Category Archives: Tips

How To Clean Your Tack

Tack is a significant investment, but with good care, you can expect it to last for many years! Here’s our advice for how to maintain your leather goods.

tackcleaning

Wipe down your tack after every ride. If you wipe the dust, sweat, and hair from your saddle, bridle, and other leather items after every ride, your tack will stay cleaner and in better condition than if you didn’t. You don’t have to do a full-on cleaning; simply wipe a damp rag over the item before storing it, or use tack cleaning wipes.

Use soft sponges or cloths to clean. Using scrub brushes or other tools can grind into the leather and cause it to degrade prematurely. A soft rag or sponge will clean your tack just fine!

Clean with a high-quality soap. Most saddles are made from vegetable-tanned leather. There’s no true black in vegetable tanning, so using a harsh chemical cleaner on your beautiful new dressage saddle can cause layers of dye to be stripped away; you’ll be left with a greenish saddle! We love Effax cream soap.

Condition dry leather. If you maintain your tack, you won’t need to condition often. If you buy a piece of equipment that seems dry or if your tack gets very wet, you can condition with a moisture-rich salve like Passier lederbalsam. (Bonus: it smells amazing!)

Polish. Your everyday riding boots will naturally see some wear and tear. If they have scuffs or have faded, you can bring them back up to snuff with a quick polish. Clean your boots well, then apply a small amount of a high-quality boot polish like URAD. Rub your boots with a soft rag to remove excess polish and add shine.

Bit Talk

Beth lecturing on bits at the Robert Dover Horsemastership Program.

Beth lecturing on bits at the Robert Dover Horsemastership Program.

According to Beth Haist, CEO of The Horse of Course, there are a few key things you need to know about bits: they need to be the correct weight and size, and they need to be made of copper. And one more thing – you’ve probably been fitting them wrong all along.

Haist knows this because she’s been lucky enough to have exposure to several bit engineers who have passed on their knowledge about the right way to select a proper bit for a horse. Not to mention, as an entrepreneur, CEO, and founder of her full-service tack shop The Horse of Course, Inc., she’s been partnering with bit developers to fit horses since 1995. “You really have to think like an engineer when finding the right bit. This is an engineering feat,” The Horse of Course CEO explained.

If you’re interested in learning just how to think like an engineer and finding that perfect connection with your horse, you may be interested in Haist’s latest discussion on bits in her radio interview with Biostar’s Tigger Montague and Pati Pierucci of Pierucci Dressage. In the Healthy Critters radio episode, Haist gives listeners several tips on proper bit fitting. She discusses everything from the most common factors to the minute details that some equestrians overlook. You can listen to the episode on the Healthy Critters Radio website.

For example, she explains that most riders are using bits that are too large for their horses’ mouths. “I never find that Warmbloods or the Spanish-bred horses need more than a five-inch. About 95 percent of horses are going to be a four and three-quarter inch curb,” Haist said. For horses not ready for double bridles, she suggests a three-piece snaffle, like a French Link. But like with the curb, Haist encourages riders to ensure that the bit isn’t too large. “You have to be careful not to get them too big, because if you do that the three-piece rubs back and forth across the bars of the horse’s mouth.”

Equally important to the bit’s size is the bit’s weight. But in this case, Haist thinks riders tend to underestimate how heavy their bit should be. “There’s two positions in a horse’s mouth,” she explained. “There’s an on position and an off position. So when you pick up the reins, you’re pulling the bit up into your horse’s mouth, which is what we talk about when we say the ‘on position.’” Haist continued, “The bit has to have weight. If it doesn’t, it can’t automatically move into the off position when you start to loosen the reins at the end of the ride to stretch the topline.”

Yet another key piece of advise Haist offers in her interview is the importance of what the bit is made of. In her eyes, copper is the only option. “You need to have a bit that’s heavy and copper – and it has to be at least 70 percent,” she said. “The reason for that is it literally warms to the temperature of a horse’s mouth and, when it does that, it becomes more neutral.”

