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Well, Sunday April 26 2009 dawned and I was so nervous! My friends Ann and Badr had been encouraging me to go to an in-hand show with Ann and her beautiful Arab horse, Azzi.

For those of you that can’t be bothered to read more and just want to see the photos, check out:

Pete’s: HERE

Frank’s: HERE

Re being persuaded to go to the show in the first place, Badr had given me a lesson in the “art” of in-hand showing. Well I’ve done working hunter pony and other ridden showing, showjumping and eventing - even Prince Phillip Cup! But all of that was prior to about 1987 when I had my nasty riding accident that put me in hospital. I had since done some judging of working hunter pony and showjumping classes, but not judged since 1994. But the one thing I’ve never done is in-hand showing! One thing I did find out is that I am definitely better coordinated (well, I like to think so!) on a horse than running beside one!

Anyway, Badr was really patient with me - it never occurred to me that you’d have to run that fast on the ground to make sure your horse is really trotting out to his full potential! And I am not the lightest weight lady any more

I’d also spent some money at Robinsons on some in-hand showing gear: a nice in-hand bridle with brass clincher brow band and buckles and chain lead attachment thingy, white jods and shirt, tie - all the bits of horse show clothing that, if I did still have them, I’d never be able to fit into any more!

So the day dawned. Rolly hadn’t been loaded since he arrived in a massive horse lorry from Germany, so we played with them in Ann’s horsebox a couple of days before the show. Rolly, of course, was great to load - no problems (long may that last!) - except the stress made him very sweaty so he was rather disheveled on our arrival at the showground at Plumpton College in East Sussex. And we found I was due to go on in just a few minutes. So Ann and our other friend, Sara, kindly organised Rolly leaving me to organise getting myself organised!

..and into the ring for the first class we went: the spotted/coloured horses in-hand class. Once I was in there, my nerves went as I was so focused on not letting Rolly down. So we really strutted our stuff and came second! Rolly took it all like an old-timer - of course he did breed society shows and gradings when he was with his breeder, but that was a few years ago!

The next class was the “foreign breeds” class - by this time I was quite happy with the whole thing, and my dear husband, Pete, and best mate, Frank, were there taking photos from the sidelines making me - and Rolly I think - feel rather like stars! …and we couldn’t believe it - we won!

When the judge came up to give Rolly his apple, rozette and little trophy, she gave me some great advice in a very tactful way. I have about 5 ear piercings each side and a nose ring, and was wearing some rather jazzy tinted glasses (albeit prescription). She said that all this is rather a no-no and I made her laugh with “what, you mean the bling”? So at least that will prove useful in our next outing - I must just tone down a bit!

The worst thing that happened was that my nice new boots gave me a horrid blister on the back of my heel due to all the running!

But I was so proud of Rolly and can’t wait until our next outing!

Below are 2 of Badr's chickens on the yard of whom I am especially fond. Sadly, Mrs Brown died a month or so ago, but Bumble is still batting despite having been bullied by the other chickens during last summer until Mrs Brown came along - they kind of adopted each other - united in their battle for achieving a non-getting-pecked order amongst the other chickens! Bumble is also known as the Hitler Chicken because she has a very particular walk due to one leg having preivously been injured - she looks like she "goose-steps" like a Gestapo (perhaps that should be chicken-steps - groan). Anyway, here's a sweet video of Bumble & Mrs Brown


Another funny example of Rolly playing with stuff!


Well, this little horse never ceases to amaze me - he is so "into" everything. His latest thing is to hold the feed bucket over the stable door asking me for more food! Unbelievable. Here's the vid...


A few vids of Rolly that speak for themselves!


I had some fun getting a bit Rolly liked. As you saw from an earlier blog about "getting the right saddle & bridle" I initially went for a Shires Training Snaffle - a snip at around £30! However, I knew this wasn't going to be a permanent solution as there were problems with it. Firstly, Rolly has very sensitive skin and as often is the case with loose ring bits and sensitive skinned horses, the bit where the loose ring sits in the mouthpiece rubbed the sides of his lips somewhat. So I obviously bought some rubber cheek protectors, but these seemed to cause chafing.

So, for a while I considered eggbutt/D-ring, but preferred the look of a loose ring and the movement it causes in the horses mouth that encourages him to mouth the bit. The solution was to spend around £90 on a Sprenger - I found the new-style Sprenger KK Ultra Type II that you can see here. The reason I - and Rolly - seem to like it is that the design of the cheeks stop the rubbing problems, and they also give slight steering improvements because it is kind of a cross between a loose ring and an eggbutt. Finally, it has the "tranz lozenge" which - according to the research - sits in a kinder fashion on the horse's tongue. The final thing I liked about this bit is that the mouthpiece is slightly thicker than the rather thin mouthpiece of the Shires training bit I had been using previously - so is kinder on the bars of the mouth.

Well, the result is is a bit that Rolly really seems to like - so much so that when I try to take his bridle off, he doesn't seem to want to let go of the bit - the patented "Aurigan" that the Sprenger bits use seem to be preferred to the "German silver" used in the Shires and other "cheaper" bits. Also, the Sprenger Aurigan doesn't corrode/tarnish the way that these other bits seemed to - a quick rinse and it is still shiny! We like that!

So here's a vid of Rolly not wanting to let go of his Sprenger!


Howz about this - I managed to get a vid of my horsey having his teeth rasped by my vet, Matt Waterhouse, of Arundel Equine Hospital.  Horses should have their teeth checked every 6 months, especially with a horse that is young like Rolly (or an equine veteran as well). 

Why do a horse's teeth need rasping?  Well, a horse's teeth grow continuously during its lifetime.  The act of chewing grass and other forage type materials in the way that a horse does: using a kind of lateral sliding, chewing motion in order to break the cellulose-type materials down to ease later digestion; means that the horse's teeth can tend to wear irregularly and end up having sharp edges and pointed bits. 

Obviously since our horses are not in the wild and we want them to be comfortable and live as long as possible, which means being able to eat easily and accept the bit nicely, it makes sense to file these sharp edges down from time-to-time. Otherwise symptoms such as quidding (dropping bits of food out of the side of the mouth) and being unhappy with the bit can result, which will lead to the horse either not doing so well on its feed and/or being difficult to handle.  The worse case scenario is mouth ulcers and perhaps also serious weight loss.

With a youngster, wolf teeth (seen in both mares & geldings, unlike tushes which are usually only seen in geldings) can be a problem.  Wolf teeth are vestigial premolars (as opposed to  canines) and can erupt at any age up to around 3 years of age (they are not baby teeth though).  They are usually on the upper jaw, but they sit where the bit sits in what is called as the interdental space, so of course can themselves cause bitting problems.  So Rolly had his removed about 6 months ago.  Such an operation can be done under sedation and is not difficult because wolf teeth do not have roots like the other teeth - they kind of just sit in the gums. 

So this particular 6 monthly check was to make sure the wolf teeth removal seemed to have gone okay and to check whether Rolly needed his teeth rasping again, which he did, hence the video!

For those that don't know, it may look like Rolly is in pain in the video.  In fact he isn't - horses seem to like the weirdness of the feeling of having their teeth rasped (abd it is a non-painful procedure).  If horses didn't like it they would have to be sedated to have this done, and in fact it is rarely the case that sedation is required. The device with all the metal that is conveniently holding Rolly's mouth open for the vet is called a "Haussmann gag" after the geezer who devised it.    So here's the video:

Thumbnail image for rolly-teethrasp-poster.jpg

Hi how sweet is this?  Note how Rollo's upper lip jutts forward when he is being given a scratch - second photo shows that a treat. We call it his giraffe face!  Thanks Pete for taking these!




Rollo is a very itchy horse and, very nearly, suffers from sweet itch (an allergic dermatitic reaction caused by a protein in the saliva of the biting Culicoides midge). Sweet itch can be a devastating condition resulting in sometimes such extreme pruritus that skin damage can result - the horse scratches its skin to try and rid itself of the persistent itching (often centered around the mane and tail areas) to the point of seriously exfoliating the skin at worst, and at best really messing with their mane and tail often losing a lot of hair in the process! So horse owners are very keen to try and wage war against said Culicoides midges, not only to save the horse agro, but also because the horse looks a mess if Culicoides wins!  Also, they are bloody annoying to me too as they seem to like me!  Bastards.

So I have had to be really careful as a result of Rollo displaying early signs of sweet itch  - he goes out in a fly rug (or perhaps that should be called an "anti-fly rug") during the day because of that - you can see the rug in the photos.  I also liberally spray him with fly and midge repellent, also wiping this around his face. The midges are most active during sunset and sunrise, but then there's all the othe nasty biting bastards around so at least he is protected from everything as much as possible!

Anyway, as a result - and anyway most horses do - he loves a good scratch and this is an important part of equine bonding rituals - that's why you will often see horses giving each other a mutual grooming session. Very often they start this by nibbling at one another's withers (the thoracic verterbrae for those friends of mind that don't know about horses; it is from where a horse's height is measured as it is the highest point of the back just below the neck). The withers are an easy trigger for endorphines (one of the body's "feel good" chemicals) which are released during this process and the horse also gets a dopamine hit! I remember many moons ago when I was a Pony Clubber doing Prince Phillip Cup and our "chef d'equipe" (!) told me to scratch the withers of my very excitable pony to chill him out - and it really did seem to take some of the stress out of him!

