Tuesday, April 29, 2014

No Frills 55: Gear Review

** All opinions on products in this post are my own. I have not been compensated for any of this.**

Vipers: I decided last fall when Q hucked an orange Renegade off in the autumn foilage that I HAD to have the bright green Vipers for the 2014 season and basically the rest of life. Sure, the grass gets green in the spring, but the amount of time I spend riding in grass is minimal, and the green of the Vipers is even brighter than most grass. The orange was just TOO hard to find in the fall foilage around here. The orange-ish clay soils don't help at all either.

I let Q's feet do whatever they wanted through winter. I measured in November for a baseline, then just maintained them through winter as I saw fit. By April they were in a solid place, and only a millimeter off what they had been pre-winter!

So I told Ashley what her measurements were, she helped me determine what size was likely (125x125), and I sent off for boots 3 weeks out from my ride.

The boots arrived, not the size Ashley told me to request. In fact, they were basically the exact size of Q's hoof! 125x120. I promptly returned them and sent along tracings of Q's feet for further reference.

Two days out from departure day from the ride, I sent Gina Lander an email query about getting the boots in time for the ride. She CALLED me and let me know what was going on. She double-checked when I needed them, confirmed that they would do 2 day shipping so I could get them on time. She also noted that they put two pairs of boots (130x125 and 135x130) in the box. She said for me to see which fit and send back the ones that didn't.

But, because that wasn't awesome enough, she also noted for me to take the other pair to the ride and use them as back ups if need be. She said she wanted me to have a successful ride and if I needed to use the boots I planned to return, she didn't care.

WOW. What customer service!! I seriously have had nothing but AMAZING customer service from this company from day one of dealing with them. But this? This blew me away. AMAZING.

The box arrived Thursday and Mike and I went out to the barn so I could fit them on Q. She's a 135x130. Big foot; little mare. Mike got a lesson in boot fitting, too. =) He asked great questions.

And, as I noted in the post about the ride, the Vipers worked flawlessly. There was only one minor issue, and that was semi-expected with the misstep Q took coupled with the slick mud and water that the boots had been in just prior.

I fully plan to purchase Vipers to fit my horses all the way around, but money being what it is, this endeavor will be pursued over time. =)

Bottom line, LOVE these boots, LOVE the new, improved fit on Q, and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the customer service Renegade provides.

Horse Quencher: I ordered some of this stuff on Black Friday to have this season for Q at competitions. I tossed it into her water bucket at camp on Friday night. By morning the entire bucket was empty. When presented with a bucket of "clean" water vs. a bucket of HQ water the following day after the ride, she opted for the HQ water each time. Only one ride, and n=1 is never very telling, but so far, success! And I'll take it. =)

Electrolyte: This was my first ride electolyting Q. I noticed a marked difference between Mary's horses' drinking habits last year and the drinking habits of my own horse when at a ride. She electrolyted her guys and they drank like CHAMPS. She didn't go to any extremes with it like I've seen some people do (3x night before, 3x morning of, 3x at each hold!). She would give them one syringe the night before, one in the morning, and one at each check.

The formula she was using last year (which she has altered this year to include Perfect Balance because Gryphon's tummy is so sensitive) was ½ Perform N Win and ½ EnduraMax. She'd mix those into date syrup or molasses to make them more favorable to the horses. I used the molasses + applesauce to thin it better for dosing Q. I even tasted the mixture and it wasn't too bad. Bearable.

I gave Q one the night before, one the morning of, and one at the first check, opting out of one at the second check since she was so hungry. I didn't want to ruin the eating for her. And with only 7 miles to go to get back to camp, I didn't feel the need to dose her again.

She drank better than she EVER has on trail, and she's a decent drinker already! She tanked up on many, many occasions, even stopping and asking letting me know she had to drink. I was psyched. I didn't have to worry about her all day as far as hydration went. Good mare!

Once again, n=1 and that isn't very telling, but so far, a success. We'll see how she does the rest of the season.

