The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Equestrians in Ireland

Unless you’re one of the three astronauts who landed back to earth from the space station on Thursday, I’m sure you are well aware that there is currently a global pandemic gripping the world that has come in the form of Covid-19.

The arrival of coronavirus has had a devastating affect on every country it has touched. Healthcare systems have been brought to their knees as they fight to reduce deaths, while governments plead with their populations to adhere to social distancing guidelines until they are given no choice but to implement country-wide lockdowns. All of these necessary health measures have had a massive impact on economies and people’s general way of life with unemployment rates soaring within a matter of weeks. There’s not a single aspect of society that hasn’t been impacted and that rings true for Ireland’s equestrian community.

In an effort to remain transparent, I am going to keep the focus of this post on Ireland as I don’t feel I can comment on the goings-on in other countries just by what I’m seeing on social media. However if you are reading from outside Ireland, I would love to know how your equestrian life has been affected by Covid-19 so please share in the comments.

What is happening in Ireland?

As of today, Saturday 18th April 2020, Ireland is on lockdown. This means that everyone must stay home in all circumstances unless:

  • You are an essential worker and you are travelling to/from work
  • To shop for essential food/household goods or to attend medical appointments
  • For vital family reasons eg. to look after children or elderly/vulnerable people
  • For brief physical exercise within 2km of your home

The initial announcement for lockdown was made on Friday 27th March at approx. 8.30pm when we were given the above instructions and advised that they would be in place from midnight that evening until Easter Sunday, the 12th April – so we were staring down the barrel of a two week lockdown.

When these restrictions were announced, the equestrian community in Ireland was left reeling as it struggled to determine what that meant for equestrian owners and businesses. We were given no guidance on what was considered an essential business so there were very large question marks over when we would be able to see our horses again.

As mild panic began setting in, people took to social media to see what further information they could glean from their trusted sources who, at the time, probably knew as much as anyone else in the country. That was, until approx. 10.30pm, when Horse Sport Ireland (Ireland’s governing body for the equestrian industry), posted the below on their Facebook page.

With this we were able to let out a sigh of relief as we realised we would still be allowed to visit our horses to give them the much-needed hugs and kisses we knew they’d so desperately miss in our absence (yes, I’m being sarcastic..we all know your horse just wants their feed and they’ll be happy, the hugs and kisses are for us).

The next question on everyone’s mind however, was whether our yards would still allow us in and if so, would we still be able to ride? This is where things became complicated…

The Options for our Livery Yards

Following the announcement, it was evident that livery yards across the country had already planned for the eventuality that lockdown would be implemented, as owners everywhere began receiving texts and calls informing them of what would happen in their yard.

Over the following days it became clear that livery yard owners had three possible courses of action they could take –

  1. Shut down the yard for the full two weeks of lockdown which would mean no access for owners
  2. Remain open but assign hourly timeslots so as to adhere to social distancing guidelines as best as possible
  3. Keep business as usual and allow free access

These decisions were made and while those who were faced with Option 1 may have been a bit disgruntled initially, for the most part, people seemed to be in agreement that they should do whatever is necessary to help ‘flatten the curve’ (a phrase I never want to hear again once this is all over). So we would just put our heads down and get on with things for the next two weeks.

Unfortunately however, things are never that simple for us here in this delightful community of ours. Over the course of those two weeks, it became clear through social media what yards were still allowing their owners access to their horses and as we drew nearer to our lockdown deadline and talk of an extension began, frustrations were beginning to mount.

Lockdown Extension and Rising Tempers

On Friday 10th April, it was announced that Ireland’s lockdown would be extended a further 3 weeks until Tuesday 5th May. By this point, horses across the country had enjoyed a solid two weeks of time off, getting fat in fields without their rugs as the good weather set in. Meanwhile owners were becoming more and more frustrated being confined to their homes while watching friends in other yards out enjoying their horses. Unfortunately this bitterness has made its way to social media this week (as does everything) in the form of a heated discussion around what livery yards should be doing.

There have been two clear sides in the discussion – those who believe all livery yards should be closed entirely and those who believe that owners should be allowed access to ride their horses while ensuring they adhere to HSE social distancing guidelines. But who is in the right? Well that’s what I want to explore next…

What is the right thing to do?

When I started looking into this I decided to do some research into what we have ‘officially’ been told to do. During my search I was only able to find two reputable sources who have provided some form of direction to the equestrian community, however unfortunately what I found only leads to more questions.

It is not necessary to seek official authorisation – it is up to you to objectively and fairly make the assessment in each case…

Starting with Horse Sport Ireland (click here for full information), for the most part they have provided answers for breeders and answer questions regarding transportation however what is worth noting is the following:

The Government have given guidance for employers and employees and the self employed, including farmers, to decide whether you are providing an essential service. It is not necessary to seek official authorisation – it is up to you to objectively and fairly make the assessment in each case…

So we can see where yard owners may have struggled to decide what the best course of action was. The Government has not provided any specific guidelines for livery yard owners. No law has been put in place. All they have to go on are ‘recommendations’.

From there I found further recommendations published by Teagasc, the Agricultural and Food Development Authority (click here for full information). Again, these are only recommendations and not absolute rules that have been put in place by the Government – it’s all interpretation. Of course the usual recommendations were given around following HSE guidelines to the best of your ability but below are a summary of other recommendations which I found to be most relevant for livery yard owners:

  • Deny all non-essential visitors at this time
  • Set up hand washing sanitising stations in the yard(s)
  • Clients in livery yards etc. should use their own grooming kits, tack etc. and be encouraged to clean between uses
  • In a D.I.Y., or part livery situation, for the immediate term can care of client horses be undertaken by the yard staff, consider turning horses out to grass for a period of rest
  • Alternatively stagger the attendance of clients in the yard with clearly communicated timelines to attend

Again, yard owners are given a swath of recommendations that almost contradict each other and make it difficult for them to decide what they should do. Should they deny owners access to their horses and take on the additional labour that looking after horses on DIY will cause (and for no additional pay mind you)? Should they only allow DIY owners access which, let’s face it, will cause uproar among full livery clients who have been denied access to their horse? Should they allow their client’s access and risk being berated by other yards who have taken the decision to close and are now being questioned by their own clients for their decision? There’s just no winning.

