5 Things To Consider When Choosing Stall Bedding

horse in shavings horseandhoundUK

When it’s time to bed your horse down for the night, there are a wide variety of options to use for bedding  your horse’s stall.  Here are some things to  consider when deciding on what your horse will stand and sleep..

  1. What are you going to use it for?

The most common use of bedding for stalls is to absorb urine and make cleaning manure easier in your horse’s stalls.  In this case, shavings or wood pellets or even newspaper are your best bet.   Most will absorb the urine and some will even help with odor control.  However, be careful when you select your shavings – black walnut shavings can be dangerous to your horse.

horse stall with matsHowever, if you plan to use bedding to help protect your horse’s legs and give him a soft spot to stand, you will probably want to use shavings.  But also consider putting stall mats (like those offered by Classic Equine Equipment at www.classic-equine.com) down first.  This can help reduce the amount of shavings you use and give your horse another layer of cushioning.

  1. What’s available in your area and in your budget?

Not all products are available everywhere.  For example, I saw several advertisements in national magazines for a pelleted product called “Woody Pet.”  It sounded perfect, but it was not available in my area. If you live near a woodworker or lumber mill, you might be able to get a deal on shavings or sawdust – must make sure you ask what type they are as some can be hazardous to horses.  

  1. Where are you going to store it?

Bedding made from shavings or sawdust requires a large, covered area to keep them from flying around and/or getting wet.  If you have a large horse operation, buying bulk shavings may be economical.  But if you have a smaller farm with 4 or so horses, you may find that wood pellets that come in bags are the easiest to store and use.

  1. How long will it last?

You want a bedding that does the job of cushioning your horse and absorbing urine, but does not become so saturated that it is hard to remove or causes irritation to your horse. It’s better to clean more often than to wait until bedding becomes thoroughly saturated. Damp or wet bedding softens the horse’s hooves and provides a bacterial breeding ground. Bedding that does not absorb well also allows more ammonia to be released and can irritate your horse’s respiratory system. Dusty or moldy bedding can also be a respiratory irritant. 

It’s important to develop a good mucking routine when cleaning the stalls.  By teaching workers to only pick up manure and soiled bedding, you can make all products last longer.  In addition, consider where you put your shavings.  If you spread them all over the stall, even under the water and feed buckets, you are probably wasting your bedding.  Some horses have favorite spots where they urinate – bed more heavily there and skip areas where your horse doesn’t go.

  1. What are you going to do with it after it’s been used?manure and bedding compost pile

Once the bedding has been soiled, you will, of course, have to get rid of it.  Composting is one way, but certain beddings don’t break down as quickly as others.  Straw and wood pellets break down quite quickly in the compost pile.  Wood shavings and sawdust do not.

Photo credits: Horse & Hound, Classic Equine Equipment; Red Worm Composting

Introducing the Horses of Ireland

shamrock in horse shoe

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

Ireland is a land of incredible beauty and incredible horses.  The following three breeds were developed to work with  people of Ireland under a variety of tough conditions. Their hardiness and easy temperament are legendary.

CONNEMARA PONYConnemara pony

Legend says that when the Spanish Armada sank off the Connemara coast in the 16th Century, the horses, a mix of Barbs and Andalusians, swam to shore and bred with the native ponies running wild in the mountains.  The resulting Arab blood is still recognizable in present day Connemaras. Steep mountain trails and treacherous bogs, fierce winds sweeping in from the Atlantic in the winter, and relatively small areas of grazing developed a breed that was tough and surefooted.  The Connemara became known for their agility and hardiness. The Irish soon came to depend on this stocky little horse as a means of transportation, both ridden and driving, and for its ability to pull a plow, cart turf from the bogs or seaweed from the shore, and carry heavy baskets of produce to market.  On Sunday, the pony carted the family off to church. Because of this strong partnership, the Connemara developed an easy-going and reliable temperament.

The Connemara is the largest of the pony breeds.  They range in height from 13–15hh. The most common colors are grey and dun, but also acceptable are black, bay, brown, chestnut, palomino and even roan! 

