Thursday, 18 August 2016

Tari's progress

Oops, haven't posted for a while, we've been busy with boring things like exams and work. But now it's the summer holidays we've had a bit more time to get things done with the horses.

The first part of the holidays was spent out in France, and we got a fair bit of mounted archery done, more on that on the archery blog

Since our return, we been concentrating on getting some stuff done with Tari. We have found all sorts of things to entertain her, such as an old mattress left lying around....

She's had a saddle on, and then someone on her back and this rally hasn't bothered her at all.....

If you're wondering about the new hairstyle, it's an attempt to keep her a bit cooler along her neck whilst still having some fly whisks. Hopefully cuts down on the dreadlocks too.......

The only thing we've discovered she's really not happy about is a white plastic bag, even when it contains carrots......hopefully Gandalf's example will win her over!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Why do people get so angry?

Over the years, this blog has had some fairly extreme reactions - often from people in the real world getting offended by what I have to say. Usually because of posts questioning the "traditional" way of doing something.

Someone once had a real go at me after reading this blog post . Apparently it was a personal attack on the way they kept their horses. And I am not alone, I have just today read this blog where a fellow advocate of keeping horses barefoot was accused of spreading "blasphemy". Any mention of things like riding barefoot or bitless usually gets people writing unpleasant comments on social media, and the name calling starts. "Fluffy bunny" is my favourite so far.....

But all we fluffy bunnies are doing is trying to make the lives of our horses as pleasant as we can. Trouble is, the horse kept in a lovely clean, dry stable most of his time, wearing a nice new rug, with regular schooling sessions with an expensive trainer and frequent excursions to a show in shiny new tack with his mane all pulled, whiskers trimmed and mouth strapped shut is having what his owner presumably thinks is the best life possible too. And these owners can't entertain for one second the idea that they might be wrong. That they might not understand their precious horse, they might be missing all the times he is trying to communicate with them, that they might be causing his lameness or colic or ulcers with unnecessary shoeing or limited turnout or unnatural feeding regimes.

And this I suppose is what makes them so cross. They need to feel that they are right in what they are doing, so we must be wrong. Maybe at the back of their mind there is a niggling doubt that there could be something in what we're saying but they'd rather not acknowledge it, so it's easier to get cross and have a go at someone than to question their own knowledge.

But getting people to question things is one of the reasons I started this blog. And among all the nasty comments and negative reactions, if there is just one person, somewhere, who reads it and starts thinking that maybe they could change some aspect of their horse's life to allow him time to be a horse just a little more, then it's worth it. So I shall continue......

Friday, 29 April 2016

Rock crunching

When we went out in the woods the other day we noticed some big piles of gravel had appeared. Presumably they're going to spread it on the paths to make them more vehicle-friendly in the winter. It's not little smooth, round gravel like you get in posh gardens, it's big uneven, lumpy shapes, calcaire they call it in France.

So naturally we decided to see what the horses would make of it. Going up and down slopes is good training for TREC and all that. Not to mention good practise for just riding out and about.

Well, they just walked up and down it, no problems. Sky might have wonky feet that don't look like a lot of people think they should, but she has no problem taking them and the rest of herself over this sort of terrain.

Who needs shoes anyway? :-)

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Great British traditions?

Today is the Queen’s 90th birthday. Naturally this means extensive coverage in the media. This morning I was listening to Radio 4 in the car on the way to work and part of this coverage included a reporter going to the barracks at Hyde Park to have a look at the preparations the Household Cavalry is having to do for various birthday parades.

And it made for depressing listening, for me at least. The reporter, Roya Nikkah, was happily describing some of the things the soldiers were doing to get their equine charges ready to go out in public. One soldier was whitening his charge’s socks with chalk so they’d look “immaculate”. Not such a problem, maybe, unless the chalk ends up irritation the skin, probably not so likely. But then she went on to explain that he was also shaving off the horse’s whiskers on its muzzle, to make it “look smart”. The Queen, we were then told, being such a lover of horses, has a keen eye and always scrutinises the horses on parade to ensure that they are turned out looking their best. But should looks be more important than well-being?

