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.

Lady Bits & Riding: Intrepid Sports Bra Review

We talked with Title Nine’s Molly Hanks about the company’s promotion of athletic women and good gear to help them get out and be fit. “Sports bras help women be fit, active, and strong. For some larger chested women, if you don’t have a good sports bra, you might not do sports at all. It can literally be life-changing,” said Hanks.

Guest columnist Emily Luciano reviewed the Intrepid sports bra. Luciano is on the Steering Committee for the Best Horse Practices Summit.

Luciano writes:

Where has this bra been all my life?

It takes a lot to impress me in the bra department. As a larger chested gal, I value more than just support. I also want the right amount of coverage, separation (no uniboob for me!), and comfort.

For the longest time, I felt like I could find a bra that only met some of my needs. Perhaps it was supportive and comfortable, but left me with the dreaded uniboob. Or, maybe it looked great and was comfortable, but left me bouncing my way down the trail. My girls and I have been let down a number of times.

When I got the opportunity to test drive three sports bras from Title Nine, I jumped at the chance! I’m generally hard to fit in the bra department, and I was thrilled when I didn’t have to make concessions for my size. Not just everyone carries a 32DD, but Title Nine has multiple styles.

The first bra I test drove was the Intrepid Underwire Bra, which they give 5/6 barbells on the Title Nine support scale. Say what you will about underwire bras, but I don’t feel like I get enough support without it and absolutely prefer all my bras—even my sports bras— to have underwire.

I wore this bra from the moment I woke up to the moment I stripped down to shower before bed, and I L-O-V-E-D it. I walked the dogs, gardened, rode horses, and did a mixed martial arts workout (kicking, punching and jumping) while wearing it. I not only felt comfortable and supported, but I loved how it looked like a regular bra under my clothes— no uniboob. It was exactly my size.

One of my favorite things about this bra is that it has a racerback option; all you have to do is hook the clasp on the straps to convert it to an even more supportive version of itself. Easy! I chose to hook the clasp when I rode and when I was working out. The girls didn’t budge!

In the Intrepid description on the Title Nine website, says it features “an anti-microbial finish to keeps the Intrepid smelling like new.” Before the Intrepid came into my life, my favorite sports bra was a Victoria’s Secret number that required washing after every other sweat session. For someone who works out six days a week and is doing daily farm chores in the sweltering Florida heat, that means I was washing that bra A LOT. I’ve now sweated in my Intrepid three times since the initial test drive and it still smells just fine.

The Interprid surpassed all my expectations, and hit all my requirements (coverage, comfort, separation, and support).

Got used bras you’re not using? Consider donating them to Support the Girls.

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.

Lady Bits and Riding Special Section

Ladies!

In the coming weeks, we’ll be featuring articles and reviews dedicated specifically to our lady bits and riding.

We’ll talk about comfort and discomfort in the saddle. We’ll highlight concerns, strategies, and solutions. No topic is out of the question if it’s a concern to you:

  • incontinence
  • sexuality
  • jock itch (yes, gals get jock itch, too)
  • pelvic floor and core strength

We have support (physically and promotionally) from the wonderful women at Title Nine. They’ve sent us some fabulous sports bras from Patagonia, Lole, Brooks, and others. Stay tuned for bra reviews with the horse rider specifically in mind.

We’ll talk with doctors and link to about issues affecting women riders.

Let us hear from you! Tell us what you want and need to know about. Comment here or send us a message.

Not on facebook? Send us an email at info@besthorsepractices.com. Got a sensitive comment or question? No worries! Your name will be kept confidential.

Boulet Boots dedicated to serving riders

Recently, we spoke with Louis Boulet, vice president of the Boulet Boot Company. The 84-year old company is still based in the small town where it was founded, Saint-Tite, northeast of Montreal, Canada.

Boulet is not your typical cowboy boot company.

Typical:

  • Start making boots for real cowboys, then expand to appeal to urban cowboys or other wearers who value fashion over function.
  • Start by making boots locally, then outsource to China.

At their Quebec facility, the quality of manpower is high. The staff turnover is low. Of its 200 employees, all but 25 are dedicated to bootmaking. Many Boulet bootmakers have been with the company for decades. That dedication shows in the quality of the boot, said Louis Boulet. In this video, Boulet describes how the company distinguishes itself, with a focus on the manufacturing process.

G.A. Boulet founded the company in 1933. During World War II, Canada commissioned Boulet to make its Armed Forces boots. It also excelled at industrial footwear and dress shoes.

Grandsons Louis and his brother, company president Pierre Boulet, run the company now and a fourth generation is coming up. Younger family members, Jenny and Francois, are involved in marketing and accounting, said Boulet.

With its focus on footwear for real horsemen and women, with styles from buckaroo and rough stock, to packer and roper, Boulet workers produce 850 boots daily.

