The peak of summer has arrived, and with it comes high temperatures and often humidity. It can be hard to stay motivated to work with your equine partner on a sweltering day, and often in extreme heat a day off is a good idea. If it’s just too hot, and health is a concern, trade ring work for a leisurely trail ride or a horse “spa day” and give your horse a thorough bath. If you do decide to ride though, there is a multitude of ways to help keep both you and your horse cool during the process.
Cooling Help for Humans
- Gloves – The idea of putting on gloves when it’s not cold is a bit strange, but not for most riders. Many of us wear gloves while in the saddle, as well as during chores around the barn. Gloves can be cool and allow air flow though. The Kool Flow Gloves by SSG have a mesh backing, which makes them a perfect summer glove, and are styled to be suitable for schooling and showing.
- Shirt – Wearing a top that’s made specifically for exercising while you ride is ideal. One option is Cool Blast Riding Sport shirts, which are made of IceFil® fabric. This fabric changes perspiration to a cooling refrigerant to help lower your body temperature. Moisture wicking, quick-dry technology combined with air circulation will keep you comfortable in the saddle and around the barn.
- Jacket – Summer season is also show season, so inevitably you are going to have to put a show coat on in hot weather. Make the best of adding layers by wearing a show coat that offers exceptional breathability. Layers of PowerMesh open cell fabric are featured in the Fits® Zephyr coat, which appears as an opaque fabric, but actually is layers of mesh in areas it’s needed most. This is an exceptionally lightweight jacket, which makes it ideal for summer competitions.
- Tights – Your legs are doing a lot of work while you’re riding, so making sure you keep them cool is important. The TuffRider® Ventilated Schooling Tights are perfect for hot summer days. Ventilated stretch fabric the runs the length of the leg and across the back allows air in to keep you cool, while wicking moisture away. These tights are tough enough to hold up to barn abuse, but lightweight enough that you never feel like your lower body is hot.
- Socks – A common oversight, socks can provide a great deal of warmth, and therefore should be adjusted in hot summer months. A sock with moisture-wicking properties to keep your skin feeling dry, like the Tredstep Pure Ultracool Socks, will help your feet feel cool while you’re running around the barn and pressing into your stirrups.
- Cooling Vest – If you’re someone who runs hot and likes a bit of extra help to keep cool, the HyperKewl Evaporative Cooling Vest may be for you. Dip this vest in water for a few minutes, squeeze out the excess, and put it on for 5-10 hours of cooling relief.
Cooling Help for Horses
- Cooling Blanket – Just like the cooling vest for you, there is an equine counterpart. Submerge the cooling blanket in water, squeeze out, and put on your horse for 4-6 hours of cooling relief from the heat. As any horse blanket should be, this is very durable and obviously lightweight.
- Cooling Leg Wraps – Match that blanket with HyperKewl leg wraps for full body cooling. Like most leg wraps, these are easy to secure with three Velcro straps.
- Saddle Pad – The sweatiest part of your horse is always under the saddle and saddle pad. Help keep that area cool with a lightweight saddle pad that wicks moisture away. The Lettia Coolmax® ICE pad is designed specifically for this purpose and summer riding. As a bonus it comes in beautiful, bright summer colors!
- Electrolytes – Supplementing regular water in the summer is a smart idea. Adding electrolytes, such as Apple Elite, to your horse’s diet will provide minerals and nutrients lost through sweating, and keep your horse hydrated by encouraging them to drink.
There are many other products designed to keep you cool that are perfect for hot weather riding as well. Aside from using the right equipment, make sure you give your horse proper breaks during exercise in hot weather, and pay attention to how humidity is affecting both of your breathing. Cooling out properly afterwards, and giving your horse a nice, cool rinse off after working will ensure you both enjoy the summer without melting away.
Performance horses carry an immense amount of strength in their bodies, which translates to powerful and graceful movements that need to be protected with the right equipment. There is a lot of weight coming down on the thin legs of a horse, so when you ask them to work performing intricate dressage movements or jumping fences, you need to make sure you are protecting and supporting their legs the way you need to. Horse boots are used to protect from interference from other legs and potential puncture wounds or scrapes, as well as support tendons and ligaments from the shock of impact during riding or turnout.
While many horses, particularly those with big movements in their gaits, wear boots preventatively, it is especially important for those with prior injuries or prone to recurring injury in their legs. If you are considering purchasing new or replacement boots for your horse, here are a few selection points to keep in mind.
- Front or Hind – For many horses, it’s both. Horse boots will typically come in front or hind specific varieties. Ankle boots are the most popular style of hind boot, but full length boots can also be used. Many brands offer matching front and hind boot, with both designed for optimal shock absorption and strength to last through impacts.
- Category of Boot – Depending on what you do with your horse, different boots may suit your needs and style of riding better. Horse boots made of lightweight, strong material that will allow for ventilation and not absorb water are ideal for cross country jumping. Open front boots are typically used for stadium jumping and provide strike protection from opposite front and back legs, while leaving the front open to encourage the horse not to rub jump rails. Ankle boots are usually paired with these for the hind legs. Dressage boots offer a quicker, easier alternative to polo wraps and are typically lined with fleece or neoprene. Other support boots surround the leg entirely with a strap to cradle the fetlock joint and help prevent hyperextension. Finally, all purpose splint boots are great for horses that may likely hit themselves with their other legs, and feature a reinforced inner strike area.
- Material – There are a variety of materials to choose from when selecting the right horse boots. Neoprene is very easy-care and plastic boot exteriors are also simple to wash off. Leather boots are popular for a more upscale, show ring ready appearance. Fleece linings are very common, and are especially useful for support and protection if your horse has had a splint bone injury and needs that extra padding.
- Size – Most boots come in S, M, L, with some brands offering pony or XL sizes. While there are often sizing charts specific to manufacture, the height, weight, and breed of your horse combined with the circumference of its leg should give you an estimate for size. Smaller, refined breeds like Arabians or large ponies will likely be a small, while average height horses like Thoroughbreds will be mediums, and most Warmbloods will wear larges.
When you do select horse boots, make sure they fit properly by sliding one finger between the boot and the horse’s leg. It should feel snug but not squished. Also make sure the boot is not tall enough that it rises into the back of the horse’s knee and restricts movement. With the extensive horse boot selection out there, shopping for your horse’s new, stylish boots should be just as much fun as shopping for your own!
Today is International Helmet Awareness Day and to celebrate we are offering up to 20% off all our non-custom helmets! Your helmet is arguably the most important piece of riding apparel or tack you use, so make sure you are utilizing one every time you get on a horse. If you’ve been meaning to replace your aging helmet, dreaming of a new style with the latest technology, or ready to make your very first helmet purchase, today is the day for you!
Take a look at some of the high-quality brands that are discounted for today’s special sale:
But before you make your selection, here are 5 tips on what to watch out for to ensure you select a helmet that you’ll love.
- Size: If a helmet doesn’t fit, it’s not filling its purpose. Start about an inch above your eyebrows, around over the top of your ears, and across the widest part of the back of your head to get an accurate measurement. If you have thick hair that you wear up in your helmet, you may need to go up one size.
- Shape: Some people have rounder heads, while others have long ovals, and different brands are geared more towards one of these two shapes. Riders with a round head are likely to have more luck with GPA’s and Troxel, while riders with long oval shaped heads will do better with Charles Owen’s and IRH’s.
- Adjustments: Many manufactures offer padding systems to adjust fit, thereby making sure a helmet will sit as securely and perfectly as possible on your head. Some helmets also have adjustments to tighten fit that can be made on the back.
- Technology: Helmet manufactures are always looking to improve their products. Keep an eye out for new features that may not be present in your current helmet. Some helmets have ventilation to allow air flow and keep you from overheating, others utilize flexible or detachable visors that will give or break off in a fall.
- Standard Approval: Most competitions and equestrian events require you to wear an approved helmet that meets standards. The most common approvals that you will need are ASTM/SEI certification. It is always a good idea to check for the SEI label in any protective helmet you purchase. All Dover’s protective helmet brands carry the ASTM/SEI certification.
Happy Helmet Shopping!
11-year-old Taylor McFall, whose mom is Rolex eventer Jen McFall, has a dream – the same dream as many of us – she yearns to own her favorite pony. Taylor has been leasing Kilbarry Prince, a 14 year old Connemara pony with a hunting background that makes him a fearless eventer, and the pair’s time is almost up. Taylor was told by her parents that they don’t have the budget to purchase the pony, and when the lease ends in November he will likely move on to a new home. Not to be dissuaded, Taylor said that she would like to purchase Prince herself because she didn’t want to lose him.
