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Saddle Shopping Saga/ November Hours

Time slipped away in a flurry of celebrating Wyatt’s 6th birthday last week and I completely missed my call for hours. I don’t have any for November, so if you volunteered at all please get them to me asap.

The saddle hunt has continued despite my best intention to narrow it down to the BC Wexford which is proving difficult to find without a wither gusset. I’m still searching multiple times a day, but I need to ride the hairy beast before he gets too far gone so I’ve opened the search back up. Some internet research shows that people who like the Wexford tend to also like the Albion Kontrol and County Conquest, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Happy 6th Birthday little man!

First, I need to write about the Stubben visit. I nearly swore off fitters after the Custom lady tried to push an over priced demo that didn’t fit me at all and the “independent” fitter showed up with no saddles and diagnosed him with extreme back pain and ribs out of place requiring robaxin.

But I’m cheap at heart and when Michele texted me the Stubben sale I decided to burn all my money and have the Stubben rep out. I know her really well from the year I boarded with her. She was just starting back then and let me sit in all the models she had. Interestingly enough, most have been discontinued since then. Anyway, I wasn’t much of a fan but when saddles are on sale for $4,000 off, it’s hard to turn your nose up. Unfortunately, I still didn’t like any of the saddles. The good news to come from that visit was that the big orange butthead didn’t palpate painful anywhere although he did react strongly to the girth being done up. I know he isn’t a fan of the fleece girth, but I can’t buy him a leather one (why on earth does this PITA horse have to only like expensive gear?!?!?) until I know what saddle I’m going to end up with. She declared his sternum out of place which is something I’ve never heard of but I took it in stride and moved on.

It’s interesting that everyone who meets him for a few minutes diagnoses him with some new ailment completely unrelated to any previous one. Trust me. He isn’t painful, he is just being an ass.

Who me? Never!

Anyway…no matter how cheap they were I still didn’t like the fit for me at all and cried silently at another $150 down the drain. If anyone is keeping track, that’s $481 in fitter fees. That’s more than my current, albeit ill fitting, saddle cost.

That was when I said screw it, it is BC Wexford or bust. I could still hold that line but if H’Appy stays retired for another 6 months he may never come back from the brink. I need to ride my horse. The above mentioned search of Wexford like saddles showed the County Conquest and Albion Kontrol were similar in feel.

The County Conquest in decent used condition. The pommel is very high but the overall balance sits on him nicely.

It just so happened that someone responded to my ISO ad with a 17″ W Conquest for a decent price. I took it on trial and it arrived Friday. I knew immediately it wasn’t going to work but threw it on him anyway. I was right. The width was ok but the panels were made for a very different shape and came up too high with minimal contact. It wasn’t bad enough not to sit in, but I pretty quickly dismounted as the saddle was very unstable side to side with nothing to keep it from rolling down his barrel. It was a shame since it is a nice saddle. I’m shipping it back, but if anyone is interested in the details let me know.

A good tree angle match but the top of the panels sits well above his body. The saddle had a lot of motion side to side

Having failed that one ($60 in shipping lost, will return it tomorrow after work so I’ll know the total cost then) I grew pretty frustrated. There are two great tack stores near me: Farmhouse Tack and Aiken Tack Exchange. Both handle used tack and while I’ve scoured the Aiken store online turning up nothing, I hadn’t really paid much attention to Farmhouse. Being in driving distance means saving at least one way in shipping costs, so I figured they were worth a look.

Friday afternoon I perused their site and saw that they had a 17″ Wide Albion Kontrol on consignment plus a Bates Elevation Deep Seat with massive blocks that caught my eye as well. I had sat in a new Caprilli and didn’t like it so hadn’t thought much about the Bates line, but why not give it a try if I was going up there anyway.

Saturday afternoon I dragged the kiddo up with me. I really liked the Albion. A lot. So comfy. So much security. Except the panels were really curved and he needs a flatter panel. It wouldn’t have worked for him but I was glad to find that out in person without shipping costs.

The Bates Elevation DS. This saddle sits the best on his back but you can see the once glaring issue. With it girthed up appropriately, it shifts forward over his shoulder.

