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Looking for a Narrow Endurance Saddle...need ideas...

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  • Looking for a Narrow Endurance Saddle...need ideas...

    Hey All,

    I've found myself in saddle fitting hell here lately with a nice young horse I'm riding now. He's pretty narrow. I've used the cards on him and he's an S-4 to S-5 at points A and A6. He's four now and in a normal weight. What makes it even harder is he's got a bit of dip or "rock" in his back behind the wither...a bit more dipped than most horses.

    I've spoken to a reputable saddle maker (Stonewall) who has reviewed his measurements, and she does not think I'll find a stock saddle that narrow. I hate to get a custom saddle at this point as he's still young and I really would rather not spend that much if I can help it on a saddle that narrow that might fit only this horse. I may not have a choice but to go custom but I wanted to post my problem on here and see what solutions other riders might have.

    I'm certainly open to suggestions right now. Treeless I'm not necessarily against but my thinking is that they will not work well on his back type and more prominent spine. I have to say that for trails I'm finding I prefer a treed saddle for the stability of it but as I said, I'm open to all suggestions.

    I've been able to get my Wintec AP to fit him decently by changing the gullet but I loathe this saddle for long rides. It rubs me raw and I'm so sore after riding several hours in it that I simply cannot imagine going that route. I also really like the feel of an endurance saddle over the AP style.

    I've padded up an Abetta (QH bars) to fit him adequately but he's not in heavy work and I'm pretty sure it does not fit him well enough for more than trail rides. The way I understand it now, you just can't overpad a wide saddle as it will still put uneven pressure on the horse's back as the tree just fundamentally does not fit the angle of his shoulder. So frustrating!

    Anyway thanks for all suggestions!

  • #2
    We need to get together. I have 3 you can test out. One Trekker Pro Arte (adjustable treeless), Freeform Classic & Freewest with a Classic seat. All treeless. I use the FW on Rafiq who has quite a dipped back and high withers though he is fairly broad. I also have a collection of treeless pads such as Skito, HAF & Equipedic. At least you can see if any will work. We should combine it with a trail ride.


    • Original Poster


      Thanks so much for your very kind offer! I'd love to try your saddles! I'll look at my schedule and see what I can figure out.

      How is old Rafiq doing?

      The one "alternative" saddle I tried to get to trial is Heather Moffitt's Flex EE with a leather tree in it. Sounded cool but they were all recalled for some problem and are not available yet in the US at all. Even the narrowest that saddle comes in is a "medium." Seriously frustrating. Even Tuckers only come in a medium as the narrowest standard tree.

      I've been told that saddles from prior to 1940 would likely fit him as he's more typical of horses from that time frame. About all they made back then in an "endurance" style were McClellan's and those are not exactly the epitome of rider comfort.


      • #4
        Check out Timberline saddles
        <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


        • #5
          Have you ridden a McClellan? I have an OLD style Saddlebred mare that the McClellan fit well-we had the saddle because my hubby was, at the time, a Cavalry Scout (in the Army). Put it on her for kicks and giggles, and it FIT. Believe it or not, many folks that ode that mare actually liked that saddle (including me).

          Other thoughts, can you find a Syd Hill synthetic Aussie? I have one and it usually fits my high withered, narrow backed horses that come through here for training.

          Or a Specialized that you use the shims to narrow down the angle...

          Let me know where ya go riding, I'll gate crash and let you try my Syd Hill or a regular Wintec Dressage...


          • #6
            Originally posted by Daydream Believer View Post
            I've been able to get my Wintec AP to fit him decently by changing the gullet but I loathe this saddle for long rides. It rubs me raw and I'm so sore after riding several hours in it that I simply cannot imagine going that route. I also really like the feel of an endurance saddle over the AP style.
            I know you said you don't like the AP style, but have you tried the Thorowgood endurance saddle? It looks like an AP, but it's really comfortable -- everyone who sits in mine is always surprised. I rode in a Wintec for a year and I hated it, but I do 50s in my Thorowgood without any type of sheepskin or seat saver, and I'm not sore at all by the end. It has the adjustable gullet...
            RIP Victor... I'll miss you, you big galumph.


            • #7
              Prestige (La Selleria Italiana) makes their Atena and Atena Flaps endurance models with trees from 29 to 37 cm. (A "regular/standard" tree is 32cm for Prestige.) In addition to that wide range, the broad panels are really ideal for the narrow horse. I recently fit a couple of RMHs in this one and horses and owners are *very* happy.

              It's a lovely, cushy ride, for sure. Also available in a couple more stripped-down versions for the serious competitor - the Desert Light and the Atena Race.

              Almost forgot - Prestige trees can be adjusted up or down 2-3cm, so you're not stuck with something super-narrow when he grows up.
              Patience pays.


