For anyone new to western some of the terminology can be a bit mystifying! When we look at saddles we talk about "off-billets", "skirts" and "fenders". When we talk about the rest of our equipment we might mention "bosals", "split-reins", "Tom Thumbs" and so on. So we thought it would be helpful to start to put together some information that may help you if you're relatively new to western - or even if you've been involved for a while. Over time we'll build this up to what we hope will be a very useful resource, and we'll include information about where to find good western tack and equipment, whether new or second-hand. So here we go with a few basics!
First of all, you'll notice that the various documents below are all American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) documents. These, and many other useful documents can be downloaded directly from the AQHA's own website at www.aqha.com which really is a great source of information for anyone interested in western riding.
So let's begin at the beginning with some basic things like how to tie a rope halter. The rope halter has become a widely used item of equipment, and not just in the western community. Many of you will be familiar with it from watching or being involved with natural horsemanship. But no matter who uses a rope halter, it's really important that they're tied correctly. If you click on the picture to the left you'll download a very useful document by Dennis Moreland entitled "All Tied Up". It's part of the America's Horse Library and it will help you to ensure that you tie your halter correctly at all times.
Many of you will also be familiar with the bosal - a form of western hackamore, typically used on young horses. Traditionally the bosal would be used with a continuous 22 foot horse-hair rein, called a mecate (pronounced McCarty). These are tied to the bosal using a knot that may look bewildering but in fact - like many things - is quite simple once you know how. Nevertheless it's important to get it right, and to make sure that you get a correct fit and balance. This document tells you how to tie the knot - and don't worry, it's really not that difficult. Just click on the picture to download it.
For those of you who are interested in taking part in Showmanship, we know that newcomers to western sometimes find it a little bewildering - especially the quartering! This is a guide produced by the American Quarter Horse Association which is, nevertheless, very helpful in explaining the fundamentals of the class. Just click on the picture to download the document. Please note that this is quite a large file and it may take a bit longer than the others to open up.
Over the years we've had a lot of fun making our own rope halters, but the first ones we made were just awful! We got better at it and have made some pretty decent ones from rope we buy from a local chandler. If you want to make your own it's important to make sure that you get good quality rope that's large enough in diameter to be comfortable for your horse and that isn't going to stretch with use. If you want to give it a go just click on the picture to the right and you'll find some pretty good instructions. Don't be put off if it seems a bit daunting at first, but you will need to be patient the first time you try it. Our advice would be to have some chocolate handy - or a glass of wine - whichever is more soothing for you!
Those of us who are - well - shall we say slightly past our prime know that sometimes just getting on our horses can be a bit of a challenge. It's especially challenging when you're 5' 3" and your riding horse is 16hh.... and yes this is Judy talking! This can result in a lot of wear and tear on the old joints, not to mention your saddle - so a mounting block is often a key item of equipment for us. Buying a mounting block can be a bit expensive, but another option is to make your own. Just click on the picture to the left to download a document that can help you to make one at a very reasonable cost. You can adjust the dimensions to suit your needs but remember that if you make it higher you'll need to adjust the other dimensions too so you have a solid base and retain stability!
Those of you who are fascinated by the western lifetyle and who also value the cowboy tradition may well be interested in ranch skills. In any event we take the view that a rope (lariat) is actually a really useful tool to have around. Swinging a rope when you're sitting on your horse is an important part of their education as well as a lot of fun - as long as you've prepared them for it first! But if you're going to try it you may as well have the right equipment and do it properly. These days it's very easy to get yourself good ropes via the internet (we got most of ours on ebay). But what then? Well just click on the picture to the right to download the document telling you about roping basics. Please note that this is quite a large file and it may take a bit longer than the others to open up.
Whilst this is not striclty speaking a "how to" guide, we know that a lot of members are interested in the genetics of colour. This document is another of the very useful series that 's been produced by the American Quarter Horse Society. It's beautifully illustrated with the various coat colours, and of course it's equally relevant to any breed. If you're curious about some of the more unusual colours, such as grullo, cremello or perlino, this is the place to find out more. As you'd expect it doesn't tell you anything about different coat patterns, but we think you'll find it interesting as a source of general reference. So just click on the picture to the left to download the document, and enjoy!