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April 16, 2013

20 Tips for Healthy Tails from Cowboy Magic

Is your horse’s tail short, thin, dry, rubbed out or frizzy?
If so, these techniques will help your horse grow a healthy tail and will help you keep it long, thick and looking great.
Grooming your horse serves many purposes. It is an ideal time to get to know your horse and to bond with him. Horses, in general, enjoy being brushed. Thorough grooming promotes good health and a shiny coat by removing dirt and dander that can cause dry, itchy skin. If you take the time to groom your horse thoroughly every day, you will notice any small cuts, abrasions or irregularities that you otherwise might not find. A grooming session is also a good time to teach a young horse good ground manners, such as standing quietly and picking up his feet when asked.

Most horse owners want to do everything possible to promote a long, healthy, thick tail. Like your horse’s coat, his tail requires some elbow grease, but of a different kind. Here are some tips to help your horse grow a healthy tail and to help you keep it long and thick.

1. Healthy hair comes from the inside out. No amount of potions and conditioners will improve your horse’s coat, mane and tail if he is not receiving proper nutrition. Healthy hair comes from protein, amino acids and vitamins in quality forage and feed.

2. Use grooming tools designed for manes and tails. Human hair brushes will break the hair and pull it out. Use only wide-toothed combs and dandy brushes on the tail.

3. Don’t brush your horse’s tail every day. In fact, don’t brush it at all. Although it looks nice when it is brushed out, if you brush it every day, it will gradually get thinner and thinner. It takes years to re-grow each long strand of hair that is pulled out.

4. To stimulate growth, brush the dock of your horse’s tail daily with a dandy brush. This will loosen and remove dirt and dander, which can make your horse itchy. Brushing the dock and upper part of the tail bone also increases blood flow, which stimulates growth.

5. If your horse is rubbing his tail, determine why. Horses rub their tails for several reasons. Parasites will cause itching, so make sure your horse is on a regular de-worming program. Insects will also cause itching and some horses are more prone to skin reactions caused by insects. Protect your horse from insects by using insect repellants. Horses will also rub their tails in response to irritations around the sheath and anus area. Consult your veterinarian if you suspect this might be the problem and have your gelding’s sheath cleaned on a regular basis.

6. If your horse has developed sores or “hot spots” on the dock of his tail from rubbing, treat them promptly. An effective way to do this is to pre-soak the sores with COWBOY MAGIC® Greenspot® Remover, a waterless skin cleansing wash that’s a shower in a bottle. Spray the irritated area, let it soak for five minutes, and then gently scrub and rinse. Repeat these steps, if needed. If the wound has scabbed over, Greenspot® Remover can also be used to soften and remove a scab in order to treat the underlying tissue. Once the wound or irritation is thoroughly cleaned, it can then be treated with a topical ointment to promote healing. Any sores or hot spots should be cleansed and treated daily until completely healed.

7. The best way to keep your horse from rubbing his tail is to keep it clean and moisturized. If your horse’s tail is dirty or his skin is dry, he will rub his tail to relieve the itching that is caused by both. Use COWBOY MAGIC® Rosewater Shampoo to thoroughly clean your horse’s tail and restore moisture to the hair and skin at the same time. After shampooing and rinsing, apply a small amount of COWBOY MAGIC® Rosewater Conditioner to the dock of the tail and massage it into the hair and skin. To condition the long strands of hair, rub a small amount of conditioner on your hands and then work it into the hair using long strokes with your hands. Leave it on for several minutes and then rinse. Rosewater Conditioner will remove the buildup of residue caused by minerals and chemicals in your water. The conditioners penetrate below the surface to moisturize the hair and skin.

8. Give your horse’s tail a bubble bath. A handy trick for washing your horse’s tail is to put a small amount of shampoo into a small bucket and then add water to make it sudsy. Hold the bucket in one hand and dunk your horse’s tail in it with the other. Swish it around thoroughly, then rinse.

9. Get lasting results with COWBOY MAGIC® Detangler & Shine™. Once you have washed and conditioned your horse’s tail, apply a small amount of COWBOY MAGIC® Detangler & Shine™ to the hair, working it in from the top of the tail to the bottom Detangler & Shine™ will help loosen any tangles and prevent new ones from forming. If you want to comb out your horse’s tail, use a large-toothed comb, start at the bottom and comb out small sections at a time while you work your way up the tail. Hold the hair firmly in your other hand while you comb so that if you hit a tangle you won’t pull the hair out.

10. Protect your horse’s tail while it dries with a slip knot. If you want to keep your horse’s tail up off the ground while it dries, put it in a loose slip knot. This way, he won’t be able to step on it and the hair will still dry quickly.

11. Never wrap the top of your horse’s tail. It is nearly impossible to keep a wrap on a horse’s tailbone unless it is so tight that you run the risk of cutting off the circulation. Furthermore, if the wrap irritates your horse, it may actually encourage him to rub his tail.

12. If your horse’s tail touches the ground, you can “put it up” to keep him from stepping on it. Three popular methods for protecting a long, show tail are wrapping, bagging and ragging. Wrapping involves braiding the longest section of the tail, looping it up several times and then wrapping it with a self-sticking bandage. The wrap is hidden inside the center of the tail and the horse is still able to swish flies. Bagging is similar to wrapping, but instead of wrapping the tail, the braid is put down inside a special bag made just for tails, or you can use a large sock. Ragging entails braiding three strips of sheet though the entire tail by wrapping each section in a strip of sheet. The ends are then tied up and the excess sheet gives the horse something to swish.

13. If you have your horse’s tail wrapped, bagged or ragged, be cautious about turning him out in a paddock or pasture where he might get his tail snagged on a fence or tree, or bitten by a pasture mate. As horses swish their tails at flies they often snag hairs on fence posts and lose a few strands in the process. If your horse catches a wrap or piece of ragging on a fence post and panics, the resulting damage could be severe.

14. Even if your horse’s tail is wrapped, bagged or ragged, you still need to care for it regularly. When you remove the braid, straighten the hair using your fingers, rather than a brush or comb. The hair will be kinked from the braid, and combing it will only make it frizzy. The best way to remove the kinks is to wash and moisturize the hair. Hair left bagged, wrapped or ragged for long periods of time is prone to breaking at the point where the bag, rags or wrap is attached. (At our store I recommend re-braiding the tail at least weekly during the summer months when a lot of swishing is needed, and every couple weeks during the winter, when pests are minimal.)

15. An alternative to bagging or wrapping a horse’s tail is to knot it. Knotting involves putting several figure-eight knots in long sections of hair below the end of the tailbone. The knots stay in place, resist tangling and keep the longest part of your horse’s tail up off the ground.

16. If you are showing and want use gel or hairspray to smooth down the short hairs at the top of the tail, wash the tail thoroughly when you are finished. These products are drying and may cause your horse to rub his tail to relieve the itching.

17. To tidy up the appearance of the top of your horse’s tail for the show ring, trim the sides rather than plucking the hairs.

18. Bang your horse’s tail to give it a neater, thicker appearance. “Banging” is the traditional term used to refer to trimming the bottom of your horse’s tail. Banging gives the tail a thick, boxy appearance. For best results, trim it when the hair is wet and combed out. Cut only the longest hairs straight across the bottom.

19. As a safety precaution, stand beside your horse when you groom his tail, not directly behind him. Even if your horse has never kicked at you in his life, you never know when something might startle him. Also, if you are at a public stable, keep in mind that other, less experienced equestrians might be watching you, and so you want to set a good example by demonstrating proper horse-handling skills at all times.

20. Take your time. This is your opportunity to spend quality time with your horse. With your busy life, you may not have time to hand pick shavings out of your horse’s tail one chip at a time, but you should still make every moment with your horse a quality one.

April 9, 2013

Elbow Grease Brings On The Shine

There aren’t really any tricks to getting a gorgeous spring coat on your horses. A little bit of effort goes a long way!
It’s spring, and we all know what that means—shedding! How can you get your horse’s coat into slick, shiny show-ready condition? Liv Gude of Pro Equine Grooms has the answers…

Nothing Beats A Little Bit Of Elbow Grease

  • What’s the best way to get my horse’s furry winter coat shed out quickly so he doesn’t look like a mothball?

A horse that looks like a moth-eaten wooly mammoth or furry monster is sometimes funny but mostly annoying. You can help your horse’s spring shedding a few different ways, but there aren’t really any shortcuts. So, as an added bonus, your arms may get sore and/or buff.
The curry comb may as well be glued to your hand. A good curry comb that is just the right flexibility for your horse is a must for his body and neck. Try out a few different types to find the one your horse responds to best. Some horses like a stiffer curry; others prefer a softer one. For legs, ears, faces and other sensitive areas, the pimple mitts or two-sided jelly curry combs are the best. You can get a lot of feedback from your horse as you curry these more sensitive areas, and you can also fold them in half to get the tricky areas.
All of us routinely use the curry comb before we tack up and ride, which of course helps shedding. But using the curry again after your horse exercises, even if he’s a bit damp with sweat, will take advantage of open follicles and release even more hair. And you can work on even bigger biceps.
You can also let your horse roll in the dirt more outside. Yes, roll more. While this seems contrary to any groom’s idea of a clean and well groomed horse, a good patch of dirt or favorite rolling spot acts like a giant curry comb. Follow with a stiff brush and some major flicking action, and a good part of the shedding process is done for the day.
The metal shedding combs can damage a coat, although I do like them for removing caked-on mud after your horse has wallowed in a mud patch. If you like to use metal combs or blades, please avoid any bony areas of your horse, such as the shoulders and hips, and skip using them on legs, face and ears.
If you have a horse vacuum, this is a great tool to help with shedding season. The horse vacuum is best used after a good curry session, as this brings up the dust and dirt trapped in a longer, wooly coat, and it helps control the flying hairs that have just been shed. It’s much easier to vacuum loose hairs up instead of sending them into the air with the flick of your brush. We can all agree that most of our horse’s hairs sent airborne by a brush end up on us.
Of course, the basis for a good healthy coat is a good healthy diet and exercise program. Work with your equine nutritionist and veterinarian to make sure your horse has the proper vitamins, minerals and fatty acids in the diet that create a healthy coat. This will ensure the new coat coming in will wow you.

It Depends

  • Can/should you clip in the spring?

Of course you can clip in the spring! But, you may not want to. There are a few things to consider first.
As hair grows, it tends to taper and lay naturally. When you clip, all hairs are cut off at exactly the same length, which is a smidge unnatural looking and typically much duller than the coat you started with. However, if this is OK with you, go for it! After a few weeks, a clipped coat does look much more natural.
Another thing to consider is your horse’s color. Some bays turn mousy when clipped, and chestnuts can be more pumpkin-colored after a clip. Again, it’s up to you if you are OK with a possible color change of your horse.
You will also want to think about this—clipping a shedding coat won’t stop the shedding process—it will just make the hairs that will shed out much shorter. You will still have a ton of hair shedding out!
Blanketing is another consideration; even as the days get longer and warmer, the nights can be cold, and your freshly clipped horse will need some blanketing. You will also need to consider extra fly protection and sun protection during the day.
What is your show or clinic schedule like? If you have a creature that resembles part-horse and part-wooly mammoth and a show scheduled for next weekend, consider clipping to create a smooth appearance for the show ring. If your weekends are show-free for a few months, you can skip clipping and depend on the curry comb.

Get Him Blooming

  • What is the best way to get my horse’s coat in gleaming shape for spring shows?

A gleaming show coat comes from the inside out. That gleam, or bloom, is the result of a horse’s own natural oils. Start with a diet that is well balanced, with the proper amounts of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. Add a good exercise program and pasture if you have it.
Then, it’s time for your elbow grease and a lot of it. Grooming is a great massage and brings those natural oils out. Try and limit shampoo baths that may strip those oils away. It’s very tempting to shampoo away a stain, but if you allow the natural oils to build up, you end up with shine, and stains will slide off with a damp cloth.
Your gleaming grooming routine should also include appropriate horse clothing to protect your horse’s coat. A waterproof sheet for rainy days, a cotton sheet for cool days and nights, and a fly sheet for warm weather protect your horse from sun, mud, flies and dust. This will save you time, keep that coat from bleaching out and getting stains, and help keep the dust and dirt away.
You can also make an old-fashioned hay wisp, which is rubbed on your horse to create amazing shine. Here’s how: Create a ½” rope from dampened and soft hay. Twist the hay until you have about 6’ of it. Then, create two loops at one end of the rope, one loop slightly larger. So you end up with two loops and one rope. Braid them all together. Ta-dah!! Wisp. When you are done braiding, you can dampen the wisp and even step on it. It should be firm and small enough to hold in one hand. This may take some practice, but it’s worth it! Using this wisp on the horse’s coat in a vigorous action with the direction of the hair will help the coat bloom.

Products are another way to help your horse sparkle and shine.

You will need to decide what works for your budget and style. If you do plan on showing, please practice with any sprays or products before you get to the show, and definitely avoid using them on the saddle area, just in case.

If you create shine from the inside and outside, your horse’s gleam and bloom will set you apart from the rest. Happy showing!

Shared from The Chronicle of the Horse April 8, 2013
http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/elbow-grease-brings-shine

April 2, 2013

Deworming

We very often get questions about which type of dewormer to use or what is the “proper” rotation for dewormers. This video demonstrates how important it is to check with your vet for the correct schedule for your horse. We have all the different dewormers in stock and want to be sure that you are able to get just what your vet recommends!

http://www.thehorse.com/videos/31621/deworming-then-vs-now

 

BTW – if you don’t already subscribe to TheHorse.com, you should! It’s free & provides loads of great articles!

March 20, 2013

Spring Shedding Tips by Christine Barakat from EQUUS Magazine

Want to help your horse shed his winter coat? Grooming expert Susan Harris offers advice about the best tools and techniques.
A variety of shedding tools can help you remove your horse’s winter coat.
Come spring, a full body clip can make short work of a horse’s winter hair coat, but when that’s not practical or possible, a variety of shedding tools can be a groomer’s best friend.
The most popular tool for speeding removing a horse’s winter coat is the aptly named “shedding blade.” The long, flexible metal strip has sharp teeth on one side that, when dragged carefully across a horse’s coat, pull out the winter hairs that have been pushed nearly to the ends of the follicle by the growing summer coat. While effective, shedding blades need to be used with extreme caution. “You can tear a horse’s skin if you get overly enthusiastic,” says Susan Harris, author of Grooming to Win.
Another use for shedding blades is scraping through encrusted mud. “I have a Clydesdale cross that will come in from the field with literally an inch of dried mud just caked onto this winter coat,” says Harris. “I’ll use the shedding blade to break up the crust.” Shedding blades come in one or two-blade varieties with either leather or plastic handles.
A less common, but equally effective shedding tool for horses is the scotch comb, also known as a curling comb. Used primarily for grooming dairy cows, these metal t-shaped combs with wooden handles resemble miniature thatch rakes. “The teeth are set very closely together,” explains Harris. “You set the comb on the horse and pull it with long, smooth strokes. It pulls loose hair and debris out as it moves along. I find them particularly useful for shedding out the rump.”
Metal shedding tools cannot be used safely or comfortably on bony portions of the horse’s body, or delicate areas such as the head and legs. In these cases, a fiberglass block, often called a “slick block” can get the shedding job done safely. “The blocks are smaller, so they can easily work around tendons and joints and they tend to be easier on the skin,” says Harris. “They are also great for pulling off bot eggs.”

February 27, 2013

The Lines That Make You Go, “Duh!”

If you’ve never sat in on a lesson between two upper-level riders, I bet you’d think it’s really beautiful work, full of piaffing and passaging and half-passing and the upper echelons of dressage.
You’d be mistaken. I spend a remarkable amount of time in my lessons trotting a 20-meter circle and hoping that whichever horse I am on will put his or her head up, down or in, respectively.
What also happens in my lessons, 99 percent of the time, is being reminded of things I already know and have forgotten, or am not doing enough, or am doing too much. A little bigger, a little smaller, a little higher, a little lower, give, not that much!, etc.

But there’s that 1 percent of the time where I hear something NEW, or if not new, at least revolutionary. And it’s almost inevitably something really, really simple, which makes me feel really, really stupid. Today, it was a brilliant little nugget on the transition from extended trot to passage.

Michael: Pretend like you’re going to bring him back for one step of walk.
Midge: (executes it perfectly)
Me: (dies)

Here are a few other DUH one-liners that changed my life:
– A stroke of brilliance from Max Gahwyler during my young rider days: In the canter pirouettes, look where you’re going.
– From Lendon Gray: When you school trot extensions (or mediums, or lengthenings) on the diagonal, bring your horse back at X for a couple of steps every time. When you show, he’ll half-halt himself, and you can just push your leg on and find a whole new gear.
– Not sure who this is from, but if your horse tends to fall to the inside in the half-pass, sit to the outside.

From Chronicle of the Horse February 20, 2013

February 12, 2013

How Horses Stay Warm

By the Editors of EQUUS magazine

Here’s how your horse’s fluffy winter coat keeps him warm in chilly weather.
The same reaction that produces goose bumps in people causes a horse’s hairs to straighten up and stand on end (piloerection).
On a chilly winter day, it’s natural for your horse’s coat to seem a bit “puffier” than normal. When he gets chilled, the hypothalamus, the primary control center for thermoregulation located deep within the brain, triggers the contraction of the smooth muscle that attaches to the lowest point of each hair follicle. As a result, each hair straightens up and stands on end. This extra fluffy coat creates a large insulating pocket of air right next to the skin. The same reaction, called piloerection, is what causes goose bumps in humans.
Keep all of this in mind if you decide to blanket your horse this winter. A lightweight blanket will simply press the hair down and eliminate the coat’s ability to hold and heat air, without adding any warmth. Either opt for a heavier blanket or, if your horse’s natural winter coat is thick, leave him without a blanket as long as he has adequate shelter.
A fluffy coat is not to be confused with one that is “staring,” however. Horses who are suffering from a systemic illness can have a coat that appears to stand on end. This is caused by poor circulation and a lack of oils in the skin, resulting in dandruff and scurf. If your horse has a staring coat, call your veterinarian.

