2019 Year-in-Review

Well, 2019 has been kind of a weird year. I didn’t end up doing much by way of endurance rides, although I was still really involved peripherally in the sport. I got Mimi out more this year than I have in the last several years, and we were both all the happier for it. It also seemed like there was an unusual number of horse injuries, people injuries, and/or horse losses among my circle of friends and the periphery. Most of them aren’t my stories to tell…but some very good horses unexpectedly crossed the Rainbow Bridge this year, and my heart still hurts for those friends.

Much of 2019 was more ride-lite for me, although I did manage to get in a couple rides by the end of the year, and involved a few “plans gone awry.” I’ve probably learned more about flexibility, going with the flow, not getting my hopes set too high on something happening, having back-up plans…and then ultimately rolling my eyes, laughing, and doing something else entirely. Such is the nature of horses in general, and even moreso when you’re catch riding and relying on not only your life falling into place, but the lives of other people and other horses.

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This, more than anything, sums up the greatest part of this year. I have some truly amazing friends in my endurance tribe that have become like family to me.

There was quite a bit that didn’t end up getting blogged about this year, for no other reason than “I got lazy and put it on social media but couldn’t be bothered to sit down and write out a whole post about it.” I’ve gotten a little lax with my writing and motivation to blog, although I still managed to continue my “at least one post per month” streak. We’re still a few days out from annual inebriated declarations of good intent (aka “New Years Resolutions”)…which I don’t do anyway…so I won’t make any promises as to that changing in 2020. The “one post a month” bar has been a relatively easy standard for me to maintain without putting too much pressure on myself for something that is supposed to be fun. In the meantime, there’s always social media. My Facebook is ‘friends only’ and run on a slightly more personal level, but my Instagram is public (it’s also over on the sidebar of this blog).

It also seemed like this year went by really fast. Each month, I felt like I was saying, “How is it such-and-such-month already?” And now, at the end of year, I find myself sitting and saying, “How am I looking at 2020 already? Especially when the 90’s was only like 10 years ago?” (One of these years, my brain will eventually stop living a decade+ behind…)

January

I was able to get Mimi out on trail several times, including a ride out at Picket Post. She was really happy to get out on a semi-regular basis again (which we continued to do through the spring), and to that end, I busted out the clippers for the first time in almost a decade and relieved her of some of her excess fluff.

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AZ Cowgirl Photography, Susan Kordish photo

I volunteered at the Tonto Twist ride, working one of the away checkpoints/water stops. That was a fun day, with a great turnout and a really well-run ride that is rapidly becoming one of my favorite rides, either to ride or volunteer. Also nice that it’s in my backyard, being only half an hour away from both home and the barn.

February

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We got quite a bit of rain this month, and the arena started looking like beachfront property, so we did quite a few excursions around the neighborhood on the dry streets (and some inadvertent off-roading through the mud a couple times).

I also hung out with friends at the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show…and completely failed to get any pics…this is why I blog for fun and low expectations.

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My biggest accomplishment was completing the 5-Day Advanced Course towards my  Masterson Method equine bodywork certification. It was a ton of fun and a major positive learning experience. Pretty much everything I’ve done with horses has not come naturally or easily, and I’ve felt like I’ve really had to work at it, second-guessing myself along the way the entire time. So of course I brought that mindset and those inherent self-doubts along with me, and to have my instructor finish the course and my evaluation by saying I had a natural gift and feel for the methodology was an enormous confidence boost.

March

I had a few days of downtime after the Masterson clinic, and then scooted up to Reno for the AERC Convention. That was a really fun weekend spent with good friends, the annual sushi binge, shopping, and one of the few times of the year I wear a dress and high heels (national awards dinner…because every so often it’s fun to wear something other than riding tights or jeans).

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Thanks to the rain earlier, we had a delightful flower season, both in the backyard and on the trails.

April

I got approved to start the fieldwork potion of the Masterson Method certification, and jumped into that.

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Working on Lilly, a Mustang mare. She was fascinating in terms of learning her very subtle releases and body language.

I was glad for having that to keep me fairly occupied, because so far, spring had been very light on the endurance front, and any plans made didn’t seem to ever end up coming together. It was a little bit frustrating, and I took a stab at exploring the multitude of emotions that accompany endurance in my ‘Velocity‘ post. I’m also pretty sure that my spirit animal, at least as far as endurance goes, is a Whack-A-Mole.

