Monday, September 12, 2011

Horse Behavior: Feeding Your Horses According to Pecking Order

Have you ever experienced the wild melee of an equine feeding frenzy when you feed pastured horses? If you have, the reason behind this explosive and dangerous fury could solely reside with the failure of feeding the horses according to pecking order ranking.

As herd animals, horses live within an established and innate hierarchical system upon which an "alpha", or dominant, horse reigns over those of limited ranking and stature. As simply as the alphabet goes from A to Z and numbers from 0 to 10, so goes the ranking of the horses in your herd, with each horse holding a higher placement above those of subordinate positions.

Your understanding of herd ranking is very important when it comes to feeding your horses in an open pasture. When feeding grain, use buckets that can be placed within a circle and separated by no fewer than two horse lengths apart. Well-spaced buckets will prevent those horses with a higher ranking to claim or guard multiple buckets. Always place at least one extra bucket of grain to allow for the natural movement of the herd if a higher ranking horse moves a subordinate horse away from a bucket. This will allow the lowest horse in the herd to get his fair share of grain, too. Generally, the rank and file will fall into order for feeding after the alpha horse has begun eating. Always get the alpha horse engaged with its meal first. If you do not use buckets for feeding, place grain on top of a hay flake and place the hay within the same distances as described above.

Always be aware of the horses around you and know what is going on. There may be small skirmishes during feeding time as pecking orders are somewhat fluid with challenges being made as one tries to gain a higher position. Never position yourself within the inside of the herd, always work on the perimeter or outside, which will better avail you with watching the horses in front of you. Don't let a horse rush at you when feeding it in pasture. Remember that you are the true "alpha" of your herd and any rush toward you is a challenge to your authority.

When collecting the buckets after feeding, be watchful of any horses loitering around hoping for "extras". There is a potential risk of injury any time you are around horses free on pasture. Again use the perimeter approach and be aware of what horses are around you.

Happy trails! 

By: Darlene M. Cox, 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Come and Get It: Feeding Your Horse while Trail Riding or Camping

by: Darlene M. Cox (

Much time and planning goes into getting ready for a trail riding and camping adventure, whether it is a short weekend trip or one that encompasses a week of fun-filled saddle time and relaxation. Of all the important things to pack along for your trip, food ranks right there at the top of the list. Nothing can beat the mouth-watering aromas of a meal being prepared over an open campfire; unless you ask your horse what he might like to eat.

Following are some food-for-thought suggestions as you plan for feeding your horse while trail riding and camping:

· Feed your horse the same brand of grain and/or type of hay he is used to eating at home. Do not opt for a higher protein grain or straight alfalfa hay if your horse is not used to eating such at home.

· Estimate the time that you will be away from home to determine how many feedings of grain that you will need to have on hand. Add at least two feedings to this number just in case your return home is delayed due to some unforeseen reason.

· If possible, pre-measure grain servings and place into individual, large zip lock bags for easy serving while in camp. This will save you time and trouble, particularly when feeding during night time hours. With pre-measured portions, your horse is guaranteed to receive the same amount of grain he would get if at home. Never feed your horse more grain because you equate his working harder and longer with an increased need for more grain. Feeding more grain than your horse is used to eating may cause an unwanted bout of colic, impaction, or tying-up (azoturia).

· When determining the amount of hay you need to take, add one bale to the total to allow for extra portions (always okay to feed more hay) as well as allow for the possibility that any particular bale may have a portion that is not palatable (moldy, dusty, dirty, etc.). Keep your baling string in situ and simply tie up any unused bale portion for the return trip home.

· Morning feedings should be done one to two hours before you saddle up and hit the trail. Think about how you would feel if you had to work out right after eating your breakfast. Allow some time for digestion to begin before saddling up. Give your horse time to eat undisturbed. Don’t couple feeding time with grooming or riding prep.

· After an end of a day’s ride, your horse should be given adequate time to cool down and relax before being fed. Offer cool water, but never feed an overly exerted, hot horse as you risk a colic episode. Wait at least an hour or two before feeding grain/hay.

