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Saddles, Saddles, Saddles. I know I'm not the only one continually frustrated by saddles.

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  • #21
    Originally posted by dogbluehorse View Post
    I used to have CWD saddles and they were causing problems with all my horses. I spoke to one of my vets and she agreed this whole custom saddle thing is a load of (insert rude word here). Most horses fit the same saddle pretty well provided it's a good saddle. And you can use slight variations on pads to accomodate specific issues (be careful with shims though, can cause issues like princess in the bed with a pea under the mattress). Also it's shocking how many used CWDs, Voltaire's, and other high end saddles are being sold on EBay and in other places for half or less of what they were sold for new, even barely used. So I switched from CWDs (which literally made every horse I have, have a sore back) to Bruno DelGrange, after trying a friend's saddle on my horse for a few weeks. He liked it. So then I bought one, then two, and now have 3. But I am kicking myself because I bought them all new, and now looking on these various used saddle places to sell my CWDs, I see there are tons of high end saddles for sale at much reduced prices. So would highly recommend that you give that a try. Places like Pelham Saddlery in NH ship them to you so you can try them, and you can ship them back if they don't fit. Having a custom saddle built for you is a waste of time and money. And personally I have not had much luck with saddle fitters either, they all say something different. At the end of the day you're probably as good as anyone at telling what fits, and then if your horse likes it, and you're in a good position with leg under you etc, and if your horse doesn't have a sore back, you have a winner.
    I never buy new anymore. Would rather have someone else take the depreciation hit! I have three of the JMX saddles. Two basically new. I bought a spare because they aren't made anymore and I really like them.

    I was incredibly lucky with my saddle fitter who was truly independent and had a knack for knowing how to make a saddle fit. After many years of threatening, he finally retired and I haven't yet tried the fitter he recommended.

    I do prefer wool flocked saddles because they can be adjusted. I also prefer the English/German brands over the French, but that's my preference.
    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
    EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


    • #22
      I’m going to be the lone dissenter here. I have a hard to fit horse with a sensitive back. I also didn’t have the money for a custom saddle. However, if I added up all the money I wasted buying saddles off of COTH recommendations, reselling them on eBay, shipping saddles back and forth to try, I’d have been better off financing a custom saddle. Yes, you can finance a County.

      I ended up teaching summer school, which I hate to do, to buy a new CWD. Horse and I are both happy.

      You can find the saddle you want used if you’re patient. It’s still no guarantee. You will probably spend another $300-1,000 adjusting and reflocking a used saddle. The trees on Countys can be adjusted so a MN may not fit that way. If you can try the saddle first before committing, do it.

      Good luck and I hope you find the right saddle you can afford. Just don’t get too caught up in the COTH Magic Saddle myth!
      A helmet saved my life.

      2017 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!


      • #23
        Although I don’t have your info, many horses of your type will do well in a saddle that has front gussets and a deeper panel such as a k, trapezius or skid row panel. There are a lot of used ones out there. Compared to BC, I think County runs wider in the fit. I can’t speak to your horse’s longitudinal shape as some need more depth in the rear gussets and some don’t. I would look at tack shops but also Eventing area sites as there’s usually a lot of used saddles posted for sale.
        Jay McGarry
        sms trained saddle fitter


        • #24
          IME, a County MN is basically a medium in a lot of other brands. County runs a little wide. I think you probably have a lot of other options. Given what you’ve said about the stirrup bar area, an English tree is still probably your best bet (I had this same issue), but there are other options at lower prices. Depending on how high the withers, you might look at a Childeric (M model) or Tad Coffin (would have to go used for Tad). Even a used Voltaire might work. Not suggesting CWD even though I have one because I needed the 2Gs tree to work with these issues, and that’s probably out of your price range, although there are a bunch of used ones out there.

          The big shouldered TB I was riding for a client recently who went in a MN County did fine in my Childeric. Also fit a few WBs who went in a M County (neither of the owners’ saddles fit me at all—one way too big the other way too small), also went fine in my Childeric with different pad setup. Verified by a truly independent fitter. But it will not accommodate very high withers. Of the Voltaire saddles, the Stuttgart fits a high wither better and I think you can find those for less money than the more popular palm beach.


