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Hit the road – Travelling with your horse

Travelling with your horse can open up a wonderful world of possibilities, from summer shows to horsey holidays. However, it’s important to make sure you’re well prepared so that your horse reaches your destination in good form.

 All kitted out
Before you set off on your journey, make sure your horse is suitably attired. It’s advisable that he wears…

  • travel boots or bandages to protect his legs. Whichever option you choose, it’s important that they fit correctly – too loose and they may slip and become a hazard, too tight and they may restrict blood flow
  • a leather headcollar, which will break much more easily in an emergency. Choose one with padded sections at the nose and poll for extra comfort
  • a tail bandage and guard to protect his tail. For longer journeys it’s often better to just use a tail guard, as a bandage could affect  his circulation if it’s too tight. Choosing one with an attached tail bag will help keep his tail clean
  • a cooler or fleece rug to stop him getting chilly. However, keep in mind that it can get very warm in the back of a lorry or trailer, so unnecessary rugging may make him hot and uncomfortable
  • a poll guard to protect his head if he’s a nervous traveller

Take a break
It’s important to stop at least every three or four hours to give your horse a break and allow him to lower his head. This helps to drain his nasal passages of hay, dust and other debris that might otherwise enter his lungs and cause respiratory disease. However, unless you’re parked in an enclosed area you know is safe, don’t take him off the trailer or lorry – not only is there a chance he won’t load again, but being in an unfamiliar environment with lots of potential hazards could make him unpredictable and put you both in danger.

Suitably refreshed
Your rest stops are a good time to offer your horse a drink. Dehydration is a real danger when travelling long distances, particularly when the weather’s warm, so it’s important that he keeps drinking to minimise the risk of impaction colic. If he’s reluctant, try adding a splash of apple juice to the water or offering him a slushy, soaked feed, such as sugar beet. It’s also important to make sure he has plenty of forage to keep him amused and also provide an essential source of fibre, which helps to keep his digestive system working efficiently. Hang this in easy reach just below his nose.

Good working order
Making sure your lorry or trailer is in good working order is key to reducing the risk of accidents or breakdowns. Before you set off, check your tyre pressure, headlights and indicator bulbs. Breakdown cover is essential, but make sure that your policy covers removing livestock from the scene. Store the details in your lorry cab or towing vehicle, along with other essentials, such as a torch, first aid kit, high-vis tabard, phone charger and battery booster pack.

For all your horsey needs, including travel essentials such as travel boots, bandages and leather headcollars, visit bridlewayequestrian.com.

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Top tips to keep your horse happy this summer!

Everybody loves summer – the weather’s warm, the fields are green and you can finally enjoy a long, relaxed hack to help unwind after a stressful day at work. However, summer does come with its downsides, so read on to find out our top tips for keeping your horse happy.

While your horse may be able to enjoy more time out in the field now that the ground has dried up, one of the downsides of summer is increased numbers of flies and midges. Fly spray can be a good deterrent, but sometimes a stronger approach is needed to repel pesky insects. Invest in a quality fly rug made from lightweight, breathable fabric, such as the Bridleway Edmonton combo fly rug or Sweet-itch Bug Stoppa rug, and team with a fly mask for head-to-tail protection. If possible, stable your horse at dawn and dusk, when the midges are at their worst, and keep him away from areas of standing water because these areas are a haven for biting insects.

British weather is notoriously changeable. If your horse needs protection from summer rain showers or a sudden chilly spell, a quality lightweight turnout rug, such as the Bridleway Ontario rug with its funky print, is perfect for keeping him dry and comfortable. Choose a rug made from breathable fabric and keep a careful eye on him to make sure he doesn’t get too hot under the midday sun.

