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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label reviews+clothes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reviews+clothes. Show all posts

September 5, 2014

Who Knew Horze Sold The Holy Grail Of Bell Boots?

The Unicorn Boots
No-turn bell boots…that DON’T TURN?!!!  You heard me right.

Boots of riding past had me convinced that I might as well hope for a unicorn.  Or even more improbable, a horse that never goes lame!  While I will probably die without seeing the latter, I didn’t have to clap my hands or chant, “I do believe, I do believe…” to realize this dream (I don’t ask much, honestly!).

The Magic Bell Boots

I was delighted when Horze.com inquired as to my interest in testing a few products; I may or may not have perused their site with covetous eyes before.  Delight turned into ecstasy (ok, I’ll admit it, horse owners are weird) when I looked down after a three-hour workout, nearby in VA's Occoneechee State Park.  Not only had these sturdy Horze No Turn Bell Boots STAYED PUT for the entirety of Encore’s tripping trotting carefully through the woods playing “dodge-the-stump-hole” & “I didn’t see those large rocks, *stumble fumble* I was looking at the lake,” but there was not even a hint of a rub on his wussy skin.

Horze No Turn Bell Boots
More Loves: 
The only shortfall I can see is if your horse has jumbo feet; Encore wears a size 2 shoe (for comparison, Solo is a completely average size 0) up front & a Large in pull-on bell boots.  Thankfully, helpful reviews on the Horze website suggested ordering a size up, so these are the largest option, the XF (eXtra-Full).  While they fall in just the right spot for my boy, an equine Sasquatch would need to look elsewhere unless larger models are offered.

Bridle matchy thrills Encore
AND Gloves!

Horze didn’t stop at the grail, though.  My grin of matchy delight got even bigger when I put on the Horze Lyon Synthetic Leather Gloves.  In the dripping environs of NC, I am constantly on the lookout for affordable, lightweight, breathable, lightweight, technical, lightweight (see a trend?) fabrics.  Wow, do we have a win! 

I love the sporty design with the nearly-transparent contrast fabric across the backs & the soft glove material slides easily on, erm, skin that sweats like a pig.  They’re also thin enough that I retain actual manual dexterity while wearing them, a rare & wonderful find. 

And the grip!  I use web reins interwoven with strands of rubber (solid rubber reins are too big & heavy for me) and these babies had one of the best grips I have ever felt; something I value highly on a horse who shakes his head hard…because his bangs tickle his ears.  :/ 

Camera flash bleach-out, boo
Only one concern haunts me.  I have a history of glove massacre due to my enormous hands (seriously, they measure ~8" from fingertip to wrist) and long fingers; I wish I could do without, but I also have baby skin that falls off with the least provocation.  As a result, I usually buy gloves in men’s M or L.  The single on-site review at Horze gave me some hope, as it was written by another person with giant man-hands.  Alas, despite ordering the XL (only women’s sizes were available), they are still too short from fingertip to wrist.  They feel amazing, though, so I will baby them with hope that the seams will hold out against my mutant extremities (I have the same problem with socks, sigh). 

For those of you lucky (all other) people who have normal-sized lady hands, however, these are a super prospect for hot days and sweaty reins!  *gets on knees & begs Horze for mega-sizes*

Both get a “very well done” from me thus far!  Thank you, Horze, because I can’t wait to sport our colour-coordinated awesomeness in our lesson next weekend!  I usually do something stupid, but at least this time, I’ll look good doing it.  

The matched set in dark blue
Career as model: unlikely

December 6, 2013

Want The Most Amazing T-Shirt Of All Time?

Well then, as always, my dear friends, I am here for you.

But like everything here at TFS, we can never do it alone.

This project probably started several years ago, floating around in my very strange head associated with good intentions, but it never bumped into the two necessary reagents to complete its synthesis (wow, bad organic chemistry flashback):  time and motivation.

I wandered deeper into the magical forests of Bloggerland and met new people with new ideas and as our ideas began to co-mingle, opportunity came knocking.

Is your heart pounding in your chest with suspense?  Have you caught your breath waiting for the curtain to open?  (If not, well, you need to go look up some LOLcats or something, you are taking life far too seriously.)

Without further ado, then, I bring you....

