2018_03

Keep him supple with our schooling tips for hacking

Varying your riding environment is an important part of keeping your horse happy and interested in his work – you don’t want to stay at home doing the same things every day and neither would he. Using your hacking time to occupy his mind and work on any schooling issues in a fun, pressure-free environment is really beneficial, particularly if you don’t have easy access to an arena. Here are some tips to get you started

Long and low

Asking your horse to take up the contact and stretch into a long-and-low outline can be an effective warm up. Not only does it encourage him to relax into the contact, he’ll also raise and engage his back, working the muscles that support a correct ridden frame. Be sure to work him gradually down so that contact is maintained – if you just drop your reins, you’ll loose your connection.

Time to flex

Keeping your horse’s body straight and his gait forward, use your rein to ask him to flex from one side, then to the centre, then to the other side. This exercise will warm him up while testing his suppleness and obedience. It’ll also free up his neck, preparing him for any more complex questions you’ll ask of him later.

Side to side

The flat, stable surface of a quiet path is a perfect setting for asking your horse to leg-yield. This movement requires him to use his whole body and reinforces the idea that your leg aid doesn’t just mean go, but can also mean move away. This exercise requires straightness and engagement, so is a good indicator of how well he’s working. It’ll also reveal any corrections you need to make in your riding or his way of going. Make sure you check the path is clear of pedestrians both ways before attempting a leg-yield.

Shoulder showdown

Now he’s warmed up through his neck and back, you can start asking your horse to engage through his whole body by asking for shoulder-fore, Make use of hedges and fence lines to help guide your horse as you ask his front end to bend slightly away while keeping him travelling forwards. However, be sure not to allow him to over-bend.

Going in circles

Coming across an open field out on a hack is a huge bonus because you can use it as a giant school. Take the opportunity to play with the space, performing transitions, circles and changes of bend through serpentine work to encourage suppleness. Be vigilant to falling out, though, as there won’t be any fences to help prop your horse up!

Don’t forget visibility for you and your horse when you’re out and about. For high-viz and everything you’ll need out on a hack, visit bridlewayequestrian.com

2018_021

Breathe easy – respiratory health explained

Your horse’s respiratory system is a complex part of his body. If he’s in good health, you probably won’t give it a great deal of notice, but respiratory problems can affect his wellbeing and performance, so it’s important to know what to look out for and how to keep him in the best of health.

Signs and symptoms

Your horse is only able to breathe through his nose, so his nostrils are a good place to start. You’ll notice that, when at rest, he takes 12–20 breaths per minute, with barely any movement in his nostrils. This will increase in abnormal conditions – he’ll breathe more rapidly in hot weather or with exercise. Flared nostrils at rest is a sign there’s something wrong.

Nasal discharge is also an indicator of respiratory health. You’ll rarely see any in a healthy horse, although small amounts of a clear, watery substance during or after exercise is normal. However, increased, thick or smelly mucus could indicate an irritation or an infection.

Although many healthy horses cough occasionally, frequent coughing is another common sign that something’s not quite right. If you notice your horse coughing regularly, speak to your vet to get to the root of the problem.

Be in the know 

Problems occur when your horse’s respiratory system is unable to function properly or efficiently. This can be caused by a number of factors, such as…

  • viruses
  • allergens
  • air quality

These factors place stress on his respiratory system, meaning it has to work harder, but there are lots of simple actions you can take to minimise these and help support his health.

Supporting his respiratory health

Knowledge of what can cause stress to your horse’s respiratory system is an important tool in maintaining and supporting it. Many horses are allergic to dust and fungal spores found in hay and bedding, and horses with prolonged exposure can develop conditions such as recurrent airway obstruction (RAO). As well as problems associated with ingesting dust and spores, these allergens can also have an impact on air quality, particularly if you have an enclosed, American barn-style yard and an adjoining indoor school.

