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Correctly Handling Horses

Precaution and common sense should be the key elements whenever you are approaching and handling horses. They are living creatures with a mind and will of their own and should be treated with a firm yet respectful hand. Care should always be taken when handling horses in order to keep you, other people, and the horse safe, and to prevent accidents. Consistency also helps the horse to understand his role in the relationship and behave appropriately.

Even though horses have been domesticate for many years they still rely on their natural instincts to stay safe. If they feel threatened they will try to run away or, if cornered, can kick or bite to protect themselves. Whenever you are around horses you should be calm, move slowly, and speak softly. Loud or sudden movements or noise could startle them. Different surroundings or experiences can also cause a horse to become nervous. If this happens pat and stroke him gently and speak calmly to him.

Whenever possible, approach a horse towards his shoulder rather than straight towards his face or from behind. Due to the placement of the horse's eyes on the side of his head he has good all around vision but does have a blind spot directly in front and behind. Let him know that you mean him no harm by walking slowly and talking to him in gentle tones. If he will let you, stroke his neck or shoulder rather than his face or nose.

If he is tied up and must be approached from behind, let him know you are there by talking to him before you approach. Although he can see behind him, due to the position of his eyes on the sides of his face, he does have a blind spot directly behind his rump. NEVER approach a horse directly from behind without first talking to him as he might be snoozing. If he is startled by you he could kick out in defense. Once he hears you and turns his head and can see you it is usually safe to approach him. Be vigilant and calm at all times.

Some Basic Rule For Correctly Handing Horses

  • do not run, shout, or make loud noises around horses
  • remember that some things that we take for granted might seem scary to a horse if he hasn't encountered them before. These can be anything from dogs, chickens, and other unfamiliar animals to balls, children's toys, or items blowing in the wind etc.
  • pay attention to where your horse puts his feet. He might accidentally step on your foot and not even realize. You should ALWAYS wear strong, sturdy footwear at the barn and never approach a horse in sandals, flip-flops, or bare feet.
  • avoid being around the rear of a horse unless you are working on him i.e. grooming, picking out feet, applying a tail bandage, etc. If you have to be behind a horse use caution and keep one hand on him at all times. If he moves quickly you will not only see this movement but also feel it and be able to act accordingly.
  • always have BOTH feet on the ground at all times (sometime this rule may have to be broken if you are braiding the mane of a tall horse, more about that later). Do not sit or kneel on the ground near a horse as that would make it too difficult to get out of harms way should the need arise.
  • do not take food into a field full of horses even if you have a horse who is difficult to catch. If you are surrounded by a group of horses all trying get to the food you are in a very dangerous position.
  • when you are handling horses around other people you need to also be aware of their actions and behavior too. Politely show them how to behave and act in order to keep everyone safe.

How to Catch a Horse

Some horses are easier to catch than others and some are almost impossible. For the purpose of this explanation we will assume that the horse is reasonably easy to catch. (We will cover in a later blog series how to retrain a horse that is difficult to catch). One way to avoid ending up with a horse that is difficult to catch is to ensure that you catch your horse for reasons other than work. Catch him, from time to time,  just to groom him or give him a treat and he will be far more likely to come to you in the field.

How to catch a horse
Safely catching a horse and bringing him in from the field.

Enter the field calmly but with purpose. Walk towards your horse's shoulder, rather than his face or hindquarters, and call his name softly. Make sure that he has seen you, then walk up and slip the lead rope around his neck. Pat him gently on the neck or shoulder. With the lead rope still around his neck, carefully put on his halter (see next paragraph). Lead him out of the field making sure to avoid any of the other horses that are in there with him. If there are horses gathered around the gate area use a stern but quite voice and, if necessary, hand gestures to make them move. Do not lead a horse through a group of other horses as this would put you in a dangerous position. Open the gate wide enough for both of you to get through safely but not wide enough that any other horses could escape. You might want to take someone with you to hold the gate until you feel comfortable doing this alone.

How to Put on A Halter

If a horse is loose in a stall or a field you will need to catch him and put on his halter. To halter a horse stand close to his left shoulder, facing forward. Loosely loop the lead rope around his neck near his ears to keep him still. Some halters have a buckle and some have a clasp therefore fitting them will be slightly different depending on which kind you are using.

Using a Halter With a Buckle

Standing near the horse's left shoulder and facing forwards, hold the halter buckle in your left hand and the crown-piece (strap) in your right hand. Reach under his neck with your right hand and guide his nose carefully into the noseband. Pass the crown-piece over the top of his poll and attach it to the buckle on his left cheek.

Using a Halter With a Clasp

Standing near the horse's left shoulder and facing forwards, make sure the clasp is open on the halter. Guide his nose into the noseband and gently lift the crown-piece over his ears, one at a time. Reach under his chin for the clasp and attach it to the ring on the left side of his cheek.

How to Lead and Turn a Horse at Walk and Trot Up In Hand

You should always use a halter and lead rope to lead a horse unless he is bridled. Never lead him by holding onto the halter. If something goes wrong and you let go he could run off and endanger himself or others or he could drag you off balance causing you injury.

A horse should be accustomed to being led from either side but the most accepted way to lead a horse is from the left (near side). The lead rope should be attached to the center 'O' ring under the horse's jaw. Hold the lead rope, in your right hand, close to the ring but DO NOT put your hand on the ring or your finger through it. Hold the remaining lead rope folded in your left hand. DO NOT wrap any of the lead rope around any parts of your body.

