09 August 2017 03:41
By their very nature – trustworthy, patient, calm and safe – most Pony Club ponies and horses are mature; late teens to early 20s (there are even some still working the Club at the age of 30!).
A Pony Club mount is very special. He’s probably had multiple owners and has “nannied” numerous children through their early riding experience with fortitude and forbearance. For this he needs to be older and wiser, whether he’s a shaggy Shetland used and abused by the little ones, or a larger legendary trooper who’s experienced at all sorts of competition and games which he pulls off with aplomb.
He’ll do his best to keep his precious young cargo in the saddle and not put a foot wrong. No matter the provocation he’ll not kick, bite or bolt. He’s a faithful family retainer. A situation certainly not suitable for a green young pony.
As many have noted, such a mount is worth his weight in gold, and any parent would be delighted to own such a faithful friend.
Such special ponies – generally falling into the medical realm of being “geriatric” – need and deserve special care.
GROWING OLD GRACEFULLY
If you are lucky enough to own one of these perfect ponies, or have a yard where you need one or more of these equine gems to cater for Pony Club or young riders, there are some things to watch out for to make sure they grow old gracefully.
Here are some points to ponder if you want to keep your older pony happy and healthy:
Overall, as long as you keep your aging pony healthy , happy, vaccinated, and wormed, with regular examinations by the vet, he will continue to be a joy for your children and carry them faithfully into the future.
22 July 2017 11:35
Anyone who loves a horse owes it to him to make sure his teeth are kept in good condition. It's all part of ensuring you have a happy horse!
05 July 2017 02:02
Do you know the normal temperature of a horse, or how to read his pulse rate? Part of being a responsible horse owner is to be aware of basic equine first aid - from treating minor wounds to identifying serious problems and dealing with them while awaiting the vet.
As we all know, horses are naturally accident prone! No matter how careful you are injuries and ailments are common.
You can't always prevent injury to your beloved horse, but you can be prepared for the eventuality, and educate yourself in basic first aid. Being ready to deal calmly and efficiently with an equine emergency can greatly increase the chances of a successful outcome.
Your first line of defence is a well-stocked First Aid Kit, kept handy in the tack room and taken with you wherever you travel with your horse. (At the end of this article is a list of essentials for your Horse First Aid Kit, which should be stored in a clean, dry box.)
Minimise risk by making sure your horse (and you!) are regularly vaccinated against Tetanus. Check your horse over for any signs of injury or discomfort every day, and treat minor cuts and grazes promptly to prevent them from becoming worse.
How to assess an InjuryLacerations of the skin are the injuries you are most likely to use First Aid treatment for, in order to stem bleeding and prevent infection.
Assess the wound so you can decide if it requires professional attention.
If the wound is deep, bleeding profusely, and longer than a few centimeters you should call the vet.
Veterinary treatment is also essential if the horse is lame, shows signs of an internal injury or the wound impinges on a joint or the eyes. Unexplained lumps, inflamed and/or swollen areas should also be investigated by a vet.
Puncture wounds can be particularly dangerous because you may not be able to judge how deep they are, and there is a great risk of infection. These are best assessed by a vet, and if the foreign body that caused them is still in situ, don't be tempted to remove it yourself.
If the injury seems minor, and the horse is not showing any signs of distress or abnormal behaviour, you can treat him yourself.
Before you start, or while you wait for the vet, you should keep the horse calm, confined in a safe, comfortable place, and work at stopping any bleeding.
If your horse has a large wound that will require stitching by the vet, apply a pressure bandage to slow down bleeding while you wait. A thick pad of gauze secured with adhesive tape is fine, or if you can't wrap it, hold the pad firmly in place, applying pressure.
It is wise to check your horse's pulse, respiration rate and temperature, either to assure yourself all is well or to assist the vet with the information.
Checking Vital SignsThere are many occasions on which it is useful to be able to check your horse's temperature, pulse and respiration. As a horse owner you should practise these procedures even when the horse is fit and well, so that you can conduct the checks easily and efficiently when the horse appears to be injured, in pain or suffering a fever.
Firstly you need to know the normal range of vital signs for a horse, so that you can judge when something is amiss.
Temperature: 36.9C to 38.3C ( 98.5F to 101F)
Pulse: 28 to 45 beats a minute
Respiration: 8 to 20 breaths per minute
Remember if the weather is unduly hot, and when the horse has been exercising, the temperature will be raised. Likewise if the horse is stressed or excited the pulse and respiration rate will be higher.
Taking a horse's temperature should be done with care. Use a digital equine thermometer and keep it in place in the rectum for at least a minute. A horse's pulse can be felt in the facial artery under the lower jaw, with the flat of two fingers, or preferably a stethoscope. The respiration rate can be counted by standing a few feet away from your horse, side on, and watching his ribcage rising and falling (one rise and fall equals one breath).
Another good indicator of problems in the health of a horse are the gums, which should be a healthy pink. If they are pale it could indicate anemia, grey-blue indicates circulation problems and bright red could be a sign of fever and illness.
Treating Minor Injuries
To clean an open wound - cut or abrasion - use a sterile saline solution, or flush it thoroughly with water. You need to wash out any bacteria to prevent infection. The same applies to shallow puncture wounds, as long as the object which pierced the flesh is no longer inside. If you at any time feel the wound is too deep or difficult for you to deal with, or if it won't stop bleeding, rather leave it and call the vet.
In the case of a graze, make sure the damage is no more than skin deep, then gently clean it and apply a disinfectant solution. During healing - which could take days or even weeks - keep an eye out for swelling and any sign of discomfort in your horse. You can apply wound cream to help it heal and protect it from contamination.
Any jagged lacerations, those leaving a flap of skin, or injuries that might impact on joints, ligaments and tendons may need an antibiotic and pain relief, and are best left to a vet. In this case you will be given instructions about bandaging and aftercare, which you'd be wise to adhere to!
First Aid Kit
Here are the essentials for an equine first aid kit ....
We hope you rarely need to use your first aid knowledge or kit, but you can ride safe and happy if you are well prepared to meet adversity!
28 June 2017 08:30
14 June 2017 03:00
Nunney International Horse Trials is in its fifth year having moved from Longleat in 2013. Classes at the event range from BE100 to CIC2*.
There’s a bumper number of entries for this year’s challenge, including some big names like William Fox-Pitt, who will ride Clifton Signature in the open intermediate. Also in this section is fellow Olympic team rider Gemma Tattersall on Pamero 4 and the 2016 Chatsworth CIC3* winner Mr Chunky with Irish team rider Padraig McCarthy in the saddle.
The action will take place from Friday, June 16 to Sunday, June 18 in the grounds of the grade II listed Southfield House near Frome and the picturesque village of Nunney. Showjumping takes place every day in the main arena, and there is likely to be a big crowd on Sunday milling around the cross country course, designed by Helen West, manager of Bicton Arena.
The overall winner of this CIC2* event will win £1,200 – a record amount of prize money for this competition thanks to sponsorship from Tarmac.
Entry to the event is free on Friday and £12 per car on Saturday and Sunday. The cross country begins at 10am on Sunday.
Besides the action on horseback the event has become renowned for its many and varied trade stands and food outlets.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR SPECTATORS
For those who like to be in the know, here’s an extract from a blog written by cross country course designer, Helen West, about what’s in store for equestrian aficionados:
“The CIC2* will be near maximum distance and will ask a good variety of questions at this level. My aim is to get horses into a rhythm and jumping confidently at the beginning of the track, and to build up to asking the bulk of the questions at the appropriate point in the course. The track will test boldness as well as accuracy and will encourage positive riding.
The Intermediate track will follow a similar route to the CIC2* but will omit one loop and a couple of the combinations will be slightly more straight forward.
The Novice track is near maximum distance and will be educational for horses at this level, asking similar questions to the higher level tracks but in a simpler version. It is important to prepare horses for the next level, so asking similar questions across the levels where appropriate helps with this, as well as keeping the visual cohesion by theming the courses.
The BE100 will also have an array of questions, for example it will include water, a half coffin, drop, corner and an angled combination.
All courses will be flowing and promote good jumping, offering horses a positive experience.”
Defending his title will be last year’s winner, David Doel, riding Shannondale Quest. David hails from Reybridge Eventingat Lacock, Wiltshire, and has come a long way since competing in his first BE event at the age of 14. That was back in 2007, and he’s been making his way up the ranks since then, catching much attention as one of the bright young stars of equestrian sport.
