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rlaracue
Jun. 28, 2009, 02:17 PM
Hi there.

I am looking for a quality jumper saddle and was on the verge of plunking down a deposit on a County Innovation or Stabilizer when I came across Black Country Saddles.

Specifically I am looking at BCS's Quantum and Maelstrom saddles as less expensive alternatives to County's Innovation and Stabilizer lines.

That said until I tripped over Black Country on a Google search I had no previous knowledge of them.

They make custom saddles in 3-4 weeks versus County's 8-12 weeks. The BCS Quantum runs $2395 whereas the County Stabilizer runs $2995.

The Maelstrom - similar to the Innovation but with calf leather - runs around $3200 vs. Innovation's $3695. Add Bull Leather to the Innovation and you are looking at $4100.

All that said I wonder how BCS can crank out a custom saddle in 3-4 weeks apart from either having much lower volumes than County or more staff.

Both saddles are made in Walsall UK and the leather is quite nice on each.

I have ridden in both the County's and BCS's and while the BCSs seem nicely made I just don't know how they will hold up or how my back and my horses will fair long term.

This last point is key in that I am 44yo rider who typically rides 13-15yo warm bloods coming off jumper careers.

So does anyone know about Black County or do you think I should stick with County or even Beval given their greater visibility and use in the competition circuit.


Thanks for your thoughts.

Ray.

tidy rabbit
Jun. 28, 2009, 02:41 PM
There is such a huge difference between a Beval saddle and a County saddle I wouldn't even consider Beval in the same league.

I haven't seen a Black Country saddle so I can't speak to that brand... but I have both a County Stabilizer and a County Innovation and LOVE both of them. They hold their value well and my horses all seem very comfortable in them.

Good luck with your search.

FlashGordon
Jun. 28, 2009, 02:43 PM
I can't speak for the other two, but I LOVE my Black Country. LOVE IT. It is the most comfortable, well balanced saddle I've sat in in a long time.

rlaracue
Jun. 28, 2009, 05:12 PM
There is such a huge difference between a Beval saddle and a County saddle I wouldn't even consider Beval in the same league.

I haven't seen a Black Country saddle so I can't speak to that brand... but I have both a County Stabilizer and a County Innovation and LOVE both of them. They hold their value well and my horses all seem very comfortable in them.

Good luck with your search.

Which do you prefer - the Innovation or Stabilizer for jumping an light hacks?

I liked the Stabilizer until I sat in the Innovation :) The Innovation is very comfortable - almost too much.

I prefer close contact and wonder if the Innovation is a little too cushy and padded.

rlaracue
Jun. 28, 2009, 05:13 PM
Which BCS model are you riding? Quantum, Maelstrom, Ricochet or Wexford?

Strictly Classical
Jun. 28, 2009, 06:02 PM
I am a dressage rider, so I am not familiar with the specific model of BC saddles that you mentioned. I can say, with all certainty, that BC saddles are in the same league as County. They are an excellent saddle; the name is just not quite as well known in the US as is County. I think it years to come rider's knowledge of them will grow and their popularity will increase as well.

I would also like to mention the name of another quality British saddler that you may not have heard of. Their saddles also are in the same "league" as BC, County, Passier, C. Barnsby and Albion. The name is Frank Baines. I ride in a Frank Baines Elegance dressage saddle. The FB's are also in the same price range. A new Elegance runs in the neighborhood of $2600 currently. I love the quality construction and materials of my saddle.

FB makes all kinds of English saddles - from dressage, H/J forward seat models, endurance etc. You really owe it to yourself and your horse to check them out before making a decision on ANY saddle.

Here is a link to their website:

http://www.frankbaines.com/

You can find them at Trumbull Mts. Saddlery, M and M Tack Shop in Raleigh, NC. Mary Bowels at M and M is a pleasure to work with. Both she and Michelle can answer all your questions about saddle fit,quality, and construction. http://www.mmtackshop.com/frankbaines1.html and
http://www.trumbullmtn.com/Saddle_%20pages/Close%20Contact/New_Baines/FBaines.htm

Trumbull Mtn. also carries the Black Country brand. Those folks offer very good advice and are helpful as well.

