Is BUSY a four-letter word?

Could you get lost in this view?

I met with a friend for dinner last month – it had taken a long time and lots of back and forth messages to organise a time that suited both of us.  When we finally got together, she said – this whole – “I’m just so BUSY, when did we start saying this as a good thing?” When you meet up with someone, or ask a friend how they are, how often is the answer, OK, busy, all OK…?

Ollie is busily being a stable cat…
Ollie is busily being a stable cat…

Part of the reason that this is on my mind again, is reading an article in an equine magazine last week, about making our working hours closer to 9 to 5.    They say farriers, vets, instructors shouldn’t be expected to answer their phones or messages outside working hours.  On one hand, yes, I can see where they are coming from.  You cannot be working 24 hours a day.  However, for an awful lot of people, horses are their hobby, their down time, their relaxation.  And so, as with any leisure or hospitality industry, your working hours are during what most people consider their leisure hours.  A lot of yards or instructors take Monday as their day off, because they are working all weekend when clients have time for lessons.  And there are even some yards who close on Monday, the horses just getting their basic care.  So, if you only answer your phone, emails or work in mainstream working hours, you miss out on a lot of work.

I know that I am dreadful at not being “at work”.  Recently, I decided to take a DAY OFF.  An entire day, of not doing anything related to working, writing, researching etc.  I lasted until about 11am.  Because I have clients all over the world, no matter what time it is where I am sitting, someone somewhere is telling me about their ride, asking me about their bit, chatting about where we are organising our next yoga retreat, or asking advice about an issue.  The number of times I’m sitting up at midnight chatting to a client who is another part of the world, or at a family function but on my phone at the same time…

Another friend who I was chatting to a while ago had, sadly, just lost her horse to colic.  She was saying one of the things that had really surprised her was the amount of free time she had – not just the actual time she would have been spending at the yard, but time planning what schooling sessions she would be doing, looking into different feeds, checking that she had booked her farrier at the right time, reading about new bits and wondering if she needed to change what she was using. And because she was working full time and juggling her horse around work, and juggling booking her farrier around that, she would sometimes be messaging him at 8 at night.

Is being too busy different when it’s your hobby?  Does it make it better when you work your hours and then you’re “being Busy” is your hobby time?  It’s all a careful balance I think…

And then, a couple of days ago, I was walking from the house where I was staying, down to their yard.  It’s 660 steps – I know because I counted – and I think it’s a lovely amble.  For me, that is my down time.  I don’t have internet connection when I am outside the house or yard, so for those 5 minutes I am not online.  And, the view, the flowers, the ponies grazing in the paddock, they all make you go hmmmm…  And on one of those walks last week, there, sitting on a bench on the common was an elderly lady, very quietly, very still, gazing down the valley.  She didn’t move, didn’t react, was completely lost in just looking out over the fields and hills.  That, I thought, that is switching off and not being at work. Maybe, instead of trying to stick to office hours, or stick to taking a day off, maybe we should just make sure we have time everyday to sit and stare at the view, to make room in our heads for nothing but the feel of the warming sun, the smells of the spring flowers, the sound of the birds in the hedges

Could you get lost in this view?
Could you get lost in this view?

And, what about our horses?  So many horses live in very busy yards.  They have grooms in and out of their boxes, mucking out, feeding, grooming, tacking up, and different riders coming in, collecting different horses at different times for different lessons.  Maybe those horses go out for a couple of lessons a day.  And even those in the paddock, cars will be driving past, pulling into the car park.  Planes fly overhead, things are always happening.  I do think horses get stressed by being a part of our “busy”. On this day, when I was watching the lady sitting staring down the valley, I also watched the horses in the paddock in her line of sight.  One was standing, hind leg rested, head lowered, ears hanging out to the side and lower lip flopping.  The other two horses were lying flat out on the grass, sunbathing and totally switched off. These, I thought were horses who really were busy doing nothing.  And that is so important in their lives, they need to horse, they need time to relax muscles and they need time to process.

Does your horse get a summer holiday?
Does your horse get a summer holiday?


When I was first learning about horses, first taking professional exams, one of the subjects that we spent a lot of time on was roughing off (preparing a horse for his summer holidays by gradually reducing his work, his hard feed, his rugs) and then getting him fit again, ready for his busy season.  For at least a month, he would be turned out, checked once a day but otherwise left alone.  How many people now a days have no idea how or why roughing off is done? How many horses never actually get to have a holiday?  So many people have horses who they ride 6 days a week, every week and when they, the humans, go away on holidays, they make sure to hire someone else to come in and ride their horses 6 days a week.

in a busy yard, where people are in and out all day, how “busy” are horses?  Do they feel they can fully relax
In a busy yard, where people are in and out all day, how “busy” are horses?  Do they feel they can fully relax


We humans are complaining about being busy, about how we need holidays, about how we need to switch off, and if you are a farrier, to stop answering your phone. But how often do you put your horse’s holidays aside because he must keep working? When was the last time that your horse had a few weeks holiday?


You are utterly insane and irresponsible …

“You are utterly insane and irresponsible, how awful” or “Oh my, wonderful, I am so jealous” are the two comments most commonly offered by people when I tell them what I do for a living – freelance coaching.  With a twist.  The area that I cover is – anywhere in the world.  Some locations are recurring, including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kenya, South Africa, England, Germany and Spain, while others are one offs – such as Italy or Costa Rica.

Growing up and learning to ride, I was the good pupil, who tried desperately to follow my coaches prompts – make the horse forward, get the horse round, use more leg, ride the canter, being some of those shouted instructions that I would be furiously trying to follow.  It wouldn’t have occurred to me to voice my inner thought of – How?  How do I make the horse rounder?  How do I keep my leg still?  How do I get my lazy horse more forward or my whizzy horse to settle?  Somehow, lots of excellent coaching produced a rider able to compete across the disciplines and produce horses, but there was always that little inner dialogue of – how is this working?  Teaching was a challenge, because I could always see the problem, and see what I wanted to change but often lacked the words or linear set of cues to get the changes I wanted for my pupils.

Thousands of miles in dressage arenas, jumping arenas, cross country courses, race tracks, endurance tracks, bridle paths and lunge rings later, my back started to give out, partly due to a lot of incorrect posture along the way.  At that point I was already experimenting with many ideas, but discovered Mary Wanless and her “Ride With Your Mind” system.  Finally, I had some of the “how to” answers.  How does the horse come rounder?  How can I protect my back?  In her words – she teaches a “tool kit” – things that we as riders need to get our head around.  I became a certified RWYM coach, and that opened my mind to more possibilities and thoughts, creating an eclectic mix that I use today.

