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Synthetic stuffing for "wool" flocked saddles?

I recently got a semi-custom high end french saddle for my horse and ordered it with wool flocking so I could adjust over time if needed. I have had the saddle since April and noticed already it was changing significantly and that the padding seemed very soft and compressible. The fitter/seller has been out twice and added more flocking material which was not wool, but instead that fluffy synthetic white stuffing material you find in dog toys and stuffed animals. I am concerned that this material will continue to compress and also trap heat–basically not be as good as wool. Anyone else seen this used or have experience with it? The fitter said it was softer and that’s why they used it. I am not convinced this is better. Thoughts? I also am not keen on paying several hundred dollars every three months for reflocking as it compresses and shifts.

I have no real data to back this up, but I’d prefer real wool. The synthetic stuff is slippery and I imagine it shifts rather quickly. If you’ve ever tried to stuff a pillow with it, you’ll know it’s seemingly impossible to do so without creating lumps. Wool has a coarser texture and I would imagine shifts slower.

What your fitter failed to mention to you (although I’m sure you could have guessed) is that polyfil is significantly cheaper and much easier to get than flocking wool.

All that to say, I think you’re right to be skeptical.

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What @Mander said, and also if you ordered a saddle with “wool” flocking and it came with a synthetic, I’d be sending that thing right back and getting a full refund, including shipping. (Understanding how hard it is to find the right saddle :sob:) If it came with wool and the fitter is adding synthetic, I’d have the fitter back out to remove the synthetic and replace with wool (on their dime) and never call them again. This seems totally unethical.

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I think and know the benefits of genuine wool flocking are extensive. So what saddle companies still utilize this? Please enlighten me. They will get my business in the future.

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That article seems to be about saddle pads not flocking.

Right now, semi custom high end jumping saddles bought through brand reps have trended towards foam panels, which seem to do the job in combination with newer more aerodynamic styling. These are some of the most expensive English saddles on the market. Voltaire, CWD etc. Mostly French.

Semi-custom high end dressage saddles bought through brand reps still trend to wool stuffed panels. Schleese, Custom, Passier, etc.More likely British or German.

You can get foam dressage saddles from the French brands I assume, and you can certainly get wool flocked jump saddles from the British and German brands like County, Black Country, Passier etc

I’ve only ever used wool flocked saddles because my horse isn’t a good match to the trees in the primarily French foam jump saddles. I have second hand wool flocked saddles and have looked at a lot of them, paid alot of attention to what my independent saddle fitter does, and understand how the saddles work, but I would never have the dexterity or crafty skills to actually work on one or stitch leather! I’m pretty good at shimming.

Now, lower end mass produced tack store jump and dressage saddles do often use synthetic “wool” fibers.

I would be very upset if a saddle fitter put synthetic fiber in one of my good wool flocked saddles. The amount of fiber it takes to
tweak or even reflock a saddle is a small cost compared to the time and skill involved.

Reading the OP again, do you know if this saddle came with real wool flocking?

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I have a limited amount of experience with panel filling but my fitter only uses nice long strand smooth wool. Synthetic feels like a cost saving measure marketed as being “better”. If the brand sells it with synthetic though, I can understand adjusting it with synthetic rather than mixing the materials. I would be disappointed though if it wasn’t disclosed at the time of purchase that it is a wool alternative.

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The article is about pads but the benefits extend to saddles.

Yes I think the saddle came with real wool flocking apparently. I have no idea of the quality of the real wool. But it was softly flocked to allow for adjustments. The argument of the fitter is that the saddle would require MORE frequent adjustment with real wool additions than synthetic. I am trying to keep an open mind. I have a twenty year old Stubben that has real wool flocking. That saddle has held a wonderful shape and pretty much fits almost every horse I put it on. The horses did not get sore who wore it. It did not slide around. I also had a french saddle with foam panels prior to this one for another horse. It was fine but… did not adjust. I also found the panels somewhat stiff. I realize that saddle leather has changed also but I am on the verge of becoming one of those crusty old timers who yearn for the quality of products made in days past.

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The fitter should not be tweaking the real wool panels with synthetic fiber. It’s not going to settle properly into the real wool.

