Saddle Shopping

Ask anyone — saddle shopping sucks. Especially if you are on any kind of budget other than “new, custom, & French.”

Well, it only kind of sucks. Actually, it’s not that bad. I know what I want and what I am willing to spend and I think I mostly have reasonable expectations for my budget. And I own a fairly average-sized and -shaped TB, which helps.

Requirements, listed in order of importance:
French — namely Bruno Delgrange or Devoucoux. I will not and did not look at other brands.
Sound tree.
Narrow twist.
Condition considered regardless of age.
Must be around the cost of what my old saddle sells for.
17″-17.5″ seat.
Slightly forward flap.
Padded flap.
No repairs necessary.
Available for trial.

You see, Eli and I have both been working hard on our hunter chunk physique, and we would like something that accommodates us a little better than the 17″ straight flap Bruno Delgrange PJ (I think it’s a PJ Lite because it doesn’t have blocks). I barely fit in that saddle anymore–PJs run small. As much as I love it, I also like my stirrups about a hole shorter than they should be, so I need a more forward flap, really. Eli would like panels with a bit more surface area, a wider gullet, and a deeper channel. We need a different saddle.

Like this one.

All these things narrow my casual internet saddle browsing considerably. I know what fits me. I have sat in many brands — Devoucoux and Delgrange have models that work the best for me. I am a good judge of what will most likely fit Eli, and I have professionals around me who can help me decide what’s right about fit for me and my horse. And I know how much I can spend. (I most definitely was not looking at 2016 full buffalo stuff. Well, maybe looking … but that’s it.)

Eli was convinced I was standing in the wrong spot to take a cute picture of him, so he tried to help me out.

Initially, I wanted to make sure there was still a market around me for the Delgrange PJ. I contacted three trainers, and all had interest. A potential buyer was in my saddle the next day. The following day, I rode in the first saddle I had taken on trial. I had a trainer (Eli’s massage therapist!) help me check the fit. Later that day, I got a text from my trainer saying the rider who tried it Saturday would like to buy my PJ. She also wanted my stirrup irons but she’d have to pry my MDCs from my cold dead hand and they were already on my trial saddle, so I think I just sold a new pair of MDC S Flex irons …

Monday, I rode in the trial saddle again. Eli went as well as he usually does, nothing unusual about the ride (we still can’t handle canter poles). The saddle felt very stable and well-balanced while on him. After the ride, I poked around on his back to see if he had any soreness. I thought I might have found a spot just behind his withers on the left, but turns out he was just really itchy there. What would he do if I ever pared my nails short? After Monday’s ride, I felt pretty good about keeping the saddle. I found no reason not to keep it.

I emailed Leah at Redwood Tack on Tuesday to tell her I’d be keeping the saddle. If any of you are in the market for a new-to-you used saddle, I HIGHLY recommend Redwood Tack. I wasn’t necessarily expecting to buy the first saddle I took on trial, because when does that happen? I think knowing what I was willing to try out and pay for made a huge difference in the ease of my search, and my search was not hurried at all–I look at used saddles frequently, even if I am not in the market, just to see what’s out there. Having realistic expectations about what you want and what you can spend helps, too.

So welcome to my tack locker, Little Dev.


Start with the Add Step

Saturday, I had one of those lessons that was pretty bad but turned out kind of good. Eli warmed up fine and throughout the lesson, he did everything I asked. This bad was all me. He even knew I was asking the wrong thing, did it anyway, and got really pissed off.

So we started with trotting a low vertical. That was fine. We cantered one of the lines, and I asked Eli to move up at the last minute, so he stretched and jumped and seemed miffed about it but didn’t do anything reactive. I should have asked him to move up upon landing, though.

This is from last night when we had to shoo a dog from the arena

We then cantered another inside line, a three-stride to a one-stride. We got deep, I pressed up, and then Eli drifted right to fit in the one stride. And he was PISSED. I couldn’t steer and we maybe left the arena a little bit. My trainer talked me down some, but a trailer pulled in and Eli couldn’t turn past it back toward the barn without hollowing out, scooting forward, flipping his head, and dolphin leaping. Just, ew.

My trainer had me work through it, though, and had the trailer park down by the barn instead. Eli was still worked up about me riding with zero sensibility. We tried to canter down an outside line but it wasn’t pretty and I pulled up before the second fence. We went back to trotting the low vertical. THEN we came back to the outside line, trotting in and cantering out. I left Eli alone. He finally relaxed again and we did the outside line a second time. My trainer was happy with his and my mental recovery, and I asked to do the inside 72′ line again. She instructed me to go with what I land with and not insist on the numbers.

why do I even have an outside rein

Eli came in quiet, landed soft, and we cantered out in an easy six strides. The add step. Now we can be done!

So what my plan with lessons going forward is a)HAVE ONE and b) warm-up in the following order: trot low vertical, trot in and canter out of a line, canter a line on the add step, canter a line on a normal step. Instead of working either haphazardly or backwards. This isn’t news to me–this is a typical hunter-y warm up I am very accustomed to, but don’t always think about because my mind is not fully transitioned to hunterland. But it’s getting there. I have to do it wrong to realize the value of doing it right–but hopefully I don’t have to do it wrong again! I think the more organized and quiet I can be, the more Eli will appreciate and be able to perform what we are trying to accomplish.

preview, maybe?

