Photo young rider

Pony Club Test Information D to C+

As I’m writing this post I am also aware that in Ireland all the pony club test information is about to change. I have to admit that as a DC I still hadn’t got my head around the old tests so there was not much chance I am going to learn all about the new ones. So this post as been written partly for my benefit and partly for parents who are probably even less sure about what is happening (I feel your pain). I have covered in detail the main tests that most pony club members complete which are the introductory and intermediate tests (up as far as C+). I will discuss the more advanced tests in a separate post.

The current system consists of three groups of tests, which have different age limits for taking them.

  • the D/D+ which are the introductory tests,
  • the C / C+ which are the intermediate riding and stable management tests and
  • the advanced tests B/ B+ /A .
  • There is also a riding and road safety test and a separate Horsemanship (H) test.

There is a strong focus within the intermediate and higher tests on equine knowledge as well as riding, so the tests are not riding proficiency tests but a combination of both theory and riding. Hence the age restrictions because much of the theory side is quite complicated and getting into the realms of basic veterinary care. There is information on the Irish Pony Club Site about the different tests but I thought it might be easier to layout the information in one place (with my own comments and opinions thrown in for good measure)

Pony Club Tests  – Introductory Tests D & D+

D Test

At the moment this is the first entry test, and the aim is to show a basic understanding of riding ponies minimum age is 8, (which is a bit hard if you’ve been riding since you were 3) The syllabus has three parts looking at road safety, basic riding and simple practical horsemanship.

RIDING

Photo young rider
Show a reasonably correct position in the saddle. (Image courtesy of horsecollaborative.com)
  • Mount and dismount correctly, using either mounting block or getting a leg-up if required.
  • Demonstrate a reasonably correct position in the saddle.
  • How to hold and shorten the reins.
  • To be able to ride a quiet pony safely, in an enclosed area without the leading rein, in walk and trot.


ROAD SENSE

  • To know on which side of the road you should ride.
  • To understand the Junior Road Rider code.
  • How to ride along a road, cross a road and say ‘thank you’
  • To know it is safer to ride on the road with adults or parents.


HORSEMASTERSHIP

Cartoon how to catch a pony
(Image found on enlightenedhorsemanship.net)
  • Approach and handle a pony correctly.
  • Know basic needs of a pony in summer and winter.
  • Know how to catch a pony and put on a headcollar or halter.
  • Explain the proper way to give a pony an apple or carrot.
  • Lead a pony in hand and turn correctly in walk.
  • Name simple points of the pony.
  • Name different parts of saddle and bridle.

 

 

D+ Test

This is the second introductory level test and build upon the basic skills learnt at the D level. All the points covered in the D test apply here and in addition the following areas are also included. Minimum age is 10 for this test.

RIDING

  • Hold and shorten the reins correctly and carry a whip in either hand.
  • Be able to walk on a long rein.
  • To be able to control a quiet pony in company, on the roads and in the countryside.
  • Walk without stirrups.
  • Show use of natural aid to control your pony.
  • Simple turns and circles in walk and trot.
  • Be able to canter.
  • Ride up and down hills in walk.
  • Ride over a single pole and very small fence.


ROAD SENSE

  • How to ride along a road, cross a road and say ‘thank you’, and how to signal to turn right or left.
  • To know it is safer to ride on the road with adults or parents.
  • To show an awareness of dangers when riding on the road, understanding what is likely to frighten a pony or cause him to slip.
  • To understand how to ride with a friend whilst on the road.
  • Recognise the dangers to ponies from cars and other traffic.


HORSEMASTERSHIP

Photo child leading large horse
Try to find a suitable pony that is the right size for your child (Image courtesy of frisonchecvalerie.com)
  • Know the basic needs of and care for a pony living in a field.
  • Put on a saddle and bridle with assistance.
  • Be able to tell if saddle & bridle are fitting correctly..
  • Know how to clean and care for saddlery.
  • Catching a pony and turn it away in the field.
  • Lead a pony in hand at walk and trot, and turn correctly.
  • Tie up a pony correctly.
  • Names and uses of grooming kit.
  • Recognise if pony needs shoeing.
  • Pick up and pick out feet.
  • Points of the pony, colours and markings.
  • Be able to recognise turn-out rugs/cooler rugs/ and a night rug.
  • Basic signs of good health in your pony.

Riding & Road Safety Test

There is a riding and road safety test within pony club or many clubs also do the BHS Riding and Road Safety since it will last into adulthood and is needed if BHS exams are taken. The test can be taken at any stage but is usually done somewhere after the D+ and before the C+.

Book cover young road rider
Image courtesy of quillerpublishing.com

There are three parts to the test which are;

Part 1
A simulated test – done in an arena or field, which is where different road scenarios can be illustrated

Part 2
Theory
The theoretical test is designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of the rules, regulations and advice contatined in the “Rules of the Road”.

Part 3
The Road Test
This is the ‘real life’ practical to be carried out on fairly quiet roads and carrying out the examiners instructions.

Pony Club Tests  – Intermediary Tests C & C+

The first of the intermediary tests is the C test, this test is often as far as many members choose to go since it enables you to compete in most competitions. However for this reason the pony club has made it quite hard especially in terms of the equine knowledge and theory that is needed. However here is a breakdown of the syllabus

C Test

The minimum age is 12 and as with all the tests whatever was covered in the previous syllabus is included plus the additional.

RIDING

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Image found on Pinterest
  • Turn-out of pony and rider.
  • Show a balanced and correct position at walk, trot (rising and sitting on either diagonal, change of diagonal) and canter.
  • Ride without stirrups at walk and trot.
  • Adjust stirrups when mounted.
  • Adjust girth when mounted.
  • Understand the meaning of the word “aids” and know the natural & artificial aids for

(i)   transitions.
(ii)   turns and circles.
(iii)   canter on a named leg on a circle.

  • Walk on a long rein.
  • Ride up and down hill.
  • Show a balanced position over small fences.
  • Jump a short course with a variety of simple fences (max. height 80 cm.), no combinations.
  • Jump small fences on slopes, banks and small ditches in open country
  • Show a balanced position out of the saddle at cross country pace.

HORSEMASTERSHIP

picture of minature horse foal in a rug
Know about different types of rug (image found on Pinterest)
  • Care and working of a pony kept in a field and/or in a stable.
  • Recognise a suitable field for your pony.
  • Basic knowledge and rules of feeding and watering.
  • Know what and how much in kilos your own pony eats.
  • Grooming – items of grooming kit and show how to use them.
  • Shoeing and care of feet – know when a pony needs shoeing and what to look for in a well shod hoof.
  • Discuss your pony’s shoes.
  • Basic care and cleaning of saddlery.
  • Outline indications of a healthy pony.
  • Basic knowledge of treatment of minor wounds.
  • List essential items of a travelling first aid kit for your pony/horse.
  • Describe signs of an unwell pony including: colic, laminitis, coughs and colds, lice, sweetitch.
  • Know when to seek adult advice.
  • Recognise when pony is lame – how to trot-up for lameness.
  • Lead in hand – walking, trotting and turning.
  • Discuss the importance of protecting legs while travelling.
  • Explain how to take pony in and out of a horsebox with an assistant And do and don’t of leaving a pony/horse in a horsebox.
  • Show how to saddle and bridle (snaffle bridle only).
  • Know the name and action of one’s own pony’s bit and own tack.
  • Put on and take off a rug.  Recognise a stable rug, turn-out rug, anti-sweat sheet and cooler.
  • Put on a tail bandage.

C+ Test

At this level of the tests both equine knowledge and riding skills are technical. There is a lot of information to process and the minimum age of the test is 14. At this level the test is equivalent to the adult BHS level 1. All of the points are required from the C test but there is less support given and candidates are expected to know immediately the answers without additional prompting.

 

RIDING

  • Discuss own horse’s way of going and explain tack used.
  • Candidates will be asked to ride another candidate’s horse on the flat only and comment on observations of how the brief  went.
  • Mount and dismount correctly on either side.
  • Position at walk, trot, canter and gallop.
  • Show practical knowledge of even paces and of pony accepting contact.
  • Understand what is meant by “going forward in rhythm and balance”.
  • Work without stirrups at, walk, trot and canter at Examiner’s discretion.
  • Know the aids for and be able to carry out:

Dressage rider cartoon OMG

(i)   increases and decreases of pace.
(ii)   circles – l0 metres in walk, l5 metres in trot and 20 metres in canter.
(iii)   Sitting trot, rising trot on correct diagonal.
(iv)   Loops and serpentines.
(v)   Quarter or half turn on or about the forehand,
(vi)   change of leg at canter through trot.
(vii)   free walk on a long rein or loose rein.
(viii)   Halt and salute.

 

 

Remember it goes wrong even for the top riders
Remember it goes wrong even for the top riders image courtesy of HorseandHound.co.uk
  • Know the sequence of legs at different paces.
  • Show that jumping position is secure and balanced.
  • Know what to look for and how to walk a jumping course.
  • Jump a show-jumping course to include a one or two stride double including bending line at trot and canter.
  • Jump up and down hill, drop fences, banks and ditches and cross country fences of varied heights (recommended not over 95 cm.)
  • Ride at a suitable cross country pace with regard to ground condition

 

Changes to the Pony Club Tests

There is talk of changing the tests and so I just wanted to say a few words on that! A number of people would have concerns that the jump form D+ to C is very large both in terms of riding ability but especially in terms of the amount of equine knowledge that is needed. There is a suggestion to bring in a new E test and move the D and D+ down a level (D = E  and D+=D) making a new D+ syllabus. However whilst I agree with the principle and understand why the changes are being suggested I would raise a couple of concerns.

  1. There will be kids in the club with two different types of D+ and this is going to become complicated for events and competitions if the standard has changed.
  2. A lower test is needed for younger riders especially those under 8 and moving the D to E still doesn’t address that unless the ages are all changed again.
  3. A better (in my opinion) solution might be to keep the tests as they are but make the following changes;
    1. Introduce an E test that is lower than the D for younger riders, including lead rein members
    2. Introduce a new intermediate level test C- which would bridge the gap between D+ and C.

The tests are complicated enough as it is and there is a system in place that many members are halfway through. If you start moving boundaries you end up in the position of recommending that younger members who completed their D+ last year would be better doing the revised D+ next year because this is actually the next level up, but in their eyes they are repeating a test they already have.

I would be interested in hearing any other opinions from parents or members as to what would be the best way to proceed? any thoughts drop me a line below in the comments section.

