This Saddle Is the Answer to My Prayers!

When Barefoot Treeless Saddles work, they really work. Barefoot Saddles USA received a call from a customer who was literally at her wits end trying to find a saddle to fit her older Arabian. After trying numerous saddles for over two years, she decided to give the Barefoot Cheyenne Treeless Saddle a try.

At Barefoot Saddles USA we ask for a photo of your horse. A full side view, weight on all four feet, head in a natural position taken on level ground is a very useful photo for helping to determine saddle fit. As you can see in the photo, the Arabian has a pretty prominent wither and a back that drops away from the wither. Noah500

This conformation can be a challenge for fitting any saddle, tree or no tree, as it’s difficult to get enough wither clearance and at the same time get the saddle level so the rider will sit in the center and be balanced.

Next, we ask that you print out the pommel measuring guide to see how your horse will compare to the different size pommels available – narrow, standard/medium, wide and extra wide. There are some horses that are so wide; they need the soft pommel to allow the saddle to spread as wide as the horse. This Arabian measured between a medium and wide pommel. In this case, we recommended trying the medium standard pommel because of his prominent withers.

Then we need to determine what size girth will fit. It is important to have the girth the correct size, and most importantly not too long. Too long of a girth will creep up near the saddle flap, especially on small horses, and make the saddle unstable. This Arabian measured 20” elbow to elbow and so a 22” girth was appropriate.

Barefoot Treeless Saddles have two styles of saddle pads designed to go with each saddle model. The Special Saddle Pads have one set of soft open-cell foam inserts, wool felt and wool fleece underlay. The Physio Saddle Pads have two sets of inserts – one set is soft open-cell foam, the other is dense closed-cell foam and can be used separately or combined together for the most back and spine protection. The Physio Saddle Pads also have non-slip underlay that can be very helpful for keeping the saddle in place. For this Arabian, we recommended the Physio Saddle Pad so there would be different foams to work with, and customize if necessary with shims to get the saddle level.

We shipped out the saddle to allow a week for the customer to try it out. After a couple of rides, this email was sent to us that says it all.

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“Not the best angle, but the smile says it all!”

“After almost 2 years of searching and trying multiple saddles, the Barefoot Cheyenne hit the bull’s eye!  It fits Noah and me perfectly in every way!  My barn friends commented that not only do we both look comfortable in it; it puts me in the perfect riding position so I can be the best partner for him. Absolutely the best saddle EVER! I’ll send you pictures this week, I’m so excited and grateful that I totally forgot to take them.”

Soon after, the photo was sent of horse and rider in their new Barefoot Cheyenne. Her comment to go with the photo was, “Not the best angle, but the smile says it all!”

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Training Your Horse to Canter

“A canter is the cure for every evil.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

This lovely buckskin is cantering on the right lead. This horse is in beat 2 of the 3-beat canter. The diagonal pair of legs – left front and right hind, are on the ground together. Beat 3 will be the right foreleg striking the ground.

The canter is indeed high on the list as one of the thrills while riding a horse. The three-beat rocking horse canter with a brief moment of being airborne can be one of those memorable feel-good experiences, logged in the brain for life.

A calm canter depart is the start of developing this dreamy gait. When working with a young horse, or one that is reluctant to break into the canter, be sure to approach the subject in an unhurried fashion and have a plan.

In a western or English saddle, an easy way to get a canter depart is from a very active forward posting trot without rushing your steed off his feet. Establish your forward trot and choosing the direction that your horse prefers, head for a corner of your arena and make a gentle curving line. At some point, the horse will want to break into canter; it’s less work than a butt-busting trot. Don’t stop posting and take advantage of that moment by applying your cue for the canter. If your horse just trots faster slow him back down and ask again. Sometimes, if you ask for a strong forward trot, then slow down the trot slightly and sit to apply the cue for the canter, it will encourage your horse to strike off into the canter.