January 24, 2013

Make the Most of Winter Turnout for your Horse

Excerpts from the Editors of EQUUS magazine
There’s no reason to limit your horse’s turnout when the temperature drops—he’s well equipped to handle cold weather. People find temperatures from about 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit most pleasant, but horses can be perfectly comfortable in 15 degree weather. In fact, with shelter and sustenance, they can even thrive in temperatures as low as 20 degrees below zero.
What’s more, keeping horses indoors can actually precipitate health problems. For example, inadequate ventilation in stalls can lead to respiratory problems such as heaves. And the inactivity of confinement may slow intestinal function, which increases the risk of colic. Arthritis and other orthopedic conditions may also worsen when a horse receives little or no exercise. In short, your horse is better off outdoors during winter for as many hours a day as you can manage.
But that doesn’t mean that you can just toss him into a paddock and head back into the house. To maximize the benefits of winter turnout and keep your horse safe and healthy, you will need to provide a few more resources than you would the rest of the year and be vigilant in protecting against seasonal hazards. Those efforts, however, will be rewarded by your horse’s good health and contentment this winter.
Blanket wisely. Equine outerwear can serve an important role in keeping horses warm and dry while turned out. Look for a waterproof turnout blanket that protects your horse against average winter temperatures, without causing him to become overheated. A horse sweating under a blanket in winter can catch a dangerous chill. With the enormous variety in blanket materials and styles available, it shouldn’t be hard to find the perfect match for each particular horse and environment.
Turnout blankets do, however, require extra vigilance on your part. You’ll need to check your horses daily to ensure their blankets are in good repair; a dangling strap or gaping hole can catch a leg and cause injury. You’ll also need to look under the blankets—if not every day then every third day at least—for signs of trouble. Conditions such as rainrot and lice can flourish unseen under the cover of blankets, while rubs and pressure sores on a horse’s shoulders and withers can make movement painful.
Also encourage your horses to drink. Studies show that equine water intake drops in colder weather and when the water itself is extremely cold. Monitor the water level in your trough to see whether your horses are drinking. Automatic waterers don’t allow that, but some have a meter that enables you to check consumption. In addition, you can check your horses for dehydration with a skin-pinch or capillary refill test.
If you think your horse isn’t drinking enough, you might trigger his thirst by adding electrolytes to his feed. Another way of increasing a horse’s fluid intake is feeding warm, wet mashes of beet pulp, oatmeal and bran.
Protect their eyes. Although insects are long gone, your horse’s fly mask can still be useful this winter. Gusting winds can pick up fine dirt and debris and carry it directly into your horse’s eyes. Conjunctivitis, inflammation of the sensitive membranes around the eyes, is common where conditions are very dry and windy.
Equip any turned-out horse with a history of eye irritation with a fly mask if windy weather is predicted. In addition, masks will benefit horses with uveitis or cataracts who may find the “snow glare” from sunlight bouncing off a white ground annoying or painful. In these cases, a dark fly mask or one with very fine mesh can serve the same purpose that sunglasses do for skiers.
Now that you’re cozy and warm in the house, the last thing you might want to do is pull your boots back on and head down to the pasture to make sure all is well – no frozen buckets, blankets are all buckled and straight – and no one will fault you for grumbling as you brace against the wind on your way out the door. But your efforts to preserve your horse’s turnout time this winter can be repaid when you’re able to look out the window to see happy, healthy horses frolicking in fresh snow—and knowing that they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Read the full article at http://www.equisearch.com/horses_care/make-the-most-of-winter-turnout-for-your-horse/
And remember, we have plenty of winter horse clothing, fly masks, grooming supplies, skin treatments, and electrolytes in stock, along with all of your horse care needs.

August 15, 2012

Rider Fitness From Dressage Today!

