From Endurance to Dressage
Last week, Dover sent me one of those daily emails highlighting some product or other. Most of the time I delete them without checking out the "special" sale, but on that day, I did scroll though, and what to my wondering eyes did appear? Why nothing but a burgundy colored fly veil! Rats!
I have spent a small fortune on fly veils this year, and sadly, I lost one of the pricier LeMieux bonnets at a show in May. I am fed up with spending money on bonnets, but I have been wanting one in burgundy/maroon to match our Sunday turnout.
The black bonnet is okay, but one that matches my coat and helmet would look so very nice. So when I saw that Dover add, and then when I saw the price and reviews, how could I say no?
The thing with color though is that matching it close enough to look good can be tough. In the picture, the veil looks more pinkish red than burgundy or maroon, but so did my helmet. My fingers are crossed that the veil will match, but if not, I can school in it or simply send it back.
I'll let you know once it gets here.
My endurance horses all did best with mohair girths, a natural fiber, but girth shape wasn't much of a factor. When I transitioned to dressage, Speedy did best with a fleece girth. While Speedy does get sweaty, it has never been so copious as to warrant frequent cleaning. Izzy, on the other hand, sweats like a teenage boy which means his girth needs to be cleaned a lot. Izzy started with a fleece girth, but it was constantly "crunchy," so I bought a synthetic girth that served him well for quite some time.
I liked that Ovation girth, and I still have it, but eventually, it started to wear a bit. About two years ago, I replaced it with the Collegiate Memory Foam girth, which I also like. It works great, and I assume that Izzy finds it comfortable. The one thing that I don't like about it is that when I wash it, it takes some time to dry. In the winter, it can take days to dry which is really impractical. The girth is still in fine shape, but it doesn't smell great because I don't rinse it off very often because it takes too long to dry.
My friend Valerie, who owns the Dressage Pony Store (she makes sure to give every product she sells a thorough trial) uses the Thinline girths on her super sensitive pony as well as on Cinco, her big guy that doesn't care so much. While at STC Dressage a few weeks ago for a lesson - she's in training with Sean Cunningham, I saw her girth, a Thinline. After feeling the material and closely examining its construction, I decided to order one for Izzy. It came a week or so ago.
The Thinline is not contoured like the memory foam girth, but Izzy has never needed that feature. Like all of my girths, it has roller buckles which are a must have. The thing it doesn't have is elastic at both ends, but what it does have seems a bit smarter. Both buckles are part of a variable buckle system, distributing pressure evenly with its unique stabilizing d-ring. This is a pretty smart system. If you pull one side, the other side gets shorter. This eliminates any gapping. I call it "self-correcting."
My favorite feature of this girth is how easy it is to clean. When I pull it off, I swish it in a bucket of water, shake the excess water off, and then hang it up. If I need it right away, I can easily wipe off the beaded water with a towel, but since it's not porous like the memory foam girth, it dries almost immediately. Having had two sets of Thinline reins, I do know that the Thinline material doesn't like chemicals, so I imagine that leaving it gross and sweaty might eventually cause the material to fail. Since I love that it dries immediately, I have no problem giving it a quick rinse each day. I keep a bucket of water just for rinsing my bit after each ride, so adding the girth to that regimen is no extra work.
I've ridden Izzy in the girth more than ten times now, including at the show last week, and he seems perfectly comfortable in it. Even though we're having the 4th hottest summer on record, the Thinline material hasn't irritated his skin or left any rubs. If it works in this heat, it'll be fine in the winter.
The only thing this horse hasn't had new in the past year is a saddle. Don't tell him!
If I had to choose one word to describe myself, it would be tenacious. In most ways, being determined is considered a positive trait. The thing is though, when you combine tenacity with a touch of obsessive compulsive behavior, that stick-to-itness borders on pathological. I am worse than a dog with a bone. When I start a project, I simply can't let it go until it is resolved. Occasionally, I will just throw something in the trash - resolved, but if it looks like something that I can fix or repair, I will often keep working the problem until I have spent more time and money than the project was worth.
This halter thing has got my brain working overtime. I "fixed" Izzy's latest leather halter by adding a fuse between the halter ring and the buckle bar, but I didn't like how it turned out. It was really hard to thread the end of the crown piece through the buckle to secure it, and once threaded through, the strap went behind the fuse which looked unsightly.
While the fuse "worked," it didn't work well, and I was not at all happy with how it looked. I Googled images of halter hardware, and I discovered a few things. First of all, every single piece of hardware for a halter, including the halter square, can be purchased and replaced (if you have the right tools). Who knew? With that piece of information securely tucked away for future use, I decided to look at all of my halters to see which kind of hardware they used. Among other things, I discovered that there are two kinds of crown piece buckles.
