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Friesians And Gypsy Cobs - Draft Horses

Friesian draft breed is rooted in Friesland, Northwestern Europe, which is now a part of the Netherlands. The original stock was descended from the order of Equus robustus (the big horse). In the 16th and 17th centuries, Andalusian lineage was introduced to the bloodline in the form of Spanish stallions which were abandoned on the battlefield during the war between the Spanish and the Dutch. This new blood endowed the Friesian line with higher knee action, smaller heads, and arching necks.

Description and Characteristics

The Friesian is one of the smaller draft horses, in stature and weight. In order for Friesians to be deemed purebred, and allowed to be used for breeding stock for a purebred line, they must be at least 14. 3 hands (57. 2 in. , or 145. 3 cm. ) at the shoulder. And the subject must be solid black with no white markings on the legs or body. The typical height is 15. 3 to 16. 1 hands (155. 4 to 163. 6 cm. , or 61. 2 to 64. 4 in. ). The Friesian is heavily boned, and the adult averages about 1300 pounds (92. 3 stones). This breed appears to be short and stocky. The thick manes and tails, and abundant fetlock hair are traditionally allowed to remain full and natural. The Friesian has a good temperament and is sensible but lively. The breed can be used for pulling, or for saddle riding. And while Friesians have the normal gaits - walk, trot, and canter - long tradition has emphasized the "big" trot which is typical of the breed.

Gypsy Cob - This small draft horse traces its roots to the Romanys, who had no need for the larger drafts. For almost 100 years the Romany people, or Gypsies, have bred the cob to pull their traditional carts and "mobile homes" throughout the country lanes of Ireland and England. And although many of the "Travelers" - as the ones who move about the country are called - have changed to more modern conveyances, there are still those who cling to the traditional mode of travel.

Even though many people of the Romany heritage no longer travel, they continue to breed these colorful horses as a way of keeping tradition alive. As long ago the modern Gypsy's wealth is still, in a large part, measured by the size and quality of his horse herd.

Description and Conformation

The Gypsy Cob has no one specific color. The most common are pinto patterned, piebald, and skewbald. They are small, in that they traditionally stand 13 to 15. 2 hands (52 to 60. 8 in. , or 132 to 154 cm. ) at the shoulder. They are compact, yet sturdy and durable. Their stamina allows them to pull a loaded "living wagon", at a steady trot, all day long.

In order to be classified as a traditional Gypsy horse, they must have an abundance of hair and feathering. The feathering starts at the knee and grows all over the bottom half of the leg to the hoof.

The Gypsy Cob has been bred for a particular type for years, but can trace their ancestral roots back to Clydesdales, Shires, Friesians, and Irish Drafts as well a Connemara, Dales, and Fell ponies. This horse is typically known to be very sound and sane, a faithful companion, and to possess incredible versatility.


Buying Your First Horse - A Practical Guide

Spring is here, and the warmer weather is on the way. As the grass starts to grow, the sun appears and nothing seems so attractive as meandering down those country lanes or cantering up the bridle paths on your own horse.

If you have only ever ridden at a riding school before, buying your first horse will be a real experience for you - and one you shouldn't go without doing some careful thinking and planning first. A horse should be your trusted companion for some time - you owe it to him to make sure you pick the right one for you. There is nothing worse for a horse than to be sold on time and time again because he was bought by the wrong person.

The person selling your ideal horse will be keen to make sure you are right for him and may even seem reluctant to part with him - if you ever feel you are being pressured into making a decision it is probably not the right horse to buy!

This article tries to give the first time buyer some tips.

Where should I look for my perfect horse?

Horses are advertised in magazines, both local and national, and in many local outlets such as notice boards in livery yards and tack shops.

Horse and Hound is a very popular source, and has a large number of horses for sale. However you do need to be quick off the mark - if you wait a couple of days you will find the best ones have been sold. Horse and Hound do carry their adverts on their internet site, and there are also many other sites offering horses for sale.

For a first horse or pony word of mouth is always a good option - your local riding school or livery yard may know of ponies or horses in the locality which may suit you and which are going to be sold, however this may not be the quickest option.

Be prepared for it to take some time to find your right partner.

Before you start looking at the adverts and especially before you go to see that first horse, be absolutely clear in your own mind:

- What is an honest assessment of your riding ability?
- What do you want to do with your horse?
- What is your budget?

When you start going out to see horses bear in mind that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince! Finding your ideal partner for the next few years will take time and cannot be rushed. Make sure you are totally honest and keep the answers to the questions in your mind - many a person has been led astray by falling in love with a totally unsuitable mount. Remember, it is not fair on either you or the horse if you end up with an animal you cannot control or if you want to jump and the horse has a total aversion to it!

And remember, keeping a horse is an expensive business - there is no point overstretching yourself to buy him if you are going to need to buy tack as well.

