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Horse training in the UK

Horse training in the UKHorses are beautiful, intelligent creatures that have the ability to build strong bonds and establish intimate understanding with humans. However, horses did not evolve to establish relationship with humans. Humans domesticate them to establish the relationship through horse training. Horse training in the UK uses various techniques that follow different education programs. Patient repetition backed up by positive reinforcement is often used with excellent rates of success.

Horse Break Training

Horse break training is teaching a horse of any age to be comfortable when being handled. Whether you need to tie, transport or have a vet check a horse, the horse needs to be happy when being handled. If your horse is not happy being handled, then breaking the horse is necessary.

Horse break training entails teaching the horse rhythm, balance, voice recognition and general obedience. It also involves teaching the horse to feel its hind legs and accept reign contact as well as accept a rider out on the roads and the country. Techniques used here include rope halter training and long rein training.

Problem Horse Training

Sometimes horse owners experience behavioural problems with their horses, such as refusal to load a trailer, objection to rein contact and even biting. Various reasons can cause horse behavioural problems with the major reasons being stress and learned behaviour.

Horses try to tell people they are not happy with the way they are being handled, are experiencing pain or have past experiences of pain through their behavioural patterns. Also, when a horse’s basic needs such as food and personal care are not properly met, the horse is stressed and behavioural problems can occur.

Labelling a horse difficult or stubborn, therefore, can miss the real issues of the problem. Problem horse training adopts a psychological approach to train horses to behave better and also helps owners better understand and handle their horses.

Racehorse Training / Rehabilitation

Racehorses are different from pet and riding horses because of their high pressure experiences in competitions. They have erratic behaviour and often only understand two commands: Go and stop. Similarly, pet and riding horses are different from racehorses owing to their different experiences and training.

In order to transform pet and riding horses into champion racehorses or rehabilitate ex-racehorses into pet and riding horses, expert racehorse training or rehabilitation is needed. Racehorse rehabilitation training emphasises on de-stressing and teaching the horse to be free again. Training racehorses emphasises on partnerships and performance for competitions.

Other horse training services available throughout the UK include personal horse training lessons and training for show or sale. Identify horse training experts with proven track records and an understanding that every horse is unique to ensure you get the best training service for your horse.

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Equine Jobs for non-riders

It may seem odd to consider a career with horses if you don’t actually ride yourself but the equestrian world includes thousands who love working with horses but don’t actually ride.  If you would like to devote your working life, start a business, or simply change career later in life to one that involves horses but you’re not bothered about the riding aspect then this list of equine jobs for non-riders might give you some inspiration.

Equine Jobs – Sales & Marketing

Equine Sales & MarketingWhen talking about some of the job sectors of the equine world that have broad appeal, one would be remiss if they did not mention sales and marketing as a possible entrance. Though most people do not think about sales and marketing when they envision their equine career, there are many opportunities in this particular sector.

Some opt for positions with individual stables, studs, or race tracks, while others join on with horse racing associations. Another option is to work in sales and marketing for a company that sells tack items, or some other essential equestrian supplies. With so many possibilities, it is  a popular choice for driven sales personnel.

A passion for horses is an obvious prerequisite. Though you do not need to be some sort of business dynamo to get a started in equine sales and marketing, a business background does not hurt. Many people starting out will have university degrees in marketing and they will have at least some experience putting together presentations.

The requisite skills for this type of position include not only a knowledge of the equine industry, but also a knowledge of how to package it well. No matter what type of company you work for, the job will essentially be the same. You will be looking to take your own love and interest in horses, and build relationships with prospective clients using this common ground. This is why people who are extrovert and gregarious do well in this sort of field.

For those willing to start at the bottom and work their way up the totem pole, this can be a fast paced and rewarding career path.

Equine Jobs – Tack Shop Sales Assistant

Tack Shop Sales AssistantFor those who are keenly interested in horses and meeting people then working in a tack shop is an option. A tack shop is often more than just a place where equestrian items are sold. It can also be a place where people come together to enjoy something for which they share a common interest.

Tack shop sales assistants will be expected to handle many different duties. As well as dealing with customers, replenishing and pricing stock, dealing with deliveries, they may also be expected to come up with imaginative ways in which to promote certain brands and items, in different seasons.

It goes without saying that you have to have both a knowledge of horses, and a desire to put that knowledge to work. Since the majority of the time spent at work is going to be spent talking about horses, it is absolutely imperative that individuals are confident in the subject.

Additionally, some basic people skills are required. Working as a tack shop sales assistant requires the ability to discern what people need, but also introduce them to things they may not have considered. This is something that does not come naturally to many individuals, but it is a skill that develops with experience.

Experience in retail is a plus, but there are ways to get into this business without having that type of experience. A tack shop sales assistant position is something of an entry level job, as it is typically used to transition into other areas within the horse industry. Any experience working with horses that might have established some knowledge of equestrian products will be a definite advantage for the day of the interview.

Equine Jobs – Farrier

Exploring a Career as a FarrierBeing a farrier is a physically demanding career and it comes with a lot of responsibility. As well as physical strength you’ll also need training and certification in skills that are particular and unique to this job. It can be a very rewarding career with a significant amount of job security once you’ve built up a list of regular clients, but being a farrier is certainly not for everyone.

The farrier is there to provide care and maintenance of the horse’s feet. It goes without saying that healthy feet are absolutely essential for the well-being of any four-legged animal.

The farrier replaces worn out horseshoes, trims horse’s feet, and gives the owner advice and recommendations for stable routine for their horse’s feet. All this requires training and experience with the blacksmith’s tools that are the industry standard, and some of which haven’t changed for centuries.

The farrier must be able to deal with different horse temperaments, as some horses are less receptive to farriers than others. They must be able to become easily familiar with the horse’s movements, as a big part of their job deals with encouraging natural foot movement in the horse. It also helps a farrier in having people skills, as they will have to deal directly with owners, barn managers, and trainers in matters involving the horses in question.

As long as horses will need their hooves tended to, there will be a job for aspiring farriers. The different prerequisites for becoming a farrier are different from country to country, but it is safe to assume that any farrier job will require some type of certification and training. The more knowledge of anatomy of the horse, the better.

There are some resources for aspiring farriers, including the World Farriers Association online and the European Federation of Farriers Associations. You can find plenty more of information about becoming a farrier through these resources and others that you may discover on your own.

Equine Jobs – Farm Estate Manager

Farm Estate Manager

Within the equine industry, there are all kinds of jobs that are both rewarding mentally, as well as financially.  Becoming a farm, or estate, manager is one such job. It’s an attractive prospect to many, but not everyone is suited for this role.

The role requires a wide range of skills that can only be acquired with time and experience. A farm estate manager will be in charge of properties of any size, overseeing the day to day operations, while keeping in mind the business and financial aspects.

It’s a very hands-on job so it requires a person with knowledge of the business side of the industry, as well as experience working with horses.

A typical day might include tending to the health of horses, making decisions on when a horse will train, and calling in a vet to look at a horse for various problems. It is a position that requires a great deal of responsibility, so in order to become a farm estate manager, you will experience working as an assistant manager.

The farm owner will place a great deal of trust in you to manage the farm efficiently and honestly, so business acumen and integrity are essential. It’s not a role that appears frequently in the situations vacant columns, because farm estate managers tend to hold on to their jobs for many years.  However, as will all roles of this type, working in the industry and becoming an invaluable asset to your employer will increase your chances of being in the right place at the right time.

Equine Jobs – Equine Vet

Equine VetOf the many different jobs dealing with horses, few are as challenging as being an equine vet. That being said, it is also one of the most rewarding positions, as equine vets get to take care of horses, and save lives in many instances.

There will be variations, due to regional and breed differences, but generally speaking it’s the same job wherever you’re based in the world. For those vets employed by a large stable, the idea will be to work on a daily basis with horses, ensuring that they have the appropriate medicines, the correct diet, and that they are generally healthy.

As well as more mundane aspects of horse health and welfare, the equine vet will have to cope with emergency situations from time to time.  These can be very stressful for the vet and the owner, as well as for the horse!

Some vets may choose to specialise in a particular field of equine medicine or surgery. Obviously there is a high demand for skills associated with leg injuries e.g. flank, fetlock, and forearm. Remuneration is commensurate with skills and experience.

As far as qualifications are concerned, individuals have to complete studies at a certified veterinary school and pass the mandatory exams. These courses are popular so demand is high.  Just as with human anatomy,  the study of equine medicine is very demanding, so focused dedication for several years is required.

As with most industries where the barrier to entry is quite high, the rewards of getting into the field are great. From both a quality of life and monetary standpoint, equine vets do very well. You will probably have to work for a few years under another vet before you can do out on your own and find work, but this should be a good learning experience for many.

Professions with a high bar to entry and which require a high degree of skill, are thriving. A buoyant equestrian industry will require a proportional number of equine vets, so those who can complete their studies are having no trouble finding work, and advancing through their careers.

Equine Jobs – Equine Dentist

Equine DentistAn excellent career option for anyone who enjoys working with animals and who is interested in dentistry, is to become an equine dentist. An equine dentist, or dental technician, is someone who takes care of horses’ oral health. This is a relatively new field of employment, compared to that of an equine vet or farrier, for example.

The condition of a horse’s teeth and gums are important indicators of a horse’s overall health. Previously, veterinarians took care of a horse’s oral health, but many vets now prefer that equine dentists specialise in this aspect, so the vet can concentrate on the rest of the horse.

A few colleges or other institutions across the country, offer courses in equine dentistry.  You could train up to the standard required of a dental technician, but to become and equine dentist, the bar is much higher.

Equine dentistry is a field that is growing in popularity, so getting a place on courses can be quite competitive. The prerequisites often include a degree in a medical or science field, experience working with horses, and a few references from veterinarians, professors, or existing equine dentists.

Assuming you have completed an apprenticeship with either an established equine dentistry practice, or with a horse veterinary practice, then you might consider setting up your own practice. However, if you intend to do this then you’ll need some business skills.  The medical qualifications alone are not sufficient to be a success as a self employed equine dentist.

To start you own practice you will need an established client base, reliable transport, and all the standard equipment and licences. This equipment will include forceps, cutters, speculums, restraints, and power equipment. You will also need an office, even if it’s just a spare room at home, and all the mandatory liability insurances.

Equine Jobs – Transportation

Equine TransportationMoving and transporting large, sensitive, and valuable animals is a specialised task. For these reasons, the equine transportation industry is another one that remains in demand in proportion to the size of the general equestrian industry.

Entry level jobs are available for those without an HGV (heavy goods vehicle) licence.  There are many types of non-HGV horse transport vehicles, as well as trailers for conventional vehicles.

Drivers need to be confident in reversing trailers, often in unfamiliar surroundings and in close proximity to other vehicles and people.  Practice makes perfect, so if you have access to a trailer and a yard then learn the ropes until you’ve developed that confidence.

Most people start with a job in equine transportation by becoming a driver who is also a handler.  Many owners prefer to drive themselves, but others outsource the task to transportation firms.

Sooner, rather than later, you’ll need to obtain an HGV licence. And of course, you’ll need to be comfortable around horses, and be adept at loading and unloading animals of various sizes and temperaments, at different locations.

Other ways to get involved in equine transportation include working for one of the companies in a sales, marketing or administration capacity. Vehicle outfitting, maintenance, design, and building, for horsebox and trailer manufacturers is another option.

Transportation is required to and from; stables, stud farms, auctions, shows, country fairs, races, and other locations.  The hours are often long, with overnight stays.  International horse transportation may also be part of your job as your career progresses.

 

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Working With Horses – Equine Jobs

In this post we’re going to describe some of the career pathways available to those who seeking a career working with horses.  While a love of horses is obviously a prerequisite, there are many which appeal to those with a keen interest in horses and equestrian sports but which do not require you to be a rider.  We will cover those careers paths in another post.

Stable Lad/Lass

Working With Horses - Stable Lass

A stable lad/lass (or hand) is responsible for some or even all aspects of the welfare of the stable owner’s horses, the care of the stables themselves or even both jobs. Their day-to-day jobs may include cleaning stables (mucking-out), feed, exercise and grooming the horses.

Starting pay is usually low and the job entails very early starts throughout the seasons, with long days at the stables.  If you want a 9-5 job in a warm office then this is definitely not for you.  There are some risks involved as you would be working with large animals with varying temperaments on a daily basis.

In large establishments there may be several stable hands under the management of a head groom. The head hand usually has complete responsibility for the horses including, but not limited to, creating training schedules, maintaining proper nutrition of the horses and ensuring the horses are shod, inoculated and given regular veterinary care.

Before applying to become a stable lad, you may want to acquire British Horse Society certificates or equivalent, which are offered to any interested in expanding their knowledge of horse care, training and management. Like any other job, prior knowledge of the interested field is a major plus on your CV. Experience aside, a love for horses, hard work and extreme patience is necessary to excel in this particular job.

Groom

Working With Horses - Groom

A successful career as a groom takes experience and extensive knowledge of horses. Working as a groom can provide valuable experience including travel and the excitement of working with horses of varying breeds. Accommodation is often included with the role as you will probably be living very close to the stables.  Consequently, if the groom is living on premises, they may be expected to be on call day and night. In addition to feeding, exercising, and cleaning horses grooms may be have to care for sick or injured animals, and this of course requires round the clock care and attention.

Grooms often work seven days a week, but the working week can be shorter – it all depends on the stables and the responsibilities that go with that particular employer.  Grooms are primarily the carers for the horses; they feed and maintain horses and they take care of the stables, which obviously must be kept clean to provide the horse with a fresh, comfortable environment. Some of these basic tasks can be delegated to the stable hands, if there are any.

The job is physically demanding and requires dedication.  It is not a particularly lucrative field financially but the rewards are many for those who wish to live and breath the equestrian life.  Although there is no formal educational requirement for the position of a junior groom, you must have experience in caring for horses. You should also be a confident and competent rider.

Although most opportunities are usually found in rural areas there are many urban and city based stables too. As wells as riding schools, livery yards and stud farms also have vacancies from time to time. However, owners of thoroughbreds will expect much higher standards from their grooms that those of, for example, the local pony club.

To begin or develop your equestrian career as a groom there are numerous methods for gaining knowledge and experience.  There is on the job training the form of apprenticeships, and distance learning courses for those studying in their spare time. You can study for certifications and other qualifications while you work with horses in another capacity.

Jockey

Working With Horses - JockeyBecoming a jockey requires single minded dedication.  It’s a career that can start with mucking out on a dark winter’s morning and can end with accolades and all the rewards of fame and fortune.  However, let’s be realistic; for all the famous jockeys there are many, many more who are working jockeys with big wins to their names, let alone an autobiography.

A jockey’s career will begin with caring for horses as well as riding them.  With the right attitude, a good manager, and a bit of luck, the races will come.  However, if this attracts you then you’re probably already well aware of the height and weight requirements, though these can vary depending upon where you take a job.

As far as skills are concerned, jockeys have to be proficient in competitive riding, which requires one to understand how to handle horses at speed, as well as the dynamics of horse racing.

Being a jockey is a job that’s based a lot on performance. Those who want to move up the ladder will need to shown a trend of improvement in their races at lower levels.  No one expects a jockey to win every race but there should be a proven track record that demonstrates the ability to win and improve on those successes.

Opportunities for new jockeys are not common but if you start working in the equestrian industry in some capacity then you’re more likely to hear about the vacancies before they appear in the press. So start at the bottom at some racing stables. Once you show that you have the dedication, ambition, and competitive spirit then the opportunities will appear.

Follow this link to learn more about obtaining a Apprentice Licence.

Riding Instructor

Working With Horses - Riding InstructorThough the economic downturn has hurt people who work in so called discretionary industries, there is still a market for a good horse riding instructor with the right experience and qualifications. For those looking to become a horse riding instructor, it is important to note that there are a few different ways to get involved. Some individuals get involved in the profession on an individual basis, as they take on private clients and advertise for themselves. Though this can be somewhat difficult to begin with, it can be lucrative for those with the right skill set and the ability to market their services.

In order to work as a riding instructor, one has to have an advanced knowledge of how to handle horses, as well as to the ability to teach. It requires both of these things, since simply understanding how to ride is not enough. Individuals have to be good enough at their craft to be able to instruct others in a manner that is clear and reasonable. For those who work as instructors for a livery yard, there may be some training involved. Individuals who offer instruction on a private basis arrange their own training.

In terms of experience required, it really depends upon the experience of those whom you intend to instruct.  Obviously, the instructor’s skills and experience should exceed of the pupils. For those looking to instruct at an upper end of the spectrum then years, or even decades of experience are required.  For those intending to teach novice riders then the requirement is going to be a lot less.

All instructors have to start somewhere with their instruction and regardless of the personal riding experience of the instructor, the methods used to teach, as well as the ability to get along with people of ages and temperaments, is something that is developed over time. And there are instructors who specialise in all kinds of disciplines; showjumping, racing, dressage, carriage driving, etc.

 

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Learning Dressage for recreation or a career

In this post we’re going to talk about dressage. The post is in two parts; the first part is an account, by a contributor, of their experiences learning dressage, and the second part discusses potential careers in dressage riding.

Part One – My Experiences Learning 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.

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.

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.

Part Two – Careers in Dressage Riding

learning dressageDressage is a specific type of equestrian showmanship where a controlled horse will respond quickly and smoothly to commands given in a subtle manner. At the basic level the horse must show a particular relaxed carriage, response to the bit and obedience at a walk and trot.

At the highest levels, dressage becomes what is often called “horse ballet.” It not only is a method of riding and instruction, but is characterized by the use of warmblood horses, where riders dress in a prescribed, formal manner, use a specific saddle (similar to English), and hold themselves in a certain seat.

Equestrians with a background in English riding may have an advantage at the beginning levels because of similarities in style. However, anyone with an understanding of horses, and some natural ability in riding should be able to adapt and learn dressage.

Most professional dressage riders begin working as grooms. In the UK, there is an apprenticeship scheme to provide structured training for hopeful dressage riders. Riders are accepted as positions become available.

To become a professional full-time rider is a challenge. At the Spanish Riding School of Vienna one new pupil is taken each year, and the fastest rise from beginner to Chief Rider was 20 years. It is more likely that a dressage rider may find part-time employment at a large stable where additional skills such as horse training, instruction of riders, and showing of horses for sale will be incorporated into the responsibilities. Positions may include room and board, flex time, and benefits. Experience in other styles of riding such as hunting and jumping is a great advantage.

To obtain employment as a dressage rider, even in a part-time capacity, usually a minimum Third Level experience is required. To reach this level, a rider can begin at local competition levels, or take advantage of training clinics. A beginner might offer to work at a horse barn in exchange for dressage lessons.

Any activities which give a person more dressage experience can help him or her advance. These will certainly include showing and might include coaching, or judging. Dedication and persistence will be required to become a professional dressage rider.

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Horse Riding For Beginners

In this post we’ll list some advice to bear in mind when considering horse riding for beginners, including additional equestrian classes for more advanced training.

Having selected a convenient riding school and a good trainer, you will now be eager to start your riding lessons. Riding requires time, patience and hard work. Be mentally prepared to overcome your fear. Horses are sensitive animals and easily understand the riders’ emotions. Choose comfortable riding gear.  Always wear a riding helmet and suitable boots. Wearing a puttee protects your leg muscles from cramps.

With your instructor’s help, learn how to saddle your horse properly. Do not be in a rush to master everything the first time itself.

Always mount your horse from the left.  Adjust your leg stirrup and make sure it does not slip out of your foot. Your heel should always point down and toe up.  Balance your body on the horse. When holding the reins, make sure your elbows are kept close to your body. Your forearms should appear as extensions of the rein.

Your lower legs should be fixed to the body of the horse. Grip the horse using your lower leg. All movement should come from above your knees.

The first step will be to get your horse to move. Believe me; it can be embarrassing when the horse refuses to move. The trick is to squeeze with your calves .You can apply some pressure with your heel as well. While walking, if you feel unbalanced, hold onto the front of your saddle/horse mane.

To turn your horse, pull the rein of the side you need to turn and apply pressure with your outside leg. To halt your horse, use your legs, hands and seat. Sit deeply in your seat, apply pressure to your legs and pull your reins back. Relax once the horse responds to your command.

Once you are comfortable with the Walk, move onto Trot. You learn to move up and down in rhythm, gripping the horse with the support of your lower leg. Learning to trot without a saddle /blanket is one of the most painful lessons, however one of the best techniques to balance yourself.

Squeeze tighter and raise in your stirrup every alternate step. The Canter follows the trot. Before a canter, resume a slow trot and apply pressure with your outside leg and jerk your reins slightly. Relax and get comfortable with the speed. You can really enjoy a Canter with a bit of practice.

General Tips:

  • Begin on an old horse.
  • Change horses to get more confidence.
  • Never stand or sit right behind the horse.
  • Approach the horse by talking to him softly so that you do not startle him.
  • Always remember to pat your horse after your ride.
  • Maintain your posture as per instructions from the start itself to be a good rider.

horse riding for beginnersEquestrian Classes in the UK

A number of horse riding centres in various parts of the United Kingdom offer equestrian classes and courses for riders of all ages. Regardless of whether the rider is a professional or a novice, the qualified staff at those riding centres can help polish the riding abilities.

For example equestrian centres in the London area such as Kingston Riding Centre, Wimbledon Village Stables, Hyde Park Stables, The British Horse Society, and Wellington Riding in Hook, Hampshire offer standard lesson packages as well as tailored courses to suit specific needs of certain riders. Most of these equestrian centres offer classes such as:

Lunge Classes

A 30-minutes lunge class is usually offered for novices who want to learn the ropes but are afraid of being alone with the horse in the beginning. For safety purposes, an instructor accompanies on a lunge line, and provides lessons on balance, riding aids and coordination. The purpose of these classes is to equip the rider with enough confidence so he could handle the horse by himself.

Lunge classes are useful for those riders who haven’t had any professional training before and want to sort out any bad habits, improve sitting trot and fine-tune suppleness.

Private Classes

Private classes are most appropriate for beginners just off the lunge who are not yet ready for group lessons. Additionally, riders who need advance training for professional purposes also make use of private lessons and classes. Most of the times, the instructors determine the content of the classes according to the rider’s specific requirements.

Group Classes

Once the rider gets enough confidence in trotting, walking and cantering, he naturally progresses to advance lessons in group settings. Group classes provide an opportunity to learn alongside other riders in the presence of horses. Group lessons for advanced riders typically entail working the animals in lateral movements, for instance, shoulder-in or leg yield. These lessons cover show-jumping for advanced as well as novice riders, and help them understand how to send the horses from leg to hand for accomplishing a better self-carriage from the animal.

Summer Classes

Many equestrian centres throughout the country offer summertime programs as well in addition to the all-year round classes. Summer programs are short courses, which incorporate several aspects of equestrianism in a single course, which is suitable for both beginners and experienced riders.

Stable Management Classes

For those interested in expanding their skills and knowledge of equestrianism, “theory-based” classes are also available. In the form of lectures, instructors cover basic to advanced topics concerning horsemanship. At the end of these courses, the enrolled clients have to undertake an examination, which is usually made available by the British Horse Society. The clients who clear the exam are academically qualified for barn management jobs and other equestrian staff jobs.

 

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How to find a livery yard

It would be a wonderful world if every horse owner and horse lover had the ability to keep their horse on their own property, but this is simply not the case.  In the United Kingdom, as in most parts of the world, horse owners will need to know how to find a livery yard that is will care for their horse professionally and with diligence.

They will need to find a stable or a horse boarding farm for their beloved animal, somewhere within easy travel distance of work or home.

Making the choice of the correct livery for your needs and, more importantly, for the safety and health of your horse, is an important decision that requires some careful thought and research. There are some very good livery yards in the UK, but sadly there are also some which fall below the expected standards.

As a responsible horse owner, taking the time to learn about the stables, the paddocks, the routines and the management of the livery will be just a few of the factors that should be under consideration.

To help you get started, here are some suggestions for what you should investigate before making the decision to board your horse at any facility.

The Appearance of the Livery Yard

Whilst appearance isn’t everything, your first impression of the paddocks, stables and riding ring at the yard is a good indication of the levels of professionalism and care maintained at the yard.

Take a good look at the grounds as you drive up. The property should be well-maintained and cared for, particularly the paddocks and stables. Look for signs of poor repairs on fences, gates and stalls, and also take a look into the tack room for organization and cleanliness.

Walk out through the paddocks and the turn-out area and look at the condition of the grass and the actual pasture. Is there a large enough space for your horse to be out to exercise, or is it confined and cramped? Is there shade, and how are the stalls cooled? Is there fresh water and air circulation in each of the box stalls in the stables?

You should also take a look at the riding trails offered. Are they appropriate for your level of riding ability?

If you notice any of the above issues, including open feed bins, poor quality water or bedding, bale stacks that are out in the weather and falling down, reconsider your choice.

Also, look for any signs of rodents and vermin in or around the stable, or any signs of dark and dingy stalls, as this is a sure sign of an uncaring owner or manager.

how to find a livery yardThe Condition of the Horses

With just a quick walk around the facility, you will get a sense of the condition of the horses. Are they content and calm, or do they appear nervous or agitated? Don’t just focus on one or two horses as there are always those that are difficult to stable because of their temperament or personality, but take an overall look at the horses at the stable.

If there are horses that seem nervous or aggressive, how would your horse react? This is a good time to ask about these issues, and how more aggressive horses are managed in the yard, to avoid any risk of problems with other horses. Many of the top livery yards will not keep aggressive or poorly socialised horses, which is reassuring for those choose to stable at them.

It is still important to ask about turn-out and how it is managed. Top managers of livery yards are very good at matching horses to be out on the pasture together, with a limited risk of any type of negative interaction.

The Livery Yard Contracts

While contracts may seem challenging to read, it is important to take the time and completely review all clauses and information. Avoid any livery yard without a formal contract that clearly outlines their responsibilities and services, and also, your responsibilities as the horse owner.

Look for information on horse management practices, emergency veterinary services, certification for all instructors and contractors using the livery and details on security and safety for your horse. The facility should also have written policies for visitors, a dog policy as well as security for the stables after hours.

Choose a livery that is not just an add-on service at a farm, but rather the focus on the property. Talk to other horse owners using the livery, and also review online to determine if there have been complaints and problems before signing any contract.

What are your experiences with livery yards? Do you have any tips you can pass on? Leave a comment below.

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Australian Saddles Compared to Western

Whilst in the UK the English saddle is still the most common there are some riders who prefer the heavier, and more substantial Western saddle, particularly for trekking or trail riding.  Whether you are currently riding English or Western, moving to an Australian saddle, particularly for longer rides, may be the perfect alternative both for rider comfort, as well as for the performance of your horse.

Differences between Western, English, & Australian Saddles

With Western riding, the saddle is much more substantial, and features a pronounced horn to the front of the seat, and a higher cantle at the back, literally holding the rider in place. This saddle was originally designed to provide support for the rider, with sudden changes in direction on working horses, having to respond to sudden lateral movements and very sharp, immediate turns. The horn is also used as an anchor when roping cattle, and it is very much a necessary part of the saddle.

The English saddle, which is more common here, is not just one type of saddle but a general term. From the front of the saddle to the back instead of a horn there is a low pommel and then the slight rise of the twist into the seat and then a well-formed cantle.

Different forms of English riding will require a longer or shorter leg, but typically shorter overall than the Western style. The saddles are positioned on the horse to allow the full range of motion through the shoulders, particularly in dressage.

Saddles used for jumping have additional pads, and knee rolls for the rider, but overall the leathers are short and minimal, as compared to the Western saddle, which actually uses the term fenders for the leathers.

The Australian saddle is not a true hybrid of the two, but rather its own unique saddle designed for the specific needs of the rider. These saddles can have a horn or they may not, it is really all the preference of the rider, as well as a factor of how the saddle is to be used.

In general appearance, especially without the horn, it is more like the English saddle but more substantial. The cantle and the pommel are more pronounced, the girth is wider, the seat is deeper and the flaps (or leathers) are wider and longer, more like that of the Western saddle.

The stirrup leathers are more like that of an English saddle and there is a knee pad for additional rider support. The longer leg riding style is used with this saddle, which makes it more comfortable for many riders. Additionally, the legs sit to the front of the body, more like that of a Western riding style, making it a more natural position. This is just one of the reasons why these saddles are often favored for long hacking outings, or for endurance riding.

australian saddlesFitting the Saddle

The fitment of the Australian saddle is more like the English saddle, and less like the Western style. The saddle is more to the front of the horse’s back, not slightly further back, as found in the Western riding style.

As a simple guide, the girth of these saddles should be no more than about 7 to 8 centimetres behind the front legs, and no less than 2.5 centimetres. This more forward position is more efficient for the horse, allowing the weight of the rider to be more over the shoulders, rather than through the centre of the back.

When on the horse, the pommel and cantle of the saddle should sit in a relatively straight line that keeps the rider’s weight and position from shifting. The seat also should sit level, which is a very natural position for the rider that can be very easily sustained for long periods of time.

The saddle chamber should rest about five to ten centimetres (2 to 4 inches) above the withers of the horse. A simple and easy measurement is to turn your hand sideways and insert your fingers between the saddle and the withers. This should be a comfortable fit with at least three fingers, four, if you have a smaller hand.

For the rider, choosing the right seat size is based on the rider’s weight and waist size. Different saddle manufacturers may have slightly different standards, so always refer to their guidelines when making a selection. Keep in mind the sizing is different than either Western or English saddles, so working with a saddlery to get a good fit for both you and your horse is important, especially for a first purchase.

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Riding Holidays in the UK, Europe, USA

In this post, we’re going to suggest some of the best locations for riding holidays in the UK, on the continent of Europe, and in the USA.

The only real difficulty about riding abroad, apart from the cost, is deciding where to go, so we hope this guide will give you the inspiration to try one of these locations.

We published another post entitled, “Horse Riding Holidays – 10 of the best destinations in the USA”, so be sure to check that one out if you want more information about riding in America.

The opportunity to bond, to build mutual trust, and be at one with your horse whilst staying at memorable and specialised holiday accommodation is an exhilarating experience.

Best Locations for Riding Holidays in the UK

Riding holidays in the UK give you the opportunity to experience Britain at its best. They spoil you for choice and present you with glorious opportunities to be one with, not only your horse, but also with nature. Test your horsemanship at these top UK riding holiday locations for a truly memorable experience.

TM International School of Horsemanship

Located in the heart of England along the edge of beautiful Bodmin Moor, TM International School of Horsemanship offers a spectacular riding country with magical, unspoilt landscapes to explore on horseback. Take at least two-hour afternoon rides past burial cairns, quoits, Bronze Age stone circles and other prehistoric settlements.

In the evening, take relaxed rides and enjoy spectacular views on Bodmin Moor, stretching across Cornwall, Devon and Dartmoor to the sea. As the sun sets, enjoy peaceful rides on the beach before retiring to comfortable farmhouse accommodation, that offer home prepared meals and glasses of wine at the end of each day.

Free Rein Riding Holidays

Free Rein welcome riders, old and new, to explore the wilds of Wales on their fit and friendly horses and ponies,. They offer guided and unguided horse riding holidays, and trail riding breaks of various lengths. All among the beautiful Welsh hills, valleys, and coasts.