Single Bar Buckles
Double Bar Buckles
Side by Side Comparison
Maybe everyone already knows there are two kinds of buckles, not me. I had never looked closely at a halter buckle before. I now see why the fuse didn't work so well on the single bar buckle; with the fuse attaching to the bottom bar of the "O" of the buckle, there wasn't a "keeper" for the tail end of the crown piece. Am I the last person to know this?
With a somewhat better idea of how halter buckles work, I dug through the tack room, gathering every loose buckle I could find. Speedy's fly sheet was torn to shreds and no longer usable, so I cut off the two front buckles. I did the same to an old winter blanket, and then I found another buckle discarded in a drawer. Along with my hole punch, I brought all of the buckles, fuses, and Chicago screws home.
I undid the first fuse I had attached and discarded the single bar buckle in favor of a rescued double bar buckle. I threaded the fuse through the bottom bar of the buckle and then pushed the receiving end of the Chicago screw through each of the two holes at the ends of the fuse. (See the photo below.)
Once those ends were affixed, I pushed down on the other side of the leather where a third hole had been punched. The receiving end of the Chicago screw was now ready for the other half of the screw.
Chicago screws are a marvelous invention, but over time, they tend to unscrew themselves. I keep a tube of Loctite just for securing Chicago screws. I like to dip the male end of the screw into the Loctite just before screwing the two pieces together. Once the Loctite dries, the screw stays put. You can generally get the Chicago screw undone if you ever need to replace something by gripping the receiving end of the screw with a pair of pliers and using a little force.
Once I had the glue on the screw, I used the screwdriver to screw the two pieces together, wiping off the excess Loctite.
Is the halter good as new? Well, not exactly, but it functions a heck of a lot better than it did. Because this buckle was designed for a thin, nylon strap, sliding the tail end of the crown piece through the buckle is a little difficult, but I have a strategy to overcome that. This particular halter has a buckle on each side of the crown piece, so when I do use this halter, I'll just unbuckle and re-buckle from the right side. A second option is to undo the clip at the throat and slide the halter on and off over the ears.
While it's not perfect, it was an inexpensive fix that taught me a few things, so the few bucks were money well spent.
And then I tackled another DIY project. Stay tuned ...
Before last summer, I can't think of a single time that I've had a halter break. When I've replaced a halter, it has been because it got grungy, or I simply got tired of it. In the past ten months, Izzy has gone through more halters than Speedy has worn in fourteen years. In fact, Izzy has gone through more halters than my last five horses combined. Some of Izzy's halters were even hand-me-downs that belonged to another horse before he wore them, and he STILL has had more halters than anyone else.
Back in 2013, I discovered Tekna Halters. I LOVED them. I bought a black one for Speedy, and then a year later I bought one in brown. Speedy still wears his, but after seven years - six with Izzy, the brown one finally needed to be replaced. After much thought and deliberation, I chose the beautiful Schockemohle Ulm Round Raised Padded Leather Halter. Within a few short weeks, Izzy sat back and broke the crown piece. Jerk.
I was pretty peeved about it, but a few weeks later, I was gifted a very pretty leather halter that fit just right. All was right in halterland until a month ago when I noticed that the leather at the noseband was wearing thin. It wasn't exactly Izzy's fault, but how come Speedy's halters last forever? It might not be completely Izzy's fault, but he does deserve some of the blame.
I ordered Izzy yet another halter. Is anyone keeping count? I took the name plate off the old brown leather halter and used it for the new halter. I took Izzy down to STC Dressage for two weeks and hoped that the halter would come back in good shape. It didn't. While at the show on Saturday, Izzy gave his head a quick snap backwards, and the halter dropped to the ground, broken at the buckle. He gaily jogged off to visit a neighbor while I ran up to the barn to borrow a halter - someone else was grabbing my doofus horse. I always keep a spare in my trailer, but I overlooked it in my hurry to recapture my run-away horse. Jerk.
The borrowed halter barely fit, but I was grateful that the grooms at SCEC were willing to let me use it over-night. Once Izzy was back in his stall, my friend Valerie and I drove over to Tractor Supply to pick out a nylon halter to use for the remainder of the weekend. Unfortunately, we didn't think to bring the broken halter with us for sizing. It ended up being nearly too small. It fits, but everything is on the last hole. Since it was just under twenty bucks, it wasn't worth taking it back, and it did its job.
While I was super annoyed, the whole thing was made even more frustrating because before leaving for vacation the week before, I had decided to "save" that pretty leather halter for shows and clinics - although that obviously was a flawed plan as Izzy broke the halter at the first possible opportunity, and had ordered a custom-made beta halter from Two-Horse Tack. I had also ordered a spare crown piece. It's not as heavy-duty as the Tekna, but it should resist breaking. It arrived while we were at the show.
