Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Kent & Masters: our unicorn saddle?

Guys. I thiiiiiiiink we might have found our saddle. Maybe. Hopefully. At long last!

"we have answers now, yes?" - isabel
Saddle fitter J came through the barn last weekend with a whole bunch of saddles to try based on Isabel's recent tracings. She primarily deals with UK saddle makers, so that's what we looked at. Some familiar names, some less so. Among them were saddles from the company that produces Thorowgood, Kent & Masters, and Fairfax saddles.

snazzy purple cover doesn't hurt
Other saddles included Hastilows and Black Countrys, and perhaps an Albion or two?

so many pretties
I was particularly enamored with a certain Black Country - the beauty farthest left in the pic below...

drool much?
And that saddle was a freakin DREAM to sit in - a veritable butt cloud. But alas, 'twas slightly too wide behind for Ms Iz, and actually crept all up on her shoulders while we cantered. That's a cardinal sin in this mare's book, so the saddle was cut from consideration. Le sigh.

alas, not our winner
Next saddle up was a Kent & Masters, and this one looked miiiiighty promising. So promising after our test ride that I handed over my credit card number to initiate a 10 day trial period.

well hello, there
This is actually a brand new saddle, as opposed to used. Part of me is a little hesitant about that, with the thinking that a used saddle will likely be salable for exactly what I paid, whereas a saddle bought new never could be.

the other side
But frankly, this saddle fits the mare better than anything else I've ever seen on her. And it's still more or less in the budget range. Given all the stress this whole saddle shopping experience has produced, I'm more than happy to sink some dollars into it just to call it case closed.

And, in that same vein, I picked up the Prolite half pad that fitter J sells, given how nicely Izzy had responded to it last time. Recall I hadn't been sold last time bc the pad slid back during the test rides. So I picked up an old shabby consignment saddle pad with black D-ring keeper straps - snipped off the keeper straps, and sewed them to the half pad. So now it won't slide!

like my DIY d-ring keeper strap thingys?!? 
The saddle itself is pretty interesting, actually, and has a lot of the same features that drew me to our Bates saddle. It's an adjustable tree - with short and long tree bars, plus varying widths. It also features adjustable billet strap configurations, and velcro-on knee and thigh blocks.

options abound
My particular trial saddle features the black (medium) short (s) bar tree. Whatever that means lol. Oooh but it's also wool flocked, a major plus in my opinion.

the full picture
The test ride with fitter J left us feeling good about the potential fit for Izzy, but I had concerns about the fit for me. The blocks weren't quite right, and I felt like I was in a chair seat and tipping around with my upper body. Removing the thigh blocks seems to have fixed that completely tho.

if my butt fits i sits!!!
I'm reserving full judgement until trainer P can see me ride in it (we couldn't do so last weekend bc of all the rain and snow since I don't actually own this saddle yet). But after my most recent ride, I feel gooooood about it.

clearly doesn't impede isabel's desire to stretch for grass
And I've actually already done a little bit of shopping to assimilate the saddle into our getup. Specifically, the freakishly long billet straps required a new shorter girth. Fitter J recommended something with more stability, and with only one elastic end. So I picked up a 44" brand new Weaver Leather girth at Maryland Saddlery's consignment section (i <3 them) and was tickled to see that the colors match perfectly.

this pleases me
Oh and it also matches my bridle better than the Bates too. So obviously it was meant to be. 

So yea, I'm pretty hopeful that this saddle proves to be the answer we've been looking for this whole past year. Tho I have about another week to be certain about it.

My question to you, therefore, is: What do you look for to determine if a saddle is or is NOT working? Anything I should have my eye out for specifically?

64 comments:

  1. I obviously have no good advice about saddle fitting - lol - but that looks like an absolutely beautiful saddle! There are some advantages to brand new. You can break it in to you specifically, and care for the leather to make it last forever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that's a good point, hadn't really thought of it that way

      Delete
  2. I hope this is it!!!! I have no advice about what to look for really, since I'm still learning myself. I'll be reading the rest of the comments with interest though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hopefully there will be something useful in there!

      Delete
  3. I so wanted to fall in love the K&M when I was saddle shopping a few years ago. Sadly, though it worked for my horse, it didn't work for me. But they are beautiful saddles! As far as what to look for, anything that doesn't feel right or comfortable to you. Even if it's just a thought of hmm, that's weird. There is nothing worse than fighting your saddle. I would imagine that Ms. Mare will let you know if anything doesn't feel right to her. Hopefully this one is it for you! There is nothing worse than saddle shopping.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that's so true - and something i had to learn the hard way with the last saddle isabel had, which worked for *neither* of us. the bates worked well for me, but not the horse. i'm hoping this K&M saddle will finally be the one that works for both.

