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Groundwork activities for horses & ponies.

Girl in blue eventing hoodie walking her horse

As you may have guessed from our previously blogs, we use a lot of groundwork with our ponies. I find it really valuable to to teach manners, basic skills and to educate with new and scary things.

After our recent poll on instagram, it seems that you would all love a few more ideas for groundwork too.

So here are 5 more great ways to use groundwork with your horse or pony.

  1. Use poles. This can be done in hand or ridden. Scatter poles randomly where you are riding, get their brains working, use them to weave and snake around. Get them going over the poles at different angles, slightly raised and in different gaits, this helps with their co-ordination and balance. Simple activities like this gets them using their bodies in different ways, using their brains and becoming more aware of their own bodies and spacial awareness.
  2. Teach them touch. Teaching your horse or pony the command of touch through positive re-enforcement is a great way to build their confidence and curiosity. This was an amazing tool we used with a pony we had previously who was very shy and spooky. It was a way to building up what she was capable of in a controlled way that she felt safe with.
  3. Long reining and lunging. So useful for teaching movement, fluidity of movement, how to hold themselves, move through gaits, encourage them to burn off steam, move forward without support on the ground and so much more. Make sure as with anything you gain advice from a professional if this is something you or your horse/pony hasn’t done before.
  4. Be less fearful. This can be done in hand or ridden but is best done in hand to start to give a reassurance. Add some ‘scary’ objects around the field or arena and start to show these to your horse or pony, allow them to explore at their own pace giving confidence to them and not forcing them to investigate. Start with less scary objects. You can even place these object at a safe distance from them in their field so they can go up to an explore and investigate in their own time when they feel safe to do so. Allowing exploration in a safe, controlled way at their speed ensures these items scare them less when you are out riding. I was so grateful mine were not scared on flappy England flags during the euros as every other house in our village seemed to have one.
  5. Standing. This is general manners but often over looked. Being able to stand for you to mount, stand while you open gates, have a chat, wait for traffic to pass. This is a vital skill, start with an easy stand, keep it short and lots of praise, starting non ridden or if ridden even having someone on the ground if needed.

Everything with our horses needs to be done slowly with baby steps, allowing them to achieve and build their confidence before moving onto the next step and also focusing on one thing at a time, remember they need time to process and make sense of things, the same as we do when learning something new.

I would love to hear your favourite groundwork activity.

Hayley x

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It is almost our birthday!!

lady and child in red bear equestrian t shirts by the river

It is official.

I only have less than one week left in the office before our first birthday.

Next week I am out of the office to enjoy some family time (but I will still be appearing on our socials and I am leaving you in very capable hands).

Then when I get back we are officially in birthday week.

What an amazing year it has been.

I never thought at the start of 2020, I would be sat here having started this business and having such an amazing community supporting us.

We are a family business, the pandemic and lockdowns have solidified this even more.

The name came about because of my kids, you can read more about that here.

Our clothing has been designed in house and created locally for us.

However our new Fell Collection has now come in house within our own team which I am so excited about.

The new and upcoming Fell Collection has been totally inspired by you.

It is what you have asked for from the pieces, designs, colours, logos and pricing. Every time you vote in one of the polls I put out I listen.

The homeware has enabled me to work with some amazing local crafts people. There is so much to come in this range.

Our jewellery is designed and finished in-house, by me and I adore getting back to where I started in jewellery creation many years ago.

All of our pieces have names which are all linked to our family.

We donate towards a charity so close to my heart via your purchases. You can read more about why Day One means so much to be here.

The models are mainly family.

The photography is myself or my eldest son.

The designs are all passed by my kids who are the most amazing inspiration, as well as being amazing critics, to ensure everything is the best it can be.

Our new puppy seems to have his own fan club, with our followers regularly asking after him (he is definitely using that against the other dogs and fame is going to his head).

We are now starting to bring others into the team and thank you for supporting us so we can do that.

There are so many plans for over the next 12 months I cannot wait to share them with you.

Our birthday week is going to be amazing and our first birthday on 10th June is going to be filled with fun, so keep looking out for more on this.

I know I have said it before but Red Bear Equestrian would not exist of it wasn’t for you, so thank you for all of your comments about our ranges, votes in my polls (I know there are lots), purchase, shares on social media and general support.

You are all amazing and are helping our dreams come true.

