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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label tack. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tack. Show all posts

October 26, 2015

Orange Is The New...Orange: Including My New Favourite Neck Strap!

Solo getting his glow on in last fall's gear
Autumn:  beautiful riding weather...and rifle season for deer!  This means it's time to play "decorate in reflective strips & blaze orange" to make sure there is no room for uncertainty -- I am indeed a dork on horseback, NOT an enormous doe.

Once again, the great folks at can help you & your partner stay safe with more accessories (enabling sequence initiated)!  Even outside of hunting seasons, being seen is critical, particularly if you ride near roads or in low light.

Orange You Glad I Can Use This Pun?

This October, they sent us a pair of their blaze orange reflective splint boots along with a matching nylon harness/yoke.  Both are emblazoned with broad reflective tape & bright print to appropriately scream, "HEADS UP!"

Sexy turf horse safety (sorry the orange looks yellow in pic)
One of the things I've appreciated about their products is the feeling that someone was thinking about what really matters to the average rider:  affordability & simplicity without completely sacrificing practical durability.

The boots are neoprene lined with solid, even stitching; they slid right into place & stay put while jumping without having to use "velcro death grip."  Which for those sensitive-skinned TBs, means no rubs either.  You bet they are lined up for use as turnout boots too (free bonus: finding your horse in a dark pasture gets much easier).

Can you see the boots??  ;P
I loved the easy clip around the neck of the yoke, which was also adjustable there & at the "make your own girth loop" attachment.  Visibility + neck strap rolled into one!  Although I think mine has the buckle stitched on incorrectly for the girth loop -- no worries, though, with their 100% happiness guarantee & free shipping both ways.
Reflect upon the visibility power!!
And my favourite part of both?  Hose 'em off when you're done, hang to dry, all clean!

Remember:  Knowledge IS Power...And Safety!

No matter where you are, always be aware of your local laws & regulations.  NC has a new law this year, making it legal to hunt deer with rifles on Sunday on private land (previously only bow-hunters & falconers could hunt Sundays).

So check your area's natural resource agency webpage:  we must all be responsible when sharing land & do our best to help prevent accidents.

U.S.: Get started finding yours here (although missing, uh, ours, LOL)
Our state's law requires all hunters to wear blaze orange in season & our Hunting Safety Education officers have done a great job making it a universally recognized symbol statewide.  We can use that to our advantage even if we're not the one in the deer stand.

Thank you again to Horze for sharing; check out more of their great line of safety gear (oh, I covet the sheet!!) & be seen, be safe, no matter what!

December 18, 2014

Horze Enables My Inner Boot Addict & Safety Police All At Once?!

Um, not that kind of grail boot...WTF is that?

I know, I had to take a few deep breaths too...

The Boots & The Blue

A few months ago, I shared my inadvertent discovery of the holy grail of bell boots:  no-turn boots that actually did not turn!  They continue their awesome, although they do live in the "special occasions" pile.  Ok, because I am not motivated enough to yank off the pull-ons Encore lives in...but also because they are so pretty.

Bee-yoo-tee-ful dark blue
In what I believe must be a covert agreement with the NSA, Horze discovered that in my initial "horse equipment acquisition" years, my weak spot of addiction lay smack in the middle of horse boots of every shape & size (geez, 2010 doesn't sound like that long ago, but pardon a moment of silence as I consider how much had not happened yet...).

Speaking of those boots of years past, I still have (& USE), in perfect condition, those Moxie ankle boots, the 5-strap Woofs from the trash can at Waredaca & both the Roma & N.E.W. front boots!

Click = embiggen
It turns out, though, that the beautiful matching shades of the No-Turn Boots & the Lyon Synthetic Gloves existed in a threesome.  I introduce to you the Horze Tendon Boot:  I challenge you to find a colour (there are NINETEEN) that doesn't match your ensemble!!

Naturally, there was only ONE appropriate choice for TFS & I confess I was taken aback a little by how much I liked them.  Both the plastic shell & the neoprene liner were just the right amount softer (mea culpa for that horrific grammar) than the Romas, lending the boot a nicer ability to mold to Encore's legs.  But they still felt sturdy, had strong velcro & stitching, and, erm, did I mention the matching...?

*places reverently in Pretty Boot Storage Basket with matchy bell boots*

Those are totes the trash-can Woofs...
And Safety Too?!

Be still my heart.  Because one pair wasn't enough.

Encore is a bit base-narrow behind, so he sometimes wears a set of Nunn Finer pastern wraps (always when studded, as at left).  However, the outer layer of these started falling off within one week of purchase.  I've continued to use them for several years, as the neoprene is fine.  The velcro is beginning to fail, so I do tape them with every use, so one could say it's becoming a bit of a pain.

