Lund Saddlery Calfskin Stirrup Leathers Review

Stirrup leathers are arguably one of the most important pieces of tack — if you are going to use them, they better be durable, right? When I had an opportunity to try the new Lund Saddlery stirrup leathers I jumped at it. I have been so impressed by the bridle that Eli now wears it every ride. The breastplates and girth are equally well-designed and high quality. Why should the stirrup leathers be any different? I had been using a pair of 54″ Toulouse nylon core leathers that served quite well for a number of years — not exactly sure when I bought them, but it’s been years. But they were in pretty bad shape at this point — no major fraying or breakage, but definitely on the cusp of failure.

And once I had the Lund leathers in hand, I knew immediately I liked them better than the Toulouse. While the Toulouse are nice, the Lund stirrup leathers are absolutely high-end, buttery, fine-grained calf, with a nylon core. They were not stiff at all and honestly I think I could have gotten away with using them without any oiling or conditioning, but I don’t like to do that to nice leather. At $88USD, $115CAD these are a steal. I have also used the Beval nylon core leathers that run for $120 and these are completely comparable, if not a little nicer. I find they have a feel more like CWD or Devoucoux leathers, although I have only picked those up in passing and never purchased because my money tree died in the drought.

Length: Lund stirrup leathers come in a handful of lengths, so if you aren’t interested in trimming excess stirrup leather (as George Morris likes to advise) you can probably get the right length for your leg and discipline. I chose the 52″ ones. The holes are also numbered for convenience, although if you’re like me your legs aren’t all that even so you might not have your stirrup leathers on the same number on both sides …

Thickness: Thickness is actually a really important factor to me in stirrup leathers. I want thick enough that I know they’ll hold weight and won’t wear too thin at pressure points like at the top of the stirrup iron or at the stirrup bars on the saddle, or the holes themselves. Most stirrup leathers fit this profile. At the same time I don’t want them too thick. The Toulouse were so thick I could not adjust them while sitting in the saddle at all. I tested that the first time I rode using the Lund stirrup leathers. I tried to approximate how long they would need to be before mounting, but of course I like my stirrups hiked up so I had to shorten them a few holes from in the saddle. I had no problem at all doing this. Huge advantage right there of the Lund leathers!

Color: The leathers come in what I would call a chestnut color, and I think the actual color name might be Australian Nut. If you like the color, I think just a coat of conditioning and you’d be good to go. I wanted to match the leathers to my saddle, which is a warm brown with reddish undertones.

Darkening process: I have a couple different ways to darken tack, depending on what that tack is. I typically do not soak leathers in a vat of oil, like you could do with the Sedgwick leather of Lund bridles (although I don’t do that to bridle leather either). So to make the color richer, I started with 3 or 4 coats of Hydrophane darkening oil. The leathers took the oil beautifully, and I finished up with conditioning with Belvoir. I still condition them regularly, and occasionally put on another coat of Hydrophane. They’re a nice, deeper chestnut color now, although I think I could get them even a little darker to match my saddle better, but I don’t want to go too dark, so I am doing this gradually.

Durability:  Obviously until you use a pair of leathers for years, you can’t speak to the durability. But there are some features that can indicate durability and quality in a pair of leathers, such as the feel of the leather and the stitching. Both leather quality — hello, calfskin — and the stitching of the Lund stirrup leathers stand up to scrutiny. The edges are also finished, and have not shown any signs of wear or fraying yet.

If you are looking for new leathers or know of an equestrian in the market for new leathers, I can’t recommend these enough AND they are under $100USD! I haven’t paid under $100 for leathers since I was like 12. And these could definitely be priced much higher for the quality.

If the Shoe Fits

I think I mentioned earlier that I had been stalking some things on eBay for some time. When I finally messaged the seller, she offered a great deal if I purchased both things. I felt morally obligated to purchase both things at the price she quoted to me (practically a 2-for-1 deal!).

I only had one operative pair of tall boots and needed a schooling pair to keep the black EGO7s in shape for shows. For day-to-day riding, I needed something else. So now I have two pair of DeNiros that were exactly my size, new in box, and the chocolate brown is gorgeous.

Three pairs of tall boots, two pairs of which I hope to keep in good shape for at least a few years — what a luxury! I got the chocolate brown DeNiros broken in, which took all of two rides, and now have moved on to using the “Cotto brown” pair for schooling.