Ask your horse to walk on by standing near his left shoulder facing the direction you wish to go. Say 'walk on' and start to move. Most horses will oblige and start to walk. If he does not walk do not be tempted to get ahead of him or start pulling on his head. Carry a crop in your left hand and, reaching back behind you, tap him gently on this flanks. If you don't have a crop with you, you can use the loose end of the lead rope. You should continue to look ahead and remain next to his shoulder. Once he starts to walk make sure that your right arm is outstretch so as to keep him at arm's length preventing him from stepping on you by accident.

To turn a horse you are leading, whenever possible, turn him away from you. Steady him  by putting a little pressure on the halter by pulling very slightly on the lead rope. Move your right arm further away from you and move him to the right. Stay at his shoulder. By turning him this way he is more likely to stay in balance than if you pulled him towards you. He is also less likely to step on you as he turns.

To make him trot do the same as you did to make him walk. Stay next to his shoulder, say 'trot on' and start to jog. If he does not move into the trot use the crop behind your back with a gentle tap on his flanks. The lead rope should be slack enough to allow him to carry the weight of his head naturally but not so slack that he, or you, might get your legs caught up in it.

Leading and trotting a horse up in hand, along with standing a horse up (see next section) is usually done without a saddle for either a veterinary inspection, for someone considering buying the horse, or for a judge at a show. The horse should be able to move freely and confidently but not hurried or unbalanced. If you need to lead a horse in an unfamiliar setting it would be best to put him in a bridle, instead of a halter, which would give you more control. It is usual to walk a horse away from the person inspecting it and then directly back towards them. They should move out of your way allowing you to pass  by them. They will then usually ask you to do the same in trot.

How to Stand a Horse Up Correctly

The term standing a horse up simply means he is standing still, looking attentive, and showing his confirmation to the best advantage. He should stand square. This means his front legs and back legs should be next to each other with his weight evenly distributed between all four legs. If he isn't standing squarely move him forwards slightly and stop again until he is. You should stand in front of him facing his head so that you don't obstruct the view of the person looking at him. If he is wearing a halter place one hand on each side of the noseband with the end of the lead rope in your left hand. If he is bridled hold one rein in each hand near to the bit. Raise your elbows slightly so that he doesn't try to nibble your wrists.

How to Hold a Reasonably Quiet Horse for Treatment, Shoeing, or Clipping

No matter how often your horse has been tied and expected to remain in one place there may come a time when you have to hold him for some reason. Whatever the reason, the most important thing is that you and the horse are both secure and safe.

Holding a Horse for Treatment

If your horse needs to be treated by a vet, the best thing to do is to listen carefully and follow their instructions. However, you know your horse and you might want to suggest that they treat him either in the stable or out of the stable depending on whichever he prefers. If you think he might be difficult to control it would be best to put him in a bridle instead of a halter. Do not tie him up. If you are using a halter and lead rope you could thread the lead rope through the Equi-Ping™ or breakable string but do not tie it, not even with a quick release knot. Your horse will probably think he is tied up but it still gives you the freedom to act should a difficult situation arise. Stand on the same side as the vet, unless they tell you otherwise. Do not, however, get in their way. When the vet has finished the treatment listen carefully to their instructions and be sure to follow them exactly. If they are complicated, write them down.

Holding a Horse for Shoeing

The same as above would apply but it will not always be possible to stand on the same side as the farrier as you might get in his way. If necessary, stand facing the horse as you would when standing him up.

Holding a Horse for Clipping

The same as above. Listen to the person doing the clipping and do as they ask.

How to Tie a Horse Up

The best way to secure a horse is either with a halter and lead rope or with a halter and cross ties. NEVER tie a horse up with a bridle. It is an expensive piece of tack to replace if broken. It can also result in a broken jaw of you tie up to the bit and the horse pulls away suddenly.

Tying Up to a Single Securing Ring

The lead rope should be fastened to the 'O' ring at the back of the noseband. Always use a quick release knot and NEVER tie directly onto the securing ring but instead use an Equi-Ping™ or breakable string (bailing twine works well for this). Although the reason for tying up the horse is to secure him in one place, it is very dangerous if he tries to break free and cannot. He could seriously injure himself in any struggle that might ensue. It is better for him to break loose.

Unless the horse is very trustworthy only tie him up in a stable or other enclosed place. Never tie him to an unsafe object such as a loose fence or thin branch on a tree. The securing ring should be placed high enough so that he cannot get his legs caught over the lead rope. Never tie him to a hay net. (Do not tie the hay net to the breakable string, it should be tied directly to the securing ring). If the horse tends to chew the lead rope either soak it in an unpalatable (but not poisonous) substance or use a chain. If you use a chain the breakable string should be between the chain and the halter not on the securing ring. You wouldn't want your horse to break loose and drag a chain along with him.

Cross-Tying

Cross-tying is very popular in America and is a means of tying a horse with two lead ropes or chains rather than just one. The horse is positioned between two walls or strong posts about 6 ½ feet apart, with the ropes or chains fastened to the Ds on each side of the halter. In barns where this kind of tying up is common practice the cross-ties are permanent fixtures. They should always have some kind of Tie Safe™ or quick release mechanism attached to them. Do not use them if they don't. They are often used in grooming or wash stalls as they do not allow the horse to move as much thereby giving you more control. They should always be used if you are transporting on horse in a double trailer without the center partition.

