Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tracy Meisenbach: The American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft Horse

          We've been in Appaloosas a long, long time. My grandfather bought his first spotted horse in 1942, by the time I came along some 24 years later he'd had several more. His farm was in north eastern Oklahoma, not far from where Bill Cass stood Colida. My mom used to play high school basketball against Bill's sister Carol. With this close proximity to one of the greatest Appaloosas of all time you can guess what my first love was. 

Bill Cass and me in OKC

           I grew up around Colida horses and we competed in everything you can imagine. There are very few events we didn't do, whether english or western. We even ventured in to driving and saddleseat. An Appaloosa can do anything his rider can imagine, so they were the perfect horse for us, because we liked to do everything. Along the way we also had other breeds; Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, miniatures etc, but always had Appaloosas around.

            In the Mid 80s Bill Cass got disgusted with the ApHC and got into draft horses. He liked Belgians and he had some nice ones. He kept his Appaloosas, but he sure liked competing his drafts at the pulls. I remember driving out to his pasture with him at feeding time and he called up his herd of broodmares and the ground rumbled as 14 huge chestnuts galloped up for their evening meal. It was amazing how powerful and quick they were. I could see their appeal. At this time I was competing in speed events pretty heavily, as well as cross country and 3 day eventing, and to me the drafts were more of a hobby horse, not something a serious competitor would use.

                                            Bandit, Twister, Cochise, Rogue and Cochise

           Fast forward to 2011 and through strange circumstances I found myself with 4 Percherons. 3 blacks and 1 grey. 2 geldings and 2 mares. The mares were papered and very well bred. I sold the geldings and the grey mare ( something I now seriously regret) and kept the big black mare. She's a 17.2 hand Jaeger bred mare. What the heck does an Appaloosa breeder need with one of those? 
Jaeger's Abby's Gaby

            By now I've grown out of going balls to the wall in speed events, I like to mosey a lot and I want a nice big easy going horse. I also wanted a spotted draft horse. Simple solution, breed my gorgeous Percheron mare to my Colida bred stallion. I think Bill Cass would have heartily agreed, especially after he saw the result. This was not some random"backyard" breeding. My Appaloosa stallion had halter, hunter in hand, speed event points and was 4th in the nation in games. His sire and dam  were both pointed show horses. His grandfathers, Colida, Bright Eyes Brother and Top Hat H, were in the Hall of Fame. The Percheron mare was the daughter of the Canadian Reserve National Champion Stallion and her dam was the daughter of another National Champion. 
                                                                     Colida SkipNTwist

         The result of this cross was amazing. 5 panel genetically clean, homozygous black, dun factor and a conformation to die for. Tyrion Twist is an amazing sport horse and has already made his public debut, wowing crowds at Breyerfest as a weanling and winning second in open stallions at the Virginia State Fair Draft Horse Show. We expect great things from this young stallion.
                                                       Tyrion Twist, ASHDA #-00013

            About the time I decided to cross my two horses, (visions of spotted sporthorses dancing in my head) I met up with some other people that were promoting a breed of spotted drafts. Fortuitous in some ways. Not so much in others. The Sugarbush Harlequin Draft had been started by Everett Smith as a spotted draft. Unfortunately the person that had taken over the registry was just not doing the breed any good, creating an entirely false history that she uses to give her private business validity. Despite this problem, several of us persevered with our horses and helped preserve and grow this really amazing breed.
Stonewall Rascal, SSB-F2 #9606, ASHDA #E-00001

            This leads us to the oft asked question; “What is a Sugarbush Harlequin Draft?”
The answers to that question are really simple. A Sugarbush Harlequin Draft is a horse bred from the original stock owned by Everett Smith or a horse registered in the original Sugarbush Harlequin Draft Horse Registry (SHDHR) or a horse registered in the American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft Association (ASHDA). That’s it. If the horse does not meet one of those parameters it’s not a Sugarbush Harlequin Draft.

You can’t get a Sugarbush Harlequin Draft just by crossing an Appaloosa on a Draft horse, or a Draft horse on any other spotted breed. Those are just crossbred drafts. A Sugarbush Harlequin Draft has to meet either the pedigree criteria of parents registered with the original SHDHR or ASHDA or be approved with ASHDA by meeting the conformational and genetic testing requirements of the breed. A Sugarbush Harlequin Draft horse isn’t just a mix, and it’s not a name that can be applied to any spotted draft. ASHDA's standards are high and their approval process is rigorous, requiring conformational analysis, genetic testing and pedigree assessment. We want only the best. So don’t be fooled, if the horse isn’t registered with ASHDA or the original SHDHR, then it’s not a Sugarbush Harlequin Draft. This breed was started by Everett Smith and ASHDA is the only registry endorsed by him to continue on his beloved breed. We follow his guidelines for conformation, clean genetics and stellar pedigrees. ASHDA is  currently producing a documentary video of Everett Smith and his horses in which he answers questions about the breed, his program, and his views on genetic testing, ASHDA and the future of the breed.

 Apache Double, ApHC Stallion

                So where do they come from? Their story actually starts way back in the 70s when a young man named Michael Hanna (Muir) bought an Appaloosa stallion called Apache Double from Iola Hatley. He paid a record price for him, $100,000.00. ( he was the second horse sold for this amount, the first being Flying Star, a Colida son) Apache Double is the first and only Appaloosa to go over the $2 million mark in winnings of his get. He’s a great-grandson of Reigh Count who won the Kentucky Derby and a maternal grandson of ApHC Hall of Fame horse Apache

                                           Charlie Degas, Percheron Stallion

         Along with breeding Appaloosa race horses at his Stonewall Stud Farm Michael Hanna took an interest in drafts and driving. He purchased Charlie Degas, the purebred Percheron stallion foaled in 1973, who became the foundation stallion of the Stonewall Studbook and an important influence in the development of the Stonewall Sporthorse.

