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

Another Rider Friendly Sports Bra from Title Nine

Riding Season is in full gear as we continue our Lady Bits & Riding features.

Are you on the big-chested side? Do you struggle to stay comfortable and cool on these summer days?

Guest columnist Emily Luciano reviewed the Trade Up Shock Absorber sports bra. Luciano is on the Steering Committee for the Best Horse Practices Summit.

Luciano writes:

Like I said in my last Title Nine sports bra review, I’m hard to fit. Not only am I hard to fit, but I’m also really doggone picky when it comes to bras. I look for just the right amount of coverage, separation and support.

Now that I’m pregnant— almost 17 weeks— I’ve gone from hard to fit and picky to nearly impossible to fit and ultra-discriminating. I was large chested before pregnancy. Now, it feels like I have cantaloupes that are the verge of rupturing strapped to my chest. Isn’t pregnancy grand?

Because I’m literally toppling out of all my other bras, sports bras have become my everyday support system— literally. I’m happy to say that the Trade-Up Shock Absorber from Title Nine has worked its way into my everyday rotation. From riding to the grocery store, to walking the dogs, to cleaning the house, this bra is perfect and oh-so-comfortable.

The Trade Up Shock Absorber is perfect for riding in the Florida heat because along with providing ample support, it’s oh-so-breathable. And yes, I’m pregnant and riding— my midwife gave me the “okay” as long as I promised not to gallop through the woods and stay on my safest horses. Easy enough!

I’ve walked, trotted and even cantered a few strides in this bra, and my tender melons felt supported the whole time. “Less bounce to the ounce” is the way Title Nine describes this bra and I have to agree.

Let’s talk bra straps: this bra has inch-wide padded straps and they are ah-mazing! Let’s be read: boobs can get heavy. We wouldn’t dream of strapping 10 or so pounds to our backs with narrow, spandex straps. So, why do so many bra companies think it’s okay to strap 10 pounds to our chest with little quarter-inch spandex straps?

The wide, padded straps with this bra form a racer back to provide ultimate support. It’s fantastic! My back literally never hurts while wearing this bra.

And the separation? Thank you, Title Nine! No uni-boob here.

The only thing I might change to make this the perfect bra would be to add just a tiny bit of padding in the cups, as it’s obvious to tell when one has a chill, if you catch my drift. Aside from that, hats off to another spectacular bra from Title Nine!

It’s Active Preggo-Boob Approved.

Title Nine’s Molly Hanks tested this bra, too. She adds: “This bra gives me amazing support without a lot of bulk. By far the best support I’ve found for high impact sports. Wicks away moisture and allows me to stay cool, not clammy.”

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?

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.

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.

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.

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