More information:  American Connemara Pony Society

Liam Irish Sport HorseIRISH DRAUGHT

The Irish Draught is sometimes referred to as an RID for Registered Irish Draught. According to the legends, it was the god Lugh who brought the horse to Ireland.  He was and Irish god viewed as a   hero and High King of Ireland’s distant past.  Lugh’s special festival, Lughnasa, was celebrated at harvest time in early August. As a means of reinforcing tribal bonds, Lughnasa was a time for meeting, for settling arguments – and for horseracing. The Irish farmer needed a horse that could do more than just plow the field.  Like the Connemara, the Irish Draught can work all week, successfully go fox-hunting on Saturdays, and drive the family in their cart to Church on Sunday.  During the Great European Wars, they were used as army artillery horses. 

The Irish Draught is an active,  powerful horse with substance and quality. Colors include any solid color, including grey.  Height is typically 15.3hh to 16.3hh and has an exceptionally strong and sound constitution.They are intelligent with a gentle nature  and common sense.

More information:  Irish Draught Horse Society of North America

gypsy vanner horseGYPSY VANNER

From about 1885, people travelling  in the British Isles (then including all of Ireland) began to use a distinct type of horse to pull their vardos, the caravans in which they had just begun to live and travel.  The Gypsy  Vanner  was bred by the Roma (also called Romani or Romany), a traditionally nomadic ethnic group. The Roma are widely known as “Gypsies”. They used colored horses, included a significant number of colored Shire horses, which had become unfashionable in mainstream society and were typically culled. Among these were a significant number of colored Shire horses. The term “vanner” dates to at least 1888 and referred to a type of horse rather than to a distinct breed.   A “vanner” is “a light horse suitable for drawing a small van.

The first glance, impression of the breed is its stature as a small draft horse with feathering, muscular development and size. The height is usually between 13.2hh to 15.2hh.  One of the unique characteristics of the breed is the excessive feathering on the rear of the fore and hind legs, starting from the knee and hock and extending down and over the hooves. The leg feathering provides natural protection to the legs from the weather and working conditions. The Gypsy Vanner is not a breed based on color, although the easily recognizable coat colors set the breed apart from others. The acceptable descriptive terms for the coat colors of the Gypsy Vanner horse are:

  • Piebald – Black and white Tobiano
  • Skewbald – Combinations of brown, red and white, including tri-colored Tobiano
  • Blagdon – Solid color with white splashed up from underneath

The breed temperament should be gentle, cooperative and willing, yet powerful. The breed should be relaxed, mannerly, and respectful of its environment. Their willingness should be expressed in their ability of being both ridden and driven.

More information:  Gypsy Vanner Horse Society

Sláinte mhaith!  (Good health!)

Credits:  Wikipedia

Handling Hoof Abscesse

hoof-abscess-smartpakWith the constant changes of weather – warm to cold, wet to dry – it’s a common time for horses to come up lame with a hoof abscess. A hoof abscess is a localized bacterial infection in the sensitive structures of the hoof, typically in the front feet.  Typical signs of a hoof abscess include sudden and severe lameness and pain. The horse bears little to no weight on the leg with the abscess or may walk on its toe. Most abscesses are found in the sole of the hoof, but an abscess can be found elsewhere.   Other signs include heat in the limb or hoof, an increased digital pulse, and can include a swollen leg and/or a low-grade fever. The tendons in the affected leg can become painful and swollen due to congestion of blood vessels.

Purulent fluid (commonly called “pus”) is produced as a reaction by the horse’s body to the infection. The pus accumulates between the keratinized and germinal layers of the hoof wall. Since the hoof cannot expand, the increased pressure of pus collecting within the hoof capsule causes significant pain. As the abscess progresses, the infection and pressure of purulent fluid (pus) accumulation in the hoof often cause severe pain until the infection works its way up the hoof wall and pops out at the coronary band, or the bulb of the heel or drains out the sole.

A hoof abscess can be diagnosed by examining the hoof for heat and pain, swelling in the pastern and fetlock and by the presence of a pronounced digital arterial pulse. If the horse is shod, the shoe is removed and the hoof cleaned. Hoof testers are often used to test the horses’ sensitivity to pressure in specific areas of the hoof to locate the point of origin.