Management methods to help combat these issues and support your horse’s respiration include…

  • steaming or soaking hay before feeding to minimize dust and spores
  • making sure he’s got clean, high-quality, dust-free bedding
  • improving ventilation on your yard, which could be as simple as keeping the doors open as much as possible
  • ensuring he’s out of the way when you’re mucking out or sweeping up
  • using a specifically-formulated feed supplement to help support a healthy respiratory system
  • maximising his turnout

If your horse seems susceptible to respiratory problems, consider shaking up his management a bit with a couple of these suggestions. It’s worth talking to your vet to help you formulate a management plan.

For all your horsey needs, visit bridlewayequestrian.com

V001 Whistler Turnout Rug & Neck Set

Preventing winter injuries

Whether you’re battling heavy rain or frozen conditions, winter weather can result in an increased risk of injury to your horse, either in the field or when ridden. But by making a few simple adjustments to your routine it’s possible to reduce the chance of a problem.

When to turn out?

While we all know that plenty of turnout is an important part of our horses’ management, it’s not necessarily best to put your horse in the field at all costs. If he’s used to living out, he’s likely to cope fine with whatever the British winter throws at him (provided he has access to shelter and a tough, waterproof rug (such as the Whistler Turnout Rug & Neck Set) to keep him dry. However, if your horse is on a combined system there may be days when it’s better to adjust his usual turnout routine by turning out for a shorter period of time, or providing him with other ways of stretching his legs – for example, turnout in the arena, using a horse walker, or hand walking in addition to ridden exercise. Very slippery ground, either due to ice or heavy rain, increases the risk of slips or falls, which can cause soft tissue injuries that may take many months to heal. If your horse is turned out as part of a large group, consider whether subdividing the horses in these conditions would help everyone remain more settled – or why not feed hay in the field to keep them occupied? Remember to always offer more piles of hay than there are horses, to avoid arguments.

Ride right

If you’re heading out hacking, pay extra attention to the going, particularly when trotting and cantering. Avoid going at speed through deep ground, which could cause damage to the delicate tendons and ligaments in your horse’s lower legs. Look for good grass cover to reduce the risk of your horse slipping, too.

Essential warm-up tips

The more mobile your horse is, the looser his muscles will be. So, if he’s stabled more than usual at this time of year he’ll also need longer to warm up before a schooling session. Your first priority should be to keep him warm while tacking up – folding a fleece rug over his quarters is ideal, then leave it handy in his stable to put back on him as soon as you return from your ride to avoid him catching a chill.

Using an exercise sheet while warming up, or even for the whole session if the weather is particularly cold, is a good idea. Incorporate plenty of walk work and suppling exercises – for example, spiraling in and out on a circle – alongside lots of transitions within and between the paces before moving on to longer periods of trot or canter. Some horses really benefit from massage pads or rugs to help keep them feeling loose and supple – why not try to borrow one from a friend to try before buying your own?

Hair maintenance

Your horse’s winter coat is likely to have almost completely stopped growing by mid to late January. While it might not be falling out just yet, the lack of blood supply to the roots of the hairs means they’re much more prone to damage – for example, rubs from reins (on the side of the neck), girths (behind the elbows and under the tummy) or from the binding on saddlepads (usually just behind the saddle). Don’t wait until he has a bald patch – or worse – before taking action. Check him carefully every day for signs of rubs or sore areas and adjust his clothing as necessary. Merino Lambskin is soft and naturally wicking, allowing air to circulate and improve blood circulation. Lambskin-lined saddlecloths, Lambskin girth sleeves and the Lambskin general purpose sleeve (which can be used anywhere that a bit of extra padding is needed) can be used to keep him comfortable.

V731 Bridleway Lawley Baselayer

The best stocking fillers any rider could wish for

With Christmas just around the corner, now’s the time to start stocking up on gifts for friends and family, or pick some items to add to your own wishlist!

Base layers keep your skin comfortable under layers by wicking moisture away. Bridleway’s Lawley base layer comes in two colours, rosy red is perfect for winter mornings.

Gloves are perfect for keeping your hands warm, especially in winter, and Bridleway has a pair for every occasion. The Aachen competition gloves are smart and lightweight, with silicone print for improved grip. The Hickstead everyday gloves are ideal for riding at home, with suede grip and four-way stretch nylon backs for comfort. Both pairs of gloves have a touchscreen-sensitive index and thumb, so you can check your phone without the risk of chilly fingers.

