Riding Wear Trends for 2016

Often I like to collaborate with friends and contacts, to swap ideas and expertise. My most recent blog swap was with Personal Trainer and Fitness Consultant Carys Jackson from the Activerider (check them out for some great in house and online rider fitness plans and tips)…here

***Riding Wear Trends for 2016***

Featuring brands such as  Montar UK Cavalleria Toscana Tredstep Ireland Noble Outfitters UK Kastel Denmark euro-star , many of which are available at one of the companies I work for Uptown E Store

Read more here

Enjoy! x Nikki

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B&W Reviews… FreeJump Safety Soft’Up Pro Adult Stirrups

Over the past few years there has been a surge of technical stirrups new to the market. From the very popular Sprenger Bow Balance (from £160) to the lightweight metal, and very popular Jin Stirrups (from £125), and recently the ‘safety’, ergonomic option FreeJump.  With prices over £100 to the £200 mark these are big investments and loved by a pro’s and amateur riders alike. The latest offering from FreeJump is the Safety Soft’Up Premium Pro Stirrup. But just how good are they and are they worth the extra spend?

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What Freejump Say…

FreeJump Safety Soft’Up Pro adult stirrups are the latest innovation in safety stirrups. They have a bendy plastic arm which will stop your foot getting trapped however, if you get really stuck (for example in a fall) the arm will snap away completely if the right amount of pressure is applied. Should the stirrup snap in a fall FreeJump will replace the stirrup free of charge. The stirrup is strengthened with steel and the foot grip is wider and thicker than usual which makes for a more comfortable ride, it also has a slight angle to help give you the perfect position. If you lose your stirrup during riding, it is specially designed to swing back to you.

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My Experience – Soft’Up Lite – For Children…

I purchased a pair of FreeJump Soft Up Lite stirrups for my son at the start of the year. He is only 8 so I went for the slightly less expensive and smaller children’s style. I actually managed to grab a virtually new pair on EBay for less than half price (the full price is £145) – bargain! The SOFT’UP LITE by FreeJump is inspired by the SOFT’UP PRO but reduced in size for younger riders. I wouldn’t normally splash cash on things like stirrups. But was prompted after Henry fell off several times and got his food stuck in his traditional elasticated safety stirrups. He has found his FreeJumps have really helped this issue – and I have seen the safety mechanism work very well in real life when a particularly naughty pony bolted with him! The outer side of the stirrup is made from notched plastic so bends open should his foot get caught in a fall and in my opinion the style of the stirrup looks tidier than an elastic sided or bent stirrup. Henry has found the secure grip on the tread helps him maintain a good foot position in the stirrup (he rarely loses a stirrup now). I’ve also noticed that this section of the stirrup is generally broader so he puts more weight through his feet and ankle. In my opinion his lower leg is more stable, more often than not in the correct position and looks more balanced than before. This is likely to be due to the design of the stirrup and the 45° angled eye at the top of the stirrup. Henry likes the way you can clip the stirrups on and off the leathers to clean or change them to a different saddle. He has mentioned, without me prompting him, that they feel more comfortable, are easier to ride in and feel safe. I think they have been an asset to his riding from a safety, and balance perspective. As a parent I have been very impressed with their safety, styling and ease of use / care. Well worth considering for the young rider.

These stirrups accommodate a shoe size of up to UK size 6, the 10.7cm width fits soles not exceeding 10.2cm, so very petite adults might get away with a children’s pair!

Available in Black, Brown, blue, pink, yellow and red, from £145. The new edition ones have metal plates on the outside that can be interchanged and customised with national flags and other designs.

 

My Experience – Soft’Up Pro – For Adults…

With Henry getting on so well I decided to treat myself to some FreeJump Soft Up Pro’s (RRP £215) but splashed the cash and purchased the new silver styled Premium version (£230). I wanted to see really how good they were, but as anyone working to a budget understands, I was a little worried I’d just spent a fortune on something that wouldn’t benefit my riding, apart from looking smart.

