Archive for the ‘Tack and Equipment’ Category

Horsemen for Haiti – Malvern Saddlery donating 10% to relief efforts

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

In support of victims of the Haiti earthquake, on Friday Jan 22nd and Saturday Jan 23rd Malvern Saddlery and A Bit Less will donate 10% of each sale to the American Red Cross to help with relief efforts.

Malvern have a wonderful range and being a US company you’ll pick up great off-season deals – take advantage of the high Aussie dollar and do your bit for a better world!

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Simplify your tack cleaning regime for achieving leather zen

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

It’s something we all know we should do, but procrastinate terribly over. How many times have you postponed cleaning your bridle, saddle or leatherwork for fear of starting an all-day journey to banish dirt and dried-on sweat scum?

Cleaning your tack not only improves appearances, it’s also critical for safety of both you and your horses, so why does it get relegated to the chores list and how can you make the process less onerous (maybe even enjoyable?!).

Here’s our top-five tips for keeping your cleaning regime simple and quick, so you can spend more time in the saddle:

1. Wipe down with a damp cloth after every use

Sounds simple enough and you’ll find this rule in any leather care article you’d choose to open. A quick wipe over with a damp cloth removes dirt and sweat from your equipment before it has a chance to settle in and cause deterioration. *The trick is to do it every time you ride* Don’t leave it till you get home from the barn: it won’t happen. Make sure you do the quick wipe over straight away, before the saddle cover goes on, whilst your waiting for him to finish his feed (it’s a great way to get some chill time with him after a ride).

In dry climates like Aus, I find swapping the water for some effax leather combi (solvent based cleaner) once a week does wonders to keep leather spruce – more on cleaners and conditioners below…

2. Use a proper leather cleaner, and clean often

Most people use glycerine saddle soap as their staple cleaner, taking great delight in working up a good soapy lather to apply to leather. Whilst it’s true, the lather is what helps to lift dirt out, glycerine’s not the best choice for a soap. The glycerine leaves a film on your leather, stopping other products (and water) penetrating into the leather fibres. Whilst this may be advantageous in some situations, as soon as it gets wet, that film starts to get tacky, holding dust and dirt – causing the black gunky build up on tack. With ongoing applications, you can end up working the dirt further into your tack, rather than removing it! Glycerine’s best left for application if you’re storing leather for a long time, or better yet, excluded completely from your cleaning regime.

And we won’t insult your intelligence by delving far into the detail of why a 2-in-1 product is generally a bad idea: cleaners strip grease out, conditioners put grease in. ’nuff said.

So what constitutes a proper cleaner? We’d recommend a product that dissolves dirt and grime without harming the leather (solvents do the trick nicely). Effax leder combi is particularly effective and won’t leave a greasy residue on your equipment. As mentioned above, you can use it once a week or so to replace wiping over with a damp cloth and really, that’s about all you need on a regular basis. Supplement with a conditioner *very* infrequently…

3. Complement your frequent cleaning with infrequent moisturising

Here once again, most people get it wrong, oiling their tack to add moisture and doing it frequently with the goal of obtaining ‘butter soft’ leather. First, oiling doesn’t add moisture, oiling creates a moisture barrier. Secondly, ‘butter soft’ does not necessarily equal safe, ‘butter soft’ equals leather which has been weakened to the point of failure by separation of the leather fibres.

What are we trying to achieve with moisturising? Soft, supple, strong leather that’s no longer vulnerable to cracking. It’s like your own skin: moisturise when you feel it’s drying out, not as a preventative or you end up with a greasy mess and everything feeling weighed down and gluggy. Moisturisers for leather will help to replace some of the oils lost through activities with regular use, but shouldn’t be used to ‘soften’ the leather through excessive, repeated applications. What you’re trying to avoid is working so much oil and emollients into your leather that those particles start to force apart the leather fibres, giving a ‘soft’ feel which is not moisturised, supple leather fibres, but rather fibres stretched out of shape and ‘soft’ due to a weakening of the leather structure.

Moisturising once every 6 months should be plenty – once a quarter at most – with regular cleaning to maintain pliable, supple equipment.

