It’s The Horse!

It’s The Horse! was written by Scott Barnes of Barnes Equestrian. In this blog post, Scott explores this all too common saying.

It’s the horse!” you’ll often hear that screamed during a coaching session. “The horse won’t…” The horse this, the horse that… You know, it’s often the same no matter who you are. It unites us all.

As riders, we tend to look at riding horses a robotic exercise. Even when we think we don’t, we often treat them as such. I know I have done just that, especially in the past.

Ask anyone whose taught me through the years, “it’s the horse!” was a great excuse to try and cover up my own faults and incapabilities as a rider.

Coach: “Your inside leg is doing nothing! More inside leg!! More!! MORE!!”

Me: “I AM! I CAN’T ADD MORE! THE HORSE WON’T LISTEN TO IT! HE’S A LAZY…!!”

Sound familiar?

Here’s the thing. We all do that.

As riders we have to be open to accepting that *we* are the problem. I’m not saying we are always the issue but sometimes taking that feedback when we try so hard feels horrible. Accepting that in itself is often the hardest thing to do.

I learned to ride back in 2012. I was 24 years old and keen as hell. As soon as I could trot, I thought I could canter. Once I could canter I thought I could jump. Then once I could jump a straight pole of about 50cm? “Crank it up lads! 1.20m here I come!!”

I shit you not… There was a stage in 2012 where I thought I’d be the next Carl Hester. My confidence had me absolutely delusional!

Confidence

Confidence is something we all need. Especially when working with half-ton animals. Confidence is also easily shattered. I can honestly say that in the equestrian world, confidence can be a hell of a lot more fragile than our bodies in a fall. It can be knocked from falls, near misses… It can be shattered from fear of what may happen or even from criticism from others. Someones words can hit us harder than any surface.

Confidence can make you feel like the next Dressage superstar or it can prevent your backside ever from touching the saddle again.

When I think of confidence I’m thankful that I’ve never suffered from a lack of it – in horses anyway. In my early days I was overconfident but I’ve never found myself in need of a boost.

I’m thankful that I’m so stubborn and blind at times that I genuinely thought I was destined to be the next Carl Hester… I still live in hope though!

It’s a Language

I’ve said it before in previous blogs and I’ll say it again – Horse riding is the language between horse and rider. It’s a culmination of verbal language, body language, body weight, balance, seat, legs, hands… and on some days, planetary alignment. Oh come on, how else do you explain mares?! Horse riding brings it all together as one language. One form of communication.

As riders, we’re constantly speaking to our horses. We ask many questions of them:

“Will you walk?”

“Can you trot?”

“Will you stop?”

Those are a few of many that we ask of our horses every day we ride. It’s so easy to forget that the horse also speaks to us.

“I feel lazy today.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Use yer indicator thingies!”

By the way, that last one means preparing your horse for turns or transitions. Half-halts. A simple sign that something is changing. See? Everything is communication when we ride.

The Person on the Ground

When someone is on the ground watching us ride, they get a whole other perspective of the entire image. That person gets the visual whereby we as riders sense the feel. You cannot teach someone feel. You can give them the tools to develop their feel but it’s the one thing you can never teach someone to have. It requires time, practice and that lightbulb to go off when you realise you finally ‘get it.’

The person on the ground has the entire view of what’s happening. They can see when the horse bends or reacts. They can see how we use our bodies, our aids and how the horse is responding to them. It’s easy for us to think we feel one thing but the image from the ground can tell the opposite. It can tell a whole other story entirely. This often comes as a shock to riders.

The next time someone gives you an instruction of something like “MORE LEG!!” Ask yourself *why* they shout that rather than taking the “I am but it’s the horse!” attitude. There’s always a reason and quite often we just can’t feel that refinement that’s required of our aids. Maybe just try a wee bit harder and understand that there is a bigger picture. There’s a reason they shout it. It may just be that you actually can’t feel it *yet*.

It will come. However it does take time. Hang in there!

Please feel free to check out Barnes Equestrian on Facebook, give my page a wee like and say hi while you’re there! I always love hearing from the audience.

Never Forget Where You Come From

Never Forget Where You Come From was written by Scott Barnes of Barnes Equestrian and published directly on BarnesEQ.com. This post applies old words of wisdom to the equestrian world around us.

Never forget where you come from. Those are words my grandad would say to me through the years while growing up. He said them repeatedly from as young as I can remember up until he died. Those words are ingrained into my mind today and when I think of the equestrian industry, I think they’ve never been more applicable than they are now.

Never Forget Where You Come From: Grandads Context

When my grandad said those words to me, he never meant it in a horsey sense. In fact I’m sure my grandad would be shocked to even find that I am horsey. It was never on my radar growing up and even today, my family in Scotland have never witnessed the equestrian side of me. Sure, they know of it, but they’ve never witnessed it.

I suppose being born into the Great Depression after the First World War, only to take part in World War II…it gives you a certain view on what’s important in life. “Never forget where you come from” alludes to the things in life we take for granted. The past and remembering your journey from where you started.

In other words, if you’re successful and find yourself in a position of wealth or comfort, remember the struggles you went through to get there; remember where you started and don’t turn your back on those who matter to you and who helped you achieve what you have today.

In Horsey Terms

“Never forget where you come from” is relevant to our industry. Not just in some loose fitting way, but these are words of wisdom that should be remembered from the grass roots right up to the very top.

The issue I see everywhere is that as people progress, they forget their own path and the things that once held them back. People forget that horses are bloody hard work. We all start by bouncing around in the saddle – no matter what age you are. We take falls and knocks – both physical and mental. Self belief and confidence doesn’t come easy. Each and every one of us struggle along the way. If we’re all honest, we’ve probably all had a horse at some point that was too much for us but boy did it teach us how to ride!

