Monthly Archives: May 2014

Building your own arena? A few things to keep in mind…

Like many of you, we only dream of the day when we have a backyard complete with a well-drained riding surface (Olympic-size and covered, please, Santa!). We were interested in these tips courtesy of Martin Collins USA, a company that makes artificial footing, on building a good base. the information is very helpful, no matter what type of footing you plan to use. Enjoy!

Outdoor ArenaThere are many common mistakes that can be easily avoided when building an equestrian arena. North America’s premier equestrian footing experts, Martin Collins USA, set out the major pitfalls that can arise when either building or getting an arena built, and how to avoid them.

1. Using the wrong quantity or quality of stone

You should always be aware of the type of materials required for you build and what you are being supplied with.

  • For the base layer (stone drainage layer), it is VITAL that clean, hard, angular stone is used.
  • Clean: means the stone has been washed so stone dust/fine soil is not washed straight in to your drains, causing reduced flow of surplus water. We recommend granite or a hard limestone (not soft limestone).
  • The stone layer should be 5” (150mm) compacted depth when laid, ideally the stone layer should extend 50cm beyond the fence/kick boards so the perimeter drain is laid outside the school.
  • Be cautious if your contractor does not specify the grade/quantity or depth of the materials being laid. Clearly if less stone is used, it will be cheaper and some contractors will reduce the specification and price in order to win the work.
  • Hard – means the stones are frost resistant, i.e. will not break down after successive winters, or fracture due to the weight of maintenance machinery.
  • The quarry can provide ‘technical data sheets’ if in any doubt. A good test – take two stones and bang them together, they should not dust, crack or break – if they do, they are not frost resistant.
  • Angular stones must inter-link together, so they need to be of similar size, typically 1 3/4 to 2 3/4. (If the stone is rounded it will never “knit” together, so the surface will never be correctly compacted if the base layer moves).

2. Inadequate Drainage:

  • There should be at least one drain across the school and one on the perimeter, on all sides
  • If the ground is heavy clay, additional cross drains should be installed and the diameter of the exterior drains increased
  • It is important that the drain runs have a consistent fall
  • If the drainage runs (trenches) are up and down (like a dogs hind leg), do not lay the pipe with pea shingle (fine small pebbles, that are “hard”)
  • The tops of all the trenches should be covered with a fine grade (eg 4 oz) non woven geotextile membrane which will allow the water to pass in to the drains, but prevent silt/sediment.
  • Avoid purchasing unwashed sand for the equestrian surface.

3. Weak Fencing Posts

  • Fencing posts should always be concreted in, as they need to support the retaining boards.
  • This combination should be strong enough to withstand the surface being packed against them, and able to endure being struck by any maintenance machinery.

4. Building at the wrong time of year/in the wrong conditions

  • During a dry period preferably in the summer.
  • Clay in particular needs to be carefully managed, especially during earthworks, such as “cut and fill”, so “clay heave” does not occur. (This is most likely to occur when wet and under pressure, which causes it “bubble up”, this can move the stone layer and membranes, leading to contamination of the surface and poor drainage. Should this occur, remedial works will be required).

5. Incorrect cut and fill

Cut and Fill is the process of cutting in to a bank, and re-laying the material lower down the bank to create a “level formation” for your outdoor equine arena.   The banks/slopes must be created correctly to support the new formation.

Top tips from Martin Collins:

  • The recommended depth of stone is 5” (150mm), especially for difficult ground, such as heavy clay.
  • It is important to include drainage trenches on the outside of the arena.  These external drains will stop the “run off” from adjacent paddocks – so this is especially important if an arena has been cut into the slope.  They are also important because the outside track typically has the heaviest “foot fall.

Happy Memorial Day!

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????We hope you’re enjoying a long weekend full of cookouts, fireworks, and time in the saddle (hopefully not all at once). Need to have just a little more fun? We can help. Check out our great Memorial Day specials at our online store.

What’s that? Explaining long lines

Long Lines maybeYou may have heard a horse person casually refer to “long lining” their horse from time to time and wondered–what’s that all about, anyway?

Long lining is a great training tool for horses of all breeds and disciplines, especially young horses or those training for a new career. It’s also a great option for horses who are recovering from an injury and need some exercise but can’t yet carry a rider.

Long lining basically refers to driving a horse from the ground. Before beginning, it’s important the horse be accustomed to carrying a saddle or surcingle and recognize a verbal command to move forward.

