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.

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.

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