I tested 3 braid sprays so you don’t have to!

I tested 3 braid sprays so you don’t have to!

Disclaimer: I was sent two of these products for free, and all opinions are ones I have developed through my use of the products. I have not been paid or sponsored by anyone associated with these products.

As a way to fund my tack-hoarding tendencies, I braid manes and tails. This time-consuming tradition proves a challenge for some riders. I’m happy to help them out, transforming unruly manes into beautiful braids.

I’ve braided for eventers, 4-Hers, and breeders at inspections. But most of my clients are foxhunters. Foxhunters have a different set of needs for braids than a traditional rider. They need their braids to stay in while galloping over intense terrain for a few hours. A different experience than a few minutes in a show ring!

For this year’s Blessing of the Hounds, I decided to put three different braiding sprays to the test. I’ve always used QuicBraid in the past, but I recently acquired two other sprays: Ponytail Products Mane Stay and Mane n’ Tail’s Spray n’ Braid. Why not try them all out on one horse?

My friend Beth’s horse Norman became my test dummy. I’m fortunate that Norman has a lovely mane, kept thinned and trimmed. Regular mane maintenance is essential to beautiful braids. A thin, neat mane makes it simple to keep braids the same size.

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Norman’s finished mane! I braided his forelock immediately after taking this picture, but of course, I didn’t take a new shot after that!

When testing these sprays, I looked at five qualities: grip on the mane, after-braiding hand stickiness, scent, spray mechanism, and 24-hour control. I look for a spray that provides grip quickly to the mane, but does not leave a sticky residue on my hands after use. I prefer a spray that smells nice, because who doesn’t? The spray mechanism has to be easy to use. Last, but definitely not least, the spray has to keep the braids looking sleek overnight. I also have considered cost into my results.

I ranked each category out of 5 points, then totaled up the points at the end. For the stickiness category, the higher the number, the less sticky my hands at the end of the braiding.


 

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QuicBraid

Cost: $10.95 from SmartPak Equine

  • Grip: 4/5
  • Stickiness: 3/5
  • Scent: 4/5
  • Spray Mechanism: 5/5
  • 12-Hour Control: 5/5

Total Score: 21/25

This spray gets the job done. I could easily grip the hairs, only a few seconds after spraying the mane. It does smell nice, as most of the Exhibitor’s brand products do. My hands were a little bit sticky after braiding, but it washed off cleanly with soap. I saw no problems with the braids after 12 hours – they were still neat and free from flyaway hairs.

QuicBraid’s spray mechanism is absolutely my favorite. I find that the trigger sprayers are much easier to use when braiding.


 

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Spray n’ Braid

Cost: $7.95 from Big Dee’s

  • Grip: 2/5
  • Stickiness: 2/5
  • Scent: 4/5
  • Spray Mechanism: 3/5
  • 12-Hour Control: 5/5

Total Score: 18/25

I was a little bit confused by this spray. I didn’t get a great grip on the mane using it, but after I was finished, my hands were incredibly sticky. The stickiness did wash off, but it was unfortunate.

The scent was fine. I didn’t really notice it as nice, but it also was not bad. The braids did stay in overnight. I dislike pump sprayers like this one, but it does appear that the larger bottles have trigger sprayers.


 

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Mane Stay

Cost: $11 from Ponytail Products

  • Grip: 5/5
  • Stickiness: 5/5
  • Scent: 5/5
  • Spray Mechanism: 3/5
  • 12-Hour Control: 5/5

Total Score: 23/25

Mane Stay is definitely my favorite braid spray! This product smells amazing. The spray is paraben and sulfate free and contains alfalfa, rosemary, and carrot extracts. I cannot say enough about how amazing it smells.

I had a great grip on the hairs while I was braiding, but my hands did not feel sticky at the end of the work. I was seriously impressed! Braids stayed in beautifully. I’m in love with yet another one of the Ponytail Products grooming products.