How to Turn a Horse Out in a Field

When you are ready to turn your horse out into the field lead him there in either a halter or bridle. Usher away any horses that might be standing at the gate. Open the gate wide enough for you both to pass through safely. Make sure you close and latch the gate behind you. Walk him a little way into the field and turn around to face the gate. By doing this he will have to turn around before he can run into the field to join the other horses. If you let him go while he is facing into the field he could run over you by mistake in his haste to join his friends. If there is more than one of you turning horses out, make sure you all let go of them at the same time. If not you could be dragged along if your horse tries to run off before you have let him go.

Whenever you are around or handling horses safety is of the utmost importance. By following the rules above you should be able to enjoy your time at the barn and around horses and ponies.

Previous Blog - Identifying Horses
Next Blog - Grooming a Horse

The content of this blog is copyrighted © and my not be reproduced in print or electronically without the written permission of White Rose Equestrian Center. It may be shared socially if linked back to this website. For more information contact us.

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Identifying Horses

Horses and ponies come in all shapes and sizes and characteristics can vary enormously. Horses are identified not only by sex but also size (height), colors and markings, age, breed, temperament, and sometimes body style or suitability for a certain job.

A typical description could sound like - Quiet 15.2 h.h. Tb, bay mare. Four white socks, 10 years old, never raced, working on second level dressage movements. Along with a photograph and a short video, the above description tells you just about all you need to know about the horse. Below is a breakdown of the different descriptions and what they mean.

Sex

Of course a horse is either a male or female but there are also other distinctions within those categories as follows:

  • Foal - general term for a young horse, male or female
  • Yearling - a young horse of either gender between the age of one and two
  • Filly - a female horse under four years of age
  • Colt - a male horse under four years of age if he hasn't been gelded
  • Mare - a female horse over the age of four
  • Maiden Mare - a mare who has never been bred
  • Barren Mare - a mare who is not able to become pregnant for health or age reasons or has had at least one foal but isn't currently able to conceive
  • Gelding - a male horse who has been castrated
  • Stallion - a male, intact, horse (one who has not been castrated)
  • Sire - a male horse who has produced offspring
  • Dam - a female horse who has produced offspring

Size

A horse is measured to the highest point of the withers, on level ground, with a measuring stick. They are measured in 'hands' which equates to four inches. A pony is generally considered to measure up to 14.2 h.h. (hands high) and a horse 14.3 h.h. and taller. The exception to this rule are miniature horses. They are equines that measure less than 24 - 38 inches (depending on breed) but retain the physical characteristics of a horse. They are considered horses by their respective registries.

For some disciplines it is important to be able to prove the size of your horse with a measurement card. More information about this can be found on the United State Equestrian Federation website.

Colors

Horses' colors and markings vary enormously and don't always fall into one particular category. The following list identifies the most common descriptions:

  • Albino - white hair with pink skin
  • Appaloosa - although an appaloosa is technically a breed they are easily recognized by the markings of spots on some or all of their body. The variations are numerous. You can find more information on the Appaloosa Horse Club page.
  • Bay - brown with black points (points are generally described at lower leg, forelock, mane, and tail). Bays can be bright (almost chestnut), dark (almost black), and light.
  • Black - black with black points
  • Brown - brown with brown points
  • Buckskin - various shades of coat that resembles tanned deerskin. They can look similar to duns but do not have a dorsal stripe.
  • Chestnut - ginger or reddish all over with either the same colored mane and tail or a flaxen (light blonde) mane and tail. They can be liver chestnut (dark almost bay colored) or bright chestnut (bright ginger). A chestnut horse can also be referred to as a sorrel.
  • Dun - golden or mouse colored with a dark mane and tail. They have a list or dorsal stripe down their back. A grullo dun has tan/grey hairs with dark points.
  • Grey - either white or white and black hairs mixed
    • Iron Grey - mostly black
    • Light Grey - mostly white
    • Flea Bitten Grey - dark hairs in tufts
    • Dappled Grey - mottled markings
  • Paint - in America the Paint horse is a breed rather than a color which combines the characteristics of a Western stock horse with markings of white and dark colors. In the United Kingdom colored horses are described as:
    • Piebald - white and black
    • Skewbald - white and brown
  • Palomino - golden with a white or flaxen mane and tail
  • Cremello - a pale creamy color with pink skin, not to be confused with an albino
Chestnut mare with stripe, snip, and white pastern
Chestnut mare with stripe, snip, and white pastern

There are wide variations within each of these categories and horses can change color throughout their lives. If a horse is none of the above it is described as odd colored although I have yet to come across a horse that can't be squeezed into one or more of the above categories.

Markings

Face

  • Blaze - broad white mark between the eyes and down the face
  • Flesh Marks - pink marks
  • Star - white mark on the forehead
  • Stripe - a thin white mark down the face
  • Snip - white mark near the nostril area
  • White Face - a blaze covering one or more eye

Eyes

  • Wall Eye - a white or blue eye

Leg

  • Ermine Marks - dark marks on white
  • Sock - white above the fetlock but below the knee or hock
  • Stocking - white to above the knee or hock
  • White Pastern - white on pastern but not over the fetlock
  • Whorl - a circle of hair

Age

Generally speaking a horse's age is calculated on January 1st from the year of its birth. Therefore a horse that was born on May 2nd of 2012 would be classed as a three year old on January 1st 2015 even though it hadn't reached it's birth date yet. Also see the descriptions of sex above in the this chapter for terminology to describe horses at various stages in their life.

