Saturday, March 27, 2010


Stan, Charlie, and Sharon in front of “The Turtle”

It's always a priviledge to get together with people who make the saddles that we sell. Chuck and Charlie from recently enjoyed a lunch with Stan & Sharon Headrick from Fabtron as they stopped by on their recent whirlwind tour through the midwest. It’s a great opportunity to learn more and the more we know the better we’re able to help our customers. Stan came up to show us Fabtron’s new line of Homesteader saddles. If you haven’t seen them, you need to. Go to this website and scroll to the bottom of the page to see the Homesteaders:

Customers often ask us what makes one saddle better than another. Here’s an example of one minor detail that makes a saddle better. As Stan was showing us the soft harness leather that Fabtron uses on the one piece seat jockey of the Homesteader saddles, we noticed how nice the edges of the leather look with a slight beveling. This isn’t critical to a saddle, but it’s just one of the little touches that make a saddle look great. Here’s a couple closeup pictures to compare the Fabtron leather beveled edge with a cheaper saddle where the leather is left with an unfinished cut edge. We’re not even going to label the pictures…you can figure out which is which.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Recognizing the Signs of Laminitis

By: Darlene M. Cox

Laminitis is most likely the disease for which veterinarian treatment is most often sought by horse owners of every ilk and discipline. While laminitis is a very painful disease that affects a horse's feet, the exact cause for it may lie in another part of the horse's body or it can be a result of stress. Laminitis is believed by some to only affect the front feet; however, as in the case of Barbaro (TB), winner of the 2006 Kentucky Derby, it compromised his hind feet and ultimately led to the decision of his euthanization. Another notable great who had succumbed to laminitis was Secretariat. Laminitis occurs when blood flow is disrupted to the laminae in the foot, which secures the coffin bone to the hoof wall. The laminae within the hoof becomes inflamed and swollen putting pressure on the coffin bone, shifting it downward, or rotating it, toward the sole of the foot. While it is not completely understood how the damage to the laminae occurs, a number of preceptors have been identified in setting the stage for laminitis. The most prevalent of these is poor digestion, which enables toxins to form and enter the horses's bloodstream. Falling within the poor digestion category are horses that have engorged themselves with grain or lush green grass, which puts their digestive systems in a quandary. Post-partum mares that have retained a portion of placenta will have increased blood toxins that could trigger an acute laminitis episodic event. Diseases such as Cushings or hypothyrodism are two medical conditions that initiate the onset of laminitis. Corticosteroid therapies may generate the development of it, as well. Hoof impact stresses on hard surfaces may spark-off an attack of laminitis. Barbaro was felled by laminitis due to the stress his near-hind foot bore while his badly broken off-side leg was placed in a cast. There are two stages of laminitis: acute and chronic. Recognizing the signs of laminitis and immediately contacting your veterinarian will greatly increase your chances of your horse healing and/or surviving his bout with laminitis. An acute stage is the sudden onset of laminitis. Signs of acute laminitis include the following:

  • Lameness in front and/or hind legs. Particularly noticeable when your horse turns in a circle.
  • Heat in the hoof
  • Increased digital pulse in the feet. (You can find the digital pulse by palpating the inside or outside of the leg toward the back of the mid-pastern or fetlock.) A strong pulse will be indicative of laminitis. If you are unsure what you are feeling for, I suggest you 'practice' finding the digital pulse on a healthy horse. While such a pulse will be very slight, you will know where and how to find it if your horse has a laminitic episode.
  • Hesitant walking or the appearance of "walking on eggshells".
  • Standing position with front feet stretched out and hind feet well under the horse bearing most of the weight.
Chronic laminitis occurs in a horse that has had previous acute onsets of the disease. Signs of chronic laminitis may include:
  • Dished hooves (caused by uneven hoof growth)
  • Bruised soles
  • Rings in the hoof wall
  • Dropped soles/flat feet
  • Wide white line (seedy toe)
  • Blood pockets and/or abscesses (usually seen with seedy toe)
If you believe your horse has laminitis, phone your veterinarian immediately. Limit the movement of your horse to prevent further damage or rotation of the coffin bone. Pain management will be the first treatment administered, as laminitis is very painful. Additional treatments may include the use of anti-toxin medications, meds that will increase blood circulation, and x-rays to evaluate the extent of rotation. Convalescence and healing will take weeks, if not months; however, if you obtained medical intervention quickly, it is very likely that your horse will be able to be ridden again. Much depends upon the degree of rotation, if any. Any marked rotation of the coffin bone, as evidenced by x-ray, will require a convalescent period upwards from 8 months, which is the amount of time required for the damaged areas to grow out. If there was no rotation, your horse may be able to be ridden after two months of rest and healing. Prevention of laminitis, whenever possible, is the best cure. Properly house your grain in an area that is not accessible to your horse. Do not turn your horse out on a lush green pasture. If your horse is overweight, establish an exercise regime for weight loss. Implement nutrient supplements into your feeding plan to enhance digestibility of foods; proper and timely hoof trimming providing a well-balanced foot will offset chances of any mechanical stress triggers; inspect the placenta (after birth) of your mare, calling your vet if any pieces appear missing. Quick action on your part will increase the chances of your horse returning to a productive life. As always, stay vigilant and observant of your horse's behaviors and actions, as these will be your first clues to an impending problem.

