First off, I am laughing at that old picture above. You know why I have a death grip on the lead line? Because she literally would NOT stand still… She would just try and drag you around. Oh May. ❤
As a result of… a lot of drama in September, I now know more than one person who is unexpectedly horse shopping. What does it mean for the average person to be unexpectedly horse shopping? It means a low budget, practically no time, and the understanding that this is going to be a purchase and then train type of situation.
I would love to have been one of those people that can follow the adage of “Buy something that is already doing what you want to do,” but for many of us, that is RARELY an option. Instead, it falls into more of “buy something that seems like it might want to do the same thing you want to do and train it.”
Do you know if a horse is going to be a good XC horse by trotting it around an arena? Nope. Do I have any idea how much of being a good XC horse is nature vs. nurture? No clue.
So apparently, I have a different view when horse shopping than most people. When I purchased May, it was with the intention of “having a fun project”. Did I think I would own her almost five years later? No. Not really.
When you buy an inexpensive, green, off-type horse, you are taking a pretty big gamble on whether or not that horse will turn into what you really want. Also, that horse might be the right horse until you get to Novice, but when you want to move beyond that, you find you just aren’t sitting on enough talent/ability/bravery etc to make that next step.
As a result, I tend to approach all horses I have ever tried (because I have never had more than a low four figure budget), as a project. May was a project that needed to learn how to steer, but we didn’t really know if she would enjoy eventing. Four and a half years later, I think it is pretty fair to say she is staying.
I wish I had bought my first horse with this mentality. I really do think it would have saved me a lot of grief. He was supposed to be my #Hearthorse that I kept forever. In reality, I ended up just making us both miserable by trying to make the wrong thing work.
So what about you? Do you look at the purchase of a green horse as a potential project that you may or may not keep? Or are you always looking for your next dream horse?
So I had a local saddle fitter (yes, a new one) out on Sunday to take a look at my Genesis. Originally, she was going to look at the Diablo, but I decided that wasn’t going to be the right thing, even if we could get it to fit May. So I mostly just wanted to see if there is anything we could do to help the Genesis sit more in balance for me and reduce the rocking for May. (nope… ) So the conversation mostly turned to my “next” saddle.
The conversation went something like this:
Saddle Fitter: “Well, what have you tried so far?”
Me: “In alphabetical order?… of saddles I actually put on my horse’s back and didn’t just rule out immediately? Albion, Barnsby, Black Country (Solare and Wexford), Bliss, County, CWD, Duett, Ovation, Prestige, and Stubben…. at least as much as I can remember.”
Let me just say, that when you outline it like that… you get some crazy looks from your newest saddle fitter.
Saddle fitter “oooook. I am surprised you didn’t like the black country saddles.”
Me “Well… the one that the rep sent me was way too small. I have picture evidence!”
At least she agreed that it was definitely too narrow for May. Her recommendation was to find a black country in the width/seat size I needed, and we could reflock it to get it perfect. She isn’t the first saddle rep to suggest this brand to me, so I decided to take a look.
I did ask her what model of their saddles would be best for me. Her response, “Your specs are going to be hard to find, so just start there.” Yeah… no. I already have a saddle I don’t love for ME, so I am not going to buy another one.
Fine, so I turn to black country’s website. You know, the place that should explain the differences between their models. Right?
At first, it started out pretty good. Below is the description for the Wexford:
The Wexford is a deep-seated jumping saddle, similar to the GP range, though offering a wider seat for comfort than most traditional jump saddles.
This saddle comes with large supporting knee and thigh blocks for the ultimate in rider security and an extra forward flap option for the taller rider.
The panel and tree combinations within this saddle allow for a multitude of profiles.
Now of course, I remember I sat in the Wexford, and it put me in a bit of a chair seat, so I am crossing it off. (Thank you blogging and making tags for stuff.)
So let’s look at the Quantum.
The Quantum Jumping saddle is built on a close contact tree and panel, it gives a flatter seat required for stadium or cross country jumping. Knee and thigh blocks to support your position. This is also available with an extra forward cut flap, for taller riders.
I mean… alright. A flatter seat. That is somewhat helpful. Except, it looks like this:
So by flatter… did you just mean flatter than a GP? Huh…
Then I remember that I had really liked the Solare. So is that similar to the Quantum?
We are proud to introduce you to the new Solare Jump Saddle – ideal for those riders looking for a quality saddle and the latest innovations.
Made with vintage leather, the Solare offers excellent value for money with the saddle combining cutting edge design and technology providing riders of all levels and ability with a close contact saddle and a forward-fitting seat that allows freedom of movement.
Custom-made as always, this saddle has a discreet knee roll providing support without blocking the leg position whilst the forward cut flaps help the rider’s balance and security.
I…. what? The above tells me nothing about the saddle. So… then I jumped down to the solare monoflap. (Nearly impossible to find in my specs but hey, a girl can dream.)
Providing an outstanding closeness to your horse, the Vinici Solare jumping saddle is certainly one that stands out from the crowd.