Overall the adult version of Soft’Ups are larger, with bigger grips on the tread and built to take a heavier rider. They are much more weighted than the children’s versions which is an asset. They have a very distinctive design and incorporate all of the features of the children’s style.  So they look great, have loads of features to make them feel comfortable, help you to gain a better position and grip, but do they work? The answer is a resounding yes! It took a while to work out how to attach them to my traditional stirrup leathers, but they were easy to clip on and off. Immediately my feet and lower leg felt very secure. I noticed this getting on my mare who often won’t stand still when I mount. The wider tread helps your balance in these situations, as it does when you have sudden spooking at kamikaze pigeons and pheasants out on a hack! For riding long distances, I found the stirrups gave a nice balanced feel, I particularly liked them for canter work on the gallops (I felt less tired in my legs and ankles). Although I haven’t gone cross country in them I think they would provide a really solid, balanced feel. When jumping I have found the Soft’Ups great. I think my leg sits in a more natural, unforced position, that is very stable, leaving my knees freer and soft. The grip is excellent and it would take a lot to lose a stirrup unintentionally.

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Overall the FreeJump Soft Up Pro’s are a large investment for the amateur rider, but are easy to change from saddle to saddle so can be used with multiple horses. The colours add a fun, team colour element to their styling and I wold be tempted to buy a red pair for XC. The new silver professional range style gives a more traditional colour, but with the FreeJump contemporary design these are most definitely stirrups for the 21st century. I wondered if they would be worth the extra spend but have found they really do live up to the manufacturers claims and in that sense offer something different to the market, that can help support your riding in a variety of disciplines.

Available in Black, Blue, chocolate, Green, Orange, Pink, Silver, Red, Vanilla from £215

Further Details…

The FreeJump stirrups can be used with any stirrup leather and boot.

The FreeJump stirrups have the following features:

  • Tempered spring steel single-branch with extra high mechanical resistance (1200MPa)
  • Elastollan® overmoulding
  • Open eye for fastening to the single strap
  • 45° angled eye for a perfect foot position
  • Patented flexible outer branch made of Elastollan® which helps free the foot in case of fall
  • Extra wide tread made of Ixef® 1022 (fibreglass loaded polyarylamide)
  • Elastomer grip
  • Screw fastened protective cover
  • Branch situated at the front of the tread for a natural slope
  • Rectilinear bevelled rear leading edge for better lateral stability
  • Exclusive LOOK CYCLE® technology nonslip studded tread surface

For further information and stockists visit: http://www.freejumpsystem.com/en/

 

 

A Little Book of Badminton Style…

A labour of love over the past few days… possibly not as much content as I wanted but it was great to get some ideas down on paper (or screen) and have some fun thinking about dream Badmintons and all things fashion and design.

It’s aspirational content for sure but looks can also be found on the high street and styled up.

Many thanks to those who supplied words and the brands that help me so much, but also to the Uptown Eventing team who are fantastic to work with and have some really exciting plans for the future.

Enjoy and have a great Badminton week!

Nikki x
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NEW REVIEW. The Noble Outfitters Elite Performance Jacket

As part of my day job I get to review some of the best kit on the market for Uptown E Store . A very nice perk to have, and it means I get to cast a very objective eye over new stock. Basically if it isn’t great we wont stock it!

One really stand out piece that I have reviewed has been their Elite Performance Jacket. Not something I’d be expecting to wear in May but with frost on the ground this morning it has been in full use! The jacket has a really considered design, with loads of functionality, great use of tech and performance that quite honestly outstrips any other jacket I have. Priced at £139.95 it sits mid range price wise and I feel offers as much in terms of style, practicality and quality as its much higher priced rivals.

A piece of kit really worth checking out. Read my review in full here

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An International Field at Rolex Kentucky

 

With just a week before the prestigious Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials in the UK, we turn our attention to Rolex Kentucky USA, held this week from Thursday 28 April to Sunday 1 May 2016

In 1998, Rolex Kentucky became the third annual CCI4* event in the world and remains the only one on the American continent. There are now six CCI4* events in total, but only three offer the chance to claim the sport’s greatest prize, the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing. In order to make history and lift this prestigious trophy, riders must win at all three Rolex supported events in succession: Rolex Kentucky, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley CCI4*.