There’s such a culture of wanting to see people fail or even belittle them as they go about their journey into our world.

To succeed in this industry takes time and effort. It takes patience. Hard work pays off. We get absolutely nowhere without all that.

However more importantly we get absolutely nowhere without help.

In every self-made rider and ‘professional’ there’s a whole bunch of people who have helped make them who they are today. From the start to now. Coaches, instructors, demonstrations they’ve watched or attended. Books, online forums, TV shows…talking to people who share their thoughts and experiences – each and every one of us has a new twist and new way of thinking about even the most mundane of tasks. There’s so much that goes into each and every person you see around you.

The common problem is… They so easily forget it.

To Summarise

You get nowhere on your own in this industry. It’s easy to feel high and mighty when you run your own place or get compliments on how you ride; but the next time you do feel that ego come along… Cast your mind back and think about the ones who made you who you are today.

To put it simply, we wouldn’t be here without their help. Rather than putting someone down, why not help them open their eyes to a new way?

How amazing would it be to be part of someone else’s journey to the top?

The Nervous Nellies

 I don’t actually like the term “Nervous Nellies.” Maybe it’s just me but it almost makes light of nerves a little too much? I mean, it’s fine if you’re a nervous rider who is comfortable with acknowledging their fear but what if you’re not? Maybe “Nervous Nellies” doesn’t suit everyone.

 For some people, acknowledging that there is an issue of nerves is actually one of the hardest steps on the path to overcoming those nerves. It can be incredibly daunting for someone to admit it to themselves let alone to people around them. But lets move past the terminology for now get into the guts of today’s post. 

 As you’ve probably guessed, the topic is…Nerves. 

 Everybody has either had or knows someone who has suffered from nerves when working with their own, or other people’s horses. It can often be quite extreme. Typically, in established horse-people it comes as a result of mental or physical trauma. You don’t always have to hit the ground to develop a fear or nerves. Sometimes it’s as simple as being in a situation where you forsee that as a possibility. 

 Nerves can happen to anybody at any time. Why then do people feel so hesitant to admit it?

 It’s not a sign of weakness

 Let’s get that off the list now. Weakness isn’t being nervous. In fact, I’d always make a strong case that true weakness is overconfidence. 

 Do you know what nerves are? Nerves are a realisation that you have something to lose. Overconfidence is complacency. 

 Quite often we’ll see nerves cement themselves in a multifaceted way. Take this for example:

 Hypothetical Sally

 Sally is nervous about jumping. One day she was on her quiet horse and got a little left behind in the movement. Sally didn’t fall off but the experience shook her to the extent that she can no longer bring herself to jump. She stayed on but there was a split second where she thought she was coming off. That’s all it takes. A split second. 

 In this hypothetical scenario, Sally knows she’s afraid but she struggles to admit that; not only to herself but everyone else around her. Even those closest to her. She tells her friends “oh I just like flatwork!” or “I just don’t want to jump!” but as time goes on, they ask more. Eventually the excuses run out. Sally is pushing the reasons not to jump to their limit. 

 It begins to overwhelm her. She finds less and less enjoyment in being around her horse. She avoids riding, maybe citing aches and pains. The passionate flame that once roared now flickers dimly. 

 A Silent Tragedy

 Can you see what it is? It’s not that she has become nervous. It’s not that she has a quiet horse or even that she allows the situation to escalate through the avoidance of participation. 

 The true tragedy is that Sally doesn’t feel comfortable admitting her nerves to herself or to anybody else. 

 Why is that? Well, the truth is never black or white. As a society we tend to see nervousness as a bad thing. In the horse world it’s all too common to mock someone who is “scared” to do something on their particular half-tonne animal. The stigma is real. 

 Stigma

 No matter what anybody says, horse-people are some of the worst people for being overly judgemental and belittling people. Despite what we like to pretend, it’s not the ones with the money and good horses that are worst for it. It’s the grass roots level. 

 For such a small close-knit community such as the Equestrian community, we really do tend to treat nerves as something negative. It’s such a shame. Nerves can be overcome and they can be worked with. There’s no reason whatsoever for someone to feel like less of a person or rider because of nerves. 

 A good rider isn’t a gutsy rider. A good rider is one who can read the situation well. Think about it. Whether it’s as a person admitting their own limitations and working with it or a rider reacting to the feel of the horse. Reading the situation on or off the horse is what separates the good from the bad. Nerves aren’t something to be ashamed of. If you have them and can sit down and admit it to yourself and your peers, then be proud! For that is the first step in overcoming the nerves. 

 Don’t give yourself (or others) labels. Labels are a terrible burden on people. You can believe you’re labelled one way but you may be perceived as another. Ultimately labels can add a whole new dynamic of worry and stress to people – Especially if your label is perceived as being ‘below’ others. 

 At the end of the day, it’s simple. You can be nervous and still aspire to be the next Carl Hester. It just means your path on that journey has a new hurdle to learn from. 

 What About Coaches?

 In Ireland there is a huge lack of common sense in how to work with nervous riders. I’ve seen some coaches literally say “ah yer well able! Just get on and do it!” Confidence building doesn’t work like that. Nor does it require only a handful of sessions to see real change. 

 One of the biggest issues I’ve seen is a lack of human understanding from coaches. As coaches it’s easy to develop a way of coaching that becomes who we are. Some people are like drill sergeants. Others get more technical and explain things. I’m the latter. But it’s important to be able to adapt to the rider. Especially when nerves come into the equation you have to be able to step back and consider the human. 

