Perfect posture for that perfect ride – equestrian fitness starts with standing tall

“Stand up straight. Don’t hunch” …I don’t know about you, but as a teenager, my parents were constantly commenting on my posture. It bothered me at the time but now, as I am getting older (not old;), I am realizing the long term effects that could arise from having a poor stance. A few years ago, I started taking yoga classes – not just to improve my riding posture – but my every day posture and my core strength. Several daily simple exercises, combined with stretching, have made a big improvement for me on the ground and in the saddle.

In the current issue of Wellness magazine, I read a very interesting article written by Gina Allan about posture and how it affects us while riding:

Why Rider Fitness & Posture are so important

You pay attention to your horse’s fitness program, but as a rider, it’s also important to understand how vital your own fitness it. It is your responsibility to ensure you have good body awareness and posture when you ride, so when you initiate even the subtlest movement in your position, you will know and expect your horse’s response. Horses can’t achieve good balance and self-carriage if their riders are unable to maintain their own self-carriage. Proper posture and understanding the dynamics of your seat and back, and how they affect the horse, are essential.

Back health issues affect up to 90% of the population and 66% of those affected are between 20 and 50 years of age. Muscles that are too loose and weak, or too tight, cause 90% of muscular and skeletal injuries; therefore, it is best to ensure that your posture, core strength and back health are in good condition before you set foot in the stirrup. Most injuries are due to muscles that are too tight or inflexible, or that lack sufficient strength. Injuries can also be caused by a fixed or repetitive motion with inadequate rest, or muscles that have not been properly warmed up prior to a workout.

Stretching for Strength
First comes the stretch, then comes the strength. Muscles are technically stronger than bones and act as the body’s pulley system, maneuvering and affecting the bones. The muscles determine the shape the body will take, so if you slouch, your muscles will pull the bones into that position, eventually shortening the muscles creating the constant slouching position. Once we have adopted poor posture, any attempt to use the muscles correctly will likely feel wrong. It will take time to make shifts in the body’s patterning and muscle memory in order to change it back. It is by using this awareness and patience that we can restore muscle balance and reawaken our underused muscles, gradually coaxing them to work harder. The “too strong” and likely “too short” muscles need to stretch and relax a little so we can restore balance and maintain good posture. This will enable us to ride with balance, ease of movement and athletic grace.

Common Postural Concerns
1. The hunched or rounded upper back, known as “kyphosis”, is a common postural problem. It can inhibit breathing, interfere with digestion, and cause tremendous stress to the discs between the vertebral segments of the thoracic spine. All this offers little support to your equine partner and often results in pushing him onto the forehand. Stretching through the front chest muscles and strengthening the mid-upper back muscles can help correct this problem as long as the kyphosis is not too advanced.

2. Another common postural problem is a protruding belly, or “lordosis”. It may result from tight hip flexors and poor abdominal strength. Although the “potbelly” may not necessarily be caused by weak abdominal muscles, the forward tilt to your pelvis will likely block your horse through his back, disallowing the hind leg energy to travel through his body.

With good posture, you will remain connected to the saddle and to your horse’s back at all times. With your feet rested properly on the stirrups, you’ll most likely feel a greater, more consistent connection to your horse throughout your ride”.

So much to work on but there IS hope for all of us…and help in the form of some very good exercises! I will share some of Gina’s exercise suggestions with you later this month.

For now, it’s off to do a little daily yoga practice,
Until next time,
Robyn

“You sit like a soup sandwich” George Morris

Gina is an Equine Canada Certified Level II Hunter/Jumper Coach, a Level III Theory Coach, and is pursuing her Level III Dressage Coaching Certificate. Gina’s vast experience includes three years studying and riding with former Canadian Equestrian Jumper Coach, Frank Selinger in Alberta before moving to Pennsylvania where she trained with International Dressage Clinician and author, Paul Belasik.

On the fitness side, Gina is a BCRPA Certified Group and Third Age Fitness Instructor, a Yoga Instructor and a Specialist Instructor in Pilates. She graduated from Capilano University where she majored in Lifestyle Counselling and Kinesiology. She has worked with Doctors and Physiotherapists to develop specialty modules including Back Care and Posture Assessment.

For more information, visit Gina’s website at:
http://www.ginaallen.ca

“Bullet Proof – A Rider’s Guide to Killer Confidence in the Ring”

With just a few days away until the first horseshow of the season, I know my students are starting to get anxious and excited about getting into the horseshow ring! Sure, ribbons are great and it’s an amazing feeling when you end your show day on a positive note; however, in order to be successful, you need more than just the right horse or the right show attire. You need to be confident. We prepare all winter for the upcoming season: jumping courses, practicing lead changes, etc. but when show day comes, and the nerves set in…well, it sometimes seems like we may not be as prepared as we thought.