“Cotto brown” is apparently Italian for “orange.”

I applied many coats of Hydrophane to the orange boots, and that did mellow the color somewhat. Now time will tell how well they wear and how the color will change with sweat, water, dust, glycerin soap, Belvoir, and frequent — almost daily — use. I will probably periodically wipe more Hydrophane on them, too. If that stuff can make Edgewood orange go away, I have a feeling these boots will get a few shades darker eventually. The fit is perfect and they are solely for schooling, so I am not too concerned with the color, although they will probably look pretty gross against the coat of a blood bay. Eli gets more mahogany during winter, so maybe that will look better?

More Bit Geek Stuff

Many thanks, everyone who commented on the French Link post — I am generally and genuinely interested in equestrian terminology and always find answers to a question about term usage illuminating.

Along these same lines, I could again ask questions about what you call certain types of bits, so I will. I will leave these questions very open-ended. (Keep in mind I am not asking what each bit is for, just what you’d call it. I am not trying to open the leverage can of worms.)

Fulmer or full cheek?

Elevator or gag?

See how open-ended that is?

I have pretty specific pictures in my mind of the difference between a fulmer and a full cheek, but I have seen either called both.

Elevator or gag … that’s more complicated! The bit that first comes to mind when I hear “gag” is a Cheltenham gag, but that is not the only type of gag bit out there–many bits have a gag action and aren’t what I or anyone else would call a Cheltenham gag.

When I hear “elevator” I picture those 3- or 4-ring bits that people call elevator, Dutch gag, bubble bit, or Pessoa bit. I know y’all know what I’m talking about–what do you call them? (Let’s skip talking about how and how many reins you use with these bits.)

I think this is what some people might refer to as a “true” elevator?

One final question– is it possible to use fulmer/bit loops on a Nelson gag? Like, how would that work? I can’t picture it because of how gag cheeks work, so I am thinking emphatically no.

See what I’m saying?

This post is pretty slanted toward the English disciplines (especially the over fences ones) as I am not at all familiar with bit names for Western, Gaited/Park, or Driving. I welcome any answers along those lines, too!

 

EGO 7 Orion Field Boot Review Update

Back in October/November-ish, I ordered EGO 7 Orion Field Boots from Germany. This means I spent $340 USD for boots that retail at $499 here (many tack shops have them in stock now).

And you know what? I’d buy these boots again at $499 in a heartbeat. 10 months in to wearing these boots fairly frequently, they have worn beautifully.

So I’ll break this down for you piece by piece based on my tall boot comparison chart.

FIT

The EGO 7 fit is S L I M. If your measurements are toward the larger end of a range in the size chart, I suggest sizing up. I fell about in the middle of the range for my calf size and the fit is very, very snug. I am thinking I might need a second pair for winter riding with a larger calf size if I want boots that will fit over thicker breeches and socks. They fit me well over thinner breeches and socks. The tall height worked out perfectly for me, as did the foot size 39. The break in time was about a week, and not once did I get a blister anywhere.

FUNCTION

The Orions have so many useful, purposeful features. Most importantly, they work well for riding. But no detail was left unattended in the design of these boots. There is a lot to cover here!

The hardware is high quality and durable–EGO 7s have the same zippers as Tucci boots so you know you can count on them to last a while.

The inner calf panel interested me, although I wasn’t quite sure what to think about it initially. Turns out, it’s about as grippy as regular (good) leather but it doesn’t abrade my saddle’s flaps. And considering I just got a new-to-me Devoucoux, I am glad the panels are there.

The stretch panel has a slight sheen to it, but it is so subtle that I don’t find it noticeably distracting. The stretch panel also seems extremely durable and not super stretchy. Like you know how the elastic gussets in paddock boots get all wavy and useless after a lot of wear? This will not be happening to the EGO 7 stretch panel–it’s a different type of material that has some stretch, just enough for a little bit more of a custom-looking fit.

The spur rests look like none I have ever seen and give the option of three or four different places to wear your spur. Eli appreciates I can wear my spur quite low with these boots without it slipping down too far.

