bel joeor metier · gear · shopping

Black Friday Shopping

Well, I’ve already pulled the trigger on my Riding Warehouse order, before noon on Wednesday. I have no regrets, because thanks to everyone’s excellent feedback on new boots for Tristan, these shiny, sparkly things are headed my way.

If you’re looking to do some Black Friday shopping of your own, I’m running a sale at my Etsy shop, Bel Joeor Metier. 10% off everything in stock and free shipping from 11/20 through 11/26. So if you’ve just gotten your Secret Santa assignment and you want to pick up something, go for it!

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And, of course, if you’re looking to do other shopping, Amanda at The $900 Facebook Pony has posted her MASSIVE list of Black Friday deals.

So, did you get anything for yourself or your horse yet? Are you waiting until the weekend?

gear · Uncategorized

Help me shop: brushing boots

First question: do they still call them brushing boots?

Anyway.

Since his summer and fall of doing dumb shit, I’ve been putting boots on Tristan for every ride. It takes an extra 5 minutes but with the way he manages to flail around I figure it pays off.

Problem: my boots are crappy. They’re the $10 a pair neoprene brushing boots from Dover. Now, I am not a neoprene hater – but these are a) kind of crappy and b) they don’t fit his legs particularly well.

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I’d like to get him new boots for Christmas, so: help!

I don’t need anything like tendon boots or open front. I don’t need fancy or trendy. He’s not jumping anymore, so it’s not for poles or anything like that.

Basically, I need boots to provide an extra layer of protection for when he forgets what to do with his legs. He stumbles a LOT. Especially his hind legs. Especially now, while he’s trying to add strength in his hind end.

He has pony-length legs (right now his cheap Dover boots are small in front, medium in back) but horse-thickness. So short boots are often not wide enough. I have to pull the Dover boots a little bit more snug than I’d really like, for example. He’s just got a ton of bone in his leg. That would be a big consideration for whatever I buy.

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I’d also really like them to cover as much of his fetlock as possible, since he has definitely whacked himself there in the past.

I’m not overly picky about material (like I said, I don’t mind neoprene) but it should be something that’s easily washable and that holds up. It won’t be going through water, etc., as if we were going XC, but I’ll certainly ride outside from time to time.

So: suggestions? Bonus points for keeping me under $150 for two pairs.

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He says thank you!

 

gear · Uncategorized · winter

What to do: winter coat?

Last year, my winter riding coat finally kicked the bucket. The zipper irrevocably broke – not just broke, flat out informed me that it had been zipped about eight million times too many, and would split as soon as it was zipped up. The tines were worn down too thin.

Considering it was a gift from my parents when I was 18 and started skiing, it more than performed adequate service over the years and I do not begrudge it retirement to a farm upstate.

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However, that leaves me without a good barn winter coat option, so I am seeking advice.

Keep in mind that by winter I mean WINTER. We’ll have at least one week, if not two or three, of well-below-zero temperatures. I ride down to single digits. (And have been known to sit on him for a walk around in single digits out of desperation.) I need something that breathes and keeps me warm when the weather is actively trying to kill me. The ideal jacket will be so warm I have to unzip it once it gets back up to the 20s.

I’ve been thinking about one of the down jackets – like LL Bean’s Ultralight Down Jacket – but I’m a bit worried about the surface. Will it hold up to the barn? Those always struck me as finer/lighter/more delicate fabric.

Ultralight 850 Down Jacket

I’ve looked a little bit at horse-specific winter jackets but I think the equestrian fashion world’s version of winter (when it comes to jackets, anyway) is “lolol idk sometimes it gets cold after dark at Wellington?” This Mountain Horse jacket has a review from a Vermonter at Smartpak who says it’s good “to 10 or 20” over a base layer which is…not the kind of warm I’m looking for.

 

Looking at Patagonia ski jackets quickly skyrockets out of my price range. But I don’t know enough about ski fashion to pick out a good off-brand.

