Buying show apparel on a budget

Being an equestrian is expensive, but it doesn’t always have to be. Guest writer Kate Stone has put together a handy list of budget-friendly show apparel options for those of us that can’t splurge all the time on expensive show clothes! Check her recommendations out below – some of which she has personally used herself during her show career.

​Show season is upon us and it’s time to pull out the show clothes to freshen up and tall boots to polish. I find myself needing new attire due to stains or rips and tears. Here are some ways to save when buying show clothes on a budget as well as recommendations for show clothes that are more budget friendly!

​- Tips:

  • Buy things when they are on sale! Check your local tack shops and online stores (ie. SmartPak, Dover) for their upcoming sales! You should also ask about getting on their email list to receive coupons or promotional codes! (Editor’s Note: If your horse is on SmartPaks, you get an extra percentage off any SmartPak brand items which can make show apparel even more affordable).
  • Ask if your local tack store(s) have a rewards program! Start earning rewards for the money you spend!
  • Check out consignment shops or eBay! Or you can also check with barn mates to see if they have anything they’ve grown out of!
  • Plan ahead and space these big purchases out! All of these things added up in one purchase are not budget friendly. If you set goals and work towards saving up for one or two things at a time that will help keep the total at a reasonable price.

​- Recommendations:

​All of these product prices are from SmartPak.com and may change at any time. They may also be different at your local tack shop. Always compare prices from multiple places before making your final purchase to ensure you get the best deal.

Spring fever? More like Mud Fever

Guest writer Nicole Lootsma has quite a bit of experience dealing with the dreaded Mud Fever. Below she shares some of her tips and tricks for treatment and prevention!

After a long, treacherous, and seemingly endless winter, the sun has finally returned and the days are getting longer which is great for those of us who work full-time and still want to be able to see what our horses look like in the daylight! The snow has melted and many of us are even able to start riding in our outdoor rings again. All in all, life for an equestrian is good!

However, anyone who’s been riding for any length of time will quickly be able to tell you that spring isn’t always rainbows and daffodils. We all know that April showers bring May flowers, but after reviewing the Pony Express Girls’ pony boxes on one of my previous posts, I saw a photo posted on their April box with a more appropriately edited version of the tagline: “April Showers Bring… Well, they bring lots and lots of mud!”

This couldn’t be closer to the truth, and is certainly the case at most barns. We’re all familiar with the telltale signs of spring when you need to head to the barn extra early before your lesson because you know the time it will take to groom your horse and make him look at least mildly presentable has doubled. You find yourself covered in horse hair from the waist up and mud from the waist down.  Unfortunately mud isn’t just an annoyance when it comes to grooming, it can also contribute to a nasty skin condition known as Mud Fever.

Image from Facebook.

Image from Facebook.

Mud Fever, also known as “Greasy Heel” or “Scratches” is a common condition, usually affecting horses’ lower limbs, especially the back legs, particularly if they are white. It is characterized by inflammation of the skin, and the appearance of crusty scabs formed from oozing serum. This is usually caused by the invasion of bacteria, which penetrates the skin following either damage, or softening through exposure to the wet or mud. Under normal conditions, when the protective barrier of the skin is not damaged as a result of cold and wet weather conditions, harmful microorganisms are not able to enter horse’s system and do any damage, but once the protective barrier of the skin becomes compromised harmful bacteria is allowed to enter and cause infection.

An example of Mud Fever - photo from us.arcanatura.com

An example of Mud Fever – photo from us.arcanatura.com

Unfortunately I’ve dealt with Mud Fever in all of my horses, with a particularly nasty case hitting my gelding Riley last fall once the grass started to get dewy and moist. A quick Google search will lead you in a million different directions in terms of treatment, and personally I’ve had success with several different remedies based on the horse and the severity of the case. 

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I’ve tried every trick in the book, from veterinary-prescribed antibiotics to naturally concocted home-remedies.

As with any ailment, the best course of action is always prevention. The bacteria that causes Mud Fever thrives in wet muddy conditions and so for horses that are susceptible to Mud Fever, it is recommended to protect their legs from the wet and mud as much as possible by turning them out in a clean, dry, area. I am a huge advocate for turnout so while some owners may opt to keep their horses in a clean stall to avoid muddy conditions, that’s not an option for my guy. If muddy conditions are unavoidable, it is recommended to wash your horse’s legs clean and dry them thoroughly with a clean towel once they come in from the mud. The dryer the legs, the better, so you could even try a blow dryer if your horse will tolerate it. Once dry, I like to trim the hair of the pastern.  This step isn’t necessary, and some people will argue that the hair on the fetlock is designed to wick away moisture from the pastern so you’re actually doing more harm than good when you clip it.  Personally, I find the area much easier to dry and treat when the hair is  trimmed so I just use scissors to snip the hair short on my horse’s white foot.

