Saturday, 31 March 2012

Greedy Trooper and Pretty Joe!

 I am back home for three weeks now over Easter and here are some photos I took of Trooper this afternoon. As usual he was with Joe in the field, Joe was doing his best poses for the camera whilst Trooper was being grumpy and eating as much grass as possible! For those of you that don't know Joe is Trooper's best friend and they are always together in the field. They are both old and stay away from the other horses messing about!


 As usual Joe was standing like a very well behaved horse while Trooper was stuffing his face with grass!

I will have to send this one to his owner! Shame Trooper's bum is in the way!

This is one of Trooper's worst habits, he bites the lead rope when we bring him in from the field. I have tried everything to make him stop! I tried leading him without a lead rope for months and he would still try and bite where it should be. As soon as I put it back on he would bite it again!

One of the only nice photos of Trooper!

And to finish it off, here's Pixie, the oldest cat in the world (or so I like to think!)

Love Laura

Sunday, 25 March 2012

GB Rider Profile; Ellen Whitaker

The Whitaker family are from Yorkshire and are very well known in show jumping. At Horse Of The Year Show there seems to be at least one Whitaker in every jumping class! Ellen Whitaker is only 25 years old and is one of our countries leading show jumpers. She always gets a massive cheer when she comes into the arena and is definitely a favourite amongst all the little girls that love horses.She has recently gotten engaged to Henry Cavill who is an American actor due to play Superman in a film.

Some of her past achievements include winning the 2010 Hickstead Speed Derby, winning the 2009 HOYS show jumper of the year Grand Prix and show jumper of the show, winning the HOYS speed stakes in 2006, 2008 and 2009 and winning the 2009 HOYS Puissance. Ellen currently has a number of good horses including Locarno, Kanselier and Ladina B.

Coming from the Whitaker family she has ridden horses from a young age. At the age of 15 she was placed third in the Hickstead Derby and later was disqualified for not yet having reached the minimum age of 16 to enter the competition! 

She unfortunately missed out on a place in team GB in the Beijing Olympics due to her horse Locarno having an infection in his leg. She also seems  unlikely to have a place in London 2012.

Love Laura

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Who To Follow On Twitter?

I was thinking about what to do a post on and ended up on Twitter, I then decided I could write a post about who I like to follow on Twitter as I think a lot of bloggers also use the website.

  • @kyequine; Kentucky Equine Research provides links to lots of new information on equine nutrition. 
  • @Joules_Clothing; The clothing brand has information about sales and competitions they are running.
  • @horseblogs; Although it doesn't say, I think this is the Twitter account for the "Behind The Bit" blog. It links to their posts along with other news.
  • @DonkeySanctuary; As many of you may know I love the Donkey Sanctuary and their Twitter account is also one of my favourites. It often links to their "Donkey Cam" and keeps me up to date with their news.
  • @TeamSPILLERS; The feed company Spillers gives lots of news and information about feeding your horse. 
  • @HorseCharity; World Horse Welfare tweets lots of news, information and photos about their charity.

Hope you enjoy exploring them, let me know if you recommend any others!

Love Laura

Monday, 19 March 2012

Clicker Training

I have had a day of behaviour lectures and practicals today and I really enjoyed it. I have always enjoyed behaviour so I was looking forward to it anyway but our lecturer was really good and we got to have a go at clicker training this afternoon.

The clicker training we were doing was more of a fun ground-work exercise to do with the horse. I am not sure how useful it would be when you are riding the horse to train it as it is relating it back to food.

What is clicker training?
The video below gives an introduction into clicker training!

The clicker is used as it can be used to mark the exact point of time when the horse performs a behaviour rather just giving them a treat a few seconds after. They are still given treats after they perform the behaviour, the clicker is used to mark the exact time of the behaviour and it becomes a reward as they associate the clicker with a treat.

Clicker training may be useful for helping horses load on to trailers as you can click at the exact moment they move a leg forwards so they know this is the correct behaviour.

What we did in our practical
We started off by getting into pairs with other people in my class, my partner then had to go to the other side of the arena. The lecturer told us we had to get them to perform a behaviour without speaking to them and using the clicker to get them to do it. It was a bit like playing the "hotter and colder" game where you tell people if they are getting closer to the right answer. We then had to get them to pick up a cone, put it on the side of the jump and put their hand on it whilst lifting their right leg! This was very difficult to do without speaking but was a really good practise. It made me think that a lot of the differences between teaching us and horses is due to the fact we can speak and they can't.

We then went to get the horses. We had a few different things to play with in the arena such as little cones, sand castle buckets, and big exercise balls. The horse my partner and I had was called Gordon and he was around 16.2 hh and was very alert and playful! He acted like a big pony! We quickly realised that Gordon had done clicker training before as every time my partner clicked the clicker he would look at her for a treat.  One thing that surprised me is that the horses remembered the clicker training even though they hadn't done it for around a year!

We started off by getting him to touch the cone with his nose, every time we did it we clicked the clicker and he received a treat. We then paired this with the command "touch". Sometimes he would get a bit carried away and lift the cone in his mouth and shake his head around (he didn't get a click and a reward for this).

Then we decided to teach him two different commands with the cones and he had to differentiate between the two. The first command was "touch", and the second was "pick" in which he had to pick up the cone. After a few times we realised he was pawing the ground a lot and he may have been taught the command "kick" in the past. We then changed the name of the command to "lift" and this seemed to work much better. Some of the other people in the class using the exercise balls were using the commands "touch" and "kick" so he may have done this in the past.

Gordon learnt this quite quickly. We had a line of cones and once he performed the behaviour we would move onto the next cone and start again. Towards the end we were staring to pair the verbal commands with visual signals. We started holding one hand up as the signal to touch the cone and he was just starting to do this at the end of the session.

The session lasted around 30-45 mins before the lecturer said we should stop or we would start losing their attention. We are  going to have another go at this next week and try swapping horses. Because Gordon was quite lively at first he was just starting to calm down a bit towards the end and was reacting better to the signals.

Have any of you tried clicker training? I want to go home and try it on Trooper now! It was a really fun exercise to do with your horse and helped me to realise how clever horses are!

Love Laura

Sunday, 18 March 2012

GB Rider Profile; Oliver Towned

This Sunday's GB Rider Profile will be on Oliver Townend. In 2009 he won both Badminton and Burghley Horse Trials on Flint Curtis. The FEI rankings currently put him at 4th in Great Britain and 6th in the world.

Oliver is from Yorkshire and used to be based near the Whitaker family. He has ridden since a young age and has been very successful since his early teens, competing at Horse Of The Year Show and riding for GB on the pony Eventing team in the European Championships. 

He had a bad fall a few years ago during a competition in which he was knocked unconscious. He was wearing one of the inflatable body protectors and says he may not have still been alive it wasn't for this body protector. 

Here is the link to his website; He also has his own range of clothing, equipment and leather goods;

He currently has a number of horses he is riding including ODT Sonas Rovatio and Imperial Master. I am unsure which horse he would want to ride at the Olympics.

Oliver is also involved in social networking and has a Facebook page and a Twitter page where he keeps people up to date with what he is doing. He has also won and been runner up in the Equestrian Social Media Awards in the past.

Below is a video of an interview with him (although he is being very naughty and riding without a hat on at the beginning!).

This link is for another video of an interview about the Olympics and how he is starting his training. He said he is an outsider at the moment as many of his horses are young but he still hopes to make it onto the Olympic team. Click here! I hope he gets onto the Great Britain team as he is seen as one of the iconic British Eventers.

Love Laura

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Herbal Supplements

We recently had a lecturer come to talk to us about herbal additives in horses feeds and how they work. A lot of people like to use natural feeds with horses. I think this is due to the horse being considered as an animal that has come from a wild environment and owners wanted to keep it as natural as possible for their horse.

A lot of the "active" chemicals in plants that have an effect on the horse have developed as a defence mechanism for the plant. For example, the chemical may be toxic against pests and animals that may eat the plant. As a plant cannot move away from a predator then this is their best form of defence.

Many of these chemicals produced by plants can be used in the horse for a number of different reasons. One point to note is that just because these are natural products does not mean that they can not have detrimental effects on the horse. Some plants are toxic and therefore feeding them to the horse can have harmful effects. Toxic plants often work by having a negative effect on the horse's digestive system which prevents them from digesting food correctly and can lead to weight loss and in some cases death. There are also other ways in which plants can have toxic effects to the horse. Prolonged use of the herbal supplements may also cause problems in some cases. It is also important that they are being given in the correct amounts in order to have the desired effects.

