Archive for August, 2011
Written by: Larissa Cox
Horses are amazing creatures as they have adapted so well to our human creations. Head discomfort most always goes unnoticed until there is a major behavioral or physical problem and quite often the horse just suffers in silence. One of the most common behavioral problems is due to head discomfort which can result in a horse that will refuse to go forward. Unfortunately, when negative behavior occurs, the rider never checks their tack to ensure that it’s properly fit but generally puts more severe human creations on the horse thinking that will correct the issue.
The horse’s head has more nerve sensitivity than any other part of his body. If the bridle is too tight, your horse is less likely to be able to think, breathe, and perform.
Your horse’s head should move easily when wearing a bridle so that the ear, jaw, lips and nose are not restricted. Tension or restriction on the head can lead to many negative behaviors, such as teeth grinding, biting the tongue, tension in the poll and/or neck, restricted movement, headaches, breathing restriction, loss of smell and general discomfort. Horses that are occupied by pain cannot think or perform well they just react trying to rid themselves of pain.
The nose band, also called cavesson, was designed to hold the horse’s jaw closed while racing across the battlefield so the horse would not bite it’s tongue with the extra weight of the armour claddened rider. Nose bands should not rub, press or irritate. A nose band should allow for at least two fingers worth of slack, anything less is too tight.
The sole purpose of the brow band is to prevent the bridle from being pulled back over the ears and down the neck. It is very important that brow bands shouldn’t rub or pinch and must allow the ears to be able to move easily.
The cheek piece plays an important role for the bridle since it determines the level of communication that will exist between your reins and the bit. If the cheek piece fits too loosely, the bit will rest too low in the horse’s mouth, causing the bit to hit the front teeth. A cheek piece that is too tight will cause the bit to rest too high in the mouth. This will cause the bit to dig into the cheeks causing it to pinch. Cheek pieces shouldn’t rub or press on protruding skull bones.
The purpose of the throatlash is to hold the bridle in place and prevent the horse from rubbing the bridle off his head. The throatlash should not fit tightly that it constricts your horse’s breathing. The common rule for proper throatlash fitting is three fingers width.
Far too many people use one set of tack for multiple horse’s thinking one set fits all. This just isn’t the case. While we can adjust the bridle somewhat to move from one horse to another, we need to be aware that not all bridles fit all horses. Your horse can only speak to you in one manner and that is behaviourally, so if your horse is speaking to you by tossing his head, not moving forward, grinding his teeth…please stop and listen.
Thank you, Larissa
By: Larissa Cox
Tack shops and equestrian catalogues are filled with all sorts of bits of differing shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, bits are the most misunderstood piece of the horse’s equipment ever invented. Too often, we humans are of the opinion that as our horses are big animals, therefore the pressures needed to control them must be big and strong. This is just not true. If you really take a look and study your horse’s mouth, you’ll see that there are very few surfaces where the bit can apply pressure. The bit must be shaped to fit properly within the mouth so that your horse is able to understand the communication and not flinch from it.
The area in your horse’s mouth where the bit communicates pressure is called the bars. The bars are the gaps between the front teeth and the back teeth on either side of the jaw consisting of tissue-covered, pressure sensitive cartilage. The bit lies across these bars and presses against the horse’s tongue and depending upon the bit’s shape and adjustment, can also put pressure on the horse’s lips, tongue and roof of the mouth.
The first thing you need to look at before you put anything in your horse’s mouth is the contact area. The thinner the bit, the less contact area it has and the greater the pressure on the bars…makes sense. Also makes sense that the thicker the bit, the greater the contact area and the lower the pressure on the bars.
The second thing you look for in a bit is whether it is straight or shaped. If the bit is straight, the horse’s tongue will absorb some of the pressure of the bit and the horse will feel less pressure on the bars of his mouth. If the mouthpiece is hinged, the bit provides more pressure on the bars of the mouth and will in turn give more directional guidance.
The third aspect of a bit to examine is the leverage. The curb bit is different as it has the reins attached below the mouthpiece so the principle of the lever and fulcrum is in effect. This means that if the cheek or purchase piece of the bit is one inch and the shank is three inches, then the bit is 1 to 3 in leverage. What this means is, if the rider applies one pound of pressure to the reins, three pounds of pressure is applied to the horse’s mouth. Typically, as the horse progresses through his education, he is generally asked to work with a curb bit as the lever of the action of the curb bit magnifies the subtle movement of the reins as the rider asks for head and body frame. Use the curb on a horse that knows what to do…knows the positions and has learned the correct responses and understands that by responding quickly and correctly he will be left in a comfortable position. Curb bits are non directional and their pressure is felt as a clamping between the horse’s chin and the bars of the mouth. If you use a chain, the pressure is more noticeable underneath the chin whereas if you use a leather strap, the pressure is more on the bars of the mouth.
