Great way to transport your saddle

I really like this new Saddle Caddie  from Braly Woodworking. I’m lucky enough to have a dressing room in my trailer but there are times when I just want to throw a saddle in the car and go.

This offers a simple, elegant solution that folds down flat when it’s not in use.  The new Saddle Caddies will ship in October but you need to get your order in now! It costs $120.

And no, I wasn’t asked to highlight this product. I just think it’s cool. You all know how much I love saddles.

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The color of summer

Freedom's coat

Freedom’s coat in the summer is the color of a newly minted copper penny. It’s so bright you practically need shades!

Unlike Zelda, whose black coat fades out during the summer, Freedom seems to absorb the sunlight and store it in his coat. He gleams. He exudes the golden light of high summer. And it’s not because I spend a lot of time grooming him. Mr. “Don’t Touch Me” wouldn’t stand for that. I’m lucky if I can run a soft brush over him before he gets too antsy. I’m sure the flax seed helps, too.

Chestnut horses are truly horses of the sun and summer!

The Benefits of Beta Biothane

Two Horse Tack

Zelda models her Beta Biothane bridle from Yes, I know here throat latch is on upside down!

Last year, shortly after Zelda came to my barn, she broke my Micklem bridle. She did it while I was tacking her up by deciding to leave. She was slow and deliberate. She knew I couldn’t stop her (she’s large) and she kept going, stepped on the reins and the stitching broke.

The bridle was fixable, but at that moment I decided that she wasn’t going to get another expensive leather bridle until she learned some manners. I found a nice looking Beta Biothane bridle from and bought it. I had no idea how much I would like it!

Let’s see, let me count the ways that I have come to appreciate the benefits of a high quality synthetic bridle — because these are very nicely made, indeed. They really changed my mind about using synthetic tack.

  1. It isn’t expensive. Zelda’s bridle was about $40 including shipping (it did not include reins). In fact, it’s such a good deal that I bought two more. Here’s a link to the bridle that they both wearing.
    Freedom in his Biothane Bridle

    Freedom modeling his Beta Biothane Bridle from Two Horse Tack.

    bridles, one for Freedom and one for Zelda. I keep them in my tack trunk in my trailer. I love having a spare that doesn’t break the bank and I know that sooner or later, having that spare will mean the difference between riding and not riding when I’ve shipped out somewhere.

  2. It isn’t cheap. This is a nicely made bridle that just happens to not be leather and which isn’t expensive. My horses look quite fine in their Two Horse Tack bridles. I’ve had a Wintec bridle in the past as a spare, but I like this one better. The material is softer and more supple — even after a year there are no cracks.
  3. The Beta Biothane is strong — but the buckles provide a “breaking point” to make it safe.
  4. They have buckle ends which I vastly prefer. They make it so much easier to swap out bits.
  5. Cleaning it is SO easy. Just dump it in a bucket of water while you’re cleaning the bit. I am lazy so this is a great benefit, especially in the summer when the horses come back sweaty and their tack is grimy. I no longer feel guilty about abusing my bridle and it always looks new.
  6. It doesn’t get dried out, brittle or moldy so it is carefree piece of tack. My tackroom tends to get damp in the summer or too dry when I use a humidifier so my leather tack requires a lot of care even when I’m not using it. Zelda’s bridle is more than a year old now and it looks brand new.

I’m considering getting some of the more flashy options for the future. Zelda, in particular, would look might nice with some bright colors or some bling! I’m looking forward to trying some of their other products and am sorry that I now longer have a horse that goes bitless because their sidepull bridles look very nice.



Ben Maher, Commissions and Secret Profits


Mike and Emma Phillips, of Quainton Stud, backed Olympic show jumper Ben Maher for 8 years, buying him horses to compete at his recommendation. In 2013 they accused him of pocketing more than $1,200,000 in secret payments over horse sales. The case was settled on July 11.

Commissions are one of those whispered about subjects in the equestrian world. They are slippery, secret and often hidden. There’s nothing inherently wrong with commissions — it’s one of the ways that trainers make a living — provided it’s above board and spelled out so that all parties know the deal, it’s perfectly fine and it’s how trainers are rewarded for their connections and expertise.

It’s when commissions are taken under the table, or are undisclosed, that there is a problem.

There are many stories of trainers selling a horse for significantly more than they tell their clients. One of the most recent and high profile cases is  the lawsuit brought against Olympian Ben Maher in December of 2013 by long-time backers Mike and Emma Phillips. Maher was sued for  £700,000 ($1,199,485), who claimed he made secret profits from horse deals.

Tripple X III was sold to Eric Lamaze’s Torrey Pines stables in Canada in

An article on December 5, 2013 on  BBC Sport, alleged that while acting as an agent for the Phillips, he pocketed significantly more than his commission by giving them incorrect details of the prices paid.

He is alleged to have told the Phillips one of their horses, Tackeray, had been sold to a buyer in the United States for $500,000 rather than what they say is the actual sum of $850,000.