4. Use a proper moisturiser

What you’re generally after is a moisturiser made up of emollients – to help draw moisture into the leather, rather than seal it out.

The word emollient is associated with words like ‘soothing’ ‘softening’ and ‘relaxing – especially in relation to skin. Think of soothing your leather when it’s getting a little tired and dried out: nowhere are the words ‘drowning’ or ‘drenching’ mentioned, so keep a leash on it.

I’ve found particular favour with the Effax range generally and here leather moisturisers are no exception: their ‘leder balsam’ provides a mix of beeswax and oils with some water solubility: i.e. they’ll help to transport water into the leather rather than providing a complete seal. (And bonus: Effax also does products for your handbags, leather lounge suite and vehicles)

Less is more with these products: a little, worked well into clean leather (take your time) will yield best results. But remember, you should only need to do this once or twice a year, so enjoy it!

5. Invest in a bag or cover

If you’re serious about keeping your leather in tip-top condition, invest in a bag or cover for all your leatherwork – saddles, bridles, halters – as a cheap and portable way to keep the dust off and the sunlight out: minimising deterioration between uses. Use your commonsense, don’t bag it if it’s wet and make sure it’s aired regularly.

So, in summary:

1. Wipe down with a damp cloth at the barn, after every use – it takes 5 minutes so don’t promise yourself you’ll do it at home
2. Use a proper cleaner, ditch the saddle soap
3. Moisturise once every 6 months (making the hardship of tack-spas a thing of the past)
4. Use a proper moisturiser
5. Bag it between uses

Send an email to Danelle Jones, the author of this post, at

NB: We don’t stock Effax leather products in our online shop at time of writing, however we do intend to. As with all products we do stock, they’re chosen after purchasing retail and testing ourselves: no free samples from suppliers or wholesalers, just our favourite picks from around the world.

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Keep safe with regular tack checks

Monday, January 4th, 2010

With summer well and truly here and the Christmas holidays in swing, it’s a good idea to remember to check your tack regularly for signs of wear and tear. Safety checks can help you identify problems early, before a catastrophic failure of your equipment.

Equisearch released this Tack Safety Check Chart which gives you a quick rundown of things to check each time before you ride. And if you’d like more detail less pictures, you can check out the Tack Safety article as well.

[Tack Safety Check Chart]

Send an email to Danelle Jones, the author of this post, at

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Wintec Pro Dressage

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009
Wintec Pro Dressage

Wintec Pro Dressage

You’ll find that what differentiates this old Pro from the new model is that it clearly embodies a philosophy of close contact dressage: with slim panels and an open seat, there’s little getting in the way of you and your horse.

Wintec have been in the game for a few years now – to be accurate, the Wintec brand began evolving in the early 1980s and have had a profound impact on the equestrian market. As an industry leader pioneering synthetic saddles in the 80′s and 90′s, they’ve grown a name for themselves as lightweight, low fuss tools that can get the job done. Partnering with the stars (Wintec dressage saddles have a long history of association with Isabell Werth) and a reputation for innovative materials (Equisuede, Equileather) has cemented a trustworthy relationship with their loyal customers.

For this road test, we used our favourite Mattes Double Quilted Baby Pad and Wintec Elastic Girth , following carefully the instructions to adjust the y-girthing system to suit our horse.

For the horse

Adjusting the y-girthing system was simple and quick. The nylon girth points sit very flat and the adjustment point is well behind the leg and stays put once set. We’re fans of this rigging setup, because you can clearly see how this system helps to distribute the force across a larger tree area than more traditional rigging setups .

Y-girth system

The Y-girth system

Adjusting the over-surcingle

Adjusting the over-surcingle

This saddle is also fitted with the flap surcingle – but we found it pretty close to useless. It’s designed to keep the saddle flap in place and stop it riding up or moving whilst riding. Unfortunately the point at which it’s attached to the flap is a little forward – which means that it doesn’t quite sit over the girth, it tends to want to migrate towards the elbow. We thought the strap has limited functionality and you’d probably do well to remove it all together (although the truncated ends would certainly be unsightly).

