Monday, February 23, 2015

Steal of a Deal - Technical Fabric Show Coats - Part 2 - Jumpers and Eventing

Deserata Show Coat 
Animo Livrea
Spooks Coral Jacket
#2 - Jumpers and Eventing

Part two of our series covers the Jumper and Eventing rings. Since these disciplines are based on points and fast times your turnout is allowed to be a little more unconventional. This is where we get to ogle the beautiful designs and colors from companies like Animo, Deserata, and Spooks. While these coats are gorgeous and inventive their price tags are downright scary for most of us. They're nice to look at but as the magazine says, we're practical horsemen.

Horseware Competition Coat
Meet the Horseware Competition Coat. This is my personal favorite of all the entry level tech fabric coats and the main reason is that the navy blue coat is just a beautiful color. I am not a fan of navy blue most of the time. I love vibrant, bright blues and often times I find navy to be pretty drab. But, this navy coat is absolutely radiant and really stands out. Seriously, this will probably be the only time I recommend navy over black. The styling on this coat is a bit different than a traditional show coat, it has a shorter, slimmer fit, a single back vent instead of a double, and silver contrasting zippers and buttons. Did I mention it also has a striking red lining? Like the Kerrits Koat this jacket is lightweight, water resistant, machine washable, and has a good amount of stretch. The best part is that this awesome coat is only $100.00 and practically everyone carries it. I've linked the photos to Dover's website but everyone from Bit of Britain, VTO, SmartPak, and Mary's Tack and Feed stock this coat.
Horseware Competition Coat in Navy
Horseware Competition Coat in Black

As I mentioned last week Kerrits has also rolled out their new jacket colors for 2015 while keeping their stellar price point.  Next week I'll show you my favorites for all of you DQ's in training with part 3, technical dressage coats. Until then, happy riding!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Steal of a Deal - Technical Fabric Show Coats - Part 1 - Hunters and Equitation

Guess what? Show season is coming soon! We're midway through February, WEF is in full swing and the rest of us are almost finished dealing with ice and snow. Daylight saving starts March 8th so more sunshine and warmer weather are right around the corner. (My weather app says -10 right now so I'm really working on this staying positive stuff.)  So while you're checking your calendar and planning your show season you might want to take a look at your closet.  If you're in need of a show coat upgrade, no matter what ring you ride in, I'll make sure you're covered in this three part series.

Hunters and Equitation (and jumpers, and eventing, and dressage)

Show coats like many other equestrian items can cost a little or a whole lot. You have trendy, traditional, plain, herringbone, pinstripe and windowpanes to choose from and then you have to make sure that they fit. Different brands have different cuts, linings, and even stretch panels but if you’re stepping into the schooling show ring for the first time or you’re looking for something to keep you comfortable on days where the temperatures and humidity keep climbing start with a tech fabric. Tech fabrics are a bit of an obsession for me. They can be thrown in the washing machine, don’t wrinkle, are lightweight, and are generally inexpensive. Over the next three weeks we’re going to take a look at my picks for low level hunters and equitation, eventing & jumpers, and dressage.

Kerrits Competitors Koat
We’ll start with the most understated coat in the group, the Kerrits Competitors Koat in black. I know, I know, Kerrits is not the most traditional brand and is often passed over by hunter and equitation riders and that’s too bad because this jacket is really awesome. You have the traditional dark three button front, tapered waist, and stylish short length that is becoming the norm. This coat has a hidden zipper which is great because you won’t have gaps where your shirt peeks through between buttons. This coat is made of a four way stretch fabric with a twill backing that is water and stain resistant. Oh, and you won’t pay more than $120.00 for it. Now, this coat also comes in a black version with white piping which I would not recommend for the hunter or equitation rings because the contrast could be considered too distracting. But that’s exactly why it’s fine for eventing and dressage too. If you’re experimenting with what ring to ride in this coat will take you through all of them, again for $120.00. The all black coat is available from Dover Saddlery. The black and white coat you can get from Dover, SmartPak, Stateline Tack, and most of the other online shops.

Kerrits Competitors Koat in all black from Dover Saddlery
Kerrits Competitors Koat in black with white piping from Dover, SmartPak and most online retailers.
Kerrits has also rolled out two new colors with white piping for 2015. You can now get this jacket in a lovely Indigo blue or a soft grey called "Shale". I'd recommend these colors more for the eventers or jumpers but again, the basic black coat will take you through every ring.

