Ariat has always been known for its fantastic colors, materials, technology, and performance in each of their apparel and footwear items – and the latest Spring/Summer 2020 Collection did not disappoint! Read on to see some of our favorite pieces and Pinterest-worthy looks to add to your must-have wish list.
Ariat has been a long-standing favorite among our customers and Big Dee’s Family, for good reason. It doesn’t matter your age, riding discipline, or whatever lies ahead on your daily adventures, you will be sure to find something to love!
many of us are more than likely experiencing some version of cabin fever during
this period of social distancing, separation, and limited access to our usual
everyday activities and routines, there are ways to remain positive and have a
bright outlook on this bizarre time in our world’s history.
Even though many local, rated, and international shows have been either postponed or cancelled, we are able to take this time to perhaps find other productive ways to spend our now-abundant free time.
you’re like me, I consider the barn to be my “home away from home”
and a safe space for me to disconnect with the stressors of the outside world
like scheduling doctor’s appointments, deadlines, voicemails, grocery shopping
(even before the TP shortage), and general everyday life stress. However, while
I’m still fortunate enough to be able to go to the barn to take care of my
gelding, some individuals may be struggling with recent changes that may not
allow regular boarders to come and see their horse, much less even ride or have
more than an hour with them. While this may be frustrating, it’s important to
understand and appreciate that those who are taking care of our beloved animals
are on the frontlines and need to ensure their health and safety in order to
ensure that for our horses.
Curious to discover ways to connect with your equestrian community while still getting your “fix?” Continue reading to find out more!
1. Spring Cleaning
During this time, take this opportunity to sort through all your tack, saddle pads, schooling/show clothes, and more. Are there any items that are worn through, rotted, or overall unsafe/unusable? If so, throw it away to create room for the good stuff – plus it makes more room in your tack trunk for new gear! Take the remaining bridles, halters, saddle pads, and more to inspect the quality of each and break out the elbow grease to give everything a good scrubbing/cleaning/conditioning (check out Cassie’s blog for some tips and tricks to make your leather sparkle)!
2. Get Fit
Just because your mighty and noble steed may have transformed into a temporary Pasture Puff, that doesn’t mean you can’t get ahead of the curve and build your fitness level to be ready to hit the ground running with your horse by the time you’re back at the barn. Take the time to enjoy some fresh air and build your cardio by walking your dog, having a dance party by yourself to some of your favorite tunes, or go hiking at your local park with equestrian friends – while keeping with proper social distancing guidelines. Think about engaging your core throughout the day and promoting proper posture while sitting at home, making sure to keep up with healthy eating habits. By giving yourself a goal to strive for, it’ll help keep you on track and stay excited about building a positive routine.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on some of the best exercises specifically for equestrians!
3. Time Capsule
In between your Netflix binging of The Office and Tiger King, go through old videos and photos from previous shows and lessons. While this may not necessarily be an exciting or enjoyable thing to do – reliving chipped distances or “ugly” riding – It’s amazing what taking the time to appreciate the growth between you and your horse can do to give inspiration for new exercises and patterns to try. I discovered that the reason Rotti would sometimes buck after fences wasn’t because he was being naughty, but because I would lay on his neck in the landing and didn’t allow him to stretch after the landing stride, so he had to work extra hard to try and regain his balance and rhythm! With the knowledge and experienced you’ve likely gained since those videos were taken, you probably didn’t realize how much you’ve learned or some of the bad habits you’ve worked through (or picked up).
You can also check out governing body websites like FEI, USEF, USHJA, USDF, and other resources like The Chronicle of the Horse to watch old show videos for you to “ride along” with to help envision your success plan for the future. Doing all these things shows your support to your coach or various small businesses during these stressful times, and keep you engaged with what’s going on in the equestrian community.
Also, take this time to catch up on going through your various magazines like Horse Illustrated, Practical Horseman, or organizations like AQHA Magazine, In Stride, and more to read up on the latest updates for show updates and what’s going on in your breed or discipline-specific community. You can also dust off some of the various books stacked in your tack room to brush up on your riding, horsemanship, grooming, or horse care knowledge – I know I’ll be diving into my copy of World-Class Grooming and looking forward to warmer weather coming upon us for him to get his first bath of the season and shedding underway for him to be show-ring ready!
included, it can be really easy to worry about “what’s next?” We are
wondering when our beloved barns and shops will reopen, the next time we can
ride, when our next show will be, or when life as we know it will get back to
“normal.” The biggest thing to rely on is trust. Your horse will (likely)
not become some feral animal or forget everything you’ve learned together, and
his fitness will not have completely fallen apart. You will not
“forget” how to ride. Thankfully, there is a light at the end of the
tunnel – this will not last forever. Before you know it, we will be back in our
barns so take the time to reflect and discover a new-found appreciation for
this world we love so much.
