"This week has been really successful - Brian and Bertie completed their first event at Munstead. Bertie came 5th and Tweedy 2nd. Brian was a star and gave me an amazing feel, just a shame he rolled the last show jump and missed out on a placing. All three have matured so much they’ll be aimed at BE 100 next. I was so happy my parents made the trip down from Bury to see our achievements. We went back on Sunday with Bambi who scored a reasonable mark for our first test, then did a double clear to finish 7th in BE 100. I am full of praise for Munstead; it is my first time there, the XC courses were both very straight forward and inviting, the ground was amazing considering the weather recently! It was a luxury to have a huge warm up area for the dressage, so on Sunday I also took the older horses to school, as after a Winter break they can be a little excited but they were all very well behaved.
An added bonus of having a local event meant on the way home I visited Kate Lucas’s yard for the second time this week to gallop Jasper. Having had my entry accepted for Badminton means he will be galloping twice a week from now on if he doesn’t have a run at a competition. Only four weeks to go….!
My visit to Littleton Manor earlier on in the week was to XC school the babies again. As there is also a SJ course available for hire, I made the most of this too. It is very educational with lots of spooky fillers. I was surprised at how brave they are becoming now considering they still haven’t seen that much and compared to the older horses who can be quite spooky! This can certainly apply to Jasper at times, at the moment he is full of the joys of spring! On the other hand Imp is really improving and growing in confidence. Littleton Manor is such a great training centre for all levels, I am so fortunate to have these facilities in my area and will be returning again soon.
Imp has also still been excelling himself in his dressage tests. At Stylebridge on Friday he won the Elementary with 69 percent and won his first Medium test with 68 percent which I was delighted with. Kenny still improves each time he goes out and came 3rd in the Medium just behind Imp. Jasper won another Medium class with 68 percent. I rode him in a double bridle which worked well as he was getting a little strong. I think I’ll use this sometimes and then the Myler snaffle others.
Charlie and Bomber are improving daily, they love riding around the forest. Bomber’s jump is really improving, which is very exciting. They are growing up quickly with all the renovations at the yard and plant machinery around. I’m excited that we are having “soft- track” surfaces put down in the indoor schools and lunge arena. It is so important to have a good surface that will stand up to daily use.
Looking forward to next week, I’m at Somerly with five on Tuesday and Wednesday and then the big boys are at Burnham Market on Saturday. Let’s hope the weather is kind to us."
"I spoke too soon on my last blog and the good weather has been pushed aside by wet, muddy conditions already! Fingers crossed this bout doesn’t last too long and we get some spring sunshine soon.
On Saturday we were all competing at the re-scheduled Hereford Master & Apprentice Competition at Holme Lacey, Hereford. Always a popular competition and a great learning opportunity for apprentices to compete with their ATFs this event incites a real competitive streak amongst many ATFs! It is also nice to see so many family and friends watching too.
Robbie (currently in his first year) and I took part in the first and seond year Shoemaking Class and finished in fourth position out of 34 teams. Harry (currently in his third year) and I took part in the third and fourth year Shoeing Class and finished in third position out of 20. We were very pleased with both results and whatismore both Robbie and Harry will be eligible to compete in the same groups at the next competition as second and fourth years with another year’s experience under their belts! Robbie is now at college for three weeks which leaves Harry and I one man down....
We had one van break down last week which caused some problems and an impromptu diary re-shuffle! We had a couple of late nights and thankfully the van is now back with us with a clean bill of health and we have caught up once more – little things sent to try us but thanks to our customers for being understanding and working with us!
Easter weekend looming and a double bank holiday! However we will be working at the raceyard on Friday and Monday and on duty at the Monmouthshire Point to Point on the Saturday. We shoe for the Hunt and many of its followers so this is always a great opportunity to catch up with customers who we often don’t see during the working week.
With any school holiday there is a flurry of last minute phone calls regarding horses and ponies needing trims and/or shoes before the children want to ride – please do plan ahead wherever possible, we simply can’t fit you all in the week before schools break-up and especially not without any notice! Do try and book in early with your farrier to give as much warning as possible and plan their weeks ahead.
Next week we have a Health & Safety inspection which is required by law when you have apprentices. The forge along with the vans will be inspected to ensure all is up to scratch. We operate a safe working environment and certainly don’t envisage any problems. We will be collating paperwork together this week though and checking the contents of the First Aid boxes – essentially untouched from the last visit although many items have now been replaced as they have passed their ‘expiry’ date. Always seems such a waste to throw away bandages and others items that have not been used and are still in their original sealed packaging.
