Susie Hutchinson and Samsung Woodstock foiled by jump crew

Sometimes those big jumper courses can get confusing . . . at least that was probably the excuse of the jump crew when they ended up standing IN FRONT of a jump that Susie Hutchinson and Samsung Woodstock were trying to jump in the 1993 Volvo FEI World Cup Final.

I’m not sure what’s more impressive — that she didn’t run them over, that her horse came back and jumped it a second time with no fuss, or that she is riding the horse in just a bit and reins! Note: there is a chin strap underneath the bit which helps hold it all in place.

Susie was not penalized for the stop and ended up fourth in the competition.

Supracor pad helps keep horses’ backs cool

Supracor pad

After riding on a hot day, I simply hose down the Supracor pad. It’s dry by the next day.

When I was a kid, saddle pads were used primarily to keep your saddle clean. They were thin pieces of cloth, mostly white.

Now? Saddle pads are therapeutic. They have pockets for shims to improve the fit of  saddles. They provide non-slip surfaces. They absorb shock. And they can help keep your horse’s back cool by wicking away moisture.

I’ve written before about the benefits of using real sheepskin pads. When I had Kroni, he used to get terrible bumps on his back in the summer. Sheepskin was the only type of pad that kept him comfortable. Those pads are surprisingly durable; I still have most of the ones I bought for him in regular rotation, more than a decade later!

Another pad that I like is the Supracor Cool Grip pad. I found it after I started looking for a pad that would reduce impact and not retain heat, but which I could hose off after each ride. Endurance riders are big fans of Supracor pads precisely for the reasons I wanted to use it — and I figured if it works for them, anything I do will be less taxing.

honeycomb structure

Supracor pads are made with a structure that resembles a honeycomb

Supracor pads don’t feel like traditional saddle pads. They are spongy, somewhere between rigid and floppy although they do fit nicely under a saddle, conform to your horse’s back and then return to their original shape.  The company uses a material called Stimulite, which is made from a combination of thermoplastics and thermoplastic elastomers (think rubber and plastic) and manufactured in a structure that resembles a honeycomb.  According to the website:

Supracor’s flexible, fusion-bonded honeycomb technology utilizes the same geometry as rigid aerospace honeycomb, eg. a cellular matrix comprised of alternating thick- and thin-walled cells with eight interior and exterior radii. This geometry allows the matrix to be both lightweight and anisotropic: having varying degrees of resistance in its length, width and thickness.

 

The honeycomb structure for these pads which was originally developed for wheelchair cushions and mattresses to prevent and heal pressure sores. A nurse, who was also an equestrian, suggested to the company that they make saddle pads and thus, the Cool Grip pad was born. In addition to keeping your horse’s back cool the Cool Grip pads help reduce impact and distribute weight uniformly without significantly changing saddle fit.

Supracor under County

This shows the Supracor pad under my County saddle. Its shown just after I came back from a ride.

I have been using a Supracor pad now for about three years. They fit nicely under my saddles and have not changed how my saddles fit. I have two of the half pads and one of the endurance pads (which is much larger than the half pad. I like that one the least for my use as it’s a bit too large under my saddles).

All the science behind the pads is very cool, but the reason I like them is because they are practical, durable, easy to clean, and they look like they will last forever.

I haven’t found any real “research” about the pads’ performance except for this science project which compares Supracor and Equipedic pads. In my own experience, my horse’s backs are cool after riding, the saddles stay put and there is no soreness (keep in mind that my saddles are professionally fitted twice a year so I expect the saddles to fit and am not trying to use the pads to improve fit).

Cleaning them is a breeze. You just hose them down and leave them to dry.

The downside to the SupraCor pads (and all the other high tech pads on the market) is that they are expensive. The half pad retails for about $190 and some of the larger pads are even more expensive. I got mine either on eBay or Craig’s list. I paid half price for them and believe are likely to last for a long time. After three years of use they show no signs of breaking down or compressing.