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Handsome Norman’s braids were still beautiful the next day! Here he is, all turned out for the Blessing of the Hounds. 

The Thrifty Equestrian pick? Ponytail Products Mane Stay! This spray smells great and works wonderfully. The only thing that could make Mane Stay better? A trigger spray mechanism. Otherwise, I couldn’t find a flaw!

What are your go-to braiding products? Any tricks for getting perfect braids every time?

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Introducing Liza, The Thrifty Equestrian’s New Fitness Writer!

Introducing Liza, The Thrifty Equestrian’s New Fitness Writer!

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I am excited to announce that my real-life horsey BFF Liza is going to be writing a column for The Thrifty Equestrian! Liza and I became friends while we were students at Otterbein – we’ve been friends for 5 years! We rode together pretty extensively while we both lived in Ohio, but Liza has recently moved back home. Long-distance BFFs!

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Liza runs a fitness tumblr called RiderFit and blogs about her own fitness and weight-lifting journey. For The Thrifty Equestrian, Liza is going to write a column called Rider Fit, where she’ll detail exercises that benefit riders! A lot of these exercises will be ones we can do at the barn! Who doesn’t want to get their workout in while hauling buckets or throwing hay?

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Liza’s first post will be coming soon! Comment and let me know what kind of exercises you might be interested in seeing!

Follow Liza on social media!

RiderFit

Twitter

Instagram

Tack Shop Spotlight: Four Star Brand Eventing Gear

Tack Shop Spotlight: Four Star Brand Eventing Gear

Eventers, listen up! This tack shop spotlight is for us!

I was recently on the hunt for new cross-country boots. There are so many options, and I’m the kind of person who wants to touch them all and weigh the various possibilities before making a decision. At least, I’m that way when it comes to buying things for my horse. I want the best value for my money, since I don’t always have a lot of it to spend.

So when considering new boots, I enlisted the help of my friend Jen, who is my go-to tack guru. She frequents the Chronicle of the Horse forums and is currently in the process of starting a saddle-fitting blog and consultation business. (Check out The Saddle Geek and get signed up for the mailing list!) Jen kindly offered to loan me her Premier Equine boots to test out, as well as advice on what kinds of boots I should consider for the aspiring lower-level eventer.

I was considering buying a set of used Ecogold XC boots, but Jen sent me the link to the new Boyd Martin Majyk Equipe Cross Country boots, which can be found here! For the same price as the used Ecogolds, I could get brand new Boyd Martins, with free shipping! I’m in!

Boyd Martin Majyk Equipe Cross Country Boots
Boyd Martin Majyk Equipe Cross Country Boots

And then Jen threw in the kicker – Four Star Brand Eventing Gear PRICE MATCHES. I found the same Boyd Martin XC boots for less on a different site, so I sent an email through the Four Star Brand email form on their contact page. Carl Gardner responded within four hours, at 10 PM, and walked me through the incredibly simple process. I provided a link to where I had found the boots for less, and he responded with a customized invoice for me. I paid through Paypal, and I had purchased the boots within 24 hours of finding Four Star. Talk about service.

Then things got a little bit more complicated. Today (10/20) was 2 weeks to the day that I ordered the boots. I hadn’t gotten them. The UPS truck pulled up outside of my apartment, and I was sure that they had finally arrived.

Nope.

So I called the customer service number on the Four Star Brand website. Carl answered on about the third ring. I wasn’t expecting to talk to a helpful person right off the bat – maybe an automated system or a secretary. After identifying myself and my problem, Carl remembered our previous email exchange and what I had ordered. He informed me that Majyk Equipe had delayed the shipment to Four Star because of missing packaging.

Carl made sure to ask whether or not I needed the boots for an upcoming show. I felt like he actually cared about the fact that I might need the boots in a hurry. He assured me that the boots would be on their way soon and that I should expect an email from him shortly.

Sure enough, I had an email in my inbox within a couple of hours.

