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Saddle shopping... is it necessary to spend more? Opinions appreciated!

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  • Saddle shopping... is it necessary to spend more? Opinions appreciated!

    So everyone knows how it goes... buy a new horse, need a new saddle!

    My last saddle was purchesed about 10 years ago (in my late teens) and not only was it not a great fit for my new horse, but I didn't feel the balance was right for me anymore. I had a Crosby Centennial Internationale that I loved but the pommel was very low and it slid back behind the wither of my new horse and I found myself hunching my shoulders (which is already a slight bad habit for me). I was able to sell my saddle for a very fair price and I think I'd like to buy something new. However, I have a few questions:

    1. Is it better to invest more in a "big name" saddle (CWD/Butet/Antares etc) versus spending say 1.5k on something in the mid-range? Other than premium leather and high end quality what are the benefits?

    2. If I were to spend $1250-1750 on a NEW saddle what should I look at? I am 5'5" 120lbs with a very long thigh and need a forward rotation on the flap. I am about a 17" seat possibly 17.5" here and there depending on the flap length.

    Overall I am looking for something with a good balance that will help me keep my chest up, a more forward flap rotation, and obviously good quality. I ride 5 days a week, usually 2 horses/day, so having something of good quality that can fit a variety of horses would be helpful. Some saddles I have seen that were of interest to me were the HDR Rivella Signature with covered leather, Dover Circuit Premier Special, and M. Toulouse Laura B. I would love other suggestions if anyone has any experience with saddles in this price range. I would really like to stick with a NEW saddle though!

    If I decided to spend say 2-2.5k what would I look at?

  • #2
    The factors I consider in making a saddle decision are as follows:

    1.) Overall design and function vis a vis its purpose, fitting options, and the horse's back in general.
    i.e., "Does this saddle look like it would be a sneaker or a stiletto?"

    Under this category I want to see:
    -wool flocked panels
    -different tree widths available
    -different tree SHAPES available (high wither/regular/cob, or high head/low head, however the particular brand does it)
    -several panel options, such as K panels, trapezius panels, front and rear gussets, etc
    -I have a strong preference for saddles with flex trees and adjustable/changable gullets

    I automatically nix:
    foam panels
    only different tree widths but not different tree shapes
    no gussets available
    no different panel styles available

    2.) If the saddle is sold through a representative/fitter, what are the qualifications of that rep?
    Are they certified by an independent group, such as the Society of Master Saddlers?
    Or did they get a car and a brief training course in how to sell from one particular brand?

    Additionally, if the saddle is sold through a representative or fitter, what are the long term possibilities for that relationship? Will this individual check in regularly, maintain a template history of my horse's back as my horse develops and matures as a sport horse, does this individual have other types of saddles available if my horse's needs change, my needs change, or whatever else so that I can maintain a long term relationship with this one person? Do they have several differenty types of saddles available or will they have to shoe horn all of my current and future horses into one brand? To what extent will this individual be a part of my horse care program the way my vet and farrier is?

    3.) What are the customer service and return options if for some reason it doesn't work out?
    I WILL NOT accept a saddle that gets mailed to me in a box. The person who sold it to me can hand deliver it and verify the fit IN PERSON on my horse's back, or I will not do business with them, the end.
    Additionally, unless I am able to ride in MY EXACT ORDER CONFIGURATION before placing the order, I want it 100% returnable. If my test saddle was a 17.5 but they say they will order me an 18", I want it returnable.
    A saddle company that charges a restocking fee when the saddle doesn't work out can KMA.

    4.) I care very little about the "look" of the saddle and personally always order the cheaper leather if different options are available.


    I work with a saddle fitter who has sold me several different brands of saddles for several different horses and multiple disciplines. My one horse has been using her saddles since he was broke, we have a template history of his back throughout his working life.

    She is not only certified by but also teaches courses for the Society of Master Saddlers.

    I have purchased saddles that meet all of my many fitting options and overall design requirements, ranging in price from $1,800 to $2,500 new. Friends of mine have purchased $950 saddles from her, and she also sells $5k and up.

