In which I talk about endurance gear that is no longer useful

The first time I went to a REAL endurance ride (the old Bully Wully 1998,) was also the first time I laid eyes on real endurance gear.

I felt that I had finally found my spiritual home in Henry Griffin's mobile tack store, and would cheerfully have made up a comfy place to stay forever among the nylon, biothane, gortex and rubberized nylon tack and accessories displayed for sale in the middle of a ridecamp parking lot.

I was poor in those days (some things don't change much) but there was something in Henry's display that I both wanted and needed: a crupper. My mare Story was built like a pickle barrel, with no discernible withers to keep the saddle from sliding up to her ears when we went down a steep trail.

Better than that, Henry had for sale a purple crupper. I was in heaven.
In later years, I replaced that first purple nylon crupper with a purple Zilco crupper, which held up better in our Swampish climate. I still have it...somewhere. But I don't use it anymore. Fiddle doesn't have withers, she has a dorsel fin. She doesn't need a crupper so I don't put it on her.

That got me thinking...

There have been a lot of tack shops in my life so far, and I've used a lot of different equipment combinations.

Some stuff (like the very first biothane bridle I ever bought, in 1999) I still have and still use.

Other stuff, like a handheld heart rate monitor, I discarded after the first event, because it wasn't nearly useful enough to justify hauling it around with me. (I am notoriously lazy about carrying stuff that I don't absolutely need).

(by the way, photos in this post are taken from catalogs--because I don't use this stuff any more!)

What else do I not use...and why?

Here are some more examples:
Ariat trail shoes cost about $100. Dublin makes a similar for about half the price. I wear out either brand in 2-3 years of 3-season riding. Why pay more?
I used interference boots one time at a ride, at the insistance of the horse's owner. This horse had never worn them before, because he didn't interfere. However, the owner's other horse needed interference boots, so she wanted them on the horse I was riding.

Ever hear the advice to "not do anything new at a ride"?

There's a reason that it's good advice. The horse ended up tripping continually for 10 miles until I finally disregarded the owner's exhortations to "let him get used to them" and strapped the boots to the breastcollar for the remainder of the ride. That was the end of that.

I also no longer use one of these:

Camelback hydration pack. I hate the weight on my back, and find that when I wear the pack I tend to lean forward. Since I already tend to lean forward (I have crummy posture, but I'm working on it!), the pack on my back was making a bad thing worse.

I do like having a Platypus bag in the rear pocket of my saddle bag, with the drinking tube clipped to my shoulder. I find that I drink a lot more water at a steady pace when there is no effort to reach for the suck tube. HOWEVER, I've also found that I almost always forget that it's clipped to my shoulder when I'm dismounting....yep, yanking that tube out of the saddlebag with my leg is just not graceful. I may return to the Platypus setup when I start travelling longer miles with Fiddle, as her large size and dark color dictates that she needs most of the waterbottle contents dumped on her body as we travel.

Which brings up another product I don't use much:
My friend Henry Griffin makes and sells these soft scoops. They have the tremendous advantage of being much quieter than the clatter-y plastic water scoops made from bleach bottles that many riders carry. (Jim has a gigantic plastic scoop made from a Tropicana bottle that he has carried for yonks...he found it on the trail somewhere in Oregon and adopted it for his own).

My objection to water scoops (vs. a sponge on a long string) is that the scoop requires that the rider get off the horse. My horse is tall. I am short. I don't get down from the saddle if I don't have to, because it's a freakin' long climb back up! I am capable of climbing up onto the side of a water tank and then onto my horse, so a water scoop isn't completely useless, but for most rides a sponge is more practical, especially when there are plenty of puddles to throw the sponge into along the way.

Speaking of the long climb back to the saddle, here's a piece of equipment that I will probably never use on Fiddle:

A tailing rope is used by Ride and Tie competitors and Uber Jocks who spend a lot of miles running beside the horse rather than riding astride the beastie. Yup, not very useful to me! When doing Ride and Tie-esque activities like trail-building, I use rope reins and tie those to the tree. No extra equipment required.

Doesn't this fleece saddle and fender cover look comfy? Real Marino wool, ummmm.

It turns out that padding the fenders of the saddle with fleece makes the barrel of my horse seem GIGANTIC. I felt like I was riding a Thelwell pony, and my back and hips were sore for a week afterwards. These days, I have a Merino fleece seat cover, and my stirrup leathers are just fine being naked.

Speaking of naked:

Padded knickers? It is to laugh. God has provided me with plenty of padding, thankyouverymuch. Jim tried the men's version of these, and he didn't like them much either, even though God skimped on his derriere padation.

Here's an example of how A Little More Isn't Always Better:

The Deluxe Stowaway pack has not only pouches on the front, but also bottle holders. Too much of a good thing for my taste. I like to strap my pouches to the pommel of the saddle, not onto the neck of the horse, and the Deluxe is too wide to do that gracefully. Also, I find that strapping the Deluxe onto the front of the saddle (as shown in the photo) means covering up a huge amount of hot horse. Not ideal. I use the smaller Stowaway packs, and they work fine--a water bottle in each pouch, and a few essentials in the middle pack.

