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Hoofbeats - The Blog 

Welcome to our blog page, HOOFBEATS, where we talk about the countryside with a main emphasis on training and caring for horses and ponies. If you would like to contribute ideas and information about your own experiences, we would be delighted to hear them. Please email to editor@horseandponyinfo.com or post to our Facebook Page, Horse and Pony Info. If you're into Twitter, you can contact us @horse_ponyinfo.

IMPORTANT - The opinions expressed here are from personal experience and we strongly advise you to contact your vet or your riding instructor if you are seriously worried about your horse.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The importance of patience when training your horse

Have you ever noticed that the best horse trainers and riders in the world are usually the most patient? That is not just a co-incidence. Horses and ponies are very intuitive animals and pick up our emotions and feelings quickly. An irritable, impatient trainer can quickly ruin the confidence and spirit of a sensitive horse.

I remember reading an interesting article about research carried out at a well known equestrian veterinary centre in the UK. Apparently the horse has a small brain for the size of its body. Scans done on the brain showed that a horse's reasoning side of the brain is not as large as its emotional part. However, the intriguing result of tests done on a horse showed that the reasoning area grew if the horse was trained. So, the more a horse learned, the bigger that part of the brain became. Who knows, this may also be true with humans!

We're delighted to welcome Elizabeth Jensen of Sunnyridge Horsemanship as a guest writer to our online magazine. Elizabeth has already written two articles for us and you can see her interesting take on The Importance of Patience when training horses here. 


8:09 pm gmt 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


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6:51 pm gmt 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Switching to Bitless Riding

Have you ever tried riding bitless? Maybe you have already tried riding in a hackamore. Many people are now considering or have already made the switch to riding without a bit in the horse's mouth. Some are forced to attempt the transition because their horse has a problem in his mouth and a bitless bridle is the only option. Others use bitless bridles because they feel they are kinder to the horse.

I am very grateful to Avis Senior and her two friends, Elinor and Brenda, who brought bitless riding to my attention. Avis sent me a link to a team competing in a Hunt Chase in bitless bridles. It makes interesting viewing and may convince those of you who worry that you will be run away with that a horse trained to a bitless bridle can be a fun ride.

If you have experience of riding bitless yourself and would like to add any information, please get in touch.

Read our articles about bitless riding here 

2:45 pm gmt 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Equestrian & Country Christmas Cards 2014

We've launched our Christmas Card Catalogue for 2014 today. We hope you'll enjoy looking at our beautiful A5 cards. They are good value at €2.00 each and we send them to anywhere in the world with a postal address! 

Please have a look at our online catalogue here. There are horses, cats and dogs to suit all tastes and we even have a squirrel.



12:36 pm gmt 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rocky's Progress - Teething Problems

BlogPhotos/Horseteeth.jpgFor a few days, Rocky seemed like the perfect pony. We have been getting him ready for backing and he lunges well on both reins, drives on long reins around the arena and up and down the lane, and has even had a small journey in the horse trailer. 

He followed me up the back ramp and down the front ramp three times with little hesitation. I parked the car and trailer at the bottom of the lane to our yard, where he would see his friend in the field in front of him and where the hedge on either side would encourage him to up the ramp instead of around it.  All well. Good boy, Rocky!

Two days later, we took him one step further. Accompanied by an experienced pony who has travelled to shows in the trailer, Rocky went for a short drive. He was excited, perhaps a little unsettled but not phased. He was pleased to see me when I opened the jockey door but didn't bolt down the front ramp when it opened. Good boy, Rocky!

Alas, we have now hit a stumbling block. Rocky has developed a phobia about the bit in his mouth and clamps his jaw shut when the bridle approaches. This reluctance has now turned to downright obstinance, with rearing and kicking out with front legs. Something must be wrong and pain is always what we have to consider first. The dentist and vet are coming on Thursday and, in the meantime, we will leave his mouth alone. He will continue with loose lungeing and perhaps popping over cross poles.

New rules in Ireland now mean that an equine dentist cannot sedate a horse (or farrier, physiotherapist, etc) so the vet also needs to be present to administer an IV sedative. Hopefully this will make the procedure as painless as possible for the pony. I wouldn't fancy having a filling or a tooth out without an anaesthetic, would you?

