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.



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.


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.


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).


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!

Post-Game Analysis: Wickenburg 25

As always, I was mixing up/messing around with gear…girl’s gotta have a hobby, right?

The biggest change was using one of Gina’s spare saddles: a Frank Baines Reflex dressage, fully kitted out with extra rings and such for endurance. I’d been having problems with the Duett leaving Liberty with a sore back (that was a first for me…) and after some examination, concluded that the tree was likely too flat for her, coupled with it being maybe just a touch narrow, thus further tipping it back on her loins.

The FB fit her really well (holy wide tree…FB’s 4W tree, which is the largest they offer in that model!) and it was surprisingly comfortable for me. At an advertised 17″ (although I measured it at 17.5…) it’s maybe just a touch small, especially with the deeper seat and higher cantle, but it was super-secure and I felt really comfortable and balanced in it…so it’ll work for now.


Meet Frank. Frank has only been used once before this and still smells like new leather. ♥

In my quest to find/make the perfect saddle pad, I had obtained a sheet of Supracor material, chopped it up into the appropriate shapes, and stuffed them into one of my existing Skito pads. It worked fabulously — I’m a fan of the support of the Supracor material, which doesn’t collapse and compress under pressure the way most the foams do, and it’s really breathable. Making inserts was 1) Cheaper than getting a new Supracor pad and 2) allowed me to use my favored wool underside of the Skito pad.

I used a rope halter under her s-hackamore headstall instead of the beta halter — it takes up a little less space, especially under the chin, and didn’t seem to interfere quite as much. (Even if I do like the look of the beta halter better…*sigh*)

For whatever reason, I switched back to the curb chain on the hackamore — thinking it might be longer/have a little more space than the solid strap — but that was a mistake. She’s definitely sensitive to too much curb pressure, and tucks her head and gets way behind the vertical when you apply contact. (And I ride with contact, which is why she’s generally pretty bold and not spooky, because she knows I’m up there, and I can feel when she’s getting tense or looky and give her a bit of leg or rein as necessary versus waiting until she’s already spooking halfway across the trail.)

So I rode carefully for the first part of loop 1, then swapped out the bottom solid hobble strap off the hack with the chain and the rest of the loop went way easier, and then once back at camp, replaced it with the solid curb strap.

I’m also going to switch out her hackamore noseband, because despite the “training“, the padded one still ends up flattening out versus draping nicely, and that makes it harder to put the bridle on without it being really tight around her nose. (I also may experiment with some kind of “hook” mechanism on the curb strap, kind of like the curb chain on a kimberwick that can easily be hooked or unhooked.)

25 miles has left me convinced I’m not a fan of the  Gaston Mercier “comfort” leathers. Great concept, questionable execution: wider and more padded leather uppers, with the more narrow and flexible beta straps from which to hang your stirrups as the lower part. Unfortuantely, the d-ring that the beta straps hang from hits me right in the middle of my calf and creates a ton of pressure, even through the thickly-padded leather (and I was wearing half chaps). It’s possible that getting a longer padded section would alleviate this (or it would just move the pressure point to lower down onto my unpadded ankle bone)…but the company was such a pain to try to work with (customer service oriented…not!) and I had to jump through so many hoops to try to get them in the first place that I’m loathe to attempt another pair…especially since I provided height and inseam measurements and relied on their opinion and expertise for the size I need, since my height puts me somewhat between sizes.


I will probably go back to my old standby of Webbers + fleece covers, although the Australian fenders idea has me curious…

For stirrups, I had a pair of Amidale ones that I was trying for the first time. They were actually pretty good…certainly no worse than anything I’ve tried in the past, and possibly even better…only noticed a tiny bit of foot pressure developing, and that was during our endless walking campaign over the last few miles. Definitely worth trying out some more.


Amidale stirrups…of course, the best part is they’re orange!

