Tag Archives: Horse Tack

Barn Organization Made Easy

With warmer weather right around the corner, I’ve found myself opening the barn door wider, keeping windows open at night and ultimately organizing every part of my little barn to best utilize the space. Having converted a non-traditional building into a barn, I discovered a few obstacles along the way – including where to fit things like blanket bags and saddles. Luckily, I had a great team to help me revamp the barn as well as great barn supplies from Big Dee’s for organizing!

Tacking Up

The Portable Swivel Tack Rack and Adjustable Blanket Bar with Hooks are perfect to use in the space I have – and they aren’t permanent. i can always move them if needed.

The struggle with having a three stall barn with smaller dimensions, is finding the right place to tack up. The outside of my third stall serves as the “tacking-up area”. One of my absolute favorite and versatile pieces is the Portable Swivel Tack Rack – this little less-than-ten-dollars rack fits virtually anywhere, swivels both the top and bottom hooks, and is sturdy enough to hang bridles, grooming totes and more without issue. If I need more space, I can simply push the hooks to the side, or move them around as needed. My second favorite tool is the Adjustable Blanket Bar with Hooks – this cool little piece fits all sorts of odds and ends. The Blanket Bar is a great place to put my saddle pads, half pads and other tack pieces, like the lunge line and girth.

Where to Store the Halters and Fly Spray?

Storage, Barn Essentials and Organizational tools can be found at Big Dee’s!

I liked the products mentioned above so much, that I got two more for a different part of my barn! The Blanket Bar also serves as a great place for topicals. I keep my coat conditioners, shines, fly sprays and spot-treatment sprays hanging across the bar. I can adjust the length to fit the season – in the spring and summer I have a lot more products, in the fall and winter, just a handful so I can shorten the bar and take up less space. The swivel tack rack makes for a fabulous halter, lead and other miscellaneous item organizer.

Tack Locker Organization

The Bridle Brackets (left) are sturdy and work well with both English Bridles and Western Headstalls. The 10 Pocket Trailer Caddy (middle) holds my vast collection of Fly Veils and various colors and sizes of horse boots!The Three Hook Tack Rack Case (right) is my overflow, show and extra space option for bridles!

While my tack locker was build specifically for the space I had available, I am a bit of a tack collector (let’s be honest, who isn’t?) – so I needed some alternatives for using the space. I put up several Bridle Brackets to hang various bridles and headstalls on. I added the 10 Pocket Trailer Caddy to one of my doors, and it was a game-changer for storing my prized “matchy-matchy” boots and fly veils! The zip compartments fit several veils and the mesh holders fit the boots so well. Proof that you can make this Caddy tailored to your own needs. One of the latest additions was the Three Hook Tack Rack Case. When I ran out of space for bridles in my locker (oops!) I needed something sturdy, convenient and adjustable to put my extras in – and this fit the bill! It was pleasantly surprised how well it held up in my barn, and how easy it would be to move if needed.

Seasonal Storage

Utility Hooks come in a variety of sizes.

Transitioning between seasons is made easier with the most versatile Utility Hook. I have a few of these in the larger size for hanging blankets, sheets and fly sheets. In the wet season, the hooks help drip-dry the blankets and sheets. In the summer, these help keep fly sheets, masks and fly boots out of the way.

No matter the space available, the size of the barn or the amount of horse tack you have – there is an option to fit your needs at Big Dee’s!

Written by Marketing Associate, Cassie

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

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

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

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

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

How Bits Work

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

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

Different Bits for Different Trips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a Test Ride

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

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

Words of Wisdom

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

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

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

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen, Purchasing Associate

The Goldilocks Effect: Finding a Saddle That’s “Just Right”

“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!

Jochen Schleese discusses the 9 Points of Saddle Fitting – and how ill-fitting saddles can hinder and harm both horse and rider

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.

While at first it may seem like a pretty picture, you’ll realize my upper body is tipped slightly forward in order to accommodate the flap that isn’t forward enough to reach the point of my knee. As a result, I had difficulty wrapping my legs underneath myself for a sense of security and relied heavily on my seat.

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.

Rotti was a bit of a tricky fit with his extra-wide shoulders, barrel chest, and wide spine!

Place the saddle on your horse’s back. A properly fitting saddle should be symmetrical from back to front and side to side. Check the integrity of the saddle, including examining the panels, tree, and leather. Too much “give” could be from a damaged or broken tree, collapsed panels could be a sign that it needs to be reflocked, and rotten billets or loose stitching is something that needs to be repaired/replaced to avoid a potentially dangerous riding hazard. In fact, each time you take your saddle out to clean it, do a regular inspection to make sure all pieces and parts are in tip-top shape!

