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SmartPak on the Steppe: An Eventer in Enduranceland


Does riding across Mongolia count as “cross country”? All photos courtesy of Leslie Wylie.

I’m an eventer, not an endurance rider, so signing up for the 2017 Mongol Derby was a little bit like entering Badminton when you’ve never jumped a cross country jump in your life! But the opportunity to experience one of the most breathtaking landscapes on earth from the back of a horse seemed too incredible to pass up.

To be sure, though, this is no leisurely tourist trail ride. The Mongol Derby is widely regarded as the toughest horse race in the world: a 1,000 kilometer (620 mile) trek inspired by the Genghis Khan’s original “pony express.” There’s no trail or set route, just 25 GPS checkpoints/horse exchange stations to hit over the course of 7-10 days. We’ll rely on nomadic herding families for food, water and shelter. The horses we’ll be riding aren’t anything like the trained mounts that we’re used to here in the Western world — it’s more of a “grab mane and attempt to point your bolting horse in the correct general direction” sort of situation.

Did I mention we’re only allowed to carry 11 pounds of gear? That includes whatever we think we’ll need to survive a week or more in the wild: sleeping bag, rain gear, first-aid kit, water purification tabs, electrolytes, GPS, headlamp, knife, rope, etc. And for me, definitely some snacks!

Obviously, that doesn’t leave much room for extra clothes. A few changes of socks and undies aside, I’ll more or less be wearing the same breeches, shirt and outerwear the entire time. So you better believe I’ll be choosing carefully! If you had to wear the same clothes for over a week straight, 13 hours in the saddle a day, what would YOU wear?

As usual, I turned to SmartPak for help. SmartPak is already my go-to source for gear, both for myself and my horses, and as I began preparing for the biggest in-the-saddle challenge of my life I knew I wanted SmartPak with me for the long haul.

One lesson I learned quickly in my endurance training, the hard way, is the importance of comfortable, functional, well-fitting gear. What starts as nagging discomfort a few miles in will be full-blown torture by the time you’re at mile 50, or 100, or heaven forbid mile 620! Between now and the race in August, I’ll be testing out SmartPak gear to put together a clothing gameplan that I know will go the distance.

In the meantime, here are a few hardworking SmartPak products that are already part of my daily routine:

SmartSupplements

My current even pony Princess, a 14-year-old Welsh/Thoroughbred cross mare, is a powerhouse in a tiny package. Standing just 14-hands, she has competed through the CCI1* level in eventing, an incredible feat for a petite lady! She has some unique nutritional needs, which her daily SmartPaks help manage. Here’s a look inside her SmartPak!

SmartVite Perform Pellets: Being small and sugar sensitive, Princess can’t have much grain (much to her despair!) SmartVite Perform helps ensures that she gets the vitamins and minerals she needs on a limited grain diet.

SmartLytes Pellets: Hot, humid Tennessee summers make electrolyte supplementation a must. SmartLytes Pellets help replenish sodium chloride and other electrolyte minerals that are lost in sweat like potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and it also provides trimethylglycine to help cells maintain normal fluid levels.

SmartFlex III Resilience Pellets: Princess works hard and SmartFlex III Resilience keeps her feeling her best. This comprehensive joint, tendon and ligament formula ticks all the boxes to help her bounce back normally from tough workouts. Now if SmartPak would just start making this stuff for riders, I’d be all set for this Derby thing!

SmartCalm Pellets: My girl is spunky to the max! Which I love about her, but all that zoom-zoom can work against us sometimes. SmartCalm helps keep Princess her relaxed and attentive self so our training sessions can be as productive as possible.

Piper by SmartPak Apparel

Nine times out of 10 rides in the saddle I’m wearing Piper Breeches by SmartPak, a staple of my schooling and competition gear. They look and fit like breeches at twice the price point, and I love mixing it up with fun color combinations. Shown below are the Original Full Seat breeches in Merlot with dark grey piping.

The newest addition to my MVP wardrobe is a Piper Softshell Show Coat by SmartPak. After years of competing in wool jackets I’d been wearing since I was a teenager, I decided it was time to finally get with the 21st century and upgrade to a show coat made of tech fabric that is stretchy and breathable. Plus — go big or go home! — I got it in Cadet Blue instead of my usual go-to boring black. So pretty with Princess’ dark bay coat! I got loads of compliments on it at the first event I wore it at, River Glen Horse Trials, earlier this month.

SmartPak on the Farm

From tack (love my SmartPak Air+ Neoprene Girth) to blankets (if the SmartPak Ultimate Turnout Blanket can survive Esprit, my retired event horse/serial blanket shredder, it can survive anything!), SmartPak inhabits every aspect of my horsekeeping routine.

Being summertime, SmartPak insect control products are especially near and dear to my heart at the moment. My horses and I pledge allegiance to OutSmart Fly Spray, which is effective without containing any scary, toxic ingredients, and has a nice peppermint smell to boot! And monogrammed SmartPak Classic Fly Masks make it easy for the barn help to keep track of whose masks are whose.

I’ve been training hard for the Mongol Derby already this summer, teaming up with some of the most accomplished endurance riders in the country to learn the tricks of their trade. The adventure begins, and I can’t wait to take SmartPak along for the ride!

Check out my weekly “Wylie vs. the Mongol Derby, Powered by SmartPak” blog on Horse Nation, Eventing Nation and Jumper Nation, and keep an eye on the SmartPak blog for future updates!

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