May

The month in which I proved just how obsessed I am with a horse aside from my own pony.

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Flash fractured a front P1 (long pastern bone), and the vet clinic where he had his surgery and recovery was only a few miles from my house, so I went down every day to visit him. I haven’t spent that much time hanging out with a horse “just because” since the years that Mimi was boarded 5 minutes away from my house, and it was really special. I spent a lot of time talking to him, scratching all of his itchy spots, and taking a truly obnoxious number of selfies with him. (This is what happens when my own pony loathes selfies, and I had access to a horse that loves them…I make up for it in one condensed period of time. Mimi might love the camera on the trail/in the arena, but I think Flash loves all cameras, all the time. What a ham and show-off.)

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Mimi turned 26, and we did quite a bit of riding, including new-to-us trails at Coon’s Bluff.

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She has also *not* outgrown her Destructo-Pony indiscretions of youth.

Every summer, Mimi tends to get really itchy along her midline, so this year, I experimented with a super lightweight, soft mesh fly sheet. It did the job, and she made it through the summer without the typical itchy, irritated midline, or having to be slathered in some kind of topical goo or ointment. However, that sheet basically had the life expectancy of “one summer of pony use,” and is now in tatters. It did the job, though, and I saved $$$ on fly spray and topical ointments and treatments. It was super light-weight, and never rubbed or heated her up…so that’s an experiment I will likely repeat this upcoming year.

June

I helped launch the Arizona Endurance Riders Club, and the club put on its first event, an Endurance 101 clinic. This year has seen several 101 clinics, some endurance ride potlucks and social time, and some smaller “mini-clinics” covering more in-depth information on a couple of specific topics at a time pertaining to endurance.

I finally rode the Log Corral trail on Stephanie’s horse Ash. Great 18-mile-roundtrip training ride, and with enough water along the way to make it do-able in the summer.

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Smoke from the Woodbury Fire seen from the barn arena

The Woodbury Fire started in the Superstition Mountain Wilderness, and by the time it was all said and done, burned over 123,000 acres and became the 5th-largest wildfire in AZ history.

July

Mimi comes alive during the summer. She absolutely loves the heat, and I ended up hacking her out around the barn quite a bit. I also had my new Hylofit heart rate monitor to play with and make my data-loving little brain quite happy.

August

Crewing Tevis for my decade year of crewing was a big part of this month. There were a lot of people that I know riding this year…some finished, some didn’t. I crewed for my friend Cathy, and she and her mare finished just after 5am…the horse’s first 100.

September

The end of August is my birthday, and it happened to run into Labor Day weekend this year…so I celebrated by heading up to Utah for a visit with my long-time best friend. It was a fun getaway with an overnight trip down to Cedar City for the Shakespeare Festival, and a side trip to the Cedar Breaks National Monument on the way back.

 

I also helped put on another Endurance 101 clinic, mused on heart horses, and finally, wrapped up the month with a training ride in Prescott on Atti in prep for attending Man Against Horse.

September is also Artemis’s birthday — she turned 6 this year!

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October

I finished the 50-miler at Man Against Horse on Atti.

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It’s Sofie’s birthday (8 years old!) and “Gotcha” month (4 years!).

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It’s also Mimi’s “Gotcha” month — 23 years together!

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As I wrote on Facebook: “She never gets any less special, or less significant in my life. She’s the bar and the standard against which I match all other horses. She’s my original schoolmaster and life lesson-giver. My mane to cry in, and spotty nose to smooch. My original heart horse. Happy Gotcha Day, Mimi…23 years of memories, tears, laughter, success. You still delight my heart.

November

Artemis’s Gotcha month (6 years); I wrapped up my first block of Fieldwork for Masterson Method certification with a “coaching day” evaluation down in Sierra Vista (and a visit afterwards to nearby Tombstone); and ended the month with a family trip up to Idaho for Thanksgiving.

December

Project Ridgecrest” starts and Atti comes to stay at the barn where I keep Mimi. The goal is 20 Mule Team 100 in February, with plenty of conditioning, training, and a couple of competitions between now and then, starting with the LD at Dashing Through the Trails.