A hoof abscess can be caused by a sharp object penetrating the sole of the hoof (such as a nail), damage to the corium from decreased blood flow, or by bacteria migrating in to the defects, fissures and cracks in the white line. Sole penetration by a sharp object is not a very common scenario for a hoof abscess. More often, an abscess is a result of corium or lateral cartilage area compression or most frequently due to the introduction of bacteria and moisture in to the hoof.

If the abscess is caused by bacteria in to hoof from the outside, a particle of sand or soil enters the softer white line area and becomes engrained in the sensitive lamina underneath the hoof wall, resulting in an infection inside the hoof. The infection can travel up the hoof and drain at the coronary band or stay close to the sole of the hoof. An abscess can also occur under the bars of the hoof.

The infection can also enter as a result of a nail driven too close to the white line, a hoof wall defect or hoof separation. Horses that have been shod and then go barefoot tend to have an increased chance of developing a hoof abscess until the hoof becomes stronger.

While a hoof abscess can heal on its own, this is not recommended. An abscess can be extremely painful for the horse and the healing process will take significantly longer without intervention. It is recommended that you work with your veterinarian and/or farrier to diagnose and treat an abscess.  If the horse is shod, the shoe is normally pulled. The hoof is then thoroughly cleaned and hoof testers can be used to help locate the point of entry and better determine the location of the abscess.

Often a black line is identified and the line is followed to locate the infected area. Using a hoof knife or loop knife, your veterinarian will make a very small hole in the sole of the hoof to allow for drainage and provide relief of the pressurized fluid. When the pressure built up by the trapped pus is released from the hoof capsule, often a black or brown fluid will drain from the site and the horse will experience some relief immediately.

If the point of origin and the abscess cannot be identified or the infection is too deep in the hoof, (the abscess could be deep in the heel/frog/bars region), no cutting or holes will be made. Cutting too much or going too deep can be more harmful than beneficial to treatment. If a drain hole is not able to be made or cannot sufficiently drain the abscess, then most likely the abscess will progress up to the coronary band and the pus will drain there.

hoof-abscess-polticeWhether a hole is made or not, it is important to keep the hoof as clean and protected as possible and to apply a poultice. A standard recommended protocol for treatment begins with Epsom salt added to water and soaking your horse’s hoof in a shallow pan, bucket or soaking boot for 15 minutes 2 times/day.  The soaking will “draw” the abscess, pulling the bacterial infection from the hoof.  If no hole is made, the poultice can help soften the sole. If a drain hole is made in the hoof, then it is imperative that the hole be protected and kept clean while the abscess drains and the hoof heals.

The hoof is then wrapped to help cushion and protect the hoof to ensure that dirt and manure cannot come in contact with the hole and sensitive tissues. Creating a “pad” by using a plastic baby diaper and attaching it with duct tape (both waterproof) can help keep the area clean and dry.

To help lessen the chances of your horse having a hoof abscess, maintain a regular schedule with your farrier or trim your horse on a regular basis. Often hooves with too much toe or excessive bars are more prone to hoof abscesses.

With proper treatment, hoof abscesses are no fun for you or your horse, but not dangerous.

Photo credit: SmarkPak

Types and Styles of Barns

One of your toughest decisions – but many people feel the most fun – you’ll make when building your barn is the style. There are many to choose from and each style can have modifications. Things to consider are the style’s suitability to your climate, the function or “flow” of your horse work and, of course, your budget. The amount of time you can wait for a new barn is also a factor. A modular barn can be erected in a few days, while a pole barn building can take months.

TYPES

A Pole Barn (Post Frame) framing utilizes posts and beams to minimize the number of framing elements in walls. It is economical, strong and relatively simple to build, making it the most popular framing method for custom barns. A pole barn frame consists of 6- to 8-inch round or rectangular pressure-treated wood posts set 3 to 6 feet below the ground. Poles are typically set at 8- to 12-foot intervals and rest on a pad of concrete at the bottom of each hole. Poles and trusses or rafters are generally visible inside the barn. Pole barns are easy to build in part because they require no trench work for a foundation, only holes; and these can be dug using a tractor auger or a hand posthole digger.