I count myself lucky in that I have managed to experience a lot of different things, partly for fun, partly as teaching research, which allows me to connect to my pupils existing skills and has put me in front of some amazing coaches across a lot of different sports.  This year, a rider with scuba diving experience was battling with her horse’s flying changes to the right, while to the left was great.  Our discussion revolved around how, when asking for the left changes, she put her body into scuba diving positive buoyancy mode, while when asking for the difficult right changes she went into negative buoyancy mode.  Instantly, by accessing muscle memory that her body understood, she could ride the changes in either direction.  A young rider was battling with her jumping position and a discussion around our shared interest in rock climbing fixed the issue.  (You can’t pull up with your arms, you have to push up with your core and legs).  And yet another rider was constantly slightly behind the movement, causing frustration and irritation on her sensitive pony, which we worked through…  How?  That morning, I had climbed off a plane with a heavy back pack.  On getting onto the escalator going up towards immigration, the back pack had pulled backwards on my shoulders, almost pulling me off my feet.  I had to engage my core, match the packs backward force with my own forward force, so keeping me vertical on the escalator.  This rider was being the back pack pulling her little gelding backwards.  As soon as we worked through how to engage her core to match his forward momentum, all was better in their world.

Lessons are eclectic, thoughtful and make a rider stop and think.  “Be a frog” or “more tennis balls” have been shouted across arenas, after discussion with riders has made this the explanation that puts them where their horse and I need them to be.    My business is Kuda Guru, which means Horse Teacher.  People assume it means I am the horse riding instructor, but the spin I put on it is, your horse is your teacher, I just translate.

The first question I ask of a rider during a lesson – if I could fix one thing, what would it be?  They will answer, I wish he was more forward / straighter / rhythmic / slower / had impulsion / was balanced.  And in my mind, I always think, if I could ask the horse, what would he wish for?  Generally, the answer I imagine is the same as that the rider just gave.  The rider who says, I wish my horse had a better rhythm, is often a rider who is not riding in a rhythm themselves.  And I bet their horse is thinking, I wish my rider had a better rhythm.  We can’t make the horse have a better rhythm, but if the rider and I can put a better rhythm into that rider, the horse now has a dancing partner that he can work with.  At that point, the horse generally finds rhythm, breathes a sigh of relief and I get to translate – look at that, your horse has rhythm, don’t believe me, believe him.  When your horse goes better, believe that you are doing something right…  He is the expert at being the horse, all I do is translate.

So, what do you wish for when riding your horse?  Would he wish for the same thing?  How can you create that in your own body?

If you would like to follow my travels, thoughts, blogs and learn more, you can follow my Facebook page,  or my new and improved website will be up and running this month at

Happy Riding!


Adding Value

Is your coach adding value?

Recently, there were three of us sitting around the table, trying to work out why a lame horse was lame.  And no, we couldn’t call the vet, since the country we were in, isn’t that easy.  We were each coming at the problem from a slightly different angle.  I was reminded about two other conversations…

One is from a friend who works in the corporate world, who is always talking about how, in every situation, you need to somehow add value to the job, situation, meeting or customer interaction.  If you are not giving value, or adding input, then why are you there?  As they say, it takes two hands to clap – if you as the coach, advisor, expert, skilled worker etc add value, then the customer, client, pupil can receive the best of what is offered.  If the coach is not adding value, the pupil cannot make an awesome, positive, constructive lesson all on their own, and equally, if the pupil is off or negative, having a bad day, its hard for the coach to do all of the work.  There has to be an interaction – there have to be two hands to clap.  Even the pupil with the best intentions of being really attentive and taking things from the lesson, can’t do that if the coach is not mentally there.  So, whenever I go into a lesson or problem-solving situation, at the back of my mind is, am I adding value to the mix?  And I inputting ideas, thoughts, helping the situation.  If you say – “that’s bad” it’s a negative that no one can draw any ideas from, but if you can say “hmmm, maybe the issue is this, but we can try x, y, z to fix it” then, you are adding value.

Is your coach adding value?
Is your coach adding value?

I was also reminded of a conversation a long time ago, with a horse health care professional.  He said, if I own a hammer, then all I see are nails…  Let’s say that we have a lame horse standing in front of us, and there are twenty of the world’s greatest authorities on lame horses.  The first is a farrier, who says, well, I see a bad nail, and a slight ridge there – the issue is in the horse’s feet.  The second is a saddler, who says the saddle is not quite square, and there could be friction just here.  That is why he is lame.  The third is a bit fitter, who says, the shape of the mouthpiece doesn’t suit this horse, that will cause resistance, tension, unlevelness…  The fourth is a chiropractor, who says the horse’s pelvis is unlevel, he’s not moving right behind.  The fifth is the riding coach, who says, the rider is crooked…  And so it goes on….  What ever my skill (my hammer) I see the issue through those eyes.  Do any of us see the whole horse?  Not entirely, no, I don’t think so.   Is there one clear reason why the horse is lame?  Sometimes, and sometimes all of these experts are right and it’s a accumulative effect of all elements…

Which leads me back to the horse who we were trying to de-code.  Did we get it right?  Not entirely, no.  I think we needed more tools in the tool kit, but we made a good start at unravelling.  How to find the right tool?  I don’t know at this point…  Is the horse constantly at the back of my mind?  Oh yes…

Do you have good body workers who can treat your horse and make him more comfortable?
Do you have good body workers who can treat your horse and make him more comfortable?

So, what is your hammer?  When you approach a horse problem, what can you bring to the table?  I think it’s your responsibility, as an owner, as a rider, to be able to bring something to the table.  Read, study, watch your horse.  Maybe the value you can bring to the table is an awareness – he always trashes his bed and this week it was too tidy for him to have been lying down.  He always eats all of his hay overnight, but this week there has been some left.  He always stretches before walking out of the stable, but this week he didn’t want too…  Notice things, that is often the first big key in sorting something out…  Is he drinking less water?  Is he grinding his teeth when he didn’t in the past?  Is he wearing out the toe of his shoe?  What’s different?

What do I bring to the table?  I know horses.  I know what is right and what isn’t.  I can see gait patterns.  I can see straightness and irregular steps.  I believe my gut reaction that says something is off or not.  I have a sense of horses and have picked up a fair amount of anatomy and symptoms.  I can tell you if a saddle is bad, or a bit is too big, or the shoes are too small.  Am I a vet, or a farrier?  No.   But I can often tell you where you need to be looking, or what expert to bring in.

How well or badly shod is your horse? Can you farrier add value to the discussion?
How well or badly shod is your horse? Can you farrier add value to the discussion?

