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Overheard in the Build-A-Bridle Workshop

Pony figurines and foam fingers

The majority of SmartPakers were riders way before they ever set foot in our offices. Ask us how long we’ve been riding and the average answer is somewhere between “since I could walk” and “forever.” But some members of our team are so exceptionally awesome that we hired them even though they don’t inhale deeply when greeted with notes of hay, leather and, let’s be honest, manure, wafting through the air.

But even our non-riders have horses on the brain. It’s not long before “glucosamine” rolls right off their tongues and they stop referring to a grazing muzzle as “that horsey Hannibal Lecter mask.” But when they’re brand spanking new, there’s a lot of fun to be had…

Case in point: we recently hired a super-fantastic videographer named Nels. Nels is not a rider. In fact he’s never even been on a horse. But he’s very talented, an amazing teammate and really eager to learn. And learn he shall.

Yesterday was lesson #14 in Nels’ first week at SmartPak – how to put together a bridle. Some of our Marketing team members were getting some of our Plymouth bridles ready to go out as prizes for local horse shows, and Nels offered to help with the assembly. The following is a collection of verbatim quotes I overheard during this 20-minute adventure.

The cast of characters:
Nels – Videographer, Non-rider
Emily – Marketing Coordinator, Dressage rider
Sarah – that’s me!, Brand Manager, H/J rider
Bjorn – Manager of New Media, Non-rider, but seasoned SmartPaker (he knows how to properly use both a curry comb and a hoof pick)

Nels: [immediately upon opening the bag and inspecting the bridle parts] “I think mine is defective.”

Nels: [holding the reins] “This looks like a belt.”
Emily: [laughing] “Yeah. Sure. It goes around the horse’s waist. Holds the saddle on.”
Nels: “Great! So that part’s done.” [sets reins aside]

Nels: “You’d have better luck asking me to build you a car. From scratch.”

Nels: “I must have extra parts…. I’m supposed to have extra parts, right?”

Nels: [upon learning about the bit] “That goes in its mouth?! ON PURPOSE?!”

Nels: [flexing a snaffle bit back and forth] “What’s the difference between that and that?!”
Emily: “Well, the curve of the bit follows the natural curve of the horse’s mouth.”
Nels: “OK… I don’t know that I’d call that natural, but OK.”

Nels: [holding headstall] “Can I put this on my daughter?”

Emily: “You’re doing great!”
Nels: “…the horse might disagree.”

Nels: [closing the hook studs] excessive grunting

Nels: “I don’t know that I’d let anybody actually use this one. I mean, would you wanna ride in this? After I put it together?”

Nels: [after Emily gave a catalog with headshots in bridles] “That doesn’t help! That’s meaningless!”

Bjorn: “I don’t know what some of this stuff does.”
Nels: “I don’t know what any of this stuff does!”

Nels: “Do I have it right?”
Emily: laughs

Nels: [reading the catalog] “This fits discreetly under the crown piece. In case you didn’t know that.”

Nels: “How do you remember all this? There’s so many loose ends…”

Bjorn: “Am I done?”
Emily: “Think about which way the noseband is facing and which way the browband is facing…” (editor’s note: the browband and the throatlatch were touching at this point.)

Sarah: [to Nels] “See what you have in your left hand? You want your right hand to be like tha- …Oh… No… they’re both wrong.”

Nels: “Is that supposed to come out?”

Nels: “They go through where?!?”

Nels: [after about 15 minutes] “So this goes on its head, right?”

Nels: “Personally, I would’ve just tied these parts together like shoelaces.”

Nels: [Five minutes after the lesson has ended, quietly, to himself] “That was stressful…”

Oh by the way, while all of this was going on, Kerri, a dressage rider and our Marketing Manager of SmartSupplements put together an entire bridle in eight minutes…with her eyes closed.

Just another day at SmartPak. I love my job 😀

Do you have a story about a non-horsey co-worker, friend or family member getting horsey things hilariously wrong? Share it in the comments below or on our Facebook wall – we can’t wait to read them (and they’ll make Nels feel better).

Sarah Paull

Sarah Paull is a lifelong rider and SmartPak’s Brand Manager. You may know her better as the life-size foam finger from the London Olympics, the host of USEF Network’s Live from London coverage, or “that girl from the Stuff Riders Say videos.” Prior to joining SmartPak in 2008, Sarah worked as a Veterinary Technician at B.W. Furlong & Associates in Oldwick, NJ, and obtained her degree in Equine Science from Centenary College. Sarah is the proud mom of Cody, a semi-retired, 23-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, and she’s currently looking for an eventing partner to help her get rid of all the extra time, money and energy she doesn’t actually have :-) If you're interested in her often-horsey, always-odd musings, follow @SmartPakerSarah on Twitter.

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19 comments on “Overheard in the Build-A-Bridle Workshop
  1. Nels says:

    In all honesty, if they handed me another one right now, I’d probably say the same things. That was so confusing!

    Give me a couple weeks/months and I’ll have it figured out, though!

  2. NANCY FOLKS says:


  3. Jessie B says:

    Once I get the headband on I usually put the bridle on my own head so it hangs loosely without tangling all the other parts. My friends always made fun of me for it.

