I cannot believe it!
IMPOSSIBLE TO FIT (SO FAR) MARE.
I’m too ignorant with precision saddle design to understand the exact reasons why saddles don’t fit my mare; but it has to do with her laid back shoulder and narrowing back. She is gaited which also raises the bar…
I’ve been trying for 3 years. I’ve demoed more saddles than I have shoes in my closet.
Truth to tell, there was a good part to exploring every saddle on the market – I wrote about the saddles that I liked.
I was also able to find saddles for my easier to fit horses.
The downside was that I spent a lot of time with no results for BG.
THE WESTERN STATES HORSE EXPO
Last week, in preparation for the Western States Horse Expo which was coming to Sacramento (close to me), I printed the exhibitor list and circled every saddle maker who was attending. I did this last year and the year before… but I was hoping there would be a new vendor or someone I had missed previously.
After clicking to every site of those saddlers that I hadn’t already tried, I found two that looked interesting. The Advantage and The Stonewall.
I liked the Advantage because it had the footprint of an endurance saddle yet it had enough material to appear secure. It was short. Lightweight. Had foam undersides and was made for tough to fit horses. Sounds like my kinda saddle…
I had contacted Advantage Saddlery to let them know that I was interested in demoing a saddle.
Katee, the owner, asked me to take a series of photos of my horse both standing and moving. She was very clear that her saddles were made to fit the moving horse.
I asked if a video would work. She said either would be fine.
So, I shot stills and sent a video. I wanted to cover everything for her.
After reviewing my photos, Katee told me that she thought my tough to fit mare would be a Medium. Just to be sure, she would send the pre-formed fabrications home with me to lay on my horse’s back.
I arrived at the Expo and just due to logistics, I ended up at the Advantage Saddle booth first.
My impression of Advantage Saddlery was that this was a new and eager company. The booth was small but set up really nicely. And, my favorite part, it was all about the saddle. Nothing else (except mohair cinches).
There were the pre-fabbed forms, some model trees (with education adjustments so that you could move them around to understand the moving parts of a horses’ back) and a book of photos of equine backs.
Another bonus was that the saddler, Katee, was fresh and extremely helpful. There was no pretense or elitism here. It was all about fit and customer service.
I sat in both of her models, the Classic and the Custom. Both felt the same. Most of the differences were cosmetic and since I am on a budget, I went for the Classic – however, I probably would have chosen it anyway. I liked it.
For me, who likes a roomy seat, I chose the 16″ and figured I’d put in a Sheepie if I needed it. I also went for just leathers instead of fenders. My legs are so short, fenders usually are a waste of money and leather…
After a thorough saddle tree demonstration on why her tree allows for the movement of the traveling horse – all of which made sense to me at the time and none of which stayed with me – I walked away with two forms and a beautiful saddle.
THE NEXT MORNING
The next morning, to be honest, I really didn’t have any high hopes.
I mean, even though I liked the saddle and her schpeal made much sense to me… I really felt that I would never, ever fit my mare. As I’ve said before, I was almost willing to give up on riding her except for the fact that she loves to explore.
Anyway, I grabbed BG and tied her to the trailer.
As I pulled out the first form, the yellow Medium shape, I let her sniff it.
Immediately she braced. She knew. She knew it was another dang saddle trial and she was prepared to hate it.
Once the sniff test was over, I put the lightweight plastic form onto her back and slid it into place.
It fit like a glove.
IT FIT LIKE A GLOVE.
IT FIT LIKE A GLOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I could not believe it.
I kept moving it around like a monkey but it simply kept slipping right into the sweet spot and stayed there. Perfect.
I was dumbstruck, however, this was just the form. I doubted the actual saddle would fit.
But before I went for the saddle, I decided to try the other form, he Green (small) sized, just to see.
It didn’t fit.
The one thing about demoing a saddle that makes me kinda fidgety and a bit nauseous is trying to keep it clean and NOT DING IT. I always feel tense.
So, I put a sheepskin cover on the seat, put foil over the stirrup pads and used my own girth.
I was ready.
(Oh no, I wasn’t. I needed to find a clean saddle pad! I didn’t have one. I used a towel instead.)
The saddle only weighs about 14lbs so I carried it over, let her sniff it and then swung it onto her back on top of the towel.
It fit just as perfectly as the form.
I could not believe it! I swear to horsegod, it fit all the way around.
The next hurdle was the girthing.
BG has such a laid back shoulder that usually the saddle and the rigging end up mid-belly on her. I end up having to pull the girthing forward which usually doesn’t work. Center-fire rigging never works for her.
The Advantage rigging is totally adjustable in a way that is actually totally adjustable. It isn’t tough to do and it doesn’t slide back to where it was. You just push it to where you want it. The way it is attached make it stay put. Believe me. I tried to move it after I had cinched it. Nada. Not possible.
At this point in our usual saddling trials, BG has the pissy face from hell. After cinching , she usually pins her ears and lets me know that she would bite me if she wasn’t so well mannered.
