Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Abscesses: The common cold for horses

The common cold for humans is the horse equivalent of an abscess. Some horses are more prone to them than others. I have a grulla paint mare that I have owned for just over a year, and in that course of a year, she has had a few abscesses. I have gotten pretty good in treating these things so I am going to share a little about an abscess and what some symptoms and treatment options are.

To start off if you don’t know what an abscess is, it occurs when bacteria invades the horse's hoof and is most noticeable when it infects the sensitive parts of the foot. They can cause serious damage if left untreated. What are some symptoms of an abscess you may ask? Well, the most common and noticed symptom is lameness and limping. This is in result to the invasion of the bacteria into the sensitive spots in the hoof.

However, there are a few more things that you can pick up on that are preliminary to an abscess. These include but are not limited to: fever, swelling of the leg and hoof area, sensitivity to hoof picks, and touch. If you notice your horse displaying any of these behaviors they probably have an abscess.

Fear not! These can be treated fairly easy. The easiest and fastest relief for your horse from an abscess is to have your vet or farrier come out and find the location of the infection of it has not broken through and trim a hole/path for the infection to drain out. However, some abscesses erupt and break through on their own, not needing to have a hole/path cut to drain them.

Once it is broke through and draining it is important to keep this area clean. Some people soak the foot in Epsom salts this is known the draw the infection out of the foot. This can be easily done by purchasing a soaking boot from your local tack store. These make the soaking process so much easier! Have you ever tried to get your horse to put its foot into a bucket to soak? Well, good luck, that’s a job in itself! Trust me the soak boots are a simple solution to a bigger potential headache.

What causes abscess and how can they be prevented? Well, the most common cause is an irritation to the sole of the foot most commonly from a stone or something of that nature getting stuck in the foot. It can even be as simple as a bruise from a stone/rock from trail riding. Aside from that, another common cause is moisture whether there be too much or too little moisture. Finally, dirty stalls are horrible for horse’s feet and can bring about abscesses.

If you pay attention and do your best to maintain healthy hoof care you should be fine. However, if your horse does get an abscess, just be sure to treat it accordingly and get it taken care of quickly.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Summer Horse Care

Fresh Water: During the hot summer months, it is very important to keep your horse hydrated. Always provide access to clean and cool drinking water and keep your water tank somewhere that it doesn’t get direct sunlight. Putting out salt blocks can encourage your horse to drink; if your horse gets dehydrated, electrolytes are a good item to keep around the barn during the summer.

Shade: On the hottest days of summer your horse should be provided an adequate amount of shade with a lean-to or tree. In some cases that shade cannot be provided. During turnout, you can stall your horse during the hottest times of the day with fans for airflow and switch turnout times to early morning, late evening or even overnight. Horses with white (usually white faces or nose) are at higher risk for sunburn sunscreen, UV Protecting sheets are a necessity.

Protection from Bugs:
  • Fly Sheet
  • Fly Mask
  • Fly Spray
  • SWAT Fly Ointment
  • Fly Leg Wraps (optional)

Exercise: Avoid exercising your horse during the highest heat of the day, early morning exercises and evening exercises are recommended. If you ride during the heat of day be sure to try and ride in wooded or shaded areas. Properly cool down your horse and even hose off. While hosing off, it is recommended to get your horse adjusted to the water, starting at the legs and slowly working your way up to the body. Hosing off also helps get off the sweat that attracts flies.

Using a fly sheet helps protect your horse not only from bugs but also from the sun’s UV Rays that cause your horse’s coat to fade out and become dull. A fly mask will keep your horse comfortable as flies and bugs cannot get into their eyes causing irritation and watery eyes. I prefer to use fly masks with ears as they protect from bites that scab up and cause discomfort. To protect my horse to the fullest I used my Power Fly Spray (By Pyranha) to repel flies, mosquitoes, ticks and more!

As an extra precaution, I like to keep SWAT Fly ointment in my first aid kit to protect wounds, cuts and irritated spots from dirt and disease carrying and to help repel bugs as well. Fly leg wraps aren’t a necessity except for some horses (mostly donkeys) that are sensitive to fly bites on their legs and become irritated, the fly leg wraps keep them comfortable and protected.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How to Turn Your Stirrups

After a long trail ride and the resulting achy back or creaky knees, we all realize the importance of ergonomics. One of the most frustrating things about a saddle, especially for those riders with weak knees or ankles, can be unturned stirrups. How many times have you sat in your saddle, flailing your foot, searching for the stirrup? The problem is easy to solve if you know what to do.

