12. GEAR TIPS
There's a lot of gear on the market. But basically 2 overall styles: Western & English.
The gear is very different depending on which style you go with.
Western gear is designed for Western style riding which includes cutting, camp drafting, barrel racing etc... English gear is designed for English style riding such as Dressage, Jumping, Cross Country etc...
Whether you are going to compete or not in any of these sports it is important to get gear that is going to suit what you are going to do.
Don't trip yourself up at the outset; if you go and get a western bridle with long reins to ride along trails with you may find yourself in trouble if the horse shies and the long reins flick up and smack it on the rear end when it does so and then it thinks you've whipped it for being scared and spits the dummy...
If you get a Western style halter, these are the rope ones with knots, you may find your horse is ill behaved and unpredictable because the knots are placed on pressure points purposefully and dig in at all times.
If you go and get a stock saddle that weighs a ton, you weigh a ton and your horse is tiny...you do the math...horses will only tolerate so much unfairness before they throw the toys out of the cot.
Don't get me wrong, there is comfortable Western gear out there. But you need to be aware of how each piece of gear affects your horse.
MYTH: "If you have 'harsh' gear on your horse and do things up tightly the horse will behave more".
NOT TRUE. You see it all the time, people wrenching the bits up with the cheek pieces so the horse is physically 'smiling'.
Would you go and discipline a child BEFORE they did something wrong???? No.
So why is the horse getting punished for nothing and what incentive or reason would it have to be good if it gets harshness whether it is obedient or disobedient?
No matter what style of gear you get, it needs to be comfortable for the horse and yourself.
If you are hurting your horse when you ride it will not trust, respect or listen to you.
So get the gear right first.
Here's the kindest, most comfortable gear for your horse I know and use for every horse for all purposes:
-Wintec / Bates Saddle, synthetic and extremely lightweight, made by extremely highly skilled people and horses love them and are comfortable in them. (Can pick them up second hand off Ebay or Gumtree cheap, but new will empty the wallet).
-A puffer saddle pad; lets face it, having a saddle strapped on you to the point you can barely breath is never going to be completely comfortable, let alone adding the weight of a rider bouncing around on top.
I refuse to ride any horse without at least a 'puffer pad' underneath the saddle to cushion it. There are so many saddle blankets which don't cushion anywhere near enough.
Hint: When you put the saddle on, pull the saddle blanket up hard underneath the pommel and at the back as well before doing the girth up so it's not suctioned over the withers of the horse hard while you ride, this also stops the saddle slipping from side to side.
-Get a girth that is padded, luxury girths are comfortable for the horse, or get a padded girth cover.
I prefer English buckle up halters because they are comfortable for the horse, but be careful not to leave them, or any of your gear out in the sun before saddling up as any metal or black or even gear in general can heat up and without you realizing how hot it is, be burning the horse!
-Lead ropes are tricky. The best to have is those lightweight nylon / mesh round ones, they are not too short or too long, they have no give or stretch so when you ask something of your horse on the lead it can feel it rather than it being absorbed in any elasticity in the lead.
Too long will get you in trouble, fumbling around, horse stepping on it etc..., too short will have you too close to the horse and at risk of losing the horse if it shies suddenly on the lead, too heavy gets in the way, is tiring for the handler and is annoying for the horse.
-For a bridle just make sure it's comfortable. The bit that horses are most comfortable with is a plain eggbutt snaffle bit and this is the most kind, you can get rubber covered ones which are even better.
-If you want a nose band for 'looks' do it up so the horse can still yawn, chew / open it's mouth and it wouldn't be annoying or tight and it should be half way up the nose, not hanging annoyingly over the soft part of the lower nose.
The bridle should only be as tight as to cause maximum 2 wrinkles in the sides of the horses mouth.
You should be able to fit your hand sideways in between the throat latch and the horses' cheek.
All should be comfortable and not too tight, (unless you want trouble).
When you do the girth up do it slowly a couple of holes at a time, pat the horse and switch sides ,i.e; 2 holes 1 side then a couple the other until tight enough.
A good idea is to pick up the front feet, bent at the knee and gently slowly pull the horses upper leg forward to get rid of any skin bunched up under the girth pinching, which could cause the horse to buck if it didn't know what that pain was, i.e; it could think it is being bitten hard by something.
It's also a good idea to take your horse for a quiet relaxed few steps or stroll before mounting so the saddle can settle and adjust as necessary before you get on and the horse can have that time to let you know if anything is pinching or uncomfortable.
It's a good habit to put Vasaline or petroleum jelly on the corners of the horses' mouth before the bridle goes on so the bit doesn't rub the corners of the mouth and make it uncomfortable or sore.
And when you put the bridle on, if you stand facing forward, not facing the horse but beside the horses' head looking the same direction they are, hold the bridle half way up the cheek pieces and drop the bit over the nose and guide the bit into the mouth using your hand and thumb in the side of the horses mouth to open their mouth, you will avoid banging and hurting the horses teeth or head with the bit this way.
Also when taking the bridle off do so extra slow avoiding banging the teeth.
TIP: Even wild stallions will open their mouth if you slip a thumb into the sides where the bit goes, there is no teeth there so don't worry.
There is a massive variety of gear out there, but the key things are comfort for your horse and yourself so it's a help not a hindrance.