Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Somewhere, a dressage queen shrieks in horror

NOTE: No usable Passier saddles were harmed in this homage. Promise.

As you might have noticed I am a person who likes to take things down to the basics and see what builds something. Training horses, braiding, helmets and saddles. Everything can be taken down to basics. This is why when I was offered an old, brittle, unusable saddle I took the opportunity to do some back alley brain surgery on it. Or to be correct, a barnyard science dissection. Minus the pig preserved in formaldehyde.

This saddle happens to be a Passier Hannover dressage saddle. I know, I hear the dressage queens crying right now. A shame someone let it get into this condition.
This saddle could not have been saved with any amount of leather conditioner in the world. When you can literally rip leather on the flaps apart with your two bare hands it is time to retire it.

Someone at some point attempted a crude and uneducated hack job at re-stuffing it and stitching it back together. Frankensaddle. It's a waste someone did this to such a great saddle at the time. Ask any knowledgeable dressage rider, Passiers are great. I have ridden in a few and loved them. They made you find your own seat without all the put you in proper riding position knee rolls and other security blankets that need to be replaced with learning how to actually ride.

The leather was so brittle when I started to poke around and bend it, the panneling split open and stuffing spilled out.

So many lovely colours of stuffing and what appeared to be some sort of grass or straw mixed in? I don't think this is the quality of an original stuffing job.

Saddle, meet leatherman. How I love my leatherman. Love, love, love, love. I use it so many times a day I would probably cry and pitch a fit if I lost it like I did my old one that lies at the bottom of a deep creek. RIP.
If you haven't experienced the usefulness of a leatherman I demand you go out right now and use someones; if you can pry it away from their hands and get them to stop calling it their firstborn.

Nice hack job there. Whoever sewed this back together, yeesh!

Time for some specialty tools now. Old rusty hoof nippers. Perfect for pulling out a bazillion little nails.
I never quite realized how many nails held an old english saddle together. Over 100 thats for sure. I lost count and lost a lot of nails through the boards on the trailer where I worked.A pile of leather, wood and nails.

The felt that makes the cushy seat.

Peeling back the felt in layers.

Finally. Saddle tree. Only an hour or two, a lot of dirt, dust, mould, one bruised nail bed and a bloody knuckle later. My allergies are going to thank me tomorrow... not

Ahh, the culprit.
This is why you store your saddle on a saddle rack!! Not on the floor or against something for a prolonged period of time. I bet the old owner never even knew this was broken.
See the cracks there along the top? Theres two large chunks that would come right out. That was caused by the saddle being hit repeatedly dropped/stored leaning on the cantle. Of course the tree can be damaged this way or similar from a horse rolling or falling on the saddle wile it is on.
So think about how you store your saddles. A good saddle should last you a lifetime or more if properly cared for. I have a better understanding now of why saddles cost so much for a little bit of leather and wood.
Oh and 3489387246739287480932 nails.

Quick message- Sorry to those people whos blogs I haven't been to visit. The last few weeks getting in before 8 pm is a challenge. Work, work, work and no play. Speaking of playing I need to see toy story 3. I mean I waited what, 15 years for this? Get out of the way little kids, Sydney has been waiting a long time. Now I just gotta find someone to drag there to see it with me. No fun going to the movies by yourself.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Indigo and the stone boat

So a couple weeks ago with my own to bare hands I made a stone boat. Indigo pulls it like she was a draft horse in another life. Bitless of course.

What exactly is a stone boat you ask?
A stone boat is basically a horse pulled wood sled sort of thing with steel runners. Or aluminum barn siding runners in my case because it's what I had and what I could bend.

Excuse the half light half shadow. I could not see what I was taking a picture of because of the sunlight.

Anyway, about this stone boat. It's used for hauling rocks, wood, dirt, whatever you can put on it and make the horse pull it, including yourself on a bale of straw. Mine does not have a lip or sides YET. Only because I cannot find a piece of wood I can use. Soon, soon.

So we have been picking up rocks in the field that will become some sort of pasture hopefully soon AKA a flat place for me to ride/drive. We have quite the pile of rocks going out behind the calf barn (the little barn Indigo and Sheba share for shelter that used to house the calves).

So a stone boat is a lot different than a carriage. A stone boat requires constant pulling, unlike a carriage that starts rolling once the horse pulls it.