To find the perfect combination of size, weight and material, she suggests two brands: Neue Schule and Herm Sprenger. Both brands can be found at The Horse of Course and at The Horse of Course’s popular mobile tack shop, which is currently located at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida, for the winter show season.

To listen to the full radio episode featuring Beth Haist (and to become a more informed horsemen along the way), click here

To dive right into finding the best bit for your horse, visit The Horse of Course online atwww.thehorseofcourse.com or look for The Horse of Course’s mobile unit at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, where it will be stationed through the twelve-week show series.

Our Favorite Barn Hacks

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Equestrians are a creative and frugal bunch! We’ve rounded up some of our favorite barn hacks to share:

Listerine or other mouthwash to remove dandruff from your horse’s mane and tail

Lingerie bags for washing your polo wraps: this is a must for preventing hopelessly tangled wraps!

Ivory soap for cleaning sheaths and udders

Pads or panty liners are a great addition to your first-aid kit

Tuna/cat food cans make great bridle/halter hangers.cans

Key tags to label your stuff

Tent tape for emergency blanket repair

What else would you add?

Cold Weather Riding Tips

coldweatherridingtips

Just because temperatures have dropped doesn’t mean you and your horse have to take the whole winter off! With the help of a few strategic pieces of equipment and a little creativity, you can spend plenty of time in the saddle this winter.

For The Rider
Layering is the key to comfort during winter rides. You’ll be able to remove clothing as your body warms up and put layers on as your ride winds down. There are three basic layers for winter workouts:

  1. The Base Layer: This layer includes undergarments, socks, and the tops and bottoms closest to your skin. Moisture wicking fabrics are ideal for the base layer- they’ll pull moisture away from the skin, preventing you from getting chilled when you sweat. The Knix seamless high rise panty, Bambootz socks, and Mountain Horse Vibe tech top are great choices for base layer pieces.
  2. The Insulating Layer: This middle layer helps trap warm air, which is key on super cold days. Fleece and wool are great insulating materials; choose garments that feature these fabrics, like Kerrits’ Hex Fleece half zip top or Horze’s Evonne softshell breeches.
  3. The Protective Layer: If you live in a relatively mild area, you may not need a protective layer! For riders in areas where wind, rain, and snow are part of the winter season, the protective layer is made from waterproof or water-resistant material like nylon. Jackets like the Irideon Polaris insulated coat will make winter riding warm and comfortable!

It’s also important to remember to stay warm while you’re tacking up, doing barn chores, or otherwise off the horse! Most body heat is lost through your head, so be sure to put on a hat or headband. Add a pair of winter gloves, and you’ll be all set!

For The Horse
It’s important not to cut your grooming routine short in the winter. Currying and brushing will help loosen dead hair and skin cells, which will make your horse’s coat more efficient at keeping him warm. If your horse is clipped, make sure you’re using an appropriate blanket for him.

Since warm muscles are less likely to be injured, plan to spend some extra time warming your horse up for your ride. You may also consider using an exercise sheet like TuffRider’s ThermoManager to keep your horse warm throughout your ride.

Monitor your horse’s condition while you ride; if your horse becomes sweaty, his hair will mat down and be slow to dry. You can use a cooler to help wick away the moisture and keep your horse warm while he dries, but you may want to avoid getting your horse sweaty at all, especially if he is unclipped.

Finally, ice and snow can make for treacherous footing during the winter! Snow or ice can sometimes ball up in a horse’s hooves; if you plan to ride on snow often, your farrier may be able to use pads to prevent the formation of snowballs. Frozen ground is often hard and more strenuous on your horse’s legs. Be careful while riding and be prepared to cut your ride short if you encounter unsafe conditions.

For Tack
Metal bits can become very cold during the winter! Warm your horse’s bit by running it under warm water or holding it against your skin for a few minutes to take the edge off before putting it in your horse’s mouth.

Leather can require extra conditioning during the winter. Just as your skin can become chapped from cold, leather can, too! Consider cleaning and conditioning your tack more often during cold months.

With a little extra preparation, winter riding can be enjoyable for both horse and rider!