Managing Sweet Itch

As summer approaches (and misses ) Sweet itch once again becomes a problem that many horses and their owners are faced with.

Sweet itch is usually viewed as an allergic response to midge bites, or more precisely the saliva from midges. This then causes the horse to release chemicals that cause a swelling on the skin and for the affected area to become itchy.

The classic signs that we see are shown in the diagram below.

picture of horse with sweet itch
Horse showing classic signs of sweet itch

The horse usually becomes uncomfortable with the itching and starts to rub the affected area.

This results in the signs that we see in the picture where the coat is rubbed and the skin becomes very tender to touch.

Read More

Alternative Jobs in the Equine Industry

So you have an interest in horses and want a job that involves working with them? Well in Ireland you tend to be presented with three options – be a riding school instructor, be a racehorse jockey or become an international show jumper. But is that really it, is there nothing else?

Of course there are more jobs we know that (now) but it does take a bit of exploring to find the less familiar jobs out there. One of the things that I really enjoy about writing this blog, is that I can travel around, meet people who are doing different kinds of horse related jobs and write about them!! So here is an overview of some of the kinds of work that you could do if you’re leaving school and looking for a career in the equine industry (or perhaps a little bit older and looking for a change in life.)

Equine Blogging

The obvious choice for me to start with. The internet has seen a massive growth in people using the internet (currently estimated at 3 billion worldwide and growing daily). People use it to find out information, buy things and connect with others who share their passion. For this reason most equine businesses have a website with the aim of reaching more customers, but in order to keep a website active information needs to be constantly updated and this is where a blog becomes an important part of this.

There are jobs for equine writers who work freelance and may write for lots of other companies and websites. There are then those writers that have their own blog site and/or guest blog on other pages. Either way if you enjoy sharing your stories and writing about horses then blogging could be for you.

Equine Journalist

Similar to blogging in some ways, equine journalists write for specific magazines and online webpages that cover equine events and features. Organisations such as the International Alliance of Equestrian Journalists provide networking opportunities for budding journalists. The British Equestrian Writers Association is part of the Sports Journalists Association and aims to support both writers and photographers covering horse events.

Equine Photographer

The expansion of the internet, with an estimated billion users worldwide and improvements in digital photography has meant that there is a global audience that has high expectations of photography. The growth in social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram are based on people wanting to see images rather than read lots of words. This is definitely the era of the image, and the better the image the more the demand.

Similar to the next section on equine art, in order to make a business from the work you probably need to develop your own business, including building a website and begin to gather your own fans of your work. Social media especially Pinterest and Instagram are valuable forums to join.

Equine Artist (sculpting, painting, print work)

I love art especially painting and I do have a special interest in promoting equine art through this

Winter Horseland by Kevin
Winter Horseland by Kevin Russ

site. An affiliate site that I work closely with and promote is Society 6 where any artist can set up an account and sell their work through this online gallery. Other options for selling your art include building your own website / blog site and then using social media forums such as Twitter Pinterest or Facebook to connect with others and direct them to your website.

Traditional outlets such as stalls at horse events and equestrian shows are another way, like most social media work these days, it’s about building a following and being able to promote your work to an audience that has been cultivated and developed over time.

Equine Business – Shop / Online

Nowadays most equine tack suppliers and other shop based businesses also have a website and an online presence of some kind including Facebook and Twitter accounts. Running a business involves knowledge of the equine industry and the products you are selling, alongside having knowledge of a business. There could be some starter grants available through local enterprise organisations and funding partnerships.

Affiliate marketing – this can be a cheaper alternative to starting your own business. Affiliate marketing involves promoting products from other companies and receiving a commission for anything that is sold. Currently this approach is bigger in the United States but many companies are seeing this as a more effective marketing tool and the equine industry, although slower than other companies is also becoming interested. You need to have your own website for many of the products or use social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter.

Small Yard Owner

For many graduates of equine college the first kind of work available is often working in other people’s competition yards. The next step for some is to rent their own yard and manage a small number of horses on livery. A lot of the work can be with young or green horses being brought in for breaking and schooling. Instructing is another way that small yards can bring in income.

Freelance instructor – Insurance can be a large problem for many instructors trying to establish their own yard, one option instead could be to freelance as an instructor first at other equestrian centres or through riding and pony clubs.This is also a way to build up clients before investing in your own centre.

Equine Hospital / Vet / Nurse

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 21.08.20
Book Cover – describing a year in an equine veterinary hospital, all the stories are true, although names have been changed in some situations to provide anonymity.

Working as a specific equine vet isn’t always possible within general vet practices as most ordinary veterinary clinics wouldn’t have enough clients. However there are places such as Newmarket Equine Hospital where equine specialists operate in a purpose built facility, which is the largest of its type in Europe.

In the UK the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has established a register of specialists with the aim of encouraging veterinary practices to consult registered specialists, including equine nurses and vets. There is also a European register(EVBS) where members have to renew their status every five years and be a practicing specialist within their field.

Equine Nutrition Expert

Equine nutritionists can work with a variety of people including yards, farms, homes and veterinary clinics. Their focus is nutrition but this can also include handling a variety of animal ailments and making assessments of cases. The work can also include developing feeding and supplement schedules.

