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I caved. I'm getting a truly custom saddle - ***Update, it's here! (pix and story p2)

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  • I caved. I'm getting a truly custom saddle - ***Update, it's here! (pix and story p2)

    Background: two years ago I got a new Antares for my horse, and this winter his hurting back let us know he'd outgrown it. Now, I make quite a few financial sacrifices to support my riding habit, and so spending as much money as I did on that saddle only makes sense to me if it's truly something I can adapt and continue to use, with care, for 20 years. I love taking care of tack, and I'm keeping my horse for his lifetime. It seemed worth the investment. Sigh. So I was kind of sour to learn that my foam paneled, medium tree, buffalo calf french saddle wasn't particularly adjustable and I knew I wasn't going that route again.

    After a lot of headaches and experimentation and ordering on trial and shipping back (wides are always too wide, mediums are always too narrow, almost all are too banana shaped and leave a gap under the cantle), I had a saddler out to look at my horse to help guide me and tell me what he needs. The answer was that he's not a true wide, not a true medium, a bit broad in the shoulder and muscles on either side of his spine, so I'd have to keep ordering saddles that might fit through the tree, likely in a medium wide, and make sure they're wool flocked, and assuming the seat fits me, then he could repanel/refit etc to customize it for him.

    Well, the number of quality used saddles in a medium wide that I could find in my seat size (16.5 or 17) that were wool flocked were few and far between. Shipping saddles on trial back and forth was really adding up $$ wise. And, as much due to my lack of education about it all as the sheer odds against finding something meeting so many variables, the whole trial process was beginning to seem really hit and miss. As my vet is fond of saying, "It is easier to find a husband, than it is to find a saddle that truly fits both you AND your horse."

    I thought about buying something a little cheaper than a French saddle new, and then having the saddler fit it, but by the end of that routine it would be the same price as a custom. And all the while I'm either borrowing saddles that don't fit him perfectly or schooling bareback instead when said saddles are being used by their owners. (Btw, genuinely trying to practice and school bareback is a fun challenge at first, but after a few days in a row of trying to seriously ride sans saddle it gets quite fatiguing). Then inspiration struck (and lets be honest here, impatience and laziness struck too)....

    I ended up simply asking him to build one for me.

    His saddles are beautiful - and he's so passionate about saddle fit, from horse comfort to rider balance - and now that I've started the process I can't wait. It should be done in about three weeks. I wasn't going to go this route again after my outgrown Antares left such a sour taste in my mouth, but he uses a spring tree, with leather tips on the edges of the tree to make it more comfortable/allow more shoulder action, and he can always go in to modify the saddle to fit my horse should it be necessary- and because he's local, he's available to visit my horse, check the fit, and reflock the wool for me when necessary as well. It seems that THIS can truly be the saddle that, with the loving leather care I so love to provide, can truly last me and my horse for a lifetime.

    I meant to take photos along the way- on the first visit he measured my horse, on the next he brought out six trees to see what fits him best, selected a few, and then I went to sit in them in his shop so he could see which of those that worked for the pony would work the best for me, and discuss leather choices/customization options (all the way down to the hardware (silver, please) and stitching).

    Next week, I go to see the basic tree prepared and choose from some leather swatches he's ordered based on my preferences. I'm very excited, I'll take photos. It's Paul Selvey, owner of Superior Saddlery out of Broken Horn. He's originally from Walsall, England, home of tons of saddleries and his resume is full of prestigious names he's been trained by/worked for/and with...English, French, and German alike.

    Thought it might be fun to share the ongoing saga, I know it's fascinating to me! Seeing 'saddle skeletons' as I put it, all around his shop was fascinating. I'll keep you guys posted!
    Last edited by KristieBee; Aug. 10, 2010, 04:10 PM.
    **************
    http://img.skitch.com/20100717-q91i7...u2ub8k6b15.jpg

  • #2
    Congrats on the saddle!!!! I think you will be very happy you decided to go this route. I have a very hard to fit horse, had two custom saddles for him (one jumping, one dressage). I KNOW the money spent in S&H trying saddles, couples years to find the jumping saddle, and about four years looking for a dressage saddle. But when I did find the right saddlers/saddles, it was worth the wait!!!!
    It is a fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."

