Category Archives: Horse Gear

Cleaning Tack

Cleaning tack keeps it looking good and prolongs its useful life. Here are some things to consider.

• Never apply standard cleaners or conditioners to rough out or suede leather, choose commercial suede cleaner instead. Or occasionally renew rough-out western saddles and rough-out saddle seats, as well as the suede padded flaps on English saddles, by lightly sanding them with fine grit (#240) sand paper. Avoid sanding any stitching.

• Caught in a downpour? While your leather gear is still sodden, give it a full-scale cleaning and conditioning. Use lots of conditioner. When your tack dries, it’ll be good as new.

• Spot clean smudges on white leather using a moist cloth dipped in baking powder or a mild household cleanser like Bon Ami.

• Brighten bits and stirrup irons by scrubbing away major grime, then placing them in a knotted pillowcase and running them through 1 cycle in the dishwasher. Use baking soda instead of detergent.

• Save your family’s soft, worn out toothbrushes for cleaning tack. They’re great for getting in to hard-to-reach spots and for cleaning silver plate. Use a toothbrush to crub girth and rein elastic using toothpaste and stirrup treads with dish soap.

• The green gunk you see on brass and nickel silver is oxidation. Use a baby wipe to quickly clean brass and nickel silver hardware after every ride and Brasso for deep cleaning.

• Clean copper bit ports with ketchup. Leave the ketchup on for at least 5 minutes to let it work its magic.

• Some saddlery silver is expensive sterling but most is silver plate (a thin glaze of silver electroplated to copper or another less-expensive metal). Clean both the same, with one caveat: don’t scrub silver plate vigorously and often. It can quickly wear thin.

• Everyday supermarket toothpaste makes a fine, inexpensive silver polish when applied with a moistened soft-bristled toothbrush. Plain baking soda works well, too. Thoroughly rinse cleaned pieces and polish them dry.

• To clean large silver-mounted items such as bits or metal stirrups, or removable saddle, bridle, breast collar, and halter silver, line a pot or baking pan with aluminum foil, and on it, arrange the silver so that no pieces touch. Cover with boiling water and then stir in a small amount of baking soda. The water will foam and fizz. An hour later, remove items one at a time and buff them dry. This process also squeaky-cleans copper and brass bit ports and ornamentation.

• Fittings on most English saddlery, buckles and hardware on better halters and leads, and even quality name plates are usually made of brass or German silver. However, the marriage between these metals, leather, and its cleaners is rarely a happy one. Tarnished brass and German silver fittings ooze a gummy coating of green or black goo that can be removed by scrubbing them with commercial cleaners like Brasso, a mixture of salt and lemon juice, or just plain ketchup. Whichever you chose, use it before you clean the rest of the item. When dry, remove spills from neighboring leather, then buff the fittings with a clean, soft cloth.

• Machine wash most real wool (including felt) saddle pads and blankets using commercial woolen cleaners such as Woolite and the gentlest cold water setting on your washing machine. Immerse the pad or blanket, and then agitate for a minute or so. Switch the machine off and allow the item to soak for as long as needed. You may have to gently hand scrub to loosen stubborn, crusty sweat, or manure stains. When finished, agitate for another minute, then run the item through a single spin cycle. Repeat the process in a washer full of plain, cold water, then lay the pad or blanket flat to dry.

• Before hand or machine washing any saddle blanket or pad, make certain any dyes (especially reds) are colorfast by scrubbing a small, inconspicuous area with plain, cold water.

• Add apple cider vinegar to the rinse cycle when laundering saddle pads, leg wraps, blankets and turnouts, and the like. It helps remove soap residue and removes odors too.

• Hand clean woolen blankets, pads, or the underside of your western saddle by dry-scrubbing with a stiff-bristle brush, then again with a soft brush dipped in a bucket of Woolite-laced cold water. Follow with a clean towel dunked in plain water, then air dry.

• Use a dog slicker brush to gently fluff wooly fleece style saddle pads and the underside of western saddles.

• To keep light-colored leather light, choose only pH-neutral cleaners and conditioners. Apply oils sparingly, if at all, and never use petroleum-based products.

• Avoid using saddle soap on your saddle’s seat and flaps or fenders if you’re wearing light-colored chaps, pants, or breeches because it sometimes rubs off. If you need to use saddle soap, polish your saddle really well using a clean cloth to remove any remaining soap.

• To remove small scratches, moisten a soft cloth with olive oil and rub it into leather using a circular motion until the scratch disappears. Wipe off any remaining oil.

• Drop synthetic headstalls and reins, breast collars, cinches, halters, and other gear into an old pillowcase, knot it shut, and wash it in your washing machine using mild laundry detergent and a cool water setting.

• To prevent your near stirrup leather stretching longer than its mate, switch your leathers right to left and vice versa whenever you clean your English saddle.

• Use a synthetic sponge with a non-abrasive scrubber backing on ground-in sweat and grunge.

• Whenever you clean your gear, check for stress damage like cracks or enlarged holes, especially wherever leather bends or buckles. Examine metal fittings for cracks and bent tongues. Watch for damaged or missing stitching. And check western saddle rigging and English billets and stirrup leathers for stretch and excessive wear.

• Make your own scented glycerin saddle conditioner using this recipe:
1. Break a bar of glycerin soap into chunks and microwave for 30 seconds, then remove and stir; microwave for 30 seconds and stir again, repeating until the soap is melted. A typical bar yields about 2 cups
2. Stir in ¼ cup of milk or cream for each 2 cups of melted soap.
3. Add 4 to 6 drops of your favorite essential oil and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
4. Mix everything quickly before the soap re-solidifies and store it in an air-tight container

– An excerpt from Horse Tips & Tricks; More Than 400 Ways to Care for Your Horse Better, Safer, Faster, Cheaper, by Sue Weaver


Choosing and Caring for Nylon Halters

Premium nylon halters are soft and supple, never stiff. Good ones are two or three plies thick. They’re colorful, inexpensive, and easy to care for, making them most horse owners’ favorite everyday halter. Well maintained nylon halters can last for decades. Here’s how to keep them pretty and functional for many years:

• Store nylon halters indoors to prevent the nylon stiffening, which, hung in direct sunlight it will do over time.

• When you buy a new nylon halter choose a strong, soft, high quality item with solid brass or stainless steel fittings. One really good nylon halter, well cared for, will outlast 3 or 4 stiff, poorly made items. Don’t choose a halter with leather linings; with age, they become brutally stiff. Some colors last longer than others and color stability varies from brand to brand. Lighter colored halters are generally easier to re-color should you choose to do so.

• To clean a nylon halter submerge it in a pail of warm water at least overnight, then scrub away grime with a castoff toothbrush. Or saturate the halter with laundry stain remover before knotting it into a pillowcase and laundering it in your washer’s cold or warm setting using laundry detergent. After air drying, trim away “fuzzies” with sharp shears or carefully singe them in a candle flame.

• Faded nylon halters can be partially color rejuvenated by dying them in double strength Rit dye solution. Follow the package instructions exactly. Keep in mind that resulting colors won’t be rich as when the halter was new. Experiment with a single halter to make certain you like the results before committing all of your halters to a Rit makeover.

• Another way to spruce up dull colors is to soak the halter in a strong solution made from acrylic liquid colors, the sort used to decorate t-shirts and other garments. Or carefully daub the nylon with colorful leather dye. Again, don’t expect these colors to look brand new.

• Renew frayed holes by very carefully heating a metal rod or a very large nail in a propane flame and re-burning them. Wear oven mitts! If burning creates jagged plastic build ups, lightly sand their edges with fine grit sandpaper.

– An excerpt from Horse Tips & Tricks; More Than 400 Ways to Care for Your Horse Better, Safer, Faster, Cheaper, by Sue Weaver

Buying, Cleaning, and Repairing Blankets, Sheets, and Rugs

Buying Blankets, Sheets, and Turnout Rugs

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to outfit your horse in quality blankets, sheets, and rugs.

*Think ahead and buy winter-weight blankets and rugs in the spring and summer when shops and saddleries are eager to reduce their inventory. And be sure to check the clearance pages at online horse supply outlets where you might be able to buy a closeout top-flight garment for the same price as a cheaper model next fall.

*When buying a turnout rug or sheet, read the tags. Make certain the one you choose is waterproof (not water-resistant) and breathable (never use foam-lined blankets; they don’t breathe). Wearing a non-breathable blanket is to your horse like you wearing an old-fashioned plastic raincoat when it’s hot outside. It’s uncomfortable, and sweating inside of a blanket is as just as bad as getting wet. Keep in mind that turnout rugs with back seams can leak; one-piece designs are best.