So, who do you have around your table?  If your horse came out of his stable lame or sick tomorrow, who would add value to him and his recovery?  How can you surround yourself with people who not only have a hammer, but a screwdriver, pliers and a wrench too?  And, what value can you add, to his life, to your conversations with him, and to your lessons?  Where do you add value?  Can you add value to his surroundings and wellbeing?  Sometimes something as simple as a thicker bed, or patch of sand to roll in can add value to his day.  If horses could pick their owners, would your horse pick you.




Why have I hesitated to write this? It’s been on my mind for a while, but hasn’t been written…
Abuse? What is abuse and what isn’t? I think I may hit a few nerves here…

As seen on Facebook …

Recently, I was chatting to a client. He has a super big horse and rides for fun, for relaxation, and forgetting about his work at the end of a busy day. Yes, the horse has some talent, but his main job – a switch off for his owner’s brain. The owner was telling me, sadly, that he couldn’t ride that week. Why not, I asked. Well, because his regular trainer was riding the horse in a competition the next weekend, and told him that he, the owner, doesn’t ride well enough, so if she, the trainer, wants to win, he must leave the horse to her. To say I was taken aback is a bit of an understatement…

I said to him… It’s your horse. Yes. Do you want him to compete? No. Did you organise the trainer to compete the horse? No. Did you decide that competing the horse was a good idea? No. The horse is YOUR HORSE…. YOURS…. You OWN the horse, and what the horse does or does not do, is your responsibility and choice. If you own a horse and decide to paint him pink and ride him bareback through the town eating candy floss, it’s YOUR decision, because it’s YOUR horse, not your trainer’s horse, not my horse, not your next-door neighbour’s horse.

He smiled sadly and said, well within reason, right? If he chose to abuse the horse, to ride it with barbed wire in the horse’s mouth, I’d step in, wouldn’t I? It wouldn’t be his choice then? If a trainer sees abuse, the trainer will walk out and refuse to come back? What would I do if I arrived to teach a lesson, saw a horse in something horrendous, such as wire in it’s mouth? Stay or go? And is his novice riding horse abuse? Shooo… It opens up another can of worms, since what is abuse in the opinion of one trainer, is perfectly ok for another…

which bit is abusive?)
which bit is abusive?

In some people’s eyes, riding a horse is abusive, and riding should be banned.  Other’s think pleasure riding is ok, but not competitions, racing or jumping.  Others think anything goes.  Some would ban racing, or jumping, or cross country, or bits, or shoes.  I often think that riding school ponies have a tough time, especially in the yards where teachers are yelling out kick, kick, kick, kick….  When else do we tell kids to kick animals?  Some people are fine with whatever – it’s only an animal, right?  And each and every one of us must draw the line of what we consider abuse.

Every situation could be abusive.  Is a stable abusive?  Well, if the horse is locked in 24 hours a day, with no bedding, little food, no exercise and no light, absolutely.  If kept in for a few hours at a time, with a deep bed, hay, clean water, sunlight, fresh air, a friend, maybe a view, then no, it’s not.  Saddle?  If it fits well, is clean, supple, not girthed too tightly, then sure, you’re good to go.  If it doesn’t fit, is dirty and rubbing, broken, or the horse has back pain, then it’s abusive – I know where I draw my line – do you?

Recently I was in Bali – and a friend of mine always says – how can you go there?  It’s full of stray dogs, she couldn’t cope with seeing them.  And yes, there are many strays, skinny, bad skin conditions, no where to go…  But, there are amazing people who are running de-sexing clinics, who are trapping dogs to treat their skin and vaccinate them and feeding street dogs.  When I go there, I see the improvements as much as seeing the troubles.  People also know that I spend a lot of my time helping with the Gili Cart Horses.  Again, if you see them for the first time, you can think abuse. There are still an awful lot of issues to address, but, again, things are so much better, year on year.  Friends say, how can you go there and see that?  You are meant to love horses; how can you condone that?  Because, if we all turned our backs on these stray dogs, or working horses, who would help them?  Would things improve?  Of course not.  If you can slowly make changes, dripping water on the rock, then it’s worth doing, yes?

Before and after – which is abuse? The neglected, cracked and broken hooves, or wearing shoes? This is the same horse, a couple of days apart
Before and after – which is abuse? The neglected, cracked and broken hooves, or wearing shoes? This is the same horse, a couple of days apart

I was approached to go and teach in a certain yard a couple of years ago.  I arrived and was fairly appalled at the state of the horses.  I watched part of a lesson and it was even worse.  I then discovered that riders were expected to sign a confidentiality / non-disclosure document before beginning lessons or stabling there, to ensure they said nothing about what they saw happening.  Did I agree to teach?  No.  They were set in their ways, they knew that people wouldn’t like their practices, or they wouldn’t have that document, and yet they carried on.  Would I have been able to make a difference?  No.

I see it as a wheel, turning either forwards or backwards.  With the Bali dogs and Gili ponies, the wheel is, inch by inch, rolling forwards.  Things are getting better.  With the yard above – no, the wheel is either still or more likely, rolling the wrong way.  What to do about it?  I don’t know.  I still think about those poor horses, but a cure I haven’t found.

When I owned ponies, I had one leased out to a young rider.  The pony still lived with me, but she would take him up to her trainer’s yard for lessons.  The pony always seemed happy enough, so I left it.  He was strong and could really take a hold so was ridden in a fat rubber pelham with rounding’s and a padded curb chain.  One day, he arrived back from a jumping lesson.  He seemed nervous about having his bridle removed, and then wouldn’t eat.  Gut instinct – I checked his mouth and it was raw in places, bruised and sensitive in others….  Sure enough, on checking, the trainer had changed bridles, got on and “schooled” the pony herself.  That day, the lease was cancelled, the child and parents asked to remove themselves from my yard, and the “trainer” was told what I thought.  This trainer was angry – did I not realise she was an ex-international show jumper who had won X, Y and Z?  Yes, I did, and did I care?  No.  Sadly, it can still be the ex-champion, old-school trainers who can be part of the problem.  They can get hung up on what worked then, and won’t move with the times (not always, I know a lot of old school, amazing trainers too!)  Can anyone hurt my pony?  No.  Did that pony work for his living in the school, jump, go to competitions, get ridden in his pelham and a saddle?  Yes.  Again, draw your line.

a soft rubber snaffle – is any bit abusive? Doesn’t it depend on the hands holding the reins?
a soft rubber snaffle – is any bit abusive? Doesn’t it depend on the hands holding the reins?

I went on a two-week interview at a big yard in Germany some time ago.  They produce, compete and sell competition horses, the big names with the big price tags.  And yes, I rode some of the big-name stallions.  And yes, I was offered my contract.  Did I take it?  No, that was one of the most abusive horse situations that I have ever been in, and I still have nightmares about it.  Just because your horse cost $1,000,000 doesn’t mean he has a good life…  When money is involved, the horse must produce the goods, even when not physically or emotionally ready.

