Articles, Tips and Advice for Riders
No Need for a Cold Bit
Has winter already hit you hard, or are the really cold days still ahead?
Either way, you may be concerned about putting an icy cold bit in your horse's mouth. You no longer have to try to warm
up a bit by dunking it in warm water or clamping it under your arm.
A New Hampshire-based company, Bit Blanket, sells bit warmers for use in the barn. This year they've even come out with a plug-in version for when you're on the
road. During the fall and winter months, horse bits become dangerously cold," Jamie Sturgess, Bit Blanket
inventor and company owner, said. "Cold bits cause pain, discomfort, numbness and damage to the soft tissue in a horse's
Bit Blanket recently won a business award as one of the top home businesses in the United States. StartupNation
has honored Jamie's company as a Top 100 Most Innovative winner in its annual Home-Based 100 competition.
Bedding Done Right
Making sure our equine partners have a safe and sanitary
place to spend most of their time is a big part of keeping horses. So one choice facing horse owners is, what makes
the best surface for my horse's stall?
There are many options for stall bedding. To evaluate them, let's have
a little review of what the functions of bedding are.
Comfort and Hygiene
Your horse's bedding
is kind of like diapers-it serves as both bathroom and padding for him, and it has to do so safely. If your horse is
confined to a stall all or most of the day, he obviously only has one option for his elimination functions. He also only has
one surface to stand on, roll in and lie down in. So your bedding choice has to be sanitary and comfortable, easy to
replace and safe for him to eat from and breathe in.
Bedding or flooring in a stall should:
-Keep wastes contained
in as sanitary a way as possible
-Help reduce the buildup of ammonia
-Provide a cushioned, dry surface for a horse's
feet and legs
-Be safe if mixed with food, or inedible
-Not create a hazardous environment (dust, mold, allergens)
easy to clean and replenish
What are your bedding and flooring options, and how does each one stack up?
wood products. A traditional choice, wood products include shavings, chips or coarse sawdust. Pine, cedar,
spruce, or fir are frequently the choices available for shavings or sawdust bedding; softwoods are more absorbent than hardwoods.
Wood products for bedding are usually bought processed and pre-packaged, although you might be able to get them from a sawmill.
Sawdust absorbs urine well. Chips and shavings are easy to pick out. Shavings and wood chips are kinder than sawdust
to your horse's respiratory system. The pine or cedar gives off a nice smell. Processed wood shavings are usually kiln dried,
making them more absorbent. They are usually screened to cut down on dust, and you know what wood you're getting. Horses do
not eat wood; if they get a few shavings with their hay it shouldn't hurt (except black walnut wood; see below). Wood products
burn less quickly than straw or paper in a barn fire.
Cons: Shavings are less absorbent than sawdust; chips
are very non-absorbent. Sawdust can be hard on a horse that has respiratory problems. Wood products from a sawmill may contain
metal filings or toxic chemicals. Be aware of what kind of wood you're getting, as black walnut wood is toxic to horses. Processed
shavings sold by the bag are more expensive. Wood products do not decompose quickly in compost piles. Shavings and sawdust
are subject to seasonal shortages and are getting harder to find altogether, as the building industry uses more pressed wood.
pellets. This is another form of wood byproduct processed to be compact. Small wood flakes or coarse sawdust are
compressed under pressure into pellets, and heat treated. The pellets expand when they absorb moisture, which is added to
make them ready for bedding.
Pros: Bags of wood pellets take less storage room. It may help to
clump your horse's urine and make it easier to remove the wet spots. Suppliers claim that you need to use less than with traditional
shavings, and that the amount of product waste is reduced. Like other wood products, it is less flammable than straw.
It may be more expensive than non-compressed wood products. Pellets are more labor intensive, since you have to add water
to expand the pellets before you spread them over the stall floor.
Straw. This is another traditional
choice for bedding. It's available as a by-product after farmers have sold their hay. Straw is most readily available where
cereal crops are cultivated.
Pros: In many areas straw may be easy to find and less expensive than wood
shavings. It's comfortable, and actually preferred for foaling stalls because foals won't inhale it and it won't contaminate
the umbilical cord. It may be less dusty than wood bedding. It composts well, and is popular with mushroom farmers for cultivating
mushrooms; they may even haul it off for you.
