A passion re-ignited!

My last horse Bear was tricky… really really tricky! Like a bad relationship he was sugar and sweet one day and dangerously worrying the next. I tried for 2 years to get along with him, cherishing the good times and always giving him the benefit of the doubt but when he buggared off at breakneck speed away from home at a show ground full of children I had to admit defeat… but not before my heart was broken. Really really broken.

Bear is a rare breed. A Cob Normand, or Normandy Cob. A versatile animal with a wealth of agricultural and military history. When he came to me I started a Facebook group for those of us who were lucky enough to own one, a little haven where we could all discuss our trials and triumphs, our dreams, our successes and in my case my ongoing tribulations! We shared photos and experiences of our magnificent horses and started to do our best to get the word out in the UK about this rare and very special breed.


The Facebook group started to slowly grow and it was so great to connect with people who even knew what a Normandy Cob was! It is here that I met Sally Lee.

Sally popped up on our timelines and it was clear from day one that she knew about these horses. Living in France and being a very dedicated and passionate lady she would give us useful insights about how they are trained, bred and used over there. She offered fantastic little snippets about their heritage but always being careful not to overstep her mark and advertise, because Sally works with the Jouvin family in Normandy who have been breeding , selling and developing Normandy Cobs for decades, but she wasn’t here to sell their horses. She has zero problem selling their horses for reasons I would soon be finding out! She genuinely wanted to help us all learn more about them.

She is a kind person is Sally Lee. When I was starting to have really dangerous issues she even offered to have Bear over to France and see what might be done with him! We had a couple of chats on the phone and online and I think she will admit, really didn’t blame me when I decided enough was enough and he went back to the charity I was loaning him from.

Sally knew I was heartbroken, I was literally so distraught having made one of the toughest decisions in my life and so she did something amazing…

she invited me to Normandy……

So before I had talked myself out of it, there I was! An English woman with very little French vocabulary, on a plane to Dinard with a hirecar waiting for me at the other end, driving on the “wrong” side of the road to meet a person I have never met in a rural location that you can’t even put into the satnav to see what Normandy Cobs are really all about! I must be mental! What if she’s an axe murderer!? What if the Jouvin stud is all bad animal welfare but good marketing? What if it wasn’t what it said on the tin?! What if my gut feelings were wrong?

My plane was delayed. I didn’t get to the house until gone 10pm, but when I did there was a smiley face, a home cooked meal and a massive hug with my name on it and I knew we were gonna be ok, in fact later that evening when there was a horse trying to come into the kitchen I knew for sure that these were my kind of people!

My first glimpse of the Normandies was when Sally and I went the next day to check some 3 year olds. I felt a real wave of emotion as I watched them walk over to us. These horses were the reason I was here. This rare and incredibly special breed who had already brought me to some wonderful people was finally right in front of me, calm, inquisitive and very politely saying hello!

They couldn’t have made a better first impression to be honest. They are unashamedly classy, great conformation, beautiful coats and the kindest of eyes. Friendly without being overpowering, interested without being pushy. Just beautiful animals who are a credit to their breeder. Better than I was expecting. I couldn’t wait to get to the stud and meet some more.

I got my chance the following morning .We went off to meet Georges Jouvin, known affectionately as the Normandy CobFather, and the rest of his family at the Jouvin stud. I had no idea of the day that I had in front of me. After meeting the family over the kitchen table I realised how terrible my French actually was! There was lots of nodding and gesticulating and we were able to communicate with Sally kindly translating, but I really didn’t know what to say? How do you get across how important these people are to you, when you’ve actually never met them before?

Georges is a warm man with formidable knowledge. His life’s work is right there on that farm and he has nothing to prove to anyone, the horses speak for themselves. I was instantly impressed by him, and his wonderful family who did ever so much to make me, a complete stranger feel at ease and immediately like part of the furniture. People like that are rare. Just like these horses!

It was genuinely a real treat for me to drive around with Georges in his car to see his precious horses. Some here, some there, in small groups and bigger ones, living out, happy and healthy and beautiful. Different colours and weights but all 100% Cob Normand with 50 years of breeding for temperament behind them.. and boy did it show! They were so much more impressive than I had imagined. Pure class runs through their veins, pure calmness in their hearts and I knew that I was in a really privileged position to be here, and learn more about them. There were a couple of real moments for me when I couldn’t believe how lucky I felt. It was such a beautiful day.

