Whats Inside Your Jointed Stirrups? Do They Expire? Should I Replace Mine? Plus a Few, Fun Stories.

Most of us have had jointed stirrups somewhere along the way, you know, the ones with the rubber on the sides.  About 12 -15 years ago they first hit the scene and they were the “it” stirrups to have, much like the composite ones that came on about 5-10 years ago and the FreeJump stirrups I wrote about that hit in a similar time frame.  “I remember those, I think I still have them, somewhere in the abyss of my tack locker under some 3 year old dirty leg wraps from when Fluffy had that cut.”  Gross, clean out your tack locker.  “I ain’t got no time for that.”  So this gets a bit long but I promise it ends with “wild” college story.

Anyhow, I decided I was going to “destruct” a pair of mine that are about 10 years old, maybe more.  I paid about $40 for them so it wasn’t a huge hit to the bank and I was no longer using them anyhow.  Well, I got my scissors out and was all ready to start hacking away at that rubber when I realized that it was rather easy to slide the rubber up so I could look underneath.  Those of you who know me, this possibly saved me hundreds of dollars in stitches when I cut myself with those damned scissors while trying to hack at that rubber.  Sooo, on my frugal side, this was a win!  “Yeah you are a total clutz, let’s not even get started on that incident with the hedge trimmers, that was enough to make a person puke.”  Hey, everyone was saying, don’t be like so and so and cut the cord, so I didn’t.  “Yeah you cut your finger instead.”  What’s a little finger meat among friends.  Anyhow, back to stirrups.

So as you can see, the rubber on these stirrups is cracked.  So does that mean they will break on me?”  No, because if you look at the picture below, you will see that there is a sturdy metal linkage, although it is possible to break, it is not very likely.  As you can see these only joint in one direction.  “So do all jointed stirrups look like that?”  Actually no.



I got curious and went out to check the other pair of stirrups I have.  The rubber sleeve was much more difficult to “slide” but I did get it moved.  These are touted as 6 way jointed stirrups, as you can see from the pictures, it can fold like the other pair but can also do side to side movement.

“So what happens if the rubber falls off the sides?”  Great question, well the rubber helps control the movement, so if you lose the rubber, the stirrups become very loose and unstable.  The good thing about this is that the odd of this happening in the middle of your cross rails class with Fluffy pony or even in a grand prix with his pasture mate Stinky, you are unlikely to have the rubber just fall off without warning.  “Rude, don’t you know that Fluffy is doing verticals now.  Good thing about Stinky too cus he’s gonna win that Grand Prix.”

I did retire the cracked pair of stirrups, they have done their time and taken their abuse.  “Free Willy!  I mean Free Stirrups!!!”  Wow, a rather obscure movie from the 90s?  “That’s how I roll.”  So at the end of the day, if you want a pair of stirrups that will last, For-Ev-Er, For-Ev-Er, get your plain old fillis stirrups.  “And you were giving me flack for 90’s movies references?”  Whatever, Sandlot is a classic, everyone knows that.  “You’re killing me Smalls.”  Anyhow, as the rubber starts to rot, fall apart, or be rubbed thin by something, these guys should be replaced as they will lose stability.

Time to get personal, as promised, my “wild” college story.  Ok so I did some wild stuff in college but I was not super wild.  “More like super mild.”  Anywho, my senior design project was to create a sight thingy for guns, you look through a piece of glass on top of the gun and it puts a red dot on whatever you are trying to shoot.  “Kind of like those movies where you see a red dot on the guy’s head before he gets shot?”  Almost, only the person holding the gun can see the red dot.  So we got this huge chunk of titanium from the person we were building this for, it was an odd shape but if it had been made of steel it probably would have weighed about 20-30 lbs. but it weighed next to nothing.  I could easily toss it around.  So if you have 2 blocks of metal, one steel and one titanium and they are exactly the same size, the titanium weighs about half what the steel does.  Sadly, we did not have the equipment to work with the titanium so we had to use aluminum.  “So where is this wild story?”  Well that was it.  “Seriously?  You are so lame.”

I know, I know buuut, I was wondering, why don’t we have titanium stirrups, they are as strong, or stronger than stainless steel with half the weight.  Not as light as the plastic stirrups but less likely to break.  For the record, I do not trust plastic stirrups, plastic does not handle shock loads or fatigue well.  This is just my engineering point of view, I don’t own them but if I did, I would probably swap them out every year or 2 if I did, just for safety reasons.  So back to my gazillion dollar idea of titanium stirrups, I was all ready to patent it when I realized, they already exist, sort of.  An Italian company named Lorenzini has dressage and jumping “Titanium and Aluminum” stirrups.  There is not a lot of info out on them so I will be interested to get my hands on a pair but am not ready to jump out and spend $230+ on them.  Anyone have them?

