A Guide To Buying Your First Horse, Riding & Everything Else You Could Possibly Need To Know...
At some point every little girl (and plenty of little boys) have wanted their own pony. As a child, it’s hard to understand why mum and dad were so reluctant to buy you one. Owning a horse is a decision not to be taken lightly. It’s a long-term commitment that requires a lot of time and money. But if you’re a dedicated horse lover and you think you can handle it, here’s our handy guide to make sure first-time owners get it right.
Too Young To Ride?
If you are a keen equestrian yourself then you will probably be hoping that your child will share your enthusiasm. Even if you have never ridden yourself you might have a little one who simply loves ponies. Your kids could be desperate to get in the saddle but at what age is it safe for them to start riding?
Pony Club Advice
The Pony Club say that the age of six is an appropriate time to start riding but some branches offer mini-camps for kids as young as four years of age. Meanwhile the British Horse Society says the ideal time to start will depend on the youngster concerned and they are almost certainly right.
Kids are Individuals
It is crucial that youngsters can ride safely and so they must have the required co-ordination, attention span and balance. Every child is different and their development may be affected by the other activities that they engage in. For instance, kids that have attended ballet school from an early age may have superior balance. Youngsters who play ball sports will often have improved their co-ordination.
The age that your children are able to start riding might also be dictated by your local riding school. They may have their own rules regarding kids and these could have been imposed upon them by their insurers.
If you have your own horses then there is nothing to stop you testing the water when you feel that youngster is ready. You can also pop them in the saddle at any age to get them accustomed to the feel of being on horseback. Even a small pony can seem intimidating to a toddler! If you do let your children sit on a horse then make sure that they wear a hat and that you stay with them at all times.
Attention Span and Stamina
When your child does start to ride, remember that their attention span is likely to be rather short and that they will tire quire easily. It is best to stick to short sessions at the outset and then build up your child’s stamina and confidence gradually.
The Unwilling Equestrian
Whatever you do, try to avoid forcing the issue. If your youngster is reluctant to ride then insisting that they take to the saddle could put them off riding forever. Especially if they do have a fall early on. Children are far more likely to really engage with horses if they are willing participants.
You might have to accept that your child does not share your love of horses and that their interests lie elsewhere. Most kids love riding, even if they lack confidence to start with, but riding isn’t for everyone and some youngsters simply won’t take to it no matter how hard you try. If your child isn’t keen to ride then wait a little longer because they could change their minds!
Common Obstacles Horse Owners Face
Horses are beautiful, strong creatures who have worked alongside humans for thousands of years. Although they are now often ridden for pleasure or sport over necessity, many people still take on the – almost full time – role of horse owner.
Unlike other hobbies, you can’t just choose not to go to the stables to see your horse for a week or so, because a horse is a hobby, pet and friend all rolled into one. Below are some other common obstacles horse owners face.
Assuming all horses are the same
Becoming a horse owner isn’t a decision to be taken lightly and it’s important to do more than just read up on equine terms and management. Although studying horse care can be beneficial, in this case hands on experience is invaluable.
Spend time at a stable with other horses – and the horse you hope to purchase if possible. Every horse is different and just because yours doesn’t react the same way somebody on the internet said it would doesn’t mean it’s stupid, you may just need to try a different method. This is where spending time with as many horses as you can comes in handy, seeing how different horses react to different things can be a great help when it comes to training your own.
Not riding Horse Enough
As we said above, all horses are different, and some take to riding quicker than others. It’s important not to feel discouraged if yours seems untrainable, you just need to keep trying. Like a dog a horse ‘is not just for Christmas’ and if you think you are going to get bored when things don’t go your way then a horse is the wrong companion for you.
The more you ride a horse the more comfortable both you and they will feel. If however you need a break from riding, then ensure your horse is able to graze or take them for walks along trails to allow them to exercise; a horse who is not able to exercise may become sick and unruly.
If you choose to walk alongside your horse on trails, it is important that you know your horse well. Are they prone to bursts of excitement if they see something unfamiliar? Will they bolt from you and are you prepared if they attempt to? You must be able to answer these questions to secure both yours and your horses’ safety.
Your horse is always learning and therefore it is important not to re-enforce any bad behaviour they may exhibit. Spend time with a trainer to learn for yourself the best way to interact with your horse so that you can both get the most out of each other.
Don’t forget that horses are prey animals and therefore they are likely to be jumpier and are less likely to trust you than other animals are. Just remain patient and persistent – if you put in the time and effort then your horse will learn to trust you and become a wonderful companion.
Health Fitness Benefits of Horse Riding
Is riding a horse good exercise? Anyone who has never ridden a horse would doubtless be shocked to discover the vigorous workout that a few hours in the saddle represents. Even if you have been riding for years you may not have given a great deal of consideration to how your activities are affecting your mind and body.
Horse riding is actually a fabulous way to keep yourself in shape and it is a lot more interesting than spending hour after hour in the gym!
Riders must use specific muscles for balance and control. If you adopt the correct posture and ride regularly you will enhance your core strength. You will be continually squeezing your abductor muscles to stay put in the saddle and you will use your core to protect your spine and to remain upright.
Muscle Tone and Flexibility
Your quads, hamstrings and glutes all support the work of your abductors and power the leg movements that you use to control your horse. Your glutes flex and tighten when you roll your hips down and forward to cue the horse to stop. When your horse changes direction, you're forced to engage the obliques and transverse abdominals to stay upright. Your thighs and pelvic muscles receive an amazing workout which tones your muscles and enhances your flexibility.
Balance and Coordination
Whilst riding you are making constant adjustments to keep upright and to remain in the saddle. The faster your horse moves the harder you have to work. Your balance will naturally improve with so much practice and you will develop better co-ordination as you learn to move in unison with your horse and to maintain control.
Your hands and arms are also moving continually. The actions your make with your arms to control your horse are often performed subconsciously but you are still teaching your body to be better coordinated.
The effort you will expend riding varies according to the type of riding that you are engaged in and the speed at which you are travelling. But even at walking speed, you could burn over 200 calories per hour. When galloping, you will burn up to 650 calories per hour depending on your body weight and general fitness. You generally burn slightly more calories if you weigh more.
At the Stables
As an equestrian, the exercise you receive will not be restricted to the time that you spend in the saddle. Working at the yard and caring for your horse also tones your muscles and burns calories. But be careful to adopt the right posture when you are lifting, otherwise your time at the yard might do you more harm than good.
Learning to ride and improving your skills over time will enhance your confidence. This will influence all aspects of your life, not just your riding. In addition, the time you spend in the saddle can have a wonderfully calming effect and so provides a useful antidote to stress. You will be making mental adjustments continually as you ride and this will help to enhance your mental agility.
There are few aspects of your health and wellbeing that will not receive a boost when you ride. You burn calories, tone your muscles, improve your balance and sharpen your mind when you are riding. If you want to see just how much your hobby is helping you to be healthier, see what happens when you stop!
How to Learn to Ride on a Tight Budget
Horse riding is a wonderful sport that keeps you fit, helps you to make new friends and teaches you new skills. Unfortunately it can also be an expensive hobby! There is no escaping the fact that you will need riding lessons if you wish to get into the sport and that can be a major challenge if you are on a tight budget.
Once you get the horse riding bug you won’t want to be restricted to the occasional outing so how do you minimise the costs of learning to ride?
Do You Wear a Sports Bra Whilst Riding?
Recent research has revealed that less than 35% of female riders wear a sports bra whilst in the saddle. This was in spite of the fact that 40% of riders reported having experienced breast pain! The research was conducted by Dr Jenny Burbage, a biomechanics specialist at the University of Portsmouth, and Lorna Cameron, of Sparsholt College. They also discovered that the incidence of breast pain was directly related to cup size. Blow me down with a feather! The fact that big boobs can be problematic won’t come as a surprise to anyone. But the dangers of inadequate support are clearly being ignored.
The Anatomy of Breasts
Breasts are made up of fatty tissue and not muscle. As such, they cannot be toned or strengthened to cope with physical exertion. The fatty tissue is easily damaged when participating in sporting activities and that damage is irreparable. It is vital that breasts are adequately supported when you are enjoying any sporting activity and that includes riding. So why aren’t more equestrians investing in a good sports bra?
Ignorance and Expense
It could be because most sports bras are marketed at runners and fitness enthusiasts and so it might appear to some that they only require these garments for running or workouts at the gym. Sports bras also represent yet another expense which most riders could do without. But riders should be wearing the bras and they do offer many benefits. Sports bras can reduce breast bounce by up to 78%. Less bounce means less structural damage, less back ache and a much more appealing look! nBut sports bras are about more than just the excellent support that they provide. They have special straps that stay in place when you are active. This is a major boon if you often find yourself fiddling to readjust your straps. Sports bras are fashioned from breathable, moisture wicking fabric and so keep you comfortable and dry for longer.
A sports bra is actually a very versatile piece of clothing and so represents excellent value for money. You can use your sports bra when engaging in any active pursuit and they are ideal for holidays. Perfect for hiking, sports bras are also a good substitute for a bikini top if you stumble across somewhere to take an impromptu swim.
A Matter of Style
Many women cherish their fancy lingerie and perhaps you are one of them. It would be true to say that sports bras are not as pretty and chic as a lovely lace number but you only have to wear them whilst you are riding. Nobody else must see your bra and sports bras are available in variety of cool styles and funky colours.
The Right Bra
It is important to choose a bra which provides sufficient support, which is right for your body and which fits correctly. The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) in conjunction with the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) has now produced The Horse Rider’s Guide to Bras. This leaflet provides the guidance you need to make the right choice.
You will need to ensure that you find the best possible deal for your lessons. Take some time to compare the charges offered by your local stables. Don’t be tempted to travel too far in order to get a better price as your travel costs will soon start to outweigh any cost benefits that you have achieved. It is usually cheaper to buy lessons in bundles but don’t commit yourself until you have taken your first lesson. It is important that you establish that the sport really is for you and that you are happy with your chosen stables.
You may also find that riding off-peak will save you money. There may be deals for weekday riding and it could be worth rearranging your life a little to take advantage of these. You should also search online for special deals. These could be featured on site such as Groupon, Vouchercloud and MoneySavingExpert.
Working For Your Lessons
Ask the stables if they have any work that needs doing like feeding the horses or mucking out. You might not want to spend your time carrying horse feed and cleaning but it could be possible to trade your efforts for time in the saddle. In any case, if you work at the stable you will learn about caring for the animals. This will stand you in good stead if you are ever able to own your own horse or to gain a full time position at a stable. The more that you learn about equine care, horse feed and life at the stables the better the rider you will ultimately become.
The Gift of Riding
Choosing Christmas and Birthday gifts can be hard and perhaps your family and friends struggle to find the perfect presents for you. If that is the case then tell everyone that you want riding lessons and you will help yourself whilst solving their dilemma at the same time.
If you are lucky enough to be able to take a holiday then why not go riding? Combining your holiday with your hobby is the cost effective way to go. You can take riding holidays all over the world and there are some excellent low cost options in Europe.
You can start out on your riding adventure wearing jeans and trainers or hiking boots. All you need at the outset is a riding hat. It is important to buy your own riding hat as you need to know that its safety has not been compromised in a fall. You will eventually need the correct clothing and equipment but you can buy this in stages when you find the right deals. Second hand items are great value and can be found on auction sites. You should also keep an eye out for equestrian sales. If you bide your time you can make impressive savings.
Horse riding is never going to be the cheapest hobby but you can mitigate the costs if you are prepared to compromise. By choosing the right times to ride, doing some work at the stables and searching for the best deals you can afford to take the lessons you need to improve.
First Things First before buying a horse
Before you buy, there’s a few things you need to consider. Such as, do you have the time and energy to take care of a horse? Owning a horse can be extremely rewarding, but equally as exhausting, as horses need taking care of 365 days a year (yes, even Christmas Day!)
Do you have a home ready for your new steed? Will they live with on your land or at a livery? Will they be a solitary horse, and if not, have their previous living conditions allow them to cope in a stable with other animals? Most importantly, do you have the funds? From insurance, to vet bills, and shoeing, horses are more than just the purchase cost. You need to think of the price of their ongoing care, such as bedding and food.
Now you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to consider what kind of horse you want. The more research you do now, the shorter your search will be.
So, What Questions Should You Be Asking?
Will this horse be ridden by just you, or other members of your family? If so, it needs to suitable for everyone.
Do you need an older, more experienced horse? Or would you like a horse with the potential to learn and flourish alongside you? If it’s the latter, you’ll need the patience and skill to train it, as “Green” horses are not necessarily the best for novice owners. If they’re still growing, the horse you think you’re buying may not be what you get further down the line. And if you’re still not the best rider yourself, an older horse will be better for developing your abilities.
Are you interested in competing? And if you’re planning on doing it soon after buying, you’ll need a horse that knows the ropes. Ask the owner about the horse’s history, from how it shows, to its reaction to traffic, and how it acts around people and other animals.
What Else is There to Consider?
Other elements to seriously think about include size, breed, and the health of the animal. Whether you’re going for a cute little pony or a majestic Thoroughbred, make sure you get it checked out by a veterinarian, as a proper examination may find issues you’ve yet to pick up on, or at the very least highlight the strengths and weaknesses of your potential buy.
Write down what you’re willing to comprise on and what you consider absolute deal-breakers, then make sure you stick to them! As we said before, a horse is a long-term commitment, you don’t want to regret it later on. Take your lists to viewings so you don’t budge, after all, it’s easy to get carried away. Do the groundwork now, and you and your new friend will have years of happiness ahead of you!
Horse Eye Colour & Temperament
Is there a correlation between eye colour and temperament in horses? Most horses have brown eyes but other eye colours are seen. These include blue, green, yellow, amber, or hazel. Whilst it is mostly horses with light coats which have blue eyes, you will see horses with dark coats with wonderful azure eyes.
There are few old wive’s tales about blue-eyed horses. These suggest that the animals can be a little crazy and may have issues working in bright sunlight. It has also been suggested that blue-eyed horses are more prone to skin cancer and that they may go blind prematurely. So, is there any truth to these warnings?
A Study of Blue Eyes
A study conducted by the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital set out to discover the truth about blue eyes. The researchers looked at the medical records of hundreds of horses. 164 of these had been diagnosed with ocular disease and 212 were without any known eye ailments. By comparing the two groups it was possible to establish whether or not the horses with blue eyes were more prone to issues.
Debunking the Myths
The team discovered that blue eyes were just as common as brown eyes in both groups of horses. They found no significant difference between the proportion of blue and brown-eyed horses with problems such as corneal disease or disease in the eye or eye socket (including equine recurrent uveitis, glaucoma, cataract, intraocular neoplasia, orbital cellulitis, and orbital neoplasia).
Squamous cell carcinoma
Blue-eyed horses were no more likely than brown-eyed horses to suffer from any issues with their vision. However, the study did reveal that blue-eyed horses appear to be more susceptible to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). This is due to the skin pigmentation around the eye and eyelid rather than the eye-colour itself. This fact also explains why some breeds are more prone to developing the cancer than others.
SCC is a non-melanoma skin cancer which is caused by exposure to UV rays. It is important to protect any horse from the harmful effects of UV rays. Fly-masks can help shield the face, and sunscreen obviously also helps to protect a horse. Shade should always be available in turn-out areas.
