Maine Rider Impressed with Tuff Rider Boots from Adams

Editor’s Note: We welcome guest reviewer Debbie Hight! Hight is on the Best Horse Practices Summit Steering Committee and recently hosted horsewoman Amy Skinner for a weekend of learning. In this post, Hight offers her review of Tuff Rider boots from Adams Horse & Pet Supplies.

She writes:

I stopped at Adams Horse & Pet Supplies in Winthrop, Maine (just outside of Augusta), really wanting a new pair of summer riding boots.  I had tried desperately for years, in fact, to break in my pair of dressage boots. Everything fit. But the leather was just too hard.  Maybe if I had run over them a few times with my truck, they would have gotten softer. After five years and multiple applications of leather conditioner, I’, waving the white flag and setting them aside. I’ll donate them to the local Pony Club.

So, I was trying to prepare myself to pay  $300-400 for a pair and refused to even try on something that cost $600 or more.  I have only a certain tolerance for checkbook pain.

In fact, I’m not easy to fit. I have relatively tall calves, biggish feet (size 8.5-9), but thin, scrawny calves (despite obvious muscling!).

I tried on the Tuff Rider Belmont Dress Boot. Oh, wow. It was like they were made for me. The leather felt like the best Italian leather.

At $180, they were pretty much a bargain compared to the considerably more painful options. Less expensive boots were more literally painful and the more expensive ones hurt my wallet.

I wish that it didn’t have the elastic insert, but frankly, I cannot see it So, I just forgot about it.

I finally rode in them yesterday, in 93-degree heat. They were just wonderful.  Too bad that the magic of the boots didn’t transcend to my riding, but I guess that remains Operator Error.  Oh, well, there’s always room to improve.

Tuff Rider appear to be ethical in the quality and price of their products.  I am so sick to death of anything horse-related being ramped up in price just because we’re horse owners.  I have found Tuff Rider to be relatively reasonable and a breath of fresh air.

These Tuff Riders may not be firm enough for the diehard dressage crazies, but I love them.

Rain Chaps Let You Stay Out Longer

Last fall, I was invited to help gather cattle off the National Forest. It was two excellent days of long hours and many miles in

Wet going in cool autumn rain

the saddle over rugged terrain with fit horses and good company. On the second day, it rained. It did not sprinkle or drizzle. It rained steadily all day as temperatures stayed in the low 50’s. By lunch, I was soaked.

We detoured back to our trailers and I changed out of most of my drenched gear: jeans, socks, boots, top. My leather leggings had gained at least 10 pounds and I left them off. We headed back for another 10 miles of gathering cattle.

By the time we wrapped up, it was close to dinnertime and I was cold. Not a tad chilly. I was cold and soaked to the core. Along the way, I had learned a valuable lesson in preparedness. Rain chaps, I told myself, had just become an absolute necessity.

Muddy Creek, a small company based in Grass Lake, Michigan, has smartly designed rain chaps that’ll fit in any saddle bag. (In fact, they have an entire line of rain gear, including jackets, hats, and waterproof cantle bags. Check them out here.)

What makes them smart?

  • Big zippers with zipper pulls that can be handled easily with cold, fumbling fingers
  • Added Velcro to seal out wetness and allow custom fitting
  • Wide bottom cuffs to accommodate any boot style
  • Elastic band slips under boot heel to keep chaps from creeping up your leg.

Muddy Creek rain chaps are available directly from Muddy Creek here or from our friends at Outfitters Supply here.

I ordered a medium and agreed to share them with my partner, Steve Peters.

The leggings are atypical in that there is no waist to attach both leg sleeves. Count that feature as another smart detail as it allows for better sharing between two folks who aren’t quite the same size and it makes it easier to put them on quickly mid-trail ride.

The chaps fold easily, take little room, and weight just eight ounces or so.

It may rain just 72 days in this part of the country, but it took just one of them to convince me to carry rain chaps.