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The rest of the month has involved some fun Christmas stuff like cookie baking (when your gingerbread cracks or loses limbs, give them icing stitches and call them gingerbread endurance riders) and catching light displays, and some more training rides for Atti.

As we head into 2020, and the start of a new decade (!!!), I don’t know what will be in store. It’s nice to have some early plans and goals to shoot for, but beyond that point, it remains to be seen what will happen and what the year will bring.

 

Ride Story: Dashing Through the Trails 25 2019

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photo by Susan Kordish, AZ Cowgirl Photography

As my previous post detailed, I’ve got some winter plans at work. Atti, whom I rode at McDowell 75 in 2017, and at Man Against Horse 50 this past October, is hanging out with me for a couple of months for “winter training camp,” and if all goes well, the goal is the 20 Mule Team 100 in February.

Well, it didn’t take long for plans to change. Right out the chute, we went from the planned 50 at Dashing Through the Trails down to the 25, due to a combination of factors:

  • Cristina had taken him to another desert LD the previous weekend, where he got some good sand and trot/canter work (which is the main goal of him being down here)…but we also didn’t want to chuck too much at him all at once.
  • For my part, about a week and half prior to the ride, I stepped off my sidewalk curb and onto a pine cone, falling and rolling my ankle hard. Some aggressive wrapping, taping, TENS unit treatments, and copious applications of arnica had the swelling down in fairly short order, but it was still tender, and I was suspicious of how well it would hold up to 50 miles.

With all of that in mind, and having done this ride last year and knowing it wouldn’t be an easy ride, it was decided to err on the side of opting for the LD. Atti has a good base on him, so my main goal is to find that fine line between taking his conditioning up to the next level, but not beating him up too much.

I was actually looking forward to a fun LD, too. It’s been over 3 years since I’d last done one…and half a dozen years since I finished one. I feel like that topic is worth an entire post unto itself, so I’ll table my thoughts on that for now and leave it at “crap happens at every level of distance riding, whether it’s an LD or a 100.”

Part of Atti being down here is also having Atti’s trailer down here…so Friday morning, for the first time in like 9 years, I was once again in the position of hitching up and heading to the ride in my albeit-temporary own rig. (Which just really cements my desire to have my own trailer again…so if anyone knows anyone selling a lightweight, 2-horse, safe/well-maintained, bumper pull trailer, in or close to AZ, for a reasonable $ and preferably willing to take payments…talk to me. Not that I’m asking for much on that list.)

It wasn’t without a few shenanigans, including not having the right electrical hook-up adapter between the trailer and my truck. Fortunately there’s an auto parts store just a couple miles away from the barn (I was grateful for being in the middle of suburbia in that instance), and they were able to set me up with what I needed.

Estrella is a local ride — about an hour and half to an hour and forty-five minutes away, depending on traffic and time of day — and I was in camp by early afternoon, with plenty of time to set up, do some socializing, check in, get Atti vetted, pack my crew bag, and tack up and go for a short leg stretch ride.

I was able to spend some time catching up with a few friends during the ride dinner that evening, and then the ride briefing gave us our need-to-knows of the trail overview, start times (7:30am), hold times (45 minutes on the LD), and pulse criteria (60 all day). I took Atti for a brief evening stroll afterwards, hauled my crew bag over to the drop-off point, then settled into the cozy nest I had made for myself in the back of the Suburban.

With a 7:30 ride start, I was able to sleep until just before 5, and it actually wasn’t too chilly when I got up. Atti got breakfast first, then I got myself ready for the day and worked on my own coffee and breakfast. Atti was not happy when the 50s left, and we were still hanging out at the trailer…much dirt excavating happened.

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All dressed up and raring to go…

He was also quite ready to hit the trail, and I had to keep him moving in constant walking circles as we waited for the start…if I would stop to chat with anyone, he would start pawing, or backing up. So we walked circles, and worked on leg yielding.

The first mile to the actual trail is a paved road through the park, so we had a controlled start out of camp following the ride manager behind one of the park trucks, and then she turned us loose once we hit the actual start of the trail. It was one of those cases that once the first half a dozen people headed out, there wasn’t a huge rush to leave, and people were sort of hanging back…so I took advantage of the space bubble and headed out.

