A Bit o’ Fun

Just kidding, finding the right bit is more annoying than it is fun.

Here’s what we’re working with: I almost always ride Francis in a French link elevator with my reins on the second ring. He is very happy and soft in this bit, I can have gentle hands, he prefers the clarity of leverage over mouth pressure, overall it works really well for him. We like it and have no real need to switch it up.

We have a happy horse in this bit which means we have a happy rider

Except, of course, that this bit is considered unconventional in the equitation and hunter rings. Which means that we HAVE to switch it up.

We’ve been using a plain pelham for the last year, a la this:


It’s been…fine. Frankie historically is not fussy about his bits and this is no exception. The only one he’s really shown a vague dislike for is a slow twist, so we keep the mouthpieces smooth now. I rode him in a plain full cheek snaffle like this one for the first 2 years I had him and it worked well enough.


So my hope was that the pelham would be similar to that, with a little bit of the leverage he seems to prefer. And again, it’s fine. No theatrics, nothing awful, just kinda dull and leaning. It’s a good thing those courses are less twisty turny than the jumper ring, because I feel like I have a much slower line of communication with this bit.

It’s not a big deal if I’m just popping in an equitation class now and then, but I do enjoy them and want to continue to give them a go with Francisco. So I decided that it’s time to find something better than “fine.” I want something actively good.

The first place I started was by testing the mouthpiece. I picked up a French link full cheek snaffle to see if this mouthpiece might fit more happily in his mouth, similar to his elevator.


I do like this bit a lot, especially on the flat. I don’t have the same brakes that I do in the elevator, but I have a surprising amount of adjustability and softness that I never had in a snaffle before. I think this is partially due to Frankie’s continuing education since we last tried the snaffle, but I also think that this mouthpiece is a little gentler and encourages some more softness for him. My only qualm is that I have to make any adjustments on course 4 strides out instead of 2 since it takes a bit longer to communicate – and let’s be honest, I’m not good enough to always know what I need to do a full 4 strides out. So a step in the right direction but not quite where I want it. (Side note – I’m having Frankie’s half-leaser use this bit with him. He’s easier to get to know in a snaffle and I always hesitate putting leverage in hands that I don’t know as well.)

The next one we decided to try was a shaped Mullen Happy Mouth pelham:


I know some horses love the single piece and some are not fans. So far Frankie seems to be a fan! He’s soft and forward into the bridle, and I have that little bit of leverage to help me communicate. He has such a dull mouth that it really doesn’t make much sense to use harsher mouthpieces, so backing that off to something softer for him makes sense to me. My trainer doesn’t absolutely love it, but this is what we’re tentatively using for now.

Of course, I then asked my trainer what she’s been using on him in her training rides, and she responded that she’s been using no noseband and this KK Ultra loose ring and he’s been very happy.


So I’m going to see if I can find this in a D to try out (loose ring is technically allowed I believe but is not The Look(TM) at the moment). Of course it’s a fancy expensive one, so I’m looking for a used one (please let me know if you have anything for me I will happily buy it off you!!). I keep my noseband pretty loose anyways, but hey maybe I’ll just take it off altogether for the jumper ring. Let his nose fly free in the breeze. I would really prefer to put him in a snaffle that he likes for the eq/derby rings – I think having a bit that looks stronger visually (like the pelham) sends a signal to the judge that he’s a stronger or heavier ride and that isn’t the case at all. So we’ll keep working on it to make sure he’s comfortable and can hear me.

Basically the verdict is that my horse likes a center piece to jangle, except when he likes a single piece. And he likes the clarity of a little leverage, except when he goes better in a snaffle.



Tack Breakdown

I’ve mentioned our tack setup in passing a couple times, but here’s a more detailed breakdown of what Frankie and I use on a regular basis. It’s the same at home and at shows, we’ll just swap out our boots and use an official saddle pad.