Blue Eyes and Behaviour
There is no scientific evidence that blue-eyed horses have suspect temperaments. If your blue-eyed horse is a little feisty, this has nothing to do with their eye colour. It is hard to imagine how this myth developed. Perhaps people have found that the striking blue eyes simply look a little crazy!
Horse Much Does a Horse Cost?
Are you thinking about buying a horse? Before you make such a huge commitment you should know about the costs involved. There are quite a few hidden costs when it comes to owning a horse, and it can all start to add up before you realise how much you are spending. If you want to care for and look after your horse properly you will need the funds to be able to give them everything they need. Here are some of the key things you will have to spend money on if you own a horse.
Don’t forget about the initial cost of buying a horse in the first place. Horses vary hugely in cost depending on the breed, quality and type of horse you are looking for. You can get a horse for anything from just under a grand up to hundreds of thousands of pounds. You need to look at your budget and decide what type of horse you can realistically afford.
If you aren’t lucky enough to own your own land then you will need to pay to rent land or to have your horse based at a livery. The costs vary for this depending on whether you just rent a field, or pay to have your horse fully looked after at a livery. You can also have them based somewhere and do most of the work yourself which significantly reduces the costs, but it takes a lot of time and hard work.
You will need to spend money on adequate feed for your horse, this varies slightly throughout the year. Costs vary depending on which brand you choose and the size of your horse.
You need to remember that it’s not just the horse you will need to spend money on. You will need to buy yourself all the necessary riding gear and equipment such as a Riding Hats, Jodhpurs and good quality Riding Boots.
If you want to get your horse a pet passport or have them microchipped then this is an extra cost you will have to fork out for.
Bedding is an essential for horses, you will need to get shavings or straw which needs replacing regularly.
Hay & Straw
Horses kept in fields will need to have hay in the winter to compensate for the lack of grass and horses kept in stables will also need hay throughout the year.
Horses hooves need to be looked after and will require regular attention from a farrier. They need to be trimmed regularly and have shoes fitted and fixed.
On top of these core costs there are also many other additional costs that you may need to pay for such as:
- Vet Fees
- Grooming Equipment
- Stable & Cleaning Equipment
How to Make Horse Ownership More Affordable
There’s no escaping the fact that horses are expensive. But if your finances are challenged then there are ways to mitigate your costs. Even if you have no problem covering the bills, why spend more than you need to? Here’s our top tips for saving your hard earned cash.
If you are currently funding the cost of full livery then consider whether or not you can do more of the work yourself. Choosing a reduced level of service or going DIY is the easiest way to save the pennies. But you must be sure that you have the time to properly care for your horse. If time could be a stumbling block then think about whether there is anyone who can help you out.
If your time challenges are restricted to certain days of the week then it might be possible to do a reciprocal deal with another owner. You probably aren’t the only one with other commitments so you should be able to find someone who could use some backup.
Both feed and bedding are going to be cheaper if you order in bulk. It is worth talking to other owners at your yard to see if they would be interested in clubbing together. You will be able to purchase what you need at lower prices and there should be savings on your deliveries too. It might also help to investigate the seasonal nature of some pricing. Is it cheaper to make your purchases early or at certain times of year?
The Vet and Farrier
It may be possible to reduce your costs if you speak to others at the yard and arrange for your farrier and vet to attend to several horses on the same day. There is no point in you all paying for call-out charges.
Working at the Yard
Does your yard need a helping hand? If you do have some spare time then you could offer to help out at your yard in exchange for a reduction in fees. Even if all the regular tasks are covered, there may be seasonal or one off projects that the staff at the yard are struggling with such as repairs and painting.
Sell your Spares
If you have accumulated a hoard of tack and accessories and don’t regularly use certain items then perhaps it is time to turn some of your gear into cash. If you don’t need it then sell it on!
Commuting to and from the yard and travelling to competitions is a regular expense that you should address. Are you able to car share with someone who lives close to you? If you require a trailer or lorry could you find someone to share this with or would hiring make more financial sense?
There are always ways to save money. Examine every aspect of what you do to see what can be achieved. Even small economies here and there will soon start to add up to a significant saving.
Why Sharing a Horse Could Prove Problematic
Horses are an expensive hobby and make huge demands on your time. On the face of it, sharing a horse with a friend or relative is the perfect way to mitigate your costs and to accommodate your busy schedule. You can both enjoy riding and form a bond with the horse and everything will be rosy in the garden. Or will it?
The Lazy Sharer
Things can and do go wrong when you share. The operative word here is share because some people aren’t very good at that. Or at least they aren’t very good at it when there is work involved! It is all too easy for the lazier members of the species not to fulfil their side of the bargain. This could leave you knee deep in muck when it isn’t really your turn to be at the stable.
When your friend or relative has enjoyed a night on the town and then crawled into the sack at stupid o-clock, they just might decide not to get up again. But someone has to see to the horse so that would be you then! Of course you could take your revenge and perform a no-show of your own but you are a conscientious sort and wouldn’t dream of it. When riders don’t do their share of the work, arguments are bound to ensue.
The Trouble with Change
Things can take a turn for the worse when your co-owner acquires a new life partner or a new job. Their priorities change and the horse might find itself relegated in the pecking order. That will leave you with a level of responsibility that you didn’t sign up for. The situation could prove to be even more serious if your friend’s new job happens to be in Australia. Then you will be looking for a new sharer.
People’s lives change and those changes are often unexpected and sudden. There often isn't anything & that can be done about it. But that doesn’t make things any easier when it is you who has to pick up the pieces.
Difference of Opinion
Everyone has their own ideas on how best to care for and to ride a horse. You could find that your ideas are at variance with your friend’s. You might believe that their actions are detrimental to the horse or are causing behavioural issues. Alternatively, you could find that your co-owner’s insistence on a certain type of bedding or feed is stretching your budget to the limit.
Talking of money. What happens if your friend loses their job or falls prey to a long-term illness and can no longer afford the horse? It is a problem which can be sorted eventually, but in the short term someone has to cover the cost of the horse and once again, that would be you.
Nothing is certain in this world and so sharing a horse could prove problematic no matter how careful you are about who you share with.
What to Check When Buying a New Horse
You may have searched far and wide to find what looks like the perfect horse. But it is important to ensure that you are making the right decision. When you travel to see the horse in person it is crucial that you learn as much as you can about the animal during your visit. Set out with a clear idea of what you really want and the questions that you should ask.
It is always a good idea to take someone with you and preferably someone with equestrian knowledge. Use your phone or a video camera to film the horse and the owner. The footage can then be shown to an expert for further advice. Refer to your checklist throughout the meeting in case you forget to ask some of the questions that you need to. A checklist will also prevent you from getting carried away and buying a horse which does not meet your needs.
Ideally, your horse should be vetted before it’s purchased. Even if you know where the horse has come from or the previous owners, it’s better to be safe than sorry. The vetting process will involve an inspection of the horse’s health. This means that you can determine if any problems need addressing right away or if there are any to watch out for in the future.
The full vetting process can take up to 2 hours, but it’s worth doing to avoid any issues further down the line. During this time and adhering to the British Veterinary Association guidelines, your horse will be checked and examined in five stages, where the following are monitored:
- Skin, heart, lungs, legs, teeth, and feet
- Walk and trot and assessment of movement
- Ridden exercise, trot and canter
- Strenuous workout, eyes
- Second trot and flexion tests
So that you can determine if there are any short or long-term health issues to look out for, it’s advised to get your horse vetted.
When you arrive at the owner’s yard inspect the horse’s stall / stable for signs of vices such as a chewed stable door. Ask to see the horse trotted up so that you can assess his conformation and soundness. It is also a good idea to look at his feet to see how he is shod and whether he has good, strong feet.
Ask if you can prepare him for a ride yourself as you can then experience his manners as you tack him up. Remain vigilante and assess whether he has been worked before you arrive. Sweat marks or a lack of water in the stall are alarm bells that you should heed.
Ask about the horse’s diet, any supplements that he may be on and any medical treatment that he has undergone. It could also be useful to get the contact details of any previous owners so you can make further enquiries.
Riding the Horse
Someone else should ride the horse first so you can take a good look at him. This ride must include walking, trotting, cantering and a few small jumps. It really isn’t a good idea to ride an unknown horse yourself so insist that the owner finds someone to ride him for you. Video the ride for future reference.
You should only ride the horse yourself after you have satisfied yourself that it is safe to do so. Ride the horse as you would want to ride him at home. If you want to jump him, ask to jump him during the visit. Then ask to turn him out so you can see what his behaviour is like when you try to catch him. Finally test his reaction to being loaded in a horse box.
Throughout the visit, remind yourself that temperament is more important that looks. What matters most is that you can form a bond with the horse and that he meets your needs in terms of skills. Don’t get seduced by any other factors!
Remember that the owner should also be asking you plenty of questions. If the seller is genuine then they will want to make sure that you are the perfect new owner for their horse. Disinterest is a very bad sign.
It is always best to see the horse at least twice before making a decision. Try to visit at different times of day so you can learn more about the horse and their behaviour throughout the day. If you decide that the horse could be the perfect choice, get him checked thoroughly by a vet and examine any paperwork in detail. Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, walk away.
How To Choose a Livery Yard
You will be making a significant investment and your choice of livery yard will impact both your horse’s well-being and your lifestyle. It is important to find the right yard and so you should fully explore your choices. Ask as many questions as possible before you make any decisions.
There is little point in choosing a service that you cannot afford as this situation will be unsustainable. You must decide what your budget is and this will probably dictate whether you opt for full, part or DIY livery. Some yards specialise in, or only offer, one type of livery and so there will be certain establishments that you can rule out on this basis.
Your yard must be reasonably close to home. You will be doing a lot of travelling back and forth and so a location which is miles away will considerably increase your costs. All that travelling will also reduce the amount of time that you can spend with your horse.
Ask to see a contract and check it carefully to establish what is included and what you will be charged extra for. It could come as a nasty surprise if you weren't expecting to pay extra for turning out, grooming and mucking out.
You should find out what type of bedding is used or whether you are able to provide your own. This is a particularly important factor if your horse has a dust allergy. Ask whether you are allowed to buy your own forage and feed or if you have to purchase these from the yard’s supplier. Check the quality of what is on offer before making your decision.
It is also crucial to establish how much turnout time your horse will get and how careful the yard is in selecting horses to be turned out together. Take a look at the quality of the grazing and enquire about the parasite control regime.
Ask whether your own instructor is welcome at the yard or whether the yard only permits lessons with their own staff on the site. Check how much access you will have to an indoor school and whether this will involve booking and additional charges. It is also important to investigate the bridleways near the yard and to find out how safe and accessible they are.
Check out the fire and first aid procedures and avoid any yard that does not have carefully planned arrangements.
Always spend a sensible amount of time at any yard that you are considering before making your decision. Get a feel for the place, look for potential issues and talk to other owners. Do the other horses look happy and in good health? Are the stables secure and generally in good condition? Does the yard have all of the facilities that you need?
It is also important to look at the security when choosing a livery yard. How is the tack room secured? Are there CCTV cameras or any additional security measures in place? Do the entrances / exits to the yard have gates in place to prevent a horse escaping if they bolted?
When in Doubt
If you have any concerns, don’t be afraid to ask questions and if you are in any doubt, walk away. For peace of mind, have your solicitor check over your contract before you sign. How did you choose your livery yard? Any top tips to share?
Top Tips for Enhancing Security at Your Yard
If you are a horse owner, you already know how important it is to keep your equine friends safe. When it comes to security, you should only want the best for your horses, as having inadequate security could result in your horses being stolen along with any equipment that you own.
To keep your horses safe, there are many different routes you could take. Burglar alarms are good options and will alert you or the police if someone is attempting to enter your premises. There is also an excellent scheme called Horsewatch. This is a group of people who regularly get together in order to create a network of information to help prevent equine crime.
How Do I Keep Equipment Safe?
We all know that equestrian equipment is expensive and there are some people out there who will undoubtedly steal yours if presented with the opportunity. For this reason, it is advisable to do what you can to identify your equipment as yours and to prevent it from being stolen in the first place.
Rugs & Saddlery
Firstly, all equestrian equipment should be clearly marked up with your security register number, along with your postcode and should then be locked away when it is not in use. In the event of theft, it will always be easier for you if you are in possession of a detailed inventory which lists all of your equipment.
If you have not yet marked up your equipment, you can do so by engraving the relevant information onto metal items, such as clippers or stirrup bars. Permanent dyes are a good way to emboss leather goods. Where rugs are concerned, you can use paint or permanent markers.
Trailers & Horseboxes
If your equestrian vehicles are left unattended in an unsecure location, they can easily be stolen and could be driven many miles in a short space of time. This will make it extremely hard for you track their movements. Thieves can also easily alter the appearance of your vehicle so that it is difficult to identify. Thieves do this so that they can quickly sell on your equestrian vehicle to an unsuspecting buyer.
To prevent this from happening, secure your trailers with wheel locks and hitches and if possible and stored in a locked garage or barn.
How Do I Keep My Premises Secure?
Whether you have the best security possible, or no security at all, thieves will try their luck anyway. It pays to make life as difficult for them as you possibly can.
Improve Yard Security
Equipment which is most attractive to thieves should be securely stored and out of sight. These include items such as ladders or wheelbarrows, as these are easy to grab quickly and could also be the very things which lure thieves into your yard in the first place. If you have gates to your yard, they should be padlocked whenever you are not present. To prevent thieves from lifting off the gates, precautions such as welding the hinges or reversing them may help.
Sensor-operated floodlights could act as a deterrent and will make intruders more visible. Using these security lights along with burglar alarms should stop many intruders in their tracks. If the budget allows it consider investing in CCTV. Remember, better safe than sorry!
Pest Control Tips for the Yard
Rats and mice are unwelcome visitors to your yard. They are able to squeeze through extremely small holes and are incredibly stealthy. Opportunistic nomads that will quickly sniff out sources of food and ways to reach them, rodents can be hard to keep at bay. But they must be controlled as they spread disease, contaminate feeds and can consume huge volumes of your food supplies. But rodents are not your only problem! Flies and mosquitoes are also best kept to a minimum and so good husbandry at the yard is essential.
Manure, rubbish and anything else that is decomposing will attract flies. Clean your stalls regularly, keep your manure pile as far from the yard as you can and clear it frequently. Keep waste bins closed and, if possible, sealed. Don’t leave any waste lying around for any reason. Clear up spilled feed every day and tidy away pet food bowls as all spills and leftovers will provide a great meal for rodents.
Standing water will attract mosquitos. In addition, rodents need a source of drinking water so keep standing water to a minimum and prevent water from pooling. Refill troughs and buckets regularly and don’t allow water to collect anywhere. Areas of high footfall on soft surfaces will become depressed and will then collect water and so should be filled in if at all possible. Don’t leave pets’ water bowls lying around at night as even this small amount of water could attract vermin.
Protect Your Feed
Rats and mice will relish tucking into to a good meal of horse feed or grains and so these must be protected as part of your pest control. Store opened feed in sealed, rodent proof containers and keep stores of unopened feed off the ground. Keep feed supplies on pallets if you can’t store them at an elevated level of the barn. Rats not only eat your food, they will also contaminate it with their urine and droppings.
Check your buildings for holes and gaps that rodents can use to gain access. Mice can pass through a gap of just 6mm so it can be hard to identify every possible area of ingress. Plug any holes that you find with concrete or cover them with steel mesh. Protect any areas which rats could chew through with steel mesh and fit strips to cover any gaps under doors.
