I have a hard-to-fit horse and would like some suggestions on possible brands/models that might work for her back (I'm hoping to buy used and get a better quality, but have no idea where to start).
She has a very flat back, i.e. no curve as you move away from her wither. This has probably been the biggest issue since I have trouble finding something with panels thick enough to take up the extra space, most saddles will either rock or will be a little pommel-high as the cantle drops. She also has an average wither and shoulders that encourage some saddles (those that seem to fit her well just behind the shoulder when sitting on her back) to slide forward. Honestly, I'm tempted to put a crupper on.
I'd prefer to keep my budget in the $1k-1200 range, but I might go higher for a really fabulous saddle that fits me and horse. And if you like, entertain me with the $2-3k range, just in case something used comes along at a much cheaper price.
I've been told to aim for panel contact to stop the slide forward. Mine are propane tanks with withers, curvy, and short backs. That's hard to fit. I'm not so experienced as some, but I've worked through a lot of saddle challenges.
If your horse has a flat back without any dip, then possibly a cob or baroque fit might work. Take some tracings of back and wither, then send off to fitters who specialize in inexpensive saddles. They do exist.
Saddlefitter.com carries Thornhill and Smith&Worthington. Trumbullmtn and Hastilow carry Thorowgood and Kent&Masters. Check out the vendor websites for Thorowgood, Thornhill, S&W for information.
It might not be that difficult to find a saddle that is not curvy, which sounds like what you need (avoiding rocking).
I have a Bates Caprilli Close Contact and a Bates Event saddle that work well with flat-backed horses. The Bates/Wintec trees in general are pretty straight versus curvy. Widely available at reasonable prices.
Hmmm.... Sounds like an arabian type back. I had a mare built much like that. I never found anything that fit her well except a very old wide Kieffer saddle. Wish I could remember the model but it was the only saddle I ever found that didn't roll side to side and slide back.
Can you post some photos of your horse? They'd be a big help in determining what might work best. There are plenty of saddles - new and used - available in your price range, but it's really hard to make any meaningful recommendation without seeing the horse. It would also be helpful to know the discipline saddle you're looking for.
The Caprilli is pretty flat in the tree, so if it's rocking, I'd guess there was either a width or panel configuration issue. Looking forward to seeing the photos!
The Caprilli actually looked *great* sitting on the horse. But once a rider was added (and this was the first ride after the fitter fit it to her) there were 2 large dry spots post-ride... like 4-5 inches in diameter. Plus the horse became increasingly resistant to canter in that saddle so I stopped using it. Fitter did not seem to think he should watch me ride her and adjust fit afterwards, and I will not be using him again.
Additionally, I have a very hard time maintaining my position in that saddle when jumping (always have, even when I've used it on other horses), so I want to get rid of it.
I've heard mixed reviews of all saddle fitters in my area (NC), and that could be part of my problem. At this point, however, I don't own a saddle that I want to try to fit to her, and I don't want to call in a saddle rep because I feel like they will only want to sell me their brand.
If you don't have any fitters you trust in your area, you can always work long-distance through templates and photos. While hands-on is always preferable, there are fitters who can work long-distance with great results. Equestrian Imports and Panther Run Saddlery both have tons of experience and success fitting that way.
If your horse is wide, flat and mutton or slight withered you may very well need a hoop or cob type tree. Thorowgood, Kent and Masters, and Duett are some brands to consider for this type of conformation. Pricing up a bit would be Black Country hoop trees such as the Quantum X in a close contact or the Summit for a more all-purpose type or the Wexford X is your horse has a bit more curve to the topline. Trumbull Mtn carries those lines and is happy to work with templates and photos from a distance. www.trumbullmtn.com.
I've been pleasantly surprised by the Toulouse saddles (started a thread on it a while back) especially in that price range. I have a tb/app that is quite flat and my dressage saddle fits him very well and he moves great in it.
Does your girl have dips at her withers, or are her withers well-muscled? I have two flat-backed mares, both TBs, though the older one is getting curvier as she ages (she's 20) and loses some topline.
I think the British brands are, in general, going to be your best bet to find used at a reasonable price. County, Black Country, Hastilow, Ideal, Barnsby all make some pretty flat trees. When I was in a similar budget range for my older mare years ago, and also needed something for my tall self, I had Matty Marlow at Heritage Saddlery make me one. I think it was right around $1500 shipped. Recently, I had it reflocked by Patty Merli to fit my young, more propane-tank mare.
Since you're in NC, I'd try to contact Patty Merli. She does sell Black Country, but in my fittings with her she's always been happy to answer questions and work with whatever I throw her way, never doing a 'hard sell.' She also has a number of used/ demo saddles of multiple brands on her truck, which is really helpful. Patty does stay pretty busy, so I might also give the folks at Farmhouse Tack a call. If that doesn't work, I'd try for a remote fitting with Trumbull Mtn. IME they are very friendly and helpful, even if you're not buying a saddle from them necessarily.
Also think about your girl's girth groove. My young one has a very forward groove and kind of a pear shape from shoulder to flank, so I use a County Logic girth and that's helped a lot with the slipping-forward issue.