Summer Horse Work Calls for Long Sleeves

Why review long-sleeved shirts in mid-June?

Even when it’s hot, there are myriad occasions when long sleeve shirts are best for horse work:

  • Working with hay (your daily tosses or putting up 200 bales of first cut)
  • Riding through brush (what fun, adventurous trail ride doesn’t have its share of bushwhacking?)
  • Buggy days and nights at the barn (skeeters and midgies should not impede your precious Barn Time)

LL Bean’s Double Cloth Performance Woven Shirt is breathable and utilitarian. The hem is cut and shaped perfectly to look nice tucked in or worn out.

I tried the Bright Sapphire, a pretty plaid of purple, light blue, black, and khaki green and loved rolling up the sleeves to show off the inside black and purple checked pattern.

Don’t let the ‘Double Cloth’ term deceive you; the shirt is light in weight and feel. It’s made of nylon and is UPF 40+ for sun protection. If it weren’t so rugged, it would have been called a blouse.

Double Cloth Performance Woven Shirt by LL Bean

In horsemanship, we often talk about the cons of comfort. In order to help horses appreciate comfort, they need to know discomfort. That’s the gist of pressure and release and what academics call negative reinforcement.

But when it comes to gear, we hold comfort dear. Discomfort is most unwelcome. Along with function, durability, and attractiveness, comfort forms the basis of whether or not an item is purchased and appreciated. This Bean’s shirt satisfies these requirements in spades.

Want something warmer and equally pretty?

The Quilted Woven Shirt Jacket, also from Beans is the classy, upscaled version of those plaid thermal shirt jackets worn by New England clammers and carpenters for decades. This Shirt Jacket is warmer (lined with Primaloft Active Gold insulation), more attractive, and more feminine. No boring Scotch plaid here! The shirt features a lovely blend of magenta, soft orange, light blue, and olive green.

I do wish the shirt featured snaps in lieu of buttons, but that’s my only complaint.

A word about fit: LL Bean sizes its tops more generously than companies like Patagonia. I’m 5’7”, 135 pounds and enjoyed the Double Cloth shirt in a small. I have the Shirt Jacket in a medium and it’s a bit boxy, but it allows one layer or more underneath.

For those of us living out West, LL Bean has a store near Denver and next year will open its westernmost store and its first in Utah. This one will be on Main Street in Park City, a good fit as LL Bean is an official supplier of the US Ski Team, which is based in the Utah mountain town.

LL Bean Quilted Woven Shirt Jacket

Olathe Boot Review

Olathe Rough Stock

If cowboy boots were beverages, a pair of Olathe boots, hand-crafted of premier leather in Mercedes, Texas, would be a smooth glass of single malt scotch. Or, for coffee drinkers, a silky double espresso brévé served in fine china. Read more about the Texas company here.

These boots are decidedly not convenience store bevvies. They are top-shelf priced and well worth the wait if you decide, as many customers do, to order a custom pair.

We received a fine-looking, tangerine-topped pair of traditional Olathe Rough Stock boots for review. Boot number #8007. The orange upper is stitched stylishly with brown, tan and white threads while the vamp or lower part of the boot is deep briar brown with orange and tan stitching.

Beau Gaughran photo

The leather – in its feel, look, and smell – stands out as mightily superior to leathers of other brands we’ve reviewed thus far, including Ariat, Justin, and Boulet.

It’d be tempting to stash this pair in the closet and bring them out only for special occasions. They are that nice.

But since durability and comfort are required elements of any rider footwear, I wore them for dozens of miles on foot and in the saddle. I wore them while camping with horses and while moving cattle. I wore them while riding bareback, ponying horses, and trail riding over gnarly terrain.

No blisters or sore feet. Plenty of satisfying grins (mine) and compliments from others.

Beau Gaughran photo

The boots feature a Cutter toe (also called a wide toe or a modified square toe by other boot makers), and a slungback heel. They are made almost entirely of high quality leather, including the sole and heel stack. Just the heel base is finished with rubber.