But with this saddle all cinched, she had no pissy face. She was actually ‘ears forward’. Wow.
The final hurdle was riding.
I brought her up to the arena and led her to my mounting block.
She didn’t sidle just out of reach. She stood there.
I laid myself over the saddle just to put weight in there without throwing over my leg.
I flapped my arms around and played with the leathers and stirrups… still nothing.
So, I swung my leg over…
BG was anticipating pain. She set her feet and was ready.
….and sat in the saddle.
We both stood there, holding our breath.
Her ears flicked.
Then she lowered her apprehensively-set head and looked at me.
“Hey, wher’d ya get this one?”
I asked her to move forward and she did.
Again, we held our breath.
After a couple of circles, we both relaxed. She was happy.
SHE WAS HAPPY!
I could not absorb this moment. I kept looking for a sign ‘any minute’. I kept waiting for an explosion or a refusal to turn one way or the other.
But, nothing happened. She just kept on riding around without incident.
At this point, I hadn’t even thought about my seat. And, actually, if I found a saddle she liked, I’d probably sit on a seat of nails…
However, I wanted to think about the seat. Since I had the sheepie on it, there wasn’t much to feel. I was comfortable and felt secure. My back didn’t hurt and my legs were in the right position underneath me. I wasn’t tipped forward or backward. The seat was even.
I felt like I do in my Boz saddle, which has been my standard of comfort for years.
WEBSITE OR GETTING ONE OF YOUR OWN
I’m not sure how she is going to finish her very new website. Right now, it is not nearly as informative as she was inside of her booth at the Expo. I swear, I understood the entire design in about 10 minutes while she explained it to me with her little models.
On the website, she doesn’t show those fabricated models so you cannot see how the tree works.
But, if you take the time to contact her, let her explain the movement of the horse and how her tree is different, it will be worth your time.
Also, take photos for her – standing and moving.
I don’t know if lending out her forms is a regular practice or not. But, it really helped me.
Anyway, here is her website. Call her and start the process on your tough to fit horse. Or even your easy to fit horse!
I love the rigging, the balance, the styling, the weight, the small footprint, the trail riding set-up, the foam underside and the FIT.
Oh yeah, and I forgot to say… reasonably priced.
Since Katee is always willing to learn, we spoke about me not using any pad (not necessary with the foam pads attached) and I am going to glue some tacky material to the bottom of the attached foam pads. I think this will be a great addition to keep the foam clean and also give added stick.
Katee told me that if it didn’t work, she’d send me new pads. And, if it did… she’d add it to the product line.
Love that! Listening and experimenting are wonderful things…
HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!
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I am looking at Advantage saddles for my gaited gelding, has been a little tough to fit . How has the new saddle worked out for BG so far?
I certainly don’t see many used Advantage saddles for sale and was wondering how the saddle was working for you after spending some time in it. You had mentioned Boz saddles as well. Those are extremely expensive and I was curious as to how well the Advantage is measuring up to the Boz.
I’ve been looking around for a new saddle and quite like the looks and ideas behind the Advantage!
In addition to the functionality and diversity of these saddles, they are also simply stunning!
To Miss Jan:
I did not know sidesaddles were still in production… do women use them for everyday riding or just for parades and special events? I find your info very interesting. Back in the 50s and 60s, we had a neighbor who was still jumping with a sidesaddle. The remarkable fact is she was either in her 80s or close to it. At that age, I cannot help but wonder if she grew up using a sidesaddle.
Once again thank you for an excellent in-depth product review. I am so glad you found a saddle that works with a “difficult” backed horse.
I used to sell sidesaddles but became incredibly frustrated with people who did not “get” that (especially) a sidesaddle had to fit BOTh horse and rider for reasons of comfort and SAFETY. Most wanted to slap any old thing on their horse as long as the price was “right” because “after all we’re only going to be riding in the class for about 20 minutes”. Anything with Arabian or Morgan blood and some of the pony breeds have a different shoulder angle, large shoulder muscle, and different placement of lumbar spinus muscles that make saddle fitting a challenge but of course Morgan shows and Arabian shows in those days were pretty much the only breed/discipline shows offering sidesaddle classes.
And now I have a draft cross who until he gained too much spring-grass weight actually wore my old Crosby jump saddle well but has, ahem, “outgrown” it and so I have been looking hard for a saddle that works to accommodate His Largeness’ increased rotundity. Thanks to your review of these saddles I will be contacting this company for further information. (Thinking about developing a website and blog for draft-cross horses and their peeps, because it is so tough to find tack that fits – even halters and grazing muzzles!)
It’s wonderful you found a saddle that pleases both of you. It seems to fulfill all your criteria, especially an obviously happy BG. The adjustable girth system is very interesting, since that’s often an issue. Looking forward to how it performs in the ups and downs of the outside world.
When someone mentions a horse that’s difficult to fit, I’ll pass this on. Keeping good, “Made in the USA” businesses thriving is very important. And her reasonable prices are a breath of fresh air, considering all the unreasonable ones.