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MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR HACKING

There’s nothing nicer than a hack after work or getting out for a longer, lazier one over the weekend. But hacking comes with its own risks, so it’s important to be prepared and know what to expect.

Kitting both you and your horse out in high-vis clothing is an essential part of preparing to set off. High-vis kit means drivers can see you around three seconds sooner than they would otherwise – that might not sound like much, but at 30mph that’s a braking distance equivalent to a standard dressage arena. High-vis is also important in the event of an accident, as it will make you much easier for a rescue team or paramedics to spot. There are options available to suit everybody, from tabards and hat bands for you to leg wraps and exercise sheets for your horse. Bridleway have a great selection for you to pick from, here.

Just as when you’re driving, there are rules of the road for horse riders, too. Stay to the left-hand side and use arm signals to help other road users know where you’re going. Stick your arm out to the side to indicate left or right, or directly out in front of you with your palm up if you need to ask a car to slow down or stop. Avoid waving cars past, as you might be liable if there’s an accident, but do remember to thank them if they pass you in a considerate manner. Try to ride in single file where possible, but if one horse is skittish in traffic then it’s safer to ride two abreast with a safe, calm horse on the outside.

Here are some things to think about when you’re preparing for a hack…

  • How might the time of day affect the traffic conditions? During rush hour and the school run, traffic will be heaviest and people will be in a hurry.
  • What’s the weather like? Dark, gloomy conditions will make you less visible, even if you’re wearing high-vis, and also make potential hazards harder for you to spot, too. Wet weather will make the roads slippery, which could mean it’s harder for cars to break in time. Sunny weather can have its own problems, too, as cyclists, walkers and motorbikers hit the roads to enjoy the beautiful weather.
  • Has anything changed recently? Roadworks, construction sites or lane closures could mean traffic behaves differently to usual. Even if these changes aren’t happening on your hacking route, they could still trigger a higher volume of traffic as people try to avoid them.
  • What day of the week is it? It’s common knowledge in the horse world that wheelie bins contain equine-eating gremlins, so keep bin day in mind when you’re planning a hack. Also factor in local events, such as village fetes and sports matches, which could cause unusual sights, sounds and smells.

Bridleway has all you need to enjoy plenty of hacking adventures with your horse. Visit bridlewayequestrian.com to see our extensive range of horse and rider kit.

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Pros and cons of boarding your horse that everyone should think about

Unless you’re lucky enough to have stabling at home, if you own a horse then it’s highly likely you keep him at livery. There are several different options available, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to do your research when deciding which is right for you.

Grass livery is usually the cheapest and most basic way of housing your horse. However, because you’re only paying for a field, it best suits hardier types who can cope with living out all year round. This can sometimes also necessitate creative solutions for storage or facilities, and it’s important to consider what you’d do if your horse suddenly needed boxrest or reduced turnout.

DIY livery offers a stable and grazing, but you’re responsible for all aspects of your horse’s care.  This means carrying out tasks such as feeding and turning out in your own time, but some horses may find doing this at a different time to their neighbours unsettling. You’re also responsible for sourcing your own feed and bedding, giving you more flexibility but an additional expense.

Exactly what’s included in part livery will depend on your yard. It normally covers all day-to-day aspects of caring for your horse, including turning out, mucking out, and supervision for the vet and farrier, plus the cost of feed and bedding. This makes it a useful option if you work full-time because it’s labour-saving and gives you more time to enjoy the fun parts of horse ownership. If you’re short on time or going away for a time, you can also upgrade to full livery, which will include having your horse exercised by yard staff, too.

Once you’ve decided what type works for you, there are other things to consider…

  • Can your horse cope with hustle and bustle? A large yard can be all go, with lots of people and horses coming in and out every day. While some horses can thrive in this type of busy environment, others do better at a smaller, quieter yard with only a few other horses.
  • What facilities do you need? Different yards offer a range of facilities, such as indoor and outdoor arenas, wash boxes and horse-walkers. It’s likely that the more on offer, the higher the cost will be.
  • Do you sometimes need help with your horse? Some DIY yards will offer additional services, such as turning out, for an extra fee. While this isn’t usually cost-effective in the long-term, it can be useful on occasion.
  • What are the hidden costs? While DIY livery may seem cheaper, it’s worth factoring in how much money you spend on fuel driving to and from the yard, plus the wear-and-tear on your car. Once you’ve added this in, you may find that the cost isn’t too dissimilar to part livery.Whichever type of livery you choose for your horse, Bridleway has you covered for all your horsey needs. Visit bridlewayequestrian.co.uk.
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Improve your jumping skills

Get kitted out
Before you start jumping, it’s important that you and your horse are correctly kitted out. You’ll need an up-to-standard riding hat and gloves, and it’s worth considering a professionally fitted body protector, too. It’s important that your horse’s tack is comfortable and fits him well. He may also benefit from wearing boots to protect his legs, and reduce the risk of knocks and scrapes.

