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Getting Geared Up

Getting Geared Up

I haven’t been the best blogger the past few weeks. Things are moving so quickly that it feels like the moment I think of a post to write, I’m already three days too late. It’s part of the joy of having a green horse; sometimes progress happens so fast its hard to keep track of all of the little things. šŸ˜…

We’ve made some tack changes that I wanted to make sure I put down on here! I started to think about my tack right before my last lesson, when I had a series of not so great rides where Raglan was being a fussy baby about contact. I got a little advice from TrainerA, and then the experimentation began!

“mom, dis too many straps on face”

First thing I did was switch up the bit that we were using. I had been putzing around in a simple single jointed loose ring snaffle, but when he started acting up I messaged SellerH to find out what he went in before I bought him. She suggested I get a double jointed bit, so off to the Bony Pony I went! I tried two French link bits, a loose ring and an eggbutt. At first I didn’t love the fixed sides of the eggbutt (I felt like it made the reaction time of the bit much slower, like I was talking to him with a layer of cotton around my hands), but in the end I decided it was a better fit for us. I felt like the eggbutt was more forgiving of my not-always-awesome hands, and that he was more willing to stay with it than the loose ring.

The loose ring (left) is designed so that the bit isn’t stuck in one place and the rings can rotate, whereas the eggbutt (right) has a fixed cheek, so the ring can’t be rotated or moved around.

TrainerA also recommended I add a flash to Raglan’s noseband to prevent him from opening his mouth to avoid the contact while he’s being educated on the virtues of the horse-rider-handshake. This is something I had to do for Ezhno when he was first learning about contact, too. I don’t happen to own a flash, but I do have a figure 8, so I went ahead and added that to the mix after I was done playing with different bits.

Normal cavesson (left) versus the figure 8 (right). The figure 8 is designed to hold the mouth closed and prevent the horse from crossing his jaw without interfering with his airway.

The last addition to the mix is more for me than him: a running martingale. There have been a couple of moments during some of his I-don’t-want-to-go-forward tantrums where he’s gotten a little too close to my face. As a rider, I feel eight times more confident when I’ve got a martingale in my corner and I know the horse I’m riding can’t crack me in the nose. Plus it’s nice to have a little extra leverage for those moments where his head gets super high and he gets super strong. It’s made me feel a lot more comfortable!

You can see the rings of the running martingale starting to pull the reins down in this screencap. He was in the process of thinking about chucking his head into my face.

I’m still fussing with the fit of the martingale, but I’m happy with the changes for the time being! There will come a time when I can switch back to a regular noseband and no martingale, but for now our gear has me feeling very confident with the level of control I have over my unorthodoxly giant steed.

The Death of the Donatello

The Death of the Donatello

You guys, you should really take care of your things. Especially if you buy nice things and you want them to last you more than one season. You should clean and oil them regularly, store them in non-freezing places, and maybe don’t make them walk through mud puddles unless you absolutely have to.

this counts as washing them, right?

I bought my pair of TredStep Donatello tall boots back in late July. They were the only semi-nice off the rack boots that I could find that fit my beefy calves (16 1/4″, and they only fit because of their stretch panel). When I first got them we didn’t get along super well, but after taking a few weeks to break them in they were as good as I was going to get without considering the budget-breaking idea of custom boots (curse my short legs, average feet, and plus-sized calves!).

Man, they were so shiny when I first got them! šŸ˜

They were never the perfect boot. They were a little loose around the knee and the foot (I had to put inserts in to fill up some the space, plus wear two pairs of socks), one of their cute little logo emblems fell off after a few months of daily use, my spurs never really stayed above the stops, and their dye didn’t agree with my boot conditioner. But despite all of that, I grew to like the Donatello. Once they were beaten up a little bit they were super comfortable and I never had any moments where I felt like they were hindering my riding.

All of that’s to say that I was super bummed when I noticed that my zipper had started to separate during one of my rides. I managed to yank the zipper back onto the track and for a few days I thought I’d dodged a major budget bullet, but then the zipper jumped ship entirely.

