It is necessary when buying and using your outdoor rugs to bare the following points in mind:
Fit is all-important. Rugs are usually sized in three-inch increments. The measurement refers from the wither along the body to the rear where you expect the rug to finish. As horses of any given size vary so much in girth and build, it is essential to take these measurements before purchasing your rug. A rug will not stay in place unless it fits properly.
- Horses come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If a horse is exceptionally broad in the back it may be necessary to buy the next size up in relation to its height. Alternatively, it may be necessary to look at several different styles.
- When trying the rug on the horse protect it by fitting it over a summer sheet (or something similar) so that you can return it clean and suitable for resale.
- It is essential that a rug fits well on the withers and shoulders, so that the horse can move freely underneath the fabric without the rug slipping back. If the rug does slip back it is put under strain and can cause sore areas.
- Once you have ascertained that the rug fits well around the neck, pull the rug into position along the horses back so that the coat lies flat.
- With rugs using leg straps; take the left leg strap, pass between the hind legs and fasten it on the left hand side. Take the right leg strap, pass it between the hind legs and through the loop made by the first strap and fasten to the right hand side.
- Adjust the leg straps equally until there is room for the width of one hand equally (4-5”) between the legs straps and the horses thigh. This is to allow freedom of movement. The leg straps are linked to prevent rubbing and act with each other to pull the rug into place. When the horse is grazing, the leg straps should be close to its thighs to keep the rug in position. If you fit the rug as we have described here, it will displace very little through movement and rolling. If the leg straps are too loose, the rug will slip.
- When fitting the rug with cross surcingles, care should be taken to ensure that the straps of the cross surcingle, cross in the centre of the horses belly - well forward of the horses stifle. i.e. so that the crossed straps are on the roundest part of his body. Again there should be a hands breadth between the straps and the horse.
- If your rug is canvas and fits correctly, you have to activate the waterproofing agent. To do this, hang the rug over a fence and soak it thoroughly with a hose, allow to dry completely before putting it on the horse. This allows the cotton fibers to swell and the waterproofing to fill any gaps. While all our canvas rugs have been treated with a proofing agent, due to the nature of the materials we do not guarantee they will be 100% waterproof in all conditions.
- And finally a handy hint from one of our customers: When doing up the back clips on the cover, clip them facing towards the horse. This means when the horse scratches , the snaps don't get caught on anything. The excess of the leather straps can also be treaded back through the dee rings for extra safety.
Bits & Bitting
Essential points to note before choosing a mouthpiece
The horse’s mouth
- Get your horses mouth checked regularly. The dentist should visit once a year to ensure your horse's teeth and mouth are in tip top shape.
- The shape of the mouth must also be taken into account. For example, if the horse has a shallow palate a bit with a high port may not be suitable
- The bit must fit comfortably in the horses mouth.
- The bit is the correct width if you can fit your index fingers snugly between the horse's mouth and the rings of the bit. If the bit is too narrow it will pinch the horses mouth.
- A correctly fitted snaffle bit should hang so the corners of the mouth are slightly wrinkled and the horse appears to be smiling.
Check the bit for sharp edges and signs of wear. Nickle plate bits may tarnish over time and should be checked for signs of bubbling.
The ability of the rider should be taken into account when chosing a bit. While any bit can cause pain if used incorrectly it makes sense to match inexperienced hands with milder bits.
Consult with your pony club/instructor about which bit is most suitable for you and your horse. It is nearly impossable to recommend the most suitable bit without seeing the horse and rider.
Different types of Bit
These can come in a range of different mouth pieces. The number of joints has a direct influence on the areas of the horses mouth the bit works on for example:
- Straight bar bits work on the lips, bars of the mouth and the tongue.
- Single jointed bits have a 'nutcracker' action, meaning that when the reins are pulled the tongue is squeezed between the two halves of the bit. Single jointed bits also work on the bars of the mouth and the lips.
- Double jointed bits eliminate the above 'nutcracker' action, resulting in a lot less pressure on the tongue. These bits work primarily on the bars of the horses mouth and the lips.
The rings which link the bit to the bridle can also vary:
- Fixed rings (such as an eggbutt) prevent pinching of the horses lips.
- Loose rings allow more movement and can help with horses which 'lean' on the bit.
- D ring bits help prevent the bit being pulled through the horses mouth and aid steering
- Full cheek bits help with steering and the fixed ring prevents the bit from pinching
- Fulmer bits have full cheeks to help with steering and loose rings to allow more movement without pinching.
- Hanging cheeks allow the bit to be suspended in the horses mouth and help prevent the horse getting his tongue over the bit.