When working with trainers, it is YOUR responsibility to safe guard your horse… When I was competing a lot, I’d have clinics with different trainers.  If they asked me to get after the horse, get him more reactive, push him a little harder, I would, it’s often why you need the input to make your horse that bit more…  But, if they asked me to put tack on him that I didn’t like, or jump higher when I could feel the horse struggling, then I’d refuse, because as a horse’s caretaker, it’s my job to stand by what I believe.  If I say to a pupil we are going to try X, and they were adamantly opposed, I’d respect them more for standing up for their and their horse’s rights, than for meekly following my instructions…  If you don’t agree with someone, for your horse’s sake, say so.

So, my pupil’s question – if I walked into a yard and a rider was expecting me to teach them with barbed wire in the horse’s mouth, would I stay or go?  It depends.  If it is an inexperienced rider, who has an open mind, who has been put in this situation by their tradition, culture or a bullying instructor, I’d stay.  I’d talk to them, convince them, just for today, to take the wire out and see what we could do.  I’d work on education, because if I walked out, who would be helping the horse, and this rider’s future horses?  I do walk into situations I don’t like sometimes, and by dripping water on the rock, I can usually change them.  If this was happening in the yard with the confidentiality form, or the yard in Germany, then what would I do?  Then, I’d walk away.  Because you can say what you like, it isn’t going to change.  You know that saying – If you don’t want to learn, no one can make you…  But if you WANT to learn, then no one can stop you…

So, where do you draw your personal line?


Why Kudaguru?

One of the Malaysian Kuda Gurus…

Why Kuda Guru?

It’s funny how it always goes in spates – people asking me, so what does Kuda Guru mean, then?  And, generally its which area in the world I am currently sitting in.  Here in Asia, people rarely ask.

Kuda, means horse in Bahasa Malay and Bahasa Indonesia, so, it begins to make a little bit of sense now, yes?  Guru, obviously means teacher, guide, expert or master.

About 8 years ago, I was working full time in Malaysia, in an area called Johor Bahru, which is the border town between Malaysia and Singapore.  It’s quite industrial and tends to be filled with a lot of Singapore commuters too.  Malaysian’s working in Singapore get the best of both worlds – the cheaper Malaysian rents and being able to stay with their families, as well as earning the much higher Singapore wages (and, sadly also enjoy the many hours of sitting on their motorbikes at the border, in very long queues).  There is a big riding school / livery yard / hotel just outside JB (as Johor Bahru is more commonly known), where I was working.

Jahor Bahru where Kuda Guru came about.
Jahor Bahru where Kuda Guru came about.

I’m hopeless at languages, really, honestly, cannot learn them, no matter how hard I try.  So, living in the hotel, I enlisted a couple of the front of house staff to teach me Bahasa Malay.  It took me about a month to get Selamat Pagi (Good morning) and Apa kabar (How are you?).  Really.  A whole month.  I did also learn quite quickly about Apa ini?  (What is this?) when the grooms would bring me the wrong horse, or the right horse with the wrong saddle etc…  But the phrase that seemed clearest, fastest, was Kuda belak (the horses are back) which would be shouted from one end of the yard to the other, to tell the grooms that the trail riding horses were seen coming back out of the jungle.  Every groom who had a horse in the ride that we had shipped out a couple of hours before, would come out and stand and wait for his horse to get close enough, so he could help the guest down and take his charge off for their welcome cold shower.  My first introduction to Kuda.

Now, since we were out in the jungle, there wasn’t an awful lot to do – um, nothing really.  We had a swimming pool at the neighbouring hotel, and another restaurant there, but one of our big highlights was going into the nearest kampong (village) to the very big Tesco supermarket.  *sigh* such was our hectic social life…  One of the other instructors and I would hitch a lift in with the car owning chef, or phone for a cab, and a real taxi would pick us up.  And then, on coming out of our exciting trip, there would generally be 3 or 4 “taxi” cars sitting outside.  These would have been the Grab / Uber cars, except in those days, Grab / Uber didn’t exist.  So, these random young Malay men would be sitting on the off chance that someone would need a ride, haggle over the price, load their unsuspecting passengers into the back of the (usually slightly dodgy) car and take them wherever they needed to go.  In that time, we were proudly shown bright green zebra print fake fur seats…  A first aid kit…  A fire extinguisher.…  and more bling CD’s hung on grubby ribbon over the rear-view mirror than you would imagine possible…  There were several times, whipping up and down the narrow, steep and winding hill roads where we did consider the possibility of our imminent death…

So anyway, on one particular exciting Tesco evening, I came breezing out and a young man was waiting beside his car.  Taxi taxi, miss, taxi, he was calling.  I said yes, please, I need to go to…  And he said yes, yes, I know Kuda Guru.  And so, my introduction, that all the grooms and pretty much all the kampong unofficial taxi drivers knew the Kuda Guru.  Slightly dodgy again?!

One of the Malaysian Kuda Gurus…
One of the Malaysian Kuda Gurus…

Now, if you take this literally, horse teacher.  I, however take it slightly differently –  horse teacher, as in, the master happens to be an equine.  Who knows best what a horse feels like?  Um, a horse.  Who knows when a horse becomes unbalanced?  A horse?  Who knows what this particular rider feels like?  Maybe a horse?  And how many secrets does a horse keep?  About his rider?  None.  You watch a horse, you can see where his attention is…  How rhythmic his rider is….  If he is comfortable or in pain…    If he understands an instruction…  If he is happy or battling to cope.  All of these things, he wears as plain as his heart on his sleeve.  So, by thinking Kuda Guru – my thinking then becomes, your horse is your teacher – why am I here in the arena with you?  Purely as the translator.  After all these years, about the only language that I appear to understand beyond hello and how are you, is horse.  So, when you go out to greet your horse tomorrow morning, please, please say, Selamat Pagi Kuda Guru, Apa Kabar?!  Have fun!


Machines as Horses

While here, Secret Miracle, is more of a hack type of pon

So, this is weird, random, and maybe just me… But do you ever find yourself comparing a vehicle to a horse?

It started many years ago, when lecturing a group of teenagers for their Pony Club test… Thinking about horse types. A hunter is a tough, workmanlike all-terrain vehicle that can work all day, over rough ground. It can climb slopes, drop off banks, wind through forests, speeding up in open flat areas. It also needs stamina to go and go. Think, SUV – a land rover, jeep, something big and tough, that a farmer would drive around in.

This pony, Ballyaugh Miscellaneous, or Missy for short, would be a hunter type of pony - thick set and tough
This pony, Ballyaugh Miscellaneous, or Missy for short, would be a hunter type of pony – thick set and tough

A riding horse is more like your average day by day city car – drop kids at school, get to work, do your shopping. It’s a horse who is easy and reliable.