              • Original Poster

                Originally posted by BigHorseLittleHorse View Post
                I know you said you don't like the AP style, but have you tried the Thorowgood endurance saddle? It looks like an AP, but it's really comfortable -- everyone who sits in mine is always surprised. I rode in a Wintec for a year and I hated it, but I do 50s in my Thorowgood without any type of sheepskin or seat saver, and I'm not sore at all by the end. It has the adjustable gullet...
                Thanks for ALL the suggestions. Some really good ones here that I had not even considered. I appreciate it and will give them all consideration.

                I have never ridden in a Thorowgood saddle but know someone who has one that loves it. Unfortunately she's not close to me. I'm pretty sure hers is not the endurance model either. Hmmmm...

                I'm certainly not opposed to an english style saddle...I rode english all my life and am perfectly happy in one if it's comfortable. I rode at Mt. Rogers last year in my dressage saddle while everyone else rode western and no one could believe I felt secure. I like my dressage saddle for dressage work but the flap is way too straight and the thigh block doesn't work for me either for long rides on rugged terrain. Steep slopes in this saddle are hairy as heck as you cannot get your legs out in front of you to help you keep your upper body in balance. My Wintec AP is a pretty old one and wonderful to start babies in... but My God...after a 5 hour ride last week in it, I was sore "you know where" for days. It's an Ok saddle for light trails or jumping for sure but not distance riding.

                I'll see if I can get a demo on the Thorowgood. I LIKE the price on it and the adjustability also. It looks quite nicely thought out also. I've been in shock when I found out just how difficult this young horse was going to be to fit as I really really like him and he's talented...but the prices on some of these saddles...especially if it will only fit him ever..is just a bit much for my budget at the moment.

                Thanks again!


                • #9
                  If you talked to Jackie at Stonewall...I think she was referring to you to me the other day. I sent in a 1980 ish Stonewall for repair and it turns out to be extra narrow. She asked me if it fit my horse well because she had a client in need of a saddle like mine. I love my saddle though and can't part with it. An older stonewall might be the trick.


                  • Original Poster

                    racknabout...that's funny! I know she's on the lookout for a saddle to fit my youngster. She has been fantastic to work with...I've just got cold feet over a custom saddle for a 4 year old and want to explore other options before I make the leap.

                    I actually have an older Stonewall on trial now but it is wide and doesn't fit either my gelding (way off) nor my husband's more medium backed gelding. SIGH. I love the design of the saddles too...they are very much the balanced flat seat I prefer and I love the light weight.

                    Jackie is at the point where we'll have to have a tree built for him as she can't even find a tree in her stock that fits him. Talk about making gray hairs come in.

                    I just got back from a trail riding trip and am on a mission though. I've got to find this horse and myself a saddle that works.


                    • #11
                      I would try the Thorowgood. Even the a/p styles might work, and I think those come in all 3 trees whereas the endurance model I think just comes in the standard tree.

                      Tekna saddles might be another option. They don't make an endurance model, but they do have an a/p. Very affordable and the VTO can adjust the tree to fit. I have their bridle and adore it.


                      • #12
                        I have an OLD 1940's George Lawrence 'Form Fitter' western saddle that was made for the narrow horses of the day. With its big pommel, you aren't going to come out of it easily. If my horse jumped (cutting style) for a cow, or jumped windfall timber, I lost blouse buttons from the high horn.

                        It fit my narrow-for-a-TB, high withered OTTB really well for a year or two, and it is really, really comfortable to ride in all day. (I did change to Nettles endurance type stirrups.) I had multiple all day rides in it over two summers, gathering and moving cattle.

                        Since said OTTB is no longer 4 and missing a lot of muscle, I am now in a different saddle with him, and looking to sell the saddle.

                        If you aren't able to send saddles back and forth from the other coast to try them, you could look for another one closer. Many of the 1940's era saddles by the truly excellent saddlemakers (Hamley, N. Porter, Heiser, George Lawrence, etc) were made for narrow horses, and made to be ridden all day.
                        The seat sizes on these high pommel, high cantle saddles will be an inch or two smaller than today's stock saddles- mine is barely a 14" seat, I usually ride a 15" western saddle. My husband, who rides a 16" western saddle, can just fit in the George Lawrence, so don't automatically dismiss something that 'sounds' too small for your butt before you sit in it.
                        Some of these old saddles are in original condition and considered antiques, and will be priced pretty high. But most of them have been refleeced or had fenders replaced or other repairs, which makes them not collectible, and thus you can find them in the $250 to $500 range, when they come up on eBay or other places. They tend to sit, and sit, and sit in consignment tack shops because they are too narrow for any QH type of today's breeding. You can also find old Sears and JC HIggins saddles made on the same template, they will be pretty close in fit, they also will be ok to ride all day but not fabulous like the 'name brand' tree/saddlemakers' saddles- and you can get those for $150 or so around hereabouts. People buy them to decorate for a western-theme, or make barstools any more.


                        • #13
                          Abercrombies! An old brand of endurance saddle, pretty narrow, the people who have them seem to love them and regret when they no longer have a horse narrow enough for them. Also, old Marciante's are a bit narrow in comparison to today's typical endurance saddle. They usually sell pretty cheap on CL.