The biggest mistake a rider can make is taking only the bit into consideration not thinking that the bit is only a part of the overall passageway of aids, that of the seat and legs, to create the shape you want for your horse. You don’t want the bit to speak louder than your legs or seat and you don’t need a big bit to get your horse’s attention. You just need to know how to use the bit to make it more understandable to your horse.
Too many people rely solely on the bit, saying if the bit doesn’t work, then they’ll try one with a longer shank or one with a thinner mouthpiece or twisted wire! If that doesn’t work, then other artificial aids will control the horse. It is very unfortunate that many people rely on a 5 inch bit and do not measure the horse’s mouth for the proper bit size.
According to Susan Harris, “If a bit doesn’t fit properly, the horse will fuss with his mouth, toss his head or pull.” All bits should be about a half-inch wider than your horse’s mouth and you need to measure your horse’s mouth. Don’t guess at the size! Also, bits must be smooth and comfortable. A true snaffle bit should rest high in the horse’s mouth so it won’t irritate the horse’s tongue, while a curb bit should rest against the corners of your horse’s mouth without making a wrinkle.
Having a bit too low in your horse’s mouth may be problematic as the lower in the horse’s mouth, the bars get thinner and sharper making the mouth more sensitive. You can really irritate your horse if the bit is too low and can especially hurt his mouth if he should get his tongue over the bit.
Also remember that not only is fitting the bit important, but it is also very important to have the entire bridle comfortable and proper fitting.
The Canadian Horse or Cheval Canadien is one of Canada’s best kept secrets. It is a true, recognized horse breed, inherent only to Canada
The Canadian was first developed between 1665 -1670 from horses sent to Quebec from France of the best horses of King Louis IVX stables to reward his men who had gone to settle the “new world. The limited number of horses in the colony meant that they were highly valued, and their geographical isolation meant that the stock remained pure. Over the next century, natural and human selection molded a rugged and versatile breed: strong, dashing, and quick. Close to Canadian heritage The Canadian horse was used for farm work, transport, riding, and racing, earning the nickname “little iron horse” as their strength was legendary. It was said that the Canadian was capable of generating more power per hundred pounds of body weight than any horse of other breeds. Truly, these Canadian horses were known to excel at any task they were asked to do.
By 1800, this breed had become well known in the United States and the Canadian horses were used on stagecoach routes throughout New –England as well as being used to improve other stocks, playing a pivotal role in the formation of the Morgan, the American Saddlebred, and the Standardbred. Though the Canadian horse was celebrated for what it could do, no breed association was ever established in the United States, and there was no documented effort to maintain the purebred population.
The demand for Canadian horses remained strong throughout the 1800s, and thousands of horses were exported from Canada to the United States many of them becoming cavalry horses for the Civil war. As so many of the Canadian horses were exported or lost during the War, the breed was nearly extinct in Canada by 1880. In 1886, a small group of breeders in Quebec formed a studbook for the Canadian horse and an association, the Societe des Eleveurs des Chevaux Canadiens, was formed in 1895. With both the federal government of Canada and the provincial government of Quebec maintaining periodic breeding programs the breed declined with fewer than 400 horses remaining by 1976.
Since then, the breed society has been revitalized and up until the last decade, Canadian Horses could only be found in Quebec. With the majority of Canadian Horses still remaining in Quebec, the Canadian can now be found again in nearly every Canadian Province as well as many American states with the future of the breed is looking brighter than at any time in the past century.
Today, The Canadian stands between 14 – 16 hands and are solid and well-muscled with a well arched neck set high on a sloping shoulder. One can say that the overall impression is one of a round, sturdy and well balanced horse. Predominately black or bay in colour, they are energetic without being nervous and are versatile and adaptable for many of riding and driving styles.
Happy riding…eh – Larissa
“…when the last individual of a race of living things breathes no more, another Heaven and another Earth must pass before such a one can be again.” -William Beebe
By: Larissa Cox
Every once in a while we come across an unusual breed of a horse, one such example is the Unmol Horse, a breed that may no longer exist and we wonder what happened and how we could have prevented this tragic loss.
