Thursday 4 February 2021

5 Tips For The New Season from the 'Doctor of Happiness'

If like many people you're finding life a bit more difficult at present and the usual winter struggles of horse ownership seem more of a challenge this year, you're not alone. With the new spring season just around the corner, there is much uncertainty about how - and even if - training and competitions will resume any time soon, so to help you maintain that all-important positive mindset, we've put together 5 top tips taken from the science of positive psychology by Doctor Andy Cope. These New Season EVOLUTIONS will help make 2021 your happiest year ever! 

First, a bit about Andy – the Doctor of Happiness

Dr Andy Cope has been immersed in the science of wellbeing for 15 years. His Loughborough PhD qualifies him as the UK’s first 'doctor of happiness'. Andy has written several best-selling books on happiness and wellbeing and has a new book, ‘The Happiness Revolution’ due for publication this year.

Andy is a sought after media commentator, knowledgeable and ‘real’, as well as having a quirky and entertaining take on matters concerning happiness, wellness, self-care, mental health and resilience. 

In 2020 he appeared on BBC 5-Live, BBC Radio 1, SKY News and a host of regional and international news platforms.


2020 was a year that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. 

It’s time to turn the tables and let the good times roll. In 2021, Equine Extra is joining the 'Doctor of Happiness' in asking you to get involved in a happiness evolution that raises the bar from mental health to mental wealth. Don’t fret though; this evolution doesn't require placards, pitchforks or toppling of statues. Quite simply, Andy suggests you just need to sign up to being your best self. Consistently. And while that might not change THE world, it’ll certainly shape yours.

2021 signals a brand new beginning and the objective is to say; Welcome home. Welcome back to your best self. 

So here are those 5 top tips taken from the science of positive psychology. The New Season EVOLUTIONS will help make 2021 your happiest year ever:

1.     Quit your ‘wait problem’ 

Too many people are kicking happiness into the long grass; I’ll be happy when Covid19 goes away, I’ll be happy at Easter, I’ll be happy in the summer, I’ll be happy when we get back to ‘normal’…

We’re experiencing a massive ‘wait problem’. Getting stuck in the rut of wishing your life away is a terrible waste of your days. Quit waiting for happiness. If there’s anything good to come out of 2020 it’s a reminder that being alive is the best thing ever.

2.     The year of hugging

When restrictions are lifted, treat your loved ones to extended hugs. For the love to transfer between two people a hug needs to last 7 seconds or longer (be warned though, counting out loud spoils the effect).

3.     Wield your kindness super-power

2020 had its troubles but it also brought out plenty of full fat human kindness. Here are the 5 levels of kindness. Aim for mastery in 2021.

a)    Kindness to yourself (self-care)

b)    Kindness for no reason (be a bucket filler)

c)    Random acts of kindness (5 a day)

d)    Anonymous random acts of kindness (niceness ninja)

e)    Be kind to the unkind (niceness grand master)

4.     Do less. Be more.

Commit to being less busy. Invest in relationships. Be fully present with the people you love - and that includes your horses and ponies, dogs, cats and all other living beings sharing your life.

 5.     Create a ripple

Appreciate that your happiness is bigger than you. It has a ripple effect and [positively] infects those around you. A happy friend will make you 14% happier. A happy sibling will increase your happiness by 17%. A happy neighbour raises your happiness by a whopping 34%. So quit waiting for someone else to start the happiness revolution. Step up! Be that friend. Be that brother/sister. Be that neighbour.


Thursday 6 August 2020

Are We Eating As Well As Our Horses?

Apples are great for horses and riders!
There's a new kid on the 'public information' block - the association of obesity with worse outcomes for those who catch Covid-19 - but it's hard to hide anyway from the very clear message that being overweight is bad for your health. By implication, bad health impacts on our NHS by utilising resources and costing £££ and it made me think about how we plan our horse's diets and how we plan our own.

Our horses only drink water - no caffeine, alcohol or fizzy drinks (sweet or diet variants) and most of them eat a diet of feeds grown and nutritionally formulated to deliver optimum, healthy equine nutrition. Obesity in horses and particularly ponies is a growing issue so - or so we're repeatedly told - and good advice on managing weight is easily available.

When it comes to us riders however, it seems that for some, well pretty much anything goes ...  This article - Here's How The Body Reacts To One-Off Overeating - New Research - is an interesting read and is a good explanation of what happens to your body when you decide to eat mulitple portions of cheesy chips, cake and hot chocolate with marshmallows at a show! Overeat often enough, at home or away, and it's easy to see why some riders do become too obese to be properly fit. Riders at the higher levels just aren't obese, as they simply couldn't perform to the required level essential for success.