This pandemic has proved to be a highly emotionally charged event. People are anxious and stressed. They also have more time on their hands than they know what to do with so time spent on social media has increased (by up to 40% according to techcrunch.com). With this increase we are unfortunately seeing a lot of negativity. People are angry at the situation and they’re looking for someone to blame so anyone seen to be out enjoying themselves (even though they may be practicing perfect safe social distancing) are instantly seen as the reason we are in the situation we are in. And while everyone is arguing about whether livery yards should be open at all, what I’m not seeing is anyone asking the question, “Should we be riding our horses at all at the moment?”. Which honestly, I think is the most important question.

Is riding really necessary right now?

It’s a fact. Horse riding is a risk sport. It’s the first sign you see when you enter any riding school. So given the current medical emergency our hospitals are faced with, should we really be taking the risk of riding our horses at all at the moment? Horses are unpredictable animals. Even the most bombproof gelding can have a moment which can lead to even the most capable rider landing on their arse. You just don’t know what could happen.

Both HSI and Teagasc make reference to this in each of their articles.

Teagasc says:

Given health services are stretched to capacity it is strongly encouraged to avoid any activities that carry increased risk of injury. Consider giving your horses a break right now. Riding has not been forbidden, but it is a risk activity.

While HSI says:

Extra care should be taken not to take undue risks when handling and exercising horses at this time, due to the increased pressure on the hospital system due to Covid-19. Therefore, precautions such as lunging fresh horses prior to riding or using horse walkers if available, should be taken.

So should we just accept our situation and give our horses some time off? Well the problem with this is that we don’t know how long this pandemic will go on for. It’s all well and good saying we’ll give them the two weeks of the initial lockdown off but once lockdown was extended for an additional three weeks, that completely changed the game. Aside from the fact that time off generally means extended time in the field where our horses can now indulge in the finest fresh grass the recent spring weather can provide, but add in a total of five weeks off work and, depending on your horse, you could be asking for trouble.

You also have the scenario where some horses need to be kept in regular work or they start to become stressed which can lead to weight loss, a deterioration in condition or they can do themselves an injury. And what about young horses? This could be a pivotal time in their development where they need to be kept in consistent schooling to ensure they become the horse they are capable of being.

There are many reasons to argue why we need to keep our horses in work and I’m not here to say what is right and what is wrong. I do believe it’s something everyone should consider though and if you have made the decision to keep riding then I think we owe it to our healthcare workers to be sensible with how we spend our time in the saddle.

You may be able to handle your horse’s excitable moments but maybe for now it would be best to lunge it out of them first. Do you really need to be jumping right now? Would it really hurt your horse to go a month without jumping? Flatwork is the foundation of jumping and you don’t have any shows to be preparing for so maybe use this time to improve on areas you’ve been neglecting. These are questions I would even pose to professional riders and those yard owners who have restricted their client’s access to their horses but are still working away with their own stock of competition horses. For the most part, these riders are looked up to within the equestrian community so shouldn’t they be leading by example?

I would always say to each their own, but I think we owe it to our healthcare workers to not take unnecessary risks while we as a country are still fighting to tackle this virus.

In conclusion…

I think we all need to take a moment and recognise that no one really knows what the right thing is. We are experiencing something that has never been seen before in our lifetime. These are entirely unprecedented circumstances and everyone is only trying to do what they feel is best. As of today, experts are telling us that we have flattened the curve. Which means what we have been doing is working. Yes, we still have a long way to go but I think as a community, us equestrians need to acknowledge that no one is making decisions with malicious intent. Everyone is doing their best to make socially responsible decisions and as we get deeper into lockdown we need to rally together even more.


I’ve done a lot of talking and rambling in this post so now I want to hear from you. How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted you and your ability to see and enjoy your horse? Let me know in the comments.

If you’ve made it this far, I applaud and thank you!

Orla

No Bucking Way Tries: POLO

I think I have found my calling in life. Last summer I put on my brave pants, bit the bullet and gave Polo lessons a go.

A few friends of mine worked in The Polo club and ever since they began to bring me along to Polo matches in Wicklow, I gained a rather soft spot for the sport… who cannot fall in love with a polo pony?!

Keep scrolling to find out all about my Polo journey…


About Polo

A quick explanation about a game of Polo – the game consists of six periods called chukkers. They last seven and a half minutes with each including a halftime period also.

Each team has four players who in turn can bring/swap between 6-8 horses per game. Players usually change horses either in between chukkers or halfway between chukkers depending on how tired the horses get.

Now Let’s get into more detail from the ins & outs of my lesson. Polo is quite technical but once shown its quite hard not to forget.

My instructor on the day was Leo, he is an Argentinian Polo Rider, what an absolute talent. Playing off a handicap of 2, (I know right a handicap? Could this be golf on horseback?) Leo has experience playing all over the world.

The most important thing he shared with me was that you don’t need any riding experience to start Polo, great for any newcomers out there reading this, or anyone who has always wanted to give it a go! With me having the experience, being able to ride a horse that is, it made a huge difference to our lesson, it made things easier for Leo it meant he could teach me how to play polo & not focus on the basics of riding a horse.

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Holding The Reins Correctly

In polo, they ride using the western way of riding. You always hold your reins with your left hand, and the polo Mallet in your right hand.

How to Hold the Reins Correctly:

  • You Hold your left palm out flat
  • Place both reins on top and close your hand around them
  • Use your index finger between both reins to shorten & lengthen your reins for control

It takes some getting used to, but after a while it becomes second nature.

In The Saddle Polo Tips

I could not get over how reactive the horse was at first. Steering was done through the reins, & not through a contact with the horses mouth. Using the reins, leaning them up against the horses neck to steer in the direction you want to go.