                          You can use a Skito saddle pad and get shims to fill the dip behind the withers. Many people who have never had treeless saddles never think about using pads with pockets for inserts to customize the fit of treed saddles. You can custom fit your saddles yourself with a good pad and a variety of foam pieces.



                          • Original Poster

                            Fillabeana...thanks for the offer of letting me try out your cool old saddle. It is tempting! I'm not crazy about western saddles in general (hate the horns) but it's more important to fit my horse correctly. Let me think about it some.

                            Bonnie, great ideas also. I will definitely take a look for those older makes of saddles too.

                            This is what I'm riding...a 4 year old Spanish Mustang blanket appy gelding who is a very old type appy to say the least. He's such a fun little guy and rapidly becoming my heart horse too. I just happened to fall in love with a Spanish Mustang with a very old fashioned narrow back. My husband's gelding is much easier and he can wear a QH bars saddle well enough.

                            This was us in the dreaded Wintec:


                            Then a day later back in the Abetta all padded up.



                            • #15
                              Your Mustang appy is GORGEOUS!

                              Another saddle you might consider is a Miller Collegiate Marathon. They aren't made anymore, but you can find them every so often on eBay. I've had two. The 1st one was a "regular" - also called "medium" - tree, and it was pretty narrow; too narrow for my mare, so I sold it and got a wide tree Marathon.

                              Super comfortable trail saddle.

                              Here's one that was recently listed on eBay and didn't sell. It has the regular/medium tree, and you see by the pic that it looks fairly narrow with a lot of wither room. If the seller hasn't sold it locally, might be worth contacting him/her to get tree measurements, etc.:
                              Equus Keepus Brokus


                              • #16
                                Oh, I just love the spots! Neat horse.
                                You have a nice seat and leg, too. I can see where you're going to need a saddle that puts you in the right position- it's miserable to ride along for hours fighting your leg position.

                                Here I am with my TB and a friend, 5 hours into a ride (the cows in the background had just been moved up to the forest) with another 1 1/2 hours to get home:


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Hampton Bay View Post
                                  I would try the Thorowgood. Even the a/p styles might work, and I think those come in all 3 trees whereas the endurance model I think just comes in the standard tree.
                                  oh, good call. I suggested the endurance model because it has wider panels, so it spreads the rider's weight over a wider area. The seat is more comfy, too But you're right, it only comes in the standard tree. So DB, you may want to try the regular Thorowgood if you want to get the high-wither model. Although, the endurance model with the standard tree fits my horse whose back looks like this. He has a dip on each side behind his withers, too -- I use a woolback pad with thinline shims in the front.

                                  Hastilow in south-central PA sells Thorowgoods, and they have a trial program. They also do fittings, but I'm not sure how far they travel. Worth a call, though!

                                  RIP Victor... I'll miss you, you big galumph.


                                  • #18
                                    Have you thought of sending tracings to Trumbull Mountain? They have a fantastic trial program and are absolutely experts at helping fit saddles to both horse and rider. Plus, they have an amazing used saddle inventory. I don't think I've every heard of anybody who regretted sending their horse's tracings there. They're great!


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Thanks for that link to Hastilow's BigHorseLH. I actually found them on a web search earlier and am waiting to hear back from an email inquiry. If I don't hear back soon, I'll call them. I have to run out and trim some horses this afternoon so I'm taking a break from mowing to check the computer..UGH...

                                      I should have shown you all some conformation shots of Maverick. These were taken back in Feb at the trainers. He was a stallion at that point (gelded in April...long story) and about as fit as he's ever been. He lost some topline in the Spring running fences and worked himself off about 100 lbs. He's MUCH happier as a gelding (and I'm much happier too). :-)



                                      Just a side note...would you all believe that he tested positive of OLWS? (frame overo) It runs in his sire line but I'd never have believed it without seeing the DNA test.

                                      thanks fillabeana on your complement of my seat...I'm an old event rider. That old Wintec and I did a lot of XC courses so I shouldn't put it down too much but it's NOT a great trail saddle!

                                      Thanks also to all for the nice comments on Maverick. He's a nice youngster with a great attitude and very bold for a baby. His sire out in S. Dakota has done some distance races and placed well. He also has the lean muscled body that should help him in distance races and has nice long soft stride also.


                                      • #20
                                        With this youngster, whose back will change, have you thought of a saddle like Specialized that you can change? The fit kit that comes with all the saddles has a number of Velcro wedges of different thicknesses and thin solid blocks as well. Also the "pads"-- Specialized's term, would be called a panel by other saddlers-- come in diff thicknesses and can be moved.

                                        The horse side of all the Specialized saddles are the same, and they did make a dressage model, which you can still find used, so the rider side can be a dressage saddle with dee rings and moveable thing/knee blocks. And six months, one year, two years later when his back muscles are more developed, you can keep changing the saddle's fit, literally in minutes.