David, a winner this season of Bicton Arena’s CIC2*, will be facing some stiff competition at Nunney, including from the 2013 winner of the event, Cora Keen, who will ride Highmead Proposition.
Good luck and good riding to all the competitors at Nunney this weekend, and if you’re going to share in the excitement as a spectator, enjoy!
24 May 2017 01:31
A well-plaited mane certainly improves your horse's chances in the show ring, and it certainly makes a big difference in, particularly, dressage competition if the judges' are impressed with your horse's neat and tidy turnout.
Conventional (hunter) braids are fine for most disciplines, with button braids being de rigeur for dressage. Of course some show categories like native ponies have to be shown with natural manes.
The number and placing of the plaits can actually enhance the look of your horse. Generally experts recommend not less than 9 braids, and no more than 11 (plus a french plait for the forelock). Traditionally there should be an odd number of plaits along the neck. Using more can make the neck of a short-necked horse look longer, and horses with a weak neck can be given the illusion of more crest by placing the plaits as high as possible.
It's certainly wise to practice your plaiting technique at home to make sure you can handle it calmly and neatly under pressure on the morning of the show. It's not recommended to plait the night before because hairs might be pulled or rubbed loose overnight or during travelling. Do, however, leave plenty of time for plaiting because if you become harried, your horse will pick up on it.
Practice makes perfect, and what you want to avoid is a few large clumpy braids that will do nothing for your horse's topline, and will prevent him from comfortably bending his neck.
Make sure, too, that your button braids are firmly secured and don't wiggle about - not an impressive sight in the arena!
Before you begin plaiting you need to bath your horse and shampoo the mane (preferably the day before) using a good shampoo and conditioner, making sure you massage the hair right down to the roots to remove any embedded dirt and debris.
There are numerous products available for mane and tail detangling. If you apply any of these it is best to comb the mane through thoroughly, and leave the product in (as long as you are sure your horse has no skin sensitivity issues) so that when you come to plaiting the hair will be "sticky" and thus easier to handle. If you prefer to rinse the mane off and it has dried sleek and soft before you come to start the plaiting process, you can always use a product like Smart Grooming's Perfect Plaits
to give the hair some texture and grip to work with (it also acts as a setting lotion to keep plaits in place).
Before you begin plaiting you will also need to get the mane into shape, both as far as bulk and length goes. The optimum length for plaiting is about six inches width, and if the mane is very thick you can thin it and shorten it by pulling.
Mane pulling is not to everyone's taste (nor does every horse enjoy the process), so you may be able to achieve the thinning and shortening by means of grooming tools like a thinning comb and scissors. The goal is to have a mane that is of even thickness and length to achieve perfectly consistent plaits.
If you do want to try pulling, the ProEquine grooms have a great online guide to help you!
THE PLAITING PROCESS
Firstly, make sure you have all the plaiting tools you'll need to hand. I find it best to keep everything stashed in a waist pouch - the hand Totally Smart Plaiting Apron is great for the job!
needle or two, with a reel of thread to match the mane colour, are the first requirements. Then you'll need scissors, mane comb and hair clips, and a sturdy stool to stand on. Add an unpicker to correct any mistakes.
Tie up the horse (give him a haynet to keep him occupied if you think he may be jittery with your hairdressing operation!).
With the mane damp and prepared with product, use the mane comb to divide off your first section for plaiting. Start at the poll. A section should be about two inches wide (depending on how many plaits you want and how big you want the plaits to be.
Clip the rest of the hair out of the way, then divide your first section into three equal parts. Start plaiting firmly, keeping your thumbs on top.
Then stitch the needle and thread down the length of the folded plait (following the zig-zags) so that the needle emerges at the bottom. Fold the plait in half again, tucking the end underneath as before, then push the needle up from underneath, near the base of the plait, and pull the thread through. Finish off by sewing through the folded plait a few times to secure it, adjusting the shape and position if necessary. Cut off the thread with scissors.
Continue to section the hair and make plaits down the length of the neck.
You can plait the forelock using the same method, or, if you have the skill, make a French plait which will lay flatter.
A FINE FINISH
Add a shine to your grooming efforts with a spray of Shapleys Hi Gloss or similar. If you want to really sparkle why not use a bit of glitter on mane and tail!
When it comes time to remove the plaits, use an unpicker to make sure you don't cut or damage the hair.
Once you've got your plaiting technique down pat, why not try experimenting with different looks, using silicone rubber bands (useful when you're in a hurry) or adding a bit of bling in the form of bejewelled crystal plaiting bands or mane and tail twists.
We have a host of show products available online that will ensure your horse has that immaculate look that translates into winning turnout.
A NEAT WAY OF DOING DRESSAGE PLAITS .....
We love this video from ProEquine Grooms which demonstrates how to plait a mane for dressage using yarn:
17 May 2017 02:40
Therefore it makes sense that when it comes time for tying the knot your equine companion should be guest of honour, sharing in your joyous day.
Believe it or not having a horse as a wedding guest is not a rare event - in fact there are numerous wedding venues - ranging from barns and country parks to equestrian centres and even Highland holiday cottages - that actively encourage this by making facilities available. Equestrian weddings are bang on trend, and getting hitched with your horse in hand is very in vogue.
A touch of Romance
There is no doubt that far from detracting from the glamour and fairytale element that every couple dreams of for their wedding day, horses actually add a touch of romance!
We all know that old saying about love and marriage going together like a horse and carriage. Perhaps that is why even in the age of the limousine our preferred romantic wedding fantasies usually include a vision of clip-clopping along to the wedding venue in a Cinderella coach drawn by white horses sporting tinkling rhinestone harnesses. It's not only the Royal family that favour this option for getting to the church on time, judging by the number of horse and carriage hire companies that pop up if you Google the subject.
Your own horse, of course, may not be pleased at the prospect of pulling your marriage carriage. Going to the lengths of re-schooling him to work in harness is not only a lengthy operation (taking at least two months) but the training is also expensive.
So the best way to incorporate your horse in the wedding festivities is to convey him to the venue in his horse box or trailer. There's no reason you can't travel that way too!
How romantic would it be to ride your horse, in your wedding finery, up to the door of the venue - either doubling up in the saddle with your beloved or having him/her leading you? To save the wedding dress and add to the sense of ceremony, perhaps the bride might have a go at riding side-saddle?
Then, of course, being such beautiful, graceful creatures, horses lend a wonderful aspect to wedding photographs. If you want to really add the fairytale touch, groom and dress your horse appropriately - add some sparkle for fun - and make sure your photographer has some experience of capturing the essence of the bond between horse and human in his/her work.
Theming your wedding reception around horses is simple and cost effective. From bales of hay covered with jumpstack covers as seating to bright coloured rosettes on the wall and silver horseshoes as wedding favours, there are loads of options.
The fortunate thing is that "equestrian" equates to "rustic" when it comes to themes, so if your wedding budget is tight (and whose isn't nowadays!) you can get away with some cheaper choices and still create a great atmosphere.
Make a big splash with flowers and greenery, spilling out of horse troughs and feed buckets; use old tack, farm implements and yard paraphenalia as decor; serve cider and beer out of vats; use hessian for table covering and sprinkle with fragrant herbs; surround the dance floor with paddock fencing.
When you get creative you will find the ideas start flowing, and for inspiration (because a picture speaks a thousand words) take a look at Pinterest.
We think horses and weddings are a match made in heaven! We'd love to see photos of your equestrian wedding day, so feel free to share them with Totally Tack on Facebook or Twitter!
25 April 2017 02:16
In just a few days time the placid parklands covering six square kilometres around the beautiful Badminton House in south Gloucestershire will be transformed into a temporary equestrian town, flooded with around 160,000 people - and of course more than a hundred horses.
All eyes are on the big prize at the 2017 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, which this year reportedly offers the ultimate winner a record prize of £100,000. Runners' up down to 20th place will be awarded prize money too, and every rider who completes the arduous course across this five-day event will have their entry fee re-imbursed.
Of course it's not all about the money! Badminton is where champions are made, and equestrian icons admired and feted. The Badminton roll of honour reads like a who's who of equestrian sport, dating from 1949 when the then Duke of Beaufort hosted the first event on his home turf.
As eventing fans all know, Badminton is one of only six CCI 4* events in the world, probably the most illustrious, and forms part of the "grand slam" of eventing together with the Rolex Kentucky Three Day in the US and Britain's Burghley Horse Trials.
