English Tack Tips

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How should I fit an English saddle?

Find the Perfect Fit

When shopping for English saddles, it's important that you get a saddle that is a good fit for your horse. To ensure that a saddle is a good fit for your animal, fit it on your horse. Follow the guide below to fit your horse:

• Place the saddle on the horse (don't use a pad) and tighten the girth.
• Have someone sit in the saddle and put their feet in the stirrups
• Put your fingers under the pommel and make sure you can squeeze three fingers between the pommel's arch and the withers.
• Have a friend lift the animal's foreleg and pull it forward while you place your hand between the pommel and the summit of the horse's shoulder blade, repeat on the other side. The saddle should not obstruct shoulder movement in this process.
• Stand behind the horse and glance underneath the saddle, you should be able to see light when the animal's head is down. If you can't see any light, the saddle is too tight.
• The saddle shouldn't hang down to the animal's loins or it is too long.

What type of noseband should I use on my horse?

Choosing a Noseband

If you are a new rider, you may be unfamiliar to the world of English tack. Could a new noseband be beneficial to your horse? Many new riders continue using the noseband that came with their bridle not realizing that there are a lot of alternatives that might be better for their specific horse. Here are some great nosebands to try out if you want to find the best fit for your equine:

A Cavesson is the standard noseband (it usually comes with the bridle). If your horse is larger, however, you may want to choose one with a wider noseband. If your horse is on the small side you'll probably want to opt for a thinner cavesson. Try different sizes on your animal to ensure that you get the correct fit. Cavessons should sit beneath the horse's cheekbones and not hinder the bit.

A dropped noseband is much better for controlling a horse than a standard cavesson. The dropped noseband should sit below the bit, but do not place it too low or you could injure the animal or block the breathing.

The Figure Eight Noseband makes it easier for the horse to breathe—for this reason it is often selected for racing and event horses. It works fantastically with a gag bit, as it will not hinder the bit at all. Do not use a standing martingale with a figure eight noseband, as it will hinder the martingale's function, making it worthless.

How should I choose a riding instructor?

English Riding Lessons

So, you've done all of your shopping and equipped yourself with the proper English tack and riding gear. But you can't just mount up and expect to ride. English riding is a sport that takes practice and dedication. If it is something that you are interested in, sign up for some lessons and let an expert teach you the ropes. If you don't know where to find a good instructor, here are some suggestions:

• Go to horse shows and ask around

• Ask a friend who is taking lessons for recommendations

• If you know of a stable in the area, stop in and ask for recommendations

• Look in the yellow pages

• Contact a local, regional, or national club and ask for suggestions

When you find an instructor that catches your interest, be sure to ask about certifications or accreditation that they may have. While some of the best instructors do not hold any certifications, the ones that do are trained in areas such as coaching, training, and first-aid.

If you opt to go with an instructor that is not a certified coach or trainer, it's in your best interest to choose someone who is certified in first-aid. Additionally, you might want to pop in on a few of their existing lessons to see how things are run before you sign up.

How can I jump better?

Jumping Hints

So you've stocked up on English tack and supplies, but will that help you become a better jumper? Not likely. Jumping can be difficult to master but, practice makes perfect.

If you are an inexperienced rider you should use a neck strap on the horse so that you will not panic and yank on the reins, poking the animal in the mouth with the bit.

In the approach, sit down completely in the saddle, keeping your legs close to the horse. It is important that you support your weight with your legs, more specifically your feet and thighs, instead of your hands. Do not look down, and be gentle with the reins—let the horse move his neck and head freely.

As soon as the horse starts to lift off of the ground, lean your body forward and bring yourself out of the saddle slightly. When the animal is completely in the air, follow his mouth gently with the reins. At the same time, move your body slightly forward to help keep your balance. When the horse lands, allow your body to resume the standard riding position.

How should I adjust my bridle?

Adjust Your Bridle

When it comes to English tack and the show ring, it's important that you get your horse looking polished and well tailored before stepping in front of the judges. Is your horse projecting the right kind of image? Image is everything so it is essential that your horse look perfect. One of the most important aspects of your horse's appearance is the bride. Make sure that your horse has a properly adjusted English bridle. Not sure how to adjust a bridle? Here are some pointers:

• Begin by adjusting the cheek pieces of the bridle in such a way that a wrinkle forms on either side of your horse's mouth as a result of the bit.

• If you would like to add an extra air of sophistication to your animal, position the buckles of the cheek piece so that they are even on either side and sit beside the largest eye bones. If the buckles won't sit right, have them adjusted by a professional.

• When buckling the throatlatch you don't want to choke the horse. There should be enough space underneath it for your fist.

• The noseband should rest a finger-width beneath the cheekbones of the animal so adjust the cavesson accordingly. And, after buckling the noseband you should easily be able to fit two fingers underneath it.

• Make sure that the brow band sits in that natural hollow under the animal's ears. It should also sit straight on the forehead.

What should I look for in an English saddle?

Buying an English Saddle

If you're in the market for a new saddle, keep in mind that you will not find many leather English saddles that run less than $800. And, the higher-end ones will cost several thousand dollars. As you can see, saddles can be pricey so don't buy one on a whim—determine exactly what you need ahead of time. Then, purchase your saddle online or from a tack shop.