          • #25
            Might be of interest to you:

            In 2012, Harry Dabbs Saddlemakers was approached by the TRC (Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre) to develop a saddle that would enable their horses to fulfill their potential. To complete the research between the TRC and Dabbs, the ACPAT Horse Physiotherapists and Society of Master Saddlers Qualified Saddle Fitters were brought in. The research was led by…


            • #26
              I vote for continuing to search for a used County. I have purchased several used Counties over the years in the $1200 - $2000 range, and a couple of new/custom ones. Ironically, the used saddles have ended up being the ones I love the most. Biggest thing, though, is that it takes patience to wait for them to show up on Ebay/FB (or wherever else you hunt). Also, the model matters. I've found, for example, that the "narrow" tree is different from Stabilizer to Innovation to Sensation.

              I have tried many times to move to a different saddle brand, and have never found my horses to go as well as they go in their Counties. So that's just to say that I am a bit biased.

              With that being said, however, I've heard that the Black Country saddles are just as good as the Counties, and a less expensive way to get the same fit.

              I will also mention that one of my backup saddles that fits very similarly to my narrow/MN Counties is a wide treed Stubben Edelweiss. *I* hate it because it's built tipping downhill (i.e. pommel-low), and absolutely kills my crotch if I'm riding more than a couple of horses. But it fits my horses quite nicely as a substitute. And one of my helper kids has an old Devoucoux Biarritz (M tree) which does alright also. My horses don't like it as much, and I wouldn't swap them to it permanently, but it certainly doesn't hurt any of them.
              Flying F Sport Horses
              Horses in the NW


              • #27
                The Counties are very nice saddles. I didn't care for my local fitter when I was shopping or else I probably would have splurged on one. That being said if you know exactly what you need and can be patient, they REGULARLY are for sale used. You just have to constantly check and be patient. If you can find something else to use as a patch saddle in the meantime, I bet you can find a used one that is what you need.

                Also be aware that the trees run differently from model to model and from other saddle brands. A MN County Innovation is what most companies would call medium. In the BC and Albions I would be looking for mediums with the K Panel or trapezius panel.
                "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


                • #28
                  I've struggled with saddle fit for my last 2 horses. I ended up with 2 Passiers (one for each horse) and they fit like you are looking for. My WB has huge shoulders and all of the French saddles pinched her. My TB has the typical shark fin withers and a pretty big shoulder as well. My WBs passier fit him in shape but not size so I found him one that was narrower. Passiers can be adjusted, but the horses aren't in the same barn, so it made more sense to have 2 saddles.

                  Things I love about Passier:
                  -Wool flocked
                  -cut-back pommel (allows for the high withers)
                  -adjustable tree
                  -amazing balance (easy to ride in)
                  -very affordable

                  There is a 17.5 Precision (model I have) on eBay for $1,500........


                  • #29
                    Lots of mixed opinions on the brand, so this opinion is worth what you paid for it () but I am really a huge fan of Schleese saddles.They are extremely adjustable, and do a great job at accommodating large shoulders, short backs, and overall making horses comfortable. The shoulder-relief panel makes a huge difference for my mare - admittedly, in a dressage saddle.

                    That being said, I don't love their marketing, and if you try to buy used through the company they are.... not amazing. They way overprice their used stock relative to the rest of the market. The fitter I work with is lovely, and complimented me on the great deal I was able to find on my used saddle. I've heard others are not as easy to work with.

                    So, all that being said - if you're able to get your hands on a used one for a decent price that is the right overall idea for your horse, I suspect it can be adjusted to fit you correctly. If you look on their website, they will list where they have fittings going on. You could get assessed and tracings taken, buy a used one, and send it to them to be adjusted/flocked.


                    • #30
                      Ill throw my hat in the ring to stick with county.
                      I tried sooo many saddles of all variety on my guy and County was bar far the best fit and what he felt the best in. I'm sorry to hear you had such an unfortunate experience with your rep, my county rep was wonderful and worked with my budget. Though I fell in love with the solution as well it is one of their newer models and hard to come by used.