This pony - Ballyaugh Melrose, is more of a riding pony type, a little finer than Missy
This pony – Ballyaugh Melrose, is more of a riding pony type, a little finer than Missy

A hack, is the sports car of the equine world… It’s the Ferrari that you pose around town in, something fancy, ultra-easy to ride, and very flashy…

While here, Secret Miracle, is more of a hack type of pon
While here, Secret Miracle, is more of a hack type of pony

Fast forward a few years… I was living in the Caribbean and was island hopping in a tiny little plane. So, when you sit in the enormous, double story, long distance places, it’s like sitting on a great big warmblood… They lumber up the runway, take a long distance run up, and powerfully launch upwards… Things are slow, pedantic, but you feel the blast of power and once going, they just run on forever.

the lumbering great giants
The lumbering great giants

Back to the island hoppers… They are like a kid’s jumping pony. They stand on the runway, quivering in the wind, like the naughty little pony being held down by the long-suffering Pony Club Parents. As they’re released, the leap forwards, bounce, bounce, bounce, and leap upwards, going almost vertically up, trying to get as high as possible before crossing the coast and hitting the land / sea cross winds. As you’re sitting up there, they’re are buffeted by the elements, not having the weight and endurance of the great big warmblood planes, but so much more manoeuvrable… And, I’ve discovered it’s not just the island hoppers, crossing the Kenyan Savannah in a small Caravan plane us just the same, dropping down, watching the game from just above the trees. And, alas, some planes feel a lot like tired old riding school horses, launching in an unco-ordinated way, where you close your eyes, grit your teeth, hang on and hope…

Up close and personal in a tiny plane, landing on safari in Keny
Up close and personal in a tiny plane, landing on safari in Kenya

What really made me think recently, though… A while ago I was teaching a young rider, moving from her sensible first pony onto a bigger, faster, jumping pony. She was feeling over horsed, just so much more power. He moved bigger, faster, just more horse. More sensitive too – her old pony needed a good tap tap with the calf to get him going, but the new pony, breathe on his sides and he’s off… I kept saying to her, honestly, you’re safe. He’s not running away from you, he’s just powerful. If anything, I’m ultra-careful – she wouldn’t have been on him if I thought her unsafe, or worried that he would really be too much for her to handle. But, her brain couldn’t quite get around it.

A scooter's road in Bali
A scooter’s road in Bali

In a couple of places that I go too, we move around by motorbike and scooter. I always use the same little scooter, and in my weird mind, it’s like a little coloured cob. Workmanlike, reliable, not overly fast or powerful and certainly won’t run away with you… This last trip, my little cob of a scooter was lame, so I borrowed a different bike. This was bigger, heavier, faster, and just an awful lot more power. A warmblood of a bike compared to my cob. Tootling around town, was initially interesting… The hand accelerator control was a lot more sensitive, the brake reacted faster, but the bike itself was heavier around the bends and corners. After the first day, I was reminded of my words to my young rider – it’s exactly the same, stop and go are in the same places, it’s totally safe, just a bigger rev….

OK, I’ll be more patient with riders transitioning into bigger ponies in future!

So, what kind of horse or pony do you drive to work?!


Saving Money With Horses

Does your horse need new shoes? Could he go with a half set, or barefoot?

Saving Money With Horses

I’m writing this sitting in a hairdresser, spending vast amounts of money on something I’d rather not be doing.  And it always makes me think….  When I had my own horses, I had no hesitation in handing over huge amounts of cash to the farrier, vet, dentist etc, but always balked at spending a fraction of that amount on my own shoes, Dr, dentist etc.  My horses would get regular back massage, while I…  Didn’t.  Keeping horses is very expensive – you have to cut costs where you can. So, where can you save money?

Farriers / trimming.

Uh, no.  Any trying to avoid spending here will cost you in the long run.  Just pay for the best farrier you can find.  Timing won’t save you money either.  Let’s say that your horse’s hooves grow fast, and he needs new shoes every 4 weeks.  That’s 13 farrier visits a year.  So, you make him go to 5 weeks, meaning only 10 visits a year…  That’s ok? No.  The extra wear on his joints every 5th week will lead to long term issues, costing you more in lameness, vet care and replacing your horse faster than you should have.  Find a really good farrier / trimmer / hoof technician and listen.  If they say your barefoot horse only needs trimming every 6 weeks lucky you.  If they need a full set of shoes every 4 weeks, sadly you just have to pay…

Does your horse need new shoes? Could he go with a half set, or barefoot?
Does your horse need new shoes? Could he go with a half set, or barefoot?


As with farriers, you just have to pay.  Most adult horses with no issues can see a dentist every 9 to 12 months.  If they have a slightly difficult jaw conformation, eat a long of grains or have bitting issues, it can be every 5 – 6 months.  Again, trying to save money will cost you.  Leaving the dentist too long can lead to your horse not chewing properly, so he doesn’t get full value from his feed, and is difficult in the contact.  You’re wasting money having lessons to fix the contact, or buying extra feed, when he’s just uncomfortable in his mouth.

Vet care.

Another no – if you are worried and think your horse needs a vet, call them.   Often, calling a vet out to a small problem stops it developing into a bigger problem, so saving you money in the long run.  The same goes for his vaccinations and especially to having a good de-worming schedule.  Discuss this with your vet – plan your worm egg counts / de-worming drug rotation etc, and stick to it.  As with shoeing, making him wait an extra few weeks each time will end up costing you a lot more in the long run.


Sadly, another place where no, you aren’t going to cut corners.  Every horse is different and so requires different feeding.  Your native pony, working once a week and living out on good grazing probably doesn’t need feeding at all.  But, a three-star event horse, living in most of his time with hours of work a week most certainly will.  Talk to your vet or a feed nutritionist f you need to, make the best plan for your particular horse and situation, and then buy the best quality hay / feed / supplements that your horse needs.  Feeding them a bad quality / mouldy / dusty feed isn’t going to be a good money saver either.


Again, if your horse lives out, you won’t be thinking about bedding, but if he lives in, bedding is an expense that you cannot cut.  Some people think that putting a thin layer of straw or other bedding down, and removing it daily is a good way to go.  Unfortunately, this is expensive, both in replacing the bedding daily, but also if your horse manages to cut or scrape himself on the cold hard floor, or gets himself cast (stuck).  Put a good thick bed down, to keep him warm, draught free, less likely to get cast and protect him from concrete scrapes.  Skip this bed out as often as possible, at least 2 times a day.  (Skipping out is simply removing piles of manure before they get trampled and mixed into the clean bedding).  And do a thorough mucking out at least twice a day.  This way, the soiled bedding is removed, but a lot of clean bedding can be left in the stable.  Less bedding is added daily, and in the long run, saving can be made.  Even better, why not increase the amount of time he can spend outside in a paddock?  Even if you have to buy him an extra outdoor rug, spending his time outside is the best bedding money saver around.

