So What Now?

This April, I sent my horse home to her owner because my year lease was up. She is my heart horse and I adored every second that we got to spend together. Luckily, her owner is my trainer and good friend, so I know she is living her best life at home. Nevertheless, loading her up onto the trailer, knowing she wasn’t coming back to me was tough.

Carina’s leaving marked the, hopefully temporary, end to my riding career. Getting another lease or buying a horse is just not in the cards for me; This sport is expensive and I’m not made of money. So I had to make a difficult choice… horses or college. There wasn’t money for both and I was forced to give up my riding. Since I didn’t have the funding to have a horse of my own, my progress became stagnant. And as someone that uses progress as a gauge of self-worth, I grew frustrated very quickly. Honestly, I stopped riding and have only ridden once since I left Carina in Wellington. I miss it every day, but what’s worse, missing it or growing to resent it because of frustration? Though I didn’t like either option, missing it was the lesser of two evils.

The question that seemed to haunt me most was “Who Am I Now?”. Horses were my identity for so long and I was empty without it. The depression set in soon after as well. Almost every night, I was crying myself to sleep because of it. I caught myself looking through old photos and videos more times than I could count, trying to relive those moments again and again. To be honest, I was in an incredibly dark place. The only times I was out of the house was to run an errand or go to work.

Soon after Carina went home, I started helping one of the kiddos I nanny with her pony hunter when her trainers were away at shows. Every day I try to teach her something new, whether she is on the ground or in the saddle. Anything from learning how to braid to medical care is fair game. They have made such wonderful progress and I am super proud of them.

As an honorary pony mom and stand-in trainer, I have gained a way to be around horses. Though I may not be riding, I still get to be involved in the sport that I adore. Carina is now teaching another person all the lessons that she taught me under the guidance of my trainer. I miss her every day, but all I want for her is to be loved and happy and I know that she is being given top notch care in every aspect.

So what’s next for me? I don’t really know. Hopefully horses will continue to be a part of it in some aspect, but for now, I’m taking it day by day, focusing on finding happiness. To fill my time, I’m traveling and learning to toss around the lacrosse ball with my boyfriend. Here’s to all happy times, horses or not.

 

Until next time preps,

xo Sydney

Small Fish, Big Ocean: An Irrelevant Girl’s Take On The Equestrian Lifestyle

No matter how hard I may try not to be, I am incredibly irrelevant. No number of followers, designer belt buckles, or WEF tricolors will get me there either. This chick is a nobody from a built-up cornfield in Indiana.

A little over 3 years ago, I made my first trip to the ever so prestigious Wellington, Florida Some might even call it ‘Horsey Mecca’. With many big name barns and riders walking around can make it easy to be overwhelmed. Hundreds of names and faces to get to know can be tough, especially if you have a hard time remembering those kinds of things. Making connections in the Wellington culture is no easy task to take on. But, I was lucky enough to have found a great trainer that helped to set me on a path for making Wellington a regular, comfortable destination for me. Over time, a great foundation was laid for a network that I continue to grow every time I’m down. While I might not be besties with George Morris or Beezie Madden, we’re getting there. I’m a small fish in an ever-evolving, ever-growing ocean.

 

I took this just a few moments before Mclain sat down next to me!

It wasn’t until WEF 2018 that I really started to feel like the total nobody I was. Strolling past big name riders with such admiration because I could never be like them. I spent my days ringside, snapping photos of my camera and phone of those big name riders, trying to portray that stereotypical equestrian Instagram aesthetic everybody loves so dearly. My irrelevancy was totally on display as I sat alone in the boxes to watch rounds at a height I will never jump. But, as life does, it threw me a curveball. Something that I never dreamed would happen to me, happened… Mclain Ward (yes, THE Mclain Ward) talked to me. I was sitting and watching the 2* Grand Prix when he sat down in the chair one over from me. When he first started talking, I didn’t think he was talking to ME. But when I realized he was, I freaked out a little and put on my cool girl face to answer his question. Essentially, I kept myself together like the badass I’m not. Don’t worry though, the freakout moment came after he was far far away from me.

