Monday, November 10, 2014

Mailbag: How to Check Your Saddle Seat Size

Q: How can I check if I have the right seat size on my trail saddle?

A: There is some variance due to personal preference. Some riders like to feel more secure while others like a little more space in the seat. Select what feels best for you and what feels most comfortable. It's often better to be a little too big than too snug in the saddle. As a general rule, you want about 3 finger widths between your leg and the pommel (pictured below).

Monday, November 3, 2014

Mailbag: How to Rig a Half Breed Off Billet

Q: Why do Billy Cook saddles and many others have a long strap instead of a traditional off billet on the off side of the saddle? How am I supposed to use this?

A: Many saddle makers now offer a longer strap on the off side called a "double off" or "half breed latigo" strap instead of a traditional off billet. The idea is that this strap be doubled up for better reinforcement and strength over time than the off billet.

Here are some steps to help the new user rig the off side with a half breed latigo:
  1. Put one end of the strap through the cinch ring until the ring is in the middle of the strap. The strap should be folded in two with the ends together and the cinch ring at the middle.
  2. Run the two loose ends through the dee ring on the right side of the saddle
  3. Bring the ends back around and run them back  through the cinch ring again. 
  4. Put the metal prong from the cinch through both layers of holes in the strap
  5. Then tuck the extra ends into the latigo keeper strap on the underside of the mohair cinch. 
Step 1 - Secure the cinch

Step 2 - Feed off billet through rigging

Step 3 - Make the second loop

Step 4 - Secure cinch with buckle

Step 5 - Use retaining strap for excess length

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mailbag: Shipping Saddles to Australia

Q: I'm from Australia and I want to get a saddle from but I'm a little concerned about it getting through customs and having to fill out mounds of paperwork. What is the process to get my saddle?

A: (From past AU customer) We initially received a letter from Australia Post. It informed us that the goods had arrived and would be released once they had been assessed by Customs. We had to logon to the Customs website and submit an Import Declaration Form. There is an Importing and Clearing Goods that arrive by International Mail (post) section that has all the information. Basically if the goods you are bringing into the country do not exceed $1000 then you don't have to pay any charges. If the value exceeds $1000 then charges are calculated and the goods aren't released until payment is received. I submitted our form online and it was assessed within five days. I received an email telling me how much I had to pay. The total cost of our saddle, bridle etc was $1832.47 USD. We were charged $347.94 AUD by Customs, which included duty, transport and insurance (T & I), GST and a processing charge. It was payable by BPay, phone, Internet and money order. The saddle arrived a few days after that. It was relatively stress free. We just had to go to our local post office to pick it up.

Horse Saddle Shop provides the necessary documentation to get your saddle smoothly through customs.

Find more information on the official Australian Customs Website.

Mailbag: Professional's Choice Boots

Q: What is the difference between the Professional's Choice protective boots SMBII, SMB3, and Elite?

A: The SMBII boots are great for multipurpose protection. They offer 360-degree protection and provide support to prevent hyperextension. The SMB3 goes further in providing additional elastic stitching around the boot perimeter to keep a snug fit to the horse. This helps keep dirt from getting in behind the boot and irritating the horse. The Elite set themselves apart with contour shape for the best fit. The interior uses VenTech ventilated neoprene to dissipate heat and moisture. The Elite boots are recommended for longer days on the trail and arena.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ten non-horse related items you should always bring to the trail

Photo Credit: Flickr User vastateparksstaff

Saddle...check. Boots...check. Water bucket... check.

We all have our mental checklist for trail rides. But there are many non-horse related items that can make or break your ride. Here are ten essentials from a seasoned trail rider.

We always think to bring along those things that are important for our horse’s safety and comfort while we enjoy the trails; however, we also need to think of our safety and comfort in the event of an emergency and have we have to “hoof” it out on our own two feet.

  1. Cell phone (with GPS capabilities) and the Maprika app downloaded onto your phone. Maprika allows you to email others your exact location. You can also send a photo of your location.
  2. Small first-aid kit for humans (gauze, triple antibiotic ointment, pain relief tablets, vet wrap)
  3. Paper Trail map (just in case no cellular signal)
  4. Compact solar/reflective emergency “blanket” 
  5. Whistle (the sound of a blown whistle travels further than a shout)
  6. Snack/Beverage – Energy bar and water, preferably. Hard tack candies, peppermints, to keep your mouth moist and save your water supply. 
  7. Butane lighter (allows means to build a fire)
  8. Small, but powerful, flashlight
  9. Contact lens case, filled with contact solution and/or a small squirt bottle of solution to use as eye flush.
  10. Extra pair of socks to wear just in case you have to walk yourself back to camp.

