Category Archives: Horse Care

Which Grazing Muzzle Works Best For Your horse?

Do you suffer from grazing muzzle envy while watching other horses graze comfortably with their muzzle on? When you have a horse that requires a grazing muzzle due to sugar sensitivities or you just need to slow down their eating, it is hard finding the right muzzle that doesn’t rub and is comfortable on their face for extended periods of time.

Before grazing muzzles were created, owners were limited to dry lot turnout (if they had one) or keeping their horse locked in a stall for fear of causing health issues to their easy keepers! We all know this is not ideal as horses need movement, natural grazing, and social interactions with their herd.

A muzzle forces your horse to eat slowly and more deliberately and allows you to limit the amount of forage your horse can consume. Horses are meant to graze 16-18 hours per day, and grazing muzzles can be beneficial as they can consistently consume small amounts of grass while wearing the muzzle.

My horse, Gracie, is an 18-year-old Morgan who was diagnosed with Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) and now has Insulin Resistance (IR). She absolutely loves food and was not happy watching all her pasture mates enjoying the grass while she was stuck in the dry lot. I decided it was time to do research on the available grazing muzzle options to see what would work best for her. My biggest concerns were if the muzzle would cause rubs/sores on her face, ability to access water, breathable material, and not being able to slip it off.  I was also concerned about the wear on her teeth that can happen from trying to graze with a muzzle on. After trying out a variety of muzzles, here are my findings:

I started with two canvas muzzles, the Best Friend Padded Leather Crown Grazing Muzzle and the Easy Breathe Adjustable Grazing Muzzle. While I did like the size of the grazing hole on these muzzles, the canvas material gave her sweat lines, however, these grazing muzzles provide a lot of adjustability to fit different horse head shapes!

Within the last few years, ThinLine came out with a Flexible Filly muzzle which was so different than the traditional canvas or cage-like grazing muzzles! It boasts UV resistance, antimicrobial properties, and durability with plenty of airflow. I tried this one on my horse two years ago and it has been my favorite so far. She can get small amounts of grass and the muzzle is much more flexible in its’ movement. She was able to drink water, eat through snow covered grass, and even groom her pasture mates with no issues! I also like that it doesn’t directly touch her face so there hasn’t been any rubbing.

Recently, Big Dee’s started carrying the GreenGuard muzzle which has received high ratings. I tried this muzzle and wanted to share my thoughts. I really like how open and breathable it is. The way it hangs on the halter leaves plenty of room for airflow. I have it attached to a nylon halter and I like that the muzzle attaches to the halter with breakaway straps.  This muzzle is known to be “anti-escape artist” and so far, she has managed to keep this on! Her other muzzles she slipped out of them rather quickly.

All in all, there are a variety of muzzles available on the market to fit each horse’s need. As they become more prevalent, new technologies are being created leading to great new products! If you are interested in trying a muzzle or are not sure which one might be the best fit for you, please reach out to us and we will be happy to help!

Written by Customer Service Representative, Erica



Are You Show Ready?

As some of us are hoping for a brighter show season ahead of us in 2021, one of the things we may not have practiced/thought of much in the last year is putting our hair up neatly for a show. But as spring has sprung, so has horse show season and its time to brush up on this all-important skill!

Classic Hair Up Process

Step 1: I place my hair net (I prefer the one knot) over the top half of my head (yes, it always gets in your eyes to start!). Pull the sides of your hair down over the tops of your ears while tucking the elastic under the hair. 

Step 2: Then pull your hair net snug over the top of your head, wrap it around the base of your ponytail and secure with a non-bulky elastic.  Now you can push the hairnet out of your eyes and up to your hairline, adjusting the hair over the top of your ears if needed. Depending on the length of your hair you can feed it into the hair net and flip that up on top of your head or if you have longer hair like I do, just flip your loose ponytail on top.

Step 3: Time to put on your helmet starting back to front. Place the elastic into the back pocket of the harness if you have a helmet with that option and rotate your helmet forward onto your head keeping a hand on the elastic to keep it outside of the actual helmet so it doesn’t interfere with fit.

Final step: Once your helmet is on your head securely tuck in any extra pieces to keep your look extra neat. Be sure the front of your helmet sits about 1” above your eye brows – too high and the helmet cannot protect you effectively, too low and you can’t see! 

Your helmet should feel like it’s giving your head a hug, not a headache!

It very important to have your helmet fitted for how you plan to wear your hair daily.  If you don’t want to wear your hair up everyday but plan to put it up for show and have medium/long length hair it would be best to invest in 2 helmets so you don’t compromise the fit and safety.

Alternatives

In the 4H ring or the dressage ring show bows or buns are appropriate (but don’t try to use one in the rated hunters!). If you plan to use a show bow, I would still use the hairnet to neatly contain your hair under your helmet and secure with an elastic.  Then clip the bow in the hair above the elastic (you may need to pull the elastic a bit lower so everything sits out of the way of the helmet). Tuck your hair into the remainder of the hair net and then into the show bow net for added security- having your hair flop out in the middle of your class is very distracting!

