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Why I don’t use the measurements Pony, Cob and Full.

To a non-horsey person that must sound like utter gibberish, but the horse lovers amongst us know that every item we purchase for our horse to wear (apart from rugs and saddles) tends to come in three sizes, “Pony”, “Cob” and “Full”. Now that’s perhaps a little brash, some places now offer “X-Full” or “Warmblood” as measurements or perhaps “Small Pony” but realistically there aren’t enough options given the range of horses we have.

Firstly, how many of you have a horse that fits one of these sizes perfectly? “She’s not quite a “Full” but too big for a “Cob!”” “The “Full” fits, I just need to punch some extra holes!” “I just bought the bridle in two sizes and use the “Cob” headpiece and the “Pony” cheekpieces.” Sound familiar? If you just think about it, there are so many different breeds and types of horses, how can we possibly think that 3 sizes will fit them all? Let’s use a bridle as an example. Is a 12hh show pony really going to fit the same size bridle as a 12hh Exmoor?  Will a 16hh thoroughbred take the same bridle as a 16hh Irish draught? I think not.

But even two remarkably similar horses, say two 16.2hh ISH geldings, may have small differences that could result in their bridles fitting differently. One could have a slightly longer head, a narrower nose or longer cheek bones. Another factor to be considered is what type of bit are they ridden in. A bridle may fit a horse beautifully in his snaffle, but change to a leverage bit for cross country and suddenly the cheekpieces are far too long.

You may have read all of that and think, ok that makes sense, but I actually have a horse that genuinely does fit a “Full” size. Well, I hate to break it to you, but there is no consistency with sizing across brands (ladies I’m sure you can relate!) Just now I have googled “Full size bridle measurements” and for the cheekpieces alone, I found four different measurements: 9”, 9.5”, 10.5” and 11”. So, when someone asks me to make a “Full” sized product and I just stare blankly back, this is why, I don’t know what size that is?!

To summarise, I’m sorry if it’s a bit of a pain having to get actual measurements for me, but I promise that there is good reason for it and hopefully a better fit as a result.

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Support small businesses!

I am often encouraging people to support small, local businesses, but with everything the world is going through at the moment it is more important than ever! For obvious reasons, this is something I am extremely passionate about and where possible I try to practice what I preach. I appreciate that at the moment money is tight for a lot of people, but did you know there is a lot you can do to support small businesses without spending a penny?

With the wonderful world of social media, there is so much you can do without even leaving the sofa to support small businesses. Perhaps the most obvious is to like and follow their various social media pages. You can even go one step further and share posts amongst your own friends. Another thing that I feel really helps is to interact with businesses on these platforms. Liking and commenting on posts can really help us to see what you like, and what you don’t. Personally, I often put posts asking for feedback and the more I get, the more I can steer my products towards my audience.

Something that a lot of people take into consideration before making a purchase is reviews. If you did make a purchase from a smaller business and were pleased with the product or service, please, please, please give some feedback! Facebook pages often have a section for reviews, but I also love it when a customer messages me directly. It is also a huge help if you can recommend to friends. When you buy a product or service keep a hold of their business card or label so when someone asks you where you got something you can tell them!

Once we are able to leave the house again (when this lockdown finally ends), lots of small businesses attend shows and fairs such as craft and gift fairs. Obviously, the main aim at these events is to sell, but I know personally I really appreciate people coming over just to say hi and that they like my products. It is a fairly small gesture but people being nice to each other can give a well needed boost.

At the end of the day, businesses can’t survive if no one ever buys their goods or services. Obviously, I am not going to tell you to buy goods or services you don’t want, need (or can’t afford). However, if you are looking to buy something that is also offered by a smaller, local business, perhaps consider supporting them instead of one of the industry giants.

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Rain, rain, rain!

I am afraid I am being very British and writing an entire blog based on the weather…but really, here in Hertfordshire the weather is vile. According to the local weather forecast, its going to be sticking around for a while! For all dog owners, equestrians and country lovers its business as usual but maybe with slightly less enthusiasm.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no fair-weather rider, but when you’re lying in bed in the morning, listening to the rain hammering on the windows, the last thing I want to do is get up and brave the weather to feed horses and walk dogs (and get cold and wet in the process!) While we always strive to carry on as normal, there are many jobs that are put on pause during weather like this. Therefore, I think it’s the perfect time to be doing some basic leather maintenance.