Spring has sprung!
Finally, after what I would consider a mild winter here in Ohio, the
birds are chirping, flowers sprouting, and the wind is losing it cold chill.
And of course, the horses are shedding like mad!
Along with the Spring sunshine come the new collections of riding and casual apparel. Kastel has released their new 2020 line which includes new pastel colors. Their Signature Sun Shirts come in a variety of colors (traditional and pattered) and sleeve lengths to keep you comfortable and stylish while riding.
Ariat has come out with a great assortment of riding and casual wear for everyday use for both men and women. The new colors of this season for Ariat are a pastel blue, grey and light patterns in a variety of styles and clothing options. Along with their new Fatbaby colors, they have released their new patterns of their Cruiser pull on shoes which include some sunny yellow prints that I am in love with! To round out their Spring color collection, Ariat has new patterned and solid baseballs hats which are perfect to cover up that barn and helmet hair!
Kerrits’ 2020 Spring Collection as a matchy rider’s dream. They have new lines of colorful breeches and riding tights that perfectly coordinate with their Ice Fil short sleeved and long sleeved riding shirts. Their new colors of breeches and riding tights are in both ladies and girls sizes and have both full seat and knee patch options. Kerrits have also put out casual wear such as headbands, tee shirts and some cute riding tank tops to keep you cool this spring and summer!
Did I mention the coming shedding season? And you know what that means, here comes the flies! Big Dee’s has brought in Terry Bradshaw’s fly product line! He has developed a variety of fly relief products starting with limiting the amount of flies around your barn. The “4 Ring Protection Mosquito Free Zone” products come in a 2 day, 7 day and 15 day packs that deter the flies naturally away from your property. These are not only great for horse barns, but for family parties and cookouts as well! Terry has also made topical fly treatment formulas that range from repellent, no bite lotion and sunscreens that are safe for your pet friends and yourself!
Keep checking our “New Arrivals” section on our home page, as we are adding new Spring products all the time!
A few years
ago I was fortunate enough to ride with one of the greats in the Hunter/Jumper
community – Jeff Cook.
A professional rider and trainer since 1979, Mr. Cook was in the midst of “Forward-Riding Enlightenment” and old school horsemanship. He was fortunate to work for George Morris as his assistant on two occasions, five years each, where he honed his skills under the perfectionist hunter/jumper trainer. He continued to successfully compete as a Grand Prix rider, and ultimately turned his attentions to being one of the best A” circuit rider/trainer across the country, with students winning at both national and international competitions.
no-nonsense but simple, easy-to-approach instruction and methods made him a
blast to clinic with. I struggled with riding and performance anxiety for many
years, and it was my first formal clinic I attended and not audited, so I felt
a ton of pressure to perform. I was so blown away by his gentle, understanding
nature and amazed that he personally adjusted his verbiage and explanation to
each of the riders in my division – regardless of age, goals, and abilities (of
both horse and rider). His perceptiveness, extreme attention to detail
(especially turnout, oh my goodness he was a drill sergeant to anyone whose
boots were not spit shined polish and hair not tucked in), and sense of
accomplishment he provided to each of his riders that weekend (including
myself) is something I will not soon forget.
With today’s technology, there are a virtually endless list of options for non-invasive, proven therapeutic techniques and application methods to help your equine athlete stay comfortable and perform his best. Combining Eastern methods with Western technology, it’s fascinating how so many useful tools are at our fingertips to use without needing to be a vet! However, before choosing a treatment method, consult with your veterinarian first.
By understanding how each type of therapy method works, you’ll be able to decide what might give your horse the best results. Designed to alleviate discomfort and offer support from common equine ailments, each type of therapy can be applied with the use of sheets, boots, leg wraps, and more. Various factors like age, daily routine and fitness, temperature changes, level of competition, and pre-existing conditions can impact your horse and slow him down. Thankfully, you have a plethora of options to choose from to keep him happy, healthy, and performing his best.
