November 13, 2019

Saddle Fitting #3: WOW Saddles

I know I said I'd do some more Royal posts, but these saddle fitting posts are getting backlogged!  Gotta get them out.

Brand: WOW Saddles
Cost for Fitting: Trip fee (not split among very many people) + fitting fee: $225
Number of Saddles Tried at the Fitting: 4
Number of Saddles Trialed: 1

WOW Saddles wouldn't have even been on my list if it wasn't for Teresa, who strongly recommended them.  She also hooked me up with the fitter, who just happened to be coming to Indiana from Virginia right in the middle of my saddle fit extravaganza, but I'm glad I took a look at them.

WOW Saddles is a modular saddle company out of the UK.  Everything about every saddle can be changed out.  Suddenly hate the seat?  Buy a different one.  Feel like you need a more forward flap?  Sell your flaps and buy new flaps.  It's the most low-risk saddle buying experience ever, because anything can be changed at any time.

Just dismantling and rebuilding a saddle in the barn aisle, NBD #wowthings

The fittings take four hours because the fitter (who is a very good fitter and not just a sales rep) has to build the saddles on-site as you determine what you like/dislike, so we had a lot of time to chat.  Interestingly, the fitter's primary business is a fancy used saddle business you've all (I guarantee) heard of before, and she's slowly winding that down to focus exclusively on WOW. 

Besides believing in the positive changes she sees in the way the horses react to WOW, she also got disillusioned with the traditional saddle market by customers bringing her almost brand new custom-ordered saddles to consign that didn't work for the horse/rider once they arrived, that were being sold at a huge loss.  I am starting to develop some strong feelings on the saddle industry that are along these lines myself after trying all this stuff, but that's a post for another day.

I ended up sitting in a total of four saddles, although that's kind of a misnomer because some parts of the first saddle carried through until the end because I liked them.

Saddle #1, shown with the "air tubes" sticking out so that the flocking could be adjusted quickly.  Those are taken off of the saddle for regular use.
After taking some measurements with a special fitting kit, she nailed the tree and panel fit right out of the gate, and we kept this configuration through the rest of the saddles she built.  All of the panels I rode in were Flair, but they do have wool flocked and a foam-Flair hybrid panel that supposedly rides more like a French saddle.

On saddle #1, I liked the seat, even though it had a wider twist than the others.  However, I hated that flap, which was so stiff, it felt like I had to work to transmit aids to Connor.  I also hated the knee roll position.

Saddle #2
On Saddle #2, she gave me a slightly narrower twist, more of a skirt over the bar region, and a much softer panel that I vastly preferred.  She also changed the billet placement to where it could take my regular girth instead of the WOW H girth, just so I could feel the difference.

WOW H girth
Interestingly, with the same tree and panel configuration, the back of the saddle moved substantially more with the billets in the traditional place vs. the H girth.  Makes sense, since it's linked up much further back to where the billet is actually underneath your seat.  But part of me wonders if the H girth (and similar billet configurations, like Devoucoux) are able to hide fit issues because they keep the back of the saddle pinned down.

Connor went well in this saddle, especially considering he always goes terribly during saddle fittings, and we were on hour 2 at this point.  The headplate on the WOW saddles actually twists with each backward swing of the scapula so the horse never feels restricted by the tree points, and I think he really liked that.

Finally we took that same saddle #2 and put their "flapless" flaps on it, although she only had jumping flaps.  Because I also have the Eq Saddle Science saddle, I wanted to give this a try.  If I bought it, I could switch back and forth between regular flaps and these.

Plz to ignore the ghetto girth rigging we had to do on this one, this is not how it's supposed to go

I didn't like this very much. Those are pretty stiff and fairly long panels to be "flapless" and while it did give me the "horse body" feel under my boot top, it didn't feel any different from a regular saddle in the "leg pit" area, as MW would say.

WOW Saddles
  • Almost risk-free saddle buying experience due to the interchangeable parts
  • Connor seemed to like the trees
  • The saddle could change with my preferences over time
  • The saddle seemed to move with the horse well
  • The seat was well-balanced
  • The H girth distributed pressure well across the entire saddle
  • I could see myself incessantly experimenting with different configurations for the rest of my life
  • Leather quality was just okay
  • In terms of position, I never got that "coming home" feeling in it, but then again, I could probably get there with interchangeable parts, so IDK how to feel about that.
  • Heavy!  So heavy!
Right now, I'd place the WOW in the #2 spot, behind...

