Black Country vs Fairfax Gareth (Saddle Opinions Please)

I currently have a Black Country Vinici that I am happy with and fits my horse BUT the long knee roll doesn’t work for my long thigh, and I sadly have to replace it for a saddle with a different kind of block (either a high short thigh block or a smaller non-surface block that my leg can sit on top of).

I live in France and it’s not possible to try saddles here because there are only French-brand saddles for sale in this country and I would not touch one of those. I buy my saddles from the UK which means I have to buy untried (hence the knee roll problem with the Vinici).

Anyway I am trying to decide if I should stick with Black Country and buy an Eloquence which seems to have a similar shape to the Vinici but because it’s not monoflap I imagine my leg can sit on top of the knee roll rather than be forced behind it.
Or I am curious about the Fairfax Gareth monoflap that has a shorter high thigh block. I’ve never tried a Fairfax before. What kind of back profile do they fit and for the rider are they roomy and what is the twist like?

Thanks for any opinions.

PS: My horse is a petite Lusitano. Relatively easy to fit but has a flat back with wither the highest point so can’t have a saddle with too much curve in the tree.

I didn’t try the Fairfax Gareth, but it was recommended to me for my horse that is quite flat backed, with moderate high and thick withers, and also broad backed. I spoke with a fitter here in US about that saddle when she recommended it to me and she described it as riding relatively large for the seat size. I’m unsure about the twist.

I had a Fairfax Gareth on my PRE with a shorter back, mostly flat, and a high somewhat broad withers. I liked it well enough. Whereabouts are you in France? I know of two fitters in France (have used them both) that sell/carry/fit Fairfax saddles.

I had a Vinici made with a short block that ends just above my knee, and a forward flap, and I’m very happy with it. I’d purchased a used one with a block like yours and had the same problem with my long femurs. I ordered mine long-distance and just sent a photo of my thigh in the saddle and a measurement of where I wanted the block to end and it came out perfectly. This is the best pic I have handy, but I could get a better one if it would be helpful for you.


That saddle would be perfect. I actually asked a couple saddle makers here if they could modify the blocks on my saddle but they said it wasn’t really possible or would be super expensive to do so.
I have seen one on ebay with a short block for sale, but haven’t come across any used like that in the UK (where these saddles are way cheaper). I wish I could get it custom made but don’t have that kind of budget.
I thought about trying to find a Black Country Equinox which is their endurance saddle (I do endurance too) but it’s built on the dressage tree so maybe it’s good for dressage too. But, again, I have no way to try it.

I’m near Limoges, in the centre. There is a saddle fitter near me that I have used in the past and she deals Fairfax and Kent and Masters but she doesn’t actually have any in stock. She said she could come try some Thorowgoods on my horse to see how they would fit (it’s the same tree) but that doesn’t really help with fitting me because the Thorowgoods don’t have the same range of styles.

I ride in a Black Country Equinox for dressage for exactly the same reason you are considering it. I tried a Vinici - my horse loved it and I did too except for the long thigh block. I found a used Equinox for $1000 (score!!!) and we both love it! I believe it comes with a slightly shorter and more forward flap than the Vinici, and of course it has the smaller thigh blocks (they barely even reach my mid-thigh). It’s shorter than the one @outerbanks77 has, based on the photo above.

Compare the photo below:

Because I use mine for dressage only, I had the extra hardware removed. I don’t think anyone realizes it’s not a true dressage saddle.

Ah, ok. Both fitters I know so stock Fairfax and K&M. They’re too far East from you though. I believe one relocated to Belgium, now that I think about it.

Just wanted to chime in about another Black Country Saddle. It’s not a monoflap like the Vinici or Equinox, but the Kur model is made for short backs. I’ve had mine built on hoop trees for my Arabs. I have Kurs in MW, W, and XW to fit different horses. It has a flatter seat, minimal knee block. I prefer the more open seat. The flatter/open seat is also what allows the panels to be a bit shorter relative to the seat size which is helpful for shorter backed/smaller horses.


This is my BCS Kur 17.5W hoop tree with upswept serge panels and buffalo leather

BCS offers a variety of tree, flap, blocks, and other options for most of their models so it can be worth communicating with them. If you have a good local fitter to do back and wither tracings BCS should be able to let you know what options are available for various models.


Oh, I’m so glad to hear that you are using the Equinox for dressage!! (And you found an amazing deal. I have only found one for sale anywhere and she wants £1800). It’s making me think maybe I should try to go down this route. I don’t need a big thigh block anyway because my horse is easy to sit. The worry I had about the saddle is that it wouldn’t allow you to sit straight up, and I imagined it might pitch you forward a bit like an AP/GP or something. But it doesn’t sound like that’s your experience?

