To Finish is to Win: Finding Your Style

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In this feature, adventure enthusiast, ultra marathon runner, Endurance rider, and Tevis Cup veteran Kristine Hartman shares a heartfelt story about her Endurance riding journey and the styles and colors that have accompanied her through the years. Tune in as Kristine discusses how she found her style riding Endurance, through all the ups and downs life has to offer.

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A Trip Down Memory Lane

I’ve always been what some describe as a "colorful" personality. Visually, I absolutely LOVE color! It simply makes me happy.

I started Endurance back in 1995 using an old purple nylon halter that had been thrown in with a purchase of a used saddle. When I started riding my chestnut mare, FS Amber, in long distance rides, that purple hand-me-down halter started a colorful ride for me. For many years I rode both of our mares, Amber and Sofie, completely dressed in purple and with the horses outfitted in whatever purple tack I could find at the time. As I think back, I realize many items were purchased in those early years from my new friend, Tracy, who I had met at the Quicksilver ride in October of 1996. Tracy was just starting her business “Long Riders Gear” (later to become the infamous Riding Warehouse)! I was developing my own colorful style way back then.

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Sofie and I back in the day in our "purple" phase

Back then, I was also learning that the AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference) motto really was "To Finish is to Win." There is so much to learn to get you from the starting line and on to the finish line. Today’s blog is about that all important factor...looking darn good while out there all those hours and miles, be it for 25 miles or up to 100 miles!

Some do tease me and use words other than "looking good" when describing my style, so let’s just say the important factor for the many hours in the saddle is having fun with whatever style you might choose.

"It's all about being comfortable
and being able to enjoy the ride!"​

On my very first Tevis in 1997, I wore running tights with a bright purple stripe down each leg as Amber and I trotted along on that infamous trail. This was back when riding tights were either black, tan or non-existent, as jeans were still being worn in long distance riding (yikes)!

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My very first Tevis on Amber in 1997

Getting Out of your Comfort Zone

Fast forward to 2006 when a new bay gelding came to call us his humans. My husband Mike decided he wanted "Klassy Sam" in yellow. We promptly ordered yellow tack and accessories and started buying yellow clothing for both of us to wear when we rode Sam. Now I was literally planning how I would match the horse I was riding, be it purple for the mares or yellow for our boy Sam. My style was developing even further as I stepped out of my comfort color of purple and discovered that very bright hue of yellow!

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Mike on our boy, "Klassy Sam"

Mike and I brought another horse into our lives in 2009. "Count on Tessie Flyin" was a little gray mare. Mike once again decided that Tessie would be ridden in yellow. And now we really started having fun, dressing alike when we rode Sam and Tessie together. We even did a few Ride & Tie events on either Sofie or Tessie and trust me, we stood out. Mike and I had so much fun dressing as a very bright, colorful and matching team riding together from start to finish!

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Mike on Tessie and me on Sam, matching in our yellow outfits and Zilco Tack

Sometimes I wonder if my colorful style was a bit of a self imposed security blanket. I admit the thought did cross my mind that when my butt gets dumped somewhere out on the trail from one of these crazy Arabians, the bright clothing was my way of making sure that Search and Rescue could easily find me! With the way I dress, I sure can’t hide from anyone!

Over the years I have acquired quite the riding and ultra-marathon running wardrobe in the colors mentioned above. Plus, I started adding in flower-power and tie-dye patterns to reflect my Hippie side since I was a teenager of the 60’s and 70’s. I guess this is what happens when one is approaching and passing that magical age of 60.

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Ride & Tie - you could say that we're a bit colorful

Exuding Color in the Wake of Destruction

Life changed for Mike and I on December 4th, 2017. The "Thomas Fire" roared through Ventura, California, destroying many of our beautiful neighborhoods, along with our home and all of our belongings. Mike and I, along with the horses, were alive, safe and ready to ride in a few months once we had healthy lungs again. We were also incredibly thankful that our tack was all okay! The saddles and miscellaneous tack were in the tack compartment of our horse trailer, which I used to evacuate our horses to safety at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

But what about my riding clothes? My style? My...well what about me being ME! I felt like without my colorful collection of riding attire I could not ride. I felt like my mojo was gone. Yes I know, that may sound shallow, but it’s those things you think of when you have lost everything and you just want to get on with life and back out on the trails again. I wanted to be out on the trails like “it used to be."

"After I came to my senses and focused,
I realized that I may not be able to find
exactly what I once had
, but I would
have fun finding ME again."

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My first 50km ultra marathon run after the fire. I was determined to get my ‘style’ back to help move my behind down the trail!

Trust me, I started ordering immediately from Riding Warehouse and rebuilt my wardrobe as fast as I could - we set our sights for our first ride after the fire to be the Cuyama II XP ride in April of 2018.

And we made it to the ride! Mike and I rode Tessie & Sam the first day in the 55 mile ride for a 2nd & 3rd place finish. I rode Sam on day 2 in the 50 mile ride for another 3rd place finish (pretty awesome for our boy who turned 20 that same month). Then Tessie and I went out on day 3 on another 50 mile ride for the win!

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3rd place finish with Sam in the Cuyama ride, wearing my Kerrits IceFil tights, Kerrits IceFil top, and Ariat Terrain II Ventilated Chaps. Sam is wearing his EasyBoot Gloves with yellow power straps (of course yellow)!

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1st place finish on Tessie at the Cuyama ride, featuring my Troxel Fallen Taylor Helmet in Tye-Die

See, it really matters how you look. Actually, it really matters how you feel. Find your style, find your comfort and RIDE HAPPY! Smile and enjoy the ride....I sure do!

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Kristine and Tessie at Tevis, always smiling :)

Huge thanks to Kristine for sharing her distance riding journey with us - we are always inspired by her unwavering spirit and desire to live life to its fullest, through thick and thin!

Kristine’s AERC Endurance Stats

  • Lifetime Endurance Miles since 1996: 6,510
  • Two Decade Team horses: FS Amber (2006) and Klassy Sam (2016)
  • 7 Tevis buckles (10 starts since 1997)
  • Numerous 1st place finishes, many "Top 10" and "Best Conditions"
  • 2007: Klassy Sam 5th Place Best Condition W Region
  • 2013: Klassy Sam 5th Place Best Condition MW Region
  • 2017 AERC Year End Awards: "Count on Tessie Flyin" & Kristine awarded 1st place overall in PS Region, 1st place FW in PS Region, 10th place National War Mare, & 8th place FW National Pioneer Award

Kristine's Tried & True Essentials

  • Helmet: Troxel Fallon Taylor Signature Design in tie-dye (Perfect for me, very comfortable and breathable)
  • Top: Kerrits Long Sleeve IceFil Shirt (a lot of freedom of movement and UPF +30 sun protection)
  • Tights: Kerrits Spring Pocket Performance Knee Patch Riding Tights
  • Tights: Kerrits IceFil riding tights (love the side pockets for the hot rides like Tevis)
  • Socks: Smart Wool socks in so many bright colors (My go to ALWAYS! Never a blister)
  • Chaps: Ariat Terrain II Half Chaps (comfy, breathable and offer great protection from the brush you pass on the trail and from saddle rubs)
  • Hoof Protection: Sam wear's EasyBoot Gloves with yellow power straps and Tessie wears EasyBoot Glue-Ons
 
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