All posts by colleen chartier

Up-Right Anti-Cast strips – they could save your horse’s life

One of the most nerve-wracking, anxiety-inducing experiences a horse owner could face is when their horse casts in their stall. For those unfamiliar with the term, casting is when a horse has laid down to roll or rest but unfortunately positions himself in a way that his legs are so close to the stall wall he can not get up nor reposition himself to roll the other way. Most horses end up panicking in this helpless position, and the effects can be devastating. It’s estimated that around 25% of horses that are injured when cast either face losing their life or end their career. Frequently, severe damage results to the hip, pelvis and leg areas.

Unfortunately, horses of any age, breed, and discipline have the potential to cast, but pay particular attention to those that spend a large amount of time in their stalls, senior horses, broodmares, and those that have a tendency of laying down when resting.

When a horse lays down too close to a wall, casting can occur. In this situation, it’s vital to keep a horse calm until help has arrived to gently roll the horse the other way.

Help Has Arrived – What To Do When Your Horse Has Cast

It’s vital to stay calm if your horse has managed to get himself stuck in his stall. While time is of the essence and the horse will need your assistance, make sure to do it in a way that is safe for all parties involved and will get the horse back on his feet as quickly as possible.

First – remember horses are heavy. Even if you lift weights and clean 50 stalls a day, it’s always best to have two people around when entering a tight space with a frightened horse.

When moving to the horse, always stay on the same side as the horse’s back – NEVER in between or on the same side as his legs/feet. This could create a nightmare situation should the horse panic, a person could get caught in the cross hairs. Keep a gentle tone and make sure your horse is aware of your presence before you reach down to touch him and start the repositioning process.

Begin moving the front end of the horse toward the center of the stall – more than likely his legs will be folded against his body and very close to the wall or stall door. Never – I repeat – NEVER try to move a horse by pulling on a halter, as this could cause serious spinal and nerve damage. It’s best to grab handfuls of mane or loop a lead rope tied in a ring around his neck, if you need additional leverage. Then, pull straight back towards you until he is back far enough to be able to fold his legs underneath himself and roll onto his belly.

In case you need to free the hind end as well, use the tail. Aligning it with the spine, pull back (not up) to slide the horse away from the wall. Once your horse is in a position to move independently, stay as far back (preferably leaving the stall) as possible to let your horse regain his footing to stand. In some instances, there’s a chance a horse may thrash trying to put his legs underneath himself. Once he’s up, give him a few moments to regain his composure (and yours too!), at which point you can check him over for major cuts, swellings, vitals, etc.

How to Avoid Casting: Up-Right Anti Cast Strips

The patented design and proven technology of the America’s Acres Anti-Cast Safety Strips provide the leverage and assistance needed to horses that find themselves cast – especially if no one is around to help. Like a seat belt in your car, one hopes they’ll never be in a situation where you’ll need it, but when it happens, it can save your life.

Save on a single or 3-pack of the Up-Right Safety Strips here! $44.95 – $134.85

These 3-foot long heavy duty rubber strips are designed with a unique 4-row design that allows a horse’s hooves to push against and gain leverage when trying to roll over. Ultimately, most horses are able to get to their feet independently, keeping your horse (and you) safe and out of harm’s way. These strips are able to be mounted in either wooden or cement stall walls – most 10×10 stalls use 3 strips per wall. Mounting the strips about 32 – 36″ above the stall floor is the right height, generally.

Final Thoughts

In addition to keeping a suitable banking of bedding in your horse’s stall and providing adequate turnout for your horse to roll freely, the Up-Right Safety Strips add an additional layer of protection and peace of mind to any horse owner. The investment of providing a safer stalling situation can save you hundreds (or thousands) on emergency vet calls, injury rehabilitation, and months of therapy afterwards.

Senior horses especially benefit from the application of Anti-Cast Strips, as they may have a harder time rolling over than when they were younger.

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen C. – Purchasing Specialist

Grooming Tools: The Ultimate HAAS Brush Guide

Born in 1919 in the foothills of Germany, Haas has created a legacy of dedicated craftsmanship, handmade engineering, and longevity in each of their grooming tools. Designed without glues, nails, or screws, these shatter-proof tools are often designed from a single plastic mold, ensuring durability and long-lasting quality. Professional grooms, trainers, amateur owners, and horse care enthusiasts around the world attest to these colorful, hardworking brushes, curries, and hoof picks.

Whatever your grooming preference, Haas brushes are available in a wide variety of bristle materials (synthetic rice root, coconut fiber, horsehair, sheepskin), sizes, and functions to accommodate even the dirtiest and most sensitive-skinned horses. Tested and proven for generations, feel confident and rest assured Haas brushes will produce a clean, glittering horse every time its pulled from a grooming caddy.

Brush for Caked-On Mud & Tough Spots

Striegel Der Gute Curry– THE BEST CURRY COMB EVER. Roomy leather strap and rounded plastic “teeth” easily work out dried mud and hard-to-clean dirt spots.

Schimmel: Stiff, dense coconut fibers easily remove stubborn manure, grass, and dirt stains. Perfect for the night-before a show and your white horse is suddenly green!

Putzi Double Sided Brush: Features horsehair on one side and massaging curry on the other, this multi-functional tool can be used to clean heavy dirt away from the hoof, mane, or body.

Joker Hoof Pick – Fastened with an extra-stiff brush and steel pick, perfect for digging out embedded rocks or for deep set hoof grooves.

Best for Body

Welsh Brush: Wide leather hand strap and horsehair bristles cleans and polishes the coat for any moderate sized dust particles

Fellglanzburstse : Great to use as a body brush for those thin-skinned Thoroughbreds or sensitive horses, this soft yet densely-woven horsehair brush creates a luxurious finish.

Brenig Madoc Combo Brush: The #1 best-selling Haas brush, this tool features extended synthetic bristles and wide set brush that covers a large surface area. Gentle, yet effective on removing dirt, sand, and shavings.

Best for Mane & Tail

Mahnenburste Large Dandy Brush: This 8cm tall brush is great for flicking away mud post-curry and trapped dust particles. Can also be used on the body.

Mahnenburste Small Dandy Brush: The short, 3cm synthetic bristles are great for working caked on mud and brambles through manes and tails without damaging or breaking hair.

Best for Legs and Face

Grundys Finest : Made with super-soft horse hair and short bristles to collect even the finest dust particles, this brush creates a show ring shine and comfortably sized enough to slip over joints and ears.

Kopfburste Face Brush: Features an elastic hand strap to get into nooks and crannies, this palm sized brush can alternately be used for thin-skinned, super sensitive horses. Made from uber-soft white horse hair.

Best for Finishing Touches

Diva Best and Diva Girlie Girl: Designed with the most luxuriously soft Mattes sheepskin and softest horsehair bristles, the Diva essentially buffs and waxes your horse’s coat to create a blue-ribbon finish and show-stopping shine. Perfect to give as a gift – even if it’s for yourself!

Best for Petite Hands

Striegel New Generation Soft Curry – Able to fit in little one’s hands, the soft rubber is great for ponies, nooks and crannies with a soft-touch feel

Kinderwurzel – Made from stiff, synthetic rice-root bristles, the elastic hand strap and vibrant colors make grooming time fun for children young and young at heart!

Smile Dandy Brush: 5cm synthetic brisles easily flick away dirt and dust, plus the fun smiley face handle is sure to cheer any little groom’s day.

Schmuserburste: Palm sized and with an elastic strap, the exceptionally soft horse hair bristles smooth and glide over legs, body, and face.

Hufkratzburste Single plastic mold and brightly colored, this hoof pick is great for everyday hoof cleaning, while the contoured grip keeps your hand comfortable. Plus, the nail hole up top makes it easy to hang or attach to a key ring.

Haas Kinderwurzel - Equine Tack&Nutritionals
Taste the rainbow! Perfect for adult and children’s hands alike, the Kinderwurzel Stiff Brush is clearing bodies and tails free from dirt and mud

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re new to grooming or a seasoned pro, most grooms value a quality set of brushes including a curry, stiff brush, soft brush, hoof pick, and mane brush for just about any job. With a variety of fun colors available and easy-to-wash convenience, these tools will enhance the bonding and care taking experience grooming has to offer. An important reminder, Haas brushes will last for years to come, if kept with proper care and storage practices. Simply wash with cold water and mild soap on occasion, and leave to air dry.

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen C. – Purchasing Associate

The Equiband system: Revolutionizing the horse’s posture and body stability

For those who love the strengthening ability of a lunging surcingle, but want to feel that connection first hand, say hello to the EquiBand System! In the past, many riders and trainers may have utilized various DIY methods to encourage better carriage of the hind end – from polo wraps tied to wrap behind a hind end to the saddle to ace bandages holding the core in place.

