So....what is it?
Okay- don't cringe - I've already had a bit of that reaction in the barn...
|Sensation English Trail aka "The Cloud"|
Yes, we are trialing a Sensation treeless saddle. Why, oh why would I do such a thing? Let me tell ya- Ben, as cute as he is, is a $(*&%# to fit a treed saddle to. He is a wide horse. Very flat across the top, MASSIVE shoulders (steeply angled, yes, but massive none the less), wide withers, and flat sides- no barrel at all. He's like sitting astride a table. And he keeps getting bigger and bigger.
Unfortunately for me- I have been plagued with tight hips pretty much my entire life. My body type really requires a more slender, A-framed back with well sprung ribs to catch my calves. Ben is the polar opposite.
So finding a saddle that works for both Ben and I has been, shall we say interesting. What works for me doesn't fit him, and what has worked for him has caused massive extreme pain for me. We've been making do with a 2012 Wintec Isabell- which is only minimally insulting to the both of us. But still, I can't quite seem to find my seat in it, though I don't walk away in agony. And really while the panels are certainly flat enough for ben, the angle of the gullet still is A-framed. And though it can go wide enough, it isn't hoop shaped so it is too narrow up at the top and flares out when it should flare downward.
/\ vs / \
Traditional saddles with a hoop shape tree are darned expensive. I wouldn't necessarily mind dropping $4,000 on a saddle if it meant we were happy...but he keeps changing every 3 months. These saddles take 3-4 months to get...so by the time we get one, it probably won't fit. Its a moving target that I cannot keep up with. Not to mention, I have yet to find one that was comfortable for me. I just can't justify spending that kind of money on something that only kinda-sorta works.
And so, it is time to try a different approach. One upon a time, I did use a few treeless saddles for the wider horses in my care that I could not fit, and I remember liking them very much. Some did not work out, it seemed as though the downhill horses really had a hard time.
But Ben is not downhill built at all. So I sent his photos over to Nickers Saddlery and set up a trial. They sent me everything I needed- saddle, pad, girth. It eventually showed up in Washington, and since then, I've had 2 rides in it.
My first reaction: holy comfort Batman! I was afraid it would feel way too wide on ben- but no- it doesn't at all. In fact, it feels more narrow than any of the narrow twist treed saddles I've ever used on him (not that they fit him). There is no bloody panel piercing my thighs. The seat is very relaxing- and I find it very easy to ride in. And contrary to what I've heard/read about treeless saddles- this saddle is THE most stable thing I've ever placed on his back. There is no rocking, bouncing, sliding. His hairs don't look ruffled. There are no dry spots. He's not grinding or pacing- his 2 signals to me that he is uncomfortable. To top it off, the company so far has been a pleasure to work with. They have patiently answered every single one of my questions as they've come up.
I still have a few days left of my trial period before I have to send it back. It has definitely given me food for thought. These things aren't cheap- starting at around $1300 for the saddle, then adding the padding, girth, & add-ons -it looks like all told I'd be set for around $1600-1700- which is nothing compared to my treed options.
I do have a few concerns, and definitely have to think through whether this would work for us longish term.
- The seat size only goes up to 17.5" I'll admit, I do feel a bit squished in there- curse of the fat butt and thighs. They've offered up options of slimming down the pommel and cantle and even trying to swap out the seat for their G4 version (a bit pricer) something that would give me more room.
- The other piece is long-term use...would I inadvertently be causing Ben damage by using this? Probably less than using an ill-fitted treed saddle- but still- those treeless saddle haters definitely have me worried about this.
- Vanity: they do kinda look different. My barn mates are already making fun of me for even considering this. They say I'll get laughed out of the show ring. But I kinda think it looks cool...and should I really care about looks? Bullies!
- Which model? Our first discipline is dressage. But really, I'd love to have something that I can use out on the trails at our new digs (coming soon T-14 days!), and to even do some lower level jumping, and use for our open shows. Nickers is re-modeling their jump saddle, and it won't be ready until the summer, and from there, a couple month wait for it to be built and then sent...so realistically it could be September- October the latest before I'd have that model. I cannot afford 2, so which one should I go with? Part of me thinks maybe I should start with the available saddle, then save up for when the jump is ready- if this treeless thing really does work for us.