Tried and Tested: Derby House Medium Rug

I’m a big fan of letting horses be horses but I’m also very much a believer that if we expect our four legged friends to be athletes and perform for us then we have to treat them accordingly. As you will know from In Too Deep, I clipped Pea in preparation for the Area Qualifiers and when a layer of natural rug comes off, a layer needs replacing. Luckily, my favourite rug brand Derby House had very kindly lined us up with a medium weight rug to replace Pea’s lightweight when the time came.

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I chose the Pro Frenchie Print Medium Combo Turnout Rug – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you can’t have cute patterned rugs when you’ve got a cute little pony, when can you?  They even have accessories to match!  If you’re not a dog fan, they also have Christmas designs, unicorn print, plain colours as well as black and frequently add new prints to their collection (you might have seen last year’s cow print that Pea had!)

Derby House say this rug is “crafted from a tough 250gr diamond weave print that is durable, waterproof and breathable and 200 gram of warm polyfill you can be sure that your horse will be warm, protected and dry no matter what the weather has in store” and Pea would certainly agree.  She has been wearing hers for over a month now; we have had periods of torrential rain, a night of snow and a whole heap of mud and she has stayed warm, dry and clean throughout.

Leaning over wire fences and being a generally mischievous little scamp has challenged the ripstop outer of the rug.  It is scratched but the waterproofness hasn’t been compromised yet though it will need mending at the end of the season.  The classic Derby House design has robust neck buckles and chest clips.  In all the Derby House rugs I have had, I’ve never had an issue with the hardware and this rug is no different.

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If you are in the market for a cosy, well-designed rug for your four-legged friend this winter I highly recommend you give Derby House’s website a visit.

Your Horse Live 2019

This year’s Your Horse Live was my fourth consecutive year!  It has me going back each year to see the demos and peruse the extensive shopping stands.  This year I was lucky enough to get a complimentary ticket but Alex was keen to come (can you believe it!?) so I paid for him to come along too.

I was highly restrained when it came to the shopping (especially compared to Badminton) and although there were lots of beautiful things, I only came away with a trailer-tie bungee and a new competition whip.  I would have liked to walk away with the ponies from the Rescue Village too but that wasn’t to be!

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Alex was particularly keen on the 3.5 horseboxes and the Ifor Williams trailers but made do with a pork roll instead!

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Charlotte’s demo was what I really wanted to see.  It was interesting to see her coaching one of her riders.  She kept telling her to go more forward and really go for it, it was somewhat reminiscent of my lessons!  It was also a good reminder of the importance of transitions – I get too lazy when it comes to that but if Charlotte says I should.. I should!

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At the end she brought Valegro around for everyone to pat – is it sad for me to say it was amazing to be so close to him and to touch him?  I’m sure for a lot of people he is just a horse but I’d rather meet him than any A list celebrity!  The way she jumped on him bareback while the jumps were being set up and the arena was being harrowed just highlighted what a special guy he is.

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We stayed with the demos to watch a bit of Jonty Evans jumping with Padraig McCarthy.  Jonty’s big fall was just before my hip replacement and I’m in awe of how he spent 6 weeks in a coma, suffered a brain injury and is now back eventing.  What is really incredible is how effortless his riding looks considering how the injury has affected his thought process and speech.

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We left that demo early to go to Charlotte’s signing; I had taken my copy of “The Girl On The Dancing Horse” to get her to sign but unfortunately the queue was shut off just as we arrived.

We managed to catch some of Sharon Hunt’s cross country demo with Karla (from Muddy Mayhem) riding.  If you don’t already follow her, she is hilarious and the way she pinged round the tiny arena with tight skinnies was so brave!

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Our last watch was Ben Atkinson’s behind the scenes demo.  Last year we watched his proper demo – I was totally in awe of what they did then so it was really interesting to get more of an insight into how they train their horses to do that.  You clearly have to be very calm, brave and confident to do the kind of liberty work they do.  I would love to give it a go but I think I would need to do a course or something first.