Cons: Straw is less absorbent than other kinds of bedding
materials; chopped straw is better than long. It may have mold, which cannot always be easily detected, and can cause respiratory
problems for you and your horse. It also provides a home for forage mites, which can cause skin problems for your horse
or even transmit horse tapeworms. Straw bedding creates a lot of wastage and is bulky to store. Straw is highly flammable
in a fire. Horses are more likely to eat straw, possibly causing impaction colic.
Kenaf. This plant is
related to cotton, hibiscus and okra. It's not well known as a bedding material, but is being touted as superior to straw
or shavings. First researched as a possible fiber plant for paper making, kenaf has become more popular for industrial
absorbents and animal bedding. Most kenaf is grown and processed in southern climates.
is highly absorbent and produces less dust than traditional bedding choices. Two separate university studies found that kenaf
was less dusty, more absorbent, lowered ammonia levels and required less replacement compared to pine pellets, wood shavings
and wheat straw. It is an easily renewable, fast growing plant, a positive environmental consideration. It also resists compaction.
Kenaf sounds perfect, but it does have a few drawbacks. Kenaf does not compost as well as other bedding materials and
may need to be blended for best composting. Also, some horses show a fondness for eating kenaf. It can possibly
lead to impaction if a horse eats it regularly. Because its cultivation is still limited, it may not be readily available
in your area.
Shredded paper. Shredded paper can include newspaper, office paper, and cardboard. It may
be readily available if you live near an area that shreds and recycles a lot of paper, or in an area where large animal farmers
create a strong market for its use.
Pros. Shredded paper can be very economical. It is highly absorbent
and hypoallergenic, producing less dust than plant-derived bedding. Chopped paper is more absorbent than shredded paper. Today
most black ink on white newsprint is made with organic inks, so there's no worry about ink toxicity. When mixed with manure,
it composts well. It is environmentally friendly since it's a way of recycling what is otherwise a waste product.
You'll need to be careful about the source of shredded paper, as not all inks are harmless to animals. Shredded office
paper, colored paper, cardboard and glossy paper can all include harmful ingredients, from heavy metal inks to staples and
bits of plastic. Paper can develop mold, and it can become soggy in muggy climates. Alternatively, it may be more likely
to blow out of the stalls and may look messy. Light colored horses can get dirty from the ink. Paper can also compact easily
and lose its cushioning effect.
Peat moss. Peat moss is typically partially decomposed sphagnum moss.
It's normally associated with gardening as an additive to garden soils, but is sometimes used as bedding.
Peat moss is better for horses with respiratory problems than conventional bedding. It is a highly absorbent material.
Although it may appear dusty, the dust particles are usually large enough to avoid causing respiratory problems and can be
controlled by watering down the peat. It composts readily and makes a great additive to soils. It is preferred
for horses with foot problems including founder or abscesses.
Cons. Peat moss is quite expensive compared
to other bedding materials. It can mold if left in damp conditions. It can be difficult to pick out wet spots due to
its naturally dark color, and is heavy to fork when it's soaked. It can dirty the coats of light horses. Keeping it watered
to reduce dust adds to your labor. Some environmentalists do not consider it a sound choice because it is not a readily
Other plant-based choices. Peanut shells, rice hulls, cottonseed hulls and almond hulls may
be available as a by-product of cultivation of these crops. They may be used as substitutes for more conventional bedding
materials. Corn stalks or corn cobs are also sometimes used; their absorbency is better when chopped than left long.
Depending on where you live, these materials may be more readily available and cheaper than other conventional choices. Hulls
are less bulky than chopped stalks such as straw or cornstalks.
Cons. These materials tend to
be lower in absorbency. Rice hulls are so small and light they can be inhaled. Horses are more likely to eat these options,
especially corn cobs or stalks.
Clay, sand, volcanic rocks, vermiculite. In place of plant materials, some horse
owners turn to varieties of absorbent rocks and soils. There are several options available if you want to "rock"
your horse's world. They include volcanic rocks such as perlite, vermiculite, various clays, and sand. Even the refuse left
over from recycling paper-mostly consisting of kaolin clay, calcium carbonate and some cellulose fiber-is being marketed as
a bedding product.
Pros. Clays and volcanic rocks are very absorbent. These materials can be cooler
in hot climates and provide good drainage. Rocks, clay and sand resist compaction. They can be used as a layer under plant-based
beddings (straw, paper, shavings) to improve drainage and reduce ammonia.
