Fly Boots & Wraps: An Easy Solution to Multiple Problems

The belly and four legs of a white horse is shown standing in a grassy field. The horse is wearing a white mesh fly sheet with green trim and buckles across the belly, and grey mesh wraps with four dark green Velcro straps on each wrap to secure them to each of the four legs.

Most of us—and our horses—have flies on our minds as the month of May arrives. For some horses and riders in warm areas, flies have never stopped being a nuisance all winter. For those of us in colder climates, flies will soon be buzzing alongside horses in turnout, under saddle, in the stable, or wherever we go.

Stable flies bite, inflicting a stabbing pinprick of pain followed by intense itching. House flies flit from one spot to another, spreading germs, causing irritation, and creating distraction. While we are annoyed by these pests, horses can become incredibly distressed and anxious as flies land on their legs.

Horses will stomp repeatedly to try to shake flies free of their legs, and extremely sensitive-skinned horses may begin to pace or run as their distress increases. As a result of these evasive actions, a horse can experience:

  • Loose or lost shoes. (Repeated stomping or pacing may cause horseshoes to loosen or worse, a horse may accidentally rip off a shoe and damage a hoof.)
  • Wear and tear on leg joints. (Repeated stomping adds impact stress to the joints of a horse’s legs.)
  • Self-inflicted injuries to the lower legs. (While stomping or pacing, a horse’s own hoof or shoes can accidentally cut or bruise another leg.)
Two horse legs are shown standing on grass. There are grey mesh wraps with blue velcro fastened around the legs.

A set of fly boots, also called fly wraps, will help your horse avoid this distress. Fly boots create a breathable barrier around the lower legs right down to the coronary bands of the hooves. Made of durable mesh-like materials, many styles of fly boots have soft fleece trim or bindings that keep dirt as well as insects out. Contouring adds comfort, and features such as stays or elastic inserts help keep them in place. Hook-and-loop fasteners make these boots easy to put on and adjust, yet keep them secure during wearing. For fun, many fly wraps come in colors to match fly sheets and fly mask collections.

Browse our selection of fly boots and fly wraps here.

Does your horse have favorite fly gear? Share your photos with us on Instagram and Facebook by tagging @doversaddlery!

Schooling Apparel: How Every Rider Benefits

A woman is riding a brown horse with a sunny background. The horse and rider are facing right. The rider is wearing a black helmet, an orange shirt with blue pants. The horse is wearing a brown bridle with a brown saddle and a multi-color saddle pad.

What is schooling apparel, and why do you want it? Loosely defined, we refer to the class of riding clothes not intended for competition as schooling apparel. It encompasses knee-patch and full-seat breeches, quarter-zip or polo shirts, plus lightweight, streamlined jackets and vests. Why is this clothing desirable for riders as opposed to t-shirts, jeans, any old tight or jacket? The answer is multifaceted: hardworking performance materials, rider-specific design features and equestrian tradition.  

Hardworking Materials

Most of the breeches and riding shirts you’ll find today are made from performance fabrics. These fabrics are constructed or treated to provide breathability, meaning your body heat vapors can escape, and you’re less likely to overheat.

A rider and horse are riding in an arena with palm trees in the background. Both the horse and rider are racing the camera. The rider is wearing a black helmet, aqua shirt, grey pants and black boots. The horse is tan and is wearing a black bridle and saddle, and white polo wraps.

Moisture-wicking action achieved through natural fiber content, a funnel-like weave or a chemical treatment means the fabric moves wetness away from you and the inner surface of the fabric to the outer surface for evaporation. You stay drier, and the fabric never feels heavy or wet. Cooling technology, an enhancement to moisture wicking, actively converts perspiration to a refrigerant while creating a cooling sensation on your skin.

Performance fabrics also promote your athleticism and freedom of movement. They contain some form of elastic fibers, or built-in stretch is achieved through fabric construction so the item can move with your body rather than restrict it.

Lastly, while all fabrics provide some degree of protection from ultraviolet rays, performance fabrics often have an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating clearly stating how much sun coverage it will provide. What does UPF50 mean? It indicates that 1/50th of UV rays can penetrate the fabric to reach your skin.  