· If you are riding with a group and your horse is picketed, tied, or stalled next to the horses' of others horses with whom you will be riding, try to orchestrate feeding around the same time. This will eliminate unneeded stress on those horses that have to hungrily stand and mouth-wateringly watch as other horses eat. Position hay bags and feed buckets out of reach from other horses to prevent territorial/food protection behaviors. Canvas feed bags are ideal to use in camping situations as they are easy to fill and strap onto your horse and will keep other horses from nosing around to scavenge extra grain.

A little time and effort in planning meals for your horse while trail riding and camping will make sure he is a happy camper, too!

Happy trails!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Love My Ariat Ropers

When one of our customers in Canada found out that we now carry western apparel, she added a pair of Ariat Heritage Lacer Boots Roper Toe to her saddle order stating that it was finally time to replace the ones she had been wearing. When she received her order, Tracy sent us this picture and we just had to pass it on. Pictured on the left are the Ariat boots that she has worn “every day for the past 20 years”. And on the right…the boots she will enjoy for the next 20. You just can’t replace quality!
By the way, she also said, "wow, can’t believe your prices and quality. Gonna tell everyone." Thanks Tracy!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Travelling with Your Horse: Tips to Encourage Your Horse to Drink Unfamiliar Water

By: Darlene M. Cox (

Anyone who has traveled longer distances with their horse knows the difficulty you are faced with when trying to get your horse to drink unfamiliar water. Generally, I will take some water from home, stored in two 20-gallon plastic storage containers to offset some of the trepidation my horse will have toward drinking while on the road. However, it is impossible to transport enough water for a week’s worth of camping and riding; therefore, you have to teach your horse that strange water is okay to drink.

There are several different ways to encourage your horse to drink while traveling:

  • · Flavor the water with electrolyte powders, Gatorade, or Kool-Aid. Begin this several days in advance at home to get your horse used to drinking the flavored water. While traveling, the flavorings will mask the taste of the strange water and your horse should drink without hesitation.

  • · Bring along the watering bucket your horse is accustomed to from home. He has been drinking from it and is very familiar with its smell and shape.

  • · Add a little salt to your horse’s grain at each feeding. The salt will trigger thirst and encourage drinking.

  • · Fill a syringe with syrup or molasses. A sticky mouth might encourage your horse to drink to get rid of the stickiness.

  • · After filling the water bucket, let the water warm up by setting it in the sun. Horses generally do not like to drink ice cold water straight from the tap, and when you add to it that the water is from an unfamiliar source, your horse may be less inclined to drink.

  • · Place apple wedges in the water bucket. As your horse mouths the apple wedges, he may also decide he wants to drink some water, too.

  • · Keep his water bucket filled and in front of him at all times when you are not riding. After he samples the water several times, he may decide that it is okay to drink.

  • · If your horse doesn’t drink much and you are concerned about dehydration, administer a tube of electrolyte paste. This will offset dehydration and encourage him to drink as well.

Generally speaking, horses that are at first a little hesitant to drink from strange watering sources will begin to drink them in short order. Sometimes it may take a little while and some encouragement and tricks on your part to help him over the hump.

Happy trails!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tucker Visits Horse Saddle Shop

Steve Tucker has been in the saddle industry a long time. This experience has given him a vast knowledge about what riders and their horses like in a saddle – particularly trail saddles. If you’ve ever ridden a Tucker saddle, you will agree that his knowledge and desire for quality is clearly seen (and felt) in his saddles. While most saddle manufacturers make saddles for many riding applications, Tucker Trail Saddles focuses strictly on trail saddles. This focus has been extremely valuable to Tucker in developing the best trail saddles in the world.
Horse Saddle Shop was privileged to get a visit from Steve, along with longtime associate Darrell Nephew and Rob Thomas from Circle Y. We enjoyed a time of conversation in our new Outlet store (opened in Feb 2011). Later we enjoyed dinner together sharing mostly about life and a little about business. Steve is a quality individual and we’re proud to be the #1 dealer of his quality line of saddles. Check them out on our website and see for yourself by clicking here.
Pictured above from L to R: Charlie Hueni, Steve Tucker, Rob Thomas, Chuck Klockow, Darrell Nephew.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cake for Horse Lovers