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Susan Kordish photo

We did some major “negotiations” for the first several miles — he knew there were horses ahead, and every so often, we would hit a spot on trail where he could see them below us, or on a rise out in the distance, and he was in “hunt” mode. But my job as the brains of the operation is to know what we still have ahead of us, and to not let him play Superman, just because he thinks he can. For 14 hands of pony power, he’s amazingly strong, and I had flashbacks to the days of riding Mimi…although he doesn’t drop his head and lean on the bridle the way she did (and still does).

For the first half a dozen miles, I worked on keeping him to a steady pace. Walking any ups and downs, and really rocky bits, but otherwise, maintaining his comfortable trot pace.

Once we reached the back side of the park, some of the trails turn into beautiful areas to move out, and I started incorporating some canter work in as the trail permitted. We had our own space bubble, and although he was still wanting to go, Atti had definitely settled and was doing a good job of listening to my requests.

Around 8 miles in, we reached the first water stop and check-point. He drank, ate a few bites of hay, I electrolyted him, mounted back up, and headed out again for a 6-mile segment that would loop around and bring us back to the water stop. The couple-minute stop had been the final step in really getting his brain settled, and he was a really good boy for the next section. The majority of it was still really good footing, so I was able to set a really consistent pace.

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On the “Homestead” loop

Back around at the water, he dove into the trough and drank like a fish, then I handed him off to one of the ride volunteers to munch on some hay while I darted off behind a bush to recycle the morning coffee. Another half-dose of e’lytes for him (he’s on the “small and frequent doses” protocol), and we were on our way again, this time heading to the vet-check at 19 miles.

We passed through the good footing section again, this time sharing it as a two-way trail with the 50-milers, who had done a 10-mile loop to start before joining the same 19-mile segment of trail as the LD. Atti was a little confused with the horses going the opposite direction — “Home is this way…but the herd is going that way???”

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This section had a lot more rocks and areas of rough footing, but Atti’s got a nice walk on him, and he has a good sense of what is considered trottable or not, and it wasn’t very often I had to request for him to slow down and walk.

The last mile into the check is a wide gravel road…so tempting to use to “make up time” because it’s smooth, and good footing…but the upcoming vet check kept that notion curtailed, and we cruised at an easy trot, pausing just outside the check where management had set out water troughs to drink, dismount, and unbridle before walking into the check. He was at 44 when we arrived and got our pulse.

Once we were pulsed, I got him settled with a buffet of feed and hay, and took management up on their offer of a sandwich…that egg salad was absolutely delicious.

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Vet check buffet. Getting the signature “eat $h!* and die” look from Atti because I had the nerve to put food in front of him. And I hadn’t even electrolyted him yet.

The vet likes to wait about 30 minutes into our hold time before seeing the horses, to give them a “come down” from any on-trail adrenaline, as well as the chance for any issues that might be lurking to crop up. He vetted through with all A’s, and after that, I had enough time to wrap everything up, swap to his hackamore, and be mounted up and waiting for my out-time.

We scampered out of the check as soon as we were released (and a brief moment of confusion again for Atti when we had to pass by other riders who were coming into the check…he thought we should follow them versus venturing out into the desert by ourselves to get eaten) but he quickly locked back onto the trail and started motoring along…merrily side-eyeing every downed/dead cactus along the way.

A few miles out from camp, we were caught by my friend Jen, and we ended up riding in together, spending some time catching up with each other’s lives. The last couple miles out, she went in front of us and Atti turned into a fire-breathing dragon…he knows and has trained with Jen’s horse up in Prescott, and he was not amused with being left behind. I had also grabbed my s-hackamore that has a flat curb strap on it versus the curb chain, knowing that in the past, he’s always been easy to rate and could probably be ridden in a halter.

Uhhhh…flat curb strap privileges revoked, as we went back into “negotiations” mode after he thought blasting down the side of the hill at an extended trot was actually a good idea. We made our way back down at my pace, caught up with Jen at the water trough at the bottom, Atti drank, and then we walked the last mile along the road into camp.

Atti was down right away, and once we pulsed in, it turned out we ended up finishing in 6th place, in a ride time of 3:39. We also stood for BC, even though the early finishers had some time on us…it’s a really good learning experience, especially for a horse who doesn’t particularly see the point of in-hand trot-outs.

