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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Written by Sponsored Rider, Sarah Freeman from Serendipity Stable
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
In case symptoms do not alleviate or worsen, always contact your vet and farrier for the best course of action.
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!
Enjoy the ride, Colleen C. – Purchasing Specialist
Hello my fellow equestrian fashionistas – we are back with the latest installment of the “Splurge Vs. Savvy” series! This week, I’m going to share some of my top picks for apparel for English riders, including showing, schooling, and everyday looks. No matter what the budget or discipline, there is something for everyone that is guaranteed to be fabulous.
I am OBSESSED with this jacket. The fact it’s lightweight and breathable while still providing the sleek, streamlined silhouette I want in a show coat makes the AA Platinum Motion Lite Jacket perfect for wear any time of the year. Suitable for the hunters and stylish for the jumpers or equitation divisions, this jacket is also available in a Shadbelly option for those Derby days (& Dressage rings, too!). While we carry this jacket in traditional Grey and Navy Blue, it’s also available in Black, Burgundy, Aviation Blue, Espresso, and Hunter Green. I’ve had my jacket for the past 2 show seasons and still get compliments on it!
This highly technical, modernized show jacket is perfect for jumpers and eventers, featuring maximum convenience with a fully machine washable soft shell/spandex material and stylish silver accents that provides fun style elements on an otherwise more traditional jacket. Available to orders in a variety of fun colors such as black, navy, hunter green, burgundy, and taupe, more traditional riders can swap out the silver buttons for more neutral look that’s suitable for the hunter and equitation rings.
A staple for generations, Tailored Sportsman were the “original” Euroseat breeches on the market for hunter/jumper riders. Today, TS continues to provide iron-like fabric that holds up for the most rigorous of rides; appealing, unique colors, and classic tailoring and fit that has proven superior for decades. When I say I’ve had the same pair of breeches for over 5 years and they still wash out just as well as the day I bought them, I mean it.
Made to look and feel like the $200+ options on the market, the Sarafina provides an amazing feel and modern styling, without breaking the bank. The Clarino knee patches t hold up to intense wear while the Euro Grip Silicone Knee Patches keep you held in place over fences, combining the best of durability, fit, and comfort. One of my favorite things about these breeches is the natural rise and how UNBELIEVABLY comfortable they are. I can be a pretty tricky fit when it comes to breeches (hello super-long legs and no waist!), but these have become my hands-down favorite – they’re amazing for any shape or size!
Splurge: DeNiro Custom Tall Boots; starting at $1,000+
Have you been drooling over having your own pair of custom calfskin tall boots, specifically measuring each point of your feet, ankles, legs, even toe length? Since 1981, DeNiro has produced exquisite footwear for Hunter/Jumper, Foxhunting, Eventing, and Dressage riders (both amateur and professionals alike), including stock and custom chaps, paddock boots, tall boots, and even tennis shoes. Whether your are wanting a bold, stand-out pair of boots for competition or a timeless, classic black field boot, let us create the boots of your dreams!
Made to create the illusion of a custom Italian boot, Ariat has stepped up their tall boot game with some of the best-selling, long-lasting, nicest looking boots on the market. Every time we fit someone in a pair of these at Big Dee’s, I get so excited because they look that darn good. I swear, these boots are magic, they manage to make ankles look so tiny and legs so long, even if the rider is 5′! The leather is supple, the stretch panel is super forgiving, and with calf heights and widths available to accommodate 99% of riders, the Heritage Contour II performs even better than they look. Available in men’s and women’s sizing.
I’ve been ogling over the Star Lady for quite some time now. Not only is it one of the safest helmets out there, with European and American safety ratings, but it is specifically designed for female equestrians. The sleek, low profile and wide brim highlights cheekbones, creating a lovely profile while offering superior safety. I love the oversized vent across the top to allow as much air to go through as possible when riding, which would definitely come in handy on hot days.