There is a strong maths and science component to the work and many nutritionists undertake research work looking at developing feeds and supplements. This work may be done with some of the larger feed companies. The information also needs to be communicated to a variety of different people and strong communication skills are also an important part of the job.

Lecturer – Equine College

Enniskillen campus sign
CAFRE in Northern Ireland Enniskillen campus

Across Ireland and Northern Ireland there are a number of Equine colleges such as CAFRE (College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise) where students can go, which also means that lecturers are needed. Along with lecturer posts there are also equine course tutors, that college graduates and Level 4 instructors can apply for.

Pony Camp

Diary of a Pony Club DC – July 2015 Pony Camp

As I mentioned previously our pony club branch is one of (well possibly the) smallest branch of the Irish Pony Club, which poses a few challenges when it comes to the logistics of organising rallies and pony club events. One of the biggest problems however is trying to create a social group feeling especially when sometimes you only have 2 riders at a rally. However we are, if nothing else, creative and we have come up with a few ways to encourage – if that’s the word (kidnap, coerce or bribe also spring to mind) new potential members and allies to join us.

One of the ways that we have done this has been to combine our pony camp with another branch from within the Area. They are also a small branch which still gives a sense of two groups coming together rather than one branch being subsumed by another.

CAFRE – Enniskillen

For the last few years our camp has been held at the wonderful CAFRE (College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise) campus in Enniskillen. The college is an equine centre and specialises in breeding and racehorses. The advantages then for a summer pony club camp are a purpose built facility with  clean and well equipped stables, plus accommodation suitable for young people with onsite catering facilities.

A Brief Bit of History

Enniskillen is quite an historic town which is quite small and rural and which according to the CAFRE website –

“The historic plantation town of Enniskillen dates from 1612 when the town was established by a charter from King James I.  There is, however, evidence to suggest that land in this area was farmed during the Stone Age, over 6,000 years ago.”

The college campus itself was founded in 1967 whilst the equine-related education and training programmes were introduced at the Enniskillen Campus during 1992. So basically it’s been around a while, not that you would know that. The main outdoor arena was only put in a couple of years ago and can hold the equivalent of three ordinary arenas, and the cross country course is being added to each year.

Enniskillen campus sign
Enniskillen campus

 

In short then it is an amazing setting and added to that its in the heart of Fermanagh in Northern Ireland with its own amazing scenery (I should really work for the NI tourism board). The camp consisted of 18 pony clubbers and some responsible adults (!) who were mainly responsible for providing food and drinks for the kids, whilst the kids had responsibility for the ponies. Three instructors oversaw the sessions and so the kids were divided into three groups depending on age and interest in being on Leitrim’s Robbie Bailey team.

part of CAFRE college Ennsikillen campus
Riders in the yard heading up to the cross country course

Pony Camp

So 18 kids and 18 ponies all living and riding together – what could possibly go wrong? To be fair we had this covered as well because almost immediately opposite the college is the brand new purpose built Accident & Emergency hospital. Which according to a couple of the parents who over the years here have had the pleasure of a visit there, it is a very nice, clean and efficient place to go. Obviously this only applies if you need access to medical services, otherwise I’d say it is the last place you’d be planning to visit.

Camp Activities

The programme usually consists of the following activities each day.

  • feeding and mucking out horses and stables
  • breakfast for kids
  • riding with break and refreshments
  • stable management and/or more riding
  • lunch
  • riding and/or stable management
  • refreshments and tack cleaning
  • dinner
  • evening activity

And after the first night of chaos most pony club members are willing to go to bed and sleep knowing that a full day of activity is ahead of them the next day. The final day of camp we usually organise a competition or some slightly different activity. To finish off there are presentations and camp rosettes plus prizes for the best turned out, or most improved rider in each group.

Cross Country

The cross country course has been developed again this year and now has a purpose built water jump and a bank. The ground is lovely to ride on and a great confidence booster to the more nervous cross country riders (most of our club).

water jump cross country
The water jump at CAFRE cross country

The new jumps proved to be very popular and even the odd breeze across the water didn’t seem to disturb the horses too much.

The bank jump also posed very little problem for our intrepid riders, even if it was perhaps a little steeper than it appeared.

 

Bank drop jump on cross country
The drop is a bit bigger than it looks!

 

Flatwork and Jumping Arenas

The college has a number of arenas, two outdoor and an indoor. Fortunately the weather held off most of the time and we were able to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. However for the instructor trying to teach a group of under 12s a musical dressage routine, the confines of an indoor arena was probably an advantage. The main large arena was often used for grid work and jumping practice.

Musical ride display in the indoor arena
Musical ride display in the indoor arena

The musical ride was performed for everyone to see on the last day and showed how dedicated both instructors and riders can be to come up with a routine in such a short time frame.

In the end the kids were worked hard and they and their ponies were suitably tired at the end of it all. So thank you to all the helpers, and pony club members for making this such a wonderful occasion. These kind of activities aren’t possible though without the support of the parents and it’s probably to them that we owe our greatest thanks.Hopefully we can do it all again next year!

Jumping in the large outdoor arena
Jumping in the large outdoor arena

Social Media Platforms – Hootsuite

Hootsuite - Social Media Relationship Platform

Social Media

It is envisaged that by 2020 nearly 85% of all sales will occur through social media and online platforms. This is a big change from the traditional model of business, one that focused on establishing a physical presence usually with a shop and promoting products locally. There are of course advantages to both but the biggest draw for most businesses with online promotion is the increased trade that can be achieved from a larger audience. The next question then is how does that affect equine businesses?

