Useless Saddle Marketing

So I had a local saddle fitter (yes, a new one) out on Sunday to take a look at my Genesis. Originally, she was going to look at the Diablo, but I decided that wasn’t going to be the right thing, even if we could get it to fit May. So I mostly just wanted to see if there is anything we could do to help the Genesis sit more in balance for me and reduce the rocking for May. (nope… ) So the conversation  mostly turned to my “next” saddle.

The conversation went something like this:

Saddle Fitter: “Well, what have you tried so far?”

Me: “In alphabetical order?… of saddles I actually put on my horse’s back and didn’t just rule out immediately? Albion, Barnsby, Black Country (Solare and Wexford), Bliss, County, CWD, Duett, Ovation, Prestige, and Stubben…. at least as much as I can remember.”

Check out the full recap of my last deep dive into saddle fitting here. 

Let me just say, that when you outline it like that… you get some crazy looks from your newest saddle fitter.

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Super cool saddle… Didn’t come CLOSE to fitting her

Saddle fitter “oooook. I am surprised you didn’t like the black country saddles.”

Me “Well… the one that the rep sent me was way too small. I have picture evidence!”

At least she agreed that it was definitely too narrow for May. Her recommendation was to find a black country in the width/seat size I needed, and we could reflock it to get it perfect. She isn’t the first saddle rep to suggest this brand to me, so I decided to take a look.

did ask her what model of their saddles would be best for me. Her response, “Your specs are going to be hard to find, so just start there.” Yeah… no. I already have a saddle I don’t love for ME, so I am not going to buy another one.

Fine, so I turn to black country’s website. You know, the place that should explain the differences between their models. Right?

At first, it started out pretty good. Below is the description for the Wexford:

The Wexford is a deep-seated jumping saddle, similar to the GP range, though offering a wider seat for comfort than most traditional jump saddles.

This saddle comes with large supporting knee and thigh blocks for the ultimate in rider security and an extra forward flap option for the taller rider.

The panel and tree combinations within this saddle allow for a multitude of profiles.

Now of course, I remember I sat in the Wexford, and it put me in a bit of a chair seat, so I am crossing it off. (Thank you blogging and making tags for stuff.)

So let’s look at the Quantum.

The Quantum Jumping saddle is built on a close contact tree and panel, it gives a flatter seat required for stadium or cross country jumping. Knee and thigh blocks to support your position. This is also available with an extra forward cut flap, for taller riders.

I mean… alright. A flatter seat. That is somewhat helpful. Except, it looks like this:

Not what I call a flat seat

So by flatter… did you just mean flatter than a GP? Huh…

Then I remember that I had really liked the Solare. So is that similar to the Quantum?

We are proud to introduce you to the new Solare Jump Saddle – ideal for those riders looking for a quality saddle and the latest innovations.

Made with vintage leather, the Solare offers excellent value for money with the saddle combining cutting edge design and technology providing riders of all levels and ability with a close contact saddle and a forward-fitting seat that allows freedom of movement.

Custom-made as always, this saddle has a discreet knee roll providing support without blocking the leg position whilst the forward cut flaps help the rider’s balance and security.

I…. what? The above tells me nothing about the saddle. So… then I jumped down to the solare monoflap. (Nearly impossible to find in my specs but hey, a girl can dream.)

Providing an outstanding closeness to your horse, the Vinici Solare jumping saddle is certainly one that stands out from the crowd.

This saddle is high-spec throughout and has been developed to incorporate the well-established Vinici single/mono flap design.

Feeling at one with your horse is key to success and the hugely popular Vinici design has now also been developed into a jumping saddle with a slimline, one-piece tree making it ultra-lightweight.

This superb saddle incorporates the highly regarded flexible overlay girthing system with the straps lying on top of the panel, helping to aid rider-feel.

Designed to enhance rider position when show jumping, the Vinici Solare is a fantastic example of the craftsmanship and technological advances available today.

Really? Does anyone care about all the marketing speak? I get it. They want you to talk to their reps in order to buy their saddles. (Upsell! Upsell! Upsell!) However, it is a really frustrating experience when you already know that you don’t like the rep in your area, AND you have limited funds to try all their models without the support of a rep.

I figure it is worth comparing this to the Stubben saddle explanations:

The S Roxane is a deep jump seat, square cantle saddle that features matching panels and large blocks in both the front and rear. It offers great security while using softer leather on the layered fronts to provide for a very comfortable ride.

Starting at $3,695.

The Ascend offers a classic hunter coupled with the advanced technology of Stübben spring tree at an affordable price point. It features an extra soft seat with a narrow twist and square cantle. The nicely padded smooth fronts combined with the versatility of our velcro block system allows the rider to choose the level of support desired. The rich redwood colored leather, complimented by a soft contrast stitching, offers an immediate broken in feel.

The hunter rider will experience an effortless, close-contact feeling with the controlled performance of this exquisite creation by Stübben.

Starting price of $2,495.

Alright so… You can see through these two examples that the Roxanne is a deeper, more secure saddle. Probably better for fox hunting. Meanwhile, the Ascend has a more narrow twist and is probably better for jumping in the ring, but with more support than a more traditional jumper saddle.

So while I continue to try and sell my Dressage saddle, I will probably keep the Black Country Solare in the back of my mind. I LOVED the bliss, but the chance to save $1000+ and still end up with a great saddle… that is hard to pass up.

So what do you all think? Do you think this is a purposeful tactic on Black Country’s part to encourage people to use their reps? Or do you think it is just a marketing person gone haywire? Ooooorrrr Does this type of thing not bother you at all?

Let me know your thoughts!

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A Forward and Open Jumping Lesson

I should probably start this recap with full disclosure that Kentucky surprised us with second summer that day, AND I was riding in a new-to-me saddle. To break that down, KY went from 80 degree, beautiful fall-like days to a 99 degree day with 60% humidity… just in time for my lesson. Fun time.

As for the saddle, a friend of a friend is trying to sell her Barnsby Diablo saddle. When she mentioned it was an 18″ seat and a generous MW tree (that needs the flocking adjusted), I was semi curious. Then, I found out that it was already on the property that my trainer was at and… I figured it didn’t hurt to give it a try.

 

Awkward angle, but you get the idea. Much deeper seat with much larger blocks.

Again, the flocking needs to be changed to fit May, but I was fairly happy with the shape on her. Honestly, getting in a saddle like this was such a weird feeling. It is CUSHY and COMFORTABLE and has big blocks in it. So different from my fairly minimal Stubben. I warmed up quickly on the flat, just getting a feel for getting into and out of the new saddle. May seemed comfortable in it with no sucking back or crow hopping.

We warmed up over a very small vertical, just looping back and forth over it. Then we made it a big bigger and all seemed to be going well. The first exercise was the first jump of both my courses. It was an oxer set kind of awkwardly off the rail with a placement pole three strides out and then another on stride out.

At first, I was a bit like… ummm what? with this exercise. It just seemed really random. Then I rode it and oh hahaha ok. So the point of it was that  you really had to come FORWARD through the corner and maintain your own straightness to get the distance/line/jump. You couldn’t turn and then get straight because then you would miss to the first pole. You also couldn’t suck back and then go forward because of that pole. Man, this one really instilled the whole lesson in one little exercise. You have to love that.

Once we nailed that, it got put up a bit, and we went and did our first course. Again, we started with that oxer exercise then moved into a straight line then a bending line. Fairly standard stuff.

Things I did well… we are working on moving May more forward and open between jumps and then just regulating the balance and straightness too the jumps versus still trying to create energy as I jump into lines. Overall, I felt like this honestly gave me much better distances (except to the last fence, which I conveniently cut out from the insta video… gif just for you).

Things I could have done better… I struggle with not just getting out

of the saddle and cruising. Is this a weird thing? Like I get up… and then don’t know how to use my leg lol. I am not sure if this feeling is partially the saddle being so much more than what I am used to or if this is an ingrained habit. Something to work on.

Also, since I am jumping in with more impulsion. I don’t then need to CHASE her down the lines like I did over the last fence. If I had just maintained balance and rhythm, it would’ve ridden better. Oh well. Good horse.

The second course was similar, but we bent to the right after the pink and then did the liverpool the other way to finish up over the blue and purple oxer.

Not totally sure what was up with that first line… She went to fade right on me. I corrected and pulled her off the lead in front. Oh well, all is well that ends well. The yellow&orange and red,white&blue, jumps went up a bit, but they still rode great.

My line from pink to orange&yellow wasn’t maybe the best line, but after she blew me off turning to the pink, I really didnt want her to just keep falling through that right shoulder. That change set us up almost TOO well for the liverpool to oxer line…. since she moved off my right leg better than I was expecting and we faded left… making that line a bit long.