Laser & Light Therapy
Laser Therapy can accelerate healing and improve the repair, regeneration and remodeling of tissue in the horse. Some uses for laser therapy are wound healing, pain management, tendon/ligament injuries, muscle tears, neurologic injuries and stimulation of acupuncture points. Some benefits of laser therapy are decreased pain, increased wound healing, decreased inflammation, increased tensile strength of tendon/ligament and a return to function. It is common to see Laser Therapy used to treat specific conditions such as arthritis, suspensory tears and stifle injuries, SI pain, surface wounds, and more.
Depending on the area of treatment, most sessions last about 15 – 30 minutes and generally recommended to be applied for a consistent 5-day a week cycle for 2-3 weeks, when the ailment, open sore, or otherwise has noticeably improved. It can also be used on a weekly basis for prevention and combined with other therapy types, such as massage, chiropractic and general stretching and exercise.
A relatively new method of technology, first documented in the 1970s, Microcurrent Therapy utilizes a very minute (or micro) form of amps to mimic the natural current ranges produced in the body (human or animal). In fact, they’re so small, that range goes from 10uA to 600 uA, or microamperes. Broken down, it only reaches 1/1,000,000th of an amp! The ARCequine System creates those natural-like charges to boost ATP production, encouraging a rapid regeneration of cells. The handheld remote and kit can be applied anywhere on the body, taking away the hassle of dealing with cumbersome or complicated setups. Clinical trials have proven its effectiveness for various pain relief and tissue repair, allowing horses to not only come out of retirement, injury, and even more severe conditions. It is truly cutting edge without the risk of overuse. It’s wearable, non-invasive, and drug-free – plus, it’s completely safe for humans to use too!
It’s recommended to go through the first run with its 6-week cycle that has a pain:tissue repair ratio depending on each stage of treatment. Each program lasts three hours, so make sure you have plenty of time to hang out or have someone watch your pony while he is being treated.
Ceramic, Magnetic, and Liquid Titanium Therapies
These sets of therapy methods can produce a positive effect on sore muscles and other common equine ailments like inflammation and general soreness. All these methods are known for their “drug-free” healing properties, encouraging the reduction of lactic acid buildup, stiffness, muscle spasms, and more by increasing thermal energy and blood circulation. As a result, various positive effects like boosted immune response, thyroid circulation, and overall self-healing are recorded. These technologies are commonly used in sheets, leg boots or wraps, bell boots, hoods, quarter sheets, saddle pads, and more. Again, these drug-free options are harmless to use, however it’s recommended a ramping period be used when introducing these therapies to a horse for the first time. However, once the horse is used to the healing effects, people will leave the ceramic sheets on overnight as a stable sheet.
Athletes (including us!) use various forms cold therapy to soothe aches and pains after an intense workout or to treat injuries like strains and sprains. Generally, it’s recommended to use cold therapy first to numb a fresh injury and reduce pain, later using heat to relieve inflammation and promote full healing. While cold hosing a horse’s leg may be effective, it’s often time consuming and a pain to keep your horse standing in a bucket for long periods of time.
Different products like the Horseware Ice-Vibe Therapy Boots, Wraps, or Ice Packs localize cold healing to a specific area, while others like Ice Horse use various systems that allow cold water to be circulated through a heavy duty hose system, or in various products that pinpoint certain areas that may be hard to treat, like stifles, back, hocks, and more. The amount of time needed for each of these methods to be effective can vary, depending on the severity and location of injury, as well as the method of cold therapy delivered. Again, refer to your vet and check with manufacturer user guides for any questions.
With all the different ways to help keep your horse in tip top shape, take the time to exploring the variety of alternative therapy treatment options for your horse. Often, many riders also use methods like MagnaWave / PEMF therapy, chiropractic, Reiki, massage, and TTouch to utilize in their daily regiment to benefit their horse’s comfort and performance. Finding the right combination of fitness, therapy, prevention, and recovery methods is a process that takes time to figure out. I encourage taking time to research and enjoy understanding more about these therapies. Chances are, your horse will enjoy it too 😊
The time of year is coming for us to start prepping. We start working our horses harder, longer, more strenuously. Protection for your horse is always a must need when show season comes in to swing full force! There are so many options that sometimes we feel overwhelmed. What should I buy? What type of boot or wrap does my horse need? Of course these are the things that vary through discipline, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. When looking for my ideal preference in leg protection for my horse I weigh out a couple different factors.
