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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).

Moving into the Transition Bit

Moving into the Transition Bit

Look at how good he was in his new bit! šŸ™‚

Meet the bit that my trainers call “the transition bit”! It’s got a jointed, Myler type mouth piece (curved with copper strips) and shanks that swivel, which I think puts it firmly in the Tom Thumb category? I’ve had a little experience with the Tom Thumb before, and while I didn’t like it then, the experience was completely different with a horse that has a solid training background (versus a horse that’s been over-bitted).

Trainer M and I had a sneaking suspicion that Ezhno had probably been ridden in a leverage bit before, but when my lesson rolled around on Wednesday we still started out on the ground, practicing our halts, rein back, and bending to both sides. Unsurprisingly, he was 100% not worried about the new bit.

Trainer M climbed aboard and, honestly… he was fine. He didn’t care much about the new bit at all. In fact, he looked better than he did in the snaffle. She put him through his walk/trot paces, fixed a couple of spots where he stopped bending and locked up, then passed the reins over to me.

Guys, he was such aĀ  P R O F E S S I O N A L .

Seriously, he was fantastic. He felt a million times better than he did in the loose ring snaffle, it was like having a whole new horse. I could ride him with a drape in my reins, turn him off of my leg, and slow him with my seat (when I remembered to stop wiggling my hips like a lunatic LOL). It was almost like he was… gasp… WELL TRAINED AND CLOSE TO WALK/TROT SHOW READY.

Two weeks of consistency and I’m confident that we won’t be a complete embarrassment at the PtHA show. šŸ˜›

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