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I had a thoroughly enjoyable and educational day (and Alex enjoyed his pork roll!)  I can’t wait to see the line up for next year – I’m already thinking about who I hope will be on their demo line up!

Tried and Tested: Derby House Lightweight Rug

Sadly the summer is over and the days of fly rugs seem a distant memory.  With the drop in temperature and the on/off torrential rain we have had recently, I decided it was time to get Pea in her waterproofs!  Luckily, back in the summer, Derby House (my favourite rug brand) very kindly gifted us one of their lightweights – perfect for this time of the year.

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It is a classic example of Derby House’s excellent rug design with a 0g weight and 600 Denier diamond weave fabric which is waterproof and breathable.  Pea can vouch for how waterproof this rug is because she’s been out night and day in all sorts of weather over the last few weeks. It has buckles on the neck (velcro would be useless in the winter) and adjustable clips on the chest (easy to secure or remove).  It is consistent with the fit of the other Derby House rugs I have had – I always know what I am going to get with them.  It doesn’t always completely cover Pea’s mane – she seems to shake it down but maybe that’s just the way she wears it!

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This particular rug is bright blue with a yellow trim.  Although this is from their summer collection and that is probably the reasoning behind the colours, I think it is great that when I drive past Pea early in the morning when the sun hasn’t yet come up, I can look for the blue and I’ll be able to spot her!  Check out the Derby House website to see their latest eye-catching rug designs (though if you’re looking for something more subtle they cater for that too).

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A little side note – Derby House are really passionate about improving their sustainability. They have 95% plastic free outbound packaging and have abolished plastic ‘windows’ from their rug bags.

Horse Benefits Part 2: What They Teach Us

I’ve been thinking recently about how much horses bring to our lives (if you haven’t seen “Horse Benefits Part 1: What They Give Us” pop over and check that out before you read this). Although I joke to the parents who point out horses to their children “don’t go there, you’ll be poor” what I should actually be saying is “do it, I can’t think of many better ways of teaching your kids how to deal with life!”

Realism

Horses ground you.  You can’t become over confident because they will bring you back down to earth (sometimes literally!)  The very fact that half tonne animals allow you to sit on their backs and tell them what to do is humbling.

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Resilience

There are maybe more ups and downs with horse sports than with any other because there are always at least two “people” involved.  Health issues or injuries, confidence issues, falls and other challenges all require you to develop coping strategies, get back on the horse (again, sometimes literally) and keep going.  A valuable life skill!

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Discipline

As well as requiring commitment, horses need you to have self control.  You can’t let your emotions get out of control because that directly affects your horse.  You can’t spontaneously decide to go away for the weekend, stay out all night when you’ve got a show the next day or spend all your money on clothes.  You can’t just grab a horse and ride it, it involves so much more than that.  Which leads us on to..

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Commitment

Riding or keeping horses teaches you commitment.  You simply cannot improve in your riding if you don’t commit to it and as for having your own horse, you either have to make a massive financial commitment to get other people to look after your horse or commit excessive amounts of time, energy, blood, sweat and tears to do it yourself, whatever the weather!

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What have horses taught you?

Back On It (And Only Just Staying On It!)

April and May have been quiet months for Pea and I.  We had a not-particularly-successful competition right at the beginning of April and then decided to take a step back, take a bit of the pressure off and get some hacking miles on the clock.  With our local riding club dressage competition looming, I thought it was about time I had another lesson.

My instructor has moved so we were at a different venue, not far down the road from home.  I drove, which I was probably more nervous about than riding somewhere new, but we all got there safely!

