Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tacking a Saddlebred parade horse

Like most performance showers, I regularly compete in a number of events in which I have no real world experience. Because of this, I am always grateful when someone shares a behind the scenes look at what goes into some of these classes, both in and out of the ring. When that same someone allows me share to their words and photos here, well, that really makes my day. Thank you so much to the American Saddlebred blog for this wonderful post on saddling a parade horse!

Parading with Paddyngton's Mark of Distinction

by The American Saddlebred Blog

Having long admired the American Saddlebred being shown in parade gear, I wondered what all went into the process of preparation for this beautiful class.  I am lucky enough to live fairly close to a World’s Champion Parade Horse, Paddyngton’s Mark of Distinction, or Marcus to his friends.  
Paddyngton's Mark of Distinction lives at Meadow Reflections Farm in Howell, Michigan. This week, he was shown at the ASHAM Horse Show in Lansing, Michigan. Holly Armstrong, Marcus’ owner, trainer and exhibitor graciously agreed to let me watch her transform him and ask a lot of questions along the way. 
First, a little background on Paddyngton’s Mark of Distinction and Holly Armstrong.  Marcus was bred to be a very competitive Saddlebred, being by CH El Cortez, the colorful son of Chubasco and five gaited WGC, Belle Elegant. Holly has owned Marcus for eight of his eleven years. He is a three time World’s Champion Parade Horse, and a four time World’s Champion in Saddle Type Western Equipment. In 2014, Marcus performed at BreyerFest in Lexington, Kentucky, and a limited edition model of him was featured in the BreyerFest store.
Although I’ve seen Marcus show in Parade classes before, I’ve never seen him up close and personal.  My first impression was that he was a very large, imposing, handsome fellow. According to Holly, nearly seventeen hands of imposing!  And that’s probably a good thing, as a horse of smaller stature could easily be overwhelmed by one hundred sixty pounds of silver studded bling. 
Here's how the transformation takes place.
Holly uses silver metallic duct tape to start the process on Marcus' feet. The tape is applied in pieces, but goes all the way around to cover his feet. 
Holly makes the mane ribbons in advance.  They have flowers and ribbon bows and their colors match or complement Holly's outfits.  They can be re-used and are stored in see-thru plastic totes. 
Marcus' mane gets sectioned off into four equal parts, with a small rubber band placed at the top of each section.
 A short length of sparkly silver pipe cleaner bent in a "V" shape is inserted from underneath the mane right above where the rubber band was placed, then goes up and around the top of the ribbon.  This holds it securely, blends right it, and makes for easy removal.
Today, Marcus is wearing four ribbons in his mane, but he can also have three or five ribbons.
This custom made saddle rack on wheels carries and stores all of the parade gear.
First comes the black and white corona pad, followed by the breast collar.  A serape is then placed across the corona pad, making sure it hangs evenly on each side.  The parade saddle comes next, and is hoisted on by a person on either side coming from the back.  This covers up the serape straps and just lets the silver portion show underneath the saddle.  
This is a saddle made by Ted Flowers, a well known parade saddle maker.  Great details went into the tooling on the leather fenders and seat, and every inch of the silver has some type of marking.  The silver horse head motif is repeated throughout this saddle.  Holly says it is very comfortable. 
The saddle horn and fork have a lot of detail. You can also see the reflection of the cameraman in the fork.
Every inch of the cantle has a design on it.
The girth is attached, and the breast collar is fastened to the girth. Notice the swivels at the ends of the fenders. 
The stirrups, or tapaderos, definitely have a left and a right! The tapaderos are attached using the swivels, and this allows for more comfortable leg positioning for the rider. 
Marcus relaxes while a tapadero is attached on each side.
Even the tapaderos have a faint design etched in them.
It's back to the hooves, and now it's time to add some real sparkle. Spray adhesive is used over top of the metallic duct tape.
A craft ketchup bottle with an enlarged hole helps direct the silver glitter onto the hoof. Did you know the glitter comes in all sorts of colors? Marcus had purple feet one time, but he prefers silver. 
It takes a while to cover each area and  apply the glitter.
Once the basic glitter is on, Holly applies more adhesive spray and uses a few sprinkles of a larger size glitter. It catches the light and adds even more sparkle. 
The finished feet.
Marcus wears a tail brace to make that perfect parade tail. 
The hip drops are added next and this attaches to the saddle on one end, and on the other end, a crupper goes under his tail. 
Longer tail ribbons are attached with more pipe cleaners at the top of his tail and further down his tail to hold the ribbons securely.
Marcus' bridle has a Mexican charro bit and face chains with more etched details decorating the silver medallions. The reins are made of silver chains on the part closest to the bit. 
Here is another view of his bridle and his almost completed tail.
Holly and Marcus always share a quiet moment before the bridle goes on.
Some last minute adjustments on the curb strap. The entire process took about an hour and fifteen minutes.
Holly has twenty two parade outfits, some being vintage and others are newly made. This is a new suit, which Holly embellished with silver and gold patches down her pant legs and on the sleeves of her jacket. A sparkly belt and black hat completed the outfit. According to Holly, they don't make rhinestones the way they used to, and the old suits were made to last.
Ready to go present the American flag at the beginning of the evening session of the ASHAM horse show in Lansing Michigan.
Thank you again to the American Saddlebred blog, Holly Armstrong and Paddyngton's Mark of Distinction for allowing us to peek over your shoulders as you prepared for this class. I promise I will never complain about tacking up a parade model again


  1. Some of this I knew, but the mane, tail, hooves and outfit are largely new to me. Thank you so much Holly et al!

  2. My parade sets my Alysia Teller have swivels for the tapaderos!

    1. So does my parade set by Shannon Granger. It's a nice feature!