Things Your Barn Manager Will Never Say

Horse in the snowI know most of my horsey friends in North Carolina are well and truly fed up with the winter weather. Especially those of us on the front lines who take care of the manual labor of looking after the horses.

The winter of 2017/18 has been one of the coldest on record for the southern United States. Our northern neighbors like to mock us when we complain about the weather but we just don't have the infrastructure to cope with it for days on end.

The extreme cold makes everyday chores take much longer than usual and require more physical strength. If you board your horse please take a few minutes to thank your barn manager and barn hands for their hard-work in all weather conditions.

So, as we patiently wait for a thaw from this frozen tundra here is a lighthearted look at some things your barn manager will never say, in winter.

  1. Oh good a snow day.
  2. I love freezing weather.
  3. Breaking ice off of water troughs is my most favorite thing to do.
  4. Mucking out twice, and sometimes three times, in a day is awesome.
  5. Going through twice as much hay because the horses are in all day makes me so happy.
  6. I love it when the ends of my fingers turn blue, it really sets off my perfectly manicured nails.
  7. Dragging water to the barn in coolers is so much fun.
  8. I wish it would snow again.
  9. Changing blankets every five minutes because the temps keep changing helps to tone my biceps.
  10. I can't wait to ride my bi-polar mare, who's been standing in her stall for days.
  11. I think I'll call in sick today.
  12. I wish the weather could stay like this forever.

Taking care of horses is a labor of love and looking forward to spring is what is currently keeping me going.

We'd love to hear from you. Let us know some of the things your barn manager never says in winter and follow us on Facebook.

White Rose Equestrian is a small, private, full-service equestrian facility located in Iron Station, NC. 

Riding Club Positions after our Fifth Show

fun showOn Saturday, October 28th, we had our fifth and final Fun Show of the season. We had a great turnout and we are very grateful to everyone who has supported our show series this year.

I normally post a list of points scored and who won the points for the show. I will not be doing that this time as I would like the overall points for the year to be a surprise at the end-of-season party (date, location, and time to be confirmed). I will say that Deana had the most points of the day and will be a big contender in next year's show season.

fun show costume classI would also like to say what a fantastic job everyone did in the costume class. We had an outstanding turnout and the costumes were well thought out and some, very unique.

We have a fantastic barn family here at White Rose Equestrian. The parents, family, and friends of our riders are always willing to help out on show days and we very much appreciate that.

Thank you for your support throughout the season. We look forward to a fun party and an amazing 2018 show season.

Riding Club Points as of August 5th, 2017

Fun Horse Show
Photo courtesy of Lola Cichocki

We had another fun, friendly show here today at White Rose Equestrian. Thank you to everyone who came out to help and compete.

I am so pleased with all our riders and the progress they have made over the summer while competing. Showing is an opportunity for them to put into practice what they learn in weekly lessons. It also gives them the freedom to explore their riding abilities and grow as equestrians in ways that lessons alone could never do.

The riding club points for this show are as follows:

Rider POINTS POSITION
 Macy Schott / White Rose Fandango  58.0  1
 Libby Schott / White Rose Desert Wind  44.0  2
 Riley Hughes / White Rose Sweet Seirra  40.0  3
 Isabel Mejia / White Rose Rubydoo  39.5  4
 Maddie Rominger / White Rose Moonfire  36.5  5
 Deana Poteat / White Rose Rubydoo  34.0  6

After today's show, we have a change in the overall leaderboard. Everyone still has time to catch up at our Fall Fun Show on October 28th, 2017.

The overall championship riding club points so far are as follows:

Rider POINTS POSITION
 Macy Schott / White Rose Fandango  173.0  1
 Libby Schott / White Rose Desert Wind  163.0  2
 Riley Hughes / White Rose Sweet Sierra  162.0  3
 Maddie Rominger / White Rose Moonfire  156.0  4
 Allison Guidi / DF Sergio  65.5  5
 Alida Leidy / Maddie  51.5  6

Our Fall Fun show will also have a costume class so start thinking about how you are going to dress up your horse.

 

Why I Host Horse Shows

18221981_10155530340448974_2094783583415863576_nHere at White Rose Equestrian, we host several fun, friendly horse shows a year. Our riders look forward to showing off their skills and winning ribbons. But there is much more to it than that. Our emphasis is on learning and improving and our motto is, "The most important thing about showing is having fun!"

Most of our students are beginner to intermediate riders. They ride once a week and do not own their own horses. They don't have an opportunity to travel to shows.

I know what that feels like.

