I currently ride my 10 year old TWH gelding in a Tucker Cheyenne trail saddle. Although I'm not financially up to buying a saddle at the moment, I have been looking around at some other options. In part, I'd like to get a lighter saddle, and one without a horn. Having grown up riding hunter/jumper and dressage, I've found that horns do little for me besides getting in the way.
The one saddle I find most attractive is the Bronco Poley from Colin Dangard's Australian Stock Saddle Company. It's small, and it's light, the price is right, and it comes with the no-horn option. I had a chance to sit in it at the Quarter Horse Congress last year (very comfortable!), and Colin's site has a "blog" from a woman who rode from Mexico to Canada in that saddle, so I know it's built for long hours.
My question is that many gaited horse people insist that only a "gaited" saddle should be used, while others say that it doesn't matter whether it's a "gaited" saddle or not, as long as the saddle fits the horse. I understand the need for a gaited horse to have room to move, and how a poorly-fitting saddle can affect the gait. Whatever new saddle I choose, I'm going to be sure it's one that is well-fitted.
What are your thoughts on gaited vs. "general" saddles for a gaited horse?
Please copy and paste this to your signature if you know someone, or have been affected by someone who needs a smack upside the head. Lets raise awareness.
I am of the camp of "use what fits both of you and you like."
I ride my grade TWH (foundation type) mare in an old Jackaroo from the ASSC and I love this saddle even though it's one of their cheaper models. I've ridden Belle in it since I got her 4 years ago, the saddle is at least 11 years old
I will say that I prefer the regular Aussie style stuffed panels rather than the western flattish underside that the Bronco Poley features. You might need to pad the saddle up if you ever change horses or your horse develops different back muscles. The stuffed panels can be adjusted by you to fit your horse's changing back. I've used my Jackaroo on many different horses with different body styles by working the stuffing. Of course, you do need to keep the stuffed panels regularly maintained, but I feel it's worth it. Also, I think the saddle is more secure with the stuffed panels, but I don't have a lot of experience riding saddle with the western style underside.
Gaited horses are not a separate species from Mars - a horse is a horse, and most of the "special" gaited saddle-fitting needs people talk about are by no means limited to gaited horses. My NSH need room for their big shoulders too, plus bars short enough to comfortably fit a short back, and their high necks cause more issues with the front of the saddle than my gaited girls, both of which have hardly any head shake.
If the saddle fits, use it! I see more poorly-fitting gaited saddles than not, mostly because people buy into the marketing hype - it's a gaited saddle, my horse is gaited, it must fit!- and forget to actually fit the darned saddle.
The western-style panels with the wide chamber fit him best, as he was so wide even a full-QH tree in a western was too narrow. He gaited fine in it. To be honest, he gaited fine in pretty much everything, except for the gaited saddle and bit his previous owner used.
I still throw it up on the MFT now and then, but it's actually heavier than my Fabtron, so I save it for days when I think I need the extra security of the poleys.
A lot of the aussies are very heavy for their size. Check weights, or you might end up with a saddle that weighs as much as your Tucker does.
What's necessary is that the saddle fit you, fit the horse, and be suitable for the purposes for which you will use the horse. Frankly, I don't find the Aussied comfortable for me and would not use one for a long distance saddle. Others find them just great. Go figure!!!
A good quality used saddle is a better deal for you and your horse than a new saddle of poor quality.
Or, to quote the old song, "Ya gotta shop around!"
I tried just about every type of saddle for my TWH when I first got him, and ended up riding him in a dressage saddle (Keifer Wein) for about 8 months until I figured out what worked best for him (my big shouldered, high withered skinny boy). I ended up with a Tucker Plantation (no horn!), wide tree. I only got about two hours in an Aussie and really liked the feel, but my guy didn't like it at all. But that was my horse. To echo what others have already said -- every horse is different and you need to find the saddle that works well for your horse. I think when people talk about "gaited saddles" their often referring to saddles that have good shoulder clearance -- but really, it's about the fit and how your horse goes in it. If you can find a demo program -- do it!
"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." - Confucious
I ride with 4 people that have gaited horses(tennessee walkers, rocky mountain, and spotted saddle horses) 2 of them ride in aussie saddles, one rides in a western saddle, the other rides in a treeless saddle. All the horses gait beautifully and have no problems what-so-ever.
I hauled my short backed, slightly down hill, narrow TWH beast to many many tack shops and tried many many saddles. from the $1600 Brenda Imus Gaits of Gold goo saddle, Crestridge, Tucker, Bighorn, a treeless Barefoot model, Orthoflex, etc down to National Bridle Shop's various saddles on various trees, nothing worked for him. I think I put no less than 30 saddles, probably more like 40, on his back- diff trees, diff styles, diff widths, never quite right. Finally had Rocking R fit him and the owner- 2nd generation saddle maker- could not believe what that horse needed- some funky combo of SQH bars and gaited horse rock to those bars, and high gullet. I have two custom fit saddles from them, same model, diff custom trees- they look nothing alike head on LOL.
PS one dealer to be leary of: Dixieland Gaited Saddles does NOT do refunds, even on in stock, off the shelf merchandise, returned in brand new condition...she ONLY swaps out for other saddles. Buyer Beware! Great saddles, goofy return policy!!
I spent ages and numerous trips to the local saddle shop sitting in saddles. They are a Tucker dealer and had new and used saddles of all types.
One day there was a used Steele. 3 minutes of sitting in it and I knew I wanted it.
I went from only being able to ride for 2 hours to doing a 7 hour ride! My one Arab gelding loves the saddle. He has more extension in it then in anything else. So far I have rode the saddle on 7 different horses including 2 gaited. The only thing I have changes is the amount of padding.
