Thanks, Patagonia. Move over, Carhartt

You could make the argument that those of us working outside and with animals have greater connections with those animals and the land than those who simply play outside (i.e., outdoor recreationalists). We horse owners, therefore, might well be happy consumers of clothing made by a company prioritizing good treatment of land and animals (an idea that the industry sometimes calls ‘ethical clothing’). We might also welcome a fresh alternative to the same-ol’, same-ol’ from century-old clothing companies like Dickies, Wrangler, and Carhartt.

All of which is one way of saying:

Thank You, Patagonia!


Move over, Carhartt!

Earlier this month, Patagonia unveiled its WorkWear line. The clothing is made with a blend of Iron Forge hemp, organic cotton, and recycled polyester. In tests, the fabric was 25 percent tougher than the cotton duck canvas in Carhartt jackets. Yet it’s deceivingly soft and doesn’t require that “Forgive me while I walk around in a cardboard box” break-in period.

WorkWear, like all Patagonia products, comes with researchable background information on how its production impacted the planet and the people who made it. Some say the company’s Footprint Chronicles are leading the entire industry to be more sustainable, accountable, and transparent.

We visited with Patagonia folks earlier this year to learn about the new line, its origins, and what the California company – more often associated with rock climbers and surfers – has planned for outfitting our community:

  • “Iron Forge” is a reference to the smithing done by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and his rock climbing comrades back when his fledgling company was literally forging climbing equipment in a tin shed (now called the “Tin Shed”) in Ventura, California.
  • Designing and crafting work clothes isn’t a big leap from a standards or cultural perspective at Patagonia, said business unit director Ed Auman, “this is not ‘work inspired. It’s been in our DNA.”

Thankfully, the women’s WorkWear line is not simply the men’s version recut with wider hips and added pink buttons.

The Iron Forge Hemp Canvas Barn Coat is tough, warm, and more feminine than typical barn coats. It comes in Coriander Brown, a warm, yellow-brown with cream stitching and is lined with Thermogreen insulation and silky, deep orange polyester. There are five pockets, including an inside, zipped chest pocket for valuables.

My favorite features:

  • Oversized pull on the zipper makes it easy to zip up and down with cold fingers and/or gloves
  • Side cinch straps with buckles give it a feminine silhouette and are useful for custom fitting
  • Slick lining makes layering easy
  • Hemp blend sheds hay, shavings, etc.
  • Hem length is not too short that drafts come up your backside, not too long to for riding, mucking stalls, shoveling, etc. Falls at the hip.
  • Two distinct snap closures at the sleeve mean you can pull sleeves over or off your wrist depending on your needs (using a hand tool or covering your wrists for warmth).

Coming to the Best Horse Practices Summit? You’ll see our presenters and ambassadors outfitted with these WorkWear items:

Women’s Iron Forge Hemp Barn Coats

Men’s and Women’s Farrier Shirts

Men’s Barn Coats

Men’s Ranch Jackets

Read more about Patagonia’s outfitting the Best Horse Practices Summit outfitting here.

Do Hang. Don’t Flip: proper 5 Star Equine pad storage

With the All American contest in full swing, we got curious about the specifics of taking care of 5 Star saddle pads. Scores of all-american-giveawayclinicians, cowboys, and English riders swear by them and we’re giving away one to a lucky Remuda Reader.

What’s the best way to care for them in between rides?

  • Lay it on top of your saddle?
  • Hang it vertically?
  • Place it under your saddle?

We talked with 5 Star Equine Products owner Terry Moore by phone at his Hatfield, Arkansas facility. Moore’s suggestions below:


  • Do hang them by themselves, not on top of each other or on top or under a saddle.
  • Do hang them on a saddle rack or a board or rope that will help it maintain the horse’s contour. If you’re placing it on a board like this nifty DIY saddle rack, secure a rolled-up towel to one end of the 2 x 4. The added height of the towel will mimic the wither contour developed when riding.
  • Do hang them vertically from a hook when saddle racks aren’t available.

Remember: These pads are wool felt and need to breathe,

Terry and Julia Moore, owners of 5 Star Equine Products

Terry and Julia Moore, owners of 5 Star Equine Products

especially after a long, sweaty ride.


