June 2, 2008

Leann's Horse Quest

Leann has loved horses since she was a kid. Here she is on Bea (who looks like a real sweetie) when she was 10.
Leann Riding Bea when she was 10

Now she's building a new barn and leasing her instructor's horse until she can find the horse of her dreams.

That's a great idea because it gives her a chance to practice her skills while looking. I bet it's also helping her to really understand the kind of horse she'd like to have for her own!

Leann's New Barn foundation

Leann - keep us posted on your progress and send a picture of your finished barn. Your place looks beautiful. I love the trees.

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February 19, 2008

Halo Fantasy

A loyal reader of BuyaHorse101.com, Stephani, got a new horse on 2/14/2008. His name is 'Halo Fantasy' - a really big valentine if you ask me! [I've always been a sucker for sorrels with flaxen manes and tails and all the chrome.]

He's a 13 year old American Cream Draft horse and he's ALL HERS. After years of taking lessons and riding her uncle's horses, Stephani's wish came true - a horse of her own.

She was kind enough to share pictures of him with us and I hope she'll also share her progress with him.

Good Luck with him, Stephani!

Halo Fantasy

Halo Fantasy and Stephani

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August 27, 2007

How to Saddle a Horse

Saddling your horse correctly is simple.  Unfortunately, if you're a horse, there are a lot of things that can go wrong and make it an unpleasant part of a day's ride.

Every horse will puff out their chest  and tense their muscles against the tightening of a girth or cinch. Many horses are 'cinchy' - meaning they'll put their ears back and act like they'll nip you when you start the saddling process. This is usually because a rider pulled the girth really tight all in one big pull. This is more common with a Western saddle because it's easier to tighten than an English girth.

There's nothing you can do right away to convince your horse to quit dreading being saddled. If you follow a few simple and humane procedures, your horse will eventually relax more although those ears will probably always get pinned at least a little. Horses have long memories. Give him a pet and a treat to teach him being saddled is ok. Even if he acted up when you saddled him, reward him because after all, you did get the saddle on.

Before saddling, make sure  your horse's back, belly and the area just behind his elbows is clean. A chunk of mud or a burr caught in their coat will rub and hurt. Your saddle pad also needs to be as clean as possible. Sometimes they can pick up bits of shavings or burrs if they get dropped on the ground or aisleway of your barn.

If your saddle fits correctly, your pad doesn't have to be real thick. It's purpose is to protect your saddle from sweat and dirt. I have found that using a very thick pad makes it really hard to keep my saddle from slipping especially on horses who don't have well-defined withers. It pads out the wither area too much. If you need extra padding to make your saddle fit because the tree is too wide, look into getting a saddle that fits your horse better.

Horses normally get saddled from the left side. This isn't something you HAVE to do. Horses usually get used to it because people tend to always do it that way. You can easily teach your horse to be saddled from the right side - just start slow. For these instructions, I'm going to have you standing on your horse's left side.

Ok, let the saddling begin…

Western Saddle

With a Western saddle, hook the right stirrup over the saddle horn. Have your girth either attached in the little tab on the right side or pulled across the seat. Western saddles are a lot heavier than English ones, so it's going to take a little heave-ho to get the saddle up on your horse's back. Aim to get it about 5"-6" ahead of where it will be when you ride. Now slide the saddle and pad back to the correct position with the tree of your saddle just behind your horse's shoulder blades. A tall, strong man has no problems with this at all. It's more of a challenge for gals. We just don't have the upper-body strength.

Now, walk around to the right side and unhook your girth and right stirrup. Make sure your saddle pad is in the correct position on that side - it usually slips a bit when you put the saddle on. Walk back to the left side and reach under your horse's belly to grab the end of the girth with your right hand. Tighten it up just enough to keep your saddle from sliding off if your horse moves. So it should be just barely snug.

English Saddle

Your stirrups should be run up the stirrup leathers before starting. Your girth should be completely unattached. If you leave it attached on the right side, it's not the end of the world, just make sure it's laying over the seat of your saddle. Set your saddle 5"-6" in front of it's normal place. Then slide it back so the tree is just behind your horse's shoulder blades. The pommel will be over his withers unless you have a saddle with a cutback pommel designed for horses with extra-high withers.

Walk around to the right side and attach your girth. Check to be sure your pad is smooth on that side while you'er there. Come back to the left side and reach under his belly with your right hand. Tighten up just enough to be snug.

