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Friday, February 12, 2010

You get what you pay for - sometimes

Two things happened yesterday
1.  My trainer told me it's time to start working on our stretchy trot!  Whoohoo!  More than anything I feel like this signifies that I have moved up a level in dressage.  Not only do I have 3 decent gaits (and a canter transition that is *almost* there), I get to start working on movements within the gaits. 
2.  While at Panera tapping away on my ipod, responding to comments from my beloved BB's, I had a thought.  "I'm going to ride a 100 mile race in boots".  This, of course, immediately set up a panic reaction that had me reaching for my paper bag and while focused on taking deep breathes, I thought "This is all their fault.  If  I had never started reading and writing blogs, I would have blissfully gone on my way doing what I have always done instead of trying to do something crazy like ride a 100 in boots when I don't even have ONE completion at this distance yet!!!!!".  Seriously.  This is crazy.  It's one thing to say "Oh yeah, I'm doing it in boots", and another to really internalize that I'm going to ride 100 miles in boots. 
Today I would like to talk about purchases where it worked out really well to buy as cheaply as possible.....and other purchases that didn't work out so well.  I'd love to hear about your experiences as well.  What did you buy cheap that you will never again? 
Be a Scrooge and Save your $$!!
  • Blankets - with a bit of research you can find a mid weight turn out for under $50.  If you are like me, you only blanket at rides so chances are the horse is not going to shred and destroy.  Both my turnouts are Saxon brand, bought on sale for under $50 and they ARE waterproof. 
  • Schooling bridles.  I have a couple of brown, cheap schooling bridles that were either free or I got in trades.  I keep a close eye on the leather and the stitching, but so far have had ZERO problems with them. 
  • Saddle pads - this is in both categories.  Either buy cheap or buy expensive, but don't mess around with the mid-priced pads.  I have a whole bunch of really cheap pads that I use for schooling and short rides.  Most of them are used dressage pads that are faded or look funky so people were selling cheap.  They are perfectly functional and I'm only invested at ~$5 a pad.
  • Helmets.  If the $25 one fits you and you are comfy, you don't need a $75 one. 
  • TIghts.  Buy used.  You are just going to destroy them on the trails.
  • Sponges.  They are all the same.  Really.  And if you buy and expensive one, the trail will rip is off your saddle without you noticing. 
  • Sunglasses.  It's not worth riding endurance in expensive ones.  First of all they are going to roll around in your saddle pack.  Then you are going to drop them when you take them out to put them on.  If they are only $10 sunglasses you will make the right decision of whether to ride on, or stop to pick them up.  Assuming you DO dismount and pick them up, expect them to become scratched by branches and brush that you can't see because of the ridiculously wide brim you have velcroed to your helmet. 
  • Leadropes.  I make my own from cotton rope and a clasp of my choice.  It has lasted longer than any store bought leadrope I've ever owned.  My preference is a cotton one made out of marine rope, but only Parelli makes them with the right rope and clasp and I refuse to pay his prices. 
  • Ice boots.  I have a pair of ice horse boots and they are "OK".  By being a bit inventive you can come up with something equally as good. 
  • Fancy water bottles.  They are just going to get lost on the trail anyways.  Better to buy cheap and have lots and lots extras in your crew bag. 
Take a deep breath and plunk down your cold, hard, cash.  There's no way around it.
  • Reins.  Just. Don't. Be. Cheap.  I'm serious.  I bought 3 pairs of feedstore reins that I was *sure* that would they broke one by one.  That's $100 in reins.  Just buy the right ones from the start.  And if no one carries them in your area - order them.  Really.  It's no more trouble to order them than to have your cheap set break in the middle of the ride.  Trust me on this. 
  • Bits.  There IS a difference between a 20 dollar bit and an 80 dollar bit.  I know they look the same hanging on the wall and the SHOULD function the same way, but they don't.  Now, Farley is the type of horse that is fussy about her bit.  It has to be PERFECT and it can't squeak in any annoying ways.  So maybe you can get away with the $15 D ring snaffle in your feed store.  Lucky you.  I have a whole pile of cheap bits that Farley refuses to be good in. 
  • Saddle pads.  In both categories.  A good pad will cost you $100 and will be worth every penny if you are doing endurance.  In my (not so humble) opinion If you can't get away with a cheap pad, then you need a $100 pad.  It is extremely doubtful you will find something in the $50 range that will work. 
  • Stirrups.  Buy good stirrups for distance rides and do not try to "substitute" parts on your nice stirrups.  I bought a pair of easy ride stirrups used and someone had tried to save $8 by replacing the top bar and bolts with something they had at home that "looked" right.  Their "fix" left me stranded in the middle of a 55 mile race with a non-functioning stirrup. 
  • Winter gloves.  Buy something suitable for riding, even if it's going to cost you $30 or more.  I have a CLOSET full of unsuitable thick gloves.
  • Standing wraps and quilts.  There is a difference - the cheaper ones are stretchier (standing wraps) and thinner (quilts).  Do not skimp on this. 
The verdict is out - I'm not sure if it matters or not....
  • Girths.  I've had mixed experiences with cheap girths (I use cord or string girths exclusively), but I'm not convinced my $50 mohair is THAT much better than my $15 nylon...however it's DEFINATELY better than my $17 "mohair" girth I just got. 
  • Saddle.  As long as it fits you and the horse, does it matter what the saddle cost?  My Arabian solstice is certainly the most comfy saddle I've ever ridden in and I LOVE it, however I liked my cheaper saddles much better than the used Specialized I bought (and then resold). 
  • Regular weight riding gloves.  My SSG all weather gloves (~$25) have lasted 3 seasons so they were obviously a good investment.  But is there something cheaper that would have done it just as well?  Maybe.
  • Biothane tack.  I've used Zilco and Hought tack.  Hought is ~2x as much as zilco.  I like my Hought tack better and after using my zilco pieces for a season or two, have gradually gone back to my Hought pieces.  There isn't anything I can put my finger on, my the "feel" of the Hought stuff is very pleasing. 
  • Leg protection boots.  I use Griffin boots and I've been very happy.  But since I haven't tried the more expensive boots, or the cheaper boots, it's hard to say.  I don't like SMB boots and adore polos for arena work, but that probably has more to do with my background than which one is a better value. 
  • Electrolytes.  I use the cheap ones from the feedstore, and you can also make them cheaply.  Are the expensive ones that much better?  Not sure. 
Alright my dear BB's.  It's your turn.


