Friday, September 30, 2011

Equestrian Clearance: Horse Boots

I have a guest post from fabulous Equestrian Clearance out of the UK. They have some great buys on things, and offer brands you can't find here in the US. I was so happy to see that they carried the Equilibrium Stretch & Flex training wraps in medium narrow! Here is their guest post. Enjoy!

Horse Boots

Whether you hack out, compete or enjoy any equestrian discipline, it is essential that you ensure that your horse’s legs are protected with the correct boots. However, with the enormous number of horse boots available on the market, it can be difficult to know which to use and when.

When choosing which boots to use on your horse, you will need to consider the level of protection your horse needs, which will be dependent upon what activity you’re are partaking in, his conformation and any previous injuries. For example if your horse has a tendency to over stretch with his hind legs, this can cause over-reach injuries, where the horse will clip the back of his front leg with his rear hoof. Equally if he has suffered a tendon injury previously, you will want to ensure that this area is protected.

However, whilst it is essential that boots protect the horse, it is also necessary for them to support the horse’s legs and be comfortable. Buying correctly fitting boots is essential to ensure that the boots do not restrict the horse’s movements. As all horses’ legs will vary in shape, boots which fit one horse may not fit another. Boots which do not fit can cause chafing and may slip.

Brushing boots are often used for schooling, hacking and general riding. As the name suggests, they are designed to protect the horse’s legs from ‘brushing’ injuries, caused when one leg is hit by the opposite leg or hoof. However they are also ideal for offering general protection against general bumps and knocks. These boots can be used on both the front at the back legs; however you may require a larger size on the hind legs.

Over-reach boots are bell shaped boots that cover the coronet and hoof; they are used to prevent injury caused by a rear hoof striking a front leg, which can result in cuts or even a lost shoe. This most commonly occurs when jumping or doing fast work, however over reach boots are often used in everyday riding, as prevention is better than cure.

There is a great variety of over reach boots available, the main difference between them being material (usually rubber or neoprene), colour and fastening method. The simplest over reach boots to use will feature Velcro attachments, whilst others have to be pulled over the hoof – this can be made easier by softening the rubber in hot water prior to putting the boots on. Pull on boots offer the advantage of being much less likely to come off, whereas Velcro does not offer this security.

Tendon boots are most commonly seen in show jumping classes. They are open fronted boots that are used on forelegs and feature a hard ‘strike pad’ that covers the horse’s fetlock and tendon. This prevents injury to these areas from the hind hooves. They leave the front of the leg unprotected, ensuring that the horse will ‘feel’ if he knocks any poles. This ensures that he does not become lazy with his legs and instead continues to jump cleanly over the fences.

Fetlock boots are designed to be used on hind legs. They are shorter boots that are often worn in conjunction with tendon or brushing boots on the forelegs. As with brushing boots, these boots offer protection against damage to the fetlocks caused by the two hind legs knocking together

Travel boots are used to prevent injury when the horse is in transit in a trailer or horsebox. Most commonly made from a tough outer synthetic material and lined with fleece or cotton, fastened with Velcro and featuring protective padding. Some are designed to cover the horse’s leg from hoof to above the knee or hock, shaped to fit the horse’s legs, whilst others are shorter, offering protection between fetlock and knee or hock. Travel boots are recommended for use with all horses, bar perhaps broodmares and foals.

Cross country boots are the ideal choice for riders and horses who partake in hunter trials or eventing. Usually made from lightweight, impact-resistant materials these boots can be essential to protecting your horse in this demanding sport. Look for boots that do not absorb water, as boots that become water logged can become heavy through water jumps.

Knee boots, as suggested by the name, protect the horse’s knees if they were to be knocked or if the horse was to fall onto them. This type of fall is quite common when out hacking and the horse trips, especially with young or spooky horses. It is very important to protect against this injury as it can cause lasting damage to the knee joints.

Hock boots offer the same protection as knee boots, only to the hock joints on the rear legs instead. This area is prone to injury when travelling. It is equally important to protect this area as injury can cause the hock to become chronically swollen or ‘capped’, which may result in pain and lameness.

As important as choosing the right boots is ensuring they are correctly fitted. For example, whenever fitting boots to the tendon area of the leg, for example when using brushing or tendon boots, ensure that any Velcro straps are done up from front to back.

When using knee or hock boots, ensure that the top strap is done up securely and the lower strap is fastened loosely to allow the knee and hock joints full freedom of movement. If you are unsure of how to fit boots, it is advisable to seek the help of a professional.

Whatever type of boots you choose, you will be afforded the choice of many different colours, materials and styles. Traditionally boots where often made in leather, which offers an impeccable appearance, however they can be more difficult to care for. In comparison, modern materials including plastics, neoprene and rubber are more user friendly and often offer greater protection.