Cons. These materials provide
no warmth in cold climates. They don't have a cushioning effect for your horse. Sand can lead to sand colic when ingested.
Wet sand is heavy to muck out. Sand, clays and rocks do not compost like carbon-based plant material. They may not be easily
available. They are not considered readily renewable.
Rubber mats. As opposed to bedding, there are several
varieties of rubber flooring available for your stalls as well. You can choose from mats, interlocking pavers, custom
mats, or lightweight portable mats.
Pros. Rubber mats provide cushioning and traction. They are easy
to keep clean. They are often environmentally friendly when made with recycled products. They can reduce the amount of bedding
required. Interlocking pavers make installation easier.
Cons. Rubber stall flooring is not enough by
itself for your horse; he'll require one of the bedding materials on top of the rubber mat to absorb urine, keep his feet
dry, and provide warmth and further cushioning. Stall mats can be heavy and awkward to install or move. They can be
expensive compared to dirt or sand flooring.
No bedding material is perfect, and depending on the season and your location
you may have to use more than one throughout the year. You may also find that mixed materials work well for you.
When it comes to bedding, necessity really is the mother of invention!
Originally published in Equine
Journal, Feb. 2008
An Idea Whose Time Has Come: JellyPantz!
Many horse lovers want to turn their passion and hobby into a business, and often the challenge
is finding the right niche. Jane Hyndman, of Toronto, Ontario, has come up with a new angle to solving a perennial rider's
problem, and turned it into a product for riders.
Jane's been a lifelong
rider and as such, she's experienced one of the less delightful side effects of riding: chafing, or saddle sores. There
is padded underwear for riders to minimize sore seat bones, for example, but none that also solves the, er, friction issue.
Jane decided to find a solution for herself. The result? An innovation in ladies' riding undergarments was
born! Read on for my interview with Jane about how she created JellyPantz, the "no-chafe underwear for women who ride."
Tell us a bit about yourself, Jane.
Jane: I have been riding
horses since I was a little girl, and it has always been my dream to live with and look after them. Now I do just that...I
live on our farm with my husband and our four horses, three dogs and three cats.
JellyPantz is a unique product. How did you come up with the idea?
Jane: Basically, I became sick and tired of being sore after a dressage lesson. I had tried everything
I could think of to avoid being injured, and nothing worked. I took it upon myself to find a solution.
A lot of riders want to turn their love for riding into a business venture. How did you
manage to do it?
Jane: This is really more about necessity being
the mother of invention. I am at a stage of my life where I have the time to follow through on my ideas. When we bought this
farm in 2000, I resigned from my accounting position at my husband's software firm, and when we moved here with the horses
in 2003, I no longer had to drive to the boarding stable to ride, and then to the farm to look after the property... I suddenly
had more time! I have had many ideas in my life that I have not acted upon. This time, I decided to "just do it!"...
I have the time and I have the energy, so why not!
Give us an overview of
the journey in creating a new product for the equestrienne.
Jane: The journey has been a lot of fun! I have spent hours on the Internet searching for ideas on how to solve the problem
and I have built many prototypes. I happily rode in the prototype until my husband and sons encouraged (read as hassled!)
me to take the next step. I had my prototype and the design was set, so I began the search for suppliers, which again,
took me from Toronto to the USA to England and China. I have written a patent, learned about importing and exporting, learned
about packaging, and now I am learning about sales and marketing.
other budding "equestrepreneurs", do you have any good stories to share?
I like my patent story because it's a women helping women story, and my patent application would not have happened had I not
met Zoe Brooks. The story goes like this... I wanted to apply for a patent on JellyPantz, but after speaking to a lawyer I
realized that I could not afford the cost of $8,000 to $11,000. I decided to forego the patent... THEN the story happened!
I was invited, (by a supplier for my other company, dontshootme.ca) to a tradeshow in Toronto. I went out of curiosity, and
there I met and spoke to a woman named Zoe Brooks. Zoe had invented a new style of bit-less bridle, and told me that she had
written her own patent application and her patent ending up costing $600. What? I did not even know that writing my own application
was an option! I went home and could not get the idea out of my head... if Zoe could do it, so could I! So, after much thought
and research about patents, I decided, yet again, to "just do it!"
What is the best part and the hardest part about launching a new product?
Jane: There are a lot of "best parts"... the people I have met, the things I have learned,
the ideas from others, and the great feeling I experience when I have successes. The hardest part is to keep going even when
I feel frightened by what I am creating.