Hayley and Team Red Bear Equestrian x

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Horses need to play too – Horse enrichment ideas.

lady and child holding a brown pony

Over the last week the weather has been so changeable, we have hat sun, hail, wind and snow, usually all in the same day.

This got me thinking of different ways I can enrich our horses day as we haven’t been able to ride much.

Horses have lost a lot of the natural enrichment they would have in the wild and bored horses find their own entertainment and not usually in a good way, or they start with behaviours that we do not want.

I wanted to share a few of our ideas with you to keep their minds active. Obviously its important for them to be turned out in the field but sometimes that just isn’t enough mental stimulation for them and they get bored.

Horse Kebabs – We strung a variety of fruit and veg onto rope hung and different heights around the stables and yard area. These offered a great challenge being at different heights and also as they moved while they when touched as they were free hanging on the rope.

Scary Fields – This is a great opportunity to desensitise your horse. Add different objects around the field for your horse to investigate so when you are out and about items are not as scary. You can use tarpaulin, pool noodles. plastics, umbrellas, flags, cones, bottles, tyres, kids toys, bells….the options are endless. Do not add too many items at once and space them out so your horse can investigate each item without pressure and always ensure there is plenty of space so they can move away from the item if it is too scary. This is a low pressure way to introduce items and also give mental stimulation.

Scavenger Hunt – Add apples to their water, hay nets at different heights around the field, vegetables hung at different levels, large sensory balls stuffed with hay or fruit, pumpkins on the floor, herbs planted around the field…….. anything that adds variety to their diet, their day and encourages them to move around and scavenge.

Scratching Post – Add brush heads to a post for them to rub and scratch against.

Sound – Playing music, recording yourself reading a book or talking, this adds another dimension to their day when you are not around.

Let me know your ideas, I would love to hear how you enrich your horses life.

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Top 10 tips for surviving winter with your horses.

horse in winter

I love my horses but I do not love Winter.

On the other hand my daughter loves having horses in Autumn and Winter more than Summer.

Winter and horses require planning, patience and some warm clothing. So I thought I would come and bring you 10 Winter Horse Ownership Tips.

1 . Hat – yes to ride these are important but in winter to keep you warm is just as important. I flit between my bobble hat and my Red Bear Equestrian baseball cap depending on how wet it is. You lose most heat through your head so it makes sense to keep it warm.

2. Get yourself a colander, there is nothing worse than removing ice from water troughs and buckets, so once you have broken it up use a colander to remove broken pieces of ice and keep your hands dry.

3. Keep your padlocks wrapped in plastics bags. Wrap a plastic bag round your padlocks will stop the majority of the water getting in and therefore minimise ice getting in and freezing your locks shut.

4. Don’t always feel you have to ride, a day off when the weather is really miserable or a short lunging session is great for your horse in different ways.

5.Poached fields….who wants to ride in those? Take this opportunity to hack out and introduce your horse to new sights and sounds.

6. To clean or not to clean? Legs of course. Do whatever is right for your horse. Don’t feel pressured. I have had horses I have had to hose off every evening to keep mud fever at bay (make sure the water isn’t to cold or you can cause cracks, although too warm can also be as much of a problem) My current ones need their legs left alone all winter, yes they look a mess but they are healthy, pain free and they don’t care how they look.

7. Lag water pipes or invest in some water containers if your pipes tend to freeze. No water is not what you need on a cold winter morning.

8. Get a slow cooker. Both for you and your horse. Great for making sure you have something warm to eat when you get home but also great to fill with a flask of water and keep it warm for grooming and cleaning off or adding to feed. Plus without the fire risk of a stove or fire.

9. Layers. Several thinner layers will keep you warmer than thicker layers. I am the expert on this spending about 9 months of the year feeling cold. I will often layer our base layers (these are fab as they wick away moisture keeping you dry and warm), with one of our hoodies and finishing with our new bear jacket which in itself is superwarm, windproof and waterproof. I also make sure I have at least two pairs of socks on and tend to use snow boots for around the yard as they are warmer than wellies. Plus I have several pairs of gloves at the yard and in the car so I always have at least one pair to keep me warm.

10. Get prepared, make up feed buckets for the week ahead or make up haynets and hang them ready where they are kept dry. This means one less job when you arrive and the light is quickly disappearing, you are freezing, rushing and you have a horse who wants his tea.

Remember It doesn’t last and summer evenings will be here eventually.