Saddle: used buffalo Antares, 17.5 5A

Before we got it re-paneled

The one and only saddle I tried when I started saddle shopping. The fitter had been told that I have stupidly long legs and had prepared by bringing several saddles with longer flaps, but she took one look at me and just handed me this one. The seat is a leeeettle bit big- I could probably use a 17 instead of a 17.5- but that 5A flap is SO hard to find in my price range. For those unfamiliar with Antares saddle sizing: the number (in this case 5) refers to the length of the flap, ranging from 00 (itty bitty pony/child size) to 5 (giraffe legs) with most “normal” adult saddles being around a 2 or 3, and the letter (in this case A) refers to the positioning of the flap- the options are N for normal, A for forward, and AA for super forward. Apparently there are other options but you’ll have to figure those out for yourself because that’s the extent of my knowledge. Back to my own saddle: the 5A means that it’s a forward flap and literally the longest non-custom one they have. It’s pretty much as close as I can afford to custom-it puts me just in the right spot and is super duper comfy. Buffalo for the win, that stuff is soft and sticky and wonderful. We recently had it re-paneled to fit Frankie, so now we have a like-custom saddle for a fraction of the price! I love my saddle rep, she is literally the coolest.

This thing is my baby. It isn’t even healthy how much love I have for this inanimate object.

Girth: Showmark Performance girth, size 52

(see below picture)

I grabbed this from Dover 2 days before Loudoun when I abruptly realized that I probably shouldn’t show in the ratty hand-me-down fleecy girth I’d been using (and still use sometimes). A wonderful case of procrastination and panic gone right! I’m very very happy with this girth. The leather is good quality, soft, and easy to clean, and the elastic is nice and stiff so I’m not tempted to just keep tightening. Frankie doesn’t seem to really care which girth I use so I can’t talk much about how happy it makes my horse…but it doesn’t make him UNhappy so that has to count for something? I guess?

Down the line I’d like to save up for an anatomically shaped one or even a belly guard, but that’s just me wanting to play dress up with my horse. You’ve all seen pics of Frankie jumping. He clearly doesn’t need a belly guard.

Breastplate: Nunn Finer 3-point w/ elastic

Girth kinda visible? I love the navy elastic because I love all things navy.

This is the newest addition to the family and I’m thrilled with it. Getting my saddle re-paneled helped immensely with saddle slippage, but I’m still worried about it when the jumps go up and he starts actually trying (which has happened roughly twice since I bought him). So I asked my trainer, “3 point or 5? Elastic or leather? Any good brands? Any terrible ones? I NEED GUIDANCE.” And she casually said, “Nunn Finer makes a nice elastic 3-point.” And this is why I love her. Short, to the point, and the next day I had my new breastplate in hand! (I know a lot of people are not big Dover fans, but I placed the order at 2pm and it was waiting at my door the very next day, and shipping was like $5. I was pretty darn happy with it).

So far this has been great- it’s very adjustable size-wise, the leather is really good quality and has softened up very quickly, and it fits Frankie nicely. I was a little intimidated by all the buckles at first, mostly because I’m clueless when it comes to anything besides a plain saddle and bridle, but now I really appreciate all those buckles- I was able to adjust each piece to the right length to fit Frankie just right. The neoprene shoulder discs do make Frankie sweat but don’t seem to be causing any rubs. Further updates as we get more use out of this thing.

Bridle: Smartpak Plymouth snaffle

Bridle, bit, and EquiFits all present and accounted for

A fantastic schooling bridle! I’ve used this almost every day since bringing Frankie home and it has held up fantastically. The leather softened almost immediately (I did use neatsfoot oil to hurry the process) and with regular saddle soap and conditioner it still looks good. Not to mention, Frankie looks super handsome in it. He looks handsome all the time forever, but that’s beside the point.

I’m planning to splurge on a Vespucci sometime in the not-too-distant future (drool) so we can have a schooling bridle and a show bridle, but this one has been serving as both so far. I don’t think it’ll last forever- mostly because it gets used so heavily- but I’ll likely replace it with the same when it does eventually kick the bucket.

Bit: Full cheek plain snaffle

(see above picture)

Frankie was in a plain full cheek when we tried him out and he seemed fine, so I grabbed one to continue using when we brought him home. He wears the same one at home and at shows, though I’ll likely pop a Pelham in his mouth when we start doing the eq. Is this the absolute best bit we could possibly have for him? Not sure- we haven’t really done any experimenting. But he’s healthy and happy and responsive to it and I’d rather not mess with something that ain’t broken!