Ok real college story, one night we were hanging out in a friends driveway, eating burgers and hanging out, like college students in Lubbock do, because there aint much to do in Lubbock.  Anyhow, I grabbed a burger patty and was about to eat it when someone slapped it out of my hand, it hit the driveway, I totally picked it up and ate it.  5 second rule, amiright?  “OMG you are sooo Lame.”  Ok I did a kegstand once?  Oddly enough some of my more paltry nights were post college.  Including being very full of beverages, going ice skating, and busting my eyebrow open.  I had no idea I had blood running down my face.  The oil field was a bit more wild and woolly in the past.  And yes, that is a hot pink hard hat and a tape measure hooked on my belt.  I was awesome.

No More Clipping and No More Mares “Under Lights” for Breeding All in One Mask

Welcome to another Fresh Tech Friday!  Do you have that wooly bear winter horse?  What if I told you there is a mask out there that would keep your horse in his summer coat all year long?  If you haven’t read the post about fly masks, check it out here, if you have a Houdini or Truman, then this may not be for you!  For my breeding friends, this same mask can help you get that “January Foal” everyone wants, without the stall and lights.

“So I can put a “fly mask” on my horse and I don’t have to clip in the spring, why don’t I just put a regular fly mask on them then, I have like 3 in the barn.”  So this isn’t actually a fly mask, allow me to introduce the Equilume, it looks more like the masks used on race horses with the eyes cut out except one eye has a plastic “bubble” on it that has a blue light.  See horse with space cadet mask picture.  “Blue lights?  Is blue light the new black light, are my horses going to be having some sort of party out in the pasture?  I’m a light sleeper, I can’t deal with loud music and frat parties all night.”  Nope, the blue light simulates the light from the sun that is needed to mimic “summer”.  Toga toga toga!  Just kidding, no parties or loud music needed, and no more black out curtains to block the sun also known as your barn.  It is a bit spendy at $400 a mask and so far it’s not rechargeable, the battery lasts 5 months.  You may be able to get a replacement through the company though.  As an added bonus, the website tells you when to put it on your breeding mare, and helps you calculate when to put it on for summer coat applications.

Everyone in the horse show world knows, come about November, most horses and ponies have morphed from a lovely horse to something that resembles a Wooly Mammoth, or one of those adorable fluffy Scottish highland cows.  “Look at that thing, it is soooooo cute, I need 2 or 3, for… um…reasons.”  The Equilume can take your fuzz bucket and make him sleek and shiny in 6 weeks.  Make sure you still blanket like you would for your clipped horse or he will get cold but no more hot clippers, hair in places you don’t want to mention, or annoyed horses stomping on your foot.  Put the mask on him and send him out at night with his buddies.

Let’s talk horse racing January first every year is considered the birthday for Thoroughbreds.  So lets say your horse who was born January 2nd and my horse Born December 2nd both race in the Kentucky Derby, your horse will be 3 years and a 4 months per the calendar, my horse will be 2 years and 5 months, they are both considered 3 per horse racing standards.  And older horse may have the advantage, more time to grow, more mature, more time to be ridden and worked with.  So when you cruise past most breeding facilities in the winter, these horses are all “under lights”.  This helps time the reproductive cycles in mares to obtain that most treasured “January foal”.  This is big with Quarter Horse Futurity and  racing(yes they race and they are faster than your TB but only a short distance).  With the Equilume, you can leave your mares out 24/7 reducing stress.  They also tout larger babies, and shorter gestation.

I do want to see a pasture full of these at night though.  I wonder how many UFO sightings will be called in!

Well, it’s Memorial day weekend, I plan on riding on Monday, so I wont be back until Tuesday but I have a lot in store for next week, I plan to finally discuss the difference between Steel, Aluminum and Galvanneal for those with trailers or thinking about getting one.  I am also planning on destructing an old pair of jointed stirrups, just for fun.  If you are missing me terribly, feel free to dig through my other posts look to the right and at the bottom.  Here is the first Fresh Tech Friday and the second for you to get you started.

June, 2 2017 Update:  Apparently the whole unit is only good for 1 year and then its $400 for a new one for the next year.  At those prices it’s not really marketable for keeping a short coat because at those prices you could buy a new set of clippers and pay someone to clip the horse for you.  One other reader said they had used it on a mare that tended to breed late in the season and got a Feburary breeding and saved the electricity costs and the vet costs for checks and rechecks for follicle growth.

A Review of 3 Fly Masks, and Why My Mini Donkey Loves His “Alien Space Mask”

Today I submit to you a Tale of Two Fly Masks.  Just kidding its 3 fly masks really, I did not get to do the destructing on these, I used the “test ponies” at the house.  “Only 3 fly masks, don’t you have 4 horses and a mini donkey? If I remember 8th grade word problems correctly, either your cart is full of 37 carrots or you are short 2 masks.”  Go the second answer.  Well ok 3 fly mask “brands”, and before you go on a rant about how there are a gazillion brands out there, why only 3, let me explain.  My “test ponies” are out 24/7 x365, basically all the time.  Those super soft ones will last minutes, especially when they rub them on the wood fence, which I see them do all the time.  “So Ms. Smartypants Engineer, which ones did you chose?”  I chose the more well known ones with good reviews: Cashel Crusader fly masks, Smartpak’s fly mask and Farnam’s Super Mask II (Do they still make Super Mask I?).  Since this is a shorter post, if you want to read some more random stuff check out my post on horsepower.