A stone boat will teach a horse many important things such as:

How to pull. There is constant pressure on the traces because there is constant pulling. Especially if there is a heavy load. A horse really has to throw his weight into the collar to get a heavy load going with wheels but once the wheels are turning it kind of rolls along. A stone boat is deadweight; it requires constant effort.

How to stop. Because of the constant pulling after a wile of heaving away, especially with a heavier load the horse will want to stop and take a breather rather than have constant pressure.

How to stand still. This one is probably the hardest thing to teach a horse. Sure horses will stop but they are prey animals. They want to keep moving constantly. By pulling a stone boat they need to work. If you let them pull and work for a wile then offer the break a good majority of them clue into this quickly and take the opportunity to rest.

Indigo has discovered all three of these.
First the loads started getting heavier because of the rocks. She would go "Holy crap must back up to relieve tension on the tugs" and get a tap from me telling her she had to go forward. She caught on and heaved her weight into the collar.
Then I had to ask her to stop so I could pick up rocks and pile them on. She would stop balanced and right on cue without even a touch of the reins when I so much as uttered a woah.
Lastly she learned to stand still. Hauling rocks is hard work. We need to stop and start and stop and start and even though shes not moving fast it's hard work pulling. She caught on about the third trip to the rock pile that if she stood wile I unloaded I would drop the reins and leave her be wile I tossed rocks off, which also made the load lighter when she started again. She also learned that taking one step back relieved the pressure on the tugs. If you watch the video below you can see when she stops the second or third time she takes a step back.
Smart horse.

The thing that really got me, why I love this horse is she acted as if she had been pulling the stone boat all her life. A stone boat scrapes along the ground. When I pass over the driveway and it made an awful scraping noise she didn't even flick an ear. Most horses, even ones who have been driving for a wile would have jumped ahead and gone "what the heck is going to eat me!?".
Then theres Indigo, the horse who didn't even know what a carriage was 3 years and a bit ago when I first decided she would drive too. She just takes what I throw at her and adjusts with a very accepting attitude.

So here is a video I took today of me riding on the stone boat.

Excuse the random ground/leg/feet I was driving with both lines in one hand and videoing with the same hand at the same time wile trying to wrestle my straw bale that I didn't quite put all the way on. It fell off.

I feel like we have accomplished a lot this year and I am glad. What have you accomplished this year with your horses? What do you still hope to accomplish?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday stills: History

I was kind of at a point this week where I didn't have time to take pictures, getting up early and not getting in until at least 8 pm. I did not want to cart my camera in my car when the temperatures outside were exceeding 90 degrees.

Saturday night was the full moon. As I was driving back from the city I seen the most breathtaking rising moon. The moon was literally a blood red colour and HUGE.
I had to stop for a moment and think, who else, wherever they are in the world is looking up at this same moon and thinking the same thing I am?

Of course by the time I got my camera it had risen high into the sky and was a little more orange. It was still very neat down at the harbor near my house, reflecting off the water.

The moon is timeless. It has no age, rises and sets every day just like the day before and the day before that.

If you want to see some history I own check out my sleigh I purchased last fall. It is over 100 years old and I personally am going to re-finish it this summer and fall in preparation for using it this winter. I hate it's fire engine red colour. It needs to be black and dark red, not so shocking and bright. Indigo enjoyed pulling it and I was glad I was able to get her out on it.
This photo was not actually taken by me, but my aunt. Check out her blog for awesome photo's.

Check out more history on Sunday stills

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bit to bitless: Will my horse stop?

Here is a little video of a bit to bitless challenge so you can see that all horses, all sizes, temperaments and breeds can go bitless. To see even more bit to bitless challenges check out Zoe's Youtube channel. If you do a bit to bitless challenge please do take a video and send me the link, I will feature it and your blog here!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bit to bitless: Kourtesy of Kal

After a long few days of haying and riding all sorts of horses (yes after I fell off I got right back up of course!) we have another guest blogger bit to bitless story. I love hearing these stories, it makes me realize I may be one step closer to that dream of mine; that bitless will become the norm.

Today we have Lauren from the blog Kourtesy of Kal telling her wonderful story of bit to bitless.

Remember if you have a bitless story to tell please e-mail it to me and you can be one of our guest bloggers too! E-mail me at sydney@bitlesshorseblog.com


I started taking riding lessons when I was 10, at a rundown stable with
rundown, ill-trained schoolies. Even at 10 years old, all the whips, the
spurs, the kicking, the yanking, the beating....it just didn't seem
right to me. Of course, all the people at the barns told me it was
right, and normal. It was the way to ride horses. Get them before they
get you. Show them who is boss. It still didn't sit right with me, no
matter what those "professionals" told me. So I ended up moving barns a
lot through the four or so years I took riding lessons.

