2021 Year In Review

Another journey around the sun. Questionable is to which year was worse, 2020 or 2021. Personally, my vote is for 2021 when it comes to “everything that’s happening in the world aside from my little equine corner of life.” Because when it comes to my horse life, I have no complaints for either year, and 2021 was actually a pretty dang awesome year when it came to endurance stuff and the ponies. But the rest of life, and watching the world try to constantly one-up its own crazy? That’s getting really old.

Aaaaannnnnneeeeeewwwwwwaaaaayyyyyy……

I once again kept to my at-least-once-a-month blogging routine, occasionally even sneaking in 2 posts a month. I always tell myself I’m going to blog more, but I just don’t know how “interesting” my training ride content would be at this point, or how much interest there is in reading frequent blog content. I really miss the heyday of the blogging era, where there was an endurance blog everywhere you looked. Now, it seems like social media and the immediacy of quick, graphic-intense platforms like Instagram have sort of taken over. Which I’m guilty of as well — most of my content gets quickly posted up on social media rather than put into a detailed narrative, save for my ride stories. I am grateful for the blogging era of the past, though, because it enabled me to form quite a network, one that still carries through to this day. Of course, part of the decline in endurance blogs would probably also be due in part to the attrition of endurance riders — some of those folks who were so actively blogging are no longer riding endurance. But attrition rates and sport longevity are a topic that’s probably worthy of its own post, so moving on once again…

I did my Endurance Season Recap post already, with links to the individual stories of the ride we got to. It was an interesting season, with plenty of things derailing and going “not according to plan” along the way, but calendar year-wise, I got to more rides with my own horse than I think I’ve ever done in a single year. (Wait, I take that back…I there were a couple of years in NATRC that Dad and I got to about half a dozen rides. But that would have been back around 2002/03) We did 5 rides — 4 50s and 1 LD, completed the LD and 2/4 50’s (and technically went all 50 miles of a 3rd but didn’t get the official completion since she vetted out lame at the finish), and the added bonus was never having to travel out of state. When I first started in endurance, and for the first several years, we were lucky to have 3, maybe 4 rides a year in the state. Now, looking at 2022, we have a ride in the state 10 months out of the year. That is mind-boggling.

If I had to sum up this year, it would be “the year of the rocks.” Thanks to some wet weather and an actual summer monsoon, all of our trails across the state were rockier than usual. After a while, it felt like it wasn’t even worth mentioning…just count on things being “way rockier than previous rides.”

I feel like I covered a lot of the year already in my above season recap post…and it’s not like there’s hundreds of posts to try to consolidate. And my day to day shenanigans can be found with a quick skim through my Instagram.

This year was a good year for riding with friends, finding new places, trying new things (2x clinics), and delving ever deeper into the relationship and connection that Liberty and I are forging together.

So rather than doing a full, month-by-month recap, just for funsies, I thought I’d wrap up with something a little different…being that I could also qualify this as “Year of the Gear,” with the whole “starting a new horse in competition and figuring out what works and what doesn’t” element, this is a good time to talk about what I used throughout the year. Not that I’m complaining, since I love shamelessly wearing my Queen of All the Gear hat. (Seriously, I need a hat like that.) Several of these things really deserve their own separate review page, which I plan to do in the upcoming year, but in the meantime, this’ll be the CliffNotes edition.

What I Wore:

Australian riding gear companies earned my business this year. PerformaRide continued to be a go-to favorite, with some pretty new colors in their tights, always-fabulous selection of shirts, and some winter tights added to the stash. (I am overly prepared for another Snowmaggedon ride.)

All decked out in PerformaRide

New on the endurance gear front was Alfa Equestrian — another small business, aimed specifically at creating endurance riding clothing. Their tights are crazy-comfortable (no grips on them, which I don’t necessarily need for riding 95% of the time anyway, which means I tend to wear these tights for daily, non-riding wear as well), and they have some super-innovative shirt designs, like a sun protection shirt with a built in mesh buff and hoodie.

ALFA gear, including the cool buff hoodie shirt

You couldn’t go wrong ordering from either company — they both are owned by friendly, helpful, amazing women that I’m so glad I’ve gotten the chance to know. I can’t “choose between” — I’m not sponsored by anyone, and both companies have been super generous in acknowledging and thanking me for my support and business via some “extras” thrown into orders, which is always an amazing surprise. So I order from both and promote both, and subsequently have a stash of riding gear that means I could probably go a couple weeks without doing laundry and still have tights and shirts to wear.

Exchange rate between the Australian dollar and the US dollar is in our favor right now, so it makes prices super reasonable, and I’ve also found the cost of shipping to be really reasonable (or free, if you order enough from PerformaRide. (I’m not sure how it works that it’s so much more reasonable for them to send stuff to us when it costs a small fortune for us to ship stuff down there???) Both companies also do a number of sales/discounts throughout the year, so they’re worth a follow on social media or a sign-up of the email newsletters to find out when sales are happening.