 The Human Side

 In its most basic form, if a nervous rider seeks help and sits their backside in that saddle, you can guarantee that they have that spark and want to overcome their nerves. 

 It becomes our job to assist them and give them blocks of confidence so they can put it together. They can then step back and see what they’ve built and be proud of the culmination of all those small achievements along the way. 

 If we fail to connect with the human side to those nerves, we fail in our task as coaches. Connecting with the human side means…

Understanding the problem and its roots.

 If we are to work with a nervous rider we have to understand why they’re nervous and how they got there. Effectively we have to put ourselves in their shoes and understand their journey. 

Understanding the person’s perception of the issue. 

 Working with nervous riders is like providing a therapy session. Remember earlier when I said that nerves can be multifaceted? This is how. A rider can be nervous of a jump but also how others view them. We have to work with the rider psychologically as well as physically. It can often be harder to change a mindset than it is to change the riding. 

Breaking the issue down.

 We can only guide the rider but it’s ultimately their responsibility to put the work in. It’s often a good idea to break the issues down and build confidence from a more basic level prior to tackling the main problem head on. Doing this develops trust. Especially a nervous rider, they have to trust that you will look after them. They have to trust your guidance. 

 Balance: Encouragement Vs Pushing

 It’s a fact that the only way to see progression is to push your rider. But a balance is required. Especially when tackling nerves. You can’t push your rider to the stage of a mental breakdown and ruin all the hard work you’ve both done prior to that stage. You do, however, have to encourage your rider to push themselves. This comes back to trust and those blocks of confidence that we give our riders to build from. 

 But Remember

 The human side requires us as coaches to understand. To break things down but most of all, to remember that we are dealing with a unique individual. A person and not a robot. The biggest thing when dealing with a nervous rider isn’t getting the rider to achieve the physical steps, but to train their mind to recognise theirany small achievements along the way. 

 That’s what I think most coaches neglect. The physical goal is great but without changing the mental aspect and addressing those real unseen issues, we can’t really make a change. 

 The Nervous Nellies

 This whole post is just an excuse for me to rant about that darn label! Not really…or is it?

 I feel it’s too casual and almost makes it seem light-hearted. Maybe that’s fine. But nerves can be truly devastating for the individual. Yes “Nervous Nellies” may be a ‘cute’ label. It may even be funny for some; Much like a ‘silly Billy’ in ways, but it also has very casual connotations in my opinion. It’s okay to make light of your own situation but I don’t agree with labelling all nervous riders as Nervous Nellie’s. 

 We should account for those riders who compete and face attacks of nervousness. Take into consideration those with high aspirations. The Equestrian world is already too judgemental without adding labels that make people feel put down even more. 

 Nervous Nellies are fine, but i also want to consider the nervous RIDER. Nerves are natural. They can happen to any of us at any time and in any phase in our career. At any level. 

 Those who are nervous face a layered challenge both physically and mentally. We, as coaches and peers need to do more to make being nervous acceptable. The Equestrian world is an unforgiving and judgemental place. 

 As coaches we can make a huge difference to people’s lives.

 We just need to take the time to understand just how deep nerves can root themselves in our clients minds. Making a positive change… Isn’t that what it’s all about?

 Random Musings: Nervous Nellies was written by Scott Barnes of Barnes Equestrian as an opinion piece on a random thought. If you wish to follow more updates on Barnes Equestrian, please follow our Facebook Page!

Barnes Equestrian Quarterly Review

 Making a Barnes Equestrian quarterly review may seem a silly idea. Especially from a tiny equestrian startup yard that has been formally going since mid-December of last year!

 However this is no financial review. Instead, I thought this could be an interesting and candid insight into the trials and tribulations of the journey into my first year of business.

 Let’s start the Barnes Equestrian quarterly review and see where this goes…

Ups and Downs

Barnes Equestrian Yard
The empty space where the stables now stand

 2020 has been a very unique year. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the highs and lows of what has been offered in the year so far.

 The yard opened in mid-December of 2019 – a date that was pushed back due to difficulties with budget. Basically things got to the stage where I was borderline just going to give up on the whole idea. I’m a perfectionist and everything was going less than perfect as far as budget and living on a tight budget to make this all happen. Needless to say building them was a huge highlight in my life and now I have a physical yard for Barnes Equestrian.

Barnes Equestrian Yard
The frame for the concrete base to be poured
Barnes Equestrian Yard
The stables under wraps and the concrete bases in the background

 It wasn’t easy to get to that stage but it was a weight lifted from my mind to reach it.

Barnes Equestrian Yard
The stables starting to take shape

The Barnes Equestrian Quarterly Review is starting to take shape, eh?

Christmas Fatigue

 The way it all worked out with timing was quite unfortunate really. A mid-December opening meant I was opening right in the middle of the Christmas run up. That’s not an ideal time to open an Equestrian yard because nobody wants to spend more than necessary with Christmas upon us.

 January was equally as frustrating. Christmas had passed. New Year was over with but January is a month where people are suffering mental and financial fatigue after the festive season. It was the longest, most plodding month ever. Enquiries were coming which kept me focused but the month itself was never ending. Purely from a morale point of view, I was happy to see the back of January! It did have its good moments though. New clients and new friends made for life.

Frightful February

 February was a good month. Things had settled after the festive season and enquiries were picking up a lot. My advertising push was paying off and my name was getting out there. It was a pretty good month for business.

 It was also a heartbreaking month where the yard lost a much loved young horse in the form of of Jelle. Sadly he lost his battle for life and despite the best efforts of vets and Sommerton Equine Hospital, he wasn’t a viable candidate for potential life-saving surgery.

