Useless Saddle Marketing

So I had a local saddle fitter (yes, a new one) out on Sunday to take a look at my Genesis. Originally, she was going to look at the Diablo, but I decided that wasn’t going to be the right thing, even if we could get it to fit May. So I mostly just wanted to see if there is anything we could do to help the Genesis sit more in balance for me and reduce the rocking for May. (nope… ) So the conversation  mostly turned to my “next” saddle.

The conversation went something like this:

Saddle Fitter: “Well, what have you tried so far?”

Me: “In alphabetical order?… of saddles I actually put on my horse’s back and didn’t just rule out immediately? Albion, Barnsby, Black Country (Solare and Wexford), Bliss, County, CWD, Duett, Ovation, Prestige, and Stubben…. at least as much as I can remember.”

Check out the full recap of my last deep dive into saddle fitting here. 

Let me just say, that when you outline it like that… you get some crazy looks from your newest saddle fitter.

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Super cool saddle… Didn’t come CLOSE to fitting her

Saddle fitter “oooook. I am surprised you didn’t like the black country saddles.”

Me “Well… the one that the rep sent me was way too small. I have picture evidence!”

At least she agreed that it was definitely too narrow for May. Her recommendation was to find a black country in the width/seat size I needed, and we could reflock it to get it perfect. She isn’t the first saddle rep to suggest this brand to me, so I decided to take a look.

did ask her what model of their saddles would be best for me. Her response, “Your specs are going to be hard to find, so just start there.” Yeah… no. I already have a saddle I don’t love for ME, so I am not going to buy another one.

Fine, so I turn to black country’s website. You know, the place that should explain the differences between their models. Right?

At first, it started out pretty good. Below is the description for the Wexford:

The Wexford is a deep-seated jumping saddle, similar to the GP range, though offering a wider seat for comfort than most traditional jump saddles.

This saddle comes with large supporting knee and thigh blocks for the ultimate in rider security and an extra forward flap option for the taller rider.

The panel and tree combinations within this saddle allow for a multitude of profiles.

Now of course, I remember I sat in the Wexford, and it put me in a bit of a chair seat, so I am crossing it off. (Thank you blogging and making tags for stuff.)

So let’s look at the Quantum.

The Quantum Jumping saddle is built on a close contact tree and panel, it gives a flatter seat required for stadium or cross country jumping. Knee and thigh blocks to support your position. This is also available with an extra forward cut flap, for taller riders.

I mean… alright. A flatter seat. That is somewhat helpful. Except, it looks like this:

Not what I call a flat seat

So by flatter… did you just mean flatter than a GP? Huh…

Then I remember that I had really liked the Solare. So is that similar to the Quantum?

We are proud to introduce you to the new Solare Jump Saddle – ideal for those riders looking for a quality saddle and the latest innovations.

Made with vintage leather, the Solare offers excellent value for money with the saddle combining cutting edge design and technology providing riders of all levels and ability with a close contact saddle and a forward-fitting seat that allows freedom of movement.

Custom-made as always, this saddle has a discreet knee roll providing support without blocking the leg position whilst the forward cut flaps help the rider’s balance and security.

I…. what? The above tells me nothing about the saddle. So… then I jumped down to the solare monoflap. (Nearly impossible to find in my specs but hey, a girl can dream.)

Providing an outstanding closeness to your horse, the Vinici Solare jumping saddle is certainly one that stands out from the crowd.

This saddle is high-spec throughout and has been developed to incorporate the well-established Vinici single/mono flap design.

Feeling at one with your horse is key to success and the hugely popular Vinici design has now also been developed into a jumping saddle with a slimline, one-piece tree making it ultra-lightweight.

This superb saddle incorporates the highly regarded flexible overlay girthing system with the straps lying on top of the panel, helping to aid rider-feel.

Designed to enhance rider position when show jumping, the Vinici Solare is a fantastic example of the craftsmanship and technological advances available today.

Really? Does anyone care about all the marketing speak? I get it. They want you to talk to their reps in order to buy their saddles. (Upsell! Upsell! Upsell!) However, it is a really frustrating experience when you already know that you don’t like the rep in your area, AND you have limited funds to try all their models without the support of a rep.

I figure it is worth comparing this to the Stubben saddle explanations:

The S Roxane is a deep jump seat, square cantle saddle that features matching panels and large blocks in both the front and rear. It offers great security while using softer leather on the layered fronts to provide for a very comfortable ride.

Starting at $3,695.

The Ascend offers a classic hunter coupled with the advanced technology of Stübben spring tree at an affordable price point. It features an extra soft seat with a narrow twist and square cantle. The nicely padded smooth fronts combined with the versatility of our velcro block system allows the rider to choose the level of support desired. The rich redwood colored leather, complimented by a soft contrast stitching, offers an immediate broken in feel.

The hunter rider will experience an effortless, close-contact feeling with the controlled performance of this exquisite creation by Stübben.

Starting price of $2,495.