 

Those feelings of irrelevancy hit once more after the shock of my encounter with Mclain wore off. Did he ask my name? No. Did he really have any interest in the answer I gave him? Probably not. I was still the same old girl from Indiana with a camera and an Instagram; An itty bitty fish trying to swim upstream. Nobody was asking me to catch ride their sales horses like other juniors my age and no coach was pursuing me because I was talented or showed promise. The most honest and true word to describe my situation was: nobody.

Getting lost in all the glitz and glam of the lifestyle is easy. At first, I just went along to wherever the current took me. Now, I am slowly trying to make an effort to form myself into the horsewoman that I want to be. Though I am still small in the grand scheme of things, I hope that I am able to grow my presence and make an impact someday. Wellington is just one step and here’s to more.

 

Until Next Time Preps,

Sydney & The Ponies

Heels Down, Eyes Up: Why Keeping Hope Is Important

I am someone that really struggles with keeping positive when something unfavorable or just straight up not good happens in my life. Discouragement levels run on high, coupled with sadness, giving up seems like the best and easiest path to take. Surely I’m not the only one, right? Not at all. Many people, especially riders, struggle with this exact same thing every day.

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For me, my loss of hope stemmed from my progress in the sport. I am not financially able to buy the fanciest or nicest horse on the market; So I was unable to really venture high in the levels. Because of this, I saw other people I know well and started at the same place as me, excelling so much faster than I was and it was definitely discouraging. Everything kind of turned around when I found a trainer that believed in me. She found me the horse of my dreams that was able to move me up to a place where I was finally happy. Now, I’m hoping that sharing my experience and hardships can help others.

While sharing my personal experience is oh so interesting, I turned to the ever so trusty Instagram for a bit of a new thing. Putting out a poll that asked, “Have you ever lost hope in your riding before?”, Almost 90% of people have felt this way at some point during their riding careers. That’s crazy. Following the first one, I asked the people that responded if they’d be willing to let me feature their story in this post. While many said no, a few awesome people said yes and were kind enough to be interviewed.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetFirst up is Maddie Bricken. Many know her from her totally drool-worthy blog The Blonde & The Bay, where she shares her journey through dressage as an ammy with her mare, Leah. When I asked her why she lost hope she said, “Due to a series of unfortunate events and falls, I was too afraid to even think about continuing my dressage journey.” Sadly, this is one of the biggest responses I got. Falls and other accidents can be brutal to deal with and some even result in riders quitting altogether. But in typical Maddie-The-Badass fashion, she bounced back. “I focused solely on my own journey, tuning out any outside distractions. Time was on my side, I didn’t rush the process and moved at my own pace. Eventually, little by little, I began to feel more at ease in the saddle, enjoying the small milestones” she told me when I asked how she regained her hope.

IMG_3697One of the groups of riders that can get hit hardest by this are the juniors. Living up to the standard that Instagram portrays as the ‘perfect teenage equestrian’ can be difficult when half of the big name riders come from very prestigious barns. Edie Wetzel’s experience was no different. “Every so often when things aren’t progressing as I like, or I didn’t compete in the class I wanted to or my horse consistently acted up due to her “greenness” I will lose hope and wonder why I am doing it,” she told me.  I asked her what she did to regain her hope she said “I had to take a step back and realize what I have, I have a wonderful warmblood who my trainer had lent me (she’s his personal horse) and that it was going well where I was at. In the end, the height doesn’t matter, my horse was going along smoothly, was a tough competitor, and progressing immensely in her flat work as well as her jumping technique. I realized that what I have in front of me is way greater than jumping the extra 6 inches.”  Edie and her mare ended up as the Zone 5 Horse Of The Year that year because she kept working hard for what she wanted; plus they are totally awesome.

So keeping your eyes up is important. Look for that next jump to get over or the next movement to execute. You’ve got this, don’t lose hope.

 

xo,

Sydney & The Ponies

Professional Photoshoots: How To Prepare

I adore having photos of my girl. While the photos I take on my phone, but they are never the best quality and normally don’t have both me and her in them. So, getting professional photos done is the perfect way to get those high quality, cute pair photos you’ll treasure forever. But, getting ready for these photoshoots can be nerve-wracking. Accident prone ponies and weather are just a few examples. As someone who has done a lot of these types of shoots, I have compiled a list of my favorite things to do when I prep for a professional photoshoot.

 

Bath Time!

