As Christmas fast approaches, I thought I'd take a moment to review what I'd like to call Ben's Favorite things... aka his tack and equipment used on a daily basis.
I am not one to spend a lot of money on overly expensive gear. In fact, I generally hunt around for quality, but inexpensive things - especially for a young horse who is constantly growing and changing, and more apt to destroy new stuff.
That said, I had to start from ground zero with Ben. I didn't have any tack his size. So finding good deals was very important...but still cost a small fortune to outfit this horse over the course of a year.
This has been THE single most important piece of equipment that I had to resolve. Once Ben came out of training, I knew I had to get him a saddle. I opted to get exactly what he was being ridden in - a Wintec Isabell. Hell it was sticky, it fit him alright, and I liked the deep seat. It worked for a few months. But as I increased my time in the saddle, I just kept hitting a proverbial wall of pain. My hips were killing me. The twist was blocking me from allowing my leg to hang right. I was tightening mucles that needs to be more supple - and pissing off Ben in the process.
So, after several fittings and trials, I narrowed my choice down to an Albion Platinum Ultima w/ Genesis and a Kent and Masters S-Series. Both leather, but both worlds apart in price - more than $2,000 different. In the end, I just didn't love the Albion enough to justify the cost, and I was scared at all the fitting costs beyond the actual saddle. It was much easier to justify the $1800 I spent on the Kent and Masters.
And I LOVE it. Seriously, its a fantastic saddle for us. Adjustable tree, adjustable thigh blocks, adjustable billets.... narrow twist - my body completely relaxes when I ride in it. Ben, too, seems quite happy himself.
When I set out to get a bridle for the big man, I wanted to find something with a contoured mono or comfort crown. I found Schnieders to have exactly that - at a whopping $80. The only thing I didn't like much about this one was the crank noseband, just out of sheer simplicity. I've recently swapped the noseband out for a basic one I got off a Horze Daily Bridle purchased at half price for $35 as a back up.
I did actually spend a bit of cash on Ben's bit. When he was in training, he was ridden in a KK loose ring. I had tried to put him in something similar when he got back, but he was all fuss. So I splurged and got him his $130 bit.
#4 Saddle Pad
I started off with basic saddle cloths from Dover - and I really liked them. They are inexpensive and wash up quite nicely. But as the months pressed on, I was noticing white hairs cropping up all over Ben's back. Because he's such a bouncy/funky mover, I think the saddle was moving around a lot and taking the pad along with it. That was causing friction rubs. So I figured I'd try a sheepskin Numnah and I never looked back. Barn World has great prices - $75 for an Engel numnah is pretty good! I'll admit I bought an all-white one too, but I can't seem to take it out of the packaging to use, LOL. Next year I plan to get another black or navy pad to rotate into the mix.
#5 Stirrups & Irons
I detest bulky stirrups - so therefore all I use is Wintec Webbers. One day I'll upgrade to Bates, but for now, it isn't necessary.
Stirrups are also important to me because I tend to have achy hips, knees and ankles. Traditional irons are plain torture, as are jointed irons. I've tried changing out the pads, as well as adding the Super Comfort deals, to no avail. Last year I discovered wide-track composites, and fell back in love. Even more so, Horze.com has a product called "Reflex" Stirrups, which are wide track composites, but the foot bed has a bit of give to it. Fantastic. Once they come back in stock I'll be buying another set for my other saddle.
We've tried our fair share of girths this year- all in hopes of stabilizing our saddle. Anatomics (Prestige and Tekna), fuzzies, straights in neoprene, sheepskin, leather, you name it....we finally settled and enjoy the Ovation Airform Girth at a whopping $30. Mind you the anatomics alone sent us well over the $300 mark - but I was able to sell off the Prestige!)
These are important to Ben. He has a tendency to flail his legs about (less now than earlier this year), so as to prevent injury via knockage, we must boot him up to ride. During a summer sale, I opted to try SmartPak's sports boots for fronts and hinds. These have been fantastic. They wear well and are so easy to keep clean - I just pop them in the washer and then let them air dry. They do not crack, peel or anything - which were shortcomings of my Dover brand boots. My only wish would be for these to come in smalls so my friends with tinier horses could also enjoy them!
#8 Blankets, Sheets, and fleeces oh my!
Ben has a lot of hand me downs in this department. We've been lucky enough to have friends with large horses who no longer need their blankets. And while pushing 16.1, Ben is pretty short bodied and fits comfortably into true 78" 's, of which I have plenty of blankets. Our light weight sheet favorite is the Amigo Lite 600D. Fantastic when the temps are mild but protection from the wet (and subsequent mud) is still needed. Our slightly heavier sheet is a Schnieders Classic StormShield 1200 D. Once he got clipped and the temps dropped even more, we moved to a Pessoa Tundra, and have waiting in the wings a Schnieders StormSheild Body Armor, and a Horsewear high neck.
For riding though, ben also has a fleece quarter sheet we got for a whopping $13 from Horze. It is a lovely color, and though once too big, is now slightly too small since I hemmed it, LOL.
Living in the PNW where halters get rained on mercilessly, I wanted to find a classy, yet durable halter for ben. Rope halters get soaked, Nylon gets soaked, and to be honest, I'm not a fan of those. I'm not dumb or rich enough to let leather halters hang out all day outside either. A friend of mine introduced me to beta type halters, and by far, my favorite is one that Big D's sells. In black, you cannot tell this halter is NOT leather. For $30, it is a great buy.
So that is really it for Ben. Maybe we inspired a Christmas gift for
your special equine, or maybe we just posted a bunch of links for
nothing. Next post is all about the rider...