This saddle is high-spec throughout and has been developed to incorporate the well-established Vinici single/mono flap design.
Feeling at one with your horse is key to success and the hugely popular Vinici design has now also been developed into a jumping saddle with a slimline, one-piece tree making it ultra-lightweight.
This superb saddle incorporates the highly regarded flexible overlay girthing system with the straps lying on top of the panel, helping to aid rider-feel.
Designed to enhance rider position when show jumping, the Vinici Solare is a fantastic example of the craftsmanship and technological advances available today.
Really? Does anyone care about all the marketing speak? I get it. They want you to talk to their reps in order to buy their saddles. (Upsell! Upsell! Upsell!) However, it is a really frustrating experience when you already know that you don’t like the rep in your area, AND you have limited funds to try all their models without the support of a rep.
I figure it is worth comparing this to the Stubben saddle explanations:
The S Roxane is a deep jump seat, square cantle saddle that features matching panels and large blocks in both the front and rear. It offers great security while using softer leather on the layered fronts to provide for a very comfortable ride.
Starting at $3,695.
The Ascend offers a classic hunter coupled with the advanced technology of Stübben spring tree at an affordable price point. It features an extra soft seat with a narrow twist and square cantle. The nicely padded smooth fronts combined with the versatility of our velcro block system allows the rider to choose the level of support desired. The rich redwood colored leather, complimented by a soft contrast stitching, offers an immediate broken in feel.
The hunter rider will experience an effortless, close-contact feeling with the controlled performance of this exquisite creation by Stübben.
Starting price of $2,495.
Alright so… You can see through these two examples that the Roxanne is a deeper, more secure saddle. Probably better for fox hunting. Meanwhile, the Ascend has a more narrow twist and is probably better for jumping in the ring, but with more support than a more traditional jumper saddle.
So while I continue to try and sell my Dressage saddle, I will probably keep the Black Country Solare in the back of my mind. I LOVED the bliss, but the chance to save $1000+ and still end up with a great saddle… that is hard to pass up.
So what do you all think? Do you think this is a purposeful tactic on Black Country’s part to encourage people to use their reps? Or do you think it is just a marketing person gone haywire? Ooooorrrr Does this type of thing not bother you at all?
I should probably start this recap with full disclosure that Kentucky surprised us with second summer that day, AND I was riding in a new-to-me saddle. To break that down, KY went from 80 degree, beautiful fall-like days to a 99 degree day with 60% humidity… just in time for my lesson. Fun time.
As for the saddle, a friend of a friend is trying to sell her Barnsby Diablo saddle. When she mentioned it was an 18″ seat and a generous MW tree (that needs the flocking adjusted), I was semi curious. Then, I found out that it was already on the property that my trainer was at and… I figured it didn’t hurt to give it a try.
Again, the flocking needs to be changed to fit May, but I was fairly happy with the shape on her. Honestly, getting in a saddle like this was such a weird feeling. It is CUSHY and COMFORTABLE and has big blocks in it. So different from my fairly minimal Stubben. I warmed up quickly on the flat, just getting a feel for getting into and out of the new saddle. May seemed comfortable in it with no sucking back or crow hopping.
We warmed up over a very small vertical, just looping back and forth over it. Then we made it a big bigger and all seemed to be going well. The first exercise was the first jump of both my courses. It was an oxer set kind of awkwardly off the rail with a placement pole three strides out and then another on stride out.
At first, I was a bit like… ummm what? with this exercise. It just seemed really random. Then I rode it and oh hahaha ok. So the point of it was that you really had to come FORWARD through the corner and maintain your own straightness to get the distance/line/jump. You couldn’t turn and then get straight because then you would miss to the first pole. You also couldn’t suck back and then go forward because of that pole. Man, this one really instilled the whole lesson in one little exercise. You have to love that.
Once we nailed that, it got put up a bit, and we went and did our first course. Again, we started with that oxer exercise then moved into a straight line then a bending line. Fairly standard stuff.
Things I did well… we are working on moving May more forward and open between jumps and then just regulating the balance and straightness too the jumps versus still trying to create energy as I jump into lines. Overall, I felt like this honestly gave me much better distances (except to the last fence, which I conveniently cut out from the insta video… gif just for you).
Things I could have done better… I struggle with not just getting out
of the saddle and cruising. Is this a weird thing? Like I get up… and then don’t know how to use my leg lol. I am not sure if this feeling is partially the saddle being so much more than what I am used to or if this is an ingrained habit. Something to work on.
Also, since I am jumping in with more impulsion. I don’t then need to CHASE her down the lines like I did over the last fence. If I had just maintained balance and rhythm, it would’ve ridden better. Oh well. Good horse.
The second course was similar, but we bent to the right after the pink and then did the liverpool the other way to finish up over the blue and purple oxer.
Not totally sure what was up with that first line… She went to fade right on me. I corrected and pulled her off the lead in front. Oh well, all is well that ends well. The yellow&orange and red,white&blue, jumps went up a bit, but they still rode great.
