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    [RC] saddles - Andrea Day

    How can you say there's not a selection in endurance saddles????
    I had a devil of a time making a choice before I finally bought my Express Lite Orthoflex. Love it. You can find many choices out there in endurance saddleland. Every price option, too, from Mercainte saddles starting at $699 up to treeless Sports saddles at $2600+. There's Sharon Saare, Boz, Orthoflex, Wintec, RR, Rocking R (not the same thing)and others. You can get wood trees, synthetic trees, fixed trees, flex trees, or no tree ;) Horns on saddles or no horns. Knee and cantle rolls or none. DON'T get something cheap like a ABetta or cheap cordura saddle. They seldom fit the horse, are crappy built, and can even have warped frames when brand new.

    Basically, most endurance saddles run on a western or english style frame. I don't like english saddles because they generally have problems with the balance. Forward seats are too forward, dressage seats are too deep, and all purpose still have a problem with balance over varied terrain. It can be tough doing long downhills after 45 miles with nothing to brace your thighs agains, and if your horse is a spooker, or trips, or is young and foolish, you might wind up doing the "dirt dive" more often then you like.

    All the english have lightly attached rings, so the items you wind up carrying, or your breast collar, pulls out the rings in time. Plus there's the restuffing issue--plenty time in the saddle insures you have to restuff again and again, which means eventually the saddle can't be stitched. Despite all this, to my mind severe disadvantages, many people love 'em and find ways to work around it.

    Usually, it's tough to find a western saddle that will fit an Arab well. They do a great job of distributing rider weight, but better quality ones are generally much heavier, plus the larger skirts retain heat on the horse. Rigging options are great--I like a 3/4 to centerfire, but western saddles with a back cinch (more weight) are usually rigged 7/8 or full forward. This can cause elbow sores or rubs, and unless the back cinch is fairly tight, the forward style rigging can make the back of the saddle scurf up the hair on the loins and cause bald spots or even sore areas. Western saddle strings don't hold stuff that well, except maybe your slicker, but you can easily screw in rings. The major drawback in my mind is that blasted horn. After years of bruises in the midsection from colts spooking and stopping suddenly, I really LOVE my saddle without one. Took a while though to quit trying to hang the bridle on the horn when I took it off though :)

    This said, for years I rode many thousands of miles and over 2000 endurance competition miles in a western saddle. The western fit my horses SO well that the weight was a minor concern (and I was a bit lighter then, so all balanced out) Eventually had a colt rear over backwards on it though, and that broke the tree. :(

    As far as Aussies, usually they're too narrow for most endurance horses, and the pulleys on the front keep you from standing the stirrups and balancing properly. I've ridden a few that have not been a problem, but they were just as, or more, expensive as endurance saddles--namely the ones made by Sid Hill or Fallis. DON'T get some cheap piece of garbage made in India or China. They have poor quality leather, bad trees, and fit neither horse nor rider. Sure, you can get one for $299, but you'll spend $1000s trying to fix your horse ever after.

    My two cents, for what it's worth. Everybody rides what they like (hopefully) and what fits you and your horse is the BEST saddle of all.

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