Anybody want to make me a tee-shirt that says “Let’s Start with the Add Step” in, like, a tasteful font that conveys understated elegance? Or even better, an icefil shirt with the print running down the arm …

Last, I plan to do an updated review of my EGO 7s soon, for anyone one interested. I love them.

Tall Boot Comparison

Now that I am in a bit of a tall boot bind and down to one pair again, a pair I would prefer to keep nice for shows, I started thinking about my experience with a number of boot brands over the years.

The most telling aspect? Two of the three pairs of boots I have purchased more recently, from reputable brands, sucked. That’s just sad, but at least I know to rule them out during my search for a second pair. I also know now what brands I can count on, too.

Looks to me like I should stick with EGO 7s and DeNiros. Tucci does EGO 7s, so I can no doubt count on Tuccis, too.

Pros: Gorgeous color, wide footbed
Cons: Ugly zipper, fell apart after one year, never could zip them up all the way

Pros: Excellent leather quality, durability, square toe, water resistant
Cons: After 4 years, they need full zipper replacement and have dropped a little too much. Not bad! The leather is still in great condition.

Pros: I didn’t buy them (“free” is always a nice benefit), durable (still in my closet)
Cons: They don’t seem to exist anymore

EGO 7s
Pros: Styling, price, quality, elastic zipper guards, heel guards, elastic panel that is not too stretchy, comfortable footbed, grippy soles
Cons: Haven’t found any yet. I’d buy these again at US retail at this point.

Pros: Comfortable right away, elastic zipper guard, squishy footbed
Cons: Looked 5 years old after 2 months, calf stretched too much, color wore off, and squishy footbed–while they were comfortable, they some how managed to create pressure on the balls of my feet while in the irons, which caused my feet to go numb rather quickly. I just need hard soles, I guess.

Pros: Made to measure, simple and elegant for the time, durable (still in my closet)
Cons: Bitch to break in, no zippers or gussets (which is my fault, not Vogel’s), can’t wear them now because calf no longer fits (also my fault, lol)

After comparing all of these brands, quality and durability are worth the price, and in the long run would save me money. I don’t want tall boots that only last a year.  I plan on getting the zippers replaced on the DeNiros soon. They’d definitely suffice as a schooling pair!

Two Horse Tack 2-Color Riding Reins Review

I jumped at the chance to try more Two Horse Tack — Conrad still loves showing off his bling collar and now that I know beta biothane is actually way more leather-like than I figured, I thought trying out some reins would be worthwhile.

One option: roller buckles

Okay. So. There were a lot of options. SO MANY OPTIONS. I will just spell out what I did, but if you click through the link you can scroll down for quite a while selecting options to customize your order. I chose 5/8″ 10′ 2-color English reins in brown with green, with roller buckles and super grip material. Basically, reins I can school with or use in the jumper ring. (But if you want red split reins with I don’t even know what all you can get, go for it because you can. Or bling reins, those are also a thing and I am not sure how I managed to not get those.)

I put them on my jumper bridle, which Eli hadn’t worn in a while. He was a little miffed about the noseband.

I am first and most impressed by the super grip material.

These reins have just a bit more weight to them than laced reins, but feel very similar to the more traditionally-styled reins you see in the jumper ring a lot. What impressed me about the super grip material? It never gets slippery. Really. The first two times I used these reins, it was misting and/or sprinkling and the reins got wet (with the rest of my tack). I figured they’d slip through my hands since I didn’t even have gloves on but nope! It’s also hot right now, even at 7pm when I usually ride during the week (like still 95F), and no amount of sweat that Eli and I could produce made the reins slippery. The super grip is as grippy if not more so than any pair of rubber reins I’ve used. It will be very interesting to see over time whether they get melty like some rubber reins–something tells me this may not be a problem with the beta biothane at least.

The color was just a fun thing I decided to do, but you can get the reins with only one color instead of two. The hardware on these reins also seems very sturdy–mine have the roller buckles and they are easy to use, built to last. Time will tell how rust-resistant they are, but since they are stainless steel I imagine they won’t rust.

Too hot. Must shuffle.

The 10′ reins are plenty long, long enough for Eli to do whatever it is he is doing in the above picture … protesting the noseband is my guess, nothing to do with the reins. He usually carries his poll a bit higher … oh well. I think 9′ reins would also be an appropriate length for the English disciplines, especially in the jumper ring I think that might be a better option for most people. And you can totally get 9′ reins instead of 10′ reins. Because options.

Looking for an incentive to order? The reins or anything else on the Two Horse Tack website … sign up for the newsletter! Sign up now and you get a $10 coupon which I think would go a long way on any product from Two Horse Tack.

Short Break

Eli’s 3 days off were well-spent playing in turnout and getting groomed. I hacked another horse on Friday, a flea-bitten gray whose mannerisms remind me of Eli quite a bit. Other than the heat, I enjoyed the ride. I didn’t ride on Saturday or Sunday, but still spent some time with Eli grooming and grazing him.

No idea how he managed this.

On Sunday morning, I thought I’d try putting him in one of the larger paddocks that has some shade, one he hadn’t been in before. I stayed with him, and after he roamed around inspecting everything, he decided to run and play a little bit, sometimes taking dead aim at me only to turn from a few strides away. I think he wanted me to run around with him? He certainly looked fantastic in all three gaits.

The heat had already settled in by this time, so I hosed him off and let him dry in front of some big fans. He is back to work today, and I am very interested to see if I will notice a difference especially in his canter. A new course got set over the weekend in the large arena and I am hoping to get in some jumping this week!

delicious brown grass