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.

Finding the right fit for both horse and rider results in a solid, secure position and optimum balance for both you and the horse!

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.

Finding harmony between you and your horse is much easier when you have properly-fitted tack whether you’re jumping, hacking, or galloping cross country!

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 😊

The Acavallo Adjustment Shaped Gel Back Riser helps close the distance in great saddle fit for your horse!

Email Big Dee’s Sporthorse Specialist and Professional Saddle Fitter, Lisa Gorretta, today to schedule a fitting for you and your horse at lisa@bigdweb.com

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen, Purchasing Associate

Tack Maintenance: Making the Most of Your Investments

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.

Basic Tips

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.

Both bridles are the same style, age and have had the same kind of use. The top bridle was cleaned and conditioned and immediately more supple than the bottom bridle that was dry and less flexible when bending.

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).

Tooling can be time consuming to keep clean, but looks absolutely stunning!

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).

(Left) Sealed side of leather on an English saddle. (Middle) Raw side under the English saddle flap. (Right) Comparison of tooled sealed side of Western saddle and raw side under the fender.

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.

To preserve the integrity of your flocked or foam panels, take extra care around the saddle’s seams.

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!

(Left) Slightly tarnished concho. (Middle) Simichrome only requires a small amount, it comes out pink but once applied turns into a milky white paste. Remove with a rag, buffing the surface in the process. (Right) Polished silver concho.

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.

Daily Maintenance

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.

When deep cleaning, take apart your tack and check the structural integrity as well as condition.

Storage

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.

Protective Coat

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.

Final Word

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!

Written by Marketing Associate, Cassie

Equine Lunging Systems: The What, How, and Why?

As horsemen and horsewomen, we have all heard the term “topline” and the importance of building, maintaining, and properly supporting the horse’s topline for optimal movement, soundness, and performance.

What is The Topline?

The topline is a collection of muscles that support the spine, from neck to hindquarters. Specifically, the longissimus dorsi which attaches spine to pelvis; latissimus dorsi that attaches the upper and mid back vertebrae to the lower lumbar vertebrae, and the thoracic trapezius which attaches the neck and mid back vertebrae to the shoulder blade.

Photo courtesy of Topline Balance

In addition to proper nutrition, turnout, correct saddle fit, and overall care, the topline can strengthen and grow with regular work – including riding, ground work, and lunging (specifically with some sort of lunging system). Having a properly balanced topline will not only improve your horse’s appearance and performance, his sense of balance, posture, and comfort will improve much like strengthening our own core does!

A regular working schedule including riding, groundwork, and lunging can utilize and exercise your horse’s topline. A fun and proven way to make your horse move his booty in the saddle is by incorporating trot poles, stretching, various terrain work, and lots of transitions. It’s worth mentioning that ensuring a proper fit is CRUCIAL to this process, as an ill-fitting saddle will inhibit your horse’s topline growth, as well as a source of soreness, injury, imbalance, and overall negativity for your horse (and you)!

Pole work is a GREAT way to develop your horse’s rhythm, balance, and overall topline
Photo courtesy of FEI.org

Another popular way to build your horse’s topline, for any English, Western, or Equine-related discipline is with the use of a Lunging system. One of the best things about using a lunging system is that it takes the stress and worry out of forcing your horse into a frame, as the rig encourages the horse to self-carry and any resistance is from the horse and not you. Originally developed by American showjumper Nelson Pessoa, it was the first set designed specifically to lift and engage a horse’s core and topline to develop self-carriage and encourage proper movement.

Today, there are great options for those that are wanting to purchase a Lunging System of their own, but it’s important to make sure you have all the essential items needed for lunging.

What You’ll Need

  1. Lunging System:The Pessoa Lunging System is more of an investment, priced at $235, or Waldhausen Lunging System is more of an economic pricepoint at $55. Personally, I love both of them but I’ve had my Pessoa now for about 5 years, and it’s held up beautifully!
  2. Lunge Line Surcingle: These have various attachments, depending on the frame you’d like your horse to be in. There are many different types of material these are made in, from leather to neoprene to nylon. I personally use this one because of the variety of D rings available – so I can use it for dressage, hunters, or Western frames.
  3. Saddle Pad: Because the surcingles are designed to fit snug against the horse, I make sure I use a pad of some kind to keep it in place and prevent slipping, plus add to my horse’s comfort. I use the Back on Track Back Pad because it covers the entire topline area, and it’s great for bareback riding too!
  4. Bridle or Lunging Cavesson: Lunging systems must always be used with a bit for the lines and pulleys to attach to. You can either use a regular bridle with a lunging attachment (like this one) or Lunging Cavesson.
  5. Lunge Line: These can be made in either nylon or cotton. You’ll want to make sure yours has plenty of length for proper control and to change the size circle your horse goes in, depending on the amount of collection or engagement preferred. Ideally, you’ll want one with a 25 or 30-foot length with a durable, heavier snap.
  6. Lunge Whip
  7. Lots of treats for rewarding and praising your horse for a job well done!

