Winter weather uniform

Keeping my horses at home means I’m the only person responsible for their care. Most of the time, it’s enjoyable and rewarding. But in the midst of winter, when the wind is howling and temperatures are cold, it’s awfully tempting to sell the farm, move to a house in a hip part of town, and let someone else brave the elements!

I’ve amassed a collection of cold-appropriate gear that’s seen me through several winters. I reach for these items almost every time I leave the house and head out to do barn chores- they’re my winter weather uniform!

Lands’ End Squall Jacket: I bought this jacket when I was working as the barn manager at a therapeutic riding center, way back in 2011. At the time, I spent most of my day in the barn or outside, moving horses around, cleaning stalls and paddocks, and grooming and tacking up horses. This jacket is windproof, waterproof, and warm. The hood is large enough to comfortably stay up, and it’s detachable if you’d rather not wear it. The sleeves feature adjustable Velcro cuffs, so you can cinch them down over your gloves to keep the chill out. The zippered pockets are large enough for several treats or a cell phone. My jacket was purchased in December 2011, so it just turned six years old. It’s held up very well- I’ve had no problems with the zippers, the Velcro closures, snaps, and the material is still waterproof. The price on this jacket is extremely reasonable; I highly recommend it for a good, all-purpose barn coat!

Wearing the coat hood-up on a rainy day.

Patagonia Capilene Midweight Bottoms: You know that line in the song “Oklahoma” that says, “OOOOk-lahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain”? It’s true! The wind regularly blows upwards of 15 miles per hour, meaning summer feels like living in a hair dryer and winter gives new meaning to the phrase “polar vortex”. I settled on this Patagonia baselayer after trying a couple of other brands. They do a good job of blocking the wind and keeping me warm. I’ve got a pair for 2012 still going strong and added another pair in 2015.

SSG 10 Below Gloves: Waterproof, windproof, and warm, these are my go-to gloves for barn chores. I can completely submerge my hand into the horses’ water tank and remove ice while staying warm and dry. They’re a little bulky, but I have enough mobility to buckle blankets and unsnap gates without a problem.

My favorite gloves for winter!

Sperry Saltwater Duck Boots with Thinsulate: As much as I’d love to have a stylish pair of Dubarry boots, my calves are too big and my bank account is too empty. When I bought these last winter, I was looking for something easy to get on and off that was waterproof and warm. These short boots fit the bill perfectly! I like that there’s no fussing with laces- I can slip them on and off quickly. They’re short enough that it doesn’t matter how thick my baselayer and pants are. They’re warm and comfortable, and offer good traction in wet or muddy conditions. They’re reasonably stylish, too, and I often wear them while running errands in cold weather.

Earflap hat: Unless it’s raining, I prefer a hat to a hood. My extensive collection of baseball caps doesn’t cut it in the winter, though. I reach for my silly-looking knitted hat with ear flaps every time I go out the door. I have one that’s similar to the one linked (right down to the snowflake design). It features a fleece lining that isn’t itchy, and the ear flaps keep me feeling warm and cozy. Do I look ridiculous? Probably. Do I care? Not at all.

Buff Band: Perhaps the single most versatile piece of clothing I own, the Buff Band is something I wear in all seasons. In the winter, it serves as a neck gaiter with all the benefits of a scarf without the bulk. When the wind is really blowing and the temperatures are really low, I pull it up over my nose and mouth. It makes breathing icy air a little more bearable!

Since Oklahoma’s winters are fairly mild compared to the rest of the country, I’m sure many of you have a different set of barn gear for cold conditions. Is there something you use all the time? I’d love to hear about it!

Product Review: Two Horse Tack Turnout Halter

When the folks at Two Horse Tack approached me about reviewing one of their products, I was intrigued.  They make bridles, halters, reins, breast collars, and other tack out of Beta BioThane, a web-coated nylon material.

Since Candy needed a new halter, I opted to review their turnout halter.  Candy broke the leather halter she came with a few months ago and had been wearing Moe’s cob-sized leather halter ever since. I’m not a big fan of leather halters even though they look nice- I find they get stiff and can be difficult to buckle.

Two Horse Tack offers the turnout halter in a plethora of sizes and colors. While Candy is solid-bodied 16 hands, she has a very refined head. I chose horse size for her; Two Horse Tack describes it as fitting “most horses 14.2-16 hands”. I also chose the 3/4″ width, as I thought it would suit her delicate face, and the dark blue color because it looked more like royal blue online.

Candy modeling her new halter.

