Tips To Make Solo Riding Safer

trail riding solo EQUITREKKINGWith the weather turning better, it seems the perfect time for a trail ride.  But sometimes it’s hard to get everyone to the barn at the same time for the ride. At some point, almost any rider will have to ride alone.  Riding alone can be a wonderful way to connect with your horse and enjoy some solitude, but there’s also an element of danger to mounting up when you’re the only one on the property. Before you ride solo, think about putting some or all of these safety tips to use.

Wear a Helmet and Safety Gear

While you might not like wearing a riding helmet, it’s one of the best ways to keep yourself safe when riding. If you’re riding alone, carefully consider your decision of whether or not to wear a helmet. Additionally, wearing other safety equipment like a protective eventer vest will offer you further protection.

Let Someone Know Your Ride Time

It’s always a good idea to let someone know what time you will be mounting up and what time you plan to be done with your ride. You can text this information to a friend or loved one who knows your whereabouts. Then, text or call them once you’re finished your ride. If your friend or loved one doesn’t hear from you, they should attempt to get in touch with you and head out to the horse stables or call in help if they can’t reach you. This practice helps to reduce the chance that you could be injured and undiscovered for hours.

Program Emergency Information Into Your Phone

Before you mount up, take the time to enter some emergency contacts into your phone. If you label these as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your phone, then first responders will be able to contact these people if you are injured and unable to communicate.

Additionally, make sure that you carry your phone on your body, not in a saddle pad or saddle bag. In case you and your horse part ways, you will still want to be able to access your phone.

Know When to Forego a Ride

Sometimes, it’s better to be safe than to press forward during a ride. If you sense that your horse is not quite right or is highly excited, it may be better to forego your ride until you can work out the issues with someone else present. When you’re riding alone, you may want to keep the jumps lower or avoid jumping altogether. What adjustments you make will depend entirely on your comfort level and your trust in your horse.

The next time that you prepare to go for a ride alone, give some thought to these safety tips and save a great and safe ride.

Photo Credit:  Equitrekking
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Make Blankets Last Longer

horse in blanket SmartPakIt may be hard to believe in some parts of the country, but blanketing season is just about over! Quality horse blankets can be expensive, so it’s important to make them last as long as possible. Before you put them away for the year, here are some great tips to help prolong the life of your horse blankets.

Clean Blankets Every Year

Make sure that all of your blankets get cleaned at least once per year. Storing away a muddy, dirty blanket during the summer can cause the blanket’s material to deteriorate, and buckles and snaps which are left dirty can be difficult to open come the fall.

Before you have your blankets cleaned, allow them to dry and knock off any excess dirt. You may wish to send your blankets away for cleaning, or you can wash some of them yourself. If you’re washing waterproof blankets, then make sure that you’re using an appropriate blanket wash – laundry detergent will strip the waterproofing – and only use a washing machine without an agitator. Always allow blankets to thoroughly line dry before you store them.

Store Blankets in Plastic Totes

Once your blankets are cleaned, store them in heavy-duty plastic totes to protect them from mice or other rodents. You may wish to seal your blankets in vacuum packed bags to cut down on space. Tossing a few dryer sheets can help to further deter mice while leaving your blankets smelling fresh.

Re-Waterproof Blankets When Needed

If the waterproofing material on your blanket seems to no longer be working, don’t just toss the blanket. Instead, pick up waterproofing solution from any tack store and re-waterproof your blanket. Re-waterproofing treatments can last for a year or more, extending the life of your waterproof blanket.

Keep Hardware from Old Blankets

When it is finally time to toss out old blankets, cut the metal hardware off before you throw out the blanket. Save the metal hardware and use it to make repairs on your newer blankets, when needed!

Invest in Blanket Drying Bars or Racks

Getting blankets truly dry can help to prevent mold and can keep them smelling better. Being able to quickly dry out your blankets also means that you will have a dry blanket to put on your horse during periods of wet weather. Consider investing in blanket drying bars or racks for your barn or tack storage room to promote fast, thorough blanket drying.

By taking good care of your horse blankets, you can help to prolong their life. Remember to buy the best quality blankets that you can afford and always keep them properly cleaned and stored!

Photo credit:  SmartPak

Prepare For Foaling Season

Budweiser foalBefore you know it, foaling season will be here. If you have broodmares in your barn, then it’s time to get ready for foaling season. Here’s a to-do list to make sure that you’re prepared for the busy season.

Assess Available Facilities

Before your mare gets closer to foaling, take a careful look at the facilities that are available to you currently. Can your mare safely have and raise a foal in your current barn? You will need a generously sized foaling stall, and that stall will need to be free of any protrusions. Additionally, the grillwork on the stall must be small enough so that a foal cannot get his hoof stuck in the grill. As part of the Classic Value, Classic Equine Equipment creates top grillwork with 1” bars set on 3” centers. Lower grillwork features 1” bars set on 2 ½” centers, so even small hooves cannot get trapped.

Additionally, pay special attention to the turnout available for mare and foal. Is fencing appropriately built to contain a foal, and is it readily visible? Are there any areas in the pasture which could be dangerous for a foal, like areas of poor footing or of dense trees? If so, these areas need to be fenced out.

By assessing the facility now, you will be able to make any repairs or renovations necessary.

Put Together a Foaling Kit

Start to put together a foaling kit with all of the items that you might need during the foaling. Your foaling kit should include items like clean towels, a flashlight, dewormer, clean buckets, material for wrapping a tail, surgical gloves, an enema kit, scissors and a knife, and antiseptic, among other items. You will also want to be sure that you have the numbers of emergency contacts in case anything goes wrong.

Enlist Qualified Help

Do you have staff or helpers who are experienced with foaling a mare? If not, then it’s time to start finding experienced people who can help with the foal watch and with the foaling itself.

Invest in a Stall Camera

It’s a great idea to invest in a stall camera to help monitor your mare. A stall camera allows you to quietly monitor your horse from almost any location, leaving her peacefully alone. Set up the stall camera now so that you can work any kinks out of its operation. You’ll want the camera to be fully functional by the time that the foal watch begins.

Contact the Vet

Now is the time to touch base with your vet to make sure that you’re on track and prepared for the upcoming foaling season. Make sure to find out about who to contact in the event of an after-hours emergency, and check with the vet to schedule any necessary check-ups for your mare.

Foaling season will be here before you know it. Taking some time now to get prepared can help to reduce your stress. If you need to renovate your stalls or barn in preparation for your new addition, contact us – we’re happy to help.

photo credit:  Budweiser

Enjoy Springtime in Kentucky

Kentucky horse council logoHave you ever thought about taking a trip to Lexington, Kentucky? April and May are the perfect times of year to not only enjoy “The Horse Capital of the World,” but there are some major events to enjoy during that time.  Late April is the Range Rover Three Day Event – the USA’s only 4-star horse three day event.  The first weekend of May is, of course, the Kentucky Derby in nearby Louisville.  There are tons of things for horse lovers to do in Lexington – and non-horselovers as well.  Here are some reasons why you might want to take a trip to Lexington.

Kentucky Horse Park

Lexington is home to the famous Kentucky Horse Park. The Park houses many different breeds of horses, and also features the International Museum of the Horse. Kentucky Horse Park offers some of the top horse events in the world, including the Bluegrass Classic, the Annual Egyptian Event, and BreyerFest. Learn, explore, and take in the beautiful setting of the Kentucky Horse Park.

Breeding Farm Tours

If you’d like to tour the local Thoroughbred breeding farms, then Lexington is the place to be. There are countless breeding farms within just a short drive, and you can either arrange for tours with the farms themselves, or have a breeding farm tour service take care of the arrangements for you.

While you’re in Lexington, you’ll be just a short distance from some of the top Thoroughbred breeding farms in the nation. Farms such as Ashford Stud, WinStar Farm, Three Chimneys Farm, Claiborne Farm, Lane’s End Farm, and Taylor Made Farm all boast championship breeding histories and stunning facilities.

Downtown Lexington

Downtown Lexington is home to wonderful restaurants, historic office buildings, specialty shops, and performance arenas. There is tons to do in Downtown Lexington, and the district has an active night life. Head out on a walking tour of the area, or take a tour by horse drawn carriage.