If you are using a bun cover start the same but twist/wind your hair into a bun at the base of your neck and secure with another elastic and some bobby pins before placing the cover over it.  If it doesn’t feel secure, tuck a few more bobby pins in until you can jump up and down without it moving.

Kids

Under 12 with long hair can show in braids.  As a kid who lived in French braids to keep my long hair contained at the barn I don’t recommend them under a helmet as I find they create pressure points and an uncomfortable fit.  If your kid is tougher then I am go for it! I personally like to do 2 braids starting just below where the helmet sits, secure with elastics at the bottom and add bows of your choice.

Regardless of your chosen style practice before show day! Wear your hair the way you will for the show and take a lesson.  This way you know if it will stay put for the whole show and you can avoid embarrassing/distracting flying hair incidents.  Let’s face it, shows are stressful enough, don’t let your hair be part of the worry!

Written by Sponsored Rider, Sarah Freeman from Serendipity Stable

Equine Herpes Virus (EHV)

I know that I am not alone when I say – equine viruses worry me. I have been keeping up with the outbreak of the aggressive strain of the neurological form of the Equine Herpes Virus in Europe. While there have been no reports in the United States the USEF is recommending that people take important steps to protect their horses.

1 .Review and ensure you are prepared for quick implementation of an isolation plan at a competition grounds and/or at your home farm or facility

2. Check your horse’s temperature twice daily and maintain a temperature log. Any horses with a fever about 101.5-102.5°F should isolate in separate facilitates on the competition grounds or at separate veterinary facility off-site

3. Isolate horses at first signs of symptoms or illness and contact your vet immediately

4. Keep separate feed buckets, brushes, rags, and tack/equipment for each horse. Eliminate communal or shared water troughs and buckets.

5. Ask your veterinarian about appropriate cleaning solutions

6. Practice hand washing in between handling horses

7. Maintain social distancing for horses; limit nose to nose contact with other horses at the ring

8. Ensure your horse is vaccinated for EHV (Rhinopneumonitis vaccine)

Please note that the vaccine does not protect against the neurological form of EHV, which is referred to as Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHM) but does reduce the clinical signs and shedding of the virus. Early identification and reporting of ill horses is critical in order to trace possible points of exposure and to aid in the prevention of further spread of the disease. The first 30 minutes following identification of a potentially infectious horse frequently determines the extent and scope of transmission and potential outbreak. You should contact your veterinarian immediately for testing if a horse begins to display any symptoms of EHV. Competition managers should also be notified if the horse is at a competition.

Big Dee’s carries vaccines to protect against EHV – you can view them by clicking here

The USEF has also made a Vaccination record for Equine Influenza and Equine Herpes – you can download it by clicking here

They have also made an isolation supplies list – click here to download the list

We hope that these tips will help to keep your horse happy and safe.

Boredom Busters for 2021

Muddy paddocks and bored horses are right around the corner as the snow melts and rain begins in Northeastern Ohio. We all try to physically and mentally prepare for what this means – horses who start feeling those Spring weather vibes and turn simple turnout into a game of “which part of the pasture/stall/companion shall I chew on and destroy today”?

Of course we would love to turn them out in lush fields of summer grass, but right now is the waiting game for warmer weather. With that, means more time in sacrifice lots, arenas and stalls. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to try to re-direct that energy and encourage playfulness and mental stimulation in a safe way.

Shires Ball Feeder

I recently discovered the Shires Ball Feeder for my six month old Saddlebred colt. He was getting bored with his paddock twigs and started removing the water trough heater and other important farm essentials from their appropriate places. So I bought him this this ball to hopefully curb the mouthiness – and he loved it! I toss this out into his paddock filled with just a little bit of his Buckeye Growth feed and he’ll play off and on all day. When I turned my senior gelding out with the colt, he also played with this treat ball and was far more successful with getting the grain out, but still enjoyed nuzzling it around.

The Shires Ball Feeder is the choice for a rowdy colt!

Jolly Ball

A tried and true classic, the Jolly Ball was a great addition to my colt’s paddock. In fact, I have a Jolly Ball in every pasture so all of my horses have a fun, sturdy toy to maim in their spare time. I still have several that were bought years ago, and while some may have been deflated, they still can handle the energy of a playful horse. My colt has figured out how to grab the handle and parade it around for his pasture mates to watch.

Horse Quencher

While this may not fit in a traditional boredom buster checklist, I have found the single Horse Quencher packets (apple, peppermint, root beer and butterscotch) to be perfect for a once a week snack at night for my horses. Not only does it encourage them to drink a little extra while the weather fluctuates, it also gives them something new and fun to try out. So far I have established that my colt and grey gelding have a more refined palette for traditional flavors, while my chestnut gelding feasts on anything that resembles food. Overall, it’s a fun way to spend a few extra minutes at the barn.

Copper’s favorite is Root Beer!

Stall Essentials

I keep my horses turned out during the day and put them up at night. This serves many purposes including safety, paddock maintenance and it helps give each horse separate personal space to eat, sleep and relax. It is a lot easier to keep senior horses occupied, whereas my colt needed extra enrichment while stalled.

Chew Toys

My mother shared some useful knowledge when I got my colt – use dog toys for the “teething phase”. This phase is the time frame when a young horse wants to put just about everything it can in its mouth and chomp – sticks, muck buckets, feed buckets, human hands, you name it. She figured out that certain dog toys could cater to the biting and curiosity these young horses have, without risking injury to the handler. Of course, only appropriate and safe toys should be used and they should be checked daily. Her filly really liked squeaker toys. My colt prefers the Jolly Pets Romp N Roll Ball and Jolly Pets Treader Red. I tied them to his gate with bailing twine to give him a fun “enrichment” area in his stall.

Stall toys help keep Remington occupied through the night!

Redmond Rocks

I have a Redmond Rock on a Rope in every horse stall. This not only encourages more water intake, but also allows each horse to regulate their own body for minerals. They usually last several months, so they are a great investment long term!

Hay Bags and Nets

I keep hay bags in my older horse’s stalls in addition to hay on the ground. This helps regulate how quickly they eat, and ensures they have hay well into the evening and early morning. I will be adding the Burlingham Hay Ball Feeder to each stall soon, to get a little more play and movement in the stalls!

I have more exciting plans with my colt in the future (including the Jolly Mega Ball), but for now, he and his older buddies are happy with the toys and treats provided during the “mud season” we are about to have.

Written by Marketing Associate, Cassie

Custom Boot Event 2021

Our Custom Boot Event is back! February 10th-20th we will be able to get your custom fit for the perfect boot of your dreams! It’s not too late to schedule an appointment, click here to schedule!

Types of Tall Boots

There are three main types of tall riding bootsField Boots, Dress Boots, and Dressage Boots. Each type of boot has a specific purpose, depending on the discipline you ride. Over the years, much like the rest of riding gear within the equine community, styles have evolved, but the biggest change was the introduction of zippers and stretch panels. This allowed for a much closer fit as well as an easier time putting on and taking off tall boots.

Black is still the most popular and traditional color, however more colors have been seen in the rings as of recent, including brown in the hunter/jumper arenas. In fact, there is a whole rainbow of colors and materials available that are appearing more in the Jumper, Dressage, and Eventing show rings, or even for schooling. From blues to burgundy to crocodile to patent leather and more custom boots are meant to make you stand out in a crowd. Just be careful, you don’t want it to be for the wrong reasons. If you intend on competing, make sure it’s within the guidelines and rules of your discipline.

Take a walk on the wild side: With various accents such as front zippers, full-front lace, animal or patent leather, crystals, engraving, and more, your dream boot can literally come to life!

Why Custom?

Custom boots are a fabulous way to express one’s personality and put all eyes on you. Depending on the circuit and discipline you show in, they’re an exciting way to keep up with the latest trends and make a fashion statement. It’s a thrill to pick and choose the colors, details from toe-punch to custom embroidery or engraving, and crystals or exotic leathers to make your boot fantasy come to life, and even more exciting when you put them on and enter the ring! The most important thing, however, is that custom boots are exactly that – custom. People that may have issues with fitting a particularly wide calf, high arch, wide footbed, or find that their tall boots are never “tall” enough, fully custom boots are made-to-measure with intricate detail and done in a one-on-one setting to make sure they are carefully and correctly designed. Custom boots are hand-made and hand-stitched, because these aren’t an off-the-shelf purchase but are made just for YOU. When the boots are done, there is usually a second fitting to ensure that the boots are exactly as ordered. In addition, you generally are working with a representative the entire process to answer any questions, resolve any issues, and to make sure you are completely satisfied in your investment.

What to Expect?

Big Dee’s represents The DeNiro Boot Company, Königs, The Dehner Company, and Cavallo as their custom boot makers. Lisa Goretta is one of the flagship members in the Big Dee’s Showroom and has been extensively skilled and involved in the equestrian industry professionally for over 30 years. She is our custom boot fitter here in the store and highlighted the most important things to keep in mind when preparing for a fitting appointment.

Safety Measures: Extra safety measures are in place to keep both our customers and associates safe and we ask that you schedule an appointment before arriving. Social distancing of six foot will be followed. Due to Ohio’s public mask mandate, face masks are required by our associates and customers. All high touched areas area continually sanitized.

Fitting Process: Generally, the measuring itself takes around 30 – 45 minutes. You’ll be measured beyond your basic foot and calf size, but also the exact height of your leg, width of the ball of your foot, and the depth of your instep are all carefully considered in the design of your boots.

