My new horse Indy has a mutton wither and an enormous shoulder. My saddle, which was made for my previous horse, doesn’t fit him comfortably. It pinches him, causing muscle soreness in the shoulder and down his back. Cue the search for a new saddle…
A short time ago I entered my barn’s tack room and saw a number of catalogs from Equiline on one of the tables. When I think of the Italian company, I think of high-performance riding apparel and accessories. Some of the riders I most admire (Billy Twomey, Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Laura Kraut and Lauren Hough) are brand ambassadors and can be seen wearing Equiline clothing, with their horses kitted out in Equiline ear bonnets and saddle pads. So I expected to see the clothing catalog and the accessories catalog. What surprised me, however, was that there was a catalog of Equiline saddles on the table as well.
As luck would have it one of the new boarders at our barn is a rep for Equiline, so I asked her to give me the lowdown. Equiline’s guiding philosophy is respect for the horse and comfort for the rider, and the saddles are made with those principles in mind. Equiline, she told me, worked with a team of vets to make sure the saddles were light and comfortable for the horse, with a tree made of carbon fibers designed to align with the contour of the horse. In addition, the company consulted osteopaths to develop a patented Integrated Gel System that acts like a shock absorber to reduce biomechanical stress to the rider’s back and pelvis. As someone who is prone to sacroiliac joint pain and piriformis syndrome this feature intrigued me greatly.
The aspect of the saddle that most caught my eye was a strip of rubber on the bottom and rear of the saddle flap called Flap Grip Technology or FGT. I’m an adult ammie of a certain age who comes from the heyday of the George Morris era, so I have to admit I’m more comfortable with a traditional hunter/jumper look, and I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the concept of a saddle incorporating rubber. However, as an older adult ammie with with a young horse who has occasional episodes of Baby Brain, I could see the potential benefit of having additional grip from the rubber inserts.
Sue (the Equiline rep and my new barn-buddy) was kind enough to let me ride in her saddle, the Nick Skelton model. Made in collaboration with Rio Gold-medal winning show jumper and Equiline ambassador Nick Skelton, the saddle has a medium deep seat, and comes in a soft, calfskin-lined brown or black leather. The model offers three tree widths, three seat sizes, 3 flap lengths and three flap cuts. The separate panels are padded with either a thermosensitive fiber that’s very similar to wool which can be custom flocked to fit your horse, or the synthetic foam T-Flex Integrated Gel System technology. The metal-look Equiline brand badge on the flap can be customized with your country’s flag, if you desire.
Normally I’m uncomfortable riding in a new saddle, but I was pleasantly surprised to feel quite comfortable from the outset in this one. Indy seemed to like the saddle as well, as he moved with greater freedom in his shoulder and through his back. I have to say I loved the added grip from the rubber. My leg felt as if it was glued to my horse’s side without being rendered immobile, which also gave me the feeling of being more connected in my seat.
The best part of my experience with the saddle was jumping in it. I have to admit I’m a bit of a chicken when jumping. I’ve had a couple nasty falls, and as a result I tend to be Queen Calculator, adding strides constantly as I feel like I’m more secure and have more control when doing so. I’ve also been afraid of jumping higher than 2’6”. I know this is a mental thing more than anything else, but the need to feel secure is a big thing for me. That being said, I’m very comfortable jumping Indy; he has a natural rhythm that makes it very easy to see a distance. Because of this I’ve become more comfortable galloping down a line and doing the ‘real’ numbers, as opposed to doing a seven when the line should ride a five. I’m also getting more comfortable jumping higher, and lately have been regularly doing courses with fences set at 2’9”. Granted, not huge, but a relatively big deal for me.
That lesson I jumped so confidently my trainer felt comfortable setting several fences at 3’. I haven’t jumped 3’ in about four years, and while I may have had my heart in my throat, I did did it pretty darn well, nailing all but one distance and ending on such a high I had sore cheek muscles from smiling so much. Maybe part of the confidence was from the increased level of comfort I’ve been feeling jumping Indy. Maybe part of it was that I was just having a “good” night. I definitely do feel it was in part because I felt very secure in the Equiline saddle I was riding in.
If you’re looking to find a new saddle, I’d recommend putting Equiline on your list of saddles to try. They make models for both hunters, jumpers, eventing and dressage and they also offer accessories like bridles, stirrup leathers, breastplates and girths, as well as stirrup irons, bits, protective boots and spurs. You can find more information on Equiline saddles and other products here.