Sorry, but...another saddle thread

Hi all - first time poster, long time reader. Hoping that the board can offer some suggestions of makes and models to look at for a particular horse.

Some background: our victim is a 7 year old friesian/wb mare. Green but progressing, with some not inconsiderable baggage from past training. She is as big bodied as they come, but certainly level, if not a touch uphill. Quite flat/broad backed, not much of a wither. She’s pretty large through the shoulder area and requires a fair bit of freedom there. Under saddle, her tendency will always be to revert to the carriage horse trot when stressed or tense - neck up and kind of jammed, back dropped and completely shut off, and hind legs a million miles out behind her.

Was previously ridden in a DK which was fine, but not great. The owner recently bought a brand new Childeric for her, in a wide. Now folks, it’s a LOVELY saddle. Truly, it is. But neither of us can ride effectively in the dang thing. As in, it causes me so much frustration every single time I use it, because I have to fight the darn thing every single stride. It’s so freaking wide that I get off feeling as though I’ve just given birth to 8 children. I also don’t love where the balance of the seat lies, relative to the stirrup bar placement - I feel as though it puts my leg too far forward, and I’m constantly tipping my upper body forward to try to ‘catch up.’ Additionally, it slips to the left like nobody’s business - and yes, we’ve tried different girths, tried a half pad, tried different padding configurations (and I will be the first to acknowledge, this is absolutely me as well - appointment with my chiropractor is already booked!). Basically, it’s a gorgeous, beautifully made saddle that just doesn’t quite work.

SO. We’ve now come to the realization that perhaps we should consider other options. I need to preface the next part by saying, we live in a barren wasteland, horse/dressage/saddle wise, which is to say that finding different locally available options to try is TOUGH.

At this point we’re just trying to figure out what makes and models to be looking at. We managed to get our hands on a Custom Everest to try, knowing that the tree would be a touch narrow. It was better than the Childeric in terms of balance and not slipping, but I felt quite far away from her in it. We then had the opportunity to try a couple of Equipe Viktorias on her. We tried a wide which fit HER quite nicely, but was a long flap and a long block and we’re both (the owner and I) pretty short legged, plus a bit big for us in the seat at 18+". The other one was a 17.5" MW regular flap which was by far both of our favourite to ride her in - the balance was super, alignment was great, very comfortable. Unfortunately, the tree points were digging into her scapula a bit and she was noticeably less swinging through the back in it, so not quite the right fit for her.

I suppose based on the above, the obvious solution would just be to look for the Viktoria in a wide, but neither of us is married to this idea. I’m a bit more old-school in that I prefer the adjustability of the flocked saddles as opposed to foam (especially with a developing horse!), and I also don’t know that we’ve really tried enough saddles to know that the Viktoria is THE ONE, or if it was just better than what we’ve had.

So I guess, if you’ve made it through the novel, my very broad question is this - based on the above, what make/model might you recommend? Keeping in mind that, as much as we’d love to bring in a fitter with a bunch of saddles to try, that just isn’t an option here. My hope is that we can at least narrow down the list and get a better idea of what saddles we should consider attempting to ship in for a trial.

Thanks in advance for any guidance you helpful folks can provide!

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When I was last shopping a jump saddle for my big beefy Paint I took her tracings to a good competetent reseller of French foam saddles. We popped them into a few saddles and the reseller ended up saying that most of the French foam saddles ran narrow and I’d be unlikely to fit my mare. Reseller had nothing to gain by sending me away so I tend to believe her.

I ended up with an old Passier jump saddle, already have a Passier dressage saddle.

I’d suggest going the German or British wool flocked route. Passier, Stubben, County, Black Country, even a Schleese. Second hand of course.

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I’m with you. I’m so with you.

I don’t know your price range but there are several saddles with cut-back shoulders for large-shouldered horses. These saddles offer the “cut back” under the flap so they look like normal dressage saddles. My horse would benefit from this as well.

For you, “extended” stirrup bars will get your leg underneath you.

