Tuesday, July 21, 2009

English Saddles

Someone new to the 4-H program once asked me about buying an English saddle for her daughter to show in, and when I asked her what kind she was thinking about, she looked at me strangely and said “how many kinds are there?” Just off-hand I could think of 3 types – hunt seat, saddle seat and dressage – but then when I really started thinking about it, there are also 2 different kinds of hunt seat saddles. It can be confusing and hard to know where to start when deciding on an English saddle purchase.

Hunt Seat Saddle Types
Close Contact Hunt Seat Saddle Hunt seat saddles are either a close contact type or an all-purpose/eventing type. The close contact saddle has a somewhat flat seat and short, forward-placed flaps with knee rolls to hold the leg in position. This saddle is mainly used for jumping.

All-Purpose Hunt Seat Saddle The all-purpose English saddle has a deeper seat with slightly longer flaps – also with knee rolls – which are not placed quite as far forward as the close contact. This saddle can be used for flat work and jumping.

Dressage Saddles

Dressage Saddle A dressage saddle has a deep seat and longer, straighter flaps as the rider rides with longer stirrups. This saddle puts the rider a little farther back than a hunt saddle, so the rider doesn't have the typical forward seat of a hunt rider. Since this discipline of riding never goes over fences, the saddle doesn't need support for the rider like a hunt saddle.

Saddle Seat Saddles

Saddle Seat Saddle The saddle seat saddle has a very flat seat, a cut-back pommel and wide, long flaps. The rider rides back on the horse to facilitate a freer movement of the shoulders and encourage a high-stepping movement. Much like the dressage discipline, saddle seat saddles don't need much support for the rider.

Before any English saddle purchase, the rider needs to know which type of riding they'd like to participate in, since that will determine (mostly) the type of saddle used. After this is determined, it's time to get the correct saddle and English bridle for that specific discipline.

My advice to the 4-H mom was to invest in an all-purpose saddle since it is better suited for hunt seat beginners due to the better security of a deeper seat. I also advised her, as I tell anyone who asks, to spend the money to buy a good saddle which will last, put the rider in the correct position and is comfortable.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

I have been looking at the numbers on the stickers on various horse trailers to try and figure out how much they weigh. I know how much my truck is rated to safely pull, but how do I figure out how much the trailer weighs? There are all sorts of initials on the stickers – GVWR/PNBV and GAWR/PNBE. The first thing I had to do was to figure out what those initials mean! GVWR stands for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating; GAWR is the Gross Axle Weight Rating, and PNBV and PNBE are the French equivalents of those (respectively).

So what does all that mean and how do I figure out how much trailer I can pull with my Ford pickup? Does that GVWR number mean that I then add the weight of the horses, plus all the tack, hay, etc. that I'm hauling? I called a few people - dealerships of both trailers and vehicles - to try and figure this out and ended up with long discussions and learning quite a bit.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating vs. Gross Vehicle Weight
The GVWR – the rating of the trailer – is different from the GVW, Gross Vehicle Weight, which is the actual weight of the trailer. The rating will never change, but the weight can change depending on how much it is loaded. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is the maximum loaded weight – for a trailer this includes the weight of the trailer plus mats, spare tire, horses, hay, feed, supplies, etc.

I then looked at the owner’s guide for my truck, a ¾-ton heavy-duty diesel, to see what it is rated to pull. At first I thought the number I found – 23,000 lbs. – was great, until I noticed it said that was the GCWR. This means the Gross Combined Weight Rating, which is the total weight of the truck AND trailer. The GVWR for that particular truck (found inside the driver’s side door) is 10,000 lbs., which means I could safely pull a trailer rated at 13,000 lbs.

But if I’m pulling a horse trailer, I wouldn’t be loading the truck to its maximum, so I needed to figure out how much my truck actually weighs, and that isn’t to be found anywhere in the specifications! I called the dealership where I bought my truck and asked if they could get that information for me. Because I bought the truck from them brand new, they found the shipping weight of my truck from when it was delivered to them – 7,020 lbs.

From all this information, I figure that I would be able to pull a gooseneck trailer with living quarters up to 14,000 lbs. Surely I am going to be able to find that!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Horse Trailers

While sitting around the campfire recently on a week-long trip to Medora, North Dakota, there was a discussion about trailers: straight load vs. slant load, aluminum vs. steel, gooseneck vs. bumper pull; lengths, widths, heights and living quarters. The variations are endless and everyone has their favorites.