A fresh layer of shavings on a bed
A fresh layer of shavings on a bed

So, where do I cut corners?

Well, equipment is a big one.  It shocks me when I walk through a tack shop and see people buying a bucket for $10, or a sponge for $5.  Yes, certain things you need to go to a saddler and spend money on.  A well fitted saddle is essential, and obviously you aren’t going to the corner store to buy your bridle.  But, buckets, clothes, sponges, containers, hosepipes etc can all be bought for a fraction of the cost at hardware stores, supermarkets or markets.  The same goes for basic medicines or first aid supplies.  I recently wrote an article listing many of the things that I buy for my first aid kit at the local supermarket, including Vaseline, honey and babies nappies.  The same goes for the expensive, must have winter clothing for riders.  Yes, your breeches need to come from the tack shop, but all your thermal layers, base fleeces, winter coats, rain coats and long socks are cheaper (and generally more suitable) coming from hiking, outdoor or motor biking shops.  As soon as they have an equestrian label on them, socks get ridiculously expensive!  Avoid the brand names to – does your horse need that brand name saddle pad?  Uh, no.  The local tack shop brand will be a fraction of the cost, and as long as it’s been well made and fits, your horse really won’t mind that it is boring white instead of glow in the dark pink with orange polka dots and a branded label.   On that thought, how much of what your horse wears, does he actually need?

Bling is often more expensive…
Bling is often more expensive…


When I was a lot younger, and working as a groom for a big name evet rider, his advise was, think when you are riding, feel what is going on and work out the solution in your own mind.  Having a lesson every time you sit on a horse is never going to help you long term – as you trot up the centre line from A, or pick up your canter towards the first jump at a show, your instructor isn’t there.  You need to be able to feel, plan and do, without them telling you.  Yes, have lessons, once a week / fortnight / month.  But, ride on your own, and ask your instructor to help you by giving suggestions of your weak areas, homework ideas, and things you need to work through before you see them again.  In this day and age when most people have a camera on their phone, ask your friend to video bits of your ride and look at them afterwards, seeing what you need to work on.  It amazes me when I see people having 3 / 4 lessons a week.  And, as an instructor, I am a lot more motivated to help riders who I see trying hard to practice what we worked on, rather than those who simply wait for the next set of instructions.

But, as I am saying throughout this – spending more money initially, by buying more bedding or calling your farrier out more often, really is the best way to save money.  As the same goes – how do you want to end up with $1,000,000 after a life with horses?  Start with $2,000,000!!!

Dressage? Or Orbitss?

Dressage? Or Orbitss?

Dressage means different things to different people.  Even the word sounds complicated and off-putting to some people!  In simple terms Dressage means to train or “dress” the horse.  For some people, dressage is what you do with your pony only if you don’t want to jump, who would go round and round in circles by choice?!  Maybe it’s time to think again…

Think about what happens when you go to a jumping show. You’ll spend about 3 minutes inside the arena.  Of that time you’ll actually be jumping for about 15 seconds. The rest of the time you’ll be asking your pony to slow down (shorten his stride), speed up (lengthen his stride), turn right and left, keep in canter, change the rein, all in a balanced, even, obedient way.  That is a fairly good description of dressage!

When you take your pony on an outride and he sees a terrible horse–eating plastic bag monster waiting in the hedge to attack him, his easiest escape route is to leap into the middle of the road.  If there is a car coming this isn’t really where you want to be.  If your pony has done some dressage and is a responsive, trained pony you’ll be able to push him back towards the verge of the road with your legs (called leg yielding) and so avoid being squashed.  Most of the gates you come across these days are electric but the common old farm gate is much easier to open and close if your pony will move around the gate listening to your legs (turn on the forehand).

So, dressage is just a way of saying that you’re training your pony to be a safe, easy, responsive ride, making it more pleasant for both of you to have some fun in whatever you do.

How do you start?  In Germany, there was developed (many years ago) something called the Scales of Training.  It begins by saying that the horse must travel forward with energy (impulsion) and go straight.  At the top end of the scale, your horse has developed enough gymnastic ability (power, flexibility, balance) and knowledge to be able to perform the highest movements.  Let’s look at a simpler way to get started…

To start with, work through the word ORBITSS.  Each letter of ORBITSS represents something that you and your pony can work on improving.


Obedience starts orbitss off.  Think about what obedience means.  If your Mom asks you to do your homework and you go and do it, you’re being obedient. If you carry on playing your computer game, your not!  Now think about how that works with your pony.  If you close your leg and ask him to step forward, and he does step forward, it’s an obedient response.  If he ignores you and carries on snoozing in the sun he’s disobedient.  Ride your pony around for a few minutes just thinking about whether or not he listens to you.  Ride some transitions (changes of pace, e.g., walk to trot).  Most ponies are either more obedient to going faster or going slower, it’s your job to work out which and try and teach your pony to be obedient to both sets of instructions.  Think about what else you ask your pony – turn right, turn left, circle, go past the gate, go away from his friends, stand still – and work out how obedient or disobedient your pony is?  This is the first step of having a pony who is a pleasure to ride.


Rhythm comes up next.  Which is what?  Listen to your favorite song.  Chances are that in the background there is a drummer who is holding the beat of the song and helping everyone else stay together.  That’s the rhythm.  When your pony walks he moves each leg on its own, so if he walks on a hard surface you’ll hear 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 as each foot touches the ground.  If your pony holds a good rhythm he’ll sound like the drummer – even and regular.  His walk will be 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4.  If his rhythm isn’t as good it’ll be more like 1 – 23412 – – – 341 –  2 – 3  – 4 -1234.  See the difference?  This works for all your pony’s paces, the walk being 4 beat, trot 2 beat, canter 3 beat and gallop 4 beat.  All the winning show jumpers, eventers, even race horses’ can hold a good, even rhythm.  The easiest way for you to start feeling rhythm is to ride to music.  Next time you school your pony, put the radio or a CD on.  The walk, trot and canter all have different rhythms so different music will be better with different paces and some music won’t fit with anything at all!  A word of warning – don’t ride with earphones on, attached to your MP3 player.  If your pony leaps in the air because of a sudden loud noise that you didn’t hear, the chances are that you’ll part company!  Also, the pony often gets the idea, listens to the music and starts holding a better rhythm, give him a chance to try!  Stick to having a portable CD player on the fence or have a car with loud speakers parked by the arena with its door open.  Start the music quite softly and turn the volume up as your pony gets used to it.


