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Custom Saddle Choices - Dressage vs Western

I’ve been planning to buy a nicer quality saddle and one that fits us BOTH since I got Charlie as a 3 YO; but wanted to wait until a got through most of his growing. We mainly have been riding in a Wintec AP Wide, and while that fits him it’s not the most comfortable for me. Mostly noticeable on longer trail rides. I also picked up a Wintec close contact western saddle this year and like my body position in it better, but the seat kills my butt even with a sheepskin seat cover worse than the AP does.

Not a dilemma per say, but I’m a bit back and forth and I’m not going to spend $$$ on two saddles at the same time. Here’s our deal:

I do a little bit of everything! Working equitation, trail riding, we train dressage, did some local ranch classes this year. Next year we will have at least one working equitation show, have the option for more ranch riding, and there is a place nearby that does mountain trail challenges each month that sounds like fun. Charlie is a 6YO fjord and that Wintec Wide AP saddle has the largest of the gullet options. Goes without saying he’s stout and short backed.

After mulling this for a while, I think a nice, custom, western saddle may be the best way to go for us. We can compete in everything I listed, plus western dressage. I like that the weight is better distributed, I’ve seen now a lot of western saddles that have more of a cutback skirt that seems like a good place to start for our body type :grin:

On the other hand, I do like that a dressage saddle can be re-flocked/fitted as needed. Completely on the superficial side, I love the matchy matchy and bling with the pads and browbands and all that. With that said, I do have one that fits that I would plan to keep if I go the western route…so it’s not like that completely goes away.

I am dreading starting this snowball of fitting and testing saddles though. I have talked with a couple folks that ride fjords western so I have a couple places to start but a lot seem to want measurements and then will go from there. I would prefer to be able to see it on Charlie and to sit in the saddle myself before spending what will be easily several grand and lord knows how long to make.

Am I thinking about this sensibly going the western route? Any brand recommendations? Any guidance on navigating a custom saddle?

He wears both styles well!

I would not go the custom route unless you can’t fit yourself and your horse in a non-custom saddle.

Years ago, I ordered a custom western saddle. Did all the requested measurements with the assistance of a guy who used to make custom saddles. Yes, that’s right - a former custom saddle maker called the custom saddle maker (who had an excellent reputation) and talked to him on the phone and then did the measurements for me to make sure they were correct. Aaaand, the saddle didn’t fit either me or my horse all that well. I mean, it wasn’t awful, but not something you would want to get on and go for a long ride in.

On the other hand, the extra wide Circle Y Pioneer I bought later was the most wonderfully comfortable saddle I’ve ever owned and could not have fit my horse any better.

In answer to your question of dressage vs western, I’d absolutely go with the western saddle in your situation.


I ordered a Circle Y saddle, which was sent by the distributor based on the back tracing I provided and my horse clearly hated it. So I decided to see if there were any western saddle fitters locally, with a similar process as most English saddle brands. I found TW Saddlery, their saddles are lighter weight and have customizable options. The bottom of the saddle is a thick foam shim system, which the fitter adjusts to your horse. I do similar types of riding as you (trail riding plus working Equitation and dressage) and my horse and I have both been happy with the Versatility saddle, with a round butterfly skirt. https://twsaddlery.com/product-category/saddles/

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Also wouldn’t suggest a new custom saddle unless he is impossible to fit.
Look at high quality used saddles and find something that fits him.
I’m in the western performance world but our saddles work for most anything you’d want to do.
Bob’s, Sean Ryon, Kyle Tack, a lot of people like Don Leson’s. Many people are huge fans of Continentals, I’m not a huge fan as they feel like you’re kind of sitting above the horse but their business is booming so obviously many people love them.


Many reining horses are built a bit like your horse.
Those saddlers named, Bob’s, Kyle, Ryon, carry many used saddles as people buy up to fancy show models and the used saddles are themselves very nice and fit many horses well, plus are broken it.

Try some of those until you find the best fit for you and your horse.