End of the accounting year means further paperwork (for Claire!) so lots of admin tasks on the ‘to do’ list this month, one of the many joys of being self-employed and an employer!"
Howard gives advice on an amusing range of problems
"Phew! Busy week, but lots of good things! We were at Thoresby Park in Nottinghamshire last weekend and we had a really great time, the weather was a little damp on the Saturday but the sun shone for the second day and the world and his wife came to the Country Fair, an excellent way for a family from any background to spend a Sunday. The dull part is that we were so busy with our Training Clinic that we never got to look around, there’s so much stuff to see and do. Nottinghamshire’s people were just so friendly, we spent a lot of time talking to people about the success and difficulties that they were having with their dogs, some really interesting problems and solutions.
By far the most interesting and unique conversation I had was with a South African lady who wanted some advice as to how to stop her young terrier from charging up to the top of the hills in an attempt to chase the baboons, yep you read it correctly, baboons. There are a couple of things that immediately sprang to mind as the lady mentioned the baboon, firstly, only a Terrier would have the mind set and tenacity to believe that he could take on a Troop of Baboons and secondly no one has ever asked me for advice on how to stop their dog chasing monkeys………..I’m still laughing about it now.
On a serious note it just goes to show the mess that dogs can get themselves into once their prey drive kicks in….there are a lot of people from the equestrian world getting very angry about numerous attacks made on horses by out of control dogs. Teaching our dogs to be steady around livestock is essential, as dog owners we share the countryside with allsorts of other people, livestock and animals and it would be brilliant if we could all just be more responsible towards each other. No one intentionally allows their dogs to become out of control, things escalate really quickly, one minute you are having a quiet country walk with your dog the next your faced with a very serious and dangerous situation.
Writing about this subject makes me feel guilty, but my job means that I have to get directly involved with some of problems that dogs get into. Owning a dog, big or small, is a serious responsibility and commitment and is something no one should take on lightly, teaching our dogs self control and to be steady is essential, put in the time and effort and it’s highly rewarding, neglect this very important aspect of training and you could end up with problems that are a lot more serious than your dog running in on a shoot."
"Well the snow’s melting at last, so maybe we really are getting to spring finally. The birds seem to think so anyway. We have suddenly seen the arrival of all the waders that appear each spring to nest. There seem to be more than usual and we are seeing lots of Lapwings, Oyster Catchers and Curlews, Snipe as well as Black Headed Gulls and the much rarer Red Shanks. The mornings are much lighter now with it light at 5.45am and not dark till about 7pm, and this will soon move to 8pm when the clocks go to British Summertime this weekend. The weather is much warmer but still not spring like, and the grass hasn’t started to grow yet. We have snow drops in abundance but the daffodils are probably still two weeks or more off flowering.
It is lovely to have all the waders here though. It’s not just seeing them flying about or wading around in the marshy fields but the wonderful sound of bird song that fills the sky, especially when one walks down by the river. The lapwings and oyster catchers have particularly beautiful sounding calls, and the curlews make a very haunting whistle that, by May, you can hear through the night as well.
On a more practical note we are making good progress at renovating our three cottages with the first one nearly ready. Amazingly we seem to be still on schedule! I have also managed to find someone to rent the second one now so only one more to go. It has been easier than I had expected, but now that the cottages are taking shape with new kitchens and bathrooms etc it isn’t hard to see why they are in demand, especially with their glen location . I have also managed to let some of my spare grazing to the neighbouring farmer including the use of one of my barns for his cattle. I have come to the conclusion that renting out is far less demanding on my time, and a more reliable source of income that farming too intensively myself. There is only so much one can do in a day!
My sheep flock is continuing to grow with the arrival of the hundred sheep that I bought from a friend in Dumfries. We now have 300 of which 200 are due to lamb in the next few weeks. We are later than the rest of the country as conditions are harsher so we leave it as late as possible to allow the grass to start growing a bit before the lambing starts. This helps the ewes produce more milk and keeps the lambs stronger. If the weather turns cold again and the grass doesn’t grow we have to feed the ewes to compensate, and this costs a lot of money which eats into our already slim margins. I have decided to build the flock to around 400 head which is easily manageable for someone part time. That number puts little or no pressure on the ground which I believe is a much more sustainable way of farming. I can also then sell all my lamb locally.
I am still looking for other ways I can diversify on the estate, and, as we are partly in the Cairngorm National Park I am currently investigating opportunities for outdoor leisure activities such as nature walks or Land Rover safaris for those less able to walk about. We have a lot of interesting bird life on the hill, as well as the waders mentioned earlier, we get Golden Eagles, Ospreys, Peregrines and Black Grouse. We have a lot of visitors to the glen in the summer months and I hope this will provide a potential customers base for this type of activity."
