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Saddle Shopping Help?

I absolutely LOVE my current saddle (hdr pro) but i got a new horse and it gives her awful rubs as she has very high withers. (she is a thoroughbred) Something similar happened to a horse months ago and her owner just blew it off, a few weeks latter she was out for 2 months from a terrible infected saddle sore. (also a thoroughbred with high withers)

So i have tried almost every funky wither relief/wither cut out saddle pad on the market and nothing is working, looks like i’m saddle shopping! I would like to buy a brand new saddle as my old one was bought used. I am very excited but have absolutely no idea where to start! My top questions are what are your guy’s favorite brands, what is a realistic budget for a good quality saddle for someone who is tight on money and still in school, do i need a fancy adgustable tree saddle, and should i get my saddle from a local shop or online and test ride it. Thanks!

As someone currently saddle shopping on a restricted budget thanks to college (for a horse with high withers), here is what I say:

  1. I wish I had a bigger budget. I’m trying to stay under $1000, but the saddles I need and would like are above my budget ($1500-$2000). The saddles are out there, but they go really quick.

  2. Stay away from adjustable gullets. No saddle with an adjustable gullet has worked out for my horse.

  3. Work with a fitter, distance fitters, and knowledgeable saddle people. I’ve gotten a ton of great advice from these forums. If this saddle I try this weekend doesn’t fit, I will be sending tracings off to Trumbull (which I was supposed to do weeks ago). Provide nice pictures on here if you can of your horse untacked standing square.

  4. TEST RIDE IF YOU CAN. I did recently buy one without test riding to TRY. It didn’t fit. Luckily, I resold it within a day. However, I really could have eaten money on that, and it is 100% not recommended. Really try to work out a testing situation. However, a lot of private sellers won’t allow trails.

  5. Dig deep and be patient. I’m trying what seems like my 900000th saddle this weekend. It’s at the very tip top of my budget and not what I am wanting to spend, but if it works I will probably cave.

  6. Work with your trainer. You may find a saddle for $350 that appears to work for your horse, but it may put you in a less than diserable position. Don’t let “bargains” sink you in. Consult your trainer and ask her/him how he feels about the position it puts you in.

On a limited budget I would 100% suggest going used. Well, I almost always suggest going used because the saddles are broken in and can ‘hold their value’ a lot easier, so in case your horse builds muscle/you get a new horse/you grow out of your saddle, you don’t take a big hit.
Say you buy a new $1200 saddle now, but you need a different saddle in a year- you’ll probably only be able to sell it for $600-800. Now, if you buy a nice used saddle for $1200 now, there’s a good chance in a year you could re-sell it for $1000+.

Definitely do a trial if you can!

Have you checked into a used Stubben? They can be found fairly nice looking for under $1000, and the darn things wear like iron and last for forever. The older ones have very banana shaped trees, which can work well for Thoroughbreds. I had a CTD made by Stubben (their economy brand) for my OTTB that I loved.

Before you buy, ride in as many saddles as you can find. You will start to learn what works for you and what works for your horse.

Buy used. You can get a MUCH nicer saddle if you go that route. And, if you need to re-sell later, it will hold its value.

If you have access to a saddle fitter (not a company rep who fits a certain brand), use them! They can look at your horse and tell you what kind of saddle will work best and recommend brands. Some companies will also work long distance using photos and withers tracings.

Buy a wool flocked saddle if you have access to a fitter. With minor changes to the flocking, you can adjust the saddle to fit your horse. If you don’t have a fitter, foam panels may work better for you.

Be patient. You can find a really nice saddle for $1K or less but you may need to look for awhile. I just bought a new-to-me Schleese monoflap jumping saddle for well under $1K. It’s a lovely saddle that my fitter reflocked for my horse. Nicest saddle I’ve ever sat in. I didn’t have $4-5K to spend on a saddle so if I wanted one, I had to find it used!

Agreed, go used!
You didn’t specify your budget, but for the trendy, high-end saddles that are popular today (Antares, CWD, Voltaire, Devoucoux, Tad Coffin) you’re looking at $5000-6000+ dollars new. With some luck and patience, you can find that same saddle on ebay for less than $2500.

You’re MUCH better off spending that $2500 on a used high-end saddle than a new Pessoa, HDR, etc. Those lower and mid-level saddles won’t be as nice for you or the horse, and if you go to sell, you’ll find they don’t hold their value well. If you spend $2500 on a used CWD, and find for some reason it doesn’t work for you, you can probably get nearly what you paid for it.

Ride in a bunch of different saddles. Find what kind of tree, seat, leather, knee and flap you and your horse like best. Learn what the numbers under the flap mean, and keep notes of what works for you two, and what doesn’t. Then, when you’re ready to buy, you can decipher what sale saddle is closest to the trial saddle you liked.

If you can take a saddle on trial, that’s even better. But still, you can easily blow your budget on shipping back and forth if you just start randomly trying saddles. Figure out what brand/style you want, and then you can invest the time and money to try only saddles that are likely to be the right match.

Good luck. I have three saddles I love (CWD, TC, Voltaire) and each is a different feel and fits different horses best. But I love all of them. You’ll find the perfect saddle for you.

Definitely work with a fitter - it’s a big commitment when your budget is small and as you’ve seen in your barn, your horse can suffer from a bad choice. If you love your HDR tell the fitter that and maybe s/he can suggest something that rides similarly but would be a better fit for your horse.

Also respectfully disagree on avoiding changeable gullets - we have had 2 saddles like that (Pessoa and Collegiate) both recommended by the fitter for specific horses. Used around $800-$1200 and both were flocked so the fitter could adjust more than the tree. We had good results with these.

I wish we had budget to even try a CWD or Voltaire etc. but it’s just not realistic for us. Nice saddles can be found for less. :slight_smile: