Hello my fellow equestrian fashionistas – we are back with the latest installment of the “Splurge Vs. Savvy” series! This week, I’m going to share some of my top picks for apparel for English riders, including showing, schooling, and everyday looks. No matter what the budget or discipline, there is something for everyone that is guaranteed to be fabulous.
I am OBSESSED with this jacket. The fact it’s lightweight and breathable while still providing the sleek, streamlined silhouette I want in a show coat makes the AA Platinum Motion Lite Jacket perfect for wear any time of the year. Suitable for the hunters and stylish for the jumpers or equitation divisions, this jacket is also available in a Shadbelly option for those Derby days (& Dressage rings, too!). While we carry this jacket in traditional Grey and Navy Blue, it’s also available in Black, Burgundy, Aviation Blue, Espresso, and Hunter Green. I’ve had my jacket for the past 2 show seasons and still get compliments on it!
This highly technical, modernized show jacket is perfect for jumpers and eventers, featuring maximum convenience with a fully machine washable soft shell/spandex material and stylish silver accents that provides fun style elements on an otherwise more traditional jacket. Available to orders in a variety of fun colors such as black, navy, hunter green, burgundy, and taupe, more traditional riders can swap out the silver buttons for more neutral look that’s suitable for the hunter and equitation rings.
A staple for generations, Tailored Sportsman were the “original” Euroseat breeches on the market for hunter/jumper riders. Today, TS continues to provide iron-like fabric that holds up for the most rigorous of rides; appealing, unique colors, and classic tailoring and fit that has proven superior for decades. When I say I’ve had the same pair of breeches for over 5 years and they still wash out just as well as the day I bought them, I mean it.
Made to look and feel like the $200+ options on the market, the Sarafina provides an amazing feel and modern styling, without breaking the bank. The Clarino knee patches t hold up to intense wear while the Euro Grip Silicone Knee Patches keep you held in place over fences, combining the best of durability, fit, and comfort. One of my favorite things about these breeches is the natural rise and how UNBELIEVABLY comfortable they are. I can be a pretty tricky fit when it comes to breeches (hello super-long legs and no waist!), but these have become my hands-down favorite – they’re amazing for any shape or size!
Splurge: DeNiro Custom Tall Boots; starting at $1,000+
Have you been drooling over having your own pair of custom calfskin tall boots, specifically measuring each point of your feet, ankles, legs, even toe length? Since 1981, DeNiro has produced exquisite footwear for Hunter/Jumper, Foxhunting, Eventing, and Dressage riders (both amateur and professionals alike), including stock and custom chaps, paddock boots, tall boots, and even tennis shoes. Whether your are wanting a bold, stand-out pair of boots for competition or a timeless, classic black field boot, let us create the boots of your dreams!
Made to create the illusion of a custom Italian boot, Ariat has stepped up their tall boot game with some of the best-selling, long-lasting, nicest looking boots on the market. Every time we fit someone in a pair of these at Big Dee’s, I get so excited because they look that darn good. I swear, these boots are magic, they manage to make ankles look so tiny and legs so long, even if the rider is 5′! The leather is supple, the stretch panel is super forgiving, and with calf heights and widths available to accommodate 99% of riders, the Heritage Contour II performs even better than they look. Available in men’s and women’s sizing.
I’ve been ogling over the Star Lady for quite some time now. Not only is it one of the safest helmets out there, with European and American safety ratings, but it is specifically designed for female equestrians. The sleek, low profile and wide brim highlights cheekbones, creating a lovely profile while offering superior safety. I love the oversized vent across the top to allow as much air to go through as possible when riding, which would definitely come in handy on hot days.
If you’re looking for a stylish low profile, wide brim helmet with great ventilation and various trim options, the Tipperary Royal Helmet checks all the boxes. If you’re a traditionalist like myself, the Carbon Leather top is a stylish option while the Gloss adds a subtle sheen without being overwhelming. There are plenty of great design elements to both helmets, including 9 strategic air vents for maximum air flow, adjustable fit, all necessary safety certifications, and a removable, washable comfort liner.
Stay tuned for our next installment featuring Western apparel!
Are your barn boots no longer waterproof? Paddock boots splitting at the seams? Tall boots held together via duct tape? Need a recommendation for what to get your little one for their first lesson? Or simply looking for an excuse to go shopping? Check out my top boot picks of the season!