Michael - currently acknowledged as the world's top rider - will be back at Badminton this year, riding La Biosethique Sam, defending their title. Other "big names" in contention this year (all being well) will be New Zealander Mark Todd on Leonidas II, Australian Andrew Hoy on The Blue Frontier, and British riders Oliver Townend (on MHS King Joules or Samuel Thomas II) and Gemma Tattersall on Arctic Soul.
Ones to watch at Badminton this year are debutantes Lissa Green and Alexander Bragg. Lissa is the daughter of Lucinda Green, who won Badminton six times in a stellar riding career. Lissa will be riding Malin Head Clover in her first Badminton outing. Let's hope nerves don't get the better of her! She was only recently accepted after languishing on the wait list. British amateur rider Alexander Bragg from Somerset plans to ride Zagreb at Badminton after completing his first 4* outing at Burghley last year (finishing 34th on Redpath Ransom).
Badminton also has an VIP new face this year in the form of Eric Winter, who has taken over from Giuseppe Della Chiesa as cross-country course designer. Eric's course should provide plenty of excitement for the spectators, and challenges for the contenders.It's been variously described as "rustic" and "chunky". You can see it all laid out on the Badminton website.
As is the way with all high level equestrian events, there is the possibility that the field will change as the start of Badminton approaches. Entrants may withdraw, and those still on the wait list be accepted. Whoever trots up to the first horse inspection for the main event at 4.30pm on Wednesday 3rd May will be ready to ride like never before!
Hat's off to one and all - hope everyone enjoys this unrivalled show of equestrian eventing excellence!
Shop Online at totally-tack.co.uk to ensure you and your horse are equipped like the top riders!
19 April 2017 01:31
That's why I'm excited to be entering the UK's oldest endurance ride, the Golden Horseshoe, to be held in the heart of the stunning Exmoor National Park in May. This ride was first held in 1965 and was held annually thereafter, earning pride of place as the ultimate of endurance rides in the country. Sadly it foundered after its 50th anniversary in 2015 when long-time ride organiser Barbara Wigley stepped down. After a gap last year, however, the Golden Horseshoe is back on track and I am thrilled to be taking on the test of one of the competitive and demanding rides which make up this endurance festival.
The Golden Horseshoe weekend is now being run by Jo and Andrew Chisholm of Watervale Endurance, Lydford, Devon, and offers four classes of rides, from the "grand" event across 160km in two days for advanced level horses and riders, down to the mini version along a 24km route on the Sunday (which is what I am currently training for).
If you are interested in finding out more about the Golden Horseshoe visit the website.
Getting into this increasingly popular equestrian sport is easy. There are 23 local groups throughout England and Wales that organise rides - some for training or social purposes and others that are seriously competitive. You can find all the info you need on the Endurance GB website.
GETTING READY TO RIDE
Having set my sights on making a success of endurance riding, along with my dearly beloved Thoroughbred, Harry, I've been careful to look into what's required.
Fortunately Harry is a fit and healthy fellow, sound and sensible, and we have a good level of trust between us. You don't have to have a top drawer horse, however, to compete in endurance - most horses and even small ponies used to a regular work out will be able to cope with a ride of around 25km if he/she is sound.
The super-champs of endurance are usually Arabs, but you can easily train any horse to enjoy the sport at lower levels, if you work at building the right muscles.
I've found an online guide very useful in conditioning Harry for Endurance.
Another big consideration when it comes to Endurance riding is ensuring that both you and your horse are comfortable. This means making sure your saddle is well-fitted and your girth and stirrups positioned to give you a good seat while riding.
When you enter an endurance ride your horse will be examined both before and after the ride to ensure there are no abrasions from bad fitting tack. He will also have his heart rate checked and noted and his soundness vetted in a trot up.
Safety is important too, and unlike other equestrian disciplines there are no regulations about what you or your horse should wear. A good helmet is obviously a pre-requisite, and you'd probably want to take the precaution of an air jacket (I definitely wear my Point Two Air Jacket!).
I'd also recommend long sleeves - both for sun protection and those annoying branches and brambles. (And on the subject of sun ... don't forget sun cream for yourself and your horse!)
Comfort is the key, so make sure you have a comfy seat-saver under you. You'll need to stay well hydrated, especially in warm weather, so you and your horse need a good drink before you set off, and you need a water bottle with you.
PLEASURE, NOT PAIN!
The most important thing to remember when you start out in Endurance that you are riding for pleasure! The lower level non-competitive routes are not meant to be a race, so pace yourself and your horse carefully, slowing down when necessary to recover your equilibrium.
An Endurance event is an adventure, and nothing can beat the satisfaction of completing the course to go home with a happy horse and a completion rosette!
28 March 2017 02:15
Here's a checklist of some of the most important preparations you can make while you wait for the mud to dry off from those spring showers, so you'll be raring to swing into show/competition season:
Your Horse's Health:
Shaping up for Summer:
22 November 2016 01:48
Your horse or pony is close to your heart and part of the family, so why not celebrate the festive season in equestrian style?
With a little imagination and planning, it's possible to include your passion for your beloved steed (and even the horse itself!) in your Christmas celebrations, starting with greetings cards and advent calendarsthrough to decorations, gifts, and the table setting on the big day itself.
We've come up with some ideas which we hope will inspire you ....
Be ready with your advent calendar when December arrives. It's not only the kids who enjoy a daily treat in anticipation of Christmas day ... you can involve your horse in the excitement too! Make sure you hang a horse advent calendar with a tasty equine sweetmeat behind every door in the stable.
Get in early with writing and posting those Christmas cards to friends and relatives. Click here to check the latest recommended posting dates.
Keeping within your equestrian theme, you'll no doubt love the range of comical cards (and gift wrap) by Dorset-based artist TrishWilliams, reproduced from her renowned ink and wash illustrations of cheeky horses and ponies.
Handmade is all the rage, so you can have fun being creative adding an equestrian touch to all sorts of Christmassy things like Christmas stockings, tree decorations, wreaths, crackers and table mats.
You don't have to be particularly artistic - just enthusiastic! Use all sorts of devices from fabric paint to cardboard, clay, glitter and glue, baubles and beads. To help you along you may enjoy this link to some handy horsey templates - download and print!
In fact online resources like Pinterest (and a Google search) produce loads of projects for you and the family to get stuck into that will inject a dose of horsey happiness into your Christmas cheer.
Take a look at Debbie Rose Deets' fantastic PinterestBoard for some super suggestions.
If you enjoy sewing, you could run up a superb Santa blanket for your horse (click here for instructions ).
If you're really handy and enjoy a challenge, how about making a stunning horse's head Christmas wreath for the front door (and another for the stable door!).
Dining Equine Style
If you want to go to extremes and have a clean, comfortable enough barn, you might want to enjoy your Christmas dinner in the stables alongside your horse! It's all about celebrating the night that Jesus was born in a stall, after all! Perhaps that was what was in the minds of the couple in Georgia, USA, who's amazing festive feast set out in their barn features online.
Most though, will be happy to decorate the table with an appropriate stylish centrepiece - our choice would be a beautiful pair of Spirit of Peace Beswick horse figurines.
If you're loathe to expose expensive porcelain to the family Christmas melee you can still achieve the theme with a pretty wooden horse ornament.
Use tartan or checked placemats and/or table runner, some leather and brass accessories such as coasters and napkin rings to add to the equine atmosphere. Other good materials to use for decorating are hessian, horseshoes and pine-cones.
On the dining room wall you can display pictures of your horse, and show off your competition trophies, rosettes and ribbons.
Shopping made Simple
No need to head out into the cold and brave the crowded stores when just a few taps on the tablet or clicks of the mouse can bring it all to you online!
Make a list and check it twice as the old traditional song says, sorting out who's been "naughty or nice"!
Your very nice horsey friends and relatives are really easy to please: you should find something for everyone - including your four-footed friend - in our Christmas e-shop.
How about a bling browband for a dressage diva; a charm bracelet for a pony princess; or a stag horn handledhunting crop for a stylish gentleman who rides to hounds.
No need for your horse or pony to miss out on finding some great gifts under the tree: there are toys, treats, products for pampering and cosy blankets to name just a few of the options in the Totally Tack onlinestore.
Don't forget to place your orders soon for timeous delivery before Christmas!
22 November 2016 11:42
As you prepare for the onslaught of what we are being told by the news media is likely to be an very cold winter, you may well be wondering whether your horse is going to need to wear a rug in the stable or barn - and if so, how heavy does it need to be?
To rug or not to rug is an age-old debate as the winter chill settles on the UK. Most of us prefer to rug horses that are turned out in wintry weather, and this is no doubt advisable for all but hardy native ponies. But do our four-legged friends need to wear cosy quilted "pyjamas" when they're tucked up in their stables?