Honestly though? I was super happy with it. We feel more than ready for BN next month. As for the saddle? Jury is still out. I think it is better than what I have, but it doesn’t make my butt sing like the bliss monoflap did. That being said… it’s well within my current price range, AND I did feel more secure when things weren’t quite right… vs. feeling thrown out of the Stubben and having to scramble to get back into it. I would like a saddle fitter to see it before I make any decisions, for sure.

So lots of change this lesson, but I think we handled it really well. Do you feel like making changes in your riding/equipment leads to immediately improvement? Or does it just always feel kind of weird at first but better later?

Lies I’ve Been Told While Saddle Shopping

We all know that saddle shopping can very nearly be a fate worse than death. While I am still trying to sell my Dressage saddle (thus now actively buying anything), I thought it might be helpful to share some of the very bad advice I got from professional saddle fitters while shopping (and some good stuff).

The Lies

Your Draft Cross Must Have a Hoop Tree with an XXW Setting

No joke. My first Albion was stretched from a MW to an XXW. At that point, there was no going back with it, so I sold it once I realized that my horse really wasn’t THAT wide. (This was after ignoring May’s crow hopping after big jumping efforts and the saddle nearly sliding under her stomach in a clinic with the non slip girth pulled up as tight as it would go.) For the record, the horse does have withers.

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The Longer Panels Will Just Stabilize The Saddle on Your Horse

May has a short back, and I need a bigger seat size. As a result, we need short panels. Why? Because there is no way that you can twist physics that will make panels stabilize the back of a saddle without exerting any pressure on the weak portion of my horse’s back… but thanks for trying?

Bigger Blocks Will Make You Feel More Secure

You know what actually makes me feel more secure? A saddle that has a good balance and helps me put my leg around the horse. Most of the time, blocks are not in the PERFECT place (yes, even though velcro blocks).

That Swelling Cannot Be Due to this Special Spring Tree

After receiving one saddle sent to me by a rep to try, I felt it was too tight a fit right behind the withers. The rep asked for pictures, and she said that the Spring Tree will make up for that minor issue. Three days later? My horse was visibly swollen behind her withers and that saddle rep no longer seemed interested in helping me.

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Fun Fact: A spring tree cannot correct this level of Nope.

You Can’t Do Dressage Comfortably in a Jump Saddle

Fun fact, a jump saddle that fits you well is actually pretty comfortable for lower level Dressage work. If May and I suddenly decide that second level Dressage is something we want to pursue, I will probably buy a Dressage saddle again. But for now, a well fitting jump saddle will suit us just fine.

Whenever You Want to Sell This Saddle – It Will Go FAST

Wish I had just sold my Dressage saddle when I found a jump saddle to fit. It’s a great saddle but clearly fulfills a pretty specific need. Now that I really need to sell it, it is getting almost no attention.

The speed at which that saddle is selling…

The Good Tidbits

Your Horse Isn’t As Wide As You Think She Is

I spent A LOT of time looking at extreme hoop trees. I mean like this:

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Then, someone pointed out to me that my horse has withers and a decent, but wide, A frame to her back.

Listen To Your Horse

May has some pretty subtle (and a few) not so subtle clues when things don’t fit. They range from sucking back, to crow hopping, to, in one case, seriously considering throwing the brakes on over a 2′ jump… My opinion, and a professionals opinion, on whether a saddle fit means NOTHING to this mare. Her opinion is the only one that matters.

The Fit For the Riders is JUST AS Important As Fit For the Horse

The first time I heard this, I was convinced this woman was just trying to sell me a saddle. If my horse is comfortable, I can adjust my riding to accommodate for whatever the saddle throws at me. I mean… maybe… but the far more likely scenario is that you end up slightly out of balance all the time, which is not comfortable nor fun for your horse. No matter how well the saddle fits.

What about you? Have you learned any lessons through your adventures in saddle shopping?

Saddle Fitting Appointment – Loxley by Bliss

Can we discuss how unbelievably dumb this company name is? Bliss of London? Then, let’s drop down the rabbit hole of checking out their website… also bad with a TON of broken links… so when I was looking for a saddle a couple of years ago, I skipped right over them with a solid “nope”.

But they kept rattling around in my head. I had seen their saddles my first year at (what was then) Rolex, and I remember being impressed by the quality and variety. They have multiple tree shapes/widths, which is obviously, something I am always interested in.

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This picture explains most of what I talk about… 

I dug a little deeper. As is true with most custom saddle brands, your experience is more about the rep  you work with, then the actual company. As discussed in my last post… my experience with brand reps has been pretty poor. (I actually loved my Stubben rep though. Great woman!)

So when I looked up the Bliss rep in my area (Kate Wooten), I found a ton of positive feedback. I figured it was worth having a discussion with her at least, so I reached out. It took us a couple of weeks (and a bit of a scramble) to get on each other’s calendar, but we did it on Monday night! First off, apologies for the lack of media, but I was really trying to absorb the whole experience vs. getting content. (Scandalous, I know!)

I am not sure if it was the lack of fancy at my barn, the lack of fancy with my pony, or what, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Kate start at the bottom of the cost ladder for Bliss. Right off the bat, I learned a few things about Bliss: the Loxley saddles are ~$2,500, including any customization you need to make. The bliss saddles go up to about $5,500. Let’s say… $2,500 sounded pretty good for me after touring around $5K+ saddles at LRKY3DE.

However, my expectations were REALLY low. I have sat in some less expensive saddles and… have usually found them pretty disappointing. More on that later though.

The first thing Kate did was take a look at my current saddle on May’s back… and I heard her suck through her teeth.

Kate, “The fit of this saddle is pretty good on her.”
Me, “I know.”
Kate, “She’s pretty short backed.”
Me, “Yup.”
Kate, “You like the 18″ seat?”
Me, “Yup”
Kate, “she’s not as wide up top as you’d expect”
Me, “she’s not”
Kate, “And she has withers”
Me, “She does.”
Kate, “This saddle is really minimal… do you like minimal?”
Me, “My old albion had big blocks that I did really like.”
Kate, “Alright then! Let’s get started!”

And that… is kind of Kate is a nutshell. She’s just super positive (and super British). She thought my fat, short pony was great.

She took a quick tracing of May, just behind the shoulders, in order to grab things that would mostly fit from her truck  minivan. The first saddle she plopped on Mays back was a Loxley Eventer. She explained that this saddle had their medium-deep seat. This one was a traditional, double flap saddle, but it had long billets. I asked about the cost of adding the long billets.

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Not the same saddle, but similar.

“Oh no… no extra cost for any of the customization. We’re more concerned about getting you a saddle that works then adding on fees for things that don’t really cost us anything.”

Well, that’s some marketing line, but I’ll take it. So that first saddle would be ~$2,500 new. Mmmmmk. The saddle was a 17.5″, but she thought I would be ok in the flatter seat. (Everyone says this, it has never been true.) The fit on May was surprisingly good too.

“We’ll order it in an adjustable tree though, so you have some flexibility as she changes shape.”

“How much is that option?”

“Same price.”

Ooooooook. The leather was a bit grippier than what’s on my Stubben. It wasn’t great, buttery calfskin, but it wasn’t hard plasticky junk. I hopped up and… wow it felt like A LOT of saddle under my leg and seat. The balance was good, but everything felt “muffled” with May. Does this make sense? Let me try to explain.

One of my favorite “buttons” on May is a great half halt from my leg. Need to rebalance or prepare for a downward transition? I can close my knees, and she comes back to me. With all the cushion under my knee in this saddle, I lost that half halt. Overall, trotted around for maybe five minutes before heading back over to Kate.

My first thought? This is why I don’t bother trying saddles that are in my budget when new. 

The next saddle was a jump saddle with their flattest seat… and I hated it. I mean,  Kate left the ring to grab another saddle before I had even made it halfway around. The saddle CONSTANTLY shoved me towards the back of it… like all the way to the cantle. It was the oddest thing I had ever felt. May wasn’t super happy about my center of balance moving all over the place, so I hopped off before Kate had even made it back.

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It wasn’t a monoflap, but this seat is similar. 

Alright then… I was now CONVINCED that this was a total waste of time. Maybe they could fit May (everything would have easily fit with some flocking adjustments), but it wasn’t going to be any better for me.

So… Then she pulled out an eventing Monoflap in an 18″. She explained that the flap was wrong for me (it was originally made for a 15 yr old boy), and that the panel isn’t quite right for May (it was a touch long and a touch narrow up front. However, the SHAPE of the tree was really good for her). Either way, Kate wanted me to feel if this feel/balance point was something I liked.

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Again, similar… but not the exact same)

The difference was immediate. The biggest difference? I could SIT on my horse. There was no struggle to move from sitting to half seat. There was no struggle to keep my leg under me. I walked, trotted, cantered, and popped over some small jumps. I didn’t want to jump anything of height because I knew the fit on May wasn’t GREAT, and I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable.