Examples of plants that are used in horses there are many claims as to their potential uses, a lot of these are disputed;
  • Devil's claw- anti-inflammatory. These effects have been seen in humans and laboratory animals, it has been found to relieve pain from some conditions such as rheumatism. There are a lack of studies looking at this herb in the horse. 
  • Garlic- respiration (breaks up mucus), gastrointestinal function, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-parasitic and insect repellent effects. There has been found to be a number of chemicals in the garlic that may have beneficial effects. Studies have been done in horses to look at these effects and many have found it to be beneficial. However, as with most supplements, toxicity can be a problem if too much is fed. Effects from this include gastric irritation, decreased sperm production and anaemia.  
  • Ginger- anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombitic and anti-bacterial. The effects of ginger have been looked at in horses, one study found it to reduce the recovery time after high intensity exercise. In humans ginger has been found to cause gastric ulcers, this has been theorised in horses. However, herbal supplements to relieve gastric ulcers in horses often contain ginger.  
  • Yucca- anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-spasmodic effects. May also be used as a natural wormer. Many equine joint supplements contain yucca. Most of the research with yucca has been carried out in livestock species however such as cows and sheep and how it affects their digestion. 
The only herbal supplement I have used with Trooper is garlic. This was to help his respiratory problems. We did not notice much of an improvement using this supplement. However, the active components in garlic  may not be present in some of the supplements that are available to buy so this could have been the case. It may also be affected by the way the garlic has been processed; if it is in powder form or granules and how it has been stored. Therefore it is important when using a herbal supplement that it contains the compound needed for the effects. This can therefore require research from the owner into the particular brand and type of supplement being used. Even after researching these supplements, it can be very hard to find the required information as to what they actually contain.

Do any of you have any experience using herbal supplements in horses?

(Some of this information is from Williams and Lamprecht (2008), The Veterinary Journal, some of the rest is my own opinion and things I have learnt whilst at university).

Love Laura

Monday, 12 March 2012

Trooper After His Feed

Here is a video I took whilst I was at home of Trooper after his feed. He does this after every meal and we have to have rubber buckets not plastic ones because he breaks them!

Love Laura

Sunday, 11 March 2012

GB Rider Profile; Lee Pearson

When I went to watch the Spanish Riding School Lee Pearson CBE was also riding before the show. He did a routine to music and was fantastic. He is a Paralympic rider.

At the age of eight he started riding horses as an alternative to riding a BMX. He learnt to ride on a donkey. Carl Hester also learnt to ride on a donkey so maybe this is where I am going wrong with my dressage skills. I need to get some donkey riding lessons! 

Lee Pearson has won 9 Paralympic games dressage gold medals and a further 19 gold medals at European and World Championship level (that is a lot of medals!). He has been voted BBC Midlands Sport Personality of the Year. And also won a national championship event at Stoneleigh against able-bodied riders. 

 He was born in 1974 with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita. He said "the muscles in my arms and legs grew as scar tissue in the womb". When watching him ride you may not know he has a disability unless you had already been told before-hand.

Lee Pearson has his own website click here where there are interviews and extra information. He had a great sense of humour when we saw him at the Spanish Riding School and this comes across on his website, even showing a photo of Gus having a wee in the collecting ring!

His main horse is called Blue Circle Boy and can be seen in the video below. His stable name is Gus and he is 17.2 hh! He is a hanoverian x welsh. He is absolutely gorgeous!

In 2009, Lee Pearson was awarded a CBE for his achievements and contributions to the sport. He is on track to compete for Team GB in the London 2012 Paralympic games.

None of these images belong to me.

Love Laura

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Fly-Grazing Horses

I have noticed a lot on the news recently about horses that live in the wild becoming too large in numbers in certain areas and causing problems. There are also problems with horses being bred until they are in large groups and then being left on land being "fly-grazed". This is currently a big problem in Wales.

The BBC published this news article the other day. Click here! In it they discuss the problems with horses being left on land to graze where they should not be. Many of these horses have a poor welfare and some end up being put to sleep. 250 stray horses recently hit the news that had been found in Bridgend. The people that previously own these horses need to stop breeding such large numbers. I expect they are hoping to earn money by selling the horses on and nobody wants to buy them.

This is also giving horse owners a bad name and will not help with other issues in the community that riders are campaigning for such as access to bridle paths and safer riding on the roads.

I am not sure what a solution to this problem could be. Owners need to be educated and hopefully they will realise that they are not gaining anything by breeding these large numbers of horses and leaving them on land to graze that does not belong to them and may be in dangerous areas.

Love Laura

Monday, 5 March 2012

How They Do DNA Tests

We had a molecular genetics practical the other day in which we used horse hair and extracted the DNA from it. This is the process that many DNA tests are based on so I decided to write a blog on how this was done. I should have taken some photos but I have only just decided. This may not be the method used by all companies doing DNA tests but this is how we did it.

These tests may be carried out for breeding purposes to detect for coat colour genes or genes that may be linked to diseases. See my other post on coat colour and linked diseases.

