Time to Train

March 3, 2020 12:42 pm by
Posted in Jayne Ross, News

After the festive period, a new year saw the full team return to the yard at Team Ross in early January. It’s all systems go and this month, Jayne gives us some insights into what the horses have been up to for the first month of the new decade.

‘A very happy 2020 to you all, both two legs and four. I can’t believe we are into a new year already; Christmas flew past for us. I spent some much-loved time with family, but it was back to work fairly swiftly. A couple of horses had a quiet festive week but other than Christmas Day and Boxing Day, the others all remained in work throughout. Once you’ve got them going, it’s important to maintain their routines, to keep it all established.

The horses who have been out in the field are starting to come in now, and they will begin by doing a couple of weeks just hacking. This helps them harden up – quite literally – to being back under tack, getting their skin used to having a girth back on. A couple of last year’s HOYS horses were collected on the first Monday of January (6th) or brought in from the field; including Church Rock Cashel, Casino and Chantilly Sandman who had their first ride of the year the same day. Once they are all back in we give them all an ‘MOT’, getting shoes put back on and having their teeth and backs checked over so that we start the season on a high, knowing as much as we can about each of the horses.

The second and third weeks of January also saw us ‘measuring’. From the age of four, all ponies, small riding horses, small and large hacks, lightweight and heavyweight cobs and small hunters have to be measured each year, ahead of their show registration in the spring. This practice must be done each year until the horse reaches seven-years-old, whereby it then reaches its full life height. Additionally, a different official measurer (vets must have a registered measuring pad to perform the task) must be used each time a horse is measured; you cannot go back to the same vet two years in a row. Sometimes it’s a question of finding the nearest practice to achieve this! In this instance, when we took three from Lucy Cameron’s to be measured at the beginning of the month, we picked them up from Lucy’s yard and took them to the nearest vets from there, before heading back to our yard with them, as we used the vet closest to us last year. The horses must be unshod for measurements, so if they have been shod for winter work, shoes must be taken off and feet prepared accordingly. Weight horses, i.e. the hunters and large riding horses, don’t have to be measured due to the fact they must exceed 158cm (circa 15.2hh). Interestingly, hacks heights were measured given their nature of their original jobs – as their name suggests, hacking to and from the meet and used for general park hacks – and therefore being able to get on and off them from the ground was an imperative scale of their measurements. There seems to be a quiet, yet general consensus of opinion that is quietly erring towards perhaps increasing the overall show heights, as over the years, rider’s heights have increased – certainly since the Joint Measurement Board was established in 1934. Food for thought and certainly a topic that we may well see discussed more in the coming years.

Our routine hasn’t altered much since the latter stages of last year, other than workloads increasing! Where before Christmas we were each riding a couple of horses every day, we’re now all riding more, and the team are all back working their regular hours again – I’m afraid that the holidays are well and truly over! We’ve currently got four full time members of staff, plus two part-timers who come in and out to help out where needed.

For the babies who were backed and out hacking during the latter stages of last year, they continue to hack and lunge and are going really nicely, not far off going out to a little dressage competition to have a ride around or even just to see the sights. They go into the school two or three times a week, then hack out once or twice a week, and then have a couple of days in the field. If they are going really well, the last thing you want to do is upset them by getting too regimented too soon. Each horse is so different, you have to read their routine according to their needs. The slightly spookier ones we tend to hack more, because the need to see the world as much as possible; it’s good for them to come across all sorts of weird and wonderful things rather than being too cosseted at home.

I never like to tie youngsters down when it comes to starting them off with bits and bridles, so I always begin them in a jointed snaffle such as a French link or lozenge – I dislike the nutcracker effect of an ordinary snaffle. We often put four-year-olds in the ring as novices in full cheek lozenge snaffle as they can help with steering – but I dislike Fulmers! I then use a running martingale to help them balance and carry themselves before they do anything else.

We’re also starting to clip now. Several of the youngsters we have were shown in-hand last year so are used to being trimmed. For those who haven’t done anything within a ring to date, they are introduced to the clippers quietly but soon become used to them, by the fact that they are used on the yard, the radio is on and there’s always some kind of noise in the background. The cobs in particular have to be completely unphased by clipping, as they are hogged every week or so during the season.

I’m very non-confrontational, both with my horses and in general, so when challenges arise with any youngsters which might affect their careers, one tries not to make an issue out of anything. By not reacting to their behaviour, they tend to give up. Quite often I’ll be in the school and stop if my phone rings, taking 15 or 20 minutes for the call. I walk and stand, walk and stand, repeating it for as long as I need, and that does them as much good as anything because they relax and get to realise that that is the norm. You never want to surprise a horse, so the more that goes on around them, the better. Our dogs are always out, running around like lunatics, but there’s no point shutting them away worrying that they’ll upset anything, because there are dogs all over the place at shows. Both my grandchildren and Bella’s two children run around the yard with their toy tractors and dolly prams but that’s life and comes as part and parcel of being a competition horse. This time of year is definitely a desensitising period! In fact, the worst thing we can possibly do at the moment is to bring one of the children’s ponies in from the field! All hell lets loose, with all of the horses running to their doors, banging and whinnying at the pony trying to chat to it! We’ve certainly got ourselves a yard full of characters!’