However, the saddle was easy enough to get in and out of over the fences. I didn’t feel like I had to fling myself forward or hold myself back to stay in balance with May. Overall, I was super happy. The cost of the monoflap? $3,300 + taxes. Honestly,  not bad at all.

When I hopped off, I had Kate walk me through where the TREE was vs. just the padding. I flexed back the flap on the saddle to see how much flexibility was offered to May’s shoulders. I was really happy with that, especially given the extra long, extra forward flaps on the version I tried.

We went back to the barn, and I prepared myself for the sales pitch. The “just sign on the dotted line and hand over your credit card” speech. The “you desperately need this saddle” speech. Kate started taking detailed tracings of May’s back, and I felt myself stiffen.

Kate then wrote me out a detailed list of what we had tried and why I didn’t like them, including prices. Then, she went through the order form, and checked off what it would look like, if I ordered something similar to what I liked that day. She handed it to me, gave May a pat, and told me to reach out when I was ready.

I stood blinking at her, as she bounced back out of the barn, giving ponies pats along the way. It’s been 4 days, and she hasn’t reached out to “see what I decided”.

Hilariously, I found out later that a girl I am somewhat connected to just got a saddle that she had ordered from Bliss through Kate. She’s super happy with her purple and black monoflap (it’s a lot for me haha) and indicated that it fit her horse well. It’s no guarantee, but it helps. Either way, I am not in any huge rush, but this one is obviously sitting in the front of my mind.

I reached out to our County rep, but she’s not sure when she’ll be back in the area. Either way, To Be Continued!

Down the Saddle Rabbit Hole

It has been about a year and a half before I declared my Unicorn Saddle Search over… You can ready about the recap in that post here. After that level of struggle, I am seriously hating myself for writing this again but… I am casually saddle shopping again.

I guess I should probably start with the why.

As I pointed out when I bought the saddle, my stubben is very minimal. It is not like the monoflaps you see on 5* horses with decent blocks and a deepish seat. My Stubben has a balance point that’s a bit farther back with very small blocks and slick-ish leather. It is a great saddle for a lot of people, and it even fits May relatively well.

The problem? It doesn’t fit me. Now, this is not Stubben’s fault at all. The saddle they had originally proposed building for me was a Roxanne with a genesis tree in it and half panels. Did the demo of this make my butt sing? Nope. Since I already owned a genesis Dressage saddle, though, I was somewhat comforted that the genesis jump saddle would fit.

Except… the saddle Stubben recommended building for me was quoted at $5,600… before taxes. With no biomex seat, since that made the seat too shallow for my comfort level.

Girl… we all know that Stubbens go used for under $2K… fairly regularly. And again… no butt singing. Obviously, I didn’t order it.

I scoured the internet and managed to find a used genesis in the darker brown color for a very reasonable price. I think I actually ended up making money off of selling the Albion and buying the Stubben (although, after you add up all the shipping costs from trying saddles, I probably wasn’t that lucky.)

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Just kind of gripping with my knee like ER MAH GAWD

And the Stubben has been fine. Totally fine. No crow hopping from May, very limited rocking.

But… it’s really not the right fit for me. My leg swings when I try to sit because of the way it affects my balance. As a result, sitting is HARD. That heavy breathing in all my helmet cam vids? Yeah, that’s literally from the effort it takes to sit.

While I have been relatively happy with my position over fences, it feels very artificial. Not sure that makes sense… when we do complicated grids, I come back too fast, but if I try to stay forward a touch longer, I end up in front of the balance point of my saddle. Does that make more sense?

This video doesn’t really do the feeling justice… but I think you will be able to see what I mean regarding both the sitting issues and the coming back too early stuff.

So at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event… I made it my mission to TOUCH THE BUTTS. Not really, but touch the saddles that butts go in. On Saturday, me and the husband made our rounds to all the booths to touch stuff. Most of the “typical suspects” were already a no from me. Basically anything French will never fit my horse (nor can I afford it). Some of the new saddle types were cool, but very limited in terms of sizing.

Honestly, the hardest part of looking that whole weekend was getting a rep to actually speak to me. Do I not look like a rider? Am I asking the wrong questions? Were people just burnt out by the time I got to them? Help me out people! haha

On Sunday, I was back to the Kentucky Horse Park for the day to cover my friend’s booth at the trade fair. Honestly, it was a lot of fun and something I would totally consider doing again in the future. I spent several hours talking to people about their horses, so what’s not to like!

