Customer Service

Last week, I experienced two drastically different consumer transactions. The tone of customer service played a large role in both. In one instance, I had been left cautiously … we’ll just say not pessimistic. The second instance won me over yet again as a customer for life.

The key thing here is that customer service isn’t just about being polite and friendly. Sometimes something goes wrong, and sometimes it’s up to a company to make it right. I don’t just want a friendly, “that’s just the way it is.” I am not going to throw a tantrum in public about it, but I might make you think I am about to after something like that.

I am naming companies in both cases. I might leave some details out due to privacy, but you will be left with a mostly clear picture of each experience.

The vehicle in question. And Eli.

The first is a decidedly non-equestrian situation. (If you came here for horses, too bad, suck it up.) I took my Toyota in for service at the Toyota dealership, where I have been a customer since like 2006. I went in for a regular maintenance package, as I have done every few months for years. I diligently keep up with vehicle maintenance because I expect my vehicles to last a long time. I left my car in the service drive after discussing what services were recommended. I thought it was a bit weird that there were two services we were 20k miles overdue for …. I really wish someone had mentioned them then …. but no matter, the car was running great and I’m not going to not do something my car needs, so I agreed.

After a few minutes in the waiting area, free cappuccino in hand, the service rep — who was extremely polite, forthright, and helpful and remained so the entire time — came back with a few additional things the car needed.

One was front brakes. Fair enough. And, Toyota had indeed mentioned this to me during the previous service visit, so I wasn’t too surprised and expected to replace them soon.

The next thing …. my exact reaction was “HAHAHA that shit ain’t happening.” Let me point out here the car is a 2017, just outside the mileage to be covered under warranty. Here’s an approximation of our conversation:

Rep: Do you know if you have an extended warranty?

Me: No, I don’t think so. I just bought out the lease.

Rep: Are you sure about the warranty? Did your husband buy the car?

Me: <glaring through narrowed eyes> I don’t have a husband. I bought the car.

Rep: Okay, sorry. Yes, of course. Forget I said that.

Me: So explain the problem … ?

The rep, polite as she ever was, did explain what was going on with the car, but I did note that the paperwork said that I had complained of a squeak or rattle, which was NOT the case. (I did ask why my car no longer beeped when I set the alarm and asked if it could be fixed. Misinterpretation?)

Anyway, I made it pretty clear that, that day, I would not be doing the brakes or the other service related to the squeak and rattle I hadn’t mentioned. The problem, as explained, meant taking the engine out of the car to fix it, and the estimate for labor was comparable to what, let’s say, a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic surgeon might charge for surgery:

The rep started walking back pretty quickly. Then the rep said since I was a valued, loyal Toyota customer, she would pull all of my service records, contact the appropriate people, and see if there would be any leeway on the warranty, considering the circumstances.

It was here I began to question whether this thing was even wrong with my car.

I also remembered the labor from a previous instance on a similar issue with my previous Toyota. This current labor quote was 4x the previous one, and the previous one wasn’t exactly pocket change. In both instances, the engine had to be taken out of the car to fix it. With my older Toyota, it was a 200kmiles+ 4runner from 2004. Why does the engine of a 2017 even need to come out? And maybe it does. And I get that it’s a big job. But it is not neurosurgery.

Ultimately, Toyota agreed to cover the entire cost, and offered a loaner car for the day at no charge. On its face, this is pretty much excellent customer service. The rep solved the problem at no cost to me. Toyota preserved our relationship.

Maybe. … I, uh, take issue with the labor quote. I am perplexed by the assumptions the rep made about me, polite and helpful and accommodating as she was — truly, she gave me excellent service… but … I am still not sure where someone got the idea I complained of a squeaky rattle (or that I was married lol). Yes, my car got taken care of. I got taken care of. But something about the whole situation was almost satirically off kilter. I am proceeding with caution in any future transactions with Toyota for now. 10/10 service but with an asterisk.

The second instance, thankfully, left me with a feeling that awesome people still exist in this world and shopping with a small business that cares about its customers is 100% the way to go. And this is an equestrian apparel business! So here’s your horsey moment!

You will not be surprised about how much I love my Botori riding pants. I have multiple pairs. I wear them a lot. I may or may not have slept in them. Or sneakily worn them to work. But, unfortunately, a specific production run of some styles didn’t meet the company’s standards, but that wasn’t apparent until after people had already been wearing them.

Still obsessed after many wears.

Botori’s response was swift and transparent — we sold you some pants we need to replace for you. Here’s how you do that.

