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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label reviews+tack. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reviews+tack. Show all posts

April 10, 2010

This Is How We Roll: Jumping Saddles

To add to our review series, I thought I'd talk a little about saddles.  I started out with a secondhand old-style medium tree Crosby event saddle; it was fantastic, with a spring tree that fit many horses.  Of course, as luck would have it, it stopped fitting MY horse as soon as I put him in regular work:  too narrow.  So the quest for a new saddle began. I decided to start with a close contact saddle and add a dressage saddle later when funds allowed. I could always do dressage in a cc but sure can't jump in a dressage saddle.

I should not have used the word "quest" so lightly; I quickly learned why horse people spook and swear when they hear the words "saddle shopping." Because it's a form of torture akin to holding one's hands in a campfire while being poked in the eyeballs with sharp sticks. If you have any restrictive criteria whatsoever, it adds an extra layer of "fun," like a rabbit slowly chewing off your toes while your hands roast.

Because this was my set of rules:
Had to be less than $1500
Had to have a long forward flap to accommodate my freaky long thigh
Had to fit my horse, who now went in a wide tree and would probably continue to change
Had to have wool flocking so I could fit to suit and adjust as needed
Had to be well-balanced and made well enough to last a while (ie more than five years)

Then I proceeded to peruse catalogues and haunt saddle shops. While pulling my hair out. Most helpful was the saddle clerk who took one look at said thighs and said "Oh, you'll need to order custom." Lady, what part of 1996 truck I was driving at the time said to you that I could afford custom saddles???

After a long and ardurous journey which I will spare you, we ended up with this: the Collegiate Convertible Diploma w/ Long Flap. And I can tell you honestly, three years later, I freaking love this saddle. With an initial coat of oil, the leather darkened to the perfect havana shade and broke in soft enough to be comfy, but is still strong enough not to scratch all the time. I've ridden hours in it on the trail, spent over a year doing dressage in it, and of course, run lots of XC in it. It's been flocked and adjusted to fit Solo nicely and sits in a good balance on his back. It has worn impeccably, and still looks lovely all cleaned up, often mistaken for a much more expensive piece of leather. For a saddle bought new for less than $1000, I don't think it can be beat.

I am not sorry I got the convertible gullet -- he's gone from medium to wide to extra wide and then seems to have settled on wide.  Lord help me if I had to buy new saddles every time!

Would I change anything about it? The only thing I might change is to design the tree with a little more wither clearance on the wider gullet plates. Solo can be a bit hard to fit because he has a huge shoulder. I always use a sheepskin cutout pad with the cc saddle so I ensure that his withers are enshrined only in softness. It works for us.

If you have to embark on this particular brand of torture, I highly recommend trying LOTS of things.  Go to stores, sit in them.  Yes, you will fall in love with some $4000 saddle you sit in, but if you're lucky it won't fit your horse.  I strongly suggest NOT sitting in the $4000 saddles.  It's just cruel to your hiney, mostly.  It's better if your ass doesn't know what it's missing.  Also, put lots of saddles on your horse.  They don't all fit the same and a medium in a Stubben is not the same as a medium in a Wintec which is not the same as a medium in a Prestige.  I know, it's like they WANT us to be crazy.

Also, say YES to a GOOD saddle fitter.  Having gone through three of them, I emphasize the word GOOD.  The saddle fitter can make or break your horse's comfort, so proceed with caution and ask questions and do research.

Do make a list of what is most important to you and be honest with yourself.  Many women buy saddles that are too small for them because of some silly insecurities about butt size.  Ladies:  the seat size of your saddle is very much about the length of your femur and not so much about the size of you butt.  And a saddle that is the wrong size can truly screw up your position on the horse.  I moved up from a 17.5" to an 18" seat to accommodate the freaky thighs and it made a huge difference in comfort; it's lovely not to have my knee sliding over the edge of the flap all the time!

While the process of finding the perfect saddle for me and Solo sucked royally, I also learned a lot a lot a lot a lot about saddles, construction, fitting, and balance.  I guess that is my tradeoff, as lessons learned the hard way certainly do stick very well!