B&W Reviews… FreeJump Safety Soft’Up Pro Adult Stirrups

Over the past few years there has been a surge of technical stirrups new to the market. From the very popular Sprenger Bow Balance (from £160) to the lightweight metal, and very popular Jin Stirrups (from £125), and recently the ‘safety’, ergonomic option FreeJump.  With prices over £100 to the £200 mark these are big investments and loved by a pro’s and amateur riders alike. The latest offering from FreeJump is the Safety Soft’Up Premium Pro Stirrup. But just how good are they and are they worth the extra spend?

freejumplife_ml

What Freejump Say…

FreeJump Safety Soft’Up Pro adult stirrups are the latest innovation in safety stirrups. They have a bendy plastic arm which will stop your foot getting trapped however, if you get really stuck (for example in a fall) the arm will snap away completely if the right amount of pressure is applied. Should the stirrup snap in a fall FreeJump will replace the stirrup free of charge. The stirrup is strengthened with steel and the foot grip is wider and thicker than usual which makes for a more comfortable ride, it also has a slight angle to help give you the perfect position. If you lose your stirrup during riding, it is specially designed to swing back to you.

freejump

My Experience – Soft’Up Lite – For Children…

I purchased a pair of FreeJump Soft Up Lite stirrups for my son at the start of the year. He is only 8 so I went for the slightly less expensive and smaller children’s style. I actually managed to grab a virtually new pair on EBay for less than half price (the full price is £145) – bargain! The SOFT’UP LITE by FreeJump is inspired by the SOFT’UP PRO but reduced in size for younger riders. I wouldn’t normally splash cash on things like stirrups. But was prompted after Henry fell off several times and got his food stuck in his traditional elasticated safety stirrups. He has found his FreeJumps have really helped this issue – and I have seen the safety mechanism work very well in real life when a particularly naughty pony bolted with him! The outer side of the stirrup is made from notched plastic so bends open should his foot get caught in a fall and in my opinion the style of the stirrup looks tidier than an elastic sided or bent stirrup. Henry has found the secure grip on the tread helps him maintain a good foot position in the stirrup (he rarely loses a stirrup now). I’ve also noticed that this section of the stirrup is generally broader so he puts more weight through his feet and ankle. In my opinion his lower leg is more stable, more often than not in the correct position and looks more balanced than before. This is likely to be due to the design of the stirrup and the 45° angled eye at the top of the stirrup. Henry likes the way you can clip the stirrups on and off the leathers to clean or change them to a different saddle. He has mentioned, without me prompting him, that they feel more comfortable, are easier to ride in and feel safe. I think they have been an asset to his riding from a safety, and balance perspective. As a parent I have been very impressed with their safety, styling and ease of use / care. Well worth considering for the young rider.

These stirrups accommodate a shoe size of up to UK size 6, the 10.7cm width fits soles not exceeding 10.2cm, so very petite adults might get away with a children’s pair!

Available in Black, Brown, blue, pink, yellow and red, from £145. The new edition ones have metal plates on the outside that can be interchanged and customised with national flags and other designs.

 

My Experience – Soft’Up Pro – For Adults…

With Henry getting on so well I decided to treat myself to some FreeJump Soft Up Pro’s (RRP £215) but splashed the cash and purchased the new silver styled Premium version (£230). I wanted to see really how good they were, but as anyone working to a budget understands, I was a little worried I’d just spent a fortune on something that wouldn’t benefit my riding, apart from looking smart.

Overall the adult version of Soft’Ups are larger, with bigger grips on the tread and built to take a heavier rider. They are much more weighted than the children’s versions which is an asset. They have a very distinctive design and incorporate all of the features of the children’s style.  So they look great, have loads of features to make them feel comfortable, help you to gain a better position and grip, but do they work? The answer is a resounding yes! It took a while to work out how to attach them to my traditional stirrup leathers, but they were easy to clip on and off. Immediately my feet and lower leg felt very secure. I noticed this getting on my mare who often won’t stand still when I mount. The wider tread helps your balance in these situations, as it does when you have sudden spooking at kamikaze pigeons and pheasants out on a hack! For riding long distances, I found the stirrups gave a nice balanced feel, I particularly liked them for canter work on the gallops (I felt less tired in my legs and ankles). Although I haven’t gone cross country in them I think they would provide a really solid, balanced feel. When jumping I have found the Soft’Ups great. I think my leg sits in a more natural, unforced position, that is very stable, leaving my knees freer and soft. The grip is excellent and it would take a lot to lose a stirrup unintentionally.

