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KnightShade
Sep. 20, 2009, 09:57 PM
Just curious about what anyone thinks of the advice that I recently got from a highly recommended saddle fitter:

I have a typical, foundation-like QH mare - big butt, sort of downhill-built, very wide and flat backed. Off the rack saddles press down in the middle of her back and can be narrow in the shoulder for her, and I had two different fitters check out the saddles I had when she was bought, both said that neither fit her well enough. First one did a decent evaluation, but my trainer really wanted me to make an appointment with her fitter instead, so I did to get a second opinion. Second fitter is a rep for Albion, but said she would look at any saddle I wanted as well.

My plan was to get tracings & an evaluation, and find a gently used, wool-flocked high quality dressage saddle to adjust to my girl. Fitter immediately rejected the Passier I had on trial, then would not discuss anything having to do with finding a used saddle at all. She insisted that my horse needed a saddle built to template, and of course this costs 50% more than I can really afford. She would not talk to me about tree sizes, brand recommendations, or anything whatsoever except ordering a new Albion.

I am very disappointed and losing sleep over whether to shell out the money for a brand new saddle so my horse is comfortable. I am seriously ready to spend up to $2k on her, but having a hard time over $3k, and don't understand how there could not be a used saddle out there that would fit her well after some adjustment. Many on this board also recommend this fitter, and I know she is highly respected, but I just feel like this is ridiculous. :confused:

Old Mac Donald
Sep. 20, 2009, 10:07 PM
What did the first fitter say? Did her evaluation match the second fitter's?

I use a wintec Isabel on my Araby-like appy mare, but have used it on a QH (built small and long and low and WIDE, no withers) with no problems at all. I also use a thin pad made by Len Brown under the saddle, and it has made my "fits pretty good" saddle just work fantastically for my mare. No shimming of the saddle, just a thin pad.

I would look around again, are there any other fitters in your area? Any saddlers who could tweak a "fair good" saddle for you?

mbm
Sep. 20, 2009, 10:10 PM
an albion is an off the rack saddle - so no matter what teh fitter says it isnt going to be a perfect fit.

my suggestion would be find a good used "custom" saddle and have the saddle maker fit it to your horse....

this is what i ended up doing..... i got a saddle that would cost 7k new for 1800 used and then the saddle maker took it apart restuffed it for my mare and wala! for 2k i get a pretty custom fit for a great price!

i am not sure who makes saddles in your area, but you can always contact shleese (sp), or maybe JRD (not sure if he goes to your neck of the woods, but his is the saddle i bought and i love it), and there are a few other real custom saddle makers out there that can hook you up with a used version of their saddle then fit it to your horse - hopefully for around 2k.

ETAL: you can do a tracing of your horse, and also knowing what size albion fits your horse is not going to help you know what size she wears in any other saddle as unfortunately most saddles are measured differently....

Donkey
Sep. 20, 2009, 10:12 PM
It is ridiculous. Sounds like you're the victim of a pushy salesman.

Take your money elsewhere and don't be shy in sharing your experiences with your acquaintances.

You do not own the only foundation-like QH out there and they are not all being ridden in an Albion.

Go back to your first saddle fitter. Also keep in mind that many trainers have an arrangement with a local fitter where they get a cut or some other kick-back for directing their clients towards a certain dealer. An ethical trainer would have disclosed this to you when making the recommendation (does your trainer ride in Albion saddles?).

Old Mac Donald
Sep. 20, 2009, 10:16 PM
Hmm, realised my reply probably wasn't real helpful. I went through 13 saddles (all sold to me "guaranteed to fit your horse!") before I found the one I have now. A Duett saddle might help with the wide shoulders issue - I have the same problem. My girl is very A-frame and appears narrow, but needs to take a wide tree head as she has big shoulders.

I found that people who were convinced that one product was "the best!" were often reluctant to accept any other products. I know, I was one once and my horse suffered for it. I had this "super saddle" and was convinced it would work with tweaking, and that wintecs/bates were the most evil things on the planet. My horse ended up having months off with back strain, and when I brought her back into work, I borrowed a friend's Isabel "to see what a dressage saddle was like", and my mare just about hit me over the head and said "WHY did you not get this in the first place, you ignorant blip!"