The Bates though. That was a nice saddle. Beautiful condition and super comfy. The saddle fitter who works there is one of the nicest people and spent a lot of time with me in the store. Bates is having a special where they are upgrading to their luxe leather (a stickier leather) for free. A new saddle with the upgrade would have only been $400 more than the consignment saddle.

I texted Emma for a voice of reason. New or used? Grippy or standard? She talked me off the ledge of buying new – thanks! – by reminding me that the $400 would be better off spent on his training versus sticky leather. I ended up taking the consignment home with me on trial though they only allow four days. Even if it didn’t work, I’d only have to pay shipping one way if I couldn’t drive back up there.

A close of view of where the saddle needs to sit for the billets to line up. Right over his shoulder. Not good.

And…..

It’s up in the air. The saddle fits him great with the wide gullet in place. The panel shape and angle suit him well and when girthed up it had a lot of stability.

Great fit through the panel without bridging. This is a pretty flat tree/panel configuration which confirms my suspicion that the lovely Albion would have too much curve to it.

I wasn’t a fan of how it sat on his shoulders though so I called the fitter and she asked me to send a bunch of pictures. Turns out what he lacks in wither height he makes up for in length meaning I needed to move the saddle back a good bit. She liked the look of it when pushed back and it no longer sat on his shoulder only the billets were too far back and I know that trick from years trying to fit a jump saddle on Gem. Girth a saddle like that and gravity wins every time. It will end up on his shoulders.

Placed farther back behind his large shoulder. The balance is even better here, but you can see the issue. Look at the tips of the billets and draw a line straight down. They lie pretty solidly behind his girth groove so that when it is girthed up it will shift forward and on to his shoulder.

I texted the fitter again and she recommended an anatomic girth to help hold it back. I’m leery. I wasn’t blogging back then but I’ve been through this with Gem. Anatomic girth. Cross the billets so the back is on the front buckle to change the pressure. Go wider. Go narrower. Nothing worked because the billets didn’t line up.

A closer view of the billets alignment. The saddle should have been a titch farther back still.

I couldn’t make it back to the store before they closed by the time I was finished with everything. She had two anatomic girths in his size and offered to bring them to me after work today so I can try it. The issue with an exchangeable gullet is that you can’t add a point billet since there isn’t a fixed gullet in the saddle.

As close to a confo shot I could get alone. His low, long wither and large shoulder are proving to be a tad more difficult to fit than I thought.

I can’t say I’m keeping the saddle the way it is now so we will see. It will be a shame if it can’t work out because I really like the saddle otherwise and think it could be a good solution.

If it doesn’t work, well at least she will take it with her so the entire experience will have cost me nothing for once plus I’ll have her keep an eye out for me for any 17 wide jump saddles that may come in on consignment. They have a lot of inventory which is nice and while I don’t want to wait that long, they may see an influx once people get some new tack for Christmas.

Keep your fingers crossed we can make this work out. I have an update coming about his behavior and my plans but it all depends on getting a saddle that fits and right now I’m open to just about anything. This fitter is super nice and knowledgeable so having her over, even if the Bates goes home with her, may prove beneficial just to get some more ideas on what would work for him. They stock Pessoa and HDR as well as the Bates new but I wasn’t a fan of the Pessoa. The HDR may work in a pinch (and is cheap enough even new) but the twist was pretty narrow and I’ve found that I like a wider twist. I’ll let you know how it goes!

34 thoughts on “Saddle Shopping Saga/ November Hours”

  1. no november hours for me, but i did get 6 for december this past weekend.

    good luck with the saddle shopping, it’s an exhausting experience!! i’ve heard that the thing to watch out for with shoulders is where the point of the tree sits (ie: the point of the tree, which is often right under the stirrup bar, needs to be behind the shoulder), as opposed to where the panel under the knee sits, since that panel is typically flexible and will move with the horse. not sure how that relates to what you’re seeing with the saddle tho!