Yeah.  If you steal it, I find you in your sleep.  Just sayin'.
Yes, it IS an Official Logo, designed cooperatively with the most amazing, patient, creative, thoughtful, and professional Kate at PolarSquareDesigns.com.  You may know her better from her musings on her adorable mare and her gorgeous, hand-painted saddle pads featured on The Adventures of Lucy blog (yes, apparently she does sculpture as well, there appears to be no end to her talent).

Now I fully admit to being an OCD art snob, and as previously mentioned, I had a very definite vision.  This is most likely the definition of the designer's worst nightmare.   I had watched Kate's artwork for a while and there was an undercurrent of true talent that caught my eye (if you have not checked out her sketchbook, GO THERE).  I saw a distinct identity, but I also saw the ability to explore different media and stylistic modes and do it well, which is rare, so I decided to entrust her with my brainchild (probably much to her later chagrin). 

It gets better.  Since I was recently contacted by Beck Jordan from Allied Shirts (a sister brand to Build-A-Sign, who printed my license plate and bumper stickers, and Printcopia, who...well, now's their chance!) with an offer to print a shirt with the graphics of my choice for online review.  So, with a frantic email to Kate (who had already been working with me on the logo) after finding out I had eight days to pull together my dilly-dally-ing and order, we channeled our collective energies and out came this!

TA-DAAA!
Ummm, yeah, in my own totally valid humble opinion, it turned out amazing.  Allied had offered us a shirt from their basic line, which is printed on Gildan shirts (there are endless options, including Hanes Beefy-T's and girly little things by American Apparel).  To be honest, I expected one of those super-thin, square, shapeless things you get from cheap printing companies, you know the ones I mean! 

Supposed to be one-sided; they let me add a back tribute for Kate!
I did not realize I knew the brand until I got the shirt and saw the tag -- we have used the same brand for our field t-shirts for the state agency I work for.  Well, I can tell you, I have hiked, snorkeled (which includes dragging myself across rocks and sand on the river bottom), sweated, and rolled in those shirts; they can take some abuse.  I usually end up (a) getting outboard grease all over it, (b) staining it a remarkable shade of blotchy brown from ground in mud and rock slime, or (c) sweating in it so much it assumes its own form (hey, NC summers are even hot underwater), all well before the shirt has any structural failures!  Ours are usually grey with a black logo, but they don't fade or shrink when washed either.  Point:  this ain't a wussy shirt.    

An even awesomer surprise (and I mean this in a nice way, you never know what you are going to get online) was the quality of the printing.  The colours were perfect and saturated and the Solo-orange even has a tiny bit of a metallic bronze or something to it, really making it pop.  I don't even want to wear it because I don't want it to get dirty...

As of today, I have not had a chance to wash it.  I did try it on, I had ordered a small since the sizes were listed as "unisex," which us ladies know usually means "square man-sized" and I have plenty of experience with that due to work uniform orders!  It fit perfectly. 

So while I can't tell you yet how it will fare with use, I can tell you -- that plate and sticker mentioned above? -- one is on the front of my truck, the other on the back of my trailer.  They sit outside all year around and travel to multiple states.  I wash the truck maybe 4-5 times per year (not counting rain) and the trailer...never.  Both, I just observed last week, are pretty much perfect after two years of neglectWe won't discuss the bumper it's mounted under...  The black graphics on the plate have faded just a little, but in Carolina UV/heat, I'm not sure that's avoidable!  My hope is that this printing will live up to that precedent! 

Yes, yes, I will be riding around with my horse's name plastered on everything I own.  Your point?

I have to give HUGE props to Kate for putting up with my 10 million tweaks, my nit-picky questions, and my completely unpredictable schedule followed by 'OMG WE HAVE EIGHT DAYS, GO!'  She made it happen, even when we had file-type conflicts and, errr, operator error.

And THANK YOU to Allied Shirts, for doing such a great job printing our design (fast, it was in my hands in days) and letting me say thanks to a designer who went wayyyy above and beyond!  Go try it out for yourself!  I am now pondering going forward with a related project which would create goodies for you, lucky readers... 

Most of all, thank you Kate, for capturing and bringing to life my vision of a unique way to honour my very special buddy and also, to represent our future adventures at...