I went through several different pairs of shoes/boots, finally settling on and alternating between my tried-and-true lace up Ariat Terrains and a pair of Salomon Speedcross trail runners. My Ariat Terrain half chaps are getting a little rough looking but everything’s still holding together, so they live to ride another year.

What My Horse Wore:

The standout highlight of the year was having a PK Saddle sent to me. I am so thrilled with the opportunity to ambassador this saddle — not only has it been an amazingly comfortable saddle to ride that Liberty likes, it’s brought a great network and further friendships into my life. The saddle comes out of Australia, further solidifying this year’s “how much of my gear can come from Australia?” theme. (Hey, if I can’t go there right now, might as well bring what I can here…)

The timing on getting this saddle was perfect, as well, given that shortly before I received it, I noticed Liberty starting to get some white hairs in the areas under the stirrup bars on the Frank Baines saddle, and I suspect she’s slimmed down and gotten way less “roly-poly” along her back/withers as she’s gotten fit, so now that saddle is probably a bit too wide for her, especially for long-distance work. Plus, it is technically a dressage saddle, which really isn’t designed and intended to be an ideal endurance saddle with excellent weight distribution, etc.

I continue to still use and love both of my Australian saddle pads: Archer and D-Lua. Both styles got used as rides throughout the year and they both seem to work equally well. They’ve both held up really well to washing and wear. The D-Lua wool is still the softest, silkiest, more luxurious pad I’ve ever felt. The Archer pads have a really cool aesthetic — I love the quilted top, and all of the color coordination you can do with the top quilt cover and the trim colors. (The D-Lua is pictured in the ALFA gear pic, and the Archer in the above pic, and the PerformaRide gear pic.)

I came back from Tevis with a souvenir this year — Liberty’s very own Taylored Tack halter-bridle and breastcollar set. (And shortly thereafter, a pair of reins as a birthday gift.) So we’ve been rocking that set all through the latter half of the year, and I love it. Never any problems or issues, and the white beta hasn’t been as hard to keep clean as I dreaded it might. I get so many comments and compliments on how the white looks on her and I really love the elegant standout effect.

We’ve also settled on a couple of Bombers bits that she has deemed acceptable. They have one in the works that I think will be the ideal (a combo of both the mouthpiece and material she prefers — as it is now, I’ve got one that’s her preferred mouthpiece, but not favorite material, and one that’s favorite material with a less-preferred mouthpiece) but I can rotate between the two right now and have that be a good option. Bit 1 is McHardy which is the mouthpiece she really likes, but has a tendency to get rubs on her lips from the sweet iron, even with using all sorts of bit butters, rub creams, etc. Bit 2 is the Titanium Control Plate (mine is the plain loose ring, rather than the 2-1/2 ring) which is the material that gives us the best results for a happy mouth and no rubbing. Per Bombers, they do have a titanium McHardy coming soon, but I don’t know exactly when that’ll be available…so until then, bit rotation it is.

Her Renegade Hoof Boots continue to be reliable. I know I work for the company, but I’ve said this before and it bears repeating — I wouldn’t continue to work for a company whose product I didn’t believe in. This year, I experimented a bit with gluing, to mixed results, and ironically, I don’t have as much faith in glue-ons and my ability to apply them as I do the strap boots. We did break one cable at a ride this year — only the second time in the 15 years I’ve been running these boots that I’ve had one break.

Misc:

I still love my little rig. It’s not fancy, but it for me, it’s freedom and flexibility. I’ve got a pretty good system down now for packing and operating out of it, with some ideas for the future and how to possibly improve on it even more.

Slightly less thrilled with the fact my truck handed me 3 big repair bills this year, with 2 of the 3 of them no thanks in part to the horribly rough roads in and out of a couple of ride camps that were the final insult to some of the truck components. Still…it’s cheaper than payments on a new truck.

I did some improvements this fall to my interior sleeping arrangements, swapping my air mattress for a foldable foam mattress, and it’s made a a big difference in terms of temperature comfort — doesn’t get nearly as chilly as the air mattress.

Over the course of the year, I managed to streamline or upgrade/update as much of my camping set-up as possible — smaller cooler, slightly smaller table, smaller cooking gear box, lighter/smaller saddle rack, storage bins for things like blankets and camping gear. Flexible buckets that stack really easily, squish into the truck, and don’t rattle around when I’m driving. New camp stove, after the old one started randomly spurting flames out from parts other than the actual burner. Lots of either battery or solar-powered lights and lanterns that either magnetically attach or easily hang from the truck or trailer.

Okay, so that ended up being sort of a pinballing, rambling year-end wrap-up…which makes it a fairly accurate reflection of the year. And with that…

Catch you all in 2022!

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