We recently added Breyer Toys to our lineup of new products on While I was adding the toys to the store online, a certain little saddle-expert-in-training noticed these exquisite hand-painted horses. "You have enough toys," I replied. A few days later we were together at HorseSaddleShop Outlet and she sought them out to sigh over them. It's true that the pictures don't do them justice. Breyer toys aren't like the horses you'll find at the dollar store, with paint hardly splotched in the right places---the type of toys you're only too glad to throw in the Goodwill pile because you're sick of stepping on them. These horses are very realistic and, for lack of a better word, compelling. Everything from the hair on their manes to the muscles on their legs is perfectly formed.

But we still didn't buy any. :) However, my little horse lover is persistent. A few weeks later I asked her to pick out what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday. She tracked down a cake that looks like a pasture, complete with plastic horses. Then she sweetly reminded me where I could buy some.

I gave in. The Stablemate series is the perfect size for cake toppers, around four inches long by three inches high. The hardest part for me was choosing which horses, but I finally narrowed it down to the mustang and the quarter horse. The cake was a cinch to slap together, and my
daughter was extremely pleased to finally add some Breyer horses to her collection. If you'd like to make a cake for your horse lover, instructions follow. This would be especially fun to model after your own pasture.

1. Make a cake of the flavor of your choice. Use a 8 or 9 inch
round or square cake pan. I chose to make chocolate so that any crumbs that showed through would just look like dirt.

2. Color homemade or canned frosting grass green. Using Wilton's gel-based food coloring will produce a stronger color than the liquid.

4. Use some green food coloring to color some coconut. Sprinkle the top of the cake to make grass.

5. Use some decorating tips to recreate whatever weeds....oh, I mean flowers are in your pasture.

5. Use pretzel sticks to create a fence.

6. Add your horses. Resist the urge to play with them yourself.

If you make your own pasture cake, don't forget to share the pics with us on our Facebook page!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ha! He's just a Trail Horse - What Makes a Trail Horse worth His Weight in Gold?

By: Darlene M. Cox (

Performance horses are trained in many disciplines, some of which are very prestigious and earn their owners quite a bit of money; however, a well-trained trail horse is worth his weight in gold, whether or not he earns a dime for his riding partner. What makes a horse a good trail horse? Is it a particular breed or gender? While rider preference may choose one breed or gender over another, there is nothing set in stone that superiorly places any breed or gender as best suited, but there are certain attributes that a quality trail horse must possess to be labeled "priceless."

· A laid-back personality/disposition. A horse that is unflappable and even-keeled is desired over one that is high strung and explosively reactive. A nervous horse on a trail ride not only upsets his rider, but also other riders and horses as well, which makes for a very uncomfortable ride for everyone.

· A "push-button" horse that is as reliable every time he is saddled and ridden, regardless of the amount of elapsed time between rides. You have to love a horse that even though he has not been ridden in months, acts the same as if he was ridden the day before.

· Good feet, with or without shoes. While trail terrain may be varied across the country, one thing is constant and that is a good deal of mileage is going to be put on your horse. Good feet are a necessity to ensure that you do not end up several miles from camp with a lame horse.

· Gets along well with other horses. It is always unpleasant to ride with a group of horses where one or two are wicked when another horse comes near. You can expect a little brattiness from any horse, but when hooves start flying and teeth start gnashing, it can get ugly and dangerous quickly.

· A good ground-covering walk. The gait in which most trail horses are ridden the majority of the time is the walk. A horse that sustains a nice and consistent ground-covering walk is one that can be placed on lead (the first in line, leading a group of riders), preventing any bottle-necking of horses following, which is caused when the lead horse slows down or is inconsistent with walking speed.

· Comfortably rides in any position within a group. A horse that behaves and remains relaxed no matter where he is in the group (on lead, in the middle, or bringing up drag). Some horses become accustomed to being in one position and will act out if taken out of that position.

· A horse that can be ridden alone on the trail or away from the group without demonstrating being "herd bound" is a dream to ride. Nothing is worse than having to fight with a horse to get him to move away from a group to venture down the trail alone.