So lets start with the Farnam Super Mask, this was like the first one out there, I remember getting these for my first mare almost 20 years ago.  These are super sturdy, and come in fun colors, including animal print fleece and you can get them with ears or without.  They also come in teeny sizes for foals or in my case mini donkeys.  They are tried and true, last through the summer and can sometimes be used another summer.  The cons, if you have a sensitive horse, aka Emma, it can rub their face raw, despite the fleece, after about a week, she had raw spots on her cheek bones.  These are extremely frugal costing $15-$20.

So this year, I decided to try Smartpak’s fly mask, they were on sale (about $15) so why not, they come with ears and are fairly affordable.  When I pulled them out of the box I freaked, they looked huge, there was no way they would fit.  “Smartpak has that ‘returns for free’ thing, just send them back.”  Well super smart me got them embroidered with their names.  Anyhow, they did fit, quite well actually!  However, they have sad ears, see the picture of Emma.  Also, in 3 days, Truman had split one ear completely open and within a week, he had yanked it off.  Then he absolutely refused to allow me to put it back on him, like trotted AWAY from his dinner (he is a fat QH and the only time I see him run is to his bucket at meal time, so you can imagine my shock).  So Truman gets a new Super Mask because those are the only ones he cant seem to destroy.  They do have limited sizes, sorry Buddy but your ears wouldn’t have fit anyhow.



Last but not least Cashel, these are sturdy, they have a forelock hole, and offer lots of options:  with ears, without ears, regular length, long length, they even recently released and economy version.  Big Momma Pearl, yes that’s what I call her, gets the full complement every year, long with ears.  Our first summer together, this girl was a hot mess, sunburned nose, bug bites in her ears which she promptly rubbed raw, and she is prone to melanomas.  Halfway through the summer I bought her a “full mask” and we have had a very happy pony since.  The fastening under the jaw is double Velcro and is attached to an elastic segment so they don’t rub sores on sensitive faces.  They even seem to last 2-3 summers depending on your horse.  “Wow, these seem great, Fluffy pony needs one.”  Well there are a few issues.  First, they are huge, Emma and Lily wear Arab/small horse size and could possibly go smaller.  Big Momma Pearl who wears an oversize bridle wears “horse” size, so does Truman.  Also, Houdini Truman can get his off in less than a week and his first one he destroyed in 3 days, beyond repair style.  That elastic stretches over the summer so the arab ones start fitting Truman and I have to fold the Velcro over to get them tight enough on the girls.  “Duh, it’s elastic, it’s supposed to stretch.”  Also, although they now have some with color (which they charge more for), they are usually all grey.  These are also some of the more expensive fly masks out there $20-$30.  I think I will try the economy ones for the “twins” for next summer they run about $16.

The point to take home is, each horse is different, there seems to be no perfect fly mask for them all, so just because “Fluffy Pony” ripped his first one to bits, doesn’t mean he will do the same with the next, good luck figuring it out though.  “Gee, thanks a lot, I only spent $100 in fly masks this summer.”

On a side note, Lots of people are surprised when I tell them that Buddy wears a fly mask.  Partly because most people’s mini donkey’s are quite wild and partly because they just flat out refuse to wear “alien space masks”.  Well, Buddy loves his, he has had both Cashel and Supermask although he seems to like the Cashel best.  He does get runny eyes in the summer and the flies bug him so about a month ago I put last year’s Cashel on him and it has been on since.  The first summer it was a bit of a fight to put it on the first time but in the end he loved it.  As a side note, he is mostly halter broke and very gentle.  Here he is with his BFF Emma (chickens for scale), for reference she is 15:3 hands he is roughly 36” at the shoulder.

I Just Saved Hundreds on My Helmet Purchase! Plus the Safest Helmet You can Buy.

Which helmet is safer, a $36 white plastic IRH or a $1000 Samshield Shadow Mat Crystal Fabric Top Helmet?  “The Samshield, duh, why else would they charge $1000 for it?”  Those of you who caught my Facebook Helmet Post would know this is a trick question.  They are both ASTM/SEI F1163-15 approved, they are both pass the same standards, they are both very safe.  This post is lengthy but I promise I will give you the “safest” helmet on the market and a frugal tip below.

“Wait Frugal? Horses and frugal don’t belong in the same sentence.”  Well if you read my post on, Smartpak Hacks To Save You $$$ or Frugal and Horses? there are ways to save.  Onward and helmetward my friends.

“But the Samshield is so sparkly.  Fine, what about the Samshield XC Helmet, it says it has passed even European standards, that’s better right?”  So if you look up the Samshield XC Helmet, it says it meets:

  1. PAS015 (International Competition Standards),
  2. CE EN1384 (European),
  3. BS EN1384:2012 (United Kingdom) and
  4. SEI/ASTM F1163-15 (United States).

