Every year, we look back through our issues to see which products we’ve discussed over the past 12 months made the most difference in improving and simplifying the care and training of our horses. And, especially this year, we paid strict attention to the products that offered us the most for our dollar and saved us the most time. These items are the ones that we reached for most often during the day-to-day care of our horses — long after the field trial had ended. We also listen to reader feedback, as most of you are serious horsemen and horsewomen, who understand both the challenge of doing field trials and the impact they make on the industry in general. Presented here are our top 10 choices as the best products of 2008.
Triple Crown 12/30
We repeatedly recommend Triple Crown’s mineral supplement (in either the 12% or 30% protein level formula) because it offers the highest mineral levels, best balance, and best individual amino acid guarantee. It’s a great choice for a horse who is not on a fortified grain and only receives hay. The only downside at the moment is that it is not available in all geographic areas. $27/50 lbs. www.triplecrownfeed.com, 800-451-9916.
Lucky Braids Shampoo
This shampoo contains medical-grade tea tree oil with aloe vera and vitamin E. It whitens well, removes stains and makes a noticeable difference in your horse’s skin with continued use. It left our horse’s coat shining and clean, without any slipperiness. We could even braid our horse’s mane after using it, something that’s rare when it comes to products for the mane. $16/32 oz. www.luckybraids.com, 781-665-5988.
Lettia Saddle Pad
The Lettia Saddle Pad from Union Hill is a tester favorite. We prefer the CoolMax Pro, which helps wick moisture and heat from our horse’s back. The pad is also beautifully made, with attention to detail and quality fabric. $49.99. www.unionhillcorp.com, 732-786-9422.
Flyshield Turnout Sheet
Schneiders’ Saddlery’s Adjusta-Fit shoulder allows you to take an otherwise well-fitted blanket and increase or decrease the fit around the neck and shoulder, reducing the likelihood of rubs. Plus, this PVC material caused the fewest rubs of any of the sheets in our trial. With its durable construction, fleece withers and available bellyband, your horse will be well-protected in the summer. $74.95. www.sstack.com, 800-365-1311.
The additional purchase of a stall deodorizer can actually help you save on bedding costs. The best we found is Stall Fresh. This light powder with a pleasant scent definitely helped soak up urine and kept bedding more dry. Pluse, we found its faint scent a pleasant addition to the barn. $30/13 lbs. www.stallfresh.com, 715-284-3360.
To be honest, we didn’t expect the Hoofjack to be that useful. After all, it’s not that difficult to pick up and hold your horse’s hoof, if he’s properly trained. Then we used the device and found that, like the mounting block, it’s here to stay. It will save your back and it’s more comfortable for the horses, too. We found it’s a terrific way to help children learn to pick out feet. $175. www.hoofjack.com, 877-455-5100.
Su-Per Anti-Oxidant Concentrate
Actually, this product topped our trial of blood-building products, but that’s because just 1 oz. covers multiple nutritional bases with excellent levels of trace minerals, B vitamins and antioxidants. Should work well with most hays, too, making this one of the few simple-to-feed supplement choices. $36.74/4 lbs. www.buygpdirect.com, 888-472-2825.
Crusader Fly Mask
We’ve tested dozens of fly masks and each time the Crusader Fly Mask has ruled supreme. We prefer the long version, which covers the nose, and ears, but it’s available in regular length, too. Plus, it comes in any size you need, from minis to mules. It’s durable and stays put better than any we’ve used. $19.95-$29.95, www.cashelcompany.com, 800-333-2202.
Tough-1 Polar Turnout
JT International’s Tough-1 turnout is well named and well priced for a durable blanket. We like the 1680 denier poly version. Its 500-gram insulation kept our horses toasty. With no back seam (no leaks), fleece withers, crossed surcingles and adjustable elastic leg straps, we were set. Stays put without rubbing. $139.80, www.jtidist.com, 800-843-4363.
Mrs. Pastures Cookies for Horses
OK, apples and carrots are tasty and inexpensive. But, just like people, horses are going to reach for the yummier treat first — and that’s Mrs. Pastures. Shelf life is indefinite when stored in a sealed container. Price from $3.50 (8 oz.) to $156 (50 lbs.). www.mrspastures.com, 800-446-7757.