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Saddle Shopping - Recs & How much can re-flocking help?

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  • Saddle Shopping - Recs & How much can re-flocking help?

    (Sorry this ended up sort of long-winded; quick summary: I'm looking for general saddle recommendations but wondering specifically if it's possible to reflock a saddle with panels that are too curvy so it fits a flatter back.)

    I'm saddle shopping. (Will it ever end?!) My gelding is a 6-year-old Holsteiner, 16.3 hands, fairly flat back. I've been riding him in a close contact the last 2 years (we event); it fits him but as we've gotten more serious about our dressage it's become painful for me (oh the chafing), so I'm hunting for a dedicated dressage saddle (and will probably start looking at replacing the close contact once I've recovered from this saddle shopping experience). Budget is around $1,000 but I do have some wiggle room if we find our 'glass slipper'. Big believer in buying used.

    My first step was to have the County rep out to fit him. She said he's a very easy fit and their standard medium tree sat well on him; the MW worked with a sheepskin half pad, so could be a good choice for something he will probably grow into as he continues to develop. I felt the tree of the Competitor dug weirdly into my thigh bones - it was not comfortable for me. The Perfection was more comfortable for me - I didn't feel like I was being constantly poked in the leg. Both of them (new or demo) are wildly outside my budget.

    I tried an older used County Competitor and *Loved It* for me. Most comfortable saddle I've ever sat in; I felt very balanced and secure without being stuck. Unfortunately the older models were built curvier than the new ones, and the back of it swoops up away from my horse's back, so it rocks when you set it on him. I couldn't tell if/how badly it rocks while riding - I rode with the sheepskin half pad, which seems to fix a lot of sins. My gelding didn't object to the saddle but he's a pretty stoic dude. My trainer feels I rode the best in this saddle.

    I've tried a Thornhill Zurich and Passier Grand Gilbert and didn't like the fit on him or for me. I set a couple other Passiers on his back and didn't like how they looked well enough to ride in them. A Bates Classic Dressage sat well on him (flatter panels) but I felt like I was a million miles away from his back. I'm riding him right now in an Albion SLK that sits pretty well on him and is fairly comfortable for me (the second best so far, after the older Competitor) - but it puts me ever so slightly in a chair position. It's the high pommel version which he doesn't need - not sure if a regular one would make a difference in how my leg hangs, or a different Albion model? There is a fitter in my area who I could have out.

    So, I'm wondering (and sorry this has been so long-winded): Would it be possible to have the older County reflocked to fit him, or is it a definite no-go for a flatter back? I really loved riding in it, but obviously need something that fits both of us. Barring that - any other thoughts/recommendations on what would be good to try?

    Thank you!

  • #2
    You can't change the tree shape with flocking. Even if the flocking is done *perfectly* to give the appearance of flattening out the curve, it's still there and will quickly reappear as the flocking settles.
    Patience pays.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by r.matey View Post
      (Sorry this ended up sort of long-winded; quick summary: I'm looking for general saddle recommendations but wondering specifically if it's possible to reflock a saddle with panels that are too curvy so it fits a flatter back.)
      Yes & No - we did it with FP with a $500 County Comp ('86 I think), that was his 3rd saddle in 4 months: fit almost perfectly in Nov (this saddle was basically unused & the old flocking was lovely), reflocked in March, too narrow in August - which was fine as I'd picked up an Innov & he'd been using that through July.
      FP transitioned from a 3yr old just started u/s to a 4 yr old that could actually do Training Level: during that time the panels held shape just fine & saddle fit beautifully, until it didn't.
      (his back is straight, his shoulder w.i.d.e, his withers modest - he is NOT stoic )
      When we talked future saddles with the rep, she suggested going with a newer saddle where the tree fit him better - he needs to work very differently now than in that first year.
      BUT if I'd found another 86 Comp in a W tree in a seat size that actually fit the rider, I'd've given it a go


      I'm saddle shopping. (Will it ever end?!)
      Do you want truth or fiction


      My gelding is a 6-year-old Holsteiner, 16.3 hands, fairly flat back. I've been riding him in a close contact the last 2 years (we event); it fits him but as we've gotten more serious about our dressage it's become painful for me (oh the chafing), so I'm hunting for a dedicated dressage saddle (and will probably start looking at replacing the close contact once I've recovered from this saddle shopping experience). Budget is around $1,000 but I do have some wiggle room if we find our 'glass slipper'.
      What level dressage are you riding at now? how serious are you about rider position?
      Have you considered a jump saddle with removeable blocks that fits you better? If you can save for another year or find a shop that will allow a payment plan (eg, Equestrian Imports), increasing your budget will open up the opportunity for a newer County etc.


      My first step was to have the County rep out to fit him. She said he's a very easy fit and their standard medium tree sat well on him; the MW worked with a sheepskin half pad,
      that makes a huge difference in the probability of finding a used saddle

      I tried an older used County Competitor and *Loved It* for me. Most comfortable saddle I've ever sat in; I felt very balanced and secure without being stuck. Unfortunately the older models were built curvier than the new ones, and the back of it swoops up away from my horse's back, so it rocks when you set it on him.
      How badly? a 3mm fix is one I'd try without a 2nd thought BUT I'd adjust the panels rather than use a riser, the wool pad can be used if the overall fit is wide, but it just obscures rocking or bridging.

      not sure if a regular one would make a difference in how my leg hangs, or a different Albion model?
      Yes to both

      So, I'm wondering (and sorry this has been so long-winded): Would it be possible to have the older County reflocked to fit him, or is it a definite no-go for a flatter back?
      How much is it off? can you ride in it for a week or 2?

      Comment


      • #4
        Everything I know about saddle fit I learned from my horse, lol.
        Had been riding in a Schleese Jane Savoie, bought new and made for us. Adjusted regularly. Now, we are schooling I1 so have done OK with this saddle, but he was never just quite through, supple and collected enough.
        Tried my boarder's Max Benz Grand Prix Spezial on him last fall - looks like it would kill his back, a saddle fitter would be aghast, I tell you. Horse was instantly through, extensions like never before, supple in the jowl without an argument...Even our nemesis, the right pirouette is improved (although not great yet - not everything is the saddle, lol). Two weeks later still no complaints from said horse. He is the stoic type so it is rare to get dramatic objections, he just doesn't quite come through when he is uncomfortable. I refuse to have it adjusted because even though it looks like a bad fit, he is happy. MUCH happier than in his properly fitted saddle. I do pad it though.
        She bought the Max Benz on Ebay for $700 , and I was able to persuade her to part with it. So I will definitely recommend this saddle, and used they are within your budget.
        One thing I will never do again is buy a saddle without trying it for at least 8 rides.
        Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines.

        Comment


        • #5
          Will also add, try to find something that has shoulder relief of some sort, a cut back - Schleese Triumph is a good example although not in your price range. My Max Benz does not press on his shoulders at all, which the Jane Savoie did.
          Also have used an original Wintec in the past on 2 different horses that I was very happy with.
          Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re-flocking will only do so much..

            If the saddle doesn't truly fit in the first place, re-flocking IS NOT the answer. MHJ is right about the tree and panels. Re-flocking can help a great deal if the problems or instance are that the flocking is uneven or has settled (or so old it has virtually disentigrated), or the horse is going thru some changes in mucling etc.

