HILL'S HORSEKEEPING NEWSLETTER
© 2009 Cherry Hill
newsletter is a personal letter from me to you,
a fellow horse owner and
My goal is to answer some of your questions and send you interesting
and helpful tips for your horse care, training, and riding.
!! Spring has sprung and riding season is upon us. This time of year as you are
getting your horses back into shape, you'll likely be going through many wet saddle
blankets, right? Right !
Be sure to take
care of this important piece of tack. Have a great ride,
1< Page 2
© 2009 Cherry Hill
As with other tack, you'll likely do better during competition if you train in
the same pad you're going to compete in. If your "Sunday" pad is the
most comfortable one for your horse, take it off the rack and use it for daily
training and buy another just like it for competition. Any pad worth its salt
should last at least 3 years.
Sticks, leaves, pine
needles and burs can find their way under the pad, especially when riding through
brush or woods. This can cause behavior changes in your horse at the least and
a serious sore at worst. When you're riding through brushy areas, stop frequently
and uncinch the saddle to check under the pad for foreign objects, especially
if it seems like your horse is trying to tell you something. If you stop riding
the horse as soon as you notice a sore starting he'll generally heal up pretty
quick. If you continue to ride a horse that's got a sore on his back or withers,
you will soon be without a mount.
synthetic materials, like PVC and open and closed-cell foams, can be quite stiff
in cold temperatures. It's a good idea to either warm the pad before putting it
on the horse or let the pad warm up against the horse's back for about five minutes
after saddling and before giving the cinch the final tightening. That way the
pad will conform better to the horse's back.
about hot weather riding? It's important to keep a dry pad on the horse as much
as you can and unsaddle a horse whenever you get the chance. If a pad is wet when
you start, and a horse's skin stays damp, it's a lot easier for a sore to get
started. Wool pads and wool fleece pads dry quickly so are favorites of endurance
After use, many riders spread the blanket
wet side up over their saddle to dry. The problem: the saddle keeps air from getting
underneath to flow through the blanket. A blanket or pad will dry better if air
can get to both sides. The best way to dry pads and blankets is to hang them upside
down over a thin metal rod. I've got a rack of drying rods located under an overhang
of my barn. As soon as I unsaddle, the blanket is hung up and starts drying in
the Colorado breeze. The rods swivel so I can swing them out in the sun as well.
The main complaint about felt pads
is that they get stiff after a while. The reason felt pads get stiff is because
they absorb horse sweat, which contains salt and other minerals and which also
carries dirt from the horse's coat into the pad. The sweat evaporates and the
dirt and minerals accumulate in the felt, making it stiff and crusty.
One way around this is to use a washable liner (underpad) next to the horse. A
thin blanket or felt pad works well. Having several liners on hand will ensure
your main pad or blanket stays cleaner, especially during shedding season.
Blankets and pads should be cleaned regularly. If you can feel any hard or crusty
areas on a pad or blanket or if it smells bad, it is overdue for washing. Most
new pads and blankets come with washing instructions. If you have specific questions
call the manufacturer.
I recommend brushing and vacuuming
pads and blankets often to increase their life and maximize time between washings.
I've found that it saves time in the long run and is easier on the material if
I clean them frequently without water. And you'll probably find that a blanket
that is 10% dirty grips your horse better than one that is freshly clean out of
the washer. Here is my waterless cleaning method:
Most people think heat is the main
reason processed wool fabrics shrink. Although heat will "shrink" the
diameter of the wool fibers, it is agitation such as from a washing machine or
dryer that shrinks the length of the fibers.
a wool blanket, soak it for an hour in water (most manufacturers recommend cold
or lukewarm). Squeeze the blanket to remove as much water as you can and hang
the blanket over a rail. Lightly brush it on both sides. Let the blanket air dry
completely and then slap it against a solid surface, such as a clean, smooth wall,
until it feels soft as new.
Wool, especially, can
be damaged by an alkaline solution, so when using soap it's best to use a ph balanced
shampoo (between 5.5 and 8) or non-sudsing blanket wash specially designed for
washing blankets and pads made of wool. If you use detergent (Woolite is a liquid
detergent), use very little and make sure to rinse every trace of soap from the
blanket or pad. Otherwise, soap can work out of the pad when a horse sweats and
irritate and sore the horse's back.
washing blankets and pads, to be sure they are rinsed thoroughly run them through
an additional heavy wash cycle using only water, no soap. Whether washing by hand
or by machine, adding a cup of white vinegar or 1/2 cup of Calgon to the rinse
water will help flush out the soap. (A vinegar rinse, incidentally, also works
on horses' manes and tails to remove any shampoo residue that might cause the
horse to rub.)
Cleaning Foam Pads
Open-cell foam, the absorbent, sponge-like padding used in some pads, can be soaked
in warm water, squeezed or pressed to remove the water and dirt, and then air
dried in the shade (some foams are damaged by the sun's ultra violet rays). Soap
can be extremely difficult to rinse completely from open-cell foam, so use very
little or none. Closed-cell foam, like neoprene, is non-absorbent so washing with
soap is not a problem, but usually isn't necessary since this material usually
wipes or rinses clean with plain water.
Some combination pads are
so rigid they won't go into a washing machine, so spraying them by hand is the
best alternative. One method is to hang them on a fence inside out, spray them
with cold water, let them hang until dry enough to use.
more aggressive washing, you can take pads to a car wash, hang them by the floor
mat clips or lay them on the concrete, and spray them clean them with high-pressure
rinse water. Don't use the wash cycle as you don't want automotive detergent in
your saddle blanket!
Alternatively, you can buy
a high-pressure sprayer (around $150 at building and farm supply stores and through
tool catalogs) for cleaning blankets and pads as home.
Some colorful blankets will bleed onto a light-colored horse when the horse sweats.
To help set the dye and minimize bleeding, wash the blanket before use in cold
water and half a cup of vinegar.
Your horse depends
on you and you on him, but you're the one in charge of the tack. Find a pad that
works on your horse and keep it clean.
1< Page 2
2009 Cherry Hill ©