After warming up and taking in the different surroundings, we played with Pea’s trot, which has improved so much this year, and then worked on our canter transitions.  Anyone who follows our story will know that canter has been our nemesis forever but today I was starting to keep her together into the canter rather than chucking my reins at her and letting her run into it.  I was also wobbling around all over the place, nearly losing my left stirrup the whole time, having cramp in my left calf and being completely incapable of keeping my heels down but lets focus on the positives!  We actually ‘had’ the canter so that is something to celebrate.

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Very occasionally in our time together, Pea has objected to a touch of the whip by kicking out at it.  It has only happened literally less than a handful of times and each time it has been when she’s been tired and objecting to still being asked to canter.  Today I was doing 20m circles and every time we came towards P I could feel her wanting to fall out through her left shoulder and probably duck out to the left (which she did manage to do once when she caught me snoozing).  On one particular circle I felt she needed more than a weak left leg to keep her on track (I carry a schooling whip on the left because my leg sometimes needs backing up) so I gave her a tap and she BUCKED!  A rarely before witnessed experience for sure!  I’m not sure who was more surprised, my instructor or Alex, neither of whom have ever seen her do anything like that before!  Luckily I just flopped on her neck a bit, I did NOT fall off!  A definite near miss though.

Far less eventfully, we also ran through Prelim 12 which is one of the tests I will be doing for our next competition in a week and a half!  It is not going to be easy, the canter work involves a 20m circle AND half a diagonal change of rein then only a couple of strides of trot before doing the same thing on the other rein – eek!  Nevertheless, my trot work is stronger and if I can get that right and just try my best with the canter, I might be ok.

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So, things to take away from today

  • Start with my reins short enough and keep them that way
  • Stay alert because each movement comes up quickly
  • Leave each movement behind especially if it went wrong!

Things for Alex to take away from today

  • Keep that camera snapping, you never know when you might witness a naughty Pea moment!

A Guide To Shedding Tools!

It has come to the time of year when those of us who have unclipped horses are being punished for letting them grow their own rugs over winter.  Suddenly they are like bird nest machines, shedding hair everywhere and sometimes they need a little helping hand! Over the years I have used plenty of different gadgets to help Pea to shed her winter fluff so here’s a low down of our recommendations. All of these have been bought with my own money and my opinions are certainly my own and based on solid use.

The ‘Cheap and Cheerful All-Rounder’

These metal ‘shedding blades’ are pretty cheap (from £4) and effective at catching loose hairs and sweeping them away especially when you open them up like a scythe! I wouldn’t recommend using one of them on sensitive areas or legs but they do a decent enough job on the body and double up as an excellent tool to remove dry mud!

The ‘Sorry I’ve Found Better’

You know what it is like, you see a video on the internet of something looking amazing and you get sucked into buying it. That’s how my YO and I ended up ordering StripHairs from America a few years ago. When they arrived, although we were in slight shock that we’d spent so much money on what is essentially a rubber block, we thought they were great but they are hard work to use and have been far outclassed by more recent purchases! I know StripHair have changed the design of their blocks and I can’t comment on the new ones (they cost $39) but if I wanted a shedding specific tool I would certainly buy…

The ‘Best In Test’

I bought a SleekEZ two years ago with my Eqclusive brush pack (they cost £19.95 individually) and I haven’t looked back! It is so effective at taking out the hair that is ready to be shed and is so satisfying to use. The difference in all of our horses’ coats from the year before to the year we used these in the lead up to our riding school vet inspection was incredible. Because it is essentially a ridged metal blade coming from a wooden block, you have to be careful about pressure, particularly in more sensitive areas.

The ‘New Classic’

Although I use the SleekEZ on most of Pea’s body I turn to my Eqclusive curry comb (£7 each) particularly for her tummy and legs. It is the perfect reincarnation of a traditional rubber curry comb with a solid rubber structure but soft tips. In circular motions it teases all the ‘shed ready’ hair out of the coat, gets rid of any mud and provides a sort of massage for your horse.

Do you have any other shedding tools you could recommend?

