A bit that's correctly fitting and well chosen can make a huge difference to your horse's way of going. Here's a few ways to tell if it might be time for a change.Read More
Buying a second-hand saddle can be a cheaper option. Follow our tips to make sure you're getting the best deal.Read More
If you’re in the market for a new pair of riding boots, investing in the right ones for your needs and taking good care of them will mean they’ll last for years.Read More
Here's some advice to ensure you get it right if you go bitless with your horse.Read More
Need some new transport for your horse? Looking for some advice on buying a secondhand trailer? We can help!
If a new trailer isn’t an option, buying secondhand can prove more affordable.
There are plenty of used trailers for sale and you’re sure to find something for your budget, but before you part with your cash, whether you’re buying privately or through a dealer, when you go to view any potential purchase, run through our handy checklist:
What to look for in a secondhand horse trailer
1 First impressions count - does it look clean, tidy and does it fit the description in the ad?
2 All new trailers are security marked and given a unique serial number (usually on the manufacturer’s plate), so check this is genuine.
3 Look for signs of leaking in the roof and check that any ventilation grills or windows are easy to use.
4 Lift any floor matting to check for rot or cracks, and bear in mind aluminium flooring is stronger and lasts longer than wood.
5 Lift any matting on the ramp and check for rot and damage, paying attention to the hinges for signs of wear and tear, too. Ensure it’s easy to lift.
6 Raise and lower the trailer using the jockey wheel, and check that both the electric connection and the trailer’s breakaway cable are in good condition.
7 Test the handbrake and, ideally, ask the seller to hitch the trailer up for a test tow.
8 Once you’re hitched up, check all the lights work, including the indicators, brakes and internal lights.
9 All tyres, including the spare, need to have a good amount of tread (a minimum of 1.6mm – though more than 3mm is ideal). Any uneven wear could signal suspension problems with the trailer.
10. On purchase Ask for a signed receipt that includes the seller’s address.
The best way to cope with whatever the winter throws at you when riding your horse is to invest in the right gear to keep you warm and dry.Read More
Owning a horse that’s to be ridden requires you to have horse tack. Here we run through the key items including, the bridle, saddle and more.Read More
Your riding hat is the most important piece of equestrian kit you’ll buy so, if yours is damaged or you’re in the market for a new one use our helpful buyer’s guide to choose the right riding helmet.
Riding hat safety standards
When you’re deciding on a new hat, first and foremost consider what activities you do with your horse.
If you compete you’ll need to check the rules of each governing body (e.g. British Eventing or British Showjumping) to ensure that the hat you want to buy is allowed.
In addition you must be up to date on hat standards. Here’s what’s
EN1384 1996 / BSEN 1384 1997/ BSEN1384 2012 (with or without Kitemark mark)
This range of standards can still be worn for hacking and hunting but as of 2016, most riding bodies no longer allow you to compete wearing this standard of hat.
VG1 (with or without Kitemark or IC Mark)
Developed by Vertical Group 1, who test and certify hats around Europe, this testing specification is based on the EN1384, but with additional requirements and testing procedures to bring it up to a level similar to PAS015.
PAS015: 2011 (with or without Kitemark mark or IC Mark)
This stands for Product Approval Specification (PAS) and was developed by the British Standards Institute (BSI).
This standard was revised in 2011 to include testing at an increased drop height and several other amendments to improve the performance of this standard.
This standard was developed in America by the Snell Institute.
It’s a higher performance standard which includes all aspects of the American Society for testing and Materials (ASTM) and PAS 015 but with the addition of testing with a sharper horseshoe anvil (to replicate a horse kick or impact with a sharp surface).
It’s also been tested for higher impacts and with an additional hemispherical anvil to represent an uneven but not a sharp surface such as a fence or tree.
Ensure your riding hat fits
Comfort and fit are essential and, as different brands offer varying styles and fittings, it’s vital to use a qualified hat fitter to help you find a hat that suits your head.
After all, only a properly fitted riding hat will provide you with the maximum level of protection in the event of a fall.
Your hat should fit your head snugly with the front sitting no more than about 11/2in or two fingers above your eyebrows.
If your hat can be easily dislodged when the chinstrap is fastened, it’s too big. It’s also important to note that there’s no guarantee a second hand hat comes damage free so always buy new.
With a huge choice of rugs available it can be pretty daunting choosing the right one for your horse.Read More
Horse rug jargon can be confusing, but fear not! We're on hand to help you out.