Keep a clear head - and let it rule your heart!

When I go to see a horse, what should I look for?

Make sure you see the horse in the stable - don't rely on any statement that he has 'perfect stable manners', ask to see for yourself. Ideally watch him being tacked up - does he stand quietly? Horses which behave well when being ridden sometimes try to kick or bite in the stable, when being tacked up, having rugs put on or off or just when you go to fill a hay net. A horse which is difficult in the stable will make your life difficult as the owner, and if you are going to keep your horse at livery will not make you popular!

Look carefully at the horse for any signs of sweat marks. Some sellers lunge or vigorously exercise their horses just before a prospective owner turns up at the yard making them seem a much quieter ride than they really are. You can also ask about the level of exercise he has been used to - if he is used to being exercised more than you will have time for you may find you have a more excitable horse on your hands than you really want.

I have never bought a horse before - what should I do when I try it out?

If you have only had lessons before you may find yourself at a loss without an instructor standing in the middle telling you what to do. It is therefore best to decide before you go a short routine you will use that will test the horse you are trying, and allow you to assess whether it is the one for you or not.

A routine might be, walk round the menage, halting at least once to make the horse is listening to you. Walk a 20 metre circle, watching out for the horse leaning in or out. Does he listen to your corrections? Change rein and repeat the walk exercises. Try to assess whether he bends easier on one rein or the other - not necessarily a fault as horses do tend to have a stronger rein, but it is more important that he is attentive to you!

Now put the horse into trot - watching for whether he goes forward eagerly or is reluctant. Use little leg at first - if you have been used to riding school horses they may have become 'dead to the leg'. You can always increase the leg aid, but it is preferable to do this than having the horse shoot off with you! As in walk work a circle on both reins. Does he drop out of trot as he bends? Does he try to go forward into canter? Would you be happy with this behaviour? If he is very strong, be prepared for him to be even stronger when you get him home - an energetic horse may well have been lunged before you came to see him and may be even fresher on other days!

If you are happy with the trot try a canter on each rein. He should make the upward transition smoothly when you ask him to do so.

If you want a jumping horse make sure you try him over a fence. Is he eager or does he need a lot of encouragement?

Try to decide before you visit the horse exactly what you are looking for, and what you are prepared to work with. And try to keep sensible. There is no point falling in love at first sight with a beautiful animal you cannot control - or one which is reluctant to jump when that is your reason for buying!

This is a partnership which you will have for some time - your partner should be chosen very carefully to make sure he is compatible with your level of riding, and what you want to do. Common sense should rule here - not your heart!

When I go to see a horse, should I see him ridden first?

Yes, of course! If the owner says there is no one available to ride him be very wary. It may be that he is too difficult for anyone there to ride. Only attempt this is you are a very experienced rider - otherwise be prepared to walk away, or at the very least try and arrange to come back when you can see him ridden.

The current owner should ride a routine similar to the one described above to enable you to assess the horse's way of going, and how he responds. If he makes upwards transitions easily for someone else, but not for you, this could be something that can be addressed with some lessons. However, be aware - there is a saying that a horse's ability sinks to match those of its rider. Just because the horse you have fallen in love with makes flying changes on demand for its current owner, it may not make them for you if you cannot ride at that level! Your new perfectly schooled dressage horse cannot be depended on to teach

And finally

It may take a few months to find the right horse, but be assured that the wait will be worth it. One thing is probably certain - that palomino mare you had pictured yourself riding away on into the sunset may well turn out to be a bay gelding! But whatever size, colour or sex you end up with, if you have taken your time choosing you will have a wonderful partnership.


Is A Steel Building Safe To Use As A Horse Barn?

More and more people are using steel buildings for many different reasons. First of all, steel buildings are very versatile because they are used as sport arenas, garages, and even homes. They are quick to build, which is great for companies needing steel buildings because of the rapid changes they undergo. There's also no more having to wait months on end for a new building to be built for incredibly large amounts of money. Steel buildings are affordable as well.

But what about the people wishing to use a steel building as a horse barn? Is it safe?

Well, let's put it this way: If a steel building can be made into a home in which people live, then there is no reason why a steel building cannot be used to house horses. That is rather amazing for a building material that was considered to be unusual just a century ago. Steel wasn't mass produced until 1855 and it still took time for the versatility and the benefits to be recognized.

The physical and the chemical characteristics of steel make it ideal for building. Simply look at its chemical composition. It has a certain percentage of carbon in it, but is mostly made up of iron. The iron itself will slide past each other if cut into sheets, which makes it very soft. When the carbon is added in, the metal becomes considerably stronger. That's what gives us steel and gives the steel manufacturers the ability to make various types of steel, which makes such structures as steel barns possible.

