Saddle Cart Modification

Hey, long time, no post. Life is life and sometimes, I just don’t get around to posting the cool stuff I’m doing. Coolest thing this summer? I’ve started showing at American Ranch Horse Association (ARHA) sanctioned shows. It. Is. A. Blast.

Now, on to something far more important: saddle carts. I recently used some excellent discounts, after some shopping around, a bought a rolling saddle rack. This one in particular from Stateline Tack. I got it for $126.00 after they added the freight charges. It was a good enough deal for me. I’m going to really need it when I move to Wisconsin to store my show saddles. Right now, I’m using it in the tack room for work stuff, as it is a bare bones tack space. Most people use these at shows.

It got mixed reviews and I had my doubts, as well. There are some serious design flaws. The fact you have to tip it back to move it is annoying and makes anything hanging from the already super-low-hanging bridle hooks drag on the ground. It can be hard to steer as well. I’m also not a fan of how short the saddle racks are. My saddle hangs off it a bit.

Here is the cart when I first set it up, notice the bar at the bottom in front. That thing had to go.

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On to modifications! The absolute first thing that had to happen was front wheels. Now, I know you can buy carts with them but, I don’t like how small and flimsy their wheels look or the price tag. I did some measuring to figure out what size wheels I would need and the width of board too. I wasn’t too exact. I just marked a 3/4″ x 4″ scrap piece of board and cut it down. Then I drilled two holes in it to correspond with holes already in the frame for that metal stand. I bought 5″ casters, for the front wheels, from TSC: one that had a lock and the other just a regular wheel.

I screwed those bad boys on to the piece of board, lined it up underneath the frame, and dropped a couple of bolts through it. Ta. Da. I now have a cart I can push around easily, with great steering, and a locking break. 20140707_143030

Not too bad! While, I don’t have to tip it back to move it, the hooks still hang too low for me to leave my bridles on it. The saddle rack is also a bit short. I guess I will be thinking up ways to work that out too. I am quite proud of my little DIY. I hope it helps others with the weird quirks of what is otherwise a great cart!

Technology

A couple of weeks ago, I entered the 21st century and upgraded to my first smartphone. It’s a Samsung S III. I’m still getting used to it, I think. Now that I have finally entered the modern-tech age, I am hoping it will make it a lot easier to post photos of my DIY adventures. It’s also allowing me to accept credit cards right from my phone! I think this will be helpful at tack-sales and horse shows!

Oh, I haven’t forgotten about the site, either. This month has just been…nuts…to say the least.

Show season has taken off! I can’t wait to see what this summer holds in store! Good luck to all!

Leather Burning

I love tack, leather, and tooling but lack the skills and tools to do my own beautiful leather tooling. On a whim, on one a cold, snowy day, I took the chance of using my wood burning tool to make some designs on a plain leather headstall. Now, I practiced a bit on a piece of wood and really, really screwed up a pair of cheap leather spur straps, first. I was nervous to start something on a piece of equipment I use and that everybody sees. I practiced a few designs on the inside of the headstall…then took a chance! I turned out with an imperfect but quite unique headstall that I really like! It is such fun way to add some individual personality to a headstall without spending a ton of money (especially if you use an older work headstall you already own)! I recommend practicing a lot first as leather burns very quickly and you can’t undo it!

I stuck with a fairly simple pattern and added dots to the keepers and earpiece. I've already taken it to the barn...I guess Tango will have to do some more modeling!
I stuck with a fairly simple pattern and added dots to the keepers and earpiece. I’ve already taken it to the barn…I guess Tango will have to do some more modeling!

Reviving Silver Plate: Part II

In the first part of this series, I wrote about the different types of silver and how to give gunky old silver plate a deep, ‘restoring’ clean. Now that you have the lacquer off and this silver brightly polished, you have make sure it never gets back to the sad state you started with!

Because silver plate is such a thin layer of silver, you don’t want to give it deep cleanings before every show. Instead you want to store it properly and lightly buff it before showtime. Maintenance is key for sstoring-silver-tarnish-preventative-bagilver plate! Here are some ideas how to keep it from tarnishing during its time off.

Weather fluctuation plus humidity are key for storing any tack, including silver. When not showing, its best to store your show tack and silver in a climate controlled environment. No, you don’t have to create a cellar set with specific humidity and temps to store your tack. A closet at home or the barn tack room will do. You really just don’t want to be storing your tack in permanently in the trailer, and damp basement, or attic.

Now, there are a few tricks to be tried for keeping your silver (silver plate and sterling) less tarnished. The first is something to be done after show season, when you have a long period of time before your next show. You can remove all or most of your silver bars, plates, and conchos and store them in a flannel bag intended to store silverware. This could work and won’t affect your leather, but it’s a bit time-consuming, and you’d have to be really good at labeling where each piece belongs.

silica-gel-packetsOn the other end of the spectrum, it is quite easy to take silica gel packets (you know those annoying little packets that come packaged with shoes) and throw some in the bottom of your halter bag or in your saddle carrier. The idea behind adding those is to help control moisture, especially if you live in some of the more humid areas of the nation. Humidity is one element causing silver tarnish.

