Category Archives: Tack thoughts

Angel’s Bucket Fund Receipt and The Gentle Control Hackamore

Friday is always one of those days that you just hope goes by quickly so you can start your weekend!

Yup, I agree.

So, today I’m going to make it easy on you and be light and breezy.

First, I would like to show you all the receipt for donations in memory of Angel and Gypsy who passed earlier this month at Alaqua.  So sad.  But, this money does ease the pain of all the vet bills, if nothing else.  I know Laurie was heartbroken to lose those two, especially one right after the other.  Ouch.

Thank you all for your wonderful thoughts and emails for Laurie.  I’ve got to say that the response was overwhelming!  Truly.  You all outdid yourselves emotionally and really showed your support.  You are a great group, for sure…

From Laurie:  “What wonderful people.  Thank you!!!!”

Receipt for Alaqua in Angel and Gypsy's honor.




While I was strolling around the Horse Expo last weekend, I saw this item.  It is called the Gentle Control Hackamore.

The Gentle Control Hackamore

Now, I’m not a Western rider and my horses don’t know how to neck rein.  But, I do like things bitless if they work well.   I especially like them if they are pretty/handsome.

This contraption stopped me in my tracks.

It was very odd yet tempting… like green frosting or edible teacups.

Basically, it is a shaped plate that sits behind the horse’s chin.  It is attached to the reins and the headstall and the upper part of the plate has a flat edged cup.  If the rider neckreins, the the plate tilts in the direction of the rein and the cup catches the chin and guides the horse one way or the other.  If the rider pulls back, the reins pull the plate back which puts pressure on the top of the plate against the chin and on the noseband.  That’s it.

The release is instant.


I don't neck rein but I still thought this was a very interesting idea...


I was on the fence with it because the plate looked like it could feel severe against the chin bone of the horse.  I played with a few of the hackamores and tried to make it hurt me (or my finger, to be exact).

It pinched but didn’t hurt nearly as much as I thought it would.  I would call it a firm discouragement if you yanked on it.

I asked the maker if he ever put sheepskin on the plate to ease the bite.  He said, “Yes” – but none of the display models had it.  I asked him why not and he said that he used to make a little fitted sock for the plate but no one used them.

I would.

He told me that people at therapeutic riding schools use these all the time because you can put a lead rope through the catch and lead a horse – which keeps the plate away from their chin – while the rider does whatever he wants with the reins.  The horse never feels it.


Anyway… I was interested enough to ask him if I could take one home to demo on Finn.

He was very agreeable and didn’t even ask for money or a credit card or anything.  He just rigged one up (with a gorgeous headstall, I might add…) and gave it to me.  Just like that.

Nice.  Nice guy.

This kinda shows it... but this looks more industrial than it really is... and I like the versions without the cable.


OK, well, I’m a nimrod.  I have no idea why I thought Finn would be able to neck rein without ever being taught how.

Silly me.

I set him up and put the hackamore on – he didn’t mind it – and I got on and tried to make him understand this weird thing on his face.

He didn’t.

I didn’t know how to teach him.

We were like Laurel and Hardy in the arena.

But, even though he had no idea what I wanted, it didn’t seem to hurt him.  And, it did make him kinda move around but not exactly how I intended for him to move.

We trotted and did several turns, but it wasn’t pretty.

Still, he didn’t fling his head or refuse to move or turn around and give me a dirty look.  He was OK with the thing… it was ME that was the issue.

Here it is on Finn. You can see the shaped sides and how it directs the head, basically. The clips are my reins.


I swear, all the photos on the website are not really very explanatory – certainly not as obvious as when you have the plate in your hand.  If you are holding it,  it makes perfect sense.  I should have taken a pic when I had one in my hand.  Oh well.

Here is the website for you to poke around for yourself.

Finn doesn't care at all... I put the fleece on the noseband. It doesn't come with that.


So, I gave the hackamore back to the nice man and told him that I had failed but the piece was very lovely.

He was sad and a bit flumoxed that I didn’t know how to neck rein at all… he kept saying how easy it was.  So, I guess I am not too smart in that area.

For me, I just want you Western riders to know that this exists.

Maybe it is something that would really help round out your tack room.

I thought it was interesting.  I want you to let me know what you think…

From the website


What I found even more interesting was the ‘scrapbook’.

Yup, the maker of the Gentle Control Hackamore had this old scrapbook of his father who invented this device.  His father, in the 50’s, created this hackamore and used it on their horses at their ranch.