Brands of horse boots to look out for include Roma, Norton, Caldene, Equilibrium and JHL; all producing a range of protective boots suited to many uses and budgets. Traditionally manufacturers of horse rugs, Masta, Saxon and Weatherbeeta also produce great travel boots, whilst Mark Todd cross country boots are designed and endorsed by their namesake; Olympic New Zealand rider Mark Todd.

A huge range of horse boots, equestrian clothing and horse riding equipment is available at Equestrian Clearance.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Story of my life...

I'd never thought I'd ever say this... but I think I've reached that point where I've fallen off enough times that I don't tense up but just let myself off. Today though, if I had not been wearing a helmet, I might have actually hurt myself. Always wear your helmet, children!

I've been riding a fabulous Dutch WB gelding, even if only at the walk and a few steps of trot because he is in prolonged rehab for multiple suspensory injuries bless him, and he has had his saddle re-flocked this past week so I have been riding him bareback. Asked him for his routine few steps of trot, and I could feel him getting excited about being ready to trot. And he has a big trot. So I just kind of bounced off him, very embarassing. Thankfully nobody saw and nobody was hurt. And he was staring at me like he did something wrong, and I assured that life was good and I just got back on him, and he was okay. I will work on sitting his trot (which I can do in a saddle) once he saddle gets back :)

Greta has these fabulous new thing from Back On Track called Quick Wraps! I put some Sore No More on underneath them and so far they seem to be working, slowly but steadily. I'm taking pictures once a week for comparison. Today they just seemed to be better. Once she gets back to riding, I will start wrapping her back legs for extra support as a kind of prevention method. Yay for my girlie!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Sweet Horse Girl mom video

I saw this pop up in my subscriptions box on YouTube, and I thought "What a sweet birthday video for that special horse girl's mom!" The song is absolutely perfect. I would do a video like this for my Gee's birthday, but I would need to find a different song, because 'he is good' doesn't work when you have a mare :p

Like Cathy Atkinson said: "...I honestly think horses have kept an amazing amount of girls out of trouble or rescued them from trouble. Who needs to have a baby at fifteen when you already have a horse to love? Who can blow money on drugs – we have the farrier to pay for! When a man breaks your heart, it’s not the end of the world – we still have our horse."

So to all the parents of horsey girls, don't worry: your little baby is going to learn some great life lessons and will always be taken care of.

Question for the Readers: The Veruca Salt...

So I am sure we have all met a Veruca Salt. Perhaps even a whole group of them, depending on your discipline or barn or whatever circumstance. The kind that are spoiled in the fact that, while not always spoiled as far as having the nicest horse or what-not, but perhaps along the lines of being spoiled in that they are allowed to be precocious, cocky, a know-it-all, a bully even. A Veronica Di Angelo from The Saddle Club, right? However you want to imagine it.

My personal opinion is that they are dangerous. Not only to themselves, but to other riders, and especially to horses. They cross the line of being bold and gutsy and into the realm of being egotistical and foolish. You know the situation, the whole "Oh sure you can walk around on him" and you turn around and see her trying to prove what a rider she is by doing something incredibly foolish and parents standing off to the side saying "Oh, what a rider she is! Look how well she does with your horse!" and you scream "Get off him, NOW" and it all goes downhill from there... yeah, like that.

My solutions for precocious, know-it-all, dangerous gals like that?

A) Send her to a hunter show. The fancy kind. She'll feel great about herself, until they all eat her alive.

B) So she apparently has great equitation and a nice horse, so she survived. If so, send her to be a working student for an old-fashion kind of trainer, preferably German or Austrian. The kind that will beat you with a whip when you try to beat the horse with one. And then make you muck out all the stalls again.

C) She didn't learn anything from that guy, either?! The final solution: it's the most humbling, perhaps cheapest method, all risks and danger aside. Get the girl an off-the-track Thoroughbred! Like, fresh off the track. The crazy, wild, horrible ground vice kind. The kind only a mother or a jumper trainer with an excellent eye and seat and patience level of a saint could love or ever want. Not the good majority of them who have a bit of spook but not much else. The really bad, rotten kind. She'll think she's super-cool-horse-trainer until the lead rope is tossed into her hands. Then you have the telephone ready to dial 911 and a prepared "we told you so" monologue to deliver over the hospital bed.

And if she does well with all of that, then you can sulk off grumbling under your breath that either she's really lucky or maybe she is a good rider, and is just an arsehole about it.

But really, don't do that. With all seriousness, the best way to deal with these kinds of people is to simply say "no". I've had my fair share of these kinds of people, once getting on Greta, and once was enough for me. I wish I had said no, much less said "Get off now" while they were on my horse. You don't have to be rude about it, but simply declining whatever Veruca-Veronica is asking for that could potentially be harmful to the entire area around her will do you well in the long run and still hopefully save face and feeling. And possibly a life.