The Muckster II Mid Boot is perfect for shoveling snow or stalls while keeping toes toasty warm. The super cozy fleece lining on the inside can be rolled down to highlight the stylish navy of the boots for a super-cute look when paired with jeans and a pullover. These aren’t your Grandma’s barn boots!
Just like every girl needs a Little Black Dress, these Big Bad Black Boots are made for fun. The subtle gold tone stitching on these Onyx black stand out and are perfect to go with your favorite pair of jeans or dress up for a night out.
If you’re looking for a quality paddock boot you can comfortably ride and walk in, these are my hands-down favorites. Completely waterproof and insulated, the Extreme H2O is great for 3-season use. These are my everyday barn boots during the colder months, as I can walk through rain, mud, or snow without getting my feet wet. Plus, I can throw a pair of half chaps on and ride in them without having to change footwear.
You can never go wrong with a pair of new tall boots. Between the Vibram soles, Italian calfskin, stretch panel, and high Spanish top, the Salento looks and fits just like custom boots. Suitable for the Dressage or Hunter/Jumper rings, I know what I’m asking Santa for this Christmas!
Working off the same sturdy, endurance-based foot bed as the shorter Ariat Terrain Shoe, these boots are perfect for any equestrian, hunter, fisher, or outdoorsman. Made with a shock-absorbing sole, these boots will feel like they’re broken in from day one. They’re also available in a ladies version(and a Western one, too), in case you need to grab a pair for yourself.
Ever thought you could get a pair of quality paddock boots for less than $50? Now you can! Made with innovative Vega manmade leather, these boots are polished, lightweight, yet sturdy for riding lessons galore. Plus, they come in ladies’ sizing too!
With so many options available from brands like Ariat, Dublin, Tredstep, The Muck Boot Company, Bogs, Justin, and more, what will be at the top of your wishlist this season?
Enjoy the ride, Colleen C. – Purchasing Specialist
Since the domestication of horses, there has been a considerable amount of headway on the topic of bits and their practices, usage, technology, and understanding for what may be “best” for each horse.
What was at one point a simple rope across a horse’s tongue has been refined to specially formulated metals to increase salivation. In addition, varying schools of thought on the types of bits and practices used when biting a horse has evolved over the centuries, and the development of Master Loriners (metal workers for the use of bits and spurs with horses) has given access to further knowledge and advanced technology for the development of more complex mouthpieces. Now, more than ever, riders have a virtually endless amount of information available at their fingertips to add to their toolbox to further enhance their understanding of bits and enhance their relationships with their equine partners.
With so many different types of bits available – including assorted cheek pieces, mouth pieces, materials, Curb/Leverage vs. Snaffle, and other factors – it can be overwhelming to decide which one to select. This blog will dive more into the different types of bits used in English disciplines, and the varying types of functions that each are used.
How Bits Work
Depending on the construction of each bit pressure can be extended to 7 different points.
Tongue – The first point of contact when using a bit on a horse, this area will feel the pressure, weight, and effects of the bit being used. Depending on the number of “breaks” or joints on a bit, the size and depth of a mouth piece, more or less pressure can be administered.
Bars – Evolution favored the domestication of horses by allowing a natural resting point between the front incisors and molars on a horse where a bit rests. Most bits will exert some pressure here on the gums at some point.
Corners – When rein aids are applied, the corners of the lips on the mouth where the bit rests against will transmit pressure (depending on the mouthpiece and the rider’s hands, the pressure can be gentle to more severe). This creates a “smiling” effect and where a “wrinkle test” can be done to see if a bit is adjusted to the right level on the bridle. There is always pressure on the corners of the mouth when using a bit, with the exception of a Hackamore or “Bitless” bridles.
Palette – Otherwise known as the roof of a horse’s mouth, pressure is administered via ports for a response. Depending on the shallowness of some horse’s mouths, certain bits may cause irritation and should be used with extreme caution and advanced hands (ie: those with high ports, etc.)
