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!


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?

blog roundup · shopping · Uncategorized

Small Business Saturday Roundup

First, I would be remiss if I did not link to my own shop, Bel Joeor Metier. Looking for a great barn gift for the holidays? All saddle covers are 10% off, and everything else is 10% off with the code OPENING2017.


Small Business Saturday Roundup

Arias Whips – wholly customized racing and eventing whips, made by a former jockey (Recommended by  non-blogging friend.)

The Herbal Horse – “Harley and I wouldn’t survive without “Be Calm” and I love the coat conditioner spray for taming blanket static in the winter.” (Recommended by EquiNovice)

Uniquely Equine – customized halters (Recommended by Viva Carlos)

Galloping Graphics – “Simple, affordable, customized graphics. They’ve really broadened their scope in the past couple of years and everything they produce is really cute.” (Recommended by The Owls Approve)

Because Pony Holiday Cards – adorable corgi and Haflinger themed images. (Recommended by me)

The Artful Equine – lovely housewares, in particular the dish towels (Recommended by a non-blogging friend.)

Relatively Stable – monograms & custom stickers (Recommended by Viva Carlos)

Dark Jewel Designs – gorgeous, customized browbands (Recommended by Clover Ledge Farm)

Dapplebay – clever equestrian apparel (Recommended by non-blogging friend.)

Arctic Horse Gear – riding skirts for all weather! (Recommended by Because Pony.)

The Printable Pony – organizing essentials and clever patterns (Recommended by loads of you.)

Gray & Company Design – all sorts of really lovely custom products (Recommended by Viva Carlos)

Last but not least, I would be remiss if I did not link to this: 2017 Black Friday Sales from The $900 Facebook Pony. Many of the sales here are from small businesses.

Happy shopping!


Tall Boots: Should I go brown?

So last week I told the story of the best Christmas present ever that wasn’t meant to be.

There is a small silver lining to this story, which is that my husband is still committed to getting me a pricey (for us) horse-related Christmas gift.

And I have the perfect idea.

I currently ride in synthetic tall boots. I know, I know. At the time I bought them, they were the best option available on a lot of fronts. They’ve served me well – far, far better than I have deserved. But I’ve known for some time now that tall boots would have to be my next pricey equestrian purchase.
Lo and behold, the COTH forums adore these particular boots – HKM Spain Field Boots
But here’s why I want them: they come in brown.
I have long coveted a pair of brown field boots. Serious covet. Desperate, starry-eyed, covet.
But now that I am in a position to pull the trigger, I am having second thoughts. I think about matching brown field boots to things, and I think about possibly showing. My black tall boots are not dead yet entirely – they could serve for showing. 
But will I be that weirdo? I already have a silver helmet.
In case you couldn’t tell, I am not a big risk-taker when it comes to color…
blog hop · product review · shopping

Favorite Products Blog Hop

Jumping on the bandwagon for this fun blog hop from Breeches & Boat Shoes.

What is your favorite equestrian-specific product that you use when you’re at the barn?

I think it might have to be my Oster Mane & Tail brush. I confess, I don’t clean out Tristan’s mane and tail as often as I should, but every time I do I LOVE using this brush. It’s just one of the best-designed tools I’ve ever used around horses.

I actually own a full set of the Oster brushes – they lived in my trailer as my second, traveling kit – but I find the brushes so-so. The mane & tail brush is a thing of glory and a joy forever.

What is your favorite non equestrian-specific product to use when you’re at the barn?

Probably something medical. I’d say a toss-up between vinegar (for White Lightning & other hoof soaks), saline (for some idiot pony’s eyes), and molasses, though the smell makes me gag.

In actual happy things to use – I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m in a good mood when I have to use any of those things – I’d have to go with my iPhone + headphones. I’ve only recently come around to listening to podcasts while riding and it’s such a great way to kill all that walking warmup time that Tristan needs.

What is your horse’s favorite equestrian-specific product to wear or use?

Cripes. None of them? No, wait, never mind.

I have this tiny little face brush. It’s maybe 4″ long, and it has the most flexible, softest bristles you can imagine. Tristan loves his face brushed, and I bought this for him almost eight years ago now. It was during his first, awful colic – which maybe I should blog about someday, but it was as bad as it gets – and I was on a rare break from the barn, at the tack store, buying extra medical supplies mostly. And there was this brush at the register in a box with others of its kind, and I was so strung out and tired and worried and sad and all I could think was how much he loves having his face brushed and how soft it would be.
So while I often brush his face with my regular body brush, on special occasions I take out this small wonderful brush and spend a long time just brushing his face. He leans into it and tips his head for me  and sighs happily.

What was the best equestrian-related gift you were ever given, and why does it mean so much to you?