What to Wear: If you wear full seat fleece-lined breeches and wool socks in the winter and thin tights and thin socks in the summer, bring those. You want your boots to fit perfectly, so it’s important to wear what you will most likely be riding in them with when getting measured.

With your new boots, it’s vital they are stored properly, kept free from moisture and excess sweat, and cleaned/conditioned/polished routinely. If you keep up with basic care and necessary maintenance, you’ll be thrilled with the lifespan of your new boots. In fact, Lisa’s custom Dehner boots from 30 years ago are still in use – “They’re old, but I love them, and they look just as good as custom boots today!”

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen

The 5 Love Languages – Equestrian Version

The Five Love Languages are a useful tool to understand relationship dynamics better and define qualities that speak a person’s “love language.” These characteristics, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, Quality Time, and Physical Touch can apply to any relationship between friends, family, loved ones, and especially your horse! Read on to see what practices you can do at the barn to share your Love Language this Valentines Day.

Words of Affirmation

Everyone likes to feel validated and encouraged, your horse does too! Keeping a positive dialogue and mindset when you go to the barn will help keep any of the stress or baggage you might unintentionally bring from work, home, or other situations. Much like us, horses thrive on praise and uplifting words and tone, even if they may not necessarily speak the same language we do.

When working or riding your horse, shower them with praise when they do a job well done. So often, if we are working on an exercise trying to fix or get through something, we are more focused on the “wrong” that when they do give a release or a movement we ask, we act as if that was the expected response and wait for them to “mess up” again. Instead, when your horse does give the desired response, a simple “good boy!” or reassuring scratch at the withers will help increase your horse’s confidence, and make him eager to do it again the next time you ask. Much like physical exercise and new movements, practice makes perfect. The same thing applies to Words of Affirmation – it may not stick right away, but keep at it. Your horse – and your relationship between horse and rider – will thank you.

Gifts

Although your horse may not appreciate a new saddle pad or fancy bridle as much as you, treats and toys are something any horse can enjoy! Perhaps you can try a new stretching technique or some groundwork exercises and use treats as a positive reinforcement tool. I love the Buckeye Treats as training tools because of their size and variety of flavors – my horses especially love the Peppermint!

With 3 yummy flavors to pick from, give your horse a tasty reward for a job well done using the Buckeye Treats (or whatever treat your horse may love! Plus, you can buy 2 bags and get 1 free!

When your horse is by himself during the day in his stall, treating him to a new toy or boredom buster like the Jolly Stall Toy will help engage his brain and keep him focused on a fun, yummy task. On days that it might be too cold to ride, have a play day with your horse in the arena with the Jolly Mega Ball! You can also cover it to look like a Beach Ball or Soccer Ball so you and your horse can play tag, “catch,” or a variety of other fun, desensitizing exercises.

The Jolly Stall Snack combines a bun Jolly Ball attachment and delicious snack your horse can play with during quiet hours in his stall. My horses love the Molasses flavor especially!

Acts of Service

Kindness always reaps kindness. If you board your horse at home, or if you take care of your horses at home, having a helping hand to show someone their appreciation for all the hard work they do. Not only will it help encourage a positive, working relationship between your barn owner, the stable hands who help take care of your horse everyday, it always feels good to give back!

Offering to sweep an aisle, pick a stall, or scrub buckets is a small act of service but it goes a long way. Do your part and use your choice of pitchfork like the Future Fork or Ames Pitch Fork will make the job go by much quicker. And most importantly, remember to say “thank you!”

I love this pitchfork for grabbing large clumps in the stall or lots of bedding – work smarter, not harder!

Quality Time

Whatever you put into your relationship with your horse is what you will get out of it. So be sure to spend time getting to know your horse and build your partnership! Whether it’s doing something fun like showing, taking a lesson, having a relaxing trail ride, or sharing a quiet moment in his stall, all of these will nurture and grow the bond between horse and rider. If needed, go for quality over quantity. Even if you’re super busy between work, family members, and other priorities, taking the time to find your happy place (for most, myself included, that means being at the barn) will result in a positive relationship and wonderful memories for years to come.

Physical Touch

Do you love the sensation of a great massage or comforting hug? So does your horse! Grooming is one of the best ways to comfort and bond with your pony, plus it helps you assess his physical condition firsthand. The Epona Dressager is a WONDERFUL tool to give your horse the same feeling of a heavenly massage and gives you the chance to work out any areas of knots or tension he might be holding. Finish off with the Haas Diva brush for a soothing sensation that provides a dazzling finish!

Final Thoughts

Even though your horse may not appreciate a bouquet of roses, gift card (though we certainly would!), or an expensive dinner, each horse has their own love language that allows them to interpret affection and the desire to achieve a close bond with their partner. Take time this Valentine’s season to discover all the many ways you can show love to your four-legged bestie!

