Monday, 13 March 2017

Mole diaries: comfort, companionship, confidence

"No! Don't do this to me!" I joked as I was handed a little bundle of fur. This was my first encounter with Mole, he was 
2 weeks old. "If he licks my finger, then it'll seal the deal." Mole clearly agreed and licked my finger. Ten weeks later he came home and the love affair with this gorgeous man began.

What I wasn't prepared for was the significant impact this small hound would have on my life. I'm not talking about the sleepless nights due to the howling from his crate (he soon found his way onto my bed) or the exhaustion from toilet training, recall practise and general entertaining. No, I'm talking about the unexpected positive effect he has had on my self-confidence and social life.

His arrival soon caused ripples in a relationship that clearly wasn't working and with him by my side I had the courage to walk away. His company at dressage competitions helped me overcome the nerves I suffered following a bad fall from Wilbur. And, walking Mole has given me the perfect excuse to explore the beautiful countryside that surrounds us - with the added bonus that we meet lots of other dog owners who all stop to chat. Puppy training has resulted in human friendships, and Mole is quite the celebrity in the local coffee shops we frequent not to mention his important role as chief mascot for the hockey team. With his cute looks and friendly personality, he's the ultimate charmer!

Having a dog has been an incredible experience on so many levels and I cannot imagine life without my scruffy little urchin and best friend, Mole. Happy birthday gorgeous boy.

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and  Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in
collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Young horse diary: Aid responsiveness and rider staility

It's been 5 months since Baz came into my life and in that time, we've started to build the foundations for what I hope to be a great partnership. Most importantly, our trust in each other is growing daily. At only 4 years old, he has a happy and chilled demeanor, peppered with an element of cheekiness, which I love; because it stops me from becoming complacent! Here is an update on what we've been working on in our schooling with the help of  my instructor, Gail Allum.

Baz's responsiveness to the aids is something we've explored recently. A fundamental aspect of this is my position in the saddle so that I'm able to give Baz clear signals. I had become a little defensive in my position, only because of my inexperience of riding a youngster, Baz and I are still getting to know each other after all and I wanted to be ready to anticipate any unexpected moves on his part! The defensiveness has manifested itself as a tendency to grip the saddle with my knees, which then results in greater movement of my lower leg and a lack of suppleness in my lower back. These factors restrict Baz from being able to move forward freely and mean my aids are less clear.

How have we resolved this? One exercise we've done is to take my legs out and away from the saddle for a few strides in all three paces while keeping my feet in the stirrups. This not only frees up your horse's movement, but that of your lower back too. It certainly tests your balance as a rider and makes you work your core muscles! You then bring your legs quietly back so they drape round your horse's sides.

Sally Swift, author of Centered  Riding, has a great analogy for helping you improve your leg position and lower leg stability. She encourages you to imagine your legs are growing longer until your feet are resting flat on the ground. This results in a softening of your legs, knees and ankles and deepens your seat in the saddle. Your lower leg will be more stable because your knees will be less likely to grip the saddle flap. The added bonus of this analogy is that imagining your feet are touching the ground has a grounding effect on you as a rider. Any nervous energy is dissipated. The resulting calmness is particularly useful when riding a youngster or a horse who feels a little fresher than you'd like because your horse will pick up on your calmer, more centred energy.
Having practised the exercise from Gail and used the visual aid from Sally Swift, I've been encouraged by the feeling of greater stability in the saddle and how much quieter I can ride. My leg aids are clearer and, therefore, more effective because there is less 'noise' caused by the constant movement of my lower leg. Meanwhile, Baz can move forwards with ease as my lower back moves with him. Try it yourself and let me know how you get on in the comments.

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and  Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Smoke signals: Shoeing a young horse and lessons learned

Having made great progress on the previous two shoeing visits, our ever-patient farrier faced a challenge on his third. Baz was clearly not in the mood for being shod on this particular occasion,  but with coaxing and skill, Baz went away with shiny new shoes.  Here are some helpful tips and lessons I've learned from our experience.