My line from pink to orange&yellow wasn’t maybe the best line, but after she blew me off turning to the pink, I really didnt want her to just keep falling through that right shoulder. That change set us up almost TOO well for the liverpool to oxer line…. since she moved off my right leg better than I was expecting and we faded left… making that line a bit long.
Honestly though? I was super happy with it. We feel more than ready for BN next month. As for the saddle? Jury is still out. I think it is better than what I have, but it doesn’t make my butt sing like the bliss monoflap did. That being said… it’s well within my current price range, AND I did feel more secure when things weren’t quite right… vs. feeling thrown out of the Stubben and having to scramble to get back into it. I would like a saddle fitter to see it before I make any decisions, for sure.
So lots of change this lesson, but I think we handled it really well. Do you feel like making changes in your riding/equipment leads to immediately improvement? Or does it just always feel kind of weird at first but better later?
We all know that saddle shopping can very nearly be a fate worse than death. While I am still trying to sell my Dressage saddle (thus now actively buying anything), I thought it might be helpful to share some of the very bad advice I got from professional saddle fitters while shopping (and some good stuff).
Your Draft Cross Must Have a Hoop Tree with an XXW Setting
No joke. My first Albion was stretched from a MW to an XXW. At that point, there was no going back with it, so I sold it once I realized that my horse really wasn’t THAT wide. (This was after ignoring May’s crow hopping after big jumping efforts and the saddle nearly sliding under her stomach in a clinic with the non slip girth pulled up as tight as it would go.) For the record, the horse does have withers.
The Longer Panels Will Just Stabilize The Saddle on Your Horse
May has a short back, and I need a bigger seat size. As a result, we need short panels. Why? Because there is no way that you can twist physics that will make panels stabilize the back of a saddle without exerting any pressure on the weak portion of my horse’s back… but thanks for trying?
Bigger Blocks Will Make You Feel More Secure
You know what actually makes me feel more secure? A saddle that has a good balance and helps me put my leg around the horse. Most of the time, blocks are not in the PERFECT place (yes, even though velcro blocks).
That Swelling Cannot Be Due to this Special Spring Tree
After receiving one saddle sent to me by a rep to try, I felt it was too tight a fit right behind the withers. The rep asked for pictures, and she said that the Spring Tree will make up for that minor issue. Three days later? My horse was visibly swollen behind her withers and that saddle rep no longer seemed interested in helping me.
You Can’t Do Dressage Comfortably in a Jump Saddle
Fun fact, a jump saddle that fits you well is actually pretty comfortable for lower level Dressage work. If May and I suddenly decide that second level Dressage is something we want to pursue, I will probably buy a Dressage saddle again. But for now, a well fitting jump saddle will suit us just fine.
Whenever You Want to Sell This Saddle – It Will Go FAST
Wish I had just sold my Dressage saddle when I found a jump saddle to fit. It’s a great saddle but clearly fulfills a pretty specific need. Now that I really need to sell it, it is getting almost no attention.
The Good Tidbits
Your Horse Isn’t As Wide As You Think She Is
I spent A LOT of time looking at extreme hoop trees. I mean like this:
Then, someone pointed out to me that my horse has withers and a decent, but wide, A frame to her back.
Listen To Your Horse
May has some pretty subtle (and a few) not so subtle clues when things don’t fit. They range from sucking back, to crow hopping, to, in one case, seriously considering throwing the brakes on over a 2′ jump… My opinion, and a professionals opinion, on whether a saddle fit means NOTHING to this mare. Her opinion is the only one that matters.
The Fit For the Riders is JUST AS Important As Fit For the Horse
The first time I heard this, I was convinced this woman was just trying to sell me a saddle. If my horse is comfortable, I can adjust my riding to accommodate for whatever the saddle throws at me. I mean… maybe… but the far more likely scenario is that you end up slightly out of balance all the time, which is not comfortable nor fun for your horse. No matter how well the saddle fits.
What about you? Have you learned any lessons through your adventures in saddle shopping?
Shout out to Michele for not only making the trek to KY, but for trusting us with her horse for the past couple of months! I know it was a massive leap of faith, even with the amount of media I know she received from me and my trainer.
I think I spent more time at the barn over this past weekend than I have in MONTHS… and I never rode my horse hahahah.
Friday night, everyone managed to sneak in a XC schooling at the venue the barn was showing at this week. Since it was my part leaser’s first horse trial with May on Sunday, she got to take her for the XC schooling. The schooling was fairly quick, since all the horses were pretty accustom to the level they were schooling.
Remus got to go too, but I won’t spoil that fun for Michele. 😉
Then, I proceeded to totally not sleep on Friday night. I guess my lack of sleep was due to like… a whole plethora of stuff going on. A vast chunk of it is work. We are in desperate need of help, but I can’t seem to find anyone to interview. Much less hire! Apparently, it is impossible to find someone with a bachelors degree (of some sort) and some financial services experience in KY. Tips anyone? We have been looking for 6 months, and the work just keep piling on.
