Finding a jumping saddle: back to the drawing board
I'm posting under an alter because I don't want it to be obvious which company I'm talking about.
I recently ordered a semi custom saddle from a very well known company and it doesn't fit my horse. After many conversations they've agreed to give me a full refund.
So I'm back to the drawing board and need suggestions. My horse is a tb with moderately high wither and a low scapula. Horse is small (15:3) and has a short back. I'm 5'3" and have 29"
Inseam so not particularly leggy. Most saddles I try have a flap that is too lLong and too forward.
Three additional problems I often find with saddles:
1) not enough wither clearance.
2) panels too shallow (too close contact) so that saddle settles and presses on withers or spine.
3) panels too long. Presses on horses loins.
Any suggestions on what to look at? After what I went through previously I don't know if I want to go custom again.
(multiple fittings with demos, wait 8-10 weeks, saddle doesn't fit, doesn't work after reflocking, disagreements from company on whether it can be fixed at factory or not)
You sound like you've had a very frustrating experience. Sorry you're going through this.
But you'd really need to post more info to get any kind of useful response. What's your budget (and please be honest--if you say $1000 and you really mean $1800, nobody's going to mention that $1300 saddle that might be perfect)? Are you looking for a saddle that will last a very long time, or are you willing to settle for a saddle that might last 5 or 10 years if it suits the horse's back? Does the horse have a very curvy topline, moderately curvy, or fairly straight? What saddles have you tried so far and if you know why they didn't work, what exactly was wrong with them (which helps us triangulate a saddle that might actually work)? Are you looking for a brand that is likely to have a rep available to send to your barn (tends to cost more) or are you willing to mail-order a saddle (tends to give you access to high-quality brands with lower price tags, but you have to be choosy about which saddles you pay to ship in for trial)? Do you have a general idea of what width your horse is--yes every saddle brand measures differently, but one can generally eyeball "pretty narrow" or "fairly average" or "very wide"? Do you care about adjustability features or whether the saddle has wool or foam panels?
Without that info, people are just going to start naming saddles that happen to work on their horse who may or may not have anything in common with your horse and may or may not fit into your budget.
In a perfect world, you could post a photo of the horse from the side standing square. That would tell us a lot.
Don't worry, there IS a saddle out there for you and this horse. There are probably 5 or 10 saddles out there in a variety of price ranges.
(And if you're the person who emailed me in October with this exact same problem, I didn't forget your email--I've just been a huge slacker about answering it. Email me again!)
Obviously include the name of the semi-custom saddle that didn't work in the list of failed saddles - when the saddle presses down on the wither, this suggests a tree that is too wide or not enough rise at the pommel or too shallow a rise at the pommel, panels too long for his back should be an easy fix unless the tree is also too long (requiring that longer panel) ...
If you ride in a 16 - 16 1/2 in seat, it's much easier to find a shorter tree/panel than if you need a 17 1/2in seat.
Generally a wool flock will allow you more versatility than foam in terms of adjusting the saddle as the horse changes, but then read David Stackhouse's article on why he uses foam first.
Some horses are much more challenging to fit than others, not just in conformation but also in how much this changes when in motion.
@Jn4: Here is the additional info you requested. I did take some pics on my iphone, but since I can't post photos inline, I will PM the link to whomever is interested in seeing them for the purposes of coming up with ideas. To anyone who does request the link, I apologize for the grainy photos. I don't like the way my iphone takes pics and this was all I could get in the short term. I can redo some tomorrow with a normal camera.
Warning! Lots of detail! (long post)
1) Budget: I originally paid close to $4 for the semi-custom saddle that is going back.
2) Tree width: My horse is on the narrow side. If you measure her with the wintec gullet tool it would peg her as a medium-narrow.
3) Flocking: prefer wool over foam.
4) Adjustability: no preference. Although I find that most with adjustable gullet plates also have too short of tree points and too wide of a twist.
5) Would love to find something that is a "lifetime" short of saddle. Not something I have to get rid of in 5 years when it wears out.
6) Topline: moderately curvy (I will PM you the link to photos)
7) Rep available: Willing to try whatever at this point.
8) seat: usually ride in 17" or 17.5"
One of the biggest requirements I have, especially now is to be able to really ride in a demo saddle for several days prior to ordering one.
