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Need info on saddles (long wrote:

> I would like to purchase an endurance saddle, but I have no idea which one
> would be best. I have read all the recent posts on the pros and cons of
> different saddles, but I am getting confused. <SNIP> If anyone who has also
> gone through
> this saddle buying process and still has their notes and/or saved posts from
> this board I would love to have a look.

My first suggestion is to go to the archives on the endurance home page & search
on "saddle" or on the name of a particular saddle that you are interested in.
There should be LOTS of posts.  Establish a budget & decide which you can
afford.  I've bought a better saddle that was used rather than a lesser saddle
brand new.

Listening to other folks can be confusing when saddle shopping.  Rider
preferences varies and the horses all have different backs.  If it was going to
be easy, there wouldn't be so many saddles out there!  I can share information on
the saddles that we've used.  Caveat - these are our experiences with these
saddles listed.  What works for us may not work for others.  What fits our horses
may not (read probably <won't>) fit yours.

1)  Fallis Balance Ride (Western, w/ horn, mid 1970's model)  Used this in the
early 80's, before there were too many endurance saddles.  Nicely made saddle
with excellent quality leather, rawhide covered wooden tree.  Stirrups were in a
neutral position, girth was too far forward (37/8 rigged).  Changed the ox bow
stirrups out immediately!  Used an in skirt system of rigging that really got the
bulk out from under your leg.  The leathers were heavy & wide w/ fenders - they
made my knees ache to keep my toes more or less forward (as opposed to airplane
wings).  Heavy at 48 lbs.  I wouldn't go back to it for endurance if there was an
alternative that fit, but it was great for working cattle.

2)  Courbette Husar - forward seat jumping saddle.  Moderate quality leather,
good workmanship, spring tree.  This is a forward seat jumping saddle that
happened to fit a hard-to-fit mare.  I tended to get a tired back from the
position that this saddle forced me into.  English stirrup leather (1") cut into
my shins, and the standard english irons are too narrow - my feet became numb.
Few attachment places for gear (two D's on the off side for a sandwich case just
didn't cut it!)  Foam stuffed panels didn't need restuffing much, but they didn't
conform well to Rosie's back, either.  Great for foxhunting...  Lousy for
endurance, functionally, but it fit the horse & rider like a glove.

3)  Hook Endurance - "Western" style A fork endurance saddle.  No horn.  Tons of
places to attach stuff.  Excellent leather and workmanship (made in Kalispell,
MT).  2" or 3" leathers w/ fenders.  Brass hardware, wood tree, rigging that
allows the rider to adjust the girth rigging from a full position (near the
elbows) to a center fire (very back).  Rigging is dropped to get bulk out from
under you legs.  They have a combination of 250+ trees to make a custom fit, but
the tree is rigid.  As our horses lost weight through a long season, we needed to
pad them up a bit.  Absolutely love this saddle, but my husband has it now - it
fits his current horse, but not mine.  It's withstood 16 years of hard use!

4)  McClellan - old military saddle.  We have model 1904's and 1909's.  It is my
firm belief that the original McClellans WILL NOT fit an Arab.  They are narrow
saddles, some with a narrow twist in the midsaddle area, that just don't
accomodate a well sprung arab.  On the other hand, each tree was hand carved, so
there is enough variation from one to another that you can find some that fit
modern horses (other than arabs).  (Think of their campaign horses - carried
little feed, so they grazed where they could.  They tended to my lean and
muscled.)  The stirrups are underneath you, the rigging is adustable to any
position (like the Hook), TONS of places to hang things, all brass fittings.  We
found several that fit Mike's horse at varying stages of weight and had them
recovered & re-rigged for safety.  I find them uncomfortable (rigging irritates
my thighs) but Mike loves them.  Saddle has an open seat to allow for more
cooling of the horse's backs.  You find a lot that have had sheep skin put on
underneath (like on a western saddle) - GET RID OF IT.  I guess you'd call it an
"after market add on". It makes an already narrow saddle narrower.  Use a good
pad and choose one that fits the horse to start with.  Relatively cheap to pick
up still, but recovering & rerigging may run $300-400.

5)  Orthoflex Express Lite - reminiscent of an english style trooper saddle with
a rounded pommel in front.  OF has flexible panels to fit the horse as he changes
shape thru movement and weight changes.  They seem to promote that this saddle
will fit any horse - no saddle can do that, though.  Their panels are often too
long for a shorter backed arab.  They revised their panel system somewhere around
1993 or 1994 so that it flexed better & in more directions.  If you buy used, ask
if it is the new panel system.  They have also come out with shorter panels for
arabs, but I haven't actually seen one to compare.  The stirrups are well
balanced on this model.  Rigging are dropped billets, like on a dressage saddle.
Lots of places to hang things to balance the load.  I got the stitch down seat -
very cushy!  This saddle's seat seems to run a little large - I had to add a
sheepskin cover before I felt like it was small enough for me.  Nice front thigh
blocks offer some security on fast downhill trips :-).  The flex panels tend to
put you a little further away from the horse's back than a regular saddle, but it
compensates by allowing more feeling of how the horse is moving through the
flexible panels.  Quality of leather and workmanship is excellent, but they are
pricey and service has been a problem for us.

6)  Sport Saddle - leather covered neoprene seat, a solid front & back pommel for
the rigging and stirrups.  Somebody here on the list recently called it a
glorified bareback pad - not too far off for a visual description.  You can feel
every move of muscle in the horse's back.  Leather is only average quality - I
see a lot of very worn looking seats where folks didn't have seat covers.
Stirrups need to be ordered back from their normal position if you want to be
balanced.  Lots of places to hang stuff.  Girth is too far forward for my taste.
There is a design potential to make the girth position completely adjustable like
a McClellan, but I haven't seen it happen yet by the company.  (I have seen some
riders jury rig this, though.)  They come in a number of different styles - we
used the endurance model w/ stirrups back 1".  The leathers were horrible -
bulky, irritating.  The side flaps tended to bunch up and irritate my legs.  (I
was ready to cut them off before I sold the saddle.)  They send a girth with the
saddle, but I don't have any horses that tolerate this rough felt girth.  It's
lays at the bottom of the tack trunk.  (I hate to get rid of things..  What if I
ever need it?)  The saddle does not have much weight distributing properties.  If
you pleasure ride at a walk & sit a lot, if you are a heavyweight or heavier
middleweight, it may not work for you.  Our horses got sore backs directly under
our seat bones when we did pleasure rides with friends.  Even in endurance where
we posted, stood, etc. my horse complained.  Fit one mare well, but tended to
ride up on the gelding's neck. The pommel and cantle are solid and may not fit
every horse.  My friend had Percheron/TB crosses that were way to wide for these
saddles (and most other saddles, I might add).

I've ridden in a Sharon Saare, but I'm not familiar enough with them to offer
insights.  I know that she has been making these saddles fora long time and has a
very loyal customer base.

I've also seen & ridden in a Stonewall - modern version of a McClellan.  I foud
it MUCH more comfortable than a real McClellan, good leather & moderately good
workmanship.  The girth was fully adjustable to different positions, lots of
places to hang things, relatively light.

Our old Wintec's tree spread with 2 years of heavy riding.  I guess that I've
come to consider them disposable, considering the tree issue and the relatively
low price.

I hope that this helps (& doesn't cause more confusion).  Let me know if you have
any specific questions that I can answer.

Linda Flemmer

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