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Advise for a more secure trail saddle?

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  • Advise for a more secure trail saddle?

    Recently I got a lot of very helpful ideas on how to feel more safe going down steep hills on my OTTB. One thing that was mentioned was feeling more secure after moving from an English saddle to an endurance or Western saddle. I've read a lot in other threads about some of the difficulties folks have had moving from English to Western eg. a different feel, a "chair seat" vs. a centered seat, hard to post. I also know some folks have felt way more secure and loved having made the move to a Western/Endurance.

    I've been very impressed with the uiformly positive reviews I've seen of Dixieland saddles. They are made to order, fiberglass molds of various types and sizes of trees are sent to be tried and photos sent back the Dixieland. They have a plantation model with English syle flaps and English style leathers. When I look at the "deep pocket" seat it seems like it could provide a lot more security, yet seems so very different from the dressage saddle I now use. They can make a more flat seat by order and can set the leathers back one inch. Yet that may take away from the security I'm seeking.

    Any thoughts anyone is willing to share, along with experiences with saddles?

    Thanks so much in helping me in my quest to practice "the art of keeping the horse between me and the ground." :

  • #2

    Hi there!

    I responded to one of your other posts. I am one of the ones that has switched from riding English to western/endurance. And, I'm so hooked. I bought an Abetta cordora endurance. I had my tack store come out and fit it. It is a super saddle and really fits my horse. See my thread: "Saddle Fit WAS Tuesday, sorry long."

    In fact, my horse spooked on the trail last week. He side stepped about 5 feet and I stuck in that saddle like it's nobody's business. I think it's the high cantle? NOt sure...

    You know the poster Galloping Grape is a retail store, very knowledgeable and has a web site. Why don't you poke around her web site and maybe you're in driving distance to get a saddle fitting by her? I have to say that having a professional fit me and the horse really helped me!

    Good luck!
    Sorry! But that barn smell is my aromatherapy!
    One of our horsey bumper stickers! www.horsehollowpress.com
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    • #3
      I've heard good and bad about the Dixielands.. .they were popular with the gaited folks, but I've heard too many stories that the saddles just didn't seem to fit. Western saddles don't necessarily put you in a "chair" seat. I ride in a Dakota and my seat is very centered with a long draping leg. which I think is the key to security and maintaining that deep close contact. I also post in my saddle with ease. I'd love to help you find what you are looking for or answer any questions that you may have!
      The Galloping Grape
      Warrenton, VA


      • #4
        A deeper seat may give you more security... but posting in a true western saddle can create sore legs...

        The best thing you can do, is to go to as many horse expos, equine affairs, tack stores, etc. and talk with saddle fitters (not just sales). Try different saddles - different brands, different seats, etc. Then start looking for what will fit your horse. Once you narrow it down to what fits your horse, you can choose what you want. : )

        You might find that an aussie, with the slanted back pommel, makes you feel the most secure; or a wade tree with "bucking rolls"... Galloping Grape can help you get through the majority of it.

        I love my Crates reining saddle for my QH - it has lots of "swing" to the stirrup leathers so I can keep my heels and feet under me most of the time, but can swing my feet to front on downhills or fast motions.

        On my wide-bodied MFT - I've got a FABTRON endurance. The entire upper seat, cantle, pommel are leather; the skirt and fenders are cordura. I added the WALLS Slant stirrups from National Bridle and it's great!! http://www.nationalbridle.com/product-p/1-6498.htm
        (the have a longer outside than inside - to put the footpad level!)


        • #5
          I used an Abetta endurance saddle on my OTTB--very secure. The seat was a little too long for me, and I had to work to keep my feet back to balance properly. I didn't realize I was working at it until a friend gave me an Abetta western saddle with a 15" seat. Fit me a lot better, and the saddle was slightly wider for my horse's widening back. I cut the horn off, though. My OTTB was a big mover and had a very bouncy stride. I kept thinking the horn was aiming for my guts.

          If your OTTB has very high withers, you might have to be creative about padding. At first I used a barrel pad (round skirts) and used a closed-cell foam pad between the saddle pad and the saddle to lift it over his withers. I cut the withers out of the pad to create the clearance. I had two different pads like this, depending on how his back was doing. I needed to fill in some space the first year I rode him, but his back widened nicely in time, so I had to switch to a thinner pad with the withers cut out. Worked for us. He was very difficult to fit, and even the English and dressage saddles I tried on him did not adequately clear his withers. Western saddles typically have even less wither clearance than English models.

