Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The (Mostly) New Kid

Emma's post about finally getting the perfect dressage saddle for Charlie was the kick in the pants I needed to post about my own dressage saddle shopping experience. Or maybe it was just that I have no other topic of conversation now that I've exhausted every goal/review/recap post of 2017 I could draw out.

I could write about Opie's CTJ on the longe line after BM complained about him being The Worst outside, but...I don't know. The CTJ wasn't anything special, and the reason I put him back to "work" even though it's colder than I would want to do anything with him in is not something I'm ready to tackle mentally yet. If I don't see him do anything, is he really being Satan? (The answer is yes.)

Stupid horses.

On to the bulk of that $4k+ tack shopping category!

not always the best. sometimes the worst.
but that saddle tho.

I rode in the Stubben Roxanne I bought March '17 most of last year on Bobby. It's a nice saddle. It's comfy--especially for a lower end Stubben--it fit Bobby fantastically, and it was by far the nicest piece of tack I'd ever owned.

However, I struggled with my position in it far more than I ever did with my Tekna. It wasn't the worst for sitting the trot, but it was impossible for me to post in it, and it never felt like the best fit in the seat size. I was determined to make it work because I bought it and I had it, but once I got Opie and pulled it back out for the first time in awhile, I only rode in it one more time before pushing it aside for my ancient jump saddle.

hot mess express. trying to heft my ass out of the saddle was ridiculous.

Since I want to show primarily in dressage (and personally I think a dressage saddle is a thousand times more comfortable to ride in on the daily anyway, but that just might be my crippled knees talking), I wanted to make getting a new saddle a priority.

Once an idea is in my head, I can't just sit and wait on it. There are no local (or even semi-local) tack stores around here that carry dressage saddles for me to try. Trust me, I asked. I have a really long thigh and finding something that my knee doesn't blast over the flap has always been hard for me. I have next to no knowledge of what types of saddle work best for what rider, and while research left me with a list I really didn't want to end up with another Roxane problem--a lovely saddle that fit either myself or the horse, but not both and now I can't sell the thing.

Having never done so before, I put the question out to the world of Facebook on what the cost of demoing saddles is. You guys gave me some fantastic responses and I felt confident that at least was something I could afford to get done right away, and then I could keep an eye out on whatever the fitter recommended.

look at all the pretties. LOOK AT THEM.

I ended up starting with (and, uhh, finishing...okay, never moving on from) County at the recommendation of a local rider that gave me tons of great advice and recommendations when I moved up here. The rep was fantastic to work with--friendly, great with communication, knowledgeable, patient with Opie having all of a dozen rides off the track when she came out, and she never once tried to shove her product down my throat. I didn't feel pressured into buying anything from her, and she went above and beyond to make sure I got what I wanted.

She started off taking a tracing of Opie and then went right to pulling out saddles.

We started with the Competitor, but the flap didn't feel forward enough and alongside my knee shooting off the edge, we agreed that I was basically stuffed into the thing and a bigger set size wasn't going to help there.

Next up was the Fusion. This one had the external knee blocks which I'd never ridden with before. I was ready to be wowed. I loved the look of it, and Opie immediately moved off better than he ever had. The blocks didn't do it for me though. I felt like my knee was banging into them, and the flap still didn't seem forward enough. I told Rep upfront I was not going custom and needed something to fit me essentially off the rack. On to the next.

The Connection was like butt magic the second I swung my leg over. The seat was roomy, the flap was forward, the blocks were unobtrusive, and Opie was moving freely and happily. I told her it was my favorite hands down, but she wanted me to try the last model just in case.

oh, that's how your leg is supposed to hang. and it shouldn't be impossible to post?
what a concept!

I was in and out of the Perfection in less than a lap. It was my least favorite of the four, and after riding in the Connection I didn't even bother making my thus far impeccably well behaved baby horse go around yet again.

The saddle I demoed was a 17.5" medium tree in bull leather. I loved everything about it, but Rep told me the bull was almost $1k more than the elephant print. I wasn't totally sold on it because even the price of a demo with the elephant was astronomical for my little baby budget, so she dug out a weirdly sized 17" wide tree with the elephant print, and after checking to make sure the tree worked for Opie, told me to keep it until she was back up probably in a week and see what I thought about it, no strings attached.