A Timber Frame (Post and Beam) is another type of post and beam construction, but rather than plugging into the ground like a pole barn, a timber frame barn sets on a concrete foundation. A properly constructed timber frame is incredibly sturdy–some have lasted for hundreds of years. It is typically comprised of 8- and 10-inch square timbers for main members and smaller timbers for roof purlins and floor joists. Major joints are traditionally dovetails and mortise and tenon, often hand cut and secured with wooden pins, like fine furniture construction on a larger scale. Craftsmen using traditional timber frame methods don’t use nails or other metal fasteners unless they are required by local codes. Timber frame barns are sometimes built in or near the builder’s shop and shipped to the site to be erected by the builder, a local contractor or the owner. Timber-frame kits that use metal connectors to secure joints are available

Modular barns generally consist of a steel framework with steel-framed panels fitted in between. The panels are typically comprised of a plywood or OSB (oriented strand board) core with sheet steel laminated to the inside surface and steel, wood or other siding material laminated to the outside surface. An advantage of this framing is that damaged panels can be replaced relatively easily. Some modular barns have a “warehouse” appearance, but many manufacturers offer a variety of styles, siding and roofing materials. If you don’t see a plan you like, most manufacturers will modify an existing plan to suit your needs. Modular barns generally go up quicker and with less expense than custom barns. They are especially fire resistant because of the steel framing and steel-skinned wall panels.

STYLES

shed-rowA shed row barn is the most common type of modular (or prefabricated) barn.  It is a good choice for warm climates as they maximize air flow and ventilation.  They can vary in the size of the overhand and can be configured in a straight line, an “L” shape or a “U” shape, depending on the number of horses and your work flow.  Shed rows is also an option for colder climates, but consider enclosing the overhand area and adding insulation to the walls and roofing. Shed row barns have a shed or pitched flat roof. The shed roof is all one plane and is often used for three-sided shelters or small stables. It is also commonly attached to the eaves of an existing gable roof or to the wall of a barn.

monitor-or-raised-aisle-barnOne pole barn (or post-frame) style is called the Full Monitor or Raised Center Aisle barn.  It has a high center raised roof that lets hot air rise above the stalls and horses.  The design also allows skylights and windows to be installed on each side of the center roofline, letting in more light and additional fresh air. The monitor has essentially two shed roofs with a gable in the middle. This is good for long rows of stalls.

gambrel-styleAnother popular pole barn style is called the Gambrel.  It offers the benefit of a large loft located above the stalls for added storage. The Gambrel has a double-pitched roof popular on two-story barns having a second floor because of the increased headroom and useable floor space it allows. Gambrel trusses eliminate the need for interior post and beam supports, which allows you to create any floor plan you wish.

Take some times to fully consider what type of barn best suits how you intend to care for your horses.  They each have pros and cons – in the end, it will be up to you.

 

Photo credits:
Horizon Structures
The Carriage Shed
Harvest Moon Timber

The Word On Wood For Your Barn

wood-barn-integrityThinking of remodeling or building a new barn this spring?  One of your big decisions (and biggest expense) could be the type of wood you use for your project. There are many types of wood out there and it can be daunting to figure out which one to use.  The general answer?  It depends on what’s most available in your area as well as your area’s weather condition.  Heavy snows may require one type of wood while areas with insect issues might be best with another.  Whatever you choose, if you’re building your walls with wood, use pressure treated wood whenever it’s in contact with earth or steel.  However, pressure-treated wood should never be placed where horses can get to it.

There are many horse owners who like the traditional look of a wood when designing their barn.  And if you are interested in “going green,” often wood barns provide a much smaller environmental footprint than those made with other materials.  Wood is also a natural insulator so is an excellent choice for areas where summer heat and winter cold temperatures are extreme.

When researching the best wood for your barn, look for lumber that has a high-bending strength, good nail holding power, moderate shrinkage, decay resistance, withstands splitting, good painting and weathering qualities, freedom from warping and is easy to work with.

Classic Equine Equipment keep in stock premium imported hardwood and Southern Yellow Pine.  Both types are milled to their exacting specifications – including a tongue and groove as well as a v-notch on the face of each board. Additional types of wood are also available upon request.  Wood is sold separately.

