Looking at the equine on-line forums, it appears that many of us equestrians have “collections” of items. For some it is blankets, or saddle pads, or polo wraps. For me, it is saddles. At last count, I am astonished to find that I have owned 31 saddles, although, luckily, not all at one time.
It wasn’t always the case. I owned my first saddle, a Hartley Galaxy, for more than 15 years. I bought it when I was 14, with babysitting money. It was flat as a pancake and it was perfect. Everyone at the hunter barn I rode at had a flat saddle (preferably a Crosby Prix de Nations, but the Hartley was a decent facsimile). We scorned the Stubben Siegfrieds with their big knee rolls. Who needed that! I loved having my own saddle, even if I didn’t have my own horse. I was a working student and I used that saddle on every horse I rode.
In fact, I continued riding in that saddle well into my next discipline, eventing, which I took up in my early 20s. A taste for cross country jumping gave me some insights into why people wanted those big, honking knee rolls. I caved in and had small knee blocks added under the flap for added security. I also bought my very first dressage saddle, a Kieffer. The leather was a rather appalling green color when I bought it, barely used. Luckily the color became more acceptable over time.
A few years later, these saddles took up residence in my closet while I pursued a career. I didn’t dust them off for nearly 9 years.
In my early 30s, when I started to ride again, I found the Hartley to be, well, flat. Too flat. Truth be told, the saddle that fit me so well as teenager was also a tad too small for me as a desk-bound adult. So I traded it for a saddle that I would have scorned in my youth: a Kloster Schonfeld with big honking knee rolls that were like wearing a seatbelt.
As my riding has evolved (I’d like to say improved, but that’s debatable), I found that my taste in saddles has changed. I’ve tried saddles with deep seats and blocks, flat seat seats and monoflaps, treeless and treed. In order of ownership, the total is:
Bond Street Dressage
Albion Original Comfort A/P
Crosby Prix St. Georges Dressage
Stubben Siegfried Extra
Ainsley Pro National
Wintec Pro Jump*
Tony Slater Jump
Barefoot Cheyenne Treeless
Wintec Pro XC*
Torsion Extra Light Treeless
Passier Military Jumping Saddle
Schleese Peter Gray
Stubben Scandica MF Special
Wow jumping saddle
Stackhouse jumping saddle
Heather Moffett Fheonix GTS
The good news is that there are plenty of saddles left to try. And plenty of people who want to buy my old saddles. Each saddle promises to offer you perfect balance and the chance to achieve harmony with your horse. I love the craftsmanship and the quality of leather. I am intrigued by saddles with monoflaps because of their close contact feel and by saddles with knee and thigh blocks because of the security they offer. I like riding treeless so that I can feel my horses’ backs. I guess I just crave the novelty.
* These are the saddles I still own.