Monday, December 8, 2014

Review: Ovation Kenna Country Boots

The Kennas have arrived!

I will put up a more detailed review as I wear them more, but here are some initial photos and thoughts from my first weekend rocking them.

Both photos show left, without Lederbalsam, right, with. 

1. I LOVE the color. The chestnut leather with the back suede is very stylish, and while they are still a country boot and have a tough sole and functional foot, I will not hesitate to wear them to work or around town. Some buyers have complained about the lack of finesse in the foot, but if you're into country boots, they look like, well, country boots.

Again, Before and after Passier Lederbalasm. 
2. The chestnut leather on my boots came a bit distressed, but is soft and good quality. The foot is stiffer and took about 2 hours of walking and wearing to get a crease on the top of the foot. Once the crease happened, however, they were much more comfortable. I expect that they will continue to break in, and will do so beautifully.

The boots have a small brass detail on the outside and the OV insignia on the outside of both heels. There is a leather stripe down the back, as well, which should help the boots stay rigid and not collapse too much at the ankle. The chestnut leather, as you can see, has a definite patina but the whole look is very classy. 

3. So far, these boots are super easy to wear. They do move a bit on my heels but the foot bed is narrower feeling than my Dublins. However, my mom, who struggles to get into her mid-height Dublin River Boots, found these boots easy to get into (she has an ankle that was broken in the past, and getting into her Dubs appears to take effort similar to child birth sometimes...) and promptly attempted to steal them from me. For myself, I might consider a heel lift or orthotic of some kind to cup my heel better, but that thought only formed after several hours of Christmas shopping at the mall. The boots also fit my calves easily and have an awesome plaid interior that is super cute.

More review-ness will come as I've worn them more!


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Winter Riding Gloves: A Comparative Review

It's that time of year again: the time to freeze your fingers taking off your gloves every three seconds because you can't function with them on.

I own a depressing collection of winter riding gloves, but my collection is your gain! Here's what I think of them:

Dublin Thinsulate Everyday Fleece Riding gloves: 

Fleece exterior, thinsulate lining, synthetic "sure grip" palm and finger protection. Cinch velcro closures at wrist.

These gloves are great for above freezing riding, but the fleece exterior is less than waterproof and windproof, and is a major downside during shedding season. They are warm and don't seem to have extraordinarily long fingers as some gloves do.

Finger Use Rating: 3/5, relatively dexterous but not waterproof, windproof or shedding proof.

SSG 10 Below Waterproof Glove:

Ribbed exterior and cuff, grippy palm with riding reinforcements and a thinsulate/fleece lining. Listed as Waterproof, I was unable to test that as one glove arrived with a hole in it (missed stitching). My gloves also have wrist hangers so you can feel like Ralphie in "A Christmas Story" with your gloves on strings.

These gloves were too bulky for me to do much in - they were okay for activities like throwing hay or other manual labor, but were too thick for me to easily use snaps, buckles or other finer tasks.

Finger Use Rating: 1.5/5, one step above mittens.

Heritage Extreme Winter Gloves:

These gloves are similar to the SSG 10 Below with their ribbed exterior and knitted cuff to hold out drafts. They also feature a cell phone friendly index and thumb in addition to the thinsulate and fleece lining and waterproof protection. I like these a little better than the SSGs, though I can't put my finger (nuk nuk nuk) on why that is. These gloves also have a super cool pocket on the back to hold a hand warmer - which is great, as those buggers can burn you if put directly on skin!

Like the 10 Below's, I found these gloves to be too bulky for riding - I really hate feeling like my reins are floating in my hands between layers of fabric, and dislike feeling like I have to keep a death grip on them to have any sort of feel. These are probably perfect for western riders who neck rein or for trail riding, but aren't good for arena, dressage or jumping work.

Finger Use Rating: 1.5/5, one step above mittens.

Mountain Horse Trail Winter Glove:

I think these are the ones I have, at least. I know they're Mountain Horse, and are very similar to ski gloves you'd find in a sports store. Mine have the Ralphie-style wrist strings like the SSG 10 Below gloves, and a similar knitted cuff. Microfiber-esque exterior, and a fleece/possibly loft lining means that they aren't particularly waterproof.

These gloves were heavy - I wouldn't consider doing anything but the most basic, no dexterity needed chores in them, and riding was completely out of the question for me in these. With waterproof options on the market, I'd skip these.

Finger Use Rating: 1/5, one step above mittens AND not waterproof.

SSG Fleece Lined Winter Gripper Gloves:

These were a super cheap whim purchase, and would be great for people riding in a heated or well insulated indoor - just a bit warmer than one's standard riding gloves, these are basic and have a cozy fleece lining. My pair were SUBSTANTIALLY too large and grew annoying because of it, and have since moved on to use by my mom who has bigger hands and longer fingers. Not waterproof or windproof, these are not appropriate for chores - and wouldn't hold up, anyways.

Finger Use Rating: 5/5, in the correct size, these gloves would be no different than a summer riding glove in my opinion.

