Small Business Saturdays

Having grown up in an entrepreneurial household with small businesses, the fastest way to get me to open my wallet is the phrase, “support a small business.” I have a major appreciation for the courage it takes to go out on that limb, be a self-starter, and come up with your own “thing.” With that in mind, I try to do as much of my buying via small business as possible. Fortunately, the world of endurance is so small and so specialized, it’s actually a pretty easy thing to do.

Most small businesses don’t have a huge marketing budget for things like advertising, or the financial margins to be able to compete against large companies via lower price points, so they have to rely on referrals and word of mouth advertising to get their name out.

To that end, I will be introducing a series called “Small Business Saturdays” in which I feature a small business, mostly endurance related, that I have done business with and love what they offer. It probably won’t be an every-weekend thing, but my goal is to feature a new business at least every month. These will be unpaid, uncompensated reviews, and strictly based on my own personal opinions and experiences with the company.

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Just in this photo alone, the saddle fleece, the saddle pad, and the beta tack all came from very small, mom-and-pop companies. (JMS Sheepskin, Archer Equine, and Taylored Tack)

So stay tuned for Saturday, and the first SBS feature. A little preview of what I will featuring… Flik Equestrian!

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February

Here we are, at the end of February, and I find myself running out of days to squish in a post to stick to my “at least one post a month” streak that been going now for seven and a half years. That’s pretty much unheard of for me, who often has the attention span of a gnat, and difficulty seeing ideas and projects through to completion. (Ask me how many half-finished craft/creative projects I have sitting around. Better yet, don’t.)

It’s not that I don’t have anything going on — I’ve got plenty keeping me busy right now. I just don’t know how much of it is considered interesting, blog-able content. I’ve crafted this blog around my endurance shenanigans, and right now, those seem to be few and unpredictable. That said, having a ride season that, only three months into it, has already run me through the gamut of emotions, was enough to finally galvanize me into action towards making some changes and additions in my life.

This whole week, I am participating in a 5-day Advanced clinic on the Masterson massage method, and intend to finish this year what I started last summer with that first two-day intro clinic — getting my full practitioner certification in the Masterson Method.

Not only is it something I really enjoy doing, but it’s a way of working with horses that doesn’t involve training, or vetmed (both things I’ve considered in the past and ultimately rejected). I hesitate to say it out loud and jinx myself, but I feel like I might have actually found that niche for myself that I’ve been searching for. Not only that, but my aim is to have it be enough of a financial boost once I get going with it that it allows me to once again pick up endurance under my own power (and ponies).

So we’ll see. That’s pretty much the biggest thing on my plate right now. I’ve had some good times this past month — I’ve gotten Mimi out on trail a couple more times (which is a couple more times than last year, huzzah!), but mostly she’s enjoying being my Masterson practice pony; I’ve had a couple of days of going up to the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show and hanging out with friends; it’s rained quite a bit (which is much more like the typical rainy February that I can remember growing up); and I’m doing my typical scurry around to get ready for the AERC Convention the early part of next month.

So with that, a few photos from a ride around the neighborhood last weekend, before I scuttle of for another clinic day.

What We’re Wearing: Mimi, Jan 2019

I have to say, I really enjoy the gear acquisition and testing element of this sport. It’s become a long-standing joke around the house that I’m basically a revolving door of tack sales — find a good deal, buy it, sell something else that’s been sitting around.

I’m also constantly evaluating if what I’m using is still working. With Mimi, I’ve ended up changing saddles several times over the years as she has changed shape. I’ve also changed tack sets and played around with various colors — but this is nothing new, as the original barn color I picked when I got her and for our first couple of years was hunter green, before gradually migrating over to the current purple that it’s overall been for the past 20 years. And I change out bits all. the. time.

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The current gear line-up

As of January 2019, here’s what we’re currently using:

  • Frank Baines Reflex dressage saddle
    Ironically, this was the saddle I kept arguing with myself over why it shouldn’t work — it’s a proper dressage saddle, not an endurance saddle; it’s a 17″ seat, there’s no way that should work. But it’s wide enough to fit a 55-gallon drum, and it actually puts me in the best position of any of the saddles I own, and one of the better ones that I’ve ridden in, period.
  • JMS sheepskin cover
    Originally got to go my Duett, but it actually fits the FB really well, too. It’s almost 12 years old now, and parts of it are looking a little worse for the wear (such as the fact it doesn’t entirely cover the bottom of the saddle flaps), but the sheepskin is still pretty fluffy.
  • Stillwater mohair dressage girth
    Another piece that goes back to when I first got the Duett, and it’s still barely showing wear. I really like the sturdy neoprene-and-leather combo on the buckle backing. Never had any rubs or soreness with this girth.
  • Archer Equine saddle pad
    A score at last year’s AERC Convention, I am in love with this pad for when I want something that is plain wool with no inserts. It’s durable, washes up beautifully without clumping, and fits a bunch of different saddles. The company is based out of Australia, but they have at least one dealer here in the States that I know of.
  • Taylored Tack Zuni Halter-Bridle
    I love my TT stuff. I always wanted to get Mimi a set back when we were competing…but better late than never, especially since I was able to get a bunch of it piecemeal, here and there on used tack sales.
  • some kind of Myler bit (this is case, the MB41PB kimberwick)
    Even at coming-26-years-old, a snaffle is still not going to happen out on trail. We can school in a snaffle in the arena all day long, but as soon as we hit the trail, I need something stronger. Currently on rotation is a couple of different kimberwicks, a pelham, or a Myler combo.
  • Taylored Tack Best Beta Comfy Reins
    The current go-to. I change out my reins on a super-frequent basis, and probably have more sets of reins than any other piece of tack. Except maybe bits.
  • Taylored Tack Kickapoo Breastcollar
  • Taylored Tack S-Hackamore Set
    We alternate between this and the bit. The headstall is the TT Simple Hackamore Headstall that I added a snap-on browband to…because pretty. thumbnail_img_6033