The canter is a 3-beat gait. If you are making a circle to the right, the inside is the right side of the horse, and the outside is the left side of the horse. Beat 1 is the left hind leg, or outside hind, striking off. Beat 2 is the diagonal pair of legs that move together – the inside right hind and the outside left foreleg. Beat 3 is the right foreleg – the inside foreleg – and when going to the right, the horse will be in better balance especially while on a circle to the right. We say the horse is on the correct lead, because the inside or right foreleg is the leading leg that goes more forward than the other foreleg in this gait. Beat 3 is followed by a moment of suspension when all four feet are off the ground.

Most riders ask for the canter by slightly moving the outside leg back and squeezing it against the horse’s side. This is because you are asking for the outside hind leg to strike off to begin the canter, resulting in the horse’s leading leg to be on the inside to be in better balance.

If you ask your horse to canter, and he strikes off on the wrong lead – do nothing – you’re cantering! The horse obliged with the correct gait. Let him canter for a bit. Then you can break back to trot, rev-up the engine again if necessary, and try the canter again until you get the correct lead. When you do, tell him what a genius he is! You’ll find that your horse progressively begins to pick up the correct lead more often, until right and left leads are firmly established.

After you have established a smooth canter depart from the trot and you are sure your horse understands the canter aid; you can try asking for it from a walk. Without hurrying, establish a forward-marching balanced walk that feels like it has a bit of bounce to it. You will probably experience some trot strides before getting the canter, but with repetition, the number of trot strides will diminish until your horse can strike off into the canter directly from the walk.

When you train the canter in this fashion, and all is going to plan, the horse seamlessly slides into it without rushing. If you establish the forward energetic trot or walk before asking for canter, you won’t have to kick, use a crop or spur, and all will be well. If things don’t go to plan – no worries. Take a break, re-organize yourself, establish that wonderful walk or trot and try again. Your confidence will make it happen.

Going Forward – It’s Everything!

BarefootArizonaRobinWhite500Training your horse to move forward willing and dependably is the most important element to having a responsive and well-behaved horse. Most behavior problems begin with your horse’s resistance to the forward aids – your legs and seat. Severe resistance to the forward aids can result in bucking, rearing, shying, balking, and being unwilling to leave other horses or leave the barn. These are serious issues, but the cure is to go back to square one – your horse’s response to the go forward aids.

Going forward dependably is also a safety issue. If there is a scary monster in the bushes, your horse still has to listen to your go forward command to get past it. He might not like it, he might be tense and wild eyed, but if he continues to obey the forward aids, you can still make it past the obstacle. Going forward when asked is not a suggestion, or a guideline. It’s a hard and fast rule. It effects how your horse steers as well. Like a sail boat, you can’t steer a horse if he’s not in motion. I like to turn my horse’s head slightly away from the monster in the bushes, but continue it a straight line until we’re in the clear.

If you have trained a young horse, or started him under saddle, you have experienced that the green horse is so difficult to ride because his gas pedal is sticky. He goes forward, then the motor cuts out, then he doesn’t steer. Repeat. It’s rarely a problem that you cannot slow down or stop your young horse, he gets that pretty quickly. An experienced rider can get the horse moving forward with their aids, their energy and their mind. Everything about their attitude in the saddle says let’s go forward with consistency without blocking the way forward with hands or a body that cannot follow the forward motion smoothly. After many rides, the young horse learns that it’s fun to go forward in harmony with a rider, and through repetition and reward, and perhaps backed up with a crop on occasion, he learns that going forward is a way of life. Only then can you start bending and flexing, and introduce side way movements, because there is forward energy and motion to work with.

Every successful training moment that you make it past the barking dog, the plastic bag, and the parked car, builds your horse’s confidence in you. You are in charge and if you say go – it is safe. He learns to trust your leadership until finally; there is no resistance to anything. You are a team that can go anywhere! That is what we call a well-broke or fully trained horse. It does take time to get there – but it is so worth it.

It’s a good idea to revisit your horse’s response to the forward aids in the arena throughout his lifetime. I like to get on a big circle and go from trot to walk to trot to walk. Those transitions reinforce the go forward command, and sharpen his response with immediate compliance. Then I do the same thing with trot to canter to trot to canter – reviewing the response to the canter aid. Then really mix it up with a halt to trot to canter to walk to trot and back to halt. Gas pedal, steering wheel and brakes all functioning properly? Then you’re ready to go hit the trail again.