Finish Saddling

Check to make sure none of the tender skin in his elbow area is pinched. If your saddle is in the right place, your girth will be in that hollow area right behind his elbow. Now just let him stand there a bit while you go get your bridle - he'll relax those tummy muscles.

Put his bridle on, then tighten up your girth a hole. Walk out of the barn - tighten up by another hole. Walk to the arena or area you'll be riding and finish tightening up your girth. It should be good and snug without being so tight as to restrict breathing. It couldn't hurt to walk a little circle with your horse just before mounting and check your girth again. A tight girth is safer than a loose one. You should be able to stand in your left stirrup without your saddle sliding. A girth that's too loose is dangerous while riding and actually can rub and irritate your horse more than a tight one.

If you're using an English saddle, pull your stirrups down just before you mount. They dangle a lot more than Western stirrups and will hit your horse's sides - sometimes pretty hard. Or, if he spins around, they can fly out and hit you!

So that's all you have to do to safely saddle your horse. Tighten the girth in many small increments - your horse will greatly appreciate that. Just before climbing on, check one more time that your girth is tight. Make sure there's no skin pinched or any burrs or dirt chunks that can rub. If your horse is notorious for blowing out his belly, check one more time while your mounted after you've walked him around for about 5 minutes to warm-up. You may need to tighten one more hole. Now go have fun.



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August 23, 2007

Trail Riding Vacations Take You Back To Nature

A trail riding vacation offers some of the best opportunities you can get to combine your love of horses and the beautiful outdoors. Just picture yourself riding in a very scenic landscape - flowers in full bloom, mountains, along a creek, on a beach…. This is the type of experience that will always stay in your memory.  I'm ready to pack right now!

A trip like this takes you away from the city life and into clean and refreshing places where the atmosphere is very unlike what you are used to in your daily grind. In any case, you can be sure that horse riding trails are quiet and peaceful as well as very beautiful. You will be sure to smell, see things and also hear things you will not get an opportunity to do in the city. Bring your camera with you along with plenty of batteries and extra memory cards. You'll get to see up close plenty of nature's wonderful creations while having a great time with your family and friends.

Generally a trail riding vacation will include a guide who is very familiar with the area and who carries emergency supplies. I'd still recommend you carry a few essentials like an all purpose tool with a knife and wire cutters at the least. A few pieces of hay string are nice to have. That stuff is tough and can fix a broken rein or girth if you get in a pinch. If you've taken your own horse for the vacation, bring along some type of emergency hoof boot. A basic first aide kit for humans and horses is a nice touch too. If you have room, take duct tape. I know that sounds weird, but I've used that stuff for just about everything including loose horse shoes or a lost shoe or even as first aide for a deep cut. (I had someone tell me once that the black duct tape works best if you don't want to have stitches. I'm not recommending this - just passing it along!)

For those of you who are more adventurous, there are many horse riding trails that are worth trying out and which are located outside the United States including those in South Africa. There, you will find trails that are very different in terms of terrain and which are ideal for briskly cantering on a beach, or ambling quietly through vineyards and also even riding quickly through the fantastic grasslands. All in all, there is plenty of opportunity to test your horse riding abilities and also put your horse through its paces, and best of all there are also big game about. Most trips could last for an hour or two and they will take you into the wilderness, and taking to horse riding trails by moonlight is another very appealing idea as well.

One of the better horse riding trails you will want to visit in South Africa is Biggarsberg Horse Trails whose base is at Larksend Farm and which is just as suitable for a novice as an expert horse rider, and besides the excellent horse riding trails that you can travel, there is also excellent and comfortable accommodation as well to make sure that you have a very relaxing outing. You can expect to see grasslands for miles and miles and the lovely umkhamba trees and the sparkling water of many a stream along with excellent vistas should make your experience truly memorable.

Plan your horse vacation carefully - get in shape so that you'll be able to enjoy the trip - and have a great time.

PS - Send me pictures!

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August 8, 2007

Stubben Steeltec Stirrups Recalled


If you've bought a pair of Stubben Steeltec stirrups in the past, you need to contact Stubben at 1-800-550-1110 or go to their website. They will give you a full refund.

stirrups.jpg These stirrups were sold through all authorized dealers. They are stainless steel with a hinge on each side. "Stubben STEELtec" is printed on them.  They were sold between August 2006 thru May 2007.

There have been two reports of the hinges breaking, but no injuries.

Here's something I have to share with my fellow horsie friends…

The wording on the recall notice is written by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. This is how they described the stirrups, "The recalled stirrups are attached by straps to a saddle and are used by horseback riders to help them mount a horse or for support while riding."  I guess that was to differentiate them from the stirrups you don't attach to a saddle…..

