View Full Version : Trying saddles

Jul. 23, 2011, 07:02 PM
Step one buy horse - check.

Step two - tack . Sigh.

Specifically trying saddles. I do not have the saddle budget alot of dressage people seem to have. I can spend about $600 on a dressage saddle period.

1. Tried the Kincaid - about a $500 saddle found at a couple of places. Here it is on Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Kincade-Dressage-Saddle/dp/B0007X7KV2/ref=sr_1_67?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1311458106&sr=1-67

When I placed it on Fella's naked back it looked lovely. The medium tree fit him very well.

So I tacked him up and got on. Boy o boy - the whole thing collapsed and rode like a treeless. No support for me, no support for him. It mushed right down and pushed into his shoulders. So back that went.

2. I'm looking at two options right now; a new Wintec 500 - not the suede butt, the smooth butt http://www.amazon.com/Wintec-Dressage-Saddle-CAIR-GIFTS/dp/B004HJFTC4/ref=sr_1_20?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1311458070&sr=1-20 with the gullet system for $550.00

or a used Passier classic http://usedsaddles.com/product.htm?id=utn40k1p

I prefer leather over synthetic, but with the cair panels I should be able to fit the saddle to suit him as he muscles up. I've sat in the Wintec, but not the Passier.

I don't need knee rolls -I ride with and without them no problem.

Of course the Passier is a whole lot of back and forth - mail to me to try, if I don't like it, mail back. I can go to the tack shop and pick up the Wintec. And like I said, I've already sat on that one.

I'm thinking I'm leaning towards the Wintec.

BTW I want one of those saddle block things that you try saddles on at stores! It felt really nice to sit in - nicer than a chair!


Jul. 23, 2011, 07:12 PM
Stay away from the Kincaids, as you have already discovered. Better to get a used saddle or a synthetic if you are on a limited budget. I thought your new guy was on the wide side? IMO the Wintec is going to be your best bet if that's the case. Though, keep in mind that just because you can adjust the gullet of the Wintec, there is only so much adjusting the channel can do. If your guy is truly wide-wide, then a Wintec wide would be the better route. But, sounds like that's your best bet as you can pick it up at the tack shop and give it a spin.

Jul. 23, 2011, 07:32 PM
It's interesting - he's got his withers from his momma I guess :lol: - narrow and high. He's got a decent girth, but he's no barrel like Lilly my instructors TB/Perch cross http://www.flickr.com/photos/52967336@N00/5602198910/in/photostream/

Fella http://www.flickr.com/photos/52967336@N00/5941461443/

Yup, I'll be giving the Wintec a spin.


Jul. 23, 2011, 07:36 PM
I prefer leather over synthetic, but with the cair panels I should be able to fit the saddle to suit him as he muscles up. I've sat in the Wintec, but not the Passier.

It's the adjustable gullet that will give you the flexibility you're looking for. The Cair panels are a completely different attribute - that means a bunch of airbags inside the panels, rather than wool flocking - having Cair or not does not affect the adjustability. What sort of horse is it ? I have found some of those wintec dressage saddles fit amazingly well on some narrower TBs - much better than I expected. Is there nobody in your area with a bunch of saddles you could try ?

Jul. 23, 2011, 07:40 PM
I'm sorry, I completely conflated the cair panels with the adjustable gullet. Thanks for clarifying that. He's a Perch/STB cross. He wears a medium tree. I have access to a few saddles to try, but the problem is that I live in a big ticket area for dressage where people drop a couple thou on a dressage saddle no problem :lol: So I can tell you I've sat in some beauties that just make me sigh, but there's not a whole lot I could do about that this year. I'm hoping to have something to ride in this year and next year I can look at one of those sweet-ass rides I've had the pleasure of lessoning in :lol:


Jul. 23, 2011, 07:45 PM
I have a bunch of $500 - $800 saddles in the truck that I would love for you to try, but the distances are too great in this country to provide a comprehensive mobile tack service. Have you talked to Patti Merli ? I don't know if she goes by you, but she also has a bunch of used and good value saddles in a truck.

Have you tried the Collegiate Jessica or Mentor ?