I came across an excellent article in the May 2017 issue of Horse Sport Magazine written by registered psychologist, April Clay which gives insight into how to BE confident and how to make your show experience the best it can be:

Bullet Proof
A Rider’s Guide to Killer Confidence in the Ring

“1. Understand this: Confidence is more than a feeling
When confidence is approached as a feeling, the way to change seems to be through willpower. You tell yourself to feel better, to buck up, to believe. It just doesn’t work. Your confidence is a set of beliefs you possess about your abilities; it is knowledge gained through experience. The feeling good part is simply a by-product of this new knowledge. Ask yourself what experiences you need to create for yourself in order to become a skilled rider. What kind of goals are you reaching for? Don’t get too hung up on feeling good; figure out ways to be good. Confidence is not a feeling, it is a “knowing” and the good news is you can grow your knowing!

2. Get ready for waves
Confidence is naturally variable. Confidence can be shaken. Even the most elite riders sometimes suffer doubt. This can come on the heels of an accident, or while trying to extend yourself to your next plateau of competence. If you are moving up a division, of course you will experience some doubt. If you are practicing more risk-taking, you will not feel a sense of certainty.
All doubt tells us is that something needs attending to. It sends a message that you are responsible for decoding. If you treat doubt as nothing more than an unpleasant feeling you have to avoid, then you are missing something – an opportunity to grow.

3. Talk to yourself
The tough part about negative thinking? We come by it naturally. It is part of our survival mechanism to look for potential problems. It’s called the “negativity bias” and unfortunately speaks to the way our brain is wired.
Sometimes you have to recognize how the negativity is trying to serve you, and look for a different way to get the same service! For example, “look out for that jump, your horse hates water” is your mind trying to warn you. Say ‘thank you for the warning,’ but turn your thinking into a solution: “stay straight, horse in front of leg, that’s how I ride to water.” Confident riders make sure their self-talk stays directive and productive. On the other hand, self-talk should not be so over-the-top gooey positive that it’s unrealistic. What you choose to say to yourself must be something you actually find believable. Otherwise you will activate that devil on your shoulder; you know, the one that wants to argue with you about why you’re oh so wrong. Instead of “I am the best rider in this class” try saying “I know I am prepared.”

4. Make a plan
The business of changing what you know about yourself as a rider entails action or experience. After an uncomfortable incident you can’t just pat yourself on the back and tell yourself to feel better. You need to lead yourself through the experience in a way that assures you that you can handle that situation and come up with a plan of coping and problem-solving. Find a way to work through the challenge and you will come out the other end a much stronger person.
A rider who becomes uncomfortable when asked to ride at faster speeds and take risks in a jump-off needs to define a path to that goal. What skills are needed? How might simulations of jump-offs be set up in order to provide greater rehearsal opportunities? Breaking the job down and knowing how it might be accomplished sets the task and the rider up for success. Experiencing the development of specific skills brings confidence in those skills in that setting. A confident rider is a good student of their sport; they know how to study.

5. Train for Adversity
You say you want to increase your confidence? Be careful what you wish for. Confidence-building may not always arise from pleasant circumstances. To be mentally tough, you have to learn how to have ‘good bad days.’ Every time something doesn’t go quite right in your training, this opportunity presents itself. You can either allow yourself to opt out – “I just don’t feel quite right today, better quit while I’m ahead”– or you can grab onto it and reap the rewards: “Sure, I don’t feel great today, but I am going to practice dealing with it because who knows how I might feel before my next performance.”
Janet, an amateur jumper rider, and her trainer decided to make sure they utilized the adverse circumstances life normally presents. Each time a challenging moment presented itself, one of them would say “that sucks, buckle up!” and then together they would devise a clear plan to deal with the challenge. Using humour helped Janet. “I liked the idea of our joint silly key phrase. It made tough times seem a little lighter and more like a normal thing to deal with instead of a huge deal, and the planning made it fixable and learnable. I never thought I could actually be tougher, but I think I am!”

6. Abandon Perfection
One of the greatest thieves of sport self-esteem is the habit of clinging stubbornly to the idea of perfection. Some people believe if they are not reaching for perfection, their goals are not high enough. The truth is, perfection is not a high goal, it’s an impossible one. There is no perfect performance – especially in horse sport, where your teammate comes supplied with their own set of variables. Horses can have off days, injuries, and most certainly a changing inner nature which makes each ride a unique conversation.
Accept that each performance you give will be different, and your job is to create the best you can with what you have on that day. Aim for excellence in your skills and learning to trust your instincts. This you can control.