They also teach novice riders and complete beginners; leading you on gently at your own pace. You can join a group or hire your own guide. After a full day of riding along beaches, forest, or mountain trails with spectacular views, sit back and relax with a drink and a meal in a cosy Welsh pub.

Kimmerston Riding Centre

Kimmerston Riding Centre is one of the best horse riding centres North East of England. Located in the beautiful Northumberland, near the enigmatic Holy Island and rolling Cheviot Hills, Kimmerston offers a truly remarkable area for a holidaying week, or even just an afternoon of riding.

Enjoy hill rides and trail hunting around the breathtaking environs of Cheviot Hills accompanied by experienced instructors while on instructional riding and relaxed beach rides along Holy Island’s beautiful, expansive beach. Retire from a long day in the saddle to one of two self-contained holiday cottages for groups of up to six at Kimmerston. Alternatively, find accommodation at one of the excellent bed and breakfast hotels nearby.

The UK has no shortage of ideal locations for chilled and relaxed holiday riding. Pick your location and enjoy all the activities you and your horse can share at one of UK’s prime locations.

Best Locations For Riding Holidays in the Europe

There are hundreds of places to go on riding holidays in Europe, the Mediterranean, Russia, and the Near East. You are sure to find at least a few destinations that appeal to you.. The rich assortment of riding holidays in these locations will leave you spoilt for choice.

Spain is one of the favourite riding destinations for many horse riders. Spain attracts a plethora of riders due to its breathtaking scenery and rich culture. Horses in Spain have played a significant role in shaping the history of the country. While at Spain, ride with the elegant Andalusian horse, exploring the white sands of the beach, while enjoying the sea breeze.

The Catalonian trails will leave you asking for more. If fame entices you, ride in Mallorca, a destination renowned for its celebrity visitors. Madrid will provide you with a classic view of Spain that will forever be etched in your memories. The pristine trails in Sierra Nevada will provide you with a rare chance of riding in a location ignored by most tourists. A horse ride in Spain will not be complete without riding along the pilgrimage trail at Santiago de Compostella.

A riding holiday in Cyprus is another that will inspire you. With the cooling olive groves and picturesque mountain scenery, you have the opportunity to enjoy either a sunny holiday or a winter riding holiday.

A riding holiday in Iceland will do the trick, if riding in snowy landscapes appeals to you. This is a special destination, if you enjoy riding in rough terrain.

Italy is a destination that draws lovers of food, wine, art, and culture. There is ample spectacular scenery for the horse rider. With everything from coast to mountain, from forests to Alpine trails, there is plenty to explore. Ride in the hills of Tuscany to experience the timeless beauty. While in this scenic landscape, you will have the chance to visit the historic towns and cities of Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano, Lucca, and Volterra. The val D’Orcia Trail will also charm you with its beauty.

Another destination that promises to capture your wildest spirits is among the islands of Greece. Known as the Land of The Gods, it welcomes visitors with its mountainous landscape and the deep blue sea. Reconnect with nature as you ride your horse while appreciating a land blessed with beauty. Some of the destinations renowned among horse riders include the trails in Crete, Kephalonia, and Santorini.

The diversity of France in terms of culture, climate and scenery, will thrill any riding enthusiast. Ride along the coastline at Bordeaux, and explore castles along the Loire. France has a variety of destinations that will fascinate you.

Riding Holidays in the UKBest Locations for Riding Holidays in the USA

People who are interested in riding holidays in the USA have a wide range of options to choose from. Which is no surprise given the size of the country, and the range of environments. This vast country offers unique and exciting activities that will meet and exceed your expectations.

Most destinations are suitable for families with children. The vacations are usually very enjoyable and quite educational. Trail guides are knowledgeable and friendly. Riders find that they remain cheerful even after long hours in the saddle. The horses are trained well and are safe to ride, even for novices.

Good food is provided at camps and the sites are clean and well maintained. There’s a range of accommodation types for every budget. You could participate in an authentic cattle drive.

Experienced cowboys usually lead the group of riders. This was a very important and profitable business venture in the days of the Wild West.

Arizona and Wyoming are popular locations for this type of riding holiday. These states boast some of the wildest and most beautiful land in the West. Arizona is rimmed on the north by the magnificent Grand Canyon. Riders will get to live like cowboys as they drive cattle across challenging canyons and open flatlands.

Two famous National Parks are located in Wyoming. These are the Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton National Park. The State has diverse and beautiful wildlife. Riders in Wyoming are likely to encounter deer, elk and moose, while herding the cows.

Speaking of the Grand Canyon, why not try a Grand Canyon Riding Tour?.

Visitors may participate in a one day tour through one of the most breathtaking landmarks in the world. While touring the Grand Canyon on horseback, travelers will be led through trails used by Texas Ranger Elijah Moore and Butch Cassidy. Guides tell stories of the exploits of these men.

Of course, the Grand Canyon offers spectacular scenery. The power of water, over millenia, shaped the canyon. Many different layers of sedimentary rock exist there. All these were formed by water and ice. Riders will see shell fossils, red wall limestone cliffs and ancient drawings.

Receive Dressage Instruction

Excellent dressage instruction is offered on the east coast of the United States. While California and Massachusetts have some of the best riding schools in the country. Students are assessed before they can begin a training programme.

Classical dressage lessons in New England are systematic. Students are taught techniques that help them to improve their seat. Students usually have two lessons per day.

Riding schools in California have lessons and camps focused on competitive trail, endurance, and dressage. Some facilities train beginners and advanced riders in Western and English styles. A few have jumping clinics throughout the year.

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Health benefits of horse riding

As Winston Churchill famously said, “There’s something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” It was true at the time, and it’s even more accurate in modern times. As anyone who rides regularly will know, horse riding is excellent for both toning your body and relaxing your mind.  But the benefits don’t stop there, as this post about the health benefits of horse riding seeks to demonstrate.

People have been using horses for transport for thousands of years, and in many parts of the world horses are still essential for transport and agriculture. However, once we no longer relied upon horsepower to work the land, or for transportation, riding for pleasure became a popular pastime.

The fact that so many of us continue to ride when we no longer have to do so for practical reasons, is a testimony to our enduring love of horses. According to figures published by the British Equestrian Trade Association, there were two point seven million riders in the UK, in 2015. Of these, one point three million were regular riders.

However, both these figures show a decline from the totals for 2011. This fall was partly due to economic factors, rather than a lessening of enthusiasm on the part of the British public. Other ex-riders cited loss of access to a horse or stables.

