In which a tack catalog inspires some philosophical stuff

(My posts will be photo-lite for a week or so because I finally turned my dinosaur of a laptop into a paperweight.  Jim graciously lends me his machine, but it's the same age as my former dino, and I'm trying not to paperweight-ify it)

The State Line Tack catalog arrived yesterday. 

I love tack catalogs.  I browse through them endlessly, gawking at the shiny stuff, the leather stuff, the plastic stuff, the purple stuff, the bottles and bags and boxes of stuff. 

Looking through the catalog got me thinking about STUFF, and about endurance riding.  When I started riding endurance, I figured I needed THE RIGHT STUFF:  the right saddle pad, the right saddle, the right packs, the right electrolytes...and so forth.

Now that I've done endurance for a while, I find that I don't buy much stuff anymore.  I did a whole post last year about stuff I bought that I don't use anymore.  (That post is HERE).   If I buy stuff these days, it's usually a replacement for something I use frequently that has gotten emptied out, worn out, broken, or torn. 

However, I know some people who seem to spend more time shopping than riding.  There's a woman in my region always seems to be seeking the "endurance magic bullet":  the STUFF (whatever it might be) that will make her into a good rider.  She's bought Arabs, expensive Arabs, gaited horses, and horses that have done 100's (although she has not yet gone farther than a 50).  She's bought (and then sold again) custom saddles, treeless saddles, synthetic saddles, saddles with biothane parts, saddles with free-range organic Italian leather parts (I might be exaggerating slightly on that, but not much).  She's used every kind of horse shoe and boot and barefoot trimming technique I've ever heard of.  She's used Mylar bits, bitless bridles, sidepulls and hackamores and I haven't kept track of what else.  The list goes on...but after expending an amazing amount of money and energy, the list of her actual rides is remarkably short. 

That doesn't work for me. 

After thinking about it overnight, I've concluded that I've only made a two "endurance purchases" that actually made a big difference in my (self-defined) success rate as an endurance rider.  I think my list may surprise some of my readers, as it doesn't include a saddle, or special horse shoes, or even a particular kind of horse.  I have preferences about those things, but they aren't the items that have made the biggest impact. 

The big-impact items are:

Before I had my own rig, I was very limited in the kind of riding I could do.  I've always kept my horse where there are at least a few miles of trails that I can access "out the back door," but a ten mile trail gets really boring when that's all that's available day-in, day-out.  Before I had my own rig, I had to catch rides with other people, and thus was dependent on their schedules and training agendas.  Before I had my own rig, the only trainer available to me was one I could get to without a trailer. 

With the trailer, I am able to ride out more frequently, and choose my riding partner(s).  I can also choose to ride without a partner. I can (and do) spontaneously decide to go for a ride without having to plan ahead much.  I can meet other people at trailheads, or I can offer a ride to somebody I want to ride with; Jim and I like to ride together, but not necessarily with a large group, and not having to borrow a trailer lets us do that. 

Because I have my own trailer, I can choose the events *I* want to attend, rather than being limited to tagging along on the events that other people want to attend.  I can choose the event(s) that fit my training goals.  And, because it's my rig, it only impacts me if I decide to stay home at the last minute because of finances or weather or just "because." 

I mentioned above that, before I had my own rig, the only lessons available to me were those that I could get to without a trailer.  That's a huge limitation.  I could read books, I could watch videos, I could audit clinics...but I am a kinetic learner.  I learn by "doing."  For years, the only instructor available to me gave me some good basic stuff...but I needed more, and I couldn't get it.  That was really frustrating. 

This instructor also had some gaping holes in her training and knowledge, and it was hard to work around those.  Her horses always had sore backs (even the non-endurance horses).  She tried different saddles, different saddle pads, different feed strategies, different chiropractors, but the sore backs were chronic.  You can see where this is going, can't you?  Yep: the soreness was caused by the riders. The riders were all taught by the same instructor.  The riders all had the same posture problems. The instructor couldn't see the problems, and so she didn't work to fix them. 

When I taught karate (many many moons ago) there was a regional testing of students twice each year.  At that test, from the front of the room, we could pick out each instructor's students without glancing at the scorecards.  Mr X's students had a quirky sidekick.  Mrs Y's students had a unique hand posture in slow forms.  Mr Z's students tended to lean forward while sparring. 

The same can be observed in the students of riding instructors.  Some have posture issues.  Some have leg position issues, some have horses that consistantly spook at nothing...and so on.  

At the karate tests, we would discuss what we saw in the students and then after returning home we would work to fix the problems other instructors had seen.  A really good equestrian trainer will evaluate his/her own students (or ask somebody else to evaluate them) to find the consistant problems, and then work to correct the problems.

I knew that I needed to find somebody to correct my posture problems and help me keep my horse's back pain-free.  I found an instructor whose students don't have those issues and now I (mostly) don't have them either.  (My posture is a work in progress; Fee's back is strong and not sore). 
So now here's the question for readers:
What have you done, bought, or learned for your horse or yourself that makes a big difference?  What didn't make much difference? 
For non-endurance people, same question.  What makes a difference and what doesn't? 
The comment box is open and waiting for your wisdom.


  1. most important purchase: a chevy.

    aarene, truck before trailer! *lol*--it came soon after. but you're right. before having my own rig, there was no way. actually it went like this for me: crew my first endurance ride, BUY RIG immediately.

    the thing about endurance that we love so much, there is a magic bullet. it's the best one of all. ride your horse.