If rats and other vermin continue to be an issue then you will have to exercise further pest control. The easiest and most natural way to keep rats at bay is with cats or terriers. These enthusiastic hunters will seek out and destroy rodents with amazing efficiency. You can also set traps to capture rodents but if you do this then make sure than you feature a sufficient number of traps covering the entire yard. Poison as pest control should be a last resort and avoided if you have cats and dogs at the stable as they may find the poison palatable.
You will have to keep on top of your cleaning duties, maintain a tidy stable and plan your feed storage carefully. You should remain vigilante and check the fabric of your buildings for areas that have been chewed through. If you are thorough, you should be able to keep pests to a minimum at the yard.
The Earth Friendly Yard Tips
We all know that our planet is threatened by global warming. In addition, population growth, consumerism and our wasteful ways mean that the Earth’s natural resource are rapidly depleting. The situation cannot be ignored and we all have a role to play in securing the future of the planet. That means adopting the right practices at the yard as well as in the home. So here’s what you can do to be a little more green.
Water could become an extremely costly commodity in the future if we don’t all take steps to conserve our supplies. It is hard to imagine a water shortage when you have endured incessant downpours in the winter, but they can and do happen. The available water will be shared between more and more people in the future and many industrial and agricultural processes drink huge amounts of this precious resource.
Your horse requires a constant supply of drinking water and you need water to wash them down. If you conserve water then you will be helping the planet and you could also be saving yourself from a huge problem if there is a water shortage during the summer.
Start by investing in a water butt or even several. These can be used to collect a supply of rainwater and are best connected to the downpipe of your guttering in order to collect run-off from the roof. You can use this water for washing down and filling buckets. If you own the yard then consider installing deep-flow gutters to maximise rainwater capture.
Try hard not to leave taps running as it is surprising how much water can be wasted in just a few seconds.
You can save energy and cut your bills at the same time by making sure that you turn off lights and chargers when they are not in use. You should also take care not to leave electric fencing on unnecessarily. It really helps if you replace any standard lightbulbs or halogen spotlights with energy-saving alternatives. Small changes can make a big difference if everyone plays their part in saving energy.
The transportation of goods has a serious impact on our carbon footprints. You can help to reduce yours by clubbing together with other owners when it comes to purchasing bedding and feed. Bulk deliveries are earth-friendly and you can save money by investing in full pallets.
Reduce Waste in Landfill
It is astonishing how much waste ends up in landfill quite unnecessarily. You can help improve the situation by being conscientious about recycling. You will make a big difference if you reuse or repurpose as much of your equipment as possible. A leaky bucket is still useful for storage and old sacks and containers can be offered to gardeners who need to carry away manure.
With a few small changes you could make a huge improvement to your carbon footprint, reduce the amount of non-biodegradable material sent to in landfill and save water. Better still, by helping the planet you will also save money and we all like doing that!
Make Life Easier at the Yard this Winter
During a pleasant summer when you are riding and working in the warm weather, those cold winter days seem like a distant problem. But they are sure to arrive and to deliver all the usual issues of frozen pipes and dark evenings. Life will be much easier if you prepare in advance for the big freeze and ensure that you have everything you require at the ready. Here’s what you need to do if you want to make your life easier.
Prevent Water Freezing
Get your hands on a large hammer and a metal colander so that you will be able to attack the ice in water buckets. Use the hammer to break the ice and the colander to scoop it out. Plastic accessories are not strong enough and will break.
Find an old football to put in the water trough to prevent the water from completely freezing over. If your horse tends to be wary of new things then introduce the ball to the trough early to give them time to get used to it being there.
Find a couple of old tyres to keep at the yard. These can be filled with straw and then used to stand water buckets in to stop them from freezing. Invest in a couple of large water containers which you can use to store water overnight if your pipes have a tendency to freeze. Lag all of the pipes at the yard to prevent them freezing.
Build up a good store of grit because you are going to need it. Don’t wait too long to make your purchase because a cold snap could arrive at any time. Make sure that you have adequate stocks of food and bedding. You must be able to feed your horse but snow and ice could prevent delivery vehicles from accessing the yard.
The entrances to paddocks could get really boggy in the winter months so invest in stones and/or chippings and get these down early so that access is never a problem. Make sure that you have a supply of grease to use on your horse’s hooves if it snows. Keep a kettle at the yard and make sure that it is in working order. Those hot drinks could be life savers!
Equip Yourself & Keep Warm at the Yard this Winter
Invest in a head torch so that you can move around the yard safely. You will be able to work with ease and to keep both of your hands free at all times. Head torches are inexpensive but will make a huge difference.
Cold temperatures have been a rarity of late in many areas of the country but freezing weather could strike anywhere and at any time. It is crucial to keep your horse warm in the winter months but it is equally important that you look after yourself!
The effects of the cold can creep up on you unawares, impairing your performance and making you feel unwell in no time. Not to mention the fact that being cold and damp will kill your enthusiasm for riding. So, be prepared and dress appropriately and then life won’t feel nearly so miserable!
Base Layers for Equestrians
It is always advisable to dress in layers as you will remain warm whilst benefitting from greater flexibility. Your base layer is particularly crucial as it is the layer closest to your skin. Choose thermal base layers which are insulating yet breathable. Natural fibres tend to remain damp once wet so look for technical fabrics which wick moisture away from your body.
It can be difficult to strike the right balance when dressing in layers. You need to keep warm but you have to be careful not to create outfits which are so bulky that they restrict your movement. It’s hard to ride when you are doing a good impression of the Michelin Man! For your insulating layer or layers, choose lightweight polar fleeces which keep you warm without building excessive bulk. Wear thermal tights under your Breeches to keep your legs warm and don’t forget your feet!
Your extremities can suffer the most in the cold so invest in thermal socks or boot liners to keep your toes suitably toasty. If thicker socks are cramping your feet it can be worth investing in winter boots which are half a size larger than your usual pair so that you can accommodate the socks that you need.
Outer Layers for Riding
There is nothing more miserable than being both cold and wet. You won’t dry quickly in the cold so it is vital to invest in waterproof clothing. A good quality waterproof jacket is a must when you are battling the elements and waterproof trousers will also help. Choose styles which are designed for horse riding and which include the features that you need to remain dry and comfortable in the saddle.
Gloves and Hats for the Stables
Your hands are one of the most exposed and vulnerable areas of your body. Your fingers will start to feel the cold quickly so thermal riding gloves are quite simply must-haves. Choose a good pair of Gloves for working at the stable too. Fingerless gloves are also a wise investment and will help you to perform fiddly tasks. Always take a woolly or thermal hat with you for when for when you are out of the saddle. You will lose a huge amount of heat through your head if you forget to wear a hat.
In the Car
Don’t set off for the stables without spare clothing in your car in case you do get wet or you require an additional layer to keep warm. Make yourself a flask of tea or coffee and pack a blanket to help you warm up in extreme conditions. It is better to be safe than sorry!
How to Create the Perfect Paddock
You probably won’t be fortunate enough to find that the perfect location for your paddock is at your disposal when you are searching for land. But what is the perfect paddock and how you should you set it and maintain it?
The best choice of land would be an area on higher ground with good drainage. A gentle slope really helps when it comes to avoiding boggy ground. Clearly the closer the paddock is to your yard the better.
As a general rule you need 1 acre per horse for grazing. But if you are supplementing their diet with forage or using the paddock for only short periods of time you merely need to ensure that your horse has enough room to run about.
Even a site which is well-drained can get churned up in bad weather. An area of hard standing can be very useful and you should consider a layer of gravel, wood chip or sand adjacent to the gate.
Post and rail or timber fences provide safe and secure perimeters for your paddock. But remember that your fence will only ever be as sturdy as the posts. Use a post hole digger and a post knocker to ensure that your fence posts are stable. You may also require electric fencing, if only to enable you to confine your horse to a smaller area when you need to. This could prove useful if you need to restrict their grazing or if they are prone to laminitis. Electric fencing can also be handy to cordon off the area around the gate. This allows you more space to lead horses into or out of the field without the other horses crowding around.
Depending on the hardiness of your horse or pony and the location of your paddock, you may need to provide a shelter. This will offer protection from the wind, rain and cold in winter, together with valuable shade and protection from flies in hotter weather. If the paddock is exposed and offers no trees for shade, you will need to provide a purpose built structure.
Your paddock will benefit from your close attention throughout the year. Use a topper mower to reduce the number of unwanted plants and to encourage the regrowth of forage. You will eventually turn overgrown areas into grassland. Roll your paddock in spring when the ground is firm. Harrowing the ground will get air circulating to maximise growth and this should also be done in spring.
Perform soil analysis to discover which nutrients your soil may be lacking and to ensure a neutral PH level. It is advisable to reseed the ground if it has become poached in the winter months. The best time to do this is late summer.
Remove droppings regularly as your horse will not feed in soiled areas. Removing the manure will also reduce the incidence of flies, improve worm control and minimise run-off into the watercourse.
Check your fencing regularly for wear and tear, rotting and other damage. A small problem will soon become a big one if your fence is left to disintegrate.
Horses need access to clean water at all times. So be sure to include an adequate water supply for the number of horses in your paddock. A convenient way to ensure there is always water available is to have a piped supply to the water trough. Check the water daily to make sure there are no leaks, blockages or contaminants.
The perfect paddock requires planning and hard work but it will all be worth the effort when you have a happy, healthy and safe horse.
Prevent Your Horse Being Injured in the Field
Every year a significant number of horses are injured whilst turned out in their pasture. This is unfortunate for the animals concerned and can prove costly for their owners. Many such injuries could have been avoided. So here’s what you need to do to keep your horse safe when they are in the field.
You must ensure that there is sufficient grazing for the number of horses that are turned out into the field. This will be at least 0.4 hectares per horse. However, the space required will depend on the size and type of your horse, the length of time they will spend in the pasture and how much exercise they receive. If your horse seems to have too much energy when they are turned out then you probably need to exercise them more.
If your paddock is too small then the horses won’t have adequate room to run about and so collisions with fences and other animals are more likely.
The Importance of Company
Horses are naturally herd animals and so should not be turned out alone. Neither should horses be left alone because other horses have been taken in or ridden out. Loneliness will lead to frustration and boredom which in turn could result in restlessness. Restless horses may try to escape from the field and that is when injuries happen.
On the other hand, there are pecking orders within a herd and horses will compete for food and a good place at the trough. It is crucial that you provide more piles of forage than there are horses so they don’t fight over it. Spread these out across the field to reduce the chance of the ground poaching and to give each horse sufficient personal space.
Don’t introduce a new horse to a pasture and leave the animals unattended until you are sure that they get on. Introduce horses to each other gradually over time. Horses may attack other horses with terrible consequences.
The Dangers of Poaching
The high traffic areas of the field can become poached and so both horses and people could then easily slip. The danger zones are the areas adjacent to the gate and around the water trough. If possible, move the water trough around the field to even out wear and keep the gate area well-maintained.
Check your fencing regularly to ensure that it is secure. Make sure that there are no damaged sections which could injure your horse. Use electric fencing to keep horses away from barbed wire.
Establish a Routine
Establish a routine and stick to it. If horses are expecting to be taken in at a certain time and you are late, they could stand around the gate waiting for you and this raises the risk of injury. Turn your horse out regularly as they will be less inclined to get over-excited when they are given time in the field.
Should You Poo Pick Your Field?
Poo picking is a task that nobody relishes and so every equestrian is bound to wonder whether poo picking is really necessary. So, should you clear your fields of manure regularly or would you be wasting your time?
There are many reasons why poo picking is a crucial aspect of paddock maintenance. This may be far from music to your ears but we do have some good news for you! Regular poo picking enables you to inspect your field for other issues including broken fencing, rabbit holes, lost shoes and ragwort so all of that shovelling could be saving you from serious problems at a later date. You will also give yourself the opportunity to clear any discarded rubbish which may be hazardous to your horse.
A horse will typically pass an incredible 9 tonnes of poo every year. That is certainly a lot of muck to clear! But here’s why picking that poo is a necessary evil!
You can never completely eradicate parasites from your pasture, even if you pick up every ounce of manure. Some worm eggs will be thrown into the vegetation when the poo hits the ground. However, clearing manure will considerably reduce the number of parasites in the field.
Worm eggs thrive in horse manure and when they hatch, the resulting worms crawl into the surrounding vegetation and are then ingested by the horse or horses. A vicious circle develops.
Whilst manure that has broken down to become compost and been spread on your field will fertilise the soil, piles of dung tend to have the opposite effect. The manure takes a considerable time to decompose and a pile of it will starve the grass beneath of air and light. The vegetation is destroyed and bare patches appear. These will restrict your horse’s grazing and are prime areas for ragwort to establish itself. Ragwort is a weed which is poisonous to horses and must be removed from your pasture.
Poo picking may not prove to be as vital in very large fields where there is plenty of grazing available. If clearance in large fields is too onerous, manure can be harrowed instead.
Droppings will inevitably attract flies which represent a serious health hazard to your horse. The bites of many flying insects are painful and spread disease. It is preferable to do everything you can to minimise the presence of flies.
Manure contains phosphorus and nitrogen which can run off into the local watercourses. These nutrients will then fertilise aquatic weeds which deplete oxygen levels in the water and so impact aquatic life including fish stocks. Composted manure does not present such a problem to the environment as the nutrients become more stable during the composting process and so are less likely to leach away.
Piles of poo do nothing to enhance the look of your pasture. A cleaner field will always lift your spirits and your horse will be happier too. Poo-picking is a bit of a chore but the benefits make all that effort worthwhile!
Important Pre-Ride Checks
Airplane pilots have a checklist that they follow before each and every flight. This helps them to keep oversights and therefore accidents to a minimum. You can also enhance your safety whilst riding by employing the same approach.
By taking just a few minutes to perform your essential checks before every ride, you could save yourself and your horse from a variety of potentially serious issues.
Check Your Horse for Lameness
You can look at your horse as you lead them from the field to the stable or when walking them around the yard. Look carefully for stiff or clipped steps, a bobbing head and any signs of soreness. If you suspect that any symptoms are the result of stiff muscles, allow your horse to warm up gently and then check them again. If in doubt, don’t ride!
Inspect Your Horse’s Skin and Coat
While grooming, check your horse’s back for rain scald, hives, sunburn or other skin irritations that might make your horse uncomfortable if you sit it on him. Do a quick scan for cuts and other lesions that might need your attention before you set off.
Before each and every ride, it is vital that you clean out and check your horse’s hooves. You should pull out any debris and foreign objects such as stones or pine cones that could be very uncomfortable to walk on. If your horse is shod, check all of his shoes and ensure that they are not loose. Whilst checking hooves, remain vigilante for any signs of trouble in your horse’s legs.
Inspect Your Tack
Look carefully for frayed stitching, cracked leather, cracked bits, buckles or other metal fittings, weakened saddle billet straps and girth straps. Billet straps and girth straps are particularly prone to wear and so should be checked for tears, cracks, thinning or ripped buckle holes. Broken tack is a safety hazard so this is one check that you should never overlook.
Check That You are Wearing Your Helmet
If your helmet is very comfortable, it is easy to forget that you are wearing it and equally easy to set off without it! Establish that you are wearing your helmet and then make sure that it is properly adjust and fastened.