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    1. That’s what I was told as well. Placing that point behind his shoulder moves the billets behind his girth groove which then pulls the saddle forward with use. I played that Gem with game and it sucks. I’m hoping the fitter tonight has some good ideas even if this particular saddle won’t work out for us

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  2. Ugh. Frustrating. BUT, I will say Trainer Sarah uses an anatomical girth to keep her saddle where it needs to be, and off her horse’s shoulder, and it works.. Definitely worth trying. Horses are all shaped differently, but I hope you have success with it!

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  3. Saddle shopping, always exhausting. My experience with County is that the wool flocking can be adjusted to custom the fit for the shoulders and back. Maybe this could work on the Conquest?

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    1. Maybe. When I spoke to the County rep at the start of this journey she was pretty unhelpful in all matters which is why I never booked with her. I also wasn’t super in love with the Conquest. It was cushy but not in a secure way. It felt more like I was on a couch cushion. Not my favorite feeling.

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  4. I just texted you. But keep the faith you will find the right saddle. Can you get Doofus into boot camp now while you don’t have a saddle?? Maybe the person who is doing boot camp has a saddle that will fit your special unicorn 🙂 HA! I am sorry none of the Stubben’s worked out….

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  5. His shoulder/wither/girth groove conformation is almost identical to Gracie’s, and I’ve had the same issue with saddles riding up onto her shoulders: the caudal point of her shoulder blades is further back than her girth groove, so using straight girths always means the saddles will sit on top of her shoulder blades. For what it’s worth, an anatomical girth *did* solve this issue for us. We went from having only one saddle that fit to all 3 of my saddles fitting her because they now sat where they needed to be on her back.

    I went with a Total Saddle Fit shoulder relief girth (the plain leather one; they have some fancier ones now but I’ve had the plain leather one for 3 years and I’ve been very happy with it): https://totalsaddlefit.com/shoulderreliefgirth/

    They have a 100% money back guarantee on their girths if returned within 30 days of purchase and they do allow you to trial the girth on your horse during that time. (This is explained in their FAQs section.)

    Not that you need more gear recommendations because you have so much on your mind already with the saddle alone! 🙂 But this made such a difference for us that I couldn’t not mention it in case it helps you narrow down your search. ❤

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  6. Saddle shopping totally sucks. Nilla has the saddle going onto her shoulders issue too and the TSF girth helped a ton so I second that recommendation if you want to stick with the Bates. Have you looked at getting a custom saddle? I ended up getting a made-from-scratch custom saddle for Levi for less than the cost of a Bates. I wish I’d just gone for that from the start instead of spending $$$ on fitters and back and forth shipping of tons of different trial saddles.

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    1. What company did you go through? All custom saddles I’ve seen are well over 6k. I’m still not 100% sure we are a good match personality wise so I’m trying to find something that has the potential to fit something else or has a decent resale value if I need to pass it on.

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      1. Resale for a custom is definitely an issue so you may want to stick to the brand names. Both my husband and I have saddles from Gravity Saddlemaker in Santa Cruz. I don’t know if he will do a saddle off pure pictures and tracings (he was able to come out to see our horses), but ti’s worth asking if you decide to stick with him. Michelle and Kate (fellow bay area horse bloggers) also have saddles by him. He’s brilliant and very affordable. ~3k for a custom saddle. But he’s so unknown out of the bay area, I think you’d really struggle to resell it if it doesn’t work. Have you tried a wintec on him? You can do the same gullets as the bates and they are easy to buy and sell used. Nilla also needs a less curvy tree and has huge shoulders so I think she’s similar to Happy. The Wintecs worked for her (they just weren’t forward enough for me).

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      2. Wintecs do not suit me. I rode Gem in one for years before realizing it threw me in a terrible posture and made life harder. I was surprised I liked the Bates since they make Wintec, but it is a whole different balance

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      1. Thank you…but…spoiler…I bought the Bates 🙂 I really appreciate you keeping your eyes out for me though!!! I love this blogging community because of people like you who are in it.

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  7. First off! I found a workaround for my wordpress problem – yay I can comment on your blog again! Second you live driving distance from Farmhouse Tack! I am jealous I’ve bought a lot of stuff with them over the phone haha. Text me next time you go lol.

    Fingers crossed that one of the girths actually works for you and you can keep the saddle that works well.

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