          Michael bred Charlie Degas to a daughter of Apache Double called Stonewall Baby Jane. She was out of a Poco Arbol bred mare called Stonewall Dottie West. Stonewall Baby Jane, 23 as of this writing, is a big bay leopard mare, she was later bred to Stonewall Showmaster, another purebred Percheron Stallion and produced Stonewall Rascal, who is the founding stallion of the Sugarbush Harlequin Draft breed.

                           Stonewall Rascal and Bron Stark at Breyerfest 2015

            About this time Michael Hanna had some serious life changes. He changed his last name to Muir in honor of his grandfather’s name, because it was going to die out, and he discovered he had MS. He sold his racehorses ( Ocala Flight went to Australia) and started focusing more and more on driving. In an effort to bring awareness to MS he decided to drive across America with his trio of Stonewall Sport Horse mares, Stonewall Stella, Stonewall Blanche and Stonewall Scarlett. They drove from California to Florida as a unicorn hitch. It was an amazing feat and showed how truly outstanding these spotted draft crosses are.

          Everett Smith also owned a carriage company and had taken up driving as a pastime and part time job. His Sugarbush Hitch Company in Willow Wood, Ohio was using his breed of choice, Percherons. In 1998 he saw an article about Michael Muir and his spotted team and contacted him. The two men discussed their goals and what each wanted in an elegant spotted driving horse and the Sugarbush Harlequin Draft Horse and Stonewall Sport Horse Registry was born. Everett bred his percheron mare, Sugarbush Felina Del Noche to Stonewall Rascal and she produced Sugarbush Harley Quinne, a loud spotted black and white leopard. Harley, as he was known, was Everett’s ideal horse; a ¾ draft with loud color, traceable pedigree and good conformation and temperament.
                                  Sugarbush Felina Del Noche and Sugarbush Harley Quinne

            Sugarbush Harley Quinne gained the Sugarbush Hitch Company a lot of attention and people started seeking out Sugarbushes! Spotted drafts were getting noticed and whether it was the heavier ¾ draft Sugarbush or the lighter ½ draft Stonewall Sporthorses both names had gone into the equestrian vernacular to denote LP marked heavy horses.

          Sadly a twofold tragedy struck. Sugarbush Harley Quinne died leaving only one intact son, Sugarbush Harley’s Classic O. It was then that Everett discovered that Stonewall Rascal had been sold and gelded, so he could not repeat the breeding that produced Harley Quinne. Everett was also facing health issues and after a discussion with Michael Muir they decided to separate out the registry for each breed. The Stonewall Sporthorse Studbook is now in California. Everett took a chance and let another person take over the Sugarbush registry, but that resulted in almost destroying the breed. It was run as a private business and breeding to anything was allowed. In an effort to save the breed a group of dedicated Sugarbush Harlequin draft lovers got together and with Everett Smith’s blessing they have rebuilt the breed using his original lines and making requirements for genetic testing, conformation and other factors.  Today the American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft is a growing breed and gaining international notice. They are invited to appear at Breyerfest every year where they are a crowd and artist favorite. ASHDA has been to the International Horse Fair in Beijing, China and featured at other expos throughout the USA. Articles covering the history of the breed have been featured in the Draft Horse Journal, on various websites and forums.
        The American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft is one of only two draft breeds created specifically in America, the other is the American Cream Draft. It's a breed with a bright future as both a riding horse and a driving horse. The sweet temperament and versatility of the breed make it easily trainable. They are visually eye catching and unlike a lot of draft breeds that are hitch gaited they have gaits more like a good saddle horse. ASHDA does not encourage docking tails, liking a horse to be able to switch flies. ASHDA also does not condone scotch bottom shoes or the extreme squared toes found in many breeds. It's not a "mutt", "grade" or "backyard breed" as some people claim. Most ASHDA horses have pedigrees that can trace back to the 1800s on both sides, unlike a lot of Quarter Horses and other breeds today. There is a demand for them and breeders are usually contacted by people interested in riding age horses, many of which are simply not for sale as they are used as breeding stock. So don't believe the disgruntled rantings of people that have never actually met one of these amazing horses. Sour grapes are extremely bitter, unlike American Sugarbush Harlequin Drafts, which are sweet enough for everyone.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tracy Meisenbach-Stark Naked Bit™, how it works, and what you need to know

                                                        The Stark Naked Bit™:
           Jaw bits have existed since humans first decided to ride on the backs of horses. They are one of the earliest methods of communication between man and equine.

       Jaw bits have been made of rope, leather, braided grass cord, rawhide, twine and now Biothane ®. The action of a jaw bit is direct, but also muted. There is no leverage like a curb, no dragging across the tongue like a snaffle. It's direct and too the point, which is how all communication should be.

         We're going to look at a few different jaw bits. The leather jaw bit, with and without side rings, has existed since the 1800s. Prints of them can be found in The Horse by William Yount (1843), The Modern Art of Training Wild Horses by William Rarey (1858) and several catalogs including the 1886 Langrun's. 

       Metal jaw bits were actually created and used for awhile, but the dynamics were harsh and unstable. 

     This is the Donnelly Bridleless Bit. The flat metal mouth would dig in when the reins were pulled. Used without a headstall and the flat slightly inverted band will dig into the tongue. Not a very nice bit for the horse.