7. Define your Brand
What is your confidence “brand”? Every athlete has an overall sense of confidence about their ability to perform in their sport, but there will always be strengths and weaknesses in that profile. That’s normal. You can, however, bolster your overall confidence by choosing an area of specialty. In other words, choose a skill that will really define you and go for it! Become known for possessing an area of expertise. Ian Millar, for example, is known for having a keen sense of direction and planning. George Morris is associated with discipline and consistency.
Having and developing a self-chosen superpower can help you get in touch with the rest of your confidence, especially in a pinch. For example: become an expert course walker, study equine body language, explore the history of equitation. Have fun creating your brand!”

I hope that by sharing this article with all of you, that perhaps your confidence, whether in the riding ring at home or at a horseshow, can get a little boost!

Until next time,
Robyn

April Clay is a Registered Psychologist with an independent practice located in Calgary, Alberta. Although she works with all kinds of athletes in her practice, April especially enjoys assisting equestrian athletes with their mental goals. She is a qualified member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and she is a regular contributor to numerous publications both locally and abroad. You can visit her main site at www.bodymindmotion.com and the online course site at www.outofyourmindcourses.com

You CAN lead a horse to a “Drinking Post” to save you time AND money

The trees are budding, the birds are chirping, the horses are shedding – spring has sprung! With spring on the farm, comes lots of work: from cleaning tack, harrowing paddocks, grass cutting, and tidying up the Foxwood horses and ponies after a long winter season. With so much to do, there never seems to be enough time in the day!

I like to think that I am fairly progressive when it comes to trying new methods of working around the farm and if I can implement something that is going to save me time AND money, why wouldn’t I try it?

In the fall of 2015, I read about a watering system for large animals that had originated in Western Canada, mainly for cattle, but was becoming popular at horse farms. If you’re familiar with how a frost-free yard hydrant works, then you already understand the concept of how the Drinking Post Waterer works; however, unlike a regular frost-free hydrant, the Drinking Post Waterer has some amazing differences:

Frost-free yard hydrants/drinking post waterers are installed to provide water to various locations on a farm during all seasons of the year. They are manufactured and installed in such a way that they will operate throughout the winter without freezing and because the water is coming up from below the frost line, the temperature remains at 50 degrees Fahrenheit year round. The main difference between the 2 systems is that to use a frost-free hydrant, you then need to have a trough. A trough that needs to have a heater installed in the winter time, to keep the water from freezing. And, a trough that needs to be cleaned and dumped out, especially in the summer, to avoid algae growth (not to mention standing water which increases the likelihood of mosquitoes).

About 10 years ago, when I had a new well drilled on the farm, I had frost free hydrants installed in 3 of our paddocks. At the time, I thought this was fantastic as it meant that I no longer had to drag hoses out from various tap locations and during the winter months, I simply had to put the heater in the trough and all was good…well, until a power outage when the heater would then stop working, causing the water to freeze within the trough. Or in the heat of the summer, if I happened to be away for the day, and the horses would drink the trough dry. As horse owners, we know that having fresh, clean water accessible to our horses all the time is important for their health so something needed to change.

I took that leap in November 2015 and purchased 1 Drinking Post Waterer from System Fencing. I was skeptical at first – not knowing if they would all drink from it. Many of my horses had been at barns in the past with automatic drinking systems in their stalls, but none of them had access to automatic outdoor systems. Leading one horse at a time up to the Drinking Post Waterer, I was amazed at how quickly each and every one of them learned how to work it.

To operate, a horse simply presses their nose on the paddle inside the bowl and as it fills with water, the horse can drink. When they are done drinking, the paddle is released and the remaining water drains down through the interior of the waterer and into the ground below. It’s simple and has so many benefits:

Constant cool, fresh water at 10 degrees Celsius or 50 degrees Fahrenheit, all the time. Horses will consume considerably more when at that temperature

Clean drinking water ALL THE TIME. No algae growth and no having to scrub out water troughs.

No standing water which equals no mosquitoes

AND cost savings due to no hydro requirements!

