6 questions to ask before buying tack
|September 7, 2017||Posted by Melinda under Gear|
It’s a well-known fact that the sport of endurance is an exercise in buying tack, figuring out why you hate it, and buying more tack. It’s complicated to find the perfect gear at the point where two biological organisms merge so is it any wonder we have the “great saddle” hunt, a boxful of bits, and a million saddle pads that we are slowly losing to the war on mice?
And we haven’t even gotten to the colors. I think I could be satisfied with my tack set up now more than a decade into the sport if it wasn’t for the option of different colors.
I adapted this list from a backpacking gear post (linked at the bottom of the post) since I realized that we too should be asking certain questions as we try to decide whether we really need to add that special something to the growing pile of endurance equipment and tack.
Not all 6 questions will apply to *every* piece of tack/gear you are considering, but I think asking the questions and adapting them as needed will help when browsing the options!
1. Specialization – How many different styles of the same thing are you willing to own?
The trade off: Specialization = less versatility, BUT, specialization MAY equal better performance depending on goals and sport.
Let’s consider saddles.
My solstice is a english style endurance saddle that works really well for endurance – but isn’t so specialized I couldn’t do other stuff in it. I took basic jump lessons in it, did a cow cutting clinic, and lasted a year in lower level dressage training before upgrading to a dressage specific saddle.
Eventually I did buy a FreeForm saddle (very endurance specialized) and a Wintec Isabella (very dressage specialized) because I had the space and funds to upgrade to multiple saddles that were more specialized because my gear started to be a limited factor for my goals. The more extreme the sport and the more specific your goals the more of a chances you will need to buy specific tack for the sport.
2. Modularity: Do the things you need or want from your tack vary or are they constant?
How many horses are you trying to fit with a single piece of tack? Are you the only rider? How important is being able to adjust the tree width at home, move stirrup bars? How important is that those things be easy to do versus “set it and forget it”?
As with most of these questions, the trade off isn’t “more money or less money”. A good specific endurance saddle is about the same cost as a good “general purpose” saddle. A saddle with adjustable options won’t necessarily cost more money than a saddle of comparable quality without those options. But there’s still tradeoffs.
- Some horses like traditional “non-adjustable” options better (which depending on flocking etc can still be tweaked).
- Just because a saddle is adjustable doesn’t mean it will fit all horses and riders (despite what the manufacturer’s want you to believe)
- Sometimes the process of adjusting is so complicated and tedious that you will only want to do it once and NOT multiple times in a week.
- Sometimes the priority of the saddle being able to fit multiple horses is more important than other factors because of the type of riding you do.
Modularity isn’t a requirement – it’s an option. Do you need it?
3. Will you regularly camp/ride in wet, stormy, and buggy conditions, and/or sometimes need room for one more?
For this question, we are going to consider horse trailer buying, but if you were considering a new saddle and were “asking the 6 questions” – this is where I would be considering the climate and weather conditions I use it in. For example, do I swim with my horses a lot? Perhaps a synthetic saddle would be best! Fair-weather-never-ride-n-the-rain rider? Leather may be appropriate.
Let’s talk horse trailers.
Of all of my gear, buying a horse trailer has been the one most dictated by the amount of money I have/am willing to spend.
If I wanted a particular pricey saddle I’ve been able to (with some work and time) been able to find it used for a price I could afford.
When it comes to horse trailers, some types – even very well used – are well out of my price range. Still, this question still applies. I may not be trying to decide between a LQ or a brand new shiny 2 horse walk through with pour in mats – but there are still options I had to choose from in my price point.
- Aluminum or steel? I may not be able to afford to replace my diesel 3/4 ton truck when it goes, a lighter smaller trailer can be pulled with a (cheaper) 1/2 ton.
- small tack room, big tack room, no tack room? I store gear in the trailer and my sport requires some overnights. A roomy tack room that’s weather tight is what I want.
- 2 horse? 3 horse? My rule used to be “space for one more horse than I owned”. I also used to own a Standardbred that needed extra space in a trailer (tall and long). Now I own mostly cute little arabs, and as long as I can get all the horses I own in the trailer (2), I don’t care as much having and “extra” space. I enjoy going out solo, and if I do hook up with a friend, I’m likely to only have one horse of my own going.
- Total length? Many ride camps are small and cramped. My current truck has a terrible turning radius. Shorter is better for me!
- Type of suspension – for some people rubber torsion versus leaf spring is an important consideration. I’ve had both and don’t have a strong preference.
- Type of ball or hitch. I prefer a bumper pull to a gooseneck. I prefer a larger sized ball.
Make no mistake – although some people and forums will act like there are black and white, right and wrong choices above, they are simply questions and options and depending on the trailer use and your preferences.
4. Deciding between containment systems: Where do you plan to ride, what is the frequency and quality of the sites for securing to a trailer versus pens versus picketing?
The original question had to do with hammocks versus tents. This question probably won’t apply to most tack purchases but I think it’s perfect for considering how you are containing the 4-legged beast that is coming along on the adventure.
This is a hot topic because of some recent events in the endurance world, and IMO your choice is largely driven by personal anecdotes (accidents you – or friends – have personally seen), your region (size of typical parking areas, availability of trees), and any naughty buttons your current horse has (pulls back?).
This is *not* going to turn into a 3000 word post on my opinion on containment systems so I have just a couple pieces of advice for you.
- Know your horse
- Don’t be stupid
- Keep an open mind as specific circumstances change.
5. Fabrics: There are lots of different material choices for pads, girths, bridles, saddles etc. They each have their pros and cons.
Are you willing to pay a premium or to sacrifice performance for things like weight, durability, or ease of cleaning? What is important to you and what are you willing sacrifice for it?
6. Convenience: With how much fuss are you willing to deal with? How hard will replacement parts or repair be? How long is the wait time before you can get it? Are you willing to go through the hassle and time to find and buy used? Are there any special maintenance requirements?
Simple please for me!
Post based on this gear post (http://andrewskurka.com/2016/six-questions-before-buying-a-backpacking-tent-tarp-hammock-bivy/).
Though you didn’t address the question of color, I felt I had to share my husband’s idea on color when I got my dark bay horse after retiring the light bay. “What color do you think will look good on him?’ I asked. “Green,” he said, “definitely green. Our barn is green.”
Retiring horse’s color was green- even my completely non-horsey husband realized that sticking with the color we already had was going to be an economically viable solution!
LOL! Your husband is a smart man.
Early on I chose red as my barn color and have mostly stuck to that. I got a free set of orange tack a couple years ago and find myself caring less and less about everything matching. It’s kind of fun to not have everything *too* coordinated.
When my husband got me a bridle a couple of years ago, he chose a simple black. Ironically it’s my favorite bridle and goes with everything so maybe he was on to something!
In the 1-week gap between the loss of my senior STB Story and the acquisition of the Dragon, I was asked what kind of horse I would get next.
My answer: Any horse, as long as it’s a mare and a standardbred, and any color as long as she looks good in Story’s purple gear.*
(*Be careful what you wish for, just a suggestion)