Delboy out for his first 'proper' Advanced Medium test
"With the Winter Championships looming ever closer, we took Delboy (Headmore Delegate) out for a final outing. We left for Merrist Wood at 8:30 on a very rainy Saturday morning, with my Mum threatening to come and watch for the first time in months.
Our first test was a medium and considering Del’s lack of work due to a break following the regionals - the test was quite good. We had a couple of mistakes, as usual they were my fault, but the test flowed well and he stayed soft. I was a little disappointed with a score of 66.5% but it was good enough for a win in a very low scoring class.
His second test was an advanced medium, his first ‘proper’ one. He warmed up better than in the medium and, again, the test flowed well although I didn’t ask for too much power as it was Delboy’s first attempt at the level. The changes happened correctly, in the right place and at the right time, although they were still understandably a bit green, so I was very pleased with that. We scored 70.88% and also won this class, so not a bad effort for his first advanced medium!
We also took Wizard (Wurlizer) to do the Prix St George so we had run through a test before our Young rider season begins. Wizard was very pleased to be out competing again but, thankfully, he managed to keep calm in the test. His way of going was much better and, although we had a few mistakes due to lack of ring practice recently, me and Mum (who had managed to make it) were very pleased with the test. We scored 67.89% and finished second so very pleasing for our first outing of the year."
"I've not had any events this week but it's still been incredibly busy! I've been everywhere, out xc schooling, lessons with Anna and also dressaging at Oldencraig.
Had a good week too, some great lessons at Bury farm, working on my warm ups for the tests, trying to achieve maximum softness and suppleness as quickly as possible. I had my first lesson with Bertie who was excellent; he learns so quickly, I find him so rewarding to train. Can't wait until his first event next weekend. The others were good too, Imp, Jasper and Kenny.
We practised what we'd learnt on Friday at Oldencraig and I was delighted with the results. Imp was 1st and 2nd in his elementaries with 70% and 69%, he is becoming so consistent. This is what slightly worries me that he always gets these scores every time out now but only scored a 38 in his novice test at Poplar with a test as usual!! Kenny was excellent in his 2nd elementary and scored 71% and won, which I was delighted with as he is really settling now. Jasper was consistent too and was just below the winner on 68% in the medium and won the advanced medium so really pleased - he was a little strong in his canter so lost a few marks there but great otherwise.
I went xc schooling locally too, to a very nice course suitable for young horses, Lodge Farm. I took Brian who is a superstar in the making! Very brave and straightforward. This is also true of Bertie who has only had two schools but really developing quickly. Bambi had her first school for a while and was very good, she is a lovely mare. Has a few BE 100s then will upgrade quite quickly I hope. I also took Tweedy and Imp to practise drops, water etc and just steadily popping round is really good for them, especially Imp who needs to relax and be more confident within himself. Definitely a very beneficial schooling session.
I've been working hard on their fitness too, the woods are ideal for this, we hack for over an hour trotting and cantering, they are slimming down and looking much fitter already! I've also been cantering Jasper as the preparations begin for Badminton. Hopefully the weather will continue like this and stay warm and dry so our canter field is great ground for him. I've even been riding in a T-shirt this week, something I've not done for a long time.
Really enjoying having lots of visitors this week, David and Sue Howard, Harry's co owners came down on Saturday which was lovely, we have a very good work experience girl named Leanne who is very helpful! And Sophie's friend Liz also helped us for a couple of days.
The dogs are having an ever increasing spoilt life, they went to the beach Sunday at Hastings which they loved, no end of great walks for them! Those coupled with our bike rides in my Badminton preparation is doing us the world of good."
"This week has gone past so fast. We spend all winter working towards the pending Eventing season and then suddenly it's upon us and then straight into it full speed ahead!
I went XC schooling at Kate Lucas' place (LMEC); very smart, good ground and great jumps. They have quite some set up, with a dressage arena, sj arena, XC course and gallops - lucky girl. However I'm not too far off that either now! It's well worth a visit and school around, there are also many dates for clinics there and I'm hoping to hold some dressage clinics there aswell.
The weather couldn't be any better! Very fortunate but my god we needed it to dry everything out. I've been able to canter the horses in our fantastically large hilly field, especially as Jasper is now in his preparations for Badminton. He feels in great form, looks great too, fit but with more condition than last year. I have a slightly different feed plan from Baileys this year which is really working. This as also true for Kenny too who looks his best ever, really carrying weight and topline and is continuing to do so as his work is stepped up.
