jumping success Bridleway Equestrian

Jumping success – exercises to try at home

Jumping at home is something a lot of riders enjoy, but without the help of an instructor it can be hard to know what to work on. Setting up one fence to pop over a few times on each rein might be fun for a few minutes, but there’s not much for you and your horse to learn from it. Here are a few simple exercises to help inspire you to take your jumping at home to the next level.

On the grid

Gridwork is very effective for improving horse and rider technique and confidence. A line of fences in quick succession encourages your horse to concentrate and pick up his feet, while your position is tested as the lower leg becomes an anchor, and the urge to over-fold must be resisted.

Another benefit of gridwork is being safe in the knowledge that you’ll hit every fence on a perfect stride and in a powerful canter every time. Using a grid to set you both up to a stride or two before an oxer makes trying bigger fences feel easier and less daunting.

Start with a three-bounce fence in a line, each 3–3.7m apart, and a fourth another 6.4-7.5m away to ride as one canter stride. Remember to build the fences up slowly – don’t just ask your horse to tackle the whole grid from the word go as this might knock his confidence.

A different angle

Jumping fences on angles encourages your horse to think on his feet and will give you a real advantage in a jump-off situation. After you’ve warmed him up over a couple of fences, set up a small upright in the middle of the school for ease of approach from A on both reins. Keep the place pole under the original line of the fence, but move the right-hand wing around slightly towards E. This will create an angled, corner-shape fence with a ground line that’s easy for your horse to interpret.

As your horse grows in confidence, you can create a steeper angle with the fence and even place the ground line directly beneath it to make the exercise more challenging.

Get creative

The most important aspect of your jumping is that both you and your horse enjoy yourselves. If you’ve been asking a lot of him recently with difficult exercises and competitions, why not try taking a more relaxed approach to jumping every once in a while – it’s possible to do this and still teach him something.

Instead of demanding a high degree of technical accuracy, try jumping some small yet unusual obstacles he might not have encountered before. Maybe you have some plastic barrels lying around, or some tarpaulin that can be fashioned into a makeshift water tray? Asking him to approach some new and interesting fences will not only boost experience and bravery, it’ll give you the chance to learn how to ride positively into fences he may have doubts about.

Don’t forget to protect your horse’s legs with boots when you’re jumping. See Bridleway Equestrian’s range of affordable boots and bandages at bridlewayequestrian.com.

Bridleway Grooming Tote

Grooming routines your horse will love

Grooming your horse isn’t just about making him look squeaky-clean. Regular grooming will keep him comfortable while he’s wearing his tack, and promotes overall skin health and loosens his muscles. It also offers the chance to thoroughly check him over and help him shed any dead hairs. Plus, daily grooming allows for valuable bonding time and will build trust between you and your horse. Here’s how to make the time you spend grooming him extra special.

A shedload of hair

At this time of year, loose hair can make your horse hot, itchy and uncomfortable. Turning him out without a rug on, if the weather permits, will let him have a roll to dislodge some hair – which will give you the chance to give him a thorough groom when you bring him back in.

You can help him speed up the shedding process as you groom him. Use a rubber curry comb in vigorous circles to further dislodge any hair and help bring mud to the surface. Once you’ve done this all over, use a brush with stiff, long bristles, such as the Bridleway Long Bristled Dandy Brush, to flick away the hair and mud you’ve worked out of his coat. Finish by rubbing a hot, damp cloth over him to lift away any remaining hair and dirt to leave him with a clean coat. Add baby oil to the cloth to give him that extra sparkle.

Hot and bothered

With warmer weather on the way, your horse will really appreciate a cool down after a ride, particularly if he’s hot and sweaty. It’ll help loosen off his muscles after hard work, too.

Rather than just hosing him down, try using a wash brush to really work the sweat out of his coat to avoid leaving marks. Concentrate on where his saddle has been to help alleviate any tightness in the muscles post-exercise. When you’ve finished, don’t forget to use a sweat scraper to remove any excess water from his coat – the Bridleway Spotless range includes a good range of grooming equipment and matching grooming bag to keep your kit together.

Best of friends

What better way to unwind is there than spending time pampering your horse? Not only will this strengthen the bond between you both, but there are also added health benefits that come with it, such as boosted circulation and a sense of calm.

A great way to bond with your horse is to mimic the way another horse would groom him. You might often see your horse and his field mate stood side-by-side, grooming each other’s manes, necks and backs. Focus on grooming him in these areas, with short brush strokes. With any luck, he’ll turn his head and groom you in return!

Bridleway products and great advice can be found at your local Bridleway stockist, find your nearest at 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

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.

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.

 

 

 

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

 

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.

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.

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.