However: there are some products out there that are worth buying on the more expensive end of things. They're not necessarily what most people think of first. I firmly believe that you can shop smart and get quality tack and clothing at a fraction of the price. (I paid $300 for my jump saddle, an older Passier, for example.)
Here are a few things that I personally have paid a bit more for and been thrilled with.
1. Oster Mane & Tail Brush
Buy @Smartpak, $11.95
I actually did a review of this mane & tail brush some time ago, and you can read my full gushing there.
Suffice to say: I was a buy cheap human brushes at Walmart horseperson...until I borrowed a friend's Oster. Holy mackerel. Little angels appeared and sang in chorus. It is legitimately that good.
I'm not sold on the other Oster brushes - they're nice enough, but not spectacular - but this? This is mane and tail brush perfection, and it is worth paying the
2. Brush Therapy Effervescent Brush Cleaner
Buy @Smartpak, $7.95 for two
This stuff? It is a miracle. A weird, powdery miracle in a purple tube.
It may seem indulgent, but trust me. It will change your life. Here's what you do: fill a rubber feed pan with water. Mix one package of this in. Place all your brushes bristle-side down, so the water covers the bristles. If you have wooden handles, go just below the handle; if you have plastic handles, get the water right up to the handle.
Wait 10 minutes. Take out perfectly clean, brand-new brushes. Rinse them once with clean water and you are done. Miracle.
3. Winter Tall Boots
Buy @Smartpak, range of prices
If you're looking at me funny right now - if you think it's weird to have a pair of tall boots just to ride in the cold - then you've never lived through a New England winter, and I kind of hate you right now. Kidding! No, actually, I'm not.
Is it more than a little indulgent to own an expensive second pair of tall boots for winter riding? Yes. Is it the only way to survive riding through 6' of snow and -17F temperatures with a modicum of grace? Yes. I don't care how many layers of Smartwool you wear underneath regular tall boots, it's not enough. It will never be enough. You need waterproof Thinsulate-lined boots designed for the purpose of keeping your feet functional when it's below zero.
I don't know that I have a specific product recommendation; I have the predecessor to the boots shown above, Ariats that I got as a gift about 8 years ago. They retailed for $250 then, and that's about what you'll pay for a good pair now. WORTH. EVERY. PENNY.
Buy @Smartpak, $26.95 for four
Have you ever wrapped a horse in vetwrap, and said every bad word you know and a few you invented while doing so as it slipped and slid everywhere? Like, trying to wrap a hoof? or a hock? or some other twisty bendy tricky part of a horse?
Elastikon is the magic wand you are looking for. It's sticky on one side, but stretches just like vetwrap. It sticks to hair, and then molds around whatever awkward thing you are trying to wrap. It wears like iron - easily twice as tough as vetwrap. I never try to wrap a hoof without it, and I would put the conservative number of hoofs I've wrapped at 2,163.
5. Sore No More Liniment
You can't buy this anywhere right now. :(
I also reviewed this in full. Since that review, there was a national shortage of Sore No More, and I could not get it at Smartpak or locally or anywhere. I sulked, but thought, well, it's expensive anyway. I ordered a bottle of Absorbine. FAIL. I am counting down the days until that bottle is gone.
Accept no substitutes. Pay the extra $ for Sore No More. You won't regret it. (If you can find it. Goddamnit.)
What about you? Is there anything on the more expensive range of products that you've tried and fallen in love with?