By Heather Sansom, Owner, Equifitt.com Equestrian Fitness

Unmounted exercises to prepare your body for success in the dressage saddle.
There are many ways to improve your dressage seat, and certainly the best way is to have good instruction with enough hours of accurate practice in the saddle. (Inaccurate practice reinforces inefficient muscle memory.) However, many riders may only ride one or a couple of horses from 3-5 days a week and it is hard to improve their dressage seat. A large percentage of riders may ride under instruction, but do not have the benefit of daily instruction. Riders who may spend most of their day with their body in some other position (such as seated at a computer) are actually spending the majority of their time training their body for a posture and usage which may not be constructive to the desired performance in the saddle.
For example, long periods seated such as at a computer or in a car create imbalanced patterns across the hip joints from muscle and ligament tightness, and lack of use (weakness). The seated pelvis is being trained to be static, and is prejudiced against correct movement because of the muscle imbalances and lack of stimulus from holding a seated posture. The pelvis that is physically pre-disposed to ineffective muscle engagement and movement, puts the rider at a disadvantage for their ride.
The human body is designed to work best in balance. The human body seated on a horse has optimal biomechanics, when the correct muscle chains act at the correct moments, with correct force to support the rider’s skeletal structure and support the desired movements. The rider’s body has less chance of responding correctly when it comes to the ride with imbalances or pre-disposed tendency to incorrect muscle engagement. Common examples are often over-engagement in areas such as the hip flexors (pulling the leg forward) or lack of engagement in the lumbo-pelvic area.
If the rider’s lower back extensors and lateral stabilizers (gluteus medius on the side of the hips) have been overloaded or stretched all day and inactive from prolonged seated postures (chairs, car), they will not engage correctly during the ride to support the rider’s hips and spine for correct posture. Of course, posture for a rider must be understood as posture-in-motion or dynamic balance because of the constant micro-adjustments which occur to maintain self-carriage on a moving horse.
Lack of stimulation to important postural stabilizers causes the reaction ability of the muscles to be reduced. The neuromuscular connection is weakened. Neuromuscular connections can be thought of like electrical impulse connections or even more simply like a cell-phone connection. A connection with interruption or interference creates ‘packet loss’ on the phone call- you can only hear every other word. Weakened or broken neuromuscular connections are similar. Your brain can even forget to recruit some muscles. “Move it or lose it” really is a fairly accurate common expression that applies to training.
A disconnection or lack of correct engagement of stabilizers in the rider’s pelvis can result in issues such as difficulty with leg aids, a collapsing lower back, weakness in lateral movement and even an overactive low back resulting in back strain and pain.
Unfortunately, it is not good enough for your horse to ‘hear’ intermittent signals from your seat. Intermittent engagement of stabilizers in the pelvis also leaves your spine unsupported, and your back at much greater risk for a strain injury. If the muscle has insufficient stimulation, it will atrophy. So, the goals of training postural stabilizers are two-fold:
1. Wake up the muscle area- re-establish a strong neuromuscular connection.
2. Build endurance and strength so that your body can respond to the demands of your ride with ease. You should never have to think about maintaining posture or applying muscular force during your ride.
Training the stabilizers in a rider’s pelvis helps pre-condition the rider’s body to have the capacity and ability to do the right things. You can improve your seat by using groundwork to prepare your body to carry and use itself more appropriately when you are in the saddle.
Even if you ride several hours every day, you can greatly reduce your risk of strain injury by including some groundwork in your schedule. Groundwork designed for humans, balances the human body best. Just riding does place demand on your body which does create some strength. However, it is very common for riders (especially professionals who spend many hours in the saddle a day) who do not have their own conditioning exercises, to experience significant strain issues over time. In effect their body has had to work overtime to absorb the motion of an animal at least eight times their body-weight, for thousands of repetitions.
A rider interested in bringing maximum self-carriage to their ride, avoiding injury and prolonging their riding career should do some ground training. Riding is a sport that can be engaged in right in to senior years, and riders can improve their entire life. This means that a rider can be improving technically, at an age when their physical preparedness for sport is actually reducing due to the normal aging process which reduces suppleness in ligaments and causes muscle fibre atrophy. Riders over 40 should definitely be engaging in supplementary exercises to strengthen the muscles that stabilize the pelvis and spine, so that the riding itself does not actually wear your body down. Most riders want to be able to ride as long in life as they possibly can.
Even though concepts of biomechanics and neuromuscular connections can seem complicated, the great news is that it is actually fairly easy to help your body create the right muscle engagement to support a better seat and spine position.
Three easy exercises that have multiple benefits and help in these areas are the single leg hip-hinge, side plank and side leg raise. Because riding involves a lot of endurance (sustained engagement of muscles during various exercises), it can be especially beneficial to do these exercises as isometric. In simple terms, get into the exercise position and hold the position. When holding the positions for up to 60 seconds is easier, you are ready to progress to more advanced versions using balance challenging techniques that further stimulate your core and prepare you for stabilizing your pelvis and spine in dynamic motion such as you must do on the horse.