SSG Pro Show Winter Glove:

These gloves are leather with a pinched back and feature stretchy lycra material between the fingers, giving them a good close fit. They have a knit cuff to prevent wrist drafts and are thinsulate lined. These gloves are a great balance between warmth and dexterity but do fail out on the colder days, especially if it's windy. They are not bulky and I can do bridle buckles up with no issue.  With the addition of the Ovations below, these gloves will be my gloves for temps around freezing and a little below.

Finger Use Rating: 4/5 - these are not summer gloves, but they have very low bulk and do keep your fingers quite warm.

Ovation Syntac Thinsulate Winter Glove

These gloves are my newest purchase, and I'm pretty excited about them. They are a bit heavier than the Pro Shows, but are still nice and grippy and pretty darn low bulk. The exterior is grippy and stays pretty clean. The thinsulate lining appears to be augmented with a soft fleecy lining. As of right now, I'm pretty thrilled with this find, and intend them to be my gloves for the colder temps. I rode in them on a 35 degree day in our unheated, uninsulated indoor and found them to be almost too warm which was a lovely surprise!

Finger Use Rating: 3.5/5 - these are not summer gloves, but they have relatively low bulk and do keep your fingers quite warm.

Hopefully these reviews are useful and I'll keep you updated on the new Ovations!

My Boot Addiction

Riding horses has, among other weird things, taught me to appreciate good quality leather and construction. The leather on my Philippe Fontaine Royan is positively delicious and don't even get me started on my show boots, or my Courbette Vision, which will, I am convinced, be in use long after I am too old to post the trot. A love for good quality tack is one thing... but my addiction to nice leather has leaked over into my "civilian" life.

My first pair of "Country boots" as they're termed was a pair of Dublin River boots, and my experience has been relatively positive with them. They have a nice, wide foot bed and I've never had a problem getting my feet in and out of them. I wear them with wool socks and skinny jeans, and get endless complements while my feet stay warm and dry. 

I used my "Dubs" for: slogging through snow to college classes, as "every day" boots to wear around campus, to do quick runs to the barn, as my "grooming boots" before I changed into my riding boots, as rain boots and, of course, as fashion wear pretty much any time I'm not in the tack at horse shows.

These boots even made the journey with me to London, England to study abroad:

My first pair of Dublin River boots bit the dust (the heel cup broke in to pieces) after the London trip, and while I had them sewn to repair and cover the worn through and now broken heel, I replaced them with another pair. The second pair has been telling me lately that they're about to go, as well; they have lasted me about 2 years a pair when in regular wear. 

My overall opinion on the Dublins is that they would probably work better for someone with wider heels - my heels are quite narrow, and I have long, narrow, flat feet. The heels seem to consistently develop holes even when the boots themselves feel snug and I don't notice them sliding on my feet or heels. These boots are also susceptible to damp feet, which I think is what helps the lining come loose to begin with, and then the internal wearing begins. They are, all in all, a good investment for consistent, casual wear, but both wore through and began to look dry and began cracking (even with consistent use of Lederbalsam and cleaning) around the 2 year mark. 

This, of course, left me with a pickle: my boots are in the beginnings of death throes and I'm not sure I want to invest in another pair and watch then do the same thing.

I immediately began daydreaming about the Black and Chestnut Dubarry Galways; and then immediately almost vomited from the price. Currently, I use my country boots in the summers for horse shows (4 max a year) and for casual Friday wear in the fall, winter, and chilly spring at the office. Paying 500$ for a pair of boots that isn't used every day isn't something I can imagine myself affording any time soon. 

So I began looking at my options and I'm excited to say that I made a decision: the Ovation Kenna boots!

These boots were my Christmas gift to myself this year, and I look forward to reviewing them for you guys soon. I tried on the Caelin boots (black with plaid wool legs) and the Maree boots and found them both to run about where I expected:

My Dublins are 8.5s, or 40's. The 40's in both Ovation boots fit me the best, even though they say that a 40 is a size 9. The footbed seemed narrower than the Dublins, and the foot itself was thicker and more rigid. 

I'll put them to the pavement doing my Christmas shopping and throughout this winter and will get a review going soon - hopefully if you are considering a pair, my review and updates will help you decide.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Giving Thanks

On this cold, blustery Cyber Monday morning, I'd like to take a moment to give thanks.

I'd like to give thanks for the followers and readers of this blog; without you, I'd be talking to the internet and it means so much to me to know that someone, somewhere out there is hearing me.

I am thankful for my girls, my four-legged kids, and the lights of my life. Foxie and Bailey are true blessings to have in my life. Bailey has come so far in the last year, and Foxie continues to age like a fine wine.

I am thankful that I have been able to continue this passion into my adult life, and am surrounded by people who want to help me keep my horses in my life, even as "grown up" life demands take their toll.

My life is on track to change coming into the next few months, but in a way I can only see as positive - more on that as things solidify, but until then, look forward to more product reviews, horse care thoughts and, of course, madness from yours truly.

Happy Holidays!