If you’re looking for entertainment, check out the Kentucky Theater or the Lyric Theater. The Lexington Opera House has been newly restored, and the Downtown Arts Center often has musical and theatrical performances.

Museums

Lexington features a wide variety of museums that you’re sure to love. Make a trip to the Aviation Museum of Kentucky, the Bluegrass Scenic Railroad Museum, the University of Kentucky Art Museum, or the Headley-Whitney Museum.

Keeneland Race Course

Your trip to Lexington won’t be complete without a trip to Keeneland Race Course. Keeneland is home to live racing and auctions, and is open year-round. Keeneland features some of the top Thoroughbred stakes races, such as the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, the Shadwell Turf Mile, and Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity.

Lexington, Kentucky is full of rich culture, all with a distinct equestrian influence. If you’re thinking about making a trip to Lexington, then check out the Lexington Visitor’s Center website for more information.  Have a great trip!

Aromatherapy for Horses

aromatherapy horseThere are many “alternative” treatments for your horse – chiropractor, acupuncture, massage to name a few.  Most of these require special training to do them correctly. But with some basic education, aromatherapy can be used by anyone for a variety of ailments.

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to improve the physical and/or emotional well-being.  Essential oils are found in tiny pouches on the surface of plants.  There are several methods of extracting these oils, including cold pressing and distillation.  Oils can be applied to the skin where it will pass through the layers and into the bloodstream.  The can also evaporate in the air and send messages to the emotional part of the brain through smell.

The ancient Egyptian priests were among the firs to understand and use the properties of herbs and flowers.  They used simple observation to determine which herbs might work best for which part of the body.  The bright red of cinnamon was used for its stimulating properties.  The cool blue-purple of lavender was selected for calming.   

In the 19th century, micro-organisms were found to cause many common ailments.  At the time, doctors carried essential oils known for their anti-bacterial properties to help treat patients.  Over the years, essential oils were replaced by synthetic drugs, but as many people are looking at more holistic ways to care for themselves, their family and their animals, aromatherapy is making resurgence.

For years, horses have practiced their own form of aromatherapy.  With their highly attuned sense of smell, they instinctively knew which plants offered what their body was missing and would seek out those plants.  In this way, our horses actively take part in the aromatherapy process to this day, smelling various oils and helping you select the correct one by rejecting those that do not appeal to him.

Always consult with your veterinarian before treating your horse with aromatherapy.  You should also enlist the help of an aroma therapist or take come classes.  Many of the oils can be dangerous if applied directly to the skin, while others have “warning labels” on when and when not to use them.  For example, never use essential oils on mares in foal unless first contacting your veterinarian.

Essential oils can help with behavior problems.  Essential oil of jasmine can help with the problems of spooking, cribbing, fear and being headstrong.  Lavender is a great essential oil to use for both the horse and rider.  Lavender also is a good antiseptic and has been known to accelerate skin growth, reducing scarring.

Essential oils can be found in health food stores, or in the health food section of some grocery stores.  Essential oils should be stored in opaque bottles as sunlight can destroy their properties.  Store in a cool, dry, dark place for a longer shelf-life.

Closely related to aromatherapy are the Bach Flower Remedies.  Dr. Edward Bach discovered the Original Bach Flower Remedies which is a system of 38 Flower Remedies that corrects emotional imbalances where negative emotions are replaced with positive.  A few drops are added to drinking water and sipped slowly until you feel better.    In horses (or other pets), they are used to help abused animals transition to their new homes, as well as work on issues like fear, dominance, too much energy and others. 

If you are interested in learning more about aromatherapy and Bach Flower Remedies and how they can help you and your horses, here are a few books:

A Modern Horse Herbal by Hilary Page Self

 

Aromatherapy for Horses by Caroline Ingraham

Bach Flower Remedies for Horses and Riders by Martin J. Scott and Gael Mariana

And remember that aromatherapy works great for people as well!

 

 

Dream Big – Start Small

barn interior CEEA while back, we wrote a blog about three things to consider before building your barn.  I want to clarify two of them.

The first one on location (Location, Location, Location) still stands. You want to find a place that is level, close enough for easy access, but far enough for some quiet time.  Close to electricity and water and avoiding potential drainage problem areas are two other things to consider.  

