Why I Used to Care So Much About Tack, and Why I Don’t Now

Why I Used to Care So Much About Tack, and Why I Don’t Now

When I looked through the 1200+ posts here to re-organize before starting to blog again, one of the things that made me cringe was how much I wrote about tack/apparel. I’m talking wish lists, reviews, giveaways, shopping hauls… all sorts of stuff.

Now, some of this makes obvious sense. Popular blogs (whatever that means) often get approached by companies wanting to send product for product reviews and/or giveaways. It’s a marketing strategy for them, and for a time my blog actually had enough hits/audience to be relevant. I’m sure it doesn’t anymore. I’ve stopped looking at my analytics. That’s not why I started writing here again.

But the wish lists and “what I bought/got” posts are what bother me more. Calling myself a #tackwhore bothers me now. Y’all, the only thing I’m a whore for these days might be donuts. But you won’t catch me using #donutwhore anywhere (except oh crap, I just did).

Why did I focus so much on all of this materialistic stuff?

Proof that tack often doesn’t matter… the bridle we started Poet in at my CA barn is 2 years older than me and 33 years older than him!

It comes from a deep rooted sense of feeling inadequate within the horse industry. My roots are humble. Blah blah backyard rider, minimal success at schooling shows, never done rated, fat rider, mediocre talent, no expensive horse. All of those factors contribute to this belief system I have that I will never be as good as other, “real” equestrians. It’s something I’m trying to dismantle, challenge, and remove these days. But it’s hard.

What does that have to do with tack? Well, for a long time I thought “If I can’t ride good, I can look good.” I associated having certain breeches (Tailored Sportsman) as belonging. The right boots (Equifit) would make me a better jumper. Part of the belief system that made me think I wasn’t good enough convinced me that having the “right” stuff would make up the difference.

I do love this bridle though and you will pry it out of my cold dead hands. Photo © Heather N. Photography

In some ways, that isn’t wrong. Proper equipment is essential in this sport. And real talk, I love my Equifit boots. I have all sorts and they’ve held up well over the years through a lot of abuse. Tailored Sportsman breeches fit me well and look nice. There is nothing wrong with wanting, buying, and having nice things. Whatever that means for you. But what makes me upset is what, looking back now, reads as a desperate yearning for things.

I’m not sure what it’s like now because I’ve just recently re-entered the horse blogging world, but back in the day it often felt like a rat race of who got the nicest, newest stuff. A lot of blogs, at times even mine, circled around products. Showcasing the “you have to try this!” latest and greatest all the time is exhausting. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being passionate about product, it just feels… not great to read about that all the time. Especially when, behind the scenes, I was over-spending on stuff that really didn’t matter much at the end of the day. Credit card debt isn’t sexy folks. I know I’m not the only one who budgets down to the dollar to afford to ride, train and show my horse.

I rarely tuck in my shirt these days… who am I?

Today, I admittedly still like nice stuff. My bridle is an Edgewood, and I’m obsessed with it. I also bought it used from a friend, and would suggest anyone else looking for nice leather to hit up Facebook marketplace before dumping $600 on a bridle. But you know what? Dump $600 on a bridle if you want. No judgment. It’s not my business.

On my blog, you won’t see me pushing stuff anymore. If it’s something truly innovative that I haven’t seen much about, I may share in the sake of discovery. But fashion, product reviews, the search for more more more… I’m just not that much interested anymore. It’s okay if others do. I like looking at pretty things. But I’m trying to take myself out of a perceived need to compete with what me and my horse are wearing. No riding “#ootd” has ever fixed my equitation, and no tack purchase made me believe in myself more. True success in this sports comes internally. That’s what I’m interested in writing about now.

22 thoughts on “Why I Used to Care So Much About Tack, and Why I Don’t Now

  1. I can really, really relate to the humble roots upbringing. For a very long time, I was the kid without any money, riding the half-broke, out of control horse at the show. I usually placed really poorly and always felt the searing injustice of being on the way, way outside looking in. It can be a really shitty feeling.

    Luckily, with age and a stronger financial position, I have left those feelings behind. At some point, I was able to get to a place where I was secure enough financially to participate in the equestrian world on a level that I feel comfortable with. I still buy a lot of retail goods second-hand, and invest most of my money on the best horse I can afford and quality training. That seems to be the spot I am most comfortable at.