I had to do some problem-solving with her boots along the way. We started in Classics all around (due to materials/color testing), with Viper heel captivators on her hinds after discovering her lameness from Bumble Bee most likely came from a rock getting under the captivator and creating a cut/crease between her frog and heel bulb. (She has very well shaped and defined heel bulbs, which means there’s actually a tiny pocket of space between her bulbs on the Classic captivator, which has a slightly flatter profile. Not normally an issue…unless you’re riding in some very deep and rocky sandy.)

About 5 miles into the ride, after some significant slogging through sand wash, I noticed her develop a subtle-but-consistent head bob on what looked like the left front. She had gotten quite a bit of sand in her boots, and even some small rocks between her toe and the boot toe. When that happens, it pushes the hoof backwards, and in effect creates a “tight” captivator, the same thing that happens if the cables are not the proper length or the tension strap is fastened too tight. She was responding to the pressure on her heels, and as soon as I pulled the offending boots, she started trotting just fine, no head bob.

She’s a good illustration of “select the proper shape of boot for your horses hooves, especially wen doing high-performance tasks.” Her toe angle naturally sits lower than the Classic shell toe angle, even on a super-fresh trim and appropriately short toes. When that happens, it creates a gap at the top of the boot shell that then allows sand to enter into the boot shell at a rate faster than it can empty out of the back of the boot.

boot comparison copy

You can see the differences. While her feet aren’t necessarily that round (she fits into more oval-proportioned Viper sizes of 140×135 and 140×130), in her case, it’s the angles and captivators that make a difference

I replaced her boots with Vipers at the lunch hold, and we did the second half of the ride, which also had significant amount of sand — everything from fine, powdery dust to pebbly gravel — and when we finished, she didn’t have any sand accumulated in her boots. Lesson learned: She has Viper hooves/heel bulbs, and in high performance hoof booting, attention to detail matters.

We’ve had a bit of an unseasonal heat wave this spring and the ride day was predicted to be a high of 83°, so I took the time Friday afternoon to braid Liberty’s very long, somewhat thick, mane. It served the purpose of helping to keep her cool, and it actually gave me easier handholds than trying to grab her flying mane.


Lots of mane to braid

As for myself, though I prefer to be unencumbered by it, I did wear a hydration pack — the same one I’ve used for running, the UltrAspire Astral. I definitely drink much better from a pack versus bottles, and I drank about 40oz of water on loop 1 and drained the pack (60oz) on loop 2. It also didn’t make my shoulders/neck muscles hurt any worse than not wearing it.

I also wore Kerrits IceFil from head to toe: IceFil Tech Tights (I got a pair when they originally came out and I really didn’t like them…weird waistband that sags, hot material…but I loved the pockets and the low-profile silicone grips. They did a re-design to them, featuring a wider and more elastic waistband, and the material feels different and cooler, so I snagged a pair, and I’m glad I did.) and a long-sleeve IceFil shirt. I’ve had the shirt for a bit now, and while I’ve done some hiking (Grand Canyon backpacking trip!) and running in it, I hadn’t used it at a ride. So glad I did — I feel like it really made a difference in keeping me cool, as well as sun-protected, without having to mess with sunscreen. Must get more…I think I may become Queen of Sunshirts.


UltrAspire Astral pack, IceFil shirt, IceFil tights, Jodz half chaps, Ariat Terrain boots, Tipperary Sportage helmet, Buff headwrap under helmet.

I also did pretty well in the food department: squeezie applesauce, Clif ShotBloks, Bounce energy ball/bar, and string cheese out on trail; ham, string cheese, pudding, and protein smoothie at lunch.

I electrolyted Liberty Friday evening, and then after we finished on Saturday…thinking I probably could have done some at lunch for her? She drank really well out on trail, and her vet scores were all excellent, but she is a larger-bodied, dark-colored horse…my gut tells me she may be one I end up messing around with e’lyte protocols on, especially as temps and distance increases. (But she’s got to get better with the syringe. Right now, she’s even more of a pain than Mimi…which is saying something.)

