house post · smartpak

House Post: Recycling Smartpak Containers as Seedling Planters

When I reorganized the basement, I set up what would become a new seedling growing area. After last year’s initial foray into growing from seed, I doubled down this year because I am apparently trying to reach peak Vermont.

I had a grow light that my father gave me, I had some scrap lumber, and I had most of what I needed from last year’s seedling supplies. I did not have quite everything I needed, which is where the Smartpaks come in.

First, the actual setup itself.

First picture is the location; second is my scrap lumber grow light holder.

As you can see, I had the tray, but what next?

Well: I happened to walk by the barn’s pile of Smartpaks for recycling on my way out of the barn and that started the wheels turning, so I grabbed a pile and came home to work my germ of an idea into an actual plan.

Necessary tools: a drill with a thin bit (I used a 5/32 bit), used Smartpaks.

I ended up putting five holes in each well, and stacked them all up so I could do a whole bunch at a time.

It took me maybe five minutes..

Then I laid them out in the tray. I had a standard tray that I bought at Agway; I think it’s roughly 10″ x 20″. By some miracle, the Smartpaks fit beautifully 4 across and 8 down What you’re seeing below is a combination of a couple different sizes of Smartpaks; some fives, some threes, some twos. Four 5 packs + three 4 packs would’ve been perfect but I made do.

Then it was fairly easy to pour soil over the top of them and portion them out. I can’t plant for a little while longer, since Vermont will be a frozen tundra until Memorial Day, but I did start lettuce in my other open tray just to get something green in my life.

I’m getting ready, though, and plotting out how much of each I want to grow!


Smartpak’s STABLE Program

Some months back, I got an email from Smartpak asking to be part of a…focus group? really large study? ongoing feedback loop?

Not entirely clear, honestly. They call it STABLE, which stands for, brace yourself, “Smartpak’s Totally Awesome Board of Loquacious Equestrians.”

Every few months, they send out a short survey. It’s really, really basic. So far anyway. I think it’s meant as really high-level strategy, to figure out gaps in their product line.

The screencap is an email I got a few days ago. I clicked on the link. I am a sucker.
I’ll be honest, I signed up 95% hoping there would be compensation down the line (even a random drawing), 4% out of curiosity, and 1% because I genuinely wanted to contribute opinions. I’ve taken every survey they’ve sent me so far.

Did anyone else get invited to be part of this? Did you say yes? I’m curious as to how many people really are on this list.

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!

Hacking SmartPak: Barn Buddy Shipping

I thought everyone used this, but reading through the comments on a recent post by Amanda at The $900 Facebook Pony honestly surprised me.

I like SmartPak quite a lot. For me, they’re a local upstart (as is Dover Saddlery, actually). I will grant that I am not the avid consumer of the latest and greatest in tack or riding clothes and that if I were I might search harder for deals, or selection. So while I like SmartPak, I get that there are legitimate reasons not to be their biggest fan, as many in the above post outlined.

Here’s the trick to SmartPak, though: Barn Buddy Shipping.

If you’ve never heard of this, I urge you to check it out.

Essentially, if anyone in your barn autoships SmartPaks, or if your barn is registered as part of the Barn Buddy program (which is SUPER easy to do), you can get weekly free shipping to your barn of any item SmartPak carries. Order up to the afternoon before your barn’s shipping date and it gets added on to the shipping order.

For me, that means that anything I order up to Wednesday afternoon is put on a truck on Thursday. Because I’m relatively close to SmartPak, that means it is at the barn by Friday afternoon. Easy as that.

There’s no minimum. There’s no requirement for purchasing specific items. I once ordered $7.95 replacement blanket straps on a Wednesday, and they were there on Friday. When Tristan was recovering from surgery, this was a key part of my planning. Some of the more specific stuff like Elastikon was not available locally. If I looked in my kit on Wednesday and thought “shit, I’m almost out,” I would order more and it would be there on Friday. Ditto for vet wrap, gauze, betadine…you name it. I got weekly packages for like two months straight.

Here’s how to get at Barn Buddy shipping.

Log in to your account and look along the left-hand side for your Address Book.

In your Address Book, you’ll see the various places you can ship things, like any other online retailer. Here’s mine: you can see that my barn is an option for shipping.
To add your barn, scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Add a New Address.”
You can then click on “Find Your Barn” and you’ll see this page.
Here’s an example of an executed search on longtime Area 1 eventing barn Hitching Post Farm.
Double-check the name and address of your barn, and then click “Choose This Barn.”
Then you’re done. The next time you purchase something, you’ll have the option of shipping it to your barn. When you do that, shipping will be free and it will ship weekly on the specified day.
It’s easy. It’s fast. It’s apparently not commonly known. The one catch is if you board at a truly private facility or if you keep your horses at home. Then, yeah, you’re out of luck. But if you have any friends at a commercial barn – or you go anywhere to lesson regularly – then you can just put their information instead.
(Ummmmm, not that I do this anyway, but this was not paid, endorsed, requested by, or whatever by SmartPak. I just think it’s an awesome feature and it didn’t seem like people knew about it!)

