Monday, January 26, 2009

Saddle Up! It's time for a change!

In my whole life’s experience with horses until I began this blog and training for endurance, no one had ever suggested to me that my horse’s saddle might not fit properly. It was not something I considered.

Now, I don’t believe that my horses had always been in pain when I rode them, either. I knew/know the basics of saddle fit. I understand the concepts pretty well, how the tree is supposed to follow the shape of the back with the weight resting well-spread over the thick muscles running on either side of the spine, but never touching the spine or withers, that it must not be too long nor too short for the horse so as not to “bridge” or cut in, and how the gullet is supposed to follow the angle of the horse. This all (while not an all-inclusive list on saddle fitting) makes sense to me.

The trouble is that I just don’t have the eye for this kind of thing! It’s embarrassing to say, sad but true. My head knows what it is supposed to look like, but when my eye looks at the horse…..I can’t SEE the difference between a good-fitting or poorly fitting saddle. Same goes for conformation (shoulder angle, length of back, croup, being well-balanced, pastern length…I know the terms and what you’re supposed to have/look for…but I would never make a good judge – I just have a terrible time SEEING these things.

So I have enlisted the help of Kitt Hazelton with Trumbull Mtn. Tack Shop, Inc. She has a blog (see link in my sidebar), and has added a feature where she will give recommendations for saddle fit. I asked her if she would do an evaluation on Arabee and our current saddle, and let me know what she thought. I hear that her evaluation of Arabee and her saddle is to be the next blog post she does. She has mentioned briefly that she doesn't think the current saddle I'm riding in is best for my mare, but has said that she'll go into more detail in this next post.

So now, since the saddle I currently have (photo shows the saddle "all wrapped up" ready to be removed after a ride - attached is crupper, breastcollar, stirrups, girth, saddle pad - this has really improved my tacking time!) isn’t the best for my lovely mare, I’ll be needing a new one, ASAP. I must be very budget conscious, so a good used saddle is likely in my future.
  • I am attracted to the Wintec saddles (synthetic, easy care, lightweight, interchangeable gullet, CAIR panels), in particular the Wintec Pro Stock CS with Swinging Fender (it’s the bottom one on the page) I have found a used one for sale, but it’s unlikely I will be able to try it before I buy.
  • I’m also considering the treeless option. I like that the treeless can be lightweight and that they often can be fitted easier. I don’t like that they are frequently said to be less secure (for the rider).

I have always really liked the security that the western seat offered. However, I REALLY don’t want a horn, I always found that grabbing the horn off-sets my balance more than just squaring up and holding on with my thighs! Plus the danger of getting “horn gut” is a risk I'd rather not encounter. So, that's why I like the idea of the Australian type saddle - western security without a horn.....BUT I've never ridden in an Aussie saddle before.

This is a HUGE investment for me and my family, and one I'm not taking lightly due to the present poor economy and uncertain times. Admittedly, the idea of riding endurance is thrilling to me, BUT, horse stuff is not a "need" in the same category as food, shelter, if I have to break the bank to buy a saddle that fits, endurance is out.

I'd very much appreciate any input whatsoever anyone could give me about their saddle choices, how they work for them, any tips or suggestions at all at this time will be very valuable to me - Thanks in advance!


Anonymous said...

I ride in a bob marshall(treeless). I LOVE it. I think there is one listed on right now for $500 but it may not last long at that price. They are the most secure feeling treeless saddle but still give you the feeling of riding bareback, sort of, but with a pommel and cantel and stirrups. I thought it was extremely expensive and my husband didn't want to spend that much money, and is still mad at me--- but it's the best thing I've ever bought, besides my horse! I will never ride in anything else, (unless I have too.) And believe me I've rode in every kind of saddle. Horses love them too. If you come out saturday I will let you ride in mine, if you want too. But I will not sell it, ha! My friend Laura, who is a tough critic, just bought one a couple months ago. After riding in an extra one I had, then sold, she couldn't go back to riding in her dressage saddle and finally ended up spending the money and getting her own Bob Marshall. Just my 2 cents.

Actually, I know a very good endurance ridewho rides in an Abetta endurance. And if I, for some reason, had to ride in another kind of saddle I'd go for that one. It's very economical. And they make an arab tree. Look for used ones and their even cheaper.!

Good luck,
Michelle Detmer

Endurance Granny said...


I also vote for the Abetta Arabian. You can get one without a horn, though I opted for one on mine as the horn has saved my bacon too many times during one of those huge spooks or spinning roll backs.

However, the Abetta Arabian was not wide enough for Phebes. In fact, most production run saddles do not angle the bars of the saddle to accomodate the wide wither and laid back shoulder of the arabian horse. Hence, you end up with dry spots and saddle soreness.

I tried a Wintec with the changeable gullet, still not wide enough. Wintec does make an Extra-wide saddle which I have not tried, but may be a workable solution.

Treeless saddles are a good deal for the horse. The don't have to be an insecure seat if fitted with a good pad, breastcollar, and crupper. Honestly I felt my little treeless was very secure, and very close contact. Better than my western saddles and it fit my horse well too. It just rubbed "me" in all the wrong places.

