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!”
There are so many saddles in this world, where does one begin? Saddle trees were traditionally made of wood, which is why it’s called a tree. Today, treed saddles are made out of various materials. Saddle trees can be made with wood reinforced with spring steel, wood combined with other metals or rawhide, fiberglass, synthetic polyethylene, and even plastic. Treeless saddles are often made with leather, foam, fiberglass, felt and other materials to create panels for spine protection and a stiff pommel for wither protection. The decision to choose a treed or treeless saddle is most often based on what works best for your horse.
Action Rider Tack has been selling a variety of treed and treeless saddles for years, and through our experience with success and failures we have developed certain guidelines to determine whether a treeless saddle might be good for you.
First, let us state clearly that treeless saddles are not for everyone. However, when they do work it can be a great experience.
Here are a few reasons why a treeless saddle might be a good choice for you and your horse:
You have a low withered, wide horse, or other challenging conformation issues, and every treed saddle you have tried digs into your horse’s shoulder or creates a sore back.
You have a big moving or gaited horse that is restricted by the tree of a treed saddle.
You love to ride bareback and the close contact feel, but want more security that a saddle can provide.
You are a competent rider and feel a treed saddle is too bulky under you.
You want a lighter weight saddle.
You have a young horse that is developing and changing shape.
You want to use a saddle on more than one horse.
You love the idea of being in closer contact with your horse and are willing to take the time to make the adjustments necessary to get comfortable riding in a treeless saddle.
Here are some reasons why a treeless saddle might not work for you:
You are a heavy weight rider on a small/medium horse.
Your horse has prominent withers and an exposed spine. This type of conformation can be difficult to achieve proper wither clearance and spinal clearance on horses with a treeless saddle.
You require a lot of security in the saddle. A treed saddle with knee rolls, poleys, a pommel and horn are going to provide more security than a treeless saddle. There are treeless saddles with deep seats, knee rolls, and a horn, but compared to a treed saddle with the same design, the treed saddle will most likely feel more secure.
You cannot rope cattle or dally a horse on the horn of a treeless saddle.
Mounting from the ground is important to you. Treeless saddles on some horses will slip when you mount from the ground. This is most often a problem on really round horses. (However there are some mounting aids that help with saddle slip)
You stand in your stirrups a lot or like to jump. A treeless saddle cannot provide the support under the stirrup area that a treed saddle can. This also depends somewhat on your weight.
Is there a weight limit to a treeless saddle? Generally speaking, the weight limit is around 170 lbs, but keep in mind, there are plenty of exceptions. Depending on the size of your horse, it is certainly possible to go over that limit. Riders who weigh above 170 lbs have ridden successfully in treeless saddles, but usually are on bigger, stout horses that can carry their weight with relative ease.
You can also increase that 170 lb weight limit with a proper saddle pad using a combination of open and closed cell foam inserts or other materials. The weight limit is also influenced by the position and skill of the rider, as that effects how the pressure from the rider is influencing the back of the horse.
The US Cavalry came up with a useful guideline for how much weight a horse can carry without stress. According to them, the weight of the rider and his tack should equal approximately 20% of the weight of the horse. So, if your horse weighs 1000 lbs, both you and your tack should weigh approximately 200 lbs or less. This is only a guideline and there are exceptions of course, but this 20% figure has been backed up by recent stress testing.
In conclusion, we know that in the world of horses there are no hard and fast rules for fitting a living, breathing animal with an inanimate object on his back. We recognize there is a need for treed and treeless saddles, as the variables and needs of horses and riders are infinite.
Habits for keeping yourself healthy can apply to keeping your horse happy and healthy as well. And what your mother told you when you were a kid – brush your teeth, no candy, eat your vegetables, well… uh… it’s true!
Most people acknowledge as fact that if we eat nutritious food, supplement our diets with essential vitamins and minerals, drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly that we can live a healthier and more active life into our golden years. But what about our horses? Surprisingly, it’s pretty much true for them too!
1. BRUSH YOUR TEETH!
We don’t question that brushing our teeth daily will pay off in the long run for our health. Your horse benefits from some dental checkups as well. Even slight irregularities in how his molars meet to chew food can affect his nutrition. So keep up on his checkups to see if he has a sharp edge that needs floating. Keep an eye on his teeth even more vigilantly as he ages to avoid loss of weight and condition.