Thankfully, the EquiBand System is a patented, proven surcingle attachment that offers the unique ride-ability that no other product on the market has been able to before. Any horse can benefit from a stronger core, improved topline, and better body awareness, including those who may benefit from using the EquiBand as a therapeutic measure. From improved topline muscling, improved Kissing Spine symptoms, and overall rehab, the EquiBand is a product that any horse of any discipline can benefit from. From jumping to dressage to Western riders, experience the difference for yourself and watch your horse’s balance, strength, and core stability improve with this unique training tool.

From Western to Dressage to Jumping to Groundwork and any other discipline, the EquiBand maximizes your horse’s topline, core strength, stride evenness, and thoracic lift.

Curious about how the EquiBand works and how to fit your new system to your horse? Continue reading below!

What is the Equiband System?

*According to the official EquiCore Methods website

The Equiband itself is made of latex-free rubber, specifically designed for use on horses. The Equiband system uses either one or both bands on the horse; one shorter band attaches the left side of the saddle pad to the right, passing under the abdomen (abdominal band or AB). The band sits well behind the rider’s leg. Its function is to stimulate the abdominal musculature during locomotion. The abdominal musculature supports the horse’s back. The position of this band is especially indicated for horses that have recovered from a colic surgery, have poor (inverted) posture and in clinical cases such as diagnosed conditions of the back including ‘kissing spines’.

The second and longer Equiband attaches at an oblique angle from the left side of the saddle pad to the right, passing under the tail behind the horse’s hindquarters (hindquarter band or HQ). It will settle in the point of least resistance, above the hock and just below the level of the stifle. Its function is to make the horse aware of the position of his hind limbs in locomotion and to enhance strength length and lateral symmetry during forward movement. The position of this band is especially indicated for horses with asymmetrical hind limb movement, poor engagement and poor development of major muscle groups such as biceps femoris (which is associated with movement) as well as horses recovering from diagnosed musculoskeletal or neurological (EPM) conditions.

The two lengths of Equiband are delivered pre-threaded but will need to be adjusted for each horse as per instructions below. If the bands are only used on one horse it is advisable to trim the ends of the band with scissors after fitting and adjustment. If the band is used on multiple horses the fit and adjustment needs to be checked prior to use.

Each Equiband system comes complete with saddle pad, two pre-threaded sets of Equiband (two shorter abdominal bands and two longer hindquarter bands), as well as a tape measure and user guide. For safety, it is essential to follow the guide on how to fit and use the Equiband system.

Check out this helpful video for a step-by-step fitting guide!

How to Fit and Use the Equiband System

1. Desensitize the Horse to the Touch of Equiband

Gently rub Equiband across the horse’s abdominal and hindquarter regions on both sides, and under the tail.

2. Fit the First Band

For this stage, have a helper present. Fit the Equiband slowly and carefully, with sufficient tension to not hang loose. Hand walk, jog and lunge the horse. Even sensitive horses will rapidly accustom to the sensation of Equiband. Some horses will show more difference in back flexion with the abdominal band, and others will be more reactive to band around the hindquarters. To start, apply only one band at a time and repeat the same process when introducing the horse to a second band.

3. Adjust the Band for Optimal Tension

Adjust the tension of the band prior to mounting. Equiband is delivered pre-threaded and is adjusted by shortening or lengthening the band below the safety clip band through the triglides (below the safety clips) that attach the band to the saddle pad. Excess can be trimmed using scissors.

To adjust for ideal tension, take the band to full stretch and reduce it to less than 50% stretch, which is an optimal tension for use of Equiband. Using the tape measure supplied, measure the distance between the two clips on the pad (between left and right sides: either along the hindquarter region or under the abdomen). The clips on the actual band can then be measured at no more than 50% or half of the distance apart. For example, if the distance between the two clips on the pad (left to right side) is 1.00m, the clips on the band should be no less than 50cm apart. Excess tension will inhibit movement.

4.Jog in Hand and/or Lunge the Horse Prior to Mounting

Before mounting, hand jog and trot or lunge the horse. Have a helper present when mounting the horse for the first time after fitting Equiband. Allow the horse to accustom to the feeling of Equiband at walk before moving into trot or canter.

5. Adding or Adjusting Equiband

To add or swap to second band repeat steps 1 and 2. Only fit Equiband without the rider on the horse. Always dismount when adding or swapping Equiband and have a helper present until the horse is fully accustomed to use of the Equiband system.

The Equiband system is intended for in-hand work, and during lunging and riding. Use the Equiband system at the start of a workout graduating to use for a full session. Ensure that the horse receives regular breaks as the increased engagement of the core musculature will cause earlier fatigue in work. If the horse’s movement or conditions worsen with use of the Equiband system, cease use immediately and seek veterinary evaluation and/or advice. Use Equiband from the start of work, emphasizing transitions between and within gaits. Reduce full riding time by half as increased core muscle engagement may cause fatigue.

Helpful Hints

If the abdominal band slips back or if the hindquarter band rides up, check the tension – it is often too loose. For optimal postural fit, ask for an abdominal lift when fitting the abdominal band, and ensure that the horse is standing under itself with the hind legs when fitting the hindquarter band.

Always use the band system at the start of a workout, and remove the bands if necessary. Do not add the bands after warm-up or during a riding/training session: this defeats the objects of neuromuscular stimulation. Neuromuscular activation is best achieved at the start of a session, particularly during the warm-up phase. We recommend use of the abdominal band before adding the hindquarter band.

Care Instructions

For optimal care of your saddle pad, it is suggested to delicate wash in cool water, with low tumble dry or air drying after washing. The Equiband bands can be washed with petroleum-free soap (like Dawn), and left to air-dry. Do not leave bands exposed to full sun/extreme cold. Do not use fly spray over the bands or over any area where the bands are in direct contact with the horse. Regularly check the tension strength of the bands and that the fastenings for fraying, excessive wear, etc.

My Personal Experience

I’ve used the Equiband system on Rotti for over a year, and I will vouch it has helped improve Rotti’s performance over poles, gymnastics, and on the ground. The fact I don’t have to rely on forcing him into any sort of position, but instead allow his body to comfortably carry himself properly, has improved his stride length, evenness, and further improved his topline.

The Equiband System has my vote for something every avid equestrian should have in their training arsenal. I’ve been blown away by its results – it’s easy to use and easy to set up, and it’s improved my horse’s physical condition. To me, the Equiband is priceless.

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen C., Purchasing Specialist

Get Your Barn Ready For Fall! The Ultimate Barn Gear Guide

Hi everyone, Colleen here from the Purchasing Department at Big Dee’s. Personally, fall is my favorite season – I love the subtle shift in the air when you step outside on a brisk, sunny day. When I walk out to feed the horses in the morning, complete with my Pumpkin Spice Latte and favorite flannel, I get so excited for the upcoming season and the chance to regroup and focus on what lies ahead. Thankfully, the chilly air and changing leaves inspire me to get some organizing done in the barn, too – plus some new upgrades!

Rubbermaid Big Wheel Farm Cart

The Rubbermaid Big Wheel Farm Cart is a lifesaver – every farm owner needs one of these! $189.95

Just like a woman has her favorite Little Black Dress, this Big Farm Cart is the best thing. EVER. I have found so many uses for this 7.5 cubic foot utility cart from loading feed/hay/equipment from my truck to the barn (it easily moves up to 300 pounds), cleaning stalls, or using as an oversized feed cart when walking up and down the aisles. I never worry about it getting stuck in mud or losing traction on slippery surfaces with the oversized 8″ wheels. Added bonus – it’s made in the USA and has a 1-year warranty!

Stainless Steel Pails & Galvanized Scoops

I love the feeling of having squeaky clean tack and buckets, and these shiny steel scoops and pails make a perfect addition to my feed room and tack room. Both items come in a variety of sizes and rust-proof; built to last for everyday use. Whether I’m scrubbing tack or need a water bucket when my dog comes to the barn, I’m good to go. Personally, I think the smaller sizes of the pails are stinking cute – I even have a couple in my home I’ve turned into flower pots! The galvanized scoops are easy to hold and scoop the exact amount I need.

Country Pride Insulated Bucket Cover

Never worry about breaking frozen buckets again! Country Pride Insulated Water Bucket Cover : $31 – $34.95

As much as I hate to admit it, frozen temperatures will be here before you know it. However, I can feel a little better knowing I won’t have to deal with frozen buckets with these insulated bucket covers. They have just the right amount of insulation that keeps them from being bulky or a pain to put on, and the Velcro reinforcements keep it in place. I like the unique design with the extra nylon ring around the lip of the bucket so Rotti’s face stays protected. Plus, if they ever get dirty, I just throw mine in the wash or spray it off with a hose, let it dry, and it’s good as new.