Good luck in your search. There are some great saddles out there. Although, I have to admit, that I prefer a quality, hand-made English made saddle to a German made saddle (Keiffer, Passier, Stubben [Swiss]) anyday. Quality British made saddlers include Frank Baines, Black Country, Cliff Barnsby, Albion, Custom Saddlery, and - I think - County.

I have an old County WB model that I love riding in. That is the most comfortable saddle. hands down though I prefer my Baines. Its just a great saddle. Same quality as County and just a smidge easier on my poketbook.:)

mvp
Jun. 28, 2009, 06:53 PM
In terms of quality-- that is, leather and workmanship and fit (with a caveat, below), I'd say:

County

Black Country

Beval

Frank Baines

I'm comparing close contact saddles-- County Stabilizers and Innovations, the BC Maelstrom and Quantum, a Butet (to give Beval's the benefit of the doubt) and a Frank Baines Elan. I haven't seen the FB Reflex or Enigma which are reputed to be made of softer leather.

You might also through a Jeffries Elite into the mix if the geometry is right for you. Jeffries makes Bevals' bridles and a very nice piece of equipment in general.

Bevals doesn't try to do what these other saddlers do, for better and for worse. I think the Butet sets the aesthetic bar for most H/J people and doesn't fit the horse terribly well. These other guys, flocking with wool, build a slightly coarser-looking saddle on top, but know how to build saddles that fit horses and are balanced.

In terms of resale value, I think you will lose the least on a County or Butet. But you will lose about 40% driving the saddle off the lot (others will disagree). You might be better off in the long run figuring out exactly what you want and enjoying it for a long, long time.

After that, you need to figure out what your horse needs and what you need in a saddle.

The Stabilizer, Innovation and Butet are each a very different saddle. The BC Quantum and Maelstrom are built on a tree that seems in between the depth of flat saddle like a Stabilizer and deeper innovation.

In your position, I'd start with Trumbull Mountain and have them send me a Quantum. Then or And, I'd pay my County rep to come out with an appropriately sized Stabilizer and Innovation. After that, I'd call M&M and Rick's Heritage for a Jeffries Elite.

I can tell you more about all these saddles if you like.... but it will take awhile.

2horseowner
Jun. 28, 2009, 07:09 PM
I've pretty much walked in your shoes. I had the County rep out to fit me in a Stabilizer XTR, loved it. Wanted to buy a used one, due to the $3500 price. The size and tree width I wanted was nowhere to be found. I ended up getting a BC Wexford because I event. I just sold my Quantum. The quality of the BC saddles are superb. My saddle should be here in about 4 weeks. Much better turn around time than County. Call Trumbull if the BC is what you're looking for. Even w/ the Buffalo leather, my saddle was still about $500-600 cheaper! Good Luck:)

Across Sicily
Jun. 29, 2009, 10:39 AM
I was told 6-8 weeks by my County rep - this was about 3 weeks ago, for what it's worth.

To make a decision you of course must ride in the different saddles... I take it you have ridden in the Countys. Try some BCs and see what you think. If you like it better or the same as the County, then get it. If you don't, then get the County, simple as that. The price difference is such that it probably shouldn't be that big of a deal if you like a County better than a BC.

With saddle shopping it's all about trying everything and riding in it to make sure it's good for you. I tried a Butet after hearing everyone moon on about how amazing they are and didn't like it, but adored the Stabilizer. Same may be true for you, or it may not. Won't know til you give it a shot :)

LSM1212
Jun. 29, 2009, 11:11 AM
I, too, am on the hunt for a new saddle.