I recently worked with a Shleese fitter who let me ride in an Obrigado with cut back shoulders and an extended stirrup bar. I really liked it! But not for $7K or the $6K demo model. I’ve since ridden in my trainer’s Obrigado and I was reminded that it makes me feel a bit “above” the horse’s back but whatever. I don’t have 6K to spend on a saddle at the moment. The Rep was very unhelpful in finding “used” saddles in my price range. She suggested I but an all purpose saddle so I could jump, too! That told me she had 0 interest in my needs and was just trying to sell me a saddle.

If you have a decent disposable income, you can consider a custom Schleese. They do have many options.

So, I’d suggest looking for a shoulder cut-back saddle for your horse and extended stirrup bars for you. I ride in a Eurodressage saddle which admittedly sits a bit far back on his back in order to clear his shoulders. I don’t think Custom Saddlery has a cut-back saddle, because I’d have considered them.

Saddle shopping = hell.

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I feel like you should be able to get both. Something with a wide tree & rear-facing bars that also has a narrow twist and regular or slightly shorter flap. I’m not 100% Team Schleese. Yet as a lay person with an in-depth background in human athletic biomechanics, I’m on board with Schleese’s concept of saddles designed specifically to fit female pelvic/leg anatomy. While there’s always outliers, on average there are fairly significant structural differences in the angles of the gynachoid pelvis versus androgynous. And those differences can change the way men’s legs drape down the horse’s sides compared to women’s.

We’ve been working with a semi-independent saddle fitter for our leased pony & subsequently purchased horse. I respect their knowledge & agree with most of what they’re saying. I also agree with the idea the horse’s fit & comfort is the more important of the pair.
However, I draw a hard line at shelling out $2500+ on a saddle that doesn’t at least mostly work for the human half of the equation. So I’m doing a lot of the leg work myself for our search. If it isn’t comfortable, you won’t want to ride!

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I have two hoop tree monoflap saddles. They give a narrower feel while accommodating a wide load horse. One is a Black Country ViniciX wide tree which is a more minimal and more narrow feel, and then a Patrick Leggero in an XW, which has a wider feel, but something I was able to adapt to pretty easily. Bonus that both of these saddles come with serge panels, which are quite horse friendly (though not all fitters are used to working with them).

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Frank Baines might work. I love mine…

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Have you tried Albion platinum? It has a nice wide tree. There are usually used ones around. Caution the seat runs big on these. Ann Forrest of Equestrian imports does a great job at long distance fitting and could help you.

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Sorry OP, i cannot offer any advice. Just here to try to get some ideas. I’ve just started one of my mustang geldings and not one of my saddles fit (except a broken tree old jump saddle that i use as a starter just to get them used to any old thing on their back) …
So this 15h guy is already 9 yrs was intact til age 7 and still has fairly extreme musculature. His back is broad and firm and i don’t know where to even start. I’m thinking maybe a hoop tree? Or an Icelandic saddle maybe? Or some kind of flex tree (i have two but they are too pinchy at his gigantic shoulder). I thought he might have a western carriage, but he curls his neck so when i’m up. (he’s so proud to be ridden, it’s endearing)

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That’s a good suggestion. The used Albion dressage saddles that I’ve seen tend to have a wider-horse friendly gullet/tree point shape. So do Fairfax, Hastilow, Black Country and a few other of those Brit Brands I’m forgetting. I haven’t personally found a Hastilow that fit me well, but that’s something that will vary from rider to rider. Probably worth it for the OP to try one if they can find one.

One thing to be aware of with used Stubben: not all of their saddles are wool-flocked anymore. Something the OP might need to keep in mind about older used saddles in general is that chances are they’ll need reflocked. If it’s hard to come by saddle fitters where the OP is it’s probably going to be even tougher to find someone who can reflock correctly.

Black Country. I’m partial to the Vinici model, but I’d be looking for the Vinici X (hoop tree) model to try on this horse.

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They are hard to come by, but a Hennig might be a possibility here. I’ve never seen one in XXW but W/XW can be found.

I bought a 17" Viktoria +3 (WIDE) with 15" flaps for my pony last year and it is now far too wide for my young WB. Let me know if you’re interested! It was such a good option for him and I would absolutely have another one for that type of horse again.

The FAirfax Elias is designed specifically for uphill horses like Friesians