One of the things they get you to do in Natural Horsemanship (e.g. Pareli) is to rub your horse all over as a way of desensitization and bonding.  I take this one step further because rubbing is great (why does all of this sound kind of pervy?  It really isn't meant to!), but what many horses really want is a darned good scratch - done in a way to mimic a horse nibbling.  I believe some of the techniques of the Tellington Touch technique also mimic this but then that is my opinion! 

The moral of the story is if you spend a little while each day just scratching your horse then you become another horse to him  - great bonding exercise.  Even better, if you visit your horse in the field and give him a scratch for a while without any expectation of riding, you'll develop a bond to the point that your horse just walks up to you - no catching problems - the horse won't be associating you with work every time you enter his field!  That's an old story but it works!  Rollo always comes up to the gate for me, though sometimes I have to go a bit closer if he is asleep!  And we even join in the other horses for grooming sessions which is very funny! So many people just grab their horse from the field, ride them and give them a perfunctory pat if they've done right and then bung them out in the field again.  We *spend time* stroking and scratching our dogs and cats, so why not our horses?

Here's my tips for helping avoid midge and fly irritation:

  1. Keep the horse clean!  Flies and midges (or not so much the latter) are attracted by dirt, sweat, secretions and coat grease.  When your horse comes back from exercise, sponge off any sweaty areas.  Make sure that you wash your horse all over regularly with e.g. Dermonline shampoo. When your horse has had a feed sponge off his nostril and muzzle area.  Before you put your horse in the field, sponge off any secretions from his eyes/nostrils.  This is a big thing to fight fly and midge annoyance.

  2. Use midge/fly repellent spray.  If your horse doesn't like the feeling of the spray (or the noise of it), simply spray it on a sponge and sponge him over with it!  Make sure to sponge his face with the repellent and the dock and sheath areas.  Citronella was what I used to use but I think it is not licensed for use any more - but it used to be brilliant!  Be aware that just as worms get immune/desensitised to certain anti-worming chemicals (anthelmintics) that so can flies and midges get used to spray - so use different ones from time to time.

  3. Use an anti-fly (usually just called a "fly") rug.  Get one that also covers the dock and neck area.  Be wary of using one that covers the face unless you really need to - would you like something covering your face and impeding your vision (especially if you are a prey animal like a horse)?  I don't use a face mask on Rollo for this reason, but am vigilant about using facial fly spray and keeping his face clean.  However, if you notice undue discharge from eyes, it may be due to fly irritation and you may need to re-consider this position and apply a mask because conjunctivitis may result and you will save vet bills on if you have to get something like chloromycetin.

  4. Don't stable or field your horse too near to water, muckheap, etc - if you have a lake/pond this is where midges breed, and muckheaps are a favoured choice for fly breeding!  Horse flies in particular love water.  Water buckets are better than fixed troughs.  If you've got a fixed trough have a look in it in about Jun/Jul - see all those little wriggly things in there?  Many of those will be midge larvae!

  5. When you are out riding, the midges and flies will also be attracted to you.  The sprays you used on your horse may have masked them, but if the midges/flies get attracted to you, they may nevertheless get attracted to your horse as you ride him.  So use a masking agent - e.g. Jungle Spray!  It also avoids those bloody painful horse fly bastards that I hate as I come up in massive hives!  Many people also recommend Avon's Skin-So-Soft Soft and Fresh Dry Oil Body Spray - it doesn't contain nasty chemicals but apparently creates a layer on the skin that midge mouthparts find hard to penetrate!  Thanks for reminding me of that one, Frank (recommended to us when we were on the highly midgy Isle of Skye in Scotland in May this year).  You can get the at Avon and doing a search on Google for "skin-so-soft" add "horses" to it and you'll find that some people even use it on their horses!

As a last comment, the number of Culicoides midges appear to be becoming increasingly prevalent in the UK, as does the length of their survival. Global warming is most likely to be the culprit. Hence the increase in the occurrence of sweet itch over the last several years. However, sweet itch aside, there is another, more sinister, reason for us all to become more vigilent about protecting our horses from midge bites and that is that the UK and northern europe are now for the first time being faced with diseases that were once termed "tropical". African Horse Sickness (and Blue Tongue virus which affects ruminants, e.g. cattle) are also carried by Culicoides midges and these diseases are spreading northwards. African Horse Sickness is really nasty and almost always fatal, so we all need to be even more vigilent to protect our horses from biting midges.

Hope that this is useful! Enjoy!

Hey, check this out - the first photo of me on Barolo! Thanks very much to a friend of Vicky's called Diedre (I think - correct me as I am sure I am wrong) for taking this :-)))))))


Catching Rollo

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How sweet is this?  When I went to get my little horse in this morning for a ride, he was fast asleep lying on his side on the grass.  The photo below shows him just having woken up and the video below that shows him getting up and coming over to me - how sweet!



...and this video shows him on a horrid day in June - sorry about the noise of the wind!


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