Breeds like Thoroughbreds and Arabs, which originate from hot countries, need protection from British winters (even when stabled) because they don't burn their nutritional energy as efficiently, store as much fat or grow as thick a winter coat as more acclimatised breeds. Believe it or not the same goes for seemingly hardy little donkeys (which originate from Africa).
There is a growing "naked horse" lobby that advocates allowing the horse's natural defences to counter the elements. This is fine for all but the exotic thin-coated breeds, veterans and horses which continue to work during the winter, necessitating clipping and grooming. If you are going for an unrugged winter, your horse or pony must be allowed to grow a thick coat in the autumn, which should be left unbrushed and ungroomed to allow for the build up of the natural oils which waterproof the coat and help keep body heat in.
Another argument against rugging up in winter is based on the piloerection effect. Simply put, this just means that horses (like humans) get goosebumps when they're cold, causing their hair to stand erect, allowing for more air to circulate close to the skin, which is then warmed by body heat. Wearing a heavy blanket or rug prevents this from happening.
All but the hardiest horses, though, will benefit from a rug, whether they are inside or out, when temperatures dip well below freezing. You should also ensure that your horse has plenty of hay or haylage to help him generate more heat energy.
In stables it is vital to have good ventilation to avoid respiratory problems, so usually the inside of a stable is not much warmer (in fact it can be colder!) than it is outdoors. In addition, the horse or pony in the stable is restricted in how much it can move around in order to keep warm. A rug is therefore vital for most stabled equines, hairy or not, night or day - but take care not to allow your horse to get too warm, uncomfortable and sweaty under the rug.
Weight & Style
The choice of weight and style for a stable rug is dictated by the thickness of the horse's coat. Generally a medium weight stable rug with a detachable neckpieceshould cover most eventualities for the average horse, while working horses, veterans and delicate exotic breeds will require a heavyweight stable rug.
Make sure you buy the correct size rug - too small and tight and the horse will be uncomfortable or suffer with pressure sores caused by rubbing.
If the horse stays stabled and rugged throughout the winter it's wise to have a change of stable rug on hand, and to check underneath the rug as often as possible (daily preferably) for excessive sweating or any skin problems that may arise.
At Totally Tack our primary purpose is to keep horses happy, so we stock a largerange of horse rugs of all weights and for all purposes, from leadingmanufacturers, available online. We also offer a rug cleaning and repair service for local horse-owners, who can drop off their dirty rugs at our store in Frome, Somerset.
19 November 2016 02:56
As the weather grows colder, nature compensates by ensuring your horse's coat grows thicker. A thick winter coat is fine for horses and ponies who are going to stay turned out and unrugged during the cold months - especially if they are native breeds - but if your horse is going to continue to work and exercise his natural heavy coat could lead to problems.
At the onset of winter it is therefore advisable to give your horse a haircut. Clipping all over is generally not necessary (unless your horse is a busy all-year top competitor that is stabled most of the time), but a carefully planned clip styled to suit his needs has several benefits:
Horses sweat during exercise. Hard workers sweat more, but even light exercise can bring on a heavy sweat under a thick winter coat. Sweat trapped in a heavy, shaggy coat is not only uncomfortable for the horse, but can take a long time to dry in cold weather, leaving him chilled and his metabolism working overtime to stabilise his core body temperature. This leaves him at risk of catching a chill and losing condition.
Thick, sweaty coats are also more difficult to groom, so clipping makes your life easier too!
Of course, if you do clip your horse for winter, you will have to compensate for his lack of natural insulation by rugginghim up appropriately, and providing suitable shelter to protect him from the elements.
If you clip your horse for winter do so in early autumn. You may need to repeat the process two or three times as winter advances, to keep regrowth at bay. Stop clipping him in early spring, though, because that is when the new summer coat will start to appear.
Whether you do the clipping yourself, or hire someone to do it professionally, its best to follow the guidelines of the traditional clip styles in use. Choose the right style to suit the needs of the horse, depending on how much he is likely to sweat - the more the sweating, the bigger the area you need to clip.
· A light clip involves just the underside of the neck up to the centre of the belly (the bib area), which will leave your horse well covered enough to be turned out without a rug unless the weather is particularly freezing and inclement.
· A low trace clip means removing the hair under the neck and belly right back to the loins, while a high trace clip extends further up the horse's flank, and up to the cheeks. Leaving the hair on the head, legs and the top of the body and neck provides warmth during turn out, but allows for exercise without overheating.
· A blanket clip means removing hair from all areas, except for the legs and the area that would be covered by an exercise blanket. This suits a horse that has regular exercise through the winter and is turned out during the day.
· A hunter clip is best for horses in heavy winter work. Remove all the hair except for an area in the shape of the saddle, and on the legs.
· A full clip, as has been said earlier, is not usually applied except for horses that compete through the winter. Special care needs to be taken to ensure fully clipped horses are kept warm and comfortable.
If you can't decide how much to clip, err on the side of caution and start off small! After all, you can always clip further if it seems necessary, but you can't put back hair that's already been removed.
If you have never clipped a horse before it is wise to seek advice from a seasoned clipper before investing in a set of clippers. It's probably best to watch an expert at work before trying it yourself.
If possible bath your horse the night before you plan to clip him, and then groom him well. If the coat is dirty it could clog up and blunt the clipper blades.
Mark out the area you plan to clip using chalk.
If you're a novice beware of frightening the horse, so remain calm and turn the clippers on well away from him before approaching him slowly, allowing him to see the source of the noise. Make sure the clippers are in good condition, well-oiled and the blades are not worn. Use long strokes and clip against the direction of the hair growth, pulling the skin taut with your free hand.
You can build up your confidence by watching some of the many tutorials and videos about horse clipping online.
Good luck with your clipping ...
18 October 2016 03:33
Dressage is an elegant sport both in its execution and the appropriate attire and tack requirements for horse and rider. It's very tempting, though, to want to dazzle the spectators and judges in the arena with your co-ordinated outfit as much as with your carefully rehearsed performance.
Unlike other equestrian disciplines, which generally involve getting down and dirty, dressage is smart and sassy. While your appearance doesn't enter into the judging criteria, it certainly helps if you present the right image.
Looking good can go a long way to boosting your confidence, and the fit of your garments can certainly help the adjudicators when it comes to assessing your seat in the saddle.
The British Dressage official rule book has several pages devoted to regulation dress for horse and rider when it comes to competing in the various levels of the sport. Most of us, though - even the most green novice - have a pretty good idea of what's required in the wardrobe department for a devotee of dressage. After all most of the nation watched with bated breath as Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro won Olympic Gold in Rio - she in her smart brass-buttoned tailed and red-collared jacket, her impeccably groomed mount sporting a sparkly fly hood.
In general, sparkly accessories are an anethema to dressage judges - but you can sneak in some bling if you want to brighten up your performance!
Here are some hints and tips for ensuring your turn-out is terrific when you hit the dressage arena:
Choose a dark-coloured jacket (tails are only worn in advanced competitions) that fits like a glove. It's worth having your jacket bespoke tailored, so it hugs you, particularly around the middle and back. A loose, floppy fit can make you appear to be slumping in the saddle, hiding the straight, strong back you need in the competition.
Don't try to hide a crumpled shirt and stock beneath your jacket! You can never be sure how hot the day may turn out to be, and the competition authorities may decide everyone should compete with no jacket required. A neat and clean white shirt and stock looks smart and professional. You can certainly add a bit of bling to your outfit with a fashionable crystal stock pin.
Ideally you will go for white jodphurs or breeches, but they're not the most practical choice. Beige or cream are just as good, but make sure you match your gloves with them (white gloves can be a hazard, highlighting shaky hands on the reins if you're nervous!). Elasticated, slim-fitting breeches are best, and beige probably the
When it comes to boots, and/or gaiters, go for black, polished to perfection. Well-shined plain leather or patent leather is preferable to enhance leg length.
Protective riding hats with a three point harness are required to be worn, with the possible exception of top level competition such as the Olympics, where top hats are de rigeur. If you're not sure of specific requirements at a particular venue check with the competition organisers. You can enhance your headgear with hat covers, as long as you stick to "conservative" colours.
Women should keep their long hair out of the way, preferably with a hairnet, for both appearance and safety's sake.
Dressage horses require minimal tack - they're not allowed to wear martingales, boots or wraps, for example. Keep it simple, smart and formal - black leather is the preferred option though dark brown, navy or dark grey are usually acceptable.