Around the time I was 12, I came across Monty Roberts. Here was man who
didn't need to kick or yank or beat. His horses were his willing
partners instead of unhappy slaves. I went to see a clinic of his, and
my mind was blown. It was incredible to watch, and from then on, I vowed
I would always treat horses with respect and fair treatment, regardless
of what people told me.

When I was 14, during the summer of 2002, my parents and I made the
decision to buy my first horse. After a couple deals fell through, my
parents heard of a thoroughbred mare for sale not far from where we
lived. We took the drive up to see her. I'm pretty sure it was an
instant "she's the one." I didn't even ride her the first time I saw
her, but I wanted her. A fiery chestnut with a tiny little star, and
huge doe eyes. Her name was Chilli, and she was perfect. After a couple
of test rides, she was mine. We ended up boarding her at the place we
bought her from, since we didn't have our own farm at the time.

Chilli, the first time I rode her. I think the picture speaks for itself.

It was not very long after that, that we discovered Chilli was no quite
as perfect as we had been led to believe. An ex race horse, her owner
had never retrained her. Just hopped on, raced around the ring, and
galloped over jumps. She used a bit and heavy hands to keep Chilli under
some semblance of control. Even without touching the reins, Chilli would
chomp at the bit. If you picked up the reins, her head would come up,
her back would hollow, and she'd try to race away. Jumping involved
pointing Chilli at a jump, and she would run to it and fling herself
over as quickly as possible. Her old owner told us this was because she
loved to run.

In reality, Chilli had a back injury. One which no one ever addressed.
One which no one gave her the time off to heal. One which eventually did
become chronic. At the time, it was decided to give Chilli some time
off. Six months of no riding. My first horse, and I wasn't even able to
ride her. During that time off though, I learned the most about my
horse. I went up every day to groom her and walk her around. Chilli
began to trust me, and I began to trust her. And it was because of her
fragile trust in me that I couldn't bear to think of hurting her.And I
knew how much the bit hurt her.

So, I began to research for alternative methods to bits. And I quickly
came across Dr Cook's bitless bridle. They were bitless and painlesss,
and the solution. I ordered one right away. And when Chilli was ready to
come back to work, I put her in the bridle. Gone was the chomping and
rushing and anxiety. Chilli immediately relaxed in the bridle. It didn't
solve all of her problems; Chilli had large, gaping holes in her
training, but, the bitless allowed me to build on her trust, rather than
take it away. And in that, I was able to retrain my ex race horse.

Retraining Chilli wasn't the biggest hurdle for me though. The biggest
hurdle was what happened when I started riding bitless in a barn full of
bitted horses. I was immediately excluded from the barn group. Boarders
made fun of me, the BO had people spy on me and report back to her. I
was accused of abusing my horse. I was accused of ruining my horse. I
was told I couldn't ride. I was told I shouldn't own a horse. And no,
this didn't come from kids, this came from adults. I was only 14, and
finally starting to live my dream of owning a horse, and the barn, which
should have been my second home, became a horror show. I dreaded going,
but I forced myself to go almost every day. Because Chilli didn't think
I was doing anything wrong. Because I could see, even then, how much the
bitless made her happy.

So I suffered through the abuse of my fellow boarders. And, when I
finally felt Chilli was ready, I entered her in one of the barn's summer
shows. Not only did we beat the barn's best riders and horses, but we
placed in a hunter class, something I was told Chilli could never do.
The BO's father apologized to me. No one else did. So I took my ribbons,
and I took my horse, and we left.
Chilli and I in one of the over fences classes. Relaxed and happy mare.

And that should have been my happy ending, but in honest truth, it only
got worse at the second barn. It was a dressage barn primarily, and the
horses were bitted in monstrous contraptions. When I refused to do the
same to my horse, the abuse started again. One lady told me that I was
"killing" my horse by riding her bitless. The boarders would watch me
ride, and criticize everything I did. The BO was an older lady, and she
very much believed the horses were "out to get her". And because she
didn't like me, she took out her anger on my horse. Chilli lost 200lbs
in about 2 months from the BO refusing to feed her more than a flake of
hay a day. Chilli's entire personality changed. She went wild. The BO
couldn't handle her. She'd pace, and crib, and fuss. Every time we came
to see her, she'd whinny and nicker at us with such desperation, it
broke my heart. In the final weeks before we left, I went to the barn
every day to make sure she was given hay and water, and turned out.