Rolex Kentucky has attracted the world’s leading riders and is considered the highlight of the US eventing calendar. As a result, the 2016 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event Presented by Land Rover will also act as the last major official trial for the 2016 US Olympic eventing team.

THE CURRENT CHALLENGE  

Contesting the 2016 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing is reigning champion will be the current live contender Michael Jung. Jung won individual gold at the World Equestrian Games when held in Kentucky in 2010 and claimed victory at the 2015 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, riding Fischerrocana FST.

Jung will be looking to continue his winning form from Burghley and stake his claim for the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing prize in 2016. Should Jung be victorious on Fischerrocana FST, they will be only the third horse and rider combination in the history of the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event to retain their Lexington title.

INTERNATIONAL FIELD OF ENTRIES

The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day event attracts the world’s most talented eventers and 2016 is no exception, the competition will welcome 71 elite riders from nine different nations. For the third year running, the nations will compete in teams as well as individually. The team – comprised of a minimum of three competitors – that ends on the fewest penalties will be victorious.

For more information about the Entry list visit here

For all other Rolex Kentucky information click here

 

Four seasons in one weekend… Belton had it all… literally!

I was lucky enough to spend 2 days at one of my favourite events, Belton, last weekend. Despite having to battle with a flurry of snow on Saturday morning the organisers yet again put on an amazing event, which is really growing every year.

Set in beautiful parkland, with a majestic stone stately home nearly always in view, this is a real spectators event and on Sunday cars were still teeming into the event long after lunchtime. The cross country course, designed by Captain Mark Phillips, once again was up to height at all levels and tested both horse and rider in terms of their athleticism and ability to adjust stride length through the combinations and links of fences on course. It was interesting to see how his course designs developed from Novice up to Advanced, sometimes with similar, but smaller fences; with slightly easier lines at Novice. By clustering fences mid – way on the course, providing a Lycetts sponsorship area and café, with yet more combinations of fences the other side of this, spectators were provided with a great space to sit, enjoy a drink and take in the action. I think this approach makes eventing spectator and family friendly and I hope to see this idea at other major competitions as it really seemed to pay off, particularly as the weather on Sunday was glorious.

The CIC 3* and Advanced sections were showcases of International eventing at its best with a worldwide collection of nationalities in the top 5 of the Lycetts sponsored Grantham Cup CIC 3*. USA’s Christopher Burton and Mrs Sue Lawson and Carolyn and Anthony Townsend’s 10 year old Nobilis 18 took the top spot and with it the second leg of the Shearwater Insurance Tri Star Grand Slam with an impressive 34.50. France’s Thomas Carlile also added nothing to his dressage score of 38.40 to finish a close second with Quiro Hoy. Germany’s Bettina Hoy completed the top three with her ride Seigneur Medicott who rolled an unfortunate pole in the show jumping costing her second place.

The Polly Phillipps Memorial Trophy, awarded to the highest placed British rider in the Grantham Cup not eligible to wear a senior flag, was awarded to local favourite Ros Canter and her mother’s Zenshera who finished on 57.50 adding just 10.80 Cross Country time penalties to their dressage score.

Classic Moet and her partner, New Zealand’s Jonelle Price claimed top spot in Advanced section M followed closely by Britain’s Laura Collett and Cooley Again, with Oliver Townend and mount Samuel Thomas II coming a close 3rd. Completing his Belton Advanced 1, 2, 3 Oliver took 1st place in Advanced section O with Dunbeau and 2nd with ODT Ghareeb. 3rd place was taken by crowd favourite Andrew Nicholson and Perfect Stranger.

 

As expected, I spent a while checking out the range of over 100 trade stands. It was great to catch up with the team from Noble Outfitters, who I work quite closely with in my day job (to view some of the lovely pieces we sell click here) . They will soon be announcing some exciting news about a new Nobel Rider… so watch this space for news!