Boots: Eskadron open-fronts OR EquiFit open-fronts (tab closure, discontinued model)

The white boots look sharp on those dark legs!

(see above picture for EquiFits)

We school in the Eskadrons and I’m mostly glad to have them because of the hinds. Homeboy interferes in the back pretty regularly and I like having a little something to help protect him. Not much to say about these- we all know Eskadron. These replaced the first pair of open-fronts I had for Frankie and I like these soooo much better- they hug his leg without pinching or gapping.

We show in the EquiFits- love these. I was worried at first because they seemed SUPER small, but after a short break-in period they fit him like a glove. I’m glad to have something a little more substantial on his legs when we show since the jumps tend to be higher and we’re jumping more often. They clean up nicely and look great on him!


I’m not planning on adding anything else to the tack family any time soon. Maybe a bonnet in my barn colors? I’m lucky that he’s pretty easy-going about tack and easy to fit so we’ll keep things basic and straightforward. I haven’t had to make any hard decisions on what to use with him, but we’ll take it one day at a time!

Do you have any specific tack choices you’ve made? Why?


My Latest SmartPak Haul

I know I’m not alone in coveting new gear for myself and my pony, right? For those of you shaking your heads, take a good long look at yourselves and be honest. I know you want pretty things. That’s right. I’m calling you out.

Myself, I’m an unabashed clothes hound. I used to covet dresses and pretty blouses, but that hoarding tendency has transferred 100% to horse gear. Since I’m half-leasing for the time being and much of Addy’s gear is taken care of, this tends to manifest in lots of riding clothes.

And that’s where SmartPak comes in.

I could write an ode to their fast shipping, fantastic return policy, or lovely selection that amuses me on their website for hours on end. But that’s not what this post is about. Instead, I’ll share my latest haul(s) and tell you exactly what I think: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Piper Knee-Patch Breeches by SmartPak


I got these in the merlot-charcoal color based on an emphatic recommendation from Jenn at Stories From the Saddle, and haven’t regretted it for a minute. I also got another pair in iron-champagne thanks to Allison from Pony’tude, and am eying a couple other color combos on the website.

The good: so super comfortable. The sock bottom make them fit really well under my super tight tall boots, and the material has just enough stretch to make them great for all-day wear without getting baggy after a few hours. I’m also a huge fan of the colors- the merlot is straight up pretty and a fun different color, and the iron is perfect for hiding dirt without looking like you’re trying to hide dirt. You know, that effortless barn chic we all crave (sadly it looks like this color is discontinued. I’ll try not to gloat too much). Basically, I feel like a fashionable rockstar in these; everyone looks better with a little euroseat stitching to give some shape.

The bad: the waistband is a bit gappy. I don’t have much of a badonkadonk so this isn’t too bad, but my friend had to return hers because the gapping was so extreme. I just throw a belt on and it fixes the problem for me. For the price ($70ish but there’s regular 20% off sales!!), I ain’t too mad about this.

Overall rating: 4/5 will almost definitely add more to my collection

Piper T-Shirts


I recently snagged three of these on sale in black/gray, blue jean, and coral pink. In fact, I wore the blue jean tee yesterday and currently have the black/gray tee on.

The good: literally everything. They’re way softer than anticipated, fit nice and close to my body, have just enough of a vee-neck to be flattering, they’re long enough to tuck into low-rise breeches, and the colors are great. Not to mention the price- with the sale and my USEF discount, I paid roughly $7 per shirt. The black/gray also perfectly matches the piping on my merlot Piper breeches, so I’m psyched to be the matching queen.

The bad: I didn’t buy more while the sale was on. Seriously, I can’t think of anything wrong with these. I guess my coworkers sometimes ask why there’s a horse on my shirt (the Smartpak logo)??? But that’s their problem if they haven’t realized I’m a crazy horse lady, so I refuse to ding the shirt for that.