Barnes Equestrian Quarterly Review
The lovely Jelle

 In February it was also becoming clear that attempts to prevent the worldwide spread of COVID-19 were becoming futile with cases springing up around the globe and putting Italy under immense pressure here in Europe.

March Madness

 March began with a Barnes Equestrian highlight – it symbolised the first time I’d have a yard full of clients. I was full and that was a very proud moment.

 For a few weeks the yard was getting busy – albeit with social distancing. It was a joy to see the yard thriving with life despite social restrictions. Social distancing become a way of life, as did good hygiene. Just as the last client filled the yard and began to settle, disaster struck…

Lockdown

 No sooner was the yard full, lockdown was implemented in Ireland as a means to slow the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve.

Coronavirus Response

Barnes Equestrian: Lockdown Update
COVID-19 Poster

 Remember when I said this year was unique? Coronavirus is what made it so. Our whole way of life as we know it has changed. My whole vision for the yard I dreamed of having has changed. Until there is a vaccine or cure for Coronavirus I fear that my vision has changed drastically.

 From December it was clear there was a problem in China regarding COVID-19; but it’s in China. It wasn’t worldwide.

 From mid-January it was clear that eventually, one way or another, it was going to travel across the world. On February 29th the first case was confirmed in Ireland.

A dynamic situation such as this needs dynamic thinking

 Prior to the first case being reported I had implemented a plan of action to promote good hygiene and cleanliness on the yard. As well as that I made clear plans for the event of a local yard outbreak and even announced plans for the event where I contract the virus myself. It’s important to communicate such plans beforehand to your clients in order to make them aware that:

1) I am taking the situation seriously.

2) That there are plans in place for such events.

3) That nothing is being sprung on people out of the blue.

 I always say it, but a dynamic situation such as this needs dynamic thinking. Coronavirus is still relatively new and we’re still learning much about it. I’m a believer in covering all possible scenarios and this was no different.

The Mental Aspect

 When lockdown was announced for 2 weeks to start with I locked down the yard. Nobody was allowed up at all. This was a tough decision but I feel I was justified in taking this stance to start with. I encouraged people to stay at home and allow me the same chance. Due to the incubation period of the virus, you may not show immediate symptoms. Locking down the yard was a precaution for everybody.

 The truth is, there’s no official guidance for livery yards. Nobody is really coming together with a clear plan and advising any one course of action. Even over in the U.K. the BHS and BEF differ on their approaches to horse owners and livery yards. The Isle of Wight appears to give more official guidance with respect to horses than the rest of the U.K. authorities. Due to that, and the climate we find ourselves in now, a lot of this is trial and error. I have it all playing out in my head and I’m trying to find ways of making a fair environment where nobody is overwhelmed. One where risk is minimal and where there’s still some normalcy in life.

 Routine

 By the end of the initial 2 weeks I was physically and mentally drained. It’s not that my workload had increased but I felt that isolation take its toll. Routine is my enemy at the best of times, I love randomness and a sporadic life. Lockdown on the yard took that away and gave me a routine. For me personally, predictability was my problem.

 After those 2 weeks my brain was fried. It made me consider my clients and what they were going through. I looked at my own history through hardship and realised just how much my horse meant in those times.

 When lockdown was extended for a further 3 weeks, I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep the yard on lockdown. Not only for my clients mental well-being but for my own.

 Mental health and horses is often overlooked. It’s easy for us to take advantage of these wonderful animals and not realise the complete picture of what they do for us.

Barnes Equestrian Quarterly Review
Mental Health Awareness ‘green ribbon’ logo

 Horses have a power about them. They can relax us. A horse can make you feel as though everything is okay. They can do our minds a world of good just by standing before us – before we even ride them.

 The mental health aspect of horse ownership and the overall good they bring all of us is something to consider as a priority.

Trial and Error

 That’s what all this is. Initially when lockdown was extended I was considering my options. I knew I had to open the yard up again but in a limited manner. The problem is… How is it best to implement this?

 I had options but choosing which one was difficult. I wanted to choose the right one.

Staggered Times

 The issue with this was between 5 clients who spend on average 2 hours on the yard, that’s 8 hours on the day gone already. I have to then disinfect between each visit. Just to wipe down surfaces and keep my biosecurity measures to the highest standard. By allowing 30 minutes to do that (as well as rotating turnout horses, etc) this adds 2 hours to the day between those 5 clients. That’s 10 hours of the day gone.

 That also eats into times where I have to head to town for supplies for myself or the yard. For feed, hay, bedding etc.

 Unless I was to designate cleaning between clients, I think this was always going to be a push. Plus, I’d rather keep contact with cleaning agents and that responsibility to myself rather than share it.

Give Everyone a Day

 I opted in the end for this idea. Each person gets a day of the week to come up and visit. They can spend as long as they want here. They can do what they want. It breaks up the week and gives everyone something to look forward to. It seemed like a good alternative. This is what I opted for in the first week of the 3 week extension.

Dynamic Thinking

 However, as it was taking place I had a change of heart. I realised I could work a routine so that each person gets every second day. I’ve split the yard into 2 groups and one group gets Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The other gets Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Sunday’s alternate so that each group gets to visit on a Sunday.

 I’m willing to admit that some choices I’ve made during this crisis may have been viewed as extreme or even harsh. I’m sure that even my clients may have felt somewhat isolated or pushed aside despite paying for a service. The horses are always a priority and their care is always of the utmost importance to all of us… It’s just difficult to find a true balance of everything.

 However, I think I have found that balance.