13461112_10153463483627142_2081699159_o

Overall the FreeJump Soft Up Pro’s are a large investment for the amateur rider, but are easy to change from saddle to saddle so can be used with multiple horses. The colours add a fun, team colour element to their styling and I wold be tempted to buy a red pair for XC. The new silver professional range style gives a more traditional colour, but with the FreeJump contemporary design these are most definitely stirrups for the 21st century. I wondered if they would be worth the extra spend but have found they really do live up to the manufacturers claims and in that sense offer something different to the market, that can help support your riding in a variety of disciplines.

Available in Black, Blue, chocolate, Green, Orange, Pink, Silver, Red, Vanilla from £215

Further Details…

The FreeJump stirrups can be used with any stirrup leather and boot.

The FreeJump stirrups have the following features:

  • Tempered spring steel single-branch with extra high mechanical resistance (1200MPa)
  • Elastollan® overmoulding
  • Open eye for fastening to the single strap
  • 45° angled eye for a perfect foot position
  • Patented flexible outer branch made of Elastollan® which helps free the foot in case of fall
  • Extra wide tread made of Ixef® 1022 (fibreglass loaded polyarylamide)
  • Elastomer grip
  • Screw fastened protective cover
  • Branch situated at the front of the tread for a natural slope
  • Rectilinear bevelled rear leading edge for better lateral stability
  • Exclusive LOOK CYCLE® technology nonslip studded tread surface

For further information and stockists visit: http://www.freejumpsystem.com/en/

 

 

NEW REVIEW. The Noble Outfitters Elite Performance Jacket

As part of my day job I get to review some of the best kit on the market for Uptown E Store . A very nice perk to have, and it means I get to cast a very objective eye over new stock. Basically if it isn’t great we wont stock it!

One really stand out piece that I have reviewed has been their Elite Performance Jacket. Not something I’d be expecting to wear in May but with frost on the ground this morning it has been in full use! The jacket has a really considered design, with loads of functionality, great use of tech and performance that quite honestly outstrips any other jacket I have. Priced at £139.95 it sits mid range price wise and I feel offers as much in terms of style, practicality and quality as its much higher priced rivals.

A piece of kit really worth checking out. Read my review in full here

unspecifiedXHCPN7ZP

unspecifiedXZ14LHOC

 

Four seasons in one weekend… Belton had it all… literally!

I was lucky enough to spend 2 days at one of my favourite events, Belton, last weekend. Despite having to battle with a flurry of snow on Saturday morning the organisers yet again put on an amazing event, which is really growing every year.

Set in beautiful parkland, with a majestic stone stately home nearly always in view, this is a real spectators event and on Sunday cars were still teeming into the event long after lunchtime. The cross country course, designed by Captain Mark Phillips, once again was up to height at all levels and tested both horse and rider in terms of their athleticism and ability to adjust stride length through the combinations and links of fences on course. It was interesting to see how his course designs developed from Novice up to Advanced, sometimes with similar, but smaller fences; with slightly easier lines at Novice. By clustering fences mid – way on the course, providing a Lycetts sponsorship area and café, with yet more combinations of fences the other side of this, spectators were provided with a great space to sit, enjoy a drink and take in the action. I think this approach makes eventing spectator and family friendly and I hope to see this idea at other major competitions as it really seemed to pay off, particularly as the weather on Sunday was glorious.

The CIC 3* and Advanced sections were showcases of International eventing at its best with a worldwide collection of nationalities in the top 5 of the Lycetts sponsored Grantham Cup CIC 3*. USA’s Christopher Burton and Mrs Sue Lawson and Carolyn and Anthony Townsend’s 10 year old Nobilis 18 took the top spot and with it the second leg of the Shearwater Insurance Tri Star Grand Slam with an impressive 34.50. France’s Thomas Carlile also added nothing to his dressage score of 38.40 to finish a close second with Quiro Hoy. Germany’s Bettina Hoy completed the top three with her ride Seigneur Medicott who rolled an unfortunate pole in the show jumping costing her second place.

