Last week my fantastic saddle fitter was back up with 4 saddles to try - 2 of which were ones I tried the first time she came up and 2 new ones. Once again, the weather leading up to the appointment was garbage which left me limited to one tiny, uneven spot of long grass suited only to about a 10-15 meter circle of walk, but I have a pretty good idea of what bothers my back the second I sit in it so while it would have been ideal to put a 'full ride' on in them, i'm content with the limited riding I was able to do.. plus, this has been in the works since about March and I want to get my hands on a new saddle sooner rather than later.
I wanted to ride in all the saddles back to back including the ones I tried the few weeks before and i'm glad I did. What was interesting, was the saddle I liked less last time, I liked more and the one I liked more last time, I liked less this time.
The first saddle I tried (#1), was one of the ones I was waiting for last time but it didn't arrive in time, and despite not at all being right for my body in terms of customizable options, it didn't disappoint. We put it on Sierra and noted that it sat very high on her back, yet when I got on her it felt as though I was bareback - it felt like I had a very close contact with her back, and it was quite comfortable. I quite liked the Malaka seat and block material, and I liked the flap design though it's different than any other saddle of that model I have found online. I rode in this saddle the longest, and quite enjoyed it. The difficulty is that this saddle was not at all right for my body, bearing in mind it is only a demo and anything that didn't 'work' for me can and will be changed on my own saddle, so it really forces a person to use their imagination. The seat was a 17.5 and they appear to fit quite small, and in addition the block was just completely wrong for my leg in terms of length, placement, etc. I would also like a wider flap so I have a little more material behind my leg but again, these are all things that will be made to my measurements and specifications so keeping that in mind, it is at the top of my list of options.
The next saddle I tried (#2) was the same model as one I tried last time (though not the exact same saddle). It was gorgeous as well, and the same brand as #1. Last time, I quite liked this saddle but upon having more to compare it to, I pushed it down my list when considering that it is the same price as #1 and there were some things I liked less about it, such as feeling like I was pushed to the very front of the saddle with nothing in front of me, and the seat wasn't quite as comfortable.
The third saddle I tried was once again the same brand as #1 and #2, but a different model. This model was older and thus discontinued and replaced with something very similar and the same price as #1 and #2, however it really didn't speak to me so I immediately crossed it off my list.
The fourth and final saddle (#4) that I tried for the day, was also one I tried last time. This saddle I really didn't care for last time and a large part of that was due to the leather and the craftsmanship. The saddle has since been ridden in a few times by others, and the leather seemed a lot less sticky and honestly, my opinion was changed. The craftsmanship was of course, unchanged, but in chatting about it with my fitter she mentioned speaking to another fitter who said they would send it back, and that all the other saddles of that brand have been fantastic so it may have just been a new saddler or something. While it's not excusable, it's good to know that if I proceeded with that saddle, it would be appropriate to send it back if there were something I wasn't happy with. In comparison to #1, this saddle fit me much better 'off the shelf'. It's an 18" Seat (i'm an 18 or 18.5) and the block is far better placed for my leg. The flap is wider as well, but the twist is also a bit wider and when I was sitting on Sierra chatting, my left hip began to get sore. That being said, it was the fourth saddle I sat in that day so I really can't say for certain if it's from the saddle or if it was because of getting on and off 4x. Regardless, it's still at the top of my list and i'm now going back and forth between #1 and #4.
So now that I have it narrowed down to two saddles, the real trouble has come in. I can take my time in making a decision, but the longer I take to decide, the longer I wait for a new saddle. Regardless, we took all mine and Sierras measurements so that my fitter didn't need to make yet another 1.5hr trip to my farm, and I hope to make a decision in the next week or so. Following the appointment, I made a quick list of pro's and con's as follows:
- Includes several hundred dollars of free goodies from the manufacturer
- Narrower twist
- Superior Craftsmanship
- Superior company
- Incredible quality
- Excellent options such as cantle designs, etc
- Can request a higher cantle
- Moderately deep seat
- Close contact feel
- Very accommodating for larger thighs near the skirt
- I really couldn't get a 'real feel' of what a saddle for ME would really feel like
- Panels not quite as deep as #4
- Block would likely be similar to that on #3 as my leg is just too short to sit in a 'nook'
- More expensive than #4
- Very deep seat
- Demo was an 18" so more of an accurate feel
- Ticks my aesthetic boxes (Deep seat, external block)
- Cheaper than #1 by about $1,100
- Lesser Craftsmanship
- Wider twist (not sure if this is a pro or con for me)
- No 'free stuff' from the manufacturer
In addition, I also get 10% back from my Fitter for anything she sells so obviously, the more I spend, the more I get back in that regard. Regardless, I have requested quotes for each including exactly what I want (such as cantle design, etc) and will compare once I get those back next week. Who knew spending money on a beautiful saddle would be so hard!