· A horse that knows his job and keeps his mind on it. One that watches where he is going, concentrating on the task at hand. Some horses will let their minds wander (yes, there are those horses that will daydream on the trail).

· Standing calmly and quietly while tied. Tying your horse is something that will be done during camping and trail riding. Whether tied to a hitching rail or picket line while in camp or to a tree while taking a rest break from riding on the trail, you will have no worries from a horse that doesn't "worry" about being tied.

· A horse that stands patiently under saddle and doesn't paw the ground or try to "sneak" off down the trail. Nothing is more difficult than trying to stop and read a map when your horse is impatient with the delay.

· Easily loads and unloads from trailer. Nothing starts your trip off better than a horse that will load easily into the trailer. Battling with your horse to get it loaded into the trailer will put a damper on your camping and trail riding experience from the very beginning.

· Experience versus age. A young horse with more trail experience may be preferred over an older horse with little experience. Trail riding has its own learning curve for horses and even though an older horse may have more hours under the saddle, a younger horse with more actual trail experience may be a preferable choice, providing he possesses other quality attributes as well.

Choose your trail horse wisely and you will be rich beyond measure each time you saddle up to ride the many miles of trails that pave the nature land in your neck of the woods.

Happy trails!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Easy Fly Protection

Flies & Insects
Flies and insects are more than a pesky annoyance; they actually pose a serious threat to your horse’s health.

Insects carry a plethora of diseases that can be easily transferred to your horse including typhoid, dysentery, and tuberculosis. These diseases are often transferred when flies are allowed to reside around the nose or eyes, or through bites. In addition, even flies that don’t carry diseases often leave horses with painful bites that will swell and itch.

Furthermore, simply the nuisance of flies can cause horses to harm themselves in effort to escape them. Often, horses will resort to excessive stomping to rid themselves of flies, causing repeated, unnecessary strain to the ligaments and increasing the chances of losing a shoe.

There are many different ways to protect your horse from flies, both chemical and natural, but the surest way is through mesh sheets, masks, and boots. While fly sprays may seem like a good answer, in addition to requiring that you constantly keep your horse covered in chemicals, they don’t repel all insects equally. Different varieties of flies and insects carry varying levels of resistance to fly sprays. So what works on one type of fly may not work on another. Even the area of application has been shown to vary in effectiveness. One study showed that the thickness and length of hair can often effect how well the spray is absorbed.

When you want 100% fly protection without the hazards of chemicals, mesh protective horsewear is your answer. Fly masks, boots, and sheets are made of lightweight mesh that is impenetrable to flies but comfortable for horses – your number one concern.

Equisential Fly Mask Wrangler Fly Mask Wrangler Deluxe Fly Mask Wrangler Fly Boots Wrangler Fly Sheet

For more information regarding horsewear for fly protection take a look at the wide selection of products by Professional’s Choice here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Barn Cleaning 101

I don't know about the rest of you, but I know my barn gets to be pretty out-of-control by spring. I haven't figured out if it's because I just don't see all the cobwebs from the long dark days of winter or because it's just too cold to do any cleaning or a combination of both. My barn tends to turn into a storage area by the time warmer weather comes around. I have a 4-wheeler stored in the aisle, old carpet that a friend gave me to use for the dogs next winter that hasn't made it to the rafters yet, and I also have loose hay all over the floor. I have good intentions to keep the floor clean but it just never happens the longer the winter goes on. I try to keep the stalls clean too but by the time March comes around, I tell myself that I will need the manure for the garden so I'll wait until later to do it all at once. This is not the best way to keep things clean through the winter, but this is how it usually goes for me.

