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Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Faves

Happy Friday everyone!

Today I want to do something a bit different and will continue this every Friday. I want to showcase something neat and interesting every week. These will not be my usual posts about the Tacky Tack in this world, but rather it will be about nice tack, artists, saddlemakers, and anything else tack related that is cool.

This Friday, I want to introduce you to the world of model horses. You know, like the Breyers we all played with as kids? Would you believe that there are thousands of adults around the country that still collect, customize and show them? There are also artists who sculpt original pieces and cast limited runs of them in resin and sell the unpainted, sometimes for thousands of dollars? There are people, like myself that specialize in custom painting and remaking ( ) Then, there are tackmakers. These incredible artists make the most realistic and intricate tack you can imagine, all in scales ranging from the largest at 1:9 to the tiniest at 1:64. Yes, I said 1:64, that is less than an inch tall!! I have made some tack for my own show horses, but it has been limited to the large (henceforth referred to as Traditional or TR size) scale and to Western tack as there are kits readily available that are easy to put together. (If you are interested in one see they have everything you need to make lovely tack, including silver plates and tooling patterns.)

There are a couple of artists I want to introduce you to today. The first is Kirsteen Haley of KH Custom Saddlery ( ) . She makes the most amazing western show tack I have ever seen. Honestly, if you did not know it was for a model horse wouldn’t you think this was for a real horse?

Photo/Tack by K. Haley

The detail she puts into these is unreal. I am amazed at the intricacy and realism. It makes my attempt look very amateur.

Photo/Model/Tack - J. McCune

She also makes show tack for the 1:32 scale (Stablemate or SM, about 2.5 inches tall) models. I have NEVER seen SM tack so detailed.

Photo/Saddle K. Haley

This kind of work leaves me dumbfounded. I also found this parade set she did in SM Scale.

Photo/Tack K. Haley

Amazing, totally amazing.

The next artist I want to introduce to you is Jill Aman ( she makes native costumes for mainly TR scale models. The detail and research she puts into them is utterly fantastic. I have never seen such realistic and functional looking costumes. They are truly works of art. I especially like her Spanish and Portuguese sets.

Photo/Tack by Jill Aman

Can you believe that is for a MODEL horse? Check out these as well.

All photos/Tack by Jill Aman

So, over the weekend, take some time to explore the model horse world. You can find a ton of information at these sites. Have a wonderful weekend!!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hi-Ho Silver!!!

So, how much is too much? When it comes to show saddles, it seems that the more silver that can be crammed onto it the better. I have seen some that barely have any leather showing at all. They are so encrusted in silver, they must weigh a ton. I have always been under the apparently mistaken impression that the whole point in show tack is for it to compliment, but not outshine the horse it is on. That it should look clean, professional and above all not distract the judge from seeing what really matters, the horse. I prefer a small amount of silver accents on medium to darker colored tack. I do not like the heavily tooled, silver encrusted things I have been seeing. I especially do not like them when they are such light colored leather as to be almost white. This is a nice saddle to me.

It has minimal silver, is a nice medium color, and the tooling pattern is not so deep or heavily accented as to be too "busy". I would not be hesitant at all to use this saddle on my husband's big black mare. I would like to see what the stirrups looked like, but the photo cuts them off. With a nice dark colored saddle blanket or a nice patterned one, this would make a nice turn out. It would not distract the judge, but would accent the horse.

Here we have a nice black show saddle, not too flashy, and the tooling pattern doesn't overpower the rest of the saddle. I really like black tack, I think this would look nice on my little red mare.

I also don't think that a show saddle should HAVE to have silver. I think a nice tooling pattern looks just as good. I really like this saddle a lot.
Now, on to the complete opposite end of the spectrum. This saddle looks more like it belongs in the Rose Bowl parade or on Trigger than in a show ring. I am not sure if they COULD cram any more silver onto it. Maybe if they added silver stirrups and some silver around the edges of the fenders.

These three also bother me, they are just too busy. If I were judging a class and any of these were on a horse, I am not sure I could look anywhere else.

Here is one advertised as "dripping with silver", it is also that light colored leather. I also love how they have very kindly photo shopped in the "sparkles" , just in case you couldn't be blinded by the reflection off the silver alone. I also am bothered by the super busy tooling pattern.

I think in the case of show tack, we should lean more toward a polished, professional appearance. "All things in moderation," is a good idea in my opinion.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Bling, Bling"

First, let me start by saying that I detest the term "bling". It has wormed its way into our vocabulary and even into our dictionaries. Worse still, it has wormed its way onto our tack. Now, I have no problem at all with some silver embellishment on show tack. Tastefully done, it can really make your horse stand out in a class. Tastelessly done however, it can make your horse look like some sort of beauty pageant reject. I have seen in my recent browsing of tack stores and eBay, an increasing amount of tack that is completely encrusted in rhinestones. I do not mind a few, say, on a browband. However, the things I have found would blind a judge from the glare of the arena lights reflecting off of them. They come in wild colors and on every piece of tack imaginable. It looks like some deranged person has attacked it with a Be-Dazzler. For your amazement and viewing pleasure I present (put on your sunglasses)....