It's in your better interest not to purchase cheap saddle packages that have a price tag of only a few hundred dollars—keep in mind that you'll get what you pay for. You will end up with warped saddletrees and poorly flocked panels that will injure your horse. If you're on a tight budget, you're better off buying a quality used saddle that a cheapo new one.

Before dropping any cash on a saddle, decide which event you'll be using it in the most. Keep in mind that jumping saddles have short stirrups, and the seat is specially created to hold the rider forward and off of the horse to assist in jumping. On the other hand, dressage saddles are equipped with deeper seats that keep the rider close to the animal's back—this way the rider will have a good feel of what the horse is up to.

Which style of riding should I take lessons in?

Don't Take the Easy Route

It is often rumored that Engish riding is more difficult than Western riding. English riding requires a new rider to coordinate multiple skills (reins, balance, legs) in order to successfully control the horse. This can be quite complicated for a new rider and will likely take a great deal of practice and lessons to master. In Western riding, however, it is a lot easier to get started without as much intensive instruction.

If you want to learn to ride but are not sure what style you are more interested in, it's a good idea to take English lessons. Once you have gotten used to the multiple skills involved with English riding and you can tolerate the considerably smaller saddle (English saddles are noticeably smaller than Western ones) switching to Western will be a fairly simple process. On the other hand, if you try to go from Western to English you will basically have to learn from scratch.

How should I maintain my tack?

Caring for Your Tack

Caring for your English tack is the best way to keep it looking and functioning well. Optimally, wiping your tack after each ride is your best bet. However, we all lead busy and hectic lives and there isn't always time for saddle rub down. You should definitely wipe it down a few times a week, on extra-dirty days. At the very minimum you should rinse the bit after each ride (don't put soap on it).

You should set aside some time once a week to sit down, take your tack apart, and clean each piece. Dirt and grime has a tendency to accumulate in the little crevices that you can only reach by dismantling everything. And, while everything is in pieces, you should examine each unit carefully, searching for loose stitching, wear, cracks, etc. If any of the pieces look iffy, don't risk your safety or the safety of your horse—replace or repair it. You don't want to be taking a jump and have your stirrup rip clean off!

How can I keep myself from slipping around in my English saddle?

Keep Those Britches in Place!

English saddles can hard to get used to. Many English riders complain that they have great difficulty correctly sitting a canter and trot because they slip around while sitting in the saddle. As a last resort, many English riders will use full seat britches. These britches often require special care, run a bit pricey, and can be pretty uncomfortable.

Instead of shelling out big bucks and jeopardizing your comfort, here is a simple solution: saddle soap in your tack box. Prior to riding, rub the saddle soap all over the leather of your saddle. This method will offer adequate tackiness without completely adhering your bottom to the saddle. It won't damage the saddle and it can easily be washed out of britches. Finally, you can stay put.

What type of English riding apparel should I wear?

Wardrobe, Please!

English riding apparel should be neat and elegant. English riding is graceful and stylish and an English rider should look the part. If it's time to step into wardrobe and your clueless, have no fear; we're here to help. Here is a brief guide that will have you looking perfect from head to toe:

• You should where a light-colored shirt and secure the shirt with a tiepin.

• English riding pants are called breeches. They should have suede pieces on the inner area of the knees—this will give the rider a better grip on the horse.

• The riding jacket should be a dark color and should end just below the waist.

• The boots should be leather, hit just above the knee, fit snugly, and be black or brown. Make sure they are slender enough in the foot area so that you're not struggling to fit your feet in the stirrups. Don't forget to but spurs on those babies!

• A helmet should fit the shape of your head perfectly (even if that requires adjustment padding). And, do not bunch your hair up underneath the helmet.

• A crop will finish the outfit off (it should be around 36'' long).

How should I do my horse's laundry?

Do Your Horse's Laundry!

Your English saddle is going to get dirty. Your horse is going to do the laundry, so it's up to you to help keep the animal clean! It's a great idea to keep a big laundry basket on hand in the stable or barn where you can toss all of the washables. Be sure to toss grooming towels, leg wraps, saddle pads, saddle covers, etc. All of these can get extremely dirty! You should do at least one load of stable laundry a week. Terrycloth towels, track bandages, fleece pads, leg quilts, cotton pads, and polo wraps are all machine washable as well as safe for the dryer.

Some shipping boots can be tossed right into the machine—only if they are small to medium in size and are composed of fleece, Velcro, and nylon. If, however, your boots are larger and made out of stiffer materials you should wash them by hand and leave them out to dry.

What kinds of competition are in a dressage event?

Dressage Competitions

There's a lot more to know about English riding than which saddles to buy, and the appropriate English riding apparel. English riding is a difficult sport to perfect, even when you get down to the basics. Displaying controlled skills on a horse is called "dressage." Dressage is the basis for all other forms of riding. The truth is, however, that dressage is quite complicated—so much, in fact, that there are dressage competitions. Think you're up to par? Here are some typical ménage patterns in a dressage competition:

• Piaffe: A trot in place

• Piourette: The act of successfully turning in place while cantering. The horse should make the smallest possible circle by turning on it's hind legs.

• Half Pass: The horse will go diagonally, moving forward and sideways simultaneously at a trot. The side legs should move out, while the remaining legs cross over.

• Flying Lead Changes: The horse will canter, changing leads between strides—it resembles skipping.

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