Burlingham Sports Grad-Dual Grain Feeder

I have two of the Burlingham Sports Grad-Dual Feeders – one for indoors and one for in the field! $69 – $79.00 each

With my horses gradually getting less turnout time and exercise between the dropping temperatures, bad weather, and a busy schedule, the Grad-Dual Feeder was an easy solution to managing their weights and making sure they stay in optimal body condition. On top of adding a Slow Feed Hay Net, this USA-made feeder features different slots for grain to sit in, making feeding time fun for Rotti by working to get in each of the little slots to eat his grain. I don’t have to worry about it using it indoors out outside, as it’s made from heavy-duty plastic in a single mold. It keeps Rotti’s tummy happy by preventing him from gulping down grain and saves me money from having to deal with wasted feed!

Little Giant DuraTote Stool & Tool Box

This lockable carry-all is great for shows or mounting anywhere with its built in tack caddy! $36.95

I am all about efficiency, and the Little Giant DuraTote offers the best of both worlds as both a roomy grooming caddy and sturdy mounting step. They come in several fun colors (the pink was my favorite). I love I can store all my brushes, spray bottles, and more in one convenient spot, whether I’m home or traveling to shows and clinics. Plus, I can add fun decals and stickers all over it to make it instantly recognizable!

Kensington Aisle Guard

These fashionable, functional Kensington Stall Guards come in so much fun colors, I had a hard time picking out which one I wanted! $114.85

The Kensington Aisle Guards did a fantastic job of adding some color and breathing new life into the barn space, with its classic plaid in a variety of fun colors. My favorite thing about it is the peace of mind I get from having an extra safety net when I leave the barn for the evening, reinforced with heavy duty D-rings and included screweyes and double end snaps. Plus, I can match it to my other Kensington gear, like the Stall Guard and Mesh Totes!

Corn Broom

Available in a single or 4-pack, you can never have too many of a good thing! $20.95 – $76.95

If you’ve been around horses long enough, you know the value of a good broom. This one in particular is a 1st place Champion. Made with the perfect blend of corn and sotol fibers, reinforced with a 4 sew with metal band, the smooth lacquered wood handle is easy to grip and maneuver. If you want a little extra hold, I recommend wrapping it with the Diamond Tool Wrap Tape (I put it on all my pitchforks too). I bought the 4-pack to keep one in my aisleway, my garage, my basement, and get my Halloween costume ready early.

Barn Buddy Barn Stool

Capable of holding brooms, pitchforks, shovels, and more, this handy carrier flips over to become a comfortable place to sit! $44.95

After a hard day’s work, I know the first thing I look forward to is a comfortable place to sit. The High Country Plastic Barn Buddy Stool is a lightweight, portable option that doubles as a handy barn tool organizer. I like having one in my trailer to use as a useful carry-all, but the seat is the best part. It’s the perfect height and I don’t feel like I am about to fall over while sitting (which says a lot, because I’m particularly klutzy).

Final Thoughts

As crazy as this year as turned out for myself and everybody else, take this time to refresh and rejuvenate yourself to come up with some fun projects to make the barn an exciting place to be! Grab a broom, tidy up your feed room, scrub your tack until it’s squeaky clean, and get to work! And maybe grab a hot apple cider and donut on the way 🙂

Take advantage of the sunshine and let it inspire you to tackle whatever projects you have coming next – it’ll be snowy before you know it!

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen C. – Purchasing Specialist

Product Review: HAYGAIN Hay Steamer

For those that habituate in areas that frequent (unbearably) hot, humid summers; frigid, subzero winters; or dry, arid temperatures year round, respiratory issues seem to be just as common as seasonal allergies or leaves changing colors.

However, the innovators at HayGain have created a solution for keeping your horse’s lungs comfortable and meal time more enjoyable. Used by professionals, Olympic/Gold Cup/Pan-Am Games/4* Eventing Champions, and amateur horse owners alike, the HayGain Hay Steamer maximizes the nutritional value of hay, eliminating toxins, dust, bacteria, and unwanted weeds, while improving horse’s respiratory conditions for those that suffer from coughing, allergies or weakened immune systems.

“We were always concerned about infection and pneumonia and Haygain steamed hay was a huge thing for usI could really feel the effect when I rode [recently-retired star partner] Ballynoe Castle R.M, and his career really took off and he was a much more relaxed horse. I put all my horses on it and felt it was a huge asset.”

Buck Davidson, International Event Rider, Team USA
World Equestrian Games in 2010 & 2014, Olympic alternate in 2008 & 2012

A “Tail” As Old As Time

Developed by a group of equine enthusiasts back in the early 2000s in southern England, the HayGain was a brainchild of horse owners who were concerned about the nasal discharge, coughing, heaving, and other respiratory problems in their horses. They realized – much like a hot shower or steam room helps to open up blocked airways and steaming vegetables to bring out their best nutrient content – these same principles could apply to their horse’s forage.

While soaking hay is a centuries-old method of controlling airborne particles, it isn’t entirely effective, and doesn’t eliminate potentially harmful bacteria that may be ruminating within each bale. In 2007, the HayGain was born and the results were proven – clean, dust and mold free, palatable hay.

“Everything They Need and Nothing They Don’t”

While soaking hay can be a quick, on-the-go way of dampening hay, bacteria and mold-inducing spores can still linger – up to 55%! Thankfully, HayGain has been scientifically proven as an effective, safe way to reduce airborne particles (mold, dust, etc) by up to 98%. As a result, horse’s can receive quality, nutritionally-maximized forage with 0% mold, fungal spores, bacteria, and yeast that can cause equine asthma and chronic respiratory inflammation. Hay will become so palatable to your horse that he will want to gobble every flake, saving money on wasted food or messy water buckets from dunked hay! Plus, the HayGain is clean and easy to use, saving users from dealing with messy, heavy Rubbermaid containers filled with gallons upon gallons of water for minimal results.

Why steaming hay is more effective than soaking

While HayGain improves horse’s airway quality with their hay-treating system and prevents inflammatory airway diseases by up to 65%, it also boasts a variety of health benefits that any horse can appreciate.

  1. Increased hydration – Steamed hay has an increased water content of over 3x its normal value, ensuring your horse is getting the water intake needed to keep his digestive system running smoothly
  2. Palatability – Picking eaters have no match against the HayGain, as it boosts the smell, taste, and texture of forage.
  3. Allergy reduction – Sensitive horses with allergy related issues such as coughing, skin-conditions, etc. can benefit from the reduced dust, air microbials, and yeast/mold spores found in poor-quality hay.
  4. Maximize performance – Hay is the #1 source of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals for horses. HayGain offers top-quality results with hay treated from its system to maximize respiratory, digestive, and ultimately, athletic performance.

“Hay is crucial for the health, well-being and performance of horses. Haygain ensures for us that our horses get what they need and nothing that they don’t from their hay.”

Beezie Madden, International Showjumper, Team USA
Four Olympic medals, Three Pan American Games medals, 4x World Championship medals

How It Works

Steaming hay is a relatively quick process that can be easily done during riding, feeding, stall cleaning, or everyday barn chores. Because each HayGain is equipped with a timer, each bale or flake will have the perfect “cook time,” every time. Even if left overnight, the HayGain allows steamed hay to be contained for up to 24 hours, allowing in-advance steaming to be done.

Available in unique options to fit various needs and lifestyles, the HayGain is available to order from Big Dee’s in portable and half-bale units – perfect for home, trailer, and away at competition.

Each HayGain steamer is designed with a patented manifold system that hold flakes or bales in place and injects high-temperature steam evenly from the inside out. Its double insulated chest and aluminum manifold materials enables the steam to reach ultra-high temperatures within the chest (up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit), maximizing the effectiveness of the unit.

Final Thoughts

Whether you ride, race, compete, or use as a preventative/treatment measure, the HayGain is the ultimate game-changer. Not only will it help to increase your horse’s respiration, appetite, safety, forage and water consumption, it’s backed from years of scientific research and testimonials from some of the top professionals and trainers in the world. Experience the difference for yourself!

Before I was introduced to Haygain, I was soaking hay for Brentina to make sure that it was more palatable and dust free. Then I found Haygain and not just Brentina but every horse in our barn is so happy. Now after our horses are fed the only sound you hear are the horses chewing. I no longer hear sneezing or coughing due to dust or mold spores. Once you have fed Haygain you will never go back!”

Debbie McDonald, International Dressage Rider, Team USA
US Equestrian Dressage Team Chef d’Equipe Olympic and World Cup medalist

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen C., Purchasing Associate

Product Review: Foxden Equine Quiessence Calming & Balance EQ Muscle Supplements

Hi Big Dee’s Fam!