Georges showed me everything.. 50 years of legacy, equipment, carriages, horses, family and love. 50 years well spent! I learned very quickly not to ask their names but George knows every single one of those horses inside out. It’s absolutely amazing. No wonder Elevage Jouvin have such a good track record for matching people up with their prospective horses! They do things differently. They do things right!

We came back to the farm for a bite to eat. Wonderful home cooked French cuisine prepared by MarieRose, Georges wife. She looked after us as if we were her own family and I instantly understood who was at the very heart of this wonderful family. Georges son Franck joined us and we attempted a conversation, it went very well and although I understood much of what was being said, along with Sally’s brilliant translating I have since committed to learning some more French! Had more of a look around the farm, including a hilarious moment with Georges and the torches on our mobile phones which I will forever remember with a smile, and eventually all came back to the house for a coffee.

We chatted away for ages, and I was sad to have to go, I walked out of the kitchen door only to find Franck and 2 of the farm’s finest all tacked up and ready to go at the front of the house. I had met these two beauties earlier but had no idea that he was getting them ready for us! I was completely shocked and honestly a little overwhelmed.. we were going driving!

Trotting around the Normandy countryside, having a go at driving myself for the first time in many many years and a speedy adrenaline infused trip round an orchard later I don’t think I have ever felt as relaxed and happy. Franck has a great and slightly mischievous sense of humour, and thought it was hilarious that Sally was clinging on for dear life in the back while I was laughing my head off in the front. That man knows what he is doing. He is 7 times national champion for heavens sake! How often do you get to experience driving with one of those?!.! They really didn’t have to do this. It was absolutely above and beyond and I just wasn’t expecting such a brilliant end to a brilliant day. I found my inner adrenaline junkie and I saw what these horses are capable of. They are amazing, just amazing.


Of course we had to leave the farm, I just didn’t want to go. I did a bit of sightseeing over the next day or two, we even got to visit a French village fete which was an experience and a half! I was sad to head home, but I went with my heart full of joy and knowing exactly where my next horse was going to come from. Confident as I could be. That this time it was going to be right!

Despite the stress and the heartache I am so grateful for Bear. Without him I would never have met these people. This troublesome horse who broke my heart had led me to the very people who could help me mend it. The irony has not escaped me, but I see now that that was his job. To lead me there. To extend my family.

I cannot wait to get back there, it can’t come soon enough! But next time.. I’ll be looking for a horse of my own, and I’ll able to say more than “bonjour” , because a family like this deserves my utmost respect.

à très bientôt mes amis!

to find out more about the stud visit http://www.normandycobs.com

for fantastic riding wear for larger ladies go to http://www.fullerfillies.co.uk and use joannabrownAMB at the checkout for 5% off

Alice jacket

Recently I have got quite into showing, entering a few ridden and in hand classes and so my trusty old tweed was dragged out of the cupboard.. it was a bit tight over the shoulders and not the most comfortable to wear all day, so enter stage left the Alice tweed from Fuller Fillies!


This is truly a quality piece of kit. Well cut and generous in size, I particularly like the fit of this jacket and would be comfortable in it all day!


The Alice tweed does something that some show jackets just don’t manage. It looks chic but is subtle and neutral,not drawing attention away from the horse himself. You can cut a line and looks fabulous,but for all the right reasons! It’s also insanely practical with perfect pockets!


For a more in depth review and a closer look check out my video review below. Happy to answer any questions as always!

For 5% off use JoannaAMB at checkout


Taking your horse on holiday? Consider Thetford forest!

For two years running I have had the pleasure of taking my horse away for a few days holiday. It’s a great way to bond with your horse, test a few boundaries and most importantly have some fun!

When looking for somewhere to take them for me I was after somewhere safe to ride with good going and comfortable accomodation for my friends and I. Also,we have horses… so budget was a factor too!

