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!

Spring Fever

Lest anyone think I’ve forgotten about the pony, I can assure you she’s still doing her best to enliven my life and keep things interesting. And promote the idea that it doesn’t matter how old or semi-retired they are, horses never lose their capacity for self-destruction.

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No clue what happened, but I’ve gotten pretty skilled over the years at dealing with this type of wound/injury, and have the well-stocked first aid kit to prove it. Clipped, cleaned, and layer-wrapped in short order, and since she wasn’t lame, we still went on to have a nice ride.

Pretty sure that was payback for being gone the previous two weekends in a row.

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Plus, I had to play with my shiny, Convention-acquired new toys.

Verdict: I thought the Archer Equine saddle pad was going to be huge (“the saddle pad ate my pony”) but it actually fits really well with the Duett. Reserving judgment until I give it several rides and wash it, but for its initial trial run, I liked it.

Myler eggbutt, MB33 mouthpiece, is pony-approved, and she worked really well in it.

And I love the mohair reins. Great feel, and weight-wise, they feel like a perfect balance between flat braid reins and round rope rein. To me, at least, a lot of the flat braid are too insubstantial and light, but round yacht rope is just a little too bulky/thick. Plus the mohair is super-soft and feels really good, even without gloves. I know I’ve had really good luck with my high-quality mohair girths washing up really well and lasting a long time, so I’m assuming the same will hold true for the reins.

Happy Monday, all, and hope the rest of the week treats everyone well!

saddle time

Since I’ve got the Tevis Educational Ride coming up in a week and half, I figured it would probably be a good time to remind the riding muscles they have a function beyond just meandering a few circles in the arena.

Running the Renegade Hoof Boots trade show booth at The Mane Event last month and Western States Horse Expo earlier this month was a really good boost to my mental state. Not only was it a good confidence booster both personally and professionally, but that kind of immersive horse experience got me excited about riding again.

With as hot as it is (we got a blessed reprieve through the first part of June with a somewhat delayed summer, but we’re into it now…commence heat training), I’ve really backed off on how much trail running I’m doing, choosing instead to walk with the dogs or put in the treadmill time at the gym.

The flip side of not running as much means time to ride. And this weekend, I managed to get down to the barn both days, which is an almost-unheard of phenomenon for the last several years. Used to be par for the course, but more recently, between travel, work stuff, dead-truck-for-a-time, family stuff, running, and just plain old can’t-be-bothered-to-make-the-drive…it’s been a while since I’ve had both weekend days free, and felt sufficiently motivated to do something with it.

Doesn’t hurt I got a couple new toys to play with, either.

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Taylored Tack “Zuni” Bridle and an original handmade Myler kimberwick

At the Western States Horse Expo, we were right next to the Western States Trail Foundation booth — aka “the Tevis store.” And my wallet ended up making some contributions to the trail. ;) They had this gorgeous Taylored Tack bridle hanging up…right next to me…after a day and half of being taunted (they also had the same bridle at the AERC Convention earlier in the year) I finally gave in and it found a new home.

Who says retired ponies don’t deserve nice things? By now, that pony probably deserves a gold-plated tack set, but that would be harder to clean, and probably not as flexible or easy to fit as beta-biothane.

And the Myler was an eBay find. Original handmade, not one of their production line. Sweet iron mouthpiece, which you can only get on English-style bits by custom order. And interesting hooks on the kimberwick cheeks. They’re half loops versus the fully-connected loops, so the reins end up with a bit more slide to them, especially on the bottom loop. I have no idea what the purpose of it is; I’ve never found any published info out there from Myler as to this style versus closed loops. But Mimi loves this thing. Like, grabs it out of my hands, and I have to practically pry it out of her mouth at the end. It’s the MB33 mouthpiece, which she really likes, but I think in this case, the sweet iron is what’s got her so nuts for it. This is the absolute softest I’ve ever seen her with a bit. No fuss, no fidget, no weird jaw crossing.

Sleepy side-eye when we were done. We wrapped up before it cracked triple digits, but it was still warm. Windy, too. But she knows she looks good. She knows when she gets new tack.

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Have realized I can never get rid of this saddle

Irony is: When you have three saddles, and the one that currently fits the pony the best and is the most comfortable/favorable riding position is not the fancy dressage saddle, or even the saddle that did probably thousands of ride-and-training miles…no, it’s the old gymkhana-saddle-turned-endurance-saddle.

Yep, the old Big Horn has been pressed into service once again. The old Big Horn, circa 1999 (I think?). My former lesson and gymkhana saddle. I guess it’s no wonder I feel so comfortable in it…spent hundreds of hours in it when taking lessons and running gymkhana at shows.

This saddle deserves its own post, especially detailing out all of the alterations its gone through, but long story short: when I started distance riding, I sawed the horn off (if my trainer from show days is reading this, she probably just died a little at that part…) and gradually made changes like swapping fenders for English leathers, and putting girth billets instead of cinch latigos  on it.

It’s not always been the most comfortable saddle for me in the past, though…mainly, too wide of a twist. But I’ve kept it around as a back-up saddle…it lives down at the barn for the days I can’t be bothered to haul one of the saddles from home.

