how things have changed are all in the mix. Of course, for the ardent angler there’ll be lots of tips, information and action: these are fishing films after all.
But there is a secondary objective; what we’re trying to show is exactly where fishing fits into the architecture of the countryside. It’s my view that angling is a positive force for good within society; just as with any other field sport, people are actually ‘better’ if and when they go fishing. Fishing brings a peace and a serenity most activities just can’t match.
And, of course, without anglers there is nobody really to look after fish. It’s not just selfishness; anglers love fish and they care about fisheries. Anglers truly are the guardians of the stream and, hopefully, this series will go some way to proving that.
On most of the programmes, I’ll be linking up with director ‘Nige the Hat’. We’ve worked together off and on for two decades, and if anyone can make both filming and the end product fun, it’s Nige.
But where did he get that hat?”
"I love May! Last night, my friend Hilary Miles arrived to stay. Hilary is going to look after my horse, Pie, on the tour - those white legs take a lot of keeping clean! With Katie Gormley and Rosie Jones here too, it felt just like Pony Club Camp as we ran through our various ideas about what `our boys' should do on tour. I must say, Rosie's doing some amazing things with Caesar now. After Pie's Royal Windsor win this month, I'm not sure if he thinks he should just `make an appearance' and then hang out to sign a few autographs!
As usual, I'm paranoid about the safety and comfort of the boys on the trip. Colic can be a worry when travelling and I've got some good tips from Monty [Roberts] - giving them electrolytes and not letting them pick at strange grass comes to mind. Luckily Hilary, a former veterinary nurse, feels just as strongly about things as Monty and I do, and she emailed me some helpful advice before she arrived:
Had a chat with my vet as promised yesterday, and he suggested putting Pie onto probiotics. Protexin is the best – either the paste or the granules. They both work well but I would take granules for travelling. He needs to be on the level recommended for stress.
The probiotics along with the electrolytes should keep him comfortable if it is only a gassy colic.
I will bring my nursing kit with me (super stethoscope to listen to gut sounds, etc) and Ben, the vet, said he would be happy to be on the end of the phone while we’re away for advice.
See you soon.
Love Hilary xx"
I think this should just about cover things - you would think we were travelling to Japan or something. The longest journed is only four hours, but it's better to be safe than sorry."
Howard was surprised by some of the handlers at Burghley
“We took a team of dogs to the Living Heritage Country Fair at Burghley this weekend. One of the demonstration arenas that we ‘worked’ was situated with Burghley House as a backdrop - a truly spectacular house, which made me feel a little insignificant as I attempted to hold the concentration of an audience against this imposing building.
We ran training classes throughout the weekend and got to see every breed type you could imagine ranging from a pug to an American bulldog. Interestingly, the pug came in to do one of our assessments and was just amazing. The lady owner was an extremely competent dog handler and gave us what really was an obedience demonstration.
Watching a tiny little pug, which are not the breed you would normally expect to deliver such a high class performance, was proof that with patience and the correct handling skills almost anything can be achieved. My hat goes off to that lovely lady and it goes without saying that they gained a Distinction in the assessment.
Another gentleman that broke the stereotype came in with the physique of a power lifter accompanied by the tiniest of terrier puppies. To be honest, I expected a heavy handed approach to his dog handling, but was wrong again. He was sensitive, gentle, precise, superb, unexpected and a pleasure to watch.
Changing the subject altogether, I have been working with a gentleman and his working cocker spaniel, Sky, for about four months. Basic obedience, retrieving and hunting have gone extremely well and, following a couple of weeks hunting over heavily scented ‘rabbit ground’, we decided to give Sky her first retrieve on cold game. We have spent time using canvas dummies, tennis balls and fur covered dummies to ensure that she experienced as many textures ,shapes and sizes as possible in preparation for the move up to game.
For some dogs, this transition is very straight forward and in their excitement to retrieve they simply rush out and pick up whatever they are sent for. We choose a small rabbit for Sky and she rushed out to collect it, took one sniff and rushed back to her handler.
This is not unusual and if you experience this small technical hitch just stay calm, encourage the dog by baiting them with it and just throw the retrieve a short distance, gently encouraging the dog to retrieve. As expected, Sky nuzzled and sniffed but after several attempts picked up the rabbit and brought it back to her really pleased handler, who took another step towards Sky becoming the shooting companion of his dreams.”