Riding Motivation Tips

horses in snowWith the cold, wet weather and darker days, it becomes more and more difficult to get yourself out to the barn and into the saddle. Finding that initial motivation to go ride can be a real challenge, so here are some tips to get yourself out to the barn.

Schedule a Ride with a Friend

Put peer pressure to work and schedule a ride with a friend. When you have to meet a friend, you won’t want to cancel on them. This little bit of guilt can be helpful in getting yourself out to the barn, and riding with a friend can be more fun than riding solo. Misery loves company?

Remind Yourself About Riding After Time Off

Do you remember how it feels to get back into the saddle after weeks or months off? Your legs are weak and nothing feels graceful or easy. Even after missing just a few days of riding, your coordination is a little off and you have to work more than usual. When you’re trying to convince yourself to get out to the barn, think about what it will feel like if you don’t go riding for a few days.

Don’t Get Distracted After Work Or School

It’s all too easy to come home after work or school, sit down, have a snack, turn on the computer or TV, and lose an hour or more of time. Don’t do it. Grab a snack and set your phone’s timer for fifteen minutes to ensure that you get up and moving again. Don’t lose your momentum!

Set Up Your Equipment Ahead of Time

If you’re truly fighting the mental battle to go ride, then try setting up your equipment ahead of time. Have your breeches, boots, and shirt ready and waiting before you leave for work. Having a water bottle filled and a snack ready to go can also help you to get out of the house quickly.

Break Riding Into Short Sessions

Does the thought of schooling your horse for an hour overwhelm you after work? Then don’t head to the barn with the goal of schooling. Instead, make the task smaller and break your ride into more manageable pieces. Tell yourself that you will go ride for half an hour to keep your horse and yourself in shape – no intense schooling required.

Once you’re at the barn and in the saddle, chances are that you’ll be feeling better and will likely extend the duration and up the intensity of your ride.

Remember, February 2nd is the half-way point of winter so everything gets better after that!

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Grey Horse Grooming Tips

GiacomoIf you own a grey horse, you know how grey horses seem to be mud and dirt magnets. Unfortunately it’s impossible to hide dirt in a grey coat and impracticable to keep your horse in a cover sheet all the time.  You will need to be talented in your grooming to have your grey horse looking great. These tips can help you in the challenge to keep your grey horse clean.

Spray-On Spot Removers

Whether preparing your horse for a clinic or show, or simply wanting him to look his best for a lesson, spray-on spot removers will become your best friend. There are a variety of spray-on spot removers on the market for you to choose from, but they all share the same ability to remove manure, grass, and urine stains from your grey horse’s coat.

A spot remover is ideal for cleaning up stains and dirty patches on your grey horse. You can target specific areas without having to bathe the entire horse. Spray on the liquid, wait a few minutes, and then rub a rag over the stain, lifting the dirt away. Let the area dry and brush the hair down again for a smooth finish.

Grooming Wipes

Grooming wipes are also handy for grey horse touch-ups. Grooming wipes are great for cleaning up smaller areas, especially those on your horse’s face where a spot remover may be difficult to apply. If you don’t have grooming wipes handy, then baby wipes can also be useful for small touch-up jobs.

Shampoos for Grey Coats

Baths are so important for the grey horse, since they’re one of the few opportunities that you have to get your horse truly clean. Using shampoos intended specifically for grey coats can help to bring out the shine in your horse. Whitening shampoos are often highly successful in removing any stains from grey horse coats.

When you bathe your horse, bathing heavily stained areas twice can help to get a deep clean. Legs and tails in particular may benefit from multiple washings. Just make sure that you thoroughly wash out all of the shampoo from your horse’s coat once you’re done.

Baby Powder and Corn Starch

If you’re heading into the show ring, you may need to cover up small areas which just didn’t come completely clean. Baby powder and corn starch are both useful for lower-leg touch-ups and spot cover-ups on your horse’s body. Just make sure that your show clothes are covered when you apply them – otherwise you could end up with white powder all over.