Horses for cou... err, saddles!

KnightShade
Sep. 20, 2009, 10:22 PM
The first fitter did more of an eval of my current saddles, and we didn't really talk much about what to look for. I had a Toulouse hunt saddle and a Wintec Isabell at the time, and wasn't sure what kind of saddle I was going to replace first, seeing as neither one was good. First fitter did re-stuff the Isabell, but still was not very happy with it. It also doesn't really fit me all that great anyway, so I decided to look for a new dressage-type after that.

There are other fitters, but I am concerned about peoples' motivation to sell their product, vs. having the knowledge and skill to fit me and my horse. First fitter seemed reputable enough, don't know much about their history or skill level. Second fitter has glowing recommendations from people I know re: fitting & balancing skills, but I still question the motivation of why they would not answer any of my questions about finding a used or demo saddle that was more affordable.

I get all wrapped up in knots over stuff like this because I am not the professional, and don't know whether the advice is good or flawed in order for someone to make a buck off of me. I have had crappy experiences in the horse world before (who hasn't...) where a "professional" gets loads of cash from me before I realize that they were just out to separate me from my money instead of actually taking our well-being into account.

This saddle-buying stuff is so frustrating & expensive, and I just want to buy something that works without emptying the bank and filling the credit card...


Just to clarify about my trainer, she strongly encouraged me to buy used to save $$$, was not trying to push the Albion at all...

mvp
Sep. 20, 2009, 10:25 PM
Don't buy the hype.

Saddle fitting is detailed, but not rocket science. It will be a PITA, but you can both find the right saddle for your horse and teach yourself about what goes into good saddle fit, and when good enough really is good enough.

There is probably a used saddle out there for you. But you may spend lots of time and money looking for it because your horse's conformation is not average nor a shape saddlers acknowledged until recently. If you study, however, you will know the right saddle when it passes by you and you may be able to buy it cheaply precisely because it won't have wide appeal.

Studying is key. In your position, I'd get wither tracing instructions from Smith Worthington, Hastilow or Cliff-Barnsby websites and then make my own. After that, I'd start trying on every reasonable candidate I could get my hands on. Here you are partly looking for one that actually fits, but also learning about how different brands of saddles/shapes of panels etc. fit your mare.

There are also many, many technical threads on saddle fitting here. Look for one started by Risk-Averse Rider. Look for other COTHers who were part of a series of saddling threads back in May. You might find threads started by them, too.

Of course you can always come back here for help if you decide to stage your own saddle hunt as many of us have done.

Best of luck!

BuddyRoo
Sep. 20, 2009, 10:50 PM
You do not have an oddball one of a kind horse.

I personally would steer clear of a fitter who aligns themselves with one brand.

They have a dog in the fight..and it's not YOUR dog.

coloredhorse
Sep. 20, 2009, 10:53 PM
There are good fitters out there that will work with you and help you find and fit a saddle that works well for you and your horse, within your budget. When I was in northern VA, I worked once with Bill Woods, who was very good. I seem to recall that Fredericksburg is within his range of service. He was a bit hard to schedule, as he serves a HUGE circuit in that area, but worth waiting for.

meupatdoes
Sep. 20, 2009, 11:05 PM
an albion is an off the rack saddle - so no matter what teh fitter says it isnt going to be a perfect fit.

my suggestion would be find a good used "custom" saddle and have the saddle maker fit it to your horse....

this is what i ended up doing..... i got a saddle that would cost 7k new for 1800 used and then the saddle maker took it apart restuffed it for my mare and wala! for 2k i get a pretty custom fit for a great price!

i am not sure who makes saddles in your area, but you can always contact shleese (sp), or maybe JRD (not sure if he goes to your neck of the woods, but his is the saddle i bought and i love it), and there are a few other real custom saddle makers out there that can hook you up with a used version of their saddle then fit it to your horse - hopefully for around 2k.

ETAL: you can do a tracing of your horse, and also knowing what size albion fits your horse is not going to help you know what size she wears in any other saddle as unfortunately most saddles are measured differently....

