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County Dressage Saddles

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  • County Dressage Saddles

    Caveat: I am a total newbie to dressage, and I ride a gaited horse, so please excuse any questions that might seem silly...

    I am in search of a comfortable (for both horse and rider) dressage saddle and I'd like stay in a price range befitting our newbie-ness and gaited-ness. Last lesson I rode my horse in a Wintec Isabell and LOVED it, Caesar seemed happy also...I would actually consider using it for trail riding too, it was that comfortable.

    So...this is where we get to the County part...I have seen, in researching County saddle threads, that lots of people like the "older" County saddles, with mixed reviews of the newer ones. Since my price range is an "older saddle" range, here are some questions.

    A local consignment shop has one, I think it is a Competitor...no idea how "old" it actually is, it looks to be in decent condition. Is there any way to tell when it was made? I am going to bring that saddle to the barn and try it out, if it is super comfy I will be thrilled.

    I have also been in touch with someone who has an "older" C. Competitor for sale. It looks good in pictures I've seen. She says it was made in England and is in excellent condition. Does anyone know when they were made in England and if that is a definite plus?

    Does anyone have recommendations for other brands that are well known for their comfort that I might see in the "pre-owned" listings? My main issue with comfort is my seatbones, the Isabell was a dream to ride in but they seem to be hard to find "used".

    Thanks in advance for any information and suggestions .

  • #2
    Re the older saddle on consignment - if you can read the serial number, you can probably contact County and find out how old it is. They have contact info on their website

    County saddles are all made in England, so that is not a particular selling point of one County vs. another.

    If it helps at all, we have a saddlebred at our barn who goes in a County, I'm not sure which model.

    Do you have a saddle fitter or a trainer that can evaluate the fit for you before spending $$?
    When I switched over to dressage, I was not clueless about most things but I was clueless about the importance of saddle fit...and how saddle fit will change as horse builds muscle.
    We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


    • #3
      THe last two numbers are the year it was made if I remember correctly.

      I love old County dressage saddles. Had many and got them for my students. THe tree is curved like a banana. If your horse has no curve it may rock.

      The seat is deep and comfy if your body type suits.

      The leather is in the middle so as to be comfy but with use, things will need replacing. Not as soft as Kieffer no where near as tough as Stubben.

      Depending on condition and price they can be a bargain.
      “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
      ? Albert Einstein


      • #4
        Call County with the serial number.

        A while ago-- around 2000?-- the Competitor was built with more forward flaps and many people didn't like it. I think it can be hard to see by just looking at a saddle.

        The Wintec Isabell is pretty middle-of-the-road saddle in terms of balance. It has more depth and larger thigh blocks than most. IMO, it won't feel like one of these forward-flapped Countys.
        The armchair saddler
        Politically Pro-Cat


        • #5
          Is your horse wide or narrow? I am assuming being gaited your horse may have "A" shape to his shoulders, but then I have seen the inverted "U" shape on gaited horses, too. That will drastically change your options. That being said, if your horse is "A" shaped, a County may work very well for you..if your horse has some curve to his/her back.

          I have a County Competitor 2004 that is a lovely saddle, fit my fjordieX perfect and me. Does not fit my AQHA mare at all, even though it is very wide.

          So, time for you and your horse to try on saddles. If the Bates fit well, you probably do have the "A" shape and that gives you something to go on.

          Do yourself a favor before you start really shopping and do complete wither/back tracings of your horse. Lots of saddle sites tell you how, but go to a craft store like Hobby Lobby or somewhere that carries drafting/drawing supplies and buy a flexi curve. Easy to do and you can sent off drawings to different stores if needed.

          I sent my saddle out on consignment somewhere "local", and just got a Toulouse Marianne from Classic Saddlery to try. And, yes it is a wool stuffed saddle, not like some of the older Toulouse. Lynnda and I have spent lots of time on the phone, emails and sending pictures and tracings back and forth. I highly recommend working with her on trying to fit your horse if you need to do it long distance.

          Now, to fit the new saddle to my horse this morning. Keeping fingers crossed.

          Good luck in your search.


          • Original Poster

            Thank you all for the replies so far! Very helpful! I will look for the serial number of the one at the store and call County.

            I can probably have my instructor take a look at the fit, she thinks a MW will be about right but I'm sure the definition of "MW" also depends on the manufacturer.