The halter arrived quickly and I was immediately impressed with the look and feel of the Beta BioThane. It’s extremely supple and smooth, but lacks that plastic feeling I typically associate with synthetic leather. The color was vibrant and bold, and exactly the shade of royal blue I expected. It fit Candy well- the double buckle crownpiece makes it very adjustable. The halter is right on the middle hole on both sides of the crownpiece. The noseband sits a little high, but it doesn’t seem to bother Candy. The throatlatch snap makes the halter easy to get on and off, but it’s equally easy to unbuckle the crownpiece because the Beta BioThane is so pliable.

It even looks good hanging on the fence!

I’ve been using the halter on Candy for about a month, and it couldn’t be better. It hangs outside on the fence all day while she’s turned out in the front pasture and the color is just as bright as it was straight out of the box. The material is still flexible, too. I’ve rinsed the halter off a couple of times after dropping it in the mud- the grime comes right off and the halter looks great. Friends at the barn regularly compliment me on how pretty the halter is!

There are lots of things to like about the halter: it (and the Beta BioThane) are made the USA, it’s available in many, many sizes and colors, it’s easy to care for, and it’s attractive. Priced at $30, it’s an affordable piece of equipment that’s an excellent value!

You can sign up for Two Horse Tack’s newsletter to stay current on their latest products and promotions. You can also save 10% on your order with promo code THT407!

How do you feel about synthetic leather? What kind of halter do you use?

Mini reviews, part 3

Here’s another handful of products that don’t merit a full post, but deserve mention (for good or ill)!

Guter Sitz-Sit Tite Spray

This spray creates friction and “sticks” you to the saddle; I originally bought it to help me stick to my slippery dressage saddle when I wasn’t wearing full seat breeches. It works fairly well- I can definitely feel a difference when I use it that way, although it doesn’t totally recreate the feeling of full seats. My favorite use for it is to add a little grippiness to my jumping saddle, though. I spray my saddle and boots before going on course and feel tighter in the tack. It doesn’t leave a residue or stain leather.

MSRP: $17.95
Is it worth full retail? Yeah, absolutely! I’ve had the same can for nearly a year and it doesn’t seem close to empty.

Ovation Fun spur straps

It’s unrealistic to think I would be able to resist buying a wacky-patterned pair of spur straps. These are available in the most ridiculous patterns you could wish for: leopard, zebra, super sparkly. I showed a little restraint and bought them in “Illusion”, a subtle black-on-black pattern, so I could wear them at shows without attracting a lot of attention. Because I’m lazy, they also became my everyday (or every day I ride Moe on the flat) spur straps.  Sadly, they haven’t aged well over the last few months. They’ve stretched out quite a bit, and the material is beginning to flake.

MSRP: $14.95
Is it worth full retail? Eh…hard to say. These are very much “you get what you pay for”, so if having a zebra print pair of spur straps that won’t last forever is worth $15 to you, go for it.

Kerrits Hybrid riding shirt

Wearing the shirt at the Thoroughbred Athletes horse trial.
Wearing the shirt at the Thoroughbred Athletes horse trial.

I bought this tech-fabric shirt in black before I went to Willow Draw in Texas. I knew it was going to be hot, and there was no way I was wearing (a) my long sleeved shirt (b) a cotton short sleeve shirt or (c) a white shirt. (Slight digression: in case you were unaware, the USEF rulebook for eventing states your shirt must be “of conservative color”. USEF’s rulebook for dressage mentions nothing about shirt color, so go wild! All-white is flattering on almost no-one!) I figured if jackets weren’t waived, I wouldn’t be burning up and if they were waived, I’d look less like a beached whale than if I were wearing all white. Jackets were not waived, but I was adequately cool thanks in large part to this shirt. I’ve been wearing it regularly ever since: on trail rides, for schooling, at the combined driving event, at another show. It’s a very lightweight and comfortable shirt, and the open weave mesh panels make it super well ventilated. It’s reasonably flattering, though I wish it were just a touch longer.

MSRP: $54.00
Is it worth full retail? Yes, definitely!

The Herbal Horse Coat Conditioning Spray

I picked up a bottle of this after reading Allie at Rocking E Cowgirl’s review of it.  I’ve been very happy with my previous THH purchases, but as a dedicated Vetrolin detangler and ShowSheen finishing mist user, I was a just a tad skeptical about how well it would work. While I still use both of those products, I’ve found that the THH coat conditioning spray is perfect for softening crunchy, dried-out tails. Both Gina and Moe have seen improvements in the texture of their manes and tails since I started applying this every time they’re groomed. I’ve started using it on Candy, too- that horse has a seriously brittle tail, but it’s already less nasty than it used to be.

MSRP: $11
Is it worth full retail? Absolutely! Plus, Helen is a super nice person who sends suckers with her orders; that alone is worth $11.