Along For The Ride – There’s Snow Place Like Home

If you follow my socials you will know I’ve been hoping for a snow day and today, my dream came true by many inches!

At 3 in the morning (I must have known something was going on) I woke up to see the world was white and by 8 o’clock it was confirmed that work was closed.  Not that I was going to get there anyway!  My other half had taken our 4×4 to go to his job so I was twiddling my thumbs at home trying to work out how to get to the yard. If you know me, or have read Home Is Where The Horse Is, you’ll know that the yard is my favourite place.

My 3 o’clock in the morning plan had been to walk but it was very sensibly pointed out to me that it is a 4 mile drive, would be quite a bit further to walk, snow isn’t easy to walk in AND if I got into trouble no-one would be able to help me.  Let’s not forget the ceramic hip either!

Anyway, I had established that the buses were not running and just as I was contemplating hitch hiking (for the first time in my life) I got a call to say my boyfriend was coming home and the car was mine!

Five of us horsey people made it to the yard and mucked in with the yard owner to help to feed some of the horses.  I can definitely recommend bumping around on the back of a pickup to go up to a far away field and divide and conquer a herd of fluffy, fat gannets with buckets of grain as the best way to start a Friday.

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The others all decided to hack out but I really didn’t fancy it.  I’ve watched ‘The Horse Whisperer’ too many times and the image of that horse slipping and falling on the ice under the snow and sliding down the hill haunts me.  I know lots of people hack out in the snow but I just couldn’t get past that worry that something might happen.  I didn’t have a hip replacement so that I could end up in hospital again and I’d never forgive myself if something happened to Pea.

I spent a good couple of hours grooming Pea and trimming her feathers off.  I know the snow will probably be all gone before we know it but I don’t want her to have snow dreadlocks or cold wet feathers.

We then popped into the school so that we could get some kind of ride in.  Pea was slightly put off by the remnants of the snowman that had been made earlier but soon made friends with it..

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We plodded round and round the school, trying to churn up a centre line, long changes of rein and 20m circles.  I tried to work on having a forward medium walk and free walk as there wasn’t much else I could do! I hoped to break up the surface enough to school properly but we only managed a bit of trot as it was still just a bit too hard.

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I whiled away a few more hours at the yard before succumbing to the call of a warm house and the promise of a chippy tea!

Today’s ride was not a success in terms of working towards our goals (though we did work on our walk) but I had a really lovely day in the best place.  Sometimes pony time is more important than riding!

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Did you have a snow day?  What did you get up to?

Yoga For Horses

Before you read this, I’m not an equine physiotherapist, I’m just sharing what I’ve been shown over the years by various physios.  I try to do Pea’s stretches most times I ride and she’s pretty flexible (though she wasn’t when I first started doing them!)  Read on for my reasons for stretching Pea, my top tips and our routine accompanied by pictures from our soggy, sweaty stretching session after hacking and schooling on Saturday (please forgive the state of us!)

Reasons to stretch your horse:

  • Improve flexibility and range of movement
  • Reduce stiffness
  • Strengthen tissue/protect from injury
  • Warm up or cool down
  • A nice bit of bonding time!

Top tips:

  • Don’t tie your horse up – either get someone to hold them or do your stretches in an safe space like a stable or arena!
  • Start each stretch with your horse stood squarely (where possible!)
  • Repeat everything on both sides
  • Be gentle!
  • For the treat/carrot stretches, encourage your horse to mouth the treat/carrot before you give it to them, otherwise they won’t be holding the stretch long enough!
  • Don’t force your horse to do more than they are comfortable with
  • Don’t do anything that might aggravate an injury and if you’re unsure, ask your vet or physio before doing any stretches

1. I start with neck/back stretches.  For the first one, I use a carrot or treat to encourage Pea to bend her neck around as far back as she can.

Future-Poppy Edit – If your horse gets too ‘good’ at this and snatches around without stretching, make them reach wider.

