Why do I ride horses?

Why do I ride horses?  Here’s why.  We all have at least one close friend that does not share your love of horses. You know the type.

She has perfect nails, and by perfect I mean there is no stable dirt underneath them. She has perfect hair, with no trace of a crimp circling her head where the riding hat has sat for hours.

She owns clean, open-toe shoes, jewellery not in the shape of snaffles or horseshoes, and more long gowns in her wardrobe than you’ve owned since childhood. Take pity on this friend. She must be a sad little creature, spending her days shopping or decorating.

Maya is that friend for me. She was born in the city and has lived there her entire life. For her, the countryside is any piece of land that isn’t paved over. The closest to livestock she has ever been is her house cat.

She asked me once why I ride horses. In her words they are big and smelly and their hair gets everywhere. My explanations always sound inadequate when I hear the words spoken aloud. I love the outdoors, I tell her. “Then take up walking“, she’ll say. “I enjoy the competition“, I’ll counter. “So play chess“, she’ll recommend. “It’s the quiet time I enjoy“, I smile. “Read a book then“, she’ll smile back.

It was after one of these conversations that I had an epiphany. I asked myself, why do I ride? Is it really the quiet ride in the countryside? Is it really wanting to get a better score on my Dressage test? I thought about what types of horses I have ridden and owned.

Was there something similar between them? I have always loved Andalusians. I have owned two. Why did I choose this particular breed? What are the traits that drew me to them? First of all, they are beautiful. The long wavy mane and tail. The gorgeous line of the arched neck. The graceful movement of their paces. They are athletic and excel in all disciplines, it’s true, but I had discovered why I loved horses and riding. I always felt like an ugly duckling as a child. I was large, clumsy, and shy.

Horses were my polar opposite. Beautiful and graceful, they possessed the traits I wanted for myself. I realized how much attention I got for my horses’ beauty. I was taking those compliments as my own. I was living vicariously through my horses, becoming a swan any time I was with them. This self-reflection put me at ease. I love horses because they are beautiful. I wasn’t embarrassed to tell Maya this and I knew it was the truth when she said, Oh, that makes sense.

We all have our reason for riding. Maybe it’s power, strength, or speed. Maybe it’s the rush of the cross country course or the thrill of winning. Maybe you just look good in your riding clothes. Whatever the reason, the universal truth is that for horse lovers, you know you can’t live without them

Synthetic show saddles

Show saddles are designed more for use in the show ring rather than for endurance riding or other equestrian events. There are two main styles of saddles in general, Western or English. Depending on the discipline or style of riding one wants to do, one can choose either a Western show saddle or an English saddle. Several significant differences exist between English and Western saddles. There’s no padding between the tree and the external leather and fleece skirting in a Western saddle.

Where the Western saddle generally has a horn, the English saddle lacks one and is not as deep-seated. The English saddle is also distinguished by its panels, pads attached to the underside of the seat. The English show saddle is built on a solid tree, with leather and padding materials added. The tree is made of laminated layers of top-quality wood reinforced by spring steel and riveted gullet plates. These trees, called ‘spring trees’, are adjustable.

The traditional show saddle is minimal and has a close fit, with straight-cut flaps. The stirrup is further forward with the cutback pommel behind instead of over the withers. The rider has little support. In comparison, modern-style English show saddles have a dressage-like form, with vertically cut flaps to give the rider a deeper seat. Western show saddles are constructed on an all-purpose tree, but have extra tooling and adornments, such as silver or crystals.

The adornment ranges from light to highly elaborate. Because the silver is both weighty and expensive, these saddles aren’t the best for everyday riding. Show saddles come in both synthetic materials and leather. Leather is traditional, holding its value well over time, but synthetic saddles have several excellent advantages. The price of a quality synthetic show saddle is much less than that of a leather one. Synthetic saddles are lightweight, half the weight of a leather saddles. They are also easier to maintain, needing only to be wiped with a damp cloth.

Synthetic side saddles

Leather and synthetic side saddles come in a range of different styles and materials. They are used for a wide range of purposes, as well. Side saddles are often called lady saddles because they are and have most often been used by women to ride in a side saddle position more easily and comfortably.

They can be made to customize to a client’s personal preferences and specifications. Side saddles can differ in grade, size, pattern, style, texture, and color. It all depends on what material is used. Most often, leather is used because of its durability and comfort.

A synthetic side saddle can also be a comfortable and durable saddle, but is less commonly used. There are many high quality side saddles that are available. They are still more widely used than most people realize.

Side saddles have changed greatly over the years. They started out as a saddle used to carry women in a modest way, but they weren’t very good for doing much more than a slow trot. Side saddles of today have been specially formulated to help with special jumps and strategic moves.

Even the military has a special side saddle that is used for special operations. Sometimes a side saddle can be more effective with certain types of equestrian jumps. Just keep in mind that a horse has to be taught to become accustomed to using a side saddle. Once it has grown accustomed to a side saddle, a horse will excel in its use.

An ill fitting saddle can cause back problems, and this is especially true with an ill fitting side saddle. Make sure to get a high quality side saddle that keeps the horse and rider both as comfortable and functional as possible.

Synthetic endurance saddles

If you are going for endurance riding, then you need more than just an ordinary saddle! ‘Endurance saddles’ are especially designed for the equestrian sports involving regulated long distance races. Since endurance riding pertains with the coverage of long patches of rough and challenging terrain for multiple days, it is essential to confirm that the rider is well-balanced on the horse.

Synthetic endurance saddles provide exceptional comfort to both the rider and the horse. To make it easy for the rider, the saddle seat is padded or quilted, and the stirrups are fitted with a broad foot tread that allays fatigue. As for the horse, the exhaustion suffered by it depends on the intensity of the pressure inflicted by the saddle on its back. To counter it, the saddle’s area of contact with the back of the horse is enlarged by extending its panel skirts.

A saddle design like this facilitates the load on the horse’s back to spread evenly, while dispersing the sweat on its body. The concept of floating panels also works well with endurance saddles as it enables the riders to have their seat out of the saddle, in order to lower the stress on the horse’s back.

Although, traditionally saddles were only made of leather, a lot of innovation has been brought about in the modern way of manufacturing endurance saddles. Synthetic saddles, which are light and easy to maintain, are being widely used for the purpose of endurance riding.

These saddles are mostly made of the following materials:

  • Cordura: It’s a durable fabric that’s resistant to scuffs or abrasions, and is easy to clean.
  • Equileather: It’s a low maintenance material with a leather-like appearance. It repels sweat and remains elastic in cold temperatures.
  • Equisuede: It is non slippery foam that offers a good grip while riding.
  • BioThane and Beta BioThane: ‘Biothane’ is comprised of nylon draped in thermoplastic polyurethane whereas ‘Beta BioThane’ is vinyl coated ‘BioThane’. They are both durable and water-resistant.

Synthetic Western saddles

Synthetic Western saddles offer riders of every level an economical alternative to traditional leather saddles. Cost isn’t the only benefit of synthetic Western saddles though. Not only is going the synthetic route less expensive, but because synthetic materials are more durable your new saddle will age better and last longer.

The materials used to make synthetic Western saddles (biothane, equileather, cordura, and equisuede) are less porous and absorbent than leather, making them much easier to clean and more resistant to water damage. You don’t have to oil your synthetic Western saddle to keep it looking shiny and new; a quick swipe with a moist cloth and dish soap will do the job!

Synthetic Western saddles are also much lighter than their leather counterparts, making them an ideal choice for trail riding. You’ll immediately notice how easy it is to carry around a synthetic saddle and will no doubt appreciate the load it takes off of you. We’re sure your horse will appreciate the lighter saddle too! Going synthetic doesn’t mean less choices either.

Synthetic Western saddles come in many styles and even offer some color options you can’t get in leather. Synthetic Western saddles are made for pleasure, trail riding, speed events and showing. In every field they offer unique benefits. Pleasure riders will enjoy the extra padding in the seat while trail riders will appreciate how well their synthetic Western saddle stands up to hard use.

Barrel racers will shave pounds off the weight of their rig while young showmen will catch the judge’s eye with unique colors and patterns. Synthetic Western saddles aren’t just for smart shoppers; they’re for smart riders!

Synthetic jumping saddles

For the discerning rider, there is no substitution for a good, high quality jumping saddle and synthetic jumping saddles are a variable alternative to traditional leather. Jumping saddles come with a slight curve in the seat, wide padded flaps to give good knee support, and a short stirrup length, all tailored to keep the rider firmly in the saddle during the most rigorous of leaps.