Hay Where’s That Blue Stuff

Gina gets so-called “stud crud” on her hind cannon bones what seems like every summer, and That Blue Stuff does a great job of healing it! I use a jelly curry to gently scrub off the worst of the crud and apply this stuff. The lotion form makes it easy to apply- no liquid running all over the place, no thick or gooey paste. I’m not super diligent about applying it, but even with irregular, minimal application, it keeps the crud at bay and helps Gina regrow hair. I’ve also used it on rain rot and a girth rub with success.

MSRP: $26.95
Is it worth full retail? Definitely. A little goes a long way, and my small bottle has lasted over a year.

What good (or bad) stuff have y’all used lately?

Mini reviews, round two!

Last weekend while I was working at the Arabian show, I realized I have a problem. It seemed like every person who asked me a question about a brand or item received this reply: “Oh yeah, I have one of those!” My relationship with the employee discount is unhealthy.

Here are a few more products that don’t merit their own post but are worth a mention.

Weatherbeeta Wick-Dri Standard Neck Cooler

Space alien Gina wearing the clothing of her people.

This is a great cooler. The underlayer is moisture-wicking fleece; it extends about halfway down the horse’s side. The outer layer is mesh, making the cooler lightweight and airy. It has a surcingle to help keep it in place as well as a tail cord. I’ve been very happy with it since purchasing it over a year ago. I toss it on Gina when she’s sweaty after a ride or when we’re traveling on cool days. It’s held up well and is easy to fold back up and store in its bag.
MSRP: $76.99
Is it worth full retail? Eh…I’m not sure. I’ve always been happy with Weatherbeeta’s quality and construction and this cooler definitely does its job. Most fleece coolers do just fine, though, and you can certainly get something less expensive than this.

Horze Arturo Halter & Lead Set

Moe wearing the Arturo halter in green
Moe wears the Arturo in green.

Colorful patterns make this halter and lead set stand out, which is always a plus in my book! The lead rope has a panic snap release (you pull downward on the snap to get it to release) and the halter has a throat snap for easy on and off. Unlike many other nylon halters and leads, it’s very soft and supple. All that said, this is not a high-end halter or lead. The hardware is cheap and doesn’t seem super durable. This is completely fine for a horse like Moe who treats equipment nicely; this is not good for Gina, who has broken at least 3 of these halters and leads. Gina’s also broken leather halters, other brands of nylon halters, breakaway halters, and a rope halter, so…
MRSP: $15.95
Is it worth full retail? Sure. $16 is ridiculously inexpensive for a halter and lead set. These really are fun colors and patterns, and if you have a horse that can stand tied quietly, you can enjoy a good looking halter for not a lot of money.

One K Defender with Sun Shield

Built-in sunglasses = maximum coolness
Built-in sunglasses = maximum coolness

Sadly, One K has discontinued the Defender with the sun shield, so you cannot look as cool as I do. I know you’re all very upset. The Defender model has many variations (brocade, glitter, snake, swarovski crystals, etc.), but the plain-jane suede helmet looks perfectly nice. This helmet has great airflow- I can feel the breeze through the front vents when it’s windy! I like the way it sits on my head, too.
MSRP: $259.95
Is it worth full retail? Yes. It’s not a cheap helmet, but it’s stylish, well-ventilated, and fits my large round head well. I use it for shows and schooling; I don’t use it for hunting because it’s a little too loud, but I wish I could!

PS of Sweden Flat Out Revolution Bridle

Gina models the PS Flat Out Revolution

I dislike this bridle. I bought it in December 2014 and paid $198.40  (including shipping) for it. At the time, I thought it was a decent price for an interesting bridle that came complete with reins. Shipping was impressively fast. I was disappointed when I got my hands on it, though; the leather seemed cheap and plasticky and the reins included stops, which I hate. (I ended up selling them to Sprinkler Bandit and purchasing a new pair sans stops.) This is a full-sized bridle, but is nearly too large for definitely-horse-sized Gina. The noseband is too loose when buckled on the last hole and the browband consistently slips down. The keepers frequently slide off the ends of the cheekpieces, too. On the bright side, I really like that the flash attachment is completely detachable, and the snaps for changing the bit are useful. Gina doesn’t seem to care one way or another about its ergonomic features (which I don’t hold against the bridle). I would have gotten rid of this thing yesterday, but it’s nice to have two bridles for each horse and I do like the ability to change bits easily.
MSRP: $205
Is it worth full retail? My initial reaction is no- I am not jazzed about my bridle. However, PS has apparently improved their leather quality. The bridles also no longer include reins, so for a complete bridle, you’re looking at $275 or so. That’s a bit too much for me, but some of you may disagree.

Have you tried any of these things? What do you think?

Mini reviews

One of nice things about working at a tack store is that I get a discount on everything it sells. (Except saddles which are on consignment, obviously.) One of the terrible things about working at a tack store is that I get a discount on everything it sells.