Louis Boulet said his family and his company are dedicated to preserving the cowboy boot traditions, crafting safe, comfortable boots with soles that slip out of the stirrups easily. Boulet leathers come from Canada and the U.S. and are tanned in Mexico. Aside from exotic leathers and cowhide, the company recently added North American bison hide to its inventory.

“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.

In our telephone conversation, Mr. Boulet said his family decided years ago to choose quality over quantity and to rely on customer feedback and reward loyalty. It’s not unlike the back-and-forth of horse work, said Boulet, who rides often. “You might ask for something. The horse gives it to you and you let go. You have to listen. It might take 15 minutes or an hour and a half. The horse will tell you. “

About 50 years ago, the company helped develop what would eventually become Festival Western, one of the biggest rodeos in North America. The multi-day event brings hundreds of thousands of attendees to Saint-Tite annually. Check it out here.

Stay tuned. We’ll review men’s and women’s Boulet boots soon.

Festival Western in St-Tite

 

What’s a nice shirt got to do with riding?

In many parts of our world, it’s mud season. Our horses don’t necessarily care if they’re covered in mud.

But we do.

Take shirts, for example. When a shirt fits well and looks good, it impacts our wellbeing. We feel better about ourselves. That positivity trickles down to the horse through our horse-human connection.

So, that good-looking shirt? It might just make you a better rider.

That’s what Rhea Scott Follett had in mind when she founded CR RanchWear nine years ago. Based in Dallas, Texas, the company has focused on producing unique and stunning tops for performers and recreationalists. The shirts, many made with Italian cotton, are all sewn in Dallas by a group of seamstresses.

Follett started the company in 2008 by introducing shirts (and, truth be told, pajamas!) at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Initially, CR RanchWear worked with the cutting horse crowd and has since expanded by attending cowhorse, reining, and Arabian shows.

Each community has slightly different tastes and requests, said the owner. Some prefer French cuffs. Some adore the Swarovski crystal details on the front yoke. Some love added bling. Some lean toward the traditional. All appreciate the degree of couture.

CR RanchWear shirts, said Follett, are tailored specifically to athletic women. With seven sizes from XXS to XXL, they fit a body more accurately than typical Western riding shirts.

Not surprisingly, the horse community engenders some “persnickety” customers, said Follett. “And that’s good. I like it like that. It gives me a challenge. We have grown very organically by listening to our customers.”

The Texan has a lifelong passion for riding, getting horseback for the first time at age 5. “CR” stands for her daughter’s name, Chandler Rhea, who’s also an equestrian.

CR RanchWear asked fans to choose between these fun Dia de los Muertos style prints

The company often crowd sources fabric and design decisions by polling their followers on social media. On a recent fabric selection visit to Los Angeles, the company asked its fans to help decide between many brilliant prints.

“We’ve found those in rodeo really embrace fun prints.”

It may be a niche audience, but the company has enjoyed impressive growth. At first, only Follett and one other woman were sewing. Now, a dedicated group of nine seamstresses creates more than 100 shirts per week.

“I’m committed to production here. I will never, ever, ever manufacture overseas,” she said.

Stay tuned. We will be reviewing CR RanchWear shirts soon.

Juni Fisher in a CR RanchWear shirt

LL Bean Packaways are Perfect for Horse Time

Regardless of where you live, this time of year demands layers. That’s especially true when taking our horse work into consideration. Weather is often a crap shoot. Barn calls may come before dawn (and below freezing) or midday (with plenty of sun and mud). It pays to be prepared and comfortable.

This month, we’re focusing on a few impressive products from LL Bean. The Maine company currently is having a Winter Send-Off Sale.

Read Amy Skinner’s review of LL Bean vest here.

When searching for a versatile layer, I gravitated immediately to the PrimaLoft Packaway line. LL Bean offers a jacket, a hooded jacket, and a vest. The three all come in five vibrant colors, offer great insulation, and can all pack down for easy travel and storage.

I tried the PrimaLoft Packaway Hooded Jacket in green with pink trim: think watermelon. And what’s not to like about watermelon this time of year?

The jacket served beautifully as an outermost layer as well as under a heavier jacket. It is tailored for a slim fit which means no extra fabric will encumber or catch during chores. Under another layer, the jacket felt more like a cashmere cardigan.

The shell easily sheds hay and horse hair and, anyway, it’s easy to machine wash and dry. The entire jacket stuffs easily into one of the pockets which has its own ‘stowaway’ zipper for the task. Once stuffed, the 11-ounce package has a handy loop for tying with saddle strings or attaching to backpack, making it easy to store and grab when the weather gets nippier (as it always does).

Like a favorite pair of jeans, the jacket will likely have a quiet, endearing effect on its wearer. It’ll stay on that top hook in the mudroom, all the more easy to grab, day or night. You’ll think of it as a second skin. It will feel good on and it will do its job.

Looking for something different for a trip to town?