Alright so… You can see through these two examples that the Roxanne is a deeper, more secure saddle. Probably better for fox hunting. Meanwhile, the Ascend has a more narrow twist and is probably better for jumping in the ring, but with more support than a more traditional jumper saddle.

So while I continue to try and sell my Dressage saddle, I will probably keep the Black Country Solare in the back of my mind. I LOVED the bliss, but the chance to save $1000+ and still end up with a great saddle… that is hard to pass up.

So what do you all think? Do you think this is a purposeful tactic on Black Country’s part to encourage people to use their reps? Or do you think it is just a marketing person gone haywire? Ooooorrrr Does this type of thing not bother you at all?

Let me know your thoughts!

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Blog Hop – 10 Questions for September

Kentucky is still going through it’s final tantrum of summer, and my knee is still a bit out of whack. Soooo when Viva Carlos posted a blog hop, I just had to jump in. 🙂

1. Favorite quirk your horse (or a horse you’ve spent time with) has?

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This is not a good habit. It is not a habit I condone… but May’s proclivity for escaping and causing zero trouble is somehow endearing haha. I am sure my trainer is rolling her eyes so hard at this, because it is a terrible habit. BUT she doesn’t “break out” of her stall. She only sneaks out if her stall guard isn’t fully attached, sooooo I think it’s cute. Honestly, other than that, she’s a pretty business-like mare.
2. Three adjectives that perfectly describe your horse?

Opinionated, pretty, confident

May isn’t a conventional beauty. She’s more like Ashley Graham. Aka – part of her beauty is her total confidence in herself. It makes her a fun eventing partner for sure!

3. Plan your next ride. What will you do/work on?

Ahahahaha well… someone on COTH called me out for my fat horse. (fun times) Sooo I think we will be doing a fitness ride tonight. She got a bit ribby in June, so we upped her forage. Then I got busy with work/travel/life, so her work load dropped a bit and BOOM fat mare. We pulled back the calories and are increasing the workload to help her be a bit more fit for Team Challenge next month.

4. Have you ever trained an OTTB? If yes, what was the biggest challenge?

A straight off the track OTTB? Nope. As I mentioned before, I have ridden lots and lots of green horses. From 3 yr old pony’s just being broke to saddle, to older horses of the slaughter truck bound for Mexico. Training horses is definitely one of those “learn on the job” type of things. Experience is exactly what you get 30 seconds after you need it.

Here is a video (MANY YEARS LATER) of one of the Welsh Cobs I started. He turned into a pretty cool dude!

5. Have you ever groomed or worked for a professional rider?

I have spent a lot of time as a barn rat… I used to go to HITS Saugerties, Old Salem, etc as a groom for friends. Since moving to eventing, I have tried to get to events to support pros and friends. However, true groom/working student situation? Not something I was able to do.

6. Favorite horse and rider combination?

Oh man. I know she is having a huge year right now, but I loved Beezie Madden & Judgement. He was a horse that just looked like he LOVED show jumping. The higher, harder, and more technical the jumps got. The better he was. SUCH a cool horse, and of course, I have major respect for her and her program.

7. Have you ever ridden a horse at the beach?

Yes! Actually, in the Grand Cayman Islands. They heard I could ride (big mistake mom), so I got this spicy little mare. Who I ADORED. Gosh I wish I knew where the photos were from that, but it was an amazing day.

The Grand Cayman Islands are a British colony, so I was actually fairly impressed with their horsemanship for what resources they had available. This was YEARS ago, but it looks like they are still around and still have nicely fed ponies: http://ponies.ky/ 

8. If you could experience the equestrian community (i.e. ride and compete) in another country, what country would you choose and why?

Ireland or England. And I would foxhunt. I would probably die, but I would die with a smile on my face.

9. In your opinion, what is an item of tack that is given unnecessary hype?

This was actually a hard one for me. I think that all horses are individuals and what is useless to you and your horse might be a godsend to someone else. I guess I will say like lorenzini stirrups are probably something I don’t get. I have seem many on resale pages for a lot less than their purchase value due to the paint scratching and chipping.

I will take my MDC Stirrups any day. Had to look up the instagram post when I got them… turns out, they predate May! Next month they will be 5 years old, and they still look this good. To me, that’s a great purchase!

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Oh hey beautiful

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10. What was the first horse you rode called? Are they still alive?

Aww Frisbee. He was OLD when I rode him, and that was… 23 years ago. Unfortunately, he passed away like 3 days before my first show. He was a saint of a horse, and I am 100% sure he is in the best part of heaven.

Stacie also did this blog hope, and I look forward to seeing more of y’all answers!

May As Well Have a Spa Day

I’m not sure about the rest of the country, but it has been hot and HUMID in Kentucky lately. May has been putting in requests for a relocate to the North Pole to work for Santa, but since that just isn’t a reality, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and treat May to a massage and MagnaWave session.

