Category Archives: Tips

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:

Handling the Heat – 10 Tips for Better Summer Riding

The UK is currently experiencing the longest heatwave it’s had in five years. Over lots of cool water and an ice cream or two, Bridleway’s team have been discussing how we, and our horses, have been coping with this beautiful but troublesome weather.

Here are our top 10 tips to help you handle the heat when riding this summer:

  1. Change your routine
    Ride in the coolest parts of the day, avoiding the midday sun. Get up early or wait a bit longer in the evening before riding to make sure you and your horse don’t overheat when you’re out. Consider stabling your horse during the hottest part of day too, as this will protect them from the sun and pesky flies.
  2. Use fly spray AFTER you tack up
    A good fly spray is a lifesaver for horse and rider in the summer months, as it is the peak season for horseflies and midges. However, remember to only apply to your horse’s coat after you’ve tacked up – fly spray under a confined area, like the saddle, can cause irritation when your horse sweats.
  3. Choose breathable fabric for your horse
    Even when riding during the cooler parts of the day, keeping your horse dry and cool is important. By choosing a saddlecloth and girth that are made with a breathable or wicking fabric, your horse will stay comfortable. Saddlecloths made from a quick-dry fabric will draw away moisture from your horse and keep him cool. Plus, an ergonomic girth like the Contour Comfort Girth allows greater airflow and reduces moisture, minimising the risk of rubbing or chafing.
  4. Protect yourself
    Whether you’re riding in an open arena, hacking out, or just doing yard work, remember to keep yourself protected too. Stay in the shade where possible, regularly top up your sun cream, and wear breathable clothing, like riding tights or a base layer. The base layer’s moisture wicking properties will keep you feeling fresh, and longer sleeves, whilst sounding counterproductive, will protect your skin from the sun and do a better job at keeping you cool than short sleeves.
  5. Stay hydrated
    Whilst long hacks aren’t advisable during the hottest parts of the day, if you are out for a while, take supplies with you in a handy bum bag. A bottle of water and an energy bar will keep you going and help replace the nutrients and water you’ll lose when you sweat. Offer your horse water on return from your ride and don’t forget to have a drink yourself.
  6. Use a fly veil
    Your horse’s ears are a sensitive spot that flies love to attack. Keeping them covered with a fly veil can protect them from biting insects and have the added benefits of blocking noise and looking good too (especially when paired with a matching saddlecloth!).
  7. Avoid still or stagnant water
    From puddles to ponds, areas of still water are a breeding ground for midges. If your usual hack takes you near a pond, try and find an alternative route to stop your horse getting pestered.
  8. Take it steady
    A lack of rain and constant sunshine dries out the ground, making for uncomfortable footing for your horse. When hacking, try to avoid riding too quickly on hard ground or rocky surfaces. Keep to a walk or trot, as this is less likely to cause damage to your horse’s legs. Stick to an arena for your faster paced schooling work.
  9. Don’t forget the cool down
    Once you’ve returned from your ride, take your time to cool your horse down properly. Sponging or hosing him off will help bring his temperature down and a good body wash brush and sweat scraper will help make the process easier. Don’t forget to reapply the fly spray once he’s dry and pop on a fly mask and lightweight fly sheet for extra protection.
  10. Make cooling treats for your horse
    After a warm ride, your horse will need to cool down and stay hydrated. Help him by using handy tricks that encourage him to drink more, such as adding apples for him to bob for in his water trough or bucket. Another fun idea is to create a frozen horse lick with water and chopped up apples and carrot. He’ll be cool, hydrated and kept amused with his very own ice lolly!

Hopefully these 10 tips will help you and your horse stay comfortable and make the most of this British heatwave.

For all of your summer equestrian needs, visit your local Bridleway stockist or  www.bridlewayequestrian.com

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

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

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.

How To Stop Your Horse Getting Spooked

With Halloween just around the corner we thought it was the perfect opportunity to look at why horses get spooked. Even when there’s not a ghost or ghoul in sight, horses can become fearful and riders need to understand how to manage those fears in an effective way.

Some horses have a naturally nervous disposition or can struggle with a particular phobia and need more encouragement to stay calm. It’s important to remember that these obstacles can be overcome.