So, yesterday, I had my Drinking Post Waterer installer back to Foxwood. We put in 3 more drinking posts! One in every paddock so that now, I can rotate pastures in the summer without having to drag around the troughs to the hydrants. I no longer have to clean out algae, I don’t have to worry about water freezing in the winter…and with a decrease in my hydro bill this past winter, I can buy more crazy socks and saddle pads;)

Until next time,
Robyn

Horses, riding and finding that barn connection – a mother’s perspective

Over the years, I have had the joy of teaching many riders from a very young age, until they reach university. Many of them will return to visit during the summer months or will come back to ride once they are finished school. Just over a year ago, I met Alex. She wasn’t a beginner rider, nor was she the “typical” new Foxwood young rider. She was finishing up high school but wanted to get back into riding not only because she missed being around the horses but she wanted to learn how to jump. Given that she already had some riding knowledge, it was only a matter of a few lessons before she was on her way! Alex is very lucky in that her parents are very supportive of her riding and recently, her mom, Lisa, sent me a lovely note to share with me how important riding, horses and Foxwood are to her daughter:

“When I was young, I always loved to go and visit my cousins who owned horses, but I was never able to convince my parents to buy me a horse or pony. It was with great delight then, for me, that when my daughter, Alex was very young, I discovered that she also had a love for horses. My first memory is of a trip to the Kinmount Fair on Labour Day weekend near our cottage when Alex was maybe four or five. She pulled her Dad and me towards the section of the fairgrounds where all of the riders and horses were parked with their trailers getting ready for their shows. The first owner we spoke to had Clydesdales and Alex pulled us closer so that she could touch them, but then when we tried to get her to stand beside the horse to take a picture, she realized just how big he was and she got nervous. We never did get a picture, but the owner who had won several ribbons, gave Alex a first prize ribbon to hang on her wall at home. That clinched it. From that day on, her love and draw to horses was sealed. She began riding later that year or the next at a farm on our cottage road.

Over the years, we took her to various farms including riding with my cousin Iris in Sharon and later on out in Thornton where another friend rode. At this farm, Alex also belonged to the 4H club, but the owner did not teach jumping and after three years, we stopped going. Alex however did not stop thinking about horses and riding so when her friend Megan told her she was riding at Foxwood Farms, Alex went with her to check it out.

Soon after, Alex begged us to start riding again and I went to meet Robyn. We felt immediately at home being back at a barn, but it was more than that. Robyn and Alex had a connection through their love of horses and within a few months, Alex told us Robyn had asked her to be Head Camp Counsellor for that summer. Alex was already working as a lifeguard and swim instructor and had her first aid certification, so adding her love of horses to the mix, it was a perfect fit for her and we were overjoyed.

It’s hard to believe it has only been just over a year since Alex joined the Foxwood Family. It feels like Alex has found her second home and because Robyn is there, she will go to the farm whenever she gets a chance, but we don’t mind. We are happy that Alex has a place to do what she has always loved. Alex has grown her riding skills quite quickly and will be a member of the Foxwood Show team this year. Jumping and simply being at Foxwood has given her the confirmation that whatever she does for her future career, it will be with horses.

Foxwood is a place where not only can our children learn about and be around horses, it is also a place where they feel like they belong. We are thankful that Alex has found her way to the Foxwood Family. Thank you Robyn for being Foxwood!”
Lisa Paul

I’m so excited for Alex to show with our Foxwood show team this season! She has worked very hard to improve her riding skills and she has developed a great partnership with Maggie, the horse she will be showing. As to her future adventures, I know that whatever she does, she will be a success! (and maybe if she gets into vet school, one day, she’ll come back to Foxwood to be our vet;)

Until next time,
Robyn

Alex and her mom, Lisa, riding Fjord horses in Denmark

Alex in the fall of 2016 at Foxwood with Neo

Winter riding lessons at Foxwood

How to have happy teens? Let them horseback ride the stress away

Horseback riding. By definition, is the sport or activity of riding horses; however, for those of us who ride, we know that it is far more than just that. We all lead busy lives and barn time is time away from work, home and school stress – which, for teenagers, is an especially difficult time in life.

Who doesn’t remember the challenges that we faced in our teen years, whether it was getting good grades at school, being part of a socially accepted peer group, finding the right part time job or just getting along with our families. Today, teenagers face far more pressure than ever before. University admissions are increasingly competitive, which means students are constantly striving to earn top marks in order to get into their university of choice. And then, there is the stress of social media. Being perfect. All the time. Because everything is posted whether on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, etc. and everybody sees it. It’s an acceptance that many of us didn’t have to deal with but unfortunately, our children (and my students) do.

