Wednesday, January 30, 2019

the l'apogee trial

Last weekend after dropping all that consignment stuff off, I found myself putzing around the rest of Maryland Saddlery's consignment section. I was just aimlessly prowling, sure, but then found it impossible to leave empty handed. Isn't that always the way?

in't she purdy? 
Luckily, the reps likewise agreed that I really ought to leave with something, and were eager to usher me onto the saddle stand for some test "rides." So after casually browsing the used saddle section and sitting in a few things, this lovely little French close contact saddle came home with me for a trial.

my next saddle will have blocks for sure
Maryland Saddlery's trial policy is extremely liberal and accessible: virtually unlimited trials at no costs at all for a week, provided you leave them your credit card information.

i like the rich dark color too
I've taken full advantage of this policy over the years, and have trialed probably dozens of their saddles. Tho it's kinda funny, I've been a bit picky about actually *riding* in anything if I don't think I'm likely to actually buy it.

my poor beloved bates always looks kinda ugly in these comparison pictures....
Even the last saddle that I trialed, I didn't even jump in it. Which I kinda regret, honestly. Even if I'm already pretty sure I'm not going to buy a saddle, maybe it would be useful to ride more in them so I can really figure out what I like (or dislike?) in each one?

but wait, what's that? up there?!?
Anyway. Back to this particular hunk of leather: it's an 18" L'Apogee LXP close contact with a MW tree, a forward 2AB flap, front and rear blocks, a flattish seat, and foam panels. And I actually quite liked sitting in it at the consignment shop!

lol barn cats always be creepin
The feel was in some ways very similar to my Bates (which I continue to love, despite its imperfections), but also some of the same elements from the Beval that I really liked. Namely: it put my seat at a slightly different and improved angle from the Bates, and I liked the really close feel down through the flaps.

anyway. not a fit. le sigh. 
So I took it back to the barn to try out in our weekly jump lesson with trainer P. Unfortunately right away after putting the saddle on the horse, I could tell that this particular saddle was not going to be a winner. It's just a little too wide up front, and had barely 2 fingers of clearance from his withers without a girth or rider.

nice even contact all the way down the back, unlike my bates
Obvi the clearance issue is a deal breaker, but it's still interesting to assess how this saddle fits differently from the Bates. Most importantly? These panels seem much better suited for Charlie's back compared to the Bates' more swoopy panels that lift off his back under the cantle.

more clearance (tho slightly uphill) with shims
I figured I'd try to ride in it anyway just to test it out. Honestly thinking back, I can't remember the last time I jumped in any saddle other than the Bates. Might actually be back when I was riding Dan's P / 1* horse Lion in lessons, and rode in his Stubben. So yea. It's been a while haha.

maybe worth a whirl anyway?
The saddle looked good enough with the shims for me to figure it was worth a shot. Tho uh.... once I got on it was pretty clear that there still was not sufficient clearance. Luckily after conferring with Trainer P ahead of our lesson, she was able to find a giant chunky ass sheepskin half pad to get the job done.

It was interesting too bc I was just sorta walking and trotting Charlie around a little bit while she went looking for the pad. He wasn't bad or grumpy or anything, but didn't really feel great. Then when we swapped pads he was definitely much happier, and eager to stretch over his back. Yet another reminder that it's worth it to keep him as comfortable as possible!

ha but the shims weren't quite enough so we switched to this massive sheepskin lol
So anyway you already saw my post on the lesson itself. It was a good one! And Charlie felt good, and clearly could perform well despite rider error and a less than ideal saddling situation.

The real question was how did I feel in the saddle? And?? I really liked it. The saddle gave me a really really really close feel all the way down my leg against the horse's side. Like it was easier than ever before to really put my upper calf on the horse, instead of always trying to curl my leg up to nudge with my heel.

i liked the close feel my leg had on the horse through this saddle! esp my upper calf!
I also felt very secure. No matter what Charlie did, it felt very easy to ride with a long leg underneath me. And even some of our funnier jumps, I always felt very secure, while simultaneously not feeling reliant on the blocks.

Honestly I was pretty smitten with the saddle. It wasn't in the best shape (some rough patches and nicks on the leather, and the foam panels were pretty well smooshed, further contributing to the overly wide fit) so there might have been some room for negotiation on price. But alas, the fit is just not close enough for even a negotiated price.

