Category Archives: Tips

Rider Visibility

Road safety 101

Riding on the roads is an inevitable part of hacking out for many owners. Despite its place firmly in our horses’ routines, riders who enjoy roadwork tend to be few and far between. However, by breaking riding on the roads down into bitesize chunks, you’ll soon become more comfortable and confident when you get on the tarmac.

Ride safe
By following the Highway Code you’ll give yourself and your horse the best chance of staying safe. Much like riding a bicycle on the roads, you and your horse are considered a vehicle, so should operate on the road as such. This means riding on the left-hand side, indicating with your arms to signal your intent to turn and avoiding the pavement. Just like when you’re driving, being courteous and aware of your surroundings will help keep both you and other road users safe.

TOP TIP
If you need a reminder of the rules of the road, pick up a copy of the Highway Code or take a look at it online for free to refresh your memory. The BHS also run riding and road safety courses to help you feel more confident when out and about.

Brighten up
High-vis is an essential part of any rider’s hacking wardrobe, particularly if roadwork’s involved. While it might not be a legal requirement, it’s recommended that you and your horse wear at least one piece of high-vis clothing each, and that you use a variety of colours, too. By mixing colours you give yourself a better chance of being seen, particularly with unnatural colours, such as pink, which don’t blend into your surroundings. Many high-vis products also feature reflective strips that, while less effective during the day, come into their own at times of poorer visibility, reflecting headlights and making you more obvious to other road users. Wearing plenty of high-vis will give you confidence that you’ll be seen on the roads and be kept much safer as a result.

TOP TIP
Look for high-vis products that meet BSI approved standards – either BSEN1150 or EN1150.

Train smart
Roadwork provides a hard, even surface that’s rarely rendered unusable by a downpour typical of a UK winter. This gives you plenty of opportunity to ride out of the school, even when the local bridleways have become virtually inaccessible. However, setting your horse up for success is an important part of safe road riding. The more traffic your horse sees, the more comfortable and confident he’ll become. Begin by going out with a friend and their experienced mount outside rush hour, allowing your horse to become accustomed to standing quietly as the rest of the world rushes by. The acclimatised your horse becomes, the calmer he’ll be out on the roads – a horse who’s dancing about on the road is a danger to not only himself and you, but other road users, too.

For all your equestrian needs…

Time-Saving Tips for Winter

With the dark evenings closing in and the weather taking a turn for the wet, fitting everything into your busy schedule can feel like an impossible task. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can save a few minutes on the yard and stay on top of your chores.

Turn back time

Efficiency is key when it comes to good time management, so think outside the box and you’ll find those extra hours add up in no time…

  • bulk buy feed and bedding with other liveries to benefit from discounts and cheaper delivery
  • fill haynets in advance where possible
  • use one end of the day to ride, and the other to get jobs done. This puts less pressure on you to get your ride over and done with quickly
  • if you have two horses, have a crack at riding and leading – make sure you get comfortable in an enclosed space before you get out and about

TOP TIP

When riding and leading, it’s often best to ride the slower horse, as encouraging him forward will likely be easier with you on board.

  • reuse plastic bags to make up feeds in advance, and add water or soaked elements before feeding
  • ask your yard owner whether you can set jumps up in the morning ready for a schooling session after work – or vice versa – giving you more time to ride
  • if you work close to the yard, use your lunch break to lunge your horse, clean tack or plait up ready for an evening competition
  • use leftover drinking water to soak haynets or to wet your horse’s feeds, saving time and reducing waste
  • if your yard has one, make good use of a horse walker by popping your horse on to warm up him before a ride while you tackle other jobs
  • team up with another livery to share jobs – you could feed and turn out their horse in the morning, and they could put yours to bed in the evening
  • give your tack a wipe over after you ride, and use the weekend to give it a more thorough clean and condition

TOP TIP

While cleaning a your tack doesn’t have to be done every day, make sure you clean the bit after you ride and invest in some good-quality leather conditioner to keep your tack looking its best.

