I perused older threads but didn't really see what I was looking for, so I apologize in advance if I am dredging up and old topic that has been beat to death! I am looking for a relatively inexpensive dressage saddle or a close-contact all-purpose saddle that could be used for multiple horses. I ride several different school horses, mostly Thoroughbreds of about average height and width, so I'm not too concerned with a hard-to-fit horse.
I know Toulouse has several "genesis" lines that allow the size to be adjusted; it's a consideration, but in pictures it seems like a lot of saddle. Does anyone have any other suggestions? I'm definitely not interested in Wintec, but maybe a used Stubben or Passier? Does anyone have experience buying a used saddle on eBay, or would that be a no-no?
Any advice would be much appreciated. This is my first saddle purchase, so I feel like I'm flying blind a bit.
P.S. If you've got suggestions for stirrups, too, I wouldn't turn them down!
The panels flex to fit the horse (without adjustment) and they also use a removeable shim system so that you can quickly raise or lower the pommel or cantle of the saddle to whatever degree is required to level the saddle on the particular horse.
I had one that was similar and used it on all types and sizes of horses that I was schooling. I was comfortable in it in the hunt field as well as in the dressage arena.
"Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller
I am looking for a relatively inexpensive dressage saddle or a close-contact all-purpose saddle that could be used for multiple horses. I ride several different school horses, mostly Thoroughbreds of about average height and width, so I'm not too concerned with a hard-to-fit horse.
Any advice would be much appreciated. This is my first saddle purchase, so I feel like I'm flying blind a bit.
Before you assume these horses are even reasonably similar, do some actual wither & back tracings
If you have access to a good saddle fitter, than it may be worth your time & money to arrange an appointment, just let the fitter know what you want.
Do invest in a good saddle fit pad that offers a good range of shims.
Foam panels are generally suggested when using a saddle for multiple horses.
Many older wool flocked saddles do need a complete re-flock if they've not been maintained over the years, panels are often very hard, uneven or contain "knots".
Look at the gullet channel when considering older saddles.
While I would normally agree with alto about paying more attention to the particulars of saddle fit, it sounds like you are "good and horseless"--meaning that even if you strive to fit the Thoroughbreds you're riding now, you may find yourself riding very different horses in the future. It also sounds like your budget is well under the $1000 mark. In that situation, a saddle fitter call fee is probably a waste of your money.
In a horseless rider saddle, the priority is to make the saddle fit *acceptably*, meaning it will not hurt the horse even if it's not a fantastical amazeballs perfect fit. And while that is a shill game since horses come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, there are definitely some saddles that are better than others for fitting a huge range of horses. For someone who's riding a diversity of horses but mainly Thoroughbreds, I'd say that a moderately curvy panel shape, a saddle with good wither clearance, and a saddle that fits *you* well is key. Why does the fit for *you* matter? Because for a horse, the next-worst thing to wearing an ill-fitting saddle is wearing a saddle in which the rider's balance is all asunder. For example, let's say the saddle fits the horse fantastically but it's too small for you, so you're way behind the stirrup bar and putting too much weight on the cantle. That isn't going to feel nice for Mr. Horsie at all.
As a side note, it's also nice if a horseless rider saddle has good resale value. Most horseless riders either eventually buy/lease a horse and need to trade in their horseless saddle for something else, or they stay horseless but the years pass and their body or riding position changes. So count on having to resell your horseless rider saddle later. This means buying your tack at inviting prices, or buying saddles that tend to hold value pretty well.
So let's start first with your suggestions, then we'll move to what I'd actually buy in your position.
I know Toulouse has several "genesis" lines that allow the size to be adjusted; it's a consideration, but in pictures it seems like a lot of saddle.
The real problem with the Toulouse genesis gullet is that it was a POS for most of its early run. It's a Wellup adjustable gullet technology that they licensed from Classic brand. The Wellup system was great. Toulouse, however, botched their early adaptation of it. Some of the gullets came loose, some of them were installed crooked, and even the ones that were installed correctly were located on a part of the saddle tree that was a total engineering fail. Now fortunately, Lynda at Classic Saddlery got wind of this crap and marched down to Argentina to set the Toulouse folks straight--and the newer Toulouse Professional series is coming out with much more reliable, intelligently placed, high-quality versions of the Genesis gullet system. (In fact, Lynda was the one who openly confirmed my suspicions that the early Genesis gullets, which I had examined earlier that year at Rolex, were total POSes. She had gotten a few in her inventory and agreed completely.) The problem for you is that the new, improved Toulouse with Genesis gullet saddles retail at $1600 and up, and they're practically non-existent on the used market because they're too new. It sounds like you're rolling with more of an $800-or-less kind of budget, so that's out.
Does anyone have any other suggestions? I'm definitely not interested in Wintec, but maybe a used Stubben or Passier?