Happy trails!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Be Ready for the Riding Season – Trailer Maintenance

This article is taken from our March newsletter. It's chock full of horse care tips, helpful articles, and coupon codes! Click here to subscribe.

By: Darlene M. Cox (

The off season is the best time to do your trailer maintenance. Getting started now will provide you ample time to make sure all systems are good, which will afford you safe travels when the riding season arrives.

• Wash the outside of your trailer, top to bottom, to remove any dirt and grime that has accumulated. This will help prevent any corrosive rusting. I like to take my trailer to a do-it-yourself car wash for this, as they have the high-pressure water hose and the wash bay doesn’t get as messy as my barn lot.

• Axles, bearings, and lug nuts should be inspected for maintenance issues that may exist. If you are skilled, you can do this yourself. If not, it is best to have a certified mechanic check these out. Most axles have a port that you can use to grease your bearings. Simply connect a grease gun to the port to deliver new grease to the bearings. Make sure you do not over grease, because you can blow out your bearings. Make sure your lug nuts are tight and not stripped or rusted through. If you find they are, you will need to take your trailer to a mechanic to have them replaced.

• Check the horse box flooring for areas of rot (wood) or corrosion (metal/aluminum). It is important to check from both the top and underneath the trailer. If your flooring feels soft or “spongy” you may want to replace the affected boards or have a metal reinforcement piece welded in place.

• While you are under the trailer checking out the flooring, also check out the frame to make sure it is not damaged in any way. I bent frame will affect the way your trailer hauls, which will also affect tire wire and place tension on the hitch. If you find the frame is damaged, have a mechanic correct the problem.

• Replace any worn/torn/damaged rubber matting. Check the horse box for any metal protrusions that may injure your horse. Replace bumper rails that are worn and torn. Make sure there is no rust on the breakaway strap hardware that will interfere with releasing your horse in an emergency.

• Rotate the tires on your trailer and check them for wear and dry rot. Check the valve stems for proper seating. Replace any damaged or worn tires. Make sure trailer tires are properly inflated to the correct psi for the tire. Don’t forget to check your spare tire, too. Anyone who has traveled with their trailer will one day rely on that spare tire.

• Check trailer brakes and replace any worn parts. Adjust your brake setting by driving your trailer a short distance and braking hard. Adjust the brake box setting until all brakes engage at the same time and you don’t have any grabbing or locking.

• If your trailer is equipped with a breakaway battery, it is important that this be checked for charge and effectiveness. Recharging it on a battery charger is simple. Checking its efficacy is a little more difficult but well worth the effort. Use a tire jack under each of the tires, pull the pin from the breakaway battery and try to move the tire. If you can move it, the battery is not working appropriately and may need to be replaced.

• Check the wiring on your trailer to make sure all lights and signals are working. Replace any damaged wiring.

• All lights and turn signals should be checked. If you find they are not working, you may have an electrical wiring problem that needs to be addressed, or it could be as simple as replacing a bulb or fuse.

• Check the door latches on the horse box and make sure they work easily and keep the door securely closed. If there is a lot of “play” in the latch or if the door is not secure, you may need to replace the latch. Make sure the latch housing is not rusted. If it is, you may need to have a little spot welding done.

• Make sure your trailer hitch connects securely with the receiver or ball. There should be no looseness when you hook up the trailer. If you are required to run with safety chains, make sure the connectors are secure and tight.

• If your trailer has windows, check them for any hardware problems that might exist with opening/closing. Check your screens and replace them if they are torn. Screening kits can be purchased and are easy to use to replace torn screens. Check your windows for water leaks and use some clear silicone if you find a leaky spot.

• Check your air conditioning unit for any water leaks and use clear silicone if any are found. Replace/clean your AC filter. Check your AC vents to make sure birds haven’t built nests in it.

