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.


Making Poor Life Choices: AKA my terrible RW hoard

So, one of the perks of being a Riding Warehouse ambassador is that I got a heads up on their Black Friday deals, which I get to share with all my lovely connections (AKA you guys!). But of course last night I went through their site and found items that I needed wanted.

At 25% off, and a $25 gift card already in my grabby hands, who could resist?

But I might have gone overboard.

A little. Actually, a lot.

All of these lovelies are mine, all mine! *insert cackle here*

Seriously though, at these deals… why not? Prices are rounded up to next dollar.

  • Roeckl Gloves (in this adorable yellow) $22
  • ECP Shaped Burgundy XC Pad (wanted one of these 4EVER) $34
  • Merino Wool Half Pad (mine is flat as a pancake and almost 2 decades old) $60
  • Eskadron Open Fronts in Chocolate (these puppies are $115 at Dover) FRONTS – $68
    • Eskadron Open Fronts HIND – $30
  • Dressage Whip in Navy (again, my current one is tatty as hell) – $7
  • WW Stable boots – $60 (Because pony does well with front stable boots and needs a hind pair)
  • Probios treats (just because) – $7
  • Bell boots x 2 – $5
  • Sound blocking ear bonnet – $21

OK, so a few of these are absolutely in the WANT category, but there’s plenty there that represents a well-overdue upgrade.

I’m afraid of what will happen if I see any more BF sales go on, so don’t mind me I’ll be over here like:

Though I totally encourage you to go check out the sale! RW will be announcing the sale officially at 1pm EST, so you get to see the deals before the rest of the world finds out!

Let’s Discuss: Rein Recommendations

For the past few months, every time my dressage trainer hops aboard Jack she comments on how strange my floppy reins feel. But for the past few years, those PS of Sweden Softy reins have been my absolute favorite. They are thin, felt comfortable in my small hands, not rubber (since I was in the habit of riding gloveless) and needed no breaking-in.

My beloved PS reins

But after getting a pair of Lund Eventer Series rubber reins, part of the best logo prize package ever,  I have started to see the benefits of rubber reins for dressage. My infant-sized hands have gotten used to holding the thicker width and whether it’s the bit (a double-jointed wonder bit) or the reins, I can attest that Jack seems to enjoy a steadier connection with this set up.

And the also beloved Lund bridle and reins

So, if I were to venture into the territory of dressage rubber reins… are there any reins out there that people just love? I’d like something quality that will stand up to both the (currently) frigid temps as well as the nasty humid heat of summer, that doesn’t need breaking in, and that won’t break the bank (less than $100 ideally).

Any suggestions?


For Sale

Trying to clear out the random ish!

18″ Wise Bates Caprilli General Purpose Saddle – $750

46″ brown leather girth – $15

Waffle white dressage saddle pad. Schooling condition as does have some stains. – $3

White dressage saddle pad with green and black trim. Has saddle/girth marks. – $5

NC State Dressage saddle pad. Has saddle staining, used condition. – $15

Kensington Roustabout Saddle bag. Used <5 times. Retails for ~$120. – $80

60″ Courbette strirrup leathers. Very lightly used, just need a good oil after being in storage. – $15

32″ Ovation black gel Body Form girth. Used less than 1 month. – $20

Cell phone holder (iPhone for reference). – $3

Safety stirrups (no bands). – $5

Let’s Discuss: Bling in the Ring

If you are an on-trend equestrian, you have probably noticed a bit of sparkle taking over your local tack store. Bling seems to be anywhere and everywhere, as the English disciplines learn the delights that Western pleasure riders have known for years.

Dressage queens have been adding a bit of shine to their game for some time, starting with incredibly subtle bits of glimmer, such as twinkling spur straps, and slowly but surely becoming emboldened over time. Bedazzled ear bonnet, browbands, saddles, and helmets are all currently en vogue at your average competition these days.

Subtle. (find them here.)

Jumpers have always had a lot of freedom when it comes to style, and eventers maybe more so. And while I haven’t noticed so much dazzle in the eventing world, it does peek in occasionally. Rhinestones adorning the cantle of a saddle, for instance, or along the stirrup leather keeper.


Less subtle.

For myself, I would be happy to leave the bling at home. Having just purchased the below bridle, I find myself cringing slightly when thinking of keeping all that flash clean. Instead I’m in the market for a toned-down browband with the same shape and a little less… that. Perhaps the fact that my horse already looks like a child’s plaything contributes to my not wanting to adorn him in all things twinkling, maybe I’m just not a blingy person.

The Kavalkade Mia Bridle

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Bring on the bling? Or go without? What trends have you noticed in your local arenas? What is the most outlandish, or your favorite sparkly trend you’ve seen? Do you have a favorite way to add some shine to your traditional riding gear?

Let’s Discuss: Does Smitty Need a New Bridle?

Purely self-serving discussion today, folks. My bad.


I bought this charming PS of Sweden knockoff because I just got the news that, shockingly (not), Smitty had just destroyed the bridle I sent him off to training with. Since we can’t have nice things, I decided to hold off buying the real thing and get this bit of strappy goodness for 1/3 the price. Win win, me thinks.


But upon trying it on, it’s obvious that the throatlatch is never going to fit- it’s way too big for him. But what about the rest of it?


I’ve had some people in person say no, it’s beautiful, keep it. A quick instagram debate said it’s too big for his face.


Part of me is definitely having trouble shipping out a nice, cheap bridle that my pony could do with (since besides this bridle we are down to zero brown bridles- first world problems yo). But hey, if someone in blogger land wants to pay me $75 for this worn-once PS knockoff, maybe I’ll part with it. Or, I keep it and take a pair of scissors to that dangly throatlatch.


Its fate is in your hands, blogland!

Saddles for Trial: First Impressions of the Stubben Excalibur

Like the Amerigo monoflap, the Stubben Excalibur is an attractive saddle. The leather has a tougher feel, not nearly as soft as the calf leather on the Amerigo, but of a quality that was made to last. This saddle also has been properly maintained, and looks to be in almost new condition.


Sitting on Smitty’s naked back, the saddle seems well balanced front to back, with plenty of wither clearance. It did seem a little tight around the shoulders, but not in a conclusive way, so I hopped aboard.


My first impression was that while still close contact, that there was more under my leg than in the Amerigo, likely to the saddle’s more solid construction- it’s built like a tank. It is comfortable though, and my leg hung in the right place. However, when we started trotting, Smitty went hollow and unwilling to more forward. I ran my hand under the front of the saddle, and sure enough, the saddle was super tight just under the knee block.


The problem spot highlighted

Considering his grumpiness, I decided not to press the issue, and sadly put the saddle in my car to begin its trip home. Thank goodness for trials, is all I will say!

Tonight I go back to the Amerigo, and will hopefully not be a nervous nelly and actually give the thing a proper test ride. Saddle shopping… ugh!

Saddles for Trial: First Impressions of the Amerigo Vega Monoflap

Yesterday was basically Christmas at the house on a hill. The poor mailman brought not just one but two hunks of gorgeous leather to my door, and my spirits sailed as I opened each box and inhaled that beautiful leather aroma. Here, hopefully, is a saddle that will end my shopping woes.

I decided to test ride the Amerigo monoflap first because, quite frankly, it’s beautiful, and it happens to be the cheaper of the two. The calfskin leather is supple and squishy, and though it’s in an obviously used state, the saddle appears well taken care of.

Amerigo monoflap

Setting it on Smitty’s back, the saddle provides enough wither clearance, and I like the way it fits his shoulder- no pinching or tightness to my [untrained] eye. There was a slight rock to it from front to back, but not enough so as to be unrideable with a wool pad underneath.


On the lunge a bit of this bounce was still evident, but Smitty seemed to not be bothered and so I hopped aboard.

Smitty: Does this saddle make my butt look big?

Smitty: Does this saddle make my butt look big?

It didn’t help that it was dark, hadn’t ridden in a week thanks to the fat leg (gone, by the way, thank goodness!), and was alone- so I was tense and unable to fully appreciate the saddle. But I did note how close my leg felt to him. Nothing felt immediately out of place, and I didn’t feel like I was swimming in it despite the 18″ seat size.

Tonight I’ll throw on the Stubben Excalibur, and plan to alternate between the two options for the week while I get a good feel for which is the clear winner. Buh bye, money!


Saddles for trial

I won’t lie, searching for a saddle that both fits Smitty and that I feel secure in has been an absolute chore. Not only does the saddle need to be wool flocked so we can adjust for any likely changes that Smitty’s topline is going to make, but it also has to accommodate his somewhat sizeable withers, and be in the narrow to medium range that is most likely to fit him. Then add in a sprinkle of my own demands, being a 17.5″ – 18″ seat, a monoflap, and hefty knee and thigh blocks.

After searching high and low for a Stubben Zaria that would fit, I’m come up completely blank. But next week I have a couple saddles coming to me for a trial period, and I have high hopes that one will work.


Stubben Excalibur

The first is the predecessor to the Zaria, which is the Stubben Excalibur. It’s a little different looking to my eye, but hopefully shares a lot of the same qualities that I lust over in the Zaria.


Amerigo Vega Monoflap

The second is an older version of the above Vega Monoflap. It checks all the boxes, and while the calf block is not as big, it’s an attractive saddle with an even more attractive price tag.

My hope would be that if one of these guys works out, then I’ll have something that would conceivably get us through the next couple years while Smitty grows (in what direction, who knows), and then I can find a more “permanent” solution.

Now I just need that hot, fat leg to fix itself so I can sit in them!

Let’s Discuss: Nattering about Nosebands

First of all, does the word natter translate into American English? It may be one of my favorite words. Along with ninny. So today I’m a silly ninny nattering about nosebands.


This past weekend, while assisting a friend in her own horse shopping adventures, I witnessed some very, erm, strong opinions on nosebands. In the world of dressage, there’s a lot of different nosebands that are totally legal. Flash nosebands, regular cavessons, drop nosebands, figure-eights… all totally legal. Beyond dressage, there are even more options. And in this individual’s opinion, the flash was the only thing a dressage horse should go in and the rest of it (as in a bridle without a flash) was “hunter jumper stuff.”

Happily modeling a well-fitted flash

Happily modeling a well-fitting flash

Now I’ve used a flash noseband plenty of times, but my main preference is to go without if possible. So as soon as I purchased the PS of Sweden bridle, I tossed the flash attachment in the bag and never looked back.

Wah, I loved this bridle.

Wah, I loved this bridle.

To me, a flash can easily mask training issues, like bracing against the bit and hide underlying tension in the form of gaping and gnashing the bit. I have nothing against those that use a flash in their training, so long as the flash is at an appropriate looseness. But plenty of times I have seen a horse with the flash making an obvious depression in the horse’s skin, to me an unfair application of equipment for the sake of a better impression. For me, I go the way of the Wofford when it comes to flashes.


A dressage pony modeling a Micklem bridle

But then there are other controversial nosebands out there. Some people absolutely abhor crank nosebands, reasoning that they invite overtightening. Some dislike a dropped noseband, or a big floofy noseband, or a thin noseband, because of aesthetics or other reasons. For instance, I’m not a huge fan of the way Micklem bridles look with their noseband. But I have no beef with those that use them, since I appreciate that the riders who use them are doing so for the comfort of the horse. Nonetheless, there are dressage enthusiasts who would wish them out of the arena in a second.

Johnny models a traditional noseband

Johnny models a more traditional noseband setup

It’s interesting to me that for such a basic piece of leather, that there are boundless options that elicit so many opinions from horsepeople. Whatever your style, or beliefs, or discipline, I’m guessing you took some kind of consideration into what adorns your trusty steed’s snout.

Or, you know, no noseband!

Or, you know, the naked nose works too!

What do you use on your horse? What is your rule for tightening, if you use a crank or otherwise? What nosebands do you avoid at all costs? What options would you consider other than your current choice?