Chin Groove / Lower Jaw – When a curb chain or strap is used in conjunction with a curb bit, that piece will apply pressure to the underside chin groove when rein aids are applied. In addition to creating pressure, the curb strap or chain also prevents the bit from sliding back and rotating too far in the horse’s mouth – particularly for ported bits. Note: It’s crucial to have the curb chain fitted without twists and that two flat fingers can be inserted between the chain and skin of the groove. Twisted chains or incorrectly set chains (going through the bit) can cause damage to the horse’s jaw, bars, and tongue.
Poll – This point is located at the top of the horse’s head and will have pressure applied to it by the main part of the bridle. Generally, poll pressure is known to release endorphins but should be cognizant of how much and how often pressure is used, as the types of bits used to apply pressure to this area are usually for more advanced hands (ie: curb/shank/Pelham)
Nasal Bone – This extremely delicate area along and across the nasal bone area can be utilized via specialty bits (Hackamore) or training equipment that will use various types of nosebands to apply pressure for a desired response. In this instance, you may see tools used like drop nosebands, flashes and figure 8 attachments.
Different Bits for Different Trips
Depending on your discipline (Hunters, Jumpers, Dressage, Eventing, Pleasure Driving, Field Hunting, Etc.), there are commonly found bit types for training and showing in.
Hunters: Known for its upholding of tradition throughout various horse and rider presentation, jump styles, and more, hunters are typically seen in traditional Snaffle or Pelham bits. Currently, many horses are seen in a King Dee Ring, a snaffle bit featuring a larger-styled Dee cheek piece, or a classic Pelham bit, which can feature various mouthpieces and metals such as “sweet iron,” stainless steel, composite synthetic rubber, and more. Unconventional bits such as Hunter Gags, Hackamores, Kimberwickes may be subject to penalty during judging, however may not be eliminated. Occasionally, double bridles are seen in the ring.
Jumpers: While there is no black and white rule for what bits may be used in the ring, you will typically see various combinations of fixed mouthpieces (as opposed to a loose ring which allows more mobility for the bit sliding along the horse’s corners) and various Curb and Leverage bits. When horses are expected to adjust their balance very quickly and efficiently between maximum jumping efforts, certain bits like the Gag and Hackamore allow increased poll pressure (generally encouraging the horse to drop his head) and giving the rider the ability to have an upper hand against the horse’s neck strength for better control and quality of aids. Lower level jumpers may use a Kimberwicke (with a curb chain) or Wilkie/Bevel bit for a combination of light leverage plus a Snaffle effect with the mouthpiece distributing pressure along the tongue and mouth.
Dressage: Throughout the various levels of showing, Dressage is known to have strict requirements of what can and cannot be used for showing purposes. For lower levels, a plain Snaffle bit is permitted. Third and Fourth Levels may use the same Snaffle bit or use the addition of a double bridle (Bridoon) with a curb chain. For FEI tests at national competitions, a plain snaffle bridle or simple double bridle may be used. However, for some qualifying classes and divisions, a double bridle is mandatory. The most common mouthpiece among dressage riders is a double-jointed bit (otherwise known as a Lozenge bit). Different pieces such as rollers, French link, or Dr. Bristol can add play and different levels of control are available in Lozenge bits.
Eventing: When going cross-county, especially over large, solid fences, it’s vital for any rider to feel comfortable and in control of their horse. In addition to making sure your horse has the proper fitness level to balance jumping and galloping over varying terrain. A lot of event riders prefer something with a little more leverage and added control for the cross-country phase like a 2- or 3-Ring Elevator, or Pelham.
Pleasure / Carriage Driving: A lot of driving bits use a Mullen (straight-bar) mouthpiece, to evenly distribute pressure throughout. These bits can use varying ports depending on the level of control desired. Another type of bit seen in driving, particularly with horses and ponies, is the Half Spoon/Half Check Snaffle bit. Designed to prevent sliding into a horse’s mouth, these bits can either be designed with a Mullen mouth or single-joint mouthpiece. The Wilson Snaffle and Coronet Berry Bits can apply more corner and cheek pressure with the different ring set-ups available. For larger horses in Carriage or Team Driving, 2- or 3-Loop Butterfly Bits act as a leverage and snaffle bit combination with the ability to apply more or less severe pressure to encourage the horse to break at the poll, depending on where the driving reins attach to the fixed loop, while the curb chain applies additional chin pressure. Straight, ported, or double-jointed mouth pieces are available if more or less bar, tongue, and palate pressure is desired.