Coat Conditioner

Finally, choose a coat conditioner which actively repels dust. Finishing off your horse’s coat with a quality conditioner can help to preserve the clean appearance that you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Grey horses are a major challenge to keep clean, but with hard work and elbow grease, it can be done.

Photo credit:  Oakhurst Thoroughbreds (Giacomo – 2005 Kentucky Derby winner)

 

Keep Your Horse Feed Safe and Secure

horse eating grainWe all know how sensitive equine digestive systems are. It’s important that we only put quality feed into our horses, and that all begins with how we store the feed once it enters our barns. Take a look at these tips for storing horse feed to make sure that you’re doing things right when it comes to storing horse feed!

Create Heavy-Duty Rodent-Proof Bins

Rodents are naturally attracted to your feed room, so it’s important to take measures to protect your feed from them. Create heavy-duty rodent-proof feed bins which securely close to keep the feed protected from rodents, bugs, moisture, and dust. Metal or heavy-duty plastic trash cans with securely closing lids can work, though you may need a larger type of bin if you have a large barn.

Clearly Label Everything

Next, make sure that everything in your feed room is clearly labeled. From different types of feeds to supplements, knowing what is in each container and which horse receives it is important to equine safety.

Keep Supplements Tightly Closed

If you’re working with supplement buckets and tubs, make sure that each container is tightly closed after each use! It’s a good idea to store supplements up on a shelf or in a cupboard to help deter rodents.

Store Unopened Feed Bags on Pallets

When you are storing unopened feed bags, always store them up on a pallet. Feed bags should never sit on the ground, where they are at risk of absorbing too much moisture and may be exposed to grain mites.

Rotate the Feed

Whenever you receive a delivery of horse feed, make sure that you rotate the feed out with any remaining bags that you’re storing. Remove the older bags, store the newer bags on the bottom of the pile, and replace the older bags so that they are used soonest. This method helps to avoid storing expired feed or having feed go bad while in your care.

Check Expiration Dates

Always check the expiration date on any bag of feed that you are opening. Expired feed may be moldy, which can put a horse’s health at risk.

In addition to checking the expiration dates on the feed bags themselves, you should visually inspect the feed in the feed bins. It’s important to make sure that the barn lighting in your feed room is bright enough so that you can easily see into the feed bins and supplement containers. Good light allows you to spot moldy or spoiled feed and to dispose of it before it’s ever fed to horses.

When you make an effort to store feed properly, you are helping to ensure your horse’s safety while also ensuring that the feed you buy doesn’t expire or go bad while in your possession.

How NOT To Be Embarrassed By Your “Horse-mobile”

horse owners carOur horse hobby has an uncanny way of spreading into and taking over our vehicles. While we might delight in eau de horse, chances are that some of the people who have to ride in our cars won’t feel the same way. Are horses taking over your vehicle? Here are some ways to reclaim  your car.

Use Plastic Totes

Plastic totes are key to getting a horsey car organized. Invest in a few heavy-duty plastic totes that fit in the trunk or in the back of your car. Whether you’re carrying your boots to the barn or have a spare set of riding clothes in the car, putting these items into a plastic tote can help to keep the odor from spreading throughout the car. Plus, the totes themselves help to keep your car neat and organized.

Buy Rubber Car Mats

When you’re dealing with mud, horse manure, and dirt, rubber car mats are an absolute must. If your car didn’t come outfitted with them, then get them. Rubber car mats help to keep water and mud from penetrating down to the floor of your car. And when they get dirty, you can pull the rubber mats out and hose or scrub them off; they’ll be good as new.

Delegate the Back of the Car to the Barnorganized horse owners car

Rather than letting all of your riding equipment take over your whole car, delegate the back portion of your car as the horsey part. If you have a trunk, great – use that. Otherwise, keep totes, extra plastic bags, baby wipes, and any other horse items organized in the back.

