Things I am not emotionally equipped to deal with in the equestrian world – competition edition

If you know me, you will know that there are certain things my brain just cant process. Its me not you – I know this 😃🤯 This is tongue in cheek and not intended to cause offense but sure it probably will anyway #sorryKaren

🐴White fly veils 🐴

*side note, people who call them bonnets, please stop it hurts me!

This one will be hard to understand if you didn’t grow up as a child in a small village in Ireland. Part of the ritual of growing up and of having any form of a social life was taking Irish dancing classes. It’s a weird style of dance where it’s a party from the waist down and a coma from the waist up. 💃Competitions are called a “feis” and for these the tradition is a mass of curls in your hair. Now the pros wear wigs but the rest of us would have our limp hair tied up in rags, sprayed with hair spray and left in over night. To keep them while you slept in your mam would pop a pair of (clean!) knickers on top. Unfortunately now I can’t see a horse in a white fly veil without thinking of this childhood trauma 👙Oh also, cheap thick knobbly crocheted fly veils worn under expensive ergonomically shaped custom fitted shaped bridles all of the benefits of which are probably derailed by the lumps sticking into the horses poll

🐴An even number of plaits 🐴

It was beaten into me for years under an instructor of traditional values that you must have an uneven number of plaits. So I apologise but if you haven’t followed this rule I’m just itching to take one out!

🐴Pre tied stocks🐴.

One of my limitations in life is my lack of a graceful swan like neck – to be fair it would look rather out of place on my hobbit sized body. Pre tied stocks are perfectly lovely but usually fasten with Velcro. For the short necked among us this Velcro then tangles in the little hairs at the back of your neck which is a sensation that sets my teeth on edge. I wore one once and spent the entire dressage test wanting to remove and burn it

🐴The post Eventing jeep🐴

One of the many things I wasn’t equipped to deal with Eventing (the main one being not falling off on my hole cross country) is the carnage of the post Eventing jeep. I used to travel with a friend and on the way there everything was organised like a little equestrian filing cabinet. That “summer” it rained and it rained. It peaked at one event where I couldn’t get changed as my legs were so wet after removing my sodden clothes that I had to dry myself with a cooler rug and all the hair from the rug stuck to my legs. (I now bring a towel to all shows!). The jeep on the way home was a vehicular Glastonbury – mud, hair, more mud, strands of grass. I’ve since decided that Eventing is a lorry owners sport.

🐴Unplaited forelocks in Dressage🐴

I just can’t. Either plait it or wear a fly veil. The option to just leave it wafting around in the wind in contrast to a perfectly plaited mane just isn’t a thing.

🐴Giant five point breast plates on tiny horses and ponies🐴

These are usually so big that the horse looks stuck in a spider web of leather with giant clumps of sheepskin

🐴Wet Sandy sheepskin 🐴

The thoughts of wet sheepskin with sand and sweat stuck to it makes my skin crawl. It’s a sensory thing I just (literally) cannot handle it. The irony is I actually like sheep skin but restrict it to half pads for the afore mentioned reasons

🐴Show jumping boots with plastic straps and metal stud fasteners. 🐴

It’s always too tight or too loose. It never fastens in the same hole on each strap. It wrecks my head

🐴The wearing of eleven million white boots bandages and over reach boots in the dressage warm up arena.🐴

Note – I totally understand this on something that’s at high level or young or highly strung or likely to kick itself in the face but on a very calm middle aged horse about to do a prelim that wouldn’t over reach if the hounds of hell were chasing it – it just feels a little unnecessary. I say this as the owner of a horse with no breeding that’s so wide that knocking itself would be equestrian pilates

🐴Saddle pads leaning on the withers🐴

Usually this atrocity occurs underneath a vert expensive saddle with plenty of wither clearance – ?!?

🐴velcro saddle pad tabs living their best life🐴

These are the straps designed to go around the girth straps on a non monflap saddle to keep the saddle from slipping back. On a monoflap saddle they are often either wedged underneath the saddle to hide them or just left to their own devices partying away. I am not going to lie – I cut them off. A friends teenager is still in shock after witnessing the sacriledge of me defacing an eskadon pad with a scissors in this manner but i’d argue the world is in a better place after.