First thing is not only my own preference, but what is my horse’s preference? I always try a couple different kinds of leg protection to see how my horses feel and how they work in each kind. My older mare is very balanced when working. She tends to work very symmetrical from front to back. I can put any sport boot on her and she works the same.
My young one on the other hand is a little more particular. I boot her in the front and wrap her with polos in the back. She tends to move more freely behind with polos on rather than having boots on feeling very heavy and slow behind. Being cutting and reining bred she works primarily on the haunches. She has a lot of rate in her turns and has a big stop. Since I use polos on her to keep her comfortable I also put a skid boot or run down boot to give extra support to the fetlock and prevent any holes or tears on my polos when we run. I always secure my velcro on my polos with a tape. I prefer an electrical type tape because it’s more flexible.
After seeing what my horse prefers I always look at what protection I want for my horses. My favorite is classic equine legacy. They cradle the fetlock and have a tough exterior in that area that adds extra protection to your horse and the boots themselves. The suspensory rib on the inside helps to fit right into the tendon groove sitting between the suspensory ligament and deep digital flexor tendon to assure great stability and better fit. They have top quality neoprene that’s flexible and light to help it breathe and remove heat from the leg while working to keep them cool.
Here at Big Dee’s we offer so many awesome choices to keep protection for your horse fun and colorful! From classic equine, professional choice or weaver there are limitless patterns and color combinations! My favorite patterns we have right now are the prodigy crimson Aztec and the prodigy insignia! If we are missing a style or color you’re looking for ask us about ordering them for you!
I have always been horse crazy – and I am incredibly fortunate to have family that supported (and continues to support) that passion; from my grandmother teaching me horse colors on my toys, to my parents who gave me every opportunity they could to be around horses. My “horse crazy” has never gone away. Through the years, I’ve had some incredible experiences that both inspired and humbled me in the equestrian world.
Wizard’s Baby Doll “Roxy”
Like most great stories of “I knew someone, who knew another person”, that’s how I not only got to meet Roxy and her owner, but also was allowed a very brief ride.
I used to work my 4H horses every day, and a kind neighbor who enjoyed watching me ride reached out to me about a “famous horse”. She offered to take me to meet this horse because the owner was a family member – and she was willing to share this privilege with me! Of course I jumped on the opportunity, and not long after, I got to meet the legend that is, Wizards Baby Doll. Roxy accomplished so much in her lifetime with trainer Stacy Westfall, but the most known was her win in 2006 at the All American Quarter Horse Congress for Freestyle Reining.
Her owner was incredibly kind to not only take time out of his day to let me fangirl over Roxy, but to also let me hop on. She was a kind, calm mare that really just wanted to graze but allowed me shuffle around a bit and smile for a picture. Those few moments with her felt timeless, and really gave me a push towards wanting to learn more, experience more and go outside of my comfort zone..
Afternoon Deelites/Popcorn Deelites
Through my years of riding, making barn friends and drooling over beautiful horses – I found myself “owned” by a scrappy senior Off-Track Thoroughbred. I discovered his sire, Afternoon Deelites, a Graded Stakes winner with earnings over one million in his race career, was at Old Friends in Kentucky! Bonus, another relation, Popcorn Deelites, one of the horses that portrayed Seabiscuit in the movie, was also there!
I can’t emphasize enough how incredible Old Friends and our fabulous tour guide was. When I mentioned I would love to meet both Afternoon Deelites and Popcorn Deelites, her eyes lit up and she went on to give us more than the standard tour. It turns out that Afternoon Deelites has the same charismatic and playful personality as his son. They could have also been twins!
Popcorn Deelites was far more easy going but just as handsome. Popcorn was used for the breaking from gate and race scenes in the Seabiscuit movie since he was a natural sprinter. The visit to Old Friends was remarkable on it’s own, but meeting two horses that held a sort of sentimental value to me made it that much more special. To be in the presence of a superior race horse and a movie star made me appreciate all that off-track horses have to offer us.
While I never got to meet the “Cinderella Horse “, better known as Snowman, I did get to meet Harry de Leyer. I have never been a Show Jumper, my riding career has mostly been rooted in Dressage, but I knew there was something to learn from Harry. In all honesty, I just listened to him tell his stories. I didn’t know the full Snowman story until I read the book, but hearing the memories recounted in person was fascinating and truly humbling to be sharing the same space with Harry. I wish I could have listened for hours, but we unfortunately had to part ways. He left an inspiring note that I like to look back on when I’m having a hard day – whether it be a hitch in progress for my goals or a bad ride.