 A bit odd looking…

At first glance this is clearly the safest choice, look at all those standards and tests they have done!  So first of all if we look at the CE and BS ones, the number is the same.  “What’s up with this Bullsh*t standard anyhow.”  Well the requirements are the same, just one was tested in the UK (British Standard, not BullSh*t) and the other in Europe.  The rules are the same, but one helmet may pass one and not the other so having both is best, especially if you are going to travel between the 2 places.

“So then is that the best?  International Competition Standards sounds super important, I probably need that the most right?”  Well actually the PAS015 and ASTM/SEI are about on the same level, and yes they are both a bit more stringent than the EN1384.  “I got my eagle ready, ‘Murica is the best!”  There is a difference, ASTM does not include crush or pierce ratings (Im going off an older version the 2015 version may have updated that).  So don’t gallop head first into rebar and then have a truck roll over you!  “That would totally mess up my hair so I am not down with that anyhow.  OMG is that you wearing velveteen?”  Yep that was my first helmet ever, bought when I was 11.

“So then sounds like PAS015 is the best, lemme grab one of them.”  Actually, SNELL is the best.  “Smell? Smell what?  The Texas helmet funk I get every summer?  No SNELL E001 rating is the highest.  This rating is usually used for motorcycle helmets.  “Fluffy Pony could definitely do 90mph down the highway if he wanted to.”  Fluffy Pony aside, some QH race horses have been tracked at over 50mph, that’s a speedy pony.

“I gotta get a SNELL helmet.  A Snelmet?”  Well, the only one I could readily find in the US is the Charles Owen 4Star Helmet.  It has all the certs above plus its Kitemarked (UK version of our SEI).  It passes all the tests and for about $260, it can be yours.  Look, I found you the safest helmet on the interwebs for ¼th the price of that $1000 Samshield.

“Um, I’m a hunter, ain’t nobody gonna be ok with me cruising into the ring in a skull cap.”  This is a fair point, and really if that helmet doesn’t fit well and look good, you aren’t going to wear it, making it completely useless.  Unless you plan on doing Rolex and Badminton next year, you will do just fine with your ASTM/SEI approved helmet, no Snelmet needed.  “My trainer said that Fluffy could totally do Rolex next year, I just have to make it around a crossrails course without falling off first.”  I thought you just said you were a hunter…  “You don’t know me!”

Safety point:  If you fall and your helmet hits the ground, replace it!  “It looks just fine to me, plus Fluffy was only going around the arena at like75mph, not 90mph, its cool.”  What you don’t see is that when you hit your head, the foam inside compresses, instead of your skull or brain.  The next time you fall, it won’t absorb the impact like its supposed to, thus your skull or your brain takes the hit.  “I only fell off at the walk though, its fine.”  The worst concussion I ever got in my life was falling off my bike going about 3mph (about the speed of a walk), I hit concrete.  “Yeah well you weren’t wearing a helmet, so you were stupid.”  You are right, but the point is, even the most benign fall can cause a lot of damage.

This was from when Lily slipped at a slow canter and fell on her side, no one was hurt, she was shaken but that was the worst.  It was a fairly gentle fall but I remember hearing my helmet make a loudish noise when I hit.  I didn’t realize at the time that it had cracked so badly, the crack was at least 4″ long.  Yes, I spent the $36 to replace it on Amazon Prime so I had it in 2 days!  Get yours here.*



For us “seasoned” riders:  Don’t be fooled, that 15 year old helmet is trash.  “What?  I love this thing, it’s the best, clearly you just don’t understand what we have been through, that fall in 94, the trip in 01, and those years in Desert Storm.”  That helmet did not go to Desert Storm.  “Sorry, I meant Dessert Storm, great sweets were had by all.”  Well all that sticky from Dessert Storm, or the sweat from that show in July almost 13 years ago have taken a toll on that foam.  It is no longer going to do its job, set it free, retire it to greener pastures.  Yes, that treasure is velvet…  The velveteen one seen above was retired about 10 years ago so it got about 13 years of abuse, cringe.

Frugal Hack:  If you fall off a lot or are not showing, get the $36 helmet, then it won’t hurt so much when you throw it away.  I have a $36 white venty helmet for home rides (tacky I know but hey its Houston, it gets HOT) and a $250 helmet for shows.  Look at that seksi helmet action!

Disclaimer:  I have no affiliation with any company that makes these helmets.  I am not a professional helmet tester, I do not have the latest ASTM/SEI, SNELL, EN1384, or PAS standards, some may have changed, and this does not provide any guarantee or warranty on a particular helmet.  Please verify all information before making a purchase.  This post is intended to give a broad overview.  At the end of the day, a helmet left in the tackroom can’t protect anything.  Every ride, every time!

7/1/17 Update:  I have seen questions about “How do I know if the helmet fits?”  Well I have always been taught to shake your head up and down, like you are saying “Yes” a bunch, the helmet shouldn’t move.  Now with the different helmet shapes out there, I think we should add shaking you head “no” as well, again the helmet shouldn’t move.  You can also go to a local tack store and they should be able to help you with fit or you can call the manufacturer, they will always be glad to help.  If it pinches or gives you a “helmet headache” then it doesn’t fit, it may take you a few tries so make sure if you order online, you can return it.