I actually did have one of these pairs, but had not experienced the defect until last week. Botori honored the exchange, of course. But even better? Some new styles were released over Memorial Day weekend and a few days later I ordered one of the new styles. The genius behind Botori, PJ, refunded my shipping for the new pair and would send the new pair and replacement pair together. Yes! This! Honestly, my hope was that they would be sent together, because small though it may be, one shipment has a smaller carbon footprint and less packaging than two shipments. I did not expect to be refunded shipping, as I had ordered something new I fully expected to pay shipping on. So thank you, PJ! You have a customer for life! Which … I probably was already, but this is exactly the kind of transparent and generous customer service I greatly and genuinely appreciate.

White breeches + brown tall boots = ugh. love.

So customer service, to me, is not just about being courteous and trying to solve problems. It’s about honesty and transparency and preventing problems in the first place. I KNOW I get all this from Botori. I think I might get it from Toyota (?), but now I want to know what y’all think!

Also, work craziness is mostly over so I hope to get back to regular typing and dumping of pictures and video. Thanks for being patient with me, those of you who stuck around.

As an aside, I am slightly wondering about Toyota design and why the engine has to come out of the car for some maintenance and repairs. I drove Chevys prior to this and don’t remember that being a thing.

Equine Couture Calabasas Denim Breeches Review

Eli might not touch a saddle for weeks or months, but that doesn’t mean I can’t ride. It’s a little bit of a disappointment to get a new pair of breeches only to find your horse will be taking a summer vacation. But, I have still managed to wear the Calabasas denim breeches a few times in horsey environments, and even rode in them! Just, I didn’t ride Eli. Perhaps more about that later.

Grey denim goes with everything.

For now let’s focus on how much I love grey denim and how much I love breeches so when you put the two together, obviously I want that. And the Calabasas breeches look like denim but feel like breeches — they are surprisingly lightweight. Realistically, I don’t see myself wearing these in the heat of summer, but we’ve had a fairly mild spring with plenty of chilly mornings and these breeches have been perfect for that.

I wore them ALL DAY on Saturday and the thing about grey is you can get it dirty and no one will know.

NONE of my breeches have Velcro. Love that.

I also like that these breeches have a Euro seat instead of back pockets. It feels a little more streamlined. After wearing them all day, they still fit pretty well. I worried at first the material would stretch too much and thought I might have needed to order a size down, but they stretched only a little — about as much as any pair of breeches might if you’re in them all day.

These breeches also have silicone knee patches, which gives you a little extra security in the saddle. Which I may need once Eli can go back to light work …

The Calabasas breeches are available at breeches.com and come in regular blue denim, too, if that’s more your style.

Things for Spring & Summer 2019: Style for Human, Horse, and Dog

What better activity for a rainy afternoon than to shop? I have been thinking a lot recently about what has caught my eye in equestrian fashion and I want to share some stylish staples that are sure to end up in your closet or mine for this spring and upcoming summer. This is stuff for everyday use! Many things on this list are under $100, too, which … how often does that happen in the horse world?

Okay, first, let’s get straight to nature’s candy, berries.

 

The Equine Couture Beatta breeches in Berry have been on my wish list since I picked up a pair in Safari for shows. They are a great weight for warm weather and if my Safari ones wear out any time soon (which doesn’t seem to be the case) I’ll definitely be replacing them. They are easy to wash and can even go in the dryer — another thing I wouldn’t dream of doing with some other, more high maintenance breeches.

My next choice might be on their way to me already … the Equine Couture Calabasas breeches in Grey caught my eye a while back. Denim breeches have come a long way, and I am such a huge fan of grey denim generally that I had to try these. Remember when we all rode in 501s with full chaps? In the summer? No wonder we were thinner, sweating bullets in that get up and running on Dr. Pepper and cigarettes. Well, I still wear grey denim — like these Levis — and I suspect these breeches are stretchier and lighter than vintage 501s.

Let’s switch gears and think about Conrad’s requirements for spring. Texas can get blustery during spring showers and/or catastrophic flooding events (there is no in between) so I have been thinking about how I could have dressed Conrad this morning, as it was a bit breezy and trying to drizzle. And then I ran across this windbreaker for dogs!

A company called Halo makes it. I am not sure if there is any relation to the dog food company. But I love the color! No reason port wine hues can’t make an appearance after the vernal equinox. Halo also makes crystal dog collars and I like the idea of Conrad in the blue crystal.

Plus that would contrast so nicely with the windbreaker.