Constructive Feedback Vs Criticism

Just something that I wanted to share. Inspired by a conversation with a friend where we realised that we had experienced some great coaches before but also some that had good intentions but lacked the ability to understand the riders current state, couldn’t aim towards goals and ended up being critical rather than helpful. It got me thinking, as coaches how to we make sure we don’t blur that line between being honest and constructive and being too critical? As riders, how do we learn tough lessons and take on board constructive feedback from coaches? As equestrians, in a sport where commentary is rife, how do we determine what is intended as constructive feedback and what’s just plain old criticism?

A friend who often imparts wise sayings on me, @christadillon3 once said “you will never be criticised by someone doing more than you”. It’s been a phrase I find myself coming back to quite often. When you are trying to grow and to learn and to achieve goals you will often leave yourself open to unsolicited feedback that may not be aimed at encouraging you.

I created the table attached for myself as a coach, a rider as a general equestrian. When I coach I aim to be honest and to help riders push boundaries while still trying to always work towards their goals and encourage them. When I ride I try to overcome my limitations and take on board what sometimes has to be blunt and honest feedback to help me to change and improve.

On the flip side, I heard a third hand comment about me a while back, it was a basic “will struggle to ride any horse at a higher level” one – so I applied my own logic – was it solicited? No. Was it said to or about me? About. Did it include any suggested positive actions to help me? No. Did it recognise any challenges I was trying to overcome? No. Was it trying to encourage or discourage me? Discourage. So I identified it as simple criticism and moved on and I’ve found this method a valuable tool.

What I also reminded myself was that what was supposedly said, was something I would say about myself so who was I to get annoyed? Remember, when you openly criticise yourself, you invite others to do the same – so stop 😊

BHS Silver Challenge Awards – the simple path to Stage 1, 2 and Ride Safe

I often get asked about BHS exams and awards as my other half is a BHSI and BHS Assessor. One of the topics that comes up a lot is around the silver challenge and the ride safe award so we have put together this simple guide.

The BHS (British Horse Society) offer a series of 32 core awards and 5 stand-alone awards under their “challenge award” umbrella which encompasses introduction, bronze, silver, gold and platinum.

In this blog post we focus on the silver challenge awards as these awards are the ideal first step for anyone intending to take exams and follow the BHS career pathways.

BHS Silver Challenge awards for direct entry to BHS Stage 2

Completion of the silver challenge awards (About the Horse and About the Rider) provides direct entry to the BHS Stage 2 care, lunge and ride exams without the need to take the BHS Stage 1 exam.

Additionally, as the BHS cannot currently deliver ride safe assessments, the Silver riding out safely award is currently accepted as the co-requisite.

*note – you do not need to be a BHS member to achieve silver challenge awards but you will need to be a member of the BHS if you proceed to take your Stage 2 exams.

Links to the BHs Career Pathways:

Groom Pathway:

Completion of “About the Horse” silver will provide direct entry to the BHS Stage 2 care and Lunge

Groom with Riding Pathway:

Completion of “About the Horse” and “About the Rider” silver will provide direct entry to the BHS Stage 2 Care, Lunge and Ride

Complete Horsemanship Pathway:

Completion of “About the Horse” and “About the Rider” silver will provide direct entry to the BHS Stage 2 Care, Lunge and Ride

Ride leader Pathway:

Completion of the Riding Out safely Silver and Gold challenge awards will provide the entry requirement for Stage 2 Riding Out


You do not need to be a BHS member to do the silver challenge awards. You need to have your own horse / pony which you use for the awards. There is no age limit on doing the awards (minimum age for progressing to Stage 2 exams is aged 14).

The BHS silver challenge awards comprise of eight awards under two headings:

1)      About the Horse

Knowing your horse

Caring for your horse

Handling your horse

Lunging your horse

2)      About the rider

Riding fit

Riding flat

Riding jump

Riding out safely

How can you take your BHS silver challenge awards?