The key to selecting the right bit for your horses is more than the selection of the bit alone. Training between legs, seat and hands is the most important factor in communicating with the horse. What may be appropriate for an upper-level Dressage rider on a Grand Prix mount will differ greatly for a beginner pony rider developing her aids and steering control.
Often, the problems perceived as resulting from not having the correct bit are usually due to issues in riding training, or could be an issue resulting from a horse that may need its teeth examined and routinely maintained. Some common reactions to an incorrect bit fit, selection, or incorrect hand pressure include head tossing, shaking, “dull-mouthed,” to the more severe reactions like refusing or rearing. Generally, inexperienced horses often have not been schooled to the desired responses certain bit cues requested and may be overwhelmed, confused, or become irritated by severe bits.
Regardless of what you bit you choose, it’s crucial to experiment with bit selection to determine which bit works best for each horse and rider combination. As horse and rider’s relationship, fitness levels, and experience grows, the bit you may need one season could differ from the next, resulting in different needs to address. As always, working with an experienced professional trainer, veterinarian, saddle fitter, and other professionals in the industry are all parts of finding a winning combination.
Ariat has always been known for its fantastic colors, materials, technology, and performance in each of their apparel and footwear items – and the latest Spring/Summer 2020 Collection did not disappoint! Read on to see some of our favorite pieces and Pinterest-worthy looks to add to your must-have wish list.
Ariat has been a long-standing favorite among our customers and Big Dee’s Family, for good reason. It doesn’t matter your age, riding discipline, or whatever lies ahead on your daily adventures, you will be sure to find something to love!
I have always been horse crazy – and I am incredibly fortunate to have family that supported (and continues to support) that passion; from my grandmother teaching me horse colors on my toys, to my parents who gave me every opportunity they could to be around horses. My “horse crazy” has never gone away. Through the years, I’ve had some incredible experiences that both inspired and humbled me in the equestrian world.
Wizard’s Baby Doll “Roxy”
Like most great stories of “I knew someone, who knew another person”, that’s how I not only got to meet Roxy and her owner, but also was allowed a very brief ride.
I used to work my 4H horses every day, and a kind neighbor who enjoyed watching me ride reached out to me about a “famous horse”. She offered to take me to meet this horse because the owner was a family member – and she was willing to share this privilege with me! Of course I jumped on the opportunity, and not long after, I got to meet the legend that is, Wizards Baby Doll. Roxy accomplished so much in her lifetime with trainer Stacy Westfall, but the most known was her win in 2006 at the All American Quarter Horse Congress for Freestyle Reining.
Her owner was incredibly kind to not only take time out of his day to let me fangirl over Roxy, but to also let me hop on. She was a kind, calm mare that really just wanted to graze but allowed me shuffle around a bit and smile for a picture. Those few moments with her felt timeless, and really gave me a push towards wanting to learn more, experience more and go outside of my comfort zone..
Afternoon Deelites/Popcorn Deelites
Through my years of riding, making barn friends and drooling over beautiful horses – I found myself “owned” by a scrappy senior Off-Track Thoroughbred. I discovered his sire, Afternoon Deelites, a Graded Stakes winner with earnings over one million in his race career, was at Old Friends in Kentucky! Bonus, another relation, Popcorn Deelites, one of the horses that portrayed Seabiscuit in the movie, was also there!
I can’t emphasize enough how incredible Old Friends and our fabulous tour guide was. When I mentioned I would love to meet both Afternoon Deelites and Popcorn Deelites, her eyes lit up and she went on to give us more than the standard tour. It turns out that Afternoon Deelites has the same charismatic and playful personality as his son. They could have also been twins!
Popcorn Deelites was far more easy going but just as handsome. Popcorn was used for the breaking from gate and race scenes in the Seabiscuit movie since he was a natural sprinter. The visit to Old Friends was remarkable on it’s own, but meeting two horses that held a sort of sentimental value to me made it that much more special. To be in the presence of a superior race horse and a movie star made me appreciate all that off-track horses have to offer us.
