Breaking your horse

Nothing can prepare you for the challenge of starting your own horse. This may be your first time or your one hundredth time, and one thing you can count on is that every horse will be different.
In this series of blogs we will explain the process our horses go through to help them become fully working animals, that enjoy their job, the rewards of work and who will carefully look after their rider.
Hazel during her training

Teaching Sandy
Training Sandy on the long reins
The most basic thing you will need to understand is that the horse needs to feel safe and have trust in those working with it. If you can establish this through kindness and patience, the horse will follow your lead, hopefully reacting to new stressful situations positively and carefully, rather than explosively or negatively, causing hurt to itself and those working with the horse.
We have been lucky to own a few of our horses from weaning, but some have come to us literally straight from the fields or mountains, where they have spent 3 years roaming the pasture wild, with little or no human contact.  As you can imagine being transported to a new world can be frightening and upsetting for these animals. First job upon arrival is to get a head collar on them with as little fuss as possble. This is important so that we can control the horse safely. It can be a huge test for a wild horse, but with a little kindness, quietness, calm reassurance the collar is on and they can be unloaded from the trailer, and lead to their new home. A clean fresh stable, clean straw and lots of food to nibble on will help them recover from the upset of transportation. It is also a good idea for there to be a friendly neighbour available to keep them company throughout the first night.
So you have managed to safely deposit your new unbroken wild horse into its stable and by now I’m sure you are questioning you sanity! Yes there will be days when you will wonder what have you started. Be confident, be patient, be kind…. Best thing you can do now, is to leave your new horse to settle into its home.
Part one of Breaking a horse will conclude here. Part two will deal with socialsing a horse to our touch and grooming.
There will be regular updates to this blog so please feel free to keep checking in with us. If there is a particular topic you would like us to cover please email or like and follow us on Facebook.
For some more useful tips on breaking a horse visit   There is some great tips on getting a horse to trust you.

Helmets, Gravity, and Human Superiority.

Nice little blog about wearing your helmet around horses

Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog

Leslie and AndanteAugust 1st is International Helmet Awareness Day. It’s the day Riders4Helmets started, in the wake of US Olympian Courtney King-Dye’s traumatic brain injury, to raise awareness and promote equestrian helmet use. Helmet retailers join in by giving discounts and tomorrow is the day.

This is the fifth year and every year I write about helmets because it’s so important. Every year, I repeat statistics like this: Equestrians are 20x more likely to sustain an injury than a motorcycle rider or that speed makes no difference. Many brain injuries happen while mounting. Last year I wrote about nearly getting in a bar fight on the topic. Previously, I wrote about a woman I met in a nursing home who haunts me still; she’s living my biggest personal fear. Every year riders who wear helmets cheer this day. Preaching to the choir is easy–and the other side is dug in and…

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Tattersalls International Horse Trials And Country Fair

Tattersalls International Horse Trials & Country Fair

We were lucky enough to win some tickets for a day out to Tattersalls International Horse Trials & Country Fair. I must start off by thanking for the opportunity. We had never visited Tattersalls before and it was an amazing day. Here is just some of the action we captured on our mobiles. We were honestly enjoying ourselves so much that we didn’t want to spend too much time turning it into a work day out.

We started our journey very early on the Saturday morning. Kids shipped off, picnics packed, rain gear just in case… It is Ireland after all. After a few hiccups, someone’s alarm not going off, we managed to arrive safe and sound.

Tattersalls is a wonderful venue, good helpful staff, easy to access, great facilities and plenty of places for viewing the action. It is well worth the time and effort and we would recommend that you should go at least once.

We didn’t check out the shopping village mainly because we were too excited and wanted to spend our time taking in the course and watching the riders. Our wallets thanked us. Me let loose on a horse shop is never going to end well.

While it is a great day out, I did find that even the best of us eventually need a break and no better place than the green green grass.

Break time
James taking a break

Here are some links to pages and websites with more photos:

1. Tattersalls

2. EquusPics Photography

So we end our day satisfied and now on Monday we are suffering withdrawal symptoms.  Well done to everyone involved, and congratulations to all the competitors.

Introducing a horse to traffic

Sierra is a 2010, Irish Sports Horse, 16.2, green numnah in video.

She as backed before Christmas 2014, given time off due to horrible weather and for good behaviour. She has been back in work since February and continues to go from strength to strength.

This video is a good example of what we do with horses that need to be introduced to heavier traffic. Sierra has been hacked out on smaller lanes, with little traffic but varying vehicle sizes.