We settled with Little Lodge Farm in Sandham Downham


The lodge offers different types accomodation . We went for a lodge cabin. There are paddocks and stabling available for the horses and we were all very comfortable staying in our lovely lodge cabin with a veranda overlooking the river . Perfect for a glass of something cheeky. The horses were also very settled which was very important for us. And we all felt that it was great value for money.

The lodges sleep 6 but 4 is a more practical number. We found with 6 of us it was quite a squeeze.

There are 2 bedrooms, a double with en suite and a twin. And 2 sofa beds in the living area. Fridge space is quite small so if you don’t want to go out for shopping to Brandon (which is not far away) enough food for 6 people for a few days won’t really fit. There is no freezer space.

Decoratively the lodges are really tasteful, clean and well equipped and the layout is practical and easy to live in!

Trailer and horsebox parking is up by the paddocks so we brought anything of value into the cabins for security.

The paddocks are well laid out and have recently had a fencing upgrade. Everything you need is There, water trough,tap. Good big mounting block. Clearly this place has been designed with horses in mind!

The highlight of the place for us was the forest itself. If you want long canters? You’ve got them! Windy sheltered forest tracks? Plenty of those! Not to see another soul all day? Just the deer!

The forest is laid out in a grid so it’s not too difficult to navigate, my horse has built in sat nav anyway so we never worried about finding our way home!

We particularly enjoyed a good splash about in the river. Bear managed to soak everyone in a 5 mile radius I think! He loved it!

The tracks deserve a special mention. The ground is literally perfect !Flat, well drained and sandy. Any older horse or one recovering from injury would have no problem with rutted or unlevel ground. You can really go for miles without finding a single hole! Some of the tracks are really long too, you can go fast knowing you’re not going to have any unwanted surprises!

There are plenty of little logs to pop and close to the farm there are a few set out as a little course too.

I know that little lodge sell out fast and we needed to book months in advance, but they do sometimes have last minute cancellations on their Facebook page.

All in all I would recommend the place to anyone.

Go for it, you’ll have a friendly unobtrusive welcome and a wonderful time.

Value for money : 5/5 I actually don’t think forest lodge charge enough for their facilities!

Experience :5/5

Customer service :5/5

Facilities :4/5 .

My gated paddocks had a bit of a sticky latch and we had a small problem with our cooker but I’m 100% sure that these will be sorted.

Could do with a few shavings forks so you don’t need to bring your own for poo picking the paddocks. There were some but they were very bent and it made the job quite tricky!

Weather…. well you cant order that! But we were really lucky. If it’s raining you can get under the trees and if it’s boiling hot you can also get under the trees

Midges: 1/5 . Bring insect repellent!

What to pack? Comfort is a must so i couldn’t have been without my fuller fillies puppi joddies! Especially after we got soaked! They held their shape and stayed comfy even when wet! Haha


For 5% off fuller fillies use code JoannaAMB at checkout

#iamfullerfillies #cantbeatthosepuppis


Big Girls.. Don’t Cry!

We are not all size 10! But that doesnt mean we can’t have nice things to wear around our horses!

I have been a customer of fuller fillies for 15 years or so now and have tried most of the range over those years. I’m a tall 5’11 size 20/22 rider and much as I would love to go waltzing about in Pikeur and Musto breaking hearts as I go, unfortunately they consider a size 16 to be extra large and I can’t even get the damn things on past my elbows! So, instead, I walk around in fuller fillies breaking hearts as I go!

I’m a big fan of fuller fillies joddies as they are just cut so beautifully and my size 9 “canoes instead of feet” are also very grateful for stylish riding boots that go on and zip up comfortably. Today though I want to focus on the classic Sheriffe jacket.


This is an absolutely first class every day yard jacket. It’s practical and flattering and the first thing I reach for on spring or autumn days when the weather could be a little wet or breezy.

Its a great jacket if youre grooming at a show and want to look smart to support your rider without being in full show regalia! But its also fab to ride in every day

I have always found jackets to be a little tight over the tops of my arms but this one is just not like that, even when riding with my elbows bent and its cut low enough over the back to flatter curvier ladies.


Priced at around £80 It’s great value for money too!

Style: 5/5

Budget: 5/5

Practicality: 5/5 great pockets! Cut for riding!

The only downside I could find with the Sheriffe is that you can’t get it in different colours and own more than one!

