R.I.P., Retired Patterns

April 27, 2022

As many of you know, Suitability Patterns was a longstanding source of great English and Western patterns, for years. When the owner retired, Suitability dispersed the remnants of its stock to various retailers, and set up shop with some of the pattern styles on Etsy, as e-patterns. Field's Fabrics had many of the remaining paper patterns, including Saddle Seat Suit Coat #5172, which was one of the very few saddle seat coat patterns available anywhere, and a good one.

Guess what? It's gone. Sold out, evidently. No more being printed, per Suitability's website.

Then, in the blink of an eye, Suitability's timeless Dressage Shadbelly & Frock Coat #5850 quietly rode off into the sunset, presumably to hang out with the discarded saddle seat retirees in the Pattern Barn of the Great Beyond.

Now, if saddle seat or dressage isn't your flavor of horsemanship, this isn't a reason to cry in your cereal. But if you do, that plants you in squarely in the OOP (out of print) patterns camp, and that is not a nice place to be.

OOP Patterns

I have quite a collection of old, weird, OOP equestrian patterns. If you are looking for old-fashioned flared jodhpurs from the 1930s or 40s, I probably have it. I have Western shirt patterns decades older than me, and that's... senior citizen discount age. But the reason I get them, is because once they're gone, they're gone. And as the availability goes down, prices go up. Honestly, there are some vintage patterns going for hundreds of dollars when and if you can find them. I sold a $9.95 pattern I paid $7 for out of my stash a couple years ago for nearly $100, simply because it was still in demand. Crazy, or what?

Buy Now, Thank Me Later

If you are an avid sewer, and if you're making horse show apparel or riding clothes, take my advice: When you see a pattern you like, buy it. Don't wait, don't think there are a million more where that came from, because that's not always the case. It may be all that remains of old stock, like Saddle Seat Coat #5172, it may be discontinued without notice, or it may already be extinct and cause a bidding war (my pattern did). And, here's the other problem: When and if you do find it, will it even be in your size? Maybe not.

If you see it, you like it, and it's in your size, just buy it.

The Unforgotten

February 18, 2022

Is it a great Western novel? Is it book about cowboys? Is it an old cardboard VHS tape case of a spaghetti Western? Could that be genuine fake leather on the cover? The Unforgotten looks like a neat-o regular book on the shelf, but it's your lifesaver. 

Everyone forgets logins and passwords, because there are too many to remember. Of course you can't find that one certain installation CD serial number you need when you need to re-install or upgrade software. When your computer crashes, you don't have access to all that 'gotta have it' information you stored. Now, keep all your vital information in one handy book to have nearby for emergencies. 

This 6x9 book is sectioned A through Z with plenty of pages (214) to add or update emails, usernames, passwords, important websites, and list your installed software and serial numbers. (The perfect gift for your parents.) For when you forget, there's The Unforgotten. Get it from Amazon.

Fox Journal Sketchbook

February 12, 2022

This clever little fox looks right back at you from a vintage-style faux embossed leather cover.  If you want to add to your classic equestrian decor, this lined notebook looks great on your office desk or coffee table. Filled with lined pages and graph paper for sketching and drawing, plus yearly calendars for reference. A great gift for English riders, foxhunt riders, antiquarians, fox lovers, and the hard-to-shop-for horseman you know that seems to have everything. A beautiful addition to a horseman's library.

A Stockman's Journal

February 10, 2022

This stockhorse and leather decorated journal isn't only practical, it's beautiful. It will class up your office desk, coffee table, tack room or seat of your truck. This notebook is for journaling, list-making, crafting, drawing and sketching. For fans of traditional Quarter Horse, Paint and Appaloosa stock horses and the Western and ranch lifestyle. Lined notebook pages with blank pages in the back for sketching and doodling. Four years of calendars in back for reference. This is a large, substantial, notebook at 8.5" x 11" size and 250 pages. Get it on Amazon now.

Black Horse Nebula Journal

February 09, 2022

Admit it, you love the flowing mane and tail, the feathers, the glitter, the magic, the big boldness of those Friesian horses.

Here's a big, beautiful, black Friesian horse notebook I created called Black Horse Nebula that kicks the pants out of a plain yellow legal pad and is a whopping 220 pages for you to write, sketch, and dream.

Get one for yourself, dear Friesian lover, or that horse crazy friend that loves to dream. Now on Amazon with free Prime shipping available.

