View Full Version : need some saddle advice/voice of reason

Jul. 6, 2009, 12:07 PM
So I have a couple saddles on trial right now, one is an Ashland the other is a Barnsby. I rode in the Barnsby in my lesson and wasn't thrilled with it so its out. Problem is, it fit better in my budget since my original intention was to buy a decent saddle that could reasonably fit a variety of horses since I don't currently own one.

Now the Ashland...I've been loving this saddle ever since I sat in my trainers. She had mentioned a few months back about wanting to buy a new one and selling me hers, however nothing ever came of that and I don't want to be annoying and push it with her. So I moved on to try and find one of my own...the one I trialed is about $400 more than I wanted to spend. Its still a fabulous deal for what it is (its a demo model of the FC) but I'm concerned with the medium gullet it might not fit as many horses as a slightly wider one would. That and the whole money thing (where's a money tree when you need it?)

So...should I just send both of the saddles back and wait for a used Ashland to pop up somewhere, or just buy the one I'm trialing? I've searched most of the used saddle websites, google, ebay, etc and 17.5M (a wide is pretty much non existent) is hard to find used in this saddle (in fact, I've only seen 2 so far)!

Jul. 6, 2009, 01:09 PM
If you don't expect to find a used Ashland in the size and dimensions you need, then it is worth it to break your budget on a new one. Definitely don't buy the Barnsby that you didn't like, simply because it's more affordable. A good saddle investment is worth it. Plus, if you needed to sell your Ashland down the road, you can see that the market isn't exactly flooded with ones like yours, so it should hold its value. As for your trainer's used saddle, consider telling her that you are about to shell out big bucks for the new one that you have on trial, that it's really stretching your budget (and could eat into your training/lesson/show budget), so before you buy it you remembered she'd mentioned wanting to sell hers to you. She may have completely forgotten, and bringing it up in this context is not "pushing it."

Mach Two
Jul. 6, 2009, 01:26 PM
OK...the voice of reason pops in: A 17.5 Ashland is not all that rare, but they do not come up used as often as 16 and 16.5, because they belong to adults who like them and want to hang on to them ;) . If the "medium" fits the horse you have now, though, and you are not thinking of going with a broader backed type of horse, or an appendix QH, you might want to go with a medium....a wide tree on a medium or narrower backed horse will require extra padding to keep the gullet off the horse's spine, and to keep it from rattling around on his back, and possibly rocking onto his withers as you put weight in the stirrups.

Those demo saddles are a good idea, because they have just some surface scratches, about what you would put on them in a month of riding, tops.
. Another saddle that is made on the same tree and from the same leather as the Ashland is the JTS (Judy's Tack Shop) Judy had those made to the same dimensions by the same saddlers, and the price is about the same (last time I dealt in them that is, about 5 years ago) So if you find a used JTS that fits, it's the same as an Ashland.

I completely understand the saddle search thing, having spent ten years managing an upper end shop...and helping lots of customers find saddles that fit. It is most important to have a saddle you love sitting in! Used saddles can be a great thing, as long as they do not have a broken or twisted tree. A tree on a close contact saddle can become twisted by extended use on a horse that carries himself crooked, or by a rider who rides more heavily in one stirrup because of a weak side, or other problems. when looking at used saddles, sight down the topline of the saddle from the cantle to the pommel, and use one eye at a time...make sure everything in aligned. do the same underneath, the panels can also become twisted with time from a horse's back or from a rider who does not sit squarely. Just things I want you to look at when you do find a used saddle.

If you are in a hurry, buy a new Ashland, and cut out the Starbucks or movies or whatever eats at your horse budget for a few months...you will not miss the budget eaters, and you will love your saddle!

BUT as a former retailer whose business was to sell you a saddle, I'd still tell you to keep looking for a used one that is gently broken in and well cared for. Ask at some shops who carry used saddles to let you know when one comes in....and don't just ask once....ask once a month...employees lose notes, forget, etc...good luck with your search!

Jul. 6, 2009, 01:51 PM
First off, don't buy a saddle you don't love. Period. No matter how much of a deal it is.

I agree that an Ashland with a medium tree may not work for you since you don't currently have a horse. So I'd wait, if I were you.

I'm really a stickler for saddle fit, and buying a saddle without a horse to fit it to is really a gamble IMHO. Invest in a good Mattes pad or other pad specifically designed to allow shimming.

Jul. 6, 2009, 02:25 PM
Yea I'm a bit hesitant about the no horse too...however, the places that I ride do not have great school saddles and I feel that they definitely make an impact on my riding. So that started the search for an affordable saddle that I could tool around on and have it reasonably fit the schoolies until I got a horse of my own.