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2. I then get her to stretch down to the outside of her front hoof.

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3. By far my favourite stretch is holding the treat between Pea’s legs, she really stretches down and backwards.

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4. The next stretch involves standing in front of Pea and holding a treat up high so that she stretches her neck up and out.  In theory she should stick her head out straight but we tend to often have a sideways tilt.. something to work on!

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5. I also get her to tuck her head right in to her chest.

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6. Recently I have introduced some leg/shoulder stretches into our routine.  Firstly I stretch her front legs forward.  It is really important to be gentle with this and support the leg rather than force it.

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7. I then hold her knee up in front of her.  This one is good when you have just put your saddle on as it gets any skin folds away from the girth!

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8. I also stretch her hind legs forward – this is where it is important to be in a safe space, have someone to help you or have full trust that your horse isn’t going to walk off!

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The next stretches to add to our routine are a backwards hind leg stretch and the tummy tickle which makes the horse lift their back (I’ve been trying to find the spot on Pea but haven’t perfected it yet!)

Do you have any stretches you do with your horse?

Finding ‘The One’ – Horse Buying Tips

Today is exactly three years since I bought Pea so I  thought I’d share my thoughts on finding ‘the one’ (of the equine variety!) Obviously Pea is my first so I feel quite unqualified to talk about this so I’ve consulted some of my favourite internet and real life friends to get their perspectives.

 

In an ideal world.. get to know them!

I was lucky. I had been leasing Pea for a year and a half before I bought her.  I knew her about as well as I possibly could and was sure she was the one for me.  My thoughts about buying her started long before I actually did.

Pea’s internet doppleganger Henry, from Henry Dressage Cob, had a similar story.  His mum Shelley said

‘I weekend loaned him for a while and riding school owner said he looked happy, so one weekend I asked her if you ever did sell him can I have him. That afternoon after having a think and chat with some people, she came to say yes you can have him!’

Buying from a friend or someone you know, having already seen the horse with a different rider, is also a good start.  The best Pony Club ponies get passed from family to family as their riders outgrow them and plenty of competition horses and ponies move on to people who already know them.  Although in different homes, with different riders, horses will act differently, the more you know about a horse, the more likely it is you will be able to make the right choice!

 

In the real world.. conduct a careful search!

If you are not lucky enough to have found a horse through your yard or friends you are likely to have to resort to looking for horses in the wider world!  For advice on this I hand over to Leanne, owner of Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre (my yard) and general horse guru!

‘1. Be realistic. The perfect horse does not exist, but one perfect for you does. Decide what’s most important to you and be prepared to be flexible on the least important.

2. Read adverts thoroughly and prepare questions to ask before wasting your time or the sellers. Listen to the answers and ask for more specific details – “goes around a set of showjumps” could mean literally that.

3. Someone else’s perfect pony might not be yours! The fact that Neddy tows his current owner to the nearest piece of grass at every opportunity might be acceptable to them, but not for you!

4. Research! Facebook is great for this! Ask someone in the pony/riding club/hunting field who might have seen them out and about.

5. Always take someone else with you to view, preferably someone more experienced, but a witness and an outside pair of eyes is always useful. Try the horse in the circumstances you will be riding in – in fields/alone/in company/ on roads, and always ride past home on your return to check for nappy behaviour if that’s on your unacceptable list. Ask to see the horse caught, tacked up, ridden – and look for signs that they might have been ridden or lunged prior to you coming- a freshly washed one might have been having sweatmarks removed!

6. Go back and try again- honest sellers will be as keen as you to make sure you match, dealers to protect their reputation and private to ensure their “darling” isn’t going to be sold on.

7. Get a vetting – but bear in mind point 1 when you get the results.’

 

General considerations..