Jul. 23, 2011, 07:55 PM
Thanks, Kate.

I did meet Ronnie of Skylands saddlery when she was out fitting a saddle at Dark Horse stables and she said she had used saddles on consignment, so I've sent an email inquiry to her. I just found Patti Merli's information Saddle fitter PATTY MERLI travels up and down the East Coast. She carries Duetts in her van. She can be reached at (843) 810-2485 http://www.duettsaddles.com/contact.htm

I just looked at the Collegiate series. The Jessica they recommend for slender riders (that ain't me). I'll look into the Mentor.


Jul. 23, 2011, 09:49 PM
I just purchased a black dressage saddle, med tree, off eBay. It was listed as "unknown" brand as saddlemakers tag had been removed by a previous owner. I bid the $100 opening bid and forgot about it figureing that it would take off from there. Ended up being the only bid. Didn't need this saddle-didn't want this saddle. But, since I was dumb enough to bid, I paid the seller for it. Received it, it seemed to be well cared for and, while not high end, it appeared to be of nice medium quality. Put it on one of the schooling mares (who uses a med tree) hopped on and got a very nice supprise---It is a very comfortable saddle for me and the mare! Now if I could just figure out who manufactured this saddle I would send you their way!
Anyway, watch eBay. This time a year saddles are not selling well and some real buys can be made. Good sellers will provide you with photos and measurements and generally bend over backwards to ensure that you have all the info they can give you so that you are pleased with what you purchase.

not again
Jul. 23, 2011, 09:57 PM
I love the old Passier. It is a fabulous saddle (I have had several and they wear like iron) and it has a lovely balance point.

Jul. 23, 2011, 10:47 PM
I agree with ebay, especially if you find one you really like but it is out of your price range new. Get the best you can for your money and best does not mean most expensive. The best means what fits you and your horse the best and has all of the qualities you want. I love County, Custom and a few others that are WAY out of my price range new, so, I shopped used. Honestly, I'd rather have a 20 year old County than a cheaply made new saddle. Don't give up!

Jul. 23, 2011, 10:48 PM
Passier's are very nice saddles and generally well balanced. Two concerns about the one you showed: 1) it has a pretty deep seat so if you are used to riding in a 17.5" saddle with a flatter seat, this will feel small and 2) it's listed as having foam panels. I didn't know that passier made saddles that didn't have wool flocked panels. With a saddle of that age I'd be concerned that the foam would be very compressed. You can't fix that and you can't adjust the fit.

I might call the shop to confirm that if you're interested in the passier.

I've never ridden in the Wintec dressage saddles but I have a pro jump that I like quite a lot. I've had no problem with the CAIR panels and I find the interchangeable gullets to be very helpful.

Hampton Bay
Jul. 23, 2011, 11:06 PM
I would very much pass on the Wintec. I have a Bates Event, same company, same tree, just leather. The tree broke last summer. Or rather, I NOTICED it last summer. It had probably been broken for a long time given that the screw on that side would not stay in, and hadn't wanted to stay in for a few years.

It took a YEaR to get them to fix it. Yes, a year. First they told me it wasn't broken. OK, then I must be blind. When I told them exactly where it was broken, they changed their story to "well, it is broken, but we don't think it's broken enough to fix it, so we aren't going to". I had to threaten to sue to get them to fix it. No joke.

So they finally fixed it. I got it back about a year after I started trying to get it fixed. I didn't notice the panels were on crooked until I went to take pics to sell it. Yes, the "master saddler" with "over 40 year's experience" put the panels on 3/4" off center.

I emailed them, they refused to respond. Of course, they don't publish a phone number. I kept emailing once a week until finally the woman emailed me back saying she didn't care, they wouldn't even look at it. That they were just sooooooooooo gracious to fix it in the first place, so tough cookies that they put the panels on crooked.

I had to have it fixed on my own dime to be able to ride in it or sell it.

Keep in mind that this saddle was 6 years old, rarely used, stored indoors, and babied. The leather is pristine.

Oh, they also scratched the hell out of it while they had it too. Like deep scratches. One of them didn't oil out either.