Want one? Buy it here! And add code JoannaAMB at checkout for your 5% discount


Bloomin’ abscesses!

So my big boy has got a hole in his foot

And when I say hole I mean HOLE!

I was looking for something to keep his hoof clean while it heals,and to allow turnout (he’s very difficult to handle without it!) And I came across this medical boot made by woofwear



It comes in 9 sizes and you really do have to measure to make sure you get the right fit. It’s a tight fit but it really doesn’t budge and although he largest size is ever so slightly too small for Bear he’s completely enormous so it’s the story of my life!

Made from neoprene and feeling really like a wetsuit it’s not waterproof but its really flexible

Day one I was really happy. Boot went on and stayed on and although his foot was very hot when I removed it not a drop of mud had got where it did not belong!

Day two. Small hole in the front. Stayed on all day. Zip broke removing it

Day three. Put it on. Vet wrapped and duct taped to hold it on. Did the job and didn’t budge. Another small hole appeared

I’ve been using it like this ever since and it’s doing the job ok even though I’m having to tape it on.


Ease of use : It’s brilliant. Takes 2 mins to take on and off but it’s very snug so you have to pull hard!

Fit : fits very well over the hoof. And trust me it doesn’t move! My horse was turned out in his with an over reach boot and it survived him charging about.

Cost : Woofwear say it lasts 10 uses. In fact mine lasted 2 before the zip went. Even though ive bodged it and can still use it this is not good value for money. Please #woofwear sort out the robustness and you’ll be onto a real winner here!

Would I buy another? Yep. It’s a handy thing to have for an emergency.

Let me know your best tips for keeping a foot dry in a muddy field and we can see if anything tops this!

Jo x


Woofwear club overreach boots

So. My poor horse managed to fracture a hind pedal bone about 7 weeks ago and as a result has been on box rest and now outdoor pen rest ever since. He also has a big egg bar shoe on one of his hinds and a normal shoe on the other. When I say big I mean huge. Bears feet are enormous!

Being barefoot normally I was worried about him sustaining and overreach injury, he has had them in the past and they can be really painful and slow to heal so I bought a pair of these to turn him out in to prevent him getting one!

First thing to mention is the sizing. Much like almost everything else in the horse world I really struggle to find things to fit Bear. He is 17hh and 865kg of chunky Normandy Cob and he has the kind of bone you rarely see these days! I bought the extra full size,and genuinely expected them not to fit,but fit they do and with room to spare! Completely delighted with this! Something actually fits!!

They are super easy to get on and off and fit well over the heel. They look very smart too and once I’m back riding I’ll be very happy for him to wear these out and about!

Made from neoprene they also wash really well and the Velcro is super strong. I would be surprised if a horse managed to lose one of these! When new they really take a hard tug to get apart!

The thing that has impressed me most is that these overreach boots haven’t budged an inch. I check them daily and they are still exactly where I left them! There has been no rubbing, no trapping of dirt or hair and certainly no discomfort.

For turnout they are perfect and well worth the money. I think I paid about £25 for them. Having not tested them for any real riding work I can’t comment on that.. yet! But if you want a comfy reliable turnout boot then these are definitely with considering.

Well done woofwear. Super quality again!

HAAS brushes from eqclusive

I decided, since the horse is clearly staying and I only had literally 2 or 3 brushes in my grooming kit that it was time to invest in some new brushes for him.

I put the request for recommendations out on our sister Facebook group “horse products tried and tested” and surprisingly overwhelmingly the consensus was to look at a set of haas brushes. These can be bought singularly online or are sold in colour packs by eqclusive.com.

Colour packs? I have to admit I was very sceptical. Being a veterinary nurse I’m very aware of the kind of marketing that makes us buy stuff for our animals, but when i looked into it there is actually some real sense behind it.

I went for the dark bay/black colour set because despite my horse actually being bright bay he has a slightly coarser and sturdier coat than the softer dustier coat that the chestnut/bright bay pack described. I have also heard from friends that they are great for poo stains on greys!

Now let’s get one thing super clear. I absolutely hate grooming. I don’t enjoy it and as such I’m the first to admit that I don’t do it as regularly as perhaps I should! My horse lives out (minimally rugged) for a huge part of the year and has a very very dense coat which I clip in the winter. It’s so dense it’s like velvet and if I allow it to grow he looks like a yak!