Install a Saddle Stand

If you transport your saddle on a regular basis, then you will want to find a way to do so safely. Consider installing a small saddle rack in your trunk, or using a small portable saddle rack. If you do use a saddle rack, secure it down well so that it cannot come loose in the event of an accident. Remember that if you ever park your car with your saddle inside, then you will want to come up with some sort of a cover so that anyone walking by cannot immediately tell that there is a saddle in your car.

Have a Lint Roller Handy

When you’re riding in a horse person’s car, horsehair will be inevitable. You can make your car a little more presentable for friends and family by keeping a lint roller in the car so that you can quickly clean the seats of horsehair.

While we might love the fact that horses take up every inch of our car, our non-horsey friends and family probably won’t feel the same way. What modifications have you made to your car for your horsey habit?

Musculoskeletal Anatomy Of Your Horse

horse skeletan INKYMOUSESTUDIOThe musculoskeletal system consists of the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints of the head, vertebral column and limbs, together with the associated muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. Its primary function is to support the body, provide a system of levers for locomotion and in some instances to provide protection to certain vital structures, like the brain and eyes.

As a prey animal, the horse’s musculosketal system had to develop to allow him to move at great speeds to escape a predator.  The horse’s musculoskeletal system consists of the bones, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Their primary function is to support of the body, provide motion, and protect vital organs. There are 205 bones in the horse’s skeleton. Twenty of these bones are in each foreleg and 20 in each hind limb, for a grand total of 80 bones in the four equine legs.

Muscles contract and release. Whereas contraction is a process we can voluntarily create, release is not. When muscles tighten and cannot achieve full release, they remain tight and shortened or contracted). This puts strain on the surrounding areas – tight muscles lead to spasm (knots) which leads to tears.

Horses have two types of muscle fibers:  Slow twitch (red) fibers need oxygen to properly work.  They are used more in horses that need strength and endurance. Fast twitch (white) muscles don’t need much oxygen to properly perform.  They are found more in horses that need quick bursts of speed that doesn’t have to be maintained for any length of time.   Training can have a bearing on muscle fiber composition. The number of fast twitch muscles can be increased as horses are trained and become more used to going longer distances.

equine muscle HUMANANATOMYLIBRARYThe fuel for these muscle fibers is a combination of glycogen (the main form of carbohydrate storage), glucose (sugar), and fat, with the emphasis on fat during non-strenuous activity. However when speed increases, more glycogen and/or glucose is needed as fuel through a process known as glycolysis. This involves the breaking down of glucose or glycogen into energy (ATP) without oxygen and is an anaerobic reaction. Glucose is the end product of carbohydrate metabolism and is the chief source of energy for living organisms. Excess glucose is converted to glycogen and is stored in the liver and muscles for future use. Moving at a high rate of speed like cantering or galloping requires a continued burst of energy.  It isn’t long before the fat and glycogen stored by the muscles is unable to supply all of the energy required and anaerobic glycolysis (without the presence of oxygen) occurs with its more rapid burning of glycogen.  Lactic acid accumulates as the result of glycolysis and can bring an early onset of fatigue.  The most important commodity for the equine muscles to function appropriately is oxygen.  

Tendons and ligaments in the horse are the “belts” and “cables” that hold bones in place and allow the muscles to do their jobs in creating propulsion— forward, backward, sideways, and up and down. Because of the workload often put on them, tendons and ligaments are frequent sites of injury and disease.  Tendons attach muscle to bone while ligaments connect bones and strengthen the joints.  During exercise, a horse’s tendons can stretch from one to three inches. When the tendon is pushed beyond its “strain” capacity, injury can result. The damage normally involves rupturing of the tendon’s collagen fibers, resulting in inflammation, soreness, and an inability of the limb to function normally.

Proper conditioning and nutrition are the most important components of a healthy musculoskeletal system.  Classic Equine Equipment offers two options to keeping your horse’s bones, joints and the rest working properly – stall mats (http://www.classic-equine.com/flooring-mats) to take the strain off when standing in a stall and an equine treadmill (http://www.classic-equine.com/treadmills-exercisers/treadmills) to help condition your horse.