I put in a couple of rides, and even though the seat was a bit too small for me (while the 18" Stubben was way too small for me, the 17.5" County is perfection), the difference in Opie and the ease of holding my position and working my body parts sold me.

it just cuddles my leg and i love it. #obsessed

I told the Rep I wanted it, she sent in the order to the County office, and they shipped me the 17.5" wide tree from another rep in two days. Rep came out shortly thereafter to fit it specifically for Opie. It needed a little lift in the right for his less developed shoulder, and she told me to use a Mattes pad for a couple weeks until he truly filled in the wide tree. Uh, yeah. Four years old, two months off the track with not a whole lot of rides, and he was rocking a wide comfortably. Though he be but little, he is fierce a sofa.

welcome home.

My mom generously donated a large chunk of change for Christmas that paid off a third of it, we were able to budget in another third, and County financed the last third which we plan on paying off in full by March. I sold my jump saddle to BM since it turned out to be way too narrow, and with the proceeds bought my own Mattes half pad (having been borrowing one from a generous barn mate) and a 22" Total Saddle Fit girth since Bobby's 28" memory foam girth was swallowing Opie whole.

i maybe also stuck with county because it's riding bestie's fave and i trust her judgement

It's hands down the most money I've ever paid for anything besides my truck. It's more than I paid for my horse trailer. It's more than three times the amount I paid for my horse. ALL of my horses! That makes me a little twitchy sometimes when I spiral down the whole "What if I paid too much?" "What if I could have found it cheaper somewhere else?" "What if there's a better saddle out there that's cheaper AND works better?"

And maybe all of those things are true, but it's the saddle I have and mostly paid for, and hot damn is it comfy and dreamy and makes my horse move like a unicorn. It can't be all bad!

of course i haven't sat in it in two weeks, but it's still nice to
look at.

Have you guys ever demoed saddles before? Any brand preferences? Do you make questionable life choices large purchases without shopping the market like I do?

61 comments:

  1. Dude, saddle fitting sucks so hard, if you found a unicorn that he loves and you love, don't even think about the price or trying to find a deal. And I say that as the deal-iest dealhunter that ever lived. Go forth with a happy butt and no regrets.

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    1. It's hard to question a happy butt.

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  2. Ha when I first saw that photo, I thought dang her leg looks good! Wtf is wrong with mine?

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    1. Better go buy an expensive ass saddle!

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  3. Makes you twitchy, LOL! I do the SAME thing. Since purchasing a custom Voltaire (which hasn't arrived yet), I troll the used saddle sites to see if I see one in my exact specs for sale for less.

    Why do I do this? To torture myself? I guess I do it to prove that what Rio and I need is NOT out there, and to justify my purchase to myself. Thankfully I have not found one even close to my specs. Whew!

    CONGRATS! I hear County's are very nice!!!

    <3 Kelly @ HunkyHano

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    1. OMG and me three! I keep doing the same thing.

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    2. Um, yes, I totally did the same thing right after I placed the order. Fortunately I haven't found anything with our specs either although I do try to limit my searching. I don't really want to know if it's out there!

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    3. Had my stubben for a couple months now and still look at the used ones lol it's a disease once you buy a saddle lol! Carly what are the specs on ur stubben dressage?( I don't need two saddles now I am muttering to myself) ugh it's a sickness I tell you. Enjoy your saddle esp once it warms up! Ps Opie does the best bitch face ��

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    4. It's a 32 18" so I think a bit wide for you? BUY IT ANYWAY!! 😉 Asking $800+shipping, but (super!) open to offers!

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    5. shit my wide as a truck QH needs a 29 or at least a 30. GRHHHH :) The Stubben tree is so odd. Otherwise I would totally be all over that shit!! If i hear of anyone looking in my area I will point them your way!! (I do love the Stubben now and I am so glad you love your new County). We spend so much time on our ass in these things we might as well be comfy, right? :) (AND i want to do a mash up of all of Opie's side eyes, he cracks me up with his expressions)

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  4. I think I've checked out every saddle in the store that I think will remotely fit me and/or one/all of my horses, haha. I have a perfectly good dressage saddle of my own, but it's just so fun to try out new (new to me, at least) ones!

    I've ridden in Wintec, King's, Amerigo, Schleese, Hennig, and Sommer. The Sommers are by far my favorite because they're comfortable and put me in a good position without making me feel like I'm being forced into one. I hated the Schleese I rode in!

    I'm glad you found something that works for you and Opie!

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    1. There was maybe for sure an actual discussion between SB and I that flying out to you to sit in saddles needed to be an option for us.

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  5. I love my County so hard!! It’s amazing to ride in a properly fit saddle

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  6. Duuude - you and I have just gone through nearly the same experience. I just got done with a dressage saddle fitting and did it just as you described (one saddle after the other in the same ride). It was awesome. Somehow I lucked out and picked the second cheapest saddle option, but weirdly I got paranoid in the reverse way of your paranoia (did I get the best saddle I could? Did one of the others actually fit him or me better and I'm just too stupid or dead to the world to notice? etc. etc.)
    Congrats on the new saddle. It's a beaut!