Email from Carl Gardner
Email from Carl Gardner

The email explained what had happened, detailed when they would be shipping out, and upgraded shipping to me from UPS ground (5-7 days) to USPS Priority (2-3 days). I’m thrilled! I’m happy to wait for the boots, but this makes things even better!

Four Star Brand makes customers their priority. Their Our Story page makes it clear: “Treating people the way we would want to be treated drives every business decision we make. Our customers, contractors and suppliers are all treated like family. We never lose sight of why we started this venture.” They aim to stock quality products for competitive prices: “10 years from now, no one is going to say ‘I really want my bridle to break on cross country’ or ‘yeah, so I bought these cheap XC boots, I’m so happy they rubbed a hole through my horses leg!’. We don’t stock the fads or the trendy items, we stay focused on supplying the gear that will keep our riders and horses safe and comfortable.”

Four Star Brand Eventing Gear is an eventing company, run by eventers. Their policies are simple and clearly stated on their website. Customer service is personal, fast, and understanding. Carl has gone out of his way to help me with my purchase, from facilitating a price match to upgrading shipping after a delay.

The company is a veteran-owned small business, run by our fellow eventers. They deserve our support, so if you’re looking for new tack or equipment, make sure to check out Four Star Brand Eventing Gear.

Shop online, connect with Four Star on Facebook and Twitter, or give their customer service a shout at 888-863-7552 during business hours (8am-6pm PST) or at GetGear@FourStarBrand.com.

Product Review: Ponytail Products Show Pony Shine

Product Review: Ponytail Products Show Pony Shine

Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free, and all opinions are ones I have developed through my use of the product. I have not been paid or sponsored by anyone associated with this product.

Recently my mare has discovered burrs. There is only one burr bush in her field, and she has managed to find it several days in a row. And I don’t just mean one or two burrs. I mean, covered. Tangled. I own a unicorn.

Tess looking less than amused that I am attempting to undo her handiwork with the burrs.
Tess looking less than amused that I was attempting to undo her handiwork with the burrs.

Tess normally has quite a thick, full forelock. It certainly makes braiding easier on good days, but man, that forelock was not my friend when I was trying to get the burrs out. She managed to wrap her entire forelock up into a knot around the burrs. I was worried that I would end up pulling her entire forelock out trying to get them out!

So many burrs.
So many burrs.

Enter Ponytail Products Show Pony Shine! Equus Now! gifted me this serum to try a few months ago, and I haven’t really gotten to put it to the test before now. The high gloss serum is made of a “unique blend of Argan, Avocado, and Macadamia Seed oils.” Let me tell you, this stuff smells amazing. I’m pretty sure it’s nicer than the products I use on my own hair! The company offers a “human-grade horse grooming collection inspired by a passion for horses and an appreciation of timeless equestrian style.”

No more burrs!
No more burrs!

Not only does this serum smell amazing, but it worked perfectly for getting the burrs out. I covered her forelock in it, and the oils made it easy for me to slide the burrs right out! No pulling or tugging or losing precious forelock in the process. And it left her forelock soft and shiny after I was finished. I went through and did her entire mane and tail with it afterwards!

A little wavy, but it's all still there!
A little wavy, but it’s all still there!

Overall, I really like this gloss serum! Tess’s fly sheet has a neck cover that has made her mane a little bit frizzy, but it smoothed out her mane and tail nicely. The smell is great, and it didn’t leave my hands feeling sticky or gross. I feel like my hands were actually much softer after using it! I did struggle to get the tack room door open while I was in the middle of pulling the burrs out because of the oils, but no harm!

If you’re looking for new grooming products, give Ponytail Products a try! They are available at some tack stores, as well as on their website! I’m looking forward to trying some of their other products in the future!

Ponytail Products can be found on the following social media channels:

Instagram: @ponytail_products

Facebook: Ponytail Products

Twitter: @ponytailusa

Thrifty Tricks: Clinics on a Budget!

Thrifty Tricks: Clinics on a Budget!