  • leave feed or your haynet to soak while you muck out or ride
  • speak to your yard owner about co-ordinating group physio, farrier and vet visits, saving time and money on callout fees

Winter doesn’t have to mean rushing around to fit everything in before it gets dark. With some forward planning and being organised, you’ll have plenty of time to get everything done – plus a little extra for some down time.

For all your equestrian needs visit bridlewayequestrian.com

Tip-Top Tack Tips

Taking good care of your tack seems like a no-brainer – we all know how much it costs! So, here are a few recommendations to help keep your tack in tip-top condition.

Keeping it clean

Tack often picks up a lot of grease and sweat, particularly if autumn temperatures stay mild. Keeping your tack clean will both protect it and keep your horse more comfortable. So, make sure you…

  • thoroughly scrub your horse’s bit and wipe your girth off after every ride (whether it’s synthetic or leather) – to prevent rubs and sores, as well as to help protect the girth itself
  • give all your tack a wipe off with warm water to remove any grease or dirt, then, using a dry sponge, apply a layer of saddle soap at least weekly.
  • ensure you don’t apply soap to a dirty bridle, – the soap won’t be able to get into the leather and work its magic.
  • double check with either your saddler or saddle manufacturer, to ensure your soap is suitable. Some soaps have the potential to stain or fade the leather.
  • cover the buckles of your synthetic girth with a thick bag to prevent damage, and put it in your washing machine to freshen it up.
  • try a metal polish to give any buckles and martingale rings a real shine

Take good care

Looking after your tack and storing it appropriately is just as important as keeping it clean. By keeping your tack stored somewhere dry, such as in a tack room or your house, you will help prevent the growth of mould, which thrives in damp conditions and can cause damage and staining. Ensure you always store your saddle on a purpose-built rack, this will prevent the tree from being damaged, and try to keep your bridle hung up on a peg to keep it both clean and supple – many people loop the reins through the throatlash and twist the noseband around the rest of the bridle to keep it neat and secure.

We also recommend:

  • using a saddle cover to help keep your saddle clean and prevent scrapes to the leather
  • checking the stitching on all of your tack regularly to ensure it’s safe to use

TOP TACK TIPS

  1. If you use a hard saddle soap, wet it very slightly to make application easier. Make sure you don’t let it lather, though, as this can leave a white coating on the leather.
  2. Use a cocktail stick to poke through the holes in your bridle and stirrup leathers to prevent a build up of soap – this will make it easier when you come to do the buckles up, too
  3. Don’t oil your tack too often as it can weaken and distort the leather.
  4. Strip and clean your tack immediately after riding in the rain, as this will prevent the leather from fading or being weakened.

Once you’ve got on top of taking care of your tack and worked out a routine, it’s easy to stay ahead of the game. Spending a little extra time giving it some TLC can save you money in repairing or buying new kit, ensuring your tack lasts longer.

For all your equestrian needs visit bridlewayequestrian.com

Walk this way

An often overlooked part of competition day, there’s no doubt that course walking is a real skill. However, you don’t have to jump as many rounds as a Whitaker to learn the tricks of the trade.

Finding your feet

Walking your course gives you a great opportunity to take a good look around the arena before you start focusing on what you’re jumping. It’s important to physically walk your course, rather than just point out the fences in order.

Work out any areas where you can save time – reducing the risk of time penalties, or handy in a timed section or jump-off – and spot places where you should take a wider turn to get the perfect line. Similarly, if your horse is green it’s handy to look out for any banners or particularly spooky fillers, as you may need to give him a little reassurance.

TOP TIP: Bear in mind that the more you worry about fillers, the more likely your horse is to have a look. Ride positively, but try not to panic on the approach.

When the going gets rough

While many venues are fortunate enough to have surfaced arenas to hold their jumping on, you won’t be so lucky everywhere you go. Walking the course gives you a super opportunity to get to grips with the ground and any undulations on course, so you’ll be prepared to adjust your horse’s canter where needed. Fences approached downhill will need a more contained canter than those ridden uphill, for example.

Where your round has been preceded by inclement British weather, you’ll likely find the going will get deep in places. You might need to take a different line, perhaps jumping slightly off centre, to avoid the mud. Walking the course is the prime opportunity to consider this.