Breed

There are so many different breeds of horses it would take up a whole section to write about them all. I will list the most popular breeds along with their characteristics.

  • Arabian - has a distinct dished face, high head and tail carriage and ranges is size from 14.1 - 15.1 h.h. They can, but don't always, have a hot temperament. Suitable for endurance riding, showing in hand and under saddle, and many other equestrian fields.
  • Andalusian - also known as the Pure Spanish Horse the breed originates from the Iberian Peninsular. They are strongly built yet elegant with long, thick manes and tails. They excel at dressage, showing, driving, and jumping. See pictures of White Rose Fandango our Andalusian.
  • Appaloosa - best known for their varied spotted markings their body types and sizes vary greatly ranging from 14 - 16 h.h. They are regularly used in both Western and English disciplines. See pictures of Sierra our appaloosa.
  • Belgian - a draught horse and one of the strongest of the heavy breeds it stands, on average, between 16.2 - 17 h.h. but can grow taller. They are normally light chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail. Generally used for pulling heavy weights but can also do well in the show ring and for pleasure riding.
  • Clydesdale - a draught horse named after the Clydesdale region of Scotland. They are energetic, well mannered, and showy and used for pulling heavy loads. The most well known are the Budweiser Clydesdales.
  • Friesian - originating from the Netherlands they are a light draught horse. They are nimble and elegant and normally stand around 15.3 h.h. but can range from 14.2 - 17 h.h. and more. Recognized for their shiny black coat, thick mane and tail and feathered legs they can be used for driving but also do well in other equestrian disciplines under saddle.
  • Lippizana - originating from the Andalusian horse the breed was developed in Austria and is synonymous with the Spanish Riding School of Vienna. They are famous for performing 'airs above the ground' and an excellent choice as a dressage horse at any level.
  • Morgan - one of the earliest breeds to be developed in the United States they were originally used as coach horses for harness racing. It's a compact, refined breed usually bay, black, or chestnut and versatile enough for most English and Western disciplines.
  • Mustang - free roaming horses in the west of North America they are direct descendants of the horses brought over by the Spanish. They are small and compact and very hardy. They usually range from 13 - 16 h.h. and do well in any number of English and Western disciplines. A mustang bred in the wild will have an identifying freeze brand on the left side of the neck. See pictures of Jellybean our mustang.
  • Paint - developed by breeding Quarter Horses, colored horses, and Thoroughbreds the Paint Horse is the fastest growing breed in North America. Their markings are white and any other color of the equine spectrum. They are generally considered to be Western horses but also do well in just about any equine discipline. They are especially good trail horses. See pictures of Moon our paint.
  • Percheron - an agile, powerful draught horse that originates from western France. They are usually grey or black and range from 16.2 to 17.3 h.h. They can be used for driving, fox hunting, and show jumping.
  • Quarter Horse - named for its ability to outrun other breeds over a distance of a quarter of a mile it's the most popular breed in the United States and the largest breed registry in the world. They are generally placid in nature and stocky in build and suitable for most Western discipline but also used in English equitation and driving.
  • Saddlebred - descended from riding horses and including breeds such as Thoroughbreds and Morgans they were used by officers during the American Civil War. Averaging between 15 - 16 h.h. they are spirited but have a gentle temperament. They are well known for their high-stepping action in the show ring but also do well in other English disciplines.
  • Shetland - a pony breed originating from the Shetland Isles off the coast of Scotland they range from 7 h.h. (28 inches) to 11.2 h.h. (46 inches). They are stocky and sturdy with a thick coat. They are used for driving and ridden by small children. American Shetlands tend to be more refined than their Scottish cousins.
  • Shire - a large draught horse ranging from 16 - 17 h.h. and over. They are very strong and capable of pulling heavy weights. They are used to draw carts and some breweries in the United Kingdom still use them to deliver supplies to public houses.
  • Tennessee Walking Horse - a gaited horse known for its flashy four-beat running walk. It has a calm temperament and popular as a riding horse both on trails and in the show ring.
  • Thoroughbred - a hot-bloodied horse known for speed and high spirit they are most often used as race horses. They also do well in combined training, show jumping, polo, and fox hunting.
  • Warmblood - a medium-weight horse descended from draughts whose bloodlines were influenced by the introduction of hot bloods (Arabians and thoroughbreds). They were originally bred in Europe and, depending on the country of origin, can be a Trekehner, Hanoverian, Holsteiner, Selle Français, Oldenburg, etc. Unlike most other breeds they do not have a closed stud book (the Trekehner is an exception) which means they allow breeding with other similar populations which promotes performance of the breed in general. They make excellent sport horses and perform well in show jumping and dressage.

Sport Horse - although not actually a breed in itself the term sport horse is used more frequently these days. It can be a variety of breeds suitable for eventing, dressage, show jumping, or hunt seat.

If I have missed off your favorite breed and would like me to add it please let me know and I'll add it.