Health benefits of horse ridingThe Physical Benefits of Horse Riding

Horse riding is one of the best forms of exercise for improving muscle tone and balance. It helps to improve your coordination, confidence and overall posture. A low impact exercise, it’s often suitable for people who can’t manage more high impact sports, but it will still give you a thorough aerobic workout – riding can burn up to 300 calories an hour. If you have your own horse, don’t forget all the related activity as well – grooming, mucking out, picking up droppings and cleaning tack will all help to keep you fit.

The Mental Benefits of Horse Riding

In today’s high speed, high stress society, horse riding is an excellent form of relaxation, as a combination of fresh air, exercise and adrenaline provides the perfect escape from modern life. Building a relationship with your horse is intensely satisfying, as you both improve and start to stretch your boundaries. Horses are extremely sensitive and intuitive, and helping a young, scared or confused horse to overcome physical or behavioural problems is one of the most intensely positive experiences you can have as a rider.

The Emotional Benefits of Horse Riding

Apart from the obvious benefits of fresh air and exercise, the main pleasure of horse riding is the chance to build a partnership with an intelligent, sensitive animal. If you’re lucky enough to have your own horse, you’ll appreciate how a good partnership can evolve and develop as you work together to improve.

However, even if you only ride occasionally, riding is a series of immensely pleasurable moments – whether it’s the satisfaction from finally achieving a correct rising trot after weeks of trying, or the short but intense adrenaline buzz from a flat-out gallop. Even riding once or twice a year on a trekking holiday brings its own pleasures, and offers the chance to see new countryside in a way that’s in tune with the natural surroundings.

Horse Riding Improves Your Social Life

Unless you insist on riding alone, there are plenty of opportunities to meet people and make new friends in equestrian circles.

There are many chances for interaction at events, on holidays, or just out riding. As a fellow equestrian, you’ll find plenty to chat about with strangers. Horse riding has also been known to improve your love life too!

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10 US Horse Riding Holiday Destinations

Anyone who loves to ride horses also has a penchant for adventure. There’s something about the creak of a leather saddle and the companionship of a trusted equine that gets our blood pumping. Going exploring on horseback is still one of the most fun ways to see the country, so we’ve compiled ten suggestions for a horse riding holiday in the USA.

Ouray, Colorado

Nestled into a majestic mountain pass and filled with warm, friendly locals, Ouray is rightly nicknamed the Switzerland of Colorado. A tiny town with only windy mountain roads leading in or out makes it a cowboy’s dream, and horse-friendly trails and campsites abound. There are a few stables that offer guided rides, but if you bring your own steed you’ll want to make sure that he’s sure-footed and sound enough for difficult mountain trails. Because of the high elevation, the best time to ride here is midsummer, when the wildflowers are in full bloom and the bright sun makes nearby snowcaps shimmer.

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Words aren’t really enough to describe Bryce Canyon. It’s a beautiful, otherworldly maze of hoodoos and steep rock walls. What makes Bryce more hospitable to equine adventurers than nearby Zion is its primitive style, fewer crowds and higher elevation. Guided horseback treks into the canyon are a popular tourist activity, and while individually owned horses are not allowed in the canyon, there are beautiful trails all over the park.

Big Bend, Texas

No Western-centric list is complete without a nod to the Lone Star State, and Big Bend National Park didn’t exactly eek its way into our list. It’s an imposing 800,000 acres of mountain, desert and prairie in southwest Texas, with miles of trail and plenty of horse-friendly primitive campsites. It also includes 118 miles of the Rio Grande river, the natural boundary between Mexico and Texas, and a boon for horseback adventurers, since the climate is hot and dry most of the year. Horses are not allowed to graze in Big Bend, but if you’re willing to pack in your feed and rough it for a few days, it offers an incredible, truly Texan horseback experience.

Sonoma, California

While known for its wines and quaint, touristy towns, Sonoma County has some of the best environments for riding. The weather is perfect – usually mild year-round and boasting an almost constant light breeze, a great relief when you’re trapped in jeans and boots. Several wine-country trails make for beautiful weekend strolls, or head to the local redwood groves for a longer overnight excursion amongst the giant trees. Plus, you should stop for some wine tasting on your way out of town. It is Sonoma, after all.

Amelia Island, Florida

About a 40-minute drive from Jacksonville, Amelia Island is a beautiful glimpse at unspoiled Florida. The state park protects over 200 acres of beach, salt marsh and coastal forest along the southern edge of Amelia Island, and is one of the few parks in the country that offers horseback riding on the beach and along the shoreline.

The park has partnered with an outfitter to guide these rides, and boasts that horseback sightseers see more wildlife than anybody else on Amelia Island. Riding on the beach has a romance that can’t be denied – doing so in Florida’s welcoming weather on a protected coast. It doesn’t get much better than that.

White Mountains, Arizona

While the Grand Canyon gets most of the tourist love in Arizona, many people miss an incredible mountain playground close by. Only a few hours by car from Phoenix or Tucson lands you in an utterly unique slice of Arizona. The White Mountains are dotted with guest ranches, B&Bs, and campsites, nearly all of them welcoming to you and your four-hoofed companion. Majestic mountains, high-elevation meadows, great fishing lakes, and frequent summer thunderstorms make the White Mountains the perfect “Home on the Range” destination.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi and Tennessee

Even though the Natchez Trace Parkway covers 444 miles of scenic roadway, horses are only allowed on a few 5 to 30 mile sections of designated trail – all of which must be ridden as day rides, since horses are not allowed in the campgrounds. Don’t be discouraged, however, as it’s definitely worth trailering in.

The lush vegetation, changing topography and frequent hitching posts make these trails a delightful weekend getaway. Plus, nearly all the trails start close to a Southern hub like Jackson or Nashville – so after you work up an appetite there’s always fried food available to curb your hunger.
horse riding holiday usa

Custer State Park, South Dakota

If you love the West, you’ll love Custer. Deep in the Black Hills, Custer is 71,000-acres of mountains, lush meadows and wild forest. The park is also home to one of the world’s largest publicly-owned bison herds, nearly 1,500 head, which are rounded up every September by local wranglers. It doesn’t get much more like the Old West than the hearing pounding feet of a buffalo herd rumbling by, but even if you don’t come to watch the round-up, the horse-friendly campsites and gorgeous scenery will make you feel like an old cowpoke anyway.