It's given me a pretty clear idea of what I like tho, and what I could maybe look around for. Honestly I don't *need* a new jump saddle. The Bates has worked out just fine. But especially with my hopes to keep challenging ourselves with more difficult courses this year, some improvements in saddle fit for both horse and rider would not be unwelcome.

We'll see what happens haha. I never expected to even be interested in shopping for a French saddle but things change I guess lol.

31 comments:

  1. Ah, the mystery is explained! You do look good in it - nice and balanced

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    1. Thanks- I liked it a lot more than I expected, esp bc I really honestly do like my current saddle too haha

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  2. Saddle shopping is a dirty word! It is a nice saddle tho. Hope you stumble across something you love

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    1. For sure, tho it’s a whole lot less awful when there’s no urgency or need behind it. And actually the test rides can be kinda fun when nothing relies on the outcome! I am hopeful tho that something DOES come of it lol

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  3. you're lucky you live so close to maryland saddlery. honestly just knowing what YOU like gives you a better chance of finding something with those specs that will also work for sir charles.

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    1. Dude I love Maryland Saddlery - it’s so nice to be able to try things out!!

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  4. Have you considered monoflaps at all? Bates has just come out with a new event saddle - the Advanta. I've test ridden in this saddle and it has a completely redesigned panel for the ultimate in close contact feel, in calf leather. I was in love!! It's available for test rides thru lots of places, including Loveville Leather in Maryland (but also stores like Dover and Statelinetack.com). Totally worth a try - I also love my Bates!! Vast improvement in panel design from earlier models to the present day but you still have all the amazing benefits of CAIR, plus the adjustability of the EASY-CHANGE Fit Solution.

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    1. I rode in an Antares monoflap that was Nicku's back when she had Pongo and LOVED IT.

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    2. Also a huge monoflap fan. I love my Devoucoux, although it's not quite 100% perfect for me for stadium. On XC it's magical. Whenever I buy another saddle (god, hopefully in a long freaking time) I want to try the Voltaire. It's a little narrower in the twist but otherwise almost identical to the Chiberta. I have a lot of friends that have loved their Stubben Zaria monoflaps too, if they need a wool option. I've had great luck with my french saddles though - especially the wider/softer panels like the D3D - if they fit.

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    3. Yea my hope is to have my next saddle be a monoflap. The ones I’ve sat in I really like!

      If I see a Bates option offered used I’d probably try it but having been burned pretty badly buying new before I’m not interested in going that route again lol.

      I think part of my reluctance to go the French route was just how challenging a time I had fitting Isabel. All the French things I put on her were HEINOUS. But Charlie is obvi an entirely different creature and is an easier fit. So hopefully that means I can really focus on the specs that I love the most too. With the monoflap I’ve tried, is that super close feel of the horse thru my entire leg that I really like. Hopefully I find something that works well for both of us!

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  5. Lovely French leather...good to do a trial when you don't really need it. Saddle shopping is pretty much the worst part of riding, I think!

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    1. Oh man it was so soft and buttery, I really liked the feel of it haha! But yea saddle shopping can be awful esp when there’s any sense of urgency about it! Luckily I can kinda be a little passive about it right now ;)

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  6. Ugggh, I just got done saddle shopping and I absolutely HATE it! My lease horse is finally starting to build muscle over his back, so my Butet no longer fits him and he was getting pretty grumpy in it. But everything I sat on him bridged in the middle because of his wide shoulders and lack of muscle in the middle of his back. Add onto that, I'm 5'10 with a freakishly long hip to knee, and finding something that would fit both of us in my budget was a nightmare. Finally found something wool flocked with gussets that he seems pretty happy in, and it will work for me at the low levels we're currently doing. Probably won't fit my baby horse at all when she's ready to start under saddle, so I'll get to do the whole process again in a year. I wish we had a place nearby that had more saddles in stock that I could look at in person, but I have to buy things online, which always makes me nervous.