Many saddle manufacturers offer pre-turned stirrups, eliminating this problem right off the bat. Billy Cook and Crates saddles come with turned stirrups. Other companies, like Circle Y and Reinsman, have saddles built with such soft leather that is quite pliable, reducing the effort and time of turning the stirrups. But most manufacturers allow you to figure it out yourself. Some ask you to pay extra for the service. But with minimal time and effort, you can do it yourself. Try one of these easy ideas:


There are a few products that you can easily attach to the fender to keep the stirrup permanently in the correct position. Stirrup Straight is attached between the fender and the stirrup with a stainless steel swivel in between. The stirrup will hang off-center, putting the fender and stirrup forward so that you can easily locate it and slide your foot into it.

No more ankle and knee stress. No more groping around with your feet. However, a product like Stirrup Straight will add a couple inches to your fender length. Do add extra length.


Most riders use the broom handle trick. To do this, follow these steps:

Place your saddle on a saddle stand. Twist the stirrup to the desired position. Run a broom handle or s 2 x 4 through the stirrup under the saddle to the other stirrup. The pair should be resting the direction you want them to be while riding.

Allow the saddle to rest in this position. It may take quite a while for the stirrups to end up staying this way. Many riders replace the broom handle after each riding session, and this keeps the stirrups trained. Additionally, you can add weight to the broomstick or 2x4 with bricks, blocks, or weights keeping the stirrups straight and trained at the same time.

For a more permanent effect, some riders choose to wet the stirrup leathers, then let the broomstick rest in the stirrups until the leather dries. This nearly always permanently turns the leathers, eliminating the need to keep retraining the stirrups. To try this, remember to remove the stirrup leathers, use completely clean water, and apply leather conditioner during and after the process.

However, remember that water is not good for leather, as it dries it out and allows the natural fats and conditioners to leave the leather. The more the leather gets wet, the more it loses its natural softness and flexibility. Some leather may also discolor if it gets wet.


Try a twisting method that many saddle makers use. The following are directions for a permanent stirrup twist. You'll need an extra leather saddle string and an extra set of hands.


1. Have your helper fold the stirrup leather in half with the backsides touching.

2. Then take one end and put a single twist in it so that the front side of the end with the twist touches the back side of the end without the twist.

3. Have your helper hold this firmly while you take the twisted end and wrap the leather saddle string around it so that the wrapped part takes the shape of a cylinder. Rewrap over the first tail end, then tuck the second end in securely when finished.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How to Care for Your Saddle

Your saddle purchased from us is made from hand selected saddle skirting leather, chosen for its durability and extreme strength. However, any leather must receive regular care to preserve this strength and long life. At least four times each year your saddle should be completely cleaned with a good soap or detergent, and then well oiled with a good neatsfoot oil.

In wetter climates, this should be followed more often, as continued moisture is very harmful to leather. With a program of reasonable care, your saddle should last for many years. The products we use to clean and oil our saddles are listed below.


  • Do not store saddle in plastic or other non-porous covers.

  • Allow a wet or damp saddle to air-dry naturally away from any other source of heat. Apply a little Bick 4 leather conditioner when the saddle is nearly dry to restore flexibility. Condition thoroughly with Bick 4 when the saddle is completely dried.

  • To prevent mildew, protect the saddle from excessive humidity. In a dry environment, regularly condition the leather to prevent the saddle from drying out and cracking.

  • Do not use waxes, silicone or other leather preparations that impair the ability of the leather to "breathe".

  • Dubbins and greases are bad as they seal the pores and are greasy, thus picking up additional dirt and dust and slows drying time.

  • Never use caustic household chemicals to clean leather. Avoid leather preparations that contain alcohol, turpentine, or mineral spirits. We recommend Bick 1 as it is pH balanced to be compatible with leather.