The girth tabs for this saddle are leather-tipped – stitched to the bottom of the nylon strapping you can see in the picture above. As with all leather girth tabs, you suffer from the holes tending to stretch over a period of time and you’ll need to keep a closer eye on them for safety than you would synthetic strapping.

Flipping the saddle over we need to make some comment on panels and gullet too. Although gullet measurement on our rental is a ‘medium’ it doesn’t really tell you a whole heap about how this saddle is going to fit. You can see the channel width is consistent through the length of the saddle, however it’s probably narrower than the more recent models. That’s ok – it still fits the old ’3 finger’ rule, but there’s not much additional leeway. You’ll need to make a judgment call as to whether the width is right for your horse’s spine and barrel shape and to suit your personal preference. Overall, the channel looks to be more suited to a narrower-sprung rib cage. The horse fitted here has a really typical, middle-of-the-road sprung rib cage.

tree angle

A view from the front with a partial view of the tree angle at the shoulder

As far as panels go, they’re slim and pretty firm (flocked in this case). As part of the review process, we measure the average panel area and work out a maximum carrying capacity for all our saddles. In this case, although the panels are not as wide and cushy as is currently in-vogue, it still achieves a maximum 80kg weighting, based on 2/3rds panel area in contact with the horse (i.e. you’ve got a big safety margin for bridging, rocking or general shifting in motion).

gullet view

View of the channel and panels

For the rider

Picture below gives an overall impression of the saddle’s styling – no bulking knee rolls, certainly not a ‘deep seat’, mild twist and rather long saddle flaps. The flaps measure 46cm (18″) as the stirrup leather hangs on a 17.5″ saddle, and tend to suit those of us with a longer femur (i.e. distance from hip to knee). There’s enough forward cut to the flaps to allow for the girls among us to get some bend in those knees too.

Side view

Side view

The waist is medium-narrow, which means the seat was comfortable and you don’t feel perched at all, immediately noticeable though is the lack of knee rolls for this saddle. This gives you the flexibility to experiment with leg position, however some people may find it disconcerting if you’re used to a saddle that ‘puts you in position’. Due to the age of the saddle, the stirrup hangers are probably attached more forward on the tree to newer saddles – more an indication of the changing trends in saddle design over the last 5 years than any great hindrance though.

If you find you really can’t do without nice cushy knee rolls to feel secure, Wintec sells Flexiblocs (available front and also back – blocks for behind the thigh) in a range of shapes and sizes and these can be purchased separate from a saddle to modify the fit of the knee rolls and any support behind the rider’s leg. This does give you a few options for modifying the fit to suit from a rider’s perspective.

Flexibloc viewed from behind

Flexibloc viewed from behind

Flexibloc viewed from side

Flexibloc viewed from side

Our rental saddle is fitted with Dressage Regular sized Flexiblocs in the front only: For those who like to feel nice and ‘snug’ in a saddle, this one is definitely not for you. However, if you’re interested in experimenting with the way you sit, or you prefer the room to move you’ll find with minimal interference of your legs, you’re free to move around and try something new with this saddle. In motion, the equisuede is comfortable to ride in wearing simple cotton jods.


  • Easy clean / low maintenance
  • Flexibility to experiment with your position (leg and seat)
  • Saddle flap length suits longer legs
  • A hard wearing training saddle for every day use – the roomy seat adds emphasis on finding your own balance


  • Over-surcingle is unnecessary and may get in the way
  • Synthetic really doesn’t posses ‘start quality’ for the show ring (although in local / informal meets are well accepted)
  • Some riders may find a lack of support due to the open seat unsettling

In short, we’d recommend this saddle for those who like a more open seat, or those who want to experiment with their position a little more. Beginners would probably find the lack of support de-stabilising and slightly confronting, because the you’ll be expected you to find your own balance – the saddle won’t ‘put you in position’. The synthetic materials are easily maintained and although not suitable for high turnout, the Pro really does shine as a training saddle for everyday use.

Carrying capacity: Limited to 80kg
Condition score: All Rounder
Availability: Rent it here

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