Saturday, July 20, 2013

Bit by bit

Horses, history and humour - well, I'm afraid if you're after humour this post probably isn't going to cut it. Horses, and a bit of implied history, yes.


Just seen these ridiculous descriptions on a couple of saddlery sites:

"Filet Bouche

"Filet Baucher

“The Filet Baucher uses pressure on the poll as the cheek piece has an extra ring above the snaffle ring where the bridle cheek pieces are attached to, this poll pressure encourages the horse to lower the head and come on to the bit especially useful for horses that have a high head carriage.”

“Stainless steel. With hollow jointed swivel mouthpiece and Increases poll flexion by adding leverage. Enables to keep horses from putting too much weight on their shoulders”.

Seriously? If I ever meet the person who wrote this rubbish I will hit him with a dictionary and then choke him with a gag snaffle.


The horse world must not only have a short memory, it must also be gullible and totally illiterate.

The Baucher snaffle is named after FRANCOIS BAUCHER, radical dressage exponent, (1796–1873). He was a French riding master who took great pride in his ability to produce a horse quickly. His insistence on training for straightness by “flexing”the forehand and hindquarters sideways, very early in training, sounds extremely forceful. (Disengaging, anybody?)

The Fillis snaffle is named after JAMES FILLIS, Victorian horse trainer (1834-1913) who was an English-born French riding master who trained with Baucher in France, and introduced his methods to England. He taught for 12 years as Ecuyer en chef of the St. Petersburg Cavalry Riding School. He trained horses in a German circus in 1892.

Alois Podhajsky and other dressage masters wrote of these men, but if you can’t get their books, both JAMES FILLIS and FRANCOIS BAUCHER are discussed by Wikipedia.

"Fillis Snaffle £67.60"

“This is an excellent bit for horses who have a dislike for bits in their mouths as the square link is severe--"

Really? Gotta love that logic.

"-- but the action from the cheeks on the poll is very gentle. The horse prefer the gentle poll action to the severity of the mouthpiece This bit offers a nutcracker action combined with pressure being exerted on the poll. The normal pattern has a small cheek, ideal for use with small ponies.”

I would never put anything across MY tongue that had studs projecting under its mouthpiece, let alone the Fillis snaffle they want you to shell out almost 70 quid for. And there is no poll action with a snaffle bit. Not even if you were to write grammatically.


Only cynical marketing hype would make claims that five minutes’ straightforward observation can refute. It’s plainly ignorant to combine the names of two controversial riding masters FILLIS and his mentor BAUCHER, produce the mangled cod-French name of FILET BOUCHE and slap it onto a simple and unpretentious bit.

The hanging cheek snaffle (to give it its accurate description) has NOTHING to do with a cut of beef. Except, perhaps, the expectation that if it bears a pseudo-French name you will spend a lot of money to purchase it.
Look for a simple hanging cheek snaffle, it will set you back £20 at most.


You may have gathered that I've been studying bit design and action--not with a loriner (that's a bit maker) but with my own Fell pony's mouth. Ruby was very patient with her nosey owner and let me take a lot of photos. She only objected to me testing the most severe curb-rein effect of my Liverpool bit - so I only took a couple of pics and then let her off that one.

I've looked at single-jointed snaffle bits and the two curb bits I use for driving. They are both LONG documents so you may prefer to read them separately rather than in this post.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Writer's block - or what?

I'm anticipating a busy weekend. The Orton Scribblers meet here on Monday evening; I have to attend a Fell Pony Society meeting on Tuesday; my daughter, grandson and I are going to Cheshire to visit my mother on Sunday, and tomorrow I shall be in Keswick talking to the Cumbrian Literary Guild about "Researching and Writing a Historical Novel".

I hope you appreciated the jumbled chronology there.

It's symptomatic of my writing approach at present. Although I have some fairly good ideas in my head, and one of them tapped me on the skull yesterday and suggested that it could rejuvenate an MS I have rewritten without satisfaction over the last few years, I seem to be putting off writing. I've even got to the stage of ratching out old blogs and articles to print off as my reading contribution for the Scribblers. And we only meet once a month.

This is serious inertia.

One excuse is that the car, which I need, to get me to two of the impending appointments (and to stock up on staples like bread, milk, and cream crackers), is currently at Tebay in the garage. It's having its electric boot lock "looked at" because it won't open; according to various web forums, the internals of Vauxhall boot design on this model are shite. Bits have been ordered for it, and they have arrived but they have also been pronounced Wrong. So Chris the garage man is returning the car to me "this afternoon" - which will probably mean 6-15 pm, but might be earlier... or not.

Another is the impending arrival of printed copies of my poetry pamphlet "Ash Tree", due out next month from Prole Books. It's highly personal stuff and the idea of doing readings from it is pushing me to find alternatives that are linked, but not so emotionally charged.

I've written a lot in the past week on horsey web-sites.

I've researched and produced an article about bits (The Single Jointed Snaffle).

I've updated my Fell Pony Museum web site with a bit more information about Galloways.

I've read more than I probably should have done about academic research into the DNA sequences of the horse and and how to read genetic diagrams. But I am still twiddling my thumbs today about whether to start doing anything worthwhile like Exercising the Mare or Doing Some Writing.

Maybe it's just the warm weather.

And maybe I am just making excuses.

I can't decide.


PS - the car has just been returned. Grocery shopping will now occur at great speed.

I suppose that answers the question. See you all later.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Twisted Stair

Freebie week here!

The Twisted Stair is free to download for Kindle, until Friday this week.

Three uneasy tales.

The dark side of human emotions may not always lead to murder...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Getting My Eye Back In

I've spent the past week mostly writing specialised non fiction about horsey subjects. Single jointed snaffle bits, to be precise; not really on topic here, but if you are interested in an equestrian rant, try The Single Jointed Snaffle, and the effect of rein angles, auxiliary reins and nosebands. Yes, I did say it was specialised.

Between driving my Fell mare Ruby, and visiting the Old Git pony Mr T down at Millom, and attending the monthly harpers' workshop, and watching a game or two of Wimbledonnis, I've struggled to get any Proper Writing done. God, it's a hard life.

I've also been trying to get my eye back in for poetry, ready for Prole Books' launch of my poetry pamphlet, "Ash Tree", next month. I admit I'm being a bit lazy about this, so I've been teasing myself by writing little poems - probably the smallest there are, the Japanese Haiku. Haiku are primarily nature poems, and Cumbria is looking/sounding/smelling/feeling terrific just now. For now I'm simply lumping them under the title of Cumbrian Haiku, but if something better pops up I'll use it!

Here are a few haiku to be going on with.

black mares and foals drift
through a sun gold sea, eating
grass, not buttercups

smoothed by glaciers
boulders that crouch in the sedge
become moss gardens

rounded grey-lined stones
asleep on the ragged fellside
stand and graze as sheep

quick blue-black crescents
skim through the farmyard midges
swallowing beakfuls 

Arigatou gozaimasu.

I also have to polish my talk for next Saturday at Keswick, to the Cumbrian Literary Group: "Writing a Historical Novel." I hope it will go OK!