I have been on a long and grueling search for a close contact or all purpose saddle for my 4 y/o Saddlebred gelding- with intent mainly for flat work, very minimal if any jumping.
My biggest problems have been with fitting the horse- and i've even had a saddle fitter out, which unfortunately was not very helpful. My horse is about 15.3hh, almost 1200#, so he's a big boy, and very broad and flat across his back. He is also slightly soft in his back/curvy in conformation, but not lordotic, so bridging has been a problem with many of the close contact saddles I've tried. We need something in more of an all-purpose upright flap design as many of the close contacts with forward flaps put too much pressure on/behind the shoulder blade and restrict his shoulder movement. Also, I am 5'10" so I need a more upright/longer flap to accomadate my leg length.
I was originally set on a close contact, but have come to realize that my horse's and my needs are not consistent with what most close contacts provide and perhaps we need to look at an all purpose to provide the width of tree and length/more upright flap that he needs.
I think he is probably built very similar to many Morgans or Arabians in his back, so I'm wondering if there are any ASB, Arab, or Morgan hunter people on here and what you use? I would take any and all recommendations for brands/types of saddles to try! Thank you so much.
What have you tried and what about them didn't work?
My first thought was a County Warmblood dressage saddle. Not exactly what you're looking for, but it's something to try at least. It has short tree points, is curvy but not lordosis-curvy, can be had pretty darn wide.
what's your budget?
______________________________ The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET
Looking in the AP saddle direction is a good idea.
Among these and in order of preference, I'd look for a Black Country. They will come wide and their regular panels seem a bit upswept at the cantle to me. You can get officially upswept, too. Along these lines, you might get in touch with Trumbull Mountain Tack. They do fitting at a distance and have a good supply of BC demos in stock. But they carry other wide brands, too and might lead you to something else.
I'd try on a Country Drespri, I suppose. They will come wide and you can adjust the flap's position.
I'd open my mind to a Bates AP saddle. Again, you can get wide and the tree itself will be curvier than the British saddles.
I'm not up on the AP world, but I think some Stubben afficionados can also help you out with recommendations within that brand.
In my experience, County, Stubben, and Bates/Wintec will not work. (Especially the Stubben and Bates/Wintec). Never tried Black Country, they may be an option. I also never tried any A/P saddles on my guy, but MANY jumping and dressage saddles. I finally found a jumping saddle to fit from Custom Saddlery and a Passier dressage saddle from EuroAmerican Saddlery. Passier has all purpose models and are highly adjustable for the super wide guys. Charlie is the saddler at EuroAmerican and knows Passiers very well!!! If I ever get another saddle for my wide guy (or probably any other horse!), Charlie will be my first call!!!
Good luck and happy saddle hunting!!!
It is a fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."
To answer some questions, my budget seems to have been moving as I have continued my search. When I first started looking I was wanting to find something in the $500 or less budget hoping I could find something nice that was used, then it expanded to $1000 once I realized I couldn't find what i was looking for. then I just bought a $2000 saddle, but I am going to return it as it is not going to work. Really, honestly, I could afford the $2000 saddle, but I do not want to spend that much on a saddle- I bought this horse to do saddle seat, but he is much happier as a hunter, so I am making the adjustment for him. So, I have a hard time justifying spending a ton of $ on a saddle for something that was not my first choice in discipline. (I used to ride hunt seat before I switched to saddle seat, so it's not that I am uncomfortable or unfamiliar with it, just not what I had hoped, and no I don't want to sell the horse because I love him so much in every other way, and I think he is quiet enough already at 4 to be a kids horse, which can be hard to come by). so you can see my dilemma. Anyhow, I would like to hopefully find something used in the $1000 range.
This is what I have tried:
- used $50 no name far east-made AP saddle- tree size is not marked, but it seems to be the best fit so far, though it bridges slightly.