One of the brilliant things about summer is that you can take your horse out and about to lots of shows and other fun activities. However, while these are great fun, working up a sweat can lead to dehydration and the loss of important mineral salts. Help replenish these by giving your horse an electrolyte supplement, which should be added to a bucket of water or a wet, slushy feed, such as soaked sugar beet. Don’t forget to take a water carrier and sweat scraper with you on your travels so you can wash away sweat, which might cause irritation if it’s left to dry on his skin, and bring down his body temperature, too. If you’re working him at home, a cooling spray with the hose will lower his body temperature, remove sweat and make him feel more comfortable.

It might be nice to feel warm again after months of cold weather, but the sun can be fierce. If your horse has areas of sensitive pink skin, consider investing in some sun protection cream to prevent him being burned. Avoid riding in the middle of the day, when the sun is at its strongest, or try to stick to shady areas and indoor arenas.

For all your horsey needs this summer, visit bridlewayequestrian.

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The secrets of effective lunging

There’s much more to lunging than making your horse go round and round in circles. It’s a useful tool for training youngsters, settling an excitable horse before you get on, as part of a rehabilitation programme, or simply as a form of exercise when you haven’t got time to ride. However, in order for it to be effective, it needs to be done properly.

What to wear

For a successful lunging session, the correct kit is essential. Your horse can wear his usual bridle with a snaffle bit, but you’ll need to remove the noseband if you’re going to fit him with a lunge cavesson – this should go on top of the bridle. If you don’t want to remove his reins, twist them under his neck and run the throatlash through one of the loops. Side reins and a roller are also useful for encouraging your horse to work correctly, or you can lunge him in his saddle with the stirrups securely run up or removed. Brushing and over reach boots will protect his legs. You should also wear a correctly fitting riding hat, gloves and sturdy boots that are comfortable to walk in, and you’ll need a lunge whip, too.

The process

Start without the side reins on a large circle, particularly if you’re lunging a young horse. Spend a few minutes working him on each rein in walk until he’s loose and moving forwards freely. If you’re using side reins, these can now be attached – start with them loose and gradually tighten them until your horse can feel a gentle contact when he engages his quarters. Side reins should never be used to pull him into a particular shape. Finish your session with a few minutes of walk on both reins, again without the side reins, so that your horse can stretch and cool down. The length of your session will depend on his fitness, but be careful not to overdo things – 20 minutes is plenty if your horse is fit.

Double the fun

Double lunging is great for teaching your horse the importance of a sympathetic, consistent contact, because using two lunge reins mimics reins but they aren’t fixed like side reins. You also have more control because the outside rein makes it harder for your horse to spin towards the center. To have a go at double lunging, you’ll need a roller and two lunge reins. One is clipped onto the inside ring of your snaffle bit and the second runs from the outside bit ring, through the rings of the roller and then either over your horse’s withers or, once you’ve become more experienced, around his quarters. Lunge your horse as you normally would, with the end of the second lunge rein in the hand that’s also holding your lunge whip.

Browse the Bridleway lunging kit and find a stockist here. 

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Outside the box – coping with stabled horses in winter

There’s a lovely feeling about leaving the yard on a winter evening, knowing your horse is tucked up, warm and cosy, in his stable. Many of us stable our horses in the winter because of the inhospitable weather or because previously green fields have turned into quagmires. However, being continuously stabled can be stressful for your horse, especially if he’s used to living out during the summer months.

Missing his herd

In the field, horses spend all their time with their friends, mutual grooming, grazing and taking it in turns to watch for potential threats. When your horse is stabled, he’s alone and can easily become stressed. A good solution is to stable him somewhere where he can see his friends. Stable mirrors can also replicate the comfort of being around other horses.

Appropriate feeding

Out in a field, your horse will graze for most of the day. Horses have small stomachs, which means they must eat little and often throughout the day. When he’s stabled, you can mimic his natural diet by regularly feeding him ad-lib forage, such as hay or haylage. This keeps his digestive system functioning naturally, reducing the risk of colic or gastric ulcers. If he needs to watch his weight, try small-holed nets or double netting his forage. Hanging several small nets around the stable will encourage him to move around, improving blood circulation. Adding a broad spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement to your horse’s bucket feed will ensure that he’s receiving a balanced diet, including any nutrients that he may be missing from not being able to eat fresh grass.