Advantages of Social Media

There is no doubt that the recession affected many businesses especially here in Ireland. However social media has the opportunity to bypass some of these financial effects by reaching out to a broader global market.

As a marketing strategy as well there are a number of advantages.

  • It’s often cheaper than printed flyers or ads run in the local papers
  • It can easily be targeted to loyal customers
  • It works with our normal everyday technology, such as mobile phones
  • It can reach a bigger audience through likes, shares or retweets, that we cannot access directly.

The largest social media network for businesses is Facebook in Europe and Twitter in the US. I wrote about using Twitter here in a previous post, so in this article I want to focus on the time and effort that businesses face when taking on a marketing strategy that involves social media, and how this can be made easier through using social media platforms.

Social Media Platforms

This is probably indicative of how much social media is in our lives, that we now need to have special platforms (or software) just to manage all our social media accounts. However in business this is becoming a necessity and I can give you an example of this by walking you through my own social media accounts for this blog site “EquineBlogIreland”.

Hootsuite

I’m going to use the social media platform Hootsuite as my example because this is the one that I use. There are two versions a free and a paid pro version. The pro version as you can expect has more options, including be able to add more than the three accounts available in the free version.

For this blog site I have three main social media accounts, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I also use the social media for research on the latest trends and discussions for different topics related to the equine industries. Most of this information is collected through different Facebook pages and groups. For the purpose of this article I will separate out these two activities and explain the differences, starting with the actual social media accounts.

Setting up your dashboard in Hootsuite

Dashboard of Hootsuite
Dashboard of Hootsuite for Equine Blog Ireland

The picture above shows a screenshot of the three equineblogireland accounts as they appear on the Hootsuite dashboard. As you can see they are conveniently placed side by side, which means that I can quickly glance across all three sites and see what is happening.

In the free version this is all you can add, which is still adequate especially when starting out. I also manage another blog site and use social media for research so in total I use more than 3 accounts and use the pro version (which they offer on a 30 day free trial).

Sending a Message through Hootsuite

To send a message it’s easy and straightforward. Simply select the account where the post is going, in the example on the right this is to Twitter. Type the message.

Dashboard Hootsuite
Sending a tweet through Hootsuite

 

Other Options

The advantage of a social media platform is not just in being able to send a single message. It is also about the ease of being able to manage all your social media interactions, so here are some other things that a platform like Hootsuite can enable you to do easily and quickly.

Links to Webpages

As well as sending a message you can also link the tweet or message to a blog or web page.  Simply insert the url into the box at the bottom of the message and click on the shorten url tool. This creates a version of your link to fit the social media site.

Add an image to your posts or tweets

You can add an image to any post or tweet, which is how I started using Hootsuite in the first place,

Hootsuite dashboard attach image
Attach an image

because I was fed up with the difficulties I kept encountering when trying to add images.The process is similar to adding the url, except there is another tab alongside which is shaped like a paperclip. Simply click and drag or select an image from your computer to add.

Sending from Multiple accounts

The same process applies for messages being sent to Facebook, as it does for Twitter. You can also choose whether to send it from your own Facebook account or a page that you manage. And you can quickly send one promotion or link to Twitter and a different post to Facebook so that the same followers don’t keep receiving the same message.

Using Social Media to Follow Trends

As a business your use of social media is not just to promote your own business, although this is a common mistake many businesses make at the moment. Social media is an opportunity to engages with and build up your potential database of future customers. Establishing trust is one of the main purposes of social media, so that when you do recommend a product or advertise an event people will listen to you.

Establishing trust

One of the easiest ways in which to establish trust is to follow leading experts in the area and engage with them. Unfortunately Facebook have changed their rules (again!) and only allow group administrators to use social media platforms, however LinkedIn does permit it. So I can collect all the LinkedIn groups related to horses that I’m a member of, and set them out side by side the same as the accounts.

Then I can choose articles that seem relevant and as I read add a comment or connect with the writer. If this sounds like too much work then follow a site such as Equineblogireland or other industry blog sites that will be doing some of this work for you.

Even on Twitter take time to retweet an article or picture, it shows your followers that you are interested in them and this will help to build up a relationship.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 19.10.40
It’s not just Hootsuite that will be sending you this message, so will your followers and potential customers!!

 

Hootsuite Product

I have mentioned Hootsuite throughout this post because they are the platform that I currently use. You can check out the site by clicking the advert, or click on the Owl at the top of the page. There is a free option that lets you manage three accounts (each page is a separate account on Facebook) and you also have the option to try out their pro version for a free 30 day trial.
Hootsuite - Social Relationship Platform

 

So far I have found the site to be very useful and I’m not using all the options available, such as multi site users. Either way you have nothing to lose in trying it out and when time is important, this certainly saves you time and hassle.

Would love to hear any comments from people who have tried it or other social media platforms and what worked best for you.

Let me know how you get on or if you are using any other social media platforms, readers would love to hear your reviews.

Dressage Humour in Ireland

Dressage is one of those events that you probably either love or hate. But as a discipline it has a lot to teach us and the horse (as I keep telling the pony club members, although I might as well be talking to the horse most of the time). So for those of you new to the sport or even those very familiar with it, here is a slightly unconventional tour of what its all about.