“Mr Maher thereby made a secret profit of $350,000 of which Mr Maher is accountable and to which Quainton Stud is entitled,” says the court document.

It describes an invoice of $50,000 for third party commission on the deal as “a sham”.

The showjumper is accused of making a secret profit or benefit on five other horses: Quainton Quirifino (10,000 euros), Awanti (50,000 euros), Vigolo (152,000 euros), Robin Hood (£80,000) and Wonderboy (£222,496).

In current conversion rates, the total amounts to nearly £700,000, although the financial impact of the case could be double that if any costs and damages were to be awarded.

On July 11, 2014 it was announced by Mike and Emma Phillips on the Quainton Stud website that the case had been settled.

“Michael and Emma Phillips are satisfied that the financial settlement made to them is an acceptable amount that takes into account all the remaining areas of dispute and their legal expenses. The terms of the settlement are confidential but Ben Maher recognizes that Michael and Emma Phillips together with Quainton Stud LLP (of whom they are the sole members) were loyal owners who were instrumental in helping to advance his career to the highest levels in show jumping and for that he will always be grateful. With the benefit of hindsight, he accepts that there were aspects of his working relationship with them that should have been dealt with in a different manner.

“Ben Maher wishes to apologize sincerely for any inconvenience, distress or embarrassment that may have been caused to Michael and Emma Phillips and is grateful to them for their willingness to allow the matter to be resolved. Ben Maher wishes Michael and Emma Phillips continued success in their show jumping breeding program and their high level of involvement in show jumping as top owners and breeders. There will be no further comment on this matter.”

In addition to the settlement mentioned above, Maher’s Olympic horse, Tripple X (of which the Phillips owned a half share) was sold in April to Eric Lamaze’s Torrey Pines stable in Canada.

You can only hope that this lesson has resonated among the horse world, because it is more than just immoral to bilk your client out of their rightful profits, it is illegal. When a trainer becomes the selling agent for a horse, he or she has a fiduciary responsibility to the owners. This means that the trainer must act in the interests of his or her client must disclose all profits.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time this type of problem has occurred. In another high profile case, dressage trainer Sief Janssen was found guilty of breach of fiduciary duty and fraud for selling a horse called Aristocrat for $480,000 but telling the owners, John and Lea Neal, that he had received only $312,000. The Neals had agreed to pay Janssen a 10% commission on the sale of the horse — $31,200. That might seem like a lot of money, but in fact Janssen pocketed an additional $168,000. It was a move that cost him dearly. A jury awarded the Neals $250,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages. The ruling was upheld on appeal.

Commission-related fraud can occur in several forms:

  • The trainer sells the horse for more than he/she tells the owner and pockets the difference
  • The trainer knows a client is interested in a horse, purchases it and then resells it immediately for a higher price
  • The trainer accepts a commission from both the seller and the buyer without disclosure.

How can buyers and sellers protect themselves?

There are several things you can do

  • Work with agents/trainers who have good reputations. Of course, based on the lawsuits referenced above, that may not always be enough. Even top trainers have been caught with their fingers in the cookie jar.
  • Formalize the commission agreement in writing prior to the purchase or sale. If it is an expensive horse (which is a relative term) you might consider involving an attorney who specializes in equine law.
  • Make payment directly to the owner of the horse, not to the agent. In Kentucky, every sale must include a written bill of sale that includes the purchase price and which is signed by both the buyer and the seller.
  • Make it explicit that the agent cannot represent both the seller and the buyer without disclosure (this is another provision in the Kentucky law and is also required by law in several other states).



Staying Cool

Freedom's shower

Freedom enjoys cooling off under the hose. Willow won’t let me spray her.

We’ve had some hot, steamy weather here. Freedom stays cool by refusing to come out of the barn. He lives in a bank barn and it’s always cooler there. This is the time of year when I go through shavings by the bag full! He does enjoy getting hosed off, but even then will only stand outside for a few minutes. I suspect that he and Willow come out at night when the temperatures have been more manageable.


My dog, Woolly, has taken to lying down in the puddles while I ride.

My dog has discovered the joys of puddles. I often find him lying down in one (if it’s available) while he watches me do barn chores or ride in the field.


And I’ve seen several deer in the cool shade of the trees. This one didn’t even blink when I rode up to her. She lay there for the twenty minutes or so that I rode in the

Shady Deer

This doe watched me ride from the comfort of the shade.

field. I don’t know if she thought I couldn’t see her, or if she is so used the horses that she didn’t care.

Yesterday I spooked a doe and a very young fawn when I was riding home. The fawn bolted into the field with Willow and Freedom. It was tiny and spotted — only a few days old at most. The horses looked bemused and then it scampered off into the woods.

Zelda rolling

Zelda really enjoys her roll after she works!

About ten minutes later, while Zelda was luxuriating in her after-ride roll, I saw the doe come into the meadow, sniffing the ground and obviously looking for her baby. I panicked for a moment hoping that I hadn’t scared it too far off, but suddenly it burst from the woods all happy and excited to see its mother again.