            I am not stuck on any particular brand, I just want something that is comfy and good for horse and me. I saw a Kieffer in our price range but it was far away. The Counties are both within a distance where I can go see them in person before plunking down the $.

            Thanks for the advice on fitting and tracing too. I have a flexi-rule from tracing my old horse. The horse I have now isn't A-frame, but he's not mutton-withered either. He has what I would consider "nice, normal" withers and a decent topline. The Isabell that we used was a wide tree with a *thick* sheepskin half pad and baby pad under that, and he seemed fine with that configuration: nice, even sweat pattern and no ruffled hair when when untacked. I have had some problems with friction bumps (loin area) on him with certain saddles after a lot of trotting but not with the Isabell. (I should note that my boy is a Missouri Foxtrotter and, in addition to his "gaits", he does have a nice "long trot" and we are working on a nice canter.)

            Pros and cons of commonly found saddles; notes about depth of seats; close-ness of contact; good, bad or ugly of saddle flaps; and any other opinions, anecdotes, etc are most welcome. I need as much information as I can get!

            Thanks again!


            • #7
              Since you both loved the isabel so much, and they are about as cheap as you're going to find for a used saddle, why not just get one of those?
              chaque pas est fait ensemble


              • Original Poster

                Originally posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
                Since you both loved the isabel so much, and they are about as cheap as you're going to find for a used saddle, why not just get one of those?
                I may end up doing that...my only concern with the Wintec is that I am not a big fan of the "changeable gullet". I have had them before and I didn't feel like they were as stable as a specifically sized tree. I think the one we rode in was an older model i.e pre-adjustability. I'll try to remember to ask about that next time I am there.


                • Original Poster

                  OK, so based on serial number the lesser priced County that I am looking at is a 1989 model.

                  Is a well-kept 24 year old dressage saddle likely to have some good years left on it?

                  Does $675 sound like a decent price for a County Competitor of that age...or am I better off passing for a newer model?

                  Thanks for any help .


                  • #10
                    I have an 89 Competitor that horses & riders agree is very comfortable - we were v sad when FP outgrew that saddle & would've paid double the asking price for another that would fit ...

                    Mine has wonderful dark brown leather & looked to be very lightly used when purchased, it was recently on loan for several months & DID NOT receive the promised care: it did clean up nicely but has some permanent nicks & discolorations now

                    It is not for sale as it is such a wonderful saddle - it will easily last another 20 years

                    That said, the tree & panels have changed over the years & my County rep (whom I've always found to be honest to a fault & who refused to even consider selling us another saddle until this one absolutely would not fit anymore) did say that the newer versions are a bit more "horse friendly" ...

                    Price seems reasonable depending on condition BUT as with any wool paneled saddle, expect to need to have it adjusted to fit: wool panels shape to the 1st horse's back conformation & should be checked/adjusted regularly - frequency depends on horse & use.

                    Depending on what sort of wool was used in the panels, there may be hard clumped areas (eg, my rep was shocked at the state of the 07 panels, that 89 had wonderful wool).
                    Reflocking (in my area) varies from $100 - $400 depending on what is needed & who does it.


                    • #11
                      I rode in my friend's county and loved it. Sadly it is too small for me and the horse. I am having a hell of a time finding one.


                      • Original Poster

                        Thanks Alto!

                        I figured it might need re-flocking, I havent asked too many questions about it yet because I can't go see it until October and it might sell in the meantime. (No point in wasting seller's time answering a million questions when I know I want to see it in person before I buy.)

                        Good to know the ballpark price for re-flocking. Is that thru the rep? Do they come out and do it all on-site in one trip or is it a "send it out/leave it at the shop" kind of thing?

                        I have tried the CAIR panels and I think I am just happier with flocked, I like to know it can be fitted and changed.

                        Fingers crossed that all the stars line up on this one...


                        • #13
                          I'd go ahead & let the seller know that you're interested (so she knows not to let it go very cheap to someone else or dump it on ebay or tack shop consignment - then she'll be less negotiable on the price as there will be a likely 20% commission).

