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Saddle wish list - recommendations?

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  • Saddle wish list - recommendations?

    Like many of you, I am on the hunt for a new (to me) dressage saddle. I've been looking for weeks and I'm fairly certain my SO is just as ready for the search to be over as I am - fortunately our wedding is imminent so he's tolerating the discussions.

    I am currently riding in a Senior Event which while very comfortable, a) no longer fits my mare, and b) puts me in an extreme chair seat now that we've moved on to more frequent work in the sitting trot.

    I am looking at used saddles - have searched just about everywhere you can think of but really need some recommendations to narrow down my search in terms of brands/models - any recommendations are appreciated.

    In the past, I owned a Wintec Isabell which I actually very much loved. I have an old back injury and the Isabell positioned my back/spine/leg alignment in a very comfortable way - though I know many people don't like the model. However, I'm nervous to consider one with the mare because I believe they're built on the same tree as the saddle I currently have - the changeable gullet models from Bates/Wintec/Collegiate.

    The major issue with the current saddle's fit is that it's wide enough in the gullet, but too narrow down the channel and widening it further is not going to rectify that. So, I'm looking at medium-wide to wide saddles with excellent spine clearance.

    I am odd, I guess, because I don't mind large knee blocks - the saddle I'm borrowing right now has decent sized external blocks and I actually really appreciate them. I also don't mind a deep seat.

    I am tall with a long inseam - so need a saddle with a flap that's going to accommodate my leg.

    So -

    Any recommendations for a saddle with...

    -good spine clearance and wool flocking
    -decent sized knee blocks (external a plus)
    -moderate to deep seat
    -accommodating flap

    ...used within $1000 or under?

    Or should I just resign myself to asking Santa?

    Thanks in advance!
    Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

    A Voice Halted

  • #2
    First, if you can work with a saddler, that really is the best way to go (but know they are hard to come by). Maybe if you posted your location you can get recommends. There are some online places that will work with you, VTO has a good saddler as does Trumbull Mountain and Custom Saddlery, but they only help with you buying saddles they have for sale.

    Price is going to be your big obstacle.

    You also need to specify your horse's back more: flat or dipped behind the whithers, short or long. Helps to determine if need a banana shaped, gussetted, etc. Not certain, but think your current saddle uses a V shaped gullet which helps in the search. Mentioning breed may help give an idea of what brand of saddle will fit.

    Having ridden in an isabel bates, that's a medium to wide twist in the seat. I also don't think the seat is as deep as many brands.

    For the horse, I know a good saddler can fit Passiers to many types of horses and the channels on them are very wide. The flaps on newer models (within the last 8 yrs or so) are very long (the GG model has 19" long flaps). But the twist is narrower and the close contact doesn't always for letting the leg hang (depends on the rider's hips and width of horse). The seat is open and not deep. The tree can be widened which helps.

    You might check out Stubbens, newer ones. Some aren't very expensive and used ones are cheaper but the trees aren't adjustable.

    Albions may be an option for you.

    Really without seeing the horse's back (and even with it as I'm not a professional saddler) it's total guess work as to what will work on your horse. Same with you. Don't know what is optimum till you ride in it.


    • Original Poster

      Thanks for the thorough reply!

      There is a local shop here (I'm in NC) that is quite good at fitting and they have seen my mare before, so I'm going to email for some additional recommendations. What I really want to do is narrow down to brands/models that I know I may personally like - though hard to do without getting to ride in each and every one - and of course narrow *those* down further according to which would be a good fit for the mare.

      She is a TB/Trak cross. She has fairly prominent withers but they're certainly not shark fin TB withers. She is fairly wide along the back which is where I think the issue is coming in with my current saddle - it fit fine when she was coming back into work and we weren't really doing anything strenuous. Now that she's been working hard all summer and really muscled up, there's just not enough clearance there and the saddle is pinching/leaving prominent dry marks despite being placed correctly behind her withers with plenty of room for her shoulders to move freely. I have not been riding in the saddle since noticing this. My saddle is 6 inches at the gullet and narrows down to two inches as you reach the back of the channel. The saddle I'm borrowing is about 6.5 inches at the gullet, narrowing to four fingers width at the channel and she goes very well in this saddle. Unfortunately a used one is way beyond my price range.

      I have found several saddles on eBay that I like, for example, but when checking out the spine clearance shots, they just appear way too narrow (have noticed this with some of the older Kieffers in my price range, for example).
      Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

      A Voice Halted


      • #4
        First off, fit the horse. If the borrowed saddle fits the mare, that's a place to start. What's the brand, tree size, seat size?

        This can give a good saddler an idea of what will work for the mare with other brands. Make a list of those brands and then you can compare them to what you like.

        Have a friend with same breed and she rides in an older Stubben Tristan Special (no knee blocks but nice seat for keeping rider in the pocket). The saddle does tend to slide forward on that mare so do wonder if a hoop tree (U-shape rather than V-shaped gullet design) might not work better for that horse. That said I've heard the new Stubben Genesis designs fit many horse but the trees aren't adjustable so you have to be sure it's the right size.

        Thinking Albions possibility (good for wider shouldered horses). Some saddles that tend to run rather generous in the tree width department would be Frank Baines, Black Country, Albion, Passier and Arabian Saddle Co. (made by Lovatt and Rickets in the UK), Custom Saddlery. (hoop tree option in particular) are much better suited to wide backs.

        Does your tack shop let you try the used saddles at all? Mine does and there are several online places that do. VTO is east coast so shipping may not be that bad. You really need to at least be able to put the saddle on the horse.

        Some brands of Kiefers run wider than others but I've heard their flocking isn't that great and the seat sizes seemd small to me. You'll probably want a 18"+ long flap for longer legs but if the seat is deep you can get one size up in the seat. Be aware, if you have longer thighs, straight flaps will push your legs too far back.


        • #5
          County. County has helped me enormously in my training and the way my body feels.
          It is rare to see a rider who is truly passionate about the horse and his training, taking a profound interest in dressage with self-abnegation, and making this extraordinarily subtle work one of the dominant motivations of his life.\"


          • #6
            I second the County. I wouldn't trade my county for anything. I keep it around even though It only fit my old pony and not my young horse but I still like to ride in it every so often. I love love love this saddle!
            Mitkowski Equine Services
            Love my Fjord Magni "Tigger" and my HanoxTb Frescoe "Wenny" --- My boys


            • #7
              Originally posted by GreyStreet View Post
              -good spine clearance and wool flocking
              -decent sized knee blocks (external a plus)
              -moderate to deep seat
              -accommodating flap

              ...used within $1000 or under?
              strictly on these points, and in your price range (or well under):

              m toulouse (wool over foam, slightly forward flap)
              county (older models in your price range not so much on the big blocks, tend to have longer flaps)
              albion (older models in your price range not so much on the big blocks, longer flaps tough to find unless you look up legends )
              hulsebos (though gullet narrows just at the wee back end, quite long flaps)
              ideal (the jessica I had wasn't the deepest seat, quite long flaps)
              black country (many models have longer flaps)
              frank baines (average flaps)
              thornhill/jorge canaves (older models iffy on spine clearance, not all have big blocks, easier to find longer flaps)
              smith worthington (not all have big blocks, many models have longer flaps)
              courbette (bernina) (not terribly long flaps but slightly forward)
              marcus krehan (external blocks, not terribly deep seat, quite long flap)
              dominus (not terribly long flap)
              silhouette (not terribly long flap)
              rembrandt (not all models have large blocks or deep seats, long flaps more common though)
              cardanel (long flaps not terribly common)
              Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


              • #8
                ah ha, here you go (not affiliated with this ad):

                Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.