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 may slip causing discomfort, and worst still 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.
Thinking of a buying your horse a lick? Licks aren’t always the best way of providing your horse with a balanced diet, but they can be useful in certain situations. Read on to find out which are best for when.
Vitamin and mineral licks
These can be very useful if you have a number of horses sharing a paddock. In this situation it may not be possible to feed them individually because of bullying or fighting, but a vitamin and mineral lick is a practical way of helping to ensure they get a balanced diet.
You'll find many different brands available in your local feed shop including Orignal Horslyx which contains vitamins, minerals and trace elelments to balance any deficieinces in your horse’s grazing and forage. When fed alongside good quality forage it can remove the need to feed hard food.
To find out more about the Horslyx range visit www.horslyx.co.uk
These can be useful for horses in hard work who need extra salt in their diet to replenish salt lost through sweating. However, one disadvantage of providing a self-help salt lick is that it’s difficult to tell how much the horse consumes each day.
However, it’s often better and easier to simply feed a suitable concentrate feed. The best feed will obviously depend on your horse’s individual needs, but there are products available to cater for every type of horse, from a very good-doer to a top class competition horse. The right feed will provide your horse with a fully balanced diet and many already contain added herbs such as garlic. It will usually contain enough salt if your horse is only in light work, but if he’s working harder you may need to add some extra salt or a specific electrolyte supplement.
Himalayan Salt Licks are a popular choice with horse owners as they're the purest form of salt you can give your horse. NAF Himalayan salt lick is as natural and pure as the day it was mined high up in the Himalayan mountains. Horses and ponies require supplementary salt on a daily basis. Research shows that salt is the one nutrient that horses will self-supplement to balance their diet. Himalayan Salt Licks hung in the stable and field allow access to the purest form of salt, without unnatural flavours that can encourage greediness!
To find out more visit www.naf-equine.eu/uk
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.
Go for a material that’s breathable as it will help keep you comfortable in warmer weather. A material with some stretch will add to your overall comfort and fit.
Different materials are often used on the palm, such as leather or synthetic suede, to give better grip and feel on the reins. Try different pairs on so you can get an idea of how much feel they’ll give you.
Sited where the gloves will get more wear – usually between the rein fingers – these make the gloves more durable. They also provide protection from rubbing.
Velcro fastening around the wrist or on the back of the hand gives a good secure feeling. Others simply slip on with elastic around the wrist. Try different styles on so you can find out which suits you best.
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 only once a week and your horse isn’t clipped there is no real reason to rug him up unless he’s a poor doer. Instead you will have to get used to grooming the mud off on a Saturday morning.
2. Your horse’s lifestyle - is he 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.
3. 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. 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. 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!
WHAT IS IT?
A system of ropes and pulleys that run along the sides of the horse, with an elastic tensioner positioned behind the quarters. The tensioner is attached to the top of lunging roller. Then two lines run from the tensioner, along either side of the horse, through rings on the roller positioned half way up the horse’s body. They then continue to clip on to the bit rings via a small pulley, before being run to one of several positions on the roller.
WHEN SHOULD IT BE USED?
It’s designed to be used during lungeing only.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
In effect it creates a connection between the hindquarters and the bit. The tensioner and its supporting lines put gentle pressure on the quarters, encouraging the horse to step further under, and so stretch and lift the back muscles. At the same time the lines running through the bit discourage the horse from raising his head too far by exerting pressure on the mouth. As soon as the horse lowers his head the pressure is removed.
WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?
- Suppleness of the back via a rounder outline
- Looser paces due to increased suppleness
- Developing topline muscle
- Improving the connection from hindquarters to bridle by forming the correct outline
- Improving engagement of the hindquarters, so transferring weight onto the hindquarters and improving balance
“By creating greater engagement and connection, the Pessoa can help improve muscle development in weak or young horses,” says training expert Tara Osborn. “Those who are difficult to motivate or who find engagement of their quarters difficult will also benefit.” By improving the back muscles, it can also improve horses who are tense or hollow, encouraging relaxation and the lowering and stretching of neck and topline.
WHAT CAN GO WRONG?
Fitted too tightly, it will restrict the horse’s forward movement and bring his nose behind the vertical, putting him onto the forehand. The horse must be driven forward to achieve the correct frame. Too loose and the quarters won’t engage, so there’ll be no connection from the hindquarters to the bridle.
