Wednesday 20 June 2018

Saddle Musings

The (hopeful) miracle bit arrived on Monday, my last day of vacation. Unfortunately I was feeling like crap so I didn't make it out to the barn. Tuesday was iffy because it was stinking hot out, but the decision was made for me when I arrived home from work with a leaking hot water tank. Thankfully, no real damage done by water, but I need to clean my house so that I can get someone in to replace it. Let's just say that I haven't had lame horses in a while.

I'm going to try to get out early-ish on Wednesday to get a couple rides in before it gets too hot. So I'll have feedback on the bit hopefully on Thursday.

On one of the lazy mornings that I had while on vacation I starting looking into options for saddles to fit Cisco, specifically jumping saddles. I don't want to be in the treeless forever, but I don't mind using it at the moment. I will likely keep Phantom in it (the Princess is all too-happy to tell me when something doesn't fit, and since she's happy in the treeless I don't feel like playing the saddle fit game with her). But I would like to do some jumping with Cisco, and the treeless is not the best for that. Also I really miss riding in a jump saddle.

Cisco is wide. With shoulders and withers that sit back. He's not going to be easy to fit.

I took tracings of his back and withers back in April so that I could talk to the Zaldi rep at Mane Event. Zaldi's are designed for baroque type horses, so I was thinking they might be my best bet. She looked at the tracings, said no problem, and I sat in a couple of models. They felt okay, but not great. The price point was fantastic at about $2500. I could swing that. Since I don't know how much jumping I will do, I don't really want to spend a ton of money on a jump saddle.

What I'm not liking though, is that they come in a maximum width of 34cm. She measured the tracings that I provided as 34cm. Cisco has been in work for less than a year and is not working across his back yet. He's going to get wider.
The red line is the back of his scapula. The yellow line is 2" behind where the gullet generally sits.

I know that the saddles can be widened a bit - is it generally 1cm or 1 size, which would be 2cm? If I could find one used, I might consider it, since the price should be what I would be happy to pay, and knowing that it might be a short-term saddle. But having to widen one would not be my preferred option.

Duett saddles might be an option, and I've seen the odd one come up for sale locally. But I keep reading that they have a pretty wide twist, and there doesn't seem to be an option to customize the flaps, by which I mean shorten them. Their jumping models would not be a good fit for my short legs off the rack. Cisco has some curve to his back, and I believe the Duett's are pretty flat, so they might not work well for him.

Next I stumbled across a page for Wow Saddlery. And I'm intrigued.

Wow saddles are modular saddles. You pick a style of panels and the headplate (the arch over the withers) to fit the horse, and the seat and flaps to fit the rider. If your horse changes shape you can likely just swap out the headplate or maybe the panels. If the rider changes disciplines you can swap out the seat or flaps.

None of these parts are inexpensive (except the headplate), so swapping out parts is still a committment. There is, however, a market for used parts, especially out of the UK where these saddles are quite popular.

New saddles cost upwards of $4500. One could conceivably piece together a saddle of used parts for about $2500.

Why am I intrigued about these saddles?

First, they have something like 11 different headplate widths, in 3 different shapes. Any of these headplates will fit in any of their saddles. One site had a handy dandy printable gauge, which I placed against the wither tracings I took in April. Cisco measured as a 5, which is basically an XXX wide. It's nice to know that there are still wider options.

Second - the seat has a carved out spot for round thighs to settle into. So the twist for a wide horse saddle might not feel so wide. For my short, fat legs, this could be a big deal. The payoff is that you might feel like you sit a bit higher off the horses back, which I'm not sure that I would like.

The tree of the saddle is a y-shape - the bottom part of the y is towards the pommel and the top part would be under your seat. This means no tree points, which could be of significance for Cisco. His big shoulders would be able to slide back nicely and he wouldn't feel constricted and shorten his step.
This seat is about $1050, currently listed on

It also looks like I would be able to get short flaps made. That's a big deal to me.

The girthing system can be changed - a point billet and swing billet, 2 swing billets, long, short. I want short billets so that I can shorten my girth while on my horse - I really miss being able to do this in my dressage saddle!

What I'm unsure about is that the panels come standard with Flair. I rode in a Bates with the Cair panels once, and it felt like I was on a trampoline. Supposedly the Flair panels are better, and if they feel too bouncy they are probably too full. Most people seem very happy with them.
I suspect that these are the panels I might need for Cisco, currently on for about $300.

I've been in contact with one of the only two reps in the country, who is nowhere near me. Wow makes a gauge that you put on the horses back to get a good idea of what panels and headplate will fit the horse, so she would send that to me to start with. Then she can send me a saddle to try for a couple of weeks. I don't know that I'm willing to spend the money on a new saddle, but I might try to buy the panels and seat used, and buy the headplate (not too many $$) and have custom short flaps made new. This would hopefully get the saddle to somewhere between $2500 and $3000 - not chump change by any means, but doable, especially if I sell a couple of saddles I'm not using.

I'll take a couple of months to mull it over before getting stuff sent from the rep. If I try it this fall, I can look for parts over the winter when I don't ride as much and maybe have a complete saddle by spring. Or maybe I'll find something else locally for much cheaper.


  1. WOW saddles are really awesome, one of my friends in Chicago had one for her PRE stallion, who was a very challenging fit. In blogland, I know EventingSaddlebredStyle has one, and she is a big advocate for the adjustability!

    1. It seems like there are a lot of people who love them.

  2. Saddle woes are the worst woes, haha!