Alexis Ross in action with Sam Watson at Austin O’Connor’s beautiful Attington Stud in the UK. We are very proud of our Horseware Grassroots rider Alexis and Sam our professional rider. Sam and Horseware Bushman will be competing at WEG 2014

Horseware Grassroots rider Alexis Ross Training day with Sam Watson. A must read for any grassroots rider!

Being offered the opportunity to have a lesson with Sam Watson is pretty awesome, but to be having that lesson during the Irish squad’s final boot camp up at Attington Stud, the week before the World Equestrian Games made it seriously special!

I arrived just as Sam was finishing up a dressage session on the legendary Horseware Bushman, and I managed to make myself useful by holding him and helping get him untacked, which felt a little surreal having watched this wonderful gent of a horse eating up countless Badminton and Burghleys and making it look easy!

The photographer arrived and the horses and riders lined up in the arena for the official squad photos. The sun was shining and they all looked fabulous in their Horseware kit. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed, with plenty of laughter and it felt like we were in the presence of a team who are ready to go and give it their best, and hopefully bring back some medals!

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I had decided that it would be best to take my 5 year old mare Jam who I bought straight from the racetrack last year. Having just made a successful debut to affiliated eventing I thought it would be a really great experience for her as despite being as keen as mustard she is as green as grass so I was really looking forward to seeing what Sam thought of her, and picking up some tips to help me continue to produce her up through the levels.

Sam asked what I wanted to work on so I mentioned that she could get strong across the country and I was thinking about trying new bits… In the politest way possible he told me that it probably wasn’t a horse or bit problem and so our aims for the session were quickly established!

We started off in the arena and Sam spent a bit of time talking through what I need to work towards with her. He explained that every time we use the rein we are in effect making the horse stronger. The cardinal sin is therefore to hold on to a horse, allowing it something to pull against and become stronger. He used the phrase “use the rein aid and then lose the rein aid” which is a very useful mantra to take away. As I warmed up in canter he would ask me to collect her but soften immediately. Each time I collect her I need to be working towards using less and less of a rein aid, until she is responsive enough to respond to me bringing my upper body back. To illustrate this he asked me to think about how it appears as though the likes of William Fox Pitt and Andrew Nicholson do nothing when riding across the country – and that is because they don’t need to do much because they have done the homework and their horses respond to the smallest of aids. The process we worked through in the school needs to be replicated out on the cross country course and he pointed out that it is far better to come home with a load of time penalties at this stage in her career and ensure that she is responding properly as it will mean that when it really matters I can take the handbrake off and have confidence that I will have a responsive horse.

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He put two poles down for me to canter over which either could be ridden on 6 or 7 strides. I started off on 6 strides which Jam found quite easy being bold by nature. The first time I attempted the 6 strides I hadn’t quite collected her enough and we got there on 6.5 strides so I collected her a little more and she went down the line easily on both reins. Sam kept reminding me to soften the hand as soon as I had collected her and he also explained that in order for a horse to collect they have to be able to get their bums underneath them but if you are holding onto their mouth they are unable to do that. Sam liked how expressive she was over the pole and said it was lovely to see as it is a good indicator of a careful and athletic horse. It was a great exercise to give me the feel of what Sam had been explaining so it was time to head out onto the cross country course to see if I could replicate it out there…

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We started off with a plain flower box and she was quite keen first time showing a definite increase in pace in the last few stride. I came round again and Sam asked me to focus on keeping the rhythm. The rhythm was much better the second time and I held for the extra side rather than allowing her to increase and Sam agreed that it was the right decision. He pointed out that it is really important to teach a young horse to put in a small stride – if you always place them perfectly they will struggle to cope if you make a mistake when it really matters. The third time to the fence she came on a lovely rhythm and found a great spot so we moved on down to the coffin.