*Blankets, sheets, and turnout rugs come in fabrics ranging from 300 to 1680 denier. Denier refers to thickness of threads and closeness of weave. The higher the denier the less likely the garment will snag and tear or your horse will be able to demolish it with his teeth. Buy the highest denier garments you can afford.

*Whether buying a sheet, a blanket for indoor use, or choosing a turnout rug, use a seamstress’ tape to determine the correct size. Hold one end of the tape at the center of your horse’s chest (at the point where his neck meets his chest), then measure along his side to the point where you want the garment to end. I like a roomy blanket; if you do too, measure back almost to the center of his tailbone. That’s the size of blanket he needs. If your horse measures an odd number, round up to the closest even size. For example, if your horse measures 71″, buy a size 72 blanket.

*Choose a blanket or turnout rug suited for your climate. When we lived in central Minnesota, our horses and donkeys wore turnout rugs rated for serious mid-winter cold; here in Arkansas, a waterproof turnout sheet to wear when it rains during the winter does the trick.

*Because they aren’t closely fitted, you can often adjust a slightly oversize turnout rug or sheet to fit your horse. Don’t, however, buy a smaller garment than your horse needs as snug garments rub, especially in the shoulder area.

*Most turnout rugs come with stretchy elastic leg straps to help keep the cover in place. Choose a model with detachable leg straps; you can remove them to launder the rug (otherwise they can get twisted around your washer’s dasher and damage the machine) and replace them if the stretch gives out before the garment itself.

Repairing Blankets and Sheets

It isn’t hard to keep horse garments in tiptop shape but you have to address problems as they occur. If binding pulls loose or you spy a rip, repair it before fixing it becomes a major job.

*It’s fairly easy to hand sew horse garments using a large, sharp needle with waxed dental floss or artificial sinew. Artificial sinew is heavy, flat, waxed linen thread that comes on a spool and easily splits into four separate strands. I wouldn’t be without it. Buy artificial sinew at Tandy Leather, buckskinner and Indian craft stores, at Amazon, or on eBay.

*My favorite needles for making repairs are single-curved glover’s needles or surgical suture needles (if you mail order them, make sure you buy surgical needles with an eye instead of the kind with a length of suture cord attached). These cut through soft to medium-soft leather, and nylon strapping like butter. Double-curved surgical needles work too, but I find them harder to use.

*Repair small rips with a product like Storm Shield Repair Tape or Weatherbeeta Repair Patches, available from most mail-order saddleries, or patch them using fabric from a worn out horse garment or another type of closely woven fabric. Keep in mind that while it helps to spritz patched spots with waterproofing spray, they will leak. Patches, however, prevent a small rip or snag from getting bigger.

*Replace broken chest straps on your favorite stable blanket or turnout rug using a single-ply nylon dog collar. Snip it in two and sew the straps down using artificial sinew or waxed dental floss.

*Places like Dover Saddlery, State Line Tack, and Schneiders Saddlery sell replacement surcingles, surcingle buckles, front closure assemblies, and leg straps. If you trash an old blanket or turnout, be sure to save these items for your replacables cache.

*In a pinch, you can replace broken or overstretched leg straps with wide elastic strapping from a sewing goods store, by measuring the correct length of elastic plus a few inches more, then knotting it to the hardware from your old leg straps.

Cleaning Horse Garments

Keep in mind that good blankets and turnout rugs aren’t cheap, so treat them well and make them last.

*Constant washing diminishes your turnout rug’s water resistance, so launder it only when you really must. Instead, hang it up between wearings, let it dry, and then brush off encrusted hair and grime.

*Restore a turnout rug’s waterproof finish by treating it with products like Nikwax Synthetic Rug Proof or Nikwax Canvas Rug Proof. Most large saddlery stores carry it.

*Few home washers and drainage systems can cope with bulky, hair-encrusted blankets and turnout rugs. Instead of laundering them at home, brush off as much hair, mud, and manure as you can and run them through front-loading commercial washers at your favorite laundromat. Bulky horse clothing needs room to agitate, so don’t overload the washers. If an item is truly filthy, you may need to send it through a second wash. When you’re finished, swab the washer’s interior with a damp cloth, and then run a complete cycle to flush away hair and debris.