Rider-Specific Design Features

While breeches, with their grippy knee patches and full seats, are quite obviously made to keep you in the tack, riding shirts, vests and jackets have design features that once you experience, you won’t want to ride without.

A rider with a black helmet, purple shirt, light purple pants and black boots is sitting on a brown horse. There is a woman with dark brown hair, sunglasses, a pink sweater, tan pants, and black boots holding onto the horse's bridle. They are standing in front of a barn facing to the left.

Riding shirts are typically made to provide a streamlined, figure-flattering fit. The fit is more than just attractive—it’s practical. It helps maintain a profile that enables a trainer to clearly see your riding position, and it lies smoothly under a sweater, vest or jacket with no uncomfortable bulk to encumber your riding. Many riding shirts, including polo shirts, have curved or dropped back hems to keep you covered as you move whether the hem is untucked or tucked into your waistband. Zippered plackets on the fronts of many shirts offer quick and easy adjustable ventilation.

Riding vest and jackets also support your in-saddle silhouette with many having a fitted cut, an adjustable waist or a back-waist belt detail. A two-way front zipper, a back riding vent or rear gussets make sitting in the saddle most comfortable. These features allow your outerwear to clear your saddle rather than riding up or catching under your seat. Jackets often have a removable hood or a snap to secure the hood to the back panel to prevent it from flapping.

Equestrian Traditions

Horse sports are steeped in tradition with an emphasis on polished turnout for horse and rider. One tradition is for riders to dress neatly and smartly when schooling at competitions, participating in riding clinics or taking lessons. Avid riders respect themselves and uphold the heritage of their sport by presenting a clean appearance with attention to detail. Shirts are tucked in, belt loops are threaded with belt, boots are polished, breeches are free of stains—and every piece fits well.

These days, dressing like a professional rider doesn’t mean you can’t wear bright colors or head-turning prints. Plenty of styles for schooling and training are available to please every rider, from the fashion-forward, to those who love bold color, to those who appreciate the most classic looks. The key is to choose items that fit and flatter your shape and your riding position and to wear colors and prints with pride.

To expand your equestrian wardrobe, browse our selection of schooling apparel here.

Do you have favorite schooling outfit? Share your photos with us on Instagram and Facebook by tagging @doversaddlery!

Spring Cleaning: The Wise Rider’s Way

The right hand and torso of a person wearing a zip up hoodie is shown cleaning their black dressage saddle with saddle soap. The saddle is sitting on a wooden fence. Next to it are a pile of bridles also hanging on the fence.

Welcome March, the month when some folks embark on home spring-cleaning frenzies. Around here, our idea of spring cleaning focuses on tack. Spring marks a perfect time to thoroughly inspect and recondition your horse’s leather tack, whether you’ve competed in warm places all winter, continued training despite frigid temps, or simply enjoyed downtime with your horse.

If you’re like us, signs of wear or gradual decline in leather condition are easy to ignore in busy daily riding routines, and repairs are easy to postpone. These issues can be addressed best now, with ample time for repair or replacement, before local riding activities gain full swing. As added benefits, reconditioned tack is more comfortable for your horse to wear, safer for both of you, and it supports a maximum return on your investment.

Inspect All Tack

Just as your skin suffers abrasions and dryness from irritants such as sand and sweat, your leather does, too. Regular use can degrade leather even if you diligently wipe away grime as recommended after every ride. Saddles and bridles that have been stored improperly can dry out, grow mold and mildew or be compromised by rodents, sunlight, varying temperatures, and other environmental factors.

Look closely at each piece of your horse’s leather tack for areas under pressure during use or where sweat or saliva may collect, such as:

  • Reins and cheek pieces where they attach to bit rings.
  • Saddle billets where they buckle to the girth.
  • Stirrup leathers where irons and buckles cause creases.
  • Girths along the full length, from buckles to elastic inserts to linings.   
  • Halters where hardware meets leather.  
A close-up of a stirrup iron attached to a stirrup leather is shown. The stirrup leather is dark brown, almost black and the stirrup is made of shiny black metal.
A close-up is shown of a stirrup leather attached to the hook of a saddle underneath the protective flap.
The underside of the crown piece of a blue halter is shown against a dark grey background. The blue leather is cracked and worn.