As far as features that ensure a good fit, the elastic zipper guards, padded heel guards, and thin insoles all add to the comfort of these boots. Honestly, I am surprised more boot makers don’t have the elastic zipper guards–it makes them so much easier to snap over the zipper pull keepers at the top of tall boots.

Last, these boots have the right type of grippy outsoles for staying put on the stirrup iron treads. The soles in general are on the harder side, which I now know is a necessity for me after my experience with Parlanti soles. I don’t really want a sneaker feel for my tall boots.

STYLE

I think in my previous look at these boots back in November, I may have said I probably wouldn’t show in them … well, I did show in them. Polished up, these are perfect for all 3 rings. There is also a dress boot version for all y’all DQs. The toe cap, slim ankles, slightly tapered, rounded toe, softly-contoured Spanish top, and unique spur rests give these boots a stylish but contemporary look that works for showing or schooling.

COST

These boots are without a doubt worth the $499 that most people in America would be paying for them — I know most people prefer to try on boots before buying them rather than ordering from overseas and hoping for the best. But if you are willing to risk it, the Euro hasn’t bounced back all the way yet, so you may save a bit if you choose to order from Germany like I did. Even at $499, I think they are a budget-friendly tall boot and a well-fitted option when stacked up against more expensive custom brands.

Without reservations, I highly recommend these boots. They are already holding up much, much better than many other tall boots that I have tried. Added bonus–they should be out in brown soon!

 

French Link

I have a semantic question for you: what kind of bit do you call a French link?

A French link, to me, denotes a very specific type of double-joint of a bit, like the above one. But I frequently see people describing almost any double-jointed bit as a French link, especially the double-jointed Herm Sprenger bits.

I don’t call this a French link. Anyway, it’s German.

So, to you, what’s a French link?

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.

 

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.

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

DeNiros
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.

Effinghams
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.

Parlantis
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.

Vogels
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.

Fleeceworks Therawool™ Show Hunter Saddle Pad Review

Let’s just say that I have not owned a suitable saddle pad for the hunter ring since, like, 1999. The 2017 options are staggering and widely range in price and quality. But I had to start somewhere …

I looked at the Ogilvy show hunter pads with memory foam, but for ~$280 they were a bit more than I wanted to spend on experimenting in the hunter ring. So I started looking at other options.

I knew I wanted some kind of sheepskin or wool for the properties–it’s kind of like nature’s memory foam and sheepskin is anti-bacterial because of the lanolin. I started looking at Fleeceworks products and found a good price at Riding Warehouse for the Therawool™ Show Hunter.

In our first try in the hunter ring, I used the saddle pad with no inserts or shims and I was very satisfied with its performance. Eli seemed quite comfortable and didn’t develop any back soreness. But, I did notice the saddle sat a bit low in front, more than I am really comfortable with, so I got the Ecofelt inserts .

Once I had the inserts, they looked a bit big and I thought I might have to cut them down a bit. I decided to try shoving them into the shim pockets before trimming to estimate how much I’d have to alter them, and as it turns out, they fit in very snugly and perfectly–no room for shifting around but not too big, either.

For our next attempt at hunters, I used the saddle pad with shims in place, and I was even more pleased with the performance of the pad than before, and Eli had no objections. I felt like with the Ecofelt, the saddle was more balanced on Eli, with pressure more evenly distributed along the panels.

Size Large fits my 17″ Bruno Delgrange PJ.

One of the nice features about the Therawool™ is that it is machine washable. After the first show, I did wash it in the machine and hung it up to dry, and brushed out the Therawool™ with the wire brush that came with the saddle pad. It definitely shed a bit that first wash, but that’s what lint rollers are for. After the second show, the saddle pad was hardly even dirty, so instead of washing it I just hung it up to air out a bit and after it had dried completely I brushed the Therawool™ again with the wire brush, and the loft recovers quite well.

This is an extremely nice, well-made saddle pad and for less that $150 I think it’s a great deal.

How Do You Choose a Bit?

Eli’s job is now in the hunter ring and my bitting choices for competition have dwindled significantly. Pretty much any bit is acceptable in the jumper ring, provided the show officials don’t deem it as cruel or abusive. I never really used all that many bits on Eli anyway–I like him in the Herm Sprenger Dynamic RS D-ring. Or the eggbutt. And sometimes the WH Ultra dee. However, these bits are easy for him to slightly ignore for a few steps, as he demonstrated by running through my hands a few times at the show in March. He still has a SUPER SOFT mouth and I am not about to ruin that with a “harsh” bit (in quotes because I think we will all have different versions of harsh).