Clinics are a fantastic, immersive way to enhance your equine knowledge. From grooming clinics to riding clinics, opportunities for learning are endless. I personally love to ride in and audit clinics! Depending on the clinic, the cost can be anywhere from $30 or $40 for a local clinician to well over $2000 to ride with George Morris. Clinics can be anywhere from an hour or two to a full weekend, even a full week!

Even if you’re on a tight budget, clinics can be a valuable way to add to your knowledge base – it just takes a little bit more planning and creative thinking! Here are some ways to clinic on a budget, as well as ways to get the most out of clinics that you do attend!

Plan your clinic schedule early!

Most clinic organizers schedule their clinics months in advance. Keep track of when things are happening and make a plan to save up money for entries. If you find out about a clinic in April that is happening in October, you have several months to find the money! I try and put aside money from my various braiding jobs and small odd jobs, instead of trying to pull from my existing budget.

Planning my season far in advance gives me the opportunity to plan for my budget accordingly!

Apply for grants and scholarships!

Some riding organizations offer grants and scholarships to help riders advance their educations! For example, the United States Eventing Association offers scholarships for Young Adult Amateur riders and Adult Amateur riders. These grants provide funding for riders to use for clinics, lessons, working student positions, or other educational opportunities.

Make sure you follow the instructions carefully if you’re going to apply for a scholarship! Pay attention to deadlines, and get all materials in early. Don’t leave things to the last minute!

Have someone take videos of your rides!

If you have a friend at the clinic with you, have them take videos of your rides. Having that footage can be invaluable later! It always helps me to be able to see what I was doing in the clinic.

Some clinics even offer videos as part of the entry fee to the clinic! If you’re lucky enough to have that as an option, take advantage of it!

Ride in a group lesson instead of in a private lesson!

Private lessons are always more expensive than group lessons or semi-privates. If the clinician offers groups or semi-privates, choose that option. Not only is it more affordable, but it can be great to watch other people doing the same work at the same time. It’s easier to learn, at least for me, when I have someone else riding too.

If you’re going to ride with someone else, make sure that you’re on the same skill level. Clinic coordinators generally assign groups based on skill level and experience. Be honest about where you and horse horse are – it’s the best way to get the most out of the clinic experience.

Pick a local clinician!

It sounds great to audit with a big name trainer who has come in to town for a clinic, but oftentimes local clinicians are just as helpful for learning! Don’t knock someone local just because they aren’t a national big name. The prices for local clinicians are often much less expensive because they don’t have to travel. Plus, if you’re riding with a local trainer, there’s no need to haul long distances and stable your horse overnight!

Ask your barn friends and other people in the area who they ride with and clinic with. The best way to find a good clinician is by asking someone who has ridden with them! Local directories are also a great idea – Central Ohio is working on one right now called the Central Ohio Stable Directory that will list everyone in the local horse community! Check online message boards, Facebook groups, even Twitter. Social media can be a powerful tool for marketing these kinds of events. It can’t hurt to ask around and see what is going on!

Audit!

Maybe you’re really interested in a clinician who is coming to a farm near you, but you don’t have a horse to ride. Maybe you can’t afford the clinic fee. There a host of reasons that riding in a clinic isn’t an option, but that shouldn’t stop you from learning!

Auditors are spectators that come to a clinic to learn. But take auditing seriously! Bring a notebook and pens or pencils. Take notes. Record the clinician on your phone or with a video camera. Absorb as much knowledge as you can!

Auditing fees are generally much much less than the fees for riding in a clinic, but it’s easy to get just as much out of either experience!

Volunteer!

Clinics can’t run without volunteers. Make yourself invaluable and help out! Be prepared for a long day if you’re volunteering at a full day or full weekend clinic. Volunteers usually get to see the clinic sessions, but it depends on where assigned to help. Don’t count on getting to see everything, but take the opportunities that are given!