July 20, 2013

Lusting After Your Own Absorbine TryPak???

That title ought to get me some Google hits, ha!  But you know you are.

Well, now you can win one.  And I'm going to tell you how.

Get ugly.

That's right.  And now I'm going to explain (apparently, I'm in the mood for announcing intent).

Snif.
We all know us working class horse people are broke.  Some of us more than others.  As a result, I do not buy a replacement item until its predecessor has well and truly collapsed into a panting corpse at my feet and gasped its final effort.

Example.  My VERY favourite gloves, a pair of mesh-backed Moxie gloves, never too slippery, never too sticky, always comfortable, inexpensive, and with a lifespan of TWO YEARS, as opposed to 6-10 months for my traditional SSG All-Weathers.

As an aside, I do now own a pair of SSG Digitals and another of SSG 10 Belows (sale on both) and they are worlds above the All-Weathers and so far excellent after their first year. 

When I finally had to give up on my dear Moxies, my skin was getting peeled off because they looked like...well, just look left.

It was a real shame -- had it been any other finger but my rein finger, they would have lived on, because the top still looked like...yep, look down.

2 yrs, perfectly fine!
I happened to be in a tack shop and replaced them with a pair of leather and mesh Heritage pull-ons...which got the first hole in the finger (I apparently have devil monkey claw fingers and toes, you should see my socks!) in ONE WEEK.  BooHiss.  This is what I longed in today (below).  The rest of the summer fall will be spent in a pair of sale SSG crochet-backs.

What they look like today.  I just cut off the fingers when they fell apart.
OMG, woman, this is the longest contest description ever!  Yes, you're right.  But here's what you do:

-Click the email link in my sidebar and send me an email titled "My Awesomest Gear." 
-Attach a photo to that email of your most persistent piece of equipment (dang, I should have taken a picture of my half chaps that are legally old enough to drive!). 
-If I don't get some photos of duct tape and hay string, I'm going to cry.
-Make sure all photos are submitted by Thursday, August 1st.

I want to see ugly, I want to see determined, I want to see creative!  However, said piece of equipment must still be in regular use.  I'm going to count on your honour for that!  I will post the top ten photos and the FIVE most talented salvagers (that's right, say thank you to Absorbine generosity) will be chosen by my mere whimsy careful scientific rankings to receive your very own Limited Edition TryPak Of Shiny Goodness to rock out in travel-size convenience at your next show or just to wave around the barn to the envy of everyone else.

Get out there and start collecting photos!!  May the most desperate poverty-warrior win!!

June 22, 2011

This Is How We (Don't) Roll: Majykal Cooling Products

I've often eyed those fancy CoolMedics vests online -- they claim to keep your core temperature down through evaporative cooling.  But at almost $200 a pop, I wasn't going to "just try it out."  However, our BO just bought one and I soaked it up and put it on yesterday evening.  I mounted Solo and awaiting my cooling miracle.

We only rode briefly and if you know anything about Carolina summers, you know they are filled with the air you can chew. Did the clouds part and angels sing as I was miraculously cooled? Ummmmm, no. I basically felt like I was riding wearing a heavy, wet towel. Ick. I suppose you might have better luck if your summer includes low humidity and constant breezes, but since that doesn't happen here, I'm going to keep my $200, thank you very much.

I am going to try their (much cheaper) neck scarf to see if it works any better -- cool water on the neck always feels good and doesn't block air from getting to your body.  But as far as the torso goes, I'm sticking to my wicking shirts; they WORK and even better, they are often less than $10.  That's what I'm talking about!

March 12, 2011

This Is How We Roll: Safety Vests

This week has been spent rebuilding Solo's muscle and fitness.  Which means transitions, lateral work, hill work, and longeing.  Which means he is b.o.r.e.d.  As he comes out of the barn, he says "Please god, don't take me to the sandbox again.  PLEASE GOD!"  Today, a long wander through the woods on a warm sunny day is in order!

We are back to the vet next Thursday to check blood levels, etc and hopefully progress will continue.

This morning though, I wanted to talk about safety vests. A must-have item for any aspiring eventer and generally falling into the "big ticket item" category at prices from $100 to $500. Fortunately, unlike helmets, you can fall on them repeatedly without having to replace. Whew.