*If you purchase through the link I do get a small percentage to help cover blog costs.

Another Bit on Bits

So this is a copy over from the FB page with an added note at the bottom about why you shouldn’t trade your jumper in for a hippo.

More Bits? Yup but this is the last one for a bit… ugh terrible pun. Read the last post here A Bit on Bits Part 1.

Today’s subject, elevators, do they go up, or do they go down. If its moving day, they don’t work at all, every damn time. Wait, not those elevators, the kind you put in your horse’s mouth.

I looked at the old kind, as seen in the picture with the 5″ shank on the top and bottom of the mouth piece. Nothing says leverage like 10″ long pieces of metal. So here is what I found. No surprise, but it doesn’t do much for pulling the jaw to the chest, you wont find any help with this bit. However, if you want to put some pressure on the horse’s poll, this is your friend. “Duh, engineer, I don’t need a fancy shmancy degree to tell you that.” Fine then, lets talk numbers. Remember last week when we discussed angles? Well for your low rolling hunter when you give this bit a tug with 10lbs. of pull, its the same as you putting 7lbs. on his poll. “Well that doesnt sound too bad.”

Remember, the poll is a pressure point, think back to the years on the playground in elementary school, when little Tommy was going around pushing down on that spot where your neck and shoulder meet. Remember how everyone was dropping to the ground? So what about that dressage horse, well interestingly enough, at the mouthpiece of the bit itself it provides 7lbs. of lift and 12lbs. of poll pressure. That jumper with his head straight up gets 14lbs. of poll pressure (put your head down my friend). So does my low headed hunter get uplift, actually no, he gets a downward pull which if his nose is poked a bit, this will pull it in by putting pressure on the bottom jaw, possibly making him curl under, in this situation a gag would probably be better, if you are trying to get him to “Elevate”. Going Up! Enough of these bits, next week we can discuss why its a bad idea to replace your jumping horse with a hippo. “But they are soooooo cute.”


So to answer the question as to why you don’t want to replace your jumper with a hippo;  Hippos actually can’t jump!  Not even a little log, so despite the fact that “I want a hippopatumus for Christmas, only a hippopotamus will doooo” (oh god the singing again)  I will keep my insane TB jumper mare instead.  And Random Fact Monday, “Hippo sweat” is red!  FYI Hippo Sweat is actually an oily substance that acts as sunscreen and the part that turns it red is an acid that kills bacteria on the surface of their skin.  So enjoy these random hippo facts as we all suffer through Monday together.

Fitbit for Fluffy Pony?

Everyone has some form of activity tracker these days, I even have one, mostly to track how much Mini Equestrian keeps me up at night.  But what about my horses?  Are they getting 8000 steps a day?  Not going to lie, I have days were I don’t hit that goal, not proud, just honest.   “Good for you?  AKA, who cares?”  Fair point, but what about Fluffy Pony?  I want to know if I actually trotted those 15 minutes like we discussed in the stirrup post.  “You could look at your watch, duh”  What fun is that when I can have an app tell me exactly how long I was working at each gait?  Helloooo, I am an engineer, I love tech stuff and gadgets!


Lets start with Equisense, I found out about this one 2 years ago, I wanted one bad, they were still in the “Kickstarter” phase.  It looks like you can actually purchase their sensor now.  How does it work?  Well it comes with a fancy leather girth attachment and a plastic module (like the bit part of your fitbit).  The plastic module fits into the girth attachment.  

It has a fancy app that will tell you symetry of your bending, time spent at each gait, elevation of each stride, cadence, number of jumps, and work intensity.

“Ooo pretty colors and fancy app.”  Yep, its pretty slick, but it comes with a price of €329.17 about $370 USD for the leather girth attachment, motion sensing unit, and charging cable.

Another one that is recent to the scene is Seaver, they are still in the funding phase.


They offer a neoprene girth sleeve and a girth with the unit sewn in.  It seems to have similar functionality as the equisense but it will tell you height and width on your jumps so that may be more helpful for those that do jump.

Although none have been shipped yet as far as I know so some of the functionality is subject to change.  “Now is when you tell me how affordable this one is because Fluffy Pony probably needs one but my sweet gold Daewoo needs new tires too.”  Well if you want the fancy girth $579 USD but the sleeve is $299.  Fair warning, its still in the funding phase so its not in stock and there is no telling when you will get it or if you will get it.

The good news about there being 2 of these is that it will create competition and hopefully bring the price down to something a little more affordable.

Stirrup? Stirrdown… Are Free Jump Stirrups Worth The Money?

Well its happened again, another Free Jump stirrup broken in a competition.  “Another one?” Yep, the first one seen in this video… See link at the bottom, a note from Freejump in response to this event.

Here is the article on the second one.  I do hit the high points below if you don’t want to read it.

Eventer forced to abandon round after Freejump stirrup breaks

That stirrup in the video was a 2012 version, the latest report was from someone who had theirs 3 years and said they hardly used them unlike the pro in the video.  If you read my FB post from a couple of weeks ago (I crammed it in below if you want some extra credit reading), I discuss the possibility that the company didn’t take into account “shock loading”  Think of the impact of landing off a 5’ jump, slama-lama ding dong!  See that fancy red circle on the picture below, yep I added that, with my super fancy Microsoft Paint skills.  Anyhow that circle is where the stirrups are breaking.

So, after reading this new article, it looks like the company took into account “fatigue” (man I am sooo tired), but little was discussed about a shock load.  So I did some digging.  “Like with a shovel or with a back hoe?”  More like with google.  If you go to the company’s website they have this cool video that shows you all about their product.  Its in French so there are subtitles.  “Wait, lemme get my reading glasses.”  Also, I would like to apologize for the picture quality, all 4 pixels in the pictures were lovingly captured as screen shots from the video.

From their video, the picture below says 800N over 1 million stress cycles.  “What is an N?” So, N stands for newton it’s a measure of force, (yes these are metric units).  Well the equation for force is mass times acceleration. “OMG, equations? SERIOUSLY?  What do I look like, an engineer?”  Well, lets look at it this way, say you are crusing down the road in your pimpin gold Daewoo, you are doing 20mph, you are texting Fluffy telling him he is the best pony in the world and boom, you hit a brick wall.  “That brick wall jumped out of NOWHERE!”  Man, you dented your bumper, that sucks.  “No joke, I don’t want to spend money on a new gold Daewoo bumper.” Well, say you are going 80mph and you hit that same wall, different ball game.  The pimpin Daewoo looks like a tin can and they had to cut you out of your sweet ride.  “Bye bye Daewoo, RIP my friend!”  After mathing it some if your Daewoo weighs 2000lbs then at 20mph you would hit the wall with about 8000N (yep there are those Newtons again) and at 80mph 32,400N!  So its all about the speed.

“1 million is a lot though!  I doubt my 20 year old stirrups have seen that kind of abuse.”  Well, let’s look at that 1 million number.  So I have 2 girls that I ride about 3 times a week.  Lets say I trot for 15 minutes on each of them.  Since Emma is the nut job, I can assume I post once every second, Lily is more chill so I post once every 2 seconds.  Bust out your 5th grade math, do some averaging, that’s 45 posts a minute.  So there I am posting 30 minutes total between the two of them 3 times a week all year long.  It will take me just under 5 years to get to 1 million cycles.  If you are a pro, putting in 30 rides a week trotting 15 minutes each, you will hit a million cycles in less than a year!

“Man, maybe I should go check on those 20 year old stirrups I have in the barn.”  Well I did a few calculations.  Assuming I am 125lbs, and I post 3” out of the saddle, or I jump 5’ and the stirrup flexes ¼” each time I post or jump, a post causes 830N (Well, that’s over their 800N) and a 5’ jump causes 3710N!!!!  That is waaay over.  Now I don’t own these so maybe its only 1/16” deflection, but that makes it 3300N for a trot and 14,860N for a 5’ jump!  I can very easily see how these stirrups would be overloaded very quickly.  Use caution my friends!

Posted by JumpingSquad on Saturday, March 25, 2017

Disclaimer as always:  I dont work for FreeJump or their competitors, I don’t own a pair of these.  I do think they are on the right track to bring stirrups into the 21st century, I’m just not sure they have their ducks in a row.  It is good to see they are responding and trying to improve.  If you do have a pair and they break on you, do the company a favor, let them know and send them back.  They can learn a lot from seeing a broken product.

A Bit on Bits part 1

If you are a Facebook Follower, this is a repost from Facebook, from back in the day before I had a sweet sweet website.

Son of a Bit! Well after doing a little investigating and a few calculations, this bit thing is becoming a big thing. So to start, I looked at a tom thumb pelham vs a regular pelham with mullen mouth and a tight curb chain. This counts for your weymouth or any other shanked bit with the rein only on the lower ring, yeah I know, 2 reins or converters, or die! But the lower rein is the one that delivers the “leverage”.

So first of all lets talk angles, not angels, no wings or miracles here. If you look at a dressage horse and rider (you hunters fit here as well), the reins are about 30-45 degrees from the horizontal, if you look at a jumper where the head is higher, then you have more like 0-30 degrees. For the dressage horse, if you pull back with lets say 10lbs of force, more than a half halt but not flossing, then that would create about 8lbs of force toward their chest and about 5lbs of force upward, for the jumper almost all 10lbs go straight back.

