POP Show – Dec 18th


esta-pop-showThe POP show at the Florida Horse Park was a day of ‘Firsts’ for all the horses we took…..so great to practice ‘off the radar’ and give the young ones some low-key outings.

With a move up to Intermediate imminent for one of our Fernhill sales horses – Here’s Jonny – it was great to get in the ring and have a go at his first Intermediate test and jump round some bigger show-jumps.  I was SO pleased with him – he did a really sweet test (things to work on – but hey, that’s a daily occurrence!) and delivered a very smooth stadium round which is something I’ve been working hard with him on.  Sometimes I find it easier to ride a green 4yrold than a more proven, older horse – but I’m beginning to gel with him now and am looking forward to proving him to be the solid 2* / YR horse that I think he will be!

We took two young mares, Estefania and Exmoor Xcel (Rizzy) who both did their first ever 3 phases.  Although both relatively green – they behaved with maturity and both delivered three solid phases…..although Rizzy thought the mulch box had a scary goblin hiding behind it!!  The things these youngsters do…..??!!!

Here’s links to the other phases for the girls – both are for sale and are very reasonably priced 🙂

Esta’s beautiful SJ round – first time over a Novice Track!……seriously scopey girlie!!

…….Don’t you just love it when you start working them laterally at home and it ‘cancels out’ the ‘straight line’ button……??  Rizzy showing her centre line flexibilty!!!!! 😉 #wetnoodle

…..Roll on 2017!!!!!  D xx

POP Show – Dec 18th

New Arrivals!!

New boys head logo head shot.jpg

On Saturday – we took delivery of two very special, new sales horses.  They were very happy to go out for a play in the field!!  It’s a long way from Kilkenny…..

FERNHILL INSPIRATION is a 5yr old gelding, by Lux Z – probably make up into a good 16.3 once he’s done furnishing out.  He has jumped in all the age classes in Ireland so he has been competing in 1.10 jumper shows.  He’s beautifully produced on the flat and XC schooled – so he’s ready to go right in at Training level.  I had my first ride on him today – we didn’t do too much because they need to acclimate – but I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face!!  What a special boy

FERNHILL RAZZLE DAZZLE is a 4yr old gelding, by Kroongraf (who is a grade A jumper) out of a premium Kildalton broodmare. To make 16.1hh.  He has been out and about and done a few little training shows in Ireland.  Again, he has been superbly started – to think he hasn’t been sat on for 10 days, has shipped across the Atlantic and is only 4 yrs old…..it’s hard to believe he went as well as he did today, in a strange place.  A great testament to his temperament – and no-one ever believes me when I say “they arrived like this!!” … well here’s the evidence 🙂


These horses have both arrived with a clean bill of health and recent vet check.  As new arrivals – we can offer very competitive prices on them both.  As with all our horses, as they fulfill their potential – their prices will increase….. So get in early!!!!

D xx

Daisy Trayford 3524257767


New Arrivals!!

Week 2 summary – Breaking the babies


Xander first jump

Xander and Xante (our three year olds) have had a busy week!  They have been doing so well, I actually can’t believe how well they have behaved.  They’ve not put a foot wrong…..so far!!!  I only plan to work with them for another week or so – then they will have the summer out eating some grass in the sun.

I’ll look to fetch them back in around October time and prepare them for the FEH classes in the Spring of 2017 and hopefully a few Novice runs….

They are now both hacking out confidently….I go wandering off on them….in and out the trees…ride from light to dark…take them past spooky objects…I also find silly things for them to do like step on and off our driveway!!


Here’s Xander going for a short spin after warming up in the round pen….I always encourage them to trot / lope away from the barn – and I always make them walk home on a long rein.  So far, I haven’t felt the need to be ‘nannied’ – they have been so good about everything I feel comfortable taking them anywhere on their own. However, for a less confident / sharper or spookier baby – they definitely get confidence from going out with another horse to begin with


As I mentioned before, they have had a little introduction to some jumps…to begin with I long line them over poles then lunge them over VERY small jumps….they are not ‘jumps’ really…more obstacles.