TOP TIP: Set out two poles with three of your steps between them. If your horse canters through comfortably, this is the length of his stride. Play around with the distance between the poles until you find the perfect length for your horse so you’ll know how a distance will ride when you walk courses in future.

Double trouble

On course, a one-stride double will walk on eight of your strides, and a two stride should walk on 12. This accounts for two of your strides on both take-off and landing, too.

If the combination walks slightly shorter for your horse, you’ll need to ride a more contained canter to meet the second part in the right place. Equally, a short-striding horse may need some encouragement to move on over the ground. Consider the type of fences that make up the combination, too. An upright first element and an oxer out of the combination will require a contained canter in, then positive riding through the middle. However, the opposite will need a powerful, but not rushed, approach and for you to encourage your horse to shorten his stride to jump out clear over the upright.

For all your equestrian needs visit bridlewayequestrian.com 

Mark it up!

Get to grips with your dressage test and give your marks a boost with our tips

This month, we help you find the key to riding a quality dressage test and giving your marks a leg up. Whatever’s giving you trouble, we’ll cover all angles to get a great dressage test out of you and your horse.

  1. Absolute accuracy

Many riders throw away marks by not being accurate, so ensuring you are is a great way to stand out and put yourself above the competition. Any movements performed at a marker should happen as your shoulder passes it. This might mean you need to start asking a little earlier if your horse is behind your leg, or half halt to balance him beforehand. Practise this by riding transitions at your markers until you can be sure your horse will respond as soon as you ask him a question, as this will help you ride exactly as the test dictates, gaining you those handy extra marks.

  1. Walk this way

A pace that’s often forgotten, your horse’s walk is still an important part of your dressage test. Encourage him to march on, taking the rein forward even when you’re warming up or cooling down, as this sets the precedent for all your work. With double marks available for the free rein walk, make sure you allow your hips to swing with your horse’s movement and gradually loosen the rein to push him forward and stretch down. If you drop the rein too quickly, you’ll find his stretch will be inconsistent, and he may throw his head up. Then, make sure you don’t lose any of that impulsion when you then pick him back up again. He should track up and seek the contact in all three of his paces, so be disciplined and maintain that dedication whatever the gait.

  1. Give and take

Introduced at even the lowest levels of dressage, a good give and retake can be a tough trick to tackle. Initially, you’ll only be required to give one rein, and you may find it easier to practise on the long side to start with. You could ride a 10m circle first to help him use his hocks and come off the forehand, then proceed up the long side and have a go at your give and retake. Get used to riding him off your leg and seat, alternately giving your reins at random during your schooling session. You’ll quickly learn when you need to put a little more leg on or stay a bit quieter in your seat to maintain that steady outline. Gradually build up to trying on a circle, ensuring that your horse can maintain the bend by himself using your inside leg. This will then ensure that your horse is between both your legs when you go on to give and retake both reins.

Practising at home and implementing this tips throughout your test are super ways to boost your marks this competition season. Discipline is key with whatever you’re doing, so get used to riding a quality walk and create those good habits now. There’s nothing worse than feeling unprepared by a brand new movement you haven’t seen before, so practise your give and retakes throughout your sessions so they become second nature.

For all your equestrian need visit bridlewayequestrian.com

It’s Show(ing) Time!

Showing Season is upon us! If you’re taking the plunge and entering your first ever show this summer, this blog will help you and your horse feel ready to shine.

Showing is all about preparation – from your horse’s fitness routine and building that all-important top line, to perfect plaits, last-minute touch-ups and ring etiquette. As you get ready for your first show, our top tips and essentials will help cover what you need to know.

Show ring shine

Good health and nutrition is key to having a horse who positively shines, but there’s a whole lot more to good turnout. Unless you’re showing a native type, ensure his mane is pulled or trimmed to a suitable length for plaiting. We’d recommend that you do this at least a week before your show to give the mane time to settle.

