Anyhow, neither of the saddles I own fit her. Ketah is wide backed, but not excessively. She's got a pretty easy to fit Quarter horse type of back with nice high withers and a slope down her ribs. Sati is not so simple. Not uncommonly for Arabians she is nearly barrel shaped. Her back is wide enough (but she's not fat) to land an airplane on and she's still going to grow and change. In fact over the next couple years, especially as we ride more, she will fill out a great deal of muscle. Her shoulders, neck and back muscles will all change. So I'm in a bit of a quandry.
You see, she needs to be ridden in order for her to properly develop these muscles. However, if I ride her in a poorly fitting saddle it will be uncomfortable (or even painful) for her. She could learn to really dislike being ridden, and even develop her muscles incorrectly. So she needs a saddle that fits, but a saddle that fits now may not fit in a few years.
There are limited options for a horse with a back like hers, especially in english saddles (which I prefer). The Arabian Saddle Company makes saddles especially for wide backed Arabs, and they are really nice ones. I almost bought one off of ebay, but it had the wrong size seat for me. They are very expesive though. at least for a rider like me, people who do a lot of competing will spend several thousands on a saddle. I have never spent more than a few hundred! I found Duett saddles which are designed for wide backed horses like Icelandics. Somewhat less expensive (but still more than I've ever spent). Then there are western saddles.
Circle Y and Tucker both make saddles for Arabians and they're pretty nice. I wouldn't mind a Tucker Endurance saddle, but I don't like using that sort of saddle for arena training. I feel as if I have less contact with the horse. Of course, that's just a general problem for me with western saddles. Plus, I just don't want to spend that kind of money on a western saddle. I'm pretty biased, but I could get a brand new Cordura/Abetta Arabian saddle (mom uses on her little Arab) for about $400-500.
Last weekend I had a lady who breeds Icelandics and sells Duett saddles come out and do a fitting on Sati. Sati was wonderful! She was a good girl while we saddled and unsaddled her, sometimes cinching her up sometimes not. We cinched up about 4 or 5 saddles and I rode her in 4 of them, 2 or 3 were dressage saddles and one was a trail saddle (sort of all-purpose but designed more for trail riding). I really liked the trail saddle. It was very comfortable, and fairly light. Also seemed to fit her the best and she moved really well in it. Did nice turns in both directions which is difficult for her sometimes.
My barn manager also came across a nice Saddle King western saddle with an extra wide Arab tree and skirts (the back of the skirting is rounded in order to not hit her hips). It seems to fit her, though I wonder a little about the fit near her shoulders as she grows and changes. It's been many years since I regularly rode in a western saddle and back then I didn't pay any attention to the saddle fit! So I'm going to try it on her and ride her in it again and pay close attention to how well she moves in it.
So what are the pros and cons?
Duett Companion Trail (English)Pros
- Length fits great
- Width across her back is good. No bridging.
- Fits across the shoulders as well, there's a bit of width to grow into.
- Seat was very comfortable for me. Felt balanced and secure. Very similar to my beloved endurance saddle. It has a wide, flat seat.
- As she gains muscle and changes I can have the saddle restuffed ("reflocked") to fit her.
- Sati seemed very comfortable in the saddle. She did nice turns in both directions and seemed fairly balanced herself. Which probably is a result of how balanced I felt.
- It's leather. The leather is gorgeous, but I get nervous about using a leather saddle in the Northwest. Yes, if you care for it well then it's ok for it to get wet. Just have to bring it home to dry, condition it well and protect it with a beeswax product. But, it will also get scratched on the trail too. The trails here are so narrow that I've had holes poked in my riding tights by branches and thorns. Think what it might do to a nice saddle.
- It's expensive, to me anyhow. $1400 new and I can't find a used one.
Saddle King (Western) (I don't have a picture of this one)
- Length fits nicely.
- Width across her back looked great. Again, I didn't see any bridging.
- Fits across her shoulders, but I'm going to take a closer look. I'm a little concerned that there's no width for her to grow into.
- Seat is very comfortable for a western saddle. It's fairly new and better padded than older westerns are.
- I need to try it again, but Sati seemed comfortable in it.
- It's only $500 (slightly used).
- Honestly, I don't like western saddles as much. I dislike the horn when trail riding (it's hard not to poke yourself when you duck) though it is useful for hanging things on.
- I'm not sure I can train her in the arena as effectively as I'd like. I don't feel as if I have enough contact. That may just be a result of riding english mostly exclusively for the last 10 years or so. Last time I rode western regularly I knew a lot less about my seat and leg contact.