Introducing Children to Horses

Introducing children to horses is always and interesting topic!! I have a big family. I’ve met families much, much bigger than mine. With more than 50 close relatives that I see very often, I would consider my family to be very involved with one another. With a big family, comes lots of kids. When you are the only one in the family with horses, introducing the children to horses on your farm can be a challenge. Knowing you have horses will always make people want to come visit to see the horses or ask to ride. Let’s take a look at how I introduce children horses on my farm:

Most importantly, before you allow the introducing of children to horses, make sure you go over all horse safety rules. Any child, any age, must know the proper precautions to follow when around horses. Explain to him or her how large horses are and how they hurt us without even realizing it. Show them where they should or shouldn’t stand when approaching a horse. The horse cannot see them at all moments, and that is why it is so important to never walk behind the horse. Be sure to let the child know not to run around and yell and scream at the barn because it can scare the horses. It might be best to explain all of the safety rules before you get to the horse barn because the child may lose focus once in the barn from excitement.

Once you’ve explained the safety precautions to the child or children, bring the horse out and introduce him or her to the children in a soft and calm manner. I brought my horse out and had my cousin walk up slowly and let the horse sniff her. Of course I gave my cousin a little treat to give the horse, it makes him warm up to people very fast. Who doesn’t love treats??!!

After I introduced the children to horses, I brought my favorite horse in the barn and put him on cross ties. I went over all of the different grooming tools for the horse and how to use each one. She really enjoyed learning the different brushes and helping to groom my horse.

Now was the time to tack up, since the whole reason she was there was to ride my horse! I explained each step I was doing as I tacked my horse up. The names of all of the parts of the saddle were explained, bridle, etc. She had lots of questions so I took things slowly to help her understand everything. Before we brought my horse outside, I got her helmet snugged on her head. Always start the first ride with the child wearing a helmet, so that good helmet wearing habits are started at an early age.

For the first ride, I had a friend walk beside my cousin in the saddle and myself leading my horse. She was a little nervous but we both assured her she was doing great. She loved it and did not want to get off! After walking like this for a long time, we helped her to get off and had her help walk the horse back to the barn.

Once on the cross ties, I started to take off my horse’s tack, and again explain all of the parts and pieces. I explained to her that we have to groom the horse before and after the ride. And of course finished with her giving my horse a treat before we brought him back out to his pasture.

Following these same steps are great ways to introduce a child to your horse. If the child continues to show interest in horses, that may be the time to look into lessons. Ask around where others have brought their children for lessons and if they would recommend it. Or bring your child to a horse show to show them what it’s all about. Introducing kids to horses is so much fun, and it opens the next generation to the love that we have for our horses.

SmartStall Vs. Rubber Filled Mattress

You all know by now that I like to write my blogs based on questions I get when talking to customers. Lately I’ve been asked a lot what the difference is between a rubber filled mattress and our SmartStall™ Mattress. In order to explain the difference, first I’ll tell you a bit about the history of our company.

IGK Equestrian, LLC is the child company of North Brook Farms, INC. Twenty years ago, Peter and Carolyn Kyle (owners of North Brook Farms, INC and IGK Equestrian LLC) were dairy farmers milking 350 head on their 800-acre farm in central New York. Their veterinarian advised them to make their cows more comfortable, since well-rested cows produce more milk. So the Kyles decided to make the cows’ bedding softer and more enticing by incorporating recycled rubber.

They started the business by making these rubber filled mattresses. Over time we realized there were a few things about the rubber mattresses that we didn’t love. The first thing, that was very apparent was that the rubber filled cells, which were about 4ft x 5ft, were very heavy; weighing about 130 pounds! Both the manufacture process of these mattresses and the installation process were very labor intensive. During the installation process, the mattresses had to be pulled off of a pallet, carried to where they were getting laid down and then maneuvered so that they were laying correctly. Everyone’s arms were aching by the time the installation was completed! The second major downfall of these mattresses that we noticed is over time the rubber inside the cells compact. After being under an animal for a long duration, the rubber will nestle down in the cells of the mattress, where the various sizes and pieces of rubber fit together like a puzzle, and become hard. Having this mattress compact over time and become hard defeats the purpose of a comfort mattress for your animal. When we realized that the rubber filled mattresses did this, we decided to switch our systems to a foamSmartStall™ Foam Horse Mattress System mattress.

