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.)
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.
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.