                      Through the help of my rep I found a demo stabilizer for less then $2,000 that I adore and after reflocking my horse does as well. My County rep actually sent me an excel with all available demo saddles and specs of each so I was able to see what County had available and what my rep could get me to try. Also keep your eyes peeled online, you likely wont find a solution but stabilizers and innovations are easy to find used. I'm surprised by your comment that the stabilizer is some how of lesser quality then the other models. I haven't noticed this to be the case, it is definitely less built up and very close contact but I've grown to love that and the leather on the saddle is excellent.


                      • #31
                        If you can find someone to work with who is knowledgeable about British brands, you may find additional options. Over the years I have had an Albion, a Frank Baines, and now a Hastilow. All are very nice saddles and very reasonably priced. My current horse is wider than yours but with withers and shoulders and fits a Hastilow beautifully. I really love that saddle.
                        The big man -- my lost prince

                        The little brother, now my main man


                        • #32
                          Lol I have 2 hard to fit horses. My one horse I had tried a ton of different saddles on her and I was getting really frustrated, luckily my old saddle fit her well enough to show in but it was uncomfortable and falling apart so when I was showing one week at HITS I just walked her down to the devocoux stand and looked at the guy and was like, “plz halp” and he found one right away that fit like a glove and I just bought the demo lol but that was back when my parents paid for my stuff lol. Horse #2 was tough because she was young and I had to pay for it and I knew whatever I bought was only going to be temporary. I got some big sheets of paper and used a flexible ruler on a bunch of different points on her back and traced them. Took them to a big used saddle store and the fitters gave me some to take home and one worked. She grew out of it and I sold it and got my devocoux redone since horse number one is retired now lol so I got pretty lucky but those tracings were useful and there are some people out there who are pretty good with them so maybe give that a try. Hope that helps!


                          • #33
                            I'm going to be the same as Bristol Bay

                            I have purchased and sold about a dozen saddles, maybe more, in the 9 years I've owned my horse. I've finally splurged on a new saddle custom to us both. I was never in a position to do this 9 years ago but when the opportunity became available I did it! I think find something that fits your horse now and save up for the one you both love new or spend time quality searching for it used (9-12 months) to end up with what you really want. A quality saddle will last decades.

                            Bit Chair:


                            • #34
                              So many people share your story. I've BTDT too.

                              The first thing to do if you didn't already, is get a wither tracing. Do one yourself, and also, if your fitter had one done, which they should have, ask for it.

                              Personally, my chaotic, hedonistic opinion....
                              Saddles are not a life-time fit.

                              My other opinion....
                              Most fitters are more interested in selling you a product and no two fitter has the same opinion on fit.

                              My other opinion....
                              What fits on paper doesn't always equal a comfortable horse.. ask me how I know!

                              After the disproportionate amount of people that sell their custom saddle after 2-3 years of owning it, I am not convinced going custom is the way to go. I have not seen it work long-term for people. That doesn't mean you can't find a saddle that was custom, that works for your horse... but I do think that by and large the representatives of these companies are not saddle-fitters... but people in general have faith in professionals, and take their word as valid.

                              I think finding a saddle that in general fits the specs of the tracings, and is flexible, is the better way to go than a saddle that matches verbatim the tracings; this might be unfounded conjecture, it is just my experience after going through it, and seeing other people go through it as well, as the super-custom saddles seem to always be "grown out of" after a few years... and then there are these fancy, custom saddles flooding the market and not moving easily, because, well, they're very specific.

                              One thing that would be important, is, if the fitter believed your horse needed the upswept panels, skid-row panels, k-panels, etc, is to keep an eye on it as I do think the configuration of the panels is very important.