We have been using foam in our SmartStall™ for over 10 years now. Our foam has been tested over time and has shown less than 1% compaction over a ten-year period. The foam is a lot less heavy than a traditional rubber filled mattress and has proven to provide comfort time and time again both in the dairy and horse industry! Your horse will be much more comfortable in their stall for years to come with a SmartStall™System than a rubber filled mattress system!

 

 

 

 

Should You Cut Back On Horse Bedding?

Reduce hay bedding with SuperStall by IGK EquestrianAre you using hay bedding in your stalls? According to an article in The Horse, dust particles, mold spores and fibrous plant materials found in hay bedding can cause severe respiration irritation when inhaled by horses. Together, these irritants can result in shortness of breath, coughing and other symptoms which can impact training and exercise. In addition, a recent university study shows that matured hay bedding can be dangerous for pregnant mares in the third trimester due to fescue toxicity. Here are four safety tips for those using hay bedding:

 1. Wet the hay bedding: A study conducted at the University of Edinburgh suggests wetting hay bedding before it is put in stalls can significantly reduce dust concentration. The most effective way of limiting dust is by immersing hay bedding in water and then immediately putting it in the stall. If not done right away, the hay bedding will dry which could allow respirable dust levels to increase.

2. Remove horses while mucking: The study concluded dust levels are higher when there is a lot of activity in the barn. Therefore, remove horses while mucking out stalls or during any other frequent activity.

3. Test mature hay for toxins: It is not uncommon for horses to eat their bedding. Tall fescues may contain high levels of the toxin ergovaline. This could cause problems for pregnant mares and their unborn foal. Ergovaline tests can cost up to $50 per sample, but it is money well spent to protect your mare.

4. Select alternative bedding: Reducing the amount of hay used for bedding can reduce the risks posed by dust irritants and/or fescue toxicity. SmartStall™ Foam Mattress by IGK Equestrian features a waterproof industrial top cover which creates a “moisture tray” that allows all liquids and manure to be captured on top and easily removed. This not only results in a cleaner, drier environment but it also reduces the amount of hay and other bedding needed in the stall.

Let IGK Equestrian know which bedding you would choose to keep your horses safe?

Horse Stalls Rubber Mat vs. Foam Mattress?

When choosing a surface for your horse stalls, how do you decide which material will provide the most comfort? Comparing two popular mats, solid rubber and foam, can help with the decision.

Solid Rubber Mats:

Benefits:

  • Long life; added ability to withstand continued use
  • Can help keep dust production down
  • Can help to reduce slippage
  • May assist in preserving your floor’s natural surface

Drawbacks:

  • May require additional bedding materials for comfort
  • Could retain odor and moisture
  • Heavy (can weigh up to 150 pounds); making it difficult to remove and level/clean out horse stalls

Foam Mattresses:

Benefits:

  • Memory foam material helps cushion tired/strained ligaments and joints
  • May be sized for wall-to-wall coverage in a variety of horse stalls
  • Remains level
  • May resist bacteria growth

Drawbacks:

  • Initial expense; however, many come with a warranty

When it comes to choosing a horse stalls surface, for the best return on investment and overall comfort it pays to choose  SmartStall™, by IGK Equestrian.  In addition to all the benefits listed above, SmartStall™ features a waterproof, woven top cover that helps to reduce labor and disposal efforts and cost, along with a 5-year warranty.

Let IGK Equestrian know what mats are you using in your stalls now?

IGK Arena Dust Control Solutions

Have you noticed your arena is dustier than usual? You’re not alone. Arena dust control is more important in the summertime, especially with the hot, dry weather we tend to experience during the warmer months. Riding just exacerbates the problem because the more you ride, the more your footing breaks down, eventually becoming airborne and creating dust.

Constant inhalation of dust can cause serious respiratory problems for horses and riders. Here are some ways to reduce and sensibly manage arena dust control for everyone’s safety.

1. Water: The most common method of arena dust control is through watering. The key is to water heavy and seldom, rather than frequent and light for the best results. Watering is cost-effective, readily available and highly effective if done properly. However, in large arenas you could be using up to 3,500 gallons of water a day just to keep dust under control.

2. Salt: Another common arena dust control technique is the addition of salts to your footing.  Salt additives work best in high humidity because they draw moisture from the surrounding area, which helps to effectively suppress excess dust. The downside of this tactic is that eventually the salt will wash away making reapplication a constant nuisance.