These next two considerations,  however,  will depend on time, money and what you want to use your barn for.  They are:

  • Go Big or Go Home                                               
  • Ask for More Than You Need

While a big, luxurious 12-stall barn with exquisite stall fronts and beautiful barn doors are what we all dream of, if you have limited finances keep that vision, but start with the basics.  If you someday plan to have a 12-stall barn, yes, you should build the framework for that size at the beginning.  Of course, you can add more stalls or another aisle later, but it is more expensive to have a builder come back and redo then to have it done to your ideal dimensions initially.

However, it may not be necessary to have all the stall fronts, stall dividers and doors put on initially.  These can be added later at minimal additional cost to install.

Here’s an example:  A horse lover wanted a small barn for her two horses.  Her goal wasbarn no stalls 2 to eventually take in  boarders for additional income in two years.  Her two horses were very compatible and did not have to be kept separate.  Initially she built a six stall barn – with one designated for each horse.  With no stall fronts or dividers, her barn was initially a large run-in shed for her horses, separated when needed, by stall guards

When she began getting inquiries about potential boarders, she added the stall fronts and dividers and upgraded the tack room. By then she had saved enough money to get the stall fronts and other things that met her “dream barn” vision.

The same thing occurred with her fencing.  Situated on five acres, she initially fenced off 2 acres of her property for her two horses to graze, leaving the remaining three acres unfenced, but still useable for riding and lunging. With the arrival of her boarders a year later, she fenced and cross-fenced the remaining acreage.

The result was that she had what she needed when she needed it.  She also had some “breathing time” between the initial barn build and finishing the inside for boarders, which helped financially.

So if you are interested in building a barn on your property, don’t despair of having one because of the overall cost.  Just remember to keep your dream big, but start small.  This also goes when you are doing a barn remodel.  Tackle what you can – dream about the rest.

Contact the experts at Classic Equine Equipment and we can help you put a plan together.

photo credit: Classic Equine Equipment, My Outdoor Plans

Try Something New – Mounted Archery

 

mounted archery 2 50 percentMounted archery dates back thousands of years, and is one of the earliest forms of warfare. Horses gave humans speed and additional height. By learning to shoot a bow from horseback, riders gained an advantage over anyone on foot. Mounted archery also served as an effective hunting practice, allowing riders to see and bring down large, swift game.

The mechanization of warfare soon left archery outdated, but archery enthusiasts have continued to study the craft. Modern mounted archery now continues as a martial art and a sport. It is highly popular in Hungary and Germany, though competitions are also held in the United States, Canada, and throughout Europe.

The competitor and horse look like they are  right out of ancient history: the horse freely gallops forward as the rider aims his bow and sends an arrow flying home to its target as the pair gallops on. But thanks to a revival of mounted archery, this ancient art is now becoming a popular sport – one that you may see more and more in the future years.

Modern archery competition challenges a horse and rider to navigate a course of targets. While the specific rules vary from one competition to another, a rider’s goal is to shoot accurately at a target from a moving horse. During some competitions, courses are designated a maximum allowable time; exceeding that time in completing the course results in penalty points. As the horse and rider proceed through the course, the rider shoots an arrow at each of the targets. The arrow’s placement on the target is scored.

Other competitions challenge a rider to shoot as many arrows as possible at a single target within a given time frame. The horse must be moving, and the rider’s skill in shooting rapidly, along with their physical endurance, can make the difference between a winning run and a losing one.

To compete in mounted archery, a rider must first learn the difficult task of shooting a bow and arrow from the ground. The bow used for modern archery is lighter and smaller than a typical hunting bow, which gives the archer increased maneuverability while on a horse. Once the rider has mastered the art of shooting the bow and arrow, he or she then faces the challenge of replicating the skill while on a moving horse in an arena.

Perhaps most challenging of all is the fact that the horse must be controlled by the rider’s seat and legs, since the rider will be using his or her hands to shoot the bow and arrow. The horse must be sensitive to the rider’s direction, despite the excitement of moving forward at a canter or gallop. Horses must also be well-trained and desensitized to the sound of a bow and arrow. Horses with steady gaits are preferred, since this makes it easier for the rider to aim at the targets.