How much you need to tweak good real wool panels is dependent on whether the horse changes shape, and how good the fit was to start. My horse actually prefers her panels a bit soft and deflated.

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The saddle went from a correct fit on arrival to falling down on the wither and sliding back after a couple months use, resulting in almost no wither clearance. After the reflocking it fits well again, but I worry the synthetic addition won’t hold the shape.

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It’s possible the tree itself is a tad too wide for the horse and flocking is being relied on to do too much work.

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the other saddle I had was the same brand and was too narrow so we custom fitted this one for the horse. I think it’s the flocking personally but we shall see.

My saddles are synthetic flocked and I’ve never noticed a difference compared to real wool (and no, they’re not “lower-end” saddles as another poster suggested). There’s no shifting or heat retention, and they’re suposed to last longer before needing a complete reflock compared to wool. Here’s a past thread on the material:

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Thank you for this! @dmveventer how often do you need a reflock/adjustment?

My fitter only uses and recommends not only wool but specifically jacobs wool. I’ll link a video she did a couple years back. I’ve actually hooked her up with a local contact for wool since she made it, my farrier actually raises jacobs sheep :laughing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1lhycvFxjw

Same here. The higher quality synthetic wool doesn’t compress as fast as natural wool - it has some shape retention qualities that natural fiber does not. This means you don’t need to reflock as often, and the fibers are less prone to balling up and getting lumpy (though this doesn’t happen if the saddle is properly maintained).

I wouldn’t be happy if synthetic wool was used in my natural wool panels without my knowledge and permission, but not because the synthetic is lower quality. It actually is less likely to shift around and compress! I just would prefer to keep the saddle as close to original condition unless the saddler gave me a good reason to do otherwise.

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I haven’t needed a reflock yet even on the one I purchased used. My rep said they can go 10 years before we need to strip everything out and reflock but I haven’t had them long enough to test that claim yet. We’ve made adjustments every ~6 months or so as my green horse’s topline has changed quite a bit, but nothing has needed to be adjusted because the flocking compressed or moved around or anything like that.

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This is from the Prestige website:

"Flocked panels provide freedom of movement for the horse and prevent the rider from weighing on the back of the animal. Available both in the classic version or with the LPF (Light Performance Fit) technology.

Classic flocked panels are lined with felt and then, through a flocking process executed with care by our artisans, filled with the synthetic Dacron fiber, a resistant and highly adaptable material.

The LPF (Light Performance Fit panels) are made from a Dacron synthetic fiber, covered by an elastic honeycomb material (Airnet) and a layer of soft foam. This type pf panel is light, elastic and easily adaptable to the morphology of the modern horse. It combines the reduced thickness and the close-contact feeling with the horse, which are typical of latex panels, with the shock-absorbing and highly adaptability properties of flocked panels."

I have a Renaissance (same parent company as Prestige) made with the LPF panels. I have had it almost a year at this point and it has only needed one adjustment, a couple months ago. The adjustment was due to my horse growing, not the fibers moving around. I vaguely remember my fitter saying something about the honeycomb material helping to stabilize the location of everything. I have been very happy with the saddle and would not shy away from properly handled synthetic fiber flocking in the future.

I am going to chime in as a saddle fitter! There are lots of different types of synthetic flocking available on the market, and some companies even have their own special blend. Each type has its own unique properties that can affect how it feels once it’s in the saddle. It’s a good idea to try to match up the material with similar properties to avoid any issues.

Typically, softer materials compress faster. In general, it’s a good idea to plan for a touch-up flock about 20 hours of riding after getting a new saddle or having one completely reflocked. Once it reaches a balance, it won’t need flocking as often. As a saddle fitter, I always let my clients know when they can expect a touch-up at the time of delivery.

I have an Equiline that has synthetic flocking.

It’s been adjusted 2 times in 6 years of owning Cudo (This saddle has always been fitted to him)

It stays true to shape for a long time.

It adjusts easily and the company was happy to provide me with extra flocking material so my fitter could adjust it as best as possible.

No issues and FAR better than trying to shim/fix a foam saddle.

Em

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I don’t find wool saddles need that much tweaking, if the tree is a good match. After a total reflock they may need a touch up in the first 6 months but after that they are quite stable

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