Test Ride: Sommer Egon von Neindorff

The Sommer Egon von Neindorff is a classic Sommer model. It was developed in 1973 in collaboration with legendary German dressage trainer Egon von Neindorff. You may not recognize the name- von Neindorff stopped riding competitively fairly early on in his career to dedicate his life developing and maintaining a large riding school. He was an advocate of classical dressage and trained hundreds of horses and riders throughout his 50 year career.  Dressage Today has an interview originally published in a Dutch magazine, which is a fascinating read. 

This is a minimalist’s dressage saddle. The seat isn’t particularly deep. There’s basically no thigh block. The monoflap design offers a very close contact with the horse. The design is very similar to the Stübben Tristan, another saddle developed by a dressage master. (In the Tristan’s case, it was designed by Willi Schultheis.)

EvN1

My poor billet straps had nowhere to go.

The model I test rode is several years old, but features the same flexible, adjustable tree as the Sommer FlextraEQ and Sommer Esprit. It has a fairly narrow tree, so Moe was my guinea pig for this test ride!

My initial impression was not one of security and stability. Moe is a narrow horse to begin with, so I enjoy riding in saddles where I feel like there’s something underneath me! My usual dressage saddle (a King’s Sandringham) has pretty modest knee rolls, but the Egon von Neindorff has nothing. I shortened my stirrups a couple of holes and felt better after a couple of laps around the arena at the walk. Once I got used to the feeling of being in super close contact with my horse, the saddle felt great. I often struggle with keeping my calf on Moe because he’s so narrow; I ride in nubby little spurs so I can turn my foot and poke him if necessary. My spurs were superfluous in the Egon von Neindorff. I had perfect contact through my entire leg and was able to ask Moe for lateral and forward movement without using my spurs.

EvN2

Basically no block.

The saddle put me in a good position. Because my leg felt secure, I was able to keep my hip angle open and it was easier to keep my chest open and shoulders back. Moe went beautifully in this saddle, though it’s hard to say if it’s because I was riding better, he felt extra comfortable, or he was just having a good day. (Who am I kidding? Every day is a good day when you’re eternally optimistic Moe.)

The saddle is lightweight thanks to the monoflap design and is made from soft, slightly grippy leather. My sole complaint is that it inexplicably lacks a stirrup leather keeper. I suppose a pair of leather webbers is less bulky than a traditional stirrup leather, but I don’t appreciate a saddle forcing new leathers on me.

You can still purchase new Sommer Egon von Neindorff saddles. They’re available in several leather varieties and colors and like all Sommers, custom piping, stitching, and accents are available, too. Used models aren’t especially rare (we have two on consignment at The Horse of Course) and seem to sell for around $1200. It can be difficult to find dressage saddles without very deep seats and very large blocks; the Egon von Neindorff gives minimalists a well made saddle without the bulk.

EvN3

“NO DRESSAGE ONLY JUMPS AND DONUTS”

27 Comments

  1. Wilbur, Ellie, and Emily

    Lovely saddle!

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      All the Sommers are beautiful!

      Reply
  2. Aryelle Stafford

    I don’t like dressage saddles with large knee blocks but I usually do prefer a deeper seat. Though this price is tough to beat…I’ll have to look into this, thanks!!

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      I’m the same way (although I’ve ridden in a few saddles with big blocks that I like a lot). This has a nice seat, in my opinion. I felt pretty secure without feeling trapped once I got my stirrups to an appropriate length.

      Reply
  3. Cob Jockey

    My trainer had a hard-as-rock Dominique Barbier Dressage saddle that also intentionally didn’t have keepers. That saddle was meant for a very particular rider that wasn’t me – I hated that thing.

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      There’s a Tristan at the store that I want to take on trial, but I just know it’s going to be like sitting on a brick. I enjoy having SOME cushion.

      Reply
  4. Exploringdressagebiomechanics

    I currently ride in a Marcus Kreehan and I have always been curious about the Sommer EvN as I like a more minimalist saddle. Thanks for the review!

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      Ooh, I’d love to hear more about your experience with the MK. There are two at the store that I’ve never tried out because they’re set too wide for my horses!

      Reply
      1. Exploringdressagebiomechanics

        I really like the MK. Closer contact, mono flap, nicely balanced, and closer to riding in something like a Tristan or Sommer I think, but my MK has knee blocks which are a little short for my long thigh bone. I make do because the saddle was a steal on eBay, but I keep thinking I should look at the Sommer for the same effect but no pesky knee block.