For these reasons, jumping saddles are frequently called close-contact or forward-seat saddles. Other features include a balance set further back than in traditional eventing saddles, and a low pommel that won’t get in the way of a rider’s posture. Just as in other types, jumping saddles can come in traditional leather or synthetic materials, such as Cordura.

There is a substantial debate between which material is superior, just as there is in many other competitive sports. However, synthetic materials do offer significant advantages over leather saddles that interested riders may wish to consider.

Foremost is that synthetic saddles are typically lighter than leather saddles. Saddles are heavy, and the longer a heavy weight rests on a horse, the more wear and tear on that horse’s muscles. Riders looking to spend a lot of time in the saddle can give their animal a break by reducing the load carried.

Leather saddles also, due to material costs, production means, and overall popularity, cost more than synthetic models. Horse riding is expensive, and a good synthetic saddle will offer similar durability to a leather version for less investment.

Finally, all it takes to properly maintain a leather saddle is a damp cloth, rather than the oils and conditioners required to keep a leather saddle in good condition. While leather saddles are by no means an inferior choice, synthetic jumping saddles are a viable option for riders looking for a lower cost, equal quality alternative.

Synthetic dressage saddles

For many competitive and exhibition riders, everything revolves around dressage. A system of training designed to truly showcase the abilities of both horse and rider, proper dressage should appear effortless and relaxed, with horse and rider flowing from movement to movement as naturally as breathing. Such execution requires excellent control and similarly outstanding equipment. In particular, it requires a good dressage saddle and synthetic dressage saddles are plentiful and of high quality.

Dressage Saddles

The dressage saddle is distinguished from other English saddles by two features in particular, the first being a very deep riding seat and the second a long, straight cut flap. The deep seat allows the rider to feel more secure during the many changes of position required in dressage performance, leaving the rider free to focus on guiding the horse instead of fighting to remain seated.

The longer flap allows the rider to stretch out their legs, instead of keeping them high and tight as do competitive jumpers. Both these features are intended to keep the rider focused on the matter of making the gentle, almost invisible motions required to steer the horse through a proper dressage routine, giving them much more control than a jumping or general purpose saddle.

There is definitely a case to be made for using a synthetic dressage saddle over a leather version, specifically relating to the weight. The weight savings of a synthetic saddle allows a rider to execute commands to the horse for less pressure than the denser leather saddle would require, as well as making less demand on the horse’s endurance in competitions.

In addition, there is the practical consideration of reduced initial and maintaining costs for synthetic saddles, and less time spent maintaining is more time spent caring for the horse itself, and more time out riding.

Advantages of synthetic saddles

Any horse enthusiast can attest to the fact that equipment is becoming more and more expensive. As a result, many individuals are seeking alternative products that will provide the same benefits at a lower cost.

Synthetic saddles are such an item that as a result has increased in popularity. Synthetic saddles are indeed much cheaper than a leather saddle, but there are many other reasons to consider purchasing one. The materials that synthetic saddles are made of have many advantages over leather.

Equileather, a material commonly used, can be cleaned simply by wiping with a damp rag. In addition, it never requires any type of oil or break-in processes.

Another commonly used material is Cordura, which is equally durable and also renders special care unnecessary.

The weight of a leather saddle can be very difficult to manage, but synthetic saddles weigh much less due to their materials. As a result, they can be much easier to use and may simplify the dressing process. Finding an appropriate storage place for a synthetic saddle is no difficult task, as they are usually light enough to be hung practically anywhere.

There truly is a synthetic saddle available for virtually any taste, and the styles available range from very traditional to very modern. A wide array of bright colours can be selected, or a more traditional leather-look may be more what a person is looking for.

In fact, there are some equileather saddles that are virtually impossible to distinguish from leather saddles. Many people originally choose a synthetic saddle due to the significant price difference, but owners will quickly realize that there are many other benefits as well. Before making any purchasing decisions, a prospective buyer should carefully consider the advantages of a synthetic saddle; the choice will be easy.

My first experience of dressage

The first time I witnessed dressage was at the yearly event held at a local race course. At the time, I already owned two horses. I had always ridden English, and we did groundwork, and went for trail rides. But what I saw in dressage fascinated and terrified me at the same time.