The horses were so reactive to the movement of my body, I did spent a good 10 minutes playing around with this novelty!

To stop, you simply lift both reins up and sit back in the saddle. The horses reactions were almost immediate, it was very refreshing. Do prepare yourself though I bolted forward a few times – when you want them to stop they literally stop!

GRIP WITH YOUR KNEES! Something Leo constantly had to keep reminding me to do. The idea of this was to hold yourself in place to give you the freedom to move your body around in order to tackle players during a game. Your lower leg should also hang free & loose giving it the freedom to swing back, all while keeping your toes pointed inwards!

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Holding & Using The Mallet

Getting used to riding a Polo horse came fairly naturally. As I got the picked up the basic, we moved fairly quick into the proper technique on how to hold the Polo mallet (the large Stick!) and the correct way to hit the ball.

Holding The Mallet Correctly:

  1. You always hold the mallet in your right hand
  2. Hold your right hand out straight, loop the handle over your thumb
  3. Flipping your hand over, twisting the handle slightly for grip, you finish by placing the polo stick (with the number facing outward) into the palm of your hand.
  4. The end of the polo stick should lie on the end of your palm just before your wrist starts.
  5. Once you have a good grip you must then hold the stick with the end facing upwards and with your elbow tight in by your right side. See pics below!

It is a lot to take in, trust me. It took me a while to grasp it, Prepare for jelly arms!!

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Let The Games Begin

There are 4 types of swings that Leo showed me. The forehand, backhand, neck, and tail. We focused on the forehand swing, one of the most common and easiest out of the 4.

In walk we began practicing by hitting the ball. It is quite petrifying to begin with, there is a fear of trying not to land on your face anytime you go to hit the ball. It wasn’t too long before I began to realised that keeping your eye on the ball and not in the horses legs gives you a better chance of actually being able to hit the ball.

One thing Leo did comment on was not to hit the ball as if I was holding a tennis racket, that was down to more practice being needed by me to get used to proper polo techniques.

As I got the grips with things, we began to hit the ball in canter. Dear Lord it was a million times harder. I did manage to hit the ball a few times, but there were also times where I nearly whacked the poor horse straight in the face…. I honestly don’t know how horses had the patience for me!

Tackling

You almost forget that during a polo match you are playing against an opposite team trying to win the ball for points. The tackling part of the sport is something that will take a little longer for me to get used to.

When Leo went in for a tackle the first time pushing me & my horse away from the ball using his upper body, I literally stopped the horse dead and let out a scream. As we practiced more, my competitive streak began to show & I improved quite rapidly….. apparently you’re not allowed use your elbows… its a foul if you do!

We finished up shortly after this, I was just about able to breath, the fitness behind a polo player is phenomenal. I definitely have a new found appreciation for the sport that’s for sure.

The Verdict

What an amazing experience, one that I will most definitely never forget & one I always look back on with a fire in my stomach to get back on board & learn more. I do hope to start back up again this summer. You never know, you might see me playing my first official polo match in The Phoenix park yet!

A big thank you to Palo Alto & The All Ireland Polo Club who I organised this lesson with last year. Have anyone of you tried playing Polo? Let me know in the comments below. I do apologise if my Polo Terminology is not spot on, I’m am after all a beginner!

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Want to see how my lesson really went? Check out the video below!

Thanks for Reading,

Darielle

Product Review – Epiony Heatpad and Massage Mitt

Have you heard of the brand Epiony? Well if you haven’t have you been living under a rock? It is the new kid on the block when it comes to essential equestrian must have products.

With everything going on in the world & being out of work and away from the horses it has given us a lot of spare time to start penning our thoughts on the products we have been using. The beauty about these Epiony products is that not only can your horse benifit, you can too!

Want to read more? You know the drill by now, scroll for all the ins & outs!


About The Brand Epiony

Epiony Ltd was founded in 2016 by Emma Easton-Powell BSc (hons), a university student aged 21. Emma started her brand from the ground up at the age of 19 with no previous experience or funding. She started with £200 she had saved up from her birthday and Christmas and started The Massage Mitt in 2014, then rebranded to Epiony Ltd in 2016 and since then has continued to grow into a global therapy brand.

The idea for The Heat Pad came about due to her weak lower back, sometimes after riding or general exercise her back could ache and heat helped ease any discomfort without her having to take painkillers every time. However hot water bottles were impractical to walk around with, were bulky and took time to make so she decided to design a lightweight, portable and flexible Heat Pad that could be used anywhere, not just your back.

Epiony has quite the backround story, to read it in full click this link, it is very inspirational reading how much Emma has grown this company to what it has become today.

The Epiony Heatpad

The Heat Pad runs off a 12 volt smart lithium ion battery with four temperature settings and has been made from a light weight super soft leatherette fabric combined with heat resistant insulation wadding to trap and reflect the heat back onto the muscles to soothe and relax either you or your horse.

It is one of the easiest products to use, turning it on you keep your finger on the button, and to set the tempeture you simply click it to the tempeture you wish. the light indicates the heat intensity, red, orange & green. (green lowest, red highest)

With the heat pad it arrives packed up in a gorgeous carry bag, inside you get two straps, one long surcingle that can be adjusted to size, a neoprene waist belt which is a wider strap that is great for using on your horses neck. Also you get your lithium battery & a charger. It is all safety first when it comes to Epiony, the battery has a special built in thermostat to prevent it from overheating, basically If the battery gets too hot it automatically turns itself off.

For The Human

So anyone following us on Instagram will know that myself (Orla) and Cosmo had a fall when we were jumping a few weeks ago. I landed smack bang on my right shoulder which almost instantly seized up. As with these kind of injuries, I iced it for the first day but after that, the best treatment is heat – enter the Epiony Heatpad. I was in a significant amount of pain after the fall, my neck was extremely sore and stiff and I couldn’t really use my right arm – the heatpad was a godsend. Each evening I’d strap the heatpad on using the straps provided, which are very easily adjusted to fit us humans, and I’d sit with it on for a good hour as it soothed my aches and pains.