 It really is trial and error. I have to put safety first. I have to consider the safety of the people on my yard as well as myself. Only realistic decisions can be made. Decisions that are manageable. I have to try and make fair choices. It’s not an easy task trying to find a balance of safe and fair. It’s often a balance of pushing clients away and retaining their trust. Especially when they don’t know you as a person very well.

The Future of Barnes Equestrian

 Right now, I have one empty stable due to a sad departure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once lockdown lifts I will start advertising again. I also have my next Barnes Equestrian Quarterly Review to look forward to now!

COVID-19 Phases

 When restrictions are lifted I have a plan to have a phased return to normalcy.

 Depending on what measures are actually relaxed next, I may keep to the current system or implement a staggered time system once more.

 It’s looking like staggered times will become a new reality on the yard. It’s possible that down the line we may be able to work it a little more loosely. We may be able to have some crossover in times and bring back a social experience to the yard. However I won’t risk anybody to have that back. IF that happens, it’s when the time is right.

 It’s also possible that things turn worse once more and that lockdown will happen again. In that event I won’t rule out a yard lockdown as I believe it depends on the situation, for example, if the virus is widespread or relatively controlled.

 If a lockdown does happen in Ireland again, the preferable route to take is simply what I’m doing now. Every second day and stagger the times in that. This system works well and so any yard lockdown will always be a last resort.

The Barnes Equestrian Project

I have a phased plan for the year ahead. Phase 1 was getting the stables up, finished and filled with lovely horses and great clients.

Phase 2: I want to (finally) extend water and electricity down to the yard. I want to gravel the centre of the yard as well. I have a small paddock which I’m looking to woodchip and have as a winter turnout paddock for when the fields are too wet. Finally as a side project I’d like to build some cross-country jumps for the smaller field with the (not a Hickstead derby) bank!

Phase 3: To build a secure tack room, shavings storage and dedicated feed room.

Phase 4: More stables. I can build another 6 which brings my total to 13 stables on the Barnes Equestrian yard.

In Other News

 Of course there is more than just the physical yard and Coronavirus so what is there for the Barnes Equestrian Quarterly Review?

Social Media

 In my first year of the Facebook page I amassed over 6,000 followers – a figure I’m pretty proud of. Instagram has over 300 followers. I could do more to work on the IG platform and the Barnes Equestrian brand on there but I also need to research more into how to promote my business on Instagram.

 Many brands perform on a mass follow / unfollow routine in Instagram but I’m personally not a fan of that.

 I have Barnes Equestrian on all major social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit and WhatsApp. All that as well as a Google Business page.

 Mainly I focus my time into Facebook and Instagram while the others serve as placeholders for the BarnesEQ username.

 The brand could benefit from expanding its presence on each platform but for now time and energy is better spent on the place where most eyes are – Facebook. However I have neglected the Google Business listing and so I plan to find ways to better utilise that asset alongside existing marketing assets.

The Facebook Page

 I have plans for a more social interaction on the Facebook page. I’ve several ideas in the mix and I look forward to working them out and creating that more social experience. This has actually been something I’ve wanted to do for a while but I’ve never dedicated the time to make it work.

(Again) It’s all trial and error. I have ideas and I’ll see if they catch on!

The Website

 The website has developed a lot over the last year and I’ve implemented much on there. Again with the site, I’m trying to balance it for the experience I wish to give my clients. Professionalism yet personal.

 I need to update various aspects of it and change some tabs and pages.

 The blog section could be better laid out and while I like my brand colours (black and white) I’m not entirely happy with the look and feel right now. I’ll know exactly what I want when I finally reach it but it does need some more attention to get it right and in that ball park.

 The main thing is having something up, right?

The Fields

 The winter just gone by was rough. I had horses living out longer than I wanted to and as a result the field was poached and bare looking by the end of it.

 Thankfully they’ve been taken care of and paddocks are in place for the Barnes Equestrian yard turnout.

 The theory behind the paddocks is that half can be grazed in summer while the other half rests. There’ll be constant rotation of the paddocks in an attempt to let them rest before they become overgrazed. Come winter I’m aiming to have 3 of the 6 paddocks still with grazing and then split turnout between those and the woodchip turnout paddock.

 This way the fields won’t get poached and overgrazed. The horses still get daily turnout and there will be less in terms of restrictions on turnout in winter months – Especially on the wettest days.

 The back field I hope to house some cross-country jumps in to go along with the newly formed bank. This paddock will be a great asset in summer months for some riding and a bit of fun.

 I’m glad to have gotten the fields TLC out of the way for now. One less thing to worry about in future now!

Final Thoughts

 2020 so far feels absolutely surreal from both a personal and professional aspect. There are ups and downs and that’s always true in business.

 I had this vision when I started this project of having a lively friendly yard with clients who interact and get along. My vision is to have the Barnes Equestrian yard as a big family. I planned trips out, I planned a social experience while on the yard.

 A lot of that has now changed.

 Instead we’re all pushed into a life of social distancing and lockdown. A life of uncertainty. None of us know what’s happening any more. Our plans… Our futures, have changed entirely. This is a time like no other in living memory. Not only for everyone on the Barnes Equestrian yard, but for everyone around the world.

 I sincerely hope that when I write my next Barnes Equestrian Quarterly Review (we’ll aim for June!) that the situation has turned for the better. Barnes Equestrian is still doing well from a business standpoint despite ups and downs through the year so far.

 It’s a crazy time and Barnes Equestrian isn’t alone in this scenario. Every yard across the country is facing some kind of impact to their day-to-day business. We’re all in this together.

 Whatever happens next, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support so far.

 To my current clients for their understanding in all the recent limitations.

 To my past clients for continuing to be people it’s a pleasure to know.