Tongue and groove wood material for your stall lining is one of your best options because it’s flush and there are no ledges.  Some horses find chewing on wood an amusing pastime.  But there’s a possibility of splintering and chemical ingestion. Keep your barn looking good and your horse safe by eliminating opportunities to chew.

brazilian-hardwoodTheir Brazilian hardwood is 1” this and comes in 12” increments.  A true hardwood, it is very dense and durable.  Although no wood can be considered “horse proof”, the strength of this wood is exceptional.southern-yellow-pine

The Southern Yellow Pine comes in 2”x 8”x 12’ lengths.  It is #1 or better premium wood – no warping, stains, stamps or discolorations.  Although not as dense as the hardwood, this is the strongest of the “softwoods” and is a very popular choice for horse stalls.

wood-alternative-hdpeHDPE (High Density Polyethylene) uses primarily recycled post-consumer plastic with a positive environmental impact to create a long-lasting, no maintenance and weather resistant material.  HDPE is UV resistant, easy to maintain and does not require staining.  It comes in a variety of lengths and colors.

Many barn builders use high-grade 90% Spruce J-Grade logs.  The lumber is uniformly seasoned in dry kilns which improves strength and stiffness.  It also enhances its appearance and increases its resistance to decay and insect attack. It can be used for all aspects of barn building, including a log siding. 

Red cedar is another option for your barn.  However, the oils in cedar that help protect it are extremely enticing to horses.  They love to chew on cedar wood so confine your use of cedar to the outside of the barn.  While beautiful, it is not as structurally strong as other types of wood.

Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on Earth, with reported growth rates of 39 inches in 24 hours.  Bamboo is best used as flooring in the tack room, your office or in the barn club house.

Be as picky with your choice of lumber as you are with the rest of your barn design.  Low grade wood may look just fine when you put it in, but five years later you can have problems.  Like most everything else, you get what you pay for.

aisle 7

 

 

Vital Signs To Know For Your Horse’s Health

horse-with-headache

Knowing how your horse acts and reacts when he is feeling good will help you to faster realize when there is something “not right” with him. Every horse owner needs to know what is “normal” for their horse. Being able to report these to your veterinarian when you contact him can help evaluate whether a visit is necessary and/or how quickly your horse needs to be seen.

Get a baseline of your horse’s temperature, pulse and respiration when he is healthy, relaxed and before working himYou may also want to get additional readings in both summer and winter and after riding to know what is normal for your horse in different circumstances.

What you’ll need:

  • watch that counts seconds
  • a thermometer – plastic digital one are best for ease and safety)
  • a stethoscope.
  • A notepad or record book for recording the vital sounds

TEMPERATURE:

The normal temperature for the horse is 100.0 degrees. However, a horse’s temperature can vary somewhat with the season. During the winter, your horse’s “normal” temperature may drop several degrees, but low temperatures generally are not causes for concern.  On the other hand, summer heat, as well as exercise, can often raise a horse’s temperature a few degrees.  These circumstances must also be taken into account when determining if there is cause for concern.

 It is easiest to take your horse’s temperature rectally with a clean digital thermometer. Coating the tip of the thermometer with petroleum jelly can make it easier for you to insert and more comfortable for your horse.  Always tie a string to the end of the thermometer to make sure you can retrieve it.  You can also briefly wrap your horse’s dock in a bandage to make it easier to push the tail hair away to insert the thermometer. Most thermometers will beep when the maximum temperature has been reached.

If your horse’s temperature is over 102 F, you should call your veterinarian.

heartbeat2PULSE:

The pulse rate is taken by listening to the heart, located on the left side of the chest just behind the elbow. You can also take the pulse at the thick artery that runs underneath the cheekbone on either side of your horse’s face.  Place three fingers (never your thumb which has its own pulse) on the artery and press upward and inward.

Using a stethoscope can often make hearing and counting the heart beats easier.  Some people listen to the heart rate for 10 seconds and then multiply by 6, or 30 seconds and multiply by 2.  However, if you have any questions, listen to the pulse rate for the full minute.

The normal pulse rate is 40 beats per minute.

 Horses that are fit may have rates as low as 28 so knowing your horse’s condition is important.   Young horses and ponies can sometimes have a bit faster pulse rate.

