Must Haves & Live Withouts

Everyone has those few products that they are OBSESSED with. The kind where if someone asks, “What is the best brand of XYZ?” that product instantly falls out of your mouth like word vomit.

I have been thinking about what those products are for me. If you know me at all, you know I’m obsessed with trying basically all the things. I have really liked a ton of products, but which ones will always be my must-haves? Took me a bit of time, but here are some of my top products that I love, as well as some I could probably live without:

Tack Cleaner

Best deep conditioner/lederbalsam: Voltaire & CWD. Why both? They are super similar IMO. If you took off the labels I could maybe tell them apart, but no guarantees. My point though, THEY WORK.  Pick either one, but you need one. Nothing IME does as better job deep conditioning then these.

Live Without: The Antares Conditioner. I was so excited for it, but the creamy consistency just doesn’t seem to do the job. I wanted to love it. and I did use it for quite while (my container is at least half empty), but it just doesn’t do the trick. I wouldn’t buy or recommend it as good conditioner.


Best Stirrup Leathers: If you are looking for the best half hole calfskin leathers then CWD is the way to go. Almost no bulk under your leg, easy to adjust, minimal to no stretching, and they won’t scratch your calfskin saddle. They also last FOREVER. I purchased mine lightly used (because I hate paying full price for anything) and I have used them for over 5 years now. They are STILL in great condition, and show no sign of needing to be replaced any time soon.

Love my CWD leathers

Live Without: Take this with a grain of salt, because I don’t own any, but I am not impressed by the Voltaire leathers for the price tag. I have seen and felt many in person, and the leather isn’t nearly as soft as my CWD ones. They may hold up just fine, but seeing what the Voltaire leathers look like in person hasn’t been enough to sway me away from my CWD leathers. Now their butter soft and stylish hunter girth is an entirely different story… I’m still jonesing for one of those!

Everyday Bridle: You would have to pry my Ovation wide noseband bridle from my cold, dead hands. I friggin LOVE that thing. The more I have used, the nicer the leather has become. Going on 3 years of consistent use, it is buttery soft but also still in great shape- hasn’t stretched out or gotten all marked-up like some bridles that are TOO soft. For a full review of the Ovation bridle check out my previous blog post about it.

This is the most recent pic of my Ovation that I have

Live Without: Smartpark Harwich  bridles are just a no for me. I have had 2 (both hunter styles with a traditional cavesson) and the leather is like coated and plasticky. It doesn’t accept oil/condition like nice leather, and never really breaks in. They look nice enough from a distance, but the ones I had didn’t hold up well and definitely felt cheap in your hands. The Ovation is the same price (at Dover, SP doesn’t carry it) and is far far superior.


Best Brush: Haas Smile Grundy’s Finest Soft Horse Hair Body Brush. Long name, but the best brush ever. Has cut my grooming routine way down. I used to use a medium-ish brush and then a really soft brush to get the fine dust off. The Haas Smile brush has replaced those. It is somehow able to get of more substantial dirt that I’d normally need a medium brush to tackle, and well as getting super fine dust off. Brushing with it is so satisfying- you can just see the coat getting super clean! Riding Warehouse has the best deal on this brush, plus many other Haas brush options!

Live Without: Those large black hard rubber curries that every barn has. I HATE them. I much much prefer the style with the soft “fingers” for currying.

Hate this kind of curry comb. Refuse to use.
This will always be my favorite curry. Mine is teal and I have had it forever. Nothing replaces it!


Best Coat Conditioner/Shine Spray: Carr & Day & Martin Dream Coat. It’s pricey AF at $28 a bottle but OMG IT SMELLS MAGICAL. Like, I feel so so happy every time I use it. It also works super well- doesn’t attract dust, isn’t oily, and has a super awesome fine mist sprayer. Basically it is the unicorn of coat conditioners.

Live Without: Absorbine Show Sheen. I know, I went there. What can I say? I know it’s a coat shine staple for some but there are just so many other great options on the market these days. It smells bad, does’t really soften the coat, and is terrible for  helping to brush out tails- I feel like I have to use SO MUCH for any effect. I just don’t like it. I occasionally will pick some up to COAT a horse before body clipping to help the clippers glide through, but that is the only use I have for it.

Horse Care

Best Thrush Solution: Thrush Buster is the absolute best. Yes, it stains your hands, but the bottle makes it pretty easy to keep it off of yourself (unlike the Kopertox that I grew up with that gets EVERYWHERE no matter what you do). Most importantly, it really works. I have never met thrush that can survive an application or two of Thrush Buster. Pricey for a small bottle, it works so well you don’t need to use a ton.