 Whether you’re reading this Barnes Equestrian Quarterly Review, following my social media pages or have even helped to physically build the yard. I owe you all a thank you.

 Scott Barnes,

Barnes Equestrian

 Feel free to follow Barnes Equestrian on Facebook for all the latest day-to-day information and news as it happens!

Barnes Equestrian: Lockdown Update

 In my last post around 2 weeks ago, I announced that Barnes Equestrian was going into lockdown. This post, Barnes Equestrian: Lockdown Update will explore the developments on the yard since the lockdown extension was announced and we’ll take a look at the future of how the yard will handle life post-COVID-19.

 That decision was largely based on the fact that having a residential property and a yard so close together, it becomes a challenge to lockdown one and self-isolate while the other has people coming and going. 

 Over the last 2 weeks I’ve kept a lookout for news and updates regarding the situation. I’ve been monitoring the latest in both Ireland and the U.K.  I’ve also reached out personally to the Department of Agriculture to explain my situation and ask them for official advice but am still awaiting a reply. 

 In light of recent developments and after feeling the impact of lockdown on my own mental health, I’ve decided it was time to open the yard back up in a limited way. 

 The Irish government recently released a booklet about COVID-19 and ways to protect yourself from the pandemic. If you’d wish to read the booklet, it can be found here.

Barnes Equestrian: Lockdown Update
COVID-19 Poster

 

 My Aims

 It’s important for me to keep myself away from COVID-19 but as well, I want to encourage my clients to take lockdown seriously and only make essential journeys. 

 In many yards where DIY livery is involved, people are given that freedom to take care of their horse. My yard is full livery only, therefore the care of the horse is in my hands. 

 I also wanted to allow for mental health. Even though the horses here are on full livery, that doesn’t mean the owners are worry-free. In fact, being separated from their horses could place a lot of mental stress on people in an already stressful situation. 

 I wanted to take all of this into account. Barnes Equestrian: Lockdown Update will look at some options thought about and explore future options for the next steps in Irelands recovery from this pandemic.

 The Options

 There were options available to me other than an extension of lockdown. For this I also had to consider the number of visitors and timing. 

 Option 1, extend lockdown.

 This I did not want. Simple as that. 

 Option 2, staggered times. 

 The first option was to go back to time slots and staggered times. I had this before lockdown and it worked really well. I’m lucky in that I have a great set of clients who are sensible, realistic and respectful of each other as well as any rules in place. 

 The reason that I didn’t go for this is because primarily I’d have the bulk of the yard work done in the morning. Therefore visits would be an afternoon thing. 

 As well as me rotating turnout with the horses, I’d ideally have to make time between visits to disinfect and clean. Biosecurity is a priority with regards to this virus.

 With that time taken into consideration, I’d have to allow around 30 minutes between each visit for cleaning. Put into context – With 5 unique clients visiting the yard with a 2 hour window each and 30 minutes in between, that becomes 12 and a half hours. Even with Lady having left today (therefore one client down) we have that time down to 10 hours. 

 I personally felt that this, every day, would have been a lot and especially considering we’re reaching the peak of the spread of the virus, it would have been insane. 

 Option 3, alternate days. 

 Another alternative was to have alternate days where people share the weekdays. Again I felt that being on such a small premises during this time of essential travel only, that it was a little too much for this time. After all, I’m trying to achieve a balance between visitation and allowing myself to isolate and avoid the virus. I do however like this idea as a potential next step. 

 The only downside to this one is still that times will be assigned and kept strict. 

 Option 4, select days. 

 The last option I decided on was to assign days to individuals. This is the one I’ve chosen. 

 The reason for this is that it allows me to isolate and keep the yard under some form of lockdown while also allowing people to come up on their day and spend as much time as they want with their horse without the need to be rushed off for the next person visiting. 

 It allows people to relax while spending that quality time on the yard. It gives people something to look forward to in lockdown – a reward if you will. But most of all it encourages everybody to stay in lockdown and only make those essential journeys. 

Barnes Equestrian: Lockdown Update
Wash your hands!

 The Next Step

 The next steps as of now are unclear. Lockdown in Ireland was extended for 3 weeks until May 5th. What happens after that is at the mercy of the virus’ spread. 

 The one statistic that is only going to increase is the deaths. The challenge right now is to slow the spread of COVID-19 to limit its impact on the health service. More importantly to limit the impact on the limited ICU beds. In another 2 weeks towards the end of April, we’ll start to get a real idea of how the initial 2 weeks of lockdown in Ireland. Only then will we really start to see the picture of an established lockdown. 

 At the end of these 3 weeks we’ll either see lockdown extended once more (presumably for around 2 weeks) or we’ll see an ease of restrictions already in place. That doesn’t mean we’ll see them lifted, but eased. 

 I think the logical next step is to still promote essential journeys and social distancing but removing the 2km exercise limit. We may see more businesses and shops open their doors once more while bars and clubs stay closed. If this measure is taken on May 5th, it will be under constant scrutiny and may be reverted back to a lockdown of numbers begin to increase again. The future is volatile and all going well, this could last anywhere from 4-8 weeks. 

 In the longer term, past that, we’ll likely see essential travel lifted and social distancing pushed heavily. Again the numbers will be watched carefully and any increase will see us revert to the previous stage. Realistically I believe it’ll be the last quarter of the year before life resembles anything close to normal. 

Barnes Equestrian: Lockdown Update
Flatten the curve.

 What Does This Mean For The Yard?

 When lockdown is announced as over, I’ll look to open the yard up slowly in line with what the government do. The idea is a phased normalcy. 