  • Don’t flip it upside down when storing. Ever. This practice compromises the integrity of the contour developed by being on the horse’s back. It also stretches the threads and the stitching, thus compromising the pad construction.
  • Don’t leave them on or under your saddle. Especially in humid climates, the pad will not dry properly and it could create a mold or mildew problem for your saddle.

Thanks, Terry!

Check out all the excellent 5 Star Equine Products here.

Enter to win an All Around, 30 x 30 pad here.

Go for Mental, Not Mechanical Gear

Amy Skinner is a regular guest columnist and has been a horse gal since age six. She  runs Essence Horsemanship, rides and teaches English and Western. Skinner has studied at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain, with Buck Brannaman, Leslie Desmond, Brent Graef, and many others.
Read more about Amy here.

By Amy Skinner

Usually after a clinic, I feel energized, encouraged and excited. The energy from a group of people making changes, learning, and discovering gives me a feeling of hope that carries me forward despite the junk that prevails in the horse industry. I’m honored to be part of people helping each other, helping their horses and helping themselves.

Sometimes after a clinic, though, I feel drained. Some moments demand my all. The moment asks me to reach deep inside and give everything I have physically and emotionally. It can be very personal and I may need to give a lot of myself to prove a point or help someone on their journey.

I have cried with people, listening to stories that have nothing to do with horses. But they really they do. This journey toward working with the horse in lightness is really about changing our lives.

I’ve had to pull up things inside myself that weren’t pretty or enjoyable in order to relate to students’ struggles. We revisit challenges in order to become better people. Being a better person means being a better horse person.

amyskinnerFrom time to time, I meet someone who doesn’t understand the value in this journey. I don’t want people learning “my” method or becoming Amy Skinner “followers.” I’m interested in presenting things in a way that makes sense to the horse. What I’m offering in a lesson or a clinic doesn’t come from me. It comes from the horse and from my human interpretation. It’s an understanding of the horse and what it needs.

My mare was once ridden in a “B.O.B” (Big Ol’ Bit). She gaped at the mouth to avoid it. She was put in a flash noseband to keep her mouth shut. After she couldn’t avoid the bit by opening her mouth, she began tossing her head up. She was then equipped with a nice, short martingale to keep her head down.

All this gear created a racing, forehand-heavy, pissed-off horse with the most overdeveloped under-neck I’ve ever seen. She was ready to kill the world, upset, frustrated, scared, and dangerous. She’d been shut down, disregarded as an intelligent being with a high sense of self-preservation.

In comes “horsemanship to the rescue.” I presented a snaffle bit. Does she run through that bit? You bet.

Most importantly, what needed fixing was her idea of how to operate in relation to the equipment and the rider working it. I had to teach her that I wasn’t going to argue with her. I would wait patiently until she made correct choices.

Yes, it took years. She may never feel as nice or light as a horse started in a way that it could understand. But it was worth it. She’s an incredible horse.

I was recently asked, “what’s wrong with covering up the symptoms?”

Bigger bits don’t solve the root problem. They mask the symptoms and only for a while.

13528183_819091691561420_5023488292061111819_oThere are ethical reasons:

  • Restrictive gear treats the horse as a “thing” instead of a creature with thoughts and feelings and needs.
  • It often puts the horse in physical pain with lasting consequences. My mare has limited range of motion in her back, fetlocks, and neck and has fused hocks.
  • The horse is prevented from developing to its full potential. It cannot work in balance in its body, develop correctly as an athlete, or develop a healthy relationship with the rider.

These reasons may be enough for you. But the biggest reason for steering clear of restrictive gear is safety:

A horse trained to push through pressure and pain responses is an unsafe horse. One who responds regularly out of fear cannot be reliable; fear becomes its only focus. The rest of the world becomes drowned out.

The only truly safe horse is one who is mentally relaxed and taught to connect with the rider or handler because it feels safe. If you’re working toward creating a partner who doesn’t operate routinely in fear, the possibilities go beyond a light, enjoyable ride. You can create a partner, and the things the horse is willing to give back can be truly humbling and incredible.

Hear what WiseAssWallace has to say about Gear.

Halter and Lead Rope Factors

Amy Skinner is the owner of Essence Horsemanship and a frequent BestHorsePractices contributor. She teaches and trains from her base in Boyne City, Michigan.

Skinner reviewed the 4-knot halter with lead rope from Knotty Girlz.

Read more about Knotty Girlz here.

Read additional halter post here.

