Something I often read on various forms of media from Chronicle of the Horse Forums to Facebook posts to equestrian blogs are complaints about the expense of Tailored Sportsman breeches. Many of my readers know that I used to work for Justin Brands. Some of the footwear sold by Justin is manufactured in the United States. Tailored Sportsman breeches are manufactured in the United States. I’m not professing to be an expert on domestic manufacturing by any shake of the stick, but I do know that it generally costs more to make things domestically than it does to make them in Asia. It can be expensive to have small quantities of manufactured items shipped from Asia (I’ll talk about the cost/benefit of this later), but they don’t have nearly the same labor protection laws as the United States (minimum wage, mandatory breaks, affordable medical insurance, and others) so the labor costs are significantly lower. I’ve never been able to find out exactly where TS manufactures their breeches, but their website lists a New York address. If their manufacturing is in New York, then it is in one of the highest cost of living cities in the United States.
When you buy a pair of Tailored Sportsman breeches you are paying for an American worker’s wages. That American worker uses those wages to pay for a place to live, food to eat, etc. They contribute to the American economy. When you buy a pair of Tredstep or Ariat breeches, you are paying for an Asian worker’s wages to support an Asian person’s cost of living. It isn’t a bad thing to buy products made in Asian countries, I just don’t believe it is comparing apples to apples in terms of the cost of manufacturing which often translates to a slightly higher retail cost. Another advantage to manufacturing domestically is the ease of changing a product run more quickly. A domestic manufacturer can halt the production immediately of a product that isn’t selling, needs a design update, or has some flaw that needs fixing. Once the contract is made for a product to be made abroad the company contracting for the product is going to get it just like it is. This can sometimes benefit the consumer in terms of a company discontinuing a design line and thus selling what is left at drastically reduced prices, but that can be frustrating for the consumer who buys something because it is on super sale, falling in love with THAT one, and never being able to get it again because it is no longer manufactured.
Another example of domestically manufactured apparel for riding that I read complaints about the cost are the EIS Sun Shirts. I am ALWAYS telling people how fantastic these shirts are. They truly changed my life. No, really. I haven’t had a farmer tan in the two years I’ve been wearing them which also means I’m not generating skin cancer causing conditions (i.e. hellacious sunburns). These shirts are not cheap, they cost around $100. They are made with a fabric that is called IceFil. IceFil is produced by a Korean company called Ventex, but the fabric is imported once, made into a shirt and sold in the U.S. There are other companies making riding shirts out of IceFil fabric, including Tailored Sportsman, but they are usually made in Asia and shipped to the U.S. retailers. So the fabric goes from Korea, to India or China, then to the U.S. for retail sale.
Shirt is EIS (made in USA), breeches are Tailored Sportsman (made in USA), boots are Justin Eq (made in China, no longer available), saddle is Antares (made in France), saddle pad is Mattes (made in Poland), bridle is Dover Crown (I think made in India, but def not England or USA), stirrup leathers are Prestige (made in Italy), irons are from Beval (no idea where they are made), helmet is Ovation (probably made in Asia, but not sure where)
Owning, riding and showing horses is expensive. I totally get why people want/need to save money and opt for less expensive options. I just hate hearing people say that Tailored Sportsman breeches are only for hunter princess snobs because they are SO expensive. Or that a bridle made by an Asian manufacturer is just as good as an Edgewood bridle. I’m not even discussing the quality differences between most imported versus domestic manufacturing or the reduction in the global footprint of not having to ship something across the world. I just think it is meaningful to consider where your dollars are going when you purchase an item that was manufactured domestically. I opt to have fewer pairs of schooling breeches and schooling shirts in favour of buying as many things that are made in the U.S.A. as possible. Below is a list with links of riding items that are made domestically. This is clearly not an exhaustive list and I’d point out that Grand Prix show jackets are manufactured in Canada, not the U.S., but I think that is close enough to call it domestic!
Grand Prix Show Coat
Grand Prix Paddock Boots
Nunn Finer Stirrup Leathers
Toklat Saddle Pads
Kerrits Riding Tights
EquiFit D-Teq Horse Boots
JoJo Bambootz Tall Socks
Original Baker horse sheets and blankets
On my first ride on Coco I failed to secure resources for photographic evidence of the event. I did not have this failure on the second event! I’ve spent the past month and a half gradually working her up to the big event of her first ride. Jaguar was the first ever horse I broke to ride all by myself. The method I used with him was based on a series of videos done by Roy Yates, an old cowboy. He did copious amounts of ground work with his young horses so by the time he rode them it was no big deal. I believe his methods to be sound, humane and effective and continue to weave them into my own.
I start by teaching the young horse to lunge, then add a surcingle which teaches them to accept the girth, then a bridle, then side reins, then a saddle with the bridle, and finally I ride them. You can tell a lot about a youngster by how they respond to the first time you tighten the surcingle. A highly sensitive horse will have a much stronger reaction than a more laid back animal. Sterling was very sensitive. Jaguar was kind of in the middle. Coco was VERY laid back. She has jumped up a little bit with the surcingle on and the saddle, but she’s never full on bucked. I hope this is a good thing!
Happy girl under saddle
The first time getting on a horse is always the scariest part for me. You have NO idea if they are going to jump out from under you, run away, start bucking, or just stand there. Never before had I done the first ride with an English saddle, either. Both of the western saddles I have are huge and it just didn’t feel right to ride her western. She was a perfect princess. She didn’t bat an eye lash when I put weight in the left stirrup and swung my right leg over. I had to sit for a minute and take deep breaths because I was so nervous. She, on the other hand, just stood chewing the bit.
When I work with the youngsters on the lunge line I teach them verbal commands to walk, trot, canter and stop. This helps them to make sense of what I want them to do on the first few rides when they have no idea what my legs are telling them. I clucked Coco forward on our second ride and just just walked on. I use my legs, too to teach them that pressure from my legs means go forward or faster. By the first few rides she will have figured out that leg pressure means go forward. A few more after that and she will trot from my leg instead of clucking. Cantering usually takes a bit longer, but it depends on the horse.
Learning to go forward among the goat menagerie
During our second ride we trotted in addition to walking. She was a bit confused and the pen I rode her in has a lot of trees so the lack of steering was kind of an issue! I have to be mindful to reward her every time she gives to the pressure of the bit to turn or stop, but not getting knocked off by a tree limb was important also!
All in all I’m absolutely tickled with how well our first two rides have gone. One can’t get overly complacent that the young horse is going to be easy peasy during every ride. I’m sure the first time we canter will be interesting, but I’m so grateful it is going as well as it is so far. It is exciting to have something to look forward to with Coco after the bad news about Jaguar. She won’t be ready to fox hunt for at least a year, but I hope to take her on some trail rides before the summer is over.
Awkward baby horse steering
Last Sunday was an eventful day for me, one with a LOT of happiness. I rode Coco for the first time and she was a dream! I also rode Sterling that morning, after a failed attempt at a trail ride the day before, and I rode Jaguar that evening. Since Sterling was now 100% a failed trail rider I would need to get Jaguar legged up for the remaining trail rides with my hunt friends for the summer. Riding an old horse cold turkey on long trail rides is not nice. They need many more rides to be fit enough to work on an ongoing basis. When I rode Jaguar something was off. He wasn’t lame, but there was a hitch in his gitalong that didn’t feel right. We only walked and trotted and I took him over a few low cavallettis, but I could feel something weird with his hind end movement. The right side had a bigger jerk to the movement and the left side was much softer. Had I been a betting person I would have guessed he was off on his right leg.
Fast forward to Tuesday. Sterling needed a shot so I thought I would have my vet look over Jaguar while he was there. I made an appointment for Tuesday afternoon when I was returning from a work trip. My thought was that Jaguar was going to start needing some kind of joint injections, a pain management regimen for arthritis, or something similar to one of those options. He’s no spring chicken being 23 years young. He definitely is showing his age more than he had a year or two ago, but he had a fantastic hunt season and I love riding him on trail rides because he’ll do most anything I ask of him. My vet called early in the afternoon that he was already near my house so I told him to just go ahead and stop over even though I wouldn’t be home. He’d call me when he was finishing up.
