My custom saddle is here! Pictures and seeking advice on breaking in, etc.
So in mid-January I ordered a custom dressage saddle for Boscoe from Heritage Saddlery in the UK. Sent multiple photos and wither/back tracings, and not even 5 weeks later the saddle arrived. Yay!
It is lightweight and on first glance appeared to be excellent quality, no glaring flaws or defects. The billets are MUCH shorter than what I have now, so I had to scramble for a much longer dressage girth, but Bonnie-the-moose was happy to provide a huge one.
I think it fits Boscoe GREAT, and other than his goofy "OMG there's a jumping lesson going on and I'm not allowed to canter yet!" drama-queen moments, he did appear to settle and bend nicely to the right in it, which is his sticky direction. Much too early to tell if it's going to be vastly better than the Antares I have now which fits him "OK" by all accounts.
For me, the twist is very much wider than I'm used to, which is the price for having a very wide gullet, which Boscoe hugely prefers. His comfort > my comfort, priority-wise. I made the mistake of going out in riding tights (slippery) and paddock boots so I was sliding all over the place, but I'm expecting (hoping!) that this gets better with time, oil, and proper breeches and boots.
1. What "breaking in a new saddle" tips, advice, and pitfalls can you share?
2. How in the HOLY HELL do you get stirrup leathers on a new saddle? Please tell me that gets better with time and oil, oy vey.
3. How long before the dang things soften up with use?
If you don't hate the feeling basalms leave behind, try breaking it in with lederbalsam or some sort of beeswax derivative. I've never owned a brand new saddle, but rode in one that was a friend's in SC - and we broke hers in by using lederbalsam and lots of riding. Made it extra supple and pretty too! All within ~2 weeks. She said to lather it up in lederbalsam after every ride.. Can't say its great for the stitching but it was great for breaking it in. Congrats on the new saddle. I can't see the pix for some reason. )':
Good luck getting those leathers in the stirrup bar.. those are a b****
When I got my Beval Devon I put a small space heater in my powder room and ran the tempature up to the high 70's since I keep my house in the low 60's. I then would hydrophane the underside of everything. I seem to remember doing this a couple of days.
I spend a couple of nights watching TV, which I never do, and would just sit there and roll the flaps to help break it in. The saddle came up beautiful.
I have rarely had problems putting stirrups on new saddles. I think you develop a touch after a time. I have tried maybe 15 new saddles over the last year and only one saddle did I have a really tough time getting them on. I found it easier to leave the stirrup buckled and slide them over the end of the stirrup bar. The difficult saddle I did have to thread the end up under the stirrup bar.
I did consider Heritage for an all purpose saddle but went a different direction. I hope yours works out for you.
Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)
All I have to say is that I'm jealous you have your saddle already. We'll be at Week 8 on Wednesday of our 10-12 week wait for the County. I'm crawling out of my skin for it!!
Will read the breaking in tips with interest, since I'll be doing it soon, too! So far, pretty much everything I've done. I DO like to warm the saddle up in the house or a warm, sunny spot before applying oil.
The stirrups should be easy right from the start - IME, if they're a nightmare now, they're going to carry on being a nightmare. Start with plain old single leather stirrups - not the web-lined, double leather ones. Make a loop in the leather and wiggle it on over the back. If you have to, thread it through. If it's really impossible, then worry that the stirrup bar is angled in too aggressively - and this can cause a pressure point. Have someone come out with their special stirrup bar mover tool and adjust them out a bit (but not too much, else the stirrups fall off the back over fences. Incidentally, if anyone's stirrups fall off the back over fences, have someone come out with their special stirrup bar mover tool, and move them back in a bit).
As for breaking in.... umm.... I've never had to, tbh. The only new saddles I've really played with have been Custom saddlery and Wise-Air. And they are both lovely from the start. Actually, the new AMS Pessoa has been fine too, as has the ESF Cardanel. So I might have been lying about only dealing with Customs and Wise-Airs. What makes it feel not broken in ?
Congrats on your new saddle!! (I couldn't get the pic link to work either)
I have always had good luck using Passier Lederbalsm to break in saddles...sometimes I put some in a bowl and put it in the microwave for a few seconds..don't get it too hot or it could really change the color of the leather...I usually use the Lederbalsm daily until it stops soaking in...I don't put very many coats on the billets though....I usually just rub it in with my hands.
Unfortunately, the stirrup bars might not get better...I have a saddle that I have to put a hoof pick under the bars to pull them out slightly to get leathers under..it may get better once some of the flocking settles a bit.
Happy riding!! I don't think it will take long at all to break in.
It is just stiff, and to be honest I can't remember the last new saddle I bought other than a Toulouse which was pretty soft from the get-go but was not a doubled leather monoflap. This one is doubled and I'm told that makes the flap stiffer at first.
It's in the tack room, brooding and absorbing. Now I want to go bring it in and fondle it some more!
Ugh on the stirrup bars! So what are some brands of ultra-thin stirrup leathers?
I love, love, love the Effax lederbalsam. Love. It goes on really greasy, so you won't want to use it prior to a ride, but it soaks in and after a few applications, it should really soften up your leather. Plus, I like the way it smells. Oh, and a jar of that stuff will easily last you a couple of years b/c a little goes a long way. Congrats on the new saddle!
When I got a new Albion, I used the Albion cleaner and balsam on it per the saddle fitters advice. She also told me to never oil it, just use the conditioner. The saddle is super- duper sot and supple now. I conditioned it daily for a few days before I even rode in it and it broke in- no time at all. Have Fun!
I am using the Bates leather webbers, which are like the Wintec, only made from leather. So far, they easily slid on every saddle that I tried in my saddle quest. The thing that I like best about them is that they do not produce any bulge from the stirrup buckle to interfere with my inner thigh.
For those of you who do not have large legs, it probably does not matter that you have a buckle under your thigh. Sigh.
I have the same leather on my monoflap, but I don't remember it being slippery. Of course, I may have used Stubben Lederbalsam on it right away (it's been too long to remember) but in any event, I've continued to use only lederbalsam products on it. I tried a bit of oil once, but it just doesn't seem to work well with that type of leather. Now it's my cushy, sticky saddle. It doesn't seem to take much maintenance.
I also don't remember having any particular trouble with getting leathers on, but I started with old-style single-ply leathers, then switched at some point to the thick, stiff nylon core leathers (not the supple calfskin-wrapped ones, which I covet in black but so far only have on my brown saddles). My Prestige saddle, on the other hand, has extremely snug stirrup bars, and once I finally got my nice supple leathers on that saddle, I have not been brave enough to remove them, as I don't want to have to go through that ordeal again! I think I had to put that one on its side on the couch and kneel on it to get those suckers on.
Anyway, congrats on the new saddle and I hope you get lots of riding time to enjoy it in the near future!