This post explains a few of my experiences learning dressage. The music, the idea of creating a dance between equine and human being, combined with the formal attire, and the way it all looked so easy, too easy – I wanted to try it! It seemed magical, almost spiritual, when you were lucky enough to observe a really good partnership in action.

For the rider to give cues that you can’t even see, and the horse responds in such a relaxed and giving way, I wanted to have the same experience with my own horses. I know they get bored sometimes, so it would definitely be a challenge for them as well. But where to start?

My daughter participated in a riding club at the time, so I started there. At our next meeting, I asked if anyone could recommend a good dressage trainer who would teach at a private home, not just a training barn. I got a couple of leads, but nothing seemed to pan out. The more people I talked to, the more one trainer in particular kept coming up. She was a woman in her 80s, but still rides every day. People made her out to be some kind of a dressage guru.

But she only trains at her own barn, and I don’t own a trailer, so working with my own horses was out. Her barn was almost an hour away from me, so lessons during the week were out, too because I work during the day. She was also extremely expensive, but everyone who had taken lessons with her swore that she was worth it. I went back and forth, weighing the pros and cons, so many times. I finally decided to call and find out if she was taking on new students.

First Dressage Lesson

In my first dressage lesson, you would think I had not ridden a horse in ten years. The saddle and leg position were totally different than what I was used to. I was embarrassed, but my new trainer was patient and extremely gracious. She taught me how to experience a completely different sense of balance.

My leg strength improved. I looked forward to my weekend lesson all week, and tried to teach my own horses during the week what I had learned.

My trainer has taught me that you are never done learning dressage. Every time you master something, you then set about refining it, making the cues more subtle. As a result, my horses have learned to be extremely responsive to my requests. I love to see the wheels turning in their heads when I ask them for something they know a little more lightly. Our relationship and communication has deepened. Indeed, dressage is an ambition worth pursuing.

The above post was contributed by a reader.

The importance of horse blankets

When I was 10 years old, I was forced to ride a horse for the first time. While having no experience, I was put at the back of the line, and instructed that if the horse got too far, I was to hit it with a metal coat hanger. As the trip took the group up and down mountains, I lagged behind. Following my instructions, I struck the horse, which sent him into a furious rage down the mountain. I was terrified that I would die.

Years after this traumatic experience, I have grown to understand the reaction of the horse, and I have grown to understand the magnificent creatures for what they truly are. Now, the owner of several horses, I have taken it as my mission to educate on proper horse handling and care and this post contains some of the horse welfare tips I’d like to share with you. In my area, winter can be dreadfully cold and quite damaging to the horse. In order to protect them, I have adopted some methods of horse maintenance.

Proper blanketing, with a blanket thick and warm enough to keep horse hair down, is a great way to ensure that the elements do not harm the horse. After the blanket is removed, a brush should be used to keep the horse hair fine and even. With winter also comes extra feeding. It’s very important to ensure that the hay is not mouldy or too dusty, either of which can damage the horse’s digestive system. As the horse eats, the extra weight will provide some insulation against the cold temperatures.

Finally, one should be extra cautious while riding in the winter as ice can be damaging and painful to a horse. Always try to keep a slow, steady, walking pace unless the ground has some cushion on it such as snow, and there is no danger of ice underneath it. With proper winter care, your horse will be happy and healthy for the spring months. With spring, it is time to ease back into a riding regimen. First, it is advised to help the horse shed their winter coats by use of a shearing blade. With the extra weight, the horse will be ready for conditioning. It’s advised to schedule a veterinarian visit as soon as possible to check for any issues.

Once this check-up is complete, horse shoes is the next step if your horse uses them. Usage of horse shoes varies from owner to owner, but considering the damage that the hooves can go through, it can be a necessary thing toward helping your horses health. Finally, before riding full-out, a horse must be slowly conditioned if they have not been ridden during winter months.

This conditioning will allow a horse to have a more enjoyable spring, free from injury. Horses are wonderful animals, who with a little work, patience, and perseverance, can offer lots of fun and excitement in return. As with all animals, they require special care and attention, but the dedicated horse owner will find this care just as rewarding as riding.

The above post was contributed by a reader.