I was bitten by the horse riding bug many years ago. I can't remember a time when I wasn't obsessed with horses. I read every horse book I could get my hands on, tied a rope to the handlebars of my bicycle and pretended they were reins, and dreamed of owning my own horse one day. But, we weren't well off. We lived in a small apartment above a store with a yard the size of a pocket handkerchief and I knew I wouldn't be getting a horse anytime soon.

I was lucky enough to start riding lessons when I was eleven and used my weekly allowance to pay for them. I would ride the bus there early Saturday morning and stay all day. I did anything and everything the riding school owner asked of me just to be around the horses. And if I was lucky, I could ride William, my favorite, out to his field at the end of the day.

Once a year we would visit Ilkley for the day and sometimes there would be a horse show/gymkhana being held. I was so envious of those girls with their spotless ponies, fancy show clothes, and opportunities I thought I would never have.

My passion continued as I got older and eventually, as an adult, I bought my first horse. Finally, I had the chance to show. I participated, mainly, in jumpers but also did some cross country and dressage events. I also ran a small equestrian facility, Laneside Stables. At Laneside Stables we gave riding lessons, operated a pony club, manufactured show jumps, and ran small horse shows.

Life happened and I ended up in America and that brings us to present day and White Rose Equestrian. We have only been at our location for six months but we hit the ground running and have no intention of slowing down. We have many upgrades and improvements planned but our facility already had all the basics in place for us to grow and expand what we offer.

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A fun horse show at White Rose Equestrian

One of the first things I was determined to do was to host some fun shows. They are hard work and take a great deal of time and effort to organize and pull together but they are so worthwhile. I get so much satisfaction when I see the riders improve and become more independent with each show we host.

There is no pressure on anyone to win, just to learn and have fun.

So why do I host horse shows? I do it because at heart I am still the same horse-mad little girl I always was. The one who never got to show as a child. The one who wanted for a pony more than anything in the world. I host horse shows so that kids can experience opportunities I never had. They are making memories. When they are all grown up they will be able to say, "I used to ride when I was younger. I even went to a few horse shows."

Come and join in the fun with us!

Riding Club Points as of July 15th, 2017

libby sqWe had another successful Fun Show here today at White Rose Equestrian. We are very grateful to everyone who comes out to support us. We have a wonderful barn family. Everyone is helpful and supportive of each other and we welcome horses and rider from other barns in the area.

We would like to give a big thank you to all our helpers and volunteers. We could not do this without you.

The riding club points for this show are as follows:

Rider POINTS POSITION
 Maddie Rominger / White Rose Moonfire  48.0  1
 Macy Schott / White Rose Fandango  42.0  2
 Libby Schott / White Rose Desert Wind  41.0  3
 Carlee Goff / White Rose Rubydoo  39.0  4
 Riley Hughes / White Rose Sweet Sierra  38.0  5
 Allison Guidi / DF Sergio  36.5  6

I see progress with each show we have. Our riders are learning to become more independent and confident.

The overall championship riding club points so far are as follows:

Rider POINTS POSITION
 Riley Hughes / White Rose Sweet Sierra  122.0  1
 Maddie Rominger / White Rose Moonfire  119.5  2
 Libby Schott / White Rose Desert Wind  119.0  3
 Macy Schott / White Rose Fandango  115.0  4
 Allison Guidi / DF Sergio  65.5  5
 Alida Leidy / Maddie  51.5  6

Our next Fun Show will be August 5th, come and join the fun.

 

Riding Club Points as of June 25th, 2017

Riding Club PointsWe have now had two very successful Fun Horse Shows here at White Rose Equestrian. All our riders, parents, helpers, and friends did a great job and made the show a memorable success. Our emphasis is on learning and having fun and our competitors take it very seriously. We are happy to welcome riders and horses from other barns and look forward to making new friends at future shows.

We are very grateful to everyone who comes out to help. It takes a lot of time, preparation, and manpower to put on a horse show. If you would like to volunteer please let us know.

The championship riding club points, so far.

Rider POINTS POSITION
 Riley Hughes / White Rose Sweet Sierra  84.0  1
 Libby Schott / White Rose Desert Wind  78.0  2
 Macy Schott / White Rose Fandango  73.0  3
 Maddie Rominger / White Rose Moonfire  71.5  4
 Alida Leidy / Maddie  51.5  5
 Mekah Leidy / Oragon  42.0  6

Championship Riding Club Points are recognized at our end of season party. The date and location is yet to be decided.