            Have you looked at Duetts? Occasionally you can find some used one for the price you stated, and they're made specifically for wide/flat backed horses. Some people love em, others hate em, just like any other brand. I personally find my Duett Fidelio to be the most comfortable sat I've sat in...and I say that after riding in a County Drespri for over 15 years and loved it...until I found the Duett.
            A poorly fitted saddle hampers both horse and rider.
            https://www.facebook.com/Talley-Ho-Saddle-Services

            Comment


            • #7
              I agree with Mtngirl in that if it doesn't fit in the first place, no amount of re-flocking is going to cure the problem. And too, all saddle fitters are not master fitters--some are much more knowledgeable than others. Also, the type of wool that they use to fit with can make a huge difference in the shape that the saddle retains. The more crimp the fiber has, the better it will retain its shape. (I used to raise sheep too )

              Have you tried Hastilow or Ideal? I bought mine used for my two horses, had a master saddle fitter fit them, and my horses and I love them both. My warmblood has a wide flat back and I was so pleased to find a saddle (Ideal) to accomodate him and me both. Price range might be a bit more than what you are looking for in a used saddle, but I think it was worth it to find something to fit my horses. Hastilow also makes saddles for flat backs, and I know their website shows a good selection/sizes of used saddles.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by alto View Post
                What level dressage are you riding at now? how serious are you about rider position?
                Have you considered a jump saddle with removeable blocks that fits you better?
                I would say Training level dressage (we event at Beginner Novice). We do work on lateral movement (shoulder fore/in, leg yields) and adjustability within the gaits, but these are not moves we're ready to bust out in a test. My position is definitely not perfect; I am conscious of that and work on it, but I know I'm also working against my saddle on top of my own crookedness. I definitely want a new jump saddle, but I don't think my nerves could take shopping for two at once, ha.

                Originally posted by alto View Post
                How much is it off? can you ride in it for a week or 2?
                Visually you can clearly see that the panel comes up off his back in the back -- but it's been a few weeks since I rode in it, and I don't trust my memory of just how much. Sitting bare on his back I can press down on the cantle then pommel alternately and see it rock - but I don't have a good sense for how much/if it settles and sits stably when I'm actually riding in it. I did not feel it rocking when I was riding, but I know that doesn't mean much.

                I will admit that I fantasize about having a situation like Rooty's, where just sitting there the saddle does not look right but that he is still comfortable in it. I have not asked for a longer trial period on it -- the saddle's owner was somewhat reluctant to let me try it a second time so my instructor could see, so I think a couple weeks is out of the question. I have been keeping my eyes peeled for a crazy bargain that I would be able to try for a couple weeks and then easily resell if it doesn't work, but I don't want to get stuck with a bunch of saddles or blow half my budget on shipping them around.

                mtngirl - I have heard Duetts recommended often for drafty-type horses who are more barrel shaped / wide side-to-side. My guy is not especially wide side to side, just pretty flat from behind his withers to his croup. Many of the saddles I've set on him have done the same thing as the old County, where the backs of the panels rise off his back - like they would sit better on a horse with more of a sway.

                Thanks everyone for the suggestions. I haven't heard of or tried Hastilow, Ideal, or Max Benz -- time to get back to research!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by r.matey View Post
                  Visually you can clearly see that the panel comes up off his back in the back -- but it's been a few weeks since I rode in it, and I don't trust my memory of just how much. Sitting bare on his back I can press down on the cantle then pommel alternately and see it rock - but I don't have a good sense for how much/if it settles and sits stably when I'm actually riding in it. I did not feel it rocking when I was riding, but I know that doesn't mean much.
                  That does sound more like several mm's rather than a few - I suspect that the County Comp I have was ordered for a flat backed horse (if you ride in a 16.5 I can send it your way )

                  I have not asked for a longer trial period on it -- the saddle's owner was somewhat reluctant to let me try it a second time so my instructor could see, so I think a couple weeks is out of the question.
                  You could offer a rental fee which would then be applied to the purchase price if you go ahead with the purchase.

                  I have been keeping my eyes peeled for a crazy bargain that I would be able to try for a couple weeks and then easily resell if it doesn't work, but I don't want to get stuck with a bunch of saddles or blow half my budget on shipping them around.
                  Most of those crazy deal saddles are priced at that level as they do not sell, eg, odd seat size, tree width, don't fit many horses - & if you're shopping for a flat tree in a curved tree world, you are only going to re-sell to other straight backed horse owners, ie minority market without even figuring in the seat sizes & tree widths - so don't count on a fast flip.