*Before machine-washing blankets and turnout rugs, remove detachable leg straps and surcingles that could otherwise wrap around the machine’s agitator. Roll non-removable surcingles up close to the body of the garment and secure the rolls with several strong rubber bands.

*Launder your horse’s blanket or turnout rug in either cold or warm water unless a care tag directs otherwise. Don’t use harsh detergents; they can permanently damage synthetic fabrics and detergent residue irritates many horses’ skin. Fabric softeners and bleach also degrade waterproof breathable coating and shorten the life of a garment. Choose pure soap flakes, pet shampoo, or a commercial horse garment cleaner such as Nature’s Blend Horse Blanket Wash or Rambo Rug Wash.

*Never machine-dry blankets, sheets, or rugs; heat shrinks many fabrics and can damage some synthetics. Line dry or hang blankets and rugs on a fence or stall partition. Indoors, aim a fan at the garment to hasten drying.

*New Zealand-style rugs with canvas exteriors and turnout rugs made of especially bulky materials aren’t washer-friendly. To launder one of these items, hang it on a clothes line, a fence or stretch it out on a clean hard-surfaced floor. Use a plastic curry comb, stiff brush, broom, or shop-vac to remove hair, manure, and muck. Then hose it off and scrub, using any of the above named cleaning solutions. Do the inside of the rug as well, rinse thoroughly, and air dry.

*An easy, inexpensive way to clean a bulky rug is to take it to a car wash. Secure it to the building’s floor-mat clips and power wash away. When the item is saturated, hand scrub it with your favorite soap solution, blanket wash, or animal shampoo. Power rinse, scrub the other side, and then rinse again. To save time and money, dump rugs in an empty horse tank or plastic manure basket, presoak them in lukewarm sudsy water, then power rinse them at the car wash.

*To prevent it from mildewing, never store any type of equine clothing until it’s bone dry. Store blankets and rugs in zippered bed blanket bags, in heavy-duty trash bags with the tops sealed shut, or in covered plastic storage totes; choose the latter if your blankets are stored in the barn or garage, where mice sometimes gnaw through bags or cardboard boxes. Never add mothballs; mothball residue is toxic, it irritates horses’ skin, and moths aren’t attracted to blankets made of synthetic fiber anyway. If your blankets have woolen linings, store them with plenty of mesh or cheesecloth bags of naturally moth-repellent herbs such as bergamot, hyssop, sage, or tansy. Cedar needles or shavings and eucalyptus leaves repel moths too.

– An excerpt from Horse Tips & Tricks; More Than 400 Ways to Care for Your Horse Better, Safer, Faster, Cheaper, by Sue Weaver

Restoring a Moldy Oldie

I’m a sucker for McClellan Army saddles. Perhaps because my first saddle, lo those 60 years ago, was a 1904 McClellan in perfect condition, purchased for the grand total of $15? But also because they fit my large standard and Mammoth riding donkeys so well.

A well-used McClellan saddle needing restoration–alas, not mine.

I’ve restored, owned, and ridden in a number of McClellans as well as a British trooper saddle circa the early 1900s, so I’ve always had an interest in restoring old leather goods. Here’s what I wrote about restoring old leather in a sidebar to a tack cleaning article I sold to The Chronicle of the Horse back in the 1980s.

Restoring a Moldy Oldie

No one loves a bargain more than horsefolk. We leave the tack swap or yard sale clutching our mildewed treasures, all smiles and expectations. But should we? The finest cleaners, oils, and conditioners can only go so far toward restoring neglected tack. Old leather is far too often unsafe leather. How to tell?

Yes, that’s me back in the mid-1990s portraying Col. K’Tura Doqro’ of the Klingon HorS Guards, riding my Arabian mare, Ti-Mikki, using a McClellan saddle (that I wish I still owned)
  • Bend several sections of any dry, inflexible, brittle-feeling leather item back upon itself. If the leather cracks, reject that piece. No amount of conditioning will restore its weakened fibers.
  • Soggy, sticky, extra-oily tack may be salvageable or it may not. Since over-oiling rots stitching and stretches strapwork thin, inspect oily tack extra carefully before buying. And slimy gear can ooze for months, so consider those ruined britches before choosing an oily saddle. If the item still appeals, it can often be restored by wiping it with warm water, then scrubbing with homemade vinegar and baking soda paste. Follow with a clean warm water rinse and repeat the steps until you’re satisfied, and then deep clean and condition as usual, omitting the oiling step, if you normally choose it.
  • Mold and mildew look awful but usually aren’t. A vinegar and baking soda paste cleaning will neutralize it or briefly soak mildewed strap work in a weak Clorox and warm water solution, before cleaning and conditioning as usual. Be aware that molds can damage stitching. Always inspect moldy, mildewed items for rot.