If you're confused and struggle to know your denier from your taped seams, our easy-to-understand jargon buster will help you understand all those commonly used rug terms you’ll come across when you’re choosing a winter horse rug.
Rip-stop - This is the fabric’s ability to contain rips and tears. It doesn’t mean your rug wont’ rip but the thread pattern runs in two directions that helps prevent a rip from spreading once it starts.
Ballistic nylon - Similar to rip-stop, ballistic nylon fabric is very strong, durable and more resistant to tearing.
Denier - This tells you how durable the rug is likely to be.
The higher the denier, the tougher and heavier the fabric. For example, 1200 denier and above is very strong. 600 denier is everyday strength.
Waterproof - This refers to the outer material’s ability to stop water passing through the run and on to your horse.
The outer fabric is treated to be waterproof and this will diminish with use, but with correct cleaning and re-proofing you rug will keep its waterproof properties.
Breathable - This is the rug’s ability to allow sweat to wick away, passing through the fabric to the outside, to keep your horse dry and comfortable.
Taped seams - When two pieces of material are sewn together the needle leaves holes in the fabric which allow water to seep in.
Taping seams is when a waterproof tape is applied and sealed to ensure the seam is watertight.
Filling - This is usually referred to in grams. The higher the gram of fill, the warmer the rug will be.
Standard neck - The neck of the rug stops at your horse’s withers, leaving his neck uncovered.
High neck - The neck extend beyond the withers, but doesn’t cover all of your horse’s neck.
Combo style - This style of rug has an integral neck cover that cannot be removed.
Detachable neck - This rug comes with (or sometimes has to be bought separately) a neck cover that can be removed, giving you the versatility of having two rugs in one.
Your horse's turnout and stable rugs are available in different weight, but which one do you need?Read More
Buying a saddle isn't easy - the choice of saddles for horses is huge and it can be quite confusing too.
So, before you buy a new saddle take a bit of time to consider exactly what it is you want.
Ultimately it won’t be until you actually ride in the saddle that you’ll know whether it’s the one, but here we have some useful advice that should put you on the right path towards your perfect saddle.
Before you continue we strongly recommend that you set your budget now, then stick to it - it’s so easy to get carried away in the moment and end up spending far more than you want to.
Budget decided, you then need to decide what type of saddle you’d like. Here's a run through of what's available.
General purpose saddles
General purpose are designed so you can do most disciplines in them from hacking to jumping.
Most leisure riders will go for this option, you only need one saddle, but if you compete regularly you may be better looking at a discipline specific saddle to give you the support and security you need.
As the name suggests these are designed for dressage and flatwork.
The saddle flap is longer and straighter encouraging you to ride with a long leg position and the seat tends to be deeper to help you maintain a correct position.
There’s the option of having large fixed knee blocks through to smaller moveable blocks so you can find the most comfortable position for you.
To allow you to have a closer leg contact the girth straps are long and you use a short girth to remove any bulk under your leg so there are no buckles under your leg.
These are more forward cut so you can ride with shorter stirrups.
They’ll normally have knee and thigh blocks are positioned to help you stay secure and supported when you’re jumping.
Often they have a flatter seat allowing you a little more freedom if you’re riding cross-country.
These are designed to complement your horse’s conformation. They tend to be straight cut and basic in design so they allow total freedom of movement and show your horse off at his best.
Leather or synthetic saddles?
The next step is to decide what material you want your saddle to be made of, leather or synthetic.
Leather saddles: These would be most people’s first choice.
You can’t really beat the look, feel and smell of leather.
It may take a little more looking after, but many would say it’s worth it.
Traditionally most English saddles are made in Walsall - the town has long been the home of the English saddle manufacturing industry and is famous for being one of the only places in the world to have the expertise and skills to produce the very best handmade English saddles.
Synthetic saddles: These have improved massively in recent years making them much more desirable – in fact, some have become so good that they can easily be mistaken as leather.
What’s more, there are a number of benefits to synthetic saddles - the biggest being the price.
They are considerably cheaper than leather saddles and so if you’re on a budget they’re definitely worth a look. In addition, they tend to be lighter and much easier to clean.
A fairly new addition to some saddles is the option to alter the gullet width of your saddle, a great idea if you own a young horse as you can have your saddle altered as he matures.
Flair saddle panels
These air panels are extremely adjustable – this is a system of four air bags, which replaces flocking.
There are two air bags at the front and two at the rear. You can have flair air bags that provide a soft, flexible and event bearing surface.