Wash & trim. Photo Courtesy of Nicole Lootsma.

Wash & trim. Photo Courtesy of Nicole Lootsma.

Once the legs are clean and very dry, you can apply a barrier cream containing Zinc (diaper cream works well), or a powder such as Keratex Mud Shield Powder which is designed to waterproof and disinfect the area. Make sure you check your horse’s legs regularly, and at the first sign of soreness, weeping, or scabs, treat the area immediately with a medicated treatment to prevent the condition from worsening (I recommend Keratex Medicated Hoof & Leg Scrub or Eqyss Micro Tek Spray).

Once the foot is dry, I puff on Mud Shield Powder to waterproof it

. However, even with the best efforts of prevention, Mud Fever can be stubborn and rear its ugly head. If scabs develop, this is my routine to treat:

1. Carefully wash the affected area with gentle antiseptic soap/shampoo. In the past I have used human Tea Tree Oil Shampoo designed to treat lice from the drugstore as it has antimicrobial properties.  This year, I have ordered some Eqyss medicated shampoo based on the success I’ve had with their other products. As you wash, gently scrub the scabs and carefully remove any scabs that will come off (Note: Don’t pick the scabs as they can be very painful). After doing this, then continue to thoroughly dry the area with a clean towel or blow dryer.

2. Once clean, apply MTG and leave overnight. The MTG will help soften the scabs and make them easier to remove the next day.

3. The next day, gently remove any more scabs that have been softened by the MTG. I’ve purchased a flea comb designed for use on cats that has very small bristles which works great to remove the scabs. It is much more gentle and effective than trying to pick them off with your fingers.

A cat flea comb works great to remove foot grunge. Photo Courtesy of Nicole Lootsma.

A cat flea comb works great to remove foot grunge. Photo Courtesy of Nicole Lootsma.

4. In many minor cases of Mud Fever, the MTG will be enough to treat on its own. In more severe cases, you may need to apply another topical treatment. I’ve had success with a mixture of Zinc Cream (ie. Diaper Cream) combined with Triple Antibiotic Ointment & Athlete’s Foot Cream (all from the drug store). However I have most recently started using Eqyss Micro Tek and noticed immediate results, so I would definitely say that it will be my go-to product from now on.  Continue treatment daily and remove scabs as they soften.  It’s not usually necessary to wash the leg each day. I’ve had luck just using stiff brush to remove the dirt around the feathers and then reapply the medication.  Make sure you read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for whichever product you decide to use.

My favorite treatment for skin conditions.

My favorite treatment for skin conditions.

5. Once the bacteria has been destroyed, the affected area must continue to be protected whilst new skin and hair grows.  Even once the scabs come off, the skin will be tender and exposed so continued application of Zinc cream, Mud Stop powder, or gel will help keep the Mud Fever from flaring up again.

6. Once the area is healed, continue with the prevention steps throughout the muddy season to prevent reoccurrence.




7. As always, if the issue persists or gets worse, consult your veterinarian. Some horses may require antibiotics or prescriptions to treat the infection.

Have you ever had to deal with Mud Fever? What are your preferred methods for treatment?

Comment below!

Handling an equine emergency the right way

Guest writer Grace Salmon’s horse recently had to go through colic surgery (please send prayers/love/good vibes/etc.) She’s written a post about how to deal with horse emergencies, which can and are extremely scary!

DO: Call your vet. Whether your horse is hurt, sick, or even just feeling a little off, it can never hurt to call a vet. If your horse seems like he might have something like colic, call right away. No matter how vague the symptoms might seem, if you wait too long to call it might turn a mild colic into something much more serious.

DO NOT: Try to handle an emergency on your own (especially if you are inexperienced and have never handled an emergency of the caliber you are facing at that particular moment). Once you have called a vet, make sure you have someone that can talk things over with you, and even just be there for moral support. That person could be anyone — a trainer, a family member, or a friend.

DO: Stay calm. Odds are that everything is going to turn out okay, and staying calm will only benefit you and your horse.