I had my first event at Tweseldown with Kenny and Jasper who were both in the Open Intermediate. It was incredibly cold but dry and the ground was impressive. I worked them both before their tests to keep them a little more settled which worked well. Jasper performed a good first test as did Kenny scoring respectable marks.
Jasper jumped a superb clear in the show jumping and was brilliant XC, very relaxed and straight out the start box with no hesitation. He went in a lovely rhythm, was quite keen at the water, launching in and very strong out over a box type fence which I found hilarious as he's usually not like this. He finished 9th. Ken had two down in an otherwise flawless round so was a shame, just the middle parts of the combination. XC again was very good, just a bit strong. Good first event though.
I took the younger horses up to Poplar on Saturday, stayed with my parents the night before, where they are having the kitchen renovated - walls knocked down etc. Will look amazing but I'm glad I moved out when I did, will take six weeks! Funny to be back, very quiet there compared to our busy yard now...
I had Tweedy in the Open Intro, he went brilliantly, 26 dressage and double clear, I had a few time faults as I have no idea how fast to go! We finished third. Amber did a double clear in the novice as did Romeo and Harry in the Open novice. Imp had an annoying, cheeky run out but was me being a little complacent I think. I didn't go that fast as I felt the ground wasn't good enough, in places I thought it was disappointing and slightly deep and loose. All horses were very good for their first event, well behaved and not too excited!
I stayed in Bury on Saturday evening then back home to Kent on Sunday. The dogs made me laugh as they waited by the lorry all morning waiting to go back, they made it clear where they'd rather be..."
“As supporters of Dogs for the Disabled, we were delighted to see the Crufts Friends For Life 2010 competition won by eight year old Sam Daly and his assistance dog Josie.
The pair have been together since Spring 2009 when Sam attended a two week training course with his mum at Dogs for the Disabled’s national training centre in Banbury, and was matched with Josie to give Sam the independence he is losing as a result of having a life-limiting disability.
This recognition highlighted the charity’s work to a wider audience, and, hearing Sam and his mum describe the huge impact the 2 year-old yellow Labrador has made to their lives, it emphasised the role that volunteer socialisers can make to help each puppy successfully follow in Josie’s footsteps.
As for Ruby, I am pleased to say that her season has now finished, and she is fully back into socialising and training exercises. She is quick to learn when in training mode, and equally keen to burn off excess energy when in play mode (today’s picture captures her having just retrieved her Frisbee toy!).
I always appreciate the comments that are regularly posted on the Horse & Country TV web site, and, related to Ruby’s season, wanted to reassure readers that every precaution is taken when exercising her.
By taking short walks in a fenced and secured field (with the land-owners permission) away from the village and with no public access, I always ensure that Ruby is not exposed to risk, walking her on lead from the car to and from that area.
Looking into the future, as well as arranging a visit with our Puppy Co-ordinator, Claire Lush, I am also awaiting confirmation of when Ruby will be brought in to the charity’s kennels for a week of familiarisation.
Each dog in Training is based at the on-site kennels unless they do not settle there easily, in which case they ‘lodge’ with one of the charity’s staff. This initial experience will help Ruby acclimatise, and is part of the puppy programme to complete prior to Ruby entering the next stage of training.
The timing reminds me that Ruby will only be with us for a few more months, and then she will be taking her next steps to being a fully trained assistance dog like Josie.”
"A few weeks ago I was invited to Madrid to meet with a friend, Tom Havenamart. Tom and I have worked on a several food related projects together and recently he has been working with a company called La Organic.
La Organic are producers of organic olive oil and those of you who have read my blog on organic food will know this is not a subject I take lightly. I must admit that here I think I have found a product that is worthy of the organic logo and is true to the purity this badge wants to be know for.
Tom’s family owns a large distribution company, importing and exporting all over Europe, and he has recently taken over the distribution of La Organic in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. La Organic produce Spanish olive oils from the regions of Ronda and Cordoba in the south. Here, the company prides itself in the fact that they select and buy their olives from small artisan farmers that are organic by default. What does this mean? Well, it means that these farmers have been producing olives for many years in the old traditional ways with no chemicals or pesticides because historically they did not have them, so without trying they fall under the organic certification. Farming like this produces a fantastic product, which is good for the environment and encourages traditional farming methods that have been in situ for decades. This in turn helps sustain the history, culture and economy of these rural areas.
Once the olives have been carefully selected, harvesting is timed to within days so that the olives are at their best and ready to give up their gold liquid, prized by people all over the world. Ten types of olive are selected and each type is processed separately. They are mashed and then put into a centrifuge, which spins the olives and allows the oil to be decanted. This is what is known as cold extraction and most virgin olive oils are made this way.