Rates between 40-60 are considered “serious”, but may be explained by an elevated
temperature such as on a very hot day.  Also, if the horse is suddenly frightened or excited, his heart rate can become temporarily elevated on a very temporary.  Wait a few minutes and then recheck to see if the rate comes down when he is more relaxed. However, rates above 80 are considered “critical” and indicate a very serious problem.

However, ANY rate above 40, even 44, should be regarded with suspicion and evaluated in the overall picture of how the horse is feeling.

RESPIRATION:

Respiration is how hard your horse is breathing. Watch his sides as he breathes in and out and count the number of complete breaths.  Deep heavy breathing, or breathing with an extra abdominal effort, abnormal noise, labored breathing, or gasping are all indications of a serious problem.  

 The normal rate for horses is between 8-12 breaths per minute. Again, many things can effect this that must be taken into consideration before considering whether it is abnormal.  One common factor is his temperature, excitement or a heavy workout.

OTHER VITAL SIGNS

While temperature, pulse and respiration are the three most common vital signs used to determine your horse’s health, there are other indicators that you may want to check and report to your veterinarian:

  • Mucus Membrane Color: The normal color is pink
  • Capillary Refill Time: After depressing the gums, the color should return within 1-2 seconds.
  • Gut sounds (borborygmus): A horse should have a normal gurgling sound on both sides of the abdomen back near the flanks.
  • Hydration: Pinch and elevate the horse’s skin over the shoulder, then let go. If it snaps back into place very quickly, your horse is properly hydrated

For a chart that can be posted next to your horse’s stall with instructions on how to take temperature, pulse and respiration, as well as normals and critical values, click HERE.

Things to Consider Before “Dashing Through the Snow”

riding-in-snow-katie-peeryThis year, nearly all of the country is being hit with some sort of snowfall. Riding in the snow is one of winter’s joys and is a nice change for your horse. However, there are several things to consider. First, how will your horse react to snow?  It’s a different surface for him.  It looks different, it feels different – this can be spooky to some horses. If it’s merely a dusting of snow, this might not be an issue. But once it gets up around his knees, it becomes a whole new experience. Introduce him to it the say you’d do for any new experience.

Depending on where you live – or how long the snow has been around – there are two kinds of snow: soft and fluffy or packed and icy. Just as skiers and snowboarders love the soft, fluffy snow, this “powder” is ideal for riding due to its even smoothness on trails. However, it can take more effort for your horse to push his legs through it.  It’s just as important to give your horse a thorough warmup before riding in snow. This can help prevent sore muscles later.  Know where you are riding as powdery snow can also cover hazards such as large rocks or tree stumps.  The good news? It provides for a softer landing if you and your horse “disconnect.”

Packed snow is what you get when you are following a trail made by someone else – another horse, a skier, a snowmobile.  It takes less energy for your horse to walk through it, but packed snow can also turn icy so be aware of the possibility of your horse slipping. Due to the sun and shade provided by trees or other structures, a trail can have stretches of powder AND patches of ice that can come up unexpectedly.

horse-with-ice-balls-in-hoofThis wetter, icier snow is a prime cause of “ice balls” in your horse’s hoofs.  When your horse walks on snow, the heat of his hoof can warm up the snow while it touching the metal horseshoe can make it freeze again, causing a buildup.  After a while, this turns into an uneven mass that can cause your horse discomfort when walking and even real damage to tendons and joints.  There are several ways to help prevent this problem.  They include letting your horse go barefoot, using hoof boots or adding anti-snowball pads. 

Finally, make sure both you and your horse are dressed for the weather.  If you have snow, the temperature is probably already near or below freezing. And riding outside means no blocks from the wind, making it even colder. Consider a quarter sheet for your horse’s hindquarters to keep those big muscles warm. And dress in layers yourself. 

It looks like a long winter ahead so make the most of it with a fun, safe ride in the snow.

Photo credit:  Hidden Fox Farm

Will The Real Santa Please Stand Up?