Stress causes many physical and emotional side effects such as headaches, gastrointestinal issues, anxiety, sleep and eating disorders and even suicide. So, how do WE – as parents/adults – help our teens reduce their stress levels? Studies have been shown that exercise is one of the best ways AND combined with the love of an animal, it’s a perfect match! I teach many teenagers – in fact, they currently make up the largest number of my riding students. Yes, they have fun when they are here, taking “selfies” with their horses as they groom, snap chatting silly moments in the barn BUT…once they enter the barn, taking on the responsibility of caring for their horse and then concentrating on riding, I can see the stress they may walk in with, disappear.

One of my adult students came across this article written by Ella Innes which gives insight into how horseback riding can help with teen stress:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2613211/Spending-time-horses-make-teenagers-stressed-study-reveals.html

So, if horseback riding CAN and DOES relieve the stress of your teen, why not let them give it a try? Who knows, they just might start putting in as much effort into cleaning their room as they do sweeping the barn or grooming their horse;)

Until next time,
Robyn

5 minutes…saving our horses one letter at a time

Slaughter. A term used for the killing of animals for food consumption. Pigs, cows, chickens, goats, and yes, horses – not just in Europe but here in Canada. In fact, Canada is a world leader in the production of horse meat with approximately 67,979 horses having been slaughtered in Canada in 2015.

I’m sure many of you are shocked to hear that our beloved pets and riding companions, can end up from paddock to plate but this business, very sadly is growing. Horse meat exports brought in $85 million last year, as per Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada with more than 12 million kilograms of the product being shipped. The majority of horse meat is still being sold and shipped to Europe but what has become most alarming in the last year is the increase of LIVE transportation of horses to Japan for sushi.

In Japan, “premium consumption,” a philosophy in which consumers do not mind spending large amounts of money on trendy products or services, is on the rise. The Japanese are embracing “members-only” clubs and resorts upwards of ¥355 billion ($4,176,200,000 CDN), up 13 percent from 2015. Horsemeat is increasing in popularity in Japan due in part to a boom in these exclusive and often secretive dining clubs.

Canada is the ONLY country that ships LIVE horses for slaughter.

Every year, approximately 7000 horses are transported by air from Canada to Japan. These shipments are often conducted weekly, with up to three to four large draft type horses crammed together in wooden crates. There is little room to move around, let alone lie down. No food or water is provided during the often 30+ hour journey overseas. Canadian legislation permits horses to be transported without food and water for up to 36 hours and sometimes, due to flight delays, the 36-hour period is breached.

Canadian legislation prohibits horses over 14 hands high to share a crate with other horses; however, the majority of horses being shipped to Japan are draft or draft crosses who exceed the height restriction.

They must be shipped individually if over 14 hands. Their heads must not touch the ceiling of the crate. They must not be deprived of food and water for any longer than 36 hours.

The law says all of the above things.

But for reasons of profit (up to $20,000 per horse shipped to Japan), Canada ignores the law.

I follow an amazing woman on Facebook. Her name is Dr. Judith Samson-French and she is a veterinarian who is based out of Western Canada. She advocates for ALL animals, sharing well informed articles, posting petitions to be signed and making the “average” person aware of situations such as the live transportation of horses to Japan. Below, is her Facebook post from today with a letter, for her Facebook followers, to address to Dr Cornelius F. Kiley, of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

In sharing all of the information with you on this blog, my hope is that you will copy, sign and email the letter (or write in your own words) to Dr. Kiley and perhaps, we just might help make a difference:

“Can you spare 5 minutes?

Please read the letter below, if you agree copy, sign and send away (email address at the bottom).
Thank you so much!

Attention: Dr Cornelius F. Kiley, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

I am writing to comment on the following: Amendments to Part XII of the Health of Animals Regulations, which pertain to the transport of animals, are now in the public comment phase in the Canada Gazette, Part I, Vol. 150, No. 49.

There are a number of concerns with the proposed regulations. Firstly no provisions have been made to prevent transport of animals in weather extremes. In Europe, transportation of animals is not allowed in weather extremes and trucks have to be temperature controlled. They are required to have on board ventilation systems. The proposed regulations do not deal with the issue of temperature extremes in Canada, and the kind of conditions (extreme Canadian cold and heat) that it is inhumane to transport animals in.

Secondly, the length of time of animal transports is still a concern. While there has been a proposed reduction in the times animals can be transported without food and water, it is still 28 hours in the case of horses and pigs. Considering the clock is re-set to zero when shipments of animals leave Canadian borders, slightly reduced Canadian travelling times will not make any difference to the actual travelling times between countries. For example , there will still be horse shipments to Japan from Alberta that are approximately 30 hours long from the time of loading at feedlots until arrival and unloading in Japan (longer if there are flight delays). Numerous studies have shown that horse health and welfare deteriorates significantly after 8 – 12 hours of travel without rest (for example the European Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Welfare (SCAHAW) and Stevenson: ”Long Distance Animal Transport in Europe. A cruel and unnecessary trade”2008).