Custom saddles aren’t the panacea we would like them to be. Take a look through used saddle ads and see how many “almost new” custom saddles there are. If you live near a business that handles used saddles, trailer your horse over and put a bunch of saddles on him. Or if you know a trainer that might let you try on from their saddle collection. Then with some idea what might work, start googling. Be careful of scammers and don’t buy anything without a trial. Good luck!


Being a Fjord, is he rounder in the back? I am wondering about some of the standard western trees, how well they fit that body shape…?
Not well versed in fitting western saddles. I have a friend who is selling one of hers, a nice one I think, IIRC she got it for her mustang - a rounder shape. I’ll ask her.

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It’s good to hear the the custom route isn’t the end all be all.

@Obsidian_Fire He is on the rounder side for sure, but does have some wither. He was MUCH rounder as a 3 YO than he is now that he’s grown and has some conditioning. Here’s a couple non saddle pics, the one from the Birds Eye was for cart measurements.


The saddle my friend has is Allegany Mtn Cascade Wade with all the bells and whistles, 15”.
PM me if you’re interested and I’ll put you in touch.

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Just looked that up and that’s exactly the route I was thinking of going with western tack. I got to sit in something very similar at my working Eq show and it was pretty nice.

I think my big challenge finding something used is I really prefer black tack on him with his mane, and I’ve not seen much in the way of black leather out there, let alone something like what your friend has.

I don’t have anything to add about saddles, but wanted to pop in to say I’m completely taken with your boy’s mane.


LOL. My friend’s saddle is black.

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I think Western tack makes sense for you and your horse.

I dunno about custom unless as others mention you and your horse are a hard pair to fit or find used. I say that as a person who bought a custom dressage saddle for those reasons. I love my saddle but I shopped used first.

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No advice except to say yay Charlie!!! :heart_eyes: :heart_eyes:

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First: He’s not done growing yet. That spine isn’t going to finish until he’s 6-ish.

Second, for a great option, check out DP Saddlery. Custom and semi-custom. Western, English, Baroque, etc. One of their reviews shows a nice Fjord :wink:

I’m scoping out the El Campo for my 5 yr old Gypsy/QH-X mare once she’s about done growing in the Spring.

He is 6. He will be 7 in the spring.

@stryder Thank you! This was the first year I tried anything different with his mane and this seems to suit him well!

For those of you that have bought used…have you made purchases locally that you were able to see/try in person or did you buy something out of state and resell if it didn’t fit?

I’m going to be listing my Wintec so I can put any money from that towards something new/new to me :star_struck:

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My apologies. That’ll teach me to post before coffee :wink:


My feelings on purchasing Western saddles is to always buy the saddle in front of you if possible, whether that be a used saddle or a brand new in-stock saddle. Much like human clothing, there can be slight variations in Western saddles even if they in theory have the same tree/seat size. You can accomplish some fit optimization with the right pad, but the only way to know exactly what you’re getting is to try the finished saddle on your horse and buy that exact saddle.

I’ve had one custom western saddle made, and between the wait time and minor differences in the tree/leather it just wasn’t quite right for me or the horse. That’s obviously not always the case, but it’s hard to spend a lot of money, then wait several months, and have your horse change while waiting, or have the saddle you ordered be just slightly different than expected.

Facebook Marketplace is full of ads for basically new western saddles where someone ordered a saddle custom, then sold their horse while waiting or found out it didn’t fit.

The ideal is obviously to haul to a tack shop with lots of options to try, but I know that’s not always an option. And shipping saddles back and forth gets expensive very quickly. I’m not sure where you’re located, but if there are any large championship western shows in your area, dealers/tack shops will often set up booths and have a selection of saddles.

If you are specifically looking for a short-skirted saddle, Jeff Smith generally has a rotating selection of in-stock saddles and sometimes makes them with single/lightweight skirts. Martin Saddlery has some options for junior cowhorse/all around saddles with single skirts. Most reining/pleasure saddles will be double skirted. Wade saddles will have the shorter, rounder skirts but trend very expensive very quickly and are often more of a custom build. Another poster mentioned Donn Leson trees, and while I have zero experience with Fjords those trees do often work well for our rounder, low-withered quarter horses so I think that’s a good suggestion.