2. NO SNACKS BEFORE DINNER!
Eating junk food has never made much sense. Feeding your horse poor quality hay or grain doesn’t make sense either. Efforts to obtain quality feed for your horse will result in his long term health and happiness. The horseman’s rule to “feed little and often” applies to humans too.
3. TURN OFF THE TELEVISION!
Sitting in front of the TV or computer, in essence – not moving – is not healthy for humans. The older, spry, active seniors in this country are those who have kept walking, jogging, golfing, riding horses, mucking stalls… you get the picture. It is also essential for your horse to get regular exercise and turnout. Every day. If you don’t ride, or even if you do ride – turn him out. The bones, tendons, ligaments, as well as the digestive and circulatory systems of the horse need to keep in motion.
4. NO SODAS!
Be sure both you and your horse have access to plenty of fresh, clean water to drink to stay hydrated. Horses that stop drinking can colic, especially in hot weather.
5. TAKE YOUR VITAMINS!
Most people find they need to supplement with some vitamins and minerals they may not be getting in their diet. Both horses and humans require sodium for maintaining good health. Salt is the main source of sodium that is essential for nerve and muscle function, regulation of fluids in the body, and more.
LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER!
Yeah… your mother was right. Follow these common sense health habits so you and your horse can grow old and gray as you travel the trail together.
The rain and snow have slacked off, the weather is warming up, and the trail beckons. You put a date on the calendar to go ride with your favorite horse buddies. You anticipate the day’s ride coming up with visions of a warm spring breeze on your face, green grass and spring flowers abound, and your horse’s mane and tail gently blowing in the wind. You sigh…., “I can’t wait until this weekend.”
The first rides of spring can be glorious. But be sure to take some precautionary steps to avoid unwanted surprises. Most importantly, check the frame of mind of your horse! The completely dependable trail horse that you put away in November for his yearly time off, may not prove himself to be all that dependable the first couple of rides out.
Start off with some round pen work, or put him on a lunge line if you don’t have a round pen or arena. Watch how he moves at all three gaits keeping your eye out for soundness issues. How exuberant is he? Perhaps several days of lungeing are in order. Saddle him up and send him around some more. Has he lost or gained weight? Does the saddle still sit level? Girth still fits?
Then, choose an easy trail with good footing. If it’s too muddy, consider going a different way. It’s safer and doesn’t chop up the trails for the rest of the year. Be sure and give your horse some breaks if he gets winded, and gradually increase the length and difficulty of the trails as you both get back in shape. Watch for chicks and cubs who might be hanging around their nests and dens. Protective mothers in the wild are not to be messed with.
Don’t’ forget to stop and smell the roses. And pack your sheepskin seat saver; you may need it after an hour or so! Happy Trails!
Mariano Fernandez has a ranch in Argentina. He raises cattle and sheep and has about twenty ranch horses – real working horses that help to move the livestock. But this story is not about Mariano. It’s about his ranch hand, Tito.
Tito has been working on Mariano’s ranch for the last twenty-eight years. He is seventy-two years old, fit and lean and weighs in at 120 pounds soaking wet. Mariano describes Tito as a true representative of an Argentine gaucho.
Historically the gaucho of Argentina was known to be a skilled horseman who worked cattle. The gauchos of the Buenos Aires pampas, or grasslands, have been recorded as saying, “A man without a horse is a man without legs.” The Argentinean Criollo horse comes from the Andalusian and Arabian horses imported by the Spanish conquerors centuries ago. These wild horses adapted to the harsh conditions of the pampas and are tough and known for their endurance.
Mariano shared this story about Tito. “Eighteen years ago Tito was riding on horseback, probably chasing some animal. His horse put one of the front feet in an armadillo hole and rolled over. This resulted in a broken hip for Tito, the horse didn’t get hurt. Apparently Tito’s hip bones didn’t heal the same way they were so from that point on, he sort of rides slanted to the right side. The funny thing is that you tell him that and he doesn’t acknowledge it. I’m saying this because if you look at the saddle, you can see that it has been definitely ridden off balance. A very non-advisable thing to do with a treeless saddle in particular.