One of the women that boards at my barn is a license masseuse and magnawave technician. It’s been in the back of my mind to sign May up, but I honestly just didn’t feel like shelling out the cash. There really isn’t anything major about May’s way of going that was concerning to me. She didn’t show any signs of back pain or really any pain. Our biggest issue is, and has always been, her shoulders wanting to exit stage right.

Since our tech is a fellow boarder, she is pretty familiar with May, but she still asked me if there are any issues we have. (see above) She explained that she feels like she can get the best read on a horse’s body with her hands with her massage background, but she thinks the combination of magnawave and massage helps create longer lasting results. Sure, sounds great.

How did May feel about it? There was a lot of droopy lip, and by the time she got to the back end with the massage, May was so loose through her body that she just let the massage wave through her body from tail to nose. I was actually surprised at her patience with it. Typically, May has a timer in her head. If you spend more than that amount of time messing with her, she starts to get fussy, especially with how bad the flies were yesterday afternoon.

During the MagnaWave session, though, she just leaned into the massage, let her eyelids float closed, and enjoyed a zen-like pony state.

img_7172As for the feedback, overall, I think the tech was pretty impressed. She had some tightness the left side of her neck and her right hip, but none of it was painful enough that working through the stiffness caused any discomfort for May. And the magnawave didn’t show any major reactions either. Again, the left side of her next showed the largest reaction, but it was still pretty minor from what I have seen before. I guess I need to be more diligent about the carrot stretches for that side.

Overall, the jury is still out. I think May enjoyed it, and it was a nice treat for her. The biggest positive, to me, is getting another set of hands/eyes on how my horse’s body is feeling. It obviously doesn’t substitute our yearly wellness check, or any check if I start to feel her being less-than-willing in her work, but it does seems like a nice check in when nothing is obviously wrong. However, I won’t know if it had any positive impact on her way of going until I hop back on Tuesday.

So look for another post with my follow-up thoughts on Wednesday! If anyone in the area is looking to try it, I am happy to recommend the tech from my barn.

A Surprisingly Good Customer Service Experience

There are times in life where… stuff just happens hahaha. When I put my Dressage saddle up for sale, I cleaned it up, took some quick pics, and threw them on facebook. After a few weeks of no bites, I brought it home for a proper deep clean and glam photo shoot.

That was when I noticed this…

UGH. So I looked back through the other pics… and I clearly should’ve looked closer at them at the time.

Remind you, it has now been WEEKS since I took that second pic… But that didn’t stop me from rifling through the grass at the barn trying to find that tiny screw cover. Not surprisingly, I came away empty handed.

I figured that it was probably worth buying the new piece (if the cost was reasonable), so that I was sending off a 100% intact saddle to a new owner. (IF I EVER FIND A NEW OWNER)

So I shot Stubben’s North American team an email. Mind you, I bought this saddle second hand and not from Stubben… So while I am someone that rides in Stubben saddles, I am not exactly a Stubben customer.

They emailed me back within a couple of hours asking for my address and the serial number of my saddle. I sent both off and waited for the cost. The email I got back, “Thank you! I will see if we have an extra one hanging around, and I will drop it in the mail to you.”

It arrived on Monday and screwed right in, like the original piece. It was pretty refreshing to have a quick and painless interaction with a saddle company.

And since I have no shame, here is a link to the ebay listing again: Click Here

Saddle Fitting Appointment – Loxley by Bliss

Can we discuss how unbelievably dumb this company name is? Bliss of London? Then, let’s drop down the rabbit hole of checking out their website… also bad with a TON of broken links… so when I was looking for a saddle a couple of years ago, I skipped right over them with a solid “nope”.

But they kept rattling around in my head. I had seen their saddles my first year at (what was then) Rolex, and I remember being impressed by the quality and variety. They have multiple tree shapes/widths, which is obviously, something I am always interested in.

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This picture explains most of what I talk about… 

I dug a little deeper. As is true with most custom saddle brands, your experience is more about the rep  you work with, then the actual company. As discussed in my last post… my experience with brand reps has been pretty poor. (I actually loved my Stubben rep though. Great woman!)

So when I looked up the Bliss rep in my area (Kate Wooten), I found a ton of positive feedback. I figured it was worth having a discussion with her at least, so I reached out. It took us a couple of weeks (and a bit of a scramble) to get on each other’s calendar, but we did it on Monday night! First off, apologies for the lack of media, but I was really trying to absorb the whole experience vs. getting content. (Scandalous, I know!)

I am not sure if it was the lack of fancy at my barn, the lack of fancy with my pony, or what, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Kate start at the bottom of the cost ladder for Bliss. Right off the bat, I learned a few things about Bliss: the Loxley saddles are ~$2,500, including any customization you need to make. The bliss saddles go up to about $5,500. Let’s say… $2,500 sounded pretty good for me after touring around $5K+ saddles at LRKY3DE.

However, my expectations were REALLY low. I have sat in some less expensive saddles and… have usually found them pretty disappointing. More on that later though.