I love this surcingle from Big Dee’s! With the multiple rings and sturdy neoprene grip, I can use this for Dressage, Hunters, or Western frame
Mustang Neoprene Training Surcingle : $34.95

When you’re done, then end result should look something like this!

How To Fit Your Lunging System

  1. Fit your surcingle and pad on your horses back. Gather all your clips in place to avoid a detangling mess!
  2. Take the snap that branches from the “V-clip” and attach to the D ring on your surcingle that is at the center of your horse’s back.
  3. Set the bum roll under your horse’s tail. A note for fitting, it may look a little high at first when standing, but as you encourage him to move and tuck underneath, the roller will lower.
  4. Separate the left and rein lines from each other, then gather the right line to keep in place, making sure it’s tidy and away from the ground to avoid getting caught in your horse’s legs.
  5. Take the pulley snap and attach to the solid ring near the girth attachment of the surcingle.
  6. Attach the end snap to the bit as a place holder and repeat on the other side.
  7. Take the front clips and run them through the bit rings going out-to-in towards the middle of the horse’s front legs).
  8. Attach the clips at the D-ring underneath the surcingle. Some people use baling twine for younger or green horses as an easy break point.
  9. You’re done! You can send your horse out on the line and begin lunging.

Waldhausen Lunging System in Practice

One of our Customer Service Support Specialists, Laura, had been curious about trying various Lunging Systems. After trial and error with other Lunging Systems, hear how she found a winner with the Waldhausen Lunging System!

” I purchased the Waldhausen lunging system when other lunging aids were not cutting it for my dressage gelding. He would pull himself into frame and be “collected” but not engage his hind end on the ground. After a lot of research, I found the Waldhausen system and decided to purchase it and test it out! The instructions were very simple to understand and they show a few different ways to hook up the system on your horse. I started with the most basic, which is what is pictured. After my horses’ first initial few steps of confusion with the padded strap behind his legs, he started tracking up better in both the walk and the trot. Moving on to the canter, he showed actual full collection and engaged both his hind end and back going into the transition. I have now started to use the Waldhausen system in our monthly training/lunging program to help keep his mind working with the rest of his body which helps him both move and feel better when being ridden!”

Customer Service Rep Laura’s handsome OTTB gelding, Cash, quickly improved his self-carriage and hind-end engagement with the Waldhausen system, while Laura loved the price tag and ease of setup.

Tips and Final Words

When using any Lunging System for the first time, it’s always important to desensitize your horse to all the lines, pulleys, and clips before putting it on. Start slowly when you begin, begin at a walk encouraging your horse to move freely and without resistance. As your horse begins to become more comfortable and trained to the system, feel free to experiment and have fun with different gaits, transitions, circle sizes, and change of directions. As always, make sure you are working with a professional and in a safe environment with the addition of any new training aid, to make sure everything fits correctly and she can observe the initial reactions of your horse.

Like any training aid, it’s important to not over-do the frequency of use. These are designed to be used in conjunction with proper riding and training, not to replace it. But lastly, have fun and be patient! Take this time to bond with your horse out of the saddle and not be afraid to try something new.

Rotti’s well-developed topline has resulted from patience, consistency, and kindness. We use a Lunging System at least once a week.

Enjoy the ride,

Colleen

Celebrate Small Business Saturday

Celebrate Small Business Saturday in the United States this year on November 30, 2019.

Tradition

This shopping tradition began in 2010 and has grown into a welcoming way to bring local patronage to brick and mortar shopping and create a hometown atmosphere in person or online. Shopping small means, you support your community neighborhoods and local establishments.

Hometown Proud

Big Dee’s Tack & Vet Supplies has grown into a pillar of your community. Most of our employees own horses, livestock and pets or have them in their backgrounds. Employees that share your interests in all things horse and hound, english, western or racing, give you a customer experience second to none! Our mission is to serve you in a polite, friendly, most competent way. We offer saddle, helmet, and blanket fitting tips. Gifts for all your critters and a clothing selection sure to please the most competitive to the casual equestrian. We offer holiday specials throughout the store and online. Join our customer loyalty program and receive special discounts throughout the year. In years past shoppers set records all across the country sharing their support of small businesses just like ours.

Happy Holidays!

So, shop small America and share your support for local family-owned companies just like Big Dee’s Tack & Vet Supplies! Support your friends and neighbors and the local economy along the way. From our family to yours we extend a happy holiday invitation to stop in for a cup of hot chocolate this season and to shop small!

Written by: Big Dee’s Web Products Specialist, Kathy Kilbane

Horse Saddles: What the Fit is Telling You

March is an excellent time to take a look at the fit of your horse saddles with a critical eye. With our Northern Ohio winters, it is very typical to see changes in weight and fitness in our equine athletes and this can have a dramatic affect on the fit of this very important piece of training equipment.

Some tell tale signs that you might have an issue include changes in your horse’s attitude about grooming or tacking:

  • Is your normally docile horse getting a little gnarly when you are grooming – especially along the spine or girth area?
  • Do you see friction rubs or bare patches where the saddle panels make contact?
  • Does this grouchy behavior continue under saddle…pinned ears especially in upward transitions, “cold back” or a refusal to stand at the mounting block?
  • Are you experiencing difficulty picking up the canter or with lead changes?
  • Does your instructor more frequently mention that you are sitting off to one side or do you feel that your balance is “a bit off”?
  • Is your normally symmetrical lateral work now more difficult in one direction over the other?

Another typical cause of saddle fitting issues is seasonal changes in weight.  People tend to gain a pound or three over the winter, but your horse can have swings either up or down, or changes in muscle tone, especially over the back. Have you noticed that you have gone up or down a hole or two when girthing your saddle? Have you noticed that the surcingles on the winter blanket have required adjustment since the start of the season?

Once you have determined that you have an issue, how can you determine what and how serious the issue might be?  The following few easy steps will provide a wealth of information…

1. Check your horse’s weight with a weight tape or centimeter tape.  Place the tape around the heart girth and snug up the tape gently. If you can get into a habit of doing this a couple of times a year, note that it is most important to be consistent in tape placement and degree of snugness, as you are really watching for a change in the number more than the actual weight or centimeter reading.

Saddle Fit | Big Dee's Horse Tack

2. Examine the surface bearing area of the saddle panels on your horse’s back. Are there any sub-surface swellings, particularly along the sides of the withers?

 

3. Are there rubs on the withers or friction hair rubs on the back? Is your horse sensitive to palpation with moderate pressure of your finger tip (be careful if you have long finger nails as your horse may give you “false positive” reactions).

Horse Friction Hairs | Big Dee's Horse Tack

This is a classic example of a friction rub caused by a saddle that is out of balance – check the tree width and condition of the panels if flocked. If the rub mark looks suspiciously like the binding edge of your saddle pad, possible culprits are that your pad is too small and the end of the saddle panels sit over the outside edge of the pad; your laundry detergent or washing frequency isn’t keeping up with the increased demands of winter skin conditions ; your horse’s coat is dry and in need of a good coat conditioning spray at the end of a really good grooming.

4. Pull out your last set of pictures to compare the view from the side and over the back (to see muscling and symmetry of the shoulder area). If you have attended one of our talks on saddle fitting, you know already the importance I place on these shots taken periodically throughout your horse’s career or certainly when you are starting the process of saddle shopping.

Horse Muscle | Big Dee's Horse Tack  Horse Muscle Symmetry

Of course if you have a saddle with a changeable gullet, it is a good idea to also look at the gauge and snap a photo that you can date and keep in your horse health file.

Gullet Guage | Big Dee's Horse Tack

If your saddle is flocked, examine the panels to check for asymmetry in the panel shape, softness or lumps and bumps within the flocking material itself. The panels should be symmetrical (I prefer to address asymmetry that your horse may suffer with therapeutic pads rather than adjusting the actual panels). When the saddle (without pads) is placed on the horse’s back, you should feel consistent contact as you run your hand along the panel from the pommel to the cantle. Bridging (absence of contact) or tight spots are indications that your saddle fitter is due for a visit.

This is a good time to examine the condition of stitching and your billets as well!

Western Saddle Stitching | Western Tack

Taking a small amount of time to look over your saddle fit now can pay off big in preventing both lost training time and potential bills later to bring your horse back into good training condition when the weather finally breaks. As always, I recommend you maintain and encourage open communication with all members of your horse’s health care team: Vet, Nutritionist, Farrier, Physio, Dentist, Trainer and Saddle Fitter in order nip possible problems in the bud and keep your horse ready for whatever is your riding pleasure!

Remember: Think Spring!