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Please help - SO frustrated with saddle shopping

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  • Please help - SO frustrated with saddle shopping

    Hi all,

    I'm posting to ask advice (and to vent, a little) about finding a saddle for my horse. We've been searching since August, with NO luck and have literately tried on more saddles than I can count. I'm beyond frustrated, mostly with myself. I'm graduating Vet school in 4 weeks, (small animal, not equine), so my budget is terrible. Without opening that can of worms, lets just say that average debt on graduation is 120,000 (and I'm sitting near there), and the starting salary in my neck of the woods will be 40,000, without benefits. Ouch. So, money matters more than I would like.

    About the horse: 16.2 HH OTTB. He has long, tall withers and a fairly broad back. His shoulders are fairly average - certainly not narrow, but not wide either. Normal back length.

    Saddle fit is extremely important in this guy - he gets really back sore with inappropriate fits, and seems to be fine with something that works. We've been getting by in my friend's Butet for the moment, but it doesn't have enough withers clearance (1.5 fingers without a rider).

    In Beval/Butet - he's a narrow tree as far as his shoulders go, but we can't get enough clearance on those GIANT withers. In a County, we suspect he'd be a 2.

    I'm looking for something close contact and could care less about brand - we don't really show anymore so it doesn't even need to be pretty, I just want something that will be comfortable for both of us. I'm 5'8" with normal leg length, 13.5" flaps have fit me fine, 16.5-17" seat. I'm an average rider, nothing fancy. Do want knee rolls.

    So, looking for recommendations:
    1) Is anyone out there selling something that may work?
    2) Other brands I should look at? (keep in mind, my pathetic price point = $1000 or less.... I'm looking for suggestions for brands that maybe I wouldn't have thought of, but that will get me by)

    Thanks for listening and I appreciate any suggestions you can offer! I wish I had a picture of him, but in going through what I've got - there's nothing that will help you get an idea of his fit. I'll try to take some at the barn tonight.

  • #2
    Have you put an Amerigo on him? They build some saddles for that kind of back.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat

    Comment


    • #3
      I have a friend that has a horse with a very long wither, and he's I would say average build, maybe a little on the narrow side. Friend first got a Stubben in a narrow tree that did not fit AT ALL. Horsie has saintly qualities and put up with it. She then moved to a Bates, which IME (our barn went through a Bates phase when nearly everyone had them) has HORRIBLE balance. Our barn has largely now switched to the likes of Amerigo, Antares and CWD. For that particular horse, she got an Amerigo Vega in a -1 tree that fit him great!

      I have an Amerigo Vega as well. Love the ride in it on my previous horse, but it no longer fits my current horse (who is also super picky about saddle fit and gets back sore easily). Fitter said that it fit him about 90% but that just wasn't enough for him. I just bought a CWD recently for him. The change is his movement and forwardness was amazing! Even the CWD rep noted that the saddle that should have fit him best was not the one he went best in. If you can find a way to stretch your budget a bit, I'm sure you could find a used Amerigo or the like for your guy.

      Where are you located? Are you working with a saddle fitter? If so what saddles have you tried so far? I would suggest my Amerigo Vega, but it's been widened to a wide tree from a medium in an effort to fit my big moose.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by karen View Post
        In Beval/Butet - he's a narrow tree as far as his shoulders go, but we can't get enough clearance on those GIANT withers. In a County, we suspect he'd be a 2.
        When I hear "He's so narrow and we can't clear the withers," I'm usually talking to someone who has (understandably) become hyper-obsessed with finding a saddle that's "narrow enough." And that's an important part of the equation, one that you deserve to obsess over, but not at the expense of the other part of the equation: a saddle with the right panel shape to lift the saddle up and off that wither. Chances are, you're having trouble clearing the wither for one of three reasons:
        --an usually long wither, meaning one that extends further down the back than it does on most horses,
        --dips behind the shoulder on each side of the wither, which is very common on Thoroughbreds, and/or
        --significant compensation between wither and topline, meaning the saddle needs to have a fairly thick panel overall to lift the whole saddle up to the level of the wither.

        In all of these cases, it's useful to tackle the problem with the appropriate panel shape. Your homework reading on such specialty panels is below, but do keep in mind that a) I haven't seen your horse so I'm just making a reasonable guess based on having seen dozens of other shoppers drive themselves nuts in exactly this situation, and b) there are plenty of other brands besides Black Country that have such specialty panel features, and there are even some corrective padding options that can simulate this effect. It CAN be done on a sub-$1000 budget, and don't let the $4000 saddle-owning folks of the world tell you otherwise.
        http://saddlefitter.blogspot.com/200...g-options.html

        I'm 5'8" with normal leg length, 13.5" flaps have fit me fine, 16.5-17" seat. I'm an average rider, nothing fancy. Do want knee rolls.
        Consider that the average rider of 5'8"--and admittedly there is no such thing-- rides in a 17.5" saddle. Thus, the fact that you list 16.5" makes me wonder if--like many American riders who grew up riding hunter/jumpers--you may have become accustomed to riding in a saddle that's too small for your body.

