My biennial blog tradition of posting a gift guide of suggestions for endurance riders, now in its 4th incarnation (2015, 2017, 2019). I probably should have posted this back in…oh, say, September, given the state of supply chain shenanigans and transit delays…and the fact that the big Black Friday sales just passed…but oh well. If things are late, hand wave it away as “extended Christmas.”
Also possibly not helpful is that half the stuff I’ve loving right now comes out of Australia, which isn’t exactly “Amazon Prime level of shipping speed.” So maybe just use this guide, or parts of it, for 2022.
My previous guides are still mostly-relevant — there are a few items that are outdated or companies that have since closed, but for the most part, links should still be good and the ideas still applicable.
So what am I loving this year?
I love these flexible tubs/buckets. Formerly called TubTrugs, they are now marketed under RedGorillaUSA but they’re still the same product. I have everything from the small feed pans up to the XL jumbo size tub and have slowly been replacing my accumulation of metal-handled, hard plastic buckets with these. I love that they are virtually indestructible, and there’s almost no way for a horse to injure themselves on one.
I’m still loving my PK Saddle! I’ve got the first one to ever hit US soil…so far…but I’m slowly and surely introducing people to it wherever we go. I’m not a rep, or dealer…rather, think of me as an “ambassador” for them. So far we’ve done a 25 and 50, and I love the ability to adjust the cushions on the underside as Liberty changes shape. It’s been the best saddle to date for me to ride in as far as my own position, and while it is primarily designed to be used as an endurance saddle, I’ve done some slower, walk-only trail rides in it too and still stayed comfortable. It’s also ridiculously lightweight…I think fully mounted with straps and stirrups it weighs under 7 pounds. I’m really impressed with the quality of it as well, and it’s an excellent value for the money. They currently run $1800AUD, and the exchange rate between here and Australia is in our favor at the moment, so it comes out to just under $1300 USD.
On another saddle-related note…True Grit Endurance Packs! These are the best packs I’ve used, and I never thought I would find something better than my beloved SnugPax. The maker of them, Marcelle Hughes, is a friend of mine, and she does beautiful, innovative work. She’s come up with some very clever ways to attach packs to ensure they don’t bounce, and even on my super-minimalist saddle, she was able to come up with a way to keep everything really secure and stable. She’s got pommel packs, cantle packs, and boot bags currently, with different pocket configurations available on the pommel and cantle bags. I also love supporting a small, Made in the USA business.
This one might seem silly on the surface, but bear with me. BruMate travel mugs are the best. Especially their ‘Muv’ collection that has a special leak-proof lid…and I can vouch for its leak-proofness. I have more insulated travel mugs than you can count (seriously, I could outfit an entire travel caravan, probably), and regularly put them to the test in my determination to make as few trips between the house and the truck as possible (yes, as a matter of fact, I can carry a saddle, my gear bag, a small cooler, a water bottle, and my travel mug all at the same time). I also don’t really have a proper drink holder in my truck that the above-style mug fits into, so it sits on my center console, and on more than one occasion, has merrily gone flying off the console…and as long as I’ve flipped the lid back in place, I haven’t had a single drop spill. So this has become my go-to to-go mug, for everything from morning coffee to ridecamp beverages. I’ve dropped it on the sidewalk, tossed it around in my camping gear, had Liberty knock it off the trailer fender, and it’s still going strong. They also come in a huge array of funky colors and designs, and would be an excellent addition to one’s trailer and/or camping gear.
Gas cards. Getting to endurance rides means traveling, and that means gas. And with pump prices currently looking like a bad repeat nightmare of a decade ago, this is the kind of present that will definitely endear you to your favorite endurance rider.
Ride entry (or clinic, or lesson). When you can’t think of “stuff” to get your favorite endurance rider, this is a solid go-to option. Eventually most of us reach the point where we don’t necessarily need more gear (whhuuuuutttt?!?) but we usually have rides planned on our schedules, and having an entry covered would be an excellent gift.
Bombers Bits are my most recent bit obsession. I’ve gone through quite a few bits trying to find one Liberty likes, and through plenty of trial and error, testing, and feedback from Bombers, I think I’m on the right track with finding something that is working. I love that every single one of these bits are handmade. They have an excellent design philosophy regarding pressure/resistance, and trying to create something that works with the least amount of pressure while still affording effective communication. They have dozens of different mouthpiece designs and cheekpiece options, and different mouthpiece materials (sweet iron, titanium, and even some composite/synthetic offerings), so between all of that, as well as huge array of different sizes, and mouthpiece thicknesses, you can basically order a bespoke bit. Prices are also really reasonable for all of that, and I have had phenomenal experiences in working with their customer service. They are super knowledgeable, and can give advice on good starting points, as well as “where to go from here based on the horse’s feedback of option a, b, c, etc.” They are based in South Africa, and it usually does take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to receive an order (shorter time period if they happen to have it in stock, longer time period if it has to be made). But I feel like they are well worth it, for the craftsmanship, quality, and service. They’re also one of the few that offer titanium, which I’ve narrowed down as Liberty’s material of choice.
Yes, I really like socks. The household joke is “Adulting is when you intentionally put socks on your Christmas list.” In this case, Pacas are my new favorite. Made from an alpaca wool blend, they are ridiculously soft, warm, and so comfortable.
Long, flowing Arabian manes are beautiful…but the behind-the-scenes is how much work it is to maintain those long, flowing locks. The Knotty Horse line of products has been fabulous for managing Liberty’s mane and tail. It smells absolutely delicious, doesn’t seem to attract dirt, isn’t sticky, but also is fast-absorbing so doesn’t leave behind a greasy oil slick.
Tailing lines! These little numbers are so handy on the trail. Light enough to clip to the halter and back to your saddle — although I usually just stuff it in my pack and pull it out when needed — less stuff dangling or attached to the horse. Great if you need to tie your horse along the way, or at an out vet check. I’ve also taken to using one to vet in (on a well-mannered horse) because they are so lightweight, there’s no heavy snap or heavy knot bouncing against the horse’s chin. You can even make your own — simple enough to do out of yacht rope or climbing rope (9-10′ of rope, usually 1/4″ or 5/16″ thickness) and a scissor snap or carabiner.
Sponge bag/sponge. I like some kind of meshy sponge bag and a natural sea sponge. The sea sponges absorb water faster without having to be pre-soaked, and the bag helps hold the whole thing together, protects it from thorny/spiky desert vegetation, and gives a little extra scrubbing power for getting sweat/dirt off. My personal favorites (pictured above, that are no longer made) came from Trail-Rite and were made of the same mesh fabric as their hay mangers. I still have (and use!) the original sponge bag I got in the mid-2000s, which I used for years with Mimi. I’ve replaced the inner sponge a couple of times but the mesh bag is still going strong. But there are plenty of other places that have some kind of sponge-in-a-bag set-up, too — most of the distance gear suppliers will carry them.
Bestest ponies deserve cookies! Hygain is my feed of choice for the mares and they both gobble up the Smoochies cookies.
Some kind of reading material for Christmas is pretty traditional around here, and I can’t think of a better offering for a horse-crazy audience of any age. Gallant: The Call of the Trail is the first book in the series, and you can check out my review here for even more details.
I have a bit of a reputation for being the Queen of Gear/Stuff, so I hope my experimentation and testing of different things ends up being useful, or you netted one or two good ideas out of this list!