I was looking at saddles on eBay — my favorite form of window shopping — and I came across an auction for a saddle that was a dead ringer of the first saddle I ever owned: A Hartley Galaxie.
I bought the saddle when I was 14 using babysitting money. My recollection was that it cost $325. Mostly I remember that it was the most expensive item I had ever bought.
Technically, the saddle was used. Someone at the barn had bought it, had her initials stamped into the flap, and changed her mind. So I got it for a good price. I didn’t care about the initials. In fact, I can’t remember what they were. All I knew was that this was my saddle and it was perfect. At that time the Crosby Prix de Nations was the saddle that everyone wanted. This looked close enough to fit the bill. It was flat as a pancake without even the hint of a knee roll. This was at a time when I scoffed at the few who owned Stubben Siegfrieds with their unsightly knee rolls.
Of course, back then I didn’t know that all saddles didn’t fit all horses, so I rode everything in that saddle. And in those days I rode a lot of horses. I never had my own horse growing up; instead, I worked for trainers, begging to ride any and all horses that needed work.
I had that saddle until I was about 30. During the intervening 16 years, I still didn’t know squat about saddle fit, but my riding discipline changed. In my early 20s I began to event. That’s when I discovered the limitations of having a completely flat saddle: when riding cross country it didn’t offer a lot of support. I had small knee blocks added to the saddle which more or less held me in place (I remember hitting the dirt a lot back then and don’t remember it hurting quite as much as it does now).
Eventually, I traded that saddle for one with big honking knee rolls. Funny how all of a sudden I found the concept of knee and thigh blocks to be comforting.
But I still remember that Galaxie with fondness and pride.