I’ve had the Donatello for just under a year and half. The Internet says that zippers on tall boots usually last two to four years if taken care of properly (PSA: apparently there’s some sort of zipper lube that I should have been using? who knew!), so I can’t say that I’m super surprised that they’ve given up the ghost. A lot of my Instagram followers said that I should get them repaired, but just as many said that I might as well buy a new pair or a set of paddock boots and half chaps.

Luckily for me (and my over-taxed bank account), a local friend saved me from a hard choice. One of TrainerA’s students (she’s a member of the University of Washington Equestrian Team and just recently started leasing Boston!) had a spare pair of TuffRider paddock boots and Ariat half chaps.

So fortunate they fit! I got her a gift card to a local tack shop to say thank you šŸ™‚

The paddock boots have only been used a few times, so they’re still pretty stiff. With how much riding I do they’re bound to loosen up in no time, though. (Or at least I hope that’s how it goes, my lower leg is super wobbly in them right now šŸ˜…). Honestly, I’m just so thankful to have something to ride in at all!

In the mean time, my broken pair of Donatello field boots have taken up residence in the hatch of my car. SellerH gave me the name of a shop up north that will replace the zippers in them at a more than reasonable price, I just have to find the time to make the journey up there!

I’m a Black Friday Failure :(

I’m a Black Friday Failure :(

When I was a kid, I knew nothing about tack. The shabby cardboard box barn I took lessons at didn’t have the money for high quality saddles, so students had a choice between a beat up old Wintec and a no name leather monstrosity with a seat like a cinder block. When I came back to riding I’d never heard of names like CWD, Beval, Antares, etc., so it’s no surprise that I ended up with something familiar (and synthetic).

Me buying my first English saddle at the local 4-H tack sale, circa March 2016 (right after I started riding again)

Six months later, when I bought Ezhno, I made the mistake of letting my local tack store salesperson convince me to buy a $170 Ovation brand bridle. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine bridleā€”it’s got the fancy stitching and the leather is pretty softā€”but the sizing has always been wonky and I’ve worn holes in the reins. I love it as a schooling bridle, but if I was looking now I’d probably pass it by for that price.

My poor fancy stitched reins šŸ˜¢

It’s only recently that I’ve started to learn more about different brands of tack. Research + wisdom from my trainers + reading other blogs = a much more informed equestrian consumer.

Informed equestrian consumers end up with beautiful things, obviously šŸ˜

Post Devoucoux Stephani is very broke, but you can’t not buy things on Black Friday There’s not a lot of things I need, but there’s a lot I wantā€”a new pair of reins, a shoulder relief girth, a breastplate/martingale combo, a pair of powerful body clippers, and a saddle pad in every color of the rainbow, for starters.

But as I perused my local tack store in search of a big ticket item to cash in on a 40% off coupon, nothing really caught my interest. The reins were made by brands I’ve never heard of, the breastplate had a made-in-India sticker on its tags, and none of the body clippers they had in stock looked like they were going to last for more than one season. I considered each item, then found a reason to give all of them a pass.

As I stood there, folding the cheek piece of a teal accented dressage bridle back and forth to check the suppleness of the leather while watching a middle-aged couple look at a selection of synthetic girths out of the corner of my eye and trying not to cringe, I came to a realization:

I’m one of those people now. I’ve got a fancy French saddle, a rough understanding of the pound to dollar conversion rate, and a sudden predisposition towards words like “Sedgwick” and “buffalo” and “calfskin”. I’ve surpassed “picky” and gone straight to “tack snob”. I’ll never be able to wander into the tack store and pick things out on a whim again. I’m duty bound to dig up reviews for almost every product I encounter.

At least there are some things I don’t have to spend thirty minutes researching on my phone in the corner of the store before I buy them. A lead rope is a lead rope is a lead rope.

In the end, I walked out of the store with a pair of side reins (look out Raglan, TrainerA and I are coming for you šŸ˜ˆ) and a lead rope (to replace the one that Rags chewed through).