If you have been keeping up with some of the exciting new items that has come into our showroom and on our website, one of our latest brands are Foxden Equine Supplements.

I have been a fan of Foxden for years and always admired their transparency of ingredients and unique approach to equine nutrition supplementation. Recently, I tried out the popular Quiessence calmer and Balance EQ Muscle/Metabolic Support supplements and were impressed with the results!

If you’re considering a supplement that offers a multitude of related benefits while providing great value and easy feeding, I hope my experience can provide an inside look into the probable benefits and results of using either of these!

Power Horse

For the most part, Rotti is generally an easy keeper when it comes to feeding and maintaining weight. As a Westphalian (Warmblood), his build is one like a bull-dog – he’s stout, big chested, and naturally “thicker” than some horses.

However, when I started increasing his workload to more demanding Dressage, Jumping, and Trail Riding endeavors, I noticed that while he was still keeping good weight and eating plenty of hay and grain, his topline wasn’t quite as defined as it had been previously. In addition, he had developed some attachment issues with his pasture mate, and I was struggling to keep his focus during “work time,” constantly dealing with bouts of constant hollering, squealing, and the occasional buck or stubbornness when I would apply leg. After consulting with my vet/trainer/farrier/chiropractor, I ruled out his attitude and tone issues were not due to other issues like saddle fit, misalignment in his spine, teeth/hoof issues, etc.

It was also important to me to make sure he was on a competition legal supplement, as we do attend rated shows, and Quiessence and Balance EQ are legal in the USEA, USEF, and even FEI levels.

What Is it?

Quiessence (left) is in pellet form and BalanceEQ (right) is available in a granular powder.

Quiessence

Quiessence’s primary ingredient is magnesium, which supports to achieve several purposes within equine biology. Typically, magnesium is used to soothe and ease nervous, overly tense horses who have a difficulty relaxing. This was definitely something I needed, as Rotti would work himself into a frenzy with his nervous energy – sweating profusely due to his anxiety.

According to the Quiessence label, it states “because Magnesium is important to nerve and muscle function, Quiessence may help horses that are tense, spooky and inattentive to attain a more balanced mental state.” Plus, magnesium is commonly used in muscle supplements to provide relief to stiffness or soreness due to tight, overexerted muscles. Considering that I was working Rotti 4-6 days a week, with weekly lessons that would noticeably wear him out the next day, I was excited to see that I could get a couple benefits from a single supplement. Since Magneisum is also an agent used in maintaining a healthy weight in horses, Quiessence is also primarily fed to horses who have a tendency of being a bit too “fluffy,” usually those with cresty necks and a tendency toward laminitis (or founder). Because Rotti is an easy keeper I don’t need to worry about losing weight, it was an added benefit that the Quiessence helps to keep him in peak condition.

Available in a pelleted form, the recommended dosage is 1 ounce a day per 250 lb, with the ability to go down to 1/2 ounce per 250 pounds once the desired results are achieved. Because Rotti weighs 1,215 pounds, I gave him 5 scoops, but most horses would be okay with the recommended 4 scoops (1 ounce) per day.

An interesting thing to note about the Quiessence is that it does not contain any Tryptophane or Taurine, which many other calmers offer. Instead, it offers Niacin (Vitamin B3), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Biotin (Vitamin B7) and Thiamin (Vitamin B1) , which all contribute to maintaining healthy weight.

Easy to measure, easy to feed – The pellets made it super easy to give the exact dosage I needed.

Balance EQ

Balance EQ is made of a proprietary blend of 7 amino acids, antioxidants, Chasteberry, Fenugreek, Jiagoluan, and Kelp. According the label, it is designed to “aid in promoting muscle integrity, definition, and proper body composition.” It also helps to support a shiny coat, good muscling, and healthy skin.

In addition, it also provides Chasteberry, an ingredient that provides unique benefits. One of my personal favorites, this “super food” is helpful in maintaining healthy pituitary gland function and normal shedding habits, especially with horses that suffer from Cushing’s Syndrome. My favorite thing about it are the hormone balancing abilities, making it great for those with moody mares, irritable geldings, or in my case, “spaced out Rotti syndrome.”

Because it’s a natural blend, Balance EQ comes in a granular powder form. All that’s needed for dosage is 1 scoop per day, so each jar provides a 60 day supply.

Results – Does It Work?

What I was hoping to achieve for the Quiessence was the ability to bring Rotti back to a more relaxed, workable partner under saddle, in addition to bulking up his muscle tone without stringing him out. Before I started using the Quiessence, anytime I would have him in the ring by himself or in the cross ties while his barn mates would be turned out, he would constantly throw temper tantrums and I had a limited amount of time to work with him each day before I risked having a complete meltdown on my hands. For the Balance EQ, I was hoping to see what Rotti’s reaction would be with his recovery from intense workouts and increase his muscle tone, while hopefully relieving the soreness he would occasionally experience after our rides or groundwork.

The first thing I wanted to test was if Rotti would even eat the supplement. Since I was already dealing with one supplement he was picking at, I was having to add in a mash to try and encourage him to eat it. Excitedly, as soon as I poured his grain and put the supplements on top, he immediately started eating and finished his entire meal!

While I cannot attest to any of the metabolic claims that Quiessence and Balance EQ offers, I can offer some insight into its performance as a calming supplement and muscle developer, respectively.

I put Rotti on both supplements, and within 4-5 days, I noticeably saw a difference of Rotti’s demeanor when working. I didn’t want him to become a deadhead and dull to my aids, instead I wanted him to be more willing to work and easier to regain his composure during moments of asking more challenging exercises or separating him from his friends.

Rotti became a totally different horse than what I had been previously dealing with. What was tossing his head and pacing in the crossties was now a super relaxed horse, even to the point of almost snoozing! While this may not seem like a big deal for some owners, I’ve worked with Rotti for 6 years now, and he NEVER fell asleep in the cross ties. Even at his best, he would still paw occasionally and had to be constantly stimulated and paid attention to in order to keep his manners in check.

It’s now been a little over a month that I’ve been using both supplements, and I will say that it has been so much more enjoyable working with Rotti again. He still occasionally “peeks” at sudden sounds or call to his buddies once or twice, and has returned to his “normal” antics of pawing in the cross-tie when he wants a cookie after a job well done. However, I feel much more secure and confident in his ability to come back to me with a more focused, attentive energy. In fact, I’ve forgotten to use our normal ear plugs on occasion and didn’t even notice until after I came back to the barn after a long ride! I no longer feel like I have a ticking time bomb in my hands; I’m much more eager to head to competitions and clinics with my best buddy. Plus, he’s still eating everything!

In regard to his muscle definition, I can say that hands-down, the Balance EQ has blown me away with its results. He is no longer coming out achy and grumpy after our lessons, and I’ve noticed more definition and tone throughout his back and neck.

The biggest difference, though, was in his BOOTY! In fact, we did a half-pirouette in the canter for the first time the other day all on his own and proceeded to have energy and impulsion for the rest of our ride.

Rotti’s hind end muscle development flourished in a rapid amount of time with the Balance EQ, plus his coat has achieved a healthy glow – even on the days I don’t give him a thorough groom!

Final Thoughts

All in all, I’m sold on the claims Foxden Equine makes for these two supplements, and while I do not think it is a catch-all for everything (Rotti still gets a separate joint supplement), their benefits are proven and exceeded my expectations.

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen, Purchasing Associate

The Ultimate Supplement Buying Guide

Have you ever wondered what supplement to choose for your horse? With so many options available, it may be overwhelming to know where to start. Thankfully, Big Dee’s has come to the rescue with a list of our top supplement picks for a variety of conditions. In addition to a proper nutrition, veterinarian, and exercise regiment, help enhance your horse’s well-being with these products below!

Best All-Around Supplement:

Equinety Horse XL Powder: $24.99 – $99.99

Equinety | #1 Best Selling Supplement

Don’t just ask us – ask the ELEVEN THOUSAND happy customers who choose Equinety for their horses! This revolutionary supplement, known as the “Miracle Worker,” is specifically designed to enhance the entire life of your horse with it’s 100% pure Amino Acid formula. Not only does it help support muscle strength and recovery; healthier, strong hooves and a glossy coat; and a focused, calm attitude, its patented formula is known to repair and regenerate damaged cells throughout the entire body.