Six Non-Riding Exercises to Improve your Seat in the Saddle

As a rider, you are always looking for ways to improve your seat and use the subtle changes in your balance and pressure to affect your horse. Many improvements come from riding regularly with an experienced trainer but you can also improve your balance, coordination, and flexibility when you aren't in the saddle.

Six Easy and Quick Exercises to Improve your Seat

1. Calf Extensions

The problem - How many times have you been told to, 'put your heels down'? Even experienced riders can overlook this very fundamental rule of riding. Forcing your heels down is not the answer as this causes tension in your legs and knees that will inadvertently transfer to your seat and cause your horse to tighten up his back and lose impulsion.

Improve your seat - calf extensions
Calf Extensions

The solution - Your whole leg needs to be relaxed and flexible while riding. To stretch the calf muscles stand on the edge of a step with just the balls of your feet on the step, facing upward. Very gently bounce your body weight a few times to stretch the muscles in your calves. You could build this into a daily workout or do it for a few seconds every now and then when you go upstairs.


The results
- When your hips, knees, and ankles are relaxed and your calf muscles sufficiently flexible, your heels with naturally hang down slightly lower than your toes. This will allow you to maintain a soft seat and stretch your entire leg, wrapping it softly around the barrel of your horse.

2. Ab Curls

The problem - I'm sure your trainer uses the term, 'use your core'. A strong but subtle core is invaluable for slowing and re-balancing your horse. If your core muscles are weak that can result in you feeling heavy and unbalanced to your horse which in turn makes him reluctant to move forward freely.

Improve your seat with ab curls
Ab Curls

The solution - Using a yoga mat, rug, or carpet, lay flat on the floor. Raise your knees slightly and part your feet. Place your hands behind your head with your palms upright. Contract your ab muscles and slowly raise your upper body until your shoulder blades are no longer touching the mat. To start with you will probably only be able to do a few but with regularity and practice, you will improve your core strength and gradually be able to add more repetitions.


The results
 - A strong core will help to make you a stronger more confident rider. You will have more control over your position and balance resulting in a safer and more effective seat.

3. Squats

The problem - Even though we are told to ride with a soft relaxed leg, we still need to be able to count on our leg muscles to respond within a nanosecond whenever we need them. Weak leg muscles make our leg aids ineffective and also cause unbalance in our seat and upper body.

Improve your seat with squats
Squats

The solution - Stand with your legs slightly apart. Keeping your back straight and your body weight over your feet, slowly bend your knees. You can hold onto the back of a chair if you need support. Go down as far as you feel comfortable. The ultimate goal is to get all the way down into a squatting position but this will come with practice.


The results
 - The extra strength in your legs will allow you to sit quietly but give you the ability to use your leg aid efficiently and effectively.

4. Lunges

The problem - Weak leg muscles make it difficult to apply sufficient pressure with your leg aids. Squats, as described above, will help but do not cover all your leg muscles.

improve your seat - lunges
Lunges

The solution - Lunges exercise the muscles that squats miss. Keep your upper body straight with your shoulders relaxed, tighten your core and step forward with one leg. Lower your hips until both knees are bent. Bring your back leg forward and repeat by stepping with the opposite leg.


The results
 - Well-muscled legs will make it easier to apply leg aids without compromising your seat.

5. Bicep and Triceps Curls

The problem - Although most of your hand aids should be subtle you still need to have strength in your arms otherwise your horse could take advantage of you and lean on the bit making him heavy in your hands and on the forehand.

Improve your seat - bicep curls
Bicep Curls
Improve your seat - tricep curls
Tricep Curls

The solution - Bicep Curl - Stand with your upper body straight and a weight in each hand at arm's length. Bend your elbows and bring the weights up toward your shoulders. Hold them in position for a couple of seconds before slowly lowering them down again. Tricep Curls - Hold a weight in both hands and lift it above your head. Allow your hands to drop down behind your head until your arms are nearly straight. Bend your elbows allowing the weight to drop further down. Straighten your arms again and repeat.

The results - Strong, well-toned arms will make many chores around the barn easier but the will also help with upper-body strength and coordination. This will result in a stronger more confident seat.

6. Shoulder stretches

The problem - Another term that trainers like to use is, 'put your shoulders back'. Unless you walk a catwalk for a living I'm pretty sure you don't walk around with your shoulders back and chest extended. Hunched shoulders, while riding, cause you to tip forward, resulting in your upper body being out of balance with the horse.

Improve your seat - shoulder stretches
Shoulder Stretches

The solution - Stand in a doorway. Raise your arms out to the sides. Bend your elbows with your palms facing forward. Place the palms of your hands on the door frame and lean slightly forward putting gentle pressure onto your hands. You should feel a stretch in your chest muscles.