    Comment


    • #3
      That sounds pretty good except for a couple of things.

      First, it's unlikely that a MW will fit a single horse over 20 years. He'll get old man thin at some point. Just so you know.

      Also, you may have a harder time reselling this particular custom saddle as opposed to a more widely marketed brand. That shouldn't bother you but it is something to consider. Keep reading.

      Whatever you do (with any saddle maker), make sure you understand what kind of fit they will and will not guarantee and what happens if you are unhappy with the saddle when all has been said, done and tried to make it right. Make sure those terms are specified in writing.

      One reason I didn't go with another very reputable custom company is that they would not guarantee the fit for rider, but wanted me to trust the rep. They could not produce a demo with the kind of flap we talked about, so I chickened out.

      Take whatever kind of risk makes you comfortable. But go in with both eyes open if part of the reason you are choosing the F-It Custom Now option is that you want someone else to take over saddle fitting duties...especially when fitter and sales person are one and the same.

      But not to diss the plan entirely! I wish you the best of luck and education money can buy.
      The armchair saddler
      Politically Pro-Cat

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        MVP, great point about getting a guaranteed fit in writing.

        The tree is a spring tree and per Paul, can be modified wider or narrower to a certain extent, and therefore should hopefully work for him and potentially whatever horse would come after.

        I get pretty attached to tack I love so like with the horse himself, resale isn't much of a priority. Thanks for the caveats though... Will definitely have the convo about guaranteed fit.
        **************
        http://img.skitch.com/20100717-q91i7...u2ub8k6b15.jpg

        Comment


        • #5
          Congrats-I bet you love it. I love my custom built saddle.

          I have no doubt that both you and your horse will love the saddle. If it's really delivered in three weeks-miracle!!

          Comment


          • #6
            So, how'd it turn out?

            Paul came out to my barn the other day for a dressage client, but I'm interested in seeing what he can do for me - I've got a Devocoux (bought used) that doesn't quite fit my horse any more, and I can't get the padding right (he's getting rubs on the side of the withers from the pad). So, grrr.

            Per usual, I spent too much on the Devocoux, so if I could just get something made that would work with it, I'd go that way... But I'll admit - the idea of having something that could be re-flocked, that was actually made for us, is tempting.

            The dressage folks all love him, but I haven't seen his jumping saddles - what do you think?

            Comment


            • #7
              Paw,

              Have you considered Black country? They build the saddle for your hose, per his measurements.

              I ordered one (Quantum, in vintage oxblood with calf seat and knee) and it's due to ship out of England on the 22nd.

              Spring tree, wool flocked and they have quite a few leather/color options.

              I as the op, was sick of trying saddles that may not fit my horse. So I gave up and went custom.

              They are extemely reasonably priced, I am getting mine through a rep/saddle fitter and it was $2650 with shipping, tax and everything included.

              Comment


              • #8
                that sounds awesome! Paul is a wonderful guy and so nice to work with. I needed the knee flaps on my delgrange repaired and Delgrange sent me to him. He did an absolutely wonderful repair job and for a very reasonable price too!

                Comment


                • #9
                  I was under the impression that Anatres could make adjustments to the panels, or even replace them, if necessary to refit. It's one of the reasons I bought such a big ticket item. I don't plan on selling my horse either - so it is *his* forever saddle. I hope.
                  “Your appearance should reflect the care you take in every aspect of your horsemanship... feeding, grooming... everything you do, from the barn to the show ring. Class, people, class…" George Morris

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by kgro632 View Post
                    Paw,

                    Have you considered Black country? They build the saddle for your hose, per his measurements.

