Saddle brands with easy adjustability?

Hi there! I lease a big ole warmblood, and I’m looking to buy a horse next year. In the meantime, I’m hoping to find a dressage saddle that fits me and can easily be refitted from lease horse to purchased horse when the time comes. The current lease horse’s dressage saddle is itty bitty, and I’d prefer to ride in tack that feels like me.

The only brand I’m familiar with that can do this Custom, which was explained to me by two different Custom reps. I do enjoy them, but I want to make sure I’m casting a wide net. Does anyone have any other brands they recommend or creative solutions (lease programs?)?

There is no such saddle.

Saddle fit has several metrics. The most commonly known is wither gullet fit: wide medium or narrow? Lower end saddles like Wintec have interchangeable gullet heads. For a higher end saddle, you can stuff up the wither or you can put the saddle in a vice and open or close the wither a millimeter or two. But you cannot change a wide to a narrow and everytime you use the vice you risk compromising the tree.

However, none of this playing with gullets affects another important aspect of saddle fit. That is the curve of the tree from front to back. This cannot be altered and can only minimally be tweaked with flocking. If the saddle tree is too flat for your horse it will bridge and cause back pain and if it is too curvy it will rock and cause pain and instability.

Your best bet is to buy a good used saddle that fits your current horse in a brand with good resale value, then sell it and buy a new one for new horse. Unless it magically fits new horse.

Custom (the brand) is no more or less adjustable than the other high end wool flocked saddles like Passier, Stubben, Country, Black County, Ideal, Schleese, etc. They are all very similar in tree and flocking, but reps may make different promises based on their skill and personal honesty.

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Kieffer saddles have a resin tree that can be adjusted using an infrared machine.

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Hastilow is a really nice line of wool-flocked saddles that come with an adjustable gullet - it can be swapped out for one of a different width in a few minutes if you have the right tools. We have found this very useful as a horse bulks up or loses weight temporarily.

However, as people have said, this doesn’t change the essential shape of the saddle. It works best to accommodate fluctuations in one horse’s top line, not to fit horses who may be of very different shapes.

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I have a Bates saddle that has the same adjustable gullet system as Wintecs. It’s easy peasy to change.

While it’s true that an interchangeable gullet doesn’t guarantee fit on every horse. It’s gonna fit a larger number of horses than a saddle that doesn’t have an interchangeable gullet. I just changed the gullet in mine to fit what will be the fourth horse I’ve used the saddle on.

I think some of the Bates and Wintecs now come with wool flocking. Might be a good option to look into as the wool flocking would increase the adjustability.

Getting a reputable independent saddle fitter is of course ideal, but some of us live in areas where that just isn’t possible.

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When I stopped owning horses and started riding lesson horses at lesson stables I was faced with the need for a saddle that could fit most horses. I tried (and sold) my Wintec GP and Wintec GP Wide because I just could not stand riding in them (due to padding over the ends of the pommel plate I felt like I was trying to do splits.)

I tried an EZ fit treeless, and ended up donating it to a stable where I ride, I found that with my balance problems I NEED a saddle tree.

So I searched some more and came up with a workable solution, a Pegasus Butterfly jumping saddle (they also do dressage and GP saddles) with a Contender II BOT/ThinLine shimmable saddle pad. So far I have been able to fit whichever horse I ride with this combination (well, one horse I had to use a Corrector pad on, he had a really flat back.)

There are some challenges to riding in this saddle. It gives the horses’ shoulders great freedom of movement that ended up sliding me around in the saddle (my bad balance.) I fixed that by wearing full seat silicon breeches so I stayed STILL in the saddle’s seat.

Since I have MS I have put a good deal of equipment on this saddle, the RS-tor riding aid, the Rider Grip press on rubber pads on my saddle flaps, stability leathers and the Tech Venice Slope safety stirrups. On the WIDE mare I ride I use a mohair string girth, on the other horses I use a regular Lettia Cool Max girth.

I never plan to sell this saddle since I have been able to use it to fit horses with greatly different shaped backs to the satisfaction of the horse, myself, and my riding teacher.

And it is a great relief to me to be able to ride in a saddle that fits me as well as the different horses I ride.

My saddle is unique now, but because of my Multiple sclerosis I NEED all the safety equipment.

I have used this saddle on everything from a croup high/sway backed QH with withers, to mutton withers, to flat backs, all the different shoulder widths are accommodated by the hinged front of the tree. I shim my Contender II pad in consultation with my riding teacher to make sure that this saddle does not hurt or irritate the horses.

Also add Fairfax saddles to your list. Changeable gullet, wool flocked. It fits a variety of horses pretty well. In addition, they hold their value well if needed to be resold. I agree with scribbler. There are ways to hedge your bets, but no saddle fits every horse.