If possible, keep your cell phone on your person in the event you become separated from your horse.

As a collective, these items will not take up that much room in your saddle bags but will be of great assistance in the event any of them are needed.

Happy trails!

By: Darlene M. Cox

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mailbag: What bit is right for my young horse?

Q: What bits do you suggest for a 3 year old horse?

A:  When looking for a bit for a young horse, consider a lower port in the mouthpiece.  You want to be able to apply tongue pressure to communicate firmly with your horse.  The shank of the bit will give the rider more leverage.  The longer the shank, the more leverage the rider has for control.  Myler - Level 1 bits are great for starting out a young horse.  They offer enough comfort that won't give unnecessary stress to your horse, while giving you enough power to effectively communicate.

Mailbag : Girth Position

Q:  How far should the girth be from the rigging on each side of my horse?

A:  Typically you would want about 8-10 inches between the cinch and your rigging.  You don't want the cinch to be too small as it needs to have an even pressure on the saddle.  For help determining what size cinch you need, check out our formula on How to Measure Your Horse's Girth.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Tucker Saddles Demo Program

We're proud to be the largest dealer of Tucker Saddles! And now we're proud to bring you a demo program that will help you test drive these world class trail saddles.

Currently in its infant stages, we've made our popular 149 endurance trail saddle available as a demo. You can learn more about this popular saddle HERE! More demo models will be coming soon.

There's no better way to know if a Tucker is the right fit for you than to test drive one on your own horse and your own time.

Take ours for a week, and Ride It Like You Own It!

Learn more about our Tucker Demo Program

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dog Days of Summer: Break out the saddle without tanning your hide.

Photo By: Flickr User CountryDreaming

Summer is here and it's HOT HOT HOT! It's one thing to know how to take care of your horse in the heat - it's another thing to know how to ENJOY your horse in the heat. Here are five things you can do to enjoy your best friend when the mercury starts rising.

  1. Hot summer temperatures can curtail your riding; however, you can still find the opportunity to be in the saddle during cooler morning and early evening hours as the day’s heat fades away. A world of wonders await you as Mother Nature wakes up as you enjoy the morning tranquility or you ride into the colorful evening sunset, listening to the cacophony of tree frogs and peepers while keeping an eye open for deer coming out to graze at dusk. 
  2. No summer pleasure can surpass the opportunity to swim with your horse. It is an opportunity for both of you to have fun and cool off together. Horses are natural swimmers and most enjoy the chance for some water fun. If you don’t have a lake to swim in, great fun can be had riding down a creek. A word of warning: Never ride your horse into deep water if you use a tie down, running martingale, or any other device that limits his ability to raise his head. 
  3. Prepare cool summer treats for your horses by placing fruit slices (apples, pears, oranges), carrots, broccoli, and peppermint candies into gallon-sized ice cream pails filled with water and then frozen. Bring these fun treats out and pop them out of the pail and watch your horses have fun trying to lick down to the treats.  Better yet, put the frozen treats in their water trough and watch your horses “bob” for the treats. Guaranteed to provide you hours of fun, as you sit in the shade with a tall glass of iced tea.
  4. Design a competitive trail riding course and enjoy getting your horse used to the different elements along the course. Even an hour’s worth of riding the course is fun and much less strenuous for your horse than spending all day on a trail ride. You may find out he’s a natural, and the practice will pay off if you decide to participate in an organized competition. 
  5. If your horse is personable and calm, enlist his services (and yours) in a therapy program for developmentally-challenged children or adults. The light riding will not over tax your horse and the big “take away” will be the smiles you see when these special folks establish a bond with your horse. Summer months are the busiest of times for therapy programs, and willing volunteers and quiet horses are always welcomed to help out. 

You don’t have to lie under the porch during the dog days of summer. Get out and have some fun!

(by: Darlene M. Cox)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Most Popular Saddles for Women

Need a saddle for a specific breed? Maybe a saddle to fit an odd confirmation? No problem. But when it comes to fitting a saddle for a specific gender, the saddle industry has fallen behind. It's no secret that women play a HUGE role in the equine community. From trail riding to barrels, roping to reigning and everywhere in between.