After 3 days of using it, I noticed a significant improvement in the muscular pain in and around my shoulder and neck. I’ve had similar injuries before and these have easily taken up to a week to see this kind of improvement so I was grateful to have the heatpad to speed up the healing process.

For The Horse

There are many amazing factors this product has for your horse. For one, it is excellent at reducing stress & helps with relaxing of the muscles. A lot of people find it great for using on your horse pre-exercise as it essentially helps warm your horse up & get the blood flowing to those key muscles your horse would be using during exercise.

The Heat therapy also helps decrease stiffness & increase flexibility that in time improves your horses comfort. This would be a great addition to any horse on rest or any that is recovering from injury. From using it on Dante, I found that using it before exercise almost relaxed him a little too much, so I began using it after workouts as more of a reward to help ease his muscles after work. I found it really helped him and loosened him out when I went to ride him a day or two afterwards. I mainly use it on the top of his neck/poll area & the top of his lower back on his Sacroiliac muscle in 20 minute time frames. These areas tend to tighten up more frequently and the heat helps relax the muscles that bit more. It is a great addition to my kit & helps prolong Dante’s physio visits by a few weeks.

The Epiony Massage Mit

The Massage Mitt is suitable for horses, cats, dog and humans. It relaxes tight and tense muscles, increases blood circulation and reduces stress. It is made from a robust polymer and nine 360 degree rotating steel balls. This hand shaped mitt is exceptionally easy to use and works along with the shape of the surface it works on ensuring comfort and relief in both the masseur and the recipient. 

For The Human

The massage mitt is the perfect complementary treatment to the heatpad. I had some serious knots and muscle pain in my shoulder and neck even a few weeks after the fall so when I didn’t have time to sit with the heatpad, the massage mitt was the perfect reliever for my sore, tight muscles. I would regularly try to give myself shoulder massages (as with most riders, I tend to have tight shoulders) but this mitt made it just so much easier. It also allows you to move a bit further down your back, applying even pressure across your muscles as you move. To be honest, Dars is lucky she got it back, I wanted to keep it so it’s definitely on my purchase list!

For The Horse

Again this is another amazing product to loosen & get muscles moving or “awake” prior to exercise. I use it mostly on Dante’s shoulders and around his saddle area. It is normally a quick 10 minute massage before tacking up. It is a super tool to have when you simply don’t have the time to be spending pampering over your horse.

On his days off from work when I have the time to be up grooming he will get an all over body massage. Using circular motions with the mit it really gets the blood circulating in turn releasing tension. It is quite rewarding to see his relaxing expressions when it is being used. It certainly loosens him up thats for sure.

Cleaning The Mitt

I have yet to clean the mit.. sorry Orla, I know you have been using it on your shoulder! So I have copied over the instructions that the Epiony website have given, it is on my to do list once I get back down to the yard!

Our Verdict….

If you dont have one of the above, save up your money & make the purchase. In my opinion it is an essential! It is money well spent or if you want to it would be a good idea to go halves with your horsey friend. Both horse & rider benefit massively from both products, the heatpad was even used by my pregnant sister & she loved it to relieve lower back pain.

They are available to buy direct from www.epiony.com. £139.99 – Heatpad / £10.99 – Massage Mit. Epiony products are definately money well spent if you invest. If you need to save up for a while prior to purchase or if you decide to go halves with your friend, you wont regret it!

We also recommend you keep an eye on their social media accounts, facebook & Instagram, Epiony run regular competitions, you could be lucky enough to win some of their amazing products.


Two super products that I can’t recommend enough for anyone looking to purchase. The heatpad seems a little on the pricier side, but when you look at the benefits it is certainly exceptional value for money.

They do have a third product, the Thermal Wand this retails at £169.95, it is a little outside of our price range at the minute, but another product we certainly have our eye on.

Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions regarding both products please do get in contact. This was not a gifted post & my review was based from experience & a great Christmas present!

Until Next Time,

Darielle

Youngster Exercise Series ~ Circle of Support

Well, it has been some time since I’ve written a post and for that I apologise but I’m getting back into the swing of things and to kick me back into gear, I’ve got a brand new exercise series specifically aimed at young horses.

To start the series, I’ve got a nice simple pole exercise that incorporates some concepts that are vital to your horse’s development.


WHAT IS THIS EXERCISE GOOD FOR?

  • Improving balance
  • Encouraging roundness and self-carriage
  • Strengthening the hind end
  • Improving rhythm

HOW TO SET IT UP

Ideally you want to have someone on the ground to help adjust poles but if that’s not possible then you can set this exercise up in two different corners of the arena.

Trot Pole Setup:

  • Set out 3 trot poles in a fan with 4 small footsteps between the middle of each pole
  • Place one pole vertically on the outside of the fan as a guide pole
  • Place another guide pole vertically on the inside of the fan

Canter Pole Setup:

  • Lay a single pole out on a bend
  • Place a guide pole vertically on either side of the canter pole, again one on the outside and one on the inside

HOW TO RIDE IT

Hold the outside rein while opening the inside hand to support through the circle

TROT POLES

  • First, make sure you have an active and engaged trot with your horse moving forward and off the leg.
  • Bring them onto a circle, but going around the exercise to start. This is to get you and your horse in the circle ‘mind-frame’ and allows you the time to ask for an inside bend.
  • Once happy with how your horse is moving, bring them into your set of trot poles, starting over the centre of the poles first.
  • The placing of the guide poles, will help keep your horse on track before and after the trot poles.
  • Do this a few times before you start asking your horse to move out on the circle, aiming for the outside of the trot poles.
  • Next work your way back in until you’re riding over the inside of the trot poles.
  • Make sure to repeat the above on the other rein to give both reins a good workout

