Sunday, December 13, 2015

Demoing the Ghost Firenze.

I am just finishing up my saddle demo for the treeless Ghost saddle. It wasn’t the best week the demo a saddle because of the epic storm that has been thrashing the Pacific Northwest since Tuesday. And my “epic” storm I mean downed trees, SIGNIFICANT flooding, closed freeways, mudslides…

And for those who don’t live here and think its weird someone living in Portland would comment about the rain: this isn’t normal.

I still got a couple good test rides in on the Firenze, though no long trail rides unfortunately. I am fairly new to treeless saddles but I’ve tried a Startrekk and a Freeform on Deli before. She disliked both and there is little more to say. I have personally ridden in an older Ansur, but not on Deli. Ansurs are WAY out of my price point, anyway.

The Ghost Firenze with Ghost pad - size 18" seat.
The rigging , the pad, and the stirrup attachments.
The best “trail” trial I had for this was riding 3 miles up the road and back in the freezing rain today (luckily, I have a waterproof saddle cover that fit). Deli was kind of pissy (wanting to go home), but it was hard to tell whether it was the weather, all the cars, or the saddle. We did some more trot work in the arena upon returning and she was nice and forward still, which is usually a good sign.

My general impressions:
  • Well-constructed, fairly minimalist with a more ridged but flexible base, a stiffer pommel arch which gave it the most structure, and areas for both the leather seat and panels to be Velcro on (seats are interchangeable). This would allow the panels to be adjusted. I messed with that very little.
  • The Ghost pad also seemed well-constructed - the foam is different than what I'm used to seeing in Skito, though.
  • I like the panels system that gives the spine lots of clearance (*note, when I tried the Freeform it did NOT have the sympanova panels, just a bulky treeless pad).
  • Sit’s “higher up” on the horse due to the extra padding – typical for a treeless.
  • Initially it was tipped way to far forward due to Deli’s sway back and the fact the saddle does squish when you sit in it. The saddle dealer included some felt seat inserts which I placed under the seat as a bolster. That really helped. I might want an even bigger bolster if I get this saddle.
  • Deli was initially wiggly, and then really moved out nicely for some easy arena work. She seemed more comfortable than our old dressage saddle and than just the bareback pad just based on her willingness to trot on and relax her head down with little urging.
  • Comfort for me was decent after I figured out where to have the stirrup leathers (there are two spaces to put them) – except for the bucking rolls. I hate those things. I have a VERY long upper leg and big thighs. Bucking rolls just do NOT work for me. Luckily this saddle comes with the option to have them removed so I tried to ignore them and focus on other aspects of the saddle.
  • I absolutely LOVE the rigging system (see pictures). It worked great for my forward-heart-girth & laid-back-shoulder gal. The saddle did slide forward and back a little when we did some hills.
  • You have to cinch it up much tighter than a treed saddle. Saddles always roll on Deli because she is a barrel, so I had to be mindful of that.
Visual of how it all layers together:

Me on Deli (but before I put the bolster in the saddle pommel:

After I put the bolster in the pommel:

More shots of the "inner workings" of the saddle:

Showing the foam in the pad.

The panels can be peeled off the flexible frame.
Potential issues to be addressed or actual problems:
  • I am heavier than the “maximum weight” of 175. Not much heavier – and given the diet I am now on (for specific health reasons other than losing weight) I’ll probably be 175 or less by the time the weather is nice enough for longer rides. Still. I will never be a lightweight and I have a mental block about the treeless + fat person issue.
  • Her lower back was somewhat tender after our last ride (in the area she gets fatigued easily).
  • MY lower back and crotch were also a bit sore after riding up the road. Again, it’s hard to say why. I still felt like I was being tipped forward sometimes so If I get this saddle – maybe a bigger bolster? Shim the front of the pad? Not sure. I don’t get any soreness when riding with the bareback pad, and I’ve done around 5 miles pretty regularly (before it started raining every day) with that. Related to this: I feel like I could sit more comfortably without the bucking rolls hitting me uncomfortably.
  • The saddle did slide forward and slide back when we hit some minor hills. Not enough to make her fuss, but it was noticeable.
I’m concerned about the slight back tenderness today. Hard to tell if it was saddle related or because she was so tense and “up” for the whole of riding up the road. I also haven’t asked much of her dressage-wise for several months since we have not had a saddle. Still, we only went 4 miles. Can her back remain good for 25 if she’s iffy after 4? Her back didn’t feel tender like that riding 5 miles in the bareback pad, but she was tenser today (due to the weather/timing) and I asked her for more in the arena.

I would like to be able to use Thinline somehow since Deli does really well with that. I think Skito COULD make a treeless pad for this saddle, or I could add Thinline shims into the pad itself (or the panels!). There are lots of ways to adjust and self-modify this setup, which is a plus.

I tried putting our Thinline pad UNDER the Ghost pad, but Deli wasn’t a fan of the layered pads. I wonder how much a treeless pad is needed with the panels and a barrel-shaped horse? I should have tired just the Thinline in the arena but it didn’t occur to me till just now.

Otherwise I am seriously considering getting this model. There were lots of things to like and in general Deli seemed comfortable. She did her lovely power walk reliably without being nudged a lot, which is usually a sign she feels good. She certainly moved more freely than in our old dressage saddle! The pricing on these saddles is also very good – I could get one NOW. The other saddles I was considering (Trailwise, Alleghany, maaaayyybe Stonewall) would all be double the price of this saddle or more. And there is no guarantee they would work long-term either. Finding a treed saddle to fit her particular conformation has been difficult if not impossible so far.

One VERY note-able observation: when I first rode her in the arena when it was dry she picked up the canter easily. With the dressage saddle it was always a struggle in the arena. I thought it was just her but not I'm not so sure... I couldn't canter again after that because parts of the arena were semi-flooded and it was too slippery to canter at all.

It bears musing. I wonder if it's a good idea to get this so I at least have a saddle to RIDE in. If it does not work for Deli and I longer-term we can always sell it (like we would any saddle that did not work). I certainly recommend this saddle based on what I've seen so far. 


  1. Any chance of getting an extended trial? I was able to do that once while saddle-shopping when conditions kept m from test-riding the saddle thoroughly.

    1. Yes - it looks like I'm going to extend my trial for at least another week. Fingers crossed I can get a ride to a horse park with good footing next weekend, too! I want to try this on trails. Deli does not like road riding nearly as much.