The Polly Phillipps Memorial Trophy, awarded to the highest placed British rider in the Grantham Cup not eligible to wear a senior flag, was awarded to local favourite Ros Canter and her mother’s Zenshera who finished on 57.50 adding just 10.80 Cross Country time penalties to their dressage score.

Classic Moet and her partner, New Zealand’s Jonelle Price claimed top spot in Advanced section M followed closely by Britain’s Laura Collett and Cooley Again, with Oliver Townend and mount Samuel Thomas II coming a close 3rd. Completing his Belton Advanced 1, 2, 3 Oliver took 1st place in Advanced section O with Dunbeau and 2nd with ODT Ghareeb. 3rd place was taken by crowd favourite Andrew Nicholson and Perfect Stranger.

 

As expected, I spent a while checking out the range of over 100 trade stands. It was great to catch up with the team from Noble Outfitters, who I work quite closely with in my day job (to view some of the lovely pieces we sell click here) . They will soon be announcing some exciting news about a new Nobel Rider… so watch this space for news!


I was also keen to see the new belts on offer at Dalton’s.  . They have taken polo belt style, but updated and refined their designs into off the peg or bespoke team colour belts, keyrings, dog collars and leads. All of Dalton’s products are designed and individually manufactured by the founder of the company Emma Louise. The also stock classic snaffle and plain leather belts. Beautifully made and classic designs, they offer a slightly different take on the usual polo belt designs and are British made too! I’m now lusting after a black and white belt in my team colours – another add to the wish list!


Recipy  had a beautiful stand filled with some high end and luxurious combinations of leather, tweed, silk satin and fur. These fabrics have been featured by many other designers but I feel Reipy has the style edge for those wanting something just a little different, ladylike and eye-catching, with a great attention to detail. I spoke to Sarah Pickering – Paterson, Recipy’s design director who told me about her MA in fashion and how the collection was developed from this. Featured in the likes of Tatler, and British made, Recipy is great for town, country and would look amazing on the catwalk that is the first horse inspection.


Another fashion and style conscious brand, Voltaire Design,  were exhibiting at Belton. After having a sit on one of their bespoke dressage saddles I was interested in finding out more. Taking to their UK sports saddle specialist Mathieu Tireau it was great to hear just how much the design house takes into account when designing bespoke saddles. Voltaire Design relies on the long French tradition of saddle making. Interestingly they are the first saddle maker to get help from the fashion industry in terms of the design of their products. I particularly loved the distinctive blue gullet that flashed beneath their saddles. This is certainly saddle design for the 21st century and in hand with this goes their strong environmental values, unique to this brand. Speaking to Mathieu it is clear that their design ethos puts a horse’s comfort at the forefront of design and they work very closely to ensure that the back and shoulder is allowed freedom through the wide gullet and specially manufactured tree. So refreshing to see a design house that puts this first, while also enabling riders to gain the maximum comfort and support when riding in their chosen discipline. Obviously this doesn’t come cheap, but then nor does the endless quest to find the perfect fitting saddle. A definite add to my growing wish list and a brand worth checking out ‘in the flesh’ if you are in the market for a new saddle.


With shopping a plenty and more eventing action than any fan could want, Belton International is shaping up to be one of the best spring events in the UK. With plenty to keep non horsey family entertained, loads of room on course to spectate, and a select range of trade stands I will definitely be going back for a busman’s holiday next year!

B&W Eventing review the Nuumed Close Contact Saddle Cloth

Firstly HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope that you all had a great holiday and got to spend some quality time with your horses and family.

Starting this year with a flourish I have put together a vlog review on the Nuumed Close Contact, Wool Lined saddle cloth that I have recently trialled.

For anyone thinking of upgrading or replacing their saddle cloths this year Id say definitely don’t over look Nuumed. The quality, fit and cut are way superior to many of the other top end brands Ive tried and you are also supporting British manufacturing and design – so top marks for Nuumed.

Enjoy the video… you don’t get to see me (camera shy!)