Over the twenty plus years I’ve been around horses, I’ve realized one really important thing – there is always room to learn more, you never know everything. Roxy encouraged me to take lessons to improve my riding ability, Afternoon Deelites and Popcorn Deelites proved to me that racehorses are capable of so many great things after their racing careers and Harry taught me the patience to listen, absorb, and learn. Those little moments with each role model helped shape me into the equestrian I am today.
Who have you met (horse or equestrian) that inspired you?
“Get your tack and equipment just right, and then forget about it and concentrate on the horse.” – Olympian Bill Steinkraus
As mentioned in my previous blog, “These Boots Are Made For Riding,” I briefly mentioned the importance of 3 purchases any rider will make to benefit their riding ability – and safety – when working with horses. Saddles are the second item on that list.
Besides being a much more secure option versus riding bareback, saddles are designed to allow us to better communicate with our horses, giving us the ability to focus on pinpointing our aids and supporting us for various tasks – whether it be jumping, running barrels, flat work, pleasure riding, or hitting the trails. However, if the right saddle isn’t used, more harm can be created than good. Imagine putting on a pair of shoes that’s a size too small. Now imagine you’re put into a marathon and told to run in the same pair of too tight shoes. That same level of discomfort, pain, and contorting our body, attempting to find relief is the same scenario your horse goes through when being asked to perform in an ill-fitting saddle. No wonder some horses behave badly or develop “cold-backed” symptoms!
Your Riding Doesn’t Suck – Your Saddle Might
Do you remember the childhood story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? First, her bed was too hard, then too soft, but the third was “just right” The same concept applies to saddle fitting – both for horse and rider. What may be the perfect fit for you may be too tight in the shoulders for your horse; or the next saddle may not bridge/breach in the middle but is overly flocked in the panels, making the saddle tip down and throwing off its front-to-back balance, interfering with your ability to center yourself correctly in the middle of your horse’s back. It’s important to make sure the seat size and depth; as well as flap length and size are measured to fit your body type, rather than the other way around. Riding in a saddle that’s too small in the seat will create tight hips and drive uneven pressure into the pommel, while too long a flap will make it hard to communicate aids to your horse.
I struggled with finding a saddle that fit both myself and Rotti, due to my height and longer-than-average femur. As a result, I often sacrificed my needs in order to find something that supported my horse’s back, shoulders, and tree size. However, that negated any benefit due to the fact I was constantly “shimmying” in the canter, never seemed to find a comfortable two-point, and always felt trapped when doing flatwork and lateral aids. In fact, I didn’t realize how much I was fighting my body until I rode bareback! Riding in a saddle that didn’t work for me created problems with my riding, making me work twice as hard to fight against my own body to create the illusion of “correct” in the saddle and confusing Rotti with the aids I was trying to convey.
The FIRST thing I want to emphasize when finding a properly fitted saddle is that you do NOT need to go custom. Of course, we all would love to choose that option and have the funds available to make an investment purchase like that, but that often isn’t the case for many riders. In addition, you may be using the same saddle for multiple horses. Therefore, it’s important to understand the basics of what constitutes a proper saddle fit and have the necessary adjustment pieces available in order to make your saddle fit correctly on each horse. In that instance, I highly recommend working with a professional saddle fitter.
How To: Fitting Your Saddle
In my mind, a proper saddle fitting starts with the horse. Become familiar with your horse’s build and unique features. Is he a “shark-finned” Thoroughbred? Straight-backed or swayed? Are his topline muscles well developed or is he a younger horse new to training and will be filling out over time? Checking for sensitive spots like bulging disks and sore muscles, “collapsing” at certain points when you run your finger down his spine, and rubs will provide more information to determine how your horse has been using its body up to this point. Working with a chiropractor to adjust your horse around that time will help you be aware of any changes, pressure points, or conformation issues to address before the saddle fitter comes out.
At this point, you can slip your hand under the saddle and feel if there is even contact and pressure throughout. Pay attention to any gaps, rocking, or “bridging/breaching” in the middle of the saddle, as this can potentially mean there is uneven pressure distributed to the front and back of the saddle and once a rider is introduced, the center could sink down and possibly cause a disruption in the balance from the front and back. In this instance, check with a saddle fitter, as some bridging is could be normal depending on the saddle maker, conformation of the horse and the expectation that they will be rounding their back during exercise.