        Now granted, if a 13.5" flap fits you, you may have relatively short legs for your 5'8" height. And realistically speaking, seat size is relative to many factors besides height--weight, thigh length, lower leg length, the shape and size of one's behind, and many other factors go into the equation. But again, 16.5" and 5'8" would be an exceptionally rate combination, even if you were short-legged, stick thin for your height, and riding in the saddle world's most open/flat seat. Such a rider would still probably need a 17" with an unusually forward flap.

        Why am I pressing this point? Because you might find some saddle that's perfect for your horse, only to reject it because you "feel that it puts you in a chair seat" or "you just can't get up and out of it over fences" or "you are constantly jumping ahead" or "it just doesn't feel good." And perhaps the saddle really and truly doesn't fit. Or, more likely, you have grown used to riding in saddles that are too small for you, and you didn't think to try the saddle in 1/2" or 1" bigger. I've walked through that process with many folks, and they are inevitably disoriented during the first 10 or 15 minutes in the bigger seat size. Then they get used to it and a big smile breaks out on their face as they realize how well they can stay with their horse.

        You already know that if it's taken you nearly 8 months to (not) find a saddle, you're doin' it wrong. Consider that this could be one of several factors that's holding you back.

        2) Other brands I should look at? (keep in mind, my pathetic price point = $1000 or less.... I'm looking for suggestions for brands that maybe I wouldn't have thought of, but that will get me by)
        Impossible to say without seeing the horse (and preferably you too), but rest assured that there is plenty of decent tack out there at the sub-$1000 price point. That's especially true if you're willing to consider older tack, synthetic tack, and less trendy brands that still make very solid products for the price. Kudos to you for breaking out the pictures; there's really no way to recommend particular products without seeing the horse in question (and, in a perfect world, the rider's body on or off the horse).

        I feel for you. You are exactly the sort of person I have in mind for my new online consulting business, although I suppose you can't call it a business if you don't make any money (the consulting fee is 100% donated to an equine non-profit organization.) Unlike most traditional saddle fitters, I'm familiar with about 90% of the English saddle brands on the market and I know the used market much better than most fitters. So with the right pictures and measurements, I can usually point people in more productive directions than they've been pointing themselves. It's advice I used to give out for free here on COTH, but I had to institute a fee after my PM box turned into a tsunami of subject lines like "Please help me!"

        Alas, I am not yet up and running, and won't be for about 10 to 14 more days. Sorry.
        Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/

        Comment


        • #5
          Of course J4J is right on. I was going to suggest BC too because their trap panel might be just the ticket. Depends what your horse's back looks like. But they have a LOT of options and will build to measurements.
          ~Veronica
          "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"
          http://photobucket.com/albums/y192/vxf111/

          Comment


          • #6
            I had success with an Amerigo Vega with a similar scenario. They can be found used and mine was as comfortable as my Antares. Wish I hadn't sold it. Years ago you could test ride one from Dover. Congratulations on your impending graduation!

            Comment


            • #7
              I think $1000 is plenty to spend on a saddle, actually. And I agree that looking for the right panel configuration is probably going to help a LOT.

              Another option to consider if you cannot find the perfect balance of panel/wither clearance and narrowness.... is maybe an Ogilvy pad. My horse has a super sensitive back and has had a couple of custom saddles. They fit very well, but every once in a while I'd still see signs of a pressure point, particularly in hard work, while showing and so forth.

              My trainer gifted me with an Ogilvy pad and frankly the difference has been astonishing. I would never have believed a pad could make such a huge difference, but frankly my horse is noticeably more comfortable with the pad, the pressure point issues have *completely* disappeared, and he is happy as a clam, so I am now a believer.

              This is the one that I use - it has a raised wither design. Perhaps it would be useful for your horse as well: https://www.ogilvyequestrian.com/details.php?id=18
              **********
              We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
              -PaulaEdwina

              Comment


              • #8
                I have a big, rangy TB with big, long withers and HUGE shoulders - he actually needs a Med to a Med/wide tree, but his withers are ridiculous so we went through about 15 saddles last summer. I am also a vet student and I 100% empathize!! One of the SmartPak store reps came out with like 10 saddles at once and none of them worked. I used a local saddle fitter who didn't have anything that worked on him. It was NOT FUN!

