Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Retail Therapy

While I didn't indulge in any Black Friday shopping (despite Amanda's best efforts to tempt me, haha), I did indulge in a few orders from the ever fabulous Riding Warehouse in the last two months!
My first order was purchased on a whim, because who doesn't need teal breeches? I also threw in some Higher Standards Leather Care, since I'd been dying to try it. Thanks to Amanda, I knew the tip about adding a hat if my order was over $100 (it was), but then also getting a discount with the coupon code for liking their Facebook page! Shipping was both free and fairly prompt, so no complaints there! I impatiently tracked it to my doorstep, and rushed home to try on my new breeches. 
Stock photo from Riding Warehouse.
Stock photo from Riding Warehouse.
Stock photo from Riding Warehouse.
Upon first inspection to make sure they fit, I noticed one of the decorative buttons on the breeches was damaged (paint flaked off)... cue sad face :( the breeches were perfect in every other way, so I emailed Riding Warehouse the next morning. They were a clearance item, so I wasn't sure they'd have any more in my size, but I emailed to see about possibly exchanging them. Unfortunately they were sold out, but RW quickly offered me a full refund. I was too in love with the breeches to want to give them up, so I thanked them for the prompt response but told them I'd rather keep them, slightly dinged or not. I figured that would be the end of it.
I don't think I have any photos of the breeches in action, but here's a video of my wiggly baby on her first ride in an indoor prepping for the show earlier this month haha. 
To my surprise, a supervisor emailed me back later that day with an offer for some store credit, to make up for the issue with my breeches. With that single interaction, RW basically turned me into a forever customer. It was my choice to keep the breeches (since it was just a minor cosmetic flaw), and they didn't have to do anything else. And yet, they went above and beyond to keep the customer happy -- major kudos to them! That store credit didn't hang out long before I was stress shopping (thanks job). This time, it was a pair of Majyk Equipe dressage boots, a Noble cowl neck top (thanks Aimee haha), and some EquiFUSE that called my name.... And of course, another hat!
Stock photo from Riding Warehouse
Stock photo from Riding Warehouse.
Stock photo from Riding Warehouse.
Another promptly shipped order, and another happy customer. And then again, Riding Warehouse went above and beyond! I placed my order on a Thursday. The following Monday, on their Instagram they announced a holiday deal where any ME boots purchased would receive a free holiday bag. I jokingly commented on their Instagram post that I ordered my boots a few days early and missed the promo, so they immediately mailed me a bag, free of charge. You really can't beat customer service like that! I'm seriously stunned. In both my interactions with them, they have gone to great lengths to make sure that I was happy -- and I was a brand new customer. While I'm sad I don't live anywhere near their physical locations, they have an online customer for life!
Photo from the Riding Warehouse Instagram.
And then yesterday morning Jeffers got me with one of their 12 days of Christmas promo items -- Ruby's medium weight turnout is both too small for her and no longer waterproof, so I snagged a Horseware Mio for her. Tragically, while Horseware has a black/teal option, the promo was only for black/burgundy... so that's what she gets!
Stock photo from Jeffers.
My initial plan was to make this a solely RW-themed post, but I am sort of excited about Ruby's new blanket, so I threw it in there too. But for the most part, this fit in perfectly with Equinpilot's giveaway to celebrate 500 posts! Head on over and enter her contest for a chance to win your own gift certificate to Riding Warehouse!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tack Review: Art of Riding Products

