The Unicorn Saddle Search Recap

Let me start this out by saying that I started our whole saddle shopping adventure more than 6 months ago. (May 8th was the official “start date” of this adventure. The goal? Find something that fits my horse REALLY well that I do not hate to ride in.

I tried the following over those 6 months.

  1. Albion K2 Jump (original jump saddle. Sold for around $1,800 used)
  2. Duett Bravo (around $1,500 new)
  3. County Saddle (no idea how much it cost. tried a barn-mates saddle, and it wasn’t even close enough to ride in)
  4. Black Country Solare (around $2,500 used, around $4K new)
  5. Prestige Eventer (about $3K used)
  6. Stubben Roxanne (about $5K new with the modifications I needed)
  7. Black Country Wexford (about $2K)
  8. Stubben Genesis (about $1K used)

 

There was also a wide range of other saddles that I seriously considered:

  1. Amerigo Saddles
    • $5K new?… probably more
    • I never could find a local rep or any used saddles in a wide. That was probably a bad sign.
  2. Patrick Saddles
    • $6K new minimum with nothing to actually try on my horse
    • I was told that they could bring me a medium tree to try… but I would have to ride a different horse. Sorry, but for $$$$, I need May to also agree that she likes it.
  3. Bliss of London Saddles
    • I saw these at Rolex and really liked them. They have a bunch of different tree options and some of them looked promising.
    • Loxley saddles start new at around $2,600, but bad reviews regarding customer kept me on the sidelines
  4. Another Albion
    • I couldn’t find any in the specs I was interested in trying.
    • The local rep was not helpful. She answered my inquiry with an “I can order what you’re looking for if you want to buy it…” Sorry, but I really need to sit in something before buying it.
  5. CWD
    • I took one on trial that claimed to be a wide… and turned out to be a narrow. I at least got my money back (including shipping) on that one.
  6. Fairfax Saddles
    • They literally do not make these saddles larger than a 17.5″
  7. Philippe Fontaine Saddles
    • The reviews on them are mixed, but the price of the one I was looking at was more than comfortable for my budget. I even found one in a wide and in the proper seat size.
    • Unfortunately, (or fortunately) I have gotten very good at looking at pictures of gullets and deciding if they would work. This one was a no. (after waiting 3 weeks for pictures)

Final Verdict!

Like my wedding dress, I ended up buying the cheapest saddle I sat in over the course of the entire 6 months. I bought the Stubben Genesis Jump Saddle in an 18″ with a 32cm tree. In fact, I now own 2 Stubben Genesis Saddles in a 32cm tree because it is almost the exact same model as my Dressage saddle, which May loves and no saddle fitter has ever been able to find a flaw with. (the Dressage saddle seat is 0.5″ larger)

I have now owned the saddle for a couple of weeks, and I have a couple of early thoughts. (sorry for this “listy” post)

  1. It is NOT a lot of saddle.
    • My Albion had LARGE front blocks. This Stubben has almost none. It has a very close contact feel, but it does not lock you into place in any sense of the word. After riding in my Dressage saddle for so many months, this is taking some getting used to.
    • IĀ might end up swapping the blocks out to the velcro versions and getting the larger blocks as an options.
  2. The act of jumping has not gotten easier.
    • I think this has more to do with my comfort level with this “less than” saddle than anything else. With increased strength and balance, I think it will feel totally normal again.
  3. But jumpingĀ MayĀ has
    • Jumping May around typically “wakes her up” and she gets a bit rushy and opinionated and stiff. She even used to crow hop after fences in my Albion if we took a huge distance or hadn’t jumped in a while.
    • In the Stubben? She has actually seemed to get MORE relaxed the longer that we jump, even if we haven’t jumped in a while. Another thing to continue to keep an eye on.
  4. I forgot how much my Dressage saddle sucked when I first got it.
    • Stubben wear like iron. They last forever, and I would think most people have probably plunked one on the back of a school horse when they were first learning to ride.
    • That also means that they are TOUGH to break in. My dressage saddle was also only slightly used when I bought it, and it took probably a full year to get it fully broken in. With similar leather and treatment, I hope my “new” jumping saddle takes the same amount of time to break in.