Now that we have discussed that, what about the damn bit? Well, so as one person suggested, it adds 10 times the force, well of course this is not true but maybe they were trying to keep you from being handsy like a prom king in June. Thus, lets look at that 10lbs of “whoa damnit”. With a tom thumb there is about 2.5″ of shank below the mouthpiece, so if we have a lovely hunter there would be about 7lbs of force pulling his face toward his chest if the pull was on a regular bit, with tom thumb pelham, he will feel approximately 12lbs of force pulling toward his chest. If you have a huge pelham then you may have up to 5″ of shank below the mouthpiece, that means he will feel 23lbs. of force pulling his face toward his chest. As you can see this can quickly turn a 1-2lb half halt into a serious whoa. For a jumper, with his head up, that 5″ shank could deliver a whopping 33lb pull, that wont be toward his chest though, that would be toward your face! *disclaimer: abuse is in the hands of the rein holder any bit can become abusive in the wrong hands, these numbers are not exact, they are merely to show the magnitude based on calculations and aforementioned assumptions.

Next I will look into loose/no curb chain, but I am done doing real engineering for this week. Do not attempt to test bits on yourself or others during or after Margaritas, or any drinking for that matter, this is how you lose teeth and friends.

Here is a link to Part 2 if you would like to read that.

Smartpak Hacks to Save You $$$

A lot of barns are requiring Smartpaks these days, I can’t blame them, they are a huge time and hassle saver.  If you are the thrifty sort, like I am, the cost can be a bit more than you are comfortable with.  “What are you going to do though?”  Don’t get me wrong, I love Smartpak, I am an avid Smartpaker, but here are a few hacks to help lighten the financial impact.

“Hold the phones, you are an engineer, not a financial adviser.”  Very true, but in my nature as an engineer I am rather frugal (not all of us are but a good contingent.)  I am all about saving a few bucks so I can show more!

Gimme that 5% off! “Wat?” Well first thing, out of the box, if you are a member of some kind of equine club, group, association, Smartpak gives 5% off to members of some of these groups.  Check and see if yours is there, most of the big ones are including western ones.  If you create an account, it will save it for you and show you the discounted prices while you are shopping.  “Well I looked and the Fluffy Pony Fan Club isn’t listed.”  Well that’s a bummer but there are still savings that can be had.

Lets talk Smartperks.  “Smartwats?”  Perks, we all love perks, and they are pretty good ones if you like Smartpak brand stuff.  “OK gimme the deets.”  You get 10% off all Smartpak brand stuff, including Smartpak’s brand supplements “Smartsupplements”.  You also get free shipping, on EVERYTHING, yup everything.  Forgot those 3 tubes of wormer in your last shipment, no problem, it ships FREE.

“That’s pretty sweet, what’s the catch?”  Well you gotta spend $40 a month on “Smartpaks”.  “What do you mean ‘Smartpaks’, like just buy stuff on their website?”  “Smartpaks” are the strip things that you get with your horse’s supplements in it.  “Oh yeah, the strip thingies.”  Yeah the strip thingies are what started the company to begin with. “Well I only need $37 of Smartpaks a month.”  Well, add salt or electrolytes to your strip thingy* (see note below).  You can do a “custom dose” instead of a “Maintenance dose” (click that little arrow next to “Maintenance Dose” and just give a little to make it to that $40 mark.  Smartperks Hacked!

This is for salt with my 5% discount.

I will warn you, they send you emails for special sales (Who doesn’t love a special sale?) When they have sales you get whatever the sale savings gives you (usually 10%), you get your 5% off for association membership plus the 10% off all Smartpak brand stuff, that means 25% off of Smartpak stuff when they have a sale.  Plus they have those free returns for anything with a size on it.  “Ooo, try it on and send it back for free if it doesn’t fit?”  Try try try to your little heart’s content, this is for anyone not just Smartperks folks, but go ahead and tell yourself its a Smartperk if it catches your fancy.

Hack #2, if you have multiple horses, only one has to have a $40 Smartpak so Mr.ShowPony can have his 5 supplements, and Fluffy’s one supplement can ship free, plus you still get the discounts.  They have to all ship at the same time though!

Now the hacks get a little crazier.

Hack #3 If you have a lot of supplements, when a sale goes on, you can apply that sale to your Smartpaks.  The caveat is that your Smartpaks have to ship before the end of the sale, so you have to go in and change the ship date on your Smartpaks, this will throw off your monthly shipment, so after it ships, you have to go back in and set the next one back so that they don’t keep coming early.  “I think I need a drink to understand this one.”   Don’t worry, I needed a drink to write it!  Here is an example.  My Smartpak shipped a week ago so there are 3 weeks until the next shipment.  Today there is a sale though, and I want to save an additional 10% so I am going to have my stuff ship today to cash in on my 10%.  Tomorrow, after my new shipment is sent I need to go in and delay my next shipment by 3 weeks.  So the one I had shipped today will have to hang out at the house for a few weeks before it’s needed at the barn but since I adjusted the next shipment, that one will come on time.  This headache is only really worth it if you have a lot of supplements.

Hack #4, lets say Fluffy and his pasture mate Stinky only need $25 of Smartpaks a month each.  Well, it may work out that you can put them on the same strip together.  Warning: This one can be tricky, but it can be made to work.  You can cut the strip in half if you are sending it to a boarding facility, but you have to make sure it works out right.  I have done this at home but I was careful in how I set up the strip and I was doing the feeding myself.  Use caution with this one!