Another thing to check is the natural balance of the saddle. Look to see if there is a straight line from the top of the pommel to cantle that is parallel to the ground. The seat should also be level on the horse’s back, as an imbalance will make it difficult for you to sit correctly and without struggling to naturally maintain a proper position. A good rule of thumb is to put a piece of chalk on the saddle, if it rolls slightly forward or too far back, the saddle is not well balanced.
Other check points of ensuring proper saddle fit include the 2-3 Finger Rule. English saddles should have 2-3 fingers clearance on the top and around the side of the withers to accommodate shoulder rotation. A horse whose saddle pinches at the withers may be reluctant to go forward – and in some cases can cause nerve damage, leading to patches of white hairs or sores on the wither area. Also, consider the channel/gullet width of your saddle, accommodating to the width of your horse’s spine and vertebrae so that it’s positioned straight and centered on both sides of the horse. Next, check how your billets lay. These should hang perpendicular to the ground in the girth area – too forward or backwards will create unnecessary pressure on the panels or drive the girth into the elbows, creating sore spots. Lastly, ensuring the tree is either wide or narrow enough as well as follows the same angle as the shoulders are things that can be noted and corrected by a saddle fitter.
Correct Saddle Placement
Once the saddle is removed from the back, introduce a saddle pad and girth then fasten the saddle and note any changes that may occur. Note: a lot of times, people think that placing the saddle directly behind their withers is correct – DO NOT DO THIS. Once you introduce a rider, the additional weight will press into the saddle’s tree points and directly into the horse’s shoulder blades. Not only will this hinder your horse’s shoulder movement, it can result in pain and a very uncomfortable pony! To avoid this, I like to place my saddle slightly forward on the withers, then slide it backward until it stops at the natural resting place. This can vary from horse to horse depending on their confirmation, if the panels are too low, and topline development. Repeat this process until you find the “sweet spot,” located behind the horse’s shoulder blades. For English saddles, check that the rigid points of the tree are behind the scapula’s back edge. You can double check the positioning by sliding your hand down to where your girth is fastened. While your horse is standing square, you should be able to fit your hand’s width – roughly 2” – 2-1/2” – in this armpit area between the elbow and front of your girth.
I recommend checking the fit of your saddle at least once a year, as the fit can sometimes change due to various factors like exercise routines, illness, topline development, and weight changes. Thankfully, there are so many products available today that can adjust a saddle fit like shims and riser pads. In addition, a saddle fitter could recommend sending your saddle out to be reflocked or panels adjusted to refresh the fit. At the end of the day, your horse’s comfort and performance are the most important things to consider, and a properly fitted saddle will help to ensure that. Happy horse = happy human 😊
Email Big Dee’s Sporthorse Specialist and Professional Saddle Fitter, Lisa Gorretta, today to schedule a fitting for you and your horse at email@example.com
I’ve always considered myself fairly proficient when it comes to cleaning my leather tack and boots. But that doesn’t mean I can’t learn more – and that was the case this past weekend! Big Dee’s very own, Lisa Gorretta, bestowed her knowledge of all things tack cleaning upon an eager crowd.
She started her presentation by reminding everyone that any time we purchase a piece of tack, whether it’s brand new or dug out of a “diamond in the rough” bin at a tack swap, that it is an investment. The better we take care of that investment, the longer it will last us – and the safer it will keep us.
While some leather items might have a standard cleaning process, like halters or horse boots, items like saddles and bridles require a little more consideration. Lisa emphasized that if you are buying a brand new saddle, check that saddle’s warranty information BEFORE you start cleaning! Several brands will come with a small cleaning kit, but everyone has a personal preference when it comes to tack cleaning products – that’s good and well, as long as it follows the warranty! A quick check will save a lot of hassle down the road.
Before even getting your spot ready to clean, make sure you have the basics down! Did you know that warm water helps the process go a little easier? That doesn’t mean cold water is bad per say, it’s just a helpful bonus to use warm water. Strongly emphasized throughout Lisa’s presentation was – moderation is key! Prepare yourself for the time needed to clean your tack the correct way. If you need three coats, do three light coats, versus one massive gooped on swipe of cleaner or conditioner. Remember, leather should be supple, flexible, and sturdy. You don’t want saturated tack or brittle, dry track. Lastly, leather does not like extremes – when selecting cleaning products, search for one that is pH neutral so it is not harsh on your tack.
New Saddles and Cleaning
Most new saddles come with a wax layer that needs to be properly removed. This is done to open the pores of the leather and prepare the surface. You should start with a pH neutral cleaning product like a Castile Soap. With a little water and a little soap, gently work into the saddle with a sponge to clean off the wax or buildup from a used saddle. Another product that works well is the Leather Therapy Wash. This cleaner is safe to use on just about any leather item and won’t darken the leather over time. Also be mindful of the water used when cleaning – hard water is not kind to black and dark leather. For tough to reach areas or heavily tooled tack, try using a toothbrush (you will be pleasantly surprised how much easier it is).
Balsam or Oil?
After cleaning the tack, the next step is conditioning. However, you need to make sure the product you are using is the correct match for that particular part of the saddle. There are two surfaces on leather – the raw side (or open side) is rough like the underside of fenders and flaps, and the sealed side (or closed side) is the smooth leather surface, like what you sit on. Oils are used on the raw side of leather only, they WILL darken the leather and they WILL soak through if applied too heavily. Conditioners like Effax Leather Balsam and Colorado Leather Conditioner are made from beeswax and lanolin to bring out the suppleness of leather without making the surface slick. Other great conditioning options are Leather Therapy Conditioner, Amerigo Balm, Walsh Oil (if you want to darken the leather) and Bates Leather Balsam (if you want a slightly tackier surface).
One thing to consider when conditioning, is to be mindful of the seams of your saddle. English saddle panels are flocked, foam filled or a combination of the two. These materials do not like getting oil or moisture in them. So when conditioning, be careful not to heavily cover the area.
Remember, use light coats regardless if you are using an oil or balsam. Let the tack air dry naturally. If there is any excess conditioner, wipe it off with a rag. If your leather is still dry, apply another light coat. Repeat this process until the suppleness is back in your bridle or saddle.
Chrome and Bits
For Western riders, whether their entire saddle is silver or they have a few pieces – keeping the silver shiny is actually very easy if you make it a part of your routine cleaning process. Never Dull is a fabulous wadding polish for all metals. My personal favorite is Simichrome Silver Polish, but it is a very aggressive cleaner and should not be used on bits. However, it does the job of cleaning up even the most corroded and tarnished silver on saddles and bridles!
If you want to clean up bits, the Herm Sprenger Diamond Bit Polish Paste is the product to use. It is non-toxic, non-acidic and brings back shine to not only bits, but spurs and stirrups as well. With any silver cleaner, use a small amount on Q-tips or throw-away sponges to apply, then buff out for a lustrous shine.
Most of us don’t have the time to deep clean and condition our tack after every ride. But you should at least wipe the tack down, especially the inside of bridles and reins. Why? Well, have you ever tried to clean your horse’s bridle after you’ve ridden him in it all summer, and there’s that layer of gunk that just will not come off? That’s the horse’s natural oils and sweat, built up from many rides. You can easily avoid this by using a cleaning wipe like Oakwood Wipes. Simply wipe down your tack and put away – easy breezy! You could also do a quick wipe-down with an all-in-one product like Lexol Quick Care.
You should strive to deep clean your tack at least twice a year (more is always better), this includes pulling every piece apart, making sure it is structurally still safe to use, clean, condition and then put everything back together.
How we store tack, whether used daily or put away for the winter months, is important to consider. If you keep tack in a moist environment, you might start to see mildew. Removing mildew requires either more layers with a mild cleaner, or a more aggressive leather cleaning product. Just remember that after really putting elbow grease into cleaning, your tack will need a conditioner to keep it from getting dry. If you are storing tack for extended periods of time, go through the regular cleaning process, then cover the tack in a dry place. You can put a very light layer of vasoline on bits, then store them in a small unsealed plastic bag.
If you want a light protective coat on your tack, you could as a layer of glycerine. Using a Glycerine Bar Soap, dip it into water, then take the sponge over the bar. Apply the sponge onto tack in a light layer. Using too much glycerine can clog the leather’s pores and dry out the tack, so be careful. After applying, let the tack dry naturally, then wipe away excess with a cloth.
Other Kinds of Oils
There are other kinds of oils available for leather goods. One mentioned often is Mink oil – but it’s not as strong of a conditioner as it is a waterproofer. Mink oil can be used on winter boots or as a barrier, but it will not supple up the leather like other oils or balsams. Olive oil can technically be used, but it was not designed for leather and it not recommended. Murphy’s Oil is also not the top pick for cleaning, but if it must be used, use it in very small amounts. Leather should not be saturated when cleaning. Also be wary of products with petroleum, as they are not kind to the stitching used in tack.
At the end of the day, the main point of having tack is to it keep us safe and secure when riding, driving, working or leading horses. We should make it a priority to not only check our tack regularly, but keep it clean and conditioned so it can perform the best for us. Once you get familiar with the products and routine, it becomes less of a chore and more of a point of pride. Clean, supple leather not only keeps you safe, but also looks incredible!
I started riding when I was 10 years old. My parents, albeit supportive of my “obsessed” tendencies of wanting to learn to ride, were not accustomed to the world that is equestrianism. I was lucky to attend weekly lessons and had big dreams of showing, clearing massive oxers, leaping over 10-foot Liverpools, and galloping around Spruce Meadows or the Washington International.
However, all those dreams (my parents quickly realized) cost money. How much? Well, considering I calculated how much weekly lessons cost for a year alone and maybe one or two shows a year – then promptly burned the piece of paper with the number on it – I can’t say I blamed them for firmly stating, “NO,” when I would beg to lease or buy the pony of my dreams.
Over the course of 14 years, until I made the insane decision of purchasing
a horse of my own, I had to learn to adjust – and appreciate – the value of
being the obsessed horse kid that didn’t have one of her own.
In order to get my “fix,” to earn as much saddle time as possible, I would wake my mom up at 6 AM (on a Saturday) to have her drop me off at the barn. From there I would muck stalls, groom horses for lessons, learn how to show prep horses with clipping and bathing, and learned the ins and outs of what working a full-scale show barn was like. It was a ton of fun getting to play with ponies all day, and even if I was covered in Lord-knows-what and smelled to high heaven, I felt so accomplished with my days’ work and the chance to earn an extra lesson or work off my haul-in fee for a weekend schooling show.
Eventually, I got my license (much to my mother’s delight), and began assisting in managing the barn I grew up riding in – waking up at 4 AM to do morning feed and turnouts, muck a few stalls – while balancing a Honor’s course load and after-school activities. I won’t ever say that it was easy, or I didn’t feel overwhelmed, or that I was “missing out” sometimes unlike my other 984 classmates in high school; however I was so proud of my efforts and was fortunate enough to show some amazing horses at some incredible venues that it was all worth it to me.
Fast-forward after high-school graduation and heading toward my collegiate career at Lake Erie College. I was ecstatic to have my schedule full of facility management, equine business, and course-design classes. Plus, I got to ride ALL THE TIME. Between helping at IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association ) shows, riding for IDA (Intercollegiate Dressage Association) under the tutelage of Barb Soukup and showing my leased OTTB, Tego, I was in heaven.
Don’t get me wrong, it got frustrating at times, seeing all these other people around me with their beautiful horses they’ve owned over the years or even brought to school with them! However, I was able to enjoy other aspects of my college career without having to handle the responsibility of taking care of my own horse.
There are so many ways to enjoy horses, even if you can’t own one of your own. Plus, you get the biggest benefit of not having to handle the financial burden of owning a horse! Ultimately, I learned bravery and tenacity because I would hop on anything for the chance to learn or ride something new. Offering to help at the barn gives you the advantage of learning a new skill and to absorb information like a sponge someone otherwise might not have gotten. Same thing applies to grooming at shows – you become so well-connected to your local community and watching other riders.
Attending clinics by either riding in them or auditing gives you another avenue for “pony time.” Same thing applies to traveling to fun equine-related events such as tack swaps, Equine Affaire, spectating shows and more. Plus, you have so much time to educate yourself further, whether it be books on riding, grooming, or even reading stories of famous horses from previous years. You can even try something you normally wouldn’t, like a new discipline such as saddle seat, driving, or even polo!
So, if you happen to be “horseless,” try not to feel discouraged. Take comfort in the fact that the all-consuming love and passion you have for horses is a gift. That can’t be taken away from you. Whether you own, lease, take lessons, or tack up for the occasional trail ride, you’re living the dream of having horses in your life. There are an endless opportunities to being around these incredible animals, and like my mom told me – “If something matters enough to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen.”
Enjoy the ride, Colleen
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