Once they do something right – and do it well, I’m pretty quick to move onto the next thing.  For example, they were introduced to poles on the ground – popped a small vertical – they ‘got it’ ….. so that’s enough of that.  I’m very careful not to actually ‘train’ them at this stage….you also have to be mindful of their young legs if they are to have long, sound careers.  I expect them to behave & do what they are asked – but I keep everything very basic and am VERY flexible about the quality of the work….. I save worrying about that until they are 4 🙂

Today – they both also had a little go on the trailer!!  It was a perfect opportunity as I had all the partitions broken down to ship a mare and foal, so the rig was nice and open.  As you all know too well – if you try to load a young horse for the first time under pressure – for some reason, it never works out!!  So – we let them walk on and off – they got a treat – and hopefully had a good experience …. Next time we are late pulling out for a show they should just hop in!!!!!!

We’ll carry on hacking lightly until the middle of next week, maybe do one more jump (obstacle!!) session then let them have the summer off….

Both these horse are for sale – share options available for potential owners / investors – Or if you feel like producing your own future super star – then get in touch.  Both these 3yr olds are exceptionally well bred – and I hope you agree…..Just as well started!!!! D xx



Week 2 summary – Breaking the babies

7 Day Summary – Breaking the babies

Xante stood with rider.jpg

So it’s all been going pretty sweet with the 3yr olds – we pulled them in from the field a week ago – progress has been good!  Xante has found things a little easier than Xander – being a hand smaller (and female…hahaha!) she’s a little more naturally balanced.  She’s also incredibly intuitive – and seems to pick things up a little quicker.  She is now confidently cantering around the round pen.

I’m still trying to let them go as forward as possible with a loop in the reins…As much as my inner self preservation tells me to hang on for all I’m worth – it really isn’t productive to ride these babies ‘tight’.  It worries them.  I KNOW this is easier said than done – it’s mentally tough getting up on these super greenies – but you really have to stay chilled. I watch everything these horses do, from the second I walk in the stall I read them….it’s what gives me the confidence to ride them!!  They still get ground driven about before I get on – turning left and right – halting and reining back. I’m also venturing out and about around the farm now I have good control.  The trust thing goes both ways – and if you earn it from them on the ground, they will repay the favor when you get on their backs!!

Once they have the hang of the long lines….they pick up lunging pretty quick and it’s a natural progression for them – here’s Xander having a go for the first time

Xander has been progressing really well – although he is maybe a day behind Xante.  I had to spend a little more time getting used to me ‘up top’ – especially in trot.  He seemed worried to begin with so I took a little more time to get him used to me.  He is such an immensely  powerful horse – and a bit of a doofus! – the two don’t really mix.  But he went really well today (vid below) and I’m so excited by the amount of natural cadence in his trot & the beautiful, soft mouth I think he is going to have…….

I’ll keep you updated by the week now….. #nextstoprolex

Little foot note – and maybe food for thought for some of you – these horses are GREEN.  They define the word.  I think it gets used too broadly.  You think my Training 5yr old is green??  Maybe you should have a sit on one of these two…….

D xx

7 Day Summary – Breaking the babies

Day 3 & 4 – Breaking the babies

Xante long lines.jpg

On day 3 – we pretty much repeated what the horses learned the previous two days.  Xante progressed to having her bridle taken off properly (without incident!) – the two 3yr olds were ridden around their stalls – this time in their bridles…they had repeat visits to the wash stall and were groomed as before

Today, day 4 – we introduced them to the long lines.  This is a very important part of their education.  The way you handle the horses now can ‘make or break’ their mouths.  I also get a pretty good feel of how they are likely to be in the contact going forward and I can accommodate to their way of going through the longlines to hopefully create a soft, responsive mouth for the future.

First, I work them in the stall as before, but I add one long line on the inside – just to familiarize them with it.  Then, I change the rein so the inside long line becomes the outsie – at this point I pass it over the saddle as to not freak them out.  You have to be careful the first time you pass the line over the back end.  As you see in this clip – Xander wasn’t super keen on the idea…He’s a little wary of anything around his hind end – but this is just another useful exercise to get him used to being touched back there!!!