Combine my casual lookout for their replacement & my insatiable desire for anything that says, "I AM NOT A DEER NOR CAN YOU CLAIM MY CORPSE RESEMBLED ONE" in our lovely NC Decembers and you get this:

The Horze Reflective Leg Straps, which fit nicely on the big boy's pasterns & have a handy built-in "velcro failure backup system" in the nylon strap.  My only trouble was deciding what to do with the end of the strap once fastened.

Keepers are not included, so I'll likely just keep the tape handy.  Much easier to throw a thin strip around the end of the strap & still have insanely bright reflective power!

Alternatively, I may cut the end off entirely, although this does limit one's adjustability somewhat.  I don't have any plans to buy Clydesdales in the near future though...  The plastic buckle itself is a wee bit fiddly, but definitely clamps down tight & we had no rubs on a long, muddy ride through the woods.

Two hooves up!  Although if there is a passing car or a camera flash or a reflection off your sunglasses, you may see them so brightly that you'll walk into trees for the next five minutes.  That could just be me...

I swear upon Solo, pastern reflection from flash not enhanced!!

Not Everyone Is A Grinch

In the spirit of the season, the friendly folks at Horze added this festive helmet cover to the box.  Grinchy-me hesitated at first, but then realized a bright red helmet is yet another great way to stay very, very visible (particularly to folks who make their own seasons...or don't follow any at all)!

Solo's wonderful Minion Erica (thank you for being badass, Erica!) submitted the cover to a grueling ground test:  I think I can see it!

Thank you so much AGAIN to the super-friendly folks at Horze for giving me the opportunity to want even more of their stuff try out their products & share the skeptic's perspective with you!

December 9, 2014

Tuesday Tack Tips: Revitalizing Tired Fleece

My fluff haz no protective force field??
Whether synthetic or manufactured by sheep, fleece-lined boots, saddle pads, even bedroom slippers suffer much the same trend as I do:


Over time, pressure & perspiration cause loss of fluffiness, burrs & sticks can get tangled in seams & fabric, and embedded dirt just gives an overall impression of dinginess.

While my own condition barely registers on the Give-A-Shit Meter, your fleece, assigned the important task of cushioning, cooling (if it's the real thing), & caressing your horse's sensitive skin, deserves far better!

Fortunately for both of us, the solution (for the fleece's condition, at any rate) is simple, quick, & nearly foolproof (I'm not going to say I have NEVER scraped myself with...any object that fits in my hand).

Top: Teh Fluff Lives Again!  Bottom:  Iz Next...
Observe -->

And you're done!  For those who particularly love grooming, now you even get to groom your horse's outfits!!

Simple Solution

In the photo, all I've done with these Dover Pro Sport boots I borrowed for Encore & his new game of "How Many Of My Own Legs Can I Kick During Playtime?"

*insert owner disapproval here* a short soak & pre-wash on 'gentle' in my garage-sale washing machine (Remember when you put the clothes in FROM THE TOP?  And they only came in white?  The horrors I somehow manage to navigate daily...).

After a brief air-dry, I dug out my wire dog-grooming brush that I'm fairly certain is old enough to vote (and I'm almost as certain you can find at your local Dollar Tree,if you don't have one lying around)...and I spent a whopping three minutes brushing the top boot's fleece & velcro.  You can see how much grit is gone, especially if you click to embiggen, compared to its as-yet-un-groomed mate below it.

In addition, the loft is restored & Encore's legs are now wrapped in the revived soft fluffiness of his own personal leg-clouds.  Or weird analogy of your choice.

Hey, I've just spent 10 hours in December hunting inch-long rare fish in swampy ditches full of sticks & 10 degree-C water.  You get what you get...

What are you waiting for??  GO FIND FLUFF IN NEED!

I believe these come pre-fluffed...

October 4, 2014

Just Another Day With Dr. Bob

Yep, Encore decided a whole month was far too long to be separated from Dr. Bob.  Despite the terror-inducing zombie cows that live at the vet clinic (so Encore says).

While Encore was getting stronger, his feet are healing, & he did fairly well in our lesson, I still felt I might be missing something.  It's that little feeling you can't quite put your finger on.  And since you are a horse owner, the obvious solution is to throw money at it

Encore's Kent & Masters - love!
Looking at him from the ground, I could see the tightness in his hind end.  I also checked the fit of his dressage saddle after our lesson & noticed that I needed to narrow it a bit until his topline redeveloped.  Which explained the knots behind his withers I'd been massaging, as the panels were pressing down in the front.  He was also getting quite crabby about picking up his right lead. 

I always expect some muscle soreness bringing a horse back into work & rebuilding muscle.  However, there was just enough weight on the "I just want peace of mind" side of the fence to push me over & make me hook up the trailer.

I Don't Call Him Batman For Nothing

It was worth the trip.  And while paying vet bills is never any fun, there is no such thing as a Dr. Bob visit where you don't learn ten things & get lots of good stories!

What do you mean I have FOUR legs??!
My hypothesis was, for once, pretty accurate.  Dr. Bob confirmed that the saddle was indeed collapsing a bit up front behind his shoulders.  Encore got his withers & shoulders adjusted back into place with much relief.

He also had a very sore muscle bruise on the lower half of his left hindquarter, a likely result of an incident BFF reported when I was traveling for work:  Encore had an idiot moment galloping across his paddock, once again forgot he had back feet, slipped, & fell hard on his left side. 

She said he hopped back up, she checked him over thoroughly & walked him out, and I checked him out when I got home.  We found no evidence of injury & he was moving evenly.  He's not exactly in heavy work these days either!

It's Going To Be Ok...Today

Dr. Bob showed me how to feel out the spot in the muscle where he said there was probably just some fiber separation that was healing.  I'm just to massage in the Majykal Butacore Creme Of Awesome & keep him moving as he finishes out recovery.

Our farm pond is zen
Overall, good news, some minor tweaks, and the plan & peace of mind I was looking for!  His feet & shoes got the thumbs up, so we can keep moving creeping forward.  Which I was thrilled to hear just as the gorgeous fall weather has begun!

All I Need Is Time

Who needs a bank balance anyway??  For now, Encore will just have to think up something new, since this one didn't get him out of work.  In the meantime, he gets to enjoy medicated ass massages while I schedule the saddle fitter for some wool adjustment & dig through the couch cushions for $1200 to stock our winter hay!  0.0

Today, though, the grass is still green & the air is crisp & perfect, making it worth every bit as I can hear the satisfied nomming of two happy horses floating through the open windows.  I think I might have earned a nap after dragging pastures & detailing horses this morning...

The best kind of sunset has horses in it

September 14, 2014

Ordering Could Save You Money…And Your Life!

Horze signup_competition
Click to enter & get a 15% off discount for new customers!
Yes, you may now call me a Horze ‘ho. Albeit within the confines of a most basic TFS Commandment:  thou shalt always receive open, honest feedback!

I continue to enjoy our appallingly stylish (if you’ve read for a while, you know my trendiness aversion!) bell boots & gloves (week two: still no holes!).  But the goodies don’t end there:  check out two more!

#1:  Tired Of Losing Money In Trampled, Peed-On, Rolled-In Hay?

Another equine product that makes you want to throw things & scream:  the Hay Net.  The holes are too big.  The holes are too small.  That drawstring at the top has demonic intent to prevent the loading of any actual hay.  If it doesn’t have a drawstring, the holes are too big...again.  If the holes are just right & it lacks an evil drawstring, well, you must have entered a parallel universe of impossible fantasies.

Currently, I hang a small-hole drawstring net in the trailer.  Yes, it makes me want to scream very bad words while filling it.  But I love that I no longer lose huge quantities of $$$$$ hay onto my trailer floor.  It frustrates the crap out of Encore; unless I pull out a bunch of “starter clumps” for him to grab, he believes it’s too much work & gives up.  *insert eyeroll here*  In the fields, I dole out flakes on the ground or in an old trough with a pin-holed bottom.  I don’t. do. round bales.  (Unless someone wants to mail me a $300 net & a spear for the tractor…)

Hay Net 2
The Horze Slow Hay Feeder Net looked like a promising solution:  HUGE open top with perfectly-sized holes with a simple hanging design that I could move between trailer & run-in in a snap.  While slightly more expensive than my $11 trailer net, at $24 it was still half the cost of the $55 wall-mount from CinchChix & more flexible.

  • I can walk up with 4 flakes balanced on one arm, pull the top wide open, & dump them in without loosing a bit
  • Easily holds at least 1/2 a square bale
  • Two simple mounting loops give you endless hanging options, including my carefully engineered “tie it to the rafters with hay string” technique
  • Two sets of short “shoelaces” are sewn into the top binding so you can dissuade Dobbin from just shoving his entire head in
  • Since the boys love to camp in their shed on rainy days, it lets Solo continue to “graze” under shelter & holds so much hay, I don’t have to worry about mid-day refills (not tested on Princess Encore-I-Like-To-Pee-In-My-Hay yet)
  • After I add a double-ended snap to each hanging loop, I can hang or move it anywhere by simply unclipping & don’t have to mount anything permanent
Hay Net 1 Arrows
Awesome MSPaint arrows indicate shoelaces
Minor Design Struggle:
  • The enormous top-load is amazing; it could be even better if the “shoelaces” were not both sewn onto the same binding edge.  I weave them to the other edge a couple times & tie a slip-knot for easy release, but it’s a bit awkward (hey, some people have weird, super-logical brains that struggle with lopsided things).
  • Alternatively (& what I initially thought the “shoelaces” were), a simple drawstring inside the top binding with a cord lock, like this, would be awesome!
One Sad Discovery:
  • Because the netting is softer than a traditional hay bag, it is easier for the horse to snag the hay, & hopefully will be less frustrating for Encore.  However, after about 5 solid days of Solo-use, the net string on a bottom corner is unraveling & pulling out of the side binding.  Mr. Shiny loves his hay & is serious about getting every scrap; it appears that the string is not strong enough for full-time shed residence. 
Despite this initial material failure, though, it shall receive some hay-string patching for continued use!  Horze DOES have a 30-day "happiness guarantee," should you have problems with any product, as well.  While not cut out for full-time “grazing,” I still think it has great functionality for trailering, temporary show-stabling, & other less “aggressive” situations where easy filling & hanging are key!

hunting visibility
Probably not the helmet I'd choose for deer season...
#2:  Serious Safety

While there are many things I love about the Carolinas, fall is not one of them.  It’s perfect riding weather, the trees break out their technicolour dreamcoats, the demonic insects begin their retreat.  What’s not to love?

Oh, it’s also rifle season for white-tailed deer.

A Little Perspective

As an employee of my state’s natural resource agency & a wildlife biologist, I get to see both sides of this…interesting time of year.  Nearly all of my co-workers hunt deer, as well as ducks, doves, turkeys, & feral hogs with bows, muzzleloaders, shotguns, & rifles, as personal preference varies.  And they do it right:  each one is careful, responsible, ethical, educated, & experienced.

wrong end of gun
MN wins the prize for Best Safety Graphics
Unfortunately, just like horse-world, riddled with double-edged swords, a conscientious participant in hunting-world is not a guarantee.  Outside of work, as a horse & property owner, I must always be alert for the bad apples.  It only takes one guy who thinks it’s funny to shoot a horse out from under someone, or brought a case of beer to the stand, or fires blindly at rustling leaves, or…it happens every year (and all over the country).

We Can & Should Share The Woods, But Be Proactive

As a result, many of us simply stay out of the woods once rifle season begins (the bow hunters & muzzleloaders are so much better at paying attention).  When we do head out on trails, we stick to state parks & private properties.  Even then, I always wear my very sexy DOT safety vest from work (sigh, trespassers…), attach a bear bell to my saddle (I need to fix that), & wear bright-coloured clothing.  I’ve got the vest on for tractor work too; the favoured.30-06 rifle can send a bullet 2-3 miles, so at least no one will be able to say I looked like a deer through the scope!

Solo Reflective Horze Strips Sept 2014 compressed
Glow-in-the-dark Solo!

I have finally completed my seven-year quest for very affordable riding accessories that didn’t make my horse sweat & screamed “THIS DEER-COLOURED CREATURE IS NOT A DEER!”  And the answer…is $4!!!!

A handy set of four hi-vis reflective sleeves with open ends, the Horze Bzeen String Covers, despite their odd name, incorporate the two best elements of product design:  versatility & simplicity.  I’m not sure if this is standard, but I received two that had velcro down one side & two slightly narrower sleeves that were sewn on both sides.  I slid one of the latter onto a browband & velcro’ed both of the former on my martingale for a test run.

You can definitely see them!  I’m very excited to have these additions to my safety arsenal & am already pondering how many I could fit on one horse!  The nylon fabric feels thin, but sturdy & can get tossed in washing machine whenever needed.

My only “in a perfect world” very picky detail changes

  • Either include velcro on every sleeve or give the buyer an option
  • Offer them in blaze orange, the universally (or at least in the US) recognized hunting safety colour 

Thank you so much again to the super-friendly folks at Horze for giving me the opportunity to want more of their stuff try out their great products & helping me share them with you!

September 5, 2014

Who Knew Horze Sold The Holy Grail Of Bell Boots?

The Unicorn Boots
No-turn bell boots…that DON’T TURN?!!!  You heard me right.

Boots of riding past had me convinced that I might as well hope for a unicorn.  Or even more improbable, a horse that never goes lame!  While I will probably die without seeing the latter, I didn’t have to clap my hands or chant, “I do believe, I do believe…” to realize this dream (I don’t ask much, honestly!).