CANTER POLES

  • Depending on your horse’s weaknesses, you might find they struggle a bit more with this exercise in canter. You also might find that they have a rein that’s much weaker than the other so you’ll find this very beneficial for supporting them on that weaker side.
  • Similar to the trot poles, do a circle of canter around the exercise first so you can establish your rhythm on a circle.
  • Once ready, bring your horse over the canter pole making sure to support them with your outside rein and if needs be, opening your inside rein a bit wider to encourage them around the circle.
  • Do this a few times on each rein until you feel your horse is supporting themselves around the circle
  • Step it up by turning the canter pole into a raised cavaletti, ensuring your horse uses themselves effectively over the pole

Tips for this Exercise:

  • Keep a steady, even pace through the exercise, using half halts on the outside rein to manage your horse’s speed
  • If your horse is prone to drifting out through the shoulder, make sure to lift and keep a steady contact on the outside rein while supporting their body through the turns with a strong outside leg behind the girth
  • Use your guide poles! They’re there to help and support so use them to help guide your horse through the exercise.

Check out how I got on with Cosmo when we tackled this exercise…


As these exercises are aimed at young horses, they tend to be quite simple but also something that should challenge your youngster. Myself and Cosmo struggled with this canter part of the exercise way more than I thought we should but we got there in the end eventually.

Give it a go with your youngster and let me know how you get on!

Thanks for reading,

ORLA

Product Review – PlusVital Effivet

Product placement in Tack shops is key to getting noticed. Why do I say this? Well if it wasn’t for a busy day at Lady Chapel Stores, I would not of come across these amazing PlusVital products, the Effivet Farm Liquid & The Effivet Farm Hydrogel. Little did I know that they were exactly everything I needed and in fact they were everything I had been looking for over the last few weeks, realising they were under my nose the entire time is a bit of a sickner!

I am going to run through this product review below but most importunately let you know what I think of the product & the results I got, keep scrolling to find out more!

What Is Plus Vital Effivet Spray?

EFFIVET: A TOPICAL, ANTI-BACTERIAL, ANTI-FUNGAL AND ANTI-VIRAL SKIN CLEANSING LIQUID FOR FLUSHING WOUNDS AND HYDROGEL SOLUTION FOR WOUND REPAIR

Effivet is a potent germ killer containing a patented technology that allows it to mimic the body’s own immune system. Hypochlorous Acid is a weak acid that is released by cells of the immune system to kill bacteria.

It is antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal, as well as being very effective at breaking down the cell wall of bacteria and killing the bacteria internally. It is safe to be ingested as it is naturally occurring in the body and is non-irritating.

What Does It Do?

There are a number of great qualities of the Effivet Sprays, I have listed them below:

  • Kills a wide range of germs
  • No rinsing required & horses can ingest safely
  • Suitable for, wound cleaning, dermal cleansing, relief from scratching, skin scrapes, insect bites, burns or scalds, kills fungal organisms to name a few
  • Hydrogel sticks to the site where it is applied which allows the hypochlorus acid get into the wounds or cuts
  • Hydrogel lubricated the wounds and acts as a barrier from dirt or from a general horse environment
  • Both products are dermatologically tested as suitable for sensitive skin (This i can confirm as Dante has the worlds most sensitive skin type!)

I am sure there are some points I have missed but more information is available on their website www.plusvital.com

How Do You Use It?

There is not much to explain about the how of using the Effivet spray. There are two different nozzle settings, one for spraying & one for shooting.

To clean the would, always use the Effivet Farm Liquid spray first, this cleans the infected area & prevents any further infections.

Once the area is clean, spray the Efficvet Hydrogel (this is a spray also not a gel as I thought!) There is no need to rub this in, it gets absorbed into the affected area so allowing it to dry naturally is all you need to do.

An important fact to note, If your horse decides to lick at the gel or liquid it is completely safe, it will not harm your horse!

My Thoughts on The Product

Well, as you all have seen from our Instagram stories, Dante’s back legs were riddled with what I thought was dirt. This was in fact Smegma from his “Bits” brushing onto his back legs. In certain parts it left quite the trail of filth, leading to hair loss in parts & if left longer I would say it would have grown into quite the infection. This is where I was left for weeks on end searching for a product that would help clean the infection, and get rid of any lasting germs that where there in order for me to keep his back legs, his willy & himself in good clean conditions.

This is where the Effivet stepped in. Using the Farm Liquid spray, I cleaned out the infected areas, on one leg in particular he seemed to react a little bit to the spray being put on, but the nozzle on the bottle allows you to either spray up close or from a distance, this helped massively. It also meant that I didn’t get a kick to the face! This spray effectively cleaned the areas of infection & helped stop more infection from arising.

I won’t lie for the first 2 days, I didn’t realise what the hydrogel was for or that they needed to be used in sync. I am sure they also work perfectly fine used separately, but for the purpose of the review I decided it would be better to use both efficiently!

So…. After applying the Farm Liquid spray, I then applied the Farm Hydrogel. You again use the spray nozzle to spray it onto the affected areas. Allowing this to dry naturally was perfect, it meant that when I finished riding, I could put the spray on and was could go straight home!

It wasn’t until Day 4 that I started seeing some noticeable results to his back legs. The spray really helped to clear & lift up the grim on his back legs. This also meant that I was able to properly see what damage the long lasting Smegma on his legs had been doing.

A few examples of his legs, we still have a bit to go! But great progress so far.

I have been using the sprays for over 4 weeks now & I can safely say that the difference in his back legs is great. I am Delighted that there is no infections and although the cleanness of his back legs will be something I will always need to have to upkeep it is good to know that having both these sprays will help keep any infections at bay!

Both products definitely delivered with what they said they would do, & whilst I used them quite frequently over the last 4 weeks, both bottles seem very full still, so a little goes a long way with them.

I have since used both sprays on small cuts Dante has gotten to clean them out and then to let then heal over. This stuff is great, highly reccommend!