The first thing Kate did was take a look at my current saddle on May’s back… and I heard her suck through her teeth.

Kate, “The fit of this saddle is pretty good on her.”
Me, “I know.”
Kate, “She’s pretty short backed.”
Me, “Yup.”
Kate, “You like the 18″ seat?”
Me, “Yup”
Kate, “she’s not as wide up top as you’d expect”
Me, “she’s not”
Kate, “And she has withers”
Me, “She does.”
Kate, “This saddle is really minimal… do you like minimal?”
Me, “My old albion had big blocks that I did really like.”
Kate, “Alright then! Let’s get started!”

And that… is kind of Kate is a nutshell. She’s just super positive (and super British). She thought my fat, short pony was great.

She took a quick tracing of May, just behind the shoulders, in order to grab things that would mostly fit from her truck  minivan. The first saddle she plopped on Mays back was a Loxley Eventer. She explained that this saddle had their medium-deep seat. This one was a traditional, double flap saddle, but it had long billets. I asked about the cost of adding the long billets.

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Not the same saddle, but similar.

“Oh no… no extra cost for any of the customization. We’re more concerned about getting you a saddle that works then adding on fees for things that don’t really cost us anything.”

Well, that’s some marketing line, but I’ll take it. So that first saddle would be ~$2,500 new. Mmmmmk. The saddle was a 17.5″, but she thought I would be ok in the flatter seat. (Everyone says this, it has never been true.) The fit on May was surprisingly good too.

“We’ll order it in an adjustable tree though, so you have some flexibility as she changes shape.”

“How much is that option?”

“Same price.”

Ooooooook. The leather was a bit grippier than what’s on my Stubben. It wasn’t great, buttery calfskin, but it wasn’t hard plasticky junk. I hopped up and… wow it felt like A LOT of saddle under my leg and seat. The balance was good, but everything felt “muffled” with May. Does this make sense? Let me try to explain.

One of my favorite “buttons” on May is a great half halt from my leg. Need to rebalance or prepare for a downward transition? I can close my knees, and she comes back to me. With all the cushion under my knee in this saddle, I lost that half halt. Overall, trotted around for maybe five minutes before heading back over to Kate.

My first thought? This is why I don’t bother trying saddles that are in my budget when new. 

The next saddle was a jump saddle with their flattest seat… and I hated it. I mean,  Kate left the ring to grab another saddle before I had even made it halfway around. The saddle CONSTANTLY shoved me towards the back of it… like all the way to the cantle. It was the oddest thing I had ever felt. May wasn’t super happy about my center of balance moving all over the place, so I hopped off before Kate had even made it back.

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It wasn’t a monoflap, but this seat is similar. 

Alright then… I was now CONVINCED that this was a total waste of time. Maybe they could fit May (everything would have easily fit with some flocking adjustments), but it wasn’t going to be any better for me.

So… Then she pulled out an eventing Monoflap in an 18″. She explained that the flap was wrong for me (it was originally made for a 15 yr old boy), and that the panel isn’t quite right for May (it was a touch long and a touch narrow up front. However, the SHAPE of the tree was really good for her). Either way, Kate wanted me to feel if this feel/balance point was something I liked.

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Again, similar… but not the exact same)

The difference was immediate. The biggest difference? I could SIT on my horse. There was no struggle to move from sitting to half seat. There was no struggle to keep my leg under me. I walked, trotted, cantered, and popped over some small jumps. I didn’t want to jump anything of height because I knew the fit on May wasn’t GREAT, and I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable.

However, the saddle was easy enough to get in and out of over the fences. I didn’t feel like I had to fling myself forward or hold myself back to stay in balance with May. Overall, I was super happy. The cost of the monoflap? $3,300 + taxes. Honestly,  not bad at all.

When I hopped off, I had Kate walk me through where the TREE was vs. just the padding. I flexed back the flap on the saddle to see how much flexibility was offered to May’s shoulders. I was really happy with that, especially given the extra long, extra forward flaps on the version I tried.

We went back to the barn, and I prepared myself for the sales pitch. The “just sign on the dotted line and hand over your credit card” speech. The “you desperately need this saddle” speech. Kate started taking detailed tracings of May’s back, and I felt myself stiffen.

Kate then wrote me out a detailed list of what we had tried and why I didn’t like them, including prices. Then, she went through the order form, and checked off what it would look like, if I ordered something similar to what I liked that day. She handed it to me, gave May a pat, and told me to reach out when I was ready.

I stood blinking at her, as she bounced back out of the barn, giving ponies pats along the way. It’s been 4 days, and she hasn’t reached out to “see what I decided”.

Hilariously, I found out later that a girl I am somewhat connected to just got a saddle that she had ordered from Bliss through Kate. She’s super happy with her purple and black monoflap (it’s a lot for me haha) and indicated that it fit her horse well. It’s no guarantee, but it helps. Either way, I am not in any huge rush, but this one is obviously sitting in the front of my mind.