If you’re looking for a stylish low profile, wide brim helmet with great ventilation and various trim options, the Tipperary Royal Helmet checks all the boxes. If you’re a traditionalist like myself, the Carbon Leather top is a stylish option while the Gloss adds a subtle sheen without being overwhelming. There are plenty of great design elements to both helmets, including 9 strategic air vents for maximum air flow, adjustable fit, all necessary safety certifications, and a removable, washable comfort liner.
Stay tuned for our next installment featuring Western apparel!
With December right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about gifts for your equestrian family and barn friends. Sometimes finding the perfect gift can be a little tricky – of course we’d love to gift our closest horse family something glamorous like a new horse trailer. But, reality forces us to go a more practical route. Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be a challenge – there are so many fun and practical gifts you can give that would make your friends and family happy!
Starting with the easiest, tried and true option – the Magic Gloves. These gloves are versatile for EVERYTHING! I keep a pair in each of my coats, by the door, in my car… just about everywhere. The one-size-fits-all makes it easy to to gift without worrying about sizing! And did I mention they’re so cost efficient? These make wonderful stocking stuffers, barn exchange gifts and hey, grab a pair for yourself while you’re at it. You won’t regret having a handy, cozy pair around for barn chores and riding!
If you’re looking to gift something for the stable hand friend, or maybe a sibling that keeps their horses at home – Deerskin Gloves are a great choice and my personal favorite for cleaning stalls and working outside. I spent an entire spring, summer and fall working on big farm projects, and this was my go-to pair to keep my hands protected; not to mention they are so soft on your skin. I prefer gloves like these for the winter, opposed to big fluffy gloves – because I need to keep cleaning stalls, carrying buckets and fixing fence (thanks windy Ohio weather). They give me the flexibility I need without sacrificing quality. But if you need the extra warmth, try out the fleece lined option in the same style.
There will never be a time when rainboots aren’t a welcome gift – especially when they come in so many styles and colors! Every equestrian who frequents the barn knows the value in keeping a pair around, whether in your car or in the mudroom, keeping your toes dry during the wet season makes life so much easier!
One of the most valued items in my barn wardrobe is a nice softshell jacket. The versatility of going from the house to the barn, out on errands, riding and braving the weather make it an equestrian essential. Between the wind and water resistance and the generous pockets, these jackets quickly became a favorite for me. The Ariat Team Periscope Ladies Jacket or Hooey Mens Softshell are great options for the all-season riding enthusiasts and farm owners.
Let’s be honest, most of us really love the idea of having a barn or stall decked out in 5/A Baker gear! And when it comes to friends that love Baker, there are so many giftable items – for both them or their horse! With any budget in mind, you could get something classic like a halter and lead or go for a sturdy hay bag. Maybe you need a stocking stuffer, and let me tell you – those lunge lines and trailer ties will fit nicely over the fireplace! Splurging can be practical and 5/A Baker items prove it. Traditional and durable, they are built to last and give your horse (and yourself) some pretty nice style.
If Baker isn’t the route you want to go, leather care products are always a helpful and appreciated option. Smaller sizes make wonderful stocking stuffers or handouts to barn mates and pony clubbers, while full size favorites are perfect for your equestrian family member. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing the Effol Advent Calendar under my Christmas tree (and I promise you I would open it all at once, have you seen what cool items are in there?!).
It’s no secret I have a saddle pad/matchy obsession, so you can take my word for it when I say, the Woof Wear color collection would make an AMAZING gift for any of your friends and family that like having colorful options, while matching perfectly. The saddle pads come in Close Contact and Dressage cuts, and you can match with fly veils, brushing boots and riding shirts! Talk about a home run gift for the young, still young but paying their own board and young at heart.
Does your horse-crazy sibling or equestrian teammate have a favorite famous horse? Maybe a favorite color or breed? Breyer models offer such a variety for a range of avid horse lovers. From a collector friend that proudly displays Traditional models, to the young child that likes to play with their Corral Pals – Breyer offers great options for both stocking stuffers and wrapped gifts under the tree.