The next idea for storing is a bit time-consuming and crafty: make an anti-tarnish flannel lined carrier. Because I have yet to find a halter bag or saddle carrier lined with Anti-Tarnish fabric, I’m wondering if it doesn’t react well with leather? I have not been able to find any reports either way, and fully intend to do some experimenting. With a similar idea of the ‘silverware’ bag, a halter or saddle bag lined with the anti-tarnish fabric could help eliminate heavy tarnishing. The flannel fabric is treated with a formula intended to capture and prevent tarnishing gasses. There are number of manufacturers producing anti-tarnish fabric like, Hagerty, Pacific Silver Cloth, and Silvertex (which can be found at your local Joann Fabric Store with the utility fabrics). The outer fabric could be any choice you prefer. Suitability makes a set of patterns for both saddle carries and halter bags.41GHM9Cum5L._SX300_

There are quite a few “anti-tarnish” items on the market. Take time to read reviews and pick-out which method might work the best for you. I am excited to try making my own “anti-tarnish halter” bag in the near future (they only had brown fabric at Joann and I want black). I will post pictures and maybe a tutorial when I do!

Reviving Silver Plate: Part 1

In the horse show world ‘silver’ is a huge statement for tack but it can be tricky navigating the different types and prices. The three most common types of ‘show silver’ are Sterling or Sterling Overlay, Silver Plate, and Chrome. The type of silver used on your show tack will greatly impact the price of your piece and how you will clean it!I Sterling and Sterling Overlay are strong and have a thick amount of silver making them easily cleaned with silver polish without too much fear of wearing down past the silver layer. This type is also very expensive for your average showman but is found on the quality products made by makers like, Harris and Kathy’s. You can read about how the different types of silver are designated and labeled, here. On the other end of the silver spectrum is “Chrome,”  which is the best term I could find for the least expensive silver product for show tack. I found it really quite difficult to learn much about this type of ‘silver’ but, it is found on the least expensive pieces (and for a reason). “Chrome” tack is not silver and often doesn’t shine nearly as bright. The appearance is usually quite rough when it comes to the engraving and the ‘silver’ does not hold up as well either. In general, I recommend staying away from this tack as a good quality plain leather halter will look and hold up better than the cheap-looking and often ill-fitting bargain tack (plus quality silver can always be added to a good leather halter down the road).

My main focus for this post is Silver Plate. This type of silver is found on most of the mid-range priced show tack. Makers like Billy Royal, Tory, Dale Chavez, Circle Y, and Billy Cook use silver plate. You can often find good deals on used saddles, halters, and bridles by these makers because they look tarnished, or the owner may think the silver plate is wearing off. Many times, it is not the silver plate, but the lacquer applied over the it. This lacquer can crack, wear off in small areas, and yellow. As this happens, the exposed silver plate underneath tarnishes but cannot be shined with silver polish due to the remaining lacquer protection. Many long searches on how to revive silver plate left me frustrated from the lack of info from show equipment manufacturers (they only tell you how to clean it in ‘like new condition’). I did some research and some testing. Here’s a few tricks to bring yellowed, tarnished, and dull silver plate back to life:

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Remove the yellowed lacquer and large spots of tarnish: I’ve been told nail polish remover will do this, and I have tried it but my favorite method is a hot water bath because it will also help pull off tarnish and gunk without having to use any harsh chemicals. Here’s how to do it…

  • Gather your silver which has been removed from the leather (try one side at a time and take pictures to make sure it get put back on correctly), a clear glass cake baking dish, aluminum foil, baking soda, an old toothbrush, and a soft towel.
  • place a sheet of foil in the bottom of the baking dish and arrange your silver on top making sure each piece is touching the other. Sprinkle baking soda over the it (not a ton, a tablespoon should do it).
  • Next, pour boiling or close to boiling water into the dish making sure to completely cover the silver. Now, let it sit for a few minutes and watch as the lacquer and tarnish start to come off!
  • I like to brush the silver with the toothbrush as it sits in the hot water just help it remove some of the gross stuff.
  • After about 4-5 minutes remove the pieces, one at a time, brushing them with the toothbrush and using the towel to dry and wipe away the biggest pieces of lacquer and tarnish.
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In the Hot Water Bath.
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In the Hot Water Bath, you can just see the lacquer peeling and floating, some of the tarnish and dirt too!

Make it Shine! Now that there is no lacquer and a lot of the tarnish is gone, it’s time to really make your silver plate sparkle!