  • During the practical we were given horse hair and we had to cut the follicles off around 20 strands with a scalpel. As it is DNA you are testing for you have to be very careful with contamination.

  • Once the hair follicles have been cut off they were put into tiny tubes. Before the DNA can be analysed it has to be removed from the hair follicles. This is done by mixing the hair follicle with certain solutions, the type used may depend on the type of DNA sample. 
  • The samples undergo a number of steps such as being heated in a water bath. They are also put into tubes with filters on them. 
  • They are spun on a high speed centrifuge machine after adding a number of different solutions.
  • The DNA will then be held in the filter, the final solution then removes it from the filter and keeps it in the solution.
  • A NanoDrop machine can be used to detect the levels of DNA now present in the solution. This is important when knowing how much to dilute it by before the DNA analysis.
  • PCR is then used to look at the DNA present. During this step the DNA solution is mixed with primers which cut the DNA.
  • The PCR machine then runs for a number of cycles which last varying lengths of time at certain temperatures.
  • PCR separates the two strands of DNA and allows lots of copies of them to be made. This will allow them to be detected when assessing the DNA present.
  • The DNA solution is run on gels via electrophoresis using electrical currents to separate the DNA.
  • T-RFLP is a machine that can sequence the DNA present. 
  • To then tell what this DNA actually means it is compared with known genes using computer programs. The equine genome was sequenced in 2007 so this is now available. It can tell you the types of DNA present along with how much of it is present in the sample.
Here is a little addition to this article. I have just seen a news story on an equine "DNA bank" which would be useful against the theft of horses and recognising who the horse belongs to. They say this is a longer lasting solution than microchips which may be removed.

Love Laura

Sunday, 4 March 2012

GB Rider Profile; Mary King

Mary King is an eventer and I have seen her a number of times at Badminton Horse Trials. One thing that always stands out about her is that she smiles all the way round the cross country course. I am writing this a bit before I plan to post it but she is currently ranked number one by the FEI at eventing.

Mary King was born in 1961 and started riding on a vicar's pony. When she was 12 years old she said she went on a trip with the Pony Club to Badminton Horse Trails and was enthralled, "from that moment I knew I wanted to win it", she said. She then went on to get a job on an eventing yard where her riding skills developed. 

She has been to five Olympics and collected a team silver in Athens 2004 and a team bronze in Hong Kong 2008. She won a gold medal at the Kentucky World Equestrian Games in 2010. She has four European team gold medals. She won Badminton Horse Trials in 1992 and again in 2000. I think I might have been there in 2000 because this was around the time when I used to go and I remember Mary King being one of the big riders competing. 

In 2001 she had a riding accident in which she broke her neck. This did not deter her and she carried on competing as soon as she could. She is definitely a very brave rider!

 Mary King is also sponsored by Joules  which is one of my favourite brands. She also has a daughter, Emily who is sponsored by Joules and does eventing. I think her daughter is 15 years old. Mary King has written a number of books and has her own computer games and games for the wii! I used to have the first one for the computer when I was younger! She currently lives in Devon.

She currently has a number of horses she is riding including Imperial Cavalier, Kings Temptress and Appache Sauce. 

Mary King is not only a brilliant rider but she seems like a really nice person. I wish her the best of luck for the Olympics!

None of these images belong to me.

Love Laura

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Clever Hans

I am just doing some extra reading for my equine behaviour module and I came across "Clever Hans". I learnt about this horse in psychology A level and it is an interesting story.

Clever Hans was a horse that lived in Austria in the 1900s. The horse was thought to be an arithmetic genius. It appeared that he was able to count and could also do algebra. He would count out the answer by pawing with his leg and would always stop at the correct number.

After scientists taking great interest in this horse and why it was so clever they found that it only got the correct answer when it could see the audience. If there was a board between them it got the incorrect answer.

The horse had learnt to read the body language of the audience and when he got to the correct answer he would stop due to changes in their body language. He learnt he would get a reward after doing this as well. His owner was thought to be the main person he looked at for these cues and his bowler hat, seen below was thought to accentuate his movement of leaning forward slightly as the horse got to the correct answer.

This shows how horses pick up on very small body language signals. This has developed from them living in herds where body language is a very important part of their communication. As they are prey animals, they often prefer communicating in this way as opposed to using vocal noises which could alert predators.

Love Laura

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Giveaway Winner!

Thank you all for entering the giveaway! I really enjoyed reading your answers about the things you all love about horses.

The winner is  Ruffles!! Congratulations I will contact you soon!

Love Laura
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