Once upon a time, I was an Albion saddle fitter, hence the screen name!
At the time, Performance Saddlery was the only importer of Albions and all reps worked though them. Sometime around 2000 or 2001, Performance Saddlery was sold to a new owner, and eventually the new owner quit carrying Albion saddles and now has a new line being made, Trilogy saddles, which do seem quite popular. All that is simply background that says my knowledge is very dated and everything has changed!
I'm not sure if there is a single importer for Albions in the US now, I think there are dealers who import, but you'd have to check the websites to attempt to verify that.
When I was a rep, the expectation was that we would do the first follow up fitting as included in the purchase, and people usually expected the fitting fee to be waived when they ordered a saddle.
That pricing model was not really sustainable as when you counted in time, wear and tear on vehicle, and all that, the amount of money that could be counted as profit diminished.
My solution was to realize that selling saddles was not for me, and to gradually get out of it altogether, except my own saddles.
As for the saddle not fitting, there are a few possibilities.
1) The timeline for a customized saddle to be delivered is often 8-16 weeks. That is adequate time for a horse to change shape.
2) The saddle is more flocked than expected, thus too tight.
3) The saddle is not the tree width marked
4) Horses can change shape remarkably fast, I've had a horse go up a tree size in as little as two weeks.
I have no idea how far this rep has to travel to get to the barn, but that might be a reasonable charge. Have you looked at the price of gas, hotels, meals out?
Travel is not free, and the commission (or profit margin) on a single saddle is not high enough to cover the level of personalized service that many riders seem to expect.
If I order a custom saddle to fit my horse, I expect the saddle to fit out of the box - reasonably well; it's expected that wool flocking will settle over 20 hours or so, at which time, most saddle reps will do the necessary minor adjustments.
If there will be any surcharges to either of these services, I expect that will be disclosed at the initial stages of the saddle discussion - because really that's the difference between me ordering a custom saddle vs an off the rack saddle that may be adjusted to fit ....
I have an albion and just ordered a 2nd albion. I had the rep come out, check the fit on my geldings albion and measure my mare. I was charged for that visit, when the saddle comes, I will not be charged for the final fitting.
3 (or 4?) years ago I bought a schlesse. The fitting was free and there was a free follow-up fitting included in purchase price (although the fittings WERE on the fitters travel schedule)
Maybe it just depends on who you are working with and how far away you are or something like that. I had a fitter from a local tack shop come out to my barn (30 min drive) last month and look at an Albion on both my horses. She said the horses are close enough in size/shape that they can share (which is what I wanted) and she traced the older horse (figure he's less likely to change and has more muscle on him so a touch wider). It was $200 for that. She didn't have the seat/tree size I wanted in stock so she had to order me the saddle from England and said I would get it in 5-6 weeks, and when it comes in she will flock it per the tracings she did and then come to the barn and check it on my horse at no charge (so it's basically included in the initial $200 I spent, or the purchase of the saddle). She will also make adjustments as needed for the first 3 months as the flocking settles at no additional charge, but after 3 months there will be a charge for her to check the fit or make adjustments to the saddle. I thought that sounded pretty fair, but I don't know how it's done elsewhere.
Gallant Gesture "Liam" 1995 chestnut ottb gelding
Mr. Painter "Remy" 2006 chestnut ottb gelding
My Training Blog: www.dressagefundamentals.com
I bought a used, Albion K2 from a fitter who is an Albion rep, but also sells other brands. We tried three different brands on my short coupled but very wide backed Arabian. (I'd tried two others before having the fitter out.) I had one heck of a time finding a WIDE saddle. I learned that what is Medium Wide to one brand is a Wide to another. The fact that there is no standardization is frustrating.
My fitter charged me a travel fee, the fitting process fee and a reflocking fee. However, she gave me a discount of $100! because the saddle's owner (I discovered later) refused to pay her a commission. I thought this odd, but I was appreciative that my fitter gave me the discount. I think, in retrospect, that she gave me the discount because the saddle was already just beyond my budgeted amount for a used saddle, she knew it, and she really wanted me to have the Albion.
She did not push the Albion on me, but it really does fit my boy well, and that is what I was most concerned with.
Also, buy your girth from the Albion rep. I haven't seen Albion girths in the stores or catalogs, and (correct me if I am wrong, please!) the billets are a bit different than other saddles.
If you take good care of them, the Albions will last. They hold their value.
I like my Albion. WOuld I buy another? I dunno. You must fit the saddle to the horse.
The best thing to do on a golf course is a GALLOP!
I have a FABULOUS Albion rep who now has her "licensing" from the Master Saddle Fitters. I have purchased 7 saddles from her for various horses over the last 8 years and she has done an upstanding job with each one! I have recommended her to clients and have given her a ton of business because she is so good. She will measure a horse's back and tell her what size tree, etc it needs as well as checking other saddles and measuring for custom Albions. She has solved a ton of mystery problems with various horses as far as saddle fitting for me. She has come to shows to watch ME ride in saddles and given me suggestions on the phone when I am having difficulties which we do determine has to do with saddle fitting (horse changes in size or muscle, etc). She charges $150 for a fitting and it is well worth it. When I purchase a saddle from her, the fitting is free and once the saddle arrives she fits it to the horse and will come back in 4 weeks to check it again at no cost. The most recent saddle I had made for a 6 year old fit him PERFECTLY in the shoulder but needed some more flocking in the back to make it level. NO complaints from me - I LOVE my Albions and my rep!
My saddle did not fit when it arrived. I called the rep and she said she did nothing to the saddle (of course I sent tracings and pics), and it was just as it had come from the factory. I trailered (well, PAID my trainer to trailer me) three hours to the rep, who informed me my horse was "that sort" who "fooled you when you did measurements" and really needed a wider tree. She "split the fee" for widening the tree with me, AND charged me a consult fee, THEN told me she would be close to my barn in two weeks, should she stop by?
I love the saddle. When it needs refitting, I will find someone else to do it, despite the fact that it fits fine now, and she did a good job. I just don't like the business practices.
so the consensus seems to be that the initial measurements and flocking fit are generally free. in my friend's case, the initial measurements were free but the fitting of the saddle was not and i'm not sure if that was disclosed.
the rep was not making a special trip to the area for any of it. which i support as they live a few hours away and it makes sense to organize several days of visits.
the saddle is gorgeous and fits her well - but it needs some work to fit the horse better.
if there's a charge, it makes sense to compare the prices of all the saddle fitters in close proximity unless there's something proprietary about Albion?
Your friend should check the fine print on her saddle sale - most companies require a certified rep to do the adjustments in order to retain the custom saddle-fit warranty ....
eg, I can buy a County from the rep (who is an oustanding horse & rider fitter), if I ordered custom, County will guarantee the tree fit for 1 year (& any adjustments must be done by their rep during that 1st year); if I have the rep fit one of their demo saddles, there is no tree fit warranty & it doesn't matter who I have in for adjustments.
The general County tree warranty for breakage etc holds in either scenario.
If the saddle sale contract is not clear, she needs to contact the company & discuss & have written confirmation.