Long socks are perfect for keeping your legs warm inside your boots and make a really funky fashion statement. Bridleway has two styles to choose from – Daydreamer and Twinkle Toes – which come in packs with three different designs. They’re all cotton-rich and feature a cushion loop terry foot for comfort.

 

High-vis is a hacking essential and there are lots of different options to help you stay safe and be seen. The Visibility bum bag is a must-have – made from bright orange fabric and featuring reflective prints, it’s got two zipped pockets for storing your valuables while you’re riding. Team it with the Visibility hat band or hat cover for some super-safe co-ordination.

 

Bridleway has two types of spur available, made from stainless steel to ensure a long life. The ball pein spur has a rounded, blunt end for a softer feel, the while plastic ball spur has a rubber ball at the end of the shank to roll along your horse’s sides, reducing the risk of rubbing. Choose between black and havana spur straps to match your boots.

Whatever your discipline, a whip can be a handy way to back up your aids. Bridleway offers a wide range for you to choose from. For those who like to strut their stuff between the white boards, there’s the dressage whip, featuring a thread-covered fibreglass stem, leather handle and silver-coloured mushroom top. If you’re more into jumping or hacking, then the leather GP whip will be more your thing. It has a leather handle for a super-smart finish.

Whatever’s on your Christmas list this year, Bridleway is the place to find it. Visit https://www.bridlewayequestrian.com/rider to check out the range.

 

 

 

Bridleway Bucket Covers

How to feed your horse in winter

As the grass starts to lose its nutritional value and many horses spend more time inside, it’s important to adapt your feeding plan to suit the demands of winter.

Plenty of forage

Horses have evolved to have fibre moving through their digestive system almost constantly. This means that if he’s stabled more during winter, it’s important to feed your horse forage, such as hay or haylage. Studies have shown that horses left without forage for more than six hours are significantly more at risk of developing conditions such as gastric ulcers. If he’s turned out, you may need to supplement the grass with hay. To avoid squabbling, put out more piles than there are horses in the field and try to place them in a different area each day to avoid poaching.

Everything in balance

A key consideration is offering a balanced diet, which will provide your horse with all the vitamins and minerals he needs. This can be achieved with the recommended daily quantity of a complete feed. However, if he isn’t fed this or your feed doesn’t have added vitamins and minerals, then a balancer or broad-spectrum supplement can top up what’s missing. There are lots of different types available, including those with tailored benefits for veterans, good-doers or competition horses.

Winter weight loss

If your horse is carrying any extra weight, winter is the perfect time to help him shed it. In the wild, horses naturally put on weight during the spring and summer, then lose it over winter. Try not to over-rug, instead encouraging him to burn the extra fat to keep warm. Most good-doers can survive well with ad lib forage and feeds made up of a low-calorie chopped fibre and a balancer. However, if he needs to watch his calorie intake, find ways to make his forage ration go further. These could include…

  • soaking to remove nutrients
  • double-netting or using a small-holed haynet
  • adding a few handfuls of good-quality oat straw

Feeding for condition

For horses who need help maintaining their weight, opt for conditioning feeds containing oil and highly digestible fibres, such as alfalfa, soya and sugar beet, rather than cereal-rich mixes or cubes. Oil is very energy-dense, containing over twice the calories as the same quantity of cereals, but in a slow-release format that will help to reduce the risk of any fizzy behaviour. As with any dietary changes, introduce it gradually over a period of at least 10 days to allow his digestive system to adjust.

A little extra help

Veterans or those with poor teeth can struggle with hay or haylage. Instead, choose a chopped fibre that’s suitable as a hay replacer, as the shorter fibres are easier to manage. If these still prove a problem, you could try softening grass pellets or high-fibre cubes with water, or a soaked fibre feed. Using warm water can make a meal more tempting if he’s reluctant to eat.

Bridleway bucket covers help keep food fresh and organised each day. https://www.bridlewayequestrian.com/stable/bucket-covers

 

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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.

V701

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.