    My Kent and Masters was $1,800, and my Albions were roughly $2,500 a piece. You can also get Black Country in the $2,500 range.

    She is as important to my horses' programs as their vet and farrier. I want her expertise regularly checking in with my guys to make sure they have the best saddle fit helping them do their jobs.


    If you really want to spend $5,000, most of your options will be foam filled, with no different tree shapes available, no gussets available, no different panel fits available, no minor adjustments possible throughout the development of the horse (such as adjustable gullets or tweaing the panels without replacing them entirely), sold by representatives that have zero independent qualifications and are not set up to provide continuous service over the competitive career of the horse, and will mail you the saddle in a box and let you figure out for yourself whether it was built right. You will never see the rep again unless you buy a whole new saddle.
    The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
    Jinxyhttp://tiny.cc/PIC798&http://tiny.cc/jinx364
    Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
    The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by tua37516 View Post
      So everyone knows how it goes... buy a new horse, need a new saddle!

      My last saddle was purchesed about 10 years ago (in my late teens) and not only was it not a great fit for my new horse, but I didn't feel the balance was right for me anymore. I had a Crosby Centennial Internationale that I loved but the pommel was very low and it slid back behind the wither of my new horse and I found myself hunching my shoulders (which is already a slight bad habit for me). I was able to sell my saddle for a very fair price and I think I'd like to buy something new. However, I have a few questions:

      1. Is it better to invest more in a "big name" saddle (CWD/Butet/Antares etc) versus spending say 1.5k on something in the mid-range? Other than premium leather and high end quality what are the benefits?

      2. If I were to spend $1250-1750 on a NEW saddle what should I look at? I am 5'5" 120lbs with a very long thigh and need a forward rotation on the flap. I am about a 17" seat possibly 17.5" here and there depending on the flap length.

      Overall I am looking for something with a good balance that will help me keep my chest up, a more forward flap rotation, and obviously good quality. I ride 5 days a week, usually 2 horses/day, so having something of good quality that can fit a variety of horses would be helpful. Some saddles I have seen that were of interest to me were the HDR Rivella Signature with covered leather, Dover Circuit Premier Special, and M. Toulouse Laura B. I would love other suggestions if anyone has any experience with saddles in this price range. I would really like to stick with a NEW saddle though!

      If I decided to spend say 2-2.5k what would I look at?
      Of course it is your money to spend as you see fit, but I am curious why you really want a new saddle (instead of a higher end used one.)

      Now, my personal bias is always to buy used, for the following reasons:

      1. Every $$$$ custom made new saddle I've purchased over the last 5-10 years has been a huge disappointment and a hassle to return.

      2. The used-but-in-excellent-condition saddles that I've purchased are still my go-to saddles - partly because it is MUCH easier to assess fit and comfort in a saddle that is already broken in. (Do a search on here to see how frequently someone says, "oh, that will be fine when you break it in..." about something that just.doesn't.fit.quite.right on a new saddle.)

      3. I like the idea of getting the very best quality at a lower price than they retail for new, particularly after spending $5K plus on several new custom ones that didn't work out.

      That said, there are certainly plenty of nice saddles out there that don't carry massive price tags. I've ridden in some perfectly good Beval off the rack saddles over the years and liked them just fine. One of my friends has a Beval Salem that was lovely to ride in, for example. They are $1350 new and would be my first choice in that price range. Hadfields made a Butet knock off for a while (don't know if they still do) that also seemed pretty nice... I seem to recall they were priced around $2500? I noticed Premier Tack had one a while ago (slightly used) for $1500.

      I'm not familiar with the other saddles you mentioned but I am quite sure you can get something suitable in your budget. The most important things are obviously fit and balance for both horse and rider, not how fancy the leather might be.
      **********
      We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
      -PaulaEdwina

      Comment


      • #4
        What type of riding do you do? Hunters or Jumpers? I only ask as sometimes this will limit or open up more options for you.

