Book Review: GALLANT: The Call Of the Trail

The usual review disclaimers: I review stuff I like. Not paid, not sponsored, not saying nice things just because someone is a friend. If I don’t like something, I don’t do negative reviews…I just don’t talk about it. So if I’m talking about it, that means I liked it and want to pass that along. Bonus points if whatever I’m reviewing is connected to a friend, and I can help send some interested parties their way.

I am a voracious reader. Always have been. When I got in trouble at school, it wasn’t because I was talking, or causing classroom shenanigans…it was because I had my nose in a book and wasn’t paying attention. I grew up in the era of when bookstores were still a thing. Larger bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble were just coming onto the scene, and being surrounded by that much reading material was a little slice of heaven for me. I read a variety of books, but my favorites were always the young adult horse series. Thoroughbred and The Saddle Club were always my go-to favorites, and of course anything penned by Marguerite Henry was an automatic favorite (still the case today) but I’m pretty sure I worked my way through just about anything out there that had a horse on its cover. Some were better than others.

Faster forward 25+ years, and I’m still that same voracious reader. My bookshelves are still constantly overflowing beyond capacity, with a wide range of both fiction and non-fiction offerings. And apparently I still have a soft spot for young adult horse fiction, because when my friend Claire Eckard told me about the book series she was planning to write, centering around the story of a young girl and the horse she shares a special bond with, pursuing the sport of endurance riding, I couldn’t wait to read it.

While the print version of the book isn’t out until later in September, the e-book version of the first book was just released today. I pre-ordered my print copy a while ago, but I was too impatient to wait for it…so I downloaded the e-book this morning.

The print version (signed copy!) can be purchased directly from Claire’s website and a portions of the proceeds will be donated to the Western States Trail Museum.

If you’re like me and impatient, the Kindle version is available now, and a portion of the proceeds from the Kindle version will also be donated to the WST Museum.

From the website:

The gripping journey of a young girl and a foal who are raised together in The Valley of Hearts Delight. 

Gallant and Gracie have a special bond, rarely seen between a human and a horse. 

Separated by a bad accident when Gallant is five, each gets a second chance of happiness pursuing the long-distance sport of endurance riding, neither knowing they are leading parallel lives. 

Will Fate bring them together again? 

Gallant’s arch nemesis, The Almighty Flash, threatens to destroy all that Gallant has worked for. His misguided ambition and greed, developed at the hands of an abusive owner, has created a darkness in his soul that turns to blind fury when his endurance career is threatened. 

I was glued to my computer screen from page one, and didn’t get up from my desk until I had closed the figurative cover. Any horse-crazy girl, young or old, who has ever felt like they’ve had a particular bond with a special horse will appreciate this story. It tugged my heartstrings in all the best of ways. I don’t want to give away too much, but I really enjoyed how the horses themselves are their own characters, and some of the story is told from their perspective.

From an endurance rider perspective, I love how the spirit of endurance is captured. There’s a disclaimer in the beginning that some “artistic liberty” has been taken with some of the technicalities/specific rules of endurance…but this isn’t a “how to ride endurance” book. This is a book about the possibilities of endurance riding, how it makes one feel, the joy of sharing the trail with an equine partner, and the many life lessons that can be learned along the way.

I love how many cameos, tributes, and hat tips are included. The character of Gracie is inspired by Julie Suhr, and anyone who has read her autobiography (Ten Feet Tall Still) will recognize some familiar names along the way, and the character of Gallant is based on Julie’s beloved HCC Gazal, who still to this day holds the record for most number of Haggin Cup wins (three).

Additionally, and this one personally grabs all my heartstrings and yanks them along for the ride, the “bad guy” of the book is The Almighty Flash, based on none other than….yep…that Flash.

My favorite badass. The fact that the real life version is the most cuddly, goofy, snuggly, big-hearted caretaker under the mohawk’d war horse exterior makes reading about his evil alter ego rather entertaining.

The illustrations in the book, by Phylicia Mann, also remind me very much of the Wesley Dennis style of art that featured in so many of Marguerite Henry’s books, so anyone who grew up on the ‘Misty’ books will feel an immediate sense of familiarity and homecoming.

The intended audience might be of the young adult age bracket, but I truly think anyone who is horse crazy, and has experienced a bond or certain connection with a special horse, will find something to relate to in this book, and I would highly encourage folks to pick up a copy. This is the first in what will be a trilogy, and I cannot wait for the next two books to come out. Because apparently, it doesn’t matter how old I am, there’s a part of me that’s still that same girl who used to sit on the floor in the bookstore and dive right into the next book in my favorite horse series.