  • Firstly, ensure your young horse is familiar with the place where you have him shod. Baz is not stabled on the main yard where he's shod. Therefore, bringing him on to the main stable yard just for the farrier meant that Baz was already wound up before the shoeing process had begun. Now, I regularly lead him round to the place where he is shod to increase his confidence in that location. I apply TTouches when he's there so that he learns to associate the main yard with pleasant events. Stroking his forelegs with a schooling whip from elbows to feet helps to ground him and invokes calmness in him and me!
  • In addition, I lead Baz round to the main yard to watch other horses being shod so he's regularly exposed to the sights, sounds and smells of shoeing without the stress of experiencing it for himself. It seems to be the smoke, or perhaps the smell of burning hoof, or both, that worries him the most. Hopefully, the calmness of the other horses being shod will rub off on Baz. 
  • Other suggestions include standing him in a position where the smoke swirls away from him rather than towards him, or to apply a calming essential oil, such as lavender, around his headcollar to mask the smell of burning hoof.
  • Our farrier always gently taps Baz's foot with his hammer before nailing the shoes on so he gets used to the sound and feel of having his shoes fitted -  a brilliant way of reducing the risk of him panicking and causing injury to himself or the farrier/handler.
  • I plan to give Baz an oral sedative before he's shod next time to minimise any anxiety building and to create a positive experience that we can then build on.
  • Finally, cold shoeing remains an option if we cannot overcome the stress associated with the smoke and smells of hot shoeing.
With perseverance and training, I'm sure Baz will become an easier horse for our ever-tolerant farrier to handle.

What challenges have you faced when your young horse has been shod, and how have you overcome them? Please send your comments.

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and  Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in
collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Part 1: What are you doing today to create a better version of yourself?

Over the past few years I have had the privilege of working with some brilliant coaches. The one common theme I've learned from all of them is that we create our own reality through our thoughts and mindset. In other words, we generate our own luck in life as well as the challenges we meet along the way. The power of our mind is truly incredible. Leadership coach, Dawn Bentley, shares her thoughts on how we can help ourselves when we get 'stuck' in old habits and repetitive patterns of behaviour. This will then enable us to build the life we really want.

Have you settled for less?

  •  Do you find that you are not getting what you want?
  • Are you feeling limited or stuck in some way?
  • Do you find that you are repeating patterns of behaviour, or phrases, or ways of thinking that get in your way?
  • Have you settled for less?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes then I’ll bet you are living your life according to old patterns of thinking and conditioned ways of being to run your life. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can get whatever you want if you are prepared to make changes to the way you think and perceive the world around you

Why do we get stuck? 
Being stuck, or thinking that you can’t do or have what you want, is normal. We all have limiting thoughts about our abilities and it happens when we attach ourselves to the past or the future. Often it’s due to an unconscious decision we have made in the past, and more often than not it’s driven by emotion rather than logic. We make choices thinking that having a certain belief will help us get what we want or keep us safe. Being stuck is a mental state whichbecomes a habit because it’s driven by a deep-rooted belief. Your brain drives your thoughts and your behaviour. When you are stuck in old patterns, the body responds automatically. When you are on ‘automatic pilot’, your habitual patterns play out so life seems repetitive.

Rising above your conditioned way of being: The first step to change is self-awareness. Start by becoming an observer of yourself. It’s very easy to be critical of things that you do, particularly when it’s a habit you want to change. Additionally, being critical is more likely to close down your thinking. So, you want to open up your thinking, be curious, and ask yourself questions such as:

  • How did I create this habit in the first place?
  • What is it about this situation that is causing me to behave in this way?
  •  How do I actually feel right now?
  • What one thing can I do to begin to change?

Once you start to break an old pattern, you can start to learn new ways to operate and build more positive, enabling habits.

Practise is the key: The thing that got you into this stuck state was practise. You took on thoughts, beliefs and actions, and repeated them until they became automatic. Therefore, it makes sense that a new practice will help you to become unstuck. 
To find the practice that is right for you, you need to be clear about what you want. For some people this can be the real challenge. As a coach, when I first ask this question, I often hear ‘I don’t know’. The second most common response I receive is people telling me what they don’t want. For example, if I’m working with someone who wants to be more confident, they’ll tell me they don’t want to be nervous, or they don’t want to forget what they are wanting to say, or they don’t want to stutter over their words. But, this focuses your brain on what already happens – your old practice - your aim is to train your brain to focus on what you really want to get a crystal clear picture in your mind. Be as specific as you can, so think about what you will do, how you will look, what you will say to yourself - and write all this down.

Be consistent in your practise. 
Remember you are creating new habits that will help you live the life you want. Consider where you are going to practise, with who, and in what situations. Then practise.

A word of advice: Be patient! You are re-wiring your brain which has been doing things in a certain way for many years. Start small and build on it. Praise yourself for small successes. Focus on what is working and adjust what isn’t. Think about the first time you got on a bike, or drove a car. You started by practising some of the basic actions and had support. You made mistakes along the way but through hours of practise you became competent. The same rules apply here, so be kind to yourself and find someone who will cheer you on as you make small steps to living the life you want.

In Part 2, Kathryn will share her own experiences of how working with Dawn and other coaches helped her become 'unstuck' in her own behaviours.