Before there was Santa Claus, there were Saint Nicholas and Sinterklaas.  And, before there were reindeer, these holiday gift-givers rode horses.

sleipner-christmas-horsePrior to Christianity, people celebrated a midwinter event called Yule (the Winter Solstice). During this period, supernatural and ghostly occurrences were increased, such the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky. The leader of the wild hunt is usually the god Odin, usually seen with a long white beard. He is also known by the Old Norse names Jólnir, meaning “yule figure” and the name Langbarðr, meaning “long-beard.”  Odin rode his gray “horse” (the eight-footed steed called Sleipnir) on nightly rides and visiting people with gifts.  Years later, Odin’s white beard became part of the new Santa Claus, his blue robe was changed to red, and his eight-footed grey horse became eight reindeer!

In the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, Santa Claus is called “Sinterklaas” and the holiday for giving gifts is December 6th. He traditionally rides the rooftops on a white horse, known by various names.  Sinterklass is an elderly, stately and serious man (unlike our jolly Santa Clause) but does have the traditional white hair and a long, full beard. Also like Santa, he wears a long red cape and a red hat, but holds a long, gold-colored ceremonial shepherd’s staff with a fancy curled top. sinterklass

To keep track of who should receive presents, Sinterklass notes writes on all the children in a book – the start of the legend of Santa’s list of who was naughty or nice. Sinterklass’ was a friend to all, especially the poor.  His solution to helping the poor was by putting money in their shoes – this later evolved with Santa Claus into giving presents.

After going into hiding for a few centuries during the Reformation when public celebrations were banned, Sinterklass returned to ride over roof tops and deliver presents through chimneys to good girls and boys – but now his horse was grey.  Either people realized that whites often turned grey as they age or riding over all those roof tops turned the horse darker, but you’ll either hear Sinterklass has a white or gray horse.  Children leave a carrot, apple and/or hay as a treat for Sinterklaas’ horse.

The first known written account of reindeer in association with the legend of Santa Claus occurred in 1821 by William Gilley.  According to Mr. Gilley, the area where Santa Clause lived was far north near the Arctic.  There a series of animals exist that have hooves and antlers and otherwise resemble reindeer.  These animals are feared and honored.  Mr. Gilley claimed that his mother, an Indian from the area, told him when he was young that these animals could fly.

So to be sure you get what you want for Christmas, make sure you write to Santa Claus AND Saint Nicholas and Sinterklaas – just to cover all the bases.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from Classic Equine Equipment!

christmas-horse-santa

Warm Up Your Horse To Prevent Winter Injuries

stretchingfront-prachorsemanWhether you’re a competitive rider or just go out for the occasional trail ride, warming up your horse before riding can help prevent injuries later.  Pre-ride safety can start even before you get on.  If you are working in an arena, check the area for holes that need to be filled or big rocks that can cause your horse to stumble.  When grooming your horse, make sure there are no cuts or loose shoes or other indications that your horse isn’t 100%.  Finally, when tacking up, make sure that your tack doesn’t have any weak areas, such as stirrup leathers or the throatlatch that can break while you’re riding.

Once you’re on your horse, you’re probably like many riders who don’t really have a warm up plan but just amble around the arena.  Or you’re eager to get on the trail and figure you’ll warm up as you go.  But to really make sure your horse is warmed up on both sides, at all gaits and is listening to you, you should take a systematic approach to your warm-up to ensure that your horse is really ready to go.

Warm up gradually and thoroughly, making sure you stretch and supple your horse on both sides.  Check that your horse is listening to you and your aids.  Keeping him moving will help not only help warm him up, but will help keep his focus on you as you start asking more or take off down the trail. With a systematized warm-up, you’ll know when your horse is ready to go, while if you just wander around, you can never be sure.

Start with five minutes of walking and put your horse on a 20m circle.  Always work your horse’s easier side (and they all have one) first.  Make sure he is bending around your leg to make a true circle.  While you are walking, do some stretching of your own and/or check your riding position.  You can change direction through the circle (making a figure 8) to work the other side.  Make sure you do the same sequence at the walk on each side.

