Beginner SADDLE shopping struggles

I need opinions and advice on saddle brands, I just got my first horse and I bought a saddle online (Thorowgood AP T4) and made sure to measure the gullet correctly etc. The saddle fits him very well…but my issue is with the quality of the saddle. I didn’t know as a newbie buying a synthetic saddle, all the annoyance that comes with it. It’s very stiff, there is no grip, it’s bulky so not very close contact, the seat is very hard. It’s impossible for me to develop a firm/still leg and good seat.

I don’t plan on competing, just doing some jumping and trail rides on my own, maybe some endurance one day. I don’t want to spend over $1500 CAD on a saddle, I just don’t see a point. I want to find a good quality, black, leather, close contact/ all purpose/ jumping saddle.

I am considering a collegiate, the price is right and I like the look of their saddles. I’m not familiar with equestrian brand/ product knowledge, does this company make good saddles? Also any recommendations? I’ve looked at just about every brand I could find from low to high value. My horse is a dutch warmblood x friesian. Let’s hear your thoughts!

Disclaimer: I will be getting a saddle fitter, and preferably looking for new saddle not used

If the saddle fits the horse, you might look into the Kent & Master’s leather equivalent of the saddle. I have a K&M dressage saddle and it’s well made and good quality for the price.

Curious as to why you don’t want a used saddle though? At that price point, the new leather saddles are going to be lower quality, stiffer leather, not as well balanced, etc. A better quality, lightly used saddle will have the benefit of being broken in already, so it won’t feel stiff and bulky like you are complaining about with your current saddle, and you won’t eat as much depreciation if you need to sell it later (I hear you saying you’ll keep the right saddle, but as an example, my horse has gone up three tree sizes as she has matured and developed muscle, so it’s not always possible to just find THE saddle and ride in it forever).

I haven’t ridden in a Wintec in quite a while, but the ones that are more of a suede-like material tend to feel more comfortable and not stiff, so that is another option in the synthetic realm.

With your horse’s breeding, I suspect he is wide, so you might want to ask your fitter about hoop trees to ensure enough width.


You might look at Thornhill saddles. My Friesian cross fits in their wider trees which are hoop ish shaped.

I bought mine used so I’m not exactly sure if they are even in production anymore. But they aren’t over the top expensive and relatively comfortable. Mine doesn’t have the super close contact feel but it’s not like riding a couch either

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Unless you’re willing to consider buying a used saddle, this is nearly an impossible quest. I also find it a bit ironic that you complain about the quality of your (relatively inexpensive) Thorowgood, but then say you don’t see the point of spending more money on a saddle. That seems a bit contradictory to me.

If you’re going to work with a saddle fitter, then let them be your guide. They will probably be more familiar with the quality and availability of a range of saddles that we will.

Collegiate is OK. I used one on a lease horse once for a few months. But it’s certainly an entry-level saddle. The quality is good for the price. Whether or not that means it’s “good quality” depends on your standards and your experiences with other brands of saddles.

And looking for black close contact/AP/jumping saddles is really going to limit your search. Most of these types of saddles don’t come in black.

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Basically you have to buy a used saddle at your price point.

Anything new at or below the $2000 CAN price point is synthetic or rubbish or both.

However for $1500 you can get a serviceable specimen of one of the high end saddles second hand that will last forever, and fit you and horse much better.

Basically English saddles break down into two categories.

There are the low price saddles sold through tack shops like Greenhawk that are low end.

Then there are the semi custom saddles that are only sold through representatives. When you order one, you get to specify the tree size, seat shape, block placement, and panel configuration to fit your horse. These are in general very high quality saddles whatever the brand and cost new from CAN$ 5000 to 10,000.

These saddles are all over the second hand market in excellent shape because they last for ever and because when people get a new horse, the Semi custom saddle usually doesn’t fit.

You can certainly get one of these for CAN$1500.

The trick is finding one that’s been made semi custom in a way that fits you and your horse OK. A saddle fitter can tweak wool flocking to better fit the horse, too.

I know some folks out there do fine with their Wintec and Thoroughgood and etc. If you’ve got a low end saddle that genuinely works for you, that’s fantastic. But honestly I dont even include them in my saddle search.

Basically everyone I know has ended up with good quality second hand. Several of us have lovely Passier saddles we found in the $500 range. My friend who traded up to Passier from Thoroughgood was amazed how much it helped her position and her hip pain.


And yes, for the past several decades most dressage saddles have been black and most jump saddles have been brown.

I actually have a nice Passier jump saddle that’s black, but it is from the 1990s.


you may like the T8 thorowgood better than the T4.


I am looking everyday at lightly used saddles, I just find the market place for used tack hectic and like the easy process of just ordering something lol also I always see people posting about being scammed, so it makes me super skeptical.