The results - Relaxed shoulder and an open chest result in a solid upper body position and more pleasing overall appearance. They also help to maintain a level, balanced posture.

All exercise routines take repetition and determination to implement but once in place will become part of your normal everyday habits.

 Consult a doctor before implementing any changes in your exercise routine.

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Things Non-horsey People Have Said to Me

Non-horsey commentsI don't claim to know anything about football (American Football to my British readers) and have been known to ask questions when watching a game. It doesn't happen often as I would rather watch paint dry but that's another story altogether. One thing I would never do is comment or give my opinion or try to look like an expert on the subject but I'm sure I've asked a dumb question every now and then.

Here are some things non-horsey people have said to me over the years. I know this will resonate with my horsey friends.

  1. What do you do for exercise? - Because the horse does all the work you know and mucking stalls takes no effort at all.
  2. There's a dead horse in your field. - Yup, they lie down sometimes.
  3. Doesn't it hurt when he nails the shoe to his foot?
  4. You still take lessons? I thought you knew how to ride.
  5. I used to ride as a child so I won't need many lessons.
  6. Ewww he just pooped!
  7. Doesn't it hurt them when you kick them with your legs?
  8. What am I supposed to hold onto? - When I take away the reins for a lunge lesson.
  9. Why is there white stuff coming out of his mouth?
  10. Wow, that's expensive. - When I tell a non-horsey person how much I charge for board but don't explain all the other expenses like insurance, feed, hay, shavings, electricity, repairs, labor, and so on and so on…
  11. Have you ever fallen off?
  12. You have to feed them Christmas Day also?
  13. I don't mind getting up early, I'm usually awake by 9 a.m.
  14. Do you rent out your horses?
  15. I used to have a dog when I was a kid so I know how to look after a horse. - Yes, I did actually have someone say that to me.
  16. What are you feeding him, I thought they just ate apples and sugar cubes?
  17. How does the horse get out of the stall to use the bathroom?
  18. What's that mark on his leg is he injured? - The chestnut. I can't count how many time I've been asked this.
  19. Have you ever eaten horse meat?
  20. Why do you need a saddle?
  21. I once rode a cowboy horse. - I think they meant western horse.
  22. How long does it take a pony to grow into a horse?
  23. Aww, that's a cute foal. - Referring to a mini.
  24. Just pull on the reins. - Advice from a parent to a child who was learning to ride a 20-meter circle.
  25. Why are those horses wearing blindfolds in the field?
  26. You can't include horse riding as exercise. - This wasn't said to me but to the parent of one of my riders by the P.E. coach at her daughter's school. I told her to tell him to come and take a lesson so he could see how wrong he was. A P.E. coach of all people???

This blog isn't intended to offend non-horsey people. It's just light-hearted observations shared with other horsey friends. Feel free to add any comments and questions you have encountered over the years.

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The Things I've learned from Running a Lesson and Boarding Barn

This time last year, May 1st 2015, my husband and I rented a beautiful 125 acre property in Iron Station, just outside Charlotte North Carolina and officially launched White Rose Equestrian Center.

The property came with a 16 stall barn, indoor arena, outdoor arena, many secure fenced areas, and acres of amazing trails. It's a beautiful, unique piece of land and represented my 'field of dreams'. I knew it would be hard work but I also knew I could do it. I have loved the challenge, the fresh air, and of course the horses but it also came with a fair share of stress, sleepless nights, and 13 hour days.

White Rose Fandango at Tryon International Equestrian CenterThe decision to take the barn was scary and one I didn't rush into. I crunched the numbers every which way I could and stepped outside my comfort zone but knew it was something I just had to do. There were highs and lows. Getting a 70 at my first rated show with White Rose Fandango (Annie) was one of the highs. The biggest low was telling my riders that I wasn't going to renew the lease.

Renting isn't for us. We want to run a quality operation and expect things to be up to a certain standard and it's difficult putting money into a property that we will never own. So things are on hold for a while.

It's been a great adventure and we very much appreciate everyone who came along with us.

Here are the things, in no particular order, that I learned over the last 12 months while running a lesson and boarding barn.

