Diary of an Equine Mum

Monday, 30 April 2012

The Love Of Thelwell

How many of you grew up with horses and ponies in the last 40 years had a Thelwell annual, a Thelwell bed cover, or poster on your wall in your childhood bedroom? The answer would be the majority of us horse lovers!
This great cartoonist, Norman Thelwell, gave us the humorous and a honest view of owning ponies in years gone by. We can all relate to the pony dumping us over the home made brush fence, or clinging on for dear life as the naughty caricature takes off over the brow of the hill never to be seen again. What is so endearing about these cartoons is that they have failed to date in the fifty years that they have been around. Pony mad children of the modern age are buying today pencil cases, books, photo frames all decorated with the delightful images that Thelwell is so famous for.
Who was NormanThelwell?
Norman Thelwell was born in 1923 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, the son of a machinist. He was educated at Rock Ferry School in Birkenhead and was always seen carrying pencils and a sketchbook. He sold one of his first drawings of some chickens at the age of fifteen and left school a year later to become a junior clerk in a Liverpool office.
He joined the army aged eighteen and became involved in an army publication where his first cartoons were published, and was soon earning a small income. After leaving the military he became involved in small magazines and then went on to lecture about illustration and design. In 1950 he sold his first drawing to Punch, depicting two horse riders which started his career in equestrian cartoons.
From 1952 to 1977, Norman Thelwell contributed 1,600 cartoons to various magazines and newspapers. He also produced book jackets, worked for television and drew for advertising – including clients such as Guinness and W H Smith. His thirty two books sold over two million copies in the UK. He always signed his cartoons as “Thelwell”, where as his paintings carried his full signature. After a full and wholly recognised career, he sadly died on 7thFebruary 2004.
Why are the Thelwell Cartoons so Well Loved?
Thelwell’s cartoons show a very traditional British way of life and the love of the countryside. Most gift shops and equestrian stores all have Thewell products that you can buy. If you travel to any of the county shows that are held in this country, there are many products that can be found for sale adorning this favourite cartoon. There are stalls full of Thelwell merchandise ranging for ornaments to mugs, aprons to cushions, pens to birthday cards. His style and humour of the equestrian world is likeable to the young and the old. This is a genius marketing approach in today’s world that a cartoon appeals to many generations and that is not easily done these days. For the older age group, Thelwell’s images are reminiscent of how life with horses was so much simpler through the 1960’s and 1970’s before health and safety stepped in!
Thelwell cartoons
 We Have all Ridden a Thelwell Pony!
Thewell’s popularity is that any pony or horse enthusiast will no doubt have ridden a pony just like those portrayed in his famous artwork.  How many of us can relate to the Riding School cartoon, a chaotic hack out with naughty ponies causing mayhem for the long suffering riders!  With most of his famous cartoon images we all have full sympathy for the little girl closing her eyes as the mad pony bucks her off in the hedge, or praying to her pony as it refuses to jump yet again in the show ring. If you see a portly adorable Shetland these days, it will no doubt always remind you of a naughty Thelwell pony.
Hold on to those Thelwell ornaments or cartoon books you may have sitting on a dusty shelf. As the years are going by since Normans Thelwells death, these are becoming sort after collectables, with valuations rising.  However, these famous ponies give us fond and treasured memories of times spent riding ponies of an era gone by. So when you are having your next clear out, think twice before parting with your Thelwell china mug!
Written by Samantha Hobden from hay-net.co.uk, the UK’s No1 Equine Social Blogging Network

Monday, 23 April 2012

Hazardous Hacking

Here is an article that I wrote for Equine Online recently all about the perils of hacking out with your horse these days!

