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Gear up with world champion Hailey Kinsel.

By Hailey Kinsel

When it comes to your equipment, it is important to rely on the best for you and your horse. Though I am not very old, I have had a lot of experience in my life with horses and various brands of tack and gear. I’ve found, through trial and error, my personal favorite brand – Classic Equine. The products they make are thoroughly researched and have stood the test of many athletes and equine partners. I feel comfortable knowing my horses are safe and protected from harm by using what I consider to be the absolute best products for performance horses. As you, the competitor, search for the best in equipment, do your homework, determine the best overall product, and make sure that this product fits your horse, your riding style and your discipline.

Saddle fit is a key element of your program. A saddle that doesn’t fit your horse properly, no matter which of your friends ride it or how pretty it is, can cause serious soreness issues in your horse. Choosing a saddle that fits your body and riding style is also important. If your saddle is helping you stay balanced and able to sit in the middle of your horse through a turn, it will help to take the stress off your horse caused by your weight being out of position. 

Fitting hand-in-hand with saddle fit is your saddle pad. Your saddle pad is designed to cushion your horse’s back so that as your horse runs and makes its athletic moves, your saddle’s swells, bars, and leather edges do not pinch down on their back or withers. I prefer a saddle pad with maximum protection, which is why I use Classic Equine’s Zone Series saddle pads. 

Something to consider with both saddles and pads is your horse’s age, stage in training and potential for growth. If your horse is young, it may still have some filling out to do. As they become wider and their muscles over their shoulders develop, you may need a saddle with a wider gullet or a thicker saddle pad. As your older horse ages, they may lose some of that thick muscling over their shoulders, and their withers begin to appear more prominent. In this case, you may need to increase the thickness of your saddle pad. At any age, pay attention to your horse’s body, being aware that they may undergo changes, just like you do. 

Leg protection is vital in our game of barrel racing. Their legs are our wheels. I am particularly adamant about leg care, and a key part of my routine is making sure that leg boots fit properly, are in good condition with no tears or rips, and are clean. It’s hard to let go of that old pair of lucky boots—I know— but at some point, when the elasticity is gone and there are holes in the back, it may be time for a new pair. Keeping your leg boots clean not only increases the life of one pair, but it ensures there’s not any sand, stickers, or hair rubbing your horse’s leg and causing discomfort. Like my saddle pad, I prefer maximum protection, so I use Classic Equine’s Legacy2 splint boots and No-Turn bell boots. Fit is important for both safety and comfort, so be sure to measure your horse before buying the perfect color boots in the wrong size.

Lastly, I will mention bits and headgear as a paramount element of your horse’s outfit. Truly, bits deserve their own entire magazine and I cannot give enough detail to explain the importance of your horse’s bridle, but in short, I will say that the bit you choose can make or break your performance. Make sure your bit is designed to do what you are trying to accomplish. Then, make sure your horse is comfortable with how it sits in the mouth. Your curb chain length, along with the adjustment of any other headgear such as a tie-down or bonnet, will also make a difference in the communication between you and your animal. Remember, just because everybody is using it does not necessarily make it the right bit for your horse. If you are uncertain about the bit you are using for barrel racing or its fit and placement in the horse’s mouth, seek help from a professional or someone wiser than you. Learning about bits can be fun and help you win, which is also fun. 

An overall theme of having the right tack and equipment is cleanliness and fit. When your gear is free from excess dirt, sweat and hair, fits your horse’s body to a T and accomplishes what you need for your discipline, your horse will be most comfortable and of course, safe. Keep those details in mind next time you get ready to head to the tack store, and remember to do your own research to choose only the best for your equine partner. 

Until Next Time, Hailey Kinsel

Article by Hailey Kinsel originally published in the May 2019 issue of Barrel Horse News.

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