 This means that initially I’ll likely adopt a policy of alternate days. As things ease I’ll go from that back to staggered times. Then if things improve to go back to normal, I’ll phase out staggered times and give freedom once more. I’ll likely push to still have clients announce rough times. This is solely to allow anyone wishing to be extra cautious a chance to be more careful themselves. 

 Precautions on the yard so far

 The yard is disinfected daily. All commonly touched surfaces and tools are wiped with Dettol disinfectant spray. All paths are disinfected with Jeyes Fluid. 

 Soap is available by the tap. Hand sanitiser, tissues and disposable gloves are all available at the sanitisation station in the hay shed. 

 Social distancing and good hygiene are enforced on all visitors and face-masks are advised while on the yard. I will supply face-masks when they are possible to purchase in bulk. 

 Everything listed in this article, Barnes Equestrian: Lockdown Update, is subject to change. We’re in a dynamic environment with a dynamic threat. I cannot afford to be static with plans of action. It’s in my interest to always try to represent the best interest of my clients. I do this as well considering their own and my own safety. 

 Scott Barnes

 Barnes Equestrian

 Follow Barnes Equestrian on Facebook to follow more of the day to day life posts from the yard!

 Disclaimer: I’m not a qualified dressage judge but the Dressage Judges Gala was open to both judges and Dressage enthusiasts.

Event Summary

 I was fortunate enough to attend the Dressage Judges Gala at Spruce Lodge Training Facility In county Wicklow. The galas focus was around judging freestyle to music. I must say it was a fascinating experience to gain insight from a rather unique perspective.

 Dressage Ireland were hosting the gala and at the podium to share her valuable experience was Jo Graham, BD List 1 and an FEI 4* dressage judge.

 The day itself was split into two halves – The morning and the afternoon.

The Morning

 In the morning a large crowd gathered for a presentation alongside some examples of freestyle tests to music. We got to look at the technical and creative sides of the freestyle tests.

 The examples were to express to us how much music can affect the pace being ridden. When you choose the correct music, it adds so much more to the overall expression of the test whereas with the wrong music you may find it hinders the performance of the horse.

 To delve further into this for now, we were shown several clips of various levels. In these clips, horses varied from expressive movement with lots of cadence to more flat movement with little in the way of expressiveness. What we were shown was that when using the correct music, even the flat mover can appear to be more expressive. Likewise with the wrong music, the flashy mover may suffer in the overall picture.

 The right music in freestyle tests is vital!

 The Afternoon

 In the afternoon section, we were treated to 3 volunteers who I believe were from Spruce Lodge – Sean, Joanne, and Belinda.

 Sean and his horse (Fig) were demonstrating a freestyle test at Novice level with some spectacular Phil Collins music. Joanne rode her horse (Cashmirs Hadina) to a more serious tone at Elementary with some impressive music that demanded all eyes in the building. Her choice in music put me in mind of something you’d see Totillas ride to. Finally Belinda stepped up to ride an Advanced Medium test on her horse (Galaxy Moone) to some very jazzy and fun music.

 As each rider rode their tests, we got to look at their required movements and judge their creativity. The rider was given the chance to take feedback on board and receive a valuable perspective from Jo herself as she explored our thoughts and voiced her own – alongside justification for all points of course! When judging dressage, it’s vital to be able to justify why you give the marks you do.

 The day was interesting. I was thankful for the opportunity to have attended it. Dressage judging is something I’ve been curious about but I haven’t actually taken any steps on a journey towards qualifications. It allowed me some great insight into how judges work and what they look for – Especially in a freestyle where both creative and technical marks are applied.

 So, now that my experience is done with, let’s get onto the tips! I’ve taken loads from the day and some of my favourite bits are as follows!

Tips

 In the following section, I’ll share with you some tips I learned from the day and I hope you’ll find them as interesting as I did!

Use Your Arena

 When designing the choreography for your test, consider symmetry. Are you leg yielding on the left rein across the whole arena and only doing it across half of the arena on the right rein? Change it. Are you doing 3 canters on the left rein and only 1 on the right? Change it. Your test needs to be balanced and symmetrical. It’s a common mistake that many people tend to not reflect both reins but judges notice symmetry.

 Use the whole arena. Don’t fall into the trap of only using bits of it. It’s a huge space so use it all! Balance curving lines such as loops and semi-circles with the straight lines such as long diagonals.

 In your choreography, remember to make it interesting. Transitions between and within paces go a long way to keep the attention of the judge.

 Finally, make every line you ride mean something. It’s a freestyle, use it to show off your strengths! Don’t aimlessly display a working canter from A, up the long side to C. Transition within the canter to a medium canter up the long side and transition back to working before the corner. Use the lines to show off!

Find One Pace Easy? Don’t Overuse It!

 If your horse has an effortless uphill canter, don’t feature it in the majority of your test. When it comes to choreography, it’s important to be able to show off the parts you’re good at but keeping them as features. Those parts should be a highlight and not used so much that the judge is left bored watching the test.

Link Your Movements Creatively and ride them clearly

 Riding movements clearly means that if you’re riding an extended trot, try to make it an obvious case of extended trot. You need some extended steps! It’s the same no matter what movement you ride, try to make it clear what it is.

 When you link movements creatively, this links back to your choreography. Keep it interesting. Don’t go for an extension into collection if your horse struggles with it but don’t shy away from stringing together moves that show off what you’re capable of. Creativity looks at what you ride, where you ride it, how you ride it and the degree of difficulty. Sometimes taking a chance can pay off.

Consider the degree of difficulty

 Calculated risk. This particular tip involves you to assess your horses ability alongside your own to pull off weaker moves. If you’re riding a horse who struggles with extension for example, you might not want to put much extension in your test as poor extension could bring your mark down.

