Saddle Bag Must-Haves

For some of us, arena work is a bit like running on a treadmill. Hello Tedium! Trails are what we prefer. We get out for an

Go Prepared or Go Home

hour, an afternoon, or the entire day to capture the expected and unexpected joys of trail riding.

But what to bring?

As you ramp up your riding this season, here are some suggestions for what to have in your saddlebag. It’s important to customize Saddlebag Must Haves according to your:

  • Length of ride
  • Type of country
  • Skill set
  • Weather conditions
  • as well as other considerations.

For example:

  • Needle nose pliers or some implement for taking out cactus needles might be handy if you’re in Arizona but probably not if you’re in Maine.
  • You might need a satellite phone or at least a download of the GAIA GPS app if you’re in the backcountry (GAIA does not rely on cell service. Read more here).
  • Rain gear is more likely to be used in New England than in the Southwest.

Plan accordingly and go prepared. The friendly folks at Outfitter Supply have a absolutely great selection of saddle bags and gear to put in saddle bags. Check out the Montana company here.

We love their Cavalry saddle bags, listed here. Coming soon, we’re review Muddy Creek rain chaps, listed here.

Important Items

– cell phone

– knife or multi-tool (see below)

– water (for yourself and your dogs if they don’t have access to any)

– baling twine (always handy in a pinch)

– snacks (Sometimes trail rides can be longer than expected. We prefer healthy items that don’t melt in the heat and can hang out in the saddlebag if not readily consumed: Patagonia Provisions has excellent fruit/nut bars as well as tasty buffalo jerky. All Good Provisions makes excellent trail mixes. Or, take generic granola bars. They can double as horse treats, too.

– horse treats (These are helpful if your horse gets loose, but just a nice thing to have, too. See above or click here for recipe)

– compass, maps, or map app

– first aid kit (Adventure Medical has excellent ones.)

There’s trail riding and then there’s trail riding. Some outings can be more hardcore than others.

For many riders out West, carrying bear spray and/or a handgun are saddlebag necessities. (The weapon is not just for self-defense or scaring off predators. If a horse is crippled, it might be the most humane solution to a bad situation.)

For knives, we love the Kershaw Leek and the Gerber multi-tools.

Raingear, an emergency blanket, matches or lighter and fire starter are good items to have, too. If you don’t have the space or interest in a full turnout coat, check out the Patagonia Alpine Houdini. Read our review here or buy it here.  As for firestarters, we like Pine Mountain’s ExtremeStart Fire Starter.

We want to hear from you!

Do you ride in groups or alone? If alone, what extra precautions do you take and what extra gear do you use?

Finally, great Apps for Riders

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Katrin Silva grew up riding dressage in Germany before moving to the United States at age 19 to learn to ride Western. She’s been riding both disciplines for the last twenty years. Read her article on Contact here.

Katrin Silva

Based in New Mexico, she enjoys improving horse-rider partnerships and firmly believes that good riding is always good riding, no matter which type of tack a horse is wearing. Check out her blog here.

Silva writes:

The App store is full of ways to streamline our days, ease our frustrations, and improve the quality of our lives. And yet, few address the unique needs and concerns of equestrians. It’s time to remedy this sad situation!
Here are some timely applications for horse owners:

Spook-No-More

Ride the trails with confidence, even if your horse has none. This detailed, interactive map allows you to navigate your trail ride around llama farms, dumpsites, old plastic bags caught in trees, loud weed wackers, tumbleweeds, and irresponsible kids on four-wheelers.

The paid premium version also shows less obvious threats to your horse’s life, like rustling leaves and imaginary predators. Choose from eight different sensitivity settings to accommodate a variety of equine personality types, from “OTTB with PTSD” or “Green-broke Arabian” to “Seasoned Show Horse That Has Never, Ever Left the Arena Before Today.”

Muck-Motivator

Do you detest shoveling manure in a snow storm? Do you occasionally dread unloading bales of hay? You won’t anymore, once you consider your horse as your fitness coach.

This handy app will track:

  • how much weight you lift for how many reps while cleaning stalls
  • how many steps you walk while catching your horse in the pasture
  • how many calories you burn while doing these and other chores

It uses a sophisticated algorithm that considers variables like outside temperature, wind speed, and mud depth. Bask in your accomplishment, then tell your friends!

The app lets you upload your barn work data directly to social media. Pretty soon, spinning classes will be a thing of the past, replaced by group mucking classes.

Bullsh*t-Detector

Ever wonder:

  • Whether the woman you just met at the schooling show has really spent months riding with Charlotte Dujardin, rather than just catching a glimpse of her from across the arena?
  • Whether the the cute guy you just met at a bar has really earned that Ranch Riding championship buckle gracing his Wranglers?