Here’s to celebrating the end of a long search, and to hoping to not have to do it again for a LONG TIME.

through-the-hole

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The Nicknames

Defiantly continuing my blogging about random topics. Today, the nicknames.

Most horses have 2 names: their show/registered name and their barn name. Some have 3, like a Thoroughbred with a Jockey Club name, a show name, and a barn name. However, I have affectionately given several horses in my life extra names for really no reason:

May – AKA Fat Mare (also called Maysville by my trainer) Granted, May came with the name “Krimpet”, which apparently had been changed from “Delilah.” Her show names were also “Too Many Cupcakes” and “Hey There Delilah.” I think May, Fat Mare, and May As Well are upgrades.

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May

Ezzie – AKA Lady Bird

Red Mare
Ezzie

Why did I call her Lady Bird? Honestly, she sometimes reminded me of the dog from King of the Hill. Occasionally though, red devil would have been a better name for her. She would buck and scream and carry on, but I absolutely loved that horse. Below are a couple of the few videos I have of her.

There was another fiery chestnut mare with a big white blaze named Ellie that I rode for quite a while. I just called her mama. I used to have a picture of us jumping a maybe 2′ vertical jump… and our takeoff spot was a solid stride and a half before the actual jump.

There was also Hamlet… who the entire barn renamed Beelzebub. He started out as Hammie… then he decided that scaring the crap out of people until they got off of him was his new favorite game. He was the first horse to convince me that you really do need to buy the brain, not the looks.. and I was all of 13.

Hamlet
ALSO – who loves my hunter duck here? For some reason, we entered a horse that had never completed a x-rail class at a show in a 2’9″ hunter division.Ā 

Then again, I also do this to my dog (as does my husband). Hannah becomes Hanner-Nanners almost everytime we refer to her. She doesn’t seem to mind.

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Happy #nationalpuppyday !!! ā¤#hannah

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What about you? Do you haveĀ alternative names for your pets?

Selecting the Corgi Horse

I’ve written before about how I came to acquire May (story here. Spoiler alert: Sangria was heavily involved.); however, I have seen a lot of posts lately about wish lists from horses. Michele blogged about finding a horse online, Tracy posted about her Unicorn List for horse shopping, and Amanda wrote about her perfect horse as a response to Olivia’s post on the topic.

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Old media is better than no media, right?

It got me thinking about my own brief and painless purchase of May. (looked at one horse, traded my previous horse for her, made 0 negotiations on price, did not vet check… still cannot recommend this method EVER.) On paper, my previous horseĀ should have been everything I ever wanted.

  1. 16.1
  2. Well Built
  3. Quarter Horse (papered)
  4. Schooling Show Experience
  5. Not spooky (turns out though, he was also VERY sensitive)
  6. Athletic (3’+ was no issue for this horse)
  7. Brave and Honest
  8. Vetted Clean

I took my time with him, but after 3 years of him proving to me that he did not want to be my horse, I bit the bullet and put him on the market. (or more like I cried for 3 months and then put him up for sale). He now has a wonderful home with a teenager who absolutely adores him. I follow him on social media, and it is incredible how much happier he is.

However, when I decided to sell him, I was left with a dilemma. How do IĀ NOT do this again? I started with the things he had and that IĀ had to have again:

  1. Sound
  2. Not Spooky
  3. Brave and Honest
  4. Easy to live with

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Honestly, on the ground, my previous horse was the easiest horse in the world. Farriers loved him. Vets could do all sorts of things to him without medication. He would turn himself in and out to his paddock. (Although, I learned last week that May now handles her own turning in and out situation. Works for me. We all know she isn’t going much farther than the next patch of grass.)