  • Do not use mink oil or other animal fats. They will darken leather. Animal fat can also turn rancid, causing the stitching and leather to rot.
  • Tuesday, March 7, 2017

    How To Pick Out Your Best Friend

    Working with horse lovers all day long every day at my job I come across many first-time horse owners that have ended up with a horse that doesn’t suit them and or doesn’t want to do what they want them to. Purchasing a horse doesn’t have to be scary or a long and hard process. However, it may take time to find all those qualities you desire all in one package. But don’t worry the right one is out there somewhere. Here are a few things you need to consider when looking at horses.

    The most important thing to remember when purchasing a horse is to realize the seller’s idea of a “broke horse” and yours might be two different things. One man’s “kid broke horse” is another man’s “only broke for experienced rider’s horse”. It is important to look at overall health and soundness of the horse. Make sure you ask every question you can think of when it comes to health and care you can never ask too many.

    When going to ride a horse to potentially purchase you want to be sure it is trained in the areas you plan on doing with the horse unless you are buying a project horse. Be sure to ride the horse and run them through everything you intend to do with him/her. The way you click with a horse is extremely important as well. You want the horse to take all the cues you give to him/her and they react accordingly. Granted it is an animal and they will have their moments. But, if it is a problem on the first ride chances are they won’t work out for you in the long run.

    After you have ridden the horse and decide that it might be the one, be sure to evaluate the feet, teeth, ground manners, and habits. These are all crucial to how well the horse is going to fit in with you and react to certain things. Ground manners are huge. A horse that is pushing you around on the ground will more than likely not respect you in the saddle as well. It is important to remember to question everything you can think of.

    I know you are thinking this seems like a big task, and a lot is at stake when purchasing a horse. Take it from my example, when I bought my gelding Jazz I looked at over twenty horses trying to find the right one. But wow, am I glad that I waited for the right one because I share a bond with my horse like no other bond I have ever shared with any other animal. When you find the right one you will know.. Purchasing a horse can be stressful. However, keep in mind the right one is out there and do not settle for one... If you keep these few things in mind and keep an open mind as well then you are well on your way to finding your new furry best friend, which you hopefully will share an immense bond with.


    Wednesday, February 22, 2017

    Top 10 Saddle Fitting Myths

    The internet is chock full of information, but sometimes it can be frustrating not knowing what is true and what is not. Myths abound in the area of saddle fitting, and we sort through these myths with our customers on a daily basis. These myths can cause frustration as well as cost you money, so beware of the following:


    Quite a few times per week we find ourselves explaining that one size saddle does not fit all horses. This seems like basic information, but for a first-time horse owner, it can be baffling to find that not only do saddles come with different seat sizes for you, but they also come with different tree sizes for your horse. We tried to make a simple way for customers to measure their horses to find out what size bar they need and came up with our handy, printable gullet templates. Regardless of how much your horse weighs or how wide you think his back is, measuring just to make sure can save you the headache of returning an ill-fitting saddle.


    There is a rare exception to this myth, and that’s if you have two horses that are extremely similar in weight, back width, back length, and wither shape. But a mere 25 pounds in the wrong spot, a 3 inch shorter back, or a slightly higher wither can mean a saddle fitting one horse and hurting another. If you’re shopping for two horses, we recommend focusing on one horse at a time instead of trying to come up with a compromise between the two. Compromising saddle fit is, quite frankly, compromising your horse’s comfort and therefore, his behavior as well.


    Many horse owners think that putting a good saddle pad under an ill-fitting saddle will alleviate pinching, slipping, or uneven pressure. Good saddle pads can cause the saddle to fit better. There is much technology in the pad industry to help a saddle fit better and you should take advantage of that technology. Padding-up to help eliminate sores from a poor fitting saddle is not a good choice. For example, if a saddle is too narrow, padding up to buffer the pressure will make the horse wider which will cause more pressure.


    There are many variations to this myth. The truth is that the saddle industry uses terms loosely. Semi-quarter horse bars are often referred to as quarter horse bars, but others use the term quarter horse bars to describe wide bars, so the same saddle can be given different terms. This is very confusing to someone buying their first saddle. We’ve tried to wrestle this myth to the ground in our shop by standardizing our terms. We apply the term medium to regular, narrow, or semi-quarter horse bars and the term full to wide, full quarter horse bars.