You no longer have to trust your imperfect gut instinct or act impressed in spite of niggling doubts.

This app discreetly scans your conversation partner’s subtle changes in bio-markers including brain activity and body temperature to discover when a narrative diverges from the truth. Set the Bullsh*t-Detector to give off your choice of a high-pitched noise, a blinking red light, or a quiet vibration, depending on the level of embarrassment you wish to cause people who tend to embellish their qualifications and experience level.

All-Gone

Tack stores are dangerous placesMoney Management for horse owners made easier! All-Gone is a budgeting tool with categories you really need, like “Impulse purchases from Dover,” “Overpriced supplements the other boarders at my barn guilt-tripped me into buying,” “Snaffle bits that did not solve my horse’s contact issues like I thought they would,” “Vet bill for mysterious lameness,” “Clinic with Olympic Champion,” “Sport psychology sessions to prepare for attending the clinic with the Olympic Champion for which I already paid the non-refundable, outrageously high deposit.” Pie charts will let you see exactly why you are broke before the end of every month. Upgrade to the paid version if you’d like an interlock device that keeps trigger websites like Dover saddlery or Dreamhorse from opening after you’ve had more than one glass of wine.

Equi-OM

Finally, a mindfulness meditation app you can use when you need it most – during training sessions and at horse shows.

Let go of frustration when your horse has ideas that differ from your training goals for the day. Come back to the present moment whenever you start to consider alternative hobbies, like quilting or gardening.

Includes visualization tools (choose between a picture of perfect horse-rider harmony or a pyramid of dogwood cans). For $2.99 more, you can upgrade to the Ego-Rebuilder, which will gently remind you of your past accomplishments and positive attributes in painful emergency situations, like when you pick up your score sheet for your dressage test, or after a lesson with a clinician who destroyed every shred of your self-esteem.

Seven Sins of Horsemanship

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Katrin Silva grew up riding dressage in Germany before moving to the United States at age 19 to learn to ride Western. She’s been riding both disciplines for the last twenty years. Read her article on Contact here.

Katrin Silva

Silva has competed successfully through fourth level dressage on quarter horses, Morgans, Arabians, Hanoverians, and many other breeds. Based in New Mexico, she enjoys improving horse-rider partnerships and firmly believes that good riding is always good riding, no matter which type of tack a horse is wearing. Check out her blog here.

Drawings by Norman Thelwell. Check out this website dedicated to his iconic work.

By Katrin Silva

I may be a lapsed Catholic, but some concepts still ring true for me. Take the Seven Deadly Sins. Working with horses has taught me that these concepts still make sense. They won’t send you into eternal hellfire, but they will keep you from acheiving a harmony-filled horse-human connection. A worse fate, for sure.

Greed

When your horse learns a new skill, be content with little at first.

Greed can sneak into your practice of any new movement or skill. Let’s say you’re teaching your horse to leg yield. After some trial and error, your horse finally takes a couple of steps forward and sideways. You feel elated. You’re excited to show off the new maneuver to anyone who is watching. You also want to make sure it wasn’t just a fluke, so you keep asking for more steps.

Pretty soon, one of two things happens:

  • your horse loses interest in going sideways and starts to resist,
  • your horse enjoys going sideways so much that he now uses it to avoid other things he knows but finds more difficult

Greed likes to disguise itself as diligence and dedication. Practicing something over and over works fine in golf or tennis, but in working with horses, greed is the enemy of progress. It’s easy to get greedy in training, especially with willing, talented horses. Stay strong. Resist the temptation. Be happy with a little, reward often, take breaks before your horse forces you to.

Envy

This green-eyed monster will suck all joy out of your horse time if you let it. Comparing yourself to other riders, and your horse to other horses, can be a positive thing because great riders make great role models. Participating in shows and clinics exposes us to the type of horsemanship we may want to practice. Watching a rider with truly soft, following hands and perfect body alignment can help fuel our ambition.

But those things can be a recipes for feeling less than satisfied with our own riding, and our own horse. I’ve slunk away from shows and clinics feeling like the world’s worst equestrian.

When you quit enjoying the here and now of your riding or quit appreciating your relationship with your horse you’re riding, step back and walk away from envy.

Lust

St. Augustine originally defined lust as “disordered love.” In horsemanship, disordered love takes the form of a smothering, misguided affection, which leads to a lack of clear boundaries between you and your horse.

Loving your horse means letting him be the best he can be. Rewarding him is great, but rewarding for random things at random times will only confuse him. Horses thrive on consistency. Many riders who claim to love their horses give them mixed messages instead: rewards for no reason, or rewards the horse does not perceive as a reward. Don’t go there – be clear, be consistent.