There’s comes a point in everyone’s life (okay, most people, myself included) when they realize they have a favorite mug. It can be the work get-me-caffeine-asap mug or the Saturday morning coffee mug. My favorite mug was gifted to me a few years ago and I still use it more often than the rest. Sometimes finding the perfect gift can be as simple as a household comfort. We have some new mugs this year, featuring donkeys, bay, chestnut and a mare and foals – the best part? They are easily within gift-exchange budgets, so don’t wait to snag one today!
After all the practical, fun and meaningful options you’ve read through, one of the most personal is a custom gift. I am a big fan of the Small Sport Duffle Bag – the options are endless for teammates, barn friends and family. It’s the perfect “grab and go” bag for shows, lessons and vacations.
If that doesn’t seem like the right fit, what about a walnut frame with a custom nameplate? If your friend or family member recently had a photo shoot or perhaps has a favorite picture of their horse, this kind gesture of a custom frame would bring so much joy!
Does your friend like staying organized? A neat and practical gift option could be engraved key tags for keeping track of blankets and an engraved dog tags for bridles and halters. Think of how easy it would be to have color coded blanket tags and easy-to-spot tags for halters – no more hassle in the early mornings!
The Holiday season is a great time to show acts of kindness towards friends and family who share your passion for all things equine. To keep up with our latest items and sales, make sure you follow us on social media and sign up for our emails!
Looking for the perfect holiday gift for yourself or someone else? In the latest Big Dee’s Blog Series, we dive into the latest trends and must-haves within several categories, finding top-rated picks from our staff and fellow riders. Whether you decide to “Treat Yourself” or get the look for less, each item is guaranteed for quality construction, value, and fabulous styling.
This bridle oozes blue-ribbon construction! The Nunn Finer Giulia Hunter Bridle features a square raised noseband and fancy stitch details throughout. Specifically designed with the supplest Italian leather, this classic bridle is made for the serious competitor and guaranteed to stand out among the field of competition.
Directly modeled after the $300+ bridles, the MTL Standard is a beautiful bridle for competition, or if you’re looking to upgrade your schooling tack. Featuring traditionally styling, this bridle is made from quality Austrian leather that breaks in easily and gets better with age. The elegant fancy stitching and classic look is perfect for any hunter/jumper ring from schooling to AAA-rated classes.
The ultimate competition or schooling bridle for Dressage and Eventers, this FEI-approved bridle is designed to provide maximum comfort to your horse. Its unique engineering includes curved browbands and plush padding through the browband and crown, while the streamlined caveson protects sensitive facial nerves. Every one of Schockemohle’s bridles have exquisite German craftsmanship in mind and the highest quality of materials, ensuring that each piece is made to last.
Known as one of the original “anatomic” bridles of its class, the Micklem Diamante builds off the classic styling and comfortability of the original Micklem Competition Bridle, with a few upgrades that make this bridle perfect for Dressage or Eventing classes. The wider noseband and diamante crystal accents on the brow band adds subtle sparkle and glamour without becoming appearing gaudy or overdone.
Perfect for Pleasure, Barrel, and other showing classes, this Professional Choice Headstall is a quality choice that comes from a name with superior craftsmanship and unwavering brand recognition. The gorgeous floral tooling and wide set cheek pieces are elegant enough for mares or geldings, while the decorative buckles add a whimsical old-school Western look. Collect the entire collection with coordinating breast collar and one-ear headstall!
I love the bohemian-inspired beading of this wide browband headstall. The reds and oranges compliment the rich chocolate leather of the rest of the headstall beautifully while keeping with traditional Western elements. Available in a single ear option, pairing either with the matching beaded breastcollar ($92.99) creates an eye-catching look that is sure to stand out in the ring or on the trails.
Known as the standard for long-lasting, super plush, GORGEOUS half pads and saddle pads, Mattes pads offer superior design and construction to eliminate movement under saddles and suitable for any ring. Each of their pads are have engineered sheepskin panels for protection and ultimate close contact or the ability to customize fit with shims for a precise fit. Simply put – they’re the best money can buy in a show pad. Just be sure to grab your bottle of Melp to keep your pad in tip-top shape.