We placed her second in the group behind a calm, forward going relaxed horse. Behind her is Rocky a horse she is regularly worked with and Midnight, the most dependable horse. Starlights job is to guide her, keep her going forward as he can match her pace. Rocky is there for security and comfort while Midnight is the rear guard. If there is any trouble he come from behind her and urges her on.

Starlight is ridden a bit further out on the road than usual so that if there is any issue with Sierra, like her shooting forward when frightened, Starlight can cut her off and keep her behind him in her place.

I hope you enjoy watching our video. We regularly update to our Facebook page.

Backing a horse

Samson is an 18h 3 year old Irish Sports Horse. We are continuing to record his progress during his breaking.

Samson has proved to be a very easygoing, trusting horse which considering his size is a blessing. I would not fancy having a battle of wills with this guy. He accepted the bit and the saddle with minimal fuss.

This video records Samson’s first time being backed by a rider. How we do this is we have the rider lay across his back and walk in little circles to familiarise the animal with what we want him to do. It can get hairy at this point, and not all backings are as plain sailing as this was, but it helps when the horse is so trusting.

You must do everything possible to make the horse feel comfortable. We achieve this by petting, brushing, scratching and leaning into them. Each time he reacts positively to a new task or touch he gets praised. Dont be afraid to praise and reward when he is good. By doing this we hope that trust is built and he will react well to pressure on his back.

Gather yourself, slow your heart rate, relax but always remain aware, for laying across any horse for the first time can be unpredictable. Never attempt this on your own. You must allow the horse to react even negatively, remain in control of horse, rider and yourself. Never react loudly or negatively, but always reinforce the positive. This is where time spent in the stable grooming and socialising with the animal is extremely beneficial. He will know if he reacts well, that he will be rewarded. Each time we do this it is different for each horse. You have to be able to judge when to call it quits, or when to persevere. If its not working out for you, never be afraid to call it a day. Try doing something you know the horse is comfortable with, ask him to perform that task, reward him if he does it right. Always end the day on a good note. Tomorrow is another day.

This is video of Samson being backed for the first time. It is only a little snippet of what we do. When backing we will repeat the action up to 5 times depending on how well the horse reacts to the first initially backing.

Be sure to like and follow Cooper’s Hill on Facebook for regular updates.

There will be more video of Samson’s progress posted.

Giving Thanks

My IRH Skullcap
My IRH Skullcap

Its amazing how quickly you hear about a bad experience and all too often we forget to stop and give thanks to those who provide a good experience, product or service. The good can sometimes be overshadowed by the less savoury side of life. Today I would like to thank IRH for providing such stirling helmets that no doubt saved my life.
I have been in a few scraps throughout my life. I played international rugby for my country, have ridden horses all my life, I have taken part in the usual daredevil antics of youth, but never before have I been moved to actually transcribe any of those experiences. Those hours spent staring at a bland ceiling clears the brain and makes you sit up, excuse the pun, and take stock of your life. I feel it is something that I need to say, and to express my heartfelt gratitude that I am here to tell my story.
This is my account.
March 13th 2015, an exceptional Friday, as the day was almost like a summer’s day, arriving at the tail end of some wet and wild wintery days. I had no idea how this day was about to unfold nor did I know how grateful I would be for purchasing of an International Riding helmet.
Most of the animals that I ride are my own Irish Sport Horses, very athletic and very capable. The day in question my mount was a 17hh ISH. A super chap who had won the Novice Western Ireland division cross country, on this very ground a year previous. Today he was only a wet week in off grass after his winter holidays.
As my mount warmed up I felt he was not as confident at his obstacles as I had remembered and it was somewhat frustrating to send him in to inferior obstacles by his standard and have him refuse to jump. I was bitterly disappointed. I remembered the horse he was before his time off, remembered all the highs of competing in cross country, and show jumping, out hunting with our local pack.
I wish I had the words of my dad in my head as I started the cross country course. He, being a very wise horse man would have said; “cool your jets – to much too soon.”
We started well but on the fifth fence I had another refusal. I thought this was unacceptable so I made a second approach. Somewhere in the middle of the jump I got too far forward of the saddle became unseated and my head was hurled from a height of 9 foot, nine yards from the jump. The crown of my head contacted the surface first and instantly my life changed.
Anyone who knows me knows how “hard” I am. I have taken falls over the years to get up dust off and remount and continue with my day. I played rugby for my country so I know what a hit can do to your body. I was speared into the ground with nothing to break my fall but my helmet. As I lay on the ground I knew this hit was very different. I had lost the power in my right hand and had pins and needles in the whole arm down to the tips of my fingers. I knew I was in serious trouble. I am an Exercise Physiologist by profession and I knew that this was the most serious hit I had ever taken. An ambulance was called to take me to the emergency room for assessment. Until then I had to lie still. I wasn’t hopeful. I didn’t get up from this one and I was not about to try.
A good friend Martin was riding with me that day, a trainee Paramedic almost fully certified, he cradled my head and informed emergency services of my predicament. The team arrived with spinal board where I remained for the next five hours. In the Emergency Room medical staff came to my aid taking x-rays and conducting physical exams. As I waited anxiously I made all sorts of personal promises to do this, to do that, and to never do the other again if I get out of this predicament.
The hours with no movement on the spinal board seemed like an eternity. I could not see what was going on in the ER all I was staring at was the ceiling of the ER department. But I heard some words that I could not believe. I heard the words “the fellow that took the horse fall his x-rays are all clear, he’s fine“. I didn’t

