Has anyone heard of these? I am on the search for a new saddle for my horse and plan to purchase a saddle through a saddle fitter. It was suggested to me that I also look into Balance Saddles. This was the first I had heard of these. Looking at the website I don’t see anything spectacular about the saddles. It just seems that they use a different fitting philosphy, and a whole bunch of pads. The saddle covers say the saddles are made by Frank Baines for Balance. Does anyone have first hand experience with these? What are your opinions? BI only know of one person riding in one, and she seems to like it.
They are well made saddles, but, at least the ones I’ve seen (a former boarder and a couple in the shop I work in) have been BOATS. They are huge, big, bulky saddles. This may be possibly because they seem to be aimed for the very wide horse market, but, as a rider, they look horribly bulky and uncomfortable. They also look like they don’t really put the rider in the best position. I’ve not been impressed, other than the quality of the craftmanship (nice leather, good stitching, etc).
Caveat: the couple of people I’ve met who LOVE and/or promote these saddles have been some of those out there, loony birds you often find in the horse industry. The type of person who either does things completely differently from everyone else (with no real credentials to show that their methods are successful) or who make the good, classical basics seem so amazingly hard or talk like they are a completely foreign concept. I usually get very put off by these types and leery of any product they hawk. So, take my feelings on the saddles with a grain of salt :winkgrin:
The person that I know with one of these saddles doesn’t seem to be the out there type. However, looking at the website the fitter in my area is into the Parelli method, and that definitely makes me leery! I hate all the gimmicky training methods and equipment that’s out there, and I’m wondering if these saddles fit that category. Too many options for saddles, it gets soo confusing. I’ve already had 2 wrong saddles, I want the right saddle this time!!
They are generally made for the wider, rounder horse and they are supposed to be used with a pad system that can be stacked to accommodate various needs. The ones I have seen, both dressage and ap are very open and some feel that it can be more challenging to stay centered only because one is not “locked” in. I tried one on one of my son’s horses, a Connemara and he went quite well in it. I do think hey are well made as Frank Baines makes quality saddles.
Re: the pads. The boarder who used one used it with various pad set ups. I always felt that the saddle looked like it was sitting ABOVE the horse instead of on it. It always just looked a little odd. The saddle was also far too big for the rider (the twist made her look like she was being split in two and was just far too big in the seat and flaps. But, she did buy it used and not custom made for the two of them). She liked it and the horse was supposedly happy, so who am I to say?
From my personal experience, I wouldn’t do it. I was pressured by one of the bodyworkers who regularly works on my horses to have a saddle fitting and I truly regret the $150 or so that I spent. I shared an appointment with another person and they easily got their $150 worth (the saddle fitter worked with her for ~5 hours), but I would say that judging from the 45 minutes of focus I got, it wasn’t worth it.
I brought two horses (as a caveat, I did only get charged for a fitting on one) and said I wasn’t sure if I was ready to buy, but that I could be open to it. I pulled one horse off the trailer and the saddle fitter freaked out and commanded me to not ride him for at least a month, maybe two because he was, in her opinion, so drastically under-muscled. Moreover, she was convinced that his poor top line was directly related to my too-tight saddles (hence why I should not put any weight on his back for 1-2 months). As a side note, he’d suddenly lost a ton of condition about 4 months before and that prior to whatever traumatic episode caused it (we never could pinpoint anything more than a moderate worm load) he had significantly more weight and muscling. I explained this to the saddle fitter, but she seemed to ignore that in her conclusion. She quickly picked out a few pads to go under my jump saddle on the other horse, but I didn’t even get to actually sit in a Balance saddle. So take my opinion as one who has only marginal personal experience with the saddles from attending one terrible, long fitting session.
First and foremost, what I just could NOT get behind is the fact that their saddles are one size fits all. They DON’T cater to the rider. The philosophy is that the rider who needs and/or likes a supportive saddle (for example, a dressage saddle with a deep seat) is hindering herself and just needs to learn how to ride better and balance herself properly. Also they more or less come exclusively in wide twists and shallow-ish seats. The saddle fitter made it clear that the saddle takes a long time to get used to and that most riders will ride like crap in it. I just don’t buy the reason, which is that we’ve been hindered by modern saddles.
Secondly, and perhaps the more glaringly obvious reason I and others can’t get behind the idea is because they fit them so. Darn. Wide. Like, big fat wool-back pad, plus 1-2, maybe even more, foam shims. The saddle fitter made a very good point when she traced a horse’s withers before and after work- the wither tracing after work was wider from the muscles being engaged. But it wasn’t 3" wider, which makes me wonder why it’s so absolutely necessary to have the saddle so excessively wide and use tons of pads.
I will say that to each their own. It does seem to really work for some people. My horses’ bodyworker loves Balance saddles. But I’d rather pay a couple grand for a saddle I actually like and enjoy riding in than something I’ve been pressured into buying and using but isn’t right for me. I finally did end up buying a new dressage saddle- I worked with a saddle fitter and recently ordered a custom Black Country.
I have a Balance and absolutly love it (so does my horse). The saddles are comfortable and I feel it puts me in a great position. I didn’t find them to be “one size fits all”, they have several designs and seat depths and want the rider to be as comfortable as the horse. I would highly recommend at least speaking to one of their fitters before dismissing them totally (and choosing the right one is important! I don’t know where you are located but I would be happy to put you in touch with the one that I used).
My horse is so much more engaged, forward and happy in a Balance saddle. The difference in her ability to lift her back is astounding. The fitting philosophy is different and that is off-putting to many people but if it is explained to you well, it makes sense.
Feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions or want to be put in touch with the fitter that I used (she is more than happy to answer questions on the phone or via e-mail). Just like with any saddle company, who you are talking to/working with makes a huge difference.
Thanks for the opinions everyone! The saddle fitter is coming out next week, hopefully I find something that the horse and I both like!
I hope you found a saddle that fits your horse.
I have ridden my horses in Balance saddles for many years. They are very confortable and I can honestly say that my horses move better in them than the other brands I used to own.