The son thinks the father made ‘about 8 of ’em’.

I loved that.

Anyway, the family used these hackamores ALL THE TIME.  In fact, other family members would beg him to make one for them on holidays and things like that.  They never broke and they lasted forever.  He said their horses never, ever wore a bit.

Towards the end of Granddad’s life, Son decided to ask for the recipe, as it were.

And he got it.

It was then that Son decided to make it easy on them all so he created a fabricated version.  Son got the patent and the rest is history.

From what son tells me, he sells quite a few…

The booth was really pretty.  I swear he had some of the prettiest headstalls there.  Really.  Nice.

Anyway, give it a try and let me know how it works on a real neck reiner… I’ll be sure to tell Finn!  ;)


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CLICK to help Itsuko, our June Bucket Fund mare.




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I cannot believe it!


I’m too ignorant with precision saddle design to understand the exact reasons why saddles don’t fit my mare; but it has to do with her laid back shoulder and narrowing back.  She is gaited which also raises the bar…

I’ve been trying for 3 years.  I’ve demoed more saddles than I have shoes in my closet.

Truth to tell, there was a good part to exploring every saddle on the market –  I wrote about the saddles that I liked.

I was also able to find saddles for my easier to fit horses.

The downside was that I spent a lot of time with no results for BG.


Last week, in preparation for the Western States Horse Expo which was coming to Sacramento (close to me), I printed the exhibitor list and circled every saddle maker who was attending.  I did this last year and the year before… but I was hoping there would be a new vendor or someone I had missed previously.

After clicking to every site of those saddlers that I hadn’t already tried, I found two that looked interesting.  The Advantage and The Stonewall.

I liked the Advantage because it had the footprint of an endurance saddle yet it had enough material to appear secure.  It was short.  Lightweight. Had foam undersides and was made for tough to fit horses.  Sounds like my kinda saddle…


The Advantage Saddle


I had contacted Advantage Saddlery to let them know that I was interested in demoing a saddle.

Katee, the owner, asked me to take a series of photos of my horse both standing and moving.  She was very clear that her saddles were made to fit the moving horse.

I asked if a video would work.  She said either would be fine.

So, I shot stills and sent a video.  I wanted to cover everything for her.

After reviewing my photos, Katee told me that she thought my tough to fit mare would be a Medium.  Just to be sure, she would send the pre-formed fabrications home with me to lay on my horse’s back.



I arrived at the Expo and just due to logistics, I ended up at the Advantage Saddle booth first.

My impression of Advantage Saddlery was that this was a new and eager company.  The booth was small but set up really nicely.  And, my favorite part, it was all about the saddle.  Nothing else (except mohair cinches).

There were the pre-fabbed forms, some model trees (with education adjustments so that you could move them around to understand the moving parts of a horses’ back) and a book of photos of equine backs.

Another bonus was that the saddler, Katee, was fresh and extremely helpful.  There was no pretense or elitism here.  It was all about fit and customer service.



The panels are velcro'd on. No rivets or screws.


I sat in both of her models, the Classic and the Custom.  Both felt the same.  Most of the  differences were cosmetic and since I am on a budget, I went for the Classic – however, I probably would have chosen it anyway.   I liked it.

For me, who likes a roomy seat, I chose the 16″ and figured I’d put in a Sheepie if I needed it.  I also went for just leathers instead of fenders.  My legs are so short, fenders usually are a waste of money and leather…

After a thorough saddle tree demonstration on why her tree allows for the movement of the traveling horse – all of which made sense to me at the time and none of which stayed with me – I walked away with two forms and a beautiful saddle.


Another model


The next morning, to be honest, I really didn’t have any high hopes.

I mean, even though I liked the saddle and her schpeal made much sense to me… I really felt that I would never, ever fit my mare.  As I’ve said before, I was almost willing to give up on riding her except for the fact that she loves to explore.

Anyway, I grabbed BG and tied her to the trailer.

As I pulled out the first form, the yellow Medium shape, I let her sniff it.

Immediately she braced.  She knew.  She knew it was another dang saddle trial and she was prepared to hate it.

Once the sniff test was over, I put the lightweight plastic form onto her back and slid it into place.

It fit like a glove.


IT FIT LIKE A GLOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I could not believe it.

I kept moving it around like a monkey but it simply kept slipping right into the sweet spot and stayed there.  Perfect.