Making sure your pony is squeaky clean and shiny is super important. These are photos that you are getting to show off you and your perfect best friend; no dusty and dirty ponies allowed! If it’s possible and works with your area’s weather, clipping is a great thing to do also. When Carina and I did our photoshoot in Wellington with Lorien Huddleston of Lorien Huddleston Photography, we had a horse show the next day so she was bathed and ready to go. To battle to Florida heat, she was also body clipped.

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To Braid or Not To Braid

I personally love the look of when a horse is braided for a photoshoot but sometimes it jut isn’t feasible. While braiding provides a really clean look, it takes up a lot of time and some horses won’t even stand still for it. The best time to braid is when you do a black background or solo, artistic photos of your horse. Other times, it shouldn’t be a concern. Since Carina had a rated show the next day that she was going to be braided for so I kept away so I didn’t tear up her mane too much.

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Wear Neutral Colors That Won’t Blend Into Your Background

Don’t wear anything flashy or super intricate patterned. They just don’t translate well to the camera and can do more harm than good. I opted for a simple patterned, navy and white button-down with some plain white jeans and navy Sperrys.

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Clean Your Tack

Whether you are using a bridle or halter or even full tack, making sure it’s clean is vital. You want to look the best you can and dirty tack is not the way to do it. Even if it’s just running a damp cloth over the tack, makes all the difference.

Dress Up

You want to look perfect for these photos, so don’t be afraid to dress up. Also be aware that you were more than likely will get horse spit on it so make sure that it isn’t near impossible to wash! White is also a color to steer clear of but I was willing to take the risk 😉

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I will forever cherish these sweet photos of my girl and I. Lorien did a phenomenal job and I have more shoots lined up with her when I go down to Wellington again this season. If you are interested in getting a shoot with her, she is frequently traveling so DM her on her instagram @loriens.photography to get in touch!

 

I hope y’all enjoyed this article about prepping for a professional photoshoot! If you ever have any questions feel free to DM on Instagram @equestrian.syd!

Until Next Time Preps,

Sydney & The Ponies

 

Buying On A Budget: Why Second-Hand Horse Items Are Best

Horse stuff is expensive. Plain and simple. But, it doesn’t have to be. Why by new stuff when you can buy something gently used for much less and still get an amazing product?

Buying things second-hand is one of the most underrated things in the horse industry. Of course, there are some things that you shouldn’t buy second-hand like helmets if they’ve been used, medications, etc. But you can find some amazing deals on stuff that you may not normally be able to afford for your horse. Blankets are a perfect example for this. If you have a blanket destroyer or live in a place with bipolar weather and you need to buy lots of blankets, buy second hand! Most are kept in great condition and are sold for a fraction of the price a brand new one would run you.

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All of Carina’s bridle was bought second-hand! Even though it is a monocrown and has an extra strap we don’t need with this bit, it works greatly as our trail bridle!

Many people are wary of buying second hand, especially online, in fear of getting scammed. Luckily, I’ve compiled a little list with my tips to make sure that you don’t end up in that situation.


  • Always Use PayPal Goods & Service

PayPal has anti-scammer policies that helps to protect your money in any good/service transaction. While they do have a small fee, it’s a small price to pay for insurance that you’ll get your money back if it turns out that it is a scam.

  • Ask For A Specific Photos

By asking for a photo that is of a specific thing on or with the product, you are making sure that the seller really does have to product in their possession. If they are unable to provide it at all (people have jobs and may need a day or two to get and send the photo so please be patient), I would say to walk away.

  • Never Accept Screenshot Photos

The photos need to be taken on whatever device the seller is talking to you on. If the photos are screenshots from a text, email, websites or just at all, walk away. This is the tell tale sign of a scam. Bogus sellers will get lots of photos off of other Facebooks posts or websites and pass it off as their own.


 

Personally, I am apart of a lot of Facebook groups and I constantly visit consignment shops on the hunt. Joining a lot at first is a great plan. As you scope out posts, you can remove yourself from groups you don’t like. My favorite three are English Tack Trader (USA), High End English Tack Trader, and English Tack Exchange. I’ve had great luck with there groups and see really awesome stuff on there constantly. Also, there are groups specific to calling out bad sellers. Joining one of there helps you keep up to date with scams going around. The one I am apart of is Bad Tack Sellers/Traders. Surely, there are loads if other groups but I’ve found these to be my favorite. All of them are ‘request to join’ so there is potential to not be able to be apart of certain groups but almost always, the admin will let you in.

