I've been lurking on here for a while but since I've bought a new horse, I'm looking for some thoughts on saddles. My new horse is a 4 year old Trakehner gelding. Since he's still growing, I've decided to narrow my saddle search down to ones that have an adjustable tree. I have an older Wintec Isabell that I like riding in, but changing the gullet plates is a pain, so I'm leaning toward ones that have a key-type mechanism. I think I've narrowed it down to a Toulouse or a Laser. I rode in a barn friend's Toulouse Aachen and found that it put me in a slight chair seat. My concern with a Toulouse is that the leather won't hold up long-term, but the Genesis tree is guaranteed for 10 years. But I'm not sure I really want to spend the money on a Laser that has the flexibility in the tree and adjustable stirrup bars, but only a 3-year warranty on the adjustable tree. Any thoughts, good or bad, on both saddle makers would be greatly appreciated.
Well the Laser is obviously significantly higher in quality. It's a "lifetime" saddle, whereas the Toulouse is a "short term" saddle. Toulouses also have tons of quality issues (as in symmetry of the trees, not "oh they wear quickly") that you need to be careful of.
They also have different tree shapes. There is more to fitting a saddle than just the gullet size.
Another couple of suggestions: Classic/Rembrandt saddles...Lynda at Classic Saddlery is very helpful, and they have the Wellup tree. Thorowgood has some models with the key adjustable tree, and can be found for under $300, so that is an option to check out for a growing baby horse. The Thorowgoods are wool flocked and in general really nice saddles for the price, lots of fans on COTH. The Tekna saddles are based off the Prestige trees, and are heat-sized the same way. So it's not a key adjustment, but pretty adjustable, and a nice quality saddle.
Hastilow, Thorowgood, and Kent & Masters range are manufactured on the “Sima tree”, adjustable through the front arch and rail shape.
I've ridden in the Hastilow and Kent & Masters saddles. I wasn't comfortable because the saddles were a bit too small but they are fully and easily adjustable for the horse. A friend has a K&M and couldn't be happier.
The Hastilow concept/Thorowgood/Kent and Masters/Fairfax are all built on teh same adjustable gullet tree as stated, but it is NOT a key tree, it is a changeable gullet. They are, however, MUCH easier to change than the wintec system and the tree is much superior. They also come in three different trees/panel configurations - hi wither, standard and cob/broadback so your chances of finding one to fit your horse well are greatly improved.
I personally own a Hastilow concept and a thorowgood T4, and previously had a Fairfax but sold it to get the Hastilow concept as my mare needed some bench made modifications. HIghly recommended.
This horse is 4, still growing, definitely will change dramatically in muscle developement (assuming you will get him past training/first level) - if you can get a fairly inexpensive saddle that is a good fit, do so
Adjustable tree is no guarantee that the saddle will continue to fit through his changes, it just helps
Thanks for all the suggestions. I'll have to look into the ones mentioned.
I've been talking with Lynda at Classic Saddlery (thanks to everyone who ever mentioned her in a saddle thread). I sent her wither/back tracings and a conformation photo. Based on those and my own personal preferences, she suggested the Toulouse Aachen, with the Toulouse Larissa being second choice. I also sent the tracings and photo to A Bit of Bling, who then forwarded it onto Laser. They suggested the Laser Rendezvous. I let everyone know that I fully expect my horse to change shape since he's only 4.
I've been riding in an older Rembrandt for the past few months prior to buying my Trakehner gelding. It felt a bit wide in the twist area but it wasn't overly wide. I may have to talk with Lynda about the Classic saddles as well as the Kent and Masters, since they carry those as well.
This is a GREAT saddle maker. This lady had a horse that she could not fit a saddle to an so she designed these saddles herself. They are very well made and because they are treeless, totally flexible. I thought they were very comfortable, but they're a bit above my price range..
There is a thread on here regarding the Laser Saddles. If you search Laser Saddles, you should be able to find it. I looked into them a while ago. Several owners told me that the saddles were beautiful and good quality. It was mentioned more then once to me though that their customer service after purchase was lacking.
I also tried the Bates Isabel but that saddle did not fit me properly and as you stated, it's a pain the change the gullet.
I opted to buy an Albion and gave up on the adjustable tree saddles.
Life is what happens when you're making other plans. RiverDance
Another thought, I bought a series of used Stubbens as my boy changed shape. The old Tristans and similar models (they have a few that were upgraded leather or were like special edition type things, but the same tree) seem to fit a lot of horses really well. The Siegfrieds have a bunch of variations that fit a wide variety of horses as well. I had an old Tristan and an old Siegfried that fit my boy in the beginning. When he outgrew them, I put them back on eBay and got what I paid for them and bought two more only wider. The dressage model (Aramis - old Tristan tree, upgraded leather) fits him beautifully, but he doesn't like the Siegfried II I have. That's about to be sold to a friend and I'll be buying a different jumping model that has a tree more similar to the Aramis. The 15-20yo Stubbens are $500 or less and are pretty easy to resell when you're done with them.
We brought tons of babies up through the levels using Ortho/American Flex saddles and rehabbed older horses' damaged backs...1 or 2 saddles worked nicely for 20+ horses of all sort of shapes and sizes. For the babies that are constantly changing it was/is a lovely solution. The saddles can be hard to find in good condition but hold up very well with proper maintenance and care. The ones made in Germany are particularly nice and very hard to distinguish from a 'regular' saddle FWIW.
One other option to go with the very many fantastic suggestions you've already received, are the reactor panel saddles. I tried quite a few different options, both adjustable and not to fit my very wide, ever changing four year old morgan. I ended up finding a used reactor panel on ebay and adore it. I believe it is probably one of the most adjustable saddles made as the panels velcro to the saddle and have an infinite ways of adjusting for a perfect fit. And, you can readjust them as your horse changes shape. One thing to keep in mind though, is that the initial fitting is rather challenging. You have to have a LOT of patience. But IMHO, it was very well worth it. Very comfortable for my and my horse. http://www.reactorpanel.com/