I don't understand why a saddle that was custom made for somebody else's horse's back is going to fit any better than a saddle that was madeoff the rack.

If the tree is appropriate for the horse it is appropriate for the horse, regardless of whether it was specifically created for somebody else's horse first.

Hampton Bay
Sep. 20, 2009, 11:07 PM
There is no reason your horse has to have a brand-new "custom" Albion, especially since the trees on those saddles can be adjusted a bit! That's absurd.

Do you have any pics of your horse? Maybe someone could recommend a brand to try based on pics.

see u at x
Sep. 20, 2009, 11:16 PM
There are good fitters out there that will work with you and help you find and fit a saddle that works well for you and your horse, within your budget. When I was in northern VA, I worked once with Bill Woods, who was very good. I seem to recall that Fredericksburg is within his range of service. He was a bit hard to schedule, as he serves a HUGE circuit in that area, but worth waiting for.

I second Bill. It only took a couple of weeks for him to come out and fit my horses. He did a great job and offered good advice. I told him that I really liked the Black Country Quantum for a jump saddle, but even though he sells Black Country saddles, he told me that the Quantum would not be a good fit for my horses. Also, I think his prices are pretty reasonable which is a bonus. I haven't had him fit my dressage saddle yet, but with my close contact Prix de Nation, he told me that it didn't fit either of my horses well enough to bother with restuffing. So I had him fit my Stubben Lohengrin (which I thought was possibly too small for my horses) and he said that it was actually slightly too wide for both of them but that with some reflocking it can work. Since I don't have the money right now to get it reflocked, he suggested a couple of saddle pads to be a temporary fix. He definitely understands that not all of us are made of money and is happy to offer less expensive solutions.

mbm
Sep. 20, 2009, 11:32 PM
I don't understand why a saddle that was custom made for somebody else's horse's back is going to fit any better than a saddle that was madeoff the rack.

If the tree is appropriate for the horse it is appropriate for the horse, regardless of whether it was specifically created for somebody else's horse first.

well.... unless you have a "standard" type horse sometimes it can be better to see if you can find a custom made saddle that has the qualities your horse needs. (plus, hand made custom saddles tend to be of higher quality and better (internal) design - and this is the reason why they can cost up to 9k !!)

so, as as example - i have a mare that has huge narrow shark withers, and is wide in the shoulder & barrel , a very forward girth groove and a long low back.... i have never found an off the rack saddle that fit her properly.... but i was able to find a custom saddle that had the tree she needed..... the saddler then totally reflocked it for her back.

you cant always find a used custom saddle that will fit - but if you do it can be a great way to get an excellent saddle at a good price.

ETA: i spent a goodly amount of time st the saddlers getting lectured on how trees are made, how different designs fit (or not) how different tree points length affects the shoulder, how the width of the twist affects things, how the width of the channel affects things etc etc etc.

i came away understanding that many off the rack saddles are of inferior quality based on how the trees are made, etc etc. .. plus many fitters really have no clue and that can make it all even worse.....

kpony
Sep. 21, 2009, 02:01 AM
I had a custom saddle maker (as opposed to a fitter) look at a few used saddles for my horse. He was able to rebuild one to fit perfectly. One saddle couldn't be made to fit at all (panels too small to adjust as needed). Passier might not work for your horse at all, but it was one of the brands he prefered to work with as far as re-building. I already owned the saddle - about $750 used and paid about $400 to have it taken apart, the tree stretched a bit, re-flocked and adjusted. Well worth it!

ETA: He also had some used saddles available which could have worked with some adjustment for under or around $2k total. I was very happy with the one I already owned, and very happy with the result.

HollysHobbies
Sep. 21, 2009, 09:35 AM
If you liked an albion (it sounded like it fit your horse, but did YOU like it?), check Middleburg Tack or the Tack Box (the tack store up the road?) and see if they have any used Albions of the same seat size, fit/width, and model! VTO saddlery would be worth a check too!

If YOU didn't like the Albion, just start trying saddles--Middleburg lets you try 'em before you buy 'em.

Did YOU like the Passier? What model was it? Maybe some COTHERS could recommend a similar feeling saddle that would fit your mare better.