I ordered the brushes from eqclusive.com. Had I only needed one or two I would probably have sourced them individually, but for people wanting to put together a show grooming kit or a first grooming kit then the packs are a handy way to get the brushes you need. They are not cheap however, and so I was excited to receive them and try them out.

There was about a month delay in the order being dispatched (made clear when I was ordering) but the sleekeze I purchased for moulting was sent earlier on my request and is an absolutely brilliant thing. I would recommend it to anyone, however it is just a hacksaw blade on a block so if you’re crafty you could easily make one.

My brushes arrived earlier than expected and beautifully presented in a posh box with instructions on which order to use them.

The box didn’t last long as it’s cardboard and a tight fit so not the most practical.

The brushes themselves have really confusing and slightly pretentious names like “cavello” and “lipizzanner”. If I were selling as a pack I would number them which is essentially what I’m going to do with a sharpie pen.
The idea is that you brush your horse once or twice over with the brushes in order and each one does a slightly different job… lifts scuff, removes dust, adds shine, polishes!

Tentatively and not expecting much I gave my horse a 10 minute groom.

I. Could. Not. Believe. The. Result!!!!!

The brushes fit really well in the hand and are comfortable to use. The first couple of brushes really did get out deep scurf which couldn’t see! My horse had been bathed a few days beforehand and still the grime was still coming up. It really stays on the brush too so I would recommend using the curry comb inbetween strokes.

The brushes seem to put on more and more shine and in particular the difference on his face was pretty amazing! For someone who doesnt like grooming i can confirm that this was a very rewarding experience!.

We went out showing this weekend to a huge show and got 3rd place in a well supported best condition class and I’m sure the quality of his coat played a part in this.

I would recommend these brushes to anyone. Whether you do your research and buy them singularly or go for a colour pack I don’t think you would be disappointed .

They are an absolute show kit essential, particularly the “diva” which is the most gorgeous lambswool and gives an epic shine.

If you’re hesitant? I believe that eqclusive do yard visits to demonstrate them.

Go for it and let me know what you think!!

Making good decisions

I have decided that 2016 is to be the year of good decisions. I’ve changed my job ,changed my location to better suit my lifestyle and I’ve felt the stress melt away… But one thing was still weighing heavily on my mind…. And after 3 years of owning her… I changed my horse…..

To admit that a horse isn’t the right one for you, especially after having high hopes and dreams and investing time money and effort.. sometimes the bravest decision can also be the hardest one.
I had got to the point where my young horse had scared me to the point I couldn’t get past it, and so regrettably I let her go to somewhere better suited to her needs.
Once the decision was made my whole life became lighter.. And the most interesting thing in talking to so many equestrians is just how often this happens!!! I don’t think there was a person I talked to who hadn’t had a similar experience. I spoke to a few who had carried on regardless and since regretted doing so, being frightened of their horses for many years and as a result not enjoying them.

I now have a wonderful boy on loan who is slowly restoring my faith and my confidence and I’m safe in the knowledge that my last horse has a much better chance of a happy life elsewhere and will have a secure future forever .
Spirit was a rescue and so as such never truly belonged to me. The organisation who she came from have been absolutely brilliant .. Equine rescue and rehoming. And I’m confident that they will find her a better match.

In the meantime I have a full year planned out .. I’m getting ready to start reviewing show gear!!!

I guess what I’m trying to say is this… Horses are a very expensive hobby. Expensive in time, money, work, effort. When it’s just not working its better to admit this to yourself and find a better match! It’s a bloody expensive way to be miserable!!!
Nobody worth their salt will judge you for it, and although there are inevitable emotions involved you may just feel a whole lot better about life! Trust me! As soon as my decision was made the whole world came off my shoulders and I started remembering what it’s like to love horses again.

To be struck with “The Fear” as one of my lovely fellow liveries calls it, is no fun at all.. And while some may work their way out of it, if you feel unsafe or unable to cope there’s absolutely nothing wrong with moving on. Like a bad relationship it can be damaging for both parties if you carry on regardless.  Do what’s right for YOU. You won’t look back!!


