Where to start? It’s taken a lot of time (& money) to try things out and find out what works for me & my horses, so here are my personal thoughts on a few of my favourite things.
Bridles… I won’t recommend any particular bridle as you have to listen to your horse on that one… as far as I am concerned, that is THEIR choice. I ride both my horses bitless as I find that they are happier this way, I think it is less cruel than a bit and it allows them to munch their way along with no faff or problem when out on long rides. Swift was easy, she settled with a Dr Cook style cross under bridle straight away (but most of the time is ridden in only her rope halter). Yogi cost me a lot of money trying cross unders, hackamores, zilco flower etc before he told me he preferred a very simple Indian Bosal. If you would like any advice on taking your horse bitless -then please email me… firstname.lastname@example.org
Saddles… Well if you are going to be a long time on the trail, you’ve got to have a comfy bum and your horses back has got to be comfy too! Personally I love the barefoot treeless saddles (I have the Arizona western variety) and my horses seem to love them too. Swift’s easily converts into a pack saddle by removing the seat, giving plenty of attachment points. Being treeless, both saddles fit both horses so it is easy for me to swap horses on a long distance ride to give us all a change of scenary!
Horse Feet… yup not only are we bitless and treeless, we are also shoeless. I keep my horses barefoot and most of the time even on the rockiest trails, they don’t need boots on. However, on long treks their feet would wear out quicker than they would regrow, so we boot up! My personal favourites are Renegades/Vipers they don’t rub, they stay on, are easy to put on/take off and also easy to clean. Swift however prefers the Easy Boot Gloves -so madam gets what she wants (to be fair they are actually a cheaper option). Being barefoot isn’t about convenience or cost for me, I believe it is healthier for the horse. It takes a lot of time and effort and you have to get the diet right from the start. I have even created a hardcore track system at home to help the horses to have rock crunching feet. This wasn’t easy nor cheap but well worth it! If you would like any advice on boots, the barefoot diet and taking your horse barefoot then please email me: email@example.com
Saddle bags… There are a lot out there, that’s for sure but having worked my way through a fair few now, I will only be shopping in two places from now on. I have not found anything better than the TrailMax bags from America. They are durable, fit well and have clip options and straps in the right places. I used to love the Shire’s saddle panniers for my ridden horse (with 2 water bottle holders) but they changed their strap system and they no longer work for me :o( After sewing up my old set of these panniers time and time again, they have finally retired and I have had to find an alternative for the ridden horse. In 2017 I tried out the Twin Oaks saddle bags from Kramer and have been very impressed. Cheap, waterproof, durable and a good design.
Camping with horses… I have devised my own corral system as I just haven’t found one out there that suits my needs. It consists of electric tape, telescopic bank sticks for poles (fishing shop), guy lines, pegs, baler twine and gaffa tape (there always has to be gaffa). It doesn’t take too long to put up or take down (about the same time as your own tent). It would be nice to be able to say that I have such an awesome system that I can stay tucked up nice and warm in my sleeping bag all night, but sometimes that minx Swift escapes the Corral! Generally all it takes is finding a couple of trees or a fence line to make my system more bomb proof, but when it is stand alone… it can be a bit hit or miss. Yogi the “scared-of-everything-horse” stays inside though, so Swift doesn’t stray far from her best buddy. She will however try to get inside your bothy or tent once out of the corral (out of curiosity)…
Safety… After I failed to listen to Swift at one point in 2013 and she hit her “overload button”… I fell off and broke a bone in my back. Better late than never some say, I decided I needed some back protection. None of the standard foam based body protectors met my needs for long distance treks… too bulky, too uncomfortable, too hot and the bit at the base of your spine (the bit I always hurt) was either too long and interfered with the cantle on the saddle or wasn’t long enough to protect me. So I ride in a fancy Hit Air Vest. I don’t use any foam protection under this (advised in case you fall with your horse and the air part doesn’t then get activated), as I am not jumping and not going at high speeds where my horse might slip. The air vest on it’s own is light & comfortable -so I actually wear it! I hope I never actually have to try it out…
After the “Yogi falling down the very steep slope incident” (a MASSIVE near miss) in a place where there was zero mobile reception (and in the middle of nowhere) I felt extremely nervous setting off on my X-Scotland Adventure with only a mobile phone. Hit Air kindly sponsored this journey and helped me to buy an inReach Satellite device. This allows me to send an “I am ok” message to family each night but also has an emergency response button should I find myself in bother.
Essential Items… I’d never head out on the trail without a tarpaulin -either to cover your saddles / kit bags over night or to create a shelter you can stand up in for cooking. I also view my heavy poncho as an essential item too. So incredibly versatile.. not only shielding you from the wind and rain as you ride, but an extra ground sheet / horse blanket / shelter / saddle cover -whatever you want it to be really.