I could go on for a year about saddle fit (or rather lack there of). I finally found one to fit Phebes, but it is MUCH heavier than I like.


Nicole said...

I've been checking out the Abetta saddles since you both suggested them:

Check out that link to the picture - they have changed the stirrups to english leathers, and changed the rigging - what benefit would doing that give?

Anonymous said...

It's just a personal preference. One I really like. I think it looks nice. The english stirrups are easier to move, I think. And I love the wool seat cover. I use one on my saddle and it really helps keep your hind end and legs from getting rubbed after riding long distances. I changed my rigging to english rigging as well. I say that's a bonus too. I hate western rigging. It just not as easy for me to adjust as english is.

What is the seat size? And how much do they want for it? If you use a good pad under it that will help too. Look for something with 100% wool.

Michelle Detmer

Anonymous said...

OH, I just looked at the picture better. It has center fire rigging. That's even better. It should help keep your saddle back. I need it for my horse because it would help keep the girth from riding up under my horses elbows and rubbing her. Right now I'm using a crupper for that. But the center fire rigging may work better on some types of horses.

Michelle DEtmer

Nicole said...

unfortunately the saddle picture I linked was not for sale, but just an example of what someone on some forum had done with their Abetta saddle. But if I can find a cheap used Abetta that fits, I could likely do the same changes on mine if it was a good idea.

Besides needing the saddle to fit arabee, it's gotta fit my rear, too! What do you look for in way of seat size?

Anonymous said...

I don't really know. I always rode in a 14 inch western saddle that I had for a long time. Then when I got the bob marshall I got a 15 inch. I was advised that that was the normal size. But I am a bit smaller than normal I guess because it was too big and now I have a 14.5 inch. But I could even use a 14 inch in the bob marshalls it's just I couldn't find one that small in the endurance model. But ever kind saddle is different. Luckily, you can talk to yourself (unlike your horse). So try sitting on some different seat sizes and see what ones you like best.

Michelle Detmer

Endurance Granny said...


What size seat is your English saddle? If you are riding a 17 inch english you will need a 15 western.

If you ride a 16 English, I'd go with a 14 inch seat. I'm not sure the Abetta Arabian is offered in a 14, something to check on.

If you'd like to try an Abetta for fit on your horse, I have one with the Arabian tree. The seat on it is a 15 inch, but mine has a horn.

What I really did like about the Abetta was the light weight. They come in at 15 pounds which is about 9 pounds lighter than my new saddle.

I also have a treeless you could try on Arabee. It isn't a high end treeless, but since you are accustomed to riding english, I think you'd sit one fine. It weighs 12 pounds without the fittings. If you want to come out my way some weekend you are welcome to try both, I'll even take you on a 4 mile trail ride out back if you want :) Not too far, but enough to give you a feel for either of the saddles. It might help you in your decision making process. ~E.G.

Christine said...

Hi! I have & have been using a Wintec Pro Endurance Saddle with changable gullet & Cair pannels- for several years now and LOVE IT!! I even bought it on Ebay, used. I had done a lot of research on saddles- this, to me, seemed the best way to go for my hard to fit, short backed, no withered MULE. Now, I have a Saddlebred- though she's 'wide' now,cause she's out of shape, I am confident that I can adjust the gullet to fit her withers and the Cair pannels will take care of the rest of her back. I have had NO negagive issues with this saddle.

I have been 'looking' into another spare saddle- I like the 'paso fino' type- but still doing research- they offer a lot of hornless options and they are inexpensive. But, I haven't been sold yet.

Meanwhile- I can count on my Wintec!

Just my piece of experience. Good luck!

Carol said...

I just found your blog today and have enjoyed reading many of your posts.
It sounds like you are well on your way to becoming a good endurance rider. I would like to someday do endurance myself, but my horse is a senior citizen that is pretty much retired from hard work and I have physical issues myself that stand in the way. I enjoy reading the endurance blogs though because if I cannot do it myself, I can enjoy it through someone else's eyes.

I thought I'd comment on this post because I am in the same boat as you are so-to-speak. I am in search for a new saddle for my horse as well. His current saddle is a western one and fits him (and me) ok, but due to the fact that he is getting up there in years, I am looking to find something lighter in weight.

I also want to get away from using a western saddle (I tend to be a more "english" rider at heart). I've considered treeless, but worry that it wouldn't have the amount of security I would need.

At this point I am looking into Australian saddles. Many of them are much lighter than my western saddle and are supposed to be more secure than an english saddle.

My boy and I love to ride around the farm where I board and we also trail ride with friends.

Thank You for sharing your adventures and good luck with finding a good saddle for you and Arabee!

I will add your blog to my favorites list (I hope you do not mind). Please come on over to my blog and check it out when you have some time.

Kris said...

Wintec Icelandic saddle worked great for me. It comes with changeable gullet and CAIR panels. Sells for about $575. A more open seat with medium knee rolls for a straighter leg. I found it very balanced for trekking. The changeable gullet was just the ticket for a new, underdeveloped horse I bought. Nice wide panels for weight distribution. Also has extra D-rings for your gear. Comes in just one size: 17.5. I used a fleece saddle cover to snug it down to 17.