Don’t worry, we aren’t leaving out Eli. He’s pretty set in the bridle department, but he really only has one usable halter and I am trying to decide between the Kushy Halter

And the padded jewel halter

Opinions? I am so easily persuaded by glittery things, but I am leaning toward the more classic look of the Kushy halter. And to take care of all of Eli’s bridles and any halters he might get in the near future, I use Belvoir. Why aren’t there candles scented like Belvoir?

Now we can jump back to the rider, because I have a new sun shirt obsession. Asmar introduces all sorts of fabulous stuff every season, but they have been killing it with their sun shirts lately. Like the Selina 1/4 zip.

How gorgeous is this deep, rich, blue shade? Okay, but the top also comes in black. With white pinstripes on the forearms. And …

 

Yeah. I could not control myself. It reminds me too much of Beetlejuice not to.

Last, my curiosity turns to these beauties, the LeMieux Ladies’ Pace X-Grip Silicone Knee Patch Breeches. LeMieux has been a hot name in equestrian circles for a few years now, but I didn’t realize they made clothes. They make great horse boots (I reviewed the Teknique fetlock boots) and of course matching sets of polos and saddle pads to die for. But check out these breeches:

Do you not just love the pocket detailing? These LeMieux breeches seem to have all the right things in one package — under $100, unique details, mid-rise, sock bottoms, sporty material, and silicone knee patches. What more do you want?

No, really, tell me … what more do you want in your equestrian closet for spring??

 

Seeing Green

I wish I could say we have the last of the cold weather for the year behind us, but spring-like temperatures during the day will be giving way to sheet or blanket weather temperatures at night through the weekend. Hopefully it won’t freeze! I am waiting to see this legendary wildflower season that has been predicted around here.

Only another week until the ACTUAL first day of spring.

Maybe it’s my last name … but I love St. Patrick’s Day. What I love even better are St. Patrick’s Day sales. Breeches.com is having a 30% off sale with the code PATRICK30. You might want to snap up one of those mesh-sleeve Erna shirts before they sell out again!

He *Does* Know What “Whoa” Means

There will certainly be more Conrad updates, but let’s interrupt that show to talk about my other fur child. Eli and I are still on the not-really-ideal one to two rides per week schedule due to weather or work or both. And haven’t we jumped in 8,000 years. However, I did get to ride him on Thursday. AND Saturday. AND Sunday. Thursday was so-so. Saturday was perfect. Sunday was interesting.

Once again, I wound up at the barn as the sun was setting on Sunday, so the back drop was pretty if nothing else. But there is something else. It had rained Saturday night, so the turnouts were not useable. The footing, however, was like perfect fluffy clouds by Sunday evening. I knew Eli would definetly be tense and too energetic if I didn’t let him either go roll in the round pen or set him on the longe for a bit. I ruled out the round pen because it was getting dark pretty quickly so we headed up to longe.

He walked politely until I told him to trot, and he actually came back down to a walk and halted when I said “whoa” a few times. Both directions! Progress! I avoided asking for the canter until I was actually on him, and he cantered very politely, considering the amount of energy I could feel he had in him. Like, huh. My horse is all trained and stuff.

I did keep the ride short so I could get back to Conrad and watch Victoria on PBS. (Honestly if I record shows I never get around to watching them.)

QOTD: Would you wear white breeches just for fun? AOTD: Totally!

I am hoping for a warm enough day some time soon so I can give Eli a shampoo bath. He’s really not too bad because of almost daily grooming, but I think a bath might help with some itchiness he’s got going on right now from winter blanket life.

Winter Eli and Work Pants

When I have been able to ride Eli, he has been tense and reactive. Although to be honest, it’s mostly from not being able to ride him very much due to, you guessed it, weather and work. This is typical Winter Eli.

Yesterday evening, Winter Eli was in full force. The drizzle wasn’t helping. Started off very fresh but okay. I even said “rideable.” Spoke too soon. Another horse came up the hill into the arena. Which he spooked at. He kept spooking. When I asked for a canter again, I am not sure how to describe the reaction I got, other than hopping and flailing. It wasn’t a canter, either way. Then, from a halt, he did a rear-y, leap-y move. I gave up. He had to still work, but I couldn’t even be a human longe line this time. At least not safely, I don’t think.

I went back down to the barn to get a longe line from my tack trunk, knowing full well Eli is not the best horse to put on a longe line, but he clearly need to let off some of this radioactive steam. As we were walking back up the hill to the arena, he spooked again, almost jumping on top of me. What spooked him? A horse landing off of a jump. He’s not always very bright.

not slow-witted, just … prone to panic attacks?

