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Ride More Tour offers Horse care, saddle fitting tips

For more information about colic prevention, please visit http://www.AAEP.org/Health_Articles_View.php?id=191.

When it comes to horses, more information is always beneficial, whether it relates to horse care or using the proper tack. Having the opportunity to learn this information is what inspired dozens of people to attend the Horse&Rider Ride More Tour.

This interactive workshop given by equine experts offered advice and inspiration to horse enthusiasts of all levels. The 2013 tour kicked off on April 5 at Brighton Feed and Saddlery in Brighton, Colo.

“We want to arm horse owners and enthusiasts with the best information to improve their horse lives — from health and management tactics to tack tips to riding skills,” says Horse&Rider managing editor Jennifer Paulson.

Paulson talked about the latest in horse care, including horse nutrition, colic prevention and deworming. When it comes to colic prevention, she suggests following the 10 tips given by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP).

The first tip is about routine. “Horses are all about routine. You need to feed at the same time every day, turn them out at the same time every day, ride at the same time every day. If you are going to do anything different, ease it into the routine,” she said.

The second, third and fourth tips have to do with nutrition. “Be sure to feed a high quality diet that’s based on forage. That’s really important. You want to avoid feeding excessive grains and supplements. Divide any supplements or grain feeding throughout the feeding periods, instead of doing it all at once, which can cause digestive upset, which is just another word for colic,” she stated.

She continued with the next three tips. “Follow a regular and reliable parasite control program. You want to provide daily turn-out and exercise. You need to provide clean, fresh water at all times. The only time you don’t want to, is after a strenuous exercise session. You want to give them small sips of lukewarm water, so you can avoid colic and other digestive issues.”

The eighth tip is related to the ground. “This isn’t necessary a problem in Colorado because of our clay soils, but don’t feed your horse on sand. Sand colic is a huge issue. If you mix sand into your footing, maybe to soften it up, remember not to feed there because that sand can get into their digestive system and really messes them up,” Paulson said.

The next tip is to keep grounds picked up and clean. “Check all hay, bedding, the pasture, everywhere your horse goes to make sure he’s not going to get any blister beetles, or noxious weeds,” she said.

She continued, “The 10th item, and it is an overarching item, it just to reduce stress. Horses are very sensitive to stress, and that leads to a colic issue. If you can ease into changes, keep their routine regular for them, you will have a lot less problems.”

After Paulson finished her presentation, the workshop shifted to information about tack. Having the wrong saddle can lead to discomfort and pain for both horse and rider. Roger Allgeier, owner of Brighton Feed and Saddlery and a certified saddle fitter, who is extremely knowledgeable about all types of saddles and saddle trees, discussed proper saddle fit for both horse and rider. He also discussed saddles for different disciplines, tree construction and materials, and tips on what to look for when purchasing a saddle. He then demonstrated proper saddle fit with several different horses.

“When we talk about things on saddles, there’s very rarely anything wrong. There is very few black and whites in this horse industry. It’s almost all shades of gray,” he said.

He began his presentation with the basic anatomy of the saddle, and how that relates to horse anatomy. “The 14th vertebrae is the balance point, the center of gravity, or the center point of the horse. That’s where the rider would sit on the horse. You can measure from the highest point of the withers to the hip, and 40 percent of that distance from the front, and 60 percent from the hip is about where that 14th vertebrae is,” Allgeier explained.

He continued, “The 18th rib is the last rib. English riders would like not to have any weight past the 18th rib, but with a western saddle with a bigger skirt, you will find it going past the 18th rib. As long as you are resting on bone structure, you are fine.”

He then talked about the saddle tree. “The measurements of a saddle tree are always in the bare tree. When you put a good heavy cover of rawhide, the leather and a cushioned seat, it shortens it. A seat can easily finish in a finished saddle a half inch smaller than the bare tree. Sometimes people don’t understand that if they order one online,” he said.

The next part of his presentation focused on bar angles. “Most bar angles are about 90 degrees. There are three things I’d like to point out on measuring a tree. The most common, relative difference that most people understand is the width,” he said.

He continued, “There are three components to the front of the saddle fitting a horse. Obviously you have the width, and that’s important. Angle is very important. The third thing is how clean and flat that bar pad is. You really need to know all three things.”

After that, he talked about the importance of having a straight tree. “I look at horses three or four times a week here, my whole crew does. I try to do an evaluation, especially from behind the horse, to look at the withers. Nineteen out of 20 horses are not symmetrical. Nineteen out of 20 riders are not symmetrical. If a horse is higher on one side and a rider has a longer leg on the other side, you really have a problem,” he said.

He added, “People have asked me to build a crooked tree to fit a certain horse and I can’t do it. That horse could get struck by lightning and then we have a crooked tree out there somewhere in the population with our name on it, and we don’t want that.”

Allgeier talked about fitting a type of horse, instead of just one. “When people tell me they have three or four horses but can only bring one, I tell them to bring the worst backed horse and hardest to fit. Sometimes we get kind of barn blind about this, but really shouldn’t try to fit a horse. We should try to fit a type of horse, because that horse is going to change,” he explained.

After the indoor presentation, Allgeier took the attendees outside for a live saddle fitting demonstration. He covered the basics of different types of trees, and how they fit on different horses.

Brighton Feed and Saddlery carries quality tack and feed to meet the needs of customers who make their living horseback, “suburban cowboys,” or those who appreciate true horsemanship and want to improve their own expertise. Their selection of instructional videos and books help horse owners get the most from themselves and their horse, and they also offer a wide selection of books, music, jewelry and other gift items for those who enjoy the western heritage and lifestyle.

The Equine Network provides, creates and distributes relevant content and services to passionate horse enthusiasts while connecting them to each other and the marketplace. ❖

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