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    1. The rep didn't tell me the pricing on any of them until I picked my favorite at which point I nearly fell over and died. She was like, That's one of our cheaper ones! Um. Wut. Cheap clearly being subjective here!

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  7. The magic of finding the correct saddle for both you and the horse, even if you have to mortgage your soul for it 😍 haha. My inner tack ho loves it!

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    1. Mortgaging my soul is exactly what went on here!

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  8. I said I was buying a saddle before I knew the price. It was significantly more expensive than the horse. But it is magical and my horse started walking and I don't regret it one bit. The butt wants what it wants.

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  9. Ooooh yay county! I've only sat in a few of them but wow I've loved everyone! And yea I'm honestly not one of those who has to do a ton of market research and turn over every stone looking at every possible saddle solution. When I find one I like and that fits me the horse and the budget? And esp if it's a nice quality that should last a while? Yup that's good enough for me!! (For the record my saddle cost about 80% of what Charlie did, where as his surgery cost about 120%. It. Uh. It evens out somehow or another right??? Maybe don't answer that.....)

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  10. My current jump saddle was the demo saddle I tried. It's a Loxley by Bliss and my previous jump was a Black Country, so not much of difference - but my horse needed a wider tree and I got SO much more position out of the new saddle. I knew I liked it right away. Sold. I then went about replacing my BC dressage (too confining) with a Loxley dressage. I knew I would like it and it would fit my horse, so I hunted down a used one of those about a year later. It worked out well, since I used to be in 95% jump saddle, and now I'm 95% dressage saddle. A lot of brands don't work for my horse. Before I found the BCs which worked until he got muscled, I tried MANY brands, both via mail and locally. And more research than you can shake a stick at - all on my own. Saddle shopping is rough because it has to fit both of you. I have no problem shelling out BIG bucks for saddles because of this. Plus, they hold their value pretty well. My demo jump saddle was nearly new price (only sat in by one other person), and the used dressage was about 25% off new.

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    1. I've had a much easier time fitting my horses than myself, but I'm glad I had the rep out to confirm that I wasn't crazy thinking Opie went better in my wide Stubben dressage saddle than my medium jump saddle.

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  11. What a gorgeous saddle! I need to get on my dressage saddle game. I've been without one for over a year now. But I'm so afraid of how much $$ I'll have to shell out (ahem, thanks hard-to-fit horse).
    I kind of "demoed" saddles around the barn that I worked at/ride at, which gave me a really good idea of what I liked and what my horse liked. I tried on oodles of CWDs (my trainer is sponsored by them), and one antares, and one devoucoux, and found that my horse moved like a dream in a CWD 2g, so I found one that is 7 years old, and was massively discounted. It is a slightly smaller flap than I ideally would have liked, but my leg fits, and me and my pony are both comfy, so I call it a win!

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    1. I HAVE A GREAT STUBBEN TO SELL YOU!!! At least you have one good saddle to work with. Being completely without something that works is the worst!

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  12. I have been very close to buying a Perfection several times. It is my favorite. BUT for some reason all County saddles put me in a chair seat. And the rep from In/KY used to be a real bitch so I stayed away from actually buying one for those reasons. But they are good saddles!

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    1. My rep owned the Perfection and thought it was so funny how much I instantly hated it. It's crazy how different each of the models is.

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  13. I just bought a County too and had a very similar experience to you. I magically ended up with the exact custom saddle I would have ordered (down to the color and leather) but would have never been able to afford. Mine was a demo before it came to me, so despite being a 2013, I don't think it's had more than 30 rides in it.
    So glad you found something that fits both of you! I figure a dressage saddle will be next for me, but... let's not light any more money on fire just yet.

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    1. I'm so glad they had the specs I needed available in a demo or I would still be without a saddle.

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  14. Yay congrats on the saddle! Think about it in costs per year lol which is what I do with my jump saddle. Got it brand new custom 10 years ago and its still going strong!

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    1. That's a really good way to look at it!

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  15. My barn owner loaned me a Dresch (expensive custom german thing) dressage saddle for a few months and if I had not had to quit my job for vet school I would have bought it from her. It fit both of us like it had been custom made for us.

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    1. Why do saddles have to cost actual money?

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  16. I did this exact same thing with dear Volty. I had a CWD that fit P but did nothing but get in my way over fences, then I rode P a few times in an old trainer's Voltaire. Those things are impossible to find used, so I had a rep come out, told her exactly what I liked and she brought a few variations to try. Found the seat and flap size that worked the best for me and the rest is history! Most expensive saddle I've ever owned, but I love it.