Take heart--you'll find one!!!

Sparkybella
Sep. 21, 2009, 03:45 PM
I kind of had a similar problem with my downhill horse with a rather flat back. Looked at probably twenty saddles and rode in 12 to 15. A total pain.

But, what tended to work was any saddle with a wide gullet, broad flat-panels, and was rounded in the back (pointy behind or banana shaped would not work).

There are a bunch of saddles that will likely fit the bill, but make sure you find something that fits you, too. Oddly enough, I did end up with an Albion Ultima, but I think the Custom Wolfgang Solo is also worth checking out. (I think you can buy that new from Dover for $2,300.)

Definitely keep looking. Turn these things over and compare gullet width and panel angle.

Carolinadreamin'
Sep. 21, 2009, 03:52 PM
We were happy with our latest saddle fitter, after having tried 2 others. She was highly recommended here on coth. When I first contacted her, she wanted to know my budget and was more than willing to find something used that would work. I know she goes through your area, if you're wanting to try yet another saddle fitter, I'll pm you her info.

angel
Sep. 21, 2009, 04:06 PM
My guess is that the second saddle fitter said what she did because your horse has those very wide shoulders that we sometimes call "mutton withered." Horses that have shoulders like that (and I had one) are very difficult to fit. Coincidentally, I finally settled on a warmblood tree Albion, and though it was not perfect (still not quite wide enough for those shoulders!), it was the closest thing to perfect that I could find without going custom. You might try finding a warmblood tree Albion to try...used preferably...and have that reflocked.

joiedevie99
Sep. 21, 2009, 04:17 PM
Take the pictures and tracings on the Trumbull Mtn site and email them in. It's free, and they may just have something used that would work for you. Keep in mind when you try saddles on that some flocking will likely have to be taken out of the back to balance the saddle if your horse is downhill.

Catsdorule-sigh
Sep. 21, 2009, 04:20 PM
It can be possible, although maybe not probable, to find a used custom saddle that fits or with a little alteration, can be made to fit better. I found a used JRD that my very broad backed horse just went "sigh" over but the problem was that it needed a seat adjustment for me- ($$$) - even though it let me sit really correct for about the first time. Ended up going semi-custom with JRD and was very happy with it and did not spend $3,000 on it, either. To each his own though.

I'll add to the warning that some trainers get a kick back by directing clients to a certain fitter. That happened with my first semi-custom (broad backed horses ;)) and it didn't fit the horse as well and me even less, even though it was supposed to be fitted. That was a Shleese. Maybe if you get a good fitter it works, some people love them. I didn't find out until I left that trainer and barn just what was up.

buck22
Sep. 21, 2009, 04:27 PM
I agree with everyone, especially mvp. Its very possible to get a great used saddle for a great price, but you have to know what you're looking for - or kiss a lot of frogs learning to know what to look for.

Make a set of simple tracings for yourself. Just a felt tip pen, a long bit of wire and some sheets of paper, nothing fancy. Get acquainted with what your horse's back really looks like.

Then, get thee to a well stocked tack shop and start sitting in saddles. get a feel for what you like and what fits you. Make a pile of the ones you like, then flip them over, look at the panels and the shape of the gullet, see if that shape matches the shape of your horse or not. Take the ones you think may work back and try them on your horse and see how they fit.

Just like there is no substitute for hours logged riding, there is no substitute for getting a feel for saddlery by trial and error. Learning what works for your horse's body and your body is a learning process.

the best thing, as was said, is to teach yourself. Its a pain, but its not rocket science as was said. The more you can educate yourself about saddle fit, the more aware of it you can be as your horse's body changes shape, or new horses enter your life.

good luck!


But, what tended to work was any saddle with a wide gullet, broad flat-panels, and was rounded in the back (pointy behind or banana shaped would not work).
yup, upswept panels, great for downhill builds.