Previous Blog - Stable Management Knowledge and Care of Horses (overview of the blog series)

Next Blog - Correctly Handling Horses

 

The content of this blog is copyrighted © and my not be reproduced in print or electronically without the written permission of White Rose Equestrian Center. It may be shared socially if linked back to this website. For more information contact us.

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Stable Management Knowledge and Care of Horses

This blog series will set out the requirements and a study guide for anyone interested in learning more about the care of horses. It loosely follows the syllabus for the British Horse Society Assistant Instructor (BHS AI) examination and is the basic requirements needed for anyone considering caring for their own horse. The language has been Americanized for the current audience.

The British Horse Society is a world renowned organization dedicated to the well being of all equines, and those who care for them. They provide welfare services for horses and advice for owners. Their campaigning and lobbying for major equestrian issues on behalf of both horses and riders brings about changes in procedures and laws, and enhances the lives all those involved in the horse community world wide. They also offer the world's leading equestrian qualifications and approval systems.

The sections are broken down as follows:

  • Identifying Horses
  • Correctly Handling Horses
  • Grooming a Horse
  • Basic Horse Equipment and Use
  • Tacking-up, Removing, and Maintaining Tack
  • Braiding, Clipping, and Trimming Horses
  • Shoeing and Hoof Care
  • Watering, Feeding, and Fittening Horses
  • The Care Of Stabled and Grass Kept Horses
  • Fitting Tack and Equipment and the Care of a Horse in Competition
  • Horse Health, Anatomy, and Physiology
  • How to Lunge a Fit Horse for Exercise
  • Fitting and Evaluation Specialized Tack and Equipment
  • Conformation and 'Way of Going'
  • Managing an Equestrian Business
Cooling off on at warm day.
Cooling off on a warm day.

White Rose Equestrian Center in the Lake Norman area of Charlotte, NC offers stable management classes suitable for anyone interested in learning about or furthering their education regarding the care, health, and well being of horses. These classes can also be tailored to home school groups. For more information and costs please contact us or give us a call 704-559-9122.

Next Blog - Identifying Horses

 

The content of this blog is copyrighted © and my not be reproduced in print or electronically without the written permission of White Rose Equestrian Center. It may be shared socially if linked back to this website. For more information contact us.

A Comprehensive Guide to Buying the Right Horse Blanket

How do you know which is the right horse blanket for your horse?

The weather starting to cool down so our thought turn to how we can keep our horses comfortable during cold, inclement weather. You want to be sure he is warm and dry but with the multitude of blankets available to choose from, and the expense incurred when buying one, you need to be sure you get the right one for your horse.

Here is a guide to help you decide which is the right horse blanket for you.

What kind of blanket should I buy?

There are literally hundreds of different styles and types of blanket available, and they can be very expensive, so you should first ask yourself does my horse need a blanket at all.

Most horses can survive, year round, outside, even in extreme climates providing they have adequate body hair and a place to shelter from the wind. In higher elevations or very exposed pastures, even an unclipped horse could benefit from some extra protection in the form of a blanket. A horse who has been clipped (hair removed from its body) MUST wear a blanket while it is turned out during inclement weather but also while stabled. Horses are better at generating body heat while in the pasture as they have the option to move around more. A stabled horse is far more likely to feel the cold.

Once you have decided your horse needs a blanket then you have to make sure you get the right one.

There are basically two different types of horse blanket:

Stable Blanket

Stable blankets are used, as the name would suggest, while the horse is in the stable. They are NOT waterproof and should not be used outside. They are generally made of a quilt type material and fitted to the body. Hoods, usually sold separately, can also be used for more complete coverage of horses with a full body clip.

Turnout Blanket

Turnout blankets are waterproof and come in two different types: standard or combo. A standard turnout blanket covers from the withers to the tail whereas a combo also has a detachable hood to cover from just behind the ears down to the withers.

What size blanket do I need?

How to measure a horse blanketIn order to know what size of blanket to buy you need to measure your horse. If possible get someone to help you with this.

  • Stand your horse, squarely, on a level surface
  • With a flexible tape measure, measure from the center of the horse's chest (over the highpoint of the shoulder) to the rear of the hind leg (level with the point of the buttocks).
  • If the size you measure is not available from the manufacturer, round up to the next size

Will it keep my horse warm enough?

Blankets are generally filled with either Polyfill or Fiberfill and measured in grams. The amount of filling will determine how warm the blanket will be. Knowing how much fill your blanket will need is decided by the following factors:

  • The environment in which your horse will live. Take into consideration not only the weather but also his accessibility to shelter.
  • The condition and length of your horse's coat, and whether or not he is clipped

Below is a chart to help you decide how much fill your blanket will need:

Fill Warmth
Sheet - no fill Provides protection from wind and rain
100 gram fill Light warmth
150 gram fill Light to medium warmth
200 gram fill Medium warmth
250 gram fill Medium to heavy warmth
300 gram fill Heavy warmth
400 gram fill Very heavy warmth

Can my horse wear the same blanket all winter?

It would be very convenient for all concerned if your horse could wear the same blanket all winter long, and some do. However, some days are warmer than others, even in winter (especially if you live in the lower states). Therefore it is a good idea to have at least two stable blankets and two turnout blankets.

