Outside the Horsebox - a new set of language skills to learn!

When our friend Heather Daniell told me about her move from the US to the UK - I wanted to know how different it is over there!  As Grooms, we have the opportunity to travel and compete internationally, and sometimes we can even take a full time job overseas!  While horses will always be horses, there are some differences....   Here's what Heather has to say about learning a new language...

"Nine years ago I moved to the UK to go to graduate school. The original plan was to finish my degree, return to the US to a (hopefully) well paying job, buy a horse(s) and return to 3-day eventing. Simple and straightforward! As luck would have it I stayed in the UK and it was nearly 8 years before I was able to buy a horse and return to competition. When I did, I discovered that not only did I have to dust off the cobwebs but I also had to learn how to ride and speak British Horsespeak.

By now I’m pretty used to getting blank stares and funny looks as I back track to try and figure out what I’ve said that was in “American” not in “British” horsespeak. Here are a few of my favourite faux pas and learning experiences.

At the Yard

When I finally found a horse - a 6 yo event prospect named Ben – I had to find a “yard” where I would keep him on “livery”.

I opted to have him on “part livery” which is what I would have called “full board” – feeding, turning out, bringing in, feet cleaned, groomed, mucking out and picking out or “skipping out” in the evening. I once asked if they could skip picking him out in the evening. They thought I meant to “skip” him out. Gosh that’s confusing!

Me: “Can you please skip “picking out” Ben’s stall this evening. I’ll do it later.”

Response: “Okay I’ll “skip” him out next”.

Me: “No sorry, I meant don’t “skip” him out.”

When Ben arrived at his new yard I asked what he was getting to eat.

Response: “A handful and pony nuts and hifi”.

I nod and smile. What are “nuts”!!!?? What happened to pellets or grain? Does my horse really eat some sort of nut? Que panic as I wondered what the heck horses ate in the UK. How different can horse feeding be?

As it turned out, “nuts” are pellets - pony nuts are low energy pellets. Phew, so not that different after all. Hifi is chaff - I guess I could have figured that out - but pretty much all horses get it in the UK not just older ones or those with special requirements which is what I was familiar with in the US. If I were an American horse I’d be wondering what all the sticks were doing in the way of my grain! “Hey human here’s my grain and don’t be stingy with the sweet feed either!?”

Next the yard manager asked me if I wanted him to have hay or haylage. “Ugh, haylage don’t you just feed that to farm animals?”

Wrong again! In the UK lots of horses get haylage which is hay baled moist and allowed to ferment – apparently higher in nutrients and lower in dust. I opted for hay – it’s generally very good quality, although they don’t really do the really rich alfalfa hay, but you can supplement with alfalfa chaff. Plus the bales are steamed to keep down the dust.


Other American Misspeaks

“I’m going to go put Ben in his “stall” now. Or I’ll be down to the “stable” at 4. Huh? A US “stall” is a UK “stable”, a US “stable” is a UK “yard”. And real American barns are not very common. In fact, a barn is referred to as an American Barn to highlight that everything is under one roof and you don’t have to trudge back and forth from the tack room (there’s one thing that’s the same – “tack”) getting wet in the rain!

Rings are “schools” although sometimes “arenas” and horsewalkers are a big thing. Last I remember in the US they were pretty out of fashion except maybe at racing yards.

Out Competing

After a long winter of nearly getting bucked off every ride with plenty of whiplash Ben and I were finally starting to work well together. It was time to get out competing. I’d seen these things called “hunter trials” advertised but I wasn’t really sure what they were – a “hunter pace” like in the US? Or a race of some kind? Turns out hunter trials are actually just the cross country bit of eventing. Genius! I can turn up and run a full cross country course without having to do dressage and show jumping. Ben was a show jumper and while he was pretty good XC schooling he’d never actually run a course before, what a great opportunity. We had a good first outing, though Ben went sideways over every fence as he was too busy looking at the fence judges’ cars, and the flags and the people!

Next we were off to try out some unaffiliated (unrecognized) one-day events. But this meant I needed proper attire. So what does one wear in the UK? Well it’s got to either be a blue, black or tweed jacket with beige or white britches. Fine, I thought I’d just opt for my normal blue jacket with beige britches.

Competition fashion error alert!

Everyone wears tweed! Next time around I’m going have to get tweed so I blend in better. And really I’ve come to see some good uses for it. Ben seems to make it his mission to sneak up behind me and wipe slim all down my arm when I’m already late for dressage warm-up. At least if you’ve got tweed getting slimmed isn’t so obvious.

Meanwhile out in the show jumping warm up…. No one calls fences they just dash towards them. At first I was the only one calling out where I was going, but now I’ve just gone quiet like everyone else. It’s probably fine I don’t think anyone has any idea where I’m going anyway, as the names are different. A cross-rail is a “cross-bar” and a vertical is an “upright”.

So, after our first season together I’m still learning my British Horsespeak. And I’m getting much more tuned into the blank stares! There’s probably other stuff I’m not even aware of yet. I’m looking forward to figuring out more as I go along."