I know I've been slacking on the tack review posts this fall, but I had a reason! This is going to be a good-sized review, encompassing four products from Art of Liv'n's new Art of Riding line. A friend of mine contacted me and asked if I would be willing to review the products in exchange for receiving a set. I told her that my review would be my honest opinion (aka, not going to give a good review just to get free stuff). She was confident in the product, so she dropped a set in the mail. And it did not disappoint! I've been using the set this fall, including taking it to several horse shows and the hunter pace. At every event, someone stopped to ask about the saddle cover, and I sent them into my tack room to look at the rest of the stuff. Initially I was a little iffy on the stuff being made of neoprene, but after using it, I really love it! It's durable, lightweight, and super easy to clean up! So let's get started!
Stock photo from the Art of Liv'n site.
Art of Riding Saddle Cover -- Pass This On
Stylishly protect your treasured saddles from moisture and dust with our soft, stretchy and naturally padded neoprene saddle covers. Made to fit most saddles and designed with an extra-durable elastic band.
  • Two-panel design for optimum fit and coverage of most saddles
  • Ample stirrup slots for use while riding
  • Reversible to bright neon orange for high visibility
  • Made of unique, high-end neoprene that is naturally padded and will not scratch or rub 
  • Resistant to water; shavings and hay; stain proof; machine washable and offers superb stretchability
You can see the slot where you can run a stirrup out.
My thoughts: I love this saddle cover in almost every way -- the only mildly annoying thing is that it doesn't quite fit my dressage saddle as well as I'd like (it fits, but could be a little bigger). I discussed that concern with the salesperson, and she said they're hoping to make them a touch larger in the future. I imagine that over time it will stretch a tiny bit and fit perfectly, but for now it's a bit tight. Aside from that, I LOVE this cover. I really like the option it offers to use your stirrups through it, so that you could cover your saddle in case of inclement weather and still ride! I also love that it's reversible -- I trail ride occasionally during hunting season, and I think that the bright orange color would be an easy way to be even more visible.
Stock photo from the Art of Liv'n site.
Art of Riding Boot Bag -- Pass This On
Protect your best riding boots while showcasing your style. Our soft high-end neoprene bags feature an extra-wide opening which allows you easy access without scratching your boots.
  • Unique, extra wide 7” flap allows a pair of boots to be easily removed 
  • Comfortable and strong handle easily hangs on any tack hook 
  • Heavy-duty, easy slide rubberized dual zipper 
  • Two spacious velcro closure pockets for accessories
  • Made of unique, high-end neoprene that is naturally padded; resistant to water; shavings and hay; stain proof; machine washable and offers superb stretchability 
  • Name tag window - Design your own personalized name tag card from our website
Pocket in the back where I plan to stash boot pulls!
My old show boots that obviously need to be cleaned haha. They worked well to "model"! Two interior pockets... maybe throw in some polish?
My thoughts: So much to love about this boot bag! It's spacious enough to easily fit my boots, while also feeling padded enough to offer great protection. I also really love the velcro accessory pockets -- I haven't filled mine yet because initially I was using my old show boots that zip, but the new Petries I got for Christmas are pull on, so a pair of boot pulls is going to be a necessity in my "show kit" -- so it's nice that I can stash them in the boot bag! It doesn't have a divider in the middle to separate the boots, but neither does my previous Kensington or Equine Couture bags, so that wasn't a deal breaker to me (although I know it might be for some people).
Stock photo from the Art of Liv'n site.
Art of Riding Bridle Bag -- Pass This On
A stylish compliment to your high quality tack. Our bridle bags feature a wide, oversized opening with dual easy-slide rubberized zippers for easy access of bridles, halters, cavesons and roomy pockets for all your needs.
  • Unique, extra wide 9” flap opening for easy access
  • Comfortable and strong handle easily hangs on any tack hook 
  • Heavy-duty, easy slide rubberized dual zipper 
  • Includes three easy-to-use and adjustable velcro straps
  • Large gusset and stretchable material gives your bridles room 
  • Two spacious velcro closure pockets for accessories
  • Made of unique, high-end neoprene that is naturally padded; resistant to water; shavings and hay; stain proof; machine washable and offers superb stretchability 
  • Name tag window - Design your own personalized name tag card from our website
Fully loaded!
Hard to photograph, but I tucked a bit and a spare browband into the pocket.
My thoughts: I love a good bridle bag! As an unashamed bridle whore, I frequently take multiple bridles with me to shows (even if I'm only showing one horse). At the last show I took this bag to, I fit two bridles (with reins) as well as two show halters and lead ropes comfortably. I love the velcro straps -- after breaking a clip on a previous bridle bag and rendering it useless, I've been biased towards the velcro straps. They're also great if you have bridles with anatomical crownpieces, which obviously are wider than the average crownpiece. My only minor complaint (and this is basically every bridle bag I've EVER owned) is that it could be a touch longer to accommodate reins.
Stock photo from the Art of Liv'n site.
Art of Riding Garment Bag -- Pass This On
Stylishly protect your garments and accessories during travel with our large book-opening travel bag.
  • Full book opening for easy access to all of your garments
  • Two spacious velcro closure pockets for accessories
  • Naturally padded neoprene fold-over comfort handle will allow for two carry options
  • Two hanging options - use interior velcro straps or the slotted hanger opening        
  • Made of unique, high-end neoprene that is naturally padded; resistant to water; shavings and hay; stain proof; machine washable and offers superb stretchability 
  • Name tag window - Design your own personalized name tag card from our website 
My thoughts: Honestly I wasn't really much of a garment bag person, until I got this bag. It was so nice to be able to tuck my show outfit (let's be real, it's me, there were multiple outfits) into the garment bag and hang it up in my trailer. I love that you can hang from both the carrying straps, or the hangers from your garments. It also has some awesome interior pockets for accessories -- I tucked in gloves, hairnets, bobby pins, etc. It's super easy to use and carry (bonus points, since I'm a naturally awkward human being).