So we've put together a list of our most popular saddles for women. Enjoy. 

One of our most popular women's saddles to date, this Lady Flex is light, durable, and offers the support ladies enjoy on the trail. Fabtron saddles are made in the USA and this particular one features a flex tree along with long strings for all your trail gear. 

Crates has done a very nice job tailoring saddles specifically for women. This trail saddle features a strong fiberglass covered wood tree with a very narrow twist. We love the dropped C-plate rigging for a more balanced ride and less bulk under the jockey. 

This little gem is something you don't see everyday. A reiner made specifically for women. It features a narrow twist and butterfly skirt, providing less bulk and closer contact. You'll love the large border tooling and handmade craftsmanship. 

Yet another great ladies saddle from Crates, this lady trail saddle has a very short skirt, 4" cheyenne roll cantle, and long saddle strings. Adjustable rigging allows you to select the position that is appropriate for your horse. 

Last but not least, this Circle Y Julie Goodnight saddle rounds out our top five choices for ladies trail saddles. The Flex2 tree reduces weight and allows additional movement in the tips for your horse's comfort. Cutout skirts give riders the close contact feel their looking for. Designed and endorsed by Julie Goodnight for performance trail riding.

Most Popular Saddles for Short Backed Quarter Horses

When we think about the traditional western saddle, we picture large, square skirts, long strings, some tooling, and saddle bags. That's perfect if your horse can handle it. But we've seen a growing need for saddles, especially ropers, reiners, cutters, and ranch saddles for a short backed quarter horse.

Large square skirts are immediately out of the picture and we fall back on some tried and true options from our American made manufacturers. 

Check out our list of most popular saddles for short backed quarter horses!

1. Circle Y Omaha Flex Tree Saddle 1554

One of our best selling Circle Y Trail Saddles, the Omaha is designed with a short, round skirt to accommodate a shorter backed horse. Long stings and a padded seat make this ideal for the trail. The in-skirt adjustable rigging will allow you to choose the best position for your specific horse.

2. Fabtron Extra Wide Haflinger Saddle

You don't necessarily think "performance" when you hear the word "Haflinger" but this is another breed that has been an after-thought in the saddle making community. We've partnered with Fabtron to bring you this exclusive Haflinger saddle with a short, round skirt and extra wide Haflinger tree. The Cordura skirt and fenders keep this saddle light, making it a cinch to throw across your horse.

3. Circle Y Walnut Grove Flex2 Trail Saddle

One of our favorites, this Circle Y saddle measures a mere 26" long and comes in a regular or wide flex tree for a little more forgiveness around your horse's shoulders. It still retains the long strings, tooling, and wood stirrups that you'd expect on a traditional western saddle.

4. Cashel Trail Saddle

Made with the AXIS True Fit saddles tree, Cashel developed this trail saddle with the short backed horse in mind. The short, round skirt provides plenty of room for hit and hind-quarter clearance. An adjustable position in-skirt rigging allows you to choose the best rigging position for your horse. Long strings, a mild cantle, and tall cheyenne roll make this a great choice for the trails.

5. Tucker High Plains Trail Saddle 260

Available in either a full or round skirt, this is one of our best selling Tucker's. Designed on a solid tree with Tucker's signature seat padding and ground seat. Choose from four rigging options and four tree widths on this saddle - allowing you to customize it to your horse!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Getting Motivated to Ride: Going from Horse Lazy to Horse Crazy

Photo By: Flickr User Charlie Day
It happens to everyone. One day you are eating and breathing everything horse related. The next day, it takes everything you have to head to the barn and do the chores. What happened? Where did the spark go? Will it always be this way? Here are some tips for rekindling your equine energy!

Everyone procrastinates about doing barn chores. Face it, there is nothing glamorous about mucking stalls, right? The thought of cleaning tack or organizing tack rooms can quickly have you running for the hills. Rather than trying to tackle everything at once in a single day, space your chores out by making a schedule of what you would like to complete. Setting aside time for each task will keep you from being overwhelmed by everything that must be done.

 Music is a terrific median to get you in the mood for barn work. Take along a radio while you are mucking stalls and you may find yourself keeping the beat with each forkful you toss into the wheelbarrow.