Central Park, New York

OK, so it may be expensive, and not exactly a trek nor anyone’s first choice for a US horse riding holiday, but what horse enthusiast hasn’t dreamed of riding in Central Park? Rides are offered all summer and are a once-in-a-lifetime chance to ride in one of America’s most iconic places.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

We had to finish out this list with the most American of serious treks. A multi-day pack trip in one of the nation’s oldest National Parks is an incredible way to see the back country and experience Yellowstone the way Teddy Roosevelt did – with plenty of creaking saddle leather. With more than 3,740 square miles, Yellowstone is so huge that many of its treasures remain unseen – unless you’re on horseback.

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5 Winter Horse Care Tips You Should Know

When winter is upon us, baring its teeth with frosts and snow, we need to understand how best to care for our horses, so that they don’t suffer discomfort. With that in mind, here are some winter horse care tips you should know in order to best prepare for the first frosts or heavy snowfall.  In all starts with preparation in the autumn.

If we humans struggle to stay warm and dry during the winter, imagine the situation for horses. It is of the utmost importance that horse owners care for their animals in the right way during these cold winter months.

Here are five tips for the best practices for caring for horses in winter.

1. Cold weather, and wet weather, means greater calorie requirements.

Horses, like all warm-blooded animals, maintain a constant body temperature. In cold, wet, and/or windy weather, the internal furnaces of horses and other mammals require more calories in order to maintain body temperature. For example, a thousand pound horse readily consumes roughly 15 pounds of hay each day. As the weather drops to freezing levels, the same horse would require 17 pounds of hay per day to prevent any degradation of body condition. Wet weather and windy weather increases the horse’s calorie needs even more, especially if the horse is without shelter.

2. A little fat is helpful.

Horses are designed to survive on a forage diet – in other words, grass and hay. In general, cereals are not recommended feed for most horses. However, in the autumn months before cold weather strikes, adding grains to horse feed helps the horse to add a layer of fat. The protective fat will insulate the horse from cold weather, provide energy reserves, and mitigate the need for extra feed during the winter months.

winter horse care tips3. Keep water above freezing.

Envision a blustery day in midwinter, with steely, overcast skies, and maybe even a few snow flurries. On a day like that, one of the most comforting activities is to sit with your feet near the fire and sip a cup of hot tea, (or a glass of mulled wine).

No one would want to cozy up with a glass of ice water. In the same way, horses don’t like drinking freezing cold water in the winter, but by dehydrating themselves their risk of colic and impaction increases. To prevent this from occurring, remove any ice crystals that form in the water, and keep the water between 7 degrees and 18 degrees Celsius.

4. Keep horses away from the beauty parlour.

Throughout the fall and winter months, allow the horse’s coat to grow. Its natural winter coat is its best defence against cold weather. Although it may be tempting to trim the hair within the ears, and around the fetlocks, resist the temptation for the sake of the horse’s health. Furthermore, make an effort to keep the coat dry. Once the horse hair gets wet, it loses its ability to insulate the horse from the cold, just as walking outside in the winter with wet hair is unpleasant for humans.

5. Don’t let horses slip on the ice.

A broken leg for a human means a cast, and some time on crutches. A broken leg for a horse sometimes spells death. Therefore, protect horses from snow and ice during the winter by trimming hooves every six to eight weeks. For horses who will stay outside during the winter months, remove horseshoes. Horseshoes can easily become backed with ice, which greatly increases a horse’s risk for a fall.

These five tips are certainly not exhaustive, but provide a good place to start for caring for horses during winter months.

What additional tips can you think of? Let us know in the comments below.

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Why I ride horses and how realised the answer

Here’s why I ride horses and how I came to realise the answer.  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, jewelry 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.

Andalusians

why I ride horses

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 love 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.

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Synthetic Saddles – Equileather, Cordura, Equisuede

In this post we’re going to describe six of the various synthetic saddles available to horse riders.  The list of synthetic saddles includes; show saddles, side saddles, endurance saddles, western saddles, jumping saddles, and dressage saddles.

First, let’s review the 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, have 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.

Synthetic Saddle Materials

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 not a 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.

Now, let’s review six of these saddle types.

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 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 colour. 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; a durable fabric that’s resistant to scuffs or abrasions, and is easy to clean.
  • Equileather; a low maintenance material with a leather-like appearance. It repels sweat and remains elastic in cold temperatures.
  • Equisuede; a 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 fewer choices either.

Synthetic Western saddles come in many styles and even offer some colour 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 colours 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. 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

Wintec Cair 500 synthetic saddles
Wintec Cair 500 saddle

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.

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.

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.

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Do you love horse riding?

Do you love horse riding?

Do you love horse riding? Is it something you could not live without? You’re not alone. Millions of people around the world feel the same way.

Those who are involved with horses and the equestrian world generally, whether on an occasional basis, or as a full time occupation, do not need to be reminded of how the love of horses can take over one’s life.

A passion for equestrianism can last a lifetime, and may be more important to a person than anything, or anyone else.

Horse riding is one of Britain’s most popular activities. For some this means just the occasional pony trekking holiday in Wales.

For others it’s a regular weekend ride through the beautiful English countryside.

For some it means daily rides and practice in order to compete in show jumping and dressage, or to exercise and train for regular horse racing events.

Horse riders engage in all kinds of equestrian sports; horse racing, hunting, polo, eventing, show jumping, gymkhanas, to name a few.

And of course there are other sports which may not involve horse riding, but which still include horses as the main feature, like carriage driving and ploughing competitions with heavy, or shire horses.

Horse & Rider Relationship

Do you love horse riding?There is often a symbiotic relationship between horses and their owners, or those who take care of them on a regular basis. They need each other and the partnership is mutually beneficial. It may not always seem that way when you have to get up long before dawn to feed your horses on a freezing winter’s morning, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Someone once described horses as the dolphins of the land. By that they meant that our equine friends are super intelligent, and in partnership with human kind. They have accompanied us on our journey through history since humans first tamed and domesticated wild animals, and despite all the advances in technology and transportation this relationship shows no sign of abating.

If anything, horses and humans need each other now more than ever. We have become divorced from nature to an extent that it’s becoming bad for our health and caring for horses can put us back in touch with the natural world; fresh air, clean water, open skies.

So whatever your interest in horses, whether you are a skilled horseman or horsewoman, jockey, or just someone who loves horse riding on an occasional basis, cherish the time you have in the saddle.

Experience it again with fresh senses. Tune in to the elements and seasons around you.

Riding your horse in this way is probably the most rewarding and enriching experiences you can have, but then you probably know that already.