I have been interested in conditioning my 5 year old Tennesee Walking Horse to compete (and hopefully finish!!) in a 25mile endurance race sometime next year. I know that we won't be able to be a competitive endurance team, as he's the short stocky type, but he has a lot of drive and determination. We ride trail so often, normally 5 days a week, and he can go for about 2-3 hours at a gait and barely break a sweat. I decided it would be a good training goal to help us to keep pushing each other. I made my goal time for next year because I still am not confident enough to go on long trail rides alone, and my mom's horse who I ride with is 18 and can't stay at the pace I'd like for Sawyer.
I've been scoping out this Endurance section for quite some time, and have found tons of useful information regarding tack, but still have a lot of questions
I currently am riding in a cheap EBay Australian Saddle. It fits my horse and I well, but it starting to show a lot of wear after only a few months which makes me nervous. I plan on upgrading to a Kimberly saddle before I embark on any long rides alone so I don't get stuck on the trail with a broken saddle. Anyone with other suggestions for a good light weight Australian for a good beginner price (under 1,000 preferably, but I could go a tad higher depending), toss them my way!
I also ride him in a Tom Thumb short shanked bit. He responds very well to this bit, but I don't like bits at all! He has a habit at scrunching his nose up, showing his teeth, and biting the air rapidly, making little choppy noises. I hate this, he only does in in his bridle. I've been told to put a cavesson on him, but if he's doing this because of pain, I don't want to mask it, I need to be aware.
For a long time I've wanted to switch him to bitless, but wasn't sure exactly what type. I see a lot of people here use little S hackamores. While I don't mind those, I quite prefer the looks of side pulls. I don't want it to 'look' so much like isn't wearing a bit since I may someday show him in flat shod gaited shows. This is my favorite sidepull:
The Bitless Bridle by Dr. Robert Cook, FRCVS, Ph.D., a humane alternative to the bit
Does anyone have any experience with this particular brand?
Another question, which may be stupid, but I've always wondered. What's with the COLORS? At first I didn't like on it, but it has grown on me SO fast! I've always been an all black tack person, but recently bought bright red polo wraps and a pad. I knew you all were converting me! Is there a particular reason that endurance riders choose such colorful tack? And how would my boy look all red and black tack!?
I've been eyeing the bright red sidepull from the link above, but know I'd have to show in something different, so I'd probably start with a black and get my red one after I had the rest of my gear.
Crupper... DUNDUNDUUUUN! My boy has a short back, no withers to speak of. And is possibly built downhill. I've been told Ill need a crupper. If I even braid my horses tail and touch his tail bone, he pulls it under his body and pins his ears, trying to escape if possible. He nearly falls when I clean under his tail in the bath rack. I think my horse would be scarred for life if something went under his tail and didn't come out. I ride very steep hills, I've never had my saddle slip foreward, only back. I am nervous about it happening during a competition though.. How would you possibly introduce a crupper to a horse like him? He has literally sat on his but like a dog when someone else held the water under his tail saying he'd get used to it. I don't want to put either one of us in danger.
I've read a lot about training on these forums, and have a notebook filled with training techniques I've learned on here and I use it to log Our miles already. One of my issues has to do with Sawyer's training. My mother has a horse that rushes home, the minute you turn around on a trail, he starts acting up, knowing he's going home. I told my trainer that I never wanted Sawyer to pick up these bad habits. My trainer instructed me to always make him dog walk home. No gaiting, no jigging, just a calm walk. He is great coming home, I've never had a problem. I'm nervous that in the training I may ruin this letting him gait towards home. I have read that to start, do five miles at a trot (I'll substitute with a gait) walk him to cool down, and take his pulse. I don't want to gait him on the way home though, and don't want to go out 5 miles, take the pulse, and walk back five. Am I misreading anything? And if not, does anyone have any creative solutions for this issue? I know the no gaiting home may sound like a silly rule, but he's only been under saddle 8 months and has no bad habits, I don't want it give him an excuse to start.
Thank you so much for answering any of those questions. I understand it'll be hard to answer them all, so just a few is fine :) thank you for having a look at this and any advice you can give us :)