Flair can be fitted to all conventional saddles and each individual air bag can be adjusted allowing you to add or remove air to give a customise fit for you and your horse.
This is done via two valves that are fitted under the skirt of the saddle.
Flair gives your saddle a constant flexible layer of air that’s great at absorbing shock allowing your horse to move more naturally as the muscles of his back and shoulder aren’t restricted.
Cair saddle panels
These are another type of air filled panel that are found in the range of saddles.
The Cair Cushion System replaces the traditional filling in your saddle with air.
There are two independently sealed air cushions within each saddle panel – the air in the panels can’t be adjusted.
The concept behind this system is the air within the panels constantly adapts to your horse’s working muscles allowing your weight to be more evenly spread across the saddle, virtually eliminating pressure points so your horse is more comfortable.
Traditional saddle flocking
Traditionally saddle panels are flocked with wool and this is still the most common choice today.
Your saddle is a shock absorber between you and your horse and wool is used as flocking because it’s a natural fibre that breathes and maintains its elasticity.
Also, your saddler can add or take flocking out of the panels to alter the fit of your saddle if your horse changes shape.
There are a number of types of wool used as flocking but a popular choice is Jacob wool - it has good recovery properties and remains soft helping to keep your horse comfortable.
A flocked saddle still needs regular maintenance, over time and with use wool becomes hard and lumpy – regular checks by a qualified saddler will help to keep your saddle in good condition.
Got a question about saddles?
Send us your question using the form below and we'll put it to the experts for you!
Learn how to check the fit of your horse's saddle with this easy-peasy guide.Read More
A well-fitting rug is a must, not just for your horse's comfort, but for safety too.
A rug that fits correctly should cover your horse's body well. There should be no tightness, or it will rub your horse's shoulders and withers.
Also, a rug that's too big may slip causing discomfort, and can be dangerous.
If you're not sure what you should be checking, follow our five simple points to ensure your horse is comfortable and safe.
Does he have freedom to move?
The rug should be roomy enough to do the front fastenings up without putting pressure on your horse's chest.
Once fastened, you should be able to easily slide your hand inside the rug, down the side of his shoulder and around his chest.
Is it positioned well?
The rug should sit approximately 2in to 4in in front of your horse's withers, so it doesn't cause any pressure or rubbing.
It should also reach to the top of his tail.
Is it the right depth?
Take a step back and see how deep the rug is.
It should come down your horse's sides far enough so that you can't see his belly.
If the rug isn't deep enough it'll look a bit like a miniskirt, exposing some of his tummy to the elements.
Do the surcingles fit?
These need to be adjusted so you can comfortable fit your hand between the strap and your horse's belly.
Too loose and he could get a leg caught when he rolls, too tight and they may cause discomfort by pulling the rug down over his withers.
Does the neck cover fit?
Check the neck cover is long enough so it offers protection from the wind and rain especially when your horse has his head down while grazing.
Also check the neck cover is deep enough, if it's too tight it will rub his mane.
Do the leg straps need adjusting?
Not all rugs have them, some will have just a fillet string.
Careful adjustment is needed so your horse can move freely, but so they're tight enough that there's no danger of him getting caught in them when he rolls.
Loop one leg strap around his back leg and fasten it to the 'D' rung on the same side.
Repeat on the other side, passing the second leg strap through the first so they're linked before fastening.
The straps should be adjusted to allow a hands' width between your horse's thigh and the strap.
Riding hats aren’t cheap so make sure you take good care of yours and it’ll take good care of you.Read More
Thinking of a buying your horse a lick?Read More
A well-fitting pair of riding gloves will fit like a second skin and allow you to have a good feel and grip on the reins. Follow our handy tips on finding the right pair for you.Read More
If you are debating whether your horse requires a rug or not, follow this checklist to decide what is right for him.
1. How often you intend to ride
If you only ride once a week and your horse isn’t clipped, there's no real reason to rug him up unless he’s a poor doer.
Instead you'll have to get used to grooming the mud off on a Saturday morning.
2. Your horse’s lifestyle
Is your horse out all the time or stabled? Horses and ponies wintered out may need extra protection from the driving rain and therefore may need rugging.
Unclipped stabled horses may not require rugging.
Clipping and the type of clip will also influence your decision on rugging.
Native ponies with a small bib clip may not need extra protection and warmth although a thoroughbred who is fully clipped will.
4. Your horse's breed
Horse type and breed may also influence your decision to rug.