Worse customer service ever, and a giant waste of money to buy their products. Their "lifetime guarantee" is a total joke.

Jul. 23, 2011, 11:15 PM
Thanks for the observation on the deep seat. My equitation instructor's Kieffer has a very deep seat and I find the cantle too high. The seat does hold me and I don't mind that at all, but you can't emergency dismount from her saddle. You have to dismount Western style - keep one foot in the stirrup.


Jul. 23, 2011, 11:29 PM
Ditto Hampton Bay, I also have had bad experiences with Wintec tree breaking and getting it fixed. In my case, they did fix it without complaint as I was original purchaser , but they DO NOTtalk to the customer only the retail store, and mine took 2 months to do. Not as bad has hb but still unpleasant.

I second looking at used passiers. also if you want new, I bought the thorowgood hi wither dressage saddle for my new tb and it fits him like a charm. It also has adjustable gullets. Dover has them. Much better quality than wintec and made in england by master saddlers,not made in vietnam.

good luck saddle shopping is not fun

Jul. 23, 2011, 11:51 PM
Have you tried craigslist? It is amazing the saddles out there for sale right now. Locally, or nationally:


You never know what you will find out there. Craigslist in a way is the new eBay, so it's not unusual for sellers to have PayPal accounts and to ship. I have sold to people out of the area through craigslist.

Jul. 24, 2011, 03:11 AM
I know exactly what you are going through because this was me a few years ago. My budget was a bit higher, but after trying eight saddles, it turns out the Wintec was the one that fit my horse best at the time.

That saddle served us well for about 3 years until her back changed so much, even changing out the gullet wouldn't have really worked for her.

I couldn't bring myself to buy a saddle off eBay, it just seemed too risky and I couldn't find anything in the local tack shops on consignment or on CL either.

The Wintec held up well, was totally easy to care for and I never had to worry about it getting wet.

Jul. 24, 2011, 03:50 AM
You're near or nearish to a bunch of pretty good tack shops, aren't you? I'd take everything they have in the right size and try them to figure out what will fit, and then use that info to look for used saddles within your price range.

Jul. 24, 2011, 06:50 AM
Buy something to get you buy for now, and then find a decent used saddle, and put it on layaway. Pay that sucker down, and look forward to the day you can ride in it. That's how I afford expensive saddles - I don't have the budget for them either but I LOVE a truly adjustable tree like my Verhan.

Jul. 24, 2011, 06:57 AM
That sounds like a plan. I've never actually done layaway before. Is there some kind of maximum time you have to pay for it? Are there extra costs involved?


Jul. 24, 2011, 07:17 AM
That sounds like a plan. I've never actually done layaway before. Is there some kind of maximum time you have to pay for it? Are there extra costs involved?


It depends on where you get it - I've done it with private individuals (I'm just about to go pick up a nice saddle for my DD from a person over in Ocala next week, in fact) where I just sent her a pre-agreed-upon amount a month. We wrote up a contract and I just paid her a deposit and sent her the money every month via wire transfer. Better to do it with a tack store, though - that can get a bit hinky. And I do it with used saddles only - you can get a GOOD used saddle for $1000.

Jul. 24, 2011, 10:09 AM
If you are just looking at getting something to get you by for now and you like the Wintec, keep a close eye on ebay. There are usually tons of those and you might be able to pick one up for very little $$$, so you could start saving for your fancy-schmancy saddle right away!

Jul. 24, 2011, 10:13 AM
LOL, it's raining so I'm shopping
might be worth a look

Jul. 24, 2011, 10:38 AM
How about Thorowgood ? They are made in England, wool flocked and have a better adjustable gullet system. The T4 runs in the $500's new and the T6 in the $700's.

Jul. 24, 2011, 01:25 PM
What part of PA are you in, anywhere near Ricks? I would recommend finding a place like that that has a huge inventory of a lot of used saddles in your price and sit in all of them. Even if it is a 2 or 3 hr drive, it would be worth it. Cheaper than taking saddles on trial and paying for shipping back and forth. http://www.saddlesource.com/

Melissa.Van Doren
Jul. 24, 2011, 03:06 PM
Agree totally with above. Even it you have to make a day of it, it's much better to go somewhere where you can sit in saddle after saddle for comparison. It's too hard to remember how the twist feels, how the seat feels, how the flap fits your leg, how the overall balance is when you're shipping individual saddles back and forth.