It’s unlikely to be a blood-sucking vampire or werewolf that makes your horse nervous. In fact, horses are often more logical than their riders and their fears will usually be because they perceive danger – for example, a loud bang or an unrecognisable object. Horses will bolt or rear-up as a defence mechanism. This natural instinct could keep them alive in the wild, however it’s important that you don’t have to worry that they will be spooked by every little thing – putting you and your horse in potential danger.

Here are our top tips for managing your horse’s fears:

  • Keep calm and carry on

Understanding how your horse feels can help you to predict their behaviour and alert you to any nervousness. A calm and relaxed horse will have a level head, even breathing, no tension in their flanks or neck and soft eyes. Ensure you also remain calm, but alert and watchful for changes that suggest your horse is becoming stressed and likely to get spooked.

  • Watch out for ‘seasonal stressors’

With bonfire night and the festive season already on the horizon, now is the time to think about how these events could cause unnecessary stress. Fireworks are the main offender, as loud noises and bright lights can be very worrying for your horse. However, there are some simple tricks to ensure your horse feels comfortable. Leave a radio on to block out loud, sudden noises and leave some lights on to stop flashing fireworks scaring them. Stable toys can also be great for providing a distraction.

  • Everyday spooks

Some horses can be scared of everyday objects or even other animals. In this instance there is no quick fix and you may need to be patient in your approach. Encouraging your horse to get used to the ‘scary’ object can be one way to help them overcome their fear. To give them confidence, you could take another horse to lead on a route that includes the object or animal that makes them nervous. Or, encourage your horse to approach what causes the fear slowly, allowing them to back away if they choose to. Simply being near the perceived ‘danger’ can be enough, and you could always try sharing a carrot or apple, or singing a song to keep them calm and relaxed.

  • Take time to overcome their fears  

Horses, just like riders, can get over their fears and learn to be brave in the face of danger. They need a strong, confident rider to lead them but this doesn’t mean yelling, jerking the reins or forcing them to confront their fears head on. Your horse needs to build up trust and have confidence to follow you. Don’t rush, it will take time to help your horse overcome their fears, but by slowly introducing things that are scary they will eventually get used to them and over time they will become confident and relaxed.

Riding in a Winter Wonderland

At Bridleway we love riding in winter. There is no more dust, it doesn’t get too hot and what better place to see the seasons change than from your saddle?

The trees are already starting to show the first signs of autumn setting in and soon there will be a carpet of crunchy leaves to trot through. But nothing beats seeing the first snowflakes of winter, getting wrapped up and venturing out through freshly laid snow.

Winter riding can be an exhilarating experience, but it can also be cold, wet and miserable if you aren’t prepared for the conditions. Here we’ve compiled our top tips for surviving (and enjoying!) the winter season:

Warm up and cool down – As the temperature plummets, both you and your horse need to spend more time warming up and cooling down, so make sure you factor in extra time. It is also a good idea to invest in a fleece rug, which will make the ideal cooler for your horse after a heavy workout. You can then rug him up in his normal stable or turnout rug.

Stay hydrated – Ensuring both you and your horse stay hydrated may not seem as important in the colder months but it should still be a priority. Frosty nights can freeze your horse’s water trough, leaving him without fluids all night. If this happens, break the ice and also offer your horse some tepid water, as they will be more likely to drink if it’s not too cold.

Stay toasty and take supplies – It is also essential to be prepared for changing conditions through the winter months. Check the weather before planning to go riding and if heavy snow or thunder storms are forecast, it may be better to train indoors. If you are riding out in cold weather, ensure you take extra layers of clothing, some snacks and plenty to drink (a flask of hot chocolate can do wonders to warm you up after a long ride!).

Stay visible – Investing in the right kit is a must as the weather gets chillier and it is essential that you and your horse stay safe and visible in foggy mornings and dark evenings. Bright gear such as reflective leg wraps, tail guards and exercise sheets, can ensure you are seen by oncoming traffic and pedestrians.

