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April 2014

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Field-Tested Trail Riding Gear

Check out The Trail Rider's field-tested trail riding gear, from spurs to boots and more!

Spursuader's Gentle Spursuasion spurs and Kestar Boots' Dakota Zip Jodphur Riding Boot.

Gentle Spurs & Tough Boots
Spursuader's Gentler Spursuasion spurs were designed by Linda Hasmatali, a Level 2 Equine Canada sanctioned coach. She designed the Spursuader spurs to be gentle, yet just as effective as a traditional spur, using a rounded edge and large contact area.

To use this type of English-style Spursuader spur that sits close to your ankle, it's best to have the right boots to keep them in place. Therefore, we tested the spurs on Kestar Boots' Dakota Zip Jodphur Riding Boot. The zipper-front boots are water- and scuff-resistant. Their strong spur rests help keep English-style spurs in place. Cost: $54.99 (spurs); $129 (boots).

Test results: Colorado horsewoman and PATH International riding instructor Heidi Nyland tested the Kestar boots and spurs on a friend's horse, Manassis. "He's a 25-year-old former dressage star who's in great shape," she says.

"Having competed in hunter jumper and dressage events throughout his life, Manassis is accustomed to his riders wearing spurs," Nyland notes.

"I first rode in the Kestar boots without the spurs," continues Nyland. "My feet were comfortable and secure in the stirrups. The boots' low-profile soles gave me enough room to position my feet properly and safely in the irons. The boots fit my feet snugly yet comfortably when ordered in my usual dress-shoe size.


"In just the boots, Manassis was obedient, but somewhat sluggish. Then I put on the spurs. As I walked off, I used my natural seat and leg aids to rhythmically cue him. I let him feel the spurs as my legs alternated and closed against his sides. Without spooking or jarring, he immediately perked up and walked in a showy style.

"At the trot, I found that I didn't have to post then squeeze quite as much as I had without the spurs. Though I continued to wrap my leg and maintain a solid position, I was able to relax my back. Afterward, I could see no sign of where the spurs touched Manassis' sides.

"I think the Spursuader spurs offer a kind gentle ‘prompting' for horses that have too much whoa, as long as riders use them in addition to proper leg cues."

Ankle Brace
Equisential Endure-All Sports Medicine Boots

Sports Boots
The Equisential Endure-All Sports Medicine Boots from Professional's Choice Sports Medicine, Inc., are designed to repel foxtails, burrs, and water. Their neoprene and UltraShock lining provides lightweight protection for your horse's cannon bone, tendons, and soft tissue. The distinctive Professional's Choice suspensory strap is designed to allow full ankle movement while preventing hyperextension. The manufacturer recommends booting all four legs to maintain your horse's natural balance. Cost: $94.95.

Test results: Horsewoman and equine journalist Sushil Dulai Wenholz tested the Endure-All boots. "I was particularly curious to see if they'd be challenging to apply," she says.

"With four straps and six pieces of hook-and-loop closure (the bottom strap has three attachment points), the boots do require a bit of care to put on," notes Wenholz. "You'll want to follow the four-step application process listed on the package. Once on, the thick, cushiony material did wrap fully around my horse's legs for complete protection."

Wenholz then mounted up and rode through grass, weeds, sand arenas, and a cross-country event with a water obstacle. "The boots lived up to the promise of not picking up burrs or other debris," Wenholz reports. "After a water crossing, they didn't get heavy. Plus, the hook-and-loop closures stayed secure, and my horse's lower legs stayed dry. Any loose dirt and hair that did accumulate brushed off easily.

"And my horse performed as usual with no signs of worry or discomfort."

After the ride, Wenholz cleaned the boots per the manufacturer's directions. "I washed the boots in cool water with mild soap," she says. "Even caked mud came off easily with just a light scrubbing with my fingers.

"A quick note on sizing: Keep in mind that the boots' edges are meant to overlap by one-half to 1½ inches, and that the circumference of the boot is more important than the height. If you're unsure, measure around the widest part of your horse's fetlock, then choose the next larger size.

"Overall, this boot seems to live up to its promise as functional, on-trail protection and support for your horse."

Bareback Saddle
The L'Apogee Bareback Saddle from Smith-Garrity, Ltd., made in Austria, is cut from hospital-grade sheepskin, which is antibacterial and temperature regulating. The wool is shaped to look like a saddle, with a built-up cantle to help keep the rider in place. Quilted fabric skirts the seat, and D-rings allow you to add a breastcollar and stirrup leathers. The pad attaches with a dressage girth. Choose from child and adult sizes. Cost: $395.

Bare Backpad
Bare Backpad

Test results: Colorado horsewoman and PATH International riding instructor Heidi Nyland, tested the pad. "I was interested to see if it would help me focus on my seat and relax," she says.