Prior to wearing these Olathes, I hadn’t worn boots with leather soles. But as someone who dreams recurrent nightmares of being dragged by my horse while my foot is caught in the stirrup, these boots may foster a sea change. I loved that they slip easily in and out the stirrups.

I also appreciated the full spur shelf, featured where the heel meets the boot upper. It’s considerably more ample and spur-friendly than on most other boots and adds a certain beefiness to the boot.

Olathe and its sister companies, Anderson Bean Boot and Rios of Mercedes boots, employ about three dozen bootmakers in Mercedes, Texas, not far from the Mexico border. Many employees have passed down leatherwork expertise over the generations.

It’s no wonder the boots worked so flawlessly in my tasks (which have involved plenty of cow work lately). Trainor Evans is one of the three co-owners along with J.P. Moody and Ryan Vaughn. Evans’ family has cattle ranched in Texas and New Mexico for five generations. He said, “the people I work with, their other joy and passion are horses and cattle. This is reflected in the boots we make.”

Coming soon, Jim Thomas of the Bar T Ranch reviews a pair of men’s Olathes.

Check out this American Cowboy article on American cowboy bootmakers.

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?

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.

CR Ranchwear: Dressed up in a Flash

Amy Skinner is a talented horsewoman and frequent guest columnist. Here, she reviews an exclusive CR Ranchwear shirt. Read more about these Texas-made shirts here.

Read Maddy Butcher’s review here.

By Amy Skinner

I had to go to a function recently where folks were dressing up some.  I’m a boots-and-jeans kinda gal, and when I dress up I often feel like I’m in costume.

I cleaned up alright, but I really wanted to feel like myself. Just a little less dirty. I like clothes that are functional, but attractive, well-made, and durable. On this particular night, I washed and dried my hair, put on mascara and lipstick, and wore a pair of clean jeans, some nice boots, and a CR Ranchwear western shirt.

Tada!

Instant classy look, all without having to readjust anything, pull anything up or down, sit with my legs crossed, or feel uncomfortable.  I got plenty of compliments on my gorgeous shirt, and didn’t feel under-dressed at all.

The CR Tradition western shirt in Ocean Blue Paisley Swirl is a gorgeous addition to my wardrobe and transforms me instantly from “working cowgirl” to “dressed-up cowgirl.”

The shirt’s cut is lovely and fits my body.  It’s very flattering, accentuating all the right places, and has a streamlined appearance.  It’s classy and dresses up any nice pair of jeans and boots.

Made with 100 percent cotton, this shirt is comfortable, breathable, and very durable.  I’m not going to worry about it if I have to run down to the barn for something even while in my “going-out cowgirl” outfit, although I wouldn’t stay to clean stalls in it.

Another benefit, this shirt is made in the USA!  This style is a classic and looks equally great in the arena or out on the town.

The price tag may be a bit high, but in my opinion it’s well worth it.  These shirts were built to last.  Like most folks who work hard for their cash flow, I feel irritated when I spend good money on poor quality materials that don’t stand up to real life.

Another pet peeve of mine is women’s clothes that are made poorly, don’t fit real women’s bodies, and cost more than men’s.

These CR Ranchwear shirts pass my checkpoints before laying out a little more dough for clothes:

  • Is it well made and durable?
  • Does it do its job?
  • Does it look good on me?

Check. Check. Check!

Amy and her dance pardner.

Must I take off these Boulet Boots?

Dr. Steve Peters, a Best Horse Practices Summit presenter and collaborator in the new site Horse Head, reviews a pair of Boulet boots. The boots were handmade in Saint Tite, Quebec. Read more about Boulet here.

He writes:

Last month, I opened the box containing my first ever pair of Boulet boots, Grizzly Mountain Packers. I’d known about this family-owned Canadian boot maker for years, but being rigid in my choice of boot makers meant I’d gone with what I’d known time and again. I’d also never worn a pair of lace-ups. I guess I thought packers just weren’t for me.

