This time of year horse people start itching for the real Spring, not the pseudo-Spring we're getting at the moment teasing with 60 degree daytime temperatures. While the warm Spring-like temps we're experiencing this week are encouraging, I needed another kind of encouragement. Last week I ordered myself a new saddle.
The first saddle I bought for my big Spotted Saddle Horse (16.3h), Bo, was a typical heavy black leather Western saddle. I found it on ebay from an upstart saddle company. They specialized at the time in gaited, draft and mule saddles. I decided on a gaited saddle, though at the time, I wasn't really sure what I was doing. I had gaited horses, so the gaited saddle seemed appropriate. Reading a few sources, and with the saddle company's sizing help, the sizing seemed right. The price was right, in my opinion, for a first saddle at $500.
It's a very nice saddle for the price. But over the past seven years, some things have changed and my opinion on leather vs. synthetic has changed. I'm one of those "older" riders now. On my birthday next month, I'll be the big 5-0. I want things to be less work for me and a lighter saddle seems right.
This time around I studied up on sizing, bars, trees, leather vs synthetic, gaited vs QH vs trail. I really liked the synthetics we used at the riding stable, but had been told they wouldn't hold up. Mind you, this was back in '04 when the synthetics were becoming much more popular. My boss was a strictly leather saddle fan. She didn't really like the synthetics we used, but the price was right for the budget of the riding stable. She could purchase 4 new synthetics for the price of one new leather Western saddle. As staff, we appreciated the lighter synthetics when tacking and untacking ten to twelve horses. I don't recall ever having a problem with fit on the variety of horse backs we had there and those synthetics would clean up quickly.
Well, time proved my boss was a little off on her opinion that the synthetics wouldn't hold up to the leathers. They did. When I left that job, I decided I'd be going synthetic. The previous year I'd purchased a half synthetic/half leather saddle for my other horse anyway. Ended up using it on Bo, but just didn't feel it fit him right. He's is simply a big Walker. The leather saddle fit him well, but when I rode in it, or used it on him, I never felt comfortable. My husband seemed to like it but he's never ridden in different saddles so he really can't compare apples to oranges.
I looked over saddles in the horse supply catalogs the past month. I narrowed my choices down to the popular Wintec synthetics, which I had experience with at the riding stable and an Abetta Cordura Saddle. The Abetta had excellent reviews from people who owned them and is available in a wide tree sizing for the horse, which I have decided would be better for Bo. As for me, I can do either a 16 or 17 seat, depends on the saddle. I went for the 17 figuring that would cover both my husband and me nicely, rather, I'm pretty sure I can cover it with no problem.
One of my hold ups in ordering was the fact that a saddle is something very personal. I don't have saddle retailers close by, I'm buying sight unseen. Took me a few days to build up the nerve to make the decision. There is a return policy, but who wants to box up a saddle and send it back? I wasn't looking forward to that if it turns out to be completely wrong. But, I took the leap of faith and ordered it. Should be here any day now.
That's how I'm encouraging myself in these teasing pre-Spring days before the real Spring sets in.