Purchase Details

Both of these fabulous products are available to purchase from Ladychapel Stores in Maynooth, Co.Kildare. The cost of the Effivet Farm Liquid is €19 & the Effivet Farm Hydrogel is €20.

If you have any further questions, be sure to ask Mark or Clodagh, they have a wealth of knowledge! They also have a wide selection of PlusVital products available instore.

Opening hours of Ladychapel Stores are form 9am – 3pm Monday – Saturday.


If you have gotten this far on my review, thank you for reading! I think both these products are definite bonus items in my grooming kit & something I am super glad I mistakenly came across.

If you have any other questions, or would like any further details be sure to drop me a message & I will help you as best as I can. Be sure to follow Plusvital over on Instagram to keep upto date on everything they do!

And if any of you out there have horses who suffer from the “Smegma Legs” like Dante or have gone through the ordeal of clearing it like I have done, my fellow blogger Natalie O’Keeffe of Inside Track Eventing gave me a great tip in containing the spread & to stop any future mishaps, rub pig oil on your horses back legs! This prevents anything from sticking keeping your horses legs Grime free!

Thanks for Reading,

Darielle

Dante Update: The Changes I made to round my 8yr old horse

It’s been a long time since I done an update on Dante let alone any progress related posts. We have certainly come a very long way! Dante is now 8… 8 years old!!!! What the Fork!

The last year we have overcome an awful lot of obstacles, from behavioral issues to outbreaks in how we works together as a team, we have changed & tweaked a certain amount of things to get us where we are today.

There is a still a good bit to go, but I can safely say that I am extremely happy with our progress to date. Let me run through some of the things below, from jumping to small tack changes, sometimes you have to power through the storm to see some good results & sometimes small tweaks & adjustments are what you need to do!

Keep reading to read all about us, our journey, the changes, maybe you might pick up some ideas, or maybe you might be in the same boat!


Jumping – This has always been something I have struggled to find the happy medium with. Dante loves to jump, he has so much talent jumping also. I think for me I always had the fear of him taking off on me, therfore I struggled to think that I ever had control of any situation. The last year has changed tremendoulsy. We completed our First Meter Course before Xmas & looking back on the first half of the course, it was truly dreadful. I didn’t know then but Looking at it now I am super proud of that metre course we done, we ackomplished a massive achievement. Pushing yourself is something that you should definately do every once in a while, & it has paid off. I have more confidence now & I think we both trust each other a lot more. I certainly trust him a lot more to get me aroudn a course without me having to interfere as much as I thought I had too.

We have been focusing a lot on strengthening up Dante’s weaker rein. I am aware that Rome wasn’t built in a day so this will also take time, I am happy to see the small improvements as we focus on our training sessions at home. I am 100% jinxing myself but right now I am so happy with him, he jumps with a controlled contained energy behind him instead of exploding off into the distance with me, I am just a super proud HOM. (Horse Mom!) Long may the improvements continue.

Tack Changes – Fluffy nosebands, I honestly thought these were kind of stupid before, that people who used them simply just liked fluff. Who can blame them, they are so flufffffy!! Again, I can hold my hands up & say I was completely wrong on this also, yes I am a judge bitch! I noticed that when out jumping a course, Dante was looking everywhere instead of where he was supposed to, so someone suggested getting blinkers & putting a fluffy cover over his noseband to help him concentrate.

It bloody well worked a treat!! The fluff on his nose helped distract him and kind of had him looking down, so no head in the air, and the Blinkers made him look straight ahead of him where he should of been looking when he was working or when jumping. All these small changes have worked & helped us massively, and Yes my ignorance got the better of me, why didnt I listen a few years ago?

Singular fluff piece is from Holmestead Saddlery

Bits – Dante has always been ridden in a snaffle, he still is from time to time. I noticed that I majorly lacked any control at times or struggled to get him back to me when jumping bigger fences or courses. So with a lot of useless googling done by me, I gave up & went and asked my trainers. One suggested to use a A Copper Cherry Roller snaffle, and the other a Rope GAG bit. (Yass, I have two trainers, They are amazing, #Jer #Sue) I learned that interestingly enough both bits actually seemed to work quite well for him.

I use the Gag mainly when out jumping courses or when doing jumping lessons at home & when I am lunging or doing flat work sessions I use the copper cherry roller snaffle. I have two bridles, so the only torture I have is changing the reins over. These 2 new bits used in coordination with each other have also been a factor in softening Dante in the mouth, in turn it has softened my contact a lot, it’s been a win win situation all round.

Cheltenham Gag, rope cheek pieces from Equijump Ltd.
Copper Cherry Roller Bit.

Flatwork Improvements – We can actually leg yield 4-5 steps now without having a tantrum! I never thought I would ever say that! He reacts to my leg aids extremely well now & His arse is actually starting to move in sync with his entire body, it doesn’t have a mind of its own anymore, I am THRILLLLLED!!!! Honestly though, the difference in the way he holds himself is tremendous. Hard work certainly pays off, I will say I have been wearing spurs on him for the extra back up I need to keep him moving forward. I do alternate between days of riding him with & without them.

Lunging – Yes people I use training aids. And to all you people out there that don’t agree with them or troll people that do use them, there are more important things in life that trying to voice or force your opinion about something that is not relevant to you. #BeKind.

I have found the magic ingredient to getting him lunging nicely, relaxed & more importantly something that helps & encourages him to stretch his giraffe neck down. Something he is so bad at may I add. The Reinrite lunge. I try to lunge him once a week and try focus more on transitions & maintaining steady rhythms through out our work. It all seems to be translating into our riding, something that you cant help but be happy with.

The ReinRite Lunge, their newest product! Full review coming soooooon!!

The Riders Journey – Well considering I haven’t left the yard since before Xmas, cabin fever is beginning to set in big time, not having a box was a big factor to this, but…… I am also thrilled to say that I have recently just purchased a new horse box! I am over the moon & still quite shocked that I have one. I have a list as long as my arm of places I need to get back to, the Curragh Water Treadmill being one, This place is just a godsend for horses. If you haven’t been I advise you get your horse there now, Hettie & co, I will over in a few weeks!! Some Big plans need to be set in motion for Summer 2020 ASAP!!