If you’d like to learn more about it, visit the Mounted Archery Association of the Americas’ website.

moun archery logo

Photo credit:   Mounted Archery Association of the Americas

How To Prepare For Your First Clinic

George morris clinic

George Morris Clinic

It’s time to start thinking about show season again.  To get you and your horse in shape for the discipline you choose, consider going to ride in a clinic this year.  Clinics are great chances to learn under skilled trainers and riders, but riding in your first clinic can be a bit intimidating.  Planning ahead of time can ensure that you and your horse are ready to go on the day of the clinic.

Research the Clinician

Clinicians are all individuals, and because of this each clinician’s clinics are run a little bit differently. Find out about the clinician’s prior clinics. What were they like? How were riders and horses turned out? Does the clinician have a standard form in which clinics are run – for instance, focusing on groundwork in the morning and riding in the afternoon?

Learning about the clinician’s teaching methods can help you to prepare yourself, too. If the clinician has books or videos available, use them to give yourself a foundation on which you can build during the clinic. Understanding the clinician’s methods of teaching can also help prepare you for what you can expect on the day of the clinic.

Finally, have a clear idea of what you want to work on.  If flying changes are an issue, but only on the right, let the clinician know so she can focus on it.  Don’t  make the clinician “guess” what you need to improve.

Find Out About the Dress Code

The turnout expected of horses and riders varies widely from clinic to clinic. Find out about the desired dress code for your clinic, and then make sure that you and your horse are ready to fit that dress code. Regardless of the specifics of any clinic, you should always make sure that both you and your horse are polished. Put effort into your appearance, and be sure to clean your tack and use clean saddle pads and leg wraps.

Keep Yourselves Fit

Clinics can demand a lot of a horse – and a lot of you. It isn’t fair to expect your horse to participate in a multi-hour clinic if you only ride him a few hours a week. Spend time building up your horse’s condition, and yours as well, especially if you know that the clinic will be athletically intense.

As you work with your horse, touch on the basics that you will be working on in the clinic, but don’t drill him on the particular issues. Remember, a clinic is meant to help a horse and rider improve. You and your horse can be less than perfect on clinic day; the idea is that when you leave, you’ll leave with new knowledge and improvement.

Do your homework when choosing and preparing for a clinic, but once the day arrives, relax and have a great time learning with your horse.  And listen to what the clinician says – they have alot of experience and you paid them to teach you.

 

Photo credit:  Practical Horseman magazine

The Hackney Pony

Hackney ponyIf you are looking for a new horse, especially if you’d like to have the unique, consider the  Hackney Pony. This flashy, high-stepping pony has an intriguing history and makes a popular horse show competitor.

History

The Hackney originated from Norfolk, England. Norfolk Trotters, a popular breed of horse, were used in the region and were bred to emphasize both speed and style. Breeders wished to improve the breed, though, so they bred Norfolk mares with Thoroughbred stallions to add speed and a refined appearance to the Norfolk Trotter. Beginning in the late 1700s, the offspring of the Norfolk and Thoroughbred were further specialized, refined, and bred, creating the Hackney horse.

During the 19th century, large quantities of horses were being exported by ship. Since larger horses were more difficult to transport, smaller horses were in higher demand. Additionally, the continued development of roadways created demand for a horse that could trot quickly to provide faster transportation than that offered by larger draft horses. Thanks to the changing times, the Hackney’s breeding was once again refined to create the Hackney Pony, mainly by breeding Hackney horses to Fell Ponies.

Hackneys were imported to America beginning in 1878, and the Hackney Stud Book Society was created in 1883. Hackney Ponies served primarily as carriage horses, becoming popular as show ponies after World War II.

Breed Characteristics

Hackney Ponies typically stand between 12 and 14 hands high, and may not exceed 14.2 hands high. They have pony characteristics, meaning that they have a small head with large eyes. Hackney Ponies have muscular, arched necks, a light build, and fine bone. They carry their tails high and have exaggerated leg action, raising their knees high. Hackney Ponies are typically bay or black, though chestnut colors do occur.