The day before your show, treat your horse to a bit of pampering and give them a full bath – make sure you pay particular attention to any white markings! If your horse is prone to rolling, a lightweight sheet will help to keep him clean overnight without overheating. A Universal Sheet or Waffle Cooler are great choices for this as their wicking properties offer safe cooling too. Once you’ve finished cleaning your horse, make sure your your grooming kit is clean and ready to take with you for any last minute touch-ups your horse might need on the day.

Essential Kit list

If you’re able to pack the lorry the night before, you’ll help take some of the pressure off getting ready. Here’s our handy list of things you might need to take:

  • Spare headcollar and leadrope
  • Water container and two buckets (one for drinking and one for washing)
  • Grooming kit, including sponges, conditioning spray and plaiting kit
  • Cooler rug
  • Haynet
  • Saddle (with a close fitting plain coloured numnah if required)
  • Plain brown bridle
  • Tweed or navy jacket (depending on your class)
  • Appropriate standard riding hat with velvet cover and hairnet
  • Beige or canary breeches
  • Shirt and tie or plain coloured stock
  • Long riding boots (keep them smart by using a boot bag)
  • Show cane (if using)
  • Plain coloured leather gloves

Top Tip

Grooming kit bags with lots of pockets are really handy as they keep all your brushes organised and ensure everything is easy to find.

On the day

On the morning of your competition, clean off any stains and section his mane ready for plaiting. The number of plaits will depend largely on the length and shape of your horse’s neck – but 9-11 is a good starting point.

Top Tip

Don’t condition your horse’s mane if you plan to plait as it will make the hair slippery.

When you arrive at the showground, check in with the secretary to collect your number and check which arena your class is in. Allow plenty of time to warn up your horse and get him settled in the exciting showground atmosphere.

When it’s time to go in, remember these etiquette essentials…

  • Always leave one-and-a-half to two horse’s lengths between your horse and the horse in front.
  • Never overtake the horse in front of you. Either ride deep into the corner to create more space or circle away and find a bigger gap amongst the other horses.
  • Keep an eye on the steward so that you’re clear when they instruct you to trot and canter.
  • Wait to be called into line, then watch the other competitors ride their individual show and plan yours – making sure you show trot and canter on each rein.
  • When it’s your turn, step forward from the line before riding a halt transition and saluting the judge.
  • At the end of your show you should also halt and salute before returning to your place in the line up.

Most of all, make sure you enjoy your first showing adventure with your horse!

Best of luck!

Welcome to the family

Buying your first horse is an exciting time, but how can you prepare for his arrival? Here are some of our top tips.

You’ve found your perfect horse, and your vet has just called to say he’s passed his vetting with flying colours. Congratulations – the search is finally over and the countdown to your new horse’s move-in date is underway.

With the clock ticking, it’s time to think about what needs to be in place before you unload him in his new home. We’ve put together your ultimate first-time horsey shopping list to help give you and your new four-legged friend the best possible start together.

Food first

Horses spend the majority of their time eating forage – up to ten hours daily, in fact – so enabling this will be an important step in preparing for your new arrival. Find out whether hay is included in your livery package or, if not, ask your yard owner if they can recommend a local hay or haylage supplier.

Even if you plan to change your horse’s bucket feed, ask his previous owner what he eats and stock up on it. Dietary changes need to be made gradually over a couple of weeks to maintain gastric health, so it’s important not to switch to his new ration overnight.

TOP TIP

As with hay, bedding may also be included in your livery package, or you’ll need to make your own arrangements. Check with your horse’s previous owner to find out if he requires a dust-extracted variety.

What’s included?

If your horse comes with tack and rugs, this will reduce the amount of horsey shopping you need to do, although it’s not a bad idea to check all his items over for signs of wear and tear.

If he doesn’t come with tack, you’ll have to get a new saddle professionally fitted by a master saddler.  Ask you yard owner for recommendations, or check the Society of Master Saddlers registry.

If you need to buy or replace rugs, you’ll find a fantastic range on Bridleway’s website, from fly rugs to turnout rugs and coolers.

Did you know?

If your horse’s previous owner is keeping his bridle, why not call out a professional bridle fitter to find his perfect match. For a range of Bridleway bridles, click here.

Bon voyage

The day’s arrived, and you’re ready to pick your new horse up. In order to get him home safely, you’ll need a…

Some new horse owners encounter difficulty loading their horses, but that can be down to having a new handler. Look out for signs of tension, such as high head carriage and attempts to avoid the vehicle, and always be prepared to allow a little extra time coaxing him onto the ramp – rushing a horse who’s showing signs of nervousness rarely ends in your desired result.

Settle down

It can take horse a few weeks to settle in a new yard with new rules, handlers and companions, so it’s important not to put unnecessary pressure on him as he acclimatises to his new routine. It might be that you avoid riding him for a week or so, which may feel frustrating. However, in the future you’ll have all the riding time in the world, so why rush him?

For everything you’ll need for your new horse, visit bridlewayequestrian.com

 

Be your horse’s therapist – massage techniques that work

Like us, you probably feel that riding’s the best medicine money can buy – albeit pretty pricey, especially when on repeat prescription. You might come back from a hack relaxed and happy, but have you ever thought about giving something back to your horse? And no, we don’t just mean treats and fuss. Appealing to him as they may be, your horse could also really benefit from a bit of DIY massage. Here’s how to get started.

The benefits

While DIY massage shouldn’t replace your horses regular visits from a qualified equine massage therapist, using similar techniques can help:

  • Alleviate tension after exercise
  • Improve circulation
  • Aid suppleness and strength
  • Increase range of motion
  • Develop muscle tone

Here are some easy exercises for you to try.

Effleurage

In French, effleurage means ‘to skim’, which is effectively what you’ll be doing – moving your hands over your horse’s skin to warm up the muscles and prepare them for massage.

Keeping your hands in a relaxed position, use your palms to stroke slowly in the direction of your horse’s hair with a firm touch. Have one had placed on his body at all times while you skim with the other.

Petrissage

Used to go deeper into the muscle, alleviate tension and increase circulation, this technique is the ideal next step in your DIY massage and is best used on well-muscled areas such as your horses neck, saddle area and hindquarters.

Using the heel of your hand, place pressure on a muscle while moving in an upward motion, then gradually work your way along the muscle in this fashion. You can use your bodyweight to increase pressure and help refine your movements.

Percussion

This technique consists of a rapid, repetitive tapping that works deeper into your horse’s muscles and is a great circulation-boosting method. Again, percussion can be used on the neck, hindquarter and saddle areas, taking care to avoid any bonier parts of your horse.

There are a few different percussion techniques you can use. These include…

  • Cupping – making a rounded, cup shape with your hands and placing them lightly on your horse’s sides, lifting and dropping them in a regular rhythm as if you were patting him
  • Clapping – using the same rhythm as above, but flatten your hands
  • Hacking­ – repeat the same rhythm again­, using the side of your hand to apply the pressure. 

Each of these percussive techniques will have a different effect, and you horse may prefer some to others. You should introduce it gradually and practice on yourself first, so that you learn how it should feel.

Compression

This technique is helpful for releasing areas of tension, as it uses constant pressure to soften muscle. Horses tend to really enjoy this ­– you might even find that yours falls asleep!

Simply use your whole hand or arm to press on a muscle, holding the pressure until you feel your and sink into it slightly as it relaxes.

For all your equestrian needs, visit bridlewayequestrian.co.uk

Winter training tips from Bridleway Equestrian

Winter training exercises to get you and your horse ready for spring

If, like many, your horse has been enjoying a bit of a break over the winter, you might be hoping to kick-start the year with some productive time in the saddle. Here are some simple-but-effective exercises for you to try.

Exercise 1: Fitness first

Before asking your horse to tackle a long and difficult schooling session, it’s important you make sure his fitness levels are up to the task – particularly if he’s been completely out of work for a few weeks. It might mean three, four or more weeks of purely hacking, but it could mean the difference between your horse having a complete and successful competition season or picking up an injury along the way.

Once your horse is hacking comfortably for an hour or more a day with plenty of trot and canter work, incorporating hillwork will help boost his fitness. It works and strengthens all areas of his body, and combining it with transitions will go a long way to improving his muscle tone, too.

