How To Choose A Good Saddle – In Depth Video Series

how to chose a good saddle

I have have spent years riding horses and have owned a few saddles during that time. The main question for many riders looking to buy new or replace their saddle is how to chose a good saddle.

What kind of saddle would be best for me and my horse? They become confused by the advice of friends and advertising and don’t know where to start.

Having been the owner of several saddles in my lifetime let me give you some points to think about.

What To Consider When Looking For A Saddle

  • Do you have more than one horse that you ride with the same saddle or will that one horse be the only one you will ride with the saddle you buy?
  • Do you know what size seat you need? What to look for in a perfect fit.
  • What kind of riding are you doing? All Around Performance, Pleasure, Trail Riding, Barrel Racing, Ranch Cutting? Your saddle should be designed for your event.
  • What size Gullet do you need for your horse?
  • Tips and tricks to make your saddle fit your horse better
  • Does your saddle tree fit your horse properly?
  • Pros and cons of saddle pads and cinches.
  • Discuss various types of saddles
  • Dry spots on your horses back. Why they are there?

I have heard many people say that the blanket or gel pads will make your saddle fit better. Not so! Blankets and pads can only make a bad fitting saddle more uncomfortable for both you and your horse.

I could go on and on but decided to scour the internet and I found the best video I could find on fitting your Western saddle.  Larry Trocha from answers about every question you could think to ask. Its 3 videos separately and a bit long so pick a time and listen to it all.  You won’t regret it and your horse will be happy. Your horse can’t tell you…. so get educated.

Part 1 Of How To Choose A Saddle

Part 2 Of How To Choose A Saddle

Part 3 Of How To Choose A Saddle

What Is A Gaited Horse Saddle – Learn From The Pro

What Is A Gaited Horse Saddle

Are you having trouble getting your horse to gait or keeping the horse in gait? As a Farrier I managed to keep gaited riders happy and did pretty well getting angles right etc.

What I want to discuss here is having the right saddle. I’ve had gaited horses that have gone well for one owner but in the next stable with a new owner troubles galore. Same shoes, different rider, different saddle.

Most people don’t put much thought into the saddle. Gaited horses need the freedom to move unrestricted but some saddles do not give them the ability to do that.

It’s not easy to convince people that it could be the saddle. The same saddle may work well for one rider and not another. It’s the way you sit the saddle.

As Farriers we get the pat on the back if we can get them going right but shown the door if we can’t. There may be other reasons your horse won’t gait although it could well be the saddle that restricts them.

The video above is from The Horse Show with Rick Lamb. Rick interviews Oklahoma saddle maker Doug Ford and he offers his take on the type of horse that needs gaited saddles and how he goes about making them to fit properly 

Keep Your Horse’s Legs Safe With Boots, Wraps, Bandages

Bell Boots

The athlete needs help whether human or animal. The physical strain that is put on our horses limbs by powerful muscular bodies will necessitate the need for protective gear. Leg injuries take up a lot of our time and a lot of down time. We must do what we can to insure against these injuries.

Most leg problems happen in young horses that we push too hard. Their bodies are still developing and the legs cannot take movements they are expected to perform. Most every discipline has a 2 year old class and we expect our young horse to perform like a mature animal when their minds and bodies and still babies and not near done growing.

This is when many splint injuries happen. Horses are trying to learn movements that when free and in motion are natural but when asked to do them under saddle must be taught all over again. Let’s look at some different leg protection:

Shipping Boots And Bandages

Boots or bandages are put on to prevent injuries when in transit to protect legs from getting banged with other feet while trying to keep their balance while moving. Leg protection is needed if a horse is scared while loading or just being obstinate.  

As you may all know horses don’t always need a reason. These wraps go from hock to hoof. Shipping boots provide more protection than wraps. Make sure the legs are clean of any debris as that can cause irritation under the wrap or boot. Watch that they are not on to tight to cause swelling.

Bell Boots

Bell boots fit around and underneath the fetlock and be Velcroed in place.  Some do have buckles and some will stretch enough to slip over the hoof. These will cover the bulb of the heel to prevent a painful injury .  They will also protect the coronet.

Proper Leg Protection With Boots And Wraps (Video)

Tendon Boots

These boots have elastic straps across the front and hook closers.  They have padding that protects the ligaments and tendons on sides and back of the legs but have an open front for jumpers so the horses can tell if they hit a pole when jumping.   Also the open front helps with air flow. You do have to make sure dirt and debris don’t get in and irritate under the boot.

Skid Boots

Skid boots go on the hind feet.  They protect the lower legs, fetlock and pasterns from getting hit with the other hoof.  Skid boots are used by reining and cutting horses and well as horses used in ranch work. Any time a horse has to learn new moves in any discipline this kind of protection is great.

Sports Medicine Boot

Sport medicine boots are used during exercise to protect the muscles and tendons as well as the fetlock and pastern.  Sometimes there are only used on the front legs and using them on all four seems to balance the horse better by supporting all four.  The medicine boot helps to protect against tendon strains and sprains, suspensory injuries and splints.

Splint Boots

Splint boots are used to prevent injuries during exercise when horses are learning new disciplines or tearing around in turnouts where the could strike one hoof into the other leg. Placing the splint boot or any wrap or boot on properly is important to maximize the protection.

Applying Leg Wraps (Video)

Polo Wraps

Polo wraps can add color, can be different length and are stretchy.  Polo wraps can protect against scrapes bumps and bruises and other irritation from dirt etc. These can be called track wraps but because of the type of material they consist of they will pick up sticks, burrs etc.  Therefore, they should not be used on trail rides. It is important to keep wraps clean and do not leave on in a stall or turnout as they can unravel.

Standing Wraps

Standing wraps should be used with padding and polo wraps.  They can be used in stalls for keeping swelling down or stocking up after a workout.  They are also used for keeping and treating injuries, cut and with some surgeries. If using a liniment make sure to check regularly so too much heat doesn’t build up.  Standing wraps can also be used for shipping if shipping boots are available.

Horse Thrush Treatment – Super Cheap – Super Effective

How To Cure Thrush In Horses

GRRRRRR! there it is again!  Looks like thrush!  Why? My stalls are clean, paddocks clean. How can it keep happening? Thrush and horse thrush treatment can be a pain, but I’ll show you way to ease your angst.

It’s not always dirt and wet that can cause thrush. It can be dry hooves but who knows it may be the way the frog is shaped that will hold moisture or bacteria.

First thing to do is to get the hoof trim properly and make sure the frog is trimmed. This could be a problem depending on how bad the frog is. If the frog is to the point where it is bleeding it can be very sore so trimming can only be done a little at a time as the healing takes place. Having the frog in a well trimmed state is very important as this will alleviate most of the thrush problems.

thrush hoof

As a Farrier I’ve seen about every remedy. Some work, some didn’t.  Some caused more problems than you already have.  I do remember a procedure with Iodine crystals and turpentine that would make smoke come off the hoof.  It did help but not always handy to have around.  Then there is bleach. It will help but presents its own problems. Get any on the hairline and you will get burns and some very hard hoof. I never used it…too risky. 

Iodine will work but again if you use it too often it can make the hoof very hard. I did use it for painting the bottom of the sole to toughen them up if hooves got too wet for an extended period of time. There are over the counter products that may work like Thrush XX and Thrush Buster.  Might or might not work.

The Cheap Fix

So now you’ll get the remedy THAT WORKS from an ole retired Farrier (I hate saying ole Farrier).

SALTPETER! (potassium nitrate). I learned this many many many years ago from a Farrier I apprenticed with. It works, it is not hard to use, is not expensive and most times you will only have to apply it once to stop the thrush.

Clean and trim as much as possible from the hoof and frog area. Pour a layer of the Saltpeter (white crystals) onto the frog and down into the crevices.

Then with a blunt tool (I used a blunt screwdriver most of the time)start packing it in all the area where the thrush is.

Salt Peter

At first the horse will be sensitive but the more you pack the area it will numb up and I recommend you pack it in really good. The Saltpeter can run anywhere and will not hurt the horse or hoof. Saltpeter can be purchased at many drug stores or you can order it online for a cost of only about 3 or 4 dollars. A small bottle will last for a long time.