I then added in the things that would have made my partnership with him successful:

  1. Lack of tension (Notice I didn’t say No Thoroughbreds. Below is a (10 year old!) video of me competing a thoroughbred that I rode for not less than 8 years.

I realized that his tension was the number one reason we did not get along. Nothing I did seemed to ease his tension. I tried everything I could think of, but we just could not get through that tension. 3 years later and with a lot more knowledge of Dressage and training under my belt, maybe I could deal with it now. However, I know I would notĀ want to. I am an amateur. I have to WANT to work with my horse.

So what else did I add to the list:

  1. 15 – 16 hands
    • I am 5’3″. I really do not need height and was quite a bit intimidated by my last horse)
  2. 6 – 12 years old
    • I have ridden A LOT of young, green horses. As a junior, I put a lot of “firsts” on a lot of horses, but I also could ride multiple horses, 6 days a week. Now, I cannot commit to being at the barn as much as a really young horse needs me to be, and I cannot afford to put something into a program with a pro.
  3. Not gray
    • After owning a gray, I actually wanted a plain bay… Oh well. I found something yellow.
  4. Ability to become a packer at BN
    • First of all, IĀ COULD NOT afford a made packer at any level. (seriously, May didn’t steer when I bought her).
    • Second, IMO, a horse needs a bit of athletic ability beyond the level you are competing at to be considered a “packer” at that level. (i.e. the ability to easily bail you out of a bad situation)
    • Right now, I would consider May to be a packer up to starter level for an intermediate level rider. I have, intentionally, made her too sensitive to the aids for a beginner, but I have seen her pack advanced riders around after they have taken an extended break for one reason or another.
  5. Unfailingly Sensible
    • I am not going to use the word “quiet” here. I don’t necessarily need a “quiet” horse. I do need a horse that is still thinking even when pressure increases.
    • Really good eventing horses are able to think through complex jump and Dressage questions when the pressure is on, and it is not a skill that is easily taught.

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Things IĀ would notĀ put up with under any circumstances:

  1. A horse that rears
  2. Heavy amount of maintenance
    • Not to get into the politics of it, but if a horse cannot comfortable run around BN without heavy and expensive vet care, maybe it is in their best interest not to event anymore
  3. Something super HEAVY
    • Physically carrying your horse around a XC course is not fun. Sure you can lighten a horse up with a lot of dressage, but I have found that if this is their default way of going, it will surface again. (often when they are tired)
  4. Something careless over fences
    • May and I knock rails… a lot because I miss a lot. However, she has the ability to get out of her own way on XC. Horses that cannot do that make me very uncomfortable to jump.

I then scoured the internet and found… May. How does she stack up?

  1. Sound – I have injected her hocks once, and they will need to be done again next year. However, I think that is fairly reasonable right now.
  2. Not Spooky – Lol. Nope. Definitely not spooky.
  3. Brave and Honest – Always. I have to really mess up for this horse not to jump. And then, it is usually in self preservation.
  4. Easy to live with – exceedingly. my farrier can do her on the cross ties, my husband can lead her around without issue, and she ground ties wherever I put her (with our without a halter).
  5. 15 – 16.1 hands – Yup. We are around 15.2. (I think, I have never measured her.)
  6. 6 – 12 years old – In theory, yeah. No one has really any true idea how old she is.
  7. Not gray – … not Bay either.
  8. Ability to be a packer at BN – Totally. I just need to like… jump stuff to make this happen
  9. Unfailingly Sensible – this is probably the hardest thing to evaluate when shopping. May is sensible, but she can flip me the hoof if she hasn’t been ridden regularly. She doesn’t run away or buck or rear or do anything really naughty. She kind of just.. tunes me out? It’s a tough sensation to describe to people.

I think I did pretty good! I continue to window shop on the internet, looking at horses that fit my criteria, and they are few and far between. (at least at the price ranges I could even consider paying at this point in my life). What about you? Do you keep a list of what you wanted/want in a horse?