How to Add a Treat Pouch to Your Costume {For Horseback Riders}

I have been performing with horses for many years. I use treats as positive reinforcement in my training. Over the years I have tried to come up with clever ways to use treats during my performances without the treat bag looking frumpy or drawing attention. I have decorated old fanny packs and handbags that I have found at thrift stores, and used treat pouches designed for horseback riders. Most of them worked pretty well but they would either slide around on a belt, be too wide at the top and the treats would fall out, or they just felt bulky and in my way. This is my solution to the treat dilemma!

What You Need: 

  • A Canvas Bag (I bought mine at Hobby Lobby)
  • Your Corset (or you could use a wide belt)
  • Decorative Trim/Tassels
  • Scissors
  • Hot Glue Gun & Extra Glue
  • Decorative Buttons or Pendants (optional)
  • Fabric Spray/Glitter (optional)

Watch Video for Step-by-Step Instructions:

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How to Decorate Your Horse's Bridle {Ribbon Browband Tutorial}

When I am performing I get asked a lot of questions...not just about riding, but more often the questions are related to my costumes and my horse's tack. I started performing when I was a teenager in the Isaac Royal Equestrian Theater. We put on a two hour long performance jam-packed with quadrilles, single routines, plays on horseback, and dancers. My fellow riders and I were in many routines so we learned how to change costumes QUICKLY and doll up our tack on a budget. 

Purchasing a fancy new bridle for a one-time photo shoot, performance, parade, or wedding can be expensive. This DIY project will help add some color, bling, and accessories to your horse's bridle. You can use this same browband technique on the noseband for a more dramatic effect. 

What You Need: 

  • Your Bridle (You will not be gluing directly to the bridle so it won't ruin it.)
  • Satin Ribbon 
  • Decorative Trim
  • Scissors
  • Hot Glue Gun & Extra Glue
  • Decorative Buttons or Pendants (optional)
  • Wire Flowers (optional)
  • Fake Flowers (optional)

Watch Video for Step-by-Step Instructions:

Do you love being creative with your horse?

Download the First Chapter of my new Fantasy Photo Shoots E-Book today!
Or you can go ahead and purchase the E-Book to get started right away.

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Ride Your Horse Bridleless, Safety Tips & Training Advice. Video Examples!

When I was young I always admired the other girls that just jumped up on their horses in the paddock and rode around without a care in the world (I've never been an incredibly brave rider). I was much more disciplined and just never played with my horses that way during my dressage training. There was a part of me that really wanted that relationship with a horse. The performances that would bring me to tears were always of horses and riders bareback and/or bridleless. The idea that "less is more" really inspired me. When I bought Douwe (my Friesian gelding), I let myself have an open mind and no expectations. It turned out, he LOVES to be ridden bridleless and to work at liberty and he has taught me so much that I would love to share my experiences with you.

Safety First!

For those of you who are like me, cautious and not overly risky, you will definitely need to prepare your horse, yourself, and your surroundings to start working bridleless. Make sure to wear a helmet and ride in a smaller, fully-enclosed space like a round pen. There are a few KEY things that need to be in place before you attempt your first ride without a bridle. They are:

  1. Independent Balance! To communicate clearly and effectively with your horse (with or without a bridle) you need to have good balance. You should be comfortable and confident at the walk, trot, and canter with NO STIRRUPS and with NO HANDS.
  2. A Trusting Relationship: I do not recommend riding an unfamiliar horse without a bridle or even your own horse if you do not already have a deep, long-standing relationship with them. If there have been circumstances in your past where your horse bolted, bucked, or reared and the two of you have not fully worked through those issues, I suggest you put more time into your relationship before beginning the bridleless process.
  3. A Solid WHOA! Make sure you practice the halt, a lot! Your horse needs to be responsive to your voice/seat cue (there is that clear communication) so that you can feel confident that your horse will stop whenever you ask. That is why I use treats when I ask Douwe to halt (he is a food-oriented fellow). I use my voice in the rolling r noise and he halts and gets a treat. This method is similar to clicker training except I am using my voice for the cue. 
  4. Bitless or Halter: See if you can ride in a bitless bridle or just a halter before you take the bridle off completely. Take as much time as you need to feel comfortable with these other options.

What techniques can you use?

I have learned a few different ways to ride a horse bridleless. You will probably know right away which method will work for your horse depending on his individual reactions.

Whip Steering: This is the method I used with Douwe. He seems most responsive having a visual guide for the turns. I have been using two whips and recently dropped down to just one. This technique will not work if your horse is scared/nervous of whips. Here is a video of Douwe performing bridleless in our "Wings of Isis" routine. You can see how I use the wings to help him steer. I was so pleased with his overall performance! He was a good boy!

Neckrope: You can teach your horse to "whoa" from the pressure of a neck rope. I have begun riding Rovandio bridleless using a neckrope because he prefers more input from me to help with his balance. Douwe would prefer that I just left him alone and not use anything related to pressure. To begin, I started riding Rovandio with a stirrup leather attached around his neck at the same time I was riding with the bridle. I incorporated halts from my voice/seat and added the pressure on the neck rope. Once he halted, I released the pressure and gave him a treat. You can use a variety of different "ropes", some horses react better to a stiffer rope and others something softer. This rider, Alizee Froment, is absolutely amazing! She is my current inspiration and when you watch this video you will see why. She starts off with a bitless bridle and then takes it off and does all the Grand Prix movements bridleless. She uses a simple neck rope. You will love this video!