      Leather bits seem to fall into two categories. Round braided leather with a jaw knot, or flat stitched leather, made as a multi-layer strap with rein rings.  Leather jaw bits were used by the Native Americans, and even in some Asian tribes. Most worked with a jaw knot and would tighten if pulled on. The horse rarely had a choice where his tongue went, the bit was placed over it or under it at the whim of the rider. They could be ridden single or double reined, one handed or two. 
         One of the leather versions is a round rolled Snake Bit. It tightens as the reins are pulled and does require the use of a headstall. I'm not a big fan of it.

         In more modern times Erwin Meroth patented a version of the leather jaw bit and its tanning process in 1985, in Germany. It was never patented in the United States. Meroth passed away in 2000 and his patent was never renewed after the 20 year time limit was up in 2005. His website can be found here: Merothische. If you are looking for an original Meroth Bit we suggest buying from the actual maker, not a distributor, to make sure you get the original product.
         The Meroth bit site states that the leather is vegetable tanned and safe for use as a bit. That it meets European ratings for use in children's toys. Which is very good. However, we visited the website of the tanner that creates the leather used in the Meroth bit and we were surprised at what we found.

        Krekelberg Tannery
        On the Krekelberg site it explains their tanning process and I have to say I was rather startled. And I mean REALLY startled. When you go to their processing page it tells you how they do it:

        It's first tanned with lime, which is a corrosive base when combined with water. This is the translation: Dehairing and liming: means sodium sulfide and lime frees the skin of the hair. The case produced heavily loaded with nitrogen-containing organic load wastewater is in the on-site biological treatment plant cleaned.

        So basically they are treating the leather with two major corrosive solutions to dehair and soften the leather. Sodium sulfide and lime are NOT approved for oral use. And wastewater is just that, wastewater. No telling what is in there.

        So the tanning process is vegetable based, but the dehairing and liming is NOT. And in fact when you get sodium sulfide wet it turns into hydrogen sulfide, which is the chemical compound with the formula H2S. It is a colorless gas with the characteristic foul odor of rotten eggs; it is heavier than air, very poisonous, corrosive, flammable, and explosive.
Like sodium hydroxide, also known as lye and caustic soda with a highly caustic metallic base and alkali salt , sodium sulfide is strongly alkaline and can cause skin burns. Acids react with it to rapidly produce hydrogen sulfide, which is highly toxic.

        Sorry, but that does not seem safe. Certainly not more safe than Biothane® which is not made with those compounds. And vegetable tanning, which is pretty much drum soaking, is not going to remove caustic compounds from the leather. This is probably why the bondage industry has moved away from the use of leather in the creation of their products. 
        This is what a used Meroth looks like after just a few uses Meroth Used Bit

        Looking at jaw bit options had us scratching our heads. We liked the concept but not the potential problems. There is a cleanliness issue. Stretching is a problem, drying out and cracking, the small thin "safety" strings breaking in mid ride and several other issues. I don't WANT a bit that conforms to the mouth and just grips the tongue and jaw tightly. That method provides no relief or reward. So we looked around and found a product called Biothane ®. And therein was our solution. Biothane® can be sterilized, leather cannot. You can dunk a Biothane® bit in listerine, novalsan, alcohol or whatever other method and not change the composition of the bit. Do that with leather and you'll mess it up and remove the protective oils.

        We contacted an Amish Harness Maker and had several discussions with him about the material, stitching ring sizes and knew right away that since horses were not "one size fits all" we decided our bits wouldn't be either. We created several widths; 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch and 1 inch so that a rider could determine the sharpness of the action. The narrower is sharper and the wider is milder. We also decided on two different ring sizes. The 2 inch ring has more weight and vibration, with more pre-signal while the 1.5 inch ring is quieter and more direct. And so the Stark Naked Bit™ was born.

        One thing we really wanted to fix was the bit molding into one horse's mouth's shape and never springing back into shape. We knew that Biothane ® had a shape "memory" but we were really excited to find that the method of stitching created a bit that would spring back into shape and remove pressure from the lips and edges of the mouth. You pull back and release and the horse is rewarded with a reduction of pressure.

In the end we're pretty happy with our product and so are our customers. The bits are Biothane ® so they last longer and can be cleaned easier. They are stitched in such a way that they spring back into shape and take pressure off the sides of the mouth. They don't put any more pressure on the tongue than a metal bit and the horse can eat and drink with one in his mouth. They can be used with or without a headstall. People have been using them for jumping, barrels, trail riding etc. We are using one to start a green horse and will be documenting it with video.They come in a rainbow of colors and we can even make them two-toned!

You can visit us on facebook at Stark Naked Bits or our website at Stark Naked

Either way, Get Serious, Ride Naked!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

In the spotlight!

Due to the clamoring hordes of people interested in being guest authors about a certain group we've decided to move it to its own blog with an appropriate name!
This blog will revert back to strictly farm information.

Thanks for all the support and contributions.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tracy Meisenbach- A Good Bit of Knowledge

A good bit of knowledge and knowledge of a good bit are both needed to become an excellent horseman.

We talk about a lot of bad bits, because, well because there is so MUCH material to work with. There is just a never ending line of bad bits being created all the time to solve every problem that doesn't exist until someone's butt hits the saddle.
Some of these bits are just touted as being down right miraculous and able to do things a horse can't physically. Most of us can see at a glance when a bit is horrible. But what makes a good bit? Where do we look first and what do we look for?