          I've got a problem with my right hip, so western style seats work well for me. They give the extra support I need. I found another home for the OTTB and am now riding an Arabian. He has a very wide back and my old saddles don't fit him. Wither clearance isn't a problem. I just got a Bob Marshall Sports Saddle (treeless) and am in the trial period. I love it for going up and down hills. I'm still not sure about the sideways stability or whether it is going to give me enough support for my weak hip/leg.

          If you go with a wester style saddle that has western fenders, consider turning the stirrups (I used dog collars instead of buying ready-made turners) for comfort. Also, I really like the endurance stirrups. They are secure for your feet and light weight, too.
          "Passion without knowledge is a runaway horse."


          • #6
            I couldn't find many endurance type saddles at any tack stores near me. I found a used Big Horn at a local tack store and bought it with the assurance that if it didn't fit my horse I could return it. It was quite comfy for me, but it was too low in the wither area for my TB mare. I was very disappointed as it was comfortable for me. I found a dealer called Crest Ridge Saddlery online and talked to them and liked the different types of saddles and priced in my range. The other thing I liked was the fact that they had me do several different measurements and different picture views of my horse. The saddle I got is western in style. The seat, pommel, and cantle of the saddle are leather as are the stirrups and straps to attach to the cinch. The rest of the saddle is cordura. There were many options to upgrade, but I got the basic saddle. It fits my mare great, and is pretty comfy for me also. The only thing I would like better about it is if the stirrups could be adjusted about 1-2 holes shorter. I have extremely short legs for my height(5'5") and although I was able to punch an additional hole, I can't ride with it like that as the edge of the seat leather interfers with my half chaps and pinches me on the side of my knee. That aside, I have felt very secure in it. I also like that it wasn't a pricey saddle so if I want to go in deeper water I'm not worried about ruining my saddle. Good luck in your saddle search.


            • Original Poster

              Thanks for the responses , everyone. I wish there were a saddle fitter or Western saddle seller here in Rochester, NY. I wish you were close, Galloping Grape. But I fear if I pursue this I will have to do it long distance. Oh, dear.


              • #8
                Why not try an Alleghany (sp?) Mountain Trail Saddle. They are out of New York. I want one in the worst way.
                Missouri Fox Trotters-To ride one is to own one

                Standardbreds, so much more then a harness racing horse.


                • #9
                  just my experience!

                  One thing....IMHO...its not a big deal to go from english to western and to ride in the "cross over" versions of each. I have a Thornhill trailriding saddle thats kinda both. I think It's more of an endurance type but....it looks like a dressage saddle with a western seat (no horn or western front pommel) and it rocks for trailriding. If you sit totally balanced and not forward; you are comfy. I sometimes try to shorten up and ride 2 point in it and it doesn't feel right. So it important to ride the way the saddle tells you or sits you in a way. Am I describing this right? Shorter stirrups are for english; long for western. Which do you prefer?

                  IMHO; a western rider should ride with a straight line from their shoulder, hip, ankle right? And a dressage rider same! It's all in balance and it's the same! It's what kind of saddle you like to put you how you want to ride! They are not opposites!

                  Funny, I foxhunt in a forward seat saddle 2 holes up, 2 point, posting etc.
                  I trailride long stirrups, straight up balance, neck reining, light half point posting which can be done easily in a "non english" saddle. Thank goodness I can go both ways! I love it! I find the competitive trailriding/endurance cross over type saddle allows you to do both. Some cross overs lean one way more ie; some are more western sitting.

                  Also, in my experience, it's EXTREMELY difficult to fit a true western saddle to a tb. Give up!! Buy a "cross over" type instead. Been there, done that.


                  • #10
                    If there's any way to tie in a trip to a tack shop with some other travel, you really ought to go SIT in a few. Why? Because some people LOVE the Abetta's. I have one and I hate it. Doesn't feel secure to me, it's 'hard' to the touch, did I mention I hate it. I DO like the Fabtron Lady Trail, so it's not an "I hate synthetics' gig.

                    I don't like anything Bighorn is making lately..their leather quality sucks out loud- it's never been great but lately? Gag.