  1. Ok I have a question... What is the reason that no-one uses leather tack for endurance? Is it to heavy? Are you afraid it will break? My absolute favorite reins are leather, and I've had them for years.

  2. See, I think gloves are just as "disposable" as sunglasses. If I spend more than $20 on sunglasses or gloves, I am going to lose them on the trail or the horse will step on them or some other catastrophe will destroy them. A $10 pair of liners (for cold weather) plus a $10 pair of comfortable gloves from Home Depot is all I need.

    The corollary to this is that I've had the same pair of $12 sunglasses for two years now.

  3. I have been stumbling around the issue of biothane tack or not biothane tack. One of your recent equipement posts helped me to make the final decision .. so thanks...that decision turned out to be...(which I was leaning toward but neeeded the little push).. HOLD OFF for now. The main part of my struggle to decide somewhere between aesthetic appearance (they are so neat and pretty)but I hated all the hardware.. I hate hardware because it breaks.(clip on reins) and as far as getting a feel on the reins and communicating with my horses through the reins, I prefer my slobber straps. Apparently, I can't have it both ways. Ease of a halter/bridle combo with slober straps.Believe me I have tried. I may have mentioned in a previous comment, my hubby makes my bridles and halters for all of our horses. (sorry , not trying to advertise, just trying to make a point)he does beautiful work, all out of fancy knot tying and braiding and yacht rope/cord. In fact he just finished one for Maggie for me. (I will have to get a photo and put it on my blog)Eventually I imagine I will get a biothane set up one of these days but for now, I have a pretty decent set up. I'll heed your advice and save my pennies. I am going to need a second saddle for Maggie!

  4. A tip about sunglasses. Dark shooting glasses work well (Winchester is the cheapest I've found, less than $10) because they wrap around your face and protect the sides of your eyes from errant branches. I can't tell you how often I've gotten lucky because of my shooting glasses; they also come in clear and amber colored and I wear a pair on every trail ride. Losing my eye to a swinging branch or pine needle is not on my "fun things to do" list.

  5. Breanna - I think the reason most people don't use leahter in endurance is because of the amount of sweat and dirt that it must whistand. Sweat and dirt (as you probably all know) is the enemy of leather and it's just really hard to keep the leather in good condition in the long term doing endurance, which makes it more likely to break or to get stiff and rub the horse (I've had both problems, but the getting stiff and rubbing was the one that irritated me the most). I'm a HUGE leather fan so I was relucntant to join the synthetic crowd, but now I have a bit of both and it's a good thing.

    Gun diva - I've had my eye on a pair of (expensive) shooting glasses that the lenses pop in and out of, AND the come with foam inserts that go around your eyes to make them like goggles AND the either strap on or use traditional ear pieces.....They look really COOL. *sigh* Yes, the cheaper ones would do the job just as well.....

    I TOTALLY agree with you on wearing clear/other colored at night. It's IMPOSSIBLE to see the hanging brush.

    Jonna - I did the same thing - I was leaning towards the biothane talk (think "squirrel" and "PRETTY"...) but it was so dang heavy and had so much hardware! I have specific biothane pieces (breastcollar) for the specific reasons mentioned in the posts, but not much else. I do LOVE my snap on bridle (I snap it onto my rope halter) I think beccause it actually eliminates some of the hardware of having the chin strap, etc. One thing I worry about the headstall is the weight and how skinny the crown piece is. I'm thinking about asking the houghts to sew a bit of padding up there to make it more comfy. She doesn't seem bothered, but I'm bothered by the thought of course.

    You and I diverge at the thought of clip on reins. I LOVE the clips and it was the first thing I did when I started endurance - changed all my reins over to the clips. Now that I've started dressage, I've found I prefer my leather non-clip reins, but for non-dressage days, I use my clips. I know they will breeak, but honestly I would rather have a clip break than my reins.

    I started endurance on a hrose that was impossible to bridle so once it was on the beginning, it did NOT come off at vet checks, so having clip off reins was essential. It's also nice to not have to carry a leadrope.

    Jonna - no problem mentioning your husbands work here! Ha! you are so funny...I actually found myself coveting a set for my own....Good luck on your saddle search!

  6. I disagree -- there are plenty of good midrange products out there. You must have just bought some horrible reins -- I usually buy the low-mid range ones (not the cheapest, but I ain't spend $100 on stupid reins) and I have NEVER had a pair fail or break and I event and do long trail rides at all speeds.

    If you don't want to lose your sunglasses, but a set of chums on them so they don't fall off.

    I can't think of a single item that I would automatically go for the expensive version. Or even one where the most expensive version is the best. In my long experience, the most expensive thing has usually been so only because of the brand name or the trend, neither of which is a good reason to buy a product.


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