The Magic Bell Boots

I was delighted when inquired as to my interest in testing a few products; I may or may not have perused their site with covetous eyes before.  Delight turned into ecstasy (ok, I’ll admit it, horse owners are weird) when I looked down after a three-hour workout, nearby in VA's Occoneechee State Park.  Not only had these sturdy Horze No Turn Bell Boots STAYED PUT for the entirety of Encore’s tripping trotting carefully through the woods playing “dodge-the-stump-hole” & “I didn’t see those large rocks, *stumble fumble* I was looking at the lake,” but there was not even a hint of a rub on his wussy skin.

Horze No Turn Bell Boots
More Loves: 
The only shortfall I can see is if your horse has jumbo feet; Encore wears a size 2 shoe (for comparison, Solo is a completely average size 0) up front & a Large in pull-on bell boots.  Thankfully, helpful reviews on the Horze website suggested ordering a size up, so these are the largest option, the XF (eXtra-Full).  While they fall in just the right spot for my boy, an equine Sasquatch would need to look elsewhere unless larger models are offered.

Bridle matchy thrills Encore
AND Gloves!

Horze didn’t stop at the grail, though.  My grin of matchy delight got even bigger when I put on the Horze Lyon Synthetic Leather Gloves.  In the dripping environs of NC, I am constantly on the lookout for affordable, lightweight, breathable, lightweight, technical, lightweight (see a trend?) fabrics.  Wow, do we have a win! 

I love the sporty design with the nearly-transparent contrast fabric across the backs & the soft glove material slides easily on, erm, skin that sweats like a pig.  They’re also thin enough that I retain actual manual dexterity while wearing them, a rare & wonderful find. 

And the grip!  I use web reins interwoven with strands of rubber (solid rubber reins are too big & heavy for me) and these babies had one of the best grips I have ever felt; something I value highly on a horse who shakes his head hard…because his bangs tickle his ears.  :/ 

Camera flash bleach-out, boo
Only one concern haunts me.  I have a history of glove massacre due to my enormous hands (seriously, they measure ~8" from fingertip to wrist) and long fingers; I wish I could do without, but I also have baby skin that falls off with the least provocation.  As a result, I usually buy gloves in men’s M or L.  The single on-site review at Horze gave me some hope, as it was written by another person with giant man-hands.  Alas, despite ordering the XL (only women’s sizes were available), they are still too short from fingertip to wrist.  They feel amazing, though, so I will baby them with hope that the seams will hold out against my mutant extremities (I have the same problem with socks, sigh). 

For those of you lucky (all other) people who have normal-sized lady hands, however, these are a super prospect for hot days and sweaty reins!  *gets on knees & begs Horze for mega-sizes*

Both get a “very well done” from me thus far!  Thank you, Horze, because I can’t wait to sport our colour-coordinated awesomeness in our lesson next weekend!  I usually do something stupid, but at least this time, I’ll look good doing it.  

The matched set in dark blue
Career as model: unlikely

August 9, 2013

The Nose Knows

Happy face in the (s-word which I will not say aloud, ewww)
I am sure I have talked before about my propensity to school Solo without any type of cavesson on.  He wears just the headstall and bit, with his charming nose free to move as it pleases.  We didn't start that way, although I've certainly never been a noseband cranker.  I quickly decided though that if his mouth was gaping or evading or otherwise doing something, it meant he was uncomfortable or I was in his face or something else was Not Right.  Communication is important to me in all relationships, so I wanted to be able to hear what he had to say and the noseband went off to gather dust on the tack hook.

As you've observed, Encore's outfit is a little different.  You cannot remove the cavesson section from the Micklem bridle, but its design means that the horse still has nearly all of his jaw freedom and I always fasten both chin straps on the last hole.  The primary action of the chin groove strap is to stabilize the bit anyway, which he quite likes.  On the jumping bridle, it's so loose around his nose, I can almost stick a fist in there.

Both ends are the same:  zero (or as close as I can get) pressure on the myriad of sensitive tissues around the horses' muzzles.  They go on when required for shows, but remain loose and merely decorative.

I see a crease and the larger cavesson is pulled down.  No likey.
There are plenty of arguments thrown out there for tightening up a noseband so that I can see the crease in the skin around the leather (Yes, I am especially prejudiced towards the flash, which is almost always fit incorrectly.  Or hackamores sitting over nasal passages, aghh!).  He evades the bit.  He crosses his jaw.  He plays with his tongue.  He needs to learn.  Blah blah blah.