What I've tried:
1) Thorowgood t4 high wither A/P version. Works to keep pressure off the withers and loin area. I bought it as an inexpensive solution to give me something to use until I find a saddle that works. The only slight problem is that it might be a bit tight in the shoulders, but my horse does pretty well in it.
2) Schleese Eagle: my horse loves this saddle. She moves very nicely in it. Short tree, deep panels (vertically), has some kind of "shoulder relief" panel design. The balance is very bad for me though. People who saw me ride in it said it did not put me in a good position. It did have a very wide twist though which was probably part of the problem. The local rep did not have a narrow twist version. The only way I could try a narrow twist would be to order it, see if I liked it, and then send it back if it didn't work. Didn't want to go that route especially after having such a bad time with my position in the demo saddle.
3) Schleese Liberty: I currently have one on loan to use for my dressage lessons. My horse moves very well in this saddle also. I have a good position in this saddle, but obviously, it's not for jumping, but the deep panel design and wither clearance confirms what I found also works for 1 and 2 above.
4) Luc Childeric: I had the local rep out and it is too much of a close contact saddle. The rep themself admitted that it wouldn't work for my horse. The only way they could conceivably make it work would be to create deeper panels and put more foam in. In doing that it would raise the saddle up to the point there would be a lot less stabilization from the shorter tree points. They didn't have an option for saddles with longer tree points to address this.
5) Antares: I rode in these many years ago and didn't like the way the balance point felt for me, so I decided not to consider them further this time around.
6) Stubben: The Stubben Portos and the Edelweiss both had a good balance point for me. I liked the portos, but it is not available in wool even if you do a custom order. I tried the edelweiss but the fitter said that to make it work they would need to add a deeper gusset to lift it off the horse's back. The other fitter in the group expressed a concern over the length of the tree points. They felt that my horse's low scapula would require the longer points especially when adding deeper gussets and more flocking. I appreciated their honesty about that. Ultimately, I decided not to proceed since the longer point version had other differences in seat shape etc. and they didn't have one that I could try before buying.
7) County: Not enough wither clearance no matter what tree width or model I sat in and I tried probably 20+ saddles. Even in the narrower trees I still had only one finger clearance with someone sitting in the saddle and barely one finger after 15-20 minutes of riding.
8) I've looked at some of the adjustable saddles but most seem to have a twist that is very wide. I do much better with narrow twist. For that reason I haven't bothered going beyond just looking at them in the store.
Completely non-conventional, but I've had very good luck with DK saddlery and you can find the Schleese versions as well. I have both a jump (Malibu) and dressage saddle (Freedom) by DK, both used, excellent condition around 3k each. These saddles use Flair systems.
That said, you can have them made for you with measurements taken of your body parts to fit you as well. I am lucky the local DK rep is about 20 mins from me so I got to try one and she measured me so I could get the right size - which I was able to find used. These are lifetime saddles are they are sized to YOU. The panels and gullets are then custom fitted and refitted as needed by the local rep to your horse. You are only shopping for your size - the saddle will be fitted to the horse. You will be in balance.
I know a lot of people don't like Cair or Flair, but when nothing is working, sometimes you have to try outside the box. I was sure glad I did. A lot of people don't like Danny the maker of DK, but I don't work with him, I just work with my FABULOUS rep, who will also fit Schleese's Flair saddles.
When I retired my mare and got a new horse this spring, I didn't have to get new saddles. I just had them refitted to the new horse for a nominal fee. I love them - the quality is really nice and the leather is super soft French.
*sigh* be SO glad you are not me! I have been searching for over a year, and am really hoping there is something out there that will fit that is NOT custom...my mare has tall, long withers (with dips) is widest right at the base of said withers, has big shoulders, a wide curvy back, and changes shape enough when she moves, that a saddle that fits when she's standing, no longer fits when she starts trotting...oh, and I'm comfortable with a narrow twist. My favorite? Butet. Which are NEVER going to fit Tiger Lily.
Saddle shopping is HORRIBLE!! Lol, good luck, there are lots of people with great saddle advice on here. :-) I learn something every time I read one of these!
"On the back of a horse I felt whole, complete, connected to that vital place in the center of me...and the chaos within me found balance."
They don't seem to be popular right now for H/J (not trendy?), but they are very well made. If you want long lasting wool-flocked and adjustable (by a fitter), they are it! Lots of models have cut-back pommels for high withered horses too. They are my favourite brand for dressage saddles for sure.