I don’t know where my love and passion for horses came from…I was born with it. I was that kid that was constantly galloping around with a stick horse. I could not leave a fair without a pony ride, and every time we drove by a barn we had to stop in to pet all of the horses.
I grew up near Boston, Massachusetts, so it was difficult for my parents to foster this obsession of mine without traveling a distance out of the city. We were fortunate to be able to summer on beautiful Cape Cod, where my riding debut started at Sea Flash Farm. I was 7 or 8 years old when I took my first lesson. I rode a black and white painted pony named Stevie from Chincoteague Island. I wore a B.U.M. Equipment sweatshirt, Espirit blue sweatpants, and white Adidas sneakers. Hard to believe, but I did not wear a helmet for that first lesson. Despite my poor equine fashion sense, I was convinced that riding was going to be my life. My summers on the Cape Cod were spent riding. Eventually I upgraded my attire to a pair of light gray jodhpurs, paddock boots, and a velvet riding helmet. As I got older, I only wanted to ride more. I spent the winter months riding up at Andover Riding Academy, where I fell in love with a 5 year old chestnut thoroughbred gelding. I saved every cent to buy this horse and all of the ‘stuff’ to go with it. All I had to do was convince my wonderfully supportive parents, who knew nothing about horses, that I was ready for horse ownership. That day happened in the summer of 1995. I will never forget that day, nor the day I passed over $2400 in a stack of cash for my Stübben Siegfried saddle. I called my horse Telly. What I did not realize when buying this 5 year old GREEN thoroughbred from the race track, was that I going to end up with a lot of ER visits – a few sprained ankles, a couple of concussions, and a hair line fracture to the pelvis. I was 16 and spending every bit of time I had training this horse to be an eventer. It was all worth it. I loved riding him, when it was a ‘good’ day. He eventually developed into a wonderful horse, with a lot of work and sacrifice.
I headed off to the University of Vermont in 1997, and had to leave Telly behind. Eventually, we had to sell him. I was heartbroken. I attempted to mend my broken heart by joining the UVM equestrian team. I rode for 2 years in college, but needed to stop due to lack of time. It certainly felt like a part of me was missing.
Now 40 years old. I am a wife, a mom, and have a full time career as nurse practitioner in internal medicine. I had not sat back in a saddle until 2 years ago. What got me back there was my daughter, Tatum. She was also born with a bit of the horse bug. At the age of 4, I started her in lessons at this wonderful hidden gem close to my home, Highlander Farm in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Watching her joy while riding, was like watching myself that first day I rode Stevie the pony. I never thought I would ever ride again, as there was a strong sense of fear, as I lacked confidence that I would be able to bounce back as quickly if I were to take a fall. With a bit of a push from a good friend and trainer at Highlander Farm, I decided to bite the bullet and take a lesson. It was indeed like riding a bike, and only wanted more from that moment on.
It has now been 2 years. I am part-leasing a beautiful and gentle warmblood mare named Rita. When I ride, the stressors of my demanding job are remedied, I am able to reset on who I am, and most importantly, it has helped me center my life as a mom and wife. I never realized how therapeutic riding could be, nor how much I needed it back in my life.
With that being said, having been out of riding for almost 20 years, my gear needed a big time update. Equestrian gear, both tack and apparel, have come a long way. Of course, I attempted to wear what I had from 20 years ago, as I saved everything! Sadly, my old light gray breeches tore as I tried to squeeze myself into them, the lining to the velvet helmet had disintegrated, and the leather on my crocheted gloves was almost fossilized after sitting in the basement for years. I desperately needed an update.
Piper Breeches by SmartPak
The breeches today have certainly exceeded my expectations. I recall them coming in white, gray, black or tan. The materials seemed not quite as durable. They would stretch out easily and not wash well. Today, I love the bright colors, patterns and durable fabrics. I’m about 5’4” with a short waist. I had to try multiple brands of breeches, before finding the pair that fit perfectly. Hands down, Piper Breeches by Smarkpak are the best. They are the most comfortable breeches I have found. I am partial to the original full seat, as it gives me good secure contact in the saddle. They wash well without becoming stiff. They sit perfectly around my short waist. I especially love the array of colors they come in.
One K Defender Matte Helmet
Since that old velvet helmet was no longer usable, I had to find new one promptly. Obviously, it is the most important piece of equine attire you could own. I initially bought an inexpensive, adjustable one. I would get headaches with every ride from it. It was light weight, but not the type of light weight you want while riding a 2000lb animal. Having been through some terrible falls, a couple of concussions, and a cracked helmet from a fall, I needed something more durable and comfortable. I was advised by one of my trainers to consider the One K Defender Helmet. This helmet is extremely comfortable, and more importantly, I feel like I am getting that protection I need. I like the matte over the velvet material, as it is easy to keep clean.
Roeckl Roeck-Grip Gloves
Sadly, I also had to throw away those fossilized crocheted gloves, as I was not able to hold my grip on the reins with them. The Roeckl gloves are worth every cent. They not only provide a good secure grip, they are not cumbersome to wear while tacking up during the cold winter months. The winter glove provides good warmth.
CWD Classic Saddle
That Stuuben saddle that I paid $2400 in hard earned cash was also out dated. Prior to committing to a lease, I wanted to make sure I had my own saddle to use. It is too expensive of a piece of equipment to borrow from someone else. Additionally, everyone’s bodies are different, so it can often be a challenge to have a good ride when using a saddle that you are not properly fitted to. Having that saddle that fits you and your horse perfectly will only improve your ride. I was lucky to have a CWD dealer right at my barn and fit me for a new saddle. She found a perfect fit was a CWD classic saddle. It is well made and attractive, but most importantly it does not bother my back which is what I noted with other saddles I had trialed.
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Water Resistant Sunscreen SPF 45
One can often forget how much sun you can be exposed to while riding. As a health care provider, I am a huge advocate for sun protection, as I have seen way too much skin cancer in my 10+ year career. On those sunny summer days, with the hot rays reflecting off the sandy ring, I will not leave the house without applying sun screen to my face before going to the barn. It is hard to find a good sun screen for the face that is not greasy and does not clog pours. I love Neutrogrena Ultra sheer suncreen. It goes on like a silky moisturizer. It is not greasy, not difficult to rub in. It dries quickly and does not run. There is nothing worse than sun screening seeping into your eyes while riding due to sweat.