And we when we moved Chilli, we moved her home. There was no way I was
putting her in another boarding farm, so we built fences and shelters
and a barn, and Chilli came home. Almost instantly, Chilli went back to
her usual sweet, gentle self. And from there, we continued to ride
bitless. Now, at the age of 17, Chilli is semi-retired, due to her back
problems. But she still enjoys the occasional bitless hack around the
property. Looking back at everything that happened, I would do it all
again. Chilli is a happy, content, healthy horse. And her trust in me is
as strong as ever. And that is worth everything.

Chilli at home. Bitless and loving it.

Trotting Chilli. Again, relaxed. Don't mind Fred's head.
I came across the Nurtural bridle a couple years later, and have used it
on another OTTB, as well as an ex-reiner. I also started my
Percheron/Quarter horse cross in a Nurtural bridle. At 16.2HH, and
1300lbs, she is no small thoroughbred. I started her bareback, with a
bitless bridle. I have never had an issue with control. Actually, to be
honest, backing her was as easy as getting on an old, bombproof horse.
Absolutely no issues. And she is happy and accepting. With about 60
rides on her so far, she walks and trots around with her head down, neck
stretched, and back loose and relaxed. And she has done so since I first
backed her in the winter.

There are bits sitting in my barn, collecting dust. Not one of my horses
will ever have metal in their mouth again. Bitless is a simple,
alternative, better way for horses. And, thankfully, the rest of the
horse world is starting to understand that.

As far as going from one bitless bridle to another, I actually went to
Nurtural because my Dr Cook broke. While I was riding! I was riding an
OTTB at the time, and suddenly my left rein was flopping to the ground.
The strap holding the ring had snapped. I was able to stop the horse
without too much issue. And from there, I went to Nurtural since I
needed a new bridle quickly, and since they were only a couple hours
away from me, the shipping time was a lot faster.

As far as comparing the two, obviously Nurtural bridles are more durable
(I haven't broken a Nurtural yet :P). I don't like the twisting of the
cross under straps of the Dr Cook's bridle. Otherwise, I think they both
work great. I had my Dr Cook bridle repaired, and I still use it on my
mom's horse, the ex-reiner.

Sydney back in here. Theres another great post about Lauren and riding bitless on her blog here. Thanks for your guest blog post! I look forward to reading about your bitless adventures in the future.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Macro Monday: In the setting sun

I love how everything glows when the sun is just setting on a warm evening.
Twilight, the moment between day and night where it's not quite light and not quite dark.

The suns last rays caught in the mane of my horse just before that moment.
Highlighting every soft little ear hair I neglect to trim off for the same distaste of the bugs that would make her shake her head when she is being ridden in the summer.
Giving me one more glimpse that every brown mane hair on a grey horse is highlighted before falling dark behind the trees and casting an orange glow on the clouds.


Sunday stills: go low, looking high

The tallest things around here for hours are the wind turbines. There happens to be three on the farm and they just got them all turning.
People asked me if they make any noise. Yes they do but you can't hear it unless you are literally right underneath them and even then if you are walking on the gravel lane and your shoes are making a crunch it's hard to hear them. Some people over exaggerate and say they can hear them over five miles away. IMO these people just want something to complain about. I can't even hear them in the barnyard. The horses are not bothered by the noise but Indigo was spooked by the shadows if you happened to read my last post about my most recent tumble, which really, really hurts today because of a sunburn due to polysporin on my back cuts. Note to the future polysporin using person: do not let area with polysporin on it get exposed to the sun it will burn you to a crisp.

The tip of the blades spin some 100+ KMPH. I'll have to check just how fast I forget now.

Heres my friend Keri standing on the stairs so you can see a size comparison of human to base.

Look at my shadow and the massive shadow of the base and blades way off there. This shadow is far away because it was almost 8 pm, the sun was setting.
When Indigo got freaked out by the fast spinning shadows they were short and dark, right on the gravel lane going left to right there in the picture.

All three in a row.

Finally because what used to be the tallest thing for miles in this itty bitty farming community, one of the old silo's.

For more on turbines and to see the blades being raised check out my Turbine raising post.