Price & Video

February 09, 2022

I have picked up a lot of tack advertised online over the years. I look for unusual things to collect or things to rehab and resell. Sometimes, people can't even believe the bargains I've found. Like, if there was a tack bargain hunters' Olympics, I'd have a wall of gold medals. I would hold the world's record nth gazillion times in a row.

You know how I do it? You want to know the big secret to getting the best stuff at a price I can afford before anyone else beats me to it?

I don't dick sellers around. It's that simple.



I don't pester people about things I can't afford, I don't make insulting offers, I don't give them the runaround about meetup times, and I won't be baited into arguments with even the most committed asshole if it's something I really want. 

I get off my dead rear end and show up on time with cash in my hand. I'm so polite it's sickening. I make sure it's what it was supposed to be, and if everything is as represented, I pay them an agreed price and I leave with that 'thing' I wanted. 

Everyone wins.



Facebook Marketplace and its various groups have opened a market that already has a base of billions, literally. Cars, property, shoes, furniture, tack, everything... and horses. Of course, the current rule is no animal sales, but that was circumvented from day one with things like "PM for more details" or a "rehoming fee" in the thousands.

Any and every time I bother to look, hundreds of times a day, someone has a horse for sale and mentions something like "PM for details," and the next many many many comments all say some variation of "price and video," and that's all.

That's it. That's all they write.

Because, of course, they don't bother to read. Ever.

Because they don't respect the group's rules. 

Because they don't respect the seller's request.

Because something about that horse made them mildly curious, just like the last six. 

Because it's a day that ends in Y. 

Because they're a pull string doll with only one phrase installed.

Because window shopping for shit they have no intention of buying costs them nothing. They invest and commit to exactly zero.

There's no exchange of pleasantries, no pertinent horse buyer-type questions, nothing whatsoever that says this person is seriously interested and can probably afford this horse.

It amounts to a drive-by, not even a drive-through.

It's free entertainment, or a fact-finding mission, often to start an argument with the seller or other group members; to pontificate, embarrass, assume the role of resident expert or otherwise act like a horse's ass.

These people are not buyers, they're lookie-loos and provokers. Every listing is an opportunity to make the seller publicly justify their price - or some detail - on something they have no intention or means to buy.

"I can't believe they're asking $7500 for a weanling."

Believe it. And shut the fuck up. 

"I can buy off the track Thoroughbreds for $2500 all day."

Then go buy one, someplace else and from someone else, identical to this particular OTTB you seem to like and can't afford. And shut the fuck up.

Remember the part about PM for details? No, that's too much commitment for them, far too revealing. They might have to admit they really weren't a serious buyer, the horse was out of their price range, and this was the 5th horse today and 11th horse this week they regurgitated their "price and video" demand as not-serious or underfunded buyers.

Sellers don't owe these people shit, except for basic courtesy, and they already know this random person parroting price and video has disrespected their request to deal with them privately.

Price and video drive-bys never leave the comfort of their keyboard. They don't even have to use their real name. They demand and demand and invest nothing, particularly sincerity.

All I can say is, I'm glad I'm not in the horse-selling business, because these price and video people are now their own legion of chronic time-wasters and Komplaining Karens with a grievance theater base of millions. 

Thanks, Facebook. Not.

As I said, I get great deals because 1.) I don't dick sellers around and 2.) I don't shop for things I can't afford or am not ready to buy. If horse selling was more like selling tack, the serious shoppers would find and get what they want, and sellers wouldn't suffer exhaustion from being dragged by countless, casual, unqualified, tire-kickers.

For the record, if anyone ever ignores my usually-very-detailed ad and demands price and video for, say, a saddle, I'm probably going to say if you get off your butt and show up with the right amount of cash, you can buy it if you like it. Or don't, and politely move along. No harm, no foul. 

Because that's how it's done.



On the Bookshelf

January 29, 2022

So, anyway, I wrote a book. In addition to a library of horse-related notebooks and journals I've created, this was a book years in the making, that needed to be written.

The world isn't all sunshine and blue sky, no matter how many uplifting signs from Hobby Lobby you hang on your walls with all kinds of 'house rules' that say the domain you rule behind your door is all peace and light, and here's where the laundry is done, because you have a sign for that too. It's filled with people that can't wait to come along and fuck up your Chi because that's how they operate. Your house rules and your Live, Love, Laugh signs don't mean squat to them, because they know better.

They know what you need, what's the 'real' truth you should believe, what you should want and how you should live, and they aren't afraid to tell you how you're doing it all wrong.