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen C. – Purchasing Specialist

Adventures With a New Colt

A New Chapter

I made a decision well before 2021 – I wanted a new, young horse to “grow” with. After retiring my last show horse, I knew there would be many more great years of trail riding, but I was going to miss actively working towards something – whether it was preparing for a show or taking lessons.

I started on projects around the property to accommodate another horse – updated fencing, built a barn extension for hay, updated inside the barn. It was getting serious – a new horse was on the horizon!

I dipped my toes into breeder and adoptions options – was I going to go for a draft cross? A stock horse? An off-track Thoroughbred? I had grown up being able to ride the same horse in a Dressage test in the morning, out into a cornfield at night and then pop over some logs the next day. I hold both English and Western riding styles dear, so I wanted that versatility in my next horse – and there were so many great options to choose from!

Updating fencing included both wooden and “no-climb” to make sure the new addition had a safe place to acclimate to my property. Tying Marking Tape ( found at home improvement stores ) made the fence extra visible for both my seniors and the new horse.

As soon as I saw the picture of my soon-to-be new colt, my goal of patiently waiting and shopping in the Fall was out the window. After a few weeks of hustled preparations, getting advice from seasoned equestrians, ordering an absurd amount of Cherry Hill books and working with the organization that was fostering him – my new horse, Remington “Remi”, arrived on a cold Friday morning.

Remi was already posing in his new home!

All Hands On Deck

Let me tell you, I got a dose of “baby life” immediately! Remi was opinionated straight off the trailer. After an outpouring of encouragement and taking the advice of my family and friends, we took progress a day at a time. The first test in owning him, was giving him, and myself, the patience we both needed to figure out our new life together.

It took only a few days to establish haltering and walking around his paddock, a few more days to be comfortable with him being loose, and a few more days after that to really relax. Who knew I could stress so much over him making good choices!? I realized how much I took for granted the things older horses just know. Years and years of building a relationship with my seniors made everything so easy – while I had to start at the very foundation for Remi.

Remi figured out haltering quickly, so he was able to transition to a Weaver Weanling Breakaway Halter for safety. Next on the list was getting him desensitized to his new Horseware Amigo Mio Turnout Blanket! Letting him be curious, sniff and go at his own pace gave him the confidence he needed when the blanket was actually put on!

It’s both overwhelming and exciting being the person that teaches a young horse the fundamentals. That privilege comes with great responsibility as well. Every interaction with him is a lesson – for both of us. What I allow from him as a baby will translate into a full grown horse.

Waiting for food, getting brushed, picking up all four legs and ultimately going outside to burn off energy are very easy things for a seasoned horse, but for a baby it’s about the repetition and comfort in routine. Space and patience are something we work on every single day. In just three weeks of working together, he trusted me enough for “scarier” introductions – like wearing a blanket for the first time and getting his first round of vaccinations!

We have so much to look forward to on our journey together! Do you have a young horse? What are some of your favorite experiences working with a baby?

Written by Marketing Associate, Cassie

Product Review: CVL EX-Cell Pure Amino Acids

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of hype about amino acids in horses, and the multitude of benefits they can provide. Known as “the building blocks of life,” BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids) are naturally occurring compounds that combine to form proteins. While horses use 22 of the roughly 500 amino acids that exist on earth, their bodies only produce 12 of those 22. The 10 remaining “essential” amino acids are obtained through proper nutrition – lysine, methionine, arginine, histidine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine, leucine and isoleucine.

Amino Acids – What do they do?

Imagine a Lego set: each color block has a specific size, shape, and purpose in the kit. If the kit calls for a blue block, but say you lost it one Christmas under your couch, it doesn’t matter how many red or green blocks you have, the final model won’t be able to come together properly.

That’s essentially how aminos work in the body; if a particular protein isn’t available, the body can’t substitute it with a different amino acid and the protein can’t be made. The most commonly deficient amino acids in horses are lysine, methionine, and threonine. Lysine is responsible for bone and skeletal health. Methionine is essential for keratin/biotin systems and vital for the growth and maintenance of coat, hair, skin, and hoof health, plus promotes the bio-availability of selenium. Threonine promotes overall growth, muscle mass retention and efficient use of feed, plus helps with the endocrine system and hormone production to support overall good body condition and energy levels. While horses can achieve proper nutrition levels of these essential aminos through hay consumption, most domestic horses do not get the grazing and pasture time they need to ingest the levels of forage that will get their levels to the proper rate. Other factors come into play like hay quality, soil content, activity levels, and other preexisting conditions.

CVL Ex-Cell Pure Amino Acids

The no-fuss, no-nonsense formula by Cox Vet Labs provides pure amino acids with no fillers, sugars, starches that “provides maximum endurance, faster recovery and focus while hauling and showing.” I liked the fact there were no sugars or starches, as Tego has Cushing’s, and the added superfood astaxanthin is beneficial for muscle and osteo support.