I also briefly used and quickly discarded a ridecard/map pocket that clips to the breast collar. It sounded like a great idea...but turned out to be more of a pain than a help, and was just one more thing hanging off the side of my horse. It wasn't necessary, and the cards and maps fit just fine inside the fanny pack I always carry, so the extra pocket went into the used tack sale.

What about a heart rate monitor?

Well, after I ran my last set of HRM gear through the washing machine (the electronics don't work very well after that), I've been too stingy to go get another set. It's been about 5 years. Maybe I'll replace it eventually....maybe not.

I have a wristtop GPS, and I use it sometimes. However, with the amount of tree cover here in the Swamp, the GPS often doesn't get a good signal. Especially on cloudy days. We have a lot of cloudy days. My GPS gets left at home most of the time.

Other equipment that I've finally decided I don't need:

Glow-in-the-dark halter, which only glows for about an hour after sundown....which is NOT when I wake up wondering if my horse is where I put her. Also, this product is WHITE and shrinks in the wash...anybody want mine? It won't even fit over Fiddle's nose. These days I ziptie a glowstick to her halter (under her chin). It's usually still glowing by noon the next day.

I also no longer take billions of buckets to camp, although a former riding partner insisted we needed to carry them "just in case." In more than ten years of camping with horses, I've never needed more than a big water bucket, a small feed pan and a medium-sized bucket for each horse. The other buckets can just stay home!

Oh, and speaking of camping, who in the world invented hay bale bags?

What a ripoff. I've never had a bale bag last for an entire weekend without ripping a seam, breaking a zipper, or just losing a random torn-off bit. I put the last set into the recycle bin, and now I use a tarp. I've used the same tarp to wrap haybales for 3 years.

I wrote a whole blog post about containing horses in camp, and my negative experience with portable electric corrals.

I don't miss unravelling electric tape in high winds one little bit.

Finally, there's my riding crop. It's true, I rode with one for years. Now it's gathering dust in the trailer.

It turns out that Fiddle is one of those type-A perfectionistic horses who wants specific instructions rather than a general comment. She doesn't want a tap on her shoulder telling her to stop doing something. She responds best to a light poke from my spur to indicate that I want her to move a particular foot in a particular direction at this particular time.

Yes, my mare is a potential dressage diva, and if it makes communication with her easier, I'm happier to use the tool she prefers:

Jim bought me a pair of "bling" Prince of Wales spurs. The (purple) rhinestones are usually covered up by my halfchaps, but I know that I'm wearing something sparkley. I love that.

Using the POW spurs has also refined my leg cues--so I'm not working so hard to ask for something, and Fee doesn't have to work so hard to figure out what the heck I'm asking her to do.

So that's good.

Now it's time for reader feedback!

What equipment have you tried and discarded? What didn't work? What was incredibly inconvenient--or dangerous?

Share your experience in the comments!


  1. Will I see you on Friday /Saturday at Mt Adams?
    I would personally like to thank you for THIS POST!

    I was going to get one of those front packs, but what you said makes sense. I have a pack, and I think i will just stick with that, at least it's not on her neck.

    Money Saved; CHA CHING

    GPS and Heart Monitor:More money saved.

    Interference boots: WOW, I almost bought these yesterday!

    What I don't use? hmmmmm

    Her halter bridle by Haught, I use a leather side pull, until I can afford the Halter/Bitless combo from Haught.
    Hubby paid a lot for it, so we will use it until it falls apart!

    If you see the big Black and White paint in a pen by the check in area, thats us!I will most likely be right behind Darlene as I am her personal slave all day Friday and Saturday afternoon/Sunday.
    White Chevy with graphics on the side and white two horse trailer.

  2. So glad to be helpful! Of course, these are my experiences only, and your milage may vary. But hey, if somebody can save money, that's a good thing.

    I won't be at Mt. Adams ;-( because the money fairy forgot to bonk me this month. Ah, well. Watch for a pretty little dark filly in the "fun" ride--my friend Sky's little homebred Standie-arab cross will be doing her first "endurance" event. Tell her hi for me!

  3. Too bad you won't be at Mt Adams - but maybe there would be vendors scowling at you....

    I try to be a minimalist too - partly because if I add too many steps to getting tacked up, I will forget the critical ones, like tightening the girth.

    I haven't been doing this long enough to start discarding things yet, but some lessons carry over from other disciplines, like eventing, where protective boots get wet, heavy and hold heat on your horse's legs.

    I realised the technogadgets take too much time and fussing for me, and I am far from pushing those limits anyway.

    I did add some bling to my saddle pad, even though that covers some of its breathable surface in horrid heat-trapping plether. You can carry minimalism too far...

    Monica (I have a blogger login finally)

  4. Hmmm....

    Sheepskin cover: I'm loving it.

    HRM: Just ordered a new transmitter because I killed the old one.

    Crop: Won't ride without it on my sticky mare. A tap means "go".

    Electric fencing: so far, so good.

    GPS: Won't leave home without it.

    Ariat boots: Don't even talk about my lovely boots *LOL*!