Seems to me if you bought a pair of $100 stirrups, you'd kinda know what they were for and how to attach them. You'd probably even know the name of those 'straps'.


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August 5, 2007

Dressage Arenas

Dressage is a wonderful way to learn good control and proper riding skills. It's foundation and principals are excellent for any type of riding - from Western to Jumping.

Much of the time, people associate dressage with upper level horses and extreme collection and extensions. However the skills learned in Training Level and First Level are a sign of a well-trained horse who is flexible and responsive. I truly believe every horse is completely capible of Training Level movements. The simply demonstrate that your horse is flexible, responsive and learning to work through his back and hindquarters.

A riding arena set up for dressage allows for good instruction and demonstration of the necessary skills.  The dressage arena is set up so the instructor can use markers on the arena to communicate effectively with the student.  The markers are letters set up in a standardized method for most of the people working on dressage skills. 

There are two sizes of dressage arenas - 20×40 meters and 20×60 meters. The smaller one is for lower level tests only. If you have room, the larger one is better. A meter is about 3.3 feet, so the larger arena is 66'x198'. Typically, the boundary on a dressage arena is very low so as to teach the rider to ride straight lines without the help of a fence.

The arena letters can be bought or homemade. The don't have to be fancy. An easy way to remember the letters is 'A' is at the entrance and then remember this sentence: All King Edward's Horse Can Make Big Fences. 'A' is the entrance, turn left to 'K' and continue around clockwise. 'X' is the exact center between 'B' and 'E' on the 20 meter line and 'A' and 'C' on the 60 meter line. You won't need the extra letters that go in-between until you become more experienced.

My students who jumped were quite 'jump happy'. That's all they wanted to do. Flat work was too boring. I used to ask them, "If you're in an arena with 12 jumps and the arena is 200' x 300', how many strides are flatwork?" They usually couldn't think of an answer. Here's the truth - ALL the strides are flatwork except for the 12 jumping strides. That's how important flatwork is to jumping.  You need to get your horse in the proper take-off spot to be successful.

If you've never ridden in a arena with specific marks on where to begin a canter, where to stop or an exact smooth circle, you'll find that maybe your riding skills aren't quite as sharp as you thought. Give it a try - you and your horse will improve. It's a great challenge.

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August 3, 2007

Basic Riding Arenas

Beginner riders will have a much easier time if they do their learning in an arena. Horse riding arenas provide a great place for beginners to practice so they learn the necessary skills before they try riding and controlling a horse with lots of distractions on the trail or along a road.

Riding a horse is not the easiest thing in the world and horseback riding could be very dangerous if you don't have the appropriate skills for control.  I've heard countless stories about how the horse 'took off with me'. People have to start somewhere when learning any skill and riding a horse usually starts with the very basic skills.

A horse riding arena allows a beginner to make sure these things are done properly in an enclosed area where the dangers are minimal.  If you have to worry about things that might spook your horse, the consequences could be deadly or at least very dangerous.  A proper riding arena will give you a chance to ride around the arena without all of these distractions. You'll be more able to focus on yourself.  You'll also has to learn to rein and leg aids and how to apply them correctly.  In an arena, you can practice these skills without worrying about a ravine that might cause the horse to go down while you go over.

A riding arena is also a great place for riders with advanced skills.  Jumping arenas make a great way to practice exact turning skills needed at shows. Any horse and rider can benefit by learning to jump small obstacles - say about 18 - 24 inches  Out in the trail, there are natural obstacles that a horse might jump.  A horse might have to jump like a log or a creek.  If you learn and practice these skills in a riding arena, the jumps on a trail become easy and fun. Any new skill you can learn makes riding that much more interesting as your horse becomes more and more trained.

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August 2, 2007

A Real Dressage Test

Someone sent me this years and years ago. It was typed, if that tells you it's been around for a while.

Here's what really happens when you show in your first dressage class…

A Real Dressage Test

Basic Level

A -   Enter extraordinary serpentine

X  -  Halt

-  Try again

C  -  Freeze in horror at Judge’s stand. Take opportunity to salute hurriedly.

C   - Track to left in counter flexed bolt.

E  -  Irregular polyhedron left, 20 meters, plus or minus 5 meters.

FXH -  Change rein unextended jig.

H   - Canter, or counter canter, or crosscanter.

M-F  -  Working out-of-hand gallop

C  -  Down center line, working trot bouncing

X  -   Pulley rein.  Halt.  Salute, exhale.