A) Look at the mouthpiece. Doesn't matter what you intend for the bit to do, where it comes in contact with the horse's soft membranes needs to be the absolute priority. The tongue and lips are very sensitive. You're talking about something that can pick up a single oat and can feel the slightest touch. Doubt me? Try to poke your finger into the lips and run it along the bar edge. Most horses will immediately raise their head, even if you aren't pressing down. Look at the anatomy of the horse's mouth. It's all soft curves (tongue and palate) and hard edges (bars and teeth) Anything you use is going to pull, vibrate, rub, drag or poke all of these things at some point. A horse will tolerate a lot if whatever is moving in his mouth is SMOOTH. Smooth and able to glide across the tongue and lips. Saliva can lubricate, but if there are ridges, twists or gaps in the bit guess where the saliva goes? Yep, so then the bit rides down on the tongue and lips. Start smooth, stay smooth. No green horse should ever be in anything but a smooth mouthpiece bits. You are starting his lifelong perception of being handled and compelling obedience with a sharp mouth is not a good way to build trust.

1) Thin closed twist, very sharp, can cut the tongue, lip and bars.

2) Open twist, square stock. Square stock is different from regular round twisted wire as it retains the edges of the square. These sharp edges can cut and dig into the tongue. See saw action can literally saw into the tissue.
3) Wide twist thin square stock. All those thin sharp edges move back and forth across the tongue and lips.
4) Open twist round wire, abrasive, grooves are wide enough to grab the pebbled surface of the tongue, also the edges of the lip. Any action on the tissue of the bars will be abrasive.
5) Wide twist thick square stock. This is a slow twist bit that people seem to think is kinder than a regular twisted wire. It's not. This big sharp edges create pressure points as they move across the tongue.
6) Waterford. Pretty much goes standing link, flat link, ball, flat link, standing link, ball, standing link, flat link, ball, flat link etc. Every one of those balls is a pressure point on the tongue. Yes the bit does form to the horse's mouth, yes the edges are rounded, however this mouth also creates pinch points between each standing and flat link. When it moves side to side it will grab the edges of the tongue and the lips.
7) Big link flat chain, Mikmar. This bit has GRAB. The flat joint in the middle allows the tongue to get caught and the wide spaces in the links also let in tongue tissue. The side joints at the lips are narrow and when the bit moves side to side they grab the lips and pull them out with the bit. (I own this one and know how it works)
8) Thin bike chain. Forms to the mouth, rolls over the tongue like a series of thin edged tissue grabbers. Extremely rough on the edges of the lips and over any tissue that sits over bone.
9) Open work flat chain. Most flat chain bits are fairly mild, but when they are like this with open links that don't "stack" over the next link they are abrasive and particularly nasty at the edges of the lips and over the bars.
10) Standing link wide chain. Every other link is a hard pressure point into the tongue, pulling through the lips they create spread and then allow the lip to close over the next link, until pulled back through, catching the edges as the bit moves back and forth.

B) Look at the joints and joinings. Joints should have smooth movement without pinch. Roller joints that stick below the cannons create pressure points. Any welds should be ground smooth. Connection to the shanks should be tight so no pinching occurs. Look at the length and shape of the joint. Single joints break over the tongue, the best ones are on slightly curved cannons and have nicely rounded edges. How curved? If it's a single joint you should be able to fold the bit flat. That's the right amount of curve. If you can't fold it flat the cannons are too straight. If you fold it flat and there is a huge gap between the middle of the cannons that is too much curve and it's going to work your cheeks into the jaw and around the bars hard. Double joints need to be long enough to break out over the bars, so that the tongue remains flat beneath the center joint and the ends don't ride down on the bars. Barrel joints that are smooth and fluid are acceptable, donuts and lifesavers are not. Chains are quite popular, whether linked or ball and link, but they are not all equal. None of them should be used with direct rein as they drag the lips up and out and dig hard into the tongue.

C) Mechanics. How does the bit work? Always look at the order of actions, because some of the bits marketed today do not work as advertised, especially combo bits. Anything with a shank is going to hit the mouth first. Always. Even those nasty lifter bits hit the mouth first. So your first cue is directly to the mouth, is it abrasive or communicative? Are you cuing or compelling? Pick up one rein and what happens? A lot of bits are advertised as having independent action, but is it really? Pick up one rein on a wonder bit and you move the opposite shank forward as the curbstrap tightens across the jaw. Use a high barrel joint port and you torque the bit as one side drops forward and the other remains up. So too much independent action can be bad, especially on a horse that doesn't have a good head and neck carriage. The trend is now for three piece mouthpieces and loose shanks but ask yourself what those busy mouthpieces create. To me they create temptation. It's like handing a child a stick, or a slinky. He may play with the stick, flip it around a bit, but in the end there isn't much entertainment value so he ignores it and gets bored with flipping it around. Hand him a slinky and suddenly you've got this swooshing, vibrating, entrancing thing to play with and twist around for HOURS! It's like a fidget enhancer. So start quiet, as quiet with as little movement as you can and only go up by increments. Do NOT make huge leaps in bitting. Don't go from a single joint snaffle to a correction port curb. Don't leap from mullen to waterford. It's better to go down a notch and address a problem then to leap up several levels in severity.

D) Physics. What does the bit do? When you pull what is the end result? For a direct rein 1:1 ratio bit the pressure you put on the reins becomes the pressure applied to the mouth. If your horse is running through it then you can choose to use draw reins, martingales etc to give you a momentary advantage. Or you can up the severity of the mouth, which usually only works a short time, or you can go back to ground level and re confirm your stopping cues. Your seat and leg MUST play a part in how your bit works. If you're just riding on the reins then you're numbing the horse's sensitivity to your rein cues and creating the run away. With a curb you need to assess total shank ratio. How long is the bit? Whether it has an equal purchase (1:1) or a shorter or longer one doesn't change the fact that your pressure ratio is still determine by the total shank length. What the purchase determines is how much pressure goes onto the chin and poll as well as the mouth. The sweep of the purchase also determines chin and poll pressure, as well as how hard the mouth gets hit, as the more sweep the more mouth pressure without a brake on it

E) Does your bit communicate or does it compel? If you put the bit on the horse and tug the rein does he pay attention and respond in a relaxed manner? Or does he immediately tense and either become evasive or hair trigger? If it's the second one then your bit is a problem, drop down a level and get some relaxation and communication going. Test the bit against your skin, is it smooth, balanced, has pre signal? Does it pinch, have abrupt movement, slow release? What are you saying to your horse when you pull the reins? Are you whispering or shouting?