Here are some before shots:

So in the spring, I go out ready to tackle this project like every other year. I go after the cobwebs first since they will be all over the floor by the time I'm done cleaning them. I use a big broom or the leaf blower if it's really bad. Then I go after the stalls because really, why would I clean the stalls and then the cobwebs? I don't like to do things twice but sometimes I need to. Once I have the stalls clean, I throw in all the fresh sawdust. Wow, do I love that smell when I walk in to do chores!! Plus, I just love the clean look once these things are done. Once those two things are done, I go after the aisle. I just use the scoop shovel or big broom to clean off the concrete floor. I throw it all out in the barnyard and then when my husband gets a chance, he uses his tractor and blade to scrape the extra out of the barnyard, making it nice and level to try to prevent excess mud puddles that seem to build up over the months. I also grab whoever is available to clean out the lean to. This is a job that everyone seems to be too busy for!!! It gets pretty deep and smelly before the warmer weather comes in. That goes on the garden and makes great fertilizer for my veggies. Then when it gets warm enough, I give all the water tanks a good scrubbing with just a stiff brush and the hose. I don't use any chemicals for fear there would be some left over and taint the water. After all that is done, I stand back and admire my/our work. Then I saddle up one of the horses to go for a ride and enjoy the fresh air and scenery. It really is a great feeling when you go out to smell and see the freshness that comes with a good cleaning. What a sense of accomplishment!!!

The finished product:

View after cle...JPG in slide show

View after cle...JPG in slide show

Linda Fish

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Do your saddles and tack look dingy?

It's springtime and if your saddles and tack look like mine do, it's time for a good cleaning. Here are my favorite cleaning supplies and how I clean my saddle: I like to have a detail brush that comes with two size heads that attach to it. One smaller and a little stiffer for the tooling and hard to reach areas. Then a bigger, softer head for the larger smoother parts of the leather. I also like a very soft round headed brush for the suede seats if you have one. You will also need to have a good supply of old rags or socks on hand for wiping all the cleaners off. You can never have enough rags I find.
For the silver pieces, if any, I love the Hagerty Silversmith's Spray Polish. ( All you have to do is spray it on the silver and rub until it shines. How easy is that! You don't have to worry about the over spray that will get on the leather. It wipes right off without discoloring any of it. It's nothing like the white residue that is left by some of the other silver cleaners.
Hagerty Silversmiths' Spray Polish 85-6379

Farnam Leather New ln032601 Lexol Neatsfoot Formula lcjt009

For cleaning the leather, I use Farnum Leather New ( It cleans the leather better than anything I've found so far and is easy to use too. Just spray it on to a smaller area, not the whole saddle, and with the brushes you have, scrub in a circular motion until you get a good lather. You may need to do this a couple of times, depending on how dirty your saddle is. Once you have a good lather, then wipe off with the rags you have on hand. If you have a lot of tooling or deep tooling you may need to use one of the detail brushes to get the lather out of all the tooling. Once you've gone over your whole, I always finish with Lexol Neatsfoot Formula Oil ( to give it a final shine and protectant. You really should oil your saddle quite a few times a year to help keep the leather soft and pliable. Spray the oil onto a piece of fleece or something of similar material and rub it all in the leather. Don't use this on rough out or suede. The fleece works very well for this because it gives the leather a good even coat and doesn't absorb all the oil itself. This will help save on your saddle oil supply greatly.

Whala!! you now have a shiny clean, beautiful saddle that will be the envy of the trail.

Linda Fish
Used Saddle Dept.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Yak Saddle Shop - Our newest venture

We have been dropping lots of news bombs lately----lots of new products, a brand new retail store in Bremen, and now we're ready to unveil what might be our most exciting venture yet. Due to high demand and constant pestering of our customers who own yaks, we are launching That's right. You'll now be able to dress your yak in style and ride in comfort. Forget riding a plain, uncomfortable yak. Your yak can now shop leisurely for horn wraps, forehead bows, noserings, and the most comfortable saddles imaginable. While you're freezing in the mountain terrain, you'll have the warmth that comes from your yak looking great.

(crickets chirping)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's up, Doc? Choosing a Veterinarian for Your Horse

This article is from our March newsletter, which you can view here:

By: Darlene M. Cox,

Anyone who has owned a horse will need to obtain the services of a veterinarian at some point, whether it is simply for vaccination administration or for an emergency call to stitch a cut or something much more serious. One of the most important responsibilities we have as horse owners is to choose wisely those who provide medical services to our equine partners. For the well being of your horse, it is good to have identified a veterinarian as the "vet of record" before the need arises to place an emergency call, but how do you select a vet that is a good match for your horse or your ideals as a horse owner? You can "vet" the veterinarians in your area by conducting phone interviews with them and asking pertinent questions about their practice and their philosophy to treatment. These short interviews and the information gleaned from them can be the beginning basis toward choosing your veterinarian.