For further details on the product visit http://www.nuumed.com

Smarter than most…Woof Wear Smart Overreach Boots Review

For ages I’ve been on the lookout for overreach boots that actually protect and last more than a season’s worth of wear. I was lucky enough to test Woof Wear Smart Over Reach Boots and was pleasantly pleased with them after a string of overreach purchases that really didn’t come up to scratch. I compete on my horses in a mixture of affiliated dressage, show jumping and eventing so overreach boots are an essential piece of kit for everyday and competition use. As any horse owner knows, an overreach is one of those annoying injuries that causes a lot of soreness, despite sometimes being quite minimal. They are just something all of us would prefer to avoid. For this reason I prefer to use overreach boots as a precaution to this type of injury.

ww

For some time I have tried to source some overreach boots that work withstand the rigours of cross country, regular use and washing but would also stay in place and not spin. The Woof Wear boot utilises the technological material of Poron® Xrd™ foam in the key strike area. Upon impact the Poron Xrd foam stiffens to give added protection. The area surrounding the hoof wall is made from a material called PU which again is softer so the boots mould to the feet easily and protect the coronet band. Woof Wear wisely terms this technology ‘protection on demand’. Because of this high tech material the boots are lightweight and feel flexible so minimise rubbing on the horse. The beautifully cushioned neoprene lining and band at the top of the boot is soft enough not to rub but still offers protection.

ww2

Inside the boots is an anti-spin nodule that rests in the cleft of the heel and prevents the boot from spinning. This works brilliantly and for the first time I noticed the boots didn’t spin, which was one of my criticisms of previous boot purchases. The boots have a stylish finish which looks high tech but is also subtle. They look protective before you’ve even put them on.

One element I really appreciated was the quality of the fastenings and details such as the neat little leather loop at the end of the Velcro. This small feature makes the boots easy to fasten and undo after cross country when you may have muddy hands and boots.

I trialled the boots when schooling and they fitted well and did their job. Woof Wear is very keen to promote correct fit and there is a useful video on their website. The boots should be fitted snugly, protect the heel bulbs but be too long so that they are pushed up when riding on deep surfaces. I would say that correct fit is essential with this product but it is easy to achieve in a range of fittings. As a final test I used the Smart Over reach boots on my horse for the SJ and XC phases of a BE100+ event. I was really pleased with their performance. They didn’t move but protected her, they also didn’t spin and I felt they wouldn’t be a trip hazard which has been the case for other designs.

A final test was washing the boots. They lived up to expectations and looked like new after being washed with all my other cross country kit. They were quick to dry and use again.

With most manufacturers producing an array of overreach boots to choose from it is tricky to make the right decision and end up with a product that ‘ticks all the boxes’. My horse literally has more pairs of boots than me… which says a lot and I’ve wasted money on boots that really don’t live up to claims or expectations.

However, the Woof Wear Smart Over reach boots are a top class mixture of great design and technology that offer stylish protection for competition and home use. For the dressage divas they are also available with a sheepskin trim which again may be useful for a very sensitive horse. Price wise the boots aren’t bargain basement but for what they offer they are very fairly priced and great value when comparing the materials, design and tech to other brands.

I would highly recommend the boots; they are a must for anyone wanting to protect their horses while not compromising on style. It’s led me to look at using other Woof Wear products, if they perform as well as the smart over reach boots I am a definite brand devotee!

RRP – £35 for small up to £40 for large

http://www.woofwear.com/for-horses/overreach-boots/smart-overreach-boot_small.html

It’s All in the Preparation… Pre-Season Tack Checks for the Eventer

We are so near you can almost hear the 5,4,3,2,1, GO! The eventing season is weeks away and team Black and White will be kicking off our campaign at Isleham 7th March. At home I am starting to make sure all my kit is in order and giving my tack a little t.l.c. This is important for any rider, but especially for eventers, who can put their saddles and bridles under extra strain when riding cross country. To get ahead of the game I took some time out to get a few tack care pro tips from Kate Hardt, the MD of Northumbria Equine.