I reached out to our County rep, but she’s not sure when she’ll be back in the area. Either way, To Be Continued!

First Thoughts – The Rest of the Dover Haul

Remember when I was pretending I was going to be all responsible and save my extra gift cards for new breeches? Well… that plan went out the window REAL FAST once I was in an actual tack shop. (Funny how that happens). I ended up going a bit… wild… for me, and I bought things I just generally wanted instead of things I in any way really need. It’s been a long time since I let myself indulge like this, and it felt pretty good. SO WHAT DID I GET?

Flexi Spur Set

So I haven’t even tried these out yet, so have no real opinion on them. I really love my new boots (and will love them more once it’s not winter and I can wear normal pants under them). Unfortunately, I love them so much that I have hesitated putting spurs on them for fear of scratching them. My favorite spurs are… somewhere… I have no idea where, and the spurs I have been using are just little nubs that I am 90% convinced only have a placebo effect.

flexi spur setSo when I spied the spur rack, I immediately wondered if I could find a pair of rubber coated spurs. The rubber coated Stubben ones were $60…. I hemmed and hawed, and then looked at the basket at the bottom. There sat some unobtrusive black and rubber spurs. I liked the length and smoothness of the actual spur, the rubber coated interior, and the price point ($18… including fabric straps.) SOLD.

Then, I got home and mildly panicked that they weren’t legal because they weren’t metal. Here’s the actual rule (bolding is mine):

Spurs are optional for all three tests. Spurs capable of wounding a horse are forbidden. Spurs must be of smooth metal. If there is a shank it must not be longer than 4 cm (1 9/16 inches, measured from the boot to the end of the spur) and must point only towards the rear. If the shank is curved, the spurs must be worn only with the shank directed downwards. Metal or plastic spurs with round hard plastic or metal knobs “Impulse spurs” and “Dummy spurs” with no shank are allowed.

Since these are smooth and not particularly long, I think we are good. Anyone reading this differently? Worst case scenario, I can always change out my spurs for shows, but I like the idea of having the rubberized material stabilizing the spur against my boot.

LeMieux™ X-Grip EuroJump Square Pad in Navy

Alright, this dude is on sale for $130 right now… so it is still above what I typically pay for saddle pads (my white, smartpak branded pads.)

lemieux

56970721092__40a8415f-09ab-4146-ba4a-ab7280861807I have wanted something grippy and stock absorbing for XC. I have been using a ECP pad (the ecogold knockoff), and I like it…. but it definitely doesn’t fit quite right under the stubben. (also, if I do end up going to any rated shows, it would be nice to have one pad for SJ and another for XC). I also wanted to have a color with my next pad and NAVY! so YAY!

I rode in it on Tuesday. It seemed to have some shock absorption, but I didn’t feel as disconnected from the saddle as I did with my ogilvy. Everything stayed in place for the short ride, and it fit far better under my 18″ stubben. So far so good! And I am excited to have a fancy pad for things… because that’s important? I told you guys, this haul was not totally rational.

Professional´s Choice® VenTECH™ Contoured Jump Girth

Is this not the worst stock photo you have ever seen? And it’s literally the only photo of this product available… cool guys.

prochoice girth

I have been putting off getting a new girth for May for basically… forever. Her old as dirt SmartPak girth is starting to rust… and since the Stubben has really short billets (and May can hold her breath like no horse I have ever met), it’s also too short. I guess a new girth was somewhat sitting in the back of my mind when we went to look at helmets.

Then, after I put the helmet on the counter… this girth was RIGHT THERE.

First thoughts:

  • I love that the liner removes for easy washing (it was a feature of my old girth that I actually used)
  • The carabiner clip is held flat with a sturdy (seeming) piece of leather. I haven’t played around with this yet, but it’s always a handy feature. (But something I would 100% avoid if May was ever in bar shoes. I don’t care how “safe” it looks at the onset.)
  • The elastic is surprisingly long. I guess this is to keep down the bulk under your leg? In my case, it just made it somewhat easier to get on a fat horse who chooses to be fatter when saddles.
  • Speaking of fat horses, non slip is my friend and non-negotiable.
  • May HATES long leather girths, so I was a bit worried that the stiffer exterior on this one (Dover says it’s a TPU shell? but it just feels like plastic) would bother her. But it is flexible enough to be comfortable, and is better shaped for her forward girth groove than a traditional girth.

After using it on Tuesday, I was pretty pleased with how well it distributes pressure, despite the shape. May seemed to like it as well, and it looks quite nice with my saddle.

Overall, I am pretty happy with my “impulse” purchases at first glance, but I will definitely let you all know how these things age!

Have you bought anything “fun but not totally necessary” lately?

The Great Helmet Try On

Now, it might not have been the wisest decision to push forward with my trip to Cincinnati on Sunday. Saturday it rained all day, and then temps dropped into the single digits and it snowed. In fact, a lot of churches around Louisville actually cancelled services. Buuuuuut I had an insanely tough week at work*, and I was dying for some retail therapy.