Another concern with the live draft horse shipments is that horses are not being segregated currently, and I believe under the new regulations there will no longer be any requirement to segregate horses over 14 hands high. According to veterinarians, this practice of loading multiple horses into crates, while obviously cost effective and financially beneficial to the exporter, is detrimental to horse welfare in airplanes. From FOIP documents it is apparent that horses in the live shipments frequently go down during takeoff and landing, and with multiple horses in crates there is greater potential for injury if they are not segregated or no divider is used.

Another regulation that should be kept, not eliminated, in the horse shipments is the regulation requiring sufficient head space for horses, especially considering the fact that they will be standing in one position in the same wooden crate for approximately 24 hours (from the time they are first loaded into the crates until they are unloaded in Japan). It would be inhumane to have the heads of taller horses bent in unnatural position the entire 24 hours.

I am unclear as to how things will be improved for animals with the new transport regulations, and in fact with proposed removal of some of the existing regulations (segregation and head clearance) designed to protect horses during live horse shipments to Japan, the situation could become even worse for these animals. If Canada is going to make changes to animal transport laws, please ensure that they make significant improvements to animal welfare instead of maximized profits for exporters and producers.

Thank you.
Sincerely,
YOUR name here, address & phone number
email to: animaltransportanimaux@inspection.gc.ca
and you can cc: lawrence.macaulay@parl.gc.ca
PM@pm.gc.ca ”

“Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

And it only takes 5 minutes,

Until next time,
Robyn

PS – you can also make a difference by emailing Atlas Air, the American company that provides the majority of the horse transportation from Canada to Japan:

Peter Beckett Senior Director Charter Sales and Marketing Email: peter.beckett@atlasair.com

And signing the petition at Change.org
https://www.change.org/p/richard-broekman-staff-vice-president-commercial-development-and-charter-sales-email-richard-broekm-peter-beckett-senior-director-charter-sales-and-marketing-email-peter-beckett-atlasair-com-jo-ask-atlas-air-to-end-the-shipment-of-live-horses-f?recruiter=309243881&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share_email_res

Horses enroute from Canada to Japan

Horses enroute from Canada to Japan

Happy New Year! We’re looking for a “green one”, what about you?

The New Year is almost here! What are some of YOUR New Year’s resolutions? Ride more? Keep your tack cleaner? Spend more time grooming your horse?

At Foxwood, we not only care about improving the skills of our riders and the conditions for our horses, but also the environment that surrounds us.

Explore Lake Simcoe article written by Aileen MacMillan – December 2016:

“In close proximity to the GTA, Foxwood Farm offers English riding lessons, summer camp and boarding. Boasting an indoor arena, a heated tack room, an outdoor grass ring, a jump cross country course, a sand ring and renovated barn, the farm also has access to 100 acres of groomed trails. Camps are offered on both full and half day schedules, and lessons are available year-round.

The design of this farm maximizes the use of outdoor space, which allows the horses to live in their natural habitat. Horses bed on straw—a practice that has environmental benefits —and they are on full outdoor turnout between the end of April and mid-November (weather permitting). Sixteen horses are kept inside at night while the remainder live outside, with access to shelter and plenty of room to wander.

At Foxwood, the use of straw bedding means that (in combination with manure) it decomposes much more quickly than commonly-used wood shavings, thus making it attractive to local farmers for compost. Recently-implemented farm practices that have an environmental benefit include the installation of an automatic drinking post that allow the horses to press a lever and get unlimited access to water. This eliminates the need to heat water to prevent freezing, it also eliminates standing water and conserves water. Robyn of Foxwood will be purchasing more of these drinking posts in 2017. The introduction of compressed MAXX feeding cubes has reduced hay waste and saved the farm money (while also reducing transportation costs and therefore GHGs).

Since the farm is on a septic system, camps and riding lesson participants use water-efficient portable washrooms. Riders are encouraged to bring their own refillable water containers whenever possible. Recycling is collected in the barn, but participants can help out by bringing reusable snack containers and separating recyclables properly while at the farm. Lights have been upgraded to accommodate highly efficient LED bulbs and sensors are installed on outdoor lights.

Foxwood Farm is located on 13th line in Gilford- perfectly situated between the GTA and cottage country.”