I am also dying to get over to Carlanstown for some XC, Amy Smyth I am not forgetting those insta plans to meet up over there soon!!

I do shamefully need to start looking after myself a bit better, I am not getting any younger & my back certainly is beginning to take the blunt of some of the things I do. It is quite hard to find time to go to the gym between work, the horse & being a mom time is of an essence so maybe I will just have to start doing some home exercises again, my core needs a lot of work!! Anyone any suggestions??

What The Future Holds – Some plans are being put into motion, we are hopefully going to make The RC spring league, along with the festival & SJ Championships in the summer. I also definitely want to move up a class in RC & do some more SJI show. And yes you heard it here first, this year I am going to try do some dressage tests…. he has good movement & potential I just need to get myself some more patience!

Ohh & lastly, I want to go on a horsey trip with Dante, I’m thinking maybe some of you could come too? Il start by Throwing the idea out there….


Some hardcore Dante reminiscing right there, it’s good to sit down & write or even think about your accomplishments to date with your horse. It certainly helps to put some things into perspective.

Patting yourself on the back from time to time & telling yourself you’ve done a good job is also needed.

For now, it’s back to some proper work with Dante, this shitty weather in Ireland has me pushing the pause button every 2nd day. I am counting down the days until Summer!!

Talk soon,

Darielle

Exercise 3 – Grid Lock ft. Jump Start Showjumps

I am loving doing these exercises, the reaction is just amazing! I am trying to out do myself each time thinking up bigger, better & more exciting schooling exercises for you all.

I have seen a good bit of conversation lately on Grid Work, with that I decided to put together a simple yet effective exercise for you all to try out, one suitable for the experienced or beginner ride, it also comes with a string of benefits too for horse & rider.

We have a special addition to our exercise post this week let me introduce you to Jump Start Showjumps who have kindly gifted us 3 sets of their fabulous new Pole Raisers. I have incorporated them into the Grid Lock exercise, to show you how useful & amazing they are in your everyday training.

Keep scrolling to find out more!

The Set Up

For your set up, your arena does not need to be completely free. If you wish for your horse to be less distracted you can of course set your arena up with just the grid.

Your “Grid” will be set up across the diagonal of your arena. See the image below. You will need 3 sets of your Jump Start Showjump Pole Raisers, and 6 poles. If you dont have your Pole Raisers, you can use blocks yo raise your poles or you can alternatively use wings in their place.

The Distance between your first two raised poles is 10 footsteps. I also stacked two sets of Pole Raisers to raise the second pole a little higher. The distance then to your jump is one stride. To walk this out you will need 8 large footsteps. (This may need to be adjusted for pony strides!)

I also put a placing pole after the jump. This helped Dante with holding himself together a bit better after he landed. I walked out 14 footsteps for this, he has a big stride or 4 large footsteps. This can be adjusted as you jump your grid.

The Benefits of This Exercise

  • Improves your accuracy
  • Improves yours & your horses Rhythm
  • Improves riders confidence with jumping
  • Gives the rider time to put more focus on their position
  • Helps with Straightness

How To Ride This Exercise

As always, I advise that you do a good warm up with your horse prior to partaking in any of our exercises. For this exercise it was all about a consistant rhythm in the canter, whilst creating an active forward canter focusing on getting his hindend underneath him to create that energy I will need before I started on my grid. Once you are happy with how your horse is feeling follow the steps below to get the most out of our “Grid Lock” exercise.

Step 1: Start your grid by doing it in sections. Starting easy & building yourself up to the final hurrah! See the image to the right. Your first task is your two canter poles with one stride into your ground pole. Remember before you approach your grid get a consistant canter if you have to circle a few times, that is ok! On your approach remember that they are raised ground poles, a jumping position is not required. It is up to your horse to get over the poles, you are there to guide them! Remember to keep your contact consitant throughout, not to drop it once you reach the first pole. (yes that is my bad habit!)

Step 2: As you go through the grid a few times, try to focus on getting your horse to land on the correct lead change as he comes over the last pole. If you are having trouble with this, when you reach your corner as you land bring your horse to trot & then straight away ask them for canter on the correct lead. Once you are happy it is time to move on to some proper grid work by adding in some jumps!

Step 3: Leaving your ground poles on your pole raisers adjust your jump up-to a height that you feel comfortable with. Your horse will be used to going down this grid by now, when you ride down your grid again now with a jump being introduced, try to focus on your position in the saddle. Are you sitting up tall between poles, shoulders back? how is your jumping position? Also start to think about your horses straightness through the grid are they are veering to a certain side? Are they struggling to lift their leg over the fence? Well Lets complete this grid by adding in some V poles.

Step 4: The last step is to add in some V poles. I added them in to get Dante lifting his legs properly, and to help improve the shape he makes over a fence. He can be quite lazy at times, V poles make him concentrate that bit more & sharpen up his jumping. They are also great for horses that veer to the left or the right. To set them up simply place them either side of your jump, with the V forming n the middle of the fence as per the image below.

Step 5: Jump your horse down this grid until you are happy with their performance, I tend not to over do it with grids, I also up the height each time I jump down it so that Dante has something different each time. Remember this is a gymnastics exercise for your horse so they will be tired quicker than normal!

If you are having some difficulties with your horse or with their jumping, remember that especially if they are young they are still learning. Their bodies are getting used to all these new muscles & movements so don’t be too hard on yourself or your horse & do try not to over work them. Grid work is a great confidence builder for horses learning to jump or for youngsters. Keep things simple.


About Jump Start Showjumps Pole Raisers

Pole Raisers are a clever, easy to use training tool for you & your horse. They are used to raise ground poles during training session to help improve your horses flatwork. There are a string of benefits that will enhance your horses performance such as helping your your horse understand the placing of their legs, balance, co-ordination & helping them to concentrate during your training sessions. They can be used singularly or you can stack them also for more height if you wish.