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    1. yay for finding something that works tho!! it's never any good when the horses start protesting against our saddles, ugh. i went through a deep dark nasty period with charlie last winter that turned out to be related to saddle fit, tho it took me a while to figure out since he was still finishing he post-surgery rehab.

      i'm lucky that my own personal dimensions are pretty common, and i'm not too picky. still tho - matching horse specs with people specs is SUCH a challenge! esp with buying online or dealing with trials that have to $hip in and out, ugh. i'm hoping that my currently-casual approach and lack of urgency will mean i don't have to deal with quite that same level of stress!

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  7. I have only sat in one or two saddles on a stand before (actually, I sat in a few when the fitter came, but she brought them all). I never even really thought of doing that before bringing a saddle home to put it on my horse... I should probably do that if I end up saddle hunting again in the future. There's a great tack store near me now, so maybe that will facilitate better trials!

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    1. it's actually definitely worth it!! i don't usually think of it myself either, but the rep just kinda guided me over, plopped me down, and proceeded to keep a steady stream of saddles coming haha. and some of those saddles were definitely immediate rejects just based on how i felt in them, something i could tell almost immediately despite not necessarily having seen anything wrong just by looking at the saddle.

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  8. It is definitely so pretty! It looks really nice on Charlie, and you look to sit really well in it! I am like hoping to god my Prestige fits the next horse I get because I adore that saddle haha!

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    1. ha i jokingly said when i first got charlie that if my bates didn't fit him, i'd send *him* back lol.... it's hard not to get attached to these saddles once we finally find something we like so much!

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  9. I had that saddle on my list years ago when I was shopping (wound up with my Hermes that time) but never got to see one in person. It sounds lovely! Maybe you can find another one with a regular tree out there somewhere.

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    1. lol so nothing is set in stone yet but.... i mayyyyyy have done a little bit of googling on ye olde interwebs after that trial ride to see if i could do exactly that lol ;)

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  10. I wish we had something like that around here! I tend to find something that works and then never try anything else, but we also don't have a ton of options in my area. Glad C seemed to react well to it, and that you felt super secure in it- that's always the most important thing!

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    1. yea honestly i'm kinda the same. once i find something i like and that works, i generally just stick with it. that's kinda my aim in this latest casual search. basically the first thing that fits us both is probably where i'll sits lol...

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  11. Too bad it didn't work out, but it's nice you have the luxury to wait for the right one. I was looking for used, but got too impatient and called a brand rep :p Though I was still pretty lucky because for my jumping saddle he had a demo that worked for us, and my dressage saddle I was able to buy a youth model (which is significantly cheaper) since I'm practically a midget.

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    1. oh sweet!! i'm totally cool with the idea of getting demos, but my one experience with buying new was not good and i lost hundreds of dollars ugh. we are lucky in this area to have a lot of options close at hand, so i'm going to try to continue taking advantage of that until i find exactly the right thing!

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  12. Interestingly enough, I've never actually been to MD Saddlery... I should go there one day... I've done most of my saddle shopping at Rick's Heritage, but though I have a love/hate relationship with that place. Regardless, I should visit Maryland Saddlery one day...

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    1. yes lol you should ;) i've only been to the butler location, but have heard that the hockessin location often has some reeeeeally nice stuff. true story: many of the saddles i've tried (like the monoflap beval i tried last summer) actually come from hockessin, but all the locations have a van that can move stuff around every week.

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    2. Emma that is great you liked that saddle and have an idea what you want now. That was totally worth having a trial!! I find Hockessin(when i lived there) a bit overwhelming and all things are mixed up. Never did find a saddle there.....but its worth looking at Sarah. They often have good deals on other stuff too! (If you see a fullsize breastplate take a photo of it ha)....my horse has man boobs now :)

      I often think of selling my stubben but i could never afford another one :) HA

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    3. WHY would you sell your Stubben?????? Batty needs a new bridle with a wide crown piece... Of course, since I don't ride him and need new trailer tires...

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  13. So fun that you can try saddles out and learn what you like! I'm currently looking for a Dressage saddle and would love to have a spot where I could try them out and see what works and what doesn't. And I'm in a similar situation. Current saddle is fine, but I can't help but look for something a bit more suited to what I want/need

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    1. Ha I would offer you a trial on my Bates but something tells me you’re looking for something a bit nicer as your next dressage saddle for June ;) good luck in your searches!

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  14. Yay for saddle shopping!! You really do look good in it- too bad it's not the right fit for Charlie. I'm excited to see what you try next!

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