I have a Beval Ltd. I like it but it doesn't fit my horse anymore (we have a temp fix that seems to be working well and will for awhile so I can take my time and find the perfect fit for him and me). Another Beval is NOT an option as I'll never go the foam flocked route again.

So I've been looking at County and Black Country.

I rode in a friend's County Stabilizer last month on 2 of her horses (hey TR!). Really liked it. Seemed to put me in the correct position, etc.

This past weekend I tried 2 different kinds of Black Country saddles (2 fellow barnmates have one so they let me sit in them).

One was a monoflap Venci (???) model (not the kind I would get, but it was a stock saddle so I could at least get an idea of the standard fit for me)... it was very comfy and I really liked it. The seat and flap size seemed to fit me well (17.5 seat and standard flap).

My other barnmate let me sit in hers too (thanks BigMick). And I walked around for a bit (in 2 point and did some mock-posting) to see if I liked it. It was the Quantum but she got hers "tricked" out for Eventing (more forward flap as she's 6' tall and has a really long femur, suede seat and knee rolls, etc.). This one felt really good too and I easily found that "sweet spot". And with the suede... I wasn't going anywhere!!! Now I'd get regular leather. Her's was one seat size bigger (18") and of course the flap was much more forward (I had a good 4-5 inches extra in front of my knee even w/ my stirrups jacked up and the knee block was about 2 inches too high.... definately an indication that the flap was wrong for me) but it really gave me an idea on how they fit as this is the model I'm looking at (Quantum) and that a standard flap would work fine for me and what I do... now it's just figuring out which seat size would be best (17.5 or 18... though leaning towards the 17.5).

The price is definately a factor. The BC's are cheaper but are of awesome quality. My saddle fitter is a big fan of them and thinks that is the best route for me and Stitch. And you have so many choices once you pick the model you want.

It will be a little while before I go through the process of ordering one (need to save some coinage) so the 2nd friend said I could meet her again and actually do some riding in the saddle. To get a real feel for it since her's is the model I'm going to get.

So I definately think it's a personal preference thing.

The 2 things I'm really picky about in a saddle are the twist and flap. I can deal with most other things. I'm one of the few that seems to like a wider twist. Other saddles I have tried were just too narrow and it just didn't fit my conformation (can you say, hit me in the WRONG place). The Black Country was perfect.

tidy rabbit
Jun. 29, 2009, 11:21 AM
Which do you prefer - the Innovation or Stabilizer for jumping an light hacks?

I liked the Stabilizer until I sat in the Innovation :) The Innovation is very comfortable - almost too much.

I prefer close contact and wonder if the Innovation is a little too cushy and padded.

I like both of them, a lot. The Stabilizer I have is a hair too small for me but it fits 3 of my horses, so I'm keeping it for a while. :)

I think the Stabilizer is easier to get up and out of the tack because it's a more classic flat seat style, while the Innovation is a deeper seat and a much more secure feel to it and I love it over the bigger jumps. Really, I like both styles quite a lot.

hollyhorse2000
Jun. 29, 2009, 12:57 PM
I have the Maelstrom from Trumbull Mountain and could not be happier. I did try County for my hard-to-fit horse (after plunking down Big $$$ for a "custom" Antares that didn't fit). I personally do not like the twist in the County's (I need something narrower). And my horse did not seem pleased. I also was very reluctant to spend that kind of money after one ride in a saddle that required extensive shimming to fit and with the dealer standing there the whole time.

With the Black Country, Trumbull sent me a demo that I rode in for at least a week, maybe longer. The demo was quite close to what I eventually ordered, so I felt better about the order. It came quickly and I've been very happy with it -- horse, too.