Ideally you want to avoid getting your leather wet…but unfortunately in the UK that’s just not an option! If your leather does take a good soaking it is important to make sure you dry it out thoroughly. Please try to avoid putting it near a heat source, I know it’s convenient and quicker, but it really isn’t great for the health of your leather. The best way to dry leather is just in a well-ventilated area, at room temperature.

Funnily enough, water damage to leather causes it to dry out. This is due to the fact that the water molecules bind to the oils in the leather when it becomes soaked, so when the water evaporates it takes the oils with it. Therefore, it is really important to refeed your leather if it has got very wet, once it has dried. Personally, I like to use a beeswax-based leather balm that contains a mixture of natural oils and fats, but there are many products on the market to choose from. Try to avoid using neatsfoot oil unless your leather is REALLY dry, as it can make the leather greasy and cause the stitching to rot prematurely.

Even if you are staying indoors until all this weather settles down, your leatherwork would still appreciate a little spa treatment. Also, while you are taking the time to treat your leather, it’s an excellent opportunity to perform a basic safety check (for help with these I’ve done a blog post about basic tack safety checks).

Whether you are planning on braving the weather this week or staying indoors, or maybe you are fortunate enough to not have rain this week, have a lovely week. Please remember if you have any queries about your tack or leatherwork, speak to a professional.

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Tack Safety Checks

Ok so a slightly more boring topic but this is just so important! Now let’s be honest, all equestrians know there are risks and must have at least a tiny bit of crazy to be riding horses. Ideally though, you don’t want to be having any accidents, especially ones that are easily preventable and before you even get onto the fun stuff!

It is SO easy to perform basic safety checks on your own tack, and it takes only a few minutes. I generally do mine when I’m cleaning my tack as you are already taking things apart and having a good look.

Firstly, you should just look at the overall appearance of your tack. Has anything changed? This may seem obvious but when you’re looking at it every day, it can be easy to miss things. Has anything changed shape? Is there a new dent or wrinkle in your saddle that you haven’t seen before? Leather will change in appearance over time and most likely it is nothing to worry about but if in any doubt, please ask a qualified saddler.

Next, stitching! There is A LOT of stitching in your bridle, saddle and all your other bits of tack and as the old saying goes “a stitch in time saves nine.” You should check all the stitching on your tack and if you notice sections of stitching are coming loose or rotting you should get it seen to as soon as possible (any qualified saddler should be able to help you out). Pay particularly close attention to girths, the girth straps on your saddle and stirrup leathers.

The next thing you want to check for is cracks in leather. Unfortunately, cracked leather cannot be saved and is at considerable risk of breakage, but it could be replaced. The most common place cracks occur is around holes and often next to buckles. If the leather is very dry and about to crack, this is a good sign that is has dried out and is in need of some oil!

Another sign of wear is when holes start to stretch. This is most commonly seen on girth straps and stirrup leathers. Slight stretching in leather is normal but if the holes are considerably elongated the strap becomes at risk of breakage and is no longer safe. Stretching can also cause the leather to become dangerously thin in areas of wear. Check the thickness of the strap all the way along and if it has become particularly thin in one place it is time to replace!

Remember that if in doubt, it is always best to ask! Most qualified saddlers will be happy to advise you on whether your tack is safe or in need of repair. Even if a repair is needed, surely the cost of safety is worth it!

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Light-bulb moment!?

Today at work as part of my apprenticeship we were out at a yard saddle fitting when a customer asked if we could repair a headpiece…pictured below is said disaster!?

The story behind it is that the customers daughter had been cleaning her tack and once the headpiece was cleaned she hung it over the light-bulb to dry. She then forgot about it hanging there and when she returned it had burnt right through the padding!

These people were incredibly lucky that nothing actually caught light or their entire barn could have gone up in smoke. They were also very lucky that only the padding was damaged so I was able to simply put a new pad on.

Even without all this damage, leather doesn’t appreciate being next to heat sources so think about how you store your leather and if you are drying it out just leave it in a well aired space. The leather on this headpiece was incredibly dry when I got my hands on it but luckily I gave it a good treatment with some leather balm.

And remember folks

DON’T HANG YOUR HEADPIECE OVER A LIGHT-BULB