Friday, July 20, 2012

Frugal Friday: Gone to the Dogs!

We've all seen it. The Australian cattle dog lying in the grass just outside the arena during a riding lesson. The Jack Russel terriers or Corgis piled up in a golf cart at shows across the country. The loveable mutt that greets every visitor to the barn. There's just something special about a barn dog.

Because riders love to spoil their dogs almost as much as they spoil their horses, I've scoured the 'net for the best doggie deals I could find. The result?

If I had to describe DoggyLoot, I'd call it LivingSocial for dogs. Essentially, the folks at DoggyLoot sell high quality dog toys, treats, and other supplies at deep discounts that are sometimes close to 75% off. As if that wasn't enough to entice the discriminating dog owner to make a purchase, they offer free shipping on all products. Sweet deal!

All you have to do to get in on the deals is sign up with Facebook or your e-mail address, and choose the size of dog you have. (I went for medium, since I have a pair of dachshunds that are extremely aggressive chewers and obliterate small dog chews/toys within a day or two.) The only catch is that, like LivingSocial, DoggyLoot deals are available for a limited time and once they're gone, they're gone.

Today's DoggyLoot deals for medium dogs include:
  • 54% off two moose antler chews (retails for $46, on sale for $21)
  • 58% off 10 6" USDA free range Bully Sticks (retails for $43, on sale for $18)
  • 33% off Ark Naturals Joint Rescue Treats (retails for $21, on sale for $14)
If you want to join DoggyLoot, please click through my special "refer a friend" link: You'll get a $5 coupon just for signing up, and I'll get $10 when you make your first purchase. Win-win!

Disclaimer: I am not associated with DoggyLoot in any way and I don't get any kind of reimbursement (beyond the "refer a friend" program) for bringing you this message. I just think they have a really great program and I've been personally satisfied with their offerings and service. Besides, I love having pampered pooches, don't you?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Tutorial: Scalloped Button Braids

Earlier this week, there was some discussion about how to do scallop braids on a dressage group I frequent. I was feeling pretty confident in my braiding abilities, so I volunteered to make a step-by-step tutorial showing the process. I didn't bother braiding the entire mane in this tutorial because I broke both of my hips 5 weeks ago and standing on a mounting block to braid a 17.2hh horse got old very quickly. There should be enough here to give you a good idea of the process, but feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments below.

Without further ado...

  • Stool or mounting block
  • Yarn to match the horse's mane (I used red for visual contrast in this tutorial, but would use black on Sam if braiding for a show.)
  • Water and a sponge/cloth OR braiding product such as QuicBraid
  • Stylist's Clip
  • Scissors
  • Rug hook or Speedy Braid Pull Through
  • Braid Aid comb (optional -- I find them more awkward than necessary, so I didn't use one.)
  • Before braiding, make sure the horse is comfortable in a reasonably quiet area. The fewer distractions, the better. Consider offering a hay net tied at about eye level or, if absolutely necessary, use a twitch to keep the horse from fidgeting around too much.
  • Holding the end of the yarn in one hand, loop the yarn around your elbow approximately 25-30 times, and cut the loops once. The result will be 25-30 pieces of 14-18" yarn with which you'll tie the finished braids.
  • Thread the yarn through the upper ring of the horse's halter on the right side for ease of access while braiding. (Remember, always braid on the horse's right side!)

 Step 1: Wet the mane or apply a braiding product such as QuicBraid to give the hair a better grip. Divide the hair into a section approximately 1" wide. Pin back the rest of the mane with a stylist's clip (included in most braiding kits).

Step 2: Divide the 1" section into three even sections and begin a normal braid. Remember to braid with downward tension on the hair to keep the mane lying flat and close to the neck. Pulling outward toward yourself will only result in loose, bulky braids that want to stick out everywhere and will bounce with the horse's movement.

 Step 3: Halfway down the braid, grab one of those pieces of yarn...