“Typical Argentine saddles in this area are called recado,” Mariano explains. “It is a succession of layers without any hard structure. You basically have a sweat pad, one or two wool pads, a leather pad, the “saddle” and on top of that a sheepskin. This recado saddle is very comfortable for the rider but it is usually not very good for the horse. The most common problems are pressure points and galling of the withers. Most people don’t wash the sweat pad so that results in even bigger problems.”
Traditionally the gaucho’s recado, a multi-layer design, was built with local available materials – leather and wool. When the gauchos are out on the pampas, the recado saddles can be disassembled and used as a sleeping bag when needed.
Mariano continues, “Tito rides different horses. There are about fifteen to twenty ranch horses and we rotate them in groups of four every shoeing cycle. We wanted to give Tito a saddle that was comfortable for him and the horse, but also adaptable to every horse that we have.
“Tito is seventy-two years old and has been working with us since we bought the ranch in 1990. He uses the horses to move cattle, sheep and muster deer as well. During the hunting season he also guides hunters on horseback. He is a true representative of a gaucho but now modernized with a Barefoot Atlanta Treeless Saddle. Everybody that meets him believes that he was born one century too late.”
According to Equus Magazine, “It’s a standard rule to discard any helmet that was struck hard in a fall. As a general rule, it’s best to get a new helmet every five or six years—replace your helmet sooner if it’s been exposed to extreme temperatures or chemicals like those found in automatic fly spray dispensers.”
It’s also common sense to replace a helmet with any visible signs of wear and tear on the harness, chin strap or clips, or cracking, peeling, or dents.
Don’t need to replace your helmet?
9 Tips for Care and Cleaning your Helmet.
Most helmets have a liner that you can remove. You can then hand wash this liner with cold water and mild soap. Allow to air dry completely away from the sun.
Clean the exterior with a soft cloth, and brush the interior with a soft tooth brush. You can use cold water and mild soap on the exterior if it’s plastic. If it’s a leather exterior, use a dark damp cloth. and a bit of leather cleaner if necessary.
Let your helmet air dry, but not in the sun, after each use and after cleaning.
You can use compressed air to clean the helmet’s vents and channels.
Do not machine wash, put in dish washer, or dry clean.
DO NOT use or spray any products other than mild soap on your helmet. The chemicals can ruin the protective coating and compromise the integrity of the helmet.
Store your helmet away from direct sun, chemicals, solvents, bug sprays, cleaning products, or fertilizers. Do not store your helmet in your car where temperatures can exceed 100 degrees.
Store your helmet in a bag that has ventilation so it can dry out between uses. This will also help keep it clean.
To keep your helmet smelling fresh and clean, throw a dryer sheet into your helmet bag.
I have read some articles about horses and mud fever, and the emphasis of the articles often refers to mud fever on the back of the horse’s pasterns, just above the heels. In my horsey life, this pastern dermatitis is called scratches, greasy heels or cracked heels. However, when I was studying to become a British Horse Society Instructor in England, we referred to mud fever as a general irritation or bacterial infection of the skin most often found on the legs and belly. And as the name suggests, it is caused by continual moisture and mud, that can break down the natural protective layer the skins provides. Constant moisture softens the skin and the continual abrasive soil, sand or grit can permeate the skin’s protective barrier allowing bacteria to grow and become a problem.
To prevent mud from penetrating the skin, causing mud fever’s bacterial infection, you can do a couple of things. Follow this first and foremost rule of grooming: Do not brush wet mud. Especially after riding your horse through the mud, and the horse is still warm and skin pores are open. It is tempting to use a stiff brush to get the mud off. However, you must let it dry thoroughly before brushing it off. You could hose it off, but often in the winter and early spring when there’s mud, it’s too cold, and the horse will be wet, cold and take a long time to dry.
If you have a barn stall or covered shelter, put your muddy horse inside your clean, dry enclosure and let him dry off, even if it takes until the next day. Then you can brush the dry mud gently off his belly, legs, and don’t forget the back of the pasterns. Keeping your horse’s coat and skin clean and dry is the best preventative measure against mud fever.