It’s not a great picture, but can you see the small horse statue in the photo? It’s a raku horse made by Lindsey Epstein, who is an incredibly talented artist and was the barn manager for a previous barn Tris and I were at. (She appears on this blog incognito as both a teacher and occasional rider of Tristan a few years back.) Lindsey makes these gorgeous horses, and due to the quirks of the glaze they often come out in all sorts of different and unexpected patterns. This one came out looking like Tristan: all roany. It was a Christmas gift several years ago from a very dear friend, and it has occupied this spot on my desk in three different offices now. It’s the combination of unique, thoughtful gift and the much-beloved people involved that makes this so special.

If you had the ability to create any product or anything to make your time at the barn better, what would that be?

Try as I might to devise a winter riding apparel plan every year, there is literally nothing on earth that makes going to the barn in 12 degree weather better. Nothing. So, if I could wave a magic wand and make that happen, that would be nice.
fashion · helmets · shopping · smartpak

Helmet Shopping: The Results

Spoiler alert! I came home from my trip to Boston last week (and of course a stop by Smartpak), walked in the door, and announced to my fiance that I had found the sexiest piece of riding gear I have ever bought.

(He said, “I don’t even know what it is and that is blatantly false.” Luckily I found a boy who appreciates breeches…)


Thank you all SO much for your thoughtful, eloquent, and incredibly useful feedback on my helmet search. I read every comment multiple times, made notes, scoured websites, and thought a lot. I was ready to tackle the new helmet fitting process.

First: a moment of silence for my old helmet, which did yeoman’s work and came the closest of any helmet I have ever owned to lasting until its expiration date, rather than being put out of commission by a fall.

It was an ugly thing, but it saw me through a lot.
On to the shopping!
I re-confirmed the following: Charles Owens do not fit my head, Troxels are ugly as sin, I still dislike the Tipperary style, and everything else was waaaaaay out of the price range. I did not even try on any Samshields or One Ks or all those other helmets the cool kids are wearing these days.
I narrowed it down to two helmets.
On the right, the IRH XR9. On the left, the IRH Elite Xtreme. Helmet names are getting as dumb as car names, seriously.
I wanted badly to like the XR9. It fit pretty darn well, actually. I just wasn’t quiiiiiite sold on it, and since I was there in front of a wall o’helmets, and had an awesome Smartpak salesperson helping me out and talking through options with me, I put on the Elite Xtreme. And little angels sang in a choir.
The trick, as it turned out, was that the Xtreme came in a “long oval” size, which means that my head is even weirder sized than I expected. I put it on and it fit like a glove, and it settled down onto my head and I loved it. And then I looked at the price tag, and I wanted to cry, but I looked at myself in the mirror, and felt the helmet wrap around my head, and sighed. 
The salesperson offered to get the black version of what I was wearing but you know what?  That silver is awesome. It looks like a million bucks. It’s not a show helmet – I have a wonderful velvet show helmet – and we don’t even show anyway. 
soooooooooo sexy
Spending way more than I planned on my helmet did not stop me from swinging through the clearance section, which was filled with the usual tempting array. I escaped with this jacket (minus the Smartpak logo) for $25, and the Back on Track glove liners for $12.50, because ’tis the season for winter stuff on deep clearance.
I’ve now ridden in the helmet about a half dozen times and I loooooooove it. It’s a little snug until the back harness softens and the lining breaks down a bit, but it turns heads, and I get a happy thrill from putting it on. It doesn’t budge while I’m riding, and best of all, I actually look almost good for once.
post-ride the other day
In conclusion: way more $$$ than I anticipated, but WHOOOO for sexy new helmets!
holidays · shopping · smartpak

5 Items on My Christmas Wishlist

Let’s acknowledge that I don’t really need any of these items, but they would be really, really awesome to have. I’m actually at a point in my horse-owning life where I don’t need anything. I took care of my last round when I got winter blankets for Tristan and some new breeches for myself.

I am, of course, lusting after things in the SmartPak catalogue anyway. So what am I hoping I find under the tree (knowing full well that my family really doesn’t give me horse stuff, with a handful of exceptions)?

1. IRH XR9 Helmet, $176.95 at SmartPak

My current helmet is an IRH Equilite. It’s three years old and hasn’t had any knocks on it; I replaced it after taking a dive at Scarlet Hill while schooling XC a few years ago. It is practical and sturdy and ugly as hell. The concept of something non-plastic that doesn’t give me bubble-head makes my  heart go pitter-patter.

