Endurance equipment comes in all shapes and guises from your boots, to saddle, to your GPS. It can be very frustrating knowing what to choose and use, and you can loose days researching what is best for you. Been there, done that!
So here I share what works, or has worked for me and my horses.
The Kep Endurance Helmet is marvelous. 260g´s of light ventilation whilst still protecting your brain. I have happily used the Tipperary Sportage Plus and further in the past Troxel Spirit. All great helmets. All with plenty of ventilation and a great fit.
Along with "Monkey Butt" anti-chaffing powder, some great bumper stickers and the Epona MagnaPick which is the best hoof pick I have ever purchased, two of my helmets came from Long Riders Gear I can´t recommend enough their friendliness and efficiency. As I don´t recommend or endorse a product I have not personally used, nor do they. All their staff are Long Riders or Endurance Riders and they test everything they sell themselves before adding it to their catalogue.
LEG WEAR - CHAPS
NEWS FLASH - NEWS FLASH - NEWS FLASH
I am selling off stock of Just Chaps at very cheap, super bargain prices. Only a few pairs left in a few designs and colours.
The most fab thing about these chaps is, you can just chuck them in the washing machine (not the leather ones of course!) which means my funky black and white tiger-striped chaps have recovered again and again from mud, sweat and tonnes of dust to come up like new every time. Contact me for more information. Serious bargains to be had!
LEG WEAR - JODS/TIGHTS
A €200 pair of jodhpurs tear just the same as €20 jods when you snag them on a branch. So chain store specials are just fine by me. Though very occasionally I treat myself to some quality ones and Kerrits Breathe Tight riding tights are just fabulous.
Despite being black (they only come in black or a very nice gunmetal grey) they wick away the heat and most importantly for me, sit below my navel. No scrunching up of excess fabric as you sit in the saddle. They also have added ´grip´! For years I rode in a synthetic saddle (more about this below) which is velcro on the bum in itself! When I switched to my latest saddle (more below!) I found myself not only cold against the leather on chilly mornings, but slipping around like jelly on a plate. There is none of that with Kerrits leg wear. The Breathe Tight also, most sensibly, has a phone pocket located a little way down from the body. Much more comfortable and accessible.
I have now started wearing running tights - and with a sheepskin cover on the saddles I don´t slip anywhere!
LEG WEAR FOR CHILLY DAYS!
Yes, we do get chills down here in southern Spain - we´ve even broken ice off the water troughs!! Last winter I purchased athletes skins (tight running leggings) with a fleece lining from an international sportswear store. Cheap, cheerful and doing the job on frosty mornings. Even as temperatures often rise here later in the mornings I don´t find myself too hot as they wick away excess heat. Just as comfortable as jods with no inside seams and elasticated ankles. They do ´peel´ off a little like a second skin, but not with any difficulty.
For those rainy days I still have a couple of pairs of Dri-Riders. Full waterproof chaps are just perfect. Total rain protection - and I´ve tested them in some severe downpours - without you getting to hot or constricted.
I hear you saying "but you´re in Spain with ´terminal sunshine´" Let me tell you, when it rains here it pours. None of that namby pamby drizzle!
AGAIN Contact me to pick up a bargain - I am selling off very cheap all remaining stock
In Endurance competition, providing you have safety cage stirrups you can wear running shoes. Many may prefer this, providing they are proper quality running shoes, and not gym shoes etc. Or even the new style of soft walking shoe is ideal. Mountain Rider Jodphur Boots have steel rims to protect toes from stray hooves, reinforced stirrup plates for comfort on long rides, a simple center zip with a waterproof sealed tongue and are comfortable to walk in. (I have a pair of long Mountain Riders which are fabulous to ride in but super uncomfortable to walk any distance in.) Right now I can´t remember where I purchased them but do remember they came out the same, quality wise, but much cheaper price wise than other big brand name endurance boots.
SOCKS are also very important. I wear socks designed for serious walkers. They keep my tootsies warm in winter as well as giving extra support in the foot arch and at the ankle. In the summer they wick away the heat. I have also taken to wearing football socks, with knee length running tights in the summer. Works just great, and they come in some funky colours.
I ride all my gang bitless, with the most simple of rope bridles which are either a version of the old style bosal with ear-pieces and reins attached, or another version which is altered to fit under the nose. Both basically the same, working the same way - pressure/reward. A material I also love for bridles is Biothane or Beta-biothane. Both coming in every colour under the sun so you can mix n match, have your team or yard colours, or just your favourite colour. Beta also comes in regular brown or black looking like leather for those that like to conform. Just a quick rinse in soapy water has this material like new again. None of that greasing/oiling of leather, nor the cracking if you forget to look after it!
You can find many suppliers that make bridles from this material especially for Endurance, with snap-on reins and snap-on bit hangers, turning a bridle into a halter in seconds. Most will also make cruppers and chest-plates to match.
A good dressage saddle is often used in endurance, before people start investing large sums in made-to-measure endurance-specific saddles. They are very comfortable for many hours in the saddle. I prefer the synthetics, of which there are now many options available on the market, for ease of cleaning and maintenance.