  4. Erin G says:

    My non-horsey husband telling his horsey co-worker we just got a horse. Horsey co-worker, really excited, starts asking about the basics: breed, color, gender.

    Husband’s responses-
    Breed: uggh…horse?
    Color: I think she’s brown.
    Gender: Girl

    (Actual answer: 18 year old bay Morgan mare 🙂 )

  5. Brittani says:

    I was tellin a co-worker how to put the saddle on my bay mare. He had never been on a horse before, i turned around to grab my bridle and when i turned back he somehow had a western saddle on her backwards and was tryin to loop the cinch through. it was absolutely priceless.

  6. Lauren says:

    Love it Nels! All of my riding students ask these SAME questions when we get to tack cleaning 101! Usually I tell them to take everything apart and then they say – “Everything? How am I going to get it back together again?”

  7. CJ says:

    Nels, you sound awesome! And I loved your comment about the bit – I had the SAME reaction. So did one of our horses, who made it clear that I could ride him in any situation with absolutely NO gear just fine, thank you, and he saw no reason to have that thing in his mouth. (He has been scoring regularly in the 70s in dressage over the past year, but we still do part of our schooling in a neck loop since it seems to work for him)

  8. Penny Sumner says:

    That was too funny! But all laughing aside, my fiance to is still pretty new with the horse thing, and this helps us old timers to remember this is not like breathing for the not broken in people. I still have to tell myself I’ve been doing this for 37yrs. and he just has been handling my horse for 4 yrs. (no riding.)

  9. RidingDaisy says:

    A couple years ago, I went to horse camp for the first time and brought my own mare along. Once we were there, my trainer and I unloaded everything and stuck my short chestnut with a large blaze in a stall. My (non-rider) mother stood outside and proceeded to take a large amount of pictures of the tall bay gelding in the next stall over, who had his head stuck out his half door and sported no markings on his face. Finally she exclaimed “Honey, I got lots of pictures, she had her ears forward the whole time!”. I had to break it to her that that was not my horse 😉

  10. Lucy says:

    I come from a non-horsey family so am forever hearing hilarious things. I was talking to someone the other day who was baffled at the idea that there are actually stores catering just to riders/horses and that we had special equipment for riding. And try explaining my job as an equine massage therapist to people. Some think it’s the most bizarre thing in the world.
    As for the bridle- Nels don’t feel so bad the first two times I took one apart to clean it and attempted to put it back to together, my coach had to take it apart again and reassemble it for me. They can certainly be confusing to put together.
    You’re a great sport for having given it a go!

  11. Michelle L. Allen says:

    Good sport for giving it a go Nels! Recently I got asked again about the blinders or in this recent case – the horse(s) had a bandage covering its head. Me – It’s a fly mask. And then of course there is the whole – Yes they can see out of it! My favorite is a friend who mentioned having a lesson over the weekend while at work. A co-worker asked her, “What? You don’t know how to ride yet?”

  12. Tiffany says:

    Good Job Nels!

    My best non-horsey co-worker moment, I had brought a video of a horse trials I was in to work. After watching our dressage test, my co-worker asked me “how does the horse know where to go?!”

    I still smile about that remark. 🙂

  13. Dakota says:

    I love the comment about the bit (“That goes in its mouth on purpose?!”). I think all of us riders could benefit from an ‘outsider’s’ point of view in order to gain some perspective of our own.

  14. Shane says:

    Oh, man. I really miss working with Nels. Always fun. Just make him tuck his shirt in.

  15. Autumn says:

    You’re a good sport Nels! My dad would be in a similar situation if we asked him to do this, seeing as how I don’t come from a horsey family. He always jokes with me that he’ll tell his friends something he heard me say at dinner (“My daughter was jumping her horse through a GYMNASTICS”, “She said she had him going in a FRAME”…) and when he does, they all think it’s amazing lol. Look at it this way; compared to your non-horsey friends, you’re a freaking expert with horses!

  16. Rachel says:

    I know this blog post was from almost 4 years ago, but I only just found it and felt I needed to congratulate you anyway, especially since I just discovered the “Ask a Non-Rider” series.

    Nels, you did pretty well, I have to admit. The very first bridle I got consisted of a single-piece headstall (no throat latch or browband, and to this day I’m still not sure whether it’s supposed to be a 1-ear or not), a curb strap, and a bit (reins didn’t come included). 2 buckles, 2 screws, 3 pieces of leather, and a solid low port long shanked curb bit (not entirely sure of the exact name, since I’ve never seen another like it). The whole thing consisted of only 4 pieces, and I had to take it apart to clean and oil it (I had been given it used, which was why there weren’t any reins), but even with only 4 pieces I had a hard time putting it back together. I remember those days, and I’ve been riding and around horses for almost 12 years now. However, if I was given a bridle to put together that I had never seen before, I also would need to spend some time determining where everything went.

    We have just started the horsemanship classes for this year, and the patience it takes to help them learn the very basics brings me back to the days when I was just starting to learn, and I feel for them — I was someone who really wanted to learn but didn’t always catch on very quickly, at least when I was first starting.

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