Timaru Star II Braided Headgear

I am placing this linking picture of Cat Bar and her "Cat Bar II" bridle, our NAN Auction 2006 piece, here at the head of the Braided Headgear page for a while.  Now that the Auction has concluded, I can safely relate that the new owner of this incredible piece is Kellye Bussey with her winning bid of $325.  A bargain was had that night!!! one of many.  The page behind this pinto portrait is a VERY LENGTHY and long-drawn-out history of Braided Rawhide Bridles at the TSII.  Read it and learn more than you ever wanted about FB RBs (Fully Braided Rawhide Bridles)!!  The whole subject makes me want to write another book.  For now, the wish to redo our Braidwork pages is just that: a wish.  It will take more time than I currently can come up with to do it justice.  It is on my list of projects for fall 2006.  Forgive any duplication.

      Braidwork is my favorite subject.  It's not a surprise that my own hair is braided!  But ponytails were only the beginning.  Who would have thought, back in 1980, that my simple rawhide bosals, artificial sinew in four-strand braid around a wire core, would lead to this?  The right close-up scan is my "Campbell bridle" (2000), named after the customer.  It was inspired by a real, full-size bridle, created by artist Ray Huffman of Broken Heart Trading Co.  (Visit our links page.)

      This page presents Braided Bridles, Hackamores, and other headgear not associated with a saddle or a breastcollar... many of them "One of a Kind".  Look for a unique Braided Weymouth bridle, Western Halters, flat braid and fully braided headgear, and other amazing pieces.  The very first bridle I made upon discovering the nationwide hobby back in 1978 was a bosal hackamore.  (See below for a fairly exhaustive history of our braidwork and its development.)  How did I come upon this field?  There was no one magic moment.  Rather, there was a coalescence of wishes and materials.  I had had Bruce Grant's book for years.  In 1986 I purchased Robert Woolery's "Braiding Rawhide Horse Tack" from a Capriola booth at the National Western Stock Show in Denver (remember, I was born and raised in Boulder, CO).  If ever there was a moment, that was it: looking at all those braided pieces hanging.  It must have been this book that inspired me, because the dates match: as noted below, the very next season I was seeking after the fully braided rawhide bridle.

Close Ups

Finished Nov. 3, 2006, this headstall was designed as a companion piece to C. Evans' 4-Rein Bridle.  It was inspired by her romal reins... a subject I love to do.  I'd always wanted to make a slip-ear adjustable braided-rawhide headstall, ever since seeing patterns in Tom Hall's book "More Western Tack Tips."  The real trick is to render them down to one-ninth: to simplify tremendously, yet still retain the essential appearance and function.  I flatter myself I succeeded.  It adjusts, as you can see from the pic below, by moving the earpiece end up and down, and then adjusting the button above the ring.
Another glimpse of the Evans 4-Rein Second Headstall.  This one shows the design clearly.  Transitioning from parallel strands on top of the horse's head to stacked strands right above the ring (the ring must lie flat against the horse's cheek) turned out to be easy.  The curbstrap was inspired by one seen in the NRS catalog... again.  The tassel on the curbstrap was created by dewaxing the sinew, a trick I learned from Regine Nikolaidis.
M. Hallam's FB RB.  I did not think I would be able to surpass the Campbell bridle so soon, but here it is.  The approach is different: instead of smaller thread (thus, more interweaves) with fewer colors, this one uses the large thread, and a doubling effect for more colors.  This is the first FB RB to extensively use doubled colors on the interweaves.  It is also my first to use multiple colors for the face ornament--- which is removable.  (The Campbell's isn't.)  The bit uses a slot concho.  That forehead tassel just doesn't want to be seen, does it?! but it's there, off the browband center.  Finished 0306.03.
A Short Order that I am very proud of for its color design, this is K. Meekma's flat braid bridle and breastcollar.  The two blues together just seem to glow; I will be repeating this choice!  The set originally had dees instead of rings on the tug straps.  The rings bring it into congruence with the bridle.    Finished 0303.20.
This is a trade bridle made for a friend, K. Swanger Grove.  (I gained a Hickstead.)  Noteworthy for its color scheme, this bridle proves that dyed thread can indeed simulate the artificial sinew, and that yellow and turquoise can get along with each other.  Finished 0302.18.
W. Galbreath's Western Show Halter.  Although the pic does not do it justice, there are golden rosettes at the ends of the plates, gold-plated rollers on the buckles, a gold tongue on the crown buckles, and other touches.  Based on Sergeant's Western World's 'Classic'; crown buckles by Rio Rondo.  Finished 0301.20.
This is Heather M. Abounader's flat braid bridle, which I have taken to calling the Hybrid.  The crimp beads on the rein connectors and curb strap are smooth ones; I got them in Germany, while visiting fellow collector and tack maker, Barbara Stoeffl.  I don't know whether these types of throatlatches are legit in the show ring.  There are many, many other uses for model tack besides showing: sheer rejoicing is one!  Finished 0301.29.
New for the New Year 2003, a four-color bosal hackamore and breastcollar set, owned by K-J Morgan.  Nothing like studying Hought's books to make you realize true proportion! --- and, look at that heel knot.  A double interweave was itself doubled three times (rust, black, and white) and a fourth, but single, interweave inserted to make the brown.  Needless to say I'm amazed it worked!  The end concho is handmade from a sterling silver disc.  Another first to this set is the sinew knot on the tail (quirt end) of the mecate.  Finished 0301.15.

