Here are some reviews and comments about the tack and equipment that we use.
Kim’s saddle is made by Specialized Saddles. It’s one of their older Trailmaster saddles that we bought used on eBay, 15-1/2″ seat. For horses with odd shapes, who are out of shape, or just any horse, Specialized Saddles have an adjustable fit that allows your saddle to be tweaked to fit your horse perfectly in just a few minutes using nothing more complex than a pair of scissors.
Mike’s saddle is also from Specialized Saddles via the friendly folks at Lost Juniper Ranch, which is the closest dealer to us. The folks at Lost Juniper were great. I wish I could say the same for the people at Specialized Saddles. I am happy with my saddle—a beautiful tooled 17″ western wade with a draft-sized tree—but I cannot say the same for the customer service from Specialized Saddles.
- The saddle arrived six weeks late (after an already lengthy 10-week lead time).
- The company routinely takes several days to respond to (repeated) phone calls and emails.
- We ordered a tooled breast collar for Bob’s saddle and ordered the size that their website says fits Arabians. It is so big that even punching additional holes isn’t going to work very well. Since it is a tooled collar, the company won’t take it back, even though we followed their sizing advice.
- The breast collar for Boulder’s saddle, which was ordered as a draft-sized collar, is too small even for Boulder, who is not especially large for a Percheron. The rear cinch is also too small. When I contacted the company about these problems, the response from David Kaden, the owner, was that it’s not his problem as they only make one size of collar and rear cinch and that I should see if a local saddle shop could make me one that would fit.
As a result of this experience, I cannot recommend that people do business with Specialized Saddles. Nice product, but very poor customer service. There are other companies making saddles that are designed to achieve the same goals as the Specialized Saddles (notably, Parelli Saddles). Based upon my experience, I suggest you shop elsewhere if you are looking for a new saddle. If you’re shopping used, I think Specialized is a great way to go.
Mike also occasionally uses a Cashel Soft Saddle, which is basically a bareback pad with a bit of shape to it.
Like most horse owners, we just had Bob in a flat halter—nothing fancy. When we started doing Parelli, we switched to a rope halter, and we have been very happy with the results, as Bob responds much better to pressure on the rope and is learning to respond lightly. We chose a double-braid Arabian-fit 1/4″ rope halter from Handcrafted Jewels ($13 + shipping; available in a rainbow of colors).
Boulder has a very large head. I originally bought a Big D draft-size halter (style #100, with adjustable chin) for him. It’s very well made and fits him well, thanks to the adjustable chin strap. The nylon is soft and supple and is wearing very well. His head is apparently on the small side for a draft, as this halter fits him well at the smallest settings on both the crown and chin straps.
Since we started Parelli, I switched to a rope halter for him, as well. I chose a double-braid draft-size 1/4″ rope halter, also from Handcrafted Jewels ($14.50 plus shipping). These hand-tied halters are just as soft and supple as the rope halter sold by Parelli, for about the same price, but available in many more colors and with matching lead ropes. And I also like to support a cottage industry.
A lead rope is a lead rope, right? Wrong. We started out with generic 7- 8-foot lead ropes, but switched to double-braid 12-foot lead ropes from Handcrafted Jewels. These ropes are available in the same rainbow of colors as their halters. For Parelli folks, the swivel snap that they offer has the same weight, feel, and design as the snaps that Parelli uses—or, if you’re really picky, you can order your rope without a snap and order a swivel snap from Parelli and put it on yourself. They have a lovely feel to them.
Carrot sticks and strings
To people not familiar with Parelli, this looks kind of like a longeing whip. It isn’t. It is a 4-foot-long stiff fiberglass stick with a leather loop at one end, to which you can attach a 6-foot 1/4″ string with a leather popper. It is bright orange to remind people that it is a carrot stick—i.e. a tool that is somewhere between doing nothing but giving your horse carrots and doing nothing but using a stick to beat your horse (both of which are unhealthy extremes).
The folks at Handcrafted Jewels sell a “training stick” that appears to be the same thing for about the same price, but I like the orange color, so I ordered ours from Parelli.
To learn how to use a carrot stick, check out Parelli Natural Horsemanship. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial of Parelli Connect and immediately get streaming access to the entire Parelli Level 1 video and try it out with your horse!
Boulder’s thrush on his front feet results in tender frogs, so we I boot his front feet before riding or otherwise playing with him. He does fine on soft dirt and grass when he is turned out, but the boots really make a difference. Being a draft, his feet are rather large, so our choices in boots are limited. We chose Boa Horse Boots by Easy Care (size 8). They are easy to get on and off (although it was quite a struggle in the beginning because his hooves were flared; after seven months of good hoof care, they go on easily now).
The other company we considered seriously was Hoof Wings. They make what looks to be an excellent product, but they cost more and have a lead time of several weeks. When the Boas finally wear out, I will probably replace them with Hoof Wings (assuming that he still needs boots by then), as I think they are a better long-term solution—especially as they can safely be worn for extended periods of time (e.g. overnight).