  1. Staying in bed until 6:30 a.m. feels like a sleep in
  2. Going to bed after 9:30 p.m. is staying up late
  3. Some horses are crazy
  4. Some horse owners are crazy
  5. Horses can pee twice as much as they drink
  6. It never rains when you want it to
  7. Horses that like each other can, for no apparent reason, suddenly not like each other
  8. Male horses shouldn't be gelded until they've learned to poop in a corner
  9. Winter sucks
  10. I would be rich if I were paid every time I said, "Put your heels down"
  11. I would be rich if I were paid every time I changed the feed chart
  12. Bailing twine, duct tape, and WD40 are a barn girl's best friend
  13. You can't please everyone but it didn't stop me trying
  14. Working outside beats working inside
  15. Looking after a large lesson and boarding barn leaves little time to ride
  16. Tractor driving is fun
  17. Zero-turn driving is scary
  18. Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton are great company when you're mucking stalls
  19. It's great to be up before the dickeries
  20. It's easy to get attached to horses even if they don't belong to you
  21. No-kink hoses don't exist
  22. Working 7 days a week makes it difficult to know what day it is
  23. You can not teach your own children… anything!
  24. Black coffee is better than no coffee
  25. Cold coffee is better than no coffee
  26. Any coffee is better than no coffee
  27. Barn chores produce awesome muscles affectionately known as poop muscles
  28. Growing up in a barn is great for kids of all ages
  29. Fresh shavings smell wonderful
  30. It's harder than you would think to get onto the People of Wal-Mart page
  31. The bite of a horse fly hurts, really hurts!
  32. You never stop learning
  33. I get as much pleasure when my riders do well as I do when I win a blue ribbon
  34. What people do is more telling about them than what they say they will do
  35. Barn swallows (and sandy colored cats) are a great desensitizing tool for horses riding in the indoor
  36. A 33 year old golf cart makes a great barn vehicleGolf Cart at White Rose Equestrian Center
  37. Some people are magnets to anything that bites, stings, stomps, or kicks
  38. Paperwork takes up way more time than you would expect
  39. Eating fast food at 9pm is sometimes the only way to not starve
  40. Good help is hard to come by. I am very grateful to those who were always there for me!!! You know who you are.
  41. The most expensive clothes you own are your show clothes
  42. There are never enough hours in the day
  43. Barn germs don't count
  44. A farmer's tan is a must-have summer fashion accessory
  45. Walking over 140,000 steps in a week is easy-peasy
  46. Hat hair is the only hair style anyone needs
  47. Thank goodness for baseball caps
  48. None of this would have been possible without the help and support of my wonderful husband
  49. It takes a village
  50. It's good to take chances

So as we move onto the next chapter in our lives I would like to thank our boarders, riders, helpers, and volunteers. The last 12 months have been some of the most trying, exciting, funny, tiring, exuberating, rewarding, and challenging of my life. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. And as Dr. Seuss would say, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

Stay tuned.

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Basic Horse Equipment and Use

The kind of horse equipment you need will depend on which equine activity you participate in. This blog concentrates on the basic horse equipment needed to safely enjoy and ride your horse.

Horse equipment is called saddlery or more commonly, tack, and consists of a saddle (fitted with a girth, stirrup leathers, and stirrup irons) and a bridle with an appropriate bit.

Leatherwork

The best material for tack is a good quality leather. Do not be fooled into buying cheaper, low quality leather as it will be hard and brittle and not last as long. Tack is an expensive investment but if looked after correctly it can last you a very long time.

It is vital that:

  • the tack fits the horse and rider (more about this in an upcoming blog)
  • it is the correct type for the job you and your horse will be doing
  • you take good care of it by regularly cleaning it (more about this in an upcoming blog)

Buying Used Tack

If you buy used tack make sure that the leather is good quality and in good condition. Also check that the stitching is still strong and not perished. If you are buying a used saddle it is imperative that the tree is not broken or twisted. To check for a broken tree hold the cantle of the saddle against your hip and try to pull the pommel towards you. If it is a fixed tree there shouldn't be any movement at all. If it is a spring tree you should feel a gentle flexing that springs back into place when you release the pressure. To check for a twisted tree look from the cantle towards the pommel to make sure they are in line with each other. Also check that the front arch under the pommel does not move or make a noise when you put pressure downwards onto it. If the leather on the seat is wrinkled or stretched in any way there is probably some internal damage to the saddle and you shouldn't buy it.

Synthetic Tack

Synthetic tack is becoming more and more popular and can be a cheaper alternative. It is also lighter than leather which makes it easier for children to handle. If you do decide to buy synthetic tack make sure it is a reputable make as some of the non-named brands are cheaply made and do not last very long. I personally do not like synthetic tack but I have friends who swear by it so it really is a personal decision.