Two lines of around eight or ten feet in length each run from the horse’s bit through a surcingle or saddle to the driver behind the horse. The driver can teach the horse to respond to the feeling of the lines on its sides and begin to encourage him to bend to the right and to the left when moving through turns and circles.

A horse being long lined

A horse being long lined

Being exposed to long lining before riding can give young horses a better sense of brakes and steering before carrying a rider. For dressage riders, it’s also a great time to begin to introduce some lateral exercises before climbing in the saddle.

Long lining can give riders a stronger sense of how their hands relate to the horse’s mouth, often encouraging them to be gentler.

We sell long lines in a variety of lengths, colors, and styles at our online shop. Our beta biothane long reins are excellent for use in the arena, where they may get wet or sandy–beta comes clean when rinsed in soapy water, and if you send it through the washing machine, it’s good as new! Best of all, our long reins are just as strong as nylon alternatives without being rough on your hands.

Are You Behind the Bit Yet?

You’ve heard us tout our fantastic dressage friends over at the Behind the Bit blog before, but here’s a new reason to love and read them religiously. Hint: it might involve one of our fantastic turnout halters, so if your dressage mount is a little less than graceful in the field, this is your time to pick up a spare!

High-Tech Horsemanship…in Your Horse’s Shoes

horse shoe farrierCan your horse’s shoes help him talk? That’s the question Horse Sense Shoes is asking as the company prepares to launch a new health monitoring system for horses, and we think it’s pretty cool!

The system is comprised of a sensor that fits onto a horse’s shoe to detect whether he is standing or lying down, and combines with another sensor placed near the tail, which monitors respiration and temperature. The system beams the information to your iPhone or computer, and it’s thought that the combination of vitals and standing status can help an owner or manager detect illness even when they’re not within sight of the horse.

What do you think of a high-tech system like this one?

A Salute to Peso



We got this photo of search and rescue team horse Peso, modeling one of our reflective bridle and breastcollar. Peso and his person Vicky are part of DELMARVA, a search and rescue team that helps folks in Delware, Maryland, and Virginia, as well as other Mid-Atlantic states if requested. Search and rescue teams can help out in all kinds of emergencies, and mounted teams have a particular advantage in that they can traverse mountainous areas where vehicles can’t reach. As trail riders ourselves, we really appreciate the work of DELMARVA and others like them so we love getting orders from teams like this to help them stay visible and accessible on the job.

If you’re interested in our reflective tack, check out our online shop.

You Almost Need Your Sunglasses at Night

…in order to handle our Day-Glo reflective tack. We snapped this picture of Sue, chief Two Horse model, at night with her reflective English bridle. Pretty bright, huh?

We’re big advocates of safety, no matter what type of riding you do, and in the summers when people are out riding later into the day, we think having reflectors is extremely important.

See our full range of reflective tack here.

Reflective Day-Glo English bridle

Reflective Day-Glo English bridle

Weight Watchers: Keeping an Eye on Your Horse’s Body Condition

Special thanks to the folks at Equine Guelph, the horse owners’ and caregivers’ center at the University of Guelph, for providing this article on monitoring your horse’s weight.

It’s odd how two people can look at the same horse and view it with a different eye. One person may regard a horse as fat, but to the other it may appear to be just right. One might describe a horse to be quite “ribby”, but in the eyes of another, it appears lean and fit. While it’s customary for some horse owners to “eyeball” their horses to determine its ideal weight, this just leaves room for error, which can seriously affect its health. Instead, there is a better way.


Since the mid-1980’s, veterinarians and equine nutritionists alike have employed a system to measure fat coverage in horses with a scientific process called Body Condition Scoring as a more objective way to assess a horse’s weight. Developed by Don Henneke, Ph.D. during his graduate study at Texas A & M University in 1979, Body Condition Scoring for Horses (BSC) was designed as a ranking system and remains the most reliable tool in determining a horse’s body condition. If done on a regular basis, it is an excellent way to monitor the nutritional wellbeing of your horse over time.


The Henneke Scoring System


BCS is a numbering system that uses a scale of 1 through 9 to describe the amount of fat and muscle a horse is carrying. A score of 1 is considered to be a poor or emaciated horse with no body fat, while a 9 is extremely fat or obese. Application of this method assists in evaluating a horse’s body condition no matter the breed, age, body type or sex.