For other things above your head check out Sunday stills.

Happy fathers day to all those fathers out there. A father is the only man who is not supposed to break his daughters heart.

Friday, June 18, 2010

This is why you always wear a helmet

If you look back to a post on helmets I did a little over a year ago you will see I almost always wear a helmet and feel like all riders should. I also wrote a post about my stories of falling off, which people always seem to find humorous.

Yesterday was no exception. I fell off and I fell hard.

My friend Korinne and I were riding around. I was on Indigo and she was on Sheba. We were cantering and galloping up and down the fresh cut windrows of hay when we decided we were going to go down the road to the neighbors lane and then way back around to the farm. We did just that. Both horses were on their best behaviors.

We crossed a ditch, rode through some tall weeds, a few fields and made it back to the lane of the farm.

All three turbines are up and two of them were turning last night. The horses paid no mind as we rode underneath them. They hardly make any noise and if theres something else making noise it's very hard to hear them even right near the base.
By the time we went past the last turbine (which is actually the first being closest to the farm) it was about 5 pm. The shadows were not quite long yet so right in the gravel lane where we rode the black outline of the spinning blades crossed our path.

Indigo confidently walked right into the shadows before they started hitting her. Every time a black shadow would touch her she would flinch like someone was whacking her with a whip on the head. I took my feet out of the stirrups to dismount before she panicked but it was too late. I had one leg half over her in a dismount and she was gone right out from underneath me. I landed tailbone first, followed by my back and head on the 2 inch stone laneway, a part that no trucks drove so it wasn't even compacted. I heard a distinct POP as the air pocket inside my helmet ruptured upon impact, the part that is designed to rupture when impacted to save your noggin. I went back today and seen there is definitely a very distinct butt mark where my rear collided with the stone and slid it making a pretty accurate impression of my behind before my back and head hit.

Before I could even lie there for a moment and address that I had fallen off I was up on my feet cussing and looking to make sure Korinne was ok. Sheba had run in the other direction away from the horse eating shadows and was wide eyed and snorty; as excited as that horse has ever been to my knowledge. Indigo had taken off halfway into the corn field and stopped to stuff her face (you big, big pig!)

So I walked into the field to get my snacking horse and walked back to the turbine shadows that eat horses. She was really scared but followed me anyway. This horse trusts me a lot. Again, every time the shadow would hit her she would jump on the spot, Eventually after a minute she stopped jumping and relaxed, licking her lips because she realized the danger was over and the shadows did not actually eat horses. We walked home, I was moaning and groaning the whole way.

Once I got back my shoulders were itchy. I moved my hair only to discover there was a big hole in the back of my shirt. My favorite doggoned shirt!!
What was worse was underneath the shirt. My back literally looks like a cat went feral on it. The large 2 inch stones that made the laneway up tore my back up one side and down the other. I really did think my tailbone was broken too. Until about 10 pm when I finally broke down and took something. Just above my butt hurt soooo bad. I couldn't sit, lying down felt better but not for long. Lets just say thank goodness for Arnica gel being in the house and boyfriends that bring you polysporin when you have none; even if it stings and I dance around when it gets put on my back cuts.

To educate my 4-H kids and just mostly because I like to cut things in half with a hacksaw I took my busted up helmet outside and did just that with it. It's neat to see the air pockets that protect your head. Take note of the white foam at the top right hand side there still in tact on the non-injured side of the helmet.

Heres the physical outer damage to my helmet before I sawed it in half. I went boy, did I miss cracking my melon up. Theres a notable dent along with the velvet being ripped.

The half I threw away was the damaged half. The white foam on the top right hand side was compressed to less than half. When I went to pry around a bit the white foam which was apparently not only acting as a buffer for my skull but helping glue the two halves together totally crumbled and the outer shell and inside protective styrofoam came apart. Apparently because of the impact. I know I would have been in the hospital if I did not have my helmet on.

I have to say the only helmets I have ever bought, in the exception of one was international riding helmets. This is the style I had, the ATH DFS. It fit me the best out of most helmets I tried on and was under $150. I hated all the other dial helmets I tried on and still prefer one without a dial because I seem to constantly be turning it and can never get the perfect fit.
Troxel helmets just do not seem to fit my head and seem too wide in the sides and too narrow front to back which equals a major headache with long rides. In fact I still have my first helmet which was an international olympian velvet hunt cap, certified of course back then, but not now for most horse sports. I still love the look of old hunt caps though with the upside down ribbon on the back. The one exception was some off brand bicycle style helmet rather than my preferred velvet. The plastic bicycle shell popped right off when I accidentally dropped it down the stairs, even though it was ASTM and BSI certified. I learned my lesson about cheap off brand helmets.