Dressage tests

It all starts with a test, even though the top dressage riders may look as if they are making it up as they go along. Everyone has to follow the same test and then they can all be compared to each other, so it’s a bit like a show jumping course but without the jumps, obviously.

Anyway I digress a test will look something like the one below (Ok not quite like the one below) but in principle it is the same. It lists out the different actions that have to happen at each of the letters around the arena (more on the letters later). The idea is to firstly remember the test off by heart, because life isn’t hard enough, and then … get your horse to follow the test relying only on your ability to guide him. What could possibly go wrong? The test below might give you some idea of what can and usually does go wrong.

Spoof dressage sheet
Image courtesy of horsenation.com

Judging Dressage

The judge will have a copy of your test sheet with them in their little box, or car or wherever the kind organisers of the event have decided to place them. Then the judges, whilst casually supping their tea and munching on sandwiches, will try to excite your horse by ringing a bell or in true pony club style beeping a car horn!!

As you bounce around the arena if you are lucky the judges will score your performance between 1 -10 according to how they feel, (sorry technically assess) your riding ability. Just to add to the difficulty some dressage arenas are in the middle of a field with just a little white plastic gutter pipe to mark out the area.  You have to convince your horse that this is not a hunt and they shouldn’t be heading at full gallop for that hole in the hedge at the far end of the field.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 18.46.56
Image courtesy of Pinterest

The Scoring Sheet

So what does the scoring sheet mean? I mentioned the numbering system 1 -10 well the following list on the right kind of summarises it all.

The judges have a scorer next to them (who actually does the writing and all the work) and the judge will add random statements to fill out your sheet.  These include words like;

Impulsion = I want more action!!! (like a rodeo)

Tense = could be rider or horse and is shorter than writing ‘stressed out of my head and pulling my hair out in frustration at this @!#@ pony’ (or vice versa for pony).

Circle could be bigger = as if you haven’t enough on remembering there was a circle at this point, and then convincing your horse to suddenly veer quickly off their gallop track and go round itself. The judge then starts criticising the size of this accomplishment!! (Who says size doesn’t matter)

Finally after you’ve completed the test, the judges decides how well you and your horse have been together, on this wonderful journey of making imaginary shapes in an empty rectangle box. The same scoring system applies as above but with additional interpretations such as;

10 = Didn’t they do well (Name of the rider is probably Charlotte DuJardin)

9 = Wonderful horse (shame about the rider)

8 = Wonderful Rider (shame about the horse)

7=  Can’t think of anything obviously critical to say really

6=They do Eventing and think they know everything

5=Would have done better if there were some jumps in the arena

4= Surprised rider is still on the horse

3=Horse has lots of potential (just not in Dressage)

2=The problem with ex race horses …

1= Horse probably on DoneDeal (for sale) as we write this.

Dressage Letters

I can’t finish an article on dressage without mentioning the letters around the arena. Now if you’re new to this sport you probably assume that the letters are A-E or something like that. But no the letters are AKEHCMBF and nobody really knows why.  The history has sometimes been associated with the German Cavalry practicing in their quadrant and using letters above stable doors. There has also been a suggestion that the letters are actually alphabetical – firstly entering at A and then

Dressage rider cartoon OMG
Dressage Humor! (Image courtesy of Pony Up Kentucky)

moving round anticlockwise B,C (D is in the middle) and E. Then there is an outer circle so we have F (G is used in the middle) H, K and M (leaving out i,j,l,all too similar).

X is in the middle G & D mark the midway points at either end of the arena and have been linked with the French for Left and Right (Gauche and Droit). Personally I think they are just one more challenge in what is already a very complicated sport and if that isn’t bad enough the horse will probably spook at the letter markers anyway. (you can read more about the history of the letters here).

Finally, finally

Dressage riders go to great lengths to present their horses in immaculate condition and they themselves have to wear show jackets, white jodhpurs, stocks and white shirts (all very practical colours when working with animals and Irish weather conditions). This can take hours of preparation and how long is the test, 3-4 mins. Not that many dressage riders (or members of the public) would want the test to last any longer, but I’m just saying. But enough of my rambles I’d love to hear any of your own comments on dressage?

 

Horse Artists

Equine art is a growing area of interest across the globe. A simple google search of the term ‘equine art’ produces over 7 million possible results. However is equine art part of the artistic community or is it linked to the equine community and where do the two meet. I have always a been a firm believer that horse art and the equine community are strongly connected and this blog site aims to strengthen those links as time goes by.  This article offers a basic introduction to the equine art world and hopefully gets the discussion started!

Irish Equine Art

As an Irish blog site I really need to start here (without displaying any bias). There are a number of very talented Irish artists and I am hoping to interview some of them over the next year or so to give more insight into their work.  However in Ireland generally the Irish Art website has a section on equine art which can be found here. There are a number of stalls displaying art at the various large horse events and the biggest display is probably at the Royal Dublin Horse Show (RDS) each year. At this event last year there were several stalls devoted to exhibiting artists work from around the country.

Many artists continue to advertise their own particular work through social media sites and both our Facebook page and twitter page are following different individual artists (so check us out and follow us too especially if you have an art site to promote). And as I have already mentioned there are many local artists here in Ireland that operate independently, and who hopefully will be interested in sharing their work through our own Art Market which is on the Equine Blog Ireland site.