Give you horse a chance so that even while working his bit is NOT always ON. Give him a break. He cannot stay on edge and waiting for the next painful cue and perform at his peak. Your bit has to have an off switch. This means when you loosen the reins the mouthpiece does not still cause him worry. It means his headstalls loosens a little, his curbstrap hangs loose and his tongue and lips can reseat the bit without feeling like they are being scored by sandpaper or pinched by pliers.

Look at each component and the closer they are to smooth, close joints, fluid action, good pre signal and vibration and immediate off switch the better your horse will be.

Tracy Meisenbach
Copyright 6-9-2015
Do not repost or publish without written permission

Tracy Meisenbach- Because Seeing Is Believing!!!!

Usually I try to post about serious issues, but this was just too good to pass up. So I thought I'd share here because YES there is a level of stupid out there that exceeds all expectations. This actually happened.

My farm is in a small town of 1300 people in Central VA. I have white trash neighbors that make episodes of hoarders look good. It was not that way when we moved it, but there is no doubt the town has gone down hill in the past 16 years. So any story involving white trash of this level has to start like all redneck fairy tales:
All ya'all ain't gonna believe this shit.....My birthday is coming up so Bron bought me a lifelike resin Unicorn horn that goes on a horse's bridle. These things are awesome, and fun to use for parades and expos etc.

So we take a bunch of photos of the horses with the horn on and because it was late we left it on the bridle when we were done.

Yesterday we decided to ride in the front arena and Bron was a lazy butt and instead of switching out to the regular browband she went ahead and rode Munchen in the black bridle with the big black horn. It was cute as hell, Munchen trotting and cantering with her magic horn on her head. We even heard some of the neighbors to the north of us comment about it, but didn't think anything of it.

So today our farm help Tim is over helping paint the front fence. I went to South Boston to get more paint and on the way back I pick up my mom from her hair appointment. When I drop her off at her house, which is directly across the street from my arena fence, Tim walks over to the truck and says

"You're not going to believe this."
He's right, I cannot believe it!

Evidently while Tim was painting he was approached by one of the hickabillies. The conversation went something like this:

"Hey, you know that lady has unicorns!" chromosomally deficient local male.
"Uh, well no," says Tim
"She does too, I SEEN it!"

There is no response to this from Tim, because seriously what can you say?
So now you know folks, the secret is out. Brookneal is the home base to an underground Unicorn breeding farm! We're going to have to change the name to Trinity Appaloosa and Mythical Creatures farm.
Unicorns EXIST!

But the story continues! 
Today one of my students, Estella, was riding Bijoux with the Unicorn bridle, because what 6 year old doesn't want to ride a unicorn? I'm walking around with her and Bron is riding Sox around in the opposite direction. She gets in the arena corner closest to the neighbors and this is what she hears:

"That boy I spoke to said she didn't have no unicorns, but that girl there is riding one right now"

Seriously, you cannot make this crap up! So the six year old knows that unicorns aren't real, but the middle aged nut balls across the street cannot wrap their minds around it.

It's so magical living here sometimes!!!!!!
Tracy Meisenbach
Copyright 5-5-2014
Do not repost or publish without written permission

Friday, February 27, 2015

Tracy Meisenbach: Layered Leverage

Layering Leverage

There’s an old, and highly accurate saying: When you combine ignorance and leverage, you get some pretty interesting results.

Sometimes you get a horse flipping over, sometimes you get a horse panicking and bolting off and sometimes you get a really nasty fall as a horse struggles to keep upright, but can’t because his head is leveraged down.

So let's talk about layered leverage. Leverage is the basis for all bits, even snaffles. It's based on weight, gravity and resistance. With a snaffle the leverage is 1:1. You pull at one end, with your arms/body and at the other end the same amount of weight is applied to the bit. Lean your body back to augment the pull of your hand and your horse is holding up your torso weight with his mouth. Ugly to think about, but a reality.

Curb bits have leverage because of their shape. They are simple levers. Pull one end and the bit pivots around a fulcrum and places pressure on the mouth. The force is determined by the length of the shank combined with the amount of the pull. Most curbs of standard show legal length fall under a 1:4 ratio, meaning the purchase is 1/4 of the shank length. 5 pounds on the reins translates to 20 pounds in the mouth.

Gag bits are simple pulleys, whether draw gags or curb action gags. They work off of a 1:2 ratio. Whatever pressure you put on the reins is doubled in the mouth. It's the same principle as lifting a heavy object; a pulley allows us to lift double the weight. Put five pounds on the reins of the average shanked gag and when the cannons invert the purchase to shank ratio you've got 40 pounds in the mouth because the bit increases the leverage action and rachets it harder. The curbstrap doesn't stop the cannons from moving up, it just stops the purchase from rolling forward.

Draw reins are a 1:2 ratio leverage addition. Put them on a snaffle bit and they change a 5 pound pull to a 10 pound pull. Put them on a gag action curb bit and they change a 5 pound pull to an 80 pound pull. Why? Because each layer of pulley you add reduces the amount of pressure you apply and increases the amount of force at the end of where the energy is dispersed. The force has to go somewhere and in this case it's the horse's tongue.