Tack cleaning and tack room organizing will give you an opportunity to either get rid of old, unused items or determine that you really need to purchase something you must have in your collection. There are many venues for selling gently used and still useful tack items. The potential of making a few extra dollars can be motivational in completing these tasks.

If there are others whose help you can enlist to tackle barn chores, you will find their company and conversation a positive catalyst in getting your chores finished, with less boredom while doing them.

Once those pesky barn chores are done, reward yourself in some little way.

If you have lost interest in riding, you may want to change how you ride. There are so many different avenues to explore when riding. Consider signing up to participate in riding clinics, where you and your horse can work on your partnership. Switch to a different riding discipline. If you have always been a western rider, sign up for some English riding lessons, perhaps exploring dressage or jumping.  How does cow work sound? You could try your hand at team penning or sorting. Have you ever wondered what it was like to “chase cans” or run the poles?  Participate in a drill team; many areas have established teams that entertain crowds with their choreographed cadence. Cowboy shooting has really gained a big following in recent years, and is full of speed, excitement, and fun.

Consider riding with a new group of friends or visit trail riding venues you have always wanted to check out. Visit a dude ranch where you can participate in a cattle drive.

Even when you may feel the sparks have died, I promise you the embers are still burning and can be rekindled to once again to bring you happily back to horse crazy!

(by: Darlene M. Cox)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

“Foal” Weather Tips: Caring for your horse in bad weather

Spring has sprung and with it comes bad weather. You don't want to be standing in the pasture when lighting hits, but what about your horses?

The question of what to do with your horses when thunderstorms are forecast has been debated many times over by horsemen of all kinds. Each has probable safety factors and inherent risks.

On the positive side, stalling your horses in a solidly built structure will keep them dry, away from direct lightning strikes, and possibly out of the direct line of blowing debris. Horses pastured in small paddocks or pastures situated on hillsides with no low gullies, may be safer weathering the storm in their stall.

The negative side of stalling prevents horses the chance to run away from potential danger. Straight line winds or a tornado may damage a barn so badly that horses stalled within will be injured. Lightning may strike the barn, trapping horses inside with no way to escape. High strung horses that are very reactive to loud noises can panic if enclosed in a stall or barn and will injure themselves or others trying to flee. Stalling isolates horses from each other and may add to their stress.

Lightning rods can be installed on your barn to directly ground a strike and prevent a deadly barn fire. Giving your horses grain or hay to eat to keep them “busy” may calm them while the storm shakes, rattles, and rolls through.

The pros for leaving your horses outside during severe weather include the innate ability for them to take care of themselves. Horses are very weather aware and will position themselves where they need to be when storms move through. Run in sheds allow pastured horses the opportunity to seek shelter and also the freedom to flee to safety if instincts tell them to run. Larger pastures, with room to run, offer horses the chance to get out of harm’s way and to seek refuge from the wind in a lower lying area or from flooding by moving to higher ground. Often times, horses left in their pastures are completely unscathed, without a scratch, when severe weather plows through.

The cons for horses left to bare the elements could be increased risk of injury from flying debris. Horses occupying small pastures or paddocks may not have anywhere to run and may panic, running through fencing in their efforts to flee. Hillside pastures may increase the risk of lightning strikes.

You can enhance the safety of your paddocks and pastures to withstand severe weather assault by installing grounding lightning rods to your ground. In the event of a strike, the lightning will hit the rod and not your horses. Remove any items that may be blown about by high winds and become injurious projectiles. If you do leave your horses out in pasture and know severe weather is coming, it may be a good idea to “band” your contact information into their manes, in the event pasture fencing is damaged and your horses run loose.

While you may feel the most important thing is to keep your horses safe, the major thing to remember is to keep yourself safe. Do not put yourself at risk to protect your horses. There is only one you!

Regardless of what side of this debate you may stand, it all boils down to your comfort level of knowing where your horses are during a storm. Once the wind and rain subsides, the clouds clear, and the sun begins to shine, concerned owners will do a headcount of their horses no matter where they rode out the storm.

By: Darlene M. Cox

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Equine Photography 101: Tips From The Pro's

In the days of Instagram and Facebook albums, the process of taking and publishing photos has been dramatically simplified. But what if you want something more? Photos of you, your family, and your equine counterparts that you’ll cherish for decades?

