Best Trails in Massachusetts

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There’s no better way to explore a state than on the back of a trusted horse. This month, we’re taking a look at the best trails found in Massachusetts, whether you’re interested in seeing the state’s fall foliage, historical settings or other stunning sites. Take a look at our list below:

Danvers Rail TrailDesert Trail Horseback Riders
Follow the historic Newburyport Railroad with the 5.1-mile long Danvers Rail Trail. This crushed stone path allows you to experience the same journey passengers in the late 1800s took between Danvers and Boston. This trail offers open grasslands and places to picnic, making this trail an easy choice for a relaxing day with your horse and family or close friends.

Bridle Trail
Another abandoned rail-trail, Bridle Trail is used for a variety of activities, including walking, running, mountain biking and cross country skiing, as well as horseback riding. While this 3-mile dirt and sand trail won’t take you all day to travel, there are plenty of scenic views to enjoy as you traverse the town of Marshfield.

Bruce Freeman Rail Trail
This asphalt horseback riding trail covers a stretch of 6.8 miles through Middlesex County and offers a variety of activities in addition to horseback riding, including biking, inline skating and cross country skiing. The trail is remarkably well cared for, and most visitors comment on how flat and clean the trail is. With scenic views and ponds along the trail, the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail is a can’t-miss destination for any trail rider.

Manhan Rail Trail
Winding its way between Easthampton and Northhampton, the Manhan Rail Trail follows two abandoned rail corridors: Boston & Maine Railroad’s Mt. Tom Branch and New Haven Railroad’s Canal Division. Along the trail, you’ll find a variety of sights, including a colorful mural, numerous bridges, an old train depot and a stunning view of the Connecticut River tributary. This asphalt trail spans nine miles, so come prepared for a lengthy ride. It’ll be worth it.

Southern New England Trunkline Trail

The longest trail on our list this month, the Southern New England Trunkline Trail, locally known as the SNETT, runs for 22 miles through Norfolk and Worcester counties. Locals use the trail for a number of activities, including mountain biking, snowmobiling, walking, cross country skiing and, of course, horseback riding. The trail is still under development, so it’s really best for advanced riders at this time.

Did we miss one of your favorite trails in Massachusetts? Let other readers know in the comments below!

Top Texas Rodeo Picks for the Fall

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In Texas, rodeos are more than just a novelty event that roll around once in a blue moon—they take place all-year-round all over the state and include a combination of classic rodeo events, country music concerts, fairground festivities and more. While several of the largest state rodeos take place during the spring, we’ve handpicked a list of the top picks for authentic Texas rodeos happening this fall:

Washington County Fair – Brenham, TX – September 12-20, 2014
Taking place right in our own South Texas Tack backyard, the Washington County Fair is in full swing here in Brenham. The rodeo schedule boasts a Team Roping competition, the Bull Riding Extravaganza, and a Wild Steer Saddling Contest among several others. The week also has a range of contests available to all fans from pageants to a bean bag throwing to a horseshoe tournament. The closing weekend, happening September 19th and 20th, will include performances by country music giants, Robert Earl Keen and the Randy Rogers Band.

Heart o’ Texas Hot Fair and Rodeo – Waco, TX – October 2-11, 2014
The Heart o’ Texas Hot Fair and Rodeo in Waco offers a variety of competitive events on top of the All American Pro Rodeo including a livestock show, creative arts, academic rodeo, calf scramble and goat roping. Additionally, the Hot Fair also comprises a number of fair and carnival attractions that invite participants and rodeo-goers of all ages (check out the H-E-Buddy Barnyard for kids). And of course, the Hot Fair Music Zone does not disappoint with concerts lined up featuring headliners like Kevin Fowler and Casey Donahew Band.

Dripping Springs Fair and Rodeo – Dripping Springs, TX – October 3-5, 2014
Located a little over 20 miles southwest of Austin, this one-weekend fair in Dripping Springs packs in a loaded schedule of events expected from an authentic Texas rodeo. The Dripping Springs Fair and Rodeo adds two nights of dancing to its line-up of rodeo activities as well as a weekend-long carnival on the fairgrounds.

