Saturday, January 9, 2010

Stock Show!

Yay it's Stock Show time!

The one hundred and fourth edition of the National Western Stock Show opens today at the National Western Complex in Denver, Colorado. Although I've made plans to attend several events during the next fifteen days, yesterday I couldn't stand to wait for one more minute. I got the kids off to school and headed out to the showgrounds.

Once there, I headed over to the Stadium Arena which was where they were holding the pre-Stock Show Quarter Horse Show trail classes. As usual, I divided my time between the show ring and the small, crowded warm up area.
Tackmakers should always spend some time at the warm up ring. There is no better place to get a close up look at tack actually being used on a horse. It's also a great way to spot current trends. For example, it didn't take long to figure out that this particular crowd likes light oil, heavily tooled, silver trimmed saddles without breastplates. Oh, there were a few saddles that had less tooling and minimal silver, but for the most part, this was the standard look:
Bridles were just as consistent. Nearly everyone was using a silver trimmed, two ear headstall with a curb bit (even in the Junior horse class) and plain, unadorned split reins.
Neat ring and loop construction on this bridle.
Tear drop cheek pieces.
In the past when I've made one or two eared Western bridles, my ear pieces were built to fit like this:
Side view.
I realize now that I should be going smaller. Compare the earpieces on the buckskin to those on the grey...
or this chestnut, or pretty much every other bridle I've posted. The trend seems to be smaller is better. Honestly, I was surprised by how small some of those ear pieces really are!
Of course not quite everyone was using a two eared bridle. This chestnut's bridle had one ear piece which was looped over his right ear.
And this horse's bridle had a single strap headstall with no ear pieces at all!
Before I close, I want to remind everyone that there's a difference between out of fashion and incorrect. There is no rule that says your model Quarter Horse can't enter a trail class all decked out in a rawhide trimmed, browband bridle with matching breastplate and a dark oil saddle. That may not be the current showring trend, but if the tack fits and is legal for the event, it should not be penalized except (maybe) in the case of a tie breaker between two very evenly matched entries.


  1. Beautiful pictures! I've never seen the one ear bridle before (didn't even know it existed). Great post.
    Patricia :o)

  2. Thanks for the update! Nice to see the trends.

    ~Lee Ann

  3. The Fort Worth Stock Show starts next weekend. I'll be showing my dairy goats but usually try to find time to walk through the horse barns a time or two.
    Great pictures. I'm always surprised by how almost pancake flat those WP saddles are. They seem to be the western version of "close contact"!

  4. Kellye, I'm struck by that flatness too, and also the way the saddle's fit right down on the horse's back. I think next time I make a Western saddle, I am going to sand the tree WAY down. I want to see if I can get that "right next to the horse's back" look...

  5. The "right next to the horse's back" look is called a close contact skirt on a western saddle. Butterfly skirts are the most popular (pictured here, with a gentle swoop on the large back skirt) or cutout skirts are also seen, typically with the more boxy made saddles, so popular with Harris Leatherworks and a couple other brand name saddles.

    And no; you will never be marked down, even in a total tie, because you're wearing a properly fitted breast collar and ride in dark oil. There's always something else. Tack and garments, as long as are legal and appropriate for the class and division, shall have no bearing on placements - they only get certain things noticed. People who don't understand like to blame it on tack and show clothing, and say that's why they didn't place as well as the other girls. Not at all. It COULD be, possibly, that you're wearing something that doesn't make you stand out, isn't flattering for your horses coat color, or you have a white-coat horse and dark reins so we see every little movement your fingers make, and it looks louder than it really is.