Veterinarians come in all ages, shapes, sizes, genders, personalities, and specialties. Several factors must be considered when making your selection. While expense may most likely be the first thought that comes to mind, the most important criterion is the availability of your veterinarian to respond to an emergency call. Throughout the years, I have used several veterinarians whose fees have been roughly in the same ballpark, give or take a couple hundred dollars, so on a cost comparative basis, it pretty much pans out. Availability can be broken down to two factors: how close the veterinarian's practice is to your farm and how large is his clientele. A more experienced veterinarian may also have more clients, whereby response time may be slower than that of a less-experienced, yet quite capable, vet. Younger vets, those establishing their client base and most recently out of veterinarian school, will be on top of their game with the latest treatment protocols. Don't rule out a younger, less experienced vet simply because they have not yet set roots down in an area.

Personality and gender may also play a role in making a better choice. If you are someone who is inquisitive and wants to know everything that the vet is doing to your horse, then you would be better matched with a veterinarian that is comfortable with taking the time to answer your questions, rather than one who quickly, efficiently, and quietly renders care to your horse and then just as quickly leaves for their next appointment, leaving you behind with unanswered questions. With regard to gender, you may prefer the care of a woman over a man or vice versa. Some feel a female veterinarian handles their horse more gently and patiently than a male vet. Others may recognize the ability of a male vet to better control your horse during treatment. Regardless of your vet's gender, professionalism and competency should be recognizable traits, and a vet possessing them will always keep the best interests of your horse (his patient) and you (his client) in keen focus.

Keep in mind that, at the end of the day, your vet works for you. You are entrusting the well being of your beloved horse under his care, so making an informed decision in choosing the best vet is very important.

Happy trails!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Goodbye Old Friend

Last week I had to say goodbye to an old friend, my 27-year-old horse Strawberry, a Missouri Fox Trotter. He had colicked through the night on Wednesday, and, when I went out to feed him Thursday morning, I knew something wasn't right. He was always the one who would whinny at me when he saw me coming to remind me that feeding time was ten minutes ago or would knock on the barn doors to hurry me up in getting those doors open so he could get to his stall and eat. It was a bit irritating at times, but, boy, what I wouldn't do to hear those sounds again.

We had gotten Straw about twelve years ago when he was fifteen. We weren't sure that we wanted a horse that old, but, since my husband wasn't an avid rider and my sons were young at the time, we decided that an older, more experienced trail horse was what we needed. I decided to try him out at a local state park on the rainiest, coldest day possible. Nothing phased him through all of it, so right then I knew he would be a keeper. What I didn't know was how much of a true keeper he would turn out to be. I was initially looking for a suitable horse for my husband, but when we got Straw home, my oldest son claimed him. Justin was six at the time and just starting to get into the horse scene. It wasn't long before Justin and Straw were quite the pair. They seemed to bond from the beginning. Straw would take Justin anywhere without a second thought and do anything he asked him to do.

Straw was the kind of horse that you could put anyone on and who was liked by all. Anyone could ride him, from our neighborhood girls to friends from our church, regardless of their level of experience. As he got older, though, we would definitely like to go on shorter rides and head to the barn. One time, my friend and I were riding down our road which requires crossing railroad tracks. Well, Straw decided he didn't want to go over the tracks but wanted to go back home to the other horses. He took off at a gallop; I couldn't believe it! My friend was laughing so hard that she couldn't stop him until he got to the gate at which time we switched horses and Strawberry had to do the ride over with me on his back. He wasn't too happy but went anyway. The girls who came over to ride would have to keep turning him away from the barn direction to keep him moving. He would like to mess with their heads a little, but that would help to make them better riders in the end.