Pommel pack: This was a new addition for me at a ride. I've had it for a few months but haven't used it much other than the trip to MD at the beginning of April. I loved having the pockets in front instead of just the cantle pack behind. SO much more convenient! I still doubled up this bag with the cantle bag for the ride, but the cantle bag only had my two water bottles and the spare boots/vet wrap. Really light. Mostly just bulk, not weight.

I loved this setup. I was able to pack everything I needed and have what I needed access to most often (my snacks, Q's snacks, chapstick, sunscreen, etc.) right in front of me. This enabled me to let Q keep trotting while I multitasked instead of having to slow her to a walk so that I could turn around and get something out from behind me. Win!

Phone belt/pocket: I saw a great looking elastic belt with  a little pocket just big enough for a phone and some credit cards on the LifeProof website a month back. At a very affordable $22, I ordered it. the material of the pocket is much like a bathing suit/breeches. It expands. This is great for me because my Galaxy S4 that I use Endomondo on to track my distance/keep time/use for emergencies doesn't fit in so many of the phone holsters out there on the market.

The pocket/belt was perfect. Getting the phone in and out isn't the EASIEST thing in the world at the trot, but its doable. The pocket/belt is really minimal in its construction and didn't bother me at ALL to wear with my crash vest.

I loved this product and highly recommend it to any other riders/runners/bikers out there. It is important to me to have my phone ON MY PERSON at all times and not attached to the horse. If something happens and I come off and my horse runs away, I want to have a way to contact help (provided I'm in service). If I'm in a wilderness area and this happens, well, I'm screwed. (Not really, but that's a can of worms worth discussing another time.)

Butt Butt'r: Okay. Let's talk chafing.

I never had an issue with this until I started riding in the dressage saddle and my position was changed. I'm less sore all over from the change, but now...now I chafe like I never did before. UGH.

Desitin is my BFF after rides and during them. Saiph saved my butt (literally) at Fort Valley this year when she had some at hand when I couldn't find mine.

A few months ago, I ordered a product Funder raves about, Butt Butt'r. Its a product that cyclists use a lot, apparently. The eurostyle version was what I was sent from Amazon. It has witchhazel in it among other ingredients, but this is the ingredient that lends the cooling sensation, I'm fairly certain.

It. Is. Amazing.

When I was in CA visiting, I briefly asked Funder about it and she noted that you won't chafe at all if you slather enough of it on every chance you get. So that is just what I did. Pre race, at the checks, and even ON THE TRAIL. Because yup, you guessed it, that bad boy went into my saddlebags!

And let me tell you. MIRACLE CREME. I didn't chafe. At all. SUPER HUGE AWESOME WIN!

Additional new things for this ride that weren't so much new gear but new additions for ride day:

Crash vest: I wore Saiph's for a loop or two of the Fort Valley ride, but No Frills was the first ride I wore my own for all but the final 7 miles.

I honestly think the vest and the upright position it helps you to keep helped me to not be so sore overall. I didn't ever get super hot either. And overall, it was nice to not worry about hitting the ground on gravel and the super rocky trails if Q spooked like she's prone to do and send me flying as a result.

We'll see how I handle it later in the summer when it's hot as stink + high humidity, but for now, I'm pleased.

iPod + speaker: When Saiph and I had discussed riding together for this ride, we'd talked about having iPods with speakers to enjoy later in the ride when talking may be too much because we were tired/focused. When I knew I'd be all alone for this ride, it became a necessity in my mind.

I saw a few of the front runners head out with earbuds/headphones, but I like to be able to hear more of what's around me instead of completely blocking it out. The speaker would allow me to have music, but to also have awareness of my surroundings.

I didn't listen to it the whole time, but I can say that when I did listen to it (in the top pocket of the pommel pack) I thoroughly enjoyed the music. It was a nice mood booster and by that last 7 miles was just what I needed. I was able to focus on the beat of the music as it related to Q's footfalls. I think Q enjoyed it a little too as she was always in time with the music.

While I know this may not be the same cup of tea for all riders I ride with, I definitely plan to at least take it with me on future rides to have as an option. If I'm alone, I'll listen. If those around me are game if I'm riding with people, I'll turn it on then, too. Music is a wonderful thing.

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