Once they are happy with this – I progress to two long lines, and then I like to try to turn them in their stalls.  They find this hard – but they will find turning even harder with a rider influencing their balance – they need to learn to sort their feet out and turn when they are asked! You’ll see I actually get in a bit of a pickle at one point – this does happen with spaghetti like reins and babies with their own agenda.  I managed to work my way out of it – but there is no shame in dropping the reins and starting again…I’ve done lots of driving from the ground…and still get in a mess sometimes!!

Once the horses were going along well in their stalls we ventured outside into the round pen.  First, Erica led them from their halters (we always leave them on under the bridle) with me ‘out back’, then she progressively let go and left me to it.  I always try to position myself to the inside of the horse in the direction we are travelling.  Never get in their blind spot directly behind them.  Because of the work we have done in the stall – they also know to move around me – so this helps them learn to steer. When you ask for a half halt or an actual halt – it is imperative at this stage to turn their heads loose and give them plenty of free rein when they give you what they asked.  The must also not move off until you give them a signal – basic stuff…but these ground manners will only help to build a polite horse for the future.

The horses will have a well earned day off tomorrow – back to it Monday!! D xx

Here’s Xante out in the small paddock, her stall work is on the Youtube channel 🙂


Day 3 & 4 – Breaking the babies

Day 2 – Breaking in the babies

xander bridle.jpg

Day two went pretty much to plan!!  We repeated Day 1’s adventures and both babies were ridden round in their stalls without incident 🙂

As you may have noticed, I prefer to do this in a halter – as you don’t need a contact….I’m just purely focusing on the acceptance of a rider and moving the horses forward.  The beauty of doing this in the stall is so the walls do the turning for you…. However, they do need to accept a bridle so we put them on for the first time today.

Xander took to his no problem (and he looks rather handsome…got to love that eye!) – and we keep them on in the stall until their mouths are still and they stop chomping….normally takes about 10 minutes then we take them off.

Xante has shown some resistance to having her ears touched – we noticed just putting the halter over her ears causes some anxiety.   In order to make the ‘first bridle experience’ a happy one – and to avoid creating a head-shy horse, I constructed the bridle on her head, so I didn’t squish her ears…….

…..I took it off in the same way – just so she had a happy time.  Tomorrow I may be able to slip it off over her ears, and hopefully the next day she can have it put on normally 🙂

They also had their first trip to the wash rack….we NEVER cross tie them until they are absolutely ‘A-OK’ with the hose – this may take a week or two…but daily trips to the wash bay will get them familiar with the routine….Here’s Xander in the wash stall for the first time….watch his ears – his left one is cocked towards the hose…  He’s really not sure – but he trusts me and Erica and lets us hose his front legs and neck and soon his expression changes, and he’d rather mess with something hung on the fence than worry abut the water!!  🙂



Day 2 – Breaking in the babies

Getting Started…Day 1

Today we bought in two 3yr olds that we bred – to begin their education under tack.  Exmoor Xander is a gelding by Brief Encounter (Jumbo) and Exmoor Xante a mare by Wish Upon A Star (Gribaldi).  There are many ways to start young horses – to me there are no wrong answers as long as the horse is happy….here’s how we do it at Exmoor Eventing…

To start with the horses are groomed….and we tie them up!  Of course, we use breakaway string  – but learning to be tied is really important.  Horses that don’t tie drive me nuts – so they learn about that…..right away!!  By grooming them you start the desensitization process and they get used to being touched all over.  Believe it or not – these two are pretty feral – so its good for them to spend some time with humans. You can also read a lot into how the horse reacts to being groomed as to how they may react to other stuff….so its a useful process

Xante groom.jpg

After that, I take a saddle pad and run it all over them….until they are not at all alarmed…I normally wait for them to sigh or lick and chew before I stop

Xante did great:

Xander did it by himself!!! (Those of you who have followed my posts about Xander will know how much of a clown he is!!!!)