Hand Signals: If you have an exceptionally obedient, sensitive horse you can teach them to move away from hand pressure. For example, you would rub/push your right hand forward onto the right side of the neck to ask him to turn left and vice versa. If your horse easily moves away from pressure this can be a good cue. Karen Rohlf uses some hand signals in this video with her wonderful horse, Monty.  You will enjoy watching this video because it shows the horse doing the same movements at liberty, under saddle and bridleless.

Seat & Leg: If your horse is completely tuned into your seat and legs (communication!) you can use these cues, along with your voice if needed. Some horses turn beautifully off the leg and weight aids, especially if they are well-balanced and highly trained. Douwe needs the visual motivation and Rovy needs more half-halts with the neck rope. This video of Stacy Westfall is a great example of just seat and leg aids. She performs their reining freestyle bareback and bridleless! Awesome job!

Please be safe and make sure you are not riding alone! If you have any questions or comments about riding bridleless please leave a comment below or send me an email at beginthedance@gmail.com. I would love to hear your stories about riding bridleless and if you have photos or videos, feel free to share!

Wearing this special shirt tells the world that you LOVE horses and you BELIEVE that riding is a Dance, not a push/pull sport that views the horse as a machine. YOU are a dancer at heart and wearing this shirt will INSPIRE others and remind you why you love the dance. 

DIY Glitter Hooves, Mane & Tail for Your Horse!

Whenever I perform with my horse the first thing that everyone compliments us on is our use of GLITTER! I particularly love to make Douwe's or Rovandio's hooves gold, silver, or copper, whatever matches our costume. Everyone always asks how I get the glitter to stay on the hooves and on their manes and tails. So, I wanted to share this SUPER EASY secret to getting your own "cheap" version of Twinkle Toes!

Douwe's silver hooves at the 2014 Baroque Horse Show where we performed. Photo taken by Karen Lendvay.

Douwe's silver hooves at the 2014 Baroque Horse Show where we performed. Photo taken by Karen Lendvay.

What You Need:

  • Hoof Polish: I prefer black because it makes the hooves really stand out, but clear will work fine as well.
  • GLITTER: You can get glitter in many colors at any craft store, JoAnn Fabric, ACMoore, Hobby Lobby, and Walmart. You can just get the regular craft glitter. The fine glitter works really well for the mane and coat but I usually just get the large containers of big glitter.
  • Hairspray: Can(s) of Super Hold hairspray- you can buy this at WalMart, Walgreens, etc...
  • Latex Gloves: If you don't want to get the hoof polish on your hands, wear gloves!
  • Block of Wood: To help keep the hoof area clear of shavings or to protect the floor.

How to Apply Glitter to the Hooves:

  1.  Clean the hoof and leg- just brushing it off will do! You don't need to wash the hoof.
  2. Place the hoof on a piece of wood if you would like to keep shavings/dirt away from the drying polish.
  3. Apply the hoof polish to one hoof at a time.
  4. Sprinkle on the glitter immediately after you apply the hoof polish.
  5. Do one hoof at a time and wait until it dries, it doesn't take too long, maybe 10 minutes before you are ready to ride.
Elisha Harvey (putting on polish) is working with Hannah French (glitter girl) to make sure the glitter is added immediately for the best "stickage"!

Elisha Harvey (putting on polish) is working with Hannah French (glitter girl) to make sure the glitter is added immediately for the best "stickage"!

Putting glitter on Douwe's hooves at a show. Not a good idea to do this in your white costume!!

Putting glitter on Douwe's hooves at a show. Not a good idea to do this in your white costume!!

How to Apply Glitter to the Mane/Tail/Coat:

  1.  Groom your horse first! Do not use Show Sheen or the glitter will not stick.
  2. You might need someone to hold your horse while you spray, some horses don't like the hairspray, be careful!
  3. With the glitter in one hand and the hairspray in the other, spray a section of the horse and then sprinkle on the glitter.
  4. I usually spray, sprinkle, and then spray again over the glitter to get it to stay.
  5. The horse may shake his head after you are done, that is why we put on a lot of glitter! We usually keep in mind that half of it will fall off once the horse shakes or the skirts rub it off.
Having way too much fun at the Equine Affaire! Elisha Harvey and Hannah French were my assistants/grooms for the event and they made a great glitter team! Here you can see how much glitter they put in Douwe's mane!

Having way too much fun at the Equine Affaire! Elisha Harvey and Hannah French were my assistants/grooms for the event and they made a great glitter team! Here you can see how much glitter they put in Douwe's mane!

Elisha Harvey is one of Douwe's glitter grooms! Here she is adding more hairspray to his tail to help hold the glitter in....you can also see that she put glitter on his feathers!

Elisha Harvey is one of Douwe's glitter grooms! Here she is adding more hairspray to his tail to help hold the glitter in....you can also see that she put glitter on his feathers!

And you are done!

I would love to see photos of your horse all glittered up, make sure to post them on my Facebook page at Begin the Dance with Sandra Beaulieu or email them to me at beginthedance@gmail.com. Have fun!

Here you can see Douwe's hooves, feathers, mane, neck and tail all glittered and he is ready to perform! We are on our way to the Youth Pavilion at Equine Affaire to demonstrate Douwe's tricks in the Friesian breed demo.

Here you can see Douwe's hooves, feathers, mane, neck and tail all glittered and he is ready to perform! We are on our way to the Youth Pavilion at Equine Affaire to demonstrate Douwe's tricks in the Friesian breed demo.

Learn More about Fantasy Photo Shoots with your Horse