Photo credit: Human Anatomy  Library, Inky Mouse Studios

Find the Right Riding Instructor for Your Child

child riding THESPRUCEYour child wants to learn to ride a horse. Great! Your first task will be to find a riding instructor who is a great fit for your child. This can be a little bit of a challenge because every child and every instructor won’t necessarily be a great match. Put these tips to work to help find the right riding instructor for your child.

Consider Your Child’s Confidence and Learning Style

A riding instructor needs to match your child’s learning style and confidence level. If your child is shy and lacking confidence, then you need to look for an instructor who is patient and supportive. Additionally, an instructor needs to understand how a child learns and be willing to work with their learning style.

If your child has a learning disability, this can be important to note to the instructor. Depending on the exact disability and its severity, it may affect how your child learns to ride, so the instructor may need to adapt his or her methods. If you suspect that the disability could have a significant effect on your child’s lessons, have a discussion with the instructor and ask him or her how they would approach the instruction.

Ask Around for Recommendation

If you know other parents of children who ride, ask them for recommendations of local riding instructors. Local summer horseback riding camps may also be able to provide recommendations. This can be a great way to start out on the right path to finding a great instructor.

Watch the Instructor Teach

When you think you’ve found the right instructor, ask if you can come and observe a lesson or two. Watching the instructor teach can give you an idea of their approach and style, and often you’ll be able to quickly tell whether they would be a good match for your child. If you find that the instructor is not a good match, think about what qualities make that so and use that knowledge in your continued search.

Schedule a Trial Lesson

If everything looks good, schedule a time for your child to have a trial lesson with an instructor. Depending on your child’s age, it may be a good idea for you to be present for this lesson so you can observe how your child and instructor get along.

Finding a great riding instructor for your child can take a little time, but it’s worth it – your child may spend many years riding with this instructor.

PHOTO CREDIT: THE SPRUCE

Hinge vs. Sliding Stall Front Doors

One of the major decisions that you will face when building or expanding your barn is selecting what style of horse stall is right for your barn. While there is plenty of variety between stall styles, stall doors come in just two styles – sliding and hinge doors. Unsure of which type of door is right for you? Here’s some information that might help in your decision!

sliding-horse-stallSliding Stall Doors

Sliding stalls doors are a popular option for many horse barns. Sliding doors have a major advantage in that they save room, since the door doesn’t swing outward into the barn aisle. For this reason, sliding stall doors are ideal for busy facilities where multiple horses are frequently coming and going. They also make a great choice if you are dealing with a narrow barn aisle in your facility.

Sliding stall doors do have less aesthetic appeal than hinged stall doors. Sliding doors must be supported by an overhead track. While the overhead track isn’t as appealing as the open appearance of a hinged stall door, you need to weigh whether the space saved by a sliding stall door is worth it for your facility.

Hinged Stall Doorshinged-horse-stall

Hinged stall doors need room to swing out into the barn aisle. This means that your barn aisle must be fairly wide, especially if you have two rows of stalls directly across from each other. You will also want your barn aisle to be free of items like tack boxes so that you can easily navigate the aisle with a horse.

If you are considering installing hinged stall doors, carefully evaluate your barn aisle. The aisle needs to be level, since the bottom of the stall door may get stuck on uneven flooring. Ideally, you should build your stall so that there are at least a few inches of clearance between the bottom of the stall door and the flooring of the barn aisle. If your barn aisle is full of hills and ruts, a hinged stall door might not be the best choice for your barn.

Hinged stall doors are aesthetically pleasing, because they make it possible to have a more open stall plan than a sliding stall door will allow. Hinged stall doors can make for an elegant appearance, such as that offered by the European Stall Series. They can truly transform the atmosphere of your barn!