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Top 7 mounted games for kids

Girl riding a white pony

Summer holidays seem to have got here quickly and with another seven weeks off this means a lot of time for riding.

In our house the boys seem to have plenty planned however my daughters only plans are riding, her poor pony is getting ready to pack its bags and escape I think, it has never had so much love and attention.

With this in mind I have pulled together our top 7 mounted games to play while horse riding, as schooling can get boring, hacking is not always possible and as much as my daughter has decided cantering and jumping are great fun there is only so much her pony can do of this each week as we need to care for their joints and jumping daily is not good for them.

So here goes, they are all easy to set up and most importantly fun.

1 – Bending – Super simple but races round bending poles or cones in different gaits. I often use a timer or spots on the floor which need to be hit and there is a prize at the end (an ice lolly usually works well).

2 – Simon Says – Just like the unmounted versions but I use a mix of horsey tasks for example touch your ponies bum, touch your toes, ride one handed, stop, ride to the fence, trot to the cone, round the world, trot, touch ponies ears, touch your head, etc.

3 – Sponge and Buckets – Set up two buckets either on small tables or hung on fences, fill one with water. Give your child a sponge and get them to use the sponge to move the water from one bucket to another. They can do this against the clock or against a friend or just to see how much water they can move.

4 – Red and Green – Great game for if they have another friend who is also riding with them. Green means go, Red means stop. When you shout Red the last one to stop is out.

5 – Fetch – Set up some items attached to a fence, on cones etc and when you shout an item the child has to ride to it, pick it up and then ride to an empty bucket or basket and place it in there. This can be timed or against someone else.

6 – Egg and Spoon – Just like a traditional egg and spoon race but on horse back, however you can adapt this and use a shallow basket or bowl with a ball for younger children or a cup of water for older ones, you can even ask them to trot, making it harder to not spill the water.

7 – £5 Challenge – I loved this as a child. Place £5 under your bum/thigh/knee and try keep it there while you walk/trot or canter. Keep it there and you get to keep it. This is also a lot of fun (and a lot harder) bareback.

I hope you have the most amazing summer of riding fun, make sure you tag us in some of your pictures @redbearequestrian we may even pick our favourite and send them and their pony a special treat.

A note about safety

Safety is so important when it comes to riding activities. You know your child’s ability best so adapt the activity to them and ensure they don’t get to excite and start pulling on the ponies mouth or kicking a bit to hard. It is easy to get excited and competitive but these games should be fun for the ponies too.

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Giving back to victims of major trauma

In case you didn’t catch my video I wanted to share something with you.

Seven years ago I suffered I major trauma accident while trialing a horse, I shattered my pelvis (think of a polo mint which has been hit by a hammer), I caused damage to the tops of my legs and also my back.

My outcome was bleak and I was facing the worst case, however thanks to an amazing team and lots of hard work on my part, after nearly two years I was back riding and in less than three years I ran the Leeds 10k (every last step) . The Leeds 10K was to raise funds for Day One Trauma Charity.

Day One was set up by my surgeon during my recovery and it gave me a focus, which was much needed. I have been a spokesperson, committee member and peer supporter ever since.

It is so important to support the amazing work that Day One Trauma are doing as they provide the things which keep you going and keep you informed during your recovery, and not just for the patient but their family too.

Within the clothing, homeware and jewellery there will be the UNBREAKABLE range. This range will feature the word unbreakable either on the item or in the title.

The UNBREAKABLE range will donate at least 10% from each sale back to Day One Trauma.

I am so excited to share this with you.

You can catch the full video here and find out more about Day One Trauma here.

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Meet the team.

Red Bear Equestrian is a family run business and so let me introduce you to the team.

The business has been grown from a passion for all things equestrian and country, o.k so my husbands love of equine is not as big as mine and the children’s, but he is getting there.

I am Hayley I have ridden for about 30 years on and off, I have been having a great time developing our new range of products, my husband is the artistic one behind the scenes. Then there are the kids, Liam, Harry and Lily-May who love the ponies as much as I do. Lily-May recently got a new pony so she will be featuring in photos I am sure. They have had a great time, getting creative with product design, images and social media.

Also part of the team are our ever growing collection of pets, currently these include a lizard, chickens, cat, parrot, three dogs, fish and three ponies. Although the bird and pony collection is soon to be expanding (fingers crossed).

I cannot wait to share more with you as we go through this journey.