Stockyard’s Championship Rodeo – Fort Worth, TX – Every Friday & Saturday night
If September and October pass and you find yourself still needing that rugged rodeo experience in Texas, you’re in luck because the Stockyards Championship Rodeo takes place every Friday and Saturday night in Fort Worth all the way through December. Located in the National Historic District, the Stockyards is a famous country music concert venue as well as rodeo arena that is a must-see in Texas. Look over the Stockyards Events Calendar to check the concerts or special events coinciding with your chosen rodeo weekend to make the best of your experience!

Did we miss your favorite fall rodeo in Texas? Let us know in the comments!

Best Horseback Riding Trails in California

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At South Texas Tack, we think one of the best ways to see any state is on a saddle. This month, we’re sharing our favorite trails for seeing California’s diverse scenery — whether you’re wanting to check out ocean coastlines, deserts, forests or mountains – take a look at our favorite trails below:

Amargosa River Trail
Spanning the counties of Inyo and San Bernardino, the Amargosa River Trail winds along a river canyon between Tecopah and China Ranch. Riders can see a waterfall, wildlife, part of the Old Spanish Trail and part of the historic corridor of the 1900s Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad. The grade is level, and the trail is a total of six miles in length.

Mount Lowe Rail Trail
Located in the Angeles National Forest, the Mount Lowe Rail Trail was once a scenic railway for tourists from the 1890s through the 1930s. At nearly six miles in length, the ballast and dirt trail offers great views of Echo Mountain, Mount Lowe and the ruins of an old camp that was destroyed by fires and floods.

American River Bike Trail
Horseback riding is permitted on the American River Bike Trail, which spans more than 30 miles between Old Sacramento and Folsom Lake. This two-lane asphalt trail is mostly level and provides shaded areas, mile markers, phones, parks, swimming areas, restrooms and the opportunity to see a riparian habitat.

Griffith Observatory Trails
The famous Griffith Observatory nestled in the mountains above the Hollywood Hills features gardens, golf courses and one of the most spectacular views overlooking Los Angeles. Long and short trails ranging from easy to difficult sprawl through the park. There is a complete map and description list of each one, but be sure to see the L.A. River Trail, the Main Trail and the West Observatory Trail.

Hammond Trail
Northern California’s Hammond Trail is a dirt and asphalt rail trail spanning over five miles from Mad River Bridge to Clam Beach State Park. Riders will cross an old steel bridge constructed in the 1940s and travel through a flora-thick area to a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There is a steep gravel grade beyond that point, so inexperienced riders should walk that portion.

Ojai Valley Trail
The Ojai Valley Trail runs nearly 10 miles north of Ventura to Foster Park. The asphalt and wood chips rail trail is a top pick for riding enthusiasts, and it offers mountain views so spectacular they can only be fully appreciated in person.

There are plenty of other great trails in the state as well. If you want to get off the trail for a while and take a ride along the shore, many beaches such as Zmudowsi State Beach in Monterey offer views of both the ocean and cliffs and allow horseback riding on wet sand areas. Be sure to research California trails in advance for current conditions and advisories.

Did we miss any of your favorite California trails? Let us — and other readers — know in the comments below!

Tips for Choosing Your First Pair of Cowboy Boots

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leopard-print-cowboy-bootsBuying your first pair of cowboy boots can be pretty overwhelming. Like many people, you may have initially assumed that cowboy boots are cowboy boots; how complicated can it be? After taking a quick look, though, you probably realized that lots of considerations should be made to find the pair that’s right for you. By keeping the following tips in mind, you should be able to zero in on the perfect cowboy boots without any trouble.

Fit

Before considering anything else, you need to understand how cowboy boots are supposed to fit. People often assume that it’s better to buy boots that are somewhat stiff and tight at first because the leather will loosen up with wear. However, quality leather doesn’t give that much, so it’s crucial to buy cowboy boots that fit appropriately — and comfortably — right from the start. Yes, they will wear in a little over time, but it’s not like they’re going to start falling off your feet.