Regular trailer maintenance will assure you years of use and safe travel for you and your horse.

Happy trails!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Open Wide and Say, "Ahhhhh" : A Guide To Equine Dental Health Care

By: Darlene M. Cox

The one aspect of horse health care that is most widely overlooked by horsemen is dental health care. Some horse owners may have owned horses for many years and never once thought about having their horses' teeth examined. If you wait until there are obvious signs that a dental problem may exist, your horse has already had to endure a long period of pain. However, regular dental care (twice yearly) and examinations will prevent painful dental conditions and should be high on the list of what responsible horse owners provide our horses.
Dental examinations can be performed by veterinarians, equine dentists, or farriers who have also received training in equine dentistry. While costs for such dental services may vary between regions or occupations, the cost should be somewhere between $30 - $80.
When examining your horse's mouth, the dental professional will look for tell-tale signs of dental problems such as:

  • Molars that may be cracked or have sharp or jagged edges that have rubbed/cut the cheek and tongue
  • Trapped pieces of grain (in the cracks) that could develop into an abscess
  • Wolf teeth that will interfere with the seating of the bit along the bars of the mouth
  • Deciduous (baby/milk) teeth that may not allow proper eruption of permanent teeth
  • Tooth misalignments that interfere with proper chewing or seating of the bit
  • Inflammation and periodontal disease of the gums

If a problem is determined to exist, the dental professional will "float" your horse's teeth, which means a speculum will be inserted into the mouth to hold it open and a rasp will be introduced to file down the jagged edge, smooth out a crack, or even up a misalignment. Not all dental professionals will use a speculum; however, it is best if they do because the horse's tongue can best be maneuvered away from the rasp.
Dental health care should begin at foal age and continue throughout the geriatric years. Following is a developmental guide of your horse's mouth and what a dental professional may encounter upon examination:
  • 0 - 2 Years
    Examinations of a foal's mouth will ensure that his teeth are erupting (coming in) properly. As the foal ages and progresses to his yearling and 2nd year, the equine professional will ensure that his 24 deciduous (baby or milk) teeth have properly come in and will remove his wolf teeth (pointy little teeth that come in just in front of the cheek teeth).
  • 2 - 3 Years
    Permanent teeth begin to come in at 2-3 years of age. This is also the time when the cheek teeth come in. The deciduous teeth will be shed as the permanent teeth erupt.
  • 4 - 5 Years
    By the age of 5 years, all permanent teeth should be in. Canine teeth will erupt in male horses between the ages of 4 - 5 years. The canine teeth may need to be trimmed to ensure that the bit will fit well and comfortably in your horse's mouth. The dental professional will check for impactions (teeth that do not erupt entirely) that may lead to abscesses.
  • 6 Years and Beyond
    Sharp/jagged edges or points begin to be an issue in horses that have reached their 6th year and up. Untreated teeth may lead to tooth decay, inflammatory gum disease, and early permanent tooth loss.

Implementing a twice-annual dental care plan into your regimen of equine health care for your horse will allow him to have a lifetime of no serious dental abnormalities or problems. It is just one additional small way that we can provide the best care for our beloved horses.

Happy trails!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Guns and Steers Required

If you're one of our many trail-riding customers, you might not have noticed some of the more interesting saddles we've collected specifically for some neat western disciplines. And even if you're not into shooting guns or wrestling steers while riding, they're worth a peek.

Case in point #1: Mounted Shooting

Ever wanted to ride your horse around at a high pace, firing your pistols left and right? Me neither. But it is entertaining.

Circle Y is the only one of our manufacturers that's taken a plunge into mounted shooting, and as far as we can tell, they've done the discipline justice. Mounted shooting saddles are lightweight and, much like a barrel racer, well suited for the back and forth motion of the horse's maneuvering. Roughout fenders and jockeys will keep you snug and secure while your guns are blazing. The most obvious feature that sets the mounted shooters from other saddles is that the horn is tilted forward. So Annie can get her guns.

Here's a video that features some information on mounted shooting:

Case in Point #2: Steer Wrestling

Ever wanted to jump out of the saddle and wrestle a steer to the ground? The saddle experts do it all the time on their lunch breaks. Ok, maybe not, but our Crates Steer Wrestler would be just the thing they'd use if they did.

As you can see in the video below, a steer wrestler has to be able to smoothly slide sideways out of the saddle, while being able to hang on to the horn at the same time. This model has a flat, low cantle so that the rider's hips have freedom to go sideways, as well as a very sturdy horn for a good grip. The easier the slide, the better the time.