We will see what the dentist says about his mouth. 

(Photo by © Rita Kochmarjova - Fotolia.com)

5:44 pm gmt 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rocky's time has come


I hope wherever you are in the world that you are enjoying your horses. In Ireland, we have at last seen the first signs of spring after an extremely wet winter. We have even tentatively taken off some of the winter rugs and replaced them with lighter ones, or none at all on sunnier days.  

Do you remember our Rocky? The foal who made his way into this world almost unannounced. He hid for months in his mother's womb before we began to get suspicious. A strong Connemara mare, she kept putting on weight even when her grass was reduced. The vet confirmed she was in foal and we had to make haste and prepare for baby's imminent arrival!

The mare belonged to a livery client and moved away but Rocky returned to us when he was five months old as his owners had nowhere to keep him. That was just over four years ago. I will tell you the story of his rather dramatic birth another day. Rocky certainly made sure that we would never forget the day he arrived and he has been busy attracting our attention ever since.

He was a late foal, born on 15th October, so we did a little work with him last summer and then turned him away. He has had a bridle and saddle on. He has been lightly lunged and has walked around the arena in long reins. He has even had the weight of our French students leaning on his back. 

Now he is about to go one step further and is back in the stable to be prepared for riding. Good luck, Rocky, I hope you enjoy it! We'll keep you posted on how he gets on. 


  Rocky as a yearling with blonde highlights             Rocky a little older 


12:01 pm gmt 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Five examples of 'horse salesperson speak' - or what we aren't being told!

We've all probably heard of 'estate agent speak'. It's a special language, or use of words, by estate agents when they describe houses for sale. 'In need of some renovation', for example, usually means the house is a complete ruin. I thought it would be a good idea to assemble some 'sales speak' which people might hear from sellers of horses. 

1.  'He's a lovely horse (or pony) but he's a little green.' - A little green has obviously nothing to do with the animal's colour - it means he's uneducated. Green horses or ponies need time put into them to teach them to become quiet and reliable. Green horses don't suit inexperienced or nervous riders. 

2. 'All you have to do is lunge her before you ride her and she'll be as quiet as a lamb.'  - Trust me, any horse that needs to be lunged every day before being ridden is anything but quiet. I know a young woman who recently bought a horse from a supposedly reputable owner and was told this. The horse turned out, surprise, surprise, to be a crazy animal, and bucked off the girl's father and broke his back. Needless to say, they returned the horse and were lucky to be able to do so. 

3. 'All this pony needs is a sympathetic rider with soft hands'. - Again, we're probably dealing with a mad thing but this one will probably tear around the arena with his head in the air or try to pull the reins out of the rider's hands. The dentist (more info here) might be able to help but, unless the rider considers himself calm, sympathetic and able to deal with over-sensitive horses, I wouldn't go there. 

4. 'I'm afraid I've lost her passport, but she's only nine years old.' - It's amazing how many sellers have lost passports. What this usually means is that the passport has been thrown away because the horse is at least fifteen years old. When I'm told the horse's age and there's no sign of a passport, I immediately look at the teeth as it is easy to tell an older horse's age using Galvayne's Groove as a guide (see details opposite). I bought a pony from a dealer last Autumn. She knew I knew about Galvayne's Groove so admitted that the man she'd bought the pony from had tried to tell her he was nine. We both thought he was more like fourteen or fifteen but he's kind, sensible and good for beginner riders so it didn't really matter. 

5. 'This horse is four years old and he's bombproof'. - If I got a euro for every time I see bombproof four year olds advertised for sale, I'd be a rich woman. I don't believe there's such a thing as a 'bombproof' young horse. They simply don't have the years of mileage and experience behind them. Obviously some horses and ponies are more sensible than others but only older ones should be labelled bombproof.

7:55 pm gmt 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Teach your horse five tricks

We often get asked by readers how to teach a horse tricks. Our October video of the month shows how to get your horse to smile, walk backwards, follow, count and grab something. The horse trainer uses positive reinforcement by feeding her horse treats such as carrots or pieces of apple. 