When trying on the correct size of cowboy boots, they should slide easily onto your feet. The leg portion should be a little loose and shouldn’t squeeze or chafe your calves. When walking, the heel of your foot should slide up ever so slightly, and you should also be able to wiggle your toes with ease. Be sure to wear the kind of socks you’ll normally wear with your boots when trying them on to ensure optimal comfort and proper sizing.

Kids' Christmas Cowboy Boots STTHeight

When most people think of cowboy boots, tall boots spring to mind. They tend to be the most popular, to be sure, but they’re not the only option. Standard, tall cowboy boots typically rise to just below the knee. They’re best suited for cooler weather and can be worn with anything from pants and leggings to dresses and skirts. Give some thought about the kinds of weather in which you’ll be wearing your boots and to whether you’d like taller, more traditional boots or a shorter pair.

Medium-height cowboy boots typically rise to mid-calf. They’re a nice compromise between short cowboy boots, or booties, and tall boots. Finally, there are short cowboy boots, which are sometimes also called booties. These generally rise just above the ankle and are great for warm weather an our hot Texas summers.

Heel Height

Cowboy boots are not to be confused with high heels. Sure, they all have at least a little bit of a heel, and most have heels that measure between 3/4 of an inch and 1-3/4 inches. Whether you’re planning to wear your boots to dressy events or more casual events, it’s still important to ensure that your boots are comfortable enough to wear for an extended period. While trying on boots by Tony Lama, Twisted X, Johnny Ringo and other brands, look for a balance between height and comfort.

Plain versus Embellished

Finally, you need to decide whether you want plain, traditional cowboy boots, which usually have solid leather designs and very classic, simple looks, or more dramatic ones. In the case of the latter, you can take your pick from colorfully embroidered boots, exotic boots, boots with cutout patterns, rhinestone-studded boots and many others, so be sure to check out as many different options as possible to fit your style!

What do you look for in a pair of cowboy boots? Leave us a comment and let us know!

6 of the Best Riding Trails in Texas

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Horseback-Riding-ConfidenceIf you are looking for the best trails to visit this year in Texas, there are several great options. Everyone has different tastes when it comes to scenery and trail length, but the following trails are some top picks from previous riders:

1. Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway
If you’re looking for a trail ride to span several days and several counties, Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway is a good choice. It is located east of Tulia and west of Childress. At just shy of 65 miles in length, this trail takes you through some diverse scenery and one of the last remaining railroad tunnels in Texas. You are free to camp anywhere along the trail and will have to pay a small admission fee.

2. Trinity River Trails
The Trinity River Trails wind through the city of Fort Worth, and they are ideal for people who prefer a city setting for riding. The nearly 48 miles of trails link several sites, such as the Botanical Gardens and the Stockyards.

3. Lake Mineral Wells State Trailway
Lake Mineral Wells State Trailway is a mixture of asphalt and crushed limestone surfaces, and it spans two counties. There are 16 bridges over the span of the trail’s 20-mile length. The flat surface, shade and mild curves make it a great choice for beginners.

4. Wichita River Trail
This trail is nearly 15 miles long and is made of concrete. It winds with the Wichita River through brushy plains, alongside waterfalls, through well-landscaped park areas, and through shaded areas. It is accessible from several major highways that connect with Wichita Falls. The Wichita River Trail is also a good place to see wildlife.

5. Trail de Paris
The Trail de Paris will take you along six asphalted miles of beautiful shade trees, over several bridges and to an old railroad crossing. If you are looking for an easy and leisurely ride with a shorter total distance, this is the perfect choice. There are benches and viewing areas to stop along the way.

6. Chaparral Rail Trail
For the more adventurous rider, Chaparral Rail Trail provides over 35 miles of crushed rock trail and plenty of shade. At one end of the trail is the historic Onion Shed. The trail goes through Farmersville and out into the remote countryside to connect four counties. It ends near Pecan Gap.

These are just a few of the many scenic trails in the great state of Texas. If you want to visit trails in other areas, make sure they are suitable for your needs and the needs of riders accompanying you.

Looking for more cool trails in our great state? Check out our Pinterest board with a number of other neat places to visit!

