When I’m on the back of a horse, I enjoy a time out from the stresses of life. It’s like a mini-vacation. I relish being out in nature while simultaneously forging a bond with one of God’s most magnificent creatures. Every ride is a new adventure. Joyful and free are the best words to proclaim how I feel around horses. My name is Susan Friedland-Smith and I’m horse obsessed.
Blogger, Author and Horse Girl 24/7
By profession I’m a middle school history teacher, but my passion is horses. I blog about life as an everyday equestrian at Saddle Seeks Horse and write feature stories for magazines like Horse Illustrated and Sidelines. I recently published my first book: Horses Adored and Men Endured: a Memoir of Falling Off and Getting Back Up. It’s a quirky reflection on how when I was a girl I wanted to marry a horse, and when I was around 30 I thought I actually might have to marry my horse since I went on way too many completely disastrous dates. The chapters alternate between sharing stories of lame men and gentlemanly steeds.
My riding debut started out as backyardy as backyardy can be, hopping on borrowed horses from family friends’ fields and then progressing through lessons at horse camp, riding in a local riding school, then working with a hunter/jumper trainer and showing on the circuit in the Chicago area. The last couple of decades on and off I’ve been in the world of hunt seat riding with an occasional dressage lesson. This past fall I joined a local fox hunt and am having a blast. After years of arena riding, I feel like I’m reconnecting with the way I grew up riding--hopping on the back of a horse and heading out into the countryside to explore and ride fast.
I live in Orange County, California with my horse hubby Mark, Golden Retriever and Doberman. My lucky OTTB Knight lives in Temecula wine country in a glorious green pasture with a couple of buddy horses. I bought him a few years ago when he was a greenie and we’ve been to a few local hunter/jumper shows. However, 2018 has been dedicated to rehab for an injury and coming up for a plan based on his recent kissing spine diagnosis. I’m not sure what our future plans are as a team, but I’m confident he’ll tell me what he can do as we head into the new year. Picture Credits: Lady Photographic for all riding photo
County Stabilizer Saddle
I’m a devoted County Stabilizer saddle fan. I have my original light tan County Stabilizer from around 1997, that I might still be riding in if the tree fit Knight. My newer County Stabilizer is from about 2016 and the love fest continues. I am a huge proponent of wool flocking so that the saddle can be adjusted to fit your horse when his muscling changes. The workmanship on County saddles is unparalleled. I have been told each saddle is made by one person in England and there is a way to trace back who the artisan was based on how it’s numbered. I’m glad this old-fashioned, slow version of saddle making still thrives as I’m not convinced new, factory techniques and the latest materials serve our horses best.
Where I ride there are no indoor arenas and it’s usually very sunny. When I ride, I want sun protection and to stay cool. I have three favorite brands of sun shirts for different reasons. First, Kastel sun shirts are durable, have an attractive fit on my body type and come in a gorgeous array of colors. Next, Ariat winter tech shirts are warm for winter riding, but still breathable. I wear them as a base layer under sweaters when I go visit my family in Chicago during the holidays. I have been know to wear the Ariat and Callidae (my third pick) shirts to work AND get compliments from colleagues! What is special about the Callidae is it looks dressier--like wearing a nice blouse under a sweater. Very preppy and classy. I wore my blue Callidae with little foxes during the fox hunting clinic I attended in October, that launched my new obsession with fox hunting.
Kate Spade Sunglasses
About 90% of the time I ride in sunglasses as it’s bright when I ride. I have two favorite Kate Spade pairs, both with a cat eye vibe. They are tortoiseshell and make me feel a little bit glam in the saddle.
Speaking of sun, in the spring, summer and most of fall I wear my Equivisor. I have one in dark brown cotton and one in jute. It is almost a requirement if you don’t want to squint with the strong sun blazing down and also reflecting back up in some arenas here in SoCal. If you’re not familiar with the Equivisor, it is an extra wide visor with an adjustable velcro strap; it’s made specifically for riding helmets.
Roeckl Riding Gloves
Roeckl are the best around! The gloves are durable and you can even throw them in the washing machine. They make really good colors too. I enjoyed my navy pair, but most of the time wear black.
Picture Credits: Lady Photographic for all riding photos