I think that pretty much covers it…if there’s something I didn’t mention, or you want more info about, just let me know in the comments!

Happy Birthday, baby girl!

My sweet baby girl is 20!!!

Okay, so her birthday was actually last Sunday, but I lose horsey mommy points for being off gallivanting at a ride on the exact day…with another horse…the nerve!

I have a hard time believing this pony is actually 20 years old…she does not act her age most of the time. (Crunchy hocks notwithstanding.)

She was in quite a happy mood this morning and obliged me with several rounds of “The Many Faces of Mimi.”

itchy face!
trying to figure out her reflection

she does not do self-portraits
(or she thinks my orange phone case is for her)

And a bonus for me: New half chaps! My old ones are just about dead and can only be taped/repaired in so many ways before they just won’t work. They’re also getting a bit too big and baggy on me, so I’ve been having some challenges with them rotating around on my leg.

These are from Just Chaps, the fringed suede style. Super comfy, and the elasticized back means they have some good stretch on the size, allowing me to get a smaller sizer that’s short enough for my lower legs. Yay, no chaps bunching around my ankles or jamming under my knees.
And I love the flippy western fringe! Didn’t know if the flopping would drive me nuts, but I figure that it never bothered me with my full Western show chaps back when I was showing, so these would probably be okay…and sure enough, once I’m in the saddle, I never even notice.

never too far removed from my show-ring

Dear Ariat

Stop making really spiffy things that I love and then discontinuing them, only to replace them with a higher-dollar substitute I don’t like as well.

The most obvious case-in-point of this would be the ever-popular Terrain Half Chaps. By the time I wanted to jump on the bandwagon and get a pair, they were all sold out and discontinued in the size I would need (which is Small Short, preferably…Small might work). The replacement, the Volant XT, is double the price and I don’t like the look of them nearly as well as the original Terrain half chaps. Spanish topline? For endurance? Are you kidding me?

I’ve also got a pair of these Ariat Duma sneaker/Terrain things that I really like. Too bad they’re about 6 or 7 years old now and I’m forced to limit the amount that I use them, lest they wear out, since they don’t make them anymore. They’re really similar to the original Terrain boot, only lighter weight and really ventilated.

Anyone want to help me petition to bring back the shoes and the Terrain half chaps?

my collection of riding tights

Dear Ashley, We are out of space in your drawer. You do not
need to add to your collection. Sincerely, Your Tights

Completely shameless confession: I love riding tights. Even before I got into distance riding, I had several pairs of tights with funky-patterned side stripes I would use for schooling and riding lessons. As evidenced by the above, once I got into distance riding, my fashion sense took on very much of a “no holds barred color explosion” type of flavor. I also wear them for more than just riding: I’ll wear them under sweats in the winter when I need an extra layer, or as a more comfortable alternative to jeans on days I’m just hanging around the house.

I’ve gotten my tights from a variety of sources and I really like them all for different reasons. At the very least, having multiple brands allows me to rotate through them — very handy at the Prescott ride when day one’s tights rubbed on the inside of my knee, so I switched to a different type on day two.
I also tend to hold on to my tights for a very long time, reluctantly disposing of them only after they’ve reached the point where I might as well just go ride in my underwear, they’ve gotten so see-through.
tights from Evelyn the Tights Lady

The two pairs of denim-looking tights are my newest acquisition from Evelyn, bought at the AERC Convention in February. One pair are solid lycra with a denim print, and the other are a heavier, more cotton-woven type of material with the look and a tiny bit of a feel of denim. The lycra ones are nice and cool for the summer. The denim ones are a perfect fall/spring weight and very comfortable. The solid purple cotton and “fireworks factory explosion” ones are several years old now, and the patterned ones have been through a number of rides and holding up well. The solid purple ones are a cotton blend of some kind, which is nice and lightweight for summer.

