We would bet that if asked, most of you would have a pretty good idea of your dress size and shoe size. You may even know what size you are in certain brands, but....have you ever taken a pair of your ‘regular’ size jeans into the fitting room only to find that the legs are crushingly tight or the waistband has a gap like the Grand Canyon at the back?
That’s because, while every designer has rough measurements for your size, they don’t have a blue print of your exact body. The same two women may have roughly the same height and weight statistics but have vastly different thigh circumference or waist size.
It’s exactly the same for horses. You may have been buying a certain size blanket or bridle for your horse for years, yet when you switch brands you suddenly find that the measurements are completely different. That’s because there are no ‘standard’ measurements for horses. Of course, you can measure a horse by height in hands, but that doesn’t necessarily give you the complete picture. A horse with any sort of draft blood will present much thicker in the head and legs. His barrel may be rounder but shorter. A warmblood will have good bone in the legs and a slightly longer back, an Arab will have a finer face and may need a smaller bridle, etc etc.
Today, with the speed and efficiency of the internet for buying, its easy to look for a generic ‘small, medium or large’ and click a button to order. But before you do that, it’s definitely worthwhile checking to see if there is a more detailed measurement chart available on the web site, or better still, an actual measurement of the item you are buying. It only takes a few more minutes to double check, but it could be well worth it rather than just jump to the assumption that your horse will fit a particular size in tack.
When we first started Majyk Equipe, we looked at a huge variety of brands to see what would constitute ‘average’ sizing. To our surprise we found that sizing was very different in virtually every brand. We quickly realized that, just because a horse was a 'small' in one brand, he might not necessarily be the same in another. Take horse boots as an example. A good manufacturer will not just have one set pattern for a horse boot – each boot will be constructed differently for the discipline for which it is intended.
Sport Dressage Boot
A typical Sport/Dressage Boot will usually be conical in shape and softer to wrap easily around a horse’s leg. Good Sport Boots have ‘give’ in them and don’t need to be too over engineered as they are not intended for jumping or any sports where heavy trauma is likely. For that reason, Sport/Dressage Boots are usually not made for front or hind legs specifically. The single shape boot is designed to fit front and hind legs so you would usually just order a larger size for the hind legs.
Cross Country Boot
Cross Country Boots have a very different purpose. These boots need to stand up to galloping, jumping, water, brush, sand and more. A typical Cross Country course is an assault course for your horse’s legs and needs a sturdy boot to protect them. A softer material boot just won’t do the job in the same way. Cross Country boots also need to have reinforced strike guards but the guards need to be placed in the exactly the correct place on the leg. For this reason, good Cross Country boots are shaped specifically for a front leg and a hind leg, making sure that the guards line up precisely where they need to on every leg. With Majyk Equipe Cross Country boots, we size our boots so that a Medium front would usually be paired with a Medium hind boot for the same horse. In other words, the hinds are naturally shaped differently from the fronts to accommodate a hind leg.
Jump boots can also be shaped in a variety of ways. If a manufacturer has designed its boots to fit a typical warmblood style jumper then it may seem to be too large on a finer boned thoroughbred type. Jump boots may be longer in length but shallower in construction, or shorter in length but deeper in construction. Adjustable straps will help but there still needs to be some research done to check out if the length and circumference of the boot will fit your horse’s legs.
Cross Country Sport/Dressage Jump Boot
As horse owners, its imperative that we do right by our horses. Just as you likely have a note up next to your horse’s stall with feeding instructions, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to spend an afternoon taking some general measurements. Measure his head dimensions – his barrel, his leg circumference and length from just below the knee to hoof. Measure the hind legs and note them separately to the fronts. Measure his spine, and then really measure his height in hands. We know that, just like with our own measurements, there’s a tendency to think you know how tall your horse is, but unless you have recently sticked them, it might surprise you to find they are not exactly what you thought. Mark it all down in a book and keep it handy for when you have to order something new. That way you will have a quick reference guide and will be able to check that the item you are ordering (or purchasing in a tack store) will be exactly right.
When we were looking to purchase horses recently, we came across horses with splints on three legs, white patches on their backs and scarring across the bridge of their noses. While these injuries are not always caused by ill fitting tack or inadequate protection, sometimes they are. You might be surprised to learn that even something as loosely fitting as a blanket or fly sheet can cause soreness in the shoulders or withers if not fitting correctly. As a good horse owner, you should always try your horse’s tack on a few weeks prior to any big event. Learn what to look for – if you’re not sure, ask a trainer, or scan the internet for videos from professionals or articles that will teach you what to check for.
Poor Saddle or Pad Fit Allergic Reaction
Our horses trust us to do what’s right for them. They can’t tell us if a piece of tack is pinching or rubbing – its up to us to make sure that they have the correct size and that they are comfortable. We give detailed instructions on the ‘Fit Your Horse’ page of our own web site so that riders may know how to measure and what to check for. A few basic tests prior to riding should be all you need, and if you have any doubt about the size, you should not attempt to do any sort of complicated course in new tack until you have tried out some basic gentle moves first. The same goes for any materials that may give your horse an allergic reaction. When we developed our line we made a conscientious effort not to use neoprene in any of our products because our veterinary friends told us that so many horses were allergic - even if they didn't show raging symptoms. Did you know, for instance, that a 'girthy' horse may actually be experiencing a reaction to neoprene which is used in 99% of girths because its cheap and easy to get?
Most good manufacturers will exchange an item if you have tried it on your horse and realized it isn’t fitting correctly, providing it is still in new condition. They won’t be so willing to change it if you didn’t check correct sizing, rode in the tack for two months then complain that it’s hurting your horse. Sorry but that’s on you – as a good horse owner, you should NEVER put your horse into a situation where incorrectly fitting tack causes injury. Any type of tack that is too big may slip around and cause rubs – anything that is too tight may cause pinching or irritation.
So please, take the time to know your horse. Remember that your horse’s confirmation can change with training, sickness, age etc so you should try to check measurements at least once a year and make sure his tack is still fitting as it should be.
Because, just as you wouldn’t put on shoes you’ve never worn before and tackle a marathon, so you shouldn’t choose a roughly guessed size for your horse, strap on the tack and take him straight out to competition.
You might only end up with blisters on your feet but at least you have the option to stop if the pain gets bad. Your horse could end up with much worse, and can’t tell you – a little homework on your part will insure that he is always comfortable and safe in his tack. That way he will reward you by being the best horse he can for you, and you will have the satisfaction of knowing you are being the best horse owner you can for him.