    1. That’s kind of where I’ve settled to. Of course, I still love nice things and especially new and flashy ones! But I have to/want to alleviate the pressure to “need” them, because the truth is I often just don’t. I splurge from time to time for reasons that only I need to know, and that’s totally okay.

  2. Word. And I say that as a hypocrite, because I do still like to write product reviews, but I do not get a check from a tack shop for pimping stuff anymore (hence regaining my amateur status). I buy it all myself, and if I share it, it’s because I really love it. I have a post rolling around in my brain about how I spent all those years trying to find the right bridle or bit to “fix” Connor, when what I really needed to do was redirect all that money to full training and learning how to stop pulling on the reins.

    Side note: we need to separate “nice” from “trendy”. Your Equifits and Edgewood tack are “nice” and will last so long, they will cost you less in the long run than buying several sets of cheap stuff would. The horse world has a BIGGGGGG problem with trendy. I’m looking at you, half pads with guilt-trip advertising on Instagram that will only be “popular” for six months before you start getting looked at sideways for “still” having a Supracor/Ogilvy/whatever.

    1. You know the training comment brings up a good point. I definitely have bought tack to mask problems or try to solve things that really just need proper, consistent training and hard work on my part.

      Yes, trendy is a huge problem. And I think the trendy nature is what has made me so against the #tackwhore mentality. My equipment tends to be mostly classic, non-trendy things that I find last the longest through multiple horses and situations.

  3. This is so real, especially in hunter barns. I remember way back years upon years ago, when half chaps became the big thing, everyone at my barn got a certain pair. I fell victim to that. Everyone had the same type of splint boots. Then everyone got GR8 helmets. All the teenagers had their parents get them what they needed but as a 21-year-old, stuff was expensive!

    Now I’m (riding) in a barn where everyone has CWDs. It’s the same thing all over again. I watch the little pony kids and their saddles that are more expensive than my horse. And I realize I just don’t care. I’ve never had an expensive saddle and I just don’t care. Though I did end up working with a fitter and my used albion is still more $$$ than my horse, but it fits him, is comfortable, and honestly? my trainer doesn’t care at all. Most of the time she rides in the really old lesson saddle that’s patched in 20 places. Most of my bridles were purchased used (made up of used pieces — I’m cheap) and they work. I have my first nice bridle, a gift from my mom (I asked for a new schooling bridle and she fell in love with nice leather…). Does it make me ride better? No, but I feel I use it regularly and it makes me smile.

    At the end of the day, I’m watch everyone around me with their 5-6 figure hunters and sit on my 1k thoroughbred. No one cares. Really. For the most part, everyone likes to tell me how adorable my boy is while he mooches treats off of them (successfully. Always successfully. They all have good treats). No one looks at his tack or his used gear. No one cares. The only one who ever notices the difference is me. So why should I worry about it? They don’t.

    I think when I feel inadequate I compare myself and find all the differences. I assume other people don’t look for all the ways I stand out. If they are finding differences? It’s probably the ways that they stand out.

    1. “I think when I feel inadequate I compare myself and find all the differences. I assume other people don’t look for all the ways I stand out.”

      YUP. This. I feel you so much on that.

      And you’re right, people don’t really care. Unless your equipment is dirty or ill-fitting, I find that nobody notices. When I judge, I certainly don’t notice one thing from another unless the overall presentation is bad. It’s crazy how much money I spent in the past thinking people cared way more than they do.

  4. I feel this. I am a big believer in nice, well-fitting tack and equipment, but I also feel the pull to compete with the “big kids” on all things tack. I’m going to a clinic this weekend that I already feel not worthy for and for the last month or two the idea of buying the new color PS of Sweden pad keeps rolling around in my head. Why? Because I feel like an imposter and maybe a pretty new pad will convince every one I should be there. I pushed off the thought long enough that I’ve run out of time and will have to make do with my every day white pad. THE HORROR! It’s hard to get off the more, more, more train, especially when capitalism pushes the idea hard from birth, but there are better things to spend the money on – like what Jen mentioned, lessons to learn to ride better (talking to myself here).

    1. Ugh, I totally get that feeling and itch. At least you could identify it for what it was. Instead, I bought a ton of accessories to try and make myself feel more at home in the jumper ring… whoops

  5. This is why even back in the way back days I limited myself to 1 product review a month and I for the longest time, only reviewed items I’d actually had for a while – and I was honest. If I hated it, I wrote I hated it. If I loved it, I wrote I loved it.

