Synthetic, all purpose...the saddle horror!

A little background information: I’m an English pleasure rider. For most of my riding life I’ve ridden in close contact saddles and feel most secure in that type of saddle. I still like to jump over the occasional speed bump but I’m more interested in dressage than jumping now. Mostly I just ride around doing basic w/t/c, pole patterns, and some trails when the weather is nice.

I have two saddles right now, a close contact and a dressage saddle. I had a saddle fitter out to evaluate the fit of these saddles since my pony has been a bit back sore recently. The close contact is too narrow but the dressage is an acceptable fit for the two of us. Since I don’t feel like my dressage saddle can be my one and only saddle, I’m now on the hunt for a replacement for my close contact saddle.

I received a list of the following saddles that could potentially fit my pony and my budget and would like some opinions on them from anyone who is familiar with them. I’d also like to know how people feel about synthetic saddles and all purpose for someone like me. If I found an all purpose saddle I really liked I’d sell my dressage saddle too. Thoughts?



https://www.smartpakequine.com/pt/thorowgood-t8-compact-gp-saddle-12062


https://shop.hcsusasaddlery.com/thorowgood-t8-anatomic-gp-sdt405.html

The riding school i board my horse at has quite a few of the Kent and Masters saddles for their schoolies. I have ridden in them many times and have always found them a good quality saddle for the price point. They seem to fit a wide variety of them, and the material is very sturdy!

1 Like

I don’t have much against synthetic, but I haven’t found synthetic saddles to have the level of comfort for my body over time. Leather seems to break down and soften a bit better than synthetic to form to my own personal lumps and bumps. One thing I would mention is that even with an all purpose, you may want to hold onto your dressage saddle. The mechanics of where the stirrups lie and how it positions your legs are really quite different for the two designs. Here’s an older but fantastic article by Jim Wofford that goes into the details on this topic.

If it were me, my preference would be to search around and find a comfortable, used close contact or all purpose leather saddle, and keep the dressage saddle as well.

4 Likes

I have a Thorowgood dressage saddle. I’m overall, very happy with it, except I HATE the synthetic flaps. Only in the winter…my god the squeak when the leather stirrup leather or leather tall boots rubs against the synthetic flaps, drives me batty. It does not do this at 50 degrees or above. Might not bother you, but I cannot stand it. Otherwise, super comfortable, easy to adjust to “fit” a particular horse.

1 Like

If a synthetic saddle fits you and your horse then I see nothing wrong with it.

3 Likes

The thorowgood and kent and masters are very popular.

As jff mentioned some are more for jumping and some are more for dressage. You have to know which one you are wanting and which models have the correct stirrup bars for your dressage or jumping. Most people don’t know the stirrup bars are different from jump saddles to dressage saddles.

1 Like

No experience with either brand, but I jump in a Wintec Pro All Purpose. I don’t like doing dressage in it, though, so I kept my dressage saddle for that (also a Wintec).

Mine is brown and I don’t think anyone realizes it isn’t leather until they are right next to it.

I was really worried about not having a leather saddle. I guess I thought it wouldn’t hold up or people would shun me or something. It turns out I was worried for no reason. I love my synthetic saddles, no one seems to care that I’m riding in synthetic saddles, and if they do, they haven’t said anything to me about it. The few times someone else has gotten on my horse, I have gotten compliments about how comfortable my saddle is!

3 Likes

That’s good.

When someone saw about my Wintec dressage saddle they said, and I quote “OMG you ride in a Wintec? Those things are total JUNK!”.

My horse and I both love it.

Now said person bought a wintec for themselves, I see on their social media hahaha

5 Likes

Ride in what fits your horse and you, and what you find comfortable. Both of those brands are reputable if they work for you. I had a Thorowgood T8 Jump for a project horse at one point and was very pleased with it.

If you are playing with training and first level dressage at home, you likely won’t have an issue having one saddle. If you are looking to take lessons and develop your horse up the levels - the balance point of a dual purpose saddle will likely get in the way when you start to think about sitting trot and movements that look towards collection.