If you look up on the internet the term ‘Happy Hacker’ it will either shows you articles on website criminality or you will find numerous equestrian shops or happy hacker horses for sale. But is hacking out with your horse happy or more these days “hazardous hacking”?
Why do we feel a little unaccepted in the equestrian world for being a happy hacker? Hacking your horse out on the roads and lanes in this country is dangerous and hazardous but one of the most enjoyable aspects of horse riding. Figures show that more horse owners have their horse just for pleasure, and not to compete with. Yet many of these owners feel they cannot admit in the company of other equestrian riders, that they like nothing more but to ride their horse on the lanes, through the bridleways, along the fields and canter through woods. Horse riding in whatever chosen sphere is a high risk activity, and hacking should be accepted equally to those who choose to ride in a show jumping arena or a cross country course.
Many of us are lucky enough to have the use of safe bridleways or open fields where there is no traffic, but hazards will always present themselves to the horse rider. How many of you have come across a pheasant flying out from the undergrowth, a passing low flying helicopter, or just a rouge plastic bag stuck in a hedge to alarm your horse and then deal with their reaction. Thankfully the majority of horses can cope with these dangers however big or small, but some horses respond in a “spooky” erratic manner needing quick thinking from the rider to limit a fall or an accident.
Always try and be one step ahead of your horse when hacking out foreseeing potential hazards that are out there. If you have to ride on the roads or lanes look and listen for traffic especially from behind. If you come across a noisy or dangerous hazard always reassure your horse. Horses look to the rider for support and guidance in these situations so a calm spoken word from you or a gentle pat works wonders. If you are in company and you have a horse that is more experienced, then let them take the lead. Your horse will follow and gain confidence by seeing another horse not reacting to the hazard ahead. Ride in a positive manner so your horse is feeding from your confidence. Even when you know your horse is going to react, portray calmness and assurance to them. The majority of the time this diffuses the situation and they then walk past or through the hazard, all be it twenty hands tall but you have got past it safely!
It is not always possible to ride on rural bridleways or through quiet countryside, so sometimes hacking out does mean road work. Are you aware of the Highway Code when it comes to riding your horse on the roads? It may seem obvious to us what safety precautions we should be doing when riding out, but take a moment to have a read of the guidelines that are there. You should always ride on the left hand side of the road and never riding more than two abreast. With traffic approaching riding in single file is safer and always acknowledge a thanks to the driver. A courteous thank you to cars that have slowed down and passed wide goes a long way in driver attitudes to horses on the road. Always wear hi-viz clothing when riding out and ensure your horse has adequate hi viz attire too. A study has shown that wearing hi-viz clothing makes you more visible to a car driver approximately three seconds earlier than without it. Those three seconds are vital in an avoidance of a potential accident. Make sure you ride out in clear daylight and not when the light is fading or visibility is poor. Always wear a riding hat and have your mobile phone with you in case of an emergency. However, texting or taking a call when riding is not advisable! If you take all of these safety points when riding out on the roads, it is like wearing a seat belt in a car.
Generally hacking out is a relaxing past time and a great way to bond with your horse. Understandably if you have had an incident while out hacking it can cause you to lose your nerve. Getting your confidence back can take time, but it is vital to get back in the saddle sooner rather than later. Either ride an experienced horse, or ask a knowledgeable friend to accompany you when first riding out again. Make the first rides short and at a walk. Increase the length of time riding out which will help you feel more positive about hacking your horse again.
Take a moment to look about the lovely countryside and give your horse a thank you pat when you next ride out. How lucky we are to enjoy such a wonderful pass time with these very special animals. Hacking out is fun but it is equally demanding in skill you need to stay safe. Most of all, enjoy being a happy hacker!
Written by Samantha Hobden from hay-net.co.uk, the UK’s No1 Equine Social Blogging Network

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Catch Up Post - Ideal Home, Camber, Easter!

It's been ages since my last proper blog post and it's just time! Since launching Haynet, it just consumes so much of my time - enjoyable times but many hours spent at the computer screen. Factor in running a family, horse and work, I look at the clock and realise it's 8 oclock at night!

Me and Stephen managed to gra b a day out together a few weeks ago and went up to London to the Ideal Home Exhibition. It was really sunny and hot so it was a pleasure to be in London. The exhibition was great, 20K hot tubs, 5k garden sofas etc - I think you get my drift! We then went on to Harrods and did some more window shopping at a box of 10 bottle of win at 325K...I jest not! Afterwards we made our way back to Borough Market before catching the train back to Crowborough, de touring at Oxted as there was an incident on the line for an hour....