Additional product details: A percentage of every Art of Riding purchase supports US and global Pony Clubs. They also offer a three year 100% replacement warranty. 

Overall Grade
Price: 4.5/5 (I had seen these products before they were sent to me, but I passed because of the price -- I think I paid a little less for my initial Equine Couture set, but it's priced similarly to the Kensington stuff I had been eyeballing. However, after doing some research, their prices are fairly in line for these type of products, and they offer a pretty sweet replacement warranty as well as giving some of the proceeds to Pony Club. Win win! Also, they're currently on sale!)
Quality/Durability: 5/5 (These items are great quality that will take a beating. I also love that the neoprene is machine washable! I washed my last EC set and it didn't necessarily come out of the machine well. I like that it doesn't seem to collect dust as badly as my previous sets. And they stand behind their product for three years, which is a guarantee I haven't seen from any other company!)
Color Options: 4/5 (Currently there are two patterns -- while I like the one I got [Pass This On], there could definitely be more.... In teal perhaps? ;) The perk of the current patterns? It would be very unlikely anyone would accidentally walk off with your stuff! It's very eye-catching.)

Not only are all of the products currently on sale, but Dusty (the salesperson who originally contacted me) has also provided a discount code! If you purchase from the Art of Liv'n website and use the code dusty5%, you can receive a 5% discount! The products are also available on Amazon.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Book Review: Dressage Sabbatical

Back in October, a Facebook friend of mine who works in publishing posted looking for advanced readers for a manuscript. Since I know many of her projects are equine-centric, I dropped her a message to see if I could be of assistance. We've spoken in the past, so she knew I worked in the field of communications. The project she needed readers for was a book about classical dressage -- I was in like Flynn! There was a pretty quick turnaround requested and it was in the final week of October, which is typically a pretty busy time at work for me, so I was a little concerned about my lack of time to devote to it.

But the minute I started it, I was hooked. Before I even finished the Intro, I had a Word document open on my computer to record my favorite quotes and thoughts that jumped out at me while I read through it. When I finished the complete manuscript, I immediately started at the beginning and read through it again. I can see this being a book I read over and over again, finding new nuggets of information every time. I also feel like I will gain a minimum of five pounds every time I read it, as the meals they eat at Lost Hollow sound divine, and made me hungrier with each description! I suggested an accompanying cookbook, but you know.....

The book is called Dressage Sabbatical: A Year of Classical Riding at Lost Hollow Farm by Rose Caslar, and chronicles the year she spent as an intern with Paul Belasik. Rose put her life on hold and traveled across the length of the country to spend a year completely immersed in the world of classical dressage, with amazing results. I'm also not at all biased by the fact that many of the horses in the book are Spanish..... ;) haha.
My review made it into the forward of the book and into the website updates (I know, I about died!), and it sums up my thoughts on the book pretty perfectly!
As a struggling, over-achieving adult amateur having a passion for dressage, an imperfect rider with an imperfect horse, Rose Caslar’s book Dressage Sabbatical resonated with me on so many levels. Her story gave me a glimpse into the experience of a lifetime. I had barely finished reading the book for the first time before I eagerly settled in to read it again. I found myself laughing out loud and nodding in agreement in so many places, and empathizing with that moment of extreme frustration right before a major breakthrough. 