                I ended up doing the full wither tracings and photos and sent them to Trumbull Mt Tack, and they had a couple saddles that we tried. It was about 10000 times easier and faster than trying endless random saddles, and I was incredibly happy with them. I was able to take both saddles I was interested in on trial at once - both were Black Country saddles and both fit reasonably well, and I picked the one that thankfully fit us both the best. You will probably need something that has a wider tree than you are expecting, but has wither gussets at least to properly bear the weight of the rider and clear the withers. Black Country has a lot of REALLY nice options and Trumbull can often modify them. They're not cheap (buy used!) but it is so worth it. (http://www.trumbullmtn.com/)

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Thanks all

                  Originally posted by jn4jenny View Post
                  --an usually long wither, meaning one that extends further down the back than it does on most horses,
                  --dips behind the shoulder on each side of the wither, which is very common on Thoroughbreds, and/or
                  --significant compensation between wither and topline, meaning the saddle needs to have a fairly thick panel overall to lift the whole saddle up to the level of the wither.
                  All of THIS. No pictures, because just to proove my point, I went out last night to visit and his back is hollowed and spasming - yet another couple hundred bucks to the chiropracter. Sigh. I just feel so awful for him, and want to find something that will make him comfortable. Who knows if this sudden onset pain is related to a recent ride, or if he did something stupid in the pasture - as he's known to do - but I hate that I am certainly at least part of the problem.

                  I'll definitely look into Amerigo and Black Country. There's FINALLY an official fitter coming out at the end of April, so I'm trying to jump in on that appointment. I'm heading out again today, so I"ll post pictures tonight hopefully.

                  Thank you everyone! I was terrified I'd log on here and be told, "nope, not possible. you wont find something in your budget for your horse, you foolish woman." So, thank you for understanding my dilemma and trying to help!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Many people with TB's tend to want to go too narrow to clear the withers which then compromises the horse's ability to bend and move freely. Ideally, a saddle that is determined by tracings and then with panels with appropriate TB panel options would be best. Some to look for would be wither gussets, K panel and or a trapezius panel. The give support in the area that hollows or dips and balances the saddle.
                    Although BC does make wonderful saddles with these options, Trumbull has some others on consignment that could also possibly work. We also carry the THorowgood Hi-wither which has a supportive panel, wool flocked, changeable gullet, etc at a price closer to what you mentioned.
                    Jay McGarry
                    saddle fitter
                    www.trumbullmtn.com
                    800-442-9672

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by karen View Post

                      I'll definitely look into Amerigo and Black Country. There's FINALLY an official fitter coming out at the end of April, so I'm trying to jump in on that appointment. I'm heading out again today, so I"ll post pictures tonight hopefully.

                      Thank you everyone! I was terrified I'd log on here and be told, "nope, not possible. you wont find something in your budget for your horse, you foolish woman." So, thank you for understanding my dilemma and trying to help!
                      You can start your learning process by doing your own conformation photos & back tracings & sending them out to various saddle shops that offer online fitting (many offer a free service, others charge $50 - $100; stay with the free while you're getting sorted). Create nice bold markings on your horse, add his saddle & then lunge him WTC (especially with extended & collected gaits) & even over fences (if he's good on the lunge!) & watch what happens with your saddle.
                      Then if you can find a body to fill the saddle, even better

                      With many companies, you can have a free saddle demo with their rep (availability completely depends on your area), so do as many of these as you can while sorting out what you & your horse like in saddles.

                      If you can, trailer into tack shops with lots of saddles, then take home the best fits to try, arrange for video if possible (it really helps).

                      Contact this saddle fitter & ask what they have that is likely to fit you AND your horse, ask if they have shimmable pads that you can ride with, what does this fitter do in a typical fit session ... how many potential saddles does fitter actually have in your budget!

                      Be cautious with shipping in saddles as you can end up paying out $$-$$$$ in fees (always ship with insurance & require signature upon delivery).

                      If either you or your horse are particular, don't buy any saddle without at least a couple weeks to test ride.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I would try a Frank Baines Reflex--see if you can find a demo or a used one. They build saddles for this type of horse. I have been very happy with mine.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I'm no help, I just had to observe...I read the title as "Significant Other (SO) frustrated with saddle shopping" and thought, oh man, I've been there! But I see that is not the case..whoops!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I understand your dilemma .... For years I tried every saddle off the rack made to man and NOTHING fit my horses.

                            My advice is - Creative pad what saddle you have, save up your money and get a custom (CWD, Antares, Devocoux, Tad Coffin or County)
                            Live in the sunshine.
                            Swim in the sea.
                            Drink the wild air.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I would imagine that you would need something that has wither gussets to help with wither clearance.

                              Just out of curiosity, but have you tried a Collegiate Diploma? That's wool flocked, and you can find used in the 600-800 range.

                              other then that a used Black Country, Frank Baines, Smith Worthington (their Mystic line is in the $1300 range). Maybe Kent and Masters? Those new and are semi custom and are $1500 so I'd imagine you could find one used well within your range.