Tighten Your Girth
Your final check should be the girth. Before attempting to mount, check that the girth is sufficiently tight otherwise the saddle could turn and you will end up on the floor. Check the girth again after a few minutes of riding as some horses tend to expand a little when a saddle is first put on.
A few simple checks every time you ride will minimise the chance of an accident and will ensure that your horse feels comfortable. You will be able to spot the signs of trouble as early as possible and your horse will be more likely to remain happy and healthy. You will always be anxious to get into the saddle but take the time to perform your checklist every time you ride.
Riding and Back Problems
Many riders start suffering from issues with their back. This can be extremely painful and can impact every aspect of their lives. It is tempting just to accept that back pain is inevitable and to hope that one day it will just go away. But if you fail to address the issue, you are simply storing up bigger problems for the future.
Back pain should not be considered an inevitable consequence of equestrianism. It is possible to reduce your chances of encountering a problem and to avoid lengthy bouts of pain and treatment.
Common Back Conditions for Riders
This is an injury to the lumbar spine’s soft tissue i.e. the muscles, nerves, ligaments, tendons and blood vessels. It is commonly referred to as a strain.
Slipped, Herniated or Prolapsed Disc
An injured or degenerated disc can eventually protrude and press against adjacent nerve tissue causing pain.
This is the general wear and tear of the lower spine area and results in narrowed spaces between the discs.
Spondylosis is a stress fracture in the bony ring of the spinal column. This can lead to Spondylolisthesis where the crack extends to allow a vertebra to slip over another.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Here, a gradual there is a wearing away of the shock-absorbing discs between the vertebrae.
This is pain caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve.
How to Avoid Back Issues
- Do before you ride. Walk your horse briskly for a few minutes before you mount to warm up. You would probably warm up before participating in other forms of exercise and riding should be no different.
- Ensure that you adopt the correct posture when you ride. It is best to seek expert help in this regard. You may not realise that the way you are seated it stressing your back or that you are crooked in the saddle. Any asymmetry will place undue stress on one side of the body.
- If you are experiencing back pain, then consider changing your saddle or having it checked and adjusted. Ask a saddler for advice.
- Sweep and muck out using alternate hands to avoid placing too much stress on one side of the body. Make sure that your tools are long enough so you do not have to bend over excessively. Use the correct tools for each job rather than using whatever is to hand.
- Take care when you lift hay and feed. It is important that your back remains straight when you lift heavy weights.
- Try to avoid leaning over horses to open gates and stable doors. It is better to dismount.
- Always see your GP as soon as you start experiencing any pain. It is important that your condition is identified early to prevent your back from deteriorating. Your GP will be able to refer you to the appropriate specialist which could be a physiotherapist, a registered osteopath or chiropractor.
- Once your condition has been diagnosed, follow the advice that you are given and keep up with your treatment regime.
Warm Up Stretches & Exercises For Horse Riders
It is important to warm up before you engage in any vigorous sporting activity. Riding is no exception. Warming up helps to prevent injuries by increasing blood flow to the muscles and preparing the body for the more strenuous activity that is to come. A good warm up routine will enable you to ride more efficiently and will help you to find your balance and coordination. The right warm up routine will prepare both the upper and lower body by increasing your heart rate and stretching your muscles. It will improve your awareness of your body, enhance your confidence and boost your energy so you are truly ready for action.
It is important to do several different exercises and to include repetition to build up your strength. Perform each exercise in both directions or on each side of the body for balanced results. Focus on areas where you think you might have a weakness and push yourself when you stretch but not to the point where you might actually cause an injury! Here are some exercises which should help you to prepare for a ride:
With an Exercise Ball
An exercise ball is an excellent investment and enables you to perform a variety of stretches whilst perfecting your balance.
>Place your ball between a wall and the curve of your lower back. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and lower yourself around 10 inches keeping your shoulders level and your hips square. Hold your position for three seconds and then stand up again. Repeat 5 to 10 times. This exercise is great for your thighs!
Grab your ball and stand with your legs hip-width apart. Raise the ball above your head and then squat with your arms extended. Hold the squat position briefly and then stand back up. Repeat up to 15 times to work those thighs.
Stand behind your ball with your legs a little more than hip-width apart and with your toes turned out. Squat down low and place your hands on either side of the ball. Press your elbows into the insides of your thighs. Push off with your legs and jump as high as you can whilst lifting the ball over your head. Repeat up to 8 times to work on your glutes and calves.
Lie with your stomach on your exercise ball and walk your hands forward on the floor until the ball is under your thighs. Pull your stomach in and then bend your arms, lowering your body to the floor. Hold this position for 3 seconds and then push up so your arms are straight. Repeat up to 15 times to exercise your arms and shoulders and to strengthen your core.
Using an Exercise Mat
Lie on your back and then bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Keep both of your arms outstretched. Allow your hips and back to rotate with your knees. Repeat several times alternating the direction of fall. Good for suppleness!
Kneeling Quad Stretch
Kneel on one knee with the other leg forward and with your foot on the ground. Push your hips forward whilst maintaining your balance. Then move your hips back to return to your starting position. Repeat several times whilst alternating the leg you kneel on. A good exercise for balance, suppleness and strength.
Stand upright and place the ball of your foot onto a step or raised object. Bend your knee and lean forward. Repeat several times and exercise both legs.
Exercises You Can Do Anywhere
The Wood Chop
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your hands in line with the sternum and clasped together. Lift your arms above your head, hold for 30 seconds, then bring them back down towards your thighs. Repeat 10 times. This one works your arms and abdominal muscles.
Stand with your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart, glutes (bottom muscles) clenched, and your arms straight up in the air and slightly back. Bend forwards from the hip, keeping your legs straight and reach down between your legs. Then stand tall again, raising your arms up and back above your head whilst clenching your glutes tight. Repeat 10 times. A good exercise for fortifying your posterior!
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, keep standing tall and push up on to your toes. Then lower yourself back down so your feet are flat on the floor again. Repeat 10 times. This one gives your calves a good stretch.
Should You Jump Alone?
It is always tempting to get in as much riding and jumping practice as you can. The times that you are available to ride may not be busy ones at the school, which can leave you all on your lonesome. But what happens if you suffer a bad fall? Who is going to summon help for you if you are seriously injured?
Alice Dunsdon Sustains Nasty Fall
The potential dangers of riding alone were thrown into sharp focus recently when four-star event rider Alice Dunsdon was jumping one of her younger horses. The incident has prompted her to warn other equestrians of the dangers of jumping alone.
Alice was riding in her sand school. Her four-year-old gelding had taken a fence impressively but then two strides after landing, he stumbled. Alice was thrown out of the saddle and the horse rotated over her and narrowly missed landing right on top of her prone body.
The pair had been tackling fences of no more than 1m. The horse had landed perfectly and Alice was about to make an observation about how well he was doing. But he then stumbled onto his knees, his head went down and he rotated straight over her. Luckily she was thrown clear of the out of control horse.
Fortunately, both horse and rider escaped injury and Alice’s mother and friend were at the school when the accident happened. Alice had always been quite happy and relaxed about jumping on her own but now she isn’t so sure about the wisdom of doing that.
Those Vital First Few minutes
What happens in the minutes immediately after a fall can be so crucial and potentially life changing. Especially if a rider is knocked unconscious, swallows their tongue or sustains a serious injury. It is vital that the rider receives assistance immediately. Even if there are people at the yard, they may be busy and so not realise that there has been an accident.
Alice has said that she will now think twice about jumping alone and plans to ensure that there is always someone with her. No rider has any control over when they have an accident and even the finest equestrians can find themselves in serious trouble. You can, however, control the safety gear that you are wearing and whether or not there is someone with you. Should you jump alone? Probably not!
Springtime Checklist for Horse Owners
With the show season around the corner, the weather lifting (hopefully), and the sun poking out, the Spring has started to work its way into action. This means that there are a number of things that horse owners must start to consider to make sure their horses are fit, happy and healthy.
Luckily, the days are also getting longer too, with the light beginning to extend out into the evenings, which means that there is more time to get all you have to done without so much rushing around!
Make Sure Their Shots Have Been Done
In the springtime you should be sure to double check if all of your horses’ shots are up to date. This will require you to check your horses’ immunisation records. Your veterinarian will be able then also to offer recommendations as to what might need to be administered. This might depending on the age of the horse, its location, your travelling plans for the season and other factors.
Skin and Parasites
Consult your veterinarian for remedies to any skin conditions or infected cuts or scrapes which you might detected during a thorough clean and rinse of your horse. The damp weather and wet blankets may have encouraged rain rot, so look out for that and also any parasites. Your veterinarian should also be able to advise you on specific courses of action for worms, though using popular deworming products and checking your worming strategy is always sensible anyway.
Check the Hooves
It is important that your horses start the spring with their feet in the best shape they can be. Book in an appointment with a farrier for the required trimming and shodding. You can here discuss with the expert what should be the best option for your horse, as regards studs or padding, as to what type of terrain your horse will be likely to encounter in the coming months.
Check the Teeth
Have an equine dentist check the state of the teeth of your horses. Hopefully, their teeth will be fine and will not need to have anything done to them. But, it is important to check in any case before the spring season begins. This is because any unresolved problems will make the ride a lot less comfortable for you and your horse, as the bit may cause mouth pain. It may also affect their ability to graze properly.
Prepare Their Paddock / Field
In time for the spring season to begin, you should make sure that your horses’ paddock is in fine condition. With plenty of time in advance, you should decide whether your field needs reseeding. Then, if needed, you can consult with an equine nutritionist who will know which grasses will provide the best nutrients for your horse. Make sure it does not have any inside such as ragwort, sycamore, bracken, yew and deadly nightshade. You should also harrow your paddock to aerate the soil, remove dead vegetation, and to mix in natural fertiliser.
Walk the Pasture and Check Equipment
Walk around the full extent of your paddock or field to check for any hazards or improvements. This may be holes in the ground, rubbish, or low-limbed trees, all of which could create a danger for your horses. In addition, make sure your water troughs are clean and do not have sharp edges. Check your fencing and gates are in good order after any winter storms. On top of this, take the opportunity to make sure all equipment – halters, saddles, bridles etc. – is in correct working order and does not need to be replaced. You should also wash and reproof your winter horse rugs.
Horse Riding in the Spring & Summertime: Top Tips
With sun comes sunny morning walks down country lanes and evening strolls across your local beach, what more could you and your horse want with the wind in your hair and sun kissing your skin? After a long, cold, wet winter, spring brings the promise of warmer weather and (hopefully) enjoyable rides in the sunshines. But what things do you need to keep in mind when horse riding in spring and where should you go riding?
It’s likely you’ll be spending lots of time outside with your companion on those sunny Spring days but remember that Spring is not too early for skin burn for both you and your horse, so make sure to get that sunblock on to prevent burns and blisters.
After covering our skin up for so long during the cold winter, we often forget to put suncream on in spring. But just because it’s not that hot yet, doesn’t mean you won’t burn. You could also invest in a horse bonnet to deter some of those sun rays and help keep your horse more comfortable.
The beach is a definitely a must to visit in the Spring rather than Summer due to tourist season. Holkham Bay, Studland Beach and Holy Island are all beaches that you can go on a lovely sunset stroll on with your horse and why wouldn’t you? It’s really every horse lovers dream. Despite beaches sounding carefree, there are still some things to consider when getting those hooves in the sand, such as the safety of the beach, are there rocks or sharp items on the sand? Make sure you walk down the beach alone before riding.
Horses may get more tired on the beach due to the terrain so don’t go overboard on activity! Finally, it’s important to rinse saltwater off your friend and check the hooves for any damage.
If the beach is not an option, The New Forest or Pennine Bridleway are great alternative options with plenty of scenery and hours of fun for you and your horse.
How to Keep Your Horse Cool in Hot Weather
Summer has now arrived (sort of)! Temperatures have yet to reach potentially troubling levels but a heatwave could strike at any time. We all get used to the generally temperate climate in the UK, but sometimes things can heat up a bit and it can feel decidedly tropical.
Just like people, horses often struggle and underperform in hot weather. It is important to be aware of the potential problems and to know how to keep your horse suitably cool and comfortable. It is also vital that you are able to act quickly and effectively if your horse does overheat.
>Prevention is always better than cure so you should make every effort to stop your horse from overheating in the first place. Always adjust your workouts and hacks to take account of the weather conditions. If possible, ride during the coolest hours of the day (early in the morning or later in the evening) and reduce the length and intensity of your work.
At top events, an assessment will now be made of the thermal load on horses. The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature Index () takes into account the temperature, humidity, light and wind to calculate a rating. If that rating is above 28, courses are reduced in length and severity. If the rating exceeds 33, the conditions will be deemed to be incompatible with safety.
Horses are at risk from the weather conditions whether they are competing or spending time in the field. Always ensure that your horse has access to shade and fresh water. Apply sunscreen to light coloured horses and to vulnerable areas of all horses. Muzzles and ears can be especially sensitive.
Don't forget your fly repellents too, as warmer weather brings out a range of pesky flies to attack your horse. Read for more information on prevent flies this summer.
If your horse looks or feels uncomfortable or listless, take their temperature. If this exceeds 40°C, your horse is at risk of heatstroke. Temperatures exceeding 42°C can be fatal. An overheating horse may not sweat as it could be so dehydrated that it is unable to. Overheating horses could appear agitated, unsteady or depressed. They may also exhibit signs of colic and their breathing will be inconsistent. An overheating horse could also have a weak pulse. If you spot any of these symptoms in your horse, act immediately.
Cooling Your Horse
It is crucial that you act quickly and decisively. In the first instance, pour cold water over your horse, concentrating on the principle muscle groups. Don’t just dribble water over your horse, use significant volumes! Then move your horse to a cooler area, preferably one that is exposed to the breeze and in shade. Don’t apply ice directly to your horse as this can cause thermal damage.
Keep your horse moving if possible as this will increase blood pressure and so minimise the risk of collapse. You may have your own special tricks for cooling your horse. If you do, then let us know so we are able to pass these on to help other equestrians!
Coping in the Rain With Your Favourite Equine Pal
A little bit of rain doesn’t automatically mean that you are grounded. So long as the rain is not hammering down and the ground is fairly solid, a little rain is fine. It is best to avoid heavy showers though, as your horse probably won’t like it and it could even be dangerous. Making sure you are wearing sensible waterproof clothing and considering your horse's needs will make light rain bearable while riding.
Keep Dry While Riding
If you know ahead of time that it is going to rain, or is likely to rain, then preparing for it is fairly straightforward. There are plenty of things you can do to keep dry and warm, including investing in waterproof over-trousers, breeches and Jodhpurs. There are also lots of affordable, waterproof riding jackets to choose from too.
Don’t forget your horse, either. There are waterproof exercise sheets on the market some of which fit over saddles, and come with a hole on either side for the stirrups to be go through. While these exercise sheets will keep your horse dry, they won’t necessarily keep him warm in colder weather. However, there are some exercise sheets that are thermal and have insulation against the cold.
Coping Without a Ride
If you decide not to go riding in the rain, or if the rain is such that it may not be safe to go riding, then there are still other things to do while you cope with the disappointment. There are benefits to the bad weather, believe it or not, like the opportunity to complete the chores that you have been putting off in favour of riding.
Your horse needs regular exercise, just like we do, but you have other things to do so finding the time to squeeze in some important jobs is sometimes a hard task on its own. With that in mind, you can use the odd rainy day as an opportunity to get stuff done! There are always small jobs that you can take care of, like cleaning your brushes or making sure your tack is in good order.
A rainy day is also a great opportunity to give your horse a thorough grooming - not just a quick flick with the brush. All those extra things you might miss out on busy days. Give the mane and tail a proper comb and condition, perhaps even time for a trim or tidy up. Pick out, check and treat the hooves to protect them from the wet, muddy conditions. There is a great range of if you need to stock up. Get your arms working and give your equine pal a good brush to banish the dust and dirt and help bring out the natural oils in their coats. It is a chance to spend some quality time with your horse and get them looking tip top.
Get Hardcore, with the Hardcore
If wet weather is a common theme, then you are probably familiar with poached land. You can help mitigate the effects of rain and hoof on land by laying down hardcore. Using hardcore at gate entrances will help prevent that area from becoming poached; we’ve all seen gate areas becoming so damaged that passage is much harder than it needs to be.
There barely seems to be any time to do anything these days. Our lives are so hectic with studies, work, family and when we get down-time we are exercising our horses. It is very easy to neglect certain, important tasks. With that in mind, make the most of the rainy day and take care of the little chores, like the maintenance of your rugs. Mending and cleaning all your Horse Rugs can help keep you occupied, while you have the chance to take care of them. You will be thankful later, and your horse will be too.
Tips for Horse Riding in Cold Weather
Although it may feel as though spring and summer are just around the corner, you never know when a cold spell may come back around. This means that you shouldn't become too relaxed in thinking that riding conditions are going to be warm and dry from now on. If you prepare for the worst, you'll be able to enjoy a ride out in the open even if the temperature drops again.
Winter days can be truly beautiful and a great time to ride, but they are not without their hazards. Riding in the extreme cold can be dangerous. It is crucial that you take all the necessary precautions in order for you and your horse to stay safe. Here are out top tips on safe winter riding.
There are certain quick and easy tips to check off your to do list when it comes to preparing for a cold ride. Equi Supermarket is here to let you know what these important but simple things are to bear in mind. These practices and habits will keep you safe, warm and comfortable should there be any colder days in the coming weeks, and then also will do the same throughout the winter season in years to come.
You don’t want to run into trouble before you have even left the yard so make sure that it is always adequately gritted. Don’t allow water to run across the yard if freezing temperatures are on the cards, otherwise you will create an ice rink!
Always plan winter rides in advance. Don’t attempt new routes for the first time in bad weather in case you get delayed and end up riding in the dark. Allow for any delays caused by bad weather when planning your schedule and remember that visibility can be very poor even in the middle of the day. This will slow you down and could make it hard for motorists to see. Tarmac roads are best avoided if it icy or snowy as they will be very slippery. It is essential to check the weather forecast before you set off.
Ride carefully on public roads and don’t let an accident be your fault. You can’t singlehandedly stop drivers from behaving badly but you should do everything you can to make it easy for them to see you and to pass you. Riding two abreast is a great way to protect a younger rider but can leave you exposed. You may also raise the temperature of drivers who are in a rush, causing them to undertake dangerous manoeuvres.
Dress for the Occasion
To stay warm it is of course important to wear enough layers. However, it is not just as simple as putting on any kind of clothes to keep warm. What must also be kept in mind is that horse riding, whether in warm or cold conditions, will always be a physically strenuous activity, and so is likely to lead to a fair amount of sweating. In the winter, it can be quite dangerous if your skin and your clothes become damp with sweat. This is because the moisture will begin to make your body temperature drop, and so you may become liable to catching a nasty chill.
To counteract this, the first layer that you put on should be a fairly light moisture-wicking fabric which will draw any sweat immediately from the surface of the skin to the outer layer of the fabric. From that point, if outdoors, it will evaporate and leave you dry. It also removes the salt element that sweat produces from the surface of the skin too, meaning that you will not irritate your skin and become uncomfortable as you will avoid the roughness that this would otherwise cause.
You can then wrap up in a down, flannel, quilt or woollen cosy layer for the middle. Try to avoid anything too bulky or restrictive as you would not want your clothing to affect your ability to ride. Then, it is important to have a waterproof and windproof outer layer to protect you from the elements. Make sure that the garments for the top half of you have a front fastening so you can strip a layer off easily if you are sweating too much or add a layer easily if you are feeling too shivery, thus maintaining a good average temperature.
Of course it's not just your body that you need to make sure is warm and well protected in colder weather. Remember you extremities too. Your hands and feet can suffer as they tend to be the first places that feel the cold. There are winter Riding Gloves designed to insulate for warmth and protect from the weather. Ensure that the gloves are flexible enough and also have some decent grip, so that your hands don't slip on the reins and you can maintain control.
For your feet, look into getting some insulating socks. You don't want your feet getting damp inside your boots, so make sure the material has moisture wicking properties too. Also bear in mind that thicker socks will add bulk and therefore could make it difficult to get your Riding Boots on or squash your toes too much. If you are looking to buy winter riding boots then take some thick socks with you to check the fit.
Warm Up Before You Go
As with any other form of serious exercise, it is certainly advantageous to warm up before you get started. Furthermore, this becomes even more important when the temperatures have dropped. So to prevent your muscles from stiffening up in the cold and therefore also from muscles being strained or torn, make sure you do some light stretching before you head off. Get the blood flowing also by moving around a little bit before you get in the saddle. It will only take five or ten minutes or so but will be very helpful for you later down the line.
Bring the Essentials
There are certain items that you shouldn't be without when going for a ride, especially in the cold. One of these things is having a full water bottle with you at the yard. The reason why this is so important to be reminded of in cold weather is that sometimes it may be easily forgotten, as people perhaps do not feel like they are as dehydrated in cold weather as they are in warm, sunny weather. It is though crucial at all times not to go without water, and so this must be first on the checklist whatever the weather.
Make sure also to bring lip balm, moisturiser and, for snowy riding, UV protecting sun cream. The fierce winds in unpleasant conditions can dry out your skin, so it is important to keep on top of this by bringing the right products to counteract this. For when it snows, and especially when riding it alpine locations, it is key to remember that the sun is still beating down through the layers of cloud, and also that it is being reflected upwards from the snowy layer below. This calls for conscientious use of sun cream to prevent having painful and damaged skin by the end of the day.
Is it Safe to Ride on Snow?
There have been several years in recent times when this question would have been irrelevant, at least in most areas of the country. Mild winter after mild winter has seen a distinct absence of the white stuff across the UK but things have been very different this year! You might still be wondering what the hell happened?
Abnormal Weather in the UK
One weather system after another, including the Beast from the East, dumped snow all over the country and incredibly late in the season. Just when you thought that spring had sprung, along came another downfall leaving the landscape looking as if it was early January - except that it was mid-March! One wondered when it was safe to presume that there was no more snow on the way.
Stunning but Potentially Dangerous
Snow always looks stunning but is a fresh fall safe to ride on? You may well have been forced to ask yourself this question lately. The safety of riding can depend on the nature of the snow. Soft, powdery snow will fall out of horses’ hooves whereas heavier snow will clump and become trapped in their feet. Whatever the type of snow, you should only ride where you know that the ground is good and consistent under foot because snow can conceal a whole world of trouble! Stick to routes that you know well!
Keep Your Foot Off the Gas
It is also best to limit yourself to slower speeds. Take a gentle walk or trot but don’t go hurtling through the power when neither you or your horse can see what lies beneath. Some horses may not enjoy the snow flicking up and striking their bellies and you should certainly take extra care when riding in icy, thawing or drifting conditions. The landscape can change in a matter of minutes and leave you in serious trouble.
Pads for Hooves
It could be worth investing in pads which prevent snow balling in horses’ hooves. The rubble bubble pads eject snow from the hooves whilst rim pads dislodge snowballs but still enable the frog and sole to breathe. It would be easy to suggest that snow never lasts that long in the UK and so an investment in special equipment isn’t entirely sensible, but this year has proved that the snow can keep coming, even if each episode is quick to melt away.
In regions across the globe where snow is a regular and long-lasting occurrence, riders use special shoes and studs which create greater traction. However, closer to home, greasing will usually be sufficient. Coat the soles and the inside of the shoes with thick grease and this should prevent the snow from balling in the hooves. Snow can certainly be hazardous for shod horses but those which are barefoot do better and can revel in the snow. More food for thought!
How you respond to snow will probably depend on exactly where you live but snowy conditions are always causes for caution!
Top Tips for Travelling in the Dark with your Horse
Travelling in the dark with your horse can be difficult and dangerous. If you think that you might have to load or unload your horse into a trailer after dark, it pays to plan ahead!
Anticipating the Issues
Thinking ahead and making the appropriate checks could save you from a world of trouble. Before you attempt any journey at night, ensure that the lights on your trailer and towing vehicle are all working. Tell someone where you are heading and what time you expect to be back. Charge up your mobile phone and take it with you in case you need to summon assistance.
Nobody wants to think about breaking down at night but the worst can happen. You should arrange breakdown cover and equine rescue just in case you do get stuck. Keep a torch, spare batteries and a high viz jacket in your vehicle together with a high viz rug for your horse. Head torches are useful as they allow you to keep your hands free.
Shedding Light on the Subject
Horses can see better than people at night but they will still struggle in the dark. You can create a more comfortable and safe environment for your horse if you fit lights in the horse section of your trailer. Soft lights are the best choice and will mean that that streetlights and oncoming headlights do not affect your horse so much. Sudden flashes of light can be frightening and cause your horse to spook. Ambient lighting will reduce the likelihood of this happening.
If the inside of the trailer is illuminated in transit, your horse won’t suddenly be thrown into bright light when they are unloaded at your destination.
Organise your Gear
It can be extremely irritating if you have to scrabble around your vehicle looking for things in the dark. The lighting may be poor at your destination and you may not be able to do anything about it. Organise your things so you know where everything is and so that you can lay on hands on everything easily.
Choose Your Spot
>Where you choose to load and unload could make all the difference. It is important to park in the safest possible place. That would be somewhere free of obstructions and with a surface on which your horse is unlikely to slip. They may be unsure on their feet after their journey. Try to find somewhere where there is good lighting and if that is not possible, use portable lighting. It will help your horse to negotiate the ramp if they can see exactly where they are putting their feet.
Adopting the Right Angle
A ramp set at a shallow angle will help tired horses to negotiate their way out of the vehicle. Choose a place to unload which is flat so that you can minimise the angle of the ramp.
When in Doubt, Ask!
If you are unsure about what you are going to find at your destination, make enquiries before you start your journey. If you know what you will be dealing with, you can take the equipment you need to overcome most of the issues.
Looking on the Bright Side: Why Winter Isn’t All Bad
It’s tipping with rain, your fingers are cold and your paddock has turned into a mud bath. The swanky new turnout rug that you spent your last pennies on is hanging in the tack room and won’t dry and you are covered in mud. Welcome to winter riding! But is everything about winter simply a pain in the proverbial or should you cherish at least some aspects of the colder months?
Appreciating the Seasons
When you are knee deep in mud or have just sprained your ankle after a slip on that icy patch in the yard, summer seems like a distant memory. It is all too easy to wish your time away whilst you wait for the warmer weather. But do remember that many people who move to warmer climates say that they miss the changing seasons.
There is something special about the red and copper hues of autumn foliage and the dusting of frost on the trees at first light on a winter’s morning. What better way to enjoy the wonders of nature than on horseback? Some winter days are truly hateful but there is nothing better than a crisp and sunny January morning. The clarity of light is extraordinary and it is the perfect time to take a ride in the countryside.
After a winter hack or time spent at the stables in the cold, you will feel especially virtuous and can reward yourself with a wonderful hot bath and perhaps a slug of your favourite tipple. You can use the drop in temperature as the excuse you need to invest in the new coat that you have had your eye on not to mention the stylish stable rug that you have been putting off paying for. Winter means guilt free shopping!
Winter is the season when you can participate or watch hunting and jump racing. These exhilarating equestrian sports offer something for everyone to enjoy and you will miss the thrills when the summer comes.
Jumping and Schooling
You can still compete in the winter as there are indoor events to enter. You can also take advantage of an indoor arena to hone your skills and to school your horse ready for the summer season, even when the weather does do its worst.
If you are a hardy soul, then you take advantage of the fact that most people aren’t. There will be less competition for time in the arena and less people out and about. So that means more time and space for you to enjoy your riding!
Winter delivers many challenges. However, it can also be a special and joyous time when you can experience nature at its best from the comfort of your saddle. Don’t give in to the cold, roll with it and you be surprised how much you enjoy yourself.
Your horse will feel the cold in extreme weather so give him the benefit of an exercise blanket. If he has been confined to his stall because of the weather, then he may be fresh and excitable when you set off. So it could make sense to expel some of the energy in the field or arena before starting out. You might like to consider fitting winter studs but you should discuss this with your farrier. Make sure that your horse is wearing something reflective so that he is more visible in poor or flat light.
And What About You?
You can keep your hands warm with a good pair of riding gloves and you will need the grip that these provide in wet weather. You may also require rubber grip reins if conditions are bad. Reflective clothing is essential at any time of year but especially on winter days where flat light, fading light, rain and fog can all seriously reduce visibility.
Riding in winter can be hazardous but with the right equipment and good planning you can significantly reduce the chances of something going wrong. It is always better to be safe than sorry!
How to Teach Your Horse to Lead Well
If your horse is ill-mannered it can make leading him a complete nightmare. But leading is a necessity and something you will have to do daily. When your horse is pulling you off your feet or dragging along behind you, life can be really awkward and it can be dangerous if he is crowding your space.
If your horse is the one that everybody at the yard dreads having to catch and lead, then it’s time to address the problem. You might feel that you can put up with the behaviour but what if a beginner or someone elderly find themselves having to lead you horse? That situation could end in disaster.
Training Your Horse
>With a little time and patience, you can teach your horse to walk in an orderly manner by your side. Straightforward exercises will eventually result in a horse that is safer and more pleasant to lead and that will help everyone who might have to deal with him.
Yielding to Pressure
The first thing your horse needs to learn is how to yield to pressure. This is a basic skill that should have been instilled in him when he was halter-broken. But it is a skill that can be overlooked. You can teach him to yield by pushing on his body. When he yields, stop pushing. A few rewards will help! Then with your hand, put some pressure on his nose or poll and as soon as his head drops, release him. Repeat these exercises until your horse always responds and responds immediately.
When you have trained your horse to offer his head, apply more pressure until he backs up then release. Repeat this exercise until he readily backs up. Once your horse has learnt to yield to pressure you can start teaching him to walk politely.
Keeping Your Distance
First decide how far behind you would like your horse to be and walk that distance ahead of him whilst he stands still. Take a few steps leading your horse then stop. If he doesn’t maintain the right distance between you, stop and then reverse him a few steps and ask him to remain still for a minute. Spend a few weeks walking like this and correcting him by making him back up. Practice walking at different speeds as you need to reinforce the idea that he should match your pace.
It is important to be firm and consistent. Always release the pressure the second your horse responds otherwise he will be confused about exactly what you are asking him to do. Always insist on the same distance between you when walking and don’t ever let your horse get away with sneaking up on you.
You will eventually benefit from an orderly horse who is a pleasure to lead. This will be better for you and everyone else who ever has to handle him. Your horse may have been the one that nobody wanted to catch but he could become the most popular horse in the yard!
How to Stop Your Horse Spooking
Horses will often spook in an arena, on a hack, or even around their yard; and sometimes for no apparent reason. The invisible monster that has so disconcerted them can continue to be a problem and a major frustration for you. The horse may pass by the same spot a hundred and more times and remain troubled by something that you simply cannot see or which is completely benign.
Whether an object is real or imagined, it can be difficult to prevent your horse from spooking at it again. Whilst such a tendency can be amusing, it also presents a danger to you.
Your safety is paramount so it is important to address the problem but not to force the issue. You must remain vigilante and it is often best to dismount and work from the ground to see if your horse spooks again.
Try avoiding the area where the spook occurred for a while and then gradually move closer to it throughout the session. If you are in the saddle, don’t look at the offending object or area, look away. Encourage your horse to do the same. Don’t try to pull back and remain calm. Any tension in your body will reinforce the tension that your horse is feeling.
Make sure that you keep moving forward. Don’t make any actions that actively encourage your horse to vary its line and gait. Remain committed to your horse’s movement. If he does lurch, then go with him and do everything you can not to yank on his mouth. Your horse should stay on the right path even if he does spook but if he isn’t looking at whatever has troubled him he should soon calm down.
If you repeat this procedure your horse may eventually learn not to react to whatever is troubling him. But it might take many repetitions to achieve this. Always encourage your horse verbally and with a pat and provide a distraction after you have passed the moment of danger. Never stop after a spook and pat your horse because you will be rewarding him for the wrong behaviour.
Avoiding the Problem
If your horse continues in the same part of the arena, you might have to accept that you have to avoid it for a while. Ride elsewhere for a few days and then return to the scene of the crime. Your horse might have forgotten about whatever scared them.
Whatever tactic you try, don’t get rough or angry as you will simply be reminding your horse that there is an issue. If you act like there is no problem, your horse should pick up on your signals. The more distressed you become about the situation, the more your horse will feel tense.
If all else fails, ask someone else to ride your horse past the problem area just in case it is something that you are doing which is perpetuating the problem. If your horse still spooks, seek professional advice.
3. Caring For Your Horse
Your daily routine will shift from the moment you bring your horse back to their new surroundings. For both field and stable horses, you need to make sure that you look after them properly and also provide them with the love, care, and attention they deserve.
It’s advised to check on your horse at least twice a day and your responsibilities will include mucking out their stable, grooming, providing fresh water and food, as well as making regular appointments with the vet or farrier.
Remember that each horse will have different characteristics, although it shouldn’t take them too long to adapt to their surroundings.
Also, bear in mind that this animal will need to maintain a strict routine. So for example, if you give them food at a specific time during the week, the horse will expect the food to be brought to them at the same time during the weekend.
If you follow a strict and dedicated routine and strive to provide your horse with suitable living conditions, you will get full value out of your new friendship.
Should Horses Be Turned Out 24/7?
This is a topic which is widely debated within the equestrian community. It’s certainly one that most of you will have considered at one time or another. Especially when thinking about the welfare of your equine friends.
Turning Out: The Facts
In the wild, horses live in herds and will roam over large distances. So it’s tempting to think that 24/7 turnout is the obvious choice. However, keeping your equine friend in a stable at least some of the time offers many practical benefits for both of you.
For your horse, the stable is a safe, secure, warm and dry environment. For your part, your horse is more easily accessible and you will have greater peace of mind. You can ride without having to bring your horse in every time. He or she may well remain cleaner for longer and save you a few grooming sessions. However it will increase your mucking out sessions.
Turning your horse out full time is likely to make it more prone to injury and accidents including bumps and scrapes, thrown shoes, and even chipped hooves. Although horses are naturally adapted to living outdoors in most weather conditions, these risks are something every horse owner must consider. But time spent outdoors could help your horse to maintain good mobility.
Many people also find that allowing their horse to remain turned out 24/7 is beneficial for the animal’s mental health. The extra freedom leads to fewer behavioural problems and also makes the horse easier to train. Boredom can be an issue in the stable. However, this can be overcome by choosing a stall close to your horse’s best friends and providing .
Know Your Horse
The personality of your horse and the land you have available are significant factors when deciding on your turning out schedule. You may have the ideal set up for turning out your horse – plenty of well-drained grazing land, access to water plus secure fencing and shelter. In that case, turning out 24/7 could be a good option. But if your horse is poor at regulating their food intake or has troubled relationships with the other horses that share the same land, then more restricted turnout could be a better option. That’s a lot to think about!
The decision whether or not to turn your horse out 24/7 should be carefully considered and based both on the facilities you have at your disposal and the character of your horse. Turning out in the day and stabling at night is always a good compromise. No one knows your horse as well as you do! Ultimately you will have to trust your instincts!
4 Must-Haves for Turning Out
- Natural shelter such as trees and bushes or an open barn to enable your horse to escape the extremes of the weather.
- Access to water is essential and multiple water sources provide the best environment.
- Forage for your horse throughout the seasons.
- Well maintained land free of holes, trip hazards, dangerous plants including , broken fences and barbed wire.
How to Prevent Your Horse from Going Stir Crazy
Horses evolved to travel large distances and to graze for much of the day. Standing still in an enclosed space goes against the grain. Being confined to a stable will soon lead to frustration. Horses may suffer from emotional distress if they are not sufficiently stimulated and can become dangerous to handle.
If your horse is stabled, it is important to do everything that you can to support their need for stimulation and exercise.
Evolve a suitable exercise plan unless illness or injury necessitates stable rest. . Plan ahead to ensure that you can ride out in daylight or have access to an arena. If you do not have access to a paddock, think about whether you could turn your horse out into an arena or an area of the yard. If you do this, provide a supply of hay and arrange for your horse to spend time with a friendly horse so he has company.
You may be able to create a fenced area outside your horse's stable. Your horse will then have the choice to wander in and out when he pleases and will feel less restricted. You should also take your horse for walks but be prepared for him to be full of beans. Wear your riding hat and gloves and let someone know what you are doing and where you are going. You should ideally attach a lunge to his headcollar and take someone else and their horse along with you.
A change can be as good as a rest. If there is a spare box or stall at the yard, could you swap for a while to give your horse a change of scenery? If possible, tie him up in different places around the yard to give him variety but only use safe areas.
Horses are sociable animals and so it is always good to stable your horse next to a friendly horse so they can interact. They can see, touch or groom each other throughout the day and won’t feel so isolated. If your horse already has a friend but they are not stabled nearby, take your horse to visit them whenever you can so they can spend some time together.
When there is no option but to leave your horse in his stable, provide some toys to keep him occupied. You can purchase a variety of toys, stable licks and distractions that stave off boredom. Change the toys regularly to keep your horse interested.
It is vital for your horse’s health and emotional well-being that they receive the exercise and stimulation that they need. This may require careful planning and a great deal of effort. But it will be well worth it when you have a contented and healthy horse.
Keeping Your Horse Occupied While on Box Rest
No rider wants to hear that their horse requires box rest but this is an ordeal that you may have to endure. Your horse won’t be too happy about it either! So what can you do to ensure that you are able to get at least some time in the saddle and that your horse doesn’t get too bored?
Mirrors and Toys
Your horse is not going to enjoy being confined to his stall and boredom will quickly set in. You should make the stall as interesting as possible by adding a few stable mirrors. These must be unbreakable styles suitable for equines. They will provide hours of fun for your horse as they can then play peek-a-boo and hide and seek.
You could also invest in a or to provide your horse with a tasty diversion. These clever combination toys contain licks but also challenge your horse.
Cue the Music
If your horse is showing signs of being bored or is distressed by hearing his friends’ calls from the paddock then a radio could be the solution. Take a portable radio to the stables to provide some background noise for your animal.
Find some Company for Your Horse
It is hard enough for your horse when they find themselves confined to their stall. But they will feel even worse when they see their stable mates heading for the paddock without them. If there is a horse that could stay back during the day, or for part of the day, this would provide much needed company. Talk to the staff or the other owners to see if anyone has a horse that could also use some rest.
Grooming and Massage
Your horse will appreciate quality time with you and so the box rest could present a great opportunity for you to spend more time than usual grooming your horse. They will also appreciate a nice massage so invest in a massage mitt or ball. A few good bonding sessions will stop your horse from feeling low and will probably improve your mood too.
What About You?
It is incredibly frustrating when you cannot ride your horse. Ask friends if you can ride their mounts occasionally. You never know, there could be a fellow rider who is struggling to exercise their horse because they are unusually busy. If you can’t get a few rides this way then book hacks with a local riding school. This will give you the fix you need and you could even make new friends.
If you are facing a few weeks or months out of the saddle then it is important that you keep yourself fit. Otherwise it is going to be tough when it is time to jump back in the saddle. If you can’t ride regularly then you may need to take up a new hobby to help maintain your fitness levels.
If you are still going stir crazy then try volunteering at local equestrian events or offer to help out at the riding school. You will be around horses and helping other people at the same time. This is no substitute for riding but if you are going to be out of action then you might as well do something constructive!
About Horse Dehydration
It is vital that your horse does not become dehydrated. If he does, then his performance will be seriously affected. Dehydration can also be life threatening. So, what are the warning signs that you should look out for and how do you avoid the problem occurring in the first place?
The definitive test for horse dehydration is a blood test. This will measure the level of proteins in the plasma and the proportion of red blood cells versus plasma in the blood. But it isn’t always practical to perform a blood test, so you need to be vigilante. Watch out for dark urine and monitor your horse to make sure that he is passing urine regularly. If you horse is stabled then you can monitor the water levels in his buckets to see how much he is drinking. You should also check the mucous membranes (gums, nostrils, eye lids etc) as if these are pale/red or congested then your horse could be dehydrated. A skin pinch test used to be utilised to detect dehydration but this has now been shown to be unreliable.
Why Are Horses Prone to Dehydration
Like humans, horses lose heat through sweat and they do this very efficiently. They also control their body heat via increased respiration which results in the horse losing more water. The amount of water that they lose will depend on the ambient temperature, their fitness level and the intensity of their work. However, horses can lose up to 15 litres of water per hour. So, it isn’t difficult to see how they can quickly become dehydrated.
The trouble is that drinking alone will not re-hydrate a horse if it has become seriously dehydrated. This is because the water ingested first dilutes the body fluids rather than the tissues and then switches off the thirst signals. If your horse is seriously dehydrated, then he will require electrolyte therapy. Here electrolytes are given in feed or water to stimulate further drinking and to replace the salts lost through sweating.
How to Avoid Horse Dehydration
It is important to ensure that your horse always has access to fresh, clean water. Their access to water must not be restricted when they are competing. If your horse dislikes the water when you are on the road then add some flavour to make it more appealing. Mint and apple juice are both good choices. You could also invest in one of the proprietary products that are now available in order to tempt your horse to drink.
If you regularly have trouble in persuading your horse to drink enough water then switching their diet to haylage may help the situation. Haylage has a higher moisture content than hay. Soaked hay is a more cost-effective option if your budget is tight.
On hotter days it is essential to cool your horse down thoroughly and as soon as possible after any exercise. The quicker you stop him sweating the less water he will lose. This will help prevent horse dehydration.
When you are travelling to shows, keep your horse in the shade for as long as possible. You may not be able to see that he is getting hot and losing moisture. Remember to provide electrolytes to replace those vital salts after you have competed.
4. Equipment and Supplies
You might find that some of the essential gear you need will be included when you purchase your horse or collect if from the previous owner.
If you don’t have any equipment just yet or you plan to purchase more, here’s a list of some of the items and supplies both you and your horse will need.
Items for the horse:
- Lead rope
- Grooming items – soft and hard brushes, mane comb, hoof picks, sweat scrapper
- Hoof oil and cream
- Fly spray and mask
- First aid kit
- Feed and feed tub
- Water trough and buckets
Horse Tack Security
Unfortunately horse tack theft is on the rise. Thieves are becoming increasingly daring and think nothing of emptying an entire tack room. To make matters worse, they have no scruples about who they rob.
Just last month a Riding for the Disabled centre near Doncaster was targeted by thieves. Nine saddles, nine bridles and other equipment was stolen in the raid. A safe containing cash was also taken. As a consequence disabled children were unable to ride during the Easter holidays and this caused a great deal of distress. Your horse tack is extremely vulnerable so how do you reduce the risk of it being stolen?
You should start by fitting a 5-lever mortice lock to the door of your tack room. This type of lock is fitted to the frame of the door and not just surface mounted like a bolt and so these locks are much harder for thieves to overcome. 5-Lever locks are also difficult to pick. If your tack is insured then your insurer may require you to fit a 5-lever lock. You might also be obliged to install steel bars across tack room windows. Whether your insurer demands these or not, they are certainly a good idea.
If your horse is kept at livery then it could be worth talking to other owners at the yard about sharing the cost of improved security or the possibility of installing an alarm system.
All tack should be security marked. Your local Horse Watch co-ordinator will have the necessary equipment to do this. is a scheme which helps to keep owners aware of and protected from equine related crime. It is also possible to electronically tag your horse tack. Marked and tagged tack is less likely to be stolen as thieves know that they will find it more difficult to sell and that it could confirm their guilt. If your tack is still taken then at least you will have a fighting chance of getting it back.
If you do mark or tag your horse tack then display warning signs to this effect as these may prove to be a deterrent.
Keep a Record
Whatever measures you take to protect your tack, you could still become the victim of theft. It is best to make an inventory of everything that you own just in case. You should record any serial numbers of the items and the details of any security markings.
Take photographs of each piece and keep these together with any receipts for your purchases. Store all paperwork at a different site to the tack. This will ensure that your records are not stolen with the tack in the event of a break in. If your horse tack and equipment is well-documented then you have a much better chance of seeing it again if it is stolen or making a successful insurance claim.
It is all too easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. Your peaceful yard may be in the middle of nowhere but thieves will know that it could be a goldmine and will seek it out. Do everything you can to keep them out and to make it as easy as possible to identify your treasured horse just in case it is stolen.
Items for you:
If you plan to take part in show jumping or dressage then here are some of the items you will need to purchase:
- Winter warmers
After the first couple of weeks, you will start to gain more of an understanding about which items your horse needs. Although it’s essential to provide them with feed, water, and bedding, the other items listed above can be purchased at a later date.
In the meantime, you can focus your attention on building the relationship between you and your horse as they settle into their new home.
5. Sufficient Living Space
It’s likely that you have already arranged where your horse will be kept. If not, you need to organize this before you bring them back to their new surroundings; so consider your options first.
As horses are large animals, it’s vital that they have enough space around them to roam and develop.
You may wish to keep your horse in a field or in a stable. For field-kept horses, make sure the surrounding areas are enclosed so that they can’t escape.
For stabled horses, make sure that they are kept in a secure and locked environment so again they can’t escape when inside.
For both field-kept and stabled horses, it’s worth considering the distance between your home and that of your equine friend.
Remember that if your horse is kept a long way from your house then this will mean more of your time will be spent traveling to and from the destination to care for them.
6. Integration with Other Horses
Whether you own other horses, or yours will be stabled alongside others, it’s important to give your new horse time to settle before you introduce them.
After a couple of weeks, you may wish to allow your new horse to integrate with the others. This process should be completed gradually so that the herd can settle and your horse isn’t bullied by being introduced too soon.
Where possible, see if your new horse can be turned out in an empty field close to their soon to be companions.
This will allow the existing herd to bond with the horse over the fence or at least become familiar with them before they are enclosed within the same area.
Once the horses get used to each other’s company, you shouldn’t have any major problems to address. Each horse will react differently when they meet initially although these feelings should wear off quickly and integration should be easy to achieve.
7. Introducing Children to Your Horse
It’s important to teach children about safety when approaching horses. This will allow them to understand how to react around horses and not cause them any major distress.
Upon viewing the horse you should always accompany children if they are of a really young age. Those who are older may not require you to accompany them at all times, although you should still keep an eye on them. As horses are big animals they can easily cause damage if they become stressed or anxious.
Here are some tips for when children are interacting with your horse:
- Always set a good example to children by safely interacting with the horse yourself
- When approaching the horse always use a calm and soothing voice so they know where you are and they don’t feel threatened
- Ensure children stay away from a horse’s hind legs as they can kick out and cause serious harm
- Always approach their shoulder not head on - a horse has blind areas of vision when they are looking forward so always approach their shoulder
- Never let children duck under the horse’s neck as they will once again be in their blind spot of vision
- Keep children out of the stalls when feeding as the horse could mistake them for a herd-mate and try to protect their food by lashing out
- Teach children not to run away from a horse – instead, they should face them and back off to avoid being chased
- Make sure children understand certain aspects of a horse’s body language so they can observe when they are showing negative signs of behavior
- Tell children that they should always remain to stand, rather than kneeling or sitting, as they will be able to get away quickly if the horse reacts negatively
Teaching children how to be safe around horses could prevent them from serious injury. Remember that a horse will only react on instinct, but if a child understands this then they will be able to observe when they are displaying negative signs of behavior.
8. Registering With a Vet
Unlike owning other animals, when you register your horse with a vet they will usually visit your premises when needed. This is a much more practical solution as opposed to taking your horse to the vet due to the size of the animal.
All horse owners must register with a vet. When you purchase your horse it might be the case that you can use the same vet as the previous owner. Alternatively, you may wish to find one who lives closer to you.
Either way, you need to make sure that you register your horse with a vet so that any health problems can be addressed as soon as they arise.
Over time, your horse will need to see the vet for a number of reasons (including, but not limited to):
- Health issues
- Dental care
If you don’t register and an emergency situation occurs it will be very difficult to get the help you need without having to spend a lot of money.
As a result, make sure you register as soon as you have the opportunity to do so. If you leave it too late, this will only cost you more money in the long run when health issues become apparent.
5 Health Conditions All Horse Owners Should Be Aware Of
Every good horse owner wants what’s best for their noble steed. So, it’s important to be able to recognise signs of ill health in your horse to ensure they get the best care possible.
From Arthritis to Gastric Ulcers, here’s five health conditions all keen equestrians should be aware of.
Just like us humans, older horses are also prone to arthritis. This slow-developing disease occurs when the joint cartilage wears down, resulting in pain and reducing movement in the affected limbs.
However, the pain can be managed by stimulating the cartridge, which can also slow down the progress of the disease. Studies have also revealed that products containing Glycosaminoglycan polysulphate and hyaluronan (for example, Hylartil and Hyonate) can help lessen pain, as well as improve your horse’s quality of life.
2. Equine Colic
Although relatively common,equine colic is a big concern for horse owners. Colic literally just means abdominal pain, but it can range from slight discomfort to a twisted gut that may require life-saving surgery. This condition is characterised by rolling around or wanting to lie down, pawing at the ground, a lack of appetite, and issues defecating. Due to the potential severity of the situation, all instances of colic should be treated as an emergency.
Laminitis is as common as it is painful. This condition is an inflammation of the laminae, soft tissue found in the hoof of horses and ponies. Laminitis affects blood flow to the area, causing the tissue to swell. Over time, the lack of blood flow causes cells in the laminae to die.
This is a big problem, as this tissue supports the pedal bone, and therefore the animal’s weight. Overweight horses are particularly susceptible to getting laminitis, but the disease can becaused by a number of things, from stress to bacterial infection.
Desmitis is common in athletic horses and is found in both the fore and hind limbs. This condition is an inflammation of a horse’s ligament, usually caused by an injury (although incorrectly fitted shoes can also cause desmitis), with the three most common ligaments affected being the suspensory ligaments (this is known as Proximal Suspensory Desmitis or PSD), the check ligament, and the collateral ligaments in the coffin joint. Symptoms include limping, heat or damage in the problem area, swelling, and reluctance to stand.
5. Gastric Ulcers
Gastric ulcers are painful erosions in the lining of a horse’s stomach, usually caused by stress or a lack of green food. There are two types - squamous ulcers and glandular ulcers. Squamous ulcers (also known as equine squamous gastric disease) affect the top third of a horse’s stomach and are created by excess acid.
Whereas glandular ulcers (equine glandular gastric disease) affect the bottom two thirds of the animal’s belly and are caused by the mucus lining failing to protect the glandular tissue. Reduced appetite, stomach pain, weight loss, and a change in attitude are common signs of gastric ulcers, but they can be treated by Gastroguardonce diagnosed by a vet.
How to Give Medications to Your Hors
If you have ever tried to administer a tablet to an animal, you will know how difficult it can be. Most species are highly skilled at separating the pill from anything else that happens be in their bucket or dish and so simply adding a tablet to their feed doesn’t tend to work. Horses are no exception and can extract a tiny little pill from a mountain of feed in seconds.
So, How Do You Get Your Horse to Swallow Their Medications?
Some horses will happily eat the pills that you place in their feed, but they are the exceptions. Most won’t be so accommodating and cause a great deal of frustration for their owners who are merely trying to attend to the horses’ welfare. But there are ways to tempt your horse.
Soft Horse Treats
It is possible to buy soft horse treats into which you can press a tablet. These are palatable enough to tempt the horse to swallow and it’s easy to insert the pill.
Apples and Carrots
Firm favourites with horses, you can hollow out apples and carrots to create the perfect hiding place for medication. Save the piece you have cut out and use it to create a plug to keep the medication inside the treat.
Pill Pockets and Pouches
There are several commercially produced pill pockets and pouches which have been designed specifically for administering tablets to horses. These little helpers are highly convenient but they are also most expensive way to go.
The pits of plums are poisonous to horses but pitted prunes are safe and provide a sweet treat which is sure to be gratefully accepted. These do-it-yourself pill pockets work well and don’t cost the earth.
Dissolve in Water
You may be able to dissolve medications in water and then administer them using a syringe but you must ensure that all of the water goes down the horse’s throat and not out of the side of their mouth.
How to Present the Treat
Horses will pick up on any stress and anxiety you feel as a result of having to administer medication. If you appear tense or nervous, your horse will be less likely to eat the pill. Try to remain positive and cheerful. Don’t change your routine too much and treat giving your horse hiss tablets as just another aspect of a regular day.
Many of horses which require medication will be suffering from conditions which require a low-sugar diet. The treats mentioned above could prove problematic in this regard if you don’t keep tabs on how many you are giving to your horse.
One prune could contain as much as 2 grams of sugar and even the average carrot contains 5 grams of sugar. The treat manufacturers will print the sugar content of their products on the packaging or will be able to tell you what it is. Most of the pill pouches available are low in sugar and so could be the best option for horses on a restricted diet.
There may be a risk of overdoing the sugar in your horse’s diet but this is a better option than failing to get the horse to take its medicine.
Equally as important as registering with a vet, you also need to make sure you get equine insurance in place straight away.
Insurance will help with vet bills and third party incidents, as well as protect yourself from the financial costs of illness and injuries to your horse and theft too.
You should purchasing horse insurance for:
- Vets bills
- Liability of your horse
- Injuries and accidents
- Loss of use
- Trailers and horseboxes
In the unfortunate event where your horse dies and you don’t have insurance in place, you won’t receive any financial support. Whilst this will be a difficult and sensitive situation to overcome, it will be harder to deal with if the support isn’t available.
It’s down to you as a responsible owner to make sure that you have sufficient insurance in place that relates to your circumstances. For example, if you wish to engage in riding then you will need rider insurance.
Liability insurance is also advised as well to protect you if your horse takes a fall and damages property or hurts someone else.
It’s highly likely that you will need to make a claim at some point during your horse’s lifetime. Ultimately, you never know when an unfortunate event will happen and as vet bills can quickly spiral out of control, you need to be prepared by getting horse insurance.
Looking After Your Horse’s Teeth
As a horse-loving owner, you naturally want to take responsibility for your folly friend’s health and general well-being – giving it a ‘nice life’ so to speak. Aside from the fact your horse needs feeding, grooming, shelter and exercise, your horse’s teeth can also play an important part in their overall health.
At the age of five your horse’s teeth are buried deep within its upper and lower jaw and will erupt over a 10-15 year period at a rate of 2-3mm per year. Most horses find it difficult to ‘wear down’ their teeth at the necessary rate due to the way they are kept – eating soft grass, soft hay, wearing bits and time spent in the stable are all contributing factors.
Equine Dental Care
Our understanding of equine dental care is improving all the time and dentistry techniques are improving with it. It has become clear that good dental care can reduce the incidence of several conditions in horses. Dental care is an issue which should never be overlooked.
How to Spot Equine Dental Problems
It can be hard to spot when your horse has an issue with its teeth. The horse may adjust their chewing to adapt to any pain that they are experiencing, and this can mask the problem. For this reason, there may be no obvious signs of pain even when your horse requires attention. By the time that you spot an issue, it could be too late to treat.
Do be aware that slow eating, dropping food and bad breath are all signs of trouble. It is important to get your horse’s teeth checked regularly because early intervention could make all the difference.
Bad Teeth and Poor Performance
When a horse is experiencing discomfort, it may hold his head in an unnatural position. This can result in pain in the poll, neck and back which will affect the horse’s performance.
Overgrown Teeth and Colic
Horses which have had their teeth checked regularly have been shown to be at a reduced risk of colic caused by large colon impaction. It is important to rasp your horse’s teeth but equally important not to over rasp them, as this could make it harder for your horse to eat and that may actually cause colic.
Horses’ teeth continue to grow until they are roughly 18 years of age as they have evolved to eat coarse vegetation which wears the teeth down. But your horse will probably be feeding on lush grass and soft hay and so their teeth will need rasping to keep growth in check. In addition, if your horse eats from a hay net, then this can result in abnormal wear and the formation of sharp points which can injure soft tissues in the mouth. Any points must be addressed by rasping.
Older horses will have teeth which have stopped growing and so they must be treated with great care. Any tooth material which is rasped away will not be replaced. Eventually, the teeth will be worn away to the extent that they are level with the gums. This necessitates careful management of their diet. Older horses may also develop gaps between their teeth, known as diastema. These gaps will often become impacted with food and this can result in a painful case of gingivitis.
It may be that you are advised to avoid chaff or hay to prevent food being caught in the gaps or after dental treatment. There are a number of horse feeds that can help, such as Allen & Page Fast Fibre which can be used as a hay substitute and its useful for horses with poor teeth. Of course, if you are changing your horse's diet it is best to introduce new feeds gradually if possible.
Can Horses Have Fillings?
Horses can indeed have fillings to prevent decay, fractures or infections. The teeth are usually filled with the same materials used in human dentistry.
Good dental care is vital and so you should keep an eye on your horse’s teeth and have them checked regularly by an equine dental technician. Bad teeth can be painful and will lead to a variety of health issues which are easily avoided.
Tooth Decay in Horses
We all know that sweet foods and sugary drinks can cause tooth decay in humans. It is only in recent years that it has been discovered that horses also suffer from cavities but the causes were not quite so clear.
Two forms of the disease have been found in horses. Cavities can affect the centre of the table of the tooth, on the grinding surface. They may also appear in the sides of the teeth, where they meet the gums.
Swedish Research into Equine Tooth Decay
Scientists launched a study of 500 deceased horses in Sweden to see if they could establish any causes for cavities. They obtained the horses' histories from their owners so they could examine lifestyle factors. Only 6% of the horses had cavities in the sides of their teeth. Interestingly, most of these cavities were found in the last three molars at the back of the horses’ mouths. As saliva protects teeth from decay, it is believed that cavities are more common in the teeth at the back of the mouth because the tube which discharges most of the saliva is further forward.
The scientists also discovered that tooth decay was more prevalent in horses which had been fed a higher proportion of haylage rather than hay. This would cause greater acidity in the mouth. A 2017 study conducted in Australia also found a noticeable correlation between grazing, feed and tooth decay in horses.
Grazing and Tooth Decay
Horses would naturally graze for much of the day. This action produces saliva in order to aid digestion and protect the teeth. When horses are in the stable for long periods of time, they graze less and so produce less saliva and this can lead to changes in the PH level of their mouths. This is probably why it is now known that tooth decay is more prevalent in high-performance horses. These animals are fed larger amounts of fermented foods and tend to have diets that are high in sugar to boost their power and energy.
Detecting Tooth Decay
Unfortunately, tooth decay in horses is rarely obvious. It is often during a dental examination that the dentist finds it. There are few symptoms which are obvious and it isn’t until a horse is presented to an equine dentist that any issues are revealed.
In serious cases of decay, the teeth may fracture. This will result in the horse appearing to be uncomfortable when eating. A horse with a broken tooth may also stop eating and might react badly to wearing a bridle. Split or broken teeth can result in the opposing tooth not being sufficiently ground down. If a horse has a broken tooth, the opposing tooth may require more frequent rasping.
If your horse starts to go off its food or appears more sensitive around the face, it is worth booking a dental check-up as decaying teeth might be causing discomfort. As horses don’t clean their teeth, food can become trapped in the cavities. This then causes accelerated decay in the teeth and infections are also possible.
Tooth decay is a potential health issue which equestrians should be aware of. Increased vigilance could mean that you find any decay early, and adjust the diet accordingly, before it results in broken teeth.
here are 6 tips to keep your horse’s pearly whites in tip top condition:
Pay attention to your horse’s feeding and general behaviour as this can indicate signs early on that your horse may be suffering with dental problems. For example, your horse may start dropping food, losing weight or eating more slowly than usual. If you see the warning signs, enlist the help of your friendly vet or qualified equine dental technician to prevent these problems from escalating.
Did you know your horse has a total of 36 teeth, with males having an additional four canine teeth? That’s a lot of teeth to take care of so make sure you brush your horse’s teeth with a stiff brush regularly to prevent any build-up of grass or excess food getting trapped between your horse’s incisors. Us humans don’t like bad breath so we’re pretty sure your horse won’t want to put up with halitosis either!
Prevention is always better than cure so ensure regular dental checks (about every 6-12 months) are carried out with your vet or equine dental technician not only to prevent disease but also to ensure they are more comfortable when ridden. Be mindful that horses suffer in silence, even with advanced dental disease.
Feed your horse from the ground as this is how they are designed to eat. This way you ensure the jaw is aligned correctly and breaks down the food, reducing the risk of abnormal wear to the teeth. Horses are designed to chew for over 18 hours a day – that’s a lot of time spent chewing so the more comfortable they are, the more they will enjoy their food.
Ensure your horse’s diet contains enough long fibre. If your horse is older and has missing teeth then it may struggle to chew this type of fibre, this is where replacements offer a good solution, so seek the expert advice of an equine nutritionist if needed.
Be aware when your horse’s last check-up was, don’t put off scheduling your vet or equine dental technician in the diary – healthy teeth ensure a happy and healthy horse!
Keeping your horse’s health in check is hugely important and therefore you need to ensure that their teeth are cared for properly.