Nyland ordered a L'Apogée Bareback Saddle to fit her six-foot-one-inch frame. "This ‘bareback saddle' was soft to the touch and appeared to be well-made," says Nyland. "It fit the horse perfectly and was easy to put on. The wool seat was soft yet firm. The skirting lay nicely against the horse's sides, and was soft and smooth below my leg placement."

In use, "The high cantle design allowed me to sit in a good position, while also providing cushioning for me and the horse," reports Nyland. "The pad stayed in place and made it easy for me to sit the walk and trot. The double layers of sheepskin provided support and helped my test horse move freely. When I tested it later on my own older horse, the saddle provided cushioning for his slightly swayed back and helped me feel that I wasn't hurting his ageing vertebrae.

"I think this bareback saddle would be a great addition for riders who want to improve their riding by working on balance and rhythm during flat rides, or if they want an easy-to-tack saddle for quick rides around the pasture or over flat lands.

All-Terrain Boots & Half Chaps
The lightweight, lace-up Terrain boots, part of Ariat International's Endurance Collection, sport full-grain leather and Cordura® uppers with a moisture-wicking lining. Ariat's exclusive ATS® technology and a composite-fiber forked shank combine with a DuratreadTM outsole for stability, traction and comfort.

The coordinating Terrain Half Chaps feature nubuck leather inner panels for grip and a lightweight mesh outer leg. A reinforced gore side panel plus an elasticized snap closure at the foot enhance comfort and fit. Reflective piping increases visibility. A heavy-duty Vislon® zipper holds it all securely together. Unisex. Available in black, taupe, and chocolate, in sizes from XS to XL. Cost: $74.95 (boots), $84.95 (half chaps).

All-Terrain Boots
Photo by Lane Wenholz

Test results: The boots and half chaps were tested by equine journalist and lifelong equestrian Sushil Dulai Wenholz.

"I tested these boots riding in both an English and Western saddle, as well as walking on every type of terrain I could find, from deep arena dirt to uneven fields, mid-thaw slush and mud, concrete and a rocky parking lot," says Wenholz. "And I wore them for hours on end — riding, walking, standing, and driving."

"I was impressed right away with how comfortable the boots were," she continues. "No break-in needed! The four-inch shaft gave me all the ankle support I get from my taller paddock boots, both in the saddle and out.

"Plus, the padded collar provided extra comfort. I also felt that these soles provided a touch more stability in the stirrups and handled varied terrain, much like a hiking boot. And while these boots aren't billed as waterproof or water-resistant, they stayed dry when I walked through short stretches of early-spring snow and shallow puddles."

"I found the half chaps a touch snugger around my calf than the ones I usually wear, but I suspect the elasticized gore will stretch a little with longer use. I felt that the nubuck inner panel helped keep my leg in position. The mesh outer panel held up perfectly, even through dried brush and weeds. The bottom-to-top zipper was easy to use and stayed put through riding and long walking."

Night Visibility
Knight Bright Trail Light from Horse in the City, LLC, enhances your visibility when you ride at night. The design diffuses light to reduce shadows and preserve your and your horse's night vision. The light consists of a tough plastic tube with a colored LED light and is powered by a pair of 76 GA alkaline cell batteries. Twist the button at the top, and the tube lights up in color (red or blue). Simply clip the light to your horse's tack or to your riding apparel. Battery life is approximately 50 hours. Cost: $20 for a single pack; $30 for two pack.

Knight Bright Trail Light
Photo by Sushil Dulai Wenholz

Test results: Lifelong horsewoman and equestrian journalist Sushil Dulai Wenholz tested the Knight Brights. She hung one from her saddle's right front D-ring and one from her left half-chap.

"My level-headed horse was definitely intrigued by the lights, but not frightened," notes Wenholz. "I did take the manufacturer's advice to introduce the lights slowly — first unlit, then lit.

"When riding, I found the light slightly distracting as it swung from my half-chap while trotting or cantering. But it didn't interfere with my riding or with my horse at all.

"I first found out how effective the lights are when I was riding my horse on the dark driveway around our boarding barn," says Wenholz. "A car swung around the corner 50 yards away, but slowed and stopped before reaching us. The driver hadn't seen me at first — but she'd been startled enough by the lights to think twice and stop.

"I also discovered that the Knight Brights, hung from a front belt loop, left my hands free but gave off enough glow to help me see the pathway to the pasture at night, connect the buckles on my horse's sheet, and put away his halter," Wenholz continues.

"I'd love to see some additional attachment methods offered. Otherwise, I found this to be a handy piece of safety gear for riding in low-light situations."

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