I do have to say compared to other times I have bonked my mellon I did not have the classical headache and I hit my head far harder this time than I have with my old hunt style caps. This helmet truely does offer a better design.

International has a warranty that they will replace your helmet for a small fee if you have the original receipt. Unfortunately I do not have the original for this helmet because it was a chrismas gift. The date of manufacture was september 20th 2008. On the certification tag it stated the ASTM and SEI certified tag, which all helmets used for riding should have (make sure yours has it!). I wish I would have been given a receipt but since I had tried on this helmet and liked it the people who gifted it to me knew I likely was not going to return it.
I went to the tack shop today and showed the owner of the store my back and my helmet which she was shocked I was walking around today and going to bale hay this evening. I feel a lot better today, a lot better than I anticipated last night. It's still hard to bend down and I keep accidentally beeping my horn getting out of the vehicle as I try and heave myself out without straining my butthurt.

So here goes to wearing a helmet, every time, every ride/drive. I was on a pretty reliable horse and I fell off when I was dismounting. Not at a gallop, not jumping or barrel racing. I was dismounting and Indigo did the classical teleport out from under me wile I had one leg in the air. Not something you would expect but something to definately think about next time you saddle up.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Horse hair catch up

I've been braiding out the wazoo, thanks to a lot of you bloggers keeping me busy. I really do appreciate the commissions for horse hair jewelry and hat bands. Due to the overwhelming size of requests coming in, most will be backed up two weeks after I receive the hair.

I have been too busy to take pictures of what else has been going on. Breaking horses, finishing other ones, cleaning stalls but not baling hay yet. Thats a whole other story.

Made a stone boat, drove Indigo with it and picked up rocks in the field. Let me tell you I love this horse. I think she must have been a plow horse in another life. Shes super smart that one. Also for another post.

Heres just an example of some different style key chains I have not posted here before. These have varying prices as some take a lot more time than others to make.

This is just another version of a two tiered tassel. It has foal hair in the center, normally the hair would be cut strait across but it would have lost the precious foal curlies.

Oh and the webbing of a dream catcher. Not key chain related but still cool with an old horse shoe instead of a loop and leather.

This goes to show you my horse hair pieces are really only limited by your imagination. I don't think lately that I have done two pieces of the same design. People are getting creative, I like it.

Stay tuned a science vs tradition post and another bitless guest blog story on the way.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday stills: Eyes

Eyes are the windows to the soul.

I have loads and loads of horse eye pictures. They are so expressive and difficult to catch a horse eye without your reflection or the reflection of the surroundings in it.

A patch of thinner hair around the eyes of a horse in the summer (most commonly seen on greys as the black skin shows up better) is called an "eye patch" The dark skin will show around the eye as the smaller hairs shed out if the horse is in good health. Unfortunately I do not have a recent picture of eye patches I will leave that for another time.

Click the link at the top of this post to see more of my equine eye photo's.

Friday, June 11, 2010


In a press release today, the National Institute of Health has announced
the discovery of a potentially dangerous substance in the hair of horses.
This substance, called "amo-bacter equuii" has been linked with the following
symptoms in female humans:

*reluctance to cook
*reluctance to perform housework
*reluctance to wear anything but boots
*reluctance to work except in support of a horse
*physical craving for contact with horses (may be an addiction)

Beware! if you come in contact with a female human affected by this
substance be prepared to talk about horses for hours on end.

This was a public service announcement ...

Surgeon General's Warning: Horses are expensive, addictive, and may impair
the ability to use common sense.

Be careful out there ladies.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bit to bitless: A guest blogger

Over the last few months I have been gathering stories from people who have gone bitless. This weeks story is from Juliette at honey suckle faire. I love hearing your bit to bitless stories and theres more and more people every day going bitless. I hope within the next few years bitless will become the norm in the horse world. If you would like me to feature your story (and blog if you have one) please e-mail me sydney@bitlesshorseblog.com

Juliette rides her two horses, Pie and Sovey in a Dr.Cooks. The Dr.Cooks bitless bridle was originally invented and named the "spirit bridle" by a man named Rev. Edward Allan Buck in 1988. The patent later bought out by Dr.Robert Cook who now sells them under the name of the "bitless bridle". This was the bridle I used once upon a time before switching solely to the Nurtural for various reasons. It is a "cross under" bridle that works on pressure points, particularly acupressure points on the cheeks that seem to have a calming effect on the horse wearing it.