Good to know! He is 50% dutch warmblood, so I’m not sure if his back is as close to friesian but definitely going to look into these saddles! Thank you

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Thank you for being so informative, and not implying that I am complaining lol :rofl: I’m going to continue looking for used, maybe I’ll let the fitter handle that part as the chaos of looking through used tack market places is too much of a hassle for me (personally). I also could afford a more expensive saddle, but as someone else mentioned I may grow out of it, therefore don’t want to spend so much. Just doesn’t seem worth it, because I ride as a hobby twice a week, not for profession or sport? Anyway thanks for your input!

You can always shop used through tack stores and saddle fitters if you’re concerned about scams. I’ve bought many saddles through eBay without problems, but straight through a private party on FB or similar is always more of a risk.

You’ll get way more for your money with a quality used saddle in your price range.

I’d just like to add that there is no need to offer input from a passive aggressive stand point, saying that I am complaining etc. I’ve heard the typical saying that the equine world could be “catty” but I’m a super chill and understanding person…and simply just find it unnecessary. Since it’s my post I respectfully ask that if you want to comment pls provide positive input and use more polite terms, so that newbies like me or others reading this aren’t discouraged :slight_smile:

Yea I am thinking so too, I live in Ontario Canada and just seems like there is no one selling! lol but I’m going to be patient :slight_smile:

In Ontario there is definitely Bahr Saddlery that has a good selection of consignment saddles. I tried a saddle out shipped by mail in BC once, it didn’t fit but they were helpful and knowledgeable.

My independent saddle fitter makes tracings of my horses’ backs, wither and back at two inch intervals, front to back curve and backbone. Armed with these I can visit a tack store or even send copies or photos to a vendor and eliminate the saddles that will never fit. My saddle fitter can fix a bit of bridging by reflocking but a too curvy tree can’t be fixed.

You will also want to think about your femur length and butt size which will determine your preferred seat size. It’s amazing how much difference an inch makes. Aldo in jump saddles you want to be sure your knee doesn’t go over the flap so if you have a long femur look for a more forward flap.

Once you have that, you can narrow things down. For instance on my Paint I need an 18 inch seat, medium wither gullet, moderate curve, and I know Passier and County tend to fit. I know I like a relatively open seat and smaller knee rolls.

For the new project horse, I needed medium wither gullet but significantly flatter back. Passier was a fail on her, rocked too much. I compromised on a 17.5 inch seat in an older excellent condition Cliff Barnsby with an open seat and low profile knee rolls ( as dressage saddles go). Saddle was randomly being sold by a boarder at the colt starters barn, my saddle fitter was on site, and I snatched it up because it worked for us.

Anyhow if you can get back tracings and get your saddle fitter to explain them to you, you will be able to approach consignment stores with a useful set of parameters.

“I am looking for a 17 or 17.5 seat jump saddle to fit a Freisian cross with wide withers and a curvy back” or whatever it is your saddle fitter tells you. Get it on trial and have saddle fitter examine it. Ride to see if you like it. Be prepared to pay to have it reflocked after you buy it, and perhaps replace girth billets, which will add a couple of hundred dollars to your total.

And then you will have a wonderful saddle that will last you for years, fits you nicely, and makes horse happy.


And of course everyone is different. I went from leather Kieffer saddles + another $2K USD dressage saddle to Thorowgoods and I can’t say I noticed much difference. Last year I thought perhaps an 18" T’good T8 dressage would fit me better than my 17.5"; it did. (from COVID weight gain? Maybe.) I have a T6 GP T’good also. (T6 =All synthetic, but the seat and knee rolls look like leather. The seller even told me they were leather. It fooled me until someone on a FB group said what was different in T6 vs T8.)

If OP wants a black GP saddle, Thorowgood/Kent and Masters are the most obvious options I know of. I definitely say try a T8 and see how the leather parts make a difference.

If you know what you need, black GP saddles are easier to find from the UK, and shipping at least to US is not as bad as you’d think (plus the prices tend to be way better). Last year I bought a like new Albion Legend AP with the adjusta tree in black for like $1300 shipped, and there were plenty of more used models without the adjusta tree for like $600. My saddler here opened mine up to widen the channel and was raving about what a steal I’d gotten on a basically brand new saddle. Black Country, Albion and K&M are all pretty easy to find in black, moreso in the UK. There are plenty of shops over there that sell used saddles and will ship to the US if you don’t want to deal with eBay or private sellers.

I love my T4 Thorowgood saddle and rarely ride in my nice leather one anymore. Can’t beat it for the price point, plus I can wipe it off with a damp rag. And yes, if extreme cold and day to day its not going to feel like leather and be supple like a high end leather saddle.

Is it a position issue that is causing your issues? They ride small imho and I had to size up from a 16 to a 16.5 and drop my stirrups a hole for proper fit for myself. I really should bump to a 17, my butt has grown since Covid. I haven’t found the saddle to be slick or hard especially in full seats, I stick more than I like. Have you tried adding a seat saver over it? Might soften the seat up for you and improve your stickiness.

Make sure the fitter is fitting you and the horse, not just the horse, you should feel secure in the saddle not perched. .