Metalwork

The metalwork on your saddle and bridle (stirrup irons, buckles, bits, etc.) should be made of top quality steel. Stainless steel is the best as it resists staining and discoloration, doesn't chip or flake, and is very durable. Nickel (often found on cheap tack) can be dangerous as it is much softer and can bend or break.

Bridles

The Parts of a Bridle and Functions

  • Headpiece and Throatlash - these are made from one piece of leather. Together with the cheek pieces the headpiece supports the bit. The throatlash helps to keep the bridle in place by fastening loosely under the horses throat. When fitted correctly you should be able to fit four fingers, sideways, between the leather and the horse's neck.
  • Browband - this lies across the brow of the horse and prevents it from slipping back. It should be tight enough so as not to sag away from the head but not so tight that I causes the headpiece to rub the back of the ears.
  • Cheekpieces - these attach to the headpiece at the top and the bit at the bottom. They should be snug enough to hold the bit in place but not so tight that the bit pulls up into the horse's mouth.
  • Bit - the bit attaches to the cheekpieces and reins. It should protrude about ¼ inch or the width of your little finger at each side of the horse's mouth. When the bridle is on the horse the bit should make the horse look as if he is very slightly smiling. Sometimes bits are made of copper, sweet iron, or aurigan to give the bit a more palatable taste for the horse and encourage salivation. For a more robust feel some horses prefer a bit made of vulcanized rubber. Often times you will have to try a few different bits before you find one your horse really likes.
  • Reins - they attach to the bit and are used to help steer the horse. They are available in different types of material.
    • Plain leather - they look very smart but can be slippery when wet
    • Leather With Grips - these have good grip but only at certain intervals along them so can be restrictive for subtly altering the amount of contact
    • Laced or Plaited - less slippery than plain leather but more expensive and more difficult to clean
    • Rubber Over Leather - these give the best grip especially in rain or on a sweaty horse. They are also available in different colors for anyone wanting to be color coordinated which is very popular these days. Another option with these reins are Rainbow Reins with bands of different colors. These are great for teaching novice riders where to hold the reins.
    • Rubber Reins - these are usually used with a rubber (rather than leather) bridle. They are very easy to keep clean as you can wash them with soap and water but are slippery and not very pliable
    • Nylon Reins - not very popular with English riders anymore
  • Noseband - the cavesson noseband is the standard type and the only kind to which a standing martingale can be attached. You should be able to fit two fingers under it at the nose. It should be positioned with a 'two fingered' space under the projecting cheek bone.

Parts Of A Bridle

Parts of a Bridle

Saddles

There are many different makes and models of saddles available. The main types are:

  • Jumping Saddle (Close Contact) - has a flat seat with the panels cut forwards. It is designed for riding with shorter stirrup leathers and can have large knee-rolls which help to keep the rider's legs in the correct place.
  • Dressage Saddle - has a deep seat and straight cut flaps. It usually has extra long billets and uses a shorter dressage girth. This design allows the rider to sit deep with the correct leg position.
  • General Purpose - designed for general riding and is a cut between a dressage and jumping saddle. Due to the fact that tack is so expensive most pleasure riders use a general purpose saddle

Saddle Sizes

It is important that the saddle fits both the horse and the rider. (More about this in a later blog).

Saddles are measured from the pommel to the cantle. Standard sizes are 15" - 18". If the saddle has a cut back head it is measured from the stud at the side of the pommel to the cantle. The size of the saddle is determined, generally by the size of the rider but should never be too long on a horse's back as it would put too much pressure on his kidneys.

They are available in three widths - narrow, medium, and wide. Some pony saddle are also available in extra wide. The width is determined by the shape of the horse's back and withers.

Anatomy Of A Saddle

Tree

The tree is the foundation of the saddle and is usually made of laminated wood but plastic and fiberglass are also used. A spring-tree saddle has a strip of flexible steel in the tree on both sides of the waist which gives the saddle a less ridged feel for both horse and rider but they are more expensive to buy. Quality saddles are usually stamped with the name or logo of the manufacturer on the panel along with the size. Sometimes it is a on a metal plate. On older saddles this was stamped onto the stirrup-bar.

Seat

The seat is the top of the saddle, between the pommel and cantle, where the rider sits. It is formed by strips of webbing stretched across the tree. It is then padded and covered with leather or a synthetic material. The deeper the seat the more secure the rider will be.

Girth Straps Or Billets

These are attached to the webbing strips that form the seat. The first strap is attached to one piece of webbing and the second and third straps are attached to another. For safety reasons you should always attached your girth to the first strap and either the second or third, never the second and third.

