A Glamorous Hoodie for Horsewomen

Toad&Co. first caught got my attention with its message, not its clothing. I heard CEO Gordon Seabury speak several times at the Industry Breakfast of the Outdoor Retailer; he was smart, inspiring and made a good argument for outdoor recreation companies uniting to fight for public lands, getting people outside, and sustainability.

Like Patagonia, Toad&Co. (formerly Horny Toad, founded by Jessica Nordhaus in Telluride, Colorado about 25 years ago) commits to being pretty transparent about its production stream and contributes meaningfully to social and environmental progress.

Like Cotopaxi, it’s a company that’s easy to like on just principle alone.

Would a Toad&Co. hoodie also inspire?

Enter the Wildwood Sherpa Hoodie in delicious brown.

Brown?

A friend once insisted it was a dreadful color.

But I’d like to suggest that brown – especially this beautiful blend of three subtle, textured shades in the Sherpa Hoodie – is quite lovely. Let brown be the new black. (For you doubters, it also comes in interesting colorblocks of blue, whites, and greys.)

The zip-up hoodie is a repurposed wool blend, crafted in Italy. The wool is processed “using mechanical, not chemical, means and blended with polyester for softness and nylon for strength” according to the garment details.

Remember those tough, utilitarian, and decidedly unflattering pullover sweaters of a generation ago? They weren’t pretty, but they kept you warm and stood up to work.

The Sherpa Hoodie is warm, tough, and pretty.

Details to appreciate:

  • The zipper is not too big, not too small, and has a Toad tab to make it easy to operate with gloves on.
  • The front opening and pockets are trimmed with fine corduroy which feels good and gives the casual sweater a fine finished look.
  • The wool blend means that it breaths better than polyester fleece equivalents and handles multiple wearings without collecting body odor.

Function and practicality are musts for us horsewomen: this hoodie is a practical piece. Toad&Co.likes to label this priority Trail to Tavern but it could just as easily be Horse to Hoedown or Paddock to Party.

One more nice touch from the company, its guarantee: “If you don’t get a compliment within three wearings or if you find something wrong with your garment, we’ll take it back and make it right.”

Nifty zipper and trim details

Wool: The Cool Summer Option

Editor’s Note: We hear from guest columnist Amy Skinner who reviews a top by Ramblers Way Farm.

Ramblers Way, founded by Tom Chappell (of Tom’s of Maine), and run by family members, creates and sells clothing designed and made in America and sourced responsibly through the Global Organic Textile Standard. RW clothes are made of super fine merino wool as well as pima cotton.

Skinner writes:

I live in North Carolina, which means it’s hot. I ride outside all day in the sun, heat and humidity, and sometimes my clothes don’t last through the day before I have to change into less sweaty ones.

Finding the perfect shirt to ride in is hard, as a shirt has many requirements to fill:

  • It needs to help keep me cool.
  • It needs to be comfortable.
  • It needs to be durable.
  • It needs to move with me while I ride.
  • And while it doesn’t need to be fancy, it should be cute and presentable.

I ride in tank tops a lot, but many of them slide around and have straps that slip when I’m riding, a negative feature that drives me crazy.

Lots of tops also don’t last due to poor quality material. All it takes is one snag on a vine when I ride through the brush and that shirt is toast.

I get frustrated with companies that seem to make more inferior clothing for women than for men. As if we all sit around posing for pictures and shopping indoors! I need clothes that stand up to real life and can take a beating.

I wore my Rambler’s Way wool camisole on a trail ride with my boyfriend. It looked cute enough for a date ride, and it was super-comfortable too. It withstood trotting and loping in a field with no slippage. The straps stayed in place, and despite being a black shirt, the wool was breathable and kept me cooler than a cotton tank top. It wicked away the sweat brought on by 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity.

You’d think that wool would be hot to wear, but it breathes better and stays drier than cotton. I stay cooler and don’t end up wearing a wet, sweaty shirt.

Ramblers Way top comes in multiple colors

This wool shirt wasn’t the least bit itchy. Rather, it was super comfortable and soft. The material is really durable, and didn’t snag or tear on trees or vines as I rode through eye-level brush.

The top also looks great under nice blouses or long sleeve shirts. It covers everything it needs to cover, but flatters the form. It looks great with jeans or dressed up with clothes for going out. It’s packable, too.