I took the nameplate off the black Schockemohle halter and used it on the beta halter. Since I hate to throw away things that can be repaired, I did a quick Google search and found a 3-pack of breakaway "fuses" from Weaver. Fuses are the piece of leather that connects the halter ring to the buckle bar. With the new brown leather halter "repaired," I started working on fixing the black Schockemohle halter.
My first find was a black leather crown piece from Riding Warehouse. For $15.95, I was certain I had poured new life into a dead, but practically new, halter. Unfortunately, when the crown piece arrived, it was a quarter of an inch too wide. My halter is ¾" leather while the standard measurement is 1". I was able to find a ¾" black leather crown piece on Amazon, but it came to nearly $24 with shipping (not eligible for Prime shipping).
Given how much I've spent on halters in the past few weeks, I opted to leave it in my shopping cart for a while. Besides the cost of the crown piece, I would also need to order yet another nameplate as there are now two unsightly holes on the cheek piece of that halter. It's a pretty halter, but at some point I have to quit spending money on halters.
Besides the inventory of halters listed here, Izzy also has a rope halter - I should obviously being using it more often. Speedy, too, has several halters: the Tekna, a rope halter, and a leather halter we won for being reserve at RAAC a few years ago. There is also an extra rope halter hanging in my trailer and an old Rambo nylon halter that I had forgotten about.
The degree of heartbreak associated with one's halters is obviously dictated by how much money one has spent on said halters.
Yesterday afternoon, I sat at my desk waiting for my students to return their textbooks and laptops. It was a slow afternoon to say the least. With not much to do other than stare at my own laptop's screen, I decided to do some additional halter shopping.
I am a bit of a halter snob. I HATE web halters. There are so many reasons - they fade, they get stiff, they get ugly, they make horses dull, and so on. I like the way leather halters look, but they too have many of the same problems as web halters. They also break, and they're more expensive.
I love rope halters. They never break or wear out, and they're super easy to clean. Quality yacht rope doesn't wear out or get stiff with frequent washings, and they keep horses responsive to your aids. While they are very functional, they're not very attractive, especially in the dressage world where most things are expected to match something else.
Long ago, I used rope halters underneath my endurance bridles. I also had a few Biothane halters; those things never wear out. When I switched to dressage, I opted for a synthetic halter that looked like leather, but was much sturdier and easier to clean. My Tekna halters lasted for years, and in fact, Speedy still wears his. Izzy's finally wore out last year, but it took a long time. I looked for a new Tekna halter, but I couldn't find one in Izzy's size which was a shame as it's a great halter.
Izzy's new leather halter looks lovely, but I have the feeling that halter isn't going to last any longer than the last one. With that in mind, rather than buy a new nameplate for the halter, I grabbed some pliers and a screw driver and managed to break the Loctite seal that I had used on the Chicago screws for the nameplates on the now defunct black and brown leather halters. One is stainless steel, and one is brass.
In my junk box, I found a package of brand new Chicago screws and attached the old brass nameplate to Izzy's new halter. That left a stainless steel nameplate without a home. So, as I sat staring at my screen yesterday afternoon, I decided to do a little window shopping for Beta Biothane halters.
Beta is an amazing synthetic. It both looks and feels like leather but requires virtually zero maintenance. After hunting through the websites of some of my old endurance favorites, I landed on Two Horse Tack. It's not a company that I've ordered from before, but for the price, I was willing to take the risk. Two Horse Tack has a super user-friendly interface that lets you build the halter you need. Each arrow has a drop down menu that lets you make the exact choices you want for your halter. You can see my choices below.
The halter is regularly $36, but as luck would have it - and I am owed a bit of luck right now, it was on sale for $22. Since the halter was so cheap, I had no problem adding every customization that I wanted. Most of the add-ons cost extra which bumped the halter up to $45, still a bargain.
Shipping was a wee bit pricey at $9.99, but the final price of $54.99 was still less than what I just paid for the new leather halter. The "extra" stainless steel nameplate that I took off the broken black halter will now go on the beta halter which I ordered with stainless steel hardware. The leather halter will now be reserved for shows and lessons while the beta halter will serve as my every day halter. While I didn't order the breakaway crown, replacement pieces can be ordered from Two Horse Tack.
The halter probably won't be here for at least a week, and we're leaving on vacation in about a week, so I won't lay eyes on it until late June. I'll be sure to review it once it does get here. If you're looking for a less expensive leather-like halter, this might be a good option especially since it's currently on sale.
Fingers crosses that this is the LAST halter I buy for a while.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read