But the air vests are $800, you insist. Yes, yes they are. And they also require a conventional vest underneath. And they also have failed to provide me with sufficient data that they are anything more than yet another product riding on a tide of very successful marketing. I know there are people out there who claim, "It saved me!" but I claim, no, your conventional vest underneath and your helmet saved you. It's simple physics: an air vest CANNOT PROTECT YOU FROM A 1200 POUND HORSE CRUSHING YOU. Not going to happen; for that you need a rigid structure, like the Woof Exo's magnesium cage, which I have recently heard will soon no longer be available? An airbag will also not protect your neck from any of the torsional injuries which are usually associated with a fall from a horse; once again, you would need a rigid, fixed structure for that. In fact, it will not doing anything more than offer a bit of cushion from bumps and blows. Which is exactly what the conventional vest you are already wearing does. So, to this particular scientist, I cry redundancy.  However, if data (anecdotes do not equal data) does become available, I am open to hearing about it!

That said, if folks have the money and simply want to wear it (or you are a BNR and you get a free one, but then I doubt you are reading this smurf blog, ROFL!), knock yourself out. I do believe that it does offer an extra layer of bump protection, but that is not something I personally have that much money to throw at. But please don't make any wild and crazy claims unless you have good data to back it up.

Ok, moving on....

My criteria for my own vest: BETA 3 approved -- yes, I know this is not required. However, it tells me that some level of testing has been done on the product I am trusting my internal organs to! And it may be required in the future, at which point I do not want to have to re-shop. The vest must also be comfortable, not restrict range of motion, and be easy to put on/take off.

The first vest I owned was a secondhand eBay find.  It was comfortable and did the job for schooling, but I needed a little better fit as we moved on to competition.  Mum once again generously stepped up and offered to donate one for my birthday (parents like safe kids, LOL!).  So I ended up contacting the good folks at VTO saddlery and submitting a set of measurements for a Rodney Powell Elite vest.

I LOVE THIS VEST. And I have, uh, "field-tested" this vest. In all ways. Yeah, even that way. Hey, no, not that way! Get your mind out of the gutter!  You can laugh at my stupid picture face instead.

It fits like a glove. When you put it on, within two minutes, the foam conforms to your body and you no longer even notice you are wearing bloody body armour. My range of motion is completely unimpaired. After two Carolina summers, I can tell you it is no hotter than any other vests I have tried on, which is pretty impressive considering this is heavy-duty armour!  I also did get the shoulder pads -- I'm not sure I buy their claim that it will prevent collar bone breakage, but they certainly will absorb some impact to the shoulder in a fall on an otherwise unprotected area.  I can't say I wear them every time, but for big courses, I strap them on!

I highly, highly recommend this vest and the VTO folks to anyone in the market. Each vest is custom built to fit you based on a series of measurements you send in. They also have a model specifically designed for those of you with large female metronomes in the chest region. ;-) Can't tell you much more about that, sorry, I am happily not a member of that group! But Rodney Powell has made a great, great product that will serve you well in your eventing adventures, so I would encourage checking it out post haste!

February 18, 2011

This Is How We Roll: Helmets

It's warm outside! And Solo slowly begins to feel better, with a little less sag to his belly and a little more sparkle in his eye. Although he no longer trusts my sneaky hands: every time I approach his stall, if he cannot see two empty hands, he backs up warily, quite sure that I am about to either (a) stab a giant needle in his man-boobs or (b) squirt something nasty in his mouth.

Today, though, I thought I'd throw about a couple of helmet reviews as folks are getting ready for spring seasons (jealous!!!!) and checking to see how gear fared over the nasty winter.

Helmets are getting a lot of attention lately, but you know I've always been a helmet nazi. Thanks, mum, for instilling good safety habits! Remember, not only do you need a helmet (well, at least if I like you. If you are annoying and mean to your horse, meh, I don't care if you fall on your head), you need a helmet that (1) fits you correctly and (2) is in good condition.

That 10-year-old Troxel that you've fallen on six times and the dog chewed on? Yeah, sorry, it's got to go. Helmets should be replaced roughly every five-ish years OR after you fall on them. Whichever comes first.