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 should not 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.
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.
HOLDING THE REINS
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.
By encouraging the neck to be lowered and the nose to be brought in, the back comes up and the quarters engage. “Like the chambon, the de Gogue is good for hollow horses,” says expert Tara Osborn, “but it has the benefit of being used for ridden work, too. Also, as the nose is encouraged to be brought in, it tends to develop a rounder way of going and improves the topline and muscling of the quarters.”
What is it?
Similar in look to a chambon, the cords pass through the bit rings instead of clipping to them, and attach either to specially adapted reins or back onto the breast strap that passes between the horse’s forelegs to form a triangular shape.
When should it be used?
For in-hand work, loose schooling, lungeing or ridden work. For non-ridden training it’s used in the triangular shape and is under the direct control of the horse. For ridden work, the de Gogue can be brought into action by the special reins, but should be used alongside reins fitted directly to the bit.
How does it work?
It acts upon the poll and the bit, putting pressure on the corners of the mouth when the horse raises his head higher than desired. Downward pressure is placed on the poll and backwards pressure on the mouth, which releases when the horse brings his head down and nose in.
What is it good for?
- Developing suppleness through the back
- Encouraging a longer, lower frame while being ridden
- Developing muscle across the back and loins - particularly those needed for show jumping
- Strengthening the hindquarters
- Develops looseness in the paces due to greater suppleness in the back
What can go wrong?
The effectiveness will be dramatically reduced if the de Gogue isn’t fitted correctly. “If it’s too tight, it will pull the horse’s neck down and back, making him overbent and unable to work up from the hindquarters into the bridle,” explains Tara. “Too loose and there will be little effect as the horse can maintain a head-up and nose-out way of going. It’s vital the horse is worked forward into the contact otherwise he’ll be put onto the forehand.”
The chambon is used to encourage the horse to work in a longer, lower outline, using the muscles over the back, quarters and neck. It’s ideal for the early stages of a horse’s education or in retraining. “It’s effective for horses who go in a hollow outline, with their head up, back dropped and quarters trailing,” explains expert instructor and dressage trainer Tara Osborn. “By encouraging the longer, lower frame, the horse will learn to use his back muscles and engage his quarters. It must be introduced slowly and the horse must be encouraged forward into the contact to get the best results.”
What is it?
A cord clips to each bit ring and then passes upwards and through a loop on each side of a poll strap. From here, the cords drop downwards to attach to a single strap that passes between the horse’s forelegs and loops onto the girth or roller.
When should it be used?
For lungeing or loose schooling on the flat.
How does it work?
The chambon acts on the poll and, via the bit, on the corners of the mouth. When the horse raises his head higher than desired, the bit is raised in the mouth and poll pressure is applied. As soon as he lowers his head the pressure is removed. In effect, the horse works the chambon.
What is it good for
- Developing suppleness of the back
- Encouraging a longer, lower frame
- Developing muscle over the back and loins - particularly good for strengthening those used for show jumping
- Strengthening the hindquarters
- Developing looseness in the paces through suppleness in the back
- Developing topline muscle
What can go wrong?
If fitted too tightly, the horse will draw his neck back and become overbent. If the chambon is too loose, the horse will trail his quarters and little muscle development will be achieved. Finally, the horse shouldn’t be allowed to slop along so no connection to the contact is made. Any of these mistakes will lead to the horse working on his forehand.
Bits work on seven areas of communication
1 The corners of the lips
2 The bars of the mouth
3 The roof of the mouth
4 The tongue
5 The poll
6 The nose
7 The curb or chin groove
This has much more movement than a fixed cheek or eggbutt, and can discourage the horse from fixing and leaning and encourages mouthing
This keeps everything stiller in the mouth – it can encourage horses to stretch into the contact
When you take a contact, it causes poll pressure and reduces pressure in the mouth – particularly useful for sensitive mouths as well as having a head lowering action.
This reinforces the turning aids and stops the bit sliding over the tongue and bars of the mouth – if you use bit keepers to fix the upper cheek of the bit, this stabilises the bit and will cause some poll pressure.
Traditionally, bridles are made of leather but there are increasingly large numbers of synthetic nylon and leather-look styles available, which can be cheaper and easier to care for. It’s always worth bearing in mind when buying a new bridle that synthetic tack has a much higher breaking point than leather.
