By Mary Burger
Having properly fitting, clean and well taken care of equipment is vital to the safety and health of your horse, and every piece of equipment plays a role. Your saddle should fit properly, and your blankets and saddle pads should also be clean and free of debris. Boots and wraps should be clean and dry and used properly—they should not be wrapped too tight or too loosely. There are also therapeutic products available on the market to help alleviate soreness and keep your horse’s muscles supple. I’m pretty picky about how I wrap my horse’s legs when I haul. In this month’s article, I’ll go over a few things I find important in regards to tack and equipment.
Keeping A Close Eye
I’m not very fond of old equipment and old leather, so I keep an eye on off-billets, latigos, off-cinches and the leather on my saddle. It’s one of those things that can be really dangerous and can get you seriously hurt. You need to keep your tack and equipment in good condition and checked regularly. I keep a pretty good eye on what I’m using on a daily basis.
If I pull another bridle and bit out that I haven’t used in a while, I look at the screws. I’ll put a little fingernail polish or glue in the screws to hold them in place, so hopefully none of them come loose and back out on me.
The saddle I’m riding now that I like the best is the one I won at the Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo. It’s made by Cactus Saddlery with a flex tree. I wish I had a couple more just like it, because it fits most of the horses I ride pretty well.
I want the off-cinch and the cinch D-ring to fall where it’s not just on the front of the saddle, but I want it to pull the saddle straight down to where it’s not sticking up in the back or too far over the shoulder blades whenever you tighten it up. I like my saddles to fit in the front as well as the back. The girth should line up right underneath so it doesn’t pull down over the wither from the shoulder blades or get too close on top of the shoulder blades.
I use Professional’s Choice boots and leg protection, because they are light and comfortable and wrap around the ankle to give it support. The heavy, bulkier wraps and boots that are not as flexible, in my opinion, do not benefit your horse. I prefer boots that are light and supportive. I both exercise and compete with boots on my horses. I’ve got a pair I exercise in that have special backing so if you’re riding in mud or tacky ground, they’re easy to rinse off. I use my better ones for competition.
I try to take boots off my horse as soon as possible to let the horse’s legs cool. If the boots have moisture underneath them, I make sure they’re dry and clean before I use them again. I’ll clean and hose them off right away and let them dry for the next trip. I don’t ever leave any gravel or grit underneath.
I use a lot of Back On Track products. I’ve got about every piece there is, and I really like them. I’ve found Back On Track products help keep inflammation down and keep my horses’ legs tight and protected.
When I’m hauling horses, I hardly ever go without wraps of some kind, even if it’s not very far. I do this because there’s so much stop-and-go, and you never know when a horse is going to lose its balance and step on its own hairline and cut out a chunk. It’s not worth the chance when it’s easy to snap some wraps on to keep their legs tight and protected.
I’m real picky about wrapping the right hind leg, because it rests up against the fender wells in the trailer. I think that’s where horses get a lot of suspensory soreness, because they stand with their leg right against that wall. It puts wear and tear on the leg, so I usually wrap around the hock on the right hind. I’ll wrap the leg with Back On Track Quick Wraps, and then I’ll put some kind of wrap—Professional’s Choice has fleece-lined stretch wraps—and I’ll usually wrap one of those around the hock on the right hind leg. That’s one of the things I feel you should do. There are so many horses out there that injure the right hind suspensory, and especially if a horse will peck a bit in the trailer or if you haul long distances and the horses shift back and forth, they are more apt to get injured or sore. I’ve ridden in the trailer with my horses and watched how they stand, and a lot of times they’ll stand with the right leg up against the fender well. So, I make sure to double wrap that leg.
As far as the body goes, I like to use Back On Track and magnetic products to keep my horses’ muscles supple and flexible. The warm-up time is actually really good for a horse, so a lot of times I’ll use Back On Track products before I run. I use the neck covers, blankets, quick wraps and bell boots. I also use the copper magnetic blankets. I like those because they work well and are good to haul in when it’s hot to keep the horses’ muscles from getting too tight. I put copper magnetic blankets on overnight all winter long to keep my horses’ muscles warm during the night, but during the day I usually take them off and put on a regular blanket.
I think being cognizant of your equipment and using those products available to keep your horse sound and relaxed all play a role in keeping your horse from getting back sore, wither sore and girth sore. Being aware of how all your equipment fits, works and affects your horse is so important. Your saddle needs to fit and stay put and you need to have comfortable wraps for your horse. If you can do everything in your power to make your horse more relaxed, healthy and sound, then their job in the arena is that much easier.
Article originally published in the May 2017 issue of BHN.