Product Review: LeMieux X-Grip Euro Saddle Pad

First, I will make the following disclaimer: I am officially a saddle pad snob.

In a previous life, I thought of saddle pads as the required bit of cloth between the saddle and my horse, a layer of protective cotton that served little other purpose but decoration.

Oh my, how that’s changed.

It started with an Ogilvy pad I won through a contest Amanda hosted, and then I started eyeballing the beautiful shaped pads that are becoming au couture in the eventing world. I struggled with pads bunching up behind my leg, or sliding back so far as to need re-adjusting at inopportune times. Even the beloved custom Ogilvy pad could occasionally be victim to my sticky-sprayed-to-hell leg, pulling and bunching as I spent more time in the tack.

A generic saddle pad starting to slip and bunch / PC: Brant Gamma

So giving the LeMieux X-grip a try was a no-brainer. For one, the LeMieux brand has a reputation for quality products. Two, it’s got a subtle shape to it that hints at the trendy XC pads while remaining true to a more traditional look. And three, well- the grip- more about that soon.

The LeMieux X-Grip in action / PC: Brant Gamma

Upon first inspection, it’s clear that this LeMieux pad was constructed with functionality in mind. Nothing about this pad is floppy – even the main body of the pad (where the quilted squares are) is reinforced with a bamboo lining that is slip resistant, and supposedly moisture wicking, though in the interest of full disclosure- I have yet to try it out in hot or long rides where that is necessary.

Along the spine of the pad, where the panels of the saddle sit, the pad has an extra layer of memory foam that is covered in a silicone design. Not only does this give me extra confidence that, despite my heavy amateur bottom hitting the saddle occasionally, this pad gives my sensitive Sally a better ride than a pad without this feature- and the silicone covering is yet another failsafe for slippage. Because when we put horse clothes on, we expect them to stay there. #canigetanamen

I’m not afraid.

The other clever feature of the design (though probably obvious to others who have invested in good quality pads before) is the additional canvas material at the girth area. On all of my schooling pads, this is inevitably the first place to start showing major signs of wear. Pilling, rubbing, loose stitches, you name it. But the canvas on this section of the pad feels ready to go to battle, and I feel confident that it will hold up exponentially better than my cheaper pads at home. Even the girth strap feels like good quality, and though I don’t use it, I like that there’s the option underneath for putting individual billets through 3 loops (not shown in picture).

Probably should have taken photos before use… or maybe after washing #mybad #reallife

While a bit pricey compared to your average pad, this LeMieux pad seems absolutely worth the investment. It holds up to the test of my iron-grip calves (particularly when stressed at a show and trying to stop a certain giant yellow/yeller pony from pinging off the fences) and is a great example of form-follows-function design.

Legs of steel- and many a saddle pad victim to attest to it

The construction is made to last, and it was obviously crafted with both comfort of horse, and elegance of show decor, in mind. Because while heavily branded at first glance, when in use none of the carefully placed logos detract from a classy overall picture.

In conclusion, this pad has made me re-think what I put on my horse’s back. While I have always been a legit saddle-pad addict, I can’t see myself using anything else where it really counts. In the competitive showjumping ring, that means this pad will be seeing a lot of action, and based on my experience and opinions so far, I think it will be up to the job for years to come. LeMieux hit it out of the park with this ultra-grippy pad, and I invariably give it an A+ for all the reasons above.

 

Product Review: Stubben Easy Control Gag

So, if you recall, my next step after pissing off Jack (by demanding he not go hollow before jumping) was to purchase a gag bit, specifically, the Stubben Easy Control 3 Ring Gag Bit. Try saying that one 3 times fast!

Luckily, Riding Warehouse had exactly what I needed. I didn’t want to spend a fortune (defined as >$100) on a bit, and I really didn’t want to have to change out the cheek pieces on my bridle to accommodate a more traditional gag. The latter mostly because we have fussed with Jack’s bridle setup so much that I didn’t want to do it all over again.

The 3 ring gag allows for you to attach the cheek piece to the small ring, and the rein goes on the bottom, larger ring. The gag action is then only activated when enough rein is applied that the edge of the mouthpiece cannot slide further up (or down) the shaft. To describe it more fully, RW’s description states thus:

When the reins are engaged with light pressure, the mouthpiece acts as a snaffle, but as pressure increases, it functions as a mullen mouth. The ergonomically shaped mouthpiece fits comfortably in the horse’s mouth, while the three-piece design eliminates the nutcracker effect or palate pressure for a more comfortable ride.