Hip Hinge
The hip-hinge creates correct muscle firing patterns in your gluteals (seat), core area supporting your lower back, and hip stabilizers. The primary area strengthened is your gluteals, with additional strengthening for the thighs. Even though the torso tips forward, keeping your core engaged and your spine neutral creates strength and correct engagement for the muscles that support your lower back in the upright riding posture.
Start: Step back and lower your weight into a mini-squat, with your seatbones poking backward. Keep your chest and head up so that your back ‘hinges’ as well. Keep most of your weight in the front leg, and keep your back flat. When you are starting out, make the movement very small and repeat a dozen times, daily. As you get stronger, you can increase the number of repetitions, but only do them every other day. You can also build stamina by holding the position for several seconds before releasing and repeating.
Advanced Version: Introduce more balance challenging elements such as standing on a cushion or Bosu ™ or raising one leg in the air.
Add a side plank: The side plank primarily strengthens lateral stabilizers in the torso and hips. It also improves strength in the overall core area by engaging your transverse abdominus- the deep inner core muscle that supports your torso like a natural corset. Side planks have the added bonus benefit of strengthening the shoulders, which is especially helpful in injury avoidance for women. Lie on your side with your knees, hips and shoulders aligned (knees bent). Lift yourself up onto your elbow, maintaining alignment from your shoulders-hips-heels. Progressions could include a full leg side plank, or raising yourself up onto your hand. Work your way up to being able to hold the plank with good alignment for 60 seconds before introducing additional variables and challenges to your core control.
Advanced Versions: Add a destabilizing surface at your feet or shoulders using a cushion, balance board or other balance device. Or, add a side leg raise: The primary focus of this exercise is the gluteus medius (hip area) which factors in to supporting strong leg aids as well as symmetry in the saddle from left to right. Performed with correct alignment from shoulder to hip to heel, the side leg raise engages all the postural core muscles used in maintaining nice upright alignment in the saddle.

November 25, 2011

‘Tis The Season…

…for savings! So be warm and jolly in Winter Riding Wear at 20% off! Today until December 1, all Winter Apparel is on sale. This includes coats, vests, fleeces, hoodies breeches, winter gloves and winter boots. Hats and scarves are on sale too so don’t miss out on the savings. The sale applies to merchandise in stock only and some exclusions may apply.

September 24, 2011

The Change of Seasons

It’s official!  Autumn is here and nature is starting to show its Fall colors. The weather has finally cooled off, making it just perfect for riding.  Fall also marks the end of show season in our area and time to go back to schooling for next year’s blue ribbons.  Here at The Riding Store, you’ll see the change of season as well.  More of our Fall sportswear is arriving every day. Ariat, Goode Rider, Joules, Kerrits and Horseware are already here and we are expecting Irideon casual wear along with more hoodies and casual wear in the next week or two.

Autumn is a good time of year to carefully clean and go over your saddle, bridle & other tack, looking for wear & tear.  Consider whether it is time to replace or repair items that are worn out.  Take advantage of the of these months to look for upgrades to your equipment and to get your tack in tip-top shape.

The Riding Store has a wide range of leather care products and very often our customers ask “which one works best?”  The answer is not that one works best, but that some products may work differently than others and may serve one person’s purpose better than another’s.  For example, a saddle that has been cleaned frequently during the show season with an all-in-one product needs a different level of care than a saddle that has been used frequently over the summer without regular cleaning.

Glycerin saddle soaps, such as Fiebing’s, Belvoir or Hydrophane should be a staple in your tack box.  Used with a little water & small sponge to work up a fine lather, these remove the buildup of dirt, sweat, oils and conditioners left behind from a busy summer.  They are gentle to the leather and effective at cleaning well cared for tack.  Glycerin saddle soaps are available in solid or spray form.

Deep cleansing products such as Effax Leder-Combi or Leather Therapy Leather Wash are especially effective when there is an excessive buildup of dirt & residue or if the tack has been left in a damp environment and shows signs of mold or mildew.  These cleaners should not be used on a very frequent basis as they can be drying to some leather when used to often.  Always follow with a conditioner or saddle oil after using this type of product.

All-in-one cleaners like Leather CPR and Horseman’s One Step are meant to clean and condition in one step, which is convenient and very effective for daily care. Some of these products contain detergents that if allowed to build up over time can damage the leather, so follow the directions and periodically go back to basics and use your glycerine soap for a good thorough cleansing.  Then follow up with a good saddle oil or leather balsam to preserve the suppleness of leather.

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