Once the oil has been extracted, the different types are blended like fine wines to give the final product. Much of the process that goes into making La Organic sits in the philosophy of wine making - some years are better than others and the skill of the person that blends the oil can produce some fantastic vintages just as wine can. Unlike wine, olive oil has a shelf-life; the oil can become weakened in flavour and colour just from being kept for too long or from being bottled the wrong way. La Organic is bottled in dark green glass bottles or in cans that minimizes this weakening of the oil, but nevertheless the oil should never be kept in direct sunlight or left open for log periods of time. La Organic Olive oil is a living, breathing, pure product that once bottled needs to be kept safe and treated with respect so that its full flavor and healthy, pure golden liquid will enhance, add balance and enrich the food you eat."
Alifra models one of the foaling alarms used at HFD
"Sunday came and with it operation day. Staff at the Royal Blackburn Hospital were super and I left hospital on Tuesday evening with my new metal eye socket. I looked a bit like shrek with my face feeling like I had overdone the botox - but hey my husband and my horses still love me! Just had a little double vision; we'll see if that goes in a week or two - either way I am on the road to recovery with eyesight and all four limbs working.
Thankyou for your reassuring comments on my blog, it is a very comforting feeling when you recieve support ,especially from the lady who had the same procedure, it lifts the spirits. Thanks to Jen from Devon (Elton hfd's new owner - by the way thanks for the update on Elton's lovely new home) and Margaret C. xxxxx
On Tuesday I had a little hack on Mooiman, naughty I know but he is a good boy and I just needed to sit on my horse. Plus he is nominated for Saumur at the end of April, so now is not the time to be climbing into my sick bed.
Alifra hfd (Obelisk x Jazz) and Samantha hfd (Ulster x Apalatin) are getting close to foaling with both due around the 24th of March. Alifra hfd is begining to what we call 'bag up' - this is when the mare's udder begins to fill with milk ready for when her foal is born. The size of the bag varies considerably; some have lots of milk and some much less. Some mares bag up and foal in a matter of hours while some mares bag up for weeks so it does not necesserily mean that foaling is imminent, it does mean however that we need to be paying attention to the foaling cameras, so from now until all the foals are safely on the ground we will be watching the CCTV throughout the night. Brian will have the odd nap while I take over for an hour or two when he needs to close his eyes...but really Brian is quite amazing as he manges to sleep like our pooches cat napping here and there, and some how managing to get sufficient sleep in a 24 hour period.
On Thursday Samantha hfd follows suit with bagging up, so the CCTV flicks every five seconds form one to the other. It's a little like having a traffic light in the bedroom, but well worth the effort. A few years ago we had more than an average incidence of 'red bag syndrome' births - a conditon where the foal bag comes first depriving the foal of oxgen during birth. Samantha hfd was one of these foalings so Brian and I had to act very quickly to get the foal out. The foal was born with a blue tongue and not breathing but nasal CPR brought life into the foal. But one of our breeders was not so lucky - we recived a call for help in the early hours of the morning and headed out into the night to their place in pyjamas but sadly we were too late, so we take foaling attendance very seriously.
As a back up to CCTV, we fit the mares with foaling alarms. We use two types - one is a neck strap which works on moisture detection and triggers the most irritating alarm which goes off in our bedroom but can be heard all around the house. The second alarm works from a surcingle that activates the land line or mobile phone - a little like your mare calling you up on the phone to tell you she's foaling. Both give you a very good back up to the CCTV.
The mares benefit from a little turn out. Even though our foaling bays are huge - around the size of three average stables offering lots of room for roly poly mares to get down - it is important to facilitate the mares' urge to roll as when mares approach foaling, part of the process involves the foal getting into what we call 'birthing position.' The mares' part in this process is to get up and down rolling and wriggling helping to reposition the foal and making herself more comfortable in the process.
Turn out does have its down side. Some mares just inisist on going back to nature and get on with it in the field, so a vigilant eye to has to kept on them when so close to giving birth. Dealing with foaling problems in the middle of a field is not a good option; if we feel one of the ladies is starting to get itchy feet, we get them in their playtime is cut short.
There seems to be quite a lot of interest in the Ampere foal. I've just recieved a picture of one his first foals for 2010 born in the USA. He is a nice model, already showing a strong frame and super top line, so we are very excited. Alifra hfd is an exceptionlly bred mare with a good predicate.
It's now the 18th of March and Alifra hfd has been waxed up for two days now. Some mares wax within the hour and some keep us on red alert for days, as is the case here. Sam also looks set to pop, so here's to another long night and I hope to introduce the foals in the next blog!"