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Recommend a starting point for saddle shopping? Any hints or tips?

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  • Recommend a starting point for saddle shopping? Any hints or tips?

    Hi there, I'm hoping to use the breadth of knowledge here to help me focus my saddle shopping experience. As others have noted, saddle shopping is torturous. I know that we'll need to just ride in a bunch, but maybe you all can help us find a starting point. I'm looking for an all-purpose, close contact, or eventing saddle that will fit us both. Since we just hack in between the hard work of Being a Horse, style is not critically important.

    For starters, here we are: http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphoto...35988168_n.jpg

    For her:
    Some saddles that gave her good wither clearance pinched her shoulders in motion. She is, like many Thoroughbreds, narrow up near her spine and withers, but not particularly narrow anywhere else.

    For me:
    A lot of my body is...hips. My legs are not terribly long, and I hold tension in my lower back, so my default position is hollow back with legs out in front. I have found that saddles with the stirrup bars further back will help. Stubbens put me in a chair seat that no amount of fighting will get me out of. I am also trying to avoid feeling tipped onto my crotch. Hopefully there are others out there built like me who can comment on saddles they've found that work for them (hence the photo).

    Any advice?
    Disclaimer: My mom told me that people might look at my name and think I had an addiction other than horses. I don't; his name was Bravado.

  • #2
    More saddle makers should have extended stirrup bars. We've just finally come to this point in saddle shopping.

    A tip for fitting your horse, fit her shoulders and use a wither riser in front, pommel pads, etc. cut back pommel heads are helpful also. I had an all purpose Kieffer that was wonderful on TBs. It had a flap that I could do dressage and hunt in it! One of those saddles I should have kept forever.
    The cue card kid just held up an empty cue card. For a minute there I thought I had lost my sense of humor. --- Red Skelton


    • #3
      I have had good luck with the old style Wintec Pro Jump or the Bates Caprilli fitting TB shapes.

      I've used my Wintec on three TBs and a friend has the Bates equivalent for her's. Some people don't like CAIR but I've never had a problem with it.

      Truth be told, my TB likes the Wintec much better than my "better" saddles, most of which were wickedly expensive.

      I have very long femurs and the saddle puts me in a decent position. It works very well for people without freakishly long thighs.

      If you don't mind synthetic, you can pick up the old style Wintec Pro Jumps for under $500. The Bates I've seen fro $800-$900 used.
      Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
      EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


      • #4
        I always recommend the Northrun Ashland I or II. Your beast seems fairly wither-y, so maybe the Ashland I would be better as it has a cutback head.

        Super well balanced saddle, pretty no frills so it doesn't lock or push you into any particular kind of position (mine only had a padded knee flap, no rolls anywhere). Also very affordable; new can be found for less than $2K I believe. I used mine on multiple TB's, and it fit all of them decently enough as it does have a MN tree, but then is also not particularly curvy through the tree, front to back or side to side (definitely not like the banana shaped trees you find in most French saddles)

        What is your budget and what saddles, other than Stubbens have you tried? If you have a decent budget I would look into Black Country for sure as they could probably accomodate the stirrup bar issue.


        • Original Poster

          Thank you, folks

          Kieffers - I find these, um, punishing.

          Thanks for the thoughts on Bates and Wintecs. I don't have a lot of experience with Bates. I rode in a Wintec before that was talkative. I currently ride her in a Thorowgood AP, which is very comfortable and has many wonderful qualities. She's just been politely asking for something else.

          I used to ride her in a friend's M Toulouse, which was fine and my horse seemed comfortable in. While I really like that you can get a Toulouse that is wool-flocked AND has a highly adjustable tree, they don't seem to hold up so well. They seem overpriced. Furthermore, the seams on the Toulouse's waist hit me right in the butt bones.

          I rode her once recently in a Crosby that we both liked alright: http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphoto...82008147_n.jpg Though I sure did slip around all over the place after riding in my synthetic velcro-seated thing for a couple years When I tacked her up, I recall thinking that the panel didn't seem to make complete contact with her back.

          And we also tried a friend's Pessoa that didn't clear her withers, period, but I imagine that that's a tree width problem. It was nice for me, though!

          Wouldn't a banana-shaped tree be helpful for her back shape?

          I'm looking for a used saddle at this point, and I haven't decided on a budget, so I'm open to anything. I make decisions like these really slowly.
          Disclaimer: My mom told me that people might look at my name and think I had an addiction other than horses. I don't; his name was Bravado.


          • #6
            Originally posted by BravAddict View Post
            I hold tension in my lower back ... I am also trying to avoid feeling tipped onto my crotch.
            These 2 things are related, and saddle fit may or may not play a role. You need to think of keeping your lower back flat (not as concave) and also engaging your core. You may need to scootch your butt further under you. I realize you are not asking for position advice; I say this only because you may be discounting saddles that could work with a little more focus on rider position instead. Best of luck in your search.
            "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." - The Little Prince


            • Original Poster

              I'm sure that you're right. I hope that the information I gave will help people go "Hey, I have that problem too, and I think that saddle X is great!"
              Disclaimer: My mom told me that people might look at my name and think I had an addiction other than horses. I don't; his name was Bravado.


              • #8
                If the Stubbens don't work for you, I would look at Albion, County or Smith Worthington. I don't know what your budget is, but all of these appear from time to time at reasonable prices used. Of course, the best prices are often on eBay, but then you can't return them, like this County:


                A Crosby might work, but if you look at the older saddles, just watch the gullet width. On the oldest saddles, the gullet often narrows tremendously toward the cantle.