Easter came and went with a change in weather to cold and showery. Stephen went to Barnsly to watch Brighton play. On Sunday even though it was cold and windy we decided to go to Camber Sands for a walk on the beach. It's a funny old place but very quirky and interesting. We ended up having a coffee at the cafe on the beach - blustery and cold but lovely.

Easter Monday we did the family thing seeing both sides which was nice. The boys spent the holidays fishing and shopping! Billy leaves school in a months which is a scary thought. I cannot believe my children are leaving school with Miles leaving next year! All the animals are fine, cats driving me mad. Zeb is all good, touchwood. Just waiting for the grass to grow and summer to arrive. 
Promise I wont leave it so long next time. I'm off to Badminton in a couple of weeks which I cannot wait. I will report back!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Equestrian Blogging - My Article

Sorry it's been an age since my last post. I have been so busy with work, family and running Haynet. I am going to blog this weekend about the latest goings on but in the meantime here is an article that I have written for Equine Online all about Equestrian Blogging:

"I imagine you have come across in the social media, websites and equestrian magazines celebrity and well known riders writing about their life with horses. I have always read and followed these online diaries with interest and find it quite fascinating how people have such different lives with horses.
I started writing a blog about my horse really by accident last summer. I didn’t really intend to keep a regular diary but was following some friends online blogs, I became inspired to start my own. As a teenager I kept diaries for several years documenting the angst, worries and joys of being fifteen. I had forgotten all about these diaries and it was only last year that these were discovered in my mother attics after a clear out. I bought them home, dusty, tattered and started to read them. I laughed, cringed, and got very emotional at them as it bought back so many lost and forgotten memories of my teenage years. I had also written about the fun times horse riding, falling off every week in the lessons but living and breathing all things pony! These diaries are very precious to me now. However we have moved on in the thirty years since then and blogging is now the 21st century way of keeping a diary.
I don’t know about you but I sometimes struggle to remember what I did yesterday. I wish I had kept a diary over the last twenty years but time has evaded me. By starting my blog, I began writing about the joys and frustrations of owning my horse. I had started having lessons last year – some weeks I made brilliant progress, other lessons were exasperating disasters. By documenting this down, it was a way to read back to see where I was going right riding my horse and where my weaknesses were too. Blogging can also be a powerful way to share your knowledge, especially in the equestrian world. The majority of us horse riders source the internet these days to help us find answers to those problems that come up invariably having horses! By reading others rider’s diaries that are sharing their equine wisdom, blogging is now another way of sourcing this helpful advice.
Blogging is now becoming a very versatile tool in the equestrian world. The equestrian industry seem to be embracing this way of blogging to promote their equestrian businesses, competitions or chosen equine area of expertise. Most websites these days have a blog which can then be linked to social network pages such as Facebook and Twitter. Some top equestrian companies are now using blog pages to raise their companies profile or employing professional riders to write about their career through their websites. All the tops riders especially through the competition season blog, tweet or post about their successes and failures these days. Rather than wait for a magazine article to come out in print, this is now the quick and fast way to get their equestrian news out there as well raising their profile and their horses.
Why leave blogging to the professionals? Why not start writing about your equestrian life too? There are many ways on the internet to start for free through Blogger, WordPress etc. Do you think you haven’t got the time? Yes, this is a question that I am often asked. You can give as much time as you want to your blog but sometimes if an article or piece is short but interesting, that is better than long laborious text. Be yourself when writing and your personality will shine through. No two people have the same opinion especially in the horse world, so be honest, truthful and considerate in what you write. Add pictures to your text too which makes your article more appealing to the eye. Sometimes a page of full text can be off putting and the reader may pass by your interesting blog post. If you want to build up a readership, update your blog often to encourage followers to return.
I urge you to have a go and start writing about the ups and downs living with your horse can bring. I like nothing better than looking at my blog posts from many months ago. What seemed a hurdle with your horse then, is now a solution. Just think a few years ahead how nice it will be to look back at the wonderful times your horse gave you. As in the words of Oscar Wilde “Memories is the diary we all carry with us”."