Thank you voices of reason, I think I may continue my search and pass on the saddles I have. I'll definitely try to keep an eye out for JTS saddles. Also, to every adult out there with an Ashland...I think its time to sell your saddle and get a new one ;)

Jul. 6, 2009, 02:30 PM
I have had a search set up on eBay for 2 years now for Ashland saddles. I can tell you that they pop up occasionally, but not with nearly the frequency that I'd like. And a 17.5 W (which is what I need) is rare indeed. I think I've seen two since I started searching. One was in my normal saddle budget, but I'd had some extra bills so I passed hoping another would pop up. The other was like new and out of my budget by lots. :(

Skip the Barnsby since you don't like how it fits you. Seriously, whether it fits your budget or not, if it doesn't fit you, it's not worth a dime!

Since you are hoping for a saddle that fits lots of horses, a Med Ashland isn't your best bet (even though you love it--this has been a hard thing for me to come to grips with too). Either wait until a W pops up somewhere, or keep looking at other saddles. Figure out what you like about the Ashland and then look for other saddles with similar characteristics. Mach Two had fabulous advice about the JTS saddles. Definitely look for those. Go visit a used saddle shop (or even saddle repair shop) and talk to the people there. Tell them what you've liked and didn't like and solicit their advice.

There's a great seller on ebay (PM for the name if you're interested) who always has a fabulous selection of very gently used saddles at great prices. I would consider emailing them (or other sellers) and have them on the lookout for you.

Good luck and I do hope you find something that you love and works well for the horses you're riding.

Jul. 6, 2009, 03:18 PM
Jen-s, I'm glad you feel my pain! In the perfect world a 17.5W is what I want as well. I haven't even seen a W in any seat size. In my head I know that the M would not be a good choice unless I planned on riding wither-y narrow TB's for the near future. But I did send you a PM for the name, thanks for the tip.

Jul. 6, 2009, 03:28 PM
I'm not the voice of reason, but I also don't like to wait in vain or lose money. Do what you will with my advice.

First, I do think you will wait a long time to find a 17.5 W Ashland. I also think you will wait a while to find a JTS saddle. If there were few of the first made, then there will be even fewer of the second saddle out there.

But you might start looking outside the Ashland box, beginning with an effort to figure out what you like about the Ashland. Its not an unusual-looking saddle, but it is of a traditional design. You may find used saddle with similar lines. But finding a genuinely wide, traditional used saddle can be tough.

In your position, I'd first try this Ashland on some of the horses I rode and see just how badly it fit them. If that's not too bad I'd consider keeping it, but only if 1) you got such a good deal that you could resell it for what you paid; 2) you know the market well enough to predict that; 3) You are willing to do the leg work of reselling and continuing to keep your eyes peeled for the more perfect saddle; and 4) You can afford to buy when the right saddle comes up while you sell this one.

I guess I'd go to this trouble if the saddle were the Right One for me and the Right Price. If not, I'd keep looking.

Jul. 6, 2009, 03:44 PM
The Ashland is a pretty good deal. $1400 for the demo French calf, originally retails for around $2500. It has some wear and tear from trials, but not too much. However, I know that if I rode in it for say a year the price of resale will probably be about half since these saddles usually go for around $800-$1000 gently used.

It fit the one horse I tried it on, was actually a little bit big. But he is narrow and has a huge wither. The others I ride I've only used my trainer's Ashland which is a W that is padded up. So I suspect the M would be ok, maybe a little tight on them.

The things I really like about the saddle is the close contact, lack of bells and whistles/padding to keep you locked in the saddle. I also find it very well balanced and comfortable. Part of my problem is the small budget-I don't want to blow it on sending saddles back and forth to retailers for trials, in addition to having availability issues with trying them on the horses I ride. I'm sure there are other saddles out there I would like, its just a matter of finding them thats part of the issue :)

I'm with you though on the whole waiting part...by nature I am a very impatient person, all about the immediate gratification! I'm sure I've wasted many a dollar because of that fact...LOL

Mach Two
Jul. 6, 2009, 11:35 PM
That is an outstanding price for an Ashland, would be a fair and good price if it were used, even....but be sure it fits the horses you will ride..."A little tight" is a no-go for any saddle, any horse.
Guess I read right past the part that you did not currently have a horse to fit. So if you go with the medium, be sure it will fit the other horses you are riding. Then when you get a horse, if the saddle does not fit, get something else, and sell that Ashland for what you have in it. Take good care of it, and you will get your money back, no problem.