A winning warm-up
Before you start jumping, it’s vital to warm up properly to get your horse listening and prepares his muscles for work, reducing the risk of injury. Ride lots of circles and transitions, both between and within the paces, to make sure he’s paying attention. This also helps to create adjustability and balance, which are very important once you start jumping.

Strides apart
Being able to get the correct number of strides between fences is a vital skill, particularly when you’re jumping a course. To practise, set out two poles four strides apart and ride through them in canter, aiming for a balanced, even rhythm. Once you can consistently achieve the four strides each time you ride through the poles, aim to extend your horse’s canter so you can get three strides, then collect it so you can fit in five.

Gridwork is great
Gridwork is your best friend when you’re trying to improve your jumping technique. It’s a good place to build your horse’s confidence, as it’s easy for him to understand what you’re asking. Build a simple grid of three fences with two strides (10–11m) between each, and put a placing pole three metres in front of the first fence to help your horse take off in the correct place. Start with the fences as poles on the ground – trot over them a few times, then try again in canter. Once your horse can canter over the poles in a balanced rhythm, turn them into small cross-poles one-by-one, starting at the end of the grid. Don’t add in another fence until your horse is confident with what you’re asking, then gradually increase the height.

Build confidence
Don’t be tempted to put the jumps up straight away. It’s much better, and safer, to keep them small and work on improving your technique, rather than jumping a height that you’re not prepared for. Once you’ve perfected your position and your horse is jumping confidently and correctly, gradually increase the height of the fences at a pace that suits both you both – a knock to your confidence could set you back.

For all your horsey needs, visit bridlewayequestrian.com.

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How to achieve the perfect competition look for a horse show.

Whether you’re strutting your stuff in the dressage ring, flying round a course of jumps or trying to impress the showing judge, you want your horse to look a million dollars. Here’s how to get him ring-ready…

Remove the mud

Use a dandy with stiff bristles to remove dried mud from your horse’s coat. Follow this with a long bristle dandy brush to remove any loose dirt and hair – firm, flicking strokes that follow the direction of the hair will help to bring dust to the surface.

 Bath time

If you want to get your horse squeaky clean, he’ll need a bath. Dilute a small measure of horse shampoo in a bucket of warm water and use a bodywash brush to work it into his coat and remove dirt and grease. Rinse him off using a hose, then remove excess water using a sweat scraper. Depending on how much shampoo you’ve used, you may need to rinse him several times before his coat is completely free from suds. Dunk his tail in a bucket of clean water so it’s wet, then rub in a blob of neat shampoo and rinse thoroughly. Leave him to dry in the sunshine, putting a cooler rug on him if it’s a bit chilly.

 Hooves

After you’ve picked out your horse’s hooves, use a hoof brush and some clean water to remove dirt from the outer hoof wall. This will leave them ready for a layer of hoof oil or lacquer to add shine just before you go in the ring. A clear oil works for any hoof colour, or you could choose a black one if he’s got darker hooves.

Adding shine

A body brush, which has slightly softer bristles, can be used to add shine. It’s used to lift grease from his skin, smoothing the natural oils from his coat along the shafts of the hair. When you come to doing his face and other delicate, bony areas, switch to a face brush. A final smooth-over with a microfiber cloth or grooming mitt will remove any leftover dust.

Mane and tail

Start by applying a liberal coating of detangler spray to the hair to loosen any tangles and add shine. Then, using a mane and tail comb or brush, start to gently work your way from the tips to the roots. If you find any larger knots, work them free with your fingers instead of the brush or comb, as this method is less likely to break the strands.

Bridleway’s range of Spotless brushes has everything you need to get your horse sparkling clean from head to hoof. Visit bridlewayequestrian.com to find out more.

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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.

Mud Fever

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