I know it hurts to spend the money if you've just bought the thing and it only has one good clunk. But helmets work by absorbing shock in compressing foam. Once you have compressed the foam lining, it doesn't spring back. The helmet will no longer be able to absorb that shock and it will instead by directly transferred to your skull. Not cool. Ask lifeshighway how important that is.  So really not worth it, suck it up and replace it! For more info, check out the riders4helmets website.

On to what's in my tack room: two actually, and I have glowing love for both.

The very popular Tipperary Sportage. I've had two (the first one met the ground). Lightweight, very comfortable, and I really like the generous head coverage. Plenty of vents for those Carolina summers, which is of utmost importance. And best of all, at $60, AFFORDABLE. Because here's the truth: a $40 approved helmet works just as well (and in some cases, better) than a $350 (or $700 or $900) approved helmet. Don't let the damn marketers convince you that pricier is better. They have all passed the same tests so the science is the same.

I also like to have something a bit dressy and more "traditional" for dressage and for recognized horse trials. I had a very VERY old black velvet Troxel, but it has long outlived its time and it doesn't fit very well anymore, so it came time to replace it. I REFUSE to buy Charles Owen (because they are trendy and yes, I am THAT stubborn that if something is a hot trend, I won't touch it), so I turned to IRH. Mum very generously agreed to sponsor it for my birthday this year (thanks again, mum!) so I am now the thrilled owner of the IRH XR9 (why can't they give them normal names, what's with all the stupid numbers and crap?). It fits perfectly, is very light, uber-comfy, and as a bonus, looks nice on your melon. At around $130, it's not the cheapest one out there, but definitely one of the most affordable helmets that will dress you up for a recognized show.

August 8, 2010

Surviving Summer

Lifeshighway & I enjoyed a thoroughly great ride this morning; Solo has turned into a fat blob during his vacation, trying to see if he can set a new record for inhaling Bermuda grass faster than it can grow under crazy daily rain.  Much to his dismay, now that we are back in training for the fall season, this means fat-burning workouts are in order.  Which generally means lots of walking & trotting on any trail I can get us to.

Much to my dismay, turns out that giving Solo a holiday combined with a relatively light fieldwork summer at the office means that MY legs don't feel so hot after several hours of trotting through the woods.  Ow.  I hate it when your body forcibly informs you that you are not 23 any more.

It's still hot out too, although 90 degrees feels downright pleasant after suffocating in a wet, dank cloud of 107.  But it can still present a challenge to, say, moving.

You basically have two options:
(a) You can take the true Southern route of just moving very slowly & drinking lots of things out of tall glasses clinking with ice or...
(b) You get technical.  And by technical, I mean buy every product ever invented that dissipates heat & moisture & catches the faintest hint of breezes.  Leave the cotton locked in the closet.

So today I want to share with you a few of my favourite things that keep summer riding bearable.   (Disclaimer: I pick up most things either on sale or on eBay, I very rarely pay full retail price for anything.)

Riding Sport tights - matchy blue!
Breeches

I have four different pairs of "wicking" summerweights:
  1. TuffRiders Aerocool
  2. Irideons
  3. Tropical Riders 
  4. Riding Sport Performance Tights (*snif* 2015 search reveals these may no longer exist?) 
 All are pull-ons, except for the TuffRiders, which have a front zipper & snap.

Ironically, the most effective & most comfortable are the cheapest: the Riding Sports!   I picked them up on sale for around $30 & I LOVE them.  Yes, they do have a coloured stripe on your butt, but they outperform the other three too well for it to matter. 

The TuffRiders are the least cool.  They are comfortable & very durable, but do not offer any cooling bonus over "normal" breeches.   Happily I only paid $6 on eBay, so it doesn't break my heart. 

All four run pretty true to size except for the Tropical Riders (Endurocools), which are crazy long (and I have a 34" inseam) such that I have to fold up the elastic hem on the legs & fold down the waistband!  These last ones also have the greatest "you look like a human sausage stuffed in a fabric casing" effect, something the other three were much kinder about.

Shirts


My key here: DO NOT BUY ONES MADE FOR RIDING.  Not that they might not work, I am sure they do, but if anyone thinks I'm paying $60 for a short-sleeved shirt, they must have better drugs than I do!  I buy running shirts on sale at Campmor & Sierra Trading Post for $7-12.