Jul. 7, 2009, 12:12 AM
Thanks for the help everyone, I decided that I am going to send both of them back. Even though the Ashland is a steal, its too much to risk that it won't fit and I'll have to sell sooner rather than later. I just don't have the money to throw around if it doesn't work out. Also, I figure that if I keep waiting the money I can spend will increase as well and if I don't find anything, and still have my heart set on an Ashland I can always buy a new one with the specs that I want.

Just have to keep looking...

ETA: if anyone is interested in the Ashland, PM me and let me know if you're interested and I can give you the info of where its from. It really is a nice saddle, but the med really is on the narrower side. Its just such a deal it really does kill me to give it back...and its purdy :(

Jul. 7, 2009, 07:46 AM
Well for what it's worth, I found a used 16.5W with a long flap here (never purchased anything from this site, and I wasn't able to find out how old the listing is): http://www.equinenow.com/english_saddle-ad-759

I know you said you were looking for a 17.5W, but maybe by some weird twist of fate it's listed incorrectly and is really a 17.5... Hey, worth a shot! Saddle searching can be so frustrating- good luck :)

Jul. 7, 2009, 07:55 AM
Thanks for the help everyone, I decided that I am going to send both of them back. Even though the Ashland is a steal, its too much to risk that it won't fit and I'll have to sell sooner rather than later. I just don't have the money to throw around if it doesn't work out. Also, I figure that if I keep waiting the money I can spend will increase as well and if I don't find anything, and still have my heart set on an Ashland I can always buy a new one with the specs that I want.
Good choice :yes: Given your quandry about a M vs a W, I would *definitely* hold out for a W, either the Ashland, or a comparable width in another brand (which might be a M in their terms, there is nothing consistent across brands). Your options of fit are so greatly increased by being able to pad up for the less wide horses. Done correctly, as long as it's not TOO too wide, you do not risk stability issues.

Jul. 7, 2009, 11:16 AM
Didn't I read on this BB that Northrun (manufacturers of Ashlands) has either been sold or is out of business? Can't remember which but even if they remain in business any future saddles may be different from what the originals were.

Jul. 7, 2009, 01:32 PM
Yes, I was told they had been sold. So its a risk with the new ones, if they even continue to be made. I'm hoping if I don't find something in the next few months distributors will still have some stock. I only need the wider tree. Otherwise :(

Jul. 7, 2009, 01:48 PM
IIRC, Ashland was bought by Weatherbeeta and perhaps the saddles are now being made by Walsall Riding Saddle Co.-- the original maker of Crosby saddles?

If so, you will be able to get a nicely-made, nicely-designed and pretty-leathered saddle. It will cost some coin.

That's for better and for worse in you current situation. It means that older Ashlands, especially the very nice one you have, will become an unknown commodity. It may lose value faster than a saddle currently made and aggressively marketed. But some old skoolers out there will be able to appreciate what you have, especially if you sell it with some good pics included.

Other posters are right: Slightly too wide can be fixed, too narrow leaves you SOL. So how narrow is narrow? If it measures 4" "dot-to-dot" (the top corners of the panels below the pommel, I'd say it's too narrow to be useful for a wide range of modern horses. If narrow means 4.5" and the panels are of a horse-friendly shape and material, this saddle will be more useful. A roomy 5" up there offers even more options, especially if you have a large half pad library.

Jul. 7, 2009, 04:23 PM
I remember in my Exselle saddle thread (which BTW I still haven't gotten my hands on yet and thanks MVP for the review too!) we discussed that they were going to be made by Walsall since I had been told that the makers of the Exselle and Crosby had purchased Northrun.

And make that the nice one I had...sent it back today :( If you think 4" is too narrow for todays horse, this saddle was definitely too narrow. Although I loffed it, I think I definitely made the right decision by not keeping it because I measured it closer to 3.5". In terms of fitting a lot of horses, the Barnsby would have definitely been a much better choice since it was a little over 4", a much wider gullet and channel between the panels. Too bad I didn't like it!

Well, $100 in shipping later at least now I have a better idea of what I should be looking for. I also think I need to reinvestigate the Exselle Chasseur... :)

ETA: a little off topic, for my purposes should I be looking for foam or wool flocking? I've been searching only for wool because of the fact that I could get it reflocked. However, is this something I even really need to consider right now?

Jul. 7, 2009, 04:36 PM
I'd definitely get wool if you don't have your own horse and need some ability to make changes should you end up buying or leasing in the future and want to refine the saddle to a specific horse. Wool gives you much more flexibility.