So: any fellow winter sufferers out there have a recommendation? What do you do for really cold weather outerwear? I’ve got the breeches, boots, gloves, and helmet cover figured out, but it is proving more complicated than I thought to decide on jacket.

gear · Uncategorized · winter

2018 Winter Gear Roundup

I’ve done some fairly exhaustive winter gear reviews in the past, so that’s not what this one will be. Instead, it’ll be a short list of things that I continue to absolutely love and a few new things that are part of my routine.

just how cold has it been?

We’ve had a viciously cold year so far this year, and all of my winter riding gear has gotten a thorough re-test. Many days, it’s been too cold to ride (I’m looking at you, two straight weeks below zero). But on the good days, I have been pretty darn happy with what I’m wearing.

2018 has so far been the year of Back on Track.

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For Tristan, a saddle pad and hock boots.

For me, glove liners (which I’ve had for a little while, but only this year have I successfully integrated them into my glove rotation, underneath these knit gloves) and leggings (which I really just wear 24/7 sometimes. no shame).

I’m happiest with the saddle pad, by far. It has made an (anecdotally) huge difference in his warmup. He stretches down faster, loosens his back faster, and is overall more pleasant. I’ll do  more detailed review in the future, but I think adding it in during winter especially has helped a lot.

2018 has also been the year of vests.

Two from the rotation; I have two more now.

I know it’s not exactly original to be an equestrian who is obsessed with wearing vests, but it never really hit me until this year. Now it’s like some kind of Biblical revelation. They’re kind of fashionable? They keep my core warm? I can embroider them with the barn logo? YES PLEASE.

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Last but not least, the newest gloves to the lineup. I have a gloves thing. For years, I just did not love any gloves on the market. Now, as you can see, I have a Noble Outfitters Perfect Fit glove thing. From left to right up there are summer/mesh gloves, regular gloves, and the newest additions on the far right, the 3 Season Gloves.

These really are 3 seasons: they’re not good below 25F or so. BUT, they fill an essential ecological niche in that 25-40 range, and damn if they don’t fit me just as well as the regular ones! I can sometimes get them down to 20F, too, if I keep my hands really warm before putting them on, and I’m riding inside. (The trick to gloves in the winter is not to expect them to warm your hands up. Your hands have to be at least not-numb before going into the gloves; there are no gloves in the world that can help you once your hands are icey and numb.)

Finally, two standbys that I’m using obsessively. First, my custom quarter sheet.

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I use it every day. Still love it. Yes, it gets staticky sometimes, but I am blessed with a horse who could not care less. He makes a grumpy face at me, sighs, and gets over it.

Finally, the true MVPs of the winter gear lineup.

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Ariat Bromonts, the old style. Riding in the winter would not be physically possible without these wonderful things, which are going 9 years strong. The suede has rubbed down to leather on the inside, the velcro needs to be stitched back down, but they are still waterproof, windproof, and when paired with some decent insulating socks, I can wear them in any weather. I have comfortably hacked out in single digits in these. When (if?) they finally go, I’m going to give them a Viking funeral and probably cry. Okay, definitely cry. A lot.

Do you have any new gear this winter that’s really working for you?

gear · winter

Winter Gear Review

I’ve done some roundups of gear that gets me through the winter in the past (here’s 2013 part 1 & part 2), and since this week we’ve officially hit spring (after snow flurries last Saturday, hahahaha, fuck you, weather), I thought I’d do a quick roundup of what worked really well for me this winter.

Breeches

First and best addition to the wardrobe: new winter breeches. I’ve been looking for a good pair of winter breeches for a long time; my old breeches were threadbare and wearing out fast.

That niche was admirably filled by the Noble Outfitters Softshell Riding Pants. These did absolutely everything I wanted them to: they held up to 5 days a week of riding, they were lined and warm, they cleaned up nicely, they came through the laundry just fine.

Gloves

In 2016, I spent a lot of time trying out gloves, both winter and summer. I had some abysmal failures, and some tentative success. This year, I’m happy to declare that the gloves I was happiest with in 2016 remained my favorites through 2017.