DO NOT: Panic. When we’re panicked we don’t think clearly. When your horse isn’t feeling too well it is so important to keep a clear mind when having to make any decisions that pertain to your horses health.

DO: Be prepared. Make sure to have your veterinarian’s number close by as well as any equine insurance information you might need. A good idea might be to have a binder with emergency contact numbers, insurance information, and any previous health related issues.

DO NOT: Be too emotional. Just like being panicked, being too emotional could cloud your judgment. You want to make sure you are making the best decisions for your horse.

DO: Be realistic. Know what you can and can’t do financially, and be ready to make decisions that will result in the greatest quality of life for your horse.

Fashion at the IHSA Nationals

The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association held its 2015 National Championships in Massachusetts this year which gave guest writer Terise Cole the perfect chance to take the drive and spy on some equestrian fashion trends in the show ring. From helmets to boots, the riders all looked professional, traditional, and uniform, except for a few style-setters who stepped out of the box.

Helmets: The French are taking over! Well, the Samshield is anyway. Just about everywhere you looked you could find spot a ShadowMatt or Alcantara going by. This is because Samshield is a new sponsor to the IHSA and provided helmets to the winners of each regional finals class. Alongside the “Sammys” were the traditional mix of Charles Owen GR8 and AYR8s plus the GPA Speed Airs and First Ladies. A brown Charles Owen and an SP8 added a little to the mix as did an incredibly shiny Speed Air Chrome.

Jackets: A nice mix of black and blue technical fabrics or traditional coats were seen in the ring, but the main thing I noticed was the fit. The majority of the coats were perfectly tailored to the rider’s body and slightly shorter than the normal wool hunt coat. There was one brown coat and one green coat at the show which added a bit of flash to the wearers.

Shirts:  While hard to notice in the show ring, most of the shirts were the new ¼ button style with wild patterns and colors on the collar and sleeves.

Breeches: There wasn’t much variety here: Tan Euroseats everywhere. A few of the green-beige breeches made an appearance, just enough to change up the uniformity in the ring.

Boots: Many off-the-rack brands were spotted and most fit like a pair of customs. Speaking of customs, F.lli Fabbri boots were set up in the vendor area for custom fittings as were La Mundial and Der Dau. The winner of the flat phase of the USHJA/Cacchione Cup won his or her choice of custom La Mundial tall boots, and the winners of a few classes won a pair of Der Dau boots. Customs seem to be the way to go.

While there weren’t any new ground-breaking trends spotted at the 2015 IHSA National Championships, those who pushed the limits of the classic equitation attire drew attention to themselves in a positive way. For all those worried about pushing the limits, don’t be.. maybe you’ll make a new statement! And for those who wish to stay traditional, wear it proudly. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to tradition and remaining conservative. Plus, Mr. Morris would approve.

10 things every equestrian should know for the summer

Summer is fast approaching, and some areas have already seen brutally hot temperatures. During these times, it is extremely important to take care of your horse(s)’ needs and watch them carefully for signs of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or dehydration. Guest writer Joscelyn Richards, who also grew up in Florida and experiences above average warmth on a daily basis during the summer, gives us some things every equestrian should know for the summer season.

As the snow finally melts and the temperatures continue to rise it can only mean one thing: Summer is on its way! Riders can rejoice over the end of cold winter days and the multitude of different blankets; however, it’s not all fun and games, especially when temperatures can soar into 100+ degrees! As a born and raised Floridian I have suffered through countless brutal summers, but have learned several tips to every equestrian should know for over the summer!

Avoid riding in the heat of the day. This is probably the best tip to keep cool over the summer. Try to ride in the early morning or late afternoon/evening to beat the heat! Also, download a reliable weather app to check your local weather and radar. It’s always good to know when it’s supposed to rain (or storm) and what the daily temperatures are supposed to be.

Clip your horse. Would you wear a heavy jacket to ride during the heat of summer? My guess is probably not. Want to know something else? Your horse doesn’t want a heavy jacket either! Clipping your horse helps them stay cool, and they are less likely to become overheated if it is extremely warm outside.

Buy some summer friendly riding clothes. When it comes to riding attire over the summer less is better! I absolutely love wearing sun shirts. Sun shirts come in a variety of colors, and they protect you from the suns rays. Also, getting a thinner pair of breeches such as GhoDhos, will help you stay cooler than usual!