An English-style saddle - preferably one designed specifically for dressage (with longer flaps, straps and a short girth) - is required, usually positioned on a square white saddle pad. Most competitions allow a coloured edging on the white pad.
When it comes to bridles the favourite option is a plain cavesson with a flash noseband - double bridles are used in upper level competition. Grackles are not usually allowed in pure dressage (although the rules appear to be changing in Jan 2017). Your bridle gives you a chance for some embellishment - decorated browbands are allowed, so you can add a bit of bling. Steer clear of tassles or any other fancifications, though, including sheepskin covering of the noseband. You are allowed a discreet Mojo hologram if needed.
Your horse can wear a fly hood with ears in competition, as long as the horse's eyes aren't covered, and these should be "discreet in colour and design" according to the rule book.
If you enjoy decorating your horse, the operative word in dressage is "discreet"! The most you can stretch to in the rules are diamante plaiting bands, and if your horse is inclined to kick a little red bow on the horse's tail is permitted. Forget about glitter, ribbons or flowers - these fall under the definition of "unnatural items" which are best kept for your own amusement a long way from the dressage arena!
Enjoy dancing around the arena with your well-trained horse - there is no more satisfying feeling than doing dressage!
30 September 2016 01:58
Put yourself in your horse's shoes for a day. Is his life full? Does he have the important three Fs vital for herd animals - friends, forage and freedom?
If the answer is no, chances are he will be exhibiting some sort of stereotypic behaviour, or be liable to do so unless his situation improves.
Stereotypic behaviour is defined as "a behaviour that is repeated but has no apparent purpose or function".
It includes things such as cribbing, weaving, box or fence walking, kicking and biting (himself). All rather annoying at best, and disturbing or even dangerous at worst.
Stereotypic behaviour in horses has been exhaustively studied and researched, and one of the main causes seems to come down to stress brought on by poor management. The difficulty is that since the stereotypic behaviour triggers the release of endorphins, which make the horse feel good, it is a habit that once ingrained becomes hard to cure - much like humans biting their fingernails.
Experts now largely agree that stereotypy is the way horses cope with stress and ease frustration and boredom. Some believe there may also be a genetic disposition to stereotypy inherent in certain horses.
Horses in all sorts of situations can demonstrate stereotypy - even those kept turned out with plenty of companionship - but the vast majority of cases occur in horses kept stabled for long periods.
If your horse is displaying stereotypic behaviour already it may be difficult to stop it, but there are ways to limit it. Prevention is better than cure, obviously, so it's wise to keep your horse's stress to a minimum.
What is required is for us to manage our horses in a way that is as close to nature intended as possible. Not easily done with our domesticated steeds, especially if they are energetic equine athletes that we expect to be lively and perform perfectly at our convenience, but stay quiet and well-behaved when it suits us.
Horses sleep very little - between five and seven hours a day - and spend the rest of the time alert. Nature has designed them to fill their time grazing, moving around, socialising, playing, and cantering for the pure joy of it. With us humans controlling their activity - putting restrictions on much of this natural behaviour - stress can result and stereotypy could well be the consequence.
Most horses cope well with the demands we place on them, but about 25% (according to one study) will have problems and develop stereotypic behaviour.
"IN A STABLE ALL FORLORN"
Long periods of stable confinement seems to be the most common trigger of stereotypy, but there are other factors that could cause it such as the stress induced by early weaning, training practices, feeding and a change in environment.
One thing horse owners can guard against relatively easily is to avoid leaving a horse alone and bored in a stable for most of the day. At times there may be no option, if a horse needs enforced stall rest or is under quarantine, for example. In such cases you can ensure his environment is enriched so as to be as stimulating as possible.
Horses need to play and let off their energy. Stable toys such as horse balls, hanging toys and licksact as a diversion to confined horses, but make sure you change them around frequently to add interest.
Being herd animals, companionship is all important to horses, so stable design for confined horses should allow for this. Ideally a stabled horse should be able to see other horses over the stable door, or through dividing grills. He'll also enjoy watching what's going on in the yard outside, or the aisle. Even his own reflection in a (safety) mirror will bring him comfort. If he doesn't have the company of other horses make sure he's at least got plenty of frequent human attention and interaction.
Several researchers believe that cribbing and other oral stereotypies is related to hunger. If the horse's appetite is not satisfied, he will make eating motions, which can become a habit (particularly with younger horses) associated with anticipating his regular meal times, or seeing other horses eat. The solution to this is making sure the horse's feeding is as close as possible to natural grazing behaviour - which means allowing him to eat almost constantly! Increased amounts of hay fed frequently, or more regular turnout to allow for grazing, should reduce instances of cribbing.
Once cribbing has become an ingrained habit, it is far more difficult to stop. There are various products on the market designed to "cure" cribbers. These include devices such as the Weaver Miracle Cribbing Collar, recommended because it doesn't impair the horse's ability to eat, drink and breathe normally. You can also use one of a variety of products to coat the surfaces on which the horse is inclined to crib, which have an unpleasant taste designed to deter the horse from chewing.
It all comes down to this: you can prevent stereotypies by keeping your horse happy and stress free by meeting his needs. If you notice a stereotypy developing, treat it as an alert to the fact that you are doing something wrong - make an effort to find out what that is, and correct it.
27 September 2016 01:42
The days are drawing in and there's a distinct nip in the air. It's time to make sure your horses have a cosy, clean and comfortable sanctuary for the cold weather ahead. You can make caring for your stabled horses a lot easier on yourself - and them - by planning your stable layout sensibly, and having the right equipment and tools to hand.
The main thing to take into account is the fact that a stable is not a natural environment for a horse. Despite the need for keeping him indoors during cold, wet weather or while he's on box rest for whatever reason, he'd far rather be out in the field foraging, roaming, playing, socialising, working and doing all the things that keep horses amused. Being cooped up in a stable - however spacious and airy it may be - can be frustrating, boring and down right depressing for an energetic equine.
We owe it to our horse companions, therefore, to make their indoor habitation as pleasant and healthy as possible, and this comes down to stable management.
THE BIG CLEAN
If you haven't done so already, autumn is the time to blitz on a deep clean of your yard andstalls.
Pick a dry day and have a good wash and brush down, removing all the moss, weeds and debris that may prove slippery and hazardous when it freezes over in the winter.
Don't forget to look upwards, and clear out all the dust and cobwebs that may be clinging to rafters and door frames, and unblock those gutters choked with autumn leaves.
Check all the stable fittings - from hooks and rings to door handles and hay racks - and replace any that are rusted or broken. It's a good opportunity to re-design or reconfigure your set up, making sure that things like tie rings, hooks for hay nets and toys, mangers and the like are securely fixed in the most appropriate places.
Tidy your tack and set aside anything that needs repairs.
Clean and disinfect the floors before you lay new bedding - if you usually use the deep litter method remove it all and replace. Don't miss out on the corners which can harbour bacteria that will flourish in the damp, dank darkness of winter.
You'll find that mucking out will be quicker and easier during the winter if you start with a clean slate!
WINTER MUCKING OUT
To save time and effort have your mucking out tools well organised and close to hand. You'll need a wheelbarrow, a shovel, broom, pitchfork, a
Keep everything tidy and safely stowed out of the way (so you don't go doing the classic cartoon tripping over the rake trick!) with a tool rack attached to the wall.
Be kind to yourself by investing in a good pair of yard gloves to keep your hands warm, dry and blister free while doing all that hard work.
If you don't want to risk ruining your lovely leather riding boots, keep some waterproof, comfy yard boots ready to put on when you tackle the dirty tasks.
Keeping the water flowing is always a big consideration for horse owners, bearing in mindthat the average horse will drink 5 to 10 gallons per day. The danger in winter, of course, is having the taps and pipes freezing up, and the water in the water trough or bucket itself becoming coated with a barrier of ice during long, cold nights.
So make sure pipes are well insulated, and try the old trick of floating a football in the water trough to stop it freezing over.
Racks, shelves and hooks are the best storage solution for stables and tack rooms, because it is best to keep everything off of the floor, away from the inevitable mud, damp and manure that somehow gets spread around no matter how careful you are.
Save space by investing in purpose-designed wall-mounted rug racks, for example, which not only fold away when not in use but keep rugs aired when they're not being worn. Saddles should never be tossed in a box or in a corner where they could become mouldy and misshapen - keep them on a proper saddle rack or trolley.
Leather goods need to be kept dry, clean and conditioned.Don't think storing leather tack in plastic containers will keep the damp and mould out - the opposite is likely to happen! The leather will sweat and become mouldy. Hanging storage is the best option for bridles, girths and the like, away from direct heat which can make the leather dry and brittle.
