Category Archives: Equestrianism for Idiots

An expert guide to riding on the beach

If you have any interest in riding on our wonderful beaches, don’t miss Rachel’s expert guide on the East Donegal Pony Club’s website.

Some pointers from the pipsqueaks

Substitute “Northwest League” for “An Chúirt League” and you’ll find that much of the pony club’s information on competition days is relevant to us.  Thanks, East Donegals!

Winter weather reading material

There’s any amount of information floating around about proper care of your horse and your equestrian self in winter weather. Here’s the library of related online articles about the topic from Horse & Hound.

Ragwort — better late than never

This summer has seen a massive increase in the level of ugly yellow on the landscape: Ragwort. Right now it’s beginning to go to seed and the real damage –propogation – will be done. Even at this late stage in the season, it’s still worth pulling.

Check out the BHS’s recommendations for controlling and eradicating the plant:
Everything You Need to Know About Ragwort.

The equestrian airbag makes headlines

The New York Times isn’t exactly renowned for its enthusiastic reporting of equestrian sports news but the latest in safety technology has captured its attention:

Equestrians’ Latest Safety Option Is the Air Bag

The science of riding

An equine scientist observing the colourful collection of horses and riders at our flatwork lesson with Jackie on Friday evening would probably have had difficulty deducing any strong theories about the optimum mechanics of the relationship between horse and rider. Unbeknownst to most of us, it seems that Jackie* has been involved in some fairly serious research into the effect of the rider on a horse’s performance and movement.

Jackie was a highly accomplished eventing rider in her earlier life. Before an accident prevented her from enjoying her sport from the saddle she won a bronze medal in the European Young Rider 3-day Event Championships at Burley, England, in 1983. A quick Google of her name threw up this highly specialised piece of research on Coordination Dynamics of the Horse-Rider System. Hopefully we’ll all be a little bit closer to the ideal combination after Jackie’s third lesson!

* Perhaps there are two eventing Jackies out there (always a risk with Google searches), but it’s unlikely. We’ll check that it’s actually her on Friday.

ISPCA reminds owners of summer welfare issues

The ISPCA is urging all horse owners to pay particular attention to the worming and farriery needs of their horses as the grazing season begins. As reported on the AIRC website, the ISPCA claims that many people are neither worming their horses nor looking after their teeth or their basic foot care.

In addition, given the numbers of horses sold cheaply last year, the ISPCA fears there will be a foal explosion this year and is asking owners not to run colts and fillies together.

Officials from the Department of Agriculture, welfare organisations, veterinary surgeons and other equine stakeholders are holding a think tank in the coming weeks in an effort to develop a strategy to tackle the issue.

Keep up to date with the ISPCA’s work on their website: ISPCA. They run a number of programmes including a horse re-homing scheme.

Competition time: Getting your tack right

The subject of tack is almost as extensive as the weather. We all have different inclinations. Some go the classical route while others like to try every latest invention. Whatever your taste, make sure that you have the basics correct for both you and your horse for competition. Download the tack sheets for each discipline in which you intend to compete. If you’re new to the game, don’t be daunted. Most of it is pretty straightforward and, if you remember a few basic dos and donts, you won’t go too far wrong.

For instance, don’t use a dressage (or schooling) whip when show jumping – you need a standard short one.

Don’t use a martingale or any kind of boots (on your horse!) when riding your dressage test. Do remember to wear gloves yourself.

Be careful that your bit is permitted for dressage.

Remember that you must be graded Intermediate or above to use spurs.

If you’re in any doubt, ask another member who might have more experience. Be careful though – sometimes it’s a case of the blind leading the blind!

Dressage Tacksheet · Download
Show Jumping Tacksheet · Download
Cross Country Tacksheet · Download
Dressage for Horse Trials/ODE Tacksheet · Download

Your horse’s family tree and photo album

Some of us know the breeding of our horses and some of us don’t. Either way, anybody who has the slightest interest in breeding will find the All Breed Pedigree website pretty fascinating:

The online database contains a vast bank of pedigree details. If you know your horse’s breeding, search for its parents. Marina’s mare, Jenny, is by the Irish Sport Horse, High Roller, while her old star, Teldel, is a blue-blooded Thoroughbred by the American Champion 2-year-old and Breeders Cup Juvenile winner, Gulch. Tanya’s Al is by the Dutch Warmblood, Aldato.

If you know its breeding and its parents are in the database, you can create an entry for your own horse. The sire (Prince of Thieves) and maternal grandsire (Pride of Shaunlara) of Libby’s Fenway were already in the database. By first creating an entry for Fenway’s mother (Aravis), it was possible to enter Fenway himself.

In the case of Connemaras and Irish Draughts, it’s fascinating to see how often Thoroughbreds and Arabs have been used to improve the breed. This is very clear from Fenway’s pedigree and also from Rachel and Libby’s Connemara, Doolin. Just click on one of the ancestors a few generations further back and see the extended family tree from that point. Look a little further at Al’s father’s pedigree and you’ll see that the Dutch used exactly the same methods for improving their Warmbloods.

And if the family tree isn’t enough, check out the drop-down menu on the top left of the site, Reports. Most of the options cost money to view but the option at the bottom, Photos, is available for free. Here you can see photographs of any of the ancestors that have a star against their name in the family tree. Even if you have no personal link to a horse, it’s worth looking at a few just to see the old photographs and drawings.

Keeping abreast of veterinary news

Most of us reach for our veterinary encyclopaedia when something goes wrong with our horse. This helps to cure the problem but it’s not a great deal of use in preventing the problem occurring. is an American online resource which publishes articles on all aspects of horse health and management. Some of the features are specific to the American scene but the majority are relevant to every horse owner. Their fact sheets are excellent and their library of webinars is a great resource.

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