Dawn Bentley is an executive coach working with leaders who are open minded and want to continue to learn and grow. She believes everyone has hidden potential and can achieve whatever they want with the right level of support, challenge and encouragement. If you’re ready to take the next step on your leadership journey give set up a discovery call or find out more by visiting her website.

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and  Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Amateur rider diary: And the winner is....

"And the winner is...." Imagine, as an amateur rider, if you heard your name called out at the end of this sentence and at a national awards event. Well, Claire 'Tig' Abel did and here she recounts a very special evening at the Horse and Hound Awards after being nominated for the Pikeur Amateur Rider of the Year Award.

"A friend showed me the competition in Horse and Hound Magazine and asked if it was ok if she nominated me." explains Tig, who of course said yes. This year was the first time Horse and Hound ran the awards, which recognise equestrian heroes throughout the equine world. The Pikeur award recognises an amateur rider, who doesn't make a living from their passion, for their dedication to equestrianism. Nominations are accepted and then 5 riders are shortlisted. "The shortlisted riders are presented in Horse and Hound magazine before the award is decided through online voting. They ask you lots of questions for this feature, and I felt I gave rubbish answers so I didn't expect to get many votes!" The winning rider is decided from the online poll, which is open for public voting for 2 weeks. All 5 riders are invited to attend the evening awards party - this year held at Ascot Racecourse - and no-one knows who the winner is until they are announced on the night.

"I was absolutely convinced I hadn't got it," says Tig, who was sat at a table right at the back of the hall, about as far away from the stage as you could  get. "But, then someone else from the back won a prize, so I realised I might still be in with a chance and decided I'd better stop drinking!" Tig was also sure that the other winners already knew they had won their category, "because they all gave such brilliant speeches, and I thought they must have been primed - I hadn't prepared anything".

The moment arrived. "And the winner of the Pikeur Amateur Rider of the Year 2016 is....Dr Claire Abel!" As it happened, Tig's speech went well as the presenter asked her lots of questions. "Thinking back now, I thought it was odd that everyone I knew from Horse and Hound didn't come up and say hello all evening - it turns out they all knew I'd won and didn't want to spill the beans." Tig was presented with a beautiful glass trophy and will receive full competition and home outfits from Pikeur. To receive such a high profile award is fantastic achievement for any rider, let alone one who rides for pleasure. Well done Tig!

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and  Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Amateur rider diary: An international treat for Claire Abel

Meet Claire 'Tig' Abel, an amateur dressage rider based in Buckinghamshire. She currently owns 12-year old Roo (aka Rowan Magic) and 9-year old Coco (aka RoCoco). 'Amateur' doesn't really do this talented lady justice given her professional approach to  training and competing, which, by the way, she juggles around running her own accountancy business, AccountAbel. Here she shares her first experience of competing internationally when she was invited to compete Roo in Saumur.

In the UK, to ride internationally in dressage you need to achieve scores of 67% or more at Premier League level. Having qualified you then apply to British Dressage to be considered for selection. This year, for the second time in as many years, Tig and Roo  qualified to ride internationally at Prix St George and Inter1 levels. Having competed at a home international at Hartpury CDI last year, the pair were selected to ride this year in the beautiful location of Saumur, France."I put our names down for the CDI's at Le Mans or Samur, but I really wanted to go to Saumur, so I was chuffed to bits when we were chosen," explains Tig.

Tig decided to travel from Portsmouth to Caens. "I was the solo driver so I needed to keep the driving as minimal as possible." This ferry crossing is about 8 hours long, giving a total driving time of about 6 hours. And how did Roo find his first water crossing? "He shook the whole way there," says Tig. "They try to keep the horseboxes together at the ports, but you are in with all the freight traffic, so there's a lot of clanging and noise." She continues:"On the ferry, you have to be escorted by a member of staff if you're going to the horsebox, so it made it quite difficult to check on the horses." However, on the way back, Roo wore his 'ears' - the Equiline Soundless Earnet provides soundproofing and this seemed to resolve any anxiety issues. "Despite the challenges of the ferry trip, Roo unloaded at Saumur as fresh as ever and clearly knew 'he had arrived'!" she laughs.

How did Tig cope with her nerves given the grand occasion? She takes a big intake of breath before responding. "The atmosphere was incredible. The seating around the arena was quite high, so you felt like you were riding alone until the crowd applauds at the end. They even had a chandelier suspended above X!" What was the highlight? "O goodness, all of it!" she smiles. "I went into the first class [the Inter I] thinking I was just there to make up numbers, but when we came 5th out of 26, I had a bit more belief in what we could do." This meant they qualified for the final music class where they improved and were awarded 4th.