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It was a reasonably big ditch so I came to it on its own first time and Jam initially was a bit spooky and tried to nap away. We agreed that in this scenario it was better to circle away and re-present rather than to turn her back in the direction she had come away from as it meant that I was keeping her forwards, and avoiding an argument. Ideally you need to try and correct the nap by turning back in the direction the horse has come away from but every horse is different and Sam explained that you need to pick the arguments you know you can win. Ultimately the horse needs to learn that they cannot get away with it, but sometimes it is more productive so keep the horse forward from the aids.

I represented and Jam jumped easily over the ditch a few times so we introduced the other 2 elements. The first time felt a bit sticky and I didn’t feel completely secure in my position so Sam stressed the importance of keeping my upper body back, and also using my peripheral vision to allow me to focus on the elements ahead and not on each one as I get to them as that tends to draw your eye line down, which tips the shoulders forward. There are two issues with having your shoulders forward – the weight comes ahead of the movement, and the lower leg swings back. The combination of these two factors leaves the rider in a very vulnerable position.

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Next up was a curving line from a house round to a reasonably large step down with two strides to a skinny-ish brush fence. First time I rather fired Jam at the house, and she tried to turn away from the step but on this occasion I was able to turn her back to it (into the direction of the nap), and she jumped off the step and over the brush easily. It was a really great example of picking a battle that I could win and showing her that she is not allowed to turn away. Sam asked me to work on the rhythm to the house next time, and try to recreate the feeling I had warming up in the school. He explained that I need to create a good enough canter on the turn to the fence so that I do not have to create more power in the last few strides – all with a soft hand. He also encouraged me to forget seeing a stride and just to think about rhythm, keeping a soft hand by relaxing it down onto her neck. She jumped through the exercise really well after that, with no hesitation off the step.

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Next up was a double of angled houses and I was very impressed by how straight and “locked on” she was. I was too conservative to it the first time so Sam encouraged me to flow on next time and the strides came up beautifully.

We moved on to jump a log and palisade which were both placed on the top of quite steep inclines up the hill. Sam explained that it can be hard to see a stride to this sort of fence so encouraged me to ride a forward rhythm with shoulders back.

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Now it was time to string all the fences together and put into practice all of Sam’s words of wisdom! She jumped a super round, and I focused on reminding myself not to hang on to her between and trying to re-create the feeling of softness and balance I had in the school. I was really pleased as I felt like I had much more control, and she was jumping very boldly and straight.

Sam explained how he often finishes a schooling session by letting horses have a play in the water as a reward so he asked me to give Jam a trot through which she did happily. He then told me to ride onto the jetty and jump off the bank so I rode towards it and thought to myself “surely not, it’s bloody huge!” and Jam obviously picked up on my reluctance and we fizzled to a halt at the top. I came out and asked Sam if he had really meant that rather large drop and he confirmed that I hadn’t misheard him so off I go! Dear little Jam launched in very bravely and cantered through. I came again and rode quite boldly again and she made a huge leap so Sam pointed out that you always want to be adding a stride to a drop like this. I came through quietly and she jumped it perfectly which was a fabulous way to finish what had been an absolutely brilliant session.

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I asked Sam for some advice on how to approach moving up through the levels with young horses and he explained how he tends to move them up when he feels a horse is becoming bored at the level they are at, and he also sees huge value in moving up and then moving back down a level immediately after to consolidate and build confidence.

It was a superb day, and one that I will never forget so I owe a huge thank you to the Horseware team for arranging what really is a once in a lifetime opportunity! Sam also deserves an enormous thank you for really inspiring me, and giving me some great take homes. The one I will close this blog with is one that I think everyone can take something from. Thanks for reading!

“We should not consider ourselves as riders, but instead teachers”

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We are hiring: Customer Service Associate

Customer Service Associate

Triple Crown Custom by Horseware

This role will report into the Trade Marketing Manager and be responsible for the Key Accounts associated with the premium market in which Triple Crown Custom and Alessandro Albanese brands operate.

