OK. On to content:
Despite the fact that I can tell you in absolute terms what my dream jump saddle is and have a pretty good idea of what I like vs what I don't, I have NO IDEA WHATSOEVER what I even think about dressage saddles.
Sad fact: I have sat in so few.
Sadder fact: of the few I have sat in, only 3 actually worked for me.
Less sad fact: I actually own one of those.
|I don't own this one. Do I need to?|
I'm not saddle shopping (WE SWEARS PRECIOUS WE SWEARS) (We will not swear on the precious).
It seems like it would be worth my time to get in as many different dressage saddles as possible because all I know about them is that they're basically impossible. Unless you have a well-supplied local tack store. Which we don't. In lieu of that, I'm making a list of saddles I've sat in/put on my horse and keeping track of my thoughts on them.
I'll try to keep this interesting, but I want this for my own reference.
1) Current Own Saddle 18" Ideal brand, Medium tree, unknown model.
|pre-sparkles, reflock, and dye job|
This brand is a bit obscure in the US, apparently much more common in the UK. It's a very basic saddle, english leather, kinda slick. Minimal blocks. Not restrictive. Lets me get to the right position, but definitely doesn't put me there or keep me there. I have a wide range of options for sitting incorrectly, but that has come in handy over and over as we attempt various hijinks.
|latest position shot|
Because I've had this saddle for about a year, my position has changed a lot in it. It fits my horse well and has served us well. I have no complaints.
2) 17.5" Devoucoux, Medium tree, Makila model
This is Lindsey's saddle that we borrowed last fall while mine was getting reflocked. The sizing says a 17.5", but HOLY HELL it rides like a 17" or less. As in. My ass kinda got stuck in it. I put me in a really excellent and secure position, but I couldn't get out of it and the leather was SUPER grippy.
|forgot to take a picture on Courage, whoops|
I definitely enjoyed it. The standard panels fit Courage quite well and he went nicely in the saddle. I would DEFINITELY need at least an 18, possibly larger. The panels are foam, which means no reflocking, so less flexible fit as Courage continues to add muscle and change sizes.
3) 17" Prestige, 32 medium fit, Roma model
This is a really beautiful saddle that we borrowed from an enabling friend. It's basically brand new, completely gorgeous, and almost comfier than the couch in my living room. The medium fit went on C great with our standard half pad and he didn't seem to object to it at all. The seat and knee rolls were super grippy. The twist was wider than I'm used to, but not uncomfortable. Despite being the smallest seat size on this list, the seat itself is fairly "open" and actually rides equivalent to an 18" seat. My snooping indicates that this is fairly standard for the brand.
I liked this saddle, didn't love it. It definitely put me in a more defined position than my Ideal saddle, but it didn't hold me there and I can ride like a monkey in any saddle, so there's that. I didn't feel off balance or restricted, but I didn't feel all that much different than I do in my own saddle, aside from the super comfy seat factor. I'd be curious to try a couple other models.
4) 17.5" Custom, Medium fit, Advantage model.
This saddle sports the upgraded buffalo leather and wool flocking. It was custom made for someone who is not the current owner, so some specs may not be standard. This was also borrowed from enabling friend. Oops. Just sitting on C in the stall, this saddle is a hair tight in the front and almost wants to bridge. It does sit pretty level on him.
This saddle makes me go hmmmmmmm. It definitely sports the bigger blocks that are trendy in dressage right now and while it's not super restrictive, I could feel it put me where it wanted me somewhat. I even dropped my stirrups a hole and felt completely comfortable and confident. The biggest difference I noticed was in the canter--it put my leg RIGHT THERE where it needed to be and I felt really comfortable and confident instead of perched and weird, which is more normal.
Enabling friend is letting me play with this one for a little while. Courage is pretty inconsistent right now, so it's hard to tell what's saddle and what's normal--I had a really great ride in it the first day, then the next day my position in it was even better but he didn't go as well. Now I need to switch back and forth between my saddle (which is flocked to fit him) and this saddle with my halfpad (which was the set up we used for the really good ride day).
I have none at this point.
I liked the Devoucoux and I've been in enough French saddles to be pretty confident buying one sight unseen, but A) poor and B) the foam flocking isn't my bestiest friend. Courage is just now building a dressage body and I do anticipate him getting wider and filling out as we progress. The foam saddle that fits now probably won't fit in a year.
Also see A) poor again. Frenchies have nice stuff with a matching price tag.
I'm really, really thinking hard about the Custom at this point in time. I love the wool flocking, love what it does for me. I'd be curious to sit in an 18" and see if it made an appreciable difference and I'm not sure how much I love it for Courage, which is obviously a huge factor. I'd also be interested in trying a MW model on him just because I don't know how long the medium would fit for, but I don't have a friend with an 18" MW Custom Advantage and a generous trial policy. (And I do have a friend with a 17.5" M with those specs and hmmmmmmm.)
Another question mark here is the flocking--my usual fitter can't work on these (because she isn't with the company or something about warranties or something) so I'd have to wait to talk to the Custom rep. We do actually have one and I do actually know her, but she's not local so that would take longer. The saddle has had excellent maintenance, but it would be a much better fit for C with some minor adjustments.
Any ideas for us? (Other than "hit the lotto and buy custom Custom" because I've obviously already thought of that.)