Any restorable piece of neglected tack should initially be conditioned more frequently than gear that has never been abused, so apply a layer of conditioner as part of every after-ride tack cleaning until your formerly moldy oldie is as supple and soft as you want it to be.

Nose Bags 101

A working horse in London circa 1943 enjoys his meal from a bag

Nose bags, also known as nosebags, feedbags, and in the old American West, morales, have been in vogue for thousands of years, and for good reason. Nose bags made it possible for working draft, carriage, and military horses to eat on breaks with no fuss or muss; they eliminate food waste; and with feed bags, every horse in a group gets his fair share. They’ve come in every sort of configuration: flat envelope styles, deep leather cups, bulky cloth bags, baskets woven of cane or twigs, and cylindrical tubes tailored to fit a horse’s face. A recent Google search produced an image of a horse dining from a feed bag made of  a little over half of a basketball. Yes, really!

Today, traditional nose bags are made of heavy canvas or leather and secured to a horse’s head by an adjustable leather or nylon headpiece. You can still buy old-fashioned canvas nose bags from backcountry outfitter suppliers. A newer innovation is the nylon mesh nose bag, sometimes featuring a hard plastic bottom. These, as well as twill and canvas versions, can be purchased at some saddle shops and from horse supply catalogs. But they’re also easy to make, as you shall soon see.

A vintage leather nosebag

Whatever materials they’re made of, nose bags must be washable and built to last. Look inside of any nose bag you’re thinking of buying. Are the edges finished? If not, they’ll unravel when you wash the bag. Examine the headpiece. Is it easily adjustable? If not, is it sized for the horse you’ll use it on? Is the headstall made of sturdy material and is it well attached, but not so sturdy and well attached that it won’t break or rip away from the nose bag if your horse gets hooked on something?

Most important: where is the drain patch located? The drain patch is a perforated leather insert set low and to the center of all good nose bags. If the lower edge of a nose bag’s drain patch is set more than a few inches above the bottom of the bag or worse, there is no drain patch at all, don’t use it.

Courageous Dyan, my Thoroughbred mare, dining from a homemade nose bag

Horses can drown in nose bags. The drain patch helps a nose-bagged horse breathe easier but its main function is to let out water should the need arise. If your horse’s nostrils are situated lower than the drain holes, he’s in deep trouble if he dips his nose in a bucket or horse trough or stream or if he gets caught in a summer downpour. You’ll waste a little grain when it sifts through low-set holes but it’s better to sacrifice some grain than lose your horse.

A World War I cavalry nose bag

No nose-bagged horse should be left unsupervised. If you can’t keep constant watch, check on your horse every five minutes or so and never forget your horse is wearing a bag. Once they’ve finished eating, most horses try to drink, even horses wearing nose bags. And bags or no, once they’ve eaten, pastured horses drift out to “graze”. Besides drowning, an unsupervised horse can snag his nose bag on stall protrusions, trees, and bushes. And if his nose bag is too big for him, he can hook a foreleg inside of it while trying to graze.

And be careful what you feed in a nose bag. Ventilation is limited inside of a nose bag, so feeding dusty grain won’t do. And you don’t want him to aspirate tiny bits of grain, so unless you’re feeding a sweet feed formulated with liquid (not powdered) molasses, it’s wise to mix a little water or vegetable oil with your horse’s grain before bagging him.

This U.S. Forest Service envelope-style bag is similar to my DIY nose bags

If you feed messy additives like oils, expect to launder your nose bags often. Use mild soap to machine wash nose bags. Turn them inside out and stuff them in an old pillow case, knot the end of the pillow case, and drop it in the washer on warm. Hand washing works too. Turn the bag inside out and immerse it in a bucket of warm, slightly soapy water. Soak, slosh, and rinse thoroughly in two changes of warm, clear water. Gloss leather conditioner on your bag’s leather headpiece if it has one. Don’t machine-dry nose bags (some shrink); hang them on a clothesline, inside out.