There you have it.

Is Your Horse A Liability, A Luxury, Or Part Of The Family?

Is Your Horse A Liability

I was at a high end show and training facility doing farrier work when a person stopped to watch. He said, “Wow, how can I make money on horses?” The owner of the horse asked “Do you own a horse?” The guy said “No”. Owner replied “You have made as much money as you’ll ever make on a horse.”

So what is your horse? An expensive hobby. A pet. An interest to a child. A way to make a living. A needed work animal, or a part of our life? Most of us are in the class that says their horse is a part of their life so we just keep paying.

Your Horse Depends On You For Everthing

If we are lucky enough to have our own facility, we can enjoy going for a ride, spending time grooming and doing the necessary care that horses need. Once they are in our life they cannot take care of themselves as a wild horse can so they are dependent upon us for everything.

If they live on our property we no longer can run off for a long weekend or a week vacation without someone to take the responsibility to come and care for them. It is not all that easy to find that someone who will take care of your animals as well as you do.

If your horse is part of your free time as in shows, trail rides and camping trips, we take the responsibility of calling the vet for health checks, keeping your horse up to date on shots. The farrier is scheduled for the year and proper food essentials are taken care of. Thats everyday and year round.

Horse Stable

You Can Get A Little Help For - For A Price

The other way to keep your horse is at a boarding stable. You should still be responsible for your horses needs but for most of their care you depend on the people working at the facility. You can plan other things in your life knowing that your horse will be taken care of.

The stable would provide the feed schedules, call the vet if necessary and the farrier for footwork. They also usually have the equipment to haul your horse for you. Your part is the money to provide all these services for you and your horse. Either way the cost is substantial.

A Horse Really Is Part Of The Family

For a family, horses are a good thing. They teach our children the responsibility of caring for something and they learn the enjoyment that horses and riding can be in their lives. You have a horse under you with powerful muscles and a mind of its own for you to learn to control to your way. Not always easy, sometimes hurtful but always beautiful memories for the whole family.

So…Asset?…Liability?…Luxury? You decide…

Kids Petting A Horse

What Are The Health Benefits Of Horseback Riding?

Girl Hugging A Quarter Horse

It’s a beautiful day outside. You’re in the fitness center working out like crazy to keep those pounds off. Or maybe you’re working up a sweat running down the road. Have you ever seen a runner that didn’t look like they were in pain??

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE BETTER?  I know, how about saddling up a horse, finding a nice trail, enjoying the great outdoors and toning up those muscles?  Have you ever seen a cowboy that wasn’t lean? How about a Dressage rider or an Eventer?

Horsback Riding - The Whole Body Workout

If you’re looking for a non-traditional way to exercise, horseback riding may be just the ticket for you.

“Horseback riding really works the core muscles that stabilize the trunk; the abdominal, back, and pelvic muscles.” “It’s not just about the strength of the core, but the coordination and stability of it as well. The more you ride, the more the body learns to move with the horse.”

(Alison Stout, DO)

Horseback riding is a great way to exercise different parts of the body. It can be challenging and calming and a great confidence builder and at the same time a great stress reliever.

There are of course the passengers riders – riders who get on a horse just to travel. They show no effort and it is the horse who does all the work A rider rides a horse…posting trots, sitting trots along with a nice lope or hand gallop. Being just a passenger rider will not help you lose that weight or develop the core muscles you seek.

Health Benefits Of Horseback Riding

Benefits Of Horseback Riding Offers:

  • Core Strength - Riding is an isometric exercise so you use specific muscles to stay in certain positions
  • Balance and Coordination - A Rider must develop coordination skills to move the body with the horse in order to maintain balance.
  • Muscle Tone and Flexibility - The inner thighs, pelvic muscles and core muscles get the biggest workout.
  • Cardiovascular Exercise - Depending on the type of riding, horseback riding can require more effort, energy and cardiovascular capacity.
  • Mental Exercise - Confidence comes from learning how to handle and interact with a huge animal. You being in complete control of every move and every turn. Your body is working and balancing to the wonderful movement under you. You learn about yourself as you spend time on a horse.

But Wait - There's More!