Gluttony

Overfeeding your horse is not kind and can lead to all sorts of equine health problems. Overfeeding yourself can have the same effect. Horses should not carry more than 20 percent of their weight. An average full-size horse weighs in around 1000 pounds, the average Western saddle about 30 pounds or more. Do the math and be considerate. Riding is more than sitting on top of a horse – it’s a sport that requires physical fitness and body awareness. Do your horse a favor and get yourself into the best shape you can be.

Sloth

Laziness is not working with your horse on a regular basis. There’s a difference between skipping a session for a legitimate reason and looking for all sorts of flimsy excuses to avoid getting on the horse.

A blizzard is legitimate, a breeze is not. Of course you shouldn’t ride a sick or lame horse, but often, some exercise, like hand walking, is better than none even then. Shortcuts are lazy, too:

  • No, using a thinner bit will not make a horse’s mouth softer.
  • No, using draw reins will not teach the horse to accept contact. There is no substitute for spending the time it takes to develop a responsive horse.

Wrath

Good riders are calm riders. Horses can be good at testing human patience – so good that most of us have reached the limit of that patience at some point or other. But two minutes of anger can undo two years’ worth of careful training. Take a deep breath, or five, or ten.

When all else fails, get off the horse. Kick a rock, or use the angry energy to clean a couple of stalls. It helps to think of your horse as a great Zen master – someone who helps you find you inner yogi.

Pride

Like Envy, pride can be a positive thing in small doses. Taking pride in what you do will make you want to do it better. But too much pride can keep you and your horse from making progress, or worse, get you hurt.

It’s ok to admit you don’t know something.

It’s to ask for help when things get difficult.

I wish I had sought the advice of my mentors sooner, and more often, when I was younger, instead of muddling through training issues by myself. It’s possible to problem-solve through trial and error, but sound advice from a professional you trust works much more quickly.

Giving Thanks to Horsey Moms

Sally Butcher’s looking good!

Mother’s Day is Sunday and I’m guessing many of us have our moms to thank for nurturing the horse love. I know I do.

My mother, Sally Butcher, can also thank her mom. That’s how it sometimes lovingly goes.

Elden Olsen, a reader from Utah remembers his mother, Rae Low Whitlock Olsen, pictured at right with her mustang, Desert Storm.

“She would put the grandkids on Storm and he would follow her around the yard like a puppy dog. He would eat the weeds that she would pick out. He’d give the grandkids a ride and be tended to at the same time.”

Another horsey mom, Rae Low Whitlock Olsen

I’m recalling with fondness the knowledge, respect, and admiration my mother showed for equines and that she passed on to me. She and her mother, Louise Baldwin King, got me horseback in my preteen years. I was sent to riding lessons and even to a summer riding camp.

The best times were on the trails. By middle school and thanks to my mom, I became capable enough to head out on my own. That meant freedom, equine connection, and exhilaration all wrapped into these regular, positive experiences. The outings helped color those challenging teenage years in a happy light. They nurtured my confidence and connection with animals and the outdoors. They kept me out of trouble.

Louise Baldwin King, my grandmother, rides in costume with her husband

Thankfully, my mom also taught me about the heavy responsibility and expense of ownership. Girls grow up and ponies get left behind. I managed to not own any, but worked (feeding, cleaning stalls, etc.) for the privilege of riding. It was another set of lessons that my mother nurtured.

This winter, my parents left Maine’s winter chill for several days at the Circle Z Ranch in Patagonia, Arizona. There, a wrangler named Maddy helped Sally (who suffers from arthritis and scoliosis) get horseback for the first time in many years.

“She did great,” said Circle Z owner, Diana Nash. “We called her ‘Mustang Sally.’”

Here’s hoping we’re all stepping into the saddle when we’re good and grey!

Queen Elizabeth II rides at age 91.

Speaking of mothers and daughters:

Author and horsewoman Ann Campanella has an award-winning memoir: Motherhood: Lost and Found.

Campanella is a former magazine and newspaper editor. She lives on a small horse farm in North Carolina.

Mother-daughter pair Lynn Raven and Nancy Raven Smith assisted Bradford M. Smith in the publication of a fun book: The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill.

Don’t let the goofy cover fool you. It’s an easy, entertaining read of the trials of a beginner farmer.

Happy trails and happy reading!

Welcome Rocky Draw Ag Services!

Tyler and April Willbanks have established Rocky Draw Ag Services in Mancos, Colorado.

The business is a great way for the Willbanks to share their impressive and comprehensive talents and expertise in many agricultural endeavors, from farm consulting to horse logging. Tyler has worked with equines his entire life and currently has a team of Clydesdales (as well as other equines) serving him for nearly all his farming activity.

