October 23, 2019

The State of My Dressage Saddle Search

When we last left off on my Dressage saddle search, CWD had agreed to make a demo saddle to my exact specifications way back in June, on the same tree as my jump saddle, with a forward flap and as small of a knee roll/pad as I could get.

It arrived the week of my birthday in early October, and I had visions of writing the check to give myself a new saddle for my birthday.  And...







It was gorgeous.  But it was a total miss.

It didn't feel like my jump saddle at all, and it was significantly out of balance.  The rep told me after it arrived that the trees in the 2019's are all new and are made out of a mix of carbon fiber and wood (even the non-2GS) and it's possible that the new trees fit differently from the old trees.

But instead of recommending that I adjust my panel numbers accordingly, I was taken quite literally in my request to give me a Dressage saddle just like my jump saddle, and they took my old panel numbers and put them on the 2019 tree, which resulted in the wrong fit.


We shimmed it, and that improved the feeling I got that I was being thrown forward in it, but I still had to fight for my balance.  Former A+ CWD saddle fitter best friend Mary came out to look at it, and ultimately decided that the biggest issue is that it's fighting my 45 degree Mary Wanless thigh.  Even though it's a forward flap and a minimal knee roll (according to CWD anyway!) my knee is squashed up against the knee roll, and that's throwing me off balance.

Smallest and shortest block they make on this model.  I had asked if I could get the thigh block from the deep seat model, and they said no


Best Friend Mary decided what we would need to do is replace the pro panel with a standard panel, and remove the knee rolls entirely. But...I'm not sure I want to do that.  I started with CWD because if they had managed to do what I asked, I would've signed away any amount of money.  That jump saddle is a magical unicorn that makes everything I do in it easy.  But they did not deliver on my ask (although I have to admit they've been super accommodating in wanting to make it work for me), and that makes me want to see what else is out there.


Mmmmm, not yet broken in buffalo

What I want in a Dressage saddle isn't popular right now, and I've never in my life sat in a Dressage saddle that fit me.  When I asked MW to expand on her comment about what makes a Dressage saddle diabolical, she did, and then she said "I'm sorry to have to say this, but with your body type, you're not going to find anything off the rack that works for you."  So it's just all around not going to be easy, and I'm increasingly positive CWD doesn't have the capability to accommodate my body type and my riding style combined.


So I've decided my next step is to try everything I can get my hands on (which is not a long list in Indiana).  In order, I have Stubben, County, Custom, Patrick Saddlery/Kate Ballard and Eq Saddle Science/Reactor Panel scheduled over the next month.  Some of those brands I'm almost positive I won't end up with, but I'm serious about trying everything I can.  Let the games begin!

36 comments:

  1. I hope you can find something that works for you guys! Saddle shopping and fitting is kind of rough! It doesn't help when you are short, I feel your pain there...

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    1. Yeah, it makes it a LOT harder! It's much easier for short people in jump saddles due to all the kids (my jump saddle was originally a middle schooler's) but the lack of kids in Dressage means manufacturers aren't focused on the small people market.

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    2. I have Stubben's youth saddle, Juventus, which is good for petite adults and less expensive then most of their saddles. Hopefully your rep will have a demo you can try.

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    3. I tried the Juventus on him, and while the tree was technically wide enough, it was such the wrong shape I didn't even want to sit on him in it. Shame too, because it's so beautiful with the two toned leather! I'm having the Stubben rep out and I made sure to send her a picture of it on his back because I figured that would be her first thing she tried.

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  2. I was just talking to some friends who ride aside. I do not own a horse (yet) or a saddle (yet). They suggested finding the sidesaddle that fits you and then shop for a horse to fit the saddle. You're not getting rid of Connor, but the saddle fit struggle is real across all disciplines! Good luck with the test saddles. I hope you find your unicorn saddle.

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    1. I have heard side saddle fitting is 10x harder than astride saddle fitting, so that doesn't surprise me! I was told they all really need to be custom, as opposed to normal saddles where you at least have a prayer of something used fitting the horse. That makes sense!

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  3. Because you mentioned Adam Ellis, keep an eye out for Frank Baines. Similar fit and for me as a recovering jump rider, the seats don't make me feel like I'm being locked in. Mary Wanless had zero issues with my saddle but I'm a totally different body type so might not help. But another brand to throw in the mix if you spot one.

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    1. I'd love to try them, but they don't have any local fitters, and I am at the point that that's essential unfortunately.

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  4. Have you checked with Tara Miliziano-Crowley of Forward Motion Equine yet? She may have some great ideas.

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    1. I would love to, but she's too far away. I'm only working with brands that will come to me and ideally continue to work with me to adjust the saddle over time.

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    2. We will see her at the Royal Winter Fair, and there should be a lot of vendors. You could at least try out saddles that fit you. I recommend contacting Tara now. She may wish for you to make a diagram of Connor to better help you both while shopping. The U.S. dollar is strong right now. It's worth a thought if the selected company has a good return policy if it didn't fir Connor satisfactorily.

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    3. Tempting...really tempting. I've got a set of tracings of his back already, I'll bring a copy with me when we're up there.

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  5. Saddle shopping is THE WORST.

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    1. Yeah. :( At least the jump saddle is reasonable in the meantime.

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  6. I, as a fellow shortie, completely feel your pain. I have a feeling we need the same type of saddle.
    This might sound crazy, but have you looked into general purpose vsd saddles? The standard flaps are generally shorter than dressage saddles, but also more forward. I think a lot of the British makers tend to have an option or two in their catalog.