BHSI Ross O’Hare delivers these awards either on a one to one or group basis at our centre Dunbyrne Equestrian in Kildare (where clients bring horses over with them) or Ross is happy to travel to your yard in Ireland to deliver the awards. Clients can choose to take all of the silver challenge awards or just the riding out safely awards depending on their needs. This not an assessment, the challenge awards will be delivered and assessed on a continual basis i.e., in lecture form.

The silver challenge awards are also ideal for liveries and leisure riders who want to learn more about caring for their horse or pony. The silver challenge awards are ideal for riding club members who would like to achieve certificates.


The cost of doing silver challenge awards will depend on the number of individuals taking part, the number of awards desired and the distance to your yard (if travelling to you). The cost includes registration with the BHs (*not membership), eight award booklets and certificates and badges.


The time taken to assess and deliver the awards would be 1-2 hours for riding out safely or a day for the 8 silver challenge awards. The awards can of course be delivered over a course of four weekly sessions if this suits better.

How to book

To enquire about booking a silver challenge award for yourself or for a group at your yard / centre or for your riding club please call or whats app 086-2222440  / 0879244385

Ross also provides the following services at Dunbyrne Equestrian or at your own yard:

–          Assessment and delivery of all levels of BHS challenge awards

–          Individual or group training for BHS  1-4 pathways and exams

–          Mock assessments for all BHS 1-4 pathways and exams

–          Assessment and sign off for BHS Exams

–          Evening / weekend training / assessments / sign off available.



Dressage – “Don’t Fear to Volunteer”

When we sign up to join Leinster Dressage (or any region of Dressage Ireland), one of the criteria is that wee volunteer to help at regional or national shows.

For those of us who volunteer regularly or who have organised and run shows, this is second nature to us and the roles are familiar but for anyone who has not done it before it may be something that they worry about doing as they do not know what to do or they do not know what role would best suit them. This piece is designed to help anyone who wants to volunteer but isn’t sure what is required or what would best suit them. The key roles are summarised below.

Volunteering is a great way to learn more about how shows are run, what goes on behind the scenes, how higher level riders warm up and how judges score competitors.

Key Roles

Call up

Key skills– good time keeping, a loud clear voice, confidence in speaking to new people. Benefits – meeting new people, observing the warm up routine of horses and riders.

The volunteer in the warm up arena has a list of competitors and their times. they tick off riders as they enter the warm up and keep the riders updated as to how many riders/minutes there are before their test. The warm up volunteer lets organisers know of any no shows and makes sure that there are not too many people in the warm up and that competitors are riding in a safe manner in line with the rules. All paperwork is pre-prepared and supplied for you as is tea/coffee and snacks from the organisers. Having a clear voice and a friendly approach is an asset to this role.

Judge’s Scribe

Key skills – legible handwriting, good organisational skills, good verbal communication, good listening skills. Benefits – Understanding what score the judges award and why, learning the importance of the FEI training scale in dressage judging, understanding the marks and comments awarded by judges, observing the test from the judges’s point of view, developing your eye for the horses way of going.

Scribing is an excellent job for anyone who enjoys watching dressage and learning more about riding dressage and how competition tests are scored. Scribes will sit in their own car in the passenger side , parked beside the judge who sits in the drivers seat so that a safe distance is maintained but each can still hear each other. The organising committee will provide lists of competitors and their times, copies of all tests and any necessary stationary.

The role of the scribe is to write down on the test sheets the scores and comments awarded by the judge for each competitor on each movement of the tests. The judge will then take the sheet and add the collective scores and final comments. The scribe or judge will pass the sheets to the sheet collector. if you have never done scribing before, starting with the lower test levels where the test is shorter and the movements come up at a less rapid pace will help to build confidence.

Sheet Collecting

Key skills – being mobile enough to move around the venue. Benefits – a great way to get those extra steps in!

Sheet collecting is exactly what it says on the tin. The sheet collector approaches the judge’s car ( from the side/behind so as not to impede their view of a rider and between tests so as not to interrupt) collects all completed sheets which they return to the scorer.


Key skills – a mind for figures, quick ability with numbers, experience with spreadsheets is an advantage. Benefits – scoring is an inside job and very quiet and peaceful so it is well suited to someone good with numbers that likes to work in concentration.