    Now onto dressage saddles...good to know you and your freakishly long thigh (I rock them myself) found a solution, muahaha.

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    1. Long thighs are the WORST for saddle fitting OMG.

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  17. Saddle shopping is terrible. I hate it. When you find one that works you grab it, close your eyes and write the check. It's a rule. Honest.

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  18. I tried everyone's Antares at the barn. Loved them, but not on my mare. Loved trainer's old as dirt Butet, but knew half that was the permanently warn in grooves. Ended up with an older CWD but loved a Devocoux as well. Actually demo'd Voltaires with a rep. Interesting experience. Of course only liked the most expensive one. ONly tried like 3 dressage saddles ever, and the Wintec worked best. Sooo, prob need to try more lol.

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    1. I hate Wintecs. The twist is way too wide for me. I have never sat in any of those fancy jump saddles though. #goals

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  19. You had a rep and got to demo? LIVE THE DREAM.

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    1. I know, I felt so fancy and legit and poor!

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  20. Finding a saddle is soooo stressful. But definitely worth it when you find the right one! Demoing is definitely the way to go!

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    1. I don't ever want to buy without being able to sit in things first ever again.

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  21. One day I'll get a nicer dressage saddle. I have never demoed a saddle through a rep before. I did sit in one magical County dressage saddle Austen pushed me into at Rolex...it was amazing. I ride with the most minimal of dressage saddles now so an eventual upgrade will inevitably blow my mind.

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    1. I've barely even had the chance to touch a saddle that costs more than $1k new so this is SUCH a luxury for me!

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  22. I hate saddle shopping -- it's awful. I've demo'd saddles twice now (soon to be three times) and the process is usually pretty nice. I find it helpful to try different saddles back to back, and the reps I've come across have all been really nice.

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    1. I'm glad I got such an awesome rep on my first try since I've heard some saddle fitter horror stories.

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  23. I bought a nicely used County Connection in November. I really like it! I actually have a tiny bit of trouble posting in it, but it is much easier to do a sitting trot than in my Custom Revolution.

    When I needed to replace the Custom, I started asking around about reps, but at the same time, a local big name trainer retired, and all of her saddles were for sale. I went to her place and sat in a few of them, and she let me take one home to try. It wasn't the same as going through a rep, but at least I got to try it for free without having to deal with shipping. Sounds like your County rep was awesome!

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    1. I actually went back and reread you County posts before I pulled the trigger on this one!

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  24. This is basically what I did for my current dressage saddle - I sat in about 10 of them that fit the horse and picked which one fit me the best. The difference was night and day between my old saddle, and despite the cost (gulp), I have never regretted it.

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    1. The difference in ease of riding between this saddle and my too small everywhere Stubben is amazing.

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  25. Oh man, I am literally trying not to vomit thinking about the fact that my horse needs a new saddle.

    It's interesting, we have totally opposite taste in saddle shapes, haha! I adore the perfection!

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    1. All the County ads I see now are for the Perfection, but I couldn't stand it!

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  26. Honestly, finding the right saddle makes everything else about riding SO MUCH better that it's worth selling a kidney and spleen for. I've been lucky that my horses are fairly easy to fit and I'm a stubby girl with a normal length leg. Still trying to find the right pads for each horse to make my new to me Voltaire a little more perfect though.

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    1. At least pad shopping is slightly less expensive than saddle shopping...while still being shopping so we all get to live vicariously through you.

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  27. Your saddle fitter sounds so dreamy!! I love my fitter, though she's not associated with any one brand (I think?), so when I've tried on saddles from her it's been a bit more of a grab bag. That said, I love having someone knowledgeable that I trust, who can rebalance my saddles when they feel weird, and helped me find a saddle that made my pony move like a (slightly gimpy) unicorn!

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    1. She was so great to work with! She fits other brands too so it's nice to know I have someone I trust when I eventually get a jump saddle again.

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  28. Great. Now I'm questioning my old-ass Keiffer, as my butt does appreciate the finer cushion of a nice County. It's my brand of choice, too!

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  29. My saddles are both County! I had the same thoughts on the fusion - so pretty, wanted to love, but ughhh with the knee blocks. I ended up liking the competitor best - I have short legs!- so just bought used. Both mine are over 10 years old ( the jump one is 20 now!) and still look great, I recommend them to everyone.

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  30. Woohoo! So happy for you that you found the ONE. One of my friends, previous fellow boarders is a County rep and if my Prestige ever stops fitting I'll likely have her out to try some saddles. I'm really hoping that this holds out until I can get a pony Custom though!

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