It also gave me some time in the afternoon to chat with some reps of saddles I had identified the day before.

Schleese was first because they were… closest to the booth I was working at (other than Antares, which is a non starter for me). Their jump saddles looked well balanced, and the quality was really good. (as it should be, since I later learned that the price of their jump saddles start just above $5K. OOF.

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Did I learn that fact from the rep? Nope. Both reps were sitting down on their phones, no one else in the booth. The conversation went something like this:

Me “Hi, I am looking for a new jump saddle for my hard to fit horse. I really like the look of your jump saddle.”
Them “Great. Our saddles will fit your horse.” I should have walked out then. 
Me “Can you give me a bit more information? I really know nothing about your brand.”
Them “Our saddles are made for women. Like men can ride in them too, but they’re really developed for a woman’s hip bone structure.”
Me “um. ok. Anything else I should know?”
Them “Here’s our brochure, and you can write down your contact info so a rep in your area can reach out to you.”
Me “Um ok… Thanks… bye”

So odd… I still know basically nothing haha. I moved on.

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One of the women at the booth next to mine really loves her Amerigo saddles, and they have a variety of tree options. She recommended I speak to her rep there. Lovely, lovely woman. She pulled out a few saddles for me to sit in, and we discussed the shape of my horse’s back (from my explanation), and what saddles she think might work.

She walked me through what they feel make the Amerigo saddles different. The saddles were GORGEOUS and expensive… running between about $5,500 to $6,500. Alright then. I liked their variety of trees and the wool flocking, but let’s face it, I don’t have $6K standing around. The Vega line is slightly less expensive, but there are less tree options, which made the rep skeptical that we could find something to fit my horse in that line.

Finally, I headed over to the County booth. I know what you all are thinking, County’s are JUST AS expensive as the above two brands. Totally, but there are often demo and used saddle floating around of this brand, so I figured it was worth a look.

Their saddles are gorgeous. Their staff was friendly, and I really loved the saddle I sat in. Honestly, sitting in saddle on a tree in the middle of a trade show is not the way to make one’s butt sing, but I can definitely see the appeal to them. She’s in my area a lot, so we discussed her coming out to take a look at May and give me her thoughts. If it ended up being something I HAD TO DO, it would have to wait until next year.

There is still a lot more to this story but… I think this post is long enough. I shall update everyone soon~

We Jumped! (And Got Video Of It!)

I was scrolling back through my posts to see if I could confirm this, but I am pretty sure Sunday was the first day I did an actual course of jumps in my new jumping saddle… I have popped over a few single fences here and there, but hadn’t actually strung a course together… nor do I think I had jumped an oxer in that saddle… and I know I wasn’t jumping oxers in my Dressage saddle… so how long had it been since we had jumped an oxer… Oops. Oh well.

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#marecrushmonday #everymonday #Hunterprospect ? Definitely #huntereq

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(I think that might have been our last oxer… 11 months ago) Sunday was actually really beautiful in KY. We had about 18 hours of dry weather, which was enough for the amazing footing in our outdoor arena to dry up. So I begged and pleaded for the husband to come take video for me. (Really, I just asked since the weather was finally nice enough.)

Hindsight? I should’ve brought my crop with me. The horse with the carriage was out there when I went to get on, so I got on in the indoor and then walked over to the outdoor. No reason to get dumped because I didn’t want to bother to walk an extra 50 feet to a less busy arena. May didn’t seem to have a problem with the carriage this time, which was definitely improvement, but she was definitely just preoccupied with thoughts of what the cart was doing. I couldn’t really get her totally in front of my leg, but she was relaxed and obedient.

My stirrups might actually be a tough TOO short…

Since the jumps were set pretty small, I figured I would just warm up a bit and hope she woke up a bit. (This is terrible horsemanship, but… oh well… I had a relaxed horse.) There was a small box (maybe 12″) set up so that you could canter a 20 meter circle over it, so I started with that. I worked on establishing rhythm without losing suppleness through her body.