Below is a chart to help you decide when to use which blanket:

Temperature Horse with a Full Coat Horse with a Body Clip
50 - 60° F Sheet Light blanket (100g)
40 - 50° F Light blanket (100g) Light to medium blanket (150-250g)
30 - 40° F Light to medium blanket (150g-250g) Medium to heavy blanket (200g-300g)
20 - 30° F Medium to heavy blanket (200-300 g) Heavy (300-400g) or medium (200-300g) with blanket liner
Below 20° F Heavy (300-400g) Heavy (300-400g) with blanket liner

Will the blanket be strong enough not to rip?

Some horses can wear the same blanket season after season and some are so destructive they only have to walk out of the stall and the blanket is in pieces. No matter how much care you take to remove loose boards and projecting nails, accidents will happen. One thing to consider is the strength of the outer material, also known as 'denier'. The thicker the material the stronger it will be.

The following chart will give you an idea of how resilient your blanket will be:

Denier Strength
210 Very light strength
420 Light strength
600 Medium strength
1200 Heavy strength
1680 Extra heavy strength
2100 Super heavy strength

Now you know which kind of blanket you need, how warm and strong it needs to be all that is left is to decide what color to buy. Nowadays that's a whole other subject. Just remember, your horse doesn't care what color or design the blanket is but he will be more content if he is comfortable and warm (not too hot) during the winter. Happy shopping!

Seven Ideas of What to Buy Your Horse For Christmas

what to buy your horse for christmasChristmas is right around the corner and if you are anything like me you will have been procrastinating since the beginning of fall about when you were actually going to start your Christmas shopping.

Time is running out and I know one of the most important 'people' on your list is your horse. Yes, we buy stuff for him all year round but we HAVE to splash out on 'special stuff' at Christmas time. To help you decide, and also save you some money, here are seven simple ideas of what to buy your horse for Christmas. Some of them could also be used as gifts for your other horse crazy friends.

  1.  New brushes to replace the worn out ones in his grooming box.  Don't forget to make sure they are color coordinated with all his other important accessories
  2. A heated bucket to stop his water from freezing.  Not only does it make your life easier but a horse who drinks warmed water during cold weather is less likely to colic.
  3. A Jolly Ball for him to play with while he's stuck in his stall during inclement weather.
  4. Horses, just like people, can benefit enormously from a massage administered by a professional.  A Performance Equine Massage can alleviate stress, bring a sense of calm, and can also prevent minor injuries from becoming major problems.
  5. To show him how much you really care you could bake him some home-made treats.  Not only does it save money but you can be sure you know exactly what he is eating.
  6. You know how photogenic your horse is and how much you like to show him off to your friends.  Why not book a photo session for when the weather picks up?
  7. Another good idea would be to buy yourself some lessons. A balanced rider makes for a happy horse.

 I hope some of these ideas have helped you.  If you have any ideas to share, let us know on our Facebook page.

Happy Holidays!

Intercollegiate Dressage (IDA) Show St. Andrews Equestrian Center October 26th and 27th - Part One

St. Andrews Equestrian CenterI've been to many shows over the years but no matter how many, the preparations the night before are always stressful. Getting ready for my first Intercollegiate Dressage show, as a coach, was no different. And this show lasted two days so it included an overnight in a hotel. So with list in hand I hurried around packing and checking I had everything I needed.

The St. Andrews Equestrian Center is almost three hours from my house and we needed to be there by 9am for the coaches' meeting. I like to give myself extra time, just in case, and I had also offered to car-pool and pick up some of the team on the way. It made more sense for us to travel together. So with my case packed and the alarm set for 4am I bid my husband and daughter goodnight. They were acting as if I was going away for six months not for just one night. As I lie in bed at 9pm I realized I had never been away from them before. I would like to say I didn't want to leave them but that wouldn't be true. I was excited for a girls weekend filled with horses!

I struggled to fall asleep and as is always the case when I have to be up early, my night was restless. Tossing and turning and constantly checking on the time to make sure I hadn't slept in. I was, of course, hard and fast asleep though when the alarm finally went off.

The house was cold and quiet as I tip-toed around, even the dog didn't stir. I fixed some coffee, pulled on my clothes and loaded up the car. Apparently my list wasn't complete as I set off three times before returning for things I had forgotten. One time almost knocking myself unconscious on the trunk of the car. They say things happen in threes so I was confident that the worse was over and the weekend was going to be a great success.

I never look forward to getting up early but once I am up, dressed, and have at least a mouth full of coffee in me I am ready to go. There is something so very special about being awake when everyone else is still asleep. It feels kind of clandestine. As if I'm sneaking around somewhere I shouldn't be.

The roads were almost deserted and I thought I knew where I was going but the GPS on my phone had other plans. It brought me off of I77 earlier than I expected and instead of a straight shot along W. T. Harris it wound me around narrow country roads. I was so sure I was going in the wrong direction I pulled over at one point to check my final destination. Satisfied I was still on the right track I continued and arrived at the CVS on North Tryon just before 5:30 a.m.

A few minutes later everyone else arrived. I was so glad I'd decided to take my van rather than José's truck as we loaded in bags, show clothes, chairs, and a cooler. Blair rode shotgun and Taylor and Iman settled in the back. The sky was still pitch black and the air chilly cold. We headed to I485 and were on our way.

After a short while we left the freeway and began a long trek down a desolate highway 218. Note to self: never travel along this road in the wee small hours if a bathroom break will be required. Eventually we made it to Polkton and turned onto Route 74. A smooth, modern, four-lane highway we headed east and watched as the skies slowly illuminated with fresh morning light. The beginning of a brand new day.