SBS: Flik Equestrian

Small Business Saturday is a (mostly) monthly segment of the blog, featuring a small business that I would like to promote. Those chosen are ones I have directly done business with, have been very satisfied with the outcome, and would like to spread the word about and drive more business their way. I love supporting small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, and promoting ones I believe in are a just a small way of saying ‘thank you’ and encouraging them. 

This first SBS segment features an Australian company, Flik Equestrian. Currently, they offer equestrian record journals (a general one and an endurance-specific one), and limited edition apparel.


From the Flik Equestrian Facebook page:

In 2011, Mindy Davies started Endurance Horse riding knowing nothing about the sport. She quickly became engrossed in its challenges, deciding to aim for a National Championship, the Tom Quilty 160km Gold Cup. She wrote about her journey through the qualifying process through to the Quilty in fortnightly blogs which gathered a following of readers. When she finished the Quilty she self-published the blogs into a book called “Chasing A Quilty” which was read and loved by many who became inspired to start their own journeys. In 2016 Mindy started training 7 horses and made herself a Journal to track and record everything to do with the horses maintenance, training and competition preparations. She wanted to keep everything in the one place and give the Journal to the horses owner at the end of the year with everything in it.
People noticed Mindy using the Journal and started asking for one too. Before long, the Endurance Journal was released for sale on Quilty Quests Facebook page, in version one and soon after came version two. Mindy donated 100% of the small profits back to Endurance through sponsorship encouragement prizes at events.
The Endurance Journal gathered a great deal of positive feedback and requests for additional features and improvements, such as cheaper shipping than that offered by the publisher. Mindy, being determined to help her readers in their own journeys, embarked on a mission to deliver an all new Journal packed full of features.
From what started as Mindy telling her story, to helping others in getting started and telling their own stories has now evolved into Flik Equestrian.
Exciting times lie ahead. Stay tuned.

As far as how I found Flik? Rewind back several years to around the end of 2014/early 2015. I was pretty well in the thick of catch riding, and through the world of the blogosphere and endurance, found my way to a blog titled “To Complete Is To Win.” Australian endurance rider Mindy Davies had been chronicling her own endurance journey, one that included plenty of ups and downs, towards her goal of getting her first Tom Quilty buckle. Not only did I find her a very entertaining writer, I could relate to what she was writing so well, and often found myself nodding along in agreement as I was reading the blog posts. I had found a kindred spirit — the endurance thing isn’t “all beer and skittles” as one post said — and I took a lot of encouragement from the “average endurance rider just telling her story” as she puts it.

I was bummed when the blog closed down, but last year, I was finally able to get my hands on a copy of “Chasing A Quilty” (currently out of print, but from a recent FB post, it looks like more are planning to be restocked again), re-read it, and this time, reach out to Mindy to thank her for the inspiration as I’ve gone along on my own very twisted, very up-and-down path. I was also inspired enough to order one of each journal…the general equestrian one for now, to attempt to set better record-keeping habits with the pony…and an endurance one, with the hopes that I will again have my own competition horse (better yet, horses…I’m an optimist…) to keep records for.

The journals are absolutely beautiful. Hardcover, with a hard protective storage sleeve. Beautiful photography. Lots of space to write/record — I would rather have something that takes up a little more space, but has adequate room for detailed journaling, than something compact that I have to attempt to write in size 6 font in order to fit everything in. Sections are broken down into parts like Owner Info, Horse Info, Training Logs, Travel Logs, Goal Setting, Event Log, and there’s even more little tidbits tucked away in there, but I’m not going to spoil all of the goodies and thoughtful additions. Each journal has space to keep records on two horses.


Historically, I’ve kept — or more accurately, tried to keep — mileage logs/records over the years, but it’s never stuck for very long. Either I get frustrated with the lack of structure (trying to write things down/do my own grids in a notebook), or they’re too complicated/involved to fill out and so I never get around to it. So far, these seem to have a good balance between giving you space to record things, and a good framework, with some built-in flexibility for how much you want to record. I’ll keep reporting back on using them, but so far, a few months in, I’m still really liking it.

In 2019, Flik launched limited edition apparel. Four times a year, a limited edition design/product will be released on a pre-order basis. This was the first one, one a polo-style shirt:


A white endurance Arabian? Of course I had to have that one. It’s on order, and should be here sometime in April.

The second limited edition apparel piece is currently available, and will be up until April 1. The design on this one isn’t endurance-specific, but it’s a really cool hoodie. My love of hoodies is currently at war with the fact we are going to be heading into summer here, but current thought is leaning more towards, “eh, don’t care, I can always save it for next winter…or hope I do some cooler mountain rides over the summer.” Because I’m also a bit of a sucker for limited edition anything as well.

Doing business with Flik/Mindy has been delightful — she’s super-prompt on answering questions, shipped the journals out promptly, and on the pre-order apparel, sends update emails out to keep people apprised on the status. I love the level of innovation and creativity at work here, producing useful and interesting products that are also beautiful and artistic.