If you’re still unsure about which type of style for stalls is right for your barn, please visit our website or contact Classic Equine Equipment.  We would be happy to talk about our different stall lines and can help you to find the best product for your barn.

photo credit:  Classic Equine Equipment

Use Your Smartphone For More Than Selfies

horse on cell phone THESALEHORSESmartphones can be used for everything these days – listening to music, reading emails, surfing the internet, watching movies and, of course, taking pictures and videos.  But you can also use your phone for more than taking selfies.  Here are some ideas on how to use the camera on your phone with your equestrian life.

If you are looking at a new horse, snap a picture of it with your phone.  Save it with as much info as possible.  Ex. Brownie HappyBarnStable 010117.  After looking at 3 or 4 brown horses, you won’t be able to remember if “Brownie” was the one with the white star at Joe’s Barn or the one with the white blaze at Happy Barn Stable.  Taking a picture can help you remember who is who. And if you’re phone allows you to video the test ride as well. 

If you see something you like on the internet, but want to see it in person at your local HBG with phonetack store, save the picture to the phone.  Since tack styles are often similar with one or two small differences, having the picture can help you be sure the one you’re looking at in the store is the same one you liked online.

Conversely, if you see something you like in a store, but think you can get it cheaper online.  Take a picture of the store item and save with as much info a possible.  Ex. Wintec Isabell Saddle Bob’s Tack

One of the hardest things to do is to keep track of something on your horse.  For example, it’s October and you want to be sure your horse stays at the same weight in January.  Or you notice a lump and your veterinarian says “keep an eye on it” and let him know if there are any changes.  When you see your horse nearly every day, it’s hard to remember if it really looked like THAT the last time you checked.  Taking a picture to refer to can help to compare.  Use a body condition guide to document your horse’s weight.  Photo the lump with a ruler in the picture to indicate the size at the time.

Photographing or videoing your horse is a great help to your veterinarian in case you have to call him.  What may look like an emergency gash to you may look like a medium cut to your veterinarian if he can see it before he comes out.  With a picture, he may be able to instruct you how to care for it yourself and save the vet call.

The say a picture if worth a thousand words and if your horse is exhibiting odd or unusual behavior, it’ often better to show the veterinarian a video rather than try to describe it in words.  A horse that is “shaking” vs. “trembling” can mean different things to a vet.  So eliminate any confusion and send a video.

All of us want the perfect barn or pasture.  If you are visiting somewhere and see am idea on how to improve your barn, ex. a different style of window or how to handle winter turnout, ex. a gravel sacrifice area, snap a picture so that you’ll remember just what you’d like to do at your barn.

See it, snap it, remember it.  Use your phone to document what’s important in your equine life.

photo credit: The Sale Horse

2018 Resolutions From The Inside Out

2018 jumping horse new yearEvery New Year, we equestrians make a list of resolutions aimed at improving our riding.  More riding without stirrups, more dressage lessons, signing up for that first horse trial.  All are great, but Refinery29.com recently came up with 12 resolutions designed to help you meet your challenges by working on your life from the inside out. All of them can be modified to help equestrians have their best 2018. Here are some to consider:

1. Seek balance

As equestrians, we can sometime get super-focused on our finding results.  While blue ribbon are great, we sometimes forget that riding should be a fun time to share with our horse and our barn buddies.  Take a relaxing group trail ride and enjoy nature.  Or attend an upcoming event (horse-related or not) with friends. Work hard to meet your goals, but take time for other things, too.

2. Roll with the punches

Change can happen.  A new trainer moves in, there are new rules for turnout or a new boarder wants everything done “her” way.  Some people have a more difficult time accepting changes, but in the end it can turn out for the best.  Maybe the new trainer allows you to try a discipline you never considered.  Or the new boarder turns out to be the perfect person to watch your horse when you go out of town. You can’t un-change things, but you can decide how you’ll react to change.

3. Embrace your inner optimist

Some people are born optimists. They always wee the glass half-full or can easily make lemonade from lemons.  If you are one of these people, this year try to teach others to do the same.  And if you aren’t, don’t fall into the “gloom and doom” trap that seems to be everywhere these days.  Look for the good in people and situations.