Another consideration is the shape and type of headyour horse has. A chunky, cob-type horse tends to have a large, broad head, which is best suited to a bridle with wide straps and noseband. Similarly, a fine Arab or show horse’s head will look better in a more delicate bridle with thinner, more detailed leather.
Leather tack needs to be regularly cleaned and oiled to keep it supple, while synthetic nylon tack should be routinely washed to prevent deterioration of the material. There are a wide range of products available to care for your tack, from convenient wipes that are great for day-to-day cleaning, to saddle soaps and tackconditioners for a more thorough clean. Specialistsynthetic tack cleaners are also available for leather-look tack.
Designed with the horse’s comfort in mind, the Elevator Bridle was created by Lorraine Green of Horsesense Saddlers after her talented horse wasn’t performing as well as she hoped. The Elevator Bridle relieves pressure to the horse’s sensitive poll area. Nerves and blood vessels that feed the brain are located in this area. It’s also where meridian lines run – one of the areas to which they connect is the kidney area, exactly where the saddle and rider sit.
Horsesense has produced a bridle that features a cushioned underpad on the headpiece and a shaped headpiece to allow room for your horse’s ears to move freely. To reduce pressure on the poll area the headpiece has crew holes either side to allow a thinner noseband strap to thread through and over the top of the poll.
There was a time when leather was the only material all tack was made from, but webbingheadcollars are now considered normal and it wasn’t too long before synthetic bridles appeared on the market. Some traditionalists won’t entertain using a synthetic bridle on their horses but there is definitely a place for them whether they’re made from webbing or a leather-look material.
Libbys makes synthetic tack - the concept was to produce a range of washable, easy-care, English tack. One of the benefits of using webbing is that regular washing can reduce the risk of skin diseases and infection. Libbys makes a full range of products in a variety of different styles to suit all sizes and types from Shetlands to Shires. High quality webbing is used, which is hard wearing and good value for money. Its most popular product is the Standard bridle, which is fully adjustable with a cavesson noseband.
Wintec produces a leather-look bridle made from Equileather, which is lightweight, durable and waterproof. The Wintec Flash bridle has a nylon webbing core for extra strength and is made from a non-stretch material that simply needs wiping clean. It’s available in pony, cob and full size.
Another relatively new concept is using magnets in the headpiece of your bridle. Magnets are used on other areas of the body and known for their benefits of relaxing and calming as well as boosting circulation. Barnsby makes a Magnetic headpiece, which you can quickly and easily attach to your bridle or headcollar, held securely in place by two Velcro straps. Many riders who use them and say their horses are calmer and more relaxed.
Barnsby also makes a Calming Bridle – the magnetic crownpiece of the Barnsby FTS Calming Bridle incorporates a series of magnets into the leatherwork, which then sits on your horse’s poll and directly affects the axis vertebrae at the top of the spine. This allows the crownpiece to positively affect the whole horse, helping him to relax and work in a calmer, softer way.
Even though the English summer isn't quite as sunny as we'd hoped, it is starting to hot up! If you're looking to find yourself a new pair of summer breeches, take a look at our advice on what you should be looking out for.
A lightweight, breathable and stretchy material is very important when choosing summer breeches. You need maximum movement and to be able to stay as cool as possible while riding – and of course, you want them to look as flattering as possible. Cotton and Lycra/elastane mixes are great, particularly for slightly bigger thighs as the fabric skims straight over. The modern stretch 100% polyester fabrics are great technical breeches but they tend to show every lump and bump!
• High-waisted breeches are ideal for a curvy shape or anyone with a larger waist, as they tend to hold you in a little more.
• Hipster styles are good for those with a boyish figure or those with a longer body.
• Pleated front breeches (although quite hard to get hold of these days) can hide a multitude of sins.
• Jeans-style are now available from lots of brands in stretch denim. These look great and can also be worn as a fashion look away from horses as well.
What about colours and patterns?
When it comes to patterns, if you want to look slimmer, small patterns like checks are great.
Go for a darker colour with a darker coloured full seat. The full seat in a dark shade cuts away the inner thigh and makes your legs look slimmer and your bottom look smaller, like a miracle diet – hurrah we hear you cry!