Another angle

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Close-up of the head gear. I love the Zuni browband style…adds some interest and a touch of “different” to the look.

Arnett Canyon @ Picketpost

Happiness is…

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Starting the new year off right, seeing the trails between my favorite set of pony ears.

We were originally slated for a traditional “start as you mean to continue” day on New Year’s Day itself, with a ride out at Picketpost Mountain…but a cold/storm front moved in, and even dumped snow on the outer parts of the Valley. So the ride got postponed to the weekend, and I spent my New Year’s day in “Closet Purgeatory.” I’m not sure if that means I’m going to spend the rest of my year cleaning, sorting, and organizing things?

Anyway, postponing it resulted in an absolutely perfect day for riding, with the kind of weather that reminds me of why Arizona in the winter is such an ideal place. Highs in the lower 60s, breezy, a few scattered clouds…ideal weather for the older, sometimes-crunchy pony.

Not that she was feeling particularly crunchy this time. I think I shocked her with another outing so soon after our Christmas ride, and when we ended up going to a destination she hadn’t been to in almost 8 years, I’m pretty sure she aged down by a decade or so out of sheer delight. The last time we were at Picketpost, we were still in endurance training mode, and I’m pretty sure she thought the same thing was still true this time around.

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Little stinker being sassy with her pasturemate Tuudy, whom she has merrily lorded over and bossed around for the last dozen years or so.

Picketpost Mountain is a trailhead in the Superstition Mountains, out near the mining town of Superior. It’s an access point for The Arizona Trail, and that’s one of the main features of the trailhead, but there are miles of other trails that connect or branch off from that point. I’ve ridden and hiked parts of The AZ Trail from there, but this time, we would be exploring one of the side trails — brand new to both of us!

A group of seven of us would be riding together, and while the entirely of the trail can be ridden as a 10-mile loop that eventually goes the entire way around Picketpost Mtn, we opted for an out-and-back option…ride out for a few miles, stop for lunch, then head back.

I don’t actually know if the trail itself has a name…it winds through what appears to be called Arnett Canyon on the maps, so that’s what I’m calling it, if only for the purposes of my own identification.

Like the vast majority of the Superstitions, it has rocky parts…some slab type of stuff that is either flat or somewhat stair-steppy, some dry washbeds, some typical embedded rocks in the trail. But there were also some sections that were smooth, gorgeous singletrack that both of us itching to go blasting down the trail.

Bonus of riding with other people...I finally get media of me riding my own pony! And proof that I really need to work on my collapsing right ribcage habit.

Bonus of riding with other people…I finally get media of me riding my own pony! And proof that I really need to work on my collapsing right ribcage habit.

During out Christmas ride, I wondered if that was going to be our “new normal” — while she was willing and happy to go, she also felt stiff, very heavy on the forehead, minced her way along on downhills, and had more than a few stumbles…all things that had me second-guessing if I had any business taking her out on trail anymore.

No second-guessing this time around. Main difference? Switched saddles. I had been using the Sommer Oakfield the previous ride, and I think I finally have to come to the conclusion that it’s too narrow for her, and she really wasn’t comfortable. This time, I used the Frank Baines dressage saddle, and she was moving out and doing her endurance pony power walk. No hesitation, no tripping, very balanced…and color me totally shocked that I’m pretty sure it’s actually the most comfortable saddle I own for me. 8 mile ride, totally at a walk, and I wasn’t sore at all…whereas 5 miles at a walk in the Sommer actually left me feeling it in my legs a bit.

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I can also actually mount from the ground in this saddle. Every other one, I end up rolling on her…in all of her not-quite-14hh-glory. So not exactly a huge stretch and hang time to get up there. But this one stays put. Good thing, too, since I had to test that a couple times after she pitched a couple boots along the way. Time for some troubleshooting, since it’s been ages since she’s flung a boot. I suspect I need to bring her toes back some more, and the combo of that + water + mud was just too much. Eh, well…nothing like putting one’s own work knowledge to the test.

It was an absolutely beautiful trail, though, and really fun to explore an area I had not been to. It’s really quiet back in there, and although the trail is well-maintained, I think it’s not as well known, or gets passed over in favor of The AZ Trail. Which is fine by me, because it felt like we had the entire canyon just to our group. It’s a hidden oasis, tucked into the shadow of Picketpost Mtn, and has that wild, untamed feel that, to me, defines the Superstition Mountains and makes them so unique.

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I’ll leave you with a bit of history — that strip of pavement is part of the original US-60 highway. The trail is about 1/2-mile from the current highway at this point, as the crow flies.