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A Little Saddle Help?

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  • A Little Saddle Help?

    I am hoping for a bit of help from some of you who ride dressage regularly. I am a hobby rider, haven't shown in many years. I have been riding on and off for over 20 years in several disciplines. I have five horses currently (counting my dds pony who I seldom ever ride) that include a 13.5hh paint (practically round), 15hh cow bred qh, 16hh paint (narrow with a lot of wither) and a 16.5hh paint colt that is very wide and not done growing yet. I am interested in buying a new saddle and was considering a dressage saddle for arena work. I used to ride english many moons ago and loved the close contact and feel, but have only ridden western for the last ten years or so. I took about ten years off of riding when my children were all young, and I just feel more comfortable with that cantle and horn these days, especially since most of the horses I have had are green (we do a lot of rescue/rehabs).

    Long story short I am hoping for some advice before buying. I am five feet tall with really short legs. I usually ride in a 12" youth barrel saddle which I love for the shorter stirrup leathers and very deep seat. I have read that I should be looking for a seat size of 15"-16" in a dressage saddle, but those are really hard to find that are not a pony tree and/or really cheap garbage saddles. I am also really concerned with what I have read about how hard dressage saddles are to fit properly. With so many different types of horses that may be a problem.

    Currently looking at wintec pro or isabelle, also various used leather saddles. My goal is to find a saddle that all my horses can use with various padding if necessary, with good feel and close contact, and as secure a seat as possible. Any suggestions are appreciated, or perhaps a dressage saddle is not the way to go? There are no stores in my area that even know what dressage is let alone sell english tack of any type, so I'm forced to buy online. An Aussie stock saddle also crossed my mind but folks seem to either love or hate those and I have never ridden in one so it seemed like a big gamble.

    Also, anyone know the average size for a dressage girth on a qh? all my horses use the same size (believe it or not) about 34" western but of course my western saddle has a lot of adjustment possible.

    Thanks in advance.
    Last edited by waymire; Dec. 29, 2010, 05:06 AM. Reason: forgot to sub to replies, sorry new here

  • #2
    Padding a saddle to make it fit is not a good option. That being said, if you must pad the saddle to make it fit, be sure that the saddle is too big rather than too small. If the saddle's tree is too small for the horse, and you pad it to level it, the tree will pinch your horse's shoulders. This makes it difficult for your horse to move forward correctly. Dressage saddles are designed to be fitted without any padding, or very, very little. We just add the pad to keep the bottom of the saddle clean.

    I, personally, do not like the synthetic saddles. I feel that they hinder a rider correctly learning to use the seat. I know that there will be folk who do not agree with that statement. However, when I have ridden a Wintex, it has felt as if the saddle is folding in around me...same as with a Bob Marshall western saddle.


    • #3
      Some brands of dressage saddles offer 'youth' versions and you should have a look at them as they are usually a bit cheaper than the 'adult' version.

      Go check the Stubben's Juventus and Laurus and Courbette's Bernina Jr.

      Also, it is not the saddles that are hard to fit on horses, it is horses that are hard to fit saddles to, no matter what type.

      Aussie saddles are usually kinda big and heavy. I wouldn't consider using one on any 'rehab' or 'unmuscled' horse.

      But my opinion? Unless you are planning on really learning dressage, and do dressage, and show dressage...I wouldn't bother buying a dressage saddle (and going thru all the fitting problems...) and just keep riding good and secure in a western saddle that seems to fit my horses. I would take that money and invest in good riding lessons!!!
      ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

      Originally posted by LauraKY
      I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
      HORSING mobile training app


      • #4
        Originally posted by waymire View Post
        I am also really concerned with what I have read about how hard dressage saddles are to fit properly. With so many different types of horses that may be a problem.

        Currently looking at wintec pro or isabelle, also various used leather saddles. My goal is to find a saddle that all my horses can use with various padding if necessary, with good feel and close contact, and as secure a seat as possible. Any suggestions are appreciated, or perhaps a dressage saddle is not the way to go?
        If you are trying to fit a wide diversity of horses, a dressage saddle is probably not a good idea. I rarely recommend this to anyone, but for your particular set of needs, have considered a treeless saddle? Treeless saddles are designed to fit a wide variety of horses and the fit is easily modified with pads. For someone who is not doing any serious showing and just wants to feel secure, it may be a nice compromise between an Aussie saddle and a "true" dressage saddle (not to say that people don't ever show dressage in treeless saddles--they certainly do, but it's still not as common as treed saddles).
        Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/


        • #5

          not affiliated with this, but I had a kb saddle and it was just heavenly to ride and sumptuous to handle. Very forgiving in fit, runs on the wide side with some curve front to back tends not to bridge. Worked on quite a few horses I had it on. The person who bought mine said it was the only saddle her horse immediately loved after a very long search. And the tree, to my knowledge, is adjustable by some saddlers that have the correct machine to do so. Custom Saddlery is one and they are nationwide.

          Can't say enough good things about it.
          Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


          • #6
            Originally posted by waymire View Post
            Currently looking at wintec pro or isabelle, also various used leather saddles. My goal is to find a saddle that all my horses can use with various padding if necessary, with good feel and close contact, and as secure a seat as possible. Any suggestions are appreciated, or perhaps a dressage saddle is not the way to go?
            I don't mean to be a wet blanket, but with all those variously-shaped horses, I doubt one saddle will do. Even the changeable-gullet saddles mostly only change the front of the gullet, not the entire channel. The panels remain the same. I had an older Wintec Isabelle (not the new model) for a while, and it was of limited use on growing youngsters. Plus, if you want to ride multiple horses in one day, changing the gullet is at least 10-15 minutes added to each tack change.

            For eventing dressage, I have gone through several saddles over the years, only to find the horses really, really like the custom-fitted variety. One now has a Schleese, one an Albion. You don't wanna go that route.

            I'll play devil's advocate to angel : I find I do like a treeless Bob Marshall on various ponies. I really like the closer contact with the horse. I have both a barrel and a trail BMSS, and I ride my round-barreled eventer/foxhunter/dressage horses in them, and they are plenty secure, especially on the greenies, and fit different shapes (invest in an excellent pad, tho). Even there, it sounds like some of your guys would do better with the high-wither BMSS models, and some with the regular front.

            Originally posted by waymire View Post
            Also, anyone know the average size for a dressage girth on a qh? all my horses use the same size (believe it or not) about 34" western.
            It really depends on the billets of the dressage saddle (yup, they vary, too), but a 28" or 30" might be the place to start. I think the barrel girth I use on all my guys is a 32"

            Best of luck. You're faced with a challenging situation.
            <<Reste sur le cheval.>>


            • #7
              Avoid Wintec at all costs. The tree points have issues with cracking, and the customer service you will have to deal with to even have a shot at them fixing it is an absolute nightmare. They had mine for almost 3 months, scratched the leather, and still didn't fix it! Gave me multiple conflicting stories on the reasoning for not fixing it, and then wanted me to pay to ship it to them a second time.

              They have it again, but it will be gone for at least 3 months again. All in all, it will have been almost a year between noticing it was broken and actually having it fixed, if they end up actually fixing it. I won't believe they are going to do anything about it until I have the repaired saddle in my hot little hands.


              • Original Poster

                Thank you for all the advice. My main thought with the dressage style was that I usually ride with a long leg (left over from the english days) and am frequently frustrated by the lack of feel in my traditional western, plus I am always fighting that "chair seat". I have looked at the treeless saddles, in particular the marshal's, and came very close to buying one... but kept reading reviews about horses with sore backs, withers in particular. I do know that the padding is extremely important with these saddles and am suspicious that some of the soreness issues are probably caused by improper padding since the speciality treeless pads are quite expensive, but without the proper spine clearance they offer it would be easy to get into trouble. I will give them a second look now. I have no problem investing in good pads. Thanks again.


                • #9

                  I have the Fhoenix and love it. My horse moves freely in it.


                  • #10
                    Passier on consignment at VTO

                    This is NOT my saddle, and I am in no way connected to it.

                    There is a Passier Dressage saddle on consignment at VTO that might fit the bill for you, don't know about your horses. It is a brown, 16 inch, M Tree with a short flap. The Passier trees are usually very forgiving, i.e. my trainer rides my horse in her medium tree old Passier, but he's really a medium-wide.http://www.vtosaddlery.com/product/US/PCSJS.htm


                    • #11
                      I would never expect to use 1 saddle on all these horses -

                      I have five horses currently (counting my dds pony who I seldom ever ride) that include a 13.5hh paint (practically round), 15hh cow bred qh, 16hh paint (narrow with a lot of wither) and a 16.5hh paint colt that is very wide and not done growing yet.
                      Sure you could pad up the wide saddle so it would look OK on the narrow + high wither paint BUT once you were riding, I expect the saddle will sit down on his wither or "hit" him when in motion.
                      Realistically do some wither tracings & send them off with decent photos of the horses backs & conformation & get some help with saddle choices, hopefully you'll be able to pick up a couple of used saddles that will work for the group: proper saddle fit makes such a difference to how horses move!

                      There is a wonderful treeless saddle maker in my area but these saddles are not suitable for all back types.


                      • Original Poster

                        After further consideration, and the excellent advice I've recieved, I'm planning to save for a month or so and order a custom Bob Marshall, along with some very good pads. There are a ton of options out there with the treeless saddles to fit different backs.

                        Thanks again.