Rather than bright or pale colours, go for strong colours if you want to brighten up your wardrobe – strong tan, green, blue, purple and cerise can all look really stylish and flattering on any age as long as you tone in another piece of your clothing.
Wash advice – keep your breeches brighter for longer
When you wash bright colours, remember to turn them inside out to stop the colour from running and wash them on a cool wash. If you get marks or stains, put neat fabric wash on them and leave it to soak for a few hours rather than washing them on a hot wash straight away.
Your horse’s mouth conformation is important in finding the right bit for him, says Heather Hyde of Neue Schule Bits.
By taking time to have a look at your horse’s mouth conformation, it can give you clues to which bit may suit him.
First, gently part your horse’s lips at the side and see if his tongue is bulging through his teeth. If it is, this indicates he has a large tongue. Heather believes big tongues are the most common form of mouth discomfort if they are not accommodated with the correct mouthpiece. The outer edges of the tongue are much more sensitive than the middle and these sensitive edges are going to be subjected to increased pressure with certain bits.
Check what room your horse has between his tongue and the roof of his mouth. Do this without a bit and then have another look when he has a bit in his mouth, at rest, and with a contact on the reins so you can see the areas of the mouth the bit puts pressure on.
Mouth conformation varies according to breed
Thoroughbreds generally have ‘easy’ mouth conformation – the tongue tends to lie neatly on the floor of the mouth with plenty of room between the tongue and the roof. A thin tongue results in more bar pressure from the bit. Choosing a slightly thicker mouthpiece will give more weight-bearing surface and be kinder.
The Irish Draught cross and Dutch warmblood are renowned for having a large tongue – not much room for a bit.
Arabs and Connemaras also have little room for a bit – the tongue is not always large but the roof of the mouth is generally lower, even if they don’t have a particularly dished face.
Trakehners can prove tricky to bit, they tend to have very sensitive skin in their mouths and the shape of their heads means there is less room for the bit.
Shires and Clydesdales generally have very fleshy lips and careful bitting is needed to avoid pinching of this sensitive area.
Well fitting tack will improve communication between you and horse, as well as keeping him happy and comfortable.
In the following videos SMS Qualified saddle fitter Diane Fisher shows you what checks to make to ensure your horse's bridle and saddle are as comfortable as possible, or when it's time to call your fitter out.
Plus, there's a short video on fitting brushing boots.
The Hilary Vernon bit range, Informed Designs, is made up of English bits designed and carefully constructed to complement the conformation of the horse’s mouth to improve comfort and communication. The range is inspired by the theory that a comfortable horse will be a more relaxed horse and therefore a less resistant horse. The range includes snaffles, pelhams, doubles, daleheads, Liverpools and butterflys. A variety of cheeks on these mouthpieces ensures you have a choice to ensure effective bitting for individual horses and ponies.
Abbey Bits are made in the UK and specialise in traditional and unusual bits. With more than 200 different bit patterns in stock, Abbey are also able to capture and follow bit trends, supplying specialist bits in a wide variety of sizes. The vast range includes snaffles, gags, pelhams, double bridles, driving bits, and hackamores. Bits are available in various materials including copper, stainless steel, sweet iron, rubber and vulcanite. Abbey’s made-to-measure bits can easily be customised from existing parts for comfort and quality.
Nathe bits - These bits are made in Germany from a patented plastic material, and claim to offer a higher degree of comfort and control for all horses. The secret of their effectiveness and flexibility is a unique mouthpiece, protected by a worldwide patent. Each bit has a stainless steel safety wire running through the mouthpiece for total security. They encourage salivation and are kind to the tongue, so are ideal for training young horses.
Neue Schule Bits - Most Neue Schule bits are made from Salox. They produce a range of innovative dressage and competition bits all designed with the shape of the horse’s mouth in mind and the use of their Tranz lozenge for comfort and communication gives even pressure over the tongue and away from the outer edges where the horse is more sensitive.
Myler Bits - Designed by the Myler brothers, this range of bits claims to create a kinder, more of effective way of communication with your horse. The bits have a forward-curve shape. This gives the horse more tongue room to allow for swallowing. The bits have a no-pinch action and each side moves independently to make your aids clearer.
