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CAIR panels - love them or hate them?

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  • CAIR panels - love them or hate them?

    How do you guys feel about the CAIR panels in the Wintec and Bates saddles? Are they a good thing or a bad thing?

    They make sense to me in theory, but for those of you that actually use these saddles, do you like them, and how do they hold up?

    Has anyone noticed a difference in the air panels of earlier Wintec/Bates saddles, vs. the current ones?

    Blacktree Farm
    Lessons, Training & Sporthorse Sales.
    Blacktree Studio
    Graphic Design, Web Design & Photography.

  • #2
    I love them and my mare loves them too. I don't use that saddle every day (it's mu jumping saddle), but the panels have held up just fine. I do have a friend with a well-loved Wintec AP with CAIR, and she hasn't had any issues with the panels.

    I only wish I could have my dressage saddle fitted with the CAIR panels!


    • #3
      I've had my Wintec 500 for three years and it (and the CAIR panels) have held up well (I ride daily in the summer and three or four times a week the rest of the year). My 25-year old TB seems to have no problems with it.

      I find it comfortable but I wouldn't say it helps you keep a correct position or sit the trot, on the other hand. It doesn't hold you in any particular position.


      • #4
        I can't say I love them, but I have never had a problem with them either. I think it is harder to resell a Wintec without them. I have ridden in Wintecs for years, and have had no complaints. The Cair panels have held up.


        • #5
          Ok, I hate to be the first to be negative, but here goes...

          I have had a wintec for going on 5 years, at the time all the saddle fitters liked them, so I paid the little extra for them. Well about a year later, I kept feeling like I was leaning left and sort of forward. It is hard to explain. So I had the saddle fitter out. She watched me ride and then looked at the saddle. One of the cair panels was deflated. It was flatter than the other 3, not all the air had come out, but about 1/2. So the saddle fitter sent it back to wintec and they replaced the cair panels for free. All seemed ok for awhile, then my horses back went sore. So I had the saddle fitter check it again, and by this time the saddle fitters had seen lots of CAIR problems. So we had the CAIR panels taken out and wool flocked it and changed the billets to the y shape (like the new ones). I haven't had any problems since. I always have my saddle checked every 6 monthes (just to be sure it is ok).

          Ask your local saddle fitter, the three in this area hate them and don't mind explaining why.

          Oh when I got my young horse, I bought him a new wintec, without CAIR. I love the saddles, not so much the CAIR panels.


          • #6
            Hate. Absolutely hate. I find the CAIR doesn't give me a true feel of the horse's back, even in the Isabel, which is the one Wintec saddle that tends to fit me quite well. I feel disconnected and my riding suffers.

            Miss Persnickety, aka Little Bay Alpha Mare, does not fit the Wintecs well, and also seemed particularly bothered by the CAIR versus the wool flocking. Herself, aka the Fabulous Fannie, went along with the experiment without complaint, but this is also the mare that was ridden, years ago, in a broken tree for I don't know how long before I discovered it and showed no back soreness whatsoever.

            Saddles are such a personal thing, though. In the end, you have to try different things yourself and see how they work for you and your horse(s).
            Equinox Equine Massage

            In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me invincible summer.
            -Albert Camus


            • #7
              I love the clair panals. I have a bates jumping saddle, and love it and it fits my horse perfectly. I use it probably 4 times a week on average and have had it for about 3ish years. I clean my tack a few times a week and it still looks brand new.
              I actually love the bates saddles so much and the clair panels I have the bates innova dressage saddle on trial and Im calling today to say Im keeping it!!!!


              • #8
                Hate em

                I am more than likely not a fair judge. I am super sensitive because of my nerve disorder, but I'll share my thoughts anyway.

                1) They will hold up for you

                2) There is a bit of a residual bounce from your horse's movement. The springier the horse, the more you notice it.

                3) It is a different feeling. Try riding in a "regular" saddle and then in a CAIR saddle. There is a difference. You may love the difference. You may hate the difference. You have to try the CAIR to know if it will work for you.


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks for your input so far, everyone! I really appreciate hearing all of your experiences. Saddles are such an individual thing, for both horses and for riders, so it is always good to hear both pros and cons.

                  I have a used Wintec Isabell at the moment, which isn't working. It is an older one but looks to be in great condition and has the CAIR panels. The saddle looks balanced front to back, but when I sit in it, it is too close to his spine. The panels just don't seem like they hold the saddle up as much as they should compared to how good it looks when I'm not on him. So I was thinking that maybe there could be something wrong with the panels?
                  Blacktree Farm
                  Lessons, Training & Sporthorse Sales.
                  Blacktree Studio
                  Graphic Design, Web Design & Photography.


                  • #10
                    I love them!

                    I was having trouble building up my horses back when I first got him, about a year and 1/2 ago.

                    Trying about six different saddles from the $1,000-$4,000 price range, I never in my dreams thought a Wintec that set me back a mere $850.00 would work. My local tack store and saddle fitter, about 4 1/2 months ago, told me about the new version of wintec...the Pro II with the contour block. I was skeptical, but had tried everything else, so I went for it.