Head collar hanging basket

I’m a bit of an upcycler, and I recently made this hanging basket for my yard.

I wanted to keep my late horse’s head collar and this felt like a great way to do it!
Now every time I see it having on the yard it reminds me of him,and makes me smile!

Some of you have asked how to make it.. Its dead easy! Here goes!!

You will need

Head collar

Bucket.. Plastic would be fine but galvanised buckets look fabulous!

Tip: take the head collar to the shop and make sure your bucket fits. The noseband needs to needs to sit about a third of the height of the bucket. Too low and it will tip up with the weight of the plants.

Container potting compost ( enough to half fill the bucket)

Drill with 10-12mm drill bit

2 small plastic flowerpots

Trailing plants . I used double headed trailing petunias for this one.

Strong hook for the wall fitting.. Wide enough to take the headstrap of the headcollar


1. Turn your bucket upside down, hold securely and using your drill make approximately 5-10 holes in the bottom. This will allow drainage for the plants. Be careful. Goggles if you need them!

2 . Place a plastic flowerpot or two upside-down in the bottom of the bucket to take up some space. Most bedding plants won’t require a whole bucket of compost. This will help with drainage and reduce the weight of the finished bucket.. After all you’ll have to lift it up to hang it!

3. Fill the bucket to approximately an inch from the top with general purpose compost container compost. I use Levington compost with good results

4 . Now for the creative bit!… plant the plants!
I used 4 small petunias around the edge and one in the middle. Its good to use a few plants so that the end result is full and dense. I think I paid about £3 for mine from a garden centre. You can add in what ever plants you like but anything that trails down would work well.. What about some trailing strawberries?!

5. Hang it up! The hook you use meets to be very secure. The bucket will get heavy when watered.

Tip: don’t hang this anywhere that a horse can reach it… These are a lot of fun to play with if you’re a horse!

6. Maintainance . I water my bucket every other day. Hanging buckets are prone to drying out. Occasional feeding with miracle grow every couple of weeks will help produce bigger and faster growing plants.

7. Enjoy!!!

I hope this inspires you to upcycle those old head collars and buckets you have knocking around the place, or like me, make a special memorial from a head collar you couldn’t bear to use again but didn’t want to throw out.

Feel free to share and comment with your bucket pics!!  I’d also love to hear about any other ideas you have for upcycling at the stables!

Jo x


Jason Webb coffee morning

Very quick blog post today about the coffee morning I spent at Jason Webb’s yard in Goudhurst,Kent this week, home of Australian horsemanship and the “Your Horsemanship” programme.


I went along as suggested by his office after I called them asking about starting youngsters. I wanted to see how he trained horses with a view to employing his services to back Spirit next year. I have heard lots of positive feedback but always think it’s best to see for yourself!

What I saw was very encouraging, not only that you could come and see him working on a real horse in for something,  in this case a rather tricky ridden problem, but there were also people around to ask questions about what they do there .

Jason’s approach was consistent and fair with a really very challenging young horse,  and having seen this, his demo at your horse live and the videos available online i can see that the mindset is along very similar lines of how I think about horse training. I doubt we would disagree on much!

I was under no doubt whatsoever about what I would receive if my horse was started there, it’s crystal clear what Jason and his team do during the backing process, the information is displayed and explained thoroughly, and the training pack sent out to me the following day answered most of my questions.

Jason Webb may seem pricey to some, but given what is done with the horse? I feel the rates are fair. My view is.. I’ll only be doing this once. Better get it right! Whats more, the super slick organisation has really boosted my confidence in their ability to look after me as a slightly apprehensive client when the time comes! Haha

I felt like the yard was a happy place. Despite the horrendous weather there was no lack of sense of humour! Always a plus! And the facilities and grazing/stables looked great! Enough room for my,frankly gigantic baby horse!


The email communication with the office has been excellent, and while personally I’m not fully sold on organised training programmes that you subscribe onto, such as the “Your Horsemanship” programme that Jason Webb has developed,  I can see how this approach would be attractive to many riders.

All in all… I have decided to book her in for next April! Im fully confident in this decision.. now.. if only he can help me find a way to stop her going grey! …..