How Equinety XL Works

Ulcer & Gut Health

UlcerGard (Omeprazole) for Horses Merial - Ulcer Control ...
Merial UlcerGard: $35.00

UlcerGard | Tish C. – Senior Buyer, Cindy M. – Showroom Associate, Grant R. – Showroom Manager

FDA-approved, this highly recommended and proven agent is the ONLY non-prescription product of its kind used in the treatment and prevention of ulcers and gastric distress in horses. Research has shown that 2 out of 3 performance horses suffer from ulcers, with flare ups occurring due to shows, racing, hauling, season changes, or other periods of stress. Easy to use and provides up to 4 doses for treatment or preventative use, UlcerGard is something that should always be in your medicine cabinet at the barn.

Omega Alpha Gastra FX | Lisa G. – Sport Horse Specialist

Omega Alpha Gastra-FX: $17.95 – $112.50

From racehorses to show horses to any horses in between, Gastra FX is ideal for horses that are prone to ulcers, experience GI upset due to stress, or sensitive to changes in their environment. Lisa loves it for her senior Dressage mount, Indy, and has noticed major improvements in his overall well-being.

“I found the Omega Alpha [Gastra FX] when searching for a better product to address periodic “irritated gut syndrome”. My horse is very sensitive to environmental changes: big temperature swings, a different hay supplier, bad allergy conditions, etc. Any one of these can turn his usual normal manure balls into wet cow patties – messy to clean up and groom off. I’ve tried many remedies from basic probiotics to major gut bacteria re-population therapies. The Gastra works the best… in just one or two doses he is comfortable and back to normal.”

Joint

Whether it be age, performance level, arthritis, or prevention, all horses can benefit from adding a joint supplement in their feeding regiment. Not only will certain ingredients like Hyluronic Acid and Glucosamine help keep joints moving comfortably, you can trust the recommendations of Big Dee’s staff that what they use for their horse makes a difference!

Spectra Mega-FLX+ HA | Cassie H. – Marketing Associate

Spectra Mega-FLX + HA: $28.95 – $84.95

“I give this to both of my horses to maintain healthy muscle and joint support. I can see (and hear) the difference in them while taking this supplement. They move easier, with longer strides and don’t “click” their joints like you can sometimes hear in older horses. Both of them still take off in the pasture like young horses and never come up lame or sore. I absolutely recommend this!”

Equithrive Complete Joint | Lisa G. – Sport Horse Specialist

Equithrive Complete Joint Pellets $139 – $387

“Equithrive Joint is my product of choice for the joint health for my horse. I have tried many, but this one was particularly recommended by my lameness specialist Veterinarian for the long term maintenance of my FEI level dressage partner. Still in a regular work program at age 27, he of course suffers some wear and tear arthritis, but his xrays could easily be presumed to be of a horse half his age!”

Even at 27, Indy has no problem performing upper-level dressage movements like a horse half his age!

Calming

Riding and showing are supposed to be fun for both you and your horse, however if your horse is too nervous, stressed out, anxious, or distracted it can be difficult to manage. On top of trying to keep yourself calm and collected, it can be virtually impossible to focus on if your horse is having a meltdown, too. When choosing a calming supplement, it’s important to consider if it is an herbal or non-herbal and if you want a daily feed through or a pre-event paste. Whatever you select, it’s important to check your organization’s rulebook if you show, as some governing bodies ban the use of certain ingredients, like Valerian Root, Lavender, Chamomile, Vervain, and others. After trying virtually every calmer on the market, Ramard’s Total Calm & Focus and Perfect Product’s Training Day has continued to provide the most consistent, safe, show-ready results to help manage Rotti’s anxiety and attention.

Perfect Prep Training Day Powder | Colleen C. – Purchasing Associate

Perfect Prep EQ Training Day: $106.20

The Training Day is my secret weapon at home when schooling, trail riding, or taking a lesson – I swear by this stuff! Rotti can be extremely herd bound, and prior to using this we would always experience some sort of meltdown once he realized he was separated from his barn buddies, screaming, bucking, and carrying on – a literal temper tantrum! My trainer recommended the Perfect Prep Training Day, and within 2 days, I noticed a difference. Not only does it smell like Fruit Loops, it’s really easy to mix into his morning breakfast mash and still keeps him level-headed by the time I get to ride later in the day. It’s perfect for those that want to have a fast-acting show prep regiment or are looking for a daily feed-through calmer.

Rotti is now super confident and way easier to tap into his brain when working. Having the right calming regiment makes me able to enjoy a whole different side of him!

Ramard Total Calm & Focus | Colleen C. – Purchasing Associate

Ramard Total Calm & Focus: $10.75 – $309.95

I love this paste because it’s relatively fast-acting and I can feed it the morning of a show with plenty of time for it to work into his system and provide lasting results. It doesn’t dull Rotti out and helps manage his Cortisol levels to keep him from becoming irritable and stressed to create a positive situation for the both of us.

Weight & Conditioning

dac Oil | Cassie H. – Marketing Associate

dac Oil: $39.95 – $129.95

A multi-purpose supplement, dac Oil is beloved by many classes of horse owners. The 98% fat supplement’s unique blend of vegetable and fish oils helps to improve skin and coat condition, promoting healthy weight gain without making horses “hot.”

“I give both of my seniors a pump of dac Oil in the summer for maintenance and two pumps in the colder months to maintain a nice overall body condition. They absolutely glow! Their skin feels soft, they have a healthy shine and keep weight on easy. Plus, they love the taste!”

Electrolytes & Salt

Redmond Rock Mineral Salts & Rock | Colleen C. – Purchasing Associate

Redmond Rock Loose Mineral Salts and Rock: $11.95 – $42.95

When temperatures heat up, the first thing I worry about is if my horse is drinking enough water. On really hot, humid days where the life is sucked out of the both of us, I tried things like adding Gatorade to his water and put a salt block in his stall, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. A friend of mine recommended I try the Redmond Rock products. As soon as I hung up the rock in Rotti’s stall, he immediately started licking and couldn’t seem to get enough! The top-dressing minerals are super easy to use and takes the worry out of wondering if he is getting the essential minerals in his daily feed. I’m now obsessed with all of the Redmond products and is the ONLY rock salt I will ever use. In fact, my barnmates switched from their previous blocks to Redmond after seeing the difference in my horse’s water drinking habits!

Redmond Rock on a Rope: $9.99

Finish Line Apple-A-Day | Jen A. – Purchasing Associate

Finish Line Apple-A-Day Electrolyte: $12.55-$49.45

“I feed electrolytes all year round to make sure that my horses are always drinking enough water.  Especially when we have large temperature swings, Apple A Day keeps my horses hydrated.  They like the taste, it’s a small scoop compared to other brands  and the 5lb pail is economical.  Finish Line makes supplements with no added sugars or fillers so I know that my horse is getting the right nutrients that they need.”

Jen understands the importance of keeping her horses properly hydrated as an active 3-Day Event Rider!

Body Condition & Muscle Development

Progressive Top-Line Advanced Support | Kayla M. – Showroom Associate

Progressive Top-Line Advanced: $45.95

When Kayla started using Top-Line Advanced in summer 2019, she wanted to find a solution for Merlin, her Thoroughbred gelding, who suffered from chronic back pain and inability to sustain muscle throughout his back. In addition to testing at 100% on the back pain threshold, Merlin also was dealing with a case of Scoliosis (curvature) in his spine.

“I was blown away with the results [of Progressive Top-Line Advanced.] Within 30 days, not only did his body condition massively improve, but within 2 months, his back pain went down to 30%. The combination of acupuncture and chiropractic helped, but I definitely think the biggest difference came from using Top-Line Advanced. Merlin is so much more comfortable now and happy to work – even when I didn’t ride him much over the spring and he was mostly on turnout, by the time I started riding him again he looked better than ever and I owe that completely to the Top-Line.”

For horses that are rehabbing or need help in muscle development and overall condition, the Progressive Top-Line products are a fantastic choice with an optimum balance of essential amino acids for muscle growth, development, and performance.
Image may contain: horse, sky, cloud, outdoor and nature
Merlin the OTTB thrives on Top-Line Advanced, helping him to build a consistent, well-developed topline from head to tail!

dac E Natural | Cassie H. – Marketing Associate

dac E Natural $64.95

“My lean built Quarter Horse is given E natural to help with his topline and overall comfort as he ages. I can see a big difference between how he looked last summer without dac’s E Natural, and now!”

Image may contain: horse, tree, outdoor and nature
Cherokee, the senior AQHA, doesn’t let age slow him down and has benefited from the antioxidant and Amino Acid support provided by dac E Natural!

For any horse to succeed, it’s important to work with the proper professionals to suggest and guide the routines, nutrition, fitness regiment, and care-taking habits for your horse to thrive. Let us know your favorite supplements in the comments below!

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen, Purchasing Associate

Let’s Talk About b(It) – Choosing the Right Bit for Your Horse

Since the domestication of horses, there has been a considerable amount of headway on the topic of bits and their practices, usage, technology, and understanding for what may be “best” for each horse.