                    I ordered one (Quantum, in vintage oxblood with calf seat and knee) and it's due to ship out of England on the 22nd.

                    Spring tree, wool flocked and they have quite a few leather/color options.

                    I as the op, was sick of trying saddles that may not fit my horse. So I gave up and went custom.

                    They are extemely reasonably priced, I am getting mine through a rep/saddle fitter and it was $2650 with shipping, tax and everything included.
                    Don't know them - I _have_ met Paul. He's struck me as someone who really knows his craft, at least for dressage saddles. The idea of a saddle maker (not just a rep) who will actually come to me and lay hands on my horse is compelling - money is not the final determinant here.

                    OTOH, I'd rather not invest the (substanial) investment I've already made, so if I could get something to make my current saddle fit the horse, I'd be happier.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by TrueGrit View Post
                      I was under the impression that Anatres could make adjustments to the panels, or even replace them, if necessary to refit. It's one of the reasons I bought such a big ticket item. I don't plan on selling my horse either - so it is *his* forever saddle. I hope.
                      Foam panels can be adjusted to a degree, or replaced, however, it is not the same as having a saddle maker design and build a saddle that is completely custom for one particular horse. And that doesn't mean that any foam paneled saddle can be reworked to fit any horse, or even a horse whose body has changed substantially, sometimes it can be done, but not all of the time and a new saddle may be required. A well maintained high end saddle like Antares will hold its value though, so you could expect to sell it for a nice amount of money and put it towards a new one if that should become necessary at some point in time.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        thanks, BAC, this was my understanding as well. Therefore it puzzled me that as stated in the opening paragraph of the OP's original post, when her Antares didn't fit her horse correctly after only two years, that she decided to buy another saddle instead of trying to have it adjusted. Especially when lamenting the expense of her lovely Antares, and now incurring futher expense of a new full custom saddle made by a local saddler.

                        I don't think a lot of people realize that high-end French foam saddles CAN be adjusted to some extent, especially when it concerns the same horse and rider in a relatively short period of time - but by the manufacturer, not your local tack shop. *They'd* rather just sell you another saddle. My Antares was made specifically for my horse ( and myself ), and I expect to have it, and functioning, for as long as my horse and I are together. And it did come with a Guaranteed Fit, in writing.

                        Good luck to the OP with her saddle dilemma.
                        “Your appearance should reflect the care you take in every aspect of your horsemanship... feeding, grooming... everything you do, from the barn to the show ring. Class, people, class…" George Morris

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TrueGrit View Post
                          I don't think a lot of people realize that high-end French foam saddles CAN be adjusted to some extent, especially when it concerns the same horse and rider in a relatively short period of time - but by the manufacturer, not your local tack shop.
                          A lot of people also don't realize that the high end French foam saddles can be ordered with wool flocking, at least CWD offers that option, I believe Antares does also. And they can all be switched from foam to wool too, although I personally prefer foam.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            County Saddles have the wool, we have the rep out to the barn what seems like every 3-6 months(I could be wrong on the time line) checking all the horses and adjusting the saddles when necessary. Daughter has had her tree adjusted three times for different horses.

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              thanks everyone for the good wishes and inquiries.

                              i'm still waiting actually - the last time we spoke, he explained there was a delay with the leather arriving. That was two weeks ago. I'd be lying if i said I wasn't frustrated, I left a message with Paul today offering to choose different leather if the swatches I liked are this hard to find - waiting to hear back, and will keep you all posted.

                              as for my Antares, my horse has grown up to need more of a medium wide tree. whereas the tree in the lovely Antares was a medium. so it wasn't a panel issue (although through this process i have learned that my horse requires a flatter panel, not a banana shaped one - though that could have been fixed/replaced) it's a tree issue. Paul's trees, as he's explained it, are adjustable within a certain range. so while the tree on the Antares could not be modified after my then six year old matured into a very robust 8 year old, hopefully this saddle from Paul will be able to be modified to fit him as he grows and changes through his life.