    Splint boots: I do sometimes use them if I think terrain is rougher than usual.

    I should have found you first and saved a lot of money on all this stuff.

    My HUGE waste of money has been an Abetta saddle, a Sycamore Creek Saddle (she out grew it), a Wintec all purpose saddle, and my lastest sitting in the box Wintec VSD beautiful but doesn't work for me *sigh* saddle that I wish I could sell. If I added all these up I could have had my Eurolite by now .~E.G.

  5. Monica: isn't there always room for more bling? I love shiny/sparkley stuff!

    EG: ahhh, the ongoing search for the perfect saddle--that's a whole DIFFERENT post. Sigh. Fortunately, somebody bought my beautiful-but-didn't-fit-my-new-mare DeSoto saddle and paid enough to cover the cost of the Specialized (which I hope is my LAST saddle). However, there is still a Stubben and a couple of Wintecs of varying design hanging up in the tack room.

    re: riding crop, I needed it with the Toad. He was an attention deficit spazbucket, and I needed the crop to refocus his attention...about every 45 seconds. If I had used a spur on him, you would still be finding bits of my exploded body in distant states.

    Fee is completely different: she prefers the spur so I can be specific about my cues. She likes the Boucher bit better than a sidepull for the same reason: the sidepull gives general directions and the bit gives specific instructions.

    shaking head
    How did I end up with a Dressage Machine? I'll never know!

  6. Great post!

    I don't need a crupper either - thank heavens for a good set of withers! One less piece of tack to rub.

    TOTALLY agree with you on the boots and the camal back - both things I started with and discarded. I've discovered I really do like water bottles and I finally found the size I like and mounted them in the way I like and it's PERFECT.

    I do carry a sponge but never a scoop. I like the sponge because I don't feel like I have to use as much water to get the same effect.

    Your comment about the tailing lines were too funny. My reins are long enough when I unsnap them to tail her and I don't need a million feet of rope to jog. The getting up and down thing is why I have a 14 hand horse.... :)

    Ditto on the saddle cover. I still keep it around because it has SAVED me when I was sore and tired and I couldn't ride well bedause some injury or other was hurting - at the end of 20 MT 100 and on day 4 of death valley. SAVED MY BUTT. But nope, dont like to ride with it regularly.

    I've given up on all saddle bags on the market except the boot bags and gone to making my own. I couldn't be happier.

    Never tried the map and card I won't bother.

    Ditto for the heart rate monitor....

    I do use splint boots for Farley on the back because she's close behind and will nick herself. Fronts only go on for 100's with bad footing (it's possible I would have finished tevis last year if I had been wearing front splints....)

    We are going to have to agree to disagree on the bale bag thing. I LOVE it and it has held up very well!

    I ride with a crop in the arena, but never on the trail. One more thing to drop or stab myself with....

  7. too bad I wont see you at MT Adams!

    I will be doing Klickitat and Sunriver as my next two.

  8. Hi! Was surfing the web because I'm interested in trying endurance/ride-and-tie and found your blog. I've been reading it now for the past hour and I've learned a lot. I want to say thanks for giving such good advice on equipment and I also love the poetry. I'm a big fan of horses, dogs, mountain biking and poetry. I like your writing style, so I've bookmarked your blog. I'll be back to follow your adventures with Fiddle.

  9. Wow! This post was incredibly helpful and informative. Seriously! So many people only mention things they love and must have, but fail to talk about the items that were a waste of money or just weren't useful. Thank you!

    I might never to endurance rides, but I do intend to do overnight horse camping trail rides and ACTHA CTRs, so this post will be copied and saved if you don't mind.

    Oh! And I love what you said about, "Story was built like a pickle barrel, with no discernible withers to keep the saddle from sliding up to her ears" lol! That made me smile. Apache has a round pickle barrel, to, but she has a nice sized shark fin, too.


    I want to pick your brain on a few items, but I need to go check out your horse containment post, too.

    1)What are your favorite pairs of tights or breeches?

    2)Do you use a hay bag, or not? What is your favorite kind/brand?


  10. Lisa: Pacific Northwest riders, including me, swear by Carousel Tights...which unfortunately, is now closed (Colleen wanted some time to get out on the trails and ride her own standardbred!) I don't blame her--but I did order extra sets when she announced the closing so that I'd have some for a few more years. When they wear out, I don't know what I'll do. ;-(

    (The Carousel business is for sale, BTW, including the name + patterns. Maybe a reader here will buy it and become the new answer to my prayers?)

    Hay bag: yes, absolutely, I use a hay bag in the trailer and in camp (especially when it's muddy or windy). I got my current hay bag as a ride prize many years ago, but the hefty bags they sell at the feed store work just fine.

    Hay NET, no--Story once got a foot caught in a hay net (she was a food-pawing horse) and a lesser horse would have struggled and been seriously injured. Because she was Story, she stood quietly (for an hour, at least!) until I showed up and untangled her foot with no injury. I threw the net away that day. Never again.

  11. I keep thinking about taking the hydration bag out of the backpack and stowing it in a pommel bag. It's just that I don't have a pommel bag yet! The backpack bites into my armpits :(


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