What was at one point a simple rope across a horse’s tongue has been refined to specially formulated metals to increase salivation. In addition, varying schools of thought on the types of bits and practices used when biting a horse has evolved over the centuries, and the development of Master Loriners (metal workers for the use of bits and spurs with horses) has given access to further knowledge and advanced technology for the development of more complex mouthpieces. Now, more than ever, riders have a virtually endless amount of information available at their fingertips to add to their toolbox to further enhance their understanding of bits and enhance their relationships with their equine partners.

Rotti uses a jointed Blue Sweet Iron Pelham with brass rings to play with and encourage a soft mouth in the Hunter ring

With so many different types of bits available – including assorted cheek pieces, mouth pieces, materials, Curb/Leverage vs. Snaffle, and other factors – it can be overwhelming to decide which one to select. This blog will dive more into the different types of bits used in English disciplines, and the varying types of functions that each are used.

How Bits Work

Depending on the construction of each bit pressure can be extended to 7 different points.

  1. Tongue – The first point of contact when using a bit on a horse, this area will feel the pressure, weight, and effects of the bit being used. Depending on the number of “breaks” or joints on a bit, the size and depth of a mouth piece, more or less pressure can be administered.
  2. Bars – Evolution favored the domestication of horses by allowing a natural resting point between the front incisors and molars on a horse where a bit rests. Most bits will exert some pressure here on the gums at some point.
  3. Corners – When rein aids are applied, the corners of the lips on the mouth where the bit rests against will transmit pressure (depending on the mouthpiece and the rider’s hands, the pressure can be gentle to more severe). This creates a “smiling” effect and where a “wrinkle test” can be done to see if a bit is adjusted to the right level on the bridle. There is always pressure on the corners of the mouth when using a bit, with the exception of a Hackamore or “Bitless” bridles.
  4. Palette – Otherwise known as the roof of a horse’s mouth, pressure is administered via ports for a response. Depending on the shallowness of some horse’s mouths, certain bits may cause irritation and should be used with extreme caution and advanced hands (ie: those with high ports, etc.)
  5. Chin Groove / Lower Jaw – When a curb chain or strap is used in conjunction with a curb bit, that piece will apply pressure to the underside chin groove when rein aids are applied. In addition to creating pressure, the curb strap or chain also prevents the bit from sliding back and rotating too far in the horse’s mouth – particularly for ported bits. Note: It’s crucial to have the curb chain fitted without twists and that two flat fingers can be inserted between the chain and skin of the groove. Twisted chains or incorrectly set chains (going through the bit) can cause damage to the horse’s jaw, bars, and tongue.
  6. Poll – This point is located at the top of the horse’s head and will have pressure applied to it by the main part of the bridle. Generally, poll pressure is known to release endorphins but should be cognizant of how much and how often pressure is used, as the types of bits used to apply pressure to this area are usually for more advanced hands (ie: curb/shank/Pelham)
  7. Nasal Bone – This extremely delicate area along and across the nasal bone area can be utilized via specialty bits (Hackamore) or training equipment that will use various types of nosebands to apply pressure for a desired response. In this instance, you may see tools used like drop nosebands, flashes and figure 8 attachments.

Different Bits for Different Trips

Depending on your discipline (Hunters, Jumpers, Dressage, Eventing, Pleasure Driving, Field Hunting, Etc.), there are commonly found bit types for training and showing in.

Hunters: Known for its upholding of tradition throughout various horse and rider presentation, jump styles, and more, hunters are typically seen in traditional Snaffle or Pelham bits. Currently, many horses are seen in a King Dee Ring, a snaffle bit featuring a larger-styled Dee cheek piece, or a classic Pelham bit, which can feature various mouthpieces and metals such as “sweet iron,” stainless steel, composite synthetic rubber, and more. Unconventional bits such as Hunter Gags, Hackamores, Kimberwickes may be subject to penalty during judging, however may not be eliminated. Occasionally, double bridles are seen in the ring.

Jumpers: While there is no black and white rule for what bits may be used in the ring, you will typically see various combinations of fixed mouthpieces (as opposed to a loose ring which allows more mobility for the bit sliding along the horse’s corners) and various Curb and Leverage bits. When horses are expected to adjust their balance very quickly and efficiently between maximum jumping efforts, certain bits like the Gag and Hackamore allow increased poll pressure (generally encouraging the horse to drop his head) and giving the rider the ability to have an upper hand against the horse’s neck strength for better control and quality of aids. Lower level jumpers may use a Kimberwicke (with a curb chain) or Wilkie/Bevel bit for a combination of light leverage plus a Snaffle effect with the mouthpiece distributing pressure along the tongue and mouth.

Dressage: Throughout the various levels of showing, Dressage is known to have strict requirements of what can and cannot be used for showing purposes. For lower levels, a plain Snaffle bit is permitted. Third and Fourth Levels may use the same Snaffle bit or use the addition of a double bridle (Bridoon) with a curb chain. For FEI tests at national competitions, a plain snaffle bridle or simple double bridle may be used. However, for some qualifying classes and divisions, a double bridle is mandatory. The most common mouthpiece among dressage riders is a double-jointed bit (otherwise known as a Lozenge bit). Different pieces such as rollers, French link, or Dr. Bristol can add play and different levels of control are available in Lozenge bits.

Eventing: When going cross-county, especially over large, solid fences, it’s vital for any rider to feel comfortable and in control of their horse. In addition to making sure your horse has the proper fitness level to balance jumping and galloping over varying terrain. A lot of event riders prefer something with a little more leverage and added control for the cross-country phase like a 2- or 3-Ring Elevator, or Pelham.

Pleasure / Carriage Driving: A lot of driving bits use a Mullen (straight-bar) mouthpiece, to evenly distribute pressure throughout. These bits can use varying ports depending on the level of control desired. Another type of bit seen in driving, particularly with horses and ponies, is the Half Spoon/Half Check Snaffle bit. Designed to prevent sliding into a horse’s mouth, these bits can either be designed with a Mullen mouth or single-joint mouthpiece. The Wilson Snaffle and Coronet Berry Bits can apply more corner and cheek pressure with the different ring set-ups available. For larger horses in Carriage or Team Driving, 2- or 3-Loop Butterfly Bits act as a leverage and snaffle bit combination with the ability to apply more or less severe pressure to encourage the horse to break at the poll, depending on where the driving reins attach to the fixed loop, while the curb chain applies additional chin pressure. Straight, ported, or double-jointed mouth pieces are available if more or less bar, tongue, and palate pressure is desired.

*Note: It is always a good idea to check with your showing or breed registration for the most up-to-date rules and restrictions on certain bits for showing. For example, in hunter divisions, the only bits that are deemed “conventional” and free of potential penalties from Judges are Snaffles and Pelhams on traditional full bridles.

Take a Test Ride

Big Dee’s Tack offers a unique ability to allow riders to “try before you buy,” on various bits here in the store, including multiple manufacturers to allow you to Test Ride some of the most popular bit brands like Myler, Herm Sprenger, and Neue Schule. We have several expert guides on staff to guide in your selection that take the worry out of selecting the perfect bit for your horse. With over 130 bits available to Test Ride, you’ll be sure to find one that you, your horse, and your wallet will love!

Myler Level Best For Your Horse Book And Dvd Value Pack
The purchase of every Myler bit (including Test Ride options), you’ll receive a free booklet and DVD discussing the various levels Myler offers to allow further education to select the perfect bit for your horse through his training.

Words of Wisdom

The key to selecting the right bit for your horses is more than the selection of the bit alone. Training between legs, seat and hands is the most important factor in communicating with the horse. What may be appropriate for an upper-level Dressage rider on a Grand Prix mount will differ greatly for a beginner pony rider developing her aids and steering control.

Often, the problems perceived as resulting from not having the correct bit are usually due to issues in riding training, or could be an issue resulting from a horse that may need its teeth examined and routinely maintained. Some common reactions to an incorrect bit fit, selection, or incorrect hand pressure include head tossing, shaking, “dull-mouthed,” to the more severe reactions like refusing or rearing. Generally, inexperienced horses often have not been schooled to the desired responses certain bit cues requested and may be overwhelmed, confused, or become irritated by severe bits.

Regardless of what you bit you choose, it’s crucial to experiment with bit selection to determine which bit works best for each horse and rider combination. As horse and rider’s relationship, fitness levels, and experience grows, the bit you may need one season could differ from the next, resulting in different needs to address. As always, working with an experienced professional trainer, veterinarian, saddle fitter, and other professionals in the industry are all parts of finding a winning combination.