Studies Show the Barefoot Surcingle is Essential for Proper Training

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Barefoot Surcingle is made with quality leather and plenty of D rings.

In an article written by Christa Leste-Lasserre for The Horse she relates studies done by Russell Guire, a PhD candidate at the Royal Veterinary College and a researcher at Centaur Biomechanics in the UK. The article titled, Training Aids: How Their Fit Could Help or Hinder Longeing Horses, discusses lungeing your horse for training using a surcingle, side reins, and other training aids. Leste-Lasserre writes “While science has already confirmed the usefulness of training aids…, improperly fitted training rollers [surcingles] could be squelching any benefit these systems offer.”

“ ‘We’ve noted significant pressure under the training roller that’s close to the pressure found during a sitting trot,’ Guire said. ‘Most rollers don’t have trees, so when they’re tightened up, they put that pressure directly onto the horse’s spine at about the level of T12-T13 (thoracic vertebrae). We believe that this pressure could reduce any benefits the horse could have from the training aids. Previous studies by the same team have already indicated that pressure at T12-T13 inhibits locomotion.’”

The Barefoot  Surcingle imported from Germany solves this issue of pressure on the back and withers. The pommel of the surcingle protects the horse’s withers and spine. Underneath the Barefoot Surcingle pommel the withers remain unrestricted and there is no pressure – neither on the withers nor along the sides. The supports on both sides are padded softly and extra wide, so that muscles can develop without being squeezed.

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Barefoot Surcingle in use with Barefoot Super Grip Long Lines

Lungeing and ground driving is a great training tool that can be used to introduce young horses to the bit, and to tune up and advance older horses. Working properly with a surcingle and side reins or long lines, the horse is encouraged to flex to the pressure of the bit at the pole and lift and round his back. Developing the horse’s top line in this manner helps the horse to carry the weight of the rider in balance and comfort. Using the Barefoot Surcingle will insure you are building muscle properly without impeding the forward motion and stride of your horse.

Training a Relaxed and Happy Trail Horse

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Out on the trail is not the ideal time to train. That’s why we ride in an arena in a controlled environment. If you don’t have a fenced arena, create yourself a training area by roping off a section of your pasture, or put logs or poles on the ground to cordon off your training space. It’s not fun to discover that your horse’s brakes don’t work all that well when you pick up the canter with a couple of your riding cronies. Just as dangerous as no brakes is a sticky gas pedal. Your horse must know that going forward when asked is not a negotiable request. You can check your horse’s response to your aids by testing him in the arena. Take every opportunity to ride through the puddle, past the flapping jacket on the arena gait, walking over ground poles, riding in company and by yourself. Once you feel you are completely in charge and are comfortable with your horse’s response and cooperation in all gaits, you are ready to venture out.

Going out on the trail should mean a relaxing time for your horse. When you start out with a young horse, a new horse, or tuning up your horse, take baby steps to develop your horse’s attitude about the trail. You should first establish that trail riding means walking. Go for a short walk at the end of an arena session. Your horse is in a great state of mind to relax and just walk to cool down. Your first trail rides can be around the barn and around the property. Make the ride in a circular pattern. Don’t go out in one direction, make a 180, and then head straight back that might encourage anticipating returning home.

With your riding buddies, take turns leading the way, riding in the middle and following. If your horse acts up in any one of these positions, change back to his comfort zone position, and then give him short doses of what he doesn’t like. That way he doesn’t work himself up, and stays in a relaxed state of mind. Eventually you should be able to ride anywhere you like.

Increase the distance and time of your trail rides by increasing the circumference of your circle. Around the barn, over the hill, and back down the road. Then around the barn, over the hill, across the road to the next field and then back down the road. You get the idea. You and your horse will have no worries as the next steps are never too challenging. Follow a riding buddy to help you across the creek for the first time. Always set yourself up for success.