The behind the scenes of a clinic is just as invaluable as what happens in the ring. As with auditing, learn as much as you can! Write down notes when possible or take notes in another manner.

Ask questions!

No matter how you end up at a clinic, ask lots of questions. Ask the clinicians questions. Ask the coordinators questions. Ask the riders questions if possible. Ask the other auditors or volunteers questions. Take every chance you can to soak up a new piece of knowledge. I always say to learn something from everyone you talk to or watch ride or ride with! It may be that you learn something you never want to try or that won’t work for you or your horse, but that’s still learning something!

These are only just a few of the ways to get the most out of clinics on a budget! What ways have you used to further your education through clinics? Leave a comment and let us know!

Thrifty Tips: What To Do When A Facebook Sale Goes Wrong! Part 1

Last post, I talked all about Facebook groups – and how great they are for finding deals! While it’s easy to find deals online, it’s also pretty easy for things to go wrong with Facebook group transactions. Today’s post is going to highlight some of the ways that things go wrong and how

Worst case scenario: So you got scammed.

You bought something from a scammer. Uh oh. Maybe they didn’t send you anything at all. Maybe you bought a CWD bridle, but the one you received was anything but. There are lots of ways that people try and scam others online.

Always protect yourself when buying from people you don’t know. The best way to protect yourself is to always use Paypal. Always request an invoice from anyone you’re buying from. Don’t let someone convince you to just send them money using the friends and family option.

If you did not receive the item you thought you were supposed to, always try and message the seller first. Sometimes mistakes happen! Being willing to communicate is important. Always ask for clarification from the seller before resorting to other options. Paypal does offer protection for buyers.

No matter how mad you get, maintain composure. Don’t start swearing and yelling in a post on the group page. Most groups have a page or a post specifically to submit complaints about other group members. Use that, but be professional. Submit complaints to the appropriate moderators.

The item received was the wrong size!

This happened to me recently. I’ve been on the hunt for a 5.5″ rubber hunter dee ring bit. For some reason, this has been hard to find used! I posted several “in search of” posts in various groups, and I had someone comment saying they had one! I double checked that it was a 5.5″ and went ahead and purchased the bit. However, when I got it, it did not fit my horse. Sure enough, it was even labeled a 5″! Despite my best efforts, I had ended up with something in the wrong size.

In this situation, I had a couple of options. I could either contact the seller, request a refund, and ship the bit back or I could attempt to re-sell it myself. I decided to go ahead and send the seller a message first. She was a little bit frustrated, but she did go ahead and refund me. I shipped the bit back right away, tracking a provided, and all was well.

When buying sized items such as clothes, blankets, and bits, always request pictures of the size labels! That can prevent a lot of the mishaps with sizing issues. I had asked for a picture of the bit, but the way the bit designed made it look like a 5.5″ when it was really a 5″. Fortunately, everything worked out well for both parties.

If a seller does not want to take a refund, Paypal offers options for buyers who receive items that were not as described. Take advantage of these if you must, but always try and communicate with sellers first. Be kind and patient – most of the people selling on Facebook are not out to get you. They’re just horse people trying to buy and sell, just like you.

I sold something, but the buyer hasn’t paid yet!

Always make sure you receive payment for an item before shipping it out. Most people these days use Paypal, which makes it easy to keep track of orders and their shipping options. Use the invoice option, which gives you the opportunity to include descriptions of the items sold, shipping costs, and appropriate taxes.

Keep in contact with buyers. I use the Facebook Messenger app on my phone that makes communication easy. However, oftentimes messages get sent to the “other” folder when I’m not friends with buyers. The app does not offer the option to check this folder, so make sure you check it frequently from the website! I’ve missed several messages that way.

Remember that other people may be in different time zones from you. They may be at work. They may have to wait until they get home to access Paypal. Be patient!

These are only a few of the ways that Facebook sales can go awry! The most important things to remember are communication and patience. Always try and talk things out with other group members. Be polite when interacting with others.