Feeding a horse or pony treats is always a controversial subject as some people believe that it encourages them to bite. I have found that it depends on the horse. Some are more prone to biting than others and I would advise caution with a young horse or pony. If a horse respects you, it will not bite. 

Some owners are able to teach horses tricks without using food as a reward, just by praising them.

Watch the video here. 

If you have any videos of your own horse doing tricks, we would love to see them. Send a link in an email to editor@horseandponyinfo.com.  


4:57 pm gmt 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Dog plays tug of war and tag with a foal

Have you ever had a moment when you wished you had your camera with you? June's 'Video of the Month' captures one of those rare occasions when a dog has a tug of war with a foal and then runs around the paddock, encouraging it to chase him.

If you have a video you would like us to look at for 'Video of the Month' or can suggest something you think would appeal to other readers, then please let us know. Send an email to editor@horseandponyinfo.com.

See the June video here:  http://www.horseandponyinfo.com/

3:15 pm gmt 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Horses and Rats - a Horror Story

This post is not for the faint hearted. Just thought I'd get that in early. If you can't even bear the thought of reading about rats, tune out now.

My horror story began several months ago when our beloved dog died. He used to accompany me every night to the stables for last feeds and enthusiastically slaughter any rat stupid enough to get in his way. It was frightening how rats fought the dog, leaping and squealing in the darkness while I stood uselessly by, also screaming. For all the good screaming does!

Since the dog's death, the rats continued to thrive and breed. Apparently they have an average of 6 babies every 6 weeks. After another 6 weeks, the babies themselves can produce babies. You don't have to be a maths genius to work out that after a couple of months you're in big trouble. Another scary statistic I learnt from the pest control man is that for every one rat you see in daylight hours, there are at least another 10 in hiding. When 5 rats jumped out of a feed bucket one night, I sent for the marines.

The marines arrived in the Rentokil van and, being fond of statistics, I discovered that my rat infestation is 8 on a scale of 10 and that a single pair of breeding rats and their subsequent descendants will produce 2,300 rats in one year. Scary, right?

Some people, when I mentioned the problem, thought rats were cute and were fine to have around horses. Here's why this couldn't be further from the truth:

  • Rats spread disease through their urine and poo. Rat urine will cause Leptospirosis in dogs and Weil's Disease in humans. By the time the infection has reached the liver, it's often too late. If you have been near rats and touched anything, especially if you have cuts on your hands, and subsequently get bad flu symptoms, joint aches and pains and respiratory problems, go to your doctor immediately for the antibiotics. I'm not exaggerating. My brother had to be treated for Weil's Disease last August after clearing out a shed on his farm. You might like to Google Weil's Disease for more info about how it can cause death and make sure your dogs are vaccinated against Leptospirosis as it's also a killer.

  • The Rentokil technician assured me that rat urine on hay, bedding and feed in stables can cause respiratory problems in horses and told me that they are employed in top racing yards around the Curragh on permanent contracts as (and I quote him) ‘a racehorse where there are rats will never win a race.' You need to check with your vet on this one as I'm not an expert.

  • Rats can also nibble through wiring and cause fire in stables.

How to get rid of the rats? First and foremost, keep your feed room scrupulously clean. Rats love cereals so sweep up any nuts, oats or mix that falls on the ground and keep bags of feed in galvanised metal bins. All our plastic bins have been chewed through so we only use metal ones now.

If you don't use professional pest control, and even if you do, make sure you don't cause secondary poisoning where your dog, cat or even owls and birds eat the poisoned rats and mice and also die. I have been assured that the rat extermination programme I am following will not do this. I met a farmer this week who uses bait bought in the local store and it regularly kills off the kittens. Only one cat survives as he doesn't like eating dead mice. Horrible. And not what I would like to happen to our new kitten.

Another way to keep rats at bay is to own a hardy Jack Russell terrier or two. Farm cats will also kill off baby rats and stop the breeding process. It takes a brave cat to tackle a fully grown rat and I remember years ago one of ours getting her face torn open by one.

I warned you this was a horror story.

12:32 pm gmt 

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Horses racing on a frozen lake in Switzerland
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The Importance of Patience when training a horse

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Bitless riding is becoming more popular. Read our articles by three experienced bitless riders


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