Stirrup-Bars

These are attached to the tree. They should be open ended to allow the stirrup-leathers to slide off should the rider fall from the horse and get their foot stuck in the stirrup. On most saddles the stirrup-bars have a hinge that can be turned up to prevent the stirrups from falling off a horse that is being lead or lunged. NEVER ride with the bar turned up. Bars that are not open ended or are in the shape of a sideways D (usually on a pony pad) should never be used without safety stirrups.

Panel

This is the underside of the saddle that lies against the horse's sides. Some panels have knee rolls at the front and some even have thigh rolls behind the rider's leg, all designed help keep the rider's leg in the optimal position. It usually comes down almost to the bottom of the saddle-flap. A half-panel reaches half way down the saddle flap and has a large sweat flap to stop the girth buckle from pinching the horse's skin. These are not very common any more.

Flap

The flap is the outer part, that covers the panel, where the rider's leg lies. The size and shape is determined by the style and use of the saddle as it helps position the rider's leg correctly.

Gullet

The gullet is actually the space between the bars of the saddle but is generally known as the space under the saddle and rests above the horse's spine. There should be enough clearance so that no part of the saddle is ever in contact with the horse's spine. The width of some saddles can be altered with inter-changeable gullets.

Waist Or Twist

This is between the seat and the pommel. The size of the waist can greatly effect the comfort of the saddle for the rider.

Pommel

The very front of the saddle. It is higher than the seat and helps provide stability for the rider. It needs to be high enough so that it does not rub against the horse's withers. The pommel of a jumping saddle is lower than that of a dressage saddle allowing the rider to ride in two-point (forward) position.

Cantle

The back of the saddle that is higher than the seat. It, along with the pommel, gives the rider security in the saddle.

Skirt

A small piece of leather that covers the stirrup bar to help prevent rubbing on the inside of the rider's leg.

Stuffing

The stuffing in a saddle is normally wool, synthetic, foam, or felt. The saddle should be stuffed evenly and never feel lumpy. As saddles get older they sometimes need re-stuffing. This can also be called re-flocking.

D Rings

Metal rings attached to the saddle and used to attach various items. The ones on the front are mainly used to connect a breastplate. They are also useful for attaching a strap for novice riders who are learning to balance and riding on the lunge. The ones on the sides near the seat can be used for saddle bags. Not all saddles have the rear D rings.

Parts Of A SaddleParts of a Saddle, Horse EquipmentIMAGE OF A SADDLE

Girths

This is what holds the saddle in place so it is vital that it fits comfortably and correctly. The size is measured from end to end including the buckles. They can be made from many different materials.

  • Leather - if correctly looked after these look very smart and are comfortable for the horse but are expensive to buy.
  • Three-Fold - is a single piece of soft leather, cut straight and folded to form three layers with two buckles at each end. Between the folds there should be a piece of flannel or other material, which should be soaked occasionally in neatsfoot oil to keep the leather soft. The folded edge should be towards the front of the horse.
  • Balding - one piece of leather with two buckles on each end. The center part is divided into three strips. They are crossed over and stitched in the middle. This reduces the width of the girth behind the elbow of the horse where it could cause girth galls. Because the leather is in strips make sure they do not pinch the horse's skin between them.
  • Atherstone - made of one piece of leather with two buckles on each end, it is shaped similar to the Balding but it has a leather strip stitched down the center on the outside to hold the shape. This style also helps prevent girth galls.
  • Fleece - this is a synthetic material with a fleece lining designed to wick away moisture from the horse's skin. These are popular with hunt seat riders.
  • Dressage - these girths also come in various different materials and are usually much shorter than regular girths as the billets on a dressage saddle are longer.

Stirrup Irons

These should be made of stainless steel and be the correct size for the person riding the horse. They should allow ½" at each side of the rider's boot. Rubber treads help to stop the foot from slipping. It is very dangerous for a person to ride with stirrups that are too big, allowing their foot to slip all the way through. Children and small adults who, if they got their foot caught in the stirrup and fell off, might not be heavy enough to pull the stirrup leather off the stirrup bar should use safety stirrups.

  • Peacock or Safety Stirrups - these stirrups have a thick roll of rubber along the outside of the iron. This rubber will easily snap off if someone falls from the horse making it far less likely that they will get their foot caught in the stirrup. The disadvantages are that it does not hang level as it is heavier on one side. The rubber perishes over time and needs to be replaced. They have also been know to bend under extreme pressure.
  • Bent Leg - these have a curve or bend on one side. The bend should be to the outside and bend towards the front. They hang straighter than the Peacock style  but you may find that your foot slips out of them until you get used to how they feel.

