I am just starting to get into the world of endurance. I ride in an all purpose Wintec saddle, and right now I’m using a basic cotton square saddle pad. I’d love to use a wool pad, such as the Toklat Woolback, but I’m afraid of the pad being too thick under my AP saddle and pinching. I need advice on the best saddle pad and girth to use with my saddle.
Most treed saddles aren’t meant to go beyond an hour’s use before starting to hurt a horse’s back. And even the shortest distance LDs (25 miles) mean you will be spending multiple hours in the saddle. No matter what type of pad you use, the bottom line is the tree will be the culprit in back problems.
Not saying all treed saddles are bad. Just most are not designed to be used in a sport like Endurance. Which is why there are specific saddles for Endurance. Just like there are specific saddles for jumping, roping, racing, etc. They all have a reason for being designed with a specific sport in mind - for the comfort of the horse to do its job in the best way possible.
Is there any way you can borrow an endurance saddle to start with? You’ll find that both you and your horse will be happier overall.
Start with what you are using currently and go from there. It could be your current setup will be just fine or your horse may tell you something isn’t right and you will have to make adjustments.
I have ridden thousands of miles in an AP-type saddle (ASC Rubicon), up to and including 100s. I use basic quilted square pads for training and a toklat matrix (no inserts) for competitions.
The Toklat Woolback pads really are worth the money. I’ve ridden hundreds of hours on trails using one beneath various saddles and I’ve yet to have one that made my horses’ backs sore in any way. I think your saddle is fine; but improving your pad may make all the difference to your horse. You might also consider a gel seat cover for your saddle seat for you or even sheepskin. Good luck and have fun.
Any saddle that fits horse and rider is suitable for “endurance riding.” Some will be more suitable than others.
Start by looking at police and military saddles. They were designed for long term riding. The one to be most careful about is the U.S. McClellan saddle. I’ve always found it a “blister rig” for me but I know lots of troopers (Active Duty, Reserve, Retired, and re-enactors) who love it. Do not buy an original Mac. Find a good reproduction if you want to go this way. I’ve got some name of reputable makers. The British Universal Pattern Saddle (introduced in 1797 and in use today) is a good one. So is the British Yeomanry Officer’s Saddle (introduced around 1902). There are at least three versions of the German Armeesattel out there. Stay away from the 1912 versions with the “adjustable trees.” They lasted two years and were abandoned due to durability issues.
Most Western saddles will be too heavy. For long distance riding it’s “the kilograms, not the kilometers” that is the key issue. If you’re not going to be roping steers on your endurance ride you don’t need a saddle built to handle steer roping.
Saddles that don’t provide support for a sound seat will be unsuitable as the effort required by the rider to maintain their seat will be energy intensive on that rider. So as you peruse English saddles ensure that the fit is proper for both you AND the horse. The exact shape is not irrelevant but also not defining.
Saddles billed as Endurance Saddles should be held to the same standard as any other saddle. If it fits you and the horse then it’s OK. If it doesn’t, then it’s not. Put another way, the label is not “magic.”
When shopping for a saddle you’ve got “frog” problem. You will likely have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. That’s OK and part of the process.
Regarding padding, be ready for another round of “frog kissing.” The pad must work WITH the saddle. It cannot really correct bad fit or a weak seat. It’s job is to assist the saddle in effectively distributing weight and cushion the back against any “pounding” it might take (not that you’d want to pound the intentionally, but riding is a dynamic environment and sometimes things happen that you don’t want). You also want the padding to absorb sweat and help prevent and/or remove heat buildup along the spine. This argues for fabrics and other materials that will not trap heat or do not easily compress. Optimal, in my opinion, as a wool blanket folded “cavalry fashion.” Properly done it creates a six layer laminate structure that will both compress to absorb any vertical pressures and will “give” laterally and prevent stress on the back caused by small lateral movements of the rider as they traverse terrain. You can get a good blanket here:
This is a good deal. I’ve got two that I rotate. They are of very good quality. They are cheap because the edge was not done IAW the Army standard of 1909, making them of limited use to re-enactors and living historians. But as a saddle blanket they are a true bargain. If you find them “ugly” then get one anyway and make a shabraque to cover it up.
You fold it like this:
There are several utube videos and other resources of you Google “How to fold a cavalry blanket.”
This fold works under English, Western, Military, and Endurance saddles.
Good to the OP in their search.
I don’t have as many endurance miles as some of the responders here but I go with the theory if it fits you and your horse and is comfy for long hours than go for it. I will say I’ve had friends who are dyed in the wool huntseat or dressage riders come ride my guys in my endurance saddles and every single one of them has fallen in love with the comfort of those saddles lol