Prevent flies and mosquitos. Flies and other insects just love the hot and humid summer months. There is nothing worse than having flies buzz around you the entire time you’re at the barn. However, there are several things to help prevent them. You can mix Pinesol with water in a watering can and shake side to side across the aisle way of the barn. You can also purchase Fly Predators which will actually destroy the flies while they are still in their immature pupa stage. Finally, a lot of barns install automatic fly spray dispensers. This can be costly, and may not be something over which you have control or a say, but it is a good investment and something you can suggest if you are able.

Eliminate helmet and glove odors. One of my least favorite parts of summer is how sweaty I get during riding! Unfortunately, this means having a sweaty, stinky helmet and gloves. However, there are ways to get rid of the stink. One way is spraying rubbing alcohol. This might sound strange, but it eliminates odor creating bacteria. You can also lightly sprinkle baking powder in/on your gloves and helmet to eliminate the odors. Many helmet companies also sell their own odor eliminating sprays for helmets.

Take a vacation… with your horse! Taking a vacation with your horse is becoming increasingly popular among equestrians. There are special beaches and lakes where you can take your horse(s) swimming – how “cool” is that! Also, many equestrians travel to cooler locations to show during the summer. For example, Fieldstone, Lake Placid, and Old Salem Farm are popular horse shows on the East Coast and have cooler temperatures that are easier to deal with and less strenuous on horse and rider.

Hydrate. High temperatures + hard work = sweat. It’s inevitable. You are bound to sweat over the summer. The last thing you want to happen is passing out due to dehydration or other heat related issues. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen before. It’s not fun. There are many ways to prevent this from happening.

  • Drink lots of water. Physicians recommend and average of 6 – 8 cups of water per day. However, with the amount of sweat you produce and how hard you work, you should aim to drink more than that.
  • Invest in some sports drinks. In addition to bringing 2 – 3 bottles of water to the barn, I bring some type of sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade to help replenish my electrolytes. When looking at sports drinks, it’s important to look at the sugar content. Some sports drinks can actually be worse for you due to their sugar content, and you would actually be doing more harm than good by drinking something with a ton of sugar and electrolytes versus water.

Hydrate your horse. Dehydration in horses is a very serious problem that can sometimes be over looked. Monitor how much your horse drinks over the summer and make sure clean drinking water is always available. If you suspect your horse is dehydrated perform a skin-pinch test. This can be done by gently pinching some skin along your horse’s neck with your fingers. The skin should immediately go back down to normal, like if you pinched your own skin. If it is slow to return to normal, your horse is dehydrated. I would also recommend adding electrolytes to your horse(s)’ feed or water to help replenish the electrolytes they lose through sweating. SmartLytes is a great, tasty, and effective option.

Know how to treat an overheated horse. When a horse is overheated it is a very serious and potentially life-threatening situation. If a horse’s internal temperature becomes too high, it can cause brain damage. Always monitor you horse’s breathing when exercising them and avoid working them too hard. If you suspect your horse is overheated, immediately stop working the horse and get it hosed off with cool water. Use a sweat scraped to get the water off to help with cooling. Move the horse to a breezy area or in front of a fan to help it cool off even more. Offer water to encourage your horse to drink once they have cooled down some. If your horse is not responding to any of the treatments above, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian. Better safe than sorry!

Treating fungus and bacterial related problems. Unfortunately with summer comes rain; with rain comes fungus and bacterial-related problems. Perhaps the most common is thrush, a bacterial infection that occurs in horses’ hooves. Thrush can occur when a horse is exposed to wet, unsanitary, or muddy conditions. To prevent thrush, keep your horse(s)’ stall clean at all times, avoid turning them out when it’s muddy, and use thrush treatments such as Thrush Buster or Tomorrow Dry Cow (Editor’s Note: Farrier’s Fix Hoof Oil is another amazing Thrush preventative and treatment. It also treats a condition that can help in breeding severe thrush – heel cracks. If your horse has Thrush or is prone to Thrush, and you are unsure of the right treatment plan, you can always consult your farrier or vet.) If your horse has a fungus-related skin infection, most can be treated with Betadine. Some can be treated with anti-itch cream. There are also many other fungus treatments on the market such as: EquiFit AgSilver Treatments and MTG. However, a veterinarian should be brought out if the fungus is getting worse or isn’t going away. I have seen some very bad cases of fungal-related skin issues which is why I always treat them as soon as possible. Finally, if there is a fungal-related skin condition on a certain horse, avoid direct contact with other horses, sharing girths, saddle pads, or brushes.