                    I sold a super nice Bullard barrel saddle to a gal I ride with...fits her OTTB to a TEE. We do the goat trail type trails together and that saddle doesn't slip one bit, despite crazy climbs and drops. It was a tight like SQH tree and flare to it, fit NOTHING I owned, but Cuervo? Oh heck yeah it fit LOL

                    I have a Crestridge in the barn that is supposedly built on a 'gaited tree'. I guarantee that if I posted pics of the underside of one of my 'QH treed' saddles, and that one..you couldn't tell which was which. Because they's both QH trees, gentle reader. AND- that sucker gnaws on my seat bones, I think it's built for a man, as my SO loves it.

                    In general terms:

                    A saddle with a high cantle will do wonders for your sense of security. To me, moreso than any horn. It grabs your fanny

                    Heavily tooled leather is harder to clean and hard on your knees.

                    I really love my Rocking Rs, I have one and another on order. that's the most secure feeling saddle I own, and I love the quality for the price. I have this one, the Ladies Ranch:

                    I ordered it with only border tooling. You can see the high cantle, and you can see it's a hard seat, no padding. the angle of the stirrups are such that I can easily post, my legs don't run out in front of me, and did I mention I love it??? That saddle's shipping out to MT in a week or two, I'll spend a week in it in the mountains NW of Yellowstone, that's MY favorite saddle.

                    Please find a way to go sit in some saddles. I don't know where you are, but there's got be some to go sit in, somewhere. Saddles are a super personal decision to me, I have to sit in it to know.


                    • #11
                      I'll put a vote in for an Aussie. But not everyone likes them, so again, you'll have to find saddles to try or pay to have them shipped to demo. Not sure if Down Under has a demo policy, but their saddles have a 30 day return period. I would think any kind of Western/Endurance would make you feel more secure, but for me the Aussie (providing it fits you) is most secure, and I don't get the sore knees like I do from a Western. Good luck, saddle hunting is a pain in the rear, and not as fun as it should be bc of the fact that there never seems to be a good variety in driving distance. If only there were a whole mall devoted to it....


                      • #12
                        [QUOTE=wateryglen;3476868]One thing....IMHO...its not a big deal to go from english to western and to ride in the "cross over" versions of each. I have a Thornhill trailriding saddle thats kinda both. I think It's more of an endurance type but....it looks like a dressage saddle with a western seat (no horn or western front pommel) and it rocks for trailriding. If you sit totally balanced and not forward; you are comfy. I sometimes try to shorten up and ride 2 point in it and it doesn't feel right. So it important to ride the way the saddle tells you or sits you in a way. Am I describing this right? Shorter stirrups are for english; long for western. Which do you prefer?

                        IMHO; a western rider should ride with a straight line from their shoulder, hip, ankle right? And a dressage rider same! It's all in balance and it's the same! It's what kind of saddle you like to put you how you want to ride! They are not opposites!


                        OMG thank you... I get so frustrated with people asking me what I ride... what do you mean what do I ride? And I finally boiled it down to look...

                        I ride well... or I ride poorly. What I put on my horse's back makes no never mind. Of course there are adjustments but there is no saddle excuse for poor riding. You should always be in pursuit of being a better rider!

                        That being said I own three saddles, a custom built western that I find to be very comfortable with the exeception of posting trots for extended time, a wintex all purpose (more forward for jumping) and a german cavalry saddle which I lllllooooove.

                        My cav saddle is the one I raced many many miles in and the only problem I ever had with it was if I didn't keep my tush where it was supposed to be I got bruised from little metal leather keepers (all the leather strips off for potential field work... so there are metal keepers that the leather fits over fastenes to... its hard to explain) which sit to the seat side of the cantle. So I learned to ride or looked like I'd been beaten. I can stay put... its never pretty but I can stay put now!! But it is a combined seat that I can jump in or do any sort of flat work, up and down hills.. never a problem. =) I lubbed it!

                        (aussies are a great too but they do take some time to break your body into them!)


                        • #13
                          Friday's Girl...
                          Call this barn and ask for Mary Lou, Francis, or Maggie (she's there in the mornings). The barn is in Lewis County (south of Watertown) but those folks are knowledgeable about MANY outlets around NY State. They probably know saddle fitters, tack stores, etc. etc.


                          They may even invite you there to try all the saddles in their barn!! LOL...
                          They are about 20 minutes from the Otter Creek trails in NY too.