Leave arena in free walk, loose language under breath.

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July 23, 2007

Rules for Riding a Horse on the Road

Years ago, I used to ride along the nice wide shoulder of the country road that ran past my property. It was always mowed and neat. The biggest problem for me then was the railroad tracks. I had a young horse that just freaked at the sound of cars going over them. This little mare got a big case of the heebie-jeebies as soon as we got close to them. She would spin, duck, dive and run backwards. She eventually got over it because as I said, it was a nice wide shoulder on a country road where we had enough room for all her antics.

In a match between a horse and a car, the horse will always lose.  Cars, trucks, drivers and roads are dangerous but they are an inescapable part of modern living if you want to ride horses.  You  need to know the rules for riding a horse on the road.  If you or your horse cannot handle roads and traffic, you cannot risk riding on a road.

Rules You Need To Follow

Always keep in mind that drivers are the enemy.  It doesn’t matter that it’s illegal to hit a horse with a car intentionally.  They will still do it, because there are drivers out there who think it’s funny to kill animals with cars.  This might sound paranoid, but this kind of paranoia will save your horse’s life.  This is THE most important of the rules for riding a horse on the road.

Drivers, for some reason, think honking at you is good. Could be because they just want to say 'hi' and recognize that you're doing something they wish they were doing. Who knows? Horsie people don't do it because we know better.

Always dress in bright reflective colors.  This is one of the most important rules for riding a horse on the road.  There are many cheap and cheerful fluorescent colored vests you can buy.  If you have to, stick an orange “slow traffic” triangle on your back.  Consider that most horses are a shade of brown.  This color blends in with the surroundings.  Drowsy drivers will not see a brown horse, but will see the bright vest.

Reflective stickers and additions are also available for your horse.  You can put them on the saddle blanket, the brow band, or as wraps around the legs.  If you have to do any riding at dawn, dusk or evening, these are a good investment.

Always ride your horse facing traffic. This is another of the most important rules for riding a horse on the road.  The horse will be less likely to panic if they can see what’s coming.

Rules Your Horse Needs To Follow

Your horse must be road wise.  There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.  It’s hard enough to sit a bucking horse without having to weave around traffic as well.  For the first time you ride your horse anywhere near a road, dismount and LEAD the horse until you are assured that he or she is road wise.

The other rules for riding a horse on the road are to keep alert.  Also, keep as calm as you can.  Horses can pick up your nerves.  Don’t ride alone on a road if you can help it, in case of emergency, you have help.  Ride with a cell phone for emergencies.  And praise your horse when he or she is behaving well. Most horses take it all in stride and eventually become accustomed to the traffic. Others just can't seem to handle it.

Take your time - be patient, but mostly - be safe.

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July 9, 2007

Riding Helmets - Wear One

Should you wear a helmet when you ride? The short answer is, "YES." Their comfort and style has improved by leaps and bounds in the past 20 years.

Horse riding is a sport with a fair share of risks - you need to ensure your safety at all times. Falling off your horse is always a possiblity. One of the most important items of horse riding gear that is a riding helmet. Concussions aren't fun, trust me.

Traditionally, riding helmets are associated with jumping. You need to wear a helmet even if you're not jumping.

Different Designs

Horse riding helmets are available in many different designs to suit different types of heads. They've also been designed to suit particular riding disciplines better. Whatever kind of horse riding helmets you choose to wear, the primary concern for you when choosing them is that they will fit your head well and they should conform to standards PAS 015 and even EN 1384.

Even though your helmet may not be able to prevent some very serious injuries from happening under all conditions, they can still prove their worth most of the time. Your skull is a very delicate part of your body and you need to ensure that you do not put it under any risk. Also, once you hurt your skull, the chances of recovery are far less than say, when you break a bone in your arm or leg.

Riding helmets are especially useful if your head were to strike a hard surface such as a rock or boulder and it could very well save your life for you. If helmet has become damaged due to a fall, you must immediately replace it. Just consider the cost of a new one to be part of your sport. You wouldn't use a damaged girth (or at least I hope you wouldn't) and likewise, don't use a damaged helmet. That just gives the illusion of protection.

In addition, your horse riding helmets are things that are going to last only a few years because their padding could wear off and even the helmet may become loose on your head which means that you should replace them as soon as it becomes necessary.

The laws related to horse riding also require that children below the age of fourteen must wear a riding helmet that is up to the latest safety standards every time they are out riding on a horse on the road. Helmets are your protection that will ensure you’re riding safety and must be worn at all times.

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