Before bagging your horse for the first time make sure the nose bag fits him. If it’s too big, sooner or later he’ll get his foot inside. Measured from top to bottom, a properly sized nose bag is long enough to contain the amount of grain you normally feed plus 10-12” above it. And the top shouldn’t be so floppy that it sags around your horse’s face.

Know how to adjust your horse’s nose bag before you hang it on him. The top should come up to a few inches below his eyes. And don’t ratchet the headpiece up so short that your horse’s muzzle is buried in feed.

A Civil War era cavalry nose bag

For his first exposure to the nose bag, it’s best to confine your horse to a safe, semi-confined area. Remove your horse’s halter and show him there’s grain in the nose bag. Let him nibble some grain from the bag while you’re holding it. While he’s nibbling, quietly fasten the headpiece. With one hand on the headpiece and the other on his neck to reassure him, gently swivel his head back and forth a few times so he realizes the bag is hanging on his nose. Then stand back and let him get a feel for the thing. He might sling his head a bit and if he hoists it up too far, spill some grain in his face, but he’ll soon learn to drop the bag and eat from it as if he were eating off the ground. A few individuals panic. If yours does, catch him and remove the bag. For the next few feeds, hold the bag and let him eat from it that way. After three or four feedings, fasten the headpiece and try again.

Nose bags are especially useful for feeding sloppy eaters who waste a lot of grain and for feeding individual horses in a herd setting.

Two more vintage leather nose bags

Aggressive horses that mob a human carrying a bucket usually overlook one carrying a more easily concealed nose bag. If they don’t, at least they cut off their attack once the bag is on your horse’s head. Once bagged, a horse usually drifts to the edge of the pack and since the herd tyrants can’t see or reach his grain, he’s usually left in peace.

 Some horses, especially youngsters, nibble and tug at another horse’s nose bag. If they do, bag ‘em. A handful of grain will keep interlopers occupied for awhile and when it’s gone, their own nose bags prevent them worrying at another’s.

Horses used to eating from nose bags usually drop their heads down low so you can easily slip the bag in place. Don’t, however, ever lean across your horse’s head while bagging him up. If his head shoots up for any reason his bony poll can break your nose. Ask me how I know. It hurts.

The bags at the right are made using heavy-duty fabric tote bags; the one at the left is fashioned from an upper leg portion of a pair of denim jeans

DIY Nose Bags

For each nose bag you’ll need:

  • A heavy-duty cotton or cotton-blend tote bag – denim is a good choice. Nylon will work too.
  • A sturdy leather, nylon, or heavy cotton belt 3/4 to 1” wide and long enough to pass from the near side of the nose bag, up across the top of your horse’s head, and down to the bag’s off side (you’ll need a 36-38” belt or strap for an average horse, shorter for a youngster or a pony). Adjustable straps from backpacks also work really well.
  • A 3 x 5” piece of scrap leather. Heavy deer or elk hide is ideal but a thrift shop purse or worn out boot yields excellent leather too.
  • Strong thread or cord. Button thread (but double it while sewing), waxed dental floss, linen cord from an Awl-for-All, and artificial sinew (get it from a leathercraft store like Tandy Leather or at Amazon) all perform equally well.      
  • A needle. A #4 glover’s needle is best, but any sharp needle with an eye big enough to accommodate the thread you’re using will work almost as well.
  • A standard revolving leather punch.
  • A ballpoint pen. (Optional: a scratch awl or extra sharp nail)
  • Sharp, sturdy scissors. Leather shears work best.

Step 1

I should have used a larger tube to punch the central holes

Draw a nose bag drain patch based on the one in the illustration; cut out this paper template.

Trace the template’s outline onto your scrap of leather and cut out the leather drain patch.

Place the paper template over the leather drain patch and poke a ballpoint pen (or the tip of a sharp awl or nail) through the exact center of each drain hole, marking the leather beneath.

Use your leather punch’s largest tube to punch them out (I didn’t do that with the drain patch in the illustration – my mistake). Then, using the smallest tube, punch sewing holes about 1/8” apart around the drain patch’s perimeter. A scrap of leather held under the drain patch while you punch will result in cleaner holes. Set aside the drain patch for now.