Overall rating: 5/5 will DEFINITELY add more to my collection

Sunshield Longsleeve Shirt by SmartPak


Picked this up (also on sale) in the royal blue color based on strong recommendations from Jenn (there is a pattern here. She is my enabler).

The good: in love with the color. Especially with my snowy white pony (listen, I can dream about her someday being clean, don’t burst my bubble). It’s fairly lightweight and I don’t get too overheated in it.

The bad: While it does protect me from the sun, I definitely know that I’m wearing a long sleeve shirt in the middle of July. It’s much better than another long sleeve would be, but the breathability isn’t as high as I was hoping. Also, the sizing isn’t great- I got an XS and it’s still super boxy.

Overall rating: 3/5 will maaaaybe add more to my collection if there’s a sale

USG Bonnet


I’m showing in the jumpers more often, so we need to have a bonnet. Right? I’m a big fan of playing dress up so we’ll go with it. I lucked out that my barn colors were available (navy and burgundy) and the price was right, so I pulled the trigger and ordered.

The good: the ears fit really nicely and it’s a good size overall. There’s plenty of material to go under the crownpiece, so I never worry about it getting loose. Like I said, the colors were ideal. The materials were good too- Lycra ears which stretched just right and cotton woven front.

The bad: maybe I’m just bad at bonnets, but I couldn’t get this to lay flat and pretty. Part of this may be due to Addy’s big poofy forelock that I didn’t adequately tame prior to our ride, but it just didn’t seem quite right. I’d be curious to see how other bonnets fit to see if this is something wonky with the bonnet, or something wonky with Addy’s giant head.

Overall rating: 3/5 not unhappy with my purchase, but will probably spring for custom next time

Ariat Prix Classic Polo


Got this in navy to wear to our first jumper show- I really lucked out that my barn’s colors are navy and burgundy, since most things come in navy and it’s my favorite color. Boom.

The good: nice weight, has held up really well in the wash, and definitely long enough to tuck into low-rise breeches. It’s a pretty navy and I like that it has 4 buttons instead of the classic 3. I now have an official barn polo that I’ll likely wear in shows, but I love wearing this in lessons and for schooling- it looks very sharp and professional.

The bad: SO HOT. I know a medium-weight dark polo probably wasn’t the best choice for a hot summer show, but I was sweating like a pig in this thing. It’s not the shirt’s fault for that though, it can’t help the way it was made. I also wish it was a little cheaper, but I’m the type of person who hates paying more than $10 for a shirt (but apparently I’m fine with dropping $200 on pants without blinking). For the quality and comfort, it really is a very fair price.

Overall rating: 4/5 will likely grab another if I find myself in need of another polo

Tack Wishlist

Sometimes when things are slow at work I daydream about what I would buy if I won the lottery. And of course most of the list is horse gear. So without further ado, my list of what I would get if my bank account magically expanded:

  • A Tad Coffin saddle. I don’t own a saddle at this point and this is my biggest wish. I used to ride in my trainers Tad Coffin in high school and it was sooooo comfortable. A slightly-used already-broken-in version sounds perfect. A girl can dream. (Psst this one please)
  • An Ogilvy half pad. Man, I’ve been seeing these all over Instagram and I have major saddle pad envy. With a monogrammed cover? Why yes that would be fine.
  • Shaped fleece pad. One of those big cushy ones that’s gonna look awesome in the hunter ring.
  • Leather fleecy leg boots. I’m drooling over these ones, they’re just so sporty and classic and pretty. Seriously. Drool.
  • Spurs. Why do I want these? I have no idea. I have some vague idea that it might help force me to control my leg movement better. Addy certainly has no need of spurs, her go-button is plenty sensitive without them.
  • Polo shirts to look sharp in when I lesson. Wait, what? Polo shirts are pennies compared to the other things on this list! But I have plenty of nicely-fitted t-shirts, and this overly practical girl just can’t justify the expense. For now, polo shirts stay on the Want list, not the Need list.

There you have it! Not a super long list, but definitely something to inspire me to pack those lunches and save those dollars!

What’re you saving up for this year?