Buying A Saddle Is Tough To Do

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Saddle shopping is a lot like car shopping. There are a ton of choices, and the saddles that really catch your eye are those pricey models. But then you look in your wallet and realize that's not going to happen. What do you do'

Cindy Foley

You focus on finding a vehicle that serves your purpose (such as cargo space for two bales of hay) at a price you can afford. You look for one you're comfortable driving (you can see over the steering wheel). You also ensure it will fit in your garage or parking space.

As you set your requirements, the choices begin to narrow. You also realize that just because your driving instructor liked the Honda Accord, it's not a good choice for you.

it's similar with saddles. First, it doesn't matter what your trainer rides in or what splashy ad you?ve seen. it's your riding discipline, your budget, then your horse's conformation, followed by your own body.

When you get down to a couple of choices, you need to factor in one more thing, something that doesn't matter in car shopping: the saddle?s ability to work as the main ?communication interface? between your horse and you, the rider.

that's not my phrase. it's from Gene Freeze, president of County Saddlery in Maryland (www.countysaddlery.com). But it really makes everything clear. Ever have a phone that fades in and out and causes you to miss words' You don't want a saddle that causes your horse to miss your aids.

I asked Gene what his company?s best-seller was. He didn't want to say, because, ?that's not the issue. it's finding the right saddle to allow a person to ride the horse they want to ride, comfortably.?

With this month's cover article, Associate Editor Margaret Freeman starts our series on saddle shopping, beginning with dressage saddles. that's appropriate, really, as dressage riders have been leading the pack when it comes to promoting proper saddle fit. We?ll go through saddles discipline by discipline, giving you plenty to think about. We?ll talk about trends (good and bad) and how to handle them and help you decide which ones might suit you.

But, your horse's comfort is paramount, as is your fit in the saddle.Anyone who says they ride equally well in any saddle probably hasn?t experienced a perfect fit. The right saddle enhances communication. The wrong saddle leaves both of you frustrated. Does your horse react funny when you approach him with your saddle but seems fine when you're actually riding' ?A great rider can ride a horse through pain, but a great horseman eliminates the pain,? said Freeze. Well said.

Oh. County Saddlery?s best seller' The Perfection. But, he was quick to add, the Connection is less expensive and has a totally different balance point that might suit others better. Yup. There is no one perfect saddle.