Reward yourself – After a long day galloping across the great British countryside in winter time there is nothing better than a cosy, relaxing evening, so why not warm up in a hot bubble bath and enjoy some hearty, traditional British fayre. 

Off On Holiday? Keep Calm and Gallop On!

Whether heading off on holiday or taking part in a show, visiting a new place can be stressful if you’re worried about keeping your horse calm when venturing away from home. If your horse struggles to adapt to new places or is simply not used to traveling, don’t panic – with our simple tips you could soon be calm and relaxed no matter what adventures lie ahead: –

Stick to your everyday routine
Horses like routine, so avoid breaking it where possible even if you are on holiday or competing. If you do have to make changes, plan in advance and tweak your day-to-day routine while at home to give your horse time to adjust.

Safety in numbers
Why not bring a friend or companion for you and your horse? Having a friend to support you will help you to stay calm and allow you to maintain control if your horse becomes anxious. The same can be said for your horse; a companion horse can work wonders to ease their nerves.

Practice the situation
If you are entering a competition, take your horse to a practice show beforehand so you can learn how your horse reacts in that particular situation and adapt the care you provide. If you’re planning a horse-friendly holiday, why not ask a fellow horse-loving friend if your horses can swap stables for the night. This will give your horse the opportunity to get used to being in a new environment and you will be able to gauge how they feel.

Stay confident
Horses can be spooked if they feel a lack of confidence from their rider. If you are feeling at all nervous, remember the days and weeks of training you have put in with your horse and the strong relationship you have. Simply by taking some deep breaths and walking your horse in figures of eight can calm both of you down and focus any nervous energy on the activity in hand.

Create a distraction with stable toys
Stable toys are a relatively new phenomenon but a great way to maintain your horse’s attention with something recognisable from their home environment. Most involve food and encourage natural foraging behaviour. Footballs are also great toys and some racehorse trainers simply use empty containers filled with nuts to hold their horse’s attention. Generally horses only focus on one thing at a time, so if you can maintain their attention with a toy they recognise any worries over their new environment should soon be forgotten.

 

Top 5 Tips For Training Your Horse

You and your horse are a team, working together and looking after one another to achieve your goals and dreams. However, training can be a long, tiring and frustrating process, full of ups and downs, good days and bad days. Bear these five simple training tips in mind though, and you and your partner will be well on the way to equestrian success.

1)     Always start from the ground up.

Don’t just jump straight on and expect your horse to know exactly what you want right away. Be sure to take your time and be patient, spend time on the ground with your horse, building up a bond and establishing trust through simple daily tasks like grooming and feeding. Rushing this stage will only lead to disappointment and a good relationship on the ground will definitely lead to a much happier riding experience for both of you.

2)    Never mount your horse with a rigid training plan in mind.

Having an area of focus for your training session is important, but it’s also necessary to gauge the mood of your horse. If your horse is struggling with a certain exercise, being adaptable with your schooling schedule will work wonders. Instead of forcing a task, change it. Have a back-up plan in mind and different exercises that are aimed at achieving the same goal, such as straightness or suppleness.

3)    Add variety to your weekly riding.

Horses, especially green youngsters, can get easily bored when faced with repetitive training tasks. Having a schedule is essential and many horses respond well to routine but adding subtle changes, such as trotting poles, are a great way to engage your horse in what you’re doing without intimidating and overwhelming them. Hacking out is also vital when trying to familiarise your horse with unusual surroundings and sounds, making them calmer when faced with the excitement of a competition, for example.

4)    Get an outsider’s opinion.

Sometimes when training a horse it can be hard to work out what’s going wrong and why. Bringing in a friendly but honest outsider, such as your trainer or another rider at the yard, and asking them to observe one of your sessions could be just what you need. From down on the ground they might notice things you don’t and offer you constructive criticism to help you improve.

5)    Finish all rides on a positive.

Finally, riding can be frustrating and tiring for both you and your horse and some sessions won’t go as well as others. When training, it is really important to remember the positives from a session, as well as how to improve on the negatives. Maybe your horse didn’t ace their flying changes, but how was their trot to canter transition? Did they feel confident? Taking pros and cons from each ride is a really handy way to work out where to focus your attention in a stress-free way.