In this Q&A with Canada based photographer, Shawn Hamilton of CLiX Photography, Shawn will share her story into equine photography as well as some tips and tricks for better photos on the trail or in the arena.

A number of Shawn's recent magazine covers.

Q: Hi Shawn, I hear you're a professional equine photographer. Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do.  

Shawn with her mount in
Patagonia, South America
A: My passion for both horses and photography started at a young age. I have had a horse since I was 13 and a camera since I was 10.  Shooting primarily as a hobby I began to follow my friends to horse shows and take photos of them in action. My friends admired their photos and soon others asked me to shoot them and began purchasing them from me.

When on maternity leave in 1989 with my first of four children I started to attend horse shows and mailed contact proofs to the participants. The orders for enlargements began to roll in. I then pitched to horse magazines and managed to get the cover of two different magazines in the same month. This gave me the confidence to leave my full time job and I have never looked back.

I have since covered 5 Olympics, countless World Equestrian Games and now specialize in riding vacation stories from all over the world, both writing and shooting, often shooting from the saddle.

My photos have appeared on the covers of The Horse, Horse Sport, Horse Canada, Equus, Horse Power, Young Rider, Dressage Today, Practical Horseman, The Chronicle of the Horse and many others. These can be seen on my website.

I also have three children’s books published by Scholastic Canada

Q: What's kind of gear do you carry in your bag? 

A: My gear is exclusively Nikon and I currently use a Nikon D3 with a D200 as back up.  My next purchase will be the D4. As far as lenses go my most used lenses on riding vacations and typical shoots are the 70-200 F2.8 and the 17-55 F2.8. When on free running photo shoots I take my 300 F2.8 fixed lens and when doing larger shows such as the Worlds or the Olympics a 500 F4 is the chosen piece of glass as it is more difficult to get closer to the action.

As far as software goes I use Lightroom and Photoshop for editing, raw conversion and enhancing.

Q: My daughter runs barrels and shows. What gear do I need to get good photos?

A: There are so many cameras on the market today it is difficult to suggest what to buy. But if you want to capture the action such as barrel racing or show jumping you need a camera that you can adjust the shutter speed. A speed of no less than 250/second is needed to stop the action, especially if it is being hand held. I prefer 500/second.

A zoom lens would be recommended as you never know in advance how close to the action you will be allowed to get. A 70-200 2.8 is the perfect starter lens for action but there are many others offered. A 2.8 gives you a faster speed in lower lighting conditions.  High end lenses such as Nikon and Canon are expensive but you can get Tamron and other brands that will fit onto other bodies with special mounts. I suggest you look for used equipment to get started.

Q: How is taking equine photos different than other photos? Any tips for capturing great horse photos?

A: The key to taking good photos of anything is to Know Your Subject. In any riding discipline such as jumping, barrel racing, dressage, etc, there are moments in time that are more attractive than others. Even a horse running through a field looks better in a certain position.

Portraits require both ears to be forward with the horse looking alert. Focusing on the eye will enhance a portrait of any human or animal subject. Conformation shots differ with each breed.

Any time of day can work but early morning and later afternoon have warmer light. Cloudy days can also be helpful with no shadows to deal with.

Q: What are some ways I can use my photos?

A: The most important and probably least liked aspect of photography is EDITING. If you want to show off your photos it is very important that you edit or weed out the bad ones.

Download your photos from your camera or phone to a computer, don’t forget to make a backup copy on an external drive or DVD, and diligently pick the absolute best ones. Nothing bores anyone more than seeing 100 photos of the same thing, especially if only one or two of them are worthwhile. It is a pet peeve of mine when someone sends me a folder of images of their holiday and have simply downloaded their card and sent it to me without eliminating at least the out of focus ones. Choose your few favorites and save them to your laptop, iPad, or phone to share with others.

You can upload them to facebook but know that once they are on facebook they are free for facebook and others to do with them what they want.

Have the best ones enlarged and framed for the wall, make your screen saver out of it, put it on a blanket, mug, pillow…the possibilities are endless.

Firstly though…take a great shot! If you are serious about learning more about photography take a workshop! They are invaluable.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

TMBR Trees: More Acronyms Decoded

TMBR Tree via Bowden Saddle Tree Co.

The saddle industry is full of acronyms that tend to get dismissed without being examined.

For instance, "TMBR." What is it? And more importantly, "why do I care?"