Funny thing…I’ve been playing saddle “Round Robin” for the last several times I’ve ridden…and when I hopped up and settled to the old Big Horn yesterday, it felt wonderful. Of the three saddles, it puts me in the most comfortable position, I don’t feel like I’m fighting it at all, and I feel really secure. And for whatever reason, the twist doesn’t feel too wide.

Mimi’s moving well in it, too. I’ve always had good luck with this saddle on her. We used it for half a dozen NATRC rides, and several AERC LD rides, and the only time she ever had any back soreness was when I used an Equipedic pad instead of the above-pictured purple Skito.

So I guess we’ll just keep on busting out the old Big Horn for now.

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And finally: discovering the sneakers you put on by accident/force-of-habit because you forgot you were riding, not running, actually make for fantastic riding shoes. Still like my Terrains, but not for hiking since they have no tread. I’m not sure how much of the Ed Ride coming up might involve hiking, but since I’d like to be prepared for that eventuality, I’ve been scratching my head and wondering about what shoes to bring. Yesterday’s “happy accident” was further confirmed by deliberately wearing them today, and that settled the matter — these are definitely going on the packing list. Super comfortable, no foot numbness, good tread, and very breathable.

11 days out from Tevis Ed Ride departure day. Counting down!

The Bit Box

So, as anyone who has spent any time in a barn (particularly a barn with multiple horses or a training barn) knows, there is the ubiquitous “box of bits” always lurking in the corner of the tack room. Sometimes it’s where bits go to die, other times it’s a constant recycling program.

I learned well from my trainer, and have been slowly and quietly gathering bits to me on a regular basis for the past 15 years. I also have something of an obsession fascination with bits, especially ones that have a lot of science, engineering, and thought behind their form and function. (Myler is my preferred go-to.)  And I’m a sucker for “a good deal.” (“Oh, a normally $75 bit for $20? Let me take that off your hands.”)

I’ve sold off a few here and there, but for the most part, I just gather them and let them sit until it’s time to do their thing, since I figure at some point in life, I will eventually have a horse or horses that will end up needing exactly what I’ve got lurking in the box.

(In this case, box is a misnomer — right now they’re stored on bridle hooks in the garage.)

And it’s not just bits, either…I’ve thoroughly explored the bitless realm and have several representative options that are in regular use as well.

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I’ve got something from every Myler level, from 1 (for the future greenies) to 3 (highly trained and responsive Mimi), so basically, I’m my own bit lending program and will be able to mix and match horse and bit to my hearts content for any future ponies in my herd.

My first reaction is “Holy crap, that’s a lot of bits up there.” And then I remind myself that is also 15 years worth of collecting, and that most of my tack acquisition is done with a “sell something else first” principle. (In fact, in sorting through these, I realized there are a couple of them that are going be going by the wayside due to fit/function/found a better alternative.) And buy used/discount whenever possible.

Fortunately I’m not this much of a hoarder with everything.

a bit unexpected

Or, alternately, “pony knows best.”

This weekend, I decided to, on a whim, check out a consignment tack store not too far away from me in Phoenix.
I hit the jackpot in the bit department. A truly excellent deal on a Myler bit — which, as anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows, is a major weakness of mine. Bit Hoarders R Us.
I was quite excited when I found this bit, since I thought it was a Level 2-3 mouthpiece I’d been contemplating as one I thought might work pretty well for Princess Fussy Mouth. Plus, it was a kimberwick, which is my preferred bit for distance riding.
Bought it…used it the next day…
She LOVES it.
She mouthed at it a couple of times while I was messing with the adjustment (no matter if it looks like the same height as the previous bit…it will inevitably require adjusting of the bridle), and then that was it. Once it was comfortably seated in her mouth, she didn’t seem to give it a second thought.
No weird jaw-crossing or mouth gaping, no tongue sticking out, and most amazingly, no leaning on the bit. At all. Walk-trot-canter-circles-stop. All light, soft, and responsive.
“Okay,” I thought. “Guess I was right that this would be a good bit for her.”

And then I started doing some research this morning. Turns out it wasn’t quite the mouthpiece I thought it was. Very similar…but it’s actually a Level 3 mouthpiece.

Which, in a twisted way makes sense: it’s designed for finished horses who work well off of leg, seat and hands. Which is Mimi.
I just always figured a Level 3 would be “too much” for her and that her small mouth and (presumed) low palate wouldn’t like having the higher port, which was why I always tried to stick with the lower level bits, figuring a lack of high port would be “kinder.”
Turns out all my pony wanted was tongue relief — which is why she leaned-leaned-leaned on any of the lower-level bits that would lay across her tongue, and she softened more when I put her in a Level 2-3 with more tongue relief.
This mouthpiece (MB33) has the most tongue relief of any of their mouthpieces, and she is one happy little girl.
Granted, we only used it in the arena and I haven’t tried it out on trail, but for her, I still prefer the s-hack for going “out” and saving the bit for the arena schooling stuff.
So, go figure. I think the lesson here is that horses are always teaching us stuff if we’re willing to listen to them. (And even after 16 years, my pony still has something to say to me.)