  • Gather your silver, a couple of soft cotton towels, cotton swabs, a toothbrush, a pair of needle point tweezers or a safety-pin, and a silver polish (I use Pol which is no longer in production but my future choice and #1 recommended by Real Simple and also sold by Harris Leather is Hagerty’s)
  • Before you start polishing use the toothbrush to remove as much loose tarnish as possible
  • Get comfy in front of the couch and get to polishing one piece at time using the cotton swabs or toothbrush to apply the silver polish and buffering it off with the cotton towel and cotton swabs for the tight areas.
  • My show halter has quite a few ‘nooks and crannies’ which what the tweezers are for. If I could not buffer out the tarnish in these tiny areas, I was able to ‘pick’ the tarnish out; since, it was already beginning to flake after the hot bath. Be very careful to not dig too much or scrape a lot as it could seriously damage the silver plate.

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After you have cleaned and polished it, your silver plate should look good as new! At this point, you can reattached it your leather tack and store it. Because the lacquer protection has been removed, the silver will be somewhat unprotected and will tarnish over time. It is best to store it in a climate controlled tack room or closet away from heat and humidity…except of course when it’s being used at the horse show! There are some ways to ‘re-lacquer’ a piece using special chemicals, poly, and nail polish. After some research though, I don’t recommend it. Just do your best to lightly clean your silver plate on occasion to keep it shining!

In the next part of this three-part series, I will explain some of the best ways to store your newly revived silver plate and keep it shining in between shows!

I am not a professional silversmith or silver restoration expert! These articles are to share some info I have gathered through online research and trial and error. If you would like to hear what the pro’s have to say about it, this was my favorite source of info: Herman Silver Restoration.

Splatter Design

A while back, I noticed a very cool jacket on Pinterest. The photo was taken at Quarter Horse Congress in one of the western classes, of a girl wearing a white lambskin jacket splattered with paint and decked out with crystals. I immediately loved it because it was unique and the pattern wasn’t built into the fabric. It also stood out against standard appliques and the somewhat gaudy “as much lace, fringe, appliques, and stones” look we see at some of the big shows now. One of the greatest appeals, however, was the fact this jacket could inspire anybody, on any budget. I immediately went to my show closet and found a white show shirt that I had bought, never wore, and quickly…um…”grew out of.”  I selected two tones of turquoise and got to work. The process was somewhat long due to waiting for areas to dry before moving on, and very messy! Paint was everywhere! I didn’t over do it on the splattering either as it was somewhat of an experiment. Once dried, I pulled out some lovely turquoise opal and clear crystals and started dotting the shirt with them.

The shirt came out much better than I expected making me immediately regret that I can no longer fit into it! This set into motion another idea for a splatter shirt. I have been planning a new showmanship jacket for a while. I cannot afford anything custom but would like to stand out a little more than with Hobby Horse (plus their clothes never fit me right). So, I’ve planned to buy a black based, plain jacket and spruce it up. I’ve gone through idea after idea about adding my own appliques, adding lace, adding this and that. Finally, I settled on just crystals in sort of fading pattern. That presents its own difficulties. So, I thought the splatter idea would work for my new jacket as well.

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Photo of inspiration jacket by Danton Leather photo by Jeff Kirkbride.

I like that it is somewhat organic and not overly frilly. Is it trendy? That I really don’t know, I haven’t seen any jackets other than the one out there. Will I look out of style? Maybe, but the jacket base is a modern cut which should help. So, I’ve chosen the colors and stones I will use. I also know the base jacket. I even made a computer model of it! I think first, I will test the colors on a basic black t-shirt first. What do you think!?

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My first splatter shirt. I intentionally left it a bit sparse on the paint. It is so cute! (And for sale!)
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Details of the splatter shirt with a ‘sprinkling’ of crystals to really make it pop in the show pen!
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A computer model of the ‘splatter’ jacket I plan on making for the 2014 show season. I hope to use greens, teals, and blues…with black and grey pearls.

Horses & Husbands

I’ve been working on this draft about horses and husbands for the last few weeks. I just can’t seem to get into words how lucky I am to have Todd. He suggested I stay in Indy through the summer so that I can continue working with my wonderful trainer and enjoying the barn I’m at. As I don’t have a job in Point and we have neither a truck (that can pull) nor a trailer, it will help us financially too.

So, I’m in Indy for a bit longer (just through show season). Todd’s support of my horse-lifestyle which has somewhat kept us apart since May 2013 (along with jobs and student loans), amazes me. I’ve known many girls who get married and give up their show career, often times somewhat due to a lack of support from their husbands. There are a few of us lucky girls out there who not only have husbands who tolerate horse-madness but encourage it. Each and every one of those guys deserves some sort of award.