Grooming kit and supplies and seasonal equipment that you may not need during the winter can be packed up and stored out of the way. Have a bathroom type rack or trolley to keep the essential grooming goods you use regularly through the cold months easy to access.
Keep hay and haylage for eating clean and dry off of the floor with wall-mounted mangers and hay nets. Hay nets have the added bonus of keeping your horse occupied in pulling the forage out of the netting.
We hope all your horses weather the winter happily and healthily!
20 September 2016 01:36
Chances are that if your dog is well and being fed a complete and balanced diet, he or she will not need supplements to live a healthy, happy life. Just like with humans, however, there are cases where there are benefits to be derived from supplements.
If for some reason a dog has not been eating a balanced diet, or has a dermatological condition, anxiety issues, joint problems or special health needs, an appropriate supplement will keep him or her bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and full of energy. It's always wise, though, to talk to your vet about your choice of supplements and dosage. Never give a dog a supplement that is not specifically designed or recommended for canine use, however harmless you think it is.
The most often used supplements for dogs are those for joint care (particularly for older dogs), skin and coat conditioning, digestion aids and those that simply promote general well-being. Natural, herbal dog supplements are, unsurprisingly, the most favoured.
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON!
Here at Totally Tack we recently noticed an increase in sales of calming supplements for dogs - and also garments such as the Zen Dog calming dog coat, and Streamz
With so many dogs now having to share our busy lives, especially those in urban environments, it seems they are exhibiting anxiety and stress in all sorts of situations. Thunderstorms, travelling, separation issues, grooming parlour and vet visits, moving house - and of course noisy celebrations like Bonfire Night and New Year's Eve - all conspire to disturb your dog!
One of the most powerful (and popular) calmers is GlobalHerbs Fireworkx (suitable for dogs and horses, though of course the dosages differ). It contains absorbible magnesium and a selection of natural herbs and comes in powder or liquid form.
Stress is certainly unhealthy for any dog, causing increased blood pressure, a rise in sugar levels and having a knock-on effect on the digestive and immune system. The effects can last even after the cause of the stress or anxiety is removed. You'll know when your dog is stressed because he will exhibit signs that go beyond his normal excitement level, such as urinating, whining, trembling, drooling, panting and showing aggression.
In these situations a supplementary calmer may help, along with making sure has plenty of re-assuring attention, a safe place to hide if he wishes and as calm an environment as possible.
PUTTING A SPRING IN HIS STEP
At any stage of life dogs, like people, can suffer joint problems, due to development issues or degeneration. Many people guard against these potential problems by giving their dogs joint supplements, even if they do not have any existing conditions that need treating.
Being very active, dogs are prone to arthritis as they age, so our elderly canine companions in particular can benefit from joint supplements. They may not cure the problem, but they can help with pain reduction, lubricating the joints and suppressing inflammation.
Joint supplements for dogs generally contain Glucosamine and Chondroitin, key building blocks of the cartilage that make up the joint structure. Supplements may also contain MSM, a substance that is a good source of sulphur which aids in repairing joint tissues and acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Other ingredients may be Manganese, which promotes collagen, and Hyaluronic Acid, a component of the synovial fluid that lubricates joints.
SHINY, HAPPY TAIL-WAGGERS
If your dog has problems with dry, flaky skin and a dull, patchy coat he will certainly benefit from supplements that contain fish oil, along with vitamins C and E.
When it comes to digestion problems probiotic and prebiotic supplements can help keep the gut balanced. A healthy gut also helps the immune system.
General "tonic" type supplements for dogs, and those aimed at general well-being, are usually only necessary if your dog is recuperating after illness, or for some reason is out of condition.
Whatever you give your dog in the way of dietary supplementation, do not exceed the recommended dose: too much, even of a good thing, can have bad consequences! Also, be aware that not all supplements work on all dogs - just like we humans each dog's body reacts differently to certain substances.
Enjoy your canine companion! Browse our range of delights for doggies.
16 September 2016 02:23
The basic rule of thumb for feeding horses is to balance the energy that goes in (in the form of calories) with the energy that goes out (in the form of work and body heat).
This is easier said than done, especially in the winter months, when many horses are idle and stabled for long periods. Even those kept outside through the winter are denied the nutritious grazing of the warmer months.
So, its down to you, the horse owner, to monitor your horse's diet and adapt it according to need, adding hard feed and supplements to the staple forage where necessary in the bleak winter months. Failing to compensate for the natural seasonal availability of forage not only affects your horse's weight and condition, but also his temperament.
Fibre is vital - at best your horse should be eating at least 1.5% of his body weight in fibre a day to maintain a healthy digestive system. In cold weather he'll be burning up even more of this essential fuel to keep warm. The most important requirement for winter is therefore a
If you feed hay in the field, it's best to make it available in a feeder which keeps it off of the ground, out of the wet and mud. Indoors hay nets can provide a much-needed diversion for bored horses, along with some nutritious (and fibre-filled) treats like carrots and apples hidden away to forage for.
A BIT OF THE HARD STUFF
At the start of winter your horse or pony would be best carrying a little extra weight so he can afford to shed a bit, as he is naturally designed to do. Keeping a check on his weight and condition is made more difficult by his shaggy winter coat and warm rugs, which could disguise too much weight loss. Use a weight-tape periodically to pick up any changes, and the tried and trusted method of running your hand over his ribs - you should be able to just feel them.
Most healthy horses will get through the winter on forage alone, but if your horse loses too much weight, his body will use up even more stored fat to compensate: he'll need concentrated (hard) feed for more energy. The same applies to horses who continue to work during the winter. While their energy output for working may not change, they will be using up extra reserves to compensate for the cold weather, so will need extra calorific hard feed input.
Deciding on what, and how much, hard feed to give your horse is tricky - there's always the danger of overdoing it! There are numerous factors to consider such as the breed, age and general condition of the horse or pony. If in doubt consult your vet or an equine nutritionist for expert advice.
There are many commercial ready-mixed hard feed supplements available, designed to suit the different calorie requirements of horses and ponies that need fattening up.
Individual ingredients of these high energy supplements include things like oats, barley,
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
Winter may be wet, but don't let this fool you into thinking your horse does not need as much to drink as he does in the heat of summer. His water requirements will, in fact, be more, because he is eating dry food like hay, rather than juicy grass.
Take care that water left for the horse does not freeze so he is unable to drink it. Even a few hours without water could cause dehydration. Horses don't like to drink water that is too cold, so top up the water bucket with warm water frequently. If your horse takes in insufficient water there is the risk of impaction colic.
Salt licks should be available to keep electrolytes balanced and help stimulate thirst.
09 September 2016 02:12
Like you, we love riding, but we are well aware that it is a risky business! That's why we pride ourselves in being BETA (British Equestrian Trade Association) approved and trained suppliers and fitters of safety equipment. We also work closely with organisations like the British Horse Society (BHS) and Society of Master Saddlers to make sure we know all there is to know in order to ride safe.
It's not all just about the safety products we sell (more about those later); there is an awful lot of basic stuff you can train yourself to do and remember while riding to reduce the risk of injury to yourself and your horse.
Here are some tips - many of which are probably just common sense, but there's no harm in a reminder:
HEAD TO TOE SAFETY GEAR
If the hat fits, wear it!
In fact, it's not a case of "if", but your riding hat or helmet MUST fit properly to be effective in protecting your head from harm.
Wearing a safety standard approved riding hat is required by law for children up to 14 who ride on British roads. Even though not compulsory for leisure riding for adults, most riders fortunately do wear hats or helmets. When it comes to competition, the governing bodies of equestrian sport set their own standards.
There is no doubt that today's riding hats - whatever style or make you choose - are strong enough to protect your head in the event of an impact, while being light and comfortable to wear. Your correctly fitting riding hat or helmet is as essential as your saddle - don't ride out without it!
To make sure your hat fits comfortably, and is suitable for the equestrian activity you plan to use it for, consult a tack shop retailer that is BETA trained. You can search for your nearest one on the BETA website.
Your riding hat needs to be carefully stored and kept clean and undamaged. If you have a fall with a head impact, get a new helmet, even if the one that you wore doesn't show any outward signs of damage. The inner shell might be compromised. Better safe than sorry!
Your personal body guard
Body protectors are increasingly used by riders as a matter of course. We've noticed a big surge in the sale of body protectors in recent years. This is probably because the manufacturers are refining the design of these protective garments - so important for safeguarding your torso from bruising (or worse). The latest body protectors are lightweight, flexible and streamlined enough to wear comfortably under shirts and jackets if desired.