Forward to Braided Headgear Page Two.
Forward to Braided Headgear Page Three, with goodies going back to 1996.

      The early days of the TSII included 4-strand nylon rope halters and Arab costume halters made of embroidery floss, again four-strand.  The 1987 pricelist was the first to mention rawhide braided button bridles.  These bridles were created from thin-skived, hand-trimmed leather lace and had waxed thread buttons.  A picture of one of these is on Amarna's website.  The first one, the prototype, is called "Cat Bar's bridle" and how grateful I am to have it in my possession.  This method was incredibly labor-intensive and the end result was painfully delicate, but it marks my progression beyond just using four-strand for model tack.  Ultimately 12 of these leather lace bridles were built... the last in February of 1995.
      The next wave of braiding improvement came in 1991 with the idea to use cotton thread for the buttons, instead of waxed linen thread.  Seven of the twelve skived-lace braided bridles used cotton, and it only took one before the color possibilities grabbed me!  In 1994 a Peruvian Paso bridle was made entirely of sinew, a much stronger and more natural-looking material.  The story of that one is the story of being on sabbatical in a foreign country with nothing else to do.  After that, in the summer of 1995, a blizzard of improvements came when I finally READ the Woolery book.  Using lace for braided-button bridles instead of the difficult braided-leather gave me flat braid (also called California braid); single interweave buttons (zig zag rings) were found, at first in black and white, later in color; homemade sterling silver bits were made; and flat braid in vibrant colors was tried out, for instance all red buttons!  From now on, flat braid would be king.
      That same June of 1995, "Malaguena's bridle", my first real miniature fully braided rawhide bridle (FB RB, or fib-rib) was finished.  It was a huge landmark and continues to set my standard.  How glad I am to be able to keep that one too...!  The clickable version is on Page Three.  It is truly the 'mother' of all my FB RBs.
     After Malaguena's, new braiding ideas came thick and fast.  Double interweave buttons, tassels, spirally braided mecates, double ferrules, conchos with braided buttons, and much more came by the end of 1996.  A magnificent black-red-and-white braided set, the "Rose Silhouette" saddle, TSII #398, was auctioned off at NAN in 1997.  In 1999 came the first LB scale saddle with a braided cantle binding.  Tubb's Silver Mesa (TSII #413), also 1999, was a real groundbreaker in terms of braidwork on a saddle and in terms of flat braid: its breastcollar has double self-color 11-part 4-bight buttons.  The turn of the century brought me to Harrison's Braided Weymouth...which has its own adventure story, related below.

      The year 2000 was marked by many great pioneering braided pieces: Bouras' blue and white set (TSII #416) using a new color and new material; and my own Butterminx' FBRB, a difficult essay all in sinew, shown here on another horse named Parris At Night.  Campbell's great bridle was made this year, the first to use smaller thread and triple interweaves; and last and most for 2000, the first Peruvian Paso set.  This extraordinary piece has its own page.  The year 2001 carried on in an equally grand manner, yielding up the hackamore & breastcollar to TSII #419 (the Cutting set), the blue Mexican bridle featured as our Sneak Peeks page link, and lastly, in a mighty surge, Nikolaidis' long-button bridle/bc ---and TSII #423, Eleanor's Braided Saddle!!!  The fall of 2001, which saw so many changes elsewhere, saw this tackshop blessed with some of the best work yet...

        Year 2002 has in no way diminished the outpouring of the creative spring.  In January we first sold a piece on eBay!!  Of course it was braidwork :) (K. Grieve's hackamore, bc and blanket) and it started a marketing revolution.  Next, slowly, as majestic wing-strokes, came four Western saddles: TSII #424, #425, #426, and #427, each with its own idea of colorful braidwork carried out on saddle, bridle, breastcollar and even blanket.  Improvements on bosals followed; and the final braidwork piece of 2002 was a variation of Galbreath's Roper set.  Often when one ground-breaking piece is finished, it is seen that tinkering with it in small ways would yield even better results.  There are so many good ideas...!
      Year 2003 started out with another bang, in the shape of three smaller braided pieces, which included a much better Western Show Halter and a flat braid bridle with sinew throat.  After that, I embarked, as the Peruvian page tells, on an oddysey of two of these ultimate pieces of model tack.  After their completion, the rest of year might have seemed anticlimactic; but no, TSII #428 showed up!! a parade set with extensive edge braiding, even to the face ornaments.  Year 2003 bowed out with the Elk saddle #432, testament to even more ideas about sinew braiding on saddles.

      Year 2004 has also started out with a bang, one that promises to hold steady.  Already in the first four months, two fantastic braided saddles have been built, TSII #433 and #434, with a third (#435) close behind.  The elk saddle, a promise kept (that I could keep a prototype) seems to have been a good idea.  Not the least of its ideas is the metal-braced core to the pommel and cantle.  I look forward to more works such as these.

Forward to Braided Headgear Page Two.
Forward to Braided Headgear Page Three, with goodies going back to 1996.