        I agree with the above poster that when I was saddle shopping I made up a list of things important to me. I ride primarily in the Jumpers so I was looking something with a bit of a deeper side, various rolls, and a forward flap. But my #1 stipulation was wool flocked!!! This was really important because it can be flocked to fit various horses, I have two boys and both are very differently built so it needed to work with both the best it could.

        As for my brand, I favor Stubbens. This brand has a love/hate feeling with a lot of people you either love them or hate them. Recently they have really diversified their saddles to fit more markets. My first Stubben for my first horse was an Artus and my current saddle was a Roxanne (LOVE btw). They came out and brought all their saddles and I tried every one with my trainer watching and it appeared the best one that fit was the Roxanne for my high withered TB. The cost was over $2.5K but I got a customized gullet (wider than normal for my horses spine), knee and thigh rolls, and a higher end leather. (Plus EXCELLENT customer service). That was just my experience with that particular brand.

        But once you figure out your "wants" in the saddle it will narrow down what saddles are for you and at that point I would try them all and pick the one that is best suited for you AND your horse!

        Best of luck saddle shopping, while exciting at first...it soon become daunting...But in the end totally worth it!!!
        Calm & Collected, 13, OTTB
        Forrest Gump (Catasauqua) , 17, OTTB
        Little Bit Indian, 29, TB
        Owner of Spur of the Moment, Custom made spur straps! Find us on Facebook

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by cswoodlandfairy View Post
          What type of riding do you do? Hunters or Jumpers? I only ask as sometimes this will limit or open up more options for you.
          I ride primarily hunters/equitation however I don't do a ton of rated showing. I have a green 4yo (who may or may not be a resale project LOL) who is doing the local baby green divisions this year, however I tend to ride a *lot* of green horses at home then they move on to bigger and better things, so I don't think buying something custom to my horse is necessarily the way to go.

          Things I am looking for in a saddle:
          -A good balance to help me keep my shoulders tall and open
          -A forward rotation to the flaps/forward flap to accomodate my longer thigh
          -Something that can fit a variety of horses
          -Knee rolls/thigh blocks
          -I do like the reinforced leather flaps/covered leather but that is a wish list item and not a must have.

          Part of the reason I want to buy new and not used is because it would be easier to find and try saddles that might be in my price range rather than hunting for used saddles to try on consignment here and there.

          Comment


          • #6
            From my personal experience my answer would be YES.

            Saying that, if you get lucky and can find an off the rack saddle that fits your horse well, isn't hard as rock, slippery or puts you in a bad position then that would be my rule of exception.

            Regardless if you don't do a ton of rated shows, you AND your horse should be comfortable and in the correct position.
            Live in the sunshine.
            Swim in the sea.
            Drink the wild air.

            Comment


            • #7
              My own personal preference is to buy used because I think you can get higher quality workmanship for less. For $1.5k you can get a very nice used saddle and a pretty nice new one. I agree with much of what has been said above.

              Higher $$ does not always translate into a better balanced saddle for you, however. That's more a matter of personal preference. I bought an absolutely gorgeous Schleese jumping saddle -- probably the nicest leather I've ever seen and found that the balance on it was not right for me and my horse. I could flat in it fine; but it didn't work for me at all when jumping anything over 2'. That was a $4K saddle that I bought for $700 and sold for $1400. I presume the design worked for many people, just not for me. BTW, it was so new that it barely had marks from the leathers.

              I've ridden in enough saddles that I can generally tell by looking at them if the saddle is going to work for me. I have very long femurs and need set back stirrup bars and a forward cut flap. I like a very open seat, don't like blocks and don't want more than a hint of a knee roll. I prefer a wool flocked saddle.

              If you don't know what you want yet, the only way to tell is to ride in a lot of saddles. I probably rode in 20 saddles before I bought my last dressage saddle before I decided exactly what I wanted. Sometimes you can borrow them from friends or if you live close to a tack store with a good consignment selection (Rick's? Bucks County?) you can bring a few home with you to try.

              If you have a good fitter in your area you can also ask for recommendations. My own saddle fitter does not rep a particular brand and he's been very helpful at steering me toward saddles that will work for my horse. Luckily, of the two of us I'm the harder fit. My horse is relatively straight forward.

              I would not buy from eBay unless it's an amazingly good deal -- so you can sell it if it doesn't work out -- and you know exactly what you want. You also need to be careful about racking up shipping costs trying lots of used saddles but if you can drive to one and bring home the ones you like, that's idea.



              Originally posted by tua37516 View Post
              I ride primarily hunters/equitation however I don't do a ton of rated showing. I have a green 4yo (who may or may not be a resale project LOL) who is doing the local baby green divisions this year, however I tend to ride a *lot* of green horses at home then they move on to bigger and better things, so I don't think buying something custom to my horse is necessarily the way to go.

              Things I am looking for in a saddle:
              -A good balance to help me keep my shoulders tall and open
              -A forward rotation to the flaps/forward flap to accomodate my longer thigh
              -Something that can fit a variety of horses
              -Knee rolls/thigh blocks
              -I do like the reinforced leather flaps/covered leather but that is a wish list item and not a must have.

              Part of the reason I want to buy new and not used is because it would be easier to find and try saddles that might be in my price range rather than hunting for used saddles to try on consignment here and there.
              Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
              EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

              Comment


              • #8
                Buying quality products used is almost always better than buying a cheap new. However, there are some decent new products in the 1.7k range. I would personally look at the nicer Pessoas (I just sold one for 1.3k, bought 1.8k new a few years ago and sustained a lot of wear), used Prestige, used Bevals, and used PJ's which should all be close to your range. Used Countys will be harder to find in your range, but if you like that style, go for it, because it is good quality workmanship that will last. (I personally hate the feel of a County, so you may want to ride in one first. Many love them, but they are a different feel than most French brands.)
                Mendokuse

                Comment


                • #9
                  You couldn't go wrong with any of these!


                  http://eventingnation.com/sporthorse...e-amerigo.html
                  Don't let anyone tell you that your ideas or dreams are foolish. There is a millionaire walking around who invented the pool noodle.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    There are saddles available in all the price ranges you mentioned. I tend to recommend that people spend as much as they can without breaking the bank; good quality saddles tend to hold their value well and usually offer more in the way of fitting options than the less expensive brands. That said, it's rare that I see a horse that *needs* a $5000 saddle; most can be fit quite well by an off-the-rack or benchmade saddle in the $1200 - $3000 range.

                    I strongly recommend that people work with an experienced, reliable independent fitter, a fitter who reps several saddles, or a shop with a fitter who's experienced in long-distance work with templates and photos (Panther Run Saddlery and Equestrian Imports are two). I also REALLY strongly recommend trying the saddle before you commit to buying it.

                    If you don't know of any fitters in your area, you might try Judy Bromley (in the Buffalo NY area, may travel to you), Katie Gussenhoffen, Tara Miliziano-Crowley or Annette Gavin.
                    Kitt Hazelton
                    Saddle Fitter
                    www.pantherrunsaddlery.com
                    www.saddlefitter.blogspot.com

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by Kitt View Post
                      There are saddles available in all the price ranges you mentioned. I tend to recommend that people spend as much as they can without breaking the bank; good quality saddles tend to hold their value well and usually offer more in the way of fitting options than the less expensive brands. That said, it's rare that I see a horse that *needs* a $5000 saddle; most can be fit quite well by an off-the-rack or benchmade saddle in the $1200 - $3000 range.

                      I strongly recommend that people work with an experienced, reliable independent fitter, a fitter who reps several saddles, or a shop with a fitter who's experienced in long-distance work with templates and photos (Panther Run Saddlery and Equestrian Imports are two). I also REALLY strongly recommend trying the saddle before you commit to buying it.

                      If you don't know of any fitters in your area, you might try Judy Bromley (in the Buffalo NY area, may travel to you), Katie Gussenhoffen, Tara Miliziano-Crowley or Annette Gavin.
                      Thanks Kitt! Do you have any recommendations or contact information for any reps like this? That is my biggest concern... I don't want a brand specific rep. Is there anyone you might know of who works in the Southeast PA region?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Gary Severson might come out to you if he is seeing other barns in your area. He's based in Pennsylvania.