Kerrits Koat in Indigo

The FITS Zephyr II Show Coat

Got a little more room in your budget for show season?  Wanna see something really freaking amazing?  

Look under her left arm. See that the entire coat is mesh? 

Now look at the same coat buttoned up and ready to show.  It's totally opaque!

This is the FITS Zephyr II show coat that's the hunter and equitation cousin to the original Zephyr coat. (I'll be talking about the original Zephyr for the dressage portion of this series.) This coat is the entire reason I'm obsessed with tech fabrics. You have a beautifully tailored garment that gives you every bit of tradition required by our sport while respecting the fact that riders are athletes that sweat. This coat also gives you the traditional 3 solid color button front, double vent back, and the detail I really like on this coat is you get to keep a bit more length than some of the Italian designed short coats on the market. I have not tried the Zephyr II on myself but I have tried on the original Zephyr and I can tell you it's beautiful, weightless, breathable, and figure flattering. This coat will run about $300.00 from most distributors and can be ordered from SmartPak, and Equestrian Collections.  I would expect more tack stores to pick up this coat as the season marches forward since the original Zephyr is so widely available. 

Next week I'll feature my favorite tech fabric show coat for riders that prefer the jumper and eventing rings. Until then, happy riding!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

SmartPak Piper Full Seat Breeches

There’s so much to love about this SmartPak house brand breech that I’ll just start by telling you to really consider them when shopping for your schooling wardrobe.  I will also admit that I was a little late to the Piper party as practically everyone at my barn had acquired multiple pairs before I got my first.  What actually pushed me over the edge was that so many different body types looked awesome in these breeches and that’s a huge accomplishment for stretchy pants.  Smartpak also offers these breeches in plus sizes which makes them even easier to love. Let’s give most of that credit to the super soft 63% poly, 32% viscous blend fabric and the stretch synthetic suede-like seat.  These breeches are substantial enough to hold you together but they still move and breathe with you.  That’s great because there’ll be that day where you have Chipotle for dinner and utter the phrase, “Yes, I know guac is extra.” Pipers don’t judge, they’ll still love you. 

There’s some very well thought out details these breeches possess.  The ankles have a very soft and stretchy sock bottom in place of gripper elastic or velcro that’s very thin. It fits close to the leg and doesn’t feel bulky or sweaty under your boots.  Another thing I love about these breeches is the pockets. You’ve got two up front and two in the back and each one is large enough for your smart phone, treats, car keys, and lesson money. There’s also a lovely contrasting suede trim on the pockets that is such a simple but beautiful detail.  The only little thing I would pick on this breech for is that they run a bit large in the waist. If you wear a belt when you ride you won’t notice, if you don’t you may want to with these.

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years chasing equestrian apparel is that breeches are typically very conservative when it comes to color.  You get beige, black, grey, and brown unless you want to spend big bucks on a pair of Tailored Sportsmans. When SmartPak rolled out their line of pipers you immediately got merlot and grey, iron and champagne, navy and emerald, and military green and black as part of the collection.  Then they rolled out plaids in brown and blue that look just as flattering on a range of body types as their colorful solids. Yes, there is a black, and a beige color too but with bright pink and turquoise trim you still have a bit of spirit within the traditional colors.  

Piper Full Seat in Blue Plaid
Piper Full Seat in Merlot

The best feature of all on these breeches is the price.  The knee patch breeches will run around $80.00 and the full seat are $90.00.  SmartPak does give out a 15%, 20% and even 30% off code from their email list now and then so make sure to sign up for their email offers if you’re looking for a discount code.  They’re not that big of a gamble either, if they don’t fit, they can be returned without penalty and just ordering one pair qualifies for free shipping.  Hopefully you’ll love them as much as the rest of us.
Piper Plus Size
Piper Knee Patch in Charcoal
Next week I'll be featuring the first of my three part series on affordable tech fabric show coats for hunters, eventers, and dressage riders. Until then, happy riding!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015

Walking in a Winter Wonderland is Better with the Right Boots

I said something about not having much snow a couple weeks ago then boom, there's white stuff everywhere. We can't change what the weather will throw at us but we can be prepared with the right gear. You'll find that good winter footwear will easily transition from saddle time, to barn chores, to shoveling snow at home.