As for parents (where I notice it usually starts) : I am so thankful my parents taught me some humility. Horses are usually great teachers of humility and patience, but sometimes a well-placed parent and/or highly-regarded superior does the best job.

Have you met a Veruca-Veronica? Have you ever had a Veruca-Veronica moment? How did that go down? I know I've had my moments... let's just say I learned my lesson.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Boo. Hiss.

So, Greta had her follow-up appointment today. She's still super ouchy after the flex test of her LH. Vet did x-rays and ultrasound of both hind legs and saw the follow: a very enlarged medial suspensory ligament and the very beginnings of arthritis in the LH, and two bone chips from an old fracture on her RH, although the latter only causes minor stiffness.

We're treating it like an acute injury so as to play it on the safe side, which means 4 weeks at the least of stall rest, and hopefully another 4 weeks of pasture rest afterwards, if not just an additional 4 weeks of more stall rest (I'm really hoping for some pasture rest in there). She'll be getting turned out in the day pens like she was when she first arrived at the barn. They're big enough to walk around in but small enough so she can't get really fast and frisky.

If time has not healed things up enough after 2 months, then we will try injections. She doesn't have a lot of angle in her hind legs, so it's potentially a conformational fault that's causing this. The absolute worst case scenario is that she has degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis (DSLD), which would be caused by her conformation, but it's not too likely as it is something that usually only occurs in gaited horses. But it's still some frightening stuff.

All in all, not a good day. I feel awful. But on the plus side, hopefully the worse she will need is injections. Injections are doable. DSLD is NOT doable.

EDIT: DSLD is HIGHLY unlikely, and the vet said there's quite a few things she can do for it, but like she said: HIGHLY unlikely. It's quite mild, and there is only lameness when it's flexed, so once again the worse we can expect right now is monthly injections, and Lord knows I know plenty of ponies who get those and still do just fine. So, I'm more positive now!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Question for the Readers: fallacies and guest post

A friend of mine in the UK was talking on her facebook wall about how she had put up a video of her riding her horse over his first jump after doing lots of practice up to 2.5-3 ft free-jumping. This first jump she rode him over (after practicing over a few ground poles) was a very low crossrail (6" perhaps?). He refused, and she realized she wasn't riding him right, and then fixed her problem and he jumped it confidently the second time. The horse is a greenie, give him a break right?

Anyway, her problem was a person commented on the video saying "You should always freejump a horse first if you want to jump something new so they know they can do it, no wonder it didn't do it properly."

To which my first thought was: good luck doing that on a cross country course or hunt field that you're trucking across! "Oh, hold on, he's scared of this stone wall with bushes at the base! Let me jump off quickly and try to freejump him over it!"

(My second thought was, "Did you just call her horse 'it'?!")

What would have been better advice, had said rider in the video not realized her mistake, would have been "Check how you're riding him up the fence. Were not riding confidently? Did you stop riding before the fence? Were you riding too defensively? Not enough leg? etc."

That's what my trainer would have told me. And that's what I have heard multiple times from multiple different people. Or even better, don't come across as "I know everything" but make it sound more suggestive, like you might have SOME humility and are open to other thoughts :)

So now I get to my point: I've heard some strange, and sometimes dangerous, advice as far as horse training and horse care goes. Some of them come with good intentions, others misinformation, other just plain cruelty or just plain stupid.

The most infamous one in my book?

"Put you heels down and shoulders back."

I see so many hunter riders (and many others, but it's more prevalent in that style to me) with their heels jammed down so much in the stirrups that their riding is seriously compromised. From what I understand, "heels down" often creates a stiff leg and braced feet against the stirrup, so their leg is swinging and DEFINITELY not tight and solid on the horse, and often causes a leg that slips too far back instead of being a strong support, thus throwing the rider forward and both horse and rider off balance, yada yada yada. "Shoulders back" often creates a braced back and tilted pelvis, causing discomfort for both horse and rider and almost always NO flow between the two. I watch and think, "hmmm, I wonder if I took their stirrups and saddle away, if they would be able to be in that same frame?"

And then I answer myself, "No, they'd fall flat on their arse because they're so stiff and in such an artificial frame that their legs and seat aren't used to actually BEING on the horse."

They're noble and accurate points, really, and are the result of proper equitation. Not a means to the end. A more correct verbiage would be "Toes up and/or sink your weight into your heels. Push your ribcage out and up and keep your back erect." There's a lot more that could be added there, like "soften your back and slightly tilt the pelvis up and grip with your legs like a wet rag," but that can STILL lead to even MORE confusion haha!