I finally got to meet Evelyn in person at the Convention and paw through the racks of wonderful, wild, outrageous patterns. I thought bringing home the denim ones was a rather conservative move on my part…but Evelyn’s promised to look for some wild orange fabrics for me as well. :)
Love these…Evelyn is definitely one of my go-to sources on tights.
Tropical Riders
EnduraCool on left; PrixTec on right

I’m kind of on the fence about the Tropical Riders. The brown pair on the left are wonderful. They’re the “EnduraCool” model, I believe. I picked them up a number of years ago…probably 6 or 7?…on sale at one of my local tack stores. As you can see from the rather interesting color variegation on them, I’ve worn them a lot. The lower leg is still the original color, from always being covered by half chaps, and the upper waist area is the same way from always being covered with a shirt. But the middle part…welcome to the “Arizona sun effect.” They’ve also got a couple of small holes…but they’re so comfortable and great for the summer that I refuse to give them up until they’re in shreds.

The orange ones on the right, I’m not too sure about. They’re the “PrixTec” variety. I know one thing for sure: I don’t like the full-seat. It’s not even the grip in the saddle part — nice, but unnecessary, as it turns out — but I don’t like how much extra weight and lack of breathability the extra material adds, and it makes them fit a little funky. I’m not wild about the fact the cotton material seems to be pilling around the lower leg and ankle area after only a few wears/washes.
Will get another pair of the “EnduraCool” variety if I can ever find another pair on sale again.
Irideon Issentials

The most boring tights I own…but I can’t get rid of them. They wear like iron. The black pair on the right are at least 7 or 8 years old and don’t even have a hole in them. (And they’ve seen a lot of miles.) The grey pair aren’t much newer, at least 5 or 6 years old. They have a couple of tiny holes on the side of one knee. They’re made of some kind of microfiber polyester, so have fantastic grip. They’re acceptable all year round, but can get a little hot in the summer. They do have a funky outer seam that I have to watch for — if it gets placed under my half chaps the wrong way, it’ll press right into my shins and do some interesting pressure things. Black goes with everything, so I can wear my more colorful and interesting shirts with these.

Kerrits Klassic Performance

I’m pretty sure these are the “Klassic Performance” variety. These are another pair that have seen a lot of miles and have the wear to prove it, but I don’t have the heart to chuck them quite yet. The bottoms of them are permanently stained from when I was breaking in my new black half chaps and sumemr sweat + new suede = dye leak. There are a couple of holes in them. The thigh area is starting to stretch out and get a little threadbare. But they’re some of the coolest summer tights I have and are still super-comfortable. The only problem with these is the tan color. From a distance, ride photos have a bit of a “Lady Godiva” effect. Hmmm.

Crazy Legs tights

The two wild prints on the left are solid lycra.. The side-stripe ones are lycra stripes with some kind of tech-performance solid fabric. This is my other go-to source for something other than off-the-rack, tack-store tights. The ones on the right are my newest pair, and the print is some funky shimmery snakeskin-effect type of fabric…very wild. (And enough orange in it to go with my whole orange color scheme.) Also been very happy with these so far as well

Not pictured: Winter riding tights, because they’ve been put away in my closet until next winter. One pair are Crazy Legs, the other Irideon Wind Pro. Like the Crazy Legs. The Wind Pro, I use more as winter sweats than for actual riding, because they’re bootcut, which, as it turns out, I don’t care all that much for in the saddle, especially when paired with half chaps. I love the Wind Pro material, though, and will probably look for another pair next winter in a more fitted style.

What I love about all of these tights and their manufacturers: They’re made in the US. Yes, even the Irideon and Kerrits. That makes me extremely happy that something I buy and get so much wear out of ties in so strongly with my efforts to get as much of what I buy as possible made in the US. And I really like supporting the small businesses like Evelyn and Crazy Legs: hard-working people and personal friends who are innovative and quality-driven.
I’It appears that I’m out of drawer space now…but that doesn’t stop me from keeping one eye open for any good deals I might stumble across along the way. Because there’s always room for more tights.