Wow, really? Honestly, would YOU wear either pair of these in a World Show class?

Oh, here we have not only rhinestones, but purple ostrich leather as well...

Here is one with rhinestones and rawhide braiding...

I also found these gems...

Man, my eyes hurt.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Bit About Bits

I want to deviate from speaking mainly about tacky tack in the fashion sense. I want to talk about one of the tack items out there that I consider to be just plain barbaric. With the increasing popularity of gaming and speed events, I am seeing more and more horses that are poorly trained or just plain crazy being ridden with more hardware than an entire Home Depot. These horses are usually ridden by children or young teenaged girls. Instead of properly training a horse, or going and investing the money in an already trained one, Parents living their dreams through their children are going out and buying any old horse that can run fast, shoving one of THESE into their mouths, strapping on a tie-down and turning them loose.

These contraptions ought to be illegal. This should be considered abuse. I have seen the nosebands be made from everything from lariat rope to saw-edged bicycle chain. I saw one recently that had the noseband made from a solid steel bar! The mouthpieces are usually a thin twisted wire snaffle gag and the shanks can range from 3 to 9 (!!!) inches long. The amount of leverage these can exert is unreal. Bits like this are intended to be used on horses that have NO feeling left in their heads and by an experienced horseperson. Not a 10 year old girl. This is NOT a miracle fix. These can cause far more damage in inexperienced hands than years of training can repair. In my humble opinion, if you cannot safely control your horse without one of these you have no business being on it. I have recently seen a similar bit being sold in a popular mail-order catalog being touted as a “3 piece twisted sweet iron wire with dog bone snaffle. 3" ring, 5" mouth. A wonderful bit for older colts, young horses or any soft mouthed horse. This bit picks up the nose first, then gently picks up his mouth until mouth and curb tighten for gentle but all over "nose, bars, lips, chin and face". Works well with any type martingale or draw reins.” WHAT?! Are you people insane? Let’s add MORE leverage with a martingale or draw reins.

Holy crap, my horse would flip over backward if I used this on her. She goes in a simple French link snaffle and it barely takes a twitch of my pinky finger to stop her. I had a friend growing up that had a barrel horse that used one of these, that animal was dangerous. They had progressed to increasingly more severe bits until this was all that would come close to stopping him, and then it was debatable. Many times I saw blood flying from his gaping, foaming mouth. It was not a hardware issue with him, rather a software one. He had never been properly programmed. ALL he could do was RUN. That was all he wanted to do. He was ruined because of this, the combination of the punishing bit pulling his head UP and the too-short tie-down pulling DOWN; he was forced to run in an unnatural position. He became broken winded and was discarded in favor of a new horse.

I've Got the Blues

Today, readers, I have the blues. I have found more tacky tack for your amazement. This time it is BLUE. To show you that I am not TOTALLY against colored tack (heck I even like some I have seen) I present a saddle, that assuming it is of decent quality, I would not turn my nose up at...

If I were into gaming, and I had a horse that looked good in blue, I would use this. It is not overdone. The blue accents are restricted to the seat, insides of the stirrups, and corners of the fenders. The accessories are also blue. This does not look bad.

Here is another example of a not-so-horrible one...

I admit that I could do without the solid blue stirrups, replace them with some matching natural leather ones and this would be a pretty nice looking rig.

This however..

Ugh, I think I may be ill. Not only can you tell that it is a cheaply made synthetic piece of junk, (now I am NOT badmouthing synthetic saddles, I own 2) but the color scheme is atrocious. The blue nylon accessories are not even the same shade of blue as the saddle. Oh, and dig that "buckstitching". If the saddle were black and blue or black and green, it would be tolerable. My horse would hide her prissy little head in shame if I put this monstrosity on her.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Welcome. To start off, I will give you a bit of background. I have over 2 decades of experience with horses. Over the past years I have noticed a somewhat annoying trend in the horse world. The shift toward more and more poorly made, cheap, unsafe and overall TACKY tack. Now, horse equipment, like any fashion, changes over time. In the past, the changes have been relatively minor. A bit more silver here, a slightly rounder cantle there, and color variation from light to dark leather. That was all well and good. However, in recent years the "bling" factor has increased exponentially until the horse is nigh indiscernable under the blinding glare coming from the tack. It started in the Western circles and has, to my horror, progressed into the previously very austere English world. At first it was just a few rinestones on a browband here and there, then the colored anodized aluminium stirrups and spurs. I could deal with that, but now THEY HAVE GONE TOO FAR!! I present for your horrified stares...a PINK English saddle!
Yes folks, it is a PINK and black English saddle. Not only that, it appears to be a cheaply made, low quality piece of junk from India. One of those that has painted, rather than dyed leather that feels like cardboard and holds up just about as well. Now, I know that some people like pink, (myself not included) but in my opinion color should be limited to accessories like saddle pads and protective legwear, or to the rider's clothing. Can you imagine attempting to use this in an actual hunter show?
Ok, so, what are your opinions? What have you seen that has left your eyes hurting and your sense of equestrian style traumatized?
I will also eventually address some of the equestrian equipment that is not tacky in a fashion sense, but rather unsafe or cruel.