While I never got to meet the “Cinderella Horse “, better known as Snowman, I did get to meet Harry de Leyer. I have never been a Show Jumper, my riding career has mostly been rooted in Dressage, but I knew there was something to learn from Harry. In all honesty, I just listened to him tell his stories. I didn’t know the full Snowman story until I read the book, but hearing the memories recounted in person was fascinating and truly humbling to be sharing the same space with Harry. I wish I could have listened for hours, but we unfortunately had to part ways. He left an inspiring note that I like to look back on when I’m having a hard day – whether it be a hitch in progress for my goals or a bad ride.
Over the twenty plus years I’ve been around horses, I’ve realized one really important thing – there is always room to learn more, you never know everything. Roxy encouraged me to take lessons to improve my riding ability, Afternoon Deelites and Popcorn Deelites proved to me that racehorses are capable of so many great things after their racing careers and Harry taught me the patience to listen, absorb, and learn. Those little moments with each role model helped shape me into the equestrian I am today.
Who have you met (horse or equestrian) that inspired you?
My horses LOVE to roll in mud, and it is especially muddy in their winter paddock (thanks Ohio). So every morning they go out relatively clean, and every night they come back in various shades of mud. Sometimes if I’m really lucky (insert eyeroll) there’s a little bit of precipitation and that mud really burrows into their winter coats.
While the majority of their body stays mostly clean thanks to their turnout sheets, I have some really messy legs and necks to deal with. Keeping them clean isn’t just for looks, it’s also for their health. Mud is just a mixture of water and earth (soil, organic matter, etc). That means that the slop out in the paddock is a thriving breeding ground for all sorts of nasty bacteria. That bacteria can find its way into your horses hooves (thrush), onto your horse’s skin (Rain Rot and Scratches) and even infect any open wounds. Doing daily body checks and regular grooming is the only way to help prevent possible skin problems, and even then, it might not be enough. Treating the problem before it gets out of hand can save both time and money.
My Grooming Process
Step 1 – Mane & Tail I always start with the mane and tail using my trusty Cowboy Magic Detangler and gloss it over generously. I like using brushes for this rather than combs – like the Oster or the Mane and Tail Brush. These allow me to glide into the hair without pulling strands out, and really makes quick work of cutting through the tangles and dirt. The Detangler also conditions the hair while repelling dirt and dust.
Step 2 – Cutting Through All that Dried Mud Next step is getting all of the big chunks of mud off with a simple Rubber Curry. It’s gentle and conforms to their body so I can really work into the mud spots, without fear of digging too roughly. After the big chunks are gone, I go back in with my Wahl Stiff Body Brush and work more of the dirt out. Next up is probably my favorite barn tool invention – the Epona Tiger’s Tongue! This little sponge might look deceivingly small, but once out of the package, it turns into a fabulous multi-use tool. I prefer to use it dry, and it helps pick up the last little chunks of dirt and dust. It’s gentle and functional enough to use it all over – head, neck, body and legs!
Step 3 – Out with the Stains, In with the Shine After the bulk of mud and dirt it gone, I go in with a waterless shampoo. My go-to is Cowboy Magic’s Green Spot Remover, but I also love the new Argan Oil Waterless Shampoo as well as Showsheen Stain Remover. I spray generously in particularly dirty looking or stained areas, then let it sit. While it sits, I clean out hooves with my favorite hoof pick – the Combo with a Brush! Talk about a deal; for only $1.75, this sturdy little pick scrapes out the dirt then can go in and brush out the sole. After the hooves are picked, I go back to the dirty spots I sprayed earlier, and wipe away with a rag. Just like that, the staining and dirt it gone, leaving a soft, bright grey underneath.
Step 4 – Final Touches Now that the majority of the of the body is cleaned, I go back in for coat conditioning and a quick brushing from a soft brush. My all-time favorite coat conditioner is the EQyss Avacado Mist – not only does it smell amazing, the second it’s sprayed on the coat, you can feel it work into hair. Conditioning the coat after cleaning help moisturize and reduce hair damage – and it also helps if your horse sometimes gets “zapped” by blanket static. An honorable mention in my grooming locker is also the Tenda Sheen – I usually keep this handy for a quick shine and it smells refreshing. When using a post-groom conditioner or shine, I spray onto the coat, then spray onto a cloth. I use the cloth on the face so I can easily shine up gently. I always take care around the eyes, but also wipe down the jaw, ears and muzzle.