You want the main frame of the barn to be very strong, so that is, of course, going to require a harder type of steel. For other parts of the building, the steel doesn't need to be as hard, so there is more iron and less carbon to make the steel softer and more flexible where it needs to be.

As for horse barns, horse owners are using steel buildings because they are low maintenance and bug infestation is not an issue. That means no carpenter bees and no termites eating away at wood. Steel also cannot develop mold, mildew, or any other type of fungi that may decide it likes to grow in a horse barn. It can certainly try, but nothing is going to happen if the barn is made of steel. A steel horse barn means more attention is paid to the animals and less attention is paid to the upkeep of the barn. Other things to take into consideration when using a steel barn is that there is a low risk of it becoming infested with parasites that can make the horses ill. We've also seen the horror stories where hay or straw has caught fire and the horses have no way of getting out of the barn because the entire structure is ablaze. The good news is that the risk of such a fire is reduced significantly since steel is not combustible. Even if fire would break out, there is a good chance the roof and the walls would not collapse since steel can endure incredibly high temperatures.

This makes the only concern being what size of steel building is needed. Of course that is going to depend on how many horses you have or how many you hope to have if you're just starting out. But what is great is that steel buildings are safe to use as horse barns and in many ways keeps your horses safer than if they were in a barn made of wood or another type of building material.


Choosing the Correct Horse Stirrups for Safety

Horse stirrups are a vital part of the horse riding equipment that is needed before the rider heads off on their horse. Although they are a very simple design, the stirrups are an essential part of the saddle and safety equipment that is needed. There are several different designs of stirrups to choose from depending on the style of the saddle and rider. Western stirrups are different in design to stand stirrups; however, they have the same function.

Although horse riding is a sport that makes the rider feel very free, there are aspects of safety that have to be followed. Staying safe whilst out riding is essential, and having the right equipment will help. Alongside good quality tack using the correct horse stirrups is essential; as they will support the rider's feet. Although it may be tempting for the rider to simply let their feet dangle, this can be very dangerous.

All riders want to feel that they are safe and secure whilst out on their horses, and using the right horse stirrups can help achieve this. Although the stirrups are designed to support the rider, they will also need to be designed with safety in mind. Traditionally the stirrups would have been one design, which tended to get the riders feet stuck if they feel.

This could result in the rider suffering from broken bones, or serious injury as they were dragged by the horse stirrups. However, today the latest designs of the horse stirrups ensure that the rider is kept safe and that their foot is easily released if they fall. Western stirrups are designed wider than typical stirrups for safety reasons. They also have larger treads to ensure that the boots that are worn cannot be caught in the stirrups.

Some horse stirrups are designed with a tapedero, which is placed over the front of the stirrup to ensure that the rider's foot cannot be pushed too far forward. Other designs of stirrups can be found that have wider, bent sides to ensure there is no danger of trapping the riders foot inside. Although the western stirrups are great in design, they will look strange on any other saddle other than a western saddle.

Once the correct style of horse stirrups have been chosen they will need to be fitted onto the saddle correctly, this will ensure that the rider is comfortable. If the stirrups are too high, the rider will find that their position on the horse is compromised. Every time before taking the horse out the rider will need to ensure that they check the length and condition of the stirrups.

The horse stirrups are a piece of equipment that is often taken for granted, however, they need to be the correct design. If the rider takes the time to ensure that the right safety aspects are considered when they're riding, they will remain safe at all times. If something does happen and the rider falls, their feet will be free of the stirrups, and all that will be hurt will be their pride.


Percherons - Very Adaptable Draft Horses

Although the exact origins of the Percheron have been lost over the years, there are several different beliefs about their roots. There are those who believe that this large draft horse is descended from the original horses of the Ice Age. Still others think that it's closely related to the Boulonnais horse that the Romans used to invade Brittany. And a third group maintains that the horse is from a herd of Arabians, or some of the horses used by the Moors during the battle of Poitiers. Whatever one chooses to believe, the consensus among all is that the Percheron can be traced to Normandy at an area called La Perche. Once again, a draft breed has at its roots the Belgian-Flemish blood.

While modern-day Percherons are notable for their heavy draft work, during the 8th century the heavier native and cob stock were crossbred with Arabians and other Oriental horses. The Percheron produced by this breeding made the horses more suitable for riding and lighter draft work. As time passed, the use of a Percheron as a carriage horse developed into the more practical need as a heavier draft animal. The smaller-boned breed of the late 1800s was crossed with the heavier mares of Brittany, resulting in the stockier Percheron that is most familiar today.

