Monday, January 4, 2016

My final thoughts on my Ghost Firenze trial.

I ended up keeping the Ghost Firenze for an extra two weeks on trial. This was a good thing. Due to the weather it had been difficult to ride as much as I would have liked that first week. The extended trial was appreciated.

I got to experiment with some other things which is making my decision-making process much easier:
  • Different girths, moving the girth around (the rigging allows for this).
  • Different pads. I tried my favorite endurance Thinline with sheepskin (pictured), a thicker Western pad, and combining the Ghost saddle pad with the Thinline.
  • Longer periods of dressage work in the (often slick and ooky) arena.
  • Trotting small cross rails (she just trots big over them).
  • Different stirrup lengths to test knee comfort while half-seating (since I prefer cantering in half seat or two-point).
  • Riding with a crupper.
  • Riding with a saddle bag (it makes me think I’d want more rings because the placement doesn’t quite match my bags).
  • Riding through a huge bolt-spook and not budging.
  • A trail ride! Not as long as I would have liked (only 4.5 miles), but I was able to trailer out to the nearby horse and hiking park Tryon Creek for a ride on some good hills. (Also it was an awesome trail ride adventure in and of itself – a good test for Deli which she passed with flying colors!)
  • And very important: different bolstering. Specifically bolstering the front pommel WAY more than before and trying to fold the felt inserts given in different configurations. This made the biggest difference in my comfort.

My final thoughts:

As I’ve said before I really like this saddle. Deli moves much more comfortably than she ever did in my dressage saddle. With me bolstering the saddle way more in the front I felt like I was in a much better position and I had no back soreness or issues from her after that. The bucking rolls were hardly noticeable with the bolstering. I might do a wedge-shim in the PAD plus a wedge in the saddle itself when I eventually work things out.

The trail ride showed me that the saddle wants to slide forward and back QUITE a bit. She didn’t seem irritated  by this slipping, oddly enough. I WAS irritated by it, though! 

Saddle after coming up the biggest hill. WAY back.
I think this can mostly be solved by a tighter breastplate. I should have just adjusted it on the trail ride but my fingers were freezing (it was 35 degrees). I was also curious to see how much she fussed, to be honest.

Deli wasn’t a huge fan of any of the girths except her sheepskin-floof covered and VERY stretchy Montana Cincha. This might be in part because she isn’t clipped yet and any hair catching irritates the heck out of her. Also she does like the softness of the stretchy-mess. So inevitably the saddle does have some tendency to roll if more weight goes into one stirrup. A tighter breastplate and even the addition of a crupper for those longer rides would help that. Honestly every saddle I’ve had on her rolls to some degree.

I am thinking of trying a mohair girth or something similar on her, since the Ghost totally allows for our number one problem (saddle being pulled forward into the shoulder by her forward heart girth). Notice the angle of the girth on the above picture? That isn't "forced" per se, though in that shot the saddle is sitting too far back. The rigging is really nice for horses with conformation like Deli's (that forward heart girth & round rubs and laid-back shoulder combo) but would work for a horse with more "straight" conformation too.

Posing with the Thinline pad. 
Most treeless saddles require some kind of built-up pad. I've avoided a lot of treeless saddles because Deli certainly needs a nice spine channel. The Ghost has panels that support the seat above the horse's spine. Since Deli does not have a protruding spine or a narrow frame i thought I'd try it with this pad.

She did fine without the super-padded treeless pad (ie. my Thinline), but even though it didn’t touch I didn’t like how close the “tree” came to her spine. Since both Deli and I love the Thinline I am interested in getting a Skito half-pad (with their heavyweight foam) to place on top of the Thinline to account for it being treeless. This material-type combination is what we use for our bareback riding that has worked so well. I like the Ghost pad as well but I am someone who likes having backup combinations. I imagine if we ever get to LDs I’d like to change my pad during the vet check if I have time.

For our little trail adventure we mostly walked in part to riding with a greenie horse and also because the park was very crowded. It was the day after Christmas and Tryon Creek is within Portland city limits. The trails are very nice and totally winter-ized, however. We trailered up to the park and unloaded. Deli looked around calmly. I had popped her boots on prior to loading so save the hassle in the parking lot. Deli basically ground-tied while I saddled her, watching curiously as other riders pulled their rigs in and out of the parking lot. Ready to go I mounted awkwardly from the truck tail and off we went. Deli eagerly moved out at a nice walk. She was a little slower at the walk but she usually is when leading the pack – which she did the WHOLE way! Tryon Creek is forested but not tightly closed in and Deli eagerly looked ahead the whole way. She put her muscles into the hill climbs (she excels at climbing hills – going down, not so much) and never put a foot wrong. We had some balking at the first of two of the bridges we had to cross, but not a difficult fight. Mostly I am proud of her for how good she was around the mobs of hikers/walkers, families, dogs, joggers, and other riders. It was the day after Christmas and CROWDED. Deli was also a great example for the greenie who had a few brain farts when crossing culverts. She is communicative of things that are worrying her – basically you are just aware she is aware, though. She was awesome. She even got called a “trail schoolmaster” which makes me LAUGH because, NO WAY.

Red Hawk Pony in Tryon Creek.

So what’s next? Over the past week I’ve been ruminating on the saddle issue. If I want to have the opportunity to ride more I need something more than my bareback setup. Deli has been, historically, not easy to fit. The Ghost seems to be a good fit. One of the bigger points in its favor is how adjustable it is. You can add bolsters, exchange seats, adjust the stirrup positions, etc. I can even get one made without the bucking rolls.

I still have that worry of: what if it doesn’t work long-term for what I want to do with Deli (Which is, limited Distance rides, extensive trail riding, schooling dressage). I suppose I will NEVER know that with any saddle though!

I am probably going to get this model. I like the forward flap quite a bit. My legs are more underneath me that they ever were with my dressage saddle! Clearly that one had problems beyond the girth-fit issue. One thing about this Ghost saddle is that the price seems very competitive. That’s a huge draw for someone like me! I still have to figure out whether to get it with or without the bucking rolls, what material (different kinds of leather, fleece, and synthetic are available), and what color. The demo I tried was the oiled nubuck, which I liked. My life on the wet side of Oregon has me considering the synthetic option, though.


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