The successful candidate will be responsible for and must demonstrated a proven track record in:

  • Delivering excellent customer service to key accounts.
  • Demonstrating ability to cross-sell customers to ensure they have a full complement of products.
  • Nurturing accounts to anticipate their every need and be proactive in desk based selling.
  • Handle any new inbound queries.
  • Own the full sales process from order entry to execution.
  • Responsible for the achievement of sales targets through the direct sales channel, driving growth and margin.
  • Monitor competitor activities in the market place and maintaining strong brand performance.
  • Management of cross functional relationships with supply, finance, planning and marketing, to ensure a unique customer experience.
  • Identifying and assessing opportunities with new key accounts.

The ideal candidate must have a proven record in managing customer relationships. This role will be based in our headquarters in Dundalk, Ireland and involve some travel, both locally and internationally. Salary commensurate with experience.

Applications close Monday 18th August. Email recruitment@horseware.com with your CV and cover letter to apply.

Show Style: A Shadbelly.com guest post

With show season well and truly upon us, we asked Laura from dressage blog Shadbelly to give us an overview of her favourite pieces from the Horseware Competition Collection. Here’s what she had to say:

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Nearly 30 years ago in Ireland, Tom MacGuinness pieced together fabric from duvet covers to make a rug that would keep his horses warm and dry - and the iconic Horseware Ireland brand was born. Most equestrians are well aware of Horseware’s reputation for making “Rugs for Life”, nothing else comes close. We count on Horseware to keep our horses comfortable all year long, they practically live in Rambo - the purple Rambo Wug Turnouts in the winter and the Rambo Protector Fly Sheets all summer long. 

But great rugs are just the beginning … 

Horseware has expanded their product line of riding apparel and accessories with the same emphasis on design and innovation.  Horseware’s focus this month is “Show Style”, and they invited SHADBELLY to pick out a few favorites from their competition wear and accessory collections to try. Impressed? You betcha.

The chic little super-light, water resistant show coat in the photo above? THAT’s Horseware. It’s Horseware’s Competition Jacket in Navy with the bold red lining we love! Did you see the price? Under $100. No wonder pictures of this coat are lighting up Instagram (#showstyle).

Horseware’s in-house collections include Horseware Platinum with MUST HAVES like the Platinum Ella Competition Shirt (see below). The Ella was everyone’s favorite, wonderfully fitted, but oh no, not too clingy. We found the soft dove grey color more flattering than standard white, and the paisley trim detail inside the collar and cuffs is perfect. Best of all, the Ella zips completely open, so it’s super easy to get in and out of without messing up the hair you just spent 15 minutes taming!

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The coordinating Platinum Siena Competition Breeches with the white-on-white paisley full seat panel look and feel “special” without being too over-the-top for competition. We like the higher waist on the Siena’s - and those are false pockets, so the front maintains that nice, sleek silhouette.  We’d say these run a tad on the small size, so order a size up if you’re borderline.  

Do your own grooming at a show? Relax! My mare was show-perfect clean and super shiny in Horseware’s Rambo Grand Prix Dustbuster, because … THE RIBBED FABRIC DESIGN of this rug IS ACTUALLY DESIGNED TO CLEAN YOUR HORSE while it moves. No, we are not making this up! Are the Horseware folks innovative geniuses or WHAT?!? 

Need a bag that doesn’t look out of place at the barn or around town? Yep, THAT’s Horseware too. It’s the Horseware Platinum’s Bucket Bag and it’s got the same look as Burberry’s popular bucket bag (for a whole lot less!)

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Ladies, you can skip “50 Shades of Grey” and feast your eyes instead on Alessandro Albanese. Wait a minute - HE’s Horseware? Oh, yes! The Italian equestrian designer is now a part of Horseware.  Is that Alessandro Bi-Color Belt I’m wearing is TO DIE FOR or what!?! And all you bling-lovin’ girls won’t want to miss out on the Alessandro Albanese Buckle with Swarovski crystals, because nothing satisfies your inner goddess like a little somethin’ sparkly.

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Photographer Tracy Emanuel, you are a gift!  And a big THANK YOU to Horseware Ireland for believing in a little blog called SHADBELLY.