I trialed an Equinox at one point and it does allow you to sit up just fine. The main difference for me is that it has short panels, so only leather under the knee. That was fine for me on my big 17h guy, but it didn’t work on my 15h mare. My knee was just kind of floating in space with nowhere to go, so that is what made me bite the bullet on the custom Vinici. If your horse has plenty of barrel to take up your leg I think it would be fine.

I agree. I don’t have any trouble sitting up in the Equinox.

I don’t understand the description of short panels and only leather under the knee, but my horse is 16.2+ and has a well-spring rib cage, so maybe I haven’t experienced this feeling.

Short panels on the Equinox end right about at the same place as the block:

The panels (flocked part) extend to the bottom of the flap on my Vinici even though the blocks are shorter, so my knee rests on the stuffing, essentially adding 2" of width. Like I said, it was not an issue for me on my large horse, but on my small horse, I would have needed to ride with a fairly short stirrup to keep my leg on effectively. I’m 5’9" with a long femur that makes it tricky to make things work on a small horse.

Ah! I see what you mean.

Yes, definitely not an issue for me on my mare. Especially as I am only 5’4" :slight_smile:

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I just bought two Fairfax World Class dressage saddles. I think the Fairfax are all generally built on the same tree and freedom panels. I first tried a different model but I hated the short high thigh blocks. The World Class is the narrowist twist of the models and has a long skinny knee roll. It fits all sorts of backs. I like it for my young horses because you can adjust it in one mm increments. I dislike the shoulder blocks (which is mostly a rider thing). Anyway, with the Fairfax, there are two different panels–the regular panel and then the one for very uphill horses like friesians. I have a very uphill warmblood, but she fit the regular panel. The seats are all different feels and you really should talk to a Fairfax fitter about what you like and they might guide you. I had a Lovatt & Ricketts for about 3-4 months, but it was too wide for my horses and it felt very wide in the twist for me. I feel the Fairfax gives me a very balanced and secure fit.

Hmm that is good to know as that is going to be a factor for me. My mare is only 15.2 and has no barrel.
I do find in my Vinici that my leg floats a bit (I feel like one of those 6’6” men must feel like riding normal sized horses). Although I also have to ride with my stirrup two holes longer than I’d like to try to fit behind the knee roll.
On the flip side I find lots of dressage saddles are way too much saddle for a small horse so it feels like you’re riding a saddle way high up above the horse. That’s what attracts me to monoflap or more simple styles. And I think especially that’s why I like the seat on the Vinici because I get to be so close to my horse’s back rather than miles above it.

I also liked the look of the Kur, althogh prefer the deeper seat of the other models. I’ve only ever seen one for sale and it wasn’t the right specs for me.
Do you have a long fermur? I’m curious to know how it fits a long leg. Although the minimal knee roll probably helps.

Also has anyone tried an Eloquence? There are a fair few for sale that look like they would work for my horse. I don’t know how they would work for my leg though. I’m curious to know what they feel like compared to the Vinici. The shape looks similar.

I don’t have a long femur. The flatter seat is a feature that I prefer. I really don’t like very deep seat and large knee blocks.

I had the Eloquence before I had the Kur. I felt comfortable in the Eloquence, but I like the Kur even better. If I had known about the Kur model when I bought my first BCS saddle, I probably would have gotten the Kur instead. All of my horses need hoop trees (I’m a breeder so I have my personal riding horses plus youngsters I am bringing up) and the BCS hoop tree models seem to suit their shapes well AND be comfortable for my body too. I always feel like my leg drapes naturally in the BCS saddles that I have. I don’t mind the wide twist. Other people are less comfortable because their structure is different.

I had my two Eloquences built to spec and two of my Kurs built to spec. BCS’s ability to offer different trees, flap options, panel modification, block options, etc. is one of the things I really appreciate about the company. I have small wide horses so being able to build saddles that are tailored to the specs I need has been very helpful. I’ve bought a few used BCSs that had the specs I needed – two MW Kurs and a MW Quantum, but by then I knew what features I needed.

For my 14.1 3/4 very wide extremely short backed mare I really had no choice but to order custom because the combination of features that I needed to fit her back were unlikely to ever show up in the used market.

I did try an Equinox once and it felt similar to the Eloquence with a slightly more forward flap. I hadn’t tried a Kur yet. The Eloquence has been their primary dressage model for many years so there are tons of them out there in the secondary market.

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Yes, I trialed an Eloquence with a forward flap and liked it pretty well, but it was a 17.5 and I needed an 18. Also owned an Eloquence with a regular flap and it was OK, but the flap is pretty straight and I would still wind up with my knee on the block The difference is, with the regular flap with the block underneath, you could probably get the block removed and replaced with something smaller and velcro. I think the fit on the horse is pretty similar.

I had to count and I think I’ve had seven BC saddles over the years!