I’ve made a lot of purchases over the last year and half- some of them were definitely needs, like new breeches and a new helmet. Some of them were completely superfluous, like saddle pads and festive scarves. Most of them don’t merit their own review post, but I thought I’d share some of my most and least favorite purchases of the last year or so!

Toklat T3 Matrix CoolBack Half Pad with Pro-Impact Inserts

Moe models the half pad.

I bought this primarily to use on Moe under my dressage saddle; barn owner had mentioned to me that he seemed more comfortable in a half-pad during his lessons. (I don’t typically use them.) I like this pad because of the Pro-Impact Inserts; they’re a very thin, light high density open cell foam that absorbs energy super, super well. (There’s a whole YouTube channel dedicated to the material!) Moe seems much more comfortable with this half pad than he did without a pad, with a gel pad, or with an all-fleece half pad. I’ve used it on Gina, too, who seems slightly less stiff in her back with this pad under the saddle.
MSRP: $174.95
Is it worth full retail? Yes, I think so. While it’s expensive, it is well constructed and does its job perfectly.

Horze Anti-Slip Gel Pad

This was my first solution to the Moe-needs-a-half-pad problem; I’d had good luck with gel pads in the past and I knew this thin pad wouldn’t change the fit of the saddle much. It didn’t make a difference on Moe, so I decided to test its non-slip properties on a hunt with Gina. I always hunt with her with a 5-point breastplate, but my saddle would still move around a little as we traveled over the hilly terrain. Since adding this thing to our hunting equipment, my saddle hasn’t budged. It’s worn under the saddle pad, so you can’t see it at all. It’s a great solution if you have a slippery horse! (Or if your favorite saddle pad is slippery.)
MSRP: $47.95
Is it worth full retail? Definitely, although Horze frequently has sales and coupons available that would allow you to save a little.

Essex Classics “Adagio” Talent Yarn Shirt

No pearl snaps to be seen!
No pearl snaps to be seen!

The link actually goes to Essex’s newer “Lido” shirt, which is basically the same thing with different collar patterns; regardless, I bought this white shirt for foxhunting, because I didn’t have a long-sleeved white shirt. The technical fabric was appealing, as was the pullover style. It’s a comfortable shirt and has kept me cool under my heavy wool blend hunt coat. I always get compliments on the contrast trim (which is green paisley). I like the pearl snaps- I think they’re fun, and they’re covered by my stock tie anyway. It washes up great, too. I’ve had mud, champagne, and horse boogers come out in the wash without any special treatment.
MSRP: $124.95
Is it worth full retail? Yes. It’s a great shirt that’s comfortable, stylish, and durable!

Ariat Heritage Contour Field Zip

Straight out of the box.
Straight out of the box.

I’ve had these boots for about a year, and they’re my primary footwear at the barn. I use them for schooling and show. They’re extremely comfortable, and I’ve been very happy with their durability. They’re a nice looking boot and the extra-wide calf option fits my 17.5″ calves very well. My only complaint is that the extra-wide calf is only available in a medium height; these aren’t terribly short on me, but they’ve dropped a little more than I’d like. Regardless, they’re a nice boot and a nice price. (I am thinking very hard about getting a brown pair.)
MSRP: $289.95
Is it worth full retail? Oh yeah, these are worth every penny, especially since finding attractive wide-calf boots can be difficult.

Belvoir Tack Cleaner Wipes

I bought these thinking I’d use them at shows to wipe off travel dust and at home to give my tack a quick swipe before leaving. They’re next to useless; they don’t do a good job of removing any kind of dirt and forget trying to clean anything truly grimy.
MSRP: $12.95
Is it worth full retail? Nope. You’re better off with a tack sponge and some spray.

Ovation Cool-Rider Zip Mock

It’s hotter than hell in Oklahoma throughout the summer, so when our Ovation vendor had certain colors of this shirt on super-sale, I snapped one up, thinking I would enjoy cool, dry summer rides. While the shirt does an okay job of wicking sweat and does have nice mesh undersleeves, everything else about it is a mess. The fabric is kind of thick, the zipper sticks, and the fit is awful. I am 5’9, and this shirt barely hits the top of my hip. I couldn’t tuck it in if I wanted to. The sleeves are also short, which means it fits my T-Rex arms just fine, but the cuffs are thick and closely fitted, making them uncomfortable and impossible to push up. It also runs fairly small- much smaller than other Ovation shirts I’ve tried on. Don’t waste your money on this. There are nicer sun shirts out there for a few bucks more.
MSRP: $39.95
Is it worth full retail? God no. It wasn’t worth the ~$15 I paid for it!

How about y’all? Tried anything lately that you love/hate but doesn’t merit a full review?