While a great number of these people are tigers in the business world, the kind that hand out self-help books like a Pez dispenser to fix the broken huddled masses beneath their feet to increase productivity (enter some reason) and validate their astute criticisms of same (mostly why they do it), they rarely possess the kind of self-awareness that makes them purchase exactly the self-help book they need.

So I wrote one: The Ultimate Daily Affirmation Journal for Empowerment Of That Narcissist You Know.

Modeled after the popular "daily affirmation" journals, for 13 weeks/91 days/3 months this book tasks them with repeating a certain daily phrase in their own handwriting, as to ingrain that particular concept. It includes 'power words' each week, and a recap at week's end to reflect on their accomplishments. 

All through the lens of... a narcissist. Or, someone who exhibits narcissistic behaviors. (After all, I'm not a mental health professional. But I have known some narcissists.)

Face it, they already believe most of this garbage. It's nothing new. They live it every day. It's how they're wired. Chances are they've said or done something straight off the page, already.

It's what they do.

And if you know a narcissist, reason and logic doesn't apply. Your best argument against their objectionable behavior is deflected like Kryptonite. In fact, it usually causes them to double down and become even more resolute.

It's how they operate.

You won't stop them. 

Taking a different approach, why not encourage them?

This book is like catnip. You don't give catnip to a cat to settle them down, you give them catnip to sit back and watch the freak show.

It's entertainment.

This is you taking the high road, saying, "Go ahead, you just go right ahead and be the best narcissist you can be. Here's some fuel for the fire."

Let them believe they really have all the answers. They're on the right track. It's alright to think everyone else is stupid and needs to be straightened out, and the only reason someone might object is because they are too dim to know what's best for them, or because they're jealous, or lazy, or out to get them, don't believe their whopping lies, are weary of their self-aggrandizing, or because they don't want to follow the path they, in their wisdom, believe other people should walk.

Let them think that. After all, it is their essence. You maybe earn some brownie points giving them a book that feeds their ego instead of being sucked into yet another pointless, emotionally abusive, energy-sapping argument, with possibly some gaslighting as a parting shot.

This is a great gift - even anonymous - for that creepy boss that runs his organization like Hitler's campaign into Russia and wonders why you aren't a team player, your cheating spouse, that one asshole friend you have that is a fountain of 'helpful' criticism, the ones that don't respect boundaries because their input is too important, the jerk boyfriend of your nice best friend (leave it in his car, like an air freshener), that super fit plastic-surgeried B that actually looks great and can't understand why everyone doesn't invest 50k for great boobs and a new face, your superficial friends, your crazy uncle that talks politics and bootstraps every Christmas...

The guest list is endless.

They're everywhere.

They be them, and you be you.

But you'll be happier. That's why we buy catnip.

Buy my book on Amazon. Or buy two, because they tend to run in herds.

Peace out.

Punchy the Saddle's Second Career

September 16, 2018
Punchy was a gem found on my Labor Day weekend saddle tour, and I have to admit it was love at first sight. Not impressive in any way upon discovery, Punchy was precisely what I'd been looking for.

Dusty and crusty, Punchy sat on a rack under carport wearing the marks of an interesting previous life.

Punchy had been a roping saddle, back in the day before all the pro cowboys wore sponsor logos. Purely utilitarian, Punchy was not even a high end saddle. No tooling, no conchos; a bare bones base model with six strings, a stout neck and a pelican horn. The only possible upgrade may have been brass rigging, but in its day that was not at all unusual. Remnants of a real sheepskin lining clung to the skirts, worn away with a lifetime of use and whatever the mice made off with.

The likely future for saddle of Punchy's age could have been as a decorative bar stool, or maybe some unsuspecting parent's gift to their child as an affordable first saddle, though in no condition to fulfill its purpose.

Western saddle bar stools. Not in Punchy's future, if I have anything to say about it. Photo: Pinterest.
I had a plan for Punchy, and it didn't involve home furnishings or a throwaway riding rig to be cast off at a garage sale, simply sold as "vintage." I wanted to give Punchy a second career as a ranch riding class saddle; restored, appreciated, and able to shine again.

Punchy had a lot in his favor that leaned toward a second career as a using saddle. Most important, his bar spread was not the narrow style found on so many vintage saddles. Unfortunately, a lot of  vintage western saddles simply will not fit the wider conformation of today's stock horses, and spend the rest of their life as artwork, traded and sold like rare baseball cards between collectors.

This incredible 1890s slick fork Visalia (Wegner & Walker) saddle and accessories set sold for a strong 5 figures at auction in 2014. However, as a using saddle, it probably would not fit anything in my barn. Photo: iCollector
Punchy did not possess the beauty or pedigree of a collectible, but he did have a tree that would fit a garden variety stock horse, even today. Given the fact Punchy had obviously done some roping, the rawhide tree was remarkably tight and true.