We receive a lot of information every week in the Equine Extra office and one recent report caught my eye as we all know someone who drinks more alcohol than is 'recommended' for good health, but the latest figures reveal that more working years are now lost to alcohol than cancer! The report is below (in blue text and makes for sobering reading (pun intended!).

Alcohol Kills Country's Working Economy

Almost a fifth of working years of life lost in England in 2018 were due to alcohol consumption, overtaking working years lost to Cancer, the latest data from Public Health England (PHE) shows.


Mortality data for 2018 from the Office for National Statistics was used to calculate the potential working years of life lost for individuals who died before the age of 65 years.


The results published this month (July 2020) show that in 2018, there were an estimated 178,933 working years lost due to alcohol in England which amounts to 18% of the total working years lost, which stands at just over 1 million (1,005,868). 


This is the highest number recorded since 2011. 


The younger the person who dies is, the more they individually contribute, as there are more working years of life lost. The report shows that those aged just 45 to 54 contributed the most, with a total of 57,558 working years of life lost in 2018, closely followed by the 35-44 age group who contributed 47,243 working years of life lost.


Furthermore, the report reveals that liver disease – 60% of which is caused by alcohol – is now the leading cause of death in those aged between 35-49 years old.


Premature deaths from liver disease due to alcohol consumption led to nearly 50,000 working years of life lost in 2018.


Public Health England has also revealed that working years lost to alcohol are far greater than the total combined working years lost to the 10 leading causes of cancer death in 2018.


The 10 leading causes of cancer death led to 136,559 working years lost in England, which is around 40,000 years fewer than the estimated years lost due to alcohol. 


In 2018, men (131,403) had almost 3 times more working years of life lost than women (47,530).


Nuno Albuquerque, Head of Treatment at alcohol addiction treatment experts UKAT comments on this report;

“Unfortunately, alcohol-related deaths often occur at relatively young ages, and so it is important to consider the wider impact alcohol has on both the individual and society. 


“Reports like this one are instrumental in our understanding of the problem, but most importantly, in using the information to instigate positive change. But where is the Government’s commitment to tackling alcohol abuse in this country? Why are our leaders continuing to bury their heads in the sand about how impactful alcohol is?


“These figures clearly show that more and more potential working years of life in this country are lost to alcohol, even more so than the 10 leading Cancers combined. Our working economy is being killed off by alcohol- a substance so socially embedded and accepted, yet so dangerous and addictive.


“This is frightening, and if this information does not instigate immediate action by our Country’s leaders, then what will?”


For help and support with alcohol misuse, visit

Just think how many calories there are in alcohol too! It's probably the only 'drug' you ever have to apologise for not taking - think about it - it's true!

I've also been following the increasingly vocal vegan movement and whilst I personally couldn't accept either the air miles involved in too many of the 'ingredients' in vegan cooking, nor the seemingly inevitable struggle to ensure that our human vitamin and mineral requirements are met without supplements, I do enjoy cooking and eating vegetarian meals - and each to their own. However I don't accept the environmental argument either - and this article, widely published last year - 'Vegans Don't Realize Billions Of Animals Are Killed Growing Crops' Says Pig Farmer - will probably be something of an eye-opener if you haven't read it before. I'd suggest that if you need to somehow defend your dietary choices, then just perhaps you aren't comfortable with them either??

In the UK, we can't say that good quality food isn't easily available. British-farmed, meat, vegetables and fruit are produced to high ethical standards right across the UK and our landscapes owe a lot to farming practices, both current and in the past. So you don't have to buy factory-farmed or imported foods and we can all easily choose the diet we want to eat, staying healthy at the same time.

It's just the same for our horses. Decent grazing is always going to be the cheapest feed you can get and the good feed companies will advise on balancing your horse's forage correctly, depending on his workload and breeding. So next time you look up information about your horse's diet and scrutinise his weight, take the same time to think about your own too; after all if you're fit and not fat, your horse is far more likely to enjoy your rides and as you will potentially be a better balanced and effective rider - you can read more about that here - The influence of rider:horse bodyweight ratio and rider‐horse‐saddle fit on equine gait and behaviour - It will be interesting to read all the follow up work as it is published.

The phrase 'you are what you eat' can be readily dated back to Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, in 1826, in his seven-volume book The Physiology of Taste, but it's just as true today.  Our horses are what they eat and so are we. We spend a lot of time, energy and £££ to keep our equine friends both healthy and sound and it makes sense to do the same for ourselves. Food for thought ...

Pam Harrison, Editor, Equine Extra