HORSE GEAR AND CONSIDERATIONS
The gear you travel with can make the difference on the overall experience for both you and your horse. Here are some key considerations for horse gear when travelling long distance with your horse:
1. Good Saddle Fit:
Remember, with long hours in the saddle, your horse needs to be comfortable and you want to be sitting in the most comfortable position possible. Bad saddle fit will only lead to problems for both your horse & you, ensure good saddle fit for you both.
If you require advice in this area, engage a qualified Saddle Fitter to assist with an assessment.
The saddle blanket/pad is another key piece of equipment which needs to fit the purpose of your activity and will also affect saddle fit.
The type of saddle will determine the type of pad required, ensure it is the right fit for your saddle.
'My Life Of Trails' use 'Half Breed' Saddles, which provide good rider position for long rides, also has excellent contact and tie off points for saddle bags.
Given that saddle pads have a tendency to work their way backward on these saddles, pull the pad up into the saddle gullet. This will help reduce backward slippage, unnecessary pressure on the wither and also allows for air flow down along the tree.
As a general rule, the pad should be longer at the front of the saddle, enough to sufficiently cover the wither and the pad should protrude less at the rear. The length at the rear of the saddle will assist in additional comfort for when the saddle bags are in place.
2. Weight and Balance:
Ensure any equipment is light weight, fit for purpose & is necessary. As a general rule, 15 to 25% of a horses body weight is the additional weight your horse can carry, which needs to include your clothed body weight, saddle and tack gear. There has been much debate and many studies done over this point so varied opinion however many factors will influence how much you carry, such as how long you ride for, your balance as a rider, the breed, size and build of your horse. Although people will have differing opinions on this subject it is you who need to understand the limitations of your horse. Make sure you do your homework in this area but most importantly listen to your equine companion as they will be your greatest guide and critic.
Weight distribution is critical as this will impact balance which affects posture. Bad posture over great distance will lead to soreness for you both.
Mounting and dismounting can put tremendous strain on your horses back. Utilising a high point such as a rock, dip in the ground, even a park bench when available will help minimise this strain.
The height of your equipment on the rear of your saddle will also influence the ease of mount and dismount. It is highly recommended keeping all loads low and as previously mentioned only carrying necessary items.
If you carry a back pack:
ensure it is light weight and comfortable to wear over long periods
keep weight to a minimum, this will minimise the risk of aching muscles and back.
height of equipment on the rear of the saddle will impact your backpack
avoid wearing a backpack on your chest; although accessing items is easier, this will create unnecessary stress on your back
3. Hoof Wear:
Boots or shoes? This is a personal choice and will depend on the needs of your horse, however keep in mind the terrain and location you wish to travel.
Shoes: If horse shoes are your preference, then farrier availability is important. Knowing what to do if you experience shoe issues in the absence of a farrier is knowledge worth obtaining.
Boots: There are a number of boots available on the market. Regardless which brand you use, it is important to ensure the boots fit correctly and are worn in before heading out on the trail.
'My Life Of Trails' have used a number of different brands of boots over many years and now use Tasmania's very own 'Scoot Boots'. These boots have proven to be robust, reliable and have exceeded all expectations.
4. Saddle Bags:
There are many products on the market but few that are fit for purpose and will last the distance. Type of saddle will influence what you will need and how it attaches to the saddle.
Depending on the type of trail riding and duration, 'My Life Of Trails' utilise either canvas or leather saddle bags. These have been custom made by the 'Latrobe Saddlery' in Quoiba Tasmania, tailored to suit our trail riding needs. This comes at a greater expense but the benefits of a custom kit outweigh the cost by far. Be mindful of size, the larger the saddle bags the more you will want to carry.
5. Head Gear:
Regardless whether you prefer a bridle and reigns or a rope halter and rope or both, ensure the equipment is good quality, in good condition and fits properly. Inspecting your equipment before beginning the day will assist in identifying any potential issues such as wear or damage. Most importantly ensure that the equipment is not causing any discomfort to your horse, e,g, if you use a bit, keeping it clean is good practice. Dried grass can become extremely abrasive on the horses mouth leading to a not so happy horse, as will a bit that is not suitable for your horse.
6. Horse Security:
Hobbles, ground tie, electric fence or other means. This is both a personal choice and what works well for the individual horse. Some horses can easily move with hobbles, some don't respect electric fences and others don't like to be tied down. Make sure you spend the time to ensure your horse is comfortable with your expectations and with your choice, keeping in mind that your environment may affect what you can use, e.g. no trees to attach a line to.
7. Weather & Seasonal Factors:
A horse rug maybe necessary for those frigid nights, a fly mask may keep those annoying fly's at bay, a tick remover for a quick removal and a compression bandage for the unexpected injury. The region and environment you propose to travel will influence what you need. As a rule of thumb, if the weather and environmental factors impact you then chances are your horse will also be affected so plan for these.
8. Simple Fixes:
Baling twine & cable ties can pull you out of almost any fix. Consider these essential items.
9. Horse Feed:
Roughage is an important part of your horses diet and although there will be native grasses along the way, this will not be enough to sustain your horse over the long haul.
Pellet type feeds (mixed with essential minerals) should be used to ensure sufficient daily intake and will help minimise the risk of introducing weeds as hay or chaff contain weed seeds.
Magnesium deficiency can increase the tendency for a horse to overreact, adding a magnesium supplement such as 'Kohnkes Own Mag E' has proven beneficial to our girls. By managing your horses diet appropriately, you will assist your horse in performing well under this high stress environment and maintaining a healthy weight.
10. Horse Visibility:
At some point you may be required to travel in a low light environment. In most jurisdictions, when travelling on a road at night or in the dark, a horse must be equipped with a light. It is highly recommended your horse be equipped with:
flashing 'pet lights' for the front and rear
reflective tape; this can be added to your equipment to provide greater visibility as that of the riders reflective vest.
for those who like to be noticed socially, high visibility bling, in regard to horse gear can be found online