After that we put the saddle on…..all the time, at every stage – I am reading the horse. Some take a week to saddle – so it really depends on the horse.  But if one phase goes well – I move onto the next.  So far these two have taken everything in their stride.

The first time the saddle goes on – you have to be careful.  A bad experience now – could damage the horse forever.  I use a non slip pad with girth loops – I LOVE the ECP pads for this as they are a good fit, non slip and have girth loops to stop the saddle pad going out the back door (not good) – we also always use a breast girth.  The breast girth helps keep the saddle steady without needing to over-tighten the girth – should the horse panic or buck, it also stops the saddle slipping back..again…not good!!  I am SO careful not to do the girth too tight and only tighten VERY gradually once the horse is ready……there is no video of this as it’s definitely a two man job, but once the saddle is on I send the horse around me in the stall….

Here is when they learn another valuable lesson: to go forward.  It doesn’t matter whether you are starting a trail horse or a potential Olympic star – if they don’t go forward when they are asked – they are not going to be any fun at all. First I ask with my voice, then it’s backed up with a tap with the stick if I don’t get a response. It’s so important to establish this basic connection right from the word go – making sure they understand this command will make the next 20yrs of their ridden career so much more pleasurable for them.

Now its time to get your leg over!!  This is the fun bit.  I get such a buzz from being the first person up there…it’s like climbing a never before conquered mountain 🙂  Again, I’m careful – and read the horse- and only do what I feel is right at the time..but both horses took being backed and walked around their stalls with ease!!  I actually think if you break a horse right – it should never buck or be worried…lets hope tomorrow goes as well!!! D xx



Getting Started…Day 1

True or False

So, after an interesting week of riding work at Woodfield Ranch – the yearlings are progressing nicely…with many of them beginning to ‘lope’ on the track.  Which brings me to writing this blog…..

How do you know if your horse is truly listening to you?

Something I find really refreshing about these youngsters is none of them have any bad habits (different characters for sure) UNLESS you teach them some or let them become bad.  They are naive, once you have gained their trust they trust you back and if you follow the rules – you can do pretty much anything with them.  Yes, we can even switch their leads with a pretty acceptable flying change – on the track – 5 abreast!  These horses have been under tack two weeks.

At the start, I had the tendency to guide the horse too much with my hands (sensible right?) – WRONG.  The harder you pull on a horse, the more likely it is to eventually run the bridle and actually take off with you.  “Turn his head loose” – is something I have heard a lot this week, and “Close your leg”!  Easier said than done – it takes balls on these babies!!

The next rule is, they HAVE to be in front of your leg.  Sounds familiar right?  We all know that.  But if these babies aren’t truly in front of your leg – if they spook or bulk…you’re skrewed.  It’s a true test.  If you don’t have it – they will expose you.  No faking it here.

So with the horse absolutely in front of your leg  – we have been working on getting them settled in the bridle.  Head not to high – head to not too low and the lightest of lightest holds on their mouths through bridged reins. We can move them left, we can move them right with a squeeze of your calf – a tiny feel through your fingers brings them back, then they are immediately rewarded with an even softer rein when they do come back. Close your leg – the horse does not get flat – he comes under himself and engages.  Turn his head loose – repeat, balance, repeat.  The end result is a truly fabulous feel with a horse working 100% with you and a feeling you could ride them anywhere – at any pace.

This feel – is something we forget about. We’re too busy walking lines / distances…taking lessons, changing tack …..finding excuses.   Hyper-analyzing minor details…LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICTURE!  As an eventer, it IS THE ESSENCE of what we do.  There is no faking it at the higher levels, particularly XC.   If you don’t have this harmony, things don’t work out.  Think of the riders you admire – Nicholson for me – is the master.

So I get home this afternoon – yep…loping for the eventers!  OK – not on the track, but I’m lucky enough to have a nice big farm to practice.  Boy were there some holes in my horses!!  I got run off with, spooked with and worked out that my advanced horse is probably 99.99999% of the time behind my leg (hence the problems I’ve had XC sporadically) and actually found it a really good exercise.