The unique cheekpieces offer the traditional “gag” action through a sliding mouthpiece which promotes stronger poll pressure, providing the rider with more control. Also, a stronger lateral effect is achieved due to the center connection of the mouthpiece to the cheek pieces. This aids in avoidance of the bit and provides correction to resistance of direct rein pressure. The sliding gag mechanism is quicker due to the center fulcrum for enhanced communication between horse and rider.

This works well for us, since on the flat Jack has a very nice, polite mouth and a stronger bit isn’t needed. When the gag was activated as we approached a fence, however, he was definitely surprised.

I admit, the first lesson trying out this bit over fences wasn’t pretty. All of the sudden I did have so much more control, and he was no longer charging at the fences like a lunatic giraffe. Instead, we were able to quietly canter up to each jump, then Jack would occasionally throw his head up, hit the gag, surprise himself, but still jump the fence. By the end of the lesson there were less ‘surprise’ fences and overall Jack was learning that using his back in a bascule was a much more pleasant experience for us both.

While the bit is obviously well made (I trust Stubben in many things, and this piece of equipment is no exception), my only complaint was that it seemed on the small size for a 5.5″. While it fit well enough to test, I ended up going back to the site to check into exchanging it for a larger size. And sure enough, saw this fine print in the Product Details that I had missed:

Please Note: To protect your horse from possible pinching, use one size larger than your normal snaffle.

Yup. Thar she blows.

In yesterday’s lesson, I had him in the larger size of the bit, but with the addition of bit guards to keep a close feel on his mouth. You can see he’s still fighting with me a bit, particularly when I go to push him off my left leg/flex him left, but overall it’s a HUGE difference from the monstrosity that he was just a month ago.

Overall, this bit may be our saving grace. I give it a hearty A+, for giving us the ‘easy control’ it promised!

 

Product Review: Ecovet Fly Spray

Every summer, I squirm when it comes to choosing a fly spray. The thought of coating my horse, and by proximity, myself, in a cloud of chemicals is not something I would regularly opt into. But Jack is the biggest princess when it comes to flies, and so riding with fly spray is an absolute must.

With this in mind, I try to choose more “natural” type fly sprays (though let’s be serious, there’s probably always some degree of chemical nature) as much as possible. So when my local Dover peeps told me about the updated Ecovet fly spray, I decided to give it a shot.

First of all, it’s worth mentioning that Ecovet is meant to act differently than your typical fly spray. Here’s the description straight from their website:

Insects choose a “victim” via a complex interaction between visual and chemical cues. Some animals (and people) are more attractive to pests than others. In our equine friends, coat color, level of activity, carbon dioxide output and odors secreted by the horse all play a role. The normal output of chemical smells acts like a signal to the insect’s guidance system to help it find and attack its potential food source.

Research has shown that certain fatty acids act as insect attractants, while others are repellents. Ecovet uses a proprietary mixture of naturally occurring fatty acids that confuses and overwhelms the insect’s normal directional ability, so the insect is unable to locate your horse as its next victim. It’s like having a GPS system that is shouting confusing and conflicting directions at you … until you finally give up.

So what’s the verdict?

The Good
Overall, this product does seem to work. Inside the barn and indoor, where flies are less but still exist, we have nary a bother after applying the Ecovet. I do tend to only apply this fly spray to Jack’s legs and under belly, and typically we are able to get through an entire ride indoors without being bugged (har, har) at all.

Less of this, thank goodness.

Outside in the fields on our conditioning days, where the flies are quite bad, I would also say the Ecovet is compelling enough to keep most flies as bay. However, the caveat is that I cannot get away with just spraying his legs and belly- outdoor days for us mean a whole body application. And though I still find myself swatting away the occasional fly, overall I would compare this with other effective fly sprays.

The Bad
Holy shit, the smell. I was told in the store that apparently this stuff used to smell like old man’s cologne in the worst possible way, and now they have come up with a new scent. (PS the bottle even says, rather proudly, ‘New Scent!’). So I can’t speak for the old smell, but I sure as hell can comment on the new. It’s as if Dove soap had the potency of fresh Wasabi, and formed a lingering cloud that you willingly walked into every time you sprayed it. Like Ecovet not only confuses bugs, but it also has a nose-identifying ingredient, where it immediately makes a beeline to and takes up residence, causing a sneezing frenzy in any creature unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity. The sneezing fits are quite violent, actually, and I’ve learned the hard way not to be holding a beverage in my other hand while spraying.

Actual video of Jack during application

The instructions say to apply Ecovet in a well ventilated area, and we learned within one application to take this very, very seriously. Our routine has been to walk outside to a grazing area, quickly spray Ecovet with much haste, and scurry away to an upwind location as fast as possible. Looking into this further, I did find one “helpful” tidbit on the Ecovet site:

Why did Ecovet make me and my horse sneeze?
The fatty acids in Ecovet, when delivered in spray form, do react with a small number of horses and people. Most describe it as a “sticking” sensation that does go away.

Uh, yeah- sticking. Does go away? sure- after you have expelled the entire contents of your nose. Unfortunately once, our barn manager was walking through the aisle as I sprayed outside, and a cross breeze carried the cloud directly into her. Let’s just say after many four letter words being expelled, it’s certain that the “small number of horses and people” is not limited to a sample size of Jack and I.

Overall
In general, I’d say Ecovet is probably worth the extra bucks if a more “green” insect repellent is your thing, and especially if you don’t have the sneezing reaction that some people experience. For our sanity and our sinuses, I’m going to give a few other fly sprays a try before considering coming back to Ecovet, but I can’t say the stuff doesn’t work!

Product Review: Roeckl Lona Gloves

As a photographer, you could say a certain attention to detail is a built-in feature. Textures, colors, composition are all kings of our world, and well, so is an appreciation for quality.

So when I was asked to participate in a product review for Roeckl, a company known for quality and elegant design, of course I said yes!
While I have been wearing Roeckl gloves for years, I knew little about the company’s background and where it started. As it turns out, the 179 yr old Munich-based brand also makes gloves for other sports- including biking and various winter sports. Each line of gloves are specifically tailored to the intended sport, and reflecting on this, it shows- the equestrian gloves show ever evidence of thoughtful design. Seams are placed so that there is minimal interference when holding reins and a “second skin” approach was applied to the overall design- perfect for communicating with the most sensitive of equine mouths.
The pair of gloves I received were the Lona model in navy. As soon as they arrived, I could feel the quality of the construction and gleefully handed them to my husband so he could feel how soft (!) they were. Truly, as soft as they are, there’s no breaking in period with Roeckl gloves- put them on for the first time and they feel as though you’ve had them for years. To me, this is key- I admit I am a total princess about what goes on my child-sized hands, since I prefer to not notice my gloves at all. And that’s what Roeckl acheives with the Lona gloves. A totally synergetic experience straight out of the box.

Beautifully modeled here by my friend A

Having ruined many a pair of gloves in the past by clumsy misfortune, I was thrilled to discover another feature of the Roeckl gloves by sheer accident. That would be their quick-dry material, which I found to be a completely true claim after accidentally dunking mine in Jack’s water bucket one evening. But 20 minutes later and you would never know- I threw them back on and was pleasantly surprised to have avoided that horrible squidgy-mop feeling that comes with wet gloves or socks. I can only imagine as the mercury rises this summer that will be a great feature to have in a pair of gloves as we’re drowning in North Carolina’s summer humidity.
Besides being totally over the moon with the fit (it’s so cliche, but they really do fit like a glove!) and quality of the construction, I also adore the color and overall aesthetic of the Lona gloves. The branding is subtle enough not to be distracting (since who wants to draw attention to their hands in the dressage ring? Um, no one, that’s who) with the simple Roeckl hand mark and a small tag. And the contrasting white is just enough to add some visual pop without going overboard. The navy is a beautiful saturated blue that reads as both classic and forward-thinking, and could easily blend into all three phase’s ensembles at an event.
All in all, Roeckl really hits the ball out of the park with their equestrian gloves, and the Lona glove is no exception. Quick to dry, elegant to wear, and thin enough to feel like a second skin- these gloves are a definite win, from the schooling ring to the A show.
Disclaimer: I received this product in return for providing my honest and unbiased review. I received no other compensation. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Product Review: Kerrits Sit Tight ‘N Warm Breeches

The snowstorm that hit the east coast recently should not be news at this point. So it’s no surprise that we’ve been dealing with some rather frigid temperatures here in North Carolina lately. (Well until today, because of course 3 days later it’s now 60 degrees again)

Being raised in the South, when the mercury dips below freezing, I turn into a grade-A weenie and tuck myself inside with a glass of mulled wine in front of the fire.

But, if it’s above freezing, being an eventer, I can’t justify not riding, and the mulled wine gets set aside for later. That’s when I grab one of my couple pairs of Kerrits Winter Breeches.

(Video taken in navy version of breeches, roughly 30 degrees outside)

The Sit Tight ‘N Warm breeches is pretty much as advertised- the Sit Tight I’m supposing for the full seat (although they do come in knee patch as well) and the warm referring to the fleece lining. Considering the other winter breeches Kerrits offers are called the “Therminator” and “Power Stretch”, I suppose this one is at least descriptive in name.

These jods are well constructed, especially compared to some of the summer weight Kerrits breeches I own that have fallen apart after one season of riding. After my first pair went through a whole winter where they did sole duty for riding the entire time, and came out the other side intact, I decided to purchase a second pair.

The fleece lining really is quite warm, and I am comfortable outside between 45 and 28 degrees (anything lower and you’ll have to follow the scents of spiced wine to find me), and the outer material blocks the wind and elements exceptionally well.

For the full seat aspect, they are somewhat middling in their actual grip, but adequate enough that I don’t feel insecure in the saddle. The only problem with the full seats is that when combined with the thicker fleecy fabric, they get a bit bulky. They definitely don’t make for a particularly svelte outline, but when you look 20 lbs heavier due to all your layers on top, you probably don’t care anyways.

kerrits_review

One of the real problems with the bulk though, is that if you wear them for a long day (such as at a show), they do start to rub you in some rather uncomfortable places. Wearing for the few hours to the barn and back, and they are totally fine.

The Sit Tight ‘N Warm breeches, like most of Kerrits’ jods, come in a variety of colors. Since I’m cheap, I bought the discontinued colors, which happen to be royal blue and navy. Smartpak currently offers them in more George Morris approved tones, including rust, brown, and black. At full price, they will set you back roughly $115. My sale versions were purchased for around $80.

My verdict? Totally worth it as winter breeches, especially if bought on sale and intended as schooling breeches. Probably not appropriate for clinics or shows though. They get a B- from me!

Product Review: Evendura Ice Horse Boot

Part of Foster’s rehab program includes icing. We started icing with the first handwalking sessions, and I continue to ice as much as possible after every ride. The theory behind icing is thus (and I hope I have this right): bone is constantly remodeling, degenerating and regenerating in tandem ideally at the same pace. In Foster, the degeneration happens a bit faster than the regeneration, which can make the joint weak and lends to the arthritis in his fetlock. The process is accelerated by concussion on the joint, such as exercise, but icing can slow the degeneration and therefore a helpful part of recovery.

Before starting to ice, my vet suggested I look into ice boots that specifically covered the fetlock joint. So I purchased the Ice Horse Evendura boots, which reach from knee to fetlock, of course also icing all the tendons/ligaments in between.

My first impression is that this thing seems durable and well-made. And for the $150 price, I wouldn’t expect any less. I wondered if the velcro and elastic straps would deteriorate with age, but after 2 months of using it, I have yet to notice any obvious stretching or lack of “stick”.

Showing the inner and outer sections, sans ice packs

Showing the inner and outer sections, sans ice packs

The boots are handily labeled “L” and “R” and are composed of an inner section that the ice packs velcro to, and an outer section with straps for attaching to the leg. I must confess, when I first pulled this thing out of the box it wasn’t entirely obvious how it went on, but perhaps I was having a dumb moment. The boot came with 4 ice packs to each leg, and you could then configure them however you want inside each boot.

My configuration

My configuration (and after learning how to store them properly)

The ice packs are where my complaints are, mostly. They are advertised as being a formula that stays soft and pliable like snow, even after being in the freezer for some time. While this was true of the first two uses, thereafter they acted like any other ice pack- that is, like a damn rock when you pull it out of the freezer. After talking with an Ice Horse rep, she recommended leaving the ice packs out for roughly 2o minutes before putting them on (and allowing the valve in each pack to stay uncovered in the freezer- apparently that helps the special sauce in them). This works well for us at the moment, since my rides are about that long, so I pull the ice packs out just before I get on and then they are nice and pliable when I strap them on. However, I wonder how well they will work once we are back to 30 and 40 or more minute rides.

The ice packs after the first few uses and before I learned how to store them in the freezer

The ice packs after the first few uses and before I learned how to store them in the freezer

The other secret to the boot is in the directions- sponging. The first couple times I ignored the directions and put the boot on a dry leg, and after 30 minutes the leg was only fractionally cold. So after returning to the directions, I realized the error of my ways and applied the boot to a wet leg, and voila! After about 15-20 minutes I have a nice cold leg.

Foster relaxing in his stall wearing his Ice Boot

Foster relaxing in his stall wearing his Ice Boot

Overall, I would recommend these boots to someone in a position like myself, where icing is going to be a common part of your riding regimen. They are quick to put together, and if you follow directions, do efficiently apply cold therapy in a convenient manner- Foster wears his in his stall for about 20 minutes after each ride and when strapped on tight, it doesn’t seem to slip or move.

However, if you’re really only going to be icing occasionally, like at an event or for the rare ding, for the price you could apply cold therapy another way and probably be just as effective for a lot less money, if a little less convenient.

Product Review: The Sun Shirt Showdown

I never did like tan lines, and I especially don’t like tan lines now that I’m trying to fool everyone in my building that I’m a serious young professional. So when “sun shirts”, or lightweight vented shirts (sometimes) with SPF protection, became trendy and affordable, I threw myself onto the bandwagon with gusto. With every paycheck I try to add to my collection, and now that I have a few brands I wanted to share just how well each shirt holds up.

For comparison purposes, all of the photos were taken on the same day, with the same breeches (Kerrits Flex Tight II) on. All shirts are size Small.

CHP, October 2014 - Sun shirt in action

CHP, October 2014 – Ariat sun shirt in action

Ariat Sunstopper Shirt ($49.95)ariat

This was my first sun shirt purchase back when I decided to add another color to my eventing scheme (tricolor pony, tricolor human). Immediately I fell in love with the vented under-arms and light weight material. The collar looks high professional though the poppers (rather than a zipper) keep the shirt from being something I would ride down centerline in an actual dressage show. The fit is figure flattering as well- working with my curves rather than hiding them under a bag-like structure, although it still minimizes any muffin-topiness that might happen when folding over the fence. I only have two complaints about the Ariat Sunstopper- the first is the available colors. At the moment I have only seen them in four versions- white, navy, navy with dots, and medium blue. White being impractical for daily (or any real) work around horses, and the navy does seem to warm up a bit faster if you are sitting in the sun. The second biff is that where the vented underarms meets the cloth of the shirt, the elastic is starting to break down in the wash after about 10-15 washes.

No, I haven't decided to go French, that's the elastic breaking down at the seam of this shirt

No, I haven’t decided to go French, that’s the elastic breaking down at the seam of this shirt

Overall, the shirt is affordable so I would buy another, but hope Ariat steps up the color game in the meantime. The Ariat Sunstopper gets a B+ from me!

Ovation EverCool Rider Zip Shirt ($35.95)

Clearly this girl knows how to model a shirt

Clearly this girl knows how to model a shirt

I bought this shirt hoping to save a few dollars on a new sun shirt. And while the price may be pretty good, it is not as breathable as its Ariat counterpart. I find that if I am going out in the evening (low 90s temp with humidity) this shirt is still a good (though not best) choice, but wouldn’t wear it in the heat of the day. I chose the light grey option, which I found out very quickly is not a good option when dealing with a snuggly-alfalfa-mash-eater like Foster. Armed with Shout though the shirt washes out nicely. The only part of the shirt that has gotten rather dingy looking are the sleeve-ends, which are thicker than the rest of the shirt and wider than the Ariat and Riding Sport models, and so seem to collect all the dirt and nastiness that summer riding brings. B- for this pretty cool counterpart.

Tuffrider Ventilated Technical Shirt ($39.95)tuffriderDespairing once again for my wallet, I decided to try again with this affordable shirt by Tuffrider. Once again I had a hard time choosing a color that I thought would not be too hot (black sun shirts? why, just why?) but wouldn’t stain too easily. So, going against years of UNC prejudice, I bought the baby blue option. Like the Ovation shirt, the thicker sleeve-ends have also become dingy in just a few rides. And as you can see, this shirt is the least fitted of the bunch, which while it will hide the many Cheese-Its eaten at the show, is somewhat less than flattering in my mind. The real kicker to this shirt though is the fabric, which is easily the thickest sunshirt I’ve seen. After a few rides in it, I really don’t consider this shirt to be a great summer option if temperatures in the mid-90s are the norm. Rather, this shirt would be reasonable in late spring/early fall when the sun is still strong but you won’t die from overheating. Therefore the Tuffrider Ventilated Shirt gets a C- from this Wolfpack fan.

Dover Riding Sport CoolBlast Shirt ($59.99)ridingsport
Hearing good things about these shirts, I picked up two of them on sale at the local store. Even still, the price tag hurt a bit at $50 a pop. However, this shirt definitely makes the cut as a credible summer riding option. It’s lightweight, and although just a hair less breathable than the Ariat Sunstopper, the very thin mesh definitely allows for air circulation and comfort. The shirt has a fitted look, and with the thin material won’t hide lumps and bumps as easily as the dark material of the Ariat, but the colors available are also part of this shirt’s charm. Besides the lilac color (yes I swear it’s Lilac!) I’m wearing in the photo, I also bought the green option pictured. That means that these shirts also became best friends with Shout, but is worth taking the extra minute to launder them. The Riding Sport CoolBlast shirt gets an A- in my mind, with price being the main reason I don’t have 5 more in my collection.