He would also love to get extra grain or hay while traveling on our camping trips. He would work his body and head so that he could help himself to the hay. Each time we would think that surely we had moved it out of reach. He would just get bored or hungry and need something to eat. The last time Strawberry went to Brown County State Park he thought he needed a little extra to eat on the way home. We had gotten totes with different lids on them to keep the coons out of the feed while we were down there. We also thought that this would be a good way to keep Strawberry from helping himself when he got bored. Well, lo and behold, guess who found his way into the tote? Strawberry. Fortunately, after being gone for a week there wasn't much left in there to eat. He was so proud of himself and the other horses in there didn't think it was really fair. He was such a stinker at times, but that's what made us love him all the more and makes it that much more difficult to let him go.

Thursday afternoon we thought he might pull through, but by 7:30 that night he had taken a turn for the worse and we had to have the vet back out. After a muscle relaxer, mineral oil, and three pain killers throughout the day, the vet said there was nothing else to do. At that time it was evident that he had to be put down. He was in a lot of pain and not doing well at all. Surgery was out of the question because of his age. At that time, I knew I had done everything possible to keep him going but now I had to let him go.

He truly was an amazing animal. He was definitely loved and had a long good life. He has truly left a void in our lives, but, as my oldest said, "Let'r buck, Strawberry. You will be missed."

---By Linda Fish, one of our saddle experts

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Want to Improve Your Balance? Ride Bareback!

This article is from our February newsletter. You can view it here.

Recently, I mused with a friend about my youthful equestrian encounters, and it struck me how important those childhood follies were to my skill as an adult rider. I would sneak into my neighbor's field with a length of grass string baling twine in hand that had been fashioned into a makeshift mecate. I would catch a mischievous, black pony, mount him bareback, and ride like the wind as we galloped in partnership back and forth in that long ago pasture. Later when my father bought my first pony, the only tack I had was a bridle. Again, I found myself riding bareback for hours upon end. While riding bareback was a necessity to me then (saddles were too expensive), it taught me to naturally balance myself while mounted. By the time I purchased my first saddle, I had obtained a very good seat, all because I had begun riding bareback.

Sometimes riders become too dependent upon saddles and do not trust their balance; rather, they rely too greatly upon the stirrups, saddle horn, and cantle to remain mounted. The best way to alleviate this dependency is to ride bareback. Whether you are a beginning rider or one who might need a balance brush-up, the following steps will assist you in finding your natural balance:

· If you have a level-headed and reliable horse, you can undertake these steps on your own. If you are not comfortable going it alone, ask someone who is knowledgeable with horse handling and lunging to assist you.

· After mounting your horse, ask him for a walk and remain walking until you become comfortable with the bareback feel. With your legs and heels lightly gripping along his barrel, you will be able to feel his muscles working and the heat his body generates. Drop the reins and hold your arms straight out from your sides (like an airplane). Raise them up and down, make circular motions, going from large air circles to smaller ones, making them slowly at first and then more quickly. The more quickly the circles are made, the more you will have to work on remaining balanced. You will have to concentrate on sitting erect and not slumping over your horse's withers and neck, keeping your legs and heels in their position along the barrel.

· Once you are comfortable with riding at a walk, pick up the reins and ask your horse for a trot. Once you feel the timing of his trot, again drop the reins and repeat the arm exercises below. Do not grab a handful of mane as this will most likely prompt you to slump over and will actually cause an imbalance in your riding posture. Ride at the trot until you feel comfortable and are ready to proceed to the canter. With each gait progression, you can feel how your horse's body works differently under your seat and legs.

· Taking the reins in hand again, ask your horse for a canter/lope. When you are relaxed with the canter/lope, drop the reins and repeat the arm exercises above. If you feel unbalanced at any point, drop your arms and pick up the reins. Find your center again after a few strides and try the exercises again.

· Practice these movements in both right-handed and left-handed circles, with your horse on each lead. We all have a preferential direction of travel and will prefer one way over the other. Keep practicing until you are equally comfortable riding in either direction.

Incorporating a bareback workout into your training/exercise schedule will improve your balance while riding saddled. If you are balanced while riding, your horse will be better balanced as he carries you on the trail, which equates to a safer riding experience for both of you.

Happy trails!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Free Professional's Choice Saddle Pad

Our saddle experts are celebrating winter with a FREE saddle pad giveaway! Click the image above to see the details.