Flik has a rewards program, with points earned for things like following them on social media, creating an account, ordering products, and referring a friend. For blog readers, I have a 10% off discount code to share with you all (win-win, you get a discount on your order, and I get rewards points when you order): 

If you haven’t done so already, head on over to Flik Equestrian to check out the journals and limited edition apparel, and follow on Facebook and Instagram for great photography, inspirational quotes, and interactive or thought-provoking questions. Give Mindy a ‘hi’ and let her know I sent you!

Help me get the word out and support these wonderful small businesses and their owners…share this post!

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.


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!


Product Review: Two Horse Tack Riding Reins

Disclaimer: Post sponsored by Two Horse Tack. Compensation was in the form of a product of my choice to review. All opinions are my own.

Two Horse Tack reached out to me recently with an offer to select and review a piece of tack from their website. While I’ve got my tack really dialed in at this point, I’m of the mindset that one can never have too many reins, so I selected a pair of their Riding Reins.

The specs: Black super grip with Purple Beta ends, 3/4″, 9′, “trail” style (single loop, no buckle), stainless steel hardware, stainless steel scissor snaps. Retail value: $32


I’ve had the chance to use them several times now. I’ve got a couple other pairs of reins with the super-grip beta and I’m a big fan; it’s probably my favorite option for reins.

The 9′ length is a good overall length. Maybe a touch long when paired with her s-hackamore, but perfect for with a bit, especially for a pony who prefers a long, low head carriage. It’s also a good length to double as a lead rope to hop off and lead; and while it’s probably not recommended, the super-grip is soft and flexible enough to allow the reins to actually be used to tie.



my nitpick: white stitching, and would like more reinforcement 

My only nitpick is minor, and more of a personal taste/preference: I’m not a fan of larger, white thread for the stitching.

If I were to change anything, I would also like to see a more reinforcement at the point where the colored beta and the super-grip beta are joined. I have both heard and seen instances where stitching gave way at this point, so for my own peace of mind and paranoia, I really like either a second piece of beta stitched along the back side, effectively “sandwiching” the super-grip; or extra reinforcement of the stitching at the overlap point.


The super-grip is really comfortable, and the grip is pony-tested — this is the only thing I can use on her that won’t rub blisters on my fingers.

Overall, I found them to be a solid option.

If you’re interested, Two Horse Tack has a newsletter sign-up (with a $10 gift card offer just for signing up), and are also offering a 10% discount code to readers:


Review: Straight Shot Metal Smashing

I had seen reviews crop up on several friends’ blogs about Straight Shot Metal Smashing, by Beka at The Owls Approve blog. Pretty bridle charms, lightweight aluminum cuff bracelets stamped with a name/phrase/saying and with different colors available to highlight the stamping.

I’m a sucker for pretty, blingy things, and decided to exorcise my post-ride pull-demons with a bit of retail therapy.

The hardest part for me was deciding what exactly I wanted, but I narrowed it down to a couple of bridle charms and a cuff.

Within a day of placing the order, Beka messaged me about one of the charms (the skull) — I had color options on that, and which one would I like? Oooo, sparkly *and* colorful???

I ended up choosing the orange skull charm, and within another day, I received a shipping notification. Wow, talk about fast turnaround and excellent communication!

So I was stalking the postal service site (received a day early, even!) and booked it down to my mailbox as soon as I saw the “delivered to parcel locker” status appear on the tracking number.

photo 1 (10)

pretty packaging! with a bonus skull charm! (going to add a clip to that and turn it into another bridle charm, probably.)

Love the details on the packaging — pretty wrapping, with horse-print tape, and the little bonus skull charm.

And this is what was inside (ugh, blurry phone camera pics):

On the cuff, I had the phrase “horse sense” stamped on it. It has multiple purposes and meanings: 1) I’m pretty sure (most) horses I know have more sense than many people. 2) Our world often doesn’t make sense to horses, so when I’m working with them, it’s a reminder to me to make sure I’m trying to come at that work from a horse’s perspective. 3) Knowledge and theory and learning is valuable…but so is intuitive horse sense.

The orange skull will look great with my orange tack set (and Liberty’s black/white skull-n-crossbones fleece), and the feather…I just love feathers. They go along with my love of birds of prey.

Her prices are really reasonable, with excellent workmanship and attention to detail. (I’ve done some jewelry-making in the past myself, so really appreciate things like smooth jump rings and secure fastenings.) I’m currently wearing the cuff, and will be attaching the charms to my bridles right away…and am already “wish listing” ones I want to order in the future!

Disclaimer: I do reviews based on products and companies that I like. All opinions are my own and I have not received any compensation or benefits for my review.