Thinner-skinned horses with lighter coats such as thoroughbreds usually feeling the cold more than a Welsh Mountain Pony or Irish Cob.
5. The weather
Horses and ponies cope very well in the cold but wet and windy conditions are more challenging so consider the weather on a daily basis and remember there’s no need to put on the heavyweight if it is 12°C and sunny!
6. Rug thickness
Along with the decision on whether to rug or not is what type and thickness of rug to use. If you’re trying to keep your horse clean over the winter, opt for a lightweight rug.
For poor doers that really feel the cold go for thicker rugs and remember what your Mum told you about layers!
Double bridles can seem complicated, so here we explain all that you need to know.
Double bridle design
The design of double bridles can vary and it's important to recognise the different features and fixtures they can have.
Different designs can have a huge effect on the way each bridle works. Here are some key features explained:
The shank of the curb can be fixed or sliding and of varying lengths.
A sliding shank allows the curb to move slightly as the bit is tipped when the rider takes up the contact. This is less precise than a fixed shank but a much milder action.
Shanks that are shorter in length also have a milder action.
The curb and port
The action of the curb asks the horse to flex, while the thickness of the mouthpiece varies from bit to bit, as does the port in the centre.
A forward-slanting port can provide more room for the two bits to sit together nicely in the mouth, be comfier on the tounge (especially in a more fleshy mouth) and shouldn't touch the roof of the mouth.
Ultimately the type of curb you need depends entirely on the make-up of your horse. Generally, the thicker the curb mouthpiece the milder the bit, and a high port makes the bit more devere, but it really depends on your horse.
A smaller mouth may require a thinner curb and smaller port, while a larger mouth may benefit from a thicker mouthpiece and a wider port.
The snaffle or bridoon
The bridoon is a smaller version of a snaffle bit and its action asks the horse to lift his head.
Commonly a single-jointed, loose-ring snaffle is used, but an eggbutt version can also be used.
A double-jointed bit with a lozenge will sit neatly in the port of the curb for a more comfortable fit
The curb chain should lie flat in the chin groove and a padded chain cover can be used for extra comfort.
Curb chains can have forward- or backward-facing hooks, but Claire advises that forward-facing hooks are a better choice, as backward-facing hooks can become caught in the horse's lip when putting the bridle on.
Tips for fitting a double bridle
1. Start by holding the bridle up against the side of your horse's head to see whether it's roughly the right size.
2. It's important to treat the double bridle as a single bridle, and the two bits as one, as you put it on.
Put the reins over your horse’s neck and undo the curb chain.
Hold the two bits in your hand, as you normally would, ensuring that the snaffle sits behind the curb.
If you don't do this, the snaffle can sit in the wrong place or twist.
3. It's also essential that the curb chain is secured at the right length as it controls the severity of the curb bit. If it's too loose and would allow the curb to rotate too far in the horse's mouth, causing a lot of pressure on the tongue as the bit rotates forwards.
4. The curb chain should be fitted so that it acts when the lower cheek of the curb rotates to 45 degrees.
If the curb chain is too short, the action of the curb bit is very severe and puts great pressure on the poll and the lower jar - a rough rider may even break the jaw bone.
How to hold the reins of a double bridle
A double bridle will only work if used correctly.
Holding the reins incorrectly will mean you're likely to cause your horse to overbend, or you'll feel some strong resistance to the contact.
To use a double bridle most effectively, you must hold the snaffle rein as you would normally between your third and little finger.
The curb rein should sit between your second and third finger, while your thumbs should sit on top of both reins, keeping them secure.
To begin with, ride your horse on a 20m circle in walk, but ensure that the curb rein is slack so that you can first get used to the feeling of holding two reins.
When you do take up the curb rein and walk on the circle, your seat bones should follow the movement, as normal.
You don't follow the movement of your horse with your hands, you follow it with your hips.
When you’re ready to shorten the curb rein remember that your seat and legs will continue to work your horse into an outline, your hands are to feel with the rein, not fiddle.
Remind yourself that the double bridle is only for fine tuning, it's a very subtle action.
- Hold the snaffle rein between your third and little finger
- Hold the curb rein between your second and third finger
- Keep your thumbs on top
Top Tip - before you ride in a double bridle for the first time, it's a good idea to have a play with the action of the two bits from the ground - this gives you the opportunity to check that the horse is OK with this feeling.
If you've ever wondered how your horse's bit works, we explain all you need to know right here.Read More