This is the whole point of bitless, painless, fearless communication and understanding. None of which a bit or mechanical hackamore can offer. Anyway, onwards to our guest blogger.


Riding bitless by Juliette

Here are photos of Pie (top) and Sovereign (bottom) in their bitless bridles. Sadly, these shots don't show their pretty heads that well, but you can see the bitless bridles and their adorable bitless lips! (smiling)

Another blogger,Sydneyover at her fabulous blog, Bitless horse; science vs traditionasked me about my own "bit to bitless" journey.

My family has had horses on our farm since 1957. Here is a photo of my mom jumping on an outside course in a show. At that time, bits were fairly severe.

When I was born in 1967, my first pony, the sweetie pie, Dimples, was outfitted in a tiny bridle with a snaffle bit. I started lessons proper in 6th grade and most of the school horses I rode had
D-ring snaffles. Thankfully, many stables today are starting students in bitless bridles. In a bitless bridle, beginning riders can learn to use their seat and hands independently without damaging the mouth of the school horse. As I advanced through the school program I graduated to riding George, the stallion. He had a Pelham bit with two sets of reins, one to the snaffle and one to the curb. I believe I have soft hands, but I still shudder to think back on poor George, with all that metal in and around his mouth.

In 1980, my mom and dad bought me my amazing mare, Penny Lane. I showed her in a snaffle, but she was known to wear a twisted wire and even a Pelham when hunted because she could get strong. She never refused a fence for me and was a light-hearted show pony, but she had a tendency to go heavy on her forehand and would trip, stumble and even fall. Because of this unsafe situation, I started taking dressage lessons with her when I was in 8th grade. It was then that I realized how little my hands had to do with the entire riding experience. As I sat deeper and rode with my seat and legs, my smart little mare pulled herself up and balanced evenly. No more tripping, no more racing. My 8th grade brain wondered if I needed the bridle at all!

We have a 40 acre farm with lovely trails. I started riding this mare outside of the ring in her halter with two lead ropes tied together like reins. She did wonderfully in all situations, all weather. Penny Lane passed away in 2000 - she had lived 31 happy years. I don't think I ever put a bit in her mouth after 1983.

In August of 2007 I began riding a Thoroughbred gelding named Baja at a local boarding stable. He had a snaffle with a slow twist. As the days got colder, I became increasingly uncomfortable putting that cold piece of metal in the sweet Baja-boy's mouth. By December, the boarding stable owner would drive up each day and see Baja's bridle on my dashboard with the heat cranked just to warm the bit up for him. Around the same time I started riding a buckskin QH for some friends. They only had Western tack. I had never actually used a Western bridle (headstall?) before and the bit was a little off-putting. The owner assured me it was not painful to the horse, but it looked like giant forceps to me. The mare was 3 years old and I was only walking her so I just rode her in her halter with two leads attached and it worked out perfectly. She listened to my seat and even "halt" was possible with just my body signals.

Online I began reading Jessica Jahiels's Horse-Sense Newsletter. There are millions of clinicians and trainers out there with many different opinions about horsekeeping and riding. Everyone has to find the advice that resonates within themselves. For me, it is Jessica Jahiel. She recommends Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle so I ordered one and tried it on Baja. I was relieved and happy from the very first ride. We walked, trotted, cantered, jumped and went out over the fields in the bitless bridle. Finally, I had found tack that works well without being unnecessarily harsh. Perfect.

There is a very funny story about Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle and my blog. I started my blog in December of 2008, right before we began fostering Pie and Sovereign. I was posting away (to no one because I had no followers yet) about the preparations necessary to receive two Off-Track Thoroughbreds. One day I posted about all the tack and grooming supplies that came in the mail that day, including, two bitless bridles. You can read that post here. I talked about having two of everything and that I wished I could ride "Roman". Growing up we always referred to riding two horses at once (like a bareback artist in the circus) as "Riding Roman". No one commented, but I received an email from a man named "Bob". He asked me what "Riding Roman" meant. I answered and linked him to the wiki article about Roman Riding. When he pleasantly emailed back again, under his name "Bob" there was his whole title. "Bob" was short for Robert...as in Dr. Robert Cook, the inventor of Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle!!!!! Ok, so I was falling all over myself on the next email to "Bob". Freak-out time!