“The 1 to 9 scale is scientifically published and accepted, and has been in use for many years since Dr. Henneke developed it,” says Gayle Ecker, director of Equine Guelph at the University of Guelph. “However, this body condition score method is not a subject that is common knowledge. While it is generally included in most courses on horse care and nutrition, there are many horse owners that have not been exposed to this system of assessment and fewer still that have had structured training on it.”


Sjouckje Van De Elsenerhof

Sjouckje Van De Elsenerhof

Ecker goes on to add, “Many may not be aware of the value of this scientific tool, and there are some who feel they can quite adequately eyeball the horse. Proper training for this [Henneke BCS] hands-on technique is important for its consistent use.”


Through the use of physical palpation (use of hands to feel for areas of fat coverage) and visual assessment of anatomical sites, six specific areas of the horse’s body are assessed – neck, withers, loin, tail head, ribs and shoulder. The scores are then totaled up and divided by six to obtain a more accurate score. The resulting number would be the horse’s rating on the Henneke Body Scoring Condition Chart.


The 2013 Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equinesrecommends BCS as a tool for determining if an animal is too thin, too fat or in ideal condition and provides information on each individual score from 1 to 9. According to the Code, a BCS of 4 to 6 is recommended for most horses, miniature horses and ponies. However, this rating would be dependent upon the animal’s purpose, breed and life stage. The Code is also now being utilized by the OSPCA in assessing potential equine welfare cases.


The Difference between Weight and Condition


In the past, some horse owners have applied other options to keep tabs on their horse’s weight through the use of portable scales, which are costly, and weight taping. However, these methods just provide a measurement of the horse’s body weight, not its condition. In addition, depending on how the tape is applied in the heart girth area, weight tapes can be very inaccurate.


Ecker notes that weight alone does not give us enough information, as a fat horse and a well-muscled horse can be of the same weight, but as in humans, muscle weighs more than fat. Instead, applying the BCS technique of examining the six areas where fat is deposited on a horse’s body will help determine the body condition score in order to assist with the horse’s overall nutrient requirements.


“Weight determination is important for feeding according to weight and growth, and for specific medications that are administered by the vet relative to the weight of the horse,” Ecker says. “However, weight alone does not even come close to telling the story of nutritional balance. If we had two growing boys that both weighed the same weight, what would that tell us? One could be very tall and slim and the other could be very short and carry more weight than is advisable, but both weigh the same.”


When measuring a horse’s condition in order to maintain an ideal BCS, Henderson notes that this practice should be done on a regular basis. “The general rule is that what you see today is what you fed two to four weeks ago,” says Dr. Brianne Henderson, who specializes in ambulatory horse sport medicine and emergency and critical care at Toronto Equine Hospital. “For that reason, I recommend horses that are healthy and in good work be assessed once per month through the BCS method. If you are trying to make a change, either weight gain or loss, then the horse should be assessed every other week.”


A graduate of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh, Scotland, Henderson also furthered her trained as a hospital intern at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. Most recently, she was the Assistant Team Veterinarian for Team Canada at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington. She points out that in addition to careful record keeping, documenting with photographs of your horse is also an immense help when trying to make a change in body weight and condition. “It gives you a concrete visual to compare to when you are three to six months down the road.”


Too Fat or Too Thin?


Once a person becomes properly trained with Henneke’s 1 to 9 scoring system, determining optimal body condition can be simple no matter the horse’s age or breed. “Breed cannot be used to justify a skinny horse or fat horse, as the system is designed to look at fat cover, and this is irrespective of age or breed,” Ecker says. “There is a healthy range of scores from 4 to 7, and where your horse falls within that narrow margin can be different depending on the use of the horse. For example, a broodmare going into the winter can be a 7, as this will help keep up her body weight during the cold of the winter. However, an athletic horse should be a 4 or 5, as it is not desirable for that horse to be carrying excess weight when they are running, jumping, turning, and more, as this extra weight puts more stress on the joints, ligaments and tendons.”bran mash


While a horse rated 1- 3 on the Henneke scale is too thin or dangerously thin and easy to spot as a case you would report to the SPCA for a possible neglect scenario, many horse owners have difficulty acknowledging that their horse is also at risk should it rate at the other end of the scale with an 8 or 9.


“Much the same as in people, viewing obesity as a disease in horses is a more recent revelation,” notes Henderson. “With the amount of current research being focused on the impact of fat cells on the hormones and metabolism of animals, specifically insulin resistance and equine metabolic syndrome, we must start to manage our horses in a manner which ensures their longevity and reduces the risk of colic, laminitis and orthopaedic disease worsened by a high body condition.”


