Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I Swear I'm Not Saddle Shopping

CONTEST PEOPLES: I swear I haven't forgotten you. I'm buried at work this week, so I will write you a results post ASAP! Thank you for all the submissions--definitely plenty of amusement to go around.

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.) 


  1. As someone also kinda sorta looking for Dressage saddles and hasn't sat in too many/never sat in one that fit me...

    Don't settle on something this important, but also, the resale value of the Custom is going to be really good. You may even make a profit if you make a good deal. So if it does fit both of you now, I wouldn't worry about having to unload it later (except, of course, that you would once again be on the saddle hunt, which sucks).

  2. When I was saddle shopping I was like you and had no idea what I liked vs didn't like. My first saddle I bought I didn't even worry about me. It worked for Stinker for awhile. Post EPM it became apparent that it wasn't working for either of us. At this point I knew more and was shopping for both of us. I tried a County Fusion and thought I liked it but held out for trying two other brands. My saddle (WOW saddle) is like magic for both of us. I rode in the fusion again yesterday and was wondering why I even thought I liked it.

    My point is wait for the magic one. It is worth it as long as you have one that fits in the meantime. Don't settle for almost there.

  3. I just recently purchased a Loxley by Bliss. It puts me in the perfect position, seat is open and not too grippy, leather is fantastic, and the saddle was custom made to fit Fiction for no extra cost. Wool flocked, etc. The only problem is there is very poor resale value, though I don't anticipate selling it unless I, for some reason, decide to sell Fiction or something bad happens. And the only reason the resale value is poor is because the brand is relatively new. The saddle itself is way better than the Albion SLK (which I also owned), imho.

    I've been burned on resale value before, but I love these saddles so much that I threw caution to the wind. It may come back to bite me, but at least my bum is comfortable and my riding has dramatically improved.

    1. I am looking at a Loxley by Bliss jump saddle myself! My fitter had me try a bunch when we reflocked the Custom dressage saddle, and I fell in love. I kind of knew I would, especially with the availability of such customization ... Still. :) Are you in the southeast?

    2. I'm in the Northeast actually :) But the Loxley saddles are simply fantastic. I love the customization too. I highly recommend them to everyone!

    3. Totally agreed!! I was wondering if we had the same saddle fitter. :)

  4. I like the lotto winning option. Bummer about saddle fitter.

  5. i lucked out and got a makila (IN BROWN, SWOON) in the exact size i wanted.

    side note why do the french saddles run so goddamn small? i actually have a 19". and my butt is big but plz its not THAT big.

    based on this post i say none of the above. you'll know when you sit in your right dressage saddle. you will be like MY ASS SHALL KNOW NO OTHER.

  6. Girl, that Custom. I can't put my finger on it, but it did something very nice to your position. Something in the leg/hip combo. Damn words. But that, find something like that. Of the pics, that's the one that stuck out as making a good difference.

    1. Yes. Exactly. It helps your hip angle. Love the Custom.

    2. Yeaaaaaahhhhhh I'm getting a little obsessed.

  7. Well, you know how I love my Custom. I have the Wolfgang Solo, and it plops me in the right position automatically. I would say keep trying the Custom, and if you like it, buy it, and do what you need to do to get it reflocked for Courage.

  8. i kinda read through this post with my eyes squeezed shut, fingers jammed in my ears, loudly singing "la la la i can't heeeear you!!!" bc damn i'm right there with ya about knowing very little and having even less experience with dressage saddles. and yet i suspect our time will draw near for finding a better option sooner than i'd like. ugh. one saddle at a time tho!

  9. Never swear on the precious! #NerdsUnite

  10. Being a fellow tack snob who's also poor I lucked out and got a used Cwd. OMG. I can't say enough great things about the company and of course my sadde! I have also heard great things about county saddlerys saddles!

  11. I tried everything I could get my hands on and am going with a County Connection. My trainer's jaw literally dropped from the instant change in my position

    I sat in it and it was MAGIC. You *KNOW* when you sit in just the right saddle for your build.

  12. I'm sure the perfect saddle exists out there for everyone, but it's hard to sit in enough to find THE ONE. And then be able to afford it.

    If the custom fits you and your horse and it does such good things for your position and security, go with it. Maybe it's not the perfect saddle, but it's a huuuuge step up from where you are now... who knows, it could be a game-changer!

  13. I lucked out and found my Custom Versailles (discontinued) for $600 used. I've ridden in a lot of saddles and can generally ride in anything, but the Customs seem to work best for my SI injury.

    My friend has an advantage and I loved it when I rode in it, it was the first Custom I had ever sat in. But then I rode in my current saddle and now can't stand the advantage! I feel like there's no place to put my thigh with those fluffy blocks. And now after riding in a wolfgang (I think) with a shorter block, I'm pretty sure that's what I want. Good thing I don't have the funds to go chasing my perfect saddle lol one day though...

    1. And this is why it doesn't pay to sit in too many saddles. ;-)

  14. But you do have a friend with an 18" mw Icon Flight ;)

  15. I don't have a ton of experience with dressage saddles but I do lean towards the French stuff. If I hadn't been burned so bad with Devoucoux I might try to find a used one for Houston. Still might. But for now I am also not in the market for a dressage saddle. Can't swear on precious...

  16. I have sat in all sorts of saddles but haven't taken enough notes to know what I like and what I don't.

    Maybe I should for the next time I'm shopping.

    I currently have a niedersuss that my tb loves and that my butt loves too, but some others say it's too hard? Not helpful, I know.

    Good luck with this!

  17. So, when you say "I rode better and he didn't go as well" in the Custom I totally would not take this as a bad thing! He needs to get used to your leg feeling different etc, and that can be a bit tough at the beginning. Customs are beautiful....

  18. Hit the lotto and buy an Ansur Excel dressage saddle. Puts you in a great position and you will never have to bother reflocking. It will always fit Courage and the lack of a tree will be super comfy for him. The Excel is a very secure saddle for the rider.

  19. I haven't ridden in a custom but I sat in a few in the tack shop and I haven't stopped thinking about them since. If I had access to one I would definitely keep riding in it and then figure out a way to buy it. You know, sell a kidney or something.

  20. I'm in love with my new custom!!!! I got the Everest mono flap. It puts me right where I need to be and the big blocks help tons. Love Custom, they're great to work with too. My trainer rides in Trilogy saddles, has most of her students in them.

  21. I am not a fan of big blocks. It is too easy to brace against them and unless they really do put you in the ideal position, you will fight them constantly to maintain your balance. Ask me how I know.

    If the custom looked tight in his shoulders, do not get it. Training issues, a sore horse, kissing spine... there are lots of reasons to back away slowly and keep shopping.

    May I recommend Trumbull Montain tack shop? They were offering week-long saddle trials when I was shopping. They found me a used model with some custom options that fit me and my horse. I would never have been able to afford the saddle new, but for a used price I could swing it. I still love it six years later (Albion Original Comfort, wide twist and short flap, wool flocked, wide channel, tree angles that work with my horse's shoulder angle, basically the works!).

  22. I don't know my way around a dressage saddle- they all look pretty and black!

  23. I've heard good things about the Custom saddles! A friend is actually looking at purchasing one.

  24. Sigh, there is something that I just really love about dressage saddles. I was so sad when my dream saddle, a Bates with the buffalo leather, did not come close to fitting Sydney. I think we are both firmly stuck in hoop tree land, much to my disappointment.


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