Keep his mind busy

Stabling for long periods of time can be boring for your horse. You can help by providing stable toys to keep him occupied. Hanging licks are a popular solution, as they can keep your horse busy for long periods of time. Monitor your horse’s consumption rate to avoid weight gain, particularly with the lick is first introduced. Rolling balls filled with fibre treats will encourage him to move around in the stable.

Build your bond

Another great way to fight boredom in the stable is to spend more time with your horse. You may want to take him out for a long hack on some days, instead of spending a shorter amount of time schooling. Tying him up on the yard for a groom not only gives him a change of scenery, but is also helps to strengthen your bond. Grazing your horse in-hand for short periods of time, which again is a great bonding experience for you both, is also good because he’ll be outside and having access to some fresh grass.

Whatever gear you need to keep your horse happy this winter, visit http://www.bridlewayequestrian.com

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Managing mud fever

Managing mud fever

Winter means wet, muddy conditions and the threat of mud fever. As with most problems, prevention is better than a cure, particularly as, once your horse has had mud fever once, he’s more likely to get it again.

What is mud fever?

The bacteria that cause mud fever (Dermatophilus congolensis) commonly live on your horse’s skin without causing any problems. However, prolonged time spent in damp, muddy conditions can compromise the skin’s barriers, allowing the bacteria to penetrate. The result is an acute inflammatory reaction, usually found in the heel bulbs and the back of the pasterns. Symptoms include crusty scabs, pus between the skin and scabs, lesions, hair loss, heat and swelling.

Top tips for preventing mud fever

  1. Limit the time your horse spends in muddy conditions. Fence off areas that get muddy, such as around gateways. Rotate paddocks avoid poaching and consider stabling your horse for a period of time each day to allow his legs to dry out.
  2. Specialist boots and leg wraps can help keep his legs clean in the field. These prevent excess exposure to moisture, as long as mud doesn’t get underneath and rub his skin. Wash them regularly to reduce the risk of infection.
  3. Apply a barrier cream to your horse’s clean, dry legs when he’s turned out to prevent moisture reaching his skin.
  4. Brushes, boots, bandages and clippers can all harbor bacteria, so clean and disinfect them regularly. Avoid sharing between horses, as this increases the risk of spread.

Treatment steps

If you notice your horse is showing signs of mud fever, here’s how to treat the infection and prevent the bacteria from spreading…

  1. Remove your horse from the cause of the infection, which will usually involve stabling him. If this is the case, walk him in-hand regularly to prevent his legs from swelling and increase blood circulation.
  2. Clip the infected area and use an antiseptic wash to soften and remove as many of the scabs as possible.
  3. Rinse the area and dry with a clean towel.
  4. Apply a topical antibacterial treatment to soothe the skin.
  5. Severe cases with obvious infection may require antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, so you may need to call your vet.

Did you know?

The same bacteria that cause mud fever can also cause rain scald. This infection tends to occur on your horse’s neck and along the top of his back ­– the areas that get the wettest when it rains. To prevent rain scald, make sure your horse is kitted out with a good-quality turnout rug and has access to adequate shelter.

Whatever you and your horse require, Bridleway is the place to shop this winter. Visit http://www.bridlewayequestrian.com to see our great selection of products.