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.
blanketing · smartpak · video

OMG: Smartpak mentioned my blog!

So there I am, on my fourth piece of banana bread and third cup of tea of the day (don’t judge) and I’m taking a short mental break. I click on this video, because I love the Stuff Riders Say series. This should be good, right?
Then I got to 1:13 on the video: they mentioned my blog! I can only guess it’s because my review of their new SmartBlanket App came across their desk somehow. The power of the internet?
I laughed and laughed and laughed. Yes, that is how you say that. 🙂
blanketing · smartpak · there's an app for that

Product Review: Smartpak’s SmartBlanket App

Eventing Nation had a post about the new SmartBlanket app yesterday, and being that I am in the midst of fussing about Tristan’s blanketing options, I downloaded it instantly and spent some time playing with it.

The app purports to offer tips about blanketing, based on a series of customizable questions about your horse and your location. You can add multiple horses later on.
So here’s Tristan’s information in the add-a-horse phase. I liked the questions they asked, actually, and there were lots of options in each section. One option under clipping style was “show coat,” which took me a while to figure out – they mean clipped short but not all the way down to the skin. I’ve never seen a horse clipped like that, but I guess anything is possible!
Here’s the thinking screen. That little blue arrow circles the horse. Kind of fun. It made this thinking screen anytime I changed a setting for Tristan. It didn’t last terribly long – a second, two or three at the most. I’ve waited much longer for apps to load!
Ta-da! Here’s Tristan’s recommendations. I really like that they gave separate recommendations for night versus day, keeping in mind that it would be colder overnight. They also took into account the rain – if you scroll down to days when there’s no rain predicted, it suggested I leave him with no blanket.
I monkeyed back and forth with the settings quite a bit – pretending he was all the way clipped, partially clipped, overweight, underweight, etc. I got it to tell me he should go totally naked all the way up to a medium weight turnout overnight, depending on the settings. The little “i” next to each blanket type will lead you to more information, telling you what exactly they mean by each blanket.
It’s easy to adjust the settings: see the horse head in the upper right-hand corner? Tap on that and it gives you a list of horses you have saved. Then you tap on the horse’s name and it brings you back to the information screen that I showed above. You can just adjust things from there, save them, and then it will recalculate everything.
In general, I was pleasantly surprised to see this app erred on the conservative side for blanketing. I admit, I was expecting it to recommend all the blankets! all the time! and it definitely didn’t. For example, on the night when it recommended just a turnout sheet for Tristan, he would probably wear a stable sheet + turnout sheet, or a cooler + turnout sheet. Yesterday during the day, he was actually wearing a stable blanket + turnout sheet. This year is the first year he’s being blanketed that aggressively, though – remember, he colicked from the cold just a few short weeks ago. Any other year these recommendations actually would’ve been spot on, or perhaps a titch more than he needed.
Moral of the story? If you are really new to blanketing, or new to your horse, and need some rough guidance, this actually works really well! I love the updated weather information, I love the customizable features, I love that it saves multiple horses. If you need some more information to take in while considering your decision (if you’re like me and can’t get enough data points for neurotic things like this) it’s a great thing to have around.
I think its recommendations are a lot like what an old trainer of mine used to say about Pony Club stuff: you will always be okay following their rules, but sometimes there’s a better way to do things. It’s a good baseline.
Another thing about which I was pleasantly surprised: it didn’t push the Smartpak brand sheets too much at all. I didn’t really even notice too much brand creep. Just the facts, ma’am.
The last pieces of the app were interesting, but not terribly useful for me, honestly. 
Again: if you’re new to blanketing, or new to blanketing a particular horse, I think some of the fit tips, how to measure, and blanket type glossary information would be really useful. I read through a lot of it and it’s good, solid information. I even learned some things I’d never heard of before: apparently a rain sheet is something even more specialized than just a waterproof turnout. HUH!
If you find yourself in any of the situations I listed above – new to blanketing, new to blanketing a particular horse, or in need of/curious about extra data points for your own blanketing – I’d recommend this app. If you’re a longtime, confident blanketer with a horse you know well, I’d probably skip it.
Anyone else download it and play with it? What do you think?

Thanks, Smartpak

I hedged my bets a little too close and forgot to order more Elastikon to keep wrapping Tristan’s foot. So I went to Smartpak tonight to order a case. I keep it in my Wishlist for easy ordering, and before I signed in, here’s what greeted me on my Wishlist page:

Your Wishlist is empty, so we wrote a haiku to cheer it up!

Oh, empty Wishlist
We hope that someone fills you
With wonderful things

Well done, Smartpak.