Friday, July 22, 2016

Product Review: Fleeceworks, Neue Schule and Total Saddle Fit

So I figured I might as well review three products. Two of them are pretty new to my tack box and the other, has been around for a year.
The one that has been around for a year, is the Shoulder Relief girth from Total Saddle Fit.
I had never heard of the girth until last year's Rolex, when my daughter steered me toward their booth. After Rolex, I came across a great review of the girth and in the next few weeks, several friends purchased girths and were raving about them. A few weeks later in May, a box arrived from my daughter for my birthday, and it contained a Shoulder Relief girth.

Now don't laugh and ask why are they including instructions for how to put on the girth. But that first time you tighten up your new girth, you are going to want to put it on backwards, especially if you have used any belly guard girth...not that I have. But even with the D rings and common sense shouting at you to put the girth on one way, you might be like me and the second time you use it, you are going to put it on backwards. That is why they include instructions. For idiots like me.
The design of the girth is to keep the saddle from interfering with the shoulder. The girth changes the position and angle of the billets and as a result, if you have a problem with your saddle sliding forward and interfering with the shoulder, this should stop that problem.
I have never ridden in anything other than your standard contour girth and was quite happy with my Stubben girth. If it isn't broke, why fix it, right?  I have never noticed an issue with my saddle sliding forward, but I will say, that after using the girth, I did notice freer shoulder movement. He seemed muck looser in the forehand and if possible, even softer through the back. Being a draft cross, while Tucker is a lovely mover for his breed and size, I will take any help we can get on the flat. I loved the suppleness of the leather and there was never any chaffing or rubbing...except the time I put the girth on backwards.
Fast forward nearly a year. About 8 months into the daily use of the girth, I noticed that the girth was cracking and there were even small holes in the leather. Now I am anal about my tack being clean. I religiously wipe my tack down after every ride. So there really wasn't any explanation for the leather to be falling apart. I mentioned this to the reps at their booth at Rolex this past spring. They were horrified, apologized profusely and immediately sent me a replacement girth. They get a 100% for customer service.
The All Purpose/Jumping girth retails for $150. Looking through the SIX pages of girths in the Dover catalog, I have concluded that this is a bargain, with some, no, make that MANY girths, retailing in the $200-$440 price range. Wow! Who knew?
Based on the price, customer service, and more importantly, the results with my horse, I highly recommend this girth.

Last month, I purchased an NS or Neue Schule bit. Tucker has been improving in his dressage lessons, getting more supple, rounder and forward, but Bill Woods, my dressage instructor, suggested a different bit from the 16mm loose ring snaffle I used every day. He thought something in the 12-14mm range, perhaps a twist, might get Tucker to respond better to my aids. My friend Sandy, and her daughter, Nikki, ride in NS bits and were very impressed with them, so I decided to rack up the visa card and purchase the Tranz angled lozenge loose ring. At 14mm and with a Salox mouth, it was touted to encourage a "true, consistent contact and a higher level of responsiveness." Hmmm....sounds like exactly what I am looking for! In addition, the rounded center lozenge is set at a 20 degree angle, enabling more cleanly defined rein aids.
I swapped out my bits and the first thing I noticed was a much quicker level of responsiveness to downward transitions. Halt, please. YES! was the immediate response. I felt that he was rounder, especially though the poll and he was more relaxed through the jaw. Never have I felt that this bit is severe or abusive in his mouth, something I am very concerned about. I was skeptical of these high priced bits with their fancy metals, but I have clearly learned that there is something to be said about some of these bits. There appears there is more saliva with the bit. I am not sure how to clean the Salox, so I use the SOS pad on the stainless steel rings and just wipe the Salox with a wet sponge and then rinse with clean water.
The bit retails for $135. Like the girth, this appears to be a bargain! I highly recommend this bit if you are looking for more responsiveness from your horse.

Lastly, my Fleeceworks bamboo eventing saddle pad arrive this week and I love it!
I am a saddle pad junkie...who isn't? My criteria is that it must be durable, breathable and fit well....I have returned many pads that simply were not long enough in both directions....I want a pad that doesn't end at the cantle and I want it to come down past the end of the saddle flaps, not stop there. I don't mind spending more than $50 on a pad, but it better last me more than a year, especially if I am rotating my pads and it is being used only once or twice a week. I have purchased fancy schmancy pads off of etsy, that looked really cool, but the binding has worn away after only a few months. Additionally, the pad has to be breathable and lightweight enough for our Florida heat and humidity and be easy to wash off or throw in the washing machine.
I saw the bamboo pads at Rolex and Judith offered to send me a custom pad. I requested a white pad with navy trim. I also purchased a set of shipping wraps made in the bamboo material. I haven't had the opportunity to use them yet, but I appreciate that they are long enough for Tucker's height and appear to be lightweight.
The advantage of the bamboo is that it is breathable, pulling heat and moisture through the cotton flannel and away from working muscles. It claims to be able to store 35% of its own weight in liquid, is elastic, which will provide relief from pressure points and is a sustainable, natural fiber. The quilted cotton flannel lined with bamboo offers a firm support to assist in muscle fatigue. As a result, "total protection from excess heat/moisture equals total protection against one of the top reasons for back injury in performance horses."
Since Tucker has EPSM, the fact that this material claims to assist against muscle fatique is a big asset.
Apparently the way it does this is by Fleeceworks placing bamboo between the horse and any foam in their saddle pads. This will draw sweat and disseminate heat through its fibers. This can not only enhance performance of the horse, it can prevent muscles from overheating. According to Fleeceworks info tab, each fiber is hollow and becomes plump and elastic as it absorbs sweat. This translates into effective relief from pressure points.
Not only are the bamboo pads breathable, they are also machine washable.
I have used Tucker's new pad several times this week.
It looks great on him!! Functionality aside, I just love how this pad looks, with the contour eventing cut and the ample length in both directions.
I was impressed with how well the pad handled his sweat and heat in our high temps and high humidity. There were no uneven marks on his hair when I removed the saddle and pad. I just hosed the pad off and it came remarkable clean for just using the hose on it.
The contour pad retails for $69. For such quality and benefits, I find it well worth every penny.

Here you can see a difference in the size of my old loose ring and the NS loose ring

Fleeceworks Bamboo contour eventing pad

Love the fit of the Fleeceworks Contour eventing pad! Ample room all around!

Fleeceworks bamboo Contour eventing pad and Total Saddle Fit Shoulder Relief girth