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All wrapped up – a winter survival guide

Wetter weather

If your horse spends time in the field, a good-quality turnout rug is essential. This needs to be breathable, waterproof and secure enough to stay put when he rolls. A rug with a fixed or detachable neck is a good option, as this will provide extra protection against the cold and save you time when it comes to grooming by keeping his neck clean. Bridleway has a range of styles and weights to choose from at www.bridlewayequestrian.com/shop/home.php?cat=286

Keep him cosy

If your horse is coming into his stable at night, he may need a different weight rug to the one he wears in the field. Keep in mind that, while his stable may be more sheltered, he can’t move around as much to keep warm when he’s in. Changing his rug will also give your turnout rug a chance to air and means you can check him over for any places where it might have slipped or be rubbing him. Bridleway has a great selection of stable rugs and fleeces to suit your horse’s needs at www.bridlewayequestrian.com/shop/home.php?cat=287

Fitting your rug

To decide what size to buy, measure him from the centre of his chest to his point of buttock in both feet and inches and centimetres. Your horse should have free range of movement in his rug, without it gaping anywhere. A rug that’s too big may slip, while it will rub and be uncomfortable if it’s too small. Choose one with adjustable straps to accommodate changes in his weight throughout the year and to obtain a better fit. Take into account that, if you clip your horse in the winter, this will affect his ability to maintain his body temperature, so you may need a range of rugs to suit all weather conditions.

Rug care

To keep your rugs in good condition for as long as possible, keep them clean and store them in a dry, rodent-proof environment. Regularly check them for rips and broken straps, as these can pose a danger to your horse and it is easier to repair them while the damage is minor than let it get worse. If your turnout rug begins to lose its waterproof properties, talk to a reputable rug was company for advice. Watch our rug care video for more tips here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OW1m-m-LZI

Keep yourself wrapped up

When you are working hard to keep your horse comfortable in the cold, don’t forget yourself! Little things such as thermal socks can make the world of difference when your feet are freezing. Layer up in thin, warm layers such as thermals rather than several thick layers, which can restrict your movement when riding or doing yard chores. Above all, have a waterproof jacket and trousers, as staying dry is essential to your enjoyment of yard activities. http://www.bridlewayequestrian.com/shop/home.php?cat=262

Whatever you decide to kit yourself and your horse out with this winter, Bridleway is bound to have it! To find your local Bridleway stockist click here http://www.bridlewayequestrian.com/stockists.html#.V9gnJRTJR0s

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Considerate bitting – Choosing the right bit for your horse

For most of us, the bit is integral to how we communicate with our horse when we’re riding. But, while many riders spend a lot of time and money selecting a perfectly fitting saddle, how many of us give equal consideration to the bit we put into our horse’s mouth? Take time to study your horse’s face and mouth, both when he is wearing a bit and when he isn’t. A well-fitting bit should sit comfortably in his mouth, allowing enough room for his tongue and teeth.

Common mouth types

Spacious, long mouths with slim tongues – often seen in Thoroughbred types, this mouth type will have plenty of room and can be happily fitted with a thicker mouth piece.

Long mouth – these need extra care when fitting a curb chain to ensure that, when the bit is at the correct height for the mouth, the curb chain is still fitting snugly in the chin groove and not lifting up behind it.

Short mouths and lips typically found in cobs and natives, there will be often be limited space to accommodate a bit if it is bulky, or a double bridle is used. In showing, you will sometimes see a Pelham used instead of a double bridle in horses with this type of mouth.

Large tongues – a large, fleshy tongue will often seem almost too big for the mouth. It tends to overlap the bars, therefore saving them from direct pressure to some extent.

 

Fitting a bit

A correctly fitted bit should slightly wrinkle the corners of your horse’s mouth – too low and it may knock against his incisor teeth, too high will cause discomfort. Aim for a finger’s width between the rings and his lips. If it’s too wide, it will slide across the mouth and put uneven pressure on his tongue, bars and lips. However, if it sits too close to his lips, they may get pinched or rubbed. All bits fit slightly differently, so your horse may be a different size in a straight mouthpiece than a jointed one. Straight bars sit directly across the mouth and sit slightly lower, without wrinkling the lips, but shouldn’t hang in his mouth. Jointed bits fold around the mouth and therefore sits slightly higher.

Top tip

To measure a bit, place it on a flat surface and measure along the mouthpiece, from corner to corner. For loose ring bits, measure from just inside the end of the mouthpiece, by the ring.