Step 5 – Treatment and Prevention If at any point along those steps I find a wound, scrape, signs of thrush or a skin condition, I have a locker full of treatment and prevention options! My most essential item during the mud season is Kopertox – I use it for both prevention and treatment of thrush. It is a little more than other brands, but it definitely does the job – and quickly! It can be a little intimidating to use, it stains very easily (let’s not even talk about the smell) but there are ways to make it easier. I actually pour my Kopertox into a spray bottle which helps me get the entire sole and pinpoint certain areas with relative ease.
If I notice any wounds, I will first clean them up (usually with either just water if it’s a scrape or a diluted iodine solution if it’s a little bit deeper). I like having two different types of wound treatment on hand – something in a cream form, like the Banixx Wound Care, and something in a spray form like Vetericyn Plus. I like using the Banixx for easy to reach and small scrape wounds. It helps soothe and heal the skin while protecting it. The Vetericyn is perfect for hard to reach areas and bigger wounds. A simple spray and protected!
Last, but not least, my favorite skin condition product to use is the Coat Defense. It comes in two forms – Paste and Powder. The paste is perfect for clearing up fungal and bacterial problem areas. I use it on my gelding’s hind legs as both a prevention (in the mud season) and a treatment (in the Spring when they get a little bit of dew scald from the grass). The paste continually dries out, and since bacteria thrives on moisture – it keeps working well after applying.
The powder form works fabulous as a grooming tool and treatment for larger areas. It’s very easy to shake on, then with your fingers or a curry, work the powder into the coat. The results are immediate! A clean, fresh coat, and no dirt! The powder works great for my horses in the summer months when they sweat in the heat and humidity, a little bit of powder on the forehead – problem solved! It’s also a great way to help treat rain rot and other fungal/bacterial skin conditions in the muddy season.
Having the right tools, supplies and awareness can help make the gloomy season easier to bare. Simple body checks and grooming habits will make sure your horse is comfortable while enduring the rain, wind and mud – and though it may seem never-ending, bright sunny skies are just on the horizon!
With the arrival of a new year, and a new decade, I’ve wracked my brain over
the final days of 2019 to figure out, “What do I need to do to become a
better me?” especially when it comes to time at the barn.
If you’re anything like me, a busy, working adult trying to keep the career,
bills, riding, sleep – oh, and MAYBE a social life – all in check, you know how
overwhelming and chaotic it can be. Add owning a horse into the mix, let alone
trying to find time to ride in between managing shots, deworming schedules,
farrier bills, massage appointments, Reiki sessions (because Millennial) and
it’s downright exhausting. To be honest, there are days (or weeks) that go by
that I do so much FOR my horse that I don’t actually get to spend time WITH my
So on January 1, I made a list of New Years Resolutions of all the bad
habits I will break…. and within the first week of the new year I broke them.
And I realized, instead of putting myself under all this pressure and stress
(with a side of lingering guilt) why not put my energy into making a list of
the things I WANT to do and a list of things I absolutely DO NOT want in 2020
that keep me from enjoying myself at the barn.
Attend at least 2 clinics – whether an auditor or a participant
Submit my application for the 2020 RRP Project (Retired Racehorse Project)
Get measured and order a pair of custom boots. I’ve been dying to get a pair of custom DeNiro’s for years to replace my current tall boots and would love to do something crazy like a patent leather toe and boot crown!
Ride in the Cleveland Metroparks or on the beach at Lake Erie!
Attend one show every season (winter, spring, summer, fall)
Be a better boarder – if that means being 5 minutes early for my lesson, bringing my farrier a heating pad when he’s stuck putting shoes on in subzero temperatures, and being a positive role model for the younger girls that ride with me.
I think whatever your goals are for the year, whether you’re an active
participant in any discipline or the World’s Best Cheerleader, it’s important
to be mindful of the time you spend. So often, we get stuck in the daily
routine – and while it’s comforting – it can also be limiting. Growth and
positive change never happens by standing still. It doesn’t matter if your
goals are riding once a week or qualify for Washington International Horse Show
or cleaning that moldy bridle that’s been sitting in the corner of your
basement. Just give yourself something to shoot for, write it down, and
GO DO IT!
So relax. Hug your horse. Trust you’re doing the best you can. And remember
to check in with your inner horse crazy child, to remind yourself why you fell
in love with these amazing creatures in the first place.
Enjoy the ride, Colleen
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