I was also keen to see the new belts on offer at Dalton’s.  . They have taken polo belt style, but updated and refined their designs into off the peg or bespoke team colour belts, keyrings, dog collars and leads. All of Dalton’s products are designed and individually manufactured by the founder of the company Emma Louise. The also stock classic snaffle and plain leather belts. Beautifully made and classic designs, they offer a slightly different take on the usual polo belt designs and are British made too! I’m now lusting after a black and white belt in my team colours – another add to the wish list!


Recipy  had a beautiful stand filled with some high end and luxurious combinations of leather, tweed, silk satin and fur. These fabrics have been featured by many other designers but I feel Reipy has the style edge for those wanting something just a little different, ladylike and eye-catching, with a great attention to detail. I spoke to Sarah Pickering – Paterson, Recipy’s design director who told me about her MA in fashion and how the collection was developed from this. Featured in the likes of Tatler, and British made, Recipy is great for town, country and would look amazing on the catwalk that is the first horse inspection.


Another fashion and style conscious brand, Voltaire Design,  were exhibiting at Belton. After having a sit on one of their bespoke dressage saddles I was interested in finding out more. Taking to their UK sports saddle specialist Mathieu Tireau it was great to hear just how much the design house takes into account when designing bespoke saddles. Voltaire Design relies on the long French tradition of saddle making. Interestingly they are the first saddle maker to get help from the fashion industry in terms of the design of their products. I particularly loved the distinctive blue gullet that flashed beneath their saddles. This is certainly saddle design for the 21st century and in hand with this goes their strong environmental values, unique to this brand. Speaking to Mathieu it is clear that their design ethos puts a horse’s comfort at the forefront of design and they work very closely to ensure that the back and shoulder is allowed freedom through the wide gullet and specially manufactured tree. So refreshing to see a design house that puts this first, while also enabling riders to gain the maximum comfort and support when riding in their chosen discipline. Obviously this doesn’t come cheap, but then nor does the endless quest to find the perfect fitting saddle. A definite add to my growing wish list and a brand worth checking out ‘in the flesh’ if you are in the market for a new saddle.


With shopping a plenty and more eventing action than any fan could want, Belton International is shaping up to be one of the best spring events in the UK. With plenty to keep non horsey family entertained, loads of room on course to spectate, and a select range of trade stands I will definitely be going back for a busman’s holiday next year!

Black and White does Belton…

This weekend I’m off on a little jolly…  to Belton International Horse Trials  . It’s one of my favourite events in the spring calendar, set in beautiful parkland with one of the prettiest stately homes in view. This year a stellar line up of competitors is entered in the CIC3*, battling for the Grantham Cup and the Shearwater Tri Star Grand Slam .

Eventing fans are waiting in anticipation to see if Oliver Townend will win round two of this prestigious and generously supportive initiative. 2016 seems to be the year of the big prizes with the Tri star and Event Rider Masters  which kicks off in a few weeks at Chatsworth. With that and new trialled classes such as the BE105, to support the upgrade from BE100 to Novice, it seems like really positive changes are happening in eventing, with exciting opportunities for all levels. Is the tide about to turn for Eventing? We hope so!

So back to Belton… As I mentioned, the start list is literally a ‘who’s who’ of eventing, with the Olympic selectors in attendance, team places are won and lost in these preparatory events. If you fancy doing some homework you can view the start lists here. I am particularly looking forward to seeing one of my favourite horses running, Improvise ridden by Australian Bill Levett.  I love the pair’s attitude to cross country and it will be great to see what they make of Captain Mark Philips’ challenging course. After having the pleasure of attending a couple of Bill’s XC clinics last year I still have the memory of his Aussie voice shouting ‘GO FASTER, MORE!’ imprinted in my brain. As a note Bill’s clinics are great fun and his straightforward and honest approach to cross country riding is really refreshing, you can find out more on his website.

Team Ireland are out in force following recent team training with Nick Turner at my local centre, Waresley Park Stud and it will be great to follow their progress leading to Rio. Expect upbeat social media from the gregarious Jonty Evans as the weekend progresses…

Other big names presenting include Andrew Nicholson, Ludwig Svennerstal, Paul Tapner, Bettina Hoy, Clark Montgomery, Aoife Clarke, Daag Albert and Vittoria Pannizon… this is set to be a thrilling weekend of international eventing!