Personally, I like the half pads the best. I bought an Endurance pad because I wanted something to use with forward cut XC saddle, and I find that a bit unwieldy, but the half pads are perfect. I keep one in the barn and one in my trailer. The black one looks practically new; the white one is a bit dingy but you can also buy covers for them that make them look more traditional (and cleaner).

(Note: I was not asked by the company to write a review and I was not provided with any product).

What’s your favorite saddle pad? Do you use anything special?

Beholder Crushes the Boys in the Pacific Classic

Just when you thought it was all about American Pharoah, out comes Beholder, winning the Pacific Classic on a hand ride by Gary Stevens, winning by 8 1/4 lengths.

The 5-year old Beholder is the first filly/mare to win this prestigious race and she sure made it look easy!  The victory, worth $600,000, increased Beholder’s career earnings to $4,256,600, with 14 wins in 19 starts, including nine in her last 10 under Stevens.

Beholder is no stranger to accolades. In 2012 she was named the American Champion 2-Year Old Filly, followed by being the American Champion 3-Year Old Filly the following year. In 2014 she won only one stakes race, losing most of her season to an injury.

There is already a talk of having her race against American Pharoah. What a match that would be.

Riding bitless doesn’t mean lack of control

Riding Bitless

You can read this article on the Chronicle of the Horse by clicking on the photo.

No, Kelly McKnight did not forget his bridle. He also didn’t forget that horses get some “say” in how they are ridden. When you read the horse bulletin boards you’d think there was a “magic bit” du jour. That if your dressage horse doesn’t like a loose ring snaffle, if your show hunter isn’t perfectly mellow in a D-ring, or your eventer can’t go cross country in his dressage bit that you are somehow doing something wrong.

For many years I hunted a Trakehner who loved to be ridden bitless. In fact, he told me very clearly, and for a long time, that he didn’t like bits, that they were

Once I discovered this bitless set up I had a much happier horse.

Once I discovered this bitless set up I had a much happier horse.

uncomfortable in his mouth, where his big tongue and low palate didn’t leave a lot of room.

Eventually, I tried riding him bitless. First I tried the Dr. Cook’s bridle, but he didn’t much care for the poll pressure. Then I discovered the LG bridle, which is basically a side pull bridle with the reins attached to a wheel. You can achieve a bit more leverage when you attach the reins to a spoke that turns the wheel very slightly.

This discovery was a real turning point for us because suddenly I had a happy, willing partner. He was soft and light in my hands, he jumped beautifully and he was never out of control. I hunted him bitless for many seasons. Sometimes it surprised people, who wondered if I had enough control in it.

Certainly, this isn’t for every horse. I’ve tried riding Freedom and Zelda both bitless and I don’t have a lot of control. It’s fine for a hack, but out hunting? I don’t think it would be much fun. But I think that everyone should try, on occasion, to give their horses a break and see what kind of ride they have without a bit. Who knows? You might never go back!

Remember Sheldon? The CANTER horse I had before Zelda? He also was a much happier horse without a bit. The important thing is to listen to your horse and see what works for him.

How about you? Do you ever ride bitless?

Keeping cool!

Freedom hosed down

Freedom enjoys being hosed down on hot days.

After a week of cooler weather, we are back to more typical August temperatures. These are beautiful summer days and I will treasure the memory of them all winter. But they are a bit hot for riding.

I love this video of a horse smart enough to create his own spa experience!

My horses, alas, have to depend upon the kindness of humans to hose them down and cool them off. Freedom, in particular, loves to get sprayed. Zelda? Not so much. She nipped me one of the last times I hosed her down, although I think she does appreciate the temporary relief.

Covered in mud

After getting hosed down, Freedom inevitably rolls so that he ends up covered in a crust of mud. It makes grooming irrelevant!