Enter “Cayuse” when ordering and receive 10 percent discount.

Skinner writes:

4 Knot halter

4 Knot halter

When I teach in a clinic or am helping a new client, often I am presented with a horse in ill-fitting or poorly made equipment.  A halter that doesn’t fit well or a poorly made rope, especially one that is too light or doesn’t have the right weight to it, can make a huge difference in feel.  It may sound silly, but if you have a 1,000-pound animal on the other end of a lead rope and the only way you have to communicate it is through that rope, then I want that rope to feel pretty nice and have a great feel to it.

When the choice is mine, I’m pretty particular about what types of halters and ropes I work with. I don’t like to mess around with my own horses and equipment.

So when I received my Knotty Girlz halter and lead rope in the mail, I was glad to see it was beautifully made.  The lead has just the right weight to it – not flimsy and with just enough give to make it easy to manipulate.  It has a wonderful leather popper on the end that adds balance to the weight and overall look. It came in black with bits of blue braided into it.  The halter itself is stiff, providing a good firm feel for a horse, and it has a nice splice.  I appreciated that there were no clips or metal on the halter as well, having seen lots of clips whack chins and metal tails hit horses’ eyes.

halt2The only downfall to the halter was its four knots.  Though well made and of nice quality, four knots for me is overkill.  [Please note: Knotty Girlz makes 2-knot halters and custom halters, too.] The nerves on a horse’s face are sensitive. A lot of damage can be done even with two knots.  The knots seemed too severe and stiff for my liking.

When considering a rope halter purchase, know that four knots don’t tend to stay in place as easily as two. They dig in more easily, which means that every jiggle of the lead rope and every slide of the halter may translate to a “bite” on the horse’s sensitive facial tissues.

Knots aside, the halter and lead are beautiful and fun to handle.  Equipment doesn’t make a good horseman or woman, but bad equipment can sure get in the way or be downright dangerous.  So for Knotty Girlz’ expertly braided and spliced halters and leads, I was appreciative.  It doesn’t hurt that the products are made in America either.

Amy’s word on web halters:

Web halters are hard to work with and hard to communicate to the horse with lightness.  Web halters are made thick and wide, and often fit around the jaw and chin loosely, which gives too much “wiggle.”  Because of their thickness, it is necessary that more be done with the lead rope than necessary, giving sort of a muddy feel.

Another feature not conducive to lightness are the clips just below the chin of a web halter.  Any jiggle or sudden movement from the lead rope can result in banging the horse’s chin, which can be pretty abrupt and discouraging.  I much prefer the feel of a good rope halter or lariat rope, which allows me to convey direction, speed, and proper flexion with much less confusion and better results.

Enter “Cayuse” when ordering and receive 10 percent discount.

Read more about Knotty Girlz.

Read additional post on halters, lead ropes, and the sense of touch.

Web halter and web halter with chain over nose. YIKES!

Web halter and web halter with chain over nose. YIKES!




Feel Matters: Knotty Girlz rope halter review

FullSizeRender-2Years ago, I worked for a high-end furniture maker whose tables were beautiful. Thanks to repeated sandings and buffings, their feel was extraordinary: like polished granite but soft and warm. When it comes to furniture, he explained, people – especially women – prioritize touch.

“When women visit a showroom and touch these tables, they want them,” he said.

Scientists are just now beginning to contemplate our sense of touch and pursue questions answered long ago about our other senses.

Our skin is “a sensing, guessing, logic-seeking organ of perception, a blanket with a brain in every micro-inch,” wrote Adam Gopnik, the author of an outstanding article on the science of touch. Read here.

As researcher Dustin Tyler noted: “We think of hot and cold, or of textures, silk and cotton. But some of the most important sensing we do with our fingers is to register incredibly minute differences in pressure, of the kinds that are necessary to perform tasks, which we grasp in a microsecond…We know instantly, just by touching, whether to gently squeeze the toothpaste or crush the can.”

The eye splice on this Knotty Girlz lead line is simple and elegant.

The eye splice on this Knotty Girlz lead line is simple and elegant.

It should be no surprise, then, that of all the positive attributes of the Knotty Girlz rope halters, I gravitated most to how they felt in my hands and how I believe they’d feel on my horses’ faces.