Did we miss your favorite trail? Let us know in the comments! We’re always looking for a great place to ride.

5 Summer Essentials for You and Your Horse

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horse careDuring the summer, it’s important to keep you and your horse as cool and comfortable as possible. Your equipment needs will change with the warmer weather. Below are some tips for keeping you and your horse at ease all summer long:

1. A Summer Riding Wardrobe
There’s no reason to roast as you’re riding the trail. Summertime is the season to ditch the dark, heavy fabrics and lighten up with thinner materials and brighter hues. Performance cooling riding shirts will wick moisture away from the skin so you stay cool and dry, even under the summer sun. Pair the performance top with brightly-colored stretch breeches. Keep your breeches neutral while riding around the ring, then change into a more sprightly tone to socialize around the grounds. Add another punch with your boot socks. Mix and match colors or wear a lighter, brighter pattern this season.

2. Fly Masks and Fly Sheets
Summer brings with it its fair share of flying insects. Horses can become anxious and irritable when flies are buzzing around their heads. They may pace, snort and toss their manes. A fly mask — like this one from Cashel — provides comfortable protection from flying insects. It covers the face, protecting the horse’s sensitive areas, while still allowing the horse to see, breathe and stay cool.

Fly sheets protect horses from pests as well as the sun. Breathable fabric allows for steady air flow while providing protection from ultraviolet rays that can dull a horse’s coat. Fly sheets protect against large flies and bees as well as smaller biting insects. A contoured, adjustable fit will be most comfortable and convenient for your horse this summer.

3. Fly Spray and Traps
If your horse can’t stand its fly mask, use a fly repellant around the eyes. Keep pastures clean of manure, and compost your manure if possible. This kills the fly larvae. Spray the perimeter of the barn with fly spray and use fly bait strips inside to prevent flies from getting to your horse.

4. Summer Grooming Tools and Products
Horses need extra care to stay healthy in the warmer weather. Resist the urge to cut the mane and tail short when the weather turns hot. The long hair helps your horse swat away flies. When it comes to grooming your horse’s mane, a brush may be too rough and can lead to breakage and hair loss. Rinse dirt out of the mane, then apply a detangling product — one great option is Cowboy Magic Detangler — using your fingers to detangle the hair. Try to avoid products that list alcohol as an ingredient as alcohol can lead to a dry, frizzy mane.

A sweaty horse can attract flies. Rinse off your horse in the barn a few times a week, and use shampoo every other week or so. A grooming product with a UV barrier can help protect against sunburn, especially on areas with white fur.

5. Summer Hoof Care
Hooves tend to crack more during the summer, posing a potentially harmful threat to your horse. When it rains, the hooves swell, trapping dirt and bacteria in the cracks. Prevent this from happening by using a sealant — we recommend Horseshower’s Secret Hoof Sealant — on the outside of your horse’s hooves weekly.

Did we miss any essentials? Let us know in the comments below!

Top Tack Questions: What Brand of Rope Should I Use?

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STT_3-RopesOur customers often ask “What brand of rope should I use?” At South Texas Tack, we understand that it is important to pick the right brand of rope, at the right price, for every job. There a wide range of roping supplies and we want to make sure you have the right product in your hands. Here are our tips for choosing the right rope brand.

Cactus Ropes

The Cactus brand has a great selection of nylon and polyester materials. If you are a daily calf roper, get a head rope around 30-32 feet or 35-36 feet with a softer level of firmness. The Hypnotic ropes are also part of a popular brand made by Cactus that are for heading and heeling, especially in hot weather.

Classic Ropes

Classic Ropes have always been a stable name in the roping market. Classic Ropes often have a light, slimmer feel, combining four to five fibers at a time for their ropes. From their top-of-the-line Spydr5 team rope to their Heat Heel Rope, Classic Ropes has plenty of roping options to choose from.

The History of the Lucchese Brand: Over 130 Years of Excellence

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STT_Lucchese-1883Here at South Texas Tack, we have a soft spot for the Lucchese brand. Not only have we been selling Lucchese boots for years, but we work with the brand to create custom cowboy boots for South Texas Tack. We love Lucchese, not just because they’re stylish, but because the brand is steeped in tradition, and dedicated to making excellent cowboy boots.

