Selecting Horse Boots – Protection from the Ground Up

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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!

Smooth Out Your Horse Tack Cleaning

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There’s no denying it: cleaning your horse tack is a chore. At the end of a long day of other barn chores and schooling or showing, you’re tired, your body aches, and the last thing you want to do is more work. Cleaning your horse tack, however, is essential to preserving the life of your tack and keeping it in working condition. Having tack that functions as it should keeps accidents from happening while you’re using it. Dry, cracking stirrup leathers or bridle parts can snap, putting you in a risky situation. Make sure you have what you need to take proper care of your tack items, and set yourself up to clean everything in a streamlined process.

The Essential Tack-Cleaning Supplies

There is a multitude of tack cleaning products available, from various soaps to many ways of conditioning and keeping your leather horse tack supple. Start with finding your favorite of these:

  • Tack Sponges – You’ll need these to apply whichever products you select to clean your tack with. The tried and true standbys are the little round sponges, which come in a 12 pack so you always have extras. There are also natural sponges which many riders swear by. Combined with a rag to scrub the tough to remove grime, any sponge will work great.
  • Leather Cleaner – A good leather cleaner will remove dirt and sweat from the horse tack you use daily, and also clean away mildew and grime from any leather tack that has been sitting in improper storage. If you’re not sure which leather cleaner to buy, one of our favorites is the Belvoir Tack Cleaning Spray. Using leather cleaner is the first step in the horse tack cleaning process.
  • Leather Conditioner – Once your tack is dry from the cleaner step, you may wish to apply a leather conditioner. New leather tack needs conditioning frequently to help stiff leather become suppler in its early life, but a good conditioning is beneficial to tack of all ages. You can use a formulated leather conditioner, or go with straight Neatsfoot oil. If you use oil, it is best applied with a brush- our hoof dressing applicator can works as a great holder and applicator for leather oil as well.
  • Glycerine Soap Glycerine works to seal the pores of the leather, providing a like-new glossy finish and protecting it from dirt. Wiping your saddle with glycerine after the cleaning process will allow you to just wipe down the leather quickly with a damp cloth for the next ride or two, instead of doing a full cleaning.
  • Bit Wipes You can always give your bit a good rinse and scrub with water and a sponge, or run it through your dishwasher for a super clean.  If you want to treat your horse though, bit wipes provide a great cleaning and leave a tasty flavor for your horse to enjoy on the next ride. These are a favorite of ours to stock the horse trailer with for on-the-go wipe downs.

Create a Horse Tack Cleaning Station

Setting up an area in the barn where you routinely clean your tack can make the process easier and more inviting. The same way you have a specific location for things like pitchforks and brooms, and feeding supplies, dedicate an area to tack cleaning and related products.

  • Start by hanging a chrome tack cleaning hook from the ceiling to make cleaning hanging items a snap. This kind of hook holds really securely, and keeps bridles from falling down as you stretch out the reins to wipe them clean, giving you leverage for those tough to scrub out dirt spots. Your tack can also then air dry for a bit on these hooks, rather than piling up in the corner.
  • Stash a saddle rack near the cleaning hook for easy saddle cleaning. A portable saddle rack is easy to store and can be used in whatever location you need- at home or on the road.
  • Store all your tack cleaning products in a utility bucket near your cleaning station. You’ll want to include sponges, rags, cleaning solutions and leather conditioner as the basics. When it’s time to clean your tack, the bucket can be used to hold the water for cleaning. Bonus if there is a water source in your tack cleaning area.

Caring for your tack regularly may require some extra work, but it’s worth it. By taking care of your horse tack after every ride, you’ll extend its life and save money on replacements. Put together a tack cleaning kit, allocate a space in your barn to get the job done, and clean away!

One Day Helmet Sale! – Tips on Selecting a Helmet You Will Love

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

Cleaning Her Way to the Top of Her Pony

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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.

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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.

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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!

Helmet Care: Maintain, Clean, Protect in 7 Steps

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Helmet Crash Replacements – Save Your Wallet, Too

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Protective helmets are not merely a fashionable accessory while mounted, their use on show grounds is mandated by the U.S.E.F. and the F.E.I . When riding a horse, there is always a chance of a fall for any multitude of reasons, and afterwards there is a lot to think about. Are you ok? Is your horse? Why did the fall happen? Could it have been avoided? What exercises can you work on to lower the chances of a fall again? The last thing you want to be thinking about is, “how can I afford a new helmet to replace this one?”

Helmet manufactures understand this concern and are sympathetic. They also accurately believe and try to enforce that you should never ride again in a helmet that sustained a crash. For this reason, they all have wonderful crash replacement policies to allow you to get a replacement helmet a fraction of the cost in the event of a fall where your helmet is impacted. Generally you will need to send your original receipt, an accident report form or letter explaining the incident, as well as the crashed helmet, but make sure you follow the specifics for each manufacture. We’ve helped to outline differences in helmet ages and contact information for some of our manufactures below, so you know where to start if you find yourself on the ground and needing a replacement.

Let Dover Help You

GPA and Charles Owen helmet crash replacements can be done through Dover if you purchased your helmet with us. Just give us a call or come into one of our stores.

  • GPA:  Helmet must be purchased within the last year.
  • Charles Owen:  Helmet must be purchased within the last 3 years, with age of helmet determining discount on the replacement.
  • Uvex:  Helmet must be purchased within the last 3 years, with age of helmet determining discount on the replacement.