                  If you go through a retailer such as Trumbull Mtn where your horse has been assessed for saddle fit first (tracings, photos), then saddle shipping fees are a logical part of the budget (always have saddles shipped in multiples as it costs little more to have 3 vs 1); if it's some saddle off ebay or a shop that doesn't offer distance fitting, shipping becomes much more of a gamble.

                  Talk to Hobson's Choice as they have a good collection of dressage saddles listed on their webpage.

                  I definitely want a new jump saddle, but I don't think my nerves could take shopping for two at once, ha.
                  Sorry I meant a single saddle that you can use for both jumping & dressage - training/first level is very amenable to a jump saddle (with an open seat) especially if you can remove the blocks (this is where all those UK & Eurpean GP saddles come in - not all provide a balanced seat so defintely only shop in this category with your coach).

                  I will admit that I fantasize about having a situation like Rooty's, where just sitting there the saddle does not look right but that he is still comfortable in it.
                  I have the opposite problem, 5 saddles that appear to fit, only 1 get's the GO from the horse & I can't find a used version anywhere & it's 3 months to order & if he's going to be that irrational about saddle fit, I really don't want to spend $$$$ shipping saddles in that should fit, but don't
                  so I sit on the fence waiting for a windfall - or an omen

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Duetts aren't just for drafties...

                    Nothing drafty about my 16.2h Appaloosa, and he doesn't have a wide barrel either. He wears one of the smaller Duetts (I think the tree sizes range from 32-46cm?), a 34cm. The panels just fit him beautifully and Duett had a wide variety of seat sizes too (some up to a 20" seat), from flat/shallow to deep seated. They're not for every person or horse, but fit my Appy and I to a "T", so we're happy. Duett worked with me as far as trial periods and shipping on several different saddles before I made my choice. Saddle shopping can be a chore, but finding the "right" one can make a HUGE difference.

                    Many older saddles have more of a "sweep" upwards to their panels at the back (cantle end) of the saddle. It does sound as if you need a saddle with flatter panels...not necessarily for a wider horse's back, but a bit flatter. Trumbull Mtn and Hobson's Choice offer some excellent services.
                    A poorly fitted saddle hampers both horse and rider.
                    https://www.facebook.com/Talley-Ho-Saddle-Services

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by alto View Post
                      That does sound more like several mm's rather than a few - I suspect that the County Comp I have was ordered for a flat backed horse (if you ride in a 16.5 I can send it your way )
                      If only! I'm 5'7", fairly long legs. Me in a 16.5 might be entertaining to watch but probably not very comfortable or effective. (Actually, sounds like most of the saddle search so far...)

                      Originally posted by alto View Post
                      I have the opposite problem, 5 saddles that appear to fit, only 1 get's the GO from the horse & I can't find a used version anywhere & it's 3 months to order & if he's going to be that irrational about saddle fit, I really don't want to spend $$$$ shipping saddles in that should fit, but don't
                      so I sit on the fence waiting for a windfall - or an omen
                      Maybe you should start shipping in saddles that look like they shouldn't fit instead... Can't be worse, right?! I will keep my fingers crossed for an ebay or craigslist miracle for you!

                      mtngirl - Thanks for the Duett info! I have a couple local saddles lined up to try next week (a different Albion and two shots in the dark - a Niedersuss and a JP Giacomini), but if none of those are a go I'm biting the shipping bullet, and they are going on my list. And you are exactly right about that 'sweep' upward at the cantle - perfect description.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'll keep whatever crossed for the JPG - I have loved this saddle (from afar) for as long as it's been on the list at FUS: it's absolutely stunning & I kept wishing for a bit of magic, but alas it remains a 16

                        Comment

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