Does your horse deserve layered leverage? No. It’s a sign of being a poor trainer without a modicum of scientific knowledge about how bits and training equipment work. It puts you at a truly unfair advantage that the horse can only equalize by freaking out. And when that happens you both lose. I have never seen a horse made better by it, but I have seen many horse ruined by the ignorant used of layered leverage.

So don't layer leverage. You're applying more force to your horse's mouth than you think.

Tracy Meisenbach
Copyright 2-2014
Do not repost or publish without written permission

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Tracy Meisenbach: I heard it on the internet it MUST be true

I heard it on the internet it MUST be true

Anyone in the horse business knows that the internet is a blessing and a curse.

On the plus side it has allowed thousands of horsemen, who by the nature of their life are farm bound for long periods of time, to communicate with other like-minded people. No longer do we bore to death the non-horsey people in our circle of friends with photos, tales of our hairy children or missed outings because of foaling or colic. Instead we can go to any horse related forum, facebook, yahoo group or equine webpage and immediately connect with thousands of horse addicts, all eager to swap photos, anecdotes and stories of woe. It’s also how we can keep up on industry news, disease outbreaks, new styles in the show ring, veterinary and farrier advancements and all kinds of other things that we used to get only word of mouth or from talking to the vet or farrier. The internet has replaced horse magazines as the go to place for new information. It works and we love it.

We also hate it. Unfortunately the internet requires no licensing or even an aptitude test for a person to use. Anyone can log on and depending on their motives they can spread truth or lies or just be a pain in the ass in general. The internet is also forever. You may think you delete something, but there is always a cached version of it somewhere. Photos and articles get stolen and sent around all over the world. I had to deal with this on a huge scale when my copyrighted article Because My Daughter Grew Up With Horses was stolen multiple times and not only reposted, but others claimed to be the author and even changed the title of the article. Contrary to the claims and rumors it was never released into public domain, it is legally copyrighted per the US Library of Congress and no one is allowed to use it without my permission. Theft isn’t flattery, it’s theft. Along with dealing with the theft I've had to deal with the people that supported the thieves, because after all I should be HAPPY someone liked my work enough to steal it. The irony of people stealing an article that is about horses teaching children values was evidently lost on them. So while the butthurt claim I’m crazy for protecting my work and cite stupid things like “once it’s on the internet it’s free” as well as a complete lack of knowledge about International Copyright Law, I still deal with the fallout from wanting to praise my daughter and share it with a few friends. Trust me, I’ve learned my lesson, I don’t share personal poetry or items on the internet anymore.

It’s amazing how times have changed since the internet came into widespread use. When I was growing up most horse sales were local, as were breedings. Now you can buy a horse from across the world, or buy semen from a stallion clear across the country and do it with just email correspondence. It’s amazing and aggravating at the same time. Anonymity is always the factor that makes you pause before hitting reply. You know who you are, but who are they? Are they a scammer? Could be. It amazes me how many people fall for the scammer crap. Never sell a horse without cash or a check. And the horse never leaves the property until the check clears. Along with the check request a copy of a form of ID. We did this and shut a scammer down immediately. Theft by check is a legal recourse. Theft by fake money order takes a ton of work and you’re not likely to succeed. Common sense says no one that has not requested a video or come to see the horse is going to buy it. Just demand cash and you’ll always come out ahead.

I’ve been in the horse business since 1978. A long, long time before the internet even reared its ugly head. Anyone that has been around that long is bound to make friends and enemies and deal with the downright insane. I’ve made some great friends, some that I consider family now and I’ve made some enemies, due to differing views on genetic defects, abuse, drugging and cheating. I’m against all of those things and some people aren’t. I also served on the ApHC board, which is such a good old boys’ club that it actually deserves its own TV miniseries.

During all this time we have bent over backwards to keep clients happy. I usually sell horses with a buy back clause, so I can insure they don’t end up in the kill pen. And I’ve bought several back, not because something was wrong with the horse, that has never been the case, but because the person’s life had changed through divorce, job situation or some other issue. I’ve traded horses with people, and as far as I know both of us ended up happy. I’ve donated horses to colleges to help their equine programs. I buy horses to get them out of poor situations. We’ve pretty much done everything a seller/buyer can do, but we do NOT cheat people, never have. We stand by our horses and try to do the best we can for them. We don’t sell green horses to green people, we don’t sell stallions to people without the facility to keep them. We genetically test all our horses and our entire herd is clean. We won’t breed to a positive mare or stallion. I know some people do, but we don’t. It’s not worth it.

Since we also run a breeding farm we deal with the financial and emotional aspects of the horse industry. Everyone loves babies. We screen the mares we breed by pedigree and conformation. We won’t breed to mares that don’t meet our standards. People get mad when turned down, but better to deal with that than an ugly foal that can ruin your stallion’s reputation. Most people are civil and realistic. And then there was Max Peterson. Anyone that has ever googled our farm or my name has found the post by Max Peterson on the Fauna snake board. Max thought he was a big badass to be dissing me until I showed up and refuted his claims. The owner of the snake board will not remove posts, despite the fact that I refuted all of Max’s claims and he admitted that what he originally posted was incorrect. So because the owner is a douche canoe and Max is a liar and a jerk, I’m going to post the facts here, because this crap keeps coming up when people google me, thinking they have found some “oh so horrible” thing to attack me with. Due to their limited reading skills they obviously don’t read the entire post where Max shows what an idiot he is.