It seems that more and more horse trailers on the road these days are aluminum, since they’re lightweight and easy to pull. I remember, though, telling someone about the trailer I had just gotten and when I mentioned it was aluminum she said she would never have anything but a steel trailer. When I asked why, she said that she didn’t want to take a chance of a horse kicking the side and putting a foot through the aluminum.

Slant-Load Trailers
I think horses prefer riding at a slant, it’s easier for them to balance side-to-side as opposed to front-to-back, although I have seen horses loose in a stock trailer turning so that they are facing backwards. If you think about it, most of a horse’s weight is carried on their front end so it makes sense that it would be easier to balance while facing backwards. I like the convenience of loading horses into a slant-load versus a straight-load, it also seems safer if you’re leading a horse into the trailer as there’s more room to get out once the horse is in. My old mare seems to panic when backing out of a trailer and the further she has to back, the faster she goes until she’s running backwards, practically out of control. But in the slant-load, I can turn her around and then she’s perfectly calm walking out.

Bumper Pull vs. Gooseneck Trailers
My trailer is a bumper pull since we have a motor home we use when camping, but everyone I know who has a gooseneck trailer says that they are far easier and more stable to haul. Our decision was made because we don’t always camp with horses and we didn’t want to take the trailer along whenever we wanted to just go for a weekend without horses. I have to admit, though, that with the cost of gas, taking a truck and trailer for long distances is far more economical than the motorhome.

Trailers with Living Quarters
I have always thought that I didn’t want to give up all the comforts and space of our motor home, but gooseneck trailers with living quarters are getting more and more luxurious all the time. I was looking at new trailers at the Horse Expo in St. Paul last spring and was amazed at some of the trailers. One I looked at, admittedly on the high end of pricing, had a slide-out for a living room, 2 TV’s, complete kitchen, a huge bathroom, and even a gas fireplace!

4-Horse Trailers
Another consideration when looking at trailers is how many horses it will accommodate. I’ve always had a 4-horse trailer, but I seldom haul 4 horses any more now that both of my daughters are grown and off on their own. Even so, I still like having those 4 stalls for the extra room it gives me to haul “stuff.” The front stall has a stud gate – the partition going almost to the floor – so that I can put camping gear or firewood or hay in that spot. I had another stud gate installed for the last stall also so that if I am taking 3 horses I can fill the last spot with hay bales. It’s a little inconvenient to have to load the hay after the horses and then take it out before unloading, but I prefer doing that to attempting to make it fit into the tack compartment.

Whenever anyone asks me about trailers (when they are looking to buy one) I always advise them to buy a trailer with one more stall than they think they’ll need, just for the extra room. I have friends which only have 2 horses, but they purchased a 3-horse trailer.

Make Sure Your Vehicle is Rated to Tow the Trailer!
Whatever trailer you decide to buy, make sure that your vehicle is rated to pull it. There is nothing more frightening than driving down the road and having the trailer swing your vehicle – I know because it happened to me! I was talking to a truck dealer one time and he told me a story about someone who bought a large boat and when he came to pick it up he had only a car to pull it home.

The dealer tried to tell him it wasn’t safe, but the man insisted and so off he went. Yes, the car could pull the boat and trailer, but when he went around a curve, the boat pulled the car straight ahead into the ditch. Even if you're not going to be driving around curves, figure that your vehicle needs ample stopping time - for its weight plus the weight of your trailer - if what you're pulling weighs more than your car, the car won't be able to stop the inertia of the trailer. It’s not so much whether your vehicle can PULL the trailer, but can it CONTROL it!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Hauling Hay

It’s July – sunny, hot, and breezy, a perfect day for lazing around on the lake. But it’s also perfect haying weather so that’s what I’ve done all day, back and forth to the farm where I buy my hay, pulling a triple axle trailer loaded with round hay bales.

The folks at the farm give me a call when they’ve knocked the hay down so I can plan my days to be ready when they are. By going to get the hay as it is being baled, they don’t have to double handle it and I can just drive my truck down the rows of bales as they load it right onto my trailer. Then it’s 20 miles home, trying not to hold up too much traffic on my way, unload and stack, and back to get another load.

I do have to admit that hauling and unloading round bales is a lot easier than unloading and stacking multiple loads of square bales, and it's so much easier feeding round bales to the horses in the winter! But it’s still hot work.

Oh well, at least my dog got to spend her time cooling off in the lake!