                        I've worked with him for 15 years. He does not sell saddles.
                        Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                        EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          You can find very nice new Stubbens and Smith-Worthington saddles in your price range. Most Smith-Worthingtons are higher-end, but they have the Mystic and Stellar Altair in your price range, and a true bargain in the Stoneleigh, available in their clearance section. These wool-flocked saddles are very well made, and the customer service has a great reputation. They will fit the saddle to your horse. These saddles are supposed to be especially great for long-legged riders.

                          In a Stubben, the Roxane and Edelweiss are in your range. Both are wool-flocked, well-made saddles.

                          IMO, these are better-quality choices than the ones you listed as possibilities.
                          I heard a neigh. Oh, such a brisk and melodious neigh as that was! My very heart leaped with delight at the sound. --Nathaniel Hawthorne

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Probably the fitter closest to your area would be Annette Gavin at Hastilow USA (info@hastilowusa.com). She's an SMS QSF and carries a number of brands. She also has access to nice used saddles as well. Highly recommend her!
                            Kitt Hazelton
                            Saddle Fitter
                            www.pantherrunsaddlery.com
                            www.saddlefitter.blogspot.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              @ $2500, the new Beval Artisan fits all your requirements. NICE saddle, with excellent workmanship and quality, sticky, supple leather. Wool flocked, and available in a variety of options.
                              Patience pays.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                My advice has always been to have a budget, look for whatever saddles fit into that budget - whether they are used or new saddles. I guess the main thing are you able to shop at a tack store or will have to do most by mail or saddle rep? Where I am am lucky to have a great tack shop which does saddle fittings which is great as you can sit in them in the store, and then take some to try on horse and ride in (new not so much). Quite frankly, I'd track down Yellowbritches on the forums as she just went thru a saddle purchase and might be able to give you some good imput...I know plenty of people who swear by their XX name saddle and I'm sure they are great but I've seen some pretty rough looking saddles for sale under those tents... but then I know some who've gotten incredible deals on used or demos.. Good luck and happy shopping.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Since you're in PA, Ricks has tons of saddles to try. I would go the used route. It's like a new car. Value drops as soon as you drive it off the lot. Used saddles hold their value better.

                                  Since you're not doing many rates shows, I don't see the need to buy the higher end French saddles. To each their own, and it's not my money, but you can get the job done in a "cheaper" saddle, no question.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Kitt View Post
                                    Probably the fitter closest to your area would be Annette Gavin at Hastilow USA (info@hastilowusa.com). She's an SMS QSF and carries a number of brands. She also has access to nice used saddles as well. Highly recommend her!
                                    I highly recommend Annette as well. She came all the way to Virginia for me, spent hours with me and my horse and answered a million questions, and is coming back for the next go round in a couple weeks.
                                    "Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?" Sun Tzu, The Art of War
                                    Rainy
                                    Stash

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I recently bought a brand new Colbert Brothers saddle for $1200, It is fantastic quality leather and construction. Colbert Brothers Saddlery is based in Argentina. Before having the opportunity to buy this saddle, I had always coveted Devocouxs but I didn't want to have to save for 5 years to buy a new saddle! I am 5'3" 130 lbs and have a 17 inch saddle. They are not a huge company so they don't offer a lot of customization yet, but they have great products and I would not hesitate to buy another saddle from them in the future in stead of a popular brand that costs 4 times as much! They have a website http://www.colbertbrothers.net but it's in Spanish, my browser automatically translated it to English but some of the descriptions sound a little interesting.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I never heard of Colbert Brothers saddles before. The pictures are nice-looking, though. Glad you are enjoying yours. It's nice to hear about more reasonably-priced options.
                                        I heard a neigh. Oh, such a brisk and melodious neigh as that was! My very heart leaped with delight at the sound. --Nathaniel Hawthorne

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