Step 4: ... and introduce the yarn into your braid. I like to bring the yarn underneath the braid, then loop one end of the yarn over the braid before adding the tails into the outermost sections of hair. By doing that, I have created a little "anchor" in the braid that means my yarn won't slip loose. Continue braiding. 

 Step 5: When you reach the end of the braid, separate the ends of the hair from the yarn.

 Step 6: Flip the yarn over the top of the braid to create a loop. Reach through the loop and pull the loose ends of the yarn through to create a knot around the braid. Make sure you pull the yarn snug and leave just a little bit of hair sticking out so that the braid doesn't start to unravel.

 Step 7: Once the entire mane is braided as in steps 1-6, it's time to start tying up the braids. To begin, push your rug hook or pull-through down into the top of the braid, being careful not to poke your horse while staying as close to the crest as possible.

 Step 8: Thread the ends of the yarn into your pull-through. (If you are using a rug hook, make sure you flip the little metal latch down or else you'll end up making a mess of your braid and getting the hook stuck in the mane. Not fun!)
 Step 9: Pull the tail ends of the yarn through to the other side. Make sure that the braid fits snug against the crest of the neck, but be careful not to pull the entire braid through to the other side in the process.

 Step 10A: As you can see, the yarn tail from braid 1 has been pulled through the base of braid 2, and the tail of braid 2 has been pulled through the base of braid 3. This creates the scalloped effect. (I haven't done it yet, but you might be able to thread the tail of braid 1 into the base of braid 3 to create an even tighter scallop. It's worth trying!)

 Step 10B: In this shot, you can see that the tail end of the last braid has not been pulled up yet. I'm leaving it for the very end because it will have to be tied differently than the others, seeing as it can't be threaded through another braid.

 Step 11: To tie up the braid, pull the tail ends of yarn back over from the left side and separate them to either side of the braided loop.

 Step 12: Tuck the left tail of yarn through the braided loop.

 Step 13: Tie a square knot underneath the braid to secure the tail of the adjacent loop to the crest. Pull the yarn tightly to make sure that everything is secure.

 Step 14: Now that the loop is secured, it's time to start adding on the button. Cross the tails of yarn back together in front of the braid in the beginning of a square knot.
 Step 15: As you tighten the yarn, make sure that they catch against the hair approximately in the middle of the scallop to begin forming the button.

 Step 16: Admittedly, the scallops can be kind of a pain in the butt to work with, so it's perfectly acceptable (although kind of awkward) to poke at the loop with one of your fingers to form the button. Whatever works, right?

 Step 17: Tie up the button with a square knot, being sure to pull the yarn tight so that the button will say secure during performance.

 Step 18: Repeat steps  11-17 until you reach the last braid, which was left hanging down earlier.

The last braid is a little tricky because it can't be formed into a scallop and it will already have the tail of the next-to-last braid tied to it. For that reason, the last braid will be tied off as a "knob" style hunter braid.

 Step 19: Push the rug hook or pull-through down through the top of the last braid and pull its yarn tails up toward the crest. Don't be surprised if there's a little resistance; you may have to wiggle the pull-through a little to dodge the knots from the next-to-last braid.

 Step 20: Pull the tails through, folding the end of the braid up neatly beneath the top half. Tie a square knot to keep the braid snug against the crest.

 Step 21: As before, bring the tails of yarn around to the front of the braid and begin tying a square knot about midway along the braid.
 Step 22: If necessary, use a finger to help push the braid up into a button and...

Step 23: ... tie securely with a square knot. By now, you should be an old pro at that!

 Step 23: Snip all the loose pieces of yarn from the braids with your scissors, but be extra careful that you don't accidentally cut through one of your knots or, even worse, a big chunk of mane.

Step 24: TA-DA! Step back and admire your work!

I hope this tutorial was helpful. Feel free to share this with your friends, but please refrain from reposting my photos or this tutorial to another site without my permission.