This phone call has affected me far more than I would have dreamed it would. There isn’t really a name for what is wrong with Jaguar’s left hind leg, but there is something decidedly wrong with it. My vet thought for sure I would be able to tell him of a very specific event in which Jaguar had injured his left hind gaskin a few years ago and it was just now showing the full symptoms of what age and injuries combined will do to an animal’s mobility. The thing is, Jaguar has never ever been lame. Ever. Never had a hoof abcess. Never a pulled shoe that caused an issue. And never an acute injury requiring him to come out of work at all. Until now. My vet has diagnosed Jaguar with an injury to his left hind gaskin where it meets his hamstring and his stifle that will most likely not respond to any type of treatment and will require him to be in full retirement. No more riding Jaguar.
Jaguar and I at the Summer Slide in Denver in July of 1998. Just before we showed at the AQHYA World Championships in Reining
We are going to try a bute regimen for a few days to see if that might cut the pain a little bit. It will be promising if it does, but my vet sounded pretty skeptical of it working. The reality of it is that I will probably never be able to ride Jaguar again. He will now get his 100% deserved retirement.
Showing in reining at the MetraPark in Billings, Montana sometime between 1996 and 1998
I always thought that I’d know when I had my last ride on Jaguar. There would be some episode. Some illness. Some tangible reason when I would know that this was it. Not some vague nondescript injury that really isn’t that bad, but bad enough that it can’t be fixed and he can’t be ridden. I’m grateful that he’s otherwise healthy and I still have him, but I’m absolutely heartbroken that our partnership under saddle is done. No more fox hunts. No more trail rides. No more torturing him while I post without irons. As much of a mess as I am about this news I can’t even imagine how bad I’ll be when he dies. Until then, I’m going to enjoy every second we have together. He’s going to embark on his retirement with a weight loss program and focus on being the best damn pasture ornament there ever was.
Riding at a family reunion with my youngest cousin (who is in college now, this photo makes me feel really old).
Let’s start this off by clarifying that I’m no film critic! I avoid movies where animals die or get hurt like most people avoid accountability. I despise sad endings and I don’t really want to learn anything from a movie. They are my respite from real life. I enjoy couples falling in love while singing Benny and the Jets on a bar counter. Girls who move from Kentucky to L.A. and make it as burlesque singers are more my tune. When a good friend suggested we go see Dark Horse, I was skeptical. In Black Beauty (this is a spoiler) Ginger dies. Old Yeller, well I don’t even need to remind you. I can’t bring myself to even think of watching Marley & Me. However, I lucked into some free tickets to Magnolia at the Modern and when I looked at the upcoming films, Dark Horse was the first on the list! I read the synopsis and it didn’t say anything about any horses dying.
I should also add that I’m not a huge fan of horse racing. I’ve seen some horrifying incidents on the track that have gotten me nearly to the point of being unable to watch any horse racing. I get excited for the big races (Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont), but avoid watching them live lest they end in another Ruffian. This film was an absolutely delightful surprise! Another spoiler, the horse does get hurt, but it isn’t horrifying and he lives.
The story of Dream Alliance is a fairytale. A lower middle class woman from Wales gets a super crazy idea to breed her very own race horse. We all know from recent posts that my experience with breeding has been a rough road so the fact that she got a healthy foal with four legs on the ground is a huge step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned!
Dream Alliance as a foal
Dream Alliance was raised him on a “slag heap” as quoted in a U.K. press article. He wasn’t born in the posh stables of the Irish National Stud or some other fancy racing stable and he definitely didn’t have any blue blood! His dam was purchased for a mere 300 pounds and the stud fee was only 3,000 pounds. Most racing stallion stud fees are well into the five figures. Dream grew up amongst those who would become his biggest fans as though he was one of them.
Dream Alliance growing up in a sleepy mining town in Wales
Dream Alliance’s breeder knew that the cost of training and racing him would exceed her resources so they offered up syndicate ownership to the townspeople for a cost of 10 pounds per month to each owner. The group they ended up with was a far cry from the typical racehorse ownership crowd, but they were committed and exuberant! When he was ready, Dream Alliance was sent to training with Phillip Hobbs of Minehead Stables. All involved with his training were pretty skeptical of his potential, but Dream exceeded everyone’s expectations!