believe it, I couldn’t! I waited for a doctor to tell me the news. He said; “its good news everything is fine“. To say I was relieved is an understatement. I didn’t wait another second I sat up after being unlashed from the mounts that were keeping me stable and proceed to remove the IV from my arm. I was groggy and very sore but I took a look towards the man above and said “I will take a bit of pain over a broken neck any day of the week“.
How does a 260 lb man get fired 27 feet to land on his head from a height of 9 feet and survive. I did so because I spared no expense when buying an International Riding Helmet and it was this wise choice that saved my life. I would like to thank IRH, as I get teary eyed and emotional while writing this, for producing a lifesaving piece of equipment that is allowing me to write this letter of gratitude. Thank God for your excellent work. I am standing again and reordering the very same helmet that saved my life.

Keep up Gods work. Thank you!

Cooper's Hill Livery
My IRH Helmet
My IRH Helmet
My IRH Helmet

Grallagh Harriers in Moyvilla

Foxhunting in Ireland

Grallagh Harriers
Moyvilla January 2015

 It was a promising start to the morning as the heavy showers abated. Two  of Coopers Hill horses and riders were to hunt at the Moyvilla meet. It is  popular meet every season, as it brings out the best in the Huntsman and  Master David Burke. I guess everyone has their favourite meet for their own  reasons. I am still forming opinions on which hunt on our card is best but,  Moyvilla would be among my favourites.

Grallagh Harriers
The field

As we drove up to the meet, the skies were clearing nicely with the air  temperature considerably cooler than previous days. Coopers Hill had a  first time hunt participant from North America, a Canadian to be more  precise. Andrea Ypma, was exceptionally excited to be part of the foot  followers. She had just arrived in Ireland two days previously for three  long weeks of immersing herself in the Irish Hunting culture with us at  Coopers Hill Livery. The wall builder was tasked with the very  important job of escorting Andrea to all the finest places to watch the  fox bolt and view some of the horses jump walls.

When all the pleasantries and New Years greetings were bid to each and every member, followers and staff, the Master then made for the first cover. It was no more than 200 yards from the parking area. The hounds were putting in a good effort at Tommy Ford’s covert.
The master pushed the hounds to find, encouraging them to do their level best. There was no result even with all the extra persuasion. Nothing to bolt in this covert. The next option was to move on and head to a new covert about a mile away heading north east to the Moyvilla castle, negotiating an upward jump out on to the road landing in the grass margin before gingerly moving onto the asphalt. All riders and horses got out onto the road and a nice hack ensued to the turn into Ray Bohan’s and onto the Moyvilla castle covert.

The hounds were screaming inside the covert there was a considerable amount of tongue. We suspected there was more than one fox in the covert. The foxes set inside, out of view, but now moving by the sound of the direction of the hounds tongue. It’s a brace hollered one of the riders. The hounds were about to split. The shout of “leave it” was promptly verbalised in order to prevent what seemed like an inevitability, a split pack, and this shout kept the pack together on the most favourable scent. The fox then bolted. Pandemonium ensued and the hounds were off, quick on his tail. “Come along“was the call of the moment, uttered by more than one of the field and by the master. I suspected the field was seeing the action unfold from the bluff on the north side of the castle as the fox first headed west to the railway lines of the Dublin Galway train. The master played a blinder in turning the fox east and preventing him from crossing tracks and ending our chase. The fox doubled back heading east and later west again. Fearing the wrath of the master and his hounds in pursuit, the fox promptly made a swift swing north east to avoid the pack. This very healthy, quick Charlie with the hounds in toe was making good sport of the chase with stone walls coming into view in rapid succession. Wall after wall at a full gallop the field was getting strung out. I was in the field giving chase when there was a stopper at one of the walls.