As we were getting dressed, I asked the husband if he was sure it would be ok. “It’s one major highway. It will be fine.”

And… it was fine. Sort of. We definitely hit some areas of the highway that hadn’t been plowed… some areas where only one lane had been plowed, and some areas where they were trying to plow/spread salt. The whole way up, I was refreshing the store’s facebook page. Begging it not to suddenly pop up that they had decided to close for the day.

At around 11:15AM, we pulled into the partially plowed parking lot. And I emerged from a salt and slush encrusted Jeep into weather that was just peeking into the double digits. (at least the sun was out!)

I walked into a fully staffed Dover… and we were the only people in the store. Then, I proceeded to be THE MOST annoying customer I think that woman had ever helped. It’s not that I wasn’t polite… I just wanted to try on all the things.

“What helmet do you have now?” the saleswoman asked, clearly hoping for a quick sale.

“A OneK, but it’s been a few years. I really want to try some other stuff.”

bothelmetI started with the coveted Back on Track TraumaVoid helmet. Middle of the pack in terms of cost, but with all the bells and whistles I was looking for. The helmet fits right in on the shelf with the Charles Owens’, Samshield’s, OneKs and IRHs. The weight was comparable with the CO and Samshield. Maybe a TOUCH heavier than the OneK, but it wasn’t that noticeable. I doubt you could tell the difference on your head. We measured my head (since my current OneK is just a “M”), and the Dover salesperson scurried into the back to service probably the only customer of the day.

The Back on Track TraumaVoid came out. I pulled my hair neatly into my hair net and… it wasn’t even close. Ok. Let’s go a sive up. Nope. Let me put my hair down. NOPE. Let’s go one more size up… I finally got it on my head. And it was horrifically uncomfortable. It seemed that the only place it put pressure on my head was on my temples. I think I have a wide, oval head… like a rounded rectangle. >.< I shifted it around to try and get it more comfortable. I put my hair down, then up again. It just didn’t fit. I didn’t even try to buckle it up.  It wasn’t going to work.

Ok then… Let’s try the Charles Owen. They were a bit more expensive than the TV, but cogyr8they were 20% off! They had the round version, so I excitedly threw that one onto my head. And it was like it was only making contact with the front and back of my head… So… no. Maybe I am mistaken…  maybe the regular CO will fit my head.

She grabbed one for me, and I put it on. It looked SO CLASSY. It fit pretty good. A bit tight at my temples, but not super uncomfortable like the TV. I shook my head around, and it stayed put. I know the CO are known for compressing down a bit, so I figured it would probably break in. Then I started thinking, what if it doesn’t with the removable liner? Or what if it breaks in too much? Is my head starting to hurt because of the pressure or because I am stuck is some kind of paradox of choice?

I looked to the husband for his thoughts. They’re all black… and they all look the same.

oneksuede“You know…” I started as I looked at the saleswoman… “Maybe I can just try on the Suede Defender OneK.” For a split second, I thought the saleswoman was going to roll her eyes at me, but she’s a pro. She just nodded and found one for me.

“This one comes with an extra removable liner.” (now we were speaking my language.) I stared at the helmet. It’s not flashy, but I don’t tend to like how I look in boring helmets. Anything more flashy just makes me more uncomfortable.

I slid the OneK on my head, and the saleswoman immediately went “oh.”

Why “oh”? Because even from 5 ft away, she could immediately tell that it fit PERFECTLY. The OneK just hugs around my head. There are no gaps. There are no pressure points. It is just even, comfortable pressure all the way around my head. It comes down low enough to not feel like it is just sitting on top of my head, and the chin straps sits comfortably behind my actual chin, but in front of my neck.

So that was that. New Technology is REALLY cool, and I hope it catches into some other helmet brands. Unfortunately, it won’t benefit me until it comes in a helmet that fits my head.

Long and short of the story? Try on as many helmets as you can whenever the opportunity presents itself. When you know, you know. I’ll talk about the rest of my haul after I get to put them on my horse tonight!

*Work got so bad last week that as soon as I could escape on Friday. I went to the barn. I think my bloodshot eyes and not so subtly running nose immediately alerted everyone to how things were going for me. My half leaser had a lesson right after I arrived, but no one would move forward with the lesson until I got on my horse and took her for a walk alone around the field to clear my head.

I stayed that night until my toes froze and I could no longer feel my hands (I had none of my winter barn clothes in my car). But my heart and head were both lighter for it. 

Holiday Recap!

Whew! I’ve been away from the blog for a few days as the holidays have pretty much taken my life by storm. While the activities this year were, in some ways, lighter than years past, I am somehow still sitting at my desk, exhausted, on a Thursday. Let’s recap!

Blogger Gift Exchange!

On Sunday morning, the husband and I were hustling out the door to go to a football game with a couple of friends, and I basically stumbled over a box that had arrived… at some point over night? early morning? Who knows. I didn’t recognize the “From” address, so I immediately figured it was my blogger secret santa! Unfortunately, we were in a terrible rush, so I didn’t get to open it until later that night.