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect over 180 breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction. Included in their mandate are asses, cattle, goats, horses, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. Founded in 1977, the ALBC maintains a priority list that divides endangered breeds of horses, asses, sheep, goats, cattle, rabbits, pigs and poultry into five categories based on population numbers and historical interest. These categories are:
Critical: Fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 2,000.
Threatened: Fewer than 1,000 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 5,000.
Watch: Fewer than 2,500 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 10,000.
Recovering: Breeds that were once listed in another category and have exceeded Watch category numbers but are still in need of monitoring.
Study: Breeds that are of genetic interest but either lack definition or lack genetic or historical documentation.
As of 2011, there are 33 horse breeds on the Conservancy Priority List, seventeen of which are in the critical category, seven in the threatened, five in the watch including the Clydesdale, three in the recovering and one in study. One can point to the American Cream Draft horse which was one of the reasons that this organization was formed and that this breed was on the earliest priority lists. The ALBC has also assisted in extensive genetic studies of rare horse breeds focusing mainly on strains of the Colonial Spanish Horse. And one breed that the ALBC has assisted in saving, was the Carolina Marsh Tacky horse.
In 2009, the ALBC claimed 3,000 members and operates with a nine-person staff and a nineteen-person board of directors funded solely by grants, sales of publications and promotional materials, membership dues and public donations.
Thank you for the wonderful work! Larissa
Stübben Maestoso Deluxe Dressage Saddle
The Maestoso combines four important features: looks, depth, comfort and close contact. This model is not a traditional Stübben dressage saddle. It is built on an ultra-deep seat and has a thin long knee roll. While the tree is still flexible and absorbs part of the rider’s weight, it allows the rider to sit very deep and provides a more secure seat. This saddle has been exceptionally cared for and has been used only with one horse, Rio and only by me. Re-flocked late last year. As many of you know, I am a stickler for proper fitting tack and the proper care of tack. This saddle is a true reflection of that ethic. More pictures are available upon request, and should you have any questions, feel free to contact me. – Larissa
$1200 USD or £750 GBP Offers considered
Contact Larissa Cox
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Written By: Larissa Cox
In my younger days, I was fearless. Jubee, my 14.2 hh Chestnut Arabian Mare and I went everywhere and over everything, it didn’t matter how high or how long. It’s funny that when we grow older, we think of the “what ifs” and when as children, we never think of what could happen, we just do. My Jubee was a spunky little mare, who always took the challenge of what I presented to her and thinking back I am sure she sailed over some of those jumps with ease just to protect me, her passenger, even though she thought I was absolutely nuts!
As knowing adults what can we do to increase jumping safety for our children and those around us?
Firstly, when jumping never jump alone. Always have someone there either riding with you, or watching you on the ground should something happen.
The number one safety item that everyone should wear is an approved fitting helmet ensuring that the helmet is fitted properly and will stay on in case of a spill.My mother’s second safety rule was to always wear a jumping vest as I am sure I set her heart racing when we took to the field! The purpose of a safety vest is to protect your spine and internal organs in case of a fall. The foam of the vest is also meant to absorb the impact of the fall instead of your body. If you are a novice rider you may want to consider wearing a vest during all rides for added safety.
Do not jump if empty cups remain in the jumping standards be sure to always remove unused cups. Often, those cups which hold the horizontal poles in place are often made of metal. If you fall off and hit one, believe me it hurts!
Never jump a jump if you are not comfortable with it. Expect your heart to beat a little faster when you are learning to take those jumps, but don’t let anyone force you into a jump you feel is too high, too challenging or just too uncomfortable.
Adjust your jumping stirrup length to be shorter than usual as your crotch must be able to clear the front of your saddle and also allowing you to be able to absorb the shock of landing. To check your stirrup length for jumping, stand up in the saddle at the halt. With your heels down, your crotch should clear the front of your saddle by about two inches.
Good luck with those jumps! Larissa
Thank you Tack and Talk readers for your general comments and emails on my past article, Horse Show Safety.
A number of you requested more information on the Check List and Thank you Cards. Below, you will find links to both of them. The Check List included is one that I use, but remember that it can be modified to suit your needs and requirements. Feel free to use it as is, or modify it as you need.
With respect to the Thank You Cards, I also send out my special cards with me riding my competition horse on the front, sample above. Remember to personally sign your thank you card also providing the class number or details on your card.
Good luck at competition! Larissa