I don't buy any of them (there, I said it).  I have a hard time (outside of a few extreme situations) coming up with ANY reasonable explanation to tie a horse's mouth shut.  You certainly aren't solving a problem.  The tension, insecurity, or discomfort is still there and you may have just made it worse by taking away the horse's escape from pain.  Teaching a horse to accept contact involves using LEG to keep him  moving forward into it and ignoring his temper tantrums; this lesson in no way involves pulling against his face and jaw (of course, I am just as guilty as anyone of falling back to the stupid hand jive).  Not only is there an issue of pressure, but one of airflow:  any reduction of his ability to dilate his nostrils reduces his ability to cool himself and take in vital oxygen in work, whether it be dressage, trail riding, or jumping.

Observe:  an excellent news release from on a study exploring the pressure exerted by nosebands and exploring future avenues for research involving the repercussions thereof.  Not only are there some interesting findings regarding pressure, but they raise the important question that many have just assumed:  what do we REALLY know about how this pressure translates on the inside of the mouth and around the bit? 

At least fit the dang thing correctly.  Although I'd actually go a couple holes looser on the flash strap
This is not to say OMG, YOU USE A CAVESSON, YOU ARE A HORRIBLE HORSE ABUSER!!!  I have not seen legions of horses destroyed with rotting off noses.  There are few absolutes in horsemanship and we must decide on an individual basis, in the end, what is best for our partners.  But I think there needs to be some more thought and discussion about fairness, patience, and responsibility when it comes to this particular issue.  If there is a reasonable opportunity to make a horse more comfortable, shouldn't we?  Overall, horses are stoic creatures and will put up with quite a bit, but they shouldn't have to, if avoidable. 

I believe more riders should look askance as to whether they have truly and correctly approached their training and schooling with regards to contact, bitting, and oral care.  It boils down to another of my philosophies -- are you using tack that you actually NEED, because that is all that should be on the horse.  You know I am always in favour of an educated approach, which includes being open to new information and being willing to explore change.  Yes, the horror of horrors, CHANGE!   

Feel free to discuss at will, heh.

June 1, 2013

A "Top Of The Line" Look You Can Sport Too!

While I organize my pictures from our amazing trip, I thought I'd give you something else pretty to look at!

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away (hee), our good friend Meghann over at From Wingman To Witching Hour started making us a beautiful browband for Encore to wear while making dazzling leaps.  I will admit, I was skeptical at first -- the whole sparkly browband thing is not me and I prefer to let the horse shine for itself.

But then we started talking about design and colour (no glitter!) and I got excited.  Turns out, rightly so:

I really can't convey how nice it is in person -- the leather is lovely (nicer than my free bridle, ROFL) and the beadwork is painstakingly sublime.  It's a very complicated weave that takes something like 60 feet of wire (I don't know, I just remember it was a huge number!) and many many hours.  After much rummaging about, we managed to find just the right shades of blue, just the right amount of subtle accent, and it makes my darling boy look even cuter!

Iz not impressed with ur cameraz.
Since I know you now want to GET YOUR OWN from the amazing and wonderful Meghann, you can find her at Topline Leather on Facebook.  Her presentation is beautiful -- it arrived in the mail in a gorgeous ribbon bag with a handwritten note and a SURPRISE matching bracelet.  We rocked them both around Longleaf HT 2013 and the always incredible Brant Gamma got the perfect shot for Meghann (complete with awesome dork-face)!

Used with permission because Brant and her partner, Pete, rule!!
Thank you so much, Topline Leather, we are thrilled with our swanky accessories and will happily parade them about!  Everyone else...get yours today! 

April 11, 2013

Please Raise Your Hand...

...if you have ever been able to steadily train your horse, then go to an event, without spending the time preceeding it frantically trying to get horse in proper working order and spending sleepless nights wondering if you'll have to scratch...again.

I'm curious if this ever actually happens to people.

Encore did get his back injected and is easing back into work, but is still having some issues, so Dr. Bob shall be stalked once more in search of Now What, Part 893.

Field season has started at work, so my own sleep and time deprivation begins, rendering me nonexistent from now till, oh, November.

It's not all bad -- since Solo had annointed himself Devourer of Equine Apparel, I had purchased SmartPak's Ballistic Turnout Sheet, complete with 10-year guarantee of structural integrity, about mid-winter.  Then I sat back and watched.

It held up surprisingly well to varied attacks, no doubt leaving the biter quite frustrated at his failure.  However, he did prevail and Encore greeted me one morning with a custom air vent added to his attire.

True to SmartPak awesomeness though, I called them up and sent the victim back, at which point they promptly sent me Sheet 2.  The weather has warmed quickly, so it hasn't seen much action, BUT the fact remains that the agreement was honoured and awesomeness maintained.

Solo, of course, is completely content in his immaculate McAllister 600D sheet I purchased at a ridiculously low price on Tack of the Day (and quite like!).  It's easy when you are not the bitee.