How many times (honestly) between fences XC – do you actually think about how your horse is travelling?  Is he in front of my leg – can I accelerate without him taking the bridle? (This is the key to riding fast & safe) Is he leaning?  Do I need to soften one side?  Can I half halt the gallop?  Well, I know I don’t do it enough – of course we have instincts – I’m more focused on the jumps that are coming up, than what I’m doing in between.

I guess my rather long winded point is – next time your on a hack – think about these things.  It sounds obvious – but as a relatively experienced rider at advanced level – I learned a lot this week, and hopefully my ‘off track’ horses will go better for it


D xx



True or False

Bajuns and Yearlings – November round up

Welcome to the new blog spot – all the monthly news (and extended drivel!) from team Exmoor….As November draws to a close, it feels like it has been a quiet month with some horses well into their winter breaks – but as I think back, that’s not quite the case!

We had an AWESOME sales horse arrive from Ireland – a new connection made between us and Fernhill Sport Horses…. he’s a cracking 6yr old Prelim gelding – whoever ends up purchasing him will have a horse of a lifetime – check him out doing his thing XC! We anticipate more horses arriving soon so keep an eye on the site……

Hotshot XC Video

November started with the first Florida fall horse trials at Rocking Horse…As Vinny (Normandy Soldier) was still on the naughty step from Fair Hill – the decision was to run him in the OI to end the season on a good note.  We did just that – with an easy 10 point win.  He’s now been turned out for nearly a month – so December will be spent getting him back into shape ready for the 2016 season.  I ran Cilano in the training on behalf of his new owner (read more below!) – he came 3rd on his dressage score, and our homebred 4yr old – Exmoor Xclusive (Ting) also ribboned in her training division.

Onto Ocala……this was no ordinary show for me…..or Cilano!  On the Saturday (one week) before the show, Cilano’s new owner arrived from Barbados.  Having never even JUMPED a xc fence before – she was entered in the Novice.  We needed to practice.  A lot. Laura is incredibly brave and an accomplished showjumper – and Cilano knows a thing or two about eventing, but YOU never know what may happen when you turn someone loose out of the startbox for the first time.  I’m not going to lie – I felt a huge amount of responsibility – but thankfully it all went very well!  Laura is now the FIRST ever rider from Barbados to complete a recognized horse trial and she did so in style (pictured above).  I think she’s got the bug – as she’s already mapped out her January events!  I’m really looking forward to see how they progress and helping them along the way – and I guess that (by default) makes me the eventing coach for Barbados!!?  Bonus 🙂

…So with some of the horses on holiday and no eventing competitions in December, when I got a call from a fellow eventer about ‘riding some racehorses’ I thought ‘why the hell not!’…..bit of pocket money, keep me in shape in the off season – I had visions of myself gliding majestically down the track like in Sea Biscuit……. so I went for a trial.  Now, I’m not sure I knew what to expect – but 80 head of yearlings waiting to be broken in – was a surprise!  I have really enjoyed my time there so far – it’s been a very good exercise for me – and I have to recommend it to other riders.  When I stepped up onto the first couple…I was like…holy s**t I’m going to die….but by the time you get to sets 7,8,9+10 you’ve pretty much forgotten you are riding a yearling and are contemplating teaching it lead changes!  There’s a direct synergy  between working with these yearlings and breaking and producing our homebreds.  It has definitely opened my eyes – and I would say I am now considerably braver on a young horse. Holly and Brian Rice are FANTASTIC horsemen – just watching them drive, back, pony and break these yearlings as been an incredible experience. Forget all the gimmicky bull – these pinhookers are the real deal and take producing these youngsters very seriously

As I wrap this up – November doesn’t seem so dull!

….Set aside some family time for Thanksgiving and enjoy the festivities….

We’ll touch base again at the end of December –  D x










Bajuns and Yearlings – November round up