That said, all my praise to Dr. Cook was sincere. I love, love, love our bridles and only have ridden twice without them. ( Both times I rode with no tack at all!) In fact, we don't have any bits in our barn now. Happy Pie! Happy Sovey! Happy us!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Oh snap toto, we aren't in Kansas anymore

Nope, certainly not Kansas.

Our seemingly severe weather free county has been hit by several F1 tornadoes. This would explain my absence on several blogs as the power was out for two days and a bit. All those who are waiting for their horse hair commissions from me I will be sending images of the finished products asap and shipping hopefully Friday. I do apologize for this unpredictable weather and the slow speed that I have to work at.

Tornadoes? Here? Really? What the heck was I missing? Oh yeah, a lot I was in the city that night.
The village out here got hit bad. The tornadoes seemed to go along the lake and town just got crazy wind. Luckily not one person was killed or injured seriously. A lot of trees, just as many power lines down and quite the few barns. The amazing thing is to the right of this picture (my friend was taking pictures with my point and shoot as I drove by) there was this pole barn at pooks (he sells tractors etc) was pretty new. It picked it up and tossed it clear across the field but left all the tractors, combines and a large number of light, empty totes in tact. But it took the metal pole barn out and the white barn in the picture above. Their place got hit hard before the twister went across country and hit a few more farms.

Anyway I was in the city at my friends place. It rained and rained there getting close to 3 inches in a matter of a couple of hours. Basements flooded, stores were soaked as cars drove by and sent a tidal wave of water from the puddles crashing underneath their doors. We got the storm.

I didn't even know it had happened. I was in the city and knew it had rained but then I get this call at quarter to 6 that morning from my friend telling me the show I was supposed to scribe at that day was canceled. I think I rattled off a happy "awesome, I get to sleep in" and fell back asleep for another half an hour before my mom called. She told me the whole story and the large amounts of damage that was done. The first thing I asked was if the horses were ok and they were. The tornadoes missed the farm by a couple miles. We also did not have power. No power, psh thats alright, right?

Well not apparently when yesterday after not having power for 2 days I had to take a stinking cold shower. You can bet I was in and out of there sooo fast. Most miserable shower of my life.

All I could hear was generators and chainsaws. I still hear chainsaws.
Two towns over the tornado wreaked havoc again totally demolishing a whole park and a lot of businesses and houses. They weren't even letting anyone into the town the last two days.

Why is this a big deal? We never get bad weather like this. I know this weather is not bad compared to other places like Ohio, where people were killed from tornadoes. The last 5 or so years we have had a few small twisters taking out a roof of a barn, a few trees and a house or some lawn furniture. Before that it was the 80's when we had twisters of any notable size last.

We are in for some strange weather this year I am thinking. Who else has had some weird weather?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday stills: Black and white

I left my only living pair of aviators on the hot as a branding iron hay wagon in the sun. Bad idea to sit on that thing on a hot day my butt thinks.

Prom is such a fun time of year. I loved my prom dress. It was bright and unusual with all sorts of swirling colours and gorgeous hand beading. It was sure an eye catcher when everyone seen it they asked where on earth I got it. Unfortunately you all here do not get to see the images. They were on film and also hold some bittersweet memories with the people in the pictures next to me. I made the mistake of not getting an image of just me.

When my friend Sarah told me she was going to prom and wanted pictures taken I jumped at the opportunity. Shes very photogenic with her contagious smile and has been in my other Sunday stills challenges like Pets and several other photo's I have not posted here.
Her and her boyfriend Josh wandered over to the John R Park homestead for some fun pictures. They had to deal with me bossing them around telling them where to hold their hands or move left or right to avoid shadows for the posed pictures.

Then this happens.
Hah. Sarah screamed, her dress flew up because we were right on the lake at the homestead and it was windy.
Don't worry I normally scream when someone picks me up suddenly too. No, I did not just say that. Sydney does not scream like a little girl...unless theres a mr.legs crawling nearby.I got quite the few good pictures for them so they can develop them. I think everyone should have memories of their senior prom. I have my dress still, now I just need to find a place to wear it again. I mean it is the only dress I own. I am such a blue jeans and tank tops kind girl. Until next Sunday.
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