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    1. If we're both referring to the same thing, that was one of MW's suggestions to look at (she called it a GD). They're GP's that lean more toward Dressage rather than a GP that leans more toward jumping. Unfortunately I am super serious about not doing the trial saddle shipping rodeo this time, I want to work with a local fitter, so if I can find one (Patrick may have one) I'll give it a try but otherwise I won't be able to.

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    2. We need to get Tara out here. Time is her biggest restraint. I know she wants to come.

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  7. My rep for County is based in Indiana. Stephanie Griffin. I can pass along info if needed - they do the short knee rolls custom.

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    1. Already working with her, but thank you!

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    2. Oh duh you mentioned County above, I missed it. Interested to see how that goes!

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  8. Darn, I'm sorry to hear it didn't work out for you.

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    1. Me too, honestly. I wanted it to work so badly, it clouded my judgment on the saddle at first. That's part of the reason I want to try a lot of things - I want options so I don't feel like I need to jump on the first thing that's "close enough".

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  9. Augh....saddle shopping is the pits! If you have and Ideal fitter near you might look into them as they have lots of different saddle styles.

    I had a hell of a time trying to find a saddle. We ended up with a custom Ideal Tonishia as the tree was perfect for Spot and they were able to make me a short flap with a short block and narrow tree. Good luck with the saddle search! Hopefully it is short and quick. :D

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    1. Interesting! I tried an Ideal Jessica on Connor a few years ago and the tree was SO wrong front to back on him, I wrote them off. Do they have different shaped trees front to back?

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    2. They do! When I was talking to my fitter who just came back from a 2 week training with Ideal and she said they have like something like 25+ different tree types? I tried the Jessica and the Suzannah and they weren't right for us.

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  10. SUCH disheartening news- to have your hopes so high and then have the CWD not work at all, how frustrating especially when I feel like you and Conner are really putting a lot of the pieces together to make some big moves.
    I am having my first saddle fitting on Friday so we'll see how it goes. I'm nervous. I bought a used Black Country for Bravo that I feel like got us closer to a fit...but it isn't going to be anything like having a saddle made for you. I hope you find a saddle with one of the locals that fits the bill for both you and Connor! It seems to be Custom land over on this side of town, but I think it's great that you are going to have everyone out so you can evaluate many options.

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    1. Thanks! It's a little disheartening, but not as much as it would be without my jump saddle. I genuinely think I could go pretty far still riding in it, so I'm not desperate. Who is coming out for you on Friday?

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    2. Stephanie- she's the only one I know close by who is willing to work on other brands. Also her willingness to come back out and adjust anytime within a year is critical with my constantly changing youngster.

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    3. Nice! She's on my list for next week.

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  11. Ugh how disappointing! Just throwing it out there, but I know the Bliss rep in Indiana through a good friend. I've chatted with her a bit (even though she isn't the KY rep, and she has been super helpful) Happy to hook you up with her.

    The new Stubben rep in Indiana is also a good friend of a friend. So also let me know if you have any questions there!

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    1. Sure! If they're willing to come to me in southern Indiana or they have a fitting within ~2 hours of me, I'm going to look at them. Literally nothing is off the table, except for Western saddles, lol. The Stubben rep and I have been in constant contact, she was supposed to come out this week but her husband had a health scare, so she's coming next week. She is also a Bombers bit rep, which is neat!

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  12. Ugh, I feel this since it took me 10 saddles to find a dressage saddle. I love Stephanie and my County jump saddle is amazing, but no matter how many dressage saddles of their's I tried, I couldn't get one to work. I'm in a Black Country - the seat will be too big for you, but I'm more than willing to bring it down if you want to borrow it seeing as I got to ride in it three times. If I recall correctly, there's a fitter who does Black Country in Ohio - I'm sure you could find it on their website.

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    1. I lied, I think the fitter is in Louisville?

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  13. I have an idea for you since you travel to the bay area so often anyway. Go to Gravity Saddlery in Santa Cruz and get Shamss to make you a custom saddle. He can take all your measurements in shop and you can send him saddle tracings and photos of Connor. The man is like a crazy genius. I also wanted a forward flap dressage saddle since I have a long thigh bone. I tried tons of saddles, wasted tons of money on shipping, and then finally went and got a custom saddle from him for LESS than the cost of a brand name saddle. I told him I wanted a forward flap, explained my issues, explained what kind of knee block I wanted, all that stuff and he just made it happen. It fits me pretty perfectly. It had to go back in for a fix to get it to fit Levi perfectly, but he does a lifetime fit warranty on his saddle. Kate has a saddle by him as well if you want to ask her about her experience (though hers is a jumping saddle). My husband has two saddles by Shamss and loves them both though the one e bought used and thus isn't a perfect fit. I know you're thinking you need someone local to fit the saddle, but he can do it remotely. You might have to get it, take pictures of it on Connor and send it back once to get it perfect, but you'll still spend less on that one shipping since the reflocking/pannel work/whatever will be free than you will on getting an off the rack saddle re-fit to your horse. At least talk to Kate and go to his shop next time you're in CA and see his saddles. They're gorgeous, the leather is luxurious, and Shamss is so nice. Plus there are pretty beaches like 5 minutes away so the drive won't be a waste.

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  14. I almost worked for Reactor Panel in 2007 as an office person funnily enough. I second with Olivia if you can to contact Gravity Saddle - Kate has one and its the first saddle I've actually liked that I sat in since my Antares.

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  15. That is SO disappointing. Especially since it's so gorgeous. Good luck on the hunt!

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