TMBR is a relatively well known acronym that stands for Toots Mansfield Barrel Racer. This type of tree is typically used on an all around or cow horse saddle.

But you probably already knew that. So, why do you care?

Toots was a world class calf roper back in the 30's, 40's, and 50's. He helped design a tree to fit his needs. This design has been adopted by various tree manufacturers and altered to create a variety of TM trees - all with the same general design.

"BR" stands for Barrel Racer, referring to the bars of the saddle. Most barrel racing trees have shorter bars and the TMBR mimics this quality - a unique design not typically seen on versatility, all around, or cow horse saddles.

The most important quality of the TM tree is the generous leg cuts found on the swell, giving the rider somewhere to lock his/her legs when needed.

TMBR's are usually considered an all around saddle. The Crates TMBR saddles we carry here at the shop are rawhide covered for strength and durability. In the near future, these saddles will move from a rawhide reinforcement to a double fiberglass covered tree.

If you're looking for a solid saddle for light versatility work, the TMBR should be on your list. And with additional flare in the bars, you might find it a better fit for your horse too!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Save a Benjamin - Affordable Alternatives to Rising Feed Costs.

Feed costs are by far the biggest chunk of our horse care budget. Hay is the most important part of the feeding regimen, with regard to what horses need to be healthy. When feed costs rise, there are alternatives to either replace hay or be a partial supplement to feeding hay. It is important to note that any change in feeding regimen should be made gradually over a two week period. A quick change of feed can cause colic, diarrhea, or other gastrointestinal problems for your horse.

Hay provides around 18% fiber in a horse’s diet and is responsible for the motility of the hind gut in the horse. In other words, it keeps things moving along through the digestive tract and prevents colic and other gastrointestinal malfunctions.

The following feeds can be used to replace your total feeding regimen or to partially replace it.

  • Complete feeds, Pelleted feed that contains grass and other roughage ingredients, can be used as a replacement for feeding hay. Complete feeds are very good to use in older horses that have lost their teeth and can no longer eat hay or pasture grasses. 
  • Hay cubes (alfalfa or timothy/alfalfa), chopped hay pressed into cubes, can be fed either as a replacement or a supplement to hay. Can be fed dry or soaked to aid in palatability. 
  • Beet pulp. High in fiber, which greatly aids in digestibility. Also, a great source to put weight on a hard keeper. Best fed after soaking in water to allow for expansion and palatability. 
  • Oat hay. Similar in quality and digestibility as grass hays. Less costly than alfalfa hays. 
  • Soy hulls. Very high in fiber 
  • Haylage. This is a processed complete feed similar to silage. There is a chance for mold and spoilage as it contains a lot of moisture. Very high in fiber and very digestible.

The feeds below can be used to supplement your feeding regimen, and would need to be fed with reduced amounts of hay and grain:

  • Rice Bran or Wheat Bran. These contain less fiber than what is in most hays but more than what is in most grains. May need to add a mineral supplement if feeding these. 
  • Oats. Can be added to grain regimen, but if fed solely will need mineral supplementation. Higher in fiber than most grains. 

It is possible to provide our horses with nutritious feeds without breaking the bank. Quality should always be foremost in any feed choice.

Consult your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist before making any feed change to determine amounts to be fed to your horse.

Friday, March 7, 2014

What is a Myler HBT Bit?

The infamous Myler HBT bit. Do a Google search or ask your favorite tack store and they will most likely be able to tell you what the difference is between a standard curb bit and an HBT bit. Ask them what HBT stands for... and you're bound to hear a lot of silence!

Maybe that's enough to satisfy most people's curiosity, but we don't settle for mediocre answers here at the shop.

So let's get to it - the answer you'll only find at Horse Saddle Shop...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Safe Practices for Young Riders

Photo by: Flickr User matlock-photo

Ask any horse person when their love for horses began and their response will most likely be “when I was a child.” There is some type of infinite fascination held by children for the beauty and majesty of horses.  Many kids are lucky to advance beyond riding their magnificent horse through their day dreams and have the personal opportunity to interact with or own a horse.

While there isn’t any one breed of horse better than another when choosing a horse for your child, it is best to find a “been there, done that” horse that has a laid back disposition and a quiet and forgiving demeanor. Gender may play more of a role than breed. Mares may be moody and stallions too rowdy, but geldings are generally more even-keeled and could be the better selection.

