Riding horses can be a great sports activity for an individual or a group. However, unlike team sports, riding horses requires not only a horse to ride, but also all the equipment that goes along with it for riding as well as for grooming, transport, and maintenance. Equestrian sports, therefore, are very expensive. If you do not have the means to have your own horse, many farms and ranches offer horseback riding and horseback riding lessons for a fee much smaller than the cost of maintaining your own horse. Here you can find out about all the products you will need for any type of equestrianism whether it be for Western or English riding. This will make a big difference in which products to purchase since each type utilizes a different style of equipment. Many beginners choose to start with Western-style riding since it requires less form and practice. It also requires less gear and training for a proper ride. Remember, always keep safety in mind. Horseback riding can be dangerous if done alone without any professional assistance. Seek professional assistance with training and riding your horse if you are not sure what you are doing.
Buying a Saddle
The saddle is a main component of riding a horse, unless of course you plan to ride bareback (with the proper training and horse, of course). Saddles can cost anywhere from $100 to several thousands of dollars, especially for old western saddles. Along with your saddle you will also need a saddle pad or saddle blanket.
* There are a few types of saddles that are geared towards different riding practices.
* Flat, lightweight racing saddles with extra-short stirrups offer superior aerodynamics for optimum speed.
* Hunt seat saddles are the best to jump with.
* Dressage saddles, as the name implies, are best suited for dressage, which involves specialized training of the horse and rider to perform tricks and advanced maneuvers. These saddles allow the rider and horse to have full contact, which is best for giving commands.
* All-purpose saddles cover a wide range of these above mentioned activities, as well as the recreational ride.
* Western saddles are often made of leather and rawhide in order to hold up to weather extremes and other tough conditions.
* English saddles are increasingly made with lightweight man-made materials and synthetics, which are easy to clean and maintain.
* The most important thing to keep in mind is both the size of the rider and of the horse.
* The saddle should fit comfortably, meaning snug on the horse so that it neither slips nor digs in, and as for the rider, it should easily fit your lower torso so that you can maintain proper form.
Once you have a horse and a saddle, now you will need to secure the saddle onto the horse's back. You will also need a method for directing, stopping, and instructing the horse to move. It is best to take horseback riding classes and have a professional train your horse if you are inexperienced. This will ensure that you and your horse will have a good, clear method of communicating, which is essential for the safety of you, your horse, and others nearby. Here you will see some, but not every piece of equipment that is necessary for riding successfully.
* The reins, which are connected to the bit, are what steer the horse.
* A bridle and a headstall or halter are also important for giving the rider a way to control the horse.
* Stirrups are where the rider rests his or her feet.
* Cinches and dressage girths are used to keep the saddle on properly.
* Spurs and hackamores can be strapped onto the rider's boots to use as a motivator to get the horse moving.
Boots, hats, helmets, pants, and safety vests are all apparel that go along with riding. However, depending on which style riding you participate in, certain things will be required for one, but not the other.
* Western apparel, made by Wrangler, Roper, and Carhartt
* Chaps are not very common for the recreational rider, but are good for a professional or someone working on a horse.
* Cowboy boots are a must. The best boot brands are Justin, Ariat, Tony Lama, and Double-H. You can also opt for lace-up boots or ankle-high paddock boots, but usually knee-high versions are preferred.
* Cowboy hats are also a must, especially during warm and sunny months. Resistol, Wrangler, Stetson, and Bailey are popular cowboy hat brands.
* Those involved with western sports, such as rodeo, should look into whether or not they may need helmets and/or chest protection.
* For English riding, knee-high leather riding boots are best.
* Riding helmets are preferred for training, and in competition, Derby hats, hunt caps, or dressage helmets are used.
* Tight-fitted breeches are used by English riders as well as a safety vest in some cases when the rider is active in jumping.
* Riding gloves may also be something worth having depending on how much you go riding.
A horse trailer is an important yet costly purchase. Its purpose is to transport your horse as well as your equipment, feed, and other equestrian supplies. Not everyone can afford one right off the bat, but it is a good investment to look into if you own a horse and are serious about riding. The most important thing to remember about a trailer is that its most critical element is keeping your horse safe. One of the most important safety features is proper ventilation, especially in warm climates and for use during summer months. Trailers can heat up very quickly, so windows with screens, roof vents, and even fans (if it can be afforded) are good ways of keeping a horse cool and comfortable.
* There are a variety of sizes of trailers available, with different features to expand room for storage and even sleeping. What you choose will depend on needs and budget.
* The smallest available are two-horse trailers. There are also three-horse and four-horse trailers as well as the large stock-trailers.
* For the most basic outfits, there will be limited or no storage space. On deluxe models expect storage and even a walk in section where you can store your saddles, equipment, and more. Some even have areas to sleep in.
* Make sure before buying a trailer that you know how much weight you will need to tow, measured in GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating). Also make sure that your vehicle has the ability to tow the weight of both the trailer and everything in it.
* There are two different types of horse trailer hitches: bumper-pull and gooseneck.
* If you own a pickup truck with an open bed (ie, no camper shell), a gooseneck horse trailer would be an excellent choice. They offer superior maneuverability and they usually include plenty of extra space for sleeping or storage.
* Bumper-pull trailers are smaller and they do require a very sturdy frame hitch. These are usually not compatible with pickup trucks.
* Choose either slant-load or straight-load depending on what size horse(s) you own.
* Large horses will need a straight-loading trailer because they provide more space.
* Slant-load trailers are good if you have several horses that are small to medium size. They load on a diagonal, thus reducing the trailer length. However, the one drawback with slant-load trailers is that if there is ever a problem with the horse in the front, every horse needs to be unloaded to get to it.
* There are two main materials used on horse trailers: aluminum and steel.
* Remember that aluminum is lightweight and rust resistant but less durable.
* There are also trailers that use a blend of both materials.
* Ramps are not necessarily required.
* If you have a very young horse, and you would prefer to have a ramp, it is best to buy one while the horse is still young because the hollow sound that the ramp makes can sometimes be frightening to the animals.
* Ramps are useful if you have a horse with an injury or arthritis, but they are usually not worth the money for use with otherwise young or healthy horses.
Grooming and Horse Health
Keeping a horse in good shape physically is only part of the battle. They need proper grooming just like people.
* Their bodies need to be washed with a sponge, and their manes and tails need regular shampooing and conditioning as well as brushing.
* Hoof care is also important. Apply creams and oils so that their hooves don't crack or chip. Likewise, changing the horse's shoes regularly is an essential care factor.
* To keep the flies away, especially during summer months, always invest in fly spray, and in severe conditions, consider a fly mask.
* Internal health is extremely important and taking a horse to the vet is no simple task. De-wormers should be taken regularly. It should be fed to a horse often, either in pellet, paste, or powder form. Supplements and/or vitamins can be given when needed or in the case that they are recommended by the vet. Always watch out for any changes in a horse's appetite or behavior, as they are often signs of illness.
* A horse or pony eats 1.5%-2.5% of its body weight a day! The average riding horse weighs in at about 1000 lbs, so be prepared to buy quite a bit of food. Horses eat grass and hay, but it is also good to provide them with grains and perhaps some pre-packaged horse food.