I had my local, non-affiliated saddle fitter do the tracings for it and then fit it afterward. I've had it a year.

sweetpea
Jun. 29, 2009, 04:24 PM
Not just because i own it now , but have owned Beval and everything else.
The Company STANDS behind the saddles. Best change for me and horse.
I can't ride in an innovation worth a hoot --- but my butt misses it.
The stabilzer XTR in bull !! YAHOOOOOOOOOOOOO

otisrider
Jun. 29, 2009, 07:51 PM
Can't speak to BC but I can say that for me one County (Stabilizer) really worked and the other (Innovation) really didn't - I assume it's how I ride - it was a pain to wait the 3 months (for mine 18 months ago).

pattnic
Jun. 29, 2009, 09:43 PM
In terms of quality-- that is, leather and workmanship and fit (with a caveat, below), I'd say:

County

Black Country

Beval

Frank Baines

I'm comparing close contact saddles-- County Stabilizers and Innovations, the BC Maelstrom and Quantum, a Butet (to give Beval's the benefit of the doubt) and a Frank Baines Elan. I haven't seen the FB Reflex or Enigma which are reputed to be made of softer leather.

You might also through a Jeffries Elite into the mix if the geometry is right for you. Jeffries makes Bevals' bridles and a very nice piece of equipment in general.

Bevals doesn't try to do what these other saddlers do, for better and for worse. I think the Butet sets the aesthetic bar for most H/J people and doesn't fit the horse terribly well. These other guys, flocking with wool, build a slightly coarser-looking saddle on top, but know how to build saddles that fit horses and are balanced.

In terms of resale value, I think you will lose the least on a County or Butet. But you will lose about 40% driving the saddle off the lot (others will disagree). You might be better off in the long run figuring out exactly what you want and enjoying it for a long, long time.

After that, you need to figure out what your horse needs and what you need in a saddle.

The Stabilizer, Innovation and Butet are each a very different saddle. The BC Quantum and Maelstrom are built on a tree that seems in between the depth of flat saddle like a Stabilizer and deeper innovation.

In your position, I'd start with Trumbull Mountain and have them send me a Quantum. Then or And, I'd pay my County rep to come out with an appropriately sized Stabilizer and Innovation. After that, I'd call M&M and Rick's Heritage for a Jeffries Elite.

I can tell you more about all these saddles if you like.... but it will take awhile.

I would like to know :yes:... feel free to PM me, if you prefer (or email is good, too).

mjmvet
Jun. 29, 2009, 11:13 PM
I have a Black Country Wexford from Trumbull Mtn. IMHO, you can't beat it. The quality is excellent, the leather is to die for, and its by far the most comfortable saddle I've ever used. The real selling point for me was that it actually fits my horse, which is a first. The customer service at Trumbull Mtn is GREAT. They helped me out a lot, looking at wither tracings, photos, giving me a tour of the shop, letting me sit in saddle after saddle to get a feel for them. Can't say enough good things about the saddle or the shop!

I've sat in a Butet - hated it. I don't care how trendy or expensive it is!

Can't say I've tried a County though.

I would say, check out Trumbull Mtns excellent website, with all the photos and descriptions, then talk to the people there about what you're looking for. Good luck!

mvp
Jun. 29, 2009, 11:23 PM
The details and points of comparison are more that you can shake a stick at. It may be easier to begin with the shape of horse you'd like to fit, as well as the rider's conformation and preference for seat depth and flap.

Once I'm asked to spend $2K or more, I want wool flocking because when all other things are equal, these saddles almost always make horses more comfortable. After that, I want a saddle that fits me well and is made with a quality I'd like. I think buying a new saddle with the intention of not losing money is a bad idea. In today's market, I think they all lose their value. It's just a question of how many actual dollars you'd like to lose. It's much better to do the work to get the saddle you will like for a long time.

You also might choose a saddle company based on how well they can build a saddle that you and your horse would like. This usually means "How close am I to a saddle they already make?" It can also mean "How many different options to they offer?" and "How well can I, the retailer and the manufacturer work together to get all those features lined up in one custom saddle?" I think Black Country has County and even Frank Baines beat on this count.