                    When I got the saddle and put it on my horses back, I loved the way it fit him. He has a high wither with little dips on either side and finding a saddle that actually fit was hard! Then I rode him in it, a little bouncy for me, but I got over that in three rides. However, his movement went from a 6 to a 10! He was more forward, more uphill...the works. He loves this saddle, and because he does, I am not willing to sacrifice what makes him go well and be happy because I am well...a "leather snob".

                    After using this saddle for 4 months, I have gone up a gullet size, his back end doubled in size and his topline is in 10x's better shape then I thought it would ever be. My equine message therapist never says anything about his back anymore and is amazed at how he has changed.

                    I love, love, love the CAIR system and will swear by it till the day I die! Its only Bates and WINTEC for me, from now on
                    I told you: "inside leg to outside rein, not inside leg to outside rail!"


                    • #11
                      The CAIR panels will compress some with the weight of the rider. Is the saddle too close to the spine down the entire length, or just near the withers? I have found the Bates and Wintec saddles to be a poor fit for a horse with much of a wither, unless you can use a half pad for a bit extra height. The newer models appear not to fit so close to the withers, but I have not had a chance to try one on my mare to know for sure.

                      If the saddle is evenly too low though, not too sure. You can unscrew the front and peek in the panels if you un-velcro them, and you should be able to find out that way if the CAIR has deflated. I would doubt it though if it is fitting so much closer when you sit in it.


                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by Hampton Bay View Post
                        The CAIR panels will compress some with the weight of the rider. Is the saddle too close to the spine down the entire length, or just near the withers? I have found the Bates and Wintec saddles to be a poor fit for a horse with much of a wither, unless you can use a half pad for a bit extra height. The newer models appear not to fit so close to the withers, but I have not had a chance to try one on my mare to know for sure.

                        If the saddle is evenly too low though, not too sure. You can unscrew the front and peek in the panels if you un-velcro them, and you should be able to find out that way if the CAIR has deflated. I would doubt it though if it is fitting so much closer when you sit in it.
                        I'd have to sit in it on him again to be sure, it looks good from the ground. It actually also seemed ok when I was on it (from what I could see while mounted), though it was a little lower. When I took it off of him after a 10 minute walk hack, his back muscles (towards the back of the withers, right where you can feel a bit of tree close to the underside of the channel) were really raised and tight, so the panels must either not be working or they just aren't thick enough for him there to keep his spine from coming into contact with the inside of the channel. I'll see if I can access the panels first to inspect them, then if they look ok I'll have someone on the ground watch what happens as I sit in it.

                        I don't want to ride him in it again because of what happened to his back before, but if it is something that could be fixed, I'd like to know so that I could try that before I give up on the saddle - it looks like it fits him better than anything else I've found so far (apart from this issue).

                        Blacktree Farm
                        Lessons, Training & Sporthorse Sales.
                        Blacktree Studio
                        Graphic Design, Web Design & Photography.


                        • #13
                          Not the CAIR, but FLAIR which is also a set of air panels, and I did not like it, neither did my horse, and I had to return that saddle.
                          "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht


                          • #14
                            Put me down for "Hate." I have several of them that I use in my riding school, and find that they are far more laterally unstable than the older non-Cair Wintecs on my wide-bodied lesson ponies.


                            • #15
                              I seem to remember that Wintec also sells shims which can be inserted into the panels to raise or balance the saddle. Kinda the same idea as a Mattes Correction pad. I don't remember where I saw them for sale though.


                              • #16
                                love mine

                                I have used a 500 with CAIR for several years now on several different horses - two with very strong opinions about their saddles and a couple youngsters I have been starting.

                                I have been very pleased.

                                Before I settled on the 500, I tried both the Wintec Isabell and the Bates Isabell but neither rode the same at all - the opinionated mare hated both.

                                CAIR system is an easy investment and well worth it in my opinion


                                • #17
                                  horse dislikes mine

                                  My horse dislikes my new Bates Caprilli close contact. The CAIR panels are rock hard and he started pitching his head down and thinking of bucking after every jump. He doesn't do it in any other saddle. I know that the gullet is the right size b/c I ride him in an old Bates in the same gullet w/out problems. The old one's CAIR panels seem half deflated to me and the horse is quite content with that.

                                  I notice that the new Bates is bouncier feeling than a normal saddle. I'd like my new Bates if I could deflate the panels a bit.


                                  • #18
                                    I think I like them too! Just starting focusing on dressage, and have borrowed a Wintec Pro 2000 from a friend. Being a leather snob too, I never thought I'd have one. I do have a question about CAIR.The saddle I'm borrowing has little knicks in the panels. I can't get inside to feel the CAIR pockets, or whatever they're called. I'd like to buy this one from her if it's safe. It doesn't seem deflated. How easily doea that happen?? Nevertheless, if this one doesn't work, I'll get another- Big bodied, shark fin TB- gotta go with what fits!