Saddle pads and cinches aren’t the most glamorous tack items in your barn. But they may be the most essential.
- Good ones make even marathon rides easy and fuss-free.
Just ask Ben Masters, leader of the Unbranded team. The four men and 14 horses have nearly completed their 3,000 mile trek from Mexico to Canada.
Masters told me their 5 Star Equine pads and cinches have been the key to comfort for horses and riders.
“I’ve used their products in the past. Never had any problems. We decided to outfit pads and cinches entirely with 5 Star. I’m really glad we did,” said Masters during a rare rest day in Lincoln, Montana.
- 5 Star uses wool. It’s natural.
- Research shows no synthetic fabrics outperform it for wicking away moisture and keeping horses comfortable.
- 5 Star is an American company. The pads and cinches are handmade in Hatfield, Arkansas.
- If you call them, you’ll talk with a real person and get sound advice on the best pad for your horse and the work you’re doing.
The Unbranded team uses Mountain Packer Pack Saddle pads. I’m ordering a pad specially contoured for the new mule, Jolene.
Check them out here.
While dry weather is making wildfires a constant concern for horse owners out west, the wet weather is increasing the threat of contracting Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile virus in New England.
This week, EEE was detected in York County (Maine) mosquitoes. It’s a nasty brain infection that’s usually fatal among unvaccinated horses.
Says Dr. Dave Jefferson of Maine Equine Associates:
“We are especially concerned about encephalitis this year. We’ve had plenty of rain which means standing pools of water with rapid mosquito multiplication.”
In 2009, 15 Maine horses died of the virus. None were vaccinated.
Less often, it can affect humans. Last year, two Vermont men died of EEE.
- Get your horses vaccinated.
- And for yourself: wear bug dope, long shirt sleeves and pants, avoid hanging out in wet areas, especially at dawn and dusk.
Comet and I went for a solo trail ride. We got off the road and into the woods only to be bombarded by deer flies.
Since I was a girl, I’ve grabbed long twigs as impromptu fly whisks. This ride was no different. I pulled up to a tree and broke off a leafy branch.
Comet was fine with standing still while I snapped off the two-foot length. But it was another story when she saw that I now held a stick-like implement. She spun and fussed and bounced around. I let her move and took some time to show her my intentions.
With the flies as bad as they were, it didn’t take long for her to understand. Those gentle, leafy touches on her poll and neck meant relief not punishment.
When we got back home, I talked with Steve, who has owned her for seven years. Before that, he witnessed her previous owner get after her with a stick. It was just one of several abusive implements the man regularly used.
But horses have a tendency not to forget. Perhaps that should be considered when weighing the effect of whip use and carriage.
Blackfish is this summer’s hot documentary. It’s movie about killer whales and how captivity makes them miserable and crazy.
It’s an easy concept for us horse owners to understand.
A recent Los Angeles Times piece suggested humans should get out of the whale captivity business. These animals, like so many animals, need their herd and they need their freedom. Migration over thousands of miles is built into their biology and their being.
“Killer whales form close-knit, lifelong family groups… They travel long distances in a day and are extremely intelligent. Marine parks are not aquariums that exist to rescue and study animals in humane environments and to educate the public. They are high-profit water circuses in which intelligent ocean predators have been forced into unnatural lives.”
The vital role of family and freedom resonates with horse owners. We know that the more space we give our horses, the better off they’ll be. And that to be with friends and family is essential.
The more we constrain their movement, the more stressed they’ll be. They may not kill us (like captive killer whales have been known to do), but their stress will express itself in stereotypies, raised cortisol levels, abnormal behavior, and physiological issues.
And it’s the same deal with keeping horses isolated.
These are simple animal priorities. But in our zealous attempts to control them and create human-like living arrangements, we overlook the fact that they are not humans. We forge ahead and then wonder why we have troubles.
With their behavior, ‘difficult’ horses are simply saying, “Let me be a horse.”
And the whale is just saying, “let me be a whale.”