Taking them out of the box, I saw that the leather was high quality, soft and pliant.  Could such a beautiful boot hold up to what I planned to put them through? They felt just a tad snug initially, but simply walking around the house helped form them to my feet.

While my usual buckaroo boots feel very loose around my skinny calves, these packers gave me the feeling of a hightop athletic shoe. They would turn out to provide great ankle support.

My goal was to try my best to get a blister or two and find the weaknesses in these new boots.  I stepped outside to slosh through mud, feed the horses, and followed that with a long hike with the dogs.  In southwestern Colorado, a hike can involve snow, mud, rocky ridges, and scrambling over boulders. Unlike my slick, leather-bottomed cowboy boots, these boots have an acid-resistant, rubber sole that gave me good traction climbing over rocks.

The next day, I laced them on first thing. After horse chores, I staffed a booth at a local trade show (lots of standing). I also did quite a bit of walking around the town of Durango. These boots felt very well-cushioned with an insole that kept my feet dry.

After more hiking and time horseback, I took them off only before crawling into bed. My socks were dry and had a nice aroma. The boots actually have been treated with a sanitized deodorant.

The next day was horseback. The rounded toe helped me to find my stirrups and the horseman’s heel is what I like.  We ponied a group of horses to a pasture and unsaddled our rides.

Another long hike with rock scrambling and I noticed that these packers were even more comfortable than my hiking boots. I’ve been bucked off and left some distance from home in the past, enduring the Walk of Shame in uncomfortable cowboy boots. At least my feet would be happy, if it happened in these Boulets.

When night falls, I usually change into well-worn moccasins to read and relax. But my packers were still feeling good.  The leather had formed to my foot and held up to all the punishment I could dish out. I still could not get a blister no matter how I’d tried.

Despite snow and mud over several days, these boots looked as good as they did coming out of the box.  Boulet’s reputation is impressive, but I was nonetheless astounded by their durability and comfort.  At 59 years old, I can’t believe that I have gone this long without trying a pair. When I spend a week packing in the Weminuche Wilderness, these Grizzly Mountain Packers will be on my feet.

CR RanchWear Shirts Shine

I was skeptical when I first visited with CR Ranch Wear about their shirts. Yes, they’re made in America. Yes, they’re beautiful. Yes, they fit exponentially better than your average shirt.

But will a shirt change my day?

Will it change how people consider me?

Will it change how I consider myself?

Turns out, a nice shirt does makes all the difference. Read more about CR RanchWear here.

CR shirts are especially made for women performing with their horses in competitions. Gals select specific shirts to match their horse and their horse’s tack. Ashley Flynn, for instance, looks spiffy in this rich blue CR shirt and her dark horse, Smooth Sailing Cat. (see photo at right)

I’m not much for shows and competitions, but I did wear my CR shirts to the Four States Agriculture Expo where NickerNews and BestHorsePractices staffed a booth for three days.

I’m used to these events and have a reliable sense of booth reactions and interactions. You only have a few seconds to make a good impression and pique people’s interest. That job was made infinitely easy with CR’s stylish shirts.

I had scores of conversations and I’d guess most of them were initiated because visitors noticed the shirt first (and, no, it wasn’t because of any big chest under the shirt. That doesn’t exist.)

I wore a brown and white striped CR Tradition shirt with contrasting collar and cuffs, made of Italian cotton, on Day One and a CR Tradition of an exclusive Tropical Green weave on Day Two. Both were size Small (Most CR shirts come in six sizes, from XXS to XL)

See photos below for Before and After images.

CR RanchWear shirts are not shirts to wear doing barn chores. They are well-made, colorful performance shirts and made for your A Game. They can take the place of that drab blazer and striped tee shirt combo you’ve been sporting for, well, forever. They take the place of that stiff blouse and cardigan ensemble.

Concerned that it’s just one layer? If you must, wear a thermal camisole or tank top  underneath. But try not to cover up these shirts. They weren’t made for that.

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