In sum, Team Black and White wish the best of luck to all competing this weekend… we all have our national allegiances but ultimately my joy is to see great partnerships at the top of their game, coming home safe and well.

If you are unable to visit in person for the first time Belton International Horse Trials is offering eventing fans the opportunity to watch all of the action from the comfort of their own homes by streaming Sunday’s 3* Cross Country online. You can watch Belton international CIC3* live from 2pm by clicking on the link .

Alongside the eventing action Belton always makes an effort to entertain families and those not so equine motivated! There is a wide range of displays, demonstrations and the ubiquitous trade stands, along with a food court to refuel and relax.

The stands I will be definitely be visiting are…

Noble outfitters …some of the best riding and leisure clothing you can find… intelligently designed and full of great features too!

Fairfax and Favour … if you don’t know who they are you should do… my favourite footwear retailer and an upcoming business ran by a team of enthusiastic and really friendly staff.

Your 4 Legs …An equine an Human McTimoney massage expert whom I was a guinea pig rider for last year at Belton (photo below!)

Hot Togs …purveyors of some of the best thermals on the market, hopefully not required this weekend!

Recipy … fashion pieces for the design conscious, with quality fabrics and on trend, yet unique styles.

Altogether an amazing weekend and a great set up to the rather delayed and damp season so far. Keep a look out on my social media channels for some sneaky pics this weekend… and let’s hope the sun shows its face for just a little while. The organisers deserve at least that for putting together such an amazing experience for us to enjoy!

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When the King met the Queen! Wanda’s fan club…

 

 

 

 

 

B&W Eventing review the Nuumed Close Contact Saddle Cloth

Firstly HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope that you all had a great holiday and got to spend some quality time with your horses and family.

Starting this year with a flourish I have put together a vlog review on the Nuumed Close Contact, Wool Lined saddle cloth that I have recently trialled.

For anyone thinking of upgrading or replacing their saddle cloths this year Id say definitely don’t over look Nuumed. The quality, fit and cut are way superior to many of the other top end brands Ive tried and you are also supporting British manufacturing and design – so top marks for Nuumed.

Enjoy the video… you don’t get to see me (camera shy!)

For further details on the product visit http://www.nuumed.com

8 horsey jobs to do over the holidays…

Although not all of us have time off work during the holiday period, the Christmas and New Year break is a great period to get OCD with your kit and have a good tidy up before the season begins.

Here are the top jobs that I will be doing over the next few days…

Trimming and Pulling
Although not every horse appreciates mane or tail pulling, now is a great time to get long manes in check before the competition season begins. Weather you pull or trim I’d always recommend doing this after exercise when horses are more inclined to stand still. Who wants to end up with a wonky mane or tail? At this time of year all my horses get a good tail trim. It keeps them tidy, out of the mud and by the start of the event season their tails will be at the perfect length. When the weather is particularly dire I coat tails in baby oil then plait and fold up, securing around the tail (not the dock) with a long elastic band. This way I minimise tail washing and wasting water.

Wash your grooming kit
I am really OCD about this but what’s the point in brushing your horse with a filthy brush? I’m lucky enough to have an old, second hand washing machine and I put all my brushes in this apart from the leather strapped ones. All the bags and boxes get cleaned out and washed too. I also stock up on plaiting kit and decant any sprays that no longer spray or damaged bottles. If you don’t have a specific horse washing machine then check out the padded washing bag by Moorland Rider. A brilliant piece of kit which means you can wash virtually anything In a domestic washing machine without the noise or the damage! If you want to wash by hand just use very warm water and soap with a scrubbing brush and leave the brushes to dry naturally once you have shaken off the excess water.

Throw out broken lead ropes 
Lead ropes with broken fastenings, knots in the wrong places or that are frayed beyond repair need to be thrown away. They are just a safety risk. Treat your horse to a new one and if the clip still functions cut it off and use it to fasten a haynet or as a handy hook. I also wash all my ropes and oil the clips. They look smart and last longer. My kids lead ropes have a big knot put in the non-clip end so they can hold tight to naughty ponies – I also do this for ride and lead ponies.

