Thursday, June 26, 2014

New Saddle

Uh - I actually bought a new saddle in, like, November 2013!


- And this is what I felt like walking into the store when the shop girl said “How can I help you?” and I’m all “I want to buy a new saddle.” …Got swag yo! - 

I forgot to blog about it, but it is an important “Duh!” moment, so I thought I'd come back and write about it now.

It all started when I decided to get out a saddle fitter, back when I couldn’t figure out whether my saddle didn’t fit me properly, or it just was the wrong saddle for what I was wanting to achieve. I wrote a bit about it here, in a huge dump where I was trying to figure out how to improve my seat.

Saddle fitters are expensive, btw - $85.00 per session! – but I figured it was worth it. And it was, even when she looked at my saddle, and the first thing she said was “Uh oh.”

Well, maybe not exactly, but close! The CAIR air panels (which this saddle had instead of traditional flocking) - were in a word – toast.

The back panels were completely flat, and the front panels had only a little air in them, but were definitely past their use by date. No wonder I felt like my saddle had been tipping me backwards!

Plus, the front of the gullet had cracked across the arm, and she wasn’t sure how safe it was any more. Which meant I was potentially looking at replacing the entire tree, as the gullet and tree are cast all as one piece.

Yup, that’s pretty much the entirety of my saddle’s innards being pulled out and replaced. All for the sum of $600.00 or so dollars. Ouch!

Add to the fact that it’s a 16 1/2” seat rather than the 17” she thought I needed, and that I can buy a new saddle with the changeable gullet system as well as extra flocking shims for $899.00.  Or I could wait around and try to find a second hand saddle.

But the thing was I had to spend money either way, and I really didn’t want to pay $600.00 to fix my old one, only to find out that it didn’t fit me. Or the horse!

Octavia Shut Up

Apparently Wintec has redesigned their saddle trees to fit the wide-sprung barrel that the majority of horses have now a days. It makes sense; new breeding types, new shape for most horses and a new saddle design is needed!

Because Copper is most definitely widely sprung through his barrel, I had my suspicions that a new saddle would fit him better as it always looked like my old saddle was too small on his back.

It really came down to a simple choice – buy a new saddle, or find a second hand one.  

Second hand saddle buying is difficult in Australia, no one really sells on consignment, so you pretty much have to buy the saddle and hope it fits unless the seller is really nice and will let you have a trial. That doesn’t happen very often though. It is a rather difficult process that I didn’t want to put myself through. And in the end, I really didn’t want to wait around to save myself only a couple of hundred dollars, especially when the gullet system and shims that I would get for free with a new saddle were worth a couple of hundred dollars by themselves.

I used the money that I got from selling Joey, even though that was earmarked for The Perfect Dressage Horse fund. And when you sell an equine friend, why does it always feel like blood money? Or is that just me? 

I needed a saddle though, so I bought a Wintec 500 All Purpose saddle.

Wintec 500

And oh my word, has it ever made a difference!

Copper moves much more freely over his back, which is hardly a surprise. I’m not fighting maintain my position any more, and we generally have a much more harmonious ride.  It’s much easier to get Copper to relax and soften now in his trot and I think he is generally much happier to work.

I had previously noticed that Copper had some white hairs coming up through his coat on his back – indicative of nerve damage, and the positioning of them makes sense now, because the seam where the panels overlapped would have been pressing on his back and causing pain.

I am annoyed with myself that it took me so freakin’ long to figure out that his saddle was a problem, but I am glad I did. I now know that CAIR panels have a life span of 10 years, and then they need to be replaced. They may need to be replaced sooner, but it is hard to tell that when you look at them.

Even my completely-flat-as-paper-thin panels felt firm when you poked them or touched them.  To test their actual structure, you need to turn the saddle over and massage or knead the panels with your fist for five minutes or so. If the panel is still firm, then it is ok. If it is no good you will find that it is flabby, saggy, or in the case of my saddle, has no air left in it at all.

I was so surprised when I saw that, but I finally understood what was going on and why it took me so long to work out the problem. Basically, the saddle looked and felt fine, but after five minutes of sitting in it on Copper, the air would have squished out, and the tree would have been digging into his back.

Joey would have been having the same issue, which in hindsight, explains why it was so hard for me to activate his hind quarters, and why he suddenly started to feel really funny in the canter. I thought these were all baby horse problems, but nope. The saddle was hurting his back.

Joey was a lot more stoic and had a quite a different reaction to this than Copper. He slowed down and wouldn’t work through himself, whereas Copper - while also disengaging his back end - would run around like a mad thing, pulling through his shoulders.

nop-nope-octopus - Nopederpus says it all “Nope nope nope nope – not doing this today!” -

And Bonita learns an important lesson. Even if you have checked your saddle and think it fits, think again. Even if your saddle looks fine on the outside, think again. Even if you bought a new saddle last year, think again!

Tack really is THE first place to start checking as soon as your horse starts to have ANY problems. Whether it be a change in gait, attitude, or ability to work, just check your tack! It might cost you $85.00, but it might save you years of niggling little problems that you just can’t seem to get around, but aren’t outright causing issues.

Each horse will react differently, some horses will object more than others, either way, the moral of the story is ALWAYS CHECK YOUR TACK.

This saga was bought to you by Bonita’s Duh Moment of the Year. :P

And the letter “D”….   For Duh.


See ya,


P.S. – Sorry, not sorry, for all the gifs. I never get to use these! (◉ Д ◉)


  1. New saddle is definitely on my list. I suspect getting my Stubben restuffed would cost more than replacing it at this point (those old Stubbens are just a dime a dozen) and there is really nothing I can do for my reining saddle (already use an inch thick pad and it's still too wide). Big $$$ but worth it to have a happy horse!

    1. Absolutely! Like I was saying, I can't believe the difference it has made with Copper. I will never regret spending that money as I think that I made at least half our schooling issues 80% fixed! I still have old behaviours to re-adjust, but that is way easier than trying to get him to relax when his back is hurting him. So there's that. : )


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