Dream Alliance in a steeplechase race
Dream won many races and placed very well in those he didn’t win, but he did get hurt just before one of the biggest races of his career requiring 18 months off from work to treat his tendon injury, heal, and (miraculously) go back into training. It was AFTER this nearly career-ending injury that Dream won the biggest race of his career, the Welsh Grand National. He continued to race after the Welsh, but after pulling up at quite a few races or finishing poorly it was determined that he had a career ending lung condition. By this time he was 9 years old, a much longer career than most racehorses in the U.S.
Dream Alliance in a win picture with a few of his syndicate owners, jockey, and trainers
The film is beautifully done with quite a bit of actual racing footage and candid conversations with syndicate members. I plan to buy it as soon as I can add it to my iTunes library to watch over and over again and cheer for the working class chestnut with four white socks who beat all the blue bloods at their own race!
Here is the trailer for your viewing pleasure: Dark Horse Official Trailer
I’ve been M.I.A. for a VERY long time! I’ve felt for months that my next post needed to be the final update on Coco’s foaling event and all who follow me on Facebook or Instagram already know that it went horribly wrong. I rely so much on reading and learning from other people on blogs that I feel like I need to share our story. I don’t think we could have done much, or really anything differently that would have resulted in a live foal, but I knew enough from my research that a competent vet was needed the moment I saw Coco with that darling bay filly’s nose and no feet presented.
Coco about one week before she foaled.
So here is what happened;
The vet had come over about four weeks before Coco’s “due” date to give her her final foaling vaccinations. He made the comment that she looked like she was carrying a REALLY big foal. I asked him if he thought it was better for us to take her in somewhere to foal her out and he thought that if we were comfortable with her doing it at home, then we should just foal her out at home. MOST horses don’t have any issues foaling, it really is the one health thing they are kind of good at. The thing is that when there are issues, there are usually very serious issues. At least 30 foals were born at my parent’s place during my childhood and only one time was there a problem. The mare delivered twins and both died, but that isn’t unusual. Experience told me it would be better to have her foal at home. It would also save mare and foal a dangerous trip on a horse trailer home. I don’t regret this decision for a moment and I’ll better explain why towards the end.
Beginning when Coco was at about 300 days I started checking on her at 2a every night. Boot City would check on her around midnight and I feed at around 5a so that gave her a maximum of about 3 hours unchecked. There were a few nights she gave us a good scare by lying down in her stall and groaning pitifully but no foal! Fast forward to the night of March 1 (technically the morning of March 2). Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She had been expressing milk for nearly a month. I had pH and calcium tested her milk for about 2 weeks and the result of every single test indicated she would foal in less than 12 hours. This wasn’t the case until it was so I just quit doing the tests the few days before she foaled. I don’t even really remember anything before my 2:30a check. I got out there at 2:32a and could hear her groaning and sounding very distressed. I flipped on the lights to find her standing with a dark bay foal’s face out of her vulva about to it’s eyes. Immediately I knew we needed help. Proper foaling position has the foal presented with one foot in front of the other followed by the nose.
I RAN back to the house to get Boot City to assist. If we could push the foal back in and get it’s legs out we should be good to go. Now Boot City has never been around a foal, much less a mare having a foal so this was a lot to ask. He graciously tried as hard as he could, but it was just too stuck and Coco was getting more and more distressed. I called the vet. Waiting the 30 or so minutes for the vet to arrive may be the worst 30 minutes of my life so far. Hearing Coco groan and slam her body down on the ground, get up and do it all over again is something I can never forget. Even now when she lies down and groans it makes my stomach turn. The vet, with Boot City’s help, tried also to push the foal back in and get the legs straightened out. He worked on her for about 20 minutes and while he was doing that I hooked the truck up to the trailer. I had a bad feeling about how this was going and needed to be ready. I was right. The vet told Boot City, not me, that the foal was dead. We needed to get Coco to a surgery facility as quickly as possible.
Coco had an unfortunate incident on the horse trailer last spring and had become very hesitant to get on the trailer so I had been working with her for a few weeks just in case something went awry and she needed emergency transport. I’m so glad I had done that because when, pardon my language, the shit hit the fan she got right on the trailer with not a moment’s hesitation. I was petrified with fear that now we were also going to lose Coco. When a mare gets in the situation of difficulty foaling time is of the essence. Every second the dead foal is inside her puts her nearly exponentially closer to death.