For those looking for a Sheepskin “dupe” pad for the Dressage ring, the Steffen Peters Shearling pad features UltraShock, Professional’s Choice signature shock-absorbent material, that is perforated to allow maximum breathability and create additional support without the need of a half pad. Plus, with the 60-day guarantee, you’ll be guaranteed to love this pad!
Known as one of the best-selling pads among any and all Western riders, this 100% pure virgin wool USA-made pad is a fan-favorite due to its versatility, durability, support, and ease of cleaning. The wither cutout and sturdy wear leathers ensure comfort to your horse, while the variety of pad thickness and sizing make selecting the correct pad for virtually any sized horse a breeze. Grab a bottle of the 5 Star Pad Cleaner and handy Sponge.
This Weaver pad offers a similar look and impressionable support as the 5 Star. Made from a balanced wool felt/foam blend, this American-made pad features sturdy wear leathers and a wither cutout for additional comfort and durability. Available in 31 x 32 and 33 x 32 sizing, the Synergy pad is one of the most used pads among recreational and competitive riders alike.
One of the most famous names in equine leather goods, the Walsh British Halter is nothing short of exquisite. The classic triple stitch and sturdy brass hardware makes this a beautiful halter for home or shows. To add a finishing touch, a custom nameplate creates a finished, polished presentation for your favorite horse.
Our best-selling leather halter, the likeness of the Quiet Creek Halter to more expensive brands is virtually identical. Available in a variety of sizes and featuring an adjustable chin (or check out the Quiet Creek Thoroughbred Style for a non-adjustable version), these hand-stitched USA-made halters are meant to stand up to the rigors of everyday or show use.
Even more stunning in person, this Tory Congress Halter is the definition of a “wow” factor. Handstitched in the USA, this exquisite halter is accented with heavy Sterling Silver accents, including engraved cheek and nose pieces and concho-style buckles. The elegant tapering around the nose and jowl highlights the horse’s facial curves and presentation, making this halter a show-stopper for any Western class. The included matching lead comes with a chain, making this set essential for Showmanship or Halter classes.
Royal King’s Congress Halter is hand crafted with equally supple, durable harness leather. Just like a glass of fine wine, this halter gets better with age! The glint of the Sterling Silver and Inca berry edging highlights your horse’s facial features while the included matching lead makes this show-ring ready halter a winner for any individual.
Are your barn boots no longer waterproof? Paddock boots splitting at the seams? Tall boots held together via duct tape? Need a recommendation for what to get your little one for their first lesson? Or simply looking for an excuse to go shopping? Check out my top boot picks of the season!
The Muckster II Mid Boot is perfect for shoveling snow or stalls while keeping toes toasty warm. The super cozy fleece lining on the inside can be rolled down to highlight the stylish navy of the boots for a super-cute look when paired with jeans and a pullover. These aren’t your Grandma’s barn boots!
Just like every girl needs a Little Black Dress, these Big Bad Black Boots are made for fun. The subtle gold tone stitching on these Onyx black stand out and are perfect to go with your favorite pair of jeans or dress up for a night out.
If you’re looking for a quality paddock boot you can comfortably ride and walk in, these are my hands-down favorites. Completely waterproof and insulated, the Extreme H2O is great for 3-season use. These are my everyday barn boots during the colder months, as I can walk through rain, mud, or snow without getting my feet wet. Plus, I can throw a pair of half chaps on and ride in them without having to change footwear.
You can never go wrong with a pair of new tall boots. Between the Vibram soles, Italian calfskin, stretch panel, and high Spanish top, the Salento looks and fits just like custom boots. Suitable for the Dressage or Hunter/Jumper rings, I know what I’m asking Santa for this Christmas!
Working off the same sturdy, endurance-based foot bed as the shorter Ariat Terrain Shoe, these boots are perfect for any equestrian, hunter, fisher, or outdoorsman. Made with a shock-absorbing sole, these boots will feel like they’re broken in from day one. They’re also available in a ladies version(and a Western one, too), in case you need to grab a pair for yourself.