Two was anxiety about someone else showing May. I know this is dumb. These two have been taking lessons together for the last 7 months, and their XC schooling went off without a hitch. May is a total professional, AND they have done a CT together. Oh well, our feelings about our horses aren’t always rational.
Finally, I was super nervous about Michele coming. Like I said, she took a MASSIVE leap of faith when she threw her horse on a trailer and sent him up to KY. What if she got her and was super upset with the barn (not fancy), the training on her horse, or Remus’s condition? Or a MILLION other things?!
Either way, my mind kept working over these things, and I was pretty thankful when the sun finally came up, and I could get on with the day.
I met Michele at the barn early, and she got to see Remus and drop off her truck and trailer. Remus got pets and a promise that we would be back that night. We hit up a local tack shop, where I kept it pretty rational and only got May a new fly mask (needed), a new hoof pick (kind of needed), and a bonnet (not needed at all).
After lunch, we went back to my house and CRASHED until dinner. Then, it was back to the barn for Michele’s lesson. Again, no spoilers from me. 😉
Sunday was show day! Luckily, my trainer was nice enough to take the early division first, so we didn’t need to be at the barn until after 8AM. Remus stayed clean, so we did a few barn chores before heading over to the show. I am not sure what Michele expected, but I am SURE it was not the CARAVAN of people my barn seemed to bring.
We had 5 horses showing… but we had 3 trailers and probably another half a dozen cars tucked away in the back of the field everyone parked at. The show was great. We got rained on a bit, but the ponies were perfect.
May and her part leaser put in a great Dressage test, putting them in third. They caught the first rail in Stadium, when May decided she would rather stare at the other horses than the jump, but the rest of the round was Hoof Perfect! XC is May’s best phase, and the two of them had a great run to keep their third place position in the BN division. Yay! Super sad to see that partnership end, but glad they went out with some success.
After all that, I slept HARD on Sunday night, and I am sure May did too! I have my own lesson tonight, and then May is getting a few days off, while I go visit my mom in Florida. More updates, hopefully before I leave.
Can we discuss how unbelievably dumb this company name is? Bliss of London? Then, let’s drop down the rabbit hole of checking out their website… also bad with a TON of broken links… so when I was looking for a saddle a couple of years ago, I skipped right over them with a solid “nope”.
But they kept rattling around in my head. I had seen their saddles my first year at (what was then) Rolex, and I remember being impressed by the quality and variety. They have multiple tree shapes/widths, which is obviously, something I am always interested in.
I dug a little deeper. As is true with most custom saddle brands, your experience is more about the rep you work with, then the actual company. As discussed in my last post… my experience with brand reps has been pretty poor. (I actually loved my Stubben rep though. Great woman!)
So when I looked up the Bliss rep in my area (Kate Wooten), I found a ton of positive feedback. I figured it was worth having a discussion with her at least, so I reached out. It took us a couple of weeks (and a bit of a scramble) to get on each other’s calendar, but we did it on Monday night! First off, apologies for the lack of media, but I was really trying to absorb the whole experience vs. getting content. (Scandalous, I know!)
I am not sure if it was the lack of fancy at my barn, the lack of fancy with my pony, or what, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Kate start at the bottom of the cost ladder for Bliss. Right off the bat, I learned a few things about Bliss: the Loxley saddles are ~$2,500, including any customization you need to make. The bliss saddles go up to about $5,500. Let’s say… $2,500 sounded pretty good for me after touring around $5K+ saddles at LRKY3DE.
However, my expectations were REALLY low. I have sat in some less expensive saddles and… have usually found them pretty disappointing. More on that later though.
The first thing Kate did was take a look at my current saddle on May’s back… and I heard her suck through her teeth.
Kate, “The fit of this saddle is pretty good on her.”
Me, “I know.”
Kate, “She’s pretty short backed.”
Kate, “You like the 18″ seat?”
Kate, “she’s not as wide up top as you’d expect”
Me, “she’s not”
Kate, “And she has withers”
Me, “She does.”
Kate, “This saddle is really minimal… do you like minimal?”
Me, “My old albion had big blocks that I did really like.”
Kate, “Alright then! Let’s get started!”
And that… is kind of Kate is a nutshell. She’s just super positive (and super British). She thought my fat, short pony was great.
She took a quick tracing of May, just behind the shoulders, in order to grab things that would mostly fit from her truck minivan. The first saddle she plopped on Mays back was a Loxley Eventer. She explained that this saddle had their medium-deep seat. This one was a traditional, double flap saddle, but it had long billets. I asked about the cost of adding the long billets.
“Oh no… no extra cost for any of the customization. We’re more concerned about getting you a saddle that works then adding on fees for things that don’t really cost us anything.”
Well, that’s some marketing line, but I’ll take it. So that first saddle would be ~$2,500 new. Mmmmmk. The saddle was a 17.5″, but she thought I would be ok in the flatter seat. (Everyone says this, it has never been true.) The fit on May was surprisingly good too.
“We’ll order it in an adjustable tree though, so you have some flexibility as she changes shape.”
“How much is that option?”
Ooooooook. The leather was a bit grippier than what’s on my Stubben. It wasn’t great, buttery calfskin, but it wasn’t hard plasticky junk. I hopped up and… wow it felt like A LOT of saddle under my leg and seat. The balance was good, but everything felt “muffled” with May. Does this make sense? Let me try to explain.
One of my favorite “buttons” on May is a great half halt from my leg. Need to rebalance or prepare for a downward transition? I can close my knees, and she comes back to me. With all the cushion under my knee in this saddle, I lost that half halt. Overall, trotted around for maybe five minutes before heading back over to Kate.
My first thought? This is why I don’t bother trying saddles that are in my budget when new.
The next saddle was a jump saddle with their flattest seat… and I hated it. I mean, Kate left the ring to grab another saddle before I had even made it halfway around. The saddle CONSTANTLY shoved me towards the back of it… like all the way to the cantle. It was the oddest thing I had ever felt. May wasn’t super happy about my center of balance moving all over the place, so I hopped off before Kate had even made it back.
Alright then… I was now CONVINCED that this was a total waste of time. Maybe they could fit May (everything would have easily fit with some flocking adjustments), but it wasn’t going to be any better for me.
So… Then she pulled out an eventing Monoflap in an 18″. She explained that the flap was wrong for me (it was originally made for a 15 yr old boy), and that the panel isn’t quite right for May (it was a touch long and a touch narrow up front. However, the SHAPE of the tree was really good for her). Either way, Kate wanted me to feel if this feel/balance point was something I liked.
The difference was immediate. The biggest difference? I could SIT on my horse. There was no struggle to move from sitting to half seat. There was no struggle to keep my leg under me. I walked, trotted, cantered, and popped over some small jumps. I didn’t want to jump anything of height because I knew the fit on May wasn’t GREAT, and I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable.
However, the saddle was easy enough to get in and out of over the fences. I didn’t feel like I had to fling myself forward or hold myself back to stay in balance with May. Overall, I was super happy. The cost of the monoflap? $3,300 + taxes. Honestly, not bad at all.
When I hopped off, I had Kate walk me through where the TREE was vs. just the padding. I flexed back the flap on the saddle to see how much flexibility was offered to May’s shoulders. I was really happy with that, especially given the extra long, extra forward flaps on the version I tried.
We went back to the barn, and I prepared myself for the sales pitch. The “just sign on the dotted line and hand over your credit card” speech. The “you desperately need this saddle” speech. Kate started taking detailed tracings of May’s back, and I felt myself stiffen.
Kate then wrote me out a detailed list of what we had tried and why I didn’t like them, including prices. Then, she went through the order form, and checked off what it would look like, if I ordered something similar to what I liked that day. She handed it to me, gave May a pat, and told me to reach out when I was ready.
I stood blinking at her, as she bounced back out of the barn, giving ponies pats along the way. It’s been 4 days, and she hasn’t reached out to “see what I decided”.
Hilariously, I found out later that a girl I am somewhat connected to just got a saddle that she had ordered from Bliss through Kate. She’s super happy with her purple and black monoflap (it’s a lot for me haha) and indicated that it fit her horse well. It’s no guarantee, but it helps. Either way, I am not in any huge rush, but this one is obviously sitting in the front of my mind.
I reached out to our County rep, but she’s not sure when she’ll be back in the area. Either way, To Be Continued!
It has been about a year and a half before I declared my Unicorn Saddle Search over… You can ready about the recap in that post here. After that level of struggle, I am seriously hating myself for writing this again but… I am casually saddle shopping again.
I guess I should probably start with the why.
As I pointed out when I bought the saddle, my stubben is very minimal. It is not like the monoflaps you see on 5* horses with decent blocks and a deepish seat. My Stubben has a balance point that’s a bit farther back with very small blocks and slick-ish leather. It is a great saddle for a lot of people, and it even fits May relatively well.
The problem? It doesn’t fit me. Now, this is not Stubben’s fault at all. The saddle they had originally proposed building for me was a Roxanne with a genesis tree in it and half panels. Did the demo of this make my butt sing? Nope. Since I already owned a genesis Dressage saddle, though, I was somewhat comforted that the genesis jump saddle would fit.
Except… the saddle Stubben recommended building for me was quoted at $5,600… before taxes. With no biomex seat, since that made the seat too shallow for my comfort level.
Girl… we all know that Stubbens go used for under $2K… fairly regularly. And again… no butt singing. Obviously, I didn’t order it.
I scoured the internet and managed to find a used genesis in the darker brown color for a very reasonable price. I think I actually ended up making money off of selling the Albion and buying the Stubben (although, after you add up all the shipping costs from trying saddles, I probably wasn’t that lucky.)
And the Stubben has been fine. Totally fine. No crow hopping from May, very limited rocking.
But… it’s really not the right fit for me. My leg swings when I try to sit because of the way it affects my balance. As a result, sitting is HARD. That heavy breathing in all my helmet cam vids? Yeah, that’s literally from the effort it takes to sit.
While I have been relatively happy with my position over fences, it feels very artificial. Not sure that makes sense… when we do complicated grids, I come back too fast, but if I try to stay forward a touch longer, I end up in front of the balance point of my saddle. Does that make more sense?
This video doesn’t really do the feeling justice… but I think you will be able to see what I mean regarding both the sitting issues and the coming back too early stuff.
So at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event… I made it my mission to TOUCH THE BUTTS. Not really, but touch the saddles that butts go in. On Saturday, me and the husband made our rounds to all the booths to touch stuff. Most of the “typical suspects” were already a no from me. Basically anything French will never fit my horse (nor can I afford it). Some of the new saddle types were cool, but very limited in terms of sizing.
Honestly, the hardest part of looking that whole weekend was getting a rep to actually speak to me. Do I not look like a rider? Am I asking the wrong questions? Were people just burnt out by the time I got to them? Help me out people! haha
On Sunday, I was back to the Kentucky Horse Park for the day to cover my friend’s booth at the trade fair. Honestly, it was a lot of fun and something I would totally consider doing again in the future. I spent several hours talking to people about their horses, so what’s not to like!
It also gave me some time in the afternoon to chat with some reps of saddles I had identified the day before.
Schleese was first because they were… closest to the booth I was working at (other than Antares, which is a non starter for me). Their jump saddles looked well balanced, and the quality was really good. (as it should be, since I later learned that the price of their jump saddles start just above $5K. OOF.
Did I learn that fact from the rep? Nope. Both reps were sitting down on their phones, no one else in the booth. The conversation went something like this:
Me “Hi, I am looking for a new jump saddle for my hard to fit horse. I really like the look of your jump saddle.”
Them “Great. Our saddles will fit your horse.” I should have walked out then.
Me “Can you give me a bit more information? I really know nothing about your brand.”
Them “Our saddles are made for women. Like men can ride in them too, but they’re really developed for a woman’s hip bone structure.”
Me “um. ok. Anything else I should know?”
Them “Here’s our brochure, and you can write down your contact info so a rep in your area can reach out to you.”
Me “Um ok… Thanks… bye”
So odd… I still know basically nothing haha. I moved on.
One of the women at the booth next to mine really loves her Amerigo saddles, and they have a variety of tree options. She recommended I speak to her rep there. Lovely, lovely woman. She pulled out a few saddles for me to sit in, and we discussed the shape of my horse’s back (from my explanation), and what saddles she think might work.
She walked me through what they feel make the Amerigo saddles different. The saddles were GORGEOUS and expensive… running between about $5,500 to $6,500. Alright then. I liked their variety of trees and the wool flocking, but let’s face it, I don’t have $6K standing around. The Vega line is slightly less expensive, but there are less tree options, which made the rep skeptical that we could find something to fit my horse in that line.
Finally, I headed over to the County booth. I know what you all are thinking, County’s are JUST AS expensive as the above two brands. Totally, but there are often demo and used saddle floating around of this brand, so I figured it was worth a look.
Their saddles are gorgeous. Their staff was friendly, and I really loved the saddle I sat in. Honestly, sitting in saddle on a tree in the middle of a trade show is not the way to make one’s butt sing, but I can definitely see the appeal to them. She’s in my area a lot, so we discussed her coming out to take a look at May and give me her thoughts. If it ended up being something I HAD TO DO, it would have to wait until next year.
There is still a lot more to this story but… I think this post is long enough. I shall update everyone soon~
May and I have been a team for nearly 4 years at this point, so a lot of stuff we have managed to acquire over the years. However, there are a few things I have thrown into my shopping cart (through multiple retailers) that I have realized I need to pick up before show season starts.
The Must Haves
RWR No Knot Hairnet
The RWR Hairnets are my JAM. They work wonders with my shoulder-length hair, and they were just as good when I grew my hair down to my waist for my wedding. I always get mine in black because the dark brown isn’t quite dark enough for my hair.
Definitely shop around for this one because I have seen prices everywhere from <$10 to MORE THAN $20.
Cowboy Magic Green Spot Remover
Green spot remover. May isn’t gray… but she really likes to poop all over herself. I like the cowboy magic one, but honestly, most of these spot removers do the job I need just fine. As a result, I try to just pickup whatever my local tack shop has.
Either way, it is non negotiable that, as soon as May gets off the trailer, a rag gets sprayed with this stuff and rubbed on her body.
Super Bands – White
May’s mane might be roached, but I keep her forelock. However, I am far too lazy to braid a forelock the legit way… so white rubber bands are a must. Again, pretty brand-agnostic on this one, so whatever my local tack shop has is great.
Shapley’s Show Touch Up – White
Do I feel like a hunter princess when I break out the Shapley’s? Yes. Do I use it anyway? oh yes. Nothing else gets those white socks GLEAMING quite like Shapleys. Since I only do a 6″ x 6″ spot on one of May’s back legs with this stuff, it lasts me forever. However, my bottle is finally running dry and needs to replaced.
Epona Tiger’s Tongue Horse Groomer™
Everyone keeps talking about this thing and now I want one. Will May like it? I have no idea, but I hope it will last longer (and is chaper) than the plasticy brushes I use to scrub my horse.
And maybe it will be a super boost for green spot remover? One can only dream.
A New Dressage Pad
I love May in white, but the problem is that, after a while, all white pads start to look dingy. A new pad (maybe with some bling?) would be a welcome addition to the lineup.
The “Not Right Now”
There’s only one thing on this list that I am completely restricting myself from buying.. and that is a new jump bridle. Probably due to two reasons:
I really don’t want to spend any more money right now
I can’t find anything I really like (horse size, dark brown, figure 8 noseband)
Maybe I should just get May a regular flash noseband bridle? Idk.
Either way, I plan on making a trip to my local tack shop sometime soon to see how many of these items I can tick off, while supporting my local place. What about you? What items do you need before show season completely takes off again?
Remember when I was pretending I was going to be all responsible and save my extra gift cards for new breeches? Well… that plan went out the window REAL FAST once I was in an actual tack shop. (Funny how that happens). I ended up going a bit… wild… for me, and I bought things I just generally wanted instead of things I in any way really need. It’s been a long time since I let myself indulge like this, and it felt pretty good. SO WHAT DID I GET?
Flexi Spur Set
So I haven’t even tried these out yet, so have no real opinion on them. I really love my new boots (and will love them more once it’s not winter and I can wear normal pants under them). Unfortunately, I love them so much that I have hesitated putting spurs on them for fear of scratching them. My favorite spurs are… somewhere… I have no idea where, and the spurs I have been using are just little nubs that I am 90% convinced only have a placebo effect.
So when I spied the spur rack, I immediately wondered if I could find a pair of rubber coated spurs. The rubber coated Stubben ones were $60…. I hemmed and hawed, and then looked at the basket at the bottom. There sat some unobtrusive black and rubber spurs. I liked the length and smoothness of the actual spur, the rubber coated interior, and the price point ($18… including fabric straps.) SOLD.
Then, I got home and mildly panicked that they weren’t legal because they weren’t metal. Here’s the actual rule (bolding is mine):
Spurs are optional for all three tests. Spurs capable of wounding a horse are forbidden. Spurs must be of smooth metal. If there is a shank it must not be longer than 4 cm (1 9/16 inches, measured from the boot to the end of the spur) and must point only towards the rear. If the shank is curved, the spurs must be worn only with the shank directed downwards. Metal or plastic spurs with round hard plastic or metal knobs “Impulse spurs” and “Dummy spurs” with no shank are allowed.
Since these are smooth and not particularly long, I think we are good. Anyone reading this differently? Worst case scenario, I can always change out my spurs for shows, but I like the idea of having the rubberized material stabilizing the spur against my boot.
LeMieux™ X-Grip EuroJump Square Pad in Navy
Alright, this dude is on sale for $130 right now… so it is still above what I typically pay for saddle pads (my white, smartpak branded pads.)
I have wanted something grippy and stock absorbing for XC. I have been using a ECP pad (the ecogold knockoff), and I like it…. but it definitely doesn’t fit quite right under the stubben. (also, if I do end up going to any rated shows, it would be nice to have one pad for SJ and another for XC). I also wanted to have a color with my next pad and NAVY! so YAY!
I rode in it on Tuesday. It seemed to have some shock absorption, but I didn’t feel as disconnected from the saddle as I did with my ogilvy. Everything stayed in place for the short ride, and it fit far better under my 18″ stubben. So far so good! And I am excited to have a fancy pad for things… because that’s important? I told you guys, this haul was not totally rational.
Is this not the worst stock photo you have ever seen? And it’s literally the only photo of this product available… cool guys.
I have been putting off getting a new girth for May for basically… forever. Her old as dirt SmartPak girth is starting to rust… and since the Stubben has really short billets (and May can hold her breath like no horse I have ever met), it’s also too short. I guess a new girth was somewhat sitting in the back of my mind when we went to look at helmets.
Then, after I put the helmet on the counter… this girth was RIGHT THERE.
I love that the liner removes for easy washing (it was a feature of my old girth that I actually used)
The carabiner clip is held flat with a sturdy (seeming) piece of leather. I haven’t played around with this yet, but it’s always a handy feature. (But something I would 100% avoid if May was ever in bar shoes. I don’t care how “safe” it looks at the onset.)
The elastic is surprisingly long. I guess this is to keep down the bulk under your leg? In my case, it just made it somewhat easier to get on a fat horse who chooses to be fatter when saddles.
Speaking of fat horses, non slip is my friend and non-negotiable.
May HATES long leather girths, so I was a bit worried that the stiffer exterior on this one (Dover says it’s a TPU shell? but it just feels like plastic) would bother her. But it is flexible enough to be comfortable, and is better shaped for her forward girth groove than a traditional girth.
After using it on Tuesday, I was pretty pleased with how well it distributes pressure, despite the shape. May seemed to like it as well, and it looks quite nice with my saddle.
Overall, I am pretty happy with my “impulse” purchases at first glance, but I will definitely let you all know how these things age!
Have you bought anything “fun but not totally necessary” lately?
Now, it might not have been the wisest decision to push forward with my trip to Cincinnati on Sunday. Saturday it rained all day, and then temps dropped into the single digits and it snowed. In fact, a lot of churches around Louisville actually cancelled services. Buuuuuut I had an insanely tough week at work*, and I was dying for some retail therapy.
As we were getting dressed, I asked the husband if he was sure it would be ok. “It’s one major highway. It will be fine.”
And… it was fine. Sort of. We definitely hit some areas of the highway that hadn’t been plowed… some areas where only one lane had been plowed, and some areas where they were trying to plow/spread salt. The whole way up, I was refreshing the store’s facebook page. Begging it not to suddenly pop up that they had decided to close for the day.
At around 11:15AM, we pulled into the partially plowed parking lot. And I emerged from a salt and slush encrusted Jeep into weather that was just peeking into the double digits. (at least the sun was out!)
I walked into a fully staffed Dover… and we were the only people in the store. Then, I proceeded to be THE MOST annoying customer I think that woman had ever helped. It’s not that I wasn’t polite… I just wanted to try on all the things.
“What helmet do you have now?” the saleswoman asked, clearly hoping for a quick sale.
“A OneK, but it’s been a few years. I really want to try some other stuff.”
I started with the coveted Back on Track TraumaVoid helmet. Middle of the pack in terms of cost, but with all the bells and whistles I was looking for. The helmet fits right in on the shelf with the Charles Owens’, Samshield’s, OneKs and IRHs. The weight was comparable with the CO and Samshield. Maybe a TOUCH heavier than the OneK, but it wasn’t that noticeable. I doubt you could tell the difference on your head. We measured my head (since my current OneK is just a “M”), and the Dover salesperson scurried into the back to service probably the only customer of the day.
The Back on Track TraumaVoid came out. I pulled my hair neatly into my hair net and… it wasn’t even close. Ok. Let’s go a sive up. Nope. Let me put my hair down. NOPE. Let’s go one more size up… I finally got it on my head. And it was horrifically uncomfortable. It seemed that the only place it put pressure on my head was on my temples. I think I have a wide, oval head… like a rounded rectangle. >.< I shifted it around to try and get it more comfortable. I put my hair down, then up again. It just didn’t fit. I didn’t even try to buckle it up. It wasn’t going to work.
Ok then… Let’s try the Charles Owen. They were a bit more expensive than the TV, but they were 20% off! They had the round version, so I excitedly threw that one onto my head. And it was like it was only making contact with the front and back of my head… So… no. Maybe I am mistaken… maybe the regular CO will fit my head.
She grabbed one for me, and I put it on. It looked SO CLASSY. It fit pretty good. A bit tight at my temples, but not super uncomfortable like the TV. I shook my head around, and it stayed put. I know the CO are known for compressing down a bit, so I figured it would probably break in. Then I started thinking, what if it doesn’t with the removable liner? Or what if it breaks in too much? Is my head starting to hurt because of the pressure or because I am stuck is some kind of paradox of choice?
I looked to the husband for his thoughts. They’re all black… and they all look the same.
“You know…” I started as I looked at the saleswoman… “Maybe I can just try on the Suede Defender OneK.” For a split second, I thought the saleswoman was going to roll her eyes at me, but she’s a pro. She just nodded and found one for me.
“This one comes with an extra removable liner.” (now we were speaking my language.) I stared at the helmet. It’s not flashy, but I don’t tend to like how I look in boring helmets. Anything more flashy just makes me more uncomfortable.
I slid the OneK on my head, and the saleswoman immediately went “oh.”
Why “oh”? Because even from 5 ft away, she could immediately tell that it fit PERFECTLY. The OneK just hugs around my head. There are no gaps. There are no pressure points. It is just even, comfortable pressure all the way around my head. It comes down low enough to not feel like it is just sitting on top of my head, and the chin straps sits comfortably behind my actual chin, but in front of my neck.
So that was that. New Technology is REALLY cool, and I hope it catches into some other helmet brands. Unfortunately, it won’t benefit me until it comes in a helmet that fits my head.
Long and short of the story? Try on as many helmets as you can whenever the opportunity presents itself. When you know, you know. I’ll talk about the rest of my haul after I get to put them on my horse tonight!
*Work got so bad last week that as soon as I could escape on Friday. I went to the barn. I think my bloodshot eyes and not so subtly running nose immediately alerted everyone to how things were going for me. My half leaser had a lesson right after I arrived, but no one would move forward with the lesson until I got on my horse and took her for a walk alone around the field to clear my head.
I stayed that night until my toes froze and I could no longer feel my hands (I had none of my winter barn clothes in my car). But my heart and head were both lighter for it.