Jul. 24, 2011, 03:11 PM
You need to sit in a lot of saddles before you start to figure out what you like. Preferably on a horse. I think going to a large consignment shop, winnowing down the saddles you like, then riding in them is the best way.

At this point I can look at a saddle and have a pretty good idea of whether I'll like how it positions me, but that took a long time and I rode in a lot of saddles first!

You can find some great bargains in terms of older saddles at some of these tack stores. Almost all of my saddles were bought used and at substantial discounts from their new prices. Brands that are not as popular or older models are often quite inexpensive.

It's hard to be patient when you need a saddle but it will pay off in the end.

Good luck. Finding a saddle that puts you in a balanced position just makes it so much easier to ride well.

Jul. 24, 2011, 04:34 PM
You are all brilliant! I've made many bookmarks from this thread. West Chester is 2 1/2 hours from me, so Ricks may not be the best bet. Close by I have a few place, including Stablemates and the Original Horse Tack Company. I'll get the Wintec for now, but I will sit in alot of saddles and learn my butt in the meanwhile.


Jul. 24, 2011, 07:51 PM
2 1/2 hours is nothing, really. (I have driven almost that far for a piece of pie...) I have to drive 3 hours for an English tack shop that maybe has 1/6 of what Ricks has. Your round trip gas is equal to shipping one saddle round trip... bring a friend and make a day of it! Take lots of notes. Even if you find one that you love but maybe is not the right size for your horse or a little more $$, THEN go home and scour the internet. :)

Jul. 24, 2011, 08:04 PM
Indeed, I drove 3 hours to look at and test ride horses.

Looking at Ricks I see

Stuben Tristan http://www.saddlesource.com/stubben-tristan-006.html


Jul. 24, 2011, 09:29 PM
Congrats on your Fella!-love the name:)-I'd also urge you to make the trip to Rick's - lots of saddles for your tush to test.

PS- I was contemplating offering up my Neidersuiss, since I have hung up my spurs:( , but I just cant do it; so many memories in that saddle:sadsmile::sadsmile:- Good luck with your new horse-its so exciting to finally get your "dream pony" , isnt it?? I got my 1st horse at age 29 after being a barnrat all my life--I felt like I did when I was the 7yr. old girl who prayed every night for a pony, and it finally came true!! What a feeling!!!(apologies to Irene Carra)

Jul. 24, 2011, 10:26 PM
Every now and again it hits me that I bought a damned horse! Maybe for me it's a little bit of a midlife crisis and Fella is my little red sports car :lol::lol: It's all good though. I'm a physically active, social, healthier, 42 year old woman, and that's not where I was going a few years ago!


Jul. 24, 2011, 11:06 PM
in addition to fitting you, your saddle has to fit your horse.

judging only by this photo here:


Fella http://www.flickr.com/photos/52967336@N00/5941461443/
I do not think the passier and tristan you linked to are good choices. Not saying that Passier and Stubben are bad choices, just the particular ones you chose.

Fella looks flatter in the back after his considerable withers (profile, from front to back / head to tail). The Tristan and Passier appear to be non gusseted wool panels, and probably curvy front to back (though the photos are on an angle and make it hard to judge). Like putting a banana on a table, if you put a curvy saddle on a flat backed horse it will rock and cause pressure in the middle of the saddle, rather than spread out the rider's weight over a large surface area, which will annoy the horse at best.

The best thing to do is to get advice from a fitter or professional or someone who at least looks at the horse in person. Having said that, judging only from the photo shared, you may be better off looking at saddles that are flatter and offer more support in the rear. Possibly gusseted panels.

Here, look at this one, see how its flat in the rear:

or this one

notice both have cutback pommels, a good thing for high withers.

this one too

Hope that makes some sense?