My absolute favorites were the SSG Fleece Knit Winter Riding Fleece-Lined gloves. They were warm enough and flexible enough to get me through. The caveat? They are not the sturdiest things. The second caveat? They’re no longer made; I can’t find the on the internet anywhere. Damn it all.

My runner up gloves, which were warm but not depths-of-winter warm, were the Equistar Ladies Fleece Winter Riding Gloves. Let’s be honest: these are total junk. They have zero fancy upgrades, are not particularly stylish, and I honestly might be able to sew them myself given some thinking time. HOWEVER, with all of that? They’re the best combination of warm, comfortable, and flexible that I found after the knit gloves, and at $5 a pair, I don’t particularly care that they might not last more than two or three seasons. (For the record: my two pairs are still in totally fine condition after two seasons.)

Boots

My best-beloved and discontinued Ariat winter boots remain perfect. These will last forever, God willing, and even if they do finally go to the great tack closet in the sky someday, I am happy enough with their similarities to the new Ariat winter boot lines to buy those immediately and strongly suspect I’ll be happy.

Layering

Alllllll about the layers. This winter, I could most typically be found in long-sleeved technical shirts of two kinds, depending on the weather. For warmer (20 degrees or more) days, I have a few that can double as sunshirts, made out of lighter technical fabric. For colder days, I have a few that are fleece lined and more in the style of compression shirts, most of the made by Nike. That was base layer.

I also had a nice rotation of sweatshirts or other thicker layers over that base layer, and topped it off with a Patagonia down jacket that was light and flexible but also quite warm.

Miscellaneous

One of my very favorite additions to my winter wardrobe remains my fleece helmet cover. It makes a HUGE difference in comfort, both as a insulating layer to keep my head from bleeding warmth and as a windbreaker to block the vents in my helmet. I freaking love it.

gear · product review · winter

Product Review: Noble Outfitters Softshell Riding Pants

Noble Outfitters Softshell Riding Pants
MSRP: $99.95
I paid: $67.46, at Riding Warehouse, on Black Friday

I’ve been on the hunt for new winter breeches for close to 18 months now. I have an old pair of Devon-Aire breeches that are thinning precariously, and have a hole in the knee from a bad fall on the ice at the end of last winter. Plus, going through a whole winter with just one pair of breeches is both a precarious state of being AND really gross.

Winter breeches were my #1 request from my family for Christmas this year, and my parents obliged by telling me to pick out whatever I wanted. I chose these based on a couple of factors: price, looks, the softshell outside, and my experience with a few other Noble Outfitters products – namely their Perfect Fit gloves, which are my new favorite thing.

These arrived last week and I’ve now put 4 rides on them. I have some mixed feelings.

Overall? They’re pretty great. The softshell outside really does work to repel hay and other things that you might pick up at the barn. It does get dusty, but what clothing doesn’t?

They’re reasonably warm, which is to say: as warm as one layer of fleece + top fabric can possibly get. I’ve ridden in temperatures from 16f to 36f and while at 16f I was glad I kept my legs underneath the quarter sheet they were still fine for walking around while tacking up, etc. Once in the saddle, they were flexible and accommodating in all the right places: I never felt like I was held back or cinched up too tightly.

I’m not sure the knee patches actually do all that much? They felt super-sticky right out of the box but after a week of wear are not nearly as sticky. I’ve ridden in them both with and without stirrups, for a plain walk around, a more thorough dressage schooling, and some trot sets. I didn’t notice any extra stickability, per se, but I also stayed in the saddle just fine, so…there’s that?

Here’s their real problem: they sag a little bit. I have to pull them up occasionally when walking around home or the barn. They’re not as bad as the Pipers (sigh, so much potential, so much sagging) but it’s still noticeable. I wish they came in a Long version; I think what’s happening is that the slim fit of the legs (which is perfect! hooray for sock bottoms instead of velcro!) is tugging them down as I walk. So a long would give me just an inch or two of extra fabric and keep that from happening. But basically no one makes winter breeches in long, so I am SOL on that one.