Those of you who are regular readers will no doubt know that a horse’s whiskers are as important to him as a cat’s. Would we trim off a cat’s whiskers to make him look smart too? Horses need their whiskers to feel for things under their noses where due to the position of their eyes, they can’t see. But then, as these horses are doubtless shut in their stables for the vast majority of their time, would they ever get the chance to explore the world around them with their delicate whiskers?

The report then went on to talk to one of the Household Cavalry’s 14 farriers. He proudly related how well they look after the horses’ feet, shoeing them regularly as they’re trying to “minimise concussion”. Quite how nailing a piece of iron to the bottom of a horse’s hoof before it goes out on the roads around London would minimise concussion has never been adequately explained to me. Wouldn’t the horses be better off barefoot, which has worked so well for institutions such as the Houston Mounted Police Force in America?

But no, we’re British of course, and therefore bound by rigid tradition. Tradition that also dictates just how much metalwork needs to be on the head (and more accurately, in the mouth) of a Cavalry Black. Have you ever seen them on parade without a large amount of head tossing? I have been told that the amount of kit a soldier must wear and the rigidity of some of it makes for a very uncomfortable parade duty. But at least these men have chosen to be there. Their horses haven’t. But then as so often in the equine world, the horse’s side of the story just isn't taken into consideration…….

So when you watch all those immaculately turned out horses on parade for the Queen over the next few days, spare a thought for them. Kept, like racehorses, in an unnatural way for an equine, using traditional methods, in traditional tack (this regiment dates back to the Restoration, I believe) I wonder just how happy and healthy they are? I don’t know about you, but thinking of things from the horses’ point of view will definitely lessen my enjoyment of those birthday celebrations.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Back to France for more training......

Been busy with horseback archery again during these school holidays, we spent 5 days in France at a young archers youth training camp, with our friends at Domaine de Gauchoux near Limoges.

It was fab. Everyone there is just so laid back about everything. Over here people would have been aghast at such things as dogs running loose and horses left unattached to graze after they'd finished their runs. But there were no issues or injuries. I sometimes wonder if the people who worry too much about safety are more likely to have accidents as they're too uptight and it transmits to the horses? Anyway, Alan le Gall who owns the place was not fazed one bit when after 10 minutes of riding a new horse, Ali asked if she could take the bridle off and ride in a rope headcollar.......

Ditto with me and Saltimbanque, a big horsie who'd never encountered archery before. I offered to do a bit of work with getting him used to it all and Alan just said here he is, off you go and left me to it. Didn't realise until later that no one but Alan rides him as when he arrived 2 years ago he was such a nervous wreck he didn't want anyone making him worse......

We stayed in a yurt, which was so much more warm and comfortable that we thought it's be. Beautifully decorated inside......

And how about this for a view?

Although on the first night, I was awoken to the sound of galloping hooves and was half way out of bed before I realised it couldn't be mine escaping.  Next morning over breakfast I found out a couple of the other coaches had had the same reaction......

Anyway, full report on the archery blog here:

Sunday, 20 March 2016

And we're off.......

Some unusual nice weather last weekend saw us off out for a hack with all 3 horses. Decided to put Ali on Tari to see what would happen. Largely, nothing at all, as it turned out........

We went along the little back lane which meant the occasional need to trot on past a car or two, and there was no problem with that. The only real issue was the usual: Tari thought she was only there to eat as much of the grass verge as possible.......

Towards the end, we didn't even bother with the lead rein :-)
And here's a bit of vid, obviously we can totally ignore any attempt to steer if we think we can get over to the side for a munch ;-)

Sunday, 28 February 2016


Haven't posted for a while, as I have been a bit distracted by a new online project, namely a website/blog for our new little horseback archery group, Cotteswold Mounted Archers.

Aliénor has done us a funky logo, and we've even had some t-shirts made, everyone wanted different colours, so now in photos we look like extras from Star Trek.......
As the weather looks to be improving slightly, we might even get to do more archery soon! So I'll be sharing horseback archery posts on the new website too.

Managed to get the horses out a few times recently, lovely hack with Gandalf and Tari yesterday, it wasn't even raining :-)