4. Listen to your heart

“To thine own self be true,” said Shakespeare. But if that means you constantly display emotional extremes, your “true self” can be seen as slightly neurotic. Emotions can manifest themselves to a much small degree.  Are you mildly disappointed you got a second instead of first?  Don’t wail how you never win anything and you should just give up riding.  After a while, people will stop listening.   Say what you feel by all means, but keep it all in perspective.

5. Chase variety

Nothing will sour an equestrian or promising horse faster than endless circles in the indoor arena.  Spice things up a little bit by changing your routine. Don’t feel you have to give away all your dressage tack and instantly start barrel racing.  Start small and start slow to give you and your horse time to develop new muscles and a new mindset for any changes.  Practice dressage on the trail.  Improve your jumping using a gymnastics grid.  After a short break from routine, both you and your horse will go back to the arena brighter and happier.

6. Test your limits

Make this the year that you and your horse “go for it.”  Time to get out of that comfort zone and move the next level.  Really stretch yourself this year and see what you are capable of.  Feel something is holding you back?  Take the time to figure it out and then make the decision to confront it.  Most of our perceived challenges are not based on our abilities, but on our fear looking silly.  What would you do if you knew you could not fail?  Mentally prepare and you’ll feel much more capable.

7. Say “no” more often

This is one you can probably use in every aspect of your life.  Caring for a horse can bring out the nurturing instincts in you that can spill over into caring for everyone else’s horse or owner, too.  This leads to you becoming overextended and ultimately resenting the time helping others.  This year, slow down, reevaluate your personal priorities and draw clearer boundaries. This may be tough at first as others may just expect you to agree.  Don’t be afraid to ask for time to consider what’s best for YOU before you agree to take on a commitment for someone else.

8. Find a new stage — and a new act

You’ve done Training Level Test 4 so many times that you can do it in your sleep.  Yes, you always get a high score and the blue ribbon. But when Show Managers see your entry in the mail, they automatically sign you up for T-4 without even looking.  Judges who have seen you ride before are considering just copying your old tests because everything is always the same.  This year, channel you inner “Meryl Streep” and start preparing for a new role, e.g. a new level.   Soon you’ll be ready to take center stage and wow them with your new “act.”

9. Silence the self-doubt

As an equestrian, it’s a given that you want everything to be perfect. And, according to everyone else, you are usually pretty darn close.  But there’s that pesky voice in your own head that keeps telling saying you’re just not good enough.  This is the year you tell that voice to “shut up!” It’s tough, but it’s up to you to let that voice know it’s time to hit the road.  You know your abilities – now trust that they can get you through anything. Because they can!

10. Go with your gut

It’s great to think things through.  Some may even make a list of pros and cons before making a decision.  But getting lost in all these details and “what if’s” can end up with you doing nothing.  “Analysis Paralysis” it’s been called.  The solution is to give priority to what’s important to you.  That doesn’t mean simply ignoring how your decision will affect others.  But constantly going a little to the left, then back to the right will not make anyone happy.

11. Pay it forward

Riding shouldn’t be all about the ribbons. Take time to try to make a better world – or at least a better horse world.  Create a better partnership with your horse. Volunteer at a horse show. Consider fostering a rescued horse. Donate hay or grain to horses in need. Work with a therapeutic riding program. Contact politicians in support of horse-friendly legislation. Sponsor a “meet the horse” program for inner city kids.  There are as many ways to pay it forward as there are horse lovers.  Ribbons can fade after a few years, but the good you do for the horse community will last forever.

12. Break free

Even if you stick with only some of the previous resolutions, this could be the year that you break free from what’s been holding you back from being your best self. This could be in your riding, your work or even relationships.  Make the commitment to see what the New Year brings and take every opportunity to learn and grow.

Thanks to Sara Coughlin at Refinery29 for her article with these resolution ideas.

Photo credit:  dreamstime.com