My latest trial saddle arrived last Tuesday night, just late enough for me to not be able to immediately run to the barn and sit in it. Those among us with serious lack of patience issues will understand how deflating this is, and just how long it makes the subsequent 7 hour sleep and 9 hour work day seem.
When I opened the box I wasn’t quite as optimistic about the saddle as I’d been from photos. She was stiff and squeaky and had dirt caked into all of her crevices (poor Childeric, that’s exactly how I feel at the end of a horse show weekend so I can empathize). The nail heads were covered in enough green varnish to where you could barely read the brand name. She looked like she had obviously been a little neglected. The leather also looked a bit slick, which has been my complaint with almost every dressage saddle I’ve sat in except the Devoucouxs and CWD, so I was a bit worried right off the bat. Beyond the superficial things though, it’s in good shape. The tree is solid, there are no tears or significant rubs, the stitching is all intact, and the panels and billets are good.
I got to the barn on Wednesday and plopped the Childeric on Henry. He did not immediately try to kick my knee caps off or pin his fuzzy little drama queen ears, so we were off to a good start. I slid it back until it settled behind his shoulder, stepped back and looked at the balance, made sure it wasn’t rocking or bridging, checked the evenness from the back and shoulder clearance from the front. It’s not 100% perfect like custom, but it’s pretty darn good. Certainly significantly better than my Makila was.
Since I was concerned about it feeling slick and no longer own any full seat breeches I sprayed it with a little bit of stick tight before I got on. I shouldn’t have done that. I spent the first 5 minutes trying to unstick myself enough to post properly. Lesson learned. Don’t spray the Childeric – she only looks slick.
As soon as I got on I was encouraged right off the bat. It fit well in the seat and I immediately felt comfortable in it. A lot of dressage saddles I’ve sat in have made it feel like my hips are being wrenched from their sockets, but not this one. How come the French seem to be the only ones capable of making saddles that don’t hurt me (well, not physically at least, the financial pain is another story)? My only minor criticism was that i could feel the buckles on the stirrup leathers a bit under my thigh (but this gave me the perfect excuse to buy Trainer’s old leather webber style leathers off of her and sell the stupid TSF leathers that I hate). We picked up the trot and immediately Henry felt like he was moving pretty well through his shoulder – his other telltale sign of whether he likes a saddle or not. Trotting like a foundered shetland pony = bad. Trotting like a normal “6.5 mover” Henry = good.
The real test for me with dressage saddles has been the canter. It either really works or it really doesn’t. We picked up the canter (a decent trot-canter transition for once, I might add) and I immediately knew it would work for me. My leg hung well, I didn’t have to fight the saddle to sit correctly, and I felt like the balance was very good. It wasn’t as sunshine-and-rainbows as my trainer’s Devoucoux Loreak, but it’s also not anywhere near the same price range. No dramatics from Henry either, just a normal canter. When I asked him to collect a little more he easily did it without complaint. I think we have a winner all around, ladies and gentleman.
While I’m not over the moon thrilled about the price, it was still a fair deal and one of the cheapest of this model that I’ve been able to find. I’ve already scrubbed her clean (it took a toothbrush and two differently shaped sponges) and conditioned her a few thousand times and she feels and looks tremendously better. She was so thirsty I used 1/4 of a container of conditioner… I kept globbing it on and she kept soaking it up. I think my winter project will be a re-dye so that the seat looks less faded and green. Dying the saddle black, painting the trailer white…