Max posted in 2007 that he had used one of our studs a “few years” back and then never got a refund.
Yeah, not exactly accurate there Max. The reality is that in 1996, a full ten years before Max posted his lies we bred a mare belonging to his girlfriend. Not him, his girlfriend. I met his girlfriend on a vet call to treat their other mare for a red bag foal because their pasture was full of fescue. The girlfriend had a fairly nice TB mare and she wanted to breed for an eventer. The vet suggested my stallion, Colida Flyin Star, and she came over and looked at him and booked the breeding, signing a contract that stated in the event that the mare did not produce a live foal they were allowed a REBREEDING.

Later that spring the mare arrived and we discovered she was INSANE. Like just fricking INSANE. She practically tore down my barn. But despite her behavior we got her bred and sent her home in foal. My understanding, from speaking with the girlfriend, was that they were going to dry lot the mare to keep her from the fescue. Well they didn’t. She reabsorbed, which is common on fescue pastured mares. Now the story takes a strange twist. The girlfriend discovers she is pregnant and not wanting to deal with a baby and foal she wants to know if they could breed the following year OR could she have my round pen in trade for the stud fee. WTF is she talking about? Yeah, no, on that one. I told her she could rebreed the following year. I never hear from her again. I never heard from Max Peterson. I lived a scant 6 miles from them and neither called or came by. We used the same vet, our farm had a huge sign at the curve of HWY 160 in Texas with our phone number on it. We were easy to find.

In April of 1999 we sold our farm and moved to Virginia. At no point did Max or his girlfriend contact us. I’m not holding up a move for someone to rebreed. All our other contracts were filled and obligations settled. And had they contacted me I would have worked out collection and shipping to breed their mare. Sadly in June after we moved Colida Flyin Star died. We had his younger son Colida SkipNTwist to use as the farm stallion. The next year was his first breeding year, and again had we been contacted we would have honored the breeding despite the fact it was FOUR years past the contract date. However we never heard from Max or his girlfriend again, ever. Our mail was forwarded for a year after we moved, I was still in contact with the vet we both used and she had my forwarding address, never heard a peep. By now the internet was in just about every household, even in the boonies. We have had a farm website up since 1991 and it listed all our contact information. We were one of the first Appaloosa farms to ever use a website for marketing, our farm site predated google and facebook. So if someone couldn’t find us they weren’t looking too hard. ( An example is one of my students from 1980 found me, she didn’t even know my married name, she search my horse’s name)

So Max used google and finds the memorial page for Colida Flyin Star, notes our new farm name and my married a name and in a fit of irrational stupidity posts his lies on the snake forum. Yeah, because so many horse people hang out there. No one responds, because really who cares? Then I find his post while searching my old stallion’s name. Needless to say I was furious that he so blatantly lied and waited so long after making NO attempts to contact us. I contacted him via email and he refused to remove the post or alter his comments. So I confronted him in the forum. This is where it showed the extent of his lies. He finally admits that the contract said rebreed, admits he didn’t contact us for years, and even admits that they no longer have any mares, so couldn’t use the rebreeding if he wanted to. He also completely misses that by the Texas statute of limitations he’s about 6 years past when he can claim any type of debt, had there been one. So he’s pretty much just a jerk with an ax to grind. This is the life of a bored internet idiot, just stirring up crap because he can. His post served no purpose except to pretend he had a reason, when his responses show that he had none. About the only thing his post has done is send the little internet hater groupies into a frenzy when they find it thinking they have found something to nail me with. Nope, I own right up to it and repost all the excerpts. We were not in the wrong. What the hater groupies fail to realize is that after 40 years in the business this is the ONLY bad report about our sales/breeding that can be found online. And since it’s nothing but a passel of lies it shows we have a pretty clean record and good customer satisfaction. We’re proud of our record and stand by it.

So the internet shows how people can carry grudges and behave vindictively. It’s amazing the level some people will stoop. When I was an ApHC director two members tried to spoof my identity to send out emails in my name. They were caught when one of them STUPIDLY sent a spoofed email back to me. This same person impersonated an ApHC judge and sent an email around trying to influence an ApHC arbitration matter. She was reported and had a complaint filed against her, but she’s friends with the ApHC staff and CEO so nothing happened. ( I have copies of both of these items) When you work as a director to stop drugging, abuse, genetic defects you piss off the cheats and they spend a lot of time denouncing you, because your moral stance is cutting into their wallet. Another case was a facebook bully named Leslie Sawyer. She got incensed because I refuted her statements about a bit and spent the next several posts calling me the C word. She claims to be an amateur exhibitor, but evidently also judges. Yeah that doesn’t mesh. So after I retired from the ApHC BOD she made a post about how I was kicked off,instead of retired. I didn't even run again. It was an easily refutable lie, a simple call to the ApHC would verify it, but it spread amongst her bully buddies and now I have to refute it to the idiots that are too stupid or lazy to pick up the phone and verify the crap she spread. Leslie finally blocked me when I called her out for her lies on a page she didn’t control, but continues to spread her crap. One day karma will catch up with her.

I read a lot of forums and see a lot of claims about people and unless it’s an outright abuse case ( Cleve Wells, Shirley Roth) I take it with a grain of salt. Because I’ve had the rumor mongering done to me, and I know that the liars and cheats will put way more effort into going after a person than most people will put into defending themselves. You just don’t have the time or energy to devote to the idiots

So for the record, I’m anti-horse drugging, anti -genetic defects, anti-abuse, anti-cheating, anti-bullshit.I also hate nasty bits and the idiots that use them, this sets off a lot of the buckle bunny crowd.
Anyone that knows me knows that these are my positions and I will stand by them no matter what. If a person dissing me is guilty of any of the above, well then we all know what their beef with me is about. So disregard the venom and the lack of ethics from a person that would do any of those things.