                              One other thing... horses can, especially if their current tack isn't ideal, move significantly better in a different saddle but that is not always a testament to that saddle fitting spectacularly, so much as it is a testament to that saddle not triggering the same sore-spots the old one did.. that doesn't mean that overtime, that saddle won't also make the horse sore. Just something to think about since a lot of reps take advantage of this in their riders... you won't know for certain if that saddle is a great fit until you've ridden in it for weeks or months, and no new issues crop up. It can take weeks for inflammation/soreness caused by the saddle to abate, but it can also take a while for them to brew too...

                              Good luck, I know that wasn't super specific or helpful... FWIW, your TB sounds like a typical TB when it comes to fitting challenges.. if I had $100 for every time I had a TB that had big wide withers and needed a saddle to accommodate them I'd be able to buy plenty of full custom saddles...

                              Some brands that I have found accommodate the TB with thebig-wide withers but subsequently TB-sized barrel (including the high ridge withers and dip behind the shoulder) are: Stubben Zaria or Portos, Kiefer Wein, Black Country Quantum, Vinci & Wexford, FYI, not an exhaustive list... just a list of the saddles I've ended up with (and trial-tested by years of using on them). The upswept panels or skidrow panels definitely help accommodate that feature.
                              AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012


                              • #35
                                One Two Three if you would like any help, I love finding bargains for saddles and would gladly help you on your search! You can PM me the seat size and any info if you would like! I recently found a super nice deal on my Voltaire after tremendous searching but I'm beyond happy with it. Saddle searching can be frustrating- not quite sure how people can afford such a luxury, but I wish I was in the same boat! ha!


                                • #36
                                  I don’t have any great suggestions, but certainly feel your pain. I originally bought a used County for my guy when he came off the track. It seemed to fit him well, but the balance point was all wrong for me. Once I started jumping him I was constantly fighting my position. I fortunately sold the County for pretty much what I paid for it. I ended up custom ordering a CWD (hopefully my first and last time buying a new saddle). Now I’m having issues with his custom fit saddle as he’s putting on more muscle and finally filling out so now his CWD is starting to get tight on his humongous shoulders. I’m not sure i can face saddle shopping again. Buying used takes patience and persistence which is why I ended up ordering my CWD, but not long after I got mine tons of used ones started popping up on the market. If you don’t have something to ride in waiting it out may not be an option. I still kick myself for not persisting in my hunt for my CWD used though.


                                  • #37
                                    My best advice is to find a used Tad Coffin saddle that allows you a trial period. I have been a believer that horses only want his saddles, and they do well on various shapes of horses if you pay attention to the padding and what your horse is telling you. I have had all of the above other saddles in my barn and his are the horses' pick.


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Thank you so much everyone for all of your insight, thoughts, opinions, etc. I'm going to try to contact TheSaddleGeek or another professional. I would love to find alternative options. I do have wither tracings from the fitter, however I don't know what to do with them, and also don't know how much they tell the whole story for a saddle's fit. I just don't have the money to buy something willy nilly and hope it works. I know several consignment shops have trials, but I still am not well trained to know if the saddle i'm trialing will work, which is where my hesitation lies.

                                      Someone mentioned the Stabilizer--I too mentioned it to my fitter because they're plentiful in my price range, however she told me "no way" that they're "cheap, uncomfortable, and won't work". I think she's being ridiculous.
                                      “Working horses is a little like being married. Sometimes you need to adjust and change your plan.”


                                      • #39
                                        Definitely the tree changed between the Stabilizer and Innovation/newer County saddles. So it's possible that the Stabilizer is not an ideal shape for your horse. But there is nothing objectively wrong with a Stabilizer. They are not cheap. I don't see County issuing some massive recall or anything. Plenty of people have them and are happy with then. There was a substantial redesign and change to the tree after the Stabilizer. So a Stabilizer may fit differently shape wise than other County saddles.
                                        "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


                                        • Original Poster

                                          Well darn, TheSaddleGeek is not currently taking new clients. I have just put an email into Trumbull Mountain. Maybe they can guide me, though it doesn't seem they have much for consignment right now.

                                          I have yet to find a fitter who isn't brand biased, even though the one I chose claims she's not, she clearly is.
                                          “Working horses is a little like being married. Sometimes you need to adjust and change your plan.”