The equipment that I use is listed below.  Everything on this page is my opinion - no businesses have paid me for endorsing their tack or equipment. I'm still updating it, so forgive the incomplete information - I'm working on it!  Updated on April 23, 2016.

Endurance Saddle
After riding in a dressage saddle for many years and even doing our initial conditioning work and first intro ride in one, I came to the conclusion that I really needed a saddle specific to endurance riding.  The thigh blocks on the dressage saddle hindered my ability to adjust my position when we were going down steep slopes and the lack of substance in the seat always left me feeling a bit unstable if Nimo acted up or we were just riding through rugged terrain.  I did quite a bit of research, and the Specialized Eurolight made my list of three choices to demo.  I only ended up demoing two of the three choices because I really loved the Eurolight almost immediately, and even kept my demo saddle.  You can read about my demo in this post.

One of the main reasons that the Eurolight made my list of top three choices is because the panels under the tree are adjustable.  The saddle comes with a fairly wide angle tree and then you use shims and additional panels to add to the existing tree to create a surface that best matches the contours of your horse's back.  Because Nimo's back changes quite a bit due to the time of year and how much work he is getting, being able to make adjustments is critical.

The stirrup leather position is also adjustable, which is great.  I played around with the adjustment for awhile and eventually settled on having the leathers as forward as possible, which is the most comfortable position for me.

I also love the suede seat option because the suede adds a bit of cushion and grip.  But if I ever decide to change seats, because mine becomes worn, I want a different color, or I want to have a sheepskin seat, it's easy to swap in a new seat by unscrewing 4 screws and pulling the old seat off of the velcro.

I do have two issues with the saddle that I've learned over time.  One is that the placement of the billet straps is a little further back than is ideal for Nimo's confirmation.  I've resolved that situation by using a contoured and shaped girth like the County Logic girth and a breast collar.  The second issue is that the shims have to be replaced if they are used and re-used too many times.  The glue adhering the velcro on the shims is particularly sensitive to heat, so I've had a few shims where the velcro peeled off.  Replacement shims are not expensive, though, and I tend to keep extras on hand.

Endurance Saddlepad
Supracor Endurance Cool Grip - I hated this saddle pad when I first bought it.  The material isn't flexible at all, and the lack of flexibility made checking the fit of my saddle virtually impossible because the material doesn't mold to Nimo's back.  (I later discovered that the material does become more flexible once it has absorbed some body heat.)  I also didn't really buy the manufacturer's claim that it provides heat dispersal because I noticed more sweat than usual under the pad for even light rides.  However, I was never really happy with the other, more traditional pad I had (which is why I bought the Supracor in the first place).  Over time, I started to use the Supracor more often and it started to grow on me.  And now, I think you would have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands to get me to part with it.

The material seems to do a really good job of distributing the weight of the saddle and me over Nimo's back.  Nimo's sweat marks are always perfect - no dry spots - and I think the rigidity of the material probably does eliminate at least more minor pressure points.  Imagine if you press a sharp object like a nail on a wooden board; the board is stiff enough that it disperses the pressure from the nail through the whole board without bending much.  The Supracor pad has more flexibility than a wooden board, but enough stiffness to allow some pressure dispersal.  I have tried squeezing the pad between my fingers, and it will compress to almost nothing at that point, but I doubt that kind of pressure would be common on even a poor-fitting saddle.  I don't think the pad can fix a major fit problem, but if you can somehow figure out how to get your saddle to fit pretty well (maybe by using another, flexible pad that is a half-inch thick under compression), this pad does seem to function well.

Endurance Bridle
I use a custom-made halter bridle made by Taylored Tack.  The design is based on the Classic Jubilee Halter Bridle and I had two ear pieces made with the Fire Dance overlay.  The color is royal blue beta (#522).  The 10 foot-long reins also have the Fire Dance overlay (although you can't see from the picture below) and a bumpy, rubber section in the middle where I hold the reins.  This section gives me more grip than a smooth surface would.  The bridle has stainless steel hardware and the buckles are Horse Shoe Brand stainless steel with black enamel (I couldn't resist some bling!).

Attached to the bridle is the Zilco Flower Hackamore.  I use a hackamore because Nimo eats and drinks much better with one than he does a bit.  I found very little adjustment was needed for either of us when I made the switch from a bit, and the flower hackamore does offer a bit of leverage as well as some adjustability in rein, headstall, chin strap, and noseband placement, which I like better than the sidepull and s-hack styles.

Endurance Helmet
Tipperary Sportage 8500 Riding Helmet - I bought this helmet after my last, super inexpensive unknown brand helmet took the brunt of a fall.  I was happy to see my old helmet go because it had never fit that well.  But I still took several months to replace it, using my old Charles Owen dressage helmet (now replaced!) while I tried to figure out which helmet to buy.  Several readers suggested this helmet, and I finally found the time to head to Dover Saddlery's Chantilly store to try it on.  The price point was especially attractive, and I really wanted to have a helmet that was light-weight with good ventilation, because riding through the summer heat in a velvet-covered helmet is totally not fun.  A sales person helped me try on a couple of different sizes and I finally settled on the small because the sales person refused to even let me try on a medium.  Based on the measurements provided by the manufacturer, a medium and maybe even a large would have been the correct choice, but the sales person insisted the lining would compress quickly and I would need to add padding to keep the fit correct, even with the small size.  As it turned out, I ended up taking out the pad in the back because my head must swell a bit when I ride and the helmet felt too tight.  Without the pad in the back, though, the helmet didn't fit quite right.  It fits closer on the sides than the front/back.  Usually after I ride for 15 minutes, the fit feels better and doesn't bother me, but I kind of wish I'd gotten a medium.  Then, I could have kept the padding in and preserved the better fit.  Because of Dover's return policy (you can return any product any time for any reason forever), I could still bring the helmet back and get a different size, but I procrastinated so long that it doesn't feel right to bring it back at this point.  I think I will just use it another year or two and then replace it with a One-K Defender (see below for my description of my dressage helmet).

Riding Boots

Dublin Pinnacle Boots - I bought these boots at the end of 2014 because I wanted a better winter riding boot.  My normal boots (the Terrains I mentioned above) were not waterproof (especially because of some burgeoning holes at the toe) and I spend a lot of the fall, winter, and spring wading through mud and water.  After a year of riding in them most of the year (except during the summer), I still love them.  They are quite durable, the bottom of the boot is waterproof (the side isn't because of the lace-up system), so my feet don't get wet walking through wet grass, mud, or snow, they do seem to provide a bit of extra warmth for cooler temperatures, and I love that the lacing system allows me to really customize the fit of the boot around my calf.

Saddle Bags

Snug Pax Slimline English Pommel Pack  - This pack comes with two zippered pockets on each side and one in the middle.  I think it works great for shorter rides, where you don't need to carry a lot of extra stuff.  There's room for water bottles, snack bars, a camera, a map, a pocket knife, a hoof pick, and a few little things like chapstick and sunscreen.  It attaches with Velcro loops through the d-rings at the pommel and with longer straps that can go underneath the saddle flap and connect to d-rings on the cantle, or if you're like me and have a dressage saddle with no d-rings, the straps just loop around the bottom flap.

Dressage Helmet
One K Defender Suede Riding Helmet - I bought this helmet in February 2016.  I had a Charles Owen helmet that was approaching the end of its prime and because I had cut my hair too short to tuck it underneath the helmet, the fit had become a bit too big.  I really loved the Charles Owen fit and style, but I don't show in dressage (except at the very occasional schooling show) and even dressage is an athletic endeavor.  Therefore, I really need a helmet that has upgraded its features beyond just being a good quality, velvet-covered helmet.  The One K fit the bill.  It still has the suede style, but with added ventiliation.  And despite what I think is a high price point, when it comes to competition-level helmets, the One K is toward the bottom of the price range.  I wasn't sure how it fit, but I could always return it.  As it turned out, I loved the fit of the helmet - it feels like it was literally made for my head.  It is easily the best-fitting helmet I've ever had, and I'm hoping to someday upgrade my endurance helmet to a One K.

Bareback Pad
Skito Equalizer Bum Buddy Bareback Pad High Wither -  I bought this pad in November 2014, when it was on sale, because otherwise - gasp! - the price!  Anyway, I'm not a huge fan of bareback riding, but I do really like this pad.  It has a high wither profile which I really need for Nimo, cushy Skito panels with a channel for the spine to protect my bum and Nimo's back, a handy girth system that works with my existing dressage girth, a handle at the withers for my young daughter to use when she rides on it, d-rings for attaching a breastcollar, and a super cool design.

1 comment:

  1. My eurolight bridges badly and no amount of fitting pads help. Spoke to the owner of SS a couple of times. What a pill!