Viva Carlos Blog Hop: Bit it up

L. Williams and the majestic unicorn ask us: What bit [do] you ride your current beastie in and why?

For years and years, Moe went in a plain old D-ring snaffle. Why? Because the woman I bought him in told me he went in a snaffle, and I happened to have a D-ring that fit him.
Moe went all three phases in a D-ring.
Dressage (it’s okay to laugh)
Show jumping

A few years ago, I lent Moe’s bridle (complete with bit) to someone I played polo with. I moved before he returned it and although I offered to pay for shipping to have him send it back to me, I never saw it again. (He also kept my saddle. Rude.)

These days, Moe goes in a French-link eggbutt snaffle. It originally came with Gina. 
Moe seems to like the solidity of the eggbutt cheekpieces and chews on the French link a little bit more than he did the D-ring. Other than that, he goes about the same. Sometimes I think I need something that would provide more brakes on cross-country (and show jumping, too), but I find that a figure-8 noseband works just fine for us in show situations. Moe is strong and gets very excited, but he isn’t wild and will usually back down after a few half-halts.
Gina goes in something very similar, a French-link loose ring snaffle.
I was introduced to this bit by my trainer, Anne, who loved it for all of her dressage horses. Gina likes it a whole lot better than the eggbutt she came with. She is soft and responsive in this bit, and although she gets strong over fences with it sometimes, she is usually pretty easy to settle with a half-halt or two. 


Viva Carlos Blog Hop: What Junk Is In Your Trunk?

Weirdly enough, I’ve been kicking around a “show me your tack trunk!” post for about a month, but never managed to get it posted. Happily, L. Williams of Viva Carlos fame used some kind of super secret psychic powers and hosted this blog hop! 
So what’s in my tack trunk? First, here’s the trunk itself:
It’s a hunter green footlocker originally purchased to hold my belongings while I attended Girl Scout Camp for two weeks at a time every summer. Some time in college, I converted it to be my tack trunk. It’s miraculously survived approximately 15 years of abuse from me. 
The trunk is covered in stickers: they range from bumper stickers from friends to freebies I received in the mail with various purchases. 
Front of the tack trunk
Well, of course I have to represent the Skyhawks.
Top of tack trunk
What? I really like Metallica, voting, Pony Club, and agriculture.
The inside of the trunk looks like a hot mess, but I swear I know where everything is.
Here’s what’s actually in there:
  1. Dover’s Training Surcingle (purchased from work for $10) and rubber donut side reins purchased from Lauren at She Moved to Texas.
  2. Ovation Schooler helmet
  3. Mizuno Vintage Pro batting gloves
  4. Polo wraps; kept in their zippered bags so I can find them easily (some are off being washed)
  5. Short riding crops (I have two because I lost one, bought another, then found the original)
  6. Ariat Air Grip gloves; technically my show gloves, but sometimes worn when the Mizunos get too hot!
  7. Spare bridle that fits both horses, with spare flash noseband
  8. Tack cleaning kit; just the basics to wipe down my equipment after I ride. Fiebings’ liquid glycerin saddle soap, Lexol leather conditioner, and three or four sponges
  9. Lunge line

My grooming kit and wash bucket are kept near the tack trunk. Most of my other extras (first aid kit, dressage letters, jump cups, granola bars for Moe) are either on a nearby shelf or in my horse trailer. The trunk typically doesn’t travel with me to shows- it stays in the tack room and I remove things I’ll need from it if I’m going somewhere.

I’ve loved seeing what everyone else has in their trunk!


Organizing a Tack Room

I’ve finally moved most of my tack from my horse trailer to the new barn. I’ve spent a lot of time organizing my corner of the tack room to make room for more stuff, so I thought I’d share some tips and tricks on how I do it.

  • Wall-mount saddle rack: Years ago, my dad picked up several of these racks at a horse auction, and I’m happy to finally put one to use. (Horse auctions were a weekly Friday night outing for my family for several years.) They run anywhere from $11 (at Jeffers) to $25 (at Dover), but Beka at The Owls Approve posted a great DIY tutorial for a collapsible racks last month. Wall-mount racks are great because you can mount several in a vertical line without taking up valuable floor space. Be sure to mount them in a stud, though, or you’ll rip a hole in the drywall.
  • Tuna cans: For hanging bridles and halters up, you can’t beat clean tuna cans. Dover sells bridle brackets for $4, but why buy that when you can get a can of tuna for $2, eat it, and use it to hang your stuff up? If you want to get fancy, you could spray paint the cans, but I just tacked mine up with a hammer and framing nails. (And obviously no level.) 
  • Tack trunk: This small green trunk was originally purchased for me when I started attending two-week summer camp programs. It was converted to tack trunk duty in high school (so at least 10 years ago).  The trunk is about 30″ long, 18″ wide, and 15″ tall. It’s perfect for corralling all kinds of stuff: lunge line, polo wraps, helmet, extra lead ropes, equine first aid kit, human first aid kit. You can put a lock on it, too, if you’re concerned about fellow boarders “borrowing” from your trunk! You can buy these at Wal-Mart or off Amazon for about $40. (Stickers optional.)
  • Wash bucket: Even in the dead of winter, I keep my wash bucket at the barn. It’s a plastic 5-gallon bucket used exclusively for bathing ponies. I keep all of my bathing supplies in it: pimply rubber mitt, sheath cleaner, shampoo, conditioner, sweat scraper, body sponge, face sponges, towel, etc. I never have to wonder where anything is, and keeping liquids in the tack room versus the trailer helps prevent freezing. (In the picture, it’s also holding a bucket of Uncle Jimmy’s Squeezy Buns treats and a stud finder.)
  • Grooming tote: You know the grooming tote. You probably have one just like it. This holds the basics for me: curry comb, dandy brush, body brush, hoof pick, hairbrush, pulling comb, scissors, fly spray, hoof ointment, and hair detangler. 
I’ve been allotted some more space in the tack room since someone moved out, so I’m planning to bring in a plastic shelf unit. It’ll hold the horse and human first aid kits to make them more easily accessible, as well as my dressage letter cones, jump cups, and any other loose ends. 
What kind of tack set up do y’all have? Have any neat DIYs?