According to the label, each scoop of Ex-Cell packs a potent 5900 mg of CVL1000, the specially formulated amino blend created by Cox Vet Lab. It includes Lysine, Arginine, Ornithine, Glycine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine, Glutamine, and Axtaxanthin.

Before and After – My Story

After reading about the effects of amino acid deficiencies and the positive effects CVL Ex-Cell Pure Amino Acids advertised, I wanted to try the Ex-Cell out for myself. Of my two horses, I have a 21-year old OTTB, Tego, that is a little on the hard keeper side, and have been struggling to build muscle mass and keep his weight where I’m happy with during the winter. Plus, he’s prone to chronic scratches on his rear pasterns/heel bulbs and has a bit of a dull, slightly wiry coat. He also had a slower healing time from some random scrapes and bites he had received in turnout.

I recently added some additional quality alfalfa and warm soaked shredded beet pulp to his feeding regiment, but I wasn’t overly enthused with the results. His muscle mass wasn’t building evenly throughout his topline, and he had some minor wasting along the top of his right rear even after doing slow walk work over poles and on the ground. He also started some weird skin condition on the left side of his neck and the top of his back that wasn’t quite a fungus but left a dry, flaky residue – almost like dandruff, but chunkier.

Note: the slightly shadowed area on his neck is that weird fungus I was dealing with
Relatively shiny coat, but minimal muscle throughout the topline and shoulder
Note the more dramatic slope along the right hind.

Over the next 30 days, I decided to give Tego the recommended booster dose over the course of two weeks (2 scoops/day) and then ease to 1 scoop for the rest of the month as maintenance. I did not change anything else to his routine, and kept his work/turnout/feeding regiment the same. If anything, I rode him less due to my busy schedule and the cold – plus, I had my other gelding, Rotti, to keep up and in shape.

The first test to any new supplement I try is if my horses eat it. Tego is a notoriously picky eater, so I often have to mask his meds by soaking with his food or put into a molasses treat. At first, Tego sniffed and ate around the Ex-Cell when I put a scoop on top of his, but after I mixed it, he ate it no problem. So, picky eater approved! It does not have any strong or offensive odor, if anything it smells a little like yeast.

The Astaxanthin gives the Ex-Cell its unique pink hue, a unique chemical that causes the pink/red color in salmon, lobster, and shrimp!

I’ll be honest – I was not expecting to see any “wow” results. I figured, Tego’s an old horse, I’m sure he’s not going to turn into some spring chicken.

HOW WRONG I WAS.

This horse was moving in ways I have NEVER seen him go. From turnout and acting like a 3-year old colt to his stamina improving under saddle, within 2 weeks I already knew there was something brewing – and it was definitely a good thing.

By the end of the 30 days, his coat and skin condition and majorly improved (the weird fungus on his neck disappeared!), his body condition had filled out, and his muscle mass was noticeably improved. Even the unevenness of his hind end was significantly better! While the scratches didn’t completely go away, they definitely lessened in size, and are easier to manage. Plus, on the days I didn’t get to ride, when his ankles would get a little puffy, they didn’t get nearly as stocked up and with a 5 minute walk would minimize in inflammation.

So shiny!!!!!

Final Thoughts

For anyone on the fence about trying new supplements, I will attest this is one that Tego will never go a day without it again. In such a short amount of time, I was blown away by the results. Tego is a much happier horse, I might even put Rotti on it, too!

It really works!

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen C. – Purchasing Specialist

Every Ride. Every Time.

For those of you that don’t know me, I am a HUGE helmet advocate.  As a child, my mother, thankfully, was also a helmet advocate long before it was trendy and that probably saved my life. Just before starting 2nd grade, I was dragged 35 feet by a horse that had become uncharacteristically spooked. Thankfully, my helmet was on and correctly fitted (which the paramedics stated it likely saved my life).  When you ride horses, it is only a matter of time before you experience a fall – Not “if,” but “when.” This makes helmets a necessity in my book.  But it goes much further than just plopping any old helmet on and going on your merry way!  There are many dos and don’ts involved in helmet fit and care of which you may not be aware.

Helmet Fit

Helmet fit has come a long way, baby! Gone are the days of ridiculously heavy and hot velvet helmets with their stiff plastic harness and uncomfortable chin cups.  Now, we have vented helmets that are lighter than ever, complete with softer nylon harnesses and a chin strap that is narrow enough to not cut into your neck. There are round and long oval options to enhance safety and comfort. You can even find many options with liners that can be removed and washed, which is one of my favorite features!

Safety Upgrades

Along with an improvement in comfort has come a safety upgrade.  The latest technology on the market is MIPS, which stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. Part of what sets this technology apart is that it mimics the function of cerebrospinal fluid (natural fluid that occurs between your brain and skull) by adding a low friction layer that allows a small relative movement between your head and helmet in any direction.  This is important for all of us, but in particular if you have suffered a concussion in the past. 