Your hardest working items should be your bigger investments so while you can get decent winter boots on the cheap you may want to consider expanding your budget to get you the best quality. Fit is also very important when choosing a winter boot. The footbed needs to be sized right for your foot and it needs to be supportive. Walking on snow and ice is tricky enough so you need to make sure your feet and ankles have the best possible foundation. The boots I've picked out will also look darn good while doing it too.

Horze Parma Thermo $55.00

Horze makes the best introductory winter boots out there. The Parma Thermo are meant for snow, mud and all kinds of yuck. They have very thick lug soles, are waterproof from the ankle down and include an inner faux leather patch for grip in the saddle.  These boots are very adjustable in the calf and ankle thanks to the four velcro closures and lace front. They're also fully lined for warmth and you can hose them off to clean up. I don't have experience with their durability year to year but at this price you can have a new pair of boots every winter.
Horze Parma Thermo

TuffRider Tundra $65.00 - $99.00

These boots by TuffRider have a warm and fluffy full fleece lining and a leather look synthetic outer to give them a traditional look with just a bit of winter detail.  There's some great features incorporated in these boots too.  The tongue and upper is connected by a neoprene panel to provide flexibility in the stirrup.  These boots give you a nice stretch gusset at the back of the calf to accommodate your breeches or your jeans. The Tundra boots also feature a wear patch on the inner leg, a spur rest,  and small reflective strips at the back of the ankle. They don't claim to be waterproof but they wipe down with a damp cloth nicely. I see these boots around the barn I ride at so I know they're getting the job done.  SmartPak also has these on sale for a pretty big discount right now.
TuffRider Tundra

L.L. Bean Shearling Boots $200.00

When I mentioned spending more for quality I said it with these boots in mind.  L.L. Bean makes great stuff and they stand behind it forever with an amazing return policy.  If you're looking for a short winter boot that's more of a paddock style put down the tack catalogue. These boots are waterproof, have great traction, and were built to be the ultimate winter boot. This particular style is the upgrade to the standard Bean boot featuring a high quality shearling lining and super soft tumbled leather. Just like the other boots in this line they feature a steel shank, rubber bottom and excellent hand stitching. They're so comfortable, toasty warm and will do the job for many years. Make sure to pay attention to sizing when ordering as they recommend sizing up if you wear thick socks.
L.L. Bean Shearling Boots

Ariat Bromont  $300.00

If you're looking for a winter boot that's appropriate for the show ring Ariat has you covered. The Bromont wraps thin and toasty Primaloft insulation in a classic leather package. This boot features a full length rear zipper with stretch panel, spur rest, and removable gel footbed. Another nice touch is a suede wear panel on the inner calf for added grip. While they're one of the higher priced winter boots out there they're also the most slender profile.  These also shine up wonderfully so if you or your kids show IEA or foxhunt these would be an excellent investment.
Ariat Bromont
Mountain Horse Stella Polaris $200.00

My personal winter boot search came to an end when I purchased the Mountain Horse Stella Polaris boots. I wanted a synthetic boot that could handle being hosed off, had great traction, and had a bit more personality than a traditional riding boot. Truthfully, I wanted something fuzzy and snuggly and this boot has that in spades. They feature a full faux fur lining which makes this boot oh so warm.  The footbed and ankle is very sturdy thanks to the slightly wider tread area and the long elastic strip on the outside of the calf makes this boot very accommodating to different sizes. The quilt on the outside keeps the insulation from drooping and the textured synthetic on the inside is nice and sticky. (They will squeak in a synthetic saddle though so heads up if you're going out in the Wintec or Tekna.) The quality of zipper on these boots is also great. It's a thick YKK zipper with large plastic teeth that are a breeze to keep clean and they zip up easily every time. These boots also feature the reflectors on the back of the ankle for visibility.

I affectionately refer to these as my monster truck boots. I have walked into muddy pastures where you sink calf deep in muck and my feet stayed dry and the hose took care of the clean up. They've been through a Polar Vortex, ice storms, countless snowy dog walks, and even made a few trips to the office. Out of all the equestrian products I've purchased in my lifetime I would put these boots in my top 5. I cannot say enough good things about them.
Mountain Horse Stella Polaris
Finally, it is well documented that the wider shape of the toe on a winter boot can easily get hung up in your stirrup so please make sure your irons are large enough to accommodate your winter footwear or go up a stirrup size.

Next week I'll be reviewing the Piper Full Seat breeches by SmartPak. Until then, happy riding!