Rambler’s Way prides itself in making quality clothing in a sustainable way. In fact, some of their manufacturing is right here in North Carolina. The sheep are also raised in America.

This camisole has made it into my regular circulation of riding wear, and washes easily along with my other shirts. I just line dry it instead of putting it in the dryer. Super easy.

Boot Review: O My Olathes!

Editor’s Note: We welcome guest columnist Jim Thomas to our pages. The Best Horse Practices Summit presenter runs Bar T Horsemanship in Pittsboro, North Carolina. He has started scores of BLM wild horses, competed in multiple Extreme Mustang Makeovers and travels and conducts clinics year round.

Jim Thomas reviewed a buckaroo boot by Olathe Boots of Mercedes, Texas.

Thomas writes:

Here at the Bar T Ranch, we’re known for our Sunday Mini-Clinics. It’s a time to meet and greet potential clients in a setting of fellowship, horsemanship and good food.
This is our chance to “put on the shine!” For the small price of a covered dish, we welcome anyone to this teaching and sharing experience. For our first Mini Clinic of the year, we had 22 horses and riders signed up, plus an additional 20 or so auditors. I’d need to be on my best behavior and ran through my host-with-the-most list:

  • The facility was looking great
  • The horses were in top shape
  • The homemade ice cream was prepared

It was just me that needed the spit-and-polish look. I considered my new pair of Olathe boots.

But first, let me explain my boot-wearing program:
Upon purchase, all new boots are designated as Sunday boots. Sunday boots are only for church, nighttime dinners, and sterile environments.

Saturday boots are for the sale barn, trips to town, and clinic presentations.

Weekday boots are work horses that have earned the right to be worn every day in dry, dusty, wet, muddy, slimy, manure-y, and snowy conditions. Yet they still have to clean up well.

To earn a spot in the weekday rotation, the boot must fit well, look fantastic before and after a hard day’s work, and hold up under all the stresses. It must be easy on-and-off, easy in-and-out of the stirrup, and comfortable to boot (pun intended).
That’s a tall order. These boots must also fit sized-14, narrow feet. It’s not an easy task, so my weekday boot roster is short.

My current weekday boots are Anderson Bean, which like Olathe is a brand under the umbrella of Rios of Mercedes out of Mercedes, Texas. I know that right out of the box, I have a quality boot with true fit, good looks, durability, and long wear.

That’s what I was looking for in the Olathe, along with the option of a custom design. I’ve been looking for boots that rise above the rest of the boot world, without going the totally unaffordable, custom-made, $1000 route. The Olathe fit the bill and looked to be a contender.

So, here’s where Olathe and the Mini Clinic meet:

  • I wanted to make the best impression for my first mini-clinic of the year.
  • I was going to bring out my newest boot – my Sunday boot, my church boot, my nighttime boot.

Was I ready?

  • Had this boot passed the comfort test?
  • The “What a Great Looking Boot” test?
  • The “Cleans Up Good” test?

The Mini Clinic was not my first wearing, but I promise you, the boots had not seen anything beyond carpet, wood floors, cement, and asphalt. The chance had to be taken. On they went.

The boots were a hit. Compliments flowed faster than a spring run-off.

Here’s what I liked:

  • Good Comfort for a boot not sized by a mold
  • Summertime has me in light socks. The boot fit well with a little room for thicker socks in the winter.
  • Easy on/off without a bootjack.
  • Spur shelf works well. I just drop my spurs over the top without unbuckling and the ledge is prominent enough to hold a loose spur.
  • Buckaroo heel is not my favorite for walking but it’s very stylish and holds the stirrup well.
  • Oil-tanned finish with its deep distressed appearance really gives it a bold look and repels water better than a duck’s back.
  • Made almost entirely of leather except for a rubber heel cap and a thin layer of rubber above the sole for shock absorption.
  • Leather sole for easy slip in-out of the stirrup and smooth gliding on the dance floor.
  • Uppers are a bright Tennessee Orange that peeks just below the cut of my jeans while riding. That’s statement in itself.

I spent the eight hours on my feet and another four in the saddle with no discomfort.
These new Olathes will be my Sunday boots until my old Anderson Bean’s fall off my feet. But rest assured, I have no reservations about these boots making the cut.

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.

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