Many thanks to Explore Lake Simcoe for visiting our farm and recognizing our “green” contributions:) We look forward to implementing more changes in 2017!

Happy New Year to all!

Until next time,
Robyn

http://www.explorelakesimcoe.com/2016/12/29/learn-horses-nature-foxwood-farm/

Hey! Hay! Farm life made easier with the help of MAAAX cubes!

Life is busy. For everyone but especially on a farm where there is property to maintain, animals to tend to, and daily chores that can take up many hours of the day.

I have lived on my 25 acre farm for just over 18 years and each year, I try to make some sort of improvement that makes my farm life a little easier. Whether it’s a new lawnmower, with a larger cutting deck that reduces my time mowing; to outdoor run-in sheds to allow for more horses to live outside (creating fewer stalls to muck), etc., if there is a way to save time without sacrificing care and quality, every extra minute counts!

This summer, due to the drier weather conditions, the local farmers had to increase their hay prices – and substantially! When I first moved to the farm in 1998, I was paying $2.00 for a square bale of hay and $25 for a round bale. Jump forward to 2016, and square bale prices have escalated to $5.75 – $6.50/ bale and rounds to $55-75 (with a 20% increase from 2015 to 2016).

We can’t blame the farmers for Mother Nature but as a business owner, I knew that I had to make some decisions and I started to inquire about switching over from small squares to MAAAX cubes. I had heard about this product at the 2015 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto and even had a few sample bags that we had fed as treats. Some of the information I learned during my research about MAAAX cubes was very positive: there would be less waste, the quality was always excellent with no dust (good for horses that have breathing difficulties and/or who were older) and deliveries could be made YEAR ROUND! This would mean no more 38 degree, blazing hot, “hay days” in June or July and no more sore backs after unloading 1500 bales. Not to mention that Ian Miller, long time Canadian equestrian, feeds them to his horses;)

So, it all sounded great to me; however, I was still a little apprehensive to make the switch until I met with the sales representative for my area, to answer my questions: Would my horses actually eat them? Could they choke on them? How much do I feed to meet the equivalent of what I was feeding in flakes? And my business owner question…how much would they cost to feed?

The feeding issue wasn’t a problem. With the representative on site, I watched my horses and ponies happily munch on these timothy/alfalfa cubes and because they are processed as “long fibre”, the chewing time took much longer than I thought which kept the horses eating for a longer period of time. As for quantity to feed, the cubes are packaged in 50 lb bags but because the product is compressed, an average size horse at 1000 lbs would consume (at 10 lbs or 1% of his/her weight per day), approximately 1 MAAAX cube bag every 5 days. Now, I am still keeping my large round bales for outside use, so given that the cubes are going to be fed mainly when the horses are inside, the quantity per horse many be a bit less. Given this calculation, and the cost of the cubes, I would be SAVING money!

Better, more consistent quality; year round delivery with multiple payment options AND cost savings…the decision to switch from small square hay bales to MAAAX hay cubes couldn’t have been easier!

We are now in December and we have been feeding MAAAX cubes for many months. My horses and ponies all look healthy, well fed and they are going into the cold months of winter with a little extra weight, thanks to the quality of MAAAX cubes. I’m happy that not only am I feeding a good product but that my costs are consistent and I can budget accordingly. Oh, and the extra bonus? No more “hay days” of summer which might just give me time to ride;)

Until next time,
Robyn

THIS is how hay should be delivered!

That fantastic “Foxwood Feeling” of summer!

Here it is, the beginning of September and I haven’t posted all summer! I have every intention of keeping this blog up to date with news around the farm, interesting horse/rider articles, etc. but somehow, farm life gets too busy that the writing has to wait until I have some down time – and the only time that happens is when I can go away!

It was the busiest summer, EVER, at Foxwood Farm:

Our summer camp started the first week of July with our CIT program. Kelsey, Charlotte, Martina and Paige all helped out with getting the tack clean, the ponies schooled, the crafts set up and the games prepared. Once camp officially started the week of July 11, we were all set.

Over the course of 5 weeks, our campers experienced sessions that were filled with riding (of course;), stable management, horsemanship demonstrations, and several visits from special guests. I think one of the guest highlights was in week 3 and 5 when Wendy Eagle from Wellspring Equine, brought her miniature horse and her filly to Foxwood. The campers asked questions and then got to groom both minis as well as drive the older miniature horse. I know that we all would love to see them again next summer!