While considering the type of bit, don’t forget to take time to regularly examine the bridle and reins you are using for wear and tear. Attention should be given to leather, stitching and buckles. A comprehensive range of bridles can be found at http://www.bridlewayequestrian.com

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Create the perfect bond with your horse

Create the perfect bond with your horse

Building a solid partnership is the foundation for a successful relationship with your horse. With many riders heading out to summer competitions, there’s no better time to strengthen your bond and Bridleway has got some great tips to help you.

The best place to start is to make sure he’s happy and healthy. Are your horse’s physical, mental, social and emotional needs being met, both when you are around and when you aren’t? He should have access to forage and fresh water at all times and, ideally, equine companions who he gets along well with, too. Regularly turning him out in the field will be beneficial, but if prolonged periods in the stable are unavoidable, consider stable toys or licks to provide mental stimulation.

 

Do things he enjoys

All work and no play makes for an unhappy partnership. Take time to do things that your horse considers fun – you may love dressage, but, if your horse likes jumping, he’ll really appreciate it if you get the poles out every once in a while or maybe take him cross-country schooling. This principle doesn’t just apply when you’re in the saddle. Spend time doing things that can’t be called work, such as grooming or taking him for in-hand walks. Summer is the perfect time to do this, when long, light evenings mean you can spend more time at the yard with your horse.

 

Focus on the positives

It can be very easy to notice things that your horse does wrong, but how often do you praise him for doing something right? It doesn’t have to be a big achievement – even something that you might take for granted, such as him standing still while you mount, is worthy of praise. When you’re around your horse, make an effort to think ‘yes’ to yourself whenever he does something good, and reward him for it. You’ll probably be surprised how frequently you do it. If small, positive actions have a pleasurable result, he’ll be more likely to want to please you when it comes to the big stuff.

 

Calm down

Be a person who your horse wants to spend time with. In the same way that your human friends don’t want to be around you when you’re bad-tempered and abrupt, this sort of attitude is unlikely to encourage a closer bond with your horse. Even if you’ve had a bad day, make an effort not to get frustrated or lose your temper when you’re at the yard, as it will only make him nervous and undermine his confidence in you. Instead, aim to be somebody he can rely on.

 

Bridleway is the place to go for all your horsey needs. See our great range of products at https://www.bridlewayequestrian.com/shop/

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Resolving a confidence crisis

Having fun

Horse ownership should be enjoyable – especially in the summer, when the long, bright evenings mean lots of extra time to enjoy your horse. However, if your confidence has taken a knock, then it’s easy to find yourself dreading what should be a pleasurable experience. Here at Bridleway we have put together some tips to banish your nerves, and help you feel confident handling and riding your horse.

 

Be decisive

Horses thrive on clear boundaries, so take the time to decide what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable behaviour, then stick rigorously to these decisions. Be black and white, not grey, in your commands and expectations of your horse, and make sure that you use consistent commands to help your horse understand exactly what you want. It’s important not to let your horse do something one day that you reprimand him for the next, because this is confusing for him. When a horse feels frustrated, he’s more likely to exhibit unwanted behaviour, whereas if you’re clear and fair with him, he’s much more likely to comply with your requests.

If he’s developed unwanted habits, these will take time to correct, but keep persevering and soon your horse will understand what you’re asking and you’ll see your relationship – and confidence – bloom. While you’re developing your handling skills, make sure you’re properly protected – always wear sensible footwear, a hat and gloves when handling your horse. Why not ask an experienced friend to support you by coming to the yard to help you feel more confident in your authority and expectations of your horse? You’ll be surprised the difference it makes to have a supportive voice rather than struggling on alone.