      Delete
    2. I ended up going with a new Black Country built for us and I love it. I have to say, I've seen a lot of used Black Country jump saddles in the same price range as the K&M - if you really loved that one that much :)

      People change too which is frustrating, because it's not just the horse we have to worry about. After Duke got hurt and we were partway into the rehab process I finally started using my dressage saddle again. And it HURT me, whereas before I was ok in it even though it wasn't ideal. That was the wakeup call I needed that it was not a fit for me.

      Delete
    3. yea that definitely sounds no good - being physically uncomfortable in a saddle is... not something i can handle, esp since my personal comfort relates directly to my confidence levels - which are already themselves shaky.

      i LOVED the black country i tried - definitely a saddle company i'll keep in mind for the future. and it was in my price range too. alas it didn't fit... but had the K&M not totally stolen the show i'd probably be pursuing additional black country options

      Delete
  4. Saddle fit assessment is tough for me. I'm no pro, but here's what I look for to determine if I need a pro's help...

    Muffed up hair. (That ruffled, crunched, crinkled looking hair.) If you're having muffed up hair underneath the saddle, there is an issue.

    Dry spots of no-sweat when the area around it is all sweat. Sweat pattern should be even under the whole horse and dry spots mean pressure points. Pressure points are bad.

    Saddle fits on horse so that the lowest spot of the seat is level. If saddle tips forward (cantle is not on horse) or if saddle is tipped backward, there is an issue.

    Saddle has a clear path along the spine through the gullet of the saddle and has two fingers under the pommel before you get to horse. (Some people will tolerate less than this. I like two fingers.)

    Check horse's back for soreness... along either side of spine, run fingers along long muscles (I use thumb and forefinger, one on either side of spine) pressing down fairly firmly. For cringe-y arabs, try not to use so much fingernails. Look for the "sink down of death" when you get to loin area. You'll know it when you see it. If you've got that, you've got saddle fit issues.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. lol yup it's tough for me too - that's why i used a pro to find this saddle and fit it to the mare

      Delete
  5. I pretty much depend on Stinker telling me since he has strong opinions. So I'm really not much help. I would see if you can get video of flat working and jumping. My biggest issues with Stinker were the balance back to front. Most things sat pommel high because he is so uphill, if that got evened out there were pressure points behind the withers. And the saddle sliding back. The way his shoulders move were sending a lot of saddles shooting backwards.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. lolz 'emma try to get video' haha - that's pretty much a guarantee ;P

      Delete
    2. Haha!!! The silliness of my statement just hit me....I am blaming it on the fact that this week has already been extremely long and it's only Wednesday...

      Delete
    3. lolz not silly at all for any normal person - i just happen to be an insane media junkie :D hopefully i'll have lots of fun videos to obsess over in the coming week, since obvi i'm trying to squeeze every last drop of value out of this 10 day trial before pulling the trigger!

      Delete
  6. Replies
    1. it's definitely ... unique haha. lots of room for my should i want to crank the stirrups up (like, say, for xc i guess)

      Delete
  7. Fingers crossed that this is the magical saddle for you both. Saddle shopping is so stressful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. so stressful omg haha... and we've been at it for like, over a year at this point. hopefully this is really truly IT tho!

      Delete
  8. Must know these same answers for myself. Find these answers for me! LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha i will be sure to diligently record our experiences!

      Delete
  9. Replies
    1. i'm feeling pretttttty optimistic at this point, really just want to double check with my trainer this weekend to be really truly certain :D

      Delete
  10. That's so exciting! And it pretty much sells me on getting a K&M for my Dressage saddle. It just works for weird, flat pony backs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ooooh exciting! i haven't seen their dressage saddles in person, but it's definitely worth a shot. the craziest thing about this saddle maker (and the thorowgood and presumably the fairfax too, tho i haven't seen them) is that the saddle actually work for a wide variety of horses, including a couple TBs at my farm who are now going in them too. wild.

      Delete
  11. So exciting! I hope your trainer approves too! I'm now in the market for a new saddle as the chiro told me that mine no longer fits Riley and he has serious displeasure regarding it (boo hoo).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. awww boo, and you really loved your saddle too!! ugh why do horses have to change like that!! good luck with your search - lmk if you wanna try my bates since it's for sale!

      Delete
  12. Haha I'm working through this right now too with dressage saddles. :-/ It's such an expensive dilemma.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i'm honestly somewhat in denial about that whole part of it... esp bc i suspect a new dressage saddle is probably on our list sometime in the next year (or two).... good luck with your search!

      Delete
  13. I hope this is the one for you guys!! I thought saddle shopping would be fun but it's freaking exhausting even if you know what you are looking for. I recently bought a used albion dressage saddle on eBay- it arrives today so we'll see if everything turns out ok. I had a tough time weighing the new vs. used thing too. In my case there was a clear difference though- I was looking for a very specific model and the options were only brand new (for a steal, though) or 13 years old but still in good shape. I ended up going with the old saddle- a decision I hope I don't regret later...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ooooh exciting about the albion! i hope it's perfect and that you love it!!! (plz post pictures too!)

      Delete
  14. That's a nice looking saddle! I currently have a Black Country and it is truly the most comfortable saddle I've ever had. Sadly, I'll be saying goodbye to it shortly as it's got some fit issues with Gav.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. aw bummer that it's not fitting any more. the black country saddles my fitter brought were all LOVELY

      Delete
  15. buying saddles is my least favorite. maybe more than horse shopping (and i hate hate hate horse shopping). but HAVING the the new saddle and successfully getting the right fit is THE BEST EVER.

    Ive been pretty lucky, altho eventually when i replace my jump saddle with something custom to both runkle and i it will be horrible days again. i want a black country!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha i'm so excited to just move immediately into that next phase of "this is the best evar!!!" we never really got that with the bates i bought last year bc it was apparent fairly soon that it actually wasn't right... le sigh.

      Delete
  16. Replies
    1. meeee tooooooo!!!!! i'm optimistic tho!!

      Delete
  17. Ooh, I hope this gets the stamp of approval! I know this has been a long process for you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. omg so long... i wish i had known about this latest pro when we started the whole process last year (and told her as much haha) bc she has been fabulous and has simplified everything

      Delete
  18. I hope it works out for you. It is a very pretty looking saddle. Best advice is to do all the things. Jump, dressage, sc. Make sure you feel correct in all those positions. And definitely get your trainer's opinions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yep that's the plan! so far so good, and trainer will see us this weekend!

      Delete
  19. THIS COULD BE IT?!?! I feel like a celebration is in order.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. omg soooo much celebration will be had should we declare this saddle the winner haha. or any saddle really. bc there WILL be a winner, i am so freakin determined lol

      Delete
  20. Replies
    1. i mean, the leather all matches so it has to be a fit, right?!?

      Delete
  21. Keeping my fingers crossed for you! It looks like it fits both of you really nicely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the more i ride in it, the more secure i'm feeling that it might be our answer!

      Delete
  22. I felt the same way with my jump saddle before I pulled all the blocks out. Instant fix for my position! Of course, the flap is still six feet too short my femur, but, hey, minor details. One step at a time, right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yea blocks aren't always my friend. the knee blocks are gonna stay on for now tho, just bc the flap is really SO massive haha - maybe you need to try one of these saddles to accommodate your femur?!?

      Delete
  23. Wow! That's a lot of beautiful saddles lined up there. Congrats on finding the unicorn!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. omg i may or may not have felt a little giddy as she kept pulling gorgeous saddle after gorgeous saddle from her car... esp knowing that maybe one of them would become mine!

      Delete
  24. But does your butt like it? Important factor too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the butt feels pretty good about it! we need more time trying it over fences - but that's gonna wait until our jump lesson this weekend, so my trainer can tell me her assessment too.

      Delete
  25. Crossing all crossables for you two!! I've heard good things about the K&M saddles!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that's good to know! it's a fairly unknown company to me so i've just been googling. lots of positive stuff on the interwebs too.

      Delete
  26. Ohhh! Good luck! I hope it works! I have been following ur saddle search and know how frustrating it must be!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I LOVE Kent and Masters. I had their dressage saddle and it was amazing for Sydney, sadly not so much for me. If they made a 19 inch seat I would totally still own one. Sadly, their 18 inch just wasn't big enough for me.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Did you buy the Kent and Masters? I am on a trial for a GPD but having a heck of time getting basic questions answered from shop about leather, warrnty, adjustments etc. The underside of the panel already has nicks from the girth buckle after riding twice and concerned about long term wear. How is yours wearing? But the comfort and tree are a dream. Pommel seems a little low when I sit in it. Did your lower quite a bit when you sat in it? Yours looks like it has more clearance. I really want to love it, but it seems like fit might need adjusting-maybe high wither??? I think this brands service depends on who you buy from as the company would not answer my questions about warranty either. Overall if you did buy how happy are you with it? Saddles are such a big decision!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes i did buy mine (with the help of a professional saddle fitter who ensured the fit for the horse). so far i'm quite happy with it. i haven't worked directly with the company at all tho, so can't speak to that. just my independent saddle fitter, who will handle all reflocking and adjustments as needed.

      my only advice would be to make 100% sure it fits both you AND the horse. if it's sitting a little low on the withers that could be a problem - it might need a narrower gullet plate. in any case - good luck! saddle shopping is always so much harder than we might imagine!

      Delete