Repair your Haynets
Bailing twine works well to do this and haynets are really easy to mend and make do. I tend to replace the fastening string with sturdier rope which is easier to tie and undo. I buy mine for outdoor or camping shops.

Replace and clean your Velcro
Easy to do if you have a sewing machine or a relative that can use one. I replace any worn Velcro on saddle cloths, rugs and leg wraps as it extends their use and saves money. I replace competition boots when the Velcro is beyond repair as in my opinion they need to fit well and be as sturdy as possible – if the Velcro has perished it’s likely the boot has too. I also use a Velcro cleaning brush on my competition and turnout boots to make sure they are as clean as possible before full on training and the season begins.

Re Stock your First Aid Kit
Like your grooming kit, its time to have a clear out! I tend to throw away anything like poltices that have been have half used and start afresh. Same goes for used medicines. I stock up on all the usual kit – hibiscrub, Vetwrap, poultice, tape, cotton wool roll, wound spray and also make sure that suitable scissors, plastic (for poulticing) and a thermometer are in the kit. I also check through the lorry kit and make sure that I have a suitable human one as well including painkillers, antihistamine and cool packs – all of which were used last year. For the start of the season I keep a torch and a head torch on the lorry for dark mornings and evenings.

Wash your hat liners!
A few of my hats have removable hat liners so I have been giving them a good clean and a wipe over. It’s a good time of year to check for damage and that your hat conforms to the new labelling rules if you intend to compete in 2016. I also wash all my hat covers and ear warmers, make any repairs and clean my hat bags – replacing hairnets and hairbands where I need to. Spur Straps get a good oil if they need it and the keepers are replaced if they are worn. My jackets also get a clean and repair now… instead of the week before the first event and I check over my boots, especially the zips as these can’t be prepared in a hurry.

Write a blog!
Writing about your riding, whether you publish publicly or not is a great way to reflect, plan, celebrate, share stories and communicate with other riders. All you need is an internet connection and there are many blog apps available so you can even write one from your phone. I’ve found blogging a great way to meet other people and tell stories about my life and owning horses. So stay tuned in 2016 for more equine fashion and trend reports, eventing tales and photos of what we are up to.

Have a brilliant New Year and thanks for all your support in 2016!

New for 2016 … Ariat launches 2 new boots with added styling

New for 2016 … Ariat launches 2 new boots with added styling

I have long been a fan of Ariat boots for both the yard and competing and literally live in my contours and barnyard belle’s. I find this brand is hardwearing, has a great fit and is relatively affordable in the sense that they perform well and look great for many years.

Fresh for 2016 Ariat has launched 2 new styles to their range. Using their technical expertise and experience in manufacturing performance footwear, Ariat will be launching their new Heritage Ellipse Limited Edition Boots and Heritage Contour Dress Zip Boots.

Made from premium full-grain leather upper, these new Ariat styles epitomise style and performance. A contoured fit through the ankle allows for flexibility and a flattering appearance, while the full length elasticised panel on the lateral side features an elastic gusset on the inside knee for a sleek and streamlined fit.

Both Heritage styles also include a full leather lining, full-length zipper with keeper, elasticised laces, boot slide and a moisture-wicking sock liner. Further quality features that equestrians have come to expect from Ariat are the 4LR footbed technology and Duratread outsole ensures practicality.

The Heritage Ellipse Limited Edition features a high Spanish cut topline with added bling in the form of a Snake or Ostrich print cuff. The perfect boot for trend-setting riders, these boots will only available for Spring 2016 – making them a unique fashion investment and guaranteed to create a stir.

The plain toe cap Heritage Contour Dress Zip give a streamlined and immaculate appearance, suitable for all riding activities no matter what discipline, but particularly lending itself to the simplicity and style of the dressage arena.

The Ariat Heritage Ellipse Limited Edition Boots are available in Black Snake Print or Black Ostrich Print, in sizes: 3 – 8.5, RRP £269.99. The Heritage Contour Dress Zip Boots are available in black, in sizes: 3 – 8.5, RRP £259.99.

So keep a look out in 2016 for these new launches www.ariat.com