It took me a bit to get everything wrapped up and packed up again, so Atti had several hours of recovery before loading up and heading back to the barn later that afternoon.

I was really pleased with how the ride went. My major goal going in to the ride was to work on a steady, consistent pace, and ride the horse and the course to the best of our abilities — use the good footing to the best of our abilities, and be conservative on the sketchy areas. Don’t waste time, ride smart. I have struggled for years to learn how to pace well at rides, and it’s pretty much been the last year or two that I’ve felt like I’m finally getting a better sense for it, and I was really proud of how that came together at this ride.

Gear rundown:

Frank Baines endurance-dressage saddle
Archer Equine saddle pad
Mohair girth
Zilco Halter-Bridle and Breastcollar
Fager bit, model ‘John‘ (I am in love with these bits)
Flex-Ride stirrups (need to switch back to the EZ Rides, my feet were going numb)
Bare Equestrian tights

I’ve started using drench syringes (30cc for in the saddle, 50cc for in camp) and mixing my own e’lytes again. It worked really well to use a soft flask to carry the mix in my saddle pack, and for longer rides, I can refill the flask at checks as needed between loops. Atti is a brat to e’lyte (he’s not the only one…starting with my own pony…) and the drench syringes are so much easier to work with than trying to wrangle with the large, bulky syringes, especially with his smaller mouth. He also readily spits out more of the solid e’lytes, so mixing them in a more runny consistency made it harder for him to spit out a gooey blob.

My ankle didn’t bother me (wasn’t any more sore after we finished than when we started) but I also didn’t get off and run at all.

I feel like we’ve got a solid base to work with, and the ride helped get some little detailed dialed in, so it’s still onward and upward, moving forward with our plans and training.

A huge thank you to Effee Conner and her family for putting this ride on again! The trails were a great mix of technical and fun, ride dinner Friday night was yummy, the Ride With GPS app in conjunction with trail marking was spot-on, and i had an absolutely delightful day out there! So glad to have more and more local rides on the calendar to support!

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Susan Kordish photo

 

The 2010s Picture Challenge

This is kind of a fun challenge going around blog-land right now…ONE picture per year for the last decade. That’s a cool way to wrap up the decade.

2010

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Mimi’s last competition year…she did her last ride in February of that year.

2011

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A rough year, after Beamer, the trailer, and the truck all went to new homes thanks to a rapidly-crumbling economy.

2012

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The start of my job with Renegade…will be going into year 9 this upcoming January.

2013

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The major start of my catch-riding. 4 different horses ridden this year, and eight rides attended, the most I’d ever done in one year.

2014

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The year I started trail running. I’m currently in a “not running much” stage, mostly because I don’t have the same burning love and drive to make it happen that I have for horses and endurance riding…am pretty much content to do a few miles with my dogs and call it good…but this was a good outlet for getting out on trails and still doing some kind of competition when I wasn’t riding much.

2015

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The year I finally went to the Grand Canyon…and saw it in epic style, via a 3-day backpacking trip to from the South Rim to Phantom Ranch and back.

2016

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Tahoe Rim ride…such a beautiful ride, and a very much needed completion and reminder that I still loved endurance.

2017

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First 100-miler (attempt, at least…)! Might sound weird to call a ride the “best pull ever” but it was truly an epic endeavor and great experience.

2018

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The year of Flash, aka “my favorite horse in the world aside from my own pony.”

2019

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Got Mimi out on trail more this year than I have in probably the last half a dozen years, and it was really nice to see the world between her fluffy little fox ears again.

Project Ridgecrest

Well, if all goes according to plan, I should be kept rather busy and out of trouble for at least the first few months on the 2020 ride season.

Back in the fall, Cristina asked me if I would be willing to take Atti to 20 Mule Team and do his first 100 there. After contemplating it a bit, I agreed, and we hatched a plan that involved her keeping Atti down here at the same place Mimi is boarded so that I can give him some more “desert-type” of conditioning with more sand and long-trotting work.

Yesterday, Atti arrived at “winter training camp.” Most of the herd was like, “oh, new horse? Ok, cool, whatever.” Mimi, however, is quite curious about him, which is fairly rare for my normally-antisocial pony. We’ll see how long the honeymoon lasts before she starts sneering at him, but given that she is so jealous and possessive of me working other horses that it would help if she does like him.