We got the ESMS in Weatherford around 4:30a. My vet had called so they knew we were coming and were ready and waiting for us. Coco got safely off the trailer, walked inside the clinic and almost immediately collapsed. You could see it in her eyes that she knew she was in a place where they would help her. The vets on call always seem to be super young and inexperienced, and this was the case that morning. They were very kind and assured me that Coco would be fine. Most likely they would just sedate her, pull the foal out and all would be well. They did need to tell me that there was a possibility of needing more drastic action requiring Coco to be completely anaesthetised, the foal pushed all the way back in and removed by being cut apart, but they had never seen it done and were sure that wouldn’t be the case. The surgical vet was coming in around 6 or 7 so they were going to make her comfortable until then. It seemed terribly odd to me that they were just going to leave her like that for HOURS, but they were the experts so we headed home to fret.
While driving home the clinic called and said that Coco was taking a turn for the worse so the surgeon was coming in immediately and they would let me know what was going to happen next. After a horrible couple of hours fretting and praying and worrying the surgical vet called with an update. They had gotten the foal out and Coco was in recovery. Good news so far. Removing the foal required a fetotomy. It really was the worst case scenario. Coco had an uncommonly high white blood cell count and had become septic and toxic while she was anaesthetised (and upside down while the removed the foal) so was requiring pretty serious meds to improve her condition. She had gotten up on her own which was good news. I was both relieved and horrified. What had I done to this poor horse?! By now it was early Wednesday morning and the vet thought that Coco might be able to come home by Friday, but it depended on how her white cell count was and how she was responding to her meds.
I spent the rest of that day mostly crying and loving on my other two horses. I was grateful Coco was still alive and showed a good prognosis, but I was emotionally spent. Later that afternoon I went to visit her and take her some treats.
Getting some hay in her ICU stall
As with humans, the clinic wouldn’t let her leave until she had eaten and had a couple bowel movements and all her counts looked good. She was eating her hay like a champ and behaving amazingly well for a young mare attached to four gallon sized IVs after having an extremely traumatic medical event.
Mouthful of hay with the IV tied into her mane
Her story does have a moderately happy ending. She responded so well to her meds that she was released to come home early on Thursday, which happened to coincide with my last day at my job so I got a long weekend just spoiling her at home. When I picked her up I asked the ICU vet how often they see mares with this situation and he estimated one or two per year. This is a very large and well respected clinic with thousands of foaling mare patients and we happened into the minuscule percentage of deliveries ending in a fetotomy. Coco was on stall rest for a week, then released to being in her paddock for about 10 days before she could be back on turnout with the boys. She also continued a very heavy dose of antibiotics and banamine for any residual pain.
Coco happy at home in her barn with her besties
You know how we knew she was pretty much fully recovered from the ordeal? When she got so upset being locked in her paddock while Jaguar and Sterling were turned out that she JUMPED out! True to her jumping bloodlines she cleared a 4′ fence with nary a scratch. We kept her in her stall for a day after that shenanigan and got the go ahead from the vet to put her back out with the boys.
Lastly, this is why I don’t regret having made the decision to have her foal at home. When all was said and done every vet who saw her and her foal that day confirmed that it was in fact a very large foal, but making matters worse is that Coco has an exceptionally narrow birth canal. We have been advised to NEVER let her carry her own foal again. She can be bred, but the foal needs to be carried and delivered by a surrogate mare. Most mares’ bodies regulate the size of the foal to something that they can successfully deliver. If you breed a 15hh mare to a Clydesdale, she’s most likely going to have a foal she can deliver. Coco’s body seems to have missed that memo. My vets also assured me that this was not something the repro vet could have determined prior to her getting bred so was essentially an unavoidable lesson. Had she been at a clinic when she foaled they would have figured out pretty quickly that she couldn’t deliver the foal and I would have been faced with an extremely expensive and difficult decision to pursue a caesarean section. Horses don’t do well with abdominal surgery of any kind and a c-section is not a common surgery for horses. It is awkward, in a difficult location and there are no guarantees that the mare or foal will survive. Coco probably wouldn’t have been able to nurse her own foal had she delivered via c-section so we may have needed a nurse mare or to bottle feed the foal, had it survived. I wouldn’t repeat any of this experience for anything, but I am grateful I didn’t have to make the call on a c-section and that I still have a beautiful, healthy mare in my barn who I hope to be riding within the next 30 days.