On Saturday, I tacked Zephyr up in the demo treeless EZ-Fit saddle that I have on loan from Wendy Jordan (email me for contact info) for our second and probably last demo ride. I already knew that the foam panels don’t have enough angle (you can see this in the picture below), but I needed a few good long trots so I could tell whether it would be comfortable for me. Our other ride was in fairly deep snow and I’d gotten tossed all over the place!
It was sunny and maybe in the high 20s when I headed out. Zephyr has a full winter coat, as you can see! I wore my long flannel-lined nylon duster, thinking I’d need it to block the wind. I left him barefoot, as I knew we’d be riding along a paved road the whole way to my friend’s house, and I figured if anything it would give him a good pedicure!
This size Medium saddle (15-17” adjustable) fits nicely on top of the ThinLine barrel-shaped wool pad. The size Large saddle is 2” longer from front to back, so it would be a closer fit, but would still work.
The adjustable V-rigging makes it so I can put the cinch exactly in each horse’s girth groove. Zephyr is wearing this cinch a bit farther back than the girth was placed on the Barefoot saddles, partially because those saddles are designed to fit so much farther forward, which makes the girth sit more forward.
My endurance breastplate works with this saddle, without any adjustments. I don’t think it has a crupper ring but I don’t see the need with this saddle... it has so much more structure than the Barefoot I had before, and didn’t seem to budge during either of our rides.
Everyone who has seen the pictures of my last ride commented that the stirrups are very far back. Yes, yes they are! I hate chair seated saddles with a passion. On my last ride, I thought maybe they were an inch too far back, but this time I decided they were just right.
In the picture below, taken when I stopped at Gary's house to drop off my duster because I was too hot, you can see my position at a halt. I will confess that at the time I felt as if my heels were down, but they’re not... and frankly I don’t care. I know that they go down when I post the trot, and that’s all that really matters to me as far as security in the saddle. You may also think my knee is too bent in this picture (stirrups too short), and it’s possible that you are right. It FELT right, and when I take my foot out of the stirrup the tread is at my ankle as it should be, but next time I will probably try it a hole longer just to see. I do have to keep them somewhat short just because of the way Zephyr trots, I have to stay off his back a millisecond longer than you need on other horses.
In this same picture, you can see that the cinch has not budged from the place I put it. This saddle felt very stable to me, even though I did need to tighten the cinch at this stop. Lateral stability was good even with a loose cinch, though I probably couldn’t have mounted from the ground without tightening it. If it weren’t for the fact that I already own a perfectly good ThinLine dressage girth, I might consider getting the western rigging (in leather, not nylon as shown here).
After our brief stop to drop off my coat, we continued on. Zephyr trotted willingly for probably 2-2.5 miles out of the 3 that it took us to get to Alysha’s house. His gait was smooth and even, and very relaxed with a low head and nicely rounded spine. My posture was better than it ever was in the Barefoot, no matter how refreshed I was! I was able to keep my shoulders back so much better, posting was effortless, and it was much easier to keep my heels down.
I headed over towards Lysh’s house partially so she could take a closer look at this saddle with the funny-looking buckles, and partially because when I’m road riding I need a destination to keep me going! I don’t like riding the road because of the cars and other things to spook at, and Zephyr doesn’t like it because it’s boring (except for when there are things to spook at). For me to be willing to ride the roads when he’s getting fresh from so little exercise is a real testament to how secure I feel in this deep-seated saddle!
A great example was when we got to the bridge about 1/8 of a mile from Lysh’s house. There was a car parked there, and the driver was standing down below the bridge on the ice, cutting a minnow trap hole with a chainsaw. Now, Zephyr is fine with chainsaws, and he’s fine with fishermen, but this was the first time he’d seen this particular combination. Every second or two I would urge him forward a step or two, which he did willingly, then he would stop and look some more. When it got to the point before the bridge where the road was narrow enough that it would be unsafe if he spooked, we sat patiently and waited for the man to shut it off. As soon as he did, and we chatted for a moment to be polite, Zephyr was happy to trot off.
When we got to Lysh’s house, I dismounted so she could sit in the saddle. She said it was very comfortable for her to sit in, but both of us could see that she would have needed the bigger size if she was going to post a trot.
As you can see in the above photo, the saddle still hasn’t budged, and neither has the cinch. It is a very stable saddle! As I remounted and trotted away, I asked Lysh to judge our form. She said we both looked great, so now I know that it doesn’t just FEEL like I have good equitation (posture, form) in this saddle, I DO have it, and he IS moving well in it even despite the panels not fitting his back well.
Speaking of moving well, he did great with bare feet on the pavement and gravel/sand roadside, with the exception of one particular road that was re-done last summer with some pretty big rocks mixed in. On that road he preferred pavement to roadside, but on all the others, roadside was just fine. His feet are really toughening up!
On the way home I stopped back at Gary’s house to collect my coat, and of course I had to go in for a beer, so Zephyr got stripped and tossed in with his buddies Rocky and Peyton for a little playtime. He thought that was awesome, and so did Gary’s kids and their friends... he was an instant hit with them! When it was time to go, it was almost dark, so I experimented with tacking up as quickly as I could. Some setups go fast, some don’t, and this one was FAST, even with the western rigging. As I rode away through the field and up the hill, I urged him into a hand-gallop to show off a little for the kids... it was fun, and I still felt very secure despite his huge lunging movements because of the deep snow!
My ONLY reservation about this saddle is that the suede seat has a bit of a bump at the top of the twist (right under my crotch) but that’s not a deal killer, I’m going to see if I can use some thin foam underneath the seat to flatten it out... or maybe Eli (the saddle maker) will have something he can do about that.
I’m sold. I’m ordering my own EZ-Fit this week. They will build it with sharper angles to the foam panels, to fit Zephyr’s A-framed back, and the brochure says they will also send a Port Lewis Impression Pad with it so I can make sure my weight is being distributed across his back well enough. There’s a 2-week satisfaction guarantee so what do I have to lose?
When I talk to Wendy, I need to ask her if she has this saddle scheduled for another demo right after mine. If not, Gary may be interested in taking it on demo. He’s been looking for a saddle with a larger seat and more seat padding, and when he sat in this one last week, he said that might be the one!