FolsomBlues
Sep. 21, 2009, 04:40 PM
I just finished going through the hell that is saddle shopping. I found a fitter that was not a brand rep at all, that way all she was looking at was the fit of each saddle, not her possible commission. We must have tried at least 10 different brands of saddles before settling on the Black Country for my guy. If you can find an independent fitter, that is the way to go. Also, if your horse is wide and flat backed, I would be concerned about going with an Albion. My horse is flat backed and the Albion's were a little too "U" shaped for my guy (as were the Amerigo's and Stueben's). See if you can find someone with no brand loyalty to be your fitter, it will cause a lot less stress that way.

Ambrey
Sep. 21, 2009, 05:24 PM
Talk to Trumbull Mountain and see if they can help. They sell used saddles plus new in many brands and are very knowledgeable about fitting.

www.trumbullmtn.com

I definitely disagree that there's any horse for whom there's only one saddle solution. There are usually several solutions, so the fact that this person is saying that there's only ONE way to get a saddle that fits, and it's to spend more than your budget on her brand, is suspect.

SaddleFitterVA
Sep. 21, 2009, 05:32 PM
Disclaimer: I no longer fit or sell saddles. In fact, even though I know how to fit, flock and adjust my own saddles, I don't like saddle shopping. ETA: Trumball Mountain was a pleasure to work with though when I did need a new saddle.

I used to do saddle fittings (shocking given my screenname!:winkgrin:) and was a sales rep for Albion saddles. And, contrary to what mbm says, it was at one time possible to get a completely custom saddle from Albion, Albion did make their own trees (and probably still do). But, the vast majority of horses do not need a completely custom saddle (from the tree up). If you simply need a custom combination, say seat size + tree width + panel options, then it is a "custom" order, but a far cry from a fully custom saddle. Every saddle maker has a stock set of trees. Albion, County, Black Country and several others happen to have a large selection of stock sizes in the trees. That does not mean you get a stock saddle though.

A "stock" saddle is one that somebody else ordered, paid for, and has been carrying in inventory in a commonly ordered combination of tree width/seat size/model/panel design. A "custom" saddle is one that is not a commonly ordered combination of those. The reason it is not usually returnable (or requires a restocking fee if you return) is that by being an uncommon combination of features, it is probably not going to sell anytime soon. Not many businesses can afford to carry odd sizes in inventory, so if you want to try something, you have to buy it or pay a restocking fee if the store allows returns on what you ordered. Most stores will have a clear policy on what can be returned and when. In the case of a product error(wrong specifications), the store would be expected to take it back, in the case of you not liking it - Not as likely.

A saddle fitter, tends to know the line of saddles he/she carries or has access to. Therefore, the fitter can become familiar with them and recommend them with confidence. A saddle fitter, cannot know how all brands of saddles fit. He cannot recommend anything if it is not in a line he carries. When I did fit, I often could tell which model Albion (most of the ones I sold are discontinued) would likely fit best, what tree shape and size for the horse. Even then, if someone bought a used saddle because I thought that one would work, they would be mad if it did not fit as expected. So, I understand not recommending a saddle that is not in front of the fitter.

When I used to go to barns, I would tell people, in advance, to have any trial saddles already there for assessment and I would let them know if it fit.

Gloria
Sep. 21, 2009, 06:03 PM
I love Albion and it is still my all time favorite. With that said, I never equate Albion with QHs (I may be wrong). Maybe the Albion panels and trees are simply not made for your horse shape and that was why the second fitter wanted a complete custom?

If Passier does not work for your horse, I will assume Albion not fitting him either. Their panels are somehow similiar shape.

If I were you, I would continue shopping. Unless your horse is really really that hard to fit, I bet you can get an nice used saddle of some brand to reflock to fit him perfectly. You know neither Passier nor Albion work. I will bet County and Black Country will not work either. Talk to other QH people and see which brands they have the jost luck with.

egontoast
Sep. 21, 2009, 08:29 PM
She insisted that my horse needed a saddle built to template


This is not an off the rack saddle despite what mbm said earlier.


an albion is an off the rack saddle - so no matter what teh fitter says it isnt going to be a perfect fit

This is incorrect . I have no idea if you need a custom saddle or not but just pointing out that a saddle with a tree built to template is a custom saddle ( I have one- Albion still does this. )

(and I love it because it fits my horse!)

hunter-eventer-hunter
Sep. 22, 2009, 03:40 PM
Have you looked at the Lynn Palm Saddle Line? Trees are built for QH's...pretty sure there is a dressage saddle...

asterix
Sep. 22, 2009, 06:10 PM
Another rec for Bill Woods if he comes your way. I sometimes have to wait for him to make a trek to Maryland but he has been great to work with -- thorough, kind to the horses, and definitely not "stuck" on one make of saddle.