So if you’re on a forum, facebook page, yahoo group etc and see a person being dissed, look at the person doing the dissing first. If they are proponents of any of the above, then they are the problem, not the person they are going after. When a person that stands two stallions with genetic defects rushes to bad mouth someone that is against breeding defects forward, well you know who the problem is. When someone that uses abusive bits starts calling a person that explains how the bits works crazy, stupid and insane, well sounds like some crap trainer has an issue with the reality of bit dynamics and how they affect the horse. ANYONE defending a person that drugs or abuses horses is an asshole, I do not care how much the person has won, what the circumstances were, or why it happened. Defending a big name trainer for illegal practices means that you have NO morals and neither of you should be in horses. And anyone defending someone that steals, alters or copies someone’s written works without proper attribution and permission for use is as bad as the thief. Show some respect and human decency and stand up for what is right instead of just siding with a friend that screwed up.

If you are one of the people spreading lies and crap it will come back and bite you in the ass, because the truth will always come out. I got accused of sellng defective kittens by some ignorant gal on a forum. I've never sold a cat in my life, never bred cats and the last kitten born on my farm was 23 years ago in Texas when we rescued an abandoned momma. So now she looks like a complete fool for not checking her sources and making sure of the facts. In fact her stupidity got turned into a hilarious meme that people post when she starts to wind up about stuff. It's a reminder of how stupid people can be.

Just because something is on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. Do your due diligence and research before buying the hype and lies. And don't follow the pack mentatlity about any sport, person, breed, trainer or tack. You owe it to yourself and your horses to be honest in all your endeavors.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Tracy Meisenbach: Shank shape and action

Shank shape and action

When people look at a curb bit most of the time the first thing to make an impression is the mouth piece, then the shank length. Now, with the influx of specialty bits and disciplines that require a horse to be more upright and slowed down into artificial movement, shanks have developed that no longer work like a standard shank.
The original concept of a curb bit was a simple lever, or pry bar style. You lifted one end up, the mouthpiece was the fulcrum, and the purchase rotated forward. The length of the lever arm determined the leverage. With the mouthpiece as the fulcrum the movement was fluid and directional toward the line of leverage. You could trace it from the top of the poll, through the purchase, mouthpiece, rein ring, up the reins to the hand. There was no loss of energy or force because it’s a direct line.

A pry bar action curb is not dictated by the shape of the shank. As long as the purchase is directly over the cannons and the lower shanks also lines up below the cannons then it doesn’t matter where the shank goes, because the mouthpiece remains the fulcrum. This is why the action of a kimberwicke, grazing bit, straight shank or cavalry shank is basically the same. Pull the rein, the bit rotates, mouth, poll and curb pressure. Of course severity is affected by the length of the shank and the type of mouthpiece, but the action remains the same.

Unfortunately newer shank styles are favoring the crowbar style of shank, which creates an entirely new action, that is higher leverage and much more severe. It’s not just a decorative shank style, it actually changes the dynamics of the bit. The lifter style of bits have crowbar action. Whether long shanked or short shanked they work the same way. With a crowbar style bit the purchase becomes the fulcrum and the mouthpiece is the dropped part of the lever. This increases force tremendously. It’s the difference between trying to pull a nail with a straight bar or with a crowbar. We all know which is better.

Lifter action occurs when the shank of the bit comes in at the cannons or above the cannons. This changes the action. A lifter bit generally has a higher purchase and the shank is curved in such a manner that it drops down into the cannons. The bit hangs down and as the reins are pulled the rotation occurs at the purchase first, then the cannons dig back and slightly up into the mouth. As pressure increases the cannons push into the tongue even harder and move higher in the mouth. It doesn’t matter how tight or loose the curb strap is, this is the action. We tested it with one finger, two fingers and three fingers between the jaw and curbstrap and even though the shank was tethered it did not decrease the action in the mouth, in fact the standard curb length of two fingers created the worst action as it allowed the bit to dig in and wad up the tongue and push it back in the mouth. If the bit has a jointed mouthpiece the pinching action is going to be extreme. The high pressure created, even with a minimal amount of pull, punishes the tongue and down onto the bars. 

On a standard curb you take the height of the purchase, divide it into the total shank length to get your purchase to shank ratio  and then you can calculate the amount of pressure the bit will create in the mouth.  The standard curb bit has a 1½" cheek and a 4½" lower shank, thus producing a 1:3 ratio of cheek to lower shank, a 1:4 ratio of cheek to full shank, thus producing 3 lbs of pressure on the chin groove and 4 lbs of pressure on the horse's mouth for every 1 lb placed on the reins. With a lifter bit you calculate differently. The measuring doesn’t stop at the purchase, it stops at the drop to the mouthpiece. So you go up the shank to the top of the purchase and back down to the drop where the cannons are. You calculate in the purchase measurement and then the entire shank to the drop becomes the total shank measurement. So a lift bit may look like a 7 inch long shank from purchase to rein ring, but when you add in the drop it becomes a 10 inch bit that has that amount of leverage. You use the same principal for measuring how much leverage a crowbar can produce, except instead of pulling up a nail, you’re driving the mouthpiece back into the tongue.

1) Kimberwicke, low port, short shank, low leverage curb
2) Grazing bit, low port, swept shank, medium leverage curb
3) Standard curb shank, high port with barrel roller, high leverage curb
4) Cavalry shank, medium port with tongue relief, long shank, high leverage curb
5) Demi-Lifter, ported chain, long shank, high leverage curb
6) Turbo Lifter, correction port, short shank, medium leverage curb
7) Paso Lifter, medium port with barrel roller, long shank, high leverage curb
8) DM Turbo Lifter, medium port, long shank, high leverage curb.

We also shot an impromptu video to show the action of the lifter bit
Turbo Lifter bit comparison

Analysis; Don't use it.

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