Sheets are supplied by the sheet collectors for inputting into the scoring system and calculation of results which are produced onsite and published on line.

Tea/Coffee runner

Key skills – a friendly manner, enough mobility to move around the venue. Benefits – this is a quick and easy role that allows you to get in extra steps while interacting with others.

The tea/coffee runner approaches the judge’s car while no tests are ongoing and takes not of any drinks and snacks the judge and scribe would like, gets the order from the onsite catering and delivers to the judge and scribe. this is always a well thanked job – who doesn’t love thee bringer of snacks?

Organiser’s assistant

Key skills – adaptability and people skills. Benefits – great way to get to know people and to try a variety of roles.

Every show will have a chief organiser who will be glad of an extra pair of hands! they may need assistance with tasks such as distributing judges and scribes packs , to putting out sheets and results to making sure competitors park in the right place.


You do need to be a Leinster Dressage member to volunteer to help at a show.

How to volunteer

The show schedule is held online. if there is a show that would suit you to volunteer, get in touch with the region a few weeks before the show to offer your assistance.

#letthemride This Is Why It Matters

You might be wondering why many of us Irish horsey folk have been sharing the #letthemride hashtag, posts and articles. So, I just thought it might be worth explaining why this is.

A few years ago a group of four female riders qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. Due to circumstances this original team cannot go. One retired her horse and has not qualified another, one is pregnant and one has a horse that has been unwell.

However, a team of three was still possible by combining the fourth rider from the original team with two other riders that have reached the International MER needed to qualify for the Olympics. Seems simple right?

That International MER set by the FEI for Olympic qualification is 66%. Unfortunately the Irish governing body and the High Performance director set their own MER of 68%. (which is above what these riders had achieved). This resulted in them declaring that there was no team and permitting the fourth rider from the original team to ride as an individual.

This sets a higher standard for Ireland than the FEI does. This is at odds with the fact that an Irish rider went to WEG before and was not subject to such strict in country rules around scores.

So basically these two riders Dane Rawlins and James Connor have campaigned to earn their scores and have funded themselves in International competition to attain the International standard set by the Olympic Council only to have their own country deny them the right to compete.

Ireland has a team that they declined to enter and many of us do not feel that this is right. Why? It’s simple – to have the chance to compete as a nation at the highest level and to refuse it sets a negative and damaging precedent. It sends a bad message to our young riders, our aspiring riders and those on youth development squads. It sends a bad message to the average rider enjoying competing as an amateur and feeling inspired by seeing others work at the highest level. Above all else it goes against the fact that we all love an underdog story and the principle of the Olympics is to take part rather than to win. Do you remember Cool Runnings? That’s what this is about – representing your nation at the highest level you can.

So what can you do? We want to share the attached photo and the hashtag #letthemride internationally. The first appeal against the decision not to send the team was lost but the second appeal is ongoing and the outcome has not been decided yet – public sentiment is important here. If you agree that Horse Sport Ireland should #letthemride please save and then share the attached photo and hashtag thank you.

Credit – designed by Anita Craven

No one ever won a medal for not taking part….

Do you remember, back we were younger, before reality bit, when dreams still seemed possible? That is one of the joys of being a child – the ability to dream without restraint and without limitations.

For many of us, as we get older we realise that we may not have the ability to achieve those dreams – either from a lack of support, a lack of finance, a lack of ability or other factors. So we revise and we edit and we continue to dream our smaller, more adult, realistic dreams. I would imagine when we were younger, most of us who rode fantasised about one day representing our sport Internationally. I know I did spurred on by films such as International Velvet. Did anyone grow up in the 90’s and not watch The Mighty Ducks, Rocky and Cool Runnings ?

The truth is victory against all odds has always enthralled the public – we all love an underdog story. We all love to see a chance given and a chance taken. We know that fortune favours the brave and that sometimes luck will be on the side of the unexpected. This has not changed as evidenced by the success of films such as I Tonya and Eddie the Eagle.