Hackney Ponies are shown in a variety of divisions which depend on the physical characteristics of each pony. Roadster Ponies stand at 13 hands or less and are known for their speed. They are shown at three trotting speeds and pull a road bike. Cob Tail Ponies stand at 14.2 hands or less and are shown with a shortened tail and braided mane. Harness Ponies measure 12.2 hands or less and are shown with long manes and natural tails. Pleasure Ponies stand at 14.2 hands or less and are shown at three different gaits. Hand Ponies are young ponies that are shown in-hand.

The Breed Today

The Hackney Pony continues to make a popular show pony today. Hackney Ponies are most commonly driven, but can also be shown in-hand and under saddle.

The Hackney Horse

A variation of the Hackney Pony, a Hackney that stands over 14.2 hands is classified as Hackney Horses.  Shown in a variety of ways, the Hackney Horse is a versatile performer.

More Hackneys are competing in Dressage and Jumping Divisions in both the USA and the UK.  Several shows offer Hackney Horse classes. 

For more information on the Hackney Pony or Hackney Horse, visit the American Hackney Horse Society website.

Our Love/Hate Relationship With Spring

foal in flowers SunshineRidingSchoolSpring is finally here (or at least almost here…)! For riders, spring means many things – some of them good, some of them not so great. Here are some of the things that we love – and hate – about spring!

Daylight Savings Time

Sometimes Daylight Savings Time is the earliest sign that spring is right around the corner. Who doesn’t love that extra hour of daylight, which means that we might be able to see when we ride our horses after work? While it might mean feeding horses in the dark in the morning, Daylight Savings Time can’t help but hint of usable outdoor riding rings, late afternoon lessons, and even horse shows.

Foals

Let’s face it – there’s nothing cuter than new foals playing in the pasture.  Just watching them makes you smile.  And if one of them is yours, well, you already know how lucky you are.

Shedding Season

Nothing says spring more than your hairy horse suddenly becoming not so hairy. Every rider can commiserate about shedding season – the rug that is left beneath your horse after a grooming, how you can endlessly run a shedding comb over your horse with no end to the hair in sight, and the hair that follows you home from the barn in the car no matter how hard you try to leave it at the barn.

When it comes to shedding your horse out, we advise that you use a light jacket or pullover to keep as much hair off of you as possible, and keep a lint roller nearby for good measure. Leave the hair outside for birds to use in their nests. And oh – NEVER put on lip gloss before a trip to the barn in the spring.

Allergies

If you have allergies to anything, this is when you’ll feel it the most.  Grass, dust, mold, flowers – there are many things that can set off a bout of sneezing or watery eyes.  Talk to your doctor about antihistamines that can help alleviate some of the symptoms.

Spring Shots

Typically spring is when most of the necessary shots for your horse are due – tetanus, rabies E/W Equine Encephalitis, flu/rhino, etc.  Which ones you give can depend on where you and your horse live, how  much traveling you do and other factors.  Check with your veterinarian on what he/she recommends for your horse.  Whether you chose a few or a whole flight of vaccinations, they can be expensive.  Be sure to budget for these to keep your horse healthy all year round.

“Up” Horses

Does your horse feel like he’s on springs when you first get on him again after the winter? Maybe you’re lucky enough to have an indoor riding arena, but haven’t quite kept up in your riding routine this winter. Regardless of the reason, know that many other riders are also riding out the “spring sillies” and are hoping that their horses settle back into their work routines – soon!

Muddy Everything

Ahh, mud. Your horse loves it, but you don’t feel the same. Thanks to the mud, your grey comes in from the pasture looking like a chestnut on a regular basis. Shoes are sucked off to the depths where they will never be found again, and hoof abscesses and soft hoof soles abound. Fighting the mud is often a losing battle unless you take serious measures such as installing a Stable-Ity Grid. Hopefully the spring showers stop and let the mud dry up.

The First of the Flies

Do we even say it? Spring, unfortunately brings with it the first of the flies. Sure, they’re just the little ones that get into your eyes and ears, and aren’t yet the full-blown blood suckers that we know are coming, but still. Late spring will have us thinking of fly prevention before you know it, so enjoy the minimal fly presence while it lasts.

Spring! We love the fact that it’s finally here, but we don’t love all of the fun that it brings. Just remember, only nine months til winter……

photo credit:  Sunshine Riding