Be open minded

If you are looking for a 15.2, bay gelding with four white socks and a star and a BE record, you’re likely to be setting yourself up for disappointment or at the very least, a massively restricted search.  Try not to rule out colours and breeds because you never know, you might miss out on ‘the one’ because of it.  Charlotte, from The Forelock Journal, said

‘When Hamish was advertised for loan at our yard I wasn’t actually sure about trying him. He’s a thoroughbred and I’d have classed myself as a nervous rider at the time. He was so calm, kind and patient from the moment I was around him and I just knew I wanted to take him on right away.  He just knows me and I just know him. I can put my finger on what it is, but we have a very special bond.’

Keep in mind the ‘stretch zone’ theory

For a bit more information about this theory have a read of Tips from HOYS but essentially, in my opinion, you want a horse that keeps you in the stretch zone rather than the safe or danger zones.  Pea and I have plenty to work on together and she can certainly keep me on my toes but I knew when I bought her she would never throw anything at me that I wouldn’t be able to cope with.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

When I started riding Pea, people used to ask me when I was going to get a ‘proper horse’.  I still get questions and judgements about the fact that I’m a 5’6 adult with a 14hh pony but I really couldn’t care less.  In my opinion, providing you are not too heavy for your horse, it shouldn’t matter if they are small, tall, fine or chunky providing that they are right for you.  I see far too many teenagers thinking they need a thoroughbred because that is the image they want rather than thinking about what horse is actually right for them – don’t fall into that trap.

When you know, you know

Most loving horse owners won’t be able to quite pin point how they knew their horse was the one for them, they just knew!  Francesca, from Country Frantics, said this about when she tried Buddy (her first horse)

‘I felt confident on him out on a hack straight away and he completely looked after me, it was like I couldn’t be without him now he had entered my life. I bought him 2 weeks later.  He understands me and is the male horse version of me in every way!’

And sometimes they chose you

When Francesca met Adie, her RSPCA rescue horse, he was the one in charge of the decision making

‘When I met him for the first time it was like he chose me, he put so much trust in to me and he couldn’t stop following me and rubbing his head over me.  I knew I had to take him home so I did!’

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Thank you to today’s contributors for sharing their experiences and advice. Please check out their links!

Shelley from Henry Dressage Cob

Leanne from Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre

Charlotte from The Forelock Journal

Francesca from Country Frantics

19 for 2019 (Facts About Us)

It is a new year and I think it is a good opportunity to introduce myself, Pea and our blog to followers old and new. Here are 19 key pieces of information to get you up to speed!

  1. My name is Poppy!
  2. I am 27 years old
  3. I live in the Cotswolds with my boyfriend and two guinea pigs Peter and Patrick
  4. I work in primary education
  5. I have UKCC equestrian coaching qualifications (which I don’t currently use) and a horse care diploma (which helps me to look after my precious pony!)
  6. I started properly riding 5 years ago after childhood hip problems (Perthes Disease) restricted my activity options when I was younger
  7. I now have a ceramic left hip (as of June 2018)33a757f8-1f48-446a-9e89-5dc267ac27e9
  8. My pony’s normal name is Pea but her posh name is Scarlet Sweetpea
  9. She is 14hh
  10. She is passported as a Welsh Cob but has gypsy origins!
  11. She is 13 according to her passport but could be several years either side of that
  12. She is barefoot (and always has been so it is not something I have changed)
  13. I started riding her at my yard (Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre) 4 and a half years ago and then bought her 3 years ago
  14. She lives at the same yard that I bought her from (although we did move for a while) and lives out 24/7
  15. My chosen discipline is dressage and we hope to do more of it this year 42867B0F-2D8B-48B1-9806-399F9DEB9C27.jpeg
  16. I started my blog to share my experience of having a hip replacement at 26 and returning to riding afterwards
  17. I put out a new blog every weekend
  18. I have an Instagram, Facebook page and Twitter feed linked to my blog if you want to see more photos and tales
  19. Most of the video footage and photos of both of us were taken by our top supporter, my non horsey boyfriend
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