10 Things We Learnt With Tom
On Sunday 15th October, eventer and sponsored rider Tom McEwen hosted 16 guests on a Masta Yard Visit at his wonderful yard in Gatcombe, Glos. Here’s what we learnt..
1) Brilliance often comes with quirks. Tom’s top horse, Toledo de Kerser, was passed from dealer to dealer for a while because he can be quite highly strung and has a habit of bolting, especially if you try to jump him at home. “Everyone said you couldn’t jump him at home—- and you couldn’t!” explains Tom, of the horse who can still be tricky to get on sometimes, but has the most amazingly clean show jumping record.
“We just try to keep everything as calm as possible at shows, so he knows it’s his time. He’s much better if he travels on his own, and we do the minimum in terms of warming up — just three fences I think before he went round Burghley [where he came fourth!]” Sometimes they don’t jump a warm up fence at all, if the warm up arena is really busy.
2) Tom keeps horse holidays light: He prefers to give horses only two or three weeks fully on holiday tired out 24/7, rather than roughing them off completely at the end of the season for a month or two. After a short break turned out, the horses will come back into work, hacking and doing gentle school work a few days a week, building up gradually. “Otherwise it takes such a long time to regain the muscle,” explains Tom.
3) Slightly hot, buzzy horses are fine with Tom — perhaps because he is such a quiet, unflappable rider, he tends to bring out the best in them. He particularly likes chestnut mares. “They’re quirky but if you can get on on your side, they can be amazing.” He has one on his yard who starts kicking her door the moment the lorry engine fires up, desperate to get on and go out!
4) Horses are invited to choose their own stables on Tom’s yard. He likes to slip their bridles off after work in the yard and let them wander in. Tom finds they tend to go to the stable they’d like to have — and thus each horse is given his or her ideal billet.
5) It’s about conformation and movement for Tom, not breeding, when he’s choosing or viewing young horses. “I don’t think there’s a right and wrong type of horse for eventing,” says Tom. “It’s all about heart.”
6) Learning revolves around the home for the young horses. Tom prefers to take things slowly, “playing around at home” with young horses rather then taking them out to contest young horse classes and so on. “Eventing is all about longevity,” says Tom, “— and it saves a lot of money, too.”
7) It’s hay all the way at Tom’s yard. “I usually keep the older horses on Timothy hay — it’s that bit cleaner and higher in energy,” says Tom. He steams all his hay but all the top yards he’s worked on have fed hay rather than haylage, and he doesn’t see himself going back to haylage either.
8) Practise those halts. “I learnt when I worked at Carl Hester’s that you can get 20 or 30 marks for free if you establish from early on with a young horse how to halt square.”
9) Tom uses bounce jumping exercises a lot at home to develop strength and power in jumping, and often puts an oxer into a bounce exercise. “It teaches a young horse to pop up and extend — the correct way to jump an oxer,” Tom explains
10) Tom is a HUGE fan of Protechmasta rugs, especially as it’s helped Toledo to stay calm while travelling, and to avoid him sweating up with nervous anticipation. “He lives in his Protechmasta - including on the walker instead of a walker rug. Even in quite warm weather it seems to help him..” Tom schooled Toledo lightly in a new Protechmasta quarter sheet - which goes on sale soon!
Stay tuned for our next Yard Visit with Racing Trainer Tom George in November!