3 Likes

I was honestly expecting a lot more of what you describe. :woman_shrugging:

1 Like

I had a Thorowgood cob for a broad Arab several years ago. My experience was similar to other posters - very durable and good value for money. The tree is really built for that wide pony/cob shape, and if that’s the right shape for your horse, the gullets are fairly easy to change.

I did think the seats ran a hair small, so you may want to sit in one for size if you haven’t already. I also felt a little perched at first, but quickly got used to it.

Wintec also has a wide saddle that may be worth looking at. I’ve previously had Wintecs and they’re also a good option if the tree shape works for your horse. In my case, the Thorowgood was a much better fit for my wide bodied guy.

Honestly I’d go looking for a quality used saddle and have it reflocked. Leather, wool, out of style, Passier or Stubben or County etc.

3 Likes

I’ve T8 GP and can recommend it - exchangeable gullet, very confortable for both - flatwork and low level jumping, removable blocs, synthetics only on the underside, fits true to its size… Overall, good choice, but I wouldn’t recommend jumping above 2’9’’ in it.
I’ve K&M S-series dressage one too, not a synthetic one, but full leather. I can also recommend it - very nice leather, exchangeable gullet, removable blocks and saddle straps. The only issue I have with it is that it fits a tad bit too small, so I’d go up a size.
Both saddles are the HW version though, from the saddle tree the T8 fits better my horse according to the saddle fitter. Synthetics doesn’t bother me and isn’t visible at all.
Don’t sell your dressage saddle.

I have both of these. My dressage is a Thorowgood that I bought new from SmartPak and my jump saddle is a K & M that I bought from a consignment shop. I like them both a lot as they are adjustable, comfortable, and have wool flocking so they can be fit to a variety of horses. They also seem to be pretty durable. The Thorowgood is partially synthetic but unless you looked closely you can’t tell. The K & M is full leather.

I love my thorowgood. Lovely saddle even if it’s too small for me. It’s a 16.5 and I really need a 17 inch. I can ride in it, but it would be more comfortable to get the next size up.

One of the horses I ride goes in a Kent and Masters AP saddle that leans towards a more dressage-y feel than jumping. While we spent most of the year developing his flatwork, I’ve taken him over some small jumps in it and although it doesn’t feel like a true jumping saddle, I didn’t feel that it interfered with my ability to jump the way a dressage saddle does.

I do find it sits quite high on the horse compared to your typical jumping saddle; not sure if that’s a a Kent and Masters thing or just the style of this particular model.

I have a tank of a Hano x TB mare. I’m a bit of a tack snob (though I do buy nearly everything used and I’m patient and can wait to find a good deal).

Long story short, I recently (summer ‘21) sold my top-of-the-line Stubben jump saddle and bought a Kent & Masters AP. Besides my ancient Seigfred, I’ve never been a fan of general purpose saddles. I’ve never ridden in a Kent & Masters…don’t think I’d ever seen one in person. My mare needed a better fitting saddle, and my reputable saddle fitter brought five or six for us to try…Amerigo, Pessoa, Albion, and I forget what else.

Anyway, the K & M fit her the best (visibly, immediately happier with it) and fit the two of us well. When I ride in it, I forget what it looks like…lol. It’s not sleek and “cool,” but it is super comfortable and rides well. I suspect it will last a really long time. I’ve been really happy with it, and my horse is delighted with it.

2 Likes

My K&M is padded well, it’s very cushy and comfortable. I actually loved another test saddle (Stübben) for positioning my body super well, but my horse (and my booty) absolutely hated it! I honestly don’t know how I would’ve faired riding dressage for hours in it.

As an FYI Thorowgood and Kent and Masters and Fairfax saddles are all built on the same tree, just with different levels of “finishing”. If one fits, it is likely they would all fit so long as they have the same tree/panel configuration. The Fairfax is the high end point, the K&M is the mid point and the Thorowgood is the entry level.

I am wondering if any other brand aside from the Hastilow ones might work for her. Saddle fitter doesn’t like Wintecs but I wonder if that might work for her?