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Both my saddle and my breeches were bought second-hand!

My favorite things to pick up used are apparel items like shirts and breeches, saddle pads, and accessories for my horse like boots, bonnets, half pads, etc. Carina has a collection of so many extra things I wouldn’t normally be able to get for her or even myself, because I buy them second hand. Heck, I even got my saddle off of a facebook!

 

I hope y’all enjoyed this article about buying horse item second-hand! If you ever have any questions feel free to DM on Instagram @equestrian.syd!

Until Next Time Preps,

Sydney & The Ponies

Growing From Experiences

This past June, I took my mare to our first show since she came to Indiana. It was an eventing combined test at a local farm. For those who aren’t familiar, a combined test is only the dressage and show jumping phase of a 3-day event aka no cross country. I came into the class fairly confident that we would be perfectly fine. Boy oh boy was I wrong.

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I knew that we would be having a somewhat rough dressage test. Carina is not a dressage horse but has solid flatwork. She was great in warm-up but as soon as we walked into the area, it all fell apart. My nerves translated to tension from Carina and silly mistakes we should not have made happened. Walking out of the area, I knew that our score would reflect those mistakes. I got the worst dressage score I had ever received that day. Reading the judge’s notes really helped to show me what we needed to work on in our flatwork at home and in the comment section she wrote “Wonderful pair! Just seems to be nervous today, keep working hard.” This really helped to show me that the score doesn’t reflect Carina and I as a pair, it shows us what we need to work on to get better.

Going into the show jump warm-up I was much more confident that my horse knew her job and we would be able to clean up what we lost in dressage. Again, I was wrong. She was great in warm-up but I failed her as a rider in the arena. We had a refusal at jump 3 and again at jump 5. We were eliminated and walked back to the barn. I cared for my horse, gave her some of her favorite treats, and patted her because she tried her hardest for me, even if everything didn’t go our way.

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At first, I was mad at Carina for not performing as I knew she could. But really, I was angry at myself for not being the right ride for her that day. Horses are only as confident as their rider is. They are our partners and just like us, they can have bad days too. We had a bad day and when we went home, our training plan changed to reflect what we needed to work on.

Horses keep us so humble. They teach us lessons about everything under the sun and while it might be tough to deal with in the moment, it gets better. Looking back on that day, I see my actions, where I went wrong, and know that I have bettered myself from my experience. Carina and I went on to another show in our area 2 months later and placed 4th in our 3′ round out of 19 and 5th out of 21 in our 3’3″ class. I am proud of what we have accomplished and I am incredible blessed to have Carina in my life. Never again will I take for granted her talent and work ethic. I can’t wait to have more experiences with her and learn all the lessons that she has to teach me.

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I didn’t realize until now that we are wearing the exact same show set-up!

I hope y’all enjoyed this article about growing from experiences! If you ever have any questions feel free to DM on Instagram @equestrian.syd!

Until Next Time Preps,

Sydney & The Ponies

 

The Preppy Equestrian Holiday Gift Guide 2018

I have been told many times this year that equestrians are hard to shop for. There is just too much to choose from! I have compiled The Preppy Equestrian’s 2018 Holiday Gift guide with 8 awesome, “jump for joy” present ideas.

 

Horse Guard Flaxen Flix Treats

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Hore Guard is the most trendy supplement company on the market. They mostly gained popularity around their flax based treat Flix. Even the pickiest of eaters love these treats! You can find a 9lb bag here for $23.99.

 

Saratoga Horseworks Bandage Set

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These bandages have been taking social media by storm  Their versatility, simple care instructions, and virility have made them a favorite for so many people. They are offered in 3 different lengths, 2 different colors, and in 4 or 2 packs. You can find them here starting at $84.99 for a 4 pack.

 

Park North Designs Nail Necklace

Equestrian themed jewelry that isn’t tacky can be hard to come by. This necklace is a fun twist on an equestrian item that normally gets overlooked, a farrier’s nail. With a sleek, sophisticated design, you are sure to get compliments. You can find it in sterling silver here for $116.00 or in rose gold here for $121.00.