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 11- Your Favorite Tack Shop

Day 11- Your Favorite Tack Shop

Who remembers when State Line Tack partnered with PetSmart and one could find horse things there? That was the best. I was extremely disappointed when that partnership ended!

I started riding in the days before online shopping was a thing; I remember when my parents ordered me a few items via phone order from a Dover Saddlery catalog. Most of my equine items were purchased at one of several nearby stores.

Growing up in southern middle Tennessee, I had a lot of tack shops at my disposal. There was The Tack Trunk, an english tack shop which carried both new and consignment items; my mother, ever the savvy shopper, found me many gently used clothing items there. Judy’s Tack Shop in Franklin, Tenn., also played an important part in kitting out young Stephanie. It was mostly new items and perhaps a little rich for my family. They carried a huge selection of saddles that I ogled at every opportunity.

Of course, I could also count on my local Tractor Supply Company and the Maury County Farmer’s Co-op for necessities like fly spray, dewormer, bot blocks, and saddle soap.

However, my go-to, very favorite tack store was, by far, National Bridle Shop of Lewisburg, Tenn. A mere 30 minutes away (as opposed to Judy’s and The Tack Trunk, which were nearly an hour’s drive), National Bridle catered to the gaited horse set. (Lewisburg is fairly close to the Tennessee Walking Horse capital of the world, Shelbyville.) While I had no use for patent-leather browbands or weighted ankle rings, I could use quality leather girths, breakaway halters, and splint boots. I think before every Pony Club Rally, I made a trip to National Bridle for tack sponges and new stirrup pads (seriously- have you ever tried to clean those?! Not worth it.)

Here in Oklahoma, I have an english tack store, The Horse Of Course, right down the road from me. It’s alright, but somehow, it just can’t compete with the memory of National Bridle. I haven’t been to National Bridle in years, but when I close my eyes, I can still smell the leather, feel the cramped aisles, and see the bins of shiny browbands in every color under the sun. It makes me smile every time.

Colt’s New Bridle

Colter has needed a new bridle since I met him. He’s a big boy, clocking in at 17.2 hands tall, and his head is gargantuan. For reference, here is a picture of Colt standing beside me. I am 5’9″.

The horse’s head is the size of my torso, y’all. Notice he isn’t wearing a noseband in the picture. That’s because I removed it from that bridle- it was too small. The bridle he is wearing is a full/horse-sized bridle, and it didn’t fit him at all. The browband was too narrow and the cheekpieces were set one hole up from the bottom. The throatlatch was always buckled on the last hole. Colt hated this bridle- he was reluctant to let me put it on him, and once it was on, he spent his time flipping and shaking his head in an effort to remove it.

Sharing a bridle with Moe or Gina was out of the question. Moe wears a cob-sized bridle that fits Gina reasonably well; they share a bit that is far too narrow for Colt’s mouth. I have a couple of other bridles floating around in tack trunks and trailers, but all are horse-sized, as none of my horses have been giant warmbloods.
I emailed Colt’s owner a few months ago about buying him a new bridle; he emailed me back to say he’d work on it. Colt’s owner is a busy attorney with young children, so I don’t hold it against him at all that he didn’t find time to get a bridle shipped to the rider of his sat-in-a-pasture-for-five-years horse. 

I finally got around to buying Colt an inexpensive bridle from SmartPak about a month ago. It’s the Plymouth Padded Fancy Stitch Bridle; at $70, I didn’t feel like I was breaking the bank to buy a bridle for a horse that I don’t own. (I don’t foresee myself reusing this bridle on another mount; I don’t plan to acquire any large warmbloods in the future.) I bought the over-sized, figuring it would be perfect for Colt.
Out of the box, it was soft, supple, and a beautiful color. It looked big, but so does Colter’s head. When I took it out to the barn to fit it to him, I was extremely surprised at just how big it is. This bridle is legitimately huge. The browband juts out about an inch from Colt’s forehead, but I think that’s due to it being new and needing to be broken in some more. The throatlatch and cheekpieces are on the top holes; the bit seems a little low in Colt’s mouth, but he appears to enjoy it. The noseband is adjusted about two holes from the top, but buckles perfectly around his nose. The reins are very, very long. 
Um, who knew Colter was so freaking cute?
Notice the browband. And the catalog-model pose he has.
Buckles at/near the top.
Ridiculously long reins.
The fancy stitching is very fancy.

Overall, I’m happy with the bridle. It fits Colter well enough (though I’ll probably punch some holes in it all the same) and looks good on him. The leather is holding up well and is nice and supple. I’d recommend this bridle, but would definitely advise buying a smaller size than what your horse normally wears. I imagine the over-sized would fit a draft horse or very large warmblood just fine. I can’t fault SmartPak for the size, really- I ordered it, and it is definitely oversized. They make a damn fine bridle for a damn good price.

As mentioned, I bought this bridle; SmartPak didn’t compensate me to write this, but they did reply to my Tweeted picture of Colt in the bridle. That makes me internet-famous, right?