I was dumbstruck, however, this was just the form.  I doubted the actual saddle would fit.

But before I went for the saddle, I decided to try the other form, he Green (small) sized, just to see.

It didn’t fit.

A Custom Design. Covered pommel, padded seat, tooling...



The one thing about demoing a saddle that makes me kinda fidgety and a bit nauseous is trying to keep it clean and NOT DING IT.  I always feel tense.

So, I put a sheepskin cover on the seat, put foil over the stirrup pads and used my own girth.

I was ready.

(Oh no, I wasn’t.  I needed to find a clean saddle pad!  I didn’t have one.  I used a towel instead.)

The saddle only weighs about 14lbs so I carried it over, let her sniff it and then swung it onto her back on top of the towel.

It fit just as perfectly as the form.

I could not believe it!  I swear to horsegod, it fit all the way around.


BG cannot believe it fits! Ears forward. (That yellow thing on the ground leaning against my trailer is the form I used to initially fit her back.)


Fits on the other side, too! (I had been futzing with the cinch which is why the leather is a bit poofy there. - I forgot to pat it back down before taking the pic.)


The next hurdle was the girthing.

BG has such a laid back shoulder that usually the saddle and the rigging end up mid-belly on her.  I end up having to pull the girthing forward which usually doesn’t work.  Center-fire rigging never works for her.

The Advantage rigging is totally adjustable in a way that is actually totally adjustable.  It isn’t tough to do and it doesn’t slide back to where it was.  You just push it to where you want it.   The way it is attached make it stay put.  Believe me.  I tried to move it after I had cinched it.  Nada.  Not possible.


Girthing system. It slides easily and stays put.


At this point in our usual saddling trials, BG has the pissy face from hell.  After cinching , she usually pins her ears and lets me know that she would bite me if she wasn’t so well mannered.

But with this saddle all cinched, she had no pissy face.  She was actually ‘ears forward’.  Wow.


The final hurdle was riding.

I brought her up to the arena and led her to my mounting block.

She didn’t sidle just out of reach.  She stood there.


I laid myself over the saddle just to put weight in there without throwing over my leg.


I flapped my arms around and played with the leathers and stirrups… still nothing.

So, I swung my leg over…

BG was anticipating pain.  She set her feet and was ready.

….and sat in the saddle.

We both stood there, holding our breath.

Her ears flicked.

Then she lowered her apprehensively-set head and looked at me.

“Hey, wher’d ya get this one?”

I asked her to move forward and she did.

Again, we held our breath.

After a couple of circles, we both relaxed.  She was happy.


I could not absorb this moment.  I kept looking for a sign ‘any minute’.  I kept waiting for an explosion or a refusal to turn one way or the other.

But, nothing happened.  She just kept on riding around without incident.


At this point, I hadn’t even thought about my seat.  And, actually, if I found a saddle she liked, I’d probably sit on a seat of nails…

However, I wanted to think about the seat.  Since I had the sheepie on it, there wasn’t much to feel.  I was comfortable and felt secure.  My back didn’t hurt and my legs were in the right position underneath me.  I wasn’t tipped forward or backward.  The seat was even.

I felt like I do in my Boz saddle, which has been my standard of comfort for years.



Another version from the show


I’m not sure how she is going to finish her very new website.  Right now, it is not nearly as informative as she was inside of her booth at the Expo.  I swear, I understood the entire design in about 10 minutes while she explained it to me with her little models.

On the website, she doesn’t show those fabricated models so you cannot see how the tree works.

But, if you take the time to contact her, let her explain the movement of the horse and how her tree is different, it will be worth your time.

Also, take photos for her – standing and moving.

I don’t know if lending out her forms is a regular practice or not.  But, it really helped me.

Anyway, here is her website.  Call her and start the process on your tough to fit horse.  Or even your easy to fit horse!

I love the rigging, the balance, the styling, the weight, the small footprint, the trail riding set-up, the foam underside and the FIT.

Oh yeah, and I forgot to say… reasonably priced.


Contact info


Since Katee is always willing to learn, we spoke about me not using any pad (not necessary with the foam pads attached) and I am going to glue some tacky material to the bottom of the attached foam pads.  I think this will be a great addition to keep the foam clean and also give added stick.

Katee told me that if it didn’t work, she’d send me new pads.  And, if it did… she’d add it to the product line.

Love that!  Listening and experimenting are wonderful things…



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HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!




Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!