A final warning, not all of the discounts can be applied to things on the website, some of the stuff is set by the manufacturer, but they are good at telling you which is which.



* Always consult with a Veterinarian before making changes to your supplement program, these are fairly benign options so they should be accepted.

** I am not paid by Smartpak, I have no affiliation other than being a user.  I have tried all of these at some point.

***As always check the Smartpak website for full details or contact their wonderful customer service.

TMI? No Thanks, its Monday.

Hopefully everyone had a fun weekend horseing, whether showing, lessons, or just going for a ride.  Its always a good weekend if you horse is involved.  Well my friends, I figure its time to get personal.  No I am not going to whip out some Monday TMI, but my posts thus far have been fairly impersonal.

First of all, I am not a horse trainer, however, as an engineer, I solve problems for a living.  “Duh all you do is math math math.”  Yes but part of it is looking at something that may not be working and figuring out a solution.  Sometimes just observing and thinking will solve the problem, sometimes, it needs calculators, computers, pencils and paper, but not always.  Anyhow, lets dive in.

My weekend of course involved riding the bay TB mares aka the “girls”.  Emma, as expected was a basket case, Lily, my “easy” girl and I are having some growing pains.  I got Lily off the track 3 years ago, she has a calm wonderful quarterhorse brain with thoroughbred talent.  “Great, so you have the most wonderful horse in the world, mine is betterer, who cares.”  Well, in the last year and a half, we have been going through some growing pains.  To make a long story short, over 9 months, I put on 25lbs. and had to downgrade my riding to the point that all I could do was walk around the arena.  One week and a c-section later, most of that “weight” disappeared.  Needless to say, when I started riding a month later, there were a few issues, all the issues.  I finally went to a chiropractor and said “when I sit in my dressage saddle my right seat bone doesn’t touch the saddle.  Turns out, somewhere along the way, I pulled a muscle in my hip, the one that allows you to engage you seat bone.  Now that Mini Engineer (or Mini Equestrian, Mini EE?) is 10 months old, we should be good right?  Nope, poor Lily has suffered.

“What do you mean, did you abuse your horse with your one seat bone?”  Well since I couldn’t engage correctly, I was trying to use my hands to compensate, and she promptly compensated by hanging on the bit.  I blame the sleep deprivation.  Ever try to hold up 500lbs with your arms?  “Duh, we have all ridden that freight train with reins jokingly attached.”  So the cure?  More leverage!  Lets get back to my bit discussions.  So what kind of device should I use?  Well, it must be dressage legal, but I was already using a boucher, so I bought a French link boucher.  First ride, she was very resistant, second ride was at a show, still super resistant, third ride at home, still resistant, no improvement.  I got off 10 minutes into the ride, swapped back to the other boucher and she was instantly softer.  What does it mean?  What does it mean? It means you trail ride for a day or 2.  Sometimes when I get stuck, I have to walk away for a bit (Ughhh, bad pun).  This lead to a rather interesting, lets pony Lily off of Emma day, yes, oddly enough I lived to tell the tale, and no horses were harmed in the process.  “Are you nuts?”  Sometimes yes, ask my friends.

“So what was the answer, or was there an answer?”  I would love to tell you that while I was trying to keep Emma from taking off and Lily from nibbling Emma, some epiphany occurred.  It did not…  So Sunday rolls around, I did Sunday things, I gardened, I called my mom, (I hope you did too, it was Mother’s Day), I put off riding until the end.  With my lack of answers, I walked to the barn, decided I would just bareback it in my “super sexy” junky cargo shorts and low cowboy boots, (red carpet worthy for sure).  I decided I needed to go back to basics.  I put the “schooling dressage bridle” on, the one cast off due to not enough “leverage” even before we got into the boucher debacle.  It has a happymouth boucher (I might have a boucher addiction)but it is 3 piece with the roller in the middle, also, no spurs, no whip, and no flash(she likes to open her mouth, undesirable in the dressage arena but if she is soft, at this point I will take it).  My plan was to do the basics, no fuss no fight, lo and behold, she gave me the best ride in months.  She stopped fighting, she balanced herself, both directions (the right has been rough at best), to the left she even had about 5 steps of balanced trot, lifting through her back, which I completely felt because I was sitting right on it!  So the point of this super long, seemingly endless wind through my rather boring weekend rides, is that leverage is good but maybe not always the answer.  Sometimes going backward will provide the forward you are looking for. 

In other small triumphs, I managed to get Emma past an abandoned canoe in the creek, it only took 8 minutes, but by George, she did it. It was going to eat her alive, for sure.  “How old is this Emma?”  She is 16 going on 3, a wing nut for sure but she will jump anything you put in front of her, she just won’t go next to it, hahaha.  “If Emma is 16, then how old is Lily, 20?”  Nope she is 8.  Oh and Emma is Lily’s Step Aunt.  Go figure that one out!