As a child films like Cool Runnings taught us that every dog has his day. It taught us to always take a chance to participate even if defeat seemed likely. It taught us to be competitors, to be supporters, to be present. It taught us that no matter the odds against you – you show up. Did anyone ever win at anything by not taking part? No.

Now I want you to imagine having enough talent, dedication and support to compete Internationally at a sport you love. Imagine as a full fledged adult slapped daily in the face by real life and still managing to chase that Olympic Dream. Imagine funding your way around the world just to some day get your bite at the apple. Imagine achieving what you needed for Olympic qualification. Now imagine your own country turning around and saying No. No, you are not going because while your achievements to date merit Olympic qualification, we do not think you are good enough. This happened this year to two Irish dressage riders.

Is this the message we want to send to our future riders, our youth teams and our children? Is this the message we want to send to ourselves? Have we accepted that our new approach is that its better to not take part than to take part and not win?

I have a little thing I always do if I am betting on horse racing – I put a small amount on the horse with the worst odds. I’ve won hundreds doing it. I know by virtue of just being in that race that horse has a chance. The horses back in the stable are the horses going nowhere.

Do you still remember the song from Cool Runnings?

“Nuff people say they know they cant believe

Ireland, we have a dressage team”

Here’s the good news – read the press release below – these guys still have a chance – please share and share the hashtag #letthemride

My Lovely Horse Rescue – facing the real and lesser known horse welfare crisis in Ireland

This week has seen a lot of debate on social media around Horse welfare in Ireland. I do not wish to publicly comment on the example in question as I do not believe in trial by social media.

However, what has struck me is the fact that so many people seem oblivious to the fact that animal abuse happens daily on our little island with many horses suffering and dying as a result of it. It is sadly not unusual, not under control and not preventable.

I recently spoke to Orla, PR manager for My Lovely Horse Rescue. This is a rescue that I know and have supported in the past. Orla kindly invited me to visit the center and meet the volunteers and animals which I look forward to doing once restrictions allow it. In the meantime, we had a chat about how the current Irish reality has affected this rescue.MLHR respond to calls for help from the public – during Winter the most common issues for equines center around animals that do not have sufficient feed, warmth and shelter.

MLHR rescue animals and follow on to rehab, adopt and rehome. They have approximately 450 animals in their care which includes around 200 equines. Like many rescues, MLHR receives just a small amount of funding from the government with the majority of their financial support coming from donations.

So, how has the current restrictions affected this?

🐴traditional social fundraising activities such as our local pub table quiz (a social outing i have always enjoyed) hasn’t been possible

🐴public collection and fund raising at competitions has not been possible

🐴 It has not been possible to take on new volunteers during this period. 🐴 less visibility of MLHR in the public eye

So – if horse welfare is close to your heart – how can we take action and help?

🐴To donate a one off or monthly amount –

🐴 To adopt or foster an animal in need –

🐴 If you would prefer to directly to contribute towards feed bills, Floods in Newbridge can facilitate this, just ask in store

🐴 If you would like to contribute to vet bills please contact MLHR who will pass on their vets contact details

🐴 Have you any equestrian items you don’t need? Rugs, headcollars, lead ropes, buckets, yard tools are all very much needed to care for animals. if you have items for donation, contact MLHR who can arrange to collect it

I have of course made my own donation to MLHR this morning. Its a small amount that hopefully goes towards helping an animal that needs it. Horses are neglected and abused daily by faceless people well outside of the public eye. It goes unseen and it continues. Maybe if everyone outraged by an example of it contributed a few euros, it would make a positive difference to some of these animals, who simply deserve better than the hand that life has dealt them

Product Review – Mountain Horse Alicia Coat

I buy a lot so when I say something is my new favourite thing, bear in mind its competed with a fair amount of things to get there.

After Christmas a friend and I had gone shopping and we had planned or ages to save up and head to TRI equestrian between Christmas and new year. In an effort to stop me buying random things I don’t need we had both come up with lists of what we actually needed. Top of my list was a long, warm and properly waterproof jacket for teaching in to replace an existing jacket that was no longer waterproof.

|The mountain horse Alicia coat caught my eye and to be honest at just over five feet tall I was tempted to write it off as a coat “for taller people who can pull off that sort of thing”. once I tried it on I was sold though as its incredibly warm and was like wearing a duvet. I checked the tags as I am tired of falling in love with things that are not actually waterproof – top tip, for something to be fully waterproof you are looking to see that it has listed taped seams as one of its benefits. Also check the waterproof rating – waterproof to 5000mm and to 10000mm and above are different.