It is essential to use a safety stirrup with a saddle that does not have an open ended stirrup bar.

Stirrup Leathers

The stirrup leather passes through the stirrup bar and the gap in the top of the stirrup iron. The have a buckle to adjust the length. All leather stretches over time so make sure the holes are still level on each one. It is a good idea to regularly swap over the left and right leathers as the left one will stretch more because of the rider mounting from that side. Stirrup leathers should be shortened periodically at the buckle end so that they don't always wear in the same place. They can be made of different types of leather and other materials.

  • Ordinary Leather - if this is top quality leather it looks the smartest but can break under extreme pressure. They are usually used for showing.
  • Rawhide - these are virtually unbreakable and usually used by cross country riders. They can look thick and clumsy.
  • Buffalo Hide - these are also virtually unbreakable but are reddish in color and don't always match the color of the saddle. They are more prone to stretching than other leathers.
  • Synthetic - made from a synthetic material they are easy to clean. The thin material kind are flexible but crack and flake easily. The thick rubber kind aren't very pliable making it difficult to adjust the length.

Martingales

There are four different types of martingales. They are all used to help control the horse.

  • Running - this is attached to the girth and passes between the forelegs and through the neck strap. It then splits into two and each piece has a ring on the end. The reins pass through the rings. When fitted correctly the ring should reach up into the horse's throat or back to the withers. It should only come into play if the horse lifts his head too high. It should not be used to keep the horse's head down. The buckle on the neck strap should be on the left side and allow four fingers clearance between the strap and the withers. The straps with the rings on should not be twisted when passing the reins through.
  • Standing - this is attached to the girth and passes between the forelegs and through the neck strap. It is then attached to the back of a cavesson noseband (or the cavesson part of a flash noseband). It should be long enough to reach up to the horses throat or back to the withers. The buckle on the neck strap should be on the left side and allow four fingers clearance. It is used to stop the horse from raising his head above the level of control. A standing martingale is more restrictive than a running martingale.
  • Irish - this is two rings connected with a strap approximately 4" long. It is used under the horse's neck with the reins passed through it. It is used to keep the reins in place and close to the horse's neck and to help prevent them from coming over the horse's neck should the rider fall off. It is often used in horse racing.
  • Bib - this is a combination of a running and Irish martingale. A bib fills the space where the running martingale divides into two. It is fitted the same way as a running martingale and has the same effect but also keeps the reins closer together.

Breastplate

There are various different types of breastplate but they are all designed to prevent the saddle from slipping backwards. They attached to the D rings on the front of the saddle and between the forelegs and onto the girth. They should be tight enough to be effective but not so tight that they interfere with the horse's movement.

Crupper

This is used to stop a saddle or roller from slipping forwards. It is a loop that fits around the horse's dock and a strap which fastens onto the D ring on the back of the cantle. The part that fits around the dock can be made of soft folded leather but the more expensive ones are hollowed leather filled with crushed linseed which, when warmed by the horse's body heat, releases oil through the leather which reduces the chance of rubbing. They are most often used on small ponies with flat withers.

Saddle Pads

These come in all shapes and sizes and are used, under a saddle, to provide extra padding and to keep the underside of the saddle clean. They are fitted with webbing on each side and at the bottom. One saddle billet should pass through the webbing at the top and the girth should pass through the webbing at the bottom. This helps prevent the pad from slipping backwards. When tacking up pull the pad up into the gullet of the saddle so that it doesn't put pressure on the horse's spine. Also make sure that it lies flat under the saddle. If it is wrinkled in any way it will be uncomfortable and could cause pressure points on the horse's back. Pads can be fitted or rectangular in shape. Fitted pads should be the correct size for the saddle and be slightly bigger, about 2" all the way around. Generally, fitted pads are used for hunt seat riding whereas rectangular pads are used for dressage, jumpers, and cross country.

Types of Saddle Pads

  • Cotton Covered Foam - these are very popular and available in many different colors. They are easy to look after and can be machine washed. They are only semi-absorbent and shouldn't be used if they are damp. They should be washed regularly.
  • Sheepskin - these are the best as it is a natural fiber and absorbs sweat easily however they are expensive to buy.
  • Synthetic Sheepskin - these vary in price and quality. The types that absorb sweat are suitable but the others should be avoided.
  • Felt - although not used very often anymore they are absorbent and good at minimizing pressure or concussion. They are expensive and difficult to keep clean.

No matter what kind of riding you do or what kind of tack you own it is very important to look after it and keep it clean and in good repair.

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