So how does an 11-year-old buy a $15,000 pony? With a sense of responsibility, a lot of drive, and the help of those who have been in her child sized shoes dreaming before. Taylor has come up with 2 services and 1 product to offer as fundraisers at horse shows for her pony-fund: Tack Cleaning, Truck Washing, and “Pony Puffs” horse treats. A true entrepreneur, she considered what people might be in need of at a busy show and aims to provide those services, thus saving people time and adding to her savings for Prince. For those of you who are not going to encounter Taylor at a show, you can still donate here and receive Pony Puffs by mail.
We love a hard working, young rider who’s passionate about her pony. Therefore, we wanted to help make sure Taylor had everything she needed to provide the tack cleaning services she wants to, and get her closer to a future with Prince.
We hope backing your fundraising business with this tack cleaning kit makes reaching your goals even easier, Taylor!
Good luck from all of us here at Dover Saddlery!
Get that pony!
As the most important piece of equipment you will use when riding, your riding helmet does a lot of work for you, so make sure you return the favor and keep it protected and in perfect working condition. Helmet care and maintenance isn’t hard, but it is important. Follow these 7 steps to help ensure your helmet is there for you when you need it.
- The most important aspect of your helmet is that it remains in good, working condition. Should you fall off, your helmet needs to be replaced if it touches the ground. This is also often the case if the helmet simply falls or is dropped from a high place while not being worn. Despite appearing undamaged in many occasions, the design of a helmet prevents you from seeing internal damage, which is often caused by an impact.
- Whether your helmet has become wet from a hard sweaty ride or an accidental dip in a water element, it should be allowed to air dry out of direct sunlight. Never apply heat or place directly in a heat source, as extreme temperature can damage the integrity of the helmet.
- Similarly, helmets should be stored in a dry location with consistent, moderate temperature. Keeping your helmet in a barn without temperature control can harm it, as temperatures will reach both hot and cold extremes throughout the year.
- Helmet cleaning starts with keeping the outside sparkling clean- on velvet or velveteen helmets, mud and dirt is best if left to dry and then brushed off with a stiff hard brush. Helmets of this material should never be cleaned with detergent or water on the outside. Microsuede helmets can be wiped with a soft, damp cloth to remove debris. Plastic helmet exteriors will shine up nicely with mild detergent and water.
- Make the inside of your helmet just as fresh as the outside by cleaning once a week with a deodorizer and cleaner to remove dirt, hair grease and sweat, as well as kill bacteria. Make sure you use a cleaning product that is specifically designed for helmets so you do not damage the interior. Helmets should never be put in the washing machine or dishwasher to clean.
- Those pesky flies chasing you while riding can be annoying, but avoid spraying your helmet with bug spray, as the chemicals can deteriorate the helmet and cause staining.
- Make your helmet care job a tad easier by keeping your helmet stored in a protective riding helmet bag, and utilize a protective helmet cover during daily use while schooling. This will keep the daily dust and grim associated with barn life off of your helmet and help it to look new and show ready for as long as possible.
Regardless of routine and careful helmet care, no helmet will last forever. Normal lifetime degradation should be expected, and as a general rule helmets should be replaced every 5 years. Additionally, advancements in helmet technology are always happening, so replacing at the end of your helmet’s life will ensure you have the best of what helmets have to offer.
A properly fitting helmet is one of the most important purchases you will make. It can help to protect you and instill confidence to aid you in working with your horse. Finding the right one that fits your head best is crucial, so put some time and effort into your new helmet fitting. Start helmet fitting by measuring your head to get an idea for what size you should aim for. A tape measure should be used about one inch above your eyebrows, just above the top of your ears, and around the bump at the back of your head- measuring the widest part of your head. This measurement can then be compared to each brand’s sizing chart.
Helmet fitting, however, is more than just a measurement. Different head shapes call for different helmets, so you may find that the same size fits significantly better in one brand than another. Wear your hair however you will normally wear it with the helmet, try the helmet on, and notice the following:
- Pivoting in all directions with a shake of your head or sitting low on the eyebrows means the helmet is too large
- Popping up and sitting more on the top of your head means the helmet is too small; also be conscious of headaches caused after a few minutes of wearing
- Pressure on the forehead but rocking side to side means the helmet is too round for your head shape
- Pressure on the sides but rocking front to back means the helmet is too oval for your head shape
- Ensure the helmet is sitting level on your head, with the brim about two finger’s width above your eyebrows
- If you try to move the helmet up and down from the brim, the skin on your forehead and eyebrows should move with it if the fit is correct
- If you bend forward, the helmet should remain securely on your head regardless of the chin strap being fastened
Once you find a helmet that seems to fit properly, the chin strap should be adjusted so it is snug and helps to hold the helmet in place, but not too tight that it inhibits swallowing. You will want to ensure that the option you select during helmet fitting is snug, since the lining will break in over time, and the fit will loosen slightly. A loose helmet can be ineffective, so it’s important that old, loose helmets are brought back to a correct fit with replacements, either with new lining or an entirely new helmet.