The Steele people have a great trail offer. For 50.00 you can try one of their saddles. Then if you decide to buy one shipping is free. You can ride in the saddle for days and really ride! Well worth it.
Simply put... dont care what tree the saddle has, it must fit the horse. I own a saddle shop and it took me nearly 2 years to find the right "treed" saddle for my gaited SSH. I rode in the Barefoot Treeless in the meantime (and still do at times) but I wanted a traditional big, leather western saddle. Finally found a Dakota Walker saddle that fit my big guy. There was just enough rock in the bars so that it didn't bridge (every other saddle bridged on him), the bars were short enough for his short back, and there was - most importantly - FLARE - in the front of the bars. You'll find many "gaited" saddles with flare. Personally, I think every saddle should be made with more "flare". All horses have shoulders and all shoulders need room - not just our gaited guys....
I have a cheap Aussie with the serge panels. It was the only thing that fit my mare (not gaited), who apparently has wide shoulders and a sway. Everything Western pinched her shoulders and bridged. I like the Aussie-no horn- and did an unexpected 5+ hour ride, which is a decent amount of time for us, and I was not sore at all. Had I been in a Western my seatbones would have hurt for days and my knees would have hurt after an hour. But everyone is different. My horse didn't show any signs of soreness after the ride either.
There are the saddle bred type TWH and the aussie work well for them but I can't get Colin to understand most TWH or MFT need a wider tree. These horses need to have a free shoulder to gait and stay sound . Aussie saddles are to narrow for most of them and that's true of the Steele saddles also. I love my steele saddle its ( just about new) because it restricts my horses gaits.
I have 5 TWH and a few MFT. Try a nice dressage saddle on your horse and feel how loose he moves then switch to another saddle like a Tucker,Aussie or Steele and you will discover if they are restricting your horses movements. You can really damage a horse especially a gaited horse if you ride a narrow tree. The Aussie horses are much narrower than our horses so please be careful.
I'm not recommending endurance riding in a dressage saddle just to use it to compare how your horse moves when he is free in the shoulders and not pinched. Dressage horses have a big rear stride and extended front leg movement similar to our good gaited horses so that's why I use it to compare. It can be amazing how the gait changes when the horse is pain free with a good fitting saddle. I had a horse that frequently stumbled in his Aussie and only when I sent it to be repaired and used a different old saddle did I discover it was the saddle pain making him stumble not the horse . Learned my lesson.
Longriders web site has a lot of info on saddles, what will last, what to throw away,what rips up your horses back.
Currently I use a very old semi-quarter horse bar tree on the MFT and a Tucker equitation on a big TWh and a english all purpose on another. Fit the horse not you. If the saddle was just for my comfort I'd be riding my beautiful like new Steele plantation saddle thats not fitting anybody but my very spooky 3 year old.
I was wondering if anyone has tried the Bates leather aussie because of the adjustable gullet? Anyone had success with that saddle , so expensive but maybe it would fit me(safety) and the horse?
IMO way too many people obscess over Number One and "blow off" Number Two.
A saddle that does not fit the rider will put them into an "unbalanced" position. They will not be able to use their aids effectively. They will be distracted. It generally leads to a very unsatisfying experience for horse and rider.
I'm not an Aussie fan 'cause I've never sat in one that was right for me. So whether or not they fit my type of gaited horse is a giant "So What?". I know a couple of good endurance riders who love them (but they ride Arabs or Arab crosses). I know a lady who sells Mountain Horses and Aussie saddles. So she's pretty satisfied with them.
In any saddle selection pay attention to both fits. Your horse will thank you (even if your chiorpractor won't ).
My aching tail agrees with you but I just can't seem to find a saddle that fits me and the horses. I am falling off my horse who spooks( infrequently). Now I'm not young and have lost a lot of balance and strength. Yep looking for a new pony but that's why I was thinking about the Bates stock saddle. I have a very old Aussie which is awfully painful for me to ride but those poleys have kept me on a horse so many times. A spin to the side and the leg hits the poley, a quick stop and the poleys keep me off his neck so yes they do help you stay on.
Please no flames even those of us that aren't great riders still love to ride.
No flames, but world is full of good saddles. Or, put another way, sometimes you have to kiss a lot frogs to find your prince.
What do you want to do with the horse? After you figure that out, write it down on a yellow pad then take it with you when you go shopping so you don't forget your goal!
Lower skill levels and imperfect balance (like I have) demand good saddle fit for the rider as I lack the skills to "fake it" when things "go South." I found it in the Stubben Scout; my wife in a Stubben VSD-DL. But never in an Aussie.
If you're relying on the saddle to keep you on the horse you're walking a dangerous road. Iron and leather have their limits as "safety devices."
The best fitting saddle I have ever had for my horse was an el-cheapo synthetic Aussie that I rode until it literally fell apart. I purchased another one but it didn't fit her same, and so began my journey to find a saddle that fits. I still don't have the perfect fit. I have had 4 custom made saddles. 3 were from Colin Dangaard. I didn't really like my experience with Colin, but he did try 3 times to fit my horse, but each time the fit got worse. I would recommend that if you purchase a high end Aussie get a Syd Hill as it has a better resale value. I could not even get a bite on my Southern Cross Aussie, even though it is a very well made saddle. Thankfully it fits my husband's TWH (totally different type back than my Paso Fino it was made for). I had a local saddlemaker make another custom saddle, and it doesn't fit right either. He didn't offer to try again, however, like Colin did.
The best fit has been a flex panel Timberline, but I had to give that saddle up to my husband's colt So, I am looking for another used Timberline.
I have a Kimberly series ( TRAILMASTER 16" SEAT ) new black saddle that doesn't fit my horse and I upgraded everything that goes with this saddle ! I've been thru 6 diff saddles and ended up with an english saddle.