December 18, 2012

This Is How We Roll: Dressage Saddles, Pt. II

There's a little town in England where cows live in everlasting terror.  It is called Walsall and it is home to, among others, the saddlemakers at Black Country, Kent & Masters (formerly Fairfax), Frank Baines, Albion, Harry Dabbs...need I continue?

In March, after trying 427 models (perhaps I exaggerate a little....but not much!), we decided on a Kent & Masters dressage saddle for Encore, since Solo's Black Country Eden, while heavenly, was all kinds of the wrong shape for a flat OTTB back.  The tree sat on Encore like it was built for him, the balance was perfect and I loved riding in it.  My ever-generous mother made it a wonderful gift and we moved forward with much glee.

As a side note, K&M has moved in sync with a few other brands and offers changeable gullet plates.  I have mixed feelings about these; they are obviously not a panacaea as they only slightly adjust one part of the tree.  Do it wrong and you can throw the whole saddle off balance.  But they have been helpful as my horses change shape with training and muscular development.  I have owned Wintecs and still have a Collegiate Convertible that I like but for one problem:  the gullet plates have very short tree points and created pressure points under the ends because there was not enough metal to distribute the weight down the horse's side.  My saddle fitter and I both mourned this shortcoming and tried to make up for it in several ways.  I finally successfully put a bandaid on it with my Collegiate, called the magical powers of Ecogold pads.  But K&M (and Thorowgood) did me one better:  they built a longer plate.

To the left are two medium gullet plates.  The one on top is a K&M plate, the bottom one is a Wintec/Collegiate plate.  Both have the same angle.  But not only is the K&M significantly longer, but it also does not pinch in about halfway down the way the other does.  Colour me happy. 

Problem:  within the first two weeks, the dye beneath the stirrup leathers began to rub off a tiny bit.  I contacted my fitter, from whom I had purchased the K&M, and she said to photo track it and let her know what happened.  Most of the Walsall companies are known not only for their well-made saddles, but their excellent service, so I had a low(er) level of distress about options.

Fast forward seven months to October and the dye was becoming an endangered substance anywhere my leathers or legs touched the saddle and by December, it looked like this:

Now, if this was a $500 saddle, I might say, well, my leg covers it all, oh well.  But even though the saddle was a gift, the gifter still put down about $1600 and I expect a heck of a lot better wear for that price!  Were there going to be holes right through the flap in two years?

I will spare you the excruciating details, but I tapped the customer service pipeline.  I hoped I could at least get some money back -- the saddle still rode wonderfully, I didn't want to get rid of it.  To my surprise, I learned that I was not alone.  The company had suffered a bad dye lot (not uncommon in leather-world) and was speedily responding to reported issues and rectifying them generously.  So maybe, I could get really lucky and get them to send some new flaps!

Oh no, Walsall does not take leather inadequacies likely.  My fitter informed me that they were going to replace the whole thing and my NEW new saddle would arrive in early December!


And it did.  Fitter informed me the company had slightly streamlined the design and tree since March and if I had ANY reservations, to just let her know immediately and K&M would work as long as it took until we were sorted.  I was a bit nervous -- the words "new tree" send a shudder down my spine.  However, I took a deep breath and set it on Encore's back...and fell in love all over again.

Clip job not finished yet.  Ha.
It assumed its rightful position with gorgeous wither clearance and settled onto his back like a homing pigeon (only without claws).  I sat in it and walked around a bit and was happy to find it felt just as correct and comfortable as its predecessor.

All that is left now is to re-break it in and hopefully we are set.  Time will tell, but I feel much more comfortable knowing that if I DO have any further issues (hey, shit happens), I will not be left stranded.  I cannot give higher praise to K&M -- a company which stands so firmly behind its products and recognizes the significant financial output of its customers will gladly receive my recommendation and business any day of the week.

December 8, 2012

A Skeptic Takes On Micklem

I hope they don't mind if I borrow their illustration.
You know the one -- the brainchild of William Micklem and Rambo, the bridle that thumbed its nose at centuries of status quo & promised that our horses would "love the difference" & would turn your fussy-mouthed, head-rubbing gelding into a soft, steady dressage masterpiece.  Ok, that last bit might be exaggerating a bit, but there certainly was a lot of magic implied.

I've been watching these for three years.  Blog posts, personal conversations, trainer testimonials, I even thoughtfully handled the one hanging in the CANTER MA facility where I found Encore.  But it remained a $200 bridle.  Watched through the eyes of a horsewoman who has three bridles -- that were all found or free.

And it had a flash-type strap.  And I hate flash straps.

