Tuesday, March 1, 2016

GHOST prototype trial: EVA

The month of February has been very busy! I have my notes from the PNER conference mostly written up, but they still need to be edited to make sure they are read-able.

I wanted to get a quick blog post out to talk a little about my experience with the GHOST prototype saddle I’ve been testing out this month.

This prototype – termed EVA – is very different than the other GHOST saddles. It has a “tree” made out of the same material as Crocs. It’s very lightweight and has some flex to it, but is much stiffer than other treeless saddles I’ve seen. It also does not have panels, but they are not needed: this thing has no problem maintaining a vast spine channel even when using a normal pad. Pretty cool, right?

The EVA on Deli (with GHOST pad).

Pony modeling the EVA.
 I did end up needing the pommel bolster insert on the EVA as well to lift up the front of the saddle. As discussed in my trial of the GHOST Firenze, Deli’s conformation means saddles sit downhill on her. Though the EVA looked like it was sitting perfectly with a tight girth, the front of the saddle would squish down when I sat on it – the form is obviously more flexible there.

The front of the saddle. The front does squish down some when rider weight is added.

The pad ties onto the back ring of the saddle. You can kind of see how the seat is Velcroed on in this photo.

The rigging is awesome: adjustable like the other GHOST models, but with a wider spread. This added to front-to-back stability.

These are the rings for the stirrups. Note that they are attached to the tree like other GHOST models to prevent pressure points from the stirrup weight. 
The stirrup position wasn't quite right, to be honest. I ended up in the forward ring like I did with the Firenze, but I did feel like if my legs were even a little more forward it would have been perfect. In part this could be because I was having some discomfort from the seat pommel so maybe I wanted to push my legs out more in front of me. 

 The seat did kinda bust my girly bits in the front, if you know what I mean (I had a similar issue with my County dressage saddle). I think I prefer a flatter seat because of this. And generally my horse isn’t a complete loon – though she has clearly been feeling some spring fever this month. (I think she wants me to start conditioning, right?)
Don't mind our creep barn llama, Flipside...

The EVA with the Thinline.

It felt pretty stable once I switched to using my Thinline endurance pad, though I did notice the back end in particular kicking off to one side or another sometimes. This has been reported with other riders: some side-to-side instability. I think in part this is because the existing GHOST pad wasn’t quite wide enough for the stiffer saddle base on this prototype. I tend to like a pad with a little extra space beyond the saddle footprint and the GHOST pads, in general, are pretty minimalist in that respect. Both my Deli and I are dealing with one-side-weakness problems so it could be a rider/horse problem rather than a saddle problem. It rolled a little, certainly, but I think on a horse with a less pronounced barrel-shaped body and actual withers it wouldn’t be an issue at all (and the roll was about the same as the Firenze, to be honest, and I got some side-to-side roll with my old traditional treed dressage saddle as well). The Thinline had a wider base for the saddle to sit on, so I think that helped. And my horse seemed more comfortable with that pad setup more so that the GHOST pad.

Riding in the EVA! I did not get any arena pictures because my husband only seems to come along during "trail rides" (i.e. walking up the road because everything else is MUD).

At least these roads have some decent hills! I did try different stirrup lengths (this being the shortest).

The seat on the EVA was very secure but I tend to like a flatter seat. People that like to feel like they won’t move when the horse does some crazy antics will like this seat. I did have one crazy antics ride on Deli in this saddle and felt very secure throughout. Deli does not rear or buck, though, so I can’t speak to that kind of misbehavior. Epic spooking and thinking galloping around a slick muddy corner is a good idea is all I can contribute to this test!

The underside of the EVA. The velcro strip down the middle is one way they secure the seat (which you can peel up to add bolsters, or adjust the seat size). This saddle technically is an 18" seat.
I am very curious to see how they develop this. With a somewhat flatter seat and some other minor adjustment, I think I might want one! It feels more like a treed saddle but with the flexibility it could really work for lots of situations. I think, with some work, this could be an awesome saddle for heavyweight riders or riders wanting a stiffer/more secure feel while getting some of the benefits of a treeless saddle.
There are some things I preferred about this prototype when compared to the GHOST Firenze I trialed. First and utmost was the wider spread on the rigging. This seemed to help the problems I had with the saddle sliding back were much less with this rigging set up, though I also took the time to adjust my breastplate tighter before I hit the road hills!

I also like that you don’t need a special treeless pad with this saddle. And it's lightweight while still offering the kind of support you might expect for a treed saddle.

I think overall Deli moved more freely in the GHOST Firenze, Which is fine, because I bought a Firenze! It arrived yesterday and I am very pleased. I can't wait to try out my new saddle, especially since I got custom blocks (instead of the bucking rolls) done that I think will work well. This means the EVA prototype is going to be sent along to the next person. The hope is that, since this saddle is still in development, rider feedback will shape the next prototype.

My new GHOST Firenze with custom "banana split" block!
My (newish) cat, Jovian, checking out the custom block.
"What do you mean I can't sit on the new saddle?"
 Fingers crossed this is THE saddle that will get us through lots of trail miles with comfort and happiness. I know I am going to have to play around with bolstering the front and I have plans for pad experimentation (including getting a laminated foam Skito that I can place on TOP of the Thinline pad). If there is an interest in these things I can endeavor to make an effort to catalog them here.

Fingers crossed March is the month where we start conditioning and building fitness for the long haul. I am looking forward to more saddle time and trail riding. So far 2016 has been turbulent with my own health problems and I need the relief some long trots on the horse I love will bring.


  1. Best of luck with the saddle! I really enjoyed all of the photos -- neat to see more of the "workings" of those newer saddles that are available. Very interesting re: tree of croc material!

  2. I really enjoyed your article, and hope to follow the future ones. I hope to get ahold of one of these to try as well.