Tag Archives: horseback riding

Grooming Tools: The Ultimate HAAS Brush Guide

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

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

Brush for Caked-On Mud & Tough Spots

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

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

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

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

Best for Body

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

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

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

Best for Mane & Tail

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

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

Best for Legs and Face

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

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

Best for Finishing Touches

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

Best for Petite Hands

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen C. – Purchasing Associate

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

Hi Big Dee’s Fam!

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

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

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

Power Horse

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

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

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

What Is it?

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

Quiessence

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

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

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

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

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

Balance EQ

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

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

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

Results – Does It Work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen, Purchasing Associate

Give Your Horse a Leg Up! Staff Picks of Our Favorite Leg Protection Products

Big Dee’s is back with a selection of our must-have leg protection items. We know how important it is to keep our beloved horse’s delicate bones, joints, and tendons properly supported and protected every day. Whether it’s for turnout, schooling on the flat, jumping, running barrels, or getting your patterns down, check out some of our top picks!

Turn Out

Country Pride Neoprene Splint Boots | Colleen, Purchasing Associate

Who says you must spend an arm and a leg (no pun intended) to get AMAZING quality? These boots are made to withstand horses that will literally eat their boots in turnout. I love the fact that the EZ Pull fasteners hold like iron; they stay in place so well, even after they are out in the field for 8+ hours! Plus, the neoprene is super durable and washes easily – I simply hose them off and hang to dry then they’re good as new!

Toklat Hind Neoprene Splint Boots | Colleen, Purchasing Associate

As someone who constantly struggled with finding the right boots to cover Rotti’s entire hind leg in turnout, these boots are fantastic! Not only does the extra padding on the inside protect his legs when he’s galloping or bucking, the extra long length and fourth fasten tab ensure that he is totally covered.

Bell Boots

Davis Pro Fit Bell Boots | Lisa, Sport Horse Specialist

Don’t be fooled by the soft, flexible rubber on these multipurpose bell boots! Available in a variety of fun colors and sizes, the Davis Bell Boots have a “fantastic” Velcro attachment and comfort collar around the pastern to keep horse’s legs protected without rubs.

Shires Fleece Trim Bell Boots | Cassie, Marketing Associate

Shires Fleece Trim Bell Boots $16.19

The Shires Fleece Trim Bell Boots are a great choice for sensitive skinned horses that need a little extra protection from rubbing – and durable resistance from overreaching.

“These bell boots did the trick for my OTTB who could easily get out of other types and needed protection from pulling his shoes. The fleece allowed him to wear the bell boots for 12+ hours a day without any rubs.”

Full-Coverage / Medicine Boots

Professional’s Choice VenTech Elite Boots | Cassie, Marketing Associate

The #1 best-selling 360-degree protective boots on the market, these boots are the ultimate leg protection item for horses. Lightweight and multi-layered, the Elite boots offer full coverage of the cannon, tendons, and fetlock without hindering movement. Features UltraShock and limestone-based neoprene to combat impact and moisture.

“The Professional’s Choice VenTech SMB’s are great for that extra level of protection while schooling. I like the variety of colors so I can match with my tack (always a bonus for me). They fit true to size and even had an option for my very petite boned Quarter Horse – easy to use, easy to clean – win, win!”

Jumping / Open Front

Eskadron Flexisoft VO Open Front & Ankle Boots | Colleen, Purchasing Associate

As someone who values durability, quality, and good styling, its no surprise that Eskadron boots have been my go-to picks when jumping for over 10 years. I love the anti-slip soft neoprene lining that keeps dirt out and molds around a wide variety of horse’s legs. Both the front and hind boots easily fit a wide variety of horse’s legs and the lightweight TPE shell protects legs from impact without weighing them down.

Flat Work

All Sport Boots | Cassie, Marketing Associate

The All Sport Boot is designed to provide excellent protection and comfort. Combined with a plush neoprene lining and covered in rugged Coverlight vinyl and strike area. Not only is it tear, puncture, and abrasion-resistant, these boots are waterproof and prevent fungal growth!

“These are my go-to boots for everyday riding. They are durable, easy to clean and fit securely. I feel better knowing my horses have protection and support when we’re schooling western and classic Dressage.”

All-Around

Woof Wear Brushing Boots | Lisa, Sport Horse Specialist

These boots are a fantastic option for those that want to add a bit of color and personality to their look – in fact, there are almost 10 colors to choose from! The unique neoprene used on these boots encourage airflow, drawing away unwanted heat from the legs. Plus, with universal sizing, you can use these as either front or hind boots. If you want to jazz up your look for cross-country, flatwork, or turnout, these are the boots for you!

“…for both work and turnout, I use [Woof Wear Sport Boots.] [They] wrap on easily, offer great protection and stay in place regardless of the weather.”

There are so many fun, innovative products out there to try out on your horse. Depending on your needs, style, discipline, or brand preference, Big Dee’s has tons of options available with over 40 different companies to choose from for boots/wraps alone!

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen, Purchasing Associate

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

Protect That Noodle! The Importance of Selecting the Right Helmet

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

TBI’s and Horseback Riding

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

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

Knocked Out

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

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

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

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

Today’s Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Options Galore!

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

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

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

Tips for a Perfect Fit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use Your Noggin – Wear a Helmet!

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

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

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen, Purchasing Associate

Ariat Spring/Summer Apparel

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.

Golden Hour

Inspired by the rich hues of a Sedona sunset, the eye-catching Ariat Tribal shirt pairs beautifully with the authentic Turquoise and Copper matching Cross earrings and necklace set. This ensemble is perfect for a night out after a hard day’s work, completely balanced in feminine touches and fabulous style. Pair the Round Up Bella boots with your favorite pair of jeans for a statement look that goes with any outfit.

Cowboy Up

Who says you can’t work hard and play hard at the same time? Fashioned from 100% cotton, the Jupiter shirt brings a new twist to the classic Pearl snap front button down with its extended arm seam for maximum mobility. Stay comfortable and flexible with the gentle stretch of the Ariat M4 jeans in its sharp dark Indigo wash. The Sierra boots prove you can have function and fashion together in a work boot, with added features like an oil-and slip-resisting sole and Goodyear Welt construction on this square-toed option.

Wide Open Spaces

Bring out your inner cowgirl with this fun, vibrant pairing! The bright, sunny colors in the Ariat Fatbaby Aztec boots are sure to stand out with your equally sunny personality, while the comfortably stretchy mid-rise Ariat Whipstitch Jeans are made to move and groove with you in and out of the saddle. The Ariat Puff Print tee is flirty and fun with its delicate v-neck and breathable cotton keeping you looking and feeling cool while running barrels or relaxing with friends at a bonfire.

Home On the Range

These steel-toed boots are meant for those that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, with its lightweight, composite shank offering the stability and protection needed. The Ariat M5 Legacy Jeans are guaranteed to be your new favorite pair of pants with just the right amount of stretch and iron-clad durability. Whether you’re riding a steel horse (or an actual one), this polished look of the Jurlington shirt is perfect from 9-to-5 to date night.

What Will You Discover?

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!

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen, Purchasing Associate

The Value of Equestrian Community During COVID-19

While 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.

Social distancing at its finest – Rotti and I have been doing lots of trail rides to develop his hill work while shows and clinics have been postponed/cancelled

If 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).

Looking over old photos and videos can be a confidence boost , as well as get you excited for new things to practice on for the future!

4. No Such Thing as Too Much Learning

Utilize your trainer and schedule a “virtual” lesson with them or try online resources like The Equivault, Total Horse Channel, or The Equestrian Coach in the meantime to gain a fresh perspective on your discipline or learn something new! Youtube also provides a TON of information for training tips and more (even Olympic champion Beezie Madden is giving a free lesson on her Channel)!

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!

What books will you be reading in the meantime?

5. Trust

Myself 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.

Hang in there, guys. We are all in this together.

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen, Purchasing Associate

New Items for Spring!

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!

Written by Customer Service Representative, Laura

One of the Greats – Riding with an American Legend

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.

His 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.

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen, Purchasing Associate