But by some miracle, Eli seems to have absorbed our brief and sporadic ground work in the round pen and was actually listening to my voice, instead of taking off on the line whilst kicking out and squealing. Huge trot, but he was not ignoring me. I was happily shocked. Then I asked for canter — there were many bucks and bursts of energy, but he did come back down to a walk after that. We did some walking and trotting on the line the other direction, and he was extremely polite about it.

Poor guy just had too much extra energy, and no small amount of stiffness, especially in his lumbar region. I got back on and finished with a mostly civilized right lead canter. Eli felt much less tense.

Even though it was, on its face, not the best ride we’ve had, I felt so proud of Eli last night. I thought for sure he’d take off and flatten out so fast that he’d slip and fall, as he has done at least twice before on the longe line. But he was listening to me. Bucking, yes, but he needed to. He wasn’t just panicking. I gave him an apple and many treats after that. He liked the Stud Muffins so much I bought the 90oz bag and have since subscribed to it on Amazon. Is it weird to be proud of a horse not freaking out on a longe line? Yes. I have used that as a tool with many other horses without incident. It’s nice to know maybe Eli can be counted in that group now.

We’ll be much happier in warmer weather, though.

As a completely non sequitur aside, I think I may have found the most comfortable work pants ever. Any of you with desk jobs, I am telling you, it’s like I am wearing pajama pants but they look like work pants. And they have pockets!

Being an Amazon addict, that is where I found them.

The Bamans yoga work pants, under $25, still look professional, and POCKETS. I could sleep in these. For reference, I wear a women’s US size 6 in pants, and based on the brand’s size chart, I got the large for a good fit — not too tight but still fitted. They are very stretchy, so there is definitely room to go down a size, but then I thought they’d look too much like yoga pants to wear to work. They hit right at my ankle bone, and I am 5’6″. I am going to need a grey pair next, I think.

 

Best In Blue Equestrian Hickstead Belt Review

When given the opportunity to try the Best In Blue Equestrian Hickstead belt, I jumped on it because here was a very popular style of belt at a very affordable price point. I was especially curious about the quality.

Once I got the belt in hand, I wore it almost immediately — at least, as soon as I was able to get out to the barn. The holidays and weather are still working against me a little, but I have worn the belt a handful of times now. One odd benefit of this belt that I didn’t even think about: it’s just stretchy enough to accommodate a few extra holiday cookies. Or maybe a lot of extra holiday carbs. Either way.

Can’t get more classic that a navy belt with tan breeches

Seriously, this belt has a lot of features, the primary one being great adjustability. This belt is really going to fit most riders. It adjusts just like a belly surcingle on a horse blanket, and clasps the same way. The clasp immediately identifies this belt as uniquely equestrian, plus it’s so easy to hook and unhook.

Clasp detail

And there is no extra length of belt, so the look is extremely trim and minimalist. The belt is also wide enough to look great on breeches with the wider belt loops. Because it’s stretchy, the belt moves with you — it doesn’t give me that binding feeling that some leather belts and their buckles can.

Tone on tone & stretch to fit in action!

For the price, this belt is an excellent value, and it is a very popular style for right now, with the equestrian hardware. Similarly-styled belts can be 3 times as much or more! But why pay that? The Hickstead belt is offered in a variety of colors and patterns, too.

Navy on navy

I chose navy because I knew it would look good with a lot of riding outfits, but I really like the tribal pattern one, too. Y’all know how I am about color in my life.

Basically, I can’t see why you wouldn’t want one of these belts right away!

Riding Tops I’m Obsessed with that Won’t Break the Bank

There is one top — and it’s not strictly for equestrians — that is very affordable and on Amazon and I LOVE it.

The fit can be tricky because it seems to run small, especially in the arms BUT the shirt is long and the arms are long and I am all torso with orangutan arms so it’s perfect. I am a size 4/6 dress and I wear the large in this shirt. It’s not skin-tight and I could probably wear the medium, too. It feels like an all-season weight, which means perfect for not-summer in Texas. And it’s under $25!

Another one that I don’t have yet but DO WANT — the Equine Couture Erna top that must be super popular.

I am really into mesh everything lately.  Yeah …. arms all of mesh. White appears to be the only color left on the website, but I hope these shirts get restocked, because honestly I need one of each color. But how perfect is the white for showing? That’s not exactly a question. I am actually just saying it’s perfect. That means it’s a show shirt that’s less than $60. That perhaps a family member could buy me for Christmas. Or something.

