Tag Archives: horseback riding

Custom Boot Event 2021

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

Types of Tall Boots

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

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

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

Why Custom?

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

What to Expect?

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen

Every Ride. Every Time.

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

Helmet Fit

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

Safety Upgrades

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

Getting the Right Fit

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

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

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

One Impact

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

Maintenance

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

Replacing Your Helmet

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

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

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

Helmet Care

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

Moss Fresh Rider Deodorizing Spray: $9.95

Written by Sponsored Rider, Sarah Freeman from Serendipity Stable

Splurge vs. Savvy – English Apparel

Hello my fellow equestrian fashionistas – we are back with the latest installment of the “Splurge Vs. Savvy” series! This week, I’m going to share some of my top picks for apparel for English riders, including showing, schooling, and everyday looks. No matter what the budget or discipline, there is something for everyone that is guaranteed to be fabulous.

Show Coats

Splurge – AA Motionlite Competition Jacket; $289.95

I am OBSESSED with this jacket. The fact it’s lightweight and breathable while still providing the sleek, streamlined silhouette I want in a show coat makes the AA Platinum Motion Lite Jacket perfect for wear any time of the year. Suitable for the hunters and stylish for the jumpers or equitation divisions, this jacket is also available in a Shadbelly option for those Derby days (& Dressage rings, too!). While we carry this jacket in traditional Grey and Navy Blue, it’s also available in Black, Burgundy, Aviation Blue, Espresso, and Hunter Green. I’ve had my jacket for the past 2 show seasons and still get compliments on it!

Savvy: Horseware Competition Jacket; $109.95

Ladies Competition Jacket

This highly technical, modernized show jacket is perfect for jumpers and eventers, featuring maximum convenience with a fully machine washable soft shell/spandex material and stylish silver accents that provides fun style elements on an otherwise more traditional jacket. Available to orders in a variety of fun colors such as black, navy, hunter green, burgundy, and taupe, more traditional riders can swap out the silver buttons for more neutral look that’s suitable for the hunter and equitation rings.

Breeches

Splurge – Tailored Sportsman Trophy Hunter; $195 – $225

A staple for generations, Tailored Sportsman were the “original” Euroseat breeches on the market for hunter/jumper riders. Today, TS continues to provide iron-like fabric that holds up for the most rigorous of rides; appealing, unique colors, and classic tailoring and fit that has proven superior for decades. When I say I’ve had the same pair of breeches for over 5 years and they still wash out just as well as the day I bought them, I mean it.

Savvy – ROMFH Sarafina Euroseat/Euro Grip Ladies Breech; $169.95

Made to look and feel like the $200+ options on the market, the Sarafina provides an amazing feel and modern styling, without breaking the bank. The Clarino knee patches t hold up to intense wear while the Euro Grip Silicone Knee Patches keep you held in place over fences, combining the best of durability, fit, and comfort. One of my favorite things about these breeches is the natural rise and how UNBELIEVABLY comfortable they are. I can be a pretty tricky fit when it comes to breeches (hello super-long legs and no waist!), but these have become my hands-down favorite – they’re amazing for any shape or size!

Tall Boots

Splurge: DeNiro Custom Tall Boots; starting at $1,000+

Have you been drooling over having your own pair of custom calfskin tall boots, specifically measuring each point of your feet, ankles, legs, even toe length? Since 1981, DeNiro has produced exquisite footwear for Hunter/Jumper, Foxhunting, Eventing, and Dressage riders (both amateur and professionals alike), including stock and custom chaps, paddock boots, tall boots, and even tennis shoes. Whether your are wanting a bold, stand-out pair of boots for competition or a timeless, classic black field boot, let us create the boots of your dreams!

Savvy: Ariat Heritage Contour II Field Boot; $319.95

Made to create the illusion of a custom Italian boot, Ariat has stepped up their tall boot game with some of the best-selling, long-lasting, nicest looking boots on the market. Every time we fit someone in a pair of these at Big Dee’s, I get so excited because they look that darn good. I swear, these boots are magic, they manage to make ankles look so tiny and legs so long, even if the rider is 5′! The leather is supple, the stretch panel is super forgiving, and with calf heights and widths available to accommodate 99% of riders, the Heritage Contour II performs even better than they look. Available in men’s and women’s sizing.

Helmets

Splurge: KASK Star Lady Helmet; $640.00

I’ve been ogling over the Star Lady for quite some time now. Not only is it one of the safest helmets out there, with European and American safety ratings, but it is specifically designed for female equestrians. The sleek, low profile and wide brim highlights cheekbones, creating a lovely profile while offering superior safety. I love the oversized vent across the top to allow as much air to go through as possible when riding, which would definitely come in handy on hot days.

Savvy: Tipperary Royal Wide Brim Helmet; $199.99

If you’re looking for a stylish low profile, wide brim helmet with great ventilation and various trim options, the Tipperary Royal Helmet checks all the boxes. If you’re a traditionalist like myself, the Carbon Leather top is a stylish option while the Gloss adds a subtle sheen without being overwhelming. There are plenty of great design elements to both helmets, including 9 strategic air vents for maximum air flow, adjustable fit, all necessary safety certifications, and a removable, washable comfort liner.

Stay tuned for our next installment featuring Western apparel!

Enjoy the ride,
Colleen C. – Purchasing Associate

Holiday Season Gift Guide for the Everyday Equestrian

With December right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about gifts for your equestrian family and barn friends. Sometimes finding the perfect gift can be a little tricky – of course we’d love to gift our closest horse family something glamorous like a new horse trailer. But, reality forces us to go a more practical route. Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be a challenge – there are so many fun and practical gifts you can give that would make your friends and family happy!

Apparel

Starting with the easiest, tried and true option – the Magic Gloves. These gloves are versatile for EVERYTHING! I keep a pair in each of my coats, by the door, in my car… just about everywhere. The one-size-fits-all makes it easy to to gift without worrying about sizing! And did I mention they’re so cost efficient? These make wonderful stocking stuffers, barn exchange gifts and hey, grab a pair for yourself while you’re at it. You won’t regret having a handy, cozy pair around for barn chores and riding!

If you’re looking to gift something for the stable hand friend, or maybe a sibling that keeps their horses at home – Deerskin Gloves are a great choice and my personal favorite for cleaning stalls and working outside. I spent an entire spring, summer and fall working on big farm projects, and this was my go-to pair to keep my hands protected; not to mention they are so soft on your skin. I prefer gloves like these for the winter, opposed to big fluffy gloves – because I need to keep cleaning stalls, carrying buckets and fixing fence (thanks windy Ohio weather). They give me the flexibility I need without sacrificing quality. But if you need the extra warmth, try out the fleece lined option in the same style.


There will never be a time when rainboots aren’t a welcome gift – especially when they come in so many styles and colors! Every equestrian who frequents the barn knows the value in keeping a pair around, whether in your car or in the mudroom, keeping your toes dry during the wet season makes life so much easier!


One of the most valued items in my barn wardrobe is a nice softshell jacket. The versatility of going from the house to the barn, out on errands, riding and braving the weather make it an equestrian essential. Between the wind and water resistance and the generous pockets, these jackets quickly became a favorite for me. The Ariat Team Periscope Ladies Jacket or Hooey Mens Softshell are great options for the all-season riding enthusiasts and farm owners.

Stable

Let’s be honest, most of us really love the idea of having a barn or stall decked out in 5/A Baker gear! And when it comes to friends that love Baker, there are so many giftable items – for both them or their horse! With any budget in mind, you could get something classic like a halter and lead or go for a sturdy hay bag. Maybe you need a stocking stuffer, and let me tell you – those lunge lines and trailer ties will fit nicely over the fireplace! Splurging can be practical and 5/A Baker items prove it. Traditional and durable, they are built to last and give your horse (and yourself) some pretty nice style.


If Baker isn’t the route you want to go, leather care products are always a helpful and appreciated option. Smaller sizes make wonderful stocking stuffers or handouts to barn mates and pony clubbers, while full size favorites are perfect for your equestrian family member. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing the Effol Advent Calendar under my Christmas tree (and I promise you I would open it all at once, have you seen what cool items are in there?!).


It’s no secret I have a saddle pad/matchy obsession, so you can take my word for it when I say, the Woof Wear color collection would make an AMAZING gift for any of your friends and family that like having colorful options, while matching perfectly. The saddle pads come in Close Contact and Dressage cuts, and you can match with fly veils, brushing boots and riding shirts! Talk about a home run gift for the young, still young but paying their own board and young at heart.

Home

Does your horse-crazy sibling or equestrian teammate have a favorite famous horse? Maybe a favorite color or breed? Breyer models offer such a variety for a range of avid horse lovers. From a collector friend that proudly displays Traditional models, to the young child that likes to play with their Corral Pals – Breyer offers great options for both stocking stuffers and wrapped gifts under the tree.


There’s comes a point in everyone’s life (okay, most people, myself included) when they realize they have a favorite mug. It can be the work get-me-caffeine-asap mug or the Saturday morning coffee mug. My favorite mug was gifted to me a few years ago and I still use it more often than the rest. Sometimes finding the perfect gift can be as simple as a household comfort. We have some new mugs this year, featuring donkeys, bay, chestnut and a mare and foals – the best part? They are easily within gift-exchange budgets, so don’t wait to snag one today!


After all the practical, fun and meaningful options you’ve read through, one of the most personal is a custom gift. I am a big fan of the Small Sport Duffle Bag – the options are endless for teammates, barn friends and family. It’s the perfect “grab and go” bag for shows, lessons and vacations.

If that doesn’t seem like the right fit, what about a walnut frame with a custom nameplate? If your friend or family member recently had a photo shoot or perhaps has a favorite picture of their horse, this kind gesture of a custom frame would bring so much joy!

Does your friend like staying organized? A neat and practical gift option could be engraved key tags for keeping track of blankets and an engraved dog tags for bridles and halters. Think of how easy it would be to have color coded blanket tags and easy-to-spot tags for halters – no more hassle in the early mornings!

The Holiday season is a great time to show acts of kindness towards friends and family who share your passion for all things equine. To keep up with our latest items and sales, make sure you follow us on social media and sign up for our emails!

Written by Marketing Associate, Cassie

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.

standards
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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-4.png
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