Step 2

Cut your belt or strap in two approximately 5” from its buckle (if it’s an adjustable strap, be sure the adjustment is on its longer segment). Hold the cut end of the 5” piece of belt in place 1-2” down on the inside of the left side of your nose bag.

Sew it in place using a short, tight back stitch. Make several passes. Now do the same with the longer section of belt on the opposite side of your bag.

Carefully snip away the fabric from behind the drain patch, leaving a decent margin at the edges

Step 3

Position the leather drain patch just above the front bottom seam of your nose bag (it can be set vertically or horizontally). Temporarily secure it at its sides, top, and bottom by sewing down through one perimeter hole at each location and up through its neighbor, then loosely knotting that stitch in place.

Sew the drain patch in place using a back stitch through its perimeter holes, then remove any temporary stitches.

A basket nose bag – I’m going to make one!

Turn your finished nose bag inside out and, leaving a 1/2” fabric allowance between the stitching and the hole you’re making, snip away both layers fabric covering the drain patch’s central drain holes. Don’t omit this step.

Turn your nose bag right side out and—it’s finished!

I’ve noticed attractive wickerwork nose bags in vintage photos and wonder how that might work? I’m watching for the perfect, heavy-duty basket as part of my yard sale and thrift shop forays and when I find one, I’ll experiment. Stay tuned. I’ll keep you updated.

DIY Safety Halters

Don’t leave a halter on a stalled horse unless there are no projections in the stall that he could snag the halter on. And more importantly, don’t turn horses out in a pasture, paddock, or arena wearing a sturdy halter. It could catch on a fence post or tree limb and in his struggle to free himself, he could break his neck or a leg.

*If you have a horse that can’t be caught unless he’s wearing a turnout halter, use a flimsy, single-ply leather halter that will break if he catches it on something. Or buy a breakaway halter; some have lightweight leather crown pieces and some incorporate thin leather “fuses” or Velcro closures that open or break when stressed.

The fuses on your right are made from old belts; the one on the left is made of a buckle from a cast-off halter and an 8″ strip of scrap leather

*In lieu of a turnout halter, buy two large, adjustable dog collars with plastic clip fittings at the dollar store, connect the two around your horse’s throat and adjust them so you can easily slip your hand beneath them for catching purposes. Don’t buy sturdy dog collars with strong plastic clips; dollar store collars are strong enough to catch your horse and lead him but will readily break if stressed.

*Make your own safety halter. Buy a thrift shop or garage sale belt; leather is best but some heavyweight leather look-alikes will do. Chose one the same width as your turnout halter’s crown piece (measure beforehand or take the halter along to be sure), making certain the loose end of the crown piece strap will pass easily through the belt’s buckle and keeper. Trim and round the end of the belt about 7 to 8 inches below the buckle, then punch a hole roughly 2 inches below the keeper. It’ll look like 2 two breakaway fuses at the right in the photo below. Now, buckle the fuse to your halter’s crown piece. When you halter your horse, you’ll buckle the fuse into the halter exactly as you would the crown piece if the fuse wasn’t there (see above). If your horse’s halter snags on something, he’ll pull back and the fuse will break. You might have just saved your horse’s life!

Buckle the fuse into your halter like so

*Another simple way to make a breakaway fuse is to snip an 8” piece of flexible leather from an old purse, boot, or heavy leather coat, cutting it the same width as your halter’s crown piece. Find a trashed halter having the same width as your good one and salvage its buckle. Next, double the strip of leather and punch a hole at the center of its fold-over point. Feed your buckle onto the strap with its tongue poking through the hole. Punch 2 more holes about 1inch below the buckle and knot a skinny strip of leather through them to secure the hardware in place. Punch a final hole 2 to 3 inches below the center of the belt buckle, trim and round the ends, and use it exactly like the breakaway fuse on the left in the illustration.

After buckling the fuse into your halter, halter up as usual

*Or, if your halter has adjustment buckles on both sides of the crown piece, simply replace the crown piece with a similar length of worn, lightweight leather belt.

*Check your homemade safety halters often and replace breakaway fuses when they wear out. And remember: don’t tie your horse using a halter with a breakaway fuse or a flimsy leather crown piece in place. Safety halters are meant to snap easily when pressure is applied.

– An excerpt from Horse Tips & Tricks; More Than 400 Ways to Care for Your Horse Better, Safer, Faster, Cheaper, by Sue Weaver