Once your horse proves to you he knows the trail is for relaxation, you can pick up the trot somewhere in the middle of your ride for a short period. Return to walk to be sure your horse maintains his calm walking demeanor. After several weeks, or months, you can add a loping or canter session keeping an eye on his attitude. Always quit while you’re ahead, there is always another ride tomorrow. Taking the time to advance your rides with baby steps can help the development of your laid-back and happy trail horse. And the old saying, “walk the first and last mile” is still sound advice.

What’s in YOUR Saddle Bag?

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This gorgeous trail riding photo was shared by Action Rider Lindsay Nichols

What should you carry in your saddle bag? The length of your ride and whether you are going on familiar trails or exploring new horizons will obviously have some bearing on what you take with you. Although it is impossible to carry everything for every emergency scenario, there are some practical items that are often needed and can really come in handy.

Here are some suggestions of practical items to consider putting in your saddle bag: Water, water purification tablets, fly repellent, trail mix, wire cutting tool, sunglasses, tissue, camera, small flashlight, pepper spray, hoof pick, Band-Aids, Dy’s Liquid bandage, Vetrap, pain reliever, antihistamine, bear bell or little bells to ward off critters, an Easyboot, folding water bucket, folding saw to cut branches and trees from blocked trail, Multi-purpose tool, pocket knife, signal whistle, map, and compass.

There is a First Aid Kit available that comes in a soft pack that fits in most saddle bags. It includes 40 items including a First Aid Guide, bandages, gauze pads, butterfly closures, wound dressing, antiseptic towellets, Povidone-iodine prep pads, needle, moleskin, safety pin, and latex gloves. There is also a small item that can make a difference for your safety, it’s Rein Safe. It prevents you from loosing your reins when your horse takes a drink from a stream, or you take a photo and drop your reins for a moment.

What size saddle bag should you carry? There is a huge selection of fabrics, styles, and sizes of saddle bags, carriers and ties that attach to your English, western, endurance or Aussie saddle and saddle pads with pockets. If you become separated from your horse, there are carriers that attach to your ankle, wrist or waist for your cell phone.

In the event that you did not take something for an emergency that arises while out on trail, and your cell phone has no service, be sure you have told someone where you are going to ride and approximately how long you will be gone. Then if you don’t show up back at the barn, someone will know where to look for you.

ActionRiderTack.com has an extensive selection of trail riding gear for trail riders and their horses.

A Challenging Horse and a Never Quit Attitude

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Castlebar Link in an 80K ride in Killarney, NSW Australia with Pamela Karner riding in her Barefoot Lexington Treeless Dressage Saddle.

Pamela Karner is an endurance rider and an equine veterinarian. She has had quite an eventful time with her endurance gelding, Castlebar Link, or Link for short. Even after several serious accidents, Pam has persevered and continues to ride, train and plan for her next endurance ride with Link, a beautiful chestnut Anglo-Arabian.

Pam travels to Australia every winter, and that is where she found Link. Pam explains, “I picked Castlebar Link out as a three-year-old from a large, very successful endurance stud. They kept him over the winter and sent him to their trainer for four weeks. I picked him up the following year when I was back in Australia. That year he broke my leg, knee, and ankle with an explosive move while I was on the ground! I had never been hurt like that in 30-plus years of my large animal veterinary practice!”

”The following year he broke his splint bone in the pasture and required surgery,” she continues. “So we were even, both broken once. His six-year-old year he dumped me and I refused to let go of the long split reins, as I was alone in the Australian bush. His response was to double barrel the creature scaring him from behind… thus another hospital visit and surgery.

“The next two years I was determined to go back and start over with this affectionate, lovely horse who was fantastic to ride 99% of the time, but when frightened was over the top explosive. My natural horsemanship friend and coach here in the US was very helpful.

“Link has gradually come along. He is still not a horse to take for granted! We have managed to successfully ride multiple 40K rides and 4,80K rides. I am hoping that he will be ready for the Quilty 100-mile ride next year! It is a challenge in many ways. Link gets 7 months off every year. I start him back every December and leave early May!”