After a few times in both directions, I asked the husband to turn on the camera, and I pointed out the few jumps I was planning on doing. The footing nearest where he was filming was a bit deep and wet still, so I just avoided that line, but I wanted to pretty much jump everything else. haha

The moment she realized we were doing more than one jump at a time…

My original plan was to get through the course and then clean up the parts that I felt were messy. Mind you, early in the week I had tried to jump a few fences, and I missed to Ever. Single. One. I COULD NOT find a distance. This time, I shortened up my reins a bit, and focused on keeping my hands a bit higher than what I am used to (but what is probably correct), and keeping my reins short enough that my hands were about halfway up her neck. Below is what we got:

Overall? I am really happy with that. The biggest issue is obviously pace. Our pace should be closer to what we have in this clip:

However, the most important thing to me when reintroducing a horse to jumping is to make it as nonchalant as possible. It should feel like no big deal, just popping over a few fences. I can always light a fire under a horse’s butt if I need to… It’s a special skill of mine, so a quieter than expected jump school is a good place to start. Our simple changes were pretty good (although very numerous), and our only small argument was coming to the oxer, where I wanted to hold for no reason coming around the corner. I was wrong, she was right, and I had to pony-club kick for the long spot. Enjoy our small fail photo below:

It is probably also worth noting that I was testing a different bit in this video. A Myler D ring with hooks. No chain, but hooks. Jury is still out on it, but I clearly don’t need the pelham if she keeps going like this! So how do I feel about my jumping saddle around a course and over an oxer? I am pretty damn happy with it still. It doesn’t rock over fences like other saddles I tried. May clearly seems relaxed and happy giving me the long spot in it, and I felt my position was fairly solid given how long it has actually been.

WHEW! Just happy to be doing more than fancy prancing and trot sets though!

Also – who is going to the event-formerly-known-as-Rolex, aka KY3DE, aka Land Rover 3 Day… AKA who knows what they’re calling it now? I will be there for XC with the husband!

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.
    • 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 jumping May 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

Saddle Trial 2 – Black Country Solare

A combined series of events put my saddle hunt on hold for a couple of week, but on Friday a Black Country Solare showed up at my door. I knew literally nothing about this saddle other than it might fit my horse and work for me.

It showed up absolutely beautiful. Black with blue piping and blue stitching? Count me in! 

The leather was great quality, and it was well equipped with two pairs of D rings and blocks.

The box was even an improvement!

My only concern was it looked a touch narrow, but I figured it was close enough for a test ride.


Overall, it looked a bit high in front but sat level, and it didn’t seem especially tight around the shoulders. I took it for a few test rides, and they all ended with some variation of the below sweat marks. However, May seemed to like the saddle. She even stood completely still at the mounting block, something we have always struggled with.


For me, the saddle fit my legs great. I felt it helped me keep my ankle in line with my hip, and it helped my leg stay steady over fences. See below for one of the first jumps we have jumped in about 4 months. To me, the greatest compliment I can give a jump saddle is that I don’t think about it when I am jumping, and I didn’t have to with this one. A saddle that holds me in or pushes me out of balance is a big no no. One that makes me feel like I can do what I need to, while supporting me is awesome. ​


However, then I watched this video is slow motion, and I saw the below:


My leg is in a great position, but the saddle is clearly grabbing at May’s shoulders. Damn… If you watch it in even slower motion, you will see the saddle snap back down onto May’s back as she extends her front end forward. Definitely not ideal, and not something I would want to have happening on a regular basis. Our distance to this jump was good, if not a touch long, and I would hate to see what this saddle would do at a tight spot or over uneven ground on cross country. Unfortunately, that means I had to pass on this one too…

Then, I noticed some swelling/irritation around those dry spots, and I decided it really wasn’t wide enough for poor May. (good sport about it though!)

I give this saddle a solid 8/10. Leather and balance was great for me, but I am still not 100% sure a wider tree would be right for May. I’m still debating buying a new one, in the wider tree, but I have a few other things to try first. Next up – a 34cm 18″ Prestige saddle.

As for why May is wearing a fly mask? Well I showed up to the barn a couple of weeks ago to find this:


A nice swollen, dripping eye. She ended up having a small scratch, and I am riding her in the fly mask as a precaution. The vet has seen it twice, and it appears to be fully resolved at this point. Small speed bumps really can slow you down!

Saddle Trial 0 – CWD

Technically, this should have been the 2nd saddle trial, but I will get to why it doesn’t qualify at all in a minute.

I saw a great deal on ebay for a CWD saddle, 18″ on a 5″ tree (aka a wide). Every saddle fitter I have spoken to says that while May has big shoulders, she is not an incredible wide, backed horse. To be honest, I believe them because the wither tracings I have do not show a table-backed horse. The CWD was worn with some cosmetic issues, but I was assured it was in sound, use-able condition, and for the price, I could afford to fix the issues it had. It even came with a 14 day trial! Cool.

First Red Flag – The box showed up and was basically random strips of cardboard taped together with packing tape. No Joke. Check This Out.

I ended up taking pictures of every angle of the box before I opened it too… just in case there was damage to the saddle. 

Second Red Flag – The return address on the UPS label had been completely torn off.

I kept telling myself that I bought from a seller through eBay with PayPal protection and that the ability to return the saddle was clearly written into the terms, but I am not going to say that didn’t make my stomach tie up in knots. I opened up the box, stuck my hand under the pommel to pull the saddle out… and I immediately knew it was too narrow. I didn’t even have to look at it because my hand barely fit between the panels.

How narrow? 4″ dot to dot instead of 5″ dot to dot.

Ha…. ha…. ha….

The difference? Basically my wide saddle just became a narrow… Damn. Other than that, leather was beautiful (despite being miscolored, as expected), and everything seemed sound about it. Unfortunately, that tree was never going to fit on my horse. I let the seller know, and she told me it did measure as a 5″ tree and that I should try it anyway… I emailed her back a few hours later to tell her it didn’t work and that I would like to return it.

White marks are just adhesive from where the tape touched the saddle during shipping. It would’ve come off easily, but you can see the other discoloration here. 


I got a return label quickly and was able to ship the saddle back.

Third Red Flag – The return label was to a different city/state than where the saddle came from.

Oh well. It was provided by eBay from the seller, so that was where the saddle was going. It shipped back quickly, and I received a refund for everything I spent almost as soon as the saddle was returned.

I am not sure how to rate this one. It was a total fail that locked up almost my entire budget for more than a week for a product I couldn’t even sit in. However, the whole return process was easy enough. I am going to give it a 5/10. Disappointing, but luckily not disastrous.

Saddle Trial 1 – Duett Bravo

For me, one of the most important aspects of shopping for any high-priced horse stuff  is customer service. With a restrictive budget for saddle shopping, I know that I can’t go out and buy a $6K saddle. However, when I am spending what is, to me, a lot of money, it is so important that I feel like I am treated fairly, if not well.

In that category, Duett saddle gets a 10/10. Sheri is responsive and accommodating. The whole team works to provide you with the best option possible, and they are still positive and responsive. Even if you choose not to buy, but more on that in a minute. 

The saddle arrived in a timely fashion and in great condition (new but has been used for other demo rides)


The Leather wasn’t buttery calfskin (which of course I wasn’t expecting) but it reminded me a lot of the leather from my old Crosby, made by Miller. The kind of leather that breaks in beautifully and will last you a while. 

The fit on May was even good, even if the saddle sat up above her a bit more than I am used to. Either way, the panels sat flush from front to back. 

 

However, the pommel of the saddle sat a bit low. Hmmm… ok. Well I have often hated saddles for making me feel blocked in front because May had such big shoulders and hoop trees tend to be flat in front unless you get the pommel artificially built up. Not a big deal to me. 

So I put a pad under it, put stirrups on (under the top flap and wrapped to prevent wear) and I swung up. At the walk? No problems. I had heard some people complain about the width of the twists of these saddles, but I often ride May bareback, and it doesn’t get much wider than that. 

We walked for a while then trotted… and I felt like I was going to fall over her shoulder. I played around with the stirrups and couldn’t get a great feel. I really really wanted it to work, but I felt my back and core working overtime to try and keep my shoulders, hips, ankles in line. 


I then tried pulling the stirrups. Maybe the whole saddle is just tipped forward. First of all, my horse is a saint because new saddles and no stirrups and my least sticky breeches meant there was LOTS of slipping and sliding going on. However, I no longer felt out of balance. Hmmmmm 


I had some pictures taken from the side with stirrups and without. And the issue turns out the stirrup bar was just in the wrong place for me. Damn -.-

Ultimate decision – nice saddle especially for the price range if it works for you and your horse. Sheri and the team are wonderful, so I would recommend at least trying them if you have a wide horse and are in the market. In the future, I may try one of their Dressage saddles. 

We did get to take one jump in May! 😂😂😂 as for next steps, the Bravo is heading back to its home. I spoke to a Black Country rep who has something that will probabky work… but it’s out on trial this week. 

In the meantime, I might take something out of the box on trial… like a wide French saddle, since everyone keeps telling me she just has big shoulders and isn’t as wide down her back as I think.