294026_10150339560032343_811019614_n

Kate has had a lifetime’s experience working with horses and serving as an apprentice saddler and as a mounted police officer. Her company, Northumbria Equine UK makes a range of bespoke and off the peg tack including saddles, brides and martingales and personalised pieces to commission. They really can make anything you desire, and at a very affordable price too! Kate’s exclusive range of tack is available from www.northumbriaequineuk.co.uk

A gorgeous jump saddle by Northumbria Equine
A gorgeous jump saddle by Northumbria Equine

In my latest blog Kate talks about the basic checks that any rider needs to consider before heading out competing this season.

Cleaning and preparation

Now the winter is very slowly drawing to a close – we find ourselves already getting those entries in for events. Our horse’s fitness regime is already being discussed and one of the last things thought about is tack – other than tack junkies who always think about it (now that I can understand!)

Competition bridles, saddles, breastplates and martingales that may have been stored in the winter need to have a good strip down and check over. Some areas are often missed, the smallest, most crucial areas too…

Billet hooks

When strip cleaning your bridle work, always check the leather that the billet hook protrudes from. Very often they get missed when cleaning as it’s a bit fiddly, we do neglect this little bit of leather. It too, needs to be cleaned and treated – if that goes, your hook goes, your bit or reins go…. you get the idea!

Repairs

Check all of the stitching meticulously, check the stitching on those girth straps and the holes – have they stretched? If so consider getting replacements.

Check your tree, flocking, everything. Saddles ideally need a check twice a year as your horse should add muscle. For peace of mind and your horse’s wellbeing it is worth calling in the experts.

If anything needs repair – get it sent in to your saddler – now is the time. Saddlers are busy people – it is hunt season and they will be up to their necks in work.

If your kit has had a fair amount of wear and it needs some repair work – you may want to think about getting it replaced. With some items, the prep work involved prior to repair – can mean that the item could have been made from scratch in that time and may not be much more expensive to replace with new.

Leather oil & Cleaning

Try not to use leather oil all the time when cleaning tack. I used to see this all the time some years ago, not so much now thankfully. Leather oil when used to excess wrecks leather. It separates the fibres in the leather and causes stretch. It also gives quite a nasty feel to the leather and makes it very spongy. I find the only time I really need leather oil is occasionally if something feels a little dry (leather girth perhaps after a soaking and several hours mud bath on a long and sticky day hunting), or when leather has been soaked.

If leather gets very wet, the best thing to do is get a sponge cloth – squeezed out, wipe the saddlery over with this and WHILST WET apply leather oil then allow to dry. This should reduce the chance of leather drying out too much and getting too horribly water-stained. If your saddlery gets wet, it is vital that you look after it as soon as you get back – it won’t repair itself!

Once you have checked your saddlery thoroughly, always use a good quality leather care, plenty of them out there and lots in spray form, so tack cleaning is easier than ever. I always use tack cleaning spray too – it gets those horrid chunks of grease (jockeys) off your saddle flaps and inside of reins etc. Finish off with a decent soap or leather balm then assemble your saddlery again and hey presto, you are one job down on the list.

I know not everyone cleans tack every day – not even I, however, I do use glycerine spray soap on our saddles before we ride out – if nothing else it give me the grip I need to prevent me from performing high level gymnastics that I could never manage at school!

Regular hunting has its benefits – your tack gets cleaned before and after each meet – and can look fab at the end of the season! Do consider once a week if you can – and invite a few friends over for a tack cleaning party with a few bottles of the red stuff – makes it far easier to stomach!

Sound advice from an absolute pro! Thanks to Kate for her help putting together this blog. Happy tack checking 🙂

Helping out with the Event Riders Association Ball

Sadly I have been really busy so haven’t been able to update my blog, which I’ve really missed doing. Part of the reason for my hectic life recently was because I have been helping to plan the Event Riders Association Ball held at Ingleside house in Cirencester. ERA is for all event riders. They liaise with the governing bodies of the sport on behalf of riders around the world, aiming to help improve events and the sport at all levels. My role was to help with the planning of the event and design the table decor which I really enjoyed. Previously, pre-kids, I was a textile and art tutor and exhibited my work internationally. Some amazing photos of the night (and a few humorous ones of me) were taken by the Photographer Katie Mortimer and can be seen by following the link http://katiemortimorephotography.zenfolio.com/p473622996

I hope now to catch up with my blog… tell you about the end of our season, a nasty accident that happened a week ago and my plans for the winter period.