    I haven’t done a product review in yonks because I ran out of things to review. Other than lotions and potions for ponies, most of my actual tack and apparel was bought of eBay because I just couldn’t afford full retail and didn’t want to go into credit card debt (still scared of cc debt now even though I make more money.) It was always slightly frustrating/depressing reading blogs that did 5+ posts a month just on products.

    1. I felt the same way with all the product reviews, even if I was writing them. It’s just not as interesting to me at the end of the day unless it’s something I was really, really intrigued about (aka new science that might help my horse).

  6. I might be way off the mark here, but I think in general, bloggers/blog readers are a little older these days and as a whole less likely to be interested in new and trendy things and small sponsorships. A few years ago, there were so many reviews and equestrian fashion related advice posts and I remember really enjoying them, where as now I tend to skim over them. Equestrian vloggers on the other hand…oh my, it seems like everything on youtube is an ad for something and I feel icky that so many kids are watching and possibly thinking they need those things to be serious riders. For the most part I’m like you these days and just stick to the products that work for me, trendy or not.

    1. I haven’t even delved into the world of Equestrian vloggers. I think I’m officially too old for that horsey space of interent LOL. And you’re right. The bloggers who have stuck with it often have a decade or more on some of the other social media avenues.

  7. Really good points. Not so different from keeping up with the Joneses in general. Add in the enormous wealth in equestrian sports and you can see why those of us with less sometimes crave external symbols that we have made it and belong. Good post!

  8. Lol I’ll cheers to that. Like. Sure some people are getting paid to push product (whether they say so or not), but most other product reviews kinda seem to fall into the category of trying to identify with a certain tribe or trend. For me the most compelling content to read is the authentic voice of a writer sharing what they care most about in their horsey endeavors, whatever that might be. Tho. You might be onto something about still bringing up the life changing products that crop up here and there. Like. Um. I may or may not be about to write about a handheld vacuum for grooming my horse LOL

  9. You are very insightful. The aspirational, $$$-aesthetic of the horse world is appealing to almost all of us I think, but unless you’re Jessica Springsteen or Jennifer Gates it will eventually lead to feeling less than and who needs that? Yes to focusing on training and good quality tack that fits.

  10. I feel this in my soul. I’ve stopped following accounts that hock a lot of products and unfollowed most equestrian companies as well because I don’t need that pressure in my face 24/7. But as a “bigger” girl I always feel at my prettiest when I’m on a horse so I definitely splurge on nice riding clothes because I love the way it makes me feel.

  11. This! I’m with you on this one. Add in western and driving and it gets much worse and much, much more costly. English and western- a lot of the gear and clothing crosses over to different events so we get more bang for the buck out of our purchases.

    Driving is another story since pleasure shows and CDE’s come with separate types of harness, carts & carriages and the costs can be HUGE. Then there’s the clothes. It can certainly be daunting and make you feel like you belong or don’t.

    If that wasn’t enough, think about your truck and trailer. We can all feel judged just pulling into the showgrounds. Oooof!

  12. I’ve never cared all that much about being trendy, especially in real life, but that extends into my equestrian life.

    That being said, I do appreciate a tack/clothing/company review if it’s being done from the place of “hey this product is really well made and worth the money” rather than “oh look at me over here with this expensive new whatever.” I don’t care so much about the brand, but I’ve come to appreciate good quality and innovative technology that works well and don’t mind paying more for stuff that will last and is worth it. I’m so not into trends that I rarely even notice what everyone else is wearing at the barn and shows, so learning about various products on a blog that I trust is appreciated!

  13. Yes! I agree times a million! I started huntering in like 2012ish after a long time riding Quarter Horses in all the AQHA offered classes (like really, I’ve done them ALL) and I felt that I needed all the stuff to fit in and be a real hunter. Fast forward to now and I more closely identify as a fox hunter than a show hunter and I’ve come to appreciate the timeless aspects of riding English and quality over quantity. I really want to read product reviews of stuff that people have used for like 5 years or longer. I want to know how things last and age.
    I hugely prioritise my purchases now by where things are made (prefer made in the USA first, then North America, and Europe last) and how the companies treat and interact with their customers.

  14. I can completely relate to this. My dad passed away and my mom raised my brother and I. She made huge sacrifices for me to be able to lease a horse for 4-H. I borrowed tack and saddles. Finally I have my own horse, tack, and trailer. My mom and I have worked hard for it all. I always wanted better tack but honestly I was thankful to be riding a horse!

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