However, it definitely did not disappoint! Sarah at A Soft Spot for Stars was my secret Santa, and she did an awesome job! This is my second year participating, and I am always blown away by what gifts everyone comes up with. I receive 2 new, beautiful brushes, a jumper decal, and May got treats! (which she actually got to eat on Christmas!) Sarah got an immediate message, since I knew I would have no time to write this post for a few days.

Massive Thank You goes to Tracy at The Printable Pony for pulling off this incredible feat!

Christmas Gifts!

I’ll keep this (mostly) horse related to keep you all from being bored by the details. First and foremost? BOOTS!

Ariat Boots

The husband ended up buying me the Ariat Ladies’ Heritage Contour II Field Boots in a 7 foot, medium height, and wide width. I was actually really pleasantly surprised by the updates they made to these boots vs. my original Heritage Contour boots. They added elastic to the top tab and a zipper keeper, a leather piece to protect the back of your ankle from the zipper, and an even better footbed. While I can’t get them COMPLETELY zipped yet in breeches in socks, and they still need to drop, I did get to ride in them on Christmas. Even not zipped up all the way, they felt really good, and I am sure they are going to feel amazing once broken in.

If you have to buy a boot off the rack, and you are a somewhat hard to fit size, I really do like these boots. With all things, I will give you all an update in a few months with my longer term thoughts.

I also got a great gift from NT… A new saddle pad with the barn logo on it. 🙂 Super excited to rep the barn-wear at some 2019 events, clinics, etc.

fitbit

More of this year’s gifts were fitness related than specifically horse related. I got a new fitbit (the Charge 3). I’ve had the Charge 2 for two years now, and I even had fitbit replace the actual middle unit after it died on me last year. Unfortunately, I could tell that the heart-rate monitor and bluetooth connection was starting to go. Messages no longer came through to my wrist and most of my workouts came back with “no data” for heart-rate.

The new one is rose gold with a lavender band and a black band. The screen is slightly bigger, and it gives me a ton more options through the new interface. (Send me a message if you want to be fitbit buddies!) OH and this version is swim-proof, so no more worries about it getting wet at the barn.

I also got new sneakers and an amazing pair of yoga pants. I am usually playing the  “How Cheap Can I Find Workout Gear on Amazon Without It Being See Through”  game (these worked out), so getting a seriously nice pair of yoga pants was a serious treat. I feel like they are seriously on-par with lululemon’s but not nearly that pricey.

My last gift? A gift card to Dover! I have been scanning the website, waffling between the practical (a spare sheet for May), to the somewhat fun (new SJ boots), to the absolutely unnecessary but I want it anyway (a new helmet for showing). I think I should save it. If I lose the weight I want to lose (the holidays DID NOT HELP), then I will need new breeches, and it would feel really good to spend the gift card on that pair.

Dover

Did you all have a great holiday? Did you get any horsey gifts? Should I blow my gift card on something fun now?

A Long Term Bridle Review

I have a confession to make. A lot of reviews don’t “do it” for me. I love seeing how everyone feels about how a product performs, feels, fits, etc., but I often have the nagging sensation in the back of my head saying, “well, how is it going to look after YEARS of abuse?” Because, when it comes to where I am investing my very limited budget of horse stuff, that is where I want to put my dollars. In the things that last. 

SO – here is a review of a couple of bridles that I have now owned for YEARS. 

Dover Figure Eight Bridle

Seriously, I bought a bridle from Dover… at least 5 years ago. I was looking for a sub $200 bridle with a figure eight and a mono crown. I had a nunn-finer bridle that I really liked, but it wasn’t a figure eight, and it really as a reddish-brown color. I wanted CHOCOLATE. 

This bridle fit the bill. My original impressions included the sheepskin on the middle of the figure 8 being WAY TOO FLUFFY. I always had plans to trim it, but to be honest, I was too afraid of making it look worse. When I dabbled in some hunter/eq classes, I ended up buying the matching fancy stitched browband and crank noseband for this bridle. It definitely wasn’t the same price as the bridle when I bought it… Link here

So how is it 5+ years later?

Clearly, I still really like it. It is in everyday rotation at the barn, and it gets polished up and brought along for SJ and XC at horse trials. Is the leather as buttery soft as the Vespucci bridles I remember from 20 years ago? Nope. It has held up really well, but instead of softening, a lot of the leather has kind of wrinkled into position. 

While it hasn’t started cracking or anything like that, I do feel the leather just might be, after all this time, and all the use, coming towards the end of its useful life. 

Harwich Padded Dressage Bridle by SmartPak

I guess they don’t really make the same bridle anymore, so this might just be commentary on quality and all that. This bridle was a pretty serious impulse buy. I had bought a Dressage saddle, and I wanted a bridle that would match. (It was also part of the same order as a girth and leathers… neither of which I use anymore.)