She notes that there is a strong association between feeding good food as a demonstration of love and status, and as a result, Equine Metabolic Syndrome (insulin resistance) is becoming more commonly diagnosed amongst our horse population.


“The cresty necks and chronic laminitis associated with this disease can be hugely detrimental to a horse’s athletic career and general welfare,” says Henderson. “What we must remember is that the original horse survived on the poor quality pasture of Mongolia. This is what their system is designed for. While the elite athlete and geriatric will require additional nutritional support, the majority of backyards horses would likely do better with a diet higher in plain forage than concentrates.”


A horse that is too thin or too fat is prone to colic, illness and disease. By understanding your horse’s body condition through the use of Henneke’s Body Condition Scoring, you’ll be in a better position to prevent any problems that may arise.


“If you are concerned about your horse’s body condition, consult your regular veterinarian to ensure that all other systems are in working order such as teeth, parasite load, and hoof balance,” states Henderson. “They will be able to help you make a plan for any safe weight loss or gain.”


The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines, which includes Henneke’s Body Condition Scoring system, can be viewed or downloaded at:

Sign up for our free e-newsletter at which will deliver monthly welfare tips throughout 2014 and announce tools to aid all horse owners in carrying out their ‘Full-Circle-Responsibility’ to our beloved horses. Visit Equine Guelph’s Welfare Education page for more information.


In partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Equine Guelph is developing a ‘Full-Circle-Responsibility’ equine welfare educational initiative which stands to benefit the welfare of horses in both the racing and non-racing sectors.


Equine Guelph will be hosting an Emergency Preparedness course for horse owners Sept 18 followed by a Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue Awareness and Operations Level course Sept 19, 20, 21.


Contact Susan Raymond for more details at

Congratulations to Gaia!

Congratulations to Gaia, winner of our recent tack giveaway with the Behind the Bit blog! We love meeting our followers on social media, and readers in the blogosphere. Gaia is a 2-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse who has been hand-raised by her human, Susan. Gaia was a dystocia foal, meaning her delivery was complicated; in Gaia’s case, her dam suffered a fractured pelvis, which meant that she couldn’t take care of Gaia. Susan tells us Gaia didn’t have to be bottle fed but actually drank milk out of a Tupperware container.

Meet Gaia, the Tennessee Walking Horse

Meet Gaia, the Tennessee Walking Horse

Because of Gaia’s age, she’s not ready to begin working under saddle yet, but will be starting ground driving soon and her people hope to use her new bitless bridle in her early training.

Susan tells us that because of the way Gaia grew up, she’s very people-oriented; sort of a “pocket pony” whose personality should help her excel at whatever she does. We’re expecting big things from this little girl!

Gaia will get a great start with our two-in-one bitless bridle, which converts between a cross-under bitless bridle and a sidepull. The cross-under style works with more generalized pressure than the sidepull, which focuses pressure on the horse’s nose. Many of our customers find that the bitless bridle gives them both extra control and a better sense of connectivity with their horse. The flexibility of the two-in-one makes it a great option for those trying a bitless bridle for the first time.

Thoughts on Pasture Time

We came across this interesting press release item from Dr. Juliet Getty of Definitely worth considering if you have choices about how long to leave your horse out on pasture during the spring and summer. Enjoy!

If you let your horse out to graze on pasture for only a few hours each day, and provide hay the rest of the time, you’ve likely noticed how he approaches the grass like a vacuum cleaner, barely lifting his head the entire time he is outside. On the other hand, horses who graze on pasture 24/7 are more relaxed, eating less grass at a slower pace, taking time to rest and interact with buddies.

Researchers at North Carolina State University were interested in just how much pasture horses consume at varying combinations of pasture and hay availability. What they found confirms what we have all witnessed. At varying levels of pasture turnout, an 1100 lb (500 kg) horse will consume the following amounts of grass dry matter (all horses were given free choice hay when removed from pasture):

  • 24 hours/day: 0.77 lb per hour (0.35 kg/hr)
  • 9 hours/day: 1.32 lb/hr (0.6 kg/hr)
  • 6 hours/day: 1.65 lb/hr (0.75 kg/hr)
  • 3 hours/day: 2.2 lb/hr (1.0 kg/hr)

The less time you allow for pasture grazing, the more excited your horse will be at the opportunity to have fresh grass and he will eat nearly three times faster than if he had access to pasture 24/7.