Also generally the thicker the bit, the milder it is. However this does depent on the shape of the individual horses mouth. Also any uneven surface within the mouth also increases the severity of the bit.
Double bridles have two bits; the bradoon and the curb bit with curb chain.
Double bridles apply pressure to the tongue, bars and lips as well as the chin groove and the poll. This type of bridle is generally used to bring refinement into a horses training and can encourage a more advanced head carriage. They also can improve control. Their action can be quite severe and aren't generally recommended for inexperienced riders or horses.
The pelham is designed to combine the two bits of a double bridle into one. These bits can be used with one rein (with roundings) or with two reins to further refinement. They have have a similar action to the double bridle above, acting on the chin groove & poll as well as areas of the mouth
They can have a range of mouth pieces, resulting in slightly different actions in addition to the chin groove & poll:
- Straight bar or the gently curved mullen mouth works on the bars and lips of the horses mouth.
- Port mouth has a similar action but allows more room for the tongue.
- Jointed mouth same actions as in the snaffle above.
- Kimblewick - this variation of pelham bit is has a single rein with the option of two positions. This is a strong bit.
- Rugby Pelham can be used with a sliphead like a double bridle.
Pelhams are generally considered more severe bits and shold not be used by beginners.
Gags are considered a more severe version of the snaffle bit. They usually have a leverage action on the poll as well as various action on the horses mouth depending on the mouthpiece of the bit.
Gags should be used with two reins, similar to a pelham. Gags are a very severe type of bit and if used by inexperienced hands can cause a lot of problems.
Bitless bridles provide the rider with control without using a traditional bit. These 'bits' work by applying pressure to areas of the horses head other than the mouth. Hackamores have different degreees of severity depending on the length of the shanks and the thickness of the padding and straps.
Bitless bridles are great for horses which don't like traditional bits. Bitless bridles, particularly the traditional hackamore types, can be very severe and are not recommended for use by inexperienced people.
Washing your horse
- Tie your horse securely, using a quick release knot. Always wear covered-in shoes and take things nice and slowly, especially if he is a little nervous of the water. It may be helpful to have someone to hold and reassure the horse.
- You will need access to running water. Either use a hose or, if your horse is nervous, a bucket full of water and a sponge to completely wet the horse. Take care around the head and avoid getting water in the ears.
- Lather shampoo through their coat. Colour enhancing shampoos can be used to enhance the natural colours of the horses coat, conditioning shampoos soften the coat, and iodine washes may help with minor skin irritations.
- A Rubber mit or sponge brush can help to rub in the shampoo and remove stains.
- Rinse the shampoo out thoroughly. If it is left in the horse's coat it may make him itchy.
- Use a sweat scraper to remove excess water and towel him dry.
- Keep the horse out of drafts untill he is completely dry, to help avoid the risk of catching cold.
- Always wear an approved safety helmet, all the helmets we sell meet the required New Zealand safety standards. The helmet should fit correctly; too loose and it could slip over your eyes, too tight and it may give you a headache. Helmets should be replaced after every bad fall and should always be worn with the chin strap done up.
- Appropriate footwear should be worn at all times. Always wear covered in shoes when handling horses, as having a horse stand on your foot is particularly painful. When riding, footwear should have a flat smooth sole and a slightly raised heel. This is to help avoid your foot getting stuck in the stirrup should you fall off.
- When tying up a horse ensure the object he will be tied to is secure and won't move or break. Make sure you use a quick release knot (see your pony club manual), you can also tie to a piece of baling twine for extra safety. Make sure the rope is tied tight enough that there isn't a loop that he could get his foot over, as this could result in a nasty injury. Do not leave a tied horse unattended for any length of time.
- All tack should be checked regularly for signs of wear or breakages. Any items with loose stitching should be repaired or replaced before they are used again. After checking any new leather gear fits correctly, oil or condition it thoroughly. This increases the suppleness of the leather and makes it a lot less likely to break. If you use nickel plate bits or irons check regularly for sign of bubbling or sharp edges.
- Safety is particularly important when leading a horse. Never loop the excess lead rope around you hands or over your shoulder. Should the horse get a fright and run off the rope could tighten around you and cause a serious injury. If a horse is particularly strong to lead use a bridle to give you more control.
- Don't forget to check your horses paddock regularly to ensure it is safe. Make sure any dangerous areas or poisonous plants are safely fenced off. Check the fencing is safe with no loose wires for him to get caught on. If your horse likes to lean on fences it may be a good idea to run an electric wire around the perimeter of his paddock. If he leans on the fences, he is more likely to get a foot caught in the fence.