Try cantering up a hill, walking back down and repeating. Combined with the additional intensity of going uphill, these bursts of intensity followed by recovery – also known as interval training – will help strengthen your horse’s respiratory system and build him up to the sustained cardiovascular efforts he’ll have to make in competition.

Top tip: vary your hillwork by occasionally walking and trotting up hills as well as cantering, otherwise your horse may start to anticipate canter at the bottom of them.

Exercise 2: Side to side

Once your horse has attained a level of fitness that will allow you to school him for a sustained period, incorporating leg-yield in walk, trot and canter will help him become more flexible and supple through his shoulders, back and pelvis, while encouraging him to come through from behind in order to make the effort to cross his legs while maintaining his rhythm.

Start by asking for leg-yield from the three-quarter line to the track, and when you’re both comfortable, try from the track to the three quarter line, continuing straight for a few strides before leg-yielding back. To add a further challenge, try to reach the centre line as you leg-yield down the arena long side.

Exercise 3: Making shapes

If you’re hoping to get some jumping outings under your belt, cracking the code to the perfect canter and approach is a key part of your training. You can achieve this by riding a simple rectangle. This will help you achieve and maintain an active rhythm, while encouraging you to use your inside and outside aids evenly and engaging your horse’s hindquarters underneath him.

Working between the track and the centre line, place a marker just inside the track at M and F, and just inside the centre line at D and G. Place a pole horizontally at X. Each marker should prompt you to turn as if you’ve reached a T-junction – a 90° angle to follow the line of the rectangle shape. Focus on using your outside leg to prompt him to turn, rather than pulling him round with your inside rein. Try in walk first, before progressing to trot and canter, and try swapping your pole for a small jump.

For all your horsey needs, visit bridlewayequestrian.com

 

 

 

Christmas with Bridleway Equestrian

With just over a month to go until Christmas, the team at Bridleway Equestrian have their tinsel and mince pies ready to go! To ensure you’re as prepared as possible for the holiday season, we’ve put together some fab gift ideas that will be perfect for the special horse or equestrian in your life (or just a great gift for yourself!)

For those who love a little bit of glitz

Both horse and rider can enjoy some glitz and glamour this Christmas with our sparkly style suggestions!

For the glamourous rider

Spoil them with a new pair of glitzy breeches, to add that little bit of extra luxury to their riding outfit. We suggest the Kinver Breeches, which feature gold embroidery and a matte floral silicone seat, or our Mendip Breeches, which have stylish silver glitter star print knee grips. Throw in a Sparkle Hat Cover in either royal, navy or pink to complete the look!

For the horse who loves to shine

Why not treat them to a cosy Fleece Lined Headcollar? With its attractive silver or gold sewn design your horse will look super elegant! Alternatively, the Classic Diamond Quilted Saddlecloths (available in Black, Navy or White) look effortlessly smart, and their gold cord trim provides an extra touch of sophistication.

For Matchy-Matchy enthusiasts

We all know them. You’ll never see this horse or pony in anything less than the perfect coordinated combo. Why not wrap them up a new matchy set? Our Signature range includes saddlecloths, bandages and fleece saddlecovers in five fabulous matching colours.

For the naughty pony

Have you got a cheeky horse who makes catching him seem more like you’re playing a game of tag? Choose a practical gift like the Break Free Headcollar, and you’ll not only be getting him something lovely and colourful, but you’ll have treated yourself to an easier life. With its reflective strips you’ll be able to spot your horse better at low light even if he’s playing hide and seek in the field.

For the spoilt pony

Does your horse have his own special stocking at Christmas? Well then, this category is probably for you! Alongside the carrots, why not treat your horse to something a little special. A sophisticated leather headcollar is always a winner. Choose between plain leather, leather with a nameplate, or our elegant Cowdray Headcollar and your horse will definitely look super smart. Fancy something with a bit more colour? Treat your horse to a new turnout rug –  there’s lots of options guaranteed to bring some fun to your horse’s field.

For those on a budget

Part of a Secret Santa with your horsey pals? Here are some great suggestions for under £15: