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.

Let Your Horse-Owning Voice Be Heard

This just in from Best Horse Practices Summit presenter Dr. Sheryl King:

King writes:

As horse lovers you know that our industry is under-recognized both for its size and its economic impact. In the words of Rodney Dangerfield: “We Don’t Get No Respect.”

We can take steps to change that and preserve and protect what we love. The first step is to be counted.  The American Horse Council is conducting a nationwide Horse Industry Economic Impact Survey. My home state, Illinois, has raised significant funds and will participate as a focus state. Any horse owner in any state is asked to participate.
As an industry, we need to verify our size and our strength.  I am asking you to please complete the survey.
Secondly, I am asking you to please forward this link to every horse lover you know and to every person or business that relies on the horse industry.
The survey will only remain active until July 31, so you need to act fast!
Thank you from the bottom of my horse loving heart.

Dr. Sheryl King

Hauling Ass: My first pack burro race

Editor’s Note: This week, we hear from Katrin Silva, an accomplished horsewoman as well as an impressive endurance runner. She writes about the burro races at the Leadville Boom Days celebration in the mountains of Colorado.

Colorado’s State Sport? Pack burro racing, of course!

By Katrin Silva

Pack Burro Racing is, in fact, a sanctioned sport. It involves running with an ass in tow on mountain trails, for distances between 10 and 30 miles. The rules are specific: burros (not mules, not ponies – asses only) must wear a pack saddle with 33 pounds of mining gear, including a pick, shovel, and gold pan.

Runner and burro must work as a team and cross the finish line together. Runners may push, pull, drag, or carry their ass, but they may not ride it.

Katy, a fellow ultra runner I’d met from Sydney, Australia, found this niche phenomenon particularly fascinating. She had heard that burro racing is not a strictly BYOB sport. It might be possible to rent a burro, she said.

Who wouldn’t be tempted by Bella and her cute keeper?

I was curious, too. I’m a cowgirl at heart and I train horses for a living, but had never worked with a donkey.

Intrigued though I was, I had planned to leave by noon at the latest. I would, of course, resist any temptation to run a burro race all day, then drive back to New Mexico really late. No way, I kept telling myself as Katy and I walked to the pack saddle weigh-in. I’d just to check things out. Really.

Downtown Leadville was teeming with burros of all colors and sizes, tied to horse trailers, to trees, and to lampposts. The ratio of cowboy hats to sun visors and cowboy boots to running shoes was 50/50.

The humans were busy with brushes, hoof picks, ropes, and packs. Donkeys were braying, pawing, and circling.

Two silver grey burros caught my eye. They stood like islands in a storm, while a grey-haired man and a young boy fed them hay and brushed their sleek coats.

I complimented the man on the excellent condition of his animals, and their calm demeanor. I patted the donkeys, a nine-year old brother-sister pair named Silver Jack and Bella. They were clearly the pride and joy of their owner, Maple. “Like a tree,” he said.

Maple couldn’t run today because of an injury, but his friend Nathalie was going to race Silver Jack. I mentioned my background with horses and expressed my interest in burro racing. Maple looked at me thoughtfully.

“No one is running with Bella today. Would you like to?”

He didn’t know, couldn’t know, that he had just offered the equivalent of a whiskey shot to a horse-a-holic. I bit back the enthusiastic “Yes!” that wanted to escape my lips. What was I thinking? The race didn’t start until 11 a.m. and would easily go on until late afternoon, depending on the burro’s mood.

I am a responsible woman. I wanted to get home in time to have dinner with my husband and to get ready for work the next morning.

Katrin and company

“I would love to, but I can’t. I have to be at work in the morning.”

Maple and his grandson looked disappointed.

“Well, we’re going to find some breakfast. You think about it,” said Maple.

Tied to a fence post, Bella munched on some grass. I stroked her exquisite ears. I scratched her neck. She nudged me, which I took to mean “Come on, run with me!”

I walked down the block to the cardboard table that served as burro race headquarters. Katy had found a burro and was signing up for the 15-mile women’s race. Her excitement was contagious. Before I knew it, there was a pen in my hand and a registration form in front of me. Forty dollars and a signature later, Bella and I were signed up as team Number 19.

Maple looked pleased and not surprised. He introduced me to Nathalie, and we proceeded to saddle our race partners. Silver Jack and Bella are inseparable, so our strategy was to keep the four of us together and move at a steady pace.

Maple expertly tied our numbers and all our gear securely to the saddle, then it was time to line up for the start.

Part II coming next week: Stop, Go, Gallop!

The Perfect Student is Here!

Horsewoman Amy Skinner knows that learning tends to be directly proportional to how engaged and motivated her students are. She shared her tongue-in-cheek list for optimizing learning here:

Perfect Student Qualities:

  • Dedicated and hard working
  • Willing to stay open-minded and humble enough to take direction.
  • Active and fit, or willing to get fit to better his or her riding
  • Actively involved in reading new material, watching DVDs, going to clinics, and learning through various methods.
  • Punctual to lessons and attends regularly without making excuses or cancelling at the last minute because it’s too hot, it’s too cold, or I have a “thing”).
  • Willing to take my advice before purchasing a three-year old, unstarted mustang as a midlife crisis, new-to-riding, let’s-help-the-world project.

Once I was satisfied with my list of perfect qualities, I dropped everyone who didn’t meet all these standards.  I woke up the next day excited about the possibilities. I wondered how amazing would my students be.  In no time, I said to myself, I’ll have everybody looking great!  Horses will come along faster and my students will be amazing riders.  I sat at the barn twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the first student to arrive.  Crickets chirped.  Hours went by.  Nobody came.

A month went by and the electric company shut off the lights in my barn.  I was eating ramen noodles and my dog and I were soon living out of the truck without money to afford rent.

Waiting for the perfect client nearly caused me to starve to death!

Read West Taylor’s thoughts on teaching challenges.

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.

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