I had 3 saddles and 2 horses, and I knew one saddle wasn't working for them. He agreed, helped me find one that did, and came up with ways to tweak the other two saddles so they worked just fine (slightly creative shimming, but workable).

cutemudhorse
Sep. 22, 2009, 07:16 PM
Call the saddle fitter Bill Wood!!!! I get him out regularly to fit what I buy used and he has never pushed a saddle from his car on me to even try!!! He's got a website. . . www.thesaddlefitter.com

J-Lu
Sep. 22, 2009, 10:06 PM
If you are in that area of VA, then you have access to lots of used saddles from tack stores. Can you try a bunch?

There are saddle fitters who will refuse to help you unless you buy a new saddle from them. Whatever. Go with someone who can help you and do that within your budget. DO NOT overextend yourself for a saddle. There ARE saddle fitters who will help you chose a make and then help fit that saddle to your horse.

You can start by doing your own homework. Look at your horse's back. Is it straight? Is it curved (maybe that's why the Isabell doesn't fit?). If it is curved you can look in catalogs at different saddle types that might fit a curved back. Simply test-riding in a fresh pad and looking at the sweat marks can help you figure out which saddles might work and which won't. I think that some saddle makers make dressage saddles for quarter horse builds and that is worth checking out.

Most tack shops will let you try a saddle with a refundable deposit. Once you narrow it down o a few saddles that reasonably fit you and your horse, you can have a saddle fitter help you. I had an Albion and a County saddle fitter tell me that my Isabell fit my horse just fine...even though I tried all of their saddles. many fitters actually are honest - you just have to find them. They absolute KEY is finding honest people to help you.

Good luck!!
J.

MidlifeCrisis
Sep. 22, 2009, 10:25 PM
Your story sounds just like mine. I'm in California. I've got a big shouldered, table back QH built slightly downhill. Local saddle maker told me that I would have to go custom and it might still not work. So I said, no thank you, I'm not giving you $4000 for a saddle that might not work.

I went with Trumbull Mountain. I took photos and wither tracings just like they describe on their website. They told me what they thought would work and I demoed 3 saddles I ended up with a Black Country which fit him like a glove and worked best for me. An independent saddle fitter (not the guy above) thought it was an excellent fit.

So don't be afraid to deal with Trumbull Mountain even though they're not local. They're great and honest people. I never got the feeling that they were trying to just make a sale.

paintlady
Sep. 23, 2009, 11:59 AM
Well, I have a flat backed, downhill, mutton withered, foundation bred QH/Paint mare. I tried at least a dozen off-the-rack new and used saddles, but nothing ever seemed to fit right.

I finally went with a "custom" Albion SLK Ultima. It's a standard Albion tree size (W) and seat (18") ordered with the options I wanted and then with the flocking adjusted to fit my mare. It didn't cost any more than an off-the-rack Albion. I've had my saddle for about 18 months. It was expensive, but worth every cent in my opinion. It fits both my mare and me. I also find it to be extremely comfortable.

Not sure who you used. I used Carolyn August. I really didn't find her pushy at all. I had more or less decided on an Albion when I called her out since a used Albion was the closest I came to fitting my mare (unfortunately that Albion was too small for me).

Danged Arab
Sep. 24, 2009, 07:29 PM
I had a half-Arab, half Paint gelding with the flattest withers and broadest back I've ever seen. Tried about 15 saddles over the years. Finally a saddle fitter looked at him and said he's an "extra wide" and suggested either a Wintec with the adjustable gullet using the white extra wide one, or a County with an extra wide tree. I think he said those were the only two he knew of that might fit. I tried both, and both fit like a glove. Ended up with an Isabell because I love them and they're a fraction the cost of a County.