A lot of us juggle horses, riding, work and the rest of our lives. How do you make time for everything?
Jane: Riding is a priority... but I am lucky enough that I have the time to make riding my priority.
If I had little kids and a demanding full time job, I know I would not have time to ride or at least not everyday. Like everyone
these days, I am really busy but within my personal busy-ness, I have a fair amount of control, and because of that control,
I make riding my priority.
To find out more about Jane's new product,
visit www.jellypantz.com. Jane and her husband Hugh also have a line of high-visibility products for horse
and rider, www.dontshootme.ca.
The Triangle of Horse ShowingEver heard of The Triangle of Horse Showing? No?
That’s the team that your child is working with in order to compete
on horseback. It looks like this:
Why is The Triangle important? Normally, the Rider, Trainer and Horse are working well together,
making progress and solving problems. You don’t give The Triangle concept much thought then. But when there’s
a problem, it’s a vitally important concept.
That’s because to solve the problem, you
have to work with the three points of The Triangle.
Suppose the situation becomes so bad you decide
it can’t be fixed. It seems you’ve got to make a change for your child to progress. Before you do, work through
The Triangle to determine where the problem really lies and what to change.
some finger pointing when things go south. The kid is likely to complain about the trainer and/or the horse. The trainer may
suggest it’s “user error.” The horse, if we could ask him, would probably have plenty to say about both.
It’s your job to decide where to let the ax fall.
How are you to know where to start?
The Rider is your kid, so she’s not getting voted off the island! (Though you may sometimes wish that
was an option…) Even if her riding is the problem, you’re not going to replace her with a new rider.
leaves the Trainer and the Horse. Now you have the tough job of determining if one or both need to be changed to make The
Triangle work again.
There’s no surefire way to make that call. You may wonder, “If we
stay with our trainer who got us so far, will he or she have more success with my kid and a new horse? Or should we take our
beloved horse to a new trainer to get this team to work together better?”
you enter in The Triangle. You’re a crucial factor in one axis (remember basic geometry from middle school?): The Rider/Trainer
Under normal circumstances, you’re there for your kid through the ups and downs of showing
horses. When she’s frustrated you help her see her trainer’s (and maybe her horse’s) point of view while
also letting her know you’re behind her all the way. And you probably talk to the trainer about approaches that work
well with your child, or let the trainer know if something else is affecting her riding.
But if you
are constantly acting as a go-between, or things continue to get worse no matter what you do, the Rider/Trainer axis
may be irrevocably broken. It’s probably time to find a new trainer first, then make a decision about the horse.
I hope you never need to think about The Triangle. But if you do, it can help you in making some tough decisions
for your young rider.
Snazz Up Your Western Show Look
Everyone's trying to do more with less, and that applies to our show ring outfits too. This summer I competed
in our breed's Regional Championship show, and I fretted about my dated Western Pleasure outfit. Getting a new one was
not an option, but I was definitely behind the times among the ladies in the show ring.
On our circuit, the look is big
Elvis-y shirts with lots and lots of crystals, leather or lace accents, and bling, bling, bling. The custom outfitters
continue the look onto the chaps with matching crystals or accents picked up from the shirt. Matching show pants, hats
and boots completes the look.
My understated look in cream and sand shades was not only several years old, but
a hodgepodge. A mock turtleneck top and vest studded with crystals provided some bling, but around the waist
area things were messy where loose low-rise jeans, chaps, and vest did not quite meet up, leaving, shall we say, gappage.
The vest look was popular before the low-rise craze took hold, and was made to sit at the natural waist. The Hobby Horse brand leather
chaps were good quality, but plain. And the pants were similar in color to the vest and top, but a shade or two lighter than
What to do? Here's how I solved it on a shoestring:
- Opted for closer fitting show
pants from Hobby Horse in the same color as the chaps, to make it all blend
- Selected pants with a higher waist so
that chaps belt, pants belt, and bottom of vest all meet in a neat line (no gappage with the shirt puffing out in back)
a custom look by hand-sewing a crystal chain along the yoke, down the legs and along the cuffs of my chaps
a blingy belt and accessories from a barn buddy to add more pizzazz
All in all, it was a very budget solution
to looking neat and pulled together, if not up-to-the-minute vogue. And, I might add, it proved to be a winning look!
Hobby Horse owner Suzi Vliestra give further tips for getting a good look in the ring here.