(tune in tomorrow)


  1. I've never seen an "H" girth. Not ever done any dressage showing, would that be a problem, or doesn't equipment count in your scoring?

    Heavy as in western saddle heavy, or heavy as in very solid? Anna

    1. Equipment doesn't count in your scoring as long as it's legal, which I believe the H girth would be, although full disclosure I haven't looked that up myself.

      It was heavy as in Western Saddle heavy. Not quite that heavy, but definitely made me exclaim "Holy crap this is heavy" the first time I picked it up. There's a lot of solid metal pieces in there.

  2. how interesting! Does it take a ton of time to change out parts? Asking for an eventer... haha

    1. Yes it does, it's not something you'd want to be changing out between phases at an event. It took her 30-45 minutes and she's very experienced with it. She was also pretty clear, because I asked her a similar question, that REALLY parts should only be swapped out by a qualified fitter.

  3. One of the reasons for the h girth is on a horse with a point billet and forward girth grove, with a traditional girth the balance point ofnthensaddlenin relation to where the girth sits is very far forward, which can allow the back of the saddle to pop up. The h girth adjusts the balance so that the back doesn't pop up. There's a YouTube video that explains it very well.

    It has done a really good job of stabilizing my saddle laterally and it doesn't creep forward like it did with the Total Saddle Fit girth I was using.

    I haven't decided if I love the Flair system or not. I'm making the adjustments myself as there is no local fitter. The good thing is that I can do it myself and don't have to wait for someone, even if it is through trial and error.

    The other nice thing is that you can buy used parts to put it together once you know what parts you need. There are a couple of Facebook pages, mostly out of the UK. I've seldom seen short flaps on there though.

    What flaps did you end up liking? I'm keeping an eye out for a set of VSD with movable block flaps to use as my dressage flaps.

    1. Interesting. I think I'm especially sensitive to saddle popping up in the back, because it's extreme on Connor. I tell every fitter that comes out, a lot of saddles will appear to fit while standing still and then pop up in the back bigtime when he starts trotting. This could be totally unfounded, but it makes me nervous that the H girth is covering up a fit issue that I otherwise would know about and tackle with fitting the rest of the saddle properly.

      It was the VSD's that I liked I believe, and it did have the movable block slots. They were very cool!

  4. I have friends with the Wow dressage saddles and they love them. I have ridden in them and I do like them but not enough to change out what I'm doing.

    1. Not to spoiler alert my saddle fitting journey, but I think that's where I am with them too. They're fine, but never left me with that "can't wait to ride in that again!" feeling. And I know with more time and experimentation I could get to that point with them, but do I want to? And am I only still interested in them because I'm terrified of making the wrong decision with a non-modular saddle company? Food for thought.

  5. I trialed one when I was saddle shopping and I'm glad I didn't like it because in about 3 minutes flat my horse made it crystal clear he hated it with the heat of a thousand suns. Then, I had a barn mate buy one, had it fit to her horse and within a month he was VERY sore, something under the saddle, perhaps in the gullet was pressing on his spine to the point where he had a huge swollen lump. Fitter came back, adjusted it again. To my eye it still didn't fit. Not sure the end of the story because she left my barn but I wasn't a fan.

    1. Interesting! That's the second story I've heard like that about them. But I've also heard just as many total converts who are very happy. I appreciate hearing all arguments from both sides.

  6. I didn't even know this could be a thing. I love the concept of being able to build exactly what you want. But I also feel like to have these great options, really high quality leather should be one of those options. Really enjoying your saddle fitting posts! Thanks for taking one for the team with these!

    1. I don't want to make it sound like the leather was total crap, it was decent, but having just come off of sitting in all those French saddles in Canada three days prior, it was not that. It'll get the job done and in all honesty probably last longer than the French leather will, but it didn't knock my socks off.

  7. A friend of mine had one and LOVED it - I rode in it and it felt bouncy to me...

  8. WOW saddles are so divisive - most people either love them or hate them. I adore all three of my WOW saddles, but I truly believe if you don't have a WOW saddle fitter who is very good at what they do, these saddles won't work, hence many stories of horses becoming sore with these saddles. All of my horses love them and I always have that "can't wait to ride in that again feeling" but I believe it's mainly because my mother is a trained fitter and is always able to fix them as soon as I feel something is not quite right.

    Interestingly, our horses' physios/sports massage people/chiropractors are all always surprised how our horses don't have any back issues unlike most horses that they treat who always seem to have sore backs!

    And absolutely agree with them being heavy and the leather being just okay compared to some other brands.