    It’s surprising to find out that manufacturers do not have a standardized way to measure gullet width. Billy Cook may do it differently than Crates, so that if each company were to measure the same gullet, a different number might be the result. At the shop we built our own little tool to measure gullets. We measure each saddle by hand so that a standard of comparison between our saddles is achieved, no matter what manufacturer produced it. Most online saddle shops simply use the statistics that the manufacturers provide with each saddle, leaving you to guess how the numbers actually stack up.


    There’s no denying that the best way to see if a saddle will fit is to try it on your horse. Yet thankfully saddle fitting is not rocket science, and our customers have successfully fit thousands of “hard to fit” horses simply by using our downloadable templates and discussing the horse’s particular needs with a saddle expert. We’ve dealt with all sorts of conformations, from sway backed to high withered, and unless your horse has multiple unique issues, there’s no reason to think you can’t make a great choice online and save money over your local tack shop.


    With all the helpful articles on saddle fitting on the web today, it can feel like you have to know a textbook full of information to be able to select a well-fitting saddle. Many customers call feeling exasperated wondering, “Is it really THAT hard?” No, it isn’t. All you have to be sure of is your horse and your saddle needs---no one can be an expert on those two areas but you! We have several tips regarding this frustration. First, if you’re having a specific problem, like white hairs on your horse or saddle slippage, troubleshoot those areas first. Secondly, if you know your horse’s build and figure out what size tree will fit, half of your work is done. Most saddle fitting problems arise from a saddle that…doesn’t fit!


    If you went to Wal-Mart and were unable to find any clothes that fit, would you walk out convinced that you should pay exorbitant prices for custom-made designer clothes? Probably not. It’s the same with your horse. If you have a hard-to-fit horse and are having trouble finding a saddle that fits, it doesn’t mean you need to dish out more money. Have you thoroughly researched your horse’s specific needs? If you know exactly what you need but haven’t found it yet, give us a call. Not only do we have extensive experience fitting horses, but we also have the ability to tell you what can and can’t be done and at what price. We’re proud to be partnered with Dakota Saddlery, a quality company that does custom work for our shop. Dakota has always been willing to work with our customers and fit their specific needs at a low price.


    We don’t know where this myth came from, but quite frankly, it’s preposterous. Flex trees are relatively new to the equine industry (in comparison with the age old wooden tree), and we suppose that if someone only heard the term “flexible tree” without knowing what it is, this myth would be easily spawned. Many people hear the term and assume that a flex tree is bendable like a piece of plastic or rubber. In reality, flex trees only “flex” about a centimeter in either direction, and only under pounds of pressure. You would probably find it hard to even see a flex tree “flexing.” This centimeter of movement, however, is what makes the flex tree more comfortable for the horse and allows the saddle to conform better to his movement. We’re not going to recommend flex trees for roping or ranch work, but we’re willing to say that under trail and pleasure conditions, there’s no way a flex tree is going to warp or cave in.


    Can you get a high-fashion, well-fitting, sport coat for a very wide man? Nope. In the same way, a very wide horse is going to have to unfortunately admit he’s in the minority. Extra wide saddles are not impossible to come by, but you have a much more narrow selection. We recommend checking out Tucker trail saddles if you need an extra wide tree. The terms close contact and narrow twist refer to how you feel on the saddle. A close contact saddle with a narrow twist has less bulk and won’t spread the rider’s legs far apart. But a horse that is extra wide is not going to allow a close contact feel because of his broad back.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2017

    Stop the Squeak

    Like a steadily dripping faucet, there can be little as annoying as squeaking your way down the trail in your new saddle. At first the sound of new leather is rather gratifying; eventually it gets on your nerves. Those light colored show saddles are major culprits of saddle squeak, as the lack of natural oil that makes them light also lends to squeaky leather. Saddles usually squeak between the fender and the saddle tree.

    But there's an easy, inexpensive solution that won't take up much of your time. All you need is some baby powder. This will reduce friction between layers.


    • Lay an old blanket or tarp over the ground
    • Turn your saddle upside down on the blanket. Lay out the fenders and stirrups and expose the area under the jockey
    • Sprinkle all the areas that are layered against each other mainly the fenders, jockeys and between the skirts
    • Shake the saddle vigorously to make sure the powder gets in deep and coats all the areas where you placed it
    • Saddle your horse. Wipe up any excess powder. Ride on smelling baby fresh and enjoying the silence.