In short – I would recommend them for their price point and for their intended purpose. They’re still very workable. They’re just not perfect, but then – nothing is!

gear

Experimenting with a running martingale + 2pointober update

Let’s get the 2pointober update out of the way: I’m up to 1:50. So…crawling along, basically.

As much as I want to be in the hunt for the awesome prizes, I think that my utter lack of physical activity and exercise beyond riding is hindering me a bit. Don’t get me wrong: I am trying to chip away at fixing that (more walking at work, walking to work when I can) but my job is sedentary and so are most of the rest of my hobbies. And I fucking hate working out. Hate it. It’s the actual fucking worst. Don’t try to convince me otherwise.

Anyway. I digress.

Tristan is still having fun hijinks while outside. Result: he never sets foot outside without his Big Bit. Life is easier when we have one unpleasant conversation about what he is not allowed to do rather than let him bully me around and flail for 15 minutes as I make futile attempts to stop him using his usual snaffle.

Last week, after much pondering, I added a new tool to my strategy: a running martingale.

It may seem absurd, but I’ve never actually ridden this horse in a running martingale before. He’s a perfect candidate for it. His default naughty behavior has always been to fling his head in some way, usually as a precursor to then slamming his shoulders around. Up, sideways, both at the same time, you name it: his neck and head are over-proportioned for his body and they are his first fallback.

(this is where I acknowledge that were I a better rider I would have gotten him past this; I’m not and I didn’t and let’s just assume we’ve had that guilt-trip and move on)

I don’t know why I’ve never tried it. I even own one that has sat, unused, for several years now. I have no good reasons. Partially because no trainer I’ve ever ridden with has suggested it, and it’s only fairly recently that I’ve felt more free to tinker with things by myself. Partially I’ve felt like a failure in figuring things out myself. Partially he HAS been mostly manageable without it.

Well, last week I finally decided to try it and see what would happen.

DOESN’T HE LOOK EXCITED ABOUT IT?!
So. Let’s talk about this, with a few caveats. First, the breastplate + martingale I borrowed were too big for him. I tightened as much as I could but I could not get it perfect nor did I feel like I needed to for a test run. Second, I did not have rein stops. I should’ve had rein stops. Younger, smarter, more cautious me would’ve had rein stops. Next time.
How did it work?
Pretty darn well, except for one moment when it didn’t.
Overall, I’m going to keep adding this in to our routine from time to time.
The good: it pretty immediately nipped our problems in the bud AND really helped with the thing where in warmup he feels like he has to stuff his ears up my nose to try and avoid using his body. He flung his head to the sky, he found he could not, and faster than I’ve seen in a long time, he put his damn head back down and settled in to work.
So, when it really worked, it worked a lot like a chambon, my favorite piece of gear for him when longeing. Great!
When it didn’t work so well it was because he felt like it was forcing him to work in ways that he did not want. In particular, picking up the left lead canter when he could not fling his head around to help fall into it was hard. I am actually putting this in the success column. There was some pretty ugly flailing.
There was one moment where it really didn’t work.
That moment came near the end of our ride. The barn manager was leaving for the day, coming up the hill in her truck. I was coming around to the side of the ring with the opening that faced back toward the hill and down toward the barn.
As we rounded the corner, Tristan saw the truck. Now: he’s not really a spooky horse, but sometimes he does startle in place, and when we’ve been outdoors he has sometimes used this startle in place as an excuse to launch himself. And that’s what happened here: he startled briefly, went “FUCK ALL THIS,” and took off. 
Except…he couldn’t take off. And when he hit the martingale hard, after flinging his head up hard, he lost his brain for a couple of seconds. He felt trapped. And he responded to that by going backwards at a high rate of speed.
It was very quick; he took maybe two strides while I was surprised, I kicked him hard for another stride or two, then realized that wasn’t working, then turned him hard to the outside. That stopped it: he realized he could in fact go forward.
That was the only incident. We worked a little more to make him realize that he didn’t need to freak out, and ended up getting some nice moments in the canter.
Overall? I’ll definitely be doing this again. I hope it will continue to help.