        Reply
        1. Stephanie (Post author)

          I’ve liked every Sommer I’ve tried (this is the fourth- 3 dressage, 1 jumping) and would heartily recommend them! The MKs seem really well made, though, so if you can cope with the slightly short for you knee block, you’re probably doing just fine!

          Reply
      2. Holly K.

        You can always try the wider saddles on Roscoe.

        Reply
        1. Holly K.

          Although he may be too wide.

          Reply
        2. Stephanie (Post author)

          Ooh, I might have to bring one or two out for Roscoe. There are a couple I’ve had my eye on that I know will engulf Gina/Moe.

          Reply
          1. Holly K.

            Be my guest! Either on a day that we both ride, or some morning when you’re at the barn. I’m sure that Roscoe wouldn’t mind…

  5. Erin

    You’re job is so cool. I love that you can try out all sorts of things/saddles. I admire your self control. I’d for sure buy everything. lol.

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      Haha, usually some part of my paycheck goes back to the store! I do alright with tack (I mean, I have a dressage girth, I don’t need another one) but don’t have a lot of self control for breeches, grooming products, saddle pads, or shirts. Especially when reps come in hawking next season’s lines. Don’t ask me about how much Joules I bought for myself in February that won’t come in until September. :'(

      Reply
  6. draftmare

    I am the total opposite. I am 100% on board with the new saddles that have huge knee blocks and deep seats. I loved my Wintec Isabel because I felt super secure and stuck in the saddle should my horse start jumping around.

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      True story: Before I had my dressage saddle, I took Gina to a combined test and borrowed a saddle from the barn owner because I didn’t want to do dressage in my XC saddle. It was a Wintec Isabell. The suede-like material on the saddle combined with my full seat breeches made me feel like I was Velcroed to the saddle! I was like “HA GINA TRY BUCKING ME OFF TODAY!” (which of course she did not, because she doesn’t buck). I can totally understand why you’d like that!

      Reply
  7. jenj

    Oh man, I would so love to try all the saddles!

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      It’s definitely one of my favorite parts of the job!

      Reply
  8. Thefoxrider

    I have a Courbette saddle that sounds very similar to this… tiny pencil knee roll, flat seat. I love the way it rides, but it’s too narrow for my wide… booty warmblood cross. Ugh. I have a real fondness for saddles without the giant knee rolls because usually they aren’t made for legs like mine and I just end up bracing against the saddle and it bleeds over into bracing against the horse. I mean, I probably shouldn’t joke about the time I jumped 3′ in my magikal Courbette dressage saddle… but it happened and I appreciated that it didn’t totally screw my balance.

    This Sommer sounds very much up my alley – I wish it was in my price range! One day… either way, great review!

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      It seems like a lot of the flatter, small roll saddles are designed to go on narrower Thoroughbred-types. The Sommers are nice because a fitter can adjust them to fit basically anything, but they’re definitely not cheap. If you’re looking for something similar to your Courbette, you might look at some of the older Passier models, like the Baum. They’re easy to find (work has 5 different models of the Baum on consignment right now) and aren’t usually very expensive. (Well, compared to the Sommers, at least.) Some models of Collegiate dressage saddles are also very minimalist!

      I evented in a deep-seated Courbette for years and loved it- I wish I’d never traded it away!

      Reply
  9. Abby

    Huh, fascinating! Really makes me wonder if it would be a good fit for my narrow little pony….might be worth looking into! (Though a little or of my price range atm :/)

    Reply
  10. Stacie Seidman

    I don’t do the dressage, so I can’t give a useful comment here… but this line “I don’t appreciate a saddle forcing new leathers on me.” made my laugh out loud. So pushy for a saddle!

    Reply
  11. Micaylah

    I’m pretty sure I ride in this at my horse trainers! It is a Sommer and ancient and described exactly how you described this. It definitely doesn’t help you, but it doesn’t restrict you either. Honestly I love riding in it to really fine tune my position. Its funny because I didn’t really seem to notice or care the lack of leather keepers! Its a great saddle to learn from.

    Reply
  12. Amy Harrison

    Have you ever tried the Palatina that was on HOCs consignment page?

    Reply
    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      You know, I didn’t try that one out!

      Reply

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