Equipment to get you startedYou won't need to run out and replace all your tack, far from it. Remember, if it works and it fits, keep it, if not, find something that does. But there are some basic pieces of equipment and information you'd need to get you going.
Purchase a stethoscope - no need to get a very fancy one - as long as it'll do the job. They're priced at around R50 and you can either ask you vet, doctor (although they might look at you funny), or any medical supply store. If you can't find one, please feel free to contact me - details appear at the end of this article. Get to know where to take your horse's pulse and what his pulse is under normal conditions as well as after any exercise.
Purchase a thermometer - a human thermometer will do - and get to know your horse's normal temperature.
Sponges. You'll never have enough. Try and find good sized sponges, not those little round ones you find at grocery stores, but the nice big ones that hold the water. You'll need these when cooling your horse down.
A good quality scraper is essential for cooling down as well. Buy two or three and keep them in the box you'll eventually purchase to hold all the bits and pieces in.
A box to keep all the little bits and pieces in. Not an essential piece of equipment, but it will make your life easier by keeping everything together in one place. There are nice colourful, easy to handle plastic boxes on the market - I've seen some nice ones at Macro and Game at very good prices. The metal boxes are very heavy and if you're a woman, difficult to handle.
If you don't already have a sweat sheet / cooler, get one as well, but ordinary towels will also do the trick.
One or two extra numnahs / saddle blankets - although you may want to wait a little until you do the longer distances - no need when still doing the short, one-leg distances.
Buckets, buckets, buckets. You'll need a good sized bucket or two for holding your horse's drinking water when at a ride. Also, get one or two big ones - those with the rope handles or similar. These will hold the grooming water when you have to cool your horse down, two will be easier when you have somebody helping you. Also, remember to have an extra feeding bucket if you cannot take the one from the stable. Different sized buckets will come in handy for storing things in as they have lids that can close tightly and they're easy to carry around - you'll find many uses for buckets.
One or two extra hay nets. Although not essential, they'll make your life easier.
A waterproof watch with either a second hand or a digital watch that shows the seconds - a stopwatch can also be used. If you feel extravagant, you can purchase a heart rate monitor, but this is not essential, just nice to have.
Some basic camping equipment like a gas bottle, kettle, pan and braai utensils. Not always necessary as most rides sell refreshments, but if you're wanting bacon and eggs for breakfast, you'll need to get these items. Besides, you might not be able to walk even a few meters after you've just done a goodly distance on horseback! A cooler box will come in handy to keep things cold or to keep the meat in. Shop around for the braai things - I bought the whole kit from Macro for about R350 and it all fits into a small carry bag - including the two gas bottles.
Decide on where you'd like to sleep. You'll have to overnight at least one night before a ride, so you can either sleep on the floor of your horse box or pitch a small tent. Assemble all the necessary camping gear like a sleeping bag with extra blanket; a mattress; pillow; and remember your toiletries.
For the girls, a good sports bra, or two, is essential - not sexy, but I'll choose comfort over sexy when doing 80kms on horseback! Shop around for the best fit and prices. For the boys, well, I don't have any experience with that, but I'd imagine something that keeps the dangly bits from dangling too much.
Sunscreen is an absolute must. Put a tube in every available nook and cranny, because you're bound to forget to pack it - cubby hole, tack box, handbag - and don't forget the stuff for your lips. I've found the best ones to use is Labello Sport or Sun - the dark blue or yellow tubes.
Waist bag big enough to hold a water bottle and cell phone and maybe a carrot for your horse and snack bar for you. Practice riding with it, as it can become a bit uncomfy if you're not used to it. Don't forget the tube of sunscreen!
A basic first aid kit, which should contain horse as well as human emergency goodies. Headache tablets, a bandage or two, some iodine, cotton wool, plasters. Don't forget to put some safety pins in - they always come in handy.
Train your horse to be happy in a roped off area as not all rides have paddocks / stables. And besides, you may be too late to book one if they are available. You may even opt to purchase electric tape - I'm about to investigate the options and will report my finding soon. But remember, if you do go for the tape, this must be trained for at home, as it would be too late when you're at a ride!
Right, now that you've spent all your money, here are the basic rules and etiquette when at a ride:
- Hard hat essential. You will not be allowed to ride unless you're wearing a hard hat. Any hard hat will do - even a cycling hat is allowed.
- No illegal substances.
- No crops longer than a jumping crop allowed and may not be wielded higher than shoulder height. No branches may be broken off trees to be used as a crop.
- No abusive tack allowed.
- Stallions to wear a yellow ribbon in the tail, kickers to wear a red ribbon in the tail.
- Substances may not be given orally via a syringe or be injected at any time.
- Dogs to be on a leash at all times.
- Minimum age of horses: 30km = 4 years; 60km or longer = 4.5 years; national ride (Fauresmith) = 5 years. The birthday of the horse to be before or on 31 May of the year of the ride.
- Pulse rates: After a 20 minute rest, the pulse rate to be a maximum of 60bpm (beats per minute). However, this may be varied by the chief vet according to conditions of the day. Also, this may change without notice according to international standards.
- No smoking on the course but at base camp allowed. Reason is that rides are mostly through farms or in game reserves.
- No littering at all times.
- Age limits: Children = 10-13 years; Junior 14-17 years; Seniors from 18th birthday.
- Novices and Children to be accompanied by an experienced senior rider (an experienced rider is considered to have done 240kms or more at official rides).
- Riders under 10 years may only ride a maximum of 30kms and must be accompanied by an experienced senior rider at all times.
- Weight limits - includes tack: Light Weight = below 73kg; Standard Weight = 73-95kg; Heavy Weight = more than 95kg.
- Shoeing: All four feet to be shod.
- No pregnant mares or mares with unweened foals (younger than 6 months) will be allowed.
- Horses to be well behaved and under the control of the handler at all times.
- You must be a club member to do distances greater than 30kms.
Unwritten Rules of Etiquette
- When approaching another rider from behind, ask to pass and wait for the gap.
- When asked to move over by a faster rider, do so if safe and preferably move to the left.
- Help any rider in need, even if it means losing valuable time.
- If your horse is upsetting the other horses, move away from them.
- When at a water point, don't leave if another horse is still drinking, wait for them to finish.
- Don't dip your sweaty sponge in the drinking water.
- Don't crowd at the starting line.
- Courtesy to all riders and officials at all times.
- If riding a stallion, stay away from the other horses and especially mares and other stallions.