Artists such as –

Marina Hamilton – Donegal

Nicola Russell – Belfast

John Fitzgerald (Artist in residence at the Curragh racecourse)

Tony O’Connor – Kerry

Sara Hodson – Cork

UK and Worldwide Equine Art

Moving on to our neighbours across the water there are other sources of art work displays and galleries such as Equestrian Art. This is an online gallery of equestrian fine art in the UK, that also promotes art all over the UK and abroad. They only exhibit original pieces (no prints allowed). Other sites do provide cheaper options to purchase work such as prints at Lydia Kiernan Gallery or the slightly more expensive German artist Michael Hotz. These are both sample artists and there are hundreds (no doubt) of other very talented artists offering their work as commissions or to purchase directly from the gallery.

 

Trends in Equine Art

Equestrian Art has noted that there is a growth in impressionist art i.e. ‘the Scream’ (Edvard Munch) equivalent for the equine world, which they say is in line with art trends generally. But the reality is that all forms of artistic medium are now available including sculpture (in all kinds of material),painting in oils / watercolours, drawing and sketching in pencil and of course photography.

Vineta Sayer MA - Wise Eyes
Vineta Sayer MA – Wise Eyes

Investment in Equine Art

Although most of us would be happy admiring the art in a gallery, for the ultimate collector it is about owning the piece and being able to view it privately with friends. However there are also those that can recognise the future potential in the artwork and are purchasing works by the same artist as a future investment. One buyer through Equestrian Art was quoted saying that buying art ‘was better than putting the money in the bank or in stocks and shares

Other Types of Equine Art

Work in Progress by Jeanne Newton Schoborg
Work in Progress by Jeanne Newton Schoborg

Not all equine art is about investment, it also about appreciating the talent and interests of the artist whilst being able to admire the traits of the horse that have been captured, in whatever medium was used. And sometimes it is also about having fun as this piece by Jeanne Newton Schoborg illustrates.

 

I hope this has tickled your taste buds in terms of equine art, we know that horses are full of personality and are amazing animals to watch. But to have that captured in paint, photography or any other artistic medium is to have that moment forever. Let me know your own favourite artists or local art galleries that specialise on equine art.

Equine Natural Care Top 5 Websites

There has been a lot of mention recently about natural care products for our smaller pets, horses and also humans. I have heard phrases like ‘use turmeric’ (in everything), or garlic (again for everything) so what is it best to use? And equally as important where can I get it from (what does it cost?) or do I need to buy it all if it is at the bottom of my garden?

Why Use Equine Herbal or Natural Remedies?

There are a number of reasons why many trainers and horse owners are considering natural remedies for their horse. One of the main biological reasons is that herbal remedies are natural to the horses digestive system and are therefore more likely to be absorbed fully into their system. A  second reason is that there are less side effects with natural remedies compared to their chemical equivalents.

every chemically processed or extracted alkaloid of an herb has yealded side effects, starting at giving ulcers and causing liver damage, yet those side effects were not present when the natural counterpart was used” (Equi-herbs)

Natural Care Equine Products

Trying to find natural equine products is another matter. There are just a few websites available once you start googling natural pet or equine products,

Many natural equine resources can be found locally - if you know what you're looking for!
Many natural equine resources can be found locally – if you know what you’re looking for!

however when I started to visit some of these natural supplier websites I was a bit disappointed at the lack of information that they seemed willing to share.  I suppose like many people this is an area I know a bit about, but I need more information before I’m going to subject my horse or my wallet to trying anything.

So I rummaged through a number of sites and selected a few of the more informative ones that I came across, ones where I could access easy to read reference material, as well as products to buy (depending on where you live).

Originally this started out as 5 hence the title but I am adding to the list so there are now 8 sites. If you know of any others please add them into the comments section and I can add them to the list, thanks.

 

1 – Naturally Equine

(naturallyequine.com)

One site that did provide some useful information is a New Zealand site called Naturally Equine, who unfortunately only deliver in New Zealand just before you get too excited (unless you live in New Zealand). The link I just provided leads you to a glossary of terms on their site for all types of herbs and a brief overview of their main properties. However they also have a much more detailed herbal index, and a newsletter if you are interested in signing up which are easy to find on the site and definitely worth checking out.

2 – Equi-herbs (EquiHerbs)

This is an affiliate site that I promote and which does have a range of products, ships to all countries and explains about their products. It is based in the US but offers a number of products and has a newsletter that you can sign up to. I will cover more of what they do in another article but well worth a visit.

Herbal Supplements for Horses

3 – Intelligent Horse Care

(intelligenthorsecare.co.uk)

Intelligent Horse Care is a site that seeks to help horse owners make life simpler and easier but using as natural an approach as possible. They deal with a range of products including the Cool Heat Rug that I have mentioned in another post. They are located in the UK and offer international shipping. I liked the site and it’s easy to navigate.

4 – Natural Horse World

(naturalhorseworld.com)

Natural Horse World is an holistic horse site that seeks to inspire horse owners to take a more natural approach to caring for their equines. It deals with all aspects of horse care and has an easy to use site. It is run by Cynthia Cooper.