Live Without: Absorbine Hooflex Thrush Remedy. We used to have this in a lesson program I worked for and I just felt like it didn’t get the job done, even after multiple consistent applications. True, it won’t stain your hands (it’s clear), but it also just doesn’t seem to work. I wouldn’t buy again and wouldn’t recommend it.

Best Blanket: We all know their aren’t many guarantees in horses, so when there is one, why not take advantage? SmartPak Ultimate blankets have a 10 year guarantee. Yes, TEN YEARS. Who doesn’t want that??? They also often go on sale, making them cheaper the comparable blankets with no guarantee. My sheet is going on 3 years with no damage, but after two years of use on my medium weight blanket the piping along the left hind started coming apart. I emailed pictures to Smartpak and within a day they had a new one in the mail to me.  Easiest process ever!! Plus I just duct taped the old blanket and can still have it for a back-up. I love knowing I won’t have to spend any additional money on blankets for 6-7 more years.


Live Without: Wheatherbeeta blankets used to be the best. My mom still has Whetherbeeta blankets from the 90’s that are in good condition. Their is something wrong with the new ones though. Maybe it was a bad batch but the nylon on my retired horse’s blanket basically disintegrates in your fingers. The nylon webbing is what the buckles are attached to and they have ALL come off within a few months of use. When my mom called them about it there was no resolution and they didn’t offer to refund or replace it. After multiple repairs of various parts by a seamstress friend she has thrown in the towel and bought a SmartPak blanket.


So what are your MUST HAVE products, and which left you feeling let down?

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  1. Gosh my process with Smartpak was totally different for blankets. Mine are no longer waterproof, the binding is going, etc. They told me I had to get them recleaned (worn once and then found out they weren’t waterproof), and they would wait for mine to come back before even really committing to sending me a new one. I ended up just buying a set of Rambos instead.

    1. NO way!! Ugh I hate that. My transaction couldn’t have gone smoother. They asked for pics of the damage, deemed it “irreparable”, and popped a replacement in the mail to me. I am so sorry you had such a bad experience with it. Now I am curious if I just got lucky?

  2. I really want that Haas brush now! Adding it to my RW wish list!

    I’m with you on show sheen and I would add cowboy magic to the do not like list.

    I’m pretty flexible with most horse products, but one thing I really really like for horse care is Keratex mud shield powder. Not sure what is in it, but it works great for scratches/mud fever. I’ve gone through a bottle a year with my geldings white legs and I won’t be without it if I can help it!

  3. Totally with you on the Ovation strapgoods, I feel like it’s the best thing they make and probably the most underrated brand on the market. I had a hunter bridle back in the day that was honestly nicer than my Edgewood and much more durable. I just wish they made more unique or modern tack… if they did, I’d own more of it!

  4. Hmmmm. I love me some showsheen for detangling a tail. I’ve not found anything else that works as well. I usually wash. Showsheen while wet. Detangle. Then wash again and slather it with Mane and Tail conditioner. My horses are out on 7 acres for 12 hours a day and Simon never fails at finding as many sticks to get stuck in his tail as possible and by keeping it detangled they pull out less hair. I may give the CDM stuff a try…..
    Also, I LOVE my Prestige lined leathers. The price is so much better than the french leathers and they are calfskin so won’t hurt my (stupid) calfskin saddle (I’d buy cowhide saddles if they were readily available in the French brands, I hate the lack of durability of calfskin).
    And all of my Baker blankets are at least 5 years old, some are almost 10. A couple have gotten small repairs, but they have been super durable for me. And I have them all; stable blankets and sheets, turnouts, fly sheets, the whole selection! I also have some Dover and SP ones that I like, but I am a sucker for the matchiness of the Bakers and they have won me over with their durability.
    And last, but not least, I adore my Higher Standards saddle soap! It smells amazing, is made in the USA by a friend and works so well!

  5. Oh fun topic!
    My favorites:
    -Tack soap:Carr & Day & Martin Belvoir glycerin bar (they call it step 2, I use it for step 1),
    -Tack conditioner I am still totally married to Akeene
    -Coat spray I’m a mirco tek girl forever, but still actually prefer show sheen for tails personally. I have the Carr & Day & Martin, but find I have to use it more often on the tails than the show sheen
    -Bridles: Hands down I LOVE my Joseph Sterling bridles. Inexpensive, yet gorgeous, and the leather is amazing
    -agree on the Voltaire leathers. I got a pair with my saddle, and they were thick and stiff and yuck. Don’t have a favorite presently though.
    -Also no favorites on the blanket front anymore. My favorites were discontinued, but were the Beval brand ones.
    -Grooming items: hands on gloves, mini beastie brushes, and kind of obsessed with the Diva Brush.

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