Ultimately, there is no shortage of top of the line helmet options for any budget and head shape. Take your time and enjoy the helmet fitting process. If you want assistance, come into one of our retail stores for a complimentary helmet fitting and help finding the perfect helmet for you. Or if you are ready to make your selection now, choose from the many riding helmets we have to offer- you’re sure to find the right fit.
Dover Saddlery is excited to once again help support Riders4Helmets in its initiative to promote helmet use by equestrians for International Helmet Awareness Day 2014, on July 12th. This day provides an opportunity to purchase select top-of-the-line helmets at specially discounted prices for one day only. Additionally, Riders4Helmets will be hosting a series of educational webinars featuring leading equestrians and experts in head injuries and helmets.
The first International Helmet Awareness Day was held in 2010, and is geared towards educating equestrians on the benefits of wearing a properly fitting and certified helmet every time they get on a horse. Currently, 16 helmet manufactures and retailers from eight different countries come together to help pass this message on to their customers.
In honor of International Helmet Awareness Day, we will be sharing a variety of helpful and educational helmet related information here on our blog until the day comes. We will also be running a series of contests, so make sure you follow us on Facebook for a chance to win. And of course, don’t forget to come back on July 12th to purchase your dream helmet!
High-quality saddle pads and girth covers not only ensure your horse’s comfort, they also help to protect an expensive saddle. Horse tack and equipment that’s intended to last for years is an investment. If you want a new fleece saddle pad or girth cover to provide your horse with the comfort and protection it needs for an extended period of time, you must take proper care of it. Use this guide to clean and maintain your fleece tack, and ensure your favorite items ride the distance with you.
After Every Ride:
- Shake or brush the fleece. Dirt and moisture get into the fleece fibers during each ride. Since over-washing isn’t good for it, shake and brush your fleece tack in an open area to loosen and remove dirt, while also fluffing up the dampened fibers. Using a face and leg curry comb is a great trick to loosen the hair and dirt that is stuck to the pad, particularly in the hotter summer months when your horse has been sweating. A brisk brush with a stiff hard brush after will clear the pad of hairs and dirt left behind.
- Protect from sweat and moisture. Allowing the fleece saddle pad and girth cover to completely air dry is important. Place them with the damp fleece-side-up in a location that’s out of direct sunlight and away from any other heat sources that could dry out the fibers or cause shrinkage.
- Store properly. Between uses, it’s important to store a fleece saddle pad or girth cover in a dry location. If longer amounts of time will pass between uses, you can store the saddle pad in an airtight container after it’s properly dried. This will keep it clean and protect it from pests.
Deep-Clean Your Fleece Saddle Pad:
- Remove excess sweat, soil, and dirt. Occasionally, you’ll need to give your fleece saddle pad and girth cover a deeper cleaning. Always use cold water to do this and a gentle cleansing solution. Washing the fleece saddle pad and girth cover in the washing machine on the gentle cycle is fine, just double check that they are in fact fleece and not sheepskin.
- Dry properly. It may take a bit longer to hang-dry a fleece saddle pad, but you’ll extend the life of it by doing so. Heat from the dryer or the sun can damage the fibers and cause shrinkage, leading to an ill-fitting pad. Always hang-dry the saddle pad in a shady, cool area until it’s completely dry.
Getting the Most from Your Investment
Both you and your horse profit when proper care is taken of fleece tack items. A clean, fluffy, fleece saddle pad protects your horse from rubbing, chafing, and painful pressure that can affect him during training or performance. Additionally, proper saddle pad care also prevents the development of bacteria that can lead to irritating skin conditions.
It’s much easier to get into a routine of cleaning and caring for a fleece saddle pad and girth cover than it is to try to remove several weeks’ worth of sweat and grime. Make the short process of cleaning and drying your fleece saddle pad part of every post-ride routine. With the right products and processes, it’s an easy task to complete.
Regular bathing and grooming sessions are essential components of horse care, ensuring your horse’s hooves, skin, and coat are in healthy condition, while providing important bonding time for the two of you. Additionally, because grooming allows you to go over every inch of your horse, you’ll often be able to tell if something is amiss during these sessions. Horse shampoo isn’t the only thing you need to get your equine friend clean- get the most out of the time you spend bathing and grooming by having these essentials on hand.
Bathing Kit Essentials for Horses
- Horse Shampoo: There is a wide range of horse shampoo options to select from, so choose a horse shampoo that suits your horse’s individual skin and coat needs. Horse shampoo made with natural ingredients and herbs can help soothe soreness, relieve skin sensitivity, and result in a shiny coat.
- Various-Sized Sponges: Have both large and small sponges, made with natural or synthetic materials, for applying horse shampoo. Use the smaller sponges to wash the face and genital area where you need to be gentler. Keep in mind that it’s important to use sponges only for your horse, as sharing bathing essentials can spread skin conditions.
- Hand Mitt: Mitts made of plastic, sheepskin, soft rubber, and other materials are effective for gentle scrubbing and dirt removal. Mitts are often useful for removing sweat stains and dirt on your horse’s legs.
- Combo Tools: Combination tools, such as the Wash Brush are effective for efficient horse bathing. The short bristles and absorbent sponge reduce time without decreasing the quality of the grooming session.
- Sweat Scraper: A sweat scraper aids the drying process by removing excess water from your horse’s coat. They come in all different colors and are ergonomically designed for easier grooming.
Tips for Enhancing Your Horse’s Coat
- Color-Enhancing Shampoo: Horse shampoo that contains color-enhancing additives can help bring out the natural color of your horse’s coat.
- Conditioner: Conditioning your horse’s coat and skin is essential to getting that healthy gloss. Follow the shampoo with conditioner to replenish the oils and moisture lost during the cleansing process.
- Show Sheen: Use Show Sheen or other hair polish to enhance the appearance of your horse’s mane or tail. The silicone in these products makes the hair slippery, so it’s not something that should be used in places where tack goes — but it can add to your horse’s appearance at show time.
A Great Bath is Better than Frequent Bathing
Daily bathing strips necessary oils from your horse’s coat and skin, so it’s more important to bathe thoroughly, rather than frequently. Even in the warmer months of spring and summer, it’s best to rinse off sweat and mud without giving a full bath every time. To ensure your horse is reaping the full benefits of a good bath, make sure you have a good bathing kit full of essential items to helps your horse look beautiful, while maintaining health and well-being.
Riding a dressage test successfully involves countless hours of practice with your horse as well as a lot of other prep work to get ready for your big moment. Once you are done packing all your riding essentials, you might want to consider a few finishing touches to personalize your look to your taste. You can also improve your riding experience by bringing the right accessories with you to the competition.
The next time you head out to compete, remember to pack these easy-to-forget items:
- Copies of your dressage tests: It’s easy to get nervous just before you go into the ring and feel like you are forgetting your test. If you remember to bring copies of your dressage tests, you can look over the tests at the last minute, or have someone read the test aloud during your performance. Try out the Whinny Widgets Pocket Test Books for convenient pocket-sized, bound and laminated copies of your tests.
- Hairnets: Your hair must be neat on the day of a show, and except for young riders who can wear braids or ponytails, this usually means you need a hairnet. Hairnets come in an assortment of colors to blend in naturally with your hair color.
- Stock tie pin: Available in a wide array of styles and fabrics, stock ties are part of the typical dressage attire, worn around the neck of a rider during an event. But don’t forget to purchase a stock pin for your stock tie, too. Also, if you opt for the traditional stock tie instead of a pre-tied one, practice tying the knot several times before the day of your show.
- Safety pins: Safety pins can serve many purposes on the day of a show. You can use them, for example, to secure the loose ends of your stock tie to your competition shirt so they don’t flap out while you’re riding. Keep a few in your pack to be prepared for anything.
- Conservative stud earrings: It’s fine to wear earrings with in the dressage arena, as long as they are conservative and tasteful rather than flashy or gaudy. In general, this means to stick with gold, silver or pearl studs.
- Belt: If you’ll be wearing breeches with belt loops, pair them with a belt. A belt adds to the polished appearance of your dressage outfit and can really complete your look.
- Rain gear: You never know what the weather will be like the day of a show, so a clear raincoat and a waterproof helmet cover are essential accessories to bring. If the weather is wet and rainy, you’ll have excellent, budget-friendly protection on hand.