Some of the bits come with slots in the cheeks. The top slots work in a similar way to a full cheek bit with keepers holding the mouthpiece off the tongue and steady – until the rider uses the reins. The bit returns to its original position once the rein aid is relaxed making the reward much clearer to your horse. Using the slots also gives some poll pressure encouraging your horse to flex from the withers.
The range of Myler bits is split into three levels depending on your horse’s level of training. Level one is designed for young horses at the beginning of their training. Level two is for horses with a basic training and level three is designed for more finished horses.
Sprenger Bits - These bits are made from Aurigan - an alloy of copper, silicon, and zinc - specially developed for using in horses' mouths. The manufacturers claim that using Aurigan helps your horse become more attentive and relaxed, improving the connection between horse and rider. The range of Sprenger KK bits were developed with the conformation of the horse’s mouth in mind. Research found the volume of the inside of the mouth was less than previously thought, leaving much less room for the bit. Sprenger used this information to develop their KK range of bits.
A lungie bungie is a short strap with a central fixed ring is clipped at either end to the bit rings. Then an elasticated bungie cord, which can be adjusted to different lengths, is run through the central ring and attaches at either end to the D-rings of the saddle or a roller.
WHEN SHOULD IT BE USED?
It can be used for lungeing or ridden work but not jumping.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
This provides an elastic contact on the bit, which is always kept even due to the bungie not being connected directly, but via the sliding ring. If the horse raises his head too far, pressure will be placed on the bit and thus the bars and corners of the mouth, until his head is lowered. However, due to the elastic and flexible nature of the bungie, the pressure is not a fixed pull, but is designed to ‘ask’ and encourage the horse to relax.
WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?
- Developing lightness of contact
- Developing an even contact
- Improving suppleness through the jaw and poll and, therefore, the back
- Increasing suppleness of the back through a rounder outline
- Improving paces through suppleness
- Developing topline muscle
The bungie places gentle pressure on the corners and bars of the mouth via the bit to encourage an elastic contact. This helps develop softness through the jaw and poll, which allows the horse to use his back muscles and engage his quarters correctly. “It can help horses who have an uneven contact and one-sidedness by encouraging an even connection,” explains expert Tara Osborn. “It will also help improve lightness of contact due to its elasticity, especially for horses who are a little tight in the jaw or fixed on the contact.”
WHAT CAN GO WRONG?
Fitting the bungie too tightly will cause the horse to draw his nose too far in. “A horse who is overbent and behind the vertical will be put onto his forehand, which in turn will create tension in the back and make him reluctant to go forward,” says Tara. “However, if the aid is too slack it will have no effect and the horse will be long and above the bit, lacking connection and therefore unable to develop muscle.”
Comes with free instruction DVD. A unique training headcollar featuring an adjustable double noseband so it can be used as normal, for starting young horses or for overcoming handling problems humanely.
Size/ colour: Small(red), Medium(black) Large(blue)
Stockists: 0148871300 or www.intelligenthorsemanship.co.uk
WHAT ARE THEY?
An extra long set of reins, which are most commonly fitted to pass from the rider’s hands, through the bit rings and then to the girth.
WHEN SHOULD THEY BE USED?
For encouraging a better head position and rounder frame when riding. The reins pass through the bit rings and attach to the girth under the rider’s legs; or the reins go through the bit rings and then down to the girth between the horse’s forelegs. Some also use them for lungeing, running from the saddle D-rings or roller top rings, through the bit rings and to the girth between the forelegs, but adjustment is difficult. Never use draw reins when jumping.
HOW DO THEY WORK?
The reins put pressure on the bit and therefore the bars and corners of the mouth, which should be released by the rider once the horse returns to a rounder frame. With the reins fitted between the forelegs, there’s a downward pressure; a higher fitting produces a more upward pressure.
WHAT ARE THEY GOOD FOR?
- Encouraging a consistent outline
- Encouraging acceptance of contact
- Building up topline
- Increasing suppleness of the back
- Improving looseness of paces
“Horses who find it difficult to keep a consistent, steady outline and contact, usually lack topline muscle,” explains Tara. “By helping them work in the right way it can help break the vicious circle and start to build muscle. Also horses who find it tricky to keep a connection from the hindlegs to the bridle and tend to work in an elongated outline can benefit from the correct use of draw reins.”
WHAT CAN GO WRONG?
Probably of all the training aids, it’s draw reins that have the potential to inflict the most damage. This is due to people using them habitually and having them act continually, without release when the horse has 'given'. “This results in the horse learning to lean on the reins or becoming overbent and behind the bit,” says expert Tara Osborn. “Riding with the reins too short will simply pull the horse’s nose in and shorten his neck, causing stiffness in the back.” Draw reins are often used as a way of controlling a strong horse but they are likely to exaggerate the problem. They shouldn’t be used on horses known to buck, either. However, they can be helpful for rearers.
Using a tape measure – or a piece of string you can measure later – measure your horse from the centre of his chest, horizontally along his side, finishing at the point of his tail. If your horse is between sizes, you’re usually better to go up a size than down.
When you’re trying a rug on your horse, put it on over the top of a summer sheet. This won’t affect its fit but will stop any hair sticking to the rug, so if it doesn’t fit you can return and exchange it. Remember to keep your receiptand all tags from the rugs.
In this video, we show you how to measure your horse to make sure you get the right size of rug for your horse, so he will be happy in his stable or out in the field all winter.
To know what it is you're buying, you need to know the different parts of the bridle - the browband, the cheekpieces, the throatlash and the noseband.
The browband isn’t adjustable so it’s important that you have the right size – it should be big enough to allow the headpiece to lie comfortably behind the ears. The browband should also lie just below the base of the ears, without cutting into them.
The cheekpieces play an important role – they determine the level of communication between you and your horse. A properly fitted cheekpiece will allow the bit to just wrinkle the corners of his mouth. It’s also worth checking your horse’s bit is the right size – it should stick out about a quarter of an inch at each side of his mouth. Cheekpieces that are too loose will position the bit too low in his mouth, causing the bit to hit his front teeth and put uncomfortable pressure on his tongue. Cheekpieces that are tight place the bit too high in his mouth, digging into the cheeks, causing pinching.
When it’s done up you should be able to fit the width of four fingers between the throatlash and your horse’s jawbone. If the throatlash is too tight it will put pressure on his windpipe when he flexes to the bit.
A cavesson noseband should lie about two fingers’ width below your horse’s cheekbone – the hard bone that juts out on the side of his face. When fastened you should be able to insert two fingers between the noseband and your horse. Cavesson nosebands are really there for cosmetic rather than functional purposes. Flash nosebands are also popular – the flash strap fastens below the bit and prevents your horse from opening his mouth and evading the bit. The flash strap shouldn’t be fitted too tightly and should only come into play if your horse opens his mouth.
WHAT ARE THEY?
Two reins that clip to the bit rings and then run straight back on either side of the horse to attach to the girth or roller.
WHEN SHOULD THEY BE USED?
For lungeing only. They offer an alternative way of working the horse to help add variety to your training programme. They’re used to provide a rein contact for a horse to work into.
HOW DO THEY WORK?
When the horse raises or twists his head beyond a desired point, the reins put pressure on the bit. This acts on the bars and the corners of the mouth so the horse returns to the correct position and the pressure is released.
WHAT ARE THEY GOOD FOR?
- Establishing the initial contact with young horse
- Developing topline muscle
- Developing different frames progressively
- Establishing acceptance of contact
- Improving suppleness through the back
- Encouraging a consistent and steady outline
- Achieving looseness of paces through suppleness
“They can help develop topline during lunge exercise and, depending on the positioning of the reins on the girth and their length, the desired frame,” explains instructor and dressage rider Tara Osborn. “Positioned low and long, they allow a rounder, deeper frame and encourage the horse to stretch and use the muscles of his back. The higher and shorter the reins, the more collected the outline and the shorter the frame – but this must be built up over time.”
WHAT CAN GO WRONG?
Proper adjustment of the length of rein for the stage of the horse’s training is vital. “Too long and the horse won’t feel the contact and tend to become long and hollow – he won’t work through the back so his topline and suppleness will show little improvement,” says Tara. “By adjusting the reins too short, the horse will be forced into an incorrect outline with a tight neck and tense back, and become reluctant to go forward.”
Side reins must also be adjusted to equal lengths or slightly shorter to the inside. Uneven reins will develop a lop-sided horse. Ensure the horse is driven forward into the reins – without this, muscle development won’t happen.