  2. I bring no wisdom.

    Instead, I bring a question that has been a source of curiosity for YEARS.

    I once saw this weird little doo-dad advertised in an endurance magazine that, uh, made it possible for girls to pee standing up. You kind of put it "down there" like it was a kotex and it had a little plastic tube, and voila--- "problem" solved - no blaringly white heiny put on display everytime you needed to pee.

    Have you, or has anyone else you've ever know... has ANYONE ever used one of those? I'm dying to find out how it worked.

    WV: undifo - the act of creating strange little plastic knickknacks that eradicate gender peeing inequalities.

  3. PS: I don't actually think it would be useful. I just want to pee standing up. I admit it. I'm jealous.

  4. BECKY, I think we need another post, dedicated entirely to stuff in tack catalogs that seems totally bizarre.

  5. Like you, it's my own rig (truck and trailer and I'm a Chevy gal) and good instruction that have made the most difference in my riding. The more I ride, the better my horses do. Unfortunately, it's hard for me to ride anytime but weekends, but when I win that lottery...::dreams big:::

    I do love Endure fly spray. We get horrible horse flys and deer flys down here and Endure works really well.

    I love my bicycle jerseys with zippered pockets in the back for holding my cell phone and camera when riding.

    I love the cantle bag I got on sale that has a water bottle holder, and I love my water bottle too, for it is hot and humid and hot and humid in middle GA during the summers and hydration is everything.

    I love cheap camp chairs for leaving in the trailer so I can sit and enjoy a cold, adult beverage with my friends while my mare is enjoying hay at the end of our rides.

    I love the bucket hangers that allow me to hang a water bucket from the side of the trailer for my mare. I especially love that my mare will drink out on trail when we cross a creek or when she's back at the trailer.

    I love my Garmin Forerunner 305 that tracks where I ride (and run) because I'm a compulsive geek nerd when it comes to shiny, techno toys. *g*

    So, no magic bullets in my list, but a lot of useful things. One of my best riding instructors used to say that the best training tool is a wet saddle pad. So true!

    Instructors who rock:
    Nancy Gosch (in GA, now retired; she did more for my seat than anyone), who told me that I could jump cross country in the dark and because she believed that I could, I did, too! And she was right.
    Grits McMullen outside Ottawa, Canada: For being the sunniest person who believes in me and my mare.
    Kathleen Lindley and Mark Rashid for opening my mind to the way I think about training and working with my horses.

  6. For me: Hands Down-Riding Lessons and Clinics.


  7. Obviously the rig. Though someday I want a rig that is more like Aarene's—a mobile stable and studio apartment in one.

    The CHEAP magic bullet for me has been SlimFast/Ensure shakes. I used to get dizzy and nauseated at the end of any ride of more than 25 miles, to the point that I was very near passing out at Mt. Adams one year. Drinking a protein shake right before starting and having another waiting for me at each VC means that I finish the ride feeling almost normal now. :)

  8. Ok, while out walking the dog in the 114 degree heat, I thought about winter. The Mountain Horse Winter Jacket is wonderful. So are those chemical insole inserts that I stick in my shoes that keep my toes warm, and Grits from Canada bought me Eddie Bauer Guide Gloves. They're very expensive, but they're the only gloves I've found that keep my fingers warm and there's enough feel on the reins.

    But yeah, lessons from a good instructor are the best magic bullet there is.

    (And now I will quit spamming your comments, but I just had to share!;)

  9. Good Saddles, Mylar combination bits, good tack in general, good socks & LOVE my Garmin GPS!

  10. I agree 100%. Good instruction is priceless. All the gear in the world isn't going to make you a better rider. An instructor who can verbalize not only the how but the why makes a huge different.

    Anyhow... Still waiting for my own pony, so I haven't really had to worry about getting a lot of STUFF.

    But for me, as a horseless teenager and now a horseless teenager-at-heart, I would have to say my full chaps. When I started riding my friend's horses (i.e. not schoolies), they gave me the sticking power to ride out the unexpected spook or buck.

    In summer, I didn't have to worry about the pricker bushes on the trails.

    In winter, I layered them over PJ bottoms/long johns and jeans, keeping me toasty--well, as well as you can be in the elements--and preventing my pants from getting frozen stiff when I hauled water.

    Heck, the summer I was seventeen, they probably saved me from wearing out my jeans--I was riding so much.

    Aside from that, a good pair of paddock boots. My Ariats (scratch & dent!) are going on strong after five plus years of hard work.

  11. Great post... I'm a sucker for a tack catalogue.

    I think once you find the right horse and the right riding conditions, your need for "stuff" diminishes.

    I've just been trail riding lately (hoping to head to endurance next year) and have taken great delight in getting rid of all of the old (but nice) English tack, western show tack, etc. etc. that I have been hanging on to.

    I would love my own truck and trailer so I can get out more, but that might take a few years yet.

    Riding lessons from the right instructor are crucial - I just recently stopped taking lessons from one lady because I realized she was holding me back - she instilled a lot of fear in her riders (not on purpose) and I don't need that sort of environment.

    Wow -sorry for the long comment - this post just highlighted so many neat ideas!

  12. I love stuff, but more to ogle than buy. I do NEED a truck and trailer though.

  13. Becky - Ask and you shall receive.

    My friends bought them. Didn't work as well as they hoped. With practice, it might be ok.


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