What's your beef with Wintec? Let me guess: you're new to dressage and you're converting from a discipline like hunter/jumper where leather is "the only way to go." Well, welcome to dressage, which can be a snooty place but is surprisingly welcoming to synthetic tack. If Isabell Werth can ride Grand Prix in a Wintec Isabell, so can you. Seriously, they are pretty good values for the money, and especially the old-style Wintec Isabell and Wintec Pro. Purely as an example, a 17.5" Wintec Isabell for $500 and I bet you could offer less (note: this NOT my saddle, so direct any follow-up questions to the email address in the ad): http://columbus.craigslist.org/grd/3439074593.html
Now if you've got other beef with Wintec besides being synthetic, like perhaps you have beef with how they ride or you are not a huge fan of the CAIR panel system, I can live with that. In which case I'd urge you to look at some of the other synthetic competitors that I actually like more than Wintec: Tekna and Thorowgood. The Tekna A8 dressage is built on a very similar tree to the more expensive Prestige saddles, and I'd say one of those adjusted to medium-wide would be an awesome choice for a horseless rider. The Tekna S Line dressage has an adjustable gullet and would also be a good choice. Similarly, the Thorowgood T6 or T8 (the latter of which even has a leather seat and knee roll) would be great horseless rider saddles for someone who rides a lot of TBs.
All of these saddles would be available for trial rides. Hastilowusa.com can help you out with the Thorowgoods and is run by a Society of Master Saddlers credentialed fitter (Annette Gavin) and The Cheshire Horse in New Hampshire can help you out with the Tekna saddles.
Okay, now let's say you just really prefer leather, for whatever reason. A used Stubben or Passier isn't the worst idea I've ever heard. The Passier Grand Gilbert is a time-honored classic for fitting Thoroughbreds, and they're a dime a dozen on the used market at $1000 and under. We could say the same for some of the Stubbens--I would personally choose a Roxane, a Genesis, or a Maestoso--not the Tristan which is so freakishly curvy that it will be a tough fit on straighter toplined horses. Buy one that's set to roughly medium-wide and you'll be able to fit a lot of TB-type horses.
Although personally, if I were a leather snob AND I wanted to fit Thoroughbreds AND I was a horseless rider, I'd chase down one of the old Rembrandt adjustable gullet saddles. The brand has since changed names to Classic, but those old Rembrandt Integras were VERY close cousins to the Passier Grand Gilbert and SOME of them were built with the Wellup user-adjustable gullet--which is, as you have already guessed, very similar to the Toulouse Genesis gullet but built to a much higher quality standard. Like the Passiers and Stubbens, these Rembrandts tend to wear like iron. If you could find one in your price range, it would be a crackerjack horseless rider saddle.
Obey alto's caution to carefully examine the condition of the wool panels and the billets on these older Passiers, Stubbens, Rembrandts, etc. The saddle does you no good if it's got lumpy or uneven wool panels that will necessitate a reflock (anywhere from $150-$300 depending on how much finangling your fitter needs to do) and an $80-$100 billet repair is something to take into account too. Most tack shops are happy to answer these questions by phone. Most Ebay sellers will give you some vague answer along the lines of "the flocking feels fine," although you can ask for a picture of the billets and that usually tells the billet tale.
And honestly, there are a dozen other great options for a horseless rider out there too. Karl Niedersuss, some of the older Albions/Barnsbys/Countys, the Collegiate Convertible Intellect Dressage, and a whole host of less-common but equally-good options. You've got a lot to choose from. Just make sure you've got a high pommel arch and a moderately curvy panel, and that it's either got an adjustable gullet or is set to roughly medium wide, and you're good to go.
I will ditto alto's advice to invest in a shimmable half pad, preferably with sheepskin because those tend to be on the thicker side. That'll run you roughly $130-$150, but it's money VERY well spent. It'll really diversify your fitting possibilities, especially with Thoroughbreds who tend to be dippy/gappy behind their scapula bone.
Does anyone have experience buying a used saddle on eBay, or would that be a no-no?
Define "no no." If by "no no" you mean "I am one of these people who doesn't know the saddle market well, is likely to buy some train wreck that will not fit me or many horses very well, and then will lose a bunch of money and time trying resell it," then yes, I'd say Ebay is a no-no and stick with the *many* other venues through which you can find a good horseless rider saddle with a trial period. If by "no no" you mean "I have done my homework and I know exactly which pieces of tack would fit me and these horses well, I have a very good picture of this particular saddle's market value and I will not pay more than I could reasonably get back on resale, and I don't need a trial period," then Ebay is an awesome idea and you'll probably get a better price there than you will anywhere else. But you can still find absolute steals at the tack stores, especially on the dressage market which is very soft right now (too many saddles, not enough buyers.) To complicate that problem, we're about to go into the softest sales season for all saddles, including dressage saddles: post-Christmas to about March 1. So if you make a mistake on Ebay, plan to be sitting on that mistake for awhile. It's up to you.
Thank you for all the suggestions, especially the note about 31cm trees and the link to the Pelham website - they seem to have a lot of good options. Also, thank you very much jn4jenny for all of your brand suggestions, very helpful! I do not actually have a hunter/jumper background and am not personally against Wintec, I was just advised by my trainer that there are many better quality saddles out there and I tend to trust her. Ultimately she's going to look at anything before I buy it, so I'm not too concerned about entering into a train wreck. I do want to be able to make returns just in case, though!