If you have horses, you know the difference between the must-have items, and the wish-I-had products. You have a well-stocked arsenal of your favorite grooming tools and products, your horse’s most-loved treats, and the apparel items that fill you with confidence in the arena. You stick to what you know and like because you’re confident in the outcome. Though you window-shop occasionally at your local feed or outfitting store or online, you hesitate to invest in a product you’re not familiar with and have it not live up to its hype.
That’s why we’re here to take the risk out of the trial-and-error process by testing the products you’d most like to buy. We’ve found five products that are well-made, innovative, and seek to solve the problems you face most often in your horse life, and tried them ourselves. We’ll look at each item and see how the manufacturer’s claims measure up against what we found to be true.
The product: Madeline jeans by Kimes Ranch.
The claim: These jeans are cut from the same high-quality denim used in all of Kimes’ jeans line, but are designed with the plus-size rider in mind. The Madeline features a higher waist, longer inseam length, and more slimming pocket position and stitching than other riding jeans.
How it works: “They’ve taken the time to redesign the jeans, not just size-up an existing shape,” says all-around competitor Ruth Cloudt of Scottsdale, Arizona. “The waist is cut taller in the back than in the front, so there’s no gapping between your pants and chaps. The rise is higher to keep you covered in the saddle and your shirt tucked in. Most of the time long-inseam, plus-size jeans aren’t easy to find. These jeans are made in the length I need for riding.” Cloudt says the cut is slenderizing. “The pockets aren’t bulky, and I like the stitching. The thread color used is interesting, and doesn’t draw attention to the wrong places.”
Inside scoop: The classic, durable jeans are available from size 16 to 24, with 32- to 38-inch inseams. If you’re between sizes, Cloudt suggests going down a size. “There’s some stretch, but not so much that the denim sags with wear.”
Learn more: $99; (888) 512-0886; kimesranch.com.
The product: Rambo Dry Rug by Horseware Ireland.
The claim: The microfiber toweling cloth quickly dries your horse after a sweaty training session or a bath. A hideaway hood dries his neck, if needed, and adjustable front closures and leg and belly straps accommodate a close fit.
How it works: Riding in cool weather makes me nervous because I worry my horse will catch a chill if he sweats under-saddle in the cold Colorado climate. This rug performs like I’ve always wanted a cooler to. It feels like a horse-size bath towel, and pulls moisture away from your horse’s body and absorbs it. The adjustable front closures and belly and leg straps allow a close, turnout-blanket-like fit, so it doesn’t catch wind and flare up. The flying blanket stresses my horse out—doing more harm than good. This rug kept my horse cozy (and anxiety-free), and he was dry and ready to be brushed by the time I’d put away my tack and gear.
Inside scoop: The blanket’s available in small, medium, and large, and the size range for each are based on your horse’s typical blanket measurement in inches. (The horse is photographed in a size medium and wears a 72-inch turnout blanket.)
Learn more: $150; (800) 887-6688; horseware.com/usa.
Form-Fitting Saddle Pad
The product: Arena performance orthopedic felt gel pad from Reinsman.
The claim: High-grade felt and an internal layer of nitro-gel maximize comfort and shock absorption. An anatomically cut spine fits the natural contour of your horse’s back for a better fit.
How it works: The pad is thick and well-made; the felt keeps my horse warm and dry on cold days. On warmer days, the felt absorbs moisture and allows heat to dissipate so the material doesn’t get soggy. The pad’s flexible spine keeps it from feeling rigid on my horse’s back, and the gel inserts at the bars conform to fit my horse’s frame and accommodate my saddle for a close fit. My saddle feels secure; even while I longe my horse pre-ride, the saddle stays close to my horse’s body, rather than bounce near the back of the skirt.
Inside scoop: The handsome pad measures 34 by 32 inches and is 1 inch thick. It’s available in chocolate (pictured) or tan felt.
Learn more: $80.95; (800) 548-2487; reinsman.com.
Splits in Seconds
The product: Quick-change split reins from Cashel.
The claim: The quick-change bit ends are easy to use and allow you to swap out your split reins in a matter of seconds.
How it works: Unlike with most split reins, which have to be untied and re-tied each time you change your bit or headstall, the quick-change ends are easy to take on and off without metal clips. A small metal piece holds the slip-through-leather clasp in place, but doesn’t make the rein feel too heavy or bulky. The reins are made of pliable skirting leather and are of good weight, so they’re nice to ride with, in addition to their convenience.
Inside scoop: Reins are available in chestnut- and chocolate-colored leather, and newly released this spring are splits with rawhide-braided accents near the on/off end. The rawhide braiding is decorated with stitching around its circumference in an assortment of fun colors, including basic black, light blue, pink, and others.
Learn more: $39.99; (800) 333-2202; cashelcompany.com.
High-Tech Showman’s Blouse
The product: Perfect-fit Western show shirt from Noble Outfitters.
The claim: Several features allow this high-tech shirt to fit well and offer the protection of technical riding clothing. The zip-front closure keeps the shirt’s front closed; longer-length sleeves avoids ride-up; UPF and moisture-wicking technology offer protection and keep you cool; and stretchy, cotton fabric and darts at the bust and back create a feminine silhouette.
How it works: The shirt hugs all of the right places for a flattering, feminine fit, even while seated. I didn’t worry that the shirt would come un-tucked as I mounted because of the longer drop in the back. The stretch and give in the fabric is comfortable and left me with no concern that I’d bust out the back between my shoulders or the buttons of the bust while saddling, mounting, riding, or moving around. I felt confident as soon as I put the shirt on and know I can wear it all day without overheating.
Inside scoop: The top is available in two colors: crystal blue and black, with more colors to be released in the future. Sizes are available from extra-small to extra, extra-large, and the blouse runs true to size. Noble offers free shipping for orders exceeding $75.
Learn more: $89.95; (855) 526-6253; nobleoutfitters.com.