Seamus ISH foxhunting
Seamus, 17.2 ISH, foxhunting

  Heels down, I burst through on my ISH, Seamus, and helped the field     continue; only taking a check at a sharp bend and steading at walls in     order to hit the sweet spot when traversing the obstacles of Moyvilla       country. The fox by now had turned north east and ran from Paddy         Fords farm yard back to the covert in Tommy Ford’s field where the         Master marked the den that Charlie entered. I was astonished with the   speed of the hounds and fox. I was in awe of the masters skills in           preventing the fox from putting the field and hounds in danger by           turning Charlie back from the train tracks, bravo Master Burke.
Once marked, Master Burke gathered all his hounds, took a headcount and congratulated some of his hounds by name. Preacher and Prancer were praised. Not even an hour in and we had some fantastic sport. The day was panning out to be one for the record books.

Darcy foxhunting with the Grallagh Harriers

We again jumped out onto the road and headed back to the castle. Within ten minutes the hounds had bolted the second fox which had returned to the covert after the brace earlier. This time we chased hard but this fox did not turn back from the railway tracks. Charlie headed for a covert the far side of the railway tracks in Hughie Higgen’s covert. It seemed only like minutes before the hounds found again. Another brace, calls from both sides of the covert. One of the calls would allow for more sport. The master was on to the better call, but our progress was hampered by young cattle getting involved in the proceedings so care had to be foremost in our minds. We had to walk until we were clear of the herd. The hounds were swiftly on the way and out of sight by now on to the next covert about three hundred yards away with six walls to be negotiated, each one stronger than the next. I had hardly time to catch my breath. The record books will tout this day, a day full of sport for huntsman hound and field. This was a glorious and exciting day for one and all, with hardly a moment to catch up and socialise with friends in the field as we were constantly on the move. We were off again, drops, hedges, ploughed fields, mud and rock, it didn’t matter. Some shoes were lost but still hunting- bulls in fields, wire fences- there was nothing to stop these hounds this day.
The hounds found again near Sean Keane’s and quickly chased for the Derrydonnell forest. There was a national road between both points and there was no way to cut the hounds off. Master Burke was on Charlie’s tail and he did his best to prevent any harm coming to the hounds and road users alike. The pace of this hunt was frantic, everyone was all a bustle to give chase. We had jumped five or six strong double and triple wide stone walls. Horses were failing under the strain as they had to negotiate a nice four foot drop from the main road into the forestry property in order to give chase. Master Burke explained; “I am not about to spend the afternoon in the woods I have called the pack off Charlie. There is more sport to be had elsewhere. “

Foxhunting in Ireland
The Grallagh Harriers

Coopers Hill was having the day of their lives. I couldn’t imagine that it could get any better. We traversed the national route and we went back to Jim Dwyers, the last property on the way to the wood and the first back to the covert on the other side of the road. We found again and the field gave chase, jumping wall after wall until a loud cry “hold hard.” The cry was reinforced by other members in the field. Something must be wrong! The secretary jumped from her horse and hurried back to a fallen rider. I stopped to gather up the horses of the riders that had dismounted. There were three responders which hinted that this was a serious incident. A rider had crashed to the ground and was not moving. What we all fear. A seasoned rider, we all respected, just go it a little wrong at a wall with a hedge covering the high stone structure. Minutes stretched out, and seemed to go on forever. I couldn’t see any movement from the fallen rider. Your mind can not help but worry and be thankful all at the same time that it wasn’t yourself lying there. Finally, I saw the rider’s lower arm rise up a little from the ground. Thank the lord. The responders seemed less concerned as the minutes passed from that point on, the rider stood up after a few more moments with some support from members of the field. At this point the Master thought it prudent to call it a day, a very good decision.


Andrea, our guest for the next three weeks, who was taking the National Geographic quality shots, rode the fallen rider’s horse home. Not the usual way to introduce a guest to hunting, but it was a reminder for Andrea that hunting in Ireland is very different to hunting in New York and for the most part, North America. A great day, a tough day and but for the grace of god, a day we can all remember, bar one member. Later on that day even the fallen rider began to recollect this marvellous day. It would have been a shame for the fallen rider if that hunt was a lost memory. What a fantastic master we the Grallagh harriers have. Sincere thanks to master David Burke and his staff who gave the field and followers a great days’ sport.