Either way, this bridle has been in and out of rotation since February of 2015, so I think I have used it enough to have some thoughts. 

1 – The reins are HORRIFIC. I mean HORRIFIC. I ended up putting the Micklem rains on this bridle after getting that bridle. 

2 – The leather quality is crap too. Sorry. Not Sorry. They must have rubbed this thing in motor oil in the photo on the website, because it does not clean up like that. 

3 – I still kind of use it. This bridle is… somewhere. It makes it into the rotation when I need a third bridle for some reason. (i.e. I want to put a happy mouth in May’s mouth when the temp dips super low, but I don’t feel like changing out my main bridles). I should probably sell it, but it doesn’t seem worth the effort for the $50 it might be worth. 

Horseware Rambo Micklem Competition Bridle & Reins

This bridle was a gift, and I have had it two years. That also makes it the newest bridle in my rotation. It is also the most expensive. 

The most hilarious part of this bridle is not the amazing, awesomeness that is the anatomical benefits to the horse. Honestly, I am not sure how much May really cares. I might be able to convince myself that she’s a touch more steady in this bridle vs. the figure 8 or traditional bridle with a flash. However, I do not think it is a $200 difference, so to me, that’s mostly irrelevant. 

The reason I really like this bridle? It sits in such a different place on her face that it is perfect when she gets any rubs from her muzzle. There it is. Right there. The best part of this is that it keeps me from worrying about the bridle rubbing in the same place as her muzzle. 

As for quality, it is a nice bridle that looks nice and, I think, flatters May’s face pretty well. As mentioned above, I did upgrade the reins, and I actually use thinline reins on it now. Would I buy it again? Not sure. I am happy with it, but there are places that I wish it fit just a SMIDGE better, and it isn’t that adjustable. There are so many options on the market now for anatomical bridles, and I bet there is something out there that would fit better. 

What about you? Any bridles that you have had a long time and are still in love with?

THeSe REVIEWs are NOT SPONSORED, AND THE ITEMS DISCUSSED IN THIS REVIEW WERE PURCHASED BY ME or a FAMILY member WITH our OWN MONEY.

Breaking Out the Cold Weather Gear

I FINALLY had another lesson yesterday. I had taken the day off of work, and I was determined to take full advantage of it. On Sunday, the weather was warm and bright. The temperatures were in the mid-sixties, and there was just the lightest breeze. PERFECT fall weather… and it was my half-leaser’s day to ride hahahaha. 

So Monday, I had my lesson scheduled in the afternoon… and I woke up to 30 degree weather and snow flurries. That’s right. There was a 30+ degree drop overnight. Fun. Times. Also – what is this nonsense with the weather?

I bundled up, and I figured I would give you a rundown of my typical cold weather riding outfit:

32 Degree Jacket – LOOK HOW LONG!
  1. Smartpak Piper Winter Breeches – Do Not Recommend. Not even going to give you a link. Decently warm but too low cut, slippery, and stretch out oddly. 
  2. Under Armour in Baby Blue – Highly recommend. The link is to a more updated version, but I will never give up my UA base layers. 
  3. Ugly Christmas Sweater – Highly Recommend… but I couldn’t find a link to it. This sweater is at LEAST 4 years old, and I am pretty sure it is 100% acrylic. It is not floofy or soft, but it is WARM. AND it has held up to barn wear. Close enough to perfect for me. 
  4. Arctic Neck Warmer – Highly Recommend. These are 100% a staple in my winter, barn wardrobe. Keeping my neck warm is a nonnegotiable. 
  5. 32 Degree Heat Womens Sherpa line Fleece Jacket – GO BUY THIS. A lot of the comments complain about the cut (sleeves too long and a bit loose around the hips), but that makes it REALLY NICE to ride in. It does not bunch up around my hips, so keeps that lower back area warm in and out of the saddle. Horse hair loves to stick to this, but it lets me not wear my heavy jacket even when it’s 30 degrees and windy out, so I will deal with that inconvenience. 
  6. North Face Jacket – Highly Recommend, although, the link is to a newer style of the jacket I wear to the barn. The jacket I currently wear is probably older than 6 years old at this point. It was a hand-me-down from my sister. It is definitely a ski jacket, but I find these are long enough and more than warm enough for riding, and much prefer them to riding-specific jackets. The North Face is expensive, but several of the jackets I own from them are closer to the 10 year mark than brand new.  
  7. Heritage Winter Gloves – Meh. The gloves I used yesterday are so old that I am not even sure what the brand ever was. I also have these. The only point I will make is that I HIGHLY prefer winter gloves that are lined vs. bigger, bulkier winter gloves with synthetic material on the outside. Leather gives me grip, and I like that. They’re not waterproof, and I don’t think they are as warm as some other options, so if you are working all day at the barn, maybe avoid these. 

Would love to know if anyone has recommendations for super warm socks that aren’t too bulky? I typically layer thin cotton socks under warmer sock to make sure that moisture is wicked away from my feet without them getting chilled.