The Lucchese brothers emigrated to Texas in the 1880s and quickly set up a bootmaking store in San Antonio, catering to the folks at the U.S. Cavalry School at Fort Sam Houston. The brothers Salvatore, Joseph, Michael, and Antonio bought the first inseamer machine to assist in the production of their boots. When Salvatore suffered a stroke in 1923, his son Cosimo took over to keep the Lucchese business running. In the years that followed, the Luccheses custom-made cowboy boots and military dress shoes for folks near and far, gaining popularity as they built a reputation for quality, originality, and craftsmanship. The company experienced enormous success in the 40s and 50s, with U.S. characters like Bing Crosby, Audie Murphy, and Lyndon B. Johnson. 1970 saw the purchase of the Lucchese company by Blue Bell Corporation, and 1986 was the year Lucchese moved its operations to its current location: El Paso, Texas. The company continues to make incredible boots to this day, using the best leather and hand-crafting techniques that lend its cowboy boots true quality.

How to Set Up a Stall at a Horse Show

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STT_Horse-StallHeading to a horse show? We’ll bet your trailer is packed with tack and supplies, your bags are filled with gear and grooming items, and your papers are all in order for a weekend of competition. Once you get to the show, however, the organization process continues. Making your horse comfortable in her stall will keep her calm and ready for the event, and staying organized will keep your stress levels to a minimum—another important factor in delivering a solid performance.

Follow these guidelines for setting up your horse show stall, and you’ll be halfway to competing at your very best.

The Right Barn Supplies

Before you even leave for a horse show, you should gather up everything on your show tack checklist, grooming supplies checklist, and rider gear checklist. When it comes to setting up a stall, make sure these items are part of your checklist:

  • Clips
  • Feed bin
  • Grooming supplies
  • Hanging grooming case
  • Hay rack or hay net
  • Hooks
  • Mats and/or bedding
  • Salt block
  • Screw eyes
  • Stall guard
  • Stall lock
  • Stall toy
  • Water bucket

Of course, some of these items are optional; for example, some horse owners prefer to use both bedding and stall mats, while others simply leave the stall floor bare. Plus, there may be items not on this list that are unique to you and your horse’s needs. Take stock of what kinds of barn supplies you need, and make a comprehensive checklist before you head out.

The Stall Setup

Next, set up the show stall using the same barn organization ideas you employ for your barn supplies in your stable at home. For example, when you hang up hooks and clips for tack, keep them away from your horse’s hooves, eyes, and mouth. Using screw eyes is a great way to hang water buckets, grooming cases, and other grooming supplies. Keep in mind that if your horse tends to get a lot of food in her water bucket, place the two far apart in the stall. Additionally, keep your belongings out of walkways that get a lot of foot traffic.

Stall Safety

Throughout the horse show, make sure you are conscious of your surroundings and your belongings. Doing so will keep you, your horse, and other show-goers safe. For more horse show exhibitor safety tips from South Texas Tack, click here.

Connect with South Texas Tack

How do you stay organized at a horse show? Any stall set-up tips we missed? Let us know by connecting with South Texas Tack on Facebook and Twitter.

 

How to Trailer Your Horse in 3 Steps

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STT_Horse-TrailerWhether you are traveling with your horse for a short drive, or for a cross-country trip, actually getting your horse inside a trailer can be a challenge. If your horse is obstinate by nature, has never been trailered before, or is just feeling a little uppity that day, use these steps to get him into the trailer more easily.

Step 1: Prepare Your Trailer

First, prepare your trailer for loading your horse. Inspect the trailer to make sure its floor is intact; its tire pressure levels are optimal; the inside is clean; the gates, latches, and hitch are in good shape; and all of your lights are in working order. Next, stock your trailer with floor mats, hay, ventilation, and bedding. Finally, open and secure the windows and side doors before you lead your horse to the trailer. If you’re on the way to a horse show, check out our horse show trailer checklist for more tips.