The second most important plus was Punchy had a seat large enough for my modern day rear end. Not a large seat, mind you, but a strong 15" slick seat with a low cantle that beckoned "Hop in, let's go for a ride."

So many vintage saddles look like "the one," only to find out they have a live seat area of maybe 14 inches. They were made in an era when people were generally smaller and slimmer than today. If you're a gal with the behind of a Barbie doll, they may be a go. I happen to have a butt like Beyoncé and the thighs of an East German speed skater. A 14" seat for me is out of the question, and a 15" has to be set up just right or it's still way too cozy.

So many great vintage saddles have small seats and narrow trees, making them unusable for folks with wide horses and/or big bums. Photo: eBay
With the majority of vintage western saddles being too narrow for my horse, with seats too small for my fanny, Punchy was an anomaly. I felt I had something with potential as a using saddle, at any rate.

On the plus side:
  1. Punchy has what could be considered today as Quarter Horse bars, more or less
  2. The rawhide covered tree is sound
  3. The seat measures a full 15"
  4. Full double brass rigging
  5. No real leather damage, dry rot, or extreme wear
  6. Cantle is in good condition, exquisitely shaped, without any warping 
  7. Horn is tight and straight, and my preferred pelican shape
  8. Made with saddle strings through the tree
  9. Galvanized 3 1/2" bell bottom stirrups appear original 
  10. Both original flank billets in very good condition
On the minus side:
  1. No maker's mark, which affects resale value
  2. Untooled, roughout leather makes it less fancy
  3. Round skirt style is not particularly en vogue
  4. Fleece needs replacing, absolutely
  5. Old style bolt-and-pin stirrup leathers need an upgrade
  6. Saddle strings need replacing
  7. Missing one of the original sawtooth edge leather rosettes under the saddle strings, which are hard to match
  8. One leather stirrup tread is missing, they should both be replaced 
  9. Needs stirrup hobbles
  10. Rope strap on fork needs replacing
Really, except for the fleece and strings being replaced, which requires some time and cash invested at a good saddle shop, Punchy's fixes aren't terribly exotic or expensive.

Smaller, rounded skirts are certainly not the height of show ring fashion, but no one can say they aren't "authentic" or "traditional."
I don't mind the round skirts, the roughout leather, or the fact Punchy isn't fancy in any sense of the word. This is a blue collar saddle with a solid resume. It isn't pretending to be something it's not, and it's still game for action.

Ranch riding saddles don't need to be fancy, they need to be believable as serviceable work saddles one might use every day in a ranch environment. This means without the typical heavy silver adornment of western show saddles, rigged and ready for hard riding. In this case, authenticity trumps beauty, brand label, or even newness.

For ranch riding classes, plain is actually a virtue.

This ranch class winner rides a plain, workmanlike, reiner-style saddle with simple silver conchos. A breast collar and flank cinch shows they're rigged and ready for anything that may come their way. Photo: Journal, by way of Pinterest.
Dozens of makers' reiners, ropers, cutters and cowhorse saddles were born ready for such events. Because of the growing popularity of ranch horse classes, even makers like Harris, known for their over-the-top custom silver show saddles, has introduced models for ranch competition.

Simple, workmanlike Billy Cook reiner (left) or a pared-down showstopper like Harris's ranch riding saddle (right) - either will fly in today's ranch riding classes.

Square skirt custom Teskey's ranch saddle (left) and base model Wade from Burns Saddlery (right) represent consistently popular styles in ranch riding competition.
Luckily, Punchy more than qualifies as authentic. Beyond that, what anyone chooses to ride is personal preference.

Punchy's in the cleaning and assessment stage now. After a good scrubdown with soap and water, the next step has been some overdue conditioning to strengthen and preserve the aged leather.

Roughout saddle leather can be a little tricky to condition, but so far Punchy is responding well to being misted with Lexol, with brushouts between sessions to retain the nap. The undersides of the fenders and stirrup leathers are all enjoying some Oakwood Leather Conditioner and Passier Lederbalsam.

After a thorough scrubdown and repeated misting with Lexol, Punchy's true colors are beginning to show. No longer dusty, dull and faded.
Once the saddle is feeling fit and foxy, it's time to think about some upgrades before it's sent to the saddle shop. For now, Punchy's enjoying all the attention. I think he's eager to join the working class again.

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