Thank you to all the lesson horses

Lesson horses do so much, they let us ride them when we’re still learning; gripping with our knees, pulling on there mouths, bouncing out of time with their gaits. They are the ones who taught us how to fall and how to fly. They do all this over and over again with little more than a pat and maybe a carrot at the end.

They are the ones who give all us equestrians our start so today I’m saying thank you to Patrick who has had such an impact on me and my life, Bindi the little grey pony who was the first to steal my heart, Obi the first pony I fell off and every other lesson horse I’ve had the honour of riding. Because it is an honor, there’s this quote that floats around on Pinterest that I’m reminded of now: I dont care if you won a blue ribbon or were eliminated on the first fence when you exit that arena you pat your horse and say thank you to them for not killing you.

Thank you

Thank you for your patience,

Thank you for the hard lessons,  

For those perfect lessons,

For testing me,

For teaching me,

For the good days and the bad.

So next time you ride your lesson horse give them some extra attention when you give them a groom, an extra treat or just give them your understanding when something goes wrong. You are not the only one that rides them so when they refuse something you think they should be able to handle easily don’t get angry with them you don’t know what the last experience they had with the obstacle was. If I had a kid land a jump on my neck and scream I’d be reluctant to repeat it too! 


Only 20% of your pony! 

Overweight riders asked to dismount at show

Love this, it’s not about shaming heavier riders but ensuring that riders are riding horses that are suitable for their size. 

Sometimes life sucks

I’ve been trying to write this post all week and just can’t get my feelings into words. 

Patrick is not himself, he threw a rider a few weeks ago and we thought it was because his new saddle didn’t fit very well, I know with him being a lesson horse and there being a different staff on the weekends and during the week that some things get overlooked. Anyway I rode him that afternoon in a different saddle and he was fine. He’s seemed a little flat for a few weeks and has started biting other horses in the stable and there’s the thing where he won’t pick his feet up.  

Last week we were just working on some flat work, transitions and stuff and he threw me. I’m talking one minute we were trotting on nicely the next he wanted me off. My trainer says she looked over to see Patrick with all feet of the ground and me being flung. I didn’t hit my head again which I’m grateful for but I did wind myself pretty bad and my elbow begun to to swell before I’d even got of the ground which did take a while. You know when you get the wind knocked out of you and you feel like you can’t breathe, my trainer had to talk me through a few deep breaths before I could get up. 

The damage:

I had X-rays, luckily there is no break or fractures.

I didn’t ride Patrick today, I brought him in and gave him a good brush, lots of scratches and let him graze on the way back to his paddock. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Patty, there are hundreds of reasons why a horse can be off and its up to his owner wether he gives him a few weeks off, a vet check, chiropractor etc or keeps persisting. I think that’s the bit that is really bothering me, I know that it could look like a series of unrelated incidents and it could be but I feel in my heart that somethings wrong. I know this horse, I love this horse but he’s not mine , I can’t help him and that’s what hurts.

I rode a horse that my trainers working with at her place, ironically he’s the one that put me in hospital after kicking at Patrick and getting me. While I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve fallen off I didn’t expect my confidence to be rocked as much as it was after being thrown or maybe it was just being on a different horse who knows, it wasn’t a bad ride but it didn’t feel like a good ride either.

I don’t know what the future holds but I know life just like riding after a fall you get up, dust yourself off and get back on the horse. 


That Olympic controversy 

Add rollkur the dirty word of dressage, an injured or sick horse and a half completed Olympic dressage test and you get a story that has taken on a mind of its own on the Internet and social media leading to cries of animal abuse and dirty tactics. 

In the first story I read Adelinde Cornelissen had bravely retired during her test due to her horse Parzival’s bad health. It was reported that he had a reaction to a bug bite of some kind that left his face swollen and with a high temperature a few days before and despite her teams best efforts wasn’t in perfect health on the day of competition. As the Dutch alternate rider did not travel to Rio and Parzival seemed OK in the warm up it was decided he would compete. During the test it became clear that Parzival was not well and Cornelissen retired.

Read her statement here:

Best I can tell the controversy began when it was reported that Parzival was in fact suffering from a neck fracture, that’s when the flood gates opened and stories of abuse came pooring out claiming that it was Cornelissen’s training techniques and use of rollkur were to blame. 

First off what is rollkur and why is it controversial? 

‘Rollkur or hyperflexion of the horse’s neck is a practice in equestrianism defined as “flexion of the horse’s neck achieved through aggressive force”‘. Extreme flections can cause; emotional stress, physical stress on the vertebrae, nerves and muscles, circulation and breathing problems.

The FEI rules are as follows: ‘deliberate extreme flexions of the neck involving either high, low or lateral head carriages, should only be performed for very short periods. If performed for longer periods the steward will intervene’. Though some people believe that this is deliberately vague and photos that capture these “short periods” are casting the sport in a bad light.

The benefit of the doubt. I can only form my personal opinion on the matter using secondary information, I wasn’t there, I am not a vet but retiring part way through an Olympic dressage test, an event that people spend their whole lives training for doesn’t sound like the actions of someone that doesn’t care for her horse. I personally feel that if she was the monster she’s being made out to be she would have just kept riding and pushing him. There are some people in this sport that only care about success and are willing to do anything to achieve it horse be dammed, but I believe these people are in the minority. The rest are the ones who fell in love with the animal first, the sport second and are no doubt the reason these types of stories spread so quickly. We are a uniquely passionate bunch who can’t stand any type of injustice against our four legged friends and with the rise of social media it has become increasingly easy to share our thoughts and feelings. Just to clarify I think this is a good thing, letting people have a voice on issues that concern them, but it can go both ways. I think it’s important to look at all the facts before stating or posting your opinion and remember there is a difference between having an opinion and spreading rumours and gossip. Be careful repeating information you got from an unreliable source, just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true. 

Even for no other reason than the bad press and public outcry I do hope both the Olympic equestrian committee and the FEI do investigate this further to ensure that sport isn’t coming before horses health and safety and give everyone involved in this unfortunate incident, accident or not some piece of mind. 

This is an article written about the London olympics and I think covers why it’s such a difficult issue and how it’s policed during Olympic competition: