Saddle Envy

So it’s no secret that one of the pros of horse shopping that besides sitting on nice horses, you also have the chance to sit in different saddles. Nice saddles. Voltaire, Amerigo, Pessoa, Antares… you get the deal.

I also had a mini lesson from a friend on her OTTB who is a lead change maestro, so that I could finally get to sit on a horse that had this skillset and learn the cues to ask for the change. She has her guy in a Stubben saddle, and I was prepared to loathe it as I have every other Stubben I have ever sat in, including the other Stubben she had on her pony cross. But you know what? I loved this saddle. More than loved it, in fact. I actually came to realize why exactly she describes the sensation as having one’s ass sing. It’s amazing. My leg fell exactly where it should. I felt more balanced in the 2 point than ever before. The feeling of security I had in that saddle was incredible. The con? The saddle, a Zaria Optimum with the Biomex seat, retails between $4,000 and $4,500.

Cantering about in the Stubben Zaria Optimum

Cantering about in the Stubben Zaria Optimum

This of course compared with the lovely Voltaire saddles I’ve also sat in recently, which supposedly (because my 30 second google search didn’t find anything new) retail for around $5,000.

Voltaire loveliness

Voltaire loveliness

Of course the major trouble with all this is that I have opened Pandora’s box- I now know what it is like to sit in a saddle that puts you in the right place, and conversely I now feel how much I am constantly fighting my Toulouse monoflap. It’s become a definite thing for me, even though searching for saddles before having the new horse is a thoroughly moot activity. But I’m taking the opportunity to sit in anything and everything in hopes that I can find a cheaper alternative to the buttery leather options that command such high price tags.

A Prestige I attempted to squeeze in.. this one was not a good fit but was a good deal. Womp womp.

A Prestige I attempted to squeeze in.. this one was not a good fit but was a good deal. Womp womp.

So far, no dice. I have a long thigh bone that requires a more forward/long flap than some of the close contact options I’ve tried. Plus, there is something really really nice about that calf block.

This guy felt good in the store, but having heard that Pessoas don't hold up well [opinions?] might avoid the brand

This guy felt good in the store, but having heard that Pessoas don’t hold up well [opinions?] might avoid the brand

I’ve now mentally started budgeting for a used option of a higher quality brand, in addition to the new pony costs. Because nothing says “I’m an equestrian” like being money poor but rich in pony breath and leather goods.. right?

Let’s Discuss: Neck straps

Not too long ago, amidst some random equestrian googling (side conversation: am I the only one who does this?), I came across an interesting little ditty featuring the prodigious William Fox Pitt touting neck straps.

As one of the many (I assume) that falls prey to jumping anxiety from time to time, I’ll gladly add something to my mount’s attire to make the experience safer. It wouldn’t hurt of course if the addition of a bit of leather around my horse’s neck also increased the size of my jumping balls. (Which are scientifically proven to be a smaller, much less impressive size than my dressaging balls, but yet still prove to be massive compared to my trail riding balls. There’s a difference.)

A time when I had bigger balls. Kind of. Actually I remember being terrified walking that course.

A time when I had bigger balls. Kind of. Actually I remember being terrified walking that course.

My original assumption regarding neck straps was that they came in two forms- a leftover stirrup leather, or a belt. The C4 belts seem to be growing in popularity recently in the eventing world, and little wonder- we eventers go ballistic over anything that can be customized to our cross country colors.

It turns out though that there are a variety of neck straps on the market though- ranging from colorful nylon versions akin to the C4 belts, to thick stirrup-leather styles, and more. The type that appeals to me most is the Nunn Finer version, but I may just be falling prey to the clever product description. Because who doesn’t need an Oh Shit strap?

Grab strap

So, blogosphere- I want to know- how many of you follow WFP’s lead and don your horse’s neck with some extra hardware? Have any of you found the neck strap to be useful, or otherwise? Is this just a cross country thing, or does it translate to showjumping or even flatting as well? Comment with your thoughts!

Case of the Dying Stubben

Let’s recognize something first off- I am not a tack ho. I will invest in quality pieces, and then typically use them until they die. My grooming box still has my maiden name on it, written in permanent marker, and I’ve had it since middle school. When it comes to most things, I’m of the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality.

This bridle

This bridle

So I have had a horse sized Stubben bridle that also dates back to middle school. It’s been fit to countless horses, as is indicated by the indentations made by buckles all up and down the leather. It’s my everyday bridle, and my show bridle. The rein stops are molded to my hands, and I love it.

This bridle

This bridle

Sadly though, I think it’s reached retirement age.

No matter how much I clean the thing, the ‘shine’ has really gone out of it. On days with any kind of humidity (and let’s be real, this is North Carolina- there’s pretty much always some humidity, and in the summertime you drown in it), the reins start to flake away in my hands. A swears the thing is going to disintegrate any day now.

This bridle

This bridle

But I’m loathe to part with it and buy some cheap bandaid of a bridle, after using this supple piece of German leatherwork for more than a decade. If I were to replace it, and I probably need to, I want to find a similarly well made piece of tack with nice leather. Picking up new bridles, my hands have a hard time imagining how the often inflexible leather will feel after conditioning- how much difference will it make to the product I see before me?

So I’m reaching out to you, dear friends- edumacate me. What brands are out there that you recommend? If you know of a bridle that fits these requirements, where should I look and what should I expect to feel leather-wise once it arrives?

  • Black, high quality leather
  • Flash or Optional Flash Bridle
  • Leather reins or rubber lined reins
  • Anatomic Fit
  • Does not cost arm, leg, and promise of first born child to acquire

Help a non-tack ho out!

Quick update

Not much really has been going on since my last update last week regarding my decision to attend a hunter/jumper show in a couple weeks. Basically I’m just trying to get my ducks in a row so I won’t embarrass myself once I’m there quite as much. Mostly this means tracking down tack that hasn’t been used in a while (oh, hello, plain brown bridle) and buy a whole bunch of other junk.

Plain brown bridle's last appearance, 2 years ago

Plain brown bridle’s last appearance

These purchases include open front boots (because Brushing boots don’t seem necessary for straight jumpers), ratcatcher shirt for me (thank you Tack of the Day, now please send it to me in time!), and tan full seats.

Obviously not Foster's legs.. Foster's legs are white, in case you hadn't noticed :)

Obviously not Foster’s legs.. Foster’s legs are white, in case you hadn’t noticed 🙂

And I suppose since I felt like I hadn’t spent enough money already, I have set up two lessons- another dressage lesson with Eliza for later in the month, and one with a new-to-me trainer who also happens to be an up-and-coming international eventer! This exciting event happens Wednesday, and I’m super hopeful that they like Foster and impart plenty of jumping wisdom on us. We need it!

Lesson recap to come!