                              One other thing to look at is what you are spending in chiropractic care....if you can swing the additional cash to get something custom made, it might save you money in the long run since you won't be spending the money to "fix" the back.

                              I just spent 3 years doing the saddle hunt, with a budget only a bit more then you. My mare was a somewhat challenging fit, I was more so. I actually have a BC Ricochet coming that will hopefully solve both our problems (arrives first week in May). My mare also is rather sensitive and easily gets back sore, and then internalizes her discomfort and ends up with ulcers....I decided to go ahead and "spring" for the extra money because otherwise I was just playing the saddle game. And to be honest...I probably could afforded a new saddle sooner if I hadn't of spent so much time with various pads trying to make do.

                              See if you can test ride a diploma....they are a great little saddle in their price point and you can get it flocked to make it fit better if its close. My mare did quite nicely in hers for about 2 years then it was sliding onto her shoulder...plus was too small for me so it wasn't worth trying to make it work.

                              Doublesstable: I would say no for the Tad coffin personally. That's the saddle I've had for teh last year. Its actually a great fit for me, and was a so so fit for my mare, but I was able to make due. However, I've spent four months now trying to make it work and I can't keep it off my mares withers (and she's "normal" as far as withers go)

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Jumper_girl221 View Post
                                Doublesstable: I would say no for the Tad coffin personally. That's the saddle I've had for teh last year. Its actually a great fit for me, and was a so so fit for my mare, but I was able to make due. However, I've spent four months now trying to make it work and I can't keep it off my mares withers (and she's "normal" as far as withers go)
                                I have a few "king" withers -

                                https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f...type=3&theater

                                https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f...type=3&theater

                                And one that is built like a ball -

                                https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f...type=3&theater

                                And love the CWD....

                                I understand the issues with Tad Coffin but I have heard the newer ones are built very well and are nice for a high wither horse... she will just have to demo a few and see what works. But my thoughts are steering towards a high end type saddle may be the only option.

                                Also using one of those black thin rubber pads under the saddle pad really helps if the saddle slips.

                                Good luck
                                Live in the sunshine.
                                Swim in the sea.
                                Drink the wild air.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Pads

                                  Just wanted to add my similar experience. I had a high-withered OTTB with huge shoulders. My wide tree did not clear his withers so I padded up. After some time I started noticing large white spots on each side of his withers. The pad was causing too much pressure. I felt horrible.

                                  On both him and my other OTTB I had luck with a medium tree M Toullouse. They are relatively inexpensive (approx $600 used).

                                  After conversations with my local saddle fitter I have learned that there are companies out there that specialize on the high-withered, large shouldered TB. Not sure on the price though.

                                  Good luck - I understand your pain.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by doublesstable View Post
                                    I have a few "king" withers -

                                    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f...type=3&theater

                                    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f...type=3&theater

                                    And one that is built like a ball -

                                    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f...type=3&theater

                                    And love the CWD....

                                    I understand the issues with Tad Coffin but I have heard the newer ones are built very well and are nice for a high wither horse... she will just have to demo a few and see what works. But my thoughts are steering towards a high end type saddle may be the only option.

                                    Also using one of those black thin rubber pads under the saddle pad really helps if the saddle slips.

                                    Good luck
                                    I'm just saying that if she is on a budget, then there are some better options out there for that price range for her horse.

                                    Mine was an older Tad, but it was converted with the new smart tree in 2011. I did ask about getting new panels to see if it would help and he said no. Tad still thinks I'll be able to make it work....but I've now not been able to ride my horse since February and every pad combination suggested has just made things worse (with the chiro and robaxin bills to prove it). So I cut my losses and sold it, and ordered in the Ricochet. For her price point....I think there are better customs, and if she is able to stretch it up higher....there are better saddles out there that would work for her.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Jumper_girl221 View Post
                                      other then that a used Black Country, Frank Baines, Smith Worthington (their Mystic line is in the $1300 range). Maybe Kent and Masters? Those new and are semi custom and are $1500 so I'd imagine you could find one used well within your range.
                                      Regarding Smith-Worthington - give them a call. They found me something that had been demo'd, and had some stirrup leather rub marks, nice leather, nicely made saddle for right around $1000. (That includes it being flocked to fit my horse). Or if you find a used one, you can send it to them to have it fitted/adjusted for fairly cheap.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        There is a lesser known custom saddlery called Adam Ellis - my friend just had one made for about $2300 all and done for her hard-to-fit gelding. I've ridden it and it's just fabulous.

                                        Also for my dressage saddle, I was able to find a custom made saddle (Schleese) that fit me and could be fitted to my mare. The nice thing about Schleese is the trees are adjustable and they can be fitted. I'm currently ISO a jumping model Schleese so I can have it fitted to my new mare.

                                        Comment

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