- used Ian Miller close contact- regular tree was too narrow, but I liked the saddle otherwise
- used crosby PDN, regular tree- too narrow
- used HDR Pro close contact- fit the horse okay, but was a 16.5", too small for me (I could have made due, but it looked a bit ridiculous)
- new HDR Pro close contact 18" long flap- fit me, but was WAY too narrow for the horse (this was a regular tree, same size as the used one, but did not fit at all- maybe the used one was broken in so it fit better, but this one bridged severely and sat very uphill, this is when I realized I needed a wide tree- looking at a photo of my horse you will think I am crazy for not realizing this sooner)
- used 32cm Courbette Pandur FS close contact (it was one of the nicer Courbettes- made in Germany)- too narrow for the horse, sat uphill, actually made pretty decent contact though (didn't bridge) and I really liked the saddle in other aspects
- used 32cm Stubben dressage saddle- fits pretty well, but wrong discipline
- used 32cm Stubben Kerry- bridges, can see the light of day under it. Did not even ride in it for the sake of my horse's back
- used Collegiate (lower line, unsure of the model) AP saddle, ?regular tree, width appears to be good, has room through the shoulder blades, but saddle bridged.
- used adjustable gullet (I put in the white widest one) Collegiate ?graduate?- flaps are too forward, hug tightly on the shoulder blades, also seat is not quite right for me, but it did not bridge and is a very nice saddle otherwise
- new Smith Worthington Stellar Altair (this is the one I got from the saddle fitter, tree can be adjusted by the maker and it is wool flocked, so that can be adjusted somewhat as well)- well, it bridges pretty bad and the flaps are also too far forward and tight and they restrict his shoulder movement.
I had a friend last night watch me ride him in the new SW then go to the $50 AP that I have and she was amazed at the difference in the way he moved from one to the next- he was extremely rigid/restricted and shorter strided in the SW, and also wanted to raise his neck up and root his nose out in it- he was much more free moving through the shoulder and consistent in the cheapie saddle. Ugh. . . . I'm a little unhappy with the lack of thorough evaluation I got from a reputable saddle fitter on a new saddle that she sold me- she didn't even put her hands under it, or she would have noticed that you can see light under the saddle where it bridges . . . . needless to say I am bringing it back.
So that is where I am at. . . currently keeping the $50 cheapie AP saddle as that seems to be the best fit thus far. Though there are things I don't like about the saddle and want something nicer- leather quality is terrible, billets are nylon lined so virtually impossible to tighten, etc. I think I can do better, though the available options seem a little hopeless.
Here are a few photos of him- NE_Rider- very similar back!
I just remembered another saddle which was recommended to me, but I never tried one....a Thornhill. Not all Thornhills are super wide, depends upon the tree, but I have heard they are decent saddles.
And just thought of another one (can you tell I've done a lot of saddle shopping LOL!)....Kieffers!!! I wanted to try a Kieffer, but received conflicting information on whether or not the tree could be adjusted wide enough for my guy, but if you are getting some off the rack saddles to come close to fitting, there should be no problem adjusting a Kieffer. I have also come across some good deals on used Kieffers, which, if they have the adjustable tree, can be easily altered to fit your horse.
It is a fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."
Well I brought the SW saddle back and the saddle fitter gave me a Thornhill Berlin to try on him. not even close to the same quality of leather (but it's also 1/3 the price of the SW), but wow, I think we've got a winner for fit! My horse was super comfortable in it- extending beautifully, quiet and consistent, and I was actually pretty comfortable in it too- suprising considering it's got a pretty deep seat from what I'm used to. I think I need a size up (I took out an 18 which was the biggest one she had, but being so long in the thigh we both agree I need a 19 in this model), and the flaps are still a bit short for me, (hopefully they'll be a little longer/more spacious in the 19), but I'm at the point where I really don't care about flap length being perfect, it fits my horse so I really think I've got a winner with this one. It is really well balanced, held my legs in perfect position, and I felt secure in it. It left really even nice sweat marks on his back and is wool flocked which is really nice. It also is one of the first saddles I've found that doesn't bridge, and it's the first that also is wide enough and not too far forward. the saddle fitter really likes this brand and says they are very well made trees, quality saddles, so I'll try it a few more times, but I think we've finally got it!