Like I said, I’ve been trying for weeks to put into words the gratitude I feel towards my husband’s support, but I can’t. Not. At. All. So, you get this little random post instead. You don’t just a marry a girl with horses…you marry a girl and her horses. Horse marriages are tough, because a lot of the time the horses are put first. So from deep in my heart, I would like to thank every single Horse-Show-Husband for your support (even if you think know we are nuts). Maybe you don’t hear it enough, but it’s probably because for a girl with horses there is no “thank-you” big enough.

That being said, I would like to offer one more bit of greatness from Todd. He has decided he wants to create some sort of “Horse Show Husbands Club.” I believe a grill, beer, a recliner, and TV are involved. This would all happen back at the trailer in between watching classes and holding fly spray and rags.

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From the Cold…Into the Cold

December was a bit crazy with last-minute projects. I even decided to try jewelry making for the first time; Mom has a bunch of new earrings. After visiting my in-laws and packing the car (which took over an hour…in frigid temps), Mom, Hadji, and I were crammed in for a 7 hour drive. On the way up to the apartment in Stevens Point, the car was so stuffed the trunk  and one back door couldn’t be opened. Hadji was perched on Mom’s blankets and Pillows, Mom could be the only driver as the back was packed so the seat couldn’t be moved back, and I had to sit legs folded the whole time. The passenger front was packed too. We made it to the apartment late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Todd wasn’t expected to be home, so we hadn’t planned on dinner. I made the major mistake of not planning through the Christmas Eve/Christmas dinner and had only a bunch of lemons and a duck. Todd got lucky and made it home for Christmas Eve and hour before Wal-Mart closed. We made a mad dash a bought what we could. Christmas Eve:Pizza. Christmas Day: Bacon, eggs, and orange rolls for breakfast; duck, green beans, and sweet potatoes. It was delicious. One thing we didn’t skimp or miss out on was a large amount of booze.

The temps over Christmas break never reached above zero and we brought the cold home with us. Thursday night, we arrived back in Indy to almost a foot of drifted snow in the drive. I had to clear it before we could pull the car in to unpack. Friday: it was cold. Saturday: A HEAT WAVE! (35 degrees!). Sunday: snow storm followed by -16 degrees.

I have now been stuck in the house for 3 days straight. I am going to lose it. I’ve done a little bit of art, cleaned some, packed some, and done a whole lot of nothing else. I am working today on adding some to my Etsy store and cleaning up my work area. I’ve ordered more crystals for a horsemanship shirt that I’ve been beautifying and preparing to sell (I’ll get photos soon). I’ll be working on that too. Below are a few photos of the watercolor silhouettes I’ve been making. When they are cut to size and matted, they will be for sale!

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Archies.

This weekend, I had grand plans of getting a ton of “craftiness” out of the way. In many ways, my plans were a success; in other ways, I over planned. My list included: making polos, painting 12 ‘Archies’, sewing and embroidering three bags, and painting two signs. It didn’t happen despite not leaving the house. The struggles started with the Archies.

Archie is a therapeutic horse at Take Flight Farms, a non-profit, equine therapy organization. My sister works for the organization and asked me to paint 12 ‘Archie’ ornaments, as he is a special, favorite horse of Take Flight Farms. I have painted a few model horses in my time but never one horse 12 times over, in a short period of time. The trouble started when I decided to do a spray primer and base. The primer was easy enough, unless you count the frigid temps in the garage, which I had to leave open for ventilation. The base color…Ugh. I have never met Archie, so I don’t know his real-life color and based on the pictures I received he ranges from standard sorrel to standard palomino, to a dark-flat palomino. He is also covered in a ton of adorable little white spots. I stood in the aisle at Menards for a good while trying to decide which shade of brown would work. Once I got the ‘Archies’ primed, I sprayed the base (a nice darkish palomino, coffee with cream base). Oh but frigid temps makes spray paint do weird things; like become some sort of stone texture. After that, it was time-consuming and at times difficult to paint details over and over. I also had to guess on some aspects of the horse. In the end, I am no professional model painter. Also, clear coat sometimes becomes ‘crackle finish’ in cold temps. I don’t even want to talk about trying to find a drill bit for the eye screws and gluing those in place.

The ‘Archies’ are done. I hope I’ve done him justice.

I also sewed velcro on to at least a dozen polo wraps…and cursed all along the way every time the thread caught funny and un-threaded the needle or jammed up the machine.

My sign (one of two planned) went well. I’ll just ignore hand-cramps and the over-blotting paint pen.

I didn’t even get to the three bags.

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Archies lined up for coats of primer
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Finished! 12 Archies! Wouldn’t it be nice to have 12 real-life copies of a great horse?
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Green Chevron, Camo, and Neon Polo wraps waiting for finishing touches and a few more pieces of Velcro!
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The sign I painted for my niece. If you look closely, you will notice the rider’s butt may be a tad big. I guess I should be happy that’s where the paint pen decided to drip. There’s already a couple of horse girls in our family with big butts!