December 9, 2019

New Threads: SmartPak Ultimate AdjustaNeck Turnout Sheet

I've been overall thrilled with my SmartPak Ultimate sheet over the five years and one month I've had it.  It's proven to be nearly indestructible, I've never had the fabric rip.  The one time I did need a new one (tail flap got torn off), the exchange process was easy.  It's such great peace of mind knowing that I paid $179 for it, and that $179 purchase will last me 10 years no matter what.

But just recently I've been less and less crazy about the way the sheet fits Connor.  It's okay, and it doesn't rub, but it gaps around the neck no matter what I do.  I know it fit better than this when I bought it, because I have the pictures to prove it, but it doesn't fit well now.

So when I saw #1) SmartPak now has the same sheet in an adjustable-neck version, and #2) It was on sale for $110 (after my USEF discount + a 20% blanket discount), I pulled the trigger.

The adjustable neck was always one of my favorite features of Schneider's blankets, which fit Connor great

Same sheet, same size (69"), but with that one change:

Much better fit!
The better fit in the chest helps it fit better everywhere else too.

I continue to use it with the Rambo blanket liners, which work great.  I'm not sure I could ever go back to having multiple full blankets at this point, it's so much easier to deal with the liners.  Anyone else make any Black Friday blanket purchases?


December 2, 2019

Tack Room Re-Org Conclusion

I just realized I never did a follow-up post to our tack room reorganization my barnmate and I did last summer!

As a reminder, these are from before:

The hooks were designed for Western tack and weren't working for our big anatomic crowned English bridles.  Also that tall cabinet was visually making the room feel smaller than it is, and it wasn't doing much for us from an organization standpoint - it was a deep dark pit of stuff we put in there and forgot about.  Finally, the carpet was gross and had to go.

And this is after:

We are pretty well done with it at this point.  We ended up moving all of the western-style racks that used to be on the bridle wall over to the "short side of the L", which is where we're keeping bits, strap goods, vests, lunging equipment and show halters - basically anything that isn't a bridle.

We didn't end up finding a place to store wet saddle pads, which is my only wishlist item I couldn't figure out.  It's a bummer, but we'll continue to store them on our stall-front blanket bars, which is fine.  Sometimes you have to compromise with small spaces.

We decided to keep the freestanding saddle racks, even though we'd love to get some wall-mounted ones.  We decided we wouldn't gain any extra space by switching to wall-mounted racks, so it was really just a preference, and a preference couldn't justify the spend:

These pictures are from July, the racks are full to the brim now!  Two Dressage girth racks are between them.

The super cheap girth racks I found are working great.  It would be nice to have one more rack for jump girths, but unfortunately we can't figure out a place for that.

I struggled with how to hang the four-prong tack cleaning hook, until I looked beyond the horse industry for a solution.  In the end, I spent $10 at Lowes for this wall-mounted plant hook and a tiny length of chain:

All the horse suppliers only had an over-the-stall-wall style mounting bracket for these, nothing wall-mounted, which is weird.

Interestingly, having a dedicated, permanent tack cleaning station (the short cabinet just below it contains our tack cleaning stuff and provides a good place to clean saddles) seems to have increased the amount of tack cleaning that goes on!  To be honest, having my girth hung on the wall for all to see instead of laid over my saddle like it used to be has shamed me into using the tack cleaning station regularly, haha.

Finally, the idea that started it all, my barnmate's desire to keep her sweaty helmet somewhere in the open to dry, has worked great.  Even though we mounted them as close together as we could get, we have had no issues with them getting knocked off.

Tack cleaning cabinet in the foreground, with the hook barely visible above it
We started with a great space and some good equipment that just needed rearranging, so this didn't end up costing that much even though it's a dramatic change.  Here's a cost breakdown of what we spent plus some non-affiliate sourcing links.

Wall-mounted helmet hanger (State Line Tack): $4.15 x 7 = $29.05
Bolt-On Tack Rack (Jeffers): $4.99 x 3 = $14.97
Coated Metal Bridle Rack (Schneiders) = $2.49 x 20 = $49.80
Plant hanger and chain to be used with tack hook my barnmate already owned (Lowes) = $10-ish

Everything else we already owned! 

Anyone else doing some fun organization projects over the winter?

November 29, 2019

Royal Shopping: Saddle Sitting Edition

While at the Royal, I wanted to sit in as many saddles as possible, since there are brands there I hardly ever see in my area.  There's only so much you can tell sitting on the barrel horse, but I wanted to see if I liked any of these brands enough to put in the effort to track down a rep that could come out to me.  Even though none of these were winners, I thought it'd be interesting to share anyway.