As with hats, its wisest to have a body protector properly fitted by a BETA retailer.
Like body protectors, the wearing of inflatable air vests have become the norm, especially for eventing, to reduce the chance of serious injury to the neck, spine and ribs if you fall.
Air vests, powered by a discreet compressed air canister, work by inflating almost instantly when you part company with the saddle.
Like all safety equipment, the operation of your air vest should be regularly checked and the garment needs annual servicing.
If you're buying an air vest for the first time, make sure your retailer explains its operation thoroughly, and gives you a test run of the inflation process, which can be quite alarming for the uninitiated!
Be Seen ....
Visibility is crucial for riders on our roads and in the countryside in all seasons. Dress yourself and your horse in an array of fluorescent high visibility garments and accessories so you'll both be seen by motorists and other passers-by in dangerous situations.
It's not only in dark or dismal conditions that hi-viz helps - think of those deeply shaded leafy lanes and dappled hedge-rows!
The BHS, on its website, says:
“There is no law that states riders must wear this equipment, but it is in their best interests to do so – not just because drivers will see them on the road earlier, but also so that they can be seen when they are riding off-road as well. Research by the Ministry of Defence has shown that helicopter pilots can see a rider in hi-viz gear up to half-a-mile sooner and thus avoid flying straight over the top of them. It also means that in the unfortunate event that a rider is thrown from their horse and left in open countryside, the police helicopter or air ambulance will see them much sooner and prevent their injuries from becoming more serious.”
When you are tacking up, you may think you've tightened the girth sufficiently, but it's wise to check the tension a few minutes into the ride and periodically thereafter. There are numerous reasons why a girth may loosen, and a fair number of cases where a loose girth has resulted in unpleasant consequences!
Put your best foot forward
Don't skimp on footwear when riding, or you may live to regret it!
Boots with slippery soles or without a heel for slotting into stirrups are an accident waiting to happen. Too much tread, on the other hand, might catch and cause your foot to become stuck.
You also need a reinforced toecap to avoid bruising or broken bones should your horse inadvertently step on your tender tootsies. Ankles are vulnerable when riding too, so sturdy support is vital.
Proper riding boots not only minimise the chance of injury to feet and legs, but also help to keep you secure in the saddle.
The little things that mean a lot
Something as simple as a neck strap can make all the difference to your safety in the saddle. Even top eventers use this nifty little safety aid, which - while it won't necessarily prevent you from falling off - does assist along with rein contact to stop a spooked or bolting horse.
Another aid we heartily recommend is the British invention - Libby's R-S-Tor. This device attaches to the saddle stirrup bars, providing a helping hand for riders should the horse spook, jump, buck or rear.
26 August 2016 01:02
We've barely finished celebrating the brilliant performance of our equestrian athletes at the Rio Olympics, but now we have an equally exciting international event in store.
Some of the world's leading riders will be strutting their stuff at the Land Rover Freelander Burghley Horse Trials across the weekend of September 1 to 4. Among the big names saddling up at Burghley will be Pippa Funnell, Mark Todd, Andrew Hoy, Oliver Townend and Andrew Nicholson - all former winners of this challenging event.
Burghley is not only a gruelling test of horse and rider, but also a glittering social and commercial occasion. The parkland around the stately Burghley manor house in Lincolnshire becomes transformed into an equestrian town, where celebrities and members of the Royal family mingle with eventing fans in the shopping lanes, and sip champagne in elegant marquees.
There is not quite so much glitz and glamour behind the scenes, however, where horses, riders and their support entourage face what is possibly the greatest challenge in Eventing. Burghley is one of only six CCI4* events held in the world, and one of the three events that make up the Grand Slam of Eventing.
A total of 79 horses will compete for the big pot of prize money, not least the substantial £63k first prize.
The Dressage phase of the Three Day Event takes place on Thursday (Sep 1) and Friday (Sep 2). The most popular spectator part of the event - and the ultimate test of stamina and courage for the horse and rider - is the Saturday Cross Country course, designed by Captain Mark Phillips. The Showjumping rounds complete the eventing action on Sunday Sep 4.
So, what can we expect to see at this year's Burghley?
First of all, last year's winner, Germany's Michael Jung, will not be there to contest his title. He decided not to enter because of his Olympic commitments. Also absent will be William Fox-Pitt, who has won Burghley previously no less than six times, and recently rode in Rio.
This no doubt leaves a more open field than usual, and there may be some fresh faces appearing on the podium. There are plenty to choose from, most notably some very capable entries from "down under", such as Shane Rose (who has entered three horses). Also a favourite is New Zealander Andrew Nicholson - no stranger to winning at Burghley, but back in the saddle after making an amazing recovery from a serious neck injury after a fall in 2015. Rounding out the antipodean contingent is the stalwart Mark Todd, who already has five Burghley wins under his belt, and Andrew Hoy, with two horses entered.
In the British camp all eyes will be on Pippa Funnell, fresh from the Olympic Games, riding Second Supreme. Oliver Townend will be making his presence felt, having entered three horses. There are some newbies to watch, too, such as Lissa Green, whose mother Lucinda, won Burghley in 1977, and Oxfordshire-based Imogen Gloag 21, who is the youngest rider entered.
Whatever happens, this might be the most unpredictable Burghley yet - a feast for equestrian eyes and a true test of spirit for horse and rider.
For full details of the field, and how to watch the action, visit the Burghley Horse Trials website.
23 August 2016 12:00
One thing these incredible equestrians have in common (aside from Olympic Gold Medals of course) is the sincere loving bond they have with their champion horses. Just goes to show - it takes more than just long hours of training and riding skill to be a winner. For both their affinity with their partner horses played a big role in their success.
“I’ve got chronic back pain so getting legged up is painful, and I have a metal hip on my left side, so I only get on like this.”
Nick - a veteran of seven Olympic Games - paired up with Big Star in 2012, ahead of the London Olympics. Although they were part of the British equestrian team that took Gold in London, they dropped a rail to end up 5th in the individual Show Jumping. The partnership was proving a match made in heaven, however, and Nick has described Big Star as the best horse he has ever ridden.
That is quite a compliment coming from a man who started riding his first Welsh Mountain pony when he was aged just 18 months! After leaving school Nick started racking up the ribbons and medals, becoming one of Britain's most decorated and respected riders, with a succession of brilliant horses. In 1978 at Olympia, riding Lastic, he set the still unbroken British jump record of 7' 7".
His gallop to success on Big Star has, however, been a rocky road.
Disaster struck in 2013, when the stallion injured a leg at the Dublin Nations Cup in August and Nick withdrew for the rest of the season. The indomitable horse made a come back the next year, but then suffered another leg injury. Since then he has been rested and appeared in modest level competitions, gearing up for the Rio Olympics.
Careful management and nursing has paid off for Nick and Big Star, who have earned their well deserved place in the British Olympian hall of fame.
Winning Olympic Gold may be the pinnacle of Nick's career, but it's not the end. Nick's website has repeated the quote he gave an interviewer after the Olympic medal ceremony:
“I am not going to stop now. I only ride Big Star at the moment. When he stops, I will stop. For definite. I have been in the sport a long time. I am so happy – it was amazing. I was just emotional on the podium because I am so happy with what I’ve done. To do it now is unbelievable. It is pretty emotional for all concerned.”
17 August 2016 12:04
British consumers spend £4.3-billion on equestrian-related goods and services each year, according to the latest survey (2015) by the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA). The horse industry is therefore big business for Britain, and many of our top equine brands are renowned and respected across the world.
We've got a particularly good track record in the development, design and manufacture of rider safety equipment - riding hats and helmets, body protectors and, more recently, air jackets.
Wearing a riding hat nowadays is (forgive the pun!) a "no-brainer". It's hard to imagine that there was a time, before riding hats became synonymous with safety, when work riders exercised race horses wearing flat caps. Until a generation or so ago if you wore a hat at all while riding it was for reasons of fashion or etiquette, or perhaps simply to keep your ears warm on a hack.
As sport in general began to take more notice of health and safety standards, the use of protective headgear for eventing, showjumping, horse racing and endurance riding became regulation, and manufacturers turned their attention to improving riding helmet safety technology.