WOW Pampa Yellow Belt

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Belts are always a great way to accessorize an otherwise plain outfit. The WOW Pampa Yellow Belt is a great addition to practically any outfit with it’s 2 base colors being a neutral navy and cream but still having a little pop of red. You can find it here for $47.99 and it is also offered another in a multi-color pattern here.

Kate At The In Gate Custom Pony Portrait Embroidered Hoop

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Can you say cute?! These awesome little embroidery hoops are a perfect way to showcase your ponies adorable face. All of them totally customizable and are handmade by Kate. They are available is 2 different size hoops and 3 different background fabric colors. You can find them here for $45.00 and you can browse Kate’s other embroidery options here.

 

I Love You More Than Horses Art Print

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I have a weak spot for pretty, horse related art pieces and this one is no exception. This fun print would be an awesome edition to any room on the wall or on a table. Its quirky little saying and fun colors add a great vibe to anywhere you put it. The art is offered in 4 different sizes. You can find it here starting at $18.95.

 

Noel Asmar Equestrian Calais Wool Cape

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Noel Asmar is a superpower for equestrian fashion; this cape is no exception. Its chic design is perfect for street to stable. It can perfectly pair with most high-necked shirts and long sleeves for a comfortable and stylish look. You can find it here in 2 colors starting at $214.40 on sale.

Dalia Lehmann Equestrian Alexy Light Pink Shirt

Sporty, fashionable, and out-of-the-box has become incredibly popular this season. New colors with stylish designs on some of the biggest riders in show jumping. This shirt has the flare to stand out while still being feminine and chic. You can find it here in 5 sizes for $116.19 and others like it here.

 

I hope y’all enjoyed this year’s holiday gift guide! If you ever have any questions feel free to DM me on instagram @equestrian.syd!

Until Next Time Preps,

Sydney & the Ponies

 

What Goes On Behind The Curtain

As a young equestrian in an ever-evolving age of knowledge, I work with multiple trainers at all different levels to grow my own personal knowledge in the industry. I have learned from some of the best in the business and also some small town homegrowns. They all have something new to offer. But, when you are taught something by anyone, there is always room for something to go wrong.

You see nowadays, with the assistance of social media’s watchful eye, people bounce from one barn or trainer to another all the time. It has happened since the very beginning and will probably continue for more time to come. People have many reasons for moving barns or trainers; the facilities may be too far for a regular commute, the board may become too expensive, etc. But, there are also more reasons that aren’t talked about.

Drama amongst barn members is big, along with arguments with trainers over many numbers of things. The barn “family” as it is called is a rider’s support system. And when drama starts among members… all hell can break loose. Without a solid support system, riders lose touch with the fun that riding horses brings, making it no longer an activity that they want to partake in. Trainers are a large part of the support system and could easily be considered the core. They are the make-or-break of a rider’s confidence. It’s one thing to be verbal with harsh criticisms, but sometimes it is what trainers don’t say that hurts the worst. Personally, I’ve gotten to be on the receiving end of both and it isn’t pretty. I was very close to taking a ‘leave of absence’ from riding because I was so unhappy. But that wasn’t the end and normally it isn’t.

Our industry is flooded with the money seekers, the ones that are just in it to make a buck off of whoever they can. Crazy charges for simple tasks or holding back riders until they buy a big, fancy horse, the list goes on and on. Don’t get me wrong, professionals charge what they feel their time & knowledge is worth and that is entirely up to them. But, taking advantage of people is not okay. All too often, you see families leave barns or stop involvement in horses altogether because it grows to be too expensive.

Sometimes, even if riders love the barn, people, and horses, it just isn’t feasible to continue training under certain people. The equestrian industry is based on a platform of judgement, and that judgement has ruined riding for so many people. But, riders doing what is right for themselves isn’t wrong.  Knowing when it all becomes too much is important. I hope by talking about this and bringing the not-so-fun subject to light, the judgment that surrounds moving barns or trainers, etc becomes less of a taboo affair.

I hope y’all enjoyed this article! I know it was kind of a downer but I promise there are lots more fun and exciting articles coming your way 😉

Until Next Time Preps,

Sydney & the Ponies

Ringside Fashion

Watching shows from ringside is one of my favorite things to do. But, not everyone enjoys showing their horse(s). With nerves, the pressure to do well, etc etc, the fun gets sucked out of it. Just because you aren’t riding doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun and look good while doing it. I’ve curated a collection of some of my favorite outfits to sport while watching ringside with an emphasis on stable to street.