But over the years I have used a variety of bits on different horses with different jobs and then of course bits are like precious jewelry so there are a few I’ve been coveting, too.

Ah, the Cheltenham gag. I rode with a trainer for 15 years who threw this bit on a handful of jumpers, including mine. He explained to me the action and the difference in the action when you use either rope gag cheeks or leather gag cheeks, and he also taught me how to use the gag rein on this bit (never without a snaffle rein on my particular horse). It worked out great for my jumper, although it wasn’t the only bit I showed him in. That choice was made the day of, and he went in HS KK Ultra bits, too, and a hackamore for a brief period of time while a lip injury healed up. (One day I will write a proper post about this horse!) The Cheltenham exerts a good bit of poll pressure via the gag rein and I wouldn’t dream of using one of these on Eli.

I used a Dr. Bristol eggbutt snaffle as a junior. My QH went quite well in it. I know that there are two ways you can put the Dr. Bristol–the nice way and the mean way. The plate is angled for a particular type of tongue pressure, and if you put in in your horse’s mouth the mean way, the edge of the plate slices right into his tongue. I used it the nice way, where the plate lies flatter on the tongue.

My first off-track guy, a little chestnut, seemed to go best in a rubber dee. He chewed through a few of them, but he’d only take a feel on the rubber dee and pretty much avoided any other bit by tucking his chin.

My favorite bit for Eli, the Dynamic RS dee. What can I say about it other than it works for Eli? I am a fan because of how anatomical this bit is, and also I like the double jointed bits generally because of the reduced nutcracker action on the tongue and I have also had problems with narrow mouth TBs getting hit in the palate by single jointed bits, which must suck for them!

But let’s not stop there with the Herm Sprenger bits. The hunter ring limits bits — you are pretty much going to see dees, full cheeks, and pelhams. The rules limit bits mostly to these types (eggbutts are okay, too, but NO ONE uses them in the hunter ring). Now, the mouthpiece on those dees … that’s where a little anything goes comes back into play, and many hunters go in custom bits that have mouthpieces tailored to their style in the bridle. But pelhams are okay, too, although not as common–I see them more in Eq. I’d be curious to see how strong Eli would consider getting in a pelham, although I think ultimately it’s too much bit for him. The pelham has both poll and curb action, as strong or light as the rider’s hands, so it’s a bit for educated hands only in my book. Pelham converters drive me up a wall. If you don’t know how to use a curb rein, don’t use a pelham.

And on to another common hunter option–the slow twist dee. The longer I work with horses, the less and less I like this bit. I think it has its place, and I used it on my jumper when he was very young and learning the show ropes in the hunter ring. However, I am not sure all horses react the same to this texture on the mouth bars–I think it panics some horses and actually makes them lean on the bit and take off (I think the same of corkscrews and twisted wire bits).

Now onto the bits I am currently coveting and am so curious about and want to try on Eli. Probably never will, but I can dream. First is a Bombers elliptical lock full cheek. Honestly, I have been wanting to try just about *any* Bombers bit for ages (okay, not all–they make some serious leverage bits and I don’t need that). I like the amount of thought this company puts into their work. Also, the blue sweet iron is SO PRETTY. Not that it lasts after oxidation, but whatevs.

I am also extremely curious about bauchers, and sweet iron, and copper, so why not throw it all together? Mostly just curious to see baucher action for myself on my own horse–the arguments are whether bauchers exert or relieve poll pressure. Maybe what the horse does with his head is a part of determining that? I can think about bit physics for hours.

Last, we come to the bit I have selected for Eli that I would like to try at our next show, the JP Korsteel copper ball link full cheek. So far, so good the first two times we’ve used it. I hemmed and hawed over quite a few styles–full cheek or dee, waterford or ported barrel … and settled on this. Barely more bit–just a touch more. I will probably jump him in it soon to see how it goes. I had actually tried Eli in a JP Korsteel copper lozenge dee, but the lozenge was too big for Eli and he was pretty fussy in it. I think the copper ball link is a better fit for him.

So tell me … how do you choose which bit for what horse and which discipline?