Then, they like to roll so that they emerge covered with a thick crust of mud and dirt, which I imagine works better than most commercial sprays to deter the bugs.

My horses spend most of the days in their run-in shed, and then venture out in the cooler overnight hours.

How do your horses beat the summer heat?

Twelve rules for buying a horse

Seven Rules for Buying a Horse

Read the original article by clicking on this photo.

Dr. David Ramey published a blog post today that has some great information in it called Seven Rules for Buying a Horse. Seriously, everyone should read it. I particularly like his statement,

You Can’t Predict the Future, where he says (among other things),

If you like the horse for how he is, and who he is, then go ahead and take the plunge.  But it’d be a shame if you avoided buying your next best friend because of a problem you thought that he might have, only to watch someone else have a great time with him because they didn’t share those same concerns.

Zelda

Zelda went on trial before my husband bought her for me. The vet who did the PPE said she “might” develop ring bone eventually because she’s a big horse.

I am enjoying my time with Zelda because when she went on trial (while I was riding her for my friend who owned her), the vet said that while she had no problems now, she could potentially develop ringbone because she’s a large horse. Yes, she’s a big girl, but I’m not going to worry about it just yet. I’m having too much fun.

I’d like to add a couple of additional rules based on my experiences buying horses. I haven’t bought a lot of horses, but I’ve generally had a lot of fun with the ones I’ve brought home.

Find a horse that likes the discipline that you enjoy. If you like a specific discipline, don’t just hope the horse will turn out to be suitable. Not every horse is good at every job. I bought a beautiful OTTB mare once who turned out to have zero jumping talent.  She hung her knees so badly that my trainer advised me to not jump anything solid if I was alone! I sold her to a non jumping home! As a foxhunter, I will only buy a horse that I know likes to hunt. Life is too short to convince one that doesn’t enjoy the speed, the excitement and the terrain. I’ve seen several people buy horses that didn’t like hunting and it’s just not fun.

Don’t spend more than you can afford to lose. A wise trainer told me this, right after she explained that the horse that was “perfect” today could become a pasture ornament tomorrow.

Get the opinion of a trusted friend or expert. It’s easy to fall in love with a horse when you are looking to buy. You project on this animal your hopes, your dreams and your romantic ideas of what you think you can accomplish. Always bring a trainer, a friend with a good eye, or a vet to make sure you remove the rose colored glasses before you spend the money. You need to buy the right horse for YOU. Which is not always the horse you imagine riding off into the sunset.

Don’t skip the pre-purchase exam. While it’s not necessary to x-ray a horse until it glows, getting a baseline evaluation of a horse’s health and suitability is important. As I said above, a horse doesn’t generally pass or fail a PPE, and it is only a snapshot in time. But an exam can help you understand a horse’s limitations or maintenance needs, and then you can make an educated decision about purchasing him. Very few horses are perfect, but you should have a clear idea of what you are getting into as an owner. Freedom, for instance, was retired from racing due to an apical sesamoid fracture and a “mild” suspensory injury. He made a full recovery from those injuries and they have never bothered him since. But it was something I needed to know about and evaluate to make sure he was suitable to be a hunt horse because that’s what I like to do.

Find a vet you trust, who understands your needs. Horses do not pass or fail a pre-purchase exam, but a vet who has done a lot of them, has a pretty fair idea of how well a horse will stand up to the job you want to do and can advise you accordingly. I had a horse vetted once in Ohio. It was a nice horse, but the films revealed an old fracture to the coffin bone that hadn’t healed quite right. I wanted a horse to event. My vet that while I could make up my own mind, if I were his daughter he’d tell me to pass because a bad step out on uneven ground might refracture the bone and be dangerous for me and the horse. For another job, the horse would have been fine. When I found the horse I ultimately bought, the same vet told me to buy him unless it meant eating peanut butter and jelly for the next four months. That horse was Kroni and I had him for a bit more than 12 years.

What are your rules for buying a horse?