                          It was a funny thing about this old Competitor - we first tried it & he didn't much like it, finally as we were having NO saddle luck, we had the County rep out & picked this saddle up again a couple months later; it fit as if made for him

                          That saddle stayed absolutely put through a spook - even with 4" room in the girth <oops!!!>; 4 months later it was moving all over the place as he'd grown, adjusted the panels & back to a nice sticky fit

                          We paid ~$100 for adjustment by the County rep (she'll come back within a few rides & readjust if it's not perfect at no additional charge - that's not happened ) - this is done at the barn. If the panels need a complete reflock where all the old wool is removed, then it's in the $300 range but we've not done this ...

                          I'm not a CAIR Wintec fan - fortunately none of the Wintecs we tried fit at all

                          Contact County & see who's in your area for reps & make an appointment - depending on location, this can be dead simple or a significant wait/expense ...

                          Independent saddle reps should also be able to sort you out


                          • Original Poster

                            Thanks again alto,

                            Seller knows I am interested and when I'll be "in town". She has sent me pics and we are in touch. I figure if she still has it and it's all good, then it was meant to be.

                            I sent an inquiry to County ref a rep. If there is one easily accessible that will encourage me to keep up with this particular saddle, although you're right, any decent saddle fitter should be able to sort it out.

                            I am totally new to dressage, and doing it more for horsey athletic training and fun than for competition...but I feel like if I am going to do it I might as well have a decent and appropriate saddle. Plus, the dressage saddle I rode in was SOOO comfortable (and it was a Wintec Isabell - go figure) I would be happy to use it to trail ride too.


                            • #15
                              My older county is an 82. WOW

                              I ride in it on both my competition horses and actually bought a custom saddle last year from JRD but I am back to my old County again. It fits ME and my horses lift and like to work through in it. I am sure at a show - its like - what is that little thing she is riding in?

                              One of my students has a new County and its awesome but it would not fit ME.

                              I have a 17.5 inch county older model I am taking to a sale - its too big for me - I need the 17 or smaller for the flap and must have the narrow twist.

                              I have a lot of saddles but there is something special about these old Countys.
                              Last edited by LaraNSpeedy; Sep. 23, 2012, 09:23 PM. Reason: misspelling


                              • Original Poster

                                Lara, you and alto have me getting more anxious to go see this saddle! Thank you for the encouraging words about the older Counties! Sounds like these oldies can be goodies .


                                • #17
                                  Lara, do your old Countys have the spring tree? Is there any give when you test the tree by pulling the cantle towards you?

                                  I'm just asking because I just bought a Competitor off ebay dirt cheap and I'm a little concerned about the soundness of the tree. I wish we had a saddler nearby who could check it out for me!

                                  I haven't ridden in the saddle yet, but already love it. I've ridden in quite a few of their close contact models and adored them. I just hope the tree is OK on mine!
                                  Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by 2Jakes View Post
                                    Thank you all for the replies so far! Very helpful! I will look for the serial number of the one at the store and call County.

                                    I can probably have my instructor take a look at the fit, she thinks a MW will be about right but I'm sure the definition of "MW" also depends on the manufacturer.
                                    My County is stamped MN but fits more like a large medium or small MW. I trialed two other saddles (Lauriche and Prestige) that were both marked MW. The Prestige was too narrow and the Lauriche fit roughly the same at the MN County. Tree size is really a crap shoot, like trying to buy jeans online.


                                    • #19
                                      What Tequila said. A MW in one make is a W or a M in another. You have to try the saddle on!

                                      I just bought a used County Connection that has a lot of "give" in the cantle -- but my saddler liked it fine -- as long as you don't hear any cracking, popping, creaking sounds, you're probably OK, Texarkana.

                                      Love the Connection, BTW. So does my gelding. He'd built enough muscle that his old beloved Hippostar no longer fit, and it was considered one of the wider saddles on the market when I bought it in the mid-90's! The Connection is also marked wide, but it's a "wider" wide than the Hippostar.

                                      I now have a collection of hoop-shaped "wide" saddles, besides the County and the Hippostar, I have a L & R, an Albion Original Comfort (marked MW but fits W) and a Passier Relevant.

                                      I could start my own used tack shop!


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by ThreeFigs View Post

                                        I just bought a used County Connection that has a lot of "give" in the cantle -- but my saddler liked it fine -- as long as you don't hear any cracking, popping, creaking sounds, you're probably OK, Texarkana.
                                        Good info! I finally rode in mine tonight and LOVE LOVE LOVE it! I feel fairly confident the tree is fine now, since my horse has never moved more freely. She's the type who would definitely let me know if anything was awry! LOL.
                                        Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO