Thursday, January 8, 2015

saddle shopping help?

My 2015 Q1 goals include investigating new saddle options as a top priority. 

I've written before about saddle fit paranoia and the numerous padding combinations I've tried. Plus the chiro appointments and my general concern about Isabel's back and hind end... 



typical schooling get up

Isabel's Wintec is slightly too wide up front and rocks around on her back - despite various efforts to shim and pad it out. And she's getting rubs under the cantle. 

Ultimately Isabel doesn't want this saddle anywhere near her. People tell me she's just being a snarky red mare, but I don't buy it. Izzy sees the saddle coming and her eyes fill with worry and anxiety as she scoots away from me, with raised head and hollowed out back... 



typical show combo (not shimmed in this picture)

And yet - despite that - she's still a complete rock star under saddle. Can you imagine how much more awesome she could be if she was actually comfortable moving out and lifting her back?? 

We've also seen that my position can even potentially be reasonably decent (at least over small stuff) when I'm not fighting the saddle. This obviously isn't the #1 motivation for a new saddle, but who doesn't love a solid twofer? 



apparently i *can* actually keep my lower leg beneath me

Past efforts to resolve this issue have been limited to body work and fancy/trendy half pads. 



we tried the ogilvy. it didn't do it for us...

Mostly bc I was resistant to the idea of purchasing such a big ticket item for a horse that doesn't belong to me. Except. Um. Ahem...



So I've been rethinking this. 


Something has to change. Isabel was pulled out of a pasture 4 years ago (after having spent 3 years in that pasture) and willingly went back to work as a pleasure/trail horse. Two years later I started putzing around on her. And last spring we got into training for serious. And she never blinked an eye or expressed dismay. She's always game.


And I'm actually starting to regain confidence and believe that we could do some pretty cool stuff together. It's time to commit to her well-being and set her up for success. 


But I know next to nothing about saddle fit. We need professional help!



i'm not 100% sure - but this might be a touch too small

So I asked around and found a local saddle fitter who will meet us at OF after next week's lesson for a fitting (we're meeting at OF to ensure there's a place to actually ride lol). 

She'll do tracings and assess the Wintec, her demo and sale saddles, and whatever saddles I get on trial from the consignment shop (I'll ideally be buying used), and develop recommendations. 


This brings me to my questions for you, dear readers
  • Do you have any recommendations for saddles to look for in the consignment shop to take on trial?
  • Anybody have experience fitting an arab? This fitter has worked with them - but I'm thinking in terms of brands that are known to work (or NOT work) for arabs as a starting point...
  • And generally - for someone who has never saddle shopped in earnest, any tips or tricks or experiences you'd like to share?? Any words of wisdom?

Thanks for chiming in!!

47 comments:

  1. I found this article quite interesting: http://saddlefitter.blogspot.co.nz/2011/09/changeable-gullets-details.html

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  2. What fitter are you using? My friend used a lady named Gina (think her last name began with a P?) and she was insanely knowledgeable. Also, if you know what you're looking for, Middleburg Tack Exchange has a TON of used saddles. Their shipping was really reasonable and they will accept returns if it doesn't work out.

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    1. yes we're using Gina!!! just talking to her on the phone really reassured me haha. thanks also for that tack exchange name. the idea is that if we don't find the right saddle at the time of the fitting, she will be able to tell us exactly what to look for - in which case something like that would be perfect!

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  3. Wheee saddle shopping! It can be both a very fun and a very frustrating experience. Since the Wintec is rocking around and not making enough contact with her back, I would think that Isabel needs a saddle with a much flatter tree shape. Look for saddles that don't 'swoop' up too much in the panels. If you're going to grab a bunch from your local tack shop's consignment section for the fitter to look at, I'd look for ones with a flatter tree that you feel comfortable sitting in on the stand. Good luck!!! Everyone in the blogosphere is, of course, here for you when you get stuck!

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    1. thanks - that's really useful to think about. we talked a bit about tree shape on the phone, but i sometimes struggle visualizing what some of the terms mean... that 'swooping up' in the panels makes sense tho (i think!), so we'll see what i find!

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  4. Make sure a seller or store will let you take something on trial! That sounds obvious, but I've seen sellers who won't do a trial because the shipping cost is too much. Take a saddle on trial and ride in it as much as possible in all kinds of situations during the trial period!

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    1. thanks - that's definitely the plan! our local consignment places will let you take a bunch of saddles on trial for 3-7 days (depending on the place), so hopefully i'll grab a couple for the actually fitting. if none of them work out, the fitter will tell me what to look for, in which case i'd do another trial (and perhaps another fitting?)...

      only bummer is the 'ride as much as possible' part -- we currently have just about nowhere to ride at isabel's barn bc of the weather.. except maybe up and down the gravel paths... not ideal!

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  5. Can we saddle shop together pls?

    I think using the help of a saddle fitter will help you find what you need! To help you, or suggest saddles that may fit/be a good fit for Isabel, I'd need to see photos of her back.

    Good luck!

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    1. oooh that would be fun!! haha and i'm really hoping that with the help of this fitter, we'll get everything resolved without too much headache... but taking some photos isn't a bad idea - thanks!

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  6. Oh boy, red mares! It truly is a thing I'm starting to believe! My red girl has not yet found a saddle she likes. My sister's super fancy dressage saddle was possibly the best fit, but I can't jump in that! My saddle search has been a two-year process and still haven't found it. Good luck with the saddle fitter!

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    1. thanks! i'm really hoping we find a solution. isabel really does try hard, and really is NOT snarky (just opinionated) so it kills me to see her so unhappy about the saddle...

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    1. yea that IS the question, isn't it... and i'm honestly not sure. the timing is good bc a recent change in family business stuffs left me with a little wiggle room - but when i'm looking at used saddles on all the various forums and sales lists that are priced at $1,800... it kinda knocks the wind out of me a bit...

      but, this really is an important part of the process, so i'm hoping to settle on a realistic range while browsing around for trial saddles to take to the appointment. however, please FEEL FREE to chime in on what 'realistic' might mean to you too haha

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    2. You can get a decent saddle at any range really, but knowing your budget will help narrow down the makes you can look at. I got a $5000 Butet off eBay for $1000 because it had been re panelled and the seller didn't know who did it. It's the best saddle I have ever owned. If that is even high for you, redwood tack offers payment plans, or good cheap saddles like Barnsby or Crosby might be an option.

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    3. interesting - that's definitely a good anecdote to know. unfortunately since i know so little about saddles, like that's probably the kind of steal that would slip right beneath my nose unnoticed...

      in any case, my feelings about budget are kinda conflicting. i don't own the horse, so it pains me to shell out a ton... but all the same, i expect my next horse to be an ottb, meaning whatever i buy probably won't work for the next horse, meaning it's gotta have solid resale value... so that has me thinking that i'll need to be looking at saddles in the $1k+ range... (*insert internal crying here*)

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    4. I bought my jump saddle for $500 off ebay, and my current dressage saddle for $700 off Facebook. Once I knew what I was looking for, it was easier to go out and find the deals online. It just took time for the right deal to pop up! I was also willing to go with more unknown brands, but none of my saddles have been a lesser brand.

      The jump saddle was a French manufacturer, and two of my dressage saddles were County's (which hold their value very well) and the newest dressage saddle is a Cliff Barnsby, which I like quite well. It's not the "best" saddle, but it's solid quality and built well, that's the important part!

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    5. thanks!! if we dont' find something during the actual fitting, i'll likely be searching on ebay and other outlets too! i don't really know much about brands so i'll just focus on what fits isabel and is nice enough quality that i can resell it if necessary...

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  8. I hate saddle shopping and I wish you the best of luck with it all. At least you don't have a group of enablers as best friends who want you to buy things like CWDs...little stinkers!

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    1. haha - yea i am grateful for that... tho some might say that this little blogging community as a whole is somewhat of an enabler.... ;)

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  9. I think Beval Saddlery's saddle fitting guide is pretty helpful, and they always have a large selection of very nice used saddles, and they do trials. I'm saddle shopping, too, but I suspect a medium-bodied TB will be a little easier to fit than an Arab. And I am OBSESSED with Delgrange saddles for how well-balanced they are. I have a 1993 one and it is in dire need of major repairs, but even a good quality (read: French, high-end, $1k+ at least) used saddle will last you a VERY long time. I plan on buying used and repairing my current saddle eventually. Maybe think of it as an investment that will pay off for years to come? http://www.allthebestusedsaddles.com/saddle-fitting.aspx

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    1. wow thanks - that's an awesome read! almost every single bullet point has me nodding my head, thinking - yep, we have that problem!! thanks for sharing!!

      and yes i am thinking of it as an investment bc ideally whatever saddle i buy will retain its resale value, as i am not likely to ever own isabel...

      anyways, good luck in your shopping too!

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  10. Go with what your fitter says for sure, but my favorite used saddle is a Beval Natural. You can pick one up for around $600-$800 and it's a very great quality saddle.

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    1. thanks! i definitely plan on following the fitter's recommendations - but figure the more info i can learn ahead of time, the better!

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  11. If you're still interested in synthetic saddles, check out Thorowgood. I found mine used on a FB endurance group for a nice package deal and it has worked out fine. I'm not sure how conformationally similar our mares are but just another option to look into (:

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    1. thanks - i will keep that in mind!! despite not having any real reason to prefer leather over synthetic, i expect my next saddle will be leather... unless the fitter things the wintec can be made to work (keep in mind the wintec doesn't belong to me). ultimately tho, what matters most is fitting the horse so thanks for the recommendation!

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  12. I am writing you a small novel of a blog post rather than putting it in comments. Coming up shortly!

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    1. oooh fabulous!!! thanks :)

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    2. and it's up! email or facebook or comment with questions if you want -
      oh! I did not address the Arab bit. I don't think it's hugely important to seek out brands specifically for Arabs; I don't know that I've seen a lot. I know Arabian Saddle Company (Solstice? Rubicon?) is one I've heard good things about, but endurance folk use such a variety of saddles on primarily Arabs, I'm not sure you'll have a huge problem.

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    3. thanks so much - great post and a lot of good food for thought!!! i'm almost guaranteed to have more questions later on in the process - esp when i start picking up trial saddles and such - so i'll be in touch! :)

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  13. I can't really help with saddle fit (also don't know a lot) but I wish you luck!!

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    1. thanks! yea it's all new territory for me too, but hopefully it won't be too bad!

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  14. I would pick the brains of other Arab owners for sure. And know that custom isn't always the best bet either. Saddle fitters are always the rep for someone...or are pushing more expensive brands (my personal experience). Really just listen to your gut and trust your horse...but you are clearly awesome at that already :)

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    1. aww thanks! i'm definitely curious to know about what's worked for other arab owners (and a few have already chimed in - thanks!)... tho i don't know any personally whose saddles would translate to eventing - boo!

      and re: saddle fitters repping a company, that is the case with the fitter i'm using - she reps stubben, tho she also sells other saddles (and previously repped county?). she's very highly recommended, but always a good reminder to consider the source haha

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  15. I think you're lucky that Isabel is so opinionated because as you try saddles, she'll tell you point blank what she likes and what she dislikes!

    Arabs can be tough... I have a client's arab going quite well in an Albion, and a friend's goes in a JRD I think. I love my Custom and actually got it for a HUGE deal at a used tack shop so keep your eye out.

    I think the biggest thing is to get a saddle with wool flocking so that it can be reflocked. First- it's nice because as Isabel gains muscle, the saddle can change with her. Second- you've got more wiggle room for it fitting your next horse (so you don't feel too bad about buying a saddle for a horse you don't own). My saddle should be able to fit any warmblood type horse I were to buy as it's a medium wide and can be reflocked.

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    1. thanks - and good point about listening to isabel, i suppose her willingness to 'speak up' is an asset! thanks also for mentioning those saddle brands, i will keep that in mind!

      the wool flocking thing is a great point too - and one that a few people have mentioned and that makes a lot of sense. so i will definitely look in that direction! it would be super cool if this imagined new saddle could fit an arab and an OTTB... but i'll be ok if it still has to be sold eventually lol

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    2. In my experience, it's going to be really tough to find a saddle that fits an arab & a tb. Their backs are just different shapes. The arab back is typically longer and flatter, while sprung really wide through the barrel. The thoroughbred back is usually a little curvier (especially up in front), with big shoulders set far back, and much more slab sided.

      Of course, there are exceptions in every breed, and shape will change slightly with training!

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    3. yea i definitely don't expect this saddle to work for the fantasy ottb that will be my eventual first horse...

      which has also been part of my issue in not wanting to shop. if i'm buying something for so specific an animal, how much of a resale market will there really be? so it's gotta be something that will hold its value over time!

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  16. Arabs can be tough fits. My BO breeds Shagyas and has a number of Polish Arabs, too. From what I've picked up from riding her horses, they are wider than you'd assume, but not necessarily needing a wide. Those ribs need somewhere to go, and the spine needs a wider channel, but maybe the withers require more of a medium.

    They've had good luck with Schleese and County for dressage saddles. I have no idea what they use for jump saddles.

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    1. thanks Austen - that's actually what i'm finding too. our current saddle is a 'wide' but it is too wide up front. meanwhile, everything else we looked at a year or two ago (when i first started with the mare and the owner was shopping) was laughably narrow along the spine. thanks for the insights - perhaps county will have a jumping saddle that will work?

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  17. Happy saddle shopping, if you can find one that fits both yourself & Miss Izzy better you won't know yourselves. A good fitting saddle makes the works of difference. Fingers crossed for the fitting, I cannot wait to read all about the experience & search.
    I need to get Nancy a better fitting saddle & prob could do with adjusting Kika's - but not in the budget at the moment. So long as neither girl is in pain - i am hoping we can muddle through with what we have at the moment - so shall live vicariously through you & dream of finding a money tree & winning lotto ticket!

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    1. thanks!! and that's what i've heard - a barnmate said she felt like an entirely new rider, and i would LOVE to feel that way too haha. in any case, you can be sure i'll document the whole thing lol

      and good luck with your own future fitting/shopping... such a bummer that these things are so unfriendly to our budgets!!!

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    2. Hear hear - happy hunting ☺

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  18. The best thing I did while saddle shopping was to look up instructions for doing back tracings online. Basically you mold a flexible curve to the horse's back, then trace it onto cardboard, then cut out the cardboard. You do this at a few different spots, then put it together and bring it to the tack store with you, and it can make a huge difference in narrowing the field.

    I've never been a saddle shopper for specific brands - I go looking for what will fit my horse and what will work for me. I also buy knowing that I will adjust as needed, so I make sure the shape of the tree is right, rather than the specific precise padding on the panels.

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    1. thanks Amanda!! turns out i'm terrible at taking tracings... which is part of why i want profesh help... but thanks on the insights re: shopping for brand vs. shopping for fit/shape etc. ultimately i want to find a long term solution for me AND pony!

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  19. Eek I have no idea, but I hope it all works out!! Keeping my fingers crossed you can find the perfect saddle for her for a really good price.

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    1. thanks!!! i hope we find something matching that description too ;)

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