The Fall Purchase

A certain unnamed person who surely had evil intent gave me a gift certificate for the new Dover store in Raleigh & I drove down to happily purchase a big jar of horse treats & perhaps a pretty shirt.  Yet I found myself standing front of the bridle display, the Micklem competition version in my hand, running my fingers over its sturdy, yet pleasant leather, putting it down, picking it up, putting it down again, touching it again.

Ever since we started really asking Encore to work up into the bridle, he has a tendency to develop tension.  He will grind & chomp his teeth, he will cock his head, he will shake his nose from side to side.  Not constantly, but more often when he is out of practice or in a particularly anticipatory mood.  Now that his physical issues were resolved (oh, I just jinxed myself, crap), I wondered...would it really matter?

Shut. Yo. Mouth.
Much of the information provided by the makers touted the distribution of the bridle's "weight" across the horse's poll (it's a 1500 lb horse, how much does a bridle REALLY weigh?), the curved cheekpieces which avoided facial nerves & preventing pressing the insides of the cheek against the teeth (do horses really bite their cheeks if you are not cranking nosebands to Vader death-grip?), and the versatility of the design, allowing the bridle to be used bitless or with hanging clips that took the bit pressure from the horse's bars & transferred it to the nose.

I can't take it anymore.  I want to know and if it is indeed all hype or just not for my horse, I can sell it on eBay.  I handed over my gift card & the cash balance & then sat at the farm with a pile of leather straps, trying to figure out how to make them bridle shaped (HEY, William Micklem, if you ever read this, ha, some directions would be really nice.  REALLY nice.  At least a diagram???  I did appreciate the ONE label to at least let me know which way the crownpiece was supposed to face).

It actually looks rather handsome on him.
The Moment(s) Of Truth

It was a bit of a strange size (I purchased the full/horse size) -- it took a bit of fiddling to get the nosepiece where I wanted it & it would still be nice if the jaw strap was significantly longer (it bareeeely fits on the last hole).

But on the plus side -- SOMEONE FINALLY MADE A BROWBAND THAT FITS MY FAT-HEADED HORSES COMFORTABLY.  No more brain squishing!  I didn't use the rubber reins -- I've always found them too bulky & heavy in my hands, just a personal preference.

Are you still holding your breath?

Because I'll be damned, I think the thing actually works.

I can only ride bareback at a walk right now (damn knee surgery), but I immediately noticed that Encore was softer in the bridle, less ready to lock the left side of his jaw, & appeared to very much like the bit-stabilizing effect of the chin strap (which I kept very loose, he can still open his mouth, chew, chomp).  It was not a lightning bolt, but a definite change in feel & a lower level of tension at the end of my reins, when no other variables have changed.

Worthless Cripple Must See More Evidence

I couldn't wait until our most generous friend, Foy (recent winner!!!! aka badass at the East Coast Adult Team Challenge with her endearing and amazing Irish ex-steeplechaser, Point Clear, or as we know him, Louie, who not too long ago was declared unable to ever event again.  YEAH!  Longest parenthetical statement ever.) came out today, as she has been giving Encore the occasional educated ride while I rebuild myself.

On The Longe

I longed Encore while she was on her way, slipping the vienna reins on so he would be warm & stretched & she could just hop on when she arrived.  I have NEVER seen this horse put his nose on the ground on the longe or in the round pen (although it's Solo's signature move).  He will stretch about to his knees, even in the reins, & move through his body, but he never completely lets go.  Observe:

Under Saddle

I eagerly watched (post-Encore tantrum that the end of longeing did NOT mean the end of work) & questioned what she felt.  She too, felt that he was softer & more willing in the bridle once he got to work.  We did try the bit clips that transfer pressure to the nose:  Encore notes, NO LIKEY.  I don't think he'll be a hackamore horse, ha!

Foy is taking it easy on him (maybe I am a mean mom?) & gives him a lovely, patient ride; she made his butt sweat!!  I don't think I have ever achieved that without the aid of 95 degree heat, I'm dying to know what I am doing wrong.  Oh & my commentary was so ridiculously dorky, sorry about the music.  Trust me, you thank me.  And don't judge the lil guy too harshly -- he lost most of his hind end strength in injury & layup, but we're working on it.   

The Verdict

On the whole though, this skeptic finds herself designating it as the new daily bridle.  This hater of all trends & she who deploys a heavy dose of scrutiny to, ok, pretty much everything, finds herself cautiously changing from skeptic to believer.

I still don't think it will have magical unicorn powers for every horse & I am curious, if it will fit Solo to see if he cares (as a rule, he doesn't; although there was that incident with the crupper experiment...).  But according to my experiences this week, doing my best to isolate the bridle variable, I think I found a keeper...  Further testing TBD.