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The Saddle Search – Part 8

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The New Saddle Arrives – User Report
Well, the saddle has arrived and I've had several weeks to examine and try it out. The workmanship and leather tooling is first rate. The leather is thick and of high quality. And comfort? This is the MOST comfortable saddle in which I have ever sat!

I was concerned that the knee poleys would limit leg movement and comfort, but they do not. In fact, they give an extra sense of security. The only thing they affected was the first time I posted, I brushed them as I went up. I have subsequently made my posts a little shallower (it probably improved my form; I may have been posting too high — bad habits start easily when unsupervised).

Saddle 1 Between the poleys and the high-cantle seat, you feel as if an unexpected motion by your horse, such as a quick shy, fast 180° turn, or abrupt stop, is no longer a threat. Even if my horse were to trip, I feel as if I would remain in the saddle. Yet, I've had no trouble getting into or out of the saddle. Nor do I feel I would be stuck there if my horse were to fall over or go deep into the water — it's an interesting balance between security and freedom to leave. It's not like being strapped in with a seat belt, but it provides a similar sense of security.

The cantle is also deeper than anything else I've experienced. The result is that the rider sits quite deep in a very comfortable seat. I've not taken my saddle apart, but I suspect the comfort is somewhat due to their claim that the seat is "web-strung". This means the seat is suspended above the saddle tree and it also helps explain the claims that there is isolation between the horse's spine and our own. Essentially, this approach "decouples" direct contact between the skeletons of horse and rider to the orthopedic benefit of both. That said, it definitely didn't feel loose or wobbly in any way and the seat feels as solidly affixed to the saddle as any other, but provides unbelievable comfort.

The saddle fits my horse very well. I first placed the saddle on his back with no pad or blanket. This allowed me to see the fit directly. Because of the close fit, I've used a thin saddle blanket rather than the inch-thick pad I would normally use. Sweat patterns have been even and it appears as comfortable for my horse as it is for me.

My only complaint is that the saddle was not oiled and the brass fittings were not polished when the saddle arrived. This was disappointing because spending the money to have a custom saddle made specifically for my horse and me included expectations. Some of those expectations were that the saddle would arrive looking like it came out of the showroom — it didn't.

So I called Colin Dangaard at the Australian Stock Saddle Company and shared my feelings. He responded that many of his customers did not want their saddles oiled, so his company stopped doing so automatically. He then offered to send me his favorite saddle oil and brass polish at no charge. I accepted his offer and went to work on the saddle when the kit arrived.

There were two products in the kit: Joseph Lyddy's One Stop Leather Dressing and Wenol metal polish. The Wenol really did make short work of polishing the brass — it was both effortless and fast. And the One Stop did a good job on the leather.

To oil my saddle, I placed it on a board between two sawhorses in the summer sun for about 30 minutes before beginning. When I started, the saddle was very warm. Of course, it is a black saddle and absorbed the solar infrared radiation quite readily. Oiling took about 90 minutes and required a lot of oil — this leather was thirsty. When finished, it looked really good! This is how I expected it to look when it arrived. I suggest that buyers of any saddle from any company include a discussion with the seller describing how they expect the saddle to be prepared before shipping — I would have preferred to avoid this work.

BUT, I don't want these quibbles to overshadow the quality of this saddle. This is one of the nicest saddles I've ever seen at any price and it is definitely the most comfortable I've ever sat in. Considering that I like to try lots of other horses and tack, this tells you something about this saddle's comfort.

Another thing you may have noticed in the saddle photos is all the hardware. As a trail rider that likes long, half-day or longer rides, I like plenty of tie points. I carry water, food, first aid, and lots of other equipment to assure I have whatever I might need in case I'm faced with the unexpected. Having many tie points available lets me carry all this equipment and still have more available if I want to include a coat, more water, or anything else.

Saddle Back

The brass hardware also brings life to an otherwise very dark saddle — I really like the contrast! Colin was very flexible about hardware and was willing to do anything I asked. In fact, the entire ordering of the saddle was flexible and allows the rider to customize his/her saddle as they see fit.

The stirrups you see in the photos are my own. I prefer endurance stirrups and already had these on my prior saddle — I had previously purchased them from a third-party source.

Nice Touch
An unexpected bonus is the name tag. I didn't even recognize it at first. When I first received the saddle, I saw this leather tag on the near side, rear-strap D-ring and thought it was just for advertising (which it is). But then a fellow rider noticed my name on it and was quite impressed (at the tag — not at my name).

Saddle Name Tag

It is a nice, final touch to a beautiful custom saddle! (Even though it's still advertising...)

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Besides being an avid trail rider, Jerry Tardif is a technology consultant and a horse and nature photographer in SE Connecticut — see his work at: www.jerrytardif.com. He is also co-founder and President of QueryHorse.

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