Check out the Waxed Cotton and Wool Jacket from LL Bean’s Signature line. It’s warmer, dressier, and bulkier than the PrimaLoft Packaway jacket, with a fun faux-fur hood.

The jacket features a warm, charcoal grey color, brass buttons, two-way pockets, and a zippered breast pocket for your phone. Careful, though, it’s spot clean only. Keep the horses and hay at bay.

LL Bean’s Barn Friendly Vest

Regardless of where you live, this time of year our barn and horse work demands layers. We’re focusing on a few impressive products from LL Bean. The Maine company currently is having a Winter Send-Off Sale.

Read jacket reviews here.

Amy Skinner, owner of Essence Horsemanship and a trainer at Bar T Ranch in Pittsboro, North Carolina. She reviewed LL Bean’s Signature Packable Quilted Vest this month.

She writes:

It’s cold and windy, but barn chores and horses don’t wait for better weather. Trying to keep warm and able to move is a battle of balance, where sometimes you sacrifice mobility for warm layers.

As a woman who rides five days a week in all types of weather, I often find myself feeling and looking like the abominable snow man: bundled up head to toe, straining to lift a leg up into a stirrup and flop into the saddle with about 20 extra pounds of clothing on. An innocent bystander would not only be befuddled, but probably wouldn’t even be able to identify me as a woman under all the heavy, unfeminine layering.

I’m into practicality and ideally, I’d like to look good while doing farm work. This L.L Bean Packable Quilted Vest weighs just ounces and is insulated with Polartec’s Primaloft. When I pair it with a good scarf, it keeps me nice and warm. It is sleek, attractive in mariner blue, and fitted enough to reveal the wearer as a woman, yet still loose enough to layer under comfortably. Gone are my bundled, waddling, genderless days of barn work with this pretty and practical vest.

It has another attractive feature: five brass button snaps in place of a zipper. You not only get the longevity of a snap button where a zipper eventually fails (How annoying is it when the zipper teeth wear out, leaving your poor torso freezing as your vest flaps in the wind?), but you get to hear that satisfying “click” as you suit up for your work day.

It has two medium sized breast pockets, and below there are two larger pockets just above hip level big enough for most cell phones, granola bars, and other necessities. If you get hot throughout the day, this vest folds up about the size of a good paperback, fitting easily in your saddle bags, backpack, or purse. For extra convenience, it folds right into itself, with a sewn in zipper pocket on the inside you can tuck the vest right into.

I feel just as good wearing it out in town as I do at the barn. Going from dirty barn life to normal civilian life is easy with a quick wipe down of the vest’s exterior. It’s water resistant and easy to keep clean. This vest has replaced my old, heavy vests with its practicality, warmth, light weight, awesome pockets that can actually hold things (no wimpy girl pockets on this thing), and attractive look.

Sometimes you do actually get what you pay for, and this vest is worth the price with its quality and durability.

America’s own Olathe Boots

We’re always keen on quality gear and we especially love hearing reader testimonials.

Recently, a NickerNews & BestHorsePractices fan turned our attention to Olathe Boots, an impressive Texas boot company, established in 1875.
Our reader writes: I have a pair of tall top, hippo hide boots that I bought in Kalispell, Montana. They are my riding, driving, stomping, dancing, everyday boots for the last five years. I’ve resoled them twice.
I prefer them over other brands because they are made in America and well made in America.

First things first: Hippo hide?

This Montana rider LOVES his Olathes

We talked with Steven Kahla, Olathe Boots brand manager.
The hide comes from certified dealers and is part of population control efforts in Africa, said Kahla. Each hide comes from an authorized tannery and its export and sale are tightly controlled.

Of course, the company makes all variety of boots from cowhide, too. There are packer boots, classic cowboy boots, polo boots, rough stock boots, and tall top boots.

Olathe boots are made in Mercedes, Texas, one of the most southern towns in the state. About 100 boot makers produce 300 pairs per week.
Kahla calls himself a “test dummy.” His family has been in ranching for four generations and he owns and shows cutting horses. He puts each new pair through the rigors of horse work. Kayla reminds me that despite its 140-year heritage, the company is staying current, constantly considering improvements, and listening to customers.

Some recent advances include the full welt and a spur rest that goes nicely wide around to the sides (not just at the back). The full welt increases comfort and durability. The improved spur rest means your spurs will stay put.

“We learn by experience and by testing. We’re not going to get it right every time,” said Kahla, who knows of Nobel Peace Prize winners and men in the Armed Services Special Forces who wear Olathe boots. “We’re open to listening.”

Olathe boots adhere to the unisex principle that is increasing in popularity across many gear and apparel lines. Women’s boots are styled like men’s: just as durable, just as practical, just as tough, said Kahla.
“Some other boot companies make women’s boots that are extremely styled. They might look great, but they don’t last if you actually use them. We don’t make men’s boots or women’s boots. We just make boots.”
Stay tuned for an Olathe boot review coming soon.

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