Getting the Right Fit

In order to reap the benefits of all this amazing technology, you need to be sure your helmet fits properly.  Thankfully, Big Dees has staff trained to help you achieve the best fit possible!  A helmet fitter should take a measurement of your head before trying any helmet on.  This will give them the information they need to gather helmets in the correct sizes for you to try.  If you wear your hair up, bring the tools you use (hairnet in the style you use, elastic, clips, etc.) will help assure you get the absolute best fit possible. 

A helmet should feel like it is hugging your entire head, not just the front and back.  If you feel pressure only at the front and back you may need a long oval shape. Conversely, if you feel extra pressure on the sides of your head you may need a rounder shape.  It is important to have your helmet fitted to the way you will wear your hair and consistently wear it that way to ensure you are protected. There are some models that come with multiple liners to adjust the fit which can allow you to wear your hair up or down, but be aware that the manufacturer does not recommend that. 

Once you have your helmet on, it should sit approximately 1 inch above your eyebrows and if you grab the brim and gently tug it up or down your scalp should move with it. If it slides easily, it is too big and will not offer you the correct protection.  The position of the helmet on your head is also crucial.  I often see riders that have pushed their helmets up several inches above their eyebrows, this negatively impacts the function of the helmet, leaving crucial areas of your head with compromised protection.

One Impact

So now you have a comfortable, well-fitting helmet. Fantastic!  But it doesn’t end there… How do you properly care for your helmet so it can keep your all-important brain safe?  DO NOT DROP IT.  All helmets are designed to be ONE impact only, this includes dropping it (even when you can’t see damage).  How do you avoid compromising the integrity of your precious helmet?  Investing in a good helmet bag with padding is a great way to keep your helmet safe when it isn’t on your head, I personally love the Professional Choice Helmet Bag.  This bag has padding, a solid bottom with feet and pockets to stash my hairnets and gloves.

Maintenance

Now your helmet is secured, everything is great right? Maybe. Are you going to toss that helmet into your back seat until the next ride? That’s a big no-no if it’s summer time as heat can cause the protective foam in your helmet to break down, causing damage you can’t see.  Never leave your helmet in a hot car, or in direct sunlight when its not on your head. Ideally, we could keep our helmets in a climate-controlled room when they were not in use, unfortunately that is not always an option but you can be aware of areas that may expose your helmet to extreme heat and avoid them as much as possible.  However, be aware that if you regularly expose your helmet to higher temperatures that you will need to replace your helmet more frequently. 

Replacing Your Helmet

Speaking of replacing your helmet, when is it time?  Helmet manufactures recommend replacing any helmet every 3-5 years.  If you wear your helmet a lot (professional or have multiple horses a day) or spend most of your rides out in the sun you should probably aim for every 3 years or less. The average amateur with one horse often in an indoor can probably wait up to 5 years if the helmet is stored well.  Remember, this only applies if your helmet has not been dropped or if you have fallen off your horse. If there has been an impact- go directly to your tack shop and find a suitable replacement.

Case in point: say you took a spill off your saintly horse when he tripped last week and you popped off. It wasn’t a hard fall and mostly just bruised your ego. Surely your helmet doesn’t need to be replaced, after all it dusted right off and looks fine, right? Wrong!  Helmet manufactures are serious when they say ONE impact.  Helmet shells are designed in a way that the foam layer compresses to absorb impact but the shell often pops back into shape.  If you were to fall off again and hit that same spot on your helmet, it would serve as nothing more than an expensive decoration. 

Now, I know that replacing a helmet shortly after you purchase it almost as painful as the fall itself! Did you know that several manufacturers offer a discount on a replacement helmet within a year or two? This might be something worth checking into when you purchase your helmet. I make sure to file my helmet purchase receipt in my box or with my tax information so I can find it if I need it. If you are unable to turn your helmet in after a fall, or your helmet has simply aged out, please cut the straps off so it can no longer be used. Professionals, if you have a student fall – cut their straps so they are not tempted to ride in an unsafe helmet. Your insurance provider will thank you.

Helmet Care

 After covering fit, care and expiration of helmets, what’s left? How do you keep your helmet looking and smelling it’s best?  I have a synthetic suede covered helmet that definitely attracts the dust. so I keep a soft boot brush in my helmet bag to flick the dust off after I’m done riding. If you have a helmet with a smooth shell, a soft, damp cloth can restore its shine after your rides. In addition to washing my liners regularly, I throw a dryer sheet in the bag to keep things smelling a bit fresher (this comes in handy particularly in the summer)!  There are also spray deodorizers you can purchase at Big Dee’s to keep your helmet as fresh as a daisy after those sweaty rides.

Moss Fresh Rider Deodorizing Spray: $9.95

Written by Sponsored Rider, Sarah Freeman from Serendipity Stable

Winter Hoof Care – How to Promote and ensure health and proper growth

For many of us, we equate “winter care” for horses to upping forage, inspecting blankets, and adjusting exercise schedule for fewer daylight hours and colder temperatures. But, have you ever considered how a horse’s hoof adjusts in winter weather?

Why Do My Horse’s Feet Stop Growing In Winter?

Even if your horse has healthy growth during the spring, fall, and summer, winter is the season producing the slowest growth rate in hooves. A lot of factors come into play for that, environmental changes like temperature, mud, snow, ice, etc.; the amount of exercise or turnout (or lack thereof) he receives, as well as changes in forage (as many horses don’t have access to fresh grass in the winter) and dietary adjustments. Adding a quality hoof supplement like Biotin will help ensure your horse gets the proper nutrition to support an ideal hoof.

Adding a quality hoof supplement, with the added benefits of joint support, will help keep hooves happy and healthy all year-round! Farriers Formula Double Strength Plus Joint, 11 lb: $119.99

Like most riders, when it’s cold and dark outside we don’t want to move much! Horses are the same way. As the ability to get to the barn in frigid temperatures and yucky weather may prevent your horse from getting longer turnout or ride time, the reduced amount of movement changes the rate of blood flow circulating through the hoof, resulting in less growth.

Caring for your Horse’s Hooves in Winter – It’s a Team Effort!

While this may mean your farrier needs to visit your horse for his routine trim and resets a little less often, it’s still important to monitor for any bruising, cracks, thrush, snow packing and other conditions that can result from winter elemental changes. Having a working relationship between your vet, farrier, and trainer will help manage your horse’s health and be able to come up with a plan in case anything goes awry.

The Woes of Winter

Mud, slush, snow, ice, and sleet can produce a variety of symptoms such as bruising, abscesses, thrush, and slippery walking conditions (that can lead to tripping, soreness, and injury). Check out these potential solutions to help your horse put his best hoof forward this winter!

Hoof Bruising

Much like concrete, frozen ground can wreak havoc on a horse’s foot. While soreness, bruising, or lameness may not be noticed right away, if left untreated, laminitis or severe lameness can occur from trauma to the sole due to walking on rough, frozen ground.

The easiest way to combat this is to ensure your horse is getting as much circulation through his feet as possible on a softer surface (like an indoor arena or areas where packed snow and ice aren’t as prevalent). You can also supplement with a hoof hardening agent like Keratex or feed-through supplement.

This feed-through pellet is packed with nutrients like Biotin, Calcium, Iodine, and Methionine essential to strong and healthy hoof growth; 11 lb $49.95

In case your horse is experiencing slight soreness or tenderness in the sole and feet, using a hoof packing, mud, or poultice can help draw out inflammation and relieve symptoms.

The Pure Sole Hoof Mud is packed with essential oils, herbs, and Apple Cider Vinegar to help treat soreness, thrush, cracks, and other common hoof ailments. $39.95
Proven to pinpoint and treat inflammation and hoof soreness, Magic Cushion is one of the best! 4 lb, $48.95

Snow & Ice Build-Up

Have you ever slipped on a patch of ice while walking or driving? Snow accumulation and frozen slush can create the same result for horses in winter! While your best defense against snow packing and ice is having a solid hoof pick on hand, utilizing hoof boots help provide additional traction to a horse during riding or turnout. You can also talk with your farrier about adding “snow tubes,” studs, or snow pads/rims which act as snow tires for shod horses.

Be sure to check out the wide variety of hoof boots and accessories available on www.bigdweb.com. With brands to select from like EasyCare, Scoot Boots, and Cavallo, there is something for any size, shape, or need.

Thrush and Abscesses

Mud and moisture can wreak havoc on a horse’s sole, causing bacteria and moisture to accumulate against the sole. If a horse is left standing with dirty feet, thrush and abscesses can creep its way in. If you notice a foul-smelling, white flaky residue when picking your horses hooves, it’s recommended to start thrush treatment right away. If left untreated, thrush deterioration can turn into white line disease, which could result in rotation of the coffin bone.

As temperatures fluctuate, causing the hoof wall to expand and contract, bacteria has the chance to invade the hoof capsule, where painful abscesses can occur. Using a abscesses treatment kit or poultice, epsom salt, and a hoof wrap can draw out painful bacteria and bring the abscess to the surface.

The SteriHoof Kit has everything you need for cleaning, disinfecting, and treating abscesses! $49.95

In case symptoms do not alleviate or worsen, always contact your vet and farrier for the best course of action.

Final Thoughts

Keeping up with the same proper routine and maintenance like the rest of the year will help set your horse up for success come springtime. As always, keep an eye out for anything that looks out of place and contact your vet or farrier for any issues. Otherwise, bundle up, grab some hot cocoa, and enjoy this season of playing with your pony this winter!

Bundle up and grab some mittens, enjoy this winter season!

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen C. – Purchasing Specialist