An additional bonus to riding is working in the barn and taking care of a horse. Lifting bags of feed, hauling hay, shoveling, and walking horses in and out of a barn are not light tasks. These activities require a fair amount of strength and endurance.

Add getting your horse ready to ride, saddling up and lunging for a while to loosen up. Don’t forget rubbing your horse down after a ride. Putting equipment away and picking out the stall. I’m leaving out the good part…the camaraderie of spending time with your horse with all its hugs and nuzzles.

Riding Horses To Stay In Shape

Here is a study on calories burned riding a horse and that doesn’t include the before and after activity.

  • 30 Minutes - 225 Calories
  • 1 Hour - 450 Calories
  • 2 Hours - 890 Calories
  • 8 Hours - 3600 Calories

And all the while enjoying one of life’s great experiences.  How could you even think of a better way to lose weight and stay in condition?

Think Your Child Is Ready To Own A Horse? – Let’s Discuss

Child is Ready To Own A Horse

So the time has come and you feel you child is ready to own a horse.  Let’s take a moment to go over a few questions that will help gauge whether your child is ready, or should wait a little bit.

Starting Out With The Basics

Has your child taken riding lessons, been raised around horses or worked around horses in the past?

If the answers to the above are NO then finding a good riding instructor is the first step and the most important one.  Ask horse owners in your area who is a reputable riding instructor giving lessons and start your child’s path to horsemanship there.  Make sure your child has a real interest in riding and not just a passing fancy.  There is a lot more to horses than just riding.

My reasoning for lessons and not buying a horse first is simple….MONEY!  Good riding lessons not only teach your child how to ride but, prepare them to take care of a horse.  Depending on your area lessons run about $35.00 an hour.  That’s $140.00 a month.  Compare that to the cost of a horse (more on that later) plus board of say $350.00 or more a month.  Add in vet bills, farrier bills, and any other expense not included with board and the cost of lessons is your best option.

Horse Ownership For Children

Always Think Safety First

BIG ONE “SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY“.  Your child’s safety is first and foremost.  I have, as a trainer and a farrier, had the opportunity to work and ride some of the very best horses and some of the worst horses and many in between.  I know many horse lovers would beat me with a wet noodle when I tell you there isn’t a horse born that can’t hurt your child.  Maybe not intentionally but….

I recently saw on Facebook a picture of a child maybe 3 years old leading a nice gentle horse on a snowy, icy lane. Looked so sweet. Quickly my horse mind clicked in and I thought WOW, what if that horse slips on the ice or snow.  Scrambling to catch its footing the child is caught under the horse’s feet or worse under the horse.  So much for the pretty picture.

Child Proof Horse? Think Again

I have had so called “child proof” horses spin and kick with both hind feet as I hit the ground instinctively.  A child without training would have been hurt badly. 

Picking up a horse’s foot is also part of the training, but what happens when a fly or bug bites the horse at that same time and the horse tries to kick or bite it off letting go with his hind legs?  Riding on the trail and a rabbit or pheasant jumps and your horse bolts? These and many more incidents I have seen happen. Although I realize there is no way to prevent things from happening, being prepared with the proper guidance and training should be on the very top of your list.

Find the “child proof” horse is a little like winning the lottery.  If you do get lucky that horse will have a few years on it.  Keep in mind an older horse may need the services of a Vet more often also.  You will probably need to have a trainer work with the horse because no matter how well the horse has been trained they will pick up bad habits from inexperienced riders.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Is He/She Ready For The Responsibilities Of Owning A Horse?

Does your child want to ride Western, Huntseat or English.  Keep in mind each method requires proper equipment for the horse that fits properly.  (Fitting equipment on your horse will be discussed in another segment).  Remember the horse needs daily care which means trips to the stable regardless of the weather or other commitments.  Responsibility plays a big part in any aspect of learning to ride and care for a horse.

I realize it sounds like I’m discouraging anyone from learning to ride or own a horse.  Not so! I just want to help you make the right decisions regarding horse ownership for your child.  I have owned horses, rode, and treated horses all my life.  The rewards are bountiful, the pleasures endless and the people who love horses and ride are the greatest.

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