Description and Conformation

The preferred Percherons are black or grey but browns, sorrels, and bays are acceptable for registration. Due to the Oriental-type blood throughout their history, while a heavy horse, the elegance of the heritage shows. The Percheron is not as choppy in its movements as other heavy draft horses tend to be. The head is ideally medium sized, has a lean, clean cut, and a broad width between the eyes. While the chest is deep and wide, the shoulders of the Percheron should not stand out prominently, as they tend to do on other drafts. The back is straight and strong in proportion to the neck length and shoulder height.

Today's average Percheron measures 17 to 18 hands (68 to 72 in. , or 173 to 183 cm. ) at the shoulder. Mature Percherons can weigh from 1600 pounds (113. 6 stones) up to, and in excess of, 2400 pounds (170. 4 stones).

This breed of draft horse has been acclaimed as being very adaptable in any environment And it is characterized by a long smooth stride which shows determination and willingness. It is also known for its intelligence, affable temperament, willingness to work, and reputation for ease of handling.

Draft (Draught) Horses - The Shire

The last of six articles about Draft (Draught) Horses, this one is about the Shire, and English draft horse which can be traced back as far as the Roman Conquest.


The Shire, an English draft horse, can be traced back to the days of the Roman Conquest. The horse has been depicted in paintings, as far back as the 15th century, in full war regalia. There are those who do not doubt that this heavy draft was used by knights in battle. Others, however, do not share this belief. In any event, once the tournaments and heavily armored knights passed into history, the ancestors of the Shire were put to use pulling wagons on the roads and ploughs in the fields. It soon became the largest and most powerful horse in Britain. Still today, brewers in English cities use the Shire to pull beer wagons and, they are used for weight-pulling and ploughing competitions.

Although the Shire was found and developed throughout England, what is know today as the Midlands (Lincoln, Huntington, Derby, Norfolk, Leicester, Cambridge, and Norfolk shires) were where the highest concentration of this draft could be found. As with other draft horses, the Shire bloodline was improved with the mixture of other breeds throughout history. There are relatively accurate records, which date back about 1000 years, that show when the Belgian and Flanders breeds were crossed with the Shire.

The Shire was first imported to America in 1853. In the early 1900s it seemed that the Shire might overshadow the Percheron as America's favored draft horse. However, the Percheron prevailed.

Description and Conformation

The typical colors for the modern Shire includes grey, brown, bay, and black. There is the occasional white, but it is a rarity. The mature stallion stand 16. 2 to 17. 2 hands (165 to 175 cm. , or 65 to 69 in. ) at the shoulder and weighs up to 2200 pounds (156 stones). The mares and geldings are slightly smaller.

This draft has the convex, or "Roman", nose. Its eyes are large, wide-spread, and intelligently expressive. The shoulders are large and prominent. The body is relatively thick. And the legs are long with a good deal of feathering around the feet.


Finding the Perfect Style of Horse Riding Chaps

Horse riding chaps are a vital part of riding clothes that can make the riding experience far more comfortable. The chaps are ideal to keep the riders legs dry in bad weather and make riding an enjoyable experience. Whether the rider is simply a weekend rider or is on a horse every day the week, chaps can make all of the difference. They can be worn very easily over the top of jodhpurs or other types of riding trousers.

There are several different styles, colors and materials of riding chaps to choose from and the process can be daunting. There are full length and half leg pants to decide between and which ones are chosen are often due to the rider's preference. Although there are some very traditional horse riding chaps, today it is possible to find them in some great colors and styles.

With any form of clothing fashion is as important as the other details and horse chaps are no different. Although they need to be safe, functional and the right fit they can also be very trendy and colorful. Whether full length or half leg riding pants, they will help to protect the rider's legs. These Pants are often associated with cowboys and western riders; however, they are now very popular all over the world.

The original style of horse chaps were known as Batwing chaps due to the wide cut and the flare at the bottom. The design of these pants are perfect for riding and being able to move freely on the horse. They allow the rider to remain cooler during the summer months, and provide the most comfort. Another popular design of riding pants is shotgun chaps these are far straighter and more restrictive.

There are some very elaborate styles of horse riding apnts available, which are excellent if the rider wants to make a statement. If the budget will stretch to more than one pair, it may be possible to have a very stylish pair and a practical pair for everyday wear. Horse chaps can be found with tassels and very decorative wings; however, these may not be the best ones to wear when riding daily. The chaps are very personal to the rider, and there is a huge selection to choose.

Typically, horse riding chaps are made from leather or synthetic leather material, making them ideal for wet weather. Leather horse pants will last for many years and remain in excellent condition. Although leather riding pants are more expensive, they are far better quality.

The horse chaps will need to endure a lot of work, so they need to be durable and tough. Not only will the pants protect the rider's legs from the bad weather, but they will also protect them from injury if they fall. Having a second layer on the rider's legs is always a bonus in the event of a knock or fall. Whatever horse riding chaps are chosen, they should never be restricting in anyway. Although fashion is great, it should never take precedence over safety when riding.


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