The Quality – I can put my hand on my heart & say that the pole raisers certainly stood the test of time , they are 100% weather proof! I am slightly ashamed to say I literally left them out in hail, rain & snow over the weekend and they didn’t disintegrate or soften at all. I found them really easy to carry around the place, they are made from wood so you would expect them to be quite heavy but they are super manageable.

My thoughts on the product – If I had a euro for every time someone in the yard told me they were amazed by this product I would have at least €20 by now! I am super impressed. They are the perfect addition to any pole mad equestrian. They are heavy enough to not move out of place if your horse knocks the pole off likewise their is enough freedom for the pole to be able to roll off when your horse knocks, super important!

The price & purchase information – The value for money is outrageous! for a set of two the cost is €8.50 or if you wish to buy a set of 3 pairs they cost €24. Compared to some plastic items on the market I really couldn’t recommend them more. If you want to place your order get in Contact with John O’Toole by calling 086 7337925 or be sure to drop him a PM on Facebook.


This weeks exercise was one of my favorites yet. Let me know if you give it a go at home or in a lesson by tagging us in your videos, in turn if you have any questions dont hesitate to get in contact! Be sure to also follow Jump Start Showjumps on their Instagram page.

Be sure to head over to our Instagram page to check out Dante tackling this Exercise, He is a superstar!

Until Next Time & if you want to feature in one of our exercises or collaborate be sure to drop us a PM.

Darielle

Exercise 2 – Oh Poley God!

Wow, what a reaction to our last exercise, thank you to everyone who liked & shared it. I have upped my game since & I can safely say I am happy to deliver a fabulous new grid/pole exercise for you all.

I have incorporated a mixture of everything, from pole work to some jumping in this exercise you are sure to be challenged, yet I hope you walk away feeling accomplished just like I did!

It looks a lot harder than it actually is, so dont be alarmed. It is suitable for the beginner as much as the more experienced horse.

Keep scrolling to find out how to set up & ride this exercise! 

The Set Up

For this exercise you will need your entire arena. 9 poles are needed, two set of cavalettis or two sets of small blocks to raise your poles & a set of wings to put up your jump.

See the image below. I have highlighted the ground poles in Red, the raised poles in purple & the pole where your jump is has been coloured blue.

The distance between the grids is as follows,

1 stride 6 large footsteps (1 for landing and one for take off then four large steps totalling 6 to make your one stride distance)

2 stride 10 large footsteps (1 for landing and one for take off then eight large steps totalling 10 to make your two stride distance)

The strides can be adjusted through out the exercise to best shit your horse. These suited Dante but I would recommend having someone on the ground to help assist with adjustments.

The Benefits Of This Exercise

  • Improve your approach to a fence, improving your eye for a stride
  • Focus on your position over fences & through a small grid 
  • Riding your corners
  • Consistant rhythm in the canter
  • Control & sharpening up your leg aids

How To Ride This Exercise

Step 1: As always, I advise that you do a good warm up with your horse prior to partaking in any of our exercises. For this exercise I put the focus on having a forward active canter in my warm up. Pushing him forward & holding on the long & short sides of my arena trying to focus on using my seat & leg aids. Once you are happy with how your horse is feeling follow the steps below to get the most out of our “Oh Poley God” exercise.

Step 2: let’s Start with the small jump across the diagonal. Pick up your canter & begin with riding your horse across the small jump Positioned as per the image. The point of placing the jump here was to help aid Dante with a leg change across his diagonal as well As help me to gain a bit more control. You might have noticed the two ground poles tunnelled in front of the jump. This was to help keep Dante straight & to stop him drifting either side on his approach to the fence. Focus on Riding across the diagonal until you are happy with your approach & your landing. Think about keeping your upper body still & remember think to use your legs & seat over being fussy with your hands!

Step 3: It’s time to begin with The grid. Don’t be afraid of the thought of it, Think of it as a set of four canter poles. To begin with, I had the jump part of the grid as a ground pole. Approach your grid in canter, aiming to keeping a controlled & even rhythm. Don’t worry about not hitting the correct strides at first, your horse may take one or two goes to “find their feet” or to figure out what it is exactly they are doing! keep your leg on & maintain a steady hold of your contact into the first pole,

Step 3, 4 & 5 – The Grid

Step 4: Ride through the grid a few times, keep in mind though that you may not approach certain poles correctly but that is ok. Your horse will learn to adjust as he moves through it. Be sure to help your horse by sitting up tall, keeping your leg on & looking straight ahead of you while you ride through the grid. When you land after the the last pole dont come to a stop, keep your canter active & ride until you reach the long side of the arena.

Step 5: Now lets make things fun by adding in the jump in the middle of your grid. Again, this is not going to change anything in the way you ride down your grid. I kept the jump relatively small at 90cm, something that was big enough to get Dante to concentrate but small enough that it wouldn’t throw of my concentration. The key thing here is to sit up tall as you land after your fence, don’t forget about the two canter poles after your fence! Once you are happy with how your horse is working, it’s now time piece the entire oh Poley God exercise together.

Step 6: as you have already perfected the steps above, putting everything together will be easy. Start by riding down over your grid, but as you land you are continuing to ride across your diagonal over your small fence. Once you are happy with how your horse has ridden the entire exercise, remember to rewards & finish up! This is a very tiring exercise for your horse so do keep that in mind & try not to over work..


And there you have my Oh Poley God Exercise. This is a great one to do with a few friends in your riding school, or one to incorporate into riding lessons. You have a lot to work with whilst still riding away feeling accomplished!

If you are feeling brave or have a more experienced horse, you can of course make all the canter poles in your grid into fences. Remember nothing changes the way you ride them! 

Let me know how you ride this exercise & be sure to head over to Instagram to see how me & Dante got on! 

Darielle