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen, Purchasing Associate

Protect That Noodle! The Importance of Selecting the Right Helmet

To close out this three-part series of the most important investments you’ll ever make when riding, including your tall boots and saddle purchases, the last but certainly not least item is your helmet.

TBI’s and Horseback Riding

Over the last 10 years, there has been a rapidly increasingly focus on various concussions and sports-related brain injuries. Traumatic Brain Injuries, or TBI’s, have been shown to be most prevalent among those that participate in horseback riding. In fact, almost half of the documented cases of TBI among adults were related to horseback riding at over 45%; while children and adolescents who rode were the third-leading number of TBI patients! Wearing a helmet isn’t just meant to be a fashion statement – it can be a matter of potentially saving your life.

Rotti’s antics as a youngster made my appreciate the importance of a helmet – you never know what my happen when working with a green baby!

Knocked Out

Every time my friends and I get together and the conversation of “who has the craziest injury story,” comes up, I always manage to win – or lose, depending on who you ask.

When I was a teenager, I was schooling a horse at a horse show during somewhat slippery conditions. My helmet was on and tack securely fastened, however no one could ever prepare for the “what-if” factor. Unfortunately, during the take-off at a jump, my horse completely lost its footing in the mud, falling forward with the impulsion of a jump behind it. Long story short, and many broken bones later, the horse had flipped over, and I crashed into the ground, experiencing what’s known as a rotational fall. I suffered a massive concussion, including bouts of blacking out, not knowing where I was, excruciating migraines, and my mood was constantly bombarded with changes of irritability, depression, and anxiety. Thankfully, my helmet was properly fit and ultimately, prevented me from severing my spinal cord, breaking my neck, or worse.

The most famous event that inspired riders around the world to advocate the importance of helmet awareness was the accident of Team USA Olympic rider, Courtney King-Dye. In 2010, King-Dye suffered a devastating injury after a young horse had slipped and fallen, resulting in over a month-long coma and her professional riding career coming to a tragic end. While her cognitive abilities recovered, she now spends most of her time teaching rather than riding, advocating the importance of wearing a helmet when handling horses – on the ground or in the saddle.

As I have gotten older, and less “bouncy” when I hit the ground, helmets have kept me safe and provided an overall sense of protection and comfort when dealing with hot youngsters, bad distances, and any time I get in the irons. In fact, helmet awareness and safety has become such an important topic throughout the equestrian community, the annual Helmet Awareness Day event hosted by Riders4Helmets springs up all throughout various tack stores, to further educate and ensure proper fitting of helmets to all riders.

Today’s Technology

Helmets developed today involve a variety of technologies in addition to various styles, finishes (matte, gloss, leather-look, Alcantara/faux suede, or even Swarovski-encrusted!), and brands. Regardless of what your budget is or purpose for your helmet (if it’s for schooling, shows, etc.), make sure you familiarize yourself with the different types of helmet safety certifications, and which one is required for your showing organization.

ASTM/SEI: The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is an organization that writes safety standards for various protective products, whose standards can be adopted by various organizations, such as the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF). Once those standards are in place, the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI) follows the quality control of these standards, ensuring manufactureres are follwing them by doing their own in-house testing or other third-party options. Testing audits are usually performed on an annual basis. Helmets are tested through rigorously, analyzing shock wave, puncture, harness, and visor resiliency through a variety of scenarios. After freezing the helmet to -20 degrees Fahrenheit and submerging in water overnight, if the helmet still transfers no more than 300g (“G”-forces) and the strap is still effective, the helmet earns ASTM/SEI approval. Currently, ASTM F1163-15 is the equestrian riding helmet standard for the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

Troxel is one of the original manufacturers to adopt and lead the way in ASTM/SEI safety standards for riding helmets. The Intrepid Performance helmet features a safety brim and base of the skull support at the back of the helmet.

PAS015: Developed by the British Standards Institude (BSI), this organization is similar to the SEI, set up to test the safety and quality control of riding helmets. The certification standards for PAS015 includes crush resistance and protection against injury when landing on an edged surface as well as a stability test to limit excessive movement during wearing or in the event of a fall.

Kitemark: The Kitemark is another BSI certification, most notably found on Charles Owen and KEP helmets. British Standards Institute tests the helmets and the Kitemark includes batch testing and access to the manufacturer’s factory and offices.

standards
Charles Owen is known for their many helmet safety standard certifications – this chart explains the types of protections each standard protects against.

VG1: This is a newer European standard for riding helmets that in addition to impact, retention, and visor tests, these standards demand that helmets withstand penetration and crushing. Many European-manufactured helmets, including KEP, Charles Owen, GPA, and Uvex offer this certification.

MIPS:  Multi-directional Impact Protection System, or MIPS, which is a new, advanced technology inside the helmet designed to reduce rotational forces transmitted to the brain that can result from certain impacts. This technology allows the head to move 10-15 mm in all directions, reducing the rotational motion to the brain. Currently, MIPS is offered in Trauma Void and certain Charles Owen helmets.

Trauma Void’s EQ3 helmets offer MIPS technology, designed to reduce the impact of brain activity in the event of a fall and minimize concussion risk.

HOT TIP: It’s important to note that helmet manufacturers recommend that helmets be replaced every five years. However, there is a big loophole to that rule: Helmets are only designed to protect your head for one impact – regardless of recently you might have purchased it. This includes any falls off your tack locker shelf, so make sure you properly store your helmet when it isn’t in use. In other words, that dusty Titium helmet you’ve been using since 2003 should be retired.

Big Dee’s inventory of riding helmets from exclusive, popular brands like Charles Owen, One K, GPA, Trauma Void, KASK, Uvex, KEP, Troxel, IRH, Ovation, and Tipperary meet or exceed safety standards required for riding and showing. Our certified helmet fitting experts are here to help find the perfect helmet, the perfect fit, and the perfect price, in addition to answering any questions you have to make sure your helmet is worn correctly every time!

Options Galore!

It can be overwhelming to decide which helmet is right for you, with so many options on exteriors, dial-fit vs. single size, and price points available. Currently, a smooth, matte finish or “Alcantara” fabric (a faux micro-suede) are the most popular finishes due to their ease of cleaning and finished look. Schooling riders have the option of choosing fun patterns, colors, and designs, like the Troxel FTX line, inspired by World-Champion barrel racer Fallon Taylor. For showing helmets, black and navy are the most traditional colors, but brown and gray have become increasingly popular finishes for the dressage and jumper rings.

Dial-fit helmets are wonderful options for young riders or those that offer lesson programs with their ability to adjust to a wide audience and ensure a proper fit. Regardless of which helmet you choose, make sure that you wear your hair in a similar fashion as you plan to ride (in a bun or ponytail or tucked underneath your helmet) to allow a consistent fit. Not all helmets fit the same, due to different head shapes (round or oval), hair thickness, and head size, so I recommend trying on several helmets until you have the “Goldilocks” fit that’s “just right.” Certain manufacturers like Ovation and KASK are known for their oval shape, while GPA and Trauma Void and KEP fit heads with a rounder profile. Some manufacturers, like One K and Charles Owen, offer round, oval, and long oval shape options to cater to a wider variety of riders.

Charles Owen’s helmets offer oval, long oval, and round head shapes to create a perfect fit for some harder-to-fit riders.

Tips for a Perfect Fit

Fitting your helmet is just as important as wearing one. In the event of a fall, your helmet is the only thing protecting your skull and brain, and ill-fitting equipment can potentially cause greater damage. NEVER guess your helmet size or buy a helmet that is “roomy” for a child rider. Helmets are not designed like shoes where they can be grown into – and there are great options available like Dial-Fit helmets that can offer longevity for growing riders.

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Dial fit helmets are a popular option for growing heads or riders that like to switch up their hairstyle. Just make sure you check the fit each time you put it on!

Helmets should sit level on your head with even pressure throughout and an almost “suction-like” fit. Because different manufacturers have different designs for their linings, the feel can be a little different, but it’s important to check a few things when trying on a new helmet. In the same vein, helmet manufacturers have different size charts, so the size you may be in one brand may differ from another. Knowing your actual head measurements will be useful when selecting where to start.

There should not be any pressure points and should sit level on your head. A comfortable, snug fit is good; a red ring around your forehead and a headache from too tight of a helmet is not. Conversely, you don’t want your helmet so loose that it can easily move around and covers your eyebrows – that means the helmet is too big.

The harness does not make the fit! Often, riders think that if they tighten the chin strap on a helmet it can correct a poor helmet fitting. Helmets should fit properly without the fastener attached and are only designed to keep it on in the event of a fall. When adjusting the chinstrap, it should sit under the chin and gently touches the bottom of the ear lobe. Ideally, you should be able to fit two fingers between the strap and under your chin. A good test to check is yawn with your helmet on – you should feel a gentle pressure pulling the top of the helmet down.