This coat has a gorgeous snake print lining, I am raging that I didn’t buy the recent PS of Sweden Black Mamba as it would have been a perfect match! The lining flashes through really well on the vents on the underside of the coat when you open the poppers at the back to allow you to ride in it.

Its waterproof, its warm, its wonderfully long ( I look like a hobbit witch but I don’t care) and it has subtle reflective stitching (presumably so no one runs over a hobbit witch in the dark).

I was dubious about riding in it as its years since I’ve ridden in a long coat. This has vents at the back that can be opened by poppers, a two way zip and elasticated leg straps inside which is really important as it secures the coat to your leg so it doesn’t flap in the wind.

I started off riding my friends horse Leo in this coat as he is so tolerant of everything. I then tried it on Oisin and Sammy – Sammy hates things to suddenly touch him so I am careful about things like this but both horses were fine – I think the fact that the fabric is light and there are no heavy fixings really helps. This for me is great as it means I can transition from riding to coaching with the same coat.

My only critique of this coat is the neck which I find very high and tight especially if you want to wear something around your neck. I usually just leave the top open as I like to wear a neck snood – I wouldn’t have the most elegant neck so if you are more swanlike you may not have this issue!

My main job for this coat is for coaching and observing and its a winner. If I am coaching it keeps me warm from mid calf upwards and if I am sitting and watching anything my thighs are lovely and warm!

Horse adverts – phrases and terms

“Not at all mareish”

If you’re having mare problems

I feel bad for ya son

This horse has 99 problems

But being a b*tch ain’t one

“Has hunted”

Just because it has, doesn’t mean you should

“Good and quiet to hack”

Has failed at every other challenge and discipline bar ambling slowly up the road and back

“Hacks out”

Less nappy going up the road than into the arena



“Would make a great all-rounder”

Currently a barely average all rounder

“Price on Application”

Have you got mortgage approval?

“Relisted due to time wasters / tyre kickers”

Someone else bought it and sent it back / it has already failed at least one vetting

“Has a recent vet cert”

Here’s hoping you are thick enough to buy it without vetting it

“Forward / onward going / keen”

Speed of a Maserati, breaks don’t work.


Equine sociopath

“Would make a great show pony / dressage prospect”

Can’t jump a stick

“Lightly backed and turned away”

We tried to break it, it tried to kill us, we survived unscathed and now hopeful that someone else wants to go there next

“Worth considering for breeding”

Lame mare

“Potential eventer”

Can’t leave a pole up

“Very Quiet “


“Will make someone a lovely prospect”

Just not me., I don’t want it

“Still some growing to do”

Its at that poxy too big for a pony not big enough to make a horse stride height and looks like a spider baby as its head doesn’t ft its limbs- so yeah, here’s hoping it grows into itself.

“Very pretty”

Thank god, as its not a mover and has the personality of a wasp.


Over jumps everything, bring parachute

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The Whole Tooth


Of all the things that happened in 2020 if you would have told me that a tooth would be the biggest impact on my life I would have called you a liar. Unfortunately it was true. If you know me, you will know  I am not a dentist fan. It’s a perfectly rational fear – an unfriendly dentist in the past, a needle right into a nerve and a dry socket will do it to you. I had a tooth that was giving me issues that I was warned to be careful of years ago as the nerve was wrapped around the tooth roota. This got an infection a few years back which cleared up and I needed a root canal or extraction which I was dreading. My physio even suggested I talk to a psychotherapist but actually I felt I just needed to cop the f*ck on and man up – which I did. I headed to a friendly dentist who is the dad of a friend who did a temporary fix on the tooth to give him time to do some fillings on other teeth first and because I was heading away for a few days in January and there was a worry about another dry socket happening when I was away if they extracted beforehand.

Continue reading “The Whole Tooth”