Now that Tarma and I are starting to get in some serious rides, it’s a good time to do a tack and gear check point and see how it’ll evolve over our time together (which will hopefully be years to come!) I never really did this with Flash, as I inherited most of his gear and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a good motto with horses.
Tarma is a much different horse than Flash, in all ways. She’s a mare and a good two hands shorter, not as long or wide, built completely differently with smaller shoulders and a short back. Her movement is very Morgany and quick, and she has a beautiful extended trot that’s just stunning.
Saddle: My biggest stroke of luck with her is, thus far, the saddle my friend sent along with Flash fits Tarma well enough. It’s an unkillable, survives on benign neglect, flocked Wintec Dressage, with exchangeable gullet widths to choose from as she puts on muscle and other seasonal changes. The only modification I’d like to make to it is finding a saddle or leather worker to add some more D rings and attachment points to the cantle. The saddle came with a Thinline pad which didn’t quite work for Tarma’s shape, so now we have a black Skito with inserts that keeps it from sliding. I currently use the same neoprene girth with a fleece cover I used with Flash. I always use my beautiful blue biothane breastcollar with a sweat pad for the middle ring from American Trail Gear (you’ll see a lot of my gear comes from this shop; she lives just north of my friends and makes beautiful, custom gear!) I recently snagged a Brockamp bareback pad, to really work on my seat and feel.
Saddle accessories: My main struggle with the saddle is finding the right stirrup leathers. I tried a pair of wider leather Aussies, both of which broke on my first ride in them and sent my stirrups flying, so those are a no go. I currently use a pair of biothane leathers from ATG, which while pretty are too thin to help keep my leg stable, and 50% of the time the muscle that runs along the outside of my leg from ankle to knee gets extremely painful and won’t bear any weight for posting. It also reveals one of my numerous bad riding habits, namely that I tend to brace with my feet instead of sitting on my seat. I love my wide, caged comfort stirrups, purchased years ago from ATG and still going strong (and have saved my feet from numerous twigs and collisions!). I have a black sheepskin saddle cover for comfort on longer rides. I keep two other things permanently on the saddle; a rein keeper strap to prevent the reins flying over her head if I ever drop them, and an emergency ID with my name, number, and her microchip info on it in case she ever leaves me behind. I also have a yellow one for her mane, which I’ll use when we ride in less developed areas.
Bags: Hands down my favorite piece of gear is my custom cantle bags from Horse Bums. There are a lot of awesome reasons horse folks rave about her bags! Custom, so well thought out, every detail is meticulously considered, highest quality materials and just so useful. I chose a modified version of The Traveler, with a boot bag on one side, a mesh bottle holder on the other, an English saddle seat attachment and jacket straps. I sent her some leather patches I purchased off Etsy, so Flash and Cyrus always ride with me. I tend to run light on gear I take along for every ride, though after this weekend’s stirrup loss adventure I’ll be adding a few more things!
- Water bottle and/or water bladder (for longer rides)
- Multi-tool (came with the bag, holder sewn to outside of bag for easy access)
- Backpacker first aid kit
- Hoof pick (came with bags)
- Velcro strips and extra straps
- Horse treats and human snacks (usually granola bars and fruit leathers)
- Foldable hand saw and small pruners
Headgear: Tarma is still a greener horse in some ways and we’re in the late, still get to know you stage, so I’m switching back and forth between bitless and bitted. My bitted bridle is the same French link snaffle I sometimes used with Flash, on a custom bridle that matches my breastcollar (again from ATG), with a rope halter underneath. A friend gave me a leather bitless bridle that we’ve been testing out, to varying degrees of success. I’m not really afraid Tarma’s going to run off with me, she’s proven to not be a very spooky or bolty mare, but she does tend to rush through things (like wanting to trot downhill), and she’s not as responsive to the bitless yet when I ask her to slow down or collect herself a bit. For arena riding I have blue biothane reins (you guessed it, from ATG!), while for trail riding I have black rope reins with a rommel so I don’t have to bend over when she grazes, which I love.
No foot no horse: Tarma’s feet are two whole sizes smaller than Flash’s, so I had to get her all new Renegade Vipers (oh darn!). She’s 125×125 in front and 125×120 rears, which I purchased in orange to quickly see which are front and rear and orange is easier to see if they ever come flying off, which fingers crossed they haven’t so far. I stuck with Renegades as I’m most familiar with them, I’ve never had a horse get heel bulb rubs, and they are super easy to care for and adjust between trim cycles. I chose hoof boots over shoes as it’s so much cheaper overall, healthier and safer for herd turnout, and I don’t have to ever worry about a shoe coming loose at a critical moment and having to keep tools around to yank one off. Plus, hoof boots protect the whole hoof (which shoes only do if you add pads, another monthly expense). We ride a lot of logging roads, and hooves in the wet Willamette Valley get really soft and tender during our wet winters.
Rider: I’m a helmet every ride kind of person, and I currently have a Troxel Legacy, which best fits my head shape and ventilates well. My Christmas gift to myself will be an upgrade to a new helmet with MIPS technology, a bit pricy but I only get one brain. I have a black Tipperary eventing vest I wear for some trail rides (this is horse attitude dependent). I wear Kerrits breeches exclusively (the only ones that fit me and don’t rub!) or Duluth pants, of all things. I put custom running insoles inside my Dublin River boots (a winter and a summer pair), in case I ever find myself hiking back to the trailer sans horse. I used to ride with hiking boots and half chaps, but the only chaps that fit me come from the UK and it’s a pain in the butt to put them on every ride, versus just stepping into my tall boots. I didn’t have a chance to use it this year, but shout out to my Artic Riding Skirt for keeping me dry and warm last winter!
Don’t tell the husband: Even with our gear mostly figured out, there’s still some things I drool over. The trailer is the biggest thing, and I joked the other day that I should put a dollar aside every time I say, “I can’t wait for my trailer!” By the time it arrives in October, I should have a few month’s payments saved up! I would love to save up for a custom Jen X pad to match all my other tack, they are truly stunning. I’m also exploring wilderness communication and or navigation options, such as a Spot device for when we really spend more time in the backcountry. I’m also toying with the idea of an Air Vest, as an extra safety and injury prevention method. It’s an extra motivation to finally kick the baby weight and chisel myself back to fitness, along with building Tarma up for many long miles yet to come.