I’ve had the same saddle for twenty years. It’s an old fashioned hunter saddle, put together in the ’90s when Ruiz Diaz was making saddles for Collegiate. That saddle has gotten me through high limit hunter classes, backing some Arabian babies, and coming back to riding as an adult (twice).
Looking at it now, it’s still in fantastic shape. I often get nice comments on it, and no one ever believes how old it is. When I had a Saddle fitter check it out in August, she admitted it was in astonishing shape for its age. She said it was fine for Star at the time, but that it would soon not fit. “When her shoulders finally come up, you’re going to be in trouble,” the fitter warned.
I bet you can guess where we’re at now…
It’s a process that’s been happening since I got her, but has become especially clear in the last month and a half. Star’s getting fit. Her body is changing from a lazy pasture pony into a horse that works for a living. Her shoulders are now pinched between the flaps of my saddle…and so it’s time to say goodbye.
It may not be like this for everyone, but I really do feel like saddles are a very personal purchase. In a way, it’s a bit like buying a new bra. Just because it’s the right style and size doesn’t mean it will fit the way you want. It’s also something I’m going to be putting my butt in a lot, so comfort is paramount.
I started researching brands. Must have read hundreds of reviews. Not only had the saddle world changed in style since my last purchase, but also in quality. The amount of companies bought and sold in the last twenty years is remarkable. Of course, with every change of owner, came changes to the brands. Some for the worse, according to reviews.
If you’ve got a generous budget, the top tier saddles have a lot in common. They’re typically French, full calf or buffalo skin, and heavily structured with knee and thigh blocks. Butet is the brand at my barn. CWD is popular and known for quality. I tried them both, and liked them both, but the price tag was just too much for me to justify. I still don’t even have tall boots yet, and I have a full show season ahead of me. So I stopped focusing on tier one and went down a level.
I kept hearing very mixed reviews on Pessoa; it seemed people either loved them or hated them. I liked the look of them, and was very pleased to see that Ruiz Daiz had a heavy hand in their design. He’d gotten me through a lot in the last twenty years, and I was more than willing to give him a chance for the next twenty.
We have a large, family run tack shop not far from the barn. I had to go for a few other things, and figured I’d take a look at their Pessoas and Antares while I was there. I sat in the Pessoa Legacy, tried a thigh stop and two-point. I quickly realized that I couldn’t tell much about feel until it was actually on a horse. It was definitely new leather that needed some break-in time, but I liked it. I went home to think about my options.
The Pessoa came as a package with all the matching Pessoa extras (fancy-stitched mono-crown bridle, reins, girth, leathers, and leather cover) as well as new irons and a saddle pad. I priced it out online and was shocked to see the actual value of the saddle and extras at about double what the asking price was. I talked to my husband about it and said, “if it fits, it seems like far too good of an opportunity to pass up.” He agreed, and reminded me that even if it wasn’t a perfect fit, I could pay to get it adjusted and still be in the black.
So I’m now the proud owner of a brand new saddle. I will head to the barn today to check the fit and give it the first ride. I’m hopeful that it will work, but I’m still keeping my heart at a distance before falling in love. If this is the saddle for both Star and myself, fantastic. If not, I’ll return the lot and keep searching.
After all, this saddle needs to carry us into our future together, whatever that entails.
Christine Sharpe is a Canadian who grew up riding Hunter/Jumper in the Southern USA. Now living in Toronto, she is a thirty-something who is recently back to riding after four years off and having her first child. Christine is aiming her new Thoroughbred mare, Star, toward the Trillium Jumper Circuit in 2016. She struggles daily to juggle family, work, and her equine lifestyle, with occasional success.