I am not a huge fan of the Pegasus saddles. The few I have seen have been on horses with very sore backs.

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I would also recommend the Bates/Wintec lines. I used to ride at a large barn with a string of lesson horses that included welsh ponies, thoroughbreds, warmbloods, and draft crosses. Almost all of the horses went well in Wintecs with the proper gullet plates. They weren’t the only saddles available: Stackhouse, County, Stubben, Albion, and Passier were also used, but the Wintecs fit really well, and the horses moved well in them. I know that others may have different opinions of them, but this was my experience.

Newer Bates/Wintec saddles have other aspects that can be adjusted, not just the gullet. This makes it easier to adjust to different horses but you still need a saddle fitter who knows what they are doing.

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piping in for Hastilows -they are also wool flocked as well as having adjustability in the gullet.

I have an old Passier GG, that I bought used, which seems to fit a lot of horses at our barn. Its also extremely comfortable to ride in. According to Passier it has an adjustable gullet plate, but so far our saddle fitter has only had to make minor adjustments to the wool flocking when readjusting it to a different horse.

Schleese also has an option for a very easily adjustable gullet–stick an allen wrench in the front and unscrew to unlock it, put the gullet however you want it, and screw it back down to lock it in place. I’ve seen the mechanism outside of a saddle and thought it looked pretty robust, and you can choose how each side sits independently for asymmetric horses.

Looking at their website they talk about a whole bunch of other possible adjustments but I think it’s more of the “there’s a slot where you can insert a wedge here” style of thing. (If anyone knows more about their system I’d be curious to read, I find their website hard to get useful info from, but the adjustable gullet I’ve seen in person.)

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Just went through the exact same situation with my lease horse knowing I eventually want to buy. I think Scribbler is correct, you might get lucky and get a saddle that will fit your lease horse and your new horse, but it’s not very likely. Adjustable gullets help, but they are definitely not a silver bullet. I think you have to assume the saddle won’t fit both horses and adjust your budget accordingly. I ended up giving myself a budget of $1600 understanding that I might get $750 back in resale if it doesn’t fit my eventual new horse.

I would recommend the adjustable Kent & Masters line. They have models for high withers, cobs, and average builds. Dressage and jump are around $1595 new and resale is fairly good, I found a few for $1200. Kent & Masters are the “affordable” line of Fairfax Saddlery. Fairfax and Hastilow adjustable gullets will run around $3K used. I am personally not a fan of Wintecs.

If you are near Pennsylvania, contact Hastilow Saddles in Warfordsburg. Annette Gavin can fit any of those saddles to your lease horse and check the fit for your new horse. I’ve also used local saddle fitters who have an inventory of used saddles to choose from. If you are in Maryland, you can try Emily Weber, she apprentices with Susie Coffey.

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Bates artiste are pretty adjustable - we have one in each width fitting but they seem to fit a wide variety of sizes and types

I am also going to suggest wintec as a good “for now” saddle that has a good chance of being adjustable to your new horse (even if just while you shop for a saddle!). I know people are skeptical of synthetic, but they have really come a long way. My more recent purchase was a wintec wide, with wool flocking. Not only is the gullet plate interchangeable, but the billet placement can be adjusted significantly, and it is very easy to shim as the panels aren’t fixed to the saddle along the channel. They knee blocks are also velcro, so those can move to suite you!

I really liked my Thorowgood and Kent & Masters saddles. I worked with a local fitter to find the best gullet bar, and she then flocked the saddles to the horse’s back. I paired this with a Mattes shimmable half pad, and it ended up being a great system!

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If a Custom rep actually said this I would run the other direction. Custom and nearly every other brand is actually semi-custom. You choose a tree shape, width, panel, and then decide how “pretty” you want it to look on the outside. There is not a company in the world that can guarantee a tree that fits a big ole curvy backed warmblood with a hoop tree can then fit a flat backed A frame horse.

You may luck out and fall for a horse with a similar back shape but if you buy a saddle now expecting it to fit a future horse you will be very disappointed.

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I was intrigued by the concept and have looked into it. However, I would not touch a saddle made/designed by Ron Friedson with a 10 foot pole. To clarify - I bought a saddle from him years ago where he was involved with the design. Never really worked for my horse, impossible to sell and he wasn’t helpful.

I have used Wintec saddles with young horse or when my mare was a bit fluffy and because they are the right shape for her back, the interchangeable gullets have worked great. I also have a higher-end treeless saddle (HM Vogue) which has a traditional gullet. That’s also been key to getting a horse in shape or letting them grow up to the point where it makes sense to buy them an expensive permanent saddle.

This. Emily fitted my new horse in a Kent and Masters. He loves it and it’s perfect as he bulks up as we can adjust. She was raving about how easy it is to adjust to different horses.