One British manufacturer had the jump on the rest of the field. Charles Owen founded a company in 1911 and faced up to the challenge of making tropical military helmets that would fit all heads comfortably, with good ventilation. This expertise morphed easily over the following decades into the manufacture of motorcycle and equestrian safety helmets, with
Horse rider safety took a giant leap forward in 1983 when, responding to the demand from the Pony Club for safer helmets, Charles Owen produced the first dual standard riding helmet.
Today Roy Burek, Charles' grandson, holds the reins as Managing Director of the Charles Owen company. The modern Charles Owen factory covers 80,000 square feet at Croesfoel Industrial Park, Wrexham, and is still at the heart of helmet development and safety standards. The company exports nearly 70% of its products around the world and Roy Burek is regarded as a global expert in head protection.
It wouldn't be fair to discuss British equestrian helmet technology without mentioning another UK manufacturer, Champion. Endorsed by top professional riders like Pippa Funnell and Kitty King, Champion - based in Leeds - has been designing, developing and producing protective riding hats and body protectors for around 30 years.
Another British brand synonymous with equestrian safety around the world is Airowear - manufacturers of sophisticated and superior body protectors with its renowned UltraFlex™ technology and gender-specific sizing.
Although Airowear was founded in 1985, the company was acquired by Charles Owen in 2012, and since then this great British label has lived up to its reputation for international excellence. Airowear was recently voted top choice for body protectors within the German market by the magazine "Cavallo", and also won an Innovation Award for its new Hickstead Body Protector for showjumpers.
Something else the horse industry in Britain can be proud of when it comes to safety is the invention of the equestrian air jacket, which is attributed (in a Daily Mail article) to Lee Middleton, 32, an equine dentist and showjumper, who modified inflatable motorcycle jackets to meet the demands of horse-riding.
Lee started producing air jackets - which inflate in an instant when a rider falls from the saddle, protecting the neck and vital organs from injury - and started a company now trading as Point Two.
The other leading brand name in air jacket technology is Hit Air,also proudly British of course, with products that work the same way as described above, but with a different (patented) design.
One thing riders anywhere in the world can depend on - British is Best when it comes to safety equipment!
16 August 2016 12:23
|When Charlotte Dujardin OBE and her horse, Valegro, danced their way to an Olympic gold medal in Rio this week in individual Dressage, they became the darlings not only of the
The cherry on the top of Charlotte's remarkable achievement (she not only won the Gold but broke the Olympic record with a score of 93.857%) was the amusing and touching tribute from her fiance of four years, Dean Golding, who displayed a sign at the event requesting: "Will you marry me now?!"
He's been a patient man - taking a back seat to allow his lady-love to concentrate on perfecting her art during long training days at Oaklebrook Mill, Newent in Gloucestershire, where she went to work as a groom in 2007 for renowned dressage rider, Carl Hester. It was there she formed her partnership with Valegro, and worked with him to bag two Olympic Golds at London 2012, and now another in Rio.
Interviewed after her Rio triumph, Charlotte was quick to give credit to her beloved Valegro, whom she described as "magical" and "the horse of a lifetime". The legendary 14-year-old gelding is likely to be retired soon, the prospect of which spurred Charlotte on to glory: 'I owed it to him to finish at the top, so everybody could remember him the way he is, " she told the Daily Mail.
In the saddle since the age of two, Charlotte - now 31 - was born in Enfield and brought up in Bedfordshire. She was just three years old when she started collecting the honours, winning second place at her first ever Pony Club show jumping competition.
But it was to be in dressage that Charlotte would make her mark, after her talent for the discipline was spotted by Carl Hester. In 2011 Charlotte was put to work developing Valegro for his joint owner, Hester, but once their bond became obvious, the duo were set on course for a series of impressive individual and team successes.
Charlotte and Valegro won the FEI World Cup Grand Prix at London Olympia in 2011. Then came two Olympic Golds - one for team dressage and one for individual - at London 2012.
The international and European titles have just kept on coming for the talented pair, who have undoubtedly made the artistic and demanding equestrian sport of dressage hugely popular here at home.
We have a hunch that Charlotte has a lot more accolades to come - if not with her beloved "Blueberry", which is Valegro's stable name - then with one or more of the four other horses she currently has in training.
For a hint of how special this golden horse/rider partnership is, read Charlotte's"thank you" to Valegro and her mentor, Carl Hester, on her website.
19 July 2016 11:15
|Most horse owners in the UK are aware that the common weed known as Ragwort (botanical name Jacobaea vulgaris) is bad news if it rears its bright yellow head anywhere close to grazing land. Not all, however, know exactly why this nasty invader is so dreaded, and how to deal with it.
It’s certainly not the case that your horse will keel over and die instantly if he swallows a clump of Ragwort. The weed is, however, toxic to horses (and other grazing animals) because of the alkaloids it contains, which can have a cumulative effect and result in potentially irreversible deadly liver disease.
The good news is that horses – unless they are very hungry – are unlikely to choose to eat Ragwort because of its unpleasant bitter taste. The bad news is that Ragwort is actually more lethal dead than alive, because it loses this unpalatable taste when it dries but retains its toxicity, and can thus pose a danger if it ends up in hay.
The BHS (British Horse Society) and other equestrian organisations involved in horse welfare therefore recommend that keepers of horses be extremely vigilant in recognizing and eradicating this plant scourge which can spring up and spread quickly in fields, paddocks and yards across the countryside.
The effects of Ragwort poisoning in Horses
Damage to the liver of a horse from eating Ragwort is insidious, whether it is triggered by eating a one-off large amount or imbibing small amounts over a long time. Sadly, the effects may not be obvious until it is too late to prevent serious damage that is beyond treatment and euthanasia is the only option.
When the symptoms do appear, they are heartbreakingly horrible. World Horse Welfare describes them as follows:
“First they may become lethargic or behave abnormally. They can develop photosensitisation, where areas of pink skin become inflamed and painful when exposed to sunlight, like serious sunburn. They can also lose significant amounts of weight, even though they may be eating well.
Eventually they may go blind, have to fight for breath, start to wander or stagger or stand pushing their head against the wall. The symptoms and subsequent death can come about so quickly that owners have sometimes found their horse dead without warning.”
No-one wants to see their precious steed suffer such a fate, so when it comes to Ragwort it is obviously better to be safe rather than sorry.
How to Recognise Ragwort
Every keeper of horses should make it a point to become familiar with the growth stages of the dreaded weed, so as to be able to be rid of it well before it gains its very strong foothold in the vicinity of the animal.
You are unlikely to spot the plants until they become visible as tight rosettes of dark green oval-shaped, serrated leaves, in early spring. At this stage the roots are already well-developed and tenaciously tough.
Ragwort stays in this rosette stage through the first annual season of its growth, eventually flowering the following year.
The distinctive bright yellow daisy-like flowers on long stalks are very prolific during the second year of the Ragwort’s cycle, from around June through to October. At this point the plant is well established, with deep, extensive roots, and at the end of the flowering season in late September is ready to spread its many thousands of seeds far and wide.
Ragwort seeds can lay dormant for years, so it is important to eradicate the plant before it produces its offspring.
It is unlikely you will remove all traces of Ragwort from an infested area with just one operation. It may take several efforts annually to rid your pasture of this stubborn intruder.
The best time to tackle it is in the rosette stage, before it is allowed to flower and produce more seeds.
However, and at whatever growth stage, you tackle the plant make sure no dead parts of it are left in the area because dead Ragwort is just as toxic to horses as is the live plant.
You can use a commercial herbicide such as Barrier H Ragwort herbicide to spray on the plants, then dig up any surviving or re-occuring plants using a specially designed Ragwort fork, making sure all the roots are removed.
A new product on the market for Ragwort control, which is proving popular because it contains no chemicals or herbicides, is Freestep's Ragroot BioSpray. This product is designed to be sprayed into the hole after you have pulled up a Ragroot plant to eliminate the opportunity for regrowth and re-mineralise the soil.
Ploughing or mowing will not eradicate the weed, and may just result in spreading it further.
When using a herbicide make sure you follow the directions on the container with great care. Don’t put the horses back in the area until you are sure all dead matter has been cleared away.
Always wear gloves when handling Ragwort, and dispose of dead or dying Ragwort remains as quickly as possible, preferably (if your property allows for it) with controlled burning. Make sure no seeds get dispersed in the disposal process. If all else fails call in a professional waste disposal company to get rid of it for you. It is vital to remember that horses should not be allowed near dried out Ragwort!
If you feel overwhelmed by a Ragwort infestation, you can contact DEFRA for help and advice:
Telephone 03459 33 55 77 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The British Horse Society has a useful online “toolkit” about dealing with Ragwort.
05 July 2016 11:50