Balance is Orbitss “B”.  Balance is what keeps tight rope walkers on their wire 20m off the ground, and keeps you on your bike.  In dressage, balance is described as the pony having his weight equally carried on all four legs, easier for him to do on his own then when we add tack and a rider.  Remember when you ran down a really steep hill?  The further down the hill you went, the more your body ran away with your legs and the more you felt like you were going to topple over and roll down the hill?  That’s what happens when you lose your balance.  Ponies are normally balanced when they are loose in their paddock.  There is equal weight on all four legs.  When we start training a young pony he often starts off carrying more weight on his front legs then his back legs.  If we train him correctly with the help of dressage he’ll gradually develop the strength to balance himself (and you) on all four legs again.  The advanced pony will end up carrying most of his weight (and yours) on his back legs, making balance easier.  Balance comes from a mixture of all the letters in Orbitss.  Read and work on the others and you’ll find balance will come.  The most common type of lack of balance you’ll feel is when a pony leans on your hands and pulls you forward. This is called being “On the Forehand” and is because the pony’s weight is all being carried on his front legs.  Imagine that you are riding over a frozen lake, a thick layer of ice over the water underneath.  A balanced pony is light on his feet and could canter over the lake without cracking the ice.  An unbalanced pony will be heavy and hard on the ice, crack it and fall through.  The more balanced your pony, the quieter his footfalls sound.  Think especially about the next letter’s word….


Impulsion is a fancy word for energy, power.  A race horse can travel at 35km an hour – he has great propulsion (forward movement) but not always much impulsion.  A highly trained dressage horse can trot on the spot (Piaffe). He has almost no propulsion (forward movement) but a massive amount of impulsion (power).  So, impulsion is not speed.  Impulsion comes from the pony bringing his back legs under his body and using their power to push forward.  A pony with impulsion will normally be balanced and move forwards obediently.  A pony lacking in impulsion will often be on the forehand and lazy about moving forward when you squeeze with your legs, because it’s an effort to drag himself forward with his front legs.  Think of a tractor dragging a plough.  The plough’s energy comes from the front (the tractor) and the sharp front part of the plough’s blades dig into the ground. If your pony’s movement comes from the front legs pulling forward, his nose and shoulders pull down towards the ground and your hands on the reins support him.  Now think of a plane going down the runway to take off.  All the power is from behind, pushing the plane forward and it takes a light touch from the pilot to lift the plane’s nose off the ground.  If this is your pony, his hindquarters are pushing him forward into a light contact with your hands and he finds it easy to do whatever you ask.  When developing impulsion your greatest tool is transitions – changes through walk, trot and canter.  Next time you ride, start by doing 100 quick transitions – all jumbled up, and you’ll find that as he pushes off his hind legs to go faster or swings his hind legs under himself to slow down his impulsion will improve.  It has great effect on obedience and balance to!


Tempo comes up next and is often confused with rhythm because the two seem quite similar.  Rhythm was about the beat, Tempo is about the speed of the beat and just to make it take even more thought, tempo is often affected by balance!  Ride a canter to trot transition.  Remember the feeling of having a nice canter then riding to trot only to get a horrible, fast, running trot that you then had to slow down?  What happens there is the pony doesn’t use his hind legs to slow down, he loses his balance and all his weight ends up on his front legs (On the Forehand), so he has to rush with his front legs to stop his nose from ploughing into the ground.  Those horrible running steps are the change of tempo – his trot was really fast and then you slowed it down.  So, a pony with a bad tempo will go faster, slower, faster, slower in a pace.  The time between each beat can stay the same so his rhythm will be even but his speed isn’t.  The most common time for the tempo to change is in the strides following a transition.  Think about counting a beat in your head and often the pony will follow your lead and hold a more even tempo.

Straightness and Suppleness

Straightness and Suppleness come together at the end of Orbitss for the two S’s.  The pony’s two right legs should work on the same track and his left legs should work on their own track.  Think of a train – all the wheels on the right of each carriage follow the same length of steel track, the wheels on the left follow their track.  No matter how the track turns and twists around bends, straights and corners, each set of wheels follow their own track.  If you watch a pony coming toward you only the front legs should be visible.  If the pony is going away, only his hind legs.  Practice riding straight lines in your arena, up the centre, quarter lines or even just a metre or two in from the track.  See if you can keep your pony straight, if he wiggles like a worm or drifts back towards the fence.  Think of your two legs like the walls of a narrow tunnel, if he drifts to the right, the right wall (your right leg) pushes against his side to push him back toward the left.  If he drifts left, your left “wall” does the correcting.

Even on a circle, you want your pony to travel straight, that is, the hind legs following the front, – think of your railway tracks.  The hind legs follow in the same prints left by the front legs, the pony being supple enough in his body to follow the shape of the curve without throwing his shoulders or quarters to the outside.  A thick plank of wood isn’t supple; it has no bend in it to follow the line of a circle.  A dressage whip is supple; it can bend and flex to form a different shape.  Practice riding different circles, serpentines and curves, see if you can feel if his shoulders and quarters are following an even line.  To make it harder, draw a circle in the sand of an arena and try to keep your pony’s right and left legs evenly on either side of the line.

So, next time you ride, think of a letter or two and see if you can work out how well you and your pony are doing.  Once you get an idea of the whole of ORBITSS and can correct some of the weaker parts, you’re on track to ride a good dressage test, or improve your jumping.  Once it’s easy on your pony because you’ve got used to assessing him, get together with some friends and their ponies, swop around and give yourselves 20 min to assess the new pony.  Then compare ideas with his usual rider and see if you all agree.




Squirrel – a vital instruction in my arena.  What?

Think of a squirrel – cute little furry beast, sitting in his tree.  He spies an acorn down there on the floor, and has to clamber down his tree to reach the floor, safely but quickly before someone else gets his acorn.  With me so far?

Now, what seems like a great kid’s game is actually a really good way to keep riders safe.

From their very first lesson, riders should be taught the correct way to dismount – take the rein in the left hand, remove feet from stirrups, lean well forwards, swinging the right leg high, up and over the pony’s quarters without kicking him, and landing on both feet beside the horse’s left shoulder / ribs.  They should be holding the reins, still in control.  In squirrel, we practice doing this on command, first in halt, then walk, trot and eventually even in canter.