 

It’s show time

For many of us, summer = shows. While you might be full of enthusiasm as you put your entry in, as the show day approaches, nerves can begin to creep in. From feeling rusty to worrying about riding in front of other people, not to mention whether your horse will find it all over-exciting, it can feel pretty overwhelming. The best way to tackle these worries is to break each task down into small chunks. Write down each of your worries, then list the evidence you have that supports that worry. For example, ‘I’m worried about riding in front of other people’. The evidence might be ‘other competitors will be watching me as I do my personal show’. Now think about what evidence you have to dispute that worry – for example, ‘most people are more concerned about their own performance than picking holes in mine’. You’ll soon see that most worries are irrational and while they might still exist, it will be easier to stop them spoiling your fun.

 

Change your route to your goal, not your goal itself

Even top riders sometimes have a crisis of confidence. But don’t let it put your off your goals. Just change the route you’re using to get there. Break down tasks into small steps, write them down and tick them off as you achieve them. It can be really helpful to enlist the services of a good instructor who understands your worries and can help support you to in your aims, building your confidence by challenging, but not over-facing you.

Whatever your goals this season, Bridleway has all the kit you need for you and your horse to look the part and enjoy yourselves https://www.bridlewayequestrian.com/shop/

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Safe hacking

Safe hacking

One of the greatest pleasures of horse ownership has to be exploring the beautiful countryside from the saddle. However, for some riders it can prove to be a nightmare. Here at Bridleway we have put together some tips to help you deal with some of the hacking issues you might encounter and keep you safe.

 

A fear of spooking

Spooky horses are generally very sensitive to their surroundings and can often be fearful of the environment once they leave the security of the yard. They have a strong flight instinct. So if a spooky horse becomes scared of something, he may react by leaping, refusing to go forward, spinning, or even rearing or running away.

With a spooky horse, it’s important to do as little as possible to increase your horse’s adrenaline and make him more afraid. If he tries to spin round, keep his head facing the object but then if he stands quietly looking at it then leave him alone. Some horses just need time to do a risk assessment.

When your horse lowers his head towards the object, encourage him to take a step forward. Use your legs to give him confidence, but don’t force him when he is scared. One single step forward should be rewarded and the pressure taken off. Allowing him to relax after a step in the right direction will build his trust in you.

 

Naughty napping

Horses nap for several reasons, most commonly because they are worried about where they’re going or they simply want to return to their friends. Both situations indicate a lack of respect and trust for the rider and it’s important to nip this in the bud before it becomes ingrained. The key is to be able to move his hindquarters from side to side to stop him planting or whipping around and for him to be respectful of your forward aids – even if it means trotting rather than walking to get him thinking forward.

Getting off a horse who is spinning in the road is not giving in to him, it’s often the safe, sensible thing to do. If you have to lead him to get him to think forward, then do so until you feel it is safe to get back on. Nappy horses often fare better when ridden out with bolder horses or repeating the same route until they are comfortable doing that route. Avoid hacking nappy horses together, though, as they rub off on one another!

 

Have fun

Make hacking as enjoyable as you can for your horse. Vary the routes, jump him over logs, trot and canter when the ground is good and don’t take him on roads with fast traffic that might frighten him. Remember to wear reflective gear at all times whether on or off the roads as you can be spotted by other horse riders, cyclists and dog walkers more easily.

And above all, enjoy it. Hacking should be a pleasure so team up with other riders and go for pub hacks, or picnic rides and make the most of the summer months ahead.

 

Ride Out UK Week

Bridleway Equestrian is a proud supporter of Ride Out UK Week and we recently joined forces with The British Horse Society for the nationwide campaign.

Ride Out UK Week aims to encourage riders to celebrate all the wonderful off-road riding tracks across the UK and to record routes and keep them open for future generations.

With the aim of raising funds for the BHS’s Paths for Communities Fund, which supports projects throughout the UK to create, repair or restore bridleways, byways and multi-user routes, we have created maps in all our stockist’s local areas. The maps, which are free to download here, show local bridleways which are perfect for hacking out – so why not download a map and try out a new route today?

We’ll also be announcing our fundraising total for the Paths for Communities Fund on Facebook and Twitter soon!