Removable, washable liners have become more common and available in many of today’s helmets. They allow ease of cleaning and the ability to adjust helmet fit for riders that alternate wearing their hair up or down or perhaps recently got a major hair cut. Check with a helmet fitting professional any time you make adjustments to your hairstyle, as your fit may change.

Use Your Noggin – Wear a Helmet!

No matter your discipline, experience level, or how bombproof your horse may be – always, ALWAYS wear a helmet. Not only is it the cool thing to do, it’s the easiest way to stay safe in and out of the saddle. Plus, with so many options to pick from, you can find one that coordinates with any riding outfit you choose!

Always wear a helmet and encourage your fellow riders to do the same!

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen, Purchasing Associate

Fan Favorites: Big Dee’s Employee Picks for Mud Season

It’s our favorite time of year! The time of the season where horses have turned into shedding wildebeests and what was once known as a horse farm has turned into a mud farm.

Thankfully, the Big Dee’s Crew has come to the rescue to hand-select some of our favorite, must-have products to get us through mud season. Whether you’re dealing with issues like 5 layers of mud or ways to bring your horse’s dull winter coat to a shiny spring glow, we’ve got you covered!

Curry On a Stik’

Picked by Purchasing & Showroom Department Manager, Gail L.

Are you looking for a grooming tool that will lift caked-on mud after your horse has spent all day rolling in his favorite puddle? Look no further, the Curry On A Stik’ allows deep cleaning with its large rubber prongs and exfoliating bristles.

Curry On a Stik’ $28.95

What makes this grooming tool out of this world isn’t just the fact it is Veterinarian tested and recommended, the unique handle design prevents hand fatigue – say goodbye to cramped fingers and “claw” hands! The dual-sided head provides a gentle massaging effect that horses crave, creating a bonding ritual your horse will look forward to.

“Finally, a round curry that is balanced and easy to hold! [Curry On a Stik’] will not make your hand cramp up. It’s great for getting out mud and shedding and there is a soft bristle side for finishing…” – Gail L.

E3 Antibacterial / Anti-Fungal Shampoo

Picked by Operations Manager, Jess R.

Who says you have to sacrifice penetrating, deep-cleaning properties for a gentle, pleasant-smelling formula? Elite Equine Evolution’s Antibacterial & Antifungal Shampoo proves you can have the best of both worlds!

This pH-balanced medicated shampoo is the solution to ensure a clean coat, while its fortification of Nano Vitamins A, C, E, & F ensure maximum absorption and diffusion of the vitamins to prevent inflammation and promote rapid healing. The E3 Antibacterial Shampoo’s truly one of the most effective bathing items out there for controlling Hot Spots, Ring Worm, Rain Rot, mud-related skin disorders, and more. Plus, it’s safe for dogs!

“E3 Antibacterial/Antifungal shampoo is my top-pick to keep my horses skin clean and healthy year-round. While it can be used for all-over cleaning, I absolutely rely on this shampoo to care for my horses legs.

During the wet season I like to do a deep clean with E3 and a full dry out at least once a week to keep nasty mud related afflictions at bay. The other 6 months of the year I use it as an integral part of my post-foxhunting routine. This high-sudsing cleanser has a pleasant scent and leaves the hair soft and radiant. I truly believe that the E3 Antibacterial/Antifungal shampoo is the absolute best defense against minor cuts and scrapes from brush, brambles and wire.” – Jess R.

Epona Grooming Tools

Picked by Operations Manager, Jess R.

Epona has designed some of the leading grooming tools great for tackling dirt, dust, and debris on any horse, any time of the year. From brushes to curries and sponges galore, you’ll definitely want to stock up for your own grooming box

The Epona Ulta-Mitt is super effective for bathing and removing sweat marks from both clipped and unclipped horses. The gentle, cactus-like material helps lift dirt and debris free from the skin, then simply hose off and hang to dry! The April Power Shower Sponge with Tiger’s Tongue is one of Big Dee’s best-selling items, a two-sided and super absorbent sponge to scrub away dirt or use with your favorite coat conditioner to bring out a dazzling finish.

“The Epona April Power Shower Sponge with Tigers Tongue is a great dual-purpose sponge. This tool makes bucket baths quick and easy, the sponge holds lots of soap, while with a simple flip the tigers tongue makes quick work of tough stains. I also use it dry to power through crusted mud and sweat marks. Flip it over to the sponge side and give it a spritz with your favorite coat conditioner for a quick spot clean.

The Epona Ulta-Mitt is the one tool I think every equestrian should have in their bath bucket. The tightly woven loops help to create a rich lather while attaining a deep clean right down to their skin. The flexible fabric allows my hand to easily conform to my horses legs to make scrubbing easy and comfortable for my horse. I give the Epona Ulta-Mitt two thumbs up for quality and durability.” – Jess R.

EQyss Survivor Super Detangler & Shine

Picked by Purchasing Associate, Colleen C.

One of the most treasured grooming items in my tack box, I have been a big fan of the EQyss Survivor Super Detangler & Shine for everyday grooming and last-minute touch-ups before entering the show ring. I swear by this stuff and any person who wants to make a “wow” statement for their horse’s turnout needs this product. This heavenly-smelling gel slides easily through burrs, knots, and tangles without being sticky or greasy. A little goes a long way on this detangler – a nickel to quarter size drop is all I need!

Some of favorite things about this all-natural gel is that it’s specifically formulated to reduce hair breakage, keeping Rotti’s tail nice and fluffy and full. The long-lasting results keep the same bottle around for a long time and make quick touch-ups a breeze right before entering the ring. Many of EQyss’s grooming products are in my trunk, due to their non-toxic, pH-balanced formulas that smell FANTASTIC and used for moisturizing dry coats, hooves, helping with a variety of skin issues, and more.

Zarasyl

Picked by Senior Buyer Tish C.

Zarasyl is a Superman-like agent that does it all! This scientifically-designed barrier cream is used for a variety of preventative and treatment methods for most types of skin ailments. It’s steroid- and antibiotic-free, making it safe for any level of competition.

Zarasyl Barrier Cream 6.7 oz $52.50

Its proprietary formula contains bio-available Silica for healthy connective tissue growth and enriched with Beeswax for gentle soothing and healing of abrasions while creating a protective barrier against harmful bacteria. Zarasyl also contains Tree Tree Oil for antibacterial properties, Zinc for cell growth and wound healing, and Lanolin for a moisturized skin barrier. Extremely easy to use and apply, the slightly sticky formula allows you to pinpoint exactly where you want the cream to go – no mess, no fuss.

“[With Zarasyl], a little goes a long way! Test-Free and I found it starts to heal up limestone/mud rash within  a few days.” – Tish C.

Coat Defense

Picked by Purchasing / Product Management, Christie F.

What started out as a non-toxic, sustainable, and Eco-friendly human skincare solution has turned into an international phenomenon for the effective cleaning, treatment, and management of a healthy skin and coat for horses.

Coat Defense Trouble Spot Drying Paste & Daily Preventative Powder $17.89 – $35.95

This all-natural line of effective products is without harsh ingredients like chemical preservatives, synthetic detergents and fragrances – but don’t let that fool you – their topical skincare products pack a punch! The Coat Defense Powder & Paste can be used for a variety of common skin issues like rain rot, bug bites, sweet itch, various cuts and scrapes, and makes a FANTASTIC dry shampoo! Plus, its delicate Peppermint scent will keep you reaching for both of these fantastic products throughout the year.

 “For many years I have battled mud fever until I found Coat Defense.  Now using Coat Defense combined with a daily grooming routine we have had no mud fever episodes (yay!).  I focus on the problem areas, legs, hocks and spine area cleaning off dirt and debris using the Epona Tigers Tongue, it easily removes dirt and debris from hard to reach areas because it so easily conforms to the body part you’re grooming.   I follow up with a generous amount of Coat Defense powder making sure to rub it into the coat to get to the skin.  During Spring and Winter months when the horses are wearing their blankets more frequently I will even put a little Coat Defense on prior to blanketing.  Coat Defense is now my go-to product for Mud Fever prevention!” – Christie F.

What Will YOU Choose?

With over 200 brands and thousands of items to select within our vast inventory, Big Dee’s is certain to have the products you need to bring out the best from your horse – both on the inside and the outside! Whether you’re battling caked on mud in a dirty tail, dealing with a shedding woolly mammoth, or brightening a coat that was left dull from the winter, our expert staff is here to ensure you have the grooming tools and bathing essentials to create a dazzling finish.

Tell us YOUR favorite spring-time grooming faves!

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen, Purchasing Associate