Move on to 10 minutes of trotting.  Always start with a posting trot to let your horse’s back warm up as well.  At first, use the whole arena and encourage your horse to trot out down the long side or across the arena.  Later, you can put him on a 20 meter circle and start asking for him to come on the bit.  You can also start adding some canter work once your horse is on the bit, relaxed and listening to you.  Once you are cantering smoothly, work on transitions – canter to trot, trot to walk, walk to canter, etc.  Change rein often to make sure you are working both sides of your horse. 

shoulder-in-prachorsemanFinally, add in some additional bending exercises like leg yields and shoulder in.  This is a great test to see if you and your horse have it all together.  By the end of this warm-up, you should be able to feel your horse moving from behind, that he is relaxed through the back and soft in both reins.

At the end of your ride, don’t forget to cool down your horse as well.  Most of this can be done riding at the walk on a long rein.  But you may also want to add some easy bending exercises like let yielding to stretch out those muscles after a hard workout.  As always, make sure your horse is no longer sweating before you finish your ride.

Like athletes or dancers who stretch both before and after a workout, warming up/cooling down your horse each time you ride is essential to his well being.

Photo credit: Practical Horseman

 

A Few of My Favorite (Winter) Things

horse-and-barn-in-snow_stablemanagementIf you own or manage a barn, over the years you’ve come up against some challenges in doing so in winter.  Me, too.  I’ve put together a list of some of the things I’ve discovered over the years that have made my job a bit easier.

Stall mats – My favorite multi-use tool.  However, in the winter, in addition to keeping your horse off a cold concrete floor, these are great to as anti-slip walkways to the barn.  They are also indispensable for helping to keep mud from forming around barn or stall door openings.  Outdoor water troughs often become churned up and muddy -when the mud freezes, it becomes a landmine for your horse to walk over.  This helps protect him from taking a bad step on frozen mud.

Water heaters – Horses need about 10 gallons of water daily. While the optimal temperature for adequate water consumption is between 45 and 650 F, most times it more of mater of just having water instead of ice!  Heated water buckets can help with that.  Classic Equine has automatic water options for both inside and outside use.  Both come with a heater option.

 For those of you without an automatic water system, there are heated water buckets that work great.  Plug them in and the heated coils in the partitioned bottom of the bucket keep water ice-free.    If your horses use a stock tank for water, a stock tank deicer is another great option to eliminate ice.  While neither may bring the temperature up to “warm,” both are excellent at keeping ice from forming. For those bigger warm water jobs, there are portable hot water heaters. 

white-horse-with-feederAutomatic Feeders – Unpredictable winter weather can sometimes make it difficult to get to the barn at exact times to feed.  And you know what your horses can do to your stall doors if the grain isn’t delivered on time!  If you aren’t able (or don’t want to) get out to the barn to grain your horse, this may be an option. The iFeed system is an automatic grain feeding system that allows you to set up one or several stalls on whatever schedule you want to deliver grain. 

wash-bay-heaterWash Bay Heaters – this went from being a luxury to a necessity when the winters started getting colder and snowier over the last few years.  Great for both clipped and unclipped horses.  If you don’t clip, the heated lights can help dry out your sweaty horse before blanketing.  If you clip, the heated lights can keep your horse warm during the time between grooming and putting on his blanket.  Also great for riders, trainers or spectators who are frozen from too long in the arena.

Auto lights – Let’s face it: even though you know every inch of your barn, there’s still something scary about going into a totally dark barn before you hit the lights.  I like the old-fashioned automatic lights that go on an off at set times and illuminate my way to the horses.  Or you can go high tech with new smart products like Amazon’s Echo.  With Echo, you plug your lights into a special socket and then you program your phone to not only tell it when to turn the lights on or off, but you can check to see if you actually remembered to turn them off.

Good winter clothes – no one knows cold like the people who live in Maine.  There are a lot of good winter apparel companies, some specifically for horse people (though most of them are geared for riding), but by far L.L.Bean has the best assortment of warm weather clothes – from undergarments to hats rain/snow boots.  And they are all guaranteed with easy return.  Wear it all winter.  Didn’t like how it performed?  LL Bean will take it back for an exchange or refund.  For any reason.   During winter months, water should be kept between 45 to 65°F to maximize consumption. 

Please note that, except for Classic Equine Equipment, we don’t promote the listed brands of equipment.  They are only the ones I have used with success.

With Christmas still more than a week away, there’s still time for you to ask Santa for one of these winter helpers. It can help you get the best present of all – more time riding!