(Current as of December 2013)
I started conditioning for endurance in the tack I already had, and you should too. I’ve slowly swapped things out and upgraded stuff and sold and bought and re-sold various bits and pieces, and this is just a snapshot of what works for Funder and Dixie for sub-100 mile endurance rides in 2013.
Everything has a tradeoff. Dixie has the hide of an ox, so she’s much harder to cool than an Arab, but she does have the hide of an ox so she rarely galls. You might need to wrap all your tack with fleece, but we do fine with a cheapie neoprene girth and a fairly cheap quilted cotton saddle pad. I’m not really happy with the heat retention of my cotton pad, and I’m going to try out a Toklat Woolback, but I haven’t quite gotten around to it yet.
I’ve got a biothane breastcollar, running martingale, crupper, and bridle from American Trail Gear. Fellow endurance blogger Liz Stout made me some extra-long climbing rope reins, and my bridle snaps on a rope halter made by my friend at Southern Winds Solutions. I threaded an engraved dog tag onto the rope halter, in case of catastrophe.
I use a short-shanked Myler curb. I ride with minimal contact – I think Dixie just keeps the ribbons on her right instinctively at this point – but when I want brakes I want some damn brakes. She’s somewhat picky, but she likes that bit so that’s what we roll with.
I really like my capacious, easy-to-open-and-close pommel bags from Henry Griffin at Griffin’s Tack. I’ve got a bunch of other bits and pieces from him – his half-bale bags and crew bags can’t be beat, and I think I got my sponge-on-a-string from him, but I’ve never yet remembered to carry it AND use it. (Most of the rides we attend don’t have natural streams, just cattle tanks, and it’s hella rude to sponge out of a tank.)
You need a fleece cooler. Yes, I know, my horse is very hairy too, and I don’t blanket her either except for ice storms, but even Dixie gets cold tied to the trailer. Post ride, your horse is tired, and she can’t walk around enough to stay warm overnight, so just buy something from Schneider’s and throw it in the trailer for rides. Since you’re there, get a waterproof blanket too. And maybe some diabeetus socks – I mean, Equiflex Sleeves.
I’ve had mixed luck with rump rugs. They’re very exciting when they come half-loose and flap along your horse’s flank at the start of a race, but see above re: tired horses needing a little extra help. Beg, borrow, or buy one. (Don’t steal. That’s wrong.)
I carry water, a multitool, a haystring, and some duct tape at all times. For rides, I add a trash bag and/or an emergency blanket, a flask of something heartening, a light source and a baggie with a Vicodin and a couple of Benadryl. If we’re not totally immobile, I should be able to limp back to camp with that basic equipment. You can carry more stuff, of course, but the less shit you have in your “first aid bag,” the less you have to remember to replace. For example, vet wrap gets manky under heat and pressure – I’d rather duct-tape a piece of my shirt on a wound than remember to check the “real” bandaging supplies. But again, it’s all in your comfort level, and that will change over time.
Wear a damn helmet. If you’re going to do endurance, you’re going to log a lot of hours in the saddle, and you’re just tempting fate. Yeah, I know that piece of shit $30 helmet gives you a headache; it gave me one too. My Tipperary Sportage fits so comfortably I’ve forgotten to take it off more than once. (Look at that new purple model! I don’t want to have to replace my charcoal one, but just look at the purple one!) Get a beaky Salamander thing to go on it, too.
Easycare has gotten quite a lot of my money over the years, too. I have had great, phenomenal, amazing success with Gloves and Glue-Ons. I love my Hi-Tie (except for the time I forgot to stow it away; I didn’t really love it after I crashed it through half a forest and mangled my trailer, but boy howdy let me tell you that fiberglass pole is TOUGH) and I’m pretty pleased with the full bale bag Easycare sells. I’ve got a Stowaway cantle pack that I don’t like at all – straps flapping everywhere, and I hate twisting around to get shit in and out. But it’s a very stylish deep purple, and you really do need a cantle pack to hold your extra crap on a hundred, so I’ve got it and I grudgingly recommend it. 😉
I’ve got friends who work with/at both companies, so I have to plug Renegade Hoof Boots too. If you’ve tried Gloves and they won’t stay on, try Renegades, or vice versa. Hoof boots that don’t fit are nightmares, but hoof boots that DO fit are a hundred times better than steel shoes. Renegades are great boots, and I’ve used them and recommend them, but I’m rocking Easyboots at the moment.
Because I have caged stirrups and fleecy leathers covers, I can ride in whatever the hell clothes I want. I went to zero-drop “barefoot” shoes a couple years ago, and that’s all I ever wear any more – Merrells usually, but honestly that’s because they were the purplest shoes I could buy. They’re pretty cold in the winter, but I can get off and jog in them. I usually condition in cheap yoga pants or REI running pants, and I break out my flashy Just for Horsin’ Round tights for competitions.
Buy the best outdoor clothing you can afford and take good care of it. I found my current selection of sports bras and heat-gear running shirts at Sports Warehouse or some place like that. REI makes great cold weather gear, but if you ever get the chance to go to a Sierra Trading Post outlet you can pick up really good stuff in really weird colors for very little money. I swear by wool socks; the Costco ones are almost as good as the Smartwool at a quarter of the price. My friends in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest love their Muddy Creek raincoats, but I haven’t yet ridden in anything they’d consider rain, so I defer to their judgment.
I got a SPOT tracker this year. It’s expensive but reliable peace of mind. I rode all over God’s green earth without one, so I wouldn’t call it necessary, but it will probably make your spouse happier. I’d get a SPOT over a heart rate monitor or a GPS, honestly!
One last tip: use lube. I like Butt Butt’r more than Bodyglide or Vagisil, but your mileage may vary. Put it anywhere you get chafed, preferably before you get chafed. If your underwear rubs, try some of the microfiber seamless kinds or just go commando.