2. SmartPak Winter Overpants, $84.95 at SmartPak

Yes, I have plenty of lined breeches and jeans and other warm layers for barn work. I do not currently own a pair of ski pants, though, and the idea of waterproof, windproof thick pants that I can wear while riding bareback this winter is tremendously appealing.
3. Polar Equine Inzone, $119.95 at SmartPak
I love me some stats, and the idea of a heart monitor I can wear on my wrist and use to check Tristan’s fitness as we’re going along? Droooooooool. It’s actually not too terribly expensive for what it promises, either. Yes, I can darn well use a stethoscope and get a pulse when I hop off. You’re missing the point. (Also, Tristan is legitimately difficult to pulse; even the barn manager had trouble doing it this summer.)
4. EquiFit Shoulders Back Lite, $46.95 at SmartPak
My posture is the actual worst. I promise it’s worse than yours. I have Tall Girl Slumping Syndrome and I sit at a computer all day – not even a real computer, a laptop, because I move so frequently between offices. I’ve heard good things about these and I’d love to give it a try.
5. Baker Irish Weave Anti-Sweat, $104.95 at SmartPak
I borrow the barn’s on a regular basis. There’s nothing quite like ’em for wicking sweat. In cold weather, I put this as a bottom layer and then throw a wool sheet on over it. The very best for baths when it’s a bit chilly, or when you’d just like to go home and stop walking your sweaty horse in circles, already. Again, there are plenty for me to borrow but sigh. 

fashion · shopping · smartpak

A Visit to the SmartPak Retail Store

I’ve heard more than one person say that they had no idea SmartPak had a retail store, so I’m here to enlighten you: yes, Virginia, SmartPak maintains one retail store. It’s on Route 9 in Wellesley, Massachusetts – ironically, not too far from the original Dover Saddlery store. (At least I’m about 99% sure it was the first, anyway.)

I’ve been to the SmartPak store many times over the years, and it’s definitely kept coming up in the world as the company itself has grown and matured. Displays have gotten more comprehensive and more professional, with more complete equipment. The square footage is still relatively small (at least compared to my gold standard for retail tack stores, which is the Dover Saddlery store in Plaistow, New Hampshire, about which more later).
I’m visiting family in the area right now, and I had a pair of breeches my mother had bought for me but didn’t quite fit. So I packed them up and decided to bring my camera shopping.
The store itself is much more focused on rider than horse: most of the square footage is taken up by clothing, helmets, and boots.

Every color, every size of the new Pipers.
There’s plenty of tack, too – much more than there used to be. I think every single time I’ve set foot in the store they’ve re-arranged things to maximize their space, and added inventory.

That’s probably 1/5 of the bridles they had out. These are just the SmartPak brand ones.
There’s a separate area downstairs with information about the various Smart supplements.
Upstairs, you can find general horse equipment and other horse care items.

I love the small grace notes throughout the store. For example, this awesome space for people who just want to take a break.
Please note, to the bottom left of the coffee station, a grooming tote full of trucks and other toys. The screen was showing USEF Network livestreaming of the World Cup events in Las Vegas.
A “what’s in your trunk” display; the papers had info about an employee’s horse as well as why the employee picked the equipment she did for her horse. Really neat.
New England was already completely covered, so I didn’t even try to put a star up. Look how far people have come!
Let’s talk about the best part, though, and my source of complete win for the day: the SmartPak clearance outlet.

Do you see that? Every single one of those hangers is a pair of discounted Pipers. Most were 25% off. Some were 50% off. I saw several pairs at 75% off.

It’s all jumbled willy-nilly. You have to be committed to hunting through, but the bargains are amazing. On the left, Charles Owens – all at least 50% off. To the right: Tredstep DaVincis and Tredstep Donatellos, 25% – 50% off. Against the far wall, blankets from 50% – 75% off.
Things end up in the clearance section for a variety of reasons. Maybe they were customized but the stitching went wrong – or the client changed her mind. Maybe they were just discontinued. Maybe there’s a small piece missing. Very often this is where the returns that weren’t in perfect condition go – maybe someone wore a pair of breeches a few times, or snagged a thread taking them out of the packaging.

For example: white Ogilvy pad, some scuffs/wear but in otherwise perfect condition. 25% off $199. 
I had already tried on a pair of Piper breeches, fallen in love, and set them aside to buy with my store credit, but here’s where I really ran into trouble. I found that whole rack of Piper breeches upstairs, and I started hunting them out in my size. Most of them were 25% off, but a few were more steeply discounted, including a few pairs at 75% off!
I found a pair of knee patch breeches with some loose thread. 50% off. Done! A second pair of knee patch Pipers – some scuffing around the waistband. 50% off again!
Finally, I capped it off with a pair in black with white piping, which was what I’d really come in for. I “settled” for 25% off for those.
My final order was $145, having saved a total of $99. I traded in the pair of breeches that hadn’t fit, and got $45 more knocked off the price. Final score: $100.95 for three pairs of brand-new Piper breeches. \o/
I’ll write up which ones I chose, and what I loved about the Pipers, in a separate post. Sadly, our temperatures at home in Vermont have plunged so that I may not be able to really school them until the spring.