January 2, 2010

Custom Saddles

I want to hear what you have to say on custom saddles and the major custom saddle makers: Antares, County, CWD, etc.

Being of a below-average height presents many problems - I need pedal extenders to drive a car with a manual transmission, for example - but the most expensive problem I have is that of saddle fit.  I can't tell you how many times I've been showing in IHSA and heard "What happened to your leg??  Get your knee on that horse and your leg back!"  In IHSA we randomly draw our horses just before we show, so whatever saddle you draw, you ride in - no matter if you're tiny and the saddle is 18", or how many times you have to roll the stirrups (My current personal record is triple-rolled).  You can imagine that the luck of the draw can really affect your placing.  Last semester I had to do a class in a saddle that pointed my knees at the arena walls.  Perhaps that's a slight exaggeration, but I couldn't get my knee on the horse without performing contortionist activities on the horse's back, and I feel like that would have been frowned upon.

I began to get a defeatist attitude about these things after realizing that I'd never ridden in a single saddle in my life that really fit me.  Mary's Crosby came closest, but even that wasn't great.  Most of them want to put me into more of a chair seat and many, especially middle-aged Collegiates, make it absolutely impossible to get even contact on the horse's side. 

It appears that I'm headed towards a serious investment in the form of a custom saddle.  Granted, that's a bit of a leap of faith, given the changing topography of a horse's back, but with wool-flocked panels and the customer service given by most of the major saddle makers, I feel like it would be okay.  I want something that fits me - really fits me.  I don't want to be held back by my equipment, even if I never show a recognized show in my life.  I want it to fit me and I want leather that will last forever, price be damned.  If I have to save for five years, I'll do it.

Anyone have any experience with any of the major custom saddle makers?

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