Ever thought you could get a pair of quality paddock boots for less than $50? Now you can! Made with innovative Vega manmade leather, these boots are polished, lightweight, yet sturdy for riding lessons galore. Plus, they come in ladies’ sizing too!
With so many options available from brands like Ariat, Dublin, Tredstep, The Muck Boot Company, Bogs, Justin, and more, what will be at the top of your wishlist this season?
Enjoy the ride, Colleen C. – Purchasing Specialist
Have you ever had tail envy? You know – that horse you see with the long flowing tail and you think, wow – I would love for my horse to have that tail!
I grew up around Arabians, so for as long as I can remember, I strived to achieve that long, beautiful tail. Along the way, I have learned that beautiful tails take a lot of work! There are so many factors that go into making a “perfect tail,” but hard work pays off. It is important to take tails out and put them back up regularly, especially if you are showing.
Over the weekend, I decided to tackle Rascal’s tail. Rascal has plenty of beautifully long, thick hair but I still deal with knots! As a result, I came up with my favorite “tail care” routine that works best for my routine (and my schedule).
First things first – get your supplies out and have them within reach BEFORE you begin working. This is really helpful, especially when you get to the end of the tail and you don’t have your supplies and have to let go of that braid – you’re going to be upset with yourself!
1.) Cowboy Magic Detangler– Amazing for getting the tangles out – also works on burrs! 2.) Mane Brush – I really like the Tail Tamer Rainbow Mane and Tail Brush – it is heavy duty and the bristles don’t do damage to the hair. 3.) 2 pieces of fabric that will be braided into the tail – You can use an old t-shirt or that spare polo that losts its match a long time ago. Either can be cut into strips and if you are really in a pinch, a few pieces of bailing twine will do the job. (I’ll get to the why/how in a bit) 4.) Guard-Tex 5.) Marker 6.) Tail bagor an old sock
After unwrapping the tail, apply the detangler and begin working through with your fingers. Remember, a little goes a long way! I love the Cowboy Magic because of its smells good and – added bonus – my hands are soft after I am done! Plus, when I wrap the tail back up in the bag, it keeps it nice and soft. Giving yourself small sections to work through makes the job easier. Once that’s done, take the tangle-free brush and, starting from the bottom, work through brushing out the rest of the tail.
Next, you are going to start braiding the tail. I recommend starting a few inches below the tail bone, otherwise it may cause the horse to try and rub out his tail. Allow for a few loose braids, then start your nice tight braid.
Here is where your strips of fabric come into play. Having the fabric strips will serve two purposes. First, as you braid from the top of the tail to the bottom, the braid becomes smaller and smaller, leaving you with tiny bits of hair on hair. By the time you take the braid out, it can knot and cause bits of the tail to break off, so the fabric will help save as much hair as possible. Second, by adding the strips, your braid sections will be more uniform, allowing you to braid the tail all the way to the end without any pieces being too thick or too thin. Once the braid is finished, I bring the tail up and wrap it through the loose braids at the top of the tail. One or two times around is all you need; it’s mostly to make sure all the pieces are kept together.
Next, I reach for the Guard-Tex. This self-adhering wrap is typically used for bandaging, but I like it for tails because it doesn’t get sticky or break hairs when I’m unwrapping the tail. Plus, if it gets wet, I can still remove it. You can use Vetrap, but I find it becomes real tricky to take it off if you leave it on for longer than a few weeks. When wrapping the tail, make sure you get enough of the wrap up and around the top and the bottom of the tail for as much protection as possible. I wrap it around a few times, for good measure. When finished, mark the end with a marker so you know where to start when you unwrap it later on.
To “wrap” everything up (hahaha), the last step is to put a tail bag over the wrap you just finished. In case you don’t have a tail bag, I like to use an old sock that I either lost its match (or its so riddled with holes my piggy toe constantly pokes out). Simply cut a 3” slit down each side of the sock (just enough that you’ll have something you can tie in a bow or knot), put the nicely braided and wrapped tail in the sock (or tail bag), tie at the top, and voila, you’re done!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Enjoy the ride, Colleen C. – Purchasing Specialist
Complete selection of equine and rider products since 1976!