Taylor and Iman had slept most of the way and were just stirring as we approached Laurinburg in Scotland County. A fitting name I though seeing as the college we were heading to was called St. Andrews. A quick peek at the town's website proved that the area had in fact been settled by Scottish immigrants back in the 1800s.

We were all very impressed with the wide, sweeping, tree-lined drive that led to the beautiful, modern barn, acres and acres of pastures, and a multitude of indoor and outdoor riding areas. We had plenty of time to spare. We strolled around exploring until the 9:00 a.m. coaches' meeting.

Part Two to follow soon.

Intercollegiate Dressage Coaching Here I Come!

IDA Logo Intercollegiate DressageBack in the summer on the way to one of the local shows I happened to car-pool with Bailey, the team captain of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte's Intercollegiate Hunt Seat Association team. Wow, that's a mouthful - UNCC IHSA for short. Anyway, we got to talking and I casually asked if they also had an intercollegiate dressage team. Turned out they didn't. So, in kind of a half serious, half joking manner I said, "I'll coach a dressage team for them."

Fast forward a few weeks and I'm told that they had formed a dressage team and that I was the coach. Awesome, nervous, excited… WHAT??? Were just a few thoughts that ran through my head.

Knowing absolutely nothing what-so-ever about Intercollegiate Dressage I attended the team meeting along with the hunt seat coach. I met some of the riders and was happy to know that Blair had ridden on an IDA team before. She had also volunteered to be the team captain. Things started to fall into place.

The team consisted of Blair, Iman, Taylor, Cody, and MacKenzie. Lessons started early September. My first task was deciding which level each rider should ride. Not being familiar with the running of an IDA team and not knowing what the competition was going to be like it was not an easy task but I knew the tests they would have to ride so I based it on that. Blair had ridden Introductory before and hadn't earned enough points to move up so that one was easy. Cody and MacKenzie were both competent riders but also riding on the hunt seat team which meant I would only teach them every other week. It's difficult undoing a forward seat in just sixty minute once a fortnight. So, Cody went into Intermediate with Blair and MacKenzie into Lower Training. Iman is originally from Germany and had ridden dressage before so she slotted nicely into Lower Training and so did Taylor. Our team was set… until Blair told me that we needed to have at least one Upper Training Level rider also. Taylor was the most 'aggressive' of my Lower Training riders so I bumped her up, without telling her I will add. She took the move very casually, thankfully.

Lessons consisted of a combination of basic equitation and riding position improvements and fine tuning the movements in the tests. We rotated between the horses available to us and developed a weekly routine. I saw huge improvements in no time at all. Blair and Taylor practiced at our own Introduction To Dressage Show and we began to get excited as the first show official Intercollegiate Dressage show drew closer.

 

Just about everything that could go wrong did, but that didn't stop us from having fun.

We tried very hard to get there but we clearly weren't supposed to show today

It was dark as we pulled out of our driveway and headed to the barn.  Even the birds were still snoozing.  Isabel chatted away about anything and everything as I ran through in my mind what we had packed and what still needed to be done before we could load.

We snaked through the sleeping town of Davidson, cocooned in a soft, velvet darkness;  the streets eerily silent.  Out into the country heading east on Rocky River Road the distant skyline above the trees was painted in soft streaks of cerise with blends of copper and coral.

"What an amazing time to be alive." I said out loud, punctuating Isabel's ramblings about ponies, and horses, and all things equestrian.

"Yes it is." She agreed.

I feel so blessed to have a passion that I can share with her.

The previous evening at the barn our pre-show routine had finally clicked with her.  She had spent some quality time riding before helping load the trailer and clean tack.  We'd had a conveyor-belt routine down-pat and had everything finished in no time.  We'd decided to bathe Mylie the next day at the show as our class wasn’t until noon which gave us all morning to kill.

As I'd tucked her into bed that night she'd hugged me tightly and whispered in my ear.

"I love you mum.  Thank you for getting everything ready for my show."  If love could be measure in a bucket, I had enough to fill every ocean on the planet.  What a sweetheart she is.

We pulled into the barn and were immediately greeted by a plethora of activity.  Horses and ponies stood patiently in the grooming stalls while everyone busied themselves.

Hauling a trailer is like riding a bike; once you learn how to do it you never forget.  With the guidance of Liss I backed up perfectly, first try, and hooked everything into place.  In the barn I wrapped Mylie's legs with the travel bandages then went back outside to do the final checklist before loading up.

And that's when the fun started.  The lights on the trailer wouldn't work.  We unplugged the cable; rubbed it, shook it, blew on it, and any number of other non-technical things but nope, no way were the lights going to come on.  We put it down to the trailer almost being swept away recently when a storm surge gushed through the farm but that's another story all together.

We contemplated taking the trailer anyway without lights but it would also mean the electric brakes wouldn't work and that wasn't something I was willing to risk especially loaded up with very precious cargo.  So Liss got on the phone and called for help.  Her good friend A. C. had a trailer not too far way that we could borrow.  We quickly unhitched and set out to pick it up.