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Athleisure is one of the best things to ever be invented in my opinion. It gives me an excuse to wear comfy leggings and have nobody judge me. For this outfit, I decided to pair one of the new Kastel Denmark fall collection sun shirts with my favorite Lululemon Leggings. For shoes, I added my all black Nike Revivals.

Basic black is pretty plain but by adding a fun color up-top with the turquoise, it brightens the look right up. Technically this is athleisure, but it still works really well for working out or even riding! Kastel’s breathable material makes sure that you don’t overheat while also keeping you looking fashionable. Looking for an equestrian specific workout plan? Check out The Fit Equestrian for some great programs as well as tips and tricks.

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Off The Shoulder Top & Breeches

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Pairing these two things may seem pretty out of the box. Typically, when wearing riding attire, you want to look professional. The off-the-shoulder top adds a more fashion forward look to a plain pair of breeches that seems to be a trend on the rise in the competition ring.

As a little bit of flare, I added Salvatore Ferragamo Gancini belt. This is totally optional and the outfit can look good with or without a belt. For shoes, I chose to wear my dark leather and tan Sperry Top Siders. The neutral tones of the shoes pair so well with the grey & navy to complete the earthy tones. If you want to add a fun twist, wear a pair of fun tall boots! Browns would pair best but if you have a fun pair of boots like grey, those would look great too!

You may also be able to spot the CEECOACH headset that we use during lessons as well as the stunning Custom Saddlery Saddle we got to model with! De Greggory was our equine model for the shoot and is modeling his own awesome outfit; A 20×60 Premia Double Bridle in black & white and Dressage Sport Boots in brown. Big thanks to Lauren Knopp for helping out and allowing me to use Greggy and her little dog Kaia.

 

 

I hope y’all enjoyed this article about ringside fashion! If you ever have any questions feel free to DM on Instagram @equestrian.syd!

Until Next Time Preps,

Sydney & The Ponies

The High-Performance​ Stirrup: MDC Super Sport

As a rider that suffers from chronic pain, being comfortable during my ride is important. I tried all sorts of solutions but continued to look over a small but vital piece of equipment that changed everything for me, my stirrups. For years, I had ridden is the most basic stainless steel stirrups and pads that you could find. They offered no shock absorption, support, or stability in any way, and honestly did more harm than good to my joints.

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In the summer of 2017 my trainer and good friend, Lauren Knopp, turned me onto a stirrup company called MDC Stirrups. She had had back, ankle, and knee pain while riding previously but after using their stirrups had no pain. At the time, I was undiagnosed and didn’t have as high a pain level so I put the information in the back of my mind. When I did get my diagnosis I looked for solutions. Braces, compression sleeves, stretches, exercises, you name it, I probably tried it. Until Lauren brought up her stirrups again. Intrigued, I did more research and asked my orthopedic surgeon, who gave me the go ahead.

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Upon looking into all the different models, I decided the Super Sports were the best option. The rotating top offered relief in what I call ‘airplane feet’, the rotation that your leg does to compensate for putting your foot out to set in the stirrup. Flexible sides helped to absorb the impact from jumping, posting, and pushing your heels down. Along with all the other awesome features, I opted for the wider, grippy metal tread pad. This type of tread gives a more stable and supportive base to the rider.

 

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Post Ride, Sweaty Photoshoots 😉

 

After my first ride in them, I knew I’d made the right choice. There was basically no pain during my ride and I was considerably less sore afterward as well. I personally set my rotational top to be at 90º. By having it at that angle, it makes ‘airplane feet’ a thing of the past and also has an added benefit of having it be easy to pick right back up if I lose it. The weight is also a very nice happy-medium of not heavy but still weighed down enough that they don’t bounce all over the place. If you are interested in looking into my choice of stirrups, you can find them here.

MDC offers a really wide range of models and styles in their product line. With a money back guarantee if you don’t love them, you can trust the product that you are buying. They even offer a stirrup consultation program to make sure you are getting the perfect stirrup for you. You can email or call them using the email on their about us page.

 

I hope y’all enjoyed this article about my favorite stirrups, MDC Super Sports! If you ever have any questions feel free to DM on Instagram @equestrian.syd!

Until Next Time Preps,

Sydney & The Ponies