And last, winter in Texas still has a lot of tee-shirt weather. Enter One Horse Threads. EVERY season, new designs come out and I inevitably need at least one of them. Like this one:

I like the positive message. Although … I guess if you suck at picking distances it’s less positive. But I’m on board with it. This tee is so soft, and I love the fit! And the 70s vibe. The tee is under $30 and would most likely be very welcome under any equestrienne’s Christmas tree. I know I love mine!

What are some great riding outfits y’all have put together that don’t empty your wallet?

Tailored Sportsman IceFil Zip Top Review

but do I have enough sun protection?

Somehow, I have yet to review a sun shirt on the pages of this blog. I wear them frequently because I live in Texas. I have gravitated toward both EIS and Kastel, and think they are both excellent options.

stiff collar!

And then I bought a Tailored Sportsman sun shirt. (I know some people have serious reservations about the brand because of the owner’s reputation.) And now they are my favorite. They are priced very competitively at $65 each. The sleeves are long enough for my ridiculously long arms.

They come in pretty colors, and new colors are introduced each season. They don’t have any prominent branding on them. They are SOFT. They are cut slim, and are long enough to stay tucked in. They have collars that stay standing up, even without the zipper halfway or all the way zipped. They are durable, and the ones I have have never snagged or caught on anything. They wash easily and dry quickly. They don’t pill, and the mesh of the sleeves doesn’t pill, snag, or start pulling apart. And I didn’t just buy one a week ago — I have been wearing them all year.

I might just use this picture for tomorrow, too

That’s my review. I can’t find a thing wrong with them, physically. I mean, it’d be cool if they were $25 instead of $65, but that’s unlikely in riding attire. The Tailored Sportsman IceFil zip top is my sun shirt of choice.

Choosing a Lesson Outfit

Let me just stop any of you who don’t care about clothes right here: don’t bother reading this post.

Okay, now that we’ve weeded out the party-poopers, let’s all of us fashion hounds talk about choosing what to wear for a lesson. When I feel well-dressed, it really influences how much confidence I have, in no matter what I am doing. Again, if you can’t relate to that, you may not get much out of this post.

I really like to dress at least somewhat professionally for a lesson — not quite show attire obviously, but just as I would select a totally traditional, no-nonsense outfit for riding in a clinic, I like to be dressed tidily for a lesson, but with my own twist — yep, you guessed it, it’s that tiny, crazy, 87-year-old-lady inside my head telling me what to wear, balanced with my own modest sense of decorum. I’ll let y’all sort out for yourselves which pieces were picked by the metaphorical 87-year-old.

Riding clothes have to be comfortable and practical, of course. Affordable is another good attribute, so you won’t find me wearing $400 shirts to ride in. Durability is especially important for the tall boots, and protective goes without saying for the helmet. Working within those parameters, I give you a typical outfit that I’d wear to ride, such as the one I wore during schooling over fences on last Friday.

First, I wore a Tailored Sportsman IceFil zip top. I won’t say too much about it here, because I plan to post a full review later this week. Can’t go wrong with black, as long as it’s not a million degrees outside (the weather was quite nice).

I paired this with Equine Couture Beatta Breeches in Safari, a beigey tan color that goes with everything. Sometimes I wear boring pants. I actually really like these breeches, but can’t remember when or where I picked up this pair, but breeches.com has them. I have had these for about two years and they seem to hold up over time very well. I have found that with Equine Couture, I typically go up a size for the breeches to fit — I wear a 28 in Trophy Hunters, and these Beatta breeches are a size 30. They are also very easy care, and can be tossed in the dryer on low, even.

Next, I wore my new Trauma Void helmet — again, not going to say much here, as I plan to post a review of the helmet this week, too. One word preview: Love.

Tall boots are one of the things to spend on and not skimp. That doesn’t mean you can’t look for a good deal, as I found these DeNiro boots new-in-box on eBay for less than retail. Provided the company keeps on keeping on, I plan to stay a DeNiro boots customer for life. They are comfortable and have worn incredibly well so far. I can, and have, wear these all day without any discomfort.

Now for the wacky accessories. The first one is a belt I got during a sale at Luxe Eq. It’s a little metallic, in black, red, and gold. If you haven’t splurged on a Duftler spur belt yet, you are missing out. The leather is so supple, which I was not expecting given the metallic coloring, and the craftsmanship is excellent. I cannot possibly justify buying another one, though. Yet. Maybe. I also wore an Equivisor, which given the Texas sunlight, is eminently practical. The one I am wearing, I got on sale for like $17 or something ridiculous like that. Would I recommend black? Yes. Is the one I wear black? No. But it protects my face from the sun and leopard print totally acts like a neutral and goes with everything. I kind of want a jute one, actually.