# saddles tried: 4
Overall impressions: I spent a half hour talking to a gorgeous French fellow who said Connor had "perfect conformation for saddle fitting" right in front of his breeder, what do you think I thought of it?  😂  On a serious note, they did the best job of selling out of all of the brands I tried.  He had me sit in them with stirrups (no one else did) and tried hard to figure out my preferences.  He also asked for a conformation photo of Connor so that he could figure out which saddles would and wouldn't work for him.

"Is Daniel Radcliffe moonlighting as a Devoucoux rep?  More at 10!"

I tried the Makila S (monoflap Dressage aimed more at eventers), the Makila Lab (deep seat straight flap aimed at Dressage), the Loreak (a model aimed at eventers that they don't make anymore), and the new Makila Harmonie (monoflap with carbon fiber tree aimed at Dressage).

My favorite knee rolls and flap were on the Loreak (RIP), but my favorite seat balance was on the Harmonie.  I've loved carbon fiber trees ever since getting the low-down on them from Mary while she was fitting CWD.  I love the way they conform to and move with the horse, while still retaining the structure that allows them to distribute weight well.  Wood trees just can't move like that.  I remember from watching Mary demo the CWD 2GS how the carbon fiber tree allows the seat to move with each step of the hind legs (it almost twists through the waist with each hind leg movement), and I've drooled over the idea of that in a Dressage saddle ever since.

I also really like where the billets come off of the Devoucoux saddles, on the flap:


# saddles tried: 3
Overall impressions:  I had a bit of a language barrier at Butet, the guy spoke barely any English, and they also only had massive 18's with long flaps, so it was hard to tell.  Butet has one model of Dressage saddle which is then customized from there.  Since then, I rode in my barnmate's heavily customized Butet and found it to be very nice, but without enough support compared to some other saddles I've tried.  Which, it should be said, is more of a personal preference than anything else.

Can't decide between black or brown tack?  Butet has a solution for you!

So pretty

# saddles tried: 3
Overall impressions:  This young French Canadian fellow was the most charming and flirtatious out of all of them (you needed to know that, right?  It's very important to saddle fit).

The leather quality on the Antares just could not be beat.  After trying virtually every French saddle brand available last weekend, I feel like I can make that statement confidently: they are the best at leather.  The twists were nice, but they really like their straight flaps, and while I think I could make it work, I found myself still putting Devoucoux ahead of them on the whole.

Bruno Delgrange
# saddles tried: 2
Overall impressions: Like Butet, Bruno Delgrange only has one Dressage saddle model that gets customized from there.  The rep was apologetic, calling themselves a "small company" and they're clearly more focused on the jump saddle market. They were very open to remote fittings, which was nice, but the saddles didn't wow me enough to go to that effort.

I didn't end up with any photos from BDG or Equipe so have some more pictures of the Devoucoux guy

# saddles tried: 1
Overall impressions: This rep was nice, but the least thorough out of all of them, and it felt like she wanted to get me out of the booth.  She asked my preferences and what kind of horse I rode, and based on that said "here's your saddle". Oooooooooookay.  They were nice, but I definitely judged the saddles on how uncomfortable the rep made me feel.

No pictures since it ended up being a very brief interaction

The only thing I didn't try?  CWD.  Sorry guys.

The bottom line for me is, all of the French brands feel so similar, and it's not just because I was on a whirlwind saddle sitting tour.  I think you could blindfold me and ask me what nationality a saddle is at this point and I could pick out French vs English in a heartbeat.  Devoucoux was the only one that stood out to me, but it wasn't worth the effort to get my "local" rep out (who lives in VIRGINIA!)

November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving, and Contest Winner

Happy Thanksgiving to all my US-based readers!  Connor and I have so much to be thankful for this year.

A continued healthy, happy and sound pony

Enough pennies saved to find and buy a saddle that works for both of us

TWO amazing trainers for twice the fun

GP trainer at USDF Finals this month, on her $1 GP horse

A whole lotta miles on the ol' rig this year without any trailering incidents

I will knock on wood for that

Blog friends to share the journey with <3

And speaking of blog friends, one of you has won the Dressage Rider's Journal giveaway!  And the winner is...

Rafflecopter hath spoken

Congratulations!  And thanks to everyone who entered - it was so fun to see everyone's goals for next year, whether they were just having fun with their horse or competing.  I encourage you to go back and read everyone's comments sometime, it's encouraging to see what everyone is working on.

November 27, 2019

Contest Reminder!

Reminder that the Dressage Rider's Journal contest ends at midnight tonight!  Also, reminder that you must both comment AND enter the Rafflecopter giveaway in order to win.  As of right now there are significantly more comments than Rafflecopter entries, so doublecheck that you're actually entered.  Good luck!

Link to contest blog post

Rafflecopter giveaway link (may need to click through to see it if you're viewing in RSS):

a Rafflecopter giveaway