3. Wood: An additional buffer that helps with arena dust control is wood pieces or shavings.  Wood helps to slow the breakdown of sand while also helping your arena retain moisture. After some time, just like salt, the wood pieces will break down, but with regular watering you should be able to minimize dust for an extended period of time.

4. Footing: The best way to manage arena dust control is to eliminate it altogether.  This can be easily achieved by using a dust-free footing, such as TruStride™ or LiteStride™, manufactured by IGK Equestrian.  These arena footings eliminate the need for watering, reduce maintenance requirements and provide adequate support for both horse and rider.  Did I mention both TruStride™ and LiteStride™ are dust-free and reasonably priced? Now that’s a long-term investment sure to minimize dust and maximize riding potential in your arena.

Let IGK Equestrian know how do you effectively manage dust in your arena?

Tips for Cooling Down Stalls as Temperatures Heat Up…

Cooling down stalls as temperatures heat up seems like an uphill battle for some of us! When the thermometer soars in the summer it’s important to make sure your horse remains comfortable. Taking a few simple precautions will help keep both of you cool.

  • Ventilation – Keep the air moving as much as possible in the barn. Try to keep windows open and use fans to circulate air (and keep flies away). Misters are also a good idea for an instant solution when it comes to cooling down stalls.
  • Shade – When outside in the elements, try to allow your horse the opportunity to lay and rest in shady spots. It is a good idea to keep horses inside during the hottest part of the day in order to avoid exhaustion.
  • Workouts – There is no need to abandon riding altogether in high temperatures, but try to keep workout times to a minimum. After you’re finished, give your horse a cool bath to lower body temperature.
  •  Electrolytes – Providing your horse with added electrolytes, such as a minerals or a salt block, can help to replace nutrients lost from excessive sweating.
  • Water – Be sure to provide your horse with plenty of fresh, cold water to drink throughout the day.

In high temperatures, it is likely your horse will be spending a lot more time in the stall to escape the heat and harsh UV rays. Therefore, the maintenance of the stall environment is essential to keeping your horse healthy in the heat.

Bacteria growth accelerates in warm, wet and humid weather, making your horse’s stall an active breeding ground for potentially harmful diseases. Using a stall mattress, rather than only organic bedding materials, helps to combat the excess growth of bacteria and maintain hygienic living conditions.

The SmartStall™ mattress, made by IGK Equestrian, helps horse owners use less bedding materials, limits bacteria growth in scorching temperatures, allows for less mucking, reduces the risk of disease for your horse and the cost of bedding for you. SmartStall™ will help to keep your horse cooler in high temperatures and allow you the opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy the summer.

Let IGK Equestrian know, What are some things you do to help cooling down stalls in the summer?

Respiratory Issues for Performance Horses

I recently came across this article in The Horse on clinical signs of common respiratory issues in performance horses. Most of us are already vaccinating against influenza, herpes virus and other equine respiratory diseases, but plenty of other conditions can interfere with breathing and cause under performance in the ring. According to the author, Dr. Jean-Yin Tan, up to half of performance horses have been affected by Inflammatory Airway Disease or IAD, a condition that causes coughing, nasal discharge and exercise intolerance. Dr. Tan cites dust as a leading risk factor for IAD.

That’s a real problem in sand arenas, where dust is an ever-present, environmental nuisance. Owners of these facilities go to a great deal of trouble and expense to keep sand from erupting into a dangerous respiratory threat to both horses and riders. The usual remedy is water, and lots of it — up to 3,500 gallons a day — just to keep dust under control.

Of course, the easiest way to rid your arena of dust is to install dust-free footing. Both TruStride™ and LiteStride™ arena footing by IGK Equestrian eliminate the need for watering while providing a supportive and responsive riding surface. And that makes everyone breathe easier.

What kind respiratory issues have you experienced in your arena?

Stall Rest Recovery

Having a horse dealing with stall rest recovery is something every horse owner will eventually encounter. Whether the recovery period is due to lameness, show fatigue, suspensory problems, or after an operation, you’ll both have adverse reactions to the confinement.  Here are some helpful tips and tricks to help make your horse’s stall rest recovery period manageable.

Remember, your horse is used to being active. It will be helpful for your horse to convalesce in a stall with a window so he/she can see activity happening around them and get some fresh air. Your horse may need some extra attention after being cooped up alone for the majority of the day. Be sure to practice regular grooming habits to help keep him/her relaxed and comfortable. Another animal in the barn provides companionship and a mirror in the stall, or a radio at low volume provides welcome background noise. Adjust your feeding routine by limiting intake to counter excess amounts of energy your horse will have from constantly being in the stall.

The reason for necessary stall rest recovery could also play a role in determining proper care techniques.

  • If your horse has a suspensory ligament, it is important to prevent access to open pastures or arenas in order to limit the amount of physical strain that is placed on the legs. Instead, you could handwalk your horse on short jaunts, but only if you think he/she will be up to it.
  • After shows, your horse may experience symptoms of fatigue, including a slowed pace, loss of motivation, hindered coordination and increased breathing.  If your horse experiences these symptoms, it is important to allow him/her the chance to get plenty of rest.  Be sure to provide your horse with a soft surface in the stall to cushion joints and hooves after extended periods of exercise.

Stall mattresses provide a more comfortable surface, which creates a more well-rested horse that will be ready to perform for the next show. SmartStall™ mattresses are an ideal choice for increased horse comfort and feature an easy-to-clean waterproof top cover for owner convenience and a more hygienic environment.

Let IGK Equestrian know what techniques do you use to provide your horse with a speedy recovery?

Top 4 Signs of Arena Footing Amendment

The ideal arena footing would be cushioned enough for horse comfort with the right amount of traction while causing minimal dust and hoof abrasion. However, ideal conditions are not attainable without proper maintenance.  Achieving appropriate conditions in your arena may require adding an amendment to improve the riding surface for your horse. Here are some signs to watch for:

4. Too Hard: Arena footing materials can compact over time.  Adding an amendment can provide cushioning necessary for good leg and tendon support.

3. Too Shifty: Footing that suddenly shifts underfoot can rattle even the most seasoned horse and rider.  An amendment can add valuable stability.

2. Poor Recovery Surface: Footing that leaves deep tracks or fails to bounce back after use could probably benefit from an amendment.

1. Horse Refusal: Any or all of the above issues can result in a balky horse.  If your horse is reluctant to enter the ring, it may be time to consider an amendment.

Common arena footing amendments materials include rubber, wood chips, or synthetic fiber materials. It can be easily installed with existing footing or in new arenas.

Let IGK Equestrian know what are some additional signs that your arena may require an amendment?

How to Create a Safe Foaling Stall

With foaling season upon us, you may have already started preparing your mares’ stalls for the upcoming birth. Here are some important tips to consider when it comes to creating a proper foaling environment.

  1. Choose the Stall:  You will need to choose a large enough stall that can comfortably house your mare and foal, ideally 12 ft. by 12 ft.  Pick a stall secluded from neighboring horses, but with adequate ventilation and light.
  1. Prep the Stall: Thoroughly inspect the stall for any potential hazards, including large splinters, protruding nails and hooks, abrasive rough spots on walls or floors, or hoof-sized traps in the floor or corners.  Finally, remove any strings, cords, or dangling ropes that could entangle wobbly newborns.
  1. Clean the Stall: Take everything out of the stall and thoroughly clean and disinfect the walls and floors. This includes sweeping and scrubbing the walls with a detergent followed by an approved disinfectant diluted in water. Don’t forget feeding equipment, as those items may harbor bacteria harmful to a newborn foal.  Be sure to rinse well and let the stall air dry completely.
  1. Bed your Stall: After making sure the floor is level, now it is time to properly bed the stall for comfort and safety of both the mare and foal.  A foam mattress like SmartStall™  provides a safe, cushioned and hygienic surface ideal for the foaling environment. SmartStall™  comes with a waterproof top cover that allows all waste and bacteria to be remain on the surface and be removed with bedding for easier cleaning.  You should also provide a layer of foal-safe bedding materials, such as straw, wood pellets, or shredded paper, on top of the SmartStall™  to provide additional comfort and security for the foal.
  1. Maintain your Stall: Finally, be sure to frequently clean and muck out your stall after the birth. Maintain a safe living environment free of sharp edges and hazards and provide adequate light in the stall throughout the night in order to keep a watchful eye over mare and foal.

Let IGK Equestrian know, have you already started preparing your stall for foaling season? What other tips would you recommend?