                              That is, if it's ever finished! Ugh.
                              **************
                              http://img.skitch.com/20100717-q91i7...u2ub8k6b15.jpg

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Hunter/JumperMom View Post
                                County Saddles have the wool, we have the rep out to the barn what seems like every 3-6 months(I could be wrong on the time line) checking all the horses and adjusting the saddles when necessary. Daughter has had her tree adjusted three times for different horses.
                                That is the 2nd reason I don't have a county no longer----

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by KristieBee View Post
                                  thanks everyone for the good wishes and inquiries.

                                  i'm still waiting actually - the last time we spoke, he explained there was a delay with the leather arriving. That was two weeks ago. I'd be lying if i said I wasn't frustrated, I left a message with Paul today offering to choose different leather if the swatches I liked are this hard to find - waiting to hear back, and will keep you all posted.

                                  as for my Antares, my horse has grown up to need more of a medium wide tree. whereas the tree in the lovely Antares was a medium. so it wasn't a panel issue (although through this process i have learned that my horse requires a flatter panel, not a banana shaped one - though that could have been fixed/replaced) it's a tree issue. Paul's trees, as he's explained it, are adjustable within a certain range. so while the tree on the Antares could not be modified after my then six year old matured into a very robust 8 year old, hopefully this saddle from Paul will be able to be modified to fit him as he grows and changes through his life.

                                  That is, if it's ever finished! Ugh.
                                  You have my sympathies. I must say, I found saddle shopping much more frustrating than horse shopping! At least my guy is 10 years old, so he should be finished growing... You must have a typical late-blooming warmblood - my guy grew til 9 years of age. And I'm glad you were able to figure out the problem - the tree width - and didn't dive into a new saddle purchase unnecessarily. Good luck! I hope it's everything you want it to be - when it finally arrives. Waiting is especially annoying. I was marking the days on the calendar for mine...
                                  “Your appearance should reflect the care you take in every aspect of your horsemanship... feeding, grooming... everything you do, from the barn to the show ring. Class, people, class…" George Morris

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    true grit, you're right - late blooming warmblood. he's an oldenburg, and grew a half inch in the last year as well. he was sixteen two on the dot forever, and then bam, between 7 and 8 - sixteen two and a half.

                                    i think a lot of it was topline , too. he has *really* filled out.
                                    **************
                                    http://img.skitch.com/20100717-q91i7...u2ub8k6b15.jpg

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      so here's my update:

                                      the shipment of the leather i chose was apparently delayed, but it finally came in last week. i went down to his shop to check it out/approve it, and he's making the saddle this week. he estimated that it would be ready to bring out and try on my horse next week, on tuesday.

                                      i'm very excited to have it at last, and hopeful that it will fit us both. cross your fingers for me!

                                      xx


                                      btw, here's the beefy pony, three years ago at 7, and now.

                                      http://img.skitch.com/20100729-cneem...xpb4k3i6u9.jpg
                                      **************
                                      http://img.skitch.com/20100717-q91i7...u2ub8k6b15.jpg

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by KristieBee View Post
                                        so here's my update:

                                        the shipment of the leather i chose was apparently delayed, but it finally came in last week. i went down to his shop to check it out/approve it, and he's making the saddle this week. he estimated that it would be ready to bring out and try on my horse next week, on tuesday.

                                        i'm very excited to have it at last, and hopeful that it will fit us both. cross your fingers for me!

                                        xx


                                        btw, here's the beefy pony, three years ago at 7, and now.

                                        http://img.skitch.com/20100729-cneem...xpb4k3i6u9.jpg
                                        OH I have been waiting to hear from you! SO COOL. Let us know how it goes...... AND

                                        YOUR HORSE IS BEAUTIFUL!!!!! I LOVE them like that. You just want to squeeze them!
                                        Live in the sunshine.
                                        Swim in the sea.
                                        Drink the wild air.

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