Look for Part 2 of this series soon!

Thrifty Tips: Buying and Selling on Facebook Groups

Thrifty Tips: Buying and Selling on Facebook Groups

Facebook groups can be a great way to connect with other people who have similar interests. Perhaps you’re in a group of musicians in your area, or artists, or maybe other horseback riders. In this case, the groups I’m talking about are for buying, selling, and trading tack. There are a ton of horse people online looking to sell the things they no longer use and buy new things.

There are groups for every discipline you can imagine. Finding a group to suit your needs only requires a quick Facebook search. English, Western, Saddleseat, Eventing, international, or local, there is a group for everyone. I’m a member of several, but my personal three favorites are English Tack Trader, Quality English Tack Trader, English Riding Apparel, and Dressage Tack & Clothing Swap.

The most important thing to do when joining any tack trading group on Facebook is to read the rules of the group. Each group is run by volunteer moderators who have the group’s rules posted, usually in a pinned post at the top of the page. Groups typically have rules about what can or cannot be posted. Some groups allow questions and non-sale related posts, and others do not. The rules also specify when posts can be “bumped up” to the top of the page, done by commenting on the post. Being aware of the rules makes everything go much smoother.

When buying or selling on Facebook, be polite! When writing your posts, please spell all words out fully, and make your best attempt to clearly articulate what you want or what you are selling. If you are in search of something in particular, include sizes, color preferences, brands, budget, and any other information. If you have an item for sale, make sure you include brand, size, color, whether it is used or new, and price. Most groups require that you include a price, not just “make offer.” It’s fine to mention that you are open to offers, but make sure that you have a price listed. If you’re including shipping in your prices, mention that; otherwise, make sure to say that buyers pay shipping. I write all of my posts out in advance to make sure that I have everything in order before I post.

Be sure to take pictures of all of your items before posting in the group. Keep pictures clean and simple. Clear the background behind your object. Take pictures from multiple angles, and show any damage clearly if the object is used. If an object has a size, be sure to include a picture of the tag or measurements. Photograph one object at a time to make it easy for potential buyers to view your items.

An example of an appropriate sale picture: the item is clearly visible with no distractions, and the size is clearly marked.
An example of an appropriate sale picture: the item is clearly visible with no distractions, and the size is clearly marked.

Respond to people as quickly as possible. Only cross-post items if you’re available to manage multiple listings, as it can get quite confusing if people in two different groups are interested in one item. Cross-posting, meaning posting ads in multiple groups, can be quite helpful when trying to sell items quickly, as you will reach different people.

When shipping items, attempt to ship within a day or two of making the sale. Keep buyers informed throughout the shipping process. Always ship using a method that offers tracking on the item. I prefer priority mail through the United States Postal Service. It takes 2-3 days on average and comes with $50 of insurance and tracking. Be sure to give the tracking number to the buyer.

Whether buying or selling, always use PayPal. A PayPal account is free but can protect you in the event of a scam. Sellers can send invoices to buyers, listing item inventory as well as any shipping costs. In the event of a damaged item, unhappy customer, lost package, or a dishonest seller, PayPal helps mitigate and resolve disputes.

Overall, Facebook groups can be a great marketplace to find new and used tack and apparel at affordable prices. If you’re willing to wait a little bit to find the perfect item, it can be totally worth it. Sometimes it takes a few months of poring over listings, but when you do find that dream item, it’s incredibly satisfying. I’ve found fantastic pairs of breeches, plenty of saddle pads and wraps, and even a pair of custom pair of Equifit D-Teq boots with my horse’s name already on them! I’ve also sold bridles, saddle pads, and breeches that I no longer need or wear.

If you’re in the market for something new or new to you, give Facebook groups a shot! If you want more advice, feel free to shoot me a message on here or Twitter! Look for Part 2 of this series soon – what to do when something goes wrong!

English Tack Trader

Quality English Tack Trader

English Riding Apparel

Dressage Tack and Clothing Swap