Colours!
Saddle Pads

In the past, I have been very happy with my Roma Ecole pad with WickEasy lining. They're easy to find at pretty much all the major horse retailers. This summer has been so awful though, that I wanted to try to find something that was lighter.

A light bulb flickered while watching a barnmate pull out a baby pad.  Now I will readily admit to being a past baby pad hater, due to silly marketing offering them "to keep saddle pads clean."  Well, the general purpose of a saddle pad is to keep the saddle clean!  A pad to protect a pad??  Is my pad pad going to want a pad next??

Guess what -- now I own some baby pads, although NOT for protecting my saddle pads.  I picked up a couple Roma baby pads (a whopping $10/pair on sale) that are super light weight & cover less of my horse's sides.  They stayed put, despite no girth or billet straps, & washed up beautifully in the washing machine.

I eyed the CoolMax version, but refused to pay the steeper price.  Note that your basic baby pad is a flat rectangle; I fold the front edge ~1-1.5" back over the withers & it sits nicely.

So keep your eyes open for end of summer closeouts & inventory clearance sales this winter!  And stay cool, stay hydrated, & keep a close eye on your horse so we all make it to fall in one piece, albeit  with lightly toasted brain cells.

February 18, 2010

These Boots Ain't Made For Walking

But are they any good for riding?

Years of tromping around barns has put me through years of going through paddock boots. I am always on a search for a perfect pair that match affordability ($150 for paddock boots, puh-LEASE!) and durability. Because you are SO lucky, I will share my findings of this incredibly scientific (we will just ignore sample size issues, ahem) experiment.

I wear paddock boots constantly for just walking around the farm and riding, which sometimes entails 4 hour trail rides, and usually includes 4-5 rides in the arena per week, so I use them hard. I put them on when I leave the house and they stay on. So I might be tromping through mud and poo, ice, rain, or heat. And I don't sit down and polish them every day. Survival of the fittest around me. And in case you don't notice a trend, I hate tying lace ups...

FAIL or WIN? I'll go from cheapest (yay!) to priciest (boo!) --

Gatsby: elastic-side paddock boots ($25) from Horseloverz -- those things are great! They are still fully intact, no cracking, comfortable. The only thing that happened was the lining tore, but I just threw a pair of drugstore insoles in and they work great. Wore them for about a year and a half. I still keep them in the back of my truck as spares. WIN!

Saxon: the Equileather zip paddock boots ($40). Got them last summer. Within two months, they blew out at the ball of the foot and then completely separated from the soles on both shoes. They were comfy and great to ride in but only last maybe 4 months total! FAIL!

Dublin: zip fronts ($~74). Using these now. Been wearing for about 8 months or so now. It's been a hard winter on boots with all the mud. But they were REALLY comfortable from the minute I put them on and the sole definitely had more support than the cheaper two -- not that I care about that, but I did notice a difference. They are wearing well so far, but I can see some weakening stitching around the ball of one foot, keeping an eye on that. I'd like them to at least last a year... I also just picked up a pair of elastic sided ones on sale for $40, but keeping them new in the closet till these die. JURY STILL OUT (but if that stitching blows, I'm giving the zip ups a FAIL).

Mountain Horse: Ice Rider lace ups (~$80). Just got them for this winter. Definitely worth it -- they are super warm. I've only worn them maybe 10 times so far, but seem sturdily made. Take some breaking in -- they hurt my heels pretty bad the first 4 or 5 times, but then were fine after that. JURY STILL OUT. (but it looks promising)

Ariat: lace ups (free cause they were given to me, retail between $150-200). Narrow foot and uncomfortable, always chewed up my heel (these were older style). Leather across toe cracked wide open where it flexed. Always leaked and generally fell apart. Hated them. FAIL! (But I do like Ariat clothes)

Blundstone: elastic side 500 series (bought in Australia for about US$45, but in US retail around ~$150). Tough to break in, but once I did, SUPER comfortable. I bought two pairs at once. First pair I wore for maybe three years, they were awesome, soles finally wore through. Second pair had the soles dry rot off within a few months. :-( I don't know why the difference. They are sitting in my closet still waiting for a repair if it's possible. One FAIL, one WIN!