5 – Equine Natural Care (ENC)

(equinenaturalcare.com)

Another site that did give some details about their products was Equine Natural Care in the US, although I found this site harder to navigate and the colour scheme was definitely not user friendly (very dark). However it doesn’t sell products directly you have to email your local supplier (in the US) so again not very easy to actually get the stuff once you’ve read up on it.

6-  All Natural Horse Care

(http://www.all-natural-horse-care.com)

This is an information site and has a lot of resources (some very graphic) on hoof care, feeding and nutrition.  It only sells information products though ebooks and charts. A very good resource for anyone instructing especially stable management for pony club / BHS or other instructor exams. However it doesn’t have its own product range for treating horses.

7 – Harmony Equine

(http://harmanyequine.com)

This site has a lot of information although you will have to search for it.  It covers holistic and complimentary healing for horses.  The site also offers its own products but doesn’t state whether it ships overseas or not, it is based in the US and has its own clinic in North Virginia.

8 – ELMVELO Animal Care

(http://www.emvelo.co.uk/philosophy.php)

This site specialises in their own smaller range of products – “The natural culture of beneficial micro-organisms, pure aromatherapy oils and edible vegetable extracts in Emvelo products work together in many complementary ways“. They have a list of stockists but I couldn’t get their own online shop to open on the day that I was looking at the site, so I’m not sure whether shipping the goods is an option or not.

 

Finally the ad below is for Pet Naturals, a good site to check out and a good range of products but they don’t do equine, it’s just dogs and cats (typical!).Maybe we could lobby them to try.

 

Natural Pet Care

Summary

It’s still a very new market out there obviously, and I was disappointed at the lack of information available on the same site that I could purchase the products. (That is definitely a marketing opportunity available for somebody).

I have also incorporated any natural remedies that I come across into various articles, such as the articles listed below.

In the meantime if you do come across any good natural equine sites let me know in the comments below and I will keep building up the list.

Diary of a Pony Club DC

May 2015

As well as my interest in horses and equine businesses I have the privilege (???) of being the District Commissioner or DC for our local pony club. This would normally be quite a challenging role as I’m sure many other DCs will verify.  However I also happen to be DC for the smallest pony club in Ireland and we have a membership of 5 riders and only 2 ponies between us (well technically there are more ponies but only 2 members have ponies). So how does it work? After all having only 5 members and trying to maintain rallies and provide a programme of activities that is different to the local equestrian centre is not easy.

Irish Pony Club

We are members of the Irish Pony Club, which may seem obvious but actually we are closer to the Northern Ireland area of the UK Pony Club and sometimes it does feel as if it would be much easier to be a member of their group. As a club we are based in Donegal on the West of Ireland and the Irish Pony Club is based in Dublin. Just to put that into context Donegal is to Dublin what Siberia is to Moscow – its a place to send people to but not to go and visit or stay there yourself! Luckily the area has some great pony club branches that we can link in with, although the geography of the region can be challenging – it’s 5 hours from one end to the other of Area 6, which is our area of the Irish Pony Club (IPC). Fortunately we are more or less in the middle so we’re max 2 -3 hrs from any of the other clubs in our region.

The Smallest Branch of the Pony Club in Ireland (I am assuming)

It was actually an instructor who recently made that comment, and I thought it had a real ring to

Pony Club in Ireland - Plenty of horses but no riders?
Pony Club in Ireland – Plenty of horses but no riders?

it. So as my attempts to recruit new members have failed (I’m actually struggling to find kids in our area that ride) then I have decided to take to social media. We are now a virtual pony club with our own Facebook page and this is a great way to share photos and keep interested people up to date on our activities. And yes even with just 5 members (when they all turn up but that’s another story) we still have activities and produce cool photos to share with our fellow pony clubbers. We also have an annual residential camp which we have done with another club in order to bring numbers up. This provides a great opportunity for our kids to meet other club members and experience the socialising element that pony club is supposed to be encouraging.

Why Bother?

This would seem to be a very logical question and I have been known to ask it myself on occasions. But there is still something special about pony club and what it can provide to its members. As a new parent to horses it was pony club that taught me the ropes and introduced me to other parents who had at one time been in the same position. It was pony club that taught both my children not just about riding but about looking after horses, theory and practical knowledge that will last them forever whether they work with horses or ride for pleasure later on in life. And by giving back to pony club and meeting new instructors and organising rallies and camps I also continue to learn and improve my own equine knowledge.

The Future of Pony Club

There is no doubt that with the added expense of membership, joining pony club is not an option or a priority for many parents at this moment in time. It does take a lot of time and money and that can be hard on families especially when there are other siblings requiring that level of attention as well. (probably why so many younger siblings get thrown into learning to ride and pony club, so at least they are all in one place!) I really hope it does survive these lean times, and I have no doubt things will have to change if its future is to be secure, but I’m game to work with that and I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. I would also love to hear from other DCs and pony club parents about what’s working in your club and what changes are happening in your area to keep pony club alive and well. Thanks for reading and stay in touch

Horse Welfare in Ireland – A Problem?

There has been a lot of media coverage in Ireland over the last 12 months on the increasing problem of abandoned horses and the horse welfare problem.

Even as far back as 2011 the ISPCA was raising concerns that there were in the region of 10,000 to 20,000 horses surplus to requirements on the island. In 2014 the figure of 18,000 horses that were surplus, was given by the United Farmer’s Association who identified small breeders as the main problem, rather than the major industries such as racing.

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