Any cracked or torn leather may break at the worst time—during a ride or while handling a horse. These areas indicate hazard and necessitate repair or replacement. Check that all stitching is tight and intact; loose stitching on stirrup leathers, saddles or girths also poses risk.

Inspect and touch any surface that lies directly against your horse, such as girth linings or padding in bridles and halters. Although not an immediate safety hazard, any item that feels rough should be budgeted for replacement or repair to protect your horse’s skin from chafing and to ensure optimal comfort.

Note: Some leatherwork professionals won’t repair reins, girths or stirrup leathers as a safety precaution. Saddle billet straps are replaceable, and some bridle and halter repairs are worth the expense. Generally, bridle parts and reins are readily replaceable at any budget to eliminate the need for repair.

Clean & Condition

When you’re satisfied with the quality of your tack, give it a thorough once-over using your favorite leather cleaner. Now is the time to take apart a bridle, martingale or breastplate and remove grunge from creases. Warm water and a soft toothbrush can help you get grime out of crevices. Turn your saddle upside down and clean all nooks and crannies. Once the leather is dry, follow up with a nourishing leather conditioner or leather balm.

Browse our entire selection of leather care products here.

Do you have an example of extreme tack wear? Share your photos with us on Instagram and Facebook by tagging @doversaddlery!

Time for a Halter Makeover

The neck and head of a brown horse wearing a brown leather halter is shown standing to the right side of the image. The horse is standing in front of a grassy field with jumps in the background.

As we handle our horses each day, we might not notice a problem developing with the way our horses’ halters fit. Leather halters in particular stretch with use, cleaning and conditioning, but even web halters with breakaway leather crowns can loosen over time.

A periodic review of your horse’s halter fit is a wise step toward keeping your horse safe and comfortable. A loose halter can slide off accidentally or ensnare a hoof; a halter that is too tight can dig into skin or interfere with a horse’s breathing, chewing or swallowing.

Many manufacturers offer halters. If you follow our fitting guidelines but cannot achieve a satisfactory fit on your horse, try a halter from a different manufacturer. A horse that is difficult to fit is best suited for a halter with a double-buckle crown and an adjustable chin.

Here’s how we like to ensure a proper halter fit:

1. Adjust the crownpiece, which will impact the placement of the noseband, the looseness of the throatlatch and the angle of the cheek pieces against your horse’s face. The crownpiece should fit over the poll, close to the back of your horse’s ears, but not press into them. Some halters have buckles on both sides of the crownpiece, and some have only one buckle on the left side. In the case of two buckles, try to use symmetrical holes for the crownpiece setting.

2. Check the noseband of the halter. It should sit about halfway between your horse’s eyes and nostrils, resting under the cheekbones so that the metal hardware joining the nose piece, chin strap and cheek piece does not press into the bones.

Adjust the noseband snugly using two to three fingers’ width between it and your horse’s face as a guideline. Some nosebands do not have buckles for adjustment. If this is the case with your halter, take extra care to be sure that you can obtain the optimum position of the noseband by raising or lowering the crownpiece with buckle, and that the noseband isn’t too loose or too tight.

If the cheek pieces are too long or the crownpiece is adjusted too loosely, the noseband will sit too low on your horse’s muzzle. In this case, it may impair your horse’s breathing or in extreme cases, slip over your horse’s nose.

3. Check the throatlatch, which should rest under your horse’s head where the neck meets the jowls. You should be able to fit three to four fingers into the throatlatch area to be sure your horse can breathe and swallow, but this spacing will not enable your horse to get a foot caught in that strap if he lowers his head.

4. Check the cheek pieces. Ideally, they should sit parallel to the cheek bones. If the throatlatch is too short or too long, or the crownpiece is not adjusted correctly, then the cheek pieces will not be able to run parallel to the cheek bones.

To browse our entire selection of halters, click here.

We want to see your #dovermodels in their halters, share your photos with us on Instagram and Facebook by tagging @doversaddlery!