Despite the scorching heat of the summer, my staff kept their cool – thanks to fun water game, freezies and popsicles for everyone – and we had a great time. Many thanks to my camp staff for all of their hard work: Alex, Kaitlyn, Kaleene, Jessica, Jamie, Megan, Jacklyn, Emily, Grace, Charlotte, Kelsey, Paige, Martina and Kaela.

Along with camp this summer, weekly evening lessons were offered to adult riders, as well as novice-advanced riders. Many of these riders were on our show team and lessons were used for schooling our horses and working on our equitation skills. Many lucky Foxwood students had the opportunity to spend lesson time riding in our cross country course – doing interval training, as well as jumping our welcoming cross country jumps. We will be setting a date, shortly, to build some new cross country jumps this fall with the hopes of offering a mini event (dressage, cross country and stadium jumping) in the spring of 2017 to our intermediate and advanced riders.

With one horse show left for 2016, I am thrilled at how well both of our show teams performed this summer! Our Bronze series team, consisting of Jacklyn (Lily), Emily (Jane), Lindsey (India) and Elizabeth (Sera) participated in 5 shows in the Lord Simcoe series, which were held at the Essa Agriplex in Barrie. From the start of the season, I watched all riders form great partnerships with their horses. There was stiff competition with ‘A’ and Trillium circuit riders using this series for their own schooling purposes and our riders rode up to the challenge. Our final show of the season was at the Barrie Fair on August 25th and I was very proud of our day and placings. We will be celebrating the season at the Lord Simcoe series year end banquet in October.

Our Everett schooling series show team have proven to be strong and very competitive this year with at least 2 Champions and 2 Reserve Champions at every show! We have one Everett show left to compete at on September 18th and then our banquet with the Essa Equestrians Club will be in November. There are many new show riders in this group for the season, along with Foxwood riders who have moved up divisions or switched horses, and I am thrilled with our results.

Our team success would not be possible without the help from our grooms, Charlotte and Taylor, along with help on show days from parents, family members and Foxwood friends.

It’s been a incredible summer and now on to a busy fall at Foxwood…stay tuned for more postings on what exciting events we have coming up, starting with our Fall Session which kicks off this Saturday, September 10th!

Until next time,
Robyn

ps. – hope you enjoy our Fantastic “Foxwood Feeling” movie of summer!

Equine Canada Level 2 Coach, Ally Sillers, is now coaching at Foxwood!

With the change in seasons (even though it is still feeling like winter!), comes a change in the barn with the arrival of an amazing new instructor! As many of you know, I am currently working on obtaining my Equine Canada coaching certification and I met with Ally Sillers last year to discuss the steps I needed to take in order to accomplish this. At the time, I asked Ally if she would be available and interested in doing the EC Rider level evaluations for my students who were taking part in our monthly OEF horsemanship program. We have been keeping in touch over the winter to determine some testing times for both me and my students and I was elated to learn that she was available this spring to coach here. What an incredible opportunity, not only for me to learn from her, but also for all of my students – not just the ones who are testing for their Equine Canada Rider levels.

Ally Sillers is an Equine Canada certified Level 2 Coach, with over 40yrs teaching experience. While living in New Brunswick, Ally ran the Rothesay, Kennebecasis and Fredericton Pony Clubs from 1985 until 2000 before starting her own riding school, Callander Hall. She has taught beginner to advanced students, who have ranged in age from 4 to 70 years old. Ally has had students win provincial championships in dressage, hunter/jumper and eventing – and one of her students, Kara Grant from Prince Edward Island, took part in 2 Olympic Games, competing in pentathalon. In addition to great riding accomplishments, many of Ally’s students have gone on to become veterinarians, farriers and part-time coaches.

Ally is a National Evaluator for the Equine Canada Coaching program and also tests for the EC Learn to Ride program for Rider Levels 1-8. She is a facilitator for the Equestrian Theory Course and has prepared over 20 successful candidates for the Instructor of Beginner Coaching Evaluation. She has a love and interest to pass on her extensive knowledge and to promote the coaching program and was the coaching coordinator for the province of New Brunswick for 5 years.

In 2014, Ally moved back to Toronto for family reasons and currently coaches at the following barns in Ontario: York Equestrian, Waterstone Estates , Gimcrack and now Foxwood Farm:)

“I have been lucky enough to make a career out of my passion” –
and Foxwood is very lucky to have you, Ally! We’re looking forward to the great lessons and the learning opportunities!

Until next time,
Robyn

Check out the latest video of Ally teaching at Foxwood:

We are thrilled to have Ally and her incredible knowledge at Foxwood!

We are thrilled to have Ally and her incredible knowledge at Foxwood!