Someone-- probably you, but maybe a good fitter-- will need to become the saddle engineer. If you tell me what you want, I'll try to point you in the right direction.

rlaracue
Jun. 29, 2009, 11:43 PM
I have ridden in the Black Country Quantum, County Stabilizer, Stabilizer XTR and Innovation.

I have also ridden in a Jaguar, Beval Natural, Stubben, Crosby, Pessoa and Bates.

While this second group was nice I have zoned in on BCS and County. If money were no object I would look into CWD but not now. :D

Anyway, Trumbull Mtn is who I am working with re: BCS and they have been very helpful so far.

I have a local freelance saddle fitter (who is an authorized BCS repair/fitter) coming to my barn this Thursday to see me work out in the BCS Quantum and determine what options make the most sense and how it fits the horse.

The cool thing is she apprenticed with a long time County rep and is very familiar with both saddle lines.

I will say the BC leather looks fantastic (especially the Maelstrom) and both saddles are very comfortable. Perhaps not as much as the County's - especially the Innovation but very close.

While I like the Innovation it is deep and getting up and out of it takes some getting use to.

If I had to call it today its a coin flip between the BCS Quantum and the Stabilizer.

I agree with the comment that the price range on the BCS and Counties (if you avoid the bull leather and push through $4000) makes this more about the saddles and how they fit me/my horse but every dollar saved goes towards more gear. :)

I will let you know how the fitting goes on Thursday and thanks again for the great insight.

PNWjumper
Jun. 29, 2009, 11:46 PM
I like both of them, a lot. The Stabilizer I have is a hair too small for me but it fits 3 of my horses, so I'm keeping it for a while. :)

I think the Stabilizer is easier to get up and out of the tack because it's a more classic flat seat style, while the Innovation is a deeper seat and a much more secure feel to it and I love it over the bigger jumps. Really, I like both styles quite a lot.

I'm going to chime in to say that the different options you get on the different saddles will make a BIG difference in how they feel.

I sold TR my Innovation and then bought my saddle fitters fitting saddle. It's the same year Innovation but has a forward flap, a 1" smaller seat (the other was too big for me but I made do since I bought it used), and big honkin knee blocks. It feels shallower than my Stabilizer by quite a bit (which was a surprise since my old Innovation seemed deeper), and definitely has a more forward balance. I absolutely adore it for the big fences on two of my horses, but I prefer my Stabilizer for flatwork on one of them (I suspect that's purely because of the knee blocks that my gelding needs and my mare doesn't).

If I had just ridden in the one Innovation I'd have a completely different opinion about that particular saddle model than I do now that I've ridden in a couple.

I would imagine that the same goes for the Black Country since there are so many customization options.

rlaracue
Jul. 1, 2009, 09:31 PM
There is such a huge difference between a Beval saddle and a County saddle I wouldn't even consider Beval in the same league.

I haven't seen a Black Country saddle so I can't speak to that brand... but I have both a County Stabilizer and a County Innovation and LOVE both of them. They hold their value well and my horses all seem very comfortable in them.

Good luck with your search.

Did you mean the Beval is a cut below BCS and County and why?

tidy rabbit
Jul. 1, 2009, 09:56 PM
If you set them side by side you'll see there is a profound difference between the two.

When you consider it as "pounds per square inch" distributed across the horse's back and then look at how much surface area the Butet or Beval or Pessoa has compared to the County or like saddles, it becomes very apparent that you'll have better weight distribution across the horse's back.

rlaracue
Jul. 1, 2009, 10:40 PM
Thanks.

I hope to make a decision soon.

I do prefer the BC Maelstrom's calf leather to the base leather on the Quantum. If I can get a smoother leather on the Quantum (the base Quantum has what looks like pores on the flaps and part of the seat - for stickiness I suspect) I may go the route.

The base leather on the County's looks a little nicer and their parallel panels fit my horse well.

Anyway let me give the saddle fitter a shot at me on a BC saddle tomorrow.

MHW
Jul. 3, 2009, 12:34 PM
A few thoughts on the comparisons. Beval makes so many different models that it is very hard to make the comparison unless you are being specific on the actual model. The basic models are so much less expensive than County or Black Country. Not putting them down they are both fine English built saddles, as usual if the saddle fits the horse and rider combination this is obviusly the most important aspect of getting the correct saddle.

As far as the foam versus flocked panel options Beval makes the Natural and the BZ in flocked now and had done for a number of years. The Ltd is being tested at this point with a flocked panel. And there is also another model that is being worked on that is less money in a flocked vertion.

mvp
Jul. 3, 2009, 12:56 PM
You can get different leather options on BC saddles, but you need to work with a retailer that knows their line well.

I'm fussy about leather, having cut my teeth on a very nice late-1980s PdN bought for what is now a song. I'd have to pay double or triple the price to get POS leather and between five and ten times the price to get what I'd want now.

But it can be done. I'm not a fan of BC's vintage or "pre-oiled leather" but the Oxblood olor on it is pretty. The dark brown calf that comes on the seat and knee rolls doesn't have the same richness, IMO. I'm also not a fan of calf-covered saddles, but the dark chocolate calf on a demo Maelstrom is pretty and soft.

Trumbull Mountain sent me a swatch of a smooth Newmarket leather BC will use to make a blond saddle. That's what I'd buy. I haven't seen the blond calf that would be used with that, but I suspect it won't quite darken enough. I think almost everyone using calf is using semi-aniline leather that has a sort of opaque finish on top. The exception might be the more fragile french calf used on the saddles of that nationality.

In short, if you will accept a Newmarket colored saddle that generally will darken, I think you can get a Quantum that's every bit as nice as a County. But BC might have an even wider variety of leathers and colors than I have seen. I think they might even have buffalo as a seat and knee option. You can start with TM if you will ultimately order through them, or e-mail Nikki at BC directly. I'd love to hear what you learn about leather options.

rlaracue
Jul. 3, 2009, 09:49 PM
Thanks for the additional insight on the BCS leathers.

The Beval Natural and the BZ Natural (which they stopped making now that Beezie Madden is a Bates spokesperson) have nice leathers and come flocked as an option.

Like the County's the Bevals seem polished though I like the panel options on the BCS and County's better.

BTW - A Beval Natural with wool flocking runs $2800.

In any case I also do not like the BCS vintage leather - in any color. :) I prefer smooth leather in general and tend to like chocolate or havana brown.

Now if BCS offers a smooth newmarket leather I would be interested. The same is true for smooth browns. :)

After ridding the BCS Quantum yesterday (a second time) and really giving the saddle the once over I do think County is cut above - but not by much.

BCS is very very close but County just seems a bit more finished especially on the flaps.

Again I am likely splitting hairs b/c they are both great saddles.

My saddle fitter believes the BCS leather will last longer (apart from the calf covered Maelstrom) since on the base leather County calf leather skins are cemented to a firmer leather base hence the buttery feel of County's.

Back to my BCS demo: The Quantum saddle I rode was a 17.5 W with normal panels.

My horse is long backed with a dip so the saddle sat cantle down. I saw the same thing with the County's I tried but a few had gusseted panels with a rise in the back. I would need gusseted panel with a 1" rise in the back to keep the saddle level.

Because I need this I was dropping back and a little behind the motion on my ride. On the County Stabilizer even w/o the custom tweaks I would need I felt more balanced.

I do think properly fitted the BCS Quantum or Maelstrom would eliminate the problems I had yesterday. I hope. :)

I am working with Trumbull Mtn and will get some leather swatches next week and see what I can work out.

County is not out of it but I can get a very nice custom BC saddle in calf or buffalo leather for a fair bit less than a comparable decked out County.

Beval... I don't know that I can go back down that road as I just want to get an order in and start counting down. :)