Top producers talk coat prep and more

with Sara Parrott and Craig Elenor

Sara Parrott and Craig Elenor are amongst the leading show producers in the country, having a stable yard of all types of horses and ponies at their base in North Yorkshire. They, like many of us, are looking forward to the season starting and have been preparing since Christmas — Craig talks us through what they have been doing to get the ponies looking ready, and what will continue during the season. Sara shares some top tips on training lead reins and first riddens for getting back in the ring.

Craig’s mum had a saying, “Christmas dinner on the table, rugs on in the stable” and this is something we have stuck with,’ explains Sara. ‘After the last show of the year they all have their rugs taken off and tend to live out 24/7 until we bring them in at Christmas and rug them. We use a Supreme Products Body Wrap and a heavy turnout as we don’t want them too hot — there is nothing worse than a sweaty, rugged horse but we want to encourage them to start moulting early on so we can get their coat ready for April. We also have lights on from 6am to 10pm to help with this.’ Craig continued, ‘At this point we start grooming them.

We use an electric Flexitol groomer at least twice a week, and elbow grease the rest of the time! The electric groomer gives a really good deep groom, helps tone the muscles and they love it. Once they are really losing their coat, I clip them. After clipping they will still go on the electric groomer twice a week, and they are always hot-clothed with Supreme Products Hot Oil after the groomer to keep their coat moisturised and the skin supple and hydrated. We make sure their manes and tails are kept well moisturised and soft too, with plenty of Supreme Products Detangle & Shine. It’s important for keeping them in good condition to prevent breakage. We swear by this product and use it on them all year round several times a week. I also use this on the legs after bathing as I find it helps repel dust. ‘During the season we keep up the grooming routine to keep their hair in good condition but always ensure they have plenty of time naked in the field when the weather allows.

We don’t over-rug and like to make use of the Supreme Body Wraps again — as they are lightweight, the horses don’t overheat and the wraps keep the coat laid flat, improving condition and shine. They are also good for travelling in too if you have something that gets warm on the lorry. ‘The Supreme Coat Gloss has to be my favourite product — we go through litres of it during the season and I’m always asking Sara to re order! I hate it when the coat has oil applied and you see dust and dirt on the surface. Applying Coat Gloss helps prevent this as it seals the coat hairs and repels dust, so when you apply an oil, it doesn’t lift

and separate. Their coats are always left gleaming. I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to turnout and believe you can’t cut corners, so we only use the best products — after all, the first impression in showing is often a lasting one.’ Sara went on to explain the yard’s exercise routine. ‘After Christmas, as well as the grooming regime starting, we also bring them back into work slowly,’ she said. ‘Hopefully they have lost their topline over the winter and we build up muscle and fitness doing a variety of exercises from hacking, schooling, lungeing and long reining. To start with we do this five times a week but once into the season we reduce — we like them to have downtime as show days can be long and tiring for  them as well as us. The youngsters are very well handled and Craig will walk them down the lane and in the woods a couple of times a week before the season starts — we are conscious of the joints so don’t want to over-work them. The three-year-olds will do a little bit more, adding lungeing and long-reining. ‘As we have a lot of ponies doing lead rein and first ridden, we like to give ourselves a few months to do some intense training. This allows us to iron out issues and improve our ponies’ and riders’ training. They get exercised five times a week and the kids will usually ride them twice a week, then once they are back in full show season mode we just maintain them; we don’t want them too fit.’

Sara’s tips for lead rein/first ridden ponies:

1. Train at least once a week with someone else. It’s so good for the little ones to ride with children their own age, and someone slightly older or further ahead is great for pushing them on.

2. Don’t over-practise a show — instead work on all the elements: transitions, bend,  changes of rein and only occasionally put them all together.

3. Don’t over-school (children or ponies). Most of what a lead rein/first ridden does can be done out of the school to keep it interesting for the little ones. Elements like making them stand when asked, listen to aids, riding straight lines etc can all be practised anywhere.

4. We try and train our children from lead rein age about speed, and to feel what’s happening. When they are riding, if they need to go faster we tellthem what speed they are doing now and where it needs to go — for example they are currently trotting at speed two and it needs to go to speed four. This teaches them the different speeds.

5. Positive reinforcement — explain what’s gone/ going wrong but don’t get hung up on it — for everything that needs improvement, also find a positive.

6. If you know they have one rein better than the other, ask them to start on the one that needs the most work a few times a week.

7. Once in the ring we tell the first ridden children to walk like they are late for the class, trot like they are trotting across a field and if anything goes wrong, canter on both reins and always finish. Their show might have a blip but knowing first riddens, so might most of the others!

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