Rocky Draw provides these services:

Weed Spraying (conventional or organic)

Soil Testing

Horse Logging

Portable Saw Milling

Farm Consultation

Contact April or Tyler at (970) 739-6012 or email RockyDrawFarm@gmail.com

Stepping into new Boulet Bison boot

You can’t advocate for riders to reach outside their comfort zones and going for new experiences with their horses without doing likewise. So, when it came to reviewing a pair of boots from Boulet, the Canadian family-run company based northeast of Montreal, I knew I’d have to put my money where my mouth is with boot choice.

No old standards (ropers with short shafts and heels or simple buckaroo boots) allowed.

Instead I received tall, ornate boots with a wide toe. They are part of a new Boulet line of men’s and women’s styles crafted from North American bison. Check out the boot here.

The stovepipe top, a style that dates back nearly a hundred years, is made to be worn with jeans tucked in. But not necessarily. I was equally content wearing jeans in and out.

I’ve worn these Boulets over many miles of walking and riding. The 16-inch shaft tops out just below my knee and is comfortable against my calves even with short socks. When I had jeans outside the boots, the jeans fit snugly and did not creep up my calf as I rode (something that happens with other boot-jean combinations).

The Boulets are true to size and have accommodated my wide foot and high instep without giving so much play as to cause rubbing or blisters. Prepared for the typical break-in period of discomfort, I experienced none.

These Boulets have a leather sole and rubber heel. I was skittish about the leather sole – some boot companies make them so slick, it’s like walking on banana peels. Not so here, the practical combination grips while walking but still slips in and out of stirrups effortlessly.

Stepping outside your comfort zone isn’t always as scary as we imagine. Often, positive discoveries are revealed: going down a new trail, you might find an exquisite berry patch or learn that you and your horse are more capable than you’d thought.

In the case of leaving the standard boot comfort zone, I discovered I had snazzy boots to highlight an Easter dinner outfit and that I now had a great pair of tall boots for extra security in snake country (rattlesnakes are fairly common here).

Earlier this year, Louis Boulet told me: “We want people to wear the product, to abuse the product, to appreciate the quality. We make a good boot and we target horse people, not fashionistas,” said Boulet.

I took him at his word. While these Boulets would win most boot beauty contests, they still proved to be incredibly practical, comfortable, and tough.

Turns out stepping outside the comfort zone wasn’t so scary after all.

Read additional Boulet review here.

Does Your Bra Pass the Loping Test?

You can’t consider bras without considering lifestyle. And if our reader feedback and surveys are representative, here’s what our lives are like:

  • Horse chores in the morning and in the evening (and often in between)
  • A daily blend of active and less active responsibilities. We often shift from one to the other several times a day
  • Riding might involve a spontaneous one-hour hack or a more serious half-day outing

Despite our excellent and eclectic days, we most definitely do not want to switch bras as we switch endeavors. Title Nine has many, many options for women

Patagonia’s Barely Bra

like us. They call them Work-to-Workout bras. I tried two of them, the Barely Bra by Patagonia and the Straptastic, an exclusive by Lole. Both are great choices for us smaller chested gals.

Read Emily’s bra review for bigger chested women here.

The Barely comes with removable cups, a feminine center gather, and attractive (not too thin, not too think) straps that meet in the racer back. It lived up to its name as I started my day with horse chores and a strength workout at the gym before moving to office work, never noticing too much or too little support.

Straptastic Bra at Title Nine

Like many sports bras, the Barely does not have a back clasp. You simply pull it on over your head. Unlike many sports bras, the band is comfy and non-restrictive.

As dinnertime approached, we headed out for a quick ride. I did swap out the t-shirt for a warmer button-down, but the bra stayed on.

The Barely Bra passed the Loping Test with flying colors.

What’s the Loping Test? It’s the best way to assess the worthiness of a bra, especially for its straps and support: if you modify your riding posture to be more comfortable OR if the straps slip off your shoulders when you’re loping your horse, then the bra has failed you.

Barely Bra has a racer back

The Straptastic is a close cousin to the Barely Bra with a tad more support and a slightly sexier profile. It differs with a back clasp and adjustable straps that attach conventionally or can be switched for a crossover look. It also has removable cups.

While both have a blend of nylon, polyester, and spandex, the Straptastic is of just slightly heavier construction. That translated to better coverage and better durability with many washes, but the trade off is that it’s not quite as soft as the Patagonia bra.

The Straptastic also passed the Loping Test perfectly.

Coming soon: The best bra for going shirtless.

Straptastic has straight straps or can be crossed over.

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