 However, if you’re riding a freestyle test and can ride a harder move more than adequately, you may be able to bring up marks through repetition of the harder move. Reputation of harder moves, different lines and combining different moves (for example an extended trot to a halt) can bring up a score impressively if you’re able to pull them off. If you struggle to do so, avoid showcasing your combinations weaknesses.

 Fun fact! Everyone knows you get higher marks for riding difficult movements with one hand; But did you know you can only do this a maximum of 4 times in one test?

Music that enhances the image

 This years Dressage Judges Gala was focused particularly on freestyle to music. I’ve seen people attempt to compile a freestyle test and use one song or piece of music for the entirety of the test. No matter what their pace may have been, that song and it’s beat played throughout the walk, trot and canter phases. Think about the pace and even the pace within the pace. If you’re doing free walk on a long rein, make that music reflect that. Medium walk music should reflect the change in pace too.

 Also consider the overall picture. The choice of music should suit the horse and rider combination. What supports the picture and story you’re telling throughout your test? For example, the Steptoe and Son theme song music suits a cob more than it does Totilas.

 Remember, music can help the overall image of what you present in a test. The right music can enhance the weak movements and wrong music can hinder the strong movements. Consider this when choosing music.

More notes on music

 Music in your freestyle test should enhance the movements being ridden but not distract from them. Your music should enhance the movement being ridden. Changes in pace should be reflected in the music with a smooth, unjarring transition from one piece of music to another.

 Vocals may be used but if you have a choice between a vocal piece or an instrumental piece, consider whether or not one enhances your test over the other.

 It’s important to note as well, that your technical mark in a freestyle test may be adjusted if your transitions aren’t ridden in line with the music. If you’re still cantering when your trot music hits, you will see this reflected in the end scores.

Music pro-tip

 In a freestyle you have some flexibility in what you’re riding. If you’ve ridden slightly quicker or slower than the music and don’t want to be caught off guard for your transition; You may add a slight audio cue to remind you of where a transition is coming up.

 This could be bells, a chime of some sort or whatever you think fits. I’d recommend making it fit in with the style and tone of your music. If you struggle to remember transitional spots or have timed the pace to the music poorly, this may be a life saver.

Interesting points to note

 Question: What happens if the music fails to start?

 Answer: The judge has to use their own discretion in these events. If a rider signals for the music to begin and there appears to be a technical error, the judge has the right to use their discretion to determine whether a restart is acceptable or not. A delay of 5 or even 10 seconds may still not trigger a restart. The judge will consider the rider in the situation and also the horse. The judge should know that expecting a horse to stand waiting isn’t fair to the horse nor the rider.

 On the day of the gala, Jo Graham said riders should have a backup plan so that they aren’t standing there with their horse halted for too long. Ultimately there is no answer on this one really. It’s entirely up to the judges discretion. We as riders just have to be prepared and look after the horse we are on.

 Question: What happens if the music stops playing during my test?

 Answer: The judge will likely stop the test. All movements marked up to the point of the technical failure will be kept. After the judge stops the test and the failure is resolved, you will then be asked to ride the test from the beginning. This is mainly because it may be hard to find the exact place the music left off. It’s also allowing you and your horse a chance to get back into the swing of things.

 Once you reach the stage where your music stopped, the judging commences. By the end you will have ridden a complete test and have been scored fairly as though no interruption took place.

Summary

 I’m sure you can probably tell that I feel I learned a lot at the Dressage Judges Gala. I did. It gave me valuable insight into how dressage tests are judged and what the judges really look for. In freestyle, it’s easy to get caught up in wanting exciting music that we feel fits our story. One of the most important lessons I learned at the gala was to look at the bigger picture and to consider the image others see.

 Dressage isn’t like most equestrian sports. Dressage is an art. There is interpretation of our work. There’s technicality and creativity. There is freedom from the rider to be able to express themselves through the test – but it’s when you bring it altogether as one masterpiece that the magic happens. That magic is on show for others to interpret; to relate to and especially with freestyle, to form an emotional bond to.

 The Dressage Judges Gala was a great experience to view the sport of Dressage in a new light. I’ll definitely consider attending again next year.

 

 The Dressage Judges Gala was written by Scott Barnes of Barnes Equestrian.

A New Home

 

Some of you who may follow my Facebook page may be aware that recently I moved house and yard to a setup that will fit my own needs and wishes as an equestrian business owner. I’m settling down in a new place. In the midlands of Ireland. Just outside Mullingar.

At the new place, there is an arena, scenic roads for hacking, paddocks for turnout and plenty of room to build stables for my own personal use and for business use.

For now, Barnes Equestrian as a business yard is closed. Meanwhile freelancing services are still available.

 

The Future

 

In the coming weeks and potentially running into the next month or two, I will be setting up the facilities in such a way I wish to represent myself and my business. The biggest part of my plan is to build stables, a tack room and a hay shed. These will be fundamental to the future of Barnes Equestrian as a business and for myself and my livelihood. With that comes setting foundations and investing in extra pieces. Therefore I  not only wish to make the yard more functional but also more homely to anybody who may be keeping a horse there or visiting.

Even more than that, a lot of the work will be presentation. Maintaining and painting fences, setting fields into paddocks and adding other pieces that I feel will benefit the yard in the long term.

I’m really looking forward to setting out my vision for the premises and being able to reach out to you. I can’t wait to get it all done and dusted!

For now, I want to thank anyone who has read this and supported Barnes Equestrian along the way.

Happy riding folks! I’ll be around as I keep settling down in the new place and making the place my own!

 Settling Down was written by Scott Barnes

 Barnes Equestrian