                I recently bought a Smith Worthington Mystic saddle, and I love it! The Mystic line is made in Argentina, but under their strict supervision; I spent a lot of time discussing that with the Smith Worthington staff at Equine Affair. The leather quality is good. Not the cushy soft french style leather, but I wanted something sturdy that will last and hold up to trail riding. They're also wool flocked and therefore can be adjusted to fit your horse properly. If you work with them on tracings, etc., they can send you saddles to try.


                • #9
                  A banana shaped tree versus a flatter tree really depends...just because your horse has a wither doesn't mean it would be appropriate for the rest of their back. I would try getting in touch of Trumbull Mountain, and send them tracings of your girl (if you don't have a saddle fitter near you). They can recommend/send you trial saddles to see what works for you.


                  • #10
                    Personally, I'd get a saddle fitters help. It's so much easier on one's brain
                    Pam's Pony Place

                    Pam's Pony Ponderings


                    • #11
                      Ditto Desert Topaz..... you could make yourself drooling-nuts trying saddle after saddle. Find an independent, well-experience saddle fitter and have them come out. It's worth the investment of their time & expertise. I finally listened to COTHers wisdom in this department and promptly smacked myself in the head and said "Dummy, why didn't you do this sooner?!"

                      Happy saddle shopping!
                      <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


                      • #12
                        I tried a Thornhill Germania that I thought was nice. Had wither gussets and a "trapezius-like" panel like County and some of the higher end saddles. It "almost" fit my narrow tb; it could work very well on a tb just a bit wider. And it was only around $1300 new.


                        • #13
                          Some Pessoa saddles are now available with Alto panels... built wider/thicker in front to accomodate the horse with higher withers/lower back. The rear of the panels are also thicker to allow the seat to balance.

                          My TB gelding is built very similarly to your pretty mare and he's very comfortable in the A/O AMS. This saddle is also available in a variety of flap lengths/forwardness. And features the XCHange gullets (narrow - extra wide).
                          Patience pays.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Hinderella View Post
                            I recently bought a Smith Worthington Mystic saddle, and I love it! The Mystic line is made in Argentina, but under their strict supervision; I spent a lot of time discussing that with the Smith Worthington staff at Equine Affair. The leather quality is good. Not the cushy soft french style leather, but I wanted something sturdy that will last and hold up to trail riding. They're also wool flocked and therefore can be adjusted to fit your horse properly. If you work with them on tracings, etc., they can send you saddles to try.
                            I second the Smith Worthington Mystic suggestion or any of the SW saddles on their website that might pique your interest. I am SO pleased with my Mystic MS saddle and so is my picky horse. Their customer service is stellar and their demo trialing policy is so freaking awesome! Give them a call and see what they would suggest.
                            Lost in the Land of the Know It Alls


                            • #15
                              My TB has a high, narrow wither, a pretty decent dip just behind the wither (pic of your guy could have been my horse). My guy also has wide shoulders and an extremely broad chest. Like you, I am very long from hip to knee. (My inseam is 30", but if I measure on the outside of my leg, from hip bone to side of knee I measure 18".)

                              There were 2 saddles that fit us. One was a Hermes Steinkraus (not in the budget). The other was a Beval LTD. Beval is a common enough brand, I wonder if you could find someone who has one to try on your guy.

                              When I switched to dressage, the only saddle that fit was an old (circa 1986) County Competitor. The newer models didn't fit my guy's back.

                              Good luck - I know how frustrating it is!


                              • #16
                                OP, I don't know your budget, but if you want to take a chance on an Hermes Steinkraus, here's a good price on one on eBay:


                                There's also a brand new Courbette Aristokrat on there with wool flocked panels and a very forward flap.


                                • #17
                                  I have a new Delgrange Virtuose for my TB, and he and I love it. It's 4 inches dot to dot, while many other saddles are 4.5 inches. So it gives great wither clearance. Plus my leg falls in just the right line and almost never moves at the trot. It's a beautifully made saddle with lovely leather.
                                  What I found really helpful was to go to a big A show and sit in various brands, including Antares, Devoucoux and CWD.


                                  • #18
                                    My boy has the long sloping TB shoulder with dips behind and a high wither and yes, my saddle technically fits, until he starts trotting. Based on the thread that I just posted and past threads that I have read, I am trying a Black Country saddle with wither gussets and a K panel. I should be receiving it this Friday, so I'll post again with an update. Yes, it is much more than I wanted to spend, but if it works for him and me, then I'll be glad that I didn't have to "go custom" and spend even more.

                                    I had been scanning Ebay on a daily basis hoping to find something that might work, but I was getting stressed trying to figure out if a particular saddle was made in a configuration that would work for my horse. Its very frustrating when you just don't know enough about a particular brand or model and in a lot of cases, the person listing the saddle doesn't even list of it is foam or wool flocked.

                                    Good luck to the OP in her saddle search. I feel your pain!


                                    • #19
                                      After a full year and about $600 in shipping fees I bit the bullet and got a saddle fitter. I now have a lovely Black Country saddle that fits both me and my horse perfectly.....and is SO comfortable. They are custom so you can have one made that will suit you both.


                                      • #20
                                        Saddle fitter. An independent one, not one associated with a particular brand. Then you will know not only what fits your horse, but also fits you. Then you can go looking for that saddle.
                                        Visit Sonesta Farms website at www.sonestafarms.com or our FaceBook page at www.facebook.com/sonestafarms. Also showing & breeding Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.