 Contact Manufactures Directly

It’s All About the Fit: Riding Helmet Fitting Guidelines

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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.

Helmet Awareness Week is Coming!

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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!

Equestrian Brands We Love: Goode Rider

Goode Rider

Do you have a “barn section” of your closet? Many of us do. The clothes you don’t mind getting a little dirty, the ones meant to wear around the barn for ventilation and protection, and certainly not to be mixed with your good daily wear clothes. But what if you didn’t have to separate fashion and function? Goode Rider offers you just that.

Started by two women who were tired of wearing horse-riding clothes that gave no attention to style, Goode Rider focuses on providing clothing that can make the transition from a day spent in the saddle to an evening around town, without sacrificing comfort and functionality. They offer clothing in current fashions with practical features, including four-way stretch material and stain resistance, which we know is necessary at the barn. These exemplary products from the Goode Rider line are a few of our favorites:

  • Pro BreechesGoode Rider’s breeches come in a goode rider pro breechesvariety of styles designed for women who value style. At first glance, these Goode Rider breeches may look like they are purely for fashion, but you may be surprised when you feel just how comfortable they are, and see how well they hold up to the demands of riding. The microfiber stretch material quickly recovers from whatever abuse you throw at it, keeping you looking great at all times. The low-rise waist flatters your figure, while the reinforced knee patches and Velcro ankle closures make them useful in the saddle.
  • goode rider elite shirtElite Shirt: This particular shirt has many of us struggling with whether to wear it to the office or the barn. Looks like a post-work outfit change can be avoided! It is suitable for formal or casual wear, indoors and out, and comes in unique patterns and colors. Sleeve tabs mean that you can wear the sleeves rolled or not, for whichever look you prefer. It’s also made of lightweight cotton with knit stretch panels at the sides for unrestricted movement and to keep you cool in warmer weather.
  • Regal Dressage Show Coat As far as the show ring
    jacketgoes, it’s always important to sport your best equine fashion. For dressage, this means a classic, long-sleeve, black show coat, which unfortunately is not always practical. This coat is both stylish and comfortable to wear, with a soft outer shell that moves and breathes with you to keep you cool, no matter what your competition might be doing. The traditional four-button front styling gives you the classic look that the judges expect. No one will realize you are wearing a piece of high-tech clothing with the benefits that modern fabrics provide.

These are just a few of the well designed clothes the Goode Rider brand has to offer. Browse the entire collection of Goode Rider show shirts, breeches, and tops for men and women and you surely won’t be disappointed. No one combines fashion and function quite like Goode Rider does.

Fight the Flies! – 5 Ways to Help Your Equine Friend Avoid Annoyance.

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With spring leaving us and summer weather settling in, barnyard insect pests are out in full force. The armies of horse flies, black flies, house flies and all other flies invading your horse’s personal space can seem overwhelming and are irritating for both you and your mount. Help keep the summer invasion under control with these fly control tactics.

  1. Keep Stable Grounds Clean:  Removing items of attraction for flies is the first step to insect control around your barn.  Ensure that manure is being removed from stalls and paddocks throughout the day, and that grassy areas around the barn are kept trimmed. For manure that cannot be removed regularly, Fly Predators is a natural way to stop pest flies where they start. Insects are also drawn to standing water as it serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and the like, so emptying any unused water tubs overnight can help. Additionally, make sure grain is secured in containers that won’t let water in, and will keep feed fresh while keeping bugs out.
  2. Fly Free with Air Flow:  Stagnant or stale air holds in barn scents and moisture, which attract flies. By keeping air circulating throughout your barn, you help to keep a fresh environment where flies and other insects don’t see the appeal. Installing some fans throughout your stable can help keep the interior environment more comfortable for everyone.
  3. Shield Your Horse with a Fly Sheet:  A fly sheet can be great armor against flies and other biting insects that pester your horse during turnout. Since flies are typically a problem in summer months, it’s important that your fly sheet is lightweight and allows maximum air flow to keep your horse cool while protecting him from flies. Weatherbeeta’s Airflow fly sheet does just this and if your horse is particularly sensitive to flies, the detachable neck cover is a great add on to this fly sheet to reduce bites on the neck as well.
  4. Add Additional Armor:  Fly sheets are not the only means of defense. A fly mask like the Airflow by Weaterbeeta, will shield your horse’s eyes and ears from nagging insects. Protecting these sensitive and vulnerable areas is important and helps to reduce the stress your horse feels from having to shake off pestering bugs. Additionally, fly leg wraps can lessen continuous stomping while turned out or in a stall.
  5. Spray Them All Away:  Of course the most common and widely used fly control is fly spray. The wide array of fly control products available allows you to choose the perfect product for you, your horse, and what you will be doing. Fly spray should be liberally sprayed on the horse before turnout, before being ridden, and after any bathing or rinsing off so that they have a fresh coating.

Utilizing these strategies should give you a one up on the flies, and will certainly help to make your horse happier. Outfitting your horse in a fly sheet and fly mask has the added benefits of protecting him from the harmful UV sun rays. Avoiding sunburns on light areas of the coat will help keep your horse looking their best all season long. Feeling free from flies is the start to a wonderful summer with your four legged partner.