For comparison, here is an extreme example of curvy:
see how the back end of the saddle curves up and away? Its better suited for a more sway backed horse.

Here is a more obvious example of flat:
The panels in the back extend, are flatter on the bottom, make a sort of triangle of support down from the back of the cantle to the horse's back.

When shopping, do yourself a favor and do a wither tracing of your horse, withers, back where the saddle goes and front to back profile. Take that with you shopping, you will cut your headaches in half. ;) Nothing worse than finding the perfect saddle that fits you only to discover it make your horse miserable.

Jul. 24, 2011, 11:27 PM
I do see the difference. It's interesting that you chose a Keiffer because that is what my equitation instructor has. He has high withers, but a flatter back. You are correct. I do know a fitter. I should give her a call.

One thing - he does wear a Medium tree. All the saddles you showed are W and the Keiffer is a MW? Is his flatter back distorting his fit?


Jul. 25, 2011, 08:06 AM
The examples I pulled up are just random, I didn't pay attention to what size tree or seat you needed, just that the budget was $600 or less so I used that criteria.

No, flatter backs don't distort the fit of the gullet, however, all saddles fit individually. Like a pair of jeans for yourself, some brands fit well in size X, and the same size in another brand hardly fit at all. Same size, different "cut". Worlds apart in terms of fit.

Same with saddles.

There is no industry standard in terms of tree size. One brand's M is another's N, etc. Its all subjective. Even seat sizes for the rider are subjective. Yes we all measure from the button to the center of cantle, but where the button is placed by the saddler is completely at their whim. ;) They can put the button any place they like. I comfortably ride saddles anywhere from 17 to 18.5 depending on how they're designed.

I gravitated to the choices I made for example because they clearly showed flatter back panels, and the cut back pommel was I guess subliminal because of Fella's withers. Kieffer does happen to be a good brand, and most if not all of the trees are adjustable via sending the saddle off to a person who has a machine.

While speaking to a pro is always a good idea, whats best is to educate your own eye so you can be your horse's advocate. I know a lot of people who get their saddles fitted, and then never learn for themselves or check again. Their horses change over time, the saddle becomes uneven, or something happens, and the rider has no clue and never thinks to examine the saddle because "I had it fitted". Just like learning basic feeding skills, emergency skills, handling skills with horses, learning basic saddle fitting skills will pay you back over the years to come. And its cheap to free to learn.

And, you absolutely can find a brilliantly fitting saddle for Fella within your budget. As much as I don't care for them, and as much as I like leather, a Wintec might suit Fella quite well. Thorowgood I find tends to be a curvier tree than Wintec (other than the Broadback series, which is flatter).

Fella might also be a great candidate for a Toulouse Aachen, which is a lovely saddle that you might be able to find around $600 used. The seat runs small as well as the tree, but if you find a model that fits you and your horse its just a lovely saddle.

Take some wither tracings, you will be really grateful you did.

btw, congrats on Fella! He looks like a lovely boy!! And I was in a fog for the first month I owned my first horse :lol: could not believe I'd done it. Now, I couldn't imagine a life w/o horses.

Galadriël Fëfalas
Jul. 25, 2011, 08:24 AM
When I bought my horse I was borrowing a saddle from the YO - a really old saddle that is in very good condition, but the panels have gone flat. I used a pad under it, and everything was fine.

Then I bought myself a second hand brand name VSD saddle [for €900] and things went wrong - horse kept tripping on his off fore, and my hips would be killing me when I got off.

I looked at photos of saddles online trying to find one that looked like the old saddle I'd been borrowing, and I found one - at a frighteningly low €130 price tag (brand new). Obviously this is not a good saddle, but I bought one out of curiosity. And shockingly enough it fit the horse perfectly, and looks very very like the old borrowed saddle. I checked it over thoroughly and decided to chance riding in it. Everything was fine, horse stopped tripping, my hips stopped hurting. So I set out to find a decent saddle that looked like this horrible cheap saddle, and astonishingly I found one!

€750 lovely quality leather, close contact GP saddle. Horse likes it, I like it. Sorted. Sadly they don't make a dressage saddle :(

the search continues