Saddle search - need advice

I’m retiring my current saddle as it doesn’t fit my horse anymore and I’m on the hunt for a new one. I obviously want a saddle that will fit her (OTTB) but I’m nervous I’ll hate whatever I find. I do have a fitter coming out next week to get measurements and to trial a saddle possibly. I’m a little apprehensive though. All of the saddles I see marketed now are so padded up. I don’t even know any of the brands now or what to look for. I previously rode in an HDR which I sold because I couldn’t stand it. Then I got a used Harry Dabbs True Brit. It was definitely comfortable and it worked for me but I wonder if there’s something out there that I would like even more. Prior to having my horse, I leased a few horses and rode in an Ovation (I think), a Harry Dabbs (which I adored, hence why I bought my own) and a Carlyle (sp?) which I liked a lot. My budget is about $1500-$1700. I’d really like a higher end used saddle more than a brand new one. Like I said, the newer saddles I see just look like marshmallows. It’s a bit overwhelming. Knee rolls and a little padding are fine but I really want that close contact feel. What should I be on the lookout for as far as used saddles. Or do you have any reccomendations for new saddles in this price range? I have a 15 year old OTTB mare.

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With a TB, and liking “close contact” saddles, and wanting to buy second hand, and not wanting to spend a lot of money, why not look at the first generation close contact saddles? Crosby PDN, Courbette Stylist, etc. These saddles were made FOR thoroughbreds, and tend to fit them well. They are my preference (as I tend to ride TBs and TBX), and like you, the current trend in “fat saddles” makes me cringe. I’m a dinosaur, have been riding in “real” close contact saddles for 40+ years, hunters, jumpers, greenies, trail riding. I find them very comfortable and secure. They are secure because there is so little padding in them that allows you to be very close to the horse, rather than held farther away from the horse due to all that padding. By the laws of physics which describes the action of force on levers, this makes your seat more secure. Those who rely on “padding” to make them secure in the saddle have missed the point… it ain’t the saddle that makes you secure, it’s your seat.
When I see most saddles that are advertised as “close contact” these days, it makes me laugh… NOT close contact like I like. And the price and expected lifespan of many of these saddles makes me cringe. But hey, some people, the more they pay the happier they are, and following the current fads is important to some riders.

Since these saddles are currently “out of style” in high equine society, AND since many people don’t actually ride that much, these well made older saddles are often offered for sale in close to pristine condition. They may need new billets, which is easy and cheap to have done (I’ve had two done, cost $75 each). But these saddles were built to last a long time, they do not wear out or break like so many newer models of saddles do (planned obscelesence). These saddles are available to purchase (if you look around and have a bit of luck) for $100 to $500. Good luck with saddle shopping. I’m a bit of a collector, myself, and NONE are for sale!

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A nice old used Butet sounds like the perfect saddle for you! Close feel, fit majority of TBs well and they hold up well so you can get some older models fairly decent priced.


Love my stubben zaria on my OTTB but it’s not hunter legal. It was much closer contact than anything else I tried on. I have a friend that likes her devocoux chiberta on her OTTB. Also a monoflap and not hunter legal.