By now it must have been around 7:00 a.m. and the rest of civilization was beginning to stir.  We dashed along country lanes, through Huntersville and back out the other side.  Without even announcing our arrival we pulled up to the unsuspecting trailer, attached it to the back of the truck and set off back to the barn.  We tested and reset the brakes and pulled onto the highway.

Now I've pulled many different trailers over the years with many different vehicles and they all have their own individual feel to them.  And this one felt like a troop of gymnasts were perfuming a routine inside it.   I mentioned that it felt very bouncy but didn't give it much more thought.  About half way back to the barn Liss said in an extremely calm voice.

"You might want to slow down, do you have a 2 and 5/16th ball by any chance." Liss asked me after receiving a text message.

I had no idea and to be honest didn't even know what size ball was on the hitch on the truck.

"Don't know." Was my answer and picked up the phone to call José.

The previous week he had been working his on-call week and was trying to sleep in.  His sleepy reply quickly turned into a completely wide away response when he realized we were towing a trailer with a ball too small for the socket.  But what were we supposed to do?  Even if we decided to take it back we still had to tow it there and we weren't about to abandon it at the side of the road.  So fully aware that it could bounce off at any given moment I gingerly continued our journey.  Thank goodness Liss knows everyone there is to know in the horse community around town.  We stopped off at another barn on the way and changed out the ball.

By now we had been missing about an hour and a half and I'm sure everyone back at the barn must have been wondering where we were.  Fortunately they had the foresight to transfer everything from the defunked trailer into Liss' trailer so all we had to do was load up the horses.

Finally on the road.  Liss and Jake in one truck with Cottie and Hershey, Bailey and me in the other truck with Mylie and Jelly Bean, and Dori, Chloe, Lola, and Isabel in the mini-van with the DVD player.  It looked like we had overcome all the obstacles, felt like I'd already put in a full day of work, and it wasn't even 9.00 a.m.

I77 was just beginning to fill up and I thought it must be safe to let out a sigh of relief.  That turned out to be rather premature.  A thin drizzle of precipitation formed on the windscreen and I inadvertently flashed my headlights in an attempt to find the wipers.  I really should drive José's truck more often.  The skies ahead were thick and grey which in itself isn't a bad thing.  I'd rather be at a show with overcast 70's weather even with a steadily falling trickle of rain than dress up in jods, shirt, hunting stock, and jacket in a billion degrees with off the chart humidity; so on we pressed.

We cruised past the lake, through Mooresville and steadily towards the ever darkening skies.  The rain drops grew larger and larger and our speed became slower and slower.  Less than an hour into the journey our convoy pulled off the interstate into the relative safety of a gas station to reassess the situation.  Dori had gone ahead of us and Katherine was already on the showground.  Numerous calls later and a look at the Doppler Radar image on the phone and we decided it was a washout.

Very reluctantly we turned around and made our way back to the barn.  We work like a well oiled machine and each took a task without negotiations.  Liss cleaned the trailers, I cleaned the stalls, and Bailey began taking shipping bandages off of the horses.  Dori and the girls arrived soon after and we all laughed about the adventures of the morning.  Not one single person complained.

It turned out that the storm had decided to plonk itself firmly over the show ground and the show had been postponed to the following day.  So, we get to do it all again tomorrow - minus the non-working trailer and hopefully the rain.

The moral of this story is - tomorrow is another day.  No it's not, it's WE NEED OUR OWN TRAILER!!!

The Difference Between Riding And Influencing A Horse

Riding a horse is so much more than just being able to stay onboard. When I was younger and first learning to ride my friends and I used to joke that once you'd fallen off eleven times you were a perfect rider. In order to achieve this converted title we would slide, rather ungraciously, to the ground at any given opportunity. Of course I now realize there's no such thing as a perfect rider and I'm sure every horse who has ever had a rider on its back can attest to that. But we can aim for improvement, co-ordination, and balance.

In the early stages of learning to ride you will, or at least should, spend a great deal of time learning how to sit correctly balanced on the horse and master the basic aids that will allow you to walk, trot, canter, and steer. I can not stress enough that this process can not be rushed or skipped over. It can be monotonous but is absolutely essential. A good instructor will have many tricks up their sleeve to keep the lesson fun and interesting. (More on that in a future blog.)

Until you achieve an independently balanced seat you will be no more than a passenger on the horse.

Riding a horse should be a pleasure, for both the horse and the rider. Your ultimate aim, no matter which discipline you ride, is to be mounted on a happy, co-operative horse who is balanced, comfortable, and responsive to your aids.

Independent Seat is vital when influencing a horse.
An independent seat is vital in order to maintain position and balance.

Once you are able to use each hand and leg independently, without sacrificing your balance and position, you can concern yourself with how your horse is performing. This is when you begin to understand how your body can influence, both positively and negatively, the horse's performance.

Only when a rider has developed a deep, balanced, independent seat can they truly influence a horse and either teach it something new or remind it of something it has already learned. Your aids should be clear and accurate enough so that the horse can respond immediately but soft and subtle enough so as not to cause them any stress or anxiety. Your muscle memory should be so finely tuned that your body reacts, almost without you even thinking about it, in a timely and precise manner.

This kind of balance and control is not something that can be achieved quickly. It is something we all strive for and some days we get closer than others. To be truly in harmony with your horse and move as one, is one of the best feelings in the world. With patience, empathy, sensitivity, and practice each horse and each ride will get you one step closer to the elusive title of perfect rider.