Click here for the video of Claire and Roo's performance.

Many of us daydream of riding internationally, but as amateurs, we often think this is an impossible dream. "A lot of people think they can't do it," agrees Tig. "But you have to believe in yourself and your horse. Aim high. Don't wait until you are absolutely foot perfect at any level either. Be brave and give that next level a go, otherwise you'll always talk yourself out of doing it."
Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and  Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Event groom diary: A season of highs and a career first

Jimmy & Crisy performing their circus trick - a kiss for a carrot
Meet Crisy Salmon, groom for international eventrider, Sarah Bullimore. Here she brings us up to date with her 2016 season - and what a season it has been.

Sorry for the long absence since my last post. It turns out I’m not very good at keeping up to date with blogging, but I see this as a good thing because now I can just summarise all the best bits from this season.

A new ride for me

Sadly, Jimmy, the lovely horse I had on loan, went lame over the summer. Injuries from general wear and tear that come with old age were diagnosed so we decided retirement was the best option. Fortunately, I found a replacement horse soon after. Lenny is my new ride and he’s working his socks off! He was certainly a tricky ride to start with and has tested my stick-ability (with mixed results), but we have a great bond and I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together.

And my first 4 star

Sarah & Lilly after the prize giving
Grooming wise, I had my first experience at a 4* event and where better than our ‘local’ event of Burghley with Reve Du Rouet.  But, before that career highlight, we had plenty of work to do earlier in the season.
The Bullimore Team started the year on a high out in Barocca D’alva (Portugal) and  I was thrilled to go out there for the final part of the competition.  Sarah achieved fantastic results, with Reve Du Rouet winning the CIC3* and Lilly Corinne coming 3rd in the CCI3*. All the hard work and preparation over winter had paid off! 
In May we headed to the beautiful venue of Houghton(Norfolk) where Sarah’s up and coming youngster, Corouet, competed in the Burghley Young Event Horse 5-year old class, and Valentino was entered in the CIC3* as a member  of the Nations Cup team. Well, Corouet strutted his stuff and won the class; a real boost just prior to the Burghley young horse final for which he’d already qualified.  Meanwhile, Valentino showed his great reliability by finishing on his dressage score of 44.1 to finish a respectable 7th
September arrived, and off we went to Burghley! Sarah took Blou, her Badminton horse. Now, crowds terrify Blou and he made himself a little famous for all the wrong reasons in the dressage arena at Badminton in the spring.   So, it was a nail biting moment for us all when Sarah entered the arena at Burghley. I was so proud of him when he held it together to give them a good score of 49.1.
Crosscountry morning dawned and, early on, the course was causing problems all over the place.  Yet again, I was incredibly nervous. So much so, that when Sarah and Blou set off, I couldn’t watch them on the screens. I stayed at the finish line listening to their progress via the commentary. It wasn’t until a week later that I finally watched  the cross country on catch up TV  and despite the first few fences being a bit sticky, Sarah and Blou  made it look so easy! Picking up 22 time faults put them in a good position overnight. Thankfully, the next day Blou was full of energy, fantastically sound, and ready for the show jumping. Unfortunately, the crowds got the better of him and he dropped out of the placings. Not the result we were hoping for, but from my point of view, I loved every minute of my first 4* and I know Sarah will be back. A great saying I overheard a rider say this year was, “to put it in the f**k it bucket and move on”, which I think applies to anyone who works with or rides horses - although I’m not sure there would be much in Michael Jung’s bucket!

Parties and celebrations

Part of an (interesting) fashion show
The most fun event of the year had to be Boekelo CCI3* in Holland at the beginning of October. Lots of parties! Every night there was social event including a BBQ and fashion show. After completing another tricky and testing crosscountry course, the whole trip was topped off by Lilly Corinne finishing on a great score of 54.9 and in 9th place.
We finished the season on another victory with Corouet winning the Novice class at Oasby (Lincolnshire). He didn’t do as well as we had hoped at Burghley in the young horse class, so this win confirmed he is good at his job and an exciting prospect for Sarah despite his size – he’s only  15.2hh!

New arrivals

Milo (left) & his sister Mira
This year we also welcomed into the world a colt and filly, both born thanks to embryo transfer from Lilly into two surrogate mares. Having twins is a bit of a miracle, so we are feeling very lucky. With Corouet being the oldest of the current youngster and doing so well, the future is even more exciting.

Kathryn White is owner and director of Cathean Ltd Medical and  Copy Writing Services. She is a published medical, copy and equestrian writer with a passion for creating compelling text in collaboration with her clients. Her customers include pharmaceutical, healthcare and equestrian businesses across the world.