So now I ask you, what are some iffy things you've heard from "fellow horsepersons" and trainers? No names please, just the advice. Also, feel free to give some GOOD advice you've heard before!

And a second question, I have the opportunity to have a guest post from Equine Clearance out of the UK on any variety of horse-related topics. I'm not entirely sure myself of what I would like to have put up, so what blanket, tack, clothing, industry, etc. topic would you like to hear about?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Burghley 2011: My Picks

So obviously William Fox-Pitt was considered the best because he kind of won. And I will say, he did smashing, per usual... even if he does look a tad big on his horses. There were a few rides in each of the phases that really stood out to me, and I think if a rider had all three of these performances (and I was judging the dressage phase ha!) then you would've found a fabulous formula for a winner. I was rooting for Mary King, because I adore her, but on both of her horses in showjumping things went less-than-perfect. Darn shame about Kitty King's showjumping round. And one of my least favorite dressage tests was Boyd Martin's (that extended trot certainly could've been better...)

Anyway, my favorite dressage test was Sinead Halpin's on Manoir de Carneville. I think she could've gotten an even better score, BUT I am no judge. The horse looked content and moved with impulsion, and had great gaits and great training even for a "non-dressage" horse. Selle Francais are STILL nice horses haha! Sinead looked like she had done her job well, and they were just pleasurable to watch.

Boyd Martin and Neville Bardos (who had an amazing recovery after significant smoke inhalation from the Martins' horrible barn fire) had an explosive cross-country round. The Burghley cross-country course is by far the most challenging of the Grand Slam of eventing. It makes me tired just watching it, and you can tell most horses and riders are worn out by the end of course: throwing themselves over jumps, legs dragging across jumps, jumps being barely cleared, galloping slows, and I've even seen a select few riders throw two-point out the window, it's just too dang hard! But these two looked as fresh at the beginning as they did at the end. Neville was still neat and clean at the last fence, and Boyd was still doing just as well to the very end. That REALLY made me tired to watch, because you can only imagine the exertion and fitness-building that must have taken.

Mark Todd and Major Milestone had a pretty stellar cross-country round (had a wonky moment during one of the water combinations) but an icky dressage score (the canterwork was less than spectacular, I thought), so that brought him down to 21st place in the end. But this show jumping round was wonderful, and if he had done better in dressage, he probably would not be as low in the placings as he was.

What do y'all think? Who were your favorites?

Monday, September 5, 2011

This is Stylish: Cozy Ponies

It's hard to see the design, so you might have to enlarge it to see them. But that's what I love about it! It's so subtly horsey! I just got one today, and even though I probably won't have to wear it outside but for another month or two (it still gets frigid in the dorm and classrooms!) it's incredibly cozy.

Why live on the edge.....

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jumping video AND update

This is the day before her vet appointment to figure out some stiffness in her back and hips. Jumping and poles always seem to help her loosen WAY up, but after the vet appointment I felt like an A$$ for doing that, as much fun as we both had! I need to remember that she tries so hard that she'll chug through anything!

Firstly, the vet remarked about how great she looked for her age, no arthritis or joint problems, and both the vet and the tech loved her adorable attitude and good manners (that's my girl!) BUT she had some ever-so-slight lameness, and was clean on the flex test UNTIL her LH fetlock was flexed, and then she was really ouchy. Thankfully it wasn't on the other fetlock. She also noticed her fetlock sunk down a bit at the walk, and was worried about her suspensories being strained. Her ever-so-slight back and hip stiffness was very likely from compensating for that sore LH.

We talked a bit and she asked how much she had been ridden, and I realized and told her "Oh my goodness, I've been riding her almost every day with only a break once a week since a month before summer started!" Nothing hard, but still, yikes! I felt pretty bad!

So the prognosis right now is to give Miss Greta two weeks off to giver her a break, a ten minute walk around the arena twice a week or so, but just let her chill for the most part. She'll be checked again in exactly two weeks, and if that LH is not better then there will be an examination of her suspensory. Worrisome, but I will just be happy to see Greta happy and comfy.

Overall, the vet said she's not BAD or REALLY lame, just probably strained something from all that hard work this summer!

So now I get to another point: give your horses a break! Give them a week off, do some work on the longe line to save their back, etc. Especially the super-pleasers like Greta!

I feel SO bad! I know better than that! Bless Greta's big ole heart!

For Andrea and Gogo

I'm not very good at sympathy speeches. I always feel like I can never say things without sounding sycophantic or something. So, to express my sympathy for and pride for Andrea and Gogo, who have been through so much and done so much and tried so much and deserve so much more than what they've been through, I draw. End of the line or not, Gogo girl will always be rocking it.

GO-GO GOGO! Even if the scanner didn't get the colors very well......... next time you're in ATX, Andrea, this will be a-waitin'.