As parents, it is our responsibility to keep our kids safe when they handle and ride their horses. Implementing safe practices and making sure your child understands them and uses them are important not only for their safety, but also our peace of mine.

  • Helmets save lives! Every child should wear a helmet every time they are around their horse, in or out of the saddle. Boots should always be worn when handling horses.
  • Structured care and riding lessons are important, whether they are done in a formal setting from a professional instructor or provided by a family member on the family farm. Lessons will build confidence and ability, helping your child develop balance and a strong seat in the saddle. Hands on learning is important, but always under adult supervision. Younger children should never interact with horses without an adult being present. 
  • Teach your child about horse dynamics: fight or flight reactions, how they communicate with other horses, pecking orders in the herd, etc. This will provide awareness for your child whenever they are around horses. Instruct them to always be on alert to what might spook their horse: dogs, loud traffic or farm machinery, the wind blowing things around, etc. 
  • Safety on the ground. It is very important that children understand how to approach a horse, and how not to! Always approach horses from an angle off the shoulder or in front of the hip from behind. Never approach directly in front of their head or from straight behind. Always speak to the horse as you approach. Never approach quietly. 

Just as important is teaching your child where to stand when near a horse to prevent foot injuries from being stepped on or from being knocked down if a horse whirls around. The safest place to stand is just off the shoulder. Instruct them to always have a hand on the horse. This will let the horse know they are there and will also alert your child if the horse is planning to make a move or is tensing up.

  • Never let a child crawl/walk under the horse’s belly or under his neck. This may spook the horse and the child may be knocked to the ground and trampled. 
  • Children should never pick up the horse’s feet to clean them. This should always be done by an adult. 
Safety should always be first and foremost when our kids are around horses. Lead by example and pass on the knowledge you have to your children.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It's a February Giveaway!

This month we've teamed up with to give away a $100 shopping spree to!

Head over to the contest page, fill out a couple questions, and cross your fingers!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Don't Hang Up Your Spurs!


It's rare for us to go a week without talking to a customer who is recovering from a horse related injury. If you're in the same boat, you're not alone. Regardless of your riding acumen or your knowledge of horses, a day may come when you are involved in a horse-related accident. Hopefully, any injury sustained will be minor, leaving psyche unblemished and confidence unscathed.

But what can be done when your confidence has been totally shaken, leaving you anxious, or even fearful, of interacting with your horse? Experiencing fear and anxiety after an accident is understandable. Rebuilding your confidence is possible, so don’t hang up those spurs just yet!

The key is to go slowly and take your time; the journey of rebuilding your confidence begins by going back to basics. Grooming provides the most intimate one-on-one time you can spend with your horse. Your horse will enjoy the pampering and his relaxed state will also flow into you and begin to winnow away at your anxieties and fear. Daily sessions are best, as you will be touching your horse every day. Talk to him while you are grooming. Share with him what you are feeling. He won’t understand the words, but he will understand the language of your touch. You will see improvement with each passing day.

After you have become confident in your daily contact with your horse through your grooming sessions, another element can be added to regain further confidence. Begin working through basic groundwork steps. Re-visiting these steps reasserts your leadership ability with your horse and will do a world of wonder for your confidence. Leading, stopping, backing up, head lowering, bending, and stepping under are the basic groundwork steps to work on. As your horse responds, you will discover you are ready to try riding once again.

Choose a day you would like to once again mount your horse, and continue your basic groundwork sessions, but do so with your horse fully tacked. The site and sound of your horse in full riding regalia will allow you time to get comfortable with the upcoming date. Once that day arrives and after you have gone through the basics yet again, end the session by simply mounting and sitting on your horse for a few minutes. If you would be more comfortable, have someone assist you by holding your horse. If you are ready to ask your horse to move forward, ask him to walk. Once you are comfortable with the walk, you can ask for the trot and canter, but only take these steps as you are ready for them. There is nothing wrong with remaining at a walk until you know you are ready to pick up the pace.

After your riding session has been completed, unsaddle your horse and end the day with a relaxing and healing grooming session.

It takes time to regain your confidence after an accident, and time is something we all have. What is most important is that you salvage the relationship you have with your horse, as it is the power of this special relationship that heals you!

What are your tips for getting back in the saddle? Leave them in the comments and we might use them on our Facebook page.

By: Darlene M. Cox