When buying a horse, it's sometimes assumed that the expense stops when you sign the check for their purchase. Unfortunately and maddeningly, that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are ongoing board bills, food bills, vet bills, farrier bills, dentist bills, lesson/training bills, and a seemingly endless list of supplies you need to acquire.
In a sport and industry where the affluent have a leg-up when it comes to being able to afford the best tack, trainers, barns, trailers, trucks and horses, it can be very disheartening to be a "regular person" just trying to justify buying a $300 blanket for your horse that his pasture-mates could very well destroy within a year. It can be difficult to maintain the perspective that you are really, really lucky and privileged to be able to afford that used saddle you found on eBay. But the truth is that you are, and that saddle will last for years if you take care of it.
So, keeping our realistic budgets in mind, but also understanding that you get what you pay for in some cases, here is a list of some of my favorite things. I have used these items myself for years and have found them to be worth their price in sturdiness against wear and tear, quality, and aesthetics (because I know you want your horse to look fancy almost as much as you want to find a really good deal.) New horse owners, if you're overwhelmed by all the brands and choices and prices on the market, I hope this list simplifies things for you. I'll try to stick to the main necessities you need for riding your new horse, and perhaps I'll do posts in the future with more of my favorite things, since there are too many to cover in one sitting...
1. Horseware blankets/turnouts - The bang for your buck. These blankets are extremely tough and long-lasting, and have been made with technical fabrics that breathe, to keep your horse from sweating and developing skin problems under the blanket. The brand makes blankets and turnouts in every weight you could possibly need, with many different body styles to accommodate any horse. They also come with a three-year warranty, so you can be sure your investment will last.
2. Break-away halter - I have seen several bad accidents with horses that freaked out while tied in stalls or to trailers, as well as horses left in stalls or turned out with their halters on and then got caught on something. These episodes would have ended differently (better) had their halters just given way and freed them. A loose horse is almost always better than a panicked horse that is stuck, flailing and kicking. They usually hurt themselves badly in the latter scenario. Thankfully, break-away halters are usually less expensive than the all-nylon halters!
3. Kerrits full-seat breeches - These breeches are made from very high-quality fabric that stretches with your body, doesn't chaff, and lasts forever without showing signs of wear. They are designed to be flattering, and they stick you to the saddle. I have them in both summer and winter weight, as well as a white pair I wear only at competitions. They're not the cheapest brand (nor the most expensive) on the market, but you get every bit of what you pay for with them.
4. Not just any helmet - You only have one head and one brain, so protecting it should be really high on your priority list when it comes to deciding what necessities to spend money on. Your helmet should also be replaced every five years, or if you fall off your horse and hit your head- whichever comes first. And whatever helmet you buy, it should definitely be one that is ASTM-SEI certified, meaning it meets the necessary standards for protection effectiveness and isn't just a fashion statement. Helmets come in every price-range imaginable...I choose to ride in a GPA helmet because the shape of their helmets fit my small, round head really well and I like their sleek, minimalistic look for the show ring. A more affordable option is the Tipperary Sportage Helmet. I like it because it comes down low in the back, protecting the top of the spinal cord, and it is vented nicely to allow airflow. The look is a little too sporty for the show ring, however, so you may need to pay a little more for a helmet with a conservative style if you plan on showing.
5. Wintec Elastic Girth - I have had expensive girths in the past, and they have the merit of making you feel fancy, but when it comes down to function, the Wintec synthetic girth works wonderfully and is very comfortable for most horses. They look nice, last forever, and you can just spray them off with water after a muddy trail ride, no leather-care products necessary. I see this girth being used at shows, too, so they're not just acceptable for schooling.
I'll leave it there for now. Remember that even the more affordable items can last years if you take care of them, and sometimes spending a little more to get a trusted brand that is backed by years of product testing and technology is worth the splurge. The most important thing is that you and your horse are safe an comfortable in any equipment you purchase. Happy shopping and happy riding!