Anyone interested in dressage would enjoy this book, particularly those fascinated with the grace of correct classical dressage. I saw elements of my own struggles and triumphs reflected in Rose’s journey, and was inspired by the immense progress she made in a year. The next time I’m tempted to accept some minor progress and “have a margarita at the crossroads of Getting Better and Good Enough,” I’m going to pick up this book again and remind myself what can be achieved through hard work, sacrifice, and having a willingness to learn. It is a wonderfully inspiring book.
From the publisher Editions Mistral LLC: A fascinating, beautifully written account of her year spent interning with classical master and author Paul Belasik at the Pennsylvania Riding Academy. Approx. 300 pages. Contact Kip Mistral directly at to order. $29.95 plus shipping. Copies will be ready to ship approximately December 5th and will be gift-wrapped and mailed to arrive before Christmas. Cover drawing by Elise Genest.

I won't spoil the book for you (because I think you should order your own copy!), but I couldn't resist sharing one of my favorite quotes... and believe me, it took me ages to narrow down my three page word document into just one quote to share!
Regardless, I’m learning that having made improvement is no reason to stop improving. (Rose Caslar)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving Laziness

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday and hopefully you're enjoying a long weekend! I know I am :) although the dogs got me up at the crack of dawn (thanks DH for the new schedule), I've enjoyed plenty of coffee and dachshund snuggling waiting for it to warm up a little so I can go work horses. 
I am spending some of my free time this weekend putting the final touches on a few drafts that I've been meaning to finish, so hopefully next week should have some solid content!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Review: Equi-Star Horse Massage

So this post has been hanging out half-finished in my drafts folder for a while, but I finally had a chance to get some updated media the week before the horse show! I'd really love to make this a super lengthy and in-depth post but with stuff going on in my personal life, it's gonna be mostly photos and less words. You're probably OK with that though, right?
Soooooo demonstrative for her massages.... haha. I miss her!

Equi-Star Horse Massage is run by a friend of mine and fellow boarder, Kim (named with permission). I first used her services with Topaz a few years ago, while she was working towards her initial certifications. I have never had any specific issues that have prompted me to make massage appointments for any of my horses. The way I look at it, if my horse is working hard for me, they deserve to be kept as comfortable and happy as I can afford. If massage makes them more comfortable, let's do it! I was a little skeptical during the first appointment, but within 20 minutes I could see reactions from Topaz and changes, and now I’m firmly a believer! I’m not using the massage to “fix” anything, just for their general comfort. While I’m sure there are issues out there massage could help fix, I’m sticking to just my own personal experience with this post. 

With both Topaz initially and now Ruby, I don’t think they are horses you would outwardly consider tense: both of them are pretty chill both to handle and under saddle. But within a few minutes of Kim working on them, you could immediately see them relax in small ways that added up.
Topaz in particular was incredibly responsive to both massage and red light therapy, practically falling asleep and yawning every five seconds. It got to the point that when Kim would visit, Topaz would impatiently shove her head in the halter and make a beeline straight over to her. Ruby is slightly less demonstrative, but you could see major releases via her eyes going to half-mast, her lips wiggling and loosening, and even a serious of spontaneous yawns.
One of the many things I appreciate about Kim is her commitment to continuing her education and exploring a variety of different therapies. No single therapy will work for every horse, so she is constantly expanding her toolbox. My guys are pretty simple – a good massage and some red light therapy and they were pretty happy campers. Some horses prefer the inclusion of aromatherapy, hot stone massage, tuning fork therapy, or magnetic therapy -- all services that Kim offers!
Massage therapy is something I will continue to utilize to keep my horses happy, healthy athletes! Now who do I talk to about paying for some massage therapy for me.....