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It’s like looking in a mirror.

I will do a couple of local rides with him — 50 miles at Dashing Through the Trails at Estrella Mountain Park this upcoming weekend, and the Tonto Twist 50 in Apache Junction in January — with some conditioning rides in-between, as well as some cross-training arena work, leading up to the 20 Mule Team 100 in February.

If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you’ll recognize Atti from the McDowell 75 in 2017, and the Man Against Horse 50 in 2019. I’ve had a couple of good rides, and good training rides, on him. He’s a fun little horse, and I’m very honored and flattered that Cristina is putting this level of faith and trust in me with her heart pony.

I recently saw a friend use the hashtag #2020Vision on an Instagram story about future plans/goals. I think that’s particularly clever, and I have it written down as my theme for this upcoming year. It’s nice to start the season and year with some early goals, and then stay pretty flexible and open-ended beyond that point.

2019 Endurance Rider Gift Guide

Since I did one in 2015 and then again in 2017, I suppose this has now become a biennial blog tradition to post a Christmas gift guide for the endurance rider.

As always, things I’ve previously posted still are relevant and applicable, but I figure some things are worth highlighting again, or there are other things I’ve since stumbled upon in the last two years.

This time, the format is going to pull from that of “my favorite things” that may be applicable to gift ideas, things I’ve been buying or using this year, or things that are on my own wish list.

Tights

 

PerformaRide: My current all-around favorites. They are super-comfortable, fit really well, have a wide non-elasticized waistband, pocket!, and everything from plain black to really fun prints.
Bare Equestrian: I haven’t put as many miles on these, but I love the fabric. It’s a little bit silky, slightly compressive, and really comfortable. The stick on them is *really* sticky, and they do offer a non-stick option I want to try.
Ride Boldly: I love the wild prints, and the fact they are totally custom-sized. Super comfortable, fit great, and the sky is pretty much the limit for options and creativity.

Tack

Taylored Tack: Love my TT set. So well made, pretty, and the overlay really makes it unique-looking.
Hought: I’ve had really good luck with my Hought stuff as well. I’ve actually scored most of it on resale for really good prices, but as well-made and long-lasting as it is, it’s worth the price.
Zilco: My old standby that I started distance riding with, and have recently been re-acquiring some pieces. Because sometimes I really good want the simple, classic black look. Hard to beat Zilco for really lightweight and streamlined.

Bits

Fager: My newest bit obsession, I love everything they make. Mimi slurps them up and actually has the start of foamy pony spit, which never happens. Some of the styles are made of titanium, so they are really, really lightweight. They’re all handmade, and every centimeter is just pure quality, combined with some very innovative design that’s really on the forward edge of anatomical knowledge and understanding of bit function.
Bombers: I’ve only tried their Happy Tongue mouthpiece, but it’s another Mimi-approved bit. They also have a lot of really interesting designs and innovation, and have done a lot of study of equine mouth anatomy.
Aluminum S-Hack: My old standby. I still have the original hack I got from Wind Rider at Tevis 2005, and it’s still going strong. I also really like the anodized option as well, especially for horses light enough to get aluminum marks showing up on their coats. I love how lightweight it is, and very sporty-looking.

General Purchasing/Misc

Riding Warehouse

The Distance Depot

Wild West Endurance: I love Elicia’s mohair reins, rump rugs, fleece coolers, and “pony pockets” saddle packs.

Flik Equestrian: Training Journals and Limited Edition shirts. Updated in a smaller, more portable size, as well as the ability to select options for different numbers of horses (1, 2, 4, or 6- horse editions).

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I’ve been using my Hylofit since earlier in the year, and my inner data-geek just loves it. It also provides good enough GPS data on mileage and speed that I typically don’t end up wearing a separate GPS anymore.

This was #1 on my Christmas wish list this year. When we went down to Australia, the place we rode at had these lovely saddle pads that were rather unlike anything I was familiar with at the time. They were fairly low profile, but dense, and had a lovely shape and drape to them without being bulky. And the wool was soft and almost silky. I’ve never been able to find anything like that here, and after a lot of internet searching, I believe I ended up finding them. (And, #SpoilerAlert, I do know Santa has one of these on its way to me.)

Okay, armed with that info…happy shopping, all!