Chat to your riders, explaining what a squirrel is (in some countries there are none, so kids don’t know what they are) and that at random points throughout the lesson, you might shout SQUIRREL.  When you do, they must take their feet out of the stirrups, reins in left hand, swing the right leg over, and keep up with the pony, in whatever pace he is in.  Start in halt – whole ride prepare to halt – whole ride halt, and whole ride SQUIRREL.  The riders should follow their normal dismount routine and land on the ground, hand on the reins, keeping their feet still, so both they and their ponies remain standing still.  Start this on the left rein, so that they dismount on the normal (left) side, landing on the inner edge of their pony (towards the inside on the arena rather than out by the rail).  Once they can do this, practice on the right rein.  Here you have a choice – either they have to steer their pony a stride in, off the track, allowing space to land between the pony and the rail, or (the option I prefer) they have to dismount from the pony’s right hand side.

Once they can do this, skip out the halt part – as they are walking around the track (again, start on the left rein) – out of the blue, yell SQUIRREL – and they keep their ponies in walk, feet out, reins in left hand, swing off the saddle and land next to the pony, but as soon as they land they walk, so keeping the pony moving.  As long as they keep walking, the pony shouldn’t break stride.  Some ponies get a tad confused at this – a good school pony waits when his charge falls off, and now we as telling him to keep walking when they hit the floor?  After a few strides, the rider can stop their feet, come to a halt, tell their pony to halt, and remount.  This is repeated exactly the same in trot if they are able – very little riders on too big a pony can’t – there is simply too big a drop.  But, otherwise, the ponies are trotting, squirrel command given, riders leap off, landing in a jog and keep trotting until an instruction is given, bringing ponies and riders through walk to halt.  Advanced riders can do it in canter – not easy, so be wary of introducing this.  Why?  Why on earth would you do this?

I teach this for three main reasons;

First reason – its fun, and really good practice for gymkhana games (mounted games) when rider’s leap of at speed to do something (e.g., throw a ball, run over balance blocks etc) and vault back on.  These games ponies don’t stop for mounting and dismounting – the rider’s must learn to keep up, and bounce on and off while in motion.

Second reason – it does help to get over the fear of falling.  If you are used to deliberately bouncing off your pony, the thought of falling off him is less scary.  There are times when the rider will leap off and land on their bum instead of their feet, and find out that it doesn’t hurt all that much.

The final reason though, is the important one, and it can save you and your riders from a very dangerous situation.  I have used it twice in just this way.

The first time, I was teaching a group of 4 or 5 riders, teenagers who I had taught from beginners, all well versed in riding and in playing squirrel.  I would, once a month or so, yell out squirrel at a totally random point in their lessons to make sure they were paying attention.  During this particular lesson, I saw a strange grey, foggy looking cloud coming over the arena as we were working.  A few seconds later, I realised that this cloud was actually an enormous swarm of bees on the move.  This could have been a disaster – if that swarm had dropped down and started to sting horses with kids on board…  I dread to think what could have happened.  Squirrel – everyone was off, jogging as their horses trotted, bringing them back to walk and then halt, and looking expectantly as they all thought this was the game.  We all stood still, watched the bees fly overhead, and once they had all safely passed, hopped back on and continued our lesson.

The second time, was a semi private lesson with two riders.  One was on a young horse, who was wearing a running martingale.  Now, this bit of kit has rings that run loosely up and down the reins.  This young horse had a habit of playing with his chin and bouncing his head, trying to catch anything he could in his mouth to chew it.  We were walking on a long rein to give the horses a breather, when he started to play with his bit.  In this fuss, fuss, fuss with his mouth, he managed to hook one of the rings of his martingale onto his tooth, and within a second started to panic.  Again, squirrel, both riders on the floor in an instant, and luckily his rider was experienced and fast thinking enough to stop him, keep him calm and free his mouth.  (I already had an aversion to martingales at this point, but from that day onwards, it is rare to see me ride or work a horse in a martingale!).

Both of these situations could, potentially been bad situations to be in, and both worked out well.  It is possible that they would have been fine anyway, but I believe that it was the squirrel game that saved al involved from serious injury.  And, you can have fun too! – Have a look at this video to see some vaulting in action!

Horse Types

Horse Types

Horses come in differing types - from the lighter riding horse in front, to the heavyweight horse at the back.
Horses come in differing types – from the lighter riding horse in front, to the heavyweight horse at the back.

There is often confusion about what is meant by the different types of horse.  It is not a complicated subject, just something that needs a little thought followed by going out and actually looking around at horses.  A showing show is an ideal place, where horses are competing against others of the same type and you can develop an eye similar to the judge.

A hack’s purpose was to be seen and make his rider look stylish.  As the gentry would ride through Hyde Park on a Sunday morning, they wanted to see and be seen and their hack was the horse to do it on. Think of driving a Porsche or Ferrari as the modern day version. The hack should have impeccable manners, be light and pleasurable to ride and beautiful to look at.

Hunter’s are meant to be able to cope with a day following hounds. If we think of cars again, think tough 4 x 4 Landrovers. They must be sure footed, sensible, have endless stamina and be up to carrying the weight of their riders. They are a heavier more substantial type then the hack. Working hunters must be clean (blemish / scar free), bold jumpers with courage and dependability.  The diameter of the bone directly beneath the horse’s knee is measured, and that is described as the amount of bone that a horse has.  A hunter will have more bone then a hack, meaning more substance and capable of carrying more weight.

Riding horses, or riding club horses are somewhere in between hacks and hunters. They’d be your typical family car.  Not as flashy as the hack, lighter in bone then the hunter, they are useful general purpose horses. For the show ring they still need to be good looking, well schooled and a pleasure to ride.

Cobs are the transit vans of the horse world. Traditionally, one day your cob would be pulling the plough in the field, hunting the next and taking the family to church on a Sunday in the trap. They are often described as big horses on pony legs. They must be safe, sensible and easy to keep and ride.

Horses are also divided into hot, warm or cold bloods. This has nothing to do with temperature but type and temperament.
Originally there were hot bloods and cold bloods. Hot blooded horses were found in the warmer countries and deserts. These include Arabs, Barbs and later, Thoroughbreds. These horses are light in bone, fine skinned and dainty. They move fast, have quick reactions and are often more nervous then their cold blooded peers. Their light frames require little effort to move at speed over distances, fine coats allow heat loss and small, hard hooves are light and manoeuvrable on hard ground. Their lack of bulk makes them light on their feet to reduce concussion when there is little give in the ground.

Cold blooded horses are the other extreme. The Shire and Clydesdale would be good examples. They are heavier in their bodies with great strength and stamina. The colder climates where they developed meant thicker coats, great shaggy manes and tails and “feathers” on the lower legs. Big hooves gave a greater weight bearing surface for their heavier bodies and meant they could travel on top of mud rather then sinking into it.

The warmblood is a relatively modern cross of the two. Its purpose is to combine the quick athletic lightness of the Thoroughbred with the strength, stamina and (generally) more personable temperament of the cold blood. This type of horse is the most commonly used in high level equestrian sport.