For Heart I have a Somer Spirit (felt it was meant to be!) Endurance Saddle. It´s not super lightweight, but if we get to ´starred´ competition level we will still come in under the 75 kilo minimum and have to weight his saddle pad. More importantly it stands completely free of his spine and shoulders and is very comfortable for hours in the saddle. The design means I can either post, sit or stand in trot with ease.
I have embellished it somewhat with a pure wool seat saver and pure wool stirrup covers. This allowed me to invert the buckles and so have less bulk under my leg and also I can ride in shorts in the summer without fear of chaffing. Oh yes, and ours is blue and black (my colours) as you can see in other photos. At 1800 € it wasn´t as expensive as some made-to-measures, but is still a serious quality saddle that with proper care will last a lifetime. After much research I finally decided on saddles from Stonewall Saddle Company for MIA Bearpaws AU Anni and EV Suska. Made to measure from memory foam and winter cut spruce these saddles are designed by an endurance rider who is also an aerospace engineer. Lightweight, comfortable and so easy to ride distance´s in. The fact that I could have my logo cut and sewn into the flaps was a bonus - as it was already a done deal that I wanted these saddles when I read all the information about them.
SADDLE PAD -
I have four types of pad. Two brands being the Skito and Haf. The Skito is well worth the investment and are made to measure for your saddle. Even on the hottest days it still helps circulate the heat away from the horse and keeps his back very comfortable for hours of hard riding. The Haf, also a great pad, but I tend to use it on shorter journeys and cooler days - even though it weighs less than the Skito and dries extremely quickly! Windridertack sell Skito pads, and provide a great service!!
The non-brand pad is made be Jackie of Stonewall Saddles from recycled felt wool. Again a natural fibre - wool on wool, fur on fur, leather on leather always works best for minimal heat, chaffing etc.
The fourth pad I use is a natural sheepskin half-pad. The fit perfectly under the endurance saddles and add extra comfort for the horse
COOLING PRODUCTS -
If you go to an endurance race you will see people pouring liters and liters of water on their horses in a desperate bid to reduce their temperature, and therefore their pulse, as quickly as possible. The horse is prancing around from foot to foot as people dash around him, which obviously isn´t allowing him to relax and aid the speed of recovery for his pulse and temperature. Apart from this, here in Spain, you need to add ice to the water for the majority of the year as water comes out hot from the cold tap! Then there is the ecological side to things. How much precious water is being wasted?
My husband, Francisco, made me a fabulous invention with a battery powered camper shower strapped to a feed sack trolley with a plastic feed bin full of water fixed onto the trolley. Do you get the picture? Thus we were able to direct the water exactly onto the horse, bringing wastage to a minimum and effect to a maximum. But, as pleased as I was with his fabulous idea, I kept looking for an alternative.
I found it in the ARCTIC BLAST Equine Cooling rug. I purchased myself one, and a few recharges, and can´t extol enough the brilliance of this rug. Heart, my horse, stood un-flustered and relaxed, munching on his water and electrolyte soaked beet and hay as the rug did all the work. His pulse was down to 38 bpm in 12 minutes. Fantastic! They don´t need refrigerating, are ready to use in seconds and draw core heat out. Unlike ice, or cold water, which actually pushed heat in! This is why they are also highly recommended for horses with a fever due to equine influenza for example. These rugs have actually saved lifes!
You can now buy them from me having decided to sell them as there is no where else on mainland Europe to purchase them and I really believe that more people need to know about this marvelous Arctic Blast rug and bandages.
When poor Misty decided to do some ´visiting´ in the night and badly cut her leg the cooling bandages kept the limb from swelling until the vet arrived. So he was therefore able to stitch the wound as neatly as possible because there was no pulling/stretching of the skin. The outside temperature on this day was 27ºC!
This link will take you to Arctic Blast Equine Cooling Rug & Bandages where you can learn more about the science behind it and make your purchase.
Don´t forget the labour/time saving of these rugs either! The cost of a recharge is less than your time and effort is worth for pouring litres and litres of water over your horse.
GPS Currently I´m using the Garmin 305. 12 hours of battery life, loads of ways you can set up the system to your personal preference and, the thing most GPS aren´t, it is compatible with Apple Mac products!! The only problem I still have is finding good quality wide elastic for the pulsometer - that doesn´t loose it´s elasticity in 5 minutes.
Having tried various hoof boots over the past few years, I have discovered that, like our sports footwear, there are different kinds for different jobs.
Some are suitable for hooves in transition, whilst others only fit the hoof that is at the perfect healthy angle. Others are great for a day trek, but will not hold up at speed in a tough competition.
One thing I have discovered is that of all I have tried, none of them are truly imitating or aiding the natural bare hoof. That is, up until now. More on this SOON!!
Of the boots I have previously tried I discovered they all allow the hoof to move or slid to a lesser or greater degree within the boot, which in itself can cause concussion injuries depending on the make-up of the boot. But this movement also means a hoof is not using it´s natural traction and therefore the stimulation a hoof needs to remain at its optimum healthy state, or to get it to an optimum healthy condition, is being compromised.
This is just a small part of my findings. Though one thing I will say is that hoof boots are still 200% better for your horses hooves than nailed on shoes - even the plastic, rubber or wooden ones that are now on the market. if it´s nailed on, well, it´s nailed on!