I tried two halters and lead lines:
A 2-knot halter made of 5/16 inch diameter polyester rope with a half-inch diameter, 12-foot lead. The set was a lovely, neutral beige and white.
A 2-knot halter made of ¼ inch diameter polyester with a 9/16 inch diameter, 14-foot lead. This set was a turquoise halter with a brilliant multi-colored lead line.
Both lines had leather poppers.

The halters and lines are tough and without stretch, yet soft and pliant. Those are rare combinations and attributes I have yet to see from any other rope halter manufacturer.

The end for tying the halter does NOT have a metal tip. This is a fine, yet significant point taken up by many professionals who don’t want their clients accidentally whipping the tip in a horse’s eye. A metal tip can cause damage; a rope tip likely will not. Instead, the two lines coming over the horse’s head are spliced together and then melted. Pretty nifty.

No metal tip. Hooray! Well-spliced rope end of halter

No metal tip. Hooray! Well-spliced rope end of halter

I absolutely love the “eye-splice” of one of my lead lines. Eye-splicing means there is no knot to contemplate or struggle with. The eye splice is the most popular option of Knotty Girlz customers, said business manager Christine Kovacevich.

The weight and thickness of the rainbow lead line was more than I’m used to, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It would be nice for working with a young horse. And a friend pointed out that it would work well for a pack horse, when laying the rope across the pommel and ponying hands-free is possible with a nice heavy rope.

Thanks to Tom Weaver and his horses, Rocky and Rivers. Weaver’s handsome geldings modeled the Knotty Girlz gear.

Enter “Cayuse” when ordering and receive 10 percent discount.

Coming next week: Considering the Knotty Girlz 4-knot and 2-knot rope halter options. A review by horsewoman Amy Skinner.


When Knotty Girlz are Nice

Being a woman in the rope industry is a bit like being a woman in rodeo: gals are outnumbered and the ride can be awfully rocky.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 2.51.59 PMYet, Robyn Doloughan, owner of Columbia Basin Knot Company and its retail division, Knotty Girlz, has stayed in the game and flourished. Her company, based in Valleyford, Washington, sells rope and makes rope halters, lead lines, mecate reins, and more.

Doloughan loves rope and Doloughan knows rope. When she first started in 2001, she researched double-braid polyester rope, a specific kind of rope used in yachting. It would “herniate” around some knots, she

Robyn Doloughan

Robyn Doloughan

said. “A lot of yacht rope is not designed to be knotted in lots of places.”

So, Doloughan redesigned the rope to new specifications, with horses and riders in mind.

She tied her first Fiador knot back then, too. It took her seven hours to complete it. [Fiador means “bond” or “bondsman” in Spanish but over time cowboys have corrupted it to “Theodore,” and “Theodore knot,” especially after the popularity of Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Rider stint around 1898.]

Knotty Girlz has succeeded by “never saying ‘no’” and by sharing expertise whenever possible. A customer wants an 11-foot lead line instead of the standard 12-footer?

No problem.

A Fiodor knot

A Fiodor knot

You’d rather buy rope and make it yourself?

No problem. And while you’re at it, make sure to check out the company’s videos on how to make a rope halter. Watch them here.

In her spare time, Doloughan volunteers to show 4-H groups and school classes how to make halters, dog leashes and jump ropes.

She’s in it for the customers, which include the horses, she said.

“Ultimately, we want what’s going to work for you and we want to make a safe product. We try to keep the horses’ best interest in mind, too.”

With that in consideration, no Knotty Girlz halters have metal ends (which, if handled too hastily, can hit and hurt a horse’s eye). Halters are made from a variety of rope diameters and have two or four knots over the nose to give handlers a choice of how each halter will feel on each horse.

Custom reins made by Knotty Girlz

Custom reins made by Knotty Girlz

The products are increasingly popular with trainers (Warwick Schiller’s a big fan.) as well as regular riders. Her husband, Kerrin Doloughan, who emigrated from Kenya and now rides with ranchers as a Bureau of Land Management Range Conservationist, often comes home empty handed, having given away yet another Knotty Girlz item. “They love them,” Robyn laughed.

Sales have increased about 25 percent annually over the last few years. Since 2001, the one-woman home business has expanded to include eight to nine employees. Knotty Girlz now sells mohair cinches from Montana and can add leather poppers or rawhide buttons to custom orders.

Enter “Cayuse” on any Knotty Girlz order and receive a 10 percent discount!

Enter to win a free rope halter and lead line here.

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