Regulations are in operation to stop unqualified professionals carrying out dentistry procedures. So, make sure you use either a qualified vet or a dedicated equine dentist specialist.
Whilst healthcare bills may be expensive, don’t fall into the trap of choosing a low-cost vet or equine dentist. These should be treated with suspicion as you don’t want to end up with a poor and unprofessional job being carried out. This is why horse insurance is so important. As such, you won’t compromise on the health of your horse.
If you are seeking a registered equine dental technician then always ask for a recommendation from previous owners, friends who own horses, or search for well-known and reputable providers online. Your horse’s teeth will usually need rasping on a yearly basis, although older horses will need to be checked every six months.
Once you have found a vet or equine dentist, you can ask them for advice on how often you should make appointments for the type of horse you have.
Ideally, your horse should be vetted before it’s purchased. Even if you know where the horse has come from or the previous owners, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The vetting process will involve an inspection of the horse’s health. This means that you can determine if any problems need addressing right away or if there are any to watch out for in the future.
The full vetting process can take up to 2 hours, but it’s worth doing to avoid any issues further down the line. During this time and adhering to the British Veterinary Association guidelines, your horse will be checked and examined in five stages, where the following are monitored:
1)Skin, heart, lungs, legs, teeth, and feet
2)Walk and trot and assessment of movement
3)Ridden exercise, trot and canter
4)Strenuous workout, eyes
5)Second trot and flexion tests
So that you can determine if there are any short or long-term health issues to look out for, it’s advised to get your horse vetted.
To provide protection against diseases and infection, your horse needs to have the required vaccinations.
When you collect your new horse, check with the existing owner which injections they have had. If they are missing some or haven’t had specific ones before, speak to your vet as soon as possible.
The following vaccinations will prevent your horse from becoming ill and catching disease or infection.
Every two years
Every six months
Horses that have been out in areas where strangles has developed
Boosters ever four to six months depending on the amount of risk
During pregnancy (months eight, nine and ten)
Equine Herpes Virus (EHV)
During pregnancy (months five, seven and nine). Every six months for other horses.
Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA)
Every six months with a blood test
Foals can start receiving vaccinations from around four months of age. Always seek advice from your vet before you arrange an appointment.
Horses involved in show jumping will need to have specific vaccinations at regular intervals. Again, in this instance check the requirements with your vet.
13. Infections and Symptoms
If you suspect your horse is suffering from a particular illness, you should address this straight away. This will ensure that your horse regains solid health and continues to live a happy life.
To help you identify if your horse is suffering from an infection, disease or illness, we have listed the ones to look out for, as well as their tell-tale signs and symptoms. If at any point you believe that your horse is suffering from any of these, seek veterinary advice immediately.
Protrusion of the third eyelid, stiff neck, muscle stiffness resulting in a ‘sawhorse’ stance
Dry cough, fever, watery nasal discharge, loss of appetite, signs of depression, weakness
Yellow nasal discharge, fever, swollen lymph nodes beneath the jaws
Loss of appetite, signs of depression, difficulty swallowing, aggressive behaviour, convulsions
Watery diarrhoea, loss of appetite, signs of depression
Pawing or scrapping the ground, restlessness, flank watching (moving the head to look at the abdomen)
As parasitic worms can affect your horse’s health, it’s important to adopt a regular worming programme.
Worms can cause irreversible damage to a horse’s organs and cause colic too. Therefore, a strict regime should be carried out to prevent illness.
To avoid drug resistance, you must provide a dosage that matches your horse’s body weight. Choose the correct Horse Wormers based on this and then give your horse the correct dose at the right time.
Worming should be completed at least twice a year. If your horse ends up with tapeworm then it will cost you more to resolve than the initial price of horse wormers. As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure, so make sure you stick to a strict worming programme.
If at any point you are unsure of what to do, or which horse wormers to purchase, speak to your vet and they can assist you. A little action early on will prevent a bigger problem later on in the horse’s life.
15. Using a Farrier
A farrier is an expert in the field of equine hoof care. This skill involves trimming and balancing the hooves of a horse, as well as fixing shoes too. The experience is painless for the horse, although if yours shows signs of distress then there may be something wrong with its hoof.
Horses that regularly move on hard surfaces will require horseshoes to preserve their hooves and stop wear and tear. The same rule applies if you will be riding your horse and especially if you will be taking to the road or gravel surfaces.
As an average, your horse’s hooves should be trimmed every six to eight weeks by a farrier.
This will stop them wearing down and also protects them from the exposure to hard surfaces. Some horses will also require a special kind of shoe if they have any foot or leg problems.
If your horse is already wearing shoes, then it may need to be shod every four to six months depending on the natural growth of the hoof wall. Your horse should not be shod too often as this can cause them pain, as well as damage the surrounding walls.
Get in contact with a farrier if you notice any of the following:
- A slight bulge where the hoof is growing above the ‘original hoof’
- Colour variation on the hoof
- Any sign of broken walls or damaged hooves
If you are unsure as to whether your horse needs to see a farrier then you should seek further advice from fellow horse owners, stable staff or the farrier directly.
16. Food and Diet
Feeding your horse on a regular basis is a fundamental aspect of caring for your new animal. For horses, consuming a regular and consistent diet will help aid their development and maintain good health.
What can you feed your horse?
First of all, enabling your horse to trickle feed on forage, such as hay, will help with their digestive system. Without this aspect of their diet, your horse could suffer from problems such as gastric ulcers and dental issues as well.
Chewing on hay will help keep your horse’s teeth smooth and can also maintain PH levels in their gut.
Your horse should eat around one to two percent of its own body weight in forage on a daily basis. However, if they are grazing for long periods in the field then they won’t need as much. During the winter give your horse additional hay to supplement pasture grazing.
Grain is also great for your horse. If you want to feed them grain, do so in small portions and on a regular basis. If you give them too much grain during one feed, it will be much harder to digest.
The major factors for deciding what to feed your horse are their weight and the amount of work they do. For example, if they take part in events they will need to consume more slow release energy foods. If at any time their routine changes then you need to adjust their diet accordingly.
Changing rations needs to be done gradually. If there is a dramatic shift in the amount you feed your horse this may lead to colic and other health problems.
You can also feed your horse the following:
- Compound feeds
- Crushed barley
- Crushed corn (maize)
- Sunflower seeds
- Wheat germ
Horse feeds, treats and supplements can be purchased from a pet supplies store, along with the above-listed foods.
Feed your horse twice a day. You may wish to feed them once if they are out in the field all day grazing. Also, make sure they have constant access to water in the stables and in the fields too. Water can be placed in large buckets or troughs and there should be enough water for the number of horses you own or are looking after.
Horse Weight: How To Keep Your Horse A Health Weight
Horses need to be kept at a healthy weight, just like all other animals. This gives them the best chance at life, as well as a longer life span and a happier attitude. Despite the obvious risk of disease and higher chance of injury, an overweight horse may not want to behave in the way you would wish, which can be very upsetting for both you and your beloved horse.
It can be difficult to maintain your horses’ weight, but it is possible and will prevent obesity and heavy joints as well as various other complications. Simply put, a healthy horse is a happy horse and a happy horse equals a happy owner! Here’s how to keep your horse at a healthy weight.
Ride your horse at least 6 times a week
Like humans, horses need a good 30 minutes exercise nearly every day to keep fit, healthy and to rise that heartbeat so that weight can be lost and blood circulation is running smoothly. Riding your horse, doing obstacle courses and generally spending time with your horse in the great outdoors will prevent many nasty diseases for both you and your companion, not only that but it’s mentally therapeutic to bond with your horse and build that trust; your horse will no doubt be excited to have all that attention!
Keep an eye on sneaky snacking
It’s very likely that you will allow your horse to spend a lot of time in a field, so it’s important to make sure that you are keeping an eye on how much grass your elegant friend is eating. Grazing on grass can seem innocent but it all has calories and can add up, especially when you are not able to keep an eye on them, or when passers-by and friends decide to pick some grass and hand feed your horse! It’s a bit like a toddler sneaking into that chocolate cupboard, cute but not good for the health.
Fibre and then more fibre
Every living animal on earth needs fibre to maintain a healthy gut and digestive tract, having a high fibre diet can prevent celiac episodes as well as prevent many diseases. A lack of fibre can be incredibly painful to humans so it’s no doubt it hurts our horse friends as well, but they will not be able to tell us so we need to look after them and prevent any harm. Good quality hay is one of the best sources of fibre but make sure to weigh it so that you are not over feeding your beloved horse.
Take note of the change in seasons
Winter can cause a horse to lose weight due to the cold weather and lack of fresh grass, however the cold may also prevent the horse from wanting to exercise which maintains a healthy body. It may be worth encouraging your horse to eat small amounts regularly if they do not have a large appetite or use a bit of oil to raise calorie intake. Summer may lead to overeating and bug bites, so it’s worth checking over your friend’s coat and physic to ensure they are happy and healthy.
Talk to a vet if you have concerns
It may be scary to talk to vet about your horse’s health, but the vet only wants to help and give the best possible life and health to your horse, they care as much as you do. Vets understand that sometimes horses may change in weight and it does not mean that you are being a bad owner. A vet is a professional in the field and can help you to tailor the right diet and lifestyle changes to benefit your four-legged friend.
Feeding and exercise
If you are going to ride your horse then wait an hour after their feed. If your routine is going to be more intense, then leave it around three hours. Riding too soon will mean that your horse’s lungs have less room to function to optimum effect. Furthermore, gut movement can slow down and lead to colic.
Once you have completed your ride, let the horse cool down and ensure that their breathing rate returns back to normal. You may also want to wipe them down using a sweat scrapper as mentioned in .
Maintaining a routine
Your horse will thrive on a routine and this means sticking to a tight feeding schedule. Meals need to arrive at the same time each day, even during the weekend.
Small changes in times won’t cause problems, although substantial differences will have a negative impact. Stick to a regular diet and your horse will take the nutrients and energy they need.
The best apps to enhance your equestrian life
Technology has changed our lives for ever and largely for the better. Apps are no exception and help us to do everything from tracking our fitness to finding our way home. Unfortunately, there are also many ridiculous apps which simply defy description. It is hard to imagine who could benefit from an app which measures how far you can throw your phone! Then there’s the truly insane Places I’ve Pooped! (Don’t ask!)
Happily, there are excellent apps for equestrians which should prove a great deal more useful than recording where you last used the toilet.
Horse Rider SOS
If you ride out alone, this app could be your salvation when you experience a fall. Simply start the app before you set off and if you fall or become unconscious, Horse Rider SOS will notify your nominated guardians that you are in trouble. The app will send them your location so they can get help to you as quickly as possible. Available for iPhone and Android.
If you are taking a longer ride or riding somewhere new, OS Mapfinder will ensure that you don’t get lost. Enabling you to find the local bridleways, this is the official mapping app from Ordnance survey and has an integrated GPS tracker so you always know where you are. At just 69p to £1.99, this app could be a great investment.
It can be difficult to organise your horse’s health records but this app changes all that. You can input important health events including vaccinations, dentistry and worming, together with the details of any treatments. The app will remind you when you need to reorder or administer medication and you can track your horse’s exercise routine. If someone else cares for your horse, you are able to transfer important information to them via the app.
This is a highly useful app which enables you to monitor your progress on a ride. It will tell you how long you walked, trotted or cantered. This can help you to attain your goals in your training program. It also enables you to connect to your equestrian friends so you can plan your next rides or to your vet if you are concerned for your horse’s health.
If you find it tricky to decide which rug your horse requires in the colder months, this app will provide the answer. You enter your location and whether your horse is turned out or stabled. The app will make the calculations in consideration of the weather forecast and recommend the correct weight of rug.
This app features entertainment and reference materials from top equestrian brands to keep you ahead of the game. You can enjoy reading training tips from the planet’s leading riders including Mary King, Charlotte Dujardin, and Tim Stockdale. You can download the app from itunes.
The Best Dog Breeds for Equestrians
Many horse owners also love dogs. Canines companions are traditional features of yards and farms. But if you would like a dog yourself which mixes well with horses, which are the best breeds to go for?
Every dog is an individual and their personalities and abilities can vary dramatically even within a particular breed. So choosing the right dog isn’t easy. If you are investing in a puppy, then do make sure that you spend time with any dog that has attracted your interest. This will enable you to gauge its personality before you make your decision. You should then familiarise your pup with the yard at the earliest opportunity so that the horses quickly become part of the dog’s everyday life. You could experience difficulties if you are adopting an adult dog. They will already be set in their ways and their life experiences to date may not have included horses. Find out as much as you can about the dog’s background and, if possible, take the dog along to the stables to see how it reacts. All of that said, there are breeds which tend to be good around horses. Many of these have the physical attributes that make them particularly good choices if you are looking for a dog to accompany you on your rides. You need a robust dog who loves exercise who will not be aggressive towards the horses or scared of them.
This breed is generally very good with horses and most retrievers are also excellent family pets. They generally have friendly personalities and respond well to training as they are intelligent dogs. So they certainly have the right personalities and would be a great choice to ride out with but you should have your retriever checked over as this breed is prone to hip problems.
Despite the name, this breed was developed in the US and makes for an excellent dog to ride out with. They are generally full of energy and so require copious amounts of exercise. This breed does not fare when limited to hanging around the stable. The breed is prone to epilepsy and eye trouble and so genetic screening is a must.
There is perhaps no breed which can match the Dalmatian for boisterousness and energy. This breed is renowned for mixing well with horses. Dalmatians were originally bred as guard dogs and are usually friendly animals with bundles of energy which will be willing to run as far as you can ride. They are prone to deafness and suffer from a genetic disorder called hyperuricemia which can lead to kidney stones.
Australian Cattle Dog
This breed was originally developed to work with cattle and most ACDs are robust dogs which are very good with horses. They don’t bark much and have the energy to cope with any trail. They are a relatively small dog which won’t scare the horses and this breed does not have a history of genetic defects.
Corgis are relatively small dogs but are extremely robust and almost always get on with horses. They were bred to work with cattle and will be happy to accompany you on your rides. They are easy to take care for and health issues with corgis are comparatively rare.
Jack Russell Terrier
These diminutive dogs have feisty personalities. They were developed from fox hounds in England and have been bred for work. They are fabulous hunters which can come in handy around the stables and they never seem to run out of energy. Good around horses, Jack Russells are simply pocket rockets.
Within this guide, we’ve outlined some of the key areas you need to consider when it comes to owning a new horse. Looking after an animal of this nature is a huge commitment, so make sure you are ready before you bring your horse back to their new home.
Remember that as their owner it’s your responsibility to care for them and provide them with sufficient living conditions. If you offer them love, care, and regular attention, then you will spend many happy years together.
18. References and Resources
- The British Horse Society, Advice On Buying and Owning a Horse:
- About.com, What basic equipment do I need to feed, handle, ride or drive my horse? -
- Equestrian Life, How do you introduce a child to a horse?:
- Keeping Kids Safe Around Horse:
- Animal Friends